Sunday, 22 June 2014

Heating Up by Shirley Golden

Amelia still isn't sure what it was she saw that day exactly, but it had wings and scales and claws.

It was in the greenhouse, chomping on the tomatoes.  It must have flown in through the windows that opened as it heated up inside.

She thought of calling Carl but he'd only try to squash it.  He was precious over his tomatoes.

It glanced up and tomato juice dribbled down its jaws.

She retrieved the jar - the one she used to rescue spiders before Carl sucked them up with the hoover.  But it wasn't big enough.  She dug out Carl's old fishing net and hoped the mesh would hold.

When she swiped at it, it screeched, claws tangling, scales changing colour from black to red.  It puffed a stream of fire and melted the net, searing the remaining tomatoes.

Carl shot out of the house, abandoning the TV and waving his arms.

"It's a dragon," she said.

"I can't believe you did that."  He eyed the matches that she used to start bonfires.  "The tomatoes and my fishing net, what next?"


"It wasn't a dragon, Amelia.  I'm sick of your stories."

"I didn't do it, I swear."

He folded his arms.

"Okay, it wasn't a dragon…"  She had to admit, it was pretty unlikely.

In the end, she confessed, the same as when a dwarf pulled up the turnips early and a fairy stole the just-ripened plums.

But the truth is Amelia still isn't sure what she saw on any of those days, exactly.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Django Unchained by Dylan Jaggard

I met her in the Social Club. She was with a guy I had been in a band with years ago.I assumed they were together. I remember thinking, why can’t I be with a girl like that? At the end of the night I went over to their table ostensibly to talk to him. But I really wanted to talk to her. As it turned out she wasn’t his girlfriend. We seemed to hit it off great. When the Social closed she asked me where I was going afterwards. He caught his bus home. We went to Yates and got more and more drunk. She kissed me but I was too drunk to really enjoy it.

Next day she texted about going to see Django Unchained. I was so hungover that I really didn’t want to go. But I did anyway because I thought she was pretty and that maybe we had a connection. The film lasted three torturous hours, and it was Sunday so we couldn’t go anywhere else afterwards. I walked her home. We kissed rather awkwardly and then I went. 

Like the pedant that I am, I looked up online the year when dynamite was invented. It was about ten years after the film was set, and yet dynamite featured heavily in the plot.

We went on another date the next Saturday and I came to the realisation that  we had nothing in common. I didn’t text her again.

The following week I ran into her again at a nightclub. 
‘I’m confused’, she said. 
‘Are you?’ I replied. 
I explained that I didn’t feel a connection. The music was blasting really loud. She said something that I couldn’t hear at first. She had to repeat it about four times. Eventually I heard her.
‘No spark’, she said.
‘Yeah’, I replied.

I Come From Jupiter by Mumpuni Murniati

You asked me where I’m from.
Jupiter. The planet.
Am I mocking you? I've come to invade the Earth.

If I said I was brought up in this country and the same goes with you, you wouldn’t like it. If I said I had a degree and paid my taxes, suddenly I am a liar.

I’m dark, no problem. But I’ve got a heart and limbs just like you.

Is it this thing on my head – a long piece of cloth that bothers you?
Say it again – not proper for this country?
We don't speak the same language, do we?

I come from Jupiter.  

Fuse by Amy Mackelden

I give every phone number I have because I hope you’ll find me when I’m unfindable. Every time we shut this down, like parents preventing afterschool hangouts between bad influences, we know, or I do, that eventually there’ll be something that needs saying, urgently. Like an inspirational meme or the death of a celebrity. There’s nothing I wouldn’t tell you; I’ve inboxed all of my secrets, anyway.

Did you know, you’re dynamite? And I don’t mean destructive, because you didn’t impact on foundations or walls which weren’t rejuvenation-ready. You’re an after-effect, dynamite in the popping candy sense: unexpected, lifting a mundane moment outside the corner shop to sparkles.

I don’t break with you like Bible-study exes or hierarchy high school friends picking others, over me, for their cast off clothes. Instead, it’s a breather between box sets, the pause in the playlist, lining the next song up. The silence in the cinema when the reel stops and the audience have left and the usher’s late to screen clean. That.

Dutch Courage by Karen Storey

As the plane began its descent into Schiphol, Fiona looked out over the flat landscape. Never mind the sails she could see spinning below; she must have windmills in her head to come back after so many years. If only she'd had that soothing gin and tonic on the flight after all.

Making her way through passport control, she had a sudden urge to hide herself in the throng of travellers, keep her head down and hope that Jan wouldn't spot her. He'd tracked her down on the internet, but neither of them had offered to send a photo, each perhaps putting off the moment when they would have to swap memories of their youthful romance for the realities of middle age. Maybe they wouldn't recognise each other, Fiona thought, and she could return home to the life she had before his email.

But stepping into the arrivals hall, she found herself looking directly at him. Despite the greying hair and careworn lines, she knew Jan immediately. The hubbub around her melted into recollections of one perfect afternoon by the canal, boats lapping the water behind tresses of weeping willow, air heavy with the scent of crushed grass as she responded to the insistence of his mouth, the weight of his body on hers.

He smiled and Fiona realised that she must always have known him; she saw that same lopsided grin every day. In her pocket, her hand clutched the photograph of a young man as she wondered just how she was going to tell Jan about his son.

Amelia's Day by Jo Oldani Osborne

Amelia still isn’t sure what it was she saw that day exactly, but whatever it was it called her by her first name.


She froze. It seemed the most prudent thing to do. She was standing on a ten-foot ladder close to a wall in the old farmhouse.  She couldn’t admit to herself that as she looked up at the plaster ceiling something was looking back. Amelia scuttled down the ladder and on her bottom scooted back against the parlor wall. Her hands were covered with the “Bayberry Blue” paint she had been rolling on the wall. They covered her face speckled with “Holiday Pink.”


She opened her eyes and looked again at the head and shoulders that appeared mysteriously through the loose plaster around where the gas lighting fixture should have been. Where was her husband, Jonathon when she needed him? He would never believe this. She lowered her hands and continued to stare at the shoulders, neck and head of a figure thrust upside down through the ceiling.

The figure was a dusty white. The hair was curly but wispy white and the face was barely discernible.

She did the only thing she could think of. She covered her eyes again and shouted, “OH, JONATHON, WHERE ARE YOU WHEN I NEED YOU?”

“Amelia” – the chalky apparition repeated and then coughed a few times.

The voice was scratchy, and constrained. But, it was oddly familiar. This must be some left over specter from her husband’s illustrious family. It had the same New England accent. Funny, you never think of ghosts as having accents. Amelia mustered a little courage, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” she asked still leaning hard against the wall.


“STOP!” she yelled at the figure, “THIS is MY house! Now GO TO THE LIGHT! Or whatever it is that you tortured phantoms are supposed to do to leave this earthly plane.”

“FOR GOD’S SAKE, Amelia, I am in the light. I was wiring up here in the attic and I fell through the plaster!”

“Jonathon?” she looked a little closer.

“Yes, dear,” Jonathon coughed a few more times emitting small clouds of dry plaster, “Will you please come up here and help me out of this hole?”

Amelia stood up and then she could see that it WAS Jonathon sticking through a hole in the ceiling. She felt sheepish. Perhaps she should stop watching all the “Ghost Hunting” shows that seemed to be the rage in recent years. Of course she immediately assumed that she was having a paranormal experience.

“How do I get to where you are, Jonathon?” It didn’t appear that there was a second floor in this area of the house. How did he get there?

“I’ll show you,” said a little transparent boy, shimmering by the kitchen door.

“There’s a pull down ladder to this attic, right in this closet,” she heard and then watched the little apparition disappear through the closet door.

“Are you coming, Amelia?” echoed a disembodied voice.

Follow me into the Orchard by Sue Le Mesurier

There was no piper, pied, Hamelin, or otherwise calling me forward.

But childlike, I was bewitched and found myself following multicolored floating bubbles of water and light.

Balls of magic, flying high, in their hundreds, perhaps thousands, circling me and enticing me down the country lane.

The flute played silently, masquerading as Alice in Wonderland. I was entranced and found myself caught up in this mystery of light on light.

The gentle breeze caught the sparkling stream moving both the bubbles and me forward.

A tall hedgerow blocked my view of the other side but turning the corner I momentarily stopped, it was a moment of total bliss.

 I found myself in a beautiful manicured orchard with hundreds of children blowing bubbles and full of laughter and fun.

Bubbles of all colours of the rainbow were everywhere, in our hair, in the flowers, in the trees.

As the bubbles freely danced so did the children, their crystal balls of water and soap transformed and floating so so high. All our hopes and dreams at that moment were reflected in these precious jewels of light in the sky.

Some things cannot be made in China.

Toxic Windmills by Tamara Jones

He surfaced silently, letting the black water stream in rivulets down his oversized head and massive shoulders.

Strange edifices he saw above him, towering columns with sails turning, turning and turning but moving nothing.  He’d come because of these installations, because of their effluence discharging into the ocean, that was carried by the currents to his chief city many leagues distant.  He knew it was the effluence causing the recent sickening of his people and feared that it was now time to act. For so long they’d remained hidden, a race hidden, removed from those who lived on the surface, from those who polluted and poisoned their world, who would undoubtedly destroy even in innocence, the civilization his people enjoyed.  But now the balance between the need for secrecy and the need for survival had shifted dramatically.

His task was clear.  Neutralize the threat.  By whatever means possible, peaceable or otherwise.

He passed along the sides of the platforms on which the edifices stood until he reached the very edge of their world, the line against the sky after which the oceans tumbled to the depths of the world, his world.  The world that had once been theirs, until the renegade band had fled and come to the surface, gradually pulling back the waters, slowly pulling up the land, reclaiming they called it.

He heaved a great sigh that reverberated through the waters, carried along rivers and streams and seas, brought to every ear that could hear.  Slowly he raised his trident and let it slide through his guiding fingers as it gathered speed and leaving his grasp entered the water beneath him, travelling faster and faster as it cleaved through the waters.  With a shudder the trident came to rest at last on the ocean floor.

He waited, patient, sad, unyielding.  Imperceptibly at first a low roaring sound began, from far above him, and it gathered volume and it gathered momentum and it grew and grew until it became a deafening roar, the voices of the gods themselves mingled in outrage and fury.

He saw the little men come rushing from their toxic towers, they ran hither and thither without purpose clutching their hands to their heads, their wailing and groaning inaudible above the roar of the angry gods. Without pity but with infinite sadness he watched.  And at last the ocean floor erupted, and a mighty fountain of water spurted into the sky, the earth groaned, the mountains shook and the little buildings of the surface dwellers slipped and slid and disappeared under the waves.

And the mountains fell and the valleys were filled with water and the ocean at the edge of the sky no longer tumbled and roared to the depths of the world.  All was covered in flat clean water now, there was no edge any more.

He pulled up his trident from the ocean floor and shook it at the skies.

‘It is done,’ he said.

The Artist by Jeanette Sheppard

She’d spent all day painting the front door: his arms and legs were easily captured, clear in her mind. Household emulsion was the only paint to hand; she swirled herself as a foetal curl in his wide embrace, a self-made Cerulean Blue.  

When they’d met they had laughed together at her paintings and she’d given up, sold her brushes and oils online for £5.

Now the paint was dry she struck a match; blue paint spat from the yellow jaggers. The flames caught his feet, swept along his gripping thighs, moved up  his belly, his arms, his legs, his chest and finally his face. She was burning too. As their embrace darkened she imagined ways to draw a phoenix with the charcoal.

Birdwatching by Erin McCabe

Fred sat in the orchard eating his cereal, watching the first snowflakes of the season gracefully descend from the sky. He wrapped his large overcoat around himself and shivered; he loved these cold, crisp December mornings; it really was starting to feel like Christmas. He looked up from his bowl as he heard a rustle and watched two crimson breasted Robins weave and bob through the densely packed branches of a nearby apple tree. He laughed as one of the tiny Robin's swooped towards him, landing on the table beside him, glancing at his food.

"Hello little fellow, are you hungry?" Fred whispered, smiling at his new feathered friend.

The little bird smiled back and chirped happily: "Oi Keith!" It called over to the other bird, "Dennis was right mate, he did let one drop in this old man’s Cornflakes!"

Fred watched as the two birds sang to each other wondering what they were saying as he took another spoonful of cereal, blissfully unaware that there was an unwanted 'gift' lying amidst the sodden flakes and milk. Meanwhile, Wilma, his wife, had awoken and was making her way downstairs, still slightly disoriented from sleep.

"Fred dear, have you fed the dog?”  She shouted as she wandered through the house. "Nevermind." she yelled, seeing the dog licking its lips. 

Fred, however had not understood a word of this as he was lying on his back, spasming uncontrollably, foaming at the mouth and shouting horrific obscenities at the birds.

"Bloody hell, what did Dennis eat last night?" remarked Keith, pointing with his wing as they watched from a nearby branch.

"Must have been that spot of curry I had last night boys" Dennis tweeted as he joined them in the bush and pecked at a decaying apple.

There were quite a number of birds that had now collected in the surrounding branches to watch this man on the frozen ground making strange noises and convulsing.

"Fred, you'll catch your death out there; it's freezing!" Wilma called from the kitchen, still oblivious to the incapacitated state of her husband. "The trees tend to look after themselves at this time of year dear, come inside, would you like some coffee?"

Fred of course hadn't heard her; he was too busy dying in the back garden, surrounded by an engrossed assortment of Robins, Starlings and Blackbirds all watching as a thin layer of snow began to cover the old man. 

Fred groaned as his limbs tightened, his brain rattling and shaking about his skull while his nervous system endlessly burned. His vision had now begun to blur and fade and the sounds of the garden and that of his wife babbling about coffee slowly ebbed away from him. The last thing Fred saw before he lost consciousness, before his heart failed and his eyes rolled back in their sockets, was the asbestos bird bath at the bottom of the garden.

Heartwood by Ingrid Jendrzejewski

She could feel the orchard growing under her feet, new wood pushing up between her toes, threatening to ruin the carpet and upend the coffee table.  

Already, two seasons had passed since he uprooted and took the Lotus with him.  She hadn’t expected that.  She’d thought they were on a trajectory that included a house with a garden and, perhaps, a little bean of their own.  Once he’d bolted and winter arrived, she became dormant and etiolated, hardly moving from the shade of the sofa. She felt as though she’d lost her leaves.

Then, in spring, the floorboards started bursting forth with rows of saplings, green and eager, seeking out the light of the incandescent sun fixed to the living room ceiling.  By the time she, in her stillness, noticed them, they were pencil-thick and clutching their pregnant buds before them like little fists.  She could feel the room around her waking up, and she wondered if she, too, might now be ready for some sort of tropism.

She surveyed her burgeoning empire, her new growth.  Yes, she thought, movement might now be possible.  However, she must go slowly; it was still early in the season. Trunks were tender and branches frail.  If, come autumn, she wanted to harvest fruit, she must, for the time being, be very careful where she trod.

Cox! by SJI Holliday

"Row faster, Joan. Come on. Put a bit of weight into it!"
The woman in the training boat bellowed through the loudhailer. There was no need really, her boat was right next to theirs. She could've said it in her normal voice and they'd still have heard. Anita had all but given up, her puny arms not really up for the challenge. Joan was still trying, but she was losing patience.

"That's it, that's it. Back, then forth. No! No! Come on girls. You want to improve, don't you?"
Joan closed her eyes and counted to three before digging in with the last reserves of strength. They were going in circles now. She was convinced that Anita had passed out.
"Push! Pull! Push! Pull! You can do better than this, Joan! Anita - what are you playing at? You need to grip the oars tighter. COME ON!"

Joan held her tongue. She wanted to tell this loud mouthed bitch what she thought of her, but they'd paid twenty quid each for the lesson and she wasn't going to be intimidated any more. She looked at Anita. Her eyes were closed, but her hands were gripping tight, her knuckles white from the exertion and the concentration. She wasn't rowing though, and no matter what Joan did, the boat wasn't going anywhere. She looked down at her rubber-clad feet, dejected. No hanging out with the cute rowing boys now. They were never going to get the hang of this.

"Give it some welly, girls, come o..."
Joan didn't see the impact. It was a blink and you'll miss it moment. She just heard the crack, and the cry. The splash.

She looked‎ up to see Anita's grinning face. She was only holding one oar now, the other floating along beside them, snapped in half from the impact. The loudhailer was nowhere to be seen.

With new-found skills‎, Joan and Anita rowed silently to the bank, smiling.

The Orchard by Phoenix Grey

“This is the orchard.”
I followed her over the grass, along the rows of apple trees.
“It’s beautiful,” I said, tucking my hair behind my ears. Like everything else in this strange land, it was. She looked at me over her shoulder and smiled, her ice-blue eyes warming to the colour of the sky.

“I help to tend it,” she explained. “Everyone says there are no other apples like these.”
We stopped walking. She reached up and plucked an apple from a branch above my head, then offered it to me. I felt like Eve in the garden of Eden, but I took the shiny red apple and bit into it. The sweet nectar of the flesh ran over my tongue and down my throat. “This is really good,” I said as I chewed, perfectly aware of my bad manners.
Her smile widened, and her eyes warmed even more. “You really like it?”
I swallowed. “I do.” I took another bite, unable to stop myself.
Her hands clasped together at her front, pressing her simple dress to her slim body. An image of modesty. “I’m glad.”

I felt good that I’d pleased her. After swallowing, I said, “What is this place?”
Her shoulders sagged a little. “It’s a place your kind have long forgotten, a place of peace, where magic still exists.” Her eyes met mine. “Do you believe in magic?”
The question hit me hard. “Sometimes.” It was the most honest answer I could give.

She held out her hand. I took it. “Close your eyes.”
I did. And I felt something warm rush up my arm and to my heart. I felt like a bottle someone had poured warm water into - except I hadn’t known it was cold water inside me to start with.
Then a warm sensation on my lips. Hers. We kissed, and it was amazingly perfect. My head spun in a way I hadn’t known it could.
When she pulled back and our eyes locked once more, I said, “Okay, now I believe in magic.”
She smiled, her eyes dancing all kinds of shades of blue. “That was just a taste - I can show you real magic, things that your world has forgotten how to believe in, if you can trust me, come with me.”

I hesitated only a moment. This was the adventure and excitement I’d longed for all my life. Screw the world. “Okay, show me everything.”

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” by Erin McCabe

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go" - T.S. Eliot

He surveyed his surroundings; vast and expansive, bright, white and glistening. Since the moment of his birth he had overheard stories of these mountains; their glittering impenetrable peaks and glossy rounded summits rendered him ridged with excitement.

Steading himself he took a deep breath as he approached the edge of the first precipice, carefully placing his feet so as not to slip on its unexpectedly sleek surface. The others had thought him mad and had, in their cowardice, opted to head back to the safety and comfort of their familiar home, discarding their walking poles in a shower of expletives and shame. He however could not do the same; he had to know what lay beyond this pale horizon.

He arched his back and took a deep breath before throwing himself off the edge with reckless abandon, savouring the float before the fall, holding on tightly to the cable attaching him to his jump point. He fell hard and for a moment was paralysed by the shock; he had misjudged the distance, an error of youth and inexperience. From here he could see far beyond what existed before; a brand new landscape filled his vision with vivid new colours and inviting textures which reached out towards him, begging to be explored.  

He began adjusting position to allow descent to the lower levels, careful to avoid the tiny pools of clear cool water surrounding him. Suddenly he sensed an ominous shadow looming far above him, instinctively he froze, unsure of what to do next; he had heard stories of such shadows from the others and they had never ended well. Looking up, he blinked as he felt a warm rushing draft of air, hearing only a faint "swish" noise before the chilling "snap." His death was sudden and smearing, so sudden that he no time to think of the new home he would never build, the adventures he would never have or the loved ones he had left behind.

Lucy examined the bottom of her slipper with distaste before wiping the offending stain with a piece of tissue paper. "Stupid spider." she muttered tossing the tiny flattened corpse and broken matchsticks into the watery depths of the toilet, flushing his presence from her mind and her bathroom.  

Appearances, by Cate Lloyd

Amelia still isn't sure what it was she saw that day exactly, but she is a truthful person. That poor girl suffered a terrible wrong. The truth needs to be told. 

At their last meeting, Mr Blayney suggested she dress for the occasion, so she purchased a brightly patterned jersey frock to guarantee confidence. She walked briskly from the station. At the steps, Mr Blayney and Mr Winter glanced at her then quickly looked away.

She approved: staring seldom conveys anything complimentary to a lady. 

They accompanied her inside, but left her to settle themselves at a long table. She waited quietly until her name was called. As she made her way to the front, someone in the side seats nudged his neighbour and said softly, ‘There’s something you don’t see every day, eh mate?’ An inconvenient flush travelled from her chest to her scalp. 

She answered each of Mr Blayney’s questions clearly, and gradually a picture of the events emerged. 

Mr Blayney thanked her and sat down. 

Then, a Mr Cahill stood and began to ask the same questions, all over again. Such a terrible waste of time, she thought; but perhaps repetition would clarify? 

She had just returned and was unlocking her front door when she saw that young man – she gestured then waited patiently for an interruption concerning ‘the record’ to finish – stop his silver sports car.

He called out to the girl – another interruption while her identity was established – who was sitting at the kerb a little way down the street. She had been curious, so she had delayed entering her house. 

No, she had not heard all their conversation, exactly. Mr Cahill seemed lost in thought for a long moment. She volunteered that the youth’s tone was clearly unfriendly – another interruption while something was struck. 


He raised his hand, and she was in no doubt that a threat was made, which led to another tiresome interruption.

The car drove off, and she immediately went to the telephone stand in her hallway to record its licence plate. She was now very glad that she… Yes, she would try to confine her answers… No, she was not yet back outside when the fatal collision itself occurred, but she saw the same silver… No, she could not see the license plate on the car clearly that time, but she… No, she had not seen the driver at all... 

Mr Cahill seemed very pleased when, like Mr Blayney, he thanked her and sat down. 

She noticed the young man in his new navy suit staring at her, his head tilted, a slight smile on his lips. She wondered, perhaps he doesn’t speak our language? 

It was over soon after. Amelia didn’t follow everything, but it appeared the judge was very uneasy. Little, he felt, had been reasonably proven.

In the street, the young man caught her eye, smiled widely, and walked away. A little further on, he looked back over his shoulder and pointed at her before continuing.

The Smoke of Autumn by Cath Barton

I love markets. Especially when the first flat white peaches appear, full of summer promise. We feast on those peaches for months, juice running down our chins, and we push back the pain which never quite goes away. In the sun, on our blue balcony, we are in a different world, a world where it never happened.

We wake each day to certain sunshine, the fig tree casting its shadow on the bedroom wall. We watch the rounding of the fruit, go out onto the balcony to observe them closely as they swell and develop their bloom. The process, like all of nature, a miracle. By mid-August the buzz of the bees tells us they are ready. We pick the luscious fruit, spread them on wide, shallow trays and take them to the cellar. Where over the next two months they will, we trust, dry to an intense sweetness to sustain us through the winter. We trust, as we trusted before. This is a different place.

But nature has its order. One which we cannot determine, cannot control. We can put the fruit to ripen, as we brought the child to term. But after that there are other factors.

And so it is with the figs as it was with the child. The watchfulness of months cannot protect when our backs are turned. It was an autumn day. There was smoke from bonfires. A smell forever, now, associated with a sudden shiver, a presentiment. And then the dull thud.

And so it is again. Smoke from a bonfire. A different place, a different smell, the lavender stalks. I go down the steps to the cellar and there is a scurrying. And little else.

There are, however, dried figs in the market, protected in jars. I will buy these figs, we will keep them in a jar, safe. We will suck on their sweetness in the winter. It will get us through and next year we will try again.

Unresolved by Chris Milam

We had to know. Could it be a family of vagrants? A steel graveyard for lost pets? A meth lab? Tommy picked me up right on schedule and we headed over to Lafayette and the woods on the north side that hid something mysterious and potentially hazardous. Tonight was going to be a watershed moment for us. A reckoning. The uncovering of secret things.
    “Did you pack everything?” Tommy asked.
    “We’re all set, man. Flashlights, bottles of water, a pellet gun, granola bars and, just in case, a butcher knife.”
    “Cool. You never know, we might have to slice a hobo or something.”
    Tommy parked the Corolla at the tree line. I grabbed the gear and we starting walking through a forest of menacing trees and black silence.
    “Ben, you know how to use that thing?”
    “A knife? I just move my arm forward and thrust. How hard is that? Jesus, man.”
    “Just saying. What if there’s a hyena in there or a starving leopard with cubs? “That thrust of yours might be a tad shaky under the circumstances.”
    “Yes, African predators in the hills of Kentucky makes a whole lot of sense. Dude, you need to chill on the weed or watch an episode of Animal Planet.”
    After two miles we reached the abandoned caboose. How it got here nobody knows but there it sat; rusting and spooky and inviting. My stomach was sending out warning signals as we exchanged nervous smiles.
    Tommy approached with the pellet gun extending from a vibrating arm and I raised the butcher knife above my head, ready to plunge.
    “I’m not gonna lie, man, I’m scared shitless. You sure we should be doing this?” Tommy asked.
    “No, but we’re here and we need to know. Let’s do this.”
    I took a deep breath, reached for the handle and began to turn…
    “Ben, I knocked on your door for five minutes. It’s time for dinner.”
    “Sorry, dad. I was working on a story in my head and drifted away. Can I ask you something?”
    “Of course.”
    “That old caboose rotting away in Lafayette, what do you think could be inside?”
    He chuckled and said, “Stuck on the ending I presume? It’s your story, son and your imagination. You’ll figure it out.”
    I hurried through a meal of burgers and fries and dove back into bed and closed my eyes. And for a second time, my hand began to turn that handle.

Carapace by Sarah Bianchi

Amelia still isn't sure what it was she saw that day exactly, but she knew what furry meant. Instinct told her she was up to the job. She bit down hard.  

‘She may be soft-shelled but she has powerful jaws and razor teeth,’ her boy had boasted earlier that day. This was before Amelia was lost.

At the beach house, the boy will not sleep. He would not eat from the barbecue, even when coaxed by paternal gentleness or chased by the woman with snapping tongs. Sent to his room, he stares at the bowl on the sill, empty, his turtle gone. Through shutter gaps, he watches the sand change mood beneath a cream and raspberry sky.

On the far bank where the river dribbles into the sea a cat stalks tufts of dune grass, gliding then breaking. When static its pelt body looped like a charity ribbon, as though sensing something immediate and vital. Amelia?
‘Legged it, has she?’ Dad’s new girlfriend had said when stinging grains, whipped up in the sandstorm, had sent them running for weather-boarded safety to Amelia and her bowl on the windowsill. 

Except Amelia was not there.
The boy, compelled by the empty water, the pain of loss, recalls the car journey down. The woman flashing an invitation of complicity at his father, ‘Turtle will be alright in the glove compartment, darling.’ 

Thoughts of the beast splashing about behind her mahogany dash had provoked the woman to fitful acceleration, creating turbulent seas in the bowl. Making an insecure home. In a fit of guilt, seeking redemption, she had asked the creature’s name. But the boy, practiced in silence and multi-armed, star-fished his father, said nothing.    

This night must not take Amelia. Mimicking the feline’s litheness, the boy twists through the casement of the window, grazing day-old coin skin, but he will find her. Flip-flopping over the damson sand, he pauses to look up at a posse of yob gulls flying inland, screeching. The cat, sensing the boy’s approach and already bitten, stares Frisbee-eyed, then hops backwards, freezes, hops back some more then skips away. 

Squatting on arthropod haunches, the boy scans the dry terrain and plucks something from the stubble. The tickle of tiny claws, as she scrabbles in his palms, brings the day’s first smile. Cradling hands to face, the boy opens a small hole and whispers the name of his mother


Amelia still isn't sure what it was she saw that day exactly, but she knew what smooth skin meant. Instinct told her she was up to the job. She bit down, but not hard. 

The Gay Yeti by Bart Van Goethem

'Is it true? Did you catch the Yeti?'

'Yes, indeed, I did.'

'Can I see him? Where is he?'

'Getting a manicure.'

The Miser by Ingrid Jendrzejewski

The rich man gave generously to worthy causes, but then began to worry that he did it for less than noble reasons; he liked to see his name on buildings and to hear people say nice things about his family.  He decided to make his donations anonymously to see if that would help him feel more altruistic.  It worked for a while, but then he started to doubt himself again: he wondered if he was motivated not by a pure sense of charity but by the smug satisfaction he derived from imagining the gratitude of those he deigned to help.

In the end, he came to the conclusion that the only way to avoid selfishness was not to give away anything at all, so he cloistered himself away, shut his doors, cut his correspondence and ended his days stewing in his immense, selfless wealth.

Apple Spy by Pam Plumb

It wasn’t the first time he’d seen them, giggling and squirming around each other, leaning against the apple trees in the bottom orchard, their shoes scrunching the summer-dry leaves. He wanted to be alone, but they kept coming back to this place, his place, and disturbing the silence that he shared with the birds.
Each time he had wanted to shout them away, even swear at them if needs be, but something had stopped him. Inexplicably he’d stayed silent, watching them, their heads, their bodies, their lips together. From his viewpoint high in the branches he could see the boy’s hands, like eels bending themselves around her curves, getting into secret places, between the buttons of her blouse. And her. Fascinated, he watched her most. She moved her body in special ways to help the boy reach those secret places, twisting her neck, arching her back, capturing his legs with hers. The noises they were making, low moans and sighs, the juice-sucking slurps of kisses, rose up to fill his ears, replacing the birdsong he wanted to hear.
He couldn’t bear anymore. Still hidden by the greenery, he shuffled along the branch, reaching for an apple. An Egremont Russet, not quite yellowed up, not quite ripe, but still a good size in his hand. With care he manoeuvred further along the branch reaching a fork that would hold him. Below, their heads were bent down as if in prayer, absorbed in their own selves. He aimed well, the apple cut through the lower branches and struck hard. A faint comical twock echoed up through the boughs to him. He watched for a moment as the boy continued to suck at her neck, unknowing. Then slowly, like a clockwork toy unwinding, she slid down the trunk of the tree, out of his grasp and onto the hard knotty roots that stood up out of the earth like veins. Satisfied, he watched the boy’s panic rise, watched him look around for help before running off.
Waiting until there were no more footsteps, he crept down out of the tree and stood over the girl. Her face was pale, her breathing slow, different to the hard fast breaths of earlier. He didn’t notice his own breathing had changed. He looked at her body, slightly twisted where she lay. Kneeling down, his fingertips brushed her cheek first. He always started with the face.

The Conversation by Andrew Patch

Her smile sets off my spidey sense. A tight faded scar instead of the usual intoxicating topography of white pearls bordered by full scarlet lips.
    No, this was a smile that resented surfacing.
    I sit down, spilling my coffee. Cursing my clumsiness as the ebony liquid scalds pink skin. She says nothing, inspecting her phone. Another bad sign. She despises people who shield themselves with phones in social situations. I mop at the coffee, waiting for the silence to break.
    Finally, ignoring my gaze, she takes a sip of latte.
    Eyes meet.
    The she pulls the trigger.
    ‘Steve, we have to talk.’


He wanders into the cafe. My heart is pounding, I feel sick. Part of me wants to chicken out. But its too late, he’s on his way over, sauntering with bravado.
    Sitting down he spills his coffee, like he always does in a way that once was endearing. Yet I have no words of sympathy. I check my phone again, the text is still there, five simple words that changed everything:
    [Steve cheated on you.
    I can see he’s confused, wondering why I look so drained. Crying all night does that.
    I take a sip of coffee, waiting for the words to come.

Nose Clips by Stella Turner

The legs spun around without a ripple of water let alone a splash. Kitty and her friend Madge were always a bit weird with their big noses. Think it was because of those nose clips they wore. Dad always warned me that I was too forthright with the personal comments.
    “You’ll never get a lassie” he’d joke over the kitchen table. His accent still strong after all these years living down south. I’d been born a Sassenach. Something he’d never quite forgiven fate for. He’d come for work and when I was old enough took me down the pit with him. I loved swimming, the clear fresh water vying the black cloying coal dust. Water won every time.
     My mates and I spent every Saturday morning at the council swimming baths. For most of us it was the nearest we got to seeing the girls in their bathing suits and to have an innocent chat. If we ever got too near the life guard would blow his whistle and point of the sign on the wall. No running, no pushing, no ducking, no diving, no smoking, no petting.  
     Handing her a small bunch of flowers, she looked up at me, eyes expectant, all said and done she was used to this. After each of our four sons was born I’d hear my Dad’s words ringing in my ears. “You’ll never get a lassie”
     “Will she do?”
    “Aye Madge, she will”
     Breathing out a sigh of relief my daughter had perfect symmetrical features. I’d teach her to swim and to dive, no synchronised swimming. No one was going to say my girl had a big nose.

The Scene She Couldn’t Forget By Syed Zeeshan Ahmed

Amelia still isn't sure what it was she saw that day exactly, but the scene keeps repeating itself in her mind. Of course Amelia Jacobs was someone who always thought well before coming to a conclusion. She was a school teacher by profession and currently on a leave. As she stood from her chair, and moved towards the kitchen she noticed herself in the mirror. Her green eyes, her hair, which had shades of grey now. Her small nose, and her thin lips. Even in her late forties Amelia looked quite young. She smiled, and entered the kitchen. She made herself a cup of tea, and went back into the living room.

Remarkably, as soon as she was done with the tea, she fell asleep. Perhaps she was too tired.

Amelia was standing near the bookshop. She saw a person wearing a dark green cardigan leave the shop carrying a lot of books. He noticed her there, and smiled. Amelia did the same. It all looked familiar. She realized it was the same scene, and she was going through it again. Surprised, and yet unable to stop herself from following the same sequence of events. She walked towards an alley, which led her to the street where she lived. She was afraid. If only she could change the sequence of events: take a different route, or go somewhere else. She felt helpless.

It was right in the middle of the alley when she saw him again. He was a tall man, and he was wearing an old and dusty black coloured blazer. His pants were torn from places. His face covered in bandages, and his bloody hands. She saw him and felt the fear, all over again. She tried to run away but she felt paralysed. She heard a deep guttural voice, just like before. “Do you know where your heart is?”

Confused and terrified Amelia screamed. She heard him again “Do you know where your heart is?” The man then lifted one of his hands up in the air. She noticed a large knife in his hand. Blood was dripping from the knife as well. “Do you know where your heart is?” She couldn’t move. This can’t be real. It’s different! I ran away from the alley that day! There is something wrong! she thought. She woke up screaming, only to see a face covered in bandages. A hand holding a large knife moved towards her, as she sat there.  

“Do you know where your heart is?”

Hashmal by Ed Broom

Hellish day. Home to find all the family stuck in front of the telly. 'Dad,' said Laura, 'it's going to be ok. Hashmal is here.'

News 24 showed a figure dropping - descending - on to the white H of a hotel roof. Footage was shaky, either from someone's phone or clever CGI. Hard to tell these days.

He nailed the landing, a perfect 10 from this judge, and walked to the railings overlooking the city. There, he spread his arms wide giving it the whole Christ the Redeemer pose. Screen switched to a steady close-up. Such a serene face. 'Everyone,' I said, 'it's going to be ok. Hashmal is here.'

REVOLVER, by Gordon Lawrie

Amelia still isn't sure what it was she saw that day exactly, but it looked like and felt like a gun: something very similar to the Smith & Wesson 625 her unfaithful husband had once possessed. 

There it lay, reflected in the dressing-table mirror, a six-cylinder revolver with a dark handle, and although it seemed fully loaded, she thought it had  the safety catch on.

Concluding it was probably a replica anyway as she studied it, she pointed it randomly in different directions. In fact, she only decided it was real when it blew her brains out. That settled things.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Welcome to the Write-In for National Flash-Fiction Day 2014

Welcome to The Write-In. This is the blog for the National Flash-Fiction Day's mass-writing event taking place on 21st June 2014.

The idea is for you to write your stories straight away and submit them for posting to this blog. It doesn't matter where you are in the world, we want you to take part.

The word limit is 500 words, and they must relate to the Prompts, but those are the only rules. Any genre, any style, any perspective, anything as long as it's flash.

Submissions are open now, and our editors will get to them from the morning of NFFD. They close at 23.59, Saturday 21st June 2014(BST), so don't delay.

The stories will be posted regularly throughout the day on this year's NATIONAL FLASH-FICTION DAY Saturday 21st June, showcasing your work as soon as it's written, and helping to celebrate the Day with some brand new fictions.

Please paste your story into the body of your email and send it to

We can't wait to read your work!