(1350 words) “May I ask you a personal question?” A young woman with long, bright-blonde hair had approached me in the park. “What? Why?” “Oh, there’s just something I’d like to ask you.” “What, then?” “How long is your penis?” “What kind of question is that!” “Just a question.” “Yes, I know that, but why do you want to ask it?” “Why do I want to do anything. I dunno, I just do.” “Well, how long is a piece of string?” “I don’t know how long a piece of string is! It’s as long as it’s long, I suppose. My name’s Ezer.” In the distance, two men in white coats, running in our direction. The alarm bells rang. I gestured in their direction. “Look … Ezer … I don’t know what your game is but do you know those men? “ A look of horror came over her face. “Look, we gotta run!”
Well, it’s been three years since To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories was published on Amazon, and following on from the success of that title, plus To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories and Bound in Morocco: A Short Story of Intrigue, (both published in 2017) it is my pleasure to announce the publication of not one, not two, but THREE new titles! This time, I have curated stories on the themes of humour and the supernatural from ‘the best of my blog,’ re-read and revised, plus unpublished stories. 40 stories on each theme have been collected into two volumes; Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth, and The Window Crack’d and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Horror and the Supranatural.
(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. ‘Do not be alarmed. We wish you no harm.’ He stood up and found himself stumbling. “Good gawd, is this shum kinda joke?” ‘We wish to visit your leader.’
(650 words) Orlando Flinton pulled a face. “We must be crazy!” The other Earthman, Ricky Kiyosaki, who had been gazing out of the viewplate at the green and gold alien vista, glanced around at Flinton’s remark. “Huh?” By this time, the spaceship had finished jiggling and now stood firmly on Deiphobus soil, and Flinton was beginning to doubt his sanity. “Look,” he said, “we thought we were special, you know, a big deal being selected for this mission, ten years training for it, and now we’re here, guess what? I don’t feel anything. I could be at home, back on Earth, watching the big game and drinking Coors with Jenny. Instead of risking my life on this crummy planet!”
(900 words) “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.”
(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.
(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?”
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.
(900 words) My wife, Coral, had become rather ‘tubby,’ to put it kindly, fat to put it less so, since the birth of our first child, Crispin, so I was pleased that after the Christmas festivities were over she began to take herself in hand. She’d leave little Crispin asleep with me or the babysitter to take an occasional walk, spurred on by the GetFit watch her mother had given her for Christmas.
(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.
(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.”
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!