You wait for your number to be called. In your hand you grasp a withering white scrap. You don’t know how long you’ve been here, but you do know there were faces here that came before you, and many faces after.

You wait.

There is one window in the room. It opens out onto a brick wall. Earlier you are sure you saw a head bob into a view. A plume of smoke strokes the window frame. Just by watching you can taste it. You blow warm air out of your mouth and it floats in front of you before it dissipates.

You wait.

There is one set of double doors in the room. They swing open with great ease but creak closed. Slowly the wedge of blue light they let in thins to a straight blue line. Pointing straight at you, maybe.

You cross your legs as you wait.

No one is really moving. Stiff backs and even stiffer faces. Fixed smiles, slicked back hair. But the eyes. Their eyes are farting about in their skulls. Scanning. Checking. Watching each other.

You do it too, as you wait.

Watch their hands. Watch the show paper tremble. Watch the numbers as they slide and smear. Who’s next really? And does it even matter? They come out and get you when it’s time. Blink and you’ll miss it.

You think you’re still waiting. But when you look down you’re not in the waiting room. You’re strapped to the bed and the only thing you see is the blue light. Not a slither but a blinding sheet of blue.

The last thing you feel is the slip of paper crumbling between you fingers. The last thing you smell is the sweet smell of burning flesh. The last thing you hear, as that sense fades away with the rest-

‘434 is ready. Prepare the host.’


Twin Bed

We can put some pillows down the middle. 

We can put some pillows in the middle and maybe top and tail?

We can top and tail and wear all our clothes. 

Or, let’s not sleep at all. 

I have some spreadsheets to check, you must have spreadsheets to check. 

We can work all night. 

All night. 

Then we won’t miss the plane. 

We might be groggy but we won’t have-

I’m not saying we would without all that, but I don’t want you to feel-

I’m not trying to say you have no self control, I just-

Am I over thinking this?

I’m being patronising, am I?

You think I think I’m god’s gift?

I’m just trying to help you! You’re the one either the reputation. You’re the one everyone gossips about chasing married men!

I’m sorry. 

I shouldn’t have- I don’t think that of you. 

I really am just trying to help you. 

Here, take my card. Get a second room. 

Or I’ll go, how about that?

I don’t want to cause any trouble and I don’t-

If I’m being honest, it would be me. 

It would be me. 

I’m not- I sympathise with-

No, I didn’t say you were pathetic. I just mean that I get lonely too!

I get lonely too. 

I understand why escaping from that for one night would seem worth…

I’m sorry. 

Forget I said anything. 

I’m going to the bar. Maybe we can just sleep in shifts. 

Carbury & Grant

Joel points at his screen.

J: What do you think?

C: It’s a picture of you surrounded by bubbles. Wait, no-

Courtney squints.

C: On further inspection, it’s a picture of you surrounded by-

J: It’s me surrounded by butts.

C: Yup. Why?

J: What?

C: Like, why do it?

J: For nights out.

C: What are you talking about?

J: Calling cards.

C: Calling cards are for when you visit people in the 1920s. What’s that got to do with a night out?

J: If I meet girl.

C: If you meet a girl what? First of all, you would have already met her, so you don’t have to leave a calling card. Also it’s not 1920. Also-

J: Something to remember me by.

C: Stop it.

J: What?

C: Stop.

J: It’s original.

C: That’s the only thing you’ve said that makes sense. You’re right. It’s original. It’s also bad.

J: How?

C: You want to be remembered with a hundred butts that aren’t yours?

J: It’s original-

C: I heard. You realise you haven’t put any other details on this design right?

J: What do you mean?

C: How are they supposed to find you again? You haven’t even written your name.

Joel looks at the picture again.

J: Oh.

C: Exactly.

J: I’ve printed…

C: What?

J: I’ve printed 500.

C: How much?

J: 5…500. But I’ve only opened 200, so we can send the rest back.

C: Why would you-

Courtney rubs her eyes.

B: I just wish I could see inside your head. I really honestly believe someone performed a lobotomy without you knowing. Or maybe you know and you just can’t articulate because you’re so fucking stupid.

Year Book

At some point, the most important thing was putting this book together. There were meeting, meetings upon meetings. Layouts. Representatives. And finally it fell in your lap. You had to get all the profiles, all the photos. On top of your GCSEs, on top of your applications.

And you loved it. Organising life, five years of your life, into a neat 100 page book was relaxing. Turned the chaos, and the confusion and the fear and the pain into something you could understand. One last thing to remember it all by. The girls you grew up with, fought with, envied, ridiculed. Laughed with, laughed at.

And 10 years on…you don’t recognise the faces.

And scarier still, you don’t recognise your own.

It’s almost as if, in making the book, you dumped all your memories in the pages and emptied out your brain. Or more, now that you’re away from it, out of that place where you perfected your shell, it seems like a dream. Did we wear those clothes everyday? Did we like it?

You look out of place in the photos. Uncomfortable. Your hair isn’t right, your uniform is too big. You move with such…shame and awkwardness. Like you’re in someone else’s house and you have to creep about so as not to disturb.

You wanted to be left alone. You wanted to be part of it but also away from it. You couldn’t handle it. Understand it. But you had to find a way to make it to the finish line.

So, you turned yourself down.

You turned yourself down, but not off. You’re right there, in all the pictures. Controlling it all. Monitoring it all. Recording it to analyse later.

But now it’s all gone. No. It’s in the book. No, the book is not the same. No, the book is better?

Isn’t it always?

You flick through the pages, a faint smile on your lips. A little unnerved by how distant it feels, a little relieved that it doesn’t mean as much to you anymore.

Hunger of the Pine

Getting off a person is a lot like getting off a drug. There are ups and downs of varying lengths and triggers that you never expect will hit you with such force.

From day to day, your feelings about the situation change. You don’t care about him anymore. You never cared about him. You just liked the idea of him. You liked the way he made you feel, and not necessarily how he did it. You don’t trust him, you can’t trust him and this, all of it, cutting him off, cutting him out of your story, is for the best.

But you love him. Or at least, it feels like you do. You’ve felt things like this before, but not to the same degree. Not in this overwhelming, painfully raw way. You loved being with him. That is true. You loved what he smelt like and his smile, his smile-

His smile was a lie. Everything he ever did, or said, was a lie. Those things were nothing to him, he would tell anyone. There was nothing special about you.

But he made you feel special. He saw you. He spoke to you in a way that got you to feel safe, for the first time, with someone other than yourself. And that’s important. That means something. That there’s someone out there for you. That maybe he could be that someone-

He left. He left. And every time you meet up, he leaves you all over again. Reopening the wound over and over, not giving you room to recover. Maybe, he likes you like this. On the edge of your seat, drinking him in. Aching. Pining. Someone to come back to when his confidence is low. Someone to reassure him that he is loved, liked at least. So he comes back, he seduces you, you start to fall and before you can catch yourself, he’s gone. Left you behind while he continues his life without you in it. Writes you out, like this is his story. Is that what you do to someone you love? Someone you care about? Is that that the kind of relationship you want?

But he’s only human and humans make mistakes. Maybe he’s as confused as you are. Maybe he’s just as insecure. Maybe hunkering down and letting this blow over, ignoring all these messy feelings, is how he protects himself. Just like you.

And that makes him a coward. You can’t build a life with two coward. You deserve more than that. You want more than that. You are deluding yourself if you think you can make something with a person who isn’t strong enough to know what they want. What you want. Who isn’t strong enough to make it happen.

But do you know what you want?

You want him. You want him always. To speak to him always, hear him always. Look at him, touch him-

It’s not healthy. It’s not rewarding. There is nothing glorious about this, nothing here to crave. Relationships require two people. Two. And at the moment, there is only one. There is only you. And by that logic, there is no relationship. There is nothing to mourn. You miss him and that’s fine. That’s allowed. He was your friend. But what you think you’re missing, this great life the two of you could have had, never was. He never was. Never was yours. You started to build, wanted to build and keep on trying to build, an alter. Some great shrine to this pure and perfect love, even though the foundations are on sand. Worse than sand, dust. Worse than dust, nothing. Air. A vacuum.  It’s a thing that you do and have done and are doing right now. But you must focus on what’s real: He wasn’t for you. He was close to it, but he was never going to be yours.

That’s what real. The life, the prospect, the dream, the cusp of something, was all just that- Abstract nouns. In real life, there was nothing. Is nothing. And that’s what hurts. That you feel so strongly about something that isn’t tangible, never was. It’s okay to dream, but you lost your way and thought the dream was real. The dream was happening, taking shape before your eyes. And now you’re both mad at him and mad at yourself for not being more present. More careful. Smarter. You do know what’s real and what is not, but you thought, maybe this time, fantasy might trump reality. Because, in reality, you’re bored. You’re lonely. And he looked like he could take you away from that. But here you are. Here you always were.

So now, back to the lull. The silence. You don’t ache anymore. You feel nothing. And there’s a kind of relief in that. You have pressed reset. Your mind stops buzzing and plaguing you with fanciful thoughts and all you’re left with is you. You look at yourself for the first time in a while. See yourself for what you are. Who you are. What you want, what you need. You can spell it out, you can touch it. You can make a choice to either grow or regress. It’s entirely in your hands. You’re in control again.

So close your eyes. Properly this time. Face the darkness, the unknown. Tomorrow will come, and maybe you will get answers or opportunities and maybe you won’t. But that sadness, that desperation, that displacement – it will dull, get duller until you think of him with polite indifference again. Like when you first met. Reset.

 Oh, him? You’ll say. Yeah, he was my friend. Just a guy who used to be my friend.

Madness Made Manifest

You wake up to the dawn light. You know the sun is well beyond the open window, but as you open your eyes, it is a sharp point within your head. You want to cower, to block the view, to just turn away, but something is stopping you. You look down and see that you are bound with lengths of rope to one of the wooden beams that holds the roof of your winter cabin up.

You are confused. You try to wriggle but the lower part of your body does not respond. In fact, you can’t feel it. You can’t even flex a toe. You only have use of your neck, and even that usually sturdy support is waning. You survey the room. It is in disarray, chairs are over turned. The widows are smashed. Somewhere the fire is crackling. And the rug. the rug your father bought you when you moved into the house, the wedding gift. It’s ruined. Someone’s soaked it in some red substance.

You manage to let out a groan. The once still rocking chair by the fire begins to creak. You look towards it. You make out someone’s legs. Dark corduroy trousers. Hiking boots. The person gets up and you see the aging face of your father turn towards you. His face is wet with tears, his eyes bloodshot. His grey beard is damp, straggly. He turns but does not approach you. He stands cautiously behind the rocking chair, the shirt under his flannel is red.


Just then a piercing pain rips through your frontal lobe. You wince from it and bow your head. You’re not just confused now, you’re beginning to feel sick. Sick with confusion, with how much you don’t understand. You remember coming to the summer house. You remember closing the car door and taking in the crisp mountain air. You remember lighting the fire. You remember your wife in the garden, your sons clinging to her skirt. You remember-


You open your eyes and look at your father. There is something in his eyes, something you don’t recognise. So you blink and look from him to your bonds.

‘Heracles, is that you?’

‘of course it’s me’ you manage to say, bewildered.

‘Heracles, swear it. Swear it’s you before I untie you’

‘You did this?’

‘Heracles’ your father urges. ‘Look at me, son. Tell me, are you okay?’

You nod.

‘Apart from being tied to a beam, and this splitting head ache, I’m fine, dad’

He creeps towards you, his footsteps are light, frightful. He keeps glancing at the door, as if he is expecting someone, you turn to look but there is nothing but a plank of wood bolted shut. Wait, you can make out the feathered fletching of an arrow. Two. You go to say something but he is untying you. His hands are trembling, and his lip quivers as he looks into your face. He loosens the ropes and then retreats immediately to the other side of the room.

‘Dad, what is it?’ you ask, trying to straighten up. You wriggle a toe, then a foot. You lean your head back as you push out your chest, and feel a shooting pain as the back of your head connects with the wooden beam. Instinctively you reach for source. It is wet. When you look are your hand is damp, red. You’re bleeding.

Now you are confused, sick and scared.




EDIE, young but hollow-eyed, sits at the front desk of a dimly lit office reception for the night shift. She watches the time on a computer screen. A lift chimes its arrival on her floor. She looks up and sees a member of staff, SIMON, rooting in the pockets of his winter coat as he steps out of the lift and crosses the foyer. He pauses in the middle.


Working late again, Edie?

Edie shrugs.


What can I say? I can’t get enough of the place.

Simon grins and approaches the door to the main office. He swipes his ID card and disappears inside.

Edie goes back to looking at the time. A minute later the lift chimes again. She looks up and sees Simon, exactly as before, step out of the lift and cross the foyer, pausing in the middle.


Working late again, Edie?

Edie stares at him, perplexed.



Simon grins and swipes his ID card. He disappears into the main office. Edie stares after him.

A minute later the lift chimes. Simon steps out of the lift and crosses the foyer, pausing in the middle.


Working late again, Edie?

Edie shakes her head in disbelief.        



Simon grins and swipes his card. He disappears into the main office. Edie gets up and cautiously approaches the door he has just walked through. She peers through the glass into the dark, empty, open plan office. The lift chimes behind her. Slowly Edie turns around. Simon steps out of the lift and pauses in the middle, addressing the front desk.


Working late again, Edie?

Edie just stares at him, eyes filling with tears. A familiar voice replies.


What can I say?

Edie turns to look at the front desk. It is occupied. By her. The second Edie turns to look at her, hollow eyes blank.

EDIE 2 (continued)

I can’t get enough of the place.

The Edie standing at the door vanishes. Simon grins and swipes his ID card. Edie goes back to looking at the time on her computer screen. After a moment, the lift chimes.