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

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

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

Body Work by Neil Leadbeater

  The building, noted for its long, low roof and floor-to-ceiling windows, lay at the far end of the school grounds on the north side of town. There was nothing extraordinary about it once you walked inside. It was just a large empty space. There was none of the fancy paraphernalia that you see in gyms today. We went to it once a week between French and Maths. The instructor was an ex-Army Sergeant Major, the sort whose talk was all shout; whose face showed no emotion. We were fresh out of the packet, green as grass; boys without names trained to obey his loud commands without any hint of complaint. Our world was circumscribed, purposeful, exact. We were exercising Read More

The Letter by Kate Whitehead

The steps to the house were worn down with the years of trampling feet but still grand like the smooth white pillars in front of the conservatory. I was juvenile and an aspiring author so pounced on any new adventure as a catalyst to the beginning of something. That was all I owned; a lot of openings which lay around for a while then became crumpled balls before disappearing under the detritus of my everyday life. This unexpected excursion was a break from my daily routine which revolved around looking for two elusive things simultaneously: work and long term accommodation. It was beginning to seem that neither of them would ever be available to me which left me in a Read More

Shadows on the Concrete by Veronica Lavia

They walk into the darkness, shadows on the concrete. I see shapes melt into the pavement. They appear and disappear, gray figures cast on a grayer world. They have no bodies. Forgotten, they walk amidst deserted cities, and only those who still have eyes to look and observe assist to these invisible interactions of bodiless shapes. They don’t see me, when I see them. I linger at the edge of the road, terrified that the ground is going to melt and drag me in the word of lost shadows. It happens at time, there’s so few of us left at the edges of the crumbling reality. The borderland we call it, the borderland of those who haven’t disappeared yet. It’s Read More