A few months ago the Dundee Rep ran a short story competition, you can find the details here. Any-who long story short about entering a short story competition, I sadly did’t win. Since I didn’t win I figured I might as well post it on here. Enjoy.




Those who deserve our thoughts are never those who have them. I have a loving wife and four grown children, but those I love are never those I give my thoughts. My mind wonders now, more than it use to and more than I’d like. A hazy summer day filled with blinding light is how I remember her. Illusions tinged with yellow and a gentle breeze from an open window form the world in which I live. As my wife takes my hand I watch her leave with the older boys, the boys her own age, older than I was then and younger than I am now. Moments before we were closer, encompassing each other, now only a hand cups mine, biding. She wants to leave and be with me at the end but the other boys are waiting, cheering at the other side of the curtain as a shard of light breaks through the dust. Blinding. I focus on it as it moves back and forth from darkness, trying to find something tangible in the motion to hold. It was their idea and she leads me to my room. Draping hair sweeps against my face as swelling eyes begin to weaken. “It’s almost time” and all three of us know it. A switch is flipped and it’s done, a last slow breath escapes. I am calm for the first time and the last time in my life. Her grip on my hand tightens as she rolls off to embrace. A new step has been taken, a different world awaits. She lays and sits beside me, breathing heavy as tears start to fall. I want to hold her then, the way she holds me now. She starts to slip away and her grip never fails. “You can let go now if you want?” they tell me. I want to hold on, but I don’t know how. A yellow summer dress falls around her shoulders. I want to force her to stay, but I don’t know how. She’s too delicate. I don’t know how to act yet. I follow her sheepishly past the hall and to the door as she leaves. I notice the flowers by me on the bed. I don’t remember who brought them, no doubt a comfort in another wise sterile room. I hold one out for her to take. She smiles and walks away, the other boys are waiting. Her hand breaks free and the light is blinding. She’s walking away with the other boys; they’re older than I was then and younger than I am now. I can barely look and the light is blinding. She’s walking away with the other boys and my wife kisses me for the last time. I can barely see and the light is blinding. I can barely see and the light is blinding.




To See the World

They say the World is small but I have never found this to be the case, for when I was a child I climbed a tree to see it. It hung over our back yard, in the winter its branches cast shadows like capillaries along the surface of the Earth. Full bodied, green leaves and pink flowers would blossom every summer. Grooves etch its bark, like fingertips soaked in a long bath. Green moss crept from the trunk, like a slow marching army, threatening one day to conquer all. From the peak you could see as far my as childhood stretched; all the way to the other boundaries of my neighborhood. If you looked from here you could see in-between the other houses and make out the tip of our driveway. It was from there that I was able to watch the van as it drove along our street before stopping in our drive. Mum already had the car packed from the night before and had it parked on the curb. It was mostly furniture that was left to be moved and a few other pieces that Mum had said would be too big for the new place.  From the far left branch that stretched over the fence you could see into Tommy Morgan’s yard. My Mum never liked me hanging out with him because of rumors she had heard from other people in the neighborhood, but I never thought he was that bad, to me he was always just stupid Tommy Morgan, the kid who tried to jump dustbins on his bike and showed me pictures from his brother’s dirty magazines.

Dad told me once that the tree was haunted and because of this it had always fascinated me, part out of fear and part out of wonder. He said that a hundred years ago before our house was built a little boy had climbed it, but slipped and fell to his death. That now when other little boys climb it, he would push them off as easy as a gust of wind pushed dust. It’s strange at that age how we all just take what we are told to be truth, at the time it never once occurred to me that my father could be lying, that it is was just some sort of grownup joke or a way to keep me from playing in the tree in case I actually did fall and hurt myself. In a strange way this was probably the worst thing my dad could have told me, he had given the tree a sense of danger, given me the idea that there was something to prove by reaching its top. One Halloween when my cousins and Tommy came around we played a game where you turned off all the lights on the porch so the backyard was dark, you had to run up and touch the tree before the ghost got hold of you. In reality it was just a bunch of kids running back and forth from a tree but in our imagination the sense of peril was real, I remember being scared of the ghost but also scared that my cousins and Tommy would make fun of me if I didn’t do it. The game had become a rite of passage, a way to prove that you weren’t just a kid.

It was with Tommy that I first attempted to climb the tree; it was during the long summer months that you dream about all day while at school, but when they finally come you don’t have much to do, but sleep late and watch TV. Tommy came around to my house one of those mornings and told me that we were going to build a tree house. There was no doubt in his voice, just a steady confidence and the reassurance that he had it all worked out. He had even made a crude drawing that we were to use as a plan. He told me that he had a bunch of old wood left in his garage from when his parents got their new kitchen, and that his dad wouldn’t notice if we borrowed a few of his tools. The wood that Tommy was talking about was a cream coloured Formica, that was chipped around the edges and had holes where screws once were. We spent most of the morning throwing it over the fence from his garden to mine.  I was made to climb the tree first; Tommy said that because he was taller it would be easier for him to pass the wood up to me. That summer I wasn’t yet tall enough to reach the first branch, so Tommy had to give me a boost until I was able to wrap my arms around it. Tommy had let go of my feet and I could feel my arms slipping from around the branch, the weight of my body pulling me towards the ground. My legs instinctively kicked out searching for something to stand on, something that could hold my weight, but I was too far out from the trunk, my shoe could barely rub against it. During those moments I felt like I was drowning in a sea of air, desperately striking out for a ledge before the water pulled me under. It was then that I started shouting for Tommy to help me, for him to grab my legs again, instead he just started laughing. It was the shock of this that finally made me lose my grip, and sent me falling to the ground. I landed on my back and winded myself, it took me a couple of minutes to get my breath back and Tommy was still laughing by time that I had. He put his arm out to help me up, but instead of taking it I just pushed it away and walked towards my house. Tommy came after me and told me to stop being a little baby. Eyes fixed on the house I told myself that wasn’t the point, he was supposed to be my friend, but instead he just let me fall, I had hurt myself and all he could do was laugh. Like my father had lied about the ghost I was lying to myself, hindsight now tells me that it was my pride that was really hurt. Tommy’s laughing made me feel ashamed of my own short comings, like I was somehow a failure for not making it into the tree. Through a cocktail of laughter and words of you didn’t even fall that far, Tommy tried to get me to come back. Instead I shoved him out of the way causing him to trip over a bundle of the wood we had thrown over the fence that morning. One of the pieces was by my foot and I was able to pick it up before Tommy got back on his feet. I swung it, trying to hit him with it before he could hit me, but it broke over his arm as he blocked it. Thinking back I don’t know what I expected to happen, I am not even sure if I was thinking. This was the first fight I was ever in, if it even counts. The only real memory I have of what happened next, is being on the ground as Tommy ran away. I know I was crying and that my nose didn’t start bleeding until after I touched it. We never really spoke again after that, the last time I saw him was the day we moved out of the house. I was in the front seat with Mum while she let the removal van pull out of the drive. Tommy was watching from his bedroom window, staring at our car, when Mum started to drive off, he raised his hand to wave. I waved back, but to this day I don’t know if he saw it was me. I hope he did.




“You know none of this is real? It’s all just polystyrene.” These are the last words my father ever said to me. It’s the only clear memory I have of him that isn’t stolen from a photograph. It’s funny that isn’t it? How over the years memories lose their sharpness, their clarity. As though someone has pulled a veil over them, so that all you’re left with is a dull sense of a time and a place. The details blur but their meaning stays the same. Much of what I do remember during those weeks comes from my sister Katy, for years after she wouldn’t talk about it, every time I asked all she would ever say is that Dad was an asshole. It wasn’t until we were both in our twenties that she finally told me what had happened. I look back at those weeks with a different perspective now that I’m older; more of it makes sense to me. It was early December and there had already been a thick layer of snowfall. We were spending the holidays at my Grandparents cabin in New Hampshire, not far from Bean Pond. We usually only went up there for a couple of weeks each summer, but Mum had insisted on getting away for a while. I had always enjoyed the cabin during the summer, but in winter it had taken on an alien and hostile appearance. It was like the place I remembered from the summer had died. The trees that I had been so use to seeing full of life had disappeared; all that was left were damp and fragile branches that seemed almost black against the snow.

The cabin wasn’t big; it only had two bedrooms both of which opened from the main living area. Whenever we stayed there Katy and I had to share the smaller bedroom. At night it was hard to get to sleep, the wood burner kept the main room warm but at that time of year the bedrooms were still cold even under the covers. I found it hard to get proper sleep most nights. Outside stimuli would encroach upon my half conscious thoughts. My mind seemed perpetually stuck in the place before imagination ends and dreams begin. Rattling windows would occasionally bring me back to the room and to the familiar sound of Tracy Chapmen playing on Katy’s Walkman. Muffled voices from behind the wall would have discussions I couldn’t possibly understand at that age. Fragments stay with me even now, my mother asking, “Do you love her?” and my father saying “no.” In my half sleeping state the fear that hit me after hearing that resounding “no” was absolute. At that age it seemed natural to me that the only people you could love were the ones in your family. It would be several years before I realised he was talking about another women and not my sister. Even now I still feel a twang of guilt that my concern didn’t go to Katy, but to myself. That if he didn’t love my sister what then, did that mean for me? In the morning all that remained was the nagging sense that something wasn’t right. Whenever I was in the same room as our parents the silence would hang thick like warm breath on a bitter breeze, fogging whatever mood I was in. I know now that the silence was meant as a protection against their fighting but at the time it only created confusion for me. Making me doubt if what I had heard during the night was a cruel trick of slumber or a real conversation.

I spent most of the first week there in the clearing at the front of the cabin building snow forts and throwing snowballs into the forest during a make-believe war with the trees. It was one morning while I was doing this that Katy came running out of the cabin with the door slamming behind her, she headed straight along the lane towards the pond. Shortly after my parents came running out too. Mum was in the lead and carrying Katy’s coat. When dad started to follow she shouted at him, “For God sake I’ll go get her, you just stay with him.”

Dad spent the afternoon helping me to expand and reinforce the snow fort. I would start by making a snowball and rolling it along the ground until it got too heavy for me to push, then dad would take over until we both thought it was big enough to be lifted to the top of the fort. We would then pack snow around the latest ball to be added, pushing it into the gaps like cement surrounding a brick. Dad had had to lift me so I could reach the higher points in the wall. We made a good team, he would instinctively swoop me down like a plane coming into land whenever I needed more snow. More times than none we would miss the snow all together and would have to try the landing again, but this was part of the fun. It was starting to get dark by the time Katy and mum got back. Katy was in the lead and, like she did so much of the time back then, had her earphones on her head. Dad was in the middle of lifting a new snowball on to the fort when she waked past. Perhaps it was something that she was listening to, or just the sound of dad’s voice, but what happen next is one of the few times I have ever genuinely been afraid of my sister. Mid stride she turned, started screaming and ran towards my father. He was able to catch her and contain the violent swings of her arms as she tried to connect her fists with his chest. From what I remember he tried to calm her as best he could, but she struggled against every effort he made, kicking wildly in protest. It was the snow fort that took the physical burden of her out lash. With each kick a new hole or crack would appear in the wall, until eventually the whole side crumbled. I know now that it was my own anger and confusion that made me say what I said next. I didn’t understand why she was destroying something I had spent so much time building. I knew that I hadn’t done anything wrong. The fact that she could damage something I had built left me feeling hurt and betrayed. So with the intention of hurting her I said the one thing in my life I’ve never really been able to take back. “It’s not my fault he doesn’t love you.” I hated myself the moment I said it. It was only after the words had escaped my lips, and Dad was dragging her towards the cabin that I realised she was crying, and that it wasn’t so much her anger that had scared me, but her fear. Later that night in our bedroom I tried to talk to her, but I was drown out the sound of Fast Car. I don’t think anyone in the cabin got much sleep that night; most of it was spent with my Mum shouting at my Dad until the sun came up.

After a long period of silence I made my way out to the main living area. Dad was lying on the couch as I tried to sneak past. I was worried that he’s going to shout at me like I heard during the night. Instead he just looked up, smiled and told me not to wonder far, and that he’d come keep me company soon. It was several hours before he came out. It was lightly snowing and a slight breeze carried the flurry gently along the ground. He was wearing his yellow winter coat and had the cuffs of his navy ski gloves tucked inside the sleeves. His bomber hat was pulled tightly over his head with the earflaps unbuttoned; the fur lining clinging to the hairs of his beard like worn Velcro. I had spent most of the morning rebuilding my snow fort and remember thinking that he was coming to help, but instead he just knelt down beside me and ran the edge of his hand back and forth along the surface of the snow. Right then I could tell he was searching for the words to say, lost in his own thoughts trying to find a way to explain or even justify what it was he was about to do. In reality we were probably only sat there for about a minute, but in my memory it feels like an eternity. It wasn’t until the taxi reached the top of the drive that he finally raised his head to look at me. He had a slight smile on his face that was meant to be reassuring and half jokingly he said, “you know none of this is real? It’s all just polystyrene.” With a sigh he pushed his hands deep into the snow and rose. I wasn’t able to look at him as he walked to the taxi all I could do was stare at the beads of snow that swirled in the prints left by his hands.


It all started with a reflection in the mirror, and ended with the distinct sound of fracturing. I repeatedly, forcefully and purposefully slammed my head against it. Blood was dripping along vertical axis. Along white porcelain, boxers, and floor. The mirror was shattered and so to the façade of a retched fucking existence. A whole lays scattered on the floor with edges and points and sinew and nerves left exposed and raw. There was only one question left, one question that could ever be muttered from these lips. Who the fuck are you, and what have you done with my life?


I put my hand down and inside. I reclaimed what was mine.


It all started with a reflection in the mirror. This is an arbitrary statement, a misnomer. The mirror was merely a catalyst for the revelation, a facilitator for the realisation. Twenty years of bad decisions, supplemented with a dead-end job, a frigid wife and a shit for a son will create one tiny mass after another, that over the years come together to form a cancerous life.


I haven’t had sex in two years. I haven’t had sex with my wife in four. I fail to remember the last time I masturbated. Sometimes I wake up during the night with my penis in hand, and try to see it through to completion before the dream of whatever spurred it on recedes to my subconscious. This rarely happens.


My day starts the same way my day always starts, with my feet squirming on ceramic and my eyes squinting under florescent. Sometime ago my life fell into a pattern of mundane predictability. I blame my job for this, twenty years sitting at the same desk processing insurance claims. In the last two years four men in my office have died from heart attacks. One of them was younger than I am now. If I’m alive in ten years I’ll be old enough for my pension. I can’t decide if sitting all day in my house would be better than sitting all day at work. I miss the old days when I was still able to maintain an erection for long enough to fantasise about banging the office manager. Now I just sit at my desk and watch the smug little bastard who will one day be my boss stare at her tits every time she walks past.


She sees him when he does it. She likes it.


On a Friday night, the office descends on one bar or another. It doesn’t matter where. They all look alike. They all serve the same purpose.


Fluids flow forth.


In the morning detested.


We’re gathered around two tables. The bar we’ve stopped at is exceptionally busy, even for a Friday night. The younger members of the office prefer it that way. They enjoy the atmosphere generated by a crowd mostly their own age. After several drinks I understand why, the laughter and music is an infectious combination. It’s easy to make connections and take an interest in the people around you. Normally, on nights like these I would just have one or two and then leave.

It’s near eleven o’clock before the bar quietens down; most people have left to go home or to go out somewhere else.


It’s just me and a secretary left.


She’s blond and petite and quick to laugh. She’s stayed here longer than she had too. Turning down unwanted offers of dancing.


Music and chatter recede to low din.

Still is the world.

All but for me.


Sweats of hair stick to her face, as her head rests towards the wall. I can smell the scent of her perfume. My nose is by her neck. Lips shut, I breathe. Her silky skin caresses my hand as it glides up her thigh. A cold breeze snaps and my attention is stolen by the hand on my shoulder. The bar comes rushing in. Reformed.


“That’s enough” he says, “I think you’d better leave.”




“You’re done here.”


Outside the night has turned bitter; I turn my collar up against it and watch from across the road as two barmen carry her to a taxi. My mind screams with all the force it can muster, ‘come on then, hit me just fucking hit me.’ I’ve already decided that I don’t care what they do. How far they take it. I’m begging them, daring them to beat me until I’m a bloodied mess on the ground. I doesn’t matter how loud my mind screams. All I can do is stare. They fail to notice my presence.


The stars shine as I walk home.

I wake up during the night with my penis in hand and a scent in the air, and try to see it through to completion before the dream of whatever spurred it on recedes to my subconscious. The moment is gone. Faded.

Feet squirming on ceramic and eyes squinting under florescent, I stare at my reflection. I repeatedly, forcefully and purposefully slam my head against it. Blood drips along vertical axis. Along white porcelain, boxers, and floor. The mirror is shattered and so to the façade. There is only one question left, one question that could ever be muttered from these lips. Who the fuck are you, and what have you done with my life?


I put my hand down and inside. I reclaim what is mine.

The Bold Baristas

It’s all but dead now, that first wave of excitement. I remember it fondly, though that’s about all I can amass these days. I’ve long since stopped trying to dredge the feeling back to the surface of my memory. Stopped trying to keep it afloat. Which seems strangely fitting, considering that I’m standing on a sodden carpet with an inch of water at my feet and a plumber in my ear. It was two years ago when we first started to seriously discuss it. Sue and I were still together at the time and as always on a friday night we had Mike and Stuart around for dinner. A little tradition that started back when we were all still at University. The four of us were well into the third bottle of Pinot and just finished playing our favourite game of whose job sucked the most.

“We keep talking about it. Why don’t we actually just do it. Between the four of us it would work. I mean think about it. Sue, I know you hate the kitchen you work in right?”

“More than life itself.”

“Exactly, so we open a little coffee shop. Serve sandwiches, panini’s, bagels you name it, the menu’s yours. You get to cook the kind of food you like cooking. And Rory can it really be that much more different serving people coffee rather whatever the hell it is your shop sells?”

“Ok first things first, I work in a bar, we sell alcohol. Secondly, did you miss my five minute rant on why I hate customers, I should not be serving people things. Thirdly I do a lot more than just serve people things. I practically run the place.”

“That’s perfect, we won’t have you on the counter then. You can do the day-to-day running of the place, the accounts, the ordering. You know all the boring stuff. You might as well use that degree for something. Right?”

“I do enjoy boring stuff.”

“Stuart, you could be on the counter then. You’re a natural people person. I’ve see you on a night out, think of all the pretty girls you’ll get to flirt with.”

“Well that’s me convinced.”


Stuart had said it as joke, but in little over a month Mike had found a location and we had been approved for a small business loan. By the time next month rolled round The Bold Baristas was open for business. It was fun at the start, everything we thought it would be. We had a steady flow of customers going in and out. All of them commenting on how quirky and charming our place was. How they loved the mismatched sofa’s with no two pieces of furniture the same or the bookshelves filled with classics. We even had our photos taken for the front of the shop. That was Sue’s idea, we had them done in that faded slightly yellowed nineteen hundreds style. Each of us in our uniforms, right underneath the arched gold lettering of the sign, striking some pose we thought at the time made us look poised and dignified. Heads pointing up to the sky telling the universe look at us we are the bold baristas, we four friends working for no one but ourselves; or at least that was idea. That was then and this is now. One of the photos have been taken down and the shelves are all but devoid of any books, with what few that remain a tattered mess with pages missing. The mismatch sofas are splashed brown by clumsy drinkers. That small business loan has turned in to a dark cloud above our heads threatening to drown us all.


Maybe Sue was right to leave when she did. Maybe I should have been the one to go, to have asked to be bought out. At the time it just felt like another betrayal, another kick in the gut. Just her way of letting me know how far our relationship had fallen. Business had still been pretty steady at that point, but after she left something was different. It was as though we had lost part of that quirky charm our customers loved so much to talk about. It wasn’t long before the thought started to creep in that maybe the problem isn’t the new chef, maybe what made our place special was the idea on which we built it. The idea of friends coming together. Sue’s last words,

“Its over”, swim towards my mind along with the overweight plumber’s.

“It’ll only you cost two hundred quid to fix the tank.” Right then and there I did’t know whether to laugh, cry or grab him by his overalls and scream, abandon ship. She’s gonna sink. I settle for a silent sigh, held under my breath and instead wade over to counter to write a cheque. What’s another couple hundred in the thousands we already owe? Nothing but a spit of rain in the Sea. Truth be told though, we’re already sunk and the lifeboats drink at Starbucks. A burst tank is just another in a long line of problems that washed on board when Sue left. I hand the plumber the cheque and reach for the bucket behind the counter.

Sometimes my imagination branches of in so many different directions that I can’t even begin to to imagine what it is I’m actually thinking about.

Karl Henry

The Universe Makes a Noise

The Universe makes a noise. Did you know that when two black holes collide they sound like a spinning coin at the point where it almost stops. The point where its edge begins to rattle on the surface which it spins. We can hear this because of the vibrations of space. I like to think that everything in the universe makes a noise. Everything from a burning star to the flight of a fallen leaf. I like to imagine the Universe as some sort of majestic orchestra playing a song and everything that exists is an instrument playing its part; sounding its note. In my mind this gives meaning to the chaos of the world. The thought that things happen because they have to, because it’s part of the song in which we all play. Freewill has been removed and instead we are left with pitch and tempo. The song has been playing from the dawn of time and will finish at its dusk. We can never hear the playing piece, our notes began after the beginning. We’re just one instrument deafened by our neighbours in this cosmic orchestra, unable to hear further than their notes or ours.

So maybe, just maybe, instead of the big bang being an explosion, what if it was simply just the first key struck or the first strum of a celestial guitar.          

Jingle in a Paper Cup

Streams of warmth erupt happily from passersby. They talk amongst them selves, they don’t notice me, or at least pretend not to. Not me. I sit here cold, waiting for the jingle of metal to echo in my paper cup. It’s going to be a long night.

There’s a frost forming, the pavement has already started to glisten. It seems that everything reminds me of her lately; but I don’t want to think about that. I know my life isn’t perfect and neither am I. I’ve always tried to do the right thing; but I guess somewhere down the line I got it wrong. I love her, but I don’t want to think about that now. I’ve done things I’m not proud of, things I regret. I’ve stolen, but never much, only enough to get me through. It was fun in the beginning, exciting, there’s a buzz. You know it’s a bad idea, everyone does, but it’s not enough to stop you. It’s a drug, it pumps through your veins, rewires your inner workings changing them to something else. Like everything in life the excitement passes, it becomes routine, the buzz gets replaced. It happened much faster for her. That was my fault. She wasn’t always like what she became in the end, but I don’t want to think about that right now. I know I’ve made mistakes, but I like to think I can change. Sometimes I even believe it. I hear a jingle, but she passes before I can say thank you, I always say thank you. She didn’t need to help me. Perhaps she shouldn’t. I like to think I can change, all I need is a chance. The right set of circumstances. It’s this thought that ushers me to sleep each night, it’s gone in the morning, lost like my dreams.

The cold doesn’t bother me anymore, not like it use to when I was kid. Everything seemed so much simpler back then; I wanted to be a footballer, but what kid doesn’t. That thought still makes me smile. Sometimes I pretend that a version of me is out there, on a pitch, kicking a ball. No one else is there, I don’t need there to be, I can imagine the cheering and applause as the ball goes in the back of the net. I stop to look around, heat rising from my body. It’s a nice thought. I told her about it once, I don’t think she was listening but that wasn’t the point. I was never a bad kid, sure I got in trouble from time to time. It was always for silly things, I liked to talk in class, I told the other boys jokes. I was funny. I like making people laugh it’s how you get them to like you. How does the saying go; laughter cures all, maybe I just need a good joke. My favourite always was: two muffins are in an oven. The first one says “it sure is hot in here” and the other reply’s “holy crap a talkin’ muffin.” It’s simple and childish I know, but it makes me laugh every time. A friend told me that one, I wonder what happened to him. What would he think if he saw me now.

What always bothered me and still does I guess; is the way people look at you. Whenever I walk past someone in the street. It’s only for a second, but there’s a momentary stare, your eyes meet. They quickly look away, strait ahead or down at the ground anywhere to avoid eye contact, hands clutching a bag or firmly in pockets rapped around belongings. I know what there’re thinking, but I would never. I’m not that man. I don’t do those things. That’s for other people. Not me.

As much as I try, she’s always there nestled away at the back of my mind waiting for her chance to slip into my thoughts. Sometimes it’s a comfort, but not tonight. The wind is getting cooler. It’s less busy now, families have returned home. I remember when we first met. I had my own flat then. It wasn’t big, but it was comfy and warm. You could see the park from the window. That’s where I found her, if she’d only waited. Maybe I could have helped, done something. I don’t know maybe it would have been worse, being there watching it happen. I don’t like the thought of her being alone. I like to think of the first day we met. She was the sister of my best friend. We don’t speak anymore; I don’t blame him, not after what I did to her. I should have told her no, I don’t know why I didn’t, but we always shared everything. I don’t like to think about it. She was beautiful, so much energy. We would talk for hours. Never about anything important, just silly things. I liked to make her laugh. That’s how I imagine her, before all this happened. I miss that flat and the view of the park from the window. We would always meet there after we’d got enough to get us through, It’s easier on your own. People feel more sorry for you.

I like to imagine my pitch, she’s there now. She’s taken a seat in the stands. I can hear her cheer and applause, she smiles as the steam rises from my body. My paper cup jingles, that’s enough. Thank you.

No Time (The First Short Story I’ve Had Published)

No Time

The clock, it ticks on the wall. Ticks past the time. Constant and everlasting, ticking away until that day. The day that everything will change. The day the world will lose its self and the people will follow, in its wake. The day time will stop passing and in its place the people will tick away one by one, second by second. The day when we will stop losing time and all that will be left is life. Tick… Tick… Tick… that day has come.

It started unlike any other day. The sun didn’t rise. The birds didn’t sing. My alarm clock didn’t sound. But that was least of my worries. My day when time didn’t pass was going to be the longest of my life.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I don’t know if anyone other than me is ever going to read it. I don’t know if anyone is going to survive. It’s been 23 hours, 51 minutes and 58 seconds since time stopped. So far, as close and my maths can make it 4,764,967,064 billion people are dead, and at any second I could join that figure.

No time, that’s what the news was calling it. The amount of time that has passed since time stopped. Before the news stopped broadcasting there was a scientist, who had a theory. He thought that the mass of people dying was because time had stopped. His theory was that 77,892 people were dying a second and if you multiplied that number by 86,400 the number of seconds in a single day, you would get the world’s population. I believe him but that doesn’t matter now. Nothing does. Nothing I do makes a difference. All that’s left for me is to wait. Wait for my second.

I’m not sad or upset in any way at the thought of my death. That’s only because I now understand that all I can do is wait. The people still living have no choice. I know this because four hours, 16 minutes and 33 seconds ago I tried to take my own life. The only choice I thought I had left. I was wrong.

In my bedroom, in a small wooden chest at the bottom of my wardrobe, is a gun. Don’t ask me why I have a gun; you’ll not have the chance. I can’t say for sure if everyone will be able to understand what it is like to hold a gun to your head and pull the trigger. I can. I’m unsure if everyone else will be able to imagine this. I can, I was in that situation.

Imagine how hard it is to lift that gun. Feel the weight of it in your left hand. The cold steel sending a slight shiver up your spine. You can feel the weight of the bullet in your other hand, notice how light it feels in comparison as you load it in to the gun. You take a moment or two, maybe even three as you come to terms with what it is you are about to do. As you raise the gun to your head, taking that last slow breath as you close your eyes and pull the trigger. Now imagine what it’s like when the gun doesn’t fire. When the gun can’t fire. The thought of having to lift that gun again is unimaginable. I was able to lift that gun again. I was able to hold it to my head; and I was able to pull the trigger. The gun still didn’t fire.

I don’t know if this is true, but like the scientist on TV I have a theory. I don’t think we’re allowed to die until it’s our second. I have never been a religious person. Never believed in a higher power. Today that has changed. It’s the only way that any of this can make sense in my head. There must be a higher power. A higher power that stopped time 23 hours, 54 minutes and 26 seconds ago. A higher power that has given each of us a second. I believe this because my gun works. Their is a hole in my wall that proves it.

We all take time for granted. We never think about how much time we have left. When we are going to die. I can’t help but find it ironic. Ironic that it takes time to stop before anyone notices how much we have left. Now it’s all anyone can think about. I haven’t made up my mind yet. Whether or not I’m one of the lucky few whose second was left near the end. I feel as if I’ve entered a state of enlightenment. I now realise the important things that matter. The things that if I had another day of time, I would do. I would tell my wife that I loved her more often. I would buy my daughter the Elmo toy she has wanted all week. I would finally tell my parents that when I was 20 I took a year out of university and bummed around. I would do the things that anyone of us would do if we had more time. Then I would do more again.

My name is Conrad Gray. I am 43 years old. I worked at K.J.H investments. I loved my family. At some point in the next four minutes and 44 seconds, my second will arrive. I can only hope that there will be someone alive to read this. Someone who wasn’t given a second. Someone that surv