Red Froth

She looked down at the ticket in her hand.

The rain beat down, drumming a tattoo on the windows, and she understood why, really, she did.

But he had to understand too.

She wasn’t finished making him understand.

“So, Hong Kong – nice this time of year.”

He nodded, whimpering through the gag – it was crusted with his snot – he must have been having trouble breathing by now.


“Shame it’s monsoon season.”

Panic flitted across his eyes. It wasn’t the same anymore. The great game had changed, what with outsourcing and the lowest common denominator. College kids and tech nerds.

She punched him, unexpectedly, let him drop to the floor.

He struggled again against the ropes that bound him to the chair, but she was listening to the voice in her ear.

“Can’t you hurry it up? It’s pouring out here.” She chanced a look out the window, he was still there, the only homeless man on the street, seemingly muttering to himself in the rain. She wondered where he got the little dog from – but realised that she probably didn’t want to know.

“So. Hong Kong. Why?”

His eyes rolled back in his head, and red froth erupted beneath the gag.

She needed someone else to answer her questions.




Written for this week’s Flash! Friday writing challenge.

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Sunday Sketch - Terry Whidborne

Sunday Sketch – Terry Whidborne

Mother was right – their fur was so soft, and the creatures just seemed so trusting…like they’d never seen a human before.

Well, Mother always has been a crafty hunter – they’d never seen her before, hidden. The shot rang out. Blood-stains marked the russet fur. But it would wash out.

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The Lane of Unusual Traders – Stage II – is Open for Submissions!

The Lane of Unusual Traders – an ongoing, collaborative world-building project by Tiny Owl Workshop – is open for the second round of submissions. They are looking for both flash fiction and for short stories up to 3,000 words. Those Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, New Weird kind of words you’ve been saving up. They pay (better-than) professional rates, and Sue (Tiny Owl) is a fantastic editor.


Flash Fiction: 1 May

Short Stories: 31 May

Real Life

I was going to write a short story for the blog today – to take a break from the novel (which is going swimmingly, thank you for asking), but the most interesting story I can tell comes from real life. I found it funny, so hopefully you do too.


I got bitten by a tick last week. A paralysis tick. There’s a beautiful shortcut to the shops from my place, that cuts across a babbling little creek and passed a pond. I saw a beautiful old Joe Blake (snake) sunning himself on the rock – he looked languidly at me before slithering away.

Anyway, long story short, I got home and decided to take a shower (it’s still stinking hot in this part of the world.) That’s when I noticed my little parasite. Grey-black and menacing. I went through my “Dangerous Animals of Australia” (all of them) book, and read the section on tick removal. Then I went to the Queensland Health Department’s page and they basically contradicted everything the old bushie who wrote the book said.

Solution? Doctor’s office.

Now here in Australia we’re very lucky. My doctor ‘bulk bills’, which means they don’t charge me anything, just the government. And they could see me in the next ten minutes.

So I zip up to the doctor. And wait. My normal doctor (Dr Price, a man in his 60s) was there seeing patients. The other doctor who works there is an equally old Indian man, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing, I had no qualms about seeing either of them, whatever, just get this damn bug off my leg.

I should have mentioned where, exactly, the tick was.

It was right next to my testicle.

Anyway, I keep waiting. Both Dr Price and the other Doctor are wandering in and out, seeing the patients who were waiting there before I was. That’s fine, waiting is a skill I’ve spent my life perfecting. Out comes a doctor who I’ve never seen before. She’s in her late 20s, early 30s. She calls my name.

Into the office I go, and she asks me what the problem is.

“I’ve got a tick,” I say.

She replies, “Well, let’s see it then.”

I make some fumbled reply, waving my hands about, trying to explain (delicately) where the tick is (somewhere delicate.) Then my brain goes Don’t be a dickhead, Chris, she’s a fucking doctor. So I say to her, “The thing is, I noticed it when I was getting into the shower, so I pulled my trousers on without putting any underwear on. I didn’t want to disturb the thing.”

She told me to stop being ridiculous and just show her.

Which I do. She takes me into the examination room and has me wait.

When she eventually comes back she’s got those lovely blue gloves on, and instructs me to move my testicles out of the way.

Which I do.

And then as she moves in to remove the tick, it turns out that it had gotten tangled in my pubic hair, and as such had not been able to puncture my skin and dig its way in.

She then complimented me on my thicket of pubic hair, which it was twisting itself in.

Thanks, doc.

Angel Watch

“Why do they call them Angels, then?”

The old man spat, a lump of phlegm quivering on the dirt beside him – he turned his attention back to the gun he was cleaning, eyeing down the barrel.

“It’s the look of the beast, boy – great white wings, you see?”

Of course, it wasn’t just wings. Their language sounded like heavenly choirs, and their faces glowed with beautific, serene smiles as they slaughtered.

“Well, we’ll be ready for them,” the boy said, sighting along the muzzle of his pistol, winking at the sky, “won’t we, Uncle?”

The old man grimaced, and turned his head – he couldn’t look the boy in the eyes.

He knew the bullets weren’t for the angels.




Written for one of this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: Angel Watch

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What’s the Oldest Still-Operating Company in the World?

What’s the oldest, still-operating company in the world? The answer might surprise you…just how long it’s been operating definitely will. My latest piece for the Atlas Obscura has the answer.

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A chimpanzee seated at a typewriter – image by the New York Zoological Society c 1906

I know I haven’t been writing much. Well, not writing much here.

Hey, I’ve been busy.

I’ve been working on things.

There’ll be some new non-fiction this week, and probably some new fiction up here too.

I mean, obviously I’m still writing my novel. It’ll take forever, but once it’s done, I’ll shout it from the rooftops.


Valentine’s Day

Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day! Here’s a special e-card for that special person in your life:


You’re welcome!

Great Worqs

So, I received an email the other day, out of the blue.

The company it came from is called Great Worqs, and they were asking me to share their concept around, and see if you guys are interested. Basically, they are a company that links writers (that’s us, you guys!) with film makers (that’s some other people over there). Seems pretty cool – I know I’ve got something I’m considering sending over. They’ll be launching their new website in March, at SXSW.

They’ll be choosing a film (or three) to win a £100 prize, so there’s that, too.

Short films are cool.

Go check out their website:

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The Great Old Ones

Pando aspen grove at Fishlake National Forest (photograph by J Zapell/Wikimedia)

My latest article, on Atlas Obscura, asks the question:

“What’s the oldest living tree in the world?”

If you’re thinking of some Californian Sequoia, you’re only off by around 75,000 years…

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Super Tasty

The burger was fracking delicious.
Verity couldn’t help herself.
Another! Her super-metabolism kept rising, as did the crime rate.
But she’d get around to it.

Another 25 word story for the weekly writing competition on reddit – 25 words, based on one of their story-teller cards (like the one above.) Head here to check it out!

The Sun is Here!

“The Sun is here! The Sun is here!”

She came without radiant armour, without her heralds and hangers-on.

“The Sun is here!”

My neighbour sneered over his fence. He didn’t believe me.

She glared at me! At me, of all people!

“Quiet down boy.” (she said) “I don’t want everybody to know.”

She looked exactly like her engravings – but without the halo, and the silver, fish-scale armour. She came without the Butcher, her bronze machete, whose blood-gutters had so often run with the blood of her enemies.

The Sun is here!

She came into town, to stay at my Mother’s inn!

I was collecting vegetables from the garden when she came in – I saw red leather boots on the loose gravel path and looked up at her – the setting sun was behind her, like an egg breaking on the horizon, shining over her shoulders like a halo. That’s how I knew it was her. There was no way I could mistake her for the travelling salesman she hoped to pass as.
She’s sitting in my Mother’s kitchen.


Mother sent me outside to collect a chicken for the cooking-pot, mangos, onion shoots, mint, basil, chilli – soon she’ll run out of things for me to collect. The smell of Mother’s cooking filled the yard, the herbs and spices unleashing their fragrance as I readied my axe to swing.
The chop-sticks look so delicate in her hands, delicate yet deadly, as she twirled them between her fingers.

“I just want some peace, just a few days of peace,” she said.

“I understand,” my Mother said, nodding (how could she understand?). “I’ll send the boy away.”

The road to my Grandmother’s house is muddy, and the sun beats down on my shoulders, while the Sun sleeps in my Mother’s house.

Written for this month’s r/fantasywriters Writing Challenge – to write a story of 1,000 words or less from the perspective of a mundane character encountering their hero or villain in an unremarkable location. I also used one of this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: Travelling Salesman. It’s very short, but hey, that’s how we all like it, right? Let me know what you think! 

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Wait Up!

 He picked the lock on his manacle. The door slammed behind him, loud enough to wake a sleeping dwarf. “You nearly left me behind again!”

Another 25 word story for the weekly writing competition on reddit  – 25 words, based on one of their story-teller cards (like the one above.) Head here to check it out!

I also used one of this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts:

Wake a sleeping dwarf.

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Drowned Towns – Cities Lost to Progress

Hey, my latest piece is up on Atlas Obscura! Drowned Towns: Cities Lost to Progress is about some of those towns we’ve drowned in our quest for more electricity, for more water. Let me know what you think!

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It’s Over

He had the worst sense of timing.

She tried to hold it in – but there was no sadness, only anger.

The bastard.

“It’s over.”

 I just came across a weekly writing competition on reddit the other day – 25 words, based on one of their story-teller cards (like the one above.) Head here to check it out!

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Janice had always liked it here, by the river.

She flopped, heavy and wheezing.

He held her above the water.

“I love you, Janice…”

But he still couldn’t let her go.

 I just came across a weekly writing competition on reddit the other day – 25 words, based on one of their story-teller cards (like the one above.) Head here to check it out!

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A History of Wanking

So I wrote a little something about a big something: the history (and the Future) of wanking, over on the Archer website.

Modern Art

“What the hell is this meant to be? Performance art?”

Some people just don’t get it.

“What’s the truck represent?”

To explain only cheapens it.

 I just came across a weekly writing competition on reddit the other day – 25 words, based on one of their story-teller cards (like the one above.) Head here to check it out!

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He fell.

It took an age, that slow, plummeting descent.

Now, where had he gone wrong?

He mouthed the words in his grimoire, began again.

 I just came across a weekly writing competition on reddit the other day – 25 words, based on one of their story-teller cards (like the one above.) Head here to check it out!

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Bang Bang

He came in from the cold.

“It’ll grow on you,” they said.


The little fire sputtered in the grate, blue-grey smoke coiling. He spat at it, and went to the sink, washed his hands – the water ran brown beneath his fingertips, and the walls seemed to close in on him, fake stone walls, fake wooden floor, fake fire. He turned up the thermostat.

They did the whole place to look rustic – which was another thing that pissed him off. Why hide the technology beneath this facade of another planet’s past? It’ll grow on you.

He looked out the window – a thin screen painted onto the wall of the hab – staring at the rambling pumpkin vines and the spears of maize that thrust into the dirt of this rock, a stake, claiming it for humanity. The replicator hummed, and dinged – false nostalgia for an age he had never lived in. The machine could create food from its surrounds, and it could do it in silence. It should do it in silence.

He glowered at it.

It didn’t make him feel any better.

The wind, he knew, howled outside, but you couldn’t hear it through the layers of glass and heavy plastic and gold that sprouted on the walls of his hab.

There was a knock on the door, but he ignored it.

He was down to the last bottle. Amber-gold, precious beyond anything else. He’d already been reprimanded for trying to disable his replicator’s copy-protection. He didn’t even care what brand of whiskey it made, so long as it made whiskey. It didn’t.

There it was again, that knock on the door – so sorry to be impolite, the knock said, I don’t mean to interrupt. The colony’s psych-bot knew all the door codes. It’d get inside eventually.

He found his hammer, and set to waiting.


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