(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?”
(1000 words) One tall, lanky shape was the loathed silhouette of Mark. Whenever no one was looking, he’d say, “How’re you going, Jack,” and either punch me on the upper arm or pinch the skin on my forearm. I swear, sometimes after an evening with Mark, my arms were literally black and blue. I’d complained to mum and dad but they just said, “Don’t make a fuss, he’s only playing. Don’t be a softie.” Softie! My arms REALLY hurt! I took the firework to the opposite corner instead, and with my own torch, stolen from the Scouts, read the label. WARNING. I ignored the rest, spotting the fuse. It was only a firework after all.
(700 words) “Granny, tell me the story about Great Aunt Delilah’s Blanket!” “I’ve already told you.” “That was ages ago, I can’t remember!” We both sat by the fireside in my farm cottage. “Well, my grandmother, that would be your great-great-grandmother, had a sister called Delilah. So that was my Great Aunt, you see. Anyway, it was said she had healing powers and many sick people would go to her house and come away feeling well again.” "Could she have healed Daddy d’you think?”
(700 words) “Life’s like a tube of toothpaste, Anthony,” that’s what my aunt Mary used to say. “It looks like there’s so much toothpaste in there, like it’ll never run out, but one day, no matter how hard you squeeze, no matter how hard you roll it up and crush it, nothing more will come out.”
iPadememonium by Martyn Searle (600 words) Papers are mean. Well, maybe not the dog-eared old flyers who spend their days hanging out on light poles, numbered tassels waving in the breeze, helping to locate lost puppies. A certain Buddhist enlightenment has come to them in repayment for good deeds and frayed edges. But those reams who rule in home offices? Vicious temperaments. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Perhaps, as is often the case when numerous white individuals gather in large groups, all those sheets had a loftier opinion of themselves than they merited.
(600 words) Papers clutter a desk. I pick one up and read about a man’s obsession. Seems there’s a character who enjoys killing. The description is brief. Medium height, average build, nondescript face. No distinguishing marks. Not much to go on! But the writer describes an incident where the man strokes another man’s hair and gently, lovingly, wraps a scarf around his neck. Like a petrified mouse under the paw of a cat, the victim remains motionless.
(627 words) It was incredible and completely unexpected; the sensations as our fingers touched was electric; my heart skipped a beat and I momentarily forgot to breathe. Her fingers intertwined with mine and she twitched her lips in that funny way she used to, before kissing me tenderly. I gazed into her dark round eyes and knew it was love - deep, sacred love.
(1300 words) I stood at the railing, gazing out to the haze of the distant level horizon. The sea was calm, low deep blue waves undulating slowly, barely hinting at their potential ferocity. Ahead and far below me was the bow of the cruiser, where people, ant-like, sat by an unusually empty pool. I sighed and thought of Janie. Bitch! We’d had problems, sure, who doesn’t? But her leaving had come as a shock. It was Valentine’s Day, of all days, and I’d ordered some Adrenaline roses, her favourites. Unexpectedly, a silver BMW had pulled up, and I'd recognised Andy, her gym trainer, his dyed-blond hair swept over in an attempt to look youthful. Obviously it had worked. Janie appeared. “Look Steve, I don’t want a scene. I’m leaving. Me and Andy … I’ll be in touch about my things.” She’d looked embarrassed and hurried out, clutching her sports holdall, before I’d had time to reply. I watched her get into the car and kiss him. They drove off without looking back. Just then the flower delivery van had turned up. I’d taken the roses and thrashed them to pieces in the back garden with tears streaming down my face.
(400 words) Leah glances anxiously around the waiting room. Everyone looks so calm. How the hell can that be? The waiting room is dim, perhaps a dozen men and women of all ages sit, staring ahead as though unseeing. The door opens and a bright light behind him silhouettes the towering figure of Dr. Chansette, a giant cockroach, six feet high. His antennae wave. “Miss Leah Hope?”
It was midday, the sun’s yellow disc was high in the clear-blue, summer sky and it was sweltering. The heat burned into every cell of my body and mind. I could feel my back beneath my rucksack wet with sweat, and drops of it ran down my face from time to time. The grass beneath my walking boots was dry and brown, there’d been little rain for weeks. “I think we should take a break, it’s too hot.” My girlfriend, Sara, turned to me. Her eyes were hidden by dark black sunglasses but her face was pink and beads of moisture covered her sunburned forehead. Dark pools stained her T-shirt under the armpits. I looked around at the desolate moorland – parched grass with the odd brown rock, all that was visible to the horizon in every direction. There was no sign of life, no sheep, no birds, nothing. “Look, we can go and rest on those rocks over there,” said Sara, pointing to a jumble of boulders in the far distance, off to one side.