(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.
(550 words) “Cloak and dagger man?” asked Clunch. “My name is Grey, Parma Grey,” I replied, “like a mouse’s back, and I have a cloak, incarnadine in hue, but, alas, no dagger.” He gave that queer, lopsided grin of his. “Ah, Mr. Grey, immortalised throughout our fair islands. Do come in.” I followed Clunch into a blue pavilion. The Ministry of Covert Warfare’s idea of keeping a low profile. “Hardly immortalized, I’m supposed to be a secret agent!” Clunch gave a throat-clearing splutter as he pressed a lift button. “Ah, but immortalized amongst we secret people, the cognoscenti of the garotte and poisoned umbrella!” I tried to suppress a smug smile as the lift proceeded downwards.
(500 words) As a man who’d been almost stone-deaf since birth, meeting women was something out of Christian Brown’s comfort zone. They may have smiled, but from their eyes, and replies, he knew he was less than intelligible. Now he was shown to a seat in the Koh-I-Noor restaurant. He took a deep breath and looked around at the mainly empty seats, then at his watch. 7.55 p.m. His councillor and psychologist, Susan, had arranged a blind date for him with a lady called Stephanie. She’d told him nothing about her, just that she was attractive, divorced and in her early forties.
(500 words) He looked around, then, with no one in sight, leapt over the six-foot fence and sat on the roundabout. He took a key ring out and played with the cold metals, toying with ideas. Finally, randomly flicking through them, ‘Fuck it,’ he thought. Holding one tight he began to kick the ground, the roundabout spinning in response. “Make the connection. Make the connection!”
(550 words) The sleek black police car pulled up, just ahead of a man, tall, leaning forward as he walked, as if forward motion was the only thing preventing him from toppling over. He had a distinguished face, probably handsome when young, thinning grey hair, silver steel-rimmed glasses, and a long nose. He looked up with surprise. Joshua got out of the police car. “Hi, Buddy, what are you doin’?” “Who, me? Just walking.” “Why? Don’t you know what’s on tonight? The final of The World’s Got Talent!” The man’s face looked blank. “I don’t watch TV.” “Don’t watch TV, you cannot be serious! Come on, man, everyone’s glued to the screen right now!” “Well, not me. I just wanted some … fresh air, exercise, you know.” “Actually, I don’t know, buddy. Think about Little Thelma, right now probably singing her heart out with The Nation’s Favourite Song. And you say you don’t wanna watch her!”
(500 words) It is snowing at the checkpoint and John and Abbie are outside, gazing over the border to the Taebaek mountains, and freedom. “You come, please,” says the guard, his green tunic emblazoned with enigmatic decorations and his oversized green cap looking surprisingly uncomic. I look through the window to see Abbie throw a snowball at her dad. They are both laughing. “But we’re going soon, the bus’ll be here.” “You come.” North Korean guards aren’t people you ignore. He leads me into a small, austere office.
(500 words) It is raining, it’s nine o’clock in the morning, and I’ve taken all the pictures off the walls like that nice Mr. Hughes at UTC asked me to. I do like the rain, I like to stand in it and close my eyes, feel it on my face and on my bare hands and arms. I’d been doing that at eight thirty whilst my tea was brewing when I heard the phone ring. “Good morning, is that Mr. Gordon Smith?” “Yes, who’s calling?” “It’s Roger Hughes, I’m calling from Universal Time Control.” “Who?” “Well, it’s all rather hush-hush, but people think time’s a simple matter, running in one direction at an even pace.”
(550 words) Other times Justin Schneider would have stayed in his warm, lighted cabin, or mingled in the bar, but he’d needed some real air. He wanted to breathe the sea breeze and feel alive. Out on the stern, it was cold, wet and misty, and his companion’s words were suddenly drowned out by the gargantuan blare of a foghorn. The ferry bucked in the heavy sea and he held onto the handrail tightly, gazing down nervously at the green-black waves crashing below.
(500 words) Journalism in Britain, impartial investigative journalism, ended on May 3rd 2007, the day our media began saturation coverage of an event that occurred in Portugal. A little girl named Madeleine McCann, aged three, had disappeared from her holiday apartment.
“They followed the beliefs of Pythagoras, that the universe was ordered around ratios of whole numbers, look never mind all that. I’m just saying that this so-called interstellar rock, Oh-Moo … whatever, it’s got a bloody silly name, could be an alien artefact, a spaceship even.”
“But it says on the news it’s a rock. Similar to asteroids in the outer solar system.” She stretched her long tanned legs out along the sofa and reclined. “Anyway, it looks like a rock!”
“That’s an artist’s impression, you idiot!”
Boxes, special boxes, lie at the bottom of my locked filing cabinet. Deposited there are letters and cards collected throughout my life. From grandparents, school friends, parents, lovers, wives, children, more lovers, more children. Since the invention of e-mail though, they’ve been few and far between.
Tonight it’s New Year’s Eve 2027 and there’s a very special box of letters I want to look at. But first, there’s something I have to do - The Ritual.
“I’m a servant, milord, a maid to Sir Oswald’s household.”
“And are you happy there?” I asked.
“No, milord, cursed be the day I came into this house!”
“What do you see around you?”
“Stone flags, milord, and a great fire. There’s a kettle o’water a’heatin’ for the washing.”
“Is it the scullery?”
“Yes, milord, there be a great kitchen for the cooking.”
“Is there anyone else there?”
(subject laughs) “Yes, milord, there’s Jack, the varlet. He sits by the fire, his face red as any fox!”