Posted in Stories

Women Can Read Maps



I fluttered my eyelashes as Sidney unfolded the map and spread it out on the table. What a bore this man was! Had we only been married three days, it felt like forever. Beneath my practiced sweet smile, I gritted my teeth and thought of his money.

“Are you sure you’re feeling well enough for this my precious, you look a little pale?” said Sidney, wrapping his slimy arm around my waist.

“I’m sorry Sidney,” I replied, gently wriggling free of his embrace, “It’s just being close to you my darling always makes me feel a little light-headed. Please go on.”

Sidney smiled and looked at me over those ridiculous glasses of his, perched precariously on the tip of his nose. “I was saying, my dearest, this is a map. You may not have seen one before. Don’t look so worried my darling, I wouldn’t expect you to understand it or be able to follow it, I wanted to show you the route I’ve planned for our little excursion this afternoon.”

“Oh Sidney, you are so clever.”

I snuggled up closer and gave him another of my girly looks. Sidney carried on.

“Well my precious, if you look carefully you will see parts of the map are coloured blue, that’s the sea. The wiggly line is the route we will take along the coastal path. I’ve gone over it in red ink to make it a little clearer for you, my sweetest. I’m not going too fast for you sweetheart, am I? You look a little puzzled. So inconsiderate of me to expect you to take in all this detail at one go. I do apologise my darling. Probably best we leave it at that for now. Why don’t you go and have a little lie down before we set off? Leave all the organising to your dependable husband.”

I squeezed his arm, gave him a quick peck on his cheek and thanked him for his kindness. As I made my way back to our room I couldn’t help but think what an utterly boring and stupid man my new husband was. If only he knew of the hours I’d spent yesterday studying this very map. I had a clear picture of the route we would be taking. Even more important – I knew exactly where poor Sidney would have his fatal accident.

I had a clear picture of the route we would be taking. Even more important – I knew exactly where poor Sidney would be having his fatal accident.


Posted in Stories

The Last Man On Earth


Apparently, I’m the last man on earth.

Seems some kind of virus has wiped out mankind – well mankind minus me. There’d been dire warnings about it but nobody had taken a lot of notice, we’d heard it all before. Turns out this was for real. Frightening how quickly it happened. You could be walking down the street and literally watch people drop down dead in front of you.

It all happened only two months ago. Since then I’ve travelled around a lot. It’s the same scene wherever I go, lots of dead bodies and an eerie silence.

I’ve no idea why the virus left me alone, lucky I suppose, or unlucky, depends how you look at it. I used to believe in God but now, I’m not sure. I’ve so many unanswered questions. I mean if there is a God then why this? Why has he spared me? What am I supposed to do? Even Adam had Eve, I’ve nobody.

Keeping myself alive is easy, there’s no shortage of food and drink and I can live wherever I like. The problem is the loneliness. There are only so many conversations you can have with yourself. Every now and again I think I catch a glimpse of someone in the shadows but there’s never anyone there, just my imagination yearning for the impossible.

I’ve started popping into any churches I come across. I’m working on the theory I should find God in one of them. Shouldn’t I? In desperation, I’ve started talking to him again. In the old days, it was something I did privately. Now I do it out loud. Once I used to be reverential. Now I tell him what’s really on my mind and I don’t hold back on the bad language. I just wish he’d talk back, get angry even.

Once or twice, when the isolation really gets to me, I’ve been tempted to end it all. At those darkest times, I feel as if I’m losing my mind completely. Then I stop and realize, if I go, if I give up, then that’s it, the end of the human race. I can’t let that happen.

So, I’ve no choice really. I’ve started leaving notes in each of the churches I visit just in case God drops by when I’m not there.

I’m hoping he’s going to give me a sign soon, let me in on his grand plan. There has to be a plan – doesn’t there?

I can’t simply be the last man on earth. Can I?


Posted in Stories

Life & Death


Officially, this was to be the last day of his life.

It had started much like any other day. A quick jog around the park, stopping briefly for his daily chat with the woman in the park, the one with the ugly dog. He ought to have asked her her name.

Back home he’d allowed himself an extra few minutes in the shower, time to think of what the hours ahead held in store. He knew it was going to be a hectic day. He’d arranged for Edith, the lady who cleaned for him, to come in especially early. He wanted everywhere to be looking at its best. The caterers were due to arrive late morning. He hoped he’d taken into account the varying dietary needs of his many guests.

Then there was the damn speech. It still needed more work on. He wasn’t looking forward to that bit of the proceedings at all. Public speaking had never been a strength of his. He’d been over the thing a hundred times but was still frightened he may have missed someone off the list of people he needed to thank.

As soon as the speech was over he’d have a short time to mingle. A few last goodbyes to some of his closest friends. Then it would be time to leave. The company he’d hired to carry out the task had come highly recommended and prided themselves on being discreet. At the appropriate time a car would be waiting in the drive and he would quietly slip away.

The party would continue and he would be driven to the local facility where his life would be terminated – at precisely 9.43pm. He had been assured the process would be both quick and painless.

Once he’d been officially declared dead the authorities would allow a new baby to be born.

As the party at his house drew to an end, somewhere else in the city, another party would be beginning. Welcoming the new arrival.


Posted in Stories

Dreams Inc.


Peter Jenkins caught sight of himself in a shop window as he staggered down the busy High Street, he looked a mess. His suit was crumpled and his shoes scuffed and dirty. He hadn’t shaved in days and his normally well-groomed hair was lank and greasy. When he arrived at the place, he went in and made his way to the large reception desk. He knew people in the chairs around him were glancing up from their magazines and staring at him. He didn’t care.

“Hello Mr. Jenkins, back again?” said the pretty young girl behind the desk, “You’re becoming quite a regular. What can I get you tonight? Your usual?”

Peter looked at her. The name badge on her ample chest said Zoe, he tried not to stare. “Not tonight, thank you,” he said, “I need to talk to someone. It’s urgent. I’ve got a bit of a  problem.”

“Of course Mr. Jenkins,” said Zoe, gently pressing the bell below the counter, “If you’d like to take a seat I’ll see who’s free.”

Peter backed away from the counter and slumped into the nearest chair. The woman in the adjacent chair stared at him, then got up and moved to the other side of the room. Peter didn’t have the energy to take offence.

A few minutes later a young man walked in through a side door and called out his name. Peter got up and was led into a small consulting room.

“Good evening Mr. Jenkins, my name is Doctor Barratt, I’m one of the consultants here. What appears to be the problem?

“It’s the dreams,” said Peter, “They’re stopping me from sleeping.”

Doctor Barratt looked at the thick file on his desk. “Oh dear Mr. Jenkins, that is unusual. We pride ourselves here at Dream Inc. on being able to supply our customers with exactly the right sort of dreams to help them have a good night’s sleep. You have been following the instructions correctly, haven’t you?”

“It’s not the instructions, it’s the dreams,” said Peter, a look of desperation etched on his face, “I think I’ve become addicted. I find myself plugging in the Dreams headset at all times of the day. It’s got that bad that I’ve lost my job and my wife has left me. I don’t even bother going to bed anymore. I just sit in a chair, dreaming. I haven’t slept for weeks. What am I going to do?”

“Calm down Mr. Jenkins, calm down. We see this occasionally here at Dreams Inc. where someone has been overdosing on our material. You’ve done the right thing in telling us. Let me just check our records to see what exactly you have been purchasing. Ah yes, I think I can see the problem. Too many happy dreams Mr. Jenkins, that the problem, too many happy dreams.”

“I don’t understand,” said Peter, “How can happy dreams have this sort of effect?”

“Happy dreams Mr. Jenkins, in moderation, are fine but you been having too many. It’s diminished your sense of reality. Your mind has got to the point where it can’t cope with real life anymore and needs to be in a state of induced happiness.”

“So if I stop having these dreams, stop using the Dreams headset, everything will be OK?”

“If only it were that simple Mr. Jenkins,” said Doctor Barratt, closing the file and turning on the computer on his desk, “From what you’ve just told me I’m not sure you would have the willpower to do that. No, I’m afraid the only solution is for you to be admitted to one of our dream units and have your mind realigned.”

“Realigned!” Peter felt his heart thumping. “What exactly does that entail?”

“Don’t be alarmed Mr. Jenkins, it sounds much worse than it actually is. We would simply start to wean you off your happiness high by replacing your present dreams with a few more unpleasant ones. The sort that reflects life as it really is. There will be times when you will feel that you can’t go on living but our specialist staff will be with you all the way.”

Peter slumped back in the chair. “I’ve no choice. I can’t go on like this. When can I start?”

“It looks like you’re in luck, Mr. Jenkins,” said Doctor Barratt, looking at the screen in front of him, “We’ve just had a cancellation and there is a spare bed in Wing 5. I can book you in straight away. Now, what exactly is it that makes you feel unhappy. I mean really unhappy?”