Toxic Duck Inc.

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My life was pretty peachy before I caught the virus. At least, that’s what they tell me.

My partner, Jaz, and I had managed to save up enough money to travel the world and stay comfortable. We lived in full colour then; climbing mountains, skiing down them, eating in fancy restaurants… And at night, just like everyone else, we would put those little squashy pads against our temples and plug into our phones to upload the memories of the day to the cloud. They say it not only preserves your special moments for ‘fully immersive enjoyment’ another day, but it also improves the efficiency of sleep, security, and peace of mind. Except I have no peace, not anymore.

One evening, after a few drinks in the famous old Tokyo Mixology Lab, Jaz and I got back to our hotel and plugged in. No way were we going to risk losing the memories of that day! Then an alert box appeared on my screen:

Free updates are available. Apply now for extra security?

And I hit ‘yes’. Continue reading “Toxic Duck Inc.”

Reality Cuts

2018-03-02 07.11.15

I leapt up, startled, in the dead of night. I’d been dreaming of the past again, and couldn’t be sure whether the sounds I heard were mental and menacing or real and benign.

“The bastard’s in here – get him!”

The words drifted up to the first floor room where I stood, and tapped on the window. I recognised them instantly as the words of my tormenter from high school. What were they doing ringing so lucid, invading the truth and the now that I wanted?

I took on a fighting stance, just as my teacher had instructed. Feet apart and equally weighted, knees bent. My twin was wrapped in sheets, cowering in the corner behind me. I will protect you, I thought. There was a reason the sword was left for us in this way. I gripped it tightly and focused upon the muscles and strength needed to maintain the posture it demanded. My breath became deep and purposeful.

The words continued to scratch at the window, desperate to get in and meet my ears full-on. They were squeezing through the frame… I turned to face them and swiped the sword through the air in one clean movement, cutting the threats in two. They fell away slowly like feathers until they were nowhere to be heard.

I couldn’t allow my to guard drop straight away, for next there was a creaking on the landing outside my room. Footfall on floorboards, or the house choking? I wasn’t taking any chances and brought the sword down once again, this time in the direction of the door. But then I had the sensation that someone was in the room, standing over me. Someone unearthly and monstrous. My eyes wide in the dark, I couldn’t quite make a figure out, and dry tears stung from the strain of trying. With nothing to lose, I took another slash with the blade out in front of me and felt something drop into a heap on the floor. My twin rejoined me then, and in exhaustion we fell backwards onto the bed as one. Back to the land of dreams.

When the morning light came, my thoughts had returned to normal. There was a gash in the reality between my bed and the wardrobe where I had struck something. It was like a tear in a canvas, but not so neat as to hide the in between. The in between was black and full of eyes that glared, pulling me in. Azrael, they whispered to my bones. I remembered what my teacher had said though: leave the wound well alone until it is healed.

There were more cuts all over the house: far more than I could remember making. As I left for work, I stepped over the biggest of them all on the doorstep: the place where a bad memory had once been. It was gaping wide and as I peered in I saw thousands of twinkling stars. I resisted the temptation to touch them and walked away.

All of the cuts healed over the coming few days and a tension I had carried for many years dropped from my shoulders. I could feel tall at last. Never again would I think of the bully’s words; from then on they existed only as pixelated impressions in the peripheries of my mind. That was when I knew I was truly ready for the next lesson my teacher had to give me.

*****

For more unusual, contemplative flash fiction, check out my book Fragments of Perception. Available now in e-book and paperback worldwide.

Blackened Wick

Remember when we learned Duvessa was dead? We were sitting on a park bench smoking spliffs in the purple rain.

We tried to make light of it; recalling the time the three of us got locked out and spent the night under the stars drinking cheap martini and telling stories in an empty fishing boat. And the time she almost had us convinced we could be the next big rap metal crossover band when she got us a gig at the local pub. And all those times we

just couldn’t breathe

for laughing at the most basic of sitcom jokes. They were good times mate, good times.

But then her heart became enchanted by a monster of a man who kept her in a cell under 24 hour surveillance. He would throw things at her and steal from her and coerce her into commiting lewd acts, while publicly declaring her a slut and a liar and a thief. He would roar at her until tears streamed down her face, making the inner flame we adored sputter and make strange shadows on the wall. He eventually succeeded in extinguishing her fire altogether leaving nothing but a blackened wick.

You’d rescue me, you said, maybe together we could bring her back. Your voice was full of doubt though, and I needed certainty. So when the monster called my name from the other side of the hedge having realised I’d escaped, whoever it was I had become trotted obediently back to his side.

Mixtape: Opening Skit


Some of my deepest thoughts have occurred while travelling. Perhaps not the most meaningful, but the deepest in the sense that they literally felt like they were slicing right through me. All those people sitting opposite me on a train or bus, who have seen my blank stern face say ‘please don’t bother me’; they could never know that inside I was floating upon the most raw emotions and experiencing the most rich thoughts that would go on to make permanent connections in my mind.

Memories of such times I recall with a mixtape playing in my earbuds. (ok so it’s a playlist these days, but doesn’t mixtape have a lovely nostalgic feel to it? Besides, there’s no skipping tracks on a mixtape and that’s important. Unless you are armed with a pencil, patience and a good sense for guesswork). Music was an ever present travel companion. And now every track is its own portal, which when entered, reactivates the particular dimension of emotion and depth that first experienced it.

In the original times of which I speak, I wasn’t in a position to create symbolic artworks. I was too busy being the symbols. I was fastened into my seat with little room to move, or I was being regarded by other passengers, or I was busy digging deeper into the metaphysical elixir-mine for Future Me to come back to and reap the treasure years later…

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