Cover reveal tease and newsletter news!

Cover reveal for Jack’s Game!

Next weekend I’ll be revealing the cover. This is my vain attempt to build buzz.

It finally has a release date! My debut horror novel, the one I’ve been working on for two years, will finally be published this Halloween!

If you want to see the cover before everyone else, and get a FREE horror story right NOW, all you have to do is sign up to my newsletter. The link is in my bio.

When you subscribe you will get my horror retelling of the Brother’s Grimm story, Gnome for free. It is a homage to the creature features of my childhood. This is my Gremlins, my Critters, my Ghoulies!

Melody and Faith just wanted to pick fruit, but a cursed nursery rhyme could kill them both…

When you’re playing by the tree

Eat the fruit and then you’ll see

Eyes like marbles, black and small

Teeth like razors, sharp and cruel

If they find you feed them bread

Or you’ll end up dead, dead, dead!

Eat my flesh and break my bones

All should fear the twisted gnomes

– Playground rhyme*


A Village Called Christmas – A Festive Horror Story

Young Claire looked out of the window of her parents’ car as they drove into the village where her grandparents lived. The sign on the way in read, You Are Now Entering Christmas. A village that is wrong 364 days of the year, she thought.

She wiped the condensation away with her sleeve.

There was a man raking the driveway of his cottage. He was laughing at the leaves.

She had never seen anything like it before. She began to smile and then stopped. It was like the leaves had told the man a joke, but a terrible one. No, a terrifying one. For, although he laughed wildly, there was fear in his eyes.

She looked at her parents to see if they had seen the man but they were busy debating whether it was the next left, or the one after that. It had been a while since they last visited.

When she looked back at the man he was lying on the ground. She could only see the soles of his boots. The rest of him was covered in leaves.

The tyres crunched on gravel and they came to a stop.

Her grandparents were standing on their doorstep waving. Even though it was cold, the scene couldn’t have been warmer. Claire could see the tree in the window, all decorated and twinkling with lights, and there was the flicker of burning logs in the fireplace. She looked up and saw the smoke rising gently from the chimney. She smiled. She hadn’t felt festive at all so far this year. She figured she was just getting too old for it. But there it was, that happy jingle that made her heart swell. It was like stepping into the picture on the Quality Street tin.

“Aw, they’re so adorable,” said Mum, as Dad turned off the engine.

“And one day we’ll be just as cute,” said Dad.

“Sure,” said Claire, trying and failing to imagine her parents as anything other than the work orientated homework henchmen that they were.

They got out of the car.

A single snowflake drifted down from the empty sky and Claire happened to look up just as it reached her. It alighted on her eye and melted. She blinked.

“Ah, something went in my eye,” she said, rubbing at it with the palm of her hand.

“What is it? Does it hurt?” said Mum.

She opened her eyes wide and looked around.

“I think it was a snowflake,” said Claire. “I’m okay.”

“Let me take your coat sweetheart, oh look how much you’ve grown,” said Gran.

“Hi Gran, look how much you’ve shrunk,” smiled Claire, shrugging off her coat.

“Oh bless, you got your grandfather’s sense of humour. It’s a terrible family illness. One no treatment can cure. I haven’t managed to find one anyway,” said Gran.

“What’s that? She sick?” said Grandad, slightly deaf, and definitely not the funny one of the two.

“Come on in, let me close that door and keep the cold out.”

Walking into the lounge was like walking into a grotto. Claire’s eyes were wide as she entered. There were cups of hot chocolate waiting for them and Gran gave them out. They always drank hot chocolate together at Christmas. It was a tradition.

She let the cup warm her hands and looked around at the decorations on the walls. Real wreaths made of holly with red berries in them. Mistletoe hung from wall lights. Stockings that Gran had made hung at the ends of the fireplace. There was one for each of them. The tree was so tall the tip bent at the ceiling. The angel, made by Claire when she was six out of a cone of cardboard, some glitter, and a polystyrene ball for a head (with a smile drawn on with a felt tip pen), looked down at a crooked angle.

Something caught Claire’s eye outside and she looked out of the window past the tree, to the cottage across the road. There was- what was it?

She moved closer and stopped next to the tree. She took a sip of her hot chocolate and made a quizzical face. The neighbour’s boy ran out of the front door and threw the turkey clear over the hedge. His parents came out after him, the dad holding a rolling pin and the mother a carving knife.

“Err, mum,” said Claire, turning to get the attention of her parents.

The lounge was empty.

“We’re in the dining room honey, come in when you’ve finished your drink. We’ll be carving soon,” said Mum.

Something twisted around Claire’s arm and she looked down to see a branch of pine needles snaking around her. She stepped away, would have screamed, but the reflection in a bauble took her to another place.

It was dark. A forest full of tree stumps. Felled Christmas trees. Thousands of them. Men dragging them to pick-up trucks like dead bodies.

She pulled her arm away, dropping the mug of hot chocolate, stepping back. She looked down. The presents under the tree were wet with blood. It was pouring out of the axe wound that had severed the tree from its roots.

She turned and looked around at the wreaths and mistletoe and suddenly it was more like a hunter’s cabin than a festive cottage. Wreaths nailed to the walls like the heads of animals.

She ran into the dining room.

Where normality and kindness was.

She looked back. Just a lounge. Just a tree.

She sat down. Her mind was racing. Time had passed. Or it felt like it had. The aroma of the place had changed. The scent of mulled wine had replaced the chocolate smell. And the delicious taste of hot food and gravy was in the air.

“Are you okay, Claire?” said Mum, putting a steaming turkey in the centre of the table.

Claire nodded. Of course she wasn’t. But what could she say? “No mum, I just witnessed the memory of a murdered tree and I think we are all in danger.”

There was enough food to feed all of them twice and twice more. There was the bird, and gammon, there were bowls of sprouts, and broccoli, and parsnips, and stuffing, and potatoes, and so much more. A feast.

The food, the decorations, all once living things. We’re in the middle of a festival of death, thought Claire.

Everybody was seated, apart from Dad. He was ready to carve.

Mum was holding a cup of mulled wine in a porcelain teacup. Usually the kind of cup reserved only for tea. The fairy lights that had been put up around the window reflected in her wedding ring, making the diamond change colour as the lights did. Claire stared at it. She fixated on it. Trying to put whatever had just happened out of her mind.

“I hope you’re hungry, kid,” said Dad, looking at Claire.

She glanced up at him.

He stabbed the knife into the turkey.

It flinched.

Her dad stepped back, leaving the knife there.

“What was that?” said Mum.

“I don’t know.”

The roasted bird seemed to yawn where its head once had been. Its bent plucked wings gyrated awkwardly. Its feetless legs started to buck. The bowls of vegetables began to fill with blood, it was pulsing out of the sprouts, leaking out of the parsnips, dripping from the juicy gammon.

 “What, what is this?” said Mum.

Grandad stood up and stepped back, knocking the chair over as he did. A wreath that had been hanging on the mirror fell and landed over his head. He grabbed at it and the holly bit into his hands. He screamed, low and deep, as the wreath constricted around his mouth and cut into his cheeks.

Dad was at his side. He took the wreath in both hands, ignoring the pain in his palms, and lifted it free. As it came away it took the skin off Grandad’s face.

Dad stood there holding the bloody wreath, and there was Grandad; a red skull on a cardiganed body, eyes that wanted to blink but couldn’t. He fell to his knees and collapsed forwards, hitting the edge of the table on his way down. His skull cracked open and the wet insides poured out like a crimson yoke.

Mum and Gran started screaming. Dad looked at the wreath in his hands. On top of it was the hair and skin from Grandad’s head. He dropped it.

“Jesu- wha- what the hell is-” said Dad, trailing off.

He took a step back. He looked at Claire and then at Mum and Gran. “We need to go. We need to get out of here.”

Mum and Gran were unable to follow his order. Their minds were unable to make sense of what had just happened. Gran fell to her husband’s side and put her hands to the exposed muscles of his cheeks. Mum found some kind of sanity and took her by the elbow. “Come on.”

“What happened?” said Gran.

“We’ll call an ambulance,” said Mum. “Let’s go.”

“No, I’m not going anywhere,” said Gran.

Claire felt something move around her feet and looked down. There was a sea of pine needles washing in around them. She looked back at the tree, which was now just bare branches.

“Mum, Dad, we have to go, now!”

They looked down, saw what Claire saw.

Mum tried to pull Gran to her feet but the needles had already found their way into her body. She turned towards them and they saw her face. She was already dead. Pine needles had travelled up under her skin and out of her eyes and ears and mouth. Her insides had been completely shredded. She slumped to the ground like a bag of loose hay. She split open and blood gushed out. It reminded Claire of an awful video she had once seen of a dead beached whale being cut open and so much red mess pouring out.

It was time to run.

Dad climbed onto the table, grabbed Claire under the arms, and pulled her up. He jumped off, ran through the lounge, opened the front door, and got Claire out of there.

“Run,” he said.

“Mum?” said Claire.

Dad ran back in. Claire had time to see him clasp her mum’s hand and start back towards her. Claire turned and sprinted down the drive.

The car tyres were shredded. Pine needles blew around them like debris in an eddy. The car seats were torn with holly.

She carried on and stopped in the middle of the road. There were people, whole families, crawling out of their homes. The boy who had thrown the turkey lay beaten to death by his parents, turned mad by things they couldn’t explain. They too lay dead, choked to death by mistletoe.

She looked up to the top of the hill where the village church had been holding Christmas Mass. It had been full of contented families, lost in prayer and warm with the spirit of the community. The church hall had been decorated with trees and wreaths. All prayers had ceased. The doors burst open and a river of blood erupted from within. It flooded down the street towards Claire. The blood was thick with pine needles.

Claire turned and ran.

Feet are no match for running liquid and soon the red river was with her, it drenched her shoes and flowed past her. Her feet splashed as she ran.

She reached the corner and turned.

Something impossible was blocking the street. A sleigh the size of a lorry. She collided with the ornate yet gnarled bough and collapsed backwards, landing hard on her elbows.

Way up high, on the seat of the thing, was a large hooded figure in a green coat.

Santa Clause? She thought.

He looked down at her, his features in shadow, the sun peeking over the edge of his shoulder. A hand reached down out of a thick sleeve and she took it.

It was coarse to the touch. Her heart curled up inside her. Santa leaned forwards and his face came into view. It was not Santa Clause. He did not have kind eyes. There was no white beard. Its face was jagged bark and its eyes were dark holes that wept sap. His coat was made of moss.

She tried to pull away but it tightened its grip and she felt the bones snap in her fingers. She screamed and grabbed the wrist below her broken hand, trying to break free of its grasp.

He lifted her off the ground, turning her pain into something white and hot, making her nauseous and on the verge of blacking out. He placed her in his leather sack (a sack that was detailed with the occasional tattoo and lash-lined oval slit).

From that vantage she watched the stream pass. Body parts bobbed here and there. Something white caught her eye. A glint with it. It was a tea cup with a part of a hand still holding on to it. A ring on one of the dainty fingers.

She watched it float past and burst into tears.

Father Nature adjusted the reins and the sleigh took to the sky like a leaf to a breeze.

He sailed the sky to the next place on his list and the village known as Christmas paid for centuries of death.

The End

Madeline Hill (and The Reader) – An Experimental Short Story


Madeline Hill

Did I ever tell you about Madeline Hill? She was cursed by adults and enamoured by fire.

She was eight years-old the first time she saw her father clean-shaven. He always had a beard, as long as she could remember. He looked studious with it and when he laughed he lit up a room. She always thought he looked part naked after he shaved it off. Not fully dressed. When he laughed then it looked wrong. His face seemed smaller. His grin was full of gums that bristles once hid. He lost age and wisdom. She started to hate him for no reason at all.

She was pretty, little eight year-old Maddie. She skipped along with her curly hair kept in pigtails. She had a summer dress on. It was blue with yellow flowers. She skipped beside the river at the bottom of the garden. It was a scene as pure and delicate as a painting by Hanslow Hill (the aforementioned bald-faced father. He was an artist you see. A renowned one. He painted portraits that involved afternoon tea and flowing white dresses and bonnets tied up in bows. Those paintings made Madeline’s skin crawl).

Skipping along that river, humming a tune with a made-up melody, why don’t we peek into her basket and see what has made her so happy on this summer morning?

‘Stop skipping, Maddie, we want to see inside.’ Ah, good, she has stopped. Look at those wide blue eyes and that perfect smile. ‘What do you have there?’ Look with me, Reader. What is that? She must have been picking blackberries, I see splashes of something dark and red on the handle. But what’s that inside, something with fur?

Oh, don’t recoil. She wants you to see. ‘What is it Maddie?’

‘It’s the head of my cat. I took it with my daddy’s razor.’

‘That’s a mighty queer thing to do Maddie, why don’t you run along inside and get some rest. I think we need to go and talk to your mother about this.’

Come with me. We’ll follow Maddie back into the house. Oh come on, don’t throw up in the river, the fish will get sick. It’s only a dead cat. You know what kids are like.

Now would you look at that, she’s gotten away from us. It’s a beautiful house isn’t it? Would you call it a manor, or a mansion? I’m not quite sure. Ah, but what’s this? Is that Maddie at the window up there?

‘Maddie, what are you doing?’

I don’t think she can hear me, will you try and get her attention? No, why not? Well don’t just point what good does that do? Fine, I’ll look. Oh dear.

‘Maddie, what is that in your hands?’

‘It’s my mother’s head. I took it off too. It was fun, you should come and try.’

‘I don’t think so, Maddie, you shouldn’t be doing that sort of thing.’

‘I’ll throw it down to you.’

And she does. It hits the ground with a dull thud and rolls forward a few feet. Look at it, staring at you. One eye half closed.

‘Maddie, I really think you should put a halt to all this. Maddie? Oh, where has she gone now?’ We better go inside.’


We find her standing beside her father’s bed. A five o’clock shadow on his face.

‘I’m pouring petrol on him, do you mind?’ said sweet Maddie.

‘Actually I do, rather.’

‘Would you light a match?’

‘No I would not!’

‘I’ll do it,’ you say.

I turn to you. ‘Reader, you can’t! You’re just a spectator, what gives you the right?’

But there was no stopping you. You lit a match. Her father went up and Maddie went up too.

Look at her. Clutching her face. Screaming through the flames. The white of her eyes bubbling in the heat. She inhales and fire fills her lungs.

‘Now why would you go and do that, Reader?’

You look at me and shrug. ‘It’s just imaginary, Andy, none of it matters. All of fiction is just a well organised dream. And who wants to hear about your dreams?’

Egg. (A short Story)

Digging around in my archives I have unearthed all my old, strange stories. This one is called Egg. There’s no point leaving it unread in a file on my computer. Instead I will leave it unread on my website. This story was written about nine years ago. Potatoes.


Somewhere in the deep unconscious soul of every man there is a place for dreams to live out their unusual lives. In one of these worlds is a canyon. In this canyon the absent sun shone in every corner, casting shadows on shadows. The deep red sky sat above the large dark orange walls of the canyon. The Egg stood alone on the shimmering purple grass. His imaginary eyes stared fearlessly into the dark endless valley before him. The snapping of a twig made his shadow shudder. The great walls began to rumble and quake. The rocks began to edge towards the safety of the towering orange cliffs.

The Egg remained still as the rumbling grew. With a sonic boom, the air exploded. The purple grass struggled against the force of the wind. The Egg slowly began to lift and hover above the ground. The rocks and soil edged out of the grass and lifted into the air. The walls weaned and the sky got closer as the pressure in the canyon grew stronger. There was another boom and the air exploded in all directions. And then, as if nothing had happened, the canyon fell silent. The grass settled, the rocks fell to the ground, and the walls took a sigh of relief. The Egg was gone.

The Egg sat up and assessed his surroundings. He had heard of this place before but only in fairytales. The air here was cool and clear. The sky was blue and the grass was green. He was sitting on a long thin gravel path with green fields spreading out endlessly on either side of him. At the end of the long gravel path was a small house. The house was paint-less and wooden. It appeared to be held up by determination alone. Behind The Egg, at the end of the long path, was a single gate which seemed to serve no purpose as there was no fence on either side of it.

On the porch of the house was sitting a very confused 15 year-old boy who goes by the name of Adam. The Egg and the boy shared looks and both seemed to arrive at the same conclusion: it was probably best to investigate.  The Egg went from sitting upright to standing. This, in the human world, means it just tilted forward slightly. At the same time, Adam stood up. This was confusing for both The Egg and the Boy as neither had any idea what the other was. They both stopped for a moment until they decided it was probably safe to continue. They edged slowly forwards until they were only a few yards away from one another. A few birds and small mammals had begun to gather in various places to watch.

Although The Egg didn’t have eyes it still seemed to look at you and, somehow, was able to move. These are some of the things Adam had established so far. The Egg was half the size of Adam, which, when it comes to eggs, is very big. Adam began to speculate as to what could be in The Egg. An elephant? A lion? A new type of fire breathing bird perhaps? The Egg began to speculate about Adam. His first thought was, ‘Does he look hungry?’ followed by, ‘Am I edible?’ and finally, ‘Is he edible?’. Both Adam and The Egg decided just to wing it. They would both be kind unless Adam or The Egg tried to kill the other. Adam spoke first.


The Egg tilted in a way that suggested it was saying hi back. Adam smiled and invited The Egg into his home.

It’s not often that dreams and reality collide in this way but it does occasionally happen. The Egg isn’t an elephant, or a fire breathing bird, nor is it a giant wasp, alien, or winged monkey. It is just an egg. A confused but intelligent egg from Adam’s dream. Adam doesn’t remember The Egg, and The Egg doesn’t yet know that it is not real. But can you really blame The Egg? All the evidence would suggest otherwise after all.

Adam and The Egg shared endless days together in Adam’s small wooden home and they soon became good friends. Adam shared stories of his childhood and reminisced about playground victories and teenage friendships. The Egg listened intently and loved hearing tales from Adam’s strange world. The Egg tried to tell of his world but found no way to express his stories clearly. Adam told The Egg about the sun and how the Earth orbited it. The Egg wanted to tell him about his sun, or more specifically, how his world didn’t really have one and that his world was made up of connections of thought and nothing more. The Egg wanted Adam to know that he isn’t always an egg, and that in his world his image was an abstract idea based on loose association and weird meaning. But most of all The Egg wanted to warn Adam that there was a chance that neither of them was in their own world.


Adam hadn’t left the house since The Egg arrived. He had no reason to, everything he needed was in his home, and his home seemed to fit him perfectly. All the food was his favourite food, the washing machine picked up his clothes and loaded itself, the oven prepared his meals unaided, and all of the films in Adams DVD collection featured him as the main character. The Egg suspected that something was amiss.

On one particularly sunny afternoon, and it was always sunny and it was always the afternoon in this unusual place, The Egg decided to see what was on the other side of the gate. The Egg opened the front door and led himself down the two steps and on to the path. The Egg began to move down the path but the gate didn’t get closer. He tried moving faster but the gate remained at its distance. After The Egg had been travelling for a few minutes he turned around. He hadn’t moved at all. It was then that The Egg realised something was wrong. This world of Adams’ wasn’t like his normal dreams. Normally The Egg could move freely and control his surroundings but not here. Here was something rare in The Egg’s world. Here was something different. The Egg went back inside.

Adam was sitting on the couch watching a film in which Adam was heroically saving an attractive young lady from an entire battle fleet of giant aliens. The microwave hopped off the counter in the kitchen and brought Adam a freshly popped bowl of cheese flavoured popcorn. The Egg watched suspiciously and then hopped up onto the couch and joined Adam. Adam smiled at The Egg and proffered him the bowl of popcorn. The Egg looked at the bowl and then back up at Adam suspiciously. Adam turned his attention back to the television. The Egg thought for a moment and then hopped back off the couch and went back out to the porch. The Egg looked up at the sun. The sun hung perfectly in front of the house. Rabbits and mice played together in the fields and the birds chirped and chattered happily. The Egg looked over at the gate, which, now he thought about it, seemed oddly menacing. The gate felt real, like it was watching with curios interest. The Egg turned around and went back into the house. He went over to the couch and looked up at Adam.

“What?” said Adam, with a mouth full of popcorn.

The Egg moved toward the front door and looked back at Adam urging him to follow.

“What is it? Do you want me to follow you?” said Adam.

The Egg nodded.

“But I’m watching television.”

The Egg seemed to sigh.

“Ok,” said Adam, pausing the DVD.

Adam got up and followed The Egg out of the house.

“What do you want to show me?” asked Adam.

The Egg nodded toward the gate and Adam looked at it confusedly.

“What about it?” he said.

The Egg nodded at it again trying to tell Adam to go over to it.

Adam looked at the gate again.

“You want me to leave?”

The Egg huffed silently and hopped on to the gravel path, he looked back at Adam urging him to follow and then set off toward the gate. Adam followed.

“Where are we going?” said Adam.

The Egg turned to look at Adam momentarily but didn’t stop moving. Adam plodded along, slightly unsure what they were doing but happy to find out. After a few long seconds of walking it dawned on Adam that they hadn’t moved. He turned around. He was right. The house was still only a few feet behind them. The Egg realised that Adam had stopped and turned to face him. The Egg looked up at Adam. Adam let his mouth fall open and gawped at the gate for a while. He turned and gawped at the house. He then realised he was gawping and closed his mouth.

“Egg, what’s going on?” said Adam.

The Egg went into the house and stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked up. Adam got the message and picked up The Egg. When they were at the top Adam put The Egg down and The Egg walked up to the bedroom door.

“In there?” asked Adam.

The Egg nodded.


Adam opened the bedroom door and entered. The room was dark and cobwebbed. A thin layer of dust covered everything except for the bed which, for some reason, was missing.

“Oh,” said Adam, slightly surprised, “Where’s my bed?”

In the world The Egg comes from you get from one place to another via connections in thought. So, if you find yourself standing on a pavement in a busy street and a car stops in front of you you are suddenly presented with several options. If, for example, you looked at the window of the car and noticed you could see your own reflection you might suddenly find yourself in a bathroom looking in the mirror. Or, if you get in the car, you might find yourself in a memory, and become a younger version of yourself on your way to a family holiday. Or, you might see the car, ignore it, and continue down the road to any multitude of possibilities.

The world around us is one built from our own perceptions. There are two versions of this world (If you don’t include other dimensions of it). One is the perceived world of the conscious. It has a linear timeline and you have to physically move about it in a slightly more sensible manner than the one in which dreams inhabit. It is made of physical experiences and sensory perceptions. For example, if you are at home and want to go to the shops you have to physically get up and walk there. Whereas in the dream world, firstly you wouldn’t need to go to the shops, and secondly trying to find the right mental connections to get there might become quite confusing: this is the perceived world of the subconscious, the world of dreams. It is as real as the one we see when we are awake, and it is entirely possible to get stuck there.

The reason Adam can’t see a bed in his bedroom is because he is currently lying on top of it. The door of the bedroom suddenly slammed shut and The Egg took on a more sinister air. The Egg realised that he and Adam were the same, they had to be, this is Adam’s dream after all. This thought made The Egg feel considerably uncomfortable. If Adam wakes up then The Egg ceases to be. But The Egg now knows that this is his world, and thoughts were beginning to connect in his mind. One body; two lives. This was a very clear thought considering the thing thinking it was essentially a figment of Adam’s imagination. The Egg could feel that his life was short, and possibly only existed in this particular dream, but somehow, he thought, there was a way for him to be real. Adam stared at The Egg and edged back against the wall.

“Where am I!?” he said, suddenly afraid. He had suspected for a while that something was odd about his home but questions like these soon get shelved when life is so sweet.

The Egg stopped and looked up at Adam. I’m in your body thought The Egg, and in your body we are both essentially fictional. The Egg began to darken. Adam backed harder against the wall.

“Stop!” shouted Adam.

But The Egg wanted to experience reality. The Egg began to bulge and a crack appeared at its tip. The thin crack crept its way down the front of The Egg and forked across its sides. Adam was silent. His heart was on pause. His breathing had halted. The cracks stopped spreading and everything was still. Adam stared at it and swallowed. He swallowed again as if to eat his own fear. Remembering the importance of oxygen he took a gasp of breath. He closed his eyes. Adam calmed his breathing and composed himself as best he could. He opened his eyes. The Egg was still there, cracked and still. Adam inched up to it. The Egg didn’t move. Adam reached his arm out and stretched his hand slowly closer to The Egg’s broken shell. The Egg remained unmoved. Adam’s fingers were now a hair-breadth away. He composed himself and let his fingers brush against the broken Egg and as he did the shell fell and collapsed like a house of cards. Adam jumped back and stumbled. He slammed against the wall and gasped for breath. The pieces of shell covered the entire floor and there, in place of the Egg, was Adam’s bed. It seemed out of place and eerie.

Adam ran for the door and bolted down the staircase to the safety of his lounge. The DVD was still on pause and his bowl of popcorn was sitting comfortably on the couch. Adam paced around his lounge trying to figure out what was happening. He knew he must be dreaming, but how? He remembers living here for years. Now he thinks about it he has always been the same age but has never questioned it before. He sat down and racked his memory. How did he get here? When did he get here? Why is he living alone? He remembers his first day here. He was standing on the gravel path and he had his keys in his hand. The house looked newer then and cleaner. He remembers walking up to the front door and opening it for the first time. He remembers the walls being bare and the TV being an old small one from his childhood. The next few months flash before him and he remembers wanting a big flat-screen TV. The next thing he remembers is watching films on a flat-screen TV, films he had already seen and then new films with him as the main character. He remembers not wanting to cook or clean and suddenly these things tended to themselves. Adam snapped out of it and looked around his lounge. Everything seemed strange now. The TV looked out of sorts. It began to flicker and the image of him on the screen vanished. He went in to the kitchen in time to see the washing machine die. Its mechanical arms lay outstretched and lifeless in front of it.

Panic began to grip him as he tried to remember how he got here in the first place. Dark images began to pounce around his mind; the sound of rain pelting a car windscreen, his dad’s favourite song crackling out of the old car stereo, the stars through the rain on a dark evening. He remembers hearing the screeching of tires and the smell of burning rubber. And then headlights. And then nothing. The next thing he remembers is the gate at the end of a long gravel path to his new home.

Adam ran outside and looked out at the gate. Everything beyond the gate was now dark and the gate itself looked old and decayed. Adam slowly walked backwards into his house. His world was falling apart.

Upstairs in Adam’s bedroom the bed sat quietly waiting for Adam to inevitably return, the consciousness of The Egg hidden within its form. The Egg was now in control. Decaying the walls of the house and destroying the things that Adam had created for himself. Soon Adam would be alone in a charred and baron home, the only comfort being the bed from his childhood.

Adam sat on his sofa. What happened to the egg? Adam had no idea what had happened upstairs. Had The Egg realised it was in a dream and suddenly stopped existing? Had he somehow killed it? Is The Egg now the bed? Adam didn’t know, he and The Egg were friends and that’s all he knew for sure. Maybe The Egg knew it was a dream and somehow gave itself up so he would have a bed to go to. Maybe to wake up from a dream one must go to sleep?

The Egg waited silently in its disguise. One of them would wake up and The Egg knew that if it were to be him it would mean killing Adam’s conscious so the subconscious could take its place. But that’s not real murder, thought The Egg. His body will still be alive and if I have consciousness and individual thought then Adam and I are technically one and the same – only I am the sleeping Adam and he is the conscious Adam. It is my turn to experience experiences! This thought convinced The Egg and its mind was set. Now it waited.

The darkness from outside began to effect the house and the wallpaper peeled from the walls. The lights dimmed and turned off and the furniture began to age and decay. Adam stood up and looked around hoping for a solution to present itself. Nothing did. Adam looked up the stairs. His bed beckoned.

From his bedroom door Adam stared at the bed. The corner of the duvet was turned up, willing Adam to gently slip in and go for a long awaited sleep. Adam turned and looked back down the hall. The darkness and decay was creeping up the stairs and closing in on the bedroom. Soon there will be nowhere left to go, thought Adam, as he approached the bed. Stay here, or go to sleep. He pulled the duvet back and looked at the pillow. It looked so comfortable. Adam’s eyes got heavy. He couldn’t remember the last time he slept. Weeks? Months? Years ago?

The darkness closed in and The Egg prepared itself for real life. He wondered what it would be like. The Egg’s excitement grew. It was inevitable now. Adam had nowhere else to go.

Adam sat on the bed and made up his mind. He tucked his legs under the duvet and lied down. The comfort grabbed him with warmth and he felt the heaviness of sleep that he hadn’t felt in a lifetime. His eyes closed.

Just before Adam fell asleep the mattress collapsed and fell through the base of the bed like prey falling into a pit and Adam was startled awake. The mattress disappeared and Adam fell into an endless tunnel of darkness. Air rushed past him and his clothes bellowed as he fell faster and faster. A deep resonating voice echoed around Adam’s falling body


“What?!” shouted Adam, “What do you mean?”

Before the egg could answer Adam hit a solid floor, with a pelting thump.


Two eyelids blinked open and focused on a rectangular light in a white ceiling. It worked, thought The Egg, I’m real! The Egg tried to move his new arms but couldn’t. He tried to move his legs but they remained still. He tried to talk but there was no sound. He tried to shout but only breathed. The Egg had no choice but to lay there, finally conscious, finally experiencing real life, finally experiencing nothing.

Adam was finally at peace but The Egg was trapped in a broken body. Time began to drift by. Weeks became months. Nurses occasionally checked in on him. Sometimes people he didn’t recognise would come and sit with him. But most of all he just stared at the rectangular light in the white ceiling unable to turn away or go to sleep. He learned, over the years, from people sitting with him and talking to him, that he may never awake from his com, that the accident was too severe. He learned that his parents died in the car accident and that he did not.

Eventually he learned that the decision had been made to turn off the machine that had been sitting next to him for all these years, beeping every three seconds and keeping him alive. The Egg had been living in a comatose body for so long now that this news was something of an excitement. The Egg hadn’t had a visitor for a few weeks and had run out of things to think about. The Egg had just been lying there looking at the ceiling without a single thought passing through his mind. A few days after the decision had been made the machine was turned off. The Egg had no last words or final thoughts, he just looked up at the ceiling and its rectangular light, and let the world go dark. The Egg was gone.


The End



Glass Balloons (short story – SF)

‘Bring it in Stephen,’ the foreman shouted.

It was my first day on Dock One as a fully licensed valet. It’s still called the International Space Station but now it spans half the globe. Like a web of tubes. When the sun comes around this side of the Earth it casts a grid of shadows on the world.

I was in my first customer’s car. My dim reflection looked back at me like a ghost in the convex windscreen. It’s been bugging me for a while but I’ve just realised what my uniform reminds me of. I remember watching a film when I was young with a lift guy in it. In the old days they used to have people who worked in elevators that controlled the buttons. That’s what I look like. I wore a dark burgundy blazer type thing, with gold buttons down the front, and a flat cylindrical hat, black trousers with a severe line ironed down the front, and black shiny shoes. I have a slim shaven face, short hair, eyebrows, nose, mouth; all the usual stuff; ears, etc.

I pulled the microphone down from the rim of my hat.

‘I can’t find the gear stick.’

‘For Christ’s sake.’ I could see my foreman in the control tower pick up a pair of binoculars and look down at me. He picked up the microphone.



‘Look in front of you. Do you see a steering wheel?’

I rolled my eyes, ‘Yes.’

‘Now, look down and to your left, you see that stick with the ball on the end, it’s called a gear stick, now-’

‘No gearstick,’ I repeated.

The foreman picked his binoculars back up and looked at my vehicle again.

Harrison pulled up from below me in a sporty little number with twin engines that cascaded from the roof and ended in two circular giant fans at the back. He performed a reverse U-turn and hooked up at Dock Two about thirty yards in front of me. He switched off the engine, stood up and bowed at me.

I politely showed him my middle finger.

‘Ok, it’s a Chord Galaxy Automatic. There’s a concealed gearstick used for docking, there should be a button by the hazard light button, do you see it?’

I looked across the dashboard and found it.

‘Got it,’ I said, pressing the button.

A square panel sank back into the dashboard and opened sideways. A small gearstick popped out with a button on top with a picture of a hook on it.

‘Yep, definitely got it,’ I said.

‘Bring it in.’

I pressed the button and listened for the hook to mechanically fold out from the side and click into place. A light on the dashboard flashed on to indicate that it had. I put the gear into park and lifted my foot off the clutch. The vehicle moved sideways and hooked on to the dock.

‘Ta Da!’ I said, with jazz hands.

Harrison clapped sarcastically.

I turned off the engine and got out of the vehicle. I closed the door behind me and the automated parking belt wound down another notch making the vehicle disappear below the space station. The belt stopped winding and another dock was left in its place, in position for the next car-hook.

‘Nice work Stephen,’ said the foreman putting his binoculars down.

‘It’s cold,’ I said.

The foreman, and everyone else, could hear me through the communication unit. It’s activated by pulling the mic down though I can hear the foreman at all times through the ear piece.

‘Not for long, we’ve got sun in twenty minutes. Do you think you can do another one in that time?’

I looked up at the tower and shrugged at him.

‘Can you please answer with your voice, Stephen?’

‘Sure, I don’t mind.’

‘Ok, I’m sending him to your platform, make sure it’s clear.’

I saluted up to him.

‘Words, Stephen.’

‘Yes, sir!’ I shouted into the mic.

I saw him pull his headphones off and curse away from the mic, ‘Why do we hire these idiots?’ he muttered.

I wandered over to the platform and looked at it. I surveyed it proudly. ‘The cleanest platform on this side of the station,’ I said.

‘That’s because it’s only been used once you twat,’ said a voice behind me.

‘Hey, Harrison.’

‘Hey, man, good day?’

‘Yeah, it’s easy.’

About three hundred yards out of the Docking Station the first airlock to the parking area opened and a small craft came in and switched from its vacuum engines to its flight engines. The first door closed and the inner door opened letting the hum of its engines din around the dome. I could see the driver squinting over his steering wheel for the right platform and I waved up at him. He gave me the thumbs up and headed over.

The inner airlock closed. It’s normally silent but this time there was a faint bang shortly after it closed. I looked up at the foreman but he seemed unconcerned. I turned my attentions back to the new vehicle.

The hum of the engine turned into a chattering clatter as the vehicle got closer and manoeuvred itself into position. It stopped about a foot above the platform and the driver opened his window.

‘Do you want me to turn the engine off, or are you taking it straight over?’

‘Leave it running.’

The driver turned in his seat to the back.

‘Alright kids, everyone out.’

The back door opened and three excited kids got out. The driver got out and grabbed a suitcase out of the boot.

‘Ok, all done,’ he said, with the awkward smile that comes with handing your pride and joy to a strange teenager. ‘Don’t scratch her.’

‘Not a mark,’ I said.

‘I think the sun is almost around,’ he said nodding toward the Earth.

I looked. A crescent of sunlight was expanding imperceptibly across the Earth. ‘I know, about fifteen minutes I think.’

The man nodded and smiled and ran off to catch up with his kids.

‘Sure you don’t want me to do this?’ said Harrison.

‘No, I’ve got it.’

‘Ok, catch you in a bit.’

Harrison slapped my shoulder and took off towards the staff entrance.


The craft was nothing special. It was a family car that looked like it had been on a lot of holidays. The back seat was littered with empty crisp packets and colouring pencils and puzzle books. An interstellar map was unfolded in the passenger foot-well and a bunch of CDs were strewn, out of boxes, on the passenger seat. Retro. I like it.

I put on the seatbelt and adjusted the rear-view mirror.

‘Ok,’ I said, into the mic.

‘Ok, Dock One is ready, proceed.’

I pulled up and glided forward and positioned myself to the left of the Dock.

‘In position.’

‘Ok, check Dock for obstruction.’

I leaned over to look out of the passenger window. Something wasn’t right. I couldn’t tell what. There was no obstruction, but, something. I lowered the car a few feet to get a better look.

‘Is there a problem?’

I twigged what it was.

‘The space bellow is vacant,” I said.

‘That’s impossible.’

‘I’m not lying, it’s vacant.’

‘Move out of the way,’ said the foreman.

The automated belt that housed the dock moved back a space and I shifted the car out of the way. The previous dock came into view. It was empty.

I saw the foreman pull off his headphones again and pick up the mic.

‘Harrison, get out there!’ he shouted, and then he ran out of the room and disappeared from view.

I changed gear and flew the craft away from the station to get a wider view.

‘Oh, fucking hell. Harry, are you there?’

His voice came through on my earpiece. ‘What’s happening?’

I put my hand to my brow and shook my head. ‘I’m going to get fired Harry.’

‘Just tell me what’s happened.’

Several hundred yards below me, the first car I had ever successfully parked, lay in a crumpled smoking heap at the bottom of the dome.

‘I guess the hook gave out or something.’

‘What are you saying? Did it drop?’



‘Not that I can see from here.’

‘Get back up here and get me!’

I flew the car up to Harry’s platform and he opened the passenger door and got in, absently brushing the CDs on to the floor.

The foreman came running out of the staff entrance and got to us just as Harry closed the passenger door.

‘If that car is on the bottom-’

‘We’re sorting it,’ said Harry.

‘Sun is ten minutes away!’ the foreman shouted.

I came off the platform and dived fast toward the bottom.

‘Oh shit,’ said Harrison, taking in the full scene of the accident.

‘Yep, shit indeed. Get out of the way.’

Harry took hold of the wheel and I climbed over me, while I squeezed under him, and we switched seats.


We slowed when we were twenty or so yards away. The scene seemed to magnify as we got closer. The glass around the wreck was latticed with fine cracks that spread silently and slowly outwards.

‘This is really fucking bad,’ said Harry, pulling his mic down, ‘Permanently seal the outer entrance. The inner balloon is cracked.’

‘How bad is it?’ said the foreman, with a weird sort of calm in his voice.

‘I think you’ll need to evacuate this section. The inner balloon is splitting.’

‘Are you fucking kidding me Harry?’

‘We’re going to grab the wreck and pull it up. If the inner seal bursts and the car falls through we could break the outer shell. It wouldn’t take much with the sudden vacuum.’

‘Evacuating now. Sun is in seven minutes. You need to move it now.’

Harrison had already dropped the hook.

‘What should I do?’ I said.

‘Just fucking pray.’

Harrison was a master. The way he positioned the car was like being inside a humming bird. He pulled the break when the hook was a few inches from the other vehicles docking hook.

Harry stopped for a moment. He closed his eyes and took a breath inwards. He let it out slowly. The cracks seemed to spread around the wreck at the same pace.

‘Hurry up Harry,’ said the foreman.

Harry opened his eyes and held the controls still. He pushed the stick forwards gently and the hook moved toward the other. They touched.

There was a faint sound, like two china cups touching, and then the entire inner balloon shattered at once. It was like a bubble popping. It happened everywhere. A thousand yards above us and a few metres below us. The whole thing became a net of cracks and then disintegrated. I looked up through the sunroof. It took a lifetime for that shattered glass to fall. I saw it begin to shower the roof of the Docking Station just as the wrecked car hit the outer balloon.

There was an enormous sound like a nuclear bomb exploding and then being immediately muted. The car we were in lurched and then floated. The falling glass stopped and then fled in all directions at a serenely measured speed.

The earpiece in the headset turned to a frantic and deafening static. I pulled it out chucked it into the passenger footwell. Harry did the same. Then he looked at me.

‘Sorry Harry,’ I said.

He frowned. ‘Sorry?’

‘It wasn’t my fault.’

Harrison looked out of the window at the wreckage of the fallen car floating away from us. I looked at it too.

‘I think it might be, mate.’

‘What do we do now?’

The sun began to breach the horizon and the car, floating further away, lit up momentarily and then became a silhouette. Harry reached down and pushed a button with a symbol of a sun printed on with a line through it. Visors covered the windscreen and side windows. Harry reached up and pulled the shutter closed on the sun roof.

‘What do you think we should do Stephen?’

‘I feel like I might lose my job over this.’

Harry looked at me. ‘Yeah, I think you might lose your job over this.’

‘I blame inadequate safety measures.’

‘I blame you, you twat.’

‘Can we reasonably get to the pub on Entrance 9 before anyone catches up to us? I think I’m going to need a drink before facing whatever the fuck we’re about to face.’

Harry shrugged.

‘You alright Harry?’ I said.

He looked at me. ‘I’m fine mate.’ He twitched a bit. ‘Let’s go to Entrance 9.’




Gallot knew things. Ask him and he’ll confirm it.

“Gallot,” you’ll say, “I hear you know things.”

“What do you know?” he’ll likely reply.

Gallot was a simple man, in my opinion. He wore this weird coat that had too many pockets and only one sleeve. I think he found it in a charity shop. He told me once he traded his shoes for a pair of shoes. He never elaborated. The shoes he was wearing had holes in them.

The last time I saw him he was telling me about his job. I couldn’t believe he had a job. Turns out he’s a professional fool. He doesn’t get paid and he has no business card. What he does have is a deep frown line and a pet cat that looks a lot like a dog. If you were to ask me I would say it was a cocker spaniel. He would tell you it was a long haired Persian called Steve. Gallot was a weird dude.

I introduced him to a book called The Accidental Scoundrel when I saw him last. He likes books. He probably won’t read it but he has an amazing library. That’s all he has really. He lives near the woods, right by the motorway there, near the services but hidden back in the trees. If you go down near the services, the one just before junction 3 on the motorway, and head about 30 yards into the woods you’ll find it. It’s amazing no one else has. He built his shack himself with pallets and discarded televisions. It’s a vast property. He has a good ten by ten metre room that is just shelves of books. The things he comes out with, man, I’m convinced he’s a genius.

He’ll try and convince you otherwise.

I met him for the first time about two years ago. He was holding a sign on the hard shoulder with the words “Ask Me When We Get There” written on it. I had never picked up a hitchhiker before but that was too much intrigue for me.

I was driving a blue mini bus that I use for work. I had no work on that day and enough seats for him, me, and nine other people. He got in and sat right next to me. His dog, that he insisted was a cat, whimpered somewhere in the back.

“Where too?” he said, plugging in his seatbelt.

“Where do you want to go?”

“Where are you going?”

“Same place as you.”

“Then we should go.”

It was lucky I was in the middle of an existential breakdown. I needed this kind of weird in my life.

There was a grinding sound coming from the passenger side wheel. It started the day before. I had just spent thirteen hundred quid replacing the engine so I was pretty pissed off that something new was fucked so soon. Maybe that’s part of the reason for my breakdown. I think mostly I was losing my mind because the house was being refurbished, which I couldn’t really afford, and my cats (actual cats) had started shitting around the house. They knew. Cats know. Cat’s don’t shit in your bath unless something is really wrong. That’s how they communicate. They shit in your bath and piss in your tumble drier. When they’re happy they try and steel your food and hide in boxes.

Gallot turned off the radio and we drove in silence for thirty seven minutes.

“Are we there yet?” said Gallot.

“I don’t know,” I said.

It was probably another two hours before I introduced myself.

“I’m Andy.”

Gallot didn’t care. He didn’t reply.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“What’s yours?”

“I already told you.”

“Is your name Andy?”


Gallot thought for a while. I think it was twenty three seconds. I couldn’t reach my phone to time it. I was driving and my phone was in the glove box, which his knees were blocking.

“Why?” he said, after the twenty three or so seconds had elapsed.

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t know either.”

We were silent for a while.

“What’s your name?” I said again.

“Your names Andy right?”


“Where are we going?”

“I don’t know.”

“How long do you think it will take?”

“I’m not sure.”

I turned on the radio. He turned it off again.

“My name’s Gallot.”


I feel like I should have been uneasy around Gallot but he made me feel calm. He wasn’t normal, Gallot, He was like no one I had come across before and I wanted to understand why. I’ve known him a while now but this weird drive was the first time I met him. I keep going back to it in my mind. It was a good trip. It was a weird trip. It all started there. All the weirdness. He’s a good guy, Gallot.

We drove for about three hours in the end. That’s when I needed to stop for petrol. I pulled in to a service station.

“Are we here?” said Gallot.

“I think so. I have no money for petrol.”

“You should stop driving then.”

I did. I parked the mini bus in the forecourt. He called Steve, the dog he believed was a cat, and we walked for a while. We stopped when a clearing in the wooded area, that surrounds most off-motorway services, opened up to reveal an incredible shack.

The thing about Gallot is that he lived according to a philosophy. What that philosophy was is beyond me. He told me that the key to life is to have a philosophy and to stick to it.

We would spend a long time figuring out this idea of life but neither of us came to any useful conclusion. I think he was a prophet without logic. He was a thinker absent of thought. He said the best thing about life was that it happens without you.

I lived with him for a year.

You know, he had this room in his shack that only had a table in it. We used to stand around it and just stare at each other. I wish I could explain what we got out of this but I can’t. It meant something though. It really meant something.

It really did.

I think Gallot is dead now. He might not be. But I think he is. I went back to find him once but couldn’t. If I ever find that shack again I’m going to burn it down. If I don’t get stuck there again. With Gallot. And all his weird ideas.

The last thing he ever said to me was about stories. He said they don’t really need anything. So long as there are words nothing else really matters. I think he was wrong.


The State of Great Britain

I’m recovering from a terrible hangover.

When looking back over the events of 2016 I came across the news of Toblerone shrinking by ten percent. I went out to buy one to find out if the rumours were true, thinking it was surely a sick hoax.

I got back home and sat at my dining room table. I opened the packet slowly. Every second triangle was gone. This news by itself wasn’t particularly shocking but what it represented was. It was a glimpse into our future and the first casualty of our choices. It sent me into an alcoholic vortex that would leave me with a hangover the likes of which humanity had yet to experience.


When the boozing finally ended I found myself standing in my kitchen with a hangover made of hammers and remorse. I was wearing only jeans, a blue dressing gown, and a Jeremy Corbyn mask which I wore pulled back atop my head. Its vacant socialist eyes stared emptily at the ceiling. I woke up wearing it but have no recollection of why, or where it came it from.

I cracked an egg into a glass of warm whiskey and drank it in one gulp. I shuddered.

The floor swung sideways from under me but I managed to catch it with my right foot and steadied myself on the kitchen side. I shook my head and flicked the switch on the kettle.

It was quite possible that the kettle had already boiled for the third time by now without being poured. Short term memory was a distant one for now.

I tipped the coffee jar into a cup and spilt granules on the floor and onto my feet. I took a step back and leaned on the counter. My eyes were like a million butterflies trying to fly in the same direction. I picked up the kettle and filled the cup and shovelled in two sugars with a spoon.


Where was the milk?

This puzzle was a stretch too far. I poured some coffee into the sink and topped it up with cold tap water and downed the coffee.

My head hung for a moment. With great effort I lifted a cigarette from the packet in my pocket. I lit it and inhaled. I smoked the whole thing without touching it. When the cigarette was done I let it fall out of my mouth into the sink.

The floor swung away again but this time I wasn’t able to steady myself and I slipped through a gap in reality. Time bellowed through my dressing gown as it evaporated into oblivion. Memories of life as I knew it took on a strange hue and rang around me like a bell full of shit. Donald Trump was there, in the darkness of nothingness, laughing and trying to grab my pussy. A pussy I don’t possess, but a pussy nonetheless.

When I came to I was in the same kitchen but there was a calendar on the wall that wasn’t mine. There was a picture of a flag on it. At first I thought it was the Union Flag but something looked wrong. There was a blue square in the corner full of stars. The year on the calendar was 2019. Somehow I had drunk myself into the future.

What had happened to me? I couldn’t know. This was probably just another terrible hallucination but things felt too real. I could feel the cold of the floor.

I tried to climb to my feet, reaching out for the fridge handle for purchase. The door swung open and I fell back. Out of the fridge fell a Peperami. It landed next to me, perfectly sealed. It offered sustenance that promised to lift me back to some kind of sensible state of being. I reached for it and tore it open but all that I found inside was that hideous thin sausage condom and the faint smell of meat. The sausage was missing entirely. I wondered if it faced the same weight-saving cut that Toblerone had, but taken to its absurd end.

Maybe all snacks had gone this way. All products now must be just empty packaging. Maybe manufacturers have given up entirely on their product and only sell packaging to a public that only have nostalgia left. I had to find out more about this future world I had travelled to.

I found a newspaper on the floor next to a bin overflowing with garbage. I leafed through it briefly and learned a lot. Much had changed. I rummaged through the bin and found two more from previous weeks. I absorbed every article with great interest and growing horror.

I found my way to the front door and wandered out into a vaguely familiar street. I figured the supermarket would be in the same direction as it used to be and headed for it.

Every front garden on the way had been turned into a vegetable patch and neighbours were sharing food over their fences. So it’s not all bad news. Poverty can bring people together.

There were thin people everywhere just standing around doing nothing. Some of them stared at me. Most were busy holding their trousers up and trying their best to stay upright in the calm breeze.

Now all the foreigners are gone all of the interesting takeaways have shut down and obesity is no longer a problem. Obesity is a privilege obtainable only by the 0.01%, according to the papers.

Without competition from foreign labour British men were able to charge what they liked for their services and so people can no longer afford to get taxis or make repairs to their homes. As a result nothing works and industry has come to a standstill. Most people are out of work and their toilets won’t flush and their homes are cold. Most people sit in their cars for heat. Petrol is cheap and bountiful now thanks to the relentless attack on nature instigated by Emperor Trump. The cars don’t move because no one has anywhere to go and many species have died along the new pipe routes.

I made it to the supermarket. Things were not good. Most of the food carried the “Trump Seal of Approval” which was privately viewed as an avoidance warning. You’d find a fresh chicken with a sticker of Trumps face on it with “TRUMP” in gold letters and the word “approved by Governor May” at the bottom. The meat had a faintly grey and damp texture.

Governor May. That’s right. You heard it here first. England is the 51st State. It’s too much to take in isn’t it?

The biggest shock came in the wine aisle. All foreign wines had been removed and all that was left was a small selection of Californian wine. I grabbed a passing shop assistant by the collar and shook her wildly. “How could you let this happen?!” I shouted, but she got the better of me and pushed me into a pile of loose pork scratchings, the only British snack food still readily available in England.

She started crying and slapped me in the face. “What’s the meaning of this!?” I shouted, trying to hit her back and missing by a yard. God damn these malnourished thin women!

“And that was the Shipping Forecast,” she said.

I looked at her like she was mad. I noticed a tattoo on her forehead that read Property of Wallmart and felt immediately sorry for her. If she wanted to hit me I was willing to be there for her. She could let her anger out on me. I’m ok with that. “Later on Radio Four a cow has a difficult pregnancy in The Archers,” she said, and struck me hard with a direct blow to my left eye.

“Lady, I feel your pain, but at least be coherent.”

“But first we are joined by Graham Guest. So Graham, you started a petition to prevent President Trump from making a State Visit to the UK-” she said.

Now, I have to be honest, as I lay there in the pork scratchings of a desolate supermarket in the future being slapped by an emaciated shop assistant, I couldn’t quite put the words she was saying into any kind of sensible context. It didn’t add up.

She hit me again and I fell sideways. Which was odd, considering I was lying on the floor. The supermarket, and the woman, shimmered and then stammered like a tape caught in an old cinema projector. The edges of reality crept forward. The girl burst into tears and then the whole scene was gone.

I was back in my kitchen. The kettle clicked off as it finished boiling. The radio was on. It was Radio Four talking to a man about a petition.

I stood there for a while. Not knowing what to do. After a few more coffees I got my shit together and got dressed for work. It was some kind of mad dream. It could never happen. The people wouldn’t let it. They have the ability to fight back. To not let the mad ones thrive. Surely kindness and intelligence will get the better of greed and ignorance.

I pulled on my boots and did up my jacket. I left the house and was murdered by a deranged seagull.


The Romance of Unluv

Unluv Lobster

The drama of life doesn’t start at birth. Nor does it start with your first love. No, the drama of life starts in your parent’s bedroom. That one glorious squirt that resulted (on this occasion) in the 42 year-old man before me.

Unluv – that was his name – a miserable, hateful, fuckup with all the compassion and charisma of a dead horse at a dressage recital.

It was Valentine’s Day, 2016. Me; a single female human with breasts and hair; lips, ears, all the trimmings; you know the sort of thing, a woman with little care for her own appearance. I had given up. 35 and dating weird wash-ups like this guy.

He looked at me over his steaming lobster. Not a stare. No smile. Just a blank face with two eyes in the middle of it.

‘Enjoying your lobster?’ I said. He looked down at it and then back up at me. ‘Okie dokie then,’ I said.

The waiter came over and offered for me to taste the wine. I nodded and smiled. The waiter poured a splash into my glass and Unluv shot his arm across the table and took the glass from in front of me and the bottle from the waiter. He poured a proper glass. I glared at him, although really, I kind of liked his fed-up with life attitude.

‘Fuck off,’ he said to the waiter.

We drank. We ate.

His whole name was Jason Tolstoy Unluv. He wasn’t Russian (so he told me) he said his parents were lunatics who dedicated their lives to fucking with him in as many ways as possible.

His name fit though. I wondered if it’s a coincidence that he’s completely loveless, and unlovable, or if his name has dictated his outlook on life in some way. Nominative determinism in action.

I began to find his total absence of being, his total lack of any kind of reality, his inhumane quietness, weirdly endearing.

He picked up his lobster with one hand and turned it. He looked into its face. The lobster was dead, but this action seemed to give the lobster more life than Unluv had. He put it back down again and with the same hand picked up his knife and stabbed it. He let go of the knife and it stayed there, sticking out of its back like a flag. He watched it mournfully.

‘More wine?’ I said.

He didn’t answer.

You know, getting fellas is not something I’ve ever been particularly successful at. I could go to a night club right now and wave my tits in some lads face and he would run a mile. I could even try a more subtle approach, but it would make little difference. Men are repelled by me. Maybe, if I want to get laid, I should start slinging snatch. You know what I mean? Like a gunslinger who shoots from the groin. The funny thing is no one in their right mind would fuck me just because I came on to them in a bar but if you tell a guy you’re charging they will not only give you that impersonal bang you’ve been gagging for, but pay you for it afterwards. That’s why most street hookers resemble alcoholic vending-machines in drag while that pretty girl at the bar is single. The human condition, at least in men, is in no condition at all.

I think a shag with Unluv, although not particularly appealing, is probably on the cards. It’s like he knows that to get in to a girls panties you must first dine them. So that’s what this is. That explains why he isn’t doing anything. It’s mechanical. He waits for me to feed myself, we go for a walk, he stands awkwardly outside my house waiting for the code word that means fucking; ‘coffee?,’ and up we go for some unpleasant wooden rutting.

He pulled the knife out of the lobster and dropped it on the plate. It made that awful clanging sound that makes my teeth want to escape into my scull.

I watched him pick the lobster back up and break it in half. I drank my second glass of wine – my lobster was already gone, cake is coming – and looked at him more closely. He had large shoulders and the possibility of a firm chest under his jumper. His jumper was green. An unflattering colour for most. Most things would be unflattering on Unluv. A brief image flashed into my mind of grasping those big shoulders while he pounds into me. I cross my legs under the table. He looks up at me and I dry up.

His eyes are strong. His hair is thick and matted.

He used his desert spoon to dig out the insides of the lobster on to his plate and then ate it with his big hands.

I leaned the wine bottle towards me and looked into it. I knew it was empty but we all know what these gestures mean. Hunched over his plate clumsily eating his white meat he watched me check the bottle with a movement of his brow.

He licked the butter from his fingers and stopped a waiter who was walking by.

He spoke sternly and to the point. If he had ordered the waiter to kill for him he probably would have done it.

When the waiter returned he had two portions of chocolate cake and another bottle of wine. Chocolate and white wine together is essentially disgusting but we managed it.

When the cake was crumbs and the wine was gone Unluv stood. He dropped a few notes on the table and pulled his jacket off the back of the chair. I got the message.

Outside, the sky was black and clear. There were only three stars and the moon was absent. It was cold. Unluv walked half a pace ahead of me. I held my jacket tightly around me as I hurried along after him.

He turned into an off-licence. The bell rang his entrance. He bought 20 cigarettes and a bottle of vodka. Not Russian my arse.

He lit a cigarette and left it in his mouth. I had never seen anyone smoke a whole cigarette without taking it out of his mouth before. When he was done he either swallowed it or spat it out, I didn’t see it happen so I can’t be sure, but his hands remained in his pocket the whole walk back. I watched him as we walked, me lagging slightly behind. He had a broad back and a walk that told the world to back the fuck off.

We stopped outside my house and he looked at me under his heavy brow.

‘Coffee?’ I said.

He walked up the steps to my front door and tried the handle. I walked up and squeezed in front of him and unlocked the door.

In the kitchen I got two glasses out and he filled them with vodka. He lit another cigarette and picked up the glasses. He watched me. I would say expectantly but it wasn’t. He just watched me. Even so, I took his base body language to mean, ‘We’re drinking these in your bedroom.’

Valentine’s day; for the single woman you feel like a Jew at Christmas. It’s shit and depressing. If you were Jewish and people wished you a happy Christmas regardless of your fake sideburns I bet you’d wish you could stab them with you seven candled Menorah, and shout, ‘Happy Hanukkah you fucking moron!’

There should be a Valentine’s Day for single people. It should be called Sunday (this year at least).

We fucked. He squirted. Nine months later I gave birth to a lump of wood with a granite face. Happy Sunday you fucking morons!

Once Upon a Wine (How not to write a fairytale, by a bored and drunk writer)

Fat-squirrel-2Once upon a time, is an overused trope. There are many established and recognised ways to tell a story. This is not one of them. There are accepted literary rules that must not be broken. Speaking directly to the reader is one such rule. You are embarking on an experiment. It might become tedious. Maybe it won’t. But before we start, here is a quick writing tip; you should never begin or end a sentence with the word “but”. But there we are.

This story is a fairytale about a drug addict. And it begins (also, you should never begin a sentence with the word “and”) in a magical forest just outside of Boscombe.

Boscombe was a magical (another thing you should never do is repeat the same word twice in near proximity, i.e. “magical”) place in the south of England. It is a small province in Bournemouth. Boscombe is famous for stabbings, alcoholics, a booming drug trade (they were lucky enough to have the first crack factory discovered in England!) and a happy-go-lucky 30 year-old pisshead called Trev.

Trev was enjoying a peaceful slumber under a sick-looking oak tree just down the path from that tatty little mini-golf course in Boscombe gardens.

“Urgh,” he moaned, stirring from a terrible hangover. He began to cry. Crying in your sleep is a talent one acquires after much practice and hardship.

A squirrel watched him from a branch above. He had a look of trepidation in his eyes. He sniffed the air and twitched his nose. Quietly, and slowly, he scurried down the tree and landed softly on the ground. He crept up to Trev and looked him over carefully. (By the way, if you are reading this and are a writer in the making please do not do as I do. I am making no attempts to avoid adjectives. Avoiding adjectives is very important).

The squirrel sniffed Trev’s nose and took a tentative nibble. “Could this mysterious thing under the tree be a giant nut?” the squirrel thought. Probably.

Trev was startled awake. His eyes opened wide. In his mad half asleep state he perceived the squirrel as some kind of small fury monster. He screamed. The squirrel panicked. Trev reacted without thinking and slammed his fist heavily down on the beast. He punched the poor thing into the ground. It lay still, sunken into the dirt. Blood seeping from its ear. It twitched and then vomited. (Jesus Christ. This is a horrible fairy tale. If you haven’t stopped reading by now there is something really very wrong with you).

It is said that every time the fourth wall is broken, and the writer addresses the reader directly, the illusion is destroyed and any kind of drama or suspense built up is shattered. If you decide to address the reader directly, in your own writing, you should make sure it pays off and has at least some relevance to the story. If you are writing in the first person it can be used as a way to give a quirky insight into the narrator’s mind but it is rarely done well and normally just pisses people off. What I’m doing now is just self-indulgent and awkward for both of us.

Trev pulled himself to his feet and brushed bits of twigs and dirt from his clothes. (A quick note about adjectives. I could have just said, “Tev stood up. His clothes were dirty.” But “dirty” is an adjective, and as I said earlier, they must be avoided. It’s all about showing and not telling, so they say. Building a picture for the mind’s internal cinema to follow).

Fuck. I can’t remember what this story was going to be about. Princesses maybe? Drug addled princesses. I don’t know. That will do. Fairy tales should have villains shouldn’t they? Yes!! (Exclamation marks, let’s talk about that. They should be used sparingly, and never more than one, ever). Right, let’s get a villain on to the scene.

A shadow fell over Trev, our prince. Trev looked up at the figure standing over him, shielding his eyes from the bright sun that was eclipsing around the figure, causing him to appear as a featureless silhouette.

“What the fuck do you want?”

The figure leaned forward revealing his identity. “Ello, ello, ello,” he said, stereotypically.

“Good morning Constable.”

“You just murdered that squirrel.”

“I want to marry your daughter.”

“Well, well, well,” said the constable (who had a recognisable trait of often repeating words three times just because the author doesn’t have the adequate skills to create a more distinct character and wants to avoid saying the words “he said” by letting the verbal tick do the work for him), “Doesn’t that add an interesting depth to our relationship. You’re nicked.”

Trev was taken to the police station and the author decided to wrap things up because this whole thing, whatever it is, is pointless and stupid.

The constable’s daughter beat her teenage fists on her dad’s manly chest and begged him to let Trev, her lover, go. He agreed and the teenage couple had sex resulting in an unwanted pregnancy. They got marriage even though they barely knew each other because Trev wanted to prove her dad wrong, and is a bit of a dick. They lived happily on benefits ever after.


The End



The squirrel that Trev punched survived but due to an unusually warm winter, making it easier than usual to find food, got fat and was killed by a cat because he couldn’t get away quick enough.


Rubble in Waiting (a short story)

Rubble In Waiting

In 1970 an Earthquake killed my colleagues. I have since become something of an expert in all things seismic. The story of my last day of sourcing exports in a foreign country has stuck to the wall of my heart for 40 years now. It is time for me to unburden that story.

Before I start I want to introduce you to the term ‘Rubble in Waiting’. It is a term used by many seismologists and one that was attributed to the office building I once worked in. A building is labelled with those ominous words when, as you’ve probably guessed, it is at high risk of being floored by a seismic event.

At the time we were there 1 million people lived in Istanbul. Now, 50 years later, 10 million people inhabit that crowded city. This massive surge of people led to lots of tall buildings being built very quickly and with little in the way of inspection or care. Nowadays most of those new building have been labelled with those pregnant words; Rubble in Waiting. I write this, I guess, as a cautionary tale. In the 70s those words were already being used to mark some of the taller office blocks. The building we were in was one such building. There were many fewer people back then. For the people who live there now that whole city must feel like a ticking time bomb.

Myself, and a small group of fellow Brits, were based in an office block called (translated roughly into English) Sand Fortress. Our reason for being there bears no relevance to the story but, for your own curiosity and my own nostalgia, we were there to establish an import business. As a result our office was full of samples; rows of rolled up rugs, olives, tobacco, cotton, leather jackets, anything we could get our hands on. It needn’t be said that our business would become a non-starter. There were four of us in that little office. I was the only survivor.

As all the most vivid memories are inevitably seen, I will describe the event in the third person. I’ll meet you in the rubble afterwards.


It was 1970. Sebastinella was one of two women in the Great Sand Fortress, as its inhabitants had charmingly named it, her colleagues called her Seb for short. She was wearing a white blouse that clung to her body with perspiration. Her dark hair was in a ponytail, wet at the tips from where she had poured water over her head not ten minutes before. Her skin was darkly tan and her eyes had taken on the resolute determination of someone who knows the quicker the job is done the quicker a cold British cottage awaits her. Some cold rain would be bliss.

She sat at an old wooden desk in a cluttered open-plan office. The furniture was old and falling apart. All the samples in the room gave the illusion of being in a Turkish street market. In actual fact she was way up on the ninth floor, the top floor (which was high for its time).

Charlie came in through the only door, his heavy boots clomping on the floor, carrying a rolled up dusty rug on his shoulder. Seb looked up from her paperwork.

‘Seb! Look what I got for you!’

‘Ooh, yay. Another rug.’

Charlie dropped it on the floor causing a sand-coloured cloud to bellow up from it. He stood there with his hands on his hips, looking skyward like a useless superhero, while the cloud of dust slowly engulfed him. He had thick blonde hair that always looked good.

She stifled a laugh and got up from her desk.

‘Seriously, Charlie, we have enough rugs.’

‘This one’s the best,’ he said, still striking his absurd pose.

She picked it up and leant it against the wall with the other rugs. Charlie relaxed and looked around at the various boxes of samples. It smelled like his mother’s attic had smelled when she had some new fibreglass insulation put in at the heat of summer; a combination of new building work, dust, and old books. Except here was the additional smell of fresh olives and old sweat.

Derek and Donna entered the room together to see the new product but were quickly disappointed to see it was just another rug. Derek had dark hair and had grown a big moustache and affected curls at the tips just for their stay in Istanbul. He had the same deep tan as Seb and side-by-side they could have been brother and sister if not for his blue eyes. Donna was fair skinned with strawberry hair. They all tried their best to keep Donna in the shade to keep her from turning bright pink. Her skin was incapable of tanning.

Derek stepped forward and twirled the ends of his moustache, ‘Everyone, I have a gift for the whole family.’

‘Aww, he called us a family. How cute,’ said Charlie.

Seb slapped him on the arm playfully. Derek went back into the hall and poked his head in the room, ‘are you ready?’

Charlie and Seb shared a weary look. Derek’s head disappeared to be replaced by his bottom.

‘Wow, I love this gift,’ said Charlie.

‘My bottom isn’t the gift. Hold on.’

Derek started to drag something into the room.

‘Need a hand?’ said Donna.

‘I’ve got it.’

Derek got his momentum and dragged a large cream-coloured fan into the room.

‘Ta-Da!’ he exclaimed with a flourish of his arms.

‘A fan!’ shouted Seb.

She ran over and embraced Derek, kissing him profusely on the cheeks.

‘I love you, I love you, I love you!’

‘Enough of that,’ said Charlie.

She let go of him and went around to the back of the machine. ‘Where’s the plug? Oh, it’s ok, I’ve got it.’

She unwound the plug from the back of the enormous machine and plugged it in to the wall socket.

‘Isn’t it a bit big?’ said Charlie.

Derek knelt down and switched it to the lowest setting just in case.

The blades started turning and sped up quickly. A cool breeze began to move around the room as the fan oscillated back and forth. Seb knelt in front of it and let it blow air from one side of her face to the other, and then waited as it moved away as it oscillated to the left and blew air on Derek’s bare legs, making his khaki shorts momentarily bellow, and back again to blow her hair the other way.

‘Why did you get such a big one?’

‘If I had planned to get one I might have searched for a smaller one. A builder stopped me in the street and convinced me to swap it for a rug.’

‘Excellent deal,’ said Seb, the cool air still blowing over her, causing her blouse to flap. ‘We don’t need any more rugs.’

‘That’s not all we got,’ said Donna, going out into the hall. She came back into the room holding a glass bottle with clear liquid inside, ‘Raki!’

‘Splendid!’ said Charlie, ‘I’ll get the glasses.’


The fan had been put in the corner of the room and turned slowly. The whir of its blades was surprisingly quiet considering the industrious look of the thing. They all sat in a circle on handmade cushions and were using a Backgammon board (which seemed to be a popular game in Turkey at the time) as a rudimentary table. A few candles were lit and a fresh incense stick burned silently on Seb’s desk letting out a smell of burned lavender.

‘Ok,’ started Derek, ‘Raki is supposed to be drank “sec” which means straight, with some cool water on the side. We don’t have any cool water, but I’m sure we can manage. If you do add water to it it apparently turns white as milk.’

‘How do you know all this crap?’ said Charlie.

Derek tapped a small book that he kept in his shirt pocket. Ah yes, remembered Charlie rolling his eyes, your Little Turkey Guide Book.

Derek filled four shot glasses and put the bottle down. Derek, Donna, Charlie, and Seb, picked up their glasses and raised them in salute. All four said, ‘Şerefe!’ and followed up with the British, ‘Cheers!’

They downed their Raki and Derek poured another round.


The incense stick burned out. It glowed red at the bottom and then darkened releasing a final plume of smoke that seemed to move faster than the smoke that preceded it. Seb was at the stage of drunkenness that made her lean back when she laughed and place friendly hands on people around her. On this day that person was Charlie and he, like most before, mistook it for flirting. He put his own hand softly on hers. She pulled hers away with a quick glance of “what are you doing?” and then carried on with her accidental flirting.

The bottle of Raki was almost empty and Derek, with excessive concentration, managed to pour another round only spilling a drop when the final shot overflowed.

‘Şerefe!’ said Derek, downing his before the others had a chance to pick theirs up.

The other’s “Şerefe’d” back, picking up their shots and downing them. For Donna shots didn’t get easier to drink the drunker she got, she still pulled a face after each one, ‘delicious,’ she said, running the back of her hand across her lips to wipe away the sticky residue.

Seb leaned forward to speak drunken conspiratorial nonsense to Donna and Charlie, who sat to her left. Charlie let his eyes fall on her figure. Derek noticed and gave an encouraging nod.

‘More wine!’ said Charlie.

‘Raki,’ said Derek, leaning forward to take Charlie’s glass. He filled his and Charlie’s and said, ‘Cheers.’

‘Cheers,’ said Charlie back, raising his glass forward so they could tap them together in the time honoured way all drunk men do.

‘Hey what about us?’ said Seb.

Donna raised her eyebrows, to help emphasize Seb’s words.

‘Your turn to pour,’ said Derek, passing the bottle to Donna.

Donna poured shots for her and Seb. Charlie looked Seb up and down again and took a breath. Confidence became him. He shifted closer to her so their bodies were touching. Donna turned her head with a quizzical move of the brow. Charlie put a hand on Seb’s leg and leaned in to kiss her.

‘Whoa there Charlie boy!’ she said, putting a hand on his cheek and pushing him away, ‘You have had way too much young man.’

Charlie had to stop himself tumbling backwards off his cushion and shuffled back a few inches, ‘Young man? We’re the same age.’

‘What are you doing trying to kiss me?’

Donna and Derek shared a glance. It was a glance that asked if it was ok to burst into laughter. They kept their cool but laughter hid beneath a single breath.

‘Oh, come on, you know we’ve got a thing? Let’s be adults here, huh? Me and you? Why not?’

‘Because Charlie, I don’t mix business with sex.’

‘Then I quit,’ he said.

‘Are you that desperate for sex?’ said Seb. Charlie stared at her, swaying slightly from the alcohol. ‘You need to go home and sleep it off,’ she said.

Charlie looked over at Derek for some backup. Derek shrugged in agreement with Seb, ‘You should go sleep it off Charlie.’

Charlie’s face fell glum. It’s a face only truly drunk people can pull off well.

‘Go on, mate, I’ll join you in a bit,’ said Derek.

Charlie nodded and made a show of getting up and left the office with a final wave of his hand as he disappeared into the hall.

There was a sound like a door slamming and the room shook. Two of the shot glasses toppled over, spilling Raki over the Backgammon board.

‘Charlie!’ shouted Seb, quickly picking up the glasses, annoyed that he had slammed the door.

There was another rumble, but no slam to accompany it this time, just a low purr. The glasses fell over again and the bottle jiggled across the board.

‘I don’t think that was Charlie,’ said Derek.

Suddenly the whole room seemed to jump two feet in the air and land again with a jolt that landed Seb on her tail bone and slid Donna off of her pillow. The fan crashed sideways and the cage protecting the blades dented inwards, causing the blades to drum against it and then clunk to a stop. The motor burned out and grey smoke poured from it. Derek held himself low to the ground.

‘Seb, you ok?’

‘I think I hurt my back.’


‘I’m ok.’

A hard vibration tore through the room and the window smashed inwards. A thick scream soared from Donna’s throat and bricks and dust collapsed from the ceiling above her. The desk slid left and then slammed violently right into the wall. Derek tried to stand and suddenly became aware of the deafening sound of the building. It seemed as if some giant hand had grabbed the building from the top and was twisting it. The walls strained and the steel in the building screeched with aching ferocity. He held his arms over his head and ran over to Donna.

Seb had collapsed backwards, struck on the head by a wooden crate of olives. Nine of the fourteen rugs had fallen on her and only a foot could be seen protruding.

Outside, Charlie steadied himself on the rumbling floor and looked up over his shoulder behind him. At once all the windows exploded and sand-coloured clouds of debris and glass bellowed out from them. The top floor collapsed into itself amidst a shower of falling rubble. A long cement girder fell from the sky and struck Charlie on the back of the neck, driving him into the ground.


At this point I must return to telling this story in the first person. The true horror of Charlie’s injuries are beyond what I am emotionally able to describe, he died instantly. My other two colleagues were crushed when the ceiling collapsed. By luck, if you can call it that, only the top floor collapsed leaving the rest of the building standing. There were fourteen other people in the floors below us who would certainly have perished had the whole Sand Fortress gone down. If it had happened during the day when the market outside was still the moving river of man and barter that it was when the sun was out, many more would have been killed or injured.

When I came to the first thing I saw was Charlie’s new rug. That rug, and eight others, had protected me from the crush from above.

The feeling I have held deep in my heart over the years wasn’t grief (although grief was my companion for many years after) it was something they used to call Survivors Syndrome, but is now more commonly known as Survivors Guilt. My hope in writing this story is to try and come to terms with some of that guilt. The thing that sticks with me most is the thought that if Charlie had stayed sitting next to me we would both have been saved by the rugs.

Before I sign off there’s something the Fireman told me about Donna and Derek that I want to share with you. It confirmed a feeling I had had for a while that they were secretly in love. It’s a tragic ending to their love but has a kind of unspoken beauty to it. When Donna and Derek’s bodies were cleared from the rubble they were discovered to be holding hands.

Donna, Derek, and Charlie, I miss you all dearly.


– Sebastinella Deavon

March 2013, Bournemouth.