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Writer's Corner - January 2008


Danster
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This month's word is: Charge

Rules:

1. One thousand words or less. More barely any.

2. The deadline for posting your stories and poems is the end of the month.

3. The deadline for your votes is the end of the fifth of Feb.

4. Criticisms are welcome, but please keep it in the nature of the corner.

5. Have a go;you don't have to use the word; it's just a guideline, and we all like eye food.

6. Good luck!

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I'll start then ;)

Charge

“…that reminds me of that Stephen King film” said Dave.

“Stephen King is an author you know” said Chris.

“Ya, whatever, but reminds me of that film where the guy borrows money and gets zapped and shit and then it’s his wife.”

“James Woods isn’t it?” Andy scratched his nose as he spoke.

“Cat’s Eyes. That film.”

“You got it all wrong, ‘gets zapped and shit’.”

“They do, they have this box….”

“James Woods plays a guy who wants to quit smoking and a friend of his recommends that he tries out this new company who did wonders for him, so he gives ‘em a call and they show him some big electric box and put a cat in it to show him…”

“Is that THE cat, you know of Cat’s Eyes?” Said Andy.

“…what will happen if he starts smoking again.”

“But they do put his wife in there or something…?”

“I think it might be” said Joanne.

“Yeah but not him, it’s a silly short about this company that you pay to stop you doing stuff, like getting fat or smoking and then the way they do that is by getting nastier and nastier if they catch you out.”

“What were you talking about?” asked Andy.

“… I can’t remember”

“I prefer the one with the little girl.” Said Chris.

Laughter all round.

“No, the story, in Cat’s Eyes about the little girl.”

“Isn’t it Jodie Foster?” says Joanne.

“No” said Chris. “It’s Drew Barrymore”

“Oh, that’s why you like her….”

“Aw fuck off, she’s about five in it or something.”

“I remember, what I was saying. You were talking about that report right, that said ummm…”

“That’s it… I prefer that one.”

“Just cos you like cats”

“About the secret flights and that.”

“Extraordinary rendition” said Andy taking another sip of lager.

“Yeah and how they are trying to stop these guys by taking right, they take ‘em to a country that don’t give a shit about things like that”

“What zapping cats?” said Chris some smiles, no laughs.

“No man, look they take ‘em to these countries and…”

“Torture them” said Andy holding his arms up.

“Yeah but it ain’t jus torture right. It’s like fucking brainwashing man and the way they do it is by sticking electric right through their fucking skulls like zap!”

“How’s that going to do anything?” Joanne lifts her hand, places her elbow on the table while speaking; fingers pointing loosely toward Mark.

“Where did you hear this The Sun?”

“Nah man, I don’t read shit like that, that’ll only tell you what the corporations want you to know. I’ve been speaking to some guys at my work about it”

“And what do they say.”

“Fuck man, you know I ain’t supposed to say fucking nothing right?”

“Yeah” said Andy, more nods, eager for more from an insider. Dave takes a deep breath.

“Well… that means none of you should listen to this and I sure as shit shouldn’t be telling you, right?”

“If this might get you in to trouble…” started Joanne.

“Nah, just so long as you guys don’t say nuffin’. I’ve spoke to some of the guys who’ve been loaders on the flights.”

“Extraordinary Rendition flights?”

“Yes.”

Can’t breath! Can’t fucking breathe, Hand pushes roughly, got me gripped. Let go of my nose you bastards! Fuck. Another hand pulls at Dave’s feet. And yet another grabs around his waist. The last thing he see’s is a balaclava clad face pushing a hood over his head. The last thing he hears is the clump of feet and soft swish of cotton, no talking, no words at all. He felt a sharp pain in his leg, then the world faded.

Pain! What the fuck? Where the fuck am I? What’s this strapped to my head, foreign-sounding voices, what the fuck is this…?

“Yo Dave!” Andy waves from the other side of the pub.

“Alright?”

“Long time no see bud, been away?”

“Yeah, you know how it is.”

“So, where you been?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Oh okay. Hope it wasn’t too mad.”

“Not mad at all. It was fine.”

“Okay.”

The two men sat in silence for a while and nurse their drinks.

“Not having the usual then?”

“What?” said Dave looking immediately at his drink.

“Thought you were a ‘Bodmin’s or nothings’ guy?” Andy smiles.

“I have never said that”

“Oh-kay.”

More silence.

“Did you catch the World Cup while you were away.”

“Not really no”

“Aw man! That’s a pissser! It was fucking ace!”

“Why what happened?”

“Wha-?” Andy was aghast “you honestly don’t know?”

“Hey guys!” said Chris slumping down in a seat. “Howsit going stranger?”

“I’m Fine”

“So where you been these last … what? Two month’s dude?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Ah go on.”

“No I can’t.”

“Go on, it can’t be worse than that other stuff…”

“What have I told you?”

“You know, about” he looked behind him “E R”

“I’ve got to go.”

“Where to?” said Chris “Hey wait man!”

“Dave!”

“Fuck.” Chris sat back down “was it something I said?”

Dark, there’s somebody in my room! Argh! What was that? What the fuck is happening… Chris tried to focus but his head was swimming, he felt bile rising, several dark shadows rose around him. What the fuck…?

Panic rising, who’s that? I can’t see, there’s something on my face, who is this…? Dave…? Andy felt his feet being pulled from his bed, something sharp jabbed his thigh, consciousness failed.

“Hi guys!” Joanne stood in front of the table “Haven’t seen you around for ages!”

“Hello.”

“Hi”

“Alright?”

“What have you been up to?”

“Nothing.”

“Not a lot.”

“Nothing at all.”

“Have you been away Dave?”

“No”

“Oh…”

Silence.

“Well” said Joanne “I’ve got to go and meet a friend, take care!”

The three men said nothing. As Joanne left a man stood from a bench opposite the pub, he smiled as he talked into his phone; he was probably talking to a friend.

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I'm at a meal - a tragic business affair - and the company is terrible. The pricks who I work with are clustered around the table, the number of them is: a four. The menu doesn't interest me and as I haven't masturbated within the last two hours my crotch is throbbing and I'm on edge. I hate these guys. Oh God how I hate these guys.

"Do you know what you're getting yet Grimes? The dishes here all sound so fantastic, don't they?" It takes me a moment to realise who they're talking to.

"Absolutely, don’t they just!" I disagree, my breath curiously shorter than the norm. I relax and take another very large sip of wine, of which there have so far been: three. With some skill I make it look like a small one. The waitress crosses the room to our table from somewhere behind me making my neck intensely prickle. She bobs impatiently on the spot, her waist swinging to and fro in that obscenely seductive manner which helps to divert my paranoia.

I must confess to you my innate skill for noticing women’s attractiveness when they themselves are unaware of it; it's one of the few things about the fickle cunts that has yet to become mundane, because a surprise never loses its capacity to be itself. My colleagues who are too boring to name order some more drinks. Four drinks, mine will be the fifth of five.

"And you sir, do you want another water?"

"No, thank you, John doesn't especially like water," I respond. Shit, shit. I realise I shouldn't have drunk the wine. Who bought the fucking wine!? Images of Marcia with fishhooks in her face flash through my mind.

She falters, looking uncertain, her eyes searching expectantly around the table then nervously back to me. My colleagues haven't heard, thank Christ. Oh Jesus woman, this interfering bitch, this fucking harlot. Is it really that difficult to understand me? Do I speak like a fucking dogeater all of a sudden!?

“No thank you, not at the moment.” I politely respond. I’m looking at her all the time and my smile is a little late which I feel adequately shows my displeasure for the fact she is breathing.

She leaves the table a little too fast; her discomfort is desperately transparent. It’s a great stare after all.

“Fancy her do you, Grimes?” sneers an all too familiar voice, A falsely polite chuckle ripples around the table causing my temples to ache.“Anyone’d think you’d stapled your eyeballs to her,” which I must admit was a most inspiring notion, tragically lost in my swift rage. My back teeth clenched together as they do, my throat feels dry, I can barely speak. I'm a sensitive guy. Malformed thoughts croak in my throat. I could do with some water.

“I can’t pretend I hadn’t noticed,” I glibly smirk “but Yvonne and I are really very happy and 'everything else is but a bonus'. More wine, Peter? And please call me John! We’ve known each other long enough by now… how long has it been? A good seven years surely!” This is what I always resorted to when forced to make small talk with my colleagues: how long I’d known them for, which of course ensured I never would. Peter looks instantly bored by the question and dutifully nodds before ducking into conversation with his girlfriend.

Peter is the man in the office for whom my dislike is: the strongest. Out of all of them he is the most infuriating and I’d like to rape and burn his girlfriend and make him watch. As a strikingly self-aware sort of chap I recognise that we are possibly quite alike in ways, and yes, this is probably where my dislike for him stems from. His arrogance steals from my own and as such eyes on him is eyes off me. This town's not big enough for the two of us and all that. As he tears greedily at a bread roll with that $4000 smile and manicured hand I imagine cutting him open to show how ugly we all look inside just to see his face. It wouldn’t taste so fine the second time around, and would only be a tad messier. A fucking pig, thought James, as flakes of bread bounced and clung to the tablecloth. James’ fingers worry at the edge of his meat knife, possibly preoccupied by some huge internal process, possibly considering his dessert options. The paper napkin had already been knotted into nervous bunches. As his murderous intent grows he excites himself by flexing a frown well stolen from a favourite Hollywood movie character. The slight curl of the mouth is from another film but a similar character, as I only like an amount of them that is: very small.

Jonathan: Would you like a napkin, Peter?

Peter: Excuse me? What exactly is it that you mean by that, Grimes…?

Janet (Peter’s Whore): Peter, please

Peter: What? Jesus Christ, no, Johnny’s turning that creepy little psycho stare on me again, and it forever pisses me off, and now I'm sitting here with him watching over me while I eat and asking whether I want a fucking napkin and looking at me like a fucking dog. Jesus. That’s what you’re doing, isn’t it? A fucking dog -

Jonathan: Peter, I’m sorry. It probably did look like I was staring at you and I didn’t mean to be rude by doing so. It’s just I simply noticed your fabulous new shirt and, as you know, I have a strong love for good clothing, of which that shirt is a fine example. It’d just cut me up to see it get messy and I was genuinely fearing for it. I don't know, I'm tired, it's been a long day. I'm too anal about these things. It's a very nice shirt I’m sorry.

Everyone blinked quite slowly and Peter didn't say anything in return. The ease and automatic nature from which my reply was born in fact surprised me, as it sometimes does. I'm sure it was wonderful. I should trust myself by now but I know I never will, because there are times where I do betray myself as much as I do others, and I never can tell when those times will come Everything is fine for the moment, 'order is restored', another minute has been survived. Another sip of wine, which will be the fourth of: twelve.

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The king could be seen in the near distance, a smudge of gold and green and grey, moving from soldier to soldier and stopping to look out towards the enemy.

Many bodies back, past the elite and the archers, Malinko balanced himself on his horse, which was jerking restlessly beneath him. Among the ragged crowds of hangers-on and homeless, it smelled the impatient fear that clawed at their minds. Malinko could almost smell it himself.

Unlike the stories his mother had told him, he was not one of those who was surrounded by the erect bodies of the king’s men, clothed in their finest and eager to spill blood. Tagging along behind, hoping the killing would be complete before his starved horse had managed to haul him to the main battlefield, where he could get on his knees and push the flesh and clothing aside and find coins and jewellery and weapons and anything else he could sell, he was instead pitiful.

The day afterwards he realised how much fun he’d had, and how quickly that time would become a week ago, then a month ago, then six months ago, then something consigned to long-term memory, and something that she’d probably remember too, but only after being goaded into it. It was overcast and grey, and sometimes the sun made an appearance, but when it did, it was too bright and sharp, and aggravated them. They wished it away, and it always obeyed them. They had done nothing at all, which was unusual for her, but an everyday activity for him. He hadn’t savoured the moments when they’d leant against the fence, out of breath, or when his foot had pierced the ice over a puddle and crashed through, soaking his skin and making his anklebone throb. All he’d wanted to do was get home so he could change into some warm socks.

His horse shuffled still, and he patted its head, which achieved nothing. He looked at the frightened men around him, their pathetic hope dim in their eyes. He was one of them, and instead of shame he felt elation. In his stories, the heroes weren’t clever or brave, they weren’t extraordinary men who fell mountains and crossed the seas to capture their love. They were men like him, men pinged back and forth from situation to situation, reacting as best as they could and concerning themselves with just the next step of their lives, because thinking any further than that would allow the hopelessness of it all to crystalise and become real, fall down on them from a mile above, crushing them to the ground. Of course, nobody liked to hear his stories, but they were the truth, and to him that was more important than anything else. Knowing the truth made him feel real.

A light snow started to fall, reflecting weak light but making his horse shiver. Seconds later it thickened, and within a minute it was a flurry. He made the necessary noises and his horse started to trot forwards. Huddled men moved aside.

The heat singed his eyebrows and melted his face, and unlike the heroes of their stories, he cared about this a great deal. He stopped and armed the sweat away, pushed his burning face into the crook of his elbow, desperate to stop the pain, but it didn’t help. He tipped backwards, the sheer force of the heat forming a physical barrier that he had trouble even pushing against. Some of the crowd jeered, other’s silence was louder. For a moment he finally stopped caring, and pushed against the heat. He almost felt it give way, as if he were passing through hanging slime.

By now he was among the soldiers. Those who even glanced his way mocked him without changing expression. Even their horses managed to make him feel inferior. He didn’t think they’d give way, but they did, maybe thinking he was a messenger, maybe a peasant desperate to prove his worth on the battlefield.

Despite the noise of a giant war machine gathering its forces – a clanging and banging, guttural, savage noises that cheapened the finery draped over the shoulders of these great men, he felt silence around him.

His hands were red and torn, smoking, and they hurt like nothing had hurt before. He still used them to smash crackling wood out of the way, because that was all he could do. Nobody tried to stop him or tried to help, they just watched, as they would do 8 months from now when he would die, chopped to pieces by men who had never spoken to the king.

His own personal hell of flame and heat faded as he came face to face with her. The princess turned to a screaming banshee from the mind of a sadistic child, her hair alight, her skin wrapped against her skull like rice paper, her teeth smouldering, her eyes melting away, not recognising what they could see. She struck out at him, hating the world that had thrown her into this bonfire for the crime of bedding a thief. He tried to grab her hand but she snapped at it, maybe thinking it was more burning wood to brand her, maybe knowing exactly what it was.

He shivered as he watched her die, and then took all of her that remained in his arms and stumbled out to an empty courtyard.

Two spears crossed in front of him, masked guards trained all their life to lay their souls down for the protection of the king, a man they would never speak to. They asked what he wanted. He didn’t have to act. They pitied him and his claims for blessing, and accompanied him to their king’s company’s side. He was still far away, but his eyesight was focused on the great man.

The king was huge; armour plating covered his body, thickening it by inches. Cloth billowed around him, tinged with snow. The royal plume was violet, spurting from the king’s helmet like the flames of Mt. Sancras. Even now, in this situation, Malinko wanted to worship him.

But instead he shuffled the diamond-bladed knife from where it had lain against his wrist with awkward, untrained movements and held it in shaking hands. There was no fanfare or great speech to go down in the history books. No ceremony. This was war, not a story, and it was truth.

‘Chaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggeeeeee!’ The king bellowed, and he did.

Forgive the lack of formatting - for some reason you can't add spaces etc. inside a quote?

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“Gentlemen; Waste is good.”

I immediately start to drift off. I hate these long rambling introductions, preaching not only to the converted, but to other preachers. We all know this, we all know what he’s going to say for the next half an hour. I want the nitty and the gritty, the negotiations we’re all here for.

This is Death by Powerpoint.

I look around the room at the other Directors and instantly rank myself in the top three. Then, on further scrutiny, the top one. None of these guys, who have taken the time out from lounging around on the deck of yacht drinking whatever fuckwits drink, can out negotiate me. I came from nothing. No, better.

I made the nothing important.

When waste removal was first privatised we were the clever ones that saw the incredible financial possibilities of charging the public for disposing of their rubbish. We were the ones with the backing, land and logistics to create our own landfills, our own collections and to make the most of the litter crisis.

At the start, times were good. The rubbish was already piled high and with the privatisation localised people were willing to pay over the odds to have what they throw away, taken away. Those that didn’t pay were ostracised by the community; waste attracted vermin and vermin attracted a vigilante culture. It’s a bit different when your neighbour decides to miss a couple of rubbish bills than when they stop paying for their water.

Then, the bottom quite spectacularly fell out of the market. Industry and commerce wary of their own bills, started to watch their product and it’s packaging. Society demanded a single plastic to be used to ease recycling. Plastic bags outlawed. Fast food served in paper. Families who used to stick out five bags a week fell dramatically to one a fortnight. The government basked in their glory, the naysayer were wrong. Privatisation had made us the greenest country in Europe.

This will never do.

This is why we’re here.

We need a new strategy.

********************************************************************

Sue takes the empty Shreddies box and sticks in with the cardboard, before putting the milk bottle under a running tap to rinse. She’s distracted by the sound of letters hitting the doormat.

She walks towards the front door and picks up the post. Credit card application, loan application, a package from Amazon and the waste bill.

“Max!”, she calls, “Your CD is here! And we’ve got a rubbish bill!”

“They’re all rubbish bills!”, he calls back down.

Sue wonders how many more months it’ll take for him to get bored of that one.

She makes her way back to the kitchen, throws the parcel on the countertop and rips the junk mail before putting it in with the paper. She sits on the kitchen stool, takes a sip of coffee and braces herself for the horrors contained within the Cleanworld branded envelope.

Her eyes skip pass the crap in the middle and focus on the figure at the bottom.

Shit. The papers were right. They must have only put out three black bags the last quarter, but the bills is the biggest they’ve ever had. The reason? “Recyclable Surcharge”.

“For fucks sake…”, she protests pointlessly before noticing the tap is still running into the milk bottle. She turns it off, pours the water out of the bottle and stops just short of throwing it into the glass bin.

An moments thought later, it lies in a black refuse bag .

“Money is tight this month“, she convinces herself.

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My chinstrap chafes me but I let it rest, because I’m army and I’m strong, proud and hard. Even so, there’s an air of trepidation as we approach the village. This is, after all, the unlikely centre of the invasion, and we are the last of the rebels here to see it off. It’s almost a pointless mission. We’re weak, hideously underpowered, and our alien overlords have reduced entire cities to rubble, enslaved entire countries. I don’t know what I’m doing here, except my heart is an army heart, and it tells me to fight. I have my gun readied. I take deep breaths. And as I look up to see the tower shining in the morning light I offer a prayer up to whatever gods will hear me and hope beyond hope that guardian angels are watching out for us this final day.

They mustn’t have heard me. The aliens are here and they’re killing us.

*

All across the feisty battlefield, tanks and mud huts draped with red refinery, their occupants frozen between the mini-seconds we tread upon and I, I of all my knights-in-time am standing proud and ready in confrontation with the single alien tower before me. With a zip and a tremble in my hand my laser charges, the three-slice delay pouring energy up my wrist and into my tear ducts where micro-electrical canals force it into a tiny blue bead that appears hovering in the morning mist before me. My knights do the same, and suddenly we’re standing before a constellation in the smoke, a swirling pit of stars and aching dreams carved in rapturous azure swimming before us like fish in the tropics.

Our destiny stands before us: the tower, like a mirror-shard stabbing a wound into the centre of the village. We scale it wraithlike, swarming across gateways and windows, fractures in the bio-stone opening like chasms to admit claws and tails as we push harder and further and higher. Liquid drones seep out from the fissures in the silver glass and clutch at us as we rise, but sharp glances can kill, and do. They dissolve in bloody shreds, and we march ever onward toward the summit.

At the top of the tower is a table, hewn from glittering quartz and decorated with drying black scalps unhinged from the heads of the tribespeople who lived in the shadows of the tower. A priest stands guard but he, as with the rest of the aliens, remains frozen in Earth-time, his limbs aloft in salutation to his dark god. Only the tower’s drone-fuelled defence mechanism could see us coming and we punctured that like thorns through old skin. My knights relent and allow me to deliver the killing blow, carving through what passes for the alien’s neck with a single look from my laser vision. Zip, and I have three slices before I’m ready to fight again.

We’ve saved the Earth from the tyranny of this unknown alien race.

But the sky darkens and planets swim into view. A galaxy, an entire universe expanding around the top of the tower and I’m well into my first slice before I realise the priest’s prayer is about to be answered. A hand falls from the heavens and picks off my knights one by one, crushing their souls and leaving their bodies vacant. Slice two and the hand is coming for me, a thousand fingers tangled together with suns and moons caught between them. I leap from the tower, I leap for my life and wait for my laser to charge.

A hand grips mine. I look up.

And I see them swarming over the thousand-fingered stellar fist in the same way my knights-in-time scaled the tower. Galaxies swirl in their eyes but there is something more to them, and something familiar at that. A voice reaches me in subsonic cryptographs: “We’re the thirty-fifth galaxial cavalry from the year nineteen million. We’re your sons and grandsons and we’re here to save you.”

*

Dormant at the back-beyond of space lies the Black Hole Father. It sleeps and dreams, and never wakes, letting its children suckle on time, space and light, feeding it in its slumber. But now something calls to it, the Hand of the Negaverse, a distant relative or acquaintance, or perhaps something in between, for it has been an eternity and Father remembers not. All it hears is the calling, and so it moves, spanning existence in three small steps to land at a small planet named Earth. With a single yawn it blackens the stars, and takes with them the entire evolutionary ride of the human race, deleting them from time without a thought, with barely an action.

All is still.

And then light, so intense it renders all other points of light in this dim universe as something lacking and incomplete. How could other lights exist when this is the one true light? How could anything else exist?

The Black Hole Father cannot, and disintegrates in the face of this light that is beyond deity, beyond sky and ground and star, that is everything that could ever be . . .

The darkness rises to greet it. A void where there once was everything. Infinite night as sure as the light is infinite day. The All darkens.

*

The counter falls again. White this time, or perhaps one instead of zero, or heads instead of tails. It falls and it falls and it never stops falling, because the game never ends.

*

The man scoops up the coin and examines it. “Perhaps you’d care to wager on which way it will fall this time, brother?”

But his brother says nothing. He simply stares at the sky and points at something, sharp and glittering, as it falls towards the village.

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It’s unclear if my eyes are shut or simply not working. A quick blink reveals that I’m facing the floor, and a quick raise of the head reveals how reluctant my brain is to move with it. Sight consists of vague shapes strewn across my vision like a desktop memory dump. Colours have the roughness of an eighties video.

I’ve assumed I’m unable to move, but try anyway - and surprise myself by rolling over, groping in the fuzziness for a hold. The low buzzing I can hear sounds suspiciously internal. Somewhere to my left a protracted groan echoes, sounding all very death fuck. I reach out and feel harsh metal frameworks. My body touches against other slug-like torsos, all rolling around on sodden sheets that cover the floor.

I vomit all over my hand, tasting my insides.

I think this is floor seven, and it’s my fault I’m alone, loosing the others somewhere earlier – the LOYALTY floor maybe. I should have sensed our limit, put aside our bravado and stayed in with the orgy. I should have taken whatever pleasures my dinted pride would allow.

I wriggle through the filth, my eyes unable to focus on the rocking, sobbing slug-people. As my desperate hands find a doorway to the eighth floor, I think about dying. Despite my slow clumsy movements, this is too hectic - the rat-faced man had been right all along. It seems so long ago, I can barely remember fragments.

We found him by the first floor stairs. We’d already explored the ground floor, only to find people loitering around spacious rooms of period green and stripped oak floors. Our invite had been through a friend of the family, to the kind of party you’d normally read about in other people’s lives, yet so far it had been a sobering disappointment - a few rabbit-faced minor celebrities, a better than average sound-system, a fairly unremarkable yet well-organised house party, the kind easily knocked up by students flush with inherited wealth.

Dissapointed, we’d headed for the upper floors, looking for something more intoxicating to justify the hype we’d been fed. We came across rat-face in the hallway, who warned us to be careful upstairs, to not get out of our depth. He claimed the higher you went, the more hectic it became.

Hectic sounded just the thing.

We scampered up the stairway, skipping over the word SUBSTANCE painted on one of the risers, into a first floor that felt very Warp Records. A plain looking girl dressed as a waitress handed us milky drinks in shot glasses – we downed them like liquid sugar. Rooms dense with odour housed low dusty tables, littered with every vice imaginable. The disorientating floor plan offered something new with every confused turn, the waitresses becoming more animal-like with every new offering, our bearings becoming all the more useless with every fresh hit.

Conscious decision-making gave way to things that just happened - people argued in foreign languages, the tempo of the music doubled, a doorway found us that we laughably struggled to open, revealing another stairway. Passing the word INHABITION on the third riser, we emerged gob-shocked onto a floor of rippling, naked flesh around us.

That should have been our limit. I know that now.

The doorway to floor eight feels Wonderland small, the tunnelled stairway only passable by crawling. I manage to drag myself up and away from the shivering bodies, the word REFLECTION coming into focus at eye level as I clear the final step.

My battered eyes are unable to size the attic, untreated floorboards running the length of a single bare room, the flat roof made entirely of glass. A bright night sky pierces my blurred senses, bringing a single wooden chair and a bug-faced human into focus. Her clothes look too big. It feels like I’m shrinking.

A door opens on the far wall of unspecified distance away. The breeze feels shocking and alien. In the moonlight I beg her to take me, thankful for the internal buzzing that hides my own desperate sluggish words. I make out her reply - how I’m the new king in charge, how I can’t leave until released, how I must wait for the next, like her before me. The individual words feel familiar, the ordering of them like spaghetti shapes. It’s making even less sense than downstairs.

She moves to the open doorway like a ballerina, and I think to ask how long she’s been waiting. I hear three weeks, before she dissolves from my mind with a graceful pirouette, and then everything else dissolves with much less grace, and I stop seeing colours.

The next time I open my eyes I know they’re working, the attic bathed in sunrise. It’s my body clock that’s fucked. It could be hours later, it could be weeks - it feels somewhere in between. The chair seems nearer now, and I drag myself to it, thankful for its structure. I’ll need somewhere comfortable to reflect, assuming I’m to wait for someone else to find and enter Wonderland.

Assuming they ever do.

I sit silently, hidden by the rumble of the party below. Focus is returning, much is coming back in a slow, painful comedown. Outside seems impossible to rationalise, conceptually stale. Imprisonment from the daily routine no longer feels reckless or unwise. It feels obvious. It feels so next week.

I wonder if those below know they’re enduring a structure designed to break structure itself. I wonder if the rule keeping me here really does exist, or if it’s blind faith passed on from previous participants, self-created as a final comfort, a final rule to cling onto before their outside world inevitably changes forever. I wonder if it’s the final test. I wonder how my world is changing with every moment I’m not in it.

I wonder if I should give a fuck.

I sit back and soak up the sunrise, waiting for the next ruler to come by and unwittingly take charge.

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Me too. In a way I wish our threads were more 'eventful' - discussion along the way and all that - as the aching wait between stories being submitted is painful.

I've completely rewritten my entry, so if you've already read it, it'd be wonderful if you could find the time to do so again.

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Me too. In a way I wish our threads were more 'eventful' - discussion along the way and all that - as the aching wait between stories being submitted is painful.

I suppose that's where the criticisim is supposed to come in, although I always feel uncomfortable criticising other people's work, especially in a situation like this.

I have to say that I always enjoy the way Jolly writes. There's something about his style that just clicks for me.

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I have to say that I always enjoy the way Jolly writes. There's something about his style that just clicks for me.

I really appriciate that. Thank you very much!

In fact, I place my new found love for creative writing firmly at the corners door. I used to write loads in my late teens and even got as far as producing a novella, but the problem I always had was that I was loath to let anyone read them. And when i did let family and friends read my stuff I always found it hard to take any compliments because, well, they would say they liked it wouldn't they?

I then went through a good five years of writing next to nothing, until I finally forced myself to enter the "Distance" month on here. The validation of other writers, who have never met me, has given me a massive confidence boost and I now write at least 1000 words a week and I'm about two chapters into a story I've been brewing since I was about 14.

Without wanting to sound like I'm blowing my trumpet (or your collective penises), this corner has made me realise I can write. The fact I've also go to read some fantastic stories along the way is the mega cherry on the super cake.

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I really enjoy the corner also. It's been a positive experience for me and I'm glad I finally plucked up the courage to enter, after being a nervous lurker for months. I'm sure my writing is slowly improving because of it.

And every month I'm amazed at the high standard. Criticism is always a bit uncomfortable, but I might try and start leaving some feeback. Just not sure I'm any good at it.

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Rob Dorman

“Do you love me Rob?” She looks at me, wrapping the duvet tightly around her.

“I’ll tell you what I love.” I pull the duvet from her, “I love this.” I squeeze one of her breasts. “And I love this.” I fondle the other breast and shake it slightly. “And I love...“ I pause as I roll her over so her ass is facing me, “... and I love this.” I sink my fingers into her buttocks.

“Your face I can take or leave.”

I peer over her shoulder to see her reaction but she elbows me in the head.

“Pig!” she squeals.

I cover my arm over my eyes, twist my lower half towards her and start grinding away at her ass. She groans, rolls over and pushes at my stomach with both hands.

“What?” I say innocently as my lower half carries on rubbing her up.

“Rob! Fuck off!”

I look hurt. As I roll away I glance at the bedside clock and notice I only have fifteen minutes to go.

“Hadn’t you better get ready?” I say, “You best do it now before I really get my shit on.”

“Urgh, you’re a bloody dog, Rob.” She gets up out of bed and I laugh; her panties are jammed in her crack. It’s comical watching her re-align them.

As soon as she’s in the bathroom with the the door shut behind her I begin frantically tossing myself off. I cum within three minutes into some toilet roll that’s next to the bed. I three-pointer the soggy mess into the bin across the room and check the time; ten minutes left and I begin to panic a little.

“Oi, BABY, are you nearly done?” I shout from the bed.

“What’s the rush?” She shouts from the bathroom.

“I have burning diarrhea.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah.”

“That’ll be the coke.”

“Yeah.” I do a few press-ups and get back into bed; five minutes.

“BABY, seriously yeah... how long?”

She exits the bathroom and kisses me on the cheek, “See you later.” she smiles and then leaves. Three minutes.

I lie alone for two or more seconds thinking about my life. I’m Robert Dorman. I’m a cunt but I don’t mean to be. But I am. I’m only a cunt because I’m not happy. Or I’m not happy because I’m a cunt. I can’t remember which came first.

I hear a knock at the door, “Fucking hell.” I mutter. That was close, they must’ve passed each other in the corridoor.

I get out of bed, take off my boxers so I’m completely naked and very quietly unlatch the door. I tip-toe a few steps, bend completely over keeping my legs straight and point my arsehole at the door, “It’s open.” I shout casually.

When Girl number 2 enters, the sight of my bare arsehole and hanging balls must be gobsmacking.

“Rob! Fucking Jesus!” I hear her shriek from behind my legs. I stand up tall and face her.

“Hello darling,” I smile, “Not sure if I can get it up for you as I’ve just been fucking my other girlfriend all night long.”

“Very funny Rob.” She glances over at the bin, “Oh, well I see you’ve had a wank then.”

I look over and realise I missed the bin and the tissue is stuck to the wall just above it.

“Well, I wanted to last for you. I’d last two minutes if I was fully charged.”

She half smiles. I suddenly notice something different about her. I’ve been seeing Girl number 2 for three years but I’ve never seen her look like this.

“Are you ok?” I ask nervously.

She looks at me but doesn’t say anything. Then I see her eyebrows furrow. Then I see her eyes fill with water. A tear rolls down her cheek.

My heart sinks and I feel like I might vomit. She’s found out. I AM a cunt and she’s found out.

“Rob, I... I...”

I feel the panic on my arms and back. I shiver. My heart feels like it’s pumping air.

“Rob, I have cancer.”

I stand in front of her, naked.

‘Cancer’ echoes in my head. Then an awesome tide of relief washes over me. She doesn’t know I’m a cunt.

I was going to go somewhere different with this story. It was going to be about Rob sleeping with prostitutes (and being charged for it... (subtle!)) but as I started writing it kinda took its own direction... so I ended up squeezing 'charge' in there.

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He walked through the field. All he could see was shades of yellow. All he could hear was the husks of a spent crop crunch beneath his feet. He knew he was crying because his cheeks were marginally colder than the rest of him. If he had made it up, why was he crying? His body knew the truth before his brain. He looked up at the sky. Felt a surge of envy at the two brown specks gliding miles above him. Soon the tears would stop and his eyes would dry. Soon he’d be back home. He’d kiss his wife and he’d listen to the fevered enthusiasms or disappointments of his wonderful son, back from school. He’d pretend all was fine.

***

She definitely saw him this time. What else could she be looking at? She smiled at him and he ran. She actually smiled. And he sank. He felt his insides actually sink as those crooked little teeth beamed through the empty window pane. Those teeth he remembered running his thumb over. Scratching his tongue. Biting his neck. Those precious little stones that grew from the woman he loved. For the first time in his life he asked himself if he was in a nightmare. And he asked out loud. And the rain soaked his shirt and the mud oozed over his shoes and he didn’t care. He felt something inside him rot, and he got an inkling of what it was to be evil. He suddenly understood how it was to carry a callousness that could land you a life in a prison cell.

***

She managed to leave a room when he entered and make it look quite natural. Nothing had happened that day worthy of discussion. She was fine. In fact she was quite tired and just wanted to zone out and listen to the radio. Even the most modest of small talk was really quite an irritant. His role was clearly to not exist. He watched her lie back on the sofa, not sitting on it but against it on the floor, her long legs stretched out like ivory roots, and her beauty made him seethe with hate. How dare she destroy their life together. How dare she thrive in such a wasteland. He swears out loud but doesn’t realise it, and she decides to announce the one rule that needs announcing. Whatever happens, Danny will be living with her. She goes to bed, and the future is so certain for her she is sound asleep before he has swept all the glass shards up from the kitchen floor.

***

He watches the stars fade and the sun rise. He listens to the crickets and the cows and takes comfort in any certainties that he can find. He looks at each barn, each fence post, with a displaced affection. He remembers how they worked together to build the hen house, how they would sing songs and laugh and need nothing else to feel happy. He wants to shut his eyes and be back in that moment. He wants to live that feeling. He wants to build a hen house with his woman for the rest of his life. He feels the wind nip at his cheeks and wonders if he could cope returning to a city. He hears Danny chirping to her over breakfast about some cartoon and he has to start walking to stop himself falling.

***

He smashes her head in with a bottle. Again and again. She doesn’t put up any kind of fight. She calls him a fool and shuts her eyes. She is gone before the third blow. He looks red faced, almost embarrassed. He bites his hand and whimpers, though he doesn’t know he’s doing it. He mutters about matches. He is already thinking about the next stage. He lives for the dream of what comes. Not the horror of what’s there. He gently places his child’s body next to hers, even making their hands touch though he is not sure why, and then sets about pouring gasoline over the room. He stuffs firelighters in the sofa that he found in the cupboard under the sink. He doesn't realise how much petrol has soaked through his clothes and the moment he tests the lighter he sets fire.

***

The animals buck and whine as the inferno rages. The chickens flap and flusters as hot winds rush through their feathers. They squawk and preen and kick dust in annoyance. But they survive. A thick moat of sand surrounds the hen house. Amongst the smoking ruins and razed fields the hen house stands proud.

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I love waiting until I have a quiet afternoon and then reading through all the entries that are here.

This corner has done more for my writing than anything else I have done in the past. I am actually starting to think about going back to my novel that has long been on hold. :rollseyes:

I like to try and say something positive about each entry, trying to make my criticisms into little entries of their own....

:)

Good stuff guys.

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Ok, long-time listener, first-time caller and all that. Be gentle.

He was dying and there was nothing I could do to save him.

One last call would signify the end. The end of the line, and - according to Boyz to Men - the end of the road. Over, finito, finished, or as my mum once referred to my pet dog in a Nazi-general-like fashion; “Dat hound is KAPUT!”. Yes my mother like all house-wives at the time (16:40) went through a Nazi-phase. It was strange, it was awkward, and my friends disowned me. Anyway, this is no time (16:41) for reminiscing about happy times. He’s dying and we can’t forget that.

It’s the worst thing when you’re low on battery and you’re waiting for a call or a text. You know that with every passing second the battery life is ticking. Or in my case, the battery is literally ticking (my phone was defective) It was also a detective. Yes, it was a defective detective phone. It’s name was Lieutenant Nokia and it worked in Baltimore. Ok, that’s a lie. My phone is not a detective. (Although it was once at the scene of a mugging)

Here’s the skinny, my phone is dying and I can’t find the charger.

The thing is, the power button doesn’t work anymore, so once it’s off. It’s off. And by off I mean off. Like FOREVER. I’ve looked everywhere in my room and can’t find it. Liam is coming over in a few minutes or we’re gonna go out so I need to find it fast. Oh and by ‘going out’, I mean as in leaving my flat to go to the pub or something. Not going out, like gays or something. Nah. Not that I’m anti-gay, I love the gays. I love their little tops and Graham Norton and that. Yeah, I love it when he says cock or something. Anyway, we’ve gone off the beaten track again. I’m supposed to be looking for my charger before Liam gets here to nosh me off. I mean have a few beers.

I go upstairs and have one final cursory glance at the room before I hear the doorbell. I go back downstairs to open the door and who is it? Why it’s Nokia CEO Olli Pekka to give me a new charger! No, actually it’s Liam. (I really must re-calibrate my expectations when opening the front door)

We decide not to go to the pub as we’re both a bit poor. And by a bit poor I mean that Liam is a starving African. Not really, he’s from Somalia.

So after ten minutes of pleasantries like “How you doing” “Did you watch the football last night” Stop bumming my sister” etc we go to the lounge and the subject turns to an on-going bet. The bet is to say “Nice penis” to a guy in a men’s toilet. No particular man, and certainly not one with a particularly attractive appendage, just anyone. I’d just like to see their little faces. I think it would be funny.

“You’re never gonna do it” Liam says.

“I blatantly am mate”.

“But why though, you’re gonna get hit.”

“No I won’t. Course I won’t get hit if my cock is out.”

“What?”

“Well come on, I wouldn’t want to fight anyone with their cock out, it would be weird.”

Liam looks to the TV, eyes almost glazed over as he’s trying to comprehend what he’s just heard.

“WHAT.”

“Well if you were involved in a fight, and the attacker had his knob out, wouldn’t that freak you out? Say you were involved in a scuffle, and he popped his little knob out the top of his jeans, would you be able to carry on regardless?”

Liam (laughing) “Well, I’m not sure. It would freak me out, but I’m not sure that would stop me. In fact, I’ll probably go for the knob.”

“So what you’re saying is that you go concentrate your blows on the knob.”

“Yeah.”

“So if he hit you and you fell to your knees, would you continue to hit him? You would go for a low blow?”

“Yeah.”

“So anyway, I want to do it, just for a laugh” In fact, I’ll do it now.”

“Don’t mate.”

“No, I’m off.”

“As if.”

“Ok, just going upstairs quickly, my, erm, phone battery is almost dead, and you know it’s defective, so once it’s dead, it’s dead.”

Liam “Oh, re-ee-eaaaally.”

“No Liam, not again. Don’t. Seriously. Liam. No.”

With that Liam jumps over the couch and rushes for his phone. I also jump up to grab it but miss, so I run upstairs to find the charger. Liam starts to dial my number.

“Liam no! I swear to fucking God that if you kill McNulty (Yes my defective-detective phone had a name) I’ll fucking kill you.”

Liam (Laughing uncontrollably in a psychopathic-killer-esque manner) “Ahahahaha. Yes. This is my time. It’s over Ryan. McNulty is mine!”

I must find that charger I can’t let McNulty die on my time. Not on my watch. I’ve kept him for 4 years on life-support. I swear to God my sister must’ve nicked my charger.

I shout downstairs “Liam stop! No!”

Liam is still ringing. My phone is flashing and beeping and ringing and shitting (Ok so it’s not shitting)

I rush into my sisters room, it’s a fucking bomb-site. Mess everywhere. Ritz crackers on the carpet.

I spot the charger and run downstairs to hear nothing.

No Beeps.

No ringing.

Certainly no shitting.

McNulty was saying nothing. I put the charger in, hoping I wasn’t too late.

Charger was in, nothing happened. Drop to my knees with tears in my eyes and look to the heavens with McNulty in my arms “Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!

Why now? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Next day Liam spots me in Carphone Warehouse.

“Why you wearing a shoal?”

“Funeral innit.”

“What you doing here then?”

“Just saying my goodbyes.”

I give the assistant my money and leave the shop. “Nice penis” I say, as I exit.

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My entry for this month. As promised, shorter than my last entry.

On the kitchen table there lays a gun. A shotgun, forged by Cray’s great grandfather, the best shotgun of its day and it still holds its own today. The cellar that is always kept shut hold the ammunition. When Cray was a boy you could hardly move around down there for all the crates that were stored there. But over the years, day by day the stock dwindled. There’s still a lot. Enough for him and most likely his eldest son but that was about it. One day, years ahead, there would come a time where his grandson would find himself out of ammunition. It weighed on Cray’s mind each time he loaded the gun. Each round he clicked in to the chamber would be another round unavailable for the future. Of course Cray was well aware, as was his wife who placed the gun on the kitchen table each morning haunted by similar thoughts, without the days round of ammunition, there would be no future.

Past victories mean nothing by daylight, his father had taught him, words taught by his father before who in turn was taught by his. Cray doesn’t think about how far back it goes and likes to think it began with his great grandfather, with the forging of the gun.

When the shotgun is fully loaded, extra shells placed one by one on his belt, the cellar door is locked and Cray steps outside the safety of his home without having said a word to any in his family that morning, without even laying eyes on them. It would be to difficult, and was too difficult for him as a child when his father readied himself, for the daily routine of saying goodbye, never knowing if they would see each other again. Instead they survived on the routine of no contact until the days work was done. His wife would prepare the weapon and leave it in plane sight each morning but took every effort to avoid her husband until he stepped back into the house. Cray did not know if she preferred it that way, but Cray could not function any other.

Alone, he could pretend he was someone else, his grandfather mostly, and that it wasn’t him who risked all each morning, it wasn’t his responsibility to keep everyone else safe, it wasn’t him who did such things to achieve it. Each shot, made with deadly accuracy was being fired by someone else and he envisioned himself lying awake in bed hearing his grandfather do his work.

He tried to avoid the thought as he hunted, that one day he would not be the one, that the charge to carry the burden of the shotgun would fall to his son. None of the shots he fired that day, the last or the next would spare his son this fate. One day, perhaps not for decades to come, he would be lying awake in bed, his son risking all. It was a thought that got stronger each passing day.

Cray, in all the years he’s done the work never needed the extra shells, today or any other before. He was good with the shotgun. But as he returned home each day the same thought entered his mind before entering the house.

Past victories mean nothing by daylight.

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Last minute as ever:

“Frequently entangle wholesome living with a dalliance,” so proclaimed, with alacrity, my good friend of science. I kept to quiet consonance during our daily chatter and he to quanta of calculated conversation. I wave good morning to the camera when first he speaks, position my seat in full view and ask how he keeps.

In digs missing escape, I am immured; sealed in here salubrity is assured, while saving face in public has been cured. With only my influence, this home is absent of chaos, instead an orderly, measured perfection. Sometimes I close my eyes and, by wandering, locate with certainty every item, section by section. Days of admiring stainless floors, counting the same objects, the view a panoramic of confined clarity.

Parity with a life lived beyond these walls? I should hope not! The collapse of sanity does not come from austere limits — an individual cage lacks the madness of society. Boredom’s subsumed by repetition, so climb to its dull summit — atop this, one’s liberated from all fear of gravity. Order demolishes dependence and want, the dynamics of one possessing a symmetry improbable with two. Yet past life burrows deep trenches in the mind and a memory of desire remains, though satisfaction through this temperance has dulled it to an occasionally throbbing head.

Today I arose to find a steel box opposite the camera, offensively sat on the ground. With great momentum I flurried over to it, but pulled back when nearing this foreign invader. To the camera I turned and bellowed for assistance, though panic closed my throat to stop any sound. Little air in my lungs, I attempted to focus on the neatly arranged and unused candles before me when the unvarying voice of the scientist shook me, but he would not be my saviour.

“This box is life, its value immeasurable. You are responsible, don’t touch, don’t open.”

The words smothered me further and I fell into the nearest wall, battered against it until pain had loosened my maw to circulate enough air that I might sob and wail. It sat there, the divine object of disorder, holy relic to perturb, sovereign of bedlam. I crawled away from it, out of its sight. Around that corner I squatted, gathering thought and breath and salvaging energies not lost to shivering convulsions.

Soon I was strong enough to rise through the haze of dolour and no longer benighted by grief I stepped back into view of the incongruous container. The scientist had left me in agony, no room for debate. The light informing me he was available to converse was off, so I trembled and returned to my routine: morning stretches to make me saner.

Shoulder rotations, ten cycles each way. All becomes normal, darkness shrinks away. Bend forward, straight legs and fingers to toes. What noise is that? Scratching! I turn, as that horrid box is the source, this I do know. It was a mistake, of course, for now I was looking directly at the sore spot, the indecorous dismantler. Yet it made no noise, instead simply remaining there, out of place.

Food would calm me, I decided, and stole to my pantry, engulfing myself with the alphabetisation and categorisation therein. Fresh, fatty flesh, plucked poultry, seasoning for salads, spices and sauces and the sound of scratching from behind. No doubt this time, I heard those tiny noises — the box would not leave me alone. It meant to torment me further.

Courage collected after wavering breath, I stormed to the fiend and knelt to inspect it. The burn of bile permeated from gut to gums but I did not retreat. There was a little ‘e’ engraved on the lid of my new nemesis, an even smaller minus sign above and to the right. Other than that it was entirely plain. I reached out.

The scientist need not have asked me not to touch the thing. Millimetres from its surface I twisted in revulsion, careening to the toilet, retching violently. But my spluttering did not drown out the returned scratching. It lasted longer this time, though again it ceased before I reached the box. What was inside? Life in the box…I could not open it. The scientist knew me too well.

The scratching did not recur. I waited beside the box expectantly but the hunger was consuming. Away I went, thinking my departure might bring the noise back. Silence. So time passed, and I continued with my routine, distracted and disturbed.

My orderly daytime activities were muddled such that when I heard a loud scraping come from the box I did not know how long I had been waiting. I knew, standing over the cruel artefact, that it had moved. Again I reached out and this time lifted its significant weight up so that I could return it to its prior position, yet as I did so I realised it hadn’t moved at all. My mind was in ruins.

I hid, and again the sound of the box moving. My hands shot to my ears; I would not listen. But if it’s life in there then it should be set free! I thought. I peered around the corner: it was in a new location. Disaster. Madness. I would take control of this, regain my sanity.

With nerves conquered by brief determination, I arose and stood before my foe. Within moments I was cowering at its power, for it had returned exactly as it was when first I woke.

No more of this. I tore open the lid.

I coughed and fell away from the unleashed evil, as some noxious gas erupted from inside once the seal was broken. It dispersed quickly and without further care I examined the contents. One part was sealed off, a canister visible inside, pointing toward a vent which opened into the other, larger compartment. That contained a motionless cat, dead.

I closed the box and lifted it, unsure what to do. It now felt like a coffin.

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About my piece this month: I have recently re-read Iain M Banks' Look to Windward and in there he describes how an ambassador from another species quite often would sit quietly and just listen to the many conversations the humans were having at once.

Banks then goes on to write several conversations that are just talking, no "he said" "she said" just talking.

The skill with which he makes a character an individual means that it is quite easy to keep track of the various voices that are pinging around in the mixed up conversations.

I wanted to make an attempt at that same skill and see where the conversation went. But I actually found myself confused about who was saying what at certain points so I decided to add the names and various "he said" "she said" type bits.

The story came from the word of the month and wherever the conversation led...

My simple thoughts:

Narcissus - Excellent, gripping, a troubled mind laid bare.

Hoop version, too - War, hell, burning souls seek revenge.

Bastion - Smiles, Sleaze, Slacking off, like it.

Jolly - Rinsing out the Plastic bottles, don't I know that one! Souless company ruins good people's dreams.

Campfire - Twisting time to turn a threat, very interesting.

Hombre_Hompson - David Lynch would be proud. Frenzy leads to reflection.

Stan - he's a fucker alright. The nervousness that inbounds all bullies is plain to see.

barkbat - Another troubled mind leaps from the screen. Excellent stuff.

Murray - fun, lopsided, energetic, imaginative. Like it a lot.

Concrete Donkey - talk about wanting more...! Description was wonderful, reality checked against the unknown.

The Emporer's Foot - Poetic prose, poor patient/puss, sadistic scientists!

Aw man... this is REALLY difficult to decide this month. They have all been excellent.

Special shout to Narcissus, barkbat and Concrete Donkey.

But I think my vote goes to The Emporer's Foot for his mistreatment of that poor person!

Here's to next month being as good as this.

Cheers

Dan

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