Les, by Gordon Lawrie

There were always rumours about sleazy Les.

He wasn’t alone: plenty of guys regarded it as a perk of the job. But for the rest of us, having sex with girls in his care was unprofessional, reprehensible – you name the word, nothing quite cuts it. A few women did it, too.

Sadly, none of his victims came forward. I think they just felt too dirty and ashamed, so he escaped.

Sort of. Les shared some virus with one of his girls. She died; he’s in a wheelchair now, dying a slow, miserable death. Can’t bring myself to feel sorry for him.

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Mesmerized, by Don Tassone

Her first memory was of watching TV. The images and sounds drew her in. TV mesmerized her. It cast a spell over her.

Growing up, she watched TV every chance she got. She watched it when other kids were playing outside. She opted out of kindergarten so she could stay home and watch TV. All that interested her was on TV.

She had few friends. She never went on dates or got married. She worked as a bookkeeper and lived alone. Her only companions were on TV.

She died in her recliner, watching a movie with a terribly sad ending.

The English Professor, by Ian Fletcher

How he held forth on anyone from Chaucer to Ishiguro! Knowing the ins and outs of deconstruction and postcolonial theory, he was the doyen of the literary journals.

Colleagues’ reputations were demolished with one savage review. He never lost an argument in seminars or in print.

He would dominate dinner parties with his scintillating conversation and wit.

His wife endured his affairs with postgraduate students under the spell of his intellect, proud he would always return to her.

Yet when at 58 he was told he had terminal cancer, words, which had been the foundation of his existence, failed him.

Heated, by Gordon Lawrie

It began, as so often, with a simple misunderstanding.

She said something he thought was wrong, but he’d misheard her. When he questioned her, she took his tone to be accusatory, which he didn’t intend. From there, things spiraled out of control.

In no time, he had a sharp kitchen knife in his hand, she, the rolling pin. She made pastry, he sliced apples. The time that it needed in the oven was just enough to sort things in bed.

It’s how they always settled arguments. The apple pie was slightly overdone on this occasion, but neither of them cared.

Our Greatest Nightmare, by Fliss Zakaszewska

A loud, whirring noise had made the youngster look up. History showed she’d been the first to see Them.

“Aliens! Aliens!” She’d flown down the mountain to the village and, gasping for oxygen, had thrown her hand against the early-warning button.

Linked sirens shrilled across the globe. They had come down in their hundreds of thousands, travel-stained crafts hovering, dis-engorging the aliens via invisible elevators. Soon, 95% of the population had been slain, great cities destroyed.

The leader – others called him Admiral – looked around, satisfied. “Air’s oxygen-rich, but it will do. With Planet Earth dead, it’s the best we’ve got.”

Remembering Weimar Berlin, by Guy Fletcher

“Nazi scum have closed the night club,” shouted Fritz.

​”Not so loud, my friend,” warned Hans. “They have spies everywhere.”

Hans was sad remembering Weimar days when Berlin used to be the party capital of the world: mind-altering drugs at the local chemist … then pretty women, beer and decadence at the clubs which sprinkled Berlin like stars.

Now the National Socialists considered themselves the new drug, the opium of the people. He passed Brownshirts, as always masking his contempt for the beer-swilling hooligans.

Hans thought about Sarah. Naturally, he had no idea how brutal the years ahead would be.