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Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

Romance – Part two


2010
03.29

Entry by Uhurina Swann (19/07/06)

My head swam and my stomach lurched as I made it to my feet. Sun blared through the sheers lighting the whole room and making my head feel like a split melon drying in it. I walked past the full-length mirror on the way to the loo my hair looked like someone had rolled it in fat greasy bangers. What did I do last night? I held my head to keep it from falling off my shoulders, as I watched puss walking down the hall shaking her back leg as she mewed at me. “Sorry puss” I muttered as I continued to the loo. I splashed cold water on my face making the mascara run even more.  “Lady I wish you would just bugger off.”  It was then I noticed the torn end of a photo stuck to the Lady’s paw. It had Karl’s head sticking out between her claws. I sat down hard on the chamber pot and pulled Lady into my lap. I pulled the photo off as flashes of last nights picture tearing tantrum came into my mind. I dropped Lady. Hangover forgotten I ran straight for the litter box. There they were: years of photos, torn, wet with cat piss, and half buried. Tears rolled down my cheeks. How could I have done this? They were all I had left. Lady mewed and rubbed against me, wanting breakfast, as I looked unseeing into the mess.

I started to remove the photos. One of us in Paris was not torn or pissed on; it was just dusty. The rest were unsalvageable. I wiped the dust from his face on my black skirt and placed it on my dresser. Opening draws I pulled the first thing I saw out, a thick aron sweater and gray wool slacks. I headed straight for the shower. I was feeling the hang over again. Hot water cleared my head and washed the birthday residue down the drain. I dressed and pulled my hair in to a wet knot on top of my head. I was still feeling foggy.

I ripped open the bag of cat food left it on the floor. I grabbed my bag, ran out the door stopping at the chemist on my way. I swallowed the pills with spit. They were sticking my throat and I wished I had bought a water too. The coach was late, now I could not possibly get there before nine. I sat on the coach and people stared at me. “What the bloody hell you looking at?”  The old woman was in just as good a mood as I. She said, “Well, deary your sweater is open and…” I never heard the rest of what she said. I start buttoning it up I forgot to put on a blouse and realizing this I noted my knickers as well. Everyone could see me blushing as I could feel the crimson run up to my face. Why didn’t anyone say anything? Not the chemist – no wonder his eyes were popping – nor the people at the coach stop who acted as if they had never seen boobs before in their lives. How is it that no one hit on me then, or the bobby did not arrest me for a common whore? I pulled a mirror out of my bag. I regretted not taking the time to put on my makeup as well. My eyes were red rimed and I looked shagged. I powered my face pinched my cheeks for color and added lipstick, eye paint, and mascara. I could feel them still looking at me. What else could be out of place?

I got off the coach and walked the last three blocks to the office. The lift took forever. I wanted to get into the toilet before I saw anyone I knew. I checked my face; not great but better. My sweater was buttoned straight, pants zipped. I check the back for a split. It was then I looked down my shoes were different not navy and black different. Really different. “I must be daft.” I said to myself. My right one was teal the shade of my sweater but the left was hot pink with an open toe. If I did not have so much work to do I would just leave. I did not cry; I had just fixed my face.  They were the same height I could not tell when walking. No wonder the bobbies left me alone. No self-respecting prostitute was about at this hour nor did they wear mismatched shoes. Thank God I have shoes in my desk.

Good the receptionist is on the phone. I made it to my cubical without seeing anyone else, kicked off my shoes and before I could get the others out of my drawer Julie came around the edge and said, “Late this morning are we?” I hate her.  She looks like she slept all night, hair perfect, and her shoes matched. I scowled at her and she was undaunted. “Better hurry the boss is looking for you.”

I put the shoes on and walked to his office, could the meeting have been moved up. I hope not. Through the window, I could see him talking to another man whose back was to me. He looked familiar. Oh bloody hell! It can’t be. I turned around as if someone else were speaking with me from another cubical, to give me time to think and pick my mouth up off the floor. Smile, I reminded myself as I turned around. More bees with honey. I knocked on the door, smile in place.

Romance – Part one


2010
03.29

Not only was it my birthday but it was my twenty-ninth, something I took great exception to considering it was neither my thirtieth, thus making it a big celebration faked through by women the world over, or anything closer to twenty. Twenty-nine is a birthday only its mother could love. The birthday looked forward to by no one except maybe one of your friends who’s at least six months younger than you, and therefore supposedly qualified to buy you a happy-birthday-you-sad-old-bag card, the first of many to come.
It was the birthday night out that tore me between wearing a cool Topshop outfit and an elegant Monsoon dress (they’re so timeless); between a pashmina and a bloody well warm coat, (I don’t care if it doesn’t match anything – it’s minus four out there); and slathering on anti-wrinkle cream under my No7 makeup. I’m a grumpy insecure teenager in a woman’s body (which I may add is also doing things I didn’t give it permission for), and it’s just. Not. Fair.
I’m younger than Gwyneth Paltrow for god’s sake. Sarah Jessica Parker, Grace in Will and Grace, that glamorous Scottish newsreader, Madonna and Jennifers Aniston and Lopez. Ok, I only scrape by on the last two but it’s still true. What on earth have I got to complain about? Plenty of women don’t do what they really want to do until they’re thirty and I bet they’re the ones who grow into their faces.
My mum always says that everyone has their ‘time’, whether it’s when they’re young or old. Some people are beautiful as children and grow up into wasp-chewers, similarly, those less blessed when they’re young will always have a period of years later on when they shine. I have decided mine will be my thirties.
As soon as the cream kicks in.
I went out with Julie, someone from work who only started a few weeks ago, who I like, obviously, and have an alarming amount in common with and all the usual stuff. But mainly the reason she came was that she was still in the early stages of trying to be friendly at work and everyone else was too married to go out on a Monday night.
It was ok, but extremely unwild. Monday’s a funny night to go out to my usual pubs and early-thirtyitis kicked in to prevent me trying something new when Julie suggested it. We got plastered, had a laugh and then, obviously got a bit maudlin, but on the whole it was ok if not momentous.
All right, since it’s only us here, it was awful and I never again want to have another birthday. At least not one without a large, well-planned party and possibly a celebrity or two who are dying to meet me. But only if.
The worst thing, the absolute dog-arse thing about my twenty-ninth birthday night out with Jules was that I ran into Karl, not in a cool basement bar as I’d planned in my head, but in the chip shop after coming out of Kucamara’s, while Jules dragged me to the front of the queue, boobs first. She knew instinctively that he’d walked in by the subtle way I grabbed her arm and said, (on reflection, pretty much shouted);
“Bloody hell. Bloody, bloody hell!”
My reaction was not unprecedented, nor was it unreciprocated.
“Shit,” said Karl, and walked out.
Thirty years on this planet, I thought later, walking home in the drizzle. Thirty years of experience and considerable knowledge and that’s what it comes down to in moments of extreme drunken stress. A man and woman who at some point shared the same sock draw, when ambushed, can only come up with a few syllables of expletives. Sad really, I thought.
“Bugger,” I said aloud proving my point majestically.
So, I got home and decided to go all the way. Find out exactly how sad I could be now I was the big three-o. Sad enough, apparently to line the cat litter with pictures of Karl, (go puss, go), smear half a pot of marmite on four slices of toast and fall asleep watching The Thing or The Wicker Man or some other late night weirdy on the telly. That’ll show him.
Yup.
I woke up, freezing because I had left the front door open, and had the most horrifying thought known to civilised woman. One banging hangover doth not a Saturday make.
In fact, I remembered with agony, I was smelling of vodka and covered in crumbs and marmite because it had been my birthday, and far from being a Saturday, that would make it…
“Tuesday,” I groaned weakly. “It’s only Tuesday.”

Horror – Part two


2010
03.29

Submission by Phil Goody – 27 July 06

She sat bolt upright in bed, the image of the man falling from the platform playing over and over in her mind.  The sight of his head dropping below the level of the crowd as he fell beneath the moving train burned as brightly in her mind as it had when it had happened in front of her the day before.  For a moment she doubted, surely this must be a figment of her overactive imagination.  There had a lot of stress recently, work was as unforgiving as ever and the deep sense of futility that came from too long in a dead end job had begun to wear her down.  She knew all of this, but the real horror, she slowly came to realise as her sleep addled brain began to make sense of this midnight disturbance, was that this was all disturbingly real.  The most terrifying tales were always the ones that started with ‘based on a true story’ and much as she didn’t want to admit it this had really happened.  But not to her, so why the beads of sweat running cold across her taut shoulders, slowly finding their way down inside of her arms and past her elbows that had long since locked with the strain of propping her body in its rigid position perpendicular to the bed.

For the first time her eyes focused on the twilight that had enveloped the bedroom.  The blinds had been left half open, again, but she had no one to blame but herself.  Maybe it was the light that had woken her, but the over riding sense of unease that gripped her made her quickly realise that this was unlikely.  The blinds scattered the light across the room.  But unlike the regular patterns shadows normally cast, the darkness seemed to collect in pools at the further reaches of the room.  A shaft of light that seemed to run directly from the window hazily illuminated the alabaster figure on her dressing table, bought for her by her mother for her last birthday. It looked blankly back across the darkened room.  But the face normally so calm and peaceful had developed a menacing expression as the night cast heavy uneven shadows across its smooth complexion.

This was too much, statues making faces, her mind was running away with itself and with work in the morning she didn’t have time to be putting up with this sort of shit in the middle of the night.  She glanced over at the alarm clock, the red digits 3.42 blazed back at her with a fiery glow.  Fuck, only 3 hours until she had to be up, getting out of bed in the morning was going to be a bloody nightmare.

She tried to move her legs but they were trapped, wrapped tightly in the duvet cover from what must have been hours of semi conscious tossing and turning.  She kicked her feet to try and free them, but they were wound tight in the soft folds of the blanket.  In frustration she pulled the duvet violently across her body, releasing her legs but sending the glass by the bed careering onto the floor.  A hollow thud followed as the glass hit the laminate surface sending water cascading all over the wall and up the side of the bookshelf.  Great, now I’ve got a fucking cleaning job to deal with as well and the day hasn’t even started yet, she silently growled to herself.

With the mopping up job unsatisfactorily completed and the blinds properly closed she lay back and waited for the burning sense of frustration to subside.  The dampness on the soles of her feet had transferred itself onto the underside of the duvet cover and was now setting about irritating her still further.  Which ever way she turned she could feel the soggy fabric rubbing against her legs.  She wriggled around in the bed attempting to find a dry spot that didn’t force her body into an uncomfortable contortion. This partially achieved, she gazed upwards slowly focusing on the single ethereal shaft of moonlight that had crept between the blinds.  The pale blankness of the light taunted her imagination, daring her to create something, anything, to fill the void before sleep came to rescue her from the agony of insomnia.  But she stubbornly refused to let her mind wander, focusing solely on the light and the leaden tiredness in her legs, collected from thousands of steps up and down the stairs that lead back, always back to the tube.

And there she was again, stood on the platform waiting, but for what.  For a train?  Or for it all to start all over again? But this time it was different the station had taken on a pale glow that extenuated the creamy coloured tiles that lined the tunnel and gave the entire platform an otherworldly quality.  The passengers in front of her seemed to blur so she couldn’t make one out from the other, all dark outlines with rough edges. She slowly looked around trying to get her bearings and there he was, leaping out of the crowd without moving a muscle. Waiting.

His red hair so sharply in focus her natural instinct was to look away to stop her eyes from being burnt.  But she couldn’t avert her gaze.  She felt a sudden urge to dash towards him to stop the whole horrific cycle from starting again but her feet were rooted to the spot.  She desperately tried to move her legs but no amount of encouragement from her brain could make them move even the slightest fraction.  She looked around as panic began set in, desperately seeking some sort of reassurance.  Her eyes darted across the huge posters that littered the walls of the tunnel until they settled on the old tiled letters that spelt out the station name, Mornington Crescent.  She had been getting on at Highgate for years and she knew every inch of that wretched platform and this definitely wasn’t it.

In an instant the panic subsided and a warm sense of relief washed down her spine. She must have drifted off to asleep, Mornington Crescent had been closed for years, everyone knew that, and any moment the harsh jolt of insomnia would propel her back into her dark but reassuring real bedroom.  She waited, tracing the outline of the ceramic letters with her eyes.  Any minute now she thought and I’ll be lying in bed cursing the fact that I cant get back to sleep.

Horror – Part one


2010
03.29

Late again, Alice followed the fluorescent-lit, tiled yellow tunnel, trotting on work shoes and wishing for trainers, round and down into the depths of the underground. As always, she walked past posters for shows she would never go to and holidays she would never take, advertisements shouting out to other people with other lives, people who could take breaks. She, like all other commuters, existed in her own bubble; alone and in stress, from Monday to Friday, forever and ever, mind the gap.

Not that Alice would flatter herself that life inside the bubble was any more interesting than outside it, far from it. It was just that she didn’t have the time to notice anyone else, that’s all; her diary was so full at the moment, that any self-improving attempt to see things from someone else’s point of view, or walk even a metre in someone else’s shoes would involve buying new filofax pages, and that would take at least twenty minutes. She had taken three work calls before she got here and she cursed that her phone wouldn’t work underground. Her commute took another forty-five precious minutes, after which she would pick up her car from work – her lousy flat didn’t have parking – and get to her first meeting.

The market was turning, everybody said it, and with it her luck. It was about time, she thought, as she stepped onto the escalator that, as always, went too slow. She’d got into the estate agency game at just the wrong time, and spent most of the last two years twiddling her thumbs and dealing with angry vendors who blamed her, not the market, for their bad luck. Her confidence plummeted as did her pay packet. Today she had six appointments to measure up new properties, and at least as many viewings to sell old listings. Things were definitely looking up.

The guy in front of her on the escalator, maybe twenty-five at a guess, had a similar view by the looks of it. He was bobbing his ample ginger hair to whatever music his headphones were blaring out. Alice strained to decipher it but all music through headphones sounds the same, and she decided that if it was in a genre somewhere between hardcore techno and Diana Ross, she was making a pretty good guess. She followed him onto the platform and watched him bounce gently for a second or two, before she expertly opened and folded a broadsheet in three moves, to read it standing up on the train.

After the couple of minutes promised by the red display, the warm, stale wind in the tunnel grew stronger signalling the train’s arrival. She looked up, took one step then stopped dead.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

Crouching right on the edge of the platform was the red-haired man, looking in the direction of the train with his arms outstretched as if he was going to dive. She looked around and no one else seemed to have noticed him, but that couldn’t be true, they were just pretending not to like she probably should. Nevertheless, she began to walk quickly towards him, pushing her way through the commuters who were psyching themselves up for the daily fight for seats.

The whine of the train; metal on metal and compressed air, squealing like the slaughtered, seemed suddenly more frightening than anything Alice had ever heard. She’d cursed Jumpers a hundred times for holding up her train, but she didn’t want to actually witness one.

As she neared the red-haired man he turned and held her gaze, shaking his head.

“What are you doing?” was all that Alice could think to shout.

“The same thing you would do,” he replied over the din, as the train’s lights were already visible and the screech of brakes was unbearably loud. Then he said something to her that she didn’t catch. God, this is real, she thought, won’t somebody stop him? She scanned the platform, wildly, but she was the closest now and everyone else was totally ignoring them. She asked him; “What? What did you say?”

Looking down he took a breath and bellowed at the tracks, his voice cracking as he yelled; “He. Won’t. Leave. Without. Meee!”

“Who?” yelled Alice, her hand on the man’s jacket now, ready to pull him to safety. His words scared the hell out of her, she had to stop him, he was going to jump for Christ’s sake.

“Who won’t go?” She reached him but the moment she touched him she felt a blow to her forehead, knocking her backwards on the ground where she painfully banged her head again on the concrete.

When she looked back at the man again it was just in time to see him dive forwards just as the train hit him side on, breaking him instantly into two bloody parts that seemed to hang in the air for a moment before being lost to the tracks. The commuters gasped and moved back in disgust, as their introspective bubbles were popped, and the right here and now terrifyingly forced its way in. The driver, screaming, did whatever he could to stop the train, but he’d been breaking anyway, and it seemed to take forever. By the time it actually stopped, the front of the train was way into the tunnel again, leaving the panic back in the station.

In relative silence now, he sat back and allowed himself a deep breath. “Bloody well, bastard Jumpers,” he managed shakily as he let it out. Before he could call anyone, somewhere close to the cab he heard a soft tss, tss, tss of a personal stereo, before the door handle gently popped open.

Thriller – Part two


2010
03.29

Smoking in the stagnant bar area of the airport was a man who was tired of waiting. Three empty tumblers stood unchecked on the table, and the ashtray had been over-flowing when he had arrived. Nobody cared about the smokers; let ‘em rot, goddamn it…
“Let us stew,” he said aloud, and an old woman on the next table looked up and smiled. She was English, like this Lafrond guy, and just as stupid. Who takes her three year old grandkid into a bar for Christ sake? The little girl played with the cigarette pack and sang as she bounced it in time on the table.
The man watched her for a while until she reminded him of someone, then shifted uncomfortably and stared back into the middle distance. Conveniently for him, that was exactly where Lafrond was, walking with an over-confidence mixed with uncertainty that only the English can manage, straight towards the bar. He was easily recognisable by his photograph, which was a surprise – ordinary looking people so rarely are. This one was totally forgettable, or so the man had thought. But he knew him instantly, so much so that he stood up and walked towards him before he knew what he was doing.
“Mr Lafrond?” he said, not sure why he’d decided to approach him. He’d never done this before.
The Englishman looked surprised, then afraid, then covered both emotions with a practised smile. The man who had waited all day for this moment touched his gun in its holster, squeezed it, then pulled his hand from inside his jacket pocket and extended it.
“Milo Broucek. I’m your guide for today. There’s been a change of plan.”

Thriller – Part one


2010
03.29

It was snowing in Prague as the plane landed, the runway barely visible to Alex as he gazed out of his allotted square of vision. He thanked whatever god was responsible for the pilot knowing what he was doing, and uncurled his fingers from the ends of the armrests. These damned flights, he thought, bitterly. They were the worst thing about this job by a mile.
He and the other passengers obediently followed the usual instructions and even though he knew them backwards, they somehow always made him feel less safe. The thought that his being kept alive appeared to depend on his own small actions, like having a mobile phone switched on or forgetting a seatbelt, was not a comforting one. He would have been happier to leave all of the safety procedures to the capable manufacturers of planes and their staff, and not have any input into it whatsoever. Alex also very much suspected that in any event that resulted in the plane plummeting to earth, a seatbelt may just be a moot point. Or alternatively, it might be the thing that kills you.
The seat, now upright, was so close to the one in front he could have kissed it, but he always travelled economy class. The advantages of being largely ignored by the plane staff outweighed certain comfort sacrifices. The main reason – he didn’t want to be remembered, and unless you physically attacked the stewards in economy, you were invisible. Not exactly essential for the job but Alex just found it downright useful.
He waited until the majority of stag weekenders and young couples – the only two groups of people frequenting the city nowadays – had stepped off the plane and into the tunnel, then slid his briefcase out from the overhead compartment and followed them.
He was supposed to be meeting Katka this time, one he’d met before and was unlikely to forget. As he waited for his phone to welcome him to whatever network they used here, he weighed his options in case she was late, as they often were. Baggage first, of course, the dreaded carousel. Then perhaps some food.
Alex walked smartly to the offending conveyor belt and waited where the first cases would appear once the thing actually started moving. His watch told him it was three thirty, Czech time. If anything the plane had been ahead of schedule, he told himself lightly; she would be there as these people always were. Always would be, probably.
Freedom certainly did have its price.


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