Snapshots, part one: Luke’s Night Out

I know, I’m a horrible person. Almost two months without a post, disgraceful! To make up for this, I’ve some lovely little short stories for you – Snapshots! Well, they’re little and they’re short, its up to you if you think they’re lovely or not.

Anywho, enjoy! Part 2 will be published next week, and from now on I promise to not let life get on top of me to the point where I neglect this hub for my insanity. Is anyone ever reading this? Helloooo…?

Luke Todd is taking the big city life all in his stride, falling in love with the city he now finds himself in. From the Tesco’s on Newland Avenue to the Haworth Arms, Hull is all his for the taking. Going out on the town with his friends for the first time since arriving in Hull, he feels like the king of this new found world. The decadent buildings that soar into the sky are monuments to his achievements. The neon lights above many of these buildings seem to shine down on Luke. Even in Luke’s eyes, which are now ensconced by the city, his friends become his servants, ever faithful to their king.

But now his servants decide they are hungry. This is when Luke’s world comes crashing down around him, for they realize they don’t have a penny between them. A hunt for a friendly take-away begins, one that could perhaps let them have food for free. But the more they hunt, the more the city seems to spit and snarl down on them, Luke especially.

Hull is nothing like the pastorals greens of Luke’s previous home back in the little village of Covenham. There, everything is always so simple and slow, everyone knows each other and everywhere is wonderfully calm and serine. Here, everything has now become so complicated and fast, no-one knows anyone and everywhere is bitter and dangerous.

They find themselves scouring dark, damp streets and their even darker and damper innards that seem to swallow them up as they walk. The growling cars and vans and buses that speed along the road seem to curse and threaten Luke and his party as they walk, almost as if they want to pounce on them and dig their claws deep into their nervy flesh.

The strangers on the streets gush and slither past them, like an uncontrollable river. Luke and his friends have a job trying not to drown. Finally, all sense of rank is broken and Luke embraces his former servants, now realising they are all on the same level of desperation. They stick close together and move as one, rather than Luke leading the whole group.

Finally, a place is found, but will it be cheap? Luke and his friends venture forth, away from the swarming torrents and relentless growls and into what maybe a last shard of Luke’s former kingdom. A greasy burger flipper greets them, greasier than his food.

‘Please,’ asks Luke, ‘have you anything that’s cheap?’

Their travel-worn faces and exhausted voices touch the burger flipper, but this is impossible to see from underneath all that grease on his face. He hands the group a generously piled paper plate full of scraps of various foods.

‘Free of charge.’ he says.

The group gaze at him with dumb-struck adoration and begin tucking in, with muffled and blocked variations of ‘thanks’ issuing forth from their grease-laden lips. They turn to leave, but the vision of that horrendous world outside smacks them hard in the face. The strangers outside, who charge up and down the streets, seem to create a barrier that seems impossible to penetrate. And the vehicles on the road seem to have stopped speeding, but now seem to gaze hungrily through the window at Luke and his friends, waiting for them to sink into their fangs.

However Luke steps forward, filled with a warm meal and a renewed sense of vigour. He feels his sense of leadership return to him. He will lead his friends out into that doom-laden world and back to Thwaite Hall, without fear or desperation.

Opening the door, he steps out, and begins his journey homeward…

Max Danger’s Great Escape – a short story

‘I hate Mrs Fuller; she always gives us stupid work to do. And she smells, a lot. Like when my mum put garlic and cheese in that vegetable stew we had last week. Doesn’t she ever take a shower?’

Tom stared at the sheet of paper on the table before him. Around him, his classmates were already scrawling away, tongues stuck out in grim determination. Andy sat next to him, gripping his pen and scribbling hard, his pen digging into the paper like a shovel into soil.

‘You only say that ‘cause she always catches you reading a comic, or doodling, or pulling faces at someone,’ he answered, without looking up from his work.

Tom grunted, the colourful edges of his Max Danger comic book he was reading earlier peeping out from beneath his assignment work. He’d placed the work over it so Mrs Fuller wouldn’t notice that he’d brought it in from home.

‘Y’know, if we were next door, we wouldn’t be stuck in here doing these stupid “write about your holiday” assignments!’ he nudged Andy, his sudden enthusiasm sending his elbow deep into Andy’s ribs.
‘Cut it out, Tom!’

‘I’m serious! I hear them chatting away over the fence at playtime. In science, they use these things called, erm, bumsen burners, or something like that. And they have something called D and T. No idea what it means, but it sounds like they get to play in some kind of workshop! Imagine that! They get to use drills, and saws and hammers, and a bunch of other stuff!’

Tom was beginning to bounce in his chair, until an echoing ‘ssshhh!’ flew across from the lips of everyone on Tom’s table. Tom sank back, his smile slowly dripping into a frown. He gazed round the colourfully decorated classroom, walls adorned with the work of Tom’s classmates. He let his head spin round as he examined all he could see. The small bookcases, dotted around the classroom, each had thin strips of protective foam stuck on the jagged edges.

He gave the paper the hardest stare he’d ever given it all morning. He squinted his eyes so the words seemed to join together and change into a messy blur. Finally, he buried his head into the paper, letting out a prolonged, creaky groan. Tom stuffed his hands into his grey pockets, fingering the custom-built catapult made from a conveniently-shaped branch which, to that day, Tom persists he had no idea how it fell off the tree in his front garden and onto his Dad’s car.

‘If you don’t do your work Tom, Mrs Fuller will have you,’ Tom dragged his head back up and glared at the person in front of him. Billy sneered at Tom from the other side of the table, his wrinkled face scowling. ‘She’ll give you another detention, and you know what that means!’

‘Oh shut your face, Billy, I don’t need your grief.’ Billy thrust his tongue out in Tom’s direction as malevolently as he could. Tom buried his head back into the table, but then gave Andy a slight nudge. ‘Why did we have to get stuck on Billy’s table?’

‘Look, I don’t like him anymore than you do,’ whispered Andy. ‘But he’s got a point. You know how scary Mrs Fuller can be when she’s angry.’

‘Now then children, let’s see how you’re all getting on.’Tom felt Mrs Fuller’s voice piercing through his head. She floated over to the students, hands clasped to one side, and her smile almost a full circle instead of a simple half-curve.‘Ah, Harry, such fine hand-writing. You’re grammar is improving Sarah, well done! Loving the presentation, Billy. Fabulous stuff as always, Andy,’ she then noticed Tom, still dead to the world. ‘Whatever’s happened to Tom? Oh dear, oh my. Quick, someone fetch the nurse!’

‘Tom, c’mon, wake up!’ Andy jabbed Tom as discreetly as possible.

‘He’s skiving!’ Billy piped up. ‘He’s not doing his work on purpose, Miss!’

Tom rose limply, his head lolling on one side.

‘S’alright miss, I’m here.’

He shot Billy a sharp glare. Billy squinted and flashed his tongue out for a brief moment as Mrs Fuller was standing right behind him.

‘Oh Tom, you gave us all a fright then!’ She waved an arm across the table, all of whom still had their tongues stuck out. ‘Let’s see your work, then.’ She scrutinised Tom’s notebook. ‘Oh Tom, this really is the limit! How many more pages are you going to fill up with doodles instead of actual work?’ She skimmed through the book with her thumb. ‘You’ll fill this thing up with worthless drawings in no time!’

Tom straightened with a jerk, facing Mrs Fuller as grimly as his classmates who still had their tongues stuck out.

‘But Miss, I’m not learning anything I can’t do at home,’ he snatched the assignment work and waved it in the air. ‘“Write about your holiday”, I mean, come on! Is this what I pay you for?’

‘You don’t pay me anything young man,’ Mrs Fuller snorted. ‘It’s your parents that pay me, and I’m not looking forward to sending them another letter about your conduct.’ Tom slumped back in his seat, but just as his head made for the table once more, the school bell rattled into action. ‘Alright class, pack your work away neatly and then you can all go out and play. Except for you Tom, you’re staying in and finishing your work.’

‘More like starting it!’ came a hushed voice from the table, which Tom couldn’t identify. He watched his classmates bounce out of the room and pour out into the playground.

Mrs Fuller dragged a small desk from the window to her own and places several sheets of paper down on the surface. She then took to her own desk and beckoned to Tom.

‘Now Tom, sit over here.’ She pointed to a table right in front of her desk. Tom got up and slouched over to it, dragging himself to the point of over-exaggeration. ‘Right then Tom, you will do the work that is in front of you, and you will do it without distractions, is that understood?’ Tom snorted. ‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Yes, miss,’ came a throaty mutter.

‘You know Tom, you should be happy here,’ she leaned in, fixing Tom with a stony gaze. ‘I mean, would you rather be here, happy and content, or would you rather be in that beastly secondary school we have to share with?’ She nodded towards the open window next to her. ‘Honestly, whoever thought it was a good idea to convert this place into two schools, not even on the same academic level!’

Mrs Fuller’s head then seemed to disappear completely behind stacks of exercise books and she began scribbling in each one. Tom didn’t even look at the work in front of him, and instead continued to ogle through the open window.

Outside, he could see and hear swarms of classmates running, jumping and laughing. Several seemed to be playing hide and seek among the artificial trees, some were sitting on the warm, tarmac ground in a circle, each clutching a handful of Pokemon cards. A cluster were playing football, using a worn-out tennis ball and the rusting, greenery-covered fence.

He also noticed how the fence slouched against the woodland that was propping it up. Every time a goal was made, the fence crumpled inwards, while many of the intertwined patches within the fence were worn away. The woodland spawned gaps as well, revealing tiny sights of the adjoining schoolyard, where figures in black darted all around. Height-wise, many of Tom’s classmates barely reached the top of the fence, but on the other side, Tom could barely see above any one pair of legs.

Beyond the fence lay a vast row of zig-zag-topped buildings, all different sizes. Elegantly crafted windows adorned each building, each a different style. Some had curved walls and curved roofs, with multi-coloured bricks. The only building Tom was able to awe at in school was the very building he was in, the primary school division. A single-storey, rectangular shaped building that crumpled in next door’s shadows.

Shoving his hands back into his pockets, Tom felt the rough, hard catapult, with its elastic trigger, and a smile grew on his lips. Noting the classroom door was wide-open, and Mrs Fuller buried alive in textbooks, Tom hauled the catapult gingerly from his pocket, loaded a near-by rubber into it, pulled on the elastic, and opened fire.

The resulting crashes radiated throughout the cloakroom, which made Mrs Fuller jerk upright from her work. Piles of books flew everywhere, revealing the sight of Tom head down, pen in hand, scribbling hard. Mrs Fuller leapt up.

‘What on earth is that racket? You stay there Tom, and carry on with your work.’ As she jogged to the cloakroom, Tom pounced to her desk, grabbed the keys, and followed her on tip-toe. Mrs Fuller looked about her in shock. The pinging had died down, but coats, hats and bags were strewn everywhere, like some bloody battle that had been lost. ‘Goodness me, how did all this happen?’

Tom shot his arm out for the door handle and swung it shut. Turning the key in the lock, he flung the keys in the air and dashed for the open window. A furious succession of rapid-fire knocks came from the door. Clutching onto the frame, Tom thrust one leg over the open window and dragged the rest of himself into the outside. He startled as his grip loosened, and Tom slowly felt himself sliding off the window. He collapsed onto the playground tarmac, the impact sent a sting all along his back.

‘Tom? What are you doing here?’ clearing the water from his eyes Tom pulled himself up and noticed Andy staring down at him.

‘Oh, hey Andy,’ Tom stood up, dusting himself down. ‘Can’t stop now, I’m off!’

Tom tore towards the rickety fence. A small group of year threes were engrossed in a game of Pokemon, sitting on benches at the far end of the playground, when Billy wobbled towards them and leant on the back of the bench, it creaked horribly. The young kids looked up in fear at Billy’s round, puffy face.
‘Give us your cards,’ he snorted.

‘They’re not for you!’ piped up one of the little ones.

‘I wasn’t asking, you twerp,’ Billy reached over and snatched away a handful of cards from one of the kids, crumpling them in his plump, sweaty hand, the skin of his fingers overflowing.

‘Don’t ruin it, that’s my only Charizard!’

The little kid knelt over the bench and struggled for her card, but Billy stuck out his other podgy hand into her face and held the card away, facing the opposite direction. He smiled at his prize, but noticed something that drew his attention to something else.

Billy spotted a scruffy looking boy, school uniform not tucked in, hair unkempt, and making for the school fence.

‘Tom…?’ Billy stared after in, bemused. Then, through the open window, came the echoy sound of someone knocking with all their might on a door, and high-pitched wailings of “Tom! Tom!” floated over the playground. ‘Mrs Fuller…?’

Billy dropped the Charizard card and made for the classroom, leaving a battered and slightly torn card on the ground. The small group of kids crowded round it on their hands and knees. One picked it up as nimbly as possible and cradled it in her palms.

‘That… bully!’ she spluttered.

As inconspicuously as possible, Tom attempted to repeat how he’d exited the classroom with exiting the playground. On reaching the fence, he’d found that the holes were not quite as big as he’d hoped, and he’d had to throw away his school jumper once he’d torn it to shreds after attempting to crawl through one of the hole.

The fence was far wobblier than the window, so Tom found himself swaying side to side as he clung onto the fence, pulling his left leg over the top. With one leg soon over, Tom fell into the soft, clingy woodland soil, the back of his shirt dirtying instantly.

Tom picked himself up and began to crawl through the thin row of nature that separated the schools. Branches poked into his side and scratched his face, sending more stings throughout his body. Pushing low-hanging branches and shrubbery out of his face, he stopped in his tracks. His jaw dropped in amazement.

Before him was a swirling mass of black-clad students, black jumpers with black trousers and black shoes, all acting with more violence than those classmates he’d left behind. Kids had other kids in headlocks, some chasing each other with books drawn like swords, but all of them had psychotic smiles. He was so awed that he didn’t notice the school bell rattle away, and the black mass began moving towards various doors which led into the spiralling buildings, each chimney adorning a majestic crest of gold and silver.

Tom took his first step on big kid ground, and was instantly swept away, lost within the student’s towering figures. Elbows and stomachs smeared his face, while high-flung cackles crowded over his head. The uneven flow stopped suddenly as Tom felt himself being squashed as people filed into the building. Above, Tom caught sharp glances of the sky turning from a clear blue to a thick, crinkly grey.

Tom could just reach the open door, which would give him something solid to cling onto. He stuck his hand out as best he could but continued to be pushed and shoved in all directions from the faceless crowd. His fingers felt as if they were ready to snap off. He flicked the handle with his fingertips, until a huge, hairy hand dived from above and grabbed Tom’s soil-ridden arm.

‘Oi you,’ came a deep, grizzly voice. ‘Where’s your uniform?’

*

Mrs Fuller’s knuckles were starting to throb and her voice was getting hoarse. As she continued to knock on the locked door of her own classroom, she felt something tugging at her skirt. Twisting round, she saw the plump, breathless face of Billy gasping as he pulled at her.

‘Miss, Miss, Tom’s gone over the fence!’

‘What are you talking about, Billy?’

‘It’s true Miss, I saw him myself!’ Billy began waving his arms. ‘He ran across the playground and climbed over the fence and now he must be in the big school next to us!’

Mrs Fuller brought her hands to her face.

‘Billy, I know you and Tom don’t get along, but there’s no need to tell lies like this. If he really has gone, why has no-one else told me?’ Billy’s jaw dropped, then he tried to give her an answer but all he could muster was a splutter. ‘And who told you you could come back inside during break? You know you’re supposed to use this time to refresh yourself. Go back outside please and I’ll deal with this situation, go on!’

She turned Billy round and shooed him away. Billy wobbled away, jaw still hanging loose.
Tom felt himself being heaved into the school. He stabbed at the ground with his feet, trying to gain some balance, but the hairy hand overpowered him. Once inside, he was pulled upright and greeted by a face that mixed cloud-grey stubble with bright red cheeks. Eyebrows spiked up, thick and black, while patches of greasy black hair sprang up around its head, the top being completely bald.

‘You deaf or something, where’s your uniform?’

‘Er, haven’t got one.’

The creature gnarled its teeth to Tom, huge chunks of yellow grating against each other.

‘Haven’t got one?! Right,’ regaining its clutch on Tom’s arm, the creature marched down the corridor towards a compact reception area. Regaining his footing somewhat, Tom nearly collapsed backwards at what he saw. The students all dressed in black, once shoving into Tom as if he wasn’t there, now parted wide births, letting the creature and Tom stride on.

The students now seemed to acknowledge Tom’s existence, pointing, staring and giggling at him. Whilst being pulled along, Tom noticed how the corridor was far greyer than those back in primary school. They were empty as well; no colourful drawings sprawled all over. Only the occasional plastic notice board, adorned with several A4 sized posters, most of which were filled with words rather than pictures.

The creature stopped dead in its tracks and almost flung Tom on the desk. Finally regaining complete control of himself, Tom suddenly felt rather small when he realized that he couldn’t see over the reception desk.

‘Lost his jumper. Get him one from lost property.’ The creature snarled down at Tom as a wrinkled face lent over the desk and examined him.

‘Alright Mr Grainger, name?’ the wrinkled face enquired in a shrill, shaky voice.

Tom opened his mouth and then snapped it shut. He knew this was a chance for a fresh start.

‘C’mon, c’mon! Haven’t you got a class to get to?’ the creature barked.

‘Max. Max Danger.’ Tom answered with a smirk.

The wrinkled face disappeared back over the desk.

‘What class do you have now?’ asked the creature.

Tom spluttered and spun round the reception area, looking for any helpful inspiration. He stopped with a jerk as he saw a flight of stairs with a sign at the bottom; “To the Library”.

‘English!’ he announced with triumph.

The creature’s constant frown relaxed slightly.

‘Who with?’

Tom’s spluttering resumed.

‘Mrs, er no, I mean Mr, Miss…’

A black jumper was thrust into Tom’s face.

‘Here you go,’ said the wrinkly face. She tilted her head up towards the snarling creature. ‘Mr. Webster wants you in his office right away. He needs to discuss the mock exams with you.’

The creature snorted.

‘Fine, tell him I’ll be there in a second,’ he bore down on Tom. ‘Get off to class now this instant, and get that jumper on!’

Tom scurried down another drab corridor, his view partially blocked by him struggling to get the jumper on. It was too large and baggy, and on his first attempt, Tom found his head poking up through one of the sleeves. Burrowing himself back into the jumper, he punched away at it some more, all the while gambling down a corridor he didn’t know.

He also felt himself bumping into the walls and doors, unknowingly causing several passersby to stare oddly at him. Tom gave one final punch inside the jumper, sending him off balance and into a door handle. He twisted round it, letting out a sharp cry, before feeling the door give way and collapsing onto a carpeted floor.

Scrambling, Tom attempted to get back on his feet, but his whole body seemed enveloped by the jumper. He then felt the jumper being pulled up, and he was greeted with a sudden burst of light and the gazes of several students, looking up from their work. Tom spun round, at first gearing up for a speedy exit, before a flour-white hand picked him up by the arm and brushed him down.

‘Dear me, what an entrance! Did you only just get out of bed?’

Tom twisted away from the door to meet the voice, and his mouth lolled slightly at what he saw. He’d never seen a teacher like this before. Her curled, auburn hair bounced in his face as she fiddled with his jumper. As she did so, puffs of fresh strawberry leaped out of her curls and up Tom’s nose.

‘Now then sweetheart, what’s your name?’ Tom could only open and close his mouth like a fish. The teacher’s face then beamed. ‘Oh, are you the new student?’ Tom nodded his head as if he were being strangled. ‘Oh how lovely, we weren’t expecting you until next week,’ she ushered him to a desk. ‘You can sit next to Lucy, she’ll look after you.’

There came a knock on the door and it was opened by a tall, thin man, clad in corduroy.

‘Miss Penelope, those new stationary items you ordered have arrived.’

‘Thank you, Mr Tracy,’ she looked round the classroom for a moment, while Mr Tracy disappeared back into the hall. ‘Now then, who wants to give me a hand getting all our lovely new equipment in here?’
Tom shot both his arms up in the air like a rocket, stretching them as high as he could. He stretched so hard he felt himself almost lifting off from the chair. Miss Penelope laughed.

‘Alright then, Tom, you can help me, come on.’ Tom sprang from his chair, leapt to the door, and flung it open. Miss Penelope laughed again, calmly getting up from her desk. ‘Carry on with your work you lot, we shan’t be long.’

Tom flashed a toothy smile as he held the door open. The two of them strode out into the corridor. Tom clung to her side. They soon came to a large pile of boxes.

‘Oh, Miss Penelope,’ came a wobbly voice that Tom seemed to recognise. ‘Can you come into the office for a moment?’

Miss Penelope bent down to Tom.

‘You can start taking these boxes back to class can’t you?’ she smiled down on him in such a way that made Tom blush.

‘Uh-huh,’ he stammered.

‘Good boy, I shan’t be a moment,’ she disappeared into a small office, while Tom set to work on the boxes. Picking the first one up, he realized that he was back in the reception area, and that Mr Grainger’s crinkly face was frowning down on him once again from the other side of the desk.
‘What are you doing out of class?’ he growled.

‘Just moving some boxes for Miss Penelope,’ answered Tom. ‘She’s in the office if you don’t believe me.’

Mr Grainger snorted and disappeared from view. Tom skipped back to the classroom, his arms wrapped round the first stationary box. After dropping it off next to Miss Penelope’s desk, he skipped back towards the reception desk when he heard her voice floating through the office door, which was ajar. Tom tip-toed up to it and, cocking his head sideways, leaned into the door, ear first.

‘Is that the new kid you’ve got helping you?’ asked an unknown voice.

‘Yes, strange he came early without us knowing,’ Miss Penelope’s voice seemed to stroke Tom’s ears like a feather. ‘Odd little bugger he is too, keeps on looking up at me like some lost dog. And he doesn’t seem to be able to speak.’

‘How do you mean?’ asked the unknown voice.

‘Well, he sort of stammers and splutters his words, of course I’ve only known the kid for five minutes. Maybe the poor sap should’ve stayed where he came from.’

Tom almost slid down the door, loosing his thin grip. He trudged away from the office, and gazed round at the quiet, empty entrance area. The curved, grey roof sent a chill through Tom’s bare arms.

Tom marched up to the pile of boxes, which still lay untouched at the side of the desk. He took a few steps back, then ran up to them and gave them an almighty kick. The top row of boxes spewed all over the floor, their flaps bursting. Individually packaged paperclips, pens, pencils, rulers and rubbers engulfed the floor. Tom instantly grabbed his foot and shouted in pain, hopping in circles on the other foot.

He bounced around so alarmingly and with his eyes shut tight, that he didn’t see Mr Grainger pounce out of his office and stomp towards him.

‘Hey you, what’s…’ but he got no further as Tom swivelled into him and kicked Mr Grainger in the knee with his foot still dangling in the air.

At Mr Grainger’s gut-wrenching scream, Tom eye’s flashed open and he dashed back down the corridor and made for the playground. Arms outstretched, he burst open into the now pouring rain and instantly tripped over a loose slab in the walkway, sending him into a nearby puddle. His clothes wetter and muddier than ever, he dragged himself back to his feet and scuttled round to the fence he’d entered by.

He charged along with such haste that he didn’t notice another figure, just as soggy and filthy as himself, peer up from behind a bench. Tom sprang onto the fence and clambered over it, struggling to get a footing on the damp wood poles. Once Tom was out of sight, the plump figure jiggled towards the corridor entrance, when the figure and Mr Grainger crashed into each other. Mr Grainger clawed out at the chubby mess sprawled out in the rain.

Lugging the figure inside, Mr Grainger glared down at his capture with pride gleaming in his eyes.

‘A-ha! So you thought you could escape me, eh? Max Danger, pah! I bet that’s not even your real name!’

The fleshy figure squirmed in Mr Grainger’s grasp.

‘Please sir, I’m Billy, I come from the primary school next door!’

‘You admit it then? I thought you looked too small to be a student of ours. So your name’s Billy, not Max Danger then?’

Billy began to struggle free.

‘No sir, that kid wasn’t Max, his name’s Tom.’

Mr Grainger’s face radiated purple.

‘So you have three identities, you little rut? Just you wait till the headteacher finds out about all this!’

His grip around Billy’s collar grew tighter as he yanked him down the corridor towards the reception area.

*

Mrs Fuller’s shoulder had gone completely numb. She had resigned to telling the swarming students in the cloakroom to be quiet and calm, while several other teachers hammered on her classroom door. Shouts of ‘has no-one got a spare key’ and ‘are you sure that kid is still in there’ echoed all around the cramped cloakroom.

The door then gave way with a start and several teachers fell over themselves, toppling to the floor. Bursts of laughter came from the cloakroom, with Mrs Fuller again telling everyone to be quiet and calm. As the teachers clambered back to their feet, a small boy dripping wet and caked in mud, seemed to sprint away from them and land on a chair next to an open window. The teachers edged towards Tom, teeth gnashing, but Mrs. Fuller surged past them, her arms flailing.

‘Oh Tom, oh there you are, you poor little man!’ she wrapped herself around Tom, who didn’t have time to prepare for the smothering. ‘Are you alright? You must’ve been locked in there for ages! Didn’t you try to knock? Oh, I must’ve been so busy knocking myself I drowned you out!’ Tom looked up from her as if in a dream.

‘Oh, er, hello Miss,’ he said. ‘Yes I’m fine, thank you.’

A roar came from within the cloakroom, and Mr Grainger erupted into the room, still clinging to Billy.
‘Is there a Mr Tom Smith here, otherwise known as Max Danger?’ he roared.

Mrs Fuller gazed at him, perplexed.

‘Er, yes, we have a Tom, he’s right…’

She turned round, one arm outstretched to display Tom, but he was no longer there.

‘Look!’ Billy shouted, pointing towards the window.

The scrambling figure of Tom could be seen dangling from outside the open window. He let go of the frame, flopped downwards, disappeared for a moment, then sprang to his feet and darted across the playground towards the exit. He’d had enough of school for one day.

School Assignment – a short story

My granddad used to show me pictures of this place all the time. Either the pictures were lying, or I’m at the wrong station. This place barely looks anything like Granddad’s old books. For one, it’s all in colour, and for another, no bloody trains. I could’ve just stayed in my room and examined all this with Google Maps; the teachers would be none-the-wiser. But no, Granddad had to insist I come here and look at it all for real, “really take it all in”, he’d tell me, “there’s stories buried on them platforms.” Well, I really do believe this place, just like the rest of Hull, sucks.

Down where the railway line used to be, with both platforms either side, it’s now just an overgrown footpath. Weeds claw their way up from underneath and wrap themselves around the concrete where you’re supposed to walk. If this place couldn’t survive as a station, how’s it meant to last as somewhere to walk along, when you’ve got all this crap hanging around it? You can’t even walk along the platforms properly. The left one’s got trees and bushes that try to push you off as you walk, and the right one is just lost in all the green crap. You can smell it all as well, the green stuff’s got that savouriness to it, you don’t even have to touch it to get stung, you can feel the inside of your nose stinging as you sniff.

And it’s all mixed together with that vomity sweetness from the obligatory rubbish dotted along the ground, and squashed up against the walls of the platform. There’s some crisp packets, crumpled and sizzling in the Sun, and beer cans that haven’t even started rusting yet, some patches of liquid still visible inside. In one of the old guy’s photos, I spotted some bottles dumped down the platform, where the cans now rest. I suppose we all have to move forward with the times, even the rubbish, but I don’t think Mrs Hoover is going to accept a piece on “station rubbish from the ages”.

Apparently, this place used to be some kind of passenger service, one of several dotted around the city. Granddad would show me books full of photos that had steam engines rattling through this little station, which, while narrow on the platforms, used to stretch so much it would curve and you couldn’t see where it’d end. And now look at it, just a couple of concrete slabs, and no trains running through them.

The platforms don’t even curve anymore; you can see where they stop stretching and where some houses begin. They all look fairly modern, you can spot three all huddled up together, with titled roofs and four windows each on the front. You can see the sunlight bouncing off the glass. It looks like they’ve permanently cut off the old so it doesn’t have to blend in with the new, and that the new have joined forces against the old, ready to spring into action should the weed grow any closer.

The only building that looks like anything in Granddad’s pictures is the station house itself, all done up in red tiles and white window arches. Looks alright, but also looks like it’s all blocked off. Iron railings run along the edge of the platform, so you can’t even wander along the building and peep inside the windows to see what’s going on. You’d think they’d re-open it as a museum, or something boring like that.

I drag myself onto the left-hand platform and squat as comfortably as possible, the keys in my back pocket digging into my arse cheek. I plunge into my bag and dig out the notebook I’ve brought with me. As I draw the book out and onto my lap, an old couple cycle past me, nattering away. They’re wearing horridly 90’s coloured coats and their heads are trapped in cycle helmets. I open the book at a freshly blank page, and scuttle around in the bag once more for a pen.

Oh, for God’s sake. Where’s that sodding pen? I swear I put one in here! Bollocks. Well, this was a waste of a morning. I could just twat that nearby bird with my notebook. I fling the book to one side, and stare round at this barren place. A bunch of scruffy blokes come wandering up the path from the main street where the road runs alongside, unshaven faces, greasy hair, and tracksuit bottoms tucked into their socks. Maybe they’ve got a pen between them? Oh, maybe not. On closer inspection, I guess they’ve not got room for a pen for all those beer cans and fags they’ve got glued to their hands. It’s only half eleven!

They sludge past me and convene at the end of the platform, just between where it ends and the small clumps of trees begin that protect the modern family homes from coming into contact with this grotty place. I look up at the near-by traffic, zooming away. Here, it’s instantly peaceful, the walkway bridge that once stood just at the edge of the footpath now replaced by trees and bushes, which lurch in such a way that they mimic the shape of the bridge. Certainly looks prettier than the bridge in Granddad’s photos. The graininess of those old pictures makes the bridge look bloody ancient. Now, it just looks a lot nicer, all leafy and fresh, with the wind tickling it.

Ergh, Christ that stinks! I look round and those blokes have lighted up some new cigarettes, tobacco smoke trailing everywhere. I can hear them slurping on their cans all the way up here. Don’t those twats have anything better to do? I wave away as much of the stench as possible, and shuffle up along the station. At least steam train smoke’s got some usefulness to it. It shows the train’s doing its thing. Tobacco just screws your lungs up.

Another cyclist trundles past. He looks like he might’ve been born on a bike. He’s clad in tight, spandex clothes, silver sunglasses, and thin gloves as he grips the handlebars. He knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t even slow down as he spills out into the street, glancing left and right, then charging across the road onto the further footpath, passing that old pub, ‘The Station’.

I can’t help but feel as if I’d be doing everyone a favour if I just grab those blokes, still smoking and slurping away, and just chuck them across the road into that pub. They don’t even have to land in the pub itself, I’d be more than happy to just chuck them across the road, as long as they bugger off. But there’s no-one else around here that may applaud my actions, it’s just me and those blokes.

Oh, they’re wandering off now, back into the sewers they slithered out from, perhaps? Nope, they’re off in the other direction, towards those nice-looking houses. They don’t live there of all places, do they? If the trains were still going they’d sort those guys out no problem, especially as they’re all more or less slugging along the middle of the footpath.

So, what can I write about for school? Well, nothing. I’ve got no bloody pen. What do you write about when you don’t have a bloody pen? Still, it’s not all bad. All the greenery looks bright and fluffy, there’re no prickly things as far as I can see. The platform on the other side is just totally overgrown, I remember Granddad showing me pictures of both platforms, and that one had a little hut on it. No hut there now though, just lots of fluffy green. It almost looks like you could go snuggle into the stuff and have a snooze.

This is getting me nowhere. To be honest, I can just memorize all I’ve seen so far and get it down on paper once I’m back home. Hope I remember it all. I jump off the platform and let out a smothered burst of relief as the keys in my back pocket release themselves from my arse. Why didn’t I just take them out and stuff them in my bag? Well, I might’ve missed those blokes walking off, or might’ve failed to spot that old couple trundling along, or I might not have noticed those bridge-shaped branches.

I wander back along the footpath towards the street. The sounds of the city already tear through the trees. I might come to Stepney station more often.

Gone Fishing – a short story

Morning sunshine. Today’s the day! Just keep your cover till you get here, you’ll be fine. See you soon!

I groan at my phone, what a way to start the day. I’m barely outside the house and I’ve already tripped over the doorstep. All that’s there to light my way to the station are the lampposts, with their fuzzy glow. They look as if they’re sound asleep. I should just chuck a stone at them, that’d wake them up.

Earphones plugged into my head, I slug along the street. Maybe if I turn the volume to max it’ll keep me from going back to sleep and wandering into the road. Even in the sleep-deprived state I’m in, this turned out to be a great decision, choosing to live in this part of town. As a first year, the place to be is Cranbrook Avenue, with the uni, quite literally in my case, being in your back garden.

Here, it’s further away from uni, but overall, nicer. No vodka-drenched freshers slouching against your front-door at 2 AM because they couldn’t quite make it four doors down to their own home. No potential collisions between students on bicycles and rough, city-born bus drivers on that narrow road.

My room is upstairs, at the back of the house. It overlooks the armada-like rows of adjoining gardens that belong to our neighbours. Kids play on their swing set, abusing it as kids do, twirling the swings into a tangle and attempting to walk up the slide, while their parents hang the washing on the line. No crappy plastic washstands, with clothes dribbling on the floor, surrounded by a pool of oozing takeaway boxes for these families.

At night time, even when you can’t quite see everything, it still looks nicer than Cranbrook, that’s how good it is. And here I go, off to fucking Scarborough.

Even the grottier parts of town gain a sort of vintage charm as I get closer to the station. The crumpled mix of a Polish supermarket, second-hand electrical appliance shop and a barber’s look rather snug in the pre-dawn light.

The station looms ahead, and with it the tender mumblings of a city half-awake. Cars and buses appear from nowhere in particular, trundling past me. Once I reach the station, I yank my earphones out and I’m greeted with some echoy babble from the tannoy. How do people even understand that thing? Is it there to incoherently bark out train times, or is just there to create a bit of ambience?

The place is full of engines that throb in the air, everywhere you go they change from key to key. Christ, its cold in here. There’s only me and two or three other people here. There’s some young, skinny guy; hairy face, messy hair, chequered shirt, and a caterpillar-coloured rucksack hugging his back. He nearly gallops past me, through the iron gates and bounds onto the platform like the Andrex puppy. My phone jangles in my pocket.

Hey again. If anyone asks, just say you’re filming, like last time. Don’t screw this up, or we’re all buggered.

The phone’s bright screen makes me blink, and it dawns on me that this is really happening. I can’t back out now. I almost run to the platform, where the dark, steely blue of the train comes into full view. Its engines let out a tense hum which pounds in my head. I breathe in the sharp, cold air, mixed with the faint cloggy patches of diesel from the engine. It’s a right stinker. The mix of piercing cold air makes breathing feel sore, yet the thick diesel makes it feel as though the stench becomes lodged up my nostrils.

I splutter all over the platform, tiny drops of phlegm throw themselves down onto the grey ground. My coughs ring out all around the station, soon blending in with the engine’s growls. Swallowing whatever dignity I may have left after my sudden outburst, I swing round to check the timetable. Four minutes to go, best get on board.

Stepping into the metal beast, the engines instantly die down, changing from the ringing rumbles outside to a soft murmur. The brightly lit interior only adds to the darkness outside the windows, I wonder if this is what being inside a coffin is like?

The skinny guy from before has already claimed a seat for himself, one of those four seat sections placed in the middle of the carriage, with a table in between as well. He’s not even using that space for anything. Greedy sod. I make my way to the end of the carriage and pass a fat, balding man in a one-coloured business suit. You can see the stretch marks on his stomach as it envelops the pulled down plastic tray in front of him, like his belly is eating it.

On the tray is a laptop, opened and more awake than I am, and at his side are a collision of different-sized notebooks and folders, all swelling with thickly written papers. I collapse into my seat, instantly feeling drowsier than before. I scrunch myself up as comfortably as possible, and with a whistle, the engine wrenches itself away from the station and into the dawn.

Outside, the sky’s slowly turning blue, while all the buildings zoom past with their black outlines being illuminated. At the far end of the carriage the door yawns open and Mike strides through, his rectangular name-badge gleaming along with his face.

‘Tickets, please!’ his crisp voice cuts through my drowsiness and I jerk to attention. Even though there’s a whole stretch of carriage between us, I can smell his aftershave, potent as ever, like my mum’s whiskey fish stew. He deals with the bald guy first. He jumps when Mike bends down towards him, resulting in a crashing sound and the fluttery flop of a bunch of papers falling to the floor.

‘Tickets please, sir!’

‘Oh for God’s sake, look what’s happened!’

The guy’s bald head bops up and down for a few moments, interjected with grumbles, while Mike waits patiently.

‘Can I see your ticket please sir?’

‘It’s in that bag, oh bugger, my laptop, and I hadn’t saved anything yet!’ he waves a hand toward a brown laptop bag, which Mike dives into. Turning away from the commotion, I relax a little and return to gazing out of the window.

Fewer buildings whizz by than before, as we roll into the countryside. The sun slugs its way upwards, revealing the green fields with speckled cows dotted among them. Out of the window’s corner the outskirts of the city slip further and further away.

‘Morning, Frasier!’

I spin my head round as the aftershave starts to strangle my nose. Mike’s cheery grin bears down on me, now that certainly wakes you up. He’s one of those people who smiles by showing off their teeth. Mike’s mouth is crammed with them, his mouth looks like a bag of mint imperials.

‘Morning.’

My hand scrambles in my pocket for the ticket I bought the day before. He snatches the ticket away from me and, without even looking, feeds it through the little black box that dangles from his neck.
‘Off to do some more filming then?’

‘Yep.’

As he fiddles with my ticket, I can hear the stretch of the rubber straps that hold the box around his gut. They smell vaguely warm too, like he’s had it strapped there for ages. I never see him without it on, for all I know he sleeps with it.

‘Well they’re lucky to have someone who gets up at this time, Will we be seeing you again tonight?’

‘Yeah.’

He thrusts the stamped ticket into my face.

‘Same time I take it? First train in and last train out, you’re the dedicated sort!’

‘I try to be.’

‘Well have fun, kid. See you tonight!’

And with that, Mike bounces on his way, his voice booming to no-one in particular, and soon disappears through the other end of the carriage. I’m surprised I managed to keep my cool, unlike last time. I pretty much erupted when the ticket guy asked for my tickets. He didn’t suspect anything, just looked away like I was a nutter. As the doors close behind him, the train slithers to a halt at Beverley station.

The sun’s finally starting to pour through the thinly-framed windows, several of them dotted along the inner walls of the station. As the carriage doors hiss open, an old woman gets on board, her face wrapped in a scarf like spaghetti around a fork. She heaves her plump frame along the carriage, squatting at a nearby seat.

The bald guy’s still glaring at the hairy guy, whose music seems to be spilling from his headphones and radiating all around the carriage. It’s hardly deafening, what with it being mixed into a cocktail of shuffling passengers and humming engines, but the bald guy appears agitated, as if a bee were swarming around his shiny head.

Firmly facing the window, we start up again, the moving engine now revealing that the name of the station, in plastic blue and white, was the only object adorning the sandy-brown walls. Mike tumbles through the carriage door, the black box poised for action as he bounds along the train collecting tickets. Outside the arched section, the platform slips downward and disappears. The scene changes from thick walls to loose, spiralling shrubbery, which clumsily hides buildings from view.

For about half an hour, this is my view, nothing but unkempt, spiky green that’s littered at the roots with rusty, miscellaneous railway junk. Engine wheels, strips of track, huge chunks of buffer stops that are missing their actual buffers. They’re all horribly wrapped in weeds, whatever life they had now strangled.

Through the greenery, flashes of colour and shape show signs of city life. Cars and vans appear to speed along the roads, their full shapes blocked by sheets of leafs and crooked branches, before changing to buses and lorries. Buildings perform similar acts of magic; shrivelled, boxy corner shops appear to change into drawn-out Sainsbury’s, the orange name spreads along the top like a party banner.

Right, slight change of plan. Mickey’s found that the van got fucking clamped, with all the gear in it! It’s getting sorted now, but once you’re off the train, just keep yourself occupied for a couple of hours.

God’s sake, why did I agree to this? Everyone’s short on money nowadays but I must’ve been fucked in the head to say yes to all this. My phone rattles again.

Go fishing or something. They go fishing in Scarborough don’t they? It’s got the fucking sea next to it, ain’t it?

The greenery begins to fade, as do the buildings, and are replaced by curved hilltops, dotted with short, stubby trees. The smooth gliding of the train isn’t quite enough to overpower that skinny kid’s headphones, which buzz away faintly. Another sound starts to simmer as well. The blonde girl, perhaps? No, she’s got her legs curled up on her seat, reading a magazine. I’ve never seen legs that white before, did she whack on some flour or talcum powder when she got out of the shower this morning?

What about the spaghetti lady? Nope, she’s fast asleep in that scarf. I sit to attention and peer over the rows of seats. Ah, of course, the bald guy. Sounds like he’s growling, he’s got his teeth gnashing away. And the kid’s not even noticed, he’s too busy making his thumbs dance on his phone, twazzock.

Feels like I’m falling slightly into the window, we must be going round a bend. And we are, for the hilltops slide away to reveal the Scarborough coastline, all decked in speckles of light. The scenery changes for the last time to cramped houses, shops and the odd church as we enter the final station.

The tannoy spits out our arrival, making the old lady jump awake. Crawling to a halt, we arise one by one with out belongings. I shuffle off the train, hunched and frowning. This could all go so wrong.

But as I turn the corner with the sliding glass doors in sight, a low voice starts to growl behind me, and echoes all round the station. A door bursts open before me and two security guards come charging towards me. Oh shit, have I been found it? Is it all over before it’s started? I freeze, body clenched.

The security guards dash past me and I spin round – the bald guy has caught up with the skinny kid, grabbing him by the arm and rattling him. The kid looks perplexed, probably because he’s still got his headphones on. The security guards thrust themselves into the mess, trying to break it up. I can feel my body slither into relaxation. Well, I guess I’d best get fishing.

Being an Introverted Little Weirdo

So it’s a Thursday night. University is done, just need to graduate. Until I go home, and in-between my work-in-progress routine of freelance writing, I could be at the cinema or I could be in the pub. Instead, I’m sat at the living room table blogging – being the awkward, quiet introvert I’ve been for most of my life.

I’m writing this after spending the morning in Hull’s history centre, researching my great-granddad who has a business in the city. I chose to bury myself in books. On phoning my mum and telling of my findings, which were none, she rattled ‘why didn’t you ask someone?’ My response was ‘well, I had books.’ ‘You should have asked somebody!’ ‘Why do you think I buried myself in books?’

I think my introverted self can be traced to the lack of communication between my family. That, and being estranged from my dad. – cue opportunity for sob story – Sod right off. I’m not here to receive a pat on the back accompanied by a ‘there there’. I’m here in a feeble attempt to get rid of these thoughts in my head.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Being the type of person I am has gotten me where I am today – degree, writing jobs, writing/directing a film, and doing my best in being an all around creative/mature person. If only I’d get out more. Take a few more risks than I’d normally take. In the past, I’ve often thought that because my dad was never involved in my life that equalled to him not having any impact in my life or on my personality at all.

Nowadays, I think the opposite of that. Him not being a part of me taught me to take more initiative for myself, to be more responsible/independent for myself and myself alone. Additionally, I think this may add to me being an introvert. I definitely keep to myself more than taking the initiative to bond with other people. Not that I don’t have many wonderful friends in my life. There are handfuls of people who I sometimes turn to support, and vice-versa.

But I totally put self worth above all that, in the least selfish way possible. As one of my favourite writers once said – ‘Everyone who proves their self worth to themselves alone are worth more to this world than they can possibly imagine.’ I can’t quite yet tell if being both an introvert and self worth fanatic is a potentially toxic lifestyle or a sign of awesome independence.

I suppose the one thing that petrifies me somewhat is the thought of being so lots within my own self that I just become cut off from other people. I value being alone, and yet crave the company of others, even if it means just having the radio or television on. I also suppose I’m starting ramble beyond coherency. So here’s to being an independent introvert while loving having people around at the same time.

What To Do After You’ve Had An Awesome Dream And Can’t Remember It

When I grow up, I want to be a writer – a writer of adventure stories. So it’s only natural that a lot of my dreams find me stuck in some sort of adventure.

I’m sure this is a situation we’ve all been in – you wake up on a particular morning and you feel a mixture of sadness, annoyance, and yearning to go back to sleep. Not because it’s another day of work or school, but because the night before, you had the most spectacular, most fabulous, most awesome dream you’ve ever had.

You’re sad and annoyed not only because that dream is over, but because you can’t remember it was well as you should. You know it was a fairly long and big dream, yet for some reason, you can only remember about three second’s worth of that dream.

I’ve had this experience many times. I’ve had dreams where I’ve been lost on a jungle steam train that’s going over a bridge about to collapse, dreams where I’ve been trying to stop the take-off of a massive space rocket because some dastardly villain has upset the fuel tanks somehow, but I end up lodged on the rocket blasting off anyway.

There have been dreams where it feels like I’m lost between an Enid Blyton book and an Indiana Jones movie. So why the hell can’t I remember them fully?

Here’s a little trick to help you to try and remember those nights of awesomeness. As soon as you’re awake, write those dreams down. Even if it’s three A.M, even if you can’t fully comprehend what just happened in you head, just write down everything you remember. Once you’ve done that, focus as hard as possible on those dreams and try and recall the unclear moments. Scribble down what you can.

Now you can go back to sleep. And when you wake up at a more suitable time, you’ll go back to being sad, annoyance and yearning to go back to sleep. This is because you wrote those dream notes on a piece of paper which you left lying on the bed. It’s also because you left the window open just before you went back to sleep because you were in such a state when you woke up from your dream. It’s also because the cat came in to find a tasty looking bit of paper on your bed and gobbled it all up.

No notes, no memories and a slightly fatter cat.

All you can do now is pray that today will go as quickly as possible so you can snuggle into bed, close your eyes, and hope you’ve got another night of sheer awesomeness on the way.

A child, a weakling, a chubster, a snob, a Chinaman and his wife walk into a house…

And two years later, they walk out of the house.

‘Now then’, I ponder to myself, ‘what can I write about a bunch of people I’ve been living with during university these past two years who haven’t had much of an impact on me.’

Well I guess that’s a start. The weakling has already left for home, the rest of us are planning a final, farewell meal. Now don’t get me wrong, I love these chaps. But am I going to miss them once I leave?

Well, no. It sounds awful, I know, and doesn’t do my introverted self any favours. Perhaps it’s down to why we’re all at university. Three of them are physics students, one a business student, the other a student of war and security studies. And then there’s me – the arty-farty creative writing and film student.

I chose to live with these people because, at the end of first year, I didn’t have any other options. Two, well three if you count the wife of one of the physics students, I’d never met before we moved in.
Yes, I lived with a married couple this past two years. And it’s put me right off marriage. Maybe I watch too much How I Met Your Mother, but the Chinaman and his wife struck me as just, well, not in love. It doesn’t help when the Chinaman said one day that he had cheated on her. Oh boy.

But it’s proved to be hugely entertaining living with people of this calibre. Pubs, cinemas, house parties and takeaway/Cards Against Humanity nights were fairly common and a lot of fun (even though the weakling refused to take part in the house parties. He’s petrified of social interaction to the point where he locks himself in his room).

Our highly different personalities clashed nearly as often as they complimented each other, and there are moments I shan’t forget. Such as all of us explaining to the Chinaman how you can’t leave half-eaten chicken carcases in the cupboard. Or… or… Ah, I thought I had more.

Oh well. At least only one of them was a genuine pain to live with. The chubster is just about the laziest person I’ve ever met. He skipped exams simply because he couldn’t be bothered to attend them. His room looks as if a pigsty exploded. And he keeps cats. Cats that he wouldn’t let outside. Cats that have overactive bowels. He’s one guy I won’t miss.

Yet it’s still been a highly liberating experience living with people who aren’t my family. Perhaps if I had ended up living with like-minded people, you wouldn’t be able to read this post from all the tears that would have poured into the keyboard from my eyes.

Either way, this is still another chapter of my university life drawing to a close. So overall, I shan’t miss the piled-up bins, the awkward silences whenever the Chinaman and his wife are in the same room, or the mixture of weed and cat-piss radiating from the chubster’s room.

At least this way, there are no tears. Perhaps it’s just typical male bravado that we shan’t miss each other. We all have our capes and we all love seeking out them pastures.

And guys, if any of you should ever read this, just be glad I didn’t write about those other times…