Friday, August 31, 2012

What the Government Won't Tell You by Reid Laurence

SETI scientists intercept a controversial message, by Reid Laurence

Arecibo, Puerto Rico, home to the famous Arecibo Observatory where the largest single telescope ever constructed rests inside a natural basin; the very place where I live, eat and breathe my job. As being a devoted member of SETI, or the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, would imply, it's my job to continuously rove the outer reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy. Relentlessly, I attempt to give hope to the concept that life does exist somewhere in the outer reaches of cold, empty space and I, or others like me, may one day be able to say that we are not alone; at sometime in the future, before our civilization crumbles and comes to an end as it may, we will join the beauty and boundless thoughts of our minds together with those of a new, but similar organism. Sharing in wisdom and unlocking new secrets that up till now have not been realized. That is to say, up to this point in time, which is why I'm writing this to you today. To get you ready for something the government will never reveal. Something that happened just today. Just minutes ago, as I write this. But to better prepare you for what I have to say, I'd better begin at the very beginning, or the beginning of my day that is, at eight o'clock this morning...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Wedding Finger by Andy Peacock

An irreverent scene following two hired criminals on an unusual job, by Andy Peacock

Charlie studied the man sat directly in front of him. The man was looking purposefully at the cigarette between his thumb and forefinger. It had not lit all the way around, and the man blew at it gently until it took. It had been so long since Charlie had last spoken he was unsure how his voice would sound.

"Pepper spray? In this heat? Why didn't you just throw a pan of boiling hot water in my face?" he said.

The man regarded him for the first time and smiled. "I don't cook Charlie."

Charlie shifted in his chair, the rope around his wrists was tight, and it made him feel hotter still.

"Did you kill my dog?"

"Dog? I didn't see any dogs Charlie. What kind of dog was it?"

"A guard dog."

"You're kidding?"

"No."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

When Pacino's Hot, I'm Hot by Robert Levin

A comedy about a wonderfully pathetic character with a talent for looking famous, by Robert Levin

Blanche Dubois always depended on the kindness of strangers. Me, I've always depended on strangers thinking I'm someone else.

I'm referring, in my case anyway, to getting sex.

I know it's weird, but the assumption some women make that I'm one or another of a certain group of actors and musicians has been, from my early adulthood to what's now my middle age, how I get my pipes cleaned more or less regularly and for free.

It's also made it possible for me to have (however briefly and if you're willing to stretch the definition) an actual relationship.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Where's Muriel? by P S Gifford

Mr Humphrey Wentworth's wife has gone missing, and he fears the worst, by P S Gifford

The well-rounded police officer methodically scratched his balding head as he studied the frail old man sitting in front of him. He nodded at the scene; after seventeen years as a police officer in Whitby, Sergeant Arthur Breakwell had experienced hundreds of similar conversations, and experience told him that first impressions can often be very misleading.

"So you say she's been missing for five days now?" Arthur enquired as he scribbled something in his pocket sized wire bound police issue notebook.

"That's right... 'Twas Tuesday I realized she was missing when there was no sausage and eggs on the table. She's made me breakfast at eight o' clock sharp every morning for the last thirty seven years she has."

"And she gave you no indication that she was going to leave?"

"None that I can remember - Although I have been forgetting a few things lately..."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A White House Farewell by William de Rham

Alex Taylor, a libidinous White House insider, plays power games with higher stakes than he realises; by William de Rham

Resplendent in his brand-new, hand-tailored, black sharkskin suit from Sabatini of London, Alex Taylor strode down New Hampshire Avenue on his way to the White House. He caught his reflection in a store window and stopped. Every hair was in place. The fit of his jacket was sublime. The knot of his pearl gray tie - the silk one his wife bought at Burberry's for their second anniversary - was perfectly centered between the points of his crisp, white shirt. He shot his cuffs just to see the gold links with the Presidential seal wink in the sun.

Grinning at the figure he cut, he turned. A passing redhead - tall and trim and very lithe - cocked an eye and smiled right back. Oh, she wants me, he assured himself, she knows she wants me! Below his belt, he felt a flutter.

With a spring in his step, he continued around Washington Circle and onto Pennsylvania Avenue. He paid no attention to the tulips that had opened in the night. All he cared about this fine May morning were the women heading for work or class at George Washington University. Just look at that blonde in the jeans and white Oxford shirt open to the third button. And how about that Nubian princess with her proud breasts and her swaying hips and her skin so black and smooth? The flutter became a stirring.

Easy, boy, he warned himself. Save it. When the wife's away, the cat...


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Money for New Rope by Michael McCarthy

A desperate author with writer's block hires a strange man to inspire him by recounting surreal and disturbing visions; by Michael McCarthy

I replayed the words in my mind, for the millionth time.

'A mother and her three children have been found murdered, in a particularly bestial manner. A country wide search has been launched for the children's father.'

The newscaster signed off from the lead story, with a visible shudder.

It had, apparently, taken place in some small village on the south coast.

Surely I could make something out of this.

I shook my head, shocked at my behaviour.

Out of shame and despair, I placed an ad in a local rag. Shame, because I'd resorted to dredging the media for news on particularly gruesome deaths in the hope it would inspire my barren mind.

Despair, because I thought I'd never write anything half decent again.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Executive Murder by Michael Pearson

Two cops work against the clock to prevent a terrorist attack against a rising star Presidential candidate in Michael Pearson's unabashedly old-school thriller.

The DJ switched tempo, and put on an old school dance record by C and C Music Factory. The mostly early thirties crowd cheered, danced and sang along.

"Hey Captain America, can I have your autograph?" Ingram shouted over the noise as he handed me a Stella from the bar. The crowd at the Front Page was loud tonight. Loud and seemingly unaware of my recent exploits in the Bart Custer case that had my partner in a sarcastic mood.

"Jealous, old timer?" I returned fire. "I'm sure you would have done the same... if you could have run fast enough... shot well enough... thought -"

"Alright, alright, cupcake. You done good this time. But don't let it go to your head. Over the years I've seen a few good agents get too cocky after a big bust, and then wham!" He smacked his fist into his open palm. "Ya know what I mean?" He looked at me, nodding his head.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Dead Man's Phone by A A Garrison

When Mark and Shelley acquire a second hand phone, they find themselves pursued by a mysterious and sinister force in A A Garrison's slow-burning thriller
"There are more things in heaven and earth... than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
- William Shakespeare
As it so happened, Mark Conkrin was on the phone when it was hit by lightning.

He was ordering a pizza, amidst the rote explanation for spelling his uncommon surname: "It's Conklin, but with an r." Mark gave it so often, he'd considered a tattoo over his forehead, to save time (he'd done a speed-dating thing once, and it had been hell, though he had come away with Shelly, his presiding girlfriend). Before the pizza man could reply, Mark's world had exploded in a white strobe, the sound like a tin factory going up. The phone, a faithful corded job he'd had forever, had literally jumped from his hand and sailed across the room, meeting the limits of its cable before slingshotting back like a thing possessed.

Amazingly, the phone had still worked. As Mark had inched his way out of shock, he'd heard a teeny voice from below, as though the floor had learned to talk. He'd scooped up the phone, and the Keanu-sounding pizza guy was still on the line, asking if Mr. Conklin was there, was he okay? After an awestruck second, Mark had ordered a white pie and hung up, neglecting to correct the man on the name.

The lightning strike wasn't without consequence, however. While the phone did, technically, still function, it was never quite right. You could talk on it all day long, but the ring was hit or miss: sometimes it would ring okay, others it would go crazy, with a disjointed beep punctuated by noises that weren't quite words - BEEEE-MEE-MEE-BEE-BEEEEEEP! One of those Honker Muppets in orgasm, according to Shelly.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Window Upstairs by Adrian Kalil

Adrian Kalil's account of an intense emotional duel that culminates in an irreversible tragedy

The body lay on the glistening, wet sidewalk; eyes open, blood oozing from the side of the skull. The brilliant red ebb trickled into the fresh rain puddles, slowly and with intent, and in stark contrast to the shadows of the oppressive night. A faint steam rose from the growing, serpentine river as it poured into the gutter and open drain of the avenue, slowly pulling all life from the fallen.

As horrified people began to gather, a few looked around and then up. Within moments, an hysterical woman screamed and pointed to the silhouetted figure standing on the fire escape, just in front of the open, cavernous hole.

"That's him! Up there - at that window!"

Nathan stared down at the wreck below, frozen, as if time stood still. In the distance, the shrieking howl of an ambulance wove into his fragmented reality. The black, broken rail trembled in his grasp as he fell to his knees in utter disbelief at what he had just seen. Nausea welled from within his gut and, as his pulse suddenly dropped, he vomited. The sounds and lights of an ascending death filled his swirling senses and he passed out.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tamerlane by Mason Willey

A bibliophile stumbles upon an unexpected treasure, with hilarious consequences; by Mason Willey

Bernard's hand seemed to be living a life of its own as he reached tentatively towards the dusty bookshelf to pull out the slim, dark yellow softback from between a dog-eared copy of Kipling's Minor Poems and a fake-leather-bound volume of Walt Whitman. It was shaking as though it belonged to a callow adolescent waiting for his first heavy date to turn up. There was a good reason.

It couldn't be, could it?

He hesitated. For twenty years he'd imagined a moment like this, almost half a lifetime of rummaging in cardboard boxes, twenty years of scanning musty shelves where the literary works of the great and the not-so-great sat huddled together like wallflowers at a college dance, waiting to be chosen. Bernard knew that he was not on his own, bibliophiles just like him, the world over, spent whole vacations searching for the (so far) ultimately elusive item. The world of bookshops and rummage sales was their oyster, but the one pearl beyond price had always remained exasperatingly undetected - until now.

It couldn't be, could it? On the other hand...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Witch! by May Livere

A woman accused of being a witch is hunted down, by May Livere

She ran on, wild-eyed, terrified. Her breath came in quick, short gasps.

"Witch! Witch! Witch!" their angry chants filled the midnight air.

She ran faster, getting her strength from the very essence of the words and the murderous passion behind them. The angry monotony was broken every once in a while by unsynchronized barking... they had brought their dogs along too, for the round up and final kill.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Workings Out in a Smalltown by Dave Witty

Dave Witty's character hits the gym hard to try and block out ominous smalltown gossip

There's these two fellas, and they're always at the gym. You can tell. They're both built like a child's bubble depiction of a man. One of them's called Nick, and the other's called Jamie. I only happen to know this because they refer to each other's first names about once every sentence. How are things going, Jamie? They're not too bad, Nick. How are things with you? Pretty simple thanks, Jamie. I guess they must be here pretty much every night of the week, because I never fail to see them. I could come on a weekend and I'd probably be safe, but I doubt that's because they don't go. It's more to do with time factors: at the weekend, there's roughly ten hours of potential gym time, whereas during the week there's about four, due to work, and most people like to be home before eight, what with dinner and decent TV, so in practice that leaves only three.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The World Turned Upside Down by Jimmy Wilde

A stream of consciousness with Apocalyptic overtones about a London Underground carriage packed with party-goers returning home, by Jimmy Wilde

I take my place at the end of a row of seats, using my jumper as a pillow against the Perspex divider, and prepare to watch the show. The Northern Line, a tableau of freaks, weirdos and preternatural creatures. It's a travelling circus with a constantly changing cast of characters. Occasionally, it's so bizarre it touches on the beautiful.

Jolie laides, as the French might say. Pretty ugly, to the point of fascination.

A pair of Goths plant themselves down across from me. They look like pasty-faced orphans staring through a rain-splattered window at a feast laid out in front of a roaring fire.

Their eyes are astonishing. She is no oil painting - more a crayon drawing, scored violently with the left hand across a sheet of tracing paper - but blazing from her milky face, framed by mascara portholes, are two electric saucers. One is green, the other blue. She looks like the upstairs of a house in winter. Staring back at me, she mutters something to her boyfriend who languidly lifts his head. Are they on Mogadon or is this part of the act?