The Great Escape (197 Words)

It felt like he had been digging for ever. He ached all over and was covered in dirt from head to tail, but finally he broke through to the surface.

Pulling himself out of the hole, he blinked in the sunlight, shook what dirt he could off him and looked around nervously.

He had only cleared the fence by a few feet but it didn't matter,  he was finally free.

He sniffed the air, somehow it smelled sweeter this side of freedom. He stretched his legs trying to get  the blood flowing again after his time in the cramped tunnel and realising he would soon be missed he makes a run for the bushes.

Just as he reaches the edge of the much needed cover, he hears the door open, in a blind panic he throws himself forward and vanishes from view.

His heart is thundering in his chest, he lies flat and still, hoping he hasn't been seen, the urge to bolt is growing larger and larger inside of him.

The voice that has tormented him for all these years calls out in all of its whiney, brattish glory

"Mum the rabbits got out again"


Sensory Overload (494 words)

Tears streamed down his face as he took in the beauty of what lay before him The sky was awash with shades of pinks, purples and reds. The trees are shedding littering the streets with piles of crisp leaves in hundreds of shades of brown. The way the morning sun was hitting the high-rises made the windows twinkle like a thousand newborn stars.

Knowing if this is the last thing he ever saw he could die a happy man, he closed the curtains, slumped down onto the sofa, picked the knife up off the coffee table, rubbed his thumb across the blade to check the sharpness.

He tried to override the natural urge to blink as the blade came ever closer to him, he pressed the tip lightly against the base of his eye socket, paused for a second or two debating as he always did if this really was the right thing to do?

Decision made he plunged it in and levered the first eyeball out.

He would have screamed but he lost his tongue long ago.

After he told her how much he loved her, words felt vulgar and useless, he started speaking less and less but it didn't do the trick, people still demanded he spoke to them. So one night in an act of pure love and desperation he took the scissors to himself.

Looking at the dead fish of flesh he felt instantly better, she freaked out, she didn't understand.
No matter how much he wrote down on the notepad.
His hearing went next, after he was released from the hospital, the unit, after he convinced them he was better. He went back to the flat, all traces of her removed. He fell back into the music.
His first true love.
One night he was lay in the dark when a song he had heard a thousand times before came on, an old blues number, a desperate declaration of undying love.

The beauty struck him harder than ever, he listened to it back to back for hours, days on end.
Eventually he knew what he had to do, he gave himself one last play, a selfish indulgence, went into the kitchen, took out a meat skewer and plunged himself into a silent world.

Again for a  while everything was better in his world, but then colours started getting brighter. Little things like children playing in the street, a dog chasing its tail, a helium balloon dancing in the wind, they were getting to him, he was struggling to cope with all the beauty that surrounded him constantly.

And then that sunrise this morning, it's all too much.

He had no idea how long he had lay there, he didn't even know they were coming. The first he was aware was the agonising, infuriatingly, tender touch of the paramedic.
It felt like his soul was on fire

That’s when he knew death was the only option left for him.


Respect by @janebennett65 (498 words)

She bowed her head as she stood trembling in front of the sink. The smell of detergent was sickening. She was overwhelmed by nausea and had a sudden urge to vomit into the recently cleaned basin. Her face was hidden under a silken sheet of black, immaculately groomed hair and she had a look of pure terror on her lovely face. Her fingers painfully gripped the edge of the sink in an effort to keep herself upright.

This was just crap. Why was she doing this to herself? She did not need this, or deserve it. This was not what she had planned for herself 20 years ago. She should just leave, quietly and with dignity. They would find a replacement. Plenty of others would be lining up to do her job and would probably do it better. She lifted her head and grimaced at herself in the mirror. This was totally the wrong attitude. She excelled at what she did. She had just lost her confidence and those bastards out there were totally taking the piss. So she had messed up, and made a few mistakes. She was only human but knew this job inside out and backwards. Yes she was getting older, but that did not make her worthless or redundant. She had to let them know she was indispensable and therefore should be treated with the respect she deserved.

God knows this was not an easy job. She knew that when she took it on. If the dreams she had had when younger had come true, then she would be living a life of luxury, with a wonderful and supportive husband and 2.4 beautiful and adoring children. Yeah right.

That bitch didn't help matters. Fresh out of college and thought she knew it all. Only yesterday she had told her that she wasn't doing her job properly. How dare she? Fucking cheek. And that ridiculous man; acting like he was the boss? Total arsehole.

She shook herself mentally and physically and stood up straight. Reaching for the lipstick that she had placed at the side of the sink, she reapplied it and pinched her lips together. She smiled weakly at her reflection and felt another wave of panic surfacing. Just Breathe.

She would not let them get to her and certainly not allow them the pleasure of seeing her vulnerable like this. She would go out fighting. Allowing the anger to simmer and slowly replace the panic and fear, she told herself that she could do this.

With one last look in the mirror, she turned around and opened the door with a perfectly manicured hand. Walking out into the hallway she brushed imaginary creases from her skirt and then nervously smoothed down her blouse.

With her heart hammering in her chest and sweating palms, she forced a smile. Then holding her head up high and willing confidence, she turned purposefully towards the kitchen and prepared to go in and make her children and husband their breakfast.


Paying Your Taxes (490 Words)

I've been watching them for a while, always loitering around the gates of the park. Harassing people as they go by, claiming their patch, their turf, their place in the world.

The problem is the sheer amount of them, some nights there are only four or five and I fancy my chances, others there are ten or more and it would be suicide.

I stroll past nonchalantly on the other side of the road, take a look at how many there is tonight.
I count four and decide its now or never, carry on up the road then cross over when I'm out of their sight.

Before I start back towards them, I check my jacket. After the would be muggers in the alley, I undid the cuff seams and now carry two, foot long lengths of two inch steel on me.

A subtle flick of the wrists and they slide out into my hands, it’s a move I have practised in front of the mirror hundreds of times. I tuck them back in and carry on towards their fate.

I amble down the road, bracing myself for what lies ahead.

True to form they are blocking the path. I'd have to step into the road to get by without troubling them, so I head straight towards the middle of them and politely ask them to move aside.

This gets their attention and they close ranks, the leader speaks up, he's a big lad got a few inches and stone on me. Looks like he knows how to handle himself as well.
"You want to walk on my patch youse got to pay your taxes bro"

My fingers tremble, itching to push the rods free but I can't make the first move, they need to deserve the justice I dish out.

So I go to try and walk through them as if he hadn't spoke to me.

He pushes me in the chest, making me take a few steps backwards, he's a lot stronger than me. I start to worry I've bitten off more than I can chew.
"Like I said bruv you wanna get past youse gotta  pay"

I look at my shoes and as say as meekly as I can " I don't want any trouble"

This makes them cackle like Hyenas , one gets his mobile phone out, starts filming me.
"Smile boy, you're going to be famous!"

I look directly at him, let the anger take over and snarl "Make sure you get all of this son."

With the much practised flick the bars drop out, I set my feet, ready for what ever they can throw at me.
The big man steps forward "Looks like we got ourselves a …."

Before finishes his sentence I crack him across the jaw, sending blood, spittle and teeth flying.
He drops to the floor like a rag doll.

I turn to the remaining three and say.  "Time to pay boys"


Saint Nick By Thom J. Wallace (496 words)

The snow was gently falling and for the first time in years it looked like being a proper White Christmas as Santa slowed to a halt above number 15 Poplar Gardens. As Father Christmas dropped onto the roof with a lightness of foot that belied his girth, his reindeer rose a couple of inches into the air at the sudden absence of weight before settling down about twelve inches from the apex of the roof.

"Wait there chaps. Shan't be two ticks." Said Santa and with a glimpse across the rooftops as the rapidly thickening slow flurries reflected in the street lights. He carefully manoeuvred his way across the roof and sat down on the chimney pot, and with one hand firmly grasping his sack of presents and the other pinching his nostrils, he screwed his face up tightly and disappeared down the chimney to land in the fireplace below with a gentle bump. Awkwardly rolling forward onto his knees, Santa climbed out of the fireplace, dusted the soot from his bright red jacket and stepped out into the gaudily decorated lounge.

Taking a moment to adjust his eyes to the evening gloom, Father Christmas nodded with a satisfactory smile at the large glass of sherry, two mince pies and handful of carrot batons that had been left out by way of a thank you. But first there was work to be done.

Carefully opening the lounge door, Nick stepped out into the thickly carpeted hallway and onto the stairs, carefully placing his feet to the side of the steps to avoid any extraneous creaks from the ageing woodwork. At the top of the stairs he turned ninety degrees onto the landing and stepped forward to a door with a sign that advertised "James' Room – no Growed-Ups Allowed" on it. With a gentle pull on the handle to deaden the mechanism, Father Christmas stepped into the bedroom to check that his young follower was sleeping, as per the rules. Happy that James was indeed far away in the land of nod he crept out of the bedroom and into the one next door that belonged to Holly. She too was spark out and so pleased that he could go about his work undisturbed, Santa hopped back down the stairs and into the lounge.

First things first, Santa strode back to the dining table and swallowed his sherry in a single gulp. Then he picked up the carrots and dropped them into his pocket for the reindeer waiting patiently on the roof. Finally he wolfed both mince pies down in a couple of bites apiece and turned his attention to the presents neatly stacked underneath the Christmas tree. The array of shapes and colours and bows and ribbons was a sight to behold and as Santa loaded them into his present sack he let out a heartier chuckle than perhaps he should have done.

"A good night's work here. These should make a small fortune on eBay."


The Naughty List (338 words)

Everyone knows about St. Nick, Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Papa Noel and all of the other names he assumes across the globe. Children, and some adults, struggle to sleep come Christmas eve hoping to catch a glimpse of the big man himself.

Few people know about his brother, fewer still dare speak his name, his exploits aren't bedtime stories, he doesn't have an annual soft drink commercial campaign.
He lives in the shadows, watching, waiting for children to misbehave.
Waiting for those magical words from parents pushed to and then over the edge by over excited children.

 "Santa won't come"

"You won't have any presents"

That’s when he takes out his quill and writes down the names on the naughty list.
Come Christmas eve while Chris Kringle is spreading love and joy across the globe, his brother follows behind spreading fear and misery.

He slinks in and out of the shadows as silent as a mouse. Then smoothly, gently scoops the sleeping child out of its bed and replaces it with a single lump of coal.
A fair trade in some cases.

He flits across the globe collecting children on his way, there are no milk and cookies left out , no songs are written about him.

Come Christmas morn' when tired parents are dragged out of bed, wrapping paper is scattered across countless living-rooms,  stockings are emptied, houses are filled with the sounds of laughter and love.

The parents who unwittingly  condemned their children to the naughty list, they fill their houses with frantic screams of regret and woe.

The naughty children themselves, they'll wake up miles away from home in a magical, wondrous land.

The first sight they see is a jolly looking fat man in red trousers, black boots and sporting a big fluffy white beard.

"Ho Ho Ho! Good morning children!" He'll bellow at them in his deep booming voice 

"There is only three hundred and sixty five days until Christmas … and you have a lot of toys to make. Now get to work."


Altruism (451 words)

He sits on the cold concrete steps outside the shopping arcade. His clothes are filthy and tattered. He mumbles his mantra.

"There's nothing to be scared of" 

Over and over.

Passers-by avert their eyes pretend they don't see him. A few of the more mean spirited hurl spiteful abuse.

"Get a job"

"Have a wash"

That’s the polite end of the spectrum, others accuse of being a junkie or an alcoholic, call him vermin. 

Another claims he is just pretending. Goes on to explain how he knows he probably drives a bmw and lives in a penthouse but he isn't falling for it, he isn't giving him the steam off his piss.

The abuse doesn't  bother him, what really hurts are the ones who genuinely don’t notice him, he sees family members and old work mates walk by him as if he is invisible.

He doesn't blame them, used to do the same himself. Spy the wretched waifs in the distance and cross the road to avoid them.

If he had his time again he would do it all so differently, he wouldn't ignore them, he'd give them the 10p for a cup of tea. 

He'd buy them breakfast, buy the magazines, find them a hostel for the night.

Hell he would offer them his own bed.

Someone taps him on the shoulder snapping him out of his day dream. He winces, bracing himself for another beating.

One of the costs of living  this life.

When the boot, the fist, the bat, doesn't come he looks up and sees a kind face looking down at him. 

She can't be more than twenty three and hasn't yet lost the compassion from her pale blue eyes. She is holding the familiar crumpled brown bag with the golden arches on.

"It isn't much and I didn't know what drink you'd like so I got a hot chocolate, everyone likes chocolate and you look like you could do with something warm inside you "
She says offering him the bag and a steaming paper cup.

He stares up at her, not knowing what to say, tears fill his eyes,  finally he manages a "Thank you"

She smiles again, motions towards his soggy cardboard sign.
"There's nothing to be afraid of, you know."

For the first time in months he feels the fear drain from him, he smiles and  says "Thank you" again. 

She thinks he means for the food, really he means for the fleeting chance of feeling human again. She rubs his shoulder offering what little comfort she can and walks away feeling proud of herself.

He sits on his steps, eats the first warm meal he has had in weeks and feels alive.


Honoured By Alan Nash (496 Words)

It wasn't really his fault, he knew that, so why did he feel as though he'd let her down? Why did he feel as though he'd taken the money they'd worked so hard to save and thrown it away on the grandest of scales? She'd milked the overtime, she'd cancelled holiday and she'd practically broken herself in a bid to raise the funds. Why had she done it? Why had she put herself through that? She'd done it for him, hadn't she? She'd done it to make his dream a reality and it'd all been for what? For sitting in a dark, cold hotel with no power, no hot water and nothing to do but what they were doing now - walking the streets and taking in the devastation that hammered home his failure with the most dramatic of exclamation points.

He'd been planning it for nearly a year, this idyllic trip to New York. He'd spent months regaling her with stories of the place, constantly telling her how much she'd love it and boring her to death with an endless slideshow of pictures. She'd been reluctant at first, unsure as to whether they'd be able to afford it, but eventually he'd won her over and he'd watched with delight as she'd thrown herself into the plan with more gusto than he could ever have anticipated. But that was the kind of person she was, wasn't it? No matter what the dream was, if she could support it, she would. More than that, she would drive it and at no point would she allow his enthusiasm to wane. Purely and simply, she was a giver, an inspiration that he was so fortunate to have in his life, and that was why he felt so badly about all of this.

The hurricane hit just four days before they'd been due to fly out and they'd both watched the news intently as images of the destruction had flashed across their television. Her first thought had been to see if there was any way they could cancel the trip and get their money back, or maybe rearrange it for a later date, but he'd been so desperate to bring her here that he'd even surprised himself with the vigour he'd shown in assuring her it would be ok.

Then they'd arrived here and found themselves in a world of chaos, surrounded by the brave attempt of the locals to piece their lives back together. All around them they saw people rushing to each other's aid, every one of them pitching in no matter what their social status might have previously been. He looked back at her, at the smile that'd remained unwavering throughout all of this hell, and he realised just how special she was. Expecting the response he'd feared would shatter his heart, he held his breath as she looked up at him and answered the question that'd brought them here in the first place.
"Yes" she smiled.


The Commuter (280 Words)

Rain drums on the roof, streams down the windscreen. Its coming down so hard the wipers can hardly keep up.
He is stuck in nose to tail traffic. The price you pay for having a house in the country and a job in the city. 

Still he curses his luck when the lights change to red, another minute or so added to the already tedious journey.
He absent-mindedly looks out of the drivers side window. 
The orange glow of the street lights and rain streaking down, distort reality, passer-by's look like shadows of ghosts creeping in and out of clarity. Hugging themselves to fend off the rain, keep the cold out of their bones.

Then he sees him, sat cross-legged, head bowed looking at the floor, seemingly oblivious not only to the weather but everyone and everything around him. Holding a tatty piece of cardboard, as most homeless people do these days, this sign is different it doesn't plead poverty or desperation, doesn't guilt trip you, all it has on it, in immaculate handwriting is "Be Afraid"

Suddenly this ragged stranger looks up and makes eye contract, safe in his steel and glass bubble he stares back, wondering how you end up out there on the streets. What it is you have to lose to become so invisible.

He doesn't notice the light change to green, its only the driver behind him leaning on the horn that makes him look away. He puts the car into gear and slowly pulls off.

Its later back at home, safe and warm in his bed that the he starts thinking about the stranger again and the fear starts to eat away at him.


Scott' Last Cigarette by Jessica Grace Coleman (498 words)

“Put. The. Gun. Down.” His voice was calm, collected. He almost sounded bored.

“You don’t think I’ll do it?” My voice was hysterical in comparison; high-pitched, screeching. I hated myself for it. I hated him for making me hate myself.

“Of course not. You don’t have the guts.” He looked me up and down, shaking his head. “You never did.”

My hands trembled and the gun dropped down by about an inch.

He barked a short, sharp laugh. “You’re pathetic.” He saw the tear roll down my cheek. “See? Who wants to be with a woman like that?”

I shook my head, raising the gun up again. “You did. Once.” I took a deep breath, avoiding his eyes. “How long has it been going on?”

He laughed again, the humourless sound echoing around the silent kitchen. “It depends which one you’re talking about.”

The gun dropped down an inch again and I found my eyes locked back on his. “There’s more than one?”

Scott shook his head as he took a familiar packet out his pocket. “About one a week, on average.” He took out a single cigarette, pushing the packet back into his coat. “You really didn’t know?”

Something exploded inside me. That cruel, lying, two-faced, son of a…

“Don’t even think about smoking that thing.” I gestured at his cigarette.

His grin came back. “Or else… what? You gonna shoot me for lighting up?”

“No, Scott. I’m going to shoot you for crossing me!”

He drew a lighter from his other pocket. “We both know you’re not. See? That’s the way things work around here. I get to do whatever the hell I want, and you get to pretend everything’s fine.”

I raised the gun up to its original position. “I’m tired of pretending, Scott. Put. The. Lighter. Down.”

“No. It’s not in you to be a killer. I think I’ll have my cigarette now.”

Three shots punctured the air. Eyes wide, he slumped to the floor, his cigarette hanging limply in his hand.

It was that simple.

Silence followed. A silence which should have been filled with guilt, grief, regret. I felt none of those things. Instead, I felt a rush. Triumph. Power.

Not a killer? Well, I’d show him. I’d show him ‘pathetic’.

I’d show every single one of his mistresses as well.

Stopping only to grab his phone off the counter – a device on which he stored all of the numbers and addresses of his friends and acquaintances – I left the house.

Before walking off down the garden path, I took a quick glance back at the kitchen, taking in the leftover washing up, the post still scattered on the table, the dead husband on the floor.

I didn’t bother locking up. In fact, I left the door wide open.

What was the point?

I didn’t care who found him, and besides… I wouldn’t be coming back.

There was nothing here for me now.

I had more important things to do.


A Kingdom Under Threat (257 Words)

Closing his eyes and letting out a sigh he muttered "One final push" under his breath.
He had rode hard all day, leaving the keep at first light, crossing the marshes and the moors, chasing the sun across his kingdom.

There had long been the threat of an uprising in the western territories, he should have known better than leaving his bitter twin brother in charge. 
Still jealous after all these years of missing out on being the heir by a few minutes.

Still jealous despite the hard fought battles where they had stood side by side against the Orc threat from the south, despite the numerous assassination attempts, the constant struggle between getting enough taxes in and keeping the folk happy.

And now this, yes the salt mines do provide the lions share of the income for the kingdom. The McCulloch tribes in the mountains do still provide the biggest, strongest if also the dumbest soldiers who are then scattered across the lands to defend the borders.

But he has always failed to see how much the rest of the kingdom helps those in the west return, the produce grown in the South, the boar, oxen and venison from the North, all of this held together by the seat of power that has been in the East for countless centuries.

The tolling of a bell disturbs his thoughts, drags him back to reality, he sighs again opens his eyes and picks up the phone.
"Morgan, McVeigh and Platers, Nathan speaking how can I help you?"


Traffic Calming Measures (497 words)

With the squeal of tyres and the irregular thud of the god awful music he insists on broadcasting to the world, he shoots past my house. The same as he has done for months now.

This has slowly been eating away at my patience, we live on a nice quiet street, I know children won't be playing in the street at this time of night but the infernal racket might wake them.
There is just no need for it.

I march out of the house, down to the Palmer' place, the house he has just left, I ring the bell, knock on the door.
The anger rising in me.

Finally one of them answers, it’s the lad. I have suspected he is on drugs for a while now but the pungent stench of marijuana hangs in the air.

He looks at me through glassy eyes and says "What?"

I close my eyes and let the anger pass for a moment before saying 

"Just a polite request, could you ask your friend to maybe drive a bit slower of an evening? Maybe turn the music down a bit? The families on the street sure would appreciate it"

"Don' know what you're on about blud" he says with the accent of a bad boy gangster only a middle classed white youth can achieve.

The anger flares inside me, I lash out, grab him by the throat and snarl " Tell him to slow down, I'm asking nicely"
I shove him back into his house and walk away.

With my back turned he finds some bravery and shouts "You're a dead man" 
And something about popping a cap in my ass, it would be worrying if it wasn't for the threat of tears in his voice.

The next night, unsurprisingly, he drives past even faster, the music even louder.
If that’s how they want to play then so be it.

The night after that I'm crouched in the bushes waiting for him to come out. I don't have to wait long, they are creatures of habit.

As soon as I hear the music start up I step out into the middle of the road, blocking his path. He sees me and guns the engine, thinking he can call my bluff.

Wheels spinning, he comes tearing towards me, that’s when I raise the spotlight towards him and turn it on.

Bloke in the shop said it has three million candle power, I don't know what that means but the kid doesn't seem to like it, he swerves and piles into the Jones' Mini with a satisfying crunch.

I stroll over to the wreckage, open the drivers door, grab him by his hair and smash what's left of his face into the steering wheel while saying as calmly as I can.
"I asked you to slow down"

Each word punctuated with another visit to the steering wheel.

I'm not a hero or even a vigilante. I just like hurting people.


Danao By The Chimping Dandy (500 words)

"Over there!"


"Where the smoke is coming from you idiot!"

"Don't call me an idiot, this was all your idea."

"Look, the plane went down, there's smoke, that's where the plane will be, right?"

"There'd better be something in this one; the last one was just Christmas cards."

"I didn't see you complaining when you were eating the cake though."

"No, you're right, that was good cake, and the pilot's watch is pretty nice," the small man pulled up his sleeve and showed the watch that loosely circled his wrist, "Shame it's broken."

"That can happen when you hit someone with a rock."

The two worked their way through the bush towards the column of smoke until the wreckage came into view.


"Yes, military too by the look of it, can't see any movement though."

"I'll check the cockpit, you check the hold."

"Why do I have to check the hold?"

"Because this time, I'd like to find a watch that still works."

They split up and started to make their way around the plane.


"No, cargo door's open though."

"Probably popped open when they hit – looks like they came down pretty rough, these guys are mush.  Nothing worth saving here, I'll come to you."

"It's empty!"

"What do you mean empty? Why would they be flying an empty plane?"

"Maybe they were on their way back from somewhere… I don't know."

"Well I do, military planes don't go anywhere empty, there's always something that needs taking somewhere.  Look, what's that?"

"It's a cage, well, it was a cage, I think.  There's blood too, maybe they were transporting an animal?"

The two men slowly turned, every noise suddenly seeming louder as the blood pumped in their ears.

"I hope it wasn't a dangerous animal."

"No, I wouldn't think so, military plane, only one piece of cargo, caged, blood everywhere, dead crew, probably a tiny Bush Baby or something like that! Idiot!"

"Stop calling me an idiot, I told you before, I…"

"Shhh! Did you hear that?"

"What? No, you're just trying to scare me"

"No, listen.  Do you hear it?"

They listened, but all they could hear was the wind in the trees.

"Nothing, just your imagination."

"No, I'm sure I heard someone talking outside, maybe some of the crew survived the crash?"

"Should we take a look?"

"Yes! We should take a look, we could ask them if they mind us stealing from their plane!"

They looked at each other.

"You first.."

They slowly made their way around to the far side, to be confronted by a large animal, with its back to them.

"Is that a panda?"

The panda turned slowly towards them, its muzzle pink with blood.

"Da… nao?"

"Did that panda just speak? – No wonder the military was transporting it, it must be an experiment!"


"We could make a fortune!"


The panda charged, knocking them to the ground and biting off the tops of their heads.

"Danao…" mumbled the panda, contentedly.


The Many Deaths Of Adam Brimble (364 Words)

He settles back into his plush first class seat and looks at his watch, there are still fifteen minutes left, so he presses the button that summons one of the gorgeous air hostesses and orders a drink.

Gin and Tonic in hand he gazes out of the window, smiles at how small the world looks below him, how the cars look like toys, the rivers like veins.

Another glance at the watch, five minutes, he closes his eyes and once again debates the frailty of life.
With two minutes to go he finishes his drink, the gin burns hot in his stomach . He glances around the cabin full of business types all hammering away at laptops or burying themselves in the financial times.
All so alike yet all so alone.
They won't be missed.
Not in the grand scheme of things anyway.

Thirty seconds now, he undoes his seatbelt, reclines his chair as far as it will go back and braces himself. This is his favourite way to die.

The explosion rips through the plane, tearing a hole in the fuselage scattering luggage and bodies for miles. The cabin is full of smoke and screaming. He smiles to himself about how futile screaming is in situations like this.
The plane breaks into two parts only the people who are belted in remain where they are meant to be. 

Adam Brimble adopts the classic pose of Dracula in his coffin, arms crossed over his chest, legs out straight.
While all around him is chaos and flailing limbs, he calmly, serenely, rockets out of the plane like a missile

At 30,000 feet and dropping like a stone he remembers what it was like when he could fly. 
Before he was cast aside and condemned to walk the earth for eternity after daring to question Gods willingness to let humans suffer.

He knows all there is to know about suffering now, he understands why she allows it, after a while it becomes fun, after the first few hundred years compassion becomes a chore, empathy a distant memory.

Its only in these final few seconds before he hits the floor that he ever feels alive these days.


Too Much? By Alan Nash (490 Words)

Placing my phone next to me on the settee, I stare into the emptiness of the room as the thoughts begin to maraud through my head. Was it really so long ago that I’d barely had a minute to myself? Had it truly been months instead of weeks or days since this place, my home, had been a hive of activity? Could so much time have passed from the point at which they’d all been calling me to this moment, when my call to them was met with nothing but a hollow, voicemail promise to get back to me when they could?

I think back to those times, to the point when my words were the only thing that mattered. I recall the sadness in the eyes of my friends as, one by one, each of them looked to me for the help I invariably provided without requirement of recompense or reward. For those precious moments, I was all that mattered, I was their world but, as sure as the seasons always change, I knew what was to come.
So, why did I do it? Why will I continue to do it? Is it my purpose? Is it the reason I exist? Deep down I know the answer, yet the question still presents itself with the demand to be considered.

I do it because I can. I do it because I will always be there, no matter when or where. I’m not tied down with commitment and I’m not shackled to any other being that requires my attention. No matter what day of the week or what time of the day, my phone will always be answered, my ears will always be available and my voice will always be ready to offer words of comfort as and when they are needed.

And what happens when the issue is resolved? What happens when the crisis has passed? Am I granted the company that’d been so desperately required of me? Am I afforded the time to air my own concerns and to receive the comfort I’ve so unquestioningly provided?

One by one, they shuffle off as quickly as they arrived. Without ceremony, they return to the lives I’ve done so much to fix and to where, honestly, their hearts had always been. Gradually, with a crash it seems only I can hear, they all slam the door behind them in their haste to get away and leave me here, alone and cold.
Maybe I’m being unreasonable? Maybe I’m expecting more than I deserve? Should I be more grateful for the opportunity to make a difference? Should I be more appreciative of what I do have?
As a tear falls in the silence, I wipe my own cheek and wonder whether it’s me who has to adjust. Having always been needed, just for once to be wanted, maybe I’m asking too much?


Pimp My Crib (484 words)

"What I'm thinking is, we knock the wall out in the store room downstairs. Rip everything out, then seal it all back up with a glass front. THEN we'll rip the bathroom out, knock the floor through down into the store room and make you a sunken bath slash aquarium. BOOM! "

"And cut! That’s brilliant Nick, we'll insert the punters excited reactions in later."

Nick sighed wearily, all of this was so far away from where he started out. All he wanted to do was help people, but viewing figures and trends got in the way, as they always do.

He doesn't blame them, not really, he knows you have to adapt to survive that’s why he does the lottery shows. Keep his face out there, stay in the public eye.

It all started with that bloody staircase, well lack of staircase as was the case. They wanted a fun house, something a bit different so they had a glass elevator fitted outside, then a fireman's pole and a helter skelter inside.

The show hit a ten year viewing figure high and after that it all went downhill as far as he was concerned. The good causes  fell by the way side and everything got bigger and bolder and brasher … and tackier.

Revolving sofas that could be span from facing the tv to looking out of the floor to ceiling glass wall.
The kitchen with the sushi restaurant style conveyor belt that took the dirty plates off the table straight to the dishwasher.
The house where they put a slide from the loft that looped in and out of the house and then ran to the bottom of the garden.
The place where they turned the cellar into a bat-cave styled garage, complete with a secret hidden behind a bookcase entrance.
Walk in refrigerators that lead onto ski slopes.
Gym equipment that powered the house, if you wanted to watch the tv you had to do so while running on the spot in a human hamster wheel.
Animatronic lions that scared would be burglars off. 

He missed the days of honest hard graft for people who actually deserved it.
The money was nice, better than it ever had been, but it didn't plug the hole in his soul.
The hole the false excitement of putting yet another disco ball into a downstairs toilet ate away.

So he started doing jobs for people on the sly, he would case a house out for weeks waiting for the perfect moment when he could strike. The first time he struck lucky the family went away for a long weekend and came back to a redecorated front room. 

He always works alone and pays for it all out of his own pocket.

Some people would say he is he is insane, he would tell you he is feeling better than he has done in years.


The Distributor (498 words)

It all started a few months back when a friend of a friend got a pocket-watch from some backstreet store and wound up dead, no pun intended.

There have been rumours about this place and the goods they sell for years. I always thought it was some  urban legend, something that gets told at the end of drunken nights.

Stories about how a friend of a friend of a friend found this place and came out with a pistol that didn't need bullets, a mirror that shows you other peoples reflections and yes a watch that counts down to your death.

Its taken me weeks to find the place, no one will openly talk about it, especially those who are rumoured to have had dealings with it but here I am.

It is as non-descript as I have been lead to believe you could walk past it a hundred times and never notice it was there.

With a trembling hand I grip the door handle and walk in. An old fashioned bell rings to announce my presence. Not that its needed, the only thing inside is a desk, behind it sits an old man. If you told me he had been sat there all his life I wouldn't be surprised.

For what must be only a few seconds but feels like an eternity we stare at each other across the expanse of the empty shop.

He is the first to break the silence, his voice is as smooth as silk and has a relaxing, soothing air to it.

"Aaah miss Hopkins, I have been expecting you, please, do have a seat"

I walk across the forest like carpet in a trance and sit opposite him, he offers a warm smile and gestures at me to speak.

"How did you know my name? That I was coming?"

"I know everything Catherine, may I call you Catherine?

This really knocks the wind out of me and all I can offer in return is a feeble "yeah that’s fine"
Before I can ask him his name he says.

"You can call me Viktor, my name was Viktor MacGuffin but the few people who deal with me call me the distributor"

I go to pull then notebook out of my bag, make sure I get this all down, as my brain can't keep up with what's going on.

"You won't need to make notes Catherine the rules are very simple. People who are missing something in their lives find us, our job is to.... redistribute the … special items we keep"

"What do you mean our job?" I ask

"Catherine, I have worked here for as long as I can remember, my time has come to its end. Each person who enters this store gets a gift but all things come at a cost.
Your gift is the store, the cost is you can't ever leave until the next owner finds you.
And they will find you, its how these things work."


Judgement Day by Thom J. Wallace (251 Words)

Sometimes I think it would just be easier to end it all. To load a gun, to point, to shoot. To end the misery and tedium of everyday life. I've been thinking about it for some time now. I've done a lot of research on the Internet about guns and ammunition, about handguns versus shotguns, about the types of ammunition to buy. It's taken a few weeks and a lot of being very careful around my wife, but I'm finally I'm ready to finish things; I'm finally ready to end the misery.

I think if I'd had a manual job then I'd have a better appreciation of the engineering that has gone into making the gun. The smooth satin finish of the walnut stock or how perfectly circular the barrel is as I squint to look down it. But I've never been very good with my hands. I've got a desk job and so things like how lightweight it is or how smooth the bolt action is are lost on me. To me this is just a means to an end. It's a killing machine.

I couldn't for one minute tell you what any of the numbers mean now but I gave every bit as much thought to what goes into the gun as the gun itself. The shells are 2¾ inches in length and they each contain 16 pellets. Maximum effect. The gun itself can take three rounds with a fourth loaded into the barrel but I think if I can't make one shot count then I'm clearly not doing this right.

So I've got my gun, I've got my ammunition and it's loaded. I think I'm ready. Having always been the diligent worker I enable Out of Office on my email and leave a note addressed to my wife. It simply says "This was something I simply had to do. I'm sorry. All my love, Stuart. x"

I sit at my desk for what will be the final time and take a couple of deep breaths to look at the knickknacks I've gathered over the years; the paperweight from the Seychelles, the letter opener with the handle in the shape of the lion and the photo of my wife and children. I tell myself again that it will be better for them this way.

With one last sigh I shut my PC down and pick up the gun. I step out of my office and pause at the double doors outside, just for one final moment. Then I pull open the door and raise my gun as I step into the crowded assembly hall. 


The Old Shoppe (312 Words)

Tucked away on a back street you could be forgiven for not knowing it even existed. It doesn't advertise its wares, its not the most inviting store you'll ever see. It has no window displays, in fact the glass is frosted hiding the inside from the prying eyes of the outside world.

If you were to venture inside, just out of curiosities sake. You wouldn't find shelves full of stock, or mannequins dressed in their Sunday best.

You would find an elderly man sat patiently at an empty desk right at the back of the otherwise empty store. You would have to cross a sumptuous green forest of a carpet to reach him.

He wouldn't speak to you when you did get there and would raise his hand to hush you if you dare try and speak to him.

He would look you up and down and then open one of the drawers in his desk and give you what he thinks you deserve, not what you want or what your heart desires. 
What he deems you worthy of.

That’s how I got this pocket watch, its beautifully made, I reckon its solid gold. I thought it was faulty at first as the hands wind the wrong way but then I noticed the date window, it said "Seventy Five" when I collected it.

That was ten days ago, it says Sixty Five now. Its counting down, to what I don't know, but each day my heart sinks that little bit lower, the despair creeps that little bit further into my soul.

I tried to take it back, demand an explanation, no money ever changed hands so a refund is out of the question, but the store is never open.

I've sat outside all day, no one ever goes in, no one ever comes out.

And still the watch keeps ticking on.


The Wee Small Hours By Slick Hellbastard (497 Words)

Wednesday, 2am and Nigel still couldn't get to sleep. Two and a half hours he had lain in bed, tossing and turning, lying first on his left side then his right, then on his back, before repeating the cycle again but all to no avail. Outside, the rain beat a relentless tattoo on his window and the trees continued their perpetual wind-blown dance, their restlessness echoing that of his own nocturnal agitation.

"This is fucking typical" seethed Nigel as he propped himself up on his elbow to beat his pillow in yet another futile attempt to create slumber inducing comfort. "I gotta be up in four bastard hours, I ain't gonna get any fucking kip at this rate!"

He flopped back down onto the mattress, letting out a long, exasperated sigh. He could sense he was reaching a level of irritability and tenseness which would only exacerbate matters by prolonging his state of total wakefulness. However, he found it increasingly difficult to maintain his chi during those nights when the prospect of sleep seemed as realistic as the chances of hearing a decent guitar solo at a Limp Bizkit concert.

And then, as if designed by some greater force to deliberately compound his misery, the burglar alarm on the empty house a few doors down started trilling out it's insistent, but ultimately futile plea for attention. "Oh fucking perfect, not a-bastard-gain!" groaned Nigel, pulling the pillows over his head in a desperate bid for some form of sanctuary from it's aural assault. Bitter experience however, had taught him that the siren's sonic solicitations would be his constant companion for the next half hour, until the alarm re-set itself in readiness for the next time. "I'll take a bastard hammer to that fucking thing one day." fumed Nigel. "But of course, I'll need to take a ladder with me and climb over the fence into the neighbour’s back garden somehow..."

Ultimately, Nigel decided there was no way sleep was coming to claim him with it's gentle caress this night, and with a resigned sigh he climbed out of his warm bed and in the darkness, crossed the bedroom and stepped out onto the landing.

His decision to not turn on the light was one Nigel would regret for the few remaining seconds of his life. In the stygian gloom, he failed to see the Dr Marten boots he had earlier tossed aside at the top of the stairs.

"Wha fuck...?" were the last words he ever uttered, as he stumbled at the top of the precipitous flight and, finding no purchase, plunged head first into the darkness.

The end came swiftly as, after describing a perfect arc in the air, his neck made contact with the seventh stair, snapping it clean in two and killing him instantly, leaving his lifeless cadaver to tumble inelegantly down the remaining stairs and land at the bottom in an untidy heap, legs akimbo.

And there Nigel lay, undiscovered, for two weeks.....


The Inheritance (428 Words)

When my granddad died he left me his pocket watch in his will. 
He loved that watch, was always checking it, he would wind and polish it every day, they had to pry it out of his hands when he died.

He had inherited it off his grandfather, who had inherited it off his. 
Its been in the family for hundreds of years.
I was honoured he chose me to have it, especially as we weren't exactly what you would call close in the later years of his life. You know how families are, I was too busy at work and we just sort of drifted apart.

When Gran gave it to me she placed it in my hands, clutched hers over mine and with tears in her eyes said " His last words were that you should have this, he died checking his time, you know he lived by the clock"

I smiled and said " I remember how he would never tell you what time it was just that we still had plenty of time left, I hope I can live my life like that"

It was a promise I intended to keep at the time, I never knew how prophetic those words would become.

When I got the watch home and had a look at it, I noticed it had stopped at twelve o'clock exactly, all three hands were perfectly inline.

I set it to the correct time and wound it up, that familiar soothing ticking sound kicked in. The second hand started on its merry way, it took me a few seconds to realise it was travelling the wrong way round, then I noticed the date window said  .

I sat spellbound and watched as the hand carried on spinning anti-clockwise, when the minute hand followed suit I let out an involuntary giggle. I sat and waited and watched, I knew it was going to happen but I wanted undeniable proof, then sure enough the hour hand followed the other two on its backwards trail.

I popped into to see Gran one night after work and mentioned the pocket watch and how the hands went backwards, all she said was that it wasn't exactly a watch and that I should keep an eye on it.

All that was years ago, I still have the pocket watch, I clean it and  wind it every day. A few weeks ago the date window changed, it said 99, the day after it said 98, then 97, then, well you get the idea.

Looks like I don't have plenty of time left after all.


The Last Jamboree (196 Words)

For fifty years they had met up, as regular as clockwork. The last Fridays in May and November. Soon  it had become a ritual, something to look forward to, an excuse to catch up, go out get drunk and have a laugh.

The venues had changed over the years, fights were had, relationships started, new people came and went but the core few who had been there since day one, they hung onto the tradition for as long as possible.
In the last few years the jamboree has changed, what was once a celebration of ale, music and friendship has become an act of remembrance as old age and mortality slowly caught up with us all.
Alan's funeral wasn't the first he had been to but it'll be the last one for his drinking buddies. They're all gone now, he's the last man standing.

He keeps his end of the bargain, come the end of November he goes out as if he is still twenty-one
Sitting alone in the corner with his pint, a solitary tears rolls from his one good eye.
He raises his glass, mumbles a toast to his comrades, gone but never forgotten.


A Brief Affair by Miss Mac (500 words)

It's said "music tames the savage beast" , music can soothe, give confidence, bring a tear to your eye, but what about people who make music, does it effect them the way it effects me? 

The sensuality of music first struck me as I watched the school band play, the saxophone player, his mouth teasing the chords, his fingers caressing  the tune, I wondered what those hands would feel like on me, could he play me like an instrument?

From that moment I was hooked, watching live music whenever I could, when my husband was working  I'd to go to a Bar that showcased new musicians, that's where I met Declan.

6'1 with piercing green eyes, dark closely cropped hair, he has the kind of  look that makes you itch to touch him, the kind of sparkle that makes a girl melt, and not so much a come to bed smile, more come fuck me now. 

It was almost the end of the night before Declan sat at the piano and started to play. The air of confidence that surrounded him as he played was intoxicating, I drew my gaze from the keyboard, let my eyes slide over his face and blushed as I realised  he was watching me as intently as I was him. His eyes smiled at me, he continued to play. 

Glancing around the club I realised that there were only a few people left, most involved in their own  conversations, the staff chatted quietly, no one really aware of him 

Looking towards him again, he nodded his head, he continued to play. 

"I want you," he mouthed.

When he had finished, Declan came to my table.

"That was  fantastic"  I said 
 He placed his hand on my thigh, running his thumb in circles against the exposed flesh.  His breath quickened as his hands found their way under my skirt, "Where can we go?" 

I gasped at his boldness, whispered, "My car's outside." 

"Good," he said,grabbing my hand and led me across the bar, out the door.
 "Where's your car?" 

I pointed out my car, I grabbed the keys, opened the car, Declan walked round to the passenger side, climbed in "Let's go."

The tension between us as we drove was electric, he settled his hand on my thigh, slowly began to creep upwards, I tightened my grip on the steering wheel as he began to tease  me.
Within seconds of stopping we were wrapped in each other, kissing furiously. "I want you," I groaned. "I need you." 

His eyes glittered.

Climbing out, he led me to the front of the car, lifted me up onto the bonnet. 

I gasped as my flesh met cold metal I  tilied back offering myself to him.

"Please," I whispered.

We drove back to the bar car park in silence. I pulled into the space that I had left earlier, Declan leaned across and kissed me

Glancing down  I admired our matching wedding bands.


The Fear (362 Words)

He wakes with a start, fear sitting heavy on his chest, cold sweat on his brow. He is close to tears but doesn't really know why. Gently he climbs out of bed so he doesn't wake his still sleeping wife, he pads to the bathroom, closes the door, turns the light on and looks at himself in the mirror.

He hardly recognises the person staring back at him anymore, the bags under the eyes, the weeks worth of stubble, the hints of grey coming in at his temples.
He looks pale and weary.

This has been going on for almost a month now, waking up in the middle of the night, panic eating away at his very being.Nothing keeps this unrelenting fear away, its always at the edge of his thoughts, casting doubt over every little decision he makes.

He has tried drinking himself into a stupor, sleeping pills, even masturbation and still he wakes up at 03:00 feeling like his world is about to end.
"Enough is enough" he says to the stranger staring back at himself.
He switches the light off and goes back to the bedroom, as quietly as possible he pulls a pair of tracksuit bottoms and an old t-shirt on.

He looks longingly at his wife, whispers "I love you" more for himself than her and creeps out.

Downstairs in the kitchen he takes off his wedding ring, his watch and the i.d bracelet he had for his birthday last year. He puts them next to his mobile phone, keys and wallet. On top of this little pile he places the note, the note he has agonised over for days now, all it says is "I'm sorry" 
Two words that say so much yet so little.

He pulls on a pair of running shoes and an old coat. Gives it all a second thought, then feels the snake of fear writhe in his belly again. He opens the front door, steps out into the night and pulls it gently, quietly behind him.
He takes one last look at the house and the life he is leaving behind, wipes the tears from his eyes and walks away.


T-Minus 4 Minutes by The Chimping Dandy (496 words)

"WARNING! Atmospheric insertion failure – automatic attitude correction system unable to deploy"

I hit the button to mute the alarm and checked the tell-tales.  It looked like one of the steering fins had only half extended.  I cursed my maintenance guy, promising that I would knock it free with his face if I ever made it back into orbit.  As I switched to manual, the tiny thumb-stick appeared from the console just underneath my hand.  Grabbing it gingerly like a fountain pen made of thin glass, I made small, delicate movements trying to correct the long, looping spin that the slightly out of balance pod had dropped into.

"Stop fighting me you bitch, we've done this a thousand times"

The creaking from the armourglass windows told me that the air was starting to get thicker.  I chanced a look at the instruments. 100,000 meters up, losing altitude at 400Mps, that gave me a little over 4 minutes before I became a little red smear in an interestingly shaped crater.  Options flew through my head and were rejected one by one like marbles going down a drain, until;

"Hippolyta, retract ACS fins!"

"WARNING! Retracting ACS fins will result in total attitude control loss"

"Over-ride and retract!"

I could only just hear the motors retracting the fins over the howling roar of the atmosphere rushing by, but finally the whining stopped and the indicators went out.  Almost instantly the looping roll started to gain speed and the ground below moved in ever increasing circles past the viewport.

You know those times when you wish you hadn't had a cooked breakfast? Well this was one of those times and I tried desperately to keep hold of my scrambled eggs and sausage.  70,000 meters, 380Mps, the combination of the thickening atmosphere was starting to slow the descent, but not by anywhere near enough.

"Mayday, Mayday, this is Drop-pod Zero One Niner requesting immediate SAR intervention"

The radio crackled, but there was no reply – Damn these colonies with heavily ionised atmospheres!

As the horizon passed by the viewscreen, I realised that my plan was working; with every rotation there was less ground and more sky visible.

"Hippolyta, on my mark, deploy all external fins, extend airbrakes to maximum and fire main thrusters at 110%"


"Over-ride and confirm!"


The external view was now all sky, little by little the roll was slowing, but the spin was getting worse.

"In 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… MARK!"

The deceleration was intense, my vision started to fade as my eyeballs tried to flatten themselves to the back of my skull.  300Mps, 250… 200… 140… 80… 30… 10… 5…

"Landing systems engaged, touchdown in 5 seconds"

As the dust settled and the hull cooled, I looked out of the viewscreen at the dome of the terraformers hut and checked its ID number.

"Drop-pod Zero One Niner to Amazon Delivery Cruiser Jeff Bezos, address confirmed, final stage of same day delivery in progress, over and out"