The Restless Dead by Martin Webb

The bastard alarm goes off, wrenching Seymour out of his dream. The nightmare images fade rapidly but he’s left with fleeting, barely-remembered glimpses of hideous twisted creatures. He blames the cheese puffs. He remembers being slumped in bed the previous night, snacking and watching the late news on TV. There’d been some mention of a virus, and a couple of serious looking academics had explained that the situation was worsening. The newsreader sternly announced that the filthy public were starting to riot in the streets. This was followed by images of a general panic as people ransacked supermarkets for microwave ovens and widescreen televisions. Because those were always so terribly useful in an apocalypse. Continue reading “The Restless Dead by Martin Webb”

The Final Tape by Joseph Sale

‘Those bastards never deserved a second chance,’ Bret said, talking to himself as usual. Though nothing was usual tonight. Three of his clients were dead, and he was on his way to a safe house outside of London, in the woody byroads surrounding some forgotten little town. Weygone. Weydon. Something like that anyway. The point was, no one ever looked for him here.

The road was narrow, twisting between colourless trees. If he drove fast enough it would tear, show itself to be a stage backdrop. The car felt real however. It was a beautiful Mitsubishi Lancer, a relic some would say, but the wheel in his hands, the titanium frame, the three litre engine purring, these were all totems to reality. Reality was an important thing to a man like Bret.  Continue reading “The Final Tape by Joseph Sale”

Home Sweet Home by Cordelia Harrison

I walked along the offbeat path that led to our house; steeling myself. Even though it was yards away I could already hear the fighting going on. Mum and Kenny, husband number four, were screaming at each other loud enough for the whole neighbourhood to hear. My stepfather had probably come home late after his shift at the car factory. Mum was always volatile and incredibly violent. She’d probably had a shitty day working at the nursing home and was looking for an excuse to lay into someone.

I deliberately spent a few hours at the shopping centre after school in the hope I wouldn’t run into a row at home. No such luck. As I rounded the corner the yelling grew even louder. Mrs Slyde the obese woman who lived in the home opposite was smoking on her front porch. As usual she regarded me with a toothless leer. Still despite her unfriendliness the old woman never seemed particularly bothered by the constant fights going on next door. The whole Slyde family was weird. Continue reading “Home Sweet Home by Cordelia Harrison”

Something Strange by Micah Wendelborn

I loved you. I don’t quite know why after all you put me through. The ups and the downs were as they happened, and I cannot deny that I lost my temper on some occasions.

I’d always loved you for who you were, not what. I knew you felt the same way about me too. It made me happy to think about that, to know you were mine and I was yours. I did think that way, and I know if I tried I could do so again.

Now I’m beyond trying, and I can’t get back. Continue reading “Something Strange by Micah Wendelborn”

Triptych by Max Dunbar

1. The Book Club

The famous crime writer met with his literary agent for help with a problem. It was strange, you wouldn’t think that this crime novelist, who was rich and successful, had any problems in his life at all. He was the author of the Inspector Tak mysteries – a series of police procedurals in which dour, working-class cop Ian Tak investigated serial killers (aided by DC Sarah Lombardi, a hot-headed half-Italian sidekick who wore expensive suits and had a habit of swearing in Italian). The books had been popular for many years but sales had begun to ebb. Feminists objected to the visceral rape-slaughters of the author’s anonymous fictional victims. Comments he had made on panels, at festivals, on his blog, and on Twitter, had been misinterpreted. It was time for a new direction.

‘Vampires,’ said the agent. ‘Vampires is it.’ Continue reading “Triptych by Max Dunbar”

The Weight on Your Shoulder by Liz Xifaras

You are not afraid of spiders.

The one on the bathroom wall has a body as big as your thumbnail; glossy, iridescent. Legs stretching like black wire over white tile.

A bath of steaming clear water waits. Book lies on the side, pages curling in the heat. Mug of tea ready.

You are not afraid but you remove the spider all the same. Fetch a glass from the bedside table, a cardboard coaster. Blue with a silhouette of an orangutan printed on. Souvenir from that trip to the zoo when you held the hand of a love now lost, let yourself dream of returning one day in a wished-for future with your child. Smooth, stubby fingers held in yours. Round eyes staring at the animals. Blink that memory away now. Continue reading “The Weight on Your Shoulder by Liz Xifaras”

Unturn This Stone by Aviva Treger

On a foul night in fickle early autumn, when the wind sobbed and wailed like a lost wandering wraith, Constance awoke from a garish dream, aghast to hear her garden crashing into the sea. It clattered down the cliff thud by thud into darkness, sodden by the pelting rain and bludgeoned by the gale.

Up at the farm, we kept an eye on our neighbour, so the next day I tracked through the glen to discover how she was. I remember the feral scent of the earth after rain – how that smell takes me back to that day. As I arrived, I saw Constance through a shroud of mist, waiting for me outside her house, wearing an ethereal smile; I remember thinking, ‘She looks frail’. How anyone could live here in such precariousness – crumbling in a cottage on a cliff edge, without electricity or gas, drawing water from a corroded pump, surviving in such isolation, always beggared belief, but especially someone of her age. Continue reading “Unturn This Stone by Aviva Treger”