Franz stood heaving on the battlefield his sword and shield caked in blood. The sound of groans and cries to the gods. Franz glinted at the bright sunshine have they been fighting since dawn he thought. He was drawn from the cocoon of his own thoughts by Emile striding over to him she was not the goddess that took care of him, who poisoned him all for the love of her god. Now as she towered over him, those eyes still beautiful although her curves were still there, they were overwhelmingly out of proportion. There was a sickening arousal.
“Franz, good to see you again” she said with a hiss
“Emile, I thought you died?” The question hung in the air Franz felt a burning sensation and all the heaviness of illness came over him. He looked at his torso and her pox-ridden sword thrust through him. She smiled and said “I hoped you would die this way.”
Franz looked at her and smiled. He felt the wound close up it quickly netted together as he clutched his shield the poison drawing from him. Emile looked at him bewilderment all over her seamount face
“How?” She said
“Shield of Virtue.” He swung his sword and a horizontal slash cut through her torso. The look of bemusement on Emile’s face as she slumped to the floor. She morphed back to her human form still pretty in her last moments
“At least you are now free, cleansed by the Sword of Truth!”
“Thank you Franz.” She breathed and her body convulsed that was it.
(c) Dean Hodsfry
Scrubbing at his blood on the pavement she knows his four year old self is standing there
but she won’t look, because he’ll disappear.
He’s ten now, walking away from her with a sideways glance and she wishes she had done
more at that precise moment because now he is twelve and not going to school, talks to her
like he is eighteen but with that baby face and fear in his eyes and she could have asked him
‘What is it that makes you so fearful?’ but at fourteen the fear is gone, nothing in his face to
show that he loves his mum, or anyone, including himself. The fear now in her eyes because
she knew already it was too late, but if he had asked her what was making her so afraid
could she have told him.
She thinks there was a moment she could have done something and now there’s a trail of
his blood from the park, into the ally, people in a white tent deciphering the movement of
mingled bloody footprints.
She places her hand on the single handprint on her door frame that they haven’t come for
yet, closes her eyes and wills his blood to seep into the lines of her palm, into her veins, to
keep him alive in herself. She can feel no warmth from it but can’t move her hand from his
last living touch.
He was trying to reach his safe place but she doesn’t see it, listens only to the guilt of her
inner voice ‘ He didn’t do it… you did’ because she will always think that there was something she could
have done as a mum, that it was her that caused the fatal wound.
(c) Jennifer Patsalidou
Seeing my parents again I cherished forever. We could have hugged for days. My father stated “I hoped you would die this way” when discovering that I died peacefully in my sleep. I have now met all my extended family. Gosh, my Great, Grandfather Jim is just like me. In heaven there are so many lovely walks, cuisines to savour and shows to enjoy. Netflix and Prime do not compete. There is so much to fit in I have needed two diaries. Why did I ever worry about dying? The homemade Paella in Angel Square alone is worth dying for.
Time doesn’t half go fast when you are dead. By the time I have finished chatting over my morning coffee it is already time for bed. I just about get organised for an event if I have a month to prepare for it. After fifty years it still feels like I have barely got through any series on the AngelTime streaming service.
One Hundred Years
Time goes too fast to plan anything now. I can’t believe I chatted to my brother for over a week in one go recently when in life we avoided each other. Heaven, it brings everyone together. Yesterday, the Angels gave me a card to celebrate one hundred years here and in disbelief I claimed it was only yesterday that they gave me one for fifty.
One Thousand Years
Being with my loved ones is what matters. Time goes too fast for me, but hugs and memorable chats fill my heart with endless joy. Checking the time can waste centuries.
A Hundred Thousand Years
I feel happiest when with others, but I can’t remember who I am with or what we talk about.
A Million Years
Love is everywhere.
(c) Jonathan Hunter
The woman was crying hard now – proper, full-on “ugly crying”. What had started as a gentle sniffle and a slight dampness at the corner of the eye, had developed into great heart-wrenching sobs; red, swollen eyes, and huge salty tears mixing with snot. The tissue box was empty, the waste bin full.
Theirs had been a relationship lasting ten years, though she had been aware of him for some time before. He had been the man of her dreams; he was exactly what had been needed at the time. Everyone told her what a brilliant mind he had, how kind, how thoughtful, how handsome. Over the years he had matured and was now a true leader- a Detective Superintendent; empathetic but strong, forceful but respected; passionate but fun loving, and very much a handsome “silver fox”.
How she had adored him, had loved basking in the adulation that came with being associated with him. She had been the one to guide him through his career, had protected him from the baser elements of the world he was a part of, had masterminded his success. Yet now, here they were, the end of the relationship. It had to be, she needed to move on, there was so much more to do, to explore, and she was being stifled by him.
“I hoped you would die this way” she whispered. “I’m so sorry to do this to you, but at least it’s a hero’s death and it’s really the only way for me to break away from you fully”.
With one last wipe of the eyes, she put her glasses on and bent forward over the laptop, Detective Superintendent Roberts was dead and her long-standing book series finished. Two more words and then off to the Editor….. “The End” she typed.
(c) Hilary Taylor
Make it stop.
There’s a noise—a beeping—loud and incessant in its rhythm, driving me mad. My mouth is dry and my eyes are glued shut. I try to turn my head but it hurts.
Someone is hovering near me. The room grows dimmer as I feel them draw closer, speaking muffled words I can’t make out. A hand, bony and cold, moves with efficiency along my face, my arms, drawing my attention to wires.
Am I wired to something?
“Where am I?”
My voice is weak and raw. I can’t speak above my thirst. I try to move my hand to mimic drinking but my shoulder hurts.
There’s a commotion around me now. Someone’s shouting, footsteps are rushing away. Everything’s out of focus when I try to open my eyes; the lights are too bright and I shut them again. I can hear someone crying but can’t move my head.
“What’s happening?” I ask, scratchy as sandpaper. I’m regaining some sense of self, but with it comes a deep dread—one I can’t name and don’t want to look at. Suddenly, someone takes my hand.
It’s a hand I know! I force my eyes open and see my son. It’s him--he’s the one crying.
“There was an accident, Mom,” he interrupts me, tears streaming down his ashen face.
“What? When? Anyone hurt?” I cough, choking on my questions and my fear.
“He’s dead. The cop said the alcohol—” he begins but I interrupt him, furious.
“A drunk driver?! Oh, my God! He did this?!—”
“It wasn’t him, Mom!” Brian screams, mouth twisted with pain. He pauses as the tears pour forth and glares at me. Distance and rage are in his eyes when he finally whispers, "He didn't do it... you did."
(c) E. I. Q.
The infections were falling. The deaths were coming down. Schools could reopen.
James, like his peers, was thrilled to be back at school. He charged into the house, banging the front door and torpedoed into the kitchen. “Mum, we’ve got a special assembly on Friday.”
Mum smiled and said, “Oh, have you? Why, what’s so special?”
He looked about the room and headed to the fridge. Flinging the door open, he said, “What can I eat? I’m starving.”
“You could try your lunch. It’s waiting for you on the table.”
He spun about and, for the first time, noticed a plate with cutlery at his place. Sitting on the plate was a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich.
“Awesome, Mum, how did you know that’s just what I wanted?”
Again she smiled affectionately. “Because I’m your Mum and know you so well.”
In between mouthfuls, he said, “We’re having a visitor for assembly. You’ll never guess who it is.”
“Well, let me see since you’re so excited it’s bound to be a man. Not just any man but a sportsman. A gold medal Olympian at the very least.”
He sat tilting his head to the side with his eyes narrowed and eyebrows squished together. “Mum, you’re almost right he is a para Olympic triathlon gold medallist.” He smirked, then his shoulders sagged as he said, “You’re telling me you knew all along?”
She smiled and nodded her head. “Yes, dear, of course, I knew. You forget I’m a school governor. I contacted his office and organised for him to come and inspire all of you. I thought you might need to realise staying home is not the end of the world. Now you are all back what better than a bit of inspiration?”
(c) Felicity Edwards
Steve and the boys wept when The Plough closed. Born and bred in the village, Steve enjoyed telling folk he’d been baptised, wed and divorced in their local pub. Stroking his beard, he surveyed his garden shed and told his son Gavin, ‘we’ll build a bar, hang horse brasses, get a telly for the footy and fill a fridge with beer. The boys’ll love it.’
‘The Shed’ was a roaring success. Considering its facilities too basic, disapproving wives stayed home leaving ‘The Shed’ to the men. Steve was relieved. Without women, no need to mind your language or hold in your farts.
Normally wary of incomers, when big bellied Ivan joined the boys working at the abattoir, Steve thought he’d appreciate ‘The Shed’. Tattooed, back slapping and beer loving, Ivan fitted in a treat.
One day, Ivan turns up with his daughter, Scarlett. A slinky lass with tar black hair, she wore a revealing frock, pink sequinned beret and spoke in a smoky sultry voice. What could Steve say? She looked and sounded like a porn star, swore like a sailor and drank like a pike. Good sort was Scarlett. The boys went soppy about her. Especially Gavin. When they began walking out together, Steve said to Ivan, ‘I’m surprised your girl’s courting my Gavin. She’s model material.’
‘Oh yes,’ said Ivan with a wink, ‘Full of surprises is Scarlett.’
When Gav confessed Scarlett was ‘in transit,’ Steve assumed she was buying a van. The truth was more baffling. Scarlett, born Scott, really was one of the boys.
‘You’re telling me you knew all along,’ said Steve.
‘What woman knows the offside rule and all the words to “Four and Twenty Virgins”?’ Gav replied, ‘Scarlett’s perfection.’
‘Fair point,’ said Steve. ‘I’ll drink to that.’
(c) Beverley Byrne
"Whatever’s happened Charles, you look crushed. Has the world ended?"
"It has for me. My novel, five year's work. Gone! I might as well kill myself."
"Changing money at the airport. Put my bag down next to me. Stolen!"
"With your new computer in it?"
"And your back-up?"
"In the bag too."
"Oh, Charles, sweetie, come to Vivian for a big hug."
“Finished it! Ready to send off. Damn.”
"Isn’t it on your old computer? The one I gave you last year?"
"That old thing? I thought it had died. Oh, there’s hope. Fetch it for me, darling, while I grab a scotch."
"Here it is, plugged in, it’s coming alive."
"Good, good. So, what’s the password?"
"I gave it to you, darling. Did you change it."
"You must have written it down."
"No . . . Well, you owned the damn thing for five years, you must know it. Come on, Vivian, out with it."
"Don’t fluster me, Charles. Give me a scotch. I’ll do my best to remember. Don’t get so annoyed. We’ll have supper and then an early night. I’ve been so lonesome without you, darling. You shouldn’t leave your little kitten for so long."
"Missed you, too."
"Well, let’s skip supper. I’m sure the password will come to me after a night’s sleep."
"That was so wonderful, Charles. I feel renewed."
"The password. Has it come back to you?"
"Not quite, Charles. You know there’s still time for a quickie before you leave for work."
"Yes, it will help it to come. That’s right, Charles, just one more time, darling, oh, Charles, it’s coming, it's coming. Yes, yes, it was ‘Eastbourne’. That’s what came to me last night, too.”
"You’re telling me you knew all along?"
(c) Richard Hallam
The hospice nurse arrived. Mr Cambell met her. “Thank you so much for coming. Jen, my wife, is in the front room. We moved her bed there so she could see the view.”
The nurse soon had Jen washed, and the bedclothes changed. The bed was one of those where a button smoothly changes the position of the patient. Alyson put Jen in a comfortable upright position. “I’m going to check your syringe driver. Then I’ll leave you until this evening.”
“Will you be coming back?” Asked Jen.
Nodding, Alison said, “Yes, I must top up the driver.”
Jen dozed a bit as Pete sat next to the bed, holding her hand. Jen opened her eyes and looked down the hill and out over the forest. She sighed. “I’m sorry to leave you like this. We had so many plans.”
“I know, but let’s not think about that let’s concentrate on now. At least we completed all the alterations and you’ve got the best place for the view you love.”
They talked as they always had. Jen’s words were slower. Spontaneously, she dropped off to sleep. As he sat looking at her, it filled him with sadness, tears coursing, unchecked, down his face. But pleased she was home, not lying all alone in the hospital. He took a shuddering breath, kissed her forehead and whispered. “I hoped you would die this way.”
She opened her eyes and smiled at him one last time. “Thank you, my love. You have always been my rock, but I have to take this journey alone. Please turn the lights out so I can see the stars, one last time.”
She slipped away so peacefully. He marvelled, as in life, so in death, she was quiet and composed.
(c) Felicity Edwards
“Ah, DC Evans, glad you’re here. The rest of the team is busy with that airport robbery. There has been a rash of petty thefts over the last few weeks. Please deal with it.”
I was pleased and petrified. This would be my first case on my own. I would prove to myself that I could be a detective.
Looking at the reports of the thefts, I saw a pattern emerge. They occurred only in the afternoons. Was there a reason? Maybe the thieves were not available at night or even in the mornings. That made me think maybe school children?
Next on my list was to visit the crime scenes. In every case, they gained entry through a small downstairs window. Surely at least one thief must squirm through that window, then open a door for the rest of the gang.
I had a breakthrough when I found a scrap of material.
“DC Evans, the material we found matches the make and colour of a school blazer. A blazer from St Mungo’s.”
A quick visit and an inspection of blazers yielded a result. Carl Daniers owned the blazer but swore he knew nothing of the damage it must be his brother Bernard.
I interviewed them together. First, I carried a couple of glasses of water. I handed one to Carl, who grabbed it with his left hand. His brother took his glass with the right hand. I looked at them and pointed at Carl, who smirked at me. I shook my head. “He didn’t do it .....you did.”
Confronted with the evidence, Carl confessed.
Later, I explained to my boss that only a left-handed person could have done the window’s damage. Carl is a lefty Bernard is right-handed.
(c) Felicity Edwards
Sarah stood by Daniel’s bed and held his warm hand, it wouldn’t be so for long . The carer had opened a window and the breeze blew down cards family members had sent him, wishing him Happy Birthday. The years he’d lived and the things he’d seen. Daniel died peacefully in his sleep.
Daniel’s skin was baby soft to the touch. He had good face, a face that made you want to smile. He had been a great grandfather, a grandfather and a father. He was on the other side now, however, and would be remembered for all the things he had meant to loved ones, and for so much more.
Daniel had fought in the war, he’d been an engineer, he’d been keen on singing and liked to get everyone around a piano when he could. He’d liked a pint of bitter and wouldn’t give you a spit for Champagne. He loved to garden.
Daniel was the one everyone went to, when emotional stability was called for, the person needed when life became turbulent. He was wise and loving. His son Callum called him an emotional balm. When Callum came out, Daniel said that the only queer people were those who didn’t love anybody. Acceptance was what Daniel stood for. Being yourself and being kind, that’s what he instilled in his family and that’s what Sarah stood for too.
Sarah had gone before him, of ovarian cancer. The womb that bore them three wonderful children, also took her from him. Sarah had come to take Daniel with her now though. She stood by his bed as he drifted off, the time had come.
“I hoped you would die this way,” Sarah whispered, as they both departed through the window, souls embracing, a flicker of light, a spec of glorious dust.
(c) Liz Breen
Max, an accomplished musician, became an alcoholic after the death of his wife. He paid scant attention to his 15-year-old daughter Debbie and nine-year-old son Nathan. They were always afraid and hid from him when he was on his alcoholic binges. The house was filthy. Plenty of whisky bottles and sachets were all over the place. Snack packs and ready-to-eat foodstuff was all the nutrition they got.
That morning, he was thumping wildly on his keyboard, belting out a song and creating quite a ruckus. It was disturbing Debbie in the next room, as she was trying to study for her exams.
“Dad,” she begged, “Please turn down your volume. I can’t concentrate on my studies and I have my exams today. I’m sure the neighbours are also going to complain.”
He laughed and thumped more violently and his voice reverberated through the entire house. When she complained a second and third time, he was furious. He lunged at her with a kitchen knife. In the scuffle, Debbie managed to twist his hand and turn the knife point towards his chest, pushing him forcefully away. Then she locked herself in her room.
An hour later, Nathan saw his father lying in a pool of blood and screamed.
Debbie came out on hearing the noise.
“Good riddance. I’m glad he killed himself,” she said.
“He didn’t do it – You did,” Nathan yelled, “I’m calling the police.”
“Not on your life. If you don’t shut up, I’ll do the same to you.”
(c) Eva Bell
Shabby Victorian terraces make up the notorious red-light district of the deprived northern seaside town, well past its heyday. You peer through the smashed window of the derelict house which you called home twenty years ago and shudder as you remember the ghastly secret you were forced to keep. This was your house of horrors, the scene of your childhood nightmares.
They were both sadistic bullies. We foster kids were consigned to a relentless regime of cooking, cleaning and being cuffed round the head, while he and his partner – Mr and Mrs we had to call them – slobbed on the shabby sofa watching TV and feeding titbits to their dog. The dog was better fed than we were.
But it was the nights we dreaded most. Monday and Wednesday were my allocated days, the rest of the week being shared out between the other two. When a neighbour complained about the crying, they put gags on us and played music. No one contacted social services, there was no one to care.
When Mrs was found at the foot of the bed, hands rigor mortised in a gesture of self defence, hair matted with blood which ran in a grisly shadow around her body, the police found no fingerprints, no murder weapon. But they did find something. A handwritten note in which Mrs had expressed her fears that her partner was going to kill her. That was enough to condemn him. A neat conclusion, you thought.
Your police escort hustles you away from the house and into a waiting car.
‘We know the truth. All we need is to hear it from you,’ they say in the police station.
‘He didn’t do it… you did.’
‘Well, wouldn’t you?’
It was worth it.
(c) Yvonne Clarke
Luke leaned against a large rock. His face shone with sweat even though the wind tore at us and the air coming off the river was freezing. I knelt next to him and smiled.
"I hoped you would die this way."
He looked at me through his fever of pain, “Why?” He managed.
“Because I hate you. But I also didn’t want to kill you myself. I can’t go to jail.”
He began to cry. I sat back and chuckled, “Bit late for that, my love.”
I pulled out my cell phone, “Look at that, no reception.” I put it back in the pocket of my down coat which barely kept the cold out. “I’ll have to climb back up and try to get help. It’ll take ages.”
I pulled out a sandwich and an orange, “Hungry?” I asked him.
He turned his head away and cried. I ate and thought about my future. Finally, my future. Not ours.
“You’re a shitty husband, you know that?” I looked at him.
He turned hurt eyes on me, “H-how c-c-could you s-s-say that?”
“Oh fuck you, Luke. The control, the pissy mood when things don’t go your way. Walking on eggshells when you’re grumpy. I won’t miss you.”
I stretched my legs out and got as comfortable as I could.
“Pleas-s-se,” he stammered. His lips were blue, his skin was ashy.
“Please what, Luke? You could’ve said please a long time ago. Or thank you, or I’m sorry,” I let out a scream of rage.
He looked terrified. Of me? I laughed again.
“I’m not going to waste my time thinking about how much I hate you, Luke. I’m just going to sit back and watch you die.”
(c) Katrina Hayes
The unmistakable clink of high heels resonated through the body of the church. Only a handful of heads turn to see the stony-faced woman’s impending assertion: the priest, a small collection of regular churchgoers, and her husband: sat next to her, dumbfounded.
“I’m sorry to interrupt…but I just want you to know that this isn’t the funeral of a withered, lonely old man. This is the funeral of a monster. A monster who hurt people: innocent people, friends…”
Her blood-red lips quivered slightly, as if to hint that some part of her was nervous or intimidated. Yet no such emotion was shown in her indomitable voice.
“…family. And he got away with it. He won.”
A comforting hand rested itself on her shoulder, one she would have usually invited. But as it tried to pull her back, she shook it off. She needed to do this. After giving her husband a perspicuous look, she turns away. But not back to the congregation: to the coffin.
“I’ve lived in fear of you all my life. Your dark, bottomless eyes. Your vile, crooked fists – now you’re gone, and I could not be happier. I only showed up to make sure you were really dead, really gone. Forever.”
She pauses, slowly nodding her head, eyes undistracted as they stare forwards.
“I hoped you would die this way.”
Those dark, bottomless eyes stare into hers from across the nave. Trying to make her scared, make her silent. But they no longer appear as the inscrutable dominators they once were. They’re just wretched.
A sharp screech breaks the silence as the woman pivots on her heel and sits back on the pew. She takes a deep breath, and then stares back into those eyes for the last time.
(c) Patrick Rogers
While they walked back to her office after they’d met for lunch, Nikki realised that her world was crumbling around her. The love of her life was furious; the problem was their clashing minds – her values versus his and the twain would never meet.
“They are adults,” she told Peter calmly. “You and I must not interfere.”
“You don’t seem one bit surprised,” he said with astonishment.
“I’ve heard stories,” Nikki replied.
“You’re telling me you knew all along?”
“I never believed them,” she evaded.
“You knew that your mother and my dad are having an affair and you did nothing to prevent it?” he cried passionately.
“I knew there was gossip around it,” Nikki reasonably replied. “If they are, they are adults…”
“I will not watch my family break apart,” he cut her short and roared. “I won’t see my mother hurt.”
“Can’t a woman and a man be just friends Peter?” she pleaded.
“A woman and a man can never be friends,” he replied flatly. “There’s always something there.”
“That’s such a narrow notion,” she muttered and he stared at her, flabbergasted.
“Obviously, you’re okay with what’s happening,” he rasped. “So, you choose Nikki. Either you take my side, or you take your mother’s. But, as long as this nonsense carries on, you and I can’t be friends, let alone anything else.”
“Seriously?” Nikki smiled. They had reached her office by now and she was glad because her legs were rubbery. She just wanted to be alone now.
“You have to choose,” he said again, confident of himself. “Your mother’s side or mine.”
Nikki smiled again, but it never touched her eyes.
“There’s something called blood Peter,” she said with calmness she never felt. “I’m sure you know the rest.”
She left him gawking at her retreating figure.
(c) Cindy Pereira
We weren’t allowed to visit until your last day when we crept into the hospital like disguised fugitives and were shown your shrunken form that we hardly recognised. Your heavy-lidded eyes barely flickered as we held your hand and spoke useless words of comfort, willing you to go, to no longer prolong your pain, willing you to stay so that we could take you home.
For weeks we had waited, watching your texts diminish, then the calls from the exhausted nurses reading from notes and emotionless scripts, rehearsed with other patients who had already passed. Then the last one suggesting we drop everything.
We stood above you in our layers of PPE and scrubs, like clinical aliens watching you try to breathe your last, performing our eleventh-hour duty, squirming like children desperate to go out and play, to be anywhere but there facing the reality.
One of us must have carried the virus over the threshold, carried it unseen like an innocent drug mule and smeared it on a shared surface. The one who took home the shopping? The one who took their children to the play-park? Took the bins out? It no longer matters.
We wanted to take you home. We could have borne you on the sledge, like a snow queen
one last ski run, one last snowball fight. With anything else it might have been possible. One last goodnight.
We trudged through the snow in silence until he suggested we went to the park. We lay in the soft powdery snow and I imagined you with us, like when we were children, making snow angels and everywhere the ice-crusted fringes of tree tops, the glint of winter sun, the dazzling light. “If you had to go” I spoke aloud, “I hoped you would die this way”.
(c) Steve Goodlad
The sign says it´s called John Rentz Peters but Victor and Michael have always known it as Guatemala Square. As kids, back in the 60s, they used to come here to play football and talk to Mary from the eighth grade, the girl with black hair, a shadow of a moustache and fat legs.
Now, fifty years later, they are back. A lot of water under the bridge, Victor thinks. The reason for the comeback is an ancient Persian (or is it Chinese?) game called chess.
Victor is separating the black pieces from the white ones, setting them on the board like two disciplined armies. They toss a coin to decide who goes first.
Victor opens with e4. He waits for Michael's Sicilian Defense (predictable!) as he remembers Mary. She was strangled by her husband aged twenty-one.
He looks up sharply at an unexpected birdy tweet above their heads. Swallows, swooping low, their chess piece-colored torsos nearly graze the ground, then shoot up high to skim over poplar tops.
“He didn’t do it…. You did,” Victors says suddenly.
“What you mean?” Michael asks pondering if Sicilian (predictable) is the right approach.
“You know. The bullying. You destroyed her self-esteem. Fat legs, you called her. Lardy ass, dumpy lass. Hairy lips, fatty hips. No wonder she married that horrible Paul guy. She thought she was ugly. Because of you.”
Michael´s not listening. He is concentrating on the final gambit – 2.f4. King to Queen. Over.
“That´s what I call a brilliant checkmate,” he chuckles and topples Victor´s Queen.
“Yeah,” Victor replies.
“The other thing… I call it femicide by bullying.”
(c) JB Polk
Mr Brenton was interviewed by the local radio station. A girl journalist met him in his residential home. Mr Brenton was a wizened, shrivelled old man with sunken cheeks and dentures far too large for his mouth. He splashed as he talked and his loose teeth clattered like castanets every time he worked his jaw.
She was a little slip of a girl, fresh out of college. She knew nothing of the war, and cared less. However, as his story unfolded, she found herself being gradually drawn into the tale, like a helpless insect into a funnel spider’s web.
Mr Brenton was at Dunkirk. Wounded in the leg by a German bullet, he crawled and swam half-a-mile to a fishing smack to be rescued. He said to the young girl that it was the song The White Cliffs of Dover that had kept him going through his privations. He said that Vera Lynn sung it with such intensity that the hairs stood up on the back of his neck. He added that the song gave him hope, and if one had hope in life, one had life. Its message of hope was reinforced by Churchill’s typically ironical British statement that he was not a lion, but a man called upon to give a lion’s roar.
With the Battle of Britain won and Corporal Brenton fully recovered, he was posted to Burma and there, in that dreadful place, with the stench of death all around him, his squad held a jungle enclave against a Japanese advance for three days and nights. On the last day, Mr Brenton came across a Japanese soldier hiding in a hole in the ground. He shot the soldier in the head.
‘I hoped you would die this way,’ he remarked to the corpse.
(c) R.T. Hardwick
The obscene drunken screaming abruptly stopped. She held her breath. The familiar fear coursing through her body held in hiatus.
Did he fall off the mezzanine balcony?
She had just turned down the corridor that led to the guest bathroom. Hoping to reach that safe haven and lock the door before her husband caught her. The long hours she had spent cowering in that stark, cold white room haunted her and yet, at the same time she longed to be there.
Once in that room she didn’t have to reason with him, to beg or plead. She didn’t have to stare into his feverish eyes, hoping that her expression is one of love. One that will calm the beast.
The chill of the bathroom tiles soothes her bruises like a cold compress. The old and the new.
At least he’s never hit my face.
She still didn’t move.
With the yelling gone, other noises reached out to her. The low hum of the cistern, the distant television burble, the wind moaning through the eaves up above. Her own shallow breath.
Slowly, she retraced her steps round the corner onto the first-floor landing. The balcony railing faced her and, for that moment, it dominated her existence. Pulling her step by step.
She peered over the edge.
Her husband lay on his back, eyes closed and mouth ajar as if asleep. The shattered wine bottle sent merlot streaming across the grey marble flooring. An ever-widening pool of blood circled his head.
He might survive if I call for an ambulance now. Or, I could pretend I was asleep. That I didn’t know until the middle of the night … or the morning, just to be sure.
Mary took one last look.
“I hoped you would die this way.”
(c) Rachel Smith
Pamela was eavesdropping on two of her fellow work colleagues who were obviously having a very heated argument. She couldn’t quite make out exactly what they were rowing about, but it culminated in one of them throwing some papers at the other shouting, "He didn't do it... you did.”
Pamela was smiling when she felt her phone vibrating. She pulled it out, the screen flashed – ‘home’.
“Mum? What’s up? Is everything OK?”
Pamela could hear sobbing. “Mum what is it? Say something, are you in trouble?”
The strangulated voice of Pamela’s mother broke out, “Oh Pamela, please come home. Something terrible has happened?”
Pamela’s insides tightened, she clasped her phone in a vice like grip, speaking urgently, she stammered, “Mmmum are you ill? Are you in any dududanger?”
Pamela could hear shallow breaths, “No, I’m OK, but please get back here quickly.” Adding, “I’ve got to go.” The line went dead.
Pamela ran into the building and knocked repeatedly on her manager’s office door. The door flew open, “Aye, now what’s up, where’s the fire?” Pamela’s ghostlike pale face greeted the speaker. Pamela spoke rapidly, “It’s my mum, something terrible has happened, I’m not sure what but she needs me, can I go now, please?”
“Yes, of course …… take care, let me know what’s going on.”
Pamela gathered up her things and ran to the taxi rank outside the railway station. As her home came into view, she could see the blue flashing lights of an ambulance disappearing down the street. She called the taxi driver to a halt and quickly pushed some notes into his hand. “Keep it,” she said, and ran across the road.
The bent figure of her mother was perched on the garden wall. “Mum? What’s happened, who was in the ambulance?”
Her mother looked up, “Mavis”, she replied.
(c) Graham Crisp
I froze in fear. My hand gripped the stone-cold blade with white knuckles. The sound of slow footsteps moved ever closer towards me.
It was a warm night. This Summer had been the hottest yet, the sweltering heat continuing into the latest hours. I clambered onto my bed like a clumsy animal, drowsy and tired after a day of work. As my pupils drifted towards the ceiling, my eyelids slid closed and I fell asleep to the low whirring of my fan.
The sounds of my deep breathing filled my ears. Then, it came. A shuffle, quiet at first, before silence. I sat bolt upright in my bed; eyes wide. My pupils drifted towards my bedroom door. Then, it came again. Only this time, it was longer. A shuffle, quiet but piercing, resounded from outside my door.
I stood up, my bare feet meeting the creaking wood. With the footing of a panther, I crept across my room, sliding open a drawer and unsheathing a large knife. I held it in my frozen fist and turned towards the door.
The shuffles turned into hushed footsteps, moving slowly towards my door.
I froze in fear. My hand gripped the stone-cold blade with white knuckles. The sound of slow footsteps moved ever closer towards me.
The door creaked open.
From the darkness, the figure of a woman apparated, dressed in worn clothes and covered in mud. She held a shovel in her lacerated hand.
The words fell shakily out of my mouth. “Honey?”
My wife spoke back to me in a hoarse cry.
“I hoped you would die this way.”
I dropped the knife as she tore towards me, raising the shovel above her head and bringing it down to my skull.
I should never have buried her in the back garden.
(c) Isher Jagdev
“You’re telling me you knew all along?”, said Alice. Ender was a bewildered. That she was talking to what looked like a caterpillar smoking a pipe had Ender amused. This must be one of my dreams, he thought.
He leaned in to hear more. The conversation went on between Alice and the caterpillar. “Exactly.” said the caterpillar. Who puffed on a pipe blowing smoke?
That the scene made little sense to Ender was not really his fault. He got lost, like usual. Looking for a place to eat. He had read the sign “Food”. Thinking he had found something new, he had entered what looked like a normal glass door only to enter and garden flowers. That they were vulgar flowers indeed did not bug him. When they were extremely rude. He quoted an old favorite quote that had shut them up right away. Oh, you do not know it? “I was strolling through the park at midnight. La Da.. And you know I felt like stomping on the flowers. At Midnight… La Da..” And that quieted the flowers right down..
Ender had continued walking through the garden until coming upon the scene with Alice and the caterpillar.
Ender still listening to “Who are you” from the caterpillar. And Alice’s replies. Wandered into their conversation. Why? Simple. Food. If he was going to be stuck in someone else’s dream he was going to get fed.
“Excuse, me? Where is food?” asked Ender. That he had just interrupted what was probably one of the better sorties in Alice in Wonderland was not something on his mind. This brought their conversation to a halt. And Ender into closeness of a. Well. A giant mushroom and what to him looked like a five foot long caterpillar along with a little girl. A dream?
(c) Clinton Siegle
As I gazed into the mirror, someone else stared back.
I screamed, but I wasn’t heard.
I recalled a creaking door, faint light shining through it.
As I opened the door, swatting aside dense cobwebs, I moved slowly through the dark space, filled with antiques, creepy covered mirrors and hooded mannequins that seemed set to awaken any moment.
I could almost not breathe… And were those marks on the wall scratches made by a child’s nails? Suddenly I felt I was being watched.
Turning around slowly, I saw a dark figure lurking in the corner.
Something dropped, the thud amid silence made me jump…I picked it up, and instantly, I began swirling around, the world growing smaller and fainter.
I reached a dark hallway, and a ghost clutched my neck. As I looked into her evil eyes, I realized that she was Kelly, a girl I had fought with a few years ago, and I was blamed for her suicide- being the last one to speak to her.
I tried to escape from her wicked clutch, in vain. My head began to get dizzy. I knew something was wrong. I knew I was dying.
Moments later, I woke, perspiring. But something was wrong.
I felt slightly different.
I ran downstairs and everyone seemed to be ignoring me. Then, a familiar voice said, “Good Morning, nice day isn’t it?”.
It was me.
Kelly was in my body.
Now, I’m invisible.
Once breakfast was over, I ran to her and clutched her neck, just like she did mine. The only thing she told me was, “I hoped you would die this way."
She added, " But I never knew that you would become a ghost. Even still, I don’t regret my choice. You’re better off in my place. You aren’t fit for this world.”
(c) Jessica Ann George