A FEAST OF UNLIKELY STORIES
A FEAST OF
SHE & THE MOONLIGHT LION
THE ROUGH DIAMOND
& HIS MILLIONS
She had the same dream every night - a lion,
with eyes that sparkled, dancing in the
moonlight. For a long time she wasn’t sure
what it meant; for a while she thought that maybe
she did, but mostly it was just part of her life.
Her life was normal, if there is such a thing as a
normal life. She was happy; she met a man and they
were happy together. She became pregnant and late
one August gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. They
named her Eila.
The first thing she noticed about her baby girl as
the midwife passed her over were her eyes. She had
exactly the same eyes as the Moonlight Lion from
her dream. They were dark, a deep grey, but not at
all dull, like a bright full moon with a twinkle from
the surrounding stars. From that day on she would
never dream of the Moonlight Lion again, but she
would forever see him in the eyes of her daughter.
Eila grew up; turning from a girl into a young woman,
all the while she was unaware of how special she
was; there was no way of her knowing.
At sixteen she started seeing a boy. He was skinny
with dark features and although not conventionally
good looking had something about him which
appealed to people. They were inseparable and
spent every available moment together, giggling
together in their own little world.
One morning they were lying in bed. The delicate
spring sun was flooding through the windows and
dancing over Eila’s soft hazel coloured hair, when
the boy looked up into her dark, round eyes and
began telling her about the dream he had just woken
He described how vivid and lucid it was. He had
dreamt of a lion, a lion that was wonderfully
majestic, powerful but at the same time peaceful.
What exactly it was he wasn’t sure, but somehow
the lion seemed to possess human characteristics. He
also talked about the way it moved with such grace
and beauty, as if it was weightless. She told him it
was a silly dream and to go back to sleep, but the boy
continued, describing in great detail the scene from
his dream: a clearing in a wood, which was soft and
mossy underfoot. Moonlight poured down in shafts
through the trees from a canvas of dark sky that held
uncountable pinprick stars. Although still sleepy he
seemed almost possessed in his recollection of the
dream. He continued telling Eila how, although there
was no colour in the dream, the whole scene seemed
to glow, and the lion had such an aura. The lion was
dancing he told her. Even though he had never seen
a lion dance that was the only way he could describe
the movement of the lion. Its flowing body leaving
glowing trails in the moonlit clearing.
In time Eila and the boy grew apart; they had loved
each other, but somethings aren’t meant to be. Of
course Eila fell in love again, this time with a young
man she met at university. Their relationship grew
and then one morning Eila was woken by mumbling
from beside her. ‘Lion, a Lion,’ he was repeating,
softly under his breath while still asleep. Later, when
he had properly woken up, he told her more about
the dream. The way he described the lion with such
exact detail took her back to her first love all those
years ago. She was shocked when he told her that
the lion was dancing. Dancing isn’t a word people
commonly use to describe the movement of animals.
Yet both the boy who she had so dearly loved and
now this man, who she suspected she might be falling
in love with, had been adamant that that’s what the
lion was doing. Eila listened carefully while he spoke
about the lion. He had never told her about a dream
before and he seemed quite shaken by how clear and
ethereal it had been. He had a slightly glazed look,
but as he focused and looked round he noticed her
eyes. They were exactly the same as the lion’s from
his dream. He told her this and she couldn’t help but
smile, and that in turn made her eyes sparkle all the
brighter. She decided not to tell him that this wasn’t
the first time this dream had been dreamt. It was all
strange enough without that added detail.
Eila finished university and moved away from
England, leaving the second love behind. While on
her travels she met the man she would finally settle
on. He was like the first two men Eila had loved
rolled into one and more. The morning after the
night he proposed to her he woke looking startled.
‘What a strange dream.’ he said, ‘About a lion’ she
replied which came out as both a question and a
statement. They went through the dream together,
and this time Eila did explain how she knew about
the dream with the Moonlight Lion.
That night when she called her mother to tell her
of her engagement, she mentioned the lion who had
danced so vividly in her lovers’ dreams; but only
of those men she had truly loved she realised. She
could hear her mother smiling down the phone. ‘Oh,
I know that lion,’ she told her daughter, ‘l haven’t
seen him for a while now, but let me tell you he is
so graceful and so beautiful.’ She explained that she
had had a recurring dream before Eila was born.
The Moonlight Lion had danced through her dreams
more times than she could remember. They agreed
it was very odd, but there was nothing sinister about
it; if anything it had a certain romance to it. Eila and
her Mother were both so full of love and happiness
that they just let it be.
A few more years passed and it was Eila’s turn to
become pregnant. When her child did arrive he was
such a handsome baby. The midwife remarked that
his little grip was much stronger than most babies’
and how unusual it was to be born with such a full
head of strawberry blond hair, like the mane of a
little lion, she said. Eila, her husband and her mother
looked at each other with a knowing smile and then
back at the baby with his bright locks and twinkling
grey eyes. ‘I think we will call him Leo’ said Eila.
saw him often enough, on the little bridge just
past St. George’s crypt. It was unusual if you
didn’t come across someone sitting, looking
dejected on that bridge, but somehow he looked like
he shouldn’t be there, didn’t belong, so far as anyone
can belong, sat on a cardboard box, on a bridge, in
Tonight however was different. It was one of those
evenings in late May when the sun seems to linger
in the sky for an extra half hour, and a warm breeze
signals Summer might finally be on its way. I had
been to The Angel for a few on my way home and it
had put a smile across my face. As I crossed the little
bridge, there he was. When I got closer he looked up
from the newspaper he was reading. He didn’t say
anything, but for some reason I felt drawn to him.
“Evening” I said.
“Evening” he responded.
He didn’t smile. I don’t think I ever saw him smile.
But there was a sparkle in his placid pale blue eyes,
which meant that he never looked miserable either.
He was wearing a large waxed overcoat, which
you would think was much too hot for the warm
weather we were having. Under it he had a tatty
shirt with tired looking jeans and scuffed boots. His
face, however, didn’t look nearly as grubby as a lot
of other homeless folks do. His hair was unkempt,
light brown and came down just past his ears. He
had stubble but not so much that you’d call it a
beard. His cheeks were almost hollow and looked as
if they’d previously held a lot more weight. I would
have found it hard to put an age to him. I would have
believed him if he’d said thirty right up to fifty.
“Lovely weather” I offered, which is a desperately
dull way to start a conversation but I didn’t know
what else to say.
“Not bad” his voice was soft, with a slight accent,
but one that I couldn’t place; and with that he looked
back down at his paper. For some reason I felt
compelled to know who this man was. I must have
walked past him a hundred times before without
stopping, but this evening my curiosity overcame
me. Maybe it was the couple of ales I’d had but I
decided to ask him if he would like a beer. I only
lived over the road in Hanover Square, not even two
“If you’re buying”, he almost broke into a smile.
Moments later I was back with two cans of lager,
and as I handed one down to him, out of nowhere
“So, you want to hear my story?”
I was slightly taken aback as it was exactly what I
wanted, but I didn’t known how to phrase it. Before
I could answer, he started.
“About fifteen years ago I was in London, on the
streets. Back then I didn’t know how it worked. I
was new to this life” A fly landed on his hand and
he flicked it away into the fading light as an endless
stream of glowing red tail lights dragged trails into
the tunnel beneath us.
“I was sleeping rough round the side of this Indian
place. Not the nicest place, but not the worst. I had
already been told to bugger off by the owner a few
times, but it was a good spot so I kept going back.
Then one night one of the younger waiters comes
out for a fag and sees me. I make a move to go but
before I do he holds his hand up and says ‘Wait there
a second.’ A couple of minutes later he comes back
with a curry in one of those silver take away trays.
As he hands it to me he says “Look, the owner’s not
about for a few days and I know it’s him who tells
you not to hang around here. So why don’t you sleep
round the alley for a couple of nights and I’Il make
sure I bring you a curry, as long as you keep quiet
and don’t disturb anyone.”
I was sitting with my back against the wall of the
bridge and I shifted my weight to stop the pins and
needles in my foot as he continued.
“I’d only been on the streets a couple of months
then and I hadn’t had much luck. And this is the
first time anyone had given me anything more than
a couple of quid or so. To know where I would be
for a couple of nights and to have a warm meal was
the best thing to happen to me for a while. And this
kid’s kindness had come out of nowhere. So on the
second night, this kid, Raj was his name, comes and
sits with me while I eat. And tells me about how
he had slept on the streets himself in Delhi when he
was younger and knows what it’s like. It meant a lot,
that conversation, and that night, that’s when it first
happened. As I was falling asleep, I felt a tickle in
the bottom of my belly. And it rose up like a hiccup,
it felt scratchy around my throat and all of a sudden
I was spluttering and choking. I put my hand over
my mouth to try and block the noise, but I couldn’t. I
coughed something the size of a penny into my palm.
It looked like a stone or something, but unusual,
with sharp edges. It was covered in gob and black
spit, and it smelt all wrong. So I go to throw this
lump on the ground, but as it hits the concrete it
makes a funny sound. And then the light from the
take away’s window hits it in a such a peculiar way
with colours coming off it like a dull rainbow. So I
grab a serviette from the remains of my meal and
go over to where I had thrown it, and start wiping
the surface of this lump, this stone. And there it was,
what looked like a shard of glass, but more than that,
like a diamond....”
I crushed my empty lager can in my hand and stood
“Well” he replied “obviously I knew it couldn’t be a
diamond. I just coughed it up. But it certainly looked
like one. The next day I tried to smarten myself up
the best I could. Which wasn’t very smart, mind
you. And I wandered round Bethnal Green for a bit
looking for a jewellers. Not a smart one but one that
looked like it would take anything. After a while
I found one, can’t remember the name now. All I
remember is it had a red and gold door and a name
in large letters across the window. As I walk up to
the counter, the little man behind the desk looks
through his little round spectacles down his nose at
“Can I help you?” He says with disdain. I fish out the
stone from my coat pocket and lay it on the counter.
I’d cleaned it up good and proper that morning.
“Would you be interested in buying this Sir?” I said.
I see the little man’s beady eyes widen. He picks it
up and takes a quick look through his magnifying
“And where did you acquire this?” he asks.
The man stops looking at the diamond and places it
back in my hand and begins shouting
“I want you to get out of my shop right now. You’re
lucky I don’t call the police. Now get out!” I was
young back then and a bit jumpy. The way this man
spoke to me unsettled me. I can clearly remember
turning and running out. I step out onto the pavement
and look down at the stone in my palm, and as I do
a man in a suit charges past, reading a newspaper
while he walks and bumps right into me. The stone
flies from my hand, skids across the pavement and
disappears down a drain by the curb”
“Well that’s quite some story. But I think I should be
getting off now.”
I needed the toilet quite badly; the beers adding up
in my bladder and I was keen to get home. As much
as the story amused and entertained me, I wasn’t
sure what it meant and he had clearly dreamt it up
on one of his lonely nights.
“That’s just the beginning” said my new friend.
“I’ll tell you what”, my curiosity (and possibly my
kindness) getting the better of me “Why don’t we
have the next beers in my backyard, ey?”
He didn’t say anything. Just got to his feet and walked
along side me. He was taller than I had expected and
took long strides. Moments later we were sitting in
my back yard with a second can of lager each.
“So, your story?”
“A couple of years on from that last incident, I’m in
a different part of London, but in the same situation.
Sleeping rough and with no money. It’s the weekend,
and I have just managed to get to sleep in the middle
of the night. It’s quite hard to sleep with the cars and
drunks. I’m just dozing off when all of a sudden I’m
woken up by a group of lads, about three of ‘em. One
of them is pouring beer over my head. I get up and
another kicks me hard in the stomach and knocks
the wind right out of me. I’m all dazed and groggy
and then I get another kick. And just as I’m thinking
this is gonna end really badly, a fella from across
the road runs over and starts pushing the lads, grips
one up against the wall and they scurry off into the
night. So this bloke sits down with me and makes
sure I’m okay. Stays with me for half an hour or so.
Don’t know what I would have done without him.
I must have drifted off because suddenly I was
coughing myself awake and he wasn’t there. The
coughing got worse and there it was again. A stone
in my hand. Just like before, a beautiful translucent
stone, I clean it up and put it in my pocket and try to
think what I can do with this one.
He pauses and looks around at my yard like he’s
only just sat down and is taking in his surroundings
for the first time.
“I knew that if I wanted to make some money I
needed a different plan, which is all very well
saying, but it’s not like I have any contacts in the
“So what did you do?” I urge him to continue. The
night has drawn in and a sea of stars are glimmering
in the pale city fog like silver fish in a net.
“I asked around the streets but no one was interested,
or trusted me, but after a while I manage to sell it to
this dodgy bloke I knew for twenty quid, which was
a lot to me”
He scratches his nose again and continues,
“Thing is that the bloke who bought it off me got
hit by a car the next day, crossing the road and not
looking. He was ok in the end but I don’t know what
happened to the diamond. And I lost the twenty
quid. Just couldn’t find it next time I went to my
pocket for it.”
“Has this happened again since then?” I ask, not
sure if I believe any of it anyway.
“More than once, in fact it’s happened seven
times in total, and every time I’ve tried to sell the
stone something happened” he continues “There
is something that connects all the different times
though, someone has always been genuinely kind to
me. The thing about living on the streets is people
treat you differently. Not many people treat you
with respect. Some people will look at you and smile
and then look away again. There are other people
that will throw you a quid or 50p but don’t even look
at you. Most people just completely ignore you. But
do you know what you realise after a while?”
He takes a long glug of his beer.
“That people aren’t being nice to you because they
like you. They’re being nice to you to make them
feel better about themselves. They might sort of care
about you, but not really. They just want good karma
and to be that guy who gives money to homeless
people. But then there are a few who do it because
they actually care. There was one guy I knew who
used to save up his coppers and give them to me.
Normally about thirty quid. That goes a long way
when you’re on the street. And there’s one lady who
walks past here who gives me a cup of coffee three
times a week. Now those people care. They’re doing
it for me. Not for themselves”
I check my watch and see that it’s past ten and he
catches me checking.
“Well every time it’s happened, coughing the
diamond I mean, it’s been just after someone
has been genuinely kind to me, not just to make
themselves feel better”.
He stops talking and lowers his eyes and then raises
them again is if willing me to question him further.
“Well what’s happened to all these stones?” I ask.
“That’s the thing. Every time I try to sell one it never
works out, and it never works out for anyone else
either, just like I told you earlier. That’s just the way
it is and here I am, still on the streets”.
I’m getting tired now, and could tell there wasn’t
much left of his story. I didn’t really know how to
tell him he’d better go, but before I could tell him I
was going to bed and he needed to leave, he got up.
“I better be off” he says.
There was something in the tone of his voice that
caught me, and without really meaning to I offer him
the sofa, just for tonight. I get him an old sleeping bag
from under the stairs and let him in through the door
from the back yard. I go to bed hoping that I haven’t
made a huge mistake, imagining going down the
next morning to find that this man I hardly know
has stripped my flat of everything I own.
When I did wake the next day, the man, I still don’t
know his name, has gone and the sleeping bag was
back under the stairs. All that’s left, sparkling in the
morning sun, sitting on the low living room table is
the most perfect diamond I’ve ever seen, not large
but so, so pretty, throwing rainbow shafts of light
across the ceiling. It was just as he had described.
It’s beautiful, I still have it. That night was years ago
now, but whenever I feel down or have a bad day I
look at that stone and wonder where he is now, and
I’m thankful for what I have.
hey step off the bus into the darkness, and it’s
already there waiting for them; a feast laid
out on a long table by the side of the road. The
bus, which is a long, old, colourless vehicle pulls
away with flapping doors and a low rumble in its
engine. The three of them look around at the eerie
scene. Although there is no obvious light source, the
table seems well illuminated, as if lit by streetlights.
Mist rises up around the group’s knees, as if they’re
in a corny horror film. The whole place is damp,
and apart from the table, dark. The road, which is
surrounded by trees, and the feast are all they can
The centre piece of the feast is a moose. A whole
moose; horns and all, matted fur with dull eyes.
Flies circle its cavernous nostrils. It looks far too
heavy for the table it’s lying on, which is one of
those flimsy ones that you might see at a school fête
or church bake sale. There are also several bowls of
bright yellow jelly which must be either lemon or
pineapple flavour. The rest of the feast is made up
of what looked like cheap, stale bread rolls. It’s all
sat on a red & white check paper tablecloth. There is
a sickly sweet stench rising from the feast; a rotten
twang which must be coming from the moose’s
The three of them make up an unusual looking group,
all in waterproof tops with hoods, caps and Adidas
tracksuit bottoms. There is no way to tell their age in
the darkness, but it’s safe to say they are teenagers.
The first one towers over the others but is skinny,
the third one is very much the opposite-short and
wide, and the middle one doesn’t have much worth
describing about him.
This isn’t the feast they had been expecting. They
had been hesitant to get off the bus when the driver
had announced their stop. That hesitancy has now
changed into apprehension and fear, though they
didn’t want to admit that to each other. They move
closer to the feast, which in itself isn’t at all appealing,
ut at least it’s light, and none of them want to stand
on the edge of the darkness.
Plastic cutlery in plastic wrappers litter the table.
The tallest of the three unwraps a set and prods at
one of the bright lemon yellow jellies. Still no one
Now that the boys are in the light they can make
out the trees on the other side of the table. They’re
covered in a thick translucent resin that hangs from
the gnarled branches. This goo is dripping in long
icicles, and they realise that it is the unlikely source
of the light. In silence they watch the goo flow from
the trees, so slowly that you can hardly see it move.
The icicles are already the length of the boys’ arms
and hover above the table, laden with its strange
and macabre feast.
As the substance grows it seems to get brighter, and
in turn the rest of the scene seems darker; beyond the
trees behind the table is almost pitch black. When
they look down the road to where the bus left them,
the darkness seems to be closer, the night penning
them into the table and the few trees that surround
it. The boys want to move away from the table and
the glowing goo, but at the same time they feel drawn
to it, and they don’t want to face the alternative of
the unknown, unrelenting darkness. This isn’t what
they expected at all.
The goo has made its way to the table, forming in
puddles of thick, viscous sap, swirls of air enclosed
within. The moose has globules running through
its stale matted fur. As the rotting body is slowly
engulfed by the goo it magnifies and distorts the
form of the moose twisting its lifeless features into
gruesome unsettling bulges.
Closer towards the edge of the table it creeps, and
although this has taken a few minutes the boys still
haven’t moved, or even said anything, only worried
nervous glances are shared between the teenagers.
They can’t seem to move from where they’re standing,
an arms length from the table. They are transfixed
by the slow movement of the substance, which is
now starting to drip to the floor. Its progression is
mesmerising and the flow seemingly endless from
it’s unknown source above them in the trees.
As the sap builds at the boys scuffed trainers they
turn to go but the darkness is so close and thick
behind them that they can’t bring themselves to
move into it, to be swallowed by its nothingness. The
scene seems to be shrinking, focusing in on the three
boys, the feast and the ever expanding substance.
Stuck between the feast and the darkness the boys
have nowhere to turn. Finally the tall one tries to
break the silence and call out but no sound comes
from his open mouth. The realisation that he can
no longer talk sets a panic upon him, the light from
the goo reflects against his pale skin, and flashes
in his dark eyes. The other two boys are caught in
his distress and turn to run, but the night is pushing
against them. As soon as they take a step away from
the feast and the table they become immediately
disoriented and are forced to step back into the light.
The flow seems faster now and the boys can hear, it
squelching and bubbling over itself, the noise isn’t
loud, but being the only sound they can hear it is
magnified and accentuated; it fills them with further
discomfort and dread. The boys are now ankle deep
in the substance as it rises above the bottom of their
track suit bottoms, having already engulfed their
By now they are all trying to scream, to call out, to just
make a sound, but none of them can, their faces are
twisted in horror and glisten with sweat in the cold,
damp night. They resemble startled horses; wild eyes
and flared nostrils, panic spreading through their
writhing bodies. It’s only a few minutes before it’s
at the boy’s knees. It’s as if they’re in quicksand; the
harder they struggle, the more stuck they become.
By now they are clutching at each other as tears roll
down their silent contorted faces. This wasn’t what
they were expecting at all.
It’s all over in less than fifteen minutes, the boys
are swallowed up by the faceless pulsating mass of
sap. The feast had eaten. It was satisfied for now, but
soon it would be hungry again. Until then it would
wait for the bus and its driver to bring along some
more greedy little treats for it to devour.
eorge Price had always been a slightly strange
man. He liked to do things in particular
ways and was fond of lists and regimes. He
was partial to the finer things in life and had many
acquaintances, but not so many friends.
George was tall and thin. He looked slightly
awkward, as if his skin was stretched too tightly over
his face, so that he seemed to be perpetually sucking
a lemon. He wore his greasy dark hair in an out of
fashion, side parting. He considered his clothes to be
smart casual but others would call them drab.
On the eve of his 34th birthday, he decided on a whim
to buy a lottery ticket. The next day was Saturday,
his birthday, and it just so happened that he was the
sole winner of the jackpot, 13 million pounds.
The first thing George did was to move out of his
small house in North London and into a grand
mansion in Oxfordshire. Next, he took great pleasure
in employing a butler named Forbes, who was a
plump little man with a well groomed moustache,
who didn’t say much, but was very direct when he
did. After that, he immediately became bored.
George had more money than he could ever spend.
But somehow he still wanted more. He wasn’t
concerned with charities or investments; they
simply didn’t interest him. Instead he decided he
would use his fortune dreaming up over-the-top
ways of selecting numbers for the lottery each and
The more ridiculous, expensive and ludicrous the
scheme, the more it appealed to George. The idea
had come to him when he remembered how, at a
village fete years earlier, they had run a competition
by marking a grid in a field and setting a cow loose
to see which square it would eventually pat in, the
owner of that particular square taking the grand
So that was exactly how he started. He ordered
Forbes to acquire six of the finest Kobe calves
money could buy. Next he instructed his recently
employed groundsmen to mark out a 7 by 7 metre
grid surrounded by a fence in the grounds, and to
number the squares 1 to 49. Then one by one he let
the cows loose in the enclosure and waited for them
to do their business, thus giving him the six numbers
for the next week’s lottery.
George was the kind of man who liked to make the
most of his money and he wanted more from these
extremely expensive beasts. He was rather proud of
the following idea. He would have the cows butchered
and then throw the most extravagant barbecue for
49 of his closest acquaintances, the fatter the better.
Forbes was to allocate each of the guests a number
from 1 to 49, though they wouldn’t know it. Then he
told Forbes to note down every time one of the guests
came up to the barbecue, which was being run by a
famous Michelin starred chef who he had privately
employed for the event. At the end of what everyone
told him was the finest barbecue they had ever been
to he had his next six numbers by simply checking
which 6 of his 49 guests had eaten the largest amount
of his prized beef.
It was in fact number 23, Charlie Figg, who ate the
most; a whopping four burgers, five steaks and a plate
of ribs over the course of the afternoon and evening.
Kobe beef costs almost £100 a pound; George’s first
event had been a roaring success but it set him back
the best part of a million pounds!
Not all of George’s ideas were quite so extravagant.
He did enjoy a day of sport watched from the most
expensive seat or box money could buy. One of his
favourites was a day at Lord’s with a slap up lunch
and as much Pimms as he could guzzle. He would
bring Forbes along for company and collect his
numbers from the scores of England’s top 6 batsmen.
If anyone scored a duck or made a half century, he
simply skipped their score. He had similar ploys
for the football, golf, rugby and baseball, often
chartering private flights over to the States. The only
thing that mattered to him was that he was there, it
was expensive and he got his precious numbers.
One of his more wonderful and exciting ideas
was to put on a hot air balloon race across the
English channel. He of course allotted 49 places
and personally put up the prize money of £200,000
pounds. Teams came from across the world and
George himself received a good deal of media
coverage; it was a marvellous event. The winning
team, “Sky High”, came from Holland and were
numbered 21. His other numbers were 5,8,28,40,44
with teams from Colombia, New Zealand and Wales
also taking prizes.
A few years had passed and although George hadn’t
won serious money again he wasn’t fazed, remaining
determined to continue. Even the knowledge that he
had spent over half his money in two years didn’t
put him off. He was truly addicted to his own sport.
George’s life wasn’t perfect though; he was lonely,
having never been much of a hit with the ladies. But
his wealth allowed him to overcome this problem,
so he decided to buy himself some affection. Every
Saturday night for six weeks he chose himself an
extremely beautiful and highly expensive escort
from a much respected and discreet agency. Don’t
think for a second though that George was going to
spend such large sums of money without somehow
getting his six random numbers. It was simple. All
he did was at some stage during the evening casually
ask when the girl’s birthday was, normally under
some corny pretence such as finding her star sign.
By adding the two numbers of that date together he
got his number. So Holly whose birthday was the
5th of May gave him a 10, and Layla who was born
on the 20th of November made a 31.
Although all this makes George out to be a rather
horrible character he did have occasional flashes of
generosity. One example was the Easter Egg hunt
he gave in his own resplendent gardens. Forbes
constructed a list of 49 children from the surrounding
areas who were in some way underprivileged or
had unfortunate lives. He then sent them all formal
letters inviting them to his Easter Egg hunt where
each gold-plated egg was worth £1,000. He enjoyed
overseeing the whole process immensely and came
to think of himself as a sort of Willy Wonka figure.
The golden eggs which his groundsmen distributed
around the garden were each numbered, as were
the children. So that when the first six children came
running back up the steps of his grand house, each
with a shiny golden egg in their hands he had not
one but two sets of new lottery numbers. He quickly
lost interest in the hunt after that, as he didn’t really
care for the children. What he really wanted were
his numbers and a bit more public recognition to
add to his air balloon competition notoriety.
George again became bored and decided to go
travelling. Forbes booked a round the world trip
stopping in all seven continents, with no expense
spared. He then noted the temperature upon
landing in each destination and this provided him
with another precious set of numbers: Istanbul-24,
Kenya-21, Tokyo-20, Melbourne-16 and Buenos
Aires-13. Antarctica was below zero so he ignored
that and just felt rather gloomy and cold for the few
days he was there.
His stop in North America was New York City and
he had thought up a particularly satisfying method of
procuring his numbers while in The Big Apple. He
made Forbes book a suite in the 6 most expensive
and exclusive hotels that were situated between 1st
and 49th street in Manhattan, so long as none of
them were on the same street. The street numbers
provided the first set of numbers. His stay at the
Four Seasons cost him $45,000 for his one night in
the penthouse suite.
While dining at these high class establishments,
he instructed the sommelier to bring him what
he considered to be the finest bottle of red in the
building and the vintage of the wine provided him
with his second set of numbers. For example, a 1945
Bordeaux would simply be 45 but for anything from
the second half of the century he would subtract 50,
so a ’78 would give him number 28.
Still, none of these ridiculous methods provided
George with another win. Deep down he didn’t
really expect them to. He just loved the sport of
it: the alligator racing, the pheasant shooting, the
emu breeding, the chilli eating contests, the ale
drinking tournaments, the destruction derbies, the
human bingo, the naked mud wrestling, the poker
tournaments, not to mention the endless horse races
and camel relays. It was all a lot of good fun. But
his money was starting to run out. Forbes’ wage
along with the ground staff’s came to hundreds of
thousands a year. And a normal day out for George
picking his numbers normally reached tens of
thousands of pounds. So by the time George’s 40th
birthday came around he had not only spent all his
fortune, but had in fact accrued quite a significant
debt. He decided enough was enough. He must stop
playing the lottery and go back to a normal, everyday
life with a normal boring job.
The day after George had made his big decision
he was crossing the road when he looked down to
see a lottery slip. Instinctively he picked it up and
checked its date. He would never know that this
in fact was another jackpot winning ticket because
as he straightened up to step onto the pavement,
he was hit head on by the number 7 bus. In the
ambulance on the way to hospital drifting in and
out of consciousness he looked up at the paramedic
and saw across her identification badge the number
12 22 16 27 38 37. What wonderful numbers for the
lottery he thought as he quietly slipped away.
ou ever hear that urban legend about a woman
who has a pet snake that starts sleeping next
to her? And when she asks the vet about it she
is told that the snake is sizing her up to eat her...
A green light illuminates my eyes, projecting creepy
shadows up across my face. I’m sat in the shadows
at the back of the bus on the way home from school.
It’s early December and it’s already dark, even
though it’s barely four o’clock. My eyes don’t move
from the screen of my 5110 as my snake creeps
closer and closer to its high score. A dull beep is
uttered every time the snake gobbles up another set
of black pixels. I can’t hear that though, as I have
my headphones in, listening to “The Slim Shady LP”
on my Sony Discman for the third time that day.
Beep……...Beep……..almost there. Here comes my
stop, I hit the virtual black wall. Game Over, 1,548.
My new device should be arriving any minute now.
I ordered it almost an hour ago so why isn’t it here
yet? Just as I’m thinking this my current, now out of
date, device buzzes my insert. That must be it now. I
walk to the door and open it to a drone with a cargo
box that must contain my new device. As I step
closer it automatically reads my insert and releases
the box. A quick double beep signals it’s about to
leave, and then it’s off into the smog laden sky, out
of sight in a matter of seconds.
I take the box inside. There doesn’t seem to be much
new about the device, it looks much like my current
one. Some people think I’m pretty old school for
even having a device these day; a lot of younger
people don’t bother and just use an insert paired
with a lens. Not me, I still like something I can touch.
There are no paper instructions, those haven’t been
around for at least fifteen years. My current device
has connected to the new one. A message flashes up
on the screen
READY FOR REGENERATION.
CONNECT TO NEW DEVICE.
I already know what to do. I may be getting on a
bit now, but I’ve done this with the last couple of
devices; I lay my old device next to my new device
so they are just touching at the tips. A short dull beep
and the new device opens and swallows the old
one; it remains the same size, and immediately has
all my data uploaded to it. I remember when they
first brought in the regeneration series of devices,
it seemed incredible that one device could consume
another just like that, no change in size, no wires,
no waste. People would gather round to watch when
people got a new device - to watch the old one be
engulfed by the new. Of course the novelty wore
off pretty quickly and now people regenerate their
devices all the time.
Even I’ve stopped using a mobile device now, just
an insert with a lens. I still have a device at home
though; it’s almost up to date, I regenerated it last
month or so. I should really get the update morphed
and let it regenerate my old device, swallowing it
and its precious data and hardware in a matter of
seconds, but I’ve been busy and haven’t found the
time. My device hovers around my house after me,
digitally tethered to my insert. It’s right there if I
need to upload any information to my insert or lens.
It’s become a constant presence, silently shadowing
me, until I leave the house and it returns to its
charge dock. It also returns to the dock while I sleep.
My insert can sense the change in brain waves and
just like that it returns to the dock in the kitchen. As
soon as my alarm goes off in the morning (which is
my insert sending a soft vibration to my insert) my
device is there again, hovering by my bed ready to
upload any news of interest to my insert and lens.
The only time my device isn’t following me in my
peripherals is if I get up to go to the toilet in the night.
I finally get round to morphing myself a new device.
I think back to when morphing first started around
thirty five years ago, it was called 3D printing back
then. I download the data for the upgrade for my
new device to my morpher and in less than five
minutes it’s built the upgrade. My existing device is
notified and hovers over to the new one. Although
a lot has changed in technology in the last ten years,
the regeneration process remains pretty much the
same. The new device devouring the old one, the
materials and data being too precious to waste or
fall into the wrong hands. Devour might sound like
a strange word to use but I’ve always thought there
was something quite animalistic about the process. I
know they’re just machines but the way they open up
and take on something the same size as themselves
eminds me of watching old wildlife documentaries
where a lion or maybe a python would easily
consume something their own size. It’s a shame,
you don’t see so many wildlife documentaries
these days though.
A few nights later I wake in the night to go to the
bathroom. Although I’m slightly drowsy I notice
that my new device is hovering in my room and
not at its dock. Its strikes me as slightly strange,
but maybe it’s a new feature of this device. I think
nothing of it and I’m asleep again the moment I get
back into bed. The next morning I remember my
device being off its dock in the night and I go to pull
the data on the new features onto my lens, but on
second thoughts those data files go on for ages and
there’s just too much to take in.
A week later and again I wake in the night. This
time my device isn’t just in my room it’s hovering
close enough to my bed to almost reach out and
touch. It’s so quiet though, I can’t help but wonder
if it’s always there in the night. These new devices
must need less charge time than the last generation.
Younger people were getting so dependent on their
devices, they probably like the idea that their device
is at arm’s length if they wake in the night.
The next day I ask an old friend, while we’re
connected through our lens, if he has noticed the
new generation of devices leaving their docks more,.
He says he hasn’t, though I’m not sure if he’s really
listening, I have a suspicion he might be watching
something else on his lens at the same time. Ok,
never mind, see you soon I tell him. I realise as I
disconnect my lens that I can’t remember the last
time I actually saw him properly, in the flesh I mean,
rather than on our lens.
I’m sure my device is getting bigger, but I’ve had
so many over the years that I could just be getting
confused. It’s not impossible that it’s morphed
itself to a new generation either, I really can’t keep
up these days. I thought I’d never lose track of
technology. Back in the twenties I had such a grasp
on everything, but it’s moving so fast now that it
could be common for a device to change size and I
Again in the night my device is there, hovering above
me, tracking back and forth. Was that a dream? Was
my device really there last night silently watching
me, monitoring me?
I wake, there’s a funny sensation in my feet, what is
it? I struggle to see in the darkness of my room. Its
my device, I sense its low hum, I can see it there at
the end of my bed. I can’t move, there is a numbness
climbing up my legs, I can see my device, it’s big,
sinister, are my feet in it? What’s happening? My
head is going fuzzy, my knees feel like they’re being
electrocuted, is this a nightmare? My device is fully
open, there’s a low light coming from it, it must be
ten times its normal size. Am I getting swallowed
by my device? This can’t be happening. I can’t think
anymore, I feel weak, my arms are floppy at my
side, the light is all I can see, it’s consuming me and…
Beep…Beep. Game Over.
NOTHING CONNECTS THESE FIVE SHORT STORIES,
SAVE FOR THEIR UNLIKELY NATURE.
FROM A CAUTIONARY TALE OF THE DIGITAL AGE,
TO A HOMELESS MAN’S STORY OF UNEXPECTED KINDNESS;
FROM THE DREAMY LYRICISM OF THE MOONLIGHT LION,
THROUGH THE MISCHIEVOUS TALE OF THE ODIOUS GEORGE
TO THE UNMITIGATED HORROR OF THE FEAST.