Friday’s Short Story: Sacrifice

storyteller It had been made quite clear during the interview process that if I wanted to climb the ladder at Timely Holdings I would have to be prepared to make certain sacrifices. It was also made clear that if I didn’t want to climb the ladder then I had no place at Timely Holdings. So yes, I told them, I wanted to climb the ladder and therefore sacrifices would be made. In fact, I was all about sacrifice, I told them. Had I not put that in my personal statement, about sacrificing? No? Well I certainly meant to. After the stuff about focus, innovative solutions and working well as part of a team and also on my own initiative. I got the job.

So when, at the end of my first week my line manager strode towards me in a goal-orientated way, me being the goal and his orientation being spot-on, and told me that I would have to work on Saturday, who was I to argue? I was on the first rung of a ladder that was going to take me all the way, baby.

Which is why I sacrificed my weekend. Which is why I was sitting alone at my cubicle at 2pm on that Saturday afternoon when Satan strode towards me in what I had grown to recognise as a goal-orientated way. Continue reading

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Friday’s Short Story: The Ghost of Dave

storyteller Harry had definitely gone to bed drunk, and he had certainly eaten a lot of cheese. These were two facts: solid, uncontroversial, the kind of truths you could rap your knuckle on.

“I am a bit drunk, and I have eaten far too much cheese on toast,” he said out loud, but the ghost just stared at him, impassively.

He had never seen a ghost before. He didn’t believe in ghosts. These were also facts. Stating facts was helping prevent him from panicking. Continue reading

Friday’s Short Story: The Designer Fire Brigade

storytellerI phoned the designer fire brigade this morning. They were very friendly, considering I was having to shout over the sound of the fire alarm. We arranged a meeting and I went in to discuss my fire-fighting needs.

We sat in a very nice little conference room, and Melvin, the head designer fire fighter, took me through the process of assembling a mood board. They gave me a pile of magazines, some scissors and a Pritt stick. First of all we concentrated on the colours and shapes that summed up my living space at the present moment: I found lots of warm colours, reds and golds, and carefully pasted them into a collage, along with some photographs of people looking sad. Melvin seemed very pleased when I had finished. “Oh, is it hot in here or is it just me?” he said, sort of fanning the air round his face with his hand.

Then I had to put together a second mood board to help me visualise how I might like my living space to look after the designer fire fighters had finished with it. Again I cut pictures out, the colours now cooler – lots of blues and greens, more oceanic. Pictures of kitchens and bedrooms not filled with acrid smoke. And I found some shots of people looking happy. One in particular, of Matthew McConaughey leaning against a chain fence in a sun-drenched Los Angeles alleyway, really seemed to sum up how I would feel if the designer fire brigade could effect the kind of transformations their brochures had promised. Again, Melvin nodded in approval.

He would take the boards, he said, and present them to his firefighting team, perhaps on Wednesday, and they would discuss strategies and solutions, and could they get back to me some time next week with a game plan and, a ha ha, a price plan?

Anyway, by the time I got home the urgency of the project had gone, really. I phoned the designer fire brigade and thanked them for their help and advice. They were very understanding. These things happen, they said, and the final bill, when it arrived, would reflect that, they said.

And as Melvin pointed out to me, charcoal is the new black.

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The Designer Fire Brigade
by Harris
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Friday’s Short Story: The Barbarian

The barbarian stood atop the pile of bodies. He did not think it too many. In fact, he did not think it enough so he went looking for more bodies to add to the pile.

He ventured into the lingerie department. He looked at the scraps of lace and cotton and felt nothing but rage. Rage was pretty much his default emotion so we should not read too much into that. He found two ladies behind the tills and slaughtered them mercilessly. Their gender barely registered with him, and I think we might see that as a positive, even feminist act.

It would be very easy to say the barbarian had no business being in Marks and Spencer in the first place, but of what use is that to us? He was there. We can look into the root causes of his presence: a quest, a wizard, a portal etc. etc. A direct line of cause and effect can certainly be plotted there, with hindsight, starting with a dread prophecy uttered on the seven hundredth day of the third endless winter on the desolate frost-scorched plains of the Blüdrealms and ending with, for example, Malcolm Tovey’s head on a pike in the men’s formalwear department of a major high street retailer in Middlesbrough, but of what use is that to Malcolm?

And by extension: of what use is my writing this, to anyone? And yet write I feel I must. Are these not the songs we must sing? Of blood, and steel, and slacks. (The slacks suffered minimal damage, but were sadly no longer saleable.) And so my song is sung and cannot be unsung, or de-sung or whatever.

The barbarian is still in there, if you want him. He’s in the food hall, covered in bits of staff and customer, staring in wonder and dread at a packet of prewashed kale. He’s not my problem anymore.

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The Barbarian
by Harris
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Friday’s Short Story: Secret Origin

A bat flew through Bruce Wayne’s window. Superman was rocketed to Earth from a dying planet.

I was nine and tidying up the bookshelves in the corner of the classroom, because I was a good boy and I got asked to do things like that. The rest of the class were busy with a maths worksheet. I didn’t like maths. I liked being a good boy. I was quiet, I kept myself to myself. I liked tidying the shelves, putting everything in order.

The classroom door opened and in came Mrs Ramshaw; huge, hairy and angry, a furious grey-permed sunset of a face above a formless planet of a body. With her was a little girl who had obviously just been crying.

“Mrs Murphy, Shelley says that one of the big boys made her cry at dinner time. Shelley, can you see the boy who made you cry?”

Shelley scanned the class. Everybody, boys and girls, looked guilty. They fiddled with pencil cases, looked at the ceiling. I tidied the shelves.

It was me. It was me who had made Shelley cry. I wasn’t a good boy. I was a bad boy. I had done it and I was going to get told off. Mrs Ramshaw would shout at me in front of everybody. I might get the slipper. My stomach felt cold and empty as fear and guilt and more fear replaced the blood in my veins. Being told off was the worst thing in the world. The universe was looking at me, cold indifference had turned to icy interest. This was not an improvement.

“Can you see the boy, Shelley?”

I kept tidying. Putting the shelves in order.

“No,” said Shelley.

Shelley couldn’t see me because I was tidying the shelves because I was a good boy.

“Sorry to disturb you, Mrs Murphy. Come on, Shelley. We’ll try Class C.”

They left.

School is where you learn the most useful lessons. Everything was in order. I didn’t get told off. Good boys tidy the shelves during maths and good boys don’t get told off. The emptiness in my tummy turned to warmth. The best feeling in the world: relief. I had got away with it. And the shelves were neat and tidy and the universe was looking away from me again.

I would never be bad again. Honest. I’m a good boy.

I am very quiet and keep myself to myself.

******
Secret Origin
by Harris
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“Saint” Nicholas Ordeal Over

storytellerFather “Father” Christmas, the wealthy Lap toy manufacturer and philanthropist, has finally been released after a forty-four year kidnap ordeal.

Mr. Christmas had been seized in 1970 by some very, very naughty boys and girls.

News of his release has revealed a massive worldwide conspiracy to conceal the fate of the man known as “Santa Claus”. Parents had been instructed to maintain the appearance that Mr. Christmas was still visiting homes every Christmas Eve, by buying toys that he had previously given away for free.

Precise details of his capture and eventual release remain a closely-guarded secret, but a police spokesman announced they were looking for a Mr. Mattel and a Mr. Hasbro to help them with their enquiries. It is also believed that the Toys R Us giraffe was shot in the face in the course of the operation.

A frail-looking Father Christmas could only raise a red-mittened thumbs up, and mutter something about his kidnappers being “on my list, and not my nice list.” before being placed on a plane bound for RAF Lineham for debriefing.

Father Christmas is expected to return to work next December.

Short Story – Why I’m Still Sat Down

I was sitting on the sofa. It was a reclining future-sofa with a built-in kettle, toaster and toilet. It was a future-sofa because this was the future. The fact I hadn’t stood up for three weeks was beginning to bother me. I should maybe have mentioned that earlier. I hadn’t stood up for three weeks. I had always been lazy, and that sofa was comfortable, but three weeks? Something was clearly up. So I craned round and looked behind the cushions and found this black hole, which had obviously been exerting a gravitational pull on me and stopping me from getting up. For three weeks.

The full enormity of this discovery was pretty overwhelming and a lot for one man to have to think about, so to take my mind off it I switched on the telly to watch The Most Recent Clone of Jeremy Kyle shouting at a promiscuous human/rabbit hybrid who had been neglecting her 73 children and sleeping with the human/chicken hybrid who lived next door.

Whether it was the slight but persistent gravitational pull of the black hole, or the timeless charisma of Jeremy Kyles, I couldn’t say, but here I am still sitting on this sofa above a small but powerful black hole watching An Even More Recent Clone of Jeremy Kyle having a shout at a cash-poor human/marmot hybrid on the telly a month later. Send help. My sofa is full of shit.

This story is dedicated to The Most Recent Clone of Jeremy Kyle who sadly died of furiousness during its writing.

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Why I’m Still Sat Down
by Harris
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