THE BATTLEAXE – by Alex Voakes

It’s important to have an angle. To really know what it is you’re selling. But in the end, I think it all came down to the tits. When the first series was being developed, they hadn’t even decided what kind of person they wanted to cast. I found that out at the end-of-shoot wrap party when a research manager’s PA showed me the list. She was drunk, and thought it was hysterical. Urban Buddhist: Not religious, promotes meditation, organic, etc. Will train somewhere India-like – has Sri Lanka been done? White male, 34-55. Possible strapline ‘Set your pulses racing’. Regional Jim: From Wales/Scotland/Ireland/the North, etc. Travels the country – think road trips with competitive element. Scope for sidekick, upper-class apprentice, Read More

Lockdown Unlocked – A blog from a social distance by Thomas Willshire

Numerous friends and friends-of-friends have been nauseatingly productive during the lockdown. It’s awful. Scrolling through my social media right now is akin to attending the music halls of old. Tickets are free, the virtual playbill is crammed with resourceful comic turns and despite being a packed house there’s infinite standing room available. So here I am, sat front and centre, resenting and admiring the endeavours of my vaudevillian pals in equal measure. “Bravo!” I cry, “But no fucking encore I beg you…”. This blog is to be my reaction. Not a response and certainly not a review (I quite like having friends, after all). No, this is definitely a reaction. The herd are bleating and I’m joining the shrill chorus Read More

The Good Deed by Alex Voakes

“Francis?” Janice hitched up the folder in her arms, and pushed the door open with her shoulder. “It’s only me. Time to rise and shine.” She stepped into the hall and pulled the door behind her. Why did this house always smell? Francis had care-workers who cleared the fridge, washed the dishes and hoovered the thin carpet, but somehow a wet stink seemed to permeate, unplaceable. It was like sour milk, or the liquid that collects between bag and bin. Janice had a sudden flash of Francis deliberately hiding something rancid somewhere around the flat, his pouchy, greying face set into the gleeful leer she had seen so often. Although he always insisted on leaning on her arm to shuffle Read More

Virtual Jehovah by Zach Smith

For Redeye the weekends were reserved for video games. His consul of choice was the obscure Nintendo Virtual Boy, an early red on black monochromatic experiment in 3D gaming, which looked like a red turn of the century peepshow box. Redeye was one of the few dedicated players. Today he planned on doing nothing but playing. It was a gray and dizzily day outside so he wouldn’t feel too bad for having “wasted” his time. For nourishment he had a large glass of tomato juice with everything you could imagine inside it: limes, beer, vodka, cheese, olives, tabasco, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, ice, etc. The straw was cut at a 30 degree angle leaving a sharp point Read More

Matariki & The Love-Torn Sailor by S S Haque

Matariki and the love-torn sailor Sun rose regal and high in the sphere sky strong and eager winds spurred to twirl the heavens. Aukai’s crew loaded stone and tools onto his double-hulled wood canoe this day bodes well for several at sea, he thought but his body’s memory sunk into the soft wet warmth of Alaula, his dawn light, roots and earthly delight   eager sails filled with powerful gusts Aukai palmed the rock around his neck remembered what Alaula had said I’ll love you until all the dawns are spent I’ll love you in the dark of the ocean I’d fly with the fishes for you Aukai rubbed Alaula’s rock breathed sun and salt left the solid shore his Read More

LISTED by Alex Voakes

  Permission. What a bitch. Jonathan Stride, Mr Stride to you, or maybe even Sir to be on the safe side, glanced down at the thick sheaf of paper on his desk. The final deeds for Lot 2574, West Acorn Street had been his for over a year, but wrangling an agreement for its development had taken all his patience and guile, as well as a few less noble qualities. Still, the residents’ petition had been finally silenced, the local Council placated, Government regulations for affordable housing circumvented, and now all that stood between him and a dozen luxury apartments was this guff from the Historic England Society. Whoever the fuck they thought they were. With the agreement that all Read More

Fearful Symmetry by Fiona Glass

  In the night’s heat a sudden breeze stirs the jungle’s fabric.  Fronds sway uneasily and leaves dance; a shaft of moonlight creates deeper shadows amongst the shadows and is gone, leaving darkness in its wake.  A dark that has nothing to do with velvet, but crushes and cloys, a steamy weight on your chest.  Thunder growls in the distance: a summer storm – or is it the breathy grumble of some wild beast, stalking through the dense under-canopy of vines and shrubs?  There are eyes amongst the fronds now, and the dark stripe of stem on stem could almost be… a tiger, on the prowl. The breeze stirs again and you can almost hear the rustle as it moves, Read More

TOMTECH, INC. by Alex Voakes

  “Thanks for this interview. Our readers are very interested in all things organic.” Janet glanced down the gleaming-white corridor. She knew that the word ‘organic’ conjured up a very different picture in the minds of the subscribers to Renewable World. “Our methods are impeccable – we recycle the majority of our water, our solar panels actually feed excess energy into the national grid, and in the past we used natural biological controls on pests.” Dr Bryan smiled. “Ladybirds. Ideal for removing aphids. But since we really locked down on physical interfaces, very little has been getting in or out. We aim for only two organisms in this entire complex. Humans and tomatoes.” “Physical interfaces?” “Where the outside world meets Read More

The Double by Alisha Mughal

  Marie watched herself in the mirror, running the fine-toothed comb down through her long black hair. Keeping her movements slight and to a minimum, she watched her hands, one with its light grip on the comb and the other open flat and hovering behind each tuft the comb ran through, move in a way that reminded her of the stiff, statuesque movements of a doll’s unarticulated limbs. With her head tilted to the side, her hair cascading down over her left shoulder, she admired her bared neck, her right sternocleidomastoid muscle taut. Her reflection in the mirror became her self in front of others, and she thought about how beautiful her neck would look in that soft light that Read More