Life

Nine hours I spent at work that day. Another two in the pub with colleagues after. It took me twenty minutes to walk home, and a further thirty seconds to find my key and unlock the front door.

But it took just ten seconds for my entire life to change. That’s how long I spent standing in the living room doorway.

As I stood there, frozen, staring down at the floor, I knew the life I had known was over. In those ten seconds, my whole life changed forever.

The doctors tell me my wife’s changed in even less than that.

Sin – Friday Flash

SIN

John was sick of it all. His job, his neighbourhood, his life. He wanted out.

“Have you taken it?” Sandra, his wife, asked as he made his way from the kitchen. She wanted out too. He nodded and passed her the poison-laced cocktail.

She gulped it down; the glass instantly dropping to the floor. Falling into his arms, she wept.

“I love you,” she whispered.

“Goodbye, dear,” he whispered back.

As Sandra’s life slowly drifted away, John rested her body on the sofa. A smile stretched across his face: he hadn’t taken anything.

Free, he thought. Free at last.

Flash Flash Fiction

Inspiration struck yesterday after seeing a tweet from one of the followers, John Xero (@xeroverse). At his site, 101fiction, he posts a weekly piece of Flash Fiction. But, instead of aiming to create a story in around 1000 words, he aims to do it in, you guessed it, 101. The story I read was brilliant. It’s such a great idea and it immediately fascinated me. I strongly suggest that, once you have read below, use the link in this article to visit John’s site and check out all of his stories. You’ll enjoy them, I’m sure.

And so, here’s my attempt at a short story in exactly 101 words. I’ll steal John’s intro from his site (it seems fitting to do so), and the story will follow. Enjoy!

One word of title. One hundred words of story. Flash fiction by John Xero Jack Holt.

SIN

John was sick of it all. His job, his neighbourhood, his life. He wanted out.

“Have you taken it?” Sandra, his wife, asked as he made his way from the kitchen. She wanted out too. He nodded and passed her the poison-laced cocktail.

She gulped it down; the glass instantly dropping to the floor. Falling into his arms, she wept.

“I love you,” she whispered.

“Goodbye, dear,” he whispered back.

As Sandra’s life slowly drifted away, John rested her body on the sofa. A smile stretched across his face: he hadn’t taken anything.

Free, he thought. Free at last.

Ten Minutes

Hello all!

It’s been a week since my last post, as I’ve tweaked this next story a few times.  I let the inital version ‘stew’ for a few days and when I revisited it I felt it needed a slight change.  I hope you enjoy the final outcome.

Before I post the story, I feel it necessary to point you in the following direction: http://www.splitworlds.com/stories/

Emma Newman is an author I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with on Twitter (@EmApocalyptic) and I’ve really enjoyed reading her short stories.  Her Split Worlds tales provided the inspiration for what you are about to read, so may I (stubbornly) recommend that, once you are finished here, you go and give the above site a little peruse.

Anyway, here’s this week’s story.  As always, I’d love it if you could leave me a small comment below, or send me a tweet with your thoughts.

Thanks!

Ten Minutes

As the bus pulled up to the stop, Peter looked down and checked his watch: 11:01am, it read.  He’d be late again.  Stepping to one side before she had even summoned the strength to stand up, he allowed the fragile old lady to enter first.  The driver gave him a cheery welcome and took his fare, just as he had done many times before.  And just like the many times Peter had used this bus before, the same old people sat in the same old seats.  He was used to it all by now.

Here we go again, he thought.

He took his usual seat near the back, just tucked away on the left hand side.  He liked being able to have a look around and observe all of the little things happening on the bus, without being seen himself.  He was in his own little world, looking out at the real one.

Sat on the opposite side of the bus, at around two o’clock, was a beautiful, petite brunette, who he had admired many times before.  He knew her name was Kate, but he wouldn’t introduce himself using this knowledge, as he knew she would not remember him.  Being so close to her, but being unable to speak, pained him.  But this was not their time, something he had very little of anyway.

And so he shifted his gaze away from Kate and towards the front of the bus.  As the bus made its way down the always busy and heavily-populated Frogmoor St, Peter reached forward and gripped the bar in front of him.  As the front wheel on the driver’s side dipped down into a small pothole, a collective, audible gasp echoed out around the bus.  There were a lot of shocked passengers.

“Sorry, folks!” the driver shouted.

Slouching back down into his seat, Peter turned and stared out of the window, down the road towards the next stop.  As the bus slowly pulled up, Peter could make out the faces of people he had seen many times before.  The old Indian lady with her basket of fresh fruit and veg, the two young boys who he felt for sure should be in school, the wearied mother and her two small children, and the ragged-looking middle-aged man carrying a laptop and tripod.  As the varied group of people took their turns finding a seat, the driver prepared to pull away.  But Peter’s gaze remained out of the window.

Five, four, three, two-, he counted down.

As his mind hit ‘one’, a man raced out of the building adjacent to the bus stop.  The man dived towards the bus and forced open the door. Panicked, the driver left his seat and attempted to stop the man.  As he lurched forward, the man reached inside his jacket, where, nestled inside his belt, was a small firearm.

“Back at the wheel!” he shouted.

The driver froze.  He was reaching his twilight years and this was too much for him to take in.  Peter knew that John, the driver, had only taken this job as he needed the money to pay his mortgage.  He had reached retirement age but couldn’t afford the house he lived in after his wife had passed away.  He needed the money and the bus followed a simple enough route, which is what he was after.  A nice, simple day’s work, is how he had once described it.  Not today.

Stumbling back into his driver’s seat, John lent forward and rested himself on his steering wheel, the large style that only vehicles of a certain size seem to use.

“Drive!” the man ordered John, forcing the butt of the gun into his temple.

The bus screeched away from the stop, at a speed most of its inhabitants had never felt from the vehicle before, John included.  But Peter had, and he knew what would happen if this kept up.

Keep it steady, John.

The old Indian women began to scream; gripping tightly to their mother, the two children opposite her quickly followed.  The man pulled the gun away from John’s head and approached the old women.  Pointing the gun at her chest, he spoke softly:

“Do that again, and I will pull this trigger. Do you understand?”

The woman nodded.  The only noise left filling the bus was that of the children, their sobs and cries.  The rest of the passengers were in a state of shock, all except Peter.  He watched on as the man sat next to the two children, whispering something to them.  Again, Peter could not make out what the man had said, but whatever it was, it worked.  The children soon stopped crying.  He rose from his seat and moved in front of Kate, blocking her from the man’s view.

“Steven, please, stop,” Peter called.

Steven shot up from his seat and stared Peter right in the eyes.  He was shocked to hear his name spoken so recognisably.  Instinctively, he again raised his gun, pointing it towards his perceived aggressor.

“What did you say?” he asked, clearly agitated.

“Listen, I know about what happened. Please, just relax,” Peter replied.

And he did know, too.  Steven had once told him all about it.  He had spoken of the argument he had with his girlfriend, of his pushing her away in anger, of the bag she had tripped on which sent her tumbling down the flight of stairs outside their apartment, and the fact he was already on probation.  Steven had told him all about it, in a much calmer state than the one he was currently in.  But that conversation seemed a world away now.

“Trouble? What the hell do you know about trouble? How the hell do you know my name!?” Steven shouted back.

Peter’s intervention had Steven more on edge than before, his temper slowly rising.

Shit, this isn’t going very well, he thought.

Kate began shifting nervously behind him.  He reached back with one hand, placing it reassuringly on her shoulder.  He raised his other hand, palm facing forward: a sign that he meant no harm.

“Please, don’t worry about that. Please trust me. I know you don’t want to do this. I know you’re running away from what happened. But it wasn’t your fault. I promise you, I know it wasn’t your fault. Please put the gun away,” Peter reasoned.

But it wasn’t working.  Steven strode back to the front end of the bus, where he could keep all of the passengers, especially Peter, in view.  His gun still raised, he now pointed it at various people, waving it haphazardly.

“You don’t know anything about me. Any of you! There’s no getting out of this now, I know–”

John leapt from his driver’s seat, grabbing Steven around the throat.  Peter watched on helplessly.  As the two men fell to the floor, the sound of a gunshot resonated through the vehicle.  Peter felt his hand behind him being squeezed tightly.  Screams once again filled the air; passengers dived to the floor, seeking cover under their seats, bags, anything they could find.

The bus veered off the road.  The small fence at the road’s edge offered no resistance as it gained speed.  Plunging down the hill on the other side, it began to tumble.  It flipped over.  And then again.  Its passengers were thrown around like rag dolls.  After three full rolls, the bus, now resting on its right hand side, led still.  Those still conscious were in a state of shock.  So much so, not a single of the dazed passengers noticed that Peter had been shot.

In the moments before their death, it is often said that people see their lives flash before their eyes.  All of the meaningful moments in their lives, the good things they have done, all relived before they pass on.

But this did not happen for Peter.  He knew better than that by now.

Glancing to his left, he saw the motionless body of Kate; eyes fixed forward, a trickle of blood seeped from her mouth.  He still remembered the first time this all happened, and the sadness he felt.  He remembered how she tried to fight Steven off and how he had shot her.  She was a fighter alright.  And so was he.  He’d find a way to save her.  Even if he had to do this for an eternity, he’d find a way.  It just wasn’t going to be this time.

Not again, he mourned, as he once more watched Kate’s eyes close for the final time.

Mustering all of the strength he had left, Peter pulled the amulet he had tied around his neck to his lips.  With his dying breath he spoke a short incantation.

A bright white light filled the sky, forcing him to close his eyes tightly.  The light was so intense that he still wasn’t used to it; he wasn’t sure he ever would be.  After a few seconds the light rescinded and Peter reopened his eyes.  He was back at the bus stop.  He pulled up his shirt sleeve and checked his watch: 11:01.  A new plan of action was already being formulated.

This time, he thought.  This time…

The Journey Home

Hey all!

To those who have read ‘The Driver’, I hope you enjoyed it. To those who haven’t: why not! It’s one post previous, no excuses!

And so to this short story. I’m not entirely sure I’m happy with it. I can’t quite put my finger on it, as there are bits I really like, but I think there’s something not quite working. I might just be being too hard on myself, which, if so, I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing.

This blog, if nothing else, will be a place where I can post work and (hopefully!) get some feedback as to what works, what does not, and thus how I can improve as a writer. Therefore, regardless as to what my own personal feelings are, I’ll try to post most of what I write.

I’m certainly not afraid of posting something I’m not sure people will like. If we only ever posted things we thought we perfect, there would never be anything to read!

So, here it is anyway. It’s a short story about a wood, and the people who find themselves in it. Slightly mystical, I guess. I hate giving brief descriptions!

As always, I hope you enjoy.

The Journey Home

The rumbling of thunder woke him. The intense pounding inside his head shook him to life. Jack sat up and surveyed his surroundings. Panning the immediate area did little: the midnight darkness consumed most of that around him; only the vague outline of trees visible. Rain lashed down, hindering attempts to stand up; he reached for a nearby birch to steady himself.

A rumble.

After a few gasps of air he felt composed enough to properly analyse his situation. The last thing he remembered was travelling south down the A38, his best friend Sam sat next to him. Even with their headlights on full beam, the intense darkness of the night made it hard to see too far ahead. He had actually made a point of questioning the unnatural darkness of the night, he recalled. That’s when his next recollection hit him: the women who had entered the road in front of them. Sam had swerved the car to avoid impact.

Another rumble.

If the car had crashed, it had to be near by. Maybe he had been thrown from it? That would certainly explain the boxer currently using the inside of his skull as his personal punch bag. The very thought of it stung him to life; scanning now in all directions showed nothing, however.

A sound.

This time not of rumbling thunder, but something much more human. Jack turned to find the figure of an elderly man not but ten metres away. He was much smaller than Jack, but standing at a little over 5’, this would often be the case for the old man, Jack thought. He didn’t move, unsure what to make of his sudden partner in the dark. The man spoke, winds sweeping in as he did so. The trees all around the two men shook. Jack couldn’t work out what, if anything, had been said. The thunder continued to rumble; rain lashed down more heavily. He slowly approached the man, who now had his full attention. His search for the car, and Sam, had abruptly ended.

“Who are you?,” Jack asked.

The man’s lips moved, but again his words did not meet Jack’s ears. The man pointed at Jack, then ushered him towards the darkness beyond. Without fathoming why, Jack felt the odd impulse, nay necessity, to follow the man. As he began his approach in the direction of the old man’s gesture, another sound stopped him. Not of the thunder or the wind, and not of any other noise a wood such as this could realistically conjure.

It sounded like Sam.

Jack turned in the approximate direction of the sound, but saw nothing. This did not surprise him: the darkness of this night had, if possible, become blacker. His visibility now stood at a little over ten metres. The car could be a matter of feet from where he stood, but he would be unable to see it. He listened intently, hoping for the sound of Sam’s voice to reach him again. It did not come. Jack turned, and followed the man into the black.

“I need to find my friend,” Jack told the man as they walked.

His small, grey-haired head rotated in Jack’s direction and shook from left to right. Despite this, Jack continued to follow him. He still wasn’t quite sure why, but he felt a link to this man, a reason to follow him.

Their progress was suddenly halted. The swirling winds dropped, the branches ceased to shake and a sound echoed out from the beyond. Jack couldn’t quite make out what this voice was saying, but its owner unmistakable. Sam’s voice was not loud enough to be close, but close enough to be heard. Pushing confusion aside, Jack trudged on behind the old man. They soon reached a break in the trees, where the moonlight now provided semi-illumination. Jack could make out the outside of a structure a short distance in front of the two men. He turned to the old man, who had sat himself down on a large, curved rock.

“What now?” Jack asked.

The man again mouthed his answer. Jack made it out this time:

“Home.”

“What do you mean?” he responded, puzzled.

The old man pointed towards the structure and mouthed the word again. Jack found himself acknowledging the gesture, turning in the direction the man required. As he closed upon the structure it soon became apparent it was nothing more than a small shack. The moonlight drenched it in a strange, white aura, not befitting of a building such as this. The stone wall and thatched roof reminded Jack of the outhouse in the grounds of the farm he had grown up in. Almost identical in fact: a truth he was too disorientated to notice. As he reached for the small, wooden door knob, Sam’s voice echoed all around him. Louder this time.

“Jack, Jack!” it called.

Whether it was the wind around him, or the pounding still present in his head, he could not grasp where exactly the voice was coming from. It was all around him and yet nowhere. In his head, yet miles away. The wind whisked the sound away, and again Jack found himself alone. He turned the knob and entered.

* * *

The taste of dirt was indescribable. It filled her entire mouth. Rolling onto her back, Sam spat it out, much landing on her feet. It was then she noticed the blood. Following that was the intense pain originating deep down her throat. She coughed: more blood spewed onto her. It hurt, but at the same time made her feel slightly better. The pain momentarily distracted her from what had happened. As it passed, thoughts quickly returned.

“Jack!” she exclaimed.

Turning around, she realised she had fallen quite a distance. Up a slight embankment above her sat the wreckage of her beloved Ford Ka: it would not be winning any beauty contests now. The driver’s side of the windscreen now had a large hole in it, her exit from the vehicle artistically displayed. Sam dragged herself up the embankment and quickly reached the passenger side door. She ripped it open but found nothing but an empty, glass-covered seat. Panicking, she turned her attention back to the wood. The darkness made it almost impossible to see much past the first few trees, and Jack was nowhere to be found in this direction. An uplifting idea suddenly entered her head; she reached back inside the vehicle and switched on the car’s headlights. They had been left undamaged in the crash and now illuminated much of the wood. Her great idea quickly left her down hearted: even now, Jack was nowhere in sight.

A shimmer.

Over to Sam’s left the light hit an object and reflected back up into the night. It must have fallen from her pocket as she was thrown from the vehicle. She slid back down the embankment as fast as her body would currently allow her. The phone was, surprisingly, in one piece, allowing Sam a momentary moment of hope. As she reached for it, she could have sworn she heard a voice calling her name from deeper inside the wood. The wind seemed to carry it from the night to her ears. As quickly as it she heard it, it was gone. It was then, as she began to dial for help, a sight left her numb. She dropped the phone to the floor; her body quickly followed.

* * *

The other side of the door literally revealed more of the same. Jack found himself back in the wood. A short distance in front of him sat the old man, just as he had been before he entered through the doorway. Jack noticed a difference: the wind had stopped, with the rain now lashing down even more ferociously than before, beating upon his face. Jack made a determined stride towards the old man: he demanded answers. With a steely focus on the grey-locked old man, his attention no longer stretched itself to his precarious surroundings. It was an unwise decision, as the rain-drenched mud quickly betrayed him. His feet flying northwards, Jack once again found himself on the ground. As he looked up, the old man now standing over him, something felt different. He felt weak, unable to right himself. The old man lifted his upper body, resting it against his. Jack looked up at the man, who mouthed the now familiar word:

“Home.”

Defying his small stature and old age, the man raised to his feet with Jack in his arms. He began to walk back into the dense part of the wood, and the darkness. He strode confidently: Jack could not believe this frail old man could carry him like an old rag doll. They seemed to travel for hours. Jack had given up contemplating where they were going and what was going to happen. He completely gave himself to this old man, as if something inside him told him he could be trusted wholeheartedly. Somehow, and he wasn’t sure how, he knew everything was going to be alright.

* * *

Five feet in front of her sat the lifeless body of her friend. Tears already streaming down her face, Sam raced over to Jack’s body.

“Jack, Jack!” she screamed.

She slapped his face and called his name: nothing. Kneeling down on the wet, muddy grass, she attempted resuscitation. It felt weird to her: this was her best friend. She could not be sure she was doing it right either, she had no formal training after all, but it felt correct. Either way, it did nothing. As she lifted her head, his fell. Sliding back across the muddy floor, Sam grabbed her phone. The operator was still on the line, asking frantically what the problem was. Sam’s panicked state made her voice inaudible: her words strangled by the anguish flooding her entire body.

“Don’t worry, Jack,” she said softly, back with her friend and propping his head onto her leg.

And he wouldn’t worry. Not anymore. As Sam dropped her phone to floor, tears streamed even further down her face; a saddening truth engulfed her.

He was dead.

* * *

As the two men continued their journey, Jack could make out something in the distance. The darkness of the wood seemed to recede; a light shone out in front of them. As they neared the light’s origin, the rain completely stopped; the two men were now almost in touching distance of the warm glow. The denseness of the trees broke and a bright clearing soon greeted Jack and his Carrier. In the centre stood a house. Not any house, thought Jack: it was the house of his youth, the building he had grown up in. The old man stood Jack up, planting his feet onto the now lush, warm grass. The sun’s heat now beat down upon his face; it felt good. Jack stumbled, but the old man steadied him. He pointed at the house. Jack acknowledged his companion, something deep inside telling him this was meant to happen; that everything would be OK. The old man smiled, turned, and wandered back into the dark. He was soon gone, just a quickly as he had first appeared. Jack turned, and approached the house. It was exactly as he remembered it, right down to the line of crayon he left on the crème-coloured wall one summer afternoon. As he reached for the door handle, he took one last look behind him. The wood had disappeared. Sunlight and lush green fields surrounded him in all directions. The sound of birds filled the air overhead. As he felt all his stresses and worries exit his body, he smiled. For the first time, in a very long time, he was truly content. He allowed himself one final thought of Sam and the world he was leaving behind. Pushing the door open, Jack felt a sense of comfort and serenity pour out and wash over him.

He was home.

The Driver

Hey guys.

What follows is my first ever attempt at a short story. If you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it, you’re in for a treat. Either way, please feel free to comment below, or tweet me, and let me know what you think.

Enjoy.

The Driver

John stepped onto the train and took the last available seat. The carriage was full; a seat near to the Driver was unavoidable. Cigarette smoke and gangster rap polluted the air. Opposite him, a businessman of some kind shouted down his phone. The doors slammed shut and the carriage pulled away from the platform.

Just another day on the subway.

Shit, this is a bad idea, John thought.

A bead of sweat slithered down his forehead. It was hot in the carriage, but this was not the reason for his clammy skin. As the conductor made his way from the back of the carriage, John shifted in his seat. There was a reason he never sat in such an exposed area. The conductor was old, tired, and often missed people in seats slightly back from the aisle. John was right in the firing line today. Being within touching distance of the Driver made him uneasy, too.

Just stay calm.

The door to the Driver’s cabin slid open; a head peering out from its work area. The Driver’s piercing, black eyes met John’s.

“Morning,” he said, somewhat happily for a Monday morning.

Not wanting to draw any undue attention to himself, John forced his gaze out of the window opposite, following markings on the concrete wall as they raced by.

Just ignore him, keep staring ahead.

“Lovely day for it,” the voice called.

John froze.

Shit, he’s talking to me, isn’t he?

“Um, yeah sure, morning,” John half-heartedly replied, doing his best to nip the conversation in the bud there and then.

“How are you doing today?” the Driver asked.

Jesus Christ, would you just shut the hell up!

“Yeah, not bad,” John answered, setting his gaze back out the window and away from the increasingly unwanted attentions of the Driver.

“How was your weekend, John?”

What the hell, he knows my name? John brushed this thought aside, not wanting to make a scene with the conductor approaching.

The conductor was now perilously close, and John was in no mood to be forced to explain his presence in the carriage.

“Look, no offence, but I’d like to be left alone, if that’s alright with you?” he snapped.

A grin stretched across the Driver’s face.

The conductor checked the ticket of the loud man on the phone opposite John. The sweat on John’s head had reached fever-pitch: it now looked like he had just swilled his face in the sink.

Not too conspicuous, dumbass!

The conductor now stood over John, whose gaze had now switched to an old piece of chewing gum, now squashed and stuck to the carriage floor. He daren’t look up; maybe the conductor would pass him by.

“Ticket, sir?”

John didn’t move, pretending he didn’t hear the question.

“Sir, ticket please?” the conductor asked again.

Realising the burying-his-head-in-the-sand approach was not going to work, John looked up, smiled, and began the search for a ticket he knew did not exist.

“In your own time, Sir,” the conductor said, his condescending tone further aggravating John.

John slowly checked every pocket he had on him, some of them twice.

Just keep it up a bit longer, he might get bored and leave.

The Driver watched on.

“It’s OK, I’ll deal with this,” the Driver said.

The conductor nodded, turned, and made his way back down the train.

John looked up from floor, pulling at his collar: it was getting hot in the carriage now.

“In a bit of bother, aren’t we John?” the Driver asked.

“Look, it’s only a ticket. If it’s such a big deal, I’ll get off at the next stop,” John answered.

“That’s not what I mean. And I certainly don’t want you to get off. Not yet,” the Driver responded.

Shit, what the hell on you on about!

“Now John, there’s no need for that. It’s stuff like that which has you here in the first place”

Shit, did he just hear what I was thinking?

“Yes I did. I know all about you, John-”

John squirmed anxiously in his seat.

“-and what you’ve done.”

“Look, I don’t want any trouble. Just going about my day, that’s all. I’ll get off at the next stop, promise,” said John, panicking now, shifting further back in his chair.

A grin returned to the Driver’s face. John’s gaze now shifted from left to right, up and down. Anywhere but the Driver’s eyes. He didn’t know here to look, what to do. He was trapped in this carriage until the train stopped. The Driver knew this.

“Relax John. This’ll be over soon. I promise. Now, take a quick look around this carriage for me. What do you see?” the Driver said.

John turned to his left and surveyed the carriage. The man opposite was still shouting down his phone. The black youth to his right continued to play his music loudly through his own phone. An elderly man towards the back shifted in his seat, looking even more uncomfortable than John. To this man’s left sat a timid looking, petite blond, nose in book. Between them all sat a variety of other colourful looking characters.

Just a typical train carriage, John thought.

“Not exactly,” the Driver replied.

John was almost used to this by now: he hadn’t even spoke.

“John, do you honestly have no idea why I might be talking to you like this? No idea at all why you might be here?”

Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it! “No, really I don’t!” John exclaimed. The carriage seemed even hotter now; he found it hard to breath.

“Maybe this might help, then. Listen carefully. See the boy playing the music? He stole his grandmother’s savings last night. He’s on his way to spend most of it on drugs to supply to kids in his neighbourhood. The lady reading her book? Killed her husband last night by lacing his dinner with rat poison. Loud mouth on the phone there? Walked out on his sick wife and kids, to run away with his mistress.”

John’s face went blank.

“Shall I continue?” the Driver asked.

“No, no. That’s enough.”

“And so, that brings us to you, doesn’t it? John McNally. Construction worker. Husband. Father. Murderer.”

Fuck!

“Fuck indeed. Did you think He wouldn’t notice? He always notices. What you see around you is the lowest of the low. Last night’s worst. And you’re His gem.” the Driver said, proudly.

Not my fault. They deserved it. Couldn’t help it. Sweat now covered John’s entire body. He grabbed at his collar again. He could barely breathe.

“Excuses, all of them. Getting hot in here now, isn’t it?”

“Look, please. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. Any of it. They forced me. Picking on me, pressuring me all the time,” John pleaded. “If they had just left me alone I’d have been fine. They couldn’t help themselves. Always picking faults, telling me what I was doing wrong.”

“Too late John. Far too late. He’s got a special spot already reserved for you. Don’t you worry about that,” the Driver revealed.

Shit, gotta get out of here! He tried to move, his body wouldn’t respond. Tried to shout out, his lips would not move.

“Relax John. Just accept it. We’re almost there,” the Driver advised.

Heat engulfed the entire carriage now. John panted. He couldn’t scream even if he was able to.

“He’s got high hopes for you, John. There are some real specimens where we’re going. But you might top the lot. I can’t wait to see what you can get up to,” the Driver enthused.

I can’t believe this is happening.

“Believe it, John. This is very real. As real as you’re ever going to get.”

The man continued to scream down his phone. His grating voice destroying the façade of cool John had displayed until this point.

Shut up! Shut up before I shut you up! I’ll cut out your tongue, see if you can shout then!

“That’s better, John. Much better. And just in time. We’re here now.”

The carriage began its descent into the dark, soulless chasm below; into the welcoming arms of fire and death.

Flames quickly consumed the entire carriage. Screams filled the air. The smell of cigarette smoke was long gone, the air now filled with the putrid odour of burning flesh and charring bone.

As the carriage sank, John allowed his thoughts to turn to his wife and two children, his mum and dad, his brother and sister, the Smiths next door and their two little girls.

All of the people he had killed.

Ah, fuck it. They deserved it anyway. Just accept it.

The Driver smiled.

“I can’t wait to see what you’re going to get up to, John,” he said, “I really can’t.”