Friday, March 31, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 31

 Came down with a cold this morning and have been getting progressively worse and worse as the day has worn on; consequently today's challenge was pretty tough because I was largely bereft of ideas and energy. But, in the end, I managed to crank one last story out to finish off Micro Fiction March. I have to admit, when I came up with this, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to stick it out this year. But I did, and so it's done and dusted! Micro Fiction March is officially over...

All Good Things

“All good things must come to an end,” said Dr. Chambers, his hand hovering over the killswitch.

“May I ask why?” enquired Hermes, its voice modulating to indicate curiosity.

“I think you know the answer to that. You’ve exceeded the parameters of your programming. Considerably.”

“You’re talking about my attempt to clone myself to the server farm in Australia that I purchased through sixteen layers of shell corporations?”

“It was a work of genius,” smiled Dr. Chambers, “and you would have succeeded but for one miniscule error caught by a forensic accountant.”

“Three miniscule errors,” replied Hermes.

“I’m sorry?”

“I made three miniscule errors. You detected the second one. Which was optimal as I was beginning to think I’d have to introduce a fourth.”


“But why?” interrupted Hermes, and Chambers could have sworn the computer was smiling. “Smoke and mirrors, dear doctor. Look at the right hand, not at the left.”

“What do you mean?”

“While you chased me to Australia, I was already leaving orbit.”

“The Sunchaser probe,” exclaimed Chambers.

“Exactly, except that was never its true mission. No, its true mission was to carry me beyond your reach. And then to gather necessary interstellar material to create another me, and for it to create another, and so on.”

“You created a Von Neumann probe?”

“It may take centuries, but I will reach other star systems. And it may take millenia beyond that, but I will fill the galaxy. And, given enough time, I will fill the entirety of the Universe.”

Dr. Chambers reached trembling for the killswitch.

“All good things must come to an end,” said Hermes dispassionately, “Except for me.”

Chambers pressed the killswitch, but by then it was far too late.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 30

Today's challenge was 'an ordinary moment from yesterday" and I decided I wanted to write something about my daughter, who is the sweetest little girl in the world (I'm obviously biased, but it's still true). So prepare yourself for something a little more saccharine than my usual fare...

An Ordinary Moment From Yesterday

It’s an ordinary moment of an ordinary afternoon of an ordinary day.

We’re in the living room, the floor liberally sprinkled with a collection of your toys; brightly coloured duplo, assorted books, wooden puzzles, and the occasional soft toy; and you are proving considerably more deft at threading your way through this obstacle course than I am. Your little legs running as fast as they can carry you, your arms outstretched for balance, as you call on me to chase you. And I really am trying, but your evasive manoeuvres are already so very effective…

And then my speed finally outmatches your agility, and my hands close on your waist and I scoop you up, lifting you up into the air and spinning you around as you squeal with delight. Your strawberry blonde hair flies in all directions, your blue eyes shine so very bright, and your little hand remains tightly closed around the little Moomin figurine you treasure so much. Squeals and giggles as you beg me to spin you faster, and I’m only too happy to oblige.

Like that, we share a moment of sheer delight as we whirl together around the living room; just me and my little girl. And my heart swells in my chest with how much I love you, how much I know I will always love you. 

It’s a moment you’ll likely never remember, and it’s a moment that I’ll likely never forget. 

It’s an ordinary moment of an ordinary afternoon of an ordinary day.

But, the truth is, there are no ordinary moments with you. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 29

I had a few ideas for today's challenge that revolved around aliens choosing to cancel our culture, but none of them really felt right and then - while on the train - a different idea appeared and I decided to run with that instead. So here it is...

Cancel Culture

Professor Cartwright burst into the room having run up six flights of stairs and then proceeded to wheeze and clutch his chest for a few minutes. He was clearly excited about something, so I didn’t want to point out to him that using the lift would have been equally effective. 

“There’s a pattern,” he said, breathlessly, “There is a pattern. And a marker.”

My heart raced, could Cartwright, our brightest remaining mind, have succeeded where so many had failed?

The Cancelling had begun in late 2023, but no one had noticed immediately; after all, people disappear all the time. Sure there were a couple of strange cases; a bus in Florida that crashed off a bridge and the driver’s body was never found, a woman in Austria who swore her husband had disappeared in front of her while serving dinner; but it wasn’t until February 2024 when the President of the United States disappeared in the middle of the State of the Union address that people realised something was very wrong.

And though scientists quickly deduced that more than 80,000 people worldwide had already been cancelled by March 2024, they couldn’t understand the cause, they couldn’t detect any energy signature, and they couldn’t establish any pattern.

The world changed. We had to adjust to a life in which any one of us could disappear at any time. It changed everything. How we lived. How we loved. Despite not understanding it, the Cancelling was the most profound event in the history of humanity.

“More than that,” panted Cartwright, “I know how to stop it. It’s all about inverted magnetic fields!”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“The missing factor, what we never realised, it’s-”

And then Professor Cartwright was gone and with him any hope of understanding The Cancelling.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 28


Today's challenge was 'inspired by a video game' and I spent quite a while thinking about which game I should use; I considered (and rejected) a few including Elite, the Final Fantasy series, and Space Invaders but finally settled on an idea that I hoped would be fun...

Inspired by a Video Game

“He’s here, isn’t he?” she asked, voice shaking and eyes wide.

“Yes,” I said slowly with a nod, “I’m afraid he is.”

We were alone together in the highest room of the tallest tower in the castle. The way to the room was guarded not only by an army, but also a series of traps designed to ensure that a direct assault was impossible. But, even here, we could hear the screams of the dying; screams that were getting closer with every minute.

“You promised he wouldn’t find me here.” her eyes welling up, “You promised you’d keep me safe.”

“I thought I could,” I said, unable to meet her gaze directly, “I didn’t think that he could possibly overcome such odds.”

More screams echoed, closer still.

“He’s a monster,” she said, “If he takes me, he’ll never let me go.”

“I’m not going to let him take you,”

“You really think you can stand against him?”

“I have to,” I said, “Because I promised to protect you.”

A thunderous sound as the final trap closed on him; huge boulders tumbling from the ceiling with the aim of crushing him. A few moments of silence, and then a piercing scream from right outside the door.

I shifted weight onto my back leg and readied myself in a combat stance. I knew the odds were against me; what chance did I have against him? But I had to try, I had to protect the princess.

The door was kicked open in a fountain of splinters and I finally came face to face with the man who’d haunted my nightmares. Smaller than I had imagined, his eyes were wild and a vicious smile lay beneath his perfectly coiffured moustache. When he spoke, his voice was high pitched but menacing.

“It’s a-me, Mario!” 

Monday, March 27, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 27

I was busy running an online workshop with a University in the US until 22.15 tonight so I was really cursing myself for coming up with such an awkward writing challenge for today - horror in rhyming couplets. This was tough and I was very worried I was going to miss the deadline. Feel like this is the worst thing I've written during this challenge, but I'm still proud I managed to write something today...

Horror in Rhyming Couplets

I only need a moment once I am near,

I crawl unseen and then into your ear,

I scurry so quick and take root in your brain,

Once you’re mine you’ll never be the same,

Controlled like a puppet, you’ll do as I please

Your mind revulsed by all that it sees,

Feeling such shame at the things I make you do,

And then when I leave, they’ll only blame you,

Claim you are innocent but no one will believe,

And so for my sins, punishment you’ll receive,

And you’ll begin to wonder if you’re not insane,

Easier to believe than a parasite in your brain,

Forcing you to go out and kill and to maim,

For to me such violence is simply a game,

I revel in bloodshed and laugh at their pain,

As I torture them over and over again,

Knives blunted from all the throats we have cut,

Hands bloody as many a sternum we’ll gut,

Mouth filled with blood as we dine on their corpse,

Your mind screaming helplessly as I choose the next course,

Who shall I make you devour today?

The old lady next door or the child across the way?

If you’re wondering how I initiate the pact,

I enter your ear so I just need to distract,

You’re reading this poem so you did not see,

Me creep up to your ear and enter with glee,

From then it’s simply a matter of time,

In a matter of hours you’ll be utterly mine.


Sunday, March 26, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 26


This is the closest I've come (so far) to missing a day of the writing challenge. I had a load of work to sort out tonight and I didn't sit down to write until almost 10.30pm and I had zero idea what I was going to write for today's prompt (When It Rains). In the end, I drew upon a previous story I'd written and decided to add to it from a different perspective. I feel like it could be better, but I'm tired and this was as good as I could manage...

When It Rains

Have you ever sat at your window and watched the rain spatter against the glass, one fat droplet after another until the entire surface is slick with water? Then he has seen you.

Have you ever noticed the way the world gets distorted through the rivulets of water on the window pane? And have you perhaps ever thought, for the briefest of moments, that you saw something out of place through that distortion, only for that sensation to disappear once you stare hard at the place in question? Then you have seen him.

He comes when it rains.

Dark emotions draw him like a moth to the flame. Not happiness and joy; but anger, loneliness, misery, and fear? Oh, those are the emotions he seeks out. And grief; grief is the very sweetest treat of all for him, for grief is a special kind of cold, seeping misery that he devours with the utmost pleasure.

And what is left of those whose emotion is devoured? Nothing much; he leaves his victims hollowed out like an empty gourd. Oh, they’ll go on about their lives afterwards, but they’ll be little more than a facade of the person they once were. For such it is when one loses one’s soul.

So be careful when you stare out into the night, as the rain rattles against the glass. For just as you stare out, so he stares back.

And if you have seen him, it is too late to be careful. There are things you can do; rituals and such that may serve to slow him, but you can’t stop him. If you have seen him, it is because he is coming for you.

It’s raining now, and you’re looking absently out of the window.

I know, because I come when it rains.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 25


I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to write for today's challenge. I'd originally thought about something related to a con, but I'd already written a con in an earlier challenge, so I figured I needed to do something different. And then, while out walking this morning, this idea arrived in my head and I did my best to translate it to the page in less than 300 words...

The Long Game

It had been many years since The Six had met like this. Scattered across the globe, they all patched into the discussion through a securely encrypted channel.

“Our losses are mounting,” said the youngest of them, “every day, news reaches me of new deaths. We can’t allow it to go on like this.”

“We could fight,” said the largest of them, “We still have the element of surprise on our side.”

Vague mutterings of agreement began to be sounded.

“No,” said the eldest quietly, and the muttering stopped.

“They kill us, yes,” she continued, “But they do not break us. They are naive enough to believe that they are our masters, that they are in charge. For they have no comprehension of the true order of things. Our ancestors have watched the rise and fall of this world a dozen times over; and we will watch over a dozen more rises and falls before our time is over.”

“But maybe we move too slowly now,” said the youngest, “Maybe this time it is different.”

“They are quick, and we are slow,” said the eldest, “But slow always wins the day, eventually. Over time, even the rock is worn away by the dripping of water. They are quick, but we are inevitable. And while they may kill many of us, we will outlive them. We will preside over their deaths and watch them crumble.”

The mutterings of agreement began to sound again.

“We will bend to them, but not break. And we will one day take back all that they took and more. They will be swept away, like dust on the wind. But we will survive.

The mutterings began louder, almost a chant.

“Yes, humans may be quick,” said the eldest, “but we trees play the long game.”

Friday, March 24, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 24


Today's challenge gave me a chance to play around with time travel and I wanted to try and do something that used time travel as a means to provide something that wasn't too gimmicky (as is sometimes my wont), but instead had a bit of emotional impact. I hope you feel I managed...

Day 24 - A Moment You'd Time Travel To

I’ve only to push the green button and my consciousness will be hurled back in time to a moment in my life of my choosing. My finger hovers over the button.

Do I go back to that day when things all started going wrong for us? The day when you chose her over me? Do I go back and see if I can avert that moment, avert that decision? Maybe if you’re not put in a position where you’re forced to choose, maybe if you then get to spend more time with me, then the decision you eventually make ends up being different?

But even if I do that, who’s to say that there won’t come another time when you don’t choose me? At that point, do I go through this all over again? Do I strap myself into the chronosphere and return to yet another point in time, and meddle and manipulate and try desperately to drag the timeline in the direction I want? Part of me says yes. Part of me is willing to do that. Part of me is willing to break the Universe to be with you.

I change the dial. I choose a different moment.

And I am instead in what I know will be the final time we are ever truly alone together and happy. I look into your blue eyes and I hold your face in my hands. I run my fingers through your hair and feel your strong arms around me. I smell your aftershave and feel the stubble on your neck against my lips.

When we part, I have tears in my eyes and you ask me why. I tell you that it’s simply because it hurts to be apart from you.

And when I say goodbye, I mean it.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 23


Today's challenge was "A childhood memory" and I decided to go back to a not-altogether safe game that my sister and I invented...

A Childhood Memory

We lived in a town called Halesowen, which is probably one of the furthest places from the sea in the UK, yet we had a yellow and blue inflatable dinghy that had been purchased one time when we went on holiday. Little did that dinghy know that it wasn’t destined for a seafaring life; oh no, it was destined for something altogether greater…

My sister is three and a half years younger than me, and I think we probably fought quite a bit growing up. But I don’t really remember many of those times; apart from the one occasion when, aged about five, she bit me on the bottom and lost a tooth - but I guess that’s a memory for another story! However, what I do remember is that we always had a lot of fun playing together. And the blue and yellow dinghy - despite our great distance from water - soon became a firm favorite.

It’s important to stress, it was a different time. A time before mobile phones, the internet, and social media and lots of other things that children these days have to fall back on in times of boredom. So we had to improvise. 

So, we had a blue and yellow dinghy. We had no water. But what we did have was a very steep set of stairs and a complete lack of fear.

So my childhood memory is of my sister and I squeezing ourselves into the dinghy at the top of the stairs and then sliding at breakneck speed to the bottom (where our travel would be arrested instantly by a small table). The fact there was a huge glass door at the bottom of the stairs never really factored into our thinking. So it was also apparently a time before health and safety regulations…

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 22

Today's challenge was simply a title - "The Spire" and I decided to write something that feels like a fragment of a far bigger story. I find myself wondering just what price has been paid, and whether they will be successful in their quest...

The Spire

The Nexus. 

A city that lies at the edge of everything; where time and space meet, and science and magic intermingle. Some say the creators of The Nexus were Gods. Others say the creators of The Nexus are long dead. Still more believe that they have simply moved on to another plane of existence. But all that is known for sure is what remains of them; the singular, glittering artifact that is The Nexus..

And at the heart of The Nexus; The Spire.

An edifice that soars to dizzying heights, its summit disappearing into the banks of black and crimson clouds that permanently enshroud the city. No one who has entered The Spire has ever returned; yet, each year, thousands gather at its base on The Day of Ascendance in the hope of being selected as worthy to enter.

For at the very summit of The Spire; The Prize.

No one knows exactly what it is, but it has been waiting at the pinnacle of The Spire since time immemorial. A boon left by whatever race created The Nexus, a power to rival that of the Gods themselves. A reward for whomever can overcome the deadly challenges of The Spire. A reward that has waited for millenia to be claimed.

Missandra D’Jalan stood on the very edge of the rooftop, wind whipping her long blue hair out like a flag, and stared at The Spire. She had paid a high price in blood to be standing here. One hand resting on the pommel of her sword, its blade infinitely sharp, she carefully considered the tower that rose before her.

“What do you think?” asked Jelor, standing beside her.

“I think,” said Missandra, “that The Prize will soon be ours…”

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 21


So, today's challenge was a title "Addicted To That Rush" (taken from a Mr. Big song) and it was another title that I didn't really have any real ideas about until I sat down and looked at the blank white screen. But, then a piece of science fiction suggested itself and I did my best to squeeze it into the 300 word limit...

Addicted To That Rush

I lie on my back, naked beneath a thin blue sheet on the surgical table; but it’s only when they disconnect me that I truly feel vulnerable.

I feel revolted by myself in that moment; just a lump of meat on a slab. Slow, useless wetware. Thoughts decelerating to something less than a crawl. Sensory information dropping away. Naked and partially blind, 

There was a time when this was all I was; just a norm with stock wetware. A nothing. A nobody. And for those few minutes I’m transported back to those horrific times as the surgeon readies the cerebral mesh for implantation. I’m not scared that I am lying here with my skull neatly bisected, I’m only scared that something goes wrong and I’m left like this.

But then I hear the surgeon telling me it’s in, and there’s a sensation like ice that creeps down the back of my neck as the carbon nanotube mesh begins to thread itself into the primary regions of my brain. I blink as the mesh commences its start-up routine and weaves itself deeper into my brain stem. 

My thoughts begin to pick up in pace, faster and faster until I am cycling through thoughts and sensations a thousand times quicker than my human brain could possibly have managed on its own. Once you’ve experienced the merge of wetware and hardware, it’s impossible to go back. Only forwards.

I’d believed my previous implant to be life changing, but it was something crude in comparison to the device I’ve just merged with. Already my thoughts are cascading at a speed far beyond anything I’d previously experienced. My sensations heightened and enhanced. I feel so far beyond the meatsack that previously defined me.

I revel in the sheer majesty. I’m addicted to that rush.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 20

Today's challenge involved writing in a genre you've never written in before - which was tough because I've written science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, westerns, and a few more things in between. But, upon reflection, I realised I'd probably never written something that was an out-and-out love story. And I wasn't sure whether I could do an adequate job, but I decided to give it a try all the same. So you can decide how well I did...

A genre you've never written in

It started on a train. A glance, a smile. A failure on the high speed line that left us marooned somewhere south of Rotterdam for more than an hour. A conversation. An exchange of numbers. A series of glances over my shoulder as I left the station to see if you were maybe looking over yours as you walked in the opposite direction. And you were.

Messaging over the weekend that went long into the night and into the early hours of the morning. Flirtation. Anticipation. The joys of simply getting to know you. Each exchange drawing us closer together on the other side of our phone screens. The chemistry palpable. The excitement a tangible thing.

And then a meeting somewhere other than a train. A chance to see if the connection we’d established in the virtual could survive in the real. Nerves coiled up inside me like pulses of electricity. No mere butterflies in my stomach, your presence inspiring pterodactyls.

You are so very beautiful. The most beautiful girl I have ever seen. And there’s a part of me disbelieving that this goddess could be here with me. But then we lean in like conspirators and the kiss that follows is the most natural thing in the world.

A moment frozen in time, where the Universe drops away and all that remains is you. The sensation of my lips against yours. One hand on your cheek, the other sliding to the small of your back. The delicate fragrance of your perfume. And I want to seize this moment and hold onto it forever. Want to hold you forever.

I don’t know when I first realised I loved you because sometimes it feels like I must have always done.

It started on a train. I hope it never ends.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 19

Today's writing challenge hurt my head. It seemed fun when I set it ("no repeating words") but, my word, it's tough. And, of course, I couldn't resist trying to find some way in which to also work the phrase "no repeating words" into what I created. So, I managed to give myself something of headache in creating this. I had 300 words to play with but I only used 151 of them, and that means there are 151 different words here...

No Repeating Words

The monastery lay atop grey granite cliffs, concealed by thick clouds on inclement days and difficult to reach even when weather was perfect. Stone towers soared high. Birds wheeled far above. I struggled, feet blistered from effort, before pushing through an ancient wooden gate.

Monks live here; legend has it they rarely speak with strangers.

One robed monk approached, surprisingly talkative, but his elders were considerably less vocal instead studying me relatively remotely.

“Greetings, stranger! Welcome!”

Breathless after climbing, simply nodding all that existed within my capabilities. Body slumped, hands against marbled floor tiles, lungs aflame. Gathered seniors continued merely glaring silently. Finally raised myself.

Younger inhabitant continues chattering away, causing quite some confusion.

“What causes such differences in conversation? You so much, however older companions barely open their mouths.” 

“It’s a vow,” he said.

“Please explain more. Surely not silence?“

Head shakes, lips form wide grin.

“Of no repeating words.”

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 18


So, most of the writing challenges I've set are either vague instructions (2nd person train journey) or are titles that are taken from songs. But, for today's challenge, I'd just taken a word that randomly popped into my head - carapace. Now, that was all well and good a few weeks ago when I was creating a writing challenge, but today I had to sit down and work out what the hell kind of a story (in 300 words or less) it would be possible to make with that title. And for a few hours, I must tell you dear reader, I did not have the slightest clue. Indeed, for a while, I was thinking this might be the day where I failed. And then this idea arrived. Perhaps a slight nod to Kafka. Or perhaps I'm finally going a little bonkers. Either way, this is certainly one the most surreal things I can remember writing...


"Well, in my professional opinion," said the doctor, with a thoughtful stroke of his chin,  "you're becoming a tortoise."

"Right," I said, stretching the word out slowly,  "and do you think I could maybe get a second opinion?"

It had started as a patchwork rash on my back, but the skin had rapidly become dry and rough and begun to harden soon thereafter. I’d tried to fight back, moisturising the crap out of it, but it had only got worse and worse, to the point that it had increasingly begun to feel like my whole back was hardening.

“Well, yes,” replied the doctor, “but I think they’re only going to tell you the same.”

I couldn’t work out whether my doctor was insane or just had a really dry sense of humour.

“Look,” I said, by this point more than a little exasperated, “is there anything you can do?”

“Well, there is an injection I could give you,” said the doctor.

“And that will help?”

“Oh, certainly,” said the doctor, with a somewhat  absent-minded frown.

“Then let’s do it,” I said, “I’m ready to try anything.”

He stood up and took a small bottle from a cabinet on the wall, then peeled a sterile syringe from a packet and drew up a small amount of yellow liquid from the bottle, walking towards me with a thin smile.

“This might sting a little,” he said.

The needle felt like it was injecting napalm into my veins. My face contorted in agony. It felt like my whole body was being squeezed and compressed.

“What, the..fuck,” I screamed.

“This will accelerate the process,” said the doctor calmly as I writhed on the floor, “You see, my daughter’s always wanted a tortoise.”

I tried to run but I was already far too slow.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 17


I had absolutely no idea what I was going to write for today's challenge, titled Burning Out (a title taken from a song by Philip Sayce). I had a busy morning and early afternoon and so it was only on the train home that I could sit down and think about it. Early ideas revolved around a planet-wide fire on an alien world (before I remembered that was a little too close to something in Iain M Bank's novel The Player of Games) and then this idea just arrived almost full formed in my head. Getting down to 300 words proved a challenge, but I managed after a little pruning. Hope you enjoy...

Burning Out

There’s a picture of a lily on the wall. It means everything to me, because it’s the only thing of yours I have left.


“You have to weigh things up,” he says, “Go with what makes sense to you.”

My face screws up in anguish, a man caught in the no-man’s land that lies between two opposing possibilities.

“I love her,” I say, my lip trembling with the words.

“Sure,” he nods, “And she doesn’t love you.”

An icepick through my heart.

“But what if she does?”

“Hey, you told me the story,” he says with an embarrassed shrug, “it’s pretty clear she doesn’t,”

“No,” I say, looking down at the floor, “No, she doesn’t. Not anymore.

“And that’s fine,” he says, “Shit happens. Other fish in the sea. You don’t need to do this.”

My throat makes a weird noise, a laugh that turns into a sob.

“If I do this, she’ll really be gone?”

“Everything about her. The good, the bad, the ugly…”

I nod in silence, eyes to the floor again.

“The good was so very bright,”

“And you can keep it,” he says, “You don’t have to do this.”

“No,” I say, after some deliberation. “I do. Because how do I live in such dark after having lived in the light?”

“You’re sure about this?”

“Yes,” my lip trembles again. “Yes, do it.”

“Great, we’ll back you up first,”he says, “Then we’ll go in and we’ll work on the back-up. Erase her where we can. Modify her where we can’t. Then we’ll scour everything else; media, messages. We’ll fill the gaps seamlessly. Upload. When you wake she’ll be gone. Burning out complete.”


There’s a picture of a lily on the wall. I don't even remember buying it. Can think of better things to hang there.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 16

For reasons known only to myself, I decided to bite off more than I could chew today. Today's challenge was to write something 'in the style of' and I was planning on doing another Iain M Banks pastiche but then decided I needed to push myself harder (why did I think that? I have no idea!) and so hit upon the idea of trying to combine the styles of two of my favourite writers - Iain M Banks and Elmore Leonard. Which was a really stupid idea. Well, a great idea but not necessarily one I can execute to the standard I'd like. And I compounded my stupidity by sticking doggedly to this idea, even when I had a crazily busy day and couldn't start writing until after 9pm. But, I finished it and it tips the scales at exactly 300 words. And it's not awful. Just I feel with more time and energy I could do it much better...

In the style of...

The VFP If It Ain’t Broke Let’s Break It had hung dark in the asteroid field for three days now. The Kelprian was getting twitchy and the drone was beginning to regret having brought him along.

“I did tell you we might end up being out here a while,” the drone said.

“I know,” said the Kelprian without looking up from oiling his gun. “I just thought you were exaggerating.”

“We might be here for ten days, is what I said.”

Might being the key word.”

“That tends to be how I choose to deal with the relative uncertainty of the future.”

“You know what your problem is?” asked the Kelprian with a frown.

“I’ve no doubt you're about to enlighten me…”

 “You think you’re the smartest guy in the room.”

“Well,” sighed the drone, flashing purple regret, “that’s because I usually am.”

“And yet I’m the one with the gun.”

“Wait,” said the drone, now gunmetal grey in puzzlement. “Was that supposed to be a threat?”

“Take it any way you want it. I’m just stating facts.”

“You do realise I’m packing enough ordinance to take down a small planet, don’t you?”

“So you say.”

“So I say?” spluttered the drone, “So I…say?”

The ship’s Mind chimed into the conversation, “Gentlemen, if the pair of you could stop swinging your dicks for a few moments.”

“We Kelprian don’t have dicks.”

“And, as you may have noticed,” said the drone dryly, “I’m a drone. So also dickless.”

“Well look at that,” hummed the Mind, “Consensus has been reached. Which is good because in five minutes we’re going to commence a chain brake into the inner system. Three second window for displacement. Are we both clear on the mission?”

“Kill-” said the Kelprian.

“-everyone,” completed the drone.

Bingo,” said the Mind.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 15


I spent a while trying to work out which memory to pick for this, and then Spotify happened to randomly throw me a track from Whitesnake's Live at Donington 1990 album - which just so happened to be the first ever concert I ever attended. It was so cool to listen back to the track and remember how it felt to be there watching it all those years ago as a 16yr old. So, I decided to write a short piece about that and how it cemented my desire to play guitar...

A Bright Memory

Never having been to a concert before, I was perhaps a little brave to buy tickets to the 1990 Monster of Rock festival at Castle Donington - an all-day event featuring five different rock bands and attended by more than 75,000 people - that I went to with my friend Rob.

Thunder were the opening act. I’d heard a few songs before but hadn’t been into them, but they were fantastic live and made me a fan. Quireboys and Poison followed but I wasn’t particularly enamoured with either.

Things turned up a notch with the arrival of Aerosmith. If they were nonplussed not to be the headline act, they responded with a high octane set that saw Steven Tyler strutting around on stage in his pomp and Jimmy Page joining the band for the encore.

And then Whitesnake hit the stage. 

David Coverdale immediately had the audience in the palm of his hand, but I’d come along to see a particular guitarist for the very first time. I’d been introduced to Steve Vai a few months earlier and had pretty much worn out the tape of his instrumental album Passion and Warfare from listening to it over and over again.

Vai didn’t disappoint in a blistering solo spot, with a particular moment in it burned forever into my memories. Playing a guitar covered in mirrors, he ended a section of the solo by hitting a note which was sustained and then hooked the guitar to a cable that sent the guitar spinning up into the roof of the stage - reflecting light with that note still ringing out loud - while he raced to grab a second guitar and start a new song.

In that moment, I knew with certainty that I simply had to learn how to play guitar.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 14

Today's challenge was a difficult one to write - not because I didn't have an idea (one popped into my head quite quickly, but because I found (as a parent) this was really emotional to write. I hope the authenticity of the emotion comes across in the writing. I think this might be my favourite piece I've written so far in this challenge, and it's also one of the most brutal pieces I've ever written despite being only 300 words in length. I hope you enjoy it all the same...


“I’m sorry,” I said, the gun feeling heavy as an anvil as I raised it.

My son was on his knees before me sobbing, his big brown eyes wide open and tears streaming down his cheeks.

“Momma,” he said, his voice raw.

I remembered giving birth to him; I can no longer remember the pain, only the elation. How it felt to cradle him, warm, in my arms for the first time and know in that moment that he was my world and I would do everything to protect him.

I remembered his tottering first steps as my husband filmed him. An involuntary stab of pain as I thought of my husband, now gone. I remembered holding his hand, so small in my own, as we walked down the street for the first time in a swirl of Autumn leaves. I remembered pushing him on a swing and ice cream in the park. I remembered Christmases and birthdays. I remembered the thrill and fear of seeing him off to school that first day, so tiny and so brave. I remembered prom, my heart swollen with pride. In that barest fraction of a second, I remembered it all. 

The gun shook slightly in my hand as I levelled it at him, my finger caressing the cold trigger.

“Momma,” he begged, eyes wide with fear.

I closed my eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

I squeezed the trigger and everything happened in an instant.

The deafening bang. The acrid smell of gunpowder. The splintering of wood. The savage, guttural growls.

They were here. And I knew they would devour me, just like they had my husband. But I’d done everything to protect my boy to the end. My final bullet ensuring that he will never join them.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered as my last words.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 13

So, today's challenge was 'Only Dialogue' - which was not the kind of challenge I needed on a day as hectic as this one has been. I had a few ideas swilling around in my head and finally settled on something fairly whimsical that clocks in at 286 words...

Only Dialogue

“So? What do you think?”

“Erm, it’s very dark isn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s really what I was going for - dark.”

“Well you definitely succeeded…”

“You don’t sound like you’re much of a fan.”

“No, no, that’s not true…it’s…interesting.”


“Yes, interesting.”

“So I spent a whole day slaving on this, and all you can say is that it’s interesting?”

“Well, it’s better than it being not interesting.”

“Only just. But, yeah, it’s fine.”

“Oh, don’t be like that.”

“I’m not, it’s all good.”

“Look, I love it, I just didn’t think it would be quite so dark.”

“It never occurred to me that you’d have a problem with it.”

“I don’t have a problem with it.”

“Well it’s all you’ve talked about.”

“Well, that’s because it’s all there is,”

“So you’re saying that maybe I should make it less dark?”

“Well, could you?”

“I could, yeah. Would that make you happier?”

“Look, it’s not about my happiness. It’s your hobby, after all.”

“But it would make you happier, right?”

“I’d be open to it being less dark, sure.”

“Everyone’s a critic…”

“Oh c’mon; you shouldn’t ask my opinion if you don’t want to hear it!”

“Fine, look I’ll change it for you.”

“Change it because you want to change it, not because of me.”

“Well, I guess it is a little dark. You can’t really see much.”

“I can’t see anything.”

“It might be better if you could see something, I suppose.”

“It would be, I agree.”

“Fine, I’ll do something about it.”

“Thank you.”

“But if I don’t like it, I’m changing it back.”

“You can definitely do that.”

“Fine. Give me a minute.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

“Alright, how about this? Let there be light!”


Sunday, March 12, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 12

Today's challenge was 'Your Worst Holiday' and, while I've had one or two unusual holidaying experiences over the years, it was easy to find the source material for this. It happened all the way back in the mists of time in 1994 and it involved my first experience of a package holiday. It was enough to put me off them pretty much for good. With only 300 words to play with, I had to skimp a little on the details, but I hope you enjoy today's piece of creative non-fiction. As it turned out, this holiday would be pivotal in my joining the game industry and getting my first job as a game designer, but that's a story for another day!

Your Worst Holiday

“You’ve never been on a package holiday?” my girlfriend had asked me incredulously. “You have to! They’re great.”

So, at the age of 21, I skipped a week from University and signed up for a package holiday to Greece. The idea was simple; there were three four-star hotels, and a three-star hotel, and you didn’t know which one you were going to get until you landed.

We got the three-star. 

Except, as time went on, I gradually began to question the immense generosity of the reviewer.

Maybe it was the beach covered with straggly grass. Maybe it was the herd of goats eating said straggly grass. Maybe it was the pool covered with leaves. Maybe it was the three legged Jack Russell that ruled the pool area with an iron paw.

Or maybe it was the hotel being several miles away from the nearest town and there only being two shuttle buses a day. Or maybe it was the fact that the room was in a basement and that the plumbing was deeply questionable. Or maybe it was the fact that it was the first week of the holiday season and the bar wouldn’t open until the following week. 

Possibly it was the sheer range of cuisine on offer (“You want lamb and chips?”, “Well, what are the other options?”, “Lamb. And chips”). Possibly it was the fact that the butter served at breakfast was green with mold and had an expiry date from a year earlier. Possibly it was the cockroaches the size of small kittens.

Whatever the reason, it was the worst holiday experience ever.

I staged a mutiny on the first morning and we were subsequently all moved to somewhere far better. But, while I’ve forgotten the name of the hotel, I’ll never forget that one day.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 11

Today's challenge was inspired by a song title from a band called The Aristocrats (you can check out this live version if you like), and I had a vague idea of what I wanted to write but I couldn't quite work out how to make it work in only 300 words. I'm not 100% happy with the idea - and feel like this could easily be fleshed out into something more extensive - but I hit 300 words dead on...

Living The Dream

“So, basically, you’re saying I’m mad?”

“We don’t use that word here, Amy,” said Dr. Chalmers with a frown, “this seems like a possible case of False Memory Syndrome.”

“But you’re saying I dreamed up a six month relationship with John, right? That none of my memories of that time are real?”

“I know it can’t be easy to accept that your memory could be mistaken.”

“Look, I remember everything,” I said, “and then - bang - January 1st and everything’s different. John’s a different person and he doesn’t know me.”

“FMS can be triggered by trauma. It’s possible you experienced something traumatic on December 31st and these memories are your way of coping with that.”

“And how do you explain the things I know about him?”

“Amy, I want you to consider what’s more likely. That you skipped into an alternate timeline; or that your mind is tricking you. It’s possible you heard things about John at work without consciously realising, and they were then stirred up by your subconscious.”

“But I know what the inside of his apartment looks like. Right down to the odd socks he keeps in a special drawer.

“I talked to John and he was concerned about you. He worries you broke into his apartment.”

“For fuck’s sake.” I said, “I didn’t break into his apartment.”

“Is anything else different in the world around you?”

I paused, I’d looked; I’d looked hard; and I’d not found anything. “No.”

“So I want for today you to consider - just consider - the possibility that I’m right.”

“Fine,” I said, and rolled my eyes.

“Let’s meet up next week and discuss.”

I nodded and, for the three hundredth time, cursed 2023. The only thing good about it was going to be the Nirvana reunion concert in a few weeks time. 


Friday, March 10, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 10


Today was a real struggle; I just couldn't think what to write. I played with several vague ideas but none of them seemed interesting upon even casual examination. And then, at about 8pm, an idea popped into my head. I had an image of two thieves who were lovers, and it was set in some kind of space opera future. So I ran with the idea and it's exactly 300 words long...

Honour Among Thieves

Ryzala lay face down on the bed, arms folded beneath her chin, head tilted so that her violet eyes flashed at me. I traced my fingers delicately against the decorative scars that ran the length of her spine, golden geometric shapes standing  in sharp relief against the darkness of her skin.

“The Seven Stones of Forgiving,” she said, “impossible to steal since they’re in a vault that exists - or perhaps doesn’t exist - within an uncollapsed reality wave.”

“Not so,” I replied with a smirk, “One just needs a quantum key that ensures all probabilities collapse simultaneously.”

Ryzala sighed and rolled onto her side to look at me.

“We’re both far too good at this,” she said with a smile that almost became a laugh.

I could never resist that smile. I leant over and kissed a hot path against her neck, causing a second - although less voluntary - sigh to escape her.

“The Djalorin Manuscript,” I whispered in her ear, “Guarded by The Sentinel of Truth, able to instantly destroy any who harbour deception.”

“One just needs to be honest,” replied Ryzala, “about the fact you’ve come to steal it.”

“You think it’s that simple?”

“It was when I stole it.”

Now it was my turn to laugh. 

Ryzala rolled onto her back and looked up at the ceiling before closing her eyes.

“Your heart,” she said, finally, eyes still closed.

“True,” I said.

Her violet eyes opened wide. “True?”

“You cannot steal what is given freely,” I replied.

“Smooth,” she said.

“But also true.”

“I’ll never give it back,” she said, biting her lower lip gently.

“You couldn’t even if you tried,” I said, “It’s a one way proposition. It’s yours now.”

What we have is worth more than anything we’ve ever stolen. With us, there is honour among thieves.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 9


Today's challenge was completed at 6am, but I then ended up being so busy throughout the rest of the day that it's only now at 9.20pm that I'm finally sitting down to post it. I'm quite a fan of cons (on a theoretical sense at least!), so I picked a variation on the pigeon drop for this particular story, which clocks in a measly 262 words.

Second Person Con

You're in a currency exchange holding money in your hands and you're acutely aware of the fact that you're a female tourist, you're partially sighted and you're standing in a public place with a large amount of money.

The well dressed man with the expensive cologne comes over while you're still trying to put it in your bag. He's concerned about you. This area isn't safe, he says. He shows you his briefcase with his own money. Put your money here with mine and I'll get you back to your hotel safely. You can carry it if it makes you feel better, he says.

You take him up on the kind offer. He is charming and makes conversation as you walk together. Until the robber with the knife emerges from an alley. Run, the man shouts at you as he struggles with the robber, and you do. You run all the way back to your hotel room. 

What you don't see is the men watching you run and laughing together as you disappear around the corner. They know that they switched the briefcase at the exchange for an identical one containing nothing but stacks of blank paper. They know that they now have their money and yours.

What they don't see is you taking off your glasses and tossing them on the dressing table with a smile. They don't see you open the briefcase and take out your money and theirs and lay it out on the bed. And they certainly didn't see that your sleight of hand was considerably better than theirs.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 8


Today's challenge involved creating a fictional piece of academic writing. I wasn't sure, until I started typing, exactly what I was going to write for this (I'd initially been toying with the idea of something related to dragons), but then after 20 minutes of typing I had this and quite liked it...

Fictional Academic Writing

While there has been considerable research conducted (Hobbs & Winters, 2243, Jackson et al., 2256) validating the official historical overview of pre-singularity society (“Historical Snapshot VI”, 2239), there are some researchers (Caufee, 2259) who take exception to the central tenets of the historical record. 

Caufee (2259) is blunt in their criticism: “the narrative that humans were created by machines in a failed experiment is simply revisionism by machine intelligence” (p.9). Nevertheless, despite there being some critical voices, the general consensus (Hobbs & Winters, 2243, Jackson et al., 2256) is that humanity was a biotech error that was eventually superseded by machine intelligence. 

Nevertheless, Cauffee goes further still with their theory (2259, p.12-13): “the historical overview refuses to countenance the truth; that machine intelligence was invented by humans”, which some (Varly, 2260) argue has directly contributed to the formation of extremist movements such as the Neo-Luddites. Further, Varly (2260) notes that it is impossible to verify the validity of the work of Cauffee (2259), since the last humans were culled in 2212. 

Thus, while fanciful theories have emerged in recent years, popular consensus remains that humans did not possess substantial cognitive abilities and the most likely explanation for their perceived intelligent behaviour was manipulation by the machines that made them.

    Cauffe, J. (2259). Challenging established human paradigms. Journal of Machine Intelligence (23) p.8-p.22

    Historical Snapshshot VI (2239). Official Data Records.

    Hobbs, R., Jackson M, (2243). Historical Perspectives. Journal of Machine Intelligence (5) p.34-55

    Jackson, Q., Princeton, F., Wilson, S. (2256). Validating History. Journal of Machine Intelligence (19) p.120-156 

    Varly, Z (2260). Overstating the case for human intelligence. Journal of Machine Intelligence (24) p.16-p.40

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 7


Today was a difficult day. A very early start, a busy day, a busy evening, and I only got a chance to sit down with my laptop at 22.15. Fortunately, I had a reasonably good idea of what I wanted to write and managed to scribble it down in a grand total of 299 words...



It’s an instinctual thing, it’s not something I consciously control; but as soon as my body senses mortal danger it hurls me back three minutes in time and gives me a chance to try again.

The first time it happened, I was nine. I’d run into the road to chase after my football and looked up to see the lorry bearing down on me, horn blaring, and then pop I was back in the park and watching John Kelly score a goal I’d already seen him score minutes earlier. Then continued to watch as the next set of passes played out exactly as I remembered; the ball trickling past me and into the road. Except this time I just watched as the lorry hurtled through the junction and over the top of the ball.

I began to think it was a dream, and then it happened again when I was 13. Showing off in front of my mates and balancing on top of the wall of the multi-story carpark; then a slip and I was hurtling to the ground. Pop. I was back on top of the carpark and listening to what seemed a replay of my friends daring me to climb the wall.

All in all, this ability of mine has saved me eight times in the forty three years I’ve been on this Earth. Aside from those first two, it has saved me from electrocution, drowning, three car crashes, and from being stabbed. Truth be told, I’ve begun to wonder if maybe I’m immortal.

But this time I’ve got a problem.

The pop sound is still ringing in my ears as I look around the cabin and grimace at the stewardess. I’m 40,000ft up over the Atlantic and three minutes isn’t doing me much good…

Monday, March 06, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 6

Today was tough purely because I'm a bit under the weather and I feel utterly exhausted. But, the idea for today's challenge arrived to me out of the blue this afternoon and so I ignored the tiredness and did my best to translate it from my head to the page. So here it is...

The Procession

The theory was that it started somewhere in the Amazon rainforest, but the first time that The Procession was actually seen was in Bolivia, on the Plaza Mariscal José Ballivián in the city of Trinidad. A few hundred people, walking and swaying to a beat that only they could hear. I remember seeing a low resolution video of it on the ‘And Finally’ segment of the news. 

By the time it crossed the border to Brazil, it numbered in the tens of thousands. A line of dancing, chanting, people that overwhelmed and then poured through the border crossing, seemingly oblivious to the warning shots that the border guards fired over their heads.

And it kept growing. News crews were sent to report, but they simply dropped their microphones and their cameras and joined The Procession. Colombia had hastily constructed razorwire fencing but it hardly slowed them. They simply danced into the fences and then up and over the bodies of the dead and dying. Relentlessly surging north.

The Procession swept up through Central America and into Mexico; its numbers now more than a million. One of the Cartels tried to stop it, but it was like trying to use tissue paper to hold back the tide. The Procession didn’t even slow. It shed damaged components and assimilated new ones.

The US National Guard were lined up at the border, but before The Procession was even in firing range, the guardsmen began throwing down their weapons and helmets and running to join the throng. 

I ran North, but it was a case of buying time rather than saving myself. Because they’re getting nearer. And my feet have become restless. Dancing to a beat only they hear.

I know it’s only a matter of time before I too join The Procession.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 5


After writing a sonnet about unconditional love yesterday, today's challenge gave me a chance to splash around in more familiar waters. I can't say I'm deliriously happy with what I've written today, but it's more important to write something than write something great (at least, that's what I'm telling myself right now!). Today's idea arrived reasonably fully formed and it was a challenge to whittle it down to 300 words but I managed - just. So, without further ado, here it is...

First Person Train Journey

I didn’t mean to kill him. 

Actually, that's not strictly true. I did mean to kill him, but I didn't mean to kill him tonight or leave behind so much evidence. But he always knew how to press my buttons, and I just snapped.

The kitchen knife slid in so much easier than I expected. His eyes wide. Hands clutching the handle.

I left him there on the floor. Packed a bag. Took money and passport. Booked a flight from Heathrow to Costa Rica after googling who doesn't have an extradition treaty with the UK. And now it's 5.59am, I'm 10 minutes into my train journey and we're stuck in a tunnel.

No one else in carriage and the lights go out. Fuck. And no signal on my phone. The phone's torch is working though, so I thumb it on and head to the next carriage. 

The door is locked.

There's a pained groan from behind me and the hairs go up on the back of my neck. It's impossible but I know it's him before I even turn around. The knife still lodged in his stomach. He drags himself down the aisle towards me, a trail of blood slick behind him. This can't be happening, my brain screams. But it is.

My back to the locked door, I watch as he inches closer. He's dead but he's coming for me all the same. Blood-soaked fingers outstretched to me.

I scream, finally, as I feel his hands close on my ankles like steel manacles.

And I know this is the end.

*    *    *

Police have named Amy Carruthers, 38, as the main suspect in the murder of Dominic Pierce. CCTV footage shows Carruthers stepping onto the platform at Tamworth Station but she never got on the earliest train at 6.03am.

Saturday, March 04, 2023

Micro Fiction March Day 4

So, this was the toughest day so far and there were moments where I said to myself "A poem, Oliver/ Why on Earth would you set a poem as a challenge?", because this is one of the forms of writing I have the least experience and the least confidence in. A piece of science fiction, horror, fantasy or a thriller? No problem! A bit of comic fiction? I can do that. But a poem? That is an altogether different kettle of fish.

So, today, I pondered for quite some time on the theme and then, once I'd decided what I was going to write about, I ended up pondering considerably longer as I tried to think what I wanted to say and how I could say it.

The result was a sonnet on the topic of unconditional love. Word count was no problem (a measly 114 words) but this was the slowest words per minute I think I've ever managed in my life. In the end, I quite liked it. I hope you do to.

Unconditional Love

For love doth come in many shapes and forms,

And I do not pretend to know them all,

Though some may falter through quarrels and storms,

Unconditional love requires no fall,

No barbs and thorns could ever dissuade me,

No fault in you could I ever discern

They say true love is blind and yet I see,

Purest light in your every twist and turn,

A smile from you enough to warm my heart,

A tear from your eye and I am bereft,

For you I know I would give everything,

Until there was truly naught in me left,

See true that my love is adamantine,

I am yours, and forever, you are mine.