Victorious by @ned400 (491 Words)

Its deathly quiet outside as I sit there, waiting.I try to gaze beyond the solid oak doors to catch a glimpse of what is going on in the other room, trying to get an indication of what will happen next.This is my last chance and I know that if I get the wrong verdict today, it's over for me and I have failed them...again.

The chair I'm sitting on is suddenly uncomfortable as I contemplate if everything goes against me today. I won't be able to carry on, I won't. Not this time.

I wish that things could have gone differently, that I did not make those stupid choices again, turn down those blind alleys. In a way I deserve the punishment. But my life ,my very existence is on the line here.

The usher opens the door, eyes cold and hard and signals me in. My throat is too dry to say anything so I just nod my head in thanks. Shuffling forward awkwardly I stumble twice conscious of everyone's judging eyes staring at me.

The court room feels ice cold and my heart is pounding my head spinning. As I come to my seat the judge asks me to rise before I can sit down and I wish that I could hold on to the rail to steady my wobbling legs as all my strength leaches out from me.

"Mr Robins , I'll make this brief, your actions in this process have not painted you with glory and I could remonstrate your failures for many an hour. But after much deliberation we have decided to rule in your favour "

A daze , I'm in a daze, What did he say?

Flurries of activity, whirlwinds of people shaking my hand, the usher guiding me from my behind the bench and my solicitor grinning at me. I notice my mom looking at me in between crying into her handkerchief  her relief overcoming her.

I rush out into the corridor and I'm hit suddenly by a force that pushes me to my knees."Daddy! Daddy ! Is it over?" my little boy and girl, Nathan and Connie, dear little Connie, look up at me finding it hard to hold their tears of joy back.

My voice cracks as I reply " It's over. We can all go home now. You don't have to go back  there again. Ever!"

We start to walk out of the court  they clasp my hands one on each side , and Nathan can't help to notice them shaking.  I can tell by the look of worry he is trying to hide on his face that he hopes that the demons are buried now.  I hope so too. A 7 year old shouldn't have to support me like he has had to. Reassuring me he strokes my hand and notices that I am wearing the Mickey Mouse cuff-links they brought me for Christmas.

"Told you they were magic." He says smiling.


Mr. Pants On Fire (484 words)

There are two things you should know about me.

1. My name is Marrakesh  yeah my parents were hippies, still are hippies. They met while doing charity work in Africa, hooked up one night and I came along. The rest is history as they say.

2. I am a tremendous liar.

The first part isn't all that important, its just nice to get the introductions out of the way. Its the second part you need to watch out for.

Its like a disease, you ask me a question and if I can think of a funnier or more interesting answer that's what I'll give you. Its gotten me into all sorts of trouble in the past, more than once social services got involved after a teacher asked me what I had done the weekend.

Watched dad try mums clothes on.

Held the microphone to get the perfect sound on mummy and daddies special film.

Helped uncle Peter bury aunty Sue in the woods.

You know normal harmless kid stuff.

If anything its worse now I'm older and wiser, working in office is piss boring, I have nothing in common with any of the people I work with, they all think I'm weird.

Yet they feel duty bound to make small talk or "try and bring me out of my shell" 

Speaking of shells, this one time when I was a kid I spent three days living in the sewers looking for the ninja turtles, made the news and everything. 

So yeah anyways, I'll be at the vending machine and someone will say "Oh hey Ian, did you see Ice Miners last night?"

And  I'll reply with something like ...

"No I don't own a tv, I believe it erodes your soul" 

"No I was sharpening my knives" 

"I can't watch that show, my uncle Dave was an Ice miner and he was crushed to death by a frozen Yak" 

What's worse is I love that show, I just can't be held responsible for what comes out of my mouth.

After another visit from the social mother was at the end of her tether, literally Dad kept her chained in the kitchen, and insisted on getting me some "help" 

Do you have any idea how much fun it is lying to those do goody goody counsellors? 

It was the best six months of my life, I had Alien hand syndrome, split personalities, I was a sociopath, delusional, borderline retarded, amazingly gifted, autistic, You name it they tried to pin it on me, mainly to try and help me but there was a degree of trying to get me the hell out of their lives as well. 

Anyway I can't stop and chat, they want me to make a comment on the latest batch of proposed health cuts.

I'm going to tell them that when I'm in power everyone will get free monkeys.

I love this job.


Sweet Addiction. By @Ned400 (498 words)

"We're closed." Carl didn't look up as he heard the door bell chime a flurry of knocks at the shop door.
After a moment heavy footsteps signalled the callers departure.
The tall man squinted through his oval framed glasses and carefully carried with his work on the counter top, pausing only to mop his soaking brow.
Roses were the hardest to sculpt, the stems were easy but the petals needed precision cutting to avoid ruining the sugar paste. All this work and it would probably remain half eaten. Still, it was nearly finished.
He jumped down from his stool to admire his work. His mother would say that a toddler wielding a sledgehammer could do better, but in Carl's mind it was perfect. Spraying the cake with edible glitter mixed with a sugar solution gave it a polished glaze.

For years he'd been making cakes imaginative cakes for those with a sweet tooth. Painstakingly spending hours on his trade had not led to his till overflowing with profits.
The business which had been so successful in his father's day had fallen behind in the world of home baking and cookery programmes.
After a horrendous winter, and a harsh review with his accountant, Carl had been suicidal.
Coming back to the bakery drunk, hadn't been the best idea, nor had boiling up jam with an old lead weight at the bottom of the pan.
Carl preferred a cowards way out and it was fitting if he died eating one last poisonous cake.

As always he made a batch of several but before he could eat,  weariness and  bottle of 10 year old Glennmorangie induced premature slumber.
Waking up in the back room in the morning, he had been shocked and surprised that the cakes had been sold to his customers, to rave reviews.
That day Carl read that,Romans used lead as a sweetener, boiling grape juice in lead pans.
So he made a larger batch with more lead. Again they sold out and the till was full.
That had been 2 years ago.
Now people came from far and wide to buy his cakes, strangely addicted. The sweetner Aspartame was much better than lead and his bakery "The Sweet Tooth" became a huge success.

Most of his customers came back unable to resist his cakes moreish flavours.
Adjusting a rose that was threatening to fall off he wiped his hands down his apron front.
This was the seventh celebration cake in a year that the Gregor's had ordered, the quality of Carl's "Divine lemon sponge" drawing them back.

The first cake had been ordered for Mr Gregor's birthday party and it was slighty ironic that Mrs Gregor was now ordering the same cake for her husbands funeral.
It was only when Mr Gregor was diagnosed with terminal cancer did Carl read about the effects of the  Aspartame sweetener, but there was no way he was going to stop using it.

'After all there was a recession on.'


White People Having Fun In Their Twenties (496 words)

A pop song by a band that will never make another record but will be remembered forevermore plays over a montage of ridiculously attractive people having fun.  These people don't exist but over the years you have witnessed so many light hearted, almost serious moments, that you find them popping into your head when almost similar moments happen in your life.

The show opens in the bar they all go to on a daily basis, in any other situation this would be a sign of co-dependent alcoholism. The loveable but naïve barman already knows what people will be drinking and their glasses are full and ready before they even enter the scene. Bizarrely money never seems to exchange hands.

The clever one comes in first; he is wearing a heavy winter coat, scarf, hat and gloves. He stamps his feet to shake the snow off his boots and delivers an overzealous "Brrrr boy it sure is cold out there!" announcement to make it perfectly clear to the live studio audience that it is meant to be winter.

He hangs his outdoor gear on the on the hooks you have never noticed before, sidles over to the bar and perches on the stool at the corner of the bar. The place he has sat since the pilot episode.

The stupid one comes in next; he is wearing shorts, a garish Hawaiian shirt and has sunglasses balanced on top of his head. He stamps his feet, shaking the snow from his sandals, hangs his sunglasses on the hooks and says "I need to get a coat!"

This sends the audience into fits of laughter

He walks over to sit next to the clever one, sees his full pint glass and grimaces. The barman sees this as askes him what the matter is.

Motioning towards his drink he says "Can I have two half pint glasses? … I'm trying to cut down on my drinking"

Cue a groan and more laughter from the audience.

Next in is the ditzy blonde, she rushes to the bar and orders a brandy, downs it in one.

The clever one says "Is everything ok Tess?"

She replies on the verge of tears. "No I've just seen Santa fall over on the ice, I tried to help him up and his beard came off, children started crying  ... he wasn't even the real one. What is the world coming to?"

This knocks the clever one for six and he mugs and shrugs to the camera, making the audience laugh.

The vague one comes rushing in, throws his coat off, missing the hooks completely and dances excitedly over to the group.

"Oh my god, best thing ever has just happened! I saw one of those store Santa's totally faceplant on the ice, kids were crying, his beard came off, it was A-MAY-ZING!"

This makes Tess descend into full blown sobbing, the clever one shoots him a look, the audience laughs.

End scene cut to commercials.


30 Minute Misery Loop (485 words)

The set wobbles as an attractive and unfeasibly made up young lady  enters the house and slams the door shut behind her. She is wearing a tabard over jeans and a blouse, the tabard obviously denoting she does manual work for a living.

"Mam?" She shouts, casting a glance up the stairs, where a hotels worth of bedrooms supposedly are.

"In the kitchen pet" Comes the off camera reply.

The young lady walks through the living room and into the kitchen where a middle aged woman is sat at the dining table. She is surrounded by crumpled tissues, has blatantly been crying and is holding a letter.

"what's the matter mam?" asks the daughter who looks nothing like her mother "What's that letter?"
she adds curiously, because asking about people private mail is totally acceptable in this world.

"Oh its nothing" the mother replies stuffing it into her cardigan pocket with a flourish.

"Something's up mam, I can tell"

This causes the mother to breakdown into unconvincing sobs "Oh Carol, its awful, I'm so sorry, I didn't know, honest" she wails.

"Ooh Mam what's the matter?" asks the concerned daughter.

"It's your Dad …."

Dramatic Pause!

"Is he ok? Is the cancer back? Have the navy called him back up again? Is it the power plant?"

"No it's worse than that … "

"Have the Triads found him?"

"No, your dad, my husband of thirty years … he's really my brother!"

Freeze Frame while the rapt audience are force fed the idea that they need a new sofa, car, the latest album by some insipid boyband for three minutes.

Cue music and back to the action

We are no longer in the house we are now in a busy, bustling yet almost silent pub. All of the streets residents are in there, even the ones with small children.
The main rule of this utopia is "If they aren't in the scene they don't exist"

Some extras are playing darts in the background, chatting away silently. The camera pans away from them and settles on a group of pensioners in a booth.

"Well he claims it was in self-defence" Says the head of the table, a walking stereotype with rollers still in her hair.

"Self-defence" Scoffs her neighbour, the busy body from the newsagents "How can it be self-defence when he reversed over her twice?"

"She had a gun!" Says another pointless old person, the murderers aunt.

"It wasn't real!" Says the head of the table, the victim's aunt. "It were little Tommy' spud gun, she was waving it at him so he didn't forget it"

All conversation stops dead in the bar as the door opens and a middle aged man, wearing a suit walks in. This is obviously the aforementioned murderer.

"Evening all" He says to the open mouthed, staring crowd. "Pint please Cass, looks like I'm here to stay"

Freeze frame, roll credits.


Megacity Plumb by @ned400 (488 Words)

In the post-apocalyptic 22nd century, crime runs rampant in Mega-City One.Judges, elite cops do whatever it takes to keep the peace, including sentencing criminals to death on the spot! The toughest is Judge Joseph Dredd.

Dredd walked off the staircase to  the 47 floor. If maintenance didn't fix the lift tomorrow he was going to pay them a visit. With his lawgiver set to incendiary.

After a day and night of fighting scum, Dredd wanted nothing more than returning to the Grand Hall of Justice for a quick 10 minutes in the sleep machine. But ever since Chief Judge Griffin had ordered the senior judges to "intergrate" with the citizens,  he had been forced to take up residence in the Rowdy Yates block. It was a friendly block but he didn't care as long as they obeyed the law.

Tomorrow he would need to get his ribs mended in medivac after his fight with the Angel gang. The trip through the cursed earth had been tough. Dredd wanted nothing more than a shower and a cup of rocafe.

As he opened the apartment door he heard " Oh Mr Dredd!" Stifling a sigh he closed the door and turned to greet the wizened voice.

"Judge Dredd, Mrs Winters." Impassively he Looked down at the old lady stone faced.

Mrs Winters peered up at Dredd's chin.

"Can I help citizen ? " Dredd's bluntness had no effect on her.

"Its my garbochute. Its making some strange noises and smells. Could you look at it for me." Mrs Winters pleaded.

"Call the super." Dredd said turning his back on her.

"But Mr Dredd, the supervisor doesn't work Sundays." The old lady was sniveling now.

Of course it was a Sunday, Dredd always lost track of the days. Mrs Winters was crying now, the sound beginning to hurt his head.

Two hours later Dredd was still up lying under the garbochute in her apartment his utility belt on the floor beside him up to his elbows in rancid water.
"Did you find the blockage yet deary?" Mrs Winters brought over a drink and a cloth to wipe his hands.

Getting up Dredd picked up his utility belt and clipped it on, then wiped his hands on the cloth.

"Its Judge Dredd Mrs Winters. "

"Ill be so happy when you find my contessa figurine. I really didn't mean to drop it down there. "

"Mrs Winters do you mean you knew what was blocking your garbochute all along? " overtired Dredd was on the point of fury. "Wasting a Judge's time is an offence.  The sentence is death. "

Walking away Dredd stomped towards the door. Turning smoothly he palmed his lawgiver and said "Hotshot".

The lawgiver automatically created a round ,loading it into the chamber and Dredd calmly fired the bullet. The garbochute exploded into a fountain of rubbish and food.
Ignoring the old ladys shrieks Dredd walked calmly out of the apartment.

"Time for bed" he said.


Enter Badman (434 words)

Some people are born great, others achieve it through a life of struggling and hardship.

I was born in a dreary council house on an anonymous estate in a humdrum town, my mother didn't die during my birth and went on to have three more children. I wasn't used, abused or bullied growing up. I didn't excel academically or athletically I just plodded my way through school and then sixth form and then into a  job at the same factory my dad had worked at since leaving school himself.

To say I was stuck in a rut is the understatement of the century.

And that's when I saw him, well heard of him anyway.

Manman and his valiant attempts to right the worlds wrongs, the press loved him. This idiot in a balaclava, breaking up petty drug deals, patrolling the streets, waving his cape around like he is all that.

I hated him, I hated him with a passion and knew what I had to do, what I had to become. I finally found my purpose.

I became his polar opposite, I was the reaction to his action, I am his nemesis, the dark to his light, the yin to his yang, I am Badman!

I know it's not the catchiest of names but you know where you stand with me and thats important.

I started small, putting cats in  trees, bursting little kids balloons, taking candy off babies, general villainy you know? But as his do-gooding gets bigger, braver and bolder I also have to up my game.

I needed at least a henchman if not multiple henchmans or henchmen if you prefer. 

I tried a few "friend finding" websites but hardly any of the people who applied were suitable, most of them don't even appear to own clothes.

Then I tried the local press but there was a snafu with the ad, and my number appeared alongside an Austin Allegro that only had 13k on the clock.

All that left me with was the notice boards in the supermarkets.
This, this .. this didn't work at all but I did get an exercise bike for £25.

As a last resort I roped in my brother, well he's my half brother really but everyone has to start somewhere don't they?

This is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, I don't even have a masterplan yet, or a lair, what type of super villain doesn't even have a lair? 

But mark my words I will terrorise this city and torment that masked meddling  .... moron? 

Alliteration was never my strong point.


Forest by @janebennett65 (498 words)

Her head was throbbing, her limbs aching and her mouth was dry.  So tired.  So thirsty.  She didn't think she could go on much further, but he was right behind her and there was no choice. She felt his hand push against her shoulder, urging her forward.  'Keep moving' he said for 100th time, his voice drummed in her head. 

The heat of the forest was intolerable.  Sweat poured down between her shoulders, and she could feel a river of droplets pooling in the small of her back.  Damn him.  Why was he doing this and where was he taking her.  The trees of the forest stood tall and threatening around them, but even they did not protect from the sweltering heat, the sun managing to wind its way through the thickest of branches to torture the ground below.   

She needed to pee, and she needed to drink.  She was not going to do or ask for either.  A million questions raged in her head, a million scenarios on how this was going to pan out and she was unable to stop the tears as they flooded her eyes.  Blinded she tripped over a leafy obstacle, and jumped as he reached for her arm, steadying her and preventing a fall.  She flinched.  He was strong, and his grip was firm and in other circumstances she would have appreciated that.  Annoyed at her clumsiness and ashamed of her vulnerability she pulled her arm away.   

She marched on as instructed, pushing away branches that hung low from the grizzled and blackened trunks of the forest trees; cursing as many swung back in her face, and hoping that the ones that missed her would get him.  Small pleasures.  They had left the path long ago, and there was no hope of any human contact this far into the forest.  He seemed to know exactly where they were going, and moved forward confidently and with purpose.  She had given up pleading and begging miles back.  He would not be moved in his intentions.  She wondered if he intended to have sex with her.  She doubted he would use a condom and would it matter or make any difference to her fate? 

'Nearly there.'  He sounded excited.  The trees seemed to be getting further apart and she glimpsed  green in the distance.  A small clearing in the denseness of the forest.   
She picked up speed.  It was nearly over and she welcomed the fact.  She screwed up her reddened face and blinked as she walked out into the sunlight.  It was beautiful.  A place of peace and tranquillity. 

She felt his presence behind her, and turned to face him as he swung his huge backpack down on the grass.  'I told you it would be worth the trek didn't I' he said grinning at her adoringly, 'now you sort out the food while I set out the wine and picnic blanket, we'll be needing it later'.  He winked and she forgave him.


Semper Fidelis (367 Words)

The air is thick with smoke, bodies and carnage scattered as far as the eye can see.

I never signed up for this, I was fresh out of college and the world was my oyster. I was suckered in with tales of brotherhood and bravado.

Training was minimal, a quick turn around for cannon fodder like us is required and willing volunteers are queued around the block.

The other guys in my squad, they all want this, all knew what they had got themselves in for. Second and third generation army brats. Kids who haven't long started shaving bragging about how they want to get out there and kill them some gooks, ragheads, commies, krauts, japs, insert racial slur of choice here.

I don't share their blood lust, all I have is fear.

Fear of dying in this god forsaken hell hole.

So if it comes down to them or me, its no choice as far as I can figure it, my only job is to look after number one and come back alive and in one piece.

Intel said they were hiding, something or someone in the village. I didn't care who or what it was all I know is  we marched in with the sole intention of getting it. 

We searched a few huts, found nothing or no one.

Then it all just goes crazy, Collins doesn't check his corners and gets himself tagged. It's careless but I hope he felt nothing, its the least he deserves, he was a good soldier.

People on both sides start screaming, shouting nonsensical orders. I just open up with everything I have, shooting anything that moves as far as I'm concerned the time for sides has long gone.

My heart is thundering in my ears, I don't even register the click, click, click signalling a long empty rifle. What I do register is a sudden stinging thud, thud, thud.

Two in the chest and one in head. Claret is dripping down over my goggles, I've been hit.

Game over.

Someone picks me up by the scruff of my neck and says "You're dead Morgan now go wait in the portacabin, its capture the flag next."

Paintballing is hell.


Easy Prey (497 Words)

They smell of cigarettes,  cheap perfume and cheaper cider, I don't normally hunt drunks but it's been too long since I last fed,  I'm growing weaker by the night.

They walk arm in arm, leaning into each other at a precarious angle, both relying on the other to hold them up. They giggle loudly seemingly at random. Neither knows I am behind them, they are totally oblivious to the outside world, content in their little drunken bubble.

I follow them for a while hoping they'll sober up a little but also enjoying the hunt, even as easy as this one is. 

Eventually we are well away from town and prying eyes. I know the window of opportunity is closing as they could live anywhere around here and I'm not in the mood or shape for breaking and entering.

I cough politely to announce my presence, they don't hear so I cough a little louder threatening to lose a lung, stars dance across of my eyes.

Thankfully this gets their attention and they drunkenly spin around, still giggling.

"Good evening ladies" I say in my best posh voice, throwing in an overly courteous bow for extra effect.

They aren't impressed and  giggle even louder, one of them declares she thinks she has wet herself.

I make an executive decision to stop with the pleasantries and flash the fangs at them. Somewhat unsurprisingly this makes them giggle even more.

"Oh-Em-Gee are you meant to be a vampire?" one of them slurs at me.

"Why yes I am, aren't you afraid little girls?" I reply teasingly.

" I love Twilight!" The other squeals.

I have been down this path before, that franchise has ruined people's ideas about us, they want us to sparkle and fall in love with them. I am a creature of the night, an object of your darkest nightmares.

As a show of strength and to deliver a crystal clear message I pluck her head off her shoulders and casually toss it aside. Her mate stands blinking dumbly at me.

I offer a sheepish grin and an apology. She knows her fate now, you can finally see the fear sink in, she is quickly sobering up. Which is good as I could do without the headache later.

She starts to cry, I hate it when they cry I'd rather they beg and plead or at least try and fight back. The crying makes me feel bad not just  for them but about myself. Maybe I should try and cheer her up a bit first?

I clear my throat and start to serenade her.

"It's no coincidence.
That Cullen rhymes with sullen.
It's just like hollyoaks but without the jokes
That young miss Bella, all she wanted was a fella!"

I put some real umpf into the last line and this makes her smile.
That's good enough for me so I lunge in, drinking deep, tasting the happiness.

It was never this much work in Bram Stokers day.


Bad Samaritan By Thom J. Wallace (493 Words)

Bad Samaritan

The girl is standing in the middle of the road.
She's waving, clearly distressed.
I need to be in town, but I pull up alongside her, not too close. I don't want to be accused of anything; you see that happening more and more these days.

I open the window. "what's the problem?"

The little girl looks panicked "It's my Daddy. He's collapsed."

There is something strange about the scene I can't quite put my finger on. The girl is dressed immaculately in her school uniform. Black blazer, skirt, a red jumper under which she has a red and black tie and white shirt.

I'm still wary, a schoolgirl out here in the middle of the nowhere.

"Okay sweetie. Tell me what happened? Where's your daddy, how come you're standing out here?"
"My Daddy's a carpenter. I went to kiss him goodbye, he just fell down, he's lying there in the barn."

I kill the engine and step out of the car. Clearly there's a problem and no sign of anybody else to help so it's down to me.

She heads back to the house, she seems in no hurry, almost scared of what she'll find. I follow closely but not too closely. I'm still wary.

We get round to the back of the house and I can see the corner of the barn. The sides are corrugated metal. The roof is that semi-transparent corrugated plastic.

The girl rushes round the corner of the barn and I follow only to be greeted by a scene from a horror movie.
In the middle of the barn is a large band saw and all over the saw and the floor is covered with blood.
The one thing that's missing though is anybody collapsed.

"That's strange" She says l "he was here 5 minutes ago."

"Was he bleeding when he collapsed?"

I'm beginning to sense something seriously wrong here and turn to go back and ring the police.   I'm not quick enough, something heavy bounces off the corner of my head and everything is black.

I'm not sure how long I've been unconscious . I open my eyes,but all I can see is the roof of the barn. I try to get up but my feet are tied to a steel bench. I try my hands but they too are secured. 

"I'm sorry son, nothing personal. I should've done it while you was asleep."

I turn my head and there he is. He's a big man, His hair is thinning but has a thick beard. He's wearing a black and red lumberjack shirt, dungarees. There is blood all over his arms but it isn't his.

"What do you mean?" I ask slowly

"Well you know how it is son, times is hard but we still gotta eat."

The last thing I hear is the sound of the band saw starting up, the last thing I feel is the first touch of the metal blade.


Love Like Blood (394 Words)

The opening notes are slowly, tentatively, picked out. Then there is the briefest of pauses, barely a second or two, before the chugging, brutal, main riff comes crashing in.

In this pause he holds his breath, bites his bottom lip and  closes his eyes.

It feels like a lifetime, the anticipation for what is to follow is ecstasy.

And then when it comes and the riff kicks in the release is like an orgasm, it's better than an orgasm it's the cleanest, purest drug giving the ultimate dizzying high.

Few people understand how he feels about music, his hunger, his passion for it.

It's all encompassing, when he finds a new song or a new band he becomes a man possessed, looking for more by them, devouring B-sides, bootlegs, demos, side projects, collaborations anything he can get his hands on.

In a perverse way he prefers to stumble across a band who have already split up, their work already behind them. Without the threat of new material, tours and the terrifying prospect of them splitting up hanging over him. He can afford to take his time, truly savour the music, live in-between the notes.

He goes through fads of listening to only one type of music, maybe even only one band for weeks at a time. On even rare occasions it'll just be one song that gets under his skin, just those few minutes of excellence the only thing that will sate him, calm his soul.

Every so often he finds himself in the doldrums when he can't settle on a single genre, band or tune. The longer this goes on the worse he becomes, sullen and withdrawn, angry with himself, the world in general. When he finally finds what it is he has been looking for he can and has before now cried at the relief.

His parents loved music, his dad always told him that there is no such thing as too loud, of late he is starting to doubt this. He woke up a few months ago with a whistling in his left ear and now everything sounds muffled, like he is underwater.

He knows what is happening and it terrifies him, he'd sooner go blind than deaf but the damage is done. Every day the world grows that little bit more quieter.

Soon, he knows he'll wake up in silence.


One Last Look by Thom J. Wallace (371 words)

 I love the feeling of being alone. Outside I can hear the kids playing and the traffic up on the main road, but here it all seems a million miles away. Here in my own little bubble all I can hear are the ticking of the clock and the distant gurgle of the freezer.

I walk into the bedroom and cast my eyes around. The bedroom linen is fresh and smells faintly of a summer meadow. In the air hangs another more subtle smell. Of jasmine. Of oranges – her perfume, it's a scent I know so well. I walk over to the bedside table and pick up the bottle; something by a designer I'd never heard of and I inhale deeply from the aperture of the atomiser, gorgeous. I place it carefully back down on the glass tabletop and pick up the black necklace on the stand at the side of it, admiring the beauty of the craftsmanship as it glistens in my hands. After a few brief moments that feel like eternity I hang the necklace back up as best I can and turn towards the wardrobe. Sliding back the mirrored glass doors to look at the dresses and blouses she has hanging there, I run my fingers across them all, enjoying the textures of the different fabrics as they slip through my fingers, admiring the quality of the workmanship. There's a brief commotion outside which shocks me to my sense but after a moment I realise, it's only a child screaming and I soon calm down and find myself back in my own private world.

After a few more minutes of looking into drawers and picking up ornaments, I take one last look around the bedroom and pull gently at the corner of the duvet, straightening out a tiny crease in the material. I quietly head downstairs and slip out via the back door, quietly locking it behind me.

She might think that something isn't quite as she left it, and she might think someone has been inside her home, but she won't know. And with that lingering thought I quietly and contentedly walk away, knowing it'll be another couple of weeks before she's away with her boyfriend again.


The Over Analysing Department (499 Words)

A hush falls over the auditorium as an elderly gentlemen shuffles across to the rostrum at the centre of the stage. He reaches into his jacket, pulls out a pair of spectacles, balances them on his nose, clears his throat and starts to address the room.

"Gentlemen, I welcome you to this months T.O.A.D seminar, we have a busy day ahead of us so I'll press on.

First off we have apologies from Zara Pentonville who is putting the finishing touches to her dissertation, Pj and Duncan and Ant and Dec: Why do two men need four names?

I'm sure I'm not the only one looking forward to finally reading that.

Secondly we have some good news, Myfanwy Llewellyn has given birth to the triplets, she has decided to Name them Robert, Downey and Junior after her favourite actor in Air America.

Now I'll just run through the days schedule and then we'll be on our way.

At 10:00, after my opening proposal, Barbara McGill will be showing you the latest tinfoil hat fashion and tips on how to hide your shoes from the neighbours.

11:00 will see our esteemed guest Dr. Janet Hoffenburgersson who will lead a debate with the intriguing title What if its medicines that make you ill?

Then of course we have lunch followed by the lecture, Fingerprints: The Hands Traitor by Lisa Tarbuck and I do hope you have all remembered to bring your bandages and clean razor blades with you as instructed last month.

Right so that's what lies ahead for us all, now let us start!

You all know my specialist field is inhuman and mutant celebrities, so today's topic shouldn't be all that much of a shock.

Was Nina Simone really a Penguin?"

He stops speaking and waits for the inevitable, collective gasp, his favourite part of the job.
The gasp comes and goes and he waits for the hullabaloo of his bold declaration to die down again, he has his audience on the edge of their seats, just where he wants them.

He smiles to himself and starts speaking.

" Nina Simone,  N I N A  S I M O N E  . You'll notice that her name cleverly doesn't contain either a P or a G the two main letters from the word Penguin, this double bluff cypher was my first clue.

Then I noticed her first name NINA or ANIN backwards, ANtartic IN. A clear confession that she lives IN the ANtartic.

Thirdly and most damning of all you have the lyrics to her biggest hit song.

BIRDS flying high you know how I FEEL.

FISH in the SEA you know how I FEEL.

And what is the only animal in existence that would know what it is like to be both a bird and a fish?"

He leaves the question hanging in the air as starts walking towards the wings, he pauses briefly, winks cheekily at the rapt audience and says ...

"A Penguin"


Ding Dong The Bat Is Dead (471 words)

I have planned this for months, it is a work of art, an act of love and my masterpiece. This is my legacy, they'll talk about this years after I'm dead and buried. I'll be held in the same regard as Beethoven, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and the other ninja turtles.

The gas pumped into the aircon rendered the patrons unconscious within seconds, no alarms were triggered, we simply waltzed in and setup shop.

I didn't waste any time basking in my brilliant glory, there was work to be done after all.
We euthanized our unconscious guests and positioned them against the windows, protecting ourselves from any unwanted intrusions. Then we set to work on the vaults, helping ourselves to the cities wealth.
Money bagged and ready to go, we finally set the alarms off and call in the cavalry.

The air is soon full of the sounds of sirens, helicopters and the familiar cry of "We have you surrounded"
Everything is going to plan.

This stand off remains in place for a few hours, phone calls are made demands are questioned, pointless hostage negotiations are partaken.

When he finally arrives it is with the style and grace we have all grown accustomed to and expected.
He comes crashing through the skylight, the one he'll assume I forgot to guard, and starts dishing out his violent brand of justice. Beating my finest henchmen down in a flurry if cape, fist and boot.

They are so predictable these so called superheroes, all of them have their own little quirks, their own little vendettas, their own little weaknesses, its just all so boring.

Soon enough he has despatched my men without even breaking a sweat and starts that slow menacing walk towards me. He starts blathering about how I have gone too far this time, how I'm going back to the asylum, how he'll make sure I'll never be free to menace the city again.

I cut him off mid rant and give him my own little diatribe, about how I run this city now and the people are going to be free to go about their day without the constant threat of vigilante violence hanging over them. I tell him how he has underestimated me, how his symbol of fear emblazoned on his chest will soon be a memory. I tell him how the skylight was left open for him to come through, how I have stood here in the atrium waiting for him but most importantly how he didn't know about the sniper.

The shot rings out before he can do anything about it, I doubt he even hears it. His big strong, unguarded jaw explodes in a mess of flesh, blood, bone and teeth.

I wipe him off my face, straighten my jacket and start to cackle.

My reign starts here.


The Last Dance (462 Words)

I watch you all, as you meander obliviously through your lives, its one of the perks of the job.

The only perk really.

 I meet you all eventually and few of you will be pleased to see me,  there is little joy in my own existence you see, that's why I like to treat myself from time to time.

She was born in 1926, thirteen when the second world war broke out and turned the world upside down. That period was one of my busiest and one of your darkest.

So many tragic pointless deaths, every single one preventable if only you could all just get along.

She met him at an army hospital in 1944, she had just turned 18 and was working as a land girl miles away from home. He was fresh back from overseas and recovering from the horrors of war.

The first time they spoke was at a dance, jitter bugged the night away and fell in love that very night.
They were each others first love, they were each others only love.

They soon married and set up home in the small town of the hospital, he worked as a carpenter she was a housewife and a mother to six raucous children, there wasn't much money but there was an abundance of love.

He died in 1991 after a long painful, so called battle with cancer, when I finally came, ashamedly late he was grateful to meet me, she was thankful I came.

I cannot apologise enough for my tardiness on that occasion, he deserved better.

She carried on with her life, stubborn to the last but always missed him. Not a day went by she didn't think of him, Time doesn't heal all wounds.

Time is a funny thing, it has no real meaning for me, your lives flash by in the blink of my eye. Full of wonderment, hope and misery.

She has lived a full life, a long, happy life but my time to visit has sadly arrived.

She is sleeping when I silently enter her home, their home. I watch her for what could be hours, what could be minutes, what could be seconds.

Time is standing still for us both.

Finally I tap her gently on her shoulder to rouse her from her slumber.

She doesn't see me, she see's a fine young gentleman in his Sunday best.

"I'm Jim" I say "Would you care to dance?"

She looks down at herself, she isn't the arthritis ravaged old lady with bad knees any more, she is a beautiful eighteen year old full of life and with a wicked spirit.

She smiles at me and says "One dance won't hurt"

"My sentiments exactly" I say.

 And we Jitter bug the night away.


Time Management by The Chimping Dandy (499 Words)

Chips? Again?

Why is it, whenever I decide to have 'Freezer surprise' for dinner, you know, that game where you open the freezer and have to make a meal with the first thing you see? It always turns out that I have to make something with chips?  Maybe I buy too many chips.

I took the bag from the freezer and slowly closed the door, even when I'm in the house on my own I don't like to slam doors.  My Mother always told me that someone who slams doors needs to work on their time management.  My time management was perfect; I had everything planned, down to the last minute, in an ostrich leather FiloFax that I'd gotten off eBay for a song.

I threw the chips on the counter and searched the cupboards for an accompaniment.  There wasn't a great deal there, the non-standard opening hours of the local shops over Christmas had thrown out my normal routine, so much for my much vaunted time management.  Settling eventually on a tin of meatballs in tomato gravy, I turned on the oven and emptied the meatballs into a pan.  The chips would take twenty minutes to cook, the meatballs another five.  I set the timer for fifteen minutes and put the chips in the oven.

I wandered up the thirteen steps to see what was on the TV, it was really only a choice between Jeremy Kyle or Dr Who, neither particularly interested me, so I tried the radio.  The metal framing of my concrete duplex flat made radio reception patchy at the best of times; This wasn't the best of times, I could hardly hear Jeremy Vine's voice through the crackle of static.  What I could hear however, was the beep of the oven timer.  Wandering back down the same thirteen steps into the kitchen, I lit the hob and put on the meatballs – I added a splash of tomato ketchup, I remembered that the gravy in this particular brand of meatballs was a little bland.

The next three hundred seconds were spent casually stirring the pan, the smell of tomato gravy was starting to make my mouth water. At precisely 12:37 I turned off the hob and the oven, went to the cupboard to get a plate and dished up my lunch.  Sitting at the kitchen table in silence, I looked out of the window and regarded the drizzle soaked cityscape.  It was unchanging; from the fifteenth floor you could just see rooftops and low cloud.  Peaceful.

Twelve minutes later I had finished my lunch, I took my plate and cutlery and rinsed them in the sink, I'd wait until a few more things were dirty before I bothered to heat some water.  As I turned, I realised that I hadn't put the remaining chips back in the freezer – maybe I should take the time to re-organise the freezer, put the chips nearer the back, move the prostitute's head to the front, ready for next time.


The Darkness (499 Words)

The first blow sets off a firework display inside my head. 
The second rattles my teeth.
The third is a charm.
The darkness comes.

I wasn't always like this, I used to be like you. 
I had a wife.
A job.
A house.
I was someone.

The job went first.
Apparently giving a consultation with black eyes and broken nose doesn't reflect the company image.
I said I'd been mugged.

They said nobody gets mugged that often.

The wife was the last to go.
She didn't understand.
Called me a pain junkie.
Said I needed help.
She still left.

It all started innocently.
I was under a lot of stress, wasn't sleeping , making silly mistakes at work, which made me more stressed, which made me sleep less.
A continual loop of misery.

On the way home from another disastrous day at work I took a long blink and rear ended a lorry. I woke up in hospital six hours later with a smile on my face.

I remember nothing from fighting to keep my eyes open until waking up surrounded by my then loving family .

Discharged from hospital with a sackful of pain relief. I was sleeping but getting angrier. Meds gone I sank lower, ended up in the shadier parts of town, chasing the dragon, chasing the darkness.

I had ran up a considerable debt when my dealer decided the time had come for me to pay.

I had a fraction of what I owed when the they caught up with me, decided to teach me a lesson, make an example of me.

The beating was brutal, every time the darkness tried to embrace me they would stop, let me regain my senses.

When they finally tipped me over the edge, the shadows swallowed me whole.
It was bliss.

I don't know how long I was unconscious for.
But let me tell you this, when I awoke I felt alive, I felt rested.
I felt calm.

That's the first time I told people I'd been mugged, it wasn't the last.

I never paid that debt, it took quite a few beatings for them to realise this was my new addiction.I repulsed them, quite a feat given their line of work.

After they realised I wanted the beatings, after I lost my wife, my job, my house, my life. I started hanging out in bars. Picking any fight I could, insulting peoples wives, daughters, mothers, anything to provoke them.

Its surprisingly hard to get someone to beat a stranger senseless. Most take a swing at you, hoping to scare you off. I never backed down, never swung back, I just shouted more.

Is that all you've got?
Is that the best you can do?
Eventually I'd beg.
Give me what I wanted, what I deserved.

Most stop when I reach the begging stage.

So that's how we got here reader.
I know that heaven isn't waiting for me.
All there will be is the darkness.
I can't wait.


Manman (439 Words)

I blame the movies.

I mean I've always read comics, always loved comics but the movies made it all seem so much more realistic and a viable career path.

My (first) major downfall was a distinct lack of super powers, this didn't stop Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne ... but I don't have their fortunes.

Lack of powers aside I'm also carrying a few extra pounds, ok so its close to a hundred meaning lycra isn't such a hot look on me. So I'm wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt, I still have the cape, the cape is important for swooping and shielding and stuff.

The next problem was the mask, wearing glasses doesn't really allow for disguises all that much, Superman aside of course but he didn't really need his, it was all a ruse.

Essentially what I'm doing is wearing a balaclava over my glasses, if I run too far or go from outside to indoors too quickly they steam up.

Quite a few perps have made their escape while I try and demist myself.

The next hurdle was the name, all the cool names have been taken and my favourite names have always been the ones that let you know where you stand with the character.

Superman he's super!
Spiderman he's like a spider!
Batman he likes bats! 

The Punisher he punishes people! 
Ironman he wears a suit made out of a gold and titanium alloy!

I debated this for weeks, tried drawing different logos based on the various names I came up with.
The logo is the most important thing.

I used logic and reasoning and based on the fact I have no powers and am just a man fighting crime I eventually went with Manman.

The crudely drawn logo on my t-shirt is a white M in a red circle. 

Yes it looks like I'm promoting chocolate but I'm using it to throw would be super villains off guard a little, get inside their heads like.

So that’s how we got here, twenty storeys above the bustling city below, I love my city and I have sworn to protect it, with my life if needs be.

Its just that this is a really long way up and my cape is stuck in the fire escape door. Cost me fifteen quid this cape did, got it off eBay I don't want to rip it or leave it behind.

So I'm using my human power of patience and waiting until someone comes up and opens the door.
It’s a good job I bought sandwiches, Its been three hours so far.

These utility belts are brilliant!


Contingency Plan by Vincent Furnier (491 Words)

If they ever capture us, if we're ever separated we need a plan to find each other. This is our plan.

Step 1: initial contact through social media
We've got our secret code names, I know hers, she knows mine. They're surreptitious; unique enough that they don't already exist but not so unique they'd stand out or would give us away.
We haven't set these up yet. To do so would tie them to our existing IP addresses and therefore back to us if they've got the technology to check (and they have). Better to set them up afresh as they're needed via a cybercafé or library & check them often

Step 2:  verification
There's no telling what lengths they'll go to in order to find us so we can't be lax, we can't just swap facebook emails saying  "hi its <redacted> is that <redacted>? It is? Great lets meet at <redacted>" then turn up & be recaptured. We'd need to be sure so we'd need to test one another. We need secret questions with answers only we'd know
hers is "what's the topping on my birthday pizza"
mine is "what colour was my favourite toy"
(*NB – those are not our real questions)

step 3: move onto phones
social media is notorious for being monitored, tracked and traced. Nothing is ever thrown away. Every time you look at a profile or photo, every time you search for someone, its logged.
Once initial contact is made, better to move off social media & onto burners – disposable PAYG mobile phones, bought with cash.
Keep them cheap enough & they won't have GPS so only their approximate location can be triangulated. Much less reliable for them so much safer for us.
But how to get the number to one another?
We're back to codes and social media. Back to only things we would know then, if the answer is a word, count the letters to convert it to a number.

Here we go,
  • All mobile numbers start with 07, so that's known.
  • Anything that adds to more than 9, add the integers together till you get a single integer (eg: 17 = 1+7 = 8)
  • Spaces don't count

here we go,  this is my current mobile number.

The 3rd number is the fake hippy's favourite pub
The 4th number was my flatmate when you first visited my flat
The 5th number is the place we went (that you loved) after we'd met the monkeys
The 6th number is what made you laugh out loud at Scott & Rach's wedding
The 7th number is the capacity of my fridge
The 8th number is how many kittens my mam's cat had
The 9th number is what my brother used to call his best mate
The 10th number is my Christmas drink
The 11th number is how much my first car cost

The above number is genuine. If you can answer the questions it'll give you my number. Ring me if you can


The Morning After The Night Before. (483 Words)

I wake up and the room smells like sugar puffs, before the hangover even has a chance to kick me in the balIs I know I don't want to open my eyes. 

She rolls over and farts in her sleep, a real wet sounding cheek slapper, it stinks like you would imagine a dead seagull would.

The stench makes me heave, for a second I think I'm going to blow chunks. I admit defeat and sit up in  bed, pry my eyes open, even through the haze I can tell this is going to take some explaining.

The room is utter carnage, there is a smiley face daubed on the wall in what I hope is chocolate pudding but already know it isn't, I hate chocolate.

The curtains have been pulled down, I have no idea where they are, I have a brief flashback of running up and down the corridors, giggling,  wearing them like capes.

I throw the covers back and trudge to the en-suite to take a leak, I find the curtains stuffed down the toilet. I can't deal with this yet so I piss in the sink. glancing at what's left of the mirror its got a suspiciously fist sized whole in the middle of it,  cracks dancing to the edges like a spiders web.

Even in a disjointed reflection I look rough. I have what I hope are bags under my eyes but are more likely bruises, it looks like icing is streaked through my hair, I know its not icing but there is so much in there we are talking like two or three blokes worth.
Or a sustained effort by one very determined chap.

I reach around and feel between my ass cheeks, all is intact down there so that’s one win chalked up for me.

I need a shower, I feel grotty, I reach behind the curtain and turn it on as hot as it'll go. Hoping I can steam the grime off me.

Sitting on the edge of the tub with my head in my hands I start to retrace my steps, of course it would be helpful if I even knew where I was. With the first clear thought of the day I decide that’s the best place to start from and go back into the bedroom.

She's still asleep, lay on her back and snoring. She's a good looking lass, someone has written "Monkey tits" on her in lipstick. 

This makes me giggle and I forget what it was I came in the room for.

The phone starts ringing, I have to root around in the debris to find it but finally pick it up and mumble a hello.

The voice on the other end sounds a thousand miles away and in a theatrically loud whisper they say "Dr. Jay the police are here …"

Its going to be a long day.