Mara was used to weird things happening to her. And now here on vacation in Britain where they thought ‘Penguin’ was an appropriate brand name for a chocolate cookie, honestly she had been prepared for anything.
It was still a bit of a surprise though. Wandering around London’s Natural History Museum… Stopping to casually examine a tableau of stuffed foxes and cubs… Spotting two marble heads tucked behind the vixen—one in a woollen hat and the other in sunglasses, and the two of them arguing together in hushed tones...
“Everything… okay there, guys?” she asked.
The two heads froze. Then
Ewart strode through the lush countryside. It truly was wonderful to be getting away from everything, and to be staying in a delightful little remote cabin where nobody could bother him.
His work didn’t know where it was.
His parents didn’t know where it was.
His friends didn’t know where it was.
It was honestly just a pity…
He didn’t know where it was.
Ewart checked his phone yet again, sighed, and once more tried to retrace his steps.
At this moment in time he could really do with his super secret hideaway being just that tiny bit less secret.
Belinda took a deep breath and stepped into the woods.
As usual the trees grabbed at her arms and whispered to her. She shook them off and increased her speed.
She passed the strange old cottage made of gingerbread and her stomach rumbled. (She really should get up earlier and eat a bigger breakfast.) Then she passed the little cottage belonging to the seven small men, and as usual one of them leant out the window and offered her the job of becoming their housekeeper.
“Just till your prince comes and you get married, of course!”
Belinda smiled politely. Absolute gentlemen all of them, but so old fashioned.
Hurrying on, she ca
Jennifer entered the Bank of Good Fortunes and apprehensively approached the nearest teller.
“Um, hello. Jennifer Endsley. I was asked to come in to talk about my loan repayments?”
“Ah, indeed, Ms Endsley. Let me just bring up your details...”
The teller reached under the counter and brought up her crystal ball. She set the ball on the counter, passed her hands over it twice and then stared into it.
“Now, you had a perfect credit score when we approved your loan to study for your part-time MSc in business. And you have kept up steadily with your repayments since.”
Jennifer smiled modestly. “I tak
It wasn’t easy being the bard for a queen with musical-gustatory synaesthesia.
Standing in the muddy remains of the tournament field, Alice retuned her lute and launched into her third song of the evening.
She didn’t get very far.
“No, no! Stop!” Queen Hilda looked pained. “That one tastes of old socks. Another!”
Alice tried again.
“And that one tastes of roses!”
“Isn’t… that a good thing, my lady?” asked Consort Timothy cautiously,
“Not when the roses have gone all brown and slimy!”
From the queen’s other side, Consort Bertha reached out a hand
Bartel’s publisher smiled cautiously. “We’ve looked through your manuscript for the novel now and well… It wasn’t quite what we were expecting.”
“No?” Bartel frowned. “But you said you wanted an adventure story.”
“Yes, indeed,” said the publisher.
“And you said I could let my imagination go wild! Write about trials way beyond my ken!”
“Agreed,” said the publisher. “It’s just…” She flicked through the pages. “Your hero having his windows replaced… Being made redundant and having to look for another job…
It was looking unlikely that Denise would ever get to use her skills professionally again, but apparently it still paid to be a structural engineer during a zombie apocalypse.
She’d managed to design and build quite a substantial little tower in her mother’s back garden. Tall enough and unclimbable enough to keep the two of them safe, and with a ladder that could be let down if she ever needed to look for more supplies. It wasn’t much but at least they were alive.
“Jonathan’s here again.”
Denise’s mother was looking out of the window of their little cabin at the top of the tower.
Denise went to jo
When I was in the infants at primary school, there was a dryad in my class for a term or so. At that age you understand someone like that is amazing and unusual but you also simply accept that such marvellous things can happen. Now my adult brain insists that I dreamt or imagined her, and on the rare occasions I’ve bumped into old classmates none of them remember her, but the memories remain so clear.
She was a sweet but awkward kid who nevertheless made the effort to join in with all our games. And she never lost a game of hide and seek. I seemed to be the only one who noticed her vanishing into the buddleia bush each time, away in a
Once there was a magpie who collected for his nest every shining thing he could find.
One day he discovered the most sparkling thing of all—the coruscating wit of the spiders in the webs. The arachnids indulged in constant merry banter and badinage, happy for the entertainment to go no further than their little community.
The magpie took note of these quips and returned to his nest, where he sang out the spiders’ witticisms to a wider audience. Many animals, birds and insects enjoyed these broadcasts and gave him food and prestige in exchange.
One day though, the spiders came to visit the magpie and demanded that he stop steali
Necessity was waving her youngest off to the patent office, a big smile on her face. “Make me proud!”
“So what’s next? Have you got another invention planned?”
Necessity turned to see her neighbour Making Ends Meet.
She shook her head firmly at him.
“Nope! I’ve finally got them all out of the house and I’m going to focus on me for a while. I mean, they’re all my babies and I love all ninety-seven billion of them but it’s time for a change. I’m going to do a degree at last. In engineering! I’m going to relax and design things that might make things easier for people, r
Sandra would never know if it was because she’d bought a new bed or because it was she’d moved to a new flat. But from the first day at her new address there had been very strange goings-on.
She’d lie there awake night after night and hear weird moans and scratching coming from underneath her. At first she tried to put it down to imagination or the natural sounds a building makes as it settles. But as the days went past it was harder to hold onto those explanations.
Finally she couldn’t bear it any longer.
She looked under the bed.
Somewhere in the darkness there was an even darker form. Twisted and misshapen. It s
So, word was going round that over at Kill Devil Hills two insane brothers were going to be attempting powered flight.
“Hey, that’s strictly for the birds!” I quipped.
Nobody laughed, and I ended up with the damned assignment.
But when a girl from London, England is trying to make her way in the States she has to make the most of her opportunities. I took a bus out to the dunes. No-one was around, but I found the place. Hard to miss it when the aircraft was there ready and waiting.
I took the opportunity to examine this right-angled dragonfly. It was a splendid bit of workmanship I have to admit, and I clambered up to th
The sun was shining. The birds were singing. The flowers were in full bloom.
Nature was at her very sweetest, and all was right with the world.
“Do bugger off.”
A bee glared at a butterfly.
“This lavender is reserved just for Apis mellifera.”
The butterfly laughed coldly.
“I think you’re wrong there, honey. This is a red admiral only area.”
“Yeah? Who says, pretty boy?”
The butterfly stared. “Oh, you’ve done it now, you…” He waved his antennae. “...plain Jane!”
He advanced slowly towards the bee.
The bee snorted. “You think you can fright
Melanie made her way through the throng, and reached the corner of the room where Death was sitting all alone.
“Thank you.” Death took the bowl of crisps and began eating them morosely.
“Sorry. This was a bad idea, wasn’t it?”
Death paused in his munching, and held up a bony hand. “Melanie, it was very kind of you to invite me. It’s just…” He shrugged. “I’m the last taboo, aren’t I? Nobody really wants to acknowledge my existence. And certainly not at a party.”
Melanie turned to watch her guests. “I did think as all
The drone smiled awkwardly at the worker bee.
“So. Your mother has asked me to have a word with you, young…” He paused. “...Buzzelle, is it?”
“Buzza, father!” said the worker bee.
“Oh, yes. Of course.” The drone paused again to clear his throat. “Well, your mother has asked me if I wouldn’t mind having a word about what those silly humans call ‘the birds and the bees’. Or to put it more clearly…” There was another round of throat clearing. “...reproduction.”
“Gosh,” said Buzza.
“Yes, indeed,” said her father. R
On her sixteenth birthday Princess Briar Rose had pricked her finger on a spindle and fallen into a deep, enchanted sleep.
Now one hundred years later, here was Prince Michaelmas Daisy, 17¼, cutting through the undergrowth in an attempt to reach the princess and break the curse!
The prince entered the castle, walked boldly past all the sleeping inhabitants, and made his way up to the princess’ bedroom.
He stared down at the sleeping beauty. And paused. He knew how this went. Such a curse had to be broken by a kiss, but a kiss on the lips seemed rather presumptuous. He nodded firmly as he made a decision, and then leant forward t
“Oh, thank heavens you’re here!” cried Percival.
The woman from the Articulation Association strode across the bar to the table, nodded to Percival’s companion and then addressed Percival himself.
“So you were the one who phoned? You two have had a communication breakdown?”
Percival smiled weakly. “Conversation completely ground to a halt. Will it have to be towed away?”
The AA woman glanced at the heap of broken words. “I don’t think it’ll come to that.” She smiled reassuringly. “We like to do repairs in situ if we can.”
She leant over and began poking a
“The thing is...”
The wishing well sighed.
“When you say ’wishing well’, everyone immediately visualises the bit up top. The circular wall, the bucket, the winch and the handle. The cute little roof. And that isn’t really me. I mean, I’m the shaft in the ground. The hole filled with water! All the rest is window dressing to be honest. Do you get where I’m coming from? Does that make sense? Or am I just talking rubbish?”
“Not at all, not at all. I think you’re—” The voice at the bottom of the well paused. “...quite deep.”
There was the sound of a litt
“I can’t believe you’ve betrayed me like this!” cried the adjective.
Its other half frowned. “Look, you knew what you were getting into when we got hitched. I’m a prefix! It’s in my nature to get attached to lots of other words too.”
The adjective stared. “You cad!”
“Hey, don’t be getting all high and mighty,” said the prefix. “Don’t think that I don’t know you've been hooking up with that suffix when I’m not around. I’ve certainly noticed the way you’ve changed yourself for it.”
The prefix sighed.
“Welcome to the Halcyon Spa!” beamed the man behind the reception desk. “I’m Rollo. How can I help you?”
“Hello…” Clover smiled cautiously. “I was interested in your Serenity packages, actually. I need to relax a little.”
“Of course!” said Rollo. “Let me give you a taste of what’s available.”
He came out from behind the desk and led the way into a nearby room.
Inside there were seven other white-coated employees standing waiting. They smiled attentively at Clover.
Clover smiled back at them cautiously.
“Now, this is our Calming Sideways packa
In the olden days, when the world was inhabited by Facial Features, peace reigned in most places.
The Ears were always willing to listen and the Noses didn’t pick on one another. Sometimes things got a bit hairy amongst the Eyebrows but a bit of pluck sorted out any difficulties.
No, the only conflict was amongst the Mouths. They were split into two factions: the Kissers and the Cakeholes.
“Eating cake is an abomination!” the Kissers would yell.
“Well, kissing is damn well unhygienic!” the Cakeholes would yell in return.
“You take that back!” the Kissers would retort.
“Aaawh, what a cutie!”
Helen was amazed by the sight of the creature that came flying their way. It looked like a rabbit, with the wings of a pheasant. And on its tiny antlers it carried a basket of fresh bread. The creature landed on their table and Helen quickly reached for the basket to help it.
“Is… is this a Jackalope?!”
The creature turned for John as he asked that and wrinkled its tiny nose.
“We beg to differ!”, they heard a voice. The old innkeeper came their way with a wide smile on her face, carrying the food they ordered.
“Our little Sepp is a Wolpertinger! They might be related
Jingle Bells blasts from the speakers on Oxford Street. A Christmas tree looms in the store window, covered in sparkling tinsel. The Christmas lights twinkle incessantly and a flurry of snow falls every once in a while, much to the crowd’s delight.
My reflection points to the satchel draped carefully over the mannequin’s body. I’ve wanted that bag since Thanksgiving, but I’m in even less of a position to buy it now, as I’m no longer employed. My reflection gives me a sad look and motions for me to move on.
The next store over has a scantily clad vixen plastered up its two-story window, wearing a bright red tuqu
She appeared suddenly, without fanfare, standing barefoot between the lanes of speeding traffic. Cars honked angrily, vans swerved, yet they seemed not to concern her even as her robe whipped in their wake.
“You have forgotten your gods,” she announced, quite calmly. “You have consigned them to oblivion: only I remain. Tell me then, what is my name?”
The people on the street waved and yelled. A construction worker in a hi-vis vest looked left and right, preparing to rush out and lead her to the pavement, but suddenly there were no or in the road. There was no at all.
There was always something about my face that people disliked. From an early age I didn’t have many friends, people were choosing to avoid me, rather than getting closer. My parents sent me away from home when I was twelve. They signed me up to the military academy, preferring keeping my other brothers at home. I was studying well and practising hard, perfecting my fencing skills and was lucky enough to be hired as a part of the royal guard not long after finishing the academy. My ugliness served me well, bringing fear over my enemies, but it didn’t bring me much luck in anything else. Honestly, by the age of thirty I got used to how things were, choosing a solitary road with no close friends or partner. My duty in Palace was hard, but it paid well. At night I was sleeping at military quarters and the few free hours I had I tried to spent outside, practising my fencing moves in a usual routine that I knew by heart. My favourite spot was a quiet hill outside the Palace. It was
Scholar Padraic blinked and let the book lay flat on the desk. He gripped the magnifying glass so tightly his nails bent back.
The surface of the paper writhed and wriggled until the letters were little more than a squiggling mass of nonsense and nincompoopery. Flagship Captain MuffinNose the Tangerine Smith had no business residing in the ancient tome of Necromantic History. It belonged in a child's book of silly tales.
The letters blurred again and he could almost swear the dozens of tiny dots were wearing hats and coats and mustaches to rival the Grand Patriarchs. He didn't bother to replace the glass gingerly. He let it fall on the mass
Julia avoided the dog park on weekends, on sunny days, and any other time. The park was the perfect place to get exercise and meet people.The last part concerned Julia the most. With an unusually large dog like TiddlyPoof, she’d learned that people rarely looked past surface level.
But today, she was on a mission. She was not missing this date (oh my god, oh my god I have a date.) She ignored the widened eyes, the mouths in frightened O’s. Hands tightened on leashes, pulling their own dogs away, as she and her beast passed.
TiddlyPoof was over one hundred pounds of lithe, sculpted muscle, complete with frothing jowls, harrowing
It’s hard to get anyone to take you seriously when you look like a cowskin rug. Harry wished, maybe for the millionth time, maybe for the billionth time, that he had been born as literally anything else. Perhaps a goat-sucking predator of the Mexican night? A hide-behind, who was never seen but always feared? Or even a stupid man?
But no. He was no hide-behind, just a plain old Hide, or, as the locals would scream, “El Cuero!”
His parents didn’t understand how he could be tired of the screaming. They didn’t know why he just had to “get out there”, had to see the world, had to leave the comfy cool lake