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On 17 February the Microcosms Fiction prompt was:

Today – 17 February – is the anniversary of the birth of crime writer Ruth Rendell in 1930. Her best-known creation, appearing in many police stories, was Chief Inspector Wexford.

But I prefer the novels she wrote under her pseudonym Barbara Vine, in which she explored the psychological background of criminals and their victims. These books include:

No Night Is Too Long (1994)
The Brimstone Wedding (1995)
The Chimney-sweeper’s Boy (1998)
Grasshopper (2000)
The Blood Doctor (2002)
The Birthday Present (2008)

 Our contest this week begins with THREE things: character, setting and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Politician, setting: Palace, and genre: Fairy Tale.

I liked the idea of looking at the main character’s psychological state, as well as that of the rest of the characters featuring in the story.

Here’s my response to the prompt.

Pastel Hell

By Ronel Janse van Vuuren


The beams across the fresco roof glittered with unearthly beauty. It must have cost the taxpayers a lot of money.

The politician glanced out the window, hoping to see his host approaching. Instead, butterflies with gem coloured wings flew in synchronisation.

He almost expected the tea service to come to life and sing a song or two. Snorting into his cup he tried hard for composure.

‘Ah, Mr Rafferty! How kind of you to come.’

The politician looked up and had to blink a couple of times before his thoughts gathered themselves.

A man, obviously his host, had appeared in a powder blue suit of gleaming silk and a frothy white shirt. A chameleon was perched on his shoulder, somehow the same colour of the suit.

‘What seems to be the problem? You said it was urgent,’ he finally answered.

‘Mm, yes. My subjects are revolting. In many ways. They are insisting on all pastels to be expelled from the land. Can you believe it?’

‘Hardly. What do you expect me to do about it?’

‘Explain to them, in that hardened politician way of yours, that it is discriminatory to so.’

‘May I ask: did they give a reason?’

‘Obviously they hate petit fours!’

The politician tried very hard not to look at the plate of cakes, the icing matching his host’s suit.

He burst out laughing. His situation was just too ridiculous. And hopeless.

‘Mr Rafferty! It’s time for your medicine.’

He wiped the tears from his eyes and found himself in a white room, the walls the strange consistency of marshmallows, a kindly woman in white offering him a cup of water and a handful of pills.

His smile vanished even as the blue of the pills and her eyes matched the suit of his host…

I honestly have no idea where the pastel images came from. Somewhere in my mind petit fours, tea and a beautiful morning room with a view of the garden appeared and that’s what I went with. As for the genre, I’ve read enough Grimm fairy tales to know that everything isn’t always as it seems…

The judge’s favourite line: …the walls the strange consistency of marshmallows… Happens to be one that I really enjoyed thinking up. What do you think of this story? I always appreciate feedback, so don’t hesitate to comment.

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