(1700 words) It’s amazing how clear your mind becomes when you know you only have two minutes left to live. My first thought, as I found my car careering down the steep side of a reservoir, was how unjust it was, that I should lose my life to a crazy lorry driver. My second was my lifetime fear of drowning, of gasping and choking and sucking freezing water into my nose, mouth, and lungs. My third was to brace myself in case the airbags inflated. I gripped the steering wheel tightly with both hands as panic hovered in the wings. There was a jolt as the car hit the water, but the airbags didn’t deploy, thank God. Then creaking and gurgling as water rose over the windscreen and the car began to sink down and down and it grew darker and darker. The floor of the vehicle began to flood soaking my shoes and tights with icy water. There was a smell like the drain in my back yard. I guess my pancreas was pumping adrenalin into my bloodstream like nobody’s business. Time seemed to stop. Do I open a door or a window? Then the car jerked, there was a sucking sound, and the water was halfway to my knees, and I was back in the moment. Through the windscreen, I could see shafts of light through the water but nothing tangible. Nothing that resembled the bottom, anyway. I felt a hot sensation between my legs and realised I was peeing in my panties.
(1700 words) Oswald remembered his mother’s advice. “Never accept food from strangers.” “Why not mother?” he’d asked. “Well, if you buy it from Mr. Barmwell, the baker, you know he will have checked the ingredients and made sure they were all tip-top and wholesome. If you buy food from a shop, well they have important people who will have made sure the food is healthy and safe to eat.” “Yes, mother.” “But a stranger, well, they could have put poison in it, or worse!” Oswald scratched his head. “What’s worse than poison!” “Ah, well, there are potions that would turn you into a giant cockroach, or make your arms shrink to nothing, or turn everything you say into a scream of pain, or ….” “No, I won’t mother,” Oswald interrupted hastily, not wishing to hear further horrors. But now the wicked witch, for such was she, held out a crumb from the most delicious-looking cake Oswald had ever seen. “My mother said I mustn’t accept food from strangers.” “Ah, one little crumb can’t do any harm, surely?” Oswald, hesitated, then took the crumb from the old woman’s wrinkled hand and popped it into his mouth.
(1700 words) "What does he do all day, d’you think?” Alison said, standing at our bedroom window, looking out across the valley and up at the dilapidated farmhouse on the hill on the far side. I swivelled my chair around at my writing desk. “Didn’t you hear? Jenny says he’s a clairvoyant, does readings over the phone for people.” Alison looked in the mirror, restlessly brushing her long chestnut-brown hair. “What? How does that work, then?” “I don’t know how he does it, but they do tarot readings and stuff over the phone, don’t they?” “Hmm. That’s interesting. What, you mean people pay for it, without him seeing them?” “That’s what Jenny says. She cleans for him on Fridays, didn’t you know? Says he seems a nice bloke, keeps himself to himself. ‘Very spiritual,’ that’s what she says. D’you think he’d give me a message from mum?” I sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe. Why don’t you give him a call?” In slow motion, her long, slim fingers replaced her hairbrush on the dressing table. “OK, perhaps I will.”