This Wretched Boy (641 words)

This story was written as a response to this photo


Bang! Bang! Bang!

The floor shook with each impact. The table, and chairs heaped upon the trap door moved. But it was enough to prevent him getting in. For now, at least.

Geppetto held on to the axe, more for comfort than protection.

A sudden thought: although the trapdoor was made of metal, the furniture was wood! The virus could infect it through the gaps in the trapdoor. Geppetto looked desperately around the small cellar. An old cheese (past its best), a wheel from a bicycle, a hammer and a collection of old newspapers. There was nothing he could use to protect himself.

He would be torn apart, the virus would escape the house, the carnage would spread. Collodi, his beloved village, would be destroyed! And after that? Who would be able to stop it?

He could see the furniture was beginning to move. Was it independently of the force of the hammering from below?

Geppetto gripped his axe, ready to attack.

To think that the thing he had created with love was reduced to this. The virus, spread by the rare woodworm, Anobium Zombium, had eaten away at his creation’s very being, turning a loving (if not often mischievous) boy into a murderous brain-eating creature.

The woodworm virus had definitely invaded the furniture: the table began to walk towards Geppetto. He raised his axe and quickly hacked at the legs. It fell to the floor. The chairs moved more quickly, Geppetto swung his axe, splintering the first chair, but the second one launched itself at him, hitting him full in the face with one of its legs. Geppetto fell backwards. His axe fell and skittered across the floor. Something in his pocket dug into his leg as he hit the ground.The chair was upon him trying to jam one of its legs into Geppetto’s mouth. He reached out, his hand made contact with the hammer and he swung it at the chair. The chair fell off him. It was not damaged, but Geppetto had time to reach the axe. He turned as the chair came at him, splitting it in two with a single blow. The splintered wood writhed like two halves of a slaughtered worm.

He reached down and rubbed his leg. He felt in his pocket for the thing that had hurt him as he landed. His precious tinderbox. Perhaps there was hope!

The trapdoor had swung open now. Geppetto worked quickly gathering the still twitching wood, and the newspaper.

An arm came through the trapdoor, and then the other. And then it – no, Geppetto corrected himself – HE appeared.

Pinocchio – or at least what was left of him – hauled himself into the cellar. His eyes, once beautiful and blue, were now black pits. Any soul, the poor boy once had, had been long destroyed by the woodworm. His once beautiful face was ravaged by rot, decay and mould.

Pinocchio opened his mouth and a sound came out, if it was words, Geppetto could not understand it. His arms outstretched, an inhuman grin on his face, he took a shuffling step towards Geppetto.

Geppetto muttered a prayer and struck the flint. The newspaper caught quickly and with it the twitching wood from the chairs and table. Geppetto ignored the tortured sounds that seem to come from the wood and dashed to the other side of the cellar. The metal hatch made a crash as it covered the only exit.

Pinocchio lurched away from the fire, now building in intensity, his arms still raised up as if searching for something in the dark. There was an inhuman scream, Geppetto knew not if it was anger, fear or hunger but it broke his heart.

Tears in his eyes, Geppetto opened his arms and took a step towards Pinocchio.

He would have one final hug from his boy.



It is Time (266 words)

According to The Clock on the sacred tree in the heart of the Sombre Forest it was ten minutes past Blue Tit.

Time to move. Time to fight.

Matt re-checked his supply of arrows, and the tension in his bow, trying not to look at Allenia. She was busy organising the ForestFolk, moving quickly but reassuringly amongst the small group of newly made warriors. Her easy way and positivity motivated the others, until a few weeks ago more suited to foraging for fruit and nuts, rather than battle. She gave them confidence and strength.

She gave them hope.

The Forest had endured weeks of attacks. The OtherKind had demonstrated no mercy in their slaughter of the ForestFolk, and the destruction of the trees. They had been forced back into the heart of the forest, and this little band, pathetic as it was, was all that was left of a once large, happy and peaceful species.

Allenia her axe held in her hand, her long knife hanging at her side. She carried no arrows: her fighting style was better suited to up close work.
It was Matt’s task to clear the way for her to get close enough to the King of the OtherKind. He would not fail her.

Not this time.

He felt her hand on his shoulder and felt his heart swell with love. With pride.
He looked up at Allenia, her mossy hair was pulled back allowing him to look deep into her eyes.

The fear had left him now.

“It’s time,” she said. “Are you ready, Father?”

Matt found that he was.


This story was inspired by this photo:

One beach of a trip (621 words)

“So, you seriously expect me to believe that this overgrown cheese grater will actually work?”

“It’s not a cheese grater: it’s a teleportation system. And please don’t touch that!”

“It looks like a cheese grater.”

“Well it’s not, Freddie. I’ve spent two years building it, I’ve tested it: it works! Don’t press that! Can’t you read the signs?”

“No offense, Sam but you seriously expect me to believe you have built a teleportation device funded through Kickstarter?”

“I have. Not only that I’ve tested it. I transported myself to the park, at the end of the road. No ill effects. Once you get over the temporary excruciating agony, of course. You can go wherever you want, almost instantaneously. Get in, select a destination, press the button and before you know it you are there. Please put that down, Freddie, you are going to break it!”

“I still say it looks like a cheese grater.”

“Stop calling it that. You’re undervaluing my work.”

“OK, so let’s say I believe you: you have created a teleportation device, that happens to bear more than a passing resemblance to an implement from a giant’s kitchen. How do I know you won’t teleport me right into the walls of a building, or a rock, or the middle of space?”

“I make use of the latest GPS technology: it’s completely safe.”

“Hell, Sam! My TomTom can’t even get me to the supermarket without taking me up a one way street!”

“I’ve been given access to the Government GPS system. It’s foolproof”
“Oh, well that’s set my mind at ease! The Government are renowned for never making mistakes! If the Government says it’s foolproof…”

“Sarcasm, doesn’t suit you, Freddie. Come on, get in and I’ll show you how it works.”

“Ok, Sam. Send me to Bondi Beach, Australia.”

“Why so far? What’s wrong with the park at the end of the road?”

“I can walk to the park at the end of the road, Sam! I walk through it everyday, for godsake! I want to go somewhere I can’t get to without spending a fortune and 24 hours in a ‘plane. You know I hate flying!”

“OK, Freddie: get in and press the button.”

“Don’t I need to strip off?”

“No, Freddie: you can keep your clothes on. You can even take your mobile phone. Objects can be transported if they are in contact with the transported person. Get in, and press the button.”

“This one, here? OK. Here it goes, Sam. I hope you know what you’re doing…oh my… that huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurts!!!…….”

….(phone rings)

“Eh, hello?”

“Freddie, is that you?”

“Yes, Sam. It’s me.”

“It worked, didn’t it Freddie! You’re there, you’re standing on Bondi Beach!”

“Yes, Sam. It worked. It hurt like hell: it did actually feel like my body was being pushed through a cheese grater. But it was over quickly and now I’m standing on one of the most famous beaches in the world. However I’d forgotten that July is winter in Australia and it’s the middle of the frigging night here. It’s cold, it’s dark and I want to come home. Give me a few minutes to recover and you can bring me back.”

“I can’t bring you back, Freddie.”

“What do you mean you can’t bring me back?”

“ I only have one teleportation device and it’s right here, not in Australia. You’ll have to fly back.”

“I haven’t got any money. I haven’t got my passport, Sam!”

“Not my problem, Freddy. You could have walked back from the park at the end of the road.”

The End of the Road Cafe… part two

(This can be read without reading part one, but if you want you can find part one here)


Ian stood open mouthed watching the car disappear behind a dusty cloud. He half-expected the car to stop, to turn round. To return. For Gemma to open the door of the car and tell him to get in, of course she wasn’t going to leave him. Not like this. Not now. Not here, anyway.
But no, of course she wasn’t coming back. He wasn’t stupid. Their relationship wasn’t a ‘forever’ thing, they both knew that. Even if he had wanted it to be. At first, at least.
He closed his mouth, looking behind him to see if anyone was watching. He had a sudden feeling that Gary, was standing there, laughing at him like he did when they were kids: “Ha ha! You look like a right gormless dick! What’s the matter, bro? Gonna cry? You big girl”.
Ian wiped at his eyes. No, he wasn’t going to fall apart. Not this time.
There was no one there. Unless someone was watching from the cafe. He peered at the building. No one at the window, not that he could see. Not that he could see much, as the window was covered in hand-painted celtic designs. On the roof, there was the strange arty sculpture thing, made out of things that should have been thrown away, looking vaguely like a woman. Ian couldn’t help but feel she was mocking him, too.
He stepped back and nearly slipped over.
Dog shit.
Brilliant, like he needed any more crap today.
He picked up a stick and, leaning against the wall, scrapped the sole of his shoe.
The café appeared to be open, at least. He could get a coffee, maybe something to eat, gather his thoughts, phone a cab.
Perhaps, it wouldn’t be as hippy-dippy-artsy-fartsy as he feared.
Perhaps things might start to go right, for once. Life might surprise him in a nice way for a change.
Or maybe not.

Brains in his pants

Sitting half-naked behind the wheel of a 67mustang, handcuffed to a totally naked beautiful blond hadn’t been on Sheriff Raiden’s bucket list.
But, of course, when the opportunity presented, he hadn’t said no.
Probably not the wisest thing he had ever done, in retrospect. But – to be fair – how could he have known her husband would show up?
He struggled again against the dead weight of the woman.
The very dead weight of the very dead woman.
He was trapped: handcuffed to a dead woman and the steering wheel of a classic car.
His gun (used to shoot his lover, and flung back into the car), his badge and his mobile phone were in the passenger footwell, tantalisingly out of reach.
As the lake-water filled the car he reflected that it wasn’t the first time his brain had been overruled by his dick.
But it did very much look like it would be the last.


Captain Alfred “Freddie” Parkway stood in the docking bay staring at the huge hunk of meteor-beaten metal in front of him.

A transporter. Origin unknown. He read the seriel number on the side, for the umpteenth time: AL1 HAL10W5 EVE

The maintenance androids had completed their inspection, it had been scanned, checked for viruses, explosive devices (there were still boobytrapped vessels floating about left over from the Spectre War, over 2 centuries ago), and life. All negative. Not surprising. Aside from Tabitha, the ship’s cat (she would be currently curled up asleep on the bridge), it had been years since he had come into contact with another living being.

It was time to open it up. Freddie watched the two droids as they forced the large doors open.

As he stepped inside, a metallic smell filled his nostrils. The floor under his boots was sticky. Thé droids filled the space with light, and Freddie saw that all the surfaces were painted red. No not painted. Splattered. Even before the droids identified it, Freddie knew it was blood.

In the centre of the room stood a barrel. Freddie had never seen a real one, not made of wood, like this. It looked exactly like the ones he had seen on bottles of brandy. Although it had been years since he had tasted real brandy. Probably, the last time he had been in the company of another human.

It was also the only thing in the room NOT to be covered in blood.

Knowing he should be making a swift exit, leaving the droids to investigate, Freddie found himself walking over the tacky floor towards the barrel.

The barrel was large, chest-hieght and lid-less. He peered inside.

Curled up inside the barrel was a human figure, pale and shrivelled as if all the blood had been removed from it. Clutched in the corpse’s arms was the body of a dead cat. A piece of paper lay beside the cat.

Freddie reached into the barrel and took hold of the paper. He stared at the three words.


From the other side of the room he heard a noise. A clunk.

Something brushed against his leg and he jumped, nudging the barrel. The body shifted and Freddie found himself staring at his own face, dry, wrinkled. Dead.

Something touched his leg again. Looking down he saw Tabitha.

He turned towards the door.




Just before the lights went out, he saw them crawling towards him

The 4th Apocalypse

Hugh shuffled to the door, crunching broken plates, and tea cups still further into the carpet beneath his boots. He sighed as he stared out into the wasteland.

Just a few short weeks ago he would have been admiring his neatly manicured lawn, hedges, and flower beds. Or looking past them, with a scowl on his face, watching Jack at number 22 polish the penis-extention he called his car.

Now, there was mud, burnt out cars and garbage everywhere.

Not to mention the half-eaten human corpses.

The neighbourhood had definitely gone downhill.

The end of the world as he knew it had started, not with the much predicted zombie apocalypse, but with vampires. The rushed and untested vaccine had caused the werewolf plague, and the inoculation against THAT had caused the zombie apocalypse.

The first two apocalypses hadn’t bothered him, much.

The vampires were polite, had knocked at the door, and asked if they could come in. Hugh’s approach to Jehovah’s Witnesses had paid dividends: a quick “fuck off!” and a slam of the door in their face, and that was that.

The werewolves seemed mostly to be high school students interested only in taking revenge on their classmates, or having sex with them. So they left Hugh well alone.

Anyway, in the end, the lack of fresh blood had caused the vampires to die out, and the werewolves were only really a problem once a month.

The zombies were more persistent. They were thugs, vandals, and they hung around like a bad smell.

And boy, did they smell.

“You’ll be OK,” Jack had said. “They are only interested in people with brains”. Two days later Hugh had found putting a bullet slap-bang in the middle of Zombie Jack’s forehead somewhat satisfying.

In the end it was the fourth apocalypse that Hugh had found the most irritating.

The Ghost Apocalypse.

All the moaning, wailing was annoying but it was the throwing things across the room that really got his goat. Hugh had lost count of the number of plates, mugs and ornaments that had been broken.

Jack had been an irritating bastard when he was alive.

Dead, he was simply hell to live with.

The path

Jonty stared at the forest floor. As he watched mushrooms appeared from beneath the green foilage. Making a popping sound as they appeared they swelled, within seconds, into what looked like large grey flagstones. Moments later a path of fungi snaked in front of him, disappearing into the forest.
“Where does it lead?” he asked Klay.
The little man shrugged, his green hair, bobbing on his shoulders, like so many apples in a barrel of water. He looked tired, worn out. This bit of magic had taken its toll.
“Who can say?” he said, his high voice barely a whisper. “The magic trails have no signposts. They are not of this world, they exist here for a short time.”
From behind them; Jonty could hear the baying of the Horde. He fancied he could hear the clashing of blades and the gnashing of teeth too, but he knew that was in his head.
A mental scar to go with all the physical ones.
“But wherever it goes,” Klay continued. “You will have a chance. A chance to survive. A chance to change things. If you stay here…”
Jonty took a deep breath. He felt the familiar feeling of fear. Fear of the unknown path that stretched before him. Fear of the Horde that tracked them.
“Fear is a powerful weapon” his mother had told him once. “You can let it be used againt you, or you can use it to make yourself stronger”.
He hadn’t understood what she had meant at the time.
His mind made up, Jonty took a deep breath and took a step onto the first mushroom. He took another one and then another one. He could feel the pull of the magic, reality seemed to bend and twist around him.
“Wish me luck!” he called out into the maelstrom.

The best laid plans…

Father led the way, his long stride carrying him easily over the rocks.
“It’s this way, everyone” he called out behind him, his tone as confident as his steps.
I glanced at Mother. She had THAT look on her face, her lips pressed so tightly together they bearly existed.
There was trouble brewing.
Tears before bedtime, as Granny used to say.
The younger ones skipped and slipped over the rocks, in front of us, following in Father’s wake. At the moment they were happy, but with the little ones happiness was only a short slip away from a full on tantrum at this time of the day.
The sun was setting, darkness was beginning to gather around us like a pack of wild dogs. We would be lucky to make it before we were swallowed up by it.
Father called over his shoulder again, but his words were dragged away trom us, dashed upon the rocks, lost in the sea below.
Father was taking us on one of his shortcuts.
I had come to realise that when Father used the phrases “I’ve got a plan!” or “this shortcut will save us time!” things would usually end up more interesting, but not necessarily in a good way.
The “plan” was to cut across the bay on foot (“we don’t want to get back in the car again after such a long journey, do we kids?”, “Noooooo!”), eat at the restaurant and get a taxi back (“This way way will save time and we get to see the sea”, “yaaaaaaaaay!”). Mother had argued, of course, but had lost the battle. Even the request to “at least phone ahead and book a table” was laughed off.
I didn’t pick one side or another, even though I knew Mother was right. I couldn’t bear to see the look of betrayal on Father’s face.
I just gave the best shrug my adolescent shoulders could muster: whatever.
At least, this time, Father had brought a torch. As the last red rays left us we had a white beam of light to guide us up the beach.
The restaurant car park was suspiciously empty, the windows depressingly dark.
Father walked up to the door and studied the sign for longer than it could possibly take to read the word “Closed”
Mother put her hands on her hips, her lips twitching as the words “I told you so” struggled to stay behind them.
Father turned towards us, a smile on his face.
“I’ve got a plan!” he said.

The gift from the sea

“I used to come here, everyday, when I was.a kid, this beach was my playroom. I spent hours clambering over the rocks searching the rock pools for crabs. One day (I was ten, or eleven, I think) I saw something sparkle in the water. Just over there… You see the gull ? Well just to the right of him there’s a a big rock. It was right there. I clambered over the pepples slippery with seaweed, I fell over twice in my haste to get there, grazed my left knee although Ididn’t notice until much later. At first I couldn’t see what had caught my eye. I almost gave up. And then the sun came out from behind a cloud, and I saw it, twinkling in the rockpool. It was jammed in between two stones, andit took me 10 mimutes to dig it free. It was a ring. I ran back up to the house, desperate to show my mother. When she saw what I held in my hand, she simply burst into tears. I didn’t know what I had done. When she eventually spoke, she told me she had lost her engagement ring, here on this beach, a couple of months after I was born. She told me her and Dad searched for it for hours, but it had gone. A gift for the sea, she said. That the sea had chosen to return it – to give it to me – was a very special sign, she said. She said I should keep it. She said I should give it to the person that means the most to me. That’s why I have brought you here. This ring was meant for you. Will you marry me?”