He was under pressure. There was a great deal of people depending on his leadership, and yet here he sat in this small cottage, in effect hiding.
So much was going through his mind about what he had to do, how he could organise his people, and what he needed to win the day.
Yet there was something nagging at him, something that he had to do here and now. An immediate concern for him to see to, yet he couldnât remember what.
A funny smell was distracting him, and a woman's voice yelled.
âAlfred, youâre burning the cakes again!â
Come to the beach, they said. It will be fun, they said. Youâll have a great time, they said.
She shouldnât have listened, shouldnât have been so easily led. She knew she hated the beach. She tried to avoid the sun by staying inside or in the shade, but there was no shade on the beach. She was hot and uncomfortable.
Sand was everywhere. In-between her toes, on her clothes, in her hair and, worst of all, in her food. She hated the sand.
She needed a shower, longed for one.
And then, to her delight only, the rain started.
The scratching at the door was a constant echo in the back of her mind. Was she still dreaming, or was she awake and there was something at the door to bedroom?
She opened her eyes and the scratching noise continued. It was annoying her now. She got out of bed and went to the door where the sound was coming from, and opened it.
There was nothing there. The noise stopped, and she closed the door and went back to bed.
She closed her eyes and the scratching started again.
This time it was in the bed with her.
The sun had set beyond the horizon, and was lighting up the sky in the most wonderful way. Deep terracotta orange at the base, lightening to yellow before transitioning into a cavalcade of blue, with white tips on the few wispy clouds that gently floated in the sky.
The rooftops that could be seen out of the window blended in with the bare tree branches in a silhouette of black, lining the skyâs kaleidoscope of colours.
I was transfixed by the view as it slowly changed.
Then someone turned the lights on and all I could see was my reflection.
Henry had been trying to get an appointment in front of the committee for months. It had been a constant battle with the keeper of the diary to get in front of them to talk about his plan for a special re-enactment for the anniversary.
It was close now, it was already the fourth of the month and the anniversary was on the twenty-fifth.
She looked up at him, âI can squeeze you in at quarter past two tomorrow if thatâs OK?â
âYes pleaseâ, he replied eagerly.
There you are then Henry, the fifth at 14:15 in the Agincourt room.
I asked the driver, âHalf into town please.â
The driver looked suspiciously at me, and asked me, âHow old are you?â
âEightâ, I replied honestly.
The driverâs eyes narrowed, and the tone of his voice changed.
âAre you having a laugh? There is no way youâre only eight years old, youâve got a beard and are over six foot tall.â
It was a line Iâd heard many times before. Wearily I got my passport out and showed him my date of birth.
âIt says 1984 on this.â
âYes but the February 29th only happens every four years â I am eight!â
She was a woman possessed. It had taken over her mind, body and soul completely, and now controlled everything. She was totally at its mercy.
There was no mercy tonight, on and on it went, never ceasing, forcing her on, keeping her moving constantly, seemingly oblivious to the throngs of people around her.
They looked at her, they knew she wasnât in control. Some of them made a show of keeping away, some of them nodded, as if aware of what was going on, and feeling empathy towards her.
Then it stopped. The club was closing. No more music tonight.
âStar Wars marathonâ were the only words he actually heard before replying, âyes, Iâd be up for that.â He ignored the questioning look, and continued on, âwhen do you want to do it then? Would Saturday be good for you?â
âGreat, would 10 be alright with you?â
The rest of the week dragged and then it was Saturday, 10am on the dot, he rang the bell.
He was let in and shown into the living room.
There in an airtight box was a Marathon bar with Star Wars promotional wrapping from 1977.
âTheyâre called Snickers now.â
He had stopped reading, turned his kindle off, turned the light off, and tried to go to sleep.
His mind wouldnât stop. He was having ideas for what to write for his next drabble. There were lots of strands, ideas about writing on subjects he knew about and was interested in.
Then he had a story flash into his mind and he counted the words in his head. He had about ninety, which was great he could work with that. Heâd write it down when he got up in the morning.
The morning came.
If only he couldâve remembered it!
Gazing out of the window, watching the trains go by. Now that autumn had arrived and stripped the trees of their leaves, the trains were easier to see.
He counted the number of trains and mentally noted both their direction of travel and the number of coaches on each one. A pattern was built of four, five, eight, ten and twelve coach trains passing by.
The fly in the ointment, a goods train, thirty-three random sized cars behind two engines.
Then his thoughts of trains went, as his train of thought was broken by his boss shouting,
âDo some work!â
The last e-mail had pushed him over the edge.
He picked up his keyboard and used it like a baseball bat, swinging at anything and everything in range, screens, phones, people, nothing was safe.
A few keys fell out, and he picked them up and started eating them.
He then ran as fast as he could and flung himself at the window. He bounced back. He tried another three times with the same result, but finally managed to break through the glass and fall on the fifth attempt.
The suicide attempt failed, he forgot he worked on the ground floor.
âDIY Made Easyâ was the title of the book.
Someone who obviously didnât know him well had given it to him in secret Santa. DIM would be more appropriate â destroy it myself â was the outcome of any home improvements.
Clumsy was an understatement.
The bookcase had a missing shelf, where heâd stood on it whilst unpacking it from the flat-pack.
The chair was missing an arm from resting laminate flooring on it to cut to size. Cut through the arm perfectly, but the floor panel was wonky.
Perhaps the sender did know him, and was actually plotting to kill him!
Sat there waiting for reports to run, how much time was spent just waiting for the computer to do something?
What could she be doing in those minutes whilst the machine did whatever it does?
Surfing the internet was frowned upon, as was wandering around chatting, listening to music, reading books, and anything else that might be interesting.
Stuck staring at the screen, bored, waiting for something to happen.
Then she opened a blank word document, and she started to type, it looked like work and a book could be a way out.
Now waiting for the document to save.
He had drink number three in front of him, this was the tipping point, between getting home today and being able to participate in the family get together tomorrow, or stumbling around at 4am, with remnants of kebab all over his clothes, wondering if he was going to make it home.
It would take him less than five minutes to finish off the pint and then it was decision time.
The time ticked by, another drink or home. Home, or another drink. He thought about the family get together again, and realised the right thing to do.
Same again please.
Heâd been in the woods for what seemed like hours, but he couldnât really be sure how long heâd actually been here.
The trees were laughing at him. He was sure of it.
There had been a path, but that had disappeared. He was sure the trees had hidden the path on purpose. They seemed to be moving, shifting, changing positions, although he knew that wasnât possible.
Then he was in a semi-circle of tightly packed trees with no way through.
He turned to go back and found the same behind him.
Theyâd caught him, and they had his axe.
He had seen them win once. He was sure of it. It had been a long time ago, and now all these defeats were blurring into one.
They had changed the coach, changed stadiums, and changed the players â changed soooo many players, but failed to change owners.
What hadnât changed was their innate ability to lose games.
Yet still the fans watched, they held their breath with hope and expectation, that this would be the week when finally a win would come.
They would be disappointed again, another failure, spirits sinking again.
What did they expect, they were 49ers fans.
The pen sped across the page as she tried to get all the ideas out of her head down on paper to refer to later, knowing full well she wouldnât remember half of it when it really mattered.
So quickly the pen moved it wasnât leaving ink so much, as scorch marks on the page.
And then it stopped, the ideas having come to an end, nothing more flowed from the pen.
She took a breath and looked at the page below, and cried.
There were no words on the page at all.
The pen still had its lid on.
âJust one more thing.â
Yet again, just like Columbo, pecking away with the seemingly never ending stream of questions. It felt like trying to slay the Hydra, every time a question was answered, two more popped back up in its place.
The constant questions made him feel guilty of committing a crime, something which he knew he hadnât done. So far!
There may well be a murder soon if the barrage continued.
Then at the point he felt like he was going to flip, it suddenly stopped. The questions ceased, and he got out of the car.
Congratulations, you passed.
A single leaf had started to change colour from green to yellow, was it really that time of year already?
The days passed quickly, and more colours came, reds and yellows, oranges and browns, then one by one the leaves came tumbling down.
A small front garden was fully in bloom, with hardy perennialsâ bright colours fighting off the gloom.
The wind came along and moved all the fallen leaves, and now the front garden can hardly be seen. Dead leaves causing death as they smother the flowers, blocking out the sun, and soaking up all the water from showers.
It started with an ant.
Not a giant or an elephant, but a tiny ant, scurrying across the kitchen floor, dragging a leaf.
The cat and the dog spotted the leaf moving, but not the ant pulling it. They both dived for the leaf at the same time and became entangled.
The entanglement led to a fight, and all hell broke loose. They knocked the oven over, and the gas pipe ruptured.
The owner came and switched the light on to see what was happening.
An ant scurried away from the burnt out shell pulling a leaf behind it.
The chicken had crossed the road, rolled in the mud and crossed back again, and was delighted about being a dirty double crosser.
The turkey was jealous of the chicken, it had been after the road crossing job for years, and to be pecked at the post by the chicken was the last straw.
The fox had been tipped off, heâd been given the time and place of the crossing and was in hiding, waiting.
The chicken had the day off, and the turkey was given a trial, for holiday cover.
The turkey, so pleased, had forgotten about the fox.
âIt canât have been me, Iâve never been there officer.â
âWe have you on CCTV, and then your debit card was used next door.â
âThatâs not possible, I have never set foot in Coventry, and I donât have a bank account, let alone a card.â
âIs this you in the picture?â
âIt looks like me.â
âIs this your handwriting?â
âIt looks very similar, yesâ
âThen you can see why weâre here then.â
âYes, because someone is pretending to be me, but is failing to get the details right.â
âYouâre visiting me in prison, Iâve been here five years!â
In the city, ghosts in the crowd, disguises the great depression, the dreams of children.
Pity poor Alfie, going underground, down in the tube station at midnight. London girl, Liza Radley, I need you precious. Takinâ my love, a solid bond in your heart, happy together in the midnight hour.
Little boy soldiers â David Watts, Smithers Jones, thick as thieves, set the house ablaze. The Eton riflesâ private hell.
A bomb in Wardour Street, Carnaby Street, in the street today, the plannerâs dream goes wrong.
Slow down! Time for truth, just who is the five oâclock hero?
He woke up due to the sun shining in his eyes. It was still low on the horizon, and it was at just the right angle to shine on him in the gap between two trees.
He wondered why he was in such a position to see the rising sun, before remembering that he had agreed to a weekend in the great outdoors, camping with friends.
He was in a sleeping bag, next to his rucksack, and the tents of his friends were scattered around the campsite.
He knew why he could see the sun. Someone had stolen his tent!
Stuck on the train.
Every day suffering this pain.
Struggling into work for very little gain.
If it carried on, he would have to refrain.
He would walk instead, even in the rain.
Better than looking through the trainâs window pane.
With random thoughts running through his brain.
Being late every day was driving him insane.
On his life, this journey was a bane.
If the train was Abel, he would be Cain.
When he flipped, they wouldnât be able to restrain.
As his self-control was on the wane.
A holiday was needed, time to catch a plane.
With bananas for hands, and mushrooms for feet.
A cauliflower for a brain in a head made of beet.
Artichoke as a heart, and lungs that were pears.
Arms of celery reached for the spaghetti styled hair.
Carrot for a nose and Brussel sprouts for eyes looked at turnips for knees and leek made thighs.
Sweet potato filled torso half stuffed with rice, peanuts for teeth surrounded a tongue made of ice.
Marrows for calves and a pumpkin behind.
Rosemary and sage instead of a mind.
What once was a man had completely changed, into a vegetarianâs pantry well rearranged.
A small conundrum for you to think on.
Can you find what is unusual within this story?
Long and short, high and low, as this short story grows, so will your hints.
What is missing, you cry, how did you do it, and why?
A common thing all day, all night, is now hiding out of sight.
A book is full of this common digit. But you canât find it!
A paragraph with zilch is hard to find, itâs always shouting in your mind.
And so this story is at a finish, donât look too hard for what will diminish.
Sitting there waiting for the interview to start.
Fully suited and booted and prepared as could be. Questions all rehearsed in my head. Researched the company, even thought of some questions that he could ask them.
The previous candidate filed out of the room, their face was a mask, impossible to read. Not a hint of whether they thought they had succeeded.
The telephone rang on the receptionistâs desk, and I was told to make my way in.
I took my seat and my heart sank. No job here today, both my ex-wives were the interview panel, smiling like sharks.
Her birthday again, another year older.
No one to share it with this year.
Her parents dead, no children to nourish, no partner around.
A day to celebrate, you must be joking.
Just another day to survive in the rat race.
No cards, just bills coming through the door.
Four hundred Facebook friends that donât say a word.
She goes to work and sits in a cube alone.
At the end of the day she gets the bus home.
She opens the door wanting to die, and Billy jumps on her, so happy to see her.
Thank God for dogs.
He opened his eyes, but there was nothing to see, he couldnât tell whether he even had eyes.
He couldnât hear a sound, to break the silence he screamed, but no sound came out. He had no voice, or ears to hear.
He tried to breathe, but there was no air. He wondered if his nose and mouth were there.
He reached out to touch his surroundings, but he had no arms.
He went to move but he had no legs.
He thought he had died, but he felt he was alive.
Consciousness trapped forever in a piece of rock.