(900 words) I’d been distracted, adjusting my rear-view mirror, when this old codger had just lurched onto the zebra crossing out of nowhere. I wasn’t drunk but admittedly a couple of glasses of Shiraz at the theatre had perhaps dulled my reactions. Hannah and I looked and dressed alike so when we’d stopped the car, it was obvious he wasn’t sure who the driver had been. I breathed a sigh of relief as she did the ‘decent thing’ and saved my political career, ‘confessing all’ to the ambulance driver and the police.
Martha came back from the ladies’ loo, grinning like a Cheshire cat. “You’ll never believe who’s in the Gin Room!”
“That actor, what’s his name, you know, the one who looks like Tom Hanks.”
I racked my brains. “Oh, you mean the one who was in that film, oh, what was it called? About the air force, you know.”
“Yeah, that’s the one. Ooh, he’s so dishy.”
I took a sip of my vodka and lemon. “Actually, I don’t care for him.” I put my glass down. “I always think Vodka smells like cement glue, don’t you? You know, that stuff boys use to glue kits together.”
The day had started off fine – an early spring breeze, the snow crisp, its crystals gleaming in the sunshine and little icicles dangling from the pines. The girls were happy, pulling Jacob’s gear and some supplies on a small sled, whilst singing camp songs. “With my hand on my head and what have I here, this is my brainbox, Oh I do declare ….”
After photographing an ice-lake and the unexpected success of snapping a pair of bull moose sizing up for a fight over a female, it had suddenly grown dark. Jacob eyed the oppressive snow-laden clouds overhead. “Come on, kids, better head back to the Land Rover.”
Charity’s huge brown eyes looked up at him from beneath a green bobble hat. “How far is it, dad?”
“Only a mile or so,” he improvised. “Come on, let’s get back.”
“It’s up there somewhere, Val,” said Edward, waving his hand towards snow-covered mountain peaks, far beyond the valley that held the roadside café we’d pulled up at.
I put a mug of pungent coffee down onto a weathered wooden table, it was too hot to hold in any case, and with my binoculars, scanned the forests of snow-laden pine trees, the bare, grey stone crags and endless snowfields. It looked like I could reach out and touch them, yet when I put the binoculars down, the mountains seemed impossibly distant. “I don’t see anything.”
(900 words) “Covered in shit, not in glory, that was the reality. The trenches … well, you can’t imagine the stench of them, and wet – water everywhere. They never seemed to dry out, even in summer. Then they’d stink even worse, like a toilet with piss all over the floor. “Our boots would be soaked and the socks our mums had insisted on giving us – in bagfuls – would be wet through, too. We’d laughed at them – ‘why are you giving me all these bloody socks? I do know how to wash socks, you know!’ – but you know what, when push came to shove, dry socks were like bloody gold dust out there. “And then Fritz would start shelling us. We’d be huddled down in the mud whilst the sky lit up, just like fireworks. Every now and then you’d hear a scream and you knew some poor sod had just bought it.
“Remove any doubts from your mind, Mrs. Hawking. Our facilities here at Newton Cryonics are state-of-the-art. True, there may have been one or two, er, hiccups at the beginning, elsewhere, but you can have total faith in us, our cryogenic process has proved its reliability.”
“Alfred’s finding it hard to breath now. He’s not got long ….”
“Ah, good, now Miss Kelly outside will go through the protocol and form-filling with you. There’s just one thing. Did he want the full body or just the head?”
“Oh, what would you recommend?”
“Well, for most it comes down to price. Keeping the whole body at minus two hundred degrees is considerably more expensive over the long-term than just the head.”
Mrs. Alexa Hawking looked out of the window at the huge concrete hemisphere ensconced among neat lawns and flowerbeds that stretched out ahead. She fingered her white hair nervously. “Oh, just his head …. How long …?”
Dr. Zanoun gave a wry smile. “I can’t give you any definite figures, Mrs. Hawking. It could be a hundred years, it could be five hundred ….” He made a gesture as if juggling invisible balls. “But rest assured, your husband’s head will be safe in our hands.”
“Hey, Johnny, Billy Stone’s going to get you after school.” It was Tony ‘Smiffy’ Smith.
“Says you’ve been messing about with his sister and he’s going to give you a fat lip.”
I felt a sudden queasiness in the pit of my stomach. “I talked to her at the bus stop. That’s all.” Susan Stone was pretty, intelligent and friendly, everything her brother wasn’t. I often wondered if they had the same parents.
“Says he’s going to knock your teeth so far down your throat you’ll have to stick a toothbrush up your arse to clean them.”
(875 words) ‘Out in space no-one can hear you scream.’ Well, Alice could hear screams all right. Her three year old twins, Adam and Toni, fighting. Adam wailed as Toni held an angry-looking, bright-blue shark just out of his reach. Being taller, she would lift it higher, just beyond his grasp, as he jumped up … Continue reading The Artifact
(900 words) “Head for the hills, ‘cos I’m looking for thrills …,” sang Hamish, his Scottish burr prolonging ‘thrills.’ “I could use some of those,” laughed Julia, a short, stocky woman in her sixties. I hoped she didn’t have me in mind. The sun was sinking, lengthening the shadows of saguaro cacti, towering here and … Continue reading The Visitation
(900 words) Monastic life had its ups and downs. At first it had been quite exciting, rising at 4.30 in the old Abbey in the summer, seeing mist covering the expansive lawns, whilst a golden glow on the horizon diffused over the orchard. Opening a window with its ancient leaded panes and breathing in that … Continue reading Comic Tragedy