Rugby Cafe Writers were challenged to write on the theme of Heat for their meeting in August 2021.
Heat by Jim Hicks
After meeting the mathematician John Conway on a train, I didn’t think
anything like that would ever happen to me again. Especially on a
I was travelling from Rugby to Manchester to see an old friend
when a man got on the train at Nuneaton and sat down opposite me.
He introduced himself as Donald Michie and asked whether
I would appreciate a puzzle.
I had nothing better to do so I agreed.
“Once upon a time, a man was preparing for a journey through the desert.
He filled his water bottle and then went to bed in his tent. Unknown
to him, two of his enemies had sent assassins to kill him.
“One assassin crept into his tent and put fast-acting poison in his
“Afterwards, the other assassin crept into his tent and bent the bottle
out of shape, so there was a crack in it.
“When the man went on his journey, the poisoned water ran out of his
bottle and he died of thirst.
“The question is: which of the two assassins, if either, was guilty of
murder? The first assassin’s plot failed as the poison never worked.
However, the actions of the second assassin prolonged the victim’s
life rather than shortening it as the poison would have killed him
Heat by Christine Hancock
Eilif strutted along the edge of the meadow; careful not to crush the long grass. It was close to midsummer and in a few days the village would be out to cut the hay. He glanced up at the sky. Clear blue, without a cloud visible, good for a few days yet.
He had told his wife he was going fishing. That was not entirely true. She had been nagging him to repair the fence around their house, but it was too hot to start splitting wood. Much better to spend the time beside the river, especially on the day that the women did the washing. It was not a popular job most of the year, but on this blazing hot day, it was the best place to be. He had his eye on a new girl, a slave recently arrived in the village with hair like silken gold. He had exchanged glances with her in the hall one evening and she appeared willing. At least he should be able to get a better look at her body, everyone got soaked on wash day, and in this heat, many would remove their outer clothing.
Sweat ran down his back and he slowed his pace. The sound of splashing water almost drowned the buzz of insects on the last flowers scattered amongst the grasses. He moved faster, then stopped as a figure stepped out in front of him, a hooded stranger. One of the expected wedding guests? He must be stifling under the thick wool.
Eilif heard a loud splash and laughter. It sounded like the new slave.
“Excuse me, I’m in a hurry.” As he pushed past the stranger, strong fingers grabbed his hair and jerked back his head. A cool whisper touched his throat, followed by a flood of heat. He stared upwards. Silhouetted against the dark blue was a sickle, blood dripping from the freshly sharpened edge. His blood?
The sky darkened and the stranger lowered him carefully to the ground.