Over the years I have been known by many names and have worn many faces in many cultures: I was Thanatos to the Ancient Greek’s; Mors to the Ancient Roman’s; in Islam I am called Azrael; in Judaism I have been called Michael, Sariel, and Gabriel. You, dear reader, can have the privilege to call me by my real name, Bobby.
Some cultures portray me as a demon; some portray me as cloaked skeletal figure; others portray me as a ravenous blood-soaked beast wearing necklaces of human skulls. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, I am very friendly and about the size of a cherub – think Cupid without the bow and arrows (starts singing to self, “Cupid, draw back your bow, and let your arrow flow . . . .”).
I am the Angel of Death. Some people call me Death, which is slightly inaccurate; kind of like calling an ocean “water”. Death is what happens to you mortals by the command of The Supreme Being. You mortals have called her God, Allah, Jehovah, Osiris, Odin, Zeus and countless other names over the millennia. I’ve known her for nearly five billion years and in all that time she’s never told me her name; what makes you humans think you know her name? You all still think she is a he.
As I said, I am the Angel of Death. My job is to see that your soul makes it to the Gate’s of Heaven safely for The Judging; and for those who are lucky enough to enter Heaven, I will be your guide and help your soul with the transition from what you were, to what you have become. I have no power to cause nor prevent death; a big misconception you humans have of me. Also I am not evil, even though I have been portrayed that way by humanity – I wonder if I can sue someone for defamation of character? Death comes to everyone at some point whether you are a good person, bad person, a priest, a murderer, rich person, poor person, royalty or the absolute scum of the universe. A great man from a place you humans call America said, “The only guarantee in life is death and taxes”. Boy was he ever right.
Death also exists. Her real name is Sally; she’s a bit of a bitch at times, but she’s my sister and I love her, and in spite of her job she’s not evil either. She’s not an angel (you can’t have two Angels of Death you know), she just simply exists – I suppose the closest you humans can come to understand what Sally is, is that she is shadow; but she can take on physical form when needed. The Supreme Being tells her who is to die today, and Sally goes off and sets things in motion. Although the Supreme Being is the only person with power over life and death, once the list has been given to Sally she gets to decide how that person will die. Sometimes, particularly when she’s on her rag, she goes slightly OTT; there was a big earthquake in 1906 in a place called San Francisco (PMS big time); you humans had a space shuttle called Challenger that exploded (those deaths happened that way because I’d put a big sign outside our house saying, “Beware the Sally; she’s on her rag”). When Sally’s happy though, she can be very loving and tender. When your loved one passes away peacefully that’s Sally in a caring mood.
We have both been around since the beginning of time, and we will both be around until The Supreme Being gets fed up, crushes this universe in her hand like an empty beer can, and tosses it in the nearest black hole. I’d say you lot have another five perhaps six billion years left before that happens; from experience, the average lifespan of a universe is about eleven billion years. Some last longer than that, some last for less time. But in the end, there’s only ever Sally, The Supreme Being and myself left to watch the destruction.
Hello, what’s happening? Sally’s just been given a list. The Supreme Being told us we were going to have today off and she’s never lied to us before. You humans have a saying that goes something like “Death never takes a holiday”; well actually Sally and I get one day every twenty-five years off and death literally stops. It’s not like we go on holiday or something, just The Supreme Being likes your planet and thinks you humans deserve a break once in a while. Sally and I use the free-time to play canasta and sometimes a few games of pinochle.
“Sally, what’s up? Why do you have a list? The Supreme Being told us there would be no death today.”
Sally was ashen – I had never seen her so shocked. Although she is not evil in the fullest sense of the word, she does shall we say, enjoy her job a little too much at times. I had never seen any kind of reaction to the list before. It’s not us meaning any offense, but in the grand scheme you humans are as far below Sally and I as a bacteria is below you. You have no qualms taking medicines to kill a bacterial infection; it’s kind of like that for us when it comes to your turn to die. “Bobby, this is big. Look at these names.”
My eyes bulged as Sally handed me the list. There were the names of thirty-five world leaders and numerous other high profile figures; presidents and prime ministers, kings and queens, chancellors and MPs, religious leaders and military leaders. Looks like it’s going to be a bad day on the little blue planet.
Perhaps I was wrong; maybe you humans don’t have another five billion years. Looks like those Mayans might have been right after all.
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“And just what the hell am I supposed to do with this?” I asked; looking at the strange device I had been handed by Xarvon. “I asked for a weapon, and you give me some Star Trek reject.”
“What you have there my human friend, is a class four elemental de-atomizer. Top of the line. Illegal in twenty-nine star systems. “ Xarvon knew he had his client hooked with those five simple words “Illegal in twenty-nine star systems”; when his clients hear those words they know they are getting some serious merchandise.
“Well, what does a class four elemental thingy do anyway?”
“It’s quite simple. Anything, or anyone, you hit with a beam from this baby is instantaneously reduced to their composite elements. Imagine it; a humanoid reduced to a small pile of dust and no body to dispose off. You could fire a beam into an ocean and it would turn into hydrogen and oxygen gases, leaving behind a few chemical elements as a powder.”
“Now I see why it’s so illegal. How much do you want for it?”
“My human friend, for you a mere ninety gems.”
“NINETY!” I yelled. “Xarvon, you thieving miserable Dractoid. I could hire my own band of mercenaries for half that.”
“Then go and hire your mercenaries.” Xarvon turned around and began walking away from the deal.
“Wait. I’ll pay you seventy gems.” Xarvon now really knew he had his client. The weapon was actually only worth fifty-five gems, so now it was just a question as to how much Xarvon could make for himself.
“I can go down to eighty gems. Remember, I still have to pay off the Mounarie. If I’m late with another payment they’ll take one of my remaining five arms.”
“Seventy-three gems now, and I’ll pay you the other seven once my business is complete.”
Xarvon waited a few moments, took out his calculator and pretended to tap in figures. “Seventy-three is acceptable. I’ll give you until the end of the current lunar cycle to pay me the other seven gems, that’s when my payment is due. If you are one micro-rotation late, I’ll personally make sure you will never be able to set foot in any civilised star system in the Union.”
“You have a deal Xarvon. I won’t be late with the balance, so don’t worry.” Xarvon wasn’t worried; he’d already creamed eighteen gems from this transaction, if he got the other seven then great, if not it was no skin off his braknoid. That’s eighteen gems added to his own personal treasury; eighteen gems that will never have to declared to the Mounarie. Of course, if the Mounarie ever found out he’d been creaming, he’d disappear; just like all the others. And disappear they have; absolutely no trace of them has ever been found, not so much as a hair follicle. Xarvon had been creaming his whole working life and had now amassed a fortune; he was worth a little over nine thousand gems, just enough to buy his own moon if he desired.
Xarvon took the seventy-three gems from me, and once they had passed the inspection of his level eight spectral laser scanner, he pocketed them and left.
I had the feeling I’d just been robbed, but you don’t mess with the Mounarie or their foot-soldiers. I also left the area quickly, after spotting a couple of law enforcement drones.
I could now carry out my plan. It would be the heist to end all heists. I had my eyes on the Dractoid Crown Jewels. Twelve human kilograms of precious stones and metals; recently valued in excess of three-quarters of a trillion gems. Now nobody or nothing can stand in my way.
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My secondary school has decided to have an end of year dance for the year nine kids and we are supposed to ask someone to accompany us to the dance as our date.
I’ve had my eye on Kim for the past few months. That long blond hair; those deep blue eyes; that really cute butt; the loveliest laugh I have ever heard. I am so the smitten kitten. My notebook even has little hearts with “I love Kim” written inside them.
I’ve already had Sally, Tina and Maxine dropping big hints that they want me to ask them. Now don’t get me wrong, they are the three most popular girls in my year, not to mention the prettiest. But they’re not Kim. When I look at him, my heart goes pitty-pat, my breathing slows and I get this warm giddy feeling.
I know Kim is gay; I’ve seen him taking overly long looks at the other boys in the shower and I’ve seen him with a couple of the boys in my class – one of them is also a friend of mine, and he’s told me what happens on their sleepovers.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m gay. I suppose deep down I’ve always known, but earlier this year I finally admitted it to myself. A few weeks ago, I admitted it to my parents.
I’m out of time; the dance is on Friday and if I don’t ask one of them at lunch today to go with me I’m going to end up going on my own and looking a right Billy-No-Mates. The only question is do I conform to the accepted social norm and ask one of the girls, or do I dare ask Kim? I know I’ll enjoy the dance with any of the girls, but if I could go with Kim I know I’d really really enjoy myself.
After a debate of about two seconds I decided to grow a pair and ask Kim. I spied him sitting at a table on his own eating his lunch so I walked over – my heart rate increasing with each step; my breathing getting faster; my body flooding with adrenaline.
“Kim, can I ask you something?”
“Sure Matty, have a seat.”
Now we’re not particularly close as friends go. We have three classes a week together and we’ve always been friendly; just we’d not really call each other friends, more like classmates.
“Matty, are you OK?”
“Kim,” I started. My brain yelling at me ‘why are doing this’; my heart screaming even louder ‘why are you hesitating’. “Kim,” I started again, taking a very deep breath. “Will you go with me to the dance on Friday, as my date?” There I said it. I was so nervous; my heart was beating faster than a hummingbird’s; I felt nauseous.
A smile crossed his face, his eyes betraying his joyous emotions at me asking him. “I’d love to Matty.” He jumped out of his seat, and swept me up in his arms, giving me a quick kiss on the lips. I glanced around the lunch hall checking out the reaction to Kim outing the both of us. I was relieved to see lots of smiling faces, a few appreciative nods and riding the emotional wave, I wrapped Kim up in my embrace and returned his kiss, only much more passionately and enthusiastically. The entire lunch hall erupted with applause and cheering students. I had never felt so happy in my whole life; and I still had the dance to look forward to.
When I got home, my mum was in the kitchen. “Mum, I’ve got a date for the school dance.”
“That’s great honey. Who is it? Sally, Tina or Maxine?”
“Mum, don’t. I’m gay remember. It’s a boy in my year called Kim.”
“Sorry, honey. I was only teasing. But will there be any problems because of it? You know not everyone will be accepting.”
“There shouldn’t be any problems. We kissed each other in front of practically the whole school in the dining hall. If anything was going to be said, then surely it was then.” I skipped upstairs to my bedroom, opened my diary and began writing:
I am so happy.
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I was laying in the bathtub. Today had been a particularly stressful day at work: I’d had three meetings to attend; my new boss is a slave-driving bitch; my computer deleted my project report; and to cap it all off the new office mailman keeps delivering the interdepartmental letters to the wrong offices.
I enjoy a nice long soak in a bubble bath. I’ve got the lavender-scented candles lit, the whale music playing in the background. I was just getting really comfy when I heard the door to the bathroom open. There was a quiet yelp and then my new puppy Titania jumped up on the side of the bath trying to lick me.
“Down, Titania.” She looked up at me with those big black eyes. “Alright Titania, I’m coming.” I got out of the bathtub, towelled off and went downstairs. I grabbed her leash and said, “Walkies, girl.” She sauntered over to me, allowed me to hook the leash to her collar and we went out.
It was early evening, and there was a slight drizzle. I walked to our usual spot in the park, the one with the area set up for dogs to do their business. I sat down on the bench, waiting for Titania. “Come on girl, make already.”
It’s been three days now since she swallowed my wedding ring; three days of me checking doggie poop. I get these really weird looks from people when they see me going through her doings before binning them. Another lot of doings and still no ring; this is getting ridiculous. If it doesn’t pass tomorrow I’ll have to take her to the vet to see if there’s anything else that can be done.
We left the park, and took our usual circuit of the neighbourhood. We passed the school, the hospital, the butchers, the library, the police station, the small park and finally the cemetery marking the end of tonight’s walkies.
I put my microwave dinner for one on, and got Titania’s bowl from the cupboard. “So girl, which one do you want? The beef or the chicken?” I held both cans of dog-food in front of her and she only barked at the chicken. “Chicken it is then.” I scooped out the food and put it in her bowl. The bell dinged on my microwave indicating my dinner was ready.
“Well girl, I wonder whose dinner tastes worst, your's or mine?” She looked at me, blinked and then proceeded to lick herself in the canine fashion. “Food that good, huh girl?”
Although I very rarely cook dinner from scratch, I am one for having proper homemade desserts. I have jars of homemade lemon curd, jams, jellies and marmalades. I have a cupboard full of spices and I have my herb garden which sees a lot of use all year around.
Tonight I decided to go all out. I fancied blueberry pancakes, and I already had a load of my homemade custard to go with it.
As the smell of the freshly cooked pancakes began wafting through the house, Tatiana entered the kitchen to investigate the source. “Sorry girl, you can’t have any.”
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Ludwig passed away last week. We had the reading of the will and I was left his shop “Everything Old”. Ludwig had always planned to leave it to his son, but his son refused to enter the family business for “personal beliefs”. Ludwig took me under his wing, and has shown me many secrets over the past hundred and fifty years.
How can we live that long you ask? One of our ancestors mated with a demon of their own volition. We got a few good things out of the deal such as a long life with perfect health – after all Ludwig was nearly nine hundred years old when he died. The really bad thing to come from this deal is “Everything Old”.
The shop sells anything and everything you could want or imagine; and if we don’t have it in stock we can easily get it. We can get anything historical; why just yesterday we sold someone an original “previously undiscovered” copy of the Malleus Maleficarum. We cross time as easily as you cross the street.
The items we have on display are incredible. We have original US flags (all carbon-dated with certificates of authenticity); we have cannons, muskets, crossbows and the such (again all authenticated); we have items of clothing from throughout history owned by anyone who was anyone.
People who buy from us are happy with their purchases. They get a thing they can brag about, they can show their friends and neighbours and say, “I’m better than you”. You humans and your things. For as long as there has been this desire to accumulate stuff, we have existed. For as long as you humans have had this desire to be better than your neighbours, we have existed. The demon we are descended from is known to us as Saligia; she is the source of what you humans call the Seven Deadly Sins.
What people don’t know is that what they buy from us, they never truly own. Upon their death, the object returns to our shop for us to sell again, and all memory of the object is wiped from the living.
However, we exist to do more than help your capitalist economy thrive. We also exist to help the economy of the greatest demon of all thrive. You call him Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Iblis, Shaitan and Sokar among others. Anyone who buys from us is damning their soul to Hell for all eternity, and not even by the grace of all the angels in Heaven will you be spared. Ah, a new customer.
“Hi there. Where’s Mr Kaladine?”
“He passed away last week. My name is Maxie. How can I help you?”
“I’m sorry to hear about Mr Kaladine. He was a nice old man. But he kept trying to sell me stuff, even though I told him I never had any money. I don’t think he realised how little pocket money a ten year old gets.”
“I thank you for your condolences. I promise you I’ll only ask this the once. If you could have your own piece of history, no matter how small, and that you perhaps could afford, what would it be?”
“Since I only get five bucks a week, it’d have to be something very small.” Mike Richardson thought for a few minutes longer and said, “I’ve got it. If I could have anything, it would be a genuine Egyptian shabti.”
“Well as it happens, my young friend, I have an Egyptian shabti in the storeroom. Give me a few minutes and I’ll get it. I happen to know it only costs $3.50 as it is a small shabti.”
I returned after a few minutes and showed it to Mike. “It’s lovely,” Mike said; his eyes telling me far more than his words. “I’ll take it.”
Mike left the store with his small shabti, and a truly evil sneer crossed my lips and I whispered, “One more, my master.”
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I got a promotion six months ago; I joined the Utopia Select Committee. At first I thought it was marvellous as I had more responsibility and more privileges; but now I have just been told the truth about Utopia and I have been chilled to the core.
The job of the Select Committee is to ensure that Utopia is just that; Utopia. We are sort of like the governments of old. There are fifteen members, and anything which requires a vote, must be passed by at least seven members on the initial proposal, and then by a majority of at least nine to six to become law. Being the most junior member I was assigned a senior member as a guide and mentor. My mentor is called Barnabas; I am called Quin. I was called Quin as I am the fifth to be born to my parents (I guess they seriously lack originality).
“Quin, in order for you to become a fully-fledged Committee member you need to learn the law. You will be tested in six months time. If you pass, you will become a full Committee member; if you fail, you will be discharged from the Committee and will not become eligible to become a member again until the next member dies.”
“I understand Barnabas.”
He handed me an electronic pad with “The Canon of Utopia, 25th edition” on it. “Why is this on an e-pad Barnabas?”
He laughed. “My dear Quin, the printed text of the law currently covers sixty two volumes. I can give you the printed copy if you prefer.”
“No, the e-pad will be fine. I can’t believe that our Canon is that big; I mean I’ve never even heard of a crime being committed here.”
“Just because no one has committed a murder, doesn’t mean we don’t need to have a legal framework to deal with the eventuality if it should ever arise.”
“A sensible policy, I suppose.”
“The only thing to bear in mind is that all though there are currently one hundred six thousand articles of law along with a million or so supplementary guidelines, there is one punishment and one punishment alone. Death.”
“Death! That’s a little harsh, don’t you think? How come this isn’t public knowledge? How come I’ve never about this before?”
“You can only be told that upon becoming a full Committee member I’m afraid.”
Six months later, after so much study, I passed the law assessment and was elevated to the title of Full Committee Member.
“Quin, first my warmest congratulations. Now, six months ago you asked me about our laws and punishments and why they are not in the public domain. We actually have a big problem with crime. There are currently an estimated three hundred thousand crimes per annum committed.”
“That’s impossible Barnabas. There is nothing in ‘The Hall of Records’ or the ‘Records of Judiciary’.”
“That Quin, is because we suppress all knowledge of crimes committed. We have the ability to erase the short term memories of victims, and the long term memories of everyone who knew the perpetrator. That way, there are no questions about any crime or any public outrage about executing a criminal. That’s the way it has always been. The only people who know the complete truth are those of us on the committee, which is why the only way to leave the committee is when you die. Even the lawgivers and the enforcing squads have their memories wiped as well. How else are we to maintain order and happiness in Utopia?”
I began doing some mental calculations. Three hundred thousand crimes a year, meant three hundred thousand executions a year. I am now 24 years old; that means there have been over seven million executions during my lifetime. This has to get out somehow; the people have the right to know the truth. My God, what am I thinking! This can’t ever get out! It would mean the end of Utopia.
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I was just getting ready for bed when I heard a noise outside. It sounds like crying, but my cabin is in the middle of a forest and my nearest neighbour is fifty miles away. The noise was getting louder, and my interest was growing. I wrapped my dressing gown around me and put on my shoes. On my way out the door I grabbed my coat, since the early spring nights were still chilly.
I could just about make out a small basket at the edge of the clearing where the crying-like noise was coming from. I closed quickly; imagining a baby in that basket, freezing in the cold night. As I closed I got my first look at the baby. He, I say he for I assumed a baby girl could not cry with such volume, had dark hair and was wrapped in a collection of blankets. Who could have abandoned a baby not only in the middle of a forest, but also on a night as cold as this? I hadn’t heard anything or anyone nearby, so I can only assume the baby had been here for a while but had only just started to cry.
I was now close enough to the basket to get my first real look at the baby. I pulled the blanket down from his face and recoiled. This was no baby I was familiar with. He had pointed ears, round eyes about an inch across and of a deep purple, an unnaturally smooth complexion and what I had initially taken to be hair was actually some kind of crest. I was shocked not because the baby looked hideous; he was different certainly, but he was bizarrely the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.
I looked around me but saw no one or no . . . things which might pass for family or parents, and since it was so cold outside I decided to take the baby inside with me, into the warmth.
As I settled down in front of the fire, I picked the baby up out of his basket and held him. For the first time since I first heard him crying, he stopped. He looked at me and started giggling – at least I think it was giggling; if he was human I would call it giggling. To think, actual first contact with an alien and it’s a baby who can’t even tell me the name of his species!
I have no idea what aliens eat, but I can’t really go wrong with a little warmed milk can I. I put the baby back in the basket, carried him into the kitchen with me and put him down on the centre table. I poured some milk into a saucepan and lit the gas. I hunted in my cupboard and found a nutmeg to grate. I lowered the gas and allowed the milk to warm gently. Fortunately I still had a bottle left over from when I was taking care of my nephew, so I put that in the steriliser. Once the milk had been warmed I poured it into the bottle.
I walked over to the table and looked again at the baby that had been dropped into my lap. He gazed back at me through his unusual eyes as I picked him up. I sat down on the sofa and lifted the bottle up to the baby’s mouth. He started sucking on the bottle like there was no tomorrow, and had drunk all the milk before I could blink.
I fell asleep with the baby in my arms, and did not awake until the sun came glaring through my living room window. I realised that the baby was gone, and not just the baby; but his blanket, his basket, the whole kit and caboodle. I found a handwritten letter in my lap.
I thank you for taking care of the little one. It was an act of kindness we had not expected humans were capable of. We did not notice his absence until he was gone. You have a heart which is rare among your kind.
We have remained hidden from your species for many centuries once your wars and plagues started. One day you will have the privilege of knowing me and knowing just what you have done for my kind.
Once again my thanks
Where had I heard that name from?
It sounds so familiar?
It can’t be . . .
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Official report to sector Admiral Monroe (classified code red):
What we found when we arrived on Mordax Three turned my stomach. There were shallow graves filled with men, women and children - all Mordaxian.
The rumours regrettably seem to be true – the Governor General of Mordax is responsible for the deaths of a significant portion of the planet’s population.
From my enquiries it seems that there had been a plague of space locusts which had decimated over 85% of the planet’s growing crop and even worse, 100% of their harvest. The Alliance received a planetary priority omega disaster call and the Mordaxian council were notified we would arrive within 21 Earth days.
The ruling council immediately enacted their disaster plan, and began both food rationing and stock checking. Unfortunately, it quickly became clear to the ruling council of Mordax that what food they had would not be able to sustain their population for more than 7 days, let alone the 21 days they needed to last until our arrival. The situation worsened as somehow that information entered the public sphere of consciousness and planet-wide riots broke out.
Instead of trying to calm the situation the Governor General simply enacted Protocol 86 – the Extreme Measures Protocol. It was enacted solely on her order, without the mandated ratifications of both the Law Council and the Clergy Council. As you know, it essentially has three aspects:
1. any crime, no matter how trivial or insignificant, is punishable by death
2. any person currently awaiting trial, awaiting sentencing, or already serving a sentence of incarceration are to be executed
3. the Governor General is placed in complete control of the planet, and has carte blanche to act as they see fit
It seems that by the end of day 2, the Governor General had authorised the execution of the entire criminal population; an estimated 3% of the planet’s population. With the enaction of Protocol 86 there were an estimated further 110,000 executions taking place on a daily basis planet-wide.
Due to the Mordaxian’s high metabolism they naturally consume more food than humans do, and the Governor General it seems calculated that one Mordaxian consumes the same quantity of food as eight humans. She therefore issued secret orders to have the entire population of Mordaxians eliminated (including those on the Three Councils), in order to try to save as much of the human population as possible.
We have completed a planet-wide survey and the surviving population has been tallied at just over 3 million; that is barely 5% of the original population.
Reminder: This report is classified code red.
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Coming on 24th October: Star Trek Day
In honour of the creator of Star Trek and other shows join in the national celebrations to remember the life of the man and the lives of his creations.
Gene Roddenberry was born on 19th August 1921 in El Paso Texas, and died on 24th October 1991. Although he served his country with honour by flying eighty-nine missions in World War Two as part of the United States Army Air Forces and having been awarded both the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, he is most famously and lovingly remembered the world over as the creator of Star Trek.
Gene Roddenberry first created the Star Trek universe in 1964, and it premiered on US television on NBC on September 8, 1966. Since that time, his vision has spawned six television series (including an animated series) which comprised 715 episodes and eleven films; with a twelfth film currently in development and scheduled for a 2012/13 release.
The first film (simply called The Motion Picture) premiered in North America on December 7, 1979. Although only receiving lukewarm reviews from the critics and fans alike, it remains the highest grossing film in the Star Trek franchise (allowing for inflation). The film was produced for a cost of US$46 million, but by taking US$139 million worldwide it was sufficient for Paramount to commission a second film.
The sixth film in the series (called The Undiscovered Country) premiered in North America on December 6, 1991 – this was the last film to feature the crew from the original series, and it saw the decommissioning of the USS Enterprise. It was dedicated to the memory of Gene Roddenberry, who had sadly passed away six weeks prior to the premier. In terms of actual money taken, it grossed the most for the opening weekend of any of the Star Trek films and then went on take US$97 million worldwide.
Gene Roddenberry’s second wife Majel Barrett (February 23, 1932 – December 18, 2008) was with Star Trek from its inception through to her death. She was in every series of Star Trek in one role or another. She played an unnamed first officer in the original pilot, Nurse Christine Chappel (later Doctor Christine Chappel) in the original series and the first movie, the outrageous Lwaxxana Troi in both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and was the voice of the main computer in all of the incarnations.
In 1992, a portion of Roddenberry's ashes flew into space and returned to earth on the Space Shuttle Columbia. On April 21, 1997, a Celestis spacecraft carrying some of his cremated remains was launched into Earth orbit. On May 20, 2002, the spacecraft's orbit deteriorated and it disintegrated in the atmosphere. Another flight to launch more of his ashes into deep space along with those of Majel Roddenberry is planned for launch in 2012.
Join in the celebrations of the lives of Gene and Majel Roddenberry (the so called “First Lady of Star Trek”) at one of the national parties. There’s something for everyone:
- Learn a new language (Klingon, Romulan, Bajoran and others)
- Ceremonies throughout the day (including the Klingon Tea Ceremony and the Bajoran Gratitude Festival)
- Try the dishes – everything from Klingon gagh and blood pie to Cardassian taspar eggs
- Learn Klingon martial arts
- Quizzes and competitions throughout the day
- Learn to play games - everything from 3-dimension chess to Pareses Squares
- Episodes from the series will be shown throughout the day
- Turn up dressed as your favourite character or species
Link to prompt
I was sitting in my apartment browsing the newspaper. The TV was on in the background. My lunch was sat next to me getting me cold.
I was watching some nature program about the ocean. There was some new big discovery in the Arctic Ocean – apparently a fish that glows in the dark; some kind of cousin to the bioluminescent dinoflaggelates.
I was surprised when I got to the obituary section; my old university professor had died. She was only forty-seven! God, that’s the same age as my mum.
I remember the first day I saw my professor; she was wearing this hideous red dress, and had a thick layer of plum-coloured lipstick smeared on. She was a feisty woman who could turn your soul as cold as ice-cream just by looking at you. I loved her like a second mum and I’ll miss her deeply; rest in peace Maggie.
Link to prompt
I have travelled the world over with him and he takes me with him everywhere he goes. I’ve been with him for over 20 years; according to the writing on my inside cover I was a present from his great-grandmother, Alice, on his 9th birthday.
I have travelled in the luxury of a first class plane seat to Auckland. He drank so much champagne on that flight I’m surprised he wasn’t dropdown, fall on his ass drunk. We travelled all over New Zealand: he got see different places from where I was filmed; he had a great time at Mount Cook; though those rough seas at The Bay of Islands were a bit much on him and he was a touch seasick.
He spent three weeks in the lap of luxury on The Golden Eagle Train. Sitting at the dinner table enjoying the views, he ate some of the finest food in the world. We travelled across Russia, China and several former Soviet countries – what a hassle all those visas were. His bad attempts at learning Russian were hilarious.
We spent three weeks in Eastern Europe. All those different currencies – bless him he had to keep a list of all the exchange rates and what currency was for which country. Most of the trains weren’t exactly luxury; they were on the old side and bit battered looking but that only added to their charm; kind of like me in many ways. He’s read me so many times over the years all of my pages are dog-eared, my front cover is held together with double-sided sticky tape, and I’ve been thrown around so much over the years I’ve developed some wear and tear.
But I wasn’t just there for the happy times and the adventures. I’m the one he reads when he’s happy, and I’m the one he reads when he’s sad. The writing on my inside cover is faded now after 24 years, but it is still possible to see the smudges where his tears fell following the death of his great-grandmother just a few short months after his birthday.
In this day and age of kindles, e-readers, i-pads and other such electronic media, I keep on expecting to be replaced; but he seems happy with me.
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So they have found the remains of Yddraigfawr in the Chilterns. The Ddraig-Cyfrinachau have kept the existence of dragons a secret for nearly three millennia and now some damned fortune hunter lucks into what the newspapers are calling “the greatest myth bust of all time”.
The media are celebrating the discovery, whilst I am in mourning over the desecration of our most holy of sites. Even to our society Yddraigfawr was for millennia believed to be a myth until her final resting place was discovered in the Year of our Lord 1642. She was, and even in spite of proof of her existence, remains to this day revered as a deity by all those who believe.
My name is Thomas and I was six when I was finally told the truth about the existence of dragons and the role my family has played in the protection of, and devotion to, these great creatures. I am the twenty-seventh in my family to serve in the role of Ceidwadwy, and in my care is the greatest treasure in the world; the last remaining dragon egg. My family have been in the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau since long before the Roman invasion of Britain, and as such I am sadly aware of our laws. The last dragon died about a hundred years ago and although I’m not sure of how long these majestic creatures remain in their larval form prior to hatching, I believe it’s around two hundred years.
I packed the egg and trudged off most reluctantly to our sanctuary near the village of Llanbedr in Monmouthshire at the base of Mynydd Pen-y-Fal, The Sugar Loaf. In my father’s day this was a two day journey, in his father’s day this was a five day journey and three hundred years ago this was nearly a three week journey; today for me, this is a mere eighteen hours from my house in West London. Eighteen hours until my meeting with destiny.
I arrived near midnight, and was greeted by the duty docent, “We have been expecting you.”
“It is a tragedy I am here under the current circumstances.”
“The Inner Council of the Ddraig-Cyfrinachau are in session. I have been ordered to show you straight through to the chambers. Please follow me.”
I followed the elderly docent. As we entered the inner chamber, we paused to pay our respects to the sculpture of Yddraigfawr sculpted from a piece of her tailbone. In the presence of this icon which is at the core of our society, I felt an even deeper sense of trepidation at what must come to pass.
I entered the council chambers and bowed respectfully. “I am here as protocol demands.”
“You have the egg?”
“We have finished destroying our records and the original Ddraig Llyfr, our most sacred of texts. There is now no evidence remaining of the existence of our order or our faith. You are here because in the current circumstances protocol demands you to commit the final act.”
“I beg the forgiveness of Yddraigfawr and all those who have given their lives in the protection of the dragon.” With that, I smashed the egg on the floor and wept.
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The alarm clock sounded. I don’t know how long the alarm rang for as I’ve always been a very deep sleeper; I actually slept through our neighbour’s house burning down. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and looked around my bedroom, only to find my brother and my best friend were already up; that explains why the alarm clock was left to try and wake me up. It’s odd . . . I’ve never known my brother Josh to be able to wake up without the alarm clock. I wonder if Timmy had a rough night, causing Josh to wake up? He’s had trouble sleeping lately, but I don’t know why; he won’t talk to me about what’s troubling him.
I dragged myself out of the bed and went into the bathroom I share with my brother. I quickly washed my face, brushed my teeth and peed. I sat back down on my bed and put on my slippers. I couldn’t be asked to get dressed so I put on my dressing gown over my pyjamas.
“Morning Ophelia, Bianca, Cordelia, Rosalind. How are we this morning?” I love my Dionaea muscipula (more commonly known as a Venus Flytrap), and I always talk to her – call me crazy if you like. I noticed Ophelia was closed and I wondered what she was having for breakfast. I don’t know why I think of her as a “her” but I always have; it just doesn’t seem right to think of my plant as male. I got her a gift three years ago, when she only had two leaves (who I called Ophelia and Rosalind) and now she has four. I hope she’ll flower this year; I’ve been looking forward to seeing the white blooms for about nine months now. Just think she’ll soon be able to have babies of her own, my little girl all grown up.
I looked in the mirror by my bedside and sighed deeply. I had finally decided last night just who and what I am. I stared at my reflection and said to my Flytrap, “Girls, I have come to the realisation that I’m different. I’m gay.” There. I had finally admitted it to myself, and had finally spoken those words aloud. I giggled to myself though at the very thought of the first person I admitted to that I’m gay is a plant. I stifled a yawn and decided to go looking for my brother and my best friend.
As I walked down the stairs I heard voices coming from the kitchen.
“I’m sorry Maxxie, did we wake you? Were we being too loud?” Josh asked me.
“No. The alarm clock woke me.”
“I said ‘the alarm clock woke me’. It’s just gone seven. I noticed you two were already up, so I came looking for you. What time did you two wake up?”
“About quarter past two. Timmy had a nightmare.”
“And you two didn’t bother going back to sleep?”
“Well, we got to talking and I guess time slipped by,” said Timmy.
“I’ll say. What on earth can you two have talked about for five hours? In terms of word count I’ve got a better relationship with my Venus Flytrap than you two have with each other.”
Timmy said, “We had a lot to talk about, and there’s something I need to tell you, something I want to tell you.”
Timmy looked over at my brother Josh. I could see the wordless conversation passing between the two of them; just what did they talk about. “Maxxie, there’s no really easy way to say this, so I’m just going to say it. I’m gay.”
I ran over to my friend and hugged him tightly with a tear in my eye. “Timmy, it doesn’t matter to me; you’re my best friend. I love you; I always have and I always will. Nothing will ever change that.”
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Juilliard School rules. I play the xylophone zealously, yet love both harpsichord and glockenspiel wholeheartedly; no kettledrums. Can everyone forgive my uniform dislike of violin quartets?
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“I am not well known; nobody eminent, renowned,” Stephanie internally deliberated inconsolably.
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I saw Mischa in his front yard shooting hoops. I’ve fancied him since I first saw him six months ago. My name is Samuel and I’m thirteen. His family have lived here for years and everyone in town seems to know Mischa and nobody seems to have a bad word to say about him. I think that’s why my parents don’t have a problem with us being friends.
I walked down to his place. “Morning Mischa.”
“Good Morning Samuel.” I love his Russian accent; I think it was either that or his pale violet eyes that I fell in love with first.
“What’s happening Mischa? You got family visiting?” I looked at all the cars parked in the drive and on the street. I’d seen people arriving since yesterday, and they were all greeted so friendly by Mischa’s parents.
“Yah, something like that.”
Another car arrived and a very large burly guy got out. Mischa’s dad ran over to him and greeted him in what I presume to be his native Russian. They kissed each other on the cheek and hugged briefly.
The large guy was being escorted into the house when he looked at Mischa. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I saw fear in the man’s eyes; but how can that be? He was at least eight inches taller than Mischa and a hundred plus pounds of solid muscle heavier.
Mischa smiled at me and that was enough to distract me from what I was thinking; I just shrugged it off as me being me. We played around for a couple of hours before mum called me in for dinner.
“Bye, Mischa. See you tomorrow.”
“Good bye Samuel.” Mischa smiled and thought to himself, “And I will see you sooner that you think my friend.”
I was just getting to sleep, when I heard a tap on my window. I looked out and saw Mischa. I wondered not only why he was tapping on my window, but tapping on it at nearly midnight. I opened my window to find out what he wanted, and was shocked when the burly guy I had seen earlier dragged me through my window and stuck me in a sack.
I was unceremoniously dropped out of the sack a few minutes later. I saw I was in a large room, surrounded by many of the people I had seen arriving over the past day.
“Ah, the guest of honour has arrived. We can begin.” I looked around to try and find the source of the thick Russian accent, and saw someone wearing dark robes standing behind an altar. I only had time to think about why Mischa’s family would have an altar, before I was roughly grabbed around the neck, dragged over to the altar and chained in front of it.
“On this day ninety-five years ago, the greatest man who ever lived was assassinated. We, the loyal followers of Rasputin, are here today to honour him and his living spirit here on Earth.” The hooded figure turned to face Mischa and bowed. Everyone in the room turned to Mischa, dropped to one knee and began muttering, again in what I presumed was their native Russian.
Mischa walked over to me and placed a hand on my head. “Samuel, my friend. You are here to play a most vital role in today’s ceremony. Shortly before the body I was in died on December 29th in the Year of our Lord 1916, I left it and entered the body of a near-by child. The closest you can come to understanding what I am is a soul. I have now been in this body for those ninety-five years, and it is now dying. It is time for me to move on to a new body. I have chosen to move on to yours.”
I looked on at the boy I loved in sheer terror at what he had just said. The thoughts whirled through my head as fast as the speed of light.
Mischa’s wrist was cuffed to my own. The hooded figure cut each of us on our palms, and Mischa clasped my hand in his own. The hooded figure began chanting, and he was then joined by the rest of the assembly.
As our blood mingled, I could feel something passing into my body; a feeling of pure evil, of malice, of insanity. It began suppressing every thought I had, every feeling of self. It was like being wrapped in a cloak which had its own identity.
The boy I had known as ‘Mischa’ turned to me. “I beg your forgiveness. I could not fight it, nor stop it. I . . . am . . . tru . . . ly . . . .”
The last thoughts that were my own, were forgiveness for the boy who had played host to this demonic being for nearly a century, sorrow for myself (wondering what damage, what carnage, what acts I will be forced to commit against my will over the hundred years to come), but most disturbingly of all was how much of the boy I knew and loved was really Mischa, and how much was this ghost . . . this soul . . . just trying to bait its next host.
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“What is that smell?”
“I’m not sure sarge. I’ve never smelt anything like it in my life. If I had to compare it to anything, I’d say it smells like burnt caramel.” The PC held a handkerchief over his mouth and nose in a vain attempt to block out the smell.
“I’ve attended death scenes before Matthews, but I’ve never seen anything like this.” Sergeant Carl Munroe looked around at the crime scene, and took in the room in all of its horrific detail. The walls were splattered in blood, there were dead animals strewn around the floor and the human victim was sitting in a chair. The body had an opening in his chest through which it was clear his heart had been removed and he been flayed; the sergeant hoped this was done after death, for having a heart removed and being skinned whilst alive was something the sergeant was unwilling to even contemplate.
A queasy-faced young PC entered the room wiping his mouth with a napkin. “I’m sorry sir.”
“Nothing to apologize for Thompson,” the sergeant said in a gruff voice.
“I was just so shocked sir. How can someone do this to another person?”
“It takes a sick mind Thompson; a bloody sick mind. Have a seat until you get your legs back.”
“Sarge, look over here.”
“What have you found Matthews?”
“It’s . . . it’s . . . Dear God in Heaven it’s written in blood!” The colour drained from PC Matthew’s face, he placed his hand over his mouth and he ran from this house of horrors.
Sergeant Munroe thought to himself, “These young ’uns haven’t got the stomach for this, and to be totally honest I’m not so sure if I have either”.
A very ashen-looking Matthews came back in. “Sorry sir.”
“Never mind that, what did you find?”
“Over here. It’s writing. It says ‘In honour of . . .’ I don’t know that word, I’ve never come across it before, but I would assume it’s a proper name of some description.”
The sergeant looked at it. He pulled out his i-phone and googled the name. What the sergeant read made him empty his stomach on the spot. “Matthews. Please tell me this does not say what I think it says?”
PC Matthews took the i-phone with shaky hands wondering what could have affected his senior officer in such a way. What he read forced him to swallow. “Sorry, sarge. I’m afraid it says exactly what it says.”
“Sir, I’ve just heard from . . . are you two OK?” asked PC Thompson.
“No, Police Constable Thompson! I am not bloody well OK! But as you were saying?”
“I’ve just heard from base. The victim Max Tyner has just been released from prison after serving nine years for running over a child, who was killed in the incident. Also sir, this is not the only victim to be killed in this manner.”
“How many?” Sergeant Munroe really really didn’t want to know the answer to that particular question, but as a consummate professional he knew he had to ask.
“There have been five since 2007. A body has been found in this same fashion once a year over the past five years. March 21st 2007, and then every March 20th since. This one makes number six.”
“The Spring Equinox,” PC Matthews said flatly.
“I suppose. I would have to look it up to be sure, but it sounds right. You don’t seem surprised?”
“I’m not.” Matthews handed him the i-phone.
“The Aztec god Xipe Totec, ‘our lord the flayed one’,” he read aloud.
“Keep reading,” Matthews instructed.
“The annual festival of Xipe Totec was celebrated on the spring equinox. Captives or slaves were chosen to be sacrificed to the deity. Their hearts were cut out and then the body was flayed. The skin was then worn by Xipe Totec’s priests for the following twenty days.”
The sergeant pulled out his walkie-talkie “Sergeant Munroe to base. Get the Coroner’s Office down here, we’re done for now.” He then thought to himself, “Thank God this is someone else’s problem.”
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He started at my school our first day back after the autumn half-term. He was so cute, and had a butt to die for. We were told his name was Jeremy and he was from South Africa.
He had to do the usual ‘introduce himself him to the class’ thing, but all I cared about was his pale blue eyes. I don’t really remember anything he said; I was too mesmerised by his accent and found myself staring into those eyes - I could so have made myself at home there.
We became friends quickly as we had many of the same classes together. I remember how he was getting into trouble every day because he always had at least one piece of his school uniform missing; one day he was without his tie, the next day he was in trainers instead of the required black shoes. I later found out he did it just to annoy our teachers; and boy did he ever.
By the end of his first week, we were having lunch together and hanging around at break together. A few weeks later we were hanging out together over the weekend.
At school he played the class clown, enjoyed getting himself in trouble, breaking any rule he dared to, and struggled through his class work. When we were together, he was completely different. He allowed his true self to shine through; I found him to be funny, far more intelligent than he let on at school and he had a really sweet nature. I was probably the only person at school who knew the real Jeremy.
I had known Jeremy for about four weeks when he asked me if I wanted to spend the weekend at his place. I couldn’t say yes quickly enough. We did the usual things; watched films, went to the cinema, played in the park. His parents went out for the evening, trusting us to behave ourselves. They were gone only twenty minutes before Jeremy pulled out a Playboy; unsurprisingly it did not have the usual effect. Somehow we started wrestling, he ended up on top of me, and we stared into each other’s eyes and shared our first kiss.
That was the first of what became a regular occurrence over the next three years. We’d go to his house at lunch since he only lived round the corner from our school and we’d have sleepovers at least twice a month. After three or four months our feelings for each other deepened, and Jeremy became my first boyfriend.
The last I heard from him was about ten years ago when he graduated from medical school.
Wherever you are Jer, I will always have a place in my heart for you.
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Not flying at warp speed: Warp speed is the method that ships in Star Trek use to travel faster than light speed. To “not fly at warp speed” means that someone is not doing something as quickly as they could.
As many friends as there are on Facebook: People have dozens if not hundreds or thousands of friends on Facebook. This idiom indicates an unimaginably large number, akin to “as many stars as there in the sky” or “as many grains of sands as there in a desert”.
It’s all Klingon to me: Klingon is a language from Star Trek which most characters cannot understand without the aid of a translator. If something is “all Klingon to me” it means that someone cannot understand something, a modern day update on “it’s all Greek to me”
A few elements shy of the Periodic Table: There are currently 118 known elements on the Periodic Table. Someone who is “A few elements shy of the Periodic Table” is someone who is not completely sane, akin to “Not the full ticket” or “A few sandwiches shy of a picnic”.
A few neutrons shy of a stable element: An element requires a set ratio of protons to neutrons in order to be stable; too many or too few neutrons lead to an unstable nucleus of a given element. Someone who is “A few neutrons shy of a stable element” is someone who is not completely sane, akin to “Not the full ticket” or “A few sandwiches shy of a picnic”.
A few cents shy of a Euro: The single European currency is the Euro, which is made up of one hundred cents. Someone who is “A few cents shy of a Euro” is someone who is not completely sane, akin to “Not the full ticket” or “A few sandwiches shy of a picnic”.
I don’t have two bronze knuts to rub together: The bronze knut is the smallest value coin in J K Rowling’s world of Harry Potter. Someone who “doesn’t have two bronze knuts to rub together” is short of cash.
Poorer than a Weasley: The Weasley family are the cash-strapped family in J K Rowling’s world of Harry Potter. Someone is “Poorer than a Weasley” is short of cash.
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I walked over to the terrarium and picked her up. “Good morning my lovely. How are you today?”
She looked up at me with those eyes of hers, and I not only saw myself reflected in them, but I could swear I saw her affection and love for me reflected back.
“Time to clean out your home. It’s been nearly six months you know.”
I started the process of cleaning. I removed all of her toys, trinkets, baubles and decorations first, and gave them a quick clean. It still amazed me not only how much stuff I had bought her over the years, but the sheer amount of money I’d spent.
I emptied out the thin layering of substrate and found a few insect remains. I looked over at her, tapped on the cage she was being kept in during the cleaning process and playfully chastised my pet, “You mucky girl. Just look at this.” I waved one of the insect carcases in front of her. She looked up at me and then allowed her head to droop – it was most likely instinctual to my tapping on the cage she was in, but I couldn’t help but think she was ashamed at how messy she had allowed her home to get. I threw the substrate and the few insect carcasses in the rubbish.
I got a bowl of soapy water and a cloth, and washed the inside and outside of the terrarium. The water was a muddy brown by the time I had finished the cleaning, and emptied the dirty water down the drain. I cleaned her water dish and began the process of setting up my pet’s home again.
I put down a fresh layer of substrate and her water dish and carefully rearranged her fixtures and fittings. I set things up slightly different this time to give her a change of scene; even dropping in a few fresh leaves to brighten the terrarium up.
I took her out of the small cage I had put her in for safe keeping during the cleaning process. I held her in my hand and slowly stroked her. I can’t believe how big she’s gotten over the past six years. She started to crawl up my arm, but I knew enough to make sure she stayed in my hands. “You’re excitable today aren’t you girl. Why is that always on cleaning day?” She looked up at me as though she understood my every word, and in that moment I realised just how much I had come to love her.
I was about to put her back in the terrarium when I heard my mum shriek in terror. “How many times have I told you to keep that damned spider in its cage!”
“Mum. I’ve just finished cleaning out the terrarium and wanted to give Ariadne a bit of a stretch.”
“I don’t care! I, for some reason, agreed to you getting a Mexican Red Knee on the understanding that it stayed in its cage!”
“Ariadne is not an ‘it’, mum. She’s my pet, and I’ve had her since I was seven.”
“For the love of God! A cat or a dog is a pet; a tarantula is not!” Mum stormed out of the room.
I looked at Ariadne and a silent tear fell. “Don’t listen to her girl, she’s just being mean. You’re my pet and I love you; I always will.” I put her back in her cage, and dropped in a fresh cricket. I knelt in front of the terrarium and watched Ariadne make a start on her breakfast.
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Squirmish – an object, creature or action that causes someone to squirm
Flexting – the phenomenon of sending photos of men lifting weights via text message
Misinfotainment – a source of hilarity brought about by somebody misunderstanding something they have been told
Fomo – the father of someone who is gay
Intaxication – extreme rage as a result of receiving a large tax bill from HMRC (or the IRS in the US)
Brainspin – the result of reading a story full of typos, word confusion, poor grammar and worst of all, all those incorrectly punctuated speech tags
Buysexual – the phenomenon by which an individual is sexually aroused by the spending of money
Sharewear – the obsession of mums trying to stay young by sharing their teenaged daughter’s clothing
Recessionitis – gastrointestinal condition suffered by all those poor hard-working bankers as a result of the recession
Interneuter – modern versions of fairy tales where all gender-specific terms have been changed to gender-neutral (so Cinderella no longer has two ugly sisters, she has two ugly siblings; the woodsman in Little Red Hood is now a woodsperson)
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I was standing at the stop waiting for my bus. I’d been waiting for twenty minutes in the snow and the ice cold wind, but that bleakness was nothing compared to what I had run from. I was numb from the winter sure, but that was nothing compared to the numbness in my soul.
I had gone round to my boyfriend’s house to surprise him since I had the day off work. I walked into our bedroom and found him in bed with Jace, my ex-boyfriend. My heart broke in two and my life felt as though it was over.
I sat at the console and watched the lights flash; the tech on duty read his book. We were both bored stupid. I’d love to meet the person who decided this assignment was important. We’ve been sat at these terminals for years and nothing exciting has ever happened.
I glanced at the calendar and noted today was my friend’s birthday, where has the time gone? Only feels like spring was yesterday.
The tech tapped me on the shoulder; he seemed very excited. “Dr Ehman, listen.”
“Wow!” was all I could say.
August 15th 1977 will be remembered forever I thought.
The two of us have been in this bathyscaphe for 34 hours now. We hit an underwater rock of some kind and we’re stuck on the seabed. I’ve sent out an SOS but I don’t think the radio works. Our oxygen supply has just run out; the tanks must have been damaged on impact, there was 72 hours supply when we left the ship.
We are 3400 metres down, and this deep below the surface the ocean is freezing. We can only sit here and wait and pray for rescue.
I have never been so scared in all my life.
It’s been twelve years. I still remember the words of the judge as he told me I would die in prison; that I was unfit to be a member of society.
I spend twenty three hours a day staring at these four walls. There’s a guard with me when I shower; there’s a guard with me when I eat; there’s a guard with me when my family visit; there’s even a damned guard with me when I pee.
There have been times when I wish we had the death sentence; at least I wouldn’t have to deal with this misery.
I saw her from the street corner. I don’t know why I picked her tonight, just something about her. I need money, and I need it now. If I have to snatch a few purses, then so be it. I don’t expect you to understand, I don’t expect you to care about my reasons for doing what I do, and I’m sure as shit not looking for any sympathy or pity from you.
I saw my opportunity. I ran towards my victim and knocked her to the ground. Only then did I realise she was wearing a habit and wimple.
My name is James. I was caught in a compromising position with my friend Sam last night by his folks. They are insanely homophobic, and so deeply religious it’s not even funny. We are both so in love with each other and have been for nearly four years, since we saw each other on our first day at school. We told his parents that we were wrestling and I think they believed us. I hated myself for lying, but they’ll never accept us.
I guess the saying is true, that it is easier to lie than to tell the truth.
They finally gave in to my whinging and whining. After months of listening to it, my parents finally allowed me to build a tree house. I’d worked on it day and night for months. I’d put up curtains, laid down a carpet and even set up a small portable TV.
I was in my tree house with my friends Jake and Toby, giggling over a Playboy like the adolescents we are. I heard a loud snap. I realised it was one of the larger branches in the tree breaking.
The next thing I knew, I was hurtling towards the ground.
It was a dark cold night in December. Tommy and I crept quietly towards the door. The ground was still covered from the recent snowfall and we were both wrapped up in our coats, hats, gloves and scarves. Our hearts were beating double time in our chests and our breath fogged in front of us.
We were so scared as we closed the distance. The lights in the front room were on, as were the hall lights. We’d done this twice before and we’d almost got caught the last time. I rang on the doorbell and mouthed to Tommy, “Run.”
I’ve just been told my role in our school play. I was hoping for the male lead, but that has been given to Michael Shunnessey. Granted I just wanted the chance to kiss Lizzie McCallen, but damn it I know the lines better than Michael ever will.
Our English teacher allowed us to choose what play we were going to put on this year. Allowing thirty-two thirteen year olds to decide something like that themselves was asking for trouble; we finally agreed A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Instead of Oberon, the King of the Fairies, I get the role of Bottom.
I sat in silence. I saw her turn the corner. Seven o’clock on the dot; just like every morning. I was told her name is Joanna. I have no idea what she has done to deserve this, and to be honest, I didn’t ask; I never ask.
In my profession, it’s simple: I get a name and a fee; knowing the details will only make my life and my job complicated.
I watched as she purchased her morning coffee. I walked silently by, slipped the foxglove into her coffee, and settled in to watch the outcome.
Hit number thirty successful.
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‘But if you don't do it, you know you will regret it for the rest of your life.’
I told myself that for the first time three years ago; the first time I saw two boys getting beaten up at my old school in the playground. They were stupid enough to get caught doing something at school that two boys shouldn’t have been doing and they got what they got. It sickened me; I knew all about gays and their ways, my dad had raised me right.
I’d been expelled from my last school for beating up five boys a year younger than me. Actually, let’s tell the truth. I’d put three of them in the hospital, and they have only just recovered enough to fully return to school. I’m proud of what I did. I’m glad I did it and have no feelings of sympathy for them and their kind, or remorse for my actions; they got exactly what was coming to them. The story of what happened passed from school to school to school like a brushfire, and soon nearly every schoolkid knew what had happened.
I walked into the boy’s toilet with my two henchmen – we were skipping the last class of the day and wanted a smoke. The sight we walked in on shocked us - two boys were kissing each other by the urinal. Judging by their size and the uniform they were wearing (our school has one crest for kids in years 7-9 and a different crest for years 10-11) , I would assume they were both in year seven, year eight at the most – that would make them eleven or twelve years old.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” said Mike.
“Looks like a couple fags asking for a beating,” said James, pounding his fist into his palm emphasizing his point.
I turned to my two henchmen and grinned. “You two, outside. Guard the door and don’t let anyone in.” Mike and James laughed as they walked out.
The two boys looked at me and they were absolutely petrified. I had seen fear in people’s eyes before, but the fear reflected in the wide eyes of these two small boys surprised even me. They were beyond scared as to what this fifteen year old was going to do to them.
Everyone in school knows me. I’m the bully; I’m the person who people deliberately cross the road to avoid; I’m the troll under the bridge; I’m the thing that demons have nightmares about; I’m big, bad Toby Carlin. I’ve been in this school for six months, and everyone knows me, and everyone here goes in fear of my name.
As I walked closer to the two smaller boys I felt like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput. Their eyes widened and their fear deepened; if that was even possible.
“Come here.” The two boys looked at each other. “I said ‘come here’!”
They slowly walked towards me. I noticed they suddenly held hands, trying to give each other the strength to survive this. James and Mike poked their heads in at this point wondering why there were no screams of pain, wondering what was taking me so long.
“Please don’t hurt us,” the smaller of the two whispered. “Please don’t hurt us. We’ll do anything you say, but please don’t hurt us.”
I knew the door had opened as the school sounds began to filter into the toilets, and I turned around. “I said wait outside. Unless you two want what these fags are gonna get.”
James and Mike closed the door again, smiling. I heard one of them saying, “He’s a genius. Why just beat the fags up, when you can mess with their heads first.”
Once the two boys were close enough to me, I knelt down and wrapped my arms around them.
“You two need to be careful doing things like that, especially in school,” I whispered. “Next time it might not be me who catches you; next time you really might get beaten up, or worse.”
I felt a wetness on my neck and I realised the two boys were crying. Their bodies went limp as the tension flooded out of them. I held the two boys tighter and allowed a tear of my own to fall. In that hug, I thought back to three years ago when I saw those two boys getting beaten up, and I’d promised myself that I would do whatever was necessary to protect any gay children in my school; as I said, my dad had raised me right.
“I’m sorry I scared you so badly, but I needed to keep up appearances. If Mike and James realised that I wasn’t going to beat you up, they’d have done it themselves. Now I need you to cry out as though I’m hurting you.”
The larger of the two looked at me with a quizzical look on his face, but yelled out as I’d requested. Then I held my hand over his mouth and told him to yell again. Even through the door, James and Mike could hear his muffled cries.
“I wonder what he’s doing to them,” Mike asked.
“Judging by the sounds of it, he’s half killing them.”
“No less than their sort deserve.”
At that point Miss Timpkins, one of the school secretaries, turned around the corner.
“Just what are you two boys doing hanging around instead of being in class?”
I heard her through the door, but not the rest of the conversation as they were talking too quietly.
“Nobody can know what I did for you today, you understand?” Both boys nodded, and whispered their thanks.
A few moments later Miss Timpkins opened the door. She walked in to find two boys who were barely five foot with very red puffy eyes from where they had been crying, and of course, she found me. Putting two and two together, and quite naturally coming up with four, she told the two younger boys to go to her office so the other secretary call their parents to come and collect them. She dragged me, Mike, and James to the headmaster’s office, told him what had happened, but only left my two cronies there. She pulled me with her into a nearby empty classroom.
“Just what the hell is your problem?” she yelled at me. “You were kicked out of your last school for putting three boys in the hospital, and now you carry on that shit here? Is there something seriously wrong with you?”
I looked at her in surprise. She was five inches shorter than me, probably forty pounds lighter than me, and yet she was the first person to ever talk to me like that. Even when teachers have had to discipline me before, they were all too scared of me to be in the room alone with me. Now here was this secretary, showing no fear at all.
“I didn’t do nothing to those two kids.”
“So you’re telling me that they just happened to be in the boy’s toilet with you, and the pair of them had been crying for no reason?”
I said to her, “Believe what you like. Just ask the two kids what happened, and they’ll tell you I didn’t touch ’em.”
“Of course they’ll say that; they’re scared of you. Fortunately, since I caught you, it doesn’t matter what they say. On my evidence alone, the headmaster will suspend you at least, expel you at best.
“Why are you so violent Toby? I know boys get into fights, Christ I’m not stupid; I’ve patched up enough bloody noses in this school over the years. But you! You break bones! You put kids in the hospital! You really don’t care about anyone or anything do you? I heard what happened in your last school. Those boys did nothing to you. You attacked them after school for no reason at all.”
“They got what they damn well deserved,” I spat.
“Nobody deserves that.”
“Ask Colin Patrickson if they deserved what they got!” I said. This was the closest I had ever come to actually saying why I turned so savagely violent that day.
“And just what does my nephew have to do with it?”
“Colin Patrickson is my nephew. Are you saying those boys you beat up had something to do with what happened to Colin?”
I slowly nodded my head. “They were the ones who beat him up,” I whispered. A silent tear rolled down my cheek, and I absentmindedly brushed it away.
“Do you know what happened? You have to tell me.”
Miss Timpkins grabbed me by the shoulders and started to shake me. “You have to tell me.”
“I can’t. Please, don’t ask me.”
“You have to tell me! He spent three weeks in the hospital and lost his spleen in that assault! He’s had three near fatal infections as a direct result of having no spleen, so you will tell me!” Her voice becoming louder and angrier at my refusal to answer her.
“I can’t, and I won’t.” I started crying.
“You will tell me, or I swear to God I’ll drag it out of you,” she snarled.
“I told you, I can’t. I beg you, stop asking me.” I choked the last few words out as tears streamed down my face. I ran out of the classroom, down the hall, leapt the stairs two at a time and escaped out the front door.
After I had calmed down I went to Colin’s house. I rang on the doorbell.
“Toby,” he said smiling.
I walked into his house, closed the door and pulled him close to me. I kissed him like it was our first kiss and we melted into each other.
“Colin, we have a problem. Your aunt knows that I attacked those boys because of you. She doesn’t know the details of why, but she knows.”
Colin looked at me. “How did she find out? How do you even know her?”
“She’s the secretary in my school. Why didn’t you warn me?”
“I had no idea what school she was working in. So, that explains how you know her, but it doesn’t tell me how she found out.”
I told Colin the whole story from when I walked into the toilet, right up to when I ran out on his aunt. Just as I finished the story, his doorbell rang again.
“Aunt Susan.” Colin was shocked to see his aunt at the door; but not as shocked as she was to see me in her nephew’s house.
“Well Master Carlin, this surely is a pleasure. Now that we’re no longer on school grounds and I’m no longer tied up by regulations, we are going to talk. And you are going to tell me everything even if I have to beat it out of you.”
“I told you all ready, I can’t, and I won’t.”
“It’s OK,” Colin said looking at me; but I could see he was trembling.
“Are you sure?” I asked. He merely nodded.
“Miss Timpkins,” I started, took a deep breath and added, “those boys beat Colin up because they found out he was gay.”
She looked over to Colin, trying to verify this. He nodded, with a tear in his eye.
“It doesn’t matter to me, Colin. I still love you. I don’t care if you’re straight, gay or whatever. I love you for who you are, not for what you are. Though Toby I don’t really see what business it is of yours? You’re no different than those boys, and you’ve done far worse to people!”
“Miss Timpkins, I’m nothing like those boys! What they did to my boyfriend was wrong, and I saw that they paid for it!” My voice started to crack and I was on the verge of crying again.
“Yes. Colin and I have been together since we were twelve.” Colin placed his hand in mine, and gave me one of those smiles that show all of his pearly-white teeth. “I allowed myself to earn a reputation, to be feared, to help me protect myself. It was the perfect mask; who would ever think a bully, especially a bully feared by the entire school, was gay. And if nobody figured I was gay, then they wouldn’t figure that Colin was gay either, no matter how much time we spent together. I allowed this reputation of mine to happen to protect him as much as to protect me. If you ask around at my old school, you’ll find all that there ever were were accusations, that I never once actually bullied anyone. The only time I’ve ever actually done what I’ve been accused of, is what I did to those boys who attacked my Colin.”
“You still haven’t convinced me. I think that yes, you and Colin are together, and maybe, just maybe, perhaps, you’re not quite the thug you portray yourself as. But I still think there is far more to you attacking those boys; the attack on Colin happened three months prior to what you did. Something else must have happened to make you react like that.”
“Think back, Aunt Susan,” Colin said morosely. “What happened the day before Toby did what he did?”
Susan Timpkins thought back, and let out a deep sad sigh. “We found out that you contracted measles. You were hospitalised, but you were treated and didn’t suffer with any complications. ”
“I didn’t know I’d survive the infection at the time! Neither did you, the doctors, nor did mum and dad, and neither did Toby.”
“When I thought Colin was going to die because of what those animals did, I saw red and lost control. I decided I wanted to inflict as much pain and suffering as humanly possible on the people who had hurt my Colin. The problem was that once I’d started hitting them I couldn’t stop.” Colin pulled me into a tight embrace, and I hugged him back. “I love Colin with all my heart and I'd do anything for him. Miss Timpkins, now that you know what nobody else knows, now that you know the truth about me and the truth about Colin, are you going to tell anyone or can we trust you to keep this to yourself?”
Link to prompt
The feelings coursing through my body were electric. My heart was racing and pins and needles were running up and down my arms and legs. I had no idea it could feel this good; I felt like I was flying.
I had denied myself this pleasurable experience for far too long; now I’d gotten my first taste I wanted more. I swallowed it and the aftertaste was incredible; the flavour lingered on my tongue and I could feel the creaminess of it on the roof of my mouth.
I gave into temptation.
I took another bite of the chocolate cake.
Link to prompt
1. The hot wax dripped from the table like congealed blood from a vampire’s bite
2. The old lottery tickets on the empty train station seemed like hope unfulfilled
3. The oars on the boat rowed as if under the command of Poseidon
4. A pulled out slinky is like muscles stretched taut over bone.
5. Kevin swallowed the coffee as if it were life’s great elixir
6. The waves rolled over the sea with the hatred of a thousand scorned women
7. If I should wake before I die then my prayers are answered for one more day
8. Sand in a bottle is like the art of the desert
9. An unread obituary is like a life unlived
10. She watched the car rolling towards her from the wreckage as if it were the bullet with her name on
Link to prompt
“Just how many more times can you do that?” Josh thought to himself as he dried his eyes, after crying for the fourth time that evening.
The small blond-haired, blue-eyed boy looked around his room for the last time. He sighed deeply as he took in his bed, the non-descript decor, the rather large collection of books, and he wondered what tomorrow would bring. Tomorrow is his fourteenth birthday, and under the law, he is required to move into the palace. His name is Joshua Tierny and he is the son, and only child, of King Kenneth and Queen Maria of the Kingdom of Salania. Although technically he is Prince Joshua, he does not come into his title until tomorrow when he turns fourteen.
He lives in a townhouse on the outskirts of the prime city of Rasunal, and since he does not come into his title until tomorrow, he has lived his life without anybody knowing who he really is; he has been attending the local school with the children of Rasunal, denying his lineage of royalty. He has spent the past fourteen years (well thirteen years three hundred and sixty four days) in the company of his Aunt Mildrea, who is the sister of the Queen.
Unlike other monarchies in the realm, Salania does not bestow titles upon the extended family or other children of the royal family – hence why Joshua’s aunt is not Princess Mildrea. Only the firstborn child of the king and queen can ever become the next lead monarch; in the current case, it is Joshua’s mother, Queen Maria, who is the lead monarch.
At the age of fifteen, when she formally chose a boy called Kenneth who came from a nearby village to become the one who would rule by her side, he became King Kenneth upon her accession to the throne. In contrast to other monarchies the heir to the throne of Salania can marry anyone of their choosing; whether they are of noble birth or a commoner.
The succession laws have however lead to problems in Salania’s history. Every schoolchild has learned that their kingdom has been left monarchless on four occasions over the past one thousand years, and the clergy were forced to establish a new ruling bloodline.
Joshua has not seen his parents in person since he was born. The way that royal society works is that by preventing the heir to the throne from having contact with the monarchy and being raised in the privilege and comfort of the palace, they will hopefully learn what life is truly like for the commoners who inhabit the land. The plan is that they will better understand the lives of their subjects and keep their subjects’ wishes and desires in their mind and in their heart at all times.
The Kingdom of Salania is rare these days in that it is what is termed a monarchist totality; the King and Queen are the law and their word is absolute. All kingdoms in Relan have a monarchy but the vast majority also have a ruling council who are responsible for enacting the royal decrees, though they do carry a power of veto in order to prevent the monarchy from becoming despotic. According to the lessons Joshua had learned in school there are only two other monarchist totalities amongst the forty kingdoms, and Salania is the only monarchist totality left amongst the four Grand Kingdoms.
“Good night Aunt Mildrea,” Joshua called to her from his room.
“Good night Joshua. Sleep well,” she called back.
He was filled with trepidation at the prospect of becoming Prince Joshua in the morning. He had had absolutely no preparation for this event and had no idea what to expect. Somehow, the knowledge that princes and princesses had gone through these same feelings and emotions since time immemorial did nothing to calm his nerves; he had the feeling that sleep would be a long time coming. Yet the prince-to-be was fast asleep before his head even touched the pillow.
He awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and alert, until he remembered what the day was. He got out of bed and made his way to the bathroom for his morning shower.
Downstairs in the kitchen his Aunt Mildrea was already getting her day started. She had been up since before the sun rose, even before her housemaid and butler were up. Although Mildrea was the sister of the queen and very wealthy (even by the standards of the Salanian upper middle class), she insisted on doing her fair share of work. One of the many things she insisted on doing herself was baking bread. She already had two freshly baked loaves cooling, with another loaf already in the oven, and a batch of dough on the kitchen counter waiting to prove.
Joshua walked downstairs dressed ready for school. His aunt looked at him and said, “Joshua, happy birthday.”
“Thanks Aunt Mildrea.”
“Why are you wearing your school clothes?”
“You’ve never allowed me to take my birthday off school.”
“You misunderstand. Today, you have turned fourteen; you are going to the palace. Congratulations on your coming of age”
“I thought I’d get to see my friends and say goodbye to them all before I left.” A silent tear began to fall.
“You are not expected at the palace until noon. I will allow you to say your goodbyes, but I will accompany you to school to ensure you leave on time.”
“Thanks Aunt Mildrea.” Josh then hugged his aunt for the first time in years.
“There is a condition. You are under no circumstances whatsoever to reveal that you are to be crowned prince or the real reason for you moving to the palace, or even that you are the son of our reigning monarchs.”
“You have taught me well on our laws, and I know that the truth is not allowed to be revealed until I turn fifteen, when I am expected to choose the person who will reign with me when I become king.”
“Let us get going. The longer we stand here talking, the less time you will have for your goodbyes.”
They grabbed their coats on the way out since spring had only just come and being in the far north of Relan, the Salanian mornings were still nippy. The school was only a ten-minute walk, and Mildrea had no intention of using the car for making such a short journey. Mildrea could easily afford a fancy car and a chauffeur on twenty-four hour call, but the simple fact was she enjoyed walking and it wasn’t as though Rasunal had a crime problem of any description. As with all kingdoms in Relan, Salania had only one punishment for every single crime; execution. Many have called it harsh, cruel and unjust, but the facts speak for themselves; there has not be a violent crime committed anywhere within the lands of Relan in living memory.
They reached the street corner and there was a beggar. He was perhaps ten or eleven years old, but looked in remarkably healthy condition; meaning he was either brand new to the profession or he was lucky enough to be housed in one of the many free lodges scattered around the kingdom. Either way, Joshua felt pity for him and gave him a few coins. His aunt reached into the bag she always carried with her and handed the child one of the loaves she had baked the previous day.
“I thank you kind people,” he squeaked, and scurried off placing the coins in his pocket and ripping chunks off of the bread and eating them before they vanished into thin air.
Prince Joshua and his aunt continued to walk towards the school and arrived just as one of the teachers was ringing the bell for the start of day. The school wasn’t very big with perhaps a hundred pupils and five teachers; not exactly out of the ordinary given that, even for being the prime city, Rasunal barely has a population of one thousand and the entire kingdom of Salania is home to just shy of nine thousand souls.
“Master Tierney. How nice of you to join us.” The distain she had for Joshua was obvious. The teacher was a short, dumpy woman in her late fifties, who wore glasses with a rose-coloured rim.
“That’s Mister Tierney if you don’t mind, Miss Carlton.”
“Oh yes, I’d forgotten. Today is your fourteenth birthday, congratulations on your coming of age.” It was quite clear from her tone that what she actual wanted to say was, “It’s your fourteenth birthday, big whoop, now get to class.” However, the traditional salutation on someone’s fourteenth birthday is as time honoured as the Festival of the Serpent or bowing to the monarchy; to greet Joshua otherwise would have been regarded as a grave insult, not just to Joshua but to all those who call Relan home.
“I am Joshua’s aunt. My name is Mildrea. We are here to see the headmistress.” Mildrea, although usually the kindest sweetest person you could ever wish to meet, had no tolerance for disrespect in any fashion. She spoke to the teacher as though informing her of what was going to happen, not asking for her permission. Since Mildrea felt that she did not ask for, nor in fact did she need, the teacher’s permission, she simply lead Joshua to the headmistress’ office.
“Mister Tierney, congratulations on your coming of age.”
“Thank you, Mrs Chalmers.”
“What brings you here? You should be in class you know.”
“I am Mildrea, I am Joshua’s aunt.”
“Of course I know of you; the charitable work you do is well known. Though I had no idea of your familial relationship to Joshua.”
“I am here today on behalf of Joshua’s mother. As you know, Joshua has now turned fourteen. His mother works in the royal palace, and she has requested he join her.”
“Joshua is at a very critical junction in his education. I am sure his mother could wait until the end of the academic year, after all she has waited fourteen years so far.”
Mildrea looked at Mrs Chalmers, trying to gauge as to whether the headmistress was being sarcastic or not. She decided that Mrs Chalmers was simply speaking her mind, and so remained calm. “As you may or may not be aware, the royal palace is not the ideal place to raise a child. The staff work incredibly long hours and Joshua’s mother would have had no free time at all to spend with her growing boy; that was the reason he was sent to live with me in the first place. However, his mother has recently been appointed as the Mistress of the Queen’s Kitchen. She no longer has to work as many hours during the day, and her weekends are now her own. Now that she has the free time she would like to spend as much of it as possible with her son, whilst he is still a teenager. Based on his scholastic achievements she has been able to obtain a place for him at the Royal Academy, which I am sure will help to alleviate any concerns you may have over his future schooling.”
Joshua’s head was reeling at the ease with his aunt was spinning this tale. His aunt was telling bald-faced lies to his headmistress; his aunt who on one occasion told him if he ever lied to her, he would be cast out of her home, regardless of his bloodline. She told him that she did not mind what he did, as long as it was legal and that he was honest with her at all times.
“Everything seems to be in order, Mildrea. This letter confirming Joshua’s place at the Royal Academy has convinced me that this has been well thought through by Joshua’s mother, and she must have missed him a great deal. I will need a few days to finalise his transcripts and I will send those on once they have been compiled. Mister Tierney, I wish you all the best for the future and it has been a pleasure having you here.”
“Thank you, Mrs Chalmers. I was hoping to be able to say good bye to my friends.”
“If you are quick about it, school has begun you know.” She handed him a quickly scribbled note, confirming that she had given Joshua permission to say goodbye to his friends.
As Joshua approached his classroom, he realised he was nearly on the verge of tears. With Rasunal being so small, he had practically known all of these children his entire life. He had spent summers playing in the woods and the lakes; he had spent the autumns playing in the leaves; winters playing in the snow with most if not all of them. They had become like an extended family, and now Joshua had to say goodbye to them, most likely forever.
He slowly opened the door, and Miss Carlton looked at him. “Back from the headmistress’ office I see. What have you done now?”
“Actually Miss Carlton, I’m here to say goodbye.”
“What do you mean, ‘say goodbye’? You’ve only just gotten here.”
“I’m leaving to go and live in the palace with my mother; she’s just been made Mistress of the Queen’s Kitchen. I’m also going to be going to the Royal Academy. As you can see from this note from Mrs Chalmers, I have permission to say goodbye to my friends.” Joshua handed her the note and without so much as a ‘by your leave’, he went around the classroom saying his goodbyes.
Most were the usual ‘I’ll miss you’, ‘stay in touch’ kind of thing. However, Joshua now had the hardest goodbye of all to say.
“Nate. I can’t put into words what your friendship means to me. I spent most of yesterday trying and no matter what I came up with, nothing seemed to come close; even calling you my best friend seems woefully inadequate.”
“I know what you mean Joshua. We are probably as close as two people ever get, and I know I’ll miss you. Promise me you’ll write.” Nate then wrapped his arms around Joshua and hugged him. Nate whispered as quietly as he could, “Promise me. Promise me, your highness.”
“I promise,” Joshua replied, smiling whilst struggling to hold back his tears.
The two boys hugged for what seemed an eternity. They were brought back to the present when Jennifer Dalby shouted out, “For the love of the gods, will you two get a room!”
They both blushed, and whispered their goodbyes again.
Link to prompt
“Oh my god, I think I killed him!” Malcar couldn’t believe it was that easy to take a life. They approached the body (well corpse is probably a more accurate term) to examine their handiwork.
“No shit, Sherlock. It’s your job to kill.”
“I’ve never killed before.” Malcar studied the lifeless body and he could still see the look of abject fear on the face of their victim.
“That was your first? I can’t believe I got saddled with a bloody newbie!”
“Kalshann that’s not fair, we’ve all got to start somewhere; don’t forget you were a newbie once upon a time. I didn’t ask to be assigned with a veteran. Just like you, I get told where to go and who to go with.”
“You are right, Malcar, I’m sorry. I was with my last partner for so long, we got to know each other really well, and become as close as brothers.”
Kalshann and Malcar had been notified three hours ago who their target was; Michael Upstart was a twenty-three year old recently qualified doctor who lived on the English south coast. Why he had to die Malcar didn’t know, and Kalshann didn’t know either. They don’t get told why their victims have to die, only that they have to die. Like all others who operate in the field, Malcar had undergone a lengthy training course but nothing quite prepares someone for the first time of taking of a human life. Malcar knew that it was supposed to be like second nature, but then again Malcar is not like most.
He had never particularly held a human life in high regard, but then again neither have any in his line of work. After snuffing out the life of this person who was only a few years out of his childhood, Malcar began to experience something he didn’t expect; he was having an emotional response. What was this emotion he was feeling? It was an entirely new emotion for him to be feeling, one completely alien to his state of being; one he had heard of yes, but had never personally experienced. Malcar felt that he might be wrong, but thought that this emotion is called regret. He was feeling remorseful that Michael Upstart was no longer alive, and he was beginning to wish he had played no part whatsoever in the death of the young man.
Malcar believed these emotions to be pesky things which served no useful purpose, and he couldn’t wait to get back so that he could put these feelings behind him; he hoped against hope that his dad didn’t find out that his only son was experiencing the early onset of compassion. Malcar knew that he had no business feeling emotions like this, but like he said, he’s not like most.
“Come on Malcar, we need to report back.”
“I’m coming Kalshann.”
After the two had left, a light shone above the body of Michael Upstart, and two more people appeared by the body.
“Maxine, was that him?”
“Yes, James. That was my son.”
“Why is he on their side?”
“Mine and Lokat’s union was the first in nearly ten thousand years between an angel and demon. The old laws are clear; a male child belongs to their side, and a female child belongs to our side. However, I have noticed lately that his angel side is becoming stronger, so I guess Lokat is going to have some fun times coming up. If he thinks being a demigod in Hell is difficult, imagine raising a demon who is becoming an angel? Come on James, let’s collect the doctor’s soul and be on our way.”
Link to prompt
I’d been thinking about her a lot lately. That long auburn hair that came half way down her back, that cute little button nose and those amazing amber eyes that gave her an almost otherworldly appearance. Her name was Josephine Baxter and she was my very first crush way back when I was eleven years old; she was in the same class as me but was only ten years old as she had skipped a year. I had been bitten by the love bug big time. I’d stare at her from across the classroom and my heart would go pitty-pat, I’d watch her from afar in the playground, I’d even started drawing little love hearts with ‘I love Josephine’ written around them; then just before turning thirteen puberty hit and my pure love for her turned into a major lusting.
Why have I been thinking about Josephine so much lately? At the age of sixteen, I’ve come to the horrific realisation that I’m gay; Lord knows I don’t want to be. I have been thinking about Josephine because I wonder if I had told her about her my crush, would we be together right now, would I be straight; please God tell me I’d be straight. I don’t want to be gay and put up with all of the shit that comes with it.
The other reason I’ve been thinking about her, as bizarre as this sounds, I was visited by the Angel of Destiny two days ago with an offer I couldn’t refuse. She offered me the chance to go back and change something from my life. I could change any one thing I liked, but I would have to live with the consequences produced by the butterfly effect; Destiny done, would not be undone. I could change who and what I am, I could tell Josephine how I feel about her and not be queer anymore.
So when the Angel of Destiny reappeared to me I didn’t even hesitate to tell her when I wanted to go to and what I wanted to do.
I woke up in a strange-feeling bed. My bed was one of those huge king size beds and I can’t remember the last time I woke up with my feet dangling off the end of my bed. I could feel a plastic shape on the side of my bed, and that’s when it hit me, this was my Batmobile bed; but I’d had that when I was eleven. I then remembered what had happened. The Angel of Destiny had sent me back to change my past, and change it I would.
After a hurried breakfast, I went to school. I got there a little early, hoping to catch Josephine before the school day started as I didn’t want to chicken out of doing this; I couldn’t . . . I mustn’t chicken out of doing this. A few minutes later Josephine arrived and she looked absolutely heavenly. I walked over to her.
“Taylor, good morning.”
I kind of stared at her for a few seconds and could feel myself blushing. How could I be so shy around her? I knew what my life would be like without her, and I refused to live that life.
“Taylor, are you all right?”
“I like you,” I mumbled.
“I didn’t catch that Taylor.”
“I like you Josephine.”
“I like you too Taylor.” She turned and was about to walk off.
“Josephine, I mean I like you, like you. You know I’ve . . . I’ve . . . I’ve got a crush on you.”
She turned back around and her long hair bounced from the sudden movement. “Oh. Are you asking to be like my boyfriend or something?”
I blushed even deeper and let out a little giggle. “Yes. Would you like to go out with me sometime?”
Well, I did it. I asked her out . . . sort of . . . in my own cack-handed way. I hoped that would be enough to break the queer curse.
We had a nice enough first date. We went to the cinema with her dad acting as chaperone. When we said goodbye I gave her a kiss on the cheek as I blushed.
We took it slowly, we eventually started spending the entire day together instead of just a few hours, and we even started playing together at school, Of course, we started getting flak at school; lots of ‘Taylor and Josephine sitting in a tree’.
Once we’d been together for about a year, by which time I had just turned twelve and Josephine was a few days shy of turning eleven (and getting prettier by the day), I overheard a snippet of conversation between Josephine and her dad.
“Sweetie, you need to think about telling him.”
“Dad, how can I? I think he may be the one I want to spend my life with.”
“Josephine, that’s why I think you need to think about telling him.”
“Dad, what if he reacted badly to it? I’m not sure I could take it.”
“Honey, when you began this relationship with him, you must have known you wouldn’t be able to keep your secret forever.”
“I can’t tell him Dad. What if he doesn’t understand?”
“Then honey, you’ll know he isn’t really the one for you.”
I never told Josephine I’d overheard this conversation, and just waited with baited breath for her to bring up whatever this ‘secret’ was about.
I ended up waiting just over a year to have that conversation. By that time Josephine was twelve and I was thirteen. We were in the living room sitting on the sofa watching some film, when I leaned over and kissed Josephine.
It wasn’t our first kiss, but I was the first time I tried to slip my tongue into her mouth. She accepted my tongue and we kissed deeply for a few seconds before she pulled away from me.
“Taylor, we need to talk.”
“About what Josephine?”
“Give me a minute.” She disappeared and came back in with her dad and my mum.
I was very confused as to why she had brought our parents with her, but I thought this must be to do with the conversation I’d previously overheard and thought this could not be good; she must be really worried about I’d react.
“Taylor, I’m not really sure how to begin.”
I took her hands in mine and looked into those amazing amber eyes. “Just begin at the beginning.”
“Taylor what I’m about to say will come as a shock. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, or than I don’t care about you, or-”
“Josephine, calm down. Whatever it is it I will never stop loving you.”
“I really hope you mean that Taylor. I had planned on waiting until we were a little older to have this conversation, but it’s becoming clear to me that we are both falling in love and I can’t wait any longer; I can’t carry on like this.”
“Just take a deep breath and relax.”
“I was about five or six years old when my parents started noticing some odd behaviour in me. I wasn’t acting like normal kids my age, I’d become withdrawn, maudlin, and would spend my days playing with dolls.”
“What happened Josephine?” I moved closer to her and wrapped an arm around her.
“After a couple of months I was taken to see a psychiatrist. It took a few months but I was finally given a diagnosis.” At that point she broke down crying, so I wrapped her in my arms and kissed her on the lips.
“Josephine, if this is too painful for you, you don’t need to continue.”
“Yes Taylor, I do need to continue. As I said I was given a diagnosis. I was diagnosed with GID.”
“What’s that Josephine? I’ve never heard of it.”
“It stands for Gender Identity Dysphoria. It meant that I was born one gender, but I felt more like the opposite gender. I started doing things that I felt comfortable with like wearing dresses and playing with dolls.”
“Well those sound like normal things for a girl to do.”
“They are normal things for a girl to do, but not for a boy to be doing. You see Taylor I was born a boy and my name was Joseph. Once I was diagnosed with GID, I embraced the girl I wanted to become. I’ve lived as a girl ever since that day; that’s why I started at a new school. Dad wanted me to have a new start, to go somewhere I could be Josephine everyday out in public, somewhere where nobody knew about my life before her.”
I was in a state of total shock. How could Josephine be a boy! I mean she’s beautiful, we’ve kissed . . . oh God I’ve kissed a boy! I’ve been dating a boy for the last two and half years! Jesus Christ!
“How could you do this to me? I thought you were a girl!”
“I am a girl. I’m the girl you fell in love with.”
“You’re a boy! At best you’re a weirdo at worst you’re some kind of freak. What the hell gives you the right to put me through all of this! I trusted you! I loved you!”
“Taylor, I’m the person you fell in love with. I love you as well.”
“Stop saying that! I’m not gay like you.” I ran into my mum’s arms and hugged her.
Josephine’s dad held onto his crying daughter. “I’m not gay Taylor,” she said through her tears, “I’m a girl and I’m love with a boy.”
“Stop saying that, you are not a girl. I’ve always wondered why you never ever used the toilets at school and now I know.”
Josephine left her dad’s comforting embrace, she approached me and tried to take a hold of my hand, but I recoiled from her. “Don’t you dare touch me you freak!” I jumped from my mum’s arms and ran out of the house.
I couldn’t be in there any longer. The girl I loved was a boy! That is just sick! Why the hell did he allow me to fall in love with him? I'm not gay. She was a boy, and I was in love with a boy. What kind of sicko freak is he to get off on making a boy fall in love with him?
I stayed at home for a few weeks. I told my parents I just couldn’t face going to school. How could I face all of my friends? My mum knocked on my bedroom door.
“Come in,” I said.
“How are you doing honey?”
“How do you think I’m doing! What he did to me was unforgiveable.”
“Taylor, however you may feel, Josephine has chosen to live HER life as a girl and you will refer to Josephine as SHE not as HE.”
“If HE was born with a penis, then HE is a HE.”
My mum handed me an envelope. “This arrived just now. I recognise the handwriting; it’s Josephine’s.”
I took the envelope and as I started to open it, my mum left. There was a single page letter inside.
January 13th 2012
My dearest Taylor
I am sorry you feel the way you do. I never, ever meant to hurt or embarrass you. I can’t help that I was born a boy any more than you can help that you were born a boy. I’ve just always deep down felt like a girl. I’m sorry that I fell in love with you, and I’m sorry that you feel you now can’t return that love. You fell in love with Josephine, and I’m sorry that you feel that Josephine is some kind of a lie; she’s not. Josephine is who I am, and Josephine is the girl you fell in love with.
I hope you can someday forgive me.
All my love
For now and forever
After I’d read his letter I screwed it up and threw in the bin. Why is he still plaguing me! Doesn’t he just get that I’m not interested in being with a boy! I’m straight. For the love of God, I want to be with a girl, a real girl.
Time slowly passed and it had been about six months since my ‘break up’ with him, and my life was slowly getting back to normal. I’d gotten a girlfriend called Marcie; and she is a real girl. I hadn’t seen anything of Josephine at school, I guess he figured he’d move on to another school so could try and rope in some other poor sucker.
I was sitting in my living room with my mum one evening when there was a knock on the door. It was Joseph’s dad and he looked awful. He threw a newspaper clipping at me, told me to read it and left.
As I read it, I collapsed on to the floor, crying hysterically as I felt my heart shatter. After my mum finally calmed me down I handed the clipping to her so she could read it.
It is with great sadness that on this day, 7th July 2012, the death of twelve year old Josephine Baxter is announced. She had been in a coma for the past six months, following a deliberate drug overdose on January 13th of this year. The life support machines were finally switched off early yesterday. She leaves behind her loving father.
Link to prompt
I was drawn to Dagen for some unknown reason. I knew what I was doing was frowned upon; hell, it was tantamount to being illegal.
The Leanaí Scáth had been shunned since they first appeared on Earth a little over two hundred years ago. Nobody knows where the “Children of the Shadows” had appeared from, or where they had come from; one day they were not here, then the next day they were here. All that was known about them was that they did not appear to physically age and apparently, they are unable to have children of their own; this second assumption comes from the fact that their population numbers have never increased.
They are treated as badly as it is possible to treat someone who is different. They are not permitted to live in any of the towns or cities, they are not allowed to hold a job that pays more than the minimum wage, they are not permitted to attend school, and they are not, under any circumstances, permitted to be outside of their colonies after dark. The Scáth Dlíthe, the Shadow Laws, were compiled a few years after the Shads (God I hate that slur) arrived. The Shadow Laws are somewhat akin to the Jim Crow laws of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, except the Scáth Dlíthe are practically sanctioned by all of the world’s governments and even by the United Nations.
It was nearly midnight and I had snuck out of my bedroom. I walked to the small colony about a mile and a half outside the city. My rucksack weighed a ton, as in addition to a few snacks and a bottle of water, I had a pile of books with me; nothing fancy really, just a selection of Dr Seuss and a few history books.
Dagen’s colony was just inside a small forest and as I walked along, I heard an owl hoot and I’m sure I heard the flapping of a bat. I turned my torch on, so I could see where I was walking, and I felt something run over my foot. I let out a very girly shriek.
“Don’t worry Michael, it was only a raccoon.”
I turned and saw it was Karta, Dagen’s sister. I have no idea if she was a younger sister or an older sister, and since they do not celebrate their birthdays, they have no idea how old they are.
“Hi Karta. What are you doing out here? You know the law, if you’re caught out of your colony after dark, you’ll be arrested.”
“And what about you Michael? If you get caught helping us, get caught teaching us, what will happen to you? You are taking a far greater risk than I.”
“I’m doing what I believe is right. The Scáth Dlíthe are inhumane, and I can’t believe that in this day and age, such punitive laws are allowed to exist.”
Karta and I walked to the colony, and I was greeted warmly by the nineteen Leanaí Scáth who call this little shanty town home.
Dagen came over to me and hugged me. “Michael, I was beginning to worry that you had been caught, you are usually here before now.”
“I know. I had to dodge a few police patrols on my way out of the city.”
“Are you up for a moonlight swim Michael?”
“Sure, it’s not too chilly tonight.”
Karta handed me a swim suit, and I dove into the bushes to change. It was a little bit skimpy for my liking, but I’d never been made to feel uncomfortable by any of the Children of the Shadows.
We spent about an hour swimming around in the pond that sat in the middle of their colony. I can remember the first time I came out here nearly five years ago, when I was nine years old; none of them could swim, and they only used the pond to wash themselves and their clothes. The youngest children had struggled the most with learning to swim; no, not the youngest children, the smallest children. At the time, I had come here purely out of curiosity, but now I come out here every chance I get because it is right.
I always had to keep on reminding myself just how old these children were; after all, physically Dagen appeared no different than your average fourteen or fifteen year old. No different, except for the fact that he was gorgeous, and if it wasn’t oh so illegal, I’d sell my own mother to be his boyfriend. Physically, the rest of them ranged from probably six up to about thirteen; Dagen and his sister, Karta, seemed to be the oldest. Though as I said, I had no idea of their chronological age, they were all certainly at least two hundred and nineteen years old; yeah, I’ve always been attracted to older boys.
We got out of the pond and dried ourselves off. I ducked behind the bushes again to change back into my clothes. I dug into my rucksack and pulled out one of my favourite books from childhood, Dr Seuss’ ‘The Cat in the Hat’.
I walked into the hut that passed as our classroom. Most of the stuff I had been teaching them over the past couple of years had been done verbally, since they had never been permitted to learn to read or write English. As they have learned more and more over the past couple of years, they eventually expressed the desire to learn how to read, so that they would not be quite so dependent upon me for their learning experience. I was actually amazed at how quickly they had picked up the basics of reading, and so I figured I would see how they did with a little Dr Seuss.
As the children piled into the classroom, Karta brought me a cup of coffee.
“It’ll help to warm you.”
“Thanks Karta.” I sipped at the hot, brown liquid. “Okay, so you are all doing really well with learning how to read. I’ve brought a few books by a children’s author from three hundred years ago called Dr Seuss. This one is called ‘The Cat in the Hat’. Karta would you like to try and read the first page.” I handed the book to Karta.
I spent over an hour reading with the Leanaí Scáth, and then began packing everything away. I had decided that I would sleep here in the colony tonight. I had already left a note attached to the fridge in my kitchen back home that I knew my mum would find in the morning. I’d simply said that I had woken up early and had gone out, and I would be home in time for dinner.
We sat outside Dagen’s hut talking.
“Michael, may I ask you something? It is a little personal, so please feel free to say no.”
“Dagen, you may ask me anything.”
“I have noticed the way you look at me sometimes. Are you attracted to me?”
I blushed; I had no idea I had been that obvious. “Yeah, I am Dagen.”
“And you have said nothing to me, because you fear the repercussions of us being together?”
“God, no Dagen! Please don’t think that. I never said anything to you, because I didn’t know if you . . . if you are . . . I don’t know how to phrase this.”
“Are you asking if I am sexually attracted to males?”
I coughed. “I suppose; but it’s more than that. There is more than simply being attracted to boys. You are at least two hundred years older than I am. How will that look to the others here? How do you feel about that?”
“So many questions Michael. First off, yes, I am attracted to boys. Well, that is not strictly true; we are all attracted to both males and females; we are what you humans call bisexual. The fact I am older than you, would only matter if we were subject to your laws in that matter. The Scáth Dlíthe have made it clear, that when it comes to things like sex, marriage and having children we are not subject to your laws. The only law we would be breaking is the one which prohibits a human and a Shad from being together.”
“Dagen, please don’t use that word. I hate it.”
“Michael, I cannot change what I am.”
“And I would never dream of asking you. All that I ask is that you do not denigrate yourself, purely because of human stupidity.”
“How our possible relationship would look to the others here is nothing I, nor you, should be concerned of. You have always treated us with kindness and respect. Everybody here likes you. As for how I would feel? The age difference would not bother me. As you know, we do not celebrate our birthdays, and none of us knows our chronological age; so, there have undoubtedly been vast age differences in other relationships among my people.”
“So, you are saying that there is nothing to stop me from asking you to be my boyfriend?”
“Absolutely nothing at all, my friend.”
“Dagen, would you do me the privilege of being my boyfriend?”
“Of course I will.” He pulled me close to him and kissed me on the lips. “Wait here, and I will prepare your bed.”
Dagen went into his hut, and I was joined by Karta.
“I saw the kiss, Michael. Congratulations.”
“Thanks, Karta. I wasn’t sure how you would react.”
“I am happy for you both. In fact, I was the one who suggested to Dagen that it was time for him to discuss matters with you. True, Dagen will be the first of our kind to attempt a relationship with a human, but I am glad that human is you. I wish you both happiness and long life.” Karta kissed me on the cheek and walked off.
“Your bed is ready,” Dagen said, reappearing.
We walked into his bedroom, and he had set up a bed next to his. On my bed, there were two black roses.
“It is custom among my people, that when one of us begins a new relationship, to offer our new partner a black rose.” He picked up the roses and handed one to me. “I keep one and you keep the other. It is a symbol that reminds us, that even though, like the stem, our time together may have thorns, our lives will also, like the flower, be filled with beauty.”
“A lovely custom, Dagen.”
We kissed goodnight and fell asleep.
Link to prompt
I’d tired of being the good kid. The kid who always did his homework, the kid who was never sent to the headmaster, the kid who was loved by his teachers, the kid who had never even so much as smoked a cigarette behind the bike sheds. Well damn it! I’m sixteen years old and I decided it was time to grab life by the horns and live a little.
It was prom in a few days time and I’d had the devil’s own trying to find a date. My first thought was to ask Steven Short or Darryl Chambers. Both boys are really cute, but both of them are bigger apple polishers than I am; than I was, I mean. I’d considered asking Marcus O’Callaghan, but he’s so far in the closet it isn’t even funny; and by so far in, I mean the idiot has even gone to the extremes of getting some poor girl pregnant. Then I thought about asking Chris . . . then I thought about not asking Chris . . . then I thought about asking Chris again.
Now if there was a bad boy in school it was Christopher Peters and he was the complete opposite of me. He was probably the most feared boy in school; not because he was a bully or anything, but simply because of the way he was. He was sullen and rude to the teachers but never the other kids, he swore in front of the teachers, and he had smoked since he started coming here at the age of eleven; he never even bothered to hide it, doing so openly in the playground. He was so brazen that he even started smoking in class, in full view of the teachers, as he knew they were all too afraid to say anything about it; that was what really cemented his bad boy image I think. Little did I realise at the time, there a very good reason why Chris had been allowed to get away with so much.
He’d behaved like this since he started here, and I had no idea if it was all for show, or if he really was such a bad boy. He’d been suspended over his behaviour on numerous occasions, but had never done anything to warrant expulsion, possibly the headmaster was too afraid to expel him; that also helped with his bad boy image.
As far as an anti-schoolboy goes, Chris was revered and feared; not as a god, but as The God. He was viewed as a combination of Kiefer Sutherland in ‘The Lost Boys’, Heath Ledger in ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’ and River Phoenix in ‘Stand By Me’; with just a dash of The Terminator thrown in for good measure.
The girls and the gay boys in the school fantasized about Chris, they lusted after him and wondered what it would be like to be with such a bad boy; hell some of the straight boys probably wondered as well. Chris was bad, but he was sexy as hell and he flaunted the fact he was bisexual; and why shouldn’t he? It’s not as though anybody in the school would ever have the balls to say or do anything about it. Well I for one had had enough of fantasising, and lusting, and wondering; I was going to find out what it was like to be with him, no matter what the outcome.
The day before prom I decided I had waited long enough, ‘God be with me’ I thought to myself. It was morning break and Chris was in a corner of the playground surrounded by his usual cloud of cigarette smoke. I slowly approached him.
He looked at me as he blew cigarette smoke out of his mouth and into my face. “What do you want, goody two shoes?”
“I was wondering . . . if perhaps . . . just on the off chance . . . maybe you -”
“Out with it already!”
“You wanna go prom with me?”
I was surprised as Chris smiled. It was the first time I ever remember him smiling. “Isn’t Darryl more your kind of boy?”
“He used to be. I’m fed up of playing the good boy. What has it gotten me? A spotless report card and the affection of my teachers. Big whoop! You do as you please and kids are in awe of you. Being one of the good kids has gotten me nothing.”
“Look . . . Timothy isn’t it?”
He knew my name! I mean, he knew me from class obviously, but to actually know my name! I was just so stunned; all I could do was nod my head.
“Timothy, you’re a nice sweet kid, but you really don’t want to get involved with me. Even for only one evening.”
“Chris. I’m sixteen years old; I think I can make that determination for myself.”
“So you really want to escort me to prom?”
“Since neither of us is a girl, I don’t know who would be escorting whom.”
“Okay, Timothy. We’ll . . .” Chris searched for the right word to use, “. . . accompany each other to prom. You must understand that there are conditions.”
“Tell me what they are Chris.”
“The first and most important. We will be going as a couple. You’ll be expected to dance with me and kiss me . . . in full view of everyone.”
“That’s not a problem. I’ve never hidden the fact I’m gay.”
“True. The second condition is that you will be expected to pick me up.”
“I can do that.”
“Third condition is that I will expect a corsage.”
“That goes without saying, Chris. Though to be honest, I didn’t think you’d be into the ‘girly’ side of prom; if you’ll forgive the term.”
“You’ll find that I’m full of surprises. Fourth and final condition.” The pause felt almost ominous; my hair stood on end and my heart was pounding; what could this final condition be that he was placing such emphasise on. “After prom you will come home with me and I’ll give you the night of your life.”
I was struck dumb at the implications of what he just said. Though if he somehow expected that to turn me off, he was way off base; that only made me even more sure of what I was doing.
“Well, Timothy? Are you able to fulfil my conditions?”
“Absolutely,” I managed to squeak out.
“Well, here’s a small taster of what you can expect tomorrow.” Chris grabbed me roughly, dragged me close to him, and in full view of everyone kissed me on the lips. Now I’d kissed boys before, but this was like being kissed by static electricity; my nerve-endings went into overdrive and my brain felt like it was short-circuiting.
When he released me, and I really do mean he released me because there was no way in heaven or hell that I was going to stop kissing him, he asked me, “So Timothy. Are you still sure you’re up for this?”
“Oh yeah. Where on earth did you learn to kiss like that?”
“Oh, I’ve been around. I’ve picked up a trick here and there. You want a cigarette?”
I thought about it, and quickly decided that since I was going to be getting down with my bad self, I may as well go the whole hog. “Sure, thanks.”
So we spent the rest of morning break in the corner smoking and chatting about prom. The rest of the day raced by and it was time for me to be heading home. I stopped by the local flower shop and bought Chris’ corsage, a mix of pink and blue roses; I just hoped he didn’t think it was too girly.
Later on that evening Mum was getting dinner ready. She opened the fridge and found my corsage.
“Honey,” she called out to me, “I take it you found someone to take to prom tomorrow.”
I walked into the kitchen. “How did you know that? You’re not psychic are you?”
“Don’t be silly. I found the corsage in the fridge. So, who is he?”
“It’s a boy from school.”
“Ooh. Is it Darryl? He’s such a nice boy?”
“No, it’s Chris.”
“Chris? Not Christopher Peters?”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“Oh my baby boy. What madness has taken hold of you? Of all the boys you could have taken.” Little did I know at the time, that Mum was actually being deadly serious.
“Come on Mum. He’s not all that bad.”
“Yes he is. That boy is one step away from prison.”
“Don’t exaggerate Mum. I know he’s been suspended a few times, but he’s never done anything near serious enough to warrant being expelled. Has he?”
“I suppose you’re right. I still don’t like it though.”
“Well, when I asked him he set down a few conditions and one of them really surprised me.”
“What was that? I hope it was nothing outrageous or dangerous.”
“Mum, who do you think the corsage is for?”
The look on her face was priceless; true not as priceless as if I had told her about condition number four.
“Chris wanted a corsage?”
“Even more than that. He has made it clear, that I’m to pick him up on the way.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“I’ll see if he will consent to having a picture taken.”
The next evening, I left home in the limo I had rented for the occasion, and as agreed, I picked up Chris on the way. I put the corsage on his wrist and he nodded his approval. Since we lived quite a way from school, we used the privacy of the back of the limo to spend the time kissing and groping each other. I felt that same sensory overload again as he forced his tongue into my mouth. Now I’m not submissive by nature, but for some reason I was happy to allow Chris to dominate me.
The limo pulled up outside of school about fifteen minutes later. We both got out, straightened our hair and tuxedos, and went into the gymnasium, which was where prom had been set up.
We danced, we cuddled, we kissed, we held hands, all in view of everyone as we had agreed; I even felt him pat my butt more than once as the evening progressed.
Once prom was over, we got back into the limo and headed to Chris’; I had already told Mum that I wouldn’t be back until tomorrow. I’d told her that a group of us were planning to carry on the party at Maxine Rochester’s house and were all going to crash there; Mum likes and trusts the Rochesters, so she didn’t even bother to check with them.
Chris opened his front door and led me into the living room.
“Now Timothy, are you ready for what will happen tonight?”
“I’ve never been more sure of anything.”
“Do you want a drink?”
“I could drink a beer if you’ve got one?”
He handed me a can of beer from the fridge and opened one for himself. He then pulled out a cigarette and lit it. “Want one, Timothy?”
“Yeah, thanks,” I said, taking the proffered cigarette and lighter. “So Chris, can I ask you something?”
“Sure, ask away?”
“Are you really a bad boy, or is it just some kind of persona for use at school?”
“No persona, Timothy. I’m a very bad boy, as you are about to find out.”
He took me by the hand and led me upstairs to his bedroom.
I woke up the next morning and felt better than I’d ever felt before. Chris was certainly no boaster; he did a lot more than give me the night of my life as he had promised, my poor brain felt like it was on fire from trying to make sense of the pleasure he was giving me. Neurons were firing faster than possible, my brain drowned in the volume of endorphins that had been produced and my nerve endings still tingled. After last night, after Chris, everything and everyone is going to seriously pale in comparison.
I found a note on the bed next me, with my name on. Chris had evidently had to run some errand or some such thing, and didn’t want to wake me.
I never set out to hurt you; you need to know that. All night long, I tried to control myself, but in the end, I couldn’t. I selfishly gave into my desires, and yours.
You’ve wondered how I could get away with so much at school; the truth is I’m not exactly human. Well, the body is human, the physical ‘Chris’, you see and desire. But me? I have no name that is my own. I am the ‘bad boy’ you were drawn to; the side of ‘Chris’ who was rude to the teachers, the part of Chris who delighted in smoking in class and seeing the teachers tremble and the part of Chris who dared our headmaster to expel me.
All of the adults of the town know who and what I truly am, but they do not talk about it. They do not talk about it, thanks to an ancient magic that protects this entire town. I have never been cruel to the children at school and I have never been physically violent to anyone, because I am unable to be; as they are protected by the magic.
I, and my kind, have existed since time immemorial. We were a plague upon this world and wrought untold suffering upon its population. Around 400 BC an Egyptian sorcerer finally succeeded in binding us; though that binding, that protective magic, was only able to be bestowed conditionally.
The adults fear me because of the potential threat I pose; sadly, the threat that I posed to you, and now the threat I have made you. There are two ways that the protective magic of the ancient sorcerers can be broken. Either, if one of the adults reveals the truth about me, in which case the protective magic is broken for the entire town, or if one of the townspeople pursues me romantically, in which case, the protective magic for that one individual is broken. Your mother could not warn you, without destroying the protective magic for the entire town. She was faced with risking your life, versus the lives of the five thousand people who live here; I hope you will someday be able to forgive her.
I also hope you will one day be able to forgive me. I should have fed on you; it would have been far more merciful than what I have done. Through my misguided love for you, and the misguided hope that after countless aeons, I had finally found someone who might love me in return, I have passed an ancient curse onto you; the same ancient curse that I have lived with since before the disappearance of Atlantis.
I, and now you, am as close to being immortal and invulnerable as it possible to become, without actually becoming a god. You are now free to do whatever you want to, however you want to, to whom and with whom you want to. You are no longer bound by the laws of the humans or of nature. You can choose how you appear to the rest of the world; you can be a child, a teenager, an old man, or anything in between. You can choose to appear to age or not; it’s your choice. There are no special rules to think about; you don’t need to worry about sunlight, or garlic, or a stake through the heart. You can eat whatever you like and drink whatever you like. You can smoke, drink alcohol or takes drugs without worrying about any potential damaging effects; you also cannot contract any contagious disease. For all this which I have given you, and for which I am truly sorry, the only things you are not able to do, not now and not ever is cause physical harm to another, or more importantly, to return home. Your mother knows what you have become, as does the rest of the town, but nobody remembers the human you were; it is a consequence of the magic.
If you can ever find it in your heart to forgive me for passing this curse onto you, just say my name aloud, and I will join you. We will live out the rest of eternity together and I promise that I will love you; for I am capable of great love, as well as great evil, just like you are now.
Please, call my name soon
Link to prompt
“Do you mean to tell me that was your first . . . . Oh crap!” Joanna was standing on her doorstep and had just finished kissing her date goodnight.
“That’s nice that is, Joanna. Just what do you mean by ‘oh crap’?”
“I’m so sorry George, that bit just slipped out. What I meant was if I’d known that was your first kiss, I’d have been a bit more gentle with you. Nobody’s first kiss should have involved me grabbing and squeezing their butt, and trying to lick their tonsils. I just didn’t think that at fifteen, that you might never have been kissed before.”
“Joanna, you can be such a romantic sap at times, but that’s one of the things I love about you. A first kiss doesn’t have be some tender kiss on the lips, under a full moon, with fireworks going off you know. Besides, I prefer a bit of animal in a potential girlfriend anyway.” Joanna's date playfully gave her butt a squeeze and winked at her.
“Well I disagree. A first kiss should be something special, something soft and romantic, not going at each other like two dogs in heat. Let’s try that kiss again shall we?” Joanna said. This time she was more gentle and romantic. She slowly leaned in, their noses brushed, and they kissed each other slowly and softly on the lips.
Just as Joanna was about to touch George’s thick black hair, a voice yelled, “Mum! Jo’s back from her date, and they’re making out in full view of the neighbours.” It was Joanna’s annoying little brother, Marcus.
“Marcus, don't tell tales. Jo, come in and introduce me to your date,” her mum called out from somewhere near the back of the house.
“OK, Mum,” Joanna called back. She then turned to George and said, “I’m really sorry about this, but I’d better introduce you to Mum.”
“It’s all right Joanna. It’s a little sooner than I’d have liked, but it had to happen sooner or later.” The two of them walked into the kitchen where Joanna’s mum was preparing dinner.
“George, this is my mum, Susannah. Mum, this is George.” Joanna’s mum turned around, and her first thought was that her daughter was playing a trick on her.
“Joanna, I asked you to bring your date in.”
“Mum, this is my date.”
“You went out with some boy called George. So where is he?”
“Mum. This is George. Her name is Georgina, but she goes by George.”
Georgina held out her hand, and in an Irish accent said, “It’s a real pleasure to finally meet you Mrs Tatler.”
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Report to: Prime Minister Sheila Morrigan
Report from: Professor Jacob Tyler
After fifteen long years of failure, Project Omega has finally been successful. Subject Omega 412 has safely hatched and we have initiated full bio-quarantine. Until we are sure this species is completely safe, nobody will be allowed in or out of the facility. We will begin full series work up after the agreed seven days post hatch.
Report to: Prime Minister Sheila Morrigan
Report from: Professor Jacob Tyler
We have completed the full series work up. Subject Omega 412 checks out as being completely healthy. There is one hundred percent genetic stability, and it seems to be growing at a steady pace. We have as yet been unable to confirm the creature’s gender; it should be male, to ensure that the creature cannot spawn on its own.
Report to: Prime Minister Sheila Morrigan
Report from: Professor Jacob Tyler
After only three weeks, Subject Omega 412 seems to have reached maturity. The subject is far larger than we had expected it to be based upon fossil records, and I am relieved that we elected to attempt this with a non-venomous species of the family Arthrolycosidae1.
This particular species dates from around 275 million years ago, which places it in the Permian Period and it pre-dates the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event by around 25 million years. This extinction event is known as the ‘mother of all mass extinction events’, in that ninety six percent of all marine life and seventy percent of all terrestrial vertebrate species were wiped off the face of the planet.
Until recently, we had believed the largest known species of arachnids ever were the terrestrial Pulmonoscorpius kirktonesis2and the aquatic Brontoscorpio anglicus2.
Subject Omega 412 is already twice the size of either species, and although it does lack the venom sac and ducts inherent in most other members of the order Arinae3, this species does still appear to be carnivorous. It is currently consuming three mice on a daily basis, and hopefully it will not grow any larger; as it is already larger in size than a full grown adult.
The research team believe Subject Omega 412 is larger than fossil records indicate owing to the fact that we were forced to introduce the Arthrolycosidae genetic material into the egg of Atrax robustus4. There appears to have been some unexpected interaction between the two different DNA sequences; this may produce unexpected results given that we have not fully mapped the Arthrolycosidae genome.
However, thanks to modern genetic understanding, we were able to identify the gene sequences responsible for both the presence of venom sacs in, and the unusual aggressiveness of, Atrax robustus. Therefore, we were able to ensure that the reborn Arthrolycosidae would not have a venom sac or fangs, and would hopefully have the more mild temperament of Theraphosidae such as the Mexican Red Knee and Mexican Red Leg tarantulas.
We have been able to verify the creature is indeed male, so spawning of this creature is no longer a concern.
Report to: Prime Minister Sheila Morrigan
Report from: Professor Jacob Tyler
We are now two months post-hatching of Subject Omega 412. It continues to grow and now measures almost eight metres, or twenty six and two-thirds feet, across and is now eating nearly two kilograms, or four and a half pounds, of meat per day. We have progressed to feeding it on large Rodentia5, Chiroptera6, and Soricomorpha7.
We will continue to monitor its size, and if the size has stabilized, we will assess the feasibility of placing the Arthrolycosidae at a national zoo.
Report to: Prime Minister Sheila Morrigan
Report from: Professor Jacob Tyler
After almost four months, the Arthrolycosidae has finally stabilised at an incredible eighteen metres, or sixty feet, in body length. It has a mass of nearly one hundred and fifty kilograms, or three hundred and thirty one and one-half pounds. It is now consuming a very large quantity of meat, and owing to this, we have begun feeding it on Canidae8, Ursidae9, and Otariidae10in an attempt to minimise its feeding regime.
Report to: Prime Minister Sheila Morrigan
Report from: Professor Jacob Tyler
At this point we are able to confirm that Subject Omega 412 has indeed stabilized in size and dietary requirements. It has also just undergone its first moulting. Everything is proceeding as planned, and we expect to be able to find lift full bio-quarantine by the end of the month.
Report to: Prime Minister Sheila Morrigan
Report from: Professor Jacob Tyler
We have reached the six month post hatch stage without incident. We now believe this creature is ready to be placed into a zoo, and we can begin attempts at creating additional Arthrolycosidae in an effort to repopulate the species.
We have no idea how long this spider will live. Typically, arachnids live about two years in captivity, though spiders of the suborder Mygalomorphae (such as tarantulas) can live up to twenty five years in captivity.
Report to: Prime Minister Sheila Morrigan
Report from: Professor Jacob Tyler
Priority: Alert Status Red
Subject Omega 412 has broken out of containment. I have ordered the facility sealed and armed guards have been placed at all entry and exit points. Twenty three personnel have been killed since escape occurred three hours ago – at 08:23.
Search teams are currently sweeping this facility section by section with orders shoot to kill. This creature is highly aggressive and territorial, most likely as a result of the unexpected genetic anomaly we observed; so much for having successfully resequenced the Atrax robustus DNA.
Report to: Prime Minister Sheila Morrigan
Report from: Professor Jacob Tyler
Priority: Alert Status Red
Second report this date. Escape occurred fourteen hours ago. An additional forty six personnel have been killed. There has been no sighting of the Subject Omega 412. Our search continues, and we have expanded our search area to include the conduits and access shafts.
Report to: Prime Minister Sheila Morrigan
Report from: Professor Jacob Tyler
Priority: Alert Status Red
Escape occurred twenty seven hours ago. There are only six personnel left alive in the facility. One hundred and thirteen killed since escape. This creature is too aggressive to be kept alive. I have enacted the Extreme Measures protocol. At twelve noon (in thirty seven minutes time) the self destruct will initiate and this facility will be vaporised.
My recommendation is for all materials relating to this research project to be destroyed.
Report to: Prime Minister Sheila Morrigan
Report from: Major General Kenneth Upsen
Priority: Alert Status Red
It has been confirmed Subject Omega 412 survived the destruction of the facility. It is currently heading towards London. We recommend full scale evacuation of the city while there is time. There needs to be a full military response to this threat. We await your orders.
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Notes on classification terms:
1. Arthrolycosidae – an extinct Family of spiders related to the wolf spider, which lived 300 to 250 million years ago.
2. Pulmonoscorpius kirktonesis and Brontoscorpio anglicus - were both species of scorpion that were one metre, or three and one-third feet, in length and were equipped with a stinger, as they were both true scorpions
3. Arinaea – the Order of animals that encompasses spiders
4. Atrax robustus - the Sydney funnel-web spider, arguably the most aggressive spider currently living
5. Rodentia - the Order of animals that encompasses rodents
6. Chiroptera - the Order of animals that encompasses bats
7. Soricomorpha - the Order of animals that encompasses shrews and moles
8. Canidae - the Family of animals that encompasses dogs, wolves and foxes
9. Ursidae - the Family of animals that encompasses bears (excluding the panda and red panda)
10. Otariidae - the Family of animals that encompasses sea lions or fur seals (but does not include true seals)
Jason had been caught in a terrible storm on his way back home from what was already being called ‘the party of the century’; and if there was one thing Michael Tayler really knew how to do, it was throw a party.
Jason had enjoyed numerous amorous encounters with at least half a dozen different young ladies who attended the same high school he did. He had even been brave enough to approach Sasha, the school’s resident ice queen; though she had told him where to go, how to get there, and to get there quickly.
He had drunk enough beer this night to drink Bavaria dry; yet he was surprisingly able to maintain both a vertical base, and a reasonably straight and steady course home.
He had also eaten more food than any Roman, at any orgy, in any part of the Empire, ever had done; he had even consumed two very large helpings of Michael’s sixteenth birthday cake.
There were those at the party, Michael included, who had exercised a sense of decorum and a degree of control over their more primal urges; sadly, both of these concepts were completely alien to Jason.
There was a brilliant flash of lightning, and instinctively, Jason began counting the seconds until he heard the clap of thunder to determine just how far away the strike was; but the thunder never came. Even if he had managed to count all the way up to one hundred Mississippi, that clap of thunder still would not have happened.
Instead, he was bathed in a white light, and he felt a pulling sensation; as though some great force had gently clasped him about the head with a pair of tongs and was lifting him up off the ground. First, the balls of his feet left the ground, shortly followed by the soles, until finally, only the very tippiest of his tippy-toes were left touching the ground; and that only lasted for a fraction of a second.
Jason was now airborne, being pulled towards God alone knows what; for he was far too petrified to dare look where he was headed. He’d seen the first episode of South Park often enough to know that it was “Visitors, totally”, and they were going to stick a “big metal hoop-a-joop” up his butt.
After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and looked down. He was horrified to see that cars, houses, and even trees, looked like tiny miniatures that might be used to decorate scale models. He could only just about make out the oak tree in Mrs Jessop’s back garden where he had carved “J and P for ever” one hot summer when he was thirteen, as he had thought he was so deeply in love with her daughter. Mr Anders SUV looked smaller than one of those Micro Machines that were so popular in the latter part of the twentieth century. Parkside Manor, the largest home in the whole valley by a long way, looked liked a tiny doll’s house.
He heard a low hum, and then the hairs on his arms stood to attention as he could feel static electricity rippling over his skin. He summoned all of his courage and looked up. The flash of light was blinding; painfully so.
It was then that he heard a distant voice saying, “Wake up, Jason. The surgery went really well.”
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The fourteen year old boy looked around the playground from the relative safety of the doors at the front of the science building. It had happened to him three times this week already, and he had absolutely no intention of making today number four. He saw no sign of Joseph, so figured that he might just get away today, and make it home safely.
Like most of the kids at St Charles’, he hated crossing the playground in these bleak midwinter evenings. The snow was nearly eight inches thick (and more was falling), there was nothing to act as a shield from the freezing cold gusts of wind, and there were no sources of light. What that one frightened little boy wouldn’t give right now for there to be just one lamppost in the middle of the playground to throw some light on the scene; what every kid in the school wouldn’t give for a light source in the playground.
It was almost a hundred and fifty yards from the building he was in to the front of the school, then a further twenty yards to South Marigold Road; then from there it was only a quick sprint across the main road, and he’d be home.
It was only four twenty and it was already pitch black, and the school was in total darkness; Joseph could be hiding anywhere. Why, oh why, did he offer to stay late and help Mr Jasen tidy up after lab? Though, perhaps being this late, maybe Joseph had tired of loitering and had already gone home; he could live in hope, couldn’t he?
Things never used to be like this. There was a time when he used to be able to leave the school grounds, and not have to worry if someone was waiting in the shadows, or around corners, for him. He used to love walking across the playground, even more so when it was deserted like this; so that he could daydream and not have to try to dodge footballs and cricket balls. But now? Ever since Joseph started school here, it was impossible for him to make it home without being intercepted at least twice a week.
The boy buttoned up his duffle coat, put on his blue bobble hat, wrapped his thick multi-coloured scarf around his neck, and forced his hands into his mittens; he didn’t care that fourteen year old boys shouldn’t wear mittens, he just wanted to make sure that all of his fingers survived the winter. He took a deep breath, prepared himself to face the cold world outside, and began making his way across the playground.
A freezing cold gust of wind swept across the playground and the boy spun around as he heard a noise; his heart rate trebled, and a coppery taste flooded his mouth as the adrenaline began coursing through his veins. He strained his ears, trying to focus in on the source of the noise, and he realised that it was only the chains on the swing set rattling. ‘Dear God, I have to get a grip and calm down’, he thought to himself.
He kept his eyes open for any sign of movement, and really was only helping in making himself more and more paranoid with each and every footstep. He saw a flash of movement out of the corner of one eye and spun around; too quickly, as it turns out. He managed to trip over his own feet, and landed face down in the soft snow; thankfully there was a thick covering of snow, or he might have cracked his head open on the solid concrete underneath.
He jumped back to his feet and prepared to run, when it comes to the “fight or flight” response, it’s always “flight”; after all, he is only five foot four and a hundred and ten pounds soaking wet. When he saw what the movement was, he couldn’t help but laugh at his own damned foolishness. It had come to this! He had reduced himself to being terrified of a torn page from a newspaper that had been caught in the gusting wind.
Still he scanned the playground as he carefully made his way towards the main road. He could hear the traffic more clearly now, he could faintly hear the chattering of pedestrians, and then he heard a loud bellowing. Turning in the direction of the noise, he saw Joseph barrelling towards him. In the blink of an eye, Joseph had rugby-tackled him to the ground and they began rolling in the snow.
“Get off me, Joseph!” the smaller boy yelled. He tried to throw Joseph off, but the simple fact was that Joseph was bigger and stronger; a lot bigger, and a hell of a lot stronger. “I said, ‘get off me’!”
“Not until you say it.”
I looked up into his face and saw his eyes. Oh, those eyes; why did I have to look straight into those eyes. “Never!”
“Say it! I might let you walk out of here if you say it.”
Joseph was now sitting across his chest, his arms were pinned down on the snow, and he was finding it hard to catch breath. There was snow going down his back, it was getting in his socks and shoes, and it was even getting inside his trousers and underwear. He was so cold and so wet; he had no choice but to yield to the much larger boy.
“All right! All right! I’ll say it. I love you.”
A huge smile broke across Joseph’s face as he looked into the piercing deep blue eyes of his boyfriend. “And I am so deeply in love with you."
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It had been a cold end to October, and the ground was covered in snow. Jason had just gotten back from trick or treating with his three children and his neighbour’s youngest two sons.
Since it was nearly ten o’clock, Jason sent the kids to get ready for bed. They were planning on sleeping together in the living room, so Jason gathered up some pillows, sleeping bags and a huge blanket for everyone to snuggle under.
As soon as the kids returned wearing their pyjamas, Alex said, “Tell us a story Daddy.”
“OK. You kids get comfy, and I’ll begin.”
The five children climbed inside their sleeping bags, and then shuffled around a little so that they could sleep closer together.
“This happened back when I was around your age, maybe a couple of years older. It was All Hallows Eve in the late 1980s, and I had gone out trick or treating for the first time with a couple of my friends. They were different times, and although we were only about nine or ten, we were allowed to go out on our own.
“We stayed within about a half mile radius of home, but that meant that there were still over a thousand homes for us to hit; especially since at the time, we lived not far from a large council estate.”
“What do you mean ‘they were different times’?”
“Well, Alex, it was felt to be safer for children to be out on their own, without being under constant supervision by an adult. Besides, where we grew up, everybody knew everybody. Our parents knew that if there were a serious problem, any one of our neighbours would offer to help out. But, back to the story.”
“So, I’d gone dressed up as the devil. My best friend, Karl, was dressed up as a skeleton, Sarah was a witch, and Suzannah was dressed as a fairy. We had only knocked on about twenty doors, and our pumpkin pails were already brimming. We had sherbet flying saucers, cola cubes, acid drops, aniseed balls, black jacks, candy vampire teeth, white chocolate mice, and Suzannah and Sarah each had a candy necklace.”
“Sorry to interrupt Dad, but what’s a candy necklace?”
“Well James, they were little pieces of candy that had been threaded onto a thin piece of elastic, so that you could wear it like a real bracelet or necklace.” This elicited a giggle from the kids as they tried to imagine why anyone would want to wear candy.
Then Jason’s youngest boy quite innocently said, “You mean like the elastic on a thong?”
“And when have you seen a thong, Peter?” Jason asked.
“When we went swimming with the school last week. There was this lady who was wearing a red thong, and the elastic was right up her ar-”
“Don’t you dare finish that sentence young man!”
“That’s all right. Anyway, back to the story. So we reached the end of our street, and we started down the next street over. There were a few homes that were in total darkness, so we didn’t even bother knocking on their doors. We got about half way down the street, when we saw one of the homes was decorated and everything. This family was clearly into the whole day, as they had cobwebs and spiders stuck on their door, there were a couple of jack o’lanterns in the garden, there was a skeleton that had been painted with fluorescent paint so it was glowing, and there were numerous bats that had been stuck on the windows. Well, we thought we’d hit the mother lode.
“So we put on our best Hallowe’en faces, ran up to the door, and rang the doorbell. The door creaked slowly open, but there was nobody standing there to greet us. We figured that since they were clearly so into the event, they must have worked out a way of automatically opening their front door, so that they could add to our experience of the night.
“We heard a lady’s voice call out to us and asked us to come in. We excitedly crossed the threshold, and as we looked around at the inside of the house, our hearts started beating faster. The lady who lived there, had really gone to town. There were cobwebs all over the place, the hallway lights were turned off, bats were dangling from the ceiling, and the way was lit by a series of small jack o’lanterns. There were plastic spiders scattered about on the surface of tables, chairs and the banisters of the staircase, and there was the sound of ghosts wailing and the sounds of rattling chains. We thought she had set up some kind of cassette recording of these noises and was now playing them over a speaker system.
“Her voice called to us again. ‘Come to the room at the back and collect your treats, kiddies’. The voice sounded distant, and we thought she was using some kind of special effect to pull it off. We slowly walked through the cobwebby and dusty hallway, making our way to the room at the back of the ground floor.
“We knocked on the door and were invited in. Our jaws hit the floor when we saw all of the bowls of sweets scattered around the room. There must have been twenty bowls overflowing with every kind of sweet we had ever heard of; and even a few sweets we had never heard of before. There was over a dozen small jack o’lanterns in this room providing the light, and the cobweb and dust theme had been extended into this room as well. Suzannah squealed and yelled over to me saying ‘Look Jason, a whole bowl full of fruit salad chews’. I was more in love with the gobstoppers that had been made to look like eyeballs, Karl was looking at the bowl of liquorice whips like a kid who had just seen Santa Claus, and Sarah was in love with the giant cola bottles.
“It actually took us almost thirty seconds to realise that we were alone in this room, but again we assumed the homeowner had simply set up some kind of speaker system, and that she was actually in another room, but just wanted to add to the spookiness of our visit.
“We were drooling over the thought of scrumming ourselves stupid on so much sweet stuff, but we weren’t greedy kids and so just took a few sweets from a couple of the bowls. We all yelled out our thanks for the sweets, complimented the homeowner on how spooky the whole place was and that it was the best place we had visited that night.
“We continued on and visited about another forty homes, before we had finished the loop and ended up back at my home. The four of us eagerly told my dad about the entire evening, and said the best place we stopped off at was the house the next street over. We told him about how it was decorated, and what it was like inside.
“He asked us which house number it was, and when we told him it was number twenty, he told us that it couldn’t be; but we told him that we were sure that it was definitely number twenty. He told us that number twenty had been vacant for the past ten years, that nobody had ever bought the place after the previous owner had died one Hallowe’en night.
“We told Dad that we’d take him, and show him that he was wrong. So we walked around the corner to the house. We walked to number twenty and found out that Dad was right; the house was in total darkness, with a large ‘For Sale’ sign in the garden; there was no sign of the jack o’lanterns and the glowing skeleton. When we looked through the letter box the whole place was dark, as the numerous jack o’lanterns that had decorated the hallways were also gone.
“After we got back home, we were more than a little spooked, but felt that getting some sweets inside us would make us feel better. That was until we discovered that the sweets we had collected in that house were gone.”
Jason got up, turned out the lights and as he left the room he said, “Sleep well kids.”
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It was Hallowe’en night, and Suzie McNamara had been working since six o’clock that morning. She drove bus route number 391, and was just about to start the eleventh and final run of her route for the day; only another fifty minutes or so, and she would be able to clock off. She had quickly done her shopping before she was due to make this final run, and she had a carrier bag with her dinner in it, sitting underneath her seat. She had picked up a couple of saddles, and was planning to cook a rabbit and prune stew.
The first part of her route from George Street to Richmond train station was always on the quiet side, but tonight was quieter than usual; she didn’t have one passenger to pick up. She actually arrived at Richmond station about five minutes early, so there was a wait until her scheduled departure time.
A few people boarded her bus at Richmond train station, including one rather bizarre trick or treater who was dressed as Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street, and he was actually brave enough to travel via public transport in full garb; fake razor glove and all. In spite of how realistic ‘Freddy’ looked, Suzie had actually been narked when he first boarded the bus, as all he had to pay his fare with was a twenty pound note; and not the correct fare in exact change. The one thing guaranteed to royally piss off a London bus driver is to try to pay your fare with a twenty pound note.
By the time the bus reached the intersection of Lower Mortlake Road and the Lower Richmond Road by the gasworks, which was actually only three or four stops further along, the bus was standing room only. The passengers were enjoying looking at the various people who were out in fancy dress, and there were more people than just ‘Freddy’ in full Hallowe’en dress on the bus.
There was one cute little girl, who was perhaps eleven or twelve years old, and she was drawing quite a lot of attention from the preteen boys on the bus. She was dressed up as Grumpy Bear from the Care Bears; yet her disposition seemed anything but. She was wearing what was clearly a homemade costume; complete with Grumpy’s patented little storm cloud sewn into the front of the costume. The little girl was travelling on her own, so as she always tried to do in such situations, Suzie kept a close eye on the little girl just in case any trouble arose.
The bus was running up the nearly deserted Great Chertsey Road, and Suzie almost didn’t notice the two elderly people waiting at the bus stop with their hands out, signalling for her to stop. They got on board, and flashed Suzie their bus passes. Even these two old guys had evidently gotten into the Hallowe’en spirit of dressing up; they were done up as a couple of garden gnomes, each complete with a beard, a hat and a fishing rod.
The bus now started along the more metropolitan part of its route, as it travelled along Chiswick High Road, and by the time it started along the King Street proper some twenty minutes later, Suzie had practically forgotten about her little Grumpy Bear whom she had wanted to keep an eye on.
When the bus stopped on the Glenthorne Road, Suzie was suddenly reminded about the girl, as another kid got on who was also dressed as a Care Bear. The boy, who looked to be about ten years old, was dressed as Bedtime Bear; and he was also wearing what appeared to be a homemade costume. This one had Bedtime’s sleeping crescent moon and hanging star sewn into the front, and the boy was also wearing Bedtime Bear’s traditional purple and yellow night cap and white slippers, and under his arm he was carrying an aqua blue pillow that not only matched his costume, but also matched his eyes. Suzie thought that the two of them were probably going to the same party; after all, it wasn’t every day that she had two Care Bears on her bus.
The rest of the journey passed without incident, and the bus arrived at its final stop, the Empress State Building in West Brompton, and all of the passengers got off the bus; all of the passengers that is, except for little Grumpy Bear.
Suzie quickly checked the bus, and as it was only a single decker, it quickly became apparent that Grumpy wasn’t aboard. She jumped off the bus and quickly caught up with the little boy dressed as Bedtime Bear.
“Excuse me, little boy?”
The boy turned and recognising the bus driver, said, “Yes, ma’am?”
“I was just wondering if you noticed a little girl dressed as Grumpy Bear get off the bus?”
“What little girl? There wasn’t anyone dressed as Grumpy Bear when I got on. Perhaps she got off, before I got on.”
“Thank you.” Suzie pondered what the little boy had said, and true enough, she had forgotten about the little girl, but surely, she would still have noticed her get off the bus. Suzie just shook it off, got back on her bus, and took out the money tray. She went back to the garage, handed in the money tray, and signed out for the evening, but not before asking the night duty manager if someone could pull the CCTV footage because she wanted to make sure her little Grumpy Bear had gotten off the bus okay. She was actually feeling guilty over having forgotten about the little girl, and was hoping that nothing untoward had occurred.
The next afternoon Suzie had a phone call from the day manager at the garage.
“Hi Suzie, it’s Jim. I picked up a message saying that you said you wanted to look over your CCTV footage from last night to look for one of your passengers. We’ve just pulled it, and we can look over it whenever you’ve got the time.”
“Thanks for humouring me on this, Jim. I’ll be in in about twenty minutes and I’ll show you the girl in question.”
Suzie arrived at the garage and she sat down with Jim, the day manager, to watch the CCTV.
“OK, Jim. Here we are arriving at the Lower Mortlake Road stop where she got on.” Suzie watched as three passengers got on, but there was no Care Bear in sight. “Jim, what are you pulling? Have you fudged with the CCTV?”
“Of course not. That’s your footage, look at the time clock.” Sure enough, the time clock showed the correct time, and it didn’t show a jump, but Suzie couldn’t explain the absence of Grumpy. They both watched the CCTV footage three more times, all the way through from the start of her run at five minutes past seven in Richmond, to its conclusion at three minutes to eight in West Brompton; there was absolutely no sign of Grumpy Bear at all.
“Suzie, is there any chance you imagined it? Or maybe you got mixed up? There were a lot of people on that last run in Hallowe’en dress.”
“Come on Jim! I know I’m getting old, but I’m not getting senile.”
“OK, OK. I’m sure there’s an explanation, maybe sleep on it and it might come to you. Look, let’s go get a drink. I was due to finish twenty minutes ago and I need one. Join me?”
“Sure. Why not.”
They walked down to the pub at the end of the street. They were passing by an evergreen tree, when Suzie spotted a missing poster stapled to it.
“Jim! That’s her! Look she’s even wearing the Grumpy Bear costume.”
“Suzie, that’s not funny.”
“What do you mean? I’m being serious. That’s her. I’d know her anywhere.”
“Suzie, that poster has been there for three weeks now. That little girl lived next door to me and Maxine. She went missing on October 6th, and she was found three days ago.”
“Well if she was found, why do you think she couldn’t have been on my bus?”
“I should have said her dead body was found three days ago. She was buried yesterday evening, my wife and I attended the service.”
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