by Angela Wright
"What attracts you to this job, Ms Adams, and what qualities would you bring?"
Angela Wright is a middle-aged woman holed up in the Highlands seeking adventure and inspiration in the wilderness.
by Bill West
And then she was gone.
It wasn’t far for George to walk home; turn left out of the hospital, down to the War Memorial, left past the cemetery, right at the traffic lights, third on the right, Moonrise Terrace. Mum had reminded him on every visit, as if he hadn’t known by now. He noticed his shoes were a bit scuffed and dirty, and he needed a shave. He avoided all the cracks between the pavements.
Every day at the same time, he returned to the hospital. The first time the bed was empty. He sat beside it anyway. Another time there was a lady in the bed who he didn’t recognise. While he sat beside the bed, his hands clasped over his paunch, she talked on and on, her mouth all floppy, but he couldn’t understand what she was saying, so he went to the cafeteria and had sausage and chips, but no beans. He put a handful of coins on the counter and the fat lady took some. After a while there were only enough for biscuits, then nothing.
The fat lady told him he smelt bad, that he should wash, put on clean clothes. So he went home.
There was a worse smell at home. But now she was gone he could watch television on the small black-and-white portable that he’d found in the cupboard under the stairs. Eastenders made him nervous, but he liked the idea of a launderette. Perhaps he could find an old lady, full of quotes from the Bible like Dot Cotton, who would clean his clothes and tell him the right things to do. He left the TV and the radio on, for company.
Then the lights went off, and the television wouldn’t work. The smell got worse and his tummy hurt, even more than when he ate beans, and he ran out of toilet paper. Then there were the rats.
Then Royston arrived. He knocked at the door, smiled and said, “You managed to slip between the cracks.” and filled in some forms. George thought he was in trouble because he let Willy, the goldfish die. Men came and cleaned up the house.
Royston took him everywhere. “We’ll soon fix you up!” He showed him how to get money, how to buy food, even got him a job, meeting and greeting outside the offices where Royston worked. That’s where he met Dorothy who was clever but couldn’t walk. She let him push her wheelchair sometimes, so long as she steered.
It's hard to push a wheelchair when you're trying not to step on the cracks.
Bill West lives in Shropshire. His work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, FlashQuake, Mytholog, Heavy Glow, Boston Literary Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, Shine and other places.
by Geoff Stevens
In the tropical glasshouse
by Avis Hickman-Gibb
Josie stood inside her sanctuary, her breath coming in great, raw gasps. She listened - Uncle Danny was stumbling along after her - and cursing something terrible.
“Wait’ll I get my hands on you, you little bitch! You’ll find out what you’re made for!” he growled, slashing through the undergrowth, drunk and nasty. The blood from his bitten hand would be dripping onto the leaves around.
Josie stuffed her bare arm over her mouth, trying to block out the sounds of her whimpering. She’d been all alone in the house with Uncle Danny, and him drinking and watching those nasty films on TV. Momma was at work, as usual. But it wouldn’t have mattered - Momma never believed her anyway:
“Uncle Danny loves us both, you just remember that. He’d not hurt a hair on your head, child!” Momma had replied last time to Josie’s complaints about Uncle Danny - about his awful temper and his over familiar hands. “He just likes a cuddle from his best girl - that’s all.”
Josie leaned back against the inside of the hollow oak tree, tears squeezing out from beneath her lids, and wished her Daddy was here. He’d never say she told lies; he’d defend her. He was a hero - everyone said that. But he was out in
Now, looking down at her hands, Josie remembered her Daddy teaching her how to use this gun.
“... hold the butt steady with both hands… that’s right... then aim… point it low… lower than you want... it kicks up right at the end... then squeeze the trigger and keep looking! Don’t you go closing them baby blues!”
Avis Hickman-Gibb is a new writer, living in rural Suffolk with her husband, one son and two cats. She gained a BSc. in Environmental Chemistry more years ago than she cares to admit. She’s had stories published in Every Day Fiction, Twisted Tongue, and Shine! and has up coming stories in Bewildering Stories and The Boston Literary Magazines.
by Adham Smart
The metal man cut his teeth on a blade of grass.
He bled like a chimney, dribbled purple death
into the mud of moss. Slowly, his teeth melted
down to the gums, and the fizzing noise they made
will keep your children awake for weeks.
Adham Smart is a writer from South-East London who likes to pretend he is a foreigner in his spare time. He also thinks Pomegranate is pretty cool.
by Alison Bacon
On the train most people, like Simon, carry an extra brain. Tucked under an arm or slung casually over a shoulder, it’s a more useful accessory than the old-fashioned integral kind.
Of course, these brains, being visible, are also fashion statements. The girl in the white wool coat keeps hers in a Gucci pouch, and clasps it to her like a soft-skinned daemon. Further along the carriage, an aging Apple Mac is carried by the wearer of denim who’s reading Silent Spring. Impressive styling, if you go for that kind of thing. Simon is proud of his own brain. Smooth and shiny, he knows it cost more than the others. It’s powerful and compact. It fits in the palm of his hand, or hides in the pocket of his suit without spoiling the cut.
He gets off at the station and slides into the silver saloon that’s been controlling its climate all day long, just for him. At home, Olivia greets him. She’s wearing Agnes B. and a frown. His brain has somehow failed to remind him of a dinner date. ‘You’re late,’ she says, and smoothes her discontentment with a deft stroke of Rouge Noir. At the party he’s greeted and seated and given a drink, but feels out of sorts, disconnected. At the black glass table adorned in white sushi, someone asks him a question. His mind is a blank. ‘I’m sorry,’ he says, ‘I was miles away.’
He can’t imagine what’s wrong, until his wife waves a dismissive arm in his direction.
‘You’ll have to make allowances for Simon,’ she says to the others, ‘I think he left his brain on the train.’
by Sammy Jay
I climb the stair,
Work backwards from the edge,
Despair’s edge, this overhanging ledge,
Biting the teeth of words.
Dead ledge of dead rose petals,
And a sunken sun -
All a whirl.
Aggressive with the edge of words
Vicious in biting thoughts,
Back to leaning back against the bulge
Of bulging wood.
Among the deeply felt and fleeting garden,
Fleeting, veering in parrot cries,
Quicksilver eyes, and a world
Voices and laughter in the glade,
A fungus genesis.
Back back back but before
Before - the swirling journey and the walk
Through sirens, sea girls, iron and summer wine,
Drug politics within the whine
Of sirens and the wind.
A world of no discernible rhythm in the line of trams
And formless shapes.
Back back back back to childhood,
Infant eyes - colours,
An array of newness,
That wide amaze of sky.
In that beginning, in that garden,
Ringed within a raven world
There is a life
At odds with nothingness and dissipation,
At odds with the approaching black,
Fighting with white light,
A vibrant, living arsenal of colour.
All in that first glance,
Before the deep divide and dance
Along the line, before the trance
Of wires, blood and steel,
There is a loving, fighting feel,
All in the eye
Of the child
At the beginning.
Sammy Jay is a 1st year English student and is (wrongly) convinced that he is Shelley.
by Richard Rippon
I should have known it wouldn't work out.
Well, it was a difficult challenge, some might say a little too ridiculously difficult, but several brave souls rose to the challenge of combining obscure furry rodents with understated snorkelling, with rather impressive results.
The mystery panel of judges managed to almost completely differ in their opinions, which just shows that a panel was a bad idea and that it was a tight contest. Below are the stories we thought to be the best of the bunch, with some truly ingenious shoe-horning in of the required vocabulary in a 250 word limit! Enjoy. Very nearly taking the coveted prize were Mark Perry's The Perils of Poor Dental Hygiene ("like snorkelling through lard" might be my all-time favourite simile) and Avis Hickman's impressively succinct Absent Friend. But just pipping them to the post and taking home Five English Pounds of book tokens and the prize of intellectual satisfaction was the following tale by James Edwards-Smallbone. If you didn't know, I don't believe you would be able to tell that he was trying to include any difficult words in the slightest, and to manage that and raise a smile at the same time is good going.
Well done to you and to Chazubel.
Chazubel Brown, Marmot Entrepreneur
by James Edwards-Smallbone
As the great rodent philosopher Voletaire once said, "it's not easy being a marmot". You see we larger rodents occupy a peculiar niche here in Terrafauna. Our smaller cousins are thinkers, the Canids warriors, the Avians priests. But us? Well, we dance on the cracks. Selling to some, stealing from others and all with an understated grace.
Of course this gets us into trouble sometimes - take my current indisposition for example. You see that enraged fox attempting to throttle me? I took the opportunity to liberate a few of his shiny gold crowns, all in jest of course but judging from the pressure on my windpipe he isn't seeing the funny side.
My eyes bulge in response to his merciless azure glare. My lungs burn, drowning in their denied exhalation like someone snorkeling with a blocked pipe. And then in a sudden puff of pistol smoke it's over. The fox's paws fall away and he slumps sideways with an uncomprehending gurgle.
Before me a friendly weasel face forms from out of the powder smoke and he lowers his pistol, a slight smirk lingering below his whiskers.
"You took your sweet time!" I gasp between breaths, gulping in the smoggy air like a bewildered newborn.
"Spot o' grief wiv the law Chaz, 'ope you ain't too worse for wear."
Too breathless to reply I simply glare at my scruffy accomplice. No, it's certainly not easy being a marmot, but as I weigh up the day's golden takings I know it's worth it.
The Day Job
by Daniel Hill
The lagoon was bright blue and the sun was shining, the little boat worked its way out into the lagoon, making a heavy job of light work. It had needed a new throttle for quite some time but since the discovery Gary hadn’t had time to fix it, he also hadn’t been snorkeling for a long time, and his only hope, apart from the site being intact, was that he didn’t look too marmot-like on his return. He envisaged a graceful entry to the water but knew this wasn’t likely. The boat slowed down, and it’s sole member anchored near the reef which was flourishing with colour and life, the reef had been an understated and underprotected part of the archipelago, but Gary was one of many who had fought for; and gained protective status for it. He prepared himself, then engineered his drop into the water, he wasn’t entirely happy with the entry, but he still remembered enough to look respectable. He swam a little and gained his bearings, the reef was to his right and the discovery had been made a couple of metres in front of him, that was when his snorkel filled with water, naturally, he panicked, thinking he was in trouble he swiped at the soft sand below him and pushed up, he reached the surface and coughed up the water he had inhaled, he didn’t know what had happened, all he cared about now was the shiny dubloon in his hand.
The Perils of Poor Dental Hygiene
by Mark Perry
There's a party going on in my teeth. I haven't slept for three days. Performing even simple tasks requires great effort like snorkelling through lard.
I'm sat in the dentist's chair. He reaches for a couple of shiny dental implements before his upside-down face leans closer. As soon as I open my mouth a deluge of funk hits him full in the face. He can't resist a quick dance with the dental nurse, before apologising and regaining his professional composure.
"Ah, Marmots." He says in a surprisingly understated way. "When was your last check-up?"
"Over two years ago." I mumble
"And do you floss regularly?"
I shake my head.
"Hmmm, that's how they build up. They've burrowed quite deep but we shouldn't have much trouble shifting them."
He gives me a painkilling injection and asks me to wait outside.
My face numbs and music leaks from my mouth as I struggle to keep it shut. This irritates the other patients. They stare at me but say nothing.
After twenty minutes I'm called back in. The dentist reaches for his drill. It produces a high pitched whine, the kind of noise you'd hear if you tried to throttle a tiny mouse android.
The drill falls silent. There's a brief pause, before hundreds of worse for wear Marmots stampede out my mouth. They rush into reception and continue off down the road.
"Right," says the dentist "We'll see you again in six months."
by Avis Hickman
I had a pet Marmot once, but he was a lot of trouble. Always wanting more – y’know? So I took him snorkelling at the seaside. And anybody who tells you they are gentle creatures is lying!
It was a definitely understated victory getting the mask on him. All he wanted to do was to stare into the shiny eyepiece and admire his lustrous coat. I just wanted to throttle him!
He left me in the end – just burrowed away.
I miss him.