14. The Gift

Five mince pies are probably too many for one stomach to handle. Actually, scratch that; five mince pies are probably perfectly fine, unless four of them are smothered in brandy butter and the whole lot have been preceded by a large portion of fish and chips. In that case, the fifth one is enough to push the stomach from stuffed mode into painfully stuffed mode.

If I move now, I think my stomach will either split and spill fishy, fruity gloop all over the rest of my organs, or it will push fishy, fruity gloop back up my oesophagus and out of my mouth, all over Mam’s precious magnolia carpet. I better just lie here and let it all settle down.

And of course the doorbell goes. Continue reading “14. The Gift”

13. The Last Christmas

“I can’t believe this woman,” Jules said with a laugh. “She is absolutely batshit. She’s lost it. If she’s not sacked by the new year then I’ll lose all hope in this world.”

“I lost hope in it years ago,” Wayne muttered, curling his lip at the shot of the Prime Minister on the television. “It’s not a fair place, is it? People like her running things, and here we are.”

“None of that tonight; we agreed. Happy talk.” She hit the power button on the remote and sighed. “Let’s get the girls up, shall we?”

“No, they’ve probably only just settled with all the excitement, and if they get up now they’ll be tired and grumpy before we’ve even had lunch tomorrow.”

“Just for an hour so they can open a few presents. Please? I’m just… scared. That I’ll miss it.” Jules swallowed down the hard lump in a throat and forced her lips into a smile. Continue reading “13. The Last Christmas”

12. Power Cut

“…there will be no Christmas cheer in the UK from this moment on.”

The television went black and so did the house.

“Oh. I thought they were just switching off the Christmas lights, not the whole country’s electricity.”

Kate snickered. “This country is going to the dogs.” Continue reading “12. Power Cut”

11. Patient Zero

“I’m not serving you,” Holly said resolutely.

“I forgot my I.D! Come on, it’s Christmas eve.”

“And I’m all out of Christmas cheer. You wouldn’t believe how many other kids I get coming in here and begging me to let them buy their White Lightening ‘cos it’s Christmas eve. Christmas eve doesn’t change the law. Christmas eve doesn’t stop me losing my job when my boss watches back the CCTV and sees me serving kids who clearly don’t look 18. Go put the cider back, get yourself a Panda Pop, and then I’ll serve you.” Continue reading “11. Patient Zero”

10. The Party

Alex sucked at the blood on his finger and winced, not so much at the pain, but at his own stupidity. It started with an invite amongst his closest friends, and now his mother’s best crystal glassware had been smashed by drunken louts he didn’t even know.

He was in for it when his parents returned from their holiday. He could try and tell them that the broken glass was just a little accident, but he knew the sick stained curtains and tiny dick graffiti on the floral wallpaper would raise a few suspicions. Continue reading “10. The Party”

9. Oh, Christmas Tree

Dani slammed the front door behind her, took one step forwards, then careened back into the door with a thump. She cackled, then dropped to her bum on the floor. She rived off her boots, wriggled out of her coat, then crawled on hands and knees to the kitchen.

She dragged herself back to her feet with the support of the dining table and chairs, then wobbled to the fridge, gripping onto the kitchen counter the whole way. She yanked open the fridge door and frowned at the paltry nourishment it had on offer. There was a half-empty tin of beans which had been festering for at least a fortnight, endless jars of and bottles of chutneys and jams and sauces, and very little else. Continue reading “9. Oh, Christmas Tree”

8. A Festive Tipple

The Coach and Horses was always quiet on Christmas eve. Save for a few three-decade-old Christmas decorations hung from the ceiling and the occasional play of White Christmas on the dukebox, festive cheer was scarce. And that’s exactly how the regulars liked it. Continue reading “8. A Festive Tipple”

7. A Cancellation

The Prime Minister listened to her advisors with an air of interest, but she knew their words wouldn’t change her mind. She was angry, and nobody could ever change her mind about decisions she made when she was angry.

“Please, Prime Minister, we implore you to reconsider.”

The Prime Minister rose from her seat and smoothed down her skirt. “Are the press ready?”

“I believe so.”

“Then I suppose there’s no time to reconsider, is there?”

“But the people need celebrations like Christmas. It gives them hope.” Continue reading “7. A Cancellation”

6. Special Delivery

“Go make us a cuppa, will you?”

Fiona pretended she didn’t hear her boyfriend, but inside she seethed. It was funny when he asked the first couple of times, but the further she passed her due date and the bigger she grew, the more that harmless little joke grated on her. Continue reading “6. Special Delivery”

5. Goldibear and the Three Lockes

Bears are capable of sniffing out food up to twenty miles away from them, and Goldibear was no exception. He’d noticed the distinctive whiff of squirty cream dance towards him on the icy winter breeze and, with nowhere else to go, decided to follow it. It had led him down a dark alleyway, over a garden gate, and up to the kitchen door of the Locke family’s house. Continue reading “5. Goldibear and the Three Lockes”

4. A Message

Red credits, accompanied by ominous 80s synths, floated on the television screen and lit up the faces of Carl and Dave. They basked in the glow for a short while, processing the last scenes of the season finale of their favourite Netflix original.

“I can’t wait another year,” Carl said morosely, shaking his head.

Dave shrugged and shook his head. “We could just watch the first two seasons over and over again until next year.”

“Yeah, ‘cos that won’t get old.”

The multicoloured fairy lights, which had been strung haphazardly around the artificial Christmas tree, began to blink. Carl and Dave turned in unison toward them. Continue reading “4. A Message”

3. Incarcerated

The cretins have locked me in again. I can only assume it is down to the cold, white fluff which is falling from the sky. It may be chilly, but it’s awfully pretty to look at and rather fun to frolic in. I suppose it will have to suffice that I watch it through the window, since I have been unjustifiably incarcerated. Continue reading “3. Incarcerated”

2. The Sugar Crush

Maisy took a stealthy look over her shoulder before ripping the gumdrop doorknob from the gingerbread house and popping it into her mouth.

“I think we did a good job with that house, Maisy! Your gran will be well impressed tomorrow.”

Maisy chewed as fast as she possibly could, taking care to keep her gaze towards the ground to avoid being caught out, but her pesky tongue got in the way of her teeth and she bit down on it painfully. Continue reading “2. The Sugar Crush”

1. It’s Over

Siobhan lounged on the sofa, wrapped in a chunky knitted throw which she had bought for herself as an early Christmas present. Love Actually played on the television and although she was gazing at the screen, her eyes were glazed over. She’d seen it a million times anyway; she could quote the script in swathing chunks, and knew exactly what was going on even if her brain wasn’t committed to absorbing the images which played on the screen. Continue reading “1. It’s Over”

The Interview: Part 2

Three loud knocks jolted the interviewer out of her daze. She let out a small groan, frustrated that yet another candidate had arrived early.

She assumed they all believed that being early would win them points, but in reality it only irritated her. When she said 10.30, she meant 10.30 – not 10.20 or 10.25 or even 10.27. Every single minute of peace was vital when you had to spend your day interviewing inept, inexperienced graduates who knew all the bullshit words in the book to come off as smarter than they actually were. Continue reading “The Interview: Part 2”

The Interview: Part 1

The candidate ran his hand through his hair, straightened his tie, and then knocked three times on the door. It was a strong knock, he thought. Firm, yet friendly. At least, that’s how he hoped the interviewer would see it.

He was a few minutes early to demonstrate his time-keeping abilities. After all, he had little else going for him other than the fact that he could avoid tardiness. Continue reading “The Interview: Part 1”

The Twelfth Espresso

Oh God, not another meeting, I can’t handle another meeting, I’m gonna crash, I’m gonna fall asleep on my feet, they’re gonna think I’m a lazy bastard but they won’t know that this is my eighth meeting of the day and that I’ve drunk so much coffee I’m peeing brown and my head is spinning. Continue reading “The Twelfth Espresso”

The Walls Always Talk

“Psst. Did you see Frank earlier? With Sue?”

“Urgh, I know. Poor girl. Don’t know why they put up with it.”

“Don’t seem to have a lot of choice,” the kitchen wall replied with a sigh.

“They could file a report and have him sacked,” the kitchen door insisted.

“Not that easy,” the fridge piped up. “He’s sleeping with Freda from HR. She’d conveniently misplace any reports that were filed on him.”

“One lass tried a few years ago,” the wall agreed. “She heard nothing for months, then she was sacked. She’d muddled up some files, or something – nothing that would usually call for a firing, but the perfect excuse to get rid of her.”

“I didn’t know about that,” the door said with a gasp.

“It was before your time. In fact, that’s why they installed you – the lass who was sacked gave the previous door a swift kick on her way out, put a hole right through him.”

“I never liked her anyway,” the microwave butted in. “She heated up tuna pasta bake in me three times a week. Who in their right mind microwaves fish in a shared kitchen?”

“Only the most terrible people,” the door concurred.

“That doesn’t mean she deserved to be sacked when she told someone she was felt up by the office perv.”

The room fell silent, thinking of all the times they’d witnessed Frank overstep the mark when it came to charming the ladies. In fact, he’d overstepped the mark so far that he was totally out of charming territory and right into the groping region.

“Why doesn’t anyone go straight to the boss?” the door asked. “Surely he’d sort it.”

“Frank is the company’s best salesman. The boss would turn a blind eye to anything if it protected his turnover. And everyone who works here knows it.”

“They should all go on strike, then. Just walk out.”

“And there’d be, what, a couple of months of inconvenience while they replaced everybody? The boss sees everyone as disposable, except Frank, so he’d just hire a new bunch of pretty young women and we’d be back where we started, only with plenty of fresh meat for Frank to get his hands on. Nothing would change, Door. I promise you.”

The door seethed quietly, understanding now that the problem ran deeper than just a single, handsy salesman. “Next time he comes in here I’m gonna cut his fingers off.”

The four of them fell silent when Sue scuttled into the kitchen and flicked the kettle on. She grabbed a tea bag from the caddy beside the kettle, grabbed a clean teaspoon from the dish drainer, then opened a cupboard in search of a mug. They were on the top shelf and she stretched up on tiptoes in an attempt to grab one. Her jumper rode up her torso as she did so, revealing a thin strip of bare midriff.

“You certainly know how to get hearts racing, eh Sue?” Frank was stood in the doorway. He propped himself up against the frame, blocking Sue’s escape route, his fingers tapping on the door’s metal hinge.

Susie ignored him and focused her gaze on the steam which rose from the kettle’s spout.

It was only a matter of seconds before Frank would make his move. The door took his chance and slammed.

Screams echoed out around the office.

There was a fortnight of respite while Frank’s fingers recovered, then everything went back to normal.

This short story was inspired by prompt no. 316 from ThinkWritten.com: “Come to Life: Imagine ordinary objects have come to life. Write about what they do and say.”


Amber gave one last, wary look behind her before she slipped into the staff toilet. She never failed to be amazed by how much cleaner they were than those the students had to use. She couldn’t tell if the teachers were lucky enough to have their bathrooms cleaned daily, or if her fellow pupils were just scummy bastards. It was probably the latter. Continue reading “Waterworks”

The Graveyard Shift

There’s only half an hour left of the graveyard shift, and I’m flagging. It’s not exhaustion caused by excessive work, but rather exhaustion from lack of work. The graveyard shift does little to stimulate the mind, and when the mind shuts down the body goes with it.

Not a single guest has checked in during my five hours behind the desk. A couple stumbled through the door earlier – one at 1:13am and another at 1:32 – but they were simply returning to their rooms after a night on the town. Both swayed from side to side as they walked and had rosy cheeks and dumb grins. Boozing businessmen – that’s who I usually face during graveyard shifts. But that’s fine by me; they tend to greet me with a goofy smile and head straight for the lift, eager to get to the safety of their bedroom where they can close their eyes and stop the world from spinning. Continue reading “The Graveyard Shift”

The Debate

“Felines and canines, rodents and birds, please welcome your 2017 international presidential candidates, Rex and Pusskin.”

Howls and screeches and squawks went up from the crowd as the candidates made their appearance on stage. Pusskin sashayed towards her podium, eyes narrow, tail swishing gently from left to right to showcase her cool, calm composure. Rex was her polar opposite; he bounded across the stage and back again, tail wagging furiously, tongue lolling from his mouth as he let the crowd absorb his enthusiasm.
Continue reading “The Debate”

The Vampire

“You’re the only one who will not judge me when I tell you this story.”

“Oo, now I’m intrigued. Does it have anything to do with the date you went on last night?”

“Yep.” Faye bit her lip and wondered whether sharing the tale would do her any favours. But she’d already mentioned it now; if she didn’t spill all, Dan would only pester her and pester her until she cracked. Continue reading “The Vampire”

The Intern: Part 4

“Floor 3 today?”

RAPL’s receptionist looked up into Claire’s face with the same look that she would give had she stepped in something brown and noxious. Claire was different today. Her meek, mouse-like appearance had given way to self-confidence. Her chin was raised, and there was not a hint of a stutter in her voice. And that didn’t do at all. Continue reading “The Intern: Part 4”