In Memoriam

(800 words) We all know how much we depend on our postmen and postwomen,” intoned Arthur, the vicar, concluding the eulogy, “and Barney was one of the best. Everyone loved Barney.” I looked around the packed church. There was Mavis McLung with her cheeky face surrounded by a mop of ginger curls, courtesy of L’Oréal. Then there was Carol Hardaker, her pug-like visage glaring around at the other villagers lining the pews, her bitchiness silenced through necessity for the time being. In the front row sat Maureen, Barney’s widow, dressed in a neat black two-piece with a black hat and veil. Her two teenage sons sat to her right, their eyes red and swollen. My wife, Sue, took my arm as we finally traipsed out into the graveyard and the warm sun of an early spring morning. “What a bunch of hypocrites,” she whispered.

Train of Thought

(850 words) It was a spring day, and the writer sat on a bench under the station clock. He took a deep breath, revelling in the sensation of rebirth in the warm air. In the distance, far off, below the backdrop of craggy, pine-covered mountains, he could just make out a dot that signified the oncoming train. He was very old, and his thin frame seemed lost within the baggy grey suit he wore. He looked up at the clock, where the thick black minute hand against the white disc had just passed 11.50. Yes, the train would be on time.

A Woman Scorned

(800 words) “Lie down and die, why don’t you!” Clydie James shouted at a large black dog that had begun barking at her in the street. It was late afternoon, with heavy silver clouds looking bigger than cornfields, and presently it began to rain. Big round drops fell, still in the sunlight, on the hot tin sheds and sidewalks of the little town of Faraday. A hen and her string of yellow chickens ran in great alarm across the road, whilst the dust turned river brown. “Nobby!” An old man called the dog’s name, and – to Clydie James’s relief – they both disappeared.

The Invisible Man

(800 words) It was late in the afternoon when the bus stuttered to a halt outside the old hotel in the foothills. The town square was deserted, save for a cow in the shade of the once-imposing colonial buildings, swishing its tail by a water trough. Inside, we sat on worn leather sofas in a huge vestibule, cooled by the blades of an enormous fan above. “Buenos dias,” I heard a concierge say to our leader, West. “What’s your name?” a bespectacled woman asked me. Her hair was held back in a grey pony tail and her bare legs and calves were brown and pudgy. “Mine’s Norma.” “Oh, it’s Colin, pleased to meet you.” Though I wasn’t really.

The Assignment (One Crazy Day)

(800 words) Elvina hadn’t enjoyed it in the library, all those anonymous people staring at screens. Anyway, wasn’t it supposed to be about books in a library? Then there were the sour-faced, grey-haired women at the help desks, annoyed to have to look up and answer questions, and, of course, smelly old men reading the newspapers and farting. But her assignment had been to go the library and find a book, any book, but one on a subject she wouldn’t normally look at and relevant to the project. “Do you have a key for that glass case upstairs,” she’d asked. The woman at the desk had stared at her, squinting through thick lenses, irritated at having to break from her card-indexing. “What do you say?” Elvina found herself blushing as she repeated the question. The woman rummaged around for a key and got up, sighing heavily, “Oh, follow me then.”

Opening the Third Eye

(800 words) “Good afternoon, could you point me in the direction of the travel books please?” he asked. The woman was slim, neat, and quite pretty, he admitted, despite her pointed lack of make-up. She gave a friendly smile, got up and took him down a short, well-lighted corridor to the required area. Just then, the shop bell rang and a young woman entered with a small child in tow, a boy of about six. “Did you know you’ve got one of them square face things sprayed on your shop?” The shop lady sounded anxious. “What? No, I didn’t. What does it mean?” “I dunno, just I heard there’s been a few appearing round town. They say it’s to do with gangs.” “What do you mean, gangs?” “I dunno, something to do with an initiation rite, you know, to join the gang.”

Revelation

(800 words) Fish, a wet cold fish, that’s what Lazarescu reminded her of! The lights were on now and the audience on their feet giving rapturous applause. Rapturous applause for a lacklustre concert – to put it mildly! Freshny was on his feet, clapping for all his worth. He looked down at her, his eyes saying ‘Why aren’t you joining in this standing ovation?’ Matilde stood up and hit her hands together, watching the bald-headed old man bow and bow; surely, he’d barely be able to move tomorrow, she thought. She’d never enjoyed the scrape of the cello, but Freshny had got her a ticket. Made a big deal of it. Surely she’d heard of Lazarescu, the most famous Romanian cellist of all time? Then a look of incredulous disdain when she’d said that, no, she’d never heard of him.

Apple Cider

(800 words) When she looked up she saw the angel. He towered above her, shrouded in a black cloak and hood, looking down at her. In the light of the flaming torch he held, she saw his face was young, almond-shaped, his full lips pursed, as if intending to speak, … or about to kiss her. She felt a wave of the most glorious love she’d ever felt, washing over her, the best feeling she could ever remember. “Am I dead?” Looking around, she saw they were surrounded, almost cocooned, by a golden light. She felt completely at peace and asked the question without hesitation. The angel smiled. “If you were dead, would you be able to speak to me?” “Well, you know what I mean, ‘not alive’.” “Of course you’re alive. You see, you hear, you think!” “But, where are we, where’s Apple Cider?”

How Long Is 24 Hours?

(800 words) Chimera, that was the name of the thing on my cup. A fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. Not something you’d want to meet on a dark night, or any night for that matter. I turned the cup around, watching the chocolate-coloured liquid swirl above the red mythological creature. How many times had I done the exact same thing, I wondered? Fifty, a hundred, a thousand even? Then it struck me, I was stuck in this one moment of time, forever drinking coffee out of this same cup, forever looking at the hideous beast and wondering of its provenance, pondering its manufacture, forever gazing around my cluttered kitchen - piles of papers, vitamins, medications on my table, washing up stacked in the sink.

Animal Magic

(800 words) “David’s deer, where are they, mate?” A man in a dark green top and blue trousers stopped his work, brushing the floor of an animal enclosure. He eyed the young man – clad in dirty jeans and a grey hoodie – disapprovingly, “Père David’s deer, oh, they’re on loan for a few days.” “Well, they weren’t here last week neither. The bloke on duty said they were sleeping.” The zoo keeper sighed. “Well, animals have to sleep!” A girl with blonde hair in a pony tail joined them, linking arms with the young man. “Well, I went to see the giraffes and there was only one, in a smelly building. None out in the paddock.” The keeper began to brush the floor once more. “Well, what do expect me to do about it?”

My Late Brother

(800 words) I stood at the front of my local Spiritualist Church, an honoured guest. “Ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you about my brother, Justin, and how he’s come back from the spirit world to give us all a message of hope.” There was a polite hush. “But before Justin speaks, I’d like to say a little bit about him.” Thirty pairs of eyes looked up at me with eager anticipation.

Tastes Like Hippopotamus to Me

(800 words) Sprong and Brackett was distinguishable from other shops by the broomsticks, pointed hats and mountain of strange bric-a-brac in its bowed windows. Candles, crystals, and incense sticks rubbed shoulders with figurines of nature spirits, oracle cards and pendants of all shapes and sizes. Marcy pushed the door open and a bell rang. No one was around. She went through to the back and saw a small glass phial on a table. She put it in a pocket and left an envelope in its place. Then she hurriedly exited the shop.