Guilt by @Lucy_Magnuson (378 Words)

Judas. Thats what they'd call her. Betrayal. The ultimate betrayal. She couldn't hide her guilt. The evidence was everywhere, and besides her finer prints all over the scene of the crime, her face said everything any investigator would need to know. It was covered as were her clothes.


It was her. No defence.

Lying on her side, screwed up into the foetal position, she hid in the corner, in the dark, quietly sobbing. It was only a matter of time before they found her. And they would. They were coming.

She could hear them. The voices. The banging about. The frantic search.

Her crime had already been discovered. She had heard the screams of the finder. The shouts. The mounting of the search party.

She was too close. She should try and escape but that would just lead to her being found quicker.

Nowhere to run.

She slid into despair, this wasnt the way the day was supposed to go. She was supposed to be with family, friends, not hiding from the justice that she knew would be swift and harsh.

They were getting closer. More angry. Their shouts more determined. Give yourself up now Lucy, things will be easier for you. Cooperate. We'll help you sort this mess out. Tell the truth. We'll work with you.

She knew they were lying. Some crimes were unforgivable. This was one of them. No way out. No plea could save her. She was marked. It was only a matter of time.

Rocking. Rocking was soothing but it didn't make them back off, stop searching, shout any less. They were almost on her. Almost at her sanctuary. If she closed her eyes maybe, just maybe she could keep them away for another few minutes.

But they were here.

'LUCY! Get out form under the bed at once!' her mother screamed 'and come and apologise to your brother for eating all his Easter eggs!'

Crawling out, tears down her chocolate smothered face Lucy looked at her little brother. A mass of snot and tears, muck and bogeys.

She knew an apology wouldn't be enough. But she grovelled anyway. It was worth a shot, but it didn't wok. George still cut all the hair off her Barbie dolls in a fit of revenge.


A symphony of death. (424 words)

In the heat of the moment and while consumed with rage it sounded like a good idea, a brilliant one even. Now with all of his enemies slain and his rage abated he is beginning to regret ever opening his mouth.  It does look imposing, even more so than he dared to dream at the time but it's just so damned uncomfortable. "Throne of skulls." He grumbles to himself as he debates calling for yet another cushion too soothe his rear end. "Vanquish all those who speak out against me."  He mumbles in a bizarre mockery of his own voice.

Absentmindedly he drums his fingers on one of the dozen or so skulls that make up the armrests, it makes a pleasant hollow sound. For a minute he forgets himself and his troubles. He dances his fingers across the throne, searching for different sounds and is soon beating out quite a jaunty tune. Lost in the macabre musical moment he isn't aware he has company until a polite cough disturbs his rhythm.

Thankfully it's only Quetzal, who is all bows and grovelling. "Forgive me sire, I bring a message from the North, Prince Daraquin …."

The king stops listening and finds himself wondering what sound his loyal servants hollowed out head would make. In his mind's eye he sees a row of skulls, all shapes and sizes, smallest on the left working their way up to the largest ones on the right. He knows what he needs to do. Interrupting Quetzal he gives a royal declaration of war.

"Quetzal, send word to the keep I want the Dwarf citadel of Aaronmoor wiped off the face of the earth. Take no prisoners and collect as many heads as possible, men, women, children. Spare no one."

Shocked but knowing better than to question his King, Quetzal scurries off to set the wheels of war into motion. Before he reaches the end of the great hall the king calls him back.  "Have a legion sent into the forests, see if they can bag me a Giant or two, again, and this is important, I need the heads intact and tell Dai the chop to sharpen his axe. I have a feeling quite a few prisoners need executing"

With panic in his eyes and no idea what lies ahead Quetzal resumes his scurrying and the King returns to his day dreaming. He drums his fingers and starts to ponder if a femur could be hollowed out to make a flute, he has always wanted to form a band.


New beginnings... by @GeeDubya67 (390 Words)

He'd often thought about writing a short story. Same as a blog really, he'd thought about that too. Trouble was his thoughts felt jumbled. Confused. Chock full if too many ideas.

The desire to write was palpable in him. Did he need a theme? Should he write abstract thoughts or along a more cohesive narrative on something important to him?

The wrestling with the answers to these questions exhausted him and in doing so sapped his will to commit theoretical pen to theoretical paper. But this was new.

A vehicle to put down only 500 words. Surely he could commit to that?

He sat in silence, only the gentle pad-pad-pad of fingers on the screen of his iPad and the gentle snuffling of his breath as he inhaled and exhaled. His excitement was growing, a frisson was becoming a tumult. It's only 500 words! But not for him, it felt like crossing the Rubicon!

Once he started the words flowed freely. His chosen subject was an easy pick and it came from his heart. It was daft really, he knew he was good with words but doubted deep down whether people would like to read him. He knew he was living contradiction - he described himself as shyly gregarious, even under his social media alter-ego he withheld opinions for fear of offending people he'd never meet! But in part this was because 140 characters was not enough to explain his thinking processes...

But a blog or a short story might give him the room to elucidate. Could he write 500 words and hold the readers interest? The self-doubt returned. Not 'returned', it bubbled up, like a Witches brew. Should he finish? Should he scrap it and start again? 

He decided to plough on. He was going to finish what he'd started even if it was only the beginning of a journey. The idea of 500 words seemed doable, giving him an achievable target, something he'd like to do more than just once. He felt that the autobiographical meter suited him for now, although whether he'd continue on this path only time would tell.

So, he read back over his first attempt, smiled wryly, and contemplated once again the  button. Should he? Should he? But what if it enlightened? He paused, summoned up his courage and threw caution to the wind.


Q Is For Quartermaster, Who Provides Us With Guns. (499 words)

Bond stands as still as a statue while the retinal scanner confirms his identity, the doors to the lab unlock with a heavy clunk and then sweep open with a light whoosh.

He stands at the top of the stairs for a moment and takes it all in. White coated boffins as far as the eye can see, all working on the latest gadgets to help him and his fellow agents save the world as swiftly as possible. A warm smile creeps over his haggard face. He loves this place and could happily watch them all day; spotting his old friend Q he waves and makes his way down towards him.

James has worked with Q ever since he first became an agent and owes his life many times over to the great man's ingenuity.  He can accept his own mortality staring him in the face, the aches and pains, the ever younger looking agents who can runner further and faster than him. But it saddens him to see old age catching up with his dear friend.

There are the beginnings of a tremor in his hands, years of intricate work finally taking their toll and his hearing isn't what it used to be due to all the explosions. He can understand this, side effects of the jobs, really he was lucky to still be all in one piece. Q's team had lost more than its fair share of members over the years, some of them were carried out in body bags, the less fortunate were mopped off the ceilings. What he can't accept and hasn't admitted to anyone is that Q's grip on reality has started to loosen of late.

The inventions were that little bit more outlandish of late. They were admittedly still brilliant; the radio controlled dog with web camera eyes had saved James the bother of infiltrating Baron Zanchausens gang and he soon had the upload codes for the space lasers. The inflatable boat shoes however were less than successful; see also the waistcoat parachute, the bullet proof wig and the watch that was meant to double up as a helicopter. The hands spin at over 25000 rpm and give off a nice breeze; he kept it and wears it on his holidays.

He brushes these thoughts aside and greets his old friend.  " So what have you got for me today then Q? "

With a twinkle of mischief in his eyes Q smiles, takes an ordinary looking ballpoint pen out of his lab coat pocket and says "Aah 007! Take a look at this."

He tosses the pen at Bond who snatches it out of the air, gives it a once over and not knowing what to say tries, "Looks like a normal pen to me old boy."

With a wry smile Q replies. "Oh it is far from normal, I've replaced the ink with milk, full of calcium see, you need to look after your bones Bond. You're not getting any younger you know."


Intimate Betrayal by @NeilSehmbhy (489 Words)

He knows death approaches, she can see it in his face, in his once piercing blue eyes now cloudy and dull, but she can't understand what he's saying, words are mumbled and fall like dying leaves from his mouth. 

She leans closer, as near as she can stand, the smell of death rife in the air, and trys to pick out the words, sounds, meanings, anything. 

Frail fingers reach up to touch her cheek, fingers clammy, fingernails long and sharp. 

She draws closer, he whispers in her ear,

" I'm being poisoned; they're poisoning me".

She lets him go and he slumps on the bed struggling to keep upright. 

She frowns as if unsure of what she'd heard. Juggling his words around in her mind like multi coloured small balls flashing from hand to hand.

He repeats himself, the words this time being pushed out and it's as if she's trying to catch butterflies, grabbing at them trying to catch them as they come, but they slip from her reach. 

She understands though as he grabs at her skirt, grips it tightly, dragging her downward. 

"They're poisoning me", he says, reumy eyes fixating, his fist twisting her skirt. 

"I'm dying, dying". He rasps.

Releasing her he lies back on the pillow and sighs spent. 

Closing his eyes he drifts off as the door behind her opens, and his wife Eveline enters the room. 

"Eveline ! He says he's being poisoned", she says softly. 

Eveline looks at him lying in the bed, eyes closed.

"He's always had fancies, Cath", Eveline says coldly. "He has cancer, he's dying and there's nothing they can do".

Cath looks from him to her and back to him again reaching out to touch his hand. 

"I didn't think I'd get this close to him". she says softly. "He's always been a barrier in the past".

She looks down at him lying there , helpless, his breathing shallow. 

Eveline sighs and touches Cath's hands  bringing both sets together. 

"He'll be gone soon", Eveline says, "Then we can make love and be together without having to watch the time or pretend we're only friends".

Cath remembers the last time they had spent the night, in the spare room. 
Warm kisses, passion flowing, words and cries stifled in the moment. Soft flesh, kisses and tenderness, so sweet then, now seemed so empty, so distasteful, like a betrayal, a stab in the back.

Cath looks at Eveline, withdrawing her hand, and backs away.

She breathes in the stale air, the scent of death, the words Eveline speaks fall away from her.

 As she looks towards the bed she sees him gazing at her, eyes suddenly brighter, his lips dry and thin slowly opening into a small brief smile, then its gone again, the smile and the eyes.

It's just her and Eveline with the dark approaching death swirling around in her head, and Derek's just lying there, his blue eyes closed, dead.


Life Of Pie by@Lucy_Magnuson (500Words)

Toby sat at his desk. It felt like the walls were falling in on him. The air being sucked out of the room.

He just sat there. His colleagues were all working. No one felt like he did. No one could see the panic and fear in his face. The beads of sweat on his forehead. The way his eyes darted from the bright screen in front of him to the others in the office and back to the screen.

He reached for a tissue. But the box was empty. He wiped the sweat from his brow with his shirt, all pretence that everything was OK dropping.

But the email still said the same thing. The same results. The FSA tests had come back. He was screwed. He chose the supplier. He knew they were cheaper than everyone else and he knew exactly why they were cheaper.

But. He was OK. For now. The email was from a mate. A mole. No one else had the early results. He still had time to get out. The hell out. No one else would see this for a few hours. He could be out the building, emptied his bank account of the kick backs from the abattoir and be half way to France by the time the director saw that his beef pies were100% Shergar.

Shutting down the computer he checked his reflection in the now dead screen. He looked like shite. Which was handy considering it was time for a sickie.

Getting up he wobbled over to his colleague and usual partner in crime. But not this time. Andy knew nothing. And hopefully wouldnt for a few more hours.

'Andy, I need you to cover for me for the rest of the day. I feel like shite. I need to go'

'Christ you look like death mate' Andys concern genuine as he saw his friend struggling to stand unaided. 'come on, walking you to the car'

'OK.' Toby couldnt argue. Didnt want to draw any attention to himself. So they walked. Out the office into the noisy factory, raised up on walkways so they could survey the production line.

'Worried about you mate' said Andy draping an arm over his shoulder.

'I'll live, I just need to get home for today' Toby lied. Dear god just let me get the fuck out of here.

Andy stopped, Fuck thought Toby, the noise from the machines below deafening.

'look seriously mate. Whats wrong. I know somethings up' Toby had no choice but to stop. He turned to face his mate. His face a picture of complete panic.

What the fuck should he say? There was nothing to say.

'I just...'

'Its OK' Said Andy. 'I know'

Tobys face dropped. Just as Andy pulled him to the rail and pushed. Over the rail. Down to the mincer.
No one could hear the screams. The noise from the production line too great.

'Shame Toby. They test for horse but not for cunt...'


Cinderella: The Truth (484 Words)

After the clock struck midnight and Cinderella ran from the ball leaving her glass slipper behind, prince charming set about trying to find the love of his life. Everyone knows the happy ending but that is only half the story.

Yes he did travel his kingdom getting all and sundry to try on the shoe.  Remember this is in days of yore and the world was a far dirtier place. Smog hadn't been invented and they didn't even know about the ozone layer never mind holes in it, pigs were allowed to walk freely and the pig is a filthy animal, so after the first few hours the shoe was minging.

Still the foolish prince travelled door to door searching for the girl he fell in love with the night before. The prince was very drunk at the party, still was when the search began.  He couldn't really remember what Cinders looked like, he knew she was pretty and had an ass that wouldn't quit but everything else was a bit … fuzzy.

The fairy tale would have you believe that the one and only person the slipper fitted was Cinderella, that's a nice thought but really there are only so many shoe sizes available and the odds on one person being the only size five in an entire kingdom is frankly ludicrous.

The first match he found was a farmers daughter who wasn't even at the ball and a little rough around the edges, the prince  dismissed her straight away saying it was a slipper not a glass welly. Royalty really aren't very nice people, the charming in prince charming is usually sarcastic.

The second was a withered old hag of a woman, the prince dry heaved while she slipped her rancid foot into the shoe and said he couldn't marry her as she was beyond childbearing years. He couldn't be sure about the third but was pretty confident it was really a man in a dress.

His search continued for days with the excuses getting more desperate and outlandish, one woman was rejected for having hair that was too curly to wear a crown on.  Finally he arrived at the Cinderella household, he told her two sisters to jog on without even getting a shot at the now stinking shoe, no one never mentions the verruca epidemic that took years to die down and resulted in the local swimming baths closing down.  

Cinders didn't even get to try the shoe on,  as she bent over to put her dainty, dirty foot in the prince recognised her ample behind, he also copped a feel of her ample breasts but this is a U rated story so we don't mention that.

His woman found, their love rekindled, they were soon married and the story  sold to the papers with a slight rewrite to make it more palatable.

And then, then, they lived happily ever after.


Loco Coco by David Haddock (500 Words)

Today was going to be a good day.
After all, it had to be an improvement on yesterday Mrs Heckles thought whilst stepping off the train with a cardboard box under one arm.

Yesterday had started badly after she'd stayed in all morning to wait for the postman, only to find that her new MaxVac had still not arrived.
'It was supposed to be forty-eight hour delivery,' she had told her neighbour over the fence, 'it's been four days and it's still not here!'
'Did you ring them?' her neighbour had said, asking the obvious.
'Of course I did, I asked what they were going to do about it and they said I could send it back if I wasn't happy – how can I do that when I haven't even got it yet!' she'd  replied feeling her blood pressure rising, 'I asked where was it coming from, Africa? And they told me it was coming from Dumont! Dumont! I could have walked there and back in this time! I bet they've not even sent it, I've a good mind to send a parcel from Dumont and see how long it takes to get here!'
'Maybe it's not their fault? It could have got lost in the post – it does happen' her neighbour had replied.
Mrs Heckles nodded in agreement although what she actually wanted to do was punch her simple minded neighbour in the face. Lost in the post? She was making excuse for them? It was because of people like her just accepting bad service that these companies were allowed to get away with it. In her day, businesses had respect for their customers and forty-eight hours meant forty-eight hours.
Just when she had thought her day couldn't get any worse, she'd noticed 'Coco' – her neighbour's flea bitten parasitic cat slinking amongst her flowerbeds. She swore that it had looked right at her, smiling as it unleashed a steaming pile of poo into her petunias.
 'Oh look Mrs Heckles, coco needed a doo-doo! Isn't she the cutest!' her neighbour had said laughing.
It took everything she had to not claw her moronic neighbour's eyes out there and then. She knew the flea infested disease carrier had done it on purpose, it always did and usually in a place where she would be sure to stand. At that moment, an idea had come to her.

At the post office in Dumont, she placed the box onto the weighing scales and told the man to send it forty-eight hour delivery.
She passed him the box, giving it a sharp tap to silence the feint scratching sound that came from within.
She paid the man and had begun to walk away when he called after her. Her heart leapt and she turned around slowly.
'Sorry I meant to ask, is it fragile?'
'No, definitely not' she replied.
Let's hope it doesn't get lost in the post she thought, smiling all the way home.
Yes, today was going to be a good day.


Paradox (483 words)

I never knew I was a time traveller until I met myself. We were at a bar and I bumped into myself as I came out of the toilet. I had the decency to look sheepish and apologised to myself saying how I always loved this gig and knew this would happen anyway.

I bought myselves a drink and we sat down and had a chat.  I reassured myself that this was ultimately a good thing as I knew that the experiments I hadn't even thought about yet were going to be successful. I told myself to not worry about the monkey, he probably doesn't feel a thing and it was the only way to learn what the parameters needed to be. Better him than us! And with that I toasted myself and made my way through the crowd.

I watched myself leave, not knowing what to think about what has just happened when another me sat down. I looked worried this time and leant in close as if I didn't want anyone to hear what I was about to say to myself. I started telling myself to ignore what I had just said and that time travel was the worst thing that ever happened to me and to not even think about starting my experiments.  Before I could tell myself why I should never time travel another me disturbed us and dragged off the me who doesn't like time travel.

As I craned my neck to watch me drag myself off, I stood in my way and said I didn't need to see that and to ignore what I had just been told as I was just having a bad day and that time travel really is  brilliant. The new me told me I knew I was confused and even offered to help myself along a bit by providing sketches of the device I'll go onto make. My head was spinning and I needed a drink, I got to get up and head to the bar when the original me comes across with three pints saying we all look like I could do with a drink. I downed my pint, excused myself and went to get some air.

As I stood outside I saw at least another four versions of myself all looking for me, I decided enough was enough and turned to run away from this nightmare.  Before I even started running I called out to myself from across the street saying that running away never works and to watch my step. I didn't quite hear what I said and as I stepped into the road a taxi, also driven by me, runs me over. 

It's while I am unconscious that I dream of the vital component in my greatest invention. I still can't decide if I should go ahead and build my time machine but I know I already do.


Writers Block by @Lucy_Magnuson (390 Words)

He was a cynical old bastard. Any love of the music had long since gone. Now it was all about the money. He'd perform for Satan himself if it kept him in toys and drugs

The piano, once a joy to touch was in front of him. He needed a new hit. Something relevant. Something to get him back in the charts. But he was old. No one took him seriously any more. Those platinum albums were a life time ago. His life time. Such a long time.

The piano was mocking him with its silence, It failed to give him the inspiration he so desperately sought.

His brain was fried. He thought back to his youth .When this was easy. When the music ran through his fingers without thought. When it wasn't a battle. When it was about art not the money.

The reached for the paper on top of his former love. For a moment he thought of something. A flash of an idea. A seed. Something. Anything.

No. No it was gone.

He sat back on the chair. Tears welling in his eyes. How could he go back home a failure? It had been the same for weeks. Into the studio for 10, sit for 6 hours, maybe pour a large glass of something the Dr said he shouldn't touch, then go home. Make excuses. Tell them that hes working on something different. Something special. Something that will make them a fortune.

It was too much. He would tell them he quit. Tell them he was out for good. He wasn't one of these old stars who could be pimped, lypoed, autotuend to hell and back and repackaged for a new generation of clubbers. He was getting out of this with his dignity intact.

The knocking at the window woke him from his thoughts

'We've got it!' God it was the wanker from the record company 'Look! Look at the headline! I know how to get you relevant again'

He squinted at the corporate monkey. Looked at the paper....

A deep breath in 'Fuck yes, we'll re release that song! It'll sell MILLIONS!'

He leant forward, pencil in his hand, licking his lips

'Goodbye England's rose
May you ever grow in our hearts...'

He giggled manically and adjusted his wig

'Elton my boy, we've struck gold'


A Man's Dedication by Chi Yau (499 words)

Rain pours heavily on the street.  The puddles reflect the neon lighting of every shop that is closed and those open for business.  Slow moving traffic dominates the street with the occasional car joining and leaving the queues.  A man dressed in a long coat rushes across the street weaving through the vehicles that he knows would be waiting there a long time if they were ever to leave the centre of the city.  Protecting himself from the rain he passes a man standing in the doorway who acknowledges him with a raised hand broken from the comfortable crossed arms posture.

"Hello Darryl!" the man shouts.

Darryl turns as he simultaneously walks past the man.
"Oh Hi Mr Khan," he replies. 

They part with little engagement.

Darryl arrives at a suave restaurant decorated with the colour of crimson and dark chocolate and he enters.  Darryl confidently walks up to the bar.  He nods his head to the bartender and passes a £10 note.  Darryl turns to the floor of the diners, casually standing against the bar counter while the bartender prepares his drink. 

Darryl's field of vision scans every occupant of every table under the sound of bickering, whispering and laughter.  There are romantic couples talking and getting to know each other.  Families with children having their tables decorated with banners and multitudes of balloons floating at differing heights.  Then there are the young groups shouting and laughing under the influence of alcohol.

"It's a busy night tonight," the bartender says as he presents a glass of vodka to Darryl served upon a napkin.

Darryl glances at his drink and holds out to reach it and then continues to hover over the restaurant floor.  He knocks back the glass of vodka and returns the empty glass to the bartender.  The bartender pours another drink for Darryl.  He sits on a bar stool.

Darryl's glance is directed to the entrance door.  A couple enter querying their reservation to a waiter.  The waiter leads them to their table.

Darryl smiles at a lady dressed in a short black dress walking past presumably heading to the washroom.  She reciprocates without hesitation and continues along.

Suddenly the restaurant door opens and a pretty brunette enters the restaurant alone.  Slightly flustered from being wet in the rain she pats herself down.

Darryl stares at the brunette as he knocks back his second glass of vodka.  He nervously slides off the bar stool with his gaze fixed on the beauty and elegance of the lady.  She looks over to him and walks in Darryl's direction.  Darryl smiles nervously as he unbuttons his coat.  The pretty brunette takes off her coat.

"Your shift started 5 minutes ago Darryl.  Get a move on before I sack your ass," shouts the brunette.

Darryl throws his coat under the bar counter.  His logo shirt is pristine clean and he straightens out his black skinny tie.  He walks to a customer.
"What can I get you sir?"


Review This Item. (482 Words)

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a critic, to me being a critic is better than being king, better than being emperor, people's fate lie in your hands. Your words, your opinions they decide if people succeed or fail.

People think it's easy being a critic that all you have to do is highlight the negative, pick apart peoples art, take someone's dreams and shatter them. To do the job properly you have to be far more creative than that. The trick is to build them up, sing their praises, nourish their hopes, dreams and expectations then beat them down with all the hatred you can muster.

Another tip is to take long words and use them out of context, last week I said the Quail and Possum soup at Chez Gazunder had a subtle cavalcade of flavours but lacked the cacophonous ingenuity of the Jellyfish and Snake nipple Gazpacho at Honeydew of Beale street. All sounds very clever, means nothing.

Backhanded compliments are also another useful tool. "Like an ice-cream scoop the chef at The Boss-eyed Lion is perfectly functional."

If you don't understand something it isn't your fault, they are trying to be overly convoluted, you are never in the wrong, and you are in charge now. The critic is always right. 

And that's how we find me here reviewing the hand painted Pat Butcher dinner set I bought off Amazon last week...

It was with much trepidation and a nervous hand that I ordered this supposed twenty four piece set, the item was showing in stock yet took a disgusting 3 days to arrive and then I had to go to the local post office and collect it myself forcing another days delay.
Firstly the quality of the china is second to none, you could tell me it was plastic and I would honestly believe you.

The unnamed artist has all of the skill of a maimed penguin; I'm not convinced they have even seen an episode of Eastenders let alone witnessed the natural beauty of Pam St. Clement, I assume they were aiming for a playful caricature of as the facial features are all out of scale and her pencil thin neck would never be able to support the bulbous head they have adorned her with.

They dare to allege that this work of art is dishwasher safe, I washed my soiled plates on a hot setting as spinach is notoriously difficult to remove, when I tried to take the platter out of the washer it was still hot and I dropped it smashing my beloved into fourteen pieces, her visage reduced to a Picaso-esque mockery.

Now one piece missing my dinner set is incomplete and the vendor is refusing to refund.

If I could award negative stars I would alas it is a one from me DO NOT USE THESE CHARLATANS!


Orientation by @Lucy_Magnuson (385 Words)

'If you just follow me we shall begin your staff orientation'

He sighs, hes done this before you can tell. He has the look of an HR man who gets a lot of new staff each week, all equally enthusiastic

The room is full of new staff. All in their company issue boiler suits. You turn to the man next to you and joke about being refugees from a Beastie Boys video but he just glares. You write it off as no sense of humour. They usually don't have a sense of humour

The lady at the job centre had said this was the perfect skills match for you. You're not convinced but they took you on, offered competitive pay and conditions, even shares in any end of year profits.

That swung it for you. Share in profit, if anything motivates staff its a kick back

You've already done the psychometric tests and been allocated a department. This excites you although you cant find anyone in the tour group who will be joining you in the 'Games Room' but you've been assured that there will be like minded people to show you the ropes.

'If you can all take a seat on the monorail, we can show you the main operations centre'

As the carriage passes through the tunnels you start to feel a bit nervous. The scale of the company is overwhelming. But everyone is busy, everyone has a purpose, everyone is happy

The operations centre looms large, theres a sharp intake of breath as you pass the giant screen with the man in the middle of the Skype call. He looks nervous, but its all calm at your end so he obviously being shafted in a big deal. This excites you. Profit share...

The monorail stops and the guide asks you to get up. You have reached the 'Games Room'. All of a sudden the nerves hit. What if you cant impress the new team, what if the colleagues hate you?

You walk through the door..

'oh excellent. New blood for the team' five men run over and offer high fives.

'Now, do you want to feed the CIA man to the shark or do you want to man the cutting laser and take Mr Bonds bollocks off?'

Best first day ever …..


A Duck Walks Into A Bar (493 words)

"So I was at work right and it struck me that these so called water cooler moments never happen in my office and I got to wondering why … And it turns out I work from home and the cat doesn't even watch Ally McBeal."

He waits for a moment to let the punch line hit home; it is greeted with deathly awkward silence.

The panic starts to bubble up inside him and he stammers his next line.

"A duck walks into a bar …"

"How did it open the door?" Comes a shout from the back of the room.

The man on stage, leans on the mic stand, shields his eyes and peers into the darkness below.

"Who said that?" He asks the crowd at the Troughs open mic stand up show, this has been his dream for years and he is determined to get through the set he has worked on and practised in front of the mirror all week.

No one replies.

He runs a hand across his brow, wiping the beads of sweat the spotlight is drawing out of him.  He coughs, clears his throat and starts again.

"So a duck walks into a bar …"

"How did it open the door?"  This time the shout is met with a smattering of laughter.

He rubs his hair in a distracted, slightly manic way, stares into the darkness and again asks "Who said that?"

Again, no one replies.

He chokes back the lump in his throat and wills the tears forming in his eyes to stay put and tries again.

"So this duck walks into a bar, the door was already open."  The audience bursts into laughter boosting his confidence. "He walks up to the bar, and asks the barman if he has got any bread …."

"You shouldn't feed ducks bread it's bad for them." Comes the voice from  the darkness.

"Well you shouldn't interrupt me either; it's bad for your health." He replies, struggling to hide the wobble in his voice.

The audience, sensing the change in mood, gasp collectively.

Abandoning the duck joke he starts again. "I went for a job interview the other day at the blacksmiths; he asked me if I had ever shoed a horse and I said …"

"No but I told a Donkey to piss off once!" Shouts a woman at the front.

The man on stage, finally defeated looks at the woman and says sadly "Mum, you promised you wouldn't drink tonight, we'll have to get a taxi now."

He steps out of the spotlight to thunderous laughter and applause. He grabs the woman by the arm and drags her towards the door and spies his heckler.

"Come on, you too Dad."  And with his free arm he pulls the man with him as well.

Outside they can still hear the audience laughing as he smiles to his parents and says.

"That was brilliant! Same time next week at the plough?"


The Hunt by @NeilSehmbhy (425 words)

Watching from the shadows,waiting. It's seen this ritual a thousand million times, but always the excitement grows to fever pitch. Especially when it hears the lullaby ending, making it squirm on the spot unable to keep still in it's dark hiding place.

A dim light shines about the room from the bed side lamp and the edge of the light casts an eerie blue glow on it's limbs and appendages. Rocking backwards and forward it doesn't notice the pool of saliva dripping down from its mouth onto the floor until it steps in it, cursing under its breath.

A quick kiss on the cheek and the bedroom door closes softly, anticipation is growing but it waits, patiently until it is sure that the muffled footsteps have vanished and the figure in the bed is sound asleep. Sleep will make this so much easier.

Quickly it springs into motion scurrying across the room, sharp feet thankful for the carpet, and up the side of the bed near the child's head where it pauses to catch its breath.

It looks at the boy tucked up in bed, sleeping angelically and wonders if it looked like that when the swarm mother birthed it.

Reaching out softly, slowly it brushes aside the child's hair and raises it's claw like hands high, shiny metal glittering in the night's light before thrusting them forward.

'There it's done'. Relief courses through in torrents as it swiftly exchanges its prize for a shiny silver piece, these humans collect like magpies.

Swiftly it scurries back to its hiding place to examine the haul.

Two teeth! A Molar and an Incisor. It dances a little jig, it's crab like legs campering around to a tune in it's head.

Finally it realises where it is and stops suddenly and bends over the calcium laden treats.

Looking them over it searches for any sign of decay or residue. Ever since the great Tooth Scandal of '56 every tooth submitted is scrupulously examined for traces by the Sugar Police.

Lazy desperate faerie had gone around poisoning the humans waters, trying to increase tooth loss until they were caught and punished.

But these were fine. More than fine, perfect! Raising them up above it's head triumphantly it mouths a wordless tribute to the small gods for their help this night.

With the sale of these it will eat for a week.

Looking up at the moon it wonders
If there's time for one more hunt before the burning sun rises, as it flies off into the night sky.


Park Life by @Lucy_Magnuson (395 Words)

The new running shoes are tight. Squeezing my feet. But they'll feel OK once we start running.

Its cold, so we're both head to foot in lycra. You give me once of your smiles, I melt into the car seat. My legs instantly turned to jelly. Under the circumstances this isn't the best form of warm up.

'Ready my love?' you complete your sentence with a wink. I stifle a giggle

'We still need to find somewhere to park the car' I say. I'm looking for space but the road is busy, no spaces. Far too much traffic

'I'll make space' you say and grin. I giggle again. The adrenaline is building. It always does before we run but today we just seem to be manic.

'Its busy. Lots of people are insisting on running today. I think its the weather'.

The sun is bouncing off the car window, the park is looking beautiful, even knowing that my new shoes will be covered in the dog shit that lurks under the fallen leaves couldn't put a downer on the day.

I pull the zip up on my top. You laugh as half my face disappears into the lycra. I pull it further so only my eyes show. You're laughter erupts and warms the corners of my soul.

I am so ready for this

'SPACE' I shout. You slam on the breaks and flip the car, bouncing it into the crappy old focus in front. Thank god for seat belts. There will be a bruise tomorrow but I know you will be there with the ice packs and kisses.

Click. Seat belts off, doors open and running. Running so damn fast. The cold air forcing its way into my lungs. You're ahead of me, as per normal, I always have to run faster than is comfortable to keep up with you, but thats half the fun. Knowing I have to be faster, fitter, stronger.

That and the chase. The chase. Today its just the two fat coppers who couldn't keep up with you in the car. They certainly cant keep up now. We vault the fence, laughing, knowing that they are lagging behind. Knowing you chose the right car to take. Knowing that we will be free to do it all again another day. Another bank, another car.

They cant catch us. We're too fast.  


Kevin Goes On Holiday (458 Words)

Before he even opens his eyes he knows it's bad, really bad. He can smell burnt flesh and can feel the snow like fluttering of still hot ash falling on his face. He opens his eyes and rubs the grime out of them so he can focus on where he is and what he has done this time. It's worse than he thought, worse than he dared to dream of.

He is sitting, stark bollock naked in a scorched crater easily ten foot across and a good five feet deep. Peering down at him are some startled looking villagers, some of who are still smouldering.

He offers them his warmest smile and says, loudly and slowly, in the great tradition of an Englishman abroad. "Where am I?"

The villagers look dumbly and mumble in the mother tongue to each other, trying to decide who is the most important and qualified person to speak to their new arrival. They eventually decide on Janick the baker who is rumoured to have seen Coming to America  while in prison.

The nervous baker is pushed to the edge of the still smoking hole, he looks down at the naked teenager and asks "zašto si pasti s neba? "

Someone thumps him in the back and snarls "na engleskom idiota"
Janick nervously mimes out what happened, in the fashion of a bewildered tourist looking for the airport. Kevin has already guessed what happened but the mime was a nice conformation and decides mime is the way forward.

He wraps his arms around himself and shivers dramatically while making a loud "BRRRR" noise. Technically the noise would have him disqualified on give us a clue but the villagers get the drift and someone is sent off to find clothes.

Boris the tailor, a man with an unusual sense of humour, comes back with some lederhosen and hands them down to the naked youth.

Now dressed like he is ready for Oktoberfest, Kevin decides to further display his charades skills and asks for a telephone in the style of a  talent show contestant desperately asking for more votes.

After an errant guess that he wanted to watch Et one is obtained and passed down.

In a ritual he has done countless times before, he dials home and waits patiently for someone to answer. While he is waiting he pantomime rolls his eyes and makes exaggerated huffing noises to let the crowd know he is still waiting for an answer.

Finally someone picks up and he has a cheery conversation  "Hi dad, yeah its Kevin, yeah its happened again ..... Not sure but I'm dressed like Spongebob,  I'll be home soon.."

Kevin, cuts the call off, climbs out of his hole and starts the long walk home.


This Distorted Reflection By The Chimping Dandy (500 Words)

She walked down the grey, rainy high street just as she did every day.  The same shops greeted her in the same places, same sights, same smells, same sounds.  Ever since she'd lost her job at the architect's office, she'd made this same trip every lunchtime.

She got to the little café at her normal time, looking through the window to make sure that her usual table was free.  She'd picked it carefully so that she couldn't see the menu board, or the list of daily specials.  There were so few surprises left in her life that she found every one she could and religiously devoured it.

'Hello love,' Said the owner from behind the counter, 'Usual is it?'

'Yes, please,' She replied, wondering what her usual would be today.

The intriguing sounds and smells were half the reason that she came here, the kitchen was open plan and she would sit there and try to imagine what was being cooked.  Was that a steak frying? Perhaps someone was chopping onions?  Grating cheese?  Her excitement rose to almost fever pitch.  She had to force herself to stay sat down, she'd know soon enough when the young  waitress would bring the completed meal to her table, gently move the cutlery out of the way, put down her plate and announce 'Today's special is –' and the waiting would be over, the time would have passed for another day.

If she was being honest, and had felt the need to justify herself, she'd say that the meal was completely secondary.  She had eaten as many awful, badly cooked meals as she had great ones, for every cold in the middle liver and onions there had been a fresh Pollock in beer batter with home-made chunky chips.

'Won't be long now love,' Trilled the unseen cook.

She smiled, looking towards the source of the voice and quickly averting her gaze in case she accidentally caught site of her meal being prepared.  She looked down at the gingham table cloth, the tired looking cutlery with the yellowing mock ivory handles, the ash-tray, in these days of non-smoking, now used as a condiments holder, the mismatched cruet set.

But wait.

They were no longer mismatched; they were no longer the cut glass containers, one slightly taller than the other, with the well-worn, faded chrome tops.  They were a pair, a matching pair of polished stainless steel pieces of Swedish designed table furniture.  She picked the pepper pot up and gazed at it intensely.  It felt heavy in her hand and she saw herself reflected in its mirrored surface, not the girl she kept in her mind's eye, not the life and soul of the office party, but how she really was, this distorted reflection, it was the real her, the one who'd given in.

'Today's special is… Chilli con carne with rice AND chips, as you're a regular'

She stared straight ahead, as the pepper pot fell from her lifeless fingers.


Cuntryfile (490 words)

Chinos tucked into his Wellington boots and hands buried in the pockets of his wax jacket, John looked the part of the countryside aficionado he has played for as long as anyone can remember.

Today's shoot should have been a straight forward one, all he has to do was walk towards the camera  while delivering a spiel about the ever falling price of Lambs against the spiralling cost of raising them.

On the first take, he was half way through when he stumbles and let loose a torrent of abuse that made the girl holding the boom blush, this has been his approach to outtakes ever since Dennis Norden took much glee from showing the nation how he once said flutterbies instead of butterflies on Newsround.

Take two was going well until the farmer whose land they were using tore past on a quad and drowned out a vital part of the piece. Take three ended abruptly when it started to rain. John doesn't work in the rain, not since he caught that cold at Borth in 1994. They stopped for lunch and waited for the weather to break.

A few hours later and take four was underway only for the quad bike riding farmer to come tearing the other way, Johns patience now well worn thin, he shook his fist at the back of the farmers head and said something unpleasent about his mother. Take five was interrupted by a curious cow in the next field poking his head over the hedge and mooing loudly.

Take six was abandoned when there wasn't a single sheep in shot.

For take seven, someone had the bright idea of having John scatter feed  as he walked ensuring plenty of sheep action. This worked very well, if anything a little too well as the bleating was all you could hear...

Take eight saw a trail of feed for John to follow, parting a sea of sheep like Moses. This was going brilliantly and the crew were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and then it happened.

One sheep didn't want to move, they are stupid beasts sheep and this one was spectacularly dumb even by its own species levels. John being the professional he is tried to nudge it out of the way with his knee without missing a beat of his script.

The sheep still didn't move.

John stopped speaking and stared at his nemesis, some people say the sheep stared back.

In a steady voice that hardly covered his rage he addressed the sheep.

"Look at you, you fluffy white bastard, with your stupid eyes. Don't you know who I am? Don't you know what I am trying to do?
Of course you don't you don't know  …"

Some people will say the sheep interrupted him with a mocking drawn out "Baaaaa"

Others will say they had never seen a Man kick a sheep in the face before.