Hubris

He swiped his tongue across his lips. Gathering every tiny morsel that lingered there. Every droplet. Relishing the sweetness. Sticky and exquisite.

He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and studied the scarlet smear left behind. How he loved the colour. Its deep intensity. The rich redness. He licked at the stain on his skin and breathed out a satisfied sigh.

Another victim was placed before him.

This one was paler than the last. But still beautiful.

His jaws opened wide, and he sunk his teeth in.

Warmth exploded in his mouth, and he smiled as a trickle of thick liquid dribbled down his chin and splashed onto the ground. A vibrant ruby dot on the grey concrete.

How long had he been living for this? This ecstasy. Had it been ten years? Twelve?

No, more.

Fifteen, at least. Yet the rush never left him. The euphoria of the conquest.

He reflected on his first time.

He had done it for her. He would have done anything for her. Anything she asked. He thought he loved her. That he needed nothing else. Until he committed to his first bite. Until he tasted that first triumph.

On that day he was changed forever.

And now he was the master. The king.

He closed his eyes, gloating at his power, and sunk his fingers into the ragged hole left by his teeth, desperate to feel the viscid of what lay inside—scoop it out and lick his fingers clean.

A gasp filled the auditorium.

His eyes snapped open, and he looked around at the sea of stunned faces.

What had he done?

As he stared at his hand, buried in the pastry with thick red goo oozing between his knuckles, the PA system crackled to life.

“Ladies and gentlemen. We have a shock disqualification. Under the rules of the international pie eating association, competitors must only touch the pie with their mouths. Which means, after a nine-year run, we have a new world champion.”

The press jumped to their feet and a mass of flashlights exploded.

Billy blinked, trying to clear the black spots from in front of his eyes. He turned towards his competitor—his fingers still buried in the crust and cherry filling.

The other man’s jaw was hanging—his own hands behind his back and food smeared across his face. “Dude,” was all the man could say.

Heat rushed Billy’s cheeks as he pulled his hand from the crumbling pie.

He had lost.

Six pies in and he forgot where he was, he forgot what he was doing, he let his mind wander and his concentration slip, and he lost.

He thought he was unbeatable. But he lost.

In one swift movement, he flipped the table over.

Jeers filled the room as empty pie tins tumbled and crashed to the floor—crumbs and jam splashing into the laps of the judges in the front row.

Billy stood, his chest rising and falling with deep, panicked breaths as the audience looked at him with wide, judgemental eyes.

He was no longer world champion.

He was no longer the master.

He was no longer king.

He had lost – and now he was nothing.

Again.

© Amy Hutton 2021

False Alarm

The alarm sounded – an urgent, metallic voice crying “emergency” between shrieking beeps.

Lauren’s heart raced as she saved her work, slipped a folded piece of paper into her pocket, grabbed her security pass and phone, and rushed to the exit.

“These damn alarms,” her co-worker said, as they hustled down the fire stairs with the rest of level three. “Probably just some idiot burning their toast.”

“One day it might be real,” Lauren said as they burst into the sunshine.

“Everyone by the fence,” the fire warden bellowed. “You know the drill.”

Lauren shuffled away from the grumbling crowd and towards a large gumtree at the edge of the mustering area.

When she heard the siren approaching, she bit her lip.

***

She’d been reading a book in the park when he’d dropped onto the grass beside her.

She’d looked at him, trying not to gape. He was handsome – the kind of handsome you see in the movies – and tall, she could tell by the way his legs stretched so far beyond hers.

“You work in the Hutchings building, right?” he’d said. “I’ve seen you in the muster area when we’ve responded to the alarm.”

“You’re a firefighter?”

He’d waved his hands down his uniform. “It’s the outfit that gives it away, isn’t it?”

She’d cringed.

“Just teasing.” He’d elbowed her gently. “I’m Billy – and I know this sounds creepy but – I’ve always noticed you – under the tree, away from the crowd.”

“That would be me. Lauren. Our alarm goes off a lot.”

“At least you know it works.”

“I guess.”

He’d closed his eyes and tilted his face towards the sun.

She’d taken the opportunity to allow her gaze to drift over his profile, admiring his long black lashes and full mouth.

“Lauren,” he’d said, suddenly opening his eyes and turning towards her.

She’d quickly looked away – heat flooding her cheeks.

“Would it be okay if I – um – got your number? I’d like to ask you out. For a coffee. If you’re interested?”

She’d blinked. Hell-yeah, she was interested. “Sure,” she’d said, and hoped he hadn’t noticed the awkward squeak in her voice.

“Great.” He’d handed her his phone. “Pop your number in and I’ll text you.”

As she was putting her name in his contacts, a voice from across the road called, “Billy. We’re up.”

He’d leapt to his feet and flashed her a dazzling smile. “Gotta go,” he’d said, shoving his phone in his pocket. Then he’d dashed across the road and onto the fire truck, turning and waving as he disappeared inside.

That’s when her heart sank. She’d made a horrible mistake.

***

Lauren took a deep breath as Billy and his team exited the building and spoke to the fire warden.

“Another false alarm everyone,” the man said to a resounding groan.

She swallowed hard, waiting until she caught Billy’s eye. When he finally looked her direction, she gestured him over.

He seemed to hesitate before walking towards her.

“I gave you my old number,” she blurted as soon as he was in ear reach.

He threw his head back with a laugh. “Phew. That’s a relief. I thought you gave me the brush off.”

“No. God no. I changed numbers and I keep forgetting.”

He smiled. “Well then, I better get your new one.”

She took a folded piece of paper from her pocket and handed it to him.

***

Lauren dropped into her chair – a wide grin plastered across her face.

It hadn’t taken much to set off the alarm. She’d just popped some bread into the toaster, shifted the machine a little to the left, put it on high, and walked away.

She chuckled to herself, as she logged back into her computer.

When her phone dinged, her heart leapt.

She opened the message and saw a tiny firefighter emoji.

Then a second message popped up.

“P.S. Next time you don’t need to burn your toast – just call me 😉

© Amy Hutton 2021

The Last Sunrise

It would be my last sunrise.

The last time I glimpse the orange streaks stretching across the wide blue sky. The sun shimmering gold above the ocean as its dazzling light glistens off the frothy peaks of the waves.

My breath catches in my throat at the sheer beauty of it. Nature at her most glorious.

A young woman rides along the footpath atop the headland where I stand. She stops and pulls her bicycle onto the grass beside me.

“Gosh. It’s a stunner this morning,” she says.

I nod and hum an affirmative.

***

It’s been centuries since he witnessed the spectacle of the dawn. His eyes have not gazed on the sun, nor experienced its warmth for four hundred years.

He watches it rise in movies. The colours vividly captured on celluloid. The grandeur of the moment frozen in time. He strains to remember the touch of it on his cold flesh. The lick of its heat.

He studies the photos I take for him and eagerly listens as I explain every glint, every shade, every sensation the still image does not capture.

I consider how startling he would be in sunlight’s brilliance. His alabaster skin, eternally shadowed by the night, gleaming iridescent. His striking face illuminated, and his green eyes blazing.

I will never see him like that.

Just as I will never see another sunrise.

***

I draw a deep breath, holding the air trapped in my lungs until they burn. Savouring the scent of the sea spray that follows the air down.

I won’t breathe after today. My nostrils will never again tickle from the breeze. My chest will never rise and fall. I exhale an exaggerated puff and marvel at how my lips tingle as the air passes over them.

I will miss it. All of it. But I don’t regret my decision.

Not when I feel his mouth on mine, or his cool touch against my searing hot skin. Not when his hard body presses into me, as his butterfly soft kisses dust my shoulders, and his powerful hands caress my back.

I would give up everything for that.

I will give up everything.

I selfishly want him to love me forever, and if that means dying for him, then I shall.

A tear splashes onto my cheek and I swipe it away before another can follow.

I take one last wistful look at the fledgling day and turn and walk towards my car.

***

He holds my hand in his. “You’re sure?” 

I gaze at his handsome face. His eyes long dead, yet still full of love, crave reassurance.

“I’m positive,” I say, and tenderly kiss his icy cheek.

He runs his nail across my palm, drawing a thin line of blood.

I hiss at the pain and wince as he dips the nib of the quill into the fresh wound.

Red liquid drips from the pen’s end as he hands it to me.

My signature in an ancient book is all it takes to end my life.

I close my eyes and picture the sunrise, fixing it eternally in my mind, before inking my name on the page.

My death was a brief one.

© Amy Hutton 2021

Hawaiian Heatwave

Elle wasn’t sure if the pounding was happening inside her head or if it was the surf crashing against the beach outside her hotel window.

She groaned and licked her lips, screwing up her face at the stale tang of mint and shuddering at the memory of the mojitos she drank way too many of the night before.

“Morning,” a raspy voice beside her said.

Elle’s eyes snapped open, and she cautiously glanced to the side before slowly allowing her head to follow.

A smile met her. Wide and sleepy and impossibly bright.

She squinted as she struggled to focus.

The smile was surrounded by golden skin, with eyes the colour of faded denim sparkling above it. Messy brown curls stuck out in every direction and dark scruff shimmered along a strong, square jaw.

Everything roared back to her as she gawped at the gorgeous man in her bed. The cocktails. The music. The dancing. The kissing. The more kissing. So much kissing.

She lifted the covers and peeked beneath them, sighing with relief when she saw she was wearing her underwear.

“Yeah. We didn’t do that,” he said with a laugh. “What kind of guy do you think I am?”

At that moment, she wasn’t entirely sure, but she thought he might be an… “Adam?” she blurted. “Hi… Adam…” She cringed at the hesitation in her voice.

He laughed again. “Yep. Adam.”

She winced. “I know. You’re the reason I can’t feel my feet.” Or my lips, she wanted to add.

“We did do some dancing,” he said, stretching his arms above his head. A crack rang out. “Oof. I need to work out more.”

Elle frowned. From her vantage point, it looked like he worked out plenty. Broad shoulders lay against her pillows and perfectly formed biceps rested on top of her sheets.

She ran a hand over her hair, as she wondered how she could slide away to the bathroom and a mirror.

“Hey. You look beautiful,” he said, leaning in and kissing her on the cheek.

He threw back the sheets, strode to the window and drew the blinds.

Elle was dazzled by a magnificent sunrise and Adam’s equally magnificent back.

She inhaled sharply, and a tiny gasp escaped her mouth.

“I know, amazing, right?” he said, still gazing at the view. “Nothing like a Hawaiian sunrise.” He turned and smiled at her. “How about an early swim?”

***

They held hands as they walked barefoot down the path, past the pool and its straw umbrellas, and onto the beach.

“Race you,” he said, turning towards her and running backwards.

“You’re on,” she said, as she dropped her towel and sprinted towards the ocean.

She hooted as she shot passed him, then squealed in surprise as the cool water slammed against her skin.

He followed her in, slid his arms around her waist and dropped them both under the waves with a splash.

Elle burst to the surface laughing and spluttering – her long hair wrapped around her face.

Adam stood in front of her and guided the wet strands from her eyes. Then, bending down, he pressed his lips to hers.

They rocked back and forth, mouths locked together, bodies pressed into each other, fingers entwined, everything warm and wet as gentle ripples lapped around their thighs.

“So,” Adam said, when they finally broke for air. “You feel like some breakfast, Elle? I know the best spot on the island for Loco Moco.”

“Sure,” Elle said. “Or…” she hesitated. “We could get room service?”

***

As they walked back across the sand, towards the hotel and the deliciousness that awaited them, Elle licked her lips, this time savouring the zing of sea salt, and the heady taste of holiday romance.

© Amy Hutton

Meeting Bear

I didn’t expect to inherit anything from my great aunt when she passed away. Certainly not her two-bedroom cottage at the end of a winding road, in the tiny coastal town of White Point. She must have known I needed a new start. To put my divorce and the sadness of the last few years behind me.

I stood on the porch and breathed in the sea’s scent, savouring the sound of the waves crashing beyond her small yard, my small yard, and on the other side of the dunes that rose above the sand.

Grabbing one of my great aunt’s coats from the starfish hook outside the front door, I started towards the beach, with a mug of steaming coffee in my hand.

As I stumbled up and over the dunes, my sneakers sliding in their softness, I stopped at the top to take in the wide expanse of windswept shore, before inelegantly traversing the downward slope.

I perched on a small rock and closed my eyes, enjoying the rhythm of pounding surf and the wind swishing in the long beach grass.


A whistle carried on the breeze, followed by what sounded like a man yelling, “Watch out!”
Suddenly I was on my back, my coffee splashed across the sand. A large hairy face with a long pink tongue staring down at me.

A wet slurp dragged across my cheek.

“Bear! Get off her. Bear!” The words got louder as the man came closer.

“Bear,” I said, trying to push the dog away. “Come on, buddy.” I looked up at a pair of soulful brown eyes and caught another sloppy slurp.

“Ew. Bear!” I said, turning my head to the side.

“Sorry. He’s a people lover.” The voice was deep, with a little gravel and a healthy amount of desperation.

Bear’s weight lifted off me and I gazed upwards as a hand appeared out of the glare of the sun.

“Let me help you,” the man said, as he hauled me to my feet.

He was tall. Maybe six-two. His fair hair hung just below his ears, and his neatly trimmed beard had a hint of ginger. He was handsome. Pretty, even. With a smile that positively beamed and sparkling blue eyes as bright as cobalt.

My breath caught in my throat.

“I’m Steve,” he said, still holding my hand. “I think you met Bear.”

I laughed. “He’s a bit forward with his affections,” I said, drawing my hand away. “Alice,” I introduced myself, and turned and gathered up my sand encrusted mug.

“He spilt your coffee.”

“No dramas, I was almost finished anyway.”

Steve bent down, picked up a piece of driftwood and tossed it for Bear.

I admired his back, wrapped in a snuggly white cable-knit sweater, the kind with an intricate pattern of knots.

“How about I buy you a fresh one, Alice?” he said, still looking toward the bounding dog.

“It’s really okay. I just live over the dunes. I can go make another.”

He turned and looked at me with a gaze that made my stomach flip. “I’d still like to buy you a coffee.”

I studied his disarmingly handsome face. A mix of softness and strength.

A delicious tingle whooshed through my entire body.

“What the hell,” I thought. “Sure,” I said. “I’d like that.”

“There’s a place up the beach. If you’re free?”

I slid my cup into my pocket. “I’m free.”

“Great.” He flashed a wide, brilliant smile. “Bear! Get over here,” he hollered and chased after the wayward dog.


I laughed at the scene in front of me. Steve dashing across the sand. Bear jumping and barking joyfully.

Steve turned, laughing and shrugging, before racing after the dog again.

“Maybe this is your new start,” I thought, and from where I was standing, it looked pretty good.

© Amy Hutton 2021