The teeth of the sun

Author’s note: I wrote this for Storgy’s Exit Earth competition, and had a lot of fun doing so. It didn’t make the cut, which means that if you enjoy it there are 14 better stories out there – and who doesn’t like better stories? Please consider backing their Kickstarter to get those stories out into the barren, blasted physical world!

3,102 words – approx. 10 minutes

Ever since it was announced that the Earth was drowning, the traffic had been dreadful. Adrian drummed his fingers uselessly on the steering wheel. Cryogenix provided state-of-the-art company cars, but there was only so much that the latest in dynamic flow-management and hazard-evasion technology could do to counteract the rush hour congestion, even without the waves of people responding to the latest rumours about evac points or making what could be their final trips to see family.

At least he could leave the painfully slow progress to the car itself. He sighed and looked out at the clear blue sky, searching for something to occupy him. A change in one of the billboards caught his eye: it now showed a familiar tanned face with an artificial smile that gleamed at the world. This was Richard Kimmler, one of the key financiers of the evacuation. He must have looked at it for several seconds, because a notification appeared on the dashboard: Accept connection?

Continue reading The teeth of the sun

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Birdie

3,698 words – approx. 12 minutes

You can also hear me read this story below, or at my Soundcloud page

Birdie Williams won his nickname in the rushed last week of a summer that had never gathered any momentum. Days worthy of the season had been sporadic that year, and no sooner had a promising stretch been put together than a sudden bank of bulging grey clouds appeared and kept everyone indoors, their endless games of Mario Kart made monotonous by lack of alternative and punctuated by the crack and roll of thunder.

But late August brought with it days of unbroken golden sun, and with the new school year looming ever-larger on the horizon, the children of Kendrick Road were determined to make the most of the weather’s newfound benevolence. At 12, Sean wasn’t quite the youngest of the group, but Patrick made it clear that his involvement in their ragged games of football or cricket was due to his older brother, not any acceptance that Sean could lay personal claim to. Within the boundaries of Ma Williams’ orders – “If you’re going outside, take your brother now” – Patrick would do little to hide his reluctance, often waiting until the last minute to call “Going!” leaving Sean to stampede breathlessly downstairs and pull on his trainers (formerly Patrick’s) in a desperate hurry. Whether or not they were late, Patrick would always apologise to the others as Sean pulled the back gate to.

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Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams

2,745 words – approx. 9 minutes

It starts, as so many things do, with a joke. It’s not a good joke; it’s a wizened raisin of a thing, shrivelled and drained of any insight or wit by overuse. It’s not even a joke that’s spoken aloud, but one spotted on the t-shirt of a man with a takeaway coffee as he leaves the Sunshine café on an autumn lunchtime.

Nevertheless, it starts with this, and weeks later another man, who had not in fact seen the joke himself, is in an almost empty carriage of early morning subway in New York.

Continue reading Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams

Rosewood Drive

3,838 words – approx. 13 minutes

The house at 12 Rosewood Drive had seen better days, but even those had been far from magnificent. ­­Its paint, though, had once been more evenly spread, and the wooden panels the peeling white coats covered had not always seemed to be folding in on themselves. The front yard, too, had once been subject to a measure of control, in contrast to the sprawling, spiked wilderness that now welcomed its few visitors.

It had, once, seemed to shine – with the slick sheen of a realtor’s suit, but shine nonetheless. Now unidentifiable green shoots sprouted between the cracks in its walls, and the second floor front window had been smashed and left unrepaired, the floor of the room it led to sagging into the bathroom below like a spider’s sac. Time and the misfortune of its neighbourhood, one without inhabitants whose money, or regard, or simple stable presence could maintain or improve the property, had taken their toll.

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Remember, remember

3,189 words – approx. 11 minutes

The house, or what remains of it, stands empty over the park. Its position on a slight hill gives it a vantage point from which to survey the unkept grass and the thin winding path below. There have been people in the park today: old and young, some with dogs on thick red leads, others pushing children in covered prams as droplets race each other down plastic visors.

Among the red-bricked terraces that line the surrounding streets the house’s solitude seems out of place. It shares no walls, hears no arguments, feels no shudders as doors slam in anger. No-one really knows who it belongs to, or where its grounds begin and end. If it has an owner, they are content to let it sit unclaimed. Age and stones thrown from boredom have pocked its face, but the fence of trees has shielded it from the worst of the weather. Tonight the dark drapes it in a bruised shawl. Even in this blackness the windows and door look darker than the rest of the house, hollowed, as if it is in mourning.

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