From issue 59 of Focus the fourth of my pieces of flash fiction “inspired” by the common writing errors and bad habits catalogued in The Turkey City Lexicon. This time, it’s all about pressing buttons with clichés.

Words used to evoke a cheap emotional response without engaging the intellect or the critical faculties. Commonly found in story titles, they include such bits of bogus lyricism as “star,” “dance,” “dream,” “song,” “tears” and “poet,” clichés calculated to render the SF audience misty-eyed and tender-hearted.

A Song to the Sea of Tears

The tears were warm on Alicia’s silken cheek. The movement of the ocean stirred a susurration, sea against shingle, that seemed to grow more insistent as she listened. Seagulls screamed, wheeled beneath fast-moving clouds, and turned inland. Alicia saw none of this.

Her true love was lost.

He had come to her as she slept. They had danced together for a while, distant music playing amidst the soft mist of dreams, and then he had bid her farewell.


She had woken calling his name. The ghost of his final kiss lingered on her cheek.

Confusion had evaporated quickly, driven off by a cold terror. She had risen, throwing aside the heavy, wine-coloured damask curtains. The first light of the morn, red as blood, drove a stake through her heart.

A storm was rushing in and Joshua was at sea.

Alicia pulled her robe around her shoulders. She forced the fear down deep into her belly and turned away from the waters. There were preparations to be made before the lamentation could be sung.



The sea was already rising angrily above the harbour’s seawall. Alicia walked along the quay, passing families gathering nets and ropes and traps and sails from their boats and hauling them inland. Some of the children paused for a moment to wave and call to their teacher but their mothers, seeing her dressed in her widow’s weeds, pulled them away and hustled them back to their work.

As the wall curved sharply west, turning to enclose the harbour, the numbers of boats thinned and Alicia was alone. Heavy rain was driven hard into her face by a stinging wind that whipped away her black shawl. She let it go.

She climbed the steps to base of the beacon. The gaslight torch burned bright high above her head, sea spray hissing on the mantle. A calm resolution filled her. She straightened her clothes, smoothed her hair, planted her feet firmly on the worn stone and began to sing in a bright clear voice. She sang of the cruel sea, a love lost, her faith that they could not be separated and she called on the storm to bring them together again.

And the waves grew higher.

This originally appeared in Focus no. 59
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