by Iain Cambridge

[Continuing the celebration of the works of Iain Cambridge]


It was a warm spring day in 1948 that I first made the acquaintance of the young lady known to me only as Miss Harmony Reigns after having moved into the small two-bedroom house in one of the more affluent suburbs of Paris. I had recently acquired the residence at a bargain price due to the misfortune of another poor soul, for it had been part of a bankruptcy sale. On entry to my new home it was plain to see that some major decoration was needed as its previous owner had clearly fallen on hard times long before his home was taken from him. This was of no matter to me as I relished the chance to stamp my own personality on to this new abode, and so took to reshaping the rooms to my own design as soon as possible, and with great gusto.

The work was arduous and took more hours out of my day than I freely had to give. The lack of sleep, due to an enthusiasm to complete my new home, was sometimes reflected in my performance at work. Fortunately my superior was a genial man who understood the urgency of youth and allowed me, at such times, to regain the focus needed for my tasks, and to complete the work at my own pace.

During my renovations I would sometimes break for a light lunch, and would take to the little garden out back in order to enjoy the birdsong and silence that only this side of the noisy metropolis enjoys.

It was on such occasion that I first encountered Harmony Reigns.

As I sat, enveloped in the sounds of spring, there came on the wind the sound of a woman singing. Her voice seemed to mix in with the world around us, as if it had always been a part of the call of nature – heralding in the summer.

There was an old wooden fence at the end of the garden that separated my property from the one opposite, and it was from behind this that the singing originated.

Years of unkempt weeds had grown over the barrier between houses and had set themselves in such a way as to dislodge a part of the fence.

It was from here that I attained my first view of the owner of such a beautiful voice.

Sitting on the ground, below an oak tree that grew mighty and strong was a sight that would stop the beating heart of most young men.

Long red hair fell over a pixie-like face and flowed down her back like liquid fire and served as to frame her features that were pale in their complexion. Her eyes shone green and seemed to light up whenever she smiled. Unfortunately, this was not something she did a lot – for reasons that would become clear later in our relationship.

So as not to seem rude, I called over to her in order to initiate an introduction.

“Bonjour Madam,” I said. On this she looked up and around, seemingly confused as to where my voice was coming from.

“Over here Madam — the other side of the fence.”

Having located the broken panel she got up and walked over towards me and, bending at the knees, she peered though the hole.

“Oh! Hello,” she said. “I wasn’t aware that anyone lived over there any more.

I smiled and replied.

“I have just taken possession not two weeks since – pardon, but is Madam English?”

Her smile remained.

“Oh dear, is my French that bad”

“Not at all, but your accent gives you away.”

She laughed and said, “May I know your name, Monsieur?”

I blushed at my apparent rude behaviour at not introducing myself.

“Excuse me Madam; I am Phillip Rencall – at your service.”

“Harmony Reigns,” came her reply “pleased to meet you.”

“And I you.”

The fashions in Paris of late had dictated that young women should be of a slight build and enjoy a demure personalty that borders of the aloof. But Miss Harmony Reigns was not such a woman that would conform to another’s views and wishes.

She was confident in her manner and solid within her build and was a refreshing stray from the norm. We spent an enjoyable hour or so talking of many things of interest to both her and I. Sometimes we would find something mutual and dwell on the subject for a while. At other times we would spend a short time discussing a subject that was of interest only to one.

For example — Miss Reigns, it appeared, aspired to be an actress and a dancer, and longed to perform in London. I commented that she should also add singing to her repertoire, as I was quite enraptured by her earlier song. I told her of my work in the library, which by comparison to her lofty dreams of fame appeared quite dull. But the way she seemed genuinely interested in my work made me feel a little taller and less unimportant. That afternoon was as special a day as I have experience in a long time – if ever, and I would have happily spent my last day on Earth in this way.

The sound of a man’s voice shattered the air and ripped the placid calm that had encompassed the day. It was a brutish sound, filled with anger and violence. At his call, Harmony’s face drained of the little colour it held. She jumped almost in fear. “I am sorry” she said weakly “I have to go”

With that, she stood and almost ran to answer his call.

I could not feel but cheated of my pleasurable time with this most engaging woman, but I figured that this man had clearly laid claim to her affections long before I arrived and I was therefore in no position to complain.

This rational did not stop the feelings of jealousy though.

The next day, and the three days that followed were filled with images of her face.

Her voice echoed in my thoughts and dreams. I feared that my affection for Miss Reigns had crossed the line of decency and would not be seen as appropriate. I scolded myself for having such a childlike crush on this woman, of whom I had met only once. I washed the thoughts of her from my mind, buried myself in my work and lost the memories of her within my home making.

Until one week later.

On taking a break from my renovations I found myself back by the broken fence once more. I dared to sneak a look in case by some chance I would see her sitting under the oak tree.

To my utter delight – there she sat.

“You have been gone quite a while Monsieur,” she said without looking up.

“It does seem a long time, Madam Reigns, but after your hasty retreat on our first encounter I felt it would be only good manners to leave you to your business”

Her head remained bowed as she spoke once more. “Did you not enjoy our afternoon?”

I knelt down a little further, in order to gain a better view of the woman that had caused so many sleepless nights. A woman that had called into question as to what I would deem “decent behaviour” from a gentleman”

“Indeed I did Madam”

She laughed gently to herself.

“I think we know each other well enough for you to address me as Harmony”

I smiled to her unseen face.

“Then Harmony it is”

At this she turned to me and smiled.

As her hair fell away, the smile that I had reciprocated with left my lips, for, on the left side of her face was such an abrasion that could only have been caused by an aggressor. My exclamation caused her to raise her hand to her wound and turn her face from me once more.

“Miss Reigns – Harmony, what on earth happened?”

She lowered her hand and turned slowly to me again.

“Sometimes I speak too loud, and too candid.”

“And this is his answer?” I exclaimed, more in anger than I meant to. But to be fair of the situation, it did demand a reaction that would show disgust for any man that would raise his hand to a woman. I composed myself a little so that I might continue.

“I am sorry, Harmony, but violence is never the answer.”

She smiled at me and tilted her head a little, as if addressing a child.

“I am of the opinion that it depends on what the question was.”

I was a little shocked at her statement. “You surly do not condone his actions?” I said.

“I do not – but then I do not condone mine either.”

The pause in the conversation was such that it drew compassion from Harmony as to my struggle against what was clearly out of my control.

“Do not worry my friend, I have handled a lot worse and I have grown to live with his moods. He is not always like this, it’s just that sometimes the demon drink takes him over and I am not quick enough to recognise the signs.”

“Signs?” I inquired.

“Signs that I should start to curb my loose tongue.”

It angered me so much. Not only that this kerr of a man had spent his anger on a woman of such devotion, but also that her devotion had now caused her to defend his actions. She had obviously sensed my discomfort and chose that moment to change the subject.

“And what of you Monsieur?”

I looked at her face in question. Even with the swelling and the angry purple bruising, she still held my heart captive with her beauty.

“How have you filled your time during our hiatus?”

I smiled at her joke.

“The making of a new home – work. Nothing that would hold the interest of anyone but myself.”

Harmony looked at me for a few short seconds, a small measure of time that seemed to last a lifetime under her gaze.

“Tell me Phillip – is there someone in your life that you would share your affections with?”

I took my time to answer the question, a pause that evoked a small gasp of exclamation from Harmony’s lips.

“Do I presume too much as to ask such a personal question Monsieur?”

I smiled. “Not at all Madam — there is someone of whom I care deeply for, but alas she is betrothed to another.”

“Is she beautiful?”

“She is the spring and summer dressed as one. She is joy and happiness, sadness and woe. My minds eye sees nothing but her, and my heart beats only within her presence.”

Harmony Reign held my gaze for what seemed an eternity.

“Does she know of these feelings?”

“Alas, she is unaware of the effect she has on my soul.”

We left each other shortly after, as it was getting late. I could see that she was getting increasingly distracted by the oncoming hour that marked “his” return.

But there was many a time after when we would meet by the broken fence and talk of things and of people. She would expand on her dreams of fame. I would sit and listen, totally enraptured by her presence, bathing in her beauty.

On occasion the sleeve of her dress would ride up and I would catch a glimpse of the bruising caused by the grip of a man’s hand. When she adjusted her position, in an attempt at a more comfortable seating, her skirt would fall away from her knees.

I would turn my head away naturally at these times as to save her modesty, but not before catching a glimpse of more bruising to her upper thigh.

I said nothing as this subject seemed to be taboo between us, but it still tore at my heart.

The day came when I had completed the project that had kept me busy between work and my secret liaisons with Miss Harmony Reigns.

My small house had become a home.

The night drew in on that day as I made my way to my bed with the full intention of inviting her to lunch the next day. I would offer her of a tour of my new home. I wanted her to see what I had achieved. I craved her approval and sought deeply her praise.

As I lay awake, making plans for our lunch date, I heard the most terrible scream.

I sat bolt upright and the blood in my veins froze in fear of what I instinctively knew to be.

Another scream caused me to throw back the bed covers.

I ran down the stairs, through the kitchen and out of the backdoor that led to the garden. I could see a light streaming through the broken gap in the fence and so made my way toward it. Through the hole I could see the lights from her house – a light that illuminated both her and the object of my jealousy. As I watched I saw her run from him, calling to him to “stop” and to “calm down.” He, in turn, was yelling at her and calling her names that would have drawn me to defend such vile comments.

Instead I sat and watched the dark play unfold itself in front of me.

When she reached the oak tree she stopped running and turned towards him with her hands outstretched, pleading for him to stop and think. This was to fall silently on deafened ears as he continued his ranting, and his relentless pursuit.

When he reached her he pushed away her hands and clamped his own rough hand around her throat. I nearly called out in anguish, but my cry caught when I heard her strangled cry of, “Papa – please!”

Papa. This man that I thought as her husband — was her father.

This realization caused a feeling of elation within me, for my love was attainable and not locked within a violent marriage. Her loyalty was that of a daughter and not of a wife. With this revelation came the resolve to stop this madness that had come between us, and put an end to this mis-understanding that had stopped me from opening my heart.

At that point my soul found its voice and I called to her, hoping that this would cause a distraction long enough for me to scale the fence and interject myself between my love and her assailant.

On hearing me, both Miss Reigns and her father turned toward me. Harmony looked directly at the hole in the fence, whilst he turned this way and that, trying to locate the owner of the demands for him to stop.

I used this time to find something to stand on as an aid to climb the fence. I looked around frantically until I saw the small stepladder that I had used to reach the higher points whilst hanging the wallpaper. I ran to retrieve it and returned to the broken part of the fence. Having erected the ladder I climbed so that I could see over and into the garden of Miss Harmony Reigns.

What I saw though mystified me – for I saw nothing.

No house, no garden – nothing.

All that was to be seen was miles of open fields with not another house in sight.

Unsure of how to process this I jumped from the ladder and looked back through the hole. There was the scene that I had encountered earlier, only this time it had the pleading face of Harmony looking directly at me. Her hair hung limp and damp with perspiration and her eyes, that once shone so bright with laughter and happiness, now grew dull with fear and pain. I leapt to the ladder once more in the hope that what I had seen before was nothing but my imagination.

The scene was the same and yet the screams of Harmony Reigns still echoed within my skull. I dropped to the other side of the fence and ran aimlessly around in circles, trying to locate what could be so clearly seen from the other side. I spread my arms wide in the vain hope that I would touch what had become invisible, whilst all the time her cries for help became more strangled as they were forced though an abused airway.

Then, abruptly, there was silence.

I jumped at the fence and dropped to into my own garden again.

As I looked back I could see that my love lay still and lifeless beneath the oak tree, in much the same position that I had first encountered her.

This time there was no singing, no laughter.

I turned and sat with my back to the fence, my heart as broken as the fence that allowed this impossible view.

I wept for a loss I would never have – for a woman who had never been.

My reports to the authorities were met with ridicule. My story of a murder – taking place as it did at a location that did not exist, and with the victim being that of a mere phantom – was treated as madness on my part.

A question spun around in my mind. Was I mad? Had I joined the ranks of the insane? For as I am talking to you now, I would have sworn that she was no trick of the light, no mysterious entity.

She was real.

*  *  *

Twenty-three years had past since that strange time in my life, and since then I had faired a little worse because of it. Solace for me was sought at the bottom of a bottle. As a result, I lost my job having tried the patience of a good man too far.

With no income to speak of I fell to the same fate that befell the previous owner of my home and had it sold from beneath me. I began to imagine that this place was cursed and counted myself as just another victim of its evil.

I wandered the streets for many a year, alone and invisible to society, ignoring all, and ignored by all.

Fate is a fickle mistress, however, and salvation came to me in the most unlikely of packages. Whilst sleeping under a railway bridge just three miles from the Gare du Nord I noticed a small child playing on the railway tracks.

She was nothing but a street urchin, a parentless ragamuffin.

Her long blonde hair was matted and greasy from years of neglect, and her face was smeared with the grime of the city. Her clothes did not deserve the title, as they were mere rags, arranged merely to cover her modesty. She seemed healthy enough having grown a trade of begging and theft, as was necessary to stay alive.

I watched her playing for a while as she walked the rail tracks, involving herself in some sort of balancing game. The poise and grace she adopted in order to stay on the rail-line was a small marvel to watch and provided me with both a little afternoon entertainment and a distraction from the half empty bottle that never seemed to leave my lips.

“You seem sad Monsieur,” she said.

I was so involved in her play that I did not register that she was addressing me.

“I am sorry, little miss, were you talking to me?”

Oui, Monsieur,” she replied. “I come here most days to play and I have noticed that you have stayed longer than most. Is it your sadness that keeps you here?”

I smiled at her forthrightness, and at her broken French. It indicated to me that this was not her first language, but a gutter speak derived from a life amongst the human flotsam and jetsam of Europe that had washed up in the streets of Paris.

“You are correct, little miss, but for a brief while you have made me a little happier.”

She stopped her play and hopped off of the rail track.

“I am glad,” she said and proceeded to sit next to me.

I looked down at her for a while and wondered what had invoked her interest in me, until a thought suddenly struck me.

“Are you hungry?” I asked. With that, I fished around in my bag for some bread and cheese. She looked up at me with bright blue eyes. “No thank you.”

She looked down, and at the source of my comfort contained in that half drunk bottle.

“Are you thirsty?” she inquired. I followed her gaze and then looked back at her.

“Sometimes a little too thirsty,” I said, and placed the bottle into my pocket.

“Then maybe it is time to be hungry now?”

Her words were as an ice shard plunged deep into my soul. Had I become so worthless that I could incur pity from a child? The shame of the image I presented to the world was thrust back at me through the eyes of this innocent young girl. Her comments were not meant to be malicious, but their truth spoke to a part of me that I thought long dead, along with the spectre of Miss Destiny Reigns.

I removed the bottle from my coat and examined its contents.

Another derelict shell of a man, such as I had become, shuffled past at that moment and I thought for a while before offering it to him.

“For you, sir.”

He looked at me with suspicion.

“Your need is greater than mine, my brother,” I said to him.

He took the bottle tentatively and with a slight nod of his head carried on his way toward whatever hell was to be put to him on this path.

I, in turn, took the first steps away from mine.

The young lady went by the name of Monique, and from that day seemed never to leave my side. It was as though she had taken pity on this lost soul and had adopted me as one would do with a stray puppy. We would stroll together along the banks of the Seine talking of life and of the events that led to our current situation.

Hers was not as selfish a reason as mine, for unlike myself – who had given up on my sanity and had allowed my weak mind to fold in on itself –  Monique had been given no such choices in her short life. With parents of limited means, and of limited health, Monique soon found herself out on the streets begging for food in order to feed a hungry family, until one day there was a family no more. With both her mother and father taken by illness she left her home and sought out an existence with the underclass and the forgotten.

*   *   *

Years past and so did my responsibility to this ever-growing young lady.

Due to my reputation in Paris, being that of a madman and a drunkard, Monique and I both made our way across the channel to England, in the hope that I would gain employment under a new name. We assumed the guise of father and daughter and whilst I worked my days in the shipyards, she attended school, funded by what money I could earn during nightshifts taken in the local bars around town.

She had become my atonement for a wasted life, and a salvation for my own lost soul.

As she grew into womanhood I began to notice that she had started to gain the attention of several young men. This troubled me greatly, as it would do for any protective father. As a way of steering her away from temptation and from the admiring glances of varying gentlemen, I moved us to a small village close to the sea, just outside the main city. It was a small dwelling and suited us both. Monique loved to tend to the gardens and stroll along the beachfront, and I, once again, had started to involve myself with my books in the hope that further learning would lead to better employment, and a secure future for my adopted daughter.

All was well. We were happy.

*   *   *

“Who is Harmony?”

Her question came out of the blue one morning as we were enjoying breakfast.

Such was my surprise at hearing a name that I had not heard for some thirty odd years that I nearly choked on the piece of toast I had already started to swallow.

Having coughed myself to a halt, I wiped the tears of excursion from my eyes and said, “Where on Earth did you hear that name?”

She smiled as she sipped her tea. Something had defined her as quite the English rose of late.

“When you fall asleep after the nightshift, you tend to talk in your sleep”

“I do?”

“Indeed, and the name “Harmony” comes to your lips on the occasions when you are very tired. Was she very special to you?”

I stood up and started to clear my plate from the table. I looked at her pale face, with those big blue eyes that seemed to look into your soul.

“Not as special as you, Mon Amie.”

She returned my smile and tilted her head in such a way as to suggest that, for her, this was not an answer. I sat down again and refreshed my coffee cup.

“I do not know who she was,” I said sadly, “but what I do know, is that she only lives within my fantasies.”

I proceeded to tell her the whole story.

From my first encounter with Miss Harmony Reigns within the gardens of my new home, to the witnessing of her murder, and onwards to madness and depravity. After I had spent my sorry tale, Monique stood and walked to my side of the table. She knelt down in front of me and put her arms around my neck. She hugged me for such a long time that I felt hot tears of joy run down my cheeks as the weight of all those years fell away. Never in all our time together had she shown such affection, but this simple action secured forever the bond between father and daughter.

*   *   *

Monique came to me a few weeks later with a request to join the school drama club.

As she was now at the age of eighteen I was in no real position to refuse, nor would I have done so. Yet, her request showed me that she valued my opinion and felt the need still to run decisions past me. She had opted to stay on college for further education as she had missed a good six years of schooling, before had decided to start our new lives together. She felt the need to catch up. The drama classes were her way of becoming a little more social and to express herself in a way that would be restricted by living with an old man such as myself. Now, at the age of fifty-eight, I was starting to think more and more of my retirement.

My body was older than my age, as I had abused it terribly over the years. I was starting to feel the complaints it had started to make in protest to my unforgiving lifestyle. As an aid to dull the aches and pains of the day, I had started to take of a little port at the end of the night in order to ensure a good night’s sleep.

But this folly was to ignite old habits. Before too long, I had retreated back to my old ways of drunkenness. On occasion, I had seen fit to defend myself against varying protests from those around me.

Unfortunately, sometimes this defence would be physical in nature.

At this time Monique had been offered a part in the school play, and had even gone as far to as to be given a singing role. She would come home of an afternoon in order to sing to me before I had to go to work.

Her voice was that of an angel. It would bring me to shed tears of joy and of pride.

She explained to me that the part that she had been given was that of a young woman who had been spurned by her lover and the song she was to sing reflected her loss and sorrow at his actions.

“There is not a man foolish enough to let you go and not a woman in the world that could compete against your beauty,” I said one afternoon.

She smiled at me. For the first time, I saw that she was coy at my remarks.

“Oh, Papa,” she said, “you are bias.”

“That does make it untrue.” I said.

She hugged me and kissed me on the cheek.

“Go to work foolish old man.”

At that I left for the evening, but not before explaining that I would not be returning until the next afternoon. I would finish late tonight and would start the early shift tomorrow. I would sleep at the dockyard bunkhouse, as it was easier than coming home at that late hour.

“I will have a surprise for you then,” she said.

“Do tell.”

She seemed so excited at holding in the secret that I thought she would burst.

“We will be doing a full dress rehearsal tomorrow, and so I will be in character when you return.”

I kissed her on top of her head and said my goodbyes.

“I will look forward to it,” I said as I left for the night.

Things change – but not always for the better.

My night had been long, with the temptation of the demon drink ever present. With the following day being harder still I felt the need to stop on the way home in order to dull the pain that had worn away at me all through those long hours.

On my return, I was a little the worse for wear. The liquor inside of me bubbled like a witches cauldron with the same promise of a darkness to come.

As I entered the small parlour I looked out into the garden to see if I could locate Monique. The sound of voices wafted in on the warm spring breeze. I assumed that maybe she had asked someone back to the house, to rehearse her lines, and the discovery of the script on the kitchen table seemed to confirm my thoughts.

I picked up the manuscript and flicked idly through it until I came across her character, at which point – my heart froze.

On seeing the name “Harmony Reigns,” the anger inside me rose and I bellowed at her to come into the house.

She ran to me with panic in her eyes at what could have caused such outrage.

“What is this?” I shouted as I waved the script at her, but words caught in my throat as I suddenly saw what she had done to her appearance. In a bid to make herself look more like the woman in the play, Monique had dyed her hair a bright red.

Old memories flooded back like a poison within my veins.

“Why would you do this?” I asked.

She looked at me with questioning in her eyes.

“Why would you betray my memories with this cheap imitation?”

“It was meant to honour your memories,” she said. “When I told my teacher about what had happened to you …”

“You did what?” I interrupted. “Do you know how long I had to wear the stigma of madness because of that time? You of all people know what I had to go through to get us to this place – why would you jeopardise our lives here?”

At this, she riled against me.

“It was our journey and we both had hardships to endure. I have jeopardised nothing. You, on the other hand, seek to drag us back again by revisiting your old ways. You stink of port and rum. This is our betrayal, not my homage to a lost love.”

At this, I am ashamed to say, I lost what little control I had and struck her across the face with the back of my hand. From some inner room in my mind I watched in horror as she spun with the force of the blow and dropped to the ground. I ran from the room and locked myself in my bedroom in an attempt to hide from my shame.

What had I become that I would seek to destroy the one beautiful thing in my world?

What monsters lay within me?

I passed out into a fretful sleep only to wake again in the small hours. I had missed my shift at the tavern, but I did not care. My mind was awash with the image of Monique, and of the act of cowardice that had dealt her such a savage reprimand.

I crept from my room and made my way downstairs in order to find her – to throw myself at her mercy and to beg for her forgiveness.

On the table I found a bottle of Iodine and blooded swabs as evidence of her attempts to repair the damage to her face.

My heart ached, and jumped at the sound of her voice from behind me.

“I will clean that up in the morning”

“Monique- I …”

She held her hand up.

“Please don’t,” she said.

“But I …”

“ No!” she said. With that, she left me alone in the room with only my shame for company. This sickness of mine had poisoned what we had. I feared that it would never recover.

The mood of that day hung in the air like a malignant spirit for more weeks to come, casting a shadow of despair over each day. The more I tried to explain and resolve the situation, the worse it became. With each rebuttal against my attempts to receive forgiveness, the more I drank.

Until that awful day.

On my arrival home from working at the tavern I stumbled into the house and called to her. She opened her bedroom door and stood, silhouetted in the doorway. Her newly-dyed hair shone like fire when illuminated by the light from her room.

But now there was something different, something I had not noticed before.

“Your eyes,” I said.

She looked down at me with the scorn she had adopted since her assault.

“What of them?” she asked.

“They are green.”

She laughed at me – at the drunken clown I had become.

“They have been green for weeks now. I have been wearing contact lenses, but you have been hiding at the bottom of a bottle for so long that you fail to notice what is in front of you.”

She laughed again as if mocking my stupidity – a laugh that seemed to burn my very soul. The rage inside me grew, fueled by the demons that hide behind a drunkards cowardice, until I lashed out once again in a bid to wipe the past from my mind and rid my life of the ghost that had tormented me for so long.

Everything from that moment was a patchwork of fog. So horrible was the result of my anger, that my mind would not put together a solid memory. It was as though I was protecting myself from the madness that had taken me all those years ago by denying my actions as being the truth. As the mists cleared and my temper retreated, I saw the results of my insanity, my obsessiveness and my pride.

For there at my feet lay the ruined body of Monique.

I knelt by her corpse.

I wept at what I had done.

I had everything, and destroyed it all.

A wail of anguish left my lips as I called to the winds in sorrow. For a moment I could have sworn that they called back to me as if to answer my cry.

Through my tears, I became aware that there was another who seemed to be sharing my woe. From the end of the garden, through a break in the fence I could hear the inconsolable weeping of a young man.

Long distant memories began to spark an impossible realization, and so I made my way slowly to the fence and dared to look through the gap.

There, sitting on the floor, with his back to his side of the fence, was a young man who was – but could not be – me.

I sat back and placed my hand over my mouth to save myself alerting this echo of my past to my presence.

How was he here?

How did a simple wooden fence connect our time and distance in such an impossible way?

Fate, as mentioned before, presents us with choices to make, and paths to choose. At that moment, I suddenly saw, with the clarity of a grief filled insanity, a way to end my suffering, the pain of a young man and that of my beloved Monique.

I would make sure that Harmony would indeed Reign again.

I thrust my hand through the hole in the fence and clasped my hand around the young man’s throat. I squeezed with every ounce of strength I had, ignoring the pain of his fingernails racking at the back of my hand. I felt blood spill from the wound, but still I kept my hold on him as he writhed and fought for his life – for my life.

As the last of his air gurgled through his crushed windpipe I spoke softly to him in our native French.

Je suis désolé , mais elle vaut plus que vous et moi.

His struggles became less and less as his fight for life left him. After a time he stopped moving. I kept my hand in place for a while in case of trickery on his part, but he had breathed his last and I had begun the end of our torment.

From where I speak from now, and to where I am going is not known to me.

Since taking the young man’s life – my life, I can feel the threads of my existence becoming undone, and as my tale becomes unwritten I cannot help but wonder what will become of my little Monique in this — her new story.

I fantasize that the little gutter snipe that gave an old man a new hope, became the actress she wanted to be, and I sneer at fate for making her the reason for me needing salvation. I see her now, standing on the rocks by the sea, her red hair blowing in the wind and sea spray wetting her pale skin. The same wind blows on me and starts to take apart what was broken, in order to build what should have been.

I leave now having righted what was wrong, but I have the feeling that the universe has not finished with me yet.

It mocks me still.


This is the third story published in Helios from Iain Cambridge. If you enjoy them, please leave a comment.



By Julia Proud ©2015

Waking up after a night of rough sex, booze and weed abuse wasn’t fun. Waking up after all that and going straight to a crime scene at the outskirts of the city was almost impossible. So impossible, in fact, that Detective Hank Groves felt the need to tweet all about it.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t mention the female body that had been found beside the highway, in the shadow of a thirty-five feet billboard.

“Hey, Stan! How’s the wife?” Hank greeted the officer on the scene.

“I’m not married,” the young officer replied uneasy.

“Good stuff!” Hank winked with a finger gun click in the policeman’s direction as he approached the body.

His partner was already there taking a closer look at the woman sprawled all over the grovel.

“Hey, Nick. How’s the wife?”

“I don’t know. I was too busy fucking yours.” Good old Nick. Always the cheery one.

Hank lit up a cigarette and scratched his head, holding back a yawn. His weary eyes looked over the victim. Her face was froze in an odd grimace, with an empty blue gaze staring into nowhere through the blond locks of hair covering her cheeks. She seemed familiar but he couldn’t quite place her. The red dress and stilettos looked classy but she wore no jewelry. Her legs were smooth and long, a birthmark spotting her right thigh. That also rang a bell to Hank, yet still he couldn’t quite remember where he’d seen her before.

“Coroner’s here,” Nick announced and stepped away from the body.

But Hank approached ignoring his partner. Squatting down, her face was but a few inches away and he finally recognized her lips, the button nose and her tall forehead.

“The fuck…” Hank mumbled and stepped away from the body.

He took out his phone and began to scroll through his Twitter timeline.

“Forgot to update your status to complicated shit head?” Nick asked with a grin.

“That’s Facebook, you asshole. And I think I knew the victim.”

Nick merely perked a brow.

“Fuck. She was my TC,” Hank uttered under his breath and then glanced at the victim before looking back at his phone where he had opened Jane’s last posted selfie on Twitter. “CuteAssSweetness.”

“Excuse me?” the coroner blinked at Hank placing a hand on her waist.

“Not you, cutie. It’s the victim’s Twitter handle.”

The coroner raised her brows staring Hank down for a moment, before she shook her head and got back to examining the body.

“So you were friends?” Nick asked a little more serious.

“Yeah. As much as anyone can be friends with a complete stranger on Twitter,” Hank shrugged and lowered his phone looking back at Jane’s lifeless body.

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“It means I didn’t really know her. I just liked her tweets… And we may have exchanged a few sexy DMs at some point.”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“It means our victim here was a hot woman on Twitter.”

“I think she’s a jumper,” the coroner cut in.

“Where the heck would-” Hank looked up and realized what the coroner was saying. Jane might have jumped from the top of the billboard.

“Oh, that’s fucked up,” Hank grunted. 

The ad on the billboard featured Jane in a red dress, winking playfully. Nick and the coroner also connected the dots.

“Wow. Suicide jumping from your own face,” Nick observed.

Hank looked back down to the victim then at his phone. He looked for CuteAssSweetness’s last tweet. “Block me Tony… so I know It’s real,” Hank read it aloud.

The coroner and Nick exchanged a glance and shared a shrug.

The victim’s timeline was full of subtweets and from what Hank guessed, all of them could have been aimed at that Tony guy. No sign of depression – not that tweets were the most reliable source to assessing someone’s state.

Hank looked back at the body. He noticed her left leg still had a stiletto on and that just didn’t feel right.

“How does she like Green Heights?” Nick was speaking to the coroner.

“Fine. You know how kids are. They don’t tell you much, except when they wanna complain.”

“Sounds like my wife.”

“So you want to kill yourself,” Hank started.

“My wife’s not that bad really,” Nick said with a smirk.

“And you get to shitty I64,” Hank glanced annoyed at Nick, “Just so you can climb a damn billboard with your face splattered all over it, but you leave your high-heels on because they make climbing more exciting? And where the heck is your car? How did you get here?”

The scent of cinnamon and freshly brewed coffee made his headache bearable. Hank scrolled along his Twitter timeline, going back to Jane’s last tweet, over and over again.

“Black, no sugar, no milk, no foam, no…”

“Yeah, that’s what black means,” Hank cut off the guy that was handing him his coffee.

That coffeehouse was Jane’s favorite, or so her morning tweets suggested. But aside from an uninterested ‘Yeah, I think I’ve seen her around here,’ Hank had gotten nothing useful out of the staff.

The apartment was small and cozy – the type you’d expect a single young woman would be living in. Her clothes were all over the place, but he’d seen that before in her selfies.

“Blood spatter here and here.” The crime scene technician waved his UV light over the wall and on the side of Jane’s dresser.

“Enough to suggest repeated blows to the head?” Hank asked placing a cigarette between his lips.

The tech took his cigarette away with one swift move. “Yes. And these damn things will…”

“Kill me?” Hank cut him off with a smirk.

“No, stupid. They just make for a messy crime scene.”

Hank lit his cigarette once he was standing in the street. He looked around and found that the pleasant city neighborhood gave him the chills. These people were way too happy for his line of work. He tweeted that insightful nugget and texted his partner, sharing the latest case developments. He got an update back from Nick’s side of things.

‘Talked to the boyfriend. Viable suspect. Shady alibi. Oh, and your mom called.’

‘What’d she say?’

‘She found my underwear in her sofa & wants u to bring it back to me.’

‘It’s alright. You can use mine. It’s under ur mom’s pillow.’

Hank finished his coffee and was about to throw it when he’d noticed the scribbling on the side of the cup. ‘Tony XoXo’.

Nick was still working Jane’s case, grilling the boyfriend, one Ben Stills. Hank didn’t think the boyfriend would have gone to all that trouble – dressing Jane in that exact red dress and dumping her body by that specific billboard. It just didn’t fit. So, after interrogating the distraught boyfriend, Hank just gave up on that lead and let stubborn Nick do his thing. Besides he was in demand.

Only three days later, he got called to another murder scene.

Hank stared at the pale face.

“Are you trying to hypnotize her?” the coroner asked unnerved.

He knew the dead woman. Hank had been following her on Twitter for over a year. Miranda. She had a sexy food blog. Hank looked around the produce flee – one of those all organic, bio only markets. It was now closed on account of the dead woman at the entrance, but he recognized the place, even without the swarming crowd of costumers.

Every morning Miranda posted selfies with the best produce she was going to use that day to cook one of her vegan recipes. Hank had been using her tips on healthy eating every time he had decided to give up on booze, cigarettes and the occasional weed. That happened at least once every three months.

Miranda had even offered to cook for him at some point – and by ‘cook for him’, well, Hank would rather not think about her that way, now that she had been carved open with a kitchen knife.

* * *

Hank got some IT guy to hack into Jane’s Twitter account.

“Jack Daniels. None of that vodka crap,” the IT guy explained to Hank what his going rate was.

“Just get me into the account. Today.”

Hank spend the next couple of hours browsing through Jane’s timeline. Nothing really stood out aside from the subtweets and her last tweet. He returned to his own timeline with a yawn. Scroll, scroll, scroll until Miranda’s avi popped up at him. Her last tweet: ‘Plot Twist: Tony twists the best plots. Don’t you think?’

Hank coughed out his surprise and read the tweet again. That was one big ass coincidence.

Another bottle of Jack Daniels.

As soon as he got access to Miranda’s account he counted the Twitter folk that both Jane and Miranda had in common. Two thousand and thirty one, including his own Twitter persona. So, one of two thousand and thirty accounts belonged to Tony. And Tony was in all probability, a serial killer targeting women by their Twitter accounts.

“What you up to?” Nick asked the moment he sat at his desk facing Hank.

“Just tweetin’.”

“You a fucking bird?”

“I’m a fucking angry bird,” Hank said and was about to tap the tweet button.

“Isn’t that a game? My niece plays it, yeah…”

“Don’t ruin my moment. I’m about to piss off a deranged serial killer.”

Hank drew in a deep breath and tapped the tweet button.

‘Plot Twist: Hey, thanks for the coffee! But I’m gonna get you, motherfucker! Hank XoXo’

This short story has been selected by BNBS to appear in a collection of crime/thriller short stories. To support this project you can pre-order a copy here:

All author royalties go to charity.

Thanks a lot!

Julia Proud was published before in Helios. See her story WHISPERING DESIRES at She is also a frequent contributor to Scriggler, and is found at Wattpad at


By Iain Cambridge ©2015


We are celebrating the work a fine new short story writer this month, Iain Cambridge.

Most stories will have a beginning, middle and an end, and most of them will start at the beginning, move to the middle and finish up at the end. Mine however starts at the middle, for at the age of fifty-eight I am hoping that I have a long way to go before I reach the end.

Let me introduce myself.

My name is Rhapsody Caine, although this is not who I started out as, but moreover it is the name of the person who set me free.

The person that, two years ago helped me to discover sex.

To explain; I have been sexually active since the age of twenty-three, and although I was legally allowed to have sex at eighteen the word ‘allowed’ did not mean that anyone wanted to have sex with me.

You see, I was the fat girl in high school, the girl that was popular only by association. I had many friends, but as time went by I began to realise that I was the ‘fat friend’ — the group necessity. A comparison to be drawn against what you were getting, to what you could end up with.

The clown.

The outcast.

The last resort.
Looking around me now at the young groups of girls of today I can still see my echo within the crowd. The overweight girl trying to squeeze into societies expectations as hard as she tried to squeeze into the dress she was now wearing.

Fitting in with the crowd as well as she fitted her wardrobe. The irony always being that as they were a size to small for her, she was a size too big for the crowd.

Unaware that she was bigger than all of them — in so many other ways.

As all of my ‘friends’ paired off with various boyfriends, (that later became husbands), I was left to make my way alone in the world, and to be fair I did okay.

I trained as a nurse, and later went on to leave the wards and transfer to the private sector, and it was around this time that I first met my husband.

He was not my first, but he was the first to treat me with any kind of respect and to look past my failings. I feel I need to point out that one of these ‘failings’ mentioned was not that of being overweight. He loved me because I made him laugh, made him see the world differently and more importantly — made him dinner.

No, my failings come in the shape of another ‘darker’ side to my persona. The exploration of which forms the basis of this story.
My first was a drunken fumble that turned into something more when, at a graduation party, I found myself in a corner with a very drunk young doctor – or doctor to be.
To be honest he could have been the janitor for all I cared, as the only real fact I knew about him then, and still know now, was that he was close to passing out and very horny. I had been drinking too, but not enough to stop me taking advantage of a situation that rarely, if at all, had presented itself before then.

At this time I feel that I should describe myself in a little more detail.

As you would have gathered by now, I am fat.

I’m not going to sugar coat it and use words like ‘Big Boned’ or ‘Plus Sized’ for I feel that this is hiding the fact that what other people call ‘Water Retention’ I call ‘Lard Retention’, or even ‘Cake Retention’.

I make no excuse for this, because I don’t feel I have to. I am perfectly healthy, but I like my food.

Now, I do not comfort eat, nor do I have some condition, psychological or physical, that causes any sort of depression. I have no issue with my size, but what I do have an issue with is that society refuses to fit me in, for with this access of body matter comes a large butt and a very large pair of breasts, which is great – isn’t it?

Well no.

Case in point: It seems to be an unwritten rule that making a bra that is in anyway flattering or sexy, is just a waste of everyone’s time. And so we, and by ‘we’ I mean all the women that are at the larger end of the scale, (and in this day and age this seems to include anyone over and above their birth-weight), have to make do with the ever so flattering style of ‘Parachute’ that come in black, white, brown or flesh tone, (although I have never seen or met a woman with skin that colour).

So, finding a bra that fits, whilst being comfortable and sexy is akin to finding the Holy Grail. Or any garment that buttons up at the front — which is near impossible to find if you have to stuff a healthy sized bosom in there, for the force exerted from the other side threatens to launch any loose button with such ferocity that anyone who stood within a four foot radius took a very real chance of loosing an eye. I took to corsetry for a while, in an attempt to reduce parts of me whilst enhancing certain other bits, but the creaking caused by the fight this torturous article of clothing had to make, in order to keep in the very things it was designed to show off, made me sound like a paper bag being scrunched up every time I moved. Plus they are very uncomfortable and pushed my boobs up so far that I felt like I was wearing earmuffs. I will touch on this subject again a little later, for I feel the roar from this woman’s issue should be heard – in the meantime, I will return your attention away from my breasts, and back to the party – where it had become apparent that the attention they drew was not something that was easily avoided.

The drunken young student, janitor or whatever he was, had noticed through his newly fitted beer goggles that the woman he was sitting next to was largely made up of tits, which, to him, had seemed to enter the room a good few seconds before she did. The only thing that stopped him falling into an alcohol induced coma was that he somehow found that he was now snogging the owner of this incredible bosom, and now had his hand firmly inside her blouse, having gained a remarkably easy access.

This was more as a result of my encouragement, for if I had left it for him to take the initiative then we would still be sitting there now.

There were a lot of people at the party, but quite frankly no one was looking at what was going on in our little corner of the room. It was safe to say that, at that late stage of the evening, what was happening to me was pretty commonplace throughout the house. Most of the action was taking place upstairs, and some within the hot-tub outside. The rest had just got on with whatever they were doing and everyone was minding their own business.

My new friend found after some time that he needed some assistance, for after unbuttoning the rest of my blouse he had unsuccessfully tried to unclasp my bra.

This would have required a better man that he, and one with a greater spatial awareness than his addled senses were now providing.

My bras have to work for their living and have a tensile strength that are equalled only by the Hoover Dam, and therefore presented him with a problem simular to that of a Rubik Cube. He tried to solve this problem by inserting his hand inside the actual cup, but the pressure exerted by its contents proved to be a serious force and leverage challenge that, without trained supervision, could have resulted in the loss of a finger. My answer was much simpler than his, being that I reached around and undid the clasp myself.

Now as has been mentioned, I am a big girl and the sudden release of several pounds of mammary gland is a sight to see.

My friend thought so too.

This was the first time I had ever exposed myself to a man, or woman – well, anyone really, and so I was not sure what the reaction would be, or should be.

So the words, ‘Jesus – you’re huge’, was not the romantic line I had been expecting on their public debut, and the sudden, if a little eager undoing of his pants showed me that I should have not have read so many ‘romantic stories’, for what was being presented to me was less than huge. This to be fair was more to do with the alcohol surging through his bloodstream, a sergeancy that was preventing any, or little normal service.

But here’s the thing.

I was a twenty-three year old, fat little Indian girl – did I mention I was Indian?


Not that it matters of course, but it will explain a few things later on if you know this.
I will simplify that last sentence – I was a twenty-three year old virgin, and so the image of a real, if flaccid appendage, being offered to me as part of the nighttime entertainment was a major thrill for me – and a rare one at that.

And so while our kissing continued I concentrated on bringing back to life that what seemed to have died, and in religious terms I was successful in raising Lazarus.

A little too successful it seems for, after an impressive release, I had to wait for the second coming – so to speak.

So this, without the obvious ensuing detail, was my first time.And although my description of these events seems to suggest an utter catastrophe filled with clumsy intent, to me it was absolutely wonderful.

For this was my introduction to the world of men.

There were many times like this in the years that followed – about four or five times a month to be honest. Nothing ever evolved into any sort of relationship, but it all followed the same pattern of a drunken fondle, followed by hurried sex.

Perverse, dirty and empty sex.

It seemed after a while that I had gained a reputation as an experimental playground for men to express their darker desires – desires that they would not want to expose to their loved ones, through fear of rejection and judgment thereof as a pervert, and to be honest I cannot say with my hand on my heart that I didn’t enjoy it.

In fact – I loved it.

Now, it is important to note that, during a rare ‘after coitus’ conversation with one of the more sober of my gentlemen friends, I discovered something very interesting.
You may remember earlier that I mentioned that I was Indian? well it seemed that this was some sort of barrier to men asking me out.

Not for any racist reason, although I cannot speak for everyone – no, it appeared that the view of my nationality was that from a young age we were betrothed to another, and we were therefore unobtainable. The fact that I was so willing to put out just served as the catalyst for having a taste of the ‘forbidden fruit’.

I found this absolutely wonderful news, as I assumed it was my size that had prevented men from approaching me.

I told him that, in some cases this was perfectly true, but not for me. I was completely free do what I want, and with whom I please.

I asked him if he would like to go out sometime.

He said no as his girlfriend might object.

Sais la vie.
So to my husband.

We met in a bar, which had turned into some sort of hunting ground for me over the years, but far from being part of the drunken crowd, of which I had seemed to become a fringe member of, he was the guy serving behind the bar. I had wobbled my way on heels that were way too high for me, (but something I felt I needed to add a little height), and expressed to him that I would like something ‘exotic’.

‘I’m half Italian’ he replied, ‘does that count’

Such was the infrequency of being chatted up, (for infrequency read never), that I almost missed it. He asked if I would meet him for a drink sometime, and with an incredulous nod I agreed to a date.

An actual date.

The drink date turned into a lunch date, which in turn led to a walk in the park.

We talked – proper talking, like a conversation and everything.

In truth it was him that did most of the talking, as all I could do was nod and giggle.
And whilst walking he did something that melted the cold heart that had been frozen by years of misuse, turned to stone by the needy and the unfeeling.

He held my hand.

This simple action gave me worth.

It gave me courage, and it gave me strength.

One date turned into two, and two into three, until the days when we were not together were few and far between.

We were an item.

We were in love.

The frenzied, heated sex had made way to long nights of lovemaking, and this was a good thing.
Wasn’t it?

Well. Actually, no – it wasn’t.

You see, although I loved him with all my heart – and still do, I missed the passion, the urgency and the feeling of pure selfish gratification.

With my other partners I didn’t have to care about their feelings, because they sure didn’t care about mine. That was the point you see — it was all about me.

I had stopped being the little fat Indian girl with the big tits.

The forbidden fruit.

The surprising event.

With my husband, as he became not two years after we met, I couldn’t give instruction as I had done to the others. I couldn’t tell him what I wanted done to me, or in the heat of passion refer to myself in the third person as a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’ from fear of exposing some hidden perverse nature that he had not been aware of – or wanted in a wife.

Sex became less dirty, and more safe.

Predictable – Dull.

My body changed too.

Not in a physical sense, but in its description.

I became cuddly, instead of fat.

I gained breasts instead of tits.

I was of ‘ethnic origin’ instead of being Pakistani, or Indian.

But I settled for this life of love and security, for with it came three children, and from one – a grandson. And slowly over the years I became less and less – me.

* * *

‘I have prostate cancer’

These were the four words that sent an ice shard through my heart, for they were words that threatened to take away everything. For a few months my husband had complained that his hand become a little numb when he clenched it into a fist.

‘It’s as though I’m wearing a glove’ he told me.

I had sent him to the doctor to get his blood pressure checked out and to make sure this was nothing to do with his heart, as this was a problem within his family. His father had died of a heart attack and so I was always making sure that he attended regular checks in that department. Tests were done and all was fine, until the results of his PSA levels came back showing it to be way too high. I won’t give you the full medical terminology, but if your PSA level is high, there is a good chance you have prostate issues.

On hearing the diagnosis from the ensuing biopsy, I felt my world fall apart.

I was going to loose the only man I had ever loved, and who had ever loved me.

Prostate cancer is a slow burner, and if caught early enough can be treated and eventually cured. Most men, when being diagnosed, opt for treatment, and most die with it as opposed to of it. The trick is getting checked out on a regular basis.

Such was the case for us.

‘Cut it out’ my husband had said, ‘I don’t want a time-bomb inside me ready to go off – why treat something that can be cured’ he had reasoned.

And so it was.

Three months after finding out what was happening to him, he was in hospital and having the prostate gland removed – along with some other things too.

You see – the doctors, in an attempt to remove the gland and the outer areas, (to make sure they had got everything), had to remove one of the nerves that controlled his erections. This was of no matter to either of us, for we had our children and he had his life. Sex wasn’t that important to us at our age — was it?

Well, as it happens – yes it was.

I was Fifty-four and not ready to live a life of half celibacy. I was not ready to give in to what fate had decreed should be.

I wasn’t prepared to just bend over and take it – well, actually I was, but that was the whole point you see. The option pertaining to any position I may take, sexual or otherwise, had been taken away from me, and no one seemed to be interested in how I would be affected.

Now you may think that this account seems a little unsympathetic to my husband’s plight, but I have to point out that there are two sides to a marriage, and therefore two stories to be told. If I were to write this story from his point of view I would be able to explain the angst and depression he felt. I would tell you of the lonely tears he shed during the night, having been woken by nightmares caused by the feeling of having his masculinity torn from him, and of the fear that his wife would go in search of satisfaction with another man.

A real man.

A whole man.

Such as he had once been.

But this other point of view, the wife’s point of view, is a side that is very rarely told.
A lonely, unsaid tale.

It is a side of the story that, if left untold, is subject to misinterpretation.

A non-telling of which can, and often does, lead to resentment.

For the first few months after his surgery, we made do with oral gratification as
penetrative sex was out of the question, and although we both pretended that it didn’t matter — for both of us it really did. As time went on it became clear that he was not going to regain full function in that department.

This drove an unseen and unspoken wedge between us.

We attended sex therapy sessions, of all things, which basically told us that we had to ‘explore each other’s bodies’ and ‘bring our lovemaking to a new and spiritual level’ – Yuk!

Did I look elsewhere?

Of course I did – to my shame.

But my husband had come to terms with what life had thrown his way, and had resigned himself to never having ‘normal’ sex again.

He was at peace with his fate — I was not.

I felt cheated.

I had settled for a love life without passion, and now I was expected have no sexual outlet at all – ever.

I had never been one for self-gratification – other than to please a partner, but there came a time where I was in very real danger of going blind.

Now the needs of the selfish heart will argue a point beyond reason. It will find a way to justify any actions that allows its goal to be achieved, and so I made up my mind to actively search for someway to satisfy the needs that had built up within me, and to quash this lust that had raged inside for so many years. I reasoned that if I could expend this access energy I would be able to become a better wife.

A new wife for this new, asexual marriage.

One able to fix this broken man and to tend to his needs.

I would be able to devote ninety-eight percent of my time to him, whilst using the other two percent for my own selfish desires.

Just two percent.

That sounds reasonable – doesn’t it?

Well, yes – it does.

The thing is that although I didn’t find it hard to attract a man when I was younger, I now no longer had that youth to play with. I was a middle aged Indian woman with and expanding rear end and an overly large bust, and no amount of cleavage was going to attract the kind of man I needed, and what made it harder was the fact that I was not sure what sort of man I was looking for.
The type I went for all those years ago was basically anyone who wanted me.

I wasn’t interested in whether or not they had a girlfriend or a wife.

If they were black or white.

Skinny or fat.

Or even if they thought I was someone else – or wished I was someone else.

As long as they had a pulse and were awake, something I often felt was more of a guideline that an actual rule, I was really not that fussy.

And although it’s a cliché for a person of my ethnic background, for all those that knew me, I was the corner dairy – open all hours.

I took to the Internet in search of my two percent.
This new woman that had been created out of sexual frustration, seemed a lot more attractive and confident in cyberspace than she did in real life, but I figured that when push came to shove I was only offering the very thing that most of these men seemed to be looking for anyway. But in order to attempt to mesh reality with fiction I decided to go shopping in order to ‘decorate the float’, so to speak, and to make sure I had something saucy to wear if and when I managed to get a response to my newly formed, on-line persona.

I wanted to look the part.

I wanted to feel – sexy.

I wanted to be the woman I had created.

I entered the lingerie department of the newly opened clothing store on the other side of town with trepidation and excitement. I was actually tingling as I went through the doors and into this new world of sauciness and sexual intent.

I felt something inside me, some suppressed urge straining at the leash.

Something dark.

Something forgotten.

It was as though the past thirty years had been pushed aside by the demon that lived within me – the demon that had been locked away for her own good all those years ago, but was now making way for old feelings to rise to the surface, fuelled by selfish lust and dark desires.

I had decided to shop away from prying eyes, as I needed my new life to remain a secret. Ironically though I bumped into three people I knew from work on the way in.

I passed my being there off as a shopping trip for my daughter in law, and this was plausible enough because, as mentioned before, I am a middle-aged Indian woman, which means that I do not indulge in such things as saucy nightwear, and sex is just something only foreigners do.

The fact that I was also fat sealed their thinking into fact.

I went into the section for the ‘larger woman’ and had a look around.

This didn’t take long as there was little or nothing that had been designed for these ‘larger women’ to make them look good, or feel desirable. It seemed to shout out to the general public that the policy of this store was to pass scorn on any middle-aged fat woman who felt the need to look sexy.

Nothing that advertised itself to be in my size actually fitted.

Let me take this opportunity to explain to the people who have been given the unenviable task of making clothes for the ‘Fuller Figured Woman’.

It needs to fit, not just cover the said lady’s body, but actually fit.

Try making the thing you made in a size twenty-six exactly the same way you made it for a size six. Style and cut it in exactly the same way.

Merely getting a piece of cloth and cutting arms and a hole to put your head through does not constitute a dress. I appreciate that you have to use more cloth to cover my ‘fuller figure’ and I am quite willing to pay for the extra material and time spent in sewing this tent into something that may actually makes me look nice, and helps me feel like a woman.

Bras too.

Look, I know from experience that men like a big pair of boobs – they really do, ask them. So why not try to dress these bags of fun up in something sexy?

Again, I will pay a little extra for your time, and I am sure there are plenty of men that would also fork out their hard earned cash for this privilege.

Different patterns, colours, and styles – you will be amazed at the open market that has been left untapped. There are women like me out there who want to look sexy.

Just because you don’t think we are worth it – we do.

Our opinions should be like those bras — and carry a lot of weight.

I picked a nice looking basque/corset type thing and went to ask an assistant if they had it in a large, only to be told that what I had was a large.

‘One size does fit all though’ squeaked the young girl, who’s drug of choice appeared to be that of helium. This sounded like a challenge to me, and one I was willing to accept, if only to prove to her that one size does not fit all as ‘fat’ is not a size, and so I took myself off to the changing rooms in order to attempt to squeeze a pint into a half pint pot.

The first order of the day was to undress.

This was only an issue because, at some point, I knew that I would have to re-dress, and having to put a pair of boobs as big as mine into a bra that is fed up of its job and has decided to take up some other vocation, is a feat of engineering and leverage that, (if written out as a mathematical equation), would probably hold the key to space and time travel. It would not however have an answer as to how to get a bra back on when you are hot and sweaty from trying to get a bra back on.

It was nice to take it off for a bit though.

I held up the garment I had taken in with me, to see what it would have looked like had I ever managed to get it on.

‘Not on your best day’ I said under my breath.

I put the corset / basque back down again without making this futile attempt and looked at myself in the cubical mirror in order to imagine something else that would add a little sparkle to this party.

To be honest I did feel a little sorry for the bra makers at this point.

It is a reasonable given that most fat women would have an ample bosom as part of their arsenal, the containment of which must prove to be a major logistics problem. Mine however are a problem without a solution, as I have a more than my fair share.

In fact it has been commented on before that I may also have someone else’s share.

As I stared at my reflection I took the time to examine them. Even though they were large it had to be said that were not too saggy. They still held their firmness and weight very nicely, and protruded out further than my belly with the aid of the military grade bra that looked as though I had purchased it from the ‘House of Chernobyl’.

I tried to massage some life back into them, in an attempt to regain some feeling since their release from incarceration, and it was at this point that I noticed something, or more specifically – someone. The changing room had a curtain that had chosen not close completely, as it had been designed to store brooms and mops, and therefore afforded a narrow view of a young man sitting in the waiting area of the women’s changing room.

More importantly, it also allowed him to see me.

He was not obviously looking in my direction, but I could see that he was surreptitiously sneaking a peek whenever he thought that no one was looking, and as I had spotted him via the changing room mirror, he was blissfully unaware that I found him out.

I kind of liked it.

I positioned myself in such a way as to increase his view, and as I looked at the reflection I could see that this had gained his full attention. His eyes flicked back and forth from me, and to the expected appearance of whomever he was waiting for.

This act of voyeurism was quite new and exiting for me, so much so that I had to fight the urge to turn around and invite him to join me in my little cubicle/broom closet.

I started to reason that, if he had misconstrued my attempts to bring some life back into my numb breasts as some sort of eroticism, then maybe I should take it a little further.

Should I provide him with a little something else?

A small show maybe?

What would the young woman in me done all those years ago, and how hot did those fires of old still burn?

I cupped my breasts once more and slid my palms up and over my nipples, causing them to become dark and erect with the sudden rush of blood and attention.

Having seemingly been resurrected from a long and enforced abstinence from any sexual activity, they actually started to ache with anticipation.

It was as if they longed to be touched by someone — anyone other than me.

I felt bad.

I felt naughty.

I felt alive.

I also felt a little deflated when his attention was drawn back to the woman he had been waiting for to rejoin him. He stood up and, having commented to the lady in question about the outfit she had chosen, or the time he had to wait for her to try it on, he left. But not before taking one last glance at me.

I sighed and began to get dressed.

I felt that someone had returned my desires to glowing embers once more, by dowsing them with cold water. Who was I kidding to think that I could dress this mutton up as the lamb she used to be?

But still – the young man, who had entertained himself at my expense, obviously thought I was attractive enough to risk being unmasked as some sort of peeping Tom.

I mean, in what world would a woman of my age find his actions complementary?

Having redressed I took the garment back the squeaky girl and handed it to her with an almost ‘Hah! In my voice when telling her that I was the one size that the makers did not take into consideration.

‘In fact’ I added. ‘I am sure there is a breech of the trades descriptions act here to answer to’.

And with that I left the store and decided to make my way to the small coffee shop I had spotted earlier in order to get something to eat – and obviously a coffee.

Having been deprived of my fantasy I felt the need for caffeine and sugar in order to quell the hormonal rush that had caused this itch that I was unable to scratch.

I settled myself down with my ‘sex substitute’ that consisted of a Cappuccino and an apple donut, and took the time to look around at the people in the coffeehouse with me, whilst my coffee cooled.

It is kind of a hobby of mine to people watch – being nosey my husband called it.

My husband.

My thoughts returned to him at that moment.

Was what I was doing right?

This seeking out of someone just to satisfy a basic animal lust was nothing more than adultery – wasn’t it?

Yes it was.

I stared into my coffee for a long while and considered my future actions. If I were to continue with this — whatever ‘this’ was, I needed not to care about who I was hurting, and not to feel guilty about the pain my actions would cause another. I needed to be as selfish as I had been during my youth.

To use and be used without any remorse, or any thought for another’s needs.

All milk – No Moo.

My eyes became refocused as I snapped myself back to reality once more and resumed my critique of my fellow coffee shop dropouts.

Young and old together in one place — not knowing or caring about the feelings of one other. Unaware of what was going on in each other’s lives and unaffected by the thoughts and needs of the other patrons. My attention drifted from one person to another until they eventually settled on someone that made me regain my faith in the universe.

‘Well I never’ I said to myself, for standing at the food counter was the young man who had played ‘Peeping Tom’ with me not half an hour ago.

‘Well isn’t fate a wonderful thing’ I said quietly to myself.

I got up and went to the counter on the pretext of ordering another coffee, and stood next to him whilst I waited for some service.

I smiled again to myself at the irony of what kind of service I was hoping for.

He looked over at me, and I returned his look with a smile.

‘Hello’ I said.

He smiled back and said,


My heart was beating so hard that I feared that it would burst from my chest, but encased as it was by a cleavage that even Victoria would find hard to keep secret, I was fairly safe that it was going nowhere — for now.

I felt like a nervous teenager standing next to her first crush.

My mouth was dry and my hands were sweaty as I tried to compose what I would say to him in my head. The most obvious question felt wrong, but before I had a chance to edit them and arrange the question, so as not to seem foolish, the words fell from my lips.

‘Did you like what you saw?’ My inner voice screamed at what seemed to be no more than dialogue from a bad porn movie.

He looked over to me again, and then over his shoulder in order to see if I was talking to someone else.

‘I’m sorry Ma’am, was you talking to me’

I smiled at him once more.

‘Indeed I was’ I replied. It was obvious that he didn’t recognise me, but then it wasn’t my face he had been looking at – or was interested in. He looked confused, but still held a polite smile. The smile someone adopts when they fear that a simpleton is addressing them.

‘Sorry, I not sure what you mean’ he said. The concern in his voice was quite sweet and showed me that he was not an unkind man, and so I stepped a little closer and looked around as if we were part of some great conspiracy.

I leaned in so as to lower my voice.

‘The changing rooms at the store across the way – that was me’

I offered him what I thought was an alluring wink, but in truth it probably looked as though I had something in my eye. He looked at me for a moment until the realisation hit him. His eyes darted quickly to my cleavage and then back to my face.

‘Oh crap’ he said. ‘Look, I am really s-sorry ma’am; I don’t usually do that kind of thing. I am so sorry if I offended you’.

The embarrassment was clear by the reddening of his face and the stutter in his voice. I patted his arm, and was genuinely moved by his apologies.

‘No need to be sorry — to be honest, I was quite flattered that this old woman could still gain the interest of a young man such as yourself’

He visibly sagged with relief that he had not incurred the wrath of this woman, and that she had not sought him out in order to create a scene by accusing him of some sort of public invasion of privacy. This woman with whom he had shared, what he thought, was a secret moment of perversion. A moment that was now being highlighted by a carnivorous cleavage dancing to a rhythm of its own design.

‘May I buy you that coffee?’ he said nodding towards my purchase ‘by way of an apology’

I thought about it and said, ‘Only if you join me whilst I drink it’

He smiled once more and said,‘Of course – it’s the least I can do’

I went back to my table and waited while he brought the drinks over.

He sat himself down opposite me.

‘Harvey’ he said, and held out his hand by way of introduction.

‘Rhapsody Caine’ I said, and with that I had given life to my new persona.

Harvey sat down and took a sip of his coffee.

‘That’s an interesting name’ he said.

I tried to look alluring, but then confused myself as I could quite remember what alluring looked like, so I replied with, ‘Some might say that I’m an interesting person’

From inside I winced again at my clumsy dialogue.

‘Even so’ he said, ‘you must get tired of this sort of thing happening all the time?’

‘Get tired of what thing’ I inquired as I took a sip of my coffee.

‘The stupid questions and’. He paused and nodded toward by bosom.

‘Men staring at your..’ His words faltered and then failed him.

‘Tits?’ I said.

He looked at me in surprise.

‘You seem shocked that an old woman would know of such a word’

‘A little’ he admitted ‘sorry, I didn’t mean that I thought you were old, of course you’re not old. No, I assumed that – you know, being Indian and all that’.

I smiled, ‘My family were not religious. My Mother was from India and my father was French, and so I was raised to fit in with the other children, rather than to some stereotypical ideal’

‘You still have an accent though’ he said.

I nodded whilst raising my eyebrows in agreement.

‘Yes, I’m not sure why that is – I guess you can take the girl out of India, but you can’t take India out of the girl’

He took another sip.

‘And did you fit in – with the other children?’

‘I had to make a few adjustments to my thinking and to the way I used the language. Some Indian words can’t properly express what you are trying to say’

He smiled and said, ‘Like your eloquent description to your..’ he nodded towards my cleavage again.

‘Tits’ I said.

‘As you say’ he said, and smiled once more. He seemed relieved that was not the sort of woman to take offence at a perverse whim – a mere opportunistic act of voyeurism, designed to provide a little light entertainment from the monotony of having to wait for someone to try a dress on – only to put it back on the rack afterwards without buying it. I started to wonder as to what depths he would explore in order to break that boredom cycle once more. I took another a sip of my coffee and looked into his eyes over the brim of the cup.

‘I know other words too’ I said.

He laughed an easy laugh.

‘I bet you know quite a few’ he said.

‘Indeed — would you like to make me say some of them for you?’

He looked at me with confusion in his eyes.

‘I’m not sure what you mean – sorry’

I put my coffee down and, reaching across the table, I took his hand.

‘You seemed very interested in watching me undress’

‘W-well yes’ he stammered, ‘but I..’

‘How about’ I interrupted ‘ you and I go somewhere and we find out if there is anything else about me that you would be ‘interested’ in’

He retracted his hand and stood up.

‘I’m sorry’ he said ‘I seem to have given you the wrong impression. I was just trying to make a mends for – well, you know…’

At that he began to leave. As he walked past me I took his arm and said,‘Why so shy – don’t tell me it didn’t cross your mind back then’

He looked around and smiled nervously at the other customers, some of which had been privy to the latter part of our conversation. The table opposite us had three teenage girls, who giggled at his plight. He bent down until his mouth was close to my ear, and when he spoke it was a low, hiss of a whisper. A voice tainted with poison and anger.

‘Listen love, the curtain was open and you were naked – I found it funny that the fat Paki was flapping her tits around for all to see. Jesus woman, who the hell want to fuck you’

He yanked his arm from my grasp and walked out of the café leaving me stunned – shocked that my fantasy world had been torn down before my eyes.

I sat and stared into space for a long while.

Time enough for my coffee to grow cold.

Time enough for the adrenaline in my bloodstream to sour — causing me to shake.

Hot tears started to roll down my face.

I felt stupid.

I felt embarrassed.

My clumsy and obvious attempts at seduction had made me look like nothing more that a randy old woman. Someone so desperate for male company that she had resorted to stalking a peeping Tom.

Is this what I had become?

This one size that used to fit all – did not any more.
When I arrived home that evening, it was to the sound of the T.V being played too loud. For one of the other many things I had lost – peace and quiet were two more.

As he had gotten older, my husband had started to loose his hearing. Along with his teeth and hair, this detracted from the Adonis he imagined himself to be.

But then, who was I to cast the first stone in this greenhouse that had been built around our marriage. This fragile thing, kept from shattering by my silence and subservience to a life that I was not prepared for.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror.

My first attempts at channeling this dangerous overflow of sexual repression had failed miserably, and my confidence had taken a severe battering.

I turned this way and that in order to get an all round view of what had expanded over the years. This took a little while and I started to notice that I was able to swing to the left and to the right at the same time.

I smiled at this.

I figured that maybe my on-line persona had had a little more success than I had, and so made my way to the kitchen in order to start up my laptop.

From the sitting room I noticed the sound of two voices, and recognized the other as being my husbands friend Harry. Harry had been coming over from the house next door for the past two years in order to watch old cowboy movies, of which they both indulged in once a month. I had forgotten this was movie night, and so quietly popped my head around the door to in order to say my hellos and to ask if they needed anything in the way of refreshments. My husband looked up from where he was sitting and asked if they might have a bite to eat and maybe a drink. I smiled the ‘good wife’ smile and went into the kitchen in order to prepare their snacks.

My husband joined me a few moments later.

‘Harry has brought the first season of Rawhide around tonight’ he enthused.

I smiled the smile again.

‘That’s nice’ I lied. Quite frankly I didn’t know, or care what Rawhide was.

‘It goes on for a bit, so it will be a bit of a late night for the boys tonight I’m sorry’

He looked at me with his big, open apologetic face.

‘That’s okay dear’ I said, ‘I am going to have a bath and an early night anyway.’

I kissed him on the cheek and handed him the tray with his snacks and two beers.

‘Enjoy your cowboy thing’ I said.

‘Rawhide’ came his correction.

‘Who cares’ I thought.

I busied myself around the kitchen whilst I decided what I wanted to eat myself, and as I waited for the kettle to boil I cut myself a sandwich. I looked around for a magazine to read whist I ate my supper, and in doing so I noticed Harry in the hallway. He had come out of the living room in order to retrieve something from his coat pocket and started a little when he saw me.

I waved at him and smiled, to which he responded with a nervous wave of his own.

Harry was a bookish little man who lived next door with his aged mother.

They had both lived in the same house for the past sixty years when he and his parents had moved there when Harry was six years old, as their home had been destroyed during the blitz. When his Father had died Thirty years ago Harry had taken care of his Mother, a sacrifice that eventually cost him his marriage when his wife had taken herself and her son off to a hotter climate, and a hotter man. It was the opinion of those who knew him that he had never had another woman in his life since then, save for his mother. And so Harry had involved himself in his trains and his cowboy movies – alone in his sad little world, that is until he befriended my husband.

They had a shared passion for the Wild West and cowboy movies, and from this was born the ritual of a ‘Once a month movie night’.

It was harmless, dull and a little sad.

A bit like Harry.

I always had the feeling that he was a little nervous, almost afraid of me.
Whether he found me a bit intimidating because of my size, or that he hadn’t had much to do with women, was never clear to me.

‘Have you lost something Harry?’ I called to him.

He held up his glasses by way of an answer.

I smiled at him and said, ‘Won’t see much of the action without them.’

I left me in the wake of a half-smile that he always seemed to have when I spoke to him. It was as if he had not understood some joke I had made, but was to polite not to seem amused. I chuckled to myself and went back to finishing my supper before making my way upstairs, taking my laptop with me in order to see if my cyber fishing had caught anything.

There was a quiet knocking on the bedroom door about an hour after I had settled down. I looked up as my husband opened the door slightly to see if I was in too deep a sleep. He seemed surprised that I was awake.

‘What wrong?’ I said, for it was unusual for him to knock on his own bedroom door.

He entered when he saw that I had my laptop open.

‘Nothing’ he said, ‘well, at least I hope not’

I peered over the top of my glasses and at the alarm clock.

‘It’s nine –thirty’ I said, ‘you movie hasn’t finished yet has it?’

He proceeded to enter the room and sat himself on the edge of the bed.

‘No, far from it – I sent Harry home early.’

He looked concerned – worried almost, so much so that he had got me worried, as he never missed an opportunity to loose himself in his little world, and to send Harry home meant that something was playing on his mind. My thoughts immediately jumped to the obvious. Maybe he was sick again, and his cancer had returned.

‘Is there something the matter? – Are you okay?’

His smile was not one of mirth. It was grim and held no humor.

‘That’s what I was going to ask you’ he said – and then he went on to change our lives forever.
‘Harry didn’t come around for movie night, and if your mind had not been elsewhere you would have realised that we don’t meet until next week. Harry came around to tell me something that he thought I needed to know.’

I sat further up in bed – anxious as to what was coming next.

‘Do you know what Harry does for a living?’ he asked.

I said that I had no idea.

‘He owns, and runs the coffee shop in town.’

These few words turned my blood to ice. A chill of fear ran over me as I put my hand up to my mouth as if to stifle my cry of guilt.

‘Why?’ asked my husband.

My blood rose at his question, and for some reason this one word undid any guilt that I was feeling.

I should have felt ashamed.

I should have been begging for his forgiveness.

But this act of calling me out to explain the actions of thirty years of pent up repression caused nothing but anger – a rage that suddenly, and violently found its voice.

‘Because YOU gave up on me – on us’ I snarled, ‘did you even consider me when you made the decision on both our behalves?’

He recoiled at this sudden outburst of emotion – this re-direction of his own accusations being used a weapon of choice against him.

‘What decision?’ he asked with incredulity in his voice.

‘The decision to remove sex from our marriage’

He stood up, and I saw the anger rise in his face but I was too far-gone in my pursuit of emotional justice to back down now.

‘I had that choice ripped from me, as well you know’ he said, almost spitting his own rage at me, ‘and we still make love – all right, not as often as we used to, but I still do what I can – I have never given you cause to complain before’

At this I threw back the bedclothes and got out of the bed.

I took off my nightdress and stood naked before him.

‘What do you see?’ I shouted.

‘What?’ he took a step back at my question and at this sudden thrusting of these weapons of mass deception that were normally hidden beneath an almost military grade Kevlar bra.

‘A simple enough question – what do you see?’

‘Well, you – all of you’ he stammered. My instincts told me that the fight had left him, and so I used this opportunity to increase my attack.

‘No, wrong answer’

‘Sorry, I don’t..’

‘This is not me — this is what I became’. My voice had risen to a repressed scream – a half shout through clenched teeth.

‘This is what I turned myself into to please you…

This is your wife…

This is the mother of your children…

This is the woman who cooks and cleans for you…

This is the woman who was happy to be all those things until you took away the only part of this marriage that had you in it.’

He looked wild eyed and confused.

‘You want to make love more often? – Is that what this is all about?’

He looked genuinely scared of this demon that had manifested itself from the image of his wife. This spitting viper that spoke nonsensically of some betrayal his bedroom duties that he had no idea he had relinquished.

I forced my breathing to slow down and calmed myself enough so that my heart was no longer in danger of leaving my chest. The sound of the blood pumping in my head started to dissipate enough for me to be no longer fearful of having a stroke.

I stepped towards him and took his hands.

They were shaking and sweating from the adrenalin that had been forced into him – which was now turning cold and stale in his veins.

An ironic reflection of our marriage.

‘I never wanted you to make love to me.’

He winced at this – visibly shocked at my statement and greatly misunderstanding its intent. I pulled him closer and placed his hands on my naked breasts.

‘I wanted more than that’ and at that I started to explain, in great detail, the things I craved in my life.

Of the things I wanted done for me, and to me.

I poured out the wants and needs of my soul, and opened my heart to him so that he may forgive my failings – hoping against hope that he would see my darker side, not as a thing to be fixed – but something to be attended to, and to be nurtured.

To enjoy and to indulge in.

He needed to see that my attempted feeding of those perversions was merely this drowning woman’s cry for help, and for attention.

‘I wanted you – and I wanted you to want me, to need me and to use me’ I said.

My confessions settled like disturbed dust, with each mote catching the light and refracting the truth back to him — splitting the white light of hypocrisy into a spectrum of truth.

He looked into my eyes as if searching for an answer to a question he did not have.

‘But I thought you…the other men’ He said eventually.

‘What of them’ I said softly.

‘The way you were treated – I thought…’

I put my hand up to his lips.

‘I liked it’ I said.

‘But — why didn’t you say something – all these years, and you said nothing.’

I laughed a little at that point.

‘Because I was afraid you would think that I was a little strange’

He smiled at me and raised his eyebrows.

‘I always thought you were strange, just not ‘THAT’ strange’

We hugged each other for a long time, until I became uncomfortably aware that I was still naked.
‘I need to put some clothes on,’ I said.

I went to pull away in order to retrieve the nightdress that I had found its way across the room from the force of this woman’s rage — only to find my husband had not released his hold on me. My puzzled look was answered with raised eyebrows once more.

‘What for?’ he smiled.


So I will end this part of my story, for it is in truth the start of a new one.

But before I go I will say one thing.

Society is not a thing.

It is a state of being created by us all.

Although I was fully in control of my sexual activities as a young woman, I cannot help but feel that the way I was regarded by my peers contributed to the fact that I could not tell my husband about my ‘strange ways’. Had I been treated differently for not fitting in with an ideal then maybe I would not have felt that my perversions were something to hide.

Fearing that they were not normal.

Of course they are normal — this was never the issue as there is no ‘normal’

I am not the way that I am because of the way I look – my desires are my choice to explore. We all have urges and fantasies in one form or another, and just how extreme those fantasies are is a personal thing – a normal thing. As long as we are not hurting anyone then we should not be judged.
By the same token, it is the right of another not to indulge in that persons ways, as they may feel that what they do is enough to satisfy the beast within them – the beast that resides within us all.
My husband knows me by my real name, but when the need arises he calls me Destiny Caine – amongst other things.

– See more at:


by Iain Cambridge ©2015


‘So, explain the science to me again’

This was day one of the interrogation of the woman known to us only as Destiny Sails. I had asked the question, not because I was an idiot in these matters, but because I needed to be able to grasp further what this strange woman was talking about. Bright green eyes that shone almost luminescent looked at me from beneath a veil of curly red hair. It hung wet from perspiration caused by the effort of concentration against the pain inflicted by previous methods of information extraction. This same exertion caused sweat rivulets to trace small rivers across her dirt-smeared breasts — breasts that rose and fell slowly as each breath was considered and controlled.Her dress was blooded and stained with mud, ripped and torn at the hem caused by the long chase that had ended with her incarceration.

‘What part do you want to hear?’ she sighed. I sensed irritability in her voice caused by having to explain a seemingly simple principle to an imbecile.

‘The Telephone bit’ I replied. I knew this was getting to her, but I figured the more she had to repeat herself the more likely it would be that she would make a mistake.

‘If you have a phone by itself it is useless without having another to receive the call’

Her eyes rose in expectation and hope that I had finally got it.

‘Go on’ I said.

‘So even though time travel is freely accessible where I come from’

I interrupted her by checking a part of the many notes I had made.

‘The year 2678’ I said, not as a question but as a reminder of her earlier statement. She raised her eyebrows at me.

‘2499 – nice try’ she added.

I smiled and held out my hand as an invitation.

‘Please continue’ I said.

‘Even though time travel is freely accessible in 2499’ she tilted her head slightly as if to punctuate her annoyance at my interruption ‘we cannot travel to any point in time that has not made the discovery, and most importantly not technologically advanced enough to build a ‘receiver’’.

‘And yet, here you are’ my tone was one of sarcasm as her previous statement was flawed and contradicted her claims.

She answered me with a resolute sigh.

‘And yet, as you say – here I am’

‘Miss..’ another check of my notes, purely as a destabilising tactic.

‘Destiny Sails – quite a name’ I added.

‘I am quite a person’ came the reply.

‘As far as I know, we have not yet invented a means of time travel’

‘As far as you know – yes, you are right’

I leaned forward a little, but not too far as to be anywhere near her head, for the attack she had launched on the two guards on her capture was still visible on their much-abused noses.

‘So how did you get here? – If indeed you did travel from another time.’

‘The Hadron Collider’ she said simply.

This was the part I had difficulty with. She knew this and seemed to take great joy in explaining to me something that I no knowledge of.

‘Which is what exactly?’

She smiled. It was not a smile of joy, but was one of hatred and loathing. She looked at me as if she would quite happily end my life there and then.

‘A means of smashing sub-atomic particles together’

‘Why?’ I asked, as I genuinely did not know the answer.

‘Beats me’ she said ‘ but one of the by-products is that it creates a microscopic black hole and effectively wormholes have opened up in which to travel through time and space. It’s very hit or miss as to where you end up – but I usually end up where I need to be.

‘So you are saying that this is not the first time you have travelled in time’

She smiled her uneasy smile.

‘Nor will it be the last. The wormholes all originate from the Collider, so all we have to do it follow the pathways that lead to it and then use them as an expressway to other times – other planets sometimes’

‘Other planets?’

She leaned back a little and stretched her shoulders, causing her breasts to be pushed forward. The dress she wore housed a small external corset around its mid-section. It creaked and complained against the effort it had to make in order to keep in the very things it had be designed to show off.

I would have reasoned this to be a seduction technique from anyone else, but the sound of her bones cracking with the effort of excursion threw any thoughts of erotica from my mind.

‘You are aware that there are other worlds out there?’ she said.

Her last statement was demeaning, and meant as a poke at my intellectual infancy. It required no answer and was not graced with an attempt at one.

Instead, I ended the interview for the day.

I left the room and made my way to my small office on the second floor of the building that housed the interview rooms. On arrival I helped myself to a large measure of Vodka whilst I arranged my notes and typed them up, in order for them to be sent for processing. Having done that I then set about composing a new set of questions for the next day that would encompass all the information that I had now been provided with.

All be it all utter lunacy.

I went home to my bed a few hours later and slept an uneasy sleep, as my dreams we contaminated with images of a fantasy world that the subject of my studies had created within my minds eye.

A polluted world filled with darkness.

Of a sun that had been filtered by years of smoke and grime — pumped into the atmosphere over generations, giving no heat — delivering only radioactive death.

A barren land.

A dead world.

What salvation could there be then for the people of such a world, other than to retreat backwards into their own time, as their future held only despair. When I woke from this nightmare I vowed then that this would be my last case, as clearly the stories of the insane had started to etch themselves onto my own psyche. Looking back, I can see the irony in the fact that this decision was soon to be made for me.


‘Why here?’ I said as I entered the interview room the next morning.

I dismissed the guard on duty and sat myself at the table, placing a cup of coffee and a packet of cigarettes in front of her.

‘To prevent a tragedy’ she said simply, ‘and no thanks, I don’t smoke’

‘What tragedy?’ I took one of the cigarettes for myself.

‘Something that I feel has to be put right. Something that would steer this world, and many more besides, on a new and happier path’

My limited knowledge of physics was enough to be able to ask the next question with confidence.

‘Wouldn’t this create a paradox? Removing the reason you came here would make the trip meaningless – would it not?’

She looked at me with genuine admiration.

‘I see you have done your homework’

‘And you are evading the question’

‘Yes it would, had it been my original plan to come here. But as I said, it’s very hit or miss where you end up if you step outside the mainstream. This, for me was just a happy accident.’

I paused for a while as I considered my next question.

‘What was your ‘original plan’ – if you had not intended to be here? where were you headed?’

She ran her shackled hands though her hair, pushing it away and revealing the many scars that traced thin lines across her face.

Not scars from battle, but from self inflicted wounds – as if tribal in nature. These were highlighted by the colour of her skin.

To say it was black would suggest some sort of ancestral link to African or Afro-Caribbean roots — but no.

It was jet black.

So dark that, had it not been for the thin white lines of her scarring, you would find it hard to differentiate between the varying contours of her features.

She was not unattractive, quite the contrary — in a perverse kind of way she could be considered ‘nightmarishly’ beautiful.

But far from Human.

‘I gather information’ she said.

‘What type of information?’

‘Information of an historical nature. Information that has been lost due to wars carried out by you and your kind’

‘My kind? – Humans you mean’ the latter was meant as a statement rather than a question. She looked at me with apparent amusement in her overly large green eyes.

‘You are far from Human’ she said.

I arched my eyebrow to show intrigue at her last statement.

‘Then what am I? – Or we, what are we?’

‘An abomination – a joke to be shared amongst historians and a gauge of how far we have progressed’

I looked at her for a few seconds, trying to take in what she had just suggested.

‘Are you saying that YOU are Human?’

She smiled again.

‘I must seem so alien to you, as you seem so ape-like to me’

‘Insults?’ I asked.

This was met with silence, which continued from us both for an uncomfortable two minutes. I decided to address a previous thread that she had spoken about instead of this outlandish notion that she was what we were to become.

‘So your main purpose for travelling is the gathering of information?’


‘This could constitute the actions of a spy’

‘If you like’

I gestured towards the recording apparatus that sat on the table between us.

‘You are aware that this interview is being recorded?’ I asked.

She leaned forward and spoke directly into the microphone.

‘Yes’ she breathed, and with that she lent back into her seat and smiled once more.

‘And that this confession is enough to have you shot as such’

‘You can try’ she said, and laughed at her own private joke.

I raised my eyebrows in surprise at her mirth.

‘You find the prospect of your own death amusing?’

The expression on her face suddenly, and unnervingly turned to that of savage anger.

‘I find the death of you and your kind very amusing’ she spat, and just as suddenly as it came, her expression changed to that of relaxed resolution.

‘You won’t find it as funny of course – but I guess it’s all relative’


I ended the interview and went outside the cell in order to confer with my peers, and to clear my head.

‘So I am guessing she is insane then?’ said one of the doctors who had made time to watch the interview.

‘Nutty as a fruitcake’ I replied with a smile.

‘No cure?’ said another.

‘I have spent the past two days questioning her, and even after she had endured a day at the hands of the ‘examiners’ – she still holds on to this notion of being a time travelling historian’

‘But look at her – I mean..’

I looked at the doctor.

‘A freak of nature – no more than that. We have been experimenting with genetics for some time. This is just proof that someone else has been playing around in the same gene pool’

There was silence from all of us, until broken by the doctor.

‘This is what your report will say then?’

‘It will’


I rounded on my audience – angry at their ignorance.

‘What would you have me say? Alien or time traveller – I will let you choose shall I?   Either one will get my position taken from me, along with my life no doubt. She’s a disfigurement, the subject of some experimental in-breeding program, resulting in delusion and insanity for this poor unfortunate soul – nothing more. Tomorrow she will be taken from here and destroyed, along with any foolish fantasy that she has chosen to spin’

It was at this time that the turn of events resulting in the situation that I find myself in now, namely, in front of you – happened.

For at the time of this conversation with my fellow doctors we received a visit from Head Quarters.

If fact we had ‘The Visit’ from Head Quarters.

The sound of several pairs of heavy boots echoing throughout the complex heralded his arrival. And as he walked around the corner, surrounded by his entourage of heavily armed guards, something happened that made the very air around us slow down and grow stale. All motion seemed to be hampered as if the moment had been covered in thick treacle. I turned to look at the prisoner through some inner fear that this was her doing, and to my horror I saw that she was standing, smiling and unbound by the shackles that had held her firmly to her chair only moments before. I called to the guards to protect their charge but the air around me seemed unable to carry my words, and so I ran, in order to warn him. As if waking from a dream, everything chose that moment to speed back up and I heard voices call together in unison.

As heels snapped together in salute, hands were raised to attention and everyone, except me, cried out as one man.

‘Heil Hitler’

And there she was — standing right by his side.

She looked directly at me with those large green eyes.

Mocking me.

Laughing at my inability to protect my leader, and at my impotence in controlling the inevitable. She linked her arm through his as he stared down at her with horror and loathing in his hard, grey eyes.

‘Hi Hitler’ she smiled – and with that she was gone, taking theFührer with her. She had warned me – and I, in my arrogance had passed this off as madness.

His sudden absence from leadership threw the Reich into disarray, leaving the doors open for our enemies to strike us down from a victory that was all but ours. I really don’t know what happened, or where she took him, but I am sure that he ended up in the same situation she had been in, and answering to crimes that only she and her people know about. I am guessing by the looks on your faces that you, as the victors of this war, are not her people, and I can see that you find my explanation of his disappearance as incredulous as her explanation was to me as to whence she came. I cannot be sure that her world is as dark and foreboding as my imagination had painted, or if it is a paradise created by her actions within our time. All I can say is, that her main claim seemed to be that she was more human than I. If this is the case, and we are all to become the aberration that sat before me in the interrogation room on that strange and unsettling spring day in 1945 – then I for one do not fear for our future, for I know that we will all pay for the crimes of our past, as I will pay for mine today.


– See more at:

5124Iain Cambridge says: “I started writing back in 2010 as something to do whilst I passed the time during recovery from illness. Although fully recovered I still write as I enjoy loosing myself within a world of my own creation. I love finding someone who enjoys my work and invite all comments be them good, bad of indifferent.


By Ernest Hemingway

“Read anything I write for the pleasure of reading it. Whatever else you find will be the measure of what you brought to the reading.”  -Ernest Hemingway


Hemingway’s “Today Is Friday” is about three Roman soldiers at eleven o’clock in the evening still drinking after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In his Paris Review interview Hemingway claimed to have written it and two other of his best stories in one day:

INTERVIEWER You once wrote me that the simple circumstances under which various pieces of fiction were written could be instructive. Could you apply this to The Killers—you said that you had written it, Ten Indians, and Today Is Friday in one day…?” HEMINGWAY The stories you mention I wrote in one day in Madrid on May 16 when it snowed out the San Isidro bullfights. First I wrote The Killers, which I’d tried to write before and failed. Then after lunch I got in bed to keep warm and wrote Today Is Friday. I had so much juice I thought maybe I was going crazy and I had about six other stories to write. So I got dressed and walked to Fornos, the old bullfighters’ café, and drank coffee and then came back and wrote Ten Indians. This made me very sad and I drank some brandy and went to sleep. I’d forgotten to eat and one of the waiters brought me up some bacalao and a small steak and fried potatoes and a bottle of Valdepeñas.”


You once wrote me that the simple circumstances under which various pieces of fiction were written could be instructive. Could you apply this to The Killers—you said that you had written it, Ten Indians, and Today Is Friday in one day…?”


The stories you mention I wrote in one day in Madrid on May 16 when it snowed out the San Isidro bullfights. First I wrote The Killers, which I’d tried to write before and failed. Then after lunch I got in bed to keep warm and wrote Today Is Friday. I had so much juice I thought maybe I was going crazy and I had about six other stories to write. So I got dressed and walked to Fornos, the old bullfighters’ café, and drank coffee and then came back and wrote Ten Indians. This made me very sad and I drank some brandy and went to sleep. I’d forgotten to eat and one of the waiters brought me up some bacalao and a small steak and fried potatoes and a bottle of Valdepeñas.”


Three Roman soldiers are in a drinking-place at eleven o’clock at

night. There are barrels around the wall. Behind the wooden counter is

a Hebrew wine-seller. The three Roman soldiers are a little cockeyed.

IST SOLDIER You tried the red?

2ND SOLDIER No, I ain’t tried it.

IST SOLDIER You better try it.

2ND SOLDIER All right, George, we’ll have a round of the


HEBREW WINE-SELLER Here you are, gentlemen. You’ll

like that. (He sets down an earthenware pitcher that he has filled

from one of the casks) That’s a nice little wine.

IST SOLDIER Have a drink of it yourself. (He turns to the

third Roman soldier who is leaning on a barrel) What’s the matter

with you?

3RD SOLDIER I got a gut-ache.

2ND SOLDIER You’ve been drinking water.

IST SOLDIER Try some of the red.

3RD SOLDIER I can’t drink the damn stuff. It makes my

gut sour.

IST SOLDIER You been out here too long.

3RD SOLDIER Hell, don’t I know it?

IST SOLDIER Say, George, can’t you give this gentleman

something to fix up his stomach?

HEBREW WINE-SELLER I got it right here.

( The third Roman soldier tastes the cup that the wine-seller has

mixed for him)

3RD SOLDIER Hey, what you put in that, camel chips?

WINE-SELLER You drink that right down, Lootenant.

That’ll fix you up right.

3RD SOLDIER Well, I couldn’t feel any worse.

IST SOLDIER Take a chance on it. George fixed me up fine

the other day.


WINE-SELLER You were in bad shape, Lootenant. I know

what fixes up a bad stomach.

( The third Roman soldier drinks the cup down)

3RD SOLDIER Jesus Christ. (He makes a face)

2ND SOLDIER That false alarm!

IST SOLDIER Oh, I don’t know. He was pretty good in

there to-day.

2ND SOLDIER ‘Why didn’t he come down off the cross?

IST SOLDIER He didn’t want to come down off the cross.

That’s not his play.

2ND SOLDIER Show me a guy that doesn’t want to come

down off the cross.

IST SOLDIER Aw, hell, you don’t know anything about it.

Ask George there. Did he want to come down off the cross,


WINE-SELLER I’ll tell you, gentlemen, I wasn’t out there.

It’s a thing I haven’t taken any interest in.

2ND SOLDIER Listen, I seen a lot of them here and

plenty of other places. Any time you show me one that

doesn’t want to get down off the cross when the time comes

when the time comes, I mean I’ll climb right up with him.

IST SOLDIER I thought he was pretty good in there to-day.

3RD SOLDIER He was all right.

2ND SOLDIER You guys don’t know what I’m talking

about. I’m not saying whether he was good or not. What

I mean is, when the times comes. When they first start

nailing him, there isn’t none of them wouldn’t stop it if

they could.

IST SOLDIER Didn’t you follow it, George?

WINE-SELLER No, I didn’t take any interest in it, Loo-


IST SOLDIER I was surprised how he acted.

3RD SOLDIER The part I don’t like is the nailing them on.

You kpow, that must get to you pretty bad.

2ND SOLDIER It isn’t that that’s so bad, as when they first


lift ’em up. (He makes a lifting gesture with his two palms

together) When the weight starts to pull on ’em. That’s when

it get’s ’em.

3RD SOLDIER It take some of them pretty bad.

IST SOLDIER Ain’t I seen ’em? I seen plenty of them. I tell

you, he was pretty good in there to-day.

( The second Roman soldier smiles at the Hebrew wine-seller)

2ND SOLDIER You’re a regular Christer, big boy.

IST SOLDIER Sure, go on and kid him. But listen while I

tell you something. He was pretty good in there to-day.

2ND SOLDIER What about some more wine?

( The wine-seller looks up expectantly. The third Roman soldier

is sitting with his head down. He does not look well)

3RD SOLDIER I don’t want any more.

2ND SOLDIER Just for two, George.

( The wine-seller puts out a pitcher of wine, a size smaller than

the last one. He leans forward on the wooden counter)

IST SOLDIER You see his girl?

2ND SOLDIER Wasn’t I standing right by her?

IST SOLDIER She’s a nice-looker.

2ND SOLDIER I knew her before he did. (He winks at the


IST SOLDIER I used to see her around the town.

2ND SOLDIER She used to have a lot of stuff. He never

brought her no good luck.

IST SOLDIER Oh, he ain’t lucky. But he looked pretty good

to me in there to-day.

2ND SOLDIER What become of his gang?

IST SOLDIER Oh, they faded out. Just the women stuck by


2ND SOLDIER They were a pretty yellow crowd. When

they seen him go up there they didn’t want any of it.

IST SOLDIER The women stuck all right.


2ND SOLDIER Sure, they stuck all right.

IST SOLDIER You see me slip the old spear into him?

2ND SOLDIER You’ll get into trouble doing that some day.

IST SOLDIER It was the least I could do for him. I’ll tell

you he looked pretty good to me in there to-day.

HEBREW WINE-SELLER Gentlemen, you know I got to close.

IST SOLDIER We’ll have one more round.

2ND SOLDIER What’s the use? This stuff don’t get you

anywhere. Come on, let’s go.

IST SOLDIER Just another round.

3RD SOLDIER (getting up from the barrel) No, come on. Let’s

go. I feel like hell to-night.

IST SOLDIER Just one more.

2ND SOLDIER No, come on. We’re going to go. Goodnight,

George. Put it on the bill.

WINE-SELLER Good night, gentlemen. (He looks a little

worried) You couldn’t let me have a little something on

account, Lootenant?

2ND SOLDIER What the hell, George ! Wednesday’s pay-day.

WINE-SELLER It’s all right, Lootenant. Good night,


(The three Roman soldiers go out the door into the street.

Outside in the street)

2ND SOLDIER George is a kike just like all the rest of them.

IST SOLDIER Oh, George is a nice fella.

2ND SOLDIER Everybody’s a nice fella to you to-night.

3RD SOLDIER Come on, let’s go up to the barracks. I feel

like hell to-night.

2ND SOLDIER You been out here too long.

3RD SOLDIER No, it ain’t just that. I feel like hell.

2ND SOLDIER You been out here too long. That’s all.





James_Whitcomb_Riley,_1913,_CincinnatiJames Whitcomb Riley, like Abe Lincoln,  was born in a log cabin. He was born in the heartland of the Indiana farmland near the town of Greenfield eleven years before the American Civil War began.

Poetry was not just an exotic taste in literature in Riley’s day.  It was read by the common men and women of the nation. Poetry offered the reader a form of self-reflection, an expression of  their personal hopes and aspirations. It was printed in of newspapers and read by public speakers.  Poetry served as entertainment for the masses. In Riley’s time, reading poetry was as common as watching television or clicking on Internet websites.  

Riley was known as a humorist and a prankster. One of his pranks may have had the effect of electing William Howard Taft to be President of the United States. President Roosevelt was a friend of Riley’s. A t a famous tea party in Indianapolis, Riley reportedly spiked the punch. The Hoosier Vice President, Charles Warren Fairbanks got tipsy at the party and gained the reputation of being a ‘lush’ during a time of prohibition sentiment. As a result, Fairbanks was passed over as Teddy Roosevelt’s pick for vice president and Taft was picked instead. Taft later succeeded Roosevelt to the Presidency.

Mark Twain ) said James Whitcomb Riley’s “Old Soldier’s Story”  was the funniest story he ever listened to and considered Riley America’s number one humorist.





ALMOST FOREVER: a Christmas Story

Kenneth Harper Finton

by Kenneth Harper Finton ©2014


It was Christmas Eve.

Sarah was alone in her apartment.

Fred had left a week ago.

The holiday season had all the ingredients of a miserable experience.

Sarah has just turned forty-five.

She felt that her life has been spent giving a lot and not getting much back.

She wondered if that was her own fault.

“Am I deluding myself?” she asked. “Have I really given enough?”

Fred had told her she was arrogant just before he walked out the door. “You always think that you’re better than me,” he had said.

She had been accused of arrogance before Fred was around. Roger, her lover and dance director had complained of her air of superiority. She recognized there might be some truth to it.

However, the difference between arrogance and truth is often a fine line that depends on the delivery of the message.


View original post 850 more words


by Matt Stancel ©2014



I stepped out of the camper, its metal stairs squealed underneath size nine boots. My dad followed, and we got into his red pick-up. We traveled down a bumpy trail that stretched along the side of a clearing and then penetrated the woods. The rustic road led to a clear-cut spot where a timber company was pillaging the forest during the week. On weekends, however, the landowner allowed my father and some friends to hunt.

We exited the truck, each grabbing a backpack, rifle, and orange vest to ensure that other hunters who might be in the woods didn’t get deer fever and shoot us due to some hallucination.

Since I was eleven, and despite my father’s warning, I felt the need to walk along each downed tree like it was a balance beam all the way through the forest’s bald spot. Then I followed him into the thick brush, and we hiked about a half mile through heavy woods to a stream, into which we relieved ourselves. We crossed the water on another log, and I asked my dad if we could rest a moment before we climbed the steep hill that led to his deer blind.

Though his expression revealed he was disappointed to wait, he muttered, “Okay, just for a minute.”

maxresdefaultI leaned against a large rock protruding from the ground. It was at least eight feet tall, and being still a child, I imagined myself endowed with superhuman strength. I pressed against it, trying to feel a budge, even an inch, to no avail.

“You know most of that rock’s probably underground,” my father stated. Attempts to move the impossible stone made him smile for a moment, but he decided we’d wasted enough time and told me to get moving up the ridge.

My thigh muscles burned and throbbed by the time we got to the blind. It was basically a four-foot tall fence-like structure my dad had made of limbs, bushes, and leaves. Two folding chairs were positioned against a tree behind the camouflage wall, and they allowed us to sit in relative comfort while we waited for our prey.

I rested the rifle across my lap and surveyed the woods around me. This was to be my main pastime until dusk.

Occasionally squirrels would entertain us by chasing each other through the trees, and we watched three turkeys trample within about fifty feet of the blind. They eventually stomped away, and I spent a few minutes contemplating how forest animals could be so noisy but I had to sit freezing in silence.

My father nudged me and slowly pointed to our left. About a hundred yards away, a brown shape stepped cautiously between trees. It was the first time I’d ever actually seen a deer in the woods. I rested my rifle on a branch and looked through the scope. Pulling my gun off of the makeshift rail, I whispered, “Doe.”

She was joined by another female and a fawn. They moved quickly and quietly. The three were nearly out of sight when I noticed another deer trailing behind. I put my scope on it and counted eight points on a set of antlers.

“Buck?” my dad asked.


“Remember where to aim. Wait for a clearing.”

image-06-700x393I was shaking with excitement, and I struggled to breathe. Feeling a hand on my shoulder, I heard “Steady” over the pounding pulse inside my ears. I took a deep breath, held it in, and pulled the trigger.

The deer’s hind legs flew into the air, and its hooves pointed momentarily at the sky, then fell limply to the ground. It tried to take a step with a front leg, then collapsed.

We stood and I immediately got a pat on the back and a handshake. My father had a bigger smile than I’d ever seen on his face, and we quickly walked toward the fallen deer. Dad pulled out his revolver in case it was still alive.

“You shot it right in the middle of the spine, there’s almost no blood,” he said.

“Uh,” I replied, staring into the glassy, black, vacant eye of the brown animal. Faced with the result of my action,I wanted to cry or run away, but my legs felt like they were rooted deep in the earth. All of my nervous energy wore off immediately, and I did my best to nod responses to my father’s questions.

Steam rose from the broken animal, aboy-nownd I dreaded the future. Pictures would be taken, the experience would be recounted, I would have to smile when speaking of the act, but what truly concerned me at that moment was the grim fact that I would have to drag this terrible trophy, this heavy thing, out of the woods.










Hi, I’m Matt. I write flash fiction, the occasional poem, and stories both long and short. I have a novel currently available on Amazon, the proceeds from which are being given to a friend with huge medical bills. You should buy two copies.




– See more at:


Kenneth Harper Finton


by Kenneth Harper Finton ©2014

Santa Claus

Claus checked his ledgers in Quickbooks. It was not a task he enjoyed.

He fondly remembered the days when the smoke encircled his head like a wreath. He quit smoking a pipe a decade or two ago, but he still missed the pungent aroma of his tobacco. What he did not miss was the sore tongue and hacking cough he would often get.

When Christmas was taken over by the corporate gift manufacturers he had shaken his head and withdrawn in total disbelief.  “How could they corner the market on gifts so quickly,” Claus remembered saying.

He had long since had to retire much of his elf force. The elves just could not compete with the prices the corporations charged for general gifts of all shapes and sizes. Soon metal toys replaced his home-made-by-elfen-hands wooden…

View original post 525 more words


by Amy Skelton




Editorial Note: The situation described in this story is all too common. Safe houses now exist in many cities and small towns, but clever abusers can all too often escape the justice system and wreck the lives of the innocent. This is but one small tale that occurs daily throughout the world. Whether this story is truth or fiction does not matter. It is a subject that society must address and correct.


Deborah stood on the threshold of the house, trembling with fear. She wanted very badly to go further, feel the crisp fall air, smell the fallen leaves and hear them crackle under her feet. It had been a very long time since she’d heard that sound. Eight long years she had been shut in her house, unable to endure the openness of the outdoors. Her doctor had diagnosed her with agoraphobia but she didn’t believe it. She knew it was more than that. Eight years ago something happened to her. Something that changed her in a deep and horrible way. She had many medical books and journals on her shelves. She knew she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She couldn’t explain to her doctor why she believed she was right. She had repressed the horrible memories of that period of her life so thoroughly, that it was more like a fading dream that still haunted her every waking moment.

* * *

Eight years earlier … in the misty dawn of a beautiful autumn morning, Deborah emerged from her house. She sat at her patio table with her steaming cup of coffee and lit a cigarette. She never smoked inside; her husband didn’t like the smell. It was five in the morning and he would be getting up in about an hour. Deborah used the extra hour to relax and be alone. He was relentless from the time he woke until the time he fell into bed at night. She couldn’t stand it anymore. Watching the beautifully coloured leaves fall from the trees, Deborah went over her plan again. She needed to escape. She didn’t know where she would go or what she was going to do about money, but that didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was her daughter.

On September twenty-eighth at two in the afternoon, Deborah’s life took a dramatic detour. She remembered the date clearly, as it was the day after her daughter Jenny’s tenth birthday. Jenny came to her mother and sat her down at the kitchen table. She had tears in her eyes but her chin was firm and her eyes blazed sapphirine fire. Deborah had never seen her daughter look so angry and sad at the same time. She was afraid of what she was going to hear but she sat quietly and waited for her daughter to speak.

“Mom,” she began, “I am going to tell you something. I know you are going to be mad but I can’t keep it in.”

Jenny looked down at her hands and Deborah saw she was twisting them together vigorously.

“I know that Gary is not my father,”

Deborah started up in protest and Jenny raised her hand to silence her.

“He told me that years ago, mom. That is not what I want to talk about. Just listen to me, okay.” Jenny swallowed hard and got the next part out in a rush.

“Gary has been having sex with me. He comes into my room at night, drunk, and puts his penis into me and has sex with me. I know you don’t know because he always hits you until you don’t get up. Then he comes into my room. I’m leaving this house. I asked my friend Katie’s parents if I could stay with them and they said it was okay. I’m sorry, mom. I wish you could come too but I know you won’t. I know that if you were going to leave, you would have by now. Good-bye. I love you.”

Tears were streaming down Jenny’s face as Deborah sat across the table from her, mouth open and paralysed. She shook her head vigorously and when she finally came out of shock, Jenny was half-way out the door.

She ran to her and screamed, “No, Jenny! Don’t leave me!”

Jenny cried harder and ran down the driveway with her little backpack. She didn’t look back.

Deborah didn’t want Gary to find out where Jenny was hiding. When he came home from work that day and found out that Jenny had left, he beat Deborah so badly she ended up in the hospital with a fractured skull.

She spent three weeks recuperating in the hospital. Gary came to see her three times. Once, the day after she was admitted, the second time after she had a stroke due to her injuries and the last time, when she could finally go home. She didn’t miss Gary in the hospital. She was happily entranced in a romance novel series that one of the nurses gave her to pass the time.

The nurses all knew what happened. Deborah never once told them what happened, they just knew. They were experienced and had seen it too many times to miss the signs.

She fell down the stairs.

Sure she did.

The doctor told her that she had options. She didn’t have to live like this, in constant fear. She replied, “Fear of what, doctor? Of falling down the stairs?”

She laughed feebly and the doctor shook his head. It was up to her now.

When Gary took Deborah home he was very gentle with her. He laid her on the couch, on some pillows that he had arranged and got her a nice, hot cup of tea.

She said, “Thank you, Gary. I missed having tea in the hospital.”

He smiled at her and asked, “Do you know where Jenny went?”

Deborah hesitated, only for an instant, before she replied, “No, I don’t know. She wouldn’t say. She just ran out the door and got into a silver car. I meant to call her friends and ask but you came home shortly after and…”

He shook his head and said, “I said I was sorry. What more do you want from me? Why is it never enough with you?”

Gary was yelling by the end of this speech but he took a deep breath and moderated his voice, “I will let you make those calls, since you know who her friends are.”

He left the house to go to work.

In the next few hours there were a lot of plans to be made.

Deborah needed help.

She knew that the only help she could find was at a shelter, but she didn’t know where it was. She looked in the phone book and called the number she found.

Deborah was relieved to hear a woman’s sympathetic voice on the other end of the line. She made arrangements for a room and told them her daughter was staying with friends but was concerned that her husband would be able to find her.

The woman at the shelter told Deborah that she needed to contact the police.

The woman offered to pick her up in her own car and take her down to the shelter where they would call the police and have Gary picked up.

Deborah said, “I don’t have any money. He has it all and I can’t access it.”

“That’s okay, Deborah, we will do what we can. By the way, my name is Wendy Barnes.”

Deborah smiled as she hung up the phone and went to pack her meagre possessions while she waited for Wendy to pick her up.


Gary came home from work earlier than expected.

He came up the stairs, saw the suitcase on the bed and immediately flew into a rage.




“What are you doing? Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

He grabbed her arm and Deborah didn’t protest. She knew that she was still too weak to do anything and she knew if Gary hit her again, it would be the end of her.

“Gary, please. Don’t hit me. I’ll die if you hit me again.”

Gary hesitated only for a moment before throwing her down on the bed. He grabbed her leg and twisted hard.

Deborah could feel her hip dislocate and the searing, agonizing pain it caused.

Gary jumped on her and started punching her in the stomach. Her screams were ignored and she could feel pressure building up in her head.

When he finally stopped, he said, “Where is Jenny?”

Deborah laid motionless on the bed. She whispered, “I’m not telling.”

Gary emitted a wordless scream and starting throwing things around the room. Her mother’s china and the precious pictures of the family crashed against the walls.

Deborah was crying but she knew there was help on the way. She let out a gasp when the doorbell rang.

Gary tore downstairs to yell at whoever rang the bell. When he flung open the door, his face was red and sweat was pouring down his cheeks. Wendy took a step back as the door flew open.

She opened her mouth but no sound emerged. She was surprised, and a little scared, to see Gary, but she stuck out her hand and said, “Hello, my name is Wendy Barnes. Elections are coming up and I am going around door-to-door to talk to my constituents.”

Gary was confused and still angry, but beginning to calm himself. He knew that if anyone saw him like this, then saw his wife, he would be in trouble. He already had to go back to the hospital and tell those moron doctors about how clumsy his wife was.

“Hello. I’m sorry but I don’t have time to talk. My wife has just fallen down the stairs again and she needs to go to the hospital.”

Wendy backed away again and replied, “Oh my god, how awful. Can I help? Would you like me to take her?”

Gary eyed her suspiciously. Why would a local politician want to drive Deborah to the hospital? He said, “No, no it’s fine. Thanks anyway.”

When Wendy got back into her car and drove away, Gary carried Deborah down the stairs and out to his pick-up truck. He threw her in the cab, sat her up straight and said, “Do up your own damn seat belt.”

While pulling out of the driveway, he was none too gentle. Slamming the truck into gear, he sped down the street, heading toward the hospital. Little did he know that Wendy was following in her car.

At the hospital, Gary asked for a wheelchair and went out to put Deborah in it. He wheeled her to the desk and then walked right back out of the emergency room.

Wendy ran into the emergency room and saw a woman sitting in a wheelchair, crying. The nurses hurried to help the woman and quickly carried her off to an exam room. Wendy was explaining the situation to the nurse at the desk when one of the others walked up to her.

“Do you know that woman?” The nurse asked.

“Yes, I spoke to her this morning. I’m from the women’s shelter. I don’t know what happened. Her husband must have come home from work unexpectedly. He was red in the face and sweating when he answered the door. Then he said she fell down the stairs and he had to take her to the hospital. I followed them in my car. Will she be alright? Can I speak with her?”

“Her hip was dislocated. She will be fine but we are going to do an MRI to make sure she suffered no further damage since the last time she was here.”

Wendy covered her mouth with her hand, her eyes widening, “When was that?”

The nurse replied, “Actually, she just left here today.”

A tear streamed down Wendy’s cheek. She thanked the nurse and went outside to get some air.

Sitting on a bench outside the door of the hospital, Wendy made a couple of phone calls. One was to the administrator of the women’s shelter, to get approval to act as she knew she must. She knew that if she was not careful, Gary could sue the shelter.

She also called the police and spoke to a detective that she knew personally.

“Hello, Detective Marshall’s office.”

Wendy sighed and said, “Hello, Martha. It’s Wendy. Is Ben there?”

Martha answered in a worried voice, “Yes, Wendy, I will put you through right away.”

Wendy heard a click and Ben answered, “Hi, Wendy. What’s up?”

She gave him the whole story and he listened in silence.

“I think she’s reluctant to talk and that’s why I called you. You have convinced a number of my ladies to press charges. If she doesn’t get out of that house, Gary is going to kill her. I know it, Ben. Please come to the hospital.”

“I’ll do what I can. I know Gary. I’ve picked him up for drunk and disorderly and a few other misdemeanours. I had no idea he was so violent but I trust you. You’ve seen some horrible things, Wendy.”

“You don’t know the half of it, Ben. The only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that these women need me and I so badly want to help them.”

“You do great things, lady. Keep it up. I will do my part as well.”

Wendy thanked Detective Marshall and hung up the phone. She lit up a cigarette and tried to relax. As long as Gary wasn’t at the hospital, Deborah would be fine. She was in good hands here and all the nurses watched their patient carefully.

After a few more deep breaths, Wendy went back into the hospital and was allowed to see Deborah. She ran to the woman and hugged her gently, introduced herself and apologized for not getting to her house sooner. Deborah told her the story of how she had come to be in the hospital immediately before the current incident and explained how embarrassed she was to be back the very day she was released. Wendy said, “This is not your fault. Please don’t feel embarrassed. It is for Gary to be punished for his crimes. Please don’t punish yourself.”

Deborah nodded and closed her eyes for a moment. She was relieved that she was in the hospital again. Gary couldn’t touch her there.

She laid back and took a few deep breaths but a sudden flash of her daughters face appeared before her closed lids. She snapped her head up and said, “Jenny! I need Jenny to be here right now. Gary tore out of here real quick and since I’ve been out, all he could say was, ‘Where’s Jenny, where’s Jenny.’ I know he went looking for her. We need to get to her before he does!”

Wendy ran over to the phone in Deborah’s room and called Detective Marshall again. Martha answered again and Wendy gave her the whereabouts of Deborah’s daughter. She told Martha to have Ben go there before the hospital, as it was an emergency and that little Jenny could be in grave danger. Martha hung up and immediately told the detective the news. He lit up his cherries and raced over to the house just in time.

Jenny was playing in the front yard with her friend when Detective Marshall arrived. Just as he was getting out of the car, Gary showed up in his blue Chevy pick-up.

Detective Marshall drew his gun and pointed it at Gary. Gary raised his hands and slowly approached his daughter. Jenny’s eyes were wide and fixed on Gary. She was about to run when Detective Marshall spoke, “Jenny, please don’t run. Come over to me, slowly. I’m going to take you to your mommy.”

Jenny was silent and Gary laughed, “Great, you take her to Deb and when I pick her up, I’ll have both my girls together again.”

Detective Marshall’s eyes never left Gary’s face and he knew that there was something wrong. His eyes were strangely dilated and his hands were shaking. Jenny had walked over to the police car and Detective Marshall had heard her gasp.

He said, “Don’t worry, Jenny. Gary isn’t taking you, or your mom, anywhere. Consider that a guarantee.”

Detective Marshall walked slowly toward Gary, still pointing his gun, and said, “Get on the ground with your hands behind your head.”

Gary rode in the back of the cruiser and Jenny rode up front. Gary had finally lost his temper. He was kicking at the door and the back of the seat, slamming his head against the window and yelling incoherently.

Jenny was leaning forward, crying and covering her face with her hands. Detective Marshall patted her shoulder and tried to reassure her.

“Don’t worry, Jenny. You and your mom will be safe now. I don’t know a judge in the country that wouldn’t throw this scumbag in jail for a long, long time.”

Jenny wiper her cheeks with the back of her hand and asked, “Do you think you can convince my mom to press charges? She’s scared of Gary. I am too. I had to run away but I didn’t want to.”

Detective Marshall answered, “I know I can get her to press charges. If I can’t, would you appear in court to testify against him? His abuse of you is enough to get him a good, long sentence. Are you too scared to do that?”

Jenny looked him square in the eye and said, “No, I’m not too scared. I hate Gary and I hate what he has done to my mom and me. I want him to go away forever.”

Detective Marshall smiled to himself and stopped at the police station. He dragged Gary out of the car, escorted him into the building and came back out right away. Jenny waited in the car and they were soon on their way to the hospital.

The reunion between mother and daughter was frantic and filled with tears. Jenny held her mother’s hand as the detective spoke to them. He told Deborah that he was filling out a statement as she spoke and that he expected her to sign it.

“If you don’t sign this, Gary will go free. After hearing your story, from the doctors, nurses and Wendy, I think I can say without contradiction that if you do not sign this statement and press charges, Gary will kill you. Do you agree?”

Deborah gasped and turned away and Jenny squeezed her hand. “Mom, he’s right you know.” Deborah turned to her daughter, with tears streaming down her face, and said, “I know, dear. It’s over. Give me the papers.”


It took a year for the courts to hear the case. Gary was in county jail the entire time and was not given the opportunity for bail. No one would have paid it in any case and Gary was broke. He was charged with assault, aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm, sexual interference of a minor, sexual assault of a minor.

Gary was sentenced to ten years in prison but an appeal to the court was granted and his sentence was reduced to one year. Deborah and Jenny were devastated and Deborah got a restraining order against him. Gary ignored the order repeatedly and was constantly harassing them until the police agreed to put them into the witness protection program. Deborah and Jenny were moved to a new city, far away from home, where they were able to start a new life.

Deborah was able to start out on disability, making just enough money to live in reasonable comfort with her daughter by her side. Jenny had deep-seated emotional problems and was seeing a psychiatrist on a regular basis to help her deal with the horrible conditions of her childhood. Five years later, Jenny took an overdose of her anti-depressant medication and died before her mother had any idea of what was going on.

Now Deborah is still coping with the loss of her daughter and the permanent injuries she sustained at the hands of her ex-husband. She walks with a cane now and her head injuries have never healed properly, causing extremely painful migraines and dizziness. Gary is still free and even though she has not seen him, Deborah knows he is still looking for her. She doesn’t leave the house, not even to go to the end of the driveway to get her mail. The farthest she will venture is her front porch and even then, if a car drives by, she darts back into the house. One of her neighbours, who knows her story, retrieves her mail from the box and brings it to her every day. She also goes grocery shopping for her once a week. She feels an incredible sympathy for Deborah and does all she can to help her. Deborah has never visited her daughter’s grave since the funeral.




Amy Skelton is the author of Night Terror, published in Helios earlier this year. 

Amy lives in Ontario with not far from the St. Clair River and Lake Huron. She is a writer of novels, short stories and poetry, specializing in women’s issues and disturbing images.  She is the owner of the website and the administrator of the Facebook page Amy’s Tales and Poetry that can be found at This story was originally published in Scriggler.