(600 words) Alma stared out at an alien landscape, knobs of black volcanic rock formed into bizarre shapes and covered with moss. Somehow, in places even grass. She heard the roaring engine of her transport in the distance and breathed a sigh of relief, soon spotting the Land Rover driving along the narrow coastal road towards her. Then there was Gunnar, smiling. “Hop in,” he said in perfect English. As the vehicle powered its way to the unimaginable rendezvous, she thought of Hy and his love for Iceland. Perhaps that was why she was here again, she admitted to herself. Hy and his obsession with geology, his disdain for her and Charles in their ‘boring, suburban world,’ the world that had funded his education of course, but no matter, in his view. Then there’d been Vanessa and the crazy accident.
(650 words) Helena lifted the angel to her cheek and felt the heavy varnish stick to her skin. She closed her eyes, picturing the peppermint green figure, a crude angel-shape with black stripes that reminded her of a sad humbug. But it brought back memories of the night, THAT night. “Has anyone NOT seen a demonstration of mediumship before?” She’d felt embarrassed, but seeing other hands going up, she’d stuck her arm up in the air, feeling her mother’s bangle sliding on her wrist. Would she be here? Was it even possible? “There’s nothing to worry about. If anything horrible comes along, I’ll be first out the door!” Laughter.
(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?”
(600 words) We proceeded into a corridor where the lighting was a garish strip-light, by contrast, but at least we could see the row upon row of dust-covered books that filled shelves from floor to ceiling. Little doubt what our brother had spent his money on over the years. They were nearly all hardbacks, some with streaks in the dust at their feet, where they had presumably been extracted in recent memory. I pulled one such out. A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism by Gareth Knight. It was in four parts, The Lesser Mysteries, The Greater Mysteries, The Supreme Mysteries, and, The Tarot, the latter coming as somewhat of a surprise. It looked complicated. And expensive.
(650 words) There’d been no problem getting a gondola ride. For the second day, a thick white mist hung in the air over the city and at the gondola station at San Moisè the vessels had loomed out of the fog like Viking ships. A man in a pink T-shirt with horizontal red stripes and a body-warmer had appeared from nowhere. “You wanna ride, signor e signora? Is foggy. I give you special price of sixty euros!”
(600 words) Dr. Rowina Scott stood at an enormous round window, gazing in awe at the towering pyramidal blocks a thousand stories high that dominated the city. She never grew tired of looking at them nor ceased to wonder at their immensity. Multi-coloured sky pods darted around and between them. A bleep from her pager jolted her out of her reverie. The director, Dr. Abraham Klein, wished to see her urgently. What the hell did the old bugger want?
iPadememonium by Martyn Searle (600 words) Papers are mean. Well, maybe not the dog-eared old flyers who spend their days hanging out on light poles, numbered tassels waving in the breeze, helping to locate lost puppies. A certain Buddhist enlightenment has come to them in repayment for good deeds and frayed edges. But those reams who rule in home offices? Vicious temperaments. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Perhaps, as is often the case when numerous white individuals gather in large groups, all those sheets had a loftier opinion of themselves than they merited.
(600 words) Papers clutter a desk. I pick one up and read about a man’s obsession. Seems there’s a character who enjoys killing. The description is brief. Medium height, average build, nondescript face. No distinguishing marks. Not much to go on! But the writer describes an incident where the man strokes another man’s hair and gently, lovingly, wraps a scarf around his neck. Like a petrified mouse under the paw of a cat, the victim remains motionless.
(600 words) Traditional psychology can’t explain it. Well, they try to, they say it’s some kind of amnesia. I know it’s not, but they won’t listen to me. I look in the mirror and the person I see is not ... me. It’s like I've been put in someone else’s body, not a bad one mind, and given a few sheets of A4 to learn about his history, life and work. So when Susan, my ‘wife’ comes to me and says Frank’s on the phone, I don’t have a clue who she’s on about, he wasn’t on the A4 sheets.
The last thing Ronald Russell wanted to do that day was get into the taxi with Cheryl. Not because he didn’t love her. He did – or thought he did. But, as the taxi lumbered down the mountain road, swaying from side to side, pressing his bare legs against the bare legs of Cheryl and Samantha alternately, he knew there would be no more taps on the door late at night, no more sounds of clothes falling onto the floor, no more slim, warm body slipping in beside him, and Cheryl, giggling, reaching down for him, whispering, “I hope you don’t mind!”
“Where d’you think I’m gonna find that kinda money?” asked Shelly Green, pulling on her dog’s lead. “Sit, Earl, sit!”
“Listen Shell’, it’s a chance in a lifetime! I dunno, get a loan from the bank, sell your car, sell your house!”
Shelly sighed. “What about Wharton’s. They wouldn’t let me go for a month!”
“For Chrissakes, Shelly, you’re only a cleaner. They can get someone else from the agency. No offence.”
“Thanks a lot!” She blushed. Her friend, Mavis Enderby didn’t mince words. “But, look, Mave, those pygmies, with their beards and loincloths and sweaty bodies, I mean, what about … y’know, women’s things … I’d be embarrassed!”
Giselle Brown leapt and found herself soaring into the air. She gazed out over a lake of frozen hydrocarbons, black as tar, then into the starry sky where one star, like a torch seen at the end of a tunnel, outshone all the others – the Sun.
As she reached the apex of her jump, twenty-five feet above the ground, she gazed in awe, as she always did, at the huge crescent of Charon, hanging in the dark sky, before she began to fall, gently, back to the icy surface. She glanced at her chronometer and smiled. Nearly ten seconds, her highest leap yet.