When the Fat Man Croaks


(900 words) “Death, I am not keen on, overmuchly,” said Donut Dave, turning a funny shade of yellow. “Well, I’m only passin’ on what I heard last night at Max’s,” I said. “Seems Big Cyril and da boys is out lookin’ for you. On account of you visitin’ Missy Cymbeline Banks, Cyril’s best gal.” “Sure, I seen her, but only to measure her up for a trombone, says she wants to learn in secret like, give Cyril and the boys a big surprise at the club one night.” Donut was a hot jazz piano player, so I guessed there was some truth in his story. “Well, the way I hear it, Cyril’s gotta surprise in mind for you, he’s gonna be measurin’ you up – for a pair of concrete pyjamas!” There was a knock on the door and Donut looked around frantically for somewhere to hide.

Sink or Swim


(900 words) Agnes stood at the edge of the assembled villagers gathered around the old stone bridge. On the bridge stood Matthew and Tobias, both blacksmiths, and Thomas the cobbler with his half-witted son, Jacob. The latter wore a leering grin as the two pairs of men lowered two women, tied around with ropes, into the scum-covered river Lud that formed a pool below the bridge. A cheer went up as they were dumped unceremoniously into the water. “Now we’ll see as they’ll sink or no!” laughed Susanna, the village candlemaker, then all fell silent as bubbles rose from the submerged bodies.

Tastes Like Hippopotamus to Me


(800 words) Sprong and Brackett was distinguishable from other shops by the broomsticks, pointed hats and mountain of strange bric-a-brac in its bowed windows. Candles, crystals, and incense sticks rubbed shoulders with figurines of nature spirits, oracle cards and pendants of all shapes and sizes. Marcy pushed the door open and a bell rang. No one was around. She went through to the back and saw a small glass phial on a table. She put it in a pocket and left an envelope in its place. Then she hurriedly exited the shop.

Life Moves On


(700 words) So, I’d got into Judy’s silver convertible as she donned Ray Bans and drove us through narrow country roads, alternately overhung by green boughs then bordered by wide-open fields full of waving crops. I’d admired her sculpted profile. “You could slow down.” Of course, that was a signal for her to put her foot down even more. Judy was like that. Then we pulled up at an old church, much to my amazement. The windows had been knocked out and there was just the shell left. Inside were blackened areas on the stone flags where fires had been lit by persons unknown. It was cold and eerie. “It’s deconsecrated, looked after by the rural church commission, but they want to sell.” Judy’s voice echoed around the stone walls. “Who would buy a place like this?” I asked.

The Great and the Good


(900 words) I’d been distracted, adjusting my rear-view mirror, when this old codger had just lurched onto the zebra crossing out of nowhere. I wasn’t drunk but admittedly a couple of glasses of Shiraz at the theatre had perhaps dulled my reactions. Hannah and I looked and dressed alike so when we’d stopped the car, it was obvious he wasn’t sure who the driver had been. I breathed a sigh of relief as she did the ‘decent thing’ and saved my political career, ‘confessing all’ to the ambulance driver and the police.

The Telos Project


(950 words) “Attribution isn’t my favourite word right now, Dad.” Sandy said, taking her essay back from me. She smoothed her ginger hair and her snub-nosed, freckled face looked down at her feet. “Look sweetheart, if you’re going to use someone else’s work in your essay, you have to give credit to the author. If … Continue reading The Telos Project

girl with guitar

Six Silver Moonbeams


(800 words) “Third row, third on the left.” The girl tore his ticket, then looked through Orlando Humphries as if he didn’t exist. Just as he liked. Orlando made his way down the hallowed aisle of the Wigmore Hall, a small but prestigious concert hall in London, England. The room was buzzing, the audience chattering … Continue reading Six Silver Moonbeams

drilling rig

Fight for the Earth


(800 words) “Attribution theory, Michaels, that’s what I’m on about.” “Huh?” “You ascribing this holdup to external factors, to that goddamn Fight for the Earth brigade!” “Well, why else have they stopped drilling then?” “Maybe, something internal, like the idea that it’s dangerous, something we shouldn’t be doing.” “Why wait till now then?” Cooper took a last lungful of smoke and threw the cigarette stub onto the snow where it glowed like a used firework. “I dunno, anyway, one way or the other, Leibowitz has pulled the plug.” Cooper looked over to the towering rig among the jumble of huts, lights glowing in the otherwise dark landscape with just the snow-covered mountains in the distance for company. Beyond them lay Dawson city, the nearest thing to a town for hundreds of miles.

Guest Poem: Winter Scene


In winter the wood is unmaskedNaked limbs stretch in vainTowards the cold sun.Knobbly branches, like aged fingers,Poke the sky. Fallen boughs, decay and lightning’s victims,Lie like skeletons in winter’s graveyard.Bereft of summer’s green shrouds. Only black and brown remainFrom the multi-coloured canopy of autumn,Now fallen, a carpet damp and rotting,Untrodden … Holly and yew stand … Continue reading Guest Poem: Winter Scene

Time Games


(1200 words) “Your mission, should you choose to accept it – but actually you don’t have any choice – is to go to 2034 to take out a gentleman named Eldred Banks.” “D’you mean, kill?” I asked. “Well, yes, if you put it like that.” “Why?” My controller smiled. “Well, let’s just say he’ll be in charge of a pretty nasty weapon, and it’ll be best for the future world if he’s not left to his own devices.” “How will I do it, then?” “Don’t worry about it. You’ll have help when you get there. It’ll be a piece of cake for a man of your talent!” “So where am I going, exactly?” He smiled. “Sunglasses and suntan lotion will come in handy, Tim. Tunisia.”

Wish Upon a Star


(1100 words)

I headed upstairs to the reference library, further annoyed. There was just one other person there, a down-and-out type reading The Sun, having chosen to eschew the nearby pile of ‘erudite’ newspapers.
I went to an interesting section on ‘supernatural’ subjects: ghosts, UFO’s, angels, demons and the like. Perusing the shelves, I noticed a large tome with Demonology in red gothic lettering on the pale blue spine. There was no dust jacket. Seating myself on a comfortable chair, I began to read. Well, seems there was something called The Lesser Key of Solomon, an anonymous 17th century ‘grimoire’ apparently, that included the ‘conjuration of demons’ ...

Menus a la Carte


So, the drop-down system has been consigned to the bin and a new streamlined system employed. All stories were categorised by subject and found to fall into eleven main categories (some stories fell into two or even three categories). Accordingly, these new subject categories have taken pride of place at the head of each page. And mobile and tablet menus work just fine too. So, it just remains for me to say that clicking on a subject category will take you to a table of all stories in that category, listed in alphabetical order, together with original publication date and word count. So, you get the best bang for your buck before deciding to plunge into actual reading!

Death Will Have His Day


(800 words)

Word had it that Douglas Whiting wanted to kill someone. Someone, anyone, just to see what it was like. And it got back to him that, yes, a man named Norman Oliver was happy to be the victim. Well, perhaps not happy exactly, more resigned, his cancer untreatable.
So, early one evening Whiting knocked on Oliver’s door. A shabby door in a shabby house in a shabby street in a shabby town. Oliver answered the door and Whiting saw the man matched his surroundings, unshaven, a green cardigan with holes in it, old chequered trousers and worn-out slippers.
“Hello, you must be the man who’s come to kill me,” Oliver said.
Whiting looked Oliver in the eyes. “That’s right. You haven’t changed your mind?”
“Oh no, no, not at all. Come in, please come in.”

Jazz Guys


(1250 words)

Say nothing when Ruth comes in, Brodie Somers told himself. There she was, tall, slim, long blonde hair blowing in the freshening wind. She was laughing, smiling at him. Robbie McClelland, the wretched layabout, lolling in his open top Mazda. With his black leather jacket and hair greased back he looked like a reject from Happy Days. An all-round bad influence on his daughter, Brodie thought.
Ruth waved to Robbie as he roared off inland, down the little lane. Against the gulls calling, the waves rolling on the beach, and the rustling grass on the dunes, the intermittent noise of Robbie’s revving engine as he careered back into town was like an insult to the quiet countryside, like someone throwing a dog turd in your face. He hurriedly put the binoculars away as the door opened and Ruth came in.

The Little Silver Horse


(850 words)

Compassion, word of the day, thought Stanley Brown. It was something he wasn’t used to feeling, but here he was, about to walk up a stranger’s drive. He quickly combed his hair, then with a brown-paper-wrapped package tucked into the pocket of an old great coat he walked briskly up to the porch, noticing the peeling white paint and patches of mould on the woodwork. There she was at the window, the thin wrinkled visage and the halo of white hair, peering out, a look of incredulity on her ancient face. He pressed the doorbell and heard a distant answering chime. The face disappeared from the window.

Fallen Hero


1200 words)

Say what you like about Charles – and plenty of people had plenty to say – but before Charles came into my life Dominic had been a nightmare, fighting all the other kids at school, ranting and raving at home, and refusing to help out or tidy his room; in short, a real devil child. But he looked up to Charles, saw him as a kind of hero, which he was in a way I suppose. Charles would give Dominic little jobs to do – cleaning his crampons, coiling his ropes, helping to sort out the mountaineering gear he’d stowed in my shed, all those bits and pieces that had names I suppose, but looked like junk to me.
And, of course, Charles would show us photos of his expeditions – Kanchenjunga, Cho Oyu, Manaslu, Nanga Parbat and so on, mostly names that meant nothing to me back then.

Goodbye Bernie, Hello Samantha


(1100 words)

“Say it ain’t so, Joe, please say it ain’t so,” Samantha Muir sang whilst hanging out leather belts in the Ladies’ Clothing department of Jacksons. “That's not what I wanna hear, Joe. Ain't I got a right to know?” She hesitated. Why was she singing that? Her mind flashed back to a scene when she was nine years old, her little brother Joe coming to her with blood pouring from his nose. An older boy, Terry, had punched him in the face at the bus stop after school.

“Excuse me, young lady, are you serving or dreaming?”

space invaders

Probably the Best Lager …


(800 words)

Looked at financially, the arcade had been a massive money-spinner. From the days of Atari Pong through Pac Man to the twenty-five grand Tomb Raiders II, punters had poured in. Then came the meteorite and the arcades, along with seven billion people, had been wiped out.
Now Sam stood at one of the only games that still functioned, a nineteen-seventies’ Space Invaders, attempting to zap the red spacecraft whizzing above the rows of aliens dropping bombs on his base. Bom-bom-bom-bom, faster and faster. “Damn!” His last laser canon was hit. Game over.

Never Lovelier


(850 words)

It was a beautiful day, thought Mr. FtF as he sat on the patio with his newspaper waiting for his wife to come down. Why did it always take her so long to get ready in the morning, he wondered? All that … preening! He put his paper down and gazed at the canal that flowed past the bottom of their garden. Purple liquid sparkled in the light of the two suns in a way that never ceased to amaze Mr. FtF. It depended on their positions relative to each other he supposed, as he sipped his kaffa.