(700 words) I felt embarrassed. “Eavesdropper, moi?” The girl looked at me accusatorily, but with humour behind her pale grey eyes. She wasn’t pretty, not even attractive really, but she had ‘something.’ Her skin was quite dark, healthy looking, and she wore silver-rimmed glasses. Maybe it was her generous shape. Perhaps it conformed to a subconscious template we males lust after? “Well, what were you up to then?” She glanced back at her friend, a fat girl with bright blonde hair, presently shovelling spaghetti bolognese into her face, then looked me square in the eyes, raising her eyebrows.
(800 words) “Manager of data security and hacker extraordinaire! May I introduce the head of MI7, Baronetess Zilberstein?” The Speaker of the House of Commons gestured towards a short woman with the face of a man. Her hair was black and greasy, and reminded Grant Balfour of the ‘pudding basin’ haircuts he’d endured as a child. Her features were pudgy and grey, as if moulded from ancient Plasticine. She dipped her head perfunctorily, but her thin, straight lips remained compressed.
(1400 words) I stared in total disbelief. I’d returned home from work to find my front door hanging from broken hinges and the whole house surrounded with yellow tape, stating POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS. I looked around. There were no police vehicles, that I could see anyway, and nothing happening at any of our neighbours’ houses. All seemed quiet and deserted. I ducked under the tape and went in. A table in the hall lay on its side, but in the lounge, everything seemed normal. Then I looked in the kitchen. It looked as if a giant arm had swept everything onto the floor. There were broken cups and plates strewn around everywhere. I spied a mobile phone amongst them, my son Jack’s, I thought. How odd. I picked it up and put it in a jacket pocket. As I did so, I noticed a dark stain on the brown kitchen carpet tiles, and what appeared to be speckles of blood all over the crockery. A saucepan on the stove, now cold, had a blackened base, as if it had boiled dry. “You’re not allowed in the house, sir!” I turned around and jumped out of my skin. A man stood in a yellow suit with a huge clear visor. Through it, I could see he was breathing with a respirator. He wore black rubber gloves and shoes. “What’s going on. Where’s my wife and son?”
(1450 words) Reaching the end, I closed my eyes and turned around on the plank by feel. Then I opened them again and looked back at Jessie, silhouetted against the top of the tall spire. I couldn’t see her face, just blonde hair blowing in the breeze, against the slate-grey tiles. She was stood on a platform close to the top of the steeple of St. Stephen’s church, Budhaven, one of the tallest in Britain. Above, on the very tip of the spire, a small but ornate metal cross surmounted a thick strip of copper lightning conductor which ran down the side of the steeple and ultimately into the earth. “You OK, Ben?” she called. I gave a thumbs up sign. The plan was to photograph me for Facebook, standing at the end of a narrow plank with a four hundred foot drop below! Now, out here, the reality was a bit different. It was really quite breezy, it might be dangerous.
(1250 words) While I wait for news, and now my hands have stopped shaking, I want to record the incident that happened tonight. My parents had gone into London to see an opera and are still not back at nearly half past midnight. They said I could have a couple of schoolfriends around as long as we promised to be ‘sensible.’ Fat chance! So, Shelley and Julie had called round, together, about seven o’clock. They’d brought some DVDs and Julie had snuck a couple of bottles of beer from her brother’s stash. Shelley had brought a large carrier bag. Like all teenage girls, we swapped news and giggled about the boys we fancied, then sat in the lounge and put on a DVD, The Omen. Well, it was pretty scary, and nasty too, the way people got killed, being sliced in two by a faulty lift and crushed between train carriages, just two examples. When it had finished, Shelley said, “God, that was horrible. Look, I brought something we can play, I’ll go and get it.” She headed for the kitchen.
(700 words) “This is WKKZ, binging you the best music and the best discussion!” announced the smooth voice of DJ Kenny Bright, “and now we’ve time for one more caller before the news at 1 a.m. and we have Donny on the line, I believe. Donny, hello, can you hear me?” “Hi, Kenny, yes, I can, how are you doing?” “I’m great, Donny, how are you?” “Well, Kenny, actually, not so great right now.” “Oh, er, I’m sorry to hear that. I believe you wanted to speak about cover-ups. Is that right?” “Yes, Kenny, that’s right. You know, I don’t believe we’re told the truth about anything anymore.” “Well, I know there’s been a lot of talk about ‘fake news’.” “Well, there’s fake and there’s fake, isn’t there?” “How d’you mean?” “Well, they tell us that plane, MH370 just disappeared off the radar. Damned pilot just flew off and murdered two hundred and fifty people!”
(1200 words) The weather was hot, the sky a clear, bright blue and the sun a burning orange disc. Most unusual for the English East-Midlands! I’d decided to take a drive out to the coast, having lived within striking distance of it for a couple of years, but whenever I’d previously thought of it, the weather had been cold and wet, the climate we normally endured. Now, it was as perfect as it was ever going to be. But the sea looked such a long, long way away. Hmm. I walked back to a nearby caravan park, proudly boasting its very own fish and chip shop, the English coastal obsession. The owner was friendly enough. “Oh, the sea comes well in, even up to the top of the dunes, just beyond the car park.” “Well, why isn’t it there now?” Apparently, it was the wrong season, tide, and/or year. I sat and ate my over-salted fish and chips on one of two benches, the totality of Skendlethorp’s visitor amenities, along with a rubbish bin, looking out to the distant sea. In the foreground was a huge sign warning of buried World War Two bombs and missiles in the currently-desiccated marshland that stretched out ahead. It stated that no reward would be given by the Ministry of Defence to anyone finding one. Well, that kind of made sense, they wouldn’t want to encourage idiots digging for unexploded bombs!
(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.
(1200 words) Like something out of a James Bond film, I was to observe and photograph a Russian agent being handed secrets. The setting, Painter’s Fairground, set up for the week on a field just out of town. It was getting dark and I wandered between the brightly lit and gaudily painted stalls, laden with brilliantly coloured boxes containing tacky plastic toys. I inhaled the smell of electricity, petrol engines and candy floss, whilst my ears were assailed by the noise and excitement of the rides. The bumper cars careening across their conductive floor, sparks flying from the connecting rods as they moved across the ceiling. Crazily driven by laughing teenagers, girls made up to look ten years older, twenty-five instead of fifteen, accompanied by lanky youths in coloured tops and tight jeans. I passed the Ghost Train, hearing the thundering vehicle passing through the wooden shack, children screaming in faux-fright, and always, the relentless chugging of generators everywhere. I tried in vain to imagine someone designing a Ghost Train vehicle and the ‘spooky’ house it ran through. And factories manufacturing them in some godforsaken place. “Hey, Pal, wanna try your luck?” A barker with a time-worn face and pork-pie hat addressed me from a shooting gallery where little ducks ran on rails. “Sure.” I put two pound coins into his brown leather hand and took a rifle
(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 ….