All stories


by Lewis

He is wearing an ordinary worn suit, dusty with use. Drab and unnoticeable. He has a worn black book in one hand. His mud brown teeth nibble the stube of a well used pencil gently, as he says to himself. “Sang Hangul, Thurs, 08:47, Radio Zumba, Text WIN.”

He spots Sang straight away. In the lobby of the CMP Bank, the centre of a group or adoring minions. He is laughing, but his smile is aptly cruel. Crisply dressed. Oozing charm and money. Everything about Sang is styled perfectly, down to the £6000 watch. He sighs, knowing how this man makes his money. But he has long accepted that Chance wasn’t always fair, he just preferred it when he was.

He quietly goes over to the coffee vending machine on the lobby and reaching behind unplugs the power. Somehow no one sees him. As the group disperse, Sang heads next door to Coffee Co.after a few kicks and curses aimed at the lobby coffee machine proves futile. He follows San next door. It is busy, there are no seats. Sang, a man unaccustomed to waiting, mutters in line and listens to the murmur of the radio announcing a new text to win competition. He thinks, ‘Fuck it. It’s only a text. Why not.’

He stands in line and looks at Sang; Satisfied if not happy with his work. He crosses off an entry on his book. He scans the next entry hoping this one is just a little bit more deserving. His fingers flick through the wrinkled parchment of the book. “Jane Cole, Thurs, 9:45am, LuckyDraw 07.”

He has managed to grab the last table seat and now as the train's disembodied announcement rings out, he prepares to battle through the crowd. The worn black book he had been studying disappears inside his coat. Luckily the hunched group ahead all exit here and he trails through the crowds easy enough. He stoops down and grabs a scrap of paper off the floor. People seem to part before his unwashed run down appearance. He likes it this way. Makes his job easier. Imagine if people knew who he was.

He makes his way into a beautiful old church. Or rather the fractured body of one, now its hear heart ripped out and replaced with chain 3.49 all day breakfasts and cheap watered down beer. But he can see Jane crouched in the corner. A small and startled thing. Darting eyes and slim fingers that peck at the scraps on her plate. He wades through the mucilaginous floorboards to her corner. Smiling he sits opposite her. She doesn’t seem to mind. He looks at her and sees a sad story. He knows the details intimately just from the wrinkles around her bottomless eyes. The clothes falling off her paper thin body. He realises at once it is not her breakfast she is finishing.

It is so much better on days like this. He looks at his watch. 9.43 perfect. He takes out an used scratch card and slides it across the table.

Smiling, he finishes his drink and takes out his book. No time for breakfast as he scrolsl the endless list of names Shame there is no second Chance, he thinks. I could do with a day off.

The hole in the wall

by Jenny

The crash died in a shower of plaster and dust and Steve coughed as a cloud of it flew into his face.

“You sure you don’t want the dust mask?”

“Bit bloody late now.”

“Well I did say…”

“Shut up you.”

“Get off! I’m not kissing you, you’re minging!”

Steve laughed and turned back to the enormous hole he had just knocked through our bedroom wall.

I peered into the room from the hall, which was a maze of towering unpacked boxes. We’d been living in sleeping bags eating food cooked on a camping stove for weeks and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a proper wash.

I picked my way around the assorted detritus of home renovation on the bare floorboards and peered into a gaping cavity that swirled with grey dust.

“Hang on,” said Steve. “What’s this?”

He leaned into the hole and reached down. His hand disappeared into thick opaque dust and emerged holding a small black book, coated in grime.

“Well what are the chances?” he breathed, dumbfounded. “Would you look at that...”

“It looks like a notebook.”

“Auntie Clara was always scribbling in one of these. I assumed they must all have been buried with her. How on earth did she manage to get one in there?”

“It’s a journal?”

Steve shook his head. “These were top secret. She never told any of us what was in them, but I always wondered.”

I frowned and took the book from him, turning it over in my hands. It had a soft black leather cover and fresh, white pages under the coating of dust.

“It looks quite recent - the paper hasn’t gone yellow or anything. Do you think she left it here for you to find when you inherited the house? She knew you’d be doing the place up, didn’t she? She made you promise you would.Maybe there’s something in there she wanted to tell you that she didn’t want the others to know…”

I passed it back to him and he slowly flipped open the cover. I had expected pages of spidery writing, but most of the leaves were blank. Except one.


Go to the third slab in the crazy paving and pull it up. Dig about six feet under(appropriate, I thought, given that’s where I will be if you’re reading this! Ha! And you’ll find a red box. It’s for you and Ellie. Good luck with everything.


PS don’t tell the others_

We looked at each other in astonishment.

“I suppose we’d better…”

I nodded and we walked mutely outside. It was drizzling lightly, but neither of us really noticed.

We found the slab. Steve levered it up with a spade and began to dig. It seemed to take a lifetime, but eventually we heard a dull thud as the spade made dull thud as it made contact with something that definitely wasn’t earth.

Steve looked at me, blinking raindrops from his lashes and squatted down to pull up a dirty red metal box.

Breathless I walked round to stand beside him as he slipped his thumbs under the catch and pushed open the lid...

Personal Effects

by Russ

I could see the windows reflecting in the gloss of his eyes. What was that look? Bewilderment? Fear? Anger? I still couldn’t predict which way it would go.

‘Honestly, don’t mind the camera,’ I tried to reassure him one more time. ‘It’s just so I can show we did this. The other option was to have a lawyer sat here drinking your coffee too, which would be pretty awkward,’ I laughed but I wasn’t joking.

He looked to the camera then back to me. He was right, this was just as awkward.

I moved my hands nervously around the edges of the small black book on my lap. Surreptitiously, I checked my exit route noting the slightly lifted floorboard just before the door. I remembered how angry Uncle Frank had got and shuddered at what could have happened if I’d tripped as I fled. It wasn’t a chance I could take.

‘Are you going to tell me what all this is about?’

‘Sorry, Uncle Walter.’

‘Son, you’re a grown man, just call me Walt.’

I nodded a response and pulled myself into focus. It didn’t get any easier. Hearing that Aunt Winnie had been admitted to hospital afterwards hadn’t helped.

‘Ok, Walt. So, mum died,’ I didn’t need to tell him that. She was his sister. He’d been at the funeral. He’d been at the will reading when all this started. $20,000 and ‘some personal effects’ she left me. An inheritance, that’s what the lawyer called it. An obligation is what it was. A burden bound in fabric.

‘Well, she left me this book,’ I paused. ‘And she asked me to visit you,’

‘Did old Sue ask you to bring me some of that twenty grand?’ Uncle Walter was laughing now. He meant it to set me at ease but it felt like a knife being held against my ribs. I gave a stunted giggle.

‘What it is,’ I persevered. I could feel a bead of sweat on my temple. ‘Mum. Susan. She wrote some things she wanted me to pass on. To say to you, and Winnie, and Frank, and Peg,’ I’d deliberately left Aunt Peg until last. The man opposite me had stiffened now.

‘I need to stress, these are Mum’s… Susan’s words, not mine.’

He waited.

‘I’ll just read, shall I?’

He nodded.

I opened the book, clumsily found my way to the right page, cleared my throat, and read. I read each page steadily and without breaks. Uncle Walter didn’t move or speak. He let me talk until I’d clogged every crack in the room with tension. He let me close the book, and he let the room tighten with silence.

‘So that’s what Sue really thought, is it?’

I said nothing. I was transfixed by the single tear swelling in the corner of his eye and the way his body seemed to have folded into itself.

‘I think you should leave now,’ he spoke with splintered authority but it was enough for me.

The next time I exhaled I was standing outside with the notebook in one hand and the camera in the other. My heart thumped so fast I shook. Behind me, the curtains drew closed.

One more.

Worm-Infested Floorboards

by Russ

The little black book was out already when I walked in. That poisonous tome of responsibility he’d started keeping the moment we moved into this place. My mood dropped from an eleven to a four as soon as I saw it. I cursed myself for texting ahead.

‘Tea?’ he shouted from the kitchen. The relish in his tone pinched at my nerves.

‘Ta!’ I yelled back. One syllable, less chance of me sounding petulant. I used the opportunity of the empty room to grab the armchair and put my laptop between my eyes and the papery threat on the coffee table. I tried not to think about all the sensible choices festering in its pages.

‘So,’ he swept into the room with two steaming mugs. I felt him pause for a minute, obviously trying to work out why I’d chosen to annex the armchair rather than share the sofa with him. ‘Good news day!’

I smiled tersely as he handed me the tea then whipped my eyes back to the screen in a futile attempt to end the conversation. He sat on the sofa and I heard the moist pop of his mouth reopening. It felt like a slap.

‘Well, not entirely good,’ I hastened to block. ‘My gran’s still dead.’

He closed his mouth again. I knew he was looking at the book. Part of me dared him to touch it.

Twenty thousand quid. Just stacked up in Gran’s sideboard. Years of pension stashed away like faded old photographs she’d lost interest in. We thought she was penniless, and suddenly I’ve got more unallocated money than I’ve ever known. Me, twenty grand, and an ocean of choice.

He picked up the book but didn’t open it. I allowed my eyes to flick in his direction and saw him gazing around the room purposefully. It was as if he was reading the words clenched between his fingers by osmosis, ticking off the faults they referred to in his head. The crack in the ceiling, the stain on the carpet, the rattle of the single glazing as the number thirty-two rumbled past outside. He shifted his weight forward and we both heard the creak of the worm-infested floorboards. He placed the book back on the table and breathed in.

‘It’s my money,’ I said, surprising us both.


I felt like an eight-year-old on the cusp of a tantrum.

‘I mean...’ I wanted to back-pedal and go for the jugular all at once, a sense of panic overtook me. ‘I don’t…’

I saw his eyes drop and re-lift in a way I knew was him nodding to himself. He picked up the book again and stood with it, then stepped to the bookshelf where he placed it neatly in the gap it had left. He walked over and sat on the arm of my chair. He placed one hand on my far shoulder and another on my near forearm, and looked at the website I had open on the screen.

‘Vegas?’ he suggested.

I leant my head into his chest and typed the word into the search bar so quickly it looked like an anagram.