Lawrence scratched at his grey skin absent-mindedly as he finalised his order of DVDs and books from Amazon. He quite fancied Manic Miner for the Xbox, but his thumbs just wouldn’t cope nowadays.
Hell it could be worse, the fact that he had his inheritance fund and the internet made life tolerable since that incident at Glastonbury.
Yet being a stay-at-home-zombie was such a drag.
The door bell dinged, the groceries! Lawrence pulled the burqa over his head. Beyond the front door a pile of bags lurked on his doorstep.
Maybe he’d have a barbecue tonight.
Luke flicked the switch, filling the night sky with fairy lights. His hands were raw, his shoulders aching, yet days spent crisscrossing the road had been worth it. Their neighbors had been supportive, yet he assumed they thought he had gone insane.
The door opened, his wife carrying out their daughter Nikki. She looked so frail, the life that had once made her so vibrant, so unique, slowly disappearing. Like sand in an hourglass.
Wiping away a tear, Luke brushed hair from Nikki’s eyes, whispering in her ear to wake up.
For tonight the stars were shining just for her.
Kate shook the box, an orchestra of percussion serenading the evening. Inside the glow of light from the kitchen offered warmth, yet she couldn’t give up hope.
She shook again. Mum had decided they would go to the RSPCA this weekend, get a new cat. Her Dad had rolled his eyes, declaring that they should call it Voldemort. Kate hadn’t laughed, retreating under her duvet till the tears had stopped.
The thud of paws. Kate squinted into the darkness.
A cat approached, dressed in something grey. A lump of pink hanging from its jaw.
Her heart skipped.
The frantic knocking interrupted Phillipa’s Dr Who marathon. She hit pause, Tom Baker frozen in time. Escape that Time Lord!
The familiar silhouette was at the door. Phillipa opened, forced back as Percy burst in, running upstairs.
Phillipa found him in the bathroom ransacking her medicine cabinet, vials and ointments clattering into the sink.
“Perce? Stop, you’re scaring me!”
No response. Percy was now emptying out the cupboard under the sink. Triumphantly retrieving a wad of sanitary towels.
Phillipa hauled him up, 'Percy, speak. What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?’
He turned, his crimson chin glistening.
The elephant was being unhelpful. Percy was tempted to turn it into a lion, but he had one of those already. He wrestled again with the beast, forcing the frayed trunk, attached by elastic, back to the front of its face.
The elephant hissed, awakening the hippo and tiger that till now, comforted by the warmth of the fire, had ignored their titanic struggle.
The elephant lashed out, drawing blood from Percy’s cheek.
‘Oi! That hurt’
Percy stormed off to the bathroom.
The elephant meandered to the fire, joining his comrades.
Hanging from its collar, a heart, that read Dumbledore.
The writer sat at this desk. New Order serenading his creative process. In front his assembled troops. Trusty notebook, reliable pens, an espresso, chilled water.
He checked his twitter feed, nothing retweeted thus far. Dejected he scribbled onto a post-it note, adhering it onto the screen:
His inner voice whispered. Twitter rejected. Scrivener booted. The black line pulsing, demanding to be driven across whiteness.
A sip of coffee, an intake of breath. His fingers hovered tentatively over keys.
He rearranged his troops once more.
Maybe he should check his email?
Then he would start.
#1 Ebrington Road was the last terraced house before the sign heralding ‘ROAD END’. Damon, resident of #1, didn’t mind the cars that constantly U-turned outside his door, for beyond the sign lay an escape from bills and bank balances.
Briefcase and suit traded for fishing rod and shorts, Damon set off past the sign. A flyer fluttered by on the breeze, “CAT MISSING: BODDINGTON”. Damon pressed on, until the tarmac stopped. The edge of everything.
Beyond lay the darkness of space. Stars twinkling, planets orbiting.
Damon sat down, legs dangling into the silence.
Then he cast his line.
Eleanor flicked the on/off button in frustration. Lying in front of her was a chaotic bricolage of circuit boards, wires and lights. Though the lights kept blinking nothing else had happened.
Sometimes she could be a gullible fool. All she wanted was a good mark for her UCAS applications. The plan she had devised had seemed foolproof:
(1) Set-up Time Machine bought off Ebay with dad’s credit card.
(2) Go to exam. Memorise questions.
(3) At home, jump back to day before exam.
(4) Retake exam. Pass.
Yet she was still here.
Eleanor flicked the on/off button in frustration.
Kate shook her head, rattling the box of dried cat food again. The back yard was bereft of any feline presence no matter what she did.
‘Look I’m sure he’ll be back when you come home from school.’
‘But its been two days mum, Mr Dumbledore has never been away that long. Ever!”
“Well we’re running late for school, so Mr Dumbledore will have to take care of himself. Now go get your shoes.”
Kate sat a little longer, rattling the box, listening out for the tinkle of Mr D’s bell.
Wondering where her best friend had gone.
The little deviant was out there again! From behind his net curtains Norman watched the waif from 77 fiddling with the streetlight. He had a mind to march over, confront him. Yet Jeremy Kyle would be on the telly soon.
He’d write to the council again, or the Daily Mail. Someone had to make a stand, this street was going to the dogs.
Norman retreated to his armchair that over the years had faded like him. The bottle sat on the side table, glass ready.
Norman turned on the television.
A glance at the clock.
Trembling fingers unscrewed the cap.
The scraping of steel on stone disturbed Leo from his sleep. His warm breath blurring the window as he peered down onto next door’s yard. Mr Burgess was digging at the patio again, just in shorts and a vest though it was nearly midnight.
Leo’s mum often complained that Mr Burgess was obsessed with his patio, yet Leo didn’t see the harm.
As he watched Mr Burgess replace a slab over freshly dug earth Leo tapped on the glass. The noise seemed to startle his neighbour, spinning around. Yet when he saw Leo he gave a wave.
Leo waved back.
‘Steve, fancy a cuppa?’
Steve waved away Liz’s offer. She paused, enjoying watching his lithe arms manhandle the paving slab. She had told him not too worry, yet Steve had decided that the patio needed relaying again.
Liz smiled to herself, whatever her mother thought, the one thing her husband couldn’t be accused of was settling for second best.
‘Actually, get us a beer’
Back in the kitchen, she noticed in the mirror that her hair was hanging down again. Liz tucked the rebellious lock behind her ear.
She had learnt early on that Steve liked everything in its place.
He’s been at it again, the dole sucking parasite in 13A. This time 2AM!! A horrendous racket, some “world music” made up of incoherent shrieks and wailings. I think he was burning rubbish, or doing drugs, because the stench rising up the stairs made me gag.
I almost went and asked him to be quiet. But after our altercation over his bicycle in the hallway it seemed best to just hide under my pillow.
Anyway, enough is enough! Time to draw a line in the sand and inform the police.
What’s the worst that could happen?
‘So what do ye call this?’
Phil looked up, his wife's shaking hand holding a card daubed with a red heart.
He shrugged, ‘Valentine’s card?’
‘From one of your skanky whores. You promised me ye’d stop slagging around …’, Phil ducked as the card hurtled towards him.
‘Babe, darling ... I promise … this has nowt to do with me.’
‘What like all the other ‘accidents’ were just slips of the cock. When I get back from work ye'd better be gone.’
The door slammed, Phil retrieved the card.
Fingers crossed the barmaid from the Red Lion had sent it.
The scratching from under his bedsit floor awoke Max from his nap. The world bathed in orange from the streetlight outside.
Fuck they're back!
Max moved swiftly, shoving the bed against the wall, barricading the door with the bookcase. He grabbed the glass jar. Splashing chicken blood over the threadbare carpet, drawing a circle in crimson.
The last drops, Max lit the candles, muttering incantations of protection as he worked.
The scratching was gathering intensity; they’d be through any moment.
Max settled in the circle, a whiskey and cigarette, mentally preparing himself.
It was time to save the world again.
A mug of Earl Grey, The Smiths serenading through her headphones, Tabitha’s plan was finally reaching fruition. She flexed her fingers, the ache of holding the glue stick temporarily alleviated. Laid out on the table in front of her were rows of freshly bonded red hearts on white card.
A quick glance up: 05:12. Just a few more and she would be ready.
The clock read 5:32 when Tabitha finally stepped outside into the cold weakening darkness. She adjusted the bag strap on her shoulder, inside enough Valentines for every house on the street.
Time to go create some mystery.
Peeling icons stare down as he writhes on his bed. The sheets transformed into pythons, ensnaring his body; whilst the monkey on his back demands sustenance.
Yet until they leave he daren't move. He had made promises, assurances.
The front door slams, parents off to work. Seconds later and he’s descending the stairs, past a young boy posing on a beach, climbing a tree, riding a donkey.
Outside the car is gone. Hungry fingers claw at the base of the lamppost, retrieving his shooting kit, wrapped in a dirty plastic bag.
He retreats back inside, the monkey giggling.
Her duster gently admonishes the dust that lingers amidst the photographs on the sideboard. She knows she need not bother, who’d care?
Sometimes she’s tempted to let the dust just build up till she drowns within a sea of grime.
Pausing for a moment she reflects on the frozen wraiths that stare mutely back at her. She had been young once, a red lipped femme fatale. Now these monochrome spectres just remind her of the cruelty of recollection, of her prison forged by treacherous flesh.
The girl who would dance the night away, reduced to making dust twirl in sunlight.