The Cold Caller

FzzzzzzzpFzzzzzzzp… Gary lifted the phone to his ear. “Hello?”

“Hello Sir yes this is Tom I’m calling you from the mobull phone repository how are you I’m calling today to offer the free upgrade for your phone to the latest model either an android or apple…” Gary’s face drained of blood. He dropped his cardboard cup, spilling hot coffee all over the counter as he set off in a dead sprint towards his car.

Gary stepped hard on the accelerator and immediately stalled. “Fuck.” He whispered to himself. “FUCK!” He repeated. He put the phone on speaker and accelerated once again, this time with forced restraint.

“…Basically the way it works Sir is that there’s a one time deposit payment of £64.99 which you pay over the phone with me now then we prepare the handset to be sent to you and then you pay simply the postage and packaging fee of £34.99 then we cancel your current contract with your current supplier for free and also for only a one time fee of…” Gary weaved gracefully through the traffic as his car’s engine moaned and spluttered indignantly. In record time, he arrived home, swerving to an inelegant stop on the front lawn.

“…So that will be reimbursed to you upon the confirmation of your one time service payment of £124.99 which will cover the SIM card case and selfie stick but will not cover the screen protector or data but all you will need to pay is the one time data charge of £81.98…”

Gary kicked open the front door, jumped up the stairs 3 at a time, rushed to his desk, threw open the top drawer and began rummaging around like a man possessed. After depositing most of the drawer’s content onto the floor, he emerged triumphantly, panting as he held aloft a big red button, the kind a super villain would have in the cartoon shows he’d watched as a child. It was the sort of big red button that you’d press to launch a missile or to release the hounds. Gary’s big red button was wireless, the logic being that if he bought the wireless version, Gary could take it with him everywhere he went. Inevitably though, he’d shoved it in a drawer and forgotten about it. Silly Gary. With baited breath he placed the button on his desk, lowered his trembling finger towards it… And… Stopped. Gary picked up the phone.

“… But it really is lovely this time of year so you’ll get 21 nights there and another 11 nights at any one of the Disneyland Parks as our free gift to you but there will be a one time free gift fee of £1,564.83 payable by any major credit card…

“I…” The letter fell out of Gary’s mouth as comfortably as his car would have. The voice on the other end of the phone fell silent. “I… I don’t…” His lip quivered furiously as tears started to wander slowly down his cheeks. He opened his mouth to continue but only succeeded in producing long, shaky breaths. Then the breaths turned to sobs. As his shoulders heaved and his eyes streamed, the phone fell from Gary’s grasp, smacked against the edge of the desk and fell face down on the floor. Over his quiet weeping, Gary could hear the distant sound of more deals, more offers, more gifts, more fees, more reimbursements. He lowered his head to his desk, lifted a nearby pillow to his mouth and roared, allowing his sadness to envelope him completely. Defeated, Gary pressed the big red button.

SMASH! As the button clicked down, his bedroom window exploded. Immediately the tears stopped as Gary’s face, still painted with fear and anguish, lifted towards the figure who had clearly just swung into his bedroom on a rope. “RIGHT.” I scowled. “WHERE’S THE FUCKING PHONE?” Gary’s still trembling finger panned down from the button to his feet, where the phone had fallen. I strode handsomely over to the desk and picked it up.

“… And it just keeps spinning and that’s when it ends and you never get to know whether it was real or whether…”

“WILL YOU” I screamed. “FUCK. OFF. HE DOESN’T WANT IT. HIS PHONE IS FINE. TAKE HIS NUMBER OFF YOUR DATABASE, YOU NASTY, PARASITIC LITTLE CUNT.” I hung up the phone and cast it aside, before turning to the shaking, broken man that used to be Gary and putting a hand on his shoulder. “You did the right thing, son.” I cooed, in a purposefully soft and reassuring voice. “It’s gone now. It can’t offer you anything else.”

“It… It was…” Gary’s voice came in fits and starts between huge, heaving sobs. “It was… So… So… Awkward” He began to wail, then threw his head back down and started beating his fist on the desk. “WHY?” He screamed. “WHY ME? WHY WOULD THEY…”

As Gary lifted his head back up from the desk, he realised that I was gone. I’d swung back out through his shattered window, done a sweet roll on the pavement and started sprinting towards the horizon, the setting sun casting a long, handsome shadow on the road behind me.

“Thank you!” Came Gary’s distant cry. He was already really far behind me because I was running really, really fast. Really impressively fast. “Thank you, Cold Caller Vigilante! Thank you for all of your help!” I allowed myself a grin and a quick rest to catch my breath because I’d already run a really long way. Probably like 2 miles.

The phone lines are a little clearer tonight, I thought to myself as the sweat ran in rivulets down my handsome forehead. But my job’s far from done. These scamming bastards don’t rest, so neither do I. Except for right now, but this is only because of the really fast running. Also I am a little sleepy. But most of the time I don’t rest. They’ll pay for what they do to these people. They’ll all pay.

The Thistle Of Kongo

A Civ 6 Story

Nearly five millennia ago, green shoots of life began to grow from the lush continent of Kalaharia. In the West, the cunning Cyrus founded Pasargadae, the first city of the Persian Empire. In the East, the ambitious Mvemba A Nzinga laid down the first stones of Kinchassa, Capital of the Empire of Kongo. In the North, Robert the Bruce, who Historians suggest just wanted to have nice, peaceful fucking time on Civ 6, formed Stirling, the cornerstone of the Scottish Empire. The three civilisations were in place. The centuries that followed were full of expansion and primitive wars against native barbarians. Before the trio had even met, the land was essentially sliced into thirds, with Cyrus taking the West, Nzinga the East and Robert, typically, the North.

Robert was the Champion of the civilised World, as even finding himself and Stirling wedged between 2 barbarian camps, with a little help from the nearby independent state of Kabul, the barbarians were easily vanquished. Scotland flourished across their conquered lands, establishing the Cities of Roxburgh, Edinburgh, Ayr and Scone. The other leaders enjoyed similar, but probably lesser, success and the three nations, once acquainted, traded jovially with one another. The central State of Auckland and South-Eastern state of Muscat also benefited from the prosperity of the three flourishing civilisations. Nzinga became suzerain of both Auckland and Muscat, while Robert continued his relationship with Kabul, the neighbours with whom he’d shared so many victories, as their suzerain.

But when there was no more room in Kalaharia for expansion, friction developed by the two Southern powers. You see, splitting the continent straight down the dividing line between the Persian and Kongolese Empires was a mountain range. It stretched all the way down the centre of the Southern half of the land, from Auckland almost down to the Southern coast. The problem was that this thin sliver of land between the end of the mountain range and the Southern coast was neither East nor West. Neither side had a natural claim. Nzinga wanted to take this land for himself, but Cyrus acted faster, founding the Persian City of Hagmatana, a name that would echo down through the centuries. The City that would start a War lasting longer than a thousand years.

In roughly 750 AD, the furious Nzinga waged war on Cyrus. With Kongo’s superior military might, he laid siege to Hagmatana with crossbowmen, catapults and swordsmen. This was when Cyrus called out to the North for help. Now, Robert was pretty new to Civ 6 and Historians suggest that he hadn’t even realised that a War was happening until this point. While the Southern nations had built up militaries fit for battle, Robert had been investing heavily in the future of Scotland by building Campuses and ships with which to study and explore the seas and the faraway lands beyond. He was said to be initially torn on which of his friends to side with, but it didn’t take him long to decide. Nzinga had brought war to a peaceful land and was trying to bully Cyrus into getting his own way. Robert did not respond kindly to bullies. As Hagmatana was incorporated into the Empire of Kongo, Scotland joined Persia in a recovery mission.

Well, sort of. You see, the fact that Robert was at the very North of Kalaharia with a few swordsmen and archers, while a war was waging at the Southern tip, meant that there wasn’t an awful lot that he could do. Time was precious. He had a choice between travelling his merry band of units down the Western side of the Persian/Kongolese mountain range and incurring the wrath of Auckland, who were sided with Nzinga, while traversing thick rainforests, steep hills and narrow choke points between the mountains and the sea, or travelling down the Eastern side, through literally the entire Empire of Kongo. He chose the West; the path of least resistance. By the time Robert’s “army” arrived at Hagmatana, the Persian forces were thin and resigned to defeat and Auckland had halved Robert’s numbers with crossbow bombardments. Sickeningly, just as the Scots arrived, Persia threw in the towel. Cyrus ceded Hagmatana and he and Nzinga made peace. The South belonged to the East. It was over.

Robert’s army travelled back to Scotland the long way round, up the Western Coast, in order to avoid more contact with Auckland, as the North and East were still technically at War, although Scotland and Kongo were yet to meet in battle. They got back to their native land to see that Kongo had expanded again, but this time it was right on their doorstep. The City of Mbumbi had just been founded right on the border of The Scottish Capital of Stirling. This was a problem. Robert now knew Nzinga’s gameplan. He’d expand and expand and expand, but when he couldn’t expand any further, he’d merely take the next City along. He was arrogant. He was greedy. He was a no-good bully and Robert would not roll over in the face of bullying, the way Cyrus had. The North didn’t have the military clout of their opponents, but they had spirit and they had tenacity. Scotland would fight.

The age of Scottish Science was over, at least for now. As Nzinga’s army marched North towards Stirling, Scotland went into full defensive lockdown, scrambling for defensive and offensive improvements. When the Kongolese arrived in Stirling however, the only thing that stood between them and it was a single catapult and a single group of archers. The archers were swiftly dealt with by the Ngao Mbeba, a terrifying group of Kongolese fighters who carried huge shields as well as their swords, but the catapult did enough to deter them from moving any closer to the city centre for now. When the Ngao Mbeba returned later on, they found that Stirling had been fortified with primitive walls from which the Scots could attack back with both arrows and hurled stone, but the city was still by no means impregnable.

This was when Robert decided to use Nzinga’s own arrogance against him. As Mbumbi had been set up right on the Scottish border, Scotland could erect defensive fortifications close enough that Mbumbi could be attacked by catapult from a fortified location without the under-developed city being able to attack back. So for decades, Mbumbi was bombarded time and time again, while always managing to keep itself afloat by repairing the damage. Counter attacks would come both to Stirling and to Edinburgh, just South of the River Forth, in the form of the Ngao Mbeba and of cavalry and catapults. The Scottish cities were becoming ever more fortified with taller walls and better technology though and were now easily able to pick off these troops, who were defenceless out in the open.

Through the decades of stalemate, Nzinga asked countless times for peace, but he was always met with the same response from Robert: “Are you ready to give me Mbumbi?”, to which the answer was always predictably “No.” So the fighting continued. Nzinga was becoming increasingly unsettled with the fact that he was losing his advantage though and this only escalated when Robert became suzerain of both Auckland and Muscat, turning Kongo’s city states and only allies against them in the war effort.

In 1450 AD the turning point came, turning what had been a stalemate into a checkmate. Scotland discovered metal casting, meaning that they could upgrade their single remaining catapult, turning it into a bombard, a large cannon with the potential to rip through buildings. Since it’s birth, Mbumbi’s resources had been spent entirely on trying to defend against the enslaught of attacks from the North and they hadn’t been able to progress whatsoever. They still didn’t even have walls. The bombard laid waste to the meager defenses of Mbumbi and within a few years Scotland had claimed it for themselves, retaking the land on which the Northernmost Kongolese city should never have been built. The heroic single bombard that took the city was celebrated by the Scots and even earned itself a title. They named it “The Thistle of Kongo”; The tiny pin that had burst the balloon of the enemy’s expansion.

By this point, Scotland had founded the cities of Aberdeen, Cullen and Dumfries and so with Mbumbi, they occupied the whole Northern landmass. Well, almost all of it. You see, nestled snugly on the boundary where Auckland met Edinburgh was a huge city named Mbwila. Robert didn’t like that his still hostile enemy had such an advantageous position from which to attack and so set about planning it’s capture. Right on the border of Mbwila and Mbumbi sat a Kongolese encampment, a strategic defensive location that the Scots could not go near. Lucky for Robert then that The Thistle of Kongo out-ranged any defensive fortifications in the World. The bombard obliterated the encampment, after which Mbumbi set up one of their own, right on the border and in range of Mbwila.

Kongolese troops flocked to the border, only for Scotland’s growing forces to wipe them out one by one. All the while The Thistle of Kongo sunk it’s prickles deeper and deeper into Mbwila’s defences. In roughly 1750 and with far less resistance than Mbumbi, Mbwila fell to The Thistle and became the second city occupied by Robert’s army.

That, as far as Robert was concerned, was that. The bully got bullied. The stealer of cities had two of his cities stolen. That was enough. Scotland stopped building walls around it’s cities and stopped rolling cannons towards the border. Instead, universities were built, industry flourished and the country bloomed. Friendships were made with Canada and Hungary, empires from across the sea on the continent of Atlantis. Friendships were not made with Genghis Khan and his Mongolian empire though, as historians suggest he was pretty standoffish towards the Scots. All the while however, an eye had to be kept on the Kongolese border. Although Robert thought that Nzinga and his people had suffered enough and didn’t want to press them any more than was necessary, still more troops came. Still more cavalry charged into not only into the occupied land, but Auckland too, only to be turned around by The Thistle’s mighty blasts. While Scotland blossomed and Global relationships grew, for Kongo, the war was far from done.

In 1878, a small Kongolese city named Mbanza Mpangu, just south of Hagmatana, rebelled against the Kongo. Stuck in that contested central Southern area of Kalaharia, the people had become disillusioned with the war as they could see peacetime just miles away in Persia. Mbanza Mpangu became a free city and was widely expected to be incorporated into the Persian empire. Fair payback for Hagmatana, you’d think, but Nzinga had other ideas. His armies attacked the rebels to the South in an attempt to force them back under the thumb, but Cyrus was not going to let this happen again. After over a millennium on the sidelines, Persia declared war on Kongo. North and West were united once more.

However, the North at this point had not made any moves towards Kongo in over a hundred years and Robert was certainly not going to step in now. Even with Auckland now onside, the voyage down to the Southern tip of Kalaharia would still be treacherous and slow. And who’s to say that the second he got there, Persia wouldn’t just wave the white flag and leave them hanging again? No, Scotland were not prepared to play an active part in the war again yet. They were once again investing heavily in Science, playing the long game. They even invented flight. However, Robert was cunning enough to know that quashing another Kongolese invasion would be helpful in the long run. He invited Canadian Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier and Hungarian ruler Matthias Cornivus to help in the war against Nzinga, of whom both men already held poor opinions. Hungary and Canada, along with Canada’s city states Mitla and Granada, joined Scotland, Kabul, Auckland, Muscat, Persia and their city-state Babylon in the war effort against Kongo and it’s newest city states Preslav and Mohenjo-Daro. Soon afterwards, Robert took suzerainty of Preslav too and they switched sides. Nzinga began to see a pattern emerging.

In the early 1900s, fighting continued on the borders as Mbanza Mpangu was indeed incorporated into the Persian Empire, as expected. Matthias Cornivus took suzerainty of Mohenjo-Daro too. The Kongolese Empire was shrinking and enemies were on all sides… Except, he did have one friend on the Global stage. In 1916, Genghis Khan, Nzinga’s only ally, conquered the city state of Mitla. the landmass of the Mongolian Empire was now growing large enough to make the 4 allied civilisations uncomfortable. He wasn’t involved in the war, but if he was to step in, it would be on the side of Kongo and it would be a huge problem.

For the first quarter of the decade though, that was about all that happened. The Thistle Of Kongo got a new coat of paint too, upgrading to an artillery weapon. In 1925, Robert decided to bring TTOK into play once again. The Scots were amongst the most technically progressive civilisations in the world and had a couple of airports, one of which was stationed on the border of Mbwila and was an excellent place to send bombers and fighters out from if Kongo ever tried to move in again. The problem was that to build these planes, he’d need a source of aluminium and as large as Scotland’s landmass was, not a single scrap of the stuff was available to him.

Scotland identifies aluminium sources around Bakavu, circa 1925 (Colourised)

The next City down the coast from Mbumbi and Mbwila was named Bakavu and it had access to as yet untapped sources of aluminium beneath the ground. Robert saw it as the final piece in the Scottish puzzle. With Bakavu under his stewardship, he’d be ready for whatever Nzinga or Khan could throw at him. Bakavu looked to be quite unguarded, so Robert knew that the time was now. He rushed bombardment units, including TTOK, into the city and began to chip away at Kongo’s now considerable defences. Whether Nzinga knew of this forthcoming attack was unknown, but the fact was that he was more than ready for it. Forces poured out from the heart of Kongo and Machine gun fire rained down upon the Scotsmen, wiping out virtually the entire small force that Robert had thought sufficient to take the city. The Thistle of Kongo was hurried back to Mbwila, where it took up a defensive position in the encampment. Kongo’s counter attack was swift and almost brutal, but Scotland just barely clung on thanks to their towering walls and TTOK’s advanced weaponry.

The Thistle of Kongo fires on Bakavu, circa 1925 (Colourised)

Both civilisations retreated to lick their wounds, to mourn their losses and to further build their empires. During the 30’s, Robert became suzerain of Mexico City, while Granada fell into Kongolese hands. The 40’s though, signalled the start of a Scottish Golden Age. Once again, science was King. The technological steps forward that Scotland took over the next couple of decades left the likes of Nzinga in the dust. And it was just as well, because in 1961, they went back for Bakavu.

Until now, Robert had been happy to bide his time once again, building his forces and his resources for an eventual second push. But in 1961, Canada, Hungary and Persia all pulled out of the war. Only Scotland and it’s city states remained united against Kongo. Scotland had just produced the first tank in the World and Robert knew that now, as his allies began to distance themselves and as his technological advantage reached it’s peak, was the time to strike. A single heroic tank, along of course with TTOK, moved towards the Scottish/Kongolese border once again to begin their assault on Bakavu. If this attack failed, Robert could be secure in the knowledge that most of his cities were now ready to pump out these new deadly tanks for as long as it took.

Just 4 years later however, Bakavu fell. The first tank was lost, but that didn’t matter. Bakavu was incorporated into the growing Scottish Empire. TTOK was celebrated across the land for his involvement in the capture of 3 crucial cities and was upgraded shortly afterwards to a modern armour unit. But Scotland might not have had need of The Thistle again. In 1966, after roughly 1200 years of war, a peace treaty was finally drawn up. Kongo would cede Mbumbi, Mbwila and Bakavu to Scotland and the 2 nations could finally go forwards into the future without having to look over their shoulder.

World Map, circa 1968

One thing still niggled at Robert though. You might think it was the city of Hagmatana, but no, Robert reasoned that Persia had got their own back with the acquisition of Mbanza Mpangu. It was the city of Mitla, over on the continent of Atlantis. The one that had been captured by the Mongolian Empire. It was Genghis Khan and his behaviour that threatened to follow in the footsteps of his ally Mvemba A Nzinga. If he’d happily take that free city state for himself, what else would Khan do? The Mongolian Empire shared borders with Canada, Granada, Mohenjo-Daro and Persia and Robert didn’t much want to find out who’d be next. The World still had a bully, and Robert didn’t respond well to bullies.

The Scottish Empire, circa 1968
The Thistle of Kongo occupies the city of Bakavu as it begins to rebuild as a city of Scotland, circa 1968 (Colourised)

The Worst-Case Scenario.

Today’s the fucking worst. And I was so cautiously optimistic half an hour ago, too. You see, I hadn’t seen my ex since the start of quarantine, when she was still my girlfriend. We spent her birthday together. I gave her presents, we had a takeaway, watched a bit of Netflix and stuff. It was nice. 6 weeks later though, she broke it off. Not looking for anything serious, or at least not with me.

It felt like something might happen a couple of weeks ago: We started talking again, being 2 lonely people with nothing to do and nobody to see. But nothing ever did. So a few days ago I texted her, saying that I was coming round to drop off some things that she’d left at mine and to pick up my own stuff from her. Nothing much, just toiletries and a couple of items of clothing, that kind of thing. She said cool, come on Sunday.

This was it. The all or nothing move. I mean, she lives alone, so she’s as starved for human contact as I am, right? Maybe I bring round her belongings and we have a nice cuddle. Maybe a kiss on the cheek or an invite to have a drink. Maybe even stay the night? That’s pushing it, probably, even if Boris has given the green light. Most likely she takes her belongings, shuts the door and I can walk away to lick my wounds, secure in the knowledge that it’s definitely over.

So that’s what I did today, Sunday the 14th of June 2020. I got 2 buses to her house in the pissing rain, rucksack full of toiletries, heart full of hope and brain full of pessimism. Precisely half an hour ago, I opened the gate, I strode up to the front door and I knocked. No answer. I knocked again, but again there was no answer. Just as I raised my hand to knock a third and final time, the lock clicked and the door swung open. Standing where I had expected my ex to be stood was a man. Answering her door. To her house. Where, and I can’t stress this enough, she lives alone. He was a 7 foot tall brick shit house with a handsome but smirking face. And he was topless. Now I’m an excellent judge of character, so trust me when I say with no agenda, bias or bitterness that he was clearly a cunt. “What?” He asked, as if he didn’t need the reply.

Before I could answer, my ex rushed to the door, stumbling over the coffee table in the process. She shooed him away, but I’d already seen all I needed to see. Her face was bright red and she also was not fully dressed. “I’m sorry.” She said. “I didn’t want you to find out li…” I stopped listening. Numb, I spun on my heels, strode back to the gate and shut it behind me.

So yeah, today was the fucking worst. The worst-case scenario. And it fucking hurts. This feeling fucking sucks. Just now I was stood waiting for the bus (Sunday service. Why did I agree to come on a Sunday?), I’m reliving the whole ordeal for the 1000th time in my head and suddenly it all hits me at once, like a shooting pain tearing through the pit of my stomach. I’ve been shot. I’m not being cute or metaphorical, someone literally… Literally just shot me at the bus stop… With a gun… They were driving a grey… Car… I tried to get the reg, but it’s… It’s difficult to concentrate to be honest. I’m losing a pretty frightening amount of blood. Everything’s getting a bit… Hazy.

The Scientists were wrong… About the meteor… It’s not passing harmlessly by at all, it’s on a… Direct collision course with… Earth. What makes… The fact that everyone on the planet has… Seconds to live… Worse… Is that this morning they… They scientifically proved that Heaven and Hell are real… And that basically everyone goes to Hell… Seriously, walk across a road before the green man shows up and you’re… Eternal… Toast…

I got a lot of… Bad news… This morning. It also came to light that… All dogs are robots created by the government to spy on us… That Alison Brie is a really horrible person in real life… That Everton FC is nothing but a sick psychological experiment that my Dad signed me up for at birth… It’s all real…

I only hope that if the multiverse theory is true… If there is another version of me out there somewhere in the infinite… Cosmos… And he’s waiting for a bus back to Leeds City Centre today, Sunday the 14th of June 2020… And he’s feeling shit, because things haven’t panned out like he’s trying not to hope they will… I hope he hears me now: “Chin up, mate. You’ll bounce back. It could have been worse. This is the worst-case scenario.”

Oh fuck, hostile aliens! They’ve landed their craft right next to me on the road. They’ve come out blasting at me with photon pistols. I’m bleeding out, so I’m not sure if I can… Ok sweet, I disarmed one of them and I’m using him as a hu… An alien shield to fight off the rest. Pew, pew! ARGH, FUCK! They shot my left arm clean off. Seriously though, I’m sure you’re having a much, much worse Sunday, alternate Dave. Pew, pew, pew! Fuck, this is really, really painful. Nothing on heartache though, eh? Here comes the alien leader. BEGONE FROM THIS PLANET, PUTRID ALIEN SCUM! WE ARE A PEACEFUL PEOP… Pew, p-ARGH, he shot me right in the existing bullet hole in my stomach that I mentioned earlier, only this is a much, much more intense pain. Fuck me, what a nightmare. I wouldn’t trade places with you for all the tea in China though, alternate Dave. Wowee, that’s a rough day you’re probably having. Women, eh? Can’t live with ’em, can’t live wi… Ah shit, the meteor’s com…

Crimean Tom

A song about a hero cat from 1855

A Sevastopol cellar we searched through the dust,

While our stomachs and mouths grumbled on,

But in lieu of supplies, William Gair found the eyes of a cat,

So he brought him along.

Well the city was bare, near a year we’d been there,

And the flesh seemed picked clean off it’s bones,

And except for the cat, we were lean,

But his fat meant that he had a secret to show.

And we sang “Three cheers for Tom!

God knows where he’s from,

But we’re marching for our chaperon.

And the whole Black Sea Fleet

Couldn’t take him from me,

Cause Crimean Tom’s one of our own.”

So one night we followed as Tom lead the way,

Past a mountain of rubble and ash,

Once we found a way through, there were fatty mice too,

And Tom chased them right up to a cache.

And we sang “Three cheers for Tom!

God knows where he’s from,

But we’d all perish out here alone.

So if the Tsar wants him gone,

He can take us all on,

Cause Crimean Tom’s one of our own.”

Tom found more supplies,

As he and we followed the mice,

Through the docks of Sevastopol,

Tom had kept us alive.

When the guns were laid down and the cannons brought home,

Well we couldn’t just leave Tom behind,

We brought him back here, but before the New Year,

Tom had drifted to sleep one last time.

So we sing “Three cheers for Tom,

God knows where he came from,

But we thank him for bringing us home.

So we’ll all raise a glass,

To a hell of a cat,

Crimean Tom’s one of our own.

Yes we’ll all raise a glass,

To a hell of a cat,

Crimean Tom’s one of our own.”


The Driving Instructor

Remember your mirrors and indicate.

The driving instructor clambered out of the driver-side door and into the pouring rain. It’d been a miserable day weather-wise, but this was taking the biscuit. It was almost vindictively bad. The rain lashed down with such ferocity that it bounced back up off the cobbled stones of the narrow street, allowing it to attack the instructor from any angle it chose. He started to jog around the front of the car, stopping briefly to look up and wave to his approaching student, before the two of them rushed for his vehicle’s refuge, endeavouring to endure the elements for as little time as possible. The pair of them entered the car and slammed the doors behind them.

“Horrible day for it, eh, lad?” Sighed the driving instructor jovially, over the metronomic vrrrp vrrrp of the struggling windscreen wipers and the dull thudding of rain hitting the car’s roof and windows. The student nodded, lowered the hood of his jacket and ran a hand through his short, soaking wet hair. The instructor reached into the glovebox, pulled out a cloth with one hand, removed his spectacles with the other and proceeded to wipe them clean. “Right then,” He continued, replacing his glasses and conjuring a notepad and pen from his inner jacket pocket. “And you are…” His eyes scanned down his list of dates, times and names.

“Dickhead.” Said the student. “Silly Dickhead.”

“Ah yes, there you are.” Declared the instructor triumphantly, scribbling something down next to one of the names. “Right then, Silly. Do you go by Silly? Or is it Sil?”

“Silly’s fine.” Mumbled Silly.

“First lesson is it, Silly?”

“No, I have driven before. Just need refreshing before my test, really.”

“Ah perfect. On you go then.” The car was already running, so Silly placed his hands at ten to two on the wheel, pressed his foot down on the clutch, put the car in first and found the biting point. He removed the handbrake with a dull clunk and began to inch slowly down the street towards the main road. “Remember to check your mirrors, Silly.” Said the instructor.

“Oh right, sorry.” Replied Silly. He obeyed.

“You’ll soon get back into the swing of it, son.” Chuckled the instructor reassuringly. Water flooded the windscreen as the wipers vrrrp vrrrped in vein, while more rain bounced off the roof and windows, adding to the growing cacophony as the car growled further and further down the bumpy, cobbled street. “Right then.” Repeated the instructor. “We’ll be going left when we get to the road, so whenever the coast’s clear, remember your mirrors again… And… Indicate.” Again, Silly obeyed, but in his haste he flicked the right indicator on instead of the left.

“Sorry!” He spluttered.

“It’s alright, son. Take your time. Bit rusty, eh?”

“Yeah.” Replied Silly, turning on the left indicator. As the car trundled on to meet the main road, Silly checked his mirrors, looked up and down the road, squinting through the downpour to check that the coast was indeed clear and then turned to the left.

“Second gear now.” Said the instructor kindly as the indicator clicked itself off. Silly pressed down on the clutch, moved up to second gear and started to accelerate. Vrrrp vrrrp. “That’s the ticket.” Said the instructor. “Now when we come up to these traffic lights here, we’ll be going right, please.”

“OK.” Silly moved into the right lane as he approached the lights, which remained green. He checked his mirrors and began to turn…

“Indicate!” Said the instructor sternly.

“Sorry! Sorry!” Said Silly, flicking the indicator on just in time for it to click itself back off as he completed the turn.

“It’s alright son, it’ll soon come flooding back.” Chuckled the instructor. “Now if you just want to check your mirrors and indicate, please.”

Silly looked for a turning, but there was none. There was only straight road ahead. “Do you want me to pull over?” He asked.

“Check your mirrors and indicate.” Reiterated the instructor. Vrrrp vrrrp went the windscreen wipers as rain continued to pound upon the vehicle’s roof.

“But I’m not turning! There’s nowhere to-”

“Indicate!” Growled the instructor. “Indicate!”

“But…” Silly turned to protest to the instructor just in time to see the man’s glasses fall onto the passenger side floor. The instructor’s eyes retreated backwards into his shrivelling, greying skull. Vrrrp vrrrp. The roof of the car groaned and strained under the pressure of the rain. The instructor looked at Silly with a manic smile, his tongue lolling out at an odd angle from his mouth. He then bit it clean off, sending it wriggling down the side of the passenger seat. “JESUS CHRIST!” Screamed Silly.

“INDICATE!” Gurgled the tongueless instructor. A droplet landed hard on Silly’s head, prompting him to look up. Thick drops of rain were shooting through the roof of the car like bullets and water came pouring in through the holes, flooding the car quickly. Vrrrp vrrrp. “INDICATE, SILLY DICKHEAD! INDICATE!” Vrrrp vrrrp. Silly looked ahead and had to swerve out of the path of an oncoming bus, then he allowed himself a glance back over to the passenger seat. The abomination had begun climbing and squelching over the sodden central divide towards him. His mouth was twisted into a mad, bloody grin and he held a skeletal arm outstretched towards Silly. “INDICATE!” Came the instructor’s guttural scream. “INDICATE!”

He sat bolt upright in bed, sweat soaking through his pyjamas. Immediately he ran a hand through his hair, but it was quite dry, if a bit sweaty. He stared into the darkness for a moment, breathing heavily and adjusting back to reality. From his right, he could hear the thudding of heavy rain against the bedroom window.

“What’s wrong?” Groaned his wife’s voice.

“Nothing.” He gasped. “Nothing. Just a bad dream, that’s all.” He heard a click and his wife’s bedside lamp turned on, filling the room with warm light. She propped herself up against the back of the bed and rested her head on his shoulder.

“Awh. Well it was only a dream.” She yawned. “It’s over now.”

“It was just so… Real.” He said, his breathing slowing. “I was in a car. I was having a driving lesson and the instructor… He kept shouting Indicate, indicate! And the rain… His tongue…”

His wife opened her eyes, sat up and regarded him thoughtfully. “Maybe it’s from… Weren’t you telling me about that bloke earlier… The handsome one… When you were driving home…”

Without warning, the window shattered as I came swinging handsomely into the room. They both cried out and shielded their faces with their arms from the shower of water and glass. “Yeah that’s right!” I yelled, as lightning streaked down in the distance behind me. “Remember me, you silly dickhead? The bloke you almost knocked down earlier while I was crossing the road?”

“I… I don’t…” His eyes widened as he struggled to get his words out. I took a step forwards, crunching shards of broken glass under my foot.

“Well I’m in your dreams now, mate. That’s right, I control every dream you have.” I took another step and bent down, so that we were almost nose to nose. “And if I… EVER…” I jabbed him the chest with my finger. “…SEE…” And again. “…YOU…” And with every word. “… TURN… WITHOUT… INDICATING… AGAIN…” I smiled. Still handsomely. “Well, you’ll be taking another driving lesson, won’t you. You silly dickhead.”

“I… I’m sorry…” He stammered. “… I didn’t… Didn’t mean…”

“I know you didn’t mean it.” I said sympathetically. “But that road’s a fucking ball ache quite frankly mate and…” I sighed. “And I’m just sick of it now.” I turned and stepped onto the window ledge.

“Who… Who are you?” Asked his wife.

I turned back from the ledge to address the room once more. “I am the Pedestrian Vigilante.” I replied. “And anyone…” I paused for effect. “… Anyone who doesn’t indicate before turning will henceforth be taking a driving lesson with my favourite instructor.”

“I will, Pedestrian Vigilante!” Cried the silly dickhead. “I promise to show more courtesy to other road users in future! I swear I will!” His wife smiled, a single joyful tear rolling down her cheek.

“And so will I! So will all of us, Pedestrian Vigilante!” She shouted. I smiled, then turned and flew handsomely away into the night as the couple stood and applauded. The roads will be just a little bit safer tomorrow, I thought to myself as I glided through the trees. Those two at least have been converted. They’ve seen the light, but my job is not yet done. There’ll be plenty more bad dreams tonight.

So here’s my plea to you, the reader and particularly those of you in or around the Leeds area: Don’t be a silly dickhead. Save yourself the hassle. Save yourself the hassle of a horrible dream. Have yourself an excellent, refreshing and rejuvenating night’s sleep.


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Three 2

The highly anticipated sequel to a poem-ish thing.


“I’ll be there in a while.” He said, as she stood up to go to bed. She bent to kiss his cheek, then started heading for the stairs.

He turned to watch her walk away and smiled in his contented way. His luck had turned dramatically the day she’d found him there.

“Don’t be too long, my One.”

“I won’t.” His voice cracked slightly as he spoke. The corner of his lip flickered in protest of the word.

He stood, walked through the kitchen door. Her footsteps reached the second floor. He’d pour a drink, suppress the thoughts she’d accidentally stirred.

He fast unscrewed the bottle’s cap, then poured a glass and threw it back, when from behind he thought he heard a tap on window glass.

Instinctively his movement ceased, imagining some hidden beast with matted fur and many jagged teeth come stalking past.

But then he laughed. “You silly sod.” He thought. “Sounds like your nerves are shot. The tapping was imagined, not some big, bloodthirsty thing!”

He slowly turned with glass in hand, pouring a second as he panned. Calming his fraying nerves demanded just another drink.

But as he pivoted around, he heard a louder tapping sound. His tumbler fell and hit the ground as he came into view.

Through the window, clear as day, the man he’d hoped had gone away. The man whose twisted game he’d played. “Oh hello, One.” Said Two.

“Fuck off, Steven.” One scathed back, swooping towards the broken glass and picking up the- “I fucking knew this would happen. I knew you’d come back. As soon as this tosser started making everything I say rhyme again, I thought ‘Oh well Steven must be just around the pissing corner then.’ Fuck off, I mean it. I’m not interested. I’ve moved on, mate. I’m married now and I’ve got a good job with responsibilities and shit. I don’t need you and your rhyming bollocks showing up and shitting all over everything.”

Two laughed and smirked, stepped closer still to One’s old kitchen windowsill. “You’ve not moved on at all” his chilling visage whispered back.

“Chilling visage? Fuck off! And by the way, I didn’t ‘swoop’. I forgot to say before but I definitely didn’t ‘swoop’ down to the broken glass. It’s just that this dickhead surprised me, I dropped the tumbler and now there’s broken glass and fucking whiskey all over the shop. I’m trying to clean this shit up. There was no sw- Nobody ‘swooped’, alright? In fact I don’t think I’ve ever ‘swooped’ in my life. And this is a new build, so the ‘old windowsill’ is 5 years old, max. Do your research at least, for fucks sake.” He paused. “Go on, fit all that into a verse.” He slammed, as he scratched his arse and sniffed his hand. The- “Oh, that’s mature! That’s bloody mature isn’t it! Fucking hell, you’re as bad as him. I’m serious, fuck off, the pair of you. I’m going to bed, I’ve got work in the morning.”

Two smiled. “You’d go and leave this mess for Mrs One on morning next-”

“Morning next isn’t a thing.”

“It is. Uh… For Mrs One on morning next to scrape and scratch her feet on as she rests them on the floor?”

“I’ll leave her a note or a text to wake up to and explain what’s happened and tell her to be careful in the kitchen. It’s such a simple solution. Don’t try to make a big ‘Ooooh would you dare’ thing of it for your poem. She’ll understand. She knows all about you, you dick.”

“Oh does she now?” The triumph gleamed upon Two’s face that shone and beamed. “You told her all about me? Seems you’ve moved on very well.”

“Yeah, I have. You fucking traumatised me, you wanker, but we worked through my issues together. Because that’s what people do. They don’t spend their lives playing shitty games with shitty cups and shitty little arse holes like you. So you read into it all you like mate, but if you’re not off my property in 30 seconds I’m ringing the police.”

Two’s hopeful face turned all to white as One turned off the kitchen light, then out the kitchen, out of sight, he left Two on his own.

With heavy sighs he turned and trudged- “And you as well. Fuck off with him.”


“Fuck off.”

I’ve got to end the-

“Fuck off. Here you go… BAM. That’s it. Poem over.”

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First poem in a while

The colour Me upon the brush stood out a royal blue.

The brush and palette touched and there I met the colour You.

The colour You was bright and red, but as we swirled and blended,

The colour Us was born instead and on the canvas rendered.

The purple we had come to be spun midnight storms and seas.

One stroke by one we’d paint the shadows cast by towering trees.

But when the canvases of only colour Us piled tall,

We made a choice to be the colours You and Me once more.

The colour Me, once back to blue, would paint a cloudless sky.

The colour You, when red anew, would make a roaring fire.

But history were red and blue; mere memories of colour.

Purple now was who we were, infected by each other.

The colour Me shaped stubbornly a vast and purple space,

While colour You in equal hue produced a chilling blaze.

In a way we’d known from the day we were mixed together:

That Me and You aren’t red or blue.

We’re purple now forever.



April started to run.

The terrible scream pierced the cool evening air. April started to run, hoping against hope that she could help. That was the second or possibly third time in relatively quick succession that she’d heard the man wailing for help and it sounded urgent. Her pulse raced as she did, the two of them fighting to be the first to reach the source of the horrible noise. Then she saw him.

“Are you alright?” April panted, “Do you need an ambulance?” The man was slumped up against the wall of a darkened office building and was clearly having difficulty breathing. He gasped rapidly for short, sharp mouthfuls of air while his right hand grasped at his heart. He shook his head violently. “Well what can I do?” She pleaded. “What symptoms are you having?”

The man weakly started to raise and lower his hand quickly above his heart. “Increased heart rate?” He nodded furiously. April almost thought that she saw a thin smile flash across his white lips. “Good! That’s good! What else?”

The man pointed to his mouth and started to exaggerate his rapid breathing even more. “Shortness of breath?” She guessed correctly. He nodded again and gave a thumbs up. “Anything else?”

The man’s demeanour abruptly changed as April finished her question. His breathing slowed dramatically and the grip on his chest loosened. “And a severe vitamin U deficiency.” He winked. “What music are you into? Well don’t go…” April broke into a jog. “My name’s Dave, what’s yours?” He called after her as she disappeared around the corner of the office building. She didn’t reply.

The terrible scream pierced the cool evening air. May started to run, hoping against hope that she could help.


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