“You got a minute, Eunice?” It was Beryl, the boss’s secretary. “Sure.” Eunice relaxed, looking at the clock and noting it was only ten minutes till lunchtime. “What’s on your mind, hun?” Beryl was a sweetie, no mistake, and Eunice always had time for her. Beryl smoothed her olive-green linen skirt down over her hips and took a seat. She looked around to make sure no one in the sparsely populated office was within earshot. “Look, it’s Vashti.” Eunice felt shocked. Vashti seemed a quiet, kind type. “Why, what’s up?” Beryl blushed. “Look, nothing’s wrong, it’s just … it’s just…” “C’mon, spit it out, hun.” “Well, it’s just … it’s just,” Beryl lowered her voice, “Vashti’s building something in our backyard, something … huge.”
(950 words) “Sorry, you’re the first person I’ve spoken to in ten years.” Her voice was cracked, dry like an empty pitcher left out to desiccate in the sun. Jack Whitney looked down at the bedraggled young woman. Her hair was long and matted, perhaps once a dark blonde. Her face could be attractive, he … Continue reading Worse Things Happen at Sea
(900 words) The day my life changed was the day the lives of everyone changed. Finally, there was irrefutable, cast-iron evidence of extra-terrestrial civilisation. Evidence that couldn’t be fobbed off by governments as weather balloons, Venus, hallucination or just being plain drunk. But for me it was different. There I’d been, watching the whole shebang from my weightless viewpoint, floating around the International Space Station or ISS. “Hey, Jabez, there it is. I’ve got it on the viewing screen!” astronaut Vladimir Chekhov exclaimed. “Wow. Let’s have a look.” There, on our wall-to-wall cinema was a tiny pinprick of light, still tens of thousands of miles away but, without doubt, on its way to good ‘ol Planet Earth.
(650 words) Helena lifted the angel to her cheek and felt the heavy varnish stick to her skin. She closed her eyes, picturing the peppermint green figure, a crude angel-shape with black stripes that reminded her of a sad humbug. But it brought back memories of the night, THAT night. “Has anyone NOT seen a demonstration of mediumship before?” She’d felt embarrassed, but seeing other hands going up, she’d stuck her arm up in the air, feeling her mother’s bangle sliding on her wrist. Would she be here? Was it even possible? “There’s nothing to worry about. If anything horrible comes along, I’ll be first out the door!” Laughter.
(600 words) Long John Silver stepped forward on his crutch. “Ah, Jim lad, why so sad?” “Stop calling me Jim, my name’s Billy.” “Sorry, Jim lad, but it be your birthday tomorro’. Twelve years old thee’ll be, to the day!” Billy sat at his desk, looking at his homework on the screen. “Look, d’you think this’ll have enough thrust?” “Sure to, Jim, it’s a grand rocket motor!” “But the fuel lines, I don’t know if they’re wide enough.” “What do the equations say?” asked Harry Potter. “Oh, they seem OK, but fluid tensors aren’t my strong point, you know that.” Harry brushed the hair back from his forehead to reveal a lightning-shaped scar. “See this scar, Billy. Voldemort gave me this.” Billy put his hands over his eyes. “Shut up! You’ve told me that a thousand times.” “Look, Professor Snape killed Dumbledore. D’you think he’s in league with Voldemort?” “Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!” The door opened. It was dad. “Billy, what’s all the shouting about?”
(900 words) Resemblance to a schoolmaster gone for the moment, Dad would appear, jaunty, as if holding a big secret, which in a way I suppose he was. “Listen, children” – he never called us ‘kids,’ they were for goats, apparently. “We’re going to grandma’s next week.” My sister Helen, brother Steven, and I … Continue reading Learning the Alphabet: A Memoir
(1000 words) “Calm down now and listen up,” said our sixth form tutor, Miss Hughes. “That includes you, Kara Simons.” She jabbed a finger in my direction. "Now, today's the first of our career sessions and I’m pleased to welcome our two guests to speak about their careers and what you could expect if you were to follow in their footsteps.” I looked from a twenty-something woman in a pink two-piece to a man of a similar age, clad in camouflage get-up, olive green with grey-white bits. He wore a green beret with two rows of little white and red squares at the bottom, and a thick black belt. His lips were thin and he looked around the classroom with disdain. “This is Miss Cheskin,” said Miss Hughes, gesticulating to the woman. “She’s here to talk about a career in retail sales.” The woman stepped to the front and gave a bright smile. “So, how many of you like the idea of working in a department store? Hands up.” A plain spotty girl, Ruth Smith, lifted a fat arm up. “Wouldn’t mind.” “I wouldn’t want to be served by you!” said Johnny Harris. The class laughed. “That’s enough, Harris,” snapped Miss Hughes. “Please carry on, Miss Cheskin.”
David’s star, the mission. Forty years, the duration. Della King walked into the cavernous viewing gallery and gazed out at the unfathomable number of brilliant, glowing stars, feeling numbed by the vastness and mystery of space, yet knowing that every one of those sparkling, luminescent dots was catalogued and its complex code number registered in the ship’s computers. “Hi, I’m Andrew Mokalis.” A white-suited man joined Della. “It’s amazing isn’t it. I could look out of this viewing window for hours.” They sat down on opposing sofas, a table housing a holographic image of the ship and its position in space, separating them. Della wore an identical white coverall. “Drink?” asked Andrew.
(1200 words) “Laura, this place is amazing,” said Mary, as we finally gathered in the spacious kitchen where I’d put a selection of drinks and nibbles out on the huge wooden table. Above us was a high open space and wooden beams where there used to be a loft. “It’s OK,” I said, “there’s only so much you can do with … space. I’d rather have people to be honest.” “What you need is a dog,” said Bethany I sighed. “Yes, I want a poodle but y’know, mum’s allergic to animal hair.” “I know what,” said Bethany, “you could borrow one for a month, while they’re abroad!” Ruby poured herself a generous glass of pinot noir, took a large gulp and let out a wine-scented belch. We all laughed. “Listen,” said Ruby, her face flushed with the alcohol, “d’you ever hear the story of Bloody Mary?” “No,” we said in unison.
(800 words) Chimera, that was the name of the thing on my cup. A fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. Not something you’d want to meet on a dark night, or any night for that matter. I turned the cup around, watching the chocolate-coloured liquid swirl above the red mythological creature. How many times had I done the exact same thing, I wondered? Fifty, a hundred, a thousand even? Then it struck me, I was stuck in this one moment of time, forever drinking coffee out of this same cup, forever looking at the hideous beast and wondering of its provenance, pondering its manufacture, forever gazing around my cluttered kitchen - piles of papers, vitamins, medications on my table, washing up stacked in the sink.
(1200 words) But the change of pace and setting served me well. I quickly became absorbed in the works of the Swedish mystic, Emmanuel Swedenborg, and that ‘Magic of the West,’ the Qabalah. I came from France with letters of introduction to ‘persons of eminence’ but found these gentlemen (and ladies), though of a certain social standing, to be shallow personalities with feet of clay and a mere desire to see me perform feats for their entertainment – summoning spirits, remote viewing and so forth. Well, but three days ago, I returned to my suite to find a card pushed under my door. It had been torn in half and showed a partial seal of Solomon, one familiar to me. On the back, written neatly, was a message telling me to go to the high altar of St Paul’s cathedral the following day at midday precisely, where the remainder of the card would be given to me and where I would learn something of great interest. Intrigued, I did as the card instructed and the next day found myself at the altar in question, gazing around in awe at the enormous and opulent building, it being my first occasion there. “Monsieur L.?” asked a splendidly-dressed footman, quite startling me.
(369 words) There once was a lonely vampire, Johnny Fang was the poor fellow’s name. All he wanted was a young lass to love him, But, being dead, he was nobody’s flame. He’d wander at night through the graveyard, By the light of the silvery moon. Wondering how he could get him a gal, Who, at the sight of his fangs, wouldn’t swoon.