Annus Miraculis

This is a 300-word FF on the theme of “Royalty”, for the Bloggers Bash competition… Hope you enjoy!

What does one get, for the mother who has everything? (Literally, everything.) Charles went through the same dilemma every year, and every year fell short. Not that she said anything, of course. A lifetime of not speaking out had …consequences, but he knew better.

He pulled his coat tight to his face against the December chill, readjusted his cap, and continued his search through Knightsbridge. He grimaced as he passed Harrod’s, but the next store along was somewhere he hadn’t noticed before. As he stood in the neon glare on the crowded pavement, the answer came to him. “I’ve got it!” In any other city, this exclamation would have attracted glances, but not here, not now. He rushed into the store, his grin broad enough to reach both of those ears.

After their traditional Christmas family lunch, it was time for the presents. Charles eagerly urged mother to open his first. Impassively, she opened the large box. She stared at him. “Thank you… what is it?”

“Let me plug it in.”

With palpable indifference, mother waited as Charles fiddled with the leads.

“Choose one,” he urged.

She stared down at the electronic karaoke screen. She scrolled past “Who Let The Dogs Out”, “Who Wants to Live Forever” (it just felt cruel), and “One”.

Charles’ enthusiasm was waning by the second. Not again…

“Hm,” she thought, then paused for the briefest moment before launching into an enthusiastic “Dancing Queen”.

Philip spat his tea clean across the living room, much to Harry’s amusement.

All sat open-mouthed as she sang with a HUGE smile on her face. Charles nearly cried with joy.

Song after song she belted out, until after “one ain’t nothing but a hound dog”, she dropped the microphone and walked off. “thangyouverymuch…Old Liz has left the building!”




The Knock

A 650-word piece of flash fiction. Just because 🙂

There was a gentle knock at the door. Confused, I paused the TV, wrapped my dressing gown to conceal my Batman pyjamas, and trudged to the door.

There was no one there.


I looked down.

“Hi, didn’t want to startle you,” said a suggestively purple snail on my doorstep.

“You’re a snail,” I said, never one to miss an opportunity to state the obvious.

“Not really, but the confusion is understandable. Mind if I come in?”

I shrugged an agreement, and the not-snail insinuated itself through the open door and into my house. There was something very unusual about the way it moved. Not at all snail-like.

“How did you knock on the door?” I asked, dealing with the weightiest questions first.

“I’m slightly psychic,” it replied, an air of pride unmistakeable.

“You’re a slightly psychic snail?…” I closed the door behind it. Did it control me to do that?…

“Not a snail.”

“Right. Cup of tea?” Social conventions offer a lifeline out of any situation.

“Err, no thanks. Tea is poisonous to my race. The effects can be …unpredictable. Violently so. Tea is banned under our version of the Geneva Convention. The Tannin Wars were a dark time in our history.” It looked up, saw my reaction. “You weren’t to know.”

“Sorry…. Coffee then?”

“Yeah, that’d be great. I take it black.” With that, it glided (glid?) into the living room, while I went on autopilot into the kitchen to dig out the coffee from the back of the cupboard.

I took a minute to compose myself, while the chrome kettle did its thing. Keep it together, Al. There’s a snail-thing in your living room, that’s popped in for coffee. Totally normal. Just a normal day.

I returned a minute later with two coffees, and some rich tea biscuits. “It’s the best I had,” I explained, by way of apology.

The not-snail did not look pleased, but made no comment. Is anyone ever happy getting offered rich tea biscuits?

“You’re probably wondering why I’m here,” said the snail, psychically moving the coffee from cup to mouth. I tried not to stare.

“Well, yeah…”

“I come from an alien world. You would identify it in the constellation Sirius. Our homeworld is quite unpronounceable in your language.” That pride again.

It continued: “I am here to make first contact. To form an impression of humanity, and build towards a pan-galactic alliance between our peoples.”

I kicked myself at the rich tea offer.

“We are a far more technologically advanced civilisation than yours. We have evolved beyond war, disease, poverty, intergalactic travel, and the distortion of time felt in dentist’s waiting rooms… in fact, we have conquered not only death, but the suggestion of it. Poof, gone.”

It bristled in its shell, waiting for all of this to sink in.

I sensed it was waiting for a reply. “Err… well done?” I glanced at the paused TV. Homes Under the Hammer would be on soon. Wonder how much longer this will take?

It sensed my impatience; slurped down the rest of its coffee. It looked at the biscuits and shook its small head. “Right, well I’d better be off then. I’ve only travelled 137 light years across space, left a glorious home and family that I’ll never see again, only devoted my entire existence and every waking thought to this moment, but I wouldn’t want to keep you.”

I showed it to the door, waved it goodbye, instinctively. It did not speak another word, or look back at me as it glided out of my front gate.

I closed the door and leant against it; exhaled loudly. I re-attached the “no cold callers” sign that had slipped down behind the landline phone. Then, “a-ha!” and rushed back to the kitchen, rummaging around, deep in the bottom cupboard. The emergency Hobnobs!

I shuffled back to the living room, and unpaused the TV.

This day’s taken a turn for the better.




ET, crawl home…

Photo by Johan Desaeyere on Unsplash

99-word story – Sound

I bathe in sound. I sample nibbles of pleasure from each vibration darting across my ear drums and diving into my cortex, translated into a sensuous internal orgy, savouring each soft contact. Conducting each stochastic orchestra, I stand proud and revel in the tempo and timpani of the beats of life, vibrant, swayful, playful. I zealously horde rictus rhythms, stockpiling them deep in psychological vaults, ready to access at a moment’s notice, always ready for me. Dextrous fingers tap out the beat, luxuriating in the lovers’ secret dance, beneath covers of shame…

It’s the silence that fills my nightmares.



Written for Charli Mills’ weekly 99-word prompt challenge, on the theme of “the sense of sound” –


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99-word story – The Van

I was getting cold feet about this particular fantasy roleplay. It’s really not my “thing”, getting kidnapped in a van and dragged away for her to ravage me, but Bess seemed very keen on it. Very keen. I never could refuse those puppy dog eyes… or the fire behind them.

So when the van screamed around the corner, I didn’t wait for her. I pulled open the back door and dived straight in!

As I stood there, faced with three very large, very-not-Bess men, in balaclavas, sawn-off shotguns in hand, I suspected that perhaps this was the wrong van.



99-word story – the text msg

—Hiya m8, still up 4 drinks 2nite?

Sorry, you’ve got the wrong number.

—Come on Dave, don’t be like that.

Steve? That u?

—Not Steve. Nice jumper btw. Let us in, I’d murder a cuppa!

(Dave looks out of the front window, at an empty garden)

Funny fucker, aren’t you. You’ve had your fun. Piss off now.

—Dave, don’t be like that.

I mean it. Piss off.

—Last chance, Dave. Let us in.


(Dave steps out of his front door to check. Nothing. Returns inside.)

“Funny how people never lock their back doors, isn’t it? Now, about that cuppa…”



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99-word story – The Story

Has anyone read this story before??


Once upon a time, there was a simple, self-aware Story. It went about its business in the town of Letters-on-the-Page, quietly sowing seeds that would be developed later. As inevitably happens, some chaotic words were introduced, disrupting the cosiness of Story’s existence. Things got steadily worse, despite Story’s best efforts.

In the middle, Story decided a different approach was needed. The experience had fundamentally changed it.

Nevertheless, those unsavoury words looked like they had the upper hand. Calamity! Then, just in the nick of time, everything was resolved in an obvious yet surprising way, paving way for… “The End”.



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The Book of Love – flash fiction

This is my final contribution to my week of #SummerLovin… this may be the best thing I’ve ever written. Would love to hear your thoughts 🙂

The Book of Love is a weighty tome, bound in exquisite green leather. Within its well-worn pages are all the stories you’ll ever need to hear, although they can be difficult to follow. Narrative is rarely linear. Happy endings are rare. Expected endings rarer still.

By a quirk of fate, in an opportune fold of the book by the celestial reader’s hand, two of the pages met one day.

Page 37 was a chapter midpoint, full of florid, overblown descriptions of clouds and silver linings, and ended on an unfortunate joke about bottoms. The page was marked by a smudgy, greasy thumbprint.

Page 294 was very different. Enigmatic and alluring, fiery and passionate, but with an undercurrent of disappointment, the last sentence of the page being cut off midway through. 294 had the air of someone who was certain their car keys were down the back of the sofa, but cannot find them, no matter how many times they’d look. Not a single bottom joke graced that page. Slightly strangely, the reader had circled one word in the centre of the page, seemingly at random. “Birthday

And although one was even, and one decidedly odd, a great friendship grew, there in the margins, where the binding just – just – connected them.

37 would opine for days in his pompous prose, and 294 received it in good humour, responding in kind. They were never quite on the same page, naturally enough, but they were somewhere close to it. Each challenged the other, in spite of their own shortcomings, and something deeper than friendship emerged.

Each longed for the other, and would dream of ways to make it so.

To be a pair of facing pages.

They fantasised about watching the sun set together, without one being in the closed darkness of the book. They imagined starting their own book, free of the set narrative. They wished a fairytale of their own.

But the binding of the book was fixed, and it was never to be, and they continued their love there in the margins, where the binding just – just – connected them.

And if you look back now, within the well-worn pages of The Book of Love, and take a glance at Page 37, and at Page 294, and at all the pages in between, you will find that the words written on those pages haven’t changed at all. But their meaning has changed completely.



99-word story – My Zombie Valentine

Rick fired his final bullets into the horde, but slipped awkwardly on a pool of guts, warm in the midday sun. No escape this time. The zombies overpowered him, tearing flesh from his bones, utterly devouring him.

Two zombies grabbed at his still-twitching arm from opposite sides, driven by The Hunger. In the moment before they sank their yellow, flesh-stained teeth into a succulent human meal, their aqueous eyes met, sparked. All of the thrashing and wailing disappeared in that moment. This crazy world stood still. Inside, two necrotic hearts remembered a beat.

It was love at first bite.



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99-word story – Serendipity

“Sir, we’ve analysed the results of the Serendipity Stick.”
“Well, what have you found out about this couple?”
“Well, the stick says that their meeting and falling for each other was approximately 80% fate, 10% chance, 5% inevitability, 3% drunken luck, and 2% for…”
“For what?”
“2% for the moon, sir. Apparently it’s in waxing crescent phase. That always implies new growth.”
“New growth?”
“That’s right, sir. New growth. It’s all the rage.”
“Is that so? I have a somewhat simpler explanation. None of your scientific mumbo-jumbo.”
(snaps stick and hits the other man with it)
“It’s love, dumbass.”


May each of you be hit with the serendipity stick 🙂



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99-word story – The Desert

I stumbled on through the desert, so close I could taste it, feel its nectar sliding down my parched throat. Days wandering dusty wastes, every breath clogged with abrasive sand, would soon pay off. One more forsaken hill, one more desolate dune… It was relentless. Ever-shifting, numbingly monotonous, beneath an unforgiving sun.

One more dune to go… Too far. I collapsed from exhaustion, rolling without resistance to the base, my world tumbling with it. I cried salt tears, utterly broken. Defeated.

Then, lying there in the dust, I finally found what I’d really been searching for all along.




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Written for: on the theme “surprise in a desert”