A Feast of Unlikely Stories

tomgirlinguk

A FEAST OF UNLIKELY STORIES


A FEAST OF

UNLIKELY STORIES

STORIES BY

TOM GIRLING

ILLUSTRATIONS BY

MATT GIRLING

2017


SHE & THE MOONLIGHT LION

2

THE ROUGH DIAMOND

8

THE FEAST

20

GEORGE PRICE

& HIS MILLIONS

26

SNAKE

36


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

2


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

from.

He described how vivid and lucid it was. He had

dreamt of a lion, a lion that was wonderfully

3


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.

4


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

5


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.

6


7


I

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

the rain.

8


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.

9


“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

minutes away.

“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

he said

“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.

10


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

11


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

up.

“A diamond?”

“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

me.

12


“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

glass.

“And where did you acquire this?” he asks.

“Found it”

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

13


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.

14


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

diamond trade”

“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.”

15


“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”

16


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.

17


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.

18


19


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,

20


and apart from the table, dark. The road, which is

surrounded by trees, and the feast are all they can

make out.

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

corpse.

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,

21


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

says anything.

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

22


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

23


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

trainers.

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.

24


25


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

26


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

every week.

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

27


prize.

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

28


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

29


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

30


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

31


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,

32


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.

33


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...

34


1999

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.

Top Score.

2041

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

35


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.

2052

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

36


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

37


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,

38


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

wouldn’t know.

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.

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