(800 words) I stood at the front of my local Spiritualist Church, an honoured guest. “Ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you about my brother, Justin, and how he’s come back from the spirit world to give us all a message of hope.” There was a polite hush. “But before Justin speaks, I’d like to say a little bit about him.” Thirty pairs of eyes looked up at me with eager anticipation.
(850 words) The room blurred into focus and I could see a short, fat, brown nurse looking at me curiously. “Is it that bad?” I asked. She tried to smile but failed. “Many burns patients make good recovery from facial disfigurement,” she said. “Great.” She patted my hand. “We’ll look after you, don’t worry.”
(1200 words) At Stamford Brook a couple got on and sat at the far end, and an elderly woman took a seat opposite me in the otherwise empty carriage. I looked up. She wore a smart silver-grey jacket and trousers, and a matching headscarf over curly white hair. I watched her take out a small notebook filled with tiny writing in a neat blue hand that went right to the edges of the pages. With a pencil she began to underline certain sentences and paragraphs. I watched her at her self-appointed task and the more I watched, the more I wondered. It couldn’t be, surely? The woman looked up over pince-nez, sensing my stare. an imperceptible smile playing on her rouged lips. Then she went back to her underlining. Finally, I could stand it no more. In a hushed tone I said, “Excuse me, do you know you’re the spitting image of … of the Queen?” She put her book down and looked at me over her glasses with piercing blue eyes. “That’s one way of putting it.” She gave a small smile. “And who are you?”
(900 words) It was easy to ignore a down-and-out, someone who represents a world you don’t want to know about, when you were streaming past with other cinema-goers. Not so easy now the streets hereabouts were empty and there were just the two of us and the poor soul under the bridge, sitting staring into space in the chill October air. I walked over to the canal that ran beside the path and gazed into the black water, wondering if anything was alive in that strange, dark, oil-polluted world. Far off, the clock in the town square struck the chime for a quarter to eleven. Suddenly I heard a scream.
(1000 words) Originally built nearly two hundred years earlier, the substantial farmhouse had withstood all weathers. Until now. Yasmin Hill looked back in the distance to the roof just visible above the floodwater, then to Tom, his old face furrowed in concentration beneath the miner’s helmet as he rowed them out further and further away from her home, or what had been her home. “We’re at sea now, young ‘un,” he said after a while. The sky was the colour of mud and heavy drops of rain fell intermittently, spattering Yasmin’s thin bare legs and anorak, the hood pulled tight over her blonde hair. “How do you know?” The rain ran in rivulets down Tom’s helmet, then were soaked up by the collar of an old duffle coat. “I can tell by the tide, it’s growing stronger.”
(900 words) “Word of advice, young lady.” Shannon Morris pulled a face. “What, Dad?” “When Granddad tells you it’s time for bed, it’s time for bed, d’you understand?” “Oh God, they go to bed so early. Granddad thinks half past nine is late!” “Look, they’re good enough to look after you for two weeks. Feed you, wash your clothes, drive you into town; the least you can do is show them some respect. D’you hear me, young lady. Hey …” But she was already heading for her bedroom.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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
(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
(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.
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
(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.”
It's my pleasure to present a somewhat irreverent poem by my friend and fellow Write Away member, Nancy Richy, on the pesky and oft-avoided subject of death. I hope it'll raise a chuckle or three. Please check out her blog, The Elephant's Trunk for more "Creative short stories of drama, humor, family, irony, fantasy, love … Continue reading Guest Post: No Joke
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’ ...
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!
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.”