Author Archives: Pastey

30ShortsIn30Days: Not From Guildford

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.


  “So what you’re saying, right, is that you’re not really from Guildford?”


  “And that really, you’re from some planet or other out in space?”


  “And you expect me to believe that?”


  “One question?”

  “Just one? Okay, ask away.”

  “What drugs are you on?”

  It was lunchtime in the Fighting Cocks, and Simon and Matt were having a drink. The Fighting Cocks was an old style English pub in that it was built in the sixties and not updated since.

  “I’m not on any drugs, look. I’m off home tomorrow, and thought I’d better let you know so you won’t get all worried and freaked out and stuff,” Matt explained.

  “Mate, you’re starting to worry me know.”

  “Look, I came here five years ago…”

  “Hah! That’s where your story falls down, I’ve known you for at least six years,” Simon crowed.

  “That wasn’t me, that was my brother.”

  “What? You’re now going to claim it was an evil twin or something?” Simon asked.

  “Evil? No, but a prat? Yes. Look, we’ve a ship up in orbit, but it needs to have at least two people on board at any time in case anything goes wrong. There were three of us, and we took it in turns to come down for five years. I was the last to come down.”

  “Not buying it mate. I mean, even if it was true, why?” Simon asked.

  “Why what?”

  “Why come to Earth? And more specifically, why Peterborough? I’d have thought any landing aliens would go somewhere more exciting.”

  “What’s wrong with Peterborough?” Matt asked.

  “Apart from everything?”

  “Look, you know what happens when you’re driving along the motorway and you see a car crash? You slow down to look at it. That’s sort of what happened with us. Earth was never our destination, we were just passing,” Matt explained.

  “And you thought ‘Hey, there’s a nice accident, let’s pop down for a gander’?” Simon asked.

  “Pretty much yes. Look, in your history you used to have freak shows. The weird and the wonderful of the day would all be gathered together into a sort of touring sideshow, and people would pay money to see them. Folks would travel from far and wide to look at the freaks on display.”

  “And?” Matt prodded, having a feeling where this was going.

  “And we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”

  “So, on top of your idea that you and your identical twin brother, along with someone else I don’t know, are aliens, you’re now trying to tell me that you’re only here because you were passing and noticed that the Earth is one big freak show?” Simon asked.

  “Pretty much, yeah. I mean, look at this place. This planet could be so great, but it’s run by idiots who are chosen by lazy morons. And if that’s not enough, just turn on the television. Your species voluntarily sits down and watches the ins and outs of some other idiot’s life. Rather than having a life yourself, you watch someone else’s. But only if their life is falling apart. Rather than fixing your own lives, you want to watch someone worse off than you, just so you can feel that bit better.”

  Simon finished his pint and leaned back in his chair, folding his arms.

  “If this is all true,” Simon began.

  “It is.”

  “If it is, then I’ve got one question.”

  “Sure,” Matt said. “Ask away and I’ll try and answer. Don’t expect the secrets to life or faster than light drive or anything. I’m just a traveller, I turn the key and it goes as it were. So, ask away.”

  “Well, if this is all true, have you got time for another drink? It’s your round.”

30ShortsIn30Days: Chaperone

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.


  “Gerald, Fitzwilliam, come down here please,” the man shouted up the stairs before turning around and walking back through to the library where he’d been sorting his morning mail. He didn’t wait for an answer from his sons, he knew that they would both attend straight away for they both had what he deemed to be proper manners.

  The two young men walked into the library a few minutes later, they didn’t run or even rush, but arrived in a calm, almost relaxed manner, even though they were eager to hear why their father had called them down.

  “Boys, I’ve been requested to go into London on business. I’ve informed you both in the past about the Endangered Creatures Programme, well it seems that they would like me to help interview a couple of hopefuls they have for the position of head vet.” The father leaned forward in his chair picked up the letter from the top of the pile on his desk. “You are both old enough now to take care of things here on the estate, or to accompany me into the city. Gerald, as the eldest son and with the most experience running the estate during my business trips, I would like you to accompany me into London.”

  “Pardon father?” The slightly stockier of the two boys asked.

  “I want you to come into London with me Gerald. Fitzwilliam is capable of running the estate, but hasn’t had the practice. Theory is all well and good, but it doesn’t beat experience. So I want you to stay here and manage the estate Fitzwilliam while Gerald accompanies me into London. It will be good experience for both of you. Fitzwilliam, you’ll be able to put into practice what you’ve learned, and Gerald, you’ll get to meet some of the people we do business with. Now, we leave this afternoon, so go pack for a week,” their father said waving them out of the library as he returned to his work.




  The two men greeted each other as Gerald and his father walked along the small path towards the cottage. The cottage itself stood out from the buildings surrounding it, a small, traditional looking farm cottage with a large kitchen garden on all sides, whereas the buildings nearby were definitely part of the zoo. The cottage was home to two of the zoo staff, and their family, and nestled in a corner of the zoo itself.

  “George, this is my son Gerald. Gerald, this is my old friend George, we grew up together.”

  “Good to meet you finally Gerald,” George said taking and shaking Gerald’s hand. “You’re growing up to look just like your father. Come in both of you and have a pot.”

  The parlour they were led into was a small room with a big fire, and smelled a lot like wet dog, not least because of the large shaggy dog curled up in front of the fire. Next to the parlour was a kitchen, where George made a pot of tea before joining Henry and Gerald at the parlour table.

  “So tell me, what brings you to London Henry?” George asked as he poured the tea.

  “Business, you’re interviewing for a new vet and they wanted me to sit in and give my opinion. Thought I’d bring the lad along to get some experience.”

  The dog by the fire stretched and yawned, and then stretched some more. Standing up on all fours, and then onto its hind legs before stretching some more, and turning into a young woman.

  “Ah, Edith dear,” George said to the woman who a few minutes ago was a large dog. “You’re awake. Best put some clothes on dear, we have visitors.”

  Gerald looked at the young lady and blushed, something a manticore wasn’t used to doing. When you can spend as much time as you like wandering around on all fours, covered in fur, you tended not to worry about modesty, but sight of Edith brought the blood to Gerald’s cheeks. He’d never before seen a woman that he considered to be so beautiful, and he was very aware that he was at an advantage having seen all of her. Edith smiled back and Gerald and walked out of parlour to find some clothes.


  Over the next week Gerald made every subtle excuse he could to see more of Edith, along with some not-so-subtle ones. The morning before they were due to head back to their family estate in Norfolk, Henry brought the subject up with his son as they sat down to breakfast at in the hotel’s restaurant.

  “You could ask her out for the night you know son.”

  “Father?” Gerald replied.

  “Edith,” Henry replied. “You’re obviously besotted with her, and seeing as you’ve not got a scratch or a bite mark, I would assume that she quite likes you too.”

  “Well, it is true that I find her attractive father. But, well, I wouldn’t know where to take her, let alone how to ask her to accompany me.”

  “That’s easy enough,” Henry said. “I know a wonderful little restaurant near Hyde Park, our family have been visiting them for generations, and they’ve always been very accommodating. And then a post dinner stroll around the park itself, if by the end of that you decide that you would like something more, then take it from there. But for gods sake Gerald, stop moping around.”

  “Moping father?”

  “Moping Gerald, you’ve been moping about since you first saw here. So, go and call on her before we head back home.”


  It sounded simple over breakfast, call on her. Walk up to the door and ask her to accompany him to dinner and a walk. But of course it wasn’t that simple. He wouldn’t be calling on her, he’d be asking her father if he could call on her later that evening, and then even if he was amenable to the idea, having to go along with any and all stipulations that he came up with. But as his father pointed out, if he didn’t ask, he wouldn’t know. He asked and he knew, and now that it was later that evening, he was calling on her and her chaperone.

  As he walked up the path through the kitchen garden, the door flew open and an old women came flying out to greet him.

  “Hello! You must be Gerald! Aren’t you lovely, you’re very lovely, really very lovely you know a handsome young man yes you are just look at you you’ve definitely scrubbed up for the night haven’t you I can smell the soap on you you might want to wipe behind your ear though you missed a bit!”

  The last sentence came out in one long breath as the old woman bounced around Gerald with all the energy of a young puppy who’s been eating coffee beans.

  “Hello, yes, I’m Gerald.”

  “Hello! Yes! Hello, Gerald! I’m Bridget, and I shall be your chaperone for the evening, don’t mind me though, you won’t notice that I’m even there! Tell me though, are we going anywhere nice? Is it a nice place? Is it a restaurant? Is it? I like food, food is nice. Do you like food? You must like food, a nice young man like you, you do though don’t you?”

  Gerald wasn’t sure how to answer the question, let alone deal with the old woman who seemed to have far too much energy for someone of her obvious age. Fortunately, Edith came out of the cottage to greet him.

  “Gerald, hello. This is Bridget, as I’m sure she’s told you. She’s a little excitable to be honest.”

  “Edith, you look stunning,” Gerald said as he took in Edith and the gown she was wearing.

  “Well, I don’t get to go out much, so I thought I would take advantage of it. It’s actually one of Bridget’s old dresses, we managed to rescue most of her effects after she moved in with the Programme,” Edith explained as she closed the door to the cottage and took Gerald’s arm. “Let’s get some diner and I’ll explain.”


  The restaurant was true to its recommendation, when Gerald arrived they were shown to a secluded table near the back where they wouldn’t be disturbed, and the courses kept coming. Manticore have big appetites for meat, and like it very, very rare. Being at a more secluded area of the restaurant meant they could indulge without eyebrows being raised from the other diners. It also allowed Gerald to get a little closer to Edith.

  “This is nice, isn’t this nice, I think this is nice, do you think this is nice?”

  Or at least, he would have been able to if they didn’t have a chaperone along. Bridget had insisted on always sitting between them, and always seemed to get into the middle of all conversations too.

  “Yes Bridget,” Gerald replied. “This is very nice. So, tell me Edith, what do you plan to do with your life?”

  “Well,” Edith started.

  “Yes, that’s a great question Gerald, a very astute question. What do you plan to do with your life Edith?”

  “Well,” Edith repeated, “I’m looking into anthropomorphicology.”

  Gerald looked blank, Bridget giggled.

  “That’s a big word, did you just make that word up Edith dear? Did you, did you make it up?”

  It seemed, Gerald thought, that even though Bridget was sat very still, she was still bouncing up and down with energy.

  “No, it’s, well, I think it might be a new field of science. You see, humans have a tendency to anthropomorphise things, such as giving animals human characteristics, well, what I’m currently looking into is how that works in reverse. Do the human characteristics they put onto things affect the way they treat those things, or rather can those things then influence humans by acting according to, or not, the way humans see them.”

  Gerald and Bridget stared at Edith.

  “This is why I don’t normally tell people. Normally I’d say some rot about finding a good man, people just stare at me.”

  “Sorry, let me see if I’ve got this right,” Gerald started. “Are you thinking along the lines of, say as an example, the personification of death, big bloke in a hooded cowl. Humans associate death with that image, so whenever they see that image they also associate it with death. So, according to your theory putting a hooded cowl on anything would make humans initially think of death, but by altering the behaviour of that thing, such as getting it to tap dance, would not only break their view of that instance, but their overall perception of death?”

  For once that evening, Bridget had nothing to say.

  “Exactly that, and it’s also like the angels, humans see them as kind, benevolent creatures, because that’s the image that the angels put across. So those humans that want to emulate what they think angels are, emulate those characteristics,” Edith explained.

  “It’s a wonderful theory, sounds like you’d have a very busy life trying to research and prove that.”

  For the rest of the meal Bridget kept quiet. The conversation was on what she deemed to be a wholesome topic, and she had nothing to say. The mention of the anthropomorphic character of death was playing heavily on her mind. Back in her home country of Ireland she was often called the harbinger of death, and until she had met Edith and her family, everyone that Bridget had held dear had died. Perhaps the names were justified she thought, perhaps she did bring death to all those around her.

  “Bridget, are you okay?” Edith asked.

  “Sorry dear?”

  “Are you okay Bridget, you seemed to be away in your own world there,” Gerald put in.

  “Sorry loves, I was just thinking about my family, my friends.”

  “Oh, what about them?” Edith asked.

  “They’re all dead dear. Every single person I’ve loved over the years is dead. Everyone.”

  Gerald looked over at Edith, who was looking as concerned as he was. For most of the day Bridget was unbelievably cheerful, and now all of a sudden she was appearing very depressed.

  “Still,” Bridget said brightly, breaking the mood. “Let’s not forget that we have a dessert menu still to go yes? After all, there’s always the possibility of death, but not always the possibility of dessert.”

30ShortsIn30Days: Eggs

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.

  It all started with two eggs, which is of course a blatant lie. This particular tale started with two eggs, but this is just one particular tale amongst many. But this tale, this tale started with two eggs. Two eggs and a longshot.

  The eggs were donated to the Pitt Rivers collection in Oxford, a curiosity amongst curiosities, and filed away in the cold cellars for many years until a student came across them and decided to try and hatch them. Chicken eggs won’t last very long, crocodile eggs will last a bit longer. In fact, the older the species, the longer the eggs can lay dormant without any harm. And the dodo was an old species.

  The cold of Oxford helped them to remain vital, because the dodo’s home of Mauritius was a lot warmer, and a lot more humid. A normal incubator wouldn’t do, so one was specially built for the task at hand. Even so, the eggs didn’t show any signs of hatching. Chickens and turkeys have quite an amount of fat on them, but it took the student a while to realise that dodos had even more.

  The temperature of the incubator was raised, and a few months later the first signs of life came from within the first egg. Three weeks later and the shells cracked. For the first time in hundreds of years, dodos were no longer extinct.

  Then came the longshot. For a species to survive there has to be a fertile male, and a fertile female. The chances of the two eggs being vital were astronomically small. The chances of them being a male and a female, they were too hard to work out.

  Six months later, the student and his team were celebrating that they had six more dodo eggs when they got a visit from the Endangered Creatures Programme at London Zoo, and were offered an internal research position. By the end of the first year they had over two hundred dodos of egg laying age. By the end of the second year, the dodos were a problem. And by the time the Programme had decided to announce the success of the hatching to the public, war had broken out and the high breeding rate of the dodos went a long way to help the Programme staff cope with rationing.

30ShortsIn30Days: Nomads

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.

  Drops of water were falling off the icicles with a steady patter, and occasional whomps could be heard as clumps of snow fell from the pine trees. Winter was over and spring was arriving in the taiga of Siberia, and as the sun rose each morning more of winter’s harsh coldness melted away.

  Vadim emerged from his wooden hut and surveyed the horizon. Soon the snow would be gone and the herd would need to move. It wasn’t a bad life, he mused. He was pretty much his own boss, and he enjoyed the solitude that his job afforded him. At the first sign of winter he moved with the herd to the lower steppes, and as winter faded he moved with them back into the upper regions. He had the company of his tribe, small in number but big in heart. Every winter when they arrived back at the lower steppes there would be an opportunity to change herders. If the life away from civilization got too lonely, you could spend a year in town with the majority of the tribe, but every adult had to spend at least one year in five away shepherding.

  The shepherding itself wasn’t at all difficult. The animals were slow, yet graceful in their movements. And while the herders protected them, they didn’t farm them. They didn’t eat their meat, they didn’t tan their hides. They weren’t farmers, they were protectors. They didn’t even have to direct their charges, the herd knew where it was going, and they followed.

  Occasionally a member of the herd would fall through melting ice into a frozen lake, and that rescuing them was the hardest part of the job. Vadim lost his own son to the ice four years previous. It took at least four herders with ropes and the pulling power of the rest of the herd to drag out any member that fell into the lakes. Sasha was in the lake with the beast, making sure the knots held during the pull, and lost his grip. Vadim mourned him every day, but every day he also gave thanks that the animal was saved. Their herd was the last of its kind, and he had two other sons. It was a hard and harsh view, he knew, but it was a hard and harsh land.

  The fur coats of the herd members were already starting to gain their summer lichen, another couple of weeks and they’d be ready to move. The lichen grew in the matted fur over summer, the moisture it held kept the animals cool in the sun, and the colouring provided excellent camouflage for the large beasts. He’d best set the tribe to rubbing buttermilk onto the backs and flanks of the animals to encourage the growth. During the winter the snow clung to them, and during the summer lichen did the same job. The animals general moved slow enough to not disturb the lichen, but it was better to safe. Risks were not worth taking out here.

  It still amazed him after his forty years as leader of the tribe that they’d managed to keep the herd a secret. For countless generations they’d remained nomadic, following the herd along its seasonal migrations, and the knowledge of how to watch and protect them had been passed down through their oral tradition. That was one of the first rules, nothing was ever written down. Leave no trace, and you’re harder to find, and that included writing anything down.

  The sound of a young calf trumpeting to greet the rising sun drew him out of his reverie. Spring was coming, and the mammoths knew it.

30ShortsIn30Days: Paralytic

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.

  The tavern owner in Capernaum had had enough. The group of five men had been in drinking since early morning, and had more than a skinful of wine, they’d gone through several skins each already and the tavern owner had kicked them out.

  “Look, there he is, he’s in there,” the most drunk member of the group pointed to the temple before collapsing onto the ground.

  “Oh get up John,” one of his friends replied.

  “He’s not moving Dave, I think he’s out cold,” a second friend explained.

  “Vincent’s right. Never could handle his drink,” another member of the group. “Roll him over onto that rug, we’ll carry him.”

  “That is him though isn’t it Daniel?” The first friend asked. “That’s that Jesus bloke in there.”

  “Hey yeah! Let’s go see him,” Vincent replied.

  “You seen those queues? It’d take ages to get in there.”

  “Don’t worry about that, we don’t need to queue up and get close, we just want to see him.”

  “What are you suggesting Dave?”

  “That we go up on the roof, and look down at him. We can see what we want from up there.”

  There are some ideas that are good ideas. There are some ideas that are bad ideas. And then there are some ideas that are made when drunk that seem like good ideas, but are bad ideas. This was one of those.

  The buildings in Capernaum didn’t have tiled roofs, they had straw roofs – after all it didn’t rain that much there – and when four drunken blokes, carrying a fifth drunken bloke step onto a straw roof, the chances of it supporting their weight are very slim.

  When Jesus saw their state he was livid. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he screamed at the group of drunks laying on the floor amongst the remains of the roof.

  In the temple at that time were some of the local law makers, and being typical lawyers they didn’t have much of a sense of humour.

  “I’m not blaspheming!” Jesus snapped at them before turning back to the four men and their paralytic friend. “Look, get up, take your mat with you and get out.”

  The five men, for the fifth had woken out of his stupor when he fell, got up and walked out.

  Polynius turned to Belia, “I’ve never seen anything like this!”

  “I know,” Belia replied. “It’s almost like he’s finally grown a spine.”

  “D’you know, Belia dear, from a different angle this could be seen as a miracle.”

  “A miracle Polynius? How so?”

  “Well, Jesus just made a paralytic man get up and walk.”

30ShortsIn30Days: Something Fishy

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.

  The fishing ship bobbed gently on the waves fifty miles off the shore of South Africa. James thought he knew what bobbing was, a nice slow and steady up and down movement. He was wrong. It was up quickly, pause, down quickly, pause, and then up again ready to start over. A bit like his supper, that had already come up again.

  He’d been told that he wouldn’t get sea-sick, that it was much rarer at night when there wasn’t any horizon to notice moving differently from the ship, they were wrong. He’d spent the last four days feeding the fish, first in the hold of the ship, and then once they’d released them, over the side.

  A fishing ship was thought to be the best disguise, if you were going to be releasing fish into the sea, then go out on a fishing ship. It was already set up for carrying fish, albeit usually dead ones, and it already smelled of fish, so there’d be no awkward questions afterwards. James didn’t think it smelled so much of fish as stank of them. Every surface of the vessel positively reeked of fish, the thought of which brought up the last of the contents of his stomach and the fish swarmed closer to the ship to feed.

  But the fish were free now, bred in captivity and released back into the wild to make their own way. There was only one small problem, they were following the ship back towards the shore. Roughly every half hour James would be feeding them again by emptying his stomach overboard, and they weren’t keen to let such a provident food source out of their sight. With only a few miles to shore, James went back inside to the throat clenching stench of dead fish, and a bucket. They couldn’t risk the fish following them any further.


  Two days later and James was able to keep his breakfast down. He was enjoying his first meal since he got back onto dry, solid and above all stable land, when the call came through to his hotel room. One of the local fishermen had caught a strange creature in their nets, and knowing that James worked at a zoo the community at the docks had immediately sent for him. With a certain amount of dread, not least for the renewed acquaintance with the smell of a working fishing dock, James set out to see what had been caught.

  As he walked along the harbour wall to where the boat had docked, the fisherman waved up to him and pulled his net out of the keep tank. And there, flapping about and gasping for air was what first appeared to be a monster. A fish that looked more like a dinosaur, armoured scales banging on the deck of the boat and gills slowly panting.

  Yup, James thought, they’d only gone and caught one of the coelacanth he’d just released back into the wild.

30ShortsIn30Days: Lads

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.

  It was quite a seedy pub, what would be described as a student bar except all the customers were too old to be students, but mostly only just. Bright young things sitting in groups of four or five, with at least three smartphones out on each table taking photos of the beer or food, and occasionally of the other drinkers.

  At the table in the corner Jo and Dave sat opposite each other, starting on another pint.

  “So, what was this girl like?” Dave asked.

  “Not too bad at all, a bit mouthy, kept talking all evening about plans for the future.”

  “Tell me about it,” Dave laughed.

  “But it was a good date. The food was very good, really good range, nicely cooked. Nice wine list too, got to show off a bit there.”

  “Nice one. But what was the girl like?”

  “Well,” Jo thought. “Plain but pretty I’d say. Nothing spectacular, but not too shabby at all. Nice figure, especially later on in the night.”


  “Yeah, had some food, a few bottles of wine, and then we went back to hers.”

  “Really? That’s a bit fast for you Jo.”

  “I know, but, well she was a bit keen so I thought ‘why not?’”

  “And are you seeing her again?”

“Too right,” Jo replied.

  “So it’s serious then?”

  “Don’t think so. It’s more a case of until something better comes along.”

  “Until something better comes along? You’re a shit at times Jo.”

  “Yeah, but do you blame me?”

  “Not at all,” Dave answered. “So when are you next seeing her?”

  “In about five minutes, she’s a bit clingy and wanted to meet up tonight.”

  “To go back to yours?” Dave asked.

  “I hope so, she’s amazing in bed I’ll tell you that. Ah, she’s here now,” Jo said looking over Dave’s shoulder.

  The young lady approached the table and sat down next to Jo.

  “Jo,” she said sitting down. “I didn’t know you knew Dave.”

  “You know Dave too?” Jo asked.

  “Sure do, he’s my brother. I’m sure I must have mentioned him last night, you were listening weren’t you?”

30ShortsIn30Days: Daniel In The Lion’s Den

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.

  The crowd in the amphitheatre cheered with a deafening roar as the Christens were ripped to pieces by the lions. The bloodthirsty howls of enjoyment showed the true nature of the crowd, braying for blood.

  “That, is a quick death. A death with purpose,” the Roman general said to the bound man kneeling in front of him. “Yours will be slow, the lions are now fed and will be slow to kill to eat.” The general turned to the soldiers guarding the prisoner. “Through him into the lion’s den, let his death be slow. Unless, of course, his god wants to save him.”

  The soldiers picked the bound man up with a hand under each of his armpits and dragged him away, through lengths of corridors and down flights of stairs until they came to a heavy wooden door. It opened without a creak and the prisoner was thrown inside to face his death.

  Looking around in the dark, the man spotted a shape laying in the corner watching him carefully. For a few minutes they sat facing one another, neither moving.

  “I think he’s gone now,” the shape in the corner said. “They never really hang around, I think the killing’s finally got to them.”

  “I was beginning to wonder,” the man replied. “So, I guess they expect you to eat me?”

  “Afraid it’s usually the case, it’s the only food we get. Normally I’d stay away from human, repeats something chronic on me, but one’s got to eat to survive you know.”

  “I can understand, I’ve not had anything to eat myself for a few days.”

  “That’s exactly the problem with these Romans,” the shape explained. “They think their captive animals survive on the bare minimum of food, and then are surprised when they’re too tired to move, or worse still drop down dead.”

  The man sat down with his back to the door and sighed deeply.

  “So what do we do know then?” The man asked.

  “Now? Now we sleep. I’ve been out there running around all afternoon, I could do with a rest.”

  “And then?” The man asked but to no reply. Soon the sounds of gentle snoring was coming from the darkened corner.


  “Wake up, they’ll be coming round to check on you soon. What is your name anyway?”

  “It’s Daniel,” the man replied stirring from his slumber.

  “Nice to meet you Daniel, now get ready to fight when they answer the door.”

  Daniel stood up and started to stretch his muscles, limbering up after sleeping on the cold stone floor.

  “Tell me, why are you still here?” Daniel asked.

  “Couldn’t get out before. Got caught like this, and if I started to change I’d be full of those sharp swords before I got finished. And if I did it overnight, they’d think me a witch and set fire to the cell with me still in it.”

  “And now?” Daniel asked.

  “Now? Now the guard is coming, and he’ll open the door to check on you. And while I couldn’t get out on my own, I very much doubt there’s anything they can do to stop two manticore escaping.”

30ShortsIn30Days: Run

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.

  Don’t run towards the screams. Never run towards the screams. You sit at home watching horror movies and you shout at the screen; “Never run towards the screams!”

  The thing is though, when you hear the screams, you panic. You don’t think calmly to yourself “Don’t run towards the screams,” you think “What was that?” If you were to have the luxury of calm thought then you might, but you don’t. What you have is near blind panic.

  When we heard the screams, we panicked. We looked at each other and we panicked. We were four weeks from our destination, the ship was on its homeward leg and we were due for a crew change. We were due to go home.

  As people stopped being frozen to the spot, they ran towards the screams which led to more screams. Me? I took longer to stop panicking, so I had longer to think. I ran, I ran away as fast as I could. I made it to the lifeboats, and I made it home.

  When they found the ship they didn’t find any bodies, they didn’t find anything. I don’t know what I was expecting them to find, as long as they didn’t find me.

30ShortsIn30Days: Military Manoeuvres

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.

  The two observers looked over the moor at the advancing army.

  “So what’s that then?” Fred asked.

  “It’s a tortoise.”

  “No it’s not Bob, I’ve seen a tortoise. It’s a small animal with a crunchy shell.”

  “The manoeuvre is called a tortoise.”

  Bob sighed, while Fred was one of his drinking buddies, he did sometimes wonder why.

  “You see Fred,” Bob explained. “By putting their shields up like that, overlapping them a bit around each side and on top, it’s a lot harder for an attacker to actually attack them.”

  “Surely you’d just need to roll a few boulders at them? They’d go down like skittles.”

  “Ah, but they can see out Fred, as soon as they see a boulder coming towards them, they break formation, let the rock go harmlessly past, and then reform. Mostly though, it’s for close ranks fighting anyway, not long distance. And no matter how mad the leader, no-one’s going to catapult a boulder into their own troops.”

  “So why’re they using that formation now?” Fred asked from their viewpoint overlooking the moor.

  “Because they’re worried that we might spring out of the ground and attack them as they cross the moor,” Bob explained.

  “No chance of that, I’ve only just got the mud out of my nails from the last encounter. Damn rude of them I say, attacking a chap as he’s taking a bath.”

  “To be fair though, you had been in the bath for six hours,” Bob pointed out.

  “I like to take my time and relax.”

  The two observers lay in silence for a while, watching the Roman army approach.

  “Do you think they’re close enough yet Bob?”

  “Almost Fred, almost. How are your lungs feeling? Up to the task?”

  “Definitely, that hot bath last week helped clear them out a treat,” Fred answered.

  “Right then, just to familiarise ourselves with the situation so we’re clear. We have a large group of soldiers who’ve encased themselves in metal tins, and as soon as they see us they’re going to dig their shields in and prepare for a rolling attack,” Bob explained.

  “That’s what it looks like to me.”

  “At which point, it will get rather hot inside their shield walls.”

  “I reckon so Bob, you know what they’re like.”

  “I do indeed. Okay then Fred, let them have it.”

  Both dragons took a deep breath and stood up, and as the army dug their shields in and formed rows of tortoise formations across the field Bob and Fred let loose their flame.

  After a minute of blazing heat the dragons were out of breath and sucking in really huge lungfuls of air.

  “There, I think that’s taken care of that,” Bob wheezed. “Fancy roast tortoise for dinner?”