(800 words) “Manager of data security and hacker extraordinaire! May I introduce the head of MI7, Baronetess Zilberstein?” The Speaker of the House of Commons gestured towards a short woman with the face of a man. Her hair was black and greasy, and reminded Grant Balfour of the ‘pudding basin’ haircuts he’d endured as a child. Her features were pudgy and grey, as if moulded from ancient Plasticine. She dipped her head perfunctorily, but her thin, straight lips remained compressed.
(1300 words) “Mother Mary and Jozuf!” exclaimed the old man, looking up at the dark sky. I swear I saw somethin’ fly past just now. Somethin’ white and round, real low. He took another swig from his bottle and turned back to the brazier. He wore a woollen hat, a dirty black greatcoat and brown boots with the soles almost worn through. If you had been near him you would have smelt a curious smell. A mixture of mould, sweat and urine. For that reason, he sat alone at the brazier. ‘Greetings, Earthman!’ The tramp heard the voice in his head and turned around. He almost fainted at the sight of the three strange figures standing at the edge of the light from the brazier.
(1500 words) Fiona looked up from her test tubes. What on earth was that noise? She went to the door of the laboratory and looked out across the valley. A blue van stood there, in the distance, along with a Mini Cooper, parked outside Swarfdale farm. She hadn’t noticed the car last night, she realised. She guessed they must be musicians, but that noise sounded like the soundtrack to a nightmare. Fiona looked at her watch and noticed it was time to pick Emily up from school. She’d been listening longer than she’d realised.
(1300 words) I stood at the railing, gazing out to the haze of the distant level horizon. The sea was calm, low deep-blue waves undulating slowly, barely hinting at their potential ferocity. Ahead and far below me was the bow of the cruiser, where people, ant-like, sat by an unusually empty pool. I sighed and thought of Janie. Bitch! We’d had problems, sure, who doesn’t? But her leaving had come as a shock. It was Valentine’s Day, of all days, and I’d ordered some Adrenaline roses, her favourites. Unexpectedly, a silver BMW had pulled up, and I'd recognised Andy, her gym trainer, his dyed-blond hair swept over in an attempt to look youthful. Obviously, it had worked. Janie appeared. “Look Steve, I don’t want a scene. I’m leaving. Me and Andy …. I’ll be in touch about my things.” She’d looked embarrassed and hurried out, clutching her sports holdall, before I’d had time to reply. I watched her get into the car and kiss him. They drove off without looking back. Just then the flower delivery van had turned up. I’d taken the roses and thrashed them to pieces in the back garden with tears streaming down my face. “Full fathom five thy father lies, of his bones are coral made.”
I'm very pleased to announce the publication of In Dulci Jubilo, an omnibus of my first three titles, Bound in Morocco: A Short Story of Intrigue, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories. I have re-read (many for the first time in years) and edited all two hundred stories, and am delighted to say that I enjoyed them all! So, the omnibus contains the very latest up-to-date versions of every story. They range from one hundred words to seven and a half thousand. The three individual volumes that make up In Dulci Jubilo have been republished with the revised texts, in hardback (not Bound in Morocco), paperback, and Kindle. The description of In Dulci Jubilo reads as follows:
(1300 words) “Mummy’s got a magic carpet,” Esmeralda said. I laughed. “Well, I’d like to fly to Iceland, they’ve got some pretty big waterfalls there!” Tameka perked up. “Actually, I do have one. It was left to me by my great-uncle, Henri Baq. He wrote a history of the flying carpet.” “I thought it was just fairy tale nonsense,” I said. Tameka’s face became serious. “Fairy tales are usually based on fact.”
(1200 words) They’d come to Stiffkey, on the Norfolk coast, to try to rekindle something of their relationship, but with Ruth immersed in her fictional romantic world, and him stalking the lonely marshes and empty beaches, they rarely seemed to meet when one or the other wasn’t tired. She could be irritatingly churlish too, which didn’t help, and he probably wasn’t much better, he admitted.
(850 words) Windsor Great Park was my destination, somewhere I’d never been before. I drove my little silver Toyota through the busy streets of Windsor, noticing in the distance a red flag flying above the famous Round Tower of ‘the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world,’ signifying that the Queen was in residence. I followed the signs and found myself on less manic roads, finally pulling up at an impressive lodge, beyond which lay green fields and trees. A manservant in an antiquated purple robe came out. “Hello, Madam, may I help you?” “I’m Sylvia Williamson, I’ve come to look at your ghost.” His aged face betrayed no surprise. “Ah, yes, come this way please.”
I have also updated the Kindle Version with this very latest revised edition of To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories and am offering it FREE for 48 hours from 14th July 2023 at 08.00 GMT.
(600 words) I was a schoolboy at St Paul’s when the incident I’m about to relate occurred. I was one of a small number of boarders – my parents were ‘swingers’ (as we’d now call them). Not that I knew that at the time, of course. They just said they had ‘business to attend to,’ so I was packed off to St Pauls for months at a time. Anyway, it was a quiet Saturday in May, and I’d gone down to the kitchens to fetch some milk for a pot of tea I’d just made. There was Sally, the kitchen maid, with her arms up to her plump elbows in a sink full of washing up. “Hello, Sally, what’s that smell?” I asked. There was an unpleasant odour, not unlike the dreaded boiled cabbage, cooked to death, served up four times a week.
(500 words) Control in moving between worlds was something his grandfather had taught him, a closely guarded secret. He came from a place, just a whisper away but invisible and unreachable. At midnight, whilst the moon threw shadows like huge gravestones across the street, he would walk, seeking the aroma he desired. His face was gaunt and sallow, his lips thin and red, and his eyes as black as infinity.
(800 words) Every morning he’d go into his study with a breakfast tray and lock the door. Save for answering the call of nature, he’d stay there until he’d written two thousand words. Sometimes I’d hear a call, “Jude, get me some more toast, and don’t burn it!” other times, “That tea was foul, too much chlorine in the water! Make me some fresh with distilled water.” I was charged with buying it and heaven help me if we ran out!