Monday, 30 October 2017

All Hallow's Eve by Nick Stead

Mournful they toll, the church bells sounding their song of sorrow as the day dies and the sun’s light fails. And so it begins.

Halloween they call it now. Halloween, just another seasonal holiday, over commercialised and made trivial in today’s society. The old ways have been lost to science, ancient truths replaced with the comfort of modern lies, sacred rites turned into childish fun and booze fuelled parties. But this is still All Hallows’ Eve, Samhain, the time of the dead. And there are still those who believe.

As the veil between worlds thins and dusk falls, the bells toll for lost souls and Christians pray. Pagans light their bonfires and prepare their feasts, an extra place at the table set for the departed. But surely these are no more than silly superstitions, out of place in present times? Surely there’s no real danger to be had in walking the streets this night, or at least none more than on any other night?

So you tell yourself as you make your way home, a late finish at work getting in the way of any festivities you might otherwise have enjoyed with friends. Yet a sense of unease sets in as you pass the gates to hallowed ground, slabs of stone keeping their own watch over the rotting bodies resting beneath the earth. And that sombre bell still rings from above whilst the living carry out their rituals. A shiver runs through your body, your eyes drawn to the rows of headstones, half expecting to see bony fingers breaching the surface of their graves like in the movies. But the land around the church remains still and utterly devoid of any shambling bodies, reanimated corpses or otherwise. The living are all within the old building and the cadavers remain frozen in death’s embrace. So why do you feel the hairs standing up on the back of your neck?

You tear your eyes away from the graveyard surrounding the church and nervously glance around, but the streets are quiet at this time of night and there’s no one in sight. No footsteps can be heard from behind as you quicken your pace, and yet the feeling that someone is watching, someone is following, persists. That unpleasant pang of cold terror explodes in your belly as dread takes hold, coiling round your heart and forcing it to pump ever faster. Adrenalin courses through your veins, your body pumped for fight or flight. You try to convince yourself it’s all in your mind, that there is nothing to fear, but the church gate creaks open and the rational part of your brain dissolves into primal instinct. In that state, there is only one response to an unseen threat. You run.

Home is only a street away, your gaze fixed straight ahead with the determination to reach the sanctuary offered behind closed doors. But you have the sense of this unseen thing gaining on you and despair seeps in.

The streetlights overhead flicker and fade, trees coming to life with more than just the wind, branches grasping for your vulnerable limbs as if the land itself has turned against you. With shaking hands you grasp your keys as you reach your front door and fumble with the lock, screaming with frustration as much as fear when they fall from your clumsy fingers. Snatching up the one thing that might just save your life, you can feel a presence closing in. The key turns and the door snaps open, and with a gush of relief you plunge inside, slamming it shut behind you and locking it once again.

Outside, all remains quiet, no figures lurking in the darkness. The streetlights are back on and you can see nothing untoward. It takes a while for your nerves to quiet, but gradually you begin to relax and settle in your favourite chair, enjoying a bit of late night TV before bed. The power of whatever you thought you sensed outside diminishes, its hold over you slackening. You realise now that it was nothing more than your mind playing tricks, and even feel a little foolish for being so blindly taken in by the old beliefs surrounding a night that is really just the same as any other.

Your eyes begin to droop, sleep beckoning. Until the sound of knocking jolts you back to the waking world, heart pounding once more. Who could be at the door at this hour? The lights fail a second time, the images on the TV screen vanishing before your very eyes. Two power cuts in one evening is enough to send you back into a state of unease, and the last thing you want to do is answer that door, for fear something otherworldly awaits on your doorstep. And yet there’s an urgency to that knocking you just can’t turn away from.

You try peering through the glass but there’s only the shape of someone there, too distorted to determine who it might be. So you open the door.

Someone waits on the other side, a face you never thought to see again, at least in this life. A temporary kind of paralysis takes hold at the sight of them standing there, your eyes taking in the grotesque transformation of the grave. Cold, greying fingers reach out in anger to claim your life, and there’s nothing more you can do but scream.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Distressed clothing has me distressed by Yvonne Witter

Yes, I am going to raise my head above the parapet on this one. I have had it, I am done, well not quite done, or I would not be raising the matter, here would I?  Ripped jeans? Distressed clothing? Clothes looking like it has been passed down through four generations without so much as a good wash. That is what is now fashionable. I recall when we had the grunge look in the 1990s. That required effort to actually trawl through second hand shops, to find tat to blend with contemporary fashion in order to feign being stylish. Wasn’t my taste either, but you could respect the effort and creativity. Distressed clothing, in my opinion, is just an affront to those poor people in other parts of the world who would rather die, than be seen in torn clothing, as it denotes poverty for them and who wants to look poor, especially when you really are?

I wouldn’t mind, but people pay good money to look ‘distressed’, and I hear that according to the way the clothing is ripped LOL, one can tell if it is expensive designer or not, well how ludicrous is that? I am now chuckling as I write. I am good at entertaining myself. I think most children raised alone are.

The other lazy non- clothing attire is leggings. That’s an excuse for not getting dressed if ever there was one. I have just upset some of my closest friends, but I hope that they can find it in their hearts to forgive me. A fully made up face completed by a pair of black leggings [nearly always black, as if we will not notice] is not getting dressed for outdoors. I know that I am in an ever-decreasing minority on this one, as everyone of all ages and sizes enjoys the apparent comfort of leggings. Men in leggings has been the greatest disaster of all. It simply does not work, not on any level. I think there is another name for the male version of this attire, but I am not going to dignify it with taking it that seriously. Those readers who have seen it will know what I mean.

Now in order to maintain my friendships, you are all invited to the pub in your ripped jeans and leggings, and we can all huddle around a table with your legs out of view. Yes, I know, I will be paying for the first two rounds. đŸ˜‰

Monday, 16 October 2017

Six short shorts by Emma Harding

These six super-short stories were inspired by the Novel in 25 Words competition run by Bath Spa University.  Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite, or maybe reply with a short short of your own! 

Another shot
The striplight flickers, goading his nascent migraine. Hailing the bartender again, he rereads the note. Someone joins him at the bar, but it’s not her.

You’ve got to admit it though, that what he did must surely, whatever your conscience tells you, mean that two wrongs do make a right. 

Should she say anything? Would she be believed? Who would even listen to her? People knew, of course they did. But no one spoke up.

‘Well, I ask you!’ Delphinia said, with not a little conviction. ‘What did she think would happen after she’d come in something so completely outrĂ©?’

Risky business
The boats are back. All but one. They wait, pray, search. Silently, they give thanks that their own are safe. The boats return to sea.

Moving on
Season’s on the turn. You can feel it. A little colder, the light fading. A final flourish but the end’s in sight. Time to go. 

Monday, 9 October 2017

Together by Andrew Shephard

The last train has been and gone.
A destination board illuminates two bicycles
alone at last in the station rack,
locked in an embrace.

His, angular, splattered with mud,
leather saddle built for endurance.
Hers, rounded, set up for comfort,
dressed in a fashionable lilac livery.

His front tyre touches hers,
like horses nuzzling in a field.
A hard helmet rests in her wicker basket.
Did he ring her bell? Was she impressed by whistles?

Days pass. Images are analysed.
Two men clad in blue plastic,
armed with bolt cutters and compassion,
carefully set the lovers free.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Where There's Smoke...

I breathed in at the wrong moment, got a lung-full of her cigarette smoke and coughed like a bastard for the next five minutes.
She glanced over at me, her concern successfully camouflaged behind an expression of irritation.
Don't know what she's worried about; if I popped my clogs, she'd easily fill my place with someone else. In fact they would be queuing up outside her door – most of them knew she was quite able and more than willing in the bedroom.
But she smoked like a chimney, so when we smooched it was like kissing an ashtray. That was the main reason over the years I'd slowly persuaded her to do more doggy-style.
 Whoops, there I go again, thinking about sex.
Now I have to concentrate real hard to suppress the stirrings, as the pair of white-coated staff members approach to help me wheel Josephine back through the double doors and into the Fairfield Retirement Home.