Saturday, June 28


by Jenni O'Connor

The wind gusted in, ripping through the old Hessian potato sack holding the scarecrow together. Wisps of straw scurried away, leaping and twitching into the darkening sky. ‘Ow!’ he cried as a chunk flew from his cross-branch, leaving a sleeve flapping. ‘That was my arm!’

Rain followed wind; fat, heavy drops hard as boiled sweets. The scarecrow’s weight doubled as water soaked into thatch and sacking. He had been carelessly thrust into a furrow in the field, and icy water needled his base. ‘Now I’ll get frostbite, for sure,’ he thought, trying to wriggle free.

At last! The right-leg branch broke free, followed by the left. ‘Damn you, I’m leaving!’ he bellowed into the vengeful storm. One tottering step after another, he stumbled out of the field and down the lane, ignoring the disbelieving, frightened glances from gaping passersby. Heading – he told himself – anywhere but here. Heading south.

Jenni O'Connor is an aspiring novelist with one travel novel and one thriller under her belt; she lives in hope of these being published and meanwhile spends her spare minutes writing flash fiction to keep her brain cells moving!

Monday, June 23


by Rosie Sandler

A hard, sharp, agonising thump. Not the playful kick of my twin’s soft foot – something colder, crueller, malice aforethought. Then our world is tumbling downwards, our mouths silent Os of pain. A wail from outside: our mother’s voice. We know it as we know the gurgle of her innards, the thud of her heart, the warmth of her blood.

‘Don’t hurt my babies!’

My twin nudges me in the head. I shake off the knowledge of our shared hurt to retaliate: I stretch out an arm, poke a finger up his nose. He jerks, knocks me with a cornered elbow. I grin, gurn, wriggle, jab him with a splayed hand. But something is different today, off. His aim is skewed. As he comes back at me with his fist, it misses – my twin never misses.

How did it start? Like it always does: long division repeated until two commas grew. We swam like fishes, bobbed like apples in a barrel. From circle’s end to circle’s start, we knew everything and everything knew us. We stretched from jumping beans to bouncing babes until the space ran out. Now, it’s our game of pokes and pinches that passes the time.

So here we are, low down in darkness, my mother, my complement and me. More pain? No, it’s quiet: maybe he’s gone. He, her lover, who sends stress messages streaming like virus through the ether. We close our eyes when we sense him, ball our fists into our mouths and curl up tightly. He has been here: see the damage he has done, our mother on the floor, weeping; me with an ache still nudging at my body; something lop-sided in the way my twin takes aim. We have no space here, no turn-and-see, only the shared closeness of the warmth and the light-dark pattern through her skin.

She wails again, a deeper sound, and we reel together, until my upside-down is almost downside-up and she takes a breath before our world closes in. Look how close the sides are. Pulsing, pulsating. There's no way out bar one and that’s the one I’m heading for. I wasn’t ready. We weren’t ready. Twin, kick me again. Tight fit, head down and turn.

Slither and slide, squeeze and squirm. Slap into the bright. There she is. Scoop me up and hold me? Or wait for more? I open my mouth, say his name, ‘Twin.’ But they are turning me, twisting me, wrapping me up, saying, ‘Shhhhh.’ I try again, ‘Twin.’ But someone is holding me too tightly. There is sobbing. There is a wail. The voice I know as well as the gurgle and the thud and the warmth of her body.

I am held out to her, but she is sobbing and wailing, hands flapping, so they snatch me back. I am passed around. And then I see him, lying still. So this is what we look like: blue as the sea – the first water of all. They pick him up and he is leaving – where are they taking him? No silent scream this time, but a roar in my head, wrenched from my lungs, filled with this new, suffocating air. First there was the circle. Then there was you: my shadow, my mirrored self, my circle’s end.

It is cold here and very quiet. I wish you were here.

Rosie Sandler's stories have been published in 34th Parallel magazine, The Local Writer 2007 collection, and an anthology of flash fiction called Jealousy (published by She has been shortlisted for competitions in the Essex Chronicle newspaper and Essentials magazine.

Friday, June 20

The Circus People

by Joshua Seigal

Jessie is two, she’s scared of me –
my hands to her are ursine paws,
my beard is tangled foliage
wrapped around a stony jaw
and when I smile at her my teeth
seem sharp, my eyes are dark, I try
to offer her my paw. She cries.

This reminds me of a programme
I saw, about circus-people.
One had a bulbous foot-long nose,
one had strange bubbles on his skin,
but the one who the children were
really scared of had claws for hands.
He said to the kids, “I don’t bite”

but still they wouldn’t go near.
Jessie is two, I’m five-foot-ten,
looming over her, a bumbling hulk.
I see her eyes wide open with fear
as I wait for the door to chime
and the ringleader to take me away.

Joshua Seigal studies philosophy at Univeristy College London.

Wednesday, June 18

Starlight Star Bright

by Avis Hickman

Maia sat on the steps of the orphanage, hunched over to avoid the hard brassy sun and the hot sandy breeze. She wanted a new mummy, too. Why couldn’t she have one – it wasn’t fair.

Maia was wearing her Sunday school best dress; the one with only two patches in it. And she had braided her hair as her old mummy used to – before she’d gotten too sick to care. Maia was desperate to have a new family - just like he did.

If she wanted it enough - perhaps she would get her heart’s wish? So Maia sat there on the steps in the hot dusty afternoon with her eyes tight shut, rocking herself backwards and forwards – and concentrating.

She sat there until the sun set, and the air chilled, and the birds settled in the trees for the night. When Maia finally opened her eyes it was dark. The first thing she saw was the bright evening star shinning up in heaven – right next to where her mother was. She was still just sitting here on the orphanage steps, and there was still porridge for supper.

But her brother was gone, and she had a rock for a heart.

Avis Hickman-Gibb is
a newly established writer, living in rural Suffolk, England with her husband, one son and two cats. She’s had stories published in Every Day Fiction, Twisted Tongue, The Pygmy Giant and Shine! and has up-coming stories in Bewildering Stories, The Ranfurly Review and The Boston Literary Magazine. She is currently working on a book of short stories and is addicted to writing flash fiction. You can find links to more of her writing here.

Sunday, June 15

November 1958

by Gordon Christie

We knew the sound of the iron wheels on the cobbled street and we ran to the corner to see the arrival of the Watchman's Hut. Like a dull battleship grey version of a gypsy caravan but with small iron wheels, which were out of date even then. Lorries arrived and quickly the men unloaded their tools. Great hammers which surely only some mythical warrior could wield, battered shovels, crowbars and spades. Somehow mounds of hardcore and tarmacadam appeared, a brazier was lit and old battered syrup tins with twisted wire handles were produced from within war relic gas mask satchels. Tea! And what we called "pieces". There was no other name for a sandwich as far as we knew and generally they were jam.

Silently we watched, our eyes devouring every mouthful that was taken. We were never starving but we were always hungry!

We were ignored. A bunch of half frozen children huddled on a street was nothing unusual. Some still wearing their summer "sandals" which had to wear out before winter shoes were bought from St. Cuthbert's Co-operative in Bread Street. It had the mysterious, at once frightening and exciting foot x-ray machine which allowed the snippy assistant to see that your feet had "space to grow" when encased in the unforgiving new shoe.

They had come to take down the old ornate iron street lamps and replace them with modern concrete ones which glowed orange, not yellow/white. The new ones had upturned metal saucers for "hats".

But after tea, when we were once more out in the street, was when it all came alive. The men had gone but the site had to be watched and the Watchman was in his Hut! The brazier now had its own dry patch of ground in what had become a dark, snow covered site and we, always silently, gathered round it. The Hut had a door that was in two halves, like a stable. The top half was open and there He could be seen, half-dozing, with a newspaper and a pipe. Paraffin lamps marked the edges of the site and protected it from the odd car.

He stood up, opened the lower half of the door and nodded towards the bench! Without hesitation we filed in and the smell of a coke fire instantly filled our nostrils, replacing the mixed smells of winter and tar.

"Sure, it's too cold to be out there." No-one answered. A piece appeared from a tin and was divided equally among us. Honey! There was a first time for everything. Tea was
shared from one tin - hot and impossibly strong. "Stewed" we called it.

No further words were spoken until we left - we always knew when we had to be home.

For two whole weeks this ritual took place (with different fillings for the piece). The cold was so bad at times that your feet would stick to the pavement if you didn't move them but it mattered not to us, sitting inside on the tar stained bench with its old cushions of no particular colour. Eventually, he told us stories, this old Irish gentleman. Tales of his childhood in Ireland. We watched his eyebrows and smelled his tobacco, his coke fire, the dusty tar and paraffin atmosphere.

And we knew what it was to be happy.

Gordon Christie
writes because people tell him that he can (for which he thanks them) and that these memories are important. Living near Edinburgh.

Wednesday, June 11

The Commuter

by Jenni O'Connor

Freezing gusts swipe at already-icy legs; the train is late again. Choo-choo! It squeals as it limps in; a grubby two-carriage apology, inadequate for the rush-hour squeeze. The waiting crowd jostles, crowding the doors. They open with a rusty squeak; a stinking fug pre-empting the exodus. For the fifty leaving the train and heading home, there are a hundred hoping to board. A disembodied voice echoes down the gusty platform: “Will passengers travelling to Bristol stand back and wait for the next train.”

The woman is lucky; she gets on. She spots the last seat, by a window, access blocked by a large, balding man in a shiny suit who has dedicated it to his briefcase. Nobody has challenged him, despite the crush. “Excuse me,” she glares, stumbling over his legs. Those left standing glance over, then look down. Nobody talks or smiles. In these moments, my life disappears.

Jenni O'Connor is an aspiring novelist with one travel novel and one thriller under her belt; neither have yet been published but she lives in hope, and meanwhile spends her spare minutes writing flash fiction to keep her brain cells moving!

Monday, June 9

A Small Glitch

by Bob Clay

The others at the table leaned back, most of them looking at me. At the top end were the ministerial types, then the uniforms, then various levels of secretaries and executive lackeys. But this was science, so they were all passing the ball down to me.

I looked at the single steel blue eye of the alien at the top of the table. He had spread large shimmering sheets on the table top. They were covered in strange diagrams and hieroglyphics, all in minute detail. I didn't have a clue what they meant.

“Let me see if I understand this, “ I said to that large blue eye. “You are offering us an interstellar drive?” The alien shifted, as if uncomfortable.

“No. Since there is no way of exceeding the speed of light, you have to travel to the stars the hard way, and spend years doing it. What we are offering is an intergalactic drive.”

“If you can travel to other galaxies, surely that's the same thing?” I asked. Again the small grey body with its embedded eye seemed to squirm in discomfort.

“Well, there's a problem with this system. It only operates for the Planck Time or more, upwards from a billion trillion trillionth of a second. Since there is no smaller length of time than this, the minimum distance you travel is about three million light years. You simply cannot use it to travel a lesser distance.”

I sat back utterly astounded. “You travel to another galaxy in a tiny fraction of a second?” I beamed. “Why not just offset it slightly and travel back? That way you could get to stars nearby to Earth.”

Now the alien really looked uncomfortable. “Well that is the problem, “ he said, almost sheepishly. “There is no coming back. The drive in effect quantum tunnels into another universe, similar to this one according to the mathematics, but a different universe all the same. Since we estimate there are several trillion universes similar to this one, or even more, the chances of tunnelling back into our universe are too remote to be considered. You would go to another galaxy, just not one in this universe.”

I pondered this for a moment. “You're telling me this would be a one way trip? A total shot in the dark? To all intents and purposes, you would disappear forever?”

The alien nodded, a curiously human gesture.

“But that makes the drive virtually useless," I said.

“Yes,” he replied, and started to gather up the detailed sheets. “But believe me, you would be surprised at how many still want to go.”

Bob Clay lives in Cornwall.

Saturday, June 7

British Summertime

A slightly belated welcome to June (felt like saying it while it was sunny).

Before I take to the river on a punt, I would like to thank everybody for answering the call for some non-fiction with (I think) some of the best writing we've seen so far at The Pygmy Giant. When you read a story that touches you, and then realise that it really did happen to somebody, it gives your insides an extra twist.

Thanks to Emma J. Lannie, who floored me in particular. And there is more non-fiction to come, amongst everything else, throughout June.

Keep writing all kinds of things! Fiction, non-fiction, poetry... And thank you for reading.

Thursday, June 5

Anywhere But Here

by Claire Morris

The last thing I want to be doing right now is writing poetry.
It’s the first time since last summer the sun has shone and I’m writing poetry!
Why, when I’ve spent weeks escaping the cold and rain under my duvet,
Must the sun insist on shining when it knows deadlines are only days away?
I aim for a compromise, drag my work outside and set up camp at the bottom of the garden.

Except, it’s not working.

The birds chirp and tweep, mocking me with their laughing songs,
Flitting back and forth... back and forth... back and forth over the wall,
Making it look so easy to just fly away...

But no, I have to write poetry.
My phone beeps; invites to pub lunches and picnics,
Temptations of road trips to the beach.
I’d give anything to be anywhere, anywhere but here,
To be laughing with friends,
To be driving full speed with the windows down and the music up high,
To dangle my feet in cool water,
Hot chips, cold beer and melting ice creams.

But no, I have to write poetry.
Why must I be working when the air is filled with the babble of children?
Indulgent afternoon play from tired teachers taking any excuse for a break.
I wish I was them again, swarms of butterflies in chequered summer dresses,
Excited, flying free from winter’s cocoon of grey.

But no, I have to write poetry.
I’d welcome any distraction, accept any chore, just so long as it would get me away from here.
My car's looking dirty, perhaps I could wash it?
And then of course dry it, and wax it, and hoover every corner inside?
Why stop there?
I’ve been meaning to clean the kitchen and de-frost the fridge,
To polish the windows and vacuum the stairs.
There’s weeds in the garden, and socks to be ironed, and the spice rack needs to be alphabetised.
But no, I have to write poetry.

Perhaps I’ll just make a quick cup of tea...

Claire Morris is a second year student from Bath who's desperately trying to disguise her often weird imagination as genuine bursts of creativity - is it working?