Part of Something | Short Story

Three strangers cling together, grubby, weak, and utterly terrified of the knives and guns and nail-ridden planks of wood that surround them.

“You’ll hand over everything you’ve got in exchange for safe passage through the valley.” Cain picks at his fingernails with the tip of his hunting knife. “Two of our own will escort you. They’ll leave you to continue your journey on the other side.”

One of the strangers shakes his head. “You can’t take everything. We need it to survive.”

Cain shrugs. “You’ll find more. We’ll provide you with food during the trek through the valley. After that you’re on your own. Or you could keep your food and go it alone. You’ll be up against the elements. And the wild packs of dogs. And the mobs who have made this area their home. Including us.”

The strangers huddle closer.

“There’s a reason they call it Blood Valley these days.” Cain grins as he holds his knife in front of his face, examining the vicious sharpness of the blade.

“Let us stay here then,” says the stranger. “Like we first asked. We’ll work. We’ll forage for supplies. We can learn to hunt. We’re all fit and healthy, or we will be after a good meal. There’s strength in numbers, isn’t there?”

“Oh definitely. You’re right there, mate. But we already have numbers and we’re not too fussed about adding any more. Everything is going really well for us right now. Outsiders might change that.”

“We’ll die out there,” says the stranger. “All those mobs; they’re fucking crazy! They want to kill us just for the sake of it. It’s like sport. There was ten of us when the power first went out. Ten. And now it’s just us. We’ve watched our friends die. Please. Winter’s setting in and we need shelter.”

Cain shrugs. “I hope you’ll it on the other side of the valley.”

“For God’s sake, Cain, let them stay.”

All eyes turn to Ray at the back of the crowd. She pushes her way through the onlookers to approach Cain and the desperate new arrivals.

“They’re only three. We’ve got more than enough food to feed them for a couple of days, and then they can start pulling their weight.”

Cain looks at her with contempt. “No.”

“Why the fuck not? What is the point in us even having this place if we don’t let people in? That was always the plan — to give refuge to anybody who came this way. When did it change?”

“When you let in two people who royally screwed us,” Cain snaps. “Remember that? They cut the throats of four of our own after we brought them in and fed them and told them we’d keep them safe.”

“Not everyone is like that.”

“Bullshit. Every new person who steps foot into our compound is a risk. They have no loyalty to us. We can’t trust them. We don’t know who’s an animal and who isn’t.”

“We’re the animals when we treat people like this. Take all their rations and leave them out there with nothing? It’s practically a death sentence itself.”

“We give them safe passage through the valley.”

“And what use is that? We know full well that the other side of the valley is as dangerous as everywhere else.”

For a brief moment Cain seems to consider it as he furrows his brows. But he shakes his head.

“You’ve changed,” Ray whispers. “I don’t think I like what you’ve turned into.”

Cain glares at her — the woman who founded their camp right along with him when they were a mere group of twelve. The same camp that is now home to more than fifty people. It’s a true community, just as they always hoped it would be.

“They’re not staying,” Cain barks. “And if you care so much for them you can fuck off with them.”

Ray looks at the strangers who are rabbits caught in headlights. She turns to Cain. “You know, if we rounded up all the people we sent away from here over the past couple of years, our community would be twice the size it is now. I want to be part of something bigger. If that means I have to start all over again, and start small, so be it. They’ll keep their stuff. They won’t need escorting through the valley. I’m going with them.”

***

Ray and the strangers come to halt at the top of the valley and take in their surroundings. There are rolling green hills for miles around, spattered with clumps of woodland, rocky outcrops and silvery threads of streams. They know they won’t see it again for days once they head into the valley to pick their way through the forest. They might never see it again if they succumb to the dangers that lurk amongst the trees.

Although she plasters confidence onto her face, Ray is scared. If she had just a couple more comrades — men and women who knew the turf and knew how to wield a weapon — she would have faith that they could make it.

She takes one last look at the compound, expecting to see the gates locked and barred. And they are. But a string of people is winding its way away from the gates and straight towards them. There must be twenty or more of them, all wrapped up in layers of clothes and with stuffed rucksacks on their backs.

“They’re coming for us,” says one of the strangers. “Why? We left without any trouble.”

“They’re not coming for us,” Ray replies with a smile. “Trust me. They’re joining us. They want to be part of something bigger.”


Stories that Sing

Stories inspired by a random songs from my Spotify library. This time it was “Avalanches” by Drenge.

(OhmygodiloveDrengesomuch. THEY’RE SO GOOD LIVE. If you’re ever feeling pissed off with the world, listen to their self-titled debut album (playlist below) and throw yourself about in a single-person mosh pit. I promise you’ll feel better.)

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Tiny Explosion. Big Leak | Microfiction

This week’s silly, stupid stories from Instagram and Twitter.

 

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The Last Cig in the Packet | Short Story

I wrote this story nine months ago and put off publishing it in case it was too morbid or doleful. It’s certainly a lot different to the silly, whimsy fiction I tend to post. I was also scared of sharing too much of myself. This story is fictional, but it is inspired by own experiences with depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation. It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK right now. I figured that sharing fiction like this might help in one way or another.

Ask for help. Lean on your loved ones. Don’t be too proud to admit when things are getting too difficult.


‘What are things like at home?’

I think of the thick layer of dust that sits on every surface in my living room, the unopened mail which carpets my hallway and the stacks of dirty mugs in my kitchen sink.

I shrug. ‘Fine.’

‘Do you live alone?’

I nod.

Dr Taylor looks away from his computer screen. ‘And how do you find that?’

I shrug again. I’ve lost count of how many shrugs I’ve given him over the course of the past five minutes. ‘Fine.’

‘What about when you need support? Who can you turn to?’

Another shrug. ‘My mum, I guess.’

‘Does she live nearby?’

I nod.

‘You see her often?’

I nod.

‘Does she know about the self-harm?’

My hand automatically moves to my forearm so that my fingers can poke at the fresh wound which lives there. It’s just beginning to crust over. The stab of soreness calms me. I’m looking forward to the inevitable sting that will occur later when I peel away the fabric from sticky, angry flesh.

‘Yes,’ I say.

‘So if you were in crisis you could go to your Mum’s house?’

‘I s’pose.’

‘And do you?’

Course not. When I’m in crisis I wallow in it.

‘Sometimes,’ I say.

‘Good. So your mum is an important part of your support network. I’ll make a note of that.’ He turns back to his computer screen and taps away at his keyboard.

I look at the beige walls of the bland office and wonder how Dr Taylor himself isn’t stir fucking crazy.

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Genre-Busted Fiction | Microfiction

The corpse, stretched out on its back on the kitchen floor, twitched.

“Seeing things,” said the detective, rubbing at weary eyes. She turned away to examine the pattern of blood spatters on the tiled walls.

When she turned back the corpse was sitting upright.

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War | Flash Fiction

“Sir? We’ve just received intel that suggests the enemy will be conducting a major strike at any moment.”

“What kind of strike?”

“Like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Sort of a… complete elimination, I suppose. The destruction of everything we’ve ever known.”

“Will you stop blabbering and get to the point. What are they planning?”

“They’re going to remove the carpets, sir.” Continue reading “War | Flash Fiction”

Remorse | Microfiction

The bandage had been wrapped around Catherine’s hand for three weeks.

“Come on, love,” said Mum. “Take it off, eh? You don’t need it anymore.”

“Yes I do.”

“It must be all healed up by now.”

“Maybe. But there’ll be a scar.”

“Is that what you’re worried about? Because everybody has scars, love. Nobody will bat an eye.”

She will.”

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SPLAT. | Microfiction

This week’s silly social stories.

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Sucker! | Short Story

Her chest heaves as she looks at the photograph of days long gone. Her and her big brother, eight and ten years old, throwing sand at each other on Brighton beach. A snapshot of childhood, back when summers seemed to stretch out for years rather than months, giving them hours upon hours of play and playfights to indulge in.

“Alright, love?”

She jumps at the sound of her husband’s voice and the photo frame slips from her hands and lands with a crack on the edge of the hearth.

“Fuck!”

“It’s alright, I’m sure it’s fine.”

She retrieves the frame, leaving chunks of smashed glass behind on the floor. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” The tears fall fast.

“Hey, it’s okay. We can replace the frame easy enough, can’t we?” He takes the frame from her, swiftly removes the backing and hands her the photograph. “There’s something written on the back of that.”

The world seems to slow down around her. It’s like a spider has wandered across the page, its legs covered in ink. Her brother’s unmistakable scruffy handwriting.

Alright, knobhead! I KNEW you’d drop this frame. You’re so predictable. And stupidly clumsy.

Don’t feel too bad, the glass was already cracked. And it was 99p from Asda — you know me, I love a bargain.

Now, it’s time for a good old-fashioned TREASURE HUNT!

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Lucky | Microfiction

“What do you want for your birthday, Mum?”

“Oh, nothing! Don’t waste your money on me, pet.”

“I’m a millionaire, Mum. Let me spoil you!”

“I have everything I could ever need.”

“But what about something you want?” Continue reading “Lucky | Microfiction”

Cheesy Git | Flash Fiction

Every single soul who sampled it said that Fool’s Gold Cheddar was the best cheese they’d ever had. And Keith had created it all by himself, at home one rainy Sunday afternoon. He couldn’t be more proud of himself.

Now, it’s set to be stocked in delicatessens, farm shops and supermarkets right across the county. He takes in the audience that stands before him and beams. They’re looking at him like he’s a genius. He’s the hallowed cheese magician, creator of the smoothest, creamiest, tangiest cheddar that has ever passed their lips.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he begins. “Thank you so much for coming to our launch party this evening. This is a huge deal for me. I went from a bored and boring old banker, stuck in a 9-to-5 job that I despised. And now I’m my own boss doing something I absolutely love. I couldn’t be more grateful for all the support you’ve given me over the past year.

“Now, lots of people ask me, ‘What’s the secret to Fool’s Gold Cheddar? How do you make it so tangy? What is it that gives it that unique, sharp flavour?’ Well, I’m going to reveal my secret to you tonight, ladies and gents.”

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