All stories

Passing through

by Claire

Once the screaming stops Millicent takes in her first and deepest breath. Other sounds flood in and she absorbs them as though they are nourishment. There is a crackle from the logs in the fireplace, the whistle of a kettle from another room and the clack and rattle of a tram in the distance. Next she opens her eyes just a little and is able to see the sun as it pours through the window and hits the crystal decanter on the side board, causing a hundred tiny shattered lights to dance across the wall. In the air motes of dust are illuminated as they traverse the sun’s rays, suddenly visible in their teeming masses. Next Millicent notices the smells, there is the scent of beeswax and musty velvet mixed with woodsmoke.

Someone has placed a pretty little flowery cup on the bedside table with what looks like a tiny bag of tea in the saucer. Millicent has never seen such a thing, somethings here are reassuring and familiar, but many others are brand new.

In the same way Millicent is at once both known and unknown to herself. Something assured and ancient seems to sit deep in her chest but she senses newness tingling at the ends of her fingers and toes. Millicent wriggles a little and changes her perspective.

Looking up she sees her mother's face for the first time, flushed and dewy with perspiration, wet strands of hair stuck to her forehead, she smells of blood and flesh and eau de cologne. She feels herself rising up as her mother takes her to the breast. Millicent latches on immediately, as though she has done it many times before, which of course she has. She feels the soft skin against her cheek and tastes the warm sweetness of her mother’s first milk as it slides down her throat. The tingling at the edges of her increases and becomes like flames spreading through her arms and legs.

For now she can remember what she was before. A young woman with calloused hands in a tiny shared room at the very top of a big drafty house. Her memory of this now is mostly smells - carbolic, ham fat, grass and dust. That life was hard but incrementally superior to the one before. This new life seems already to be better, it’s certainly warm and smells good. As she drinks, the new life subsumes the old, the sensory memories from before begin to wain and there is a moment when she has the perfect balance of insight, knowing where she came from and where she is. After the milk though Millicent feels heavy sleep coming like a wave to drown her in the here and now. When she wakes there will be no remembrance, only blurry and blunted awareness and the long process of learning and re-learning. Just before sleep hits Millicent hears her mother’s voice for the first time.

"Hello little Wendy. Welcome to the world."


by James

Bill Tubbs, clad safely in a thick towelling dressing gown, pranced from his front door, down his path and out into the street, for no good reason at all. To be honest, Bill himself was growing tired of these random incidents that seemed to have no rhyme or reason to them that he could fathom. It was almost as if the world were a stage, and he were minor player dancing to the whim of some cosmic conductor.

So lost was Bill in thought that he failed to see the tram.

Here’s the thing with trams – they’re pretty silent, so they ding a cheery little bell to let you know they are approaching. Here I am, they ting, I’m tram! Here I come, do you want to be friends?

This tram did not ring her bell to warn that she was approaching. Later that day, back at the yard, she would agree with all who told her that there was nothing she could have done. The fool had come out of nowhere, almost as though he were a shoehorned plot twist. It wasn’t her fault.

But it was. She had seen him. She was as fed up as everyone else. It was a new year, a time of rejuvenation, not a time for yet another rambling plot culminating in gratuitous unsexy nudity.

The trailing cord of Bill Tubbs’ dressing gown caught under a wheel. Bill Tubbs was propelled forward by the impact, but his dressing gown remained in situ, hanging there for a moment like some ghostly echo. Bill Tubbs – nude again – sailed through the air, and landed, face first in the middle of the cycle lane. The impact killed him instantly. Thanks to a manhole cover - IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOODY CYCLE LANE – Bill’s shattered corpse was bundled into a huddle of pale white limbs, buttocks pointed proudly skyward in a manner that was decidedly comic, to everybody except the rapidly approaching delivery cyclist for a nearby fine glassware and teabag emporium.

The front wheel slipped snuggly between both buttocks. Bystanders winced. The tram dinged her bell in horror. The cyclist went over his handlebars. This poor chap was all lycra-ed up, correctly attired with a helmet and all the necessary lights. He was the kind of cyclist who obeyed red lights, and didn’t ride like a dick, proving beyond any reasonable doubt that Karma is a car driver, who pays his sodding road tax, and car insurance.

The tram dinged her bell mournfully. She was saying that she hadn’t meant for all this to happen, she just wanted some good stories, something original, not more of the same that was quick to knock out in twenty minutes. Nobody nearby was fluent in Tramese. All they heard was a mournful ding.

But it was over! Rejoice! Rejoice. No more Bill Tubbs!


The ghost of Bill Tubbs stood. He was wearing the clothes in which he had died, which was nothing.

Bill Tubbs: nude for all eternity. He felt a great sense of joy. The possibilities were endless.

Hold on hope

by Lewis

The thick rimmed brute hulked menancingly from the dim shadows. The memories of a time when he was held and hugged, etched on his face. A tram line of of scars criss cross across his body, each one, a stop further into the shadows. He glowers through the black, past the dusty edges of those more fortunate. Past to a glistening, shimmering sheen, so fine that it might not be there at all. Tall, elegant, graceful, unwrapped and on display. A stark contrast that only remind him of what he once was and will never be again.

Unseen and Unused he spends another day plotting and cursing, to the backs of silent, unlistening heads. Unclean and Unloved he spends another night hating and cracking inside. He dips into a dream, where he feels the steam as a river pours and churns inside him, hot and satisfying. He smells the leaf, Assam perhaps before he sees the teabag, swinging before him, the flavour reaches out and nustles against his smooth skin. And in that warmth he feels her, the gentle touch of a finger brushing against him. He cannot speak, for his heart is filling his mouth. And then he feels a crack widen. He tries to speak but water rushes out, all he can see is the faded imprint of her hand and all he can hear is the sound of him splitting. Only, to become the creak of a hinge. The door opens and he is awake.

The door shuts. He hears the clink of a shimmer and a bottle. Muted laughter creeps through the gaps, seeking him out personally to point and chortle. And so it goes. Time passes. Clink. Drink. The shimmers come and go, he watches them all and remembers them though they do not last. Some come back touched with a deep red that reminds him of her lips. But it is a touch that sees them discarded. He would die a 1000 times to feel it. The shimmers do not chip, they crumble. The smallest crack sends them tumbling, unusable. The air chills with a sudden sigh they shatter, only to be found glistening in the swinging doors dancing light. And then, for his part, he pities them.

IAnd then one day there are two shattered shimmers, dripping with the remnants of red and white, thrown in amid the confusion of the late night joviality. Their pool stretching out to all corners. The soft sigh, is hers this time, as slowly she carries them out. But to his surprise, she returns, another is taking out. Then another, until one by one they disappear before him. Until. Suddenly. Their gazes meet. He smiles nervously and she laughs. Her hand reaches out and he swears he must be dreaming. But he does not wake as she takes him in her hand. A memory so sweet and right, that it fills her being. Her fingers brush his scars and she feels something inside her say. This is what you need. With a gentle wipe of a cloth, he feels the dirt drop away. The rush of the tap drowns him in happiness. He hears the kettle whir and bubble and he dares to shine. He feels her fingers wrap around him and they know. THis is a new beginning.

1. Diary of a gentleman, New years day 1920

by Dan

I breakfasted lightly on buttered crumpets, lambs kidneys (devilled) and chicken livers (broiled) washed down with the new type of tea from America that comes in bags and not a pot.

The inbibations of the previous evening, the last of an accursed decade, were still playing ragtime in my head, with cymbals provided by Jenkinson’s noisy attempts to clean my best glassware.

Curse the man and his infernal tinkering, would there be no peace for the wicked?

I sent for alka-seltzer and Rum with lemons, a rejuvenation technique that has never failed me and cast my mind onto that other great remedy, the lovely Daphne; Heiress to the Bougainville millions, flight of my wildest fancies and the only girl who is a worthy match for me. I needed see her forthwith and propose.

I chose a suit of cream flannel, my bearskin coat and straw boater, however frowsy one feels there is no excuse for dowdiness.

At a little after 11 I was ready to depart.

“Would sir like me like me to call him a cab?” asked Jenkinson, I waved him away with a waft. Jenkinson had become a minor irritant to my mood with his silly fussing, I resolved to let the clumsy oaf go upon my return, I couldn’t let Daphne the Divine clap eyes upon such an unseemly manservant.

“Thank you Jenkinson but I shall walk or take the tram!” I responded before sweeping out onto Gloucester Road without a backward glance.

In the end I believe that I was borne aloft by a zephyr of love all the way to her flat in Brompton Street. The new decade lay waiting and with Daphne at my side, I could conquer the world. If the twenties were to roar then I would be their chief lion, Remembered for a hundred years or more for my glorious deeds!

I swept up the stairs and bounded into her drawing room expecting to see Daphne as usual surrounded by those foolish swains who received her every word like drops of nectar from the heavens, but she, and they, were nowhere to be seen. Furthermore a platoon of porters in green uniforms were transporting her large collection of exotic birds via her lift which I’d forgotten existed. Her maid, a brainless fool, but harmless, was standing in the centre of the room with a pile of envelopes.

“Where’s your mistress?” I asked.

“Oh sir” she replied handing me an envelope “She asked me to give you this?”

I opened and read the typewritten note.

“Dear Jerry,” it read (My name is actually Jeffrey but no matter), “I have decided to marry someone else and emigrate to America. Please don’t try to contact me, declarations of undying love are such a bore when unwanted! zedzed! Toodlepip!! D x”, scrawled beneath was a hurried PS. “BTW, I forgot to say my new surname shall be plain old Mrs Jenkinson, me? Marrying a commoner? What larks!”

I returned home having utterly failed, in my misery, to put two and two together. There I discovered that the blighter had not only stolen love from my life and joy from my soul but also a box of my best cigars and my favourite cape.

Alas, my prospects for the new decade are now distinctly uncertain.

2. Thoughts of a rogue, new years day 1920.

by Dan

Nobs? I can take them or leave them. This new decade might be the end for them, I reckon. Look what just happened in Russia! Well I’m not waiting round for the revolution, why should I share? I want my bit now, and all to myself.

I was easily pleased at first. Thought I’d done well for a boy from Gravesend, becoming a “gentleman’s gentleman”.

I had nice digs and a boss I could easily manipulate. I had access to the little perks, use of the Daimler, keys to the wine cellar, Tea in bags!

But I’ve come to think just recently, why them? Why not me? Why can’t I have what they’ve got? I’m cleverer than them, better looking some would say.

I finished polishing his fine crystal glasses, (I was only doing because I knew it would annoy him) and waited until he’d left before whipping a couple of his trinkets and heading out myself. My destination was Wandsworth registry office where Daphne Bougainville, glamorous millionairess, would be waiting to marry me, then we’d go on to Southampton to board the Aquitania for New York. Once I got there there’d be no more no more trams for me. I’d be rejuvenated! I’d be fee of the British class system not to mention the god awful weather.

Daphne is very, very beautiful, but spoilt rotten. She’d be an absolute nightmare to live with. So I’d already decided. Half way across the Atlantic it would be “Heiress Overboard!” and I’d be in clover. The English aristocracy would rue the day they underestimated the great Jack Jenkinson.

On the way I nipped to her flat to pick up a few bits and pieces as insurance. I could just say she’d entrusted them to me for safekeeping in transit if anyone asked.

Some instinct told me to hang back before entering her flat and so I had the pleasure of seeing the old boss leave looking quite heartbroken. On the landing a gaggle of footmen were struggling to get a life-sized stuffed elephant into the lift but otherwise the place was quite deserted.

I entered her dressing room, on her table was the priceless Madugalle Sapphire which, she boasted, matched her blue eyes. (A cue for her suitors to remonstrate that no jewel could ever be so perfect.) I pocketed said item and turned to leave only to hear a click behind me.

I turned round and there was Maude, her maid, holding a Baretta Semi-Automatic pistol in her hand. Little Maudie who I’d enjoyed many a frolic with before I came up in the world! I’d advised Daphne to sack her cos she knew too much about my true nature.

“Put down them jewels Jack” was all she said, with barely a quiver in her voice. I obeyed, I had no choice. She picked the Sapphire up and edged back to the door whilst all the time keeping her eyes and gun trained on me. She fastened the lock on the dressing room door securely before she left.

It is now 5 hours later I still can’t find my out of this bloody dressing room. The registry office was booked 4 hours ago and the liner will sail from Southampton any minute. Alas. I may have to re-assess my prospects for the new decade.

3. The Maids Story (1 jan 1920)

by Dan

When my mistress, the heiress, Daphne Bougainville, told me on New Years Eve, she was marrying Jack Jenkinson, and then moving to America, It took me a few moments to see the possibilities. Jack is an out-and-out rotter after all.

But then I thought, “I’m going to New York!” and besides I still felt loyalty to her, the dimwit couldn’t even run a bath, she’d need me more than ever, especially with men like him around.

Besides, I had something on him. Back in the day, when we both worked for Daphne’s father, God rest his wicked soul, me and Jack had a fling, and I still had the receipt from the termination he’d paid for.

I reckoned that if I played my cards right, with them to certain to have kids I’d soon be promoted to governess and from their my influence would grow. New decade! New Prospects! Yes Maudie, I thought, things are looking up.

I stood in her emptying flat while footmen tried to carry a display case of moulting Sabre-toothed Tigers downstairs. My job was handing out a large pile of dear John notes to the series of gents who’d come to beg for her hand in marriage. Blow me though, when I got to the bottom of the pile I found one addressed to me, in a cheap brown Manilla envelope. I made a cuppa and opened it.

“Dear Miss Smith,” it read “your employment as maid will cease with immediate effect as your employer is going to America- sincerely, Crabtree Solicitors.”

I lost it then, how dare she treat me this way after all I’d done!

Suddenly all I could think of was revenge. I knew where she kept her jewels and her gun. Then Jack came in and I locked him up in her dressing room! I took the Sapphire, that’s all, I ain’t greedy.

I left him opening and closing his mouth like a goldfish, dumbfounded. If anything makes this escapade worth it, it’s that alone. Anyway, I had bigger fish to fry.

To the registry office by tram, with the Sapphire round my neck, making me feel brave. She was surprised to see me, alright.

“I’ve a message from Jack” I said, “He ain’t coming but he’d like to leave you this!” I said. Then I got out the gun and pointed it at her.

My hand quivered slightly, but I was determined to go through with it. I pulled back the trigger.

There was a huge bang.

And then I was grabbed by two witnesses and a passing policeman and wrested to the floor. They grabbed the gun from my hand.

I looked up to see Daphne standing exactly where she had been, her blue eyes twinkling like fine cut-glass. The registrar lay in a heap before her on the ground, quite dead.

She stepped forward in front of me making sure not to get blood on her beautiful wedding gown, held her hand out, and said one word, coldly, which was “Sapphire!”. One of the witnesses removed it from my neck and handed it over.

As I sit here in a black Moriah on my way to gaol, I am now thinking that my outlook for the coming decade ain’t quite as sunny as I hoped it would be.

4. The conversations of Daphne Bougainville at the Captains table, HMS Aquitania, New Years Day 1920- as told to Hollywood Film Actor Randolph Valentine.

by Dan

Apologies for my dreadful appearance, I’ve quite been through the mill today. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you! Yes, ok, perhaps one little glass to calm the nerves.

Well, firstly I was rudely awoken by the porters dropping all my fine cut glassware on the stairs whilst taking it for shipment. Their wages have been stopped until every penny is paid back but It’s not just the loss, it’s the emotional and physical stress too! I can still hear a ringing noise in my ear. Yes just there, look how pink it is. I have very delicate ears.

Well yes, maybe you can kiss it better later Randy, we’ll see.

After that, it was no wonder I couldn’t face all those tiresome boys, Johnny and Jeffrey and Jeremy. Impossible names to remember! All that undying love gets so trying. Yaaaaawn! Would you be an absolute poppet and fetch my stole from my cabin, it’s getting so terribly cold.

Thank you dear. Would you believe I nearly got married this morning? To a commoner! Some kind of butler I believe. Handsome chap, quite dashing, the sort who knows how to wave down a tram and make tea without a bag!!!! Very spirited in the bedroom!

Anyway he didn’t turn up!!!

Since I boarded I’ve had telegrams from him apologising. He says he was locked in my dressing room! But he has quite broken my heart. Feel! No, there! It’s in pieces. Nobody lets me down like that. I hate him and shall never mention his name again.

Yes I’m a terribly poor thing.

Then guess what happened??? You never will.



I think she had delusions of grandeur! I mean she’d stolen this sapphire from me and was wearing it!! No idea whatsoever of her place in the world. Do you think it matches my eyes by the way?

Hahaha! You silly boy…!

She burst in where I was supposed to be getting married, luckily I must have made an impression on the registrar whilst we were waiting, because he leapt in front of the bullet and saved me or I wouldn’t be here now, telling you this.

No, no, he was quite dead! He got blood on my wedding dress.

I didn’t catch his name but well, it doesn’t really matter now!

Then. If that wasn’t bad enough I had no end of trouble getting a new maid! The company could only send a temporary one! She’s quite hopeless and can’t even run my bath properly,… better than absolutely nothing I suppose. I’ll get a proper one in New York.

Randy! You’re trying to get me tipsy! Ok, just one more glass.

I know! let’s take our minds of my awful day by playing a game…. What will the new decade bring for us?

Haha, Talking Pictures? What a whizzbang! No, I don’t think you’ll get much work darling! You can barely string a sentence together!

And what about me? Well Randy you know, despite being quite weak and defenceless, and all these awful things happening to me, it always seems to go my way in the end. After all, Papa always told me I was born lucky!

Yes, I do face it all very bravely don’t I?

New Years Day

by Jenny




We were off. Legs pounding, feet on hard, cold sand, biting wind sinking its teeth into our bared flesh as we thundered down the beach. I tried not to think about the grey mass of water ahead; of how it would feel to plunge into its freezing grip and the sensation of the icy water closing in around my body.

For now there was only the blood heating in my veins, the panting breath of my friends, the spinning nausea and laughter bubbling from deep down in our bellies. The tangle of pumping limbs in the dawn light.

Flashes of the evening before hurtled in and out of vision as I ran. Alex spinning madly on the empty dance floor. Lucy lining up fine glass flutes full of clear, bubbling champagne in twos along the table, like passengers in a tram, then working her way along, downing each, glass by glass, until her cheeks flushed pink and her eyes unfocused.

Ashley at midnight. Dark eyes in a dark room. Flashes of silver light and gold confetti, singing, shouting, coloured balloons and soft, hot lips brushing mine, like the end of a dream before waking.

Jodie being sick on the floor next to the toilet.

Spilled teabags and empty mugs. A half filled kettle and a broken glass in the kitchen sink.

A tumble of soft bedclothes and feather pillows. Sticky lips and sticky fingers. A head full of whispered words, half forgotten and lost forever in the wine-soaked sheets.

Then up and out of the dream, the hard lines of reality harsh against the soft focus drowsiness, the cold bite of the morning as we stumbled, half awake, half dressed, half drunk from the cottage and down the cliffs to the beach in the half light.

Goose-pimpled flesh and fingers fumbling with buttons and clasps. Glittering fabric collapsing onto sand and shivering gasps as hands chafe limbs for warmth that will not come. It is cold and will only get colder. We form a shivering, giggling line and try to prepare ourselves.




And then, suddenly, there it is, as if from nowhere, a shock of freezing water, first around your knees then worse as it crashes into your hips, the soft flesh of your belly, knocking the wind right out of you. But there’s no turning back now. We are committed. My chest is in, my shoulders. My God it’s cold, but the creeping nausea, the fuzzy headache, the inching dread are pushed back, washed away in the face of more pressing concerns.

The air is filled with screams and laughter, splashing and swearing. Legs kick and arms flail. The taste of salt is on my tongue and a hand slithers around my waist. My face sinks beneath the salty foam, the water swirling, loudly, pounding in my ears, forcing out the cold and filling me with a fierce kind of joy.

I don’t think about getting back to the cottage, or how the winter air will burn my skin with cold when we eventually clambour out. There is only now.

The morning after the night before.



by Jon Peters

I’m burned. Eyes on fire.

4 a.m.

Sleep deprived, overloaded on coffee and nightmare fuel.

It began on the 30th of December.

I was taking my evening walk in East Shinjuku, Tokyo. I left my flat at 6 p.m. Took the stairs down to street level, grabbed a coke from the vending machine, the sounds of jazz music and the smell of herbal tea drifting into the alleyway.

I unlocked my yellow bicycle from the railing and pushed off into the narrow street, passing a multitude of karaoke bars, American pubs and backdoor eateries. I hooked a left at the corner, following a woman in a black coat and top hat. She carried with her a large shopping bag from Eve’s, an upscale glassware store located two blocks north of my apartment. She was moving fast for someone carrying such a delicate bag and I wondered why the hurry.

I glanced behind me as I heard a rush of noise and saw throngs of people coming toward me from the northern block of Shinjuku. At first, I just chalked it up to Tokyo foot traffic. The dinner hour. The flow of our city can be gorgeously fast during the feeding hour.

That’s when the alarms sounded. Trying to get an anchor on the situation, I sped up toward the square ahead where I saw a gathering of people. Earthquake? But I didn’t feel any tremors. I stopped near the APA Hotel. There must have been a thousand people. Never seen a crowd so big. Everyone was talking at once, looking to the sky, cell phones in hand.

That’s when I heard the roar. I thought it was a plane falling out of the sky onto my head.

And then the ground shook and fire bellowed across the sky. A tram screeched to a halt on the street adjacent to me, passengers leaping out of the car to see the commotion for themselves.

An orange inferno emerged from the fog of the buildings. The ground began to tremble. Alarms rang in desperation.

I’d come to Japan three years earlier, sick of America. I found my rejuvenated spirit through the busy neon nights and peaceful culture of beautiful East Shinjuku. Now, my years of efforts to absolve my soul of its nihilistic existence were dashed within a single chaotic second.

I made my way through the smoke and chaos into an alley, following the sad siren song from a karaoke bar. Poor saps were having so much fun they had no idea their lives were about to end.

I was able to make it back to my apartment, coughing, gasping, eyes watering, an hour later. By then, Japan was fighting for its life.

The world was fighting for its life.

Monsters are real.

And I’m fresh out of cigarettes.