(600 words) I was a schoolboy at St Paul’s when the incident I’m about to relate occurred. I was one of a small number of boarders – my parents were ‘swingers’ (as we’d now call them). Not that I knew that at the time, of course. They just said they had ‘business to attend to,’ so I was packed off to St Pauls for months at a time. Anyway, it was a quiet Saturday in May, and I’d gone down to the kitchens to fetch some milk for a pot of tea I’d just made. There was Sally, the kitchen maid, with her arms up to her plump elbows in a sink full of washing up. “Hello, Sally, what’s that smell?” I asked. There was an unpleasant odour, not unlike the dreaded boiled cabbage, cooked to death, served up four times a week.
(625 words) It was incredible and completely unexpected. The sensation as our fingers touched was electric, my heart skipped a beat and I momentarily forgot to breathe. Her fingers intertwined with mine and she twitched her lips in that funny way she used to, before kissing me tenderly. I gazed into her dark round eyes and knew it was love - deep, sacred love.
(650 words) Given that there were fewer than seven hours before the Sapphire of the Seas sailed from Le Havre, Third Engineer Giuseppe ‘Joseph’ Marino queued anxiously at Portsmouth ferry terminal. The ferry was due to leave in thirty-five minutes and the sailing time to Le Havre was five and a half hours, given a calm sea. He became aware of a small girl at his side. “All those destined for Bilbao, please proceed to gate C,” came an announcement. Joseph’s heart thudded. No, he was destined for Le Havre, gate F. That was OK, everything was fine. He wiped the sweat from his brow. “I’m lost, I’m not sure where my mummy and daddy are.” Joseph looked down at two brilliant blue eyes in the little girl’s upturned face, and his heart melted. Then back to the noticeboard. Departure in less than thirty minutes. In a pocket, his fingers crushed a used train ticket. If he missed the ferry, he missed the cruise ship. If he missed the cruise ship, he missed three months’ work, three months’ good wages, wages he couldn’t afford to lose. He’d be busting his nuts in a crummy, low paid job at home. No contest.
(600 words) The tent flap opens, and Trevor comes in. Everyone’s here now. Everyone, that is, except Alan the group leader. He’ll be sorting out logistics with the mule team. Eating with them too. I give Trevor a bright smile from beneath my red baseball cap, holding out my plastic plate to Muhammed as he serves from a huge bowl of lamb and vegetable stew.
(600 words) Martha Longthorn sat at the reception desk of the Beconsby Chronicle. She opened a desk drawer and took out a black crystal. She lifted her skirt and held the crystal between her legs. Outside, a few passersby went past on their anonymous business. Then she noticed a man on the opposite side of the street, looking across at the Chronicle office. He wore a beanie hat and a long dark-green jacket. A carrier bag dangled from one hand, whilst the other clasped a walking stick. He started to cross the road towards her. She hurriedly replaced the crystal in the drawer.
(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) The door creaked open and we were in a long entrance hall. The dust on the carpet was visible and a thick film of it coated a hall table holding a dead, brittle succulent. There was an overwhelming smell of must and neglect and something intangible too – loneliness.
(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.