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Allen's Sensory Overload Writing Challenge

Quick links on this page:

rules & how to submit - about the sensory challenge - read sensorially overloaded stories

Allen Ashley and Chris Fielden

Allen Ashley & Chris Fielden, imprisoned in some sort of twin-bodied Photoshop nightmare

This photo has not been altered in any way, especially by Chris, who isn't very good at using Photoshop

Welcome to Allen's Sensory Overload Challenge. Like Allen, it's simple (sorry, couldn't resist...). Like Chris, it's beautiful (and again...). Anyone can submit. All entries are published. Discover how delightful writing purple prose overloaded with sensory description can be.

Rules & How To Submit

The rules feel, look, smell, sound and taste simple:

  • 175 words max
  • please include a title for your story (not included in word count)
  • use as much sensory description as you can
  • entry is everyone's favourite price - FREE
  • anyone can submit
  • 1 entry per person
  • no profanity please - all the writing challenges are shared with children
  • your sensorially saturated stories will be published on this page
  • every time we receive 100 stories, we'll publish all of them in a book
  • any money made through anthology sales will be donated to charity
  • by submitting, you accept the terms and conditions
  • when anthologies are published, you will be involved in the book launch process
  • submit your story by filling in the comments form below
  • include a short biography (40 words max) for use in the published book - if you don't supply a bio, we will be unable to publish your story
  • include 1 link (optional) to your website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.

Allen and Chris respectfully suggest: No more stories about eructation, breaking wind, being caught smoking or waking up in a coffin. These have now been adequately covered. Thanks.

So far, we've received 213 stories. We need 87 more to publish the anthology.

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About the Sensory Writing Challenge

We want stories of up to 175 words, packed full of sensory impressions and descriptions. Specifically: we want to drown in your senses. You may choose to overload on one branch of sensations, but ideally we would expect your flash fiction to include reference to all 5 of the commonly accepted senses:

Sight/Seeing, Sound/Hearing, Touch/Feeling, Smell and Taste.

Or at least have had a go! Assail us with your aromatic, smooth, salty, bell-ringing purple prose. You know you can and you know you want to.

Many 'How To' books will tell you to be precise and careful when using sensory words. We want you to be profuse and bountiful. The more the merrier. Chuck us into the setting and the situation. Overload us with sensory input and information. And tell a bit of a story as well. It's not too much to ask, is it?

Allen and I would like to thank everyone who submits their stories for their support – it's much appreciated :-)

During the course of running the sensory challenge, Allen and I got into a discussion with author Steven Hardy (author of story 051) regarding apostrophe placement in the word 'people's'. Due to our diligence, Steven very kindly made us a certificate for being top editors and word geeks:

Word Geek Certificate

Allen and Chris's Top Editor & Word Geek Award Certificate

We're sharing this here in the hope that it inspires more authors to award us with stuff. As yet, we've had no takers. This situation needs resolving, ASAP please.

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About the Charity the Sensory Writing Challenge Supports

Proceeds from sales of the sensory writing challenge anthologies will be donated to the National Literacy Trust.

National Literacy Trust

This charity is committed to helping raise literacy levels in the UK. The writing challenges run on this website do the same thing, in a roundabout kind of way, so this seemed like an appropriate charity for us to support.

How The Sensory Writing Challenge Came To Exist

Having seen the photo at the top of the page, this will be immensely hard to believe... Allen and I have not yet shared photographic space together. I know, I know... please try and contain your shock.

We did meet, at a Bristol Festival of Literature event last year, but I forgot to get photographic proof because we were too busy chatting about writing, comparing notes on running short story competitions (Allen judges the British Fantasy Society competition and I run To Hull & Back) and stuff like that. NOTE: we have now met many times, and run events together, but I've left this bit in as it makes a good story...

While we were chatting, we decided that running a writing challenge together seemed like a good idea.

Allen has been a great supporter of the writing challenges run on this site. Not only has he submitted his own stories, he's shared the challenges with the various writing groups he runs/belongs to and has generated lots of submissions from many authors. So, it's great to be able to work with him on this challenge.

Each time a story is received it'll be published below. Every time we receive 100 stories, they will be published as a collection. The books will be made available in print and Kindle eBook formats.

Proceeds from sales will go to the National Literacy Trust.

If we don't receive enough submissions for the next book, it's a bit of fun, you can read all the stories here on the site and you now know the National Literacy Trust exists and that they do fabulous work.

As with all the writing challenges on this site, it's impossible to lose. Everyone wins.

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Sensory Stories

Below are all the sensorially saturated stories that have been submitted to date, drenched in purple prose. See the words. Hear the joy. Taste the magic. Smell the stories. Touch your toes.

The stories are published in the order they were received.

Sensorially Challenged Volume 1

We received the 100th sensory story on 10th August 2017. The first 100 stories were removed from the website on 1st October 2017. Sensorially Challenged Volume 1 was released on 2nd December 2017.

You can learn how to buy the book and support charity here.

Sensorially Challenged Volume 1

The book contains flash fiction stories written by 100 authors.

Profits from sales will be donated to the National Literacy Trust. You can see how much money has been raised for charity by all the challenges run on this website on the main Writing Challenges page.

We are currently accepting stories for Volume 2.

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Sensorially Challenged Volume 2

We received our 200th sensory story on 31st January 2019. Stories 101 to 200 will be removed from the site by the end of February 2019 - for now, they are availabe to read below. Sensorially Challenged Volume 2 will then go into production and is due for publication during June 2019.

Story 101

The Tide Was High

by Allen Ashley

No sandy path visible; instead we are wading out over stones whose sharpness we still feel through the soles of our swimming shoes. The sea is a brown broth of wave-churned coarse grains and frothy edges like boiled milk. Only children paint it blue and think that's veracity.

It's deep enough to duck our shoulders and lift our feet, accomplish a few, smooth, round breaststrokes, before Sarah says, "Watch out, there's a breaker coming." I ride the first swell, the second swell... then the third fills my mouth with the metallic taste of brine. The North Sea has saved her weapons for our attempted entrance. At one stage, I'm lifted like a cork by her riotous wave, deposited in the shallows like Gulliver.

Later, in the warm breeze of the cliff top car park, Sarah pulls seaweed from beneath her shoulder strap. It's red and feathery. I watch the succession of breaking waves, like liquid frown lines on the sea's brow.

"Well, that was... exhilarating."

"Yep. Same time tomorrow."

Story 102

A Senseless Itch

by Christopher Fielden

Midges, millions of them, swarming silently beneath the trees. Even from the safety of the car, with closed doors and windows, the sight of them makes my skin tingle.

Reflexively, I scratch my ear. It falls into my lap.

Frowning, I pick my ear up to inspect it more closely. Looking down, my eyes pop out and land in my palm, next to my ear. I see my own shocked face, with two vacant eye sockets, staring blindly. My free hand moves upward, covering my mouth in shock. It catches my nose, which tumbles down towards my eyes.


Before 'can't be happening' can complete the sentence, the 'th' fires my tongue from my mouth. It slides down my chin, landing on my ear.

The weight of my senses is too much for my hand. It disconnects from my wrist and falls into the footwell.

Devoid of all sense, I see my body reach out with my remaining hand, open the door and climb from the car.

Tonight, the midges will feast.

Story 103

Flagrant Flatulence

by Lesley Truchet

Iris pulled up a chair for her father. "I can't wait to speak to my Bert."

"She's a fake. Rubbish." Harry sat down, leaning heavily on his cane.

"Shh, Dad."

The medium entered the room, wearing hippy clothes and oversized spectacles, a faint scent of lavender accompanying her.  She took a seat, explained what everyone had to do and raised her arms.

"Stop it," muttered Iris, in response to her father's urgent prodding.

"But I need..."

"Shht," hissed Iris from the side of her mouth.

Harry scowled and eased one half of his buttocks off the chair. "This quack is a charlatan," he muttered.

"Bert, are you there?" The spiritualist struck a dramatic pose, waiting for a response. 

A long loud rumble resonated and a terrible odour permeated the room, smelling of something that should have received a decent burial a week previously.

"That's my Bertie." Iris grinned with delight and leaned forward, eager for the contact with her late husband.

Codswallop, thought Harry, as he lowered his backside onto the chair.

Story 104


by Len Saculla

Janie and I love the children's playground. The castle turret smells of varnish and makes my head spin. The wooden slats of the roundabout are hard and smooth and when Janie pushes me my head spins.

"Come on, David," she calls, her voice squeaky. "I betcha I can go higher on the swings."

"No chance."

I run as fast as my legs can carry me so as to get a head start.

Legs back, then toes forward and whoosh through the air, wind rushing past my cheeks. Janie bumps into my swing: now we're both spinning.

Next we head for the slide. I tap the metal chute with my knuckles and enjoy the clang. I like climbing up–

Suddenly Parky spots us.

"Oi, you two," he bellows. "Gerrof the equipment. I've told you before, it's only for children under ten."

Janie laughs. I wave my pension book. Post Office next.

Story 105


by Kim Montgomery

Crocodile first acquired the taste for man flesh when he ate the small boy who had wandered away from his family's picnic. Such sweet, young meat, but not so the old hobo he tried next. One upper thigh was as much as he could stomach. Crocodile quickly learnt that bigger is not necessarily better.

So he stuck with the children, discovering that little girls were even sweeter than little boys. He managed to consume seven before they caught up with him. He didn't feel threatened by the man with the big stick, not even when he pointed it at him. Suddenly there was searing pain, and his child eating days were over.

Crocodile is now several pairs of shoes. So things could have been worse. At least he's still in close contact with his beloved human flesh.

Story 106

Winter Escape

by Sheila Rosart

The cessation of the roaring engines coincides with the slamming of the plane to Earth, as we taxi towards our gate. Each crisp click of the overhead luggage rack echoes the anticipation we feel to escape this metal bullet, laden as it is, in bacteria, stale air and the invisible parasitic germs of the old man whose hacking cough punctuated the entire flight.

As the steps are attached and the departing line moves inexorably closer to freedom, I exhale briskly, my contribution to the decrepit atmosphere. The door unseals with a hiss and I descend the sparkly risers, gripping the rubbery rails so I don't tumble to the bottom of my stairway to heaven.

Redolent in sunshine kisses and sultry humidity, my chapped lips plump moistly, as I float downwards smelling the fruit-infused air serenaded by the chirping welcome of birdsong.

Poolside, I swoon with lust as they hand me a tropical libation, ice cold, beaded with droplets; thick with coconut and sweet pineapple.

I love spring break in Florida.

Story 107

A New Team Goes Live in the Contact Centre

by Jonathan Martindale

We know not from whence they shall call, nor the demands they shall make upon us; we will be left without faces to put to their names. All we know is that they are waiting for us...

Like men condemned, we sit sombrely in silence, awaiting the order, "Headsets on." I perch, feet dangling, erect and uncomfortable, in a worn office chair. (I have forgotten, since training, how you are meant to adjust it.) The blazing glare of the computer screen fills my vision. On it, various windows jostle angrily for my attention.

My right hand, clammy with sweat, seeks for the reassuring solidity of my mouse. The air is warm and still. A single 'left click' is now all that stands between me and my first customer, and this, my last defence, I know alas I must forgo. There is, for an instant, silence, before a piercing dial-in tone erupts from the headset clamped tightly to my ear. I take a deep breath.

"Good afternoon. I mean, good morning..."

Story 108

Athens Punned And Sensorised

by Michael Rumsey

Held on Site 4, Sorise, the Athens Cultural Gala offered something for all.

Not least the smell of Greece Paint in the Art Gallery and the, "Hear, hear," roar of the crowd at the Auditorium.

In the Theatre, many a play to stir the hormones, some starring Sophie Klees.

A hands on performance by the Choir Practioners.

The Taverna, set at the right angle, offered mouth watering temptations such as Pie Thagoros, Hippo Tachos and a variety of Pitsas, all delicious, but best if taken with a tasty pinch of salt.

There were no complaints, but quite a lot of wining accompanied by the merry pop of corks, cheers and a bouquet that drifted towards the dazzling, perfumed, well tended flower gardens.

Not a whiff of trouble thanks to the far seeing security and tight grip of the Akro Police.

To make sense of it all it appears to have been an ear thumping, silky touched, spicily lip smacking, eye-catching, sweet smelling event that turned out  profitable according its pereceptive Financial Director, Gregg Sitt.

Story 109

Sweet Heaven, Sunday Afternoon, 1955

by Dee La Vardera

Family Favourites on the wireless, Father is in the kitchen, clattering and tut-tutting, laying everything out with military precision on the daffodil yellow Formica table. In blue and white striped apron, he looks like a butcher – without the blood spatters.

My toes tap on the brown linoleum floor as I dance around, dodging my brother's muscular left hook. Dad stirs the battered jam pan of fiercely boiling sugar mixture. It roars and spits like some angry monster until it's ready to test. A teaspoonful dropped into a cup of cold water turns into golden teardrops.

Time to pour the hardening mass into a metal tray lined with buttered greaseproof paper. It spreads like hot tarmac across a road and cools.

Tap, tap the tin, tip out the glossy bronze block, whack it with a tiny hammer. Dad puts the pieces into a glass jar, sprinkles more sugar, and shakes it with a cocktail barman's skill.

Hilarious laughter from What's My Line? does not drown out the squeak of the stopper loosening in the jar.

Story 110

A Kid Like Me

by Pam Keevil

The ball is so close I can count every pock mark on the scarred surface. But my legs and feet tangle together like a skein of unravelled wool and I fall. Mud oozes through my fingers and the green bile smell of cut grass catches in my throat. Crow like cackles of laughter pierce the misty air. I am the loser no one wants in their team.

In lessons my fingers leak blue ink across the page. The words bob up and down in a frenzy, never settling on the lines. I force my eyes to focus until a dozen hammers pound in my head. It's no use. Each letter forms and reforms like a snake of plasticine.

One day someone will find a way to capture the words that float through my brain like thistledown. Sentences of gossamer, stretched over an autumn hedge and spangled with crystals will showcase my thoughts. And the jumping words will finally be stilled.

Then everyone will understand a kid like me.

Story 111

Cat's Eyes

by Tracey Chapman

The lush emerald green carpet stretches for miles, tinged with the sunshine yellow masses of buttercups, soldier like standing to attention. I tiptoe, my whiskers glistening with pearl drops from the dank morning dew.

The hedgerow encompasses my arena from all sides, the lively chitter chatter from the nests of new born's calling for their breakfast. I crouch lower to my terrain, momentarily distracted by a black and yellow fuzzy ball hovering silently among the velvety petals. I ready myself to pounce. Breakfast could come early today. I leap, somersaulting into the clump of buttercups, my black and yellow fuzzy ball a mere dot now floating away.

To the side of the hedgerow, a haze of grey and white bounces and hops above the whispery strands of grass. I quicken my pace, remaining stealth-like amongst my camouflage. Almost upon them, I sit and wait. I pounce...

A resonating call comes from the gardens beyond as the grey and white haze disappears down crumbling earth mounds.

"Rio, Rio."

Breakfast gone, cat food it is.

Story 112

The Drowning

by Max Aldous

My body plunged down into the sub-zero waters of the Atlantic. I stared at the soft shimmer of the ocean as it flew further away from me in an almost ironic homage to my doom. The salt in the waters burned at my eyes and blurred my vision as both literal and metaphorical darkness wound its way around my body. My lungs had the weight of 1,000 gallons of water pressed against them, making each one want to crumble.

Eventually, they succumbed to the pressure and I opened my freezing mouth. The water was like a razor, slipping down my gullet, burning as it filled my exhausted lungs. Despite this, the sound (or lack thereof) hurt worse. The muffled sound of my screams, which I knew no one would hear, echoed against my ears, reminding me once again of my solitude.

My vision blurred further, leaving only darkness. I had no fear at this point, I felt nothing. Only the beating of my heart growing softer and softer. Until, eventually, that too fell silent.

Story 113

The Last Autumn

by Jaz Leigh

Breathe in. Breathe out. In. Out.

The fresh autumn air felt divine as it ran through my sinuses and down my throat. That was until it reached my lungs. There... there, it burned. It burned like an inferno blazing in my chest. Honestly, I'm surprised I couldn't smell the intoxicating stench of incinerated flesh.

NO. Nothing would ruin my last day. I could taste the morning dew without having to open my mouth. I could smell the freshly cut grass of the hospital garden. Everything was so fresh. Everything, except for me.

Trembling fingers pressed against the damp wood of the bench and a contented sigh tickled my lips as I rubbed the cool moisture between my withering digits. Sliding my feet from the safety of my woolly slippers, I brushed my toes over the dew-coated grass. I would never feel this again, I thought sadly.

Birds sang melodically from the golden leaves of the maple tree and it was the last song I'd hear.

I'd die with a smile, because...

Time's up.

Story 114

An Old Friend Beckons

by Kaitlin Munro

He inhaled deeply, funnelling the cigar's sinuous smoke down his paper thin throat. His exhale was careful, considered, though he knew he must be quicker.

The clock read 11:58; almost midnight. He had until the rich chimes of 12 to die.

The embers danced, grew and fell, as he watched with weary eagerness. His haggard face, reflected in the window opposite the velvety chair, was quite impassive. A swirling cloud of smoke invaded his nostrils and with it came the acrid smell of burning, so unfamiliar yet welcome. 700 years is too long to live without a life to be had, he mused.

The warm orange glow faded as his cigar, laced with a tasteless poison, burned down almost to a stump. He would have felt cozy, if not for the pale, marbled figure in the corner of his eye. His oldest friend, the one that had given him new life, had come to watch him die. As darkness swallowed his vision, he saw the devil beckon.

Story 115

Sleep In The Hole

by Endri Vela

It was a green day. We took the beds, with magic stars, into the hole to sleep. Even the blankets. To see dreams with wizards, glasses of flowers were in the drawers. We enlighted fire, violets, the mouth of Asllan smelt.

Girls wear lipstick; we threw tears in the flowers... Inside was brilliance.

Stars were the light, God was in the sky.

David has stars in the eyes, Lukas breathes inside, Malvy has deep blue eyes.


Our covers were a beauty that I can't describe. It was hot, like Arabia, the desert of being with girls. Rivers started from our eyes, we had to cry to grow a bunch of flowers in the hole.

I love my soul.

Story 116

Sights And Sounds In Africa

by Jennifer Chislett

"Look, lions."

Driving along the roads outside Nairobi, we always saw animals strolling along. There was no fenced game reserve – they wandered at will.

One night we nearly drove underneath a giraffe which straddled the road. Gazelles danced gracefully amongst the cars, monkeys leapt onto the bonnets and tried to wrench off the windscreen wipers, chattering away to each other in excitement.

Within the game reserve, we sat watching a group of lions, one of which had  blissfully gone to sleep, leaning against the front wheel of a landrover. Gentle snores erupted regularly, to everyone's amusement. The family had to stay there, unable to drive on, and eventually a game ranger had to be called to move the pride. Striped zebras nibbled at the grass, unafraid of the dozing lions.

Hippos came out at night, shining pinkly in the car headlights. Cars came to a standstill as the animals were very dangerous and apt to charge.

Yes, driving outside Nairobi was a challenge, but oh, such fun.

Story 117


by Gavin Biddlecombe

My bruised hands support me on this rough branch high above the ground. I'm thankful to be up here and, even more so, that it cannot climb. It's been a few days since I found my refuge but the unbearable heat works against me.

The sweat rolls down into my tired eyes, stinging them and blurring my vision. I glimpse it occasionally, stalking in cover. Watching me. Waiting.

Its odour is repulsive. It lingers, clogging up my nostrils more than my own unwashed stink. I know when it's close as I fight off the urge to gag from its overpowering stench.

The random dropped nut which taps its way down the branches beneath me is no longer a distraction. I recognise its sound, just audible but ever present. Continuous.

I reach for my water bottle, rationing the warm but satisfying liquid that slides down my dry throat as I fight off the fatigue. I must hold on. Surely, one of the others must have got away and found help.

Story 118


by Amy Pilkington

Another morning. Under the warmth of the soft and crumpled covers, limbs are like lead. The uncomfortably humid night remains on the skin; sticky, acrid, and damp. Mindless and forgettable dreams have done aught but pass the time between one hazy day and the next. Hunger quietly nags to be tended to, but nothing tastes good enough to justify the exertion, the creeping eternal exhaustion weighing down upon the bones and trapping them in a cocoon of stagnation. A sip of stale water parches the painful desert of the mouth and throat, but struggles to be palatable.

The world outside this quiet and everlasting prison shivers and sings with life. Sweet chirrups of birdsong between the boughs of the bristling trees in the breeze, and the gentle gradient lightshow on the giant grazing clouds. How refreshing it would be to sit amongst the colours and calls of nature, instead of a claustrophobic reminder of the courage it takes to continue to face the day. Even still, tomorrow is always another chance to feel the sun.

Story 119

Sensory Overload

by Jeanna Jones

Senses snapping to attention, fully awake now. Long tentacles of fear reaching out, snaking through darkness, touching, enveloping, overwhelming me. Cold, damp, smell, slowly penetrates every pore, seeping into nostrils. Air, thick, pungent tasting, sticking in throat, choking, unable to swallow. Eyes, darting, seeing nothing. Ears straining for slightest sounds. Heart beating loudly, drowning out everything. Terror taking over, senses scream out, almost overwhelming all reminders to breathe, breathe, and breathe again. Shut everything out, stop listening, stop looking, concentrate on breathing. Panicked breaths, gulping air too thick to swallow. Close eyes, stop straining, shut down. Breathe, imagine a funnel, thick putrid air passing through. Breathe, think of nothing, concentrate, focus. One breath, two, faster, choking again, concentrate, slow down. Count, count slowly, even slower. Breathe, ears shut, eyes shut, close out the thick blackness that surrounds. Heart beats, so loud and fast, like one long continuous roar, slow it down, count it down. Breathe, frozen, unable to move, scream, shout. Focus, concentrate, breathe, count. Fingertips reaching out, too late, no escape, no way out.

Story 120


by Neil Brooks

The smooth, round, hard packed snowball tumbled silently through the still air in a graceful arc and crashed violently with a satisfying crump into the side of his plump rosy cheeks. As if in slow motion, the snowball exploded into a thousand fragments and cascaded down his front like the start of a silent avalanche. 

His soft and warm wooly hat was knocked off, exposing his tangled mop of orange hair to the chill of the air. Bright red blood trickled from his lower lip where the small cut oozed slowly and dripped onto his frozen chin.

He detected an oddly sour, coppery taste combined with a watery flatness of the melted snow that had impudently entered his mouth. Another taste, altogether unpleasant, began to identify itself and there was an unmistakable whiff of dog poo.

He shuddered involuntarily as he wondered what else had been in that snowball. The shrill screams and shouts of the other children washed over him but it was the braying laughter of Belinda Brand that cut the deepest.

Story 121

An Unfortunate Olfactory Own-Goal

by Mike Scott Thomson

As the caterer for the launch party, the PR department emails you a wish list. You read it, and think, Well, someone's taken leave of their senses.

  • Lavender {blossoms swaying in a springtide zephyr}
  • Cardamom, pimento, vanilla {dying patter of autumn rain on a hot tin roof}
  • Spicy coriander {crackling embers on an Après Ski log fire}

Suitably selected sustenance, perhaps, to accompany the release of Mr Big Brand Footballer's new Eau de Cologne?

Lucky there's a Waitrose nearby.


An afternoon of inventive cuisine later, you arrive at the venue laden with the most pungent canapés you’ve ever had to prepare.

On stage is the promotional placard for 'Target™ {For The Sporting Gentleman}'. Something about it seems off, you feel.

  • Top notes: cocktail sausages, scotch eggs
  • Heart notes: cheese and pineapple on sticks
  • Base notes: gherkins

Either PR muddled their electronic communiqués

…or Mr Big Brand Footballer isn’t the most fragrant of fellows.

You struggle to decide which is the more likely.

Story 122

A Yorkshire Stream

by Betty Hattersley

Winding and twisting, flowing so free,

Dancing with pebbles, a sight for to see.

Shaded by tree's so tall and so proud,

With gaps here and there to view a white cloud.

Swirling around to gather up speed,

Pretty and wild, while caressing a weed.

Stopping in places, enjoying a rest,

Then onward again now full of fine zest.

Where has it come from, where will it go?

Nature's decided the path it will flow.

Sparkling like diamonds scattered about,

From a blanket of daylight, of that there's no doubt.

Bending so gracefully, without a care,

Such beauty behold for us to share.

Colours will change as the seasons go past,

In winter the water will flow not so fast.

A fountain for wildlife, so fresh and so cool,

Insects and beetles will bask in a pool.

This treasure to find, what is its worth?

A fine priceless gift from our Mother Earth.

Story 123

Time Will Tell

by Tracey Maitland

They sat together on the low wall outside the hotel where they could smoke and drink their coffee in the morning sun as they watched the world go by.

"Why did you email me?" he asked softly.

Her mouth went dry, she sipped her smooth latte. She wanted to say, "Because I have loved you from the moment I met you," but she didn't, daren't, couldn't.  Instead she said, "Because there were two people I wanted to see, and you were one of them..."

She turned and watched him. He was so beautiful. He was staring at the ground. She wanted to reach out, touch him and nestle within his arms, but hesitated and instead took out a cigarette, placed it on her lips and lit it. She took a slow, deep breath to steady her pounding heart. They sat in silence. She wanted to fill the void, but felt inept and inexperienced. As she smoked, the aroma of the cigarette ebbed away on the warm breeze. 

Is he disappointed? she wondered. Time will tell.

Story 124

Lights Out

by Melanie Goodell

I glanced in the direction of the door to my office as the lights went out. The sudden blindness assaulted my brain, pulling fuzzy, confusing wool over my ability to find my place in time and space. A shrill voice screamed outside the window of my office. I turned toward the grating, piercing sound and banged my hand against the cold, hard glass of the window pane. My thoughts went limp at the sting of mind-numbing pain that vibrated up the surface of my arm.

I yelped and drew my hand away from the frozen glass as the door to the suffocating office burst open, the wooden slab hitting the wall like the deafening crack of a rifle. The lights suddenly came on, sending needle pricks of light through my corneas.

"Storms comin'," my secretary shrieked from the overly well-lit doorway. I shook my head, jarring my hand and wincing. Another reason to move to the beach. I grabbed stuff with a grunt at the weight of my bags. Time to head home.

Story 125

Rainforest Rumbles

by Eleanor Klein

We are not lost, Monty – I'm telling you. I know exactly where we are. Oh, those monkeys may be screeching and smell like rotting bananas, but they are not going to eat us. OK, that swarm of black insects converging on that tiger's festering corpse might. Calm down, I'm only joking.

God, it's hot. What a miserable sky: it looks like it's withering, doesn't it? Like someone spilt tea across the dawn. I'm starving. I think I swallowed a fly; I can taste something horrible and bitter – ouch. Don't throw twigs at me. We're fine, I promise. Just a bit warm, that's all.

It's so loud, isn't it? I can barely think with hundreds of creatures shrieking into my ears. If the rainforest would close its chattering mouth for a second, I might be able to get us out of this mess. Yes, I admit we're lost. Happy? Maybe that snake will share its home with us.

OK, OK – put the branch down, Monty. I'll work something out.

Story 126

A Spa Treat

by Bridget Scrannage

Spa day. Wife's idea. Ugh, panpipes, whale music and a trickling fountain that makes me want to wee. I lay on my stomach and inhale the scent of patchouli oil.

A woman approaches the massage table, unfolds the soft, fluffy towel covering my nakedness and splashes something warm onto my back. Must be oil. I relax. And oh? Where's she putting it now? Really? I didn't think it was that kind of place.

"It'll sting a bit when I rip it off."

"Rip what off?"

"The wax."

"What wax? I thought I was having a massage?"

"No, your wife booked you in for a back, sack and..."

A tearing sound – the aurora borealis flash through my head, her words drowned out by something between a banshee wail and wolf howl emitting from me. I leap from the table, run naked to the swimming pool and plunge into its soothing waters.

The wife's poolside, reclining on a sun lounger. From her smug expression, I'm guessing she's found out that I've been having an affair...

Story 127

Engine Failure

by Ron Smith

I am flying my recently rebuilt 60-year-old aeroplane.

I am nervous, hunched forward and pressing pointlessly on both sides of the rudder pedals.

I make myself relax. The aircraft responds to the lightest touch, while I keep one eye on the airfield.

Open the throttle. The engine note rises and the cold draught in the open cockpit increases.

Then, my stomach lurches as I feel the aircraft sink. Blast, engine failure, I think, that's the last thing I need.

I open and close the throttle. No response. Switches off, then on. No difference. Leave them off.

Best glide speed, head for the field. This isn't going to work.

Three minutes of deep concern. Don't get too far out. Now too close. I'm sweating now.

I turn onto the runway, very low, but room to stop. Relief.

I get out with trembling legs and stumble to the nose, smelling hot oil and hoping I won't be sick.

White and shaken, I make my way home to be greeted with the words, "Goodness, what happened to you?"

Story 128

Morning Routine

by Dedra Tullison

I woke to the deafening clatter of the bell tower. Once, twice, now thrice the boisterous bell has rung out. I guess the witch is dead. If not, she's definitely awake.

I open my laconic, tired, hazel eyes to a blistering, blinding light. The vindictive sun has made an appearance on this most auspicious day and the vehemently intense heat is down right maddening.

I haphazardly stretch my exhausted limbs and yawn. That's when I smell the most putrid, malodorous, rotten stench coming from my mouth.

I look over to my cat and say, in a raspy squawk that sounds like wizards going to war, "Morning, Mr Pig."

Story 129

Passengers For Flight...

by Ken Frape

Not meant to be up here, in albatross territory. Unnatural. Need to feel, to touch, warm, comfortable quilts or firm, unyielding earth. Instead, under my feet,  there's nothing until the sea. I'm dangling from my seat belt over a 30,000 foot drop.

Overload, Sensory Overload. I expect to see a warning light winking above my head.

The recycled warm air fills my nostrils with cold coffee, the detritus of crisps on my fingers and the vomit of the passenger across the aisle. I know that taste, the half digested food, the bile. I can see it, still identifiable lumps. She missed the bag. Mustn't look, but hear the whoosh of her second delivery.

Stacking now, going in loops. Sounds like the captain's having fun. My sense of balance tells my head to spin. It obeys like the landscape through the window as we circle. Can't stand up, even if the seat belt would allow it.

Stewards are also buckled in. No help until landed. Then they'll draw lots to clean up.

Story 130


by Afua Antwi

The trees had begun their moonlight dance. The leaves were carefree as they swayed under the protective radiance of the stars. Their whistles were delicate when the wind swooped by, the sounds drowned out by the raucous laughter of my friends.

Their smiles were bright, lips parted to allow the joy to escape in the form of their airy chuckles. Their faces were a golden hue, the campfire adorning them in a warm light. Their skin was akin to that of royals, decorated with a glow that could only signify true happiness.

The marshmallows were sweet, almost sickeningly so, a direct contrast to the smell of burning wood that threatened to suffocate. I brushed it off, for the smoke preferred to reach for the stars than travel to my nose.

The touch of their thighs next to mine was comforting, bringing me down to earth and keeping me present. My head would not be in the clouds tonight.

My soul was content.

Story 131

The Colonel's Secret

by Maddy Hamley

The ground groaned and shuddered as the steel door closed with a cacophonous crash. The sound ricocheted off the spotless metal surfaces around me. I closed my eyes, let my ears guide me to the soft hum of the storage component, running my hands along the smooth, cold appliances to guide me. Disinfectant stung my nose and throat with every breath. Not much further.

The refrigerator shuddered as I wrenched the heavy door open. A blast of icy air and intense light stung my eyes. But just visible, in the confines of the chamber, there it was.

Trembling, I wrapped my hands around the container and – just to make sure – pried open the lid.

A lump of dried, frost-coated breadcrumbs, flecked with green. Visually unappealing. But just the tiniest waft burst forth from the mixture, a warm potpourri of herbs and spices.

Oregano. Thyme. Definitely Paprika. Salt and Pepper, of course. And – just maybe – a hint of ginger?

Story 132

Them's The Breaks

by Martin Strike

Martin felt the scratch of twigs and rustling of leaves in his hair as he fell out the tree he had been climbing just a split moment earlier.

His landing was only marginally cushioned by his outstretched arms. The resultant pain in his left forearm was outweighed by teenaged concern that his lightweight yellow summer shorts were obstinately still up the tree, flapping in indignation from the branch that had snagged them. These unexpected events were further aggravated by the heat of his red (upper) cheeked mile-long walk of shame home from the park in exposed underpants.

He found the binding of a cool plastered bandage over his fractured left arm soothing, unaware of how withered and itchy it would get under this heavy, hardened gauntlet over the remaining five weeks of the summer holidays.

After the other arm had started aching that night, his mother's incredulity at the plastering of his right arm, following the same diagnosis by the same physician at the same hospital the next day, made for a less comforting experience.

Story 133


by Abigail Rowe

No perfume is the rule. After the high notes wear off, there lies a residue. A smutty musk. Undercurrents of patchouli, star anise, cinnamon, which his warm body will not be able to shower away. The scalding flow not quite flushing away all that is left of me on his skin. I ooze from his very pores. He may liberally apply his ozone gels and citrus lotions, but I will remain. She will know.

Let's not pretend that this isn't sordid. It reeks. He is forensically present on pillowcase, sheet, damp towel. I go to my ablutions amidst that familiar sour stench. The sum of our parts. I soak in oiled bath and still I breathe him.

This must end.

Tomorrow I will buy a new fragrance. Something bright and free. I shall spray it in the air and step into its essence. Spritz afresh for another, some other, who may carry my scent with pride.


Story 134

Almost Dead

by Brandon Brown

I was done for. Parched. I had been in the desert for hours now. Surely, it was the end for me. The blazing heat, upon my face, made sweat trickle down my skin. It felt horrid, unclean and extremely uncomfortable.

I was here visiting family, but my car had other plans. Clunk, bash, twang. Finished. I was stranded, unable to call for help. No cell service. I decided to try and find something – anything – in the local vicinity. I heard the vultures before I saw them, sitting there, pecking at their latest victim. Disgusting, I thought, as I approached them, scaring them off.

I wasn't sure where to go or what to do. The heat was getting worse as the day carried on. I sat back inside the car. The best place to be, logically.

Soon they arrived. Help. Sirens flashing, hurting my eyes and ears. They offered me food. The grease was just what I needed.

I was saved.

Story 135

Frozen Lake

by Claire Apps

Alice's mouth opened and closed in astonishment. How could it be possible that in the middle of summer, with the yellow hazy sun beating down and temperatures soaring high, that the lake in front of her was frozen? Yes, frozen. A thick layer covered the entire lake in front of her. So thick, in fact, that she couldn't even penetrate it with a swing from a pickaxe.

There was no pooling of water, as you would expect when thawing – it was icy cold to the touch; a burning sensation. She could not see through the ice, to confirm if there was any flowing water below, or how thick the ice layer was. An anomaly so unexpected; so confusing that she did not know what to do. 

Not believing it, she had a tentative kick at the edge. THUNK. It was extremely thick. Totally awe inspiring. Could anything else in her life be more absurd? The smell of fresh cold crispiness filled her nostrils as she slipped on the lake.

"Isn't it beautiful?" Little Muna asked.

Story 136

A Walk On The Darkside

by Robbie Porter

The pain was exquisite, and unexpected. He never saw what hit the back of his head (it was hard to make out anything in the dim, impenetrable darkness) but rubbing the spot with his hand brought soothing relief.

He didn't just see stars, he glimpsed entire constellations. He'd have a huge, red, pulsating lump in the morning.

He tried to maneuverer round the murky, shadowy room but God alone knew where he was stepping next. He felt something soft and sticky squelch underfoot, immediately followed by an unmistakable whiff that made his eyes water.

Poo, he thought. Mrs. Twiddles wouldn't be far away, probably watching him now with those beady eyes of hers. Could he hear purring?

The closer he got to the kitchen, the stronger the stench became. He could hear the steady hum of the refrigerator, and headed gingerly toward it. He opened the door and was hit by a wall of stink that made him retch and step backward.

"Mum," he shouted upstairs. "We need to talk to someone about your hoarding."

Story 137

The Lost Room

by Edward Rouse

Clashing stinks met me at the supermarket; bitter smoke, beer breath, minty gum.

Tongue-raking perfume and fresh, flowery smells collided in the gift aisle.

"Which ones?" Mum asked, holding up some earrings.

I shrugged. "I really need the loo."

"Alright, love," Mum said. "Up to me then."

I slipped between the shoppers, looking down at shoes. Bleeps pursued me.

The door squeaked open. A hand-dryer waft hit me. I washed my hands and left.

Lights magnetised my eyes. Flickering screens surrounded me. I sank into a sofa. An old Christmassy film was on TV. My head slumped forward.

Breath feathered against my face. I woke in a dimly gas-lit room.

"Tired of this chaos?" an earthy voice asked.

"Yes, but I've lost my mum."

"You'll find her."

An ageless man in a black cape and top hat appeared.

I rubbed my eyes. "Where am I?"

"The backroom."

I sipped sweet tea, which he'd prepared.

"Bear with me," he said, passing through a door.

"Sam... Sam?"

I stepped through the door, but the top-hatted man was not there.

Story 138

The Death Of Bernardo – And Me

by David Silver

The exquisite aroma of coffee swished around my nostrils as I ordered a flat white with a shot of sweetened caramel. I slowly sipped the steaming nectar so as to gently savour the taste but then gulped it down too quickly as my pounding heart told me that I had been served by the most beautiful female I had ever beheld and that I must order a second coffee as an excuse to speak to her again.

The buzz of conversation taking place around me receded in my brain as my senses focused solely on the goddess behind the counter. I wanted to reach out and touch her sleeve as I saw from her uniform that her name was Barista. It sounded Latin-American.

Using the only foreign phrase I knew gleaned from many viewings of West Side Story I whispered romantically into her ear, "Bernardo muerto." But she merely shrugged. Tasting defeat in my scalded throat, I wondered if it were something I'd said.

Story 139

That Perfect Day

by Mike Evis

On that scorching summer's day, we stood by the railings, salt rusted metal rough and hot to touch, under a blazing sun shining from a cloudless, azure sky, pure and blue as the sea.

I gazed across the broad sweep of the bay, seeing the crumbling yellow cliffs, the sunlight glittering on the water like a myriad fireflies, and far off, hazy on the horizon, a tanker. But I only had eyes for Zoe, her yellow shorts and red T-shirt, those bronzed limbs so close to mine.

I felt alive, hearing the squawks of the seagulls swooping and soaring, mingling with the cries and shrieks of children on the beach, and I breathed deeply, inhaling the smells of brine and ozone, the waft of candy floss and chips.

The waves lapping against the golden sand seemed to caress the land, and when Zoe's hand touched mine I felt an electric jolt.

That day is still vivid in my memory, 30 years later.  I never saw her again.  The next day she went missing.

Story 140

A House Is Not A Home

by Maggie Elliott

'Downsize into an apartment for the over 55's', the leaflets that plopped through Eilidh's letterbox screamed.

Scrutinizing them, her eyes widened with interest.

Viewing secured, "I am only looking," she stipulated.

"No obligation," they reassured.

She could almost taste the aroma of coffee and bread that wafted round the foyer as she stepped inside.

The communal kitchen closed, she smelled a rat; a marketing ploy.

Activities listed on the wall were impressive; shopping, film nights, karaoke.

"What if I want peace and quiet?" she enquired.

"Soundproofed. You'll not hear a whisper," he reassured.

The sunshine radiating through the bi-folding doors inside the apartment was spectacular. Minimally furnished, Eilidh suddenly comprehended she would need to abandon most of hers.

"Broadband, satellite or digital TV requirements will be installed before residence," he enthused.

However, she knew the response to something she had to ask.

She was right. The ambience dissolved immediately.

When it comes to love, loyalty and gratitude, animals put humans to shame. Eilidh's going nowhere without hers.

Story 141


by Meg Gain

The engine shunted into the sidings. Iron grated on iron; a screeching shuddering sound. The railwayman climbed down from his cab, whistling cheerily. Arm muscles screaming in agony, I lowered myself. My knees scraped painfully against the rough brickwork. My ankle twisted. I bit my lip to silence my cry and tasted blood, warm and wet. I scrabbled in the dirt, finger nails rasping. I hobbled towards the locomotive. Then the rain came. My trousers clung to my legs in a soaking embrace.

I knew he would have left me his lunch box and a Thermos flask full of hot tea. The man called Joe knew I came at night. I was driven by an empty belly. Sometimes I was chased by dogs, urged on by burly men. My heart raced and I was sick with exertion but I was quick-witted and escaped. Joe's offerings, his gifts, were welcome. They gave me respite from a cruel world. I could sleep for a few hours, my hunger temporarily assuaged until the pattern repeated itself once more.

Story 142


by Pat Hough

God, I hate this kitchen. Rancid grease has clustered around the sink and, as I labour over the encrusted pans, globs of scum and such-like coat my chapped hands. I try not to see the mice skittering between cupboards to snaffle any bits falling from Chef's counter. Their stink permeates the air, mixing with onion odour and burger hum.

Thump, thump. Interminable chopping from the sous chef drowns out Chef's infuriated curses. Nothing is ever right. It sickens me to watch him dab a finger in a pot, suck, then swear, add salt, dab, suck once more, then nod.

The steam, thank the Lord, creates a miasma. Lost in mist, I fantasize about a time when I'll be free of this. Can lounge and luxuriate, fondle a beauty or roll some dice. My ambitions are huge. Opportunity scant.

By knocking off time I'll be drenched, as if emerging from a jungle during the monsoon and will wander exhausted to my bedsit to face yet another day.

Story 143

The Cathedral

by Kailin Guo

People entered the cathedral and saw the light casting colourful shadows from the stained glass windows and smiled as they watched the light dance. They heard the discordant organ practice that released ill-fitting notes and revelled in battles between notes as they tried to escape the organ.

The angelic choir, singing hymns, echoed in the visitors ears. They would shiver as goose bumps started to cover their bodies because of the cool interior of the cathedral. And as they neared the exit, the taste and smell of damp air filled their lungs and mouths. It had just been raining – it was England after all.

But I was no normal visitor. I was a child. I danced with colourful shadows and they flickered and waned as if they were bowing. I skipped, listening to the organ and choir as if the sounds were the voices of angels. I pulled my coat on tighter as the cathedral got colder, thankful for my scarf.

As I left, I was greeted by the smell and taste of fresh beginnings.

Story 144

Still Standing

by Jade Robinson

The street was quiet. The sound of silence echoed in the air while the gentle breeze forced itself past my body. My hair felt like it was being ripped from my skull and my vision became increasingly blurred from the dust. The dust filled the air creating a thick and potent presence. I tried to move my muscles, but they were paralysed mid-motion.

The more I tried to remember and recognise where I was, the more empty and confused I became. The last thing I recalled was the sweet smell of perfume that surrounded the street, the bright light from the shop windows and the sound of women gossiping about their peers.

My memories soon vanished. My mind turned black and empty. My fears were awakening while my control was slowly being abducted. I felt increasingly helpless, as if my soul was being taken but my body was to remain in this now foreign land. I couldn't find the strength I once had to continue this fight. I had to go.

Story 145

The Visit

by Janet Lister

I inched my way down and down through a blanket of velvety black darkness, tripping and then falling awkwardly onto a pile-starved surface. I heard surprised voices and muffled laughter change unsubtly into ludicrously manufactured coughing.

As I lay there hurting, the darkness held its breath and eerily waited.

In silence I located the next stair edge and crawled cautiously down to the bottom of the flight. There I groped my way, feeling each hard outline, until I reached my place. I lowered myself down to examine the damage. I tasted blood, oddly metallic, and felt it warmly dribbling from my nose into my mouth. I wiped it away, trying to ignore the persistent ache in my knee.

It was then that I heard the return of the rustling and the murmuring. They were breathing again. Even through the blood I could smell the inescapable, overwhelming miasma of their popcorn.

Then – a deafening jingle, bright blinding images. We cheered together. The latest Star Wars film would soon be ours.

Story 146

Cancel Brunch, Buy New Shoes

by Louise Craig

I was lured from my bed by the tantalising smell of freshly made coffee, radiating from the kitchen. The satisfyingly strong waves of hot liquid caressed my tongue, until I realised, I was late.

With all the energy coffee could give, I dashed upstairs to throw on the most reasonable outfit my 'chairdrobe' had to offer and, looking like I had been dressed by a blind man, I grabbed my keys and headed out the door. The rain splattered my rosy cheeks like cold, wet bullets and when I stepped through the first puddle, I discovered the hole in my shoe as the cold water seeped through to my sock.

I debated whether or not 'brunch' with my mother was really worth it, but then I heard the hum of the bus engine behind me in the near distance. I sprinted for the bus stop, leaping over as many puddles as possible to avoid a completely sodden foot until, suddenly, a flash of blue passed me. That was it, I just had to reschedule.

Story 147

The Cat Of Summer

by Camilla Johansson

The old cat, once called Grace, had been resting under the oak tree in a hollow in the grass that perfectly hugged her body and made her feel safe. In the soft, dreamlike state between being asleep and awake cats master to perfection, she had watched the sun dance in the grass through the fluttering leaves.

The breeze had wrapped her in scents of grass, flowers and herbs growing in the meadow, and she could feel the sweetness of clover play against her nose like kisses of butterflies. As she got up she could feel the grass tickle her belly as she strode across the meadow, almost like a playful touch by human fingers.

The small cricket on the grass straw, having filled her ears with it's own kind of serenade and lulled her to sleep earlier, now startled her by leaping up in front of her, making her come to a halt. Every muscle in her body tense, Grace leapt as well. Her aim was perfect, the taste of cricket dry.

Story 148

Full English

by Michael Pickard

Before his eyes opened, his nose was alive to the rich smell of bacon wafting into his bedroom. His body stiff from sleep, he stretched his legs and lifted them out of bed before wrapping his plush dressing gown around his bare chest.

With every step, he could hear the floorboards creaking before he paused on the staircase, his ears picking out the soft sizzle of sausages in the frying pan. At the front door, he picked up the morning newspaper, its crisp white pages still wet with ink that bled on his fingers.

Led by his stomach, he walked into the kitchen, his eyes momentarily blinded by the bright sunshine pouring through the large glass windows before his vision focused on the table in front of him. Taking a seat, a full English breakfast was waiting for him to devour.

"How does it taste?"


Story 149

Aida In Verona

by John Notley

An operatic performance in the Roman Arena di Verona is an experience not to be missed. Even if opera is not your thing, the atmosphere and spectacle are to be remembered for years to come. The audience is seated on marble steps on three sides of the arena. For extra comfort, cushions can be provided at a charge. Those more affluent have seats on the flat floor, closer to the stage.

As the performance is about to start, hundreds of candles are lit and held high by the audience which can number 15,000. To make the most of the experience, choose a performance of Aida. Apart from the majestic music, you can witness dozens of soldiers followed by horsemen who parade around the stage in seemingly endless procession.

The smell of horse droppings adds to the illusion of reality. Every sense is brought into play by the sight, sound and smell of the action which gives the feeling of being in ancient Egypt. It may even give you a taste for opera.

Story 150


by Mark Johnson

She ran her fingers through his thick, soft hair, gently scratching the skin underneath. She enjoyed the long, slow strokes as much as Charlie. Her nostrils filling with the sweet lavender scent she had sprayed on her pillows, Linda snuggled in the warmth of her flannel sheets.

A perfect Valentine's Day, she thought, licking the last hints of dark chocolate and dry champagne from her lips. She often said, "This combination sends me to my happy place."

With Mantovani's orchestra playing softly in the background, Linda could easily have drifted off to sleep. One glance at Charlie told her that he needed attention, so she rolled over on her back.

Charlie considered that an invitation, so he quietly climbed on top of her, resting his full weight on her chest. He put his mouth close to hers and sniffed her nose.

She smelled tuna. "Ugh, Charlie."

Charlie jumped to the floor, startled. "Meow?"

"I never knew you had such awful breath. Note to self: change Charlie's food."

She rolled over and went to sleep.

Story 151

Blackened Heart

by Lillia Hammond (aged 8)

The wind has blackened my heart. It's like an invisible ghost.

He's right next to me, fading away near the fire. My blood feels stone cold. Was it me, or had my evil grand mum just sent me here, to the middle of a dark forest, with only the fire for light?

Story 152


by Beena Nadeem

Tonight, from my holding cell, I stare outside. The crepuscular kiss of dawn's trace outlines the silver strewn patterns of early stars amongst the blanket of night. My breath hangs heavy, forming ghosts in the crisp light-starved room.

I churn over the day's events. The acid tones that spilt corrosively, screaming into the musty room, where cobwebs cling to the gilded corners.

"I put it to you, that you knew exactly what you were doing," said the dwarf-like, gowned witch of the docks. "Will the members of the jury please consider the facts carefully."

She was gleeful in her address, the red, ruddy, radish-hued blushing frump, about to seal my fate. Her semi-bronzed visage and haggard-hewn hobo-look was crowned by a wispy white nest of a wig. A smell of hibiscus flower, and a little of urine, pealing off the jury, choking any positive outcome with it.

"That is why this cannot be called self defence, ladies and gentlemen of the jury."

Story 153

Me And My Husband's Boyfriend

by Sandra Orellana

George carefully looked at my eyes, when he told me he was my husband’s boyfriend. "You’re the first one to know."

I stood up from my chair, confused. "Why?"

"You knew, but you didn’t want to accept it," said George, with his British accent and watery eyes. "Please sit down. He loved you and fought for his identity."

I sat down and looked around the cosy Italian restaurant. I felt I was the focus of attention, but it was all in my mind.

"We were never intimate before marriage – it was against our beliefs," I said quietly.

"He didn't want you to get pregnant," said George. "Now he's passed away and left us, I am here for you. Please forgive us."

"I do. I only got married, because he was there for me. Please forgive me too." I leant on the table and squeezed his hand. For the first time, I felt I didn't need to pretend.

We both smiled, with tears running down our cheeks.

Story 154

Strange Meeting

by Sue Johnson

Afterwards, there were only my footprints in the soft green moss of the woodland path. All that remains is a flashbulb memory framed in birdsong and the scent of bluebells. At first I was alert to every crack of a twig or whisper of breeze. The sight of the bluebells like an inland sea made me forget everything apart from the feel of his hand in mine. He drew me down so we sat amongst the waxy petals. We drank wine the colour of damask roses, ate chocolate cake, drowned in kisses. We discarded our clothes, tasted the salt of each other's skins. He dressed me in ivy garlands.

I woke alone with the cold eye of the moon staring at me. At home, nobody believed the story of my meeting with a woodland spirit but the child inside me was real. They've locked me away in a place they call a hospital to await the birth of my child. One day I'll escape and find my secret lover again.

Story 155

Poking Stars

by Jordan Bahnub

I inhaled, drawing in the solace of the summertime breeze. Then I exhaled, letting go of what I had been holding in, the space of my lungs devoiding it of its oxygen. The remainder of the air danced across my lips for a few seconds before becoming a wisp of nothingness again.

My head roved upwards, and through the ebony layering of darkness, pin-holes speckled the night sky. I reached into my denim-jeans, and pulled out my own little pin. It was my turn. I extended the full length of my arm, the slightly-algid metal in between my fingers a point. I poked it through the sky, a tribute of my own to contribute to the populace.

Drawing my hand back, I saw that I had done it perfectly. A new, smaller white dot had been added to the seething mass of nearly identical ones I knew by heart. A smile found its way to my face, showing the satisfaction I had for the star. I had done it right this time.

Story 156

A Heady Perfume

by Tiarnán Murphy

The wind whistled across her skin as she flew over the trees. Below her, her prey made its way through the park. Her stomach rumbled and growled as sweet saliva gathered in her mouth.

With her heightened senses, she could hear the crunch of the leaves as it walked over them. Not only that, but the steady thumping of its heart. She could smell the heady perfume of its sweat. She inhaled deeply, welcoming the intoxicating aroma mixed with the biting winter air.

She began her descent, the air parting smoothly around her wings, caressing them like the gentle touch of a lover. Her prey did not hear her coming. Sher folded her wings and dropped from the darkness of the sky. The wind howled in her ears, and she joined it. Its pale, startled face looked up just before her jaws snapped shut, cutting off terrified whimpering.

Throwing it to the back of her mouth, she swallowed.

She burped gouts of flame and spat out its boots. She didn’t always like her prey's wrappings.

Story 157

The Doughnut

by Jade Swann

It sat on the counter, wrapped in a pink box with clear cellophane like a present. The smell of fried dough seeped past the boxy walls and lingered in the air, accompanied by the slightest whiff of strawberries. The thick glaze of baby pink icing glimmered beneath the overhead light, glossy and reflective. Little blue and white sprinkles broke up the gooey smoothness of it.

Mocha licked her lips, drool dripping from her jowls and onto the kitchen counter with a soft patter. She could imagine biting into the soft dough, how the icing would stick to the roof of her snout with lip-curling, sugary goodness. The cakey vanilla base would mix with the strawberry icing to create a taste better than all of her treats combined.

She pawed at the cellophane and gnawed on the bottom flap of cardboard, but it wouldn't budge. Alas, her efforts to devour the sweet treat were thwarted by a lack of opposable thumbs.

Story 158

Stupid Hounds

by Jessica Turnbull

The fox burst through the undergrowth, his paws thrumming on the dry, crusted ground of the summer forest. His russet pelt stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the green bushes and the seven varieties of sweet smelling colourful flowers, but he didn't care.

His goal wasn't to hide, but to outrun the hounds.

The large dogs are considerably harder to shake than their human counterparts. Their small bodies are able to break through the undergrowth, trampling grass and weeds under their dirty paws. The fox could feel their hot breath on his hide as he raced through the forest, his brown eyes darting around for an opening. The dogs start yapping behind him, foamy drool seeping from their mouths.

Just as the fox starts to slow, he sees his chance. Ignoring the scream of his tired muscles, he dives into a large hole next to a gnarled tree, heaving his tired body through the clumps of dirt and wriggling worms. The dogs growl outside the entrance, digging frantically with their dull claws.

Stupid hounds.

Story 159

More Than Meets The Eye

by Hannah Wigley

Sitting cross-legged in a forest clearing, Elia raised her face to the hot midsummer sun. She felt the scorching rays coaxing her shy freckles out from their winter beds, and the tip of her pointed nose being gently browned like a bonfire marshmallow.

She inhaled deeply and slowly, discovering the earthy aroma of warm pines heated in the June air, the sweetness of a nearby honeysuckle bush and the herbal, reassuring fragrance of lavender. Elia held the air in her chest for a while, like a smoker holding the cigarette puff in their lungs, letting the scents roam her body.

Exhaling leisurely, her attention turned to the fine mist, propagated by a fast-flowing river close by, beading in her hair like morning dew. Its splashes and roars told of a rocky river bed. In contrast, the leaves above her rustled tenderly as a slight breeze caressed them and timid birds among their branches whispered ancient love songs to one another.

When Elia opened her eyes, she couldn't see. But that didn't matter to her anymore.

Story 160

The Bird Died

by Nam Raj Khatri

One fine evening, I noticed a colourful bird on top of the flowery bush in front of my house. It seemed excited, but conscious of danger.

I quickly took a few pictures – click, click, click – using my mobile camera, from a medium distance, hoping the bird wouldn't fly away. Evening light isn't bright, but when you take a photo towards the east, it becomes surprisingly light.

The bird disappeared and night fell.

The next morning, I noticed that a bird was floating in my bucket. It was the same colourful bird which I'd seen the previous evening. I couldn't work out how it got there.

Maybe the bird tried to drink the water and accidentally fell in. Maybe it got very cold and became unable to fly. I felt sadness in my heart.

My daughter picked a bunch of flowers and buried the bird near the fruit tree. We have my pictures to remember it.

Story 161

The Writing Is Gonna Get You

by Anita Goveas

It's the way the blue Biro whorls loop themselves on the paper that sucks her in.  Her novel is eating her from the inside, poetry is so hard. But a little flash fiction, 200 words, how difficult could that be? Her shiny notebook is smooth to the touch, the crinkle of pages soothing after the harsh taps of the delete button. This is something she'll definitely finish.

The pleasant cramping of her hand makes the story come to life. Words leap on the page like flickering Bunsen burners. Her dreams are invaded by flames. She wakes up with the pressure of heat on her skin, and a need for more.

A shiver runs through her body as the great idea for the ending strikes, and is submerged in the squeal of brakes. She's stopped in the middle of the road. They're telling her she's lucky as the ambulance bumps the throbbing new pulse in her knee. She agrees, as a string of new fictions dance before her bleary eyes.

Story 162


by Irene Kalesi

She stared at the cloudless blue sky. She spread her limbs and closed her eyes. She squeezed them and felt the pressure going up to her head. She saw the most beautiful canvases moving in front of her eyes, unobstructed and never-ending. She loved this sensation of free-falling in herself.

The breeze's energy on the brown Vellus hair of her arms felt comforting. It was as if somebody caressed her tenderly like a mother. It seemed natural and non-invasive. Her fingertips skimmed across the fresh damp grass. It was the most welcoming cradle she had ever laid on. Its grassy fragrance grounded her to the spot, but strangely breathed life into her.

As Nature was slowly claiming her body, tears started slipping down her cheeks along with her sadness. The drops fell on the ground and sealed the innate union. She was ready to embrace the world because he was one with it. She inhaled deeply and opened her eyes. Everything was the same but her. She had been born again into Nature.

Story 163

Thoughts And Prayers

by Liam Arnold

He yelled unknown demands in a language I didn't understand. Bright flashes filled the room, followed by a metallic smell. The only thing heard were screams, despite the deafening explosive bursts that begged to be listened to.

My eyes opened, despite not wanting to witness the violence. He walked over, scraping his weapon across the wall, making a sound that was somehow worse than what preceded it. I felt my heart pounding in my chest and I knew it was counting down its last beats.

We made eye contact and I saw the evil within him. This was a man who wreaked of bloodshed. A man who took the last words from others.

I ran my fingers over the smooth wooden floor that was coated in drying blood. He pushed the cold, metal barrel into my mouth and once again screamed demands that will never be met. The taste did not overpower the shrieks beside me.

I raised my hand, to feel my beating heart one last time.

Story 164

A Treat After Netball

by Stephanie Sybliss

When I was eleven, I was given a plate of vomit for dinner. Mum had promised me sausages and mash for tea if I won at netball. My team won by a whopping 5-0.

Opening the door to our house that evening, unleashed a horror I shall never forget. The stench was so powerful and rancid, it caused my teeth to clamp together, desperately fighting to suppress the gagging reflexes forcing back the urge to retch.

My eyes prickled, filling with tears, ready to explode out of their sockets.

She was in a mood. Dad hadn't come home. Probably gambling again.

I gawped at the vile offering in disbelief.

The plate banged down. Putrid lumps of gristle spattered my face. Didn't dare wipe it away.




I was contaminated.

How could something revolting and grossly nauseating now be covering Mum's chintz plate? Jesus. I'm in hell.

"What are you waiting for? Eat."

This was the first time I sampled a West Indian delicacy – hairy pig's trotters, rice with cabbage on the side.

Story 165


by Vedika Rastogi

Fog filled my head, making the weight of it impossible to lift. A throbbing sound crescendoed as I struggled. My shoulders felt weak and helpless, unable to support the overbearing weight.

I felt out of place, dislocated, broken, fractured. I needed to get up to see where I was. I needed to find something that could explain what had happened.

The ground beneath me was rough. It felt like an array of pebbles and gravel. Droplets of blood clung to a few strands of my hair. The injury on my head had stained my fingers deep crimson. I could feel the depth of the cut, a valley.

The frail voice locked in my throat attempted to scream, "Help." The only audible sound came from my stomach, which let out a roaring groan. I tried to quell the sound by conjuring up a meal in my head, my last meal. No thought could overpower the unavoidable metallic taste which drowned my taste buds.

Suddenly, a hand caressed my head.


Story 166

I Rise For Her

by M S Clements

We are granite statues, invisible in the still night air. Behind us, the mountain's naked breast arches out of a cloak of pine green, kissed by the tangerine sky. The warmed forest oils trickle down to where we wait, massaging our bodies to revive us from the nightly enchantment at dawn's insistence.

The breeze wraps up her innocent scent of salt, apples and roses. A fine gift deposited at my feet. My glassy orb counts her barefoot skips. Dusty clouds gather around her virginal hem. Her breathless song carried aloft to my erect ears. I rise and breathe for her.

She is by my side, her intense heat interrupting the gentleness of daybreak. Her long, naked neck by my mouth. I smell her. I taste her. Deceptive fragility, her blushing cheek rubs against the muscles pulsating in my neck. Fingers entwined within my flowing hair. I feel her grip, her sharp tug, and a white feather rests astride my back. Bare legs grip me, tight, demanding my attention. I gallop for her.

Story 167

Sensory Challenge

by Andre Othenin-Girard

The place where I grew up is now buried in my memory under a six-lane highway.

The magic of the earth releasing its full flagrance – humus, wild herbs and scented blooms – is gone, giving way to the acrid blend of tar, petrol and fumes.

Road signs and billboards mushroom where the trees – the frail violets, blue periwinkles, red poppies and yellow buttercups – once grew.

Where I feasted freely on wild berries and nuts, I now must pay to swallow cardboard sandwiches from McDonald.

The symphony of birds, bees and the rustling of leaves in the canopy of trees high above has been superseded by the rushing whiz of cars and lorries racing towards extinction.

The stream where we fished and mused has been dammed.

Where the earth once released me, it now oppresses. Where I wanted to live, I now want to die, and I face an awful conundrum – would it be better to die suddenly when we want to live rather than agonisingly when we want to die?

Story 168

Make A Joyful Noise

by Cathy Cade

Inside my head, something pounded to get out.

I opened a gummy eyelid, but the light hurt too much. Leaves scraped my cheek – the premature fall of a hot, dry July. The air hung heavy, lightened by occasional wafts of last night's scorched meat. My stomach writhed.

I remembered our argument, both of us the worse for the Catering Manager's punch. Its sweetness still furred my tongue, in spite of the subsequent vodka that drowned my sorrows.

I became aware of buzzing and a vaguely familiar smell.

Something damp wiped my ear, followed by a lapping sound.

"Molly, leave."

The Bursar's wife; I raised my arm to hide my face. My fingers found slime. Molly licked them. Someone groaned – me?

"Come, Molly."

She walked on, muttering about students outstaying their welcome. Thankfully, nothing about chaplains going alfresco without benefit of canvas.

I rolled onto all fours. Bells rang. Each clapper bruised my brain.

Not just my head.

My ears, assaulted by the quarter peal from the belfry, reminded my emerging consciousness that it was Sunday.

Story 169

Your Mother Was Right

by Lucy Morrice

Brought up to do as he was told, he squeaked the jelly shoes onto damp feet. Rasping uncomfortably, pulling toes and grating sand against skin.

The wispy white clouds dissipated, hot sun baking pale flesh, turning his skin to pork crackling.

An angry buzzing in his ear. He brushed ineffectually, swiped with crusty towel, scattering sand. The wasp persisted a moment, droned away. Cool breeze ruffled his hair. Raising his face to the sun, breathing deeply. Bliss.

Seeing the ridiculous faded green jelly shoes, yanking them off, anticipating cool damp sand, smooth pebbles against bare toes.

Foamy turquoise wavelets lapping luxuriously at paddling feet. Stepping further, sand giving way to pebbles then rocks. Stepping over the rocks to reach more sandy seabed, just ahead.

Sharp pain. Gasping, lifting his foot quickly, losing his balance, falling back onto rock. Winded, bruised, sore. The offender, a long black spine embedded in his sole.

Wear your jellies, you fool, he thought, as he watched the wound redden and swell, painful throbbing shooting up his leg.

Story 170

The Spiced Wind Of Change

by Jay Bee

The breeze lifts hints of blackened unripe berries from the pimento tree, perhaps clove and nutmeg. Blending spice seamlessly with damp seaweed, dead sea urchin and scorched, parched sand. It fingers bronzing skin, shushing everyone into a deep slumber. It steers minds into neutral gear, suffusing them with a false a sense of freedom. Their hectic lives left at the airport of departure like big old coats waiting for their return.

Here on the foot-hopping beach, only the buzz of winged botherers and slosh of soporific waves interrupt the zzzs. No taxing phone-calls nor hand-rubbing boss wangling unpaid hours from their brain-fogged bodies. A rippling horizon quivers over emerald water punctuated with turtle shaped boats floating like flotsam without agendas.

A man bare-toes the beach, black shorts and T. His dark-skinned-focus on the fresh intake of milk-bottle-white guests basking like seals on hard plastic pallets called sunbeds. His mouth tingles with a mixture of salt and metal, lips cracked and beaded red. His tongue flickers, before screeching a warning and causing global changes to laws.

Story 171

Inky Sea

by Linda Scogings

Coils of her copper hair blow in the breeze. She takes a step into the darkness.

She can taste the salty sea air, the exhaust fumes and stench of old takeaways. As she walks further, her foot snags on an old tree root. She is buffeted by a stronger wind, her summer dress billows out like a parachute.

The waves lap a rhythmic pulse, the ocean forges its own song. It's hypnotic. The waves are oozing onto the beach. The wave music is enthralling. She remembers a dream she had.

The moon is glowing, radiating pure light. It looks like a luminous pearl. Some jewels from the sea wash up on the shore. The sea spray splatters the pebbles that are scattered on the beach. The hooded veil of death hangs over her head. With tears streaming down her face, she is at the mercy of the ocean.

She carries on walking, her feet meeting the soft, wet sand, her toes gradually sinking. On and on she goes.

Story 172

Skeleton Of Nyctus

by Neil Phillips

The storm approaches. Lashes of rain beat their tattoo against the glass. Lightning casts strange illuminations around the room whilst thunder rumbles overhead.

My night light's glow fights against the gloom, until the power surges and the light winks out. My eyes widen as darkness envelopes me, clammy hands grasping the duvet, willing the light back on.

A musty odour permeates the room, its cloying musk causing me to gag as the taste of rotten meat fills my mouth.

By the wardrobe, a skeleton unfolds itself, the dry cracking of bones like the sound of a thousand twigs snapping, and from under my bed, cold, fetid tentacles writhe out.

The skeleton lurches forward, decayed tendons snapping with sickening crunches, eye sockets fixed on me. My bed is now covered in putrid, slimy tentacles. The thunder roars outside and I'm screaming an endless shriek of terror.

Suddenly, my father arrives, torch in hand, and cradles my shaking body. The monsters vanish, driven back by the light to skulk in the shadows, always waiting in the dark.

Story 173

Sense And Sense Debility

by David McTigue

"The doctor will see you now."

So saying, the receptionist pulled the white paper bag off the doctor's head.

He was a sight. Bulging eyes, white hair sticking straight up, his lips moving behind buck teeth.

"Sorry, I can't hear you," I said.

He stood up and walked behind me, whereupon he thrust a plastic bag over my head.

"You're hyperventilating," I heard him say. "Breathe deeply. And again. What are you getting?"

"The smell of fish," I spluttered.

"Good. That's the fish paste sandwiches my wife made me."

I retched. The taste of breakfast egg and bile pricked my throat.

I reached up and touched the pulse throbbing madly over my right eyebrow. I could feel my left leg bouncing like a piston on speed.

Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by the smell of lavender.

"Wake up, sir," whispered the receptionist in my ear. "Doctor will see you now."

I lurched to my feet, hoping Dr Salmon could do something for this damned narcolepsy.

Story 174

A Cooling Dip

by Sarah Wilde

The warm peat squidges, soft and gritty around our bare toes. We sink into the oozing softness.

Prickly gorse spreads its sun-cream scent through the clear sky. Smudgy browns and deep luscious greens colour the landscape, a wild canvas from horizon to horizon. The rough granite tors cast vivid shapes against the skyline.

Soft piles of verdant moss, like pixie mounds, lie among the crooked trees that dip their roots in the edges of the stream. In the water, we pick our way through rounded boulders, smoothed by years of tumultuous flow. The waterfall coruscating. Feet browned by the summer sun, marked with the ghostly memory of sandals. Flashes of blue mark the kingfishers in flight.

We play in the water, heat from the sun pouring over our backs. Soft water ripples around us, translucent brown from the peaty earth. We share our pool with fish, streaks of silver as they flit away from us. Water boatmen skim delicately across the surface. Skylarks wheel above, their songs tumbling through the air.

This is Dartmoor.

Story 175

Hunger Point

by Lindy Gibbon

The breeze wafted in through the window bringing with it the delicate scent of the amethyst coloured lilac and a note of creosote from where Andy had painted the fence. From her desk, Lilian watched red admirals fluttering about the arching stems, and fuzzy bumblebees, busily humming, gathering yellow dust into their pollen sacs. Lilian stretched and wriggled on her office chair, trying to relieve the pressure on her coccyx.

She checked her wristwatch. Another hour to go. She sighed, took a sip of her lapsang tea, savouring the smokiness of the steam as it cooled, then moistened, her top lip. She felt hungry. She marked another five exam papers, briskly circling the grade in red pen, entering it on her mark sheet.

From the kitchen came a clattering of pans. Then the unmistakable aroma of smoked lardons and garlic assailed her nostrils. Her stomach growled in protest.

"Lunch in five, love."

"Great, thanks. I'm starving."

After lunch, satiated now, Lilian re-graded the last paper. Made it an A. Spaghetti carbonara, her favourite. Lucky student.

Story 176

Presence Felt

by Angela P Googh

"I just want to be near my dad."

"He's not there, my girl. He's gone."

"How can you say that? I get within three miles of the place and I can feel his presence.

"Around the yard the air is denser above anything he touched last.

"I walk inside, and I can smell him everywhere." She breaths deeply through her nose and closes her eyes. "A mixture of male sweat, aftershave, smoke, and old tweed.

"My forehead tingles where he used to kiss me goodnight and I can feel his embrace.

"In the kitchen, I can hear the rustling of his newspaper and the whistling of the kettle. I remember the sharp sweetness of the teaspoon of medicinal brandy, and feel it calming me still. I can smell and the taste his pasta sauce. On the floor I can even see four scuff marks," she giggles and blushes, "where the time-out chair was always placed.

"I don't want him to be gone." She pauses. "I miss him so much."

Sobbing, tears pour down her face.

Story 177

The New School Year

by Sarah Ann Hall

My feet pound the baked path, the stabbing pain in my soles bounces through my heels and calves. My two-sizes bigger than this morning feet threaten to split my laces.

My skin is tight, as if it's shrunk, clamping muscle and sinew. My heart pumps in my ears. Above its thumping, I hear the roar of the road a field's breadth away. A cotton-wool bud bounces across the stubble, a rabbit running for its life from the buzzard that screeches above.

A plume of starlings shoots from blackberry bushes I blunder past. The tang of fermenting berries floats into my nostrils, to the back of my throat. I taste apple pie and custard and my belly growls. The starlings settle, squawking displeasure at having been disturbed, branches creaking under the weight of gorged and gorging birds.

My head passes through air warmed by this morning's sun, while my fingertips, hanging nearer the path, are bitten by cold. Summer's over. Winter loiters around the corner. My long walk home will soon be even longer.

Story 178


by Nicole McIntosh

Thursday evening and I'm sitting in my brown chair in silence. The tolerably loud, unintended silence. I decided to cook, but something stopped me. A noise. A subtle cry almost. I ignored it.

I proceeded to prepare my favourite, Mackerel linguine with garlic. It smells so good, you can almost taste it before it hits your mouth.

That noise again, only louder. The cry was developing into a meow.

I went and peered through the spyhole. I saw nothing, so I opened my door.

A darkened orange and black cat appeared, staring at me, trying to edge its way in.

I didn't like cats and this one was making me feel uneasy, especially with its desired shading. The orange ran through the black like an ugly painting. So I closed my door.

This went on for about two weeks. Until one day, no cat, not even a whine in the distance.

Funny thing is: Now whenever I see anything orange or make my favourite dish, I'll always think of that Cat.

My cat. Lissydoll.

Story 179

Pieces Of You

by Valerie Fish

The guests have all gone, and I'm sitting on our bed, our wedding photograph in my hands.

I brush my fingers across your face, imagining the taste of your lips on mine, wishing I could have just one last kiss.

I close my eyes and I can see you standing at the altar. I remember you turning your head and smiling and my nerves simply melting away.

I hear the music, 'How Great Thou Art'. I sang it for you again today, were you listening?

I chose freesias for you today, my darling, just as I carried in my bouquet all those years ago, their sweet perfume so evocative.

I go to the wardrobe and fish out your old scarf. Wasn't it only a few weeks ago you wore it last? I hold it to my face, feeling the softness against my cheek.

I drink in the faint aroma of Paco Robanne.

These pieces of you, keeping you close.

Story 180

A Last-Ditch Attempt At Project Completion

by A.H. Creed

Mind-clearing time in a sensory deprivation tank.

Think of nothing...

I think: My up-coming birthday, a-mother’s-love-smell of oven-fresh cake, fudgy brown-sugar sweetness deluged in chocolaty softness that weds wantonly with a peppery mouthful of warm red wine.

Think of nothing...

I think: Must visit Nan, rumbling grumbling of the so-slow lift, 'doors opening', vapour-rub meets bleach and over-cooked cabbage odour, foot-traffic-corroded linoleum, straight-backed chairs for bent-backed people, my lips kissing a cling-film-thickness of skin-wrapped skull.

Think of nothing...

I think: Last night the baby screaming, piercing, air-raid-siren-like relentlessness, fingertip smoothing downy hair, bare-feet pacing, jiggling the wriggling, sleepy snuffling, precipitous laying, heart-in-the-mouth blanket adjusting, inhaling biscuit-in-the-sun baby smell, floating back to bed on a contentment-cloud.

Knock, knock.

A lost-in-a-tunnel voice asks, "Are you ready to come out?"

I give up. I’ll never declutter enough room in the dusty attic of my over-stuffed brain to build a sensational sensory-writing engine.

Story 181

A Mother's Treat

by Hullabaloo22

"Mum, Sue and I really want to show our appreciation for all that you've done lately. We'd like to send you for a pampering but can't afford it."

"That's OK, Jen. I appreciate the thought," I reply.

"Hang on, Mum." Sue carries in a silk scarf. "The spa might have been out, but we do have a special treat."

"OK, you might want to slip into a swimsuit first." Jen steers me into the bedroom. Once changed, she wraps the scarf around my eyes, taking away my sight, then leads me to the bathroom.

A familiar aroma greets my nose. If only I could place it. Sweet, almost too sweet.

"Climb in," Jen says. Sue giggles.

It's cold, thick, slippery on my skin. Whatever they have filled the bath with feels almost slimy. Don't ask why, but I have the urge to give it a taste. Sweet... milky... It's custard.

"Just you wait until I catch you two," I scream. "I'm going to kill you." My feet slide away and I'm back in a sea of yellow.

Story 182

Noble Death

by Frank Havemann

Her fingers were stiff and cold, and she could taste the dry anger in her mouth. The staccato buzzing made it easy to locate her enemy, who was clearly distracted, facing the triptych of summer delicacies, returning over and over to the deep wine red of the currants. She struck hard, then again, and again, until all she could hear were her quick breaths, and the blood pounding in her ears.

Her hand was vibrating painfully from the force of the strikes. The mangled body lay still on the smooth hardwood floor, eyes open, legs pointing at her accusingly, and blue blood splattered all around. Do flies have blue blood? she wondered nervously. She backed away slowly, garden clogs scraping, until she stepped on something soft.

The cat howled and dashed off, and a waft of sweet smell made her turn to the kitchen counter. Six clear glasses, six coloured suspensions slowly turning soft white flowers into a honey-fragrant rainbow of death.

Story 183

Going Home

by Malcolm Richardson

Fine drizzle is highlighted beneath murky streetlights. The station clock strikes midnight, another day clicks by. Parents sit in Audis, BMWs and Range Rovers, their car stereos echo across the car park. Waiting to retrieve their inebriated offspring from the last train. Beneath the platform buildings lurks the subway, oppressive, dimly lit and filled with a putrid stench.  Dark shadows hide round corners, reflections shimmer in puddles, cardboard cups and newspapers are blown across the concourse. Ticket office closed, shutters down, no staff anywhere in sight.

"Is the train late?"

"Has it been cancelled?"

Taxis wait in a line, engines running to keep out the chill, diesel fumes belching. Drivers listening to late night talk shows, immersed in their mobile phones. At five past twelve an automated metallic announcement confirms the imminent arrival. Several minutes later the train squeals to a halt, late night drinkers stagger from the doors, meander along the platform, down through the subway. Like rabbits in the headlights, searching for their lift.

"What time do you call this?"

"Sorry, Mum."

Story 184

The Last Cup

by Jocelyn Wong

It wasn't so much a symphony as it was a chaotic entanglement of various scent profiles: I could smell the perfume of roses and mangoes laced with smoky Assam and nettles. I walked through the garden of fragrant tealeaves, pausing by each jar to feel the aromas assault my senses.

It was a little awkward.

I went through my normal procedure of ordering my tea and quickly nabbed my usual seat at the tea shop before he finished browsing. A creature of habit, I plugged in my phone and waited for him to take a seat. I wasn't sure how to proceed past that point.

He grabbed my hand, tracing a heart on my palm, whilst waiting for his tea to finish steeping.

"What was that for?" I asked him, heart palpitating.

"I couldn't think of another way to tell you that I think that I kinda love you."

As the heat radiating from our cups and the smell of warm ginger and peach tea enveloped us, I finally told him how I felt.

Story 185

The View From The Hill

by James Goodman

A mixture of offal, sweat and horses assailed his nostrils.

The foreigners, clad in battered, clunking armour, staggered up the corpse-littered, debris-scattered hill with murder in their piggy eyes. He glanced at his sword, once razor sharp and gleaming, now notched and covered in gore. He roared at the enemy, bellowed his angry defiance.

His exhausted men shuffled and slipped on the muddy, bloody grass.

It had taken hours to grind the enemy down. Now, slow evening shadows reached from all around and a faint mist was rising.

He felt a heavy gauntleted hand on his shoulder. He half turned, saw his brother’s filthy, sweat-runneled face.

"Look at them," he rasped, throat parched from screaming war cries all day. "They're finished, used up like old donkeys."

His brother nodded slowly. "I can taste their fear," he growled. "It tastes of bitter ashes."

They both laughed in a tired, strangulated kind of way.

Drawing a deep breath, Harold tilted his dented helmet back, and glanced up into the clear, clear sky.

Story 186

Peace And Pain

by Beverley J Hall

The fluorescence of the pristine white stings the rawness of my eyes. The tranquillity of the ward creating an unconscious clenching in the emptiness behind my ribs. My shoes squeak on the spotless floor, a distraction from the thoughts shredding their way through the soft mush of my brain, focusing my attention away from the machines and their not-so-easy listening of peeping and clinking which fails to fade into the silence.

The only signs of life, they form a chorus of awkward and uncoordinated instruments.

The bodies that should emanate life lie flat and still, unaware of the machines. Do the white-sheeted lumps know I'm intruding in their pain?

I stare at my lump, moving up and down in time to the heavy heaving sound, but not because I am watching. I am avoiding what I know is coming. The conversation that has to happen. The choice that must be made.

My heart bleeds. I can't see it, but I know. There is nothing left, and I wait.

Story 187


by Chris Espenshade

The blind sits such that geese arrive from behind. Five hunters in the blind. The guide's retriever makes six. The frigid morning air opens the nose, and the nervous hunter smells the dirt floor of the pit blind, the mustiness of the camo clothing, gun oil, and the hot breath of the dog. His butt resents the cold, wooden bench, while his thumb feels repeatedly for the safety. His anxiousness brings up an after-taste of quickly-inhaled sausage biscuit and stale, gas station coffee.

The hunt is choreographed, teasing with sound before allowing any view. When the guide spots geese headed vaguely in their direction, he begins calling, the honks becoming increasingly loud and frenzied over several minutes. The retriever's whines also grow in intensity, as does the racket of the approaching geese. The guide finally calls, "Take 'em," and the hunters get their first look. The stunning visual – swarm of small dinosaurs – is joined quickly by several blasts and acrid sweetness of burnt gunpowder. The nervous hunter brings one goose to ground; utter silence reigns.

Story 188

Child's Play

by Alan Barker

The room was warm and oppressive. Sweat trickled inside my blouse, my mouth felt dry as dust, and I itched all over.

The bandage that covered my eyes and the rope that secured my hands behind me were tighter than I would have liked. Nearby, a clock ticked monotonously.

I heard a key turn and the door squeak open. Something small – maybe a rat or a mouse – scurried past, making me flinch.

Despite the bandage, I could make out a vague black shape entering the room and moving slowly towards me, footsteps soft against the concrete floor.

I felt his cool breath against my ear, then something sharp scratched my neck.

"Guess what, pretty girl, your daddy won't pay up," he whispered. "Doesn't look as though you'll be returning to the bosom of your family any time soon."

I felt tightness in my throat and was unable to prevent the sudden burst of laughter. "I'm sorry but that's such a ridiculous line."

"Cut," said a weary voice behind me, as the cameramen sighed in unison.

Story 189

Postcard From Blackpool 1983

by Steven Barrett

Hi Gran,

I know you're commanding a battle fleet, but Mum told me to write anyway. I'm still getting used to shape-shifting into a human and I'm discovering new senses all the time.

Blackpool is the greatest place in the universe. After arriving in a craft named the Vauxhall Astra, we decided to explore.

The amusements blast out music and electronic sounds – I achieved a record score on Space Invaders. Bingo callers shout out numbers. Dad laughed when I said they were battle co-ordinates.

The smell and taste of fish and chips is amazing. I love candyfloss too. It's pink and fluffy, like the people of Jastovax, and dissolved on my tongue.

I scraped my back on the Monster Drop slide – there wasn't really a monster, though. Waves tickled my feet, as I built an interplanetary missile launcher with my bucket and spade.

From the top of the tower, people look like ants. Mum said that was ironic, because, after she'd sent her report, they'd all be crushed by our army.

Love from us all.

Story 190

The Daily Grind

by Amberlie Robinson

Her fingers tap out a rhythmic dance on the pulldown table in front of her, failing to register the slight stickiness of the smooth surface in their agitated state – a present left from a previous commuter. Her mouth is bitter after the last cold swig of Americano, her pulse racing from the unnecessary caffeine intake after a coffee-laden day.

She leans her forehead against the refreshing cool of the train window, condensation forming in protest as outside temperatures meet the synthetic heat of the interior. She swallows, fighting the rising bile as the male seated next to her, already intent on invading her limited amount of personal space within the carriage, unwraps an egg sandwich, the accompanying pungent aroma suggesting that it had past its best a couple of hours earlier.

She closes her eyes, blocking out the harsh yellow light, willingly trading this for a network of blue rivulets on the red undersides of her lids. She listens to the gentle tick of rain on the window, glad this is her last journey home.

Story 191

Will He?

by Sue Partridge

She waited, almost alone, on the dark platform. The steel bench sent waves of cold, permeating her clothing as she wiggled her fingers inside her woollen mittens. She shivered. Was it the weather or the remnants of the thoughts that had been tormenting her for months?

Through the silence she heard the faintest whistle, then the gradually increasing volume of chuff chuff chuff as the steam train rounded the bend and pulled into the station. She stood, dwarfed by the huge, shining engine, puffing out bursts of steam and smoke. Then she saw him. 

He ran towards her, and as he enveloped her in a huge bear hug, she remembered the feeling of security as he stroked and patted her back. At last they kissed, the familiar smell and taste of him bringing back all those precious moments they had spent together. A small, snuffly cry from nearby brought them apart and she reached into the basket next to her.

She gently picked up the soft bundle and held it out to him. "She's yours."

Story 192

The Wolf Of Farnport

by Taylor Thompson

Lady Mary was sitting in the drawing-room alone, looking out of the window onto the lush and expansive gardens of the Farnport Estate, waiting for the sun to set.

It was quiet. The only sound to fill the air was the gentle clatter of the silver cross necklace as it twisted around her fingers, knocking against her brandy glass. She rarely wore the necklace, but as the orange glow of the sun fell and the pale full moon rose, she knew she'd need it. The familiar warm smell of apricots helped to calm her in these last moments before the cold darkness of the night had fully taken hold; her father loved this brandy. Looking at the half empty bottle beside her, she vowed she would get the chance to finish it...

The wolf would not claim another victim. Not tonight.

Story 193

Chaos In Stillness

by Aisha Ali

The cat slinked across the room lightly with the swagger of a much bigger, much more intimidating creature, licking its lips, surveying, judging. It bolted suddenly, the sound of which hung dustily in the air for a minute, demanding to be reverently observed, like a vigil, until it turned itself into a giant knotty pellet of silence. The low musical hum of the freezer kicked in again, tricking you into thinking you were under the sea.

The plump silky flowers slid slickly down the wallpaper in waves, noisily assaulting the eyes. The antidote was just outside the window where a tree, newly bare in the embryonic beginnings of the winter, solidly supported two crows in its tip-tops.

It was probably colder in here than out there since the central heating wars had begun, so she sat on the fleshy burnt orange sofa wrapped in a soft, hot pink blanket and a compact, spiky bale of regret as she watched her hot breath condense into a million tiny droplets of resentment in the freezing room.

Story 194

A Heady Night In The Harbour

by Nichole Villeneuve

Having safely navigated the ship's slippery gangway and narrow staircase in her high-heeled boots, Lainey strode across the sticky dance floor towards the bar. The 180-foot sloop, once famous for transporting timber across ferocious Baltic seas, was now a notorious nightclub, moored in the floating harbour. The bygone scent of freshly cut logs replaced by the stench of sweaty bodies and stale beer.

Lainey ordered a margarita and pressed her lips to the salty rim of the glass, taking a swig of the sour cocktail before wriggling her way to the front of the stage. With excitement at stratospheric levels among the jam-packed crowd, the band came onstage, launching straight into driving rhythms, searing guitar riffs and intricate melodies.

Lainey’s eyes were transfixed by the emotionally-charged lead singer laying his soul bare before her. As the band rocked harder, the frenzied crowd lunged forward, thrusting her against the stage and spilling her drink down her new silk blouse.

Mesmerised, breathless and dancing wildly, Lainey could not think of a better way to celebrate her birthday.

Story 195


by Angela Dawson

The oppressive heat reddens and drenches my skin. Salt beads sting my eyes. My taut belly rumbles, but my parched mouth tastes metallic. Lacking appetite, I carry on clearing the overgrowth at the back of the garden.

I scrape leaves across the dry mud floor, scoop armfuls into thick brown waste paper bags. I heave the grass green bindweed with all the strength an underfed, faint-headed body can muster. The bindweed threatens everything in its path. Its relentless creep smothers other life, strangling welcome plants with its rope-like tendrils.

Knee-deep in nettles, I bend. A swift snip with the cool, curved, orange-handled secateurs. I strain backwards, pulling hard. They’re uprooted, but not without stinging complaint – itchy welts dot my arms and legs. I stretch up, hack the fearsome firethorn bush with the sharp, silvery needles. It too leaves its mark, scratching faint blood-lines along the surface of my skin. The pain takes me out of my tangled, overgrown mind. Meanwhile, perched above the odourless pink hydrangea crown, the blackbird sings a song of sweet salvation.

Story 196

The Way The Water Flows

by Helen Trowsdale

The way water flows fast downhill, glittering light, in the open moon, in the surprising dawn, is how much fun we used to have, but now we are a dripping faucet. We are a singular freezing droplet released intermittently by a careless stranger. We are the way this burn persistently smoulders. We are the way a foreign prickly fruit secretly rots in the unseen back of a drawer, whimpering the odour of decay. We are the way a weeping pustule from a pleasant walk becomes a repeated plucked scab, becomes a nauseating reminder, becomes a scar.

In these ways our thing thickens my skin to ripples and wrinkles, putrid and pitted. Now we are the ways water forms intractable routes. We are the ways water tinkles imperceptibly and I hear this all the time through everything over everything in everything, and this has deafened me and I am deaf to us.

Story 197

Death By Chocolate

by Phil Godfrey

I munch on a Galaxy bar, with the caramel dripping down my saliva soaked lips. A hear a ringing in my left ear. I’m angry and scream at the top of my lungs. The dreadful sound makes me slip and fall onto a knife, which cuts my right eye. My sight is taken from me.

I pull down on the bottom of my eye and a foul stench catches in my nose. It is my blood, pouring from the chasms of my head. I scream, while in loads of pain, with no ability to feel, see, touch, smell, hear nor taste anything like the yummy Galaxy bar.

My life slowly fades away as I lie on the ground, like a motionless corpse. Never again, shall I remain human as my very existence has been taken from me. While the life I once knew disappears forever.

Story 198

A Taste For Pottery

by Jenny Drew

She had a habit of eating pottery. She said the taste was like the smell of the earth that had just been rained upon.

The doctor reasoned with her, "Pottery is not a food, it has no carbohydrates, no protein, no fat, no vitamins."

From her jeans pocket, she pulled a small polythene package containing clay dust and jagged pieces of burnt sienna vase. Her fingers caressed the smooth surface and along the rough edges.

She held a piece under her nose, filling her lungs and heart with the dewy perfume of damp soil. Her dentist warned her about erosion, disease, infections, tooth loss, but she felt a longing ache in her gums that could only be soothed with earthenware.

She ran it over her lips and bathed in the coolness, before holding it for a moment between her teeth. Her tongue grazed over its surface and finally she crunched down. After she swallowed, she said, "Doctor, I can no longer put the death that you call food in my mouth. Pottery tastes like life."

Story 199

Another Day in Paradise?

by Sarah Mosedale

With my hands tingling in sweetly scented frothing dishwater only just on the right side of too hot, I gaze though the gleaming kitchen window. The morning sun is highlighting every tiny indentation and shading on the expanse of red brick wall beyond. A shocking blue sky – this is Manchester – above thickly iced white rooftops proclaims it a beautiful crisp winter's day.

Water swooshes, glasses shine, cutlery shifts, the occasional bubble floats up threatening nasal invasion. Radio 4 drones quietly on, almost but not quite inaudible. In January 2019 there is much I do not wish to hear again but some I still fear to miss.

I will shop later. Shelves will be groaning with absurdly numerous varieties of basic items like beans and washing powder. Fruits and vegetables will be present in overwhelming profusion, a riot of colours and scents. A degree of choice that felt embarrassingly privileged and unsustainable but that I also took utterly for granted.

What is that sound? Are chickens flapping homewards to roost?

Story 200

Death Is In My Abdomen

by Clare Woodford

Magritte painted my sky: black trees, blue sky. I want to lick it, dry blue silk on my tongue, hear the wind-clanged wires in my belly. The relief of nobody asking anything of me, other than that I don't kill them because that would be easy if I'm distracted by trying to swallow the sky, crunch up brittle black trees, splinters in my throat. They taste of ash and scar tissue.

I am driving a car, not killing cyclists or children or pedestrians or cats. I am not a cat killer, or a child killer or a pedestrian killer or a cyclist killer. Would I tell you? Who are you? Are you a cyclist or a child or a pedestrian or a cat? You smell of wet metal.

There is talk of death. I have pain in my abdomen. Death is in my abdomen. I don’t need to be a cyclist or a child or a pedestrian or a cat when I have death in my abdomen. I touch the place where the fire burns.

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Sensorially Challenged Volume 3

You can read the submissions received for Sensorially Challenged Volume 3 below.

Story 201

Tanked Up

by Allen Ashley

Martin likes being inside his tank of smart liquid; but I hate the confinement.

"What sort of life is this?" I moan. "I feel really out of touch."

"For the hundredth time, Simon, the whole point of sensory deprivation is to free the mind to think, to wander, to transcend."

"But all it's doing is making me miss a whole gamut. The smell of Janine's perfume; the salty taste of crisp bacon; the uplifting strings of a Mozart symphony; the touch of silk or cashmere against—"

"Yeah, I know, pal. And watching the sunset. Give it a rest, right? They're all gone."

It's true. I don't have a mouth or ears anymore. All this talking is happening telepathically. I can't see Martin, either. But I know he's there: another bodiless brain preserved in a glass jar.

Occasionally, I reach out mentally to the other unlucky survivors. I'm losing my sense of time here. We're all lined up in Perspex rows in the dark. Missing the touch of skin, the taste of coffee…


Story 202

Morning Tea

by Sarah Williams

Moving through the dawn-cold kitchen with half-sleep muscle memory, she found the tea caddy. The kettle was placed over the orange flame and the heating water began knocking against its metal sides.

Her hand dipped into the tin and her fingers found the papery cocoon of the tea bag. It felt warm, dry and almost like skin, encouraging her thumb to move back and forth across its surface.

Absentmindedly, she brushed it against her lower lip. She inhaled the smell of Christmas and Indian chai tea. First the warm smell cinnamon, then the sharp, antiseptic, nostril numbing clove.

The kitchen window sweated with steam. She watched the larger drops combining, producing little tear rivers running down the glass.

The kettle began to demand attention. She went to it before the whistle squealed its top note.

The hot water hit the teabag, which started to bleed sepia into the filling cup.

There was a pause, the chinkle, chickle of the spoon.

Then the first sip and sigh of the day.

Story 203

Caffeinated Cognition

by Shay Meinecke

Bass and treble buzz around me in a hipster cafe as I order a black, pungent filter coffee from a nose-pierced, tatted blonde, who looks more like a punk singer than an overworked barista.

I stand to the side of the sleek, wooden high-top bar and eavesdrop on a hushed conversation from two energetic girls sitting nearby.

One of them, toned with deep wrinkles and a pale face, chats with a heavier-set friend in a language I barely understand. "This and that," I presume she says, "with the guys and girls," she continues, "we went there and did that," she finishes. Her friend with rosy red cheeks and dark, bushy eyebrows laughs and snorts between lusty bites of a Danish apple pastry that makes me sort-of chuckle.

I receive the piping hot cardboard cup and find a seat by a frosted window in hopes of catching some warm sun before it sets behind the white winter mountains.

I sip the earthy, aromatic java as my bottom numbs and my heart races.

Story 204

Taste The Music

by Christopher Fielden

I'm sweating, captivated by the frenzy of a beat so powerful it sounds like a living, breathing monster. The rhythm section motor behind me, smoke clouds the air and the stage lights burn.

The atmosphere is vibrant, the crowd hungry. Ian Maiden's bass rumbles with wrath. Jack Sabbath unleashes a demonic riff. Beneath my feet, I feel the stage throb with the thrum of music. A mass of bodies bounce before me in unison.

Dwight Snake points back at me and shouts, "You wanna hear some guitar?"

The crowd roar.

"You asked for it, you metal maniacs. I give you, Dave,




I face my wall of Marshalls and allow the hum of feedback to grow. The volume becomes painful before I turn to face the audience, unleashing a solo that feels as though it's oozing from my fingertips rather than me having to play it. As I hold the final note and push down hard on my Les Paul’s whammy bar, Dwight starts hollering lyrics.

The show begins.

Story 205

Goodbye Roger

by John Rivers

"Why would I agree to that?" The earlier argument with Roger shot round Laura's head, as she collected her rubbish bin from the street. The very idea of making someone 'disappear'. No trace. Cover my tracks. All for love and £250,000 insurance.

A blue sports car briskly parked. Nervously, Laura looked. It was Roger.

Stepping out he hissed, "Well?" in greeting. "Are you in? Be a decoy. Easy."

Clang. Laura dropped the dustbin. The plan was terrifying, yet thrilling. Roger was persuasive. She loved him. Her husband, Paul, was boring. A selfish, rich bully. He knew nothing of Laura's affair.

She was rough, pushing past Roger, to pick up the bin.

"OK," she muttered.

"Sweet," said Roger, striding to his car. "I knew you'd agree."

Paul appeared, walking on crutches from an unexplained mishap. Near the primroses at their gate, Laura took his arm, curiously saying, "I'll help you cross the road."

With Paul in view, Roger accelerated hard from his parking spot.

He didn’t see the truck pull out 'til too late.

Story 206


by Lesley Anne Truchet

The warmth caresses my nakedness, liquid heat seeps through my body, extending to every extremity. Relaxed, I stretch cat-like and sigh with pleasure. Seagulls caw in quadraphonic harmony and the shhhh, shhhh, shhhh of the lapping waves on the sea shore act like a lullaby. Is that the scent of rotting seaweed invading my nostrils? Maybe. My eyes are closed in bliss and I can almost taste the salt of the ocean. 

A hand creeps from my towel. I want to feel the sand oozing between my fingers. Eyes still shut, I touch – empty space? I'm thrown back into reality. Crawling out from under the sun bed, I look out at the pouring rain, turn off the ocean sounds mood music and prepare to leave for work.

Story 207

Taking A Part

by Michael Rumsey

Amanda, darling. Your email spread a warm joy upon seeing it – such a delight to hear from you.

Exciting news. I have a whiff of a new play in the West End. Auditions on the 16th. Yes I know, dear, me doing auditions when just a glance at my CV sends one into raptures, but it's the producer. Archie Armstrong no less. Yes, him of the flowery prose and nose.

Remember when we did the open air theatre summer season with him? A breath of fresh air, we thought. Huh, how very un-refreshing his pipe smoke turned out. And then that rumour about him touching up young Margie...

But needs must, sweetie, and how marvellous it is to be at the Argon Theatre. I faint every time I see it, with its delicious aroma and divine acoustics. In my heart, I know I shall take a part.

Do come to opening night. I long to set eyes on you again and drown once more in your dulcet tones. 

Love, kisses and caresses. Randy.

Story 208


by Robert Pembroke

He looks up when the tangy aroma of vinegar reaches his nostrils, making his mouth water, and he can almost taste those fried potatoes. People mill around in front of him, but he picks out the person with the bag of chips and stares longingly.

A group of school children come down the stairs, their blue and red uniforms looking bright in the late afternoon sunlight. There is the chatter of people standing around him. While some talk into mobile phones, overhead there are train announcements being made. This  hustle and bustle doesn't bother him, because he does this journey nearly every day. Then he hears it. The train approaches, its steel wheels screeching noisily as it pulls into the platform.

Just then, he feels the harness handle being lifted from his back and the hand ruffles his fur as   once more he is standing ready to guide his master onto the train, the train which will take them home where a well-earned dinner awaits.

Story 209

In The Soup

by David McTigue

Ben couldn't believe his eyes. 'Bacon Causes Cancer' screamed the headline on his laptop. He laughed and turned to the pan of lamb broth on the hob.

"More salt," he decided, taking a slurp. "Ow, that's hot."

Ben loved cooking, particularly when alone, listening to classical music. It would finish before Shirley got home. Not a fan of Beethoven, our Shirl. She'd come in, a wall of sound, complaining about her supervisor, Megs, or Dregs, as Ben called her.

The doorbell shrilled.

Damn. Sheila. His mother-in-law.

He let her in. Sheila breezed through.

"Mmm, something smells nice and sounds awful," she chimed, instinctively picking up a spoon.

"No," Ben admonished. "Too many cooks and all that. Bacon sandwich, Sheila?"

She shook her head. "Where's Shirley?"

Almost on cue Shirley walked in. "Hello, love," she said, "Oh, hi Mum, I've had a brilliant day. Meg's off."

The rest of the conversation melded into the backround as Ben tested the broth. Off? Not off at all. Megs Lamb was still very fresh.

Story 210

Pub At Seven

by Sean Bain

"And a bottle of coke with a straw and some salt and vinegar crisps."

Yes, music to my ears, but the pong of beer and fags attacks my nose. So I'm off, like Batman to the Batslide. I gawp mesmerised by its shiny, silvery... slideyness?

Clamber those splintery steps, reach the two metre peak and touch the sun.

I hear the fizz from the bottle whilst my mouth chases the straw. Sluuurrrpp. More energy required. Crisps. Oh my god, they're like radioactive bits of crunch. My eyes water and my cheeks collapse. Now it's time to WHEEEEE. Again and again. I am a giggle machine.

I shimmy down once more, ignoring the hot summer heat, metal burning my legs. My plimsolls squeak on metal.

Racing around the grass with that 'just cut' aroma.

Squelch. So soft.

"Eurghhh." That's not grass. I clasp my nose, staring at the black and brown foot.

"Don't you dare," Dad scolds

The slide whispers, "One more go."

Decisions, decisions.

Story 211

Level Crossing

by Sue Partridge

The train suddenly lurched and, with a screech, came to a halt. June wiped her hand along the cold window, making a small spy hole through which she caught sight of a blue van rolling over and over in the adjacent field.

Alarms on the train started to ring and, with a loud clang, the driver's door flew open. The uniformed man leapt out of his cab into the rough grass and raced towards the van. As he approached, a figure crawled out of the wrecked vehicle and slowly got to his feet.

"Are you OK?" shouted the train driver.

"Yes, I'm fine," came an unsteady reply, "but my van isn't."

A faint, sweet aroma wafted in the air as the dishevelled man rubbed his head and looked down at the tangled heap of metal that was his van.

"And I think that's the end of Primrose Pies too."

Story 212

Meet The Parents

by Paul Mastaglio

Sam turned to Jackie exclaiming, "Don't look at me like that. Not with those blue eyes. P-please."

"Why, they're the only ones I've got," she laughed.

"I'm done for then. I can't say no."

Jackie grinned. "Off to meet Mum and Dad we go then."

Ten minutes later and Jackie rapped on the door knocker, making a large clang.


"Come in, my dears, come in."

Wiping their feet on the rough mat, in they went. Soon they were in the living room and being introduced to Jackie's dad, Tom Burns.

"Would you like some of my sweets?" he enthused. "Absolutely delicious. Try some."

"Hmmmm," they chorused.

Jackie's mum, Heather, followed them in. "Cup of tea, anyone?"

"No thanks, Mum. Mum, Dad. Please sit down. We've got something important to tell you."

It was suddenly very hot in the room. Jackie opened a window, ushering in cool, fresh air with a scent of primrose from the garden.

"We're engaged," she blurted out. "This is my fiance, Samantha Daniels."

You could hear a pin drop.

Story 213

My Resignation Letter

by K. J. Watson

Dear Mr Hardiman,

Today, I began my calls to the homes on your list.

I made only one visit and should probably have left when I reached the front garden. A mess of split bin bags and indecent-looking ooze belaboured my eyes. A second later, an odour from what I imagine might come from a pit of plague victims assaulted my nose. Acidic bile rose in my throat and coursed across my tongue like demonic mouthwash.

I persevered, though. A shiny door knocker lay ahead. I grasped the knocker and, too late, realised that it was thick with metal polish. Stinging gobbets of the stuff clung to my fingers.

I was trying to clean my fingers on the roughcast wall of the house when the door opened. A smiling, elderly lady greeted me. For a moment, her presence calmed my distraught senses. Then, behind her, an enormous dog barked thunderously, ripping the fabric of my eardrums. I hastily retreated.

I must therefore tender my resignation. I believe that I'm too sensitive to be a bailiff.

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Your comments:

Glynis D
It's my first writing experience on here. I'm completely green about how to do it on a computer, as I usually write by hand. How do I do it as I would live to have ago at this? Thanks.

Chris Fielden
Hi Glynis.  Just type your story into the comments box, like you did your comment :-)

Glynis D
OK, will do. Many thanks.

Ann E
Sounds like fun! One of my writing student just sent me this link. I'll see if I can get them to enter. I'll give it a go too.

Chris Fielden
Fabulous, thanks Ann :-)

Alan B
Hello Chris. Good to see the beginning of another fine challenge. Might have an idea of my own soon.

Chris Fielden
Great, thanks Alan. There's a bit of a queue with challenges now (around 12 months) but I'm always open to ideas :-)

Sivan P
Congratulations for introducing the Sensory Writing Challenge. Enjoyed all the interesting stories published so far.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Sivan :-)

Margaret E
Good morning, Chris. It was good to read about your musical success in the USA.

I'm really enjoying reading the other entries up to date. It's wonderful to have an opportunity for deep purple prose.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Margaret - and thanks for submitting :-)

Jerry W
Extremely happy for the well-deserved growth and popularity of your website. Rock on. It matters. Wilson.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Jerry :-) Fielden.

Michael R
I put my finger on it and suggest this is not a challenge to be sniffed at. I spotted it on your site before I heard about it. It is very much to my and. it seems, many others sensitive taste.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Michael - a comment that's a sensory story all of its own... :-)

Namita M
Hi Allen and Christopher. Thank you very much  for allowing me to send my writing to this project. It's not only a great opportunity to publish my story, it's a great inspiration and fulfilling to work for the charity.

I hope this enthusiasm will be continued and the people in need will benefit from this project.

With my best wishes and many thanks again. Namita.

Chris Fielden
Thanks for your kind works, Namita.

It’s a pleasure to publish your stories and support some amazing charities.

Thank you for taking part in the challenges - it's very much appreciated :-)

Sandy P
Hi Allen and Christopher. Love the challenges. It does inspire a lot of writers to, 'have a go'. Me for one.

Chris Fielden
Great, thanks Sandy. We'll look forward to reading your submission :-)

Elizabeth M
Hope I've managed to submit properly.

This is a great site. Thank you for running it.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Elizabeth :-)

You have indeed - thanks for submitting, your story has now been published above.

Carolyn C
Grace Howard and Charley Swire are already wonderful writers.

Sheila R
Chris, this was so much fun! Your contests and challenges are the best and I look forward to receiving all your emails and newsletters. To Hull And Back is my absolute favorite and I can't wait to see your finalists.  Don't ever stop!

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Sheila!

You'll be pleased to hear that stopping is not in my nature :-)

Jasmine S
Hi There, for challenge entries, do we have to use our full proper name, or can we use our penname? My penname still uses names on my birth certificate, just not my full name.

Thanks, Jaz

Chris Fielden
Hi Jaz. Using a penname is fine. I'll look forward to receiving your story :-)

Jennifer C
I love this idea. In my life overseas I have had many sensory challenges which I can write about. Nairobi was the first in the first challenge - might do a second one, or there's Mauritius in the 1960's followed by Zambia, followed by Hong Kong in the 80's - now, there's a place! Using only 175 words is a challenge in itself!

I must collect my thoughts, make a decision, and WRITE!

Many false starts to come, but such fun to do. Thank you for this opportunity.

Chris Fielden
Well, it sounds like you have a lot of experience to draw on, Jennifer. We'll look forward to receiving your story :-)

Jay B
A story for your sensorially royal collection. May it help raise more funds for the National Literary Trust.

Chris Fielden
Great stuff, thanks Jay :-)

John R
Hi Chris, thank you so much for including my story – it has given me quite a boost of confidence, as I had no idea whether it was worth including!

Thank you.

Chris Fielden
No problem at all, John, thank you for submitting.

It’s great to hear your feedback. One of the reasons the challenges exist are to boost confidence so writers feel inspired to go on and do better things. Great to hear it’s working!

David M
Hi Chris, I really enjoy these challenges, they're good exercises in editing your own material without (hopefully) losing the pace of the story. My last story's first draft contained 220 words and the second 190 before I hit target. Ah, brevity. I must convert the wife.

Chris Fielden.
Thanks, David - really glad to hear that. And thanks for sharing your editing process. I find flash useful for the same reasons as you, and apply the same techniques to my longer works now. If I write a short story of 4,000 words, I often find I can cut out 500 of them and tell the same story at a better pace.

Good luck with your wife conversion. I hope you have a suit of armour handy for when you broach the subject :-)