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.

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4,465 words – approx. 15 minutes

“Hannah, if you’d like to come in?” The woman jerked from her thoughts at the sound and rose from the purple, rectangular sofa, tugging down her lead-grey skirt as she stood. Before she took a step she crouched to pick up the plastic cup of water at her feet, careful not to crush it. This was no time for clumsiness.

She didn’t recognise the man who held the door open for her. He was smiling, but without showing his teeth, and there was something goblin-like in the way his head bowed towards his outstretched arm. Hannah flashed him a quick grimace then watched her feet cover the check pattern of the carpet. As she passed him he flattened himself against the door, as though scared to come into contact with her. Be assertive, she reminded herself, and forced her head upwards. But she couldn’t stifle the shiver that ran through her when the door clicked to.

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