books fiction writing


This was a deleted scene from Laughing Boy. A Neal story, which was something I enjoyed, but in the book’s flow, it slowed things down. However, the piece didn’t leave me alone. So here it is, a story about Neal and an imaginary friend. Let me know what you think.

It started with the music being left on.

We all have our foibles. If you had ever shared a flat, you grew intimate with the blind straightforward ways that people occupying space can enrage you by how they go about their day. A blizzard of passive-aggressive post-it notes, awkward house meetings feeding off the fat, angry silences and sometimes raw, anguished arguments. 

The politics of human interaction are often so vicious because the stakes are so small. 

Someone who drinks your lactose free milk.

Pubic hairs left in the shower.

That cramping, petty frustration when you sit down to take a shit and see the cardboard roll rattling on the white plastic holder. 

With flatmates, lovers, friends, there is a way out. 

Families are less capable of weathering these perfect, minute storms of diplomacy. They blithely accept them as part and parcel of that plant like desperate love that paternity and marriage engender. 

They rarely see them as symptoms. 

It was not a stereo, Emily saw such things as archaic. No, she had grown up seeing the vinyl record or the CD as antiques, media that her parents used when she had only ever known a world where music was available with a drag and a click. 

She made up playlists, unable to view the album as a curated collection of songs. She would segue from Bat For Lashes to All-Time Low, leavened by Hot Chip or James Bay, streams of songs that made sense only to her. With London at her feet, she saw as many gigs as school and family would allow. 

Which was probably more than you did. She wrote feverish blog posts, tweeted like a fiend, photographed every moment of her life.

An ordinary teenager.

Teenagers are oblivious, not deliberately. Too old for the indulgence afforded children, too young for the freedom that they believe they crave. That wasteland is a horrific place to the most beloved, and Emily was beloved. Nathan worked all hours to provide for them, Harriet slaved over loving dinners, ferried Emily to whatever activities her heart desired, right until Emily quit everything. 

Harriet coped by judicious prescriptions of Riesling. Long, melancholy, desperate lunches with the other mothers, who had sacrificed their bodies and ambitions to raising children who were strong willed and capable, but unable to reconcile the simple notion of how those children had followed their logic. At night, she would talk about having another baby, but Nathan would pretend to be asleep and see her entreaties as entirely free of content. 

Emily left her music on. Harriet never picked up her own dirty laundry. Nathan left his shirts on the polished floorboards of the landing or forgot to pick up milk on his way home. They did not leave notes or call meetings; they had holidays,  attended weddings and sometimes, funerals. 

An entirely ordinary family. 

Harriet would hear the thump of the bass, find Emily sitting in the living room, watching music on television. 

She would swear that she turned it off. Not literally, Harriet loved the thrill of saying fuck, but abhorred it when she heard Emily swear. Emily would gasp with frustration and stomp upstairs but then not return, leaving the television on. Harriet learned that she quite liked the boy bands, a smorgasbord of lithe young men. She wouldn’t mind dressing up for them.

Nathan could barely get her to lift the hem of her nightgown.   

Harriet would come home after lunch, upstairs to gargle mouthwash and find the music coming from Emily’s room. She would imagine the worst scenario, truant with an elder boy that she would herself find unnervingly attractive, underwear bunched up and lifted away, having to tell Nathan or worse, keep another secret from him. 

The emptiness was a relief at first, amusing and an opportunity to assert her crumbling authority. 

Emily had greasy black circles of fatigue beneath her eyes, her eyes were bloodshot and she kept plucking at the sleeves of the oversized black sweatshirt, too heavy an item for the season. Harriet was too flush with righteous parental outrage to notice, already imagining telling Nathan about it later. She would mentally photoshop his adoring attention into the scenario but the joy was in the prediction, not the recollection. 

Emily did not huff or explode, she apologised in a soft, small voice. 

She sat there, like someone was behind her, rifle cradled and ready to drop into position if she deviated from her prepared statement.

She went up to her room. 

Harriet did not hear any music for a while. She had the new Hemsley and Hemsley to occupy her, plus there was a handy menu for the Indian takeaway that Nathan liked, but she liked to test herself, especially when she believed a parental rubicon had been crossed. 

She believed in being nurturing but could never quite get the hang of it.

The music started up again and Harriet carried on cooking. 

Emily ate less at mealtimes. She was either out or in her room, and although both her parents held whispered conferences about the change in her, neither of them wanted to broach the subject with her. They decided to outsource her issues to a therapist, a soft spoken elderly lady who worked from her living room in Islington, a place teeming with plants and the faint scent of bergamot. 

After two sessions, the therapist cancelled Emily’s appointments and refused to see her again. Nathan confronted Emily about it, afraid of what she might say, but Emily’s eyes glittered with challenge. She had lost weight, her skin glowed as though she had been lit up from within and her nails had been bitten back to the quick. Yet she stood up and pointed her index finger at her dad’s face.

‘She said that you’re the problem, both of you. Not me.’

They were both too shocked to stop her storming past them and going up to her room. They could not look at one another, and ended up in separate rooms, hoping that the other person would come through and say something. Anger would have been better than silence, but silence won out. 

All of it soundtracked by the music from her room. 

Harriet had been with her mother when the school rang. Watching her decide between subtly different, expensive pastel shaded scarves, Harriet was about to tell her that perhaps she was a little too old to appropriate the bohemian look when her phone trilled. 

She listened, while her mother kept asking her what was wrong. Bleating, like a lamb negotiating a stay of execution whilst the oven was being switched on. Harriet wanted to slap her sometimes, just to shut her up. She rushed out of the shop with her mother trailing behind. 

Nathan joined her at the hospital. 

They had friends who practiced medicine. They knew that sometimes the truth about a medical diagnosis was that they did not know what was wrong. They talked about how you had to handle the possibility that their kid was on more drugs than the average touring funk band or that their genitals were a potential petri dish for the super STD that would decimate humanity.  Nathan and Harriet would hold hands across the table, shake their heads at the possibility. 

Emily was:

Too sensible.

Too passionate about music.

Not into boys. 

Harriet would not quite commit to that one. Not that teenage girls were not into boys, but that they couldn’t get the ones they wanted. Harriet had given a toothy blowjob to Peter Harrison on his fourteenth birthday, but she would never have shared that with anyone. 

They kept Emily in for a few days. When they got to see her, she asked them to bring her iPod. Nathan gave a paternal shake of the head and put his hand on hers, but she flinched like it had scalded her.

‘Just bring it to me, please. It needs it.’

Nathan snapped a glance at Harriet. 

‘Who needs it? You said it, Emz’

He called her Emz. Dad and Emz. The Dad and Emz Club, exclusive, Harriet would walk in on them sometimes and mentally wonder if she needed to sign the guest book to join them. She envied the ease he had with her. A burst of savage glee woke within Harriet at seeing how she had flinched from him. 

‘No, Dad, I need it. Please, just bring it to me. I don’t like the silence.’

Harriet thought. Schizophrenia. Mental illness. Emily, living at home until her forties, face pockmarked with sadness, pretty but damaged and all the other mothers talking about their bright, pretty daughters getting married and Harriet already imagining the apologies she would have to rehearse. 

Nathan promised her he would. She cringed at what she was thinking. She loved them both, but she was never sure that she liked them. Not all the time. 

He drove back to the hospital, insisted on giving her the iPod personally and when he had bullied his way in, she had sobbed with gratitude, shaking hands already popping the earbuds in. She put them on their side in the ears. Nathan had shown her that as a way of making them sound louder. It was not Old Benjamin’s Almanack worthy insight, he had read it online, but he watched her do it and wanted to put his arms around her. 

She laid down immediately, face smoothing out into an expression of placid bliss and her hands folded on her lap. Nathan was disturbed by the mechanical resolution of it and he sat in the front seat of the car. 

He went to the therapist’s house. On her doorstep, eyes red with tears, she refused to open the door until he threatened to consult his solicitor and she let him in.

She asked him if he knew who Boody was. Hearing an adult woman say his name nearly made him bark out a laugh, but it was unnerving. 

65% of children have imaginary friends at seven, or they report having done so. Emily was no different. 

Boody. She drew pictures of them together, thick loops of crayon piled atop one another. It was a soft blur of primary colours, a collection of ovoid shapes coalesced into a child’s idea of a soft, unthreatening pachyderm. She would sing to him, lilting improvised melodies, and leave him brief notes all over the house. This lasted for a year, then as quickly as he arrived, gone. 

No one wonders what happens to imaginary friends. 

‘Did she talk about him?’

It took him aback. He had tormented himself, as much as any father does, about the imaginary hobgoblins and temptations of adolescence. This was a list formed from his own experiences, much like Harriet’s had been. 

She grimaced.

‘Emily is a perceptive, intelligent young woman. She resented that you shoved her into therapy, how you put a suit out to be dry cleaned.’

Nathan went to protest, but her eyes glittered behind her oversized spectacles. He knew better than to argue with a woman, let alone a psychiatrist. He thanked her for her time and got behind the wheel of his car. He sat there, pressed his palms against the steering wheel, despairing at what he could do to fix things. 

He went home. They sat Harriet at the kitchen table, a bottle of wine and a glass sat in front of her as she trembled, taking small, frequent sips without looking at him. She turned her head and gave him a hopeful smile. He rushed into the room, wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. He kept his lips there, shut his eyes and took in a deep breath.

‘I don’t know what to do.’

She cried. He joined her. 

Emily came home the next evening. The scans revealed nothing unusual. She sat with them, eating soup off a tray in the living room whilst Nathan sat on the chair and pretended to read. Harriet had gone to her mother’s, as much to reassure her and to make apologies for her outburst of the days before. 

Emily was watching television when a thump came from upstairs. Nathan closed his book and got to his feet. Emily did not take her eyes from the television, mechanically lifting the spoon to her lips. 


The skin prickled on Nathan’s forearms and he swallowed, struggling to find the courage to ask his daughter what she meant.

‘Something might have fallen over.’

‘Don’t go upstairs, Dad. Please.’

His hand was on the door handle, but he stared at where Emily sat, never taking her eyes from the television.

‘Is it Boody?’ he said.

She lowered the spoon into the bowl and wiped her lips with the back of her hand. She turned and stared at him. 

‘No, but it looks like him.’

The simple, coldly elegant diction was unrepresentative of her. She used slang words to set herself apart from her parents, much as they had with theirs, but here she spoke in a clipped, cautious tone. 

‘Emz. This isn’t funny.’

She smiled and shook her head. 

‘No, Dad, but it’s all going to be okay now.’

He went to ask her what she meant, but there was another thump from her bedroom. Heavier, angrier and powerful enough that it made the light fitting swing.

‘I don’t have time for stupid Boody jokes.’

His irritation overrode his concern. Momentum was more effective than caution. Culture, biology and emotion stirred up his blood and closed his thinking down to the simple action of opening a bedroom door. 

He went up the stairs, surprised by the rapidity of his pulse and how damp his palms were when he went to open the door to his daughter’s bedroom. 

Harriet came home, laden with bags from a reconciliatory browse through the reduced section of the chiller cabinet. She called for help, but no one came and she muscled the bags into the kitchen. There was music coming from upstairs and she went into the living room, seeking reassurance from Nathan before she planned to go upstairs and point out that, yes she had been ill, but that was never an excuse to dismiss other people’s right to peace. 

The living room was empty.

The music was louder than before, the lyrics and feedback, distorted guitars sounded like barbed wire being dragged across a cattle grid. She stormed upstairs; her face pinched into a perfect mask of disdain and hammered on the door. 

‘Emily. Turn the bloody music down.’

The volume shot up in response and with that Harriet opened the door, ready to put her daughter in her place. Nathan sat on the floor, knees pulled up to his chest and sobbing to himself. He cried out when she touched his shoulder. The music switched off. She saw the plug dangling from the docking speaker. 

He raised his head, mouth flapping as he sought to find the words. Looking into his eyes, she watched him struggle then give up. His eyes were swivelling in their sockets and she noticed how the skin around his eyes had slashes of time etched into his flesh like paper cuts.

‘Where’s Emily, Nathan?’

He stared across the room. The walk-in wardrobe recessed into the wall had both its doors open, and Nathan pointed to it with a trembling finger. 

‘She’s in there.’

The world had slowed to the pace of a dream, alien and familiar in the same breath. She looked at Nathan, broken and shuddering, waited for him to get to his feet. She wondered if this was all some appalling joke. 

‘Stop it, Nathan, this isn’t funny. She’s not well.’

His lips had pulled back over his gums, his upper body shook with the effort of holding in his hysteria. 

‘I wish I were joking.’ 

She exhaled sharply and looked at the wardrobe door. 

‘I’m calling for an ambulance. If she wants to come out and explain to the paramedics or THE POLICE.’

Pretending that this was still a joke gone too far, she opened the door to the wardrobe. She fought back tears as she called her daughter’s name.

She was not in the wardrobe. She stood there and called for an ambulance from her mobile phone, explaining that her husband was having a seizure. 

She could not explain any of it. 

What had happened to her husband.

Where her daughter was. 

She appeared on television. Squeezed into a portion of the news between bloated public schoolboy politicians pointing chubby fingers at one another and a celebrity divorce, asking the public for news or information about her daughter.

Nathan was in a private ward. His hysteria subsided but he could not handle the simplest interactions without tears and anguish. When the police questioned him about Emily, he was rendered mute by his reaction, hands pressed to his mouth and shaking his head. 

It was whilst she was out shopping, a basket now rather than a trolley that she heard her name called from the end of the aisle. 

She turned around. She had last seen him at the summer ball, in a white suit with his long, black hair falling around his face.  His hair was shorter, his clothing was muted and he had grown in a neat scrub of beard but it was still him. 

When he put his hand on her upper arm, she burst into tears. Neal figured it had been his cologne and when he told her that, over chai latte in the supermarket’s cafe, she smiled and shook her head

‘I’m barely holding it together.’

Neal listened. He asked a couple of questions and nodded to punctuate her answers. Her instincts were too burnt out to ask questions in return, and he offered to follow her home. She smiled and shook her head. He passed her a card and said that he understood. He got up to leave and told her politely, that out of anyone she knew, he might be the one who really did get what she was going through. 

She went home. She had an hour before she needed to get ready for work. She had a few hours in the evenings, waitressing even though she burned with self consciousness and her age pinched sharply behind her knees and at the same spot on the small of her back. She came home, fingers stinking from garlic, fresh burns on her forearms where the plates were too hot and eyes burning from exhaustion. The good part was that she was able to sleep on those nights. 

That night, the music came on, around three am and she woke up on the couch. The house made all sorts of noises now, Nathan was under supervision and Emily had, for all accounts, simply disappeared. Harriet screamed and put her hand over her mouth. 

She did not enter her room. The volume lurched up and down, then finally stopped which was somehow worse. 

There was a rasping soft sound, a chainsaw cutting through a mattress and she put her ear to the door. She called her daughter’s name and tried the door handle. It did not give, and she kicked at it until she cracked one of her toes against the frame and sat on the floor, howling and clutching her foot. 

She rang Neal from the accident and emergency. Apologised and said that she needed to talk to someone. 

He had come over, looked at how the dust had gathered, pictures askew on the walls, the dirty plates in the sink, cigarette butts in a saucer by the kitchen door. She hobbled to the kitchen, but he told her to sit down and made two coffees. He asked if he could smoke and she asked if she could have one too. Over cigarettes and coffee, she told him about the music and the mood swings. 

It was enough to pique his interest. 

He knew that the police, unlike their fictional counterparts, saw the skilled bystander offering their insights, not with glee, but suspicion. Criminals veered to the narcissistic, and often sought information, or covertly offered it to lengthen the refractory period after the release of action had begun to ebb away. Instead, he listened to Harriet, looked at the photographs, and when she mentioned, after they had moved from tears to wine, about Boody. She expected him to laugh, or dismiss her but instead he leaned forward, took her trembling, feverish hands in his and said that he would be able to help her.

Harriet had been into collages at one point. Cutting photographs into their gestalt essences, Nathan’s square jaw, Emily’s round baby face. Inadvertent photo bombs and blurred backgrounds were so much scrap and offcut, swept into the bin. What would be pasted onto cards and placed beneath glass became montages, chaotic, happy moments pasted together into a cascade of all time. Set in the centre was Emily, hair in bunches and caught in mid-leap, as primary colour cartoon characters cavorted behind her.  He walked over to it, and pointed to it for emphasis. He asked how old she had been on that one. 

‘Her tenth birthday. We went to that soft play centre, Warren’s Warren, I think it was called.’

Neal nodded. 

‘Did she stop talking about Boody around that time?’

Associations arose without intention. Passion expended, tears shed and all of it soaking into the timbers, making the energy of the house damp and florid. Happy places held their secrets as well as any. Neal knew that terrible things happened everywhere, and it was not always graveyards and abandoned homes that gave up their secrets. Public parks and soft play areas could be sites of tragedy but they weathered the scars a little better. 

Neal kissed her on the cheek. There was affection there, but it was a dutiful, fraternal peck on the cheek before he smiled and said that he would find her. 

‘Don’t say things like that.’

‘Harriet, I wouldn’t if I thought I couldn’t deliver. Give me a day, then if not, the police will still be looking for her.’

She found a crumpled tissue, blew into it and began to weep again. Neal left her, paused in the doorway and told her that he would bring her home. 

Warren’s Warren had closed down in 2008, boarded up and unsold, stuck between franchises like a patient recovering from one infection before succumbing to another. Neal was grateful that they had gone for chipboard over the windows rather than metal grates because they made his entry into the building easier. He saw that one of the downstairs boards had been forced open, and on examination, he found a pale crescent moon of finger nail embedded into the wood. He stepped inside, reached into his jacket pocket for a flashlight and took in a deep breath. 

The air was tarnished with worn, old smells – urine faded to ammonia, excrement to burned dust and above that, the greasy scent of perspiration. He walked slowly, past the perspex slide and the trampoline bases, empty as an abandoned climbing frame. His footsteps echoed and when he whispered, his voice carried to the edges of the room. 

The singing was faint, cracked like glass in places but he cocked his ear and sought it’s location. 

He unwrapped the small cube and popped it into his mouth. Ostensibly a small piece of brownie, but baked with additional ingredients. He chewed mechanically and swallowed, the additional roughage made it tough to swallow but he massaged his throat until it was all in his system. 

It came on quickly, the air shimmering above him and rippling with energy and he walked up the stairs, sweeping the flashlight ahead of him as he followed the singing. 

She had made herself a nest, of sorts, in the remains of the ball pit. A sodden blanket draped over her shoulders and in her arms, she held a yellowed duvet, taken apart and sewn into a different shape. It’s blunt limbs spread outwards and it’s square, distended head looked out on nothing.   Neal was reminded of a play he had seen, and it’s imaginary title character, the pillowman. Here was it’s malign cousin, rendered from desperation and found materials.

He crouched at the edge of the pit, turned off the flashlight and placed it in the jacket pocket again. The brownie had done its work and in the gloom, his pupils were little more than pinpricks and his jaw worked on it’s own volition. His mind, however, was tuned into a different station and he could see that there was something at work here. 

‘This must be Boody.’

She shot her head up, teeth gleaming in the dark and her hair fell across her eyes like a clot. 

‘He doesn’t like me talking to strangers.’

Her voice was a broken thing, more whisper than conversation but it was the promise of something terrible. 

‘No, of course he doesn’t.’

He asked her if he could come closer. She clung to the mattress thing in her arms, and he caught a damp, sweet smell coming off it with each movement. She told him that he could. 

He put his hands up. He saw that the air burned with fever around her, seething like oil on water and his heart pounded in his chest. He had some idea of what Nathan had experienced, and he had more experience than most about such things. 

Too much experience.

‘Your mum wants you to come home, Emily.’

She gave a sob and hugged the duvet thing tighter. 

‘Boody says she’s only saying that because she wants to look like a good mother.’

Neal ran his tongue over his lips, and took a careful step towards her. 

‘Boody doesn’t have your best interests at heart, now does he?’

She sobbed again, started to shake her head but forced her chin up to where he stood in the darkness.

‘I mean, when’s the last time he let you go out to a gig? Or see your friends?’

At the mention of the word gig, through the gloom, Neal thought he saw the duvet stiffen the way a balloon does when it’s inflated. The drugs were hurtling through him and he focussed on talking to Emily rather than prepare to defend himself against a sodden duvet stitched into a humanoid shape. 

‘Love isn’t about keeping someone penned away, Emily, is it?’

She began to weep openly. Neal took another step towards her, and the duvet’s rough hewn limbs splayed out at the sides. His eyes had adjusted to the gloom, and within the stitching, there were glints of something sharp and metallic forced into it. His nerves began to call for some form of action. 

She sobbed harder, her thin arms slipping from around the thing’s waist as it rolled onto its side, limbs in the air and her hair, thick with oil and neglect hung around her face in clotted tendrils. Neal moved towards her again, extended his hand and looked at her, hoping to catch her eye. 

‘I want to go home but Boody says I abandoned him.’

Neal took a deep breath and looked at the thing on the floor. He blinked heavily, concerned that it had begun to rock back and forth, out of Emily’s reach to manipulate it. 

‘You were what, ten years old? And he’s not contacted you before now, has he?’

To deny Boody’s existence would have set off her defence mechanisms, intellectual and otherwise. He was not going to enrage her as much as he watched the thing on the floor rock back and forth, Neal clung to the idea that this was simply the drugs in his system, reminding him that there was no such thing as a biological free lunch. 

Everything had to be paid for. His palms were damp and his teeth began to chatter but he was determined that he would get Emily out of here, away from the filth and the shadows. 

Emily shook her head. 

‘Now, why don’t we go and get you something to eat. I expect you’re hungry, yeah?’

Imaginary friends aren’t natural predators. Neal kept his attention on Emily, and with each step, he caught the acrid, greasy scent of her unwashed body. The duvet reeked with a heavy, damp, stink that made his upper lip curl with disgust. He wanted to get her away from it, no matter what, if anything, animated it beyond Emily’s delusion. 

He put his hand out and smiled at her. 

‘It’s okay, you can leave that here.’

He watched it move, rolling without being touched, the way a drunk tries to get up from the pavement when they have fallen. He focussed on coaxing Emily into his care, hiding the rising concern behind a casual smile, as though he rescued runaways from their malevolent imaginary friends so often that he could be relaxed about it. 

‘Please,’ he said. 

Emily got to her feet and staggered over, on legs that were cramped and numb from hunger and inertia. She did not look at how it twisted and wrestled itself upright. Neal understood that the intrusion of the alien into the ordinary was not lights in the sky and uncomfortable probing. The alien was seeing a loved one’s face collapse like bruised fruit, speaking in a language that made your fillings sing and nose bleed. When it sat up, Neal watched with appalled fascination as the wrinkles in the duvet shifted and formed. 

His blood sung in his veins as he lurched forward and took Emily’s hand in his. 

‘Time we were leaving.’

The roar did not come from Boody. It came in from everywhere, invisible crowd calling for an encore and Neal awash with a surge of pure, uncut GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE. Emily cried out and clung to Neal. He pulled her after him. His limbs were awash with spasmodic jolts of adrenaline and he pulled her out of the pit without ceremony. 

There was time enough to shove her ahead of him before he took an impact that forced the breath from his body, perfectly aimed between his shoulder blades and forcing him to the ground. His chin hit the floor, jarring his teeth together and flooding his mouth with the bright flare and wet penny taste of blood where he had bitten his tongue. A soft, damp strength pinned him and he spat to get the blood from his mouth, enjoying the brief respite of not seeing his tongue fly forward. He shouted for Emily to run home and rolled onto his back. He had jammed his hand into his jacket, fingers on the flashlight but scrabbling for something else instead.

He could not make out the features on the duvet, Boody’s rudimentary form, creases that shifted, oil on water and there was no breath or musculature to wrestle with. It was a damp, insistent weight sodden with the ammoniac scent of urine, pressing itself down upon him. It swiped a rudimentary limb, and Neal bit back a cry as the glint of whatever had been used to sew it into form bit into the curve of his cheekbone. He kept it off him with his left hand extended, whilst his right searched desperately in his jacket. 

His fingertips grazed against the cool metal and he grimaced as he pulled his right hand free. He brought his knees up and pushed from his thighs and core. It resisted, the fabric losing the memory of hatred that infested and empowered it before it slapped onto the floor. 

Neal snapped the petrol lighter open. He touched his cheek and looked at the sheen of blood on his fingers as he scowled. 

It lurched, ungainly in its desperation and Neal wrapped his palm around the flame, fragile in the darkness and holding his ground despite the impulse to run as fast as he could. Each moment that it spent in motion taught it how best to use the material to its advantage. 

That year, 809 people died from being tangled up in bedsheets. Neal was determined not to be amongst them and when it leapt, he shoved the lighter forward, using his other hand to grip a fistful of the material to gain purchase. 

He held the flame to the material, teeth gritted together as gobs of burning cotton fell upon his hands and wrist. The scream that came from everywhere made him dizzy with its volume, he imagined the tiny bones in his ears reduced to pulp but he shouted out his own war cry. It sought to get away from him but he gripped onto it with a force that surprised him. 

He remembered Harriet. Emily, stinking and frightened, he thought of Nathan, broken by an encounter with something beyond his perceptions. He began to recite the prayer of exorcism, despite it’s prohibition that it should only be recited by a priest. Neal treated religion like any operating system, he would always look at it from an open source, pragmatic perspective.

The pain added urgency, the drugs added intention and his words held a power that made the thing writhe and rend itself in its struggle to get away.

‘God arises; His enemies are scattered’

The fissure shat out blind, pale worms and clots of gelid matter onto the floor with a wet splatter.

‘and those who hate Him flee before Him.’

It screamed, without words, beyond any sound in nature. It was a symphony of car accidents and burning buildings, louder and louder as he continued to speak.  He swallowed, tasting his own blood and kept alert by the sting where he had bitten his tongue. 

‘As smoke is driven away, 

so are they driven; 

as wax melts before the fire, 

so the wicked perish at the presence of God.’

It tore itself away, a final deluge of the worms and a clear ichor that stank of gangrene hit the floor before finally, burning and stinking, whatever had occupied the duvet form had gone. Neal looked down and said a last prayer, grateful that he had worn cheaper shoes. The Lambourns were especially comfortable, and he watched the tendrils of smoke arise from where the ichor had affected with a detached fascination. He muscled the lighter back into his jacket and staggered away, knowing that when the psychotropics wore off, the pain and trauma would reassert themselves. 

Any passerby might have crossed the street to avoid the injured man, stinking and stained as he held his wrist close to his chest, with his chin dark with blood. People were exceptionally gifted at not seeing others, especially if it invited obligation. An eccentric gone too far over the edge, on the fringes of polite society, without the tools to save it. 

Neal never felt quite so apart as when he survived such encounters. The burns, the cuts and bruises healed but the injury to his sense of self was permanent. He struggled with enough in his private life, but he would return to the field, more professional than enthusiastic amateur these days. There were no grants, no foundations, no bursaries for what he did. He knew that he would be able to achieve more knowledge outside the system than he ever could within it. 

A pat on the back was an awkward gesture when you made it alone. He got in his car, rolled down the windows and lit a cigarette. Finally, with it all over, he fought his tears. Smoked to soothe his jagged nerves. 

‘Is he gone?’

Emily stood at the passenger side window. He took in a deep drag and looked at her, raising his eyebrows. 

‘I hope so.’

He leaned over and opened the door. She got in and sat there. 

‘Can I have one of those?’

He looked at her. 

‘You’re what, fourteen?’

She nodded and pursed out her bottom lip. 

He shook his head. 

‘I might have my moments, but I think you can wait a few years.’

She sighed and sat back in the passenger seat. 

‘What happened?’ she said.

He sighed, took another drag on his cigarette to collect his thoughts. He wanted to cry, but he was conscious of wanting to get Emily home and in a state of relative calm. On reflection, he wondered if his own tears would provoke an awkwardness in her but then he wondered what happened between her and the duvet thing. 

Days had gone by, after all. Nights, too and he had not heard it speak. 

‘I’ll explain on the way.’

I got through another two cigarettes before he finished, lapsing into a tight cautious silence.

‘That’s one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever heard.’

He cocked his head to one side and raised an eyebrow. 

‘That I wrestled a duvet whilst high on drugs?’

I shook my head and brought my hand to my mouth. 

‘Look, a few weeks ago, I would have been looking for an exit or calling the police on you, but my weird shit o meter is off the fucking scale now. ‘

He slipped back the cuff on his wrist, the mottled scars, faded by time were turned and offered for my inspection. He swallowed, running his tongue over his lips.

‘Which is why I am here to help you. Or at least, help you to help yourself.’

I finished the cigarette and tossed it out of the window.

‘You rescued that girl, though, she didn’t help herself.’

‘She was fourteen. You’re a tougher proposition, and probably a lot heavier to put over my shoulder if I needed to.’

I chuckled and shook my head. A deep breath centered me enough to seek closure, and perhaps perspective. 

‘Seriously, Neal, how much of that was the drugs and her having a breakdown?’

He looked out through the windshield.

‘The things that happened, they seldom happen under laboratory conditions. You accept, you adapt, you overcome.’

‘That’s not an answer.’

He lowered his chin. 

‘No, it isn’t. Nathan never came out of the hospital.’

I swallowed, tasting my fear, mingled with the cigarettes and the last traces of wine.


He smiled, a burst of warmth powerful enough to make me squint against it. 

‘University. Still writing, too. She sends me links to articles. She can’t sleep under a duvet.’

A projected burst of relief ran through my veins, but the unspoken questions plucked at the nape of my neck. 

‘Is Nathan…’

He sighed and his hands squeezed the steering wheel hard enough that the skin over his knuckles turned white. 

‘Trauma induced dementia. He slipped, with Harriet holding his hand.’

creative writing fiction war

White Rabbit

“Men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore, the injury is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.” 
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince. 


Ibrahim walked down the street, cursing Ellen for making him clean out the frier again before he left to attend mosque with his uncle. He hated the job, but Mohammed insisted he finish out the summer before he got him an internship at the firm. 

He didn’t want to be late. Mohammed was fastidious without being vain and he had known nothing but his faith, but he did business without it being a problem. 

Ibrahim drew comments and stares. No one wanted to feel alien in their own skin.  He would slip out of the way, finding something to do in the back until their attention went elsewhere, or he pretended not to have heard anything. He simpered and it hurt to do it, but once he was working with his uncle, he would earn respect without being made to suffer for it. 

He was running late. 

He saw the mosque and quickened his pace before a massive hand slapped him backwards. He smelled his hair burning and his eardrops popped like balloons as he fell backwards, breaking his coccyx against the sidewalk. 

Ibrahim lay there, mute with pain as his hair burned and his body turned inside out with pain. He had bitten his tongue and each swallow tasted of burnt copper as he struggled to breathe. 


Jessica drew on the cigarette, tried not to stare at the small throng of protesters who came every day. 
Wizened and pale, tan and hardy, they would take turns, behaving like fundamentalist ants, blazing with a narcissistic zeal which irritated her. 
David’s work took him all over the world, and since she had emigrated and married Blake, she kept up the correspondence, never getting a reply from him despite the anguish it created for her. She still loved David, but life demanded a compromise. Letting go had taken the desperation of an animal chewing off a limb to escape a trap, but the pain stayed with her. 

The women who came fueled her passion when she debated Blake about her work. He presented her with rational arguments, numbers on paper to show they didn’t need her to work. She could stay home with Brian, but Jessica saw it as a comfortable path to death. She loved her husband, but she couldn’t live as an appendage to him. Marriage was difficult enough, let alone one which served as a gilded cage for her. 

The cigarette burned the back of her throat and she tossed it to the ground before she went back inside. 

The door slammed into her, fractured her skull and the door handle punched through her left hip, propelled by the force of the explosion. She died before she hit the ground; the door stuck to her as a final, cruel insult from the universe.


Terry took off the balaclava and wiped his face. 
He had put on a show for the video, speaking in a bombastic tone which he had borrowed from professional wrestling promotions and Alex Jones and it had tested his reserves of stamina to keep up the indignant righteousness necessary to put his point across. 

The motel room smelled of powdered soup and stale cum, but he could use it for meetings and videos so he never gave Pete too much shit about it. He wanted to protect his family, and if it meant going out of his way a little, it was a minor price to pay. Their enemies were everywhere, and he loved his family too much to put them in harm’s way. 

He waited for the video to upload, sent messages to the others through an app which sent photo messages and deleted them after being watched. Terry knew the risks, but the technology was there to protect them, despite what people believed. 

Terry looked at himself in the smeared full-length mirror. The stubble on his cheeks and his lean, intense build gave him a renewed pride in his work. He ran on righteousness, and all the energy made him restless, had him capable of working eight hours on his construction job and then organising the rest of the guys until he collapsed into bed next to his sleeping wife. He got up, tucked the balaclava under the pillow before he left the room. 

He watched the news when he got home, drank a beer as he watched the footage of the emergency services and struggled to hide his delight at the success of their first major operation. Once the video went live, people would know their group’s name but not his. 

The capitulation to progressive forces had castrated his country and it made him fear for his children’s future enough to act as he did. Other people had come into his world, convinced of his fears enough to help, and once he had found his tribe, it became a thing of logistics over rhetoric. 

Jenny called him upstairs and he drained the last swallow of beer before he switched the tv off and went to bed. 

It had been a magnificent day. 


David slipped out of the hotel room. He had broken up and flushed the syringe down the toilet, wiped everything down to remove any trace of his presence with a practised care as the body cooled on the unmade bed. 

He got into the waiting car and sat back, closing his eyes as it drove away. The arrogance of his targets never surprised him, and this one had been boasting about his company’s work for the intelligence community. David did not inform him such behaviour had signed his death warrant 

Bastard of the British Empire, he told himself. He loathed the arrogance of San Francisco and was eager to get back to London. David denied his feelings unless it was three a.m and he thought of her. 

Doing the right thing hurt him, but it kept her safe and him a secret. 

The safe house was across town, and he took a long hot shower, ordered take out and sat down to relax with a few hours of inane American television. He made the mistake of watching the news, and when he saw the photo of her, he convulsed with feelings he thought buried in the graveyard of his soul. 

Three years ago, David had bare flames held to his feet, threatening to perform the same function on his genitals before the SAS team burst in. 

His grief galvanised into something familiar to him. 


When it abated, he took out his phone and made a phone call. 

Two hours later, David was on a plane to Illinois.


Mike struggled to contain his excitement as Terry passed him a beer. 

‘What’s next?’ he said. 

Terry scratched his chin and smiled. 

‘Nothing for now.’ he said. 

Mike grimaced as he shook his head. 

‘It’s not enough, Terry. We need to get our message out.’ he said. 

Terry grimaced at Mike’s immature enthusiasm.  It was a warm evening and they sat on the porch, keeping the conversation neutral until Jenny put Rachel to bed and they were free to discuss things. 

‘Do you remember Waco, Mike?’ he said.

Mike swallowed and nodded. He had been in awe of Terry’s pilgrimage and his righteous anger at government intrusion into people’s lives. They condoned the tide of Muslim immigration and paid lip service to the sanctity of the unborn to such a degree it had prompted a response from the men of the White Rabbit Militia to stop talking and act. Mike resented the slow pace of their work, but Terry was so certain it killed his doubts. 

‘We’ve shown our hand. It’s now up to others whether they heed the call to action.’ 

Mike had built the bombs for both targets. Pete had been in the Marines until he got kicked out, Chris ran the website and social media feeds, but it was Terry who was the calm centre of the group. Mike wondered if Terry’s aloofness was a test of his character, but washed his anxious, frightened thoughts down with a deep pull on the bottle of beer before he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. 

‘OK, I get it.’ he said. 

Terry smiled and clapped Michael on the shoulder. 

‘We can’t go into this thinking we’ll get away with it, Mike. We’ve got to accept the price of liberty and the consequences.’ Terry said. 

Mike felt blessed by Terry’s touch but kept his face still. Instead, he gave a terse nod and made a face he hoped looked like the right mix of determination and gravity. 

‘Right on, Terry. Right on.’ 

Terry lit a cigarette and sat back in his chair. 

‘We’ve just got started, Mike.’ he said. 

If Terry had asked him to cut one of his testicles off, Mike would have asked him which one before doubting him. He wondered who would play him in the movie; he hoped for the guy from Stranger Things, the sheriff with the guy from CSI New York as Terry. 

Mike had big dreams, but he was glad Terry was there to keep things calm and even. The work was getting started. 


David watched the video on repeat. He looked past the man on the screen, focused on the details behind him. 

He noted the furniture, and the colour of the paint on the walls. David wrote the details in the blank pages of the ledger he carried everywhere.He contacted his handler, Larry, through My Little Pony message board, where he left a message and waited for his phone to ring. 

David answered on the first ring. 

‘Where are you?’ Larry said.

‘Personal matter. There’s nothing in the pipeline so I’m taking time off.’ he said. 

Larry grunted with disbelief. 

‘You pulled one of my analysts to look up everything on a pair of bombings in Illinois, David.’ 

David said nothing. 

‘There was a woman killed. British, according to the news. Look, the FBI are all over this. Just come home and I’ll light a fire under their arses to get it dealt with.’ Larry said. 

David swallowed, his throat tight with regret and a cold, hard anger. Watching the videos fed something terrible in him, kept the wound open and bleeding without the mercy of unconsciousness to ease it. 

‘I know, Larry. I’m taking leave. I’ll behave myself.’ he said.

Larry sighed with a longstanding weariness. 

‘If this turns out to be another Rotherham situation, we’re both fucked.’ he said. 

The police still found bodies, members of a child grooming gang. David accepted the damage within himself, but he used it, like a wolf uses its howl to communicate. 

‘No, it won’t be like Rotherham.’ he said. 

David saw an email had come through and opened it. 
Forensics reports, eyewitness testimony, warrants to investigate militia activity all scanned and converted to digital files. David told Larry he would be in touch and switched off the phone.

A viscous tension pooled in his eye sockets, but he read through everything. He made notes of the names before he opened his briefcase and found the FBI badge, slipped it into the pocket of his suit jacket and stood up.  

He called a cab to the hospital.


Ibrahim drifted in and out of a cotton soft haze of narcotics. He would emerge to see daylight then drift off, returning to find it was dark as time passed on, indifferent to his grief and trauma. 

He awoke to see the man sat at the end of his bed. 

‘Hello, Ibrahim.’ he said.

Through his one eye, Ibrahim saw him stand up and walk over to the side of the bed. He spoke to Ibrahim in perfect Arabic, introduced himself as Special Agent Garrett and wondered if he could ask him a few questions. 

Ibrahim’s eye sparkled with tears as he nodded. 

‘I understand there will be complications from your injuries and your recollections might be unclear but anything you can give me will help me catch these people.’ 

Ibrahim noted the use of the singular and tried to focus on the man. His use of Arabic was comforting but also unnerving to him. 

He nodded and answered the man’s questions. They confused him, details about the routines of the mosque and its proximity to other places in town, before he asked after Ibrahim’s uncle. 

Ibrahim cleared his throat. 

‘You’re not from the FBI, are you?’ he said. 

The man put his hand over Ibrahim’s and put his mouth to his ear to whisper.

‘The Prophet never avenged for his own self, Ibrahim. Neither will you.’ he said. 

Ibrahim wept as much as the drugs allowed him, and the man left without speaking further. Ibrahim prayed for him.


Rick gave the man a pamphlet as he walked past the clinic. He stopped and looked at it like someone had spat into his hand, but he folded it before tucking it into the pocket of his suit. 

‘I understand you were at the clinic.’ the man said. 

Rick had been on a coffee run, but the second hand glory was too powerful to resist and his assumption of divine providence made him something of a martyr to the rest of the congregation. 
There was no one alive from the small group to contradict him, aside from Betty, and she was in an unresponsive coma from where a brick had glanced off her temple, propelled by the force of the explosion. 

Rick could not meet the implacable gaze and he gulped, struggling to contain himself. 

‘Yes, sir, God’s wrath is a terrible and beautiful thing to see.’ 

The man’s face tightened and his lips drew back over his teeth. His brown eyes burned with something cold and vicious which made Rick step backwards. 

‘What did you see?’ the man said. 

He had heard the explosion, and as he drew closer, smelled the smoke and blood. He had stumbled over someone’s dismembered arm and saw how the clinic door had impaled the British nurse. 

The man grimaced and stepped towards Rick. 

‘Did she say anything?’ 

Rick tried to back away but the man’s fingers clamped around his elbow, pinching into the soft meat of his triceps and found a set of nerves which shot agony through his arm, pinned him to the spot as he looked around for someone to help. 

Rick told him. The man walked away. 

There were fifty pamphlets left but Rick went home, locked the door and drew the curtains, watched the 700 Club and struggled not to cry with humiliation. If God were watching, he would understand, he told himself. 


Mike soldered the wires with care, humming to himself as he worked on the last electronic components of the device, the guts of an old cell phone re-purposed to allow them to activate the explosion via bluetooth. The rest of the device was plastic and ceramic around a core of C4 explosive, studded with nails and razor blades. It fit inside a Blue’s Clues lunchbox, and there were six boxes of similar dimensions in the packing crate below his feet. 

His workshop was in the garage. 
It had been a labour of love, built to indulge his hobby of amateur electronics before he met Terry and figured out a recent use for the space and equipment. For a bomb maker, Mike was proud he had all his fingers and limbs, but the information was available, even from the jihadists who posted details and schematics amongst upper case rants on the depravity of the American people. Ideology left so little room for nuance. 

The tube light flickered overhead and went out. Mike swore under his breath and set the iron down on the bench, switched it off with a brush of his thumb. He pushed his stool back, thinking about where the spares were. 

He did not have time to scream before the cloth clamped around his nose and mouth, the high chemical stink insinuating into his head as he passed out from the force. Someone caught him as he fell into a deep, implacable blackness. 

Mike awoke with the worst headache and strapped to the recliner in the living room with bungee cords. Someone had turned his Xbox and tv on, so the introduction music on Battlefield One shook the air. Mrs Foster was his only neighbour and she had gone to her grandson in Columbus for a long weekend. 

‘Good evening, Mike.’ 

He could not place the accent. He narrowed his eyes and looked around his living room. 

‘What is this?’ he said. 

A low chuckle caressed the back of his neck and he shuddered. 

‘Tell me the names of the other militia members and where they meet.’ he said. 

Mike grunted and struggled against the cords. 

The man walked around to face him. He was tan, with short dark hair and spectacles, wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. He held a stained white towel in one hand and a litre bottle of water in the other. 

‘Fuck you.’ Mike said. 

His anger was genuine, but the fear grew more intense with each second. 

The man laughed and Mike recognised the accent. British. 

‘Now, Mike, I admire your bravado but I had a look in your garage and you’re better off telling me what I want to know.’ he said. 

Mike’s laughter died in his throat as the man walked towards him. 

‘I won’t tell you anything.’ Mike said.

 The man lifted the towel up and raised his eyebrows. 

‘This isn’t for refreshment, Mike. No, this is your sad little group’s biggest fear come to life.’ he said. 

Mike squeezed out tears and grimaced as he shook his head over and over. The swelling strings of the soundtrack sounded mocking and grated his ears. 

The man sat on the couch and put the towel and bottle on the coffee table. 

‘I only make the stuff. We’re fighting a war, man. We’re dying out.’ Mike said.

They were Terry’s words, not his, and the man smiled as he sat back on the couch. 

‘Who’s dying out? White men? Now there, you and I have common ground. I’m doing the work you and your friends dream of, but it’s more complicated than that.’ he said. 

His tone was generous, without the coiled sense of threat Mike had absorbed from movies and television. He looked around him.

‘Do you read comics, Mike?’ he said. 

Mike nodded in furious agreement. The man smirked and looked at Mike.

‘I’ve always been a nerd for them. Not so much the superheroes, but I grew up with 2000 A.D. We never went into superheroes so much, but comics, shit, I’ve got tons of them in storage. Have you ever read Preacher?’ he said. 

Mike hadn’t. He wished he had. He lowered his chin and shook his head. 

‘There’s one of my favourite lines where Jesse, he’s got the Word of God, and he ends up a sheriff of this place called Salvation after getting chucked out a plane, and there are these Klan types and he walks up to one and tears his hood off.’ 

The man was smiling as he mimicked the action. Mike’s stomach clenched with fear and confusion. 

‘He says something which struck me as profound for a comic book. Why are the biggest champions of the race the worst examples of it?’ he said. 

Mike recoiled at the insult and struggled against the bonds without hope. 

The man chuckled. 

‘You’re buying into a narrative. The same one used to keep everyone down. Being a victim means you avoid having to take responsibility. If you’re black or disabled, gay or white, then it’s not your fault if you fail at anything, is it?’ 

Mike had no answer for him. The righteousness of his cause was real to him, and the man’s mockery stung more than the chemicals used to knock him out. 

‘You’re weak, all of you. Bombing mosques and a women’s health clinic, that’s weak shit.’ he said. 

Mike wept, but it garnered no reaction from the man at all. He sighed and waited for him to stop crying.

‘You’re a talented boy, Mike. You should be proud of your craft, despite being a massive cunt.’ he said. 

‘It didn’t throw me. I’ve got a nose for these things, and when I found the groups you were into on Facebook, one phone call and I had your name and address.’ he said. 

Mike shuddered and wept again. He did not see the blow coming until it turned his face, a stinging rebuke which blasted his self pity away. 

‘Please, don’t kill me.’ he said. 

The man stood up and ran his tongue over his lips. 

‘The nurse at the clinic. I knew her.’ he said. 

‘I met the boy who will never walk again.’ he said. 

His voice had roughened and Mike wondered if it was a trick of the light at the dampness in the man’s eyes before he picked up the towel and bottle. 

‘But the nurse, Mike, I fucking loved her to the bone and I let her go because I thought this was more important.’ he said. 

He unscrewed the lid on the bottle and tossed it to the carpet as he walked behind the recliner.

‘A man, Mike, has to have a purpose, even if it costs him to follow it.’ he said. 

His voice cracked with emotion, which frightened Mike more than when he was glib and relaxed. 

Mike writhed as the man held the towel over his face. 

‘You’ll understand it when I’m done.’ he said. 

Mike’s lungs heaved as he struggled for air beneath the careful deluge of water through the towel. His panicked breaths drew on every fibre of his being, but he broke without too much effort. 

 Mike shrieked out names and addresses. The man made Mike repeat them without attempting to write them down. 

‘I’m sorry I had to do it, Mike. I’ll make this quick.’ he said. 

Mike wondered what he meant before the palm came up and hit him square in the centre of his face, driving the nasal bone into his brain. 

David helped himself to a few things. The rest was left to the fire.  


Chris rang Terry whilst he was on his lunch. Terry said nothing until his babbling had smoothed out into a choked sob. 

‘Mike didn’t touch drugs, this has to be something else.’ he said 

Terry told him to get the others and meet at the motel tonight. He ended the call and went back to the site, looking at the house he was building and wondering if he would see it completed. A bitter sense of resolve washed over him as he slipped his phone back into his pocket. 

‘It’s exemplary work.’ 

Terry turned and looked at the man who stood next to him. He wore a black pinstripe suit and smiled at Terry with a familiarity which tested his taciturn expression.

‘Thanks, I should get back to it. Can’t get the help these days.’ he said. 

‘Beaners or niggers?’ the man said. 

Terry scowled as he walked away.

‘I find having the courage of your convictions shows the measure of a man, Terry.’ he said. 

Terry froze as his heart thumped. He swallowed and tasted copper as he stood up straight and turned around with care.

‘Do I know you, mister?’ he said. 

The man shook his head.

‘No, you don’t. I bumped into Jenny when she dropped Rachel at daycare. That is one beautiful family you’ve got there, Terry.’ he said.

Terry snorted through his nose and stood there, calculating the distance it would take to get close to the man and whether he could take him down. He had left the gun in the car, unloaded as the law demanded, but he itched to have it with him. 

‘Mister, you seem like a smart man, if you’ve got something to say, say it.’ he said. 

The man shook his head. 

‘No, this is me fucking with you for sport. I don’t say things, I act.’ he said. 

Terry’s hands shook as he reached for his phone and called Pete.


Pete had set his rifle up from the back of the flatbed truck, hidden underneath a tarp with the scope trained on the window of the room they used. It was a.22 long rifle with a weaver scope and he had parked 150 yards away, just at the point where the round went from supersonic to subsonic. He adjusted for the drop at the distance, but after popping sand niggers in the desert, Pete liked to think he was defending his homeland enough to factor in the physics. 

Whoever the limey fuck was, he would not fuck with The White Rabbit and live. Pete hoped they had time to get clear. Running was an option, but Terry wanted this guy taken down. 

He chewed on the piece of jerky until it softened to the consistency of gum and sipped the bottle of water as he watched Chris and Terry enter the room. 

Nice and smooth, he thought. They would lure the guy in, get him by the window and Pete would shoot him. 

The White Rabbit understood the first rule of guerilla warfare:

Make your weaknesses your strengths. They were in a small, tight cell and able to react with speed.  Pete had liked Mike, and so laid there, he vowed to avenge his brother. Running sucked, but it meant they could come back harder and stronger when this fucker was in the ground. 

He looked through the sight and waited to make his shot. 


Terry and Chris went through the motions of setting up a video, both touching the holstered pistols on their hips for unconscious reassurance as they waited for something to fall upon them. 

‘He’s a limey?’ Chris said. 

Terry grunted and nodded as he reached for the balaclava from underneath the pillow. 

‘Shut up and film me,’ he said. 

Chris nodded as Terry rolled the balaclava down over his head. He caught a whiff of something acrid and sharp before he tried to pull it off as he bellowed with horror. Chris dropped the camera with shock at the sight of Terry’s face. 

Red and pink sizzling blisters covered his face. He held his hands to his face and bolted past Chris to the door as he scratched for the door handle. Chris ran to him, turned him around and caught the stink of corroding flesh before he vomited down himself with shock at his friend’s ruined face. 


Pete frowned as he reached for his phone, but he stopped when he felt the weight shift in the back of the truck before a hammer blow landed on the base of his skull. He tried to roll onto his side but a foot stamped between his shoulder blades and forced the breath from his lungs, cracking ribs and tearing the tip of his scapulae off as he struggled to improve his position. 

The man loomed above him.

‘I like to work with my hands.’ he said. 

Pete felt his life slip away in a series of judicious blows as the man beat him to death with his own rifle. 


Chris dragged Terry outside, looking around as he watched Pete’s pick up rocking on its wheels as two men struggled in the back. He drew his gun and fired blindly as Terry mewled with agony, limp with the insult as the skin melted off his face. Chris felt something wet and gelid fall onto his shoulder and when he turned, Terry’s cheek had fallen off. He screamed and pushed him away as he cried out in horror. 

The figure stepped down from the truck and disappeared from view. 

Chris looked at the gun and met Terry’s eyes as they melted down his face like defrosted ice cream. Terry clutched at his shoulder and rasped out a single word.

‘Please.’ he said

Chris looked at his friend and raised the gun as he heard the faint cry of sirens in the distance. He squeezed the trigger as he gave his friend the gift of mercy. 


Blake stood by the grave, numb and struggling to keep upright as he looked at the headstone. Life had paused at the worst moment, and he veered between bleak disconnection and anger at how the world had gone on without him. 

The news featured the arrest of the militia member who had turned on the others, then gunned down by police at a local motel used as a base of operations. 
Blake had watched the tearful wife of the leader and felt nothing but a grinding contempt as she denied all knowledge of the enterprise. He came to see Jessica’s grave every day even as the sympathy of others around him depleted by the raw gravitational pull of his pain. 

It was a warm afternoon when he saw the man walk over to him. 

‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ he said. 

A British accent drew Blake from his inward focus as he looked up. The man was unshaven, his eyes hidden behind sunglasses as he looked at the headstone. 

‘Did you know her?’ Blake said. 

The man nodded without taking his attention from the headstone.

‘Yes,’ he said. 

His voice was slow and rough with fatigue as he took off the sunglasses and offered his hand to him. The pain in the man’s eyes was almost too much to bear.  Blake took his hand with whatever grace was available to him. 

David looked at Blake, forced down by the tumultuous blend of emotions, envy and kinship for the mutual loss alongside the need to control his emotions.
 It was a beautiful day, but David felt like he was underneath a long, cold shadow wherever he went. An explanation of his association with Jessica would make things worse. He looked into Blake’s eyes with a cold frankness. 

‘I killed them and I made it hurt, Blake. It doesn’t bring her back but you’ve got to start somewhere, haven’t you?’ he said. 

Blake furrowed his forehead as David let go of his hand and put his sunglasses on. He smiled at Blake and walked away. 

David’s phone rang and he answered it. Larry asked if he was coming back to work. David remembered the late nights with Jessica, back when this life was an idea and he had a choice to make about his future and the warmth of her skin, the overbite when she smiled and the way she rolled her cigarettes. 

David sighed and looked at the Lincoln.

fiction short fiction

The Truth Of His Heart

My reflection betrayed nothing in the pocket mirror, checking one last check before he arrived. It was my armour, my war paint. It was only eight a.m and already the heat had plucked at my reserve, gathering damp patches at the small of my back and underarms. He welcomed it, rubbing his bearded cheek against me when we made love. The thought tested me like the tropical heat.

Mateo’s car pulled up across the street, and one of his men came out and opened it. He stood up, adjusted the peak of his cap and glanced around him before he strode over whilst his man shut the door and stood by the side of the car. Mateo wore a light tan suit and white shirt, tailored to mask the bulge of the holster under his jacket. A man’s posture cannot hide who he is.  A lightness came to his steps as he drew closer. His face, a stoic mask, broke into a warm, gentle smile when he saw me. 

‘Cara Mia.’ he said. 

My hands went to his face, fingers running through his beard before our lips met. He smelled of fresh coffee and coconut oil. 

His eyes narrowed as he ran his fingers against my left wrist.I shuddered, betraying myself with a simple touch. I gave a slight cry, and his hand encircled my wrist. It excited and appalled me how small I felt in his presence. Not diminished but small, nestled against his broad, furred chest as he slept with his palm on my breast. During the night, he would reach between my thighs and cup me without stirring. 

‘Tell me.’ he said. 

He was sometimes clumsy. Once, he entertained purchasing a motorcycle and my appalled rejection of the idea wounded him, but he hid it well. There were moments of grace with him, but he’d also drop glasses and miss spots where he shaved his head. Yet, for his endearing clumsiness and earnestness, it would have been stupid to assume it was a weakness. 

‘Please sit down.’ 

A waiter approached. Mateo ordered tea for me and an espresso for him. When the waiter left, his attention returned patient but implacable. It was difficult to breathe. He leaned forward, took my hand and turned it over, pressed his fingers to my wrist and looked at me. 

‘You’re agitated but trying to control it. With some success, I might add, Esther.’ he said. 

It was difficult to meet his gaze. My news would change things between us, forever. There was the possibility it meant my never leaving this cafe, but there was a gentle light in his eyes with me. If my betrayal dimmed it, then it would justify his wrath. 

There were stories about him. He would never speak of his work beyond generalities. 

‘To speak of my work is to relive it.’ he said. 

Each breath burned in my chest. The heat needled me, and when the waiter brought our order, Mateo poured me a glass of ice water from the carafe between us. He spoke through his actions, and the care, the attention he paid me came home to roost as we sat there. 

Waiting for me to talk to him.

‘At three a.m, covert action teams will mount simultaneous strikes against tactical targets all over the city.’ 

Mateo picked up his espresso and looked at me over the rims of his spectacles, nodded for me to go on. 

I shuddered, revolted and relieved as I picked up my glass and gulped down half in one go. My mouth was arid and sore, but the water soothed me enough to continue. There was a faint mineral taste to it, but it was pleasant. A first act of the new government was investment in infink nowrastructure, private funding in return for preferential tax breaks for future industrial sites. 

The barracks at Costa Verde. 
The Presidential Palace. 
Casa De Secretos. 

It was our name for it. He grimaced and closed his eyes as he set his cup down. He retrieved a cigarette case and lit one with a lighter which had FUCK COMMUNISM painted on it. It had been his father’s; he told me. A veteran of Vietnam before he met his wife, Mateo’s mother and they moved to her homeland, away from a country spoiled and venal. 

‘Cara Mia. This news troubles me.’ 

He exhaled a slow plume of smoke and took my hand across the table. 

‘But it is not unexpected.’ he said. 

He squeezed my fingers, showing strength without violence. 

‘What do you mean?’

He took off his spectacles and peered into my eyes. 

‘Tell me what you see there, Esther. I know it is your real first name. They have advised you to mix them up, but it’s a tough habit to break because you shared concerns about a loss of identity to Dr Snyder back in April.’ 

It took an impressive deal of control to remain calm. 
The relief of confession had masked a seething nest of revelations, a misinterpretation of the situation which terrified me. 

‘Do you know my mother’s profession, Esther?’ he said

She was a veterinarian.

Mateo nodded as he unbuttoned his jacket. 

‘She taught me lessons which ran parallel with my father’s instructions. Their beliefs informed my perspectives on the world. A place free from the tyranny of kings and clergy, free and prosperous with the grace to stop and enjoy the fruits of its labours. ‘
He paused to smooth his beard with his fingertips, a gesture somewhere between contemplation and grooming.

‘Which was always my goal. My mother’s lesson was in understanding the principles of animal husbandry. My innovation was to apply it as a macro-political exercise. Neutering when necessary, keeping the organism healthy and secure from all threats, foreign and domestic.’ 

He smiled, but it did not reach his eyes.  

I am not a monster. My aim is to take my country to the pinnacle of its achievements, then disappear and enjoy it in the time left. I’ve done things to protect it and have prepared for such an event as this.
My thighs and stomach were taut with the effort to rein in my feelings. His voice was quiet, a little above a smooth whisper, but he had my attention without effort. 

‘You don’t have the penetration into our operation, Mateo. We’ve been able to establish supply chains, flown in military advisers to train the militia.’ I said. 
My voice sounded sharp, a smashed glass at a wake which drew everyone’s attention.  

‘Because, Esther, I allowed you to.’ he said

He pointed up at the sky.

‘That is C-7623, piloted on this shift by Private Cole Wilkins, 115th Engineers of Terre Haute. He enjoys his work, but he’s hoping to launch missiles when the opportunity arises. Some of his reports concern me, Esther, but you won’t have seen them.’ 

My disbelief fell on me like a roll of quarters swung against the back of my head. He smiled and gestured around him. 

‘I planned against the worst scenarios. I imagined the ultimate enemy and how my country could survive it. Weak men have taken your country, but they will not take mine.’


The first time I learned about Mateo Costas was at an event-shielded briefing before we flew into the country. 
They committed nothing to paper, no recording devices to ensure freedom of discussion and opinion. 

‘This is the guy. Mateo Costa.’
‘American father.’
‘Native Mother. Attended Oxford University on a scholarship then signed up for the US Navy followed by SEAL training which is where it got interesting,’ Ellis said. 

Ellis was on secondment from MI5, with the florid build of someone punished for every second in a country more than a few degrees above a tepid English spring. People wondered if this was a punishment for a previous failure, but he was an encyclopedia of the country’s politics and economy. He clapped his hands together. 

‘Costas took part in two SEAL missions. Notable ones. The rescue of Captain Phillips and then Operation Neptune Spear. Which is?’ 

I put my hand up.

‘Bin Laden.’ 

Ellis shot me with finger guns before he clapped his hands together. 

‘Now, he’s too dignified to confirm this, which means when it leaks, he looks stoic and humble. Now he returns home, joins the Crypteia and in three years, he’s running the entire operation.’ 

King, a former Delta Force operator who made the move into intelligence, put his hand up. 

‘I’ve read Keller’s report from last year, and he claims it was a committee which voted on supply requests.’ he said. 

Ellis winked at him.

‘ He requested investigatory powers, went through whatever police and career military survived the coup and trained them into his own unit. On paper, they’re civil servants or clerks, but they had commissariat authority. He turned it into a Tardis.’

‘Bigger on the inside than the outside.’ I said.

Ellis chuckled and shot me a wink. 

‘Democratic Socialism got a turn at the bat, Mateo came back after the coup, created his own little squad of trained and well-armed soldiers then -‘ he gestured to all of us.    

King leaned forwards before addressing the room.

‘He brings down the central committee in one night, held office for one year and then resigned before open elections in return for his old post with the Crypteia.’ he said. 

‘They disbanded it before he took office and didn’t exist on record at all. Like this meeting.’ I said. 

Ellis whistled under his breath and opened a bottle of water. His short-sleeved shirt hung from his thin shoulders like a damp flag. 

‘So, he de-stabilised a socialist government, didn’t stay in office long enough to steal anything.  Now he runs the secret service of a capitalist democratic government. It runs in secret, without oversight, and although the deputy director thinks his altruism is neutered, I think he presents a clear and present danger to our long-term economic interests.’ 

I put my hand up. 

‘Aren’t they our buds now?’ I said. 

Ellis chuckled and scratched the back of his neck. 

‘Facebook moved their HQ down here. Bezos has been here six times in the last year and there’s been fawning articles in the Washington Post about it. But they’re also not responding to the left about the atrocity claims, or the president’s comments about diversity. So there are optics to consider and the economic impact.’ he said. 

We were talking about overthrowing a country because it did a better job of being American than America did. 
Ellis worked in Psychological Operations, had embedded himself into the country’s social media and combed through metadata to establish a profile of a target as intimate and complete as a splendid marriage. 

‘ We’ve got candidates who favour a better deal with us.’ King said.

Ellis shook his head. 

‘He’s a righteous guy, tough and plain-spoken, but he’s not the man behind the wheel. Mr Costas, I believe and so does the Director, is the linchpin of his country’s government and development.’
What I said next, in a room shielded from observation or betrayal, came back to haunt me as I sat there looking into Mateo’s eyes, waiting to have my instinct and experience proved wrong. 

‘Then he’d need eliminating alongside whatever strategic sites you’ve accounted for at the same time.’ I said. 

Ellis frowned and ran the tip of his tongue against the philtrum of his upper lip. 

‘How do you suggest we do that, Esther?’ he said. 

I knew. 


We met at a bookstore. It was one place where he spent his free time, casual and unrecognised. His recommendation of Olive Kitteridge surprised me, but he said his grandparents had the same stoicism of character and came from the book’s setting. He introduced himself without announcing his position and invited me to join him for coffee. 

When we met, his presence was electrifying. He had power without being stunted or calcified by it. It didn’t sit well with what they had told me about the efforts he took to keep his country from returning to a socialist government.  Professional concerns drove my actions, then later it came to stymie them. Ellis had told me, in his capacity as my handler, to accept dinner if he offered. Which he did. He did not instruct me to sleep with him, which was my choice. Perfect men bored me, and Mateo’s flaws were as embraceable as the rest of him. It did not blind me to the dangers of loving such a man, but there were reasons beyond the torrid rush of attraction.  Now, I saw the myth of him, the secret policeman who kept things in order. 

‘Were you sent to kill me?’ he said. 

I shook my head. 

‘No, I was to gather information on you. Relay it back for analysis.’ 

He grinned.

‘Was Ellis your handler?’ he said. 

A jolt of fear and surprise shot through me. He passed me the cigarette case and I took one. He lit it for me and watched me until I nodded.

‘How did you know his name?’ I said. 

‘He was from British Intelligence. Seconded to your CIA after eight years with psychological operations and a further five working for Deputy Director Prentiss. Wallace came to you from Delta Force. He has a fiancee. Her name is Shonda, and she’s eight weeks pregnant, but he doesn’t know yet.; 

His voice was soft, slow and conversational but he scattered his knowledge like he was sowing salt to kill the soil of my reality. 

‘What about me?’ I said.

He knew what connected the quinceanera of Don Rezillos niece and the attendant case of food poisoning caused by mal carne with the supply chains of the insurgents fighting along the coast.   His men were shadows, which rose and dragged people into the darkness. They disappeared, or had deaths explained by choice or random fate. I didn’t know which one faced me, but I hoped it would be quick. 

He asked the waiter to bring us more drinks. He looked at me and continued. 

‘When I arrived, infant mortality had gone up three hundred percent. People were shooting at farmers to steal their cattle. Their professors became their oppressors and turned my home into a fiefdom. My country, Esther, neutered and corrupted by those who believed they knew best. All under the baleful gaze of a government who saw everything and enriched themselves first,’ he said. 

Passion rose within him, lending his tone of voice a gruff thickness I found interesting. 

‘Why wouldn’t I seek to do something about it?  I’d read enough of the literature to speak the language, repeat the narrative and make myself useful without appearing to hold any personal ambitions. What surprised me was the level of incompetence in charge. None of them saw me coming until it was too late.’  

‘My country is not a place where children scream in the night. Our immigration controls, our trade deals are to protect and advance our interests. We always played ball with your country, Esther, but we grew too good at it, didn’t we?’ 

‘Much like Hussein, Gadaffi, Jung Un, we’ll be the latest enemy. I pulled the trigger on your country’s greatest enemies and when I did actual work; they sent you to betray me.’

I went to shake my head, but he raised his hand and I looked down at the table, ashamed and afraid. 

‘It doesn’t matter, cara mia. I accounted for such things. A man can never give the truth of his heart to his woman, not if he wants her to stay.’ he said. 

‘You never told me anything.’ 

He smiled and nodded. 

‘To discuss it is to relive it. My villa is a Faraday cage and no, I was frank about not discussing work with you. I didn’t give you the exact reason.’ 

I asked for another cigarette. He offered it and then lit another for himself. My eyes fell on the lighter and he smiled. 

‘What we must discuss is where you stand. Or rather, sit.’ 

My eyelids were heavy. The curls of grey smoke rose from the end of the cigarette. It was fragile and beautiful before it dissipated. A beam of sunlight struck through the carafe, fracturing the light into a rainbow of colours. The world took a deep, slow breath and my thoughts slowed down to a crawl. 

‘You’ve drugged me.’ I said.

Intoxication mauled the words as they left my mouth. Mateo plucked the cigarette from my fingers and placed his hands over mine. 

‘Cara Mia, you cannot choose between your heart and your duty. It is enthralling to practice tradecraft and strategy in matters of the heart. I honour our arrangement.’ he said. 

His voice was soft, gruff and melancholic as someone took my arms and helped me out of the chair as my legs went out from under me. 


My tongue was a bloated slug in the cave of my mouth. Sunlight whipped across my eyes. I brought my hand up, felt the give of the lounger beneath me and sat up. The sea was blue, elegant and primal as I heard the crash of the waves. I stood up, saw I was on a platform overlooking the South Pacific, and turned to look at the villa. 

It was elegant,  with white adobe walls and warm wood beneath my feet. A small table had a carafe of ice water, a glass wrapped in a napkin and a small padded envelope. I looked down at myself, still wearing my clothes from the morning. I poured a glass of water and opened the envelope. A single sheet of paper, my phone and a small envelope. I unfolded the paper and read the note. 

You have a choice. 

Your phone is as you left it. If you switch it on, you will reconnect with your team and involve yourself in the outcome. By the time you read this, they have decided things, one way or the other, but it is your choice. I would not stop you from leaving. 

My other suggestion is in the second envelope.  

Neither of these choices is simple. You will see when you open the second envelope. 

There were other choices, but my heart spoke its truth, and so I give you space to consider how you would like to spend the rest of your life. 


I  turned the second envelope over. It was thick, and I felt a blunt edge at the ball of my thumb before I set it down. My phone sat there, its black screen capturing the planes of my face, like it were something emerging from the void, pale and sculpted. 

It was a passport, proof of citizenship, with my name and face. A credit card, in my name and a ring made from tropical wood, finished to a high shine. 

This is how I will deal with you. 

I looked out towards the ocean, playing with the ring but unable to avoid glancing at the phone. My head throbbed with the aftereffects of the sedative, but the dilemma had dug claws into my scalp. 

He knew everything and spared me. I knew anyone else in the field would not be so fortunate. The militia were gathering eight miles from here, and as I picked up the phone, I heard the sharp rush of missiles. 

I tossed the phone into the ocean. I had slipped the ring onto my finger and it rested there, rich and dark against the skin. A perfect fit, but it was no surprise. I watched the sea for a minute before the booming roar of artillery made me go inside. 

It was cool and dark inside. There was the click of the front door and I closed my eyes when Mateo said my name. 

‘No, not anymore.’ I said. 

erotica love lust short fiction women

Animal And Spirit By Dahlia Bliss

Waiting for you, passing the time with a cup of coffee and a book. The words rise to meet me, but seeing you is tangible anticipation. We catch one another’s eye across the street and you grin with a naughtiness which makes me swell with want. 

You wear the chosen clothes. There were several lazy afternoons where you showed me the contents of your wardrobe and from those a soft, pink sweater which fell off your shoulders with your hair worn up at the back and a short skirt with tights. Your lips are the instructed shade of pink. Already, the idle daydream of how it will look smeared your cheek with the ball of my thumb. You’re wearing the red pumps with the half inch heel. My eyes wander upwards, teased by what your clothes suggest and hide, the full curves of you and the strength in your hips and thighs. 

My hands move to your hips as we step into one another’s space. 

My baby girl. 


We play with one another on many levels. In public, we use our given names where it’s appropriate, but often we are playing out our adventures. We pretend to be spies or thieves, child-like with our feverish imaginations. We look at one another and our eyes offer promises or costs we would account for later. 

Our lips brush over one another, feeling you soften in my hands as we release a drop of the vibe into the world. It is tender, making me shudder to not be crude with it. The control exercised is gentle,, but it is strong and violent. 

You smile at the book as we walk over and order coffee. We complement one another and we’re talking about the things we’ve been watching. 

‘So, I can’t believe how the interview went. I wanted to punch the screen.’ you said.

I grinned and shook my head as I ordered for us. Tea for you, and Americano for me. 

‘She didn’t do yourself any favours with it. It was funny, did you watch the video I sent?’ 

You always do, but I enjoy asking. Baby girl responded to little rewards. But your eyes were bright with mischief today, and I thought about when we would be alone and in private. 

We take our drinks back to the table and chat. There are no nerves between us but there is excitement and the control of it heightens every sensation. 

The rich, black coffee. The cigarettes we smoke on the way and the kisses we steal when we get into the car, a preview of the world we inhabit when we are together like this. It is not an effort for either of us, the exchange of gifts as warm as Christmas. 

My authority.

Your surrender. 

You talk about the stories you’re writing. There is a notebook to hand at all times, where you write ideas, often based on conversations we are having about the things going on around us. It reflects the mercurial grace of your intelligence in you writing, and we talk about the craft as much as anything else. I rest my hand on your left thigh as we drive and give an appreciative squeeze. My hands feel powerful, confident in their knowledge of you and what you respond to. 

We park and you unlock the front door. My heart is thumping in my chest as I look at your bum in the skirt and my mouth goes dry with want. You turn your head and grin at me as I smile and follow you inside. 


My fingers close around your jaw as I pull you close. We kiss, and there is hunger in it. A playful but intent desire to taste and feel one another. You nuzzle against me as I guide you to the wall and press myself against you. 

‘Oh Daddy Bear.’ 

Your voice is a heavy sigh before we kiss. I retreat and advance, taking your bottom lip between my teeth and biting down hard enough to make you sigh. I take my hand from your jaw and slide my fingers through the hair on the back of your head and make a fist. You groan and kiss me back hard. 

I pull back and look at you. My upper lip curls up and I growl at you to get upstairs. You ask permission to take your shoes off and I nod. 

‘My good girl.’ 

You smile and I stand back as you unbuckle them and takes them off. She walks up the stairs and I stand there, watching how your bum moves and the sight of you makes me throb as I walk up after you. 

I tell you to wait as I walk through to the bedroom and prepare for us both. 

I have blanket fort construction down to a fine art. I suspended the rectangular frame from the ceiling by chains and threw over the sheets we kept as materials. The frame has fairy lights wound around it. I throw pillows onto the bed and take off my shoes before I open the door and tell you you can come inside. 

You squeal and put your arms out as I take you into my arms. My hand strokes up and down your back, palming and squeezing your bum through the skirt. I rub my bearded cheek against you, like I’m marking you as mine.

You are. 

You moan and open your thighs as you ask permission to touch me. 

I nod and grunt as your fingers unbutton my shirt. You pull it free of my jeans and press yourself against my bare chest. Your mouth goes to my ear as I nuzzle your neck and grab your bum hard. The strength in my hands serves us both. There is the honeyed silk of your skin beneath you clothes, and I ache to touch and taste it. I pull your hair and you run your fingers over my chest, stroking my nipples to make me groan with want. 

I bring my hand around from your bum and slide my fingers inside the waistband of your skirt, through your tights and over your panties. I stare into your eyes and revel in your expression. Your eyes are black with arousal and you face is flushed as you look back at me, lost to your feelings. 

‘Whose pussy is this?’ 

I massage you through your panties for emphasis. 

You smile as you lean back. My fingers slip under the material as my fingertips graze over the ripe swell of my pussy. 

‘Yours, Daddy. It’s your pussy.’ 

I kiss you as I draw my index finger down an inch and you shudder as I brush in a small circle and you reach out to rest your hand on my forearm to draw me closer.



I part you with my fingers and slide my hand down, letting the warm sweet oil of your arousal anoint me as you arch your back and I stroke around your clit with the care it takes to pick a lock. Such gentle actions explode within you, and it is the gulf between attention and want which I leap across each time I touch you. 

I let go of your hair and close my fingers on the arteries either side of your neck and I squeeze for a second as you moan and close your eyes. My hold lasts a second before I ease off and kiss you again as I dip my finger inside you. You soften and I circle my finger slow inside you, savouring the warm, wet tension of you. I kiss you as I close my eyes and surrender to my instincts. 

My fingers recite a poem to you, each line and verse builds upon the last, and I feel your responses, increasing or decreasing the pressure and speed in line with what you need. The understanding is unspoken in this moment we share. 

You buck against me and draw back from the kiss as you look deep into my eyes. 

‘Daddy, that feels so fucking good.’ 

I give a slight smile and stroke your clit, which makes your eyelids grow heavy as you moan with pleasure. I continue the rhythm, keeping my face still as I watch your expressions as the sensations build and you gain urgency and agency from the tumult of touches I cast into you. 

You grip my arms and stares into my eyes with raw want. 

‘Please, can I come, Daddy?’ 

I shake my head and you whimper, closing your eyes and bracing yourself against the slow wave of sensation building within you. We give off waves of heat in our embrace, and we move with one another, without losing the rhythm of the moment. 

You ask me again, breathless, and I shake my head. You whimper and lower your head, but I tell you to look at me and you do as another spasm of release dances through you. Your heat drenches my palm and fingers, and the friction makes you lean forwards and cry out as you stare into my eyes. 

‘Please, Daddy, let me come. Please?’ 

I look at you and shake my head. The denial does not stop my hand from where it strokes my pussy into the start of a prohibited activity. I am forcing you to accept my authority and you clutch at me as you cry out you will come. 

You buck against me as your fingers bite into my arms and I squeeze your neck to enhance the experience,  your eyes shine with tears as you shudder through an orgasm hard as a cramp before you sag against me. 

I do not stop stroking you and you whimper, whispering in my ear. 

‘Oh Daddy, I‘m going to come again. Can I come?’ 

I tell you you can, and you are there, crying out as you ride the sensation down and collapse against me. My arms throb with the action but I feel immune to everything but my authority over you as you come all over my hand before you straighten up, surprised by the riot of you nerves as you tell me you want to come again. I don’t refuse you and you curl over me, grinding against my fingers as you pulse and undulate into a tight knot of tension which you undo with a loud cry and your arms coming around me. 

Your breath, soft and ragged, makes the hairs on my neck stand up as I press my palm against my pussy and tell you you’re safe. You collapse against me and rub your cheek against mine as I slip my fingers from between your thighs. 

I bring my fingers up and smear them across your lips. You grin and kisses me before my arms come around you and pull you close. We hold the embrace until you suggest we have a cigarette and I agree with a smile. 

You take off your tights and we dive into the blanket fort together. We roll cigarettes and light them, and we lay there, smoking and kissing, talking in soft whispers because my voice carries through to the neighbours. 

When we’ve finished, we stare into one another’s eyes and move towards one another. 

I unbuckle my belt with one hand as I grab your hair and push you down into the bed as I straddle you. You reach inside my jeans and stroke my cock through my underwear. There is a red insistent pressure behind my eyes, the blazing libido honed into a point of perfect focus as I lift off and you reach out to push my jeans and underwear down my thighs. You reach out and stroke down the length of my cock as you look up at me. 

‘Can I kiss it Daddy?’ 

I nod, my throat too tight with arousal to speak as you tilt your head to one side and give a smile which makes me clench as you close your lips to the underside of my cock before you lick me with a giggle in the back of your throat. I sigh and close my eyes, reaching for your hair as you stroke me with both hands as you guide me into you mouth. When I open my eyes, you are looking up at me, electrified with desire as your lips close over me and you suckle me with a slow pressure which goes to my head. 

I feel every nuance, breathing with the pleasure of your lips as I pull you hair and tell you how good it fucking feels. I accept it and you murmur with pleasure as my cock stiffens in your mouth. 

Between your hands and mouth, I am clenching in slow, deep spasms of impending release. We speak a language of our own, seamless and silent as breath. I break it by telling you I will come and you continue as I take a tight grip on you hair and let go. 

It is flight without leaving the ground, a sensation which comes from everywhere and channelled into the music two people can make if they play in the same key. I feel the rush of everything as I spasm onto your tongue and you gulp me down as I shiver with power. 

I pull you up and kiss you, tasting the salt of my come as you wrap yourself around me. I push you onto the bed and you turn your head to one side. 

‘Traffic light?’

You smile at me and whisper.


I reach down and touch your face, but you turn your head and scowl. I turn your face back towards me, keeping my fingers tight on your jaw. You try to pull away but I hold you down firm as I shake my head and grin.

‘You can’t get away, baby girl. I take what I want from you.’ 

My cock stirs against my thigh as I grab your wrist with one hand and push it down onto the bed. You kick against me, but I laugh and grab your other hand as I press my chest against you and kick your legs apart with my feet. She breaks character and grin before you put on your grimace again and I smile, with a bellyful of lust fuelling my strength. 

You lift your hips up as I bring my mouth to your ear.

‘I don’t know why you’re fighting, baby girl. I’m stronger than you.’ 

You grunt and try to push me off but I hold on and the head of my cock rubbed between the lips of my pussy. You bend your leg at the knee as you bite your bottom lip. 

‘Are you going to fight Daddy anymore?’ 

I make my voice hard and you lift your hips to draw me in but I pull back and shake my head. 

‘Oh Daddy.’ 

I shake my head. 

‘Are you going to fight Daddy more?’ 

You sigh and shake your head. 

‘Are you going to take this like a good girl?’ 

You ask me to kiss you. I lean over you, with your wrists still in my hands, dominating you as my tongue steals between your lips and you relax in my grip as I ease my hips forward as I let the head of my cock move back and forth as you gasp and lift your legs higher to take me in. 

‘Please fuck me Daddy.’ 

I tease you with it, slow rocking motions where the head of my cock gleams with your come and I feel the muscles in your stomach tighten as you express your need for depth and intention. I thrust into you with one deep stroke and you gasp. I lean forward and inhale you, the musk of sex, the wild honey and coconut oil you use. Touching you is a contemplation on beauty, but right now I am reduced and elevated to a wild animal of need. 

Her bear. 

I fuck you in slow strokes. My need makes me urgent and propulsive, and you breathe in rapid spurts as you close your eyes and moan beneath the delicious expression of my desire. I raise up and put my fingers on your throat as I squeeze. Your eyelids flutter and you buck against me as my pussy floods with arousal and you ask me for permission to come. 

I squeeze your neck again and fuck you with a lust akin to brutality, tender and terrifying in its openness before I let go and you ask me if you can come. 

Your eyes are damp, and your skin is flushed and glowing. There is a delicacy to you which makes dominating you feel such a rare pleasure and the valid proposition of it pools in my crotch as I tell you to wait for me. I lean forward and kiss you, tell you to let me know when you‘re going to come. 

Animal and spirit, a primal polarity which creates a cosmic, theatrical tension where we play with deadly seriousness in safety. 

You ask me to fuck you harder. Your voice is tight and you’re close, as I feel another throbbing rush of arousal flood my pussy and we lock into a perfect cycle of want as you tell me you‘re going to come. 

I speed up, releasing the control I’ve held onto as I pound into you, looking into your eyes as my head swims with the rush of impending release. You clench around me and I let go, the ache transforming into a sweet, unstoppable wave of liberation. We find one another in the beatific blindness of the moment, kissing to gain wisdom of our primal selves. 

You pull me close and I wrap you in my arms, tight so you can feel what is within me, too important to hide but at a point where my words would be too fragile to contain it. You sigh and we lay there, seeing one another before you draw me down into another kiss and we work ourselves into another puzzle of intimacy. Another game. 

fiction man short fiction women


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‘If we lived in a world where women were murdering men en masse and men genuinely had reason to fear they might be murdered in their beds by a gang of marauding feminists, I would agree with your concern,’
Clementine Ford.
We found it hiding underneath the bleachers. 

Anita had gotten a righteous shot in with the crossbow, punched through the right thigh before it broke off into a loping, awkward run into the corridors of the high school. It left a trail of blood which we followed, shaking with fear and excitement as its cries echoed off the walls.
Karen cradled her baseball bat close to her chest as she glanced at us, grinning with anticipation.
‘This is the last one, girls, then we’re clear.’ she said.
I looked outside, saw the younger girls dragging bodies onto the smouldering bonfire as their songs and cheers of victory reached us.
The element of surprise had guaranteed us a head start. They were stronger than us, faster and adapted for violence at a genetic level.
We moved into the gym, heard it pleading from the corner as the four of us spread out to cover the exits. Karen turned the bat over in her hands and tightened her grip as she walked towards the bleachers.
‘Come out and we’ll make it quick.’ she said.
One thing I admired about the harder ones, they never gave up. Wounded or mutilated, they fought to their last breath and some of them would look you in the eye as you came for them. They had been in our homes, our schools and places of work forever, but still they fought hard to live.
After the first one, it got easier for me to do it. I made it quick with the machete, aiming for the head or the neck wherever possible. Anita liked the crossbow because it lent a sense of theatre to proceedings, she said, but I knew she enjoyed the pursuit, heightened until the last blow landed. One night, she confided in me how it made her wet when she killed one. I said nothing, but ever since; I looked at her with detachment and questioned her motives.
I did not do this in public. Apostates got demoted to support our infrastructure. Repeated infractions were a ticket to Central Processing, which no one spoke of aloud.
Karen and Anita moved to either side of the bleachers. I guarded the entrance, gun in my hand as I flipped off the safety and waited for the signal.
The sharp twang of the crossbow followed by a guttural scream was my cue to move in.
It clutched at the bolt in its stomach, eyes streaming tears as it gasped and pleaded for life. Blood pooled and soaked through the ragged, stained t-shirt as its hands grew slick. Karen walked forwards and smacked the bat down into its face. She swung the bat down twice before she stepped back and reviewed her work with a grim nod of satisfaction. They both looked at me with an unspoken question in her eyes. I tucked the gun into the back of my jeans and I pulled it out, cocked the hammer and levelled it at it.
They had always been a threat, hadn’t they?, something happened. I remembered Tommy floating in the pool whilst Mom waded out of the water. Dad had been in the study, with his throat opened in a thick, red line. It was us or them, and yet as I looked at Karen and Anita, I wondered who we were.
The gun was heavy in my hand as I aimed down the front sight. At least, I told myself; I was offering mercy as I pulled the trigger. It looked me in the eyes and held my gaze until the shot snapped its head back and it slumped like a puppet with its strings cut.
Karen and Anita dragged it to the bonfire. I noticed the class ring had come off its finger, caught on the edge of the door frame, and I pocketed it before either of them saw it.
The cries of women rose in the air as I slipped the ring into my pocket and followed them outside, grateful they were not looking at my face.
It had asked me out last summer.

 Anita said it was disgusting and I was too ready out with the likes of something so base and toxic. It took the hint and left me alone but would exchange hopeful glances with me in the corridors until Principal James ordered them to avoid direct eye contact in the halls under the micro-aggression policies.

Today had been the first time we’d seen one another.

It looked up at me as the others dragged it through, but I couldn’t hold the gaze. The smell of burning meat wafted over and my mouth watered as the bell rang for lunch. It was easier to pretend this was all fine, so I did.

Did it used to have a purpose? Talking about it gets you wrote up, and when I think about it, my head hurts and I go away for a little while.
I walked away from the bonfire and walked inside, found the drinking fountain which used to look tall to me, but now I have to squat in front of it and strain my neck to reach the spout. The water doesn’t taste as good, although we’re told it’s safe.
It is safe now, isn’t it? 

fiction love women


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Her voice, small and trembling, woke me like an alarm clock. A single word had me tumbling from the womb of warm sheets.
The drive is quiet, my teeth ground together by the tension, knowing that at any moment, I might arrive to some horror scene, blood and rage. Frightened by what I might do if she’s not alone.
I call when I am outside. Parked a block away, she sobs as she tells me she’s alone.
 Treehouse games and stories we only ever told to one another, and when the inch of space between door and frame shows me a livid bruise around her left eye, I want to give it a violent, violent ending. Inside, I’m all business.
‘What have you packed?’
She looks down, auburn hair hung in her eyes and lean arms wrapped around herself. A runner’s build, but this is one trail she’s been gearing up for, for a long fucking time. Grey vest and faded track bottoms, translucent at the knees.
‘Becky. Get something together. Where is she?’
She shakes her head without looking up. I remember reading an interview with Sean Connery once; he said that there were worse things done to a woman than hit her.  Becky argued death penalty cases, wrote papers that went to Supreme Court Justices and here she was, unable to tell me if she had packed a bag or not.
I sigh and she flinches, which makes a small series of knots, made of of guilt and anguish from palate to bowel, slip itself tighter together. Pressing my palms together as I take a small step forward.
‘Becky, we have to go now. You called me, and I want you to come home with me, but you need to get some things together.’
She nodded and cantered into the bedroom. The hallway was heavy with framed pictures. Even in an age of Instagram and Snapchat, Becky appreciated representations of her history. Lots from her gap-toothed childhood, earnest eyes that looked too old for an apple-cheeked face and fine, windblown hair with my arm around her. Self conscious enough to make sure I sneered in every photo. Little brother, that I was. First boy in the family.  Honour roll, certificates, qualifications, college with the haircut, shaved at the sides and long on top that nearly got her kicked off. 
Jennifer. Five feet tall, ninety pounds. Not insubstantial or weak. Compact. A dwarf meteorite. Beautiful compression, her existence lived like a tape on fast forward. Words all pressed together and an intense line of patter that made you wonder how she drew breath.
Becky didn’t stand a chance against being loved like that.
I’d gone into the academy.
 When they announced that they were moving up to SF. 
Jennifer had landed a great gig working the diversity angle with tech companies eager to avoid being crucified online, Becky, in a resigned voice, said that she could practice anywhere. Thanksgiving was with her family and then Becky shut down her facebook without telling me. A couple one came up instead, Jennifer’s idea.
On the phone, talking like a bad audition for an awful movie. 
Into my career, blue flames shooting out of my ass, looking at making detective and living like a monk. 
Maintenance communications with my family and not even noticing how Becky doesn’t really talk to anyone anymore.
A call from a payphone, sobbing with the pain of it all.
No details, but fuck that was enough. If you had looked at Jennifer and Becky together, you’d have guessed wrong about who did what to whom and the nature of it. No one wants to be a victim, inventing reasons that justify a course of action because that’s easier to saying that life is, to quote Hamlet, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
She came out with a suitcase. Looking around, my forehead furrowed as the silence bothered me. She had everything swamped beneath a sweatshirt that hung past her.  Taking the case, she bit her bottom lip and lowered her eyes. I told her I would use the bathroom and she swallowed heavily. She limped out to the car and I swallowed another slick burst of rage.
I walked down the hall. My apartment was smaller than their bathroom, one of those showers that had multiple heads at angles, black marble and chrome. Their toilet looked like performance art.
I took a quick piss and flushed. The door to their bedroom was open and as I shut the bathroom door behind me, there was the scent of something dark and heavy. My heart was heavy in my chest and I reached for my hip, embarrassed that my instinct outstripped my actual reality.
A lump beneath the duvet, goose feathers hung in the air and the smear of black hair against the pillow. Illuminated by the light from the hallway. The reason she had called me. We had both worked within institutions that served and protected people. Knew that the law was like sausages, that you might enjoy them, but if you saw them made, you’d never eat one again.
The implications, the armchair quarterbacks who would look at her and wonder why she didn’t ask for help, would haunt her. Remembering a bit from a Doug Stanhope show.
‘I don’t like when minorities tell me I can’t understand racism because I’m white. I go: “No, you can’t understand racism ‘cause you’re not white; I hear the shit they say about you when you leave the room! They don’t hold back on my account.”
Same applied to sexism. That, and we both knew how cops and lawyers fared in prison. This was not Peter Harris with his broken arm, but the principle was the same. Love is not a statement that you can rely on in court, My handkerchief came out and wiped everywhere that I had touched.
She sat in my front seat, chin tucked to her chest and hands folded in her lap.
The knife was in the suitcase, wrapped in a hand towel and a plastic bag.  I put my hand on her arm, told her we would figure it out on the way.
Her first smile, cold but familiar to me. We always covered for one another.
The front seat of my car.
The treehouse in the backyard.
Just one more body, that was all.

film short fiction women writing

The Olivias

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The wig made his scalp itch like an addiction, and the lipstick tasted of something extracted from a marine life form, but Heath looked up at the gold statuette with its mother-goddess curves and blank face and bit back a shudder of vulgar joy. He would get away with this, he thought, as he followed the media people down into the auditorium.

He had practiced with heels, but they had delivered their punishment by instalments. Walking the length of the laboratory had been one thing, but hours spent waiting to get in whilst the nominees and celebrities stood for photos and interviews with the press. He wouldn’t risk talking to one of them, although it would be quite something to ask Melissa McCarthy about playing Winifred Churchill in Her Darkest Hour or Mercedes Carrera as Connie The Barbarian.

Heath loved the cinema of this world the way God loves: from afar.

Security ushered them to their seats. Heath sat down in a way which appeared feminine but he felt awkward, already sweating under his arms and at the small of his back. There are whoops and cries from the audience, a hubbub of chatter which swells like an orchestra before the lights fall down and the presenter comes out. Something pinched the back of his ankle and he cursed the shoes he had chosen, but he wanted to fit in with the beautiful people.

It was controversial this year because a man was hosting, which made Heath chortle when he read about it, but as Michael Gyllenhaal walked towards the microphone, Heath felt a foreboding bubble in the pit of his stomach.

They were the only men in the building. He wished there weren’t restrictions on sharing his work. They enforced the department guidelines on contact and interaction with a rigour which verged on the pathological. A Latin woman, in a black suit walked down the aisle, shot Heath a look which raised gooseflesh before she moved down the aisle. Michael made a few jokes about men, and the audience cackled with a fierce glee. He was playing to the crowd, Heath thought, and good on him. Men had it tough in this parallel universe, but the politics didn’t interest him because he was here for the culture, which was always upriver of politics, anyway. His throat was dry and he rubbed his tongue against the roof of his mouth to generate saliva.

The first guest hosts were the stars of Bitch, Where’s My Car?, stunning despite the goofy smiles and snapback hats, heavy bracelets and midriffs carved from wood, scarred with tattoos which made Heath stir in his seat. He had taped everything back and had to take a deep breath to control his reaction. When they announced the winner as a supporting actress in Thora Gump, Heath tutted and shook his head. An elderly woman shot him a look, and when Heath uncrossed his legs, she scowled with a cautious suspicion before she returned her attention to the show. His mouth was like the skin of a baked potato and he had a headache building at his temples.

Thora Gump was awful. Heath suspected Zemeckis knew enough story structure to adapt the best parts of the book, and Hanks was subtle enough to avoid parody, which he’d been saying long before Tropic Thunder came out, but here Jodie Foster had suffered under Nora Ephron’s affectations to create a saccharine clown show which felt like a cheap satire of the original.

Heath loved the cinema of this world. For every Thora Gump, there was a Saving Private Rachel. Joan Allen was amazing as the determined school teacher and Greta Gerwig as Rachel provided an intense, but brief introduction in the last act. Their failures and successes held the same allure for Heath, but here he was indulging his appetite for novelty and risking his life to do it.

His money was on The Running Woman, Karyn Kusama had done an amazing job on the direction and Saoirse Ronan had proven a ballistic and credible lead. He rated Frances McDormand’s role as Killian the equal of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, but he couldn’t share it with them. He shook with pain as his mouth cracked and bled with thirst.

The speeches. The tearful calls for action to the faithful. He needed the bathroom but his legs had gone numb and his calves were hot coals grafted to his bones as he struggled to his feet. The old woman scowled at him and he avoided her piercing gaze as he staggered from his seat. The Latin woman looked at him with frank interest as she walked towards him.

His leg shook and he remembered the pinch on his ankle. A subtle display of tradecraft as good as anyone in the department. Culture was upriver of politics, but as he pitched forward onto his knees and watched the Latin security guard walk towards him, he marvelled how his story had turned out.

Small but capable hands lifted him to his feet.

He knew where he was going. A room outside any jurisdiction. He hadn’t come to watch The Olivias as his work, but his passion. As he focused on the blank, beautiful faces, his knees bumped against the step as they loaded him into the van and shut the door. He wanted to tell him how much he loved this world, its achievements and tragedies, how terrible and beautiful a world of women was, but they lowered the hood over his face and someone thrust a fist into his trachea before throwing him to the floor of the van as it sped away from the auditorium.

erotica love lust short fiction women

Untouched Places

Untouched Places


Bette stood at the counter, stretching out her aching calf muscles, stiff from the lengthy drive. A weekend with her sister and her family was exhausting and the hours on the road made everything from the soles of her feet to the top of her headache if she stayed in one position for too long. The meagre relief of a covert stretch and a large mochachino would make up for the pleasant yet melancholic weekend with Rose, Harvey and Timmy.

She ordered, paid and moved to the right as she felt a pinch at the top of her right hamstring. Bette winced but kept moving. These days, she worried about becoming a miscellany of aches over being alone.

It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling; she told Rose whilst they watched Harvey and Timmy play catch in the garden. The last embers of the barbecue glowed slowly whilst plates sat there, heaped with wilted salad leaves and ragged lumps of meat and fat commas of condiments. It was a problem for tomorrow, as Bette and Rose sat there, finishing the last of the Pimms, holding court on Bette being single.

She heard her name being called as she blinked with surprise. As she took her drink out to the car, a removal van pulled out of the parking lot. Her house was perfect, she decided, but the terrible allure of change was inviting in its awfulness.

Bette saw her phone sparkling with notifications. A dating app which was attempting to get her interacting with it again, reminding her of all the single men she was missing out on. She stopped, cleared the notifications and deleted the app. There were dates, but they were half-lived experiences, boys wanting to be men and even then wanting to be a sibling over a parent. No one she thought to bring home. She put her phone away, lifted the lid of her cup and blew across the surface. Her eyes blurred and she knuckled the tears away, told herself she was tired and her back hurt from the drive. Endless piggybacks for Auntie Bette with Timmy.


The removal van was next door. Katie and Phil had moved back to her parents in Arizona. They had been pleasant but self-obsessed people, and although they tried to be friends, it was awkward and they gave up.

Bette recalled Phil’s hungry eyes when she mowed the front lawn in a bikini top and cut-offs. Katie catching him doing it, how she bent over like she had a slight stomach cramp and a wounded, informed look in her eye which Bette wondered was the motive for the move away.

Bette sucked down the last of the mochachino, which was too thick to do much with beyond sucking it through her teeth. A voodoo logic made her believe the sugar and caffeine would do something for her headache, but all she tasted was the granular bitterness of the coffee grounds and the metallic tang of the pain which had travelled up to do Feng Shui in her head.


He walked towards her, hand raised in greeting as he grinned at her. The smile was open, gregarious in a way which made something shift in her chest just as she realised she was meeting him with a headache and teeth stained with mochachino.

Her attention went to the pair of massive dogs walking with him, to heel, a jet black mastiff with a blunt, shark’s muzzle and a lean, lupine Shepherd with its tongue flapping from its mouth but with eyes alert for a challenge. Her head throbbed as she returned her attention to the man.

A wash of grey flooded over her vision as the heat of the day weighed down on her, and judging his black t-shirt clung to his chest and shoulders, it had left its mark on him too. He had wraparound sunglasses on, and a shaved head gleaming with oil. As he came closer, she saw the glitter of close-shaved blonde beard and his Roman nose, red with a tinge of sunburn.

Rose would have run inside and locked the door. Said he looked like a serial killer. Bette would have pointed out most serial killers looked like Phil or Harvey, her husband. She watched the flare of his quads against his dirty jeans and his battered but polished boots.

Bette swept her tongue over her teeth, almost gagged against the bitterness as her head throbbed with pain. She swallowed the mess over spitting in front of him.

And you wonder why you’re still single, she thought, as she gulped it down.

‘Hi,’ she said.

Her voice sounded faint to her ears.

‘Ma’am, thought I should introduce myself, seeing as we will be neighbours. I’m Jack,’ he gestured to the dogs either side of him,’This is Thorne and Rose.’

Bette snickered and got a fresh, disorientating burst of pain which whipped around her skull. The honeyed drawl of his accent intrigued her and when he took off his shades, she peered through the haze of pain, into a pair of piercing grey eyes. His smile flickered with concern.

‘Bette,’ she said.

He repeated her name, testing its pronunciation.

‘Well, it’s good to meet you. Thought I’d get the dogs to say hi. They’re obedient dogs, though, but didn’t want you to worry,’ he said.

She tried to smile, but her head was leaden and tight with pain. A sharp pain started at the nape and she staggered like something had stung her. Another wave of grey washed over her and took everything with it.


A nail is in my forehead, she thought, judging by the pain Bette felt as she came to. The skirting boards needed a good dusting as her vision came into focus.

‘Stay still’ Jack said.

She ran her tongue over her teeth, tasted the granules of coffee and dislodged one was between her front teeth. She sighed and rubbed her face.

‘Would you help me up?’ she said.

He smelled of salt and leather as his hand cupped the back of her head and she put some tentative weight on her left hand to support herself.

‘I’ve got you, just breathe,’ he said.

She sat up by degrees, at a pace which felt glacial, but Jack stayed with her. Sitting upright helped and the pressure in her back and neck had gone. Bette gasped with relief as Ben stood up and looked down at her.

‘Thank you, Jack. I hope this isn’t an omen of our being neighbours,’ she said.

He smiled and shook his head.

‘Nothing to it. Is there anyone I can call?’ he said.

She had slept on a couch at her sisters and the lengthy drive hadn’t helped. Bette went on, despite the pain and exhaustion which had dogged her steps since she left Rose. Jack helped her to her feet and she enjoyed holding onto his thick, vascular forearm. He lifted her with no effort.

She bumped into his chest, but he did not flinch. He chuckled before he stepped backwards. Bette looked into his eyes and fought the uncoiling warmth which started in the seat of her pelvis.

‘Are the dogs here?’

He smiled and shook his head.

‘No, they went back outside.’

He glanced outside, squinting against the late afternoon sun. Bette enjoyed the mingling alleviation of her pain and the tentative stabs of arousal Jack evoked with a gesture. She thanked him and said she would see him later.

‘I look forward to it,’ he said.

Bette watched him walk back to his house, his thick arms swinging by his sides as he strode back.

She ran a bath, hot and caked with Epsom salts. These were the points she enjoyed being alone, but when she closed her eyes, the profile of Jack as he looked outside came to her attention and rose gooseflesh as it insinuated itself into her attentions.

It was dark when she awoke, and the water was lukewarm. She got out of the tub, feeling clean and refreshed. Her stomach growled with hunger and she went with the adolescent impulse to order a pizza.

Bette brushed her teeth, then ordered the pie and made tea. The thought of coffee made her nauseous, and she was appreciating the fragile pleasure of feeling well again.

She was watching television when the doorbell rang.

Jack had changed into a clean t-shirt and jeans. His skin smelled of coal tar soap , masculine and warm.

‘I thought I’d look in on you,’ he said.

Bette flushed and considered the pyjamas and robe she had on.

‘Thank you. More embarrassed than anything serious. I was lucky you were here,’ she said.

He smiled.

‘I’m just glad you’re on your feet,’ he said.

Bette grinned and asked him if the dogs were here. He shook his head but she made a play of peeking past his shoulder.

‘I’ve got pizza coming, it’ll be too much for me to eat alone, so do you want to come in, and erm, have some?’

Jack’s smile widened into a grin which made the muscles in her thighs flutter.

‘Sure, I settled the dogs in for the night,’ he said.

Bette tittered and opened the door, asked him if he wanted a drink. Water was fine, and she remembered how she hadn’t cleaned up since before she left to go to Rose’s house.

‘Sorry about the mess. I don’t have the excuse of saying I’ve moved in,’ she said.

He chuckled as he sat down on the couch.

‘I don’t have a lot of stuff, so it’s easy to keep neat,’ he said.

They chatted as she boiled the kettle for a fresh cup of tea. He came from the Ozarks via a stint in the USMC, a tour of Afghanistan as a dog handler, working with a Belgian Malinois. Bette remembered the mastiff and smiled.

‘She’s your war buddy, that’s beautiful.

‘What about the Shepherd?’’

Jack’s eyes glanced downwards.

‘He was my buddy’s. Stayed in after I did my last tour, got taken out and so I applied to take his dog on,’ he said.

Bette swallowed, touched by the quiet way he shared this part of himself with her. She spoke, but the whistle of the kettle made her get up and make tea.

When she returned, he stood up, looking at her bookshelves. She leaned towards thrillers and true crime, and reference material for work, but he was scanning the spines with open interest.

‘Did you ever hear the John Waters quote?’ Bette said.

Her voice sounded pitched and nervous to her ears, but he smiled and looked at her as he shook his head.

‘If you go home with someone and they don’t have books on their shelves, don’t fuck them,’ she said.

Jack stared at her, hard and unflinching for a moment, which made her throat close before his facade cracked and he chuckled, putting his hand over his mouth as he closed his eyes with delight. Bette’s relief made her join in a moment later as she came towards him.

Hack’s chuckle was rough and deep, as they moved towards one another. Bette set her cup down on the coffee table as she wiped tears of laughter from her eyes.

They stared at one another, and Bette felt every inch of skin poised for something when he moved his face towards her, a hand raising with care to cup her cheek. She whimpered as he brushed them over hers, tentative and sweet as they closed her eyes.

Which was when the doorbell rang.

Jack folded his arms and chuckled as Bette swore under her breath and went to collect the pizza.

She took the box and gave the driver a ten-dollar tip to get him away without offending him. When she went back, Jack stood there with his hands by his sides.

‘I hope it didn’t get weird,’ he said.

She set the pizza box on the table and stood up.

‘I’m in my pyjamas and I’ve already passed out in front of you. Weird was two stops ago,’ she said.

He bought his hand to her cheek again as she gazed at him. A slight whimper escaped her lips as he ran his tongue over his lips. They moved towards one another, giving in to the tension between them.

They bumped noses and chins at first, kissing in orchestral stabs as they found accommodation with one another. Bette put his hands on her breasts through her pyjama top as she guided him to the couch. The silence and song had been wonderful, but an older part of her was in charge here.

It was hungry.

Jack pulled off his t-shirt and Bette sighed at the hard plates of muscle, the golden curls of hair on his chest and stomach and the tattoos on his upper arms. There were some pitted scars across his chest, flecks of white against his honeyed skin.

He took off his shoes and socks, then knelt before her on the couch. Lust made some men clumsy, but Jack descended to her like a wild, primal angel and she welcomed him.

Bette surrendered to his slow hands. He squeezed her ass, her hips and breasts with a firm, hungry and appreciative touch which made her moan against his mouth. She wrapped her lips around his tongue and suckled, which made him groan with pleasure. They wrestled like tide and shore, a muted crash of beautiful violence and all of it made in a spirit of honeyed, wild awareness.

Bette awoke to each caress, a rough magic which fed her hunger for touch even as it expanded to demand more of him.

His mouth kissed down her neck and a need to show him more of her raged through her as she pushed herself against him, stroking him as his washcloth tongue painted the canvas of her skin.

She slipped down the couch as Jack moved back onto his heels, straddling her as he unbuttoned her top and smoothed it from her shoulders. He grinned at her before he resumed exploring her chest with his lips and tongue. She tugged down her pyjama bottoms, grateful for having had a bath as his lips painted mandalas against her breasts. She went to speak, but he took one of her aching nipples in his mouth and suckled on it which made her moan with pleasure.

The suckling ache dived downwards and his mouth moved to suckle her other nipple. She kicked her pyjama bottoms off as he parted her thighs and moved between her quivering thighs, kissing the soft planes of her stomach. Each kiss was electric, making her moan soft vowel sounds into the night air like music.

Jack crouched between her open thighs and smiled, murmuring with appreciation.

Bette touched his face, drunk with appreciation as he dipped downwards, slipping his hands under her buttocks to take a grip as he licked between her labia in one delicious stroke which went all the way to the top of her head. She shuddered, relaxing into the febrile waves of joy his tongue unleashed within her.

His tongue danced against her tender flesh, vertical and horizontal strokes grazing fresh stars into her sky. When he rested the tip of his index finger at her pussy, she felt an insistent flood of arousal.

Bette fell back against the couch as she shuddered with wonder. Jack’s fingers splayed over the cradle of her pelvis as he pressed his tongue against her clit and suckled. She exploded after an eternal, perfect moment.

All she was went upwards and outwards, like a firework before returning to herself, familiar and alien with potential and sensation. Jack came up, his lips shining with her juices and she reached out, undoing his jeans as she reached for his cock. A moment of friction passed and he was inside her, pumping and urgent as she clutched him close and felt him tighten up within her. The raging burst of his release made her come again with him, breathing hard and wrapped around him as she cried out before they collapsed together, a damp tangle of limbs and sighs.

They laid there, waiting until they could speak again. He raised himself on his elbows and stroked her face. She smelled the faint mineral scent of herself on his fingers as she looked at him.

‘Hey neighbour,’ she said.

He smiled and looked towards the pizza box, raising an eyebrow. She grinned and pulled it towards them.

‘God yes, you read my mind,’ she said.

She stopped, realising she wasn’t in any pain. All the aches wiped clean and whatever recent ones , they were the kind which made a life with people in it palatable, even pleasurable.

The evening went on.

As the days passed, they walked his dogs and found quiet accommodation with one another. She still had her mornings with the birds, but she never lacked for company.

fiction hunger short fiction women





My left foot kept spinning the pedals, a rattling, harsh percussion that cut through Hazel’s buzz. It was Wednesday, school was out because a senior had shot himself in front of his parents. Hazel kept sucking on the joint before giving out the little morsels of information that she had picked up.  


‘He was wearing one of his mom’s dresses when he did it.


‘That’s fucked up,’ I said.

He should have transitioned. They would have given him the world.


Hazel blinked and offered the joint. I shook my head and Hazel shrugged her shoulders. I looked into her heavy-lidded eyes, platinum curls that fell around her face like a halo and fought the urge to tell her how pretty she was.


‘Sure is. Hey, I’m thinking of changing my name.’


I frowned and stopped kicking the pedals backwards. I set the bike down and sat on the kerb next to me. I had the prettier name, but in the mirror, stained skin, a lumpy nose that was a family inheritance, a stocky frame that would run to fat if I didn’t cycle everywhere. 


‘What’s wrong with Hazel?’


Hazel exhaled and watched a Pontiac circling the lot without stopping. It reminded me of how a shark or a killer whale would swim around its prey but, then Hazel turned to me, and the thought evaporated


‘I’m dropping the L.No surname.’




She nodded, grinning in the lazy way that made every boy in town goofy with lust. 


‘Yeah, like Ke$ha or Madonna or Lady Gaga.’


Lady was an honorific. 


‘That’s cool. You could substitute the e for a 3 when you wrote it out.’


Hazel stuck the joint in the corner of her mouth and pulled me in for a side-hug. I shut my eyes, committed the contact to memory and hugged her back. The soft crush of Hazel’s body thrilled me. 


‘Damn, you’re so fucking smart.’


Being smart was not a gift. Intelligence was seldom kind and on balance, I would have traded with her in a hot minute. 


‘So, are you still working on your songs?’


Hazel took a puff on the joint and pulled her phone from inside her bra. The shorts were too tight for pockets, and I envied that her legs were coltish and tan. She queued up the recording app and played me what she had been working on. 


I looked down at my feet, hoping that Hazel would mistake it for contemplation, rather than discomfort. Hazel stopped the app and offered the joint to me. 


I took it with a smile. 


‘It’s great, you’ve got a magnificent voice.’


Hazel’s smile made it bearable and I took a slight drag on the joint, just to be polite.  My head grew heavy on my shoulders and I wanted to tell her something heartfelt, something meaningful.


Which was when the Pontiac pulled up alongside us. The driver’s side window rolled down and a cloud of smoke drifted out.  The driver stuck his head out and grinned with the teeth life had left available to him. His face was a blunt triangle turned upside down, patchy brown beard and a thick ring through his right eyebrow. The black tattoo on his neck looked like a burn. I swallowed, my skin tingling with nerves. The stereo throbbed with low, nasty rap, harsh voices and bass that resonated in the pit of my stomach. 


‘Hey girls, what’s up?’


I passed the joint back to Hazel. She took a puff on it Norma Jean with me, but a boy would sweep into view and she would go full Marilyn. 


‘Nothing. What’s up with you?’


Hazel had made her voice a touch breathier than before. My back teeth ached with an unnamed tension. 


My knees drew up to my chest and I studied at the tarmac with an intensity that surprised me.  I shut down, fearing that my life was one platonic loop of the same experiences. Haunting a parking lot as a ghost in a shroud of ugly, desperate meat.  


I looked up. The car stood by Hazel.A pair of sunglasses glinted from the back seat. My heart pounded so hard that I registered it in her eardrums. 


‘Are you in?’


Hazel’s eyes shone with expectation, her thumbs hooked into the loops of her shorts. I swallowed and gestured to her bicycle. She shook her head. 


‘You sure?’   


Hazel rolled her eyes and splayed her fingers. 


‘Yeah, I mean, it’s cool.’


I wanted to plead with her, to stay here in the lot. We could go to mine, make brownies.. Little girl things and Hazel would have laughed at me. 


She told me she would see me later. She meant it too. 


She got in the back, her giggle rising like carbonate bubbles in soda. 


The Pontiac sped off. I picked up my bicycle. It was a slow ride home, difficult to see through the tears.  


After dinner when Hazel’s parents called.


Dark when the police arrived.  

I told them they had left me in the parking lot. An adolescent girl gets in a car, it’s one thing that gets drilled into you but no one ever offers advice to the ugly girls. 

You get to walk away. 

You live. 


I made sure that the reporters spelled her name with a 3.

beauty love lust short fiction women

Rain In The Afternoon

She had been squalling all day. A quiet irritation and restlessness had lent an edge to her demeanour. He had noticed it as he put the cup of tea down on the table that it would build and burn her out, then exhaust her. He could ignore it, but he saw how it hurt her and wanted to do something about it.

The responsibility stirred him. She picked up the pencil and continued to sketch. Another issue of their comic book, working from his script but her pencils and inks. Last month, they had gone to the movie premiere and laughed at how surreal it felt to see the late-night conversations come alive on the screen. He loved her work and had finished the script for the next issue, then sat at the kitchen table and watched her work as he rolled another cigarette.

She caught him looking at her.

‘What?’ she said.

Her voice was sharp.

He watched her face as he lit his cigarette and sat back in his chair.

‘You’ve been restless all morning.’ he said.

She rolled her eyes and shook her head.

‘I’m not looking to define it but just acknowledging it is there.’ he said.

She huffed and returned her attention to the page. He picked up his coffee and drank, then took a puff on his cigarette, which made his head swim with nicotine as he watched her. He could have gone home, which was a gordian knot approach to take, but he enjoyed her. She was a test as much as a celebration. Most of the time, he watched her like the weather and dressed his soul according to what the sky of her predicted.

It looked like rain this afternoon.

He put the cigarette out and went to the sink, washed his hands and dried them as he turned and looked at her.

‘I think you’re being a brat.’ he said.

There was a playfulness to his voice which made her look up and pout. Her eyes narrowed and she set the pencil down.

‘No, I’m not. I just get like this sometimes. It’s not you.’

He walked over to her and shook his head.

‘I know it’s not. But I know it needs addressing.’ he said.

She fought the slight smile which burst on her lips like a sunrise. He tamped down his own pleasure in seeing the unspoken assertion of her playing along. Her depths were something he enjoyed, and no matter what else was going on between them, they played well together.

‘Oh, does it now?’ she said.

He nodded.

‘Yes, it does. Now I have a responsibility to deal with it,’  he said.

She turned her head and pouted. He reached his right hand, palmed her jaw and splayed his fingers across her cheek. He felt her smile vibrate down into his hand as he turned her head towards him. There was no force in it, but there was power, easy and calm as she looked at him, pouting with a playful irritation.

She grunted and tried to turn her head but he held her firm, grimacing as he put his other hand at the back of her head and gripped her hair hard enough to make her draw breath.

‘Stand up.’ he said.

She pushed the chair back and he pulled her hair again, made her gasp before she pouted and tried to pull away.

‘I’ve been good, haven’t I?.’ she said.

He shook his head and squeezed her jaw between his fingers as he stared at her.

‘I decide that.’ he said.

She smiled, breaking character for a moment, and he grinned before returning to an expression of brooding imperiousness. The delicacy of the pleasure he took was in its control. His heart thumped in his chest as he let go of her and took her left arm by the wrist.

He walked her to the living room and let go.

‘I want you to stand in the corner and think about how you’ve behaved.’ he said.

She rewarded his attention with watching the delicious micro-conflict. The missed notes played often enough to become phrases in the symphony of her. She shuddered with delight as she lowered her head.

‘That’s not fair.’ she said.

He sighed and pointed towards the corner.

‘Do as you’re told.’ he said.

She snarled and turned away. He reached out and took her by the wrist and walked her to the corner, then put his hand on the small of her back, underneath her sweater and guided her into the corner.

‘How long for?’ she said.

He leaned over and whispered in her ear.

‘Every time you ask, it gets longer.’ he said.

She giggled and straightened up, put her hands by her side and pouted.

‘OK.’ she said.

He got his coffee and brought through an ashtray and his pouch of tobacco, sat on the couch and rolled a cigarette. The air sung with tension but he absorbed it, letting the incipient vibration gather strength in the pit of his stomach. Looking at her was a pleasure and she moved her hips from side to side, knowing the thrill it gave them both.

‘Don’t fidget.’ he said.

He lit the cigarette and made her wait for the time it took him to smoke it.

‘I’m not.’ she said.

He chuckled and watched her. The burn in his lungs from the cigarette mingled with the slow build of his arousal. She stood in the corner, trembling in silence, and when he crushed the cigarette out in the ashtray, he stood up and walked over to her.

She turned around, but he told her to stay still. His voice was thick, a growl from his belly. They spoke a language of playful restraint and tension, and for all its art, it was a primal state of grace between them.

He walked over to her and brought his arms around her from behind. His right hand rested on her stomach whilst his left hand came up and cupped her chin in his hand. She pressed back against him, found him hard and ready as she pushed her backside into his crotch, revelling in the hot squeeze of his arms around her. His breath was warm against her cheek.

‘Have I been good?’ she said.

He grunted and slipped his right hand under the waistband of her cotton pants and stroked the crotch of her panties. There was a warmth seeping through the cloth and he petted it with his fingertips. She sighed and pushed back again. He grunted and turned her head, brushed his lips against hers which made her give a small moan from the back of her throat.

He plucked her underwear to one side and opened her with his fingers. She sighed as he pressed his index finger into the liquid heat of her, testing the unspoken assertion of her mood with a small circle which made her groan.

Their lips danced and played with one another as he stroked her in small circles. She brought her arm around behind her, urged him closer as though she could push him into her. He bucked back and she softened. He came forward, keeping the rhythm of his fingers constant and focused as her arousal soaked his fingertips. Each stroke expressed delicious, deliberate friction, and they built upon one another. She pulled her mouth away from his, and her eyes were heavy-lidded with pleasure.
‘Can I come?’ she said.

He smiled and shook his head. His fingers found a spot which made her gasp and lean forward, palms to the wall as she squeezed out a plea for permission.

‘No.’ he said.

She shuddered and whimpered as she pulsed over his fingers. She pleaded with him and he denied her, knowing the anticipation was becoming unbearable and revelling in the power of being able to test her through his actions and their consequences.

After her third request, he put his mouth to her ear and made her ask him again. She babbled through it, shaking with the war she was fighting, on the tightrope of an ecstasy which he took as his due. His fingers were a silken magic trick between her thighs and it was all she could do to hold on.

He told her yes, and she cried out as she clutched for him. She pressed herself against him as she hollered through the pulsing spasms of propulsive delight, her skin alive with the crackling wonder of her orgasm. She felt, rather than thought, went into the place within where his hands and body, his words spun her into playful paroxysms of feeling. When the spasms subsided, they held one another in the corner. She kissed him all over his face, gasping and sighing as he enjoyed the febrile waves of heat coming off her. He petted her between her thighs, painting up her navel with her own juices as they kissed and murmured to one another.

‘I feel so much better now.’ she said.

He kissed her on the forehead.

‘Good.’ he said.

She glanced up at him and smiled as she stroked his face.

‘Thank you. I will get those pages finished. You can get the washing in.’ she said.

He grimaced and asked her why. She smiled and kissed him again.

‘It looks like rain.’ she said.