Paid & Displayed

Sam stepped off the pavement and moved across the road. Drawing close to the opposite side he glanced up at the blue sky, the bright morning making him squint. His eyes passed over a road sign, a common enough sight in any town. A blue square with a white ‘P’ and below it the not unfriendly query ‘Have you paid and displayed?’

It was hardly an unusual query, placed as it was 30 feet or so from a parking meter on a road that had numerous spaces for street parking, but for some reason the sight of it stopped Sam in his tracks.

“Paid and displayed…” he murmured to himself, and the image of a woman burst into his mind. Pale skin, eyes bluer than the sky above and a cascade of raven hair tumbling over one shoulder. And with the image of her face, the memories came as well, filling his mind as he stepped up onto the pavement and carried on walking down the street.


She’d smiled at him first from across the room. Or so he’d thought, at least. After a furious twenty minute process of building up the courage to take the initiative, to go and, for once in his life, be brave and actually talk to a woman – to make any move, let alone the first one – he’d walked awkwardly over to her and asked if he might buy her a drink. She had looked slightly surprised, and just as she was opening her mouth to reply, her friend returned from the bar with their drinks.

It was, of course, her friend she’d been smiling at, not Sam. Her friend, who’d been standing at the bar behind Sam. So there he stood, before the beautiful woman who hadn’t smiled at him after all, quietly wishing the floor would open and take him to oblivion. He’d mumbled an apology and turned to go, when she reached out to touch his arm. He turned back to her, a second apology on his lips, when she told him he looked cute when he blushed. And that was all it took.


After six months they took the plunge, moved in together. It was rocky, as you might expect, but the evenings curled up together with wine and a film or music, made up for the misunderstandings, the occasional arguments. Sometimes they’d live in each other’s pockets, sometimes life and work would mean the only moments they would find would be in the minutes and seconds before sleep came. They muddled their way through, and perhaps against everyone’s expectations, they were happy.


He’d found the ring in an antique shop one day, six or so months later. It hadn’t perhaps been the most conventional choice, but as soon as he’d seen it he’d known it was the right one, the perfect accompaniment to one of the oldest questions. He’d bought it without a thought, and when the moment came and he asked, it fit her finger as though it had been made for it.


They didn’t change each other, as such. That was what two of his oldest friends had told him one evening as they sat about a campfire.
“She hasn’t changed you, and you haven’t changed her. But you’re both… more when you’re together.”
It was a wisdom born of whiskey, but it rang true all the same. They had found each other and were more because of it, and he couldn’t imagine a world without her.


He’d opened the door to see a man and a woman on the doorstep, their faces calm and composed, their uniforms neat and tidy, imposing in their lack of threat. An iron band closed about his chest as they sat on the sofa, speaking quietly. It began to tighten, slowly, inexorably crushing his lungs and his heart.
“…unfortunate accident…”
“…three others killed…”
“…very sorry…”
The world shattered into pieces and the iron band grew tighter and tighter.


Time passed, in hours and then days, weeks and then months. Slowly, ever so slowly, he began to breathe again, finding his way around the absence of her. Their friends were kind to him, understanding and patient, though they had lost her too. He had raged and roared, and wept and waited, but in the end he had finally paid his dues of grief. The scars were still there, but only those who knew him well could see them. The iron band had loosened, though it would never fully let him go.


His remembering had carried him down the street, into and out of shops where he scanned the shelves, not really seeing. He stepped once more into the sunlight and moved to cross the road again, heading to his favourite coffee shop. As he reached the far pavement, he saw a second sign like the one which had started his quiet reverie. He paused beneath it, reading again the not unfriendly query.

‘Have you paid and displayed?’

Standing in the sunlight Sam shrugged. He’d paid as best he could, and whether or not the scars could be seen by all, they would heal in time. He smiled a sad smile as her face flashed through his mind again, and then he lowered his gaze and walked on in the sunlight.


Free WiFi

The day the free WiFi stopped was the day the world descended into turmoil.

I was sitting in my local coffee shop, laptop open in front of me like a pretentious wanker, as normal. Whenever I go to coffee shops and write, I tend not to use the WiFi as it means I *start* researching a salient point for whatever article I’m writing, but end up aimlessly scrolling through quizzes to find out which TV character I am in real life.

I was midway through paragraph four when I happened to overhear the hippy girl at the counter ask a question I was used to hearing daily.

“What’s the WiFi password, please?”

“It’s “soy milk underscore 19’”, replied the anaemic-looking barista, smiling pleasantly as she topped a coffee off with a latte art of Freida Khalo. “The ‘underscore’ is actually the word, underscore. It’s, like, an ironic thing.”


“That’ll be three pounds fifty, please.”

The customer frowned. “But I already paid for my coffee … didn’t I?”

The barista’s smile turned apologetic. “Yes, yes you did. Unfortunately, the three pounds fifty is for the WiFi.”

The customer was stumped. “But … but … the WiFi in here is free! It always has been! That’s why I come here! Every Friday I get a decaf coffee with extra almond milk, then I sit at one of the corner tables upstairs, reading the Guardian online and writing spoken-word poetry. I’ve never paid for WiFi before!”

“I’m so sorry,” replied the barista. “Unfortunately, that’s just the way it goes. It’s the government, you see. They’ve introduced a WiFi Tax. All companies must charge for their WiFi from the 12th July onwards. We’re charging the lowest rate we can – £3.50 per hour.”

“WHAT THE FUCK?” screamed the customer, blowing a dreadlock away from her face angrily. “THIS IS BULLSHIT! £3.50 an hour?! So, if I stayed here for my usual three hours, it would cost me …”

“£10.50, yes,” said the barista. “Not forgetting the £4.75 for your single coffee.”

The customer stomped her foot like a petulant, dirty child. “You know what? This is bullshit. BULLSHIT. I’m not staying here for this. Give me my coffee to go. In a paper cup, please. God, think of the environment,” she added as the barista turned away.

When I left the coffee shop later on, article finished, I began to notice the beginnings of an uprising.

Cafe Nero had had its window kicked in.

Costa had a protest going on outside its doors.

Starbucks had a line of policemen outside, barricading themselves behind riot shields as students and hipster dudes tried to fight their way through with Mac books.

It was chaos.

What was next – libraries charging for books? Postmen charging by the letter? London charging by congestion?

The day the free WiFi stopped was the beginning of the end …

We Can Print

Alex looked up from her laptop, her hands pausing above the keys in the middle of a sentence, as a bell chimed in her earpiece. She smiled and nodded to the hooded figure as he stepped through the, letting out a small breath and feeling her heart slow back to normal. Nothing to worry about. Jason was a regular, big in the D&D scene he made custom miniatures, pretty epic ones in Alex’s humble opinion. Alex’s shop is where he came to do all his printing, she wasn’t the cheapest, but she was the best.

“Got some more miniatures for me Jas?”

Jason nodded causing a lock of thick, black hair to fall and cover his eye. He swiped it out of the way self-consciously and handed her a battered USB stick. Alex slipped the drive into her security machine which scanned the drive for viruses and waited for the green light. Once the green light flashed moved it to her custom analysis machine which served two functions. Firstly, it made sure that the file was complete and provided a cost based on the amount and type of material to be used. Secondly, it checked for potential violations of the 3D Printing Enforcement Act. The scan was required by all 3D printing businesses, in theory, to ensure that nothing dangerous was being printed; gun parts and the like. However, the secondary function was to makes sure that people weren’t printing anything without the permission of the rights holder. Designed your own Mickey Mouse figurine? You better believe that the house of the mouse will not allow that… unless you pay the licensing fee and sign an eternally-binding agreement giving them access to your design for free, forever to do with as they wish.

The screen flashed red showing a 64% match to an existing D&D figurine and Alex raised an eyebrow at Jason.

“Plagiarism Jas? I expected better of you…”

The youth grimaced the blood rushing to his face. “They’ve copyrighted everything it’s impossible to make anything new without it being a little bit like something else. It’s like a band copyrighting the A, G and C chords and then expecting everyone to either make songs without them or pay them for the privilege. It’s stupid.”

Alex held her stern face for as long as she could but faced with the earnest young man blushing and scuffing the ground with the toe of his battered converse she only lasted a few seconds before a smile forced its way onto her face. She tapped a couple of keys, the computer whirred briefly, and the red light turned green. The perk of having a custom machine was it gave you some discretion in applying the law.

“My mistake,” said Alex with a smile. “That will be one hundred and forty credits please.”
On the other side of the counter Jason allowed a brief smile to dance across his lips then he held out his wrist to the scanner. Alex heard the ka-ching noise in her earpiece that the credits had made their way to her bank account and she nodded to Jason.

“Printing is starting right now and-“

She cut off Jason as pushed rudely aside and a pale, manicured hand was thrust into her face a pristine USB drive held between finger and thumb. Her gazed followed the hand, up the immaculately tailored sleeve to a vaguely familiar pinched face behind the darkened pince-nez glasses.

“If you don’t mind I’m in the middle of serving a customer,” said Alex trying to keep the anger out of her voice with limited success. Like all English people there was little she despised more than rudeness and pushing in was the epitome of the ill-mannered.
“Oh, I don’t think he will mind,” replied the man his voice somewhere between a whisper and a hiss. “Do you boy?”

Jason shook his head and took a step back his hands raised.

“I’ll come back later and pick them up Alex okay?”

“Nonsense,” replied the man liking his lips. “I’ll only be a moment. Why don’t you stay a while?” He nodded to a seat in the corner and Jason moved quickly over and took a seat hands on his knees. While not overtly threatening there was something dangerous about the man. It hung around him like a fog of cheap cologne. Something tugged at the back of Alex’s mind but just as she thought she was on the verge of getting it, the man turned his reptilian gaze back on her and her mind went blank.

“Now how about we proceed with my transaction? It shouldn’t take long it is a simple design.” He bent his fingers and waggled the USB in front of her face.

Alex shot Jason an apologetic look then snatched the USB from the man and slipped it into her security scanned.

“Be careful there girl,” said the man his eyes narrowing. “I don’t take kindly to people who disrespect my property.”

“And I don’t take kindly to people who disrespect my customers,” said Alex somewhat less forcefully than she planned. There really was something odd about the man it made her shiver. The security box flashed green and she moved the USB over to her analysis machine. She looked up quickly while the process ran and found the man staring at her unblinking his head cocked slightly to one side, tongue poking out slightly from between his thin lips. She felt like a mouse staring into the eyes of a snake, in terrible danger but unable to move. He held her eye for a long moment then he computer gave a series of odd clicks and beeps and he flicked his gaze away breaking the spell.

Alex almost sagged to the floor when he looked away. Her legs felt like jelly, sweat was pouring down her face and her breath came in short gasps.

“What’s the matter?” hissed the man waving a hand at the computer. “Why is it making that noise?”

Alex looked up at the screen and her brow furrowed. It was an error she had never seen before.

Error 196: Permission withheld.

Her fingers danced over the keys but no matter what she did the same error message remained.

Error 196: Permission withheld.

“I don’t understand,” she said looking up at the man. “I’ve never seen this error before.”

“Well bypass it.”

“I can’t I-“

“I saw you do it for him,” he snapped jabbing a finger over his shoulder to where Jason still sat, hands on his knees, head bowed like a naughty child waiting to see the headmaster. “Do it for me.”


“Do it now or you will regret not doing as I say.”

Looking into his eyes Alex knew that her life depended on what she did next. Without looking away she typed a command and the screen changed from blue to red. The old error message was replaced by a new one.

Error 763: 100% match to IP owned by the Metropolitan Police.

“What is the problem now?”

“It says that this is a match to a copyrighted work.”

“Copyrighted by who?”

Alex spun the screen around, so the man could see for himself. She watched his eyes dart across the screen then the corners of his mouth turned up in what on anyone else would be called a smile.

“So, they think they can claim my work, do they?”

“It’s their work now,” said Alex spinning the screen around and taping at the keyboard.

“They copyrighted the design six months ago.”

“I’ve been using this for almost two years,” replied the man. “It’s really quite distinctive I’m surprised you don’t recognise it.”

“I don’t look at the designs the computer does that…”

“You see that is the problem with the world today. Everyone wants someone or something else to do everything for them. Why don’t you take a look?”

“I really don’t-“

“I insist.”

Alex lowered her eyes to the screen and after a few clicks the file opened. On the screen a distinctive hooked blade spun slowly end over end. Alex mouth fell open and then it hit her. Why the man looked so familiar. She turned and looked at the notice board by the door. Among the advertisements for dog walkers and yoga schools one thing stood out. A picture of a slim man in a long black trench coat with a pinched face behind pince-nez glasses and underneath the picture six words; wanted in connection with multiple murders.

“It’s quite the likeness no?” said the man with a smile. He reached into his coat and came out with a long-curved blade. “Now how about we proceed with my order?”

Way Out

Mission log: October 9th 2052, Captain David Borden recording. 

The rest of the crew are down in their bunks and NASA has asked me to record a final message to anyone back home. 

Home. When I left I felt like I didn’t really have one. The whole Earth was my home, which is to say nowhere was. I’m sure by now you’ve been given the salient details of my current situation, but the way the mission has gone… I think the technical term is fubar. We over-shot the point at which we were supposed to have main engine shutdown, burned through more fuel than we were supposed to, then through the reserve tank as we brought ourselves back under control. 

And now we’re here. We don’t even have a name for the planet we’ve arrived at, just a designation number. S/2043 S921. If you want to imagine it, it’s something like Saturn. It has two sets of rings, not as flat and neat as Saturn’s but from our point of view they form an X shape around the planet itself, which is predominantly dark yellow, with streaks of brown and gold. It doesn’t have any moons, and the star of this system is, for all it matters to you, the same as our sun.

Aside from that, everything is black. The planet is bright enough right now that we can’t even see any stars out of the front windows of the command capsule. But it is a beautiful sight. I’m sitting here looking at a view that only three human beings have ever seen, and all I can think about is how empty the experience is without someone to share it with. The black isn’t just the absence of colour, it’s the absence of light, and more than anything I’m feeling the absence of you. 

So this is my apology. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being so detached. I thought I had to be to be able to take this mission and be everything everyone down there needed me to be. I should have told you every day that you were the best thing to ever happen to me. All the awards and accolades and notoriety of being a pilot and an astronaut, isn’t really worth very much without someone to come home to. And now I never can come home, to you or anyone. 

I wanted to be a hero. The next Neil Armstrong. We’d never say it outside the crew but the weight of the world on our shoulders was more of a burden than we admit. If I’m remembered for nothing else from this failed mission it’s that you can’t fake it forever. You can’t carry on just saying the things you know you’re supposed to forever, at some point you have to reckon with the fact that inside your instincts can’t be ignored and they’re usually right. There’s a truth in them that can’t be denied. As much as I wanted to be the hero up here, there’s so much I still wanted to do down there. 

But don’t cry for me. I knew there were risks, I guess. You never think it’s going to happen to you. Even if something went wrong in the mission, chances are either NASA would be able to fix it, or we’d be killed instantly. No point sugar-coating that… It’s no fun knowing the end is coming, and you can’t do anything but make it sooner… 

We were issued with suicide pills. They may not even let me tell you this, relaying the transmission to you. We have a pill each, we swallow it, we go to sleep and never wake up. For this eventuality, I suppose, and others. We were all in favour of crashing the ship into the planet and going out in a blaze of glory, but NASA thinks we should leave ourselves in orbit, just in case anybody ever finds the ship, they can see where it came from and why. We only have sub-light propulsion systems now, can’t even make another jump to a planet that might be more hospitable. Not that we can find one from here either. 

It sounds like a great life, exploring the galaxy, visiting new worlds and far-off planets. And maybe had the mission been a success I’d think so too. But I sit here and think about all of the trips we took to Europe, and all the places on Earth we hadn’t been yet. I’d have like to see the Taj Mahal in person. Sydney Opera House. Turns out you can’t actually see the Great Wall of China from space, so you should add that one to the list too. You should go. But find someone to take with you, please. Isolation isn’t good for the soul. Believe me, there’s only four of us within five lightyears.

The pill is starting to take effect now. I can feel my eyelids getting heavy. But I want you to know, that when I drift off for this permanent sleep, I hope I dream of you. I’m not in pain. I mean, I am. I have been this whole week since I realised we’re not coming back to you. But you can lie, right? Tell everyone I was tough and joking around. 

I love you Jenn. Goodnight.

“We’ll need more than a 5p bag, Sarge.”

‘We’ve got another one, detective.’ There was no joy or surprise in Boulton’s voice, just greyness.

‘Same as the others?’ Detective Carter replied.

‘Dismembered, bits strewn around sections of a supermarket. It was an Aldi this time though, which makes a change.’

‘And I bet no one batted an eyelid seeing an arm in their weird middle section,’ joked Carter, although his mouth didn’t even attempt to form a smile, ‘I bought a set of self-brackets in one of those the other day. And the week before they were selling an harpoon gun. It was only £40, I nearly bought two.’ He saw Boutlon’s cocked eyebrow and stammered through his explanation, ‘Well… sometimes you forget to buy someone a birthday gift, it’s nice to have a back-up…’

Boulton sighed, donned his police cap and left to get in the response van. Carter started at the open door, punched himself in the head with the heel of his palm, and started after him.

By the time they arrived the local grunts had already done an adequate job of cordoning off the supermarket from the public, although a large crowd was starting to form. It could be that they can smell a story, thought Carter, or maybe it was the loud, blaring sirens and hamfisted way the local constabulary were assuring everyone that there was ‘nothing to see here’.

Boulton lifted the police tape for Carter, who laboured under the thin blue line. ‘Don’t say anything,’ Carter darted a look at Boulton, ‘about my weight.’ Boulton stifled a giggle.

‘All I’m going to say is it’s no coincidence that you’re the one assigned the supermarket murderer.’

‘Twat’, Carter muttered. They headed inside, Boulton’s shoulder still shaking with mirth. A visibly distressed junior officer met them at the door, his face completely blanched. ‘You alright lad?’ asked Boulton.

‘Fine. Yeah, cool. Just another day, isn’t it?’ said the officer, ringing his hands tightly. ‘Wanna see the remains?’

‘Well, I’m not too busy, I’ve got a few minutes. and this is exactly how I wanted to spend my Thursday afternoon.’ Boulton’s tone was flat with a soupcon of sarcasm. ‘Show us the crime scene.’ The young officer turned around and gestured at the whole store, his hands shaking.  ‘Alright you clever dick, show us the body.’

‘This way, sir,’ the younger man said. ‘We’re still looking for bits of him though.’

Boulton and Carter looked at each other.

‘How much of him is missing?’

‘Well,’ the copper said, swallowing, ‘his head was in the freezer section, one legs was in among the legumes, another amongst the instant custard, and his arms were with the bread rolls.’ He suddenly looked dejected. ‘So much wasted food.’

‘So what part’s missing?’ Boutlon chirped up, just as the rounded the corner and came face to face with the remains.

‘Let’s just say,’ said the copper, ‘I really wish for his sake that he was dead before that bit was cut off.’

‘Oh Jesus Christ. That poor bloke. Has anyone, umm, has anyone managed to locate his… meat and two veg?’ No one answered. None of the men dared to look each other in the eye. An awkward air descended upon the group.

And then, one sentence suddenly shattered the silence; Unexpected item in bagging area.

‘Do you scan it through as loose meats or a cucumber?’ said Boulton, who received a quick clip to the back of the head from Carter.

‘Shut up, Boulton.’ he said, angrily, before adding ‘it’s clearly a cream horn.’

The young officer threw up in his hat.

Mobile Data, Feck Off



Oh it’s been a long month. It’s been a long year. I am running low on everything. I must get to the store at some point.

Anyway! This month’s writing challenge. We’ve had the wonderful works of last month and hating what they write. So now the weird one that came to me in the middle of the night.


I want you to take a mundane sign or sentence, like a road sign or an instruction on your ready meal, and make a story from it. Hopefully self explanatory but if not, I’m available to ask what am I on about.


Example piece!




Every now and then, one of them come over the ledge and the patrol unload their week’s pent up frustration through the dwindling bullets. Micha is working on a forge to rectify this, but that’s
beside the point. It’s the screeching that really fucks with me. It runs through your entire being and scratches and wrenches everything in its wake, and then the silence directly after is ruined by the echo that rings in my ears.

I don’t remember when it all started. I just remember the previous day, and I can tell you what tomorrow will look like with almost pinpoint accuracy. And I’ve had enough. I sit in this little hut; I hold the fireman’s axe and I wait for another one of them.

They look like humans, but their skin is a dark ashen grey and their eyes are milky white. Their mouths are toothless and frothing with the blood that seeps out of their gums as they mash the food into the rotting holes that once were mouths.

Fuck the rule. I have had enough of waiting for the next attack and I’m tired of working this shitty patrol. What is the point of waking up whenever the third bell rings EVERY BASTARD DAY and then coming and sitting in this miserable overcast and dark open field? Well I’m taking it into my own hands.

I stand up and walk towards the edge.
Several yards between me and freedom.
I can hear the low groaning from below.

The first warning sign comes up to greet me in a fading and rusting yellow. “Do Not Pass”.

The second is a few feet after. “Stop walking, death below.”

And then finally the third one. A few feet before the colossal drop to whatever remains of the earth

Three simple words. A phrase that I used to ignore before all this happened. Mocking me with their almost innocent and caring tone.

Mind the gap.

An Unfortunate Afternoon

Based upon the writing of Lemony Snicket in ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’. A copy of the first book is available here to help you get an idea of what I’m being inspired by;

Click to access the_bad_beginning.pdf

An Unfortunate Afternoon

If you are interested in happy endings, I truly suggest you close this book immediately, and place it back on the shelf. This story has no happy ending, or middle, or start, because this is a story about Riley Stevens. Riley was an intelligent and charming girl, with bright eyes and sharp features, and although perfectly pleasant to be around, she had terrible luck. It had been this way for years, and at twenty-four, she was getting pretty used to it. 

This particular day’s misfortune had started stood at the door to her unimpressive two bed apartment, in a tired and rather dire – the word ‘dire’, as you probably know, means “dreadful” or of very poor quality – apartment block on the border of central London. It had been a grey, miserable day, which didn’t bother Riley one bit, but she had left a bag of shopping on the train and she was getting rather agitated. It had been a long, tiring day working behind a boring desk, but she had managed to find an olive loaf going out of date at Aldi for only 20p. That poor loaf was now lonesome on the train, sad and uneaten. 

“Oh well.” Riley muttered, “I wouldn’t have eaten it anyway.” 

Frustrated, she knocked politely twice on the door. The cat made a noise like a disgruntled baby behind it, but her lazy fucking roommate did not appear. 

“Isabel?” she called, looking at the window by the stairs and watching the heavy drops of rain run down the glass. Sure enough, soft footsteps could be heard behind the door. 

“I know you’re in there.” Riley shouted again. 

The lock clicked and Riley could hear the chain slide across. Isabel’s nervous face appeared in the crack as she pulled open the door. She was a year older than Riley, but looked a lot younger, with blonde hair and a youthful face. Their friends had playfully nicknamed her “Baby-face”, though Riley simply called her ‘Isabelle’ or ‘Is’. She seemed tense. 

“For fucks sake!” Riley thought. 

“Don’t freak out, okay?” Isabelle begged, slowly pulling the door open all the way. As I’m sure you know, being told not to ‘freak out’, or panic, can often cause one to do so, believing there to be something wrong. So Riley did not take this well. 

“Let me in!” She ordered, “Let me in right now!.”

She pushed through the door and froze as her shoes squelched against the carpet. You see, her old trainers had worn a hole through the bottom, so she’d finally invested – the word “invested” meaning in this context to gain or buy – in a pair of brand new ones, and it is never good to be threatened with the ruining of new shoes. Sure enough, when she looked down, she saw blood. Lots of blood. Pooling in patches at random places and trailing round the sofa, across the tiles in the kitchen and off into Isabelle’s room.
“No no no no no no!” Riley cried, panicking and removing her shoes, only causing her to stain her socks as well, “What the fuck Isabel, you know the rules!”

And she did. Stuck to the fridge with a magnet that said “I keep losing weight but it keeps finding me” was a crumpled piece of paper that read a roommate agreement they had made together when moving in. 


Rule 3: Do not murder in or around the flat. Keep bodies out of the apartment. 


The huge amount of blood currently ruining their already unattractive flat was highly suggestive that Isabelle had broken this rule. The two had met as highly trained, highly paid assassins, but after a video of them dancing on the table in a pub to Madonna had been sent to the work group chat, their boss had decided they weren’t quite subtle enough for the job, and they now functioned as work from home serial killers with awful office jobs in marketing positions that paid the rent. As you know, murdering other people, no matter how despicable they are, is illegal, and they therefore had to work hard to keep this a secret. Covering the apartment in blood did not feel that secretive to Riley.

“I told you not to freak out!” Isabelle said accusingly, “You’re freaking out!” 

Riley ignored her, following the tell-tale trail of blood through the Isabel’s bedroom. On the floor, gasping with a weak hand pressed to a gash in his neck, was a man that had been on the news a few days ago in a bank scandal. His white shirt was stained a deep red, and Riley couldn’t help but think what a waste of a perfectly good article of clothing it was, and wish that Isabel wasn’t so reckless.
“I’m putting an end to this!” she announced, moving to her own room and pulling open the bottom drawer of her untidy cabinet. Laying amongst her faded old pyjama shirts was a revolver, winking at her in the dim light of the room. She lifted it carefully, feeling it’s weight in her hand before finding the silencer within the drawer and screwing it onto the front. The cool metal was comforting against her skin and she took a deep breath, preparing herself like an athlete before a big race. Composed, she walked back into Isabel’s room and, ignoring her flatmate’s protest, she turned the dying man onto his back with a sharp jab to his shoulder with her heel and pointed her gun at his sweating forehead.
“I want to do it! I brought him here!” Isabel whined, throwing her hands in the air in frustration. 

“It’s against the rules, you don’t get to have fun if you put us in danger like this.” Riley explained, watching the man try to form words, choking on his blood. Without further ado, she extended her arm, stepped back, and shot him.
“Clear this up, I’m gonna go sort the carpet.” Riley ordered.

Now this seemed to be the end of it, and Riley did not hear from her sulking roommate for the rest of the night. She had quickly retired to her room with a bowl of cornflakes and was only disturbed the following morning. Isabel, fresh back from a run – for she was always working towards a ‘summer body’, which seemed a strange thing to call it when she worried about it all year round – came into her room clutching her phone and looking very out of breath.
“Look, they think… “ she paused, leaning over and clutching her waist, clearly recovering from having been so active, “They think we’re working together.”

Riley rubbed her eyes, trying to clear her head, “What?”. 

Isabel passed over the phone and she read over a ‘breaking news’ article.
“New Murder Suggests London’s Notorious Killers Working Together”
“Oh no,” she thought, “I don’t want this. Not with messy, careless, hopeless Isabel.” 

Like I said, Riley Stevens had bad luck.


A Hero Does What A Hero Does

[So the brief was write something in a style we hate. I don’t know that there are styles I HATE, so I have instead attempted to write something I don’t like and don’t consider to be any good… I won’t say I hope you enjoy it, because, well…]

So in the end it came down to a final showdown, just like in the great westerns; the good, the bad and the ugly, except that the bad was also the ugly, or vice versa. Max and Mr E, facing off, one with a handgun like a black slab of charcoal death, the other with nothing but the sun on his face.

As Max wondered whether there was any way to get out of this, hoping for inspiration to hit like lightning or a even just lightning to hit Mr E, the villain took a step toward him.

He smiled, a wide viscous grin that looked like the Joker as played by Jack Nicholson, and he raised the gun, till the barrel was aimed right at Max’s face, like the bit with Trinity and the Agent in The Matrix.
“Any famous last words?” Mr E asked, and Max shrugged.
“Not really. Are they very famous?”

Mr E smiled even wider, and in a split moment Max thought of a five minute video he’d seen on YouTube once of a snake dislocating it’s jaw to swallow an entire egg, and thought that Mr E was grinning like that, which was not a nice grin at all.

“Actually, I do have two more words, though they also may not be very famous.”

“Go on,” invited his nemesis, his teeth clenched like an ivory wall.

“Safety catch,” said Max, and as Mr E’s eyes flicked to the small black safety catch on the side of the gun Max jabbed his hand out and grabbed the gun, pushing his finger behind the trigger like the move Donnie Yen does in Ip Man and stopping the trigger being pulled. Then he spun, kicking his leg out and driving his heel into Mr E’s temple so hard his skull crunched, and his supposed nemesis dropped lifeless to the concrete.

Max stood looking down at him like Batman with blood on his boot, and smiled his own wide smile.

“Bye bye, bad guy,” he said, and turned. The day was still bright and clear, but if there had been a sunset, he would have been walking into it, towards his new adventure….

The Worst Story Ever Written

Trigger Warning: This story contains everything I hate about writing and may include horribleness that should not be read by anyone.

Authors Note: I’ll also be including some writers commentary so anything in <> should not be considered part of the story.

Rosie awoke to the shrill call of her alarm wailing like a garroted goose. She pulled back the covers and slid sensuously out of the silk sheets and pattered across the room, soft as a kitten, to regarded herself critically in the full-length mirror.

<Oh God I’m really going to do this>

Hands on hips she turned left and right examining her naked body in the mirror. She was thirty five but her diet and gym routine meant that she had the body of a twenty year old. She squeezed her ample breasts and smiled, feeling a thrill run down her flat stomach to her sex as she massaged her nipples. 34DD they were everything a man could want. Happy with what she saw, she turned to check out her perfect butt, which was firm as an under-ripe peach.

She let her hand wander down and brush through the thin line of hair above her clitoris, teasing herself for just a second before drawing her hand away. Much as she would love to she didn’t have time for that. The office was calling and as everyone knew if you didn’t go to work you were the worst kind of parasite. A looter stealing from the genius of visionaries like Mark Zuckerberg and Rupert Murdoch. People who were proven to be better than the average man by their ability to amass their great fortunes.

<Author vomits all down himself>

If she was a man Rosie would have liked to have been a man like Rupert Murdoch. Unfortunately by some terrible twist of fate she had been born just a woman and so she did what she cold to help her own visionary achieve his goals. Whatever it took.

<OK so let’s count the horrors… I make it six counts of terrible writing so far. If you find more I must just be putting the extras in unconsciously I’m not a terrible writer… honest.>

As she brushed her long, blonde hair Rosie turned her mind to the problem at hand. Her Bae was having a hard time at the office. The trade war had, almost overnight, turned into something more significant. It had started with protests in cities that were supposed to be their allies. There were protests wherever he went, effigies being floated above them or burned in front of them. Then the other countries he was bringing to heel like recalcitrant dogs stopped buying US product altogether! Well Bae had done the only thing he could do, he’d threatened to sell them things by force but that hadn’t worked out quite as he’d planned and instead of backing down they had sunk the ships full of iPads he had sent to sell to them. The nerve of those people in shit-hole countries pretending they didn’t want the superior US products…

<Any relation to real people is purely on purpose but this is parody so you can’t sue me you orange mugged goon. Also Bae!? Ugh what kind of word is that…>

To top it all off his wife was now giving him a hard time too. It didn’t make any sense! She should know that such a powerful, impressive man wouldn’t be satisfied with just one lover. I mean its not even like this was the first time,  although she considered herself to be well above some of the porn star, trailer trash scum that he’d dallied with before. Anyway, that was just about relief, this was respect and love he’d told her so himself. Threatening divorce at a time of war? The bitch should be sent back to whatever hell hole she came from, she wasn’t even America after all.

Well she couldn’t solve the war or the wife but she could do her bit to spread his message, and that is exactly what she planned to do. She slipped into a fabulous dress that perfectly showed off her curves, grabbed her purse off the counter and headed to out of the door.


Just as she arrived at the coffee shop her phone gave out a little cheap. She slipped it out of her black PVC handbag, and looked at the screen.

The War is on. Jittery Xi Jinping has crossed me for the last time. I’m going to Airforce One now to plan the attack. Don’t worry you’ll be fine we will destroy them in five seconds and anyone who says different is talking fake news. xoxo covfefe

So it was happening. Those traitors in the newsrooms had been reporting that US troops were on the move, denying her beloved his surprise attack, but she hadn’t expected it so soon. No matter, she had a job to do and that job was to drum up support for her Bae, after all it was an election year.

She opened the door to the shop and looked inside. It was a small space with four small tables dressed with flowery tablecloths. The floor was white and black tile in a chessboard pattern that lead up to a petite glass counter. The counter had a plethora of delicious looking pastries behind it including delicate danishes filled with colourful jams and creams that shone in the early morning light like so many colourful pebbles tossed into a verdant stream at sunset on a warm summers day.

<Well that was boring and didn’t add anything to the story…>

Above the counter the news was showing scenes from the war. Fighter jets crisscrossing the sky, tracer fire lighting up the darkness, soldiers pouring out of amphibious vehicles to spill out onto a sandy beach under a hail of fire and in the top corner the president. Smiling and waving as he boarded air force one, his trademark red cap on his flowing locks.

<Talking about a more interesting story than the one we’re telling? Classic.>

Rosie approached the counter where a pale-faced woman in her early forties stood with her eyes locked on the TV.

“I’d like get a coffee,” said Rosie after it was clear the slack-jawed idiot had noticed her.

The woman flinched like someone had thrown a bucket of icy water over her. “Of course, uh… take a seat and I’ll bring it right over.”

Rosie tutted but took the nearest chair where she leaned in to a greying old man who was also engrossed in the TV which was now showing live footage of missile sites in China opening.

“So what do you think about this election huh? The president is bound to win again right? I mean he is draining the swamp, rebuilding the middle class and doing it all while maintaining a handicap of -3.”

“There isn’t going to be an election! Aren’t you watching the TV those aren’t regular missiles the Chinese are firing they’re nukes.”

“Oh that’s fake news. What are you some liberal snowflake? No-one would dare!”

Outside the sky grew dark. The woman from ran out from behind the counter Rosie’s coffee forgotten. When she got to the door she screamed.

“Oh what is it woman?” snapped Rosie.

“Airplanes. There are so many of them.”

“Xian H-6’s by the looks of them,” said the old man now stood beside her looking up.

“Fake news,” snapped Rosie but a little of the fire had gone out of her now as she looked up and saw them for herself.

“It’s not news lady, it’s just happening.”

The lead Xian H-6’s bomb doors opened and mist of tiny black specks started to fall. Seconds later the other bombers started to drop their loads.

“Nothing bad can happen to me!” shrieked Rosie. “Don’t they know who I am? I’m too important. It’s fake news. Fake news!”

The black specks fell faster and faster growing bigger with each second. By the door the old man took the woman in his arms and patted her back.

“It will be OK. We won’t feel a thing,” he whispered into her ear.

“Fake news…” said Rosie with a shiver. “Fake news.”

<Fade to black…>


“Adam,” he asked, “you must

write a piece in a style you

really cannot stand.”


Adam thought a while

Before cracking what he’d do:

“I hate all Haikus.”


“How can you hate them?!”

the shocked group of artists asked.

Adam raised his hand,


“Look,” he calmed the crowd,

“They’re nothing special, are they?

It’s just some counting.”


“They are more than that:”

the horrified group proffered,

“Beauty and rhythm.”


“Beauty and rhythm?”,

he repeated, laughing hard,

“It’s maths and bullshit.”


“Only if you’re too

lazy to write them properly,

like the one we’re in.”


Adam went all pale.

“Stop it! You’ve made this meta.

They suck, and that’s that.”


The angry crowd roared,

Slowly walking towards the

outnumbered Adam.


“I think you’re just scared,”

One of the critics exclaimed,

“of an alien artform.


“You grew up engrossed

in a western culture and

so they’re different.


“The patterns must dance,

The rhythms waltz, spring and leap,

talking of nature.


“All you’ve done this far

is talk about your hatred,

whilst breaking the rules.”


“The rules?” Adam smirked.

“Rules oppose creative flow.

They restrict your work.”


The critic sighed loudly.

“That’s literally the point,

you colossal oaf.


“Without limits you

Struggle to produce work that

has any meaning.


“Artists from a range

of disciplines have all said

that limits help them.


“Some of the greatest

tv shows and films were born

From adversity.


“Budget restrictions

Helped ‘Withnail and I’ feel real;

they couldn’t go wild.


“Blackadder series 2?

No money. Almost no sets.

But it’s so funny.


“When you face constraints,

you must work differently

and you’ll overcome.


“When you learn to think

In a different way, you

get better results.”


He bowed to applause

From the haiku fans around.

“Touché” Adam said.


“Fine. You guys have won.

I will try to write Haikus

That follow the rules.”


The crowd then dispersed,

And Adam was left alone.

He started to write:


Sonic the hedgehog,

You are the best game ever.

It is snowing on mount fuji.


That was years ago,

And Adam has now learnt: don’t

Be a plagiarist