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Mr Kill

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Mr Kill was first published on the Brighton COW (Brighton Community of Writers) website, where it made it into the final 10 stories of the quarterly short story competition. Sadly, the Brighton COW website was taken down early in 2012, so their competition is no longer running.

Prior to this, Mr Kill was shortlisted in issue 114 of Writers' Forum (you can see the Writer’s Forum critique at the bottom of this page), the May 2011 edition (but not selected as a winner) and also entered in the Bristol Prize (I can’t really tell you much about this competition as I had no correspondence with them – all I know is that in 2011 there were in excess of 2,000 entries from all over the world, so competition is high), where it failed to be shortlisted. Below is the story, the comments I have received from the judges, followed by my comments based on the experiences I’ve had with the competition.

Brighton COW short story competition logo

Mr Kill was published again by Katha Kshetre's Temple of Short Stories in March 2016.

It was then published again in December 2016 by Dark Lane Books in the Dark Lane Anthology Volume 4. You can learn about the book here.

Dark Lane Books logo

Mr Kill by Christopher Fielden

Mrs Ethel Wadworth is looking at me sceptically. I’ve explained clearly that I can’t resuscitate the dead worm she’s produced from her pocket. She seems to be having trouble accepting my prognosis.

‘But you’re a vet,’ she says.

‘No I’m not.’

‘It says so on your door.’

‘No it doesn’t.’

She surveys me with unmasked contempt. ‘Are you going to save my worm?’

‘It’s been cut in half.’

‘I know that, you fool. I did it with my trowel.’

‘Even if I were a vet, there is no way to reanimate a decapitated worm.’

‘So you are a vet.’


Ethel scrutinises me with rheumy eyes, her purple hair rinse glowing with alien phosphorescence. ‘You look like a vet to me.’

I’ve run out of different ways to say the same thing. Thankfully, she moves towards the door. As she leaves I receive a scowl eighty years in the making, but I discern a hint of disappointment in her glare, as though she had expected more from me. The door clicks shut behind her.

I sit for a minute, as I always do, and consider the patient I’ve just seen. Could she be a potential candidate for The Programme? No. She might be senile, but I enjoy Ethel’s visits. She isn’t a bad person and, although rude, she often delivers a dose of the unexpected into an otherwise predictable day. With her walking its streets, the village of Dingle Green is a more interesting place to live.

Although Dingle Green is a village, there are many smaller hamlets in the catchment area for my surgery. All manner of people come to see me with a myriad of health problems. I have their respect. Dr Charles Hatton is a man to be trusted. It’s a position I enjoy. And the wide catchment means I constantly meet new people - people who might be perfect for The Programme. It’s amazing what patients will confide in a doctor. I learn all their secrets. I’m careful not to abuse this position - I always use the information for the greater good.

As I turn back to my computer, I feel an intense pain in my head. It arrives from nowhere. Instinctively, I reach up to rub my scalp. As quickly as it materialised, the pain vanishes, as though it were never present. I investigate with my fingertips, half expecting to see blood, but there is nothing. Feeling slightly disorientated, I reach out and press the buzzer to summon my next patient. The room shifts slightly, taking on a hazy quality. I wipe my forehead. Surprisingly, my skin is dry. Then all is normal.

I feel old. I should retire, but I could never abandon The Programme. It’s my life’s work. If it kills me, so be it. Every candidate I discover means lives are saved. What is my life compared to ten, to a hundred? I’ve probably saved thousands. I want to save more. I will not stop.

Looking back at my computer screen, I see most of the details for my next patient are missing. I click refresh. Now there’s even less information. It’s one of the downsides of living in a remote area - a day trip to the city would be required to source new hardware. What with my work and organising The Programme, I have very little time.

I jump with surprise as I notice a man in the room, sitting on the chair Ethel vacated. He’s watching me intently. I didn’t hear him enter the room, or notice any movement. I feel myself redden as though caught in the middle of some nefarious act.

The man is dressed in black, his leather coat long and worn. He has mutton chops on his cheeks, but manages to wear them more like Wolverine than John McCririck. His hair is dark and streaked with grey. Pallid skin is clamped tightly to his skull, making him look ill. In complete contrast, his stare burns with life. I find it unnerving.

‘I’m afraid we’re having some computer problems,’ I say, pleased with how calm I sound. ‘Can I take your name?’


‘I’m sorry?’


I give the man a tired glance. His eyes are a piercing grey, the colour of stormy sky.

‘Mr Kill... okay. Forename?’


Marvellous. A joker. Or a liar. I hope he’s the latter. It might mean he’s eligible for The Programme.

‘Middle names?’

‘Hack, Maim.’

‘You expect me to believe your name is Slash Hack Maim Kill?’ I look up and wish I hadn’t. Mr Kill’s expression indicates two things. One - he is indeed Mr Slash Hack Maim Kill. Two - if he’s asked his name again, I might come out of this encounter one testicle down. Despite spending half my time advising people to quit, I find myself craving a cigarette.

‘Your parents must have had a sense of humour,’ I manage after the silence has become uncomfortable.

He smiles thinly, ‘My old man likes Frank Zappa.’

Now my computer screen is completely blank. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say as I pick up the phone, ‘please bear with me.’ The phone’s dead too. From the corner of my eye I notice the second hand on my clock has stopped moving. Have we had a power cut?

‘I hear things,’ says Kill. I jump again, this time because his voice is so close. He’s pulled his chair towards me, but I didn’t see or hear a thing.

‘Voices?’ I ask. I no longer sound calm.

Mr Kill thinks for a moment. ‘Kind of.’

‘Do they tell you things?’

Kill leans forward, as though about to impart a dreadful secret. ‘The voices sing to me.’

I feel my neck crawl with gooseflesh at the same time as having to fight the urge to laugh. A picture grows in my mind, of the devil singing a lullaby to this man, tickling his chin lovingly with a black, pointed talon.

‘The voices are accompanied by guitars, bass and drums,’ Kill continues. ‘Amazing riffs, rolling rhythms, thundering bass lines.’ I’m finding it increasingly hard not to laugh, despite Kill’s intense manner. ‘Recently the voices have been singing about you.’

There’s something about the way he imparts this information that makes me feel my life expectancy has diminished. The urge to laugh deserts me. My lips feel dry. I lick them to no avail. ‘Me?’

‘I know what you’ve done.’

It takes me a moment to digest this information. Done? What have I done?

‘You know,’ he says.

Now I feel like I’m the patient and he’s the doctor. I didn’t say that out loud.

‘No, you didn’t. The voices that sing to me have become one - your voice. Lately it’s been getting louder. Now it’s so loud it’s drowning out the rest of the band, and I’m a man who prefers instrumentals.’

This is too weird. I wonder if I’m dreaming. No, dreams hold a certain recognisable quality, something that tells you, deep down, that it’s just a dream. This is happening. The question I can’t answer is: What is happening?

I fight an unfamiliar feeling. It takes me a while to recognise it as panic. I’m usually so collected. My eyes are drawn to Kill’s face. Who is this man? He arrived like a ghost. And he says he hears voices. Is he toying with me? Usually, people who hear things have some sort of mannerism - a twitch or social inability. The chilling thing about Mr Kill is his lucidity. Then it dawns on me.

‘You’re not real,’ I say.

‘So why are you talking to me?’

I consider this. Maybe Kill is a figment of my imagination - I’ve been working a lot lately and feeling tired. I close my eyes for a few seconds and then open them. He’s still there. I reach out and touch his arm. He feels solid, but there’s something amiss. Instinctively, I turn his hand palm upwards and press my fingertips against his wrist bone, feeling for a palpitation of the radial artery.

‘You have no pulse.’

He nods as if I’m stating the obvious rather than understanding the bigger picture. ‘I don’t need one.’ His stare bores into me like two spinning drill bits. Then he speaks, as if delivering a punchline he’s disappointed I didn’t pre-empt. ‘Neither do you.’

Ba-dom-bom-tish. I grab my wrist. There’s no pulse. I look up at him, a desperate feeling of incredulousness washing through me. ‘I’m dead?’ He nods. ‘So who the hell are you?’

‘You know who I am.’

I shake my head. ‘I’m dead so you’ve come for me?’

‘No. You’ve come to me. Your body lies dead in your office. This is limbo, the place between life and death.’

I can’t take this in. I look around. ‘We’re in my office.’

‘No. We’re in limbo. What we see around us is a reflection of the moment of your death. Look on it like a warehouse - a holding area for your spirit while I decide the manner of your deliverance.’

‘You’re Death?’

‘No. I’m Kill. Death is my father. Death waits for those who’ve died. I wait for those who’ve been killed.’

I feel muddled, as though I have again missed his point. I speak my thoughts, hoping this might aid my understanding. ‘Killed... you mean murdered?’ He nods. ‘I was murdered?’

‘Yes.’ His patience seems to be wearing thin. Do I care? No. I’m dead. What can he do to hurt me now?

‘You’d be surprised,’ he says, too seriously for my liking. I don’t like that he can read my thoughts. I’m finding the lack of privacy unsettling.

‘Get used to it,’ he says.

‘But...,’ I didn’t know I was dead until Kill had spelled it out for me. How could someone kill me without me realising it?

‘The killer was gifted. He planned and executed the murder perfectly.’ He gives me the drill stare again. ‘The problem with your Programme is you only considered the candidate and those they might harm. You failed to consider those who might be negatively affected by their death. Remember your last kill?’

‘Yes.’ It had saddened me, but she had to be stopped. She couldn’t accept living with HIV, couldn’t forgive the man that had infected her. Being pretty, she used her looks to seduce men and spread the disease. For her, it represented revenge.

‘Well, her father is a retired soldier,’ said Kill. ‘He saw you leaving the scene. He decided to deal with you himself. Remember the sudden, intense pain you felt in your head?’ I nod. ‘It was a bullet entering your brain.’

I rub the back of my head. I can feel no wound. But then, if Kill is to be believed, I am no longer in my body.
My head is throbbing again, but no bullet is to blame. I feel confused, cheated. It all seems so unfair. ‘But my life’s work isn’t complete.’

‘Neither were the participants’ in your Programme. I’m familiar with your work. I’ve met all your victims.’

‘Victims?’ I spit the word. If he were truly familiar with The Programme, he’d realise there were no victims. More lives would be saved in the absence of the sadistic, selfish, twisted and cruel. And I always carefully consider each candidate, study them, making sure they’re appropriate.

‘True, but remember the banker?’

I look blankly at him. There have been so many...

‘He liked to drink,’ continues Kill. ‘Killed a girl in a hit and run?’

I nod. ‘He’d have done it again.’

‘He did. You murdered his twin.’

A sense of disbelief tingles in the pit of my stomach. Could I have made such an idiotic error? Surely not. I was meticulous. I always made sure.

‘You tried, but everyone makes mistakes. Why did you think you wouldn’t? Ironically, your arrogance would make you a candidate for your own Programme.’ A thin smile touches Kill’s lips. I don’t like it. He’s laughing at me, not with me.

‘So,’ I say, not hiding my irritation. ‘What happens now?’

The smile fades from his face and is replaced by a new sombre expression. It indicates that the time for games is over. Now is all about business.

‘I shall ask you one simple question. Your answer will determine your path into the ever.’ He reaches inside his jacket and pulls out two sickles. One has a shimmering blade of sunlight, the other is the colour of night. They sizzle as he moves them through the air. ‘Are you ready?’

For once I feel I know what’s coming next and this fills me with calm. The confusion I have experienced until now washes away. Kill’s manner has changed. He knows I know. I am dead. Eternity awaits. Have I done wrong? No. I have saved countless lives with no expectation of recognition for my achievements. Should I give an answer I believe he wants to hear? No. I can’t. He’d know I was lying. All I can do is answer honestly. I’m ready for judgement.

‘Do you admit doing wrong?’

‘No. I did no wrong.’

‘I bid you farewell, Charles Hatton.’ Kill moves with fierce speed, sweeping the two sickles in a deathly arc. They plunge into my chest. There is no pain. Kill is gone. My office is gone. Everything is gone.


I’m in the dark. Damp earth presses in around me. The feeling is pleasant. I am content in the cold, wriggling forward, eating that which is in front of me, leaving that which is behind me. I feel safe.

Everything around me erupts. I feel cold metal in my midriff. Soil is tumbling everywhere. Light dazzles me. I feel a warm hand on my cold body. I wriggle, finding the heat distressing. A pair of rheumy eyes peer at me, surrounded by a halo of purple.

‘Oh dear,’ says Ethel Wadworth. ‘Don’t worry, little worm, I know where to take you. If there’s one man who can save your soul, it’s Doctor Charles Hatton.’


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Comments from the Brighton COW Judges

Below are the comments I received from the Brighton COW judges, explaining why Mr Kill was short listed. Many thanks to Andrew Campbell-Kearsey for providing this information for me to use on the site.

Hi Chris 

We received over a hundred stories for our Spring 2011 Short Story Competition. The judges read every story at least once and always through to the end. We are , of course, looking for an engaging, interesting story. I know it sounds like a cliché but the writer must write in a way that makes the reader want to go on. We can easily forgive minor technical or grammatical errors. The story is what matters. Does it have anything to say and do we care enough? 

Your story was shortlisted for several reasons. It was cleverly constructed. There was a unity that meant the ending tied in beautifully with the beginning. It was a fascinating premise. The main characters embark on a discussion about the intrinsic value of human life. This is a huge issue to tackle in a short story. It was handled well. Some writers struggle with dialogue. You managed to convince and give greater insight into the characters through what they said. 

For the  judges to shortlist a story, it needs to stay with us for a few days. Some are good to read but essentially are disposable over time. Your story was shortlisted as it was a ‘stayer’ and gave the judges a great deal to talk/think about. 

Well Done

Andrew @ brightonCOW

Mr Kill Brighton COW Certificate C Fielden

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About the Brighton COW Competition

This was a quarterly short story competition, with a 3,000 word limit. It offered a £100 first prize, a £50 second prize and a £25 third prize. If a story was shortlisted into the final ten, you had the option to have your tale published on the website (the Brighton COW website no longer exists, so sadly you can no longer see Mr Kill there). You also had the option to have your story recorded and read out on Brighton Coastway Hospital Radio. You can hear the recording of Mr Kill below.

I really liked the humour offered on the Brighton COW website. By reading the winning stories on the site, you were also able to see that many of them were funny, which appealed to me and is what inspired me to enter this competition. Below are some other comments you may find useful:

  • The regularity of a quarterly competition means you don’t have to wait a year to re-enter the competition with new stories. Regularity also means there are fewer entrants in each round of the competition giving you a better chance of winning and / or being published. In the competition I entered there were 102 entries. The top ten stories were published on the Brighton COW site.
  • Entry was very reasonable at £4.
  • I loved the fact that if you were shortlisted into the final ten your story was published and recorded and broadcast on the local radio. What a fantastic prize to offer.
  • As ten winning stories were published each time a competition was run, it allowed a writer to research the styles of the winning stories and tailor their entry to suit.
  • The judges and other people who ran the competition offered good communication, corresponding with you to let you know they’d received your story etc. I also found them incredibly helpful in providing information for my website. These were real people who were interested in engaging with other writers. It's a real shame the competition no longer runs.
  • The guidelines were clear and fair, without any ridiculous rules. This competition, unlike many others, would accept previously published work and stories that had won other competitions. This offered an excellent opportunity to make a good story earn you more money by having it published twice.
  • In addition to their quarterly short story competition, Brighton COW ran a number of other writing competitions throughout the year, so it was a site worth visiting regularly!

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Mr Kill Critique

Below is the critique I received from Writers’ Forum, written by Lorraine Mace.

Hello Chris,
Mr Kill
Thanks for entering the Writers’ Forum competition.
Presentation: Manuscript layout is generally very clean. I couldn’t spot any obvious errors.
Title: Very good. As soon as I saw the title I wanted to read the story.
Opening: Excellent introduction to our narrator. The humour in the opening lines sets the tone for the story to follow.
Dialogue: Very good – this works to drive the story onwards and also aids characterisation.
Characterisation: Mr Kill fairly leaps from the page – a wonderful creation. The other characters are also believable and well rounded.
Overall: If I had to find fault with this story, it would be that the ending was a touch predictable once we know that he is underground, but that is a very minor complaint. I loved the humour in this and found the totally unbelievable scenario to be credible – no mean feat!
You have a lovely style and I enjoyed reading your work very much indeed. I’m short-listing this story – congratulations! Should the story move forward to the top three, someone will be in touch to let you know.
Best wishes, Lorraine Mace

How to Write a Short Story book ad

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Leave your comments

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Your comments:

Mega Geoff
a catch 22, i love it mate.

Chris Fielden
ta Mega

Marc B
nice one topaz

Chris Fielden
Thanking you Mac Brazzle

Lynne S
Its a bit short... but very interesting! Is there more of it?

Jase of Spades
I read it. I liked it. I like the worm, reminds me of me. Good job get paid?

Julie H
Well done Topher! x

Chris Fielden
The nature of short stories is that they are short... Paid my arse. Thanks Julie :) And Jase of Spades :)

Janey E
YESSS! Good one Topher!

Chris Fielden
Ta Janey Jane

Janet G
I loved this, appealed to my dark sense of humour, with plenty of twists along the way as we anticipate what the 'programme' might be. Perfect ending I thought.

Pity about Brighton Cow, I entered once, then it ceased to exist before I got another chance!

Excellent story, in my opinion it was even stronger that Devil's Crush, which I also really enjoyed. I've just bought your novel, really looking forward to reading it.

Thanks a million for the fantastic website as well, I've just got into writing short stories in the last few months and your breakdown of all the competitions has proven absolutely invaluable.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Janet :-) And yes, it's a real shame that Brighton COW disappeared.

And thanks, Caimh. Glad you like the stories and have found the site useful.

And thanks for buying my book. The style is a bit different from the short stories as I developed them after writing the novel, but hopefully you'll enjoy it!

Carol H
Hi Chris, thanks for sharing this wonderful story.  It caused me to laugh out loud in several places (something I have not done for a little while).  Brilliant characters - particularly the batty old woman and the fear-inducing Mr Kill! Perhaps I'm not as switched on as the Writers' Forum representative but the twist at the end I found delightful and unexpected.

I shall certainly use this story with its 2 competition feedback responses as a 'How to' template for myself, in order to try and craft my own short stories to a similar standard.  Well done!

I don't know if you respond to comments but if you do, would you mind telling me how long you have been writing short stories and how long before you reached this standard? Thanks in anticipation.

Chris Fielden
Carol, glad you liked the story :-)

I've been writing for about 20 years on and off, but only seriously for the last 7 years. I started concentrating on short stories about 4 years ago. Mr Kill was the second short story I wrote after finishing a writing course. I wrote a few stories while undertaking that (none of which were very good, to be honest) and then started concentrating solely on short stories after finishing my novel in 2010. Writing the novel helped me improve my writing skills a lot, so I learnt a lot from that. I then found short stories much easier to finish and found a lot more success with having them published, so have concentrated on that ever since.

I hope that's helpful and gives you some idea of time scales, but bear in mind I work full time in a demanding job, so have developed my writing around that. If you could concentrate solely on writing, you would probably see success more quickly.

Carol H
Hi Chris, thank you for responding to my questions.  I think you have done very well considering you work full-time and I'm impressed Mr Kill was only your 2nd short story! Well done. Regards, Carol

PS: I'm so impressed I don't know whether to be inspired or dejected but I think I'm learning from you that consistency and focus is the key. Thanks once again.

Chris Fielden
No problem Carol. Please be inspired! That's the idea behind the site, anyway :-) And bear in mind I did write a novel before writing that story, so there was a fair amount of practice in doing that!

Margaret E
Hello again Chris. I have just read 'Mr Kill' and thought it was brilliant. In fact it's so cleverly written I shall need some Strengthening Mixture before bothering to continue with my own writing. When I got to the last paragraph I was laughing out loud, and then hating myself for doing so. Such a sad, black, unexpected - to me - ending... but a humour I very much enjoy, so thank you for publishing it on your website. Best wishes and congratulations.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Margaret. I'm glad to hear you liked the story. I share the stories to inspire others, not stop them from writing. I hope you continue to write and wish you the best of luck with it all.