The freight train rumbled slowly through the industrial district of East Portland, blasting its low horn at regular intervals as it trundled through the block-sized cement factories and bike warehouses.

It was forty cars long, made up of flatbeds of which about half were loaded with shipping containers. From behind a container emerged a short, squirrely man in a ragged trench coat and a dirty green baseball cap named Scissors.

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“We’re thinking of selling the house.”

William beamed at me with his disarming smile. He was still handsome at 40, with long salt and pepper hair, but I turned away from him to process what he had just said. 

The three of us were sat on beanbags in their treehouse, drinking tea from a tea set laid out on the floor between us. Betty was flicking through a magazine propped up on her lap with one hand and holding a cup in the other. She was striking in the soft afternoon light, with short cropped hair and an easy smile. They made a beautiful couple. 

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The Commute

Michael McEnnedy left the busy main road and turned onto a shadowy back street. He walked down the middle of this long and claustrophobic single carriageway, enjoying the gloominess created by the rows of large warehouses that loomed over him on either side, the morning’s grey drizzle making it grimmer than usual.

He considered this his private route to work. It added five minutes to his journey into the centre of town so he rarely saw anyone else using it. On this particular morning, however, he was annoyed to see the small figure of a man at the far end of the dim road. The man walked swiftly, and what looked like a small backpack was slung over one shoulder.

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Short Story #20: January, 2018

29th January 2018

This snow-covered countryside has never looked so sinister.

Tiny icicles hang from the bare tree limbs, glinting like rows of teeth in the shadows. Patches of red lie scattered across the whitened ground, a grotesque dotted blanket over a wretched planet. Sometimes the bodies of animals—rabbits, sheep and, once, a deer—claim ownership of these claret-coloured spots.

I can get used to the sight and smell of the rotting flesh of animals, but not that of humans. The revulsion is the same every time: my gut feels like it’s being pummelled by a heavyweight boxer and I gag sharply, desperate to be anywhere else, to not be a witness to the devastation. If there is a body on the floor, it means that there is not enough of it left to rise—mauled beyond all recognition, limbs scattered, heads destroyed. These deaths are not peaceful; never do they invoke the comforting image of eternal sleep.

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Short Story #19: War

Private Brown stepped off the shuttle, unclipped his face mask and wiped his brow with the back of his hand, shifting his heavy helmet backwards in the process. He took in a deep gulp of the cool mountain air which tasted impossibly clean and fresh after a day breathing through the mask’s chemical filtration.

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Short Story #18: Desperation

Jeffery Jenkins turned his silver BMW into the gravel driveway, switched off the engine, and sighed.

Streetlights hadn’t yet been installed on the freshly laid brick road that led to his house and the moon was new so as he killed the car’s headlights he was plunged into an oily darkness.

He sat in the soft leather seats and stared at the house—no longer a home—that gradually came into focus as his eyes adjusted. His was part of a sprawling new development and the only one currently occupied on the long cul-de-sac. It stood detached and alone, a monstrous square visage, screaming back his loneliness at him.

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Short Story #16: Elephant

There’s nothing quite like having an elephant charge at you. Its grey, tree-stump legs slamming against the hot concrete; its lumpy, hairy head bobbing up and down, trunk swaying from side to side as it runs. It seems to move in slow motion—a lumbering charge that feels more like a truck reversing than a speeding freight train—although its size means that it is, in fact, covering a fair distance with each stride.

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Short Story #15: The Meeting

“Man, I need a drink,” said Raymond, massaging the back of his neck as he entered the dressing room. His ripped Pixies t-shirt was still soaked in sweat and there was a dirty white towel draped over his shoulder. “Any beers left?”

The small, windowless dressing room was covered in graffiti and smelled of stale beer and staler BO. Mags, their striking twenty-one year old drummer in a black tank-top and jean hot pants, was lying across a beaten up red arm chair in the corner, reading her phone with one hand, an open beer in the other.

She looked over at Raymond, moved her choppy black hair out of her eyes and smiled. Without taking her eyes off him, she drained the can she was drinking, crushed it and threw it across the room at him.

“All out,” she said.

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Short Story #14: The Janitor

At four thirty in the morning, Drake’s tiny, fitted earphones start playing a fugue by Bach and a large rectangular section of the wall that butts up against the end of his bed slowly fills the room with a soft orange light, gently waking him up.

After a quick shower, he puts on a black suit, white shirt and black tie and sits back down on his bed to eat his breakfast. His windowless studio on the 37th floor of the apartment complex is small. The bed takes up one corner and a kitchenette occupies another. An old, beaten armchair sits in a third and his bathroom—a wet room no bigger than a decent sized closet—takes the fourth. He has been living here for three and a half years.

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