Short Stories


Random News #2

The Freelance Forum went well, lots of positive feedback. Now to concentrate on some other things before planning the next one. The theme for the rest of this week has been podcasting. Planning podcasts, scheduling podcasts, recording and editing podcasts. I hope to have some results to show for it in the next few days.


Random News #1

I’ve set up a Gumroad account, because I’ve got some surplus copies of  Chaos & Conspiracy, and they’re not going to sell themselves. Check it out at

The Freelance Forum is now less than a week away. The Forum is a series of one-day events anf podcasts aiming to eep Irish freelance journalists (and students) up to date on industry developments and opportunities. Pass on the word to the freelancer in your life.

Random swirling patterns of paints




The frog smiled as the scorpion climbed off his back.

“Thank you,” said Scorpion. “I would never have been able to cross the water alone.”

“It is a pleasure to help,” said Frog. “But I must confess I worried you might sting me halfway across the pond.”

“Why on earth would I do that?” asked Scorpion.

“I have heard tell it is in your nature,” said Frog. “You carry your sting everywhere you go.”

Scorpion frowned. “My sting is used only to defend myself. Why would I want to hurt my friend?”

“We are friends then,” said Frog.


Polymer Dating

“And we’re sure he’s a genuine time traveller?”

“According to every test we can think of, yes.”

“Any idea what era?”

“Judging by the levels of microplastics in his bloodstream, early 21st century.”

[microfiction written to fit in a single Mastodon post]


Cat in a Box

“No one ever thinks the cat is real at first.”

He paused, holding a spoonful of sugar in his hand, and studied it for a moment, before adding it to his coffee.

“It was just a thought experiment. A way for Erwin Schroedinger to explain quantum mechanics to his students, and to more than one stubborn professor who didn’t want to concede the universe could be random. You can’t really build a box to keep a cat alive and dead at once. Even if you get past the ethical questions, the animal rights protesters from PETA and the surprising number of furries in academic circles, there’s the sheer cost. This isn’t just a some faraday cage to keep out electromagnetic waves. The Observer in this experiment isn’t some old dude in a white lab coat looking down a microscope, the observer is reality. The only way to create the superstate where two realities exist at once is to stop the rest of the universe interacting with the box. Not one photon, not one quark, not one subatomic particle or wave can interact with that box. Because when it does, then the universe has observed the box.”

He paused for a moment, taking another drink from the mug, savouring the taste and smell of the dark coffee.

“So no, you can’t build it. But eventually, if your world doesn’t destroy itself first through nuclear war or catastrophic climate change, you’ll realise it just might be possible to build the box. Not easy, but possible. And eventually, every experimental physicist starts to wonder. What if you really did build the box. And then, what if you could look inside.”

The traveller smiled.

“And here I am.”

He paused again, and added milk to his coffee, stirring it for a moment and then watching as the dark and light merged into a warm brown.

“So then you realise, if you can do it once, you can do it again, and then there are close to an infinite number of possible combinations and worlds. Every choice, every action, at a sub molecular level, since the beginning of time. Each one represents a possible universe. Granted, most of them are empty. Cold lifeless lumps where the first spark never ignited. And even more where the universe cooled down and died. But there are just as many which look like my own world, each a little different. So when our world started to die, we decided it was time to move. We just have to find the best place to settle.”

He sipped the coffee for the first time.

“This really is the best coffee I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve sampled a lot of worlds.”

“So you want to settle here?”

“Oh no. This world is terrible. I just dropped by to save the coffee beans.”



An opening paragraph…

The phone rang twice before I answered. Unknown caller. Or at least, unknown to me. The screen showed a string of digits, but the software didn’t recognise the number as one I’d saved in my contacts list.



“You need urgent medical attention.”

“No hospitals, they have to report gunshot wounds. to the cops.”

“I know a guy, he’s a veterinarian.”

“Okay, that could work.”

“He’ll put you to sleep.”

“Wait, what–?”

[microfiction written to fit in a single Mastodon post]

Author’s note: This idea feels so obvious I can’t believe I’m the first to have thought of it. I suspect I may have  read it somewhere else and forgotten the source.




It was an old but reliable bike, a Raleigh classic with a black painted finish and white flashings on the rear mudguard. Rust crusted through some of the corners but it was still a reliable machine, and the the pedal powered dynamo battery light still worked. Jack saw no reason to change it.

The bus left too late to be useful on weekday mornings, and not at all on the weekend, so he he he took the bike out.
Sunday morning was bright and clear, a crisp day at the beginning of winter, still with the hint of autumn and the last edges of summer in the sunlight. At least, for as long as it stayed cloud free and wind stayed down. Whenever the sun moved behind a cloud though, it quickly became clear that the date was closer to midwinter than midsummer, and the sun was going to stay near the horizon. But for all that, Jack fell good and the brightness felt warm against his face when he closed his eyes and faced the clear sky. He checked his pockets and the satchel on his bike, and headed off towards Inishfall.

Downhill all the way from his cottage to the outskirts of the village, he freewheeled the bike, taking in the familiar views and the shimmer of the sun on the morning tide at the end of the valley. The last of momentum left his wheels as he passed the old dispensary clinic, and he pushed the pedals for the last half mile. He left the bike against the wall bear the barracks, and headed down to see Tommy.


Tommy was out the back when Jack go there. He left his bike resting alongside a ditch, and wandered round. Tommy was securing the back door, cursing indistinctly as the key refused to turn easily in the lock.
‘Where’s Rex?’asked Jack, on seeing the empty kennel in the yard.
‘Left him down with the Buckleys for the day,’ Tommy said. ‘They’ll take care of him until I get back. Wouldn’t be fair to leave him locked up alone all day.’

Tommy’s yard was a well polished concrete square leading off to a shed to the west side, and a large open field running to the north and eventually uphill. Lazy beds ran down one side of the field, the other given over to grass. Beyond well maintained rows of neat hedgerow sheep grazed in the upper fields, somehow finding sustenance between the outcrops of granite and heather.
The shed door was chained open, and inside could be seen an old grey-painted Ford tractor.

To be continued…



Scatter-gun impressions in the shadows, the tictac chittering of something I couldn’t see. Nothing makes sense any more, only bad dreams and broken sleep. Have I dreamed this one before? I don’t think so, this one I would have remembered. Is that a grasshopper? Why does it have fish eyes and white hair? Insects don’t have hair. And they sure as heck don’t stand six foot tall. Wait, is that a needle in its hand?

I slept then. Proper deep sleep. For the first time in weeks, I slept solid and warm, without breaks or interruptions of the strange and irritable distractions that somehow woke me every night and meant I started the next day unrested and unable to concentrate. I slept, and it was like curling up inside a warm envelope.

I felt more alert than I had in a long time. There wasn’t much to see, a plain room, a single table in the corner, and the bed I was lying on.

Not quite a bed either. Like a cabinet top. Pristine and polished whiteness, and a single light sheet. A box of polished wood designed by someone who liked Scandinavian furniture. Surprisingly comfortable though. Light streamed in from a large window, from a small garden outside. Gravel and small plants with long leaves and not much flower. Greens in every corner. The walls in the room were featureless, painted a not quite whiteness that echoed the merest tint of the green and brown hues from the sculpted gardens outside.

What were those things in my dreams? Eldritch weirdness, a room filled with over-sized bugs. I sat up then, but most of my right side forgot to move. I looked down, and saw the scar. I touched it, feeling the strange rubbery sensation of touching numbed skin. Some sort of anesthetic. Pretty effective too. And what am I wearing? Some sort of hospital gown?

I was operated on. What had they done to me?

I looked around the room. And where is the door?

‘Hello? I anyone there?’

The door opened. How had I not seen it before? Flush with the wall, almost invisible. I blinked, unsure what to say, as light from beyond the door streamed in. The nurse looked to be in her forties, in regular hospital scrubs, carrying herself with that air of industrious competence they always have.

‘Help me get out of here,’ I said.

‘All in good time, don’t you worry. You’ve had quite the narrow escape, but you were lucky. Just take things easy for a while, and everything will be ship shape. You’ve had a burst appendix, and developed peritonitis. All sorts of toxins spilled into your bloodstream, causing infections, fevers, even hallucinations. The doctors had to operate quickly, but you’re going to be fine. You just need some more rest, and then we can send you home.’

I thought about how good it had felt to wake up after a complete night’s sleep. More rest? Sure, I could do that. I could do that a lot.

Photo by Kevin Chinchilla on Unsplash


‘I think my girlfriend doesn’t want to get married. How do I make sure?’

‘What makes you think so.’

‘I’ve had to take care of all the wedding preparations. The guest lists,
the dresses, the flowers, the menus, the seating arrangements, I’ve done
all of it.’

‘So when you proposed —’

‘Oh no. She proposed to me.’

‘I think you just answered your own question.’