A Slight Change of Plan
By S L Kelly
After a long night of drink and debauchery, I awoke to find that I had caused Armageddon. That immediately put a crimp in my plans for the day.
The entire back wall of my house had been blown away. As I gingerly stepped forward towards the gaping hole, looking at the indescribable horror outside, I found that most of my neighbour’s houses were now craters. A vast improvement to Mrs. Hunt’s marigold borders, I thought to myself with a satisfied smirk.
Once I had showered and dressed in the open air, I decided it was time to venture out and visit some friends, to see who had ascended, who had bitten it and who were hardy enough to still be living. I really hoped Meicha was still around; she could survive anything. Hell, she had been friends with me for as long as I’d had the scar on my cheek, which was her fault.
As I travelled along in my Porsche Boxster, taking corners recklessly and dodging flaming debris scattering the road, I glanced away from the road every so often to take in the surrounding devastation. Half of my neighbourhood was missing, blown up; the other half was on fire. A few survivors were running around, crying over their losses and repenting for their sins. I marvelled at how a simple Apocalypse could persuade a society to change its heathen ways. Quite hypocritical.
By R J Payne
My oldest friend, I don’t want you to be afraid. I heard from Anne that you’d be coming soon – she’s here, of course, bossing us all around the way she used to – and though it’s not really in the spirit of the game, I had to reach you somehow.
The first thing that will hit you is the noise. I remember it well. I was lying in the mud, the pain was still so real I couldn’t open my eyes, and the sound of all those birds squawking and flapping – well, it was worse than any shells or machine gun fire I can recall. In the darkness it sounded like a thousand angry demons beating their wings. I didn’t dare look, so scared that I’d see pits of brimstone and rivers of blood, some childish nightmare from Sunday school.
The Man Who Was Fished
By James Hayward
The man to be fished woke up with a sore head from the night before. He found his tablets and the decanter on his bedside table pretty much by habit, and he washed down two pills before even thinking of rising.
Through the crack in the blinds shone a weak, uncertain sunlight. By it, he could see the pile of clothes on the chair, the book shelves with their stacks of magazines, the hole in the skirting board that the mice had opened out again and he hadn't got around to closing up for the umpteenth time.
It was, he could tell, going to be another one of those days. That was, a day where reality seemed sort of faded, stretched out and thinning. The watery sun was part of it, but the silence was more of it. It was as if the sounds of the world could not be fully transmitted to him. Like some invisible cocoon was around him. He could see, he could eat, but it was all as though someone else was doing it and then telling him about it afterwards.
In other words, they were coming to get him.
Echoes of Eternity
By Patrick MacPhee
Her wanderings always took her to her secret place. It was far outside the confines of the village, beyond dense brush and winding paths, nestled at the bottom of a mist-cloaked vale. Sometimes, when the morning sun dappled through glistening leaves, she liked to imagine she had escaped into a shimmering realm of purest imagining. If peace could be found, surely it would be here.
She closed her eyes and listened. Wind sighed through the trees, breathing in faint whispers of life and death across space and time. The whispers faded. Fleeting fears and desires flickered through her mind’s eye. Slowly, these too faded. She was alone.
Way Lin And The Dragon
What colour are the eyes of the dragon?
Asked Way Lin of the old man under the tree.
They are as cold and white as death:
White as a shroud, as the flesh of a corpse,
White as the bones of the dead that he feeds on,
White as ash.
Now ask me no more.
The Car Pool
By Eternity Valette
Is there a hell?
For some reason that was the only think Melissa could think. She scanned the shelves of sandwiches and fajitas and tiny little pork pies wrapped in cellophane and overpriced. Her mind should have been on the merits of prawn cocktail versus cheese and spring onion. She was holding a bottle of bright orange energy drink, staring at it blankly, but all she could think of was if there was a hell, and if there was did it have fire and brimstone?
She turned away from the shelves, the drink and a sandwich (what sandwich? Did it matter?) in her hands. She approached the desk and the clerk, reading a paperback novel never looked up. Stopping in front of the counter she still got no response. Melissa read the girls name tag.
“Rashmi?” She asked. Rashmi ignored her, engrossed in her book. Melissa leaned over. According to the tiny text at the top of the right hand page she was read The Shining. Good book. Good ghost story.
“Excuse me. Rashmi. I need to pay.” Rashmi leaned back and for a moment Melissa was hopeful, but it was only to read the text message that had vibrated silently through her phone in her pocket.
Picking up her food, and feeling dangerously close to tears, Melissa turned away.
By Suzanne Jackson
Her mother’s body had been found, but Amelia was still missing. It came as quite a shock; it had always been such a tranquil place and, to be fair, no one expects a murder to take place in their own house, do they? Of course, it wasn’t strictly my house; it hadn’t been for several years, but it didn’t stop me visiting every now and then just to keep an eye on the old place.
The large red brick house stood well, set back some distance from the road. The turning circle outside the front door was packed with cars, and there was a deep drone from the search helicopter on its third sweep around. This one had definitely caused a stir.
Amelia – now I had a good idea where to look. I wondered if my hunch was right, and I headed up the stairs. The last bedroom joined onto the previous, through a short corridor. It was the smallest bedroom in the house with a tiny window at the far end. As a study it had served its function well. I’d always liked this room. It was cosy, like a favourite pair of slippers; it was comfortable.
By Chris Castle
Since my last letter I feel terrible for not using a name. It felt like it didn’t mean anything which is nowhere near the truth, I swear. So as it stands, I’ll call you Adeline. It was the name of the first girl I fell in love with when I was five years old. She kissed me by a climbing frame by the pub her parents used to own and left the next summer.
I’ve been thinking about the last letter I wrote to you and how bleak it may have sounded. It wasn’t my intention to scare you, not for all the world. It just the world as it stands is sideways and I’m not sure it would be the best time for us to meet. I think you may be safer, out there in the sea, away from the land and the shores, watching the madness unfold like a film at the playhouse where you can leave if the noise gets too loud or the colours too bright.
By Leila Anani
Who am I? I mouth to the face in the mirror, the face that is not my own. Who am I? The strange and yet familiar reflection echoes back. Strange because it is not the face I remember looking back at me from mirrors in memories past. Familiar, because it is a face I know. A face I have fantasised about touching. Kissing. Your face. But you my love, are dead.
Death. It’s so… final. The one thing, that despite all our technology, mankind has never been able to conquer. Well that and love I suppose. It matters little, since in our case the two are intrinsically linked anyway. I remember staring numbly down the barrel of the shotgun at your beautiful body, this body, as it lay in its pool of gore like a carcass of meat on the slab. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this! You weren’t supposed to die! I swear I didn’t even know that the gun was loaded. I just wanted to get your attention! I thought that if you saw me dressed as one of those daring space pirates all the girls seem to sigh over, maybe, just maybe, you’d remember me. Talk to me. Let me be the one to take you to the docking port next Saturn’s night.
But no. Your beautiful, soul-filled eyes showed no recognition whatsoever when I showed up at your cash desk as I have every Saturn’s day morning since time out of mind. I had to shoot, don’t you see? Your “That’ll be 1,200 credits sir,” just pushed me over the edge. You were so… cold. Distant. And I love you so much! I knew that if you just noticed me you would feel the same! But you had to go spoil it all and scream didn’t you?
Falling into Nightmare
By Yolanda Sfetsos
“No!” Tess bolted upright, the scream reverberating through her body.
Her husband, Martin, sat up beside her, automatically starting his routine of rubbing her back with circular motions. It was how he tried to soothe her. Even if it did nothing to relieve the sense of loss or the tears, the nightly routine helped anchor her back into reality.
She clutched the covers with clammy fingers, wishing she didn’t have to endure this panic every night. Tess couldn’t lay her head down on the pillow without the attack of haunting emotions and misery. The sense of loss so overwhelming it tore at her heart until she felt hollow.
“It’s all right sweetie,” her husband whispered.
“It’s never going to be all right.” Her voice felt strained, every word scraped at her throat. She’d been screaming in her sleep, desperately trying to be heard over the unending commotion of the hellish place she visited in her dreams. But no matter how fast she moved, or how far she tried to reach, he was always too far to grasp. Never close enough to save.
By Sascha Cooper
Frozen solid - unmovable
The Ice Queen commeth -
Icicles surrounding her heart.
Blatently separating her from
All humanity and all she surveys.
No one rules her or conquers her.
She's been thawed once too often.
Never lets anyone in anymore,
Just shuts the light away.
By Naomi Clark
Sometimes when I dream, it feels like there’s someone else in there with me. It’s a relatively new phenomenon; possibly linked to the new anaesthetic the Factory have been using on us to make us sleep deeper, for longer. I have contemplated informing one of the supervisors, but I suspect they would see it as a sign of my inevitable, and overdue, breakdown. So I stay quiet and say nothing of the other person lingering in my subconscious while the Factory reaps my dreams.
I wander through a typically mundane landscape created by my imagination. A gently sloping hill leads down to a still lake where sunlight ripples across the surface of the water. In the blue skies above me, the future zips by, countless bites of economic, political and financial predictions that the Factory will pull from my mind and use to shape the country.
Usually I am alone. Today I am not. He is standing on the other side of the lake, hands in pockets, eyes on the clouds. Perhaps he is watching the information fly by, but I suspect he doesn’t care about it.
‘Who are you?’ I call across to him.
Bone, Moon, Blood and Vine
By Mike Phillips
Slowly it came. A single tendril unfurled, reached into the night air, and took hold of an old fencepost. It found its way around the thickness of the rotting wood, encircling, testing, grasping stronger and stronger. Another tendril followed the first and fixed itself upon the post. It too tightened its grip.
More and more came, delicate strands wrapping so thickly on the post and planks of the old fence that it seemed an entire summer’s growth had come in a single night. Then it was time to move on.
“Edith?” a gruff voice called. “Edith, where are you?”
“Here in the pantry,” a woman replied, her words punctuated by the sound of boxes being moved upon shelves.
Eustace Malloy made his way into the kitchen, neglecting to shut the door behind him, and went right to the sink where he washed his thick hands. “Can you come here and help me?”
“Certainly. What’s wrong? What happened to you?” Edith’s voice now came from behind Eustace. She set a few things down on the counter and came to see what this new upset was all about. Her husband was vigorously scrubbing his arms all the way to where the shirt began, a thick stream of dirty water running into the drain, making a mess of the clean sink.
By Teresa Ford
John sat bolt upright, forehead bearing beads of sweat, mind racing to register his whereabouts.
Moonlight filtered in through the thin curtains, shedding faint illumination on the room. His bedroom, in his flat, safe and secure. He glanced about. All seemed to be as it had been when he went to bed, nothing was changed. It must have been a nightmare, some troubled dream which had shattered his peaceful sleep.
The clock beside his bed showed the hour in a dull red glow, like dying embers, 2.00 am. He had been asleep for only three hours. Annoyance seeped into his thoughts. Work again tomorrow, must get back to sleep, never feel on top form with less than eight hours shuteye.
He was calmer now. Whatever shocked him awake had now retreated into his subconscious once more. Fatigue was fighting to reclaim him, making his eyelids heavy.
He lay back, bidding sleep to carry him off again, but as he did something caught his eye.
By RG Daubney
William was waiting for her when she came to visit the grave.
He knew she would come, and she always did, so he made sure that he was there.
He lived just to see her, although he wished the circumstances were different. He wished he could cheer her up; put his arm around her shoulders, especially when they shook with her silent sobs, but he knew that the gulf that existed between them now meant that this could never happen.
They could never be together again after the accident; things could never be the same for either of them.
Plus part One of...
The Butterfly on a Wheel
By Andrew M Boylan
The Alpha and the Omega
“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord,” the voice was musical, it’s lilting tone filled with a preternatural grace. The words contained no element of anger, only an ingrained edge of melancholy, as though the speaker had intoned the words too many times.
“I am the right arm of the Almighty. I am the instrument of His will. So it was, and so it is, and so it will forever be.”
The priest knelt before the altar, his head bowed beneath the weight of charisma, which emanated from the voice. His clothes were torn, the fabric stained with mud and slick with liquid, clinging to the black cotton with a fierce tenacity.
Summoning every last ounce of his strength, the priest raised his head. The revealed dog collar, once a brilliant white, was stained crimson with blood. The precious liquid clung to his pale skin.
As he raised his head, he hissed his defiance. His mouth opened wide, exposing the sharp, deadly fangs of the nosferatu.
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