In Remembrance

Jacob wasn’t afraid of anything. Ask any one of his squad mates. Shit, ask anyone in the whole damn division! The jealous ones will tell you “Jacob? Guy’s an idiot. Reckless asshole. Gonna wind up with a bullet in his brain.”

Everyone else knows what’s up. They know that Jacob stared death in the eyes, whipped his dick out and slapped death in the face with it. When the boats of the 16th Infantry regiment made land on the beaches of Sicily there was no stopping that crazy bastard. First out of the boat before they even touched sand. Jacob could have stormed those beaches single handedly. They say he picked out that bunker the moment he set eyes on the beach, nobody else was gonna get there first. He had a look about him as he recounted the tale for the 50th fucking time. As they rolled through the Sicilian countryside in their armoured half-track, Jacob’s eyes flitted from one soldier to the next, locking everyone into place with a crazed self importance. They all needed to hear what he had to say. They needed to hear what went down in that bunker.

He says it was like being reborn. Four twins in a concrete womb, only one could receive the gift of life. Even now in the relative safety of the car he brandished the knife with convincing intent, mimicking the motions that took the lives of four axis soldiers in a single bloody moment. The first two didn’t even notice him, he demonstrated this point by drawing the flat of the knife across his own neck. By the time the third turned around it was already too late. Jacob bore down on that sum’bitch and drove the steel into his goddamn eye socket. After that it was just him and the gunner, fucker almost got him too! They struggled for a while. Sneaky little shit even managed to bat him with an empty ammo box. Jacob finished it though, knife to the gut. The slow twisting motion of his wrist brought forth a sea of groans from his squad mates. Jacob flashed a sinister grin. He made some vile quip about the birthing metaphor and how he emerged coated in claret. The car erupted with laughter, applause and disgusted shakes of the head. Jacob contemplated his natural gift as an entertainer. Perhaps when he got back home he’d become a stand up comedian. If this shit couldn’t spook him then how scary could a stage be? He pictured himself up there, cracking out one-liners and knee slappers galore, the audience rolling in the aisles. His beautiful wife would be there too, sat in the front row next to his Pop. It was a pleasant thought, reminded him of the good ol’ days when they’d all go to the flicks together. That was before Pop took ill, poor bastard. But hey, at least he had Jess to look after him. God knows she’s a better cook than Jacob ever was. Pops is better off with her.

The laughter was cut short by a low rumble, an explosion roughly two miles East. Helmets went on, rifles came up. The explosions grew louder, artillery fire. The convoy came to a halt just short of mortar range. They could see them now, pockets of dirt and fire bursting out of the road ahead. An officer barked orders from the car in front. Nobody could hear him but everyone got the gist, they had to clear out the rats.

Jacob was out of that car like a flash, locked, loaded and ready to prove to everyone that he wasn’t some one hit wonder.

“See you fuckers in Salemi!” Jacob roared with all the gusto of a tank cannon. The squad roared back, a self-fuelling machine of testosterone and blood rage. At least that’s what they’d have you think. Truth is those boys couldn’t have been more scared if they’d been caught cheating with their old lady’s twin sister. Maybe that’s why they listened to Jacob and his stories, he was the only fearless one among them, gave them all hope.

As they circled around the artillery barrage and followed the road East, Jacob’s thoughts turned back to home. How was Jess doing? Was Pop comfortable? Would Pop even remember him when he got home? Jacob swallowed and shook the thought out of his head. Of course he’d remember his Jake. How could he possibly forget the time they’d spent together? Jacob would treasure those memories forever, no matter what the doctors said.

Before long the sound of explosions was far behind them, they must be getting close now. Jacob listened intently. Through the wind in the trees and the shuffle of footsteps beside him he heard it. The telltale pop of a shell exiting a mortar, no more than 200 feet away. He waved his hand and the whole squad froze. He signalled North West and everyone understood. They inched forward as slow as they could, the sound of mortar fire growing closer and closer. A hand jutted out across Jacob’s shoulder and pointed directly towards the opening of a trench. Jacob’s smile grew wild and fierce. He grinned back at the boys, their faces marred with dread.

“Let’s go to work”

Jacob burst from the bushes and piled into the trench. He knew that he was alone, he knew his squad mates would hesitate, he didn’t mind. They were afraid, he was not. Along the narrow corridor of dirt he spotted his first victims, two artillerymen loading their mortar, unaware of their impending doom. Jacob slung the rifle over his shoulder and unsheathed his knife, he had a reputation to uphold after all. He descended on those poor men like the wrath of god, a crazed animal with steel teeth, maiming its prey for sport.

He heard footsteps behind him and turned with a victorious smile to greet his hesitant comrades. What he found instead were two more Italian soldiers, faces white as sheets, trembling at the grinning monstrosity before them.

“Dios Mio” one soldier uttered before his throat was ripped away from him, caught on the end of Jacob’s knife. The other tackled him to the dirt, thrashing violently, they screamed and clawed at each other, both choking on soil and blood. Even as the red liquid blinded him, Jacob knew he would win, his opponent felt fear, Jacob did not. He slashed blindly with his knife, finding nothing but air. A hand wrapped around his wrist and disarmed him. He quickly wiped his eyes and stared up at the Italian soldier, knife raised, ready to finish him.

In that moment Jacob’s gaze did not falter. He stared that bastard down and faced the end without so much as a quiver. No begging for help, no cries of mercy, Jacob wasn’t afraid of anything. He didn’t want his last memories to be of fear and pain, but of home. He thought about Jess, as beautiful as ever, standing in the doorway holding the daughter he’d never get to see. He thought about his poor Pop, mind ravaged by the Alzheimer’s as he fell deeper and deeper into confusion and loss. Unable to remember his wife, unable to remember his own son, his little Jake. A pit of despair and darkness that the doctor said would come for Jacob too. Jacob had sworn then as he swore now that he would never surrender to that darkness. As he stared into the eyes of his killer, he felt a peacefulness knowing that he would never be forced to live out his days, slowly forgetting those that matter the most to him, leaving them in darkness too.

Red crossed his eyes. A spray of blood that chilled his face. The towering figure above him slouched over and fell away, a gaping hole where his forehead once sat. Two sets of arms pulled Jacob to his feet and set the knife back in his hand. Another hand swatted him roughly on the back.

“Holy fuck man, you’re really not afraid of anything are you?”


The Unwanted Guest

Jacob sat in the driver’s seat of his car and waited. Staring through the windscreen he could see the house, with the white front door almost hidden in shadow. It was there, he knew. And it was waiting too.

Jacob lived inside the house, and just outside the house lived The Spider.

Jacob was not afraid of spiders. He wasn’t their biggest fan, but accepted that they were as much a part of the planet as he was. He did his best to keep them out of his house, but generally tried to leave them be. He wasn’t afraid of spiders, as a species. But then there was The Spider. The Spider was different.

It lived behind the gas meter box outside his front door, hiding in the daytime. Its web was faintly visible in daylight, a gossamer net spun from wall to wall. At night the corner in which it hung was shadowed and almost always dark. There The Spider waited, every night. It hung from the invisible strands of its web, a darker patch of the surrounding darkness, and it waited.

Jacob did not like The Spider. He was reluctant to admit to fear, but he felt sure that it was malevolent in some way. He knew what The Spider was. He had seen its dark, chitinous shape before. The Spider was a False Widow.

Some years ago, Jacob was putting the bin out late one night, ready for collection the following morning. This involved a short walk down the side of his house to the gate, the brick wall of the house on his right, an old wooden fence on his left. The gate is padlocked, and so in order to unlock it, Jacob activated the torch on his phone… He froze as the light of the torch cast a strange, alien shadow on the fence next to the gate; an oval body, framed by eight angular, vicious looking legs. Jacob stepped back in horror, and the monstrous shape shifted crazily… Sense returned almost immediately. It was just a spider casting a shadow, nothing more. It was in fact less than an inch in size, including its legs. Calm once more, and growing curious, Jacob moved carefully closer.

He was expecting a garden spider, with a large abdomen, intricate and strangely beautiful speckled colourings of brown and white and black… But the spider was brown, so dark a brown as to be almost black. Its abdomen was round, and on it there was a pale cream mark, which looked almost like… Jacob blinked, looking closer at the mark. It was no trick of the light; on the spiders dark body, almost glistening in the torchlight, was the pale image of a skull.

Jacob had not put the bin out that night. He felt sure he was overreacting, but he did not wish to pass that strange spider’s web in the darkness. For it was a long fence, and if there was one, there could quite easily be more. Many, many more…

Sitting in his car, Jacob remembered that night. He remembered, too, his curious researching online, trying to discover what the spider was. He was sure that it was nothing to be concerned about; this was England, after all… After only a few searches he discovered his answer. The spider was a False Widow. A relative of the famous Black Widow, but not deadly. It did, however, bite. It was, in fact, the most poisonous spider in the UK. And it was living on his garden fence.

Exterminators could do little about spiders, they told him, especially those that lived outdoors. Just keep an eye on it, he was advised. So time passed, and Jacob learned to manage the situation; he made sure he took the bin out during the day, when the spider was hidden away. And sometimes he would warily walk along the fence at night, torch shining bright, looking to see if his unwelcome guest was still there.

Jacob stopped worrying about the spider. In two years he had only ever seen it in that same spot; the other cobwebs, on the fence and elsewhere, seemed to be home to friendlier species than the one by the gate. There was no need to fear one single spider, after all. But then he discovered that the False Widow by the gate was not the only one. Then Jacob discovered The Spider.

He had been leaving the house one evening, going out to see a film with friends. As he stepped out of the door, he caught a movement in the corner of his eye, by the white box on the wall that held the gas meter. A scuttling, scurrying movement just visible in the light spilling out of the front door. He turned his head, and thought he saw a thin, angular leg disappearing behind the meter box. A dark brown, almost black, spider leg… Jacob looked at the wall, and could just make out a web spun across the corner, an invisible platform between the bricks. False Widows were orb-weavers; they did not make ‘traditional’ cobwebs like garden spiders… Could it be?

All evening, Jacob found his thoughts returning to what he had seen, and despite himself he began to worry, knowing it was foolish. He argued with himself as he drove home that night.

After all, even if it was another False Widow, it was still outside.
But it was right next to the front door.
It wasn’t likely to get in, was it?
But it could…
It’s just a spider.
But it’s got instincts. Spiders like warm places. The house is warm.
Shut up.
If it got inside it could find a nice warm spot, and lay its eggs…
Shut up!

Jacob walked warily up to his front door that evening, stopping a few feet away. He’d left the hallway light on, and it spilled through the frosted glass oval in the front door, cutting into the darkness. He peered at the corner where he had seen the movement earlier, and could make out… something…

Slowly, reluctantly he pulled out his phone and switched on the torch function. Bright light pierced the shadows and revealed a small, dark, malevolent shape floating just above the meter box. Its body was black brown, and on its abdomen was a pale mark not quite in the shape of a skull…

So it was that Jacob saw The Spider.

The Spider did not move, did not react to the light. Slowly Jacob moved forward, coming level with The Spider, and it did not move. He slowly slid his key into the door, and as he twisted it and then turned the handle, The Spider finally reacted, perhaps feeling the vibration through its web. The Spider scuttled rapidly to the wall, and in a moment it had squeezed itself behind the meter box, out of sight. Jacob watched the wall for a few moments more, then went into the house, locking the door behind him.

Jacob stared out through the windscreen and sighed. That first encounter had been three months ago. Since first seeing The Spider, his wariness of it had grown. He never saw it during the day, but as soon as night fell, once its lair was wreathed in shadow, it emerged and hung there in the darkness, waiting. It was there whenever he went out, and it was waiting for him when he returned. He had taken to checking all about the door with his phone torch before going inside. But there was only ever The Spider. The cunning, malevolent Spider. He told himself over and over he was being foolish; The Spider wasn’t going to try and follow him inside…

And yet…

So there Jacob sat, in the driver’s seat of his car, staring at his house, thinking about The Spider. Just as he had done every night for months.

Shaking his head, he muttered aloud at his own stupidity, and angrily opened the car door. Enough was enough. He had no need to live in fear, it was only a bloody spider! He forced himself to walk confidently forward, ignoring the darkness, ignoring the presence he felt hanging in the shadows. He looked straight ahead, and slid the key into the lock. He turned it, twisted the handle and stepped across the threshold, swinging the door shut behind him. Jacob stood in his hallway, breathing deeply. He’d been a fool these last months, he told himself, but no longer.

But then Jacob felt a movement against the skin of his neck, and he froze. The moment slowed, expanded so that he could feel the scuttling step of eight dark, pointed legs as they moved across his skin, perhaps seeking a warm place to hide… He began to lift his arm, half-hoping that it was only imagination, that his hand would brush away nothing…

And then the movement stopped, the eight legs tensed, as though The Spider was preparing to bite…


Log 2412563.
Medic Luisa Tanem on board the International Space Station.

We made it! Bit of a bumpy start; Jude got her arm caught in the airlock door, I’m pretty sure it’s broken so I’ve sent her back with the returning crew. Hope by the time you see this you’re on the mend, we’ll have you back up here in no time. It’s just me and Patrick until the transporter comes back so we’ll have to hold off on investigative missions for now.

It’s so exciting, I can hardly believe I’m here. No matter what training you do nothing can really prepare you. I’m got going to experience gravity for two years! How weird is that? While we’ve got a bit of free time I’m really enjoying just looking out the window and watching the universe turn. I almost can’t believe it’s real. It’s like it’s a video; an animation or a painting. It’s beautiful. Earth with all the swirls of blue and green and a brush stroke of white cloud. My favourite is when we are passing away from the sun and the continents are illuminated.

Log 2412586.
Is anyone there?! Hello?! Houston? China? Russia? Anyone?! This is medic Luisa Tanem on board the ISA, what’s going on down there? Hello?!

Shit! Fuck! Patrick no one’s answering!… I don’t know!… I don’t think it will contact phone lines Patrick… Maybe, it’s worth a try…

Hello? Is anyone receiving this? This is Luisa Tanem on board the ISS broadcasting on all frequencies, is there anyone there? Hello? What happened?? We were looking out and something just…. I can’t see any land, is there anyone there? Did anyone…

Log 2472598.
Luisa Tanem on the ISS. It’s been twelve days since we lost contact with Earth. From what we can tell the last of the ice caps melted but they were supporting a significant land structure which has since collapsed into the sea, creating a tidal wave and raising the sea level beyond the barriers we had created. We might be the only humans left. We are broadcasting regularly to try and contact any survivors but I’m starting to worry about how long the power will last.

Patrick is struggling. I’m trying to be brave for him but it is hard. We both have people we care about down there and the thought of losing them… And Jude… She was supposed to be up here with us. What if I sent her home to die?

Log 2412634.
This is medic Luisa Tanem on the ISS. Like it would be anybody else…

I’m trying to keep these logs to no more than one a day. Got to keep a routine and don’t want to use up too much energy but it’s… The quiet. That’s the thing I’m struggling to get used to. I know it’s been a good few weeks but it’s like it’s ringing, you know? Like the silence is loud or…has a texture, does that make sense? It’s thick and foggy, like moving through syrup but sharp at the same time; burring in through your ear.

I did a full inventory today. Maybe I shouldn’t have. I don’t know how helpful it is really… To know… There’s thirty-two sachets left. It’s supposed to be one per meal but I recon I can make them go a bit further. I know the odds are slim but I’ve got to try.

I covered the windows. I just couldn’t do it anymore. Every time I’d catch a glimpse it would hit me all over again and I can’t… All that water… I’d find myself staring at what was left and wondering what bit of which continent it might be, not that they are even big enough to see; it really is the blue planet now.

If I let it overwhelm me I’ll end up like Patrick and I have stay calm and keep going. That’s the main reason I had to cover the windows; I guess it’s not something you think about when you’re that desperate. He’s out there, floating, all bloated and frozen; caught in the gravitational field spinning around a water-logged Earth about a hundred yards from the ISS. He had a wife and kids but we hadn’t caught a glimpse of land that might be the UK for weeks.

God I hope someone survived. Anyone. Anyone that might be able to get me out of here.


There is dirt in my mouth. Clumps of powdery grime amass in my teeth. Everything is dark. And there is screaming.

It was such a cliché. For years of my high school life, I pathetically played the role of dork to their elite sorority. A long game of chess between a singular dumpy little pawn and five queens, strutting ahead freely whilst I took one useless step back. I was always going to go down. It was just a matter of time. They started with noncommittally jabbing comments. Just little ones as I shrunk into the books clutched to my chest, like they were testing the water. I had always been told to keep my head down, to ignore them and carry on. But the nervous increase in my pace as I walked past simply called to them.

The day they learned my name? I won’t forget that. How the bones of my forearms shot through with icy warmth in the marrow. The way my heart abruptly froze before pulsing feverishly into overdrive. Or when I met the ringleader’s sickly-innocent gaze, to have her fingers flutter by her face as she tinkled hello. From then on, they owned me. They haunted my movements in hallways, and by now they had advanced their techniques to enforcing servantile, crude tasks upon me. During a traffic-less period at lunchtime, I’d be crawling beneath a locked bathroom stall door on the barely washed tiles of the girls’ toilets. I struggled to squirm through as they watched, my face smushing sideways into the grime. They giggled and snorted. Took pictures, and glared with that horrified fascination one has when watching another perform tasks beneath the observer. When I finally shoved my body through the meagre gap, they applauded and strutted away. I hesitated as the girls flurried out the door, then dashed for the sink. I scrubbed furiously at my hands with my nails and soap until they streaked with pink. Exhausted and disgusting, I looked up to the mirrors that had been dutifully and uniformly installed by the school as a last chance reminder to adhere to the dress code policy. A stumpy nobody stared back, the pair of us grasping the corners of our respective sinks as our eyes met. I resented this wretched reflection for not standing her ground, not fighting her corner against some tottering blonde hyenas with the scent of Britney Spears. What I would give to make them fear me, echoing that same instilled dread that had been tortured into me. This thought lingered until I was brought back into the bathroom by the realisation that my hands rested on an invisibly grimy sink, and I scrubbed again.

One Friday, the situation escalated. Their clicking heels left the school and stalked me into the carpark, onto the path and towards the park. Jeers from behind tailed me. The words they were saying weren’t particularly intimidating- or, more insultingly, clever- but once again my accelerated walk betrayed me. And the chase began.

As the crimson sun set, I hurtled into the woods. My footsteps were blind, my path slowly being burned away by shadows that were streaking from the trees. The cackling pack edged closer as my run deteriorated into stumbles. Sharp breaths painfully shot cold iron into my gums. I couldn’t find an escape. I couldn’t find any exit. I was being hunted like the loser girl in a cheap American horror film- which would have been humiliating if I had been blessed with hindsight. But now, I was running like a wounded fox from hounds. And I had made the mistake of looking back.

I fell and something cracked.

There was silence then a gasp. The girls carefully rustled through the leaves and one dropped to my level. She poked me. Nothing. Another nervously ordered me to get up. To stop playing around. Apparently, it wasn’t “funny anymore”.  Then a third shrieked. There was blood oozing from my temple. Panic shot through the trees in the form of shuddering expletives as they blubbered about what to do. It was the denser one that darted for loose clumps of leaves and dumped them on top of me. The others erratically joined in with the burial. Then they scattered, crying and swearing to each other that not one of them would rat the others out. And they vanished.

I spit out the dirt. I shovel myself out of the leaves and I tend to the bleeding wound on my forehead. It’s just a scratch, probably from the branch that snapped on my way down. But now it has presented me with a unique opportunity. Laughing breathlessly, I realise that this may be the first time I have been overjoyed about not existing. I have been left for dead, but I’ve never felt more alive. It’s an exhilarating feeling, y’know. I was now, quite literally, untouchable. They had no more hold over me, no power. Whilst they think I’m gone, I’m not. Far from it. I have played their game, I have ended it, and now we will initiate mine.

You can’t beat the dead, can you?



My father had a profound influence on me, he was a lunatic – Spike Milligan

It’s easy to discuss fear when it’s regarding spiders, heights,small spaces etc. but it isn’t always as easy when it comes down to affairs of the heart and mind. If I were to discuss every fear I had, it would exceed the word limit and frankly either be really boring or totally depressing. I have two main fears after the typical phobia’s; not being able to be a parent/being a parent and the invalidity of my thoughts and feelings. Now I’ll start with this latter one because it makes me sound very self obsessed and I want to clarify what I mean.

Invalidity is unfortunately a reality for many people that suffer from mental health issues. For me, anxiety not only causes the feelings of being invalid but allows other people to excuse or ignore my feelings. It is horrific to constantly be at war with your own mind and constantly self access whether you’re overreacting or if it’s justified. However when someone you trust, someone who cares for you, regularly asks “but is that because of your anxiety? Are you sure it’s not just your brain playing tricks on you? You’re thinking yourself into a bad mood”; it is telling that person that their thoughts, feelings and reactions are invalid. Now, I want to clarify that the above examples are not one specific person, but is in fact multiple people I have encountered including medical professionals. This brings me nicely to my main point. I dread going to the doctors out of fear of my own illnesses/ problems being invalidated by one 10 minute conversation. I fear telling someone they’ve hurt my feelings or pissed me off in fear of being told I’m over-reacting or “it’s OK she suffers from anxiety” I am terrified of asking for help because of that label applied to me and people not understanding. I fear my own anxiety because at times it takes away everything I am and replaces me with this giant ball of fear and fuzzy noises, blurred vision and a whirlpool of emotions but in the eyes of some, that’s not real. They aren’t real and I’m just seeking attention, so I’ve learnt to fear my own fear which in turn causes more of the above.

That, probably on a psychological front probably contributes to my fear of never being a parent and being a parent. To cut a very awkward and over personalized story short, my dad left when I was 4/5 and we’ve never had much of a relationship. There are a lot of bottled up and ignored emotions ranging all the way from love to full blow rage. This scenario has lent itself to two very very real fears; never being able to be a parent and/or being as “good” a parent as my father. I would never want a child to feel as invalid or irrelevant as my father made me feel, so from that point of view the thought of being a parent scares me. However in the reverse of that. The thought of never being able to bear my own child terrifies me as well. I’d love to be a mum and show dad parenting done right, but when a nurse once told me I may have difficulties conceiving and then raising a child, (because my anxiety may affect my health), my world shattered. I don’t want kids, at 24 I don’t feel like I can look after myself let alone a child as well but never being able to have one makes me incredibly sad and frankly terrified that I’ve failed as a human being – so it once again comes back to that fear of being invalid again.

So rather than continuing my rambling I want to finish with a couple of quotes that I found and appreciated.

How often in your life have you been criticized for having the feelings you do? Did this make you feel invalidated? How often do you simply stuff your feelings and agree with others, saying yes, when you really mean no – Catherine Cardinal

Do not deny another’s perception. Do not argue with his experience. Do not disown his feelings. Specifically do not try to convince him that what he sees or hears or feels or senses is not so, – Haim Ginott

And finally most importantly:

It’s a gift and a curse. You get the pain much worse than anybody else, but you see sunrise much more beautiful than anybody else! – Spike Milligan.

The Day I Met My Father

I slowly exhale the air from my lungs, and for a moment I am completely still. I see the warm breath evaporate in front of me as it contacts the cold air around me. I feel my heart pound against my ribcage and worry that the rhythm will shake me apart from the inside. My father’s whisper beside me cuts through the sounds of the forest birds

“Now gently squeeze the trigger”.

He had woken me at around 6am, as we’d arranged the night before. The night of my 14th birthday, when my father had presented me with my first rifle. A Harrington & Richardson Synthetic Handi-Rifle, weighing 7 lbs with a 22” barrel, firing .243 caliber rounds. Not that I understood any of it as he listed the specifications. It was a gun. And it was mine.

I had known for a while that hunting was a tradition in the family – it was no secret that my father and his friends would go away for long weekends with some of the other dads from the town. When I was 10 years old I’d asked my parents if I could go with them. Dad had laughed. Mom had strictly forbidden it, and had given Dad a thorough telling off once she thought I’d gone to sleep. But now it seemed that she had relented. Dad could be tenacious when he wanted to do something and nobody was going to tell him he couldn’t take his son hunting with him.

It was bitterly cold as we parked the car and stepped out into the forest with our rifles in hand. It was sunrise now, and occasional shafts of light pierced the canopy of the forest, then reflected back off the snow that covered the ground to give a soft and pleasant brightness despite the earliness of the hour. Our boots made a pleasing crunch sound as they compacted the couple of inches of snow onto the fallen leaves and sticks that covered the floor underneath.

“I remember the first time your grandfather took me out hunting. I was younger than you, of course, but we weren’t so concerned with political correctness back then.”

A dig at my mother no doubt, but I let it pass. I was sure he was right.

“He had just come back from the war in Vietnam – he was a fantastic shot. A real marksman. He’d have loved to come with us today.”

Grandfather had died when I was only seven years old. I didn’t remember him much, but my father talked about him so much that I felt I knew him more. Decorated war veteran, one of the most popular men in the town, owner of the local hardware store which he had sold when he retired in order to buy a house for my parents when they married.

I said nothing in reply, apart from the occasional “Yes Dad” or “Yes Sir”. Dad liked it when I called him Sir. He said it showed respect and we were in danger of losing that aspect of our culture. He wasn’t strict about it, but he liked it when I remembered and today was clearly important to him, so it seemed a good time to make sure I was on my best behavior.

“This is a great American tradition son… Father and son hunting together for the first time. Just two men and the wilderness… Now it’s important that when you hunt, you remember that we’re fair chase hunters in this family. That means the animal has to have a chance of getting away. We don’t use traps. We don’t shoot an animal that’s helpless… But when we shoot, we shoot to kill. We don’t just spray bullets all over the goddamn place, y’understand?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Good boy.”

We walked further into the wood, the light dimming slightly as snow began to fall. All of a sudden my father grabbed my shoulder and pointed to a clearing ahead of us. Two deer were before us, a buck walking in a circle around a calf which was sitting.

“Look” he whispered sharply, “see the buck there?”

I nodded and we lowered ourselves into the prone position, weapons drawn. My father reached into his pocket and produced a cartridge for me to load into the rifle, as he’d shown me the evening before. He talked me through it slowly and patiently, and gave me tips as we went along. The deer were unaware of us, though they must only have been twenty feet ahead. Once the rifle was loaded I looked along the its sight and trained my eyes on the buck again.

I had been accustomed to seeing deer my whole life, but in this position I felt I was looking at one for the very first time. All in a moment I marvelled at it’s magnificent horns and the dashes of white on its tail and belly.

“Now aim at the head” my father whispered, and I obeyed.

“When you have it firmly in your sight, cock the rifle – slowly, so it’s quiet”.

As quietly as I was able my thumb pulled back the cocking handle, but the deer heard the click of it locking into place. The buck turned to face me, but stopped moving. I could sense its thoughts. It seemed unsure if it had heard anything, but knew enough to be afraid. It turned back briefly to it’s calf before staring in our direction again. It was an instinct obvious to anyone; to protect its young.

My father stayed silent for what felt like a full five minutes, but in reality was probably thirty seconds. The snow continued to fall, and birds intermittently chirped and sang. The noise of the wind in the trees, and of our breathing, seemed to fade out until there was nothing but my father’s voice.

“Now gently squeeze the trigger”.

I didn’t. My rifle still pointing at the buck I looked at the calf. A calf that was soon to be fatherless. Who knew if the mother was anywhere nearby. Was she even still alive or could she have been a previous victim of what my father called a sport?

“What are you waiting for? Shoot”.

I couldn’t tell if it was a suggestion or an order, but quickly realised my naivety. This is why my father had brought me here. To prove my manliness by killing an animal that couldn’t possibly defend itself. Just to say that we had. Just for a selfie.

“I can’t Dad… I can’t”.

“Yes you can – shoot it”. Very definitely an order this time, with a hint of anger. If I wasn’t going to do it, I knew he would.

“Fine”. He said, his voice breaking above a whisper and his hands loading his own rifle.

I fired. The shot shattered the silence of the forrest and the recoil of the gun punched me in the shoulder. The bullet flew from the gun and over the head of the deer. I had pulled up just enough as I fired that I was fairly certain that I’d miss. The deer didn’t hang around to see if I wanted another attempt, they bolted away with impressive speed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my father raise his rifle and follow, but he didn’t shoot immediately, the deer had made it to the edge of the clearing and now benefitted from the cover of trees impeding the line-of-sight.

My father jumped to his feet and although the deer were gone, he fired anyway. I can never forget the look on his face, coupled with the noise of the rifle. His was larger and louder than mine, of course. He turned to me with a piercing glare and pulled me by my jacket to my feet.

“Did you mean to miss?” he shouted, no longer concerned to keep our presence covert. I didn’t reply, not formulating an excuse quickly enough that would placate him.

“Did you?” he repeated, screaming. I managed to make a sound that had the potential to turn into a word before his hand connected forcefully with my face. I dropped to my knees, crying from the pain and the hopelessness of the situation. Time stopped as I realised that there was nothing I could ever say to my father that would make what I’d done okay, and I would never forgive him for killing these animals this way.

He looked down at me with unconcealed contempt and I briefly wondered if he was about to leave me there, alone in the middle of nowhere.

I knew from that moment onwards that I could never trust him to care for me anymore. I had loved him as a dutiful son, idolised him. Now I realised that I didn’t know the man I was looking up at. All the love I had for him had left me, and fear had taken its place.

Fear is mostly in your head. Mostly.

Jamie stepped out of the garage sliding the bolts home with a long, tired sigh. He slipped the chunky padlock into the loop and closed it with a satisfying click then rubbed his face with both hands. ‘I’ve really got to stop with these long nights,’ he thought tugging on the door. Content that it secure, well as secure as a rundown garage/office could be he dropped his keys in his pocket and headed for the home.

He rounded the corner onto the main road leading home just as the fat yellow moon disappeared behind a bank of thick, dark clouds. ‘It’s like something out of a horror movie,’ he thought to himself with a shudder. He stood there for a moment looking up at the eerie sky until the silence and the dark started to rub at him then he turned up the collar on his jacket and started back off down the street.

He hated walking home alone at night, he wasn’t scared, he was a grown man after all but he did have a quite excellent imagination and the world looked like a whole different place at – he checked his watch – ‘Four in the morning? Bloody hell it was a late one tonight; it’s no wonder the streets are totally deserted,’ he thought. He stopped and looked all around him. He was on the main road from Burnley town centre out towards the motorway and there was not a person in sight; there weren’t even any lights on in the windows of the rows and rows of terraced houses he could see from the road. ‘I could be the only one alive in the whole world,’ he thought to himself.

The hair on the back of Jamie’s neck stood up as he realised quite how alone he was, if something were to happen to him there would be nobody around to help. The images ran through his mind as his imagination kicked into overdrive.

A voice coming from a nearby sewer drain, he leans in to take a look and then pow! a creepy clown dude pulls of his arm.

A lonely car pulls up alongside as he walks down the road and then pow! a knife wielding maniac jumps out and slits his throat.

No, it would be nothing so sudden. Then it hit him, he saw it clear as day like the movie had cut away from the writer walking down the lonely road to the main story. While he’d been writing in his garage office the T-virus had been released. It was slowly drifting around the country, an invisible mist of pure evil infecting the populace and turning them into flesh eating zombies.

‘This is why you can’t watch horror movies Jamie old boy,’ he thought trying to dismiss the fantasy, but his imagination would not be denied.

Somewhere lurking in the dark were zombies; foul rotting creatures that knew nothing only a relentless hunger. His eyes darted from side to side, he couldn’t see anything but he knew with every fibre of his being; knew that they were out there, they could taste him in the air, sense his pulse beating in his throat and their mouths watered in anticipation.

Each alley he passed became populated with the imaginary undead. Behind each darkened window grotesque monsters watched with cold dead eyes. The rational part of his mind knew they weren’t really there but somehow he could still feel their blank, soulless eyes burning into his back.

His heart beat faster and casting anxious glances around he stepped up the pace, he wasn’t running per se, he told himself just walking a little faster than usual so he could get home before the damn birds came out.

He ate up the road and was just nearing the end of the row of menacing terraced houses when as if on cue the streetlight above him flickered and went out dumping him into darkness. He stopped dead looking around his hackles rising, the street was silent as the grave, not a soul stirred.

“It’s just a coincidence Jamie,” muttered to himself trying to calm his racing heart. “Street lights must fail all the time, I’ve never seen one but it must happen right?” He looked up at the now dark street light with a frown like he could see the broken bulb from 8 feet away. “Besides, zombies can’t turn out individual street lights if this was them all of the lights would have gone out.”

Up ahead the lights at the underpass cast a warm glow. “See Jamie, it’s just a bulb going, nothing to worry about.” He took a deep breath feeling better now he’d gotten to the bottom of the broken light situation and headed towards the light and the promise of safety.

He was maybe six feet from the underpass when the warm amber glow cut off, the lights flickering and going out. His heart lurched in his chest and he ground to a halt again. His hands started to shake as his body dumped adrenaline into his system; fight or flight. His heart beat so fast he thought it might leap out of his chest and make a break for it without waiting for him to make a decision.

Fighting down panic Jamie turned to face the darkness. “You’re not scaring anyone you know,” he squeaked his voice breaking slightly. In the distance he thought he heard a child laugh. His heart rate jumped up another notch, his chest felt tight and he could feel his blood pounding in his ears. He took a faltering step backwards his eyes wide, face pale. “Look this isn’t funny,” he called his voice shaking. “It’s… it’s… just downright dangerous. Look, look, there’s a road here, now turn the lights back on immediately, someone could get hurt.”

“Only you,” whispered a voice so close he could feel their warm breath on his cheek.

Before he could react he felt a sharp pain in his neck and then his legs were giving way, his vision narrowing and he plunged head first into a deep, cold darkness.


Ladies and Gentleman! We’ve done the first month! (explosion of confetti and marshmallow everywhere). You guys have the next month to read the entries and vote for your favourite pieces! (See the Voting page)

And whilst you lot are busy doing that, our incredible writers will be working on the OCTOBER CHALLENGE! This month I’m asking the gang to write about FEAR. This can be a personal phobia, someone else’s fear or even a made up phobia; it can even be a discussion of fear itself but we want up to 1500 scared, shaking words!

With that I give you the example piece for this month. I have given myself my own personal challenge of writing the example pieces within the submission weekend. I have based my piece, entitled Rushed, on the fear of music’s evolution into something that lacks soul or even human interaction! Inspired by the song 2112 by Rush.

Enjoy the pieces and I’ll be back this time next month. May the pages be forever in your favour…


And so I sit in this here rocking chair.

I have lived a most fulfilling life, experienced many joys and waned with many disasters. I have taken every punch that this fastidious heavyweight can throw and I draw none when an opening becomes clear in his defence. Though this final punch has took the breath right from me…

I was merely a boy when I found the instrument. It sat at the bottom of a large ravine we used as a shortcut between the realms. It looked like a gourd that had been squeezed by the very rock itself, and in doing so a large shaft in the middle had shot out of the top. Along this slender strip were hair like vines that were as taut as to the point of breaking, yet they did not yield. I took this contraption to my hideaway in the mountains – a shallow cave behind the waterfall that fed our village – and experimented for hours. I found that the device could produce sound when the vines were strummed or plucked, the sounds could also be manipulated by pressing my fingers at intervals on the shaft.

I had a moment of paralysis when I went to return with the device to my village, afraid that it would be stolen or condemned. Instead I continued through the ravine, on to the other realm, where both the soundbox and I turned ethereal and wandered out of a closet in a young man’s bedroom as he slept. I cannot explain why the ravine always leads to bedroom closets but it is a portal that is very rarely used. I placed the substance of an object of very similar quality that resided in the bedroom, sure it would be safe for when I next returned…

And so today, nearly 2 millenia after that fateful day, the instrument returned to me. It was left on my porch with a note that read:

Dear Lifeson,
I have spent many years in that other realm, and I have transferred my spirit between many homes. You left me in the control of a young man with different coloured eyes and a lightning bolt shaped scar across one. I shook with joy when I lived under the supervision of a man with a large afro and vibrantly coloured clothes. When he burned his instrument I transcended into that of a man who I presumed was questioning the foundation of education, the mortar of society, and having pudding if meat was never digested. I worked with people condemned to die at 27, I worked with men at work themselves!

All these things and more happened before my demise and return to your side. In the past years an overriding government has monitored and limited the creative industries of Man. They have ostracised my sound to that produced by computer and thus, mankind slipped into a downward spiral.

Whatever you do, Lifeson, keep me from digitalisation.

I could not believe my eyes, yet here it was and I had been following the news of recently deceased humans from the other realm in the paper. Bowie, Hendrix, Cobain and many others had died and been loved for centuries after; that was, until the Red Starred government had started. The year was 2112, and music had just died. I flung the paper down, I could not stomach all this information at once, I had caused the birth of this music, only to see it die before my eyes. I exiled myself from the village, I could not bear the idea of speaking of my crime of interfering with the other realm, let alone the judgment as I mourned something I had not known until it’s ruin.

And so I await my end, in whichever way it may come, whilst I sit here in this rocking chair…