Tag Archives: sci fi

The Night-Watchman

“Oh no, you don’t, sunshine.  Stop right there!”

At the sound of the night-watchman’s voice, the slender figure in black raised its hands.  The beam of light from the night-watchman’s torch danced around the scene.  At first glance, everything seemed to be intact – then how had the bugger got in?

High above the intruder’s head, a skylight was ajar, letting in the chilly night air.  A rope ladder dangled like a broken pendulum.

“Don’t you bloody move!” the night-watchman threatened.  He sidled to a nearby control board, twisted a key and pressed a red button until it turned green.  The skylight whirred and clanked into place.  “Right, sunshine,” the night-watchman shone the full beam of his flashlight into the intruder’s face.  Only the eyes, blue and squinting, were visible; the rest was covered by the coarse wool of a balaclava.  “What the hell do you think you’re playing at?”

“Three guesses, grandad.”

A young woman’s voice.  The night-watchman chuckled.  “You’re from the university, aren’t you?”

“Might be.”

“You kids and your idealistic nonsense.  Animal liberation, is it?”

The intruder didn’t reply.

“Look, love, you’re barking – up the wrong tree, I mean.”

“I’m not your love!”

“You should be so lucky!” the night-watchman laughed.  The young woman gasped, aghast.  “What I’m saying is, you’ve got it wrong.  There are no animals here.  Not even a mouse.  This is a strictly controlled environment.  Air quality, temperature, light – well, it was until you forced your way in.”

The young woman jutted her chin in defiance.  “Don’t feed me your lies, grandad.”

“Now you’re being ageist!” the night-watchman interjected with a look of faux offence.

“I’m sorry,” the intruder faltered.  “But I don’t believe you.  Everyone knows what goes on in here.”

“Do they?”

“Yes!”

“Are you sure about that, lo –  I mean, are you?”

“Well, it’s wrong, isn’t it?  Everybody knows that.”

“Wrong?  Wanting to feed people is wrong?  I may only be a part-time security bloke but even I know there’s a food crisis going on.  I don’t claim to know all the science behind it but it seems to me the boffins here are heroes.”

“Bah!” the intruder crossed her arms.

“No, hear me out.  They’ve come up with a way to provide meat for everyone on the planet.  Healthy, sustainable meat that doesn’t decimate the rainforests and – this is for all you bleeding hearts – doesn’t involve the harming of a single living creature.  Now, you tell me what’s wrong with that?”

The young woman opened her mouth, stretching the fabric of her disguise, but she couldn’t reply.

“That there,” the night-watchman directed his torchlight at her boots, “That tank you’re standing on fills this entire enclosure.  It’s the width and breadth and depth of a swimming pool and it’s full of ethical protein – or will be, when it finishes growing.”

The young woman looked down.  She was standing on one of the narrow metal walkways that crisscrossed the tank.  A pink substance, glowing faintly, pulsated beneath the clouded Perspex.

“It’s wrong!” she persisted.  “It’s Frankenstein food!”

“Think of it, love!  World hunger solved!  Deforestation halted!  Factory farming a thing of the past!”

The young woman put a hand to her brow and shook her head.

“Come on, love,” the night-watchman held out his hand.  “In the spirit of compassion, I’m going to let you go.  I’ll take you to the way out and no harm done, eh?”

“I –” the young woman’s knees buckled.  The night-watchman rushed to catch her.  He steadied her on her feet and helped her along the walkway.

“You’re bleeding,” he observed, as red drops landed on his hand.  “Must have cut yourself when you forced that skylight.”

“I’m – sorry –” the young woman sounded dazed.

“You just be sure to tell your friends at that university not to trouble us again, OK?  You can do that for me, can’t you?  And let that be an end to it.”

The young woman nodded weakly.  The night-watchman took her through an airlock and the car park beyond.

“Releasing you back into the wild, love,” he laughed.  “Off you go!”

“Sorry,” the young girl was downcast.  She shuffled away.  When she was some distance from the compound, she straightened and laughed to herself.  Job done!

The night-watchman returned to his office and put the kettle on.  Kids, eh?  They mean well but they should do their homework first.

On the bottom right screen of a bank of monitors, unnoticed by the security guard, the intruder’s blood seeped through a tiny crack in the Perspex.  Beneath the lid, the pink mass darkened and trembled.

And an appetite for human blood was born.

torch

 

 

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Shelley and the Professor

“Open up, Professor!” Shelley hammered on the laboratory door.  “Please!”  Her words trailed off into a mixture of sobs and screams.

Professor Snark paused his frantic calculations on the chalk board.  He listened.  The fool of a girl was making a lot of noise; it could only attract them, and now was not the time.  He wasn’t ready.

He strode across the floor, littered with papers hastily tossed aside, wrenched the door open and yanked the girl inside by the sleeve of her tight-fitting sweater.  He threw her to the floor and slammed the door.  He shoved a hefty workbench against the door.

“Quiet, you silly goose,” he spat.  “Do you want to bring them straight to us?”

Shelley whimpered and thrust her wrist into her mouth.  Mascara streaked her face, like a watercolour raccoon.

Snark returned to his calculations, muttering to himself.

“Can you do it, Professor?” Shelley whispered.  “Can you reverse the effects?”

Snark ran his hands through his unruly hair, making it wilder still.  “I – I have no idea if this will work but we have to try.  To the roof!”

“No!” Shelley clung to a lab stool.  “I won’t!”

Snark seized her roughly by the elbow.  “Now, listen, you idiot.  This is bigger than you, bigger than me.  Bigger than the both of us.  The future of the entire world is at stake.”  He pulled her to her feet.  Shelley struggled to stay upright on her nine-inch heels.

The professor dragged her to the staircase.  Shelley resisted all the way, gasping and squeaking, but the professor was relentless.  He kicked open the door to the rooftop.  The sky was darkening as foreboding clouds congregated overhead.

“No!  No!” Shelley clung to the doorframe – and fingernails be damned!  “I won’t do it!  You can’t make me.”

Snark wrested her free.  “Get dressed, you moronic girl!  And get gyrating!”

He thrust a large plastic bag at the weeping young woman.  Lightning cracked, startling them both.

Shelley sniffed and resigned herself to her role in saving the world.  She took the costume from the bag and stepped into it, one foot at a time.  She thrust her arms into the sleeves and the professor assisted with the zipper at the back.  He handed her the headpiece – an ovoid helmet-type piece with antenna.  The bulbous, compound eyes were trimmed with long lashes.

“One last touch,” the professor pulled out a lipstick and applied it to the costume’s mouth.

Just a couple of blocks away, buildings were tumbling as the giant ants continued their rampage through the city.

“Now, dance, girl!  Dance as though your life depends on it!  Get those buggers within range and I’ll zap them with the shrink ray.”

Shelley waddled to the edge of the roof and steeled herself.  Either this would work or she’d be carried off to the monsters’ radioactive nest in the desert.

“Five, six, seven, eight!”

empire_of_the_ants1

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The Man in the Spotted Tie

“Yes?” Mrs Fliss opened the door and frowned at the man on her doorstep.  He was holding a key and scowling at it.

“Sorry, darling,” he said.  “My key doesn’t seem to work.”

“Why should it?  Look, whatever it is you’re selling, I’m not interested.”  Mrs Fliss tried to close the door but, laughing the man, pushed his way in.  His puckered lips aimed for her cheek but she dodged them just in time.

“I’ve always loved you for your sense of humour,” the man laughed.  He dropped his briefcase at the foot of the stairs and, loosening his spotted tie, headed for the living room.

“Excuse me!” Mrs Fliss scuttled after him.  “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

The man was on the sofa, kicking off his shoes.  “What’s it look like I’m doing?”

“It looks like you’re making yourself at home on my sofa; that’s what it looks like.”

“No flies on you, Susan.”

Mrs Fliss bristled.  “How did you know my name?”

“Any tea going?” the man sat back.  He aimed the remote at the television.

“Get out of my house,” Mrs Fliss growled.  “Or I’m calling the police.”

The man turned up the volume.  On screen, a green triangle moved along a row of rectangles.

Then, he pressed ‘mute’ and a graphic showing a loudspeaker with a line through it appeared.

“Oh, god.  I’m so sorry.  It’s happened again, hasn’t it?”  He fumbled his shoes back on and hurried from the house.  He left the front door open behind him and ran down the path.

By the time Mrs Fliss got to the doorstep, he was gone.  She closed the door.  It was only then she realised he had left behind his briefcase.

“Oh,” she said.  She stood looking at it, chewing her lip, and deciding what to do.  Perhaps there would be something in it that said who he was.  Perhaps she’d be able to phone him to tell him he’d left it…

The briefcase was stuffed with files.  Mrs Fliss looked at the first page of the first folder:

ROBERT FLISS – Slipping between universes, a scientific proposal.

She flicked through the papers and could make neither head nor tail of the diagrams and endlessly complex mathematical calculations.  She was still poring over the folders when a key turned in the lock and her husband let himself in.

“Hello, darling,” he said, loosening his spotted tie.  “I’m home.”

tie

 

 

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Made To Order

“You’re home early,” a rather startled-looking Adrian pulled the sheet up to his neck.  In the doorway, Joe glanced around the room.  He dropped his briefcase and tugged at his tie.

“Afternoon off,” he said.  “I told you.”

“Did you?”  Adrian was nervous.  Joe approached the bed – their bed.  He perched on the corner.

“You’re in bed early; not well, baby?” Joe reached to feel Adrian’s forehead.  Adrian recoiled.

“I needed a lie-down.  I’m not feeling the best.”

Joe squeezed his knee.  “I’ll order in.  A slap-up Chinese will sort you out.”

“Or finish me off,” Adrian attempted a smile.  Joe leaned in and pecked his cheek.

“Menus in the drawer?”

“You say the sweetest things.”

Adrian watched Joe leave the room.  He heard him pad down the stairs and rummage in the kitchen.  While his husband made the call, Adrian crept from the bed, the sheet cinched around his waist, and opened the wardrobe door.

“He didn’t suspect a thing,” he told the figure standing within.

“Good,” came the whispered reply.

“I don’t know how you stand it,” said Adrian.  “Just the thought of him, touching me, pawing me… never mind anything else.”

“Well, I don’t have to anymore,” the figure emerged from behind the hanging shirts.  “That’s your problem now.  And you must obey me.”

Adrian groaned.  “Do I have to?”

The man, dressed in a suit, pulled out a device and waved it at Adrian’s head.  “A few more adjustments.  Joe won’t know the difference.”

Tears welled in Adrian’s eyes.  “How can you do it?  How can you leave me?  You go to all the trouble of making me and then you abandon me.  Why?”

“Why?” Adrian – the real Adrian – dusted off the shoulders of his jacket and looked at his clone with pity.  “That’s the eternal question.”

“Please!” the clone tugged at his maker’s sleeve.  Adrian brandished the device.  The clone adopted a vacant expression.

“You’d better get back in bed,” Adrian instructed.  “I’m going to sneak out the back way.  In an hour I’ll be at the airport on my way to a new life where I can conduct my research without hindrance.  Just keep Joe distracted long enough for me to clear out our bank account and please, try not to get black bean sauce on those sheets.  They’re Egyptian.”

takeaway

 

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Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away

“It’s no good, Dirk! We’ve lost power to the starboard plasma jets.”

“Keep trying, Blue!” Dirk urged. “Memo to self: gotta steal a better class of warp-rider next time.”

He left Blue to repair the damage and plotted a course to the nearest wormhole for the Omega Sector. It was too many parsecs away; they wouldn’t get there in time to interrupt the Tribunal and rescue Duchess Omipalone from execution. Without the Duchess, he wouldn’t get the backing of the Infidel Forces, and without them on side, there would be no stopping the Great Boss from taking over Everything.

He punched in the coordinates again, hoping to spot a flaw in his calculations. They were down to their last beryllium crystal… but then, without the starboard plasmas, they wouldn’t need two. It would be pushing this rust bucket of a ship to it limits but…

Oh, fuck it. He sat back. What am I doing with my life? Why does it fall to me to save the bloody universe? I’m a nobody, a jumped-up car thief with a bad attitude and halitosis. Why should I care?

“Starboard plasmas back online,” Blue stood at his elbow. He even saluted, with three of his arms.

“I’m not bothered,” said Dirk. “Sit down. Have a beer.”

“But – the Duchess!”

“Let her get her own beer; she can afford it.”

“She’ll be dessicated!”

“Oh well. Can’t be helped. I’ve never liked her anyway.”

“But, Dirk! Captain!”

“Don’t Captain me. Now, sit down and have a beer. That’s an order.”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

Blue crouched over a stool and accepted a cylinder of Hongoolian bitter.

“Now,” Dirk rubbed the stubble on his chin. “How about a game of dominoes?”

“If you promise not to cheat this time.”

“How dare you! I do not cheat. I’ve never heard such insubordination –”

An incoming message flickered onto the view-screen. Amid the snow and interference Dirk and Blue could just about make out the triangular hairdo of the Duchess.

“…are you receiving me? Dirk! I have escaped from Oblongata Prime. Rendezvous with the fleet at – Dirk? Are you there?” The shadowy figure leant closer to the camera. “Are you drinking? You’d better not be drinking, young man.”

Dirk flicked a switch and the screen went blank. “Oops.”

Blue was aghast. His chins wobbled. Dirk tossed him another cylinder.

“You know,” he said, with a dismissive gesture at the view-screen and the universe beyond, “it’s best not to get involved. Other people will try to suck you in to their problems. Who needs it? Am I right? I am.”

Blue tugged at the fastening on the cylinder and peered at the golden liquid within.

“I mean, we’re all going to die anyway,” Dirk continued, “so what’s the point?”

Blue looked at the Captain, the human he had sworn to follow across the galaxies until the end of time. The man had a point. Blue raised the beer high.

“Cheers,” he said.

blue

 

 

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All Mod Cons

Having flicked through five hundred channels, Arlo tossed the remote onto the sofa. He hooked his earphones on and pressed ‘shuffle’. He wasn’t too thrilled with the player’s first random selection so he pressed ‘skip’ a few times until he found a song he could tolerate. He stood on a pad and hovered to the kitchen. The ice-maker had a cool drink waiting and the oven was flashing a question “What time’s dinner?” but he couldn’t be bothered to tell it. He might summon pizza or something from an app instead.

He checked his messages on all platforms, clicking the little heart icon underneath several photographs without looking at them properly. A couple of people were saying Hi. He said Hi back. He’d check again tomorrow to see how they responded to that one.

He floated back to the living room, hopped off the hover pad and dropped onto the sofa. A quick touch of the dial adjusted the cushions, plumping them up and cooling the temperature for optimum comfort. He switched to games mode and selected an interactive shoot-’em-up set in an abandoned city. There was only a couple of other players logged in, neither of whose handles Arlo recognised. He shot a few prostitutes and smashed a car into a shop window before disconnecting, bored to death.

He activated the pizza delivery app but couldn’t decide on toppings. “Drones are standing by” the app informed him in bright colours. Drones who would bring him mushroom, pineapple and garlic – whatever his heart desired on a pizza.

He decided he wasn’t hungry after all and undressed for a sonic shower. Invisible pulses cleaned his skin. You couldn’t feel them working but somehow you felt fresher afterwards. Renewed. He lay on his bed for a vibro-massage, scrolling through his tablet for something to read, but nothing held his attention. He couldn’t remember the last time he had found a clip of a kitten falling off a skateboard even vaguely amusing.

Which reminded him. He opened the app and ‘fed’ his cyber-pet, an amorphous creature that changed colour according to mood and physical condition. The thing purred and hooted with pleasure, rubbing itself against the other side of the screen. Arlo tickled the glass absently.

He asked the wardrobe to pick out a clean outfit for the evening. The scanners assessed his temperament and put together items of black clothing. “Very funny,” Arlo scowled.

An unfamiliar chiming rang out. Arlo checked all the devices in his bedroom. He hopped onto a pad and glided from room to room but he could not locate the source of the chimes.

Eventually, it stopped. Arlo went to bed for an immersive experience with a couple of holographic women.

Walking away from the house, Arlo’s mother took one last sad look back. He never calls, her shoulders slumped, and he never seems to be at home. He must be having the time of his life; my boy, out there in the world.

remotehome-md

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ALL THE FEELS

R4769 trundled along the thoroughfare. He was in a rut – and not just the literal, electrified one that powered his castors. Every day the same routine, the same tasks, the same files accessed by his processor.

He was joined at an intersection by F8223 and they bleeped at each other in greeting. They had known each other for years, had travelled through Robo-City along this same groove and had developed a kind of compatibility that went beyond docking USBs.

They conversed in unspoken messages, data appearing in each other’s circuits.

HOW ARE YOU

SAME OLD SAME OLD

DITTO

WHAT YOU GONNA DO

They travelled like this until their ways parted. F8223 worked at the Admin Centre, processing digital information. R4769 was an assembler, putting together upgraded versions of himself and sending them off to be programmed. They arranged to meet after their shift at Oiler’s Bar for a swift lubrication.

With each new model he put together, R4769 believed he was closer to the scrap heap. I am fabricating myself into redundancy and obsolescence, he thought.

He turned a corner and tried not to see the heap of dented, scarred and scratched components at the side of the road.

SPARE A DIODE

R4679 ignored the plea, keeping his photo-detecting sensors fixed firmly ahead.

SPARE A DIODE. WILL FIND WORK AGAIN IF I CAN GET THE DIODES

R4679 kept going. He even sped up a little.

His shift passed slowly. Hours of mindless, monotonous labour. It seemed as though he’d never get to Oiler’s, never be able to unwind with F8223.

On his way to the bar he stopped off at the automated teller. He plugged himself into the keypad and a window opened. In her box, the human operator woke up.

“What can I do for you today?” she asked, in a pleasant sing-song voice.

ALL THE FEELS said R4679. GOT A BIG NIGHT OUT PLANNED.

“Of course,” said the human.

And as the Robot drained her of emotions, her eyes rolled back in her head.

robot

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Baby Makes Three

“It’s me!  Open up!”

Cassie’s hand hesitated over the lock.  The image on the CCTV monitor was clear but in that protective clothing, the caller could have been anyone.

“Cassie!  I can’t be sure I wasn’t followed.  Let me in.”  The caller waited a few seconds before adding, “Cassie-Wassie-piddly-poo.”

Cassie hit the lock.  No one but Aidan would call her that.  While the locks turned and slid, she pressed the intercom and called him a pig.  “What if the neighbours heard you?  Calling me that!”

He reminded her there were no neighbours.  As far as he could tell, they were alone for a couple of blocks at least.  Alone in the penthouse flat they had commandeered when it had become clear that the outbreak was out of control and that civilisation – and humanity too, most probably – was facing its end game.

And losing it.

While Aidan went through the decontamination ritual, Cassie tried to appease Wendy who was grizzling in that persistent way she always did when she was hungry.  Which was most of the time.  Cassie cooed and tried to distract the child by wiggling her fingers like a puppet.  Wendy looked at this poorly executed entertainment with disdain and resumed her snivelling.

I’m nineteen, thought Cassie.  I shouldn’t be holed up in here with someone else’s baby.  I should be out in the world, off on adventures and making something of myself.

Ah, yes: the world.  As far as she and Aidan knew, that was gone too.

Aidan, looking raw and damp from the cleansing, placed two cartons of baby formula on a chair.  “That’s the last of it.  At least in this district.”

“That won’t last a week,” said Cassie.  She glanced at the boxes with the happy, gurgling infant on the front and wondered where he was now.  “You’ll have to try harder.”

“Damn it, Cassie.  You think I just stroll down to the corner shop.  Geez; if you knew –”

“If I knew what?”

She looked at him properly then, searching his bare chest and arms for abrasions.

“There were a couple of – guys.  No big deal.  I distracted them by chucking half a brick in the opposite direction.”  He chuckled but it was mirthless.  “Those guys sure are dumb.”

“Turn around.”

“There’s not a mark on me.”

“Turn around!”

Grumbling, he obeyed.  “See!  Not a scratch.  You did a good job of patching up the suit.”

Cassie didn’t seem convinced.  Aidan remembered something.  He picked up the trousers of his protective suit and pulled something from the pocket.

“Look; I found this.”

Cassie recoiled from the filthy square of newspaper he unfolded in front of her.  “I can’t believe you brought something so dirty, so… contaminated in here.”

“No, no; it’s okay.”  He pointed at some print that wasn’t smudged or stained.  “This must have been the last edition they put out before… Anyway, it says here that the scientists believe the plague is airborne.  You can only catch it if it gets in your body from a cough or a sneeze.  Once it lands, it dies.  They recommend avoiding contact with strangers – all strangers – and – Well, that’s all I can read.”

“All the more reason for us to stay here.  You said there’s no one else for blocks around.”

“Except those guys…”

She ignored him.  “We’re all right here.  The three of us.  You, me and Wendy makes three.”  She played with the baby’s toes to make her giggle.

“I don’t know, Cass,” Aidan rubbed the back of his neck.  “Perhaps her mother is still out there, looking for her.”

“No!”

“You shouldn’t have just taken her like that, Cass.  It’s kidnapping!”

Cassie gave a hollow laugh.  “So, lock me up.”

“She’ll slow us down.  When she cries, it’s too loud.  Those guys will hear her.  They’ll find us.”

“Wendy’s a good girl; aren’t you, baby?”  Cassie spoke in silly singsong.  Wendy was unimpressed.

“Listen,” Aidan cleared his throat.  “I’ve told you, we can’t stay here.  We should head out to the country.  We can grow our own food.”

“You’re dreaming!”

“You don’t know what it’s like out there.  It’s all gone.”

“You’ll find something.”

“No.  No, Cass; I’m leaving.  Right now.  You can either come with me or stay here and play Happy Families with the baby.”

He stepped into the protective trousers and pulled them up to his waist.

“No!”  Cassie threw herself at him, beating at his chest with her fists.  “You can’t leave us!  You can’t!”

He held her wrists until her anger subsided.

“Come with me, Cassie-Wassie-piddly-poo,” he whispered.  “Baby makes three.”

“Oh, Aidan,” Cassie sobbed, resting her head against his collarbone.

Behind them, in her makeshift cot, Wendy’s button nose wrinkled.

She sneezed.

baby-silhouette-md

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Back in the Saddle

Last year when I wrote VULTURES’ MOON, I didn’t anticipate it turning into a series. (But then, I said that about what turned out to be the first Brough and Miller investigation, BLOOD & BREAKFAST – and I’m currently writing the sixth one of them).

I’d wanted to write a Western and, having done my research on the ‘rules’ of the genre, I began. However, my imagination had other ideas. As soon as I wrote the first line, I knew this was going to be something different. I went with it, and my sci-fi western was born. Now, returning to the setting twelve months later, I found it easier to write – the world had already been created; it was just a matter (‘just’!!) of coming up with a new adventure for my main characters Jed and his marvellous Horse.

The new storyline allowed me to reinforce what I’d established in the first book and to introduce new ideas and new characters, but I was determined to keep it very much the same flavour as the first. And so, Jed is present in every scene. There is no bad language. No one has sex – Westerns are very moralistic. But there are also science fiction and fantasy elements blended in.

I decided that both books should end with the same words – much like Christopher Reeve always used to sign off his Superman films by orbiting the Earth and grinning at the camera, my heroes fly away “like a shooting star”.

As far as titles go, it amused me to follow the original Planet of the Apes series of films. And so, in homage to Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the new book is called Under the Vultures’ Moon. If there is a third – and there most probably will be – it will be Escape from Vultures’ Moon… After that, well, we’ll see.

UNDER THE VULTURES’ MOON is available now!

under the v m

VULTURES’ MOON is  also available

 

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FlatMan

Reid Reilly had locked himself out. He checked there was no one else in the hall, no one else to see. He morphed his fingers into the dimensions of a credit card and jemmied the lock. No one must know he is FlatMan.

With relief, he closed the door behind him, glad to be home away from all the clamour and attention. The civic reception in FlatMan’s honour had gone very well. The Mayor had awarded him the key to the city. The crowd had gone wild when their very own superhero had made his entrance, peeling himself away from a poster. How they’d roared! How they’d cheered! The Mayor’s speech was a peon of praise and gratitude, thanking FlatMan for saving all those lives, yet again – on this most recent occasion from Fire-Breath and Blasto, thwarting their explosive endeavours by making himself a giant blanket and stifling the villains’ fires. Now in asbestos cells, those two faced a long stretch before they could hold another orphanage to ransom.

Reid Reilly poured himself a drink of water – carbonated not still – and raised a toast to his alter-ego. He’d always wanted to be a cop but had failed the medical on account of his flat feet. Now, as a self-employed vigilante he had the admiration of an entire city and the adulation of all its children.

“Tell us, FlatMan,” the Mayor had shaken his hand, “What will you do with this award, the latest in a long line of many?”

“Oh,” FlatMan had shrugged, “I’ll put it with the others. In my flat!”

The crowd laughed and whooped; that joke never fell flat.

Representatives of the press hurled questions about his private life but the Mayor told them that was wholly inappropriate. Wasn’t it enough that the man had saved the day? Didn’t he deserve some privacy?

“What about Bubble-Girl?” asked one reporter who would not be put off. “Didn’t you two have a thing at one time?”

Ah, Bubble-Girl… Reid Reilly raised his glass again. They had flirted a little when he’d apprehended her in the act of robbing a jewellery store and he’d enjoyed wrapping himself around her curvaceous, lycra-clad figure until the police arrived.

FlatMan looked the reporter in the eye. “No,” he said flatly.

Then he folded himself like a paper aeroplane and leapt from the podium. He soared over the heads of the crowd before rising on an air current and flying up, up and away.

Now, in his flat, with his flat-pack furniture and flat-screen TV, Reid Reilly found the bubbles had gone out of his drink. When you’re not doing what you’re good at, he thought, when you’re not doing what you love, life is, well, rather flat.

hero

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