Never Lovelier


(850 words) It was a beautiful day, thought Mr. FtF as he sat on the patio with his newspaper waiting for his wife to come down. Why did it always take her so long to get ready in the morning, he wondered? All that … preening! He put his paper down and gazed at the canal that flowed past the bottom of their garden. Purple liquid sparkled in the light of the two suns in a way that never ceased to amaze Mr. FtF. It depended on their positions relative to each other he supposed, as he sipped his kaffa.

The Cat Will Mew …


(850 words) Gregory padded along outside our patio doors, a young rabbit, obviously alive, suspended obscenely from his jaws. It hung there, almost touching the ground, petrified and staring blankly ahead as it swung from side to side, its silky brown fur ruffled by the breeze. Like a little girl abducted from outside her school by a ghoul lusting for fresh lean meat, or a shrieking schoolboy plucked from his bed through an open window by the enormous hand of a ravenous giant, the rabbit was doubtless heading for the same fate. “Oh my god, Paul, not another!” exclaimed Amanda, coming into the sun room. “He had one yesterday and I saw him with another one a couple of days ago. That poor little rabbit.” “It’s nature. That’s what predators do, catch and kill their prey.”

Uncle Ambrose


(850 words) “How’s young Sammy?” Uncle Ambrose would ask, on infrequent visits from his current abode in Paris, ruffling my hair with long bony fingers that hurt my scalp. His appearance always seemed to coincide with unspecified absences of my father, I noticed. A moment later, he’d be unpacking his trunk. I would watch in awe as he unfolded his clothes and hung them in a huge wardrobe made of walnut. Green corduroy trousers, burgundy waistcoats, huge knitted sweaters in royal blue and cloaks of crimson. He was no shrinking violet!

Dog Story


(850 words) “God in a box, gimme a break, I've been writing my balls off all morning!” “Come on, you pwomissed. Anyway, how long does it take to write a five-hundred-word story for God’s sake?” “All morning – if it’s for a magazine; it’s gotta be just right.” “Well, what’s it about?” “It starts like this. ‘You’re not going to eat that thing raw, are you?’ asked Prunella. Jack laughed. ‘If it’ll keep still long enough!’” “Yuk, what’s next?” “You’ll have to buy the magazine to find out!” “I think I may not bother. Now come on, Uncle Doris is waiting.” I sniggered at our private joke.

The Price of Silver


(850 words) On the top shelf were antiques and bric-a-brac, and in the centre, an oil painting of a young woman in a white summer dress, standing in a garden amongst a rainbow of blooms. The price tag said £500. Thank God it hadn’t been sold! He pushed the door open and went up to the counter. A small, wiry man appeared. His face was blotchy, and his eyes small and bloodshot. A thin grey stubble covered his cheeks and chin, and beneath a pointed nose, crooked yellow teeth formed something that might have been a smile. “Can I help you, sir?”

Earthbound


(850 words) - Windsor Great Park was my destination, somewhere I’d never been before. I drove my little silver Toyota through the busy streets of Windsor, noticing in the distance a red flag flying above the famous Round Tower of ‘the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world,’ signifying that the Queen was in residence. I followed the signs and found myself on less manic roads, finally pulling up at an impressive lodge, beyond which lay green fields and trees. A manservant in an antiquated purple robe came out. “Hello, Madam, may I help you?” “I’m Sylvia Williamson, I’ve come to look at your ghost.” His aged face betrayed no surprise. “Ah, yes, come this way please.” He led me into the sumptuously furnished building and along corridors, where faces of unrecognisable royal personages glared at me through the cracked glaze of ancient oil paintings, mounted in enormous gilded frames.

The Ministry of Truth, Revisited


(850 words) Some had warned me it’d be like this, but I hadn’t believed them. Now I looked at my entry in Wikipedia once more, still feeling sick to my stomach. - Corwin Blackthorne (b.1957) a self-proclaimed ‘spiritual’ healer, established a ‘sanctuary’ in St. Olaves, Wiltshire in 2003, when the number of patients visiting his home became too great. He claims to have healed thousands from arthritis, depression, asthma, and even cancer. However, studies by the British Medical Journal showed no evidence to support this claim and were unable to verify a single cure. Subsequently, some ex-patients have accused Blackthorne of fraud ….

The Mound Folk


(850 words) In the silence I could hear waves crashing on the rocks outside, and the quiet hiss of gas lamps. When Skipper had finished, he cleared his throat. ‘… and, listen carefully, no one is to leave the hostel in the hours of darkness.” “I hope that doesn’t include me,” laughed our teacher Mr. Hughes, “I thought I’d take a walk down the coast to the village pub, … just for linguistic studies, you understand.” We all laughed. “I’m sorry, Mr. Hughes, that does include you, sir, it can be dangerous out there, er, … the wind and the waves ….”

The Shell People


(850 words) Digby smiles and I’m reminded of his uneven, yellow, smoker’s teeth. “The Magician’s on his way, and we’ve two drones patched into the security screens.” He indicates a row of monitors, currently scanning the football crowd. The Director’s decided we need them alive, find out what makes them tick, dissect them while they’re still breathing if we have to.” He gestures to my ‘rig’ - in an aluminium flight case propped in a corner. “This time you’ll have M99 cartridges. Etorphine.”