(800 words) 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.”
(850 words) Compassion, word of the day, thought Stanley Brown. It was something he wasn’t used to feeling, but here he was, about to walk up a stranger’s drive. He quickly combed his hair, then with a brown-paper-wrapped package tucked into the pocket of an old great coat he walked briskly up to the porch, noticing the peeling white paint and patches of mould on the woodwork. There she was at the window, the thin wrinkled visage and the halo of white hair, peering out, a look of incredulity on her ancient face. He pressed the doorbell and heard a distant answering chime. The face disappeared from the window.
(800 words) Looked at financially, the arcade had been a massive money-spinner. From the days of Atari Pong through Pac Man to the twenty-five grand Tomb Raiders II, punters had poured in. Then came the meteorite and the arcades, along with seven billion people, had been wiped out. Now Sam stood at one of the only games that still functioned, a nineteen-seventies’ Space Invaders, attempting to zap the red spacecraft whizzing above the rows of aliens dropping bombs on his base. Bom-bom-bom-bom, faster and faster. “Damn!” His last laser canon was hit. Game over.
(800 words) Franklin’s father-in-law, Hamish McLeish, was something else; an ex-Sergeant Major who made his dislike for Franklin no secret. “The day my daughter marries a scatter-brained poofter poet is the day I hope I’ll be six feet under!”
(800 words) Helena would go out every Friday night to meet Tom, a man who lived in an old railway signal box. He’d collect provisions from supermarkets, stuff that was beyond their sell-by date, and that they daren’t re-date. Let the tramps and ‘down-and-outs’ take the risk. Tom, Helena and sometimes a companion or two would drive a converted van out to a railway bridge and, beneath it, give out cups of soup, burgers, and re-heated chips to the down-and-outs who existed there. She felt a rising anger. “Aim higher than helping those in need, you mean?”
(850 words) As the train gathered speed, Patrick Skerry suddenly remembered he’d forgotten to buy a car park ticket. He felt his face flushing. What to do? He looked across to an old lady with a wrinkled face, chewing her lip whilst staring blankly out at the blackened, graffiti-strewn buildings flashing past. She wouldn’t know what to do, probably start on an endless yarn about some wretched grandchild. Then another thought hit him. Had he locked the car? He felt sick in the pit of his stomach. Surely he had? But, after all, he’d been in such a rush for the train he’d forgotten to buy a car park ticket!
(800 words) “Christ, Jesus wasn’t a patch on this guy, I’m tellin’ you, Harve!” “C’mon, Daniel, you’re kiddin’ me, right?” “I’m tellin’ you straight, he puts his hands on their shoulders, closes his goddamn eyes and two minutes later they’re healed. Cancer, heart disease, squints, you name it!” “And you've seen this?” “Goddamn right I've seen it. I seen it with my own eyes! Saul came to me first thing Monday morning. ‘Daniel, you ain’t gonna believe it,’ he said, ‘I took momma to see this new healer guy. After two minutes with the guy – Abraham he’s called – Wham! Her cataracts were gone!’ So, I took myself out to Shady Creek. He’s got a big tent set up. I watched for mebbe half an hour. Everyone he touched came away healed, I swear to God!”
(800 words) “‘Course, it might have been a false one, to throw us off the scent,” said the constable. “Maybe. These bastards are clever … Hi, who’s that?” said the inspector. A dark blue Range Rover had just pulled into the car park at Strubby House. A woman in a red coat and matching hat got out, waving. “Cooee.” Thirty minutes earlier, the two policemen, accompanied by a police artist, had taken the path from Strubby House to the Dower House. The latter was a square Georgian pile with tall, narrow windows. Against the gloom of the sinking winter sun it looked like an enormous tomb. The path, an uneven gravel walkway, strewn with wet leaves, was lined by heavily pollarded beech trees on either side. Their stunted, blackened branches reminded the inspector of photographs of Holocaust victims, dumped in mass graves.
(800 words) Suddenly, he slammed the brakes on. There, lying on the track about a hundred metres away was what appeared to be a young woman, wearing a white dress and hat. The shunter ground to a halt and he jumped out. A blast of roasting summer air hit him in the face. Man, was it hot! He approached the woman. Her eyes were open. He thought she was the prettiest thing he’d ever seen. Early twenties, huge blue eyes, high cheekbones and full lips. She gave a weak smile, showing pearly white teeth. Her dazed vision took in a hulk of a man, wearing shorts and a fluorescent yellow jacket, beads of sweat glistening on a bare, muscled chest. His face wasn’t young, but kind-looking. “Hi,” she murmured.
(800 words) “Invisible ink, Mrs. Parsons.” Elizabeth Parsons, holding a sheaf of blank paper, looked up at Mr. Umbridge, an expression of confusion on her pink face. “But why?” “Believe me, I don’t know, Mrs. Parsons. But your husband assured me that it would be visible under ultraviolet light. Alas, we have no such source on the premises. But I’m sure you’ll be able to buy one, or perhaps borrow one for the duration required.” “Do you know what he wrote?” “That I do not, Mrs. Parsons, and if I did, I’m afraid I still couldn’t tell you. It would breach client confidentiality.” “But surely now he’s dead?” “It matters not, Mrs. Parsons, the principle is paramount. However, …” He paused, gazing out above the bags under his eyes into Elizabeth Parsons’ bright blue orbs.