The Return

The compartment was empty apart from Astrid, Grandfather and the echoes of the others who had sat here before. Outside, brown and grey stone merged into green fields, as blurred memories rose of her breath clouding vision and sculpting fragile hearts onto glass.

The carriage swaying, drumbeats of rail under wheel. Interrupted only by places that Grandfather spoke fondly of – Bristol – Taunton – Exeter, Astrid watched grey faces alight into a world devoured by grey rain.

Near their destination the sun banished the gloom. Astrid alighted onto the platform, the seaside town of Torquay. Holding tightly to Grandfather she navigated their way through the bustle of tourists and commuters.

The beach wasn’t far from the station, the world ending at the border of red sand and dark water. Astrid stood at the edge, time slowing as she watched white horses gallop, salt coating her skin.

Then she let Grandfather go.

Just as he had made her promise she would.

Earth grips me fiercely as I awaken. Struggling I scream into the breathing apparatus. Yet the suffocating darkness is unyielding.

I cannot move.

My last recollection is meeting the Leader, discussing my research breakthrough. Walking together across the meadow towards the hub. Explaining how I had perfected the technology, that my research would be the salvation of our resource stricken world.

He stooped inspecting the cables that drew out power, the tubes that fed nutrients down into the dirt. Enquiring after the batteries. My boastful assurances that below lay enough for a hundred years.

Now there’s just the darkness and I.

Cables slowly siphoning out my soul.

Fueling the colony.

Meat, stacked in columns within the village larder; the interior as bitter as the winter that lay beyond the door. Stepping outside, his breath a chain of clouds, William hefted another crimson-flecked sack from the wagon onto his shoulders.

The contents smelled reassuringly of jasmine and peppermint. Unwittingly William pressed his face into the sackcloth.

Snapshots erupted within William’s mind: summer meadows, golden hair, soft lips, whispered desires.

Tabitha.

Her fault.

Too slow, too trusting.

He had Frannie now, plain conniving Frannie.

Tears spilled, Will understood this was grief, the elders had warned it would come.

Yet he mustn’t forget to remain grateful.

For wasn’t he one of the free?

 

Clash of the Titans

The reality of being a superhero was beyond most people. Steve understood this, for he was an acolyte of isolation, devoted to the pursuit of vigilante perfection. Every night he spent at his secret base, the bedsit above the chip shop on Stapleton Road, pouring over volumes of comic book deeds.

Then he heard about Kick Ass. Steve was not what you would call a people person so he kept his distance from the neon hell that was the multiplex in town. He was tempted to download a pirated copy, but the hero within him chastised such thoughts. No, Steve waited patiently till the postman delivered his limited edition DVD box set with added postcards.

That night he sat on his beanbag and watched the film.

He hated it.

Some young upstart who lucks his way, via a near fatal accident, into being an inept hero fixated on girls? A total cluster farce Steve concluded as he munched into his second kebab of the evening. What use was such a hero when the world was being torn asunder by war, corporate greed, climate change and selfies?

It was time he made a difference.

Steve worked feverishly into the early hours, fuelled by a diet of lemonade and marshmallows. In the morning the god who stared out from the mirror was not Steve, though Steve knew he was in there somewhere. Before him was no mortal, nor a child in scuba gear.

This was Super Steve.

He wandered outside, his cloak of curtains billowing, his duvet harem pants surprisingly chafing. Yet he strode down the middle of the road flips flops flip flopping, his Staff of Power™ forged from a swingball pole and glitter feeling mighty within his grip.

From above a voice serenaded Super Steve’s emergence into the world.

‘OI WANKER!’

Super Steve looked up, a builder hanging from scaffolding, finger gesturing furiously.

Steve waved back, heart swelling with pride, oblivious to the No37 bus currently hurtling towards him.

Some witnesses stated that the tennis ball on the string tripped Steve up, others that his cloak got caught on something.

All agreed that the oddly dressed man lost.

Rather messily.

Clowning 1.01

The clowns bustled excitedly out of the ward, Pennywise’s stern painted face, intently focused on his examiner’s clipboard, halting their momentum.

‘What d’ya think boss?’ Mo broke the silence fingers anxiously twisting his horn.

‘Think? Well, what’s the first rule we discussed in Visiting Normals 1.01?’

‘Electric handshake, then custard pie?’

‘Optimise farting?’

Alfonso mimed taking something.

‘No stealing, a fine guess,’ Pennywise felt his blood pressure rising ‘but gentlemen, the golden rule of visiting sick children is…?

They all looked bashfully at the floor, the silence broken only by a mournful squeak from Mo’s horn.

‘Really … four weeks of lessons … nothing?’

‘Oh, oh,’ Mo shrieked hand in the air, ‘to not ask if the kid fancies seeing your puppy and going for a drive.’

‘Precisely! And that’s why you’re all getting Ds. Now off to the clown car and please gents, seven in the back and five in the front this time.’

 

Seventh Sense

Billy was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth, wanting for nothing. Tragically his silver cloud lifestyle was besmirched by a lead lining. Billy himself was unaware that the world he existed in was so different. It was his mother, stiff of words and manner, who noticed that Billy would often talk to the air. As if engrossed in conversation with no one at all. Finally she worked it out:

Billy saw dead people!

She freaked, as is natural for a parent challenged by such paranormal fears. So began an endless parade of specialists, counselors, hypnotists and electro-shockers, none of which found a cure.

Finally they met Dr. Pennywise who suggested the fault lay in the hippocampus region of the mind.

‘We’ll whip it out and hey presto normality restored!’ the Doctor confidently promised.

When Billy awoke from surgery, his parent’s concerned faces hovered into view.

They looked different, as if their faces were painted …

Billy screamed.

 

 

Our corroded dalliance

Forged by deceitful assurances

Manacling my essence to your will

“This was the first one I read and  I went on to read it over and over. “Manacling my essence to your will.” My goodness, that line is currently residing in my marrow.  Sad, raw, emotional, and profound.  A most deserving winner.” Judge’s Thoughts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Children bustled past Albert, scarlet balloons bobbing excitedly in their wake. Albert however was focused once more on his battered pocket watch. He had only an hour or he could bid farewell to the city of angels.

Albert was having one of those days, weeks in fact, existences if truth were told. Yet this morning things had taken an upturn when the phone of Albert’s Menagerie of Marvelous Creatures rang for the first time in months. Albert listened earnestly to the impatient voice reeling off a list of requirements for the film Aladdin and his Lamp. Typically Albert managed to drop his pen, abandoning the phone as he scrabbled under his desk. By the time he returned the line was dead. Yet Albert cared little, he had a list he could fulfill! Today was the day he got his break in a city filled with broken people.

That afternoon Albert ushered his asthmatic camel, the limping stallion and the incontinent donkey onto the set. Thankful that (a) no one had noticed the limp and (b) that, Albert aside, the rest of the gathered crew were bite and spittle free. Albert coerced his herd onto a nearby sand dune and under the light of a thousand candles waited. Finally the director Mr Capellani, short and clouded in a permanent cigar fug, wandered onto the set. He eyed Albert’s stock with a stern gaze causing the donkey to empty its bowels noisily onto the dune.

‘Where is my centrepiece?’ Capellani screeched in a voice laden with pepperoni.

‘Centrepiece?’ Albert replied.

Mr Capellani, then Mr Capellani’s assistant, his assistant’s assistant and then several producers all explained, with bursting veins and flailing hands that they were lacking the one thing they needed. And if Albert wanted to work in this town again he’d get it.

Today.

Albert scaled the zoo fence, wavering at the top before vaulting into the enclosure, lasso in one hand, a raw steak in the other. All he needed was to be confident, animals respected confidence.

Christ the lion was bigger close up.

The screams of the children drowned out Albert’s as red balloons floated into a clear blue sky.