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Writer's Corner - February 2008


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This month's word is: Lift

So I'm getting into my car and this bloke says to me 'can you give me a lift?'

I said 'Sure, you look great, the world's your oyster, go for it.'


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 March.

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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So I'm getting into my car and this bloke says to me 'can you give me a lift?'

I said 'Sure, you look great, the world's your oyster, go for it.'

Wayhay! That's one of my favourite all time jokes. Unfortunately, I don't drive so I never get a chance to stick in into a normal conversation. It somehow doesn't work the same when 'car' is replaced by 'bike'. I get to the end of theset up, and I'm stopped by a friend shocked that someone should ask me for a seater.

Anyway, after a long quiet day at work and my story is all ready for writing. Just got to whack it down.

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They've been saying on telly recently that there are things that a man in my condition can do to 'elp himself. Certain pills you can take to make the magic happen again. It's been a long time and now when I go dancing with Beryl she seems to be spending less time dancing with me these days. Well I mean, it did used to be our little ritual. Friday nights are dancing and a glass of wine and some of that under the covers bit that Adam and Eve shouldn't 'ave done. I don't like to talk about it too much. But I can see when a woman isn't happy you, know. She used to look into my eyes and say, “Whatever happens Ernie, you know I'll always love you, don't you?” And I used to say” Even if we were to be stuck inside the whale with Jonah and it had been my fault 'cus I'd read the bloody map wrong?” And she'd say, “Oh you funny bugger Ernie, give over.” It was magic that was. She doesn't really ask anymore though. I try to make it up in other ways, I learnt to cook a lot better than the way my mum had taught me, which was mainly kidneys and tripe. I cook all sorts of fancy things these days, even fancy foreign stuff. Beryl never seems too impressed and I'll admit, sometimes I do get it a bit wrong. I tried one of them Indian jobs the other day and I misread ¾ chillis for 4 by way of not having my glasses on and I can tell you that caused a bit of a stir. Beryl, wanting to be polite ate it all like the little solider she is and I says to her afterwards, “Why didn't you bloody tell me woman? And she said “Oh Ernie I can see you're trying so hard 'cus of your....difficulties and I didn't want to disappoint you...” Then we left it at that, but Beryl was pretty poorly for a few days I can tell you.

Anyway, it's been 'ard to avoid these adverts, which would be because they have this jingle, right? It goes, “When you're feeling a little blue, and your missus just dont know what to do, try LIFT!” It says you have to go and see your GP about it, but I'm not really sure I want to do that. I mean my GP is a lovely chap but he's...you know. He's a bit....well....he's Indian you see. And I'm not sure I want an Indian seeing my old fella like that. Some of them foreign types, can be a bit, well you know, batting for the other team like that. And I don't mean cricket! But I'm going have to do this 'cus I love Beryl and I can't bare to see her go or for that grubby bastard (excuse me language) Eric to get his filthy hands on her. I'll book an appointment for tomorrow and I'll give Beryl the surprise of her life.

I'm in this Panjit's office and it's all very clinical and cold. I tell him that I've been having a few problems with the chap downstairs. At first he thinks I might be having some trouble using the toilet but I wave him off, “I don't mean that, I mean the other one, you know, the thing you do with your wife, or wives in your case p'haps. ” “Sir, regrettably I do not have a wife at present..an,”

“So you're a poof then?”

“No Mr Lewis that is not what I am saying, when I take a wife she will be the one and only.”

I'm not sure I trust this answer but what you gonna do? You aren't gonna get johnny foreigner talking straight that's what. So I tell him how long I've been having this situation and about the problem down at the dance club and how I just want to make Beryl happy. It's a bit of a bomb shell then, 'cus he asks me to drop my pants. “Excuse me?”

“If you could take down your trousers sir?”

“I'm telling you I've got a problem, I've told you that (and 'ere I hum the jingle so he'll understand where I'm comin' from) my missus just don't know what to do”

“Unfortunately I am still going to have to check your plumbing, we get a lot of old guys who can as it were, satisfy their wives but sell the Viagra to younger gentlemen.”

“Well why do they bloody need it? I'm the one that bloody needs it not young uns”

“The young uns like to do it for hours at a time you see sir. So I apologise but I do have to check.”

So I drop them and he has a fiddle around down there, for my part I just whistle God Save the Queen and wait for it to end. He gets his business done and says that he'll be able to prescribe me some “Lift” tablets. I go home with a spring in my step and take one on the bus out of town. The doc said it would take about an hour so I'm getting ready cus I know Beryl will be home. Some of them ain't so bad, either, are they?

“'Ere, is there something different about you today Ernie? You look...more confident?

“Oh you could say that love, it's just, I found something I think you've been looking for”

“I didn't know I'd lost anything! What are you going on about? You've been very secretive the last couple of days and I hope I'm goin' to get a full explanation sooner or later mister!”

With a dash that betrays his age, he's across the floor, hands on her hips and she's still washing dishes, but before long there's that familiar feeling of her hot loving husband inside her.

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Heyup. Thought I'd invite myself to join your club this month.

I've never written a short story before, but I am 40,000 words into an attempt at a novel (over at least 5 years!).

An Unlucky Bloke

Private Rodney 'Rodders' Herbert was wet and miserable. Joining the Territorial Army had not been the answer; so just what was he supposed to be doing with his life?

Here he was, on a weekend training exercise in the middle of some crappy Scottish woodland, freezing his knackers off whilst every other bugger in his squad was sleeping soundly round the fire. He was tired of being ordered around by sergeants and corporals almost fifteen years his junior.

Three a.m. and he had pulled sentry duty. Again. Nuts to it. No idiot from the red team was going to attack tonight. The exercise was over tomorrow and the reds had already won because Rodders had mistakenly grenaded his own HQ unit - and yet here he was, out on stag, in the dark, needing a piss and wanting a brew. He paced up and down.

There was supposed to be more to his life, he just knew it.


On the edge of the solar system a sleek, alien craft hung motionless in space. Inside, a crew of almost, but not quite human-looking beings monitored various screens and busied themselves with the running of the ship.

"Captain, the Agrillion cruiser is almost upon us," said a young-looking ensign.

"Damn, I thought we'd given them the slip. Do we have lock yet?" The captain was impatient, only he really knew the urgency of this mission.

"Sir, I've got lock, but the target is moving around too much. We need to get closer," said the first-lieutenant.

"Right, lets nip in there then, but go no closer than the sixth planet. We will just have to take our chances."


Rodney zipped up his fly. In the dark he had urinated on his own feet - a disturbing fact, given how these army-issue boots let more water in than a pair of sandals.

He sighed. Why was he here? Everything felt wrong, like he was sleepwalking through reality. He had always felt like he had some great destiny, but he had not found it so far and at thirty-five years of age, he doubted he ever would. His destiny had certainly not been to be a fireman; loosing control of that hose during training - doing that to the fire chief - oh dear.

Sod it. He started out on a long patrol round the perimeter of the camp, stomping his feet, part in petulance and partly to keep warm.


"The target is moving even more, Captain," said the ensign.

"Well, we're committed now. Carry on."

The ship shook violently as the Agrillion cruiser drew into weapon range and opened fire.

"Is the Prince worth this, Saegar?" whispered the ensign to another junior colleague.

"I don't know. I doubt it, he will have forgotten his old life by now. The Procedure will have buried his memories," said Saegar.

"Well, the lucky bastard is going to enjoy finding out what we've got in store for him when we lift him."

"Too right. Mating season, preferential breeding rights, an entire planet to repopulate - oh why couldn't I be born a royal," said Saegar.

"Not to mention a life of utter decadence," said the ensign.

"And the immortality!"

"Lucky bastard."


Rodney had just never fitted in. That strange tint to his eyes that made people peer too closely at him for comfort. The fact that his ears were boxy, almost square-like and there was a weird ridge across the top of his nose, just gave people more to stare at. It made him very uncomfortable and caused him to say silly things to divert the attention of whoever was scrutinising him.

He put his bumbling ineptitude down to his lack of self-confidence, but sometimes, it just felt like...like, gravity was somehow wrong. Like that time when he had helped that old lady out; the traditional cat-stuck-up-a-tree scenario. Rodney had conquered his fear of heights and slowly, awkwardly climbed the tree, grabbing the cat before returning cautiously to a lower branch and dropping the animal safely to the ground - then he had slipped and fallen on the cat, breaking one of her legs and winding up paying the huge vet's bill.

Rodney leaned against a tree to shelter from the rain. Three more years of this before he could muster out. He sighed. Perhaps he was not going to find that ‘special’ thing, perhaps he should be an accountant, or more likely a parking attendant.


"Captain, shields are down," said the first-lieutenant.

"Do we still have lock?" the captain shouted.

They had only one shot at this, one pass. Even if the Agrillion cruiser did not destroy them, they could never come back here. Currently the Agrillion thought they were just pursuing their quarry through a random star system. If they knew what that blue planet contained they would destroy it in an instant. If they knew that planet held one of their most dangerous foes. There would be no mercy.

"Yes, we still have lock. The target is now immobile, repeat the target is immobile" said the first-lieutenant.


Rodney hoped every day for something exciting to happen. Something out of the blue. Something incredible. Hell, he would even settle for just a small change in his luck, anything to give his spirits a little lift.


The ship shook once more from a direct hit to the rear. Warning sirens began to scream.

"Steady helmsman, steady" said the captain.


A brief parting of the rain-clouds caused moonlight to glint off a small object. Rodney noticed a tiny coin at his feet.

Out in space, the captain said "Steady," as a nearby control panel exploded, throwing a crewman to the floor in a shower of sparks.

Rodney mused, "Find a penny, pick it up and all day long...."

"Fire the beam! Lift him!"

Rodney stooped to retrieve the coin. A sign!

"Okay, go, go, go!" Screamed the captain. The spaceship jumped into hyperspace.


"Did we get him?" The captain asked his first-lieutenant.

The officer looked at a monitor displaying a view of the teleportation chamber. He winced.

"Well...I'd say we got about two-thirds of him...."

"Oh. Damn." The captain shook his head in dismay. "Right, which planet did we hide Prince Gorlan on?"

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I wrote a story that was 1,051 words long. I quite liked it, too. It has a Character in it and everything.

I also wrote 473 words on a story before realising I was almost halfway through the wordcount and I still hadn't got to the story part.

Stupid Writer's Corner. I hates it!

Edit: And the first idea I had was of an old pensioner woman getting drugs from someone. Of course, thanks to johnjwaters I had to rethink that. *shakes fist*

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1012 from me this month....


“What’s the matter twinkle?”

“Mummy wouldn’t give me a cuddle!”

“Aww come here” Frank pulled his daughter’s head to rest against his thigh and gave her a slow pat on the back. “Honey?” he tapped her shoulder to get her attention “Hon? You’ll need to excuse mummy and daddy right at the moment.” Frank bit his lip and thought how should I put this? He squatted down next to Lisa and looked her in the eye.

“Do you know why we are here?”

“What? In the hos-pit-it-all?” said Lisa.



“Okay,” Frank sighed slightly, adjusted his weight to stop himself tipping forward and said “Well, you know mummy went to the doctors today?”


“Well the doctor was checking that your baby sister was going to be okay. And then she said that we needed to go to the hospital.”


“So that the doctors at the hospital could have a proper look at the baby using their special scanning machine.”

“Where you can see the baby sister?”

“Yes” said Frank, and went to stand up.

“But mummy wouldn’t give me a cuddle” said Lisa, starting to pout, a tear glistening at the corner of her eye.

“Well, that’s because she is worried about your baby sister. And needs to relax.”

“Oh okay”


Three hours they’d been there. The mid-wife had checked Mary over at just gone four this afternoon and they’d gone to the hospital immediately afterward and it was now seven-thirty. Just what the hell is an eptopic heart-beat anyway? Frank leaned back in the uncomfortable chair trying to stop his back’s dull ache. Lisa was stretched across him; dozy but not asleep. He smiled at Mary who gave a little sigh and went back to staring at the heart-beat monitor.

“Mrs Stanford?” a disembodied voice called from behind the curtain.

Mary cleared her throat a little as her words got stuck then replied “yes?”

The consultant they’d seen briefly earlier came around the curtain, she was an Asian lady (from Singapore) and although Mary and Frank had no problem with that they found it difficult to understand her.

“Ah Mrs Stanford” she said and started unplugging the machine and taking away the various sensors which had been arrayed over Mary’s stomach. “We are pleased that you have nothing wrong with the baby, as far as we can see she is functioning as expected. Regular beats… no problem there at all.”


The couple thanked the consultant and nurses and got ready to leave; pulling on their coats. Lisa was woken from her slumbers and started to moan about wearing hers but was soon hushed by her mother. They walked from the ward together.

They were on the second floor and decided to take the lift, they felt drained but happy, the emotion of the day catching up with them. From the mid-wife’s first troubled “Oh, now that’s not right….” To the consultant’s final words “Take care, your baby is fine.” It had been demanding few hours.

“How about McDonalds then?” said Frank as they stepped into the lift.

“Yay!” shouted Lisa.

“Yes, it is getting on a bit” said Mary. The lift doors slowly shut. Not paying much attention Frank hadn’t realised that they’d actually dropped a single floor when the doors opened again. Thinking that they hadn’t moved he pressed the ground floor button again saying “Hmm, the doors on these things are too sensitive sometimes”

The lift continued to the bottom.

“Okay, off we go” said Frank his left hand placed lightly on his daughters’ back his right gently holding his wife’s hand. As they stepped out, the doors to the stairs banged open. A man in jogging trousers and top stared at them manically. Then he straightened a little and started to walk past them.

“Sorry” he said, mumbling and almost tripping into the external door. He apologised some more and Frank started to get quite wary of him. His apologising reminded him of a drunk in a pub who’d just accidentally bumped you on the way to the toilets, slightly incoherent and overly apologetic. Frank mumbled “That’s alright mate” and stepped in front of his wife and child; leading the way. The man held the door fro Frank but didn’t look at him, he seemed to be avoiding his gaze. He apologised again.

Uneasy but not scared Frank took the door and stood between the man (who had stumbled outside and was now leaning against the tall wall next to the entrance of the Women’s hospital) and Lisa and Mary. As they walked on, Frank had to pass quite close to the man who whispered suddenly “She lost the baby”. Frank felt a pang, and looked at the man whose head was bowed, staring at his shoes. They walked on.

Frank thought he heard a sob as they moved away and rounded a corner.

“Did you see that?” said Mary in a rushed whisper. “He just collapsed and started sobbing!” Frank hadn’t seen because he was trying to get away from this strange, seemingly drunk man. Frank told Mary what the man had whispered. As they kept walking, back to the car, their jubilant mood dented somewhat, they pieced together odds and ends.

“Maybe that’s why we stopped on the first floor” said Frank.

“He must have pressed the button….” Said Mary.

“Seen – or heard - we were there and decided to nip down the stairs instead.”

“I didn’t see him”

“But then that would explain why he felt he should apologise.”

“So he wasn’t drunk then?”

“I don’t think so, he must have been overcome with grief!”

“I wonder how far along she was?”

“Puts it all into perspective doesn’t it?”

They walked on in silent introspection.

“Can I have a toy?” They’d reached the car.

“Hmmmm?” Frank looked down at his daughter.

“Can I have a toy at McDonalds?”

“Of course you can” he bent down and scooped her up in his arms “You can have anything you want!” he said wiping the beginnings of a tear from his eye.

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Cheers johnjwaters. Umm, I'm not sure you're supposed to start disliking it before the resolution. Kinda means I've done something wrong! :o

I've read yours, and the old bloke with his inbred racism (that he'd probably never be able to realise for what it is) reminded me of my grandad. I'm glad it was only a short story though, cos it looked like it was going to break into a bit of OAP porn, judging by the racey ending! A good little read.

Read yours too Dan. I've been on both sides of that story, so I could feel for both of the male characters. Well written.

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I’m speeding now.

There is something about the combination of a ridiculous opinion and speed that just increases my desire to get my point across and shout louder. Hands clenched around the steering wheel, foot pressing harder onto the accelerator, spit flying out of my mouth.

“You always do this! You always fucking do this! I wish we could record these fucking matches so you could hear yourself! One fucking minute it’s one thing, the next it’s the opposite!”

“Oh shut up Carl, you’re always saying that and it’s bullshit. You just don’t listen. You treat me like a piece of shit. Why do you want to argue with me?”

I slam my hands against the wheel.

“Fuck off! No one wants to argue with anyone; it just happens when people act fucking stupid!”

“Oh, so I’m stupid now? Well, that’s just fucking charming. I’m getting out of the car. Stop here, now.”

“Now that is fucking stupid.”


Fate, God or pure misfortune decides that at this moment I mistake Clare’s genuine cry to press on the brake for part of the argument. A Land Rover travelling at a similar speed exits a junction whilst we fly towards it. The briefest glance at her face suggests I’ve misconstrued the situation and I turn back to the road to see our vehicle hurtling towards another.

A moment passes as my brain assesses the circumstances that threaten it’s existence.

I press onto the brake with all my force and instinctively turn the wheel.

I’m far too late.

The front left of our car collides into the rear door of the Land Rover, sending us both spinning in a shower of glass. Claire screams as we proceed towards the side wall of a department store, other cars careering across the road in an attempt to avoid us.

A body sails over our bonnet, rolling with sickening thud across the roof.

The wall and our car collide as myself and Claire are propelled towards the dashboard.

I don’t remember what happens next.


“Mr Moore, I feel inclined to ask you again if you are completely comfortable with what you have asked me to do and that your are convinced this is the way you wish to go. You may be experiencing post traumatic stress disorder and I feel compelled ethically to ensure that this decision is one you make with a sound mind.”

Against my will, I smile. It’s hilarious to imagine a man that has spent years at medical school and now spends his time using his intelligence and skill to make rich breasts bigger possessing any level of ethics.

It hurts when I smile now, so it’s fortunate that I rarely feel inclined to do so. The quite frankly pitiful reconstruction of my face has resulted in every facial expression finishing with a grimace. I never considered myself as vain before the accident, but it only takes one person to recoil in horror, or one child to point whilst a mother embarrassingly tries to distract them, for you to realise just how important looks are.

I look back on all the time I must have spent doing my hair in the morning as a glorious luxury. Time spent preening when I could easily be do something worthwhile. I wasn’t ugly, and my hairstyle wasn’t exactly going to make me Premier League. But I did it none the less. These days I couldn’t give a fuck about it. I haven’t cut it in months and it reaches my shoulders in a mess of tangles.

But my face. That I do care about.

I have great plans for my face.

“Dr Wilson, I have sold everything I own to get this surgery done. Even if I wasn’t in sound mind, which I am, I have nothing left to go back to. But I respect your bout of conscience and assure you that nobody will hold you responsible. This is my decision.”

A pause.

“Now, are you going to do it or will I have to go elsewhere?”


My heart is beating a mile a minute. I can barely get the key in the door. I steady myself and finally manage to unlock it, before entering hurriedly and slamming it behind me. I lean against the back, look at the ceiling and smile. It’s an event I’ve seen many times in film and T.V but have never felt the need to do so in reality.

This is real excitement.

Getting back to my new, tiny and frankly horrible flat has been quite an adventure. I wore a beanie and scarf to try and retain the suspense, but I still found my gaze drawn to my reflection in shop windows and the glass on the back of the tube trains and the puddles in the street and even the eyes of a stranger looking straight at me. But I’ve done it.

I’ve got home without seeing.

This is real excitement.

I sit on the edge of my bed and look directly at the mirror. First, I take of the hat and place it gently beside me. I take a long look at my new forehead.

It’s beautiful.

I stare deep into my new eyes. My brilliant blue eyes.

They’re beautiful.

I stop for a moment. Drinking every last inch of my reflection.

I slowly unwrap my scarf and place it gently beside me.

My first reaction is shock. I gasp and bring my hand up to her mouth. I laugh and her mouth laughs back.; her lips as tempting as the day I met her. I press my hand against hers and bring my face in closer, kissing her gently on our lips.

I pull away and see a solitary tear roll down our cheek.

“I’m sorry Claire.”

We forgive me.

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I rewrote the whole thing, not only to get it to fit but also to provide more emphasis on the story proper. The original (and second) draft had too much character development and it detracted from the main plot. This version, while keeping the original plot, provides a much tighter, more focussed story. I'll post the original at the end of the month, so byou can see the contrast for yourselves, should you wish.

If there's a book of stories of the modern world in the same way there are volumes of tales of the ancient one, then this story would be there, written on its pages. Countless cultures have their own version of it, for it is a common story, and one that happens more often than the reader might expect. Up a mountain, in a car, in a boat weaving between stands of reeds under the ageless stare of a crocodile, it happens. The maiden delivers her child into the world and she screams as she does it, clutching her fists in such tight balls it's as though her fingernails would pierce through her palms and come up through the backs of her hands like so many sown teeth. Once she is done screaming then it's her newborn's turn, lungs aflame with oxygen for the very first time, crying a greeting to the new world.

It happens in elevators. And sometimes the other thing happens, the thing mothers-to-be never talk about for fear an ill wind will come and blow their unborn child to dust. The thing that comes with a pain in the abdomen and blood, and a dark, sly grin.


The elevator doors hushed shut and took the rowdy sound of the department store with them. It was Saturday and the store was filled with women trying on cut-price clothes, teenaged girls skulking around the makeup stands in the hope of free samples, men standing by elegant displays of expensive watches and Lucite suitcases, and more, much much more. It was as though every living soul in Plymouth had chosen this weekend to cram themselves into Debenhams, perhaps in an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records. With the doors closed Javid was pleased with the silence and the respite it provided from the outside world. He heard only his steady, settled breathing and the hum of the elevator mechanism, and that was good enough for him.

He'd pressed the button for the second floor, lighting the ring of plastic around it as he did. Second floor - that was the cafeteria, children's clothes, and toys and games. It was the toys that interested him the most, seeing as it was his nephew's birthday next week and he wanted to find something for him. Something not too flashy, but not too dull. He wanted something that would be memorable, something that would mark him out in his nephew's mind as 'a really cool uncle'. Maybe an action figure of some sort. A Transformer.

The car moved past the first floor. A display that looked like it had been reconstituted from an antique digital watch - the kind of watch that told the time in red LEDs that flashed when you pressed a stud at the watch's side - hung above the closed doors. It had changed from a digital representation of the letter G to one that said '1F'. The car hadn't stopped at the floor, hadn't even slowed down as far as the man could tell. Ground to second floor in one fell swoop. That suited him down to the ground.

As he anticipated the doors opening onto the second floor, the smooth hum of the lift gave way to a jarring, crunching sound. The car rolled to an abrupt stop. As it did, Javid felt his stomach turn over, and he held onto the sides of the lift in case the car had any other tricks up its sleeve.

Holding onto the bar that ran around the back of the elevator, his back pressed up against the mirrored rear wall, Javid looked up at the red display. '1F', it said.

He turned his glance to the panel of buttons that ran alongside the car doors. As well as the buttons indicating the store's floors there were four other buttons, hidden at the bottom of the panel. One had a pictagram indicating the doors opening. One had a pictogram indicating them shut. One was an emergency stop button, and the remaining button had a picture of a bell next to it - an alarm. He waited for a few seconds to see if the lift would move, and when it didn't he strode over to the brass panel and pressed the alarm button. From somewhere outside the lift car came the sound of a bell ringing, fast and high and trilling.

He waited to see what would happen next.

Instead of help arriving heroically through a hatch in the elevator ceiling, a cold draught swept in across the floor, curling around his legs and chilling his ankles. Slowly but eagerly the chill spread up through his body, pricking his hackles and studding beads of sweat out on his brow. All of a sudden Javid didn't feel so well.

Then came the screaming. It came in a sudden burst that ricocheted around the lift car, stinging his ears and ringing in them like gong-tone. The sound was earnest, full of pain, and somehow strained. She's in labour, Javid thought, not knowing who the poor woman was but feeling her pain all the same.

For a moment there was a hushed, indrawn silence. Then Javid hears sobbing between floors, and somehow it's even worse than the screaming. When he sees it, in the mirrored back of the lift, he feels a violent shunt in the pit of his stomach that threatens to rise up and pour his lunch over hius shoes. It's a bloody purple thing that lays lifeless on the floor.

It doesn't move. It doesn't cry.

And then the lift's moving, the doors are open and he's delivered to his floor. Toys and games in abundance, here. Toys for children of all ages.

But Javid, who'd never believed in ghosts, fights for air and fails. He collapses in a dead faint, and it's some minutes before somebody notices him lying across the elevator floor with the lift doors closing, bouncing off his head, closing again.

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I thought about this in the garden smoking just now and wrote it when I came inside.

Two people are in an elevator

A man and a woman

On an impulse, the man speaks to her

They share a scene

Dialogue and a connection is made

When he arrives at his floor, he exits and never sees her again

53 years later

Lying in a hospital bed looking at his wife

He died regretting everything.

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Red River

I wus a simple man, a country man, a wanderin man with no place in my own head to say rightfully where I wus standin in this world. I started off in Texas, some small place called Argyle, had good times there. Kids make the most of what life gives them as a start, as some kinda instinct, I wus much the same. A little later when I was old enough to get my own wheels I followed the ole river right outta my lil tincan town up to the grey state of Oklahoma. Din't like too much of that. Wus a kinda a'mosphere that'd turn a man cold if he wun't from those parts. Wus kinda windless. Kinda stale. Not liking of the country I was plungin myself in deeper I headed down into Mexico; find some dreams maybe. Places there wus a rougher kind than I'd ever had a taste for and as such I didn't really know whether to say I loved it or what, at least for those firs few years. Wus some place where something wus always happenin in the hearts and minds of people around you, and a guy can get kinda lonely like that. Agin I found myself watchin the world as it blew right on aroun me, I got to wishin that wind'd pick me up sometime. Turns out it never did and I left the place on my own prerogative.

Some time passed and I found myself becomin a kind of ghost lookin to find his ole flesh in the belly of the damned, if you'll excuse the idea. I wusn't even a man at that time, God save me. 27 years old ain't no age to be called such a thing. If I'd had my head I have on me now back then perhaps I'd see it as a kinda insult at least. But I guess we could all say that at some point. I wus too tired to be angry at the world right then. That changed.

I found myself a place, to the side of Louisiana, big enough, down on the banks of the Red River. I always liked the water. So pretty in the mornin and you always get to wonderin where it could be goin to and what its gonna see on its way. More than me, that's for sure. I used to sit there throwin stones, causin a splash, but after a while I got this itchin feelin that I wus disruptin, disturbin the peace, and ever since I never threw another stone into water in all my entire life. I liked my home though it wus not unlike a hole. Wus quiet, as it always is out there. Those young hills moved at a different pace to the rest of the world, kinda slow if you ask me. Kinda dangrous feelin. But it was home somehow and I made the most of it same as I woulda done when I wus a kid. Comes from bein raised well that does.

I'm pretty sure it was luck more than anythin that I din't go crazy out there all on my own, though some dark element of it has clung to me throughout these years after. So i like to think I'm understandin of those things that turn people bad, that make them thoughtless an unhappy at times. These days it's all about havin. Buyin some shinin thing to be included, wearing somethin familiar to fit in. I'm not sure what kinda hope I'd give to a man born into that. I imagine some small amount of people spend their entire lives never lookin up at God, not even once, not even lookin to find their own soul, and I can not ever quite fathom it. Is a sign of getting old, not understandin the world as it is today. I don't pretend otherwise. I believe life to be a mostly sad thing that lies easier unquestioned. I could be wrong but here I still am.

By now you may be a wonderin how it is I still sit here today to tell you all this, how is it I never drowned myself in that big ole river and drifted some way to the answer of a findin where exactly all that water did go in the end. The answer is a simple one, too simple for your likin most probably. I met a woman, same as always.

She were a strange thing, from some other place with little sun and cold temp'rature. Overseas and no business of mine to know more than that. She wud glow in the mornin sunlight she wus so pale. A pretty kinda pale by all accounts. And I wus proud o her diff'rence. She din't talk like other girls or even other people and though some folk found her peculiar my heart set to gettin her from the moment it did beat before her. And I did, I got her. That's somethin to always be proud of I think. The day I did that. The day that high wind finally swept me up some and gave me that lift I wus so needin to breathe. It wusn't no short thing either, we were with each other many years. She got pregnant in her sixth year beside the Red River and come the birth the doctor found her to be a bleedin. Bleeding too much. So much blood there wunt no hope for either of them survivin he said. Was a sea of blood if I'm bein honest, a picture of Hell itself. Took two months for me to cry.

I coulda figured that the game I most liked playin in life would be the one no-one else would be playin, the one no-one else much wanted to play. Right from the beginnin I was a watchful kid. But that's a long time ago now and really I'm just rememberin ideas of what it was like back then. Those days are long gone, even from my own head. Kinda shame. They say when you die the Lord puts your whole life before your eyes, so maybe I'll get to see it one more time.

I'm just about ready for that.

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Danster, didn't get into this one too much, and I'm afraid I'm reading quick so I didn't understand what actually happened there at the end, why was he crying?

jolly - I love the crushing suddeness of "I'm far too late" and unfortauantely recognise the car argument situation. And it's a beautiful, slanted and fantastic twist, so much so I'm not sure I want to read the rest because I don't think they'll be as good! But I will. top marks!

but lo! camp fire burnings "dark sly grin" is already whetting my whistle. But I think ultimately would have been better if she'd actually been in the lift with him, I likes my menace REAL baby! good though.

narcicuss, I dunno, couldn't get on with the voice, didn't find it consistent...or something.

Bation "From boardrooms to water-boarding: a nice change of pace." hahah top line! I enjoyed it, but it didn't hang together and felt like it would have been better as something much larger.

So thus far jolly is getting my vote.

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No particular reason I think. Guess it does make it easier to tell when it starts and finishes if you add in a bit of chat either side, but I've only be writing in here since September and sheep that I am, simply copied everyone else.

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There are memories and there dreams and sometimes I find it hard to tell the difference. I remember the man who lifts me onto his shoulders. I dream of shooting him three times in the stomach to stop him from butchering me. Sometimes I’m not sure which is the dream but either way, I loved my father very much. And he loved me.

I remember wondering the ruined city from when the sun rose till it set only finding rescue as the sun rose once more. I remember being aimless, cold, alone, bloodied. But I dream of the day before that, and in my dream there were more than two survivors of the Birmingham event. There were many, dazed, not quite right and they had one thing in common. They were chasing me.

You all know the official story. An estimated 1.2 million people lived and worked in the city of Birmingham on November 4th 2013. On November 7th, as rescue workers were allowed into the ruins it had a population of just two. Two from over one million. Myself, known to the media as Clair, eight at the time, a little girl from Hodge Hill and a student aged twenty-one whom I’ve never met. Our survival became infamous the world over, but identities kept a secret. I went to live with my grandparents in Manchester, my status as a Birmingham survivor kept secret, not even my best friend knows.

Sometimes government men come asking about the event, if there’s anything new I can remember. The investigation is still ongoing. No one knows who did it, what caused it or how it happened. An event destroyed the city and brought buildings to a ruin. Killed all those people. Elements foreign to modern scientific knowledge found imbedded into every piece of debris, every corpse, every sample of liquids. Except for me, and the other. None were found on us.

I remember being the sole survivor, wondering the wreckage not understanding what happened. I tell them this. It fits with the official story. But my dreams tell of the day before, a day where more had survived the initial blast. Lots more, hundreds maybe. This I keep to myself.

I did dream being the only one unscathed. I was not wounded or covered in the strange red and white ash. I was not hurt and could remember what had just happened, what destroyed the city, but I don’t know it now.

In the dream the other survivors were trying to kill me. They didn’t know why, only that I needed to die. They weren’t zombies. I’ve seen zombie films and this wasn’t it. They weren’t slow and stupid or fast and deadly. They were people with their own thoughts and identities. They still had their names but were not like they once were. They were marked with the ash and for some reason, fuelled with the need to kill me, they needed to as opposed to wanted to. There were a few at first and I ran, but then more. I was scared, confused but had never ran with such speed in my life, dodging their every grab.

It was my brother who almost got me. A survivor, marked like the others, tricked me into stop running, into trusting him and to stop crying. He wanted to know why I was still normal, why I hadn’t changed and why my eyes were still blue. I had no answers for him and so, like the others, tried to kill me, and would have done were it not for my dad.

Charging through the others like an American quarterback was the man who loved lifting me onto his shoulders, showing me the world. He killed them, left right and centre to get to me. Like the others he knew where to find me but he had a different agenda than most, his father instincts over riding the new ones. Without hesitation or thought he killed his oldest son, the one about to put a knife through my heart, to protect me. He ignored the pain, the scrapes and the cuts, picked me up and got me out of there.

Others followed but my father stood in their way. We fought at first, ran to safety and then fought some more. For a country that outlawed side arms, Birmingham was never a hard place to find a gun, even a wreckage of the once great city. We found some, and my dad passed me one, a handgun; and showed me how to use it.

In the dream the two of us held out, a man and his eight year old daughter, gunning down those that would approach us, those who were infected. My dad didn’t know what they, what he was, any more than I did. He tried to explain it; how he was still himself but priorities were changed, and that every thought was geared towards killing me. He told me that if his will falters, I must use the gun on him, like he taught me. He said he loved me very much and not even his new but basic of instincts, as basic as breathing and living, would stop that love.

We fought side by side all day and all night. Guns weren’t our only tools of defence and kept our wits about as we outsmarted them more than just shot them, lay traps to where my dad, strong, used his brute strength to knock them down. In a strange way he imagined every kill he made was his daughter, pretending to kill me as he saved me and fed the instinct.

It came the time where the survivor numbers had thinned and the people stopped coming. My father knew he could not resist the urge to kill much longer and told me once more how much he loved me. No gun, no bomb, no act of god or the devil could tarnish or dent that love. No matter what happened he would always be there with me, protecting me.

And then he turned, and tried to strangle me, squeeze the life out of me. I cried, but done what I’d had been taught and in the dream I pulled the trigger, and every time, the bang of the gun would open my eyes, and I would wake.

Of course, it was only a dream. My father was the man who lifts me onto his shoulders, and died with everyone else. There were only two survivors from the event that destroyed Birmingham. Wasn’t there?

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He had been her first, and hopefully her last. It had been a hectic day, and Anne knew that she had not yet had time to collect her thoughts. Still, she was becoming increasingly doubtful that she had taken the right course of action, and regret was gnawing at her, forcing her to reconsider every step. She had seduced him easily enough, that had never been the problem. After their entirely incidental meeting two years ago she had thought him a fool, but as time had passed she had become increasingly enamoured by his charm and undiminished passion. For the first time she had allowed herself to become vulnerable. Under different circumstances she might have loved him, but that had never been an option.

Her mind pondered over these thoughts for a while, as she gazed out in to the dark expanse of forest around her. A sharp wind was clawing at her face and whipping her hair around her. Desperately, she attempted to relight her half-smoked cigarette, but the wind was unforgiving, and she threw her lighter into the forest in frustration. As the lighter landed with a small thud she heard something small scatter into the undergrowth, making a sharp, whining noise that filled her with dread.

"It's not here" came a muffled call from behind her. Anne turned around and brushed through a seemingly impenetrable row of bushes. Hidden behind was a small clearing, surrounded by high and untidy thickets. At the far side was a small break in the foliage that looked out over the peaks of the forest as it descended down the steep hill below them. A deep hole had been dug in the very centre of the clearing, interrupting it's unusual serenity. Inside stood a short, stocky, disgruntled looking woman holding a shovel.

"Are you gonna' gimme a 'and or what?"

"Fuck off Tess, if you hadn't cut up the body we would have only had to dig one hole."

"If yous gonna' bury a body, yous gotta' bury it right."

"Nobody would have found him here, I'm surprised we managed to find it in the dark, and we actually came looking for it."

Tess put her hands on her hips and cocked her head. "Look, yous the one who says I didn't need ta' kill him, and then you goes and does it yourself, like a fuckin' amateur, stabbing him in the back on a fuckin' carpet. 'Scuse me if I don't wanna be just a little on the safe side."

Anne jumped back in to the hole, picked up the other shovel lying on the ground and began to dig.

The situation had slipped from her control far too quickly. She had been careless, and he had known too much, so decisive action had to be taken. Whatever feelings she thought she had for him had been overthrown by greed and desperation. By all definitions, he had been a bad man. The world would not miss him. But then, Anne knew she couldn't say much more for herself. The reality of the situation hit her again, and she dug her shovel into the ground, resting her arms on the handles. She looked around her, basking in the quiet. She had only been here once, and he had led her their blindfolded. She couldn't believe that she hadn't thought of it sooner. The silence around her was interrupted by the sound of a shovel hitting wood. They both looked down and scrambled to remove the dirt from around the source of the sound.

Carefully Anne removed the dirt surrounding the small wooden chest. She picked it up out of the dirt and placed it on the edge of the hole and looked at it. There it was, after all this time, sat in front of her.

“Open it then.”

Tess’ voice echoed around the clearing, throwing Anne from train of thought. She took a deep breath and reached forward, carefully caressing the wood with her fingers. She opened it and picked up the small velvet pouch inside. Trembling, she tipped the pouch over and a handful of diamonds cascaded into her open palm. Taking one between her thumb and finger she raised it up and gazed at it in wonder as it glinted in the moonlight.

"Sorry babe".

Her own words echoed in her ears. The blade had already pierced her spine, and she fell to her knees as Tess let go of her shoulder. She impulsively stretched her hands back to relieve the pain, but it was overwhelming, choking her as she attempted to scream and gasp at the same time. She fell forward and was still.

Sighing, Tess picked up a shovel, and slowly began applying soil.

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They recognise each other immediately. At least they think they do.

He greets her with the kind of embrace usually reserved for a reunion, which in many ways this feels like. A few nervous minutes pass as they eye each other up, awkwardly trying to label and categorise the person opposite.

A few jokes about the current predicament serve as mere pleasantries before confirming what the other has already concluded. They do know each other. They just don’t know where from. They share their disbelief at finding each other so familiar and yet so alien. The nature of probability and coincidence isn’t enough - they must have met previously, or at very least made eye contact.

This distraction from the current situation is most welcome. Thoroughly convinced by each other, she goes first.

She talks of her fast track career in alignment strategy, recalling all the way back to her first days as a graduate trainee. He listens to her every promotion, every contact, every training seminar – yet is unable to find a common ground where they once may have met. His current career is self-explanatory, like a good logic puzzle, yet his previous career is more varied, providing only numerous dead ends to discover.

They move on to friends and family, before branching out into the small matter of every single person they have ever met. She describes growing up, born in the Midlands before studying in the North East. Her childhood was Saturday mornings spent browsing in the newsagents, Christmas lights in darkened living rooms. He was born in the West Country, and lived at home for many years before finally settling in Stockholm. His childhood is full of LEDs on oversized toys, the overwriting of copy protection on C90 tapes.

These fragments lead to many things, but ultimately, they lead to nothing.

He sits down, offering her a piece of her favourite chewing gum, the air becoming hotter with every passing moment. They don’t know how long they have, so they swap phone numbers, followed by lucky numbers and then PIN numbers, and then any other numbers of any other significance before moving on to the random, anything that might bring together the two branching webs of possibility. They don’t even take turns, merely relaying the first thought or urge that occurs - he struggles to iron twisted pair jeans, she categorises everything by shape, he doesn’t like jokes about rape, she is terrible at mimicking accents, he thinks handclaps make a good song better, she has no real life heroes. And so on.

Jokingly he checks the usual twists – that this might be the afterlife, that he could be a ghost, that she could be a ghost, that she is a physical manifestation of his guilty conscience, his split personality, his feminine side. She laughs and pinches his arm, as though such fanciful ideas really did need disproving.

Finally the go deeper and unburden – fundamental beliefs, deepest fears, dirtiest secrets. At one point she cries, at another point he trembles. Yet inwards they delve, slowly unwrapping layer upon layer until nothing is left. Both open, hung and drawn for the other to examine until they have nothing more to give, every possibility as exhausted as they are. Admitting defeat, their focus switches to the current situation. He reaches into the wall and does what he could have done twelve hours ago. The ground shakes with a low rumble as they descend. She claps - it was a five-minute reset after all.

The conference lobby has the blessing of fresh air, soiled by the presence of a small waiting crowd. They restrainedly handshake, a gesture more suited to the surroundings, before she leaves with the crowd, back to the career he knows so much about. He watches as she bounces from one random possibility to the next, all the time barely noticing, before she leaves his sight for good.

Walking back across the car park he feels that emptiness best described by metaphor, a feeling that wants him back, trapped with an almost stranger. Inevitably he takes out his mobile and sends her a text, using her number from memory. He knows what her answer will be, and he knows she’ll take time to answer.

He places the toolkit in his van, and takes his paperwork from the dashboard, wondering how to account for the eleven hours and fifty-five minutes.


His line manager enters the same lift some forty minutes later, armed with a company complaint assessment form. He can hardly miss the graffiti reported by the centre – it’s everywhere. Two pencil-drawn tree structures branch from the walls adjacent to the door, an ever-growing spread of names, numbers, places, sound bites – covering the entire lift, all the way to the ceiling, and across onto the back wall.

As the paths increase in number, the details become harder to identify, difficult to conceptualise. Yet the real complexity is how the paths, despite their obvious purpose and direction, never quite meet, extremities occasionally passing each other like two holding hands that never quite touch.

On the left hand wall he locates the root, the starting point from which everything else forms. Charlotte, it says in small tidy writing. He walks over to the opposite wall, finds the root of the second tree, and rubs out the name with his sleeve.

He will fire him in the morning.


Charlotte reads the text some fifteen minutes earlier.

A part of her is hesitant, a part of her that’s tired of turning off the radio at certain songs, a part of her that’s laid herself bare too many times. Yet as she reads will you marry me on the screen, she rejoices, and it’s the other part of her, the part of her that thought he’d never ask.

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Could have voted for any out of Campfire, Argh, Concrete Donkey or Hombre this month, but after a futher read this morning I'm going to have to go with Hombre. Big girl that I am, I actually got a bit of a flutter in my tummy at the end. :(

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Well, I'm going with Jolly.

Concrete Donkey's inspiration was too easy to spot.

mankay Mans was brutal and good, but didn't have the same nice turns of phrase that Jolly had.

Hombre homson's was good too, though again, speed reading and found it hard to piece together.

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My vote was going to johnjwaters all along, until Hombre happened along at the last minute and stole it.

Hombre for me.

And, as promised - or perhaps threatened - for anyone who's interested, here's the original, very different draft of my entry:

Clothes racks, Javid decided, were a complete waste of time. Yet he was still compelled to search through these, those, and the ones next to them. A heap of clothes racks. A stable full of them – or would a stable be a more appropriate collective noun for a group of clothes horses? Javid supposed a clothes rack was as good as a clothes horse, at least for the time being. Besides, there was a mannequin dressed in warm winter woollenwear looking down at him with rather more of a sneer than he cared to see.

“What yuh lookin’ at?” he sneered back, forcing the words out sidemouth like little clouds of ill-tempered smoke.

The mannequin didn’t reply, but went on sneering. Javid moved onto the next rack of clothes to avoid its glare.

This didn’t happen at Big ‘n’ Tall. At Big ‘n’ Tall they had all their trousers, jumpers, shirts and shoes (if they sold shoes, which Javid wasn’t entirely sure about at this moment in time) laid out on shelves for the discerning customer to wade through. The smallest items of clothing would be on the top of the pile, while the largest items, the items Javid would want to see and buy, would lurk at the bottom. It was a much more efficient system than they had in Debenhams, Javid fancied. All the clothes here were mixed up, big sizes wrapped around smalls, smalls buried beneath bigs, and no matter how hard he looked the big sizes just weren’t big enough. Just one look and he knew he’d feel constricted by a shirt with a too-small chest, or a pair of trousers with a too-narrow leg. He’d feel the constriction, he’d feel the pinch – he could practically feel it just looking through the clothes. No, this wasn’t the place for him. This wasn’t Big ‘n’ Tall.

But he was on holiday, and he didn’t really know what else to do. His case-worker, after weeks, if not months, of smiling suggestion Javid thought of as out-and-out nagging, had convinced him to come here, to Paignton, for a small holiday by the sea. He had a room at a bed and breakfast called ‘The Seafarer’s Rest’ and although it was rather cramped the food was good and hearty, and that suited him down to the ground. It being out of season to bed and breakfast, as well as the amusement arcades, cafeteria, and the town centre itself, were all rather quiet. This, too, suited Javid. In fact, up until now he’d rather been enjoying his holiday, and a part of him was dreading returning to his dusty, messy room at the top of his parents’ house, and with it, his non-paying job at the local Scope shop.

But now he was in Debenhams, and he was feeling vexed and suspicious. He had paranoid tendancies, his case worker Nicole had told him, but paranoid or not the shop just didn’t feel right for a clothes shop. The smell was a bad mixture of wools and nylons, tempered with faint wafting scents of coffee and sandwiches coming from the café that lay behind a heaped display of cookware. The floor was carpeted – clothes shop floors should be hard, not soft. They should creak. He wanted his creak, damn it!

But perhaps worst of all were the escalators in the centre of the ground floor. Javid had had a bad experience with an escalator when he was a child. His Wellington boot, still slicked and shining with rainfall from outside, had become caught up in the mechanism when he’d stood over the yellow line at the moving staircase’s edge. He’d done it carelessly, not noticing he’d done it at all until the escalator started devouring his boot, making it curl tighter and tighter around his little foot, making him scream and scream until some bright spark on the shop floor had run to the staircase and bashed the emergency stop button.

Which left two ways of reaching the first floor – and despite being set on edge by the ground floor, Javid had an inkling the first floor with its toys (or so the board by the escalators proclaimed) and games might suit him better – the stairs or the lift.

Javid didn’t get to twenty-five stone by taking the stairs. Adjusting his hat, he shuffled across the odd soft floor, pressed the button on the panel next to the elevator and waited for the car to arrive.


If there’s a book of stories of the modern world in the same way there are volumes of tales of the ancient one, then this story would be there, written on its pages. Countless cultures have their own version of it, for it is a common story, and one that happens more often than the reader might think. Up a mountain, in a taxi, in a boat weaving between beds of reeds under the watchful stare of a crocodile, it happens. The maiden delivers her child into the world and she screams as she does it, clutching her fists in such tight balls it’s as though her fingernails would pierce through her palms and come up through the backs of her hands like so many sown teeth. Once she is done screaming then it’s her newborn’s turn, lungs aflame with oxygen for the very first time, crying a greeting to the new world.

It happens in elevators. And sometimes the other thing happens, the thing mothers-to-be never talk about for fear an ill wind will come and blow their unborn child to dust. The thing that comes with a pain in the abdomen and blood, and a dark, sly grin.


Javid hears sobbing between floors, and somehow it’s even worse than the screaming. He sees it, in the mirrored back of the lift, a bloody purple thing that lays lifeless on the floor. Not a movement. Not a cry. And then the doors are open and he’s delivered to his floor. Toys and games in abundance, here. Toys for children of all ages.

But Javid, who’d never believed in ghosts, fights for air and fails. He collapses in a dead faint, and it’s some minutes before somebody notices him lying across the elevator floor with the lift doors closing, bouncing off his head, closing again.

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A little about mine. Yes, a bit of an odd one this month and suitable only because of the lift. Basically, it is based on a real life experience that happened to me and my wife at the beginning of the month. We'd been to the hospital after a mid-wife panicked and sent us down there for some proper monitoring. This is about the fourth time this has happened now and we're quite ambivalent about it; as expected there was nothing, seemingly, wrong. The appearance of the man was almost exactly as described. He did whisper to me those same words but I also witnessed his collapse into tears as we walked on. My wife and I pieced together what must have happened. We didn’t have McDonalds though… erk Burger King or nothing!

Oh and a note he’s brushing away a tear because he has brushed against a man (not unlike himself) who has just experienced losing a child; and so realises how important his own are to him.

X - Do all men ponder the day they'll need to go to the docs and ask for some "help"? ;)

Argh - In quotes, out of quotes? I don’t know what’s best! Anyway, funny story and good first entry, here’s hoping you play again.

Jolly - Twisted! I did wonder where it was going but that last scene with him all over himself… nasty! Almost my vote winner.

Campfire Burning - Love the image of the lift closing on his unconscious head. Excellent writing as always.

CrispinG - Touching, leaves you wondering. I like it.

Narcissus - Thought provoking, the second excellent first person story this month! Not sure how it tied into the word for the month though….

Bastion - And now we have sleaze-filled politicos! Smiled all the way through.

Concrete Donkey - Liked the idea, though father’s (or mother’s) love conquering all is not new, the idea of a massacre by an unknown source is a good twist. I couldn’t help but wonder why her dad was the only person to love someone so much that they could break the “spell” though.

MankeyMan - Didn’t see it coming actually, so well done there! Pretty tight writing and a nice (albeit brief) insight into people with their walls up.

HombreHompson - Marvellous, well-written and fun. The lift walls reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s famous troll in a freezer bit! That’s a good thing. It also reminded me of how me and my misses met (not in a stuck lift) but having lived in the same area, had mutual acquaintances, knowing the same people all our lives we were quite astonished that we’d never encountered each other before. ^_^

Jolly, Campfire and Hombre could all have my vote this month but as there is only one per poster… I’ll go for Hombre.



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This might be of interest to the denizens of Writer's Corner: a new game show called Murder Most Famous. It takes six celebrities and puts them through a five day writing course with crime author Minette Walters, to see which of them has the talent to write their own novel. The first episode was on today; it's pretty bad, but there are likely to be a few writing tips along the way.

If anyone's interested, it's on BBC2 at 1330 each day this week.

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