Monthly Archives: July 2013

Last Orders by Aidan Thorn

The Royal Oak had been quiet all night.  George wondered how much longer he could keep the place afloat.  It hadn’t been completely dead.  A few punters had kept the pulse ticking all evening.  Alf and his missus had been in for an hour, turned up a couple of minutes after seven-thirty and left not a minute after eight-thirty.  They had the same routine every night, pint of Ringwood for Alf, white wine spritzer for the missus.  A couple of lads had stuck a pile of coins on the pool table and steadily fed it all evening whilst taking it in turns to get the beers in between games.  There was also a young couple that had sat in the corner most of the evening gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes barely saying a word to each other – probably a first date.  Who said romance was dead.   The lad had bought the drinks all evening.  George wasn’t convinced either of them was old enough to drink but he was hardly in a position to turn away the custom.

People claimed the smoking ban was killing off the pub business.  George could see that it had contributed but he wasn’t going to grumble about it, he’d never been a fan of smoking having watched his old mum die of emphysema after chugging through 20 a day most her whole adult life.  No, George laid more blame at the doors of Simon Cowell, Ant and Dec and that fruity looking Lloyd Webber prick.  What hope did he have of attracting the hard of thinking out of their armchairs and into his pub when he was competing with naked fat people dancing and celebrities being mildly tortured – put like that it held a certain appeal, he  had to admit.

A couple of minutes before last orders the door opened.  Rather than getting excited at the prospect of getting another seven quid in the till from selling the two men that walked through it a couple of pints, George’s heart sank.  The sight of Neil Andrews and Gary Jacobs always had the same effect.

‘Hello George, usual please,’  Andrews called as he approached the bar.

‘Tonight lads? But you don’t usually come in until Sunday,’ George said, nerves clear in his voice.

‘Well we’re here tonight,’ Andrews said, picking up a glass from the bar top and dropping it to the floor. ‘Oops,’ he said, as he and Jacobs stepped sideways slightly to avoid the splinters of glass as they flew.

The action on the pool table came to a halt and one of the two lads picked up the three remaining one pound coins and made to put them in his pocket.

‘You can leave those there lads,’ Jacobs said without turning around.

For a moment the lads looked like they were considering spinning their pool cues and rushing Andrews and Jacobs with the fat ends.  It looked easy in the movies, the reality was they were frightened and out of shape – from too much time on their arses watching movies.  They placed their cues on the worn green felt and left without taking their eyes off of Jacobs.  George thought he heard running before the door fully closed.

‘Four-hundred George,’ Andrews said.

‘Neil, Gary, it’s Thursday night lads. I haven’t taken four-hundred quid all week yet. I wasn’t expecting you until Sunday,’ George pleaded.

Gary Jacobs walked over to the pool table and picked up one of the cues.  There was still a clammy warmth to it from an evening’s use.  He swung the cue, bringing it down violently against the side of the playing surface.  It snapped and splintered and he ran the splintered end across the felt , tearing through it.

‘Four-hundred!’  Andrews repeated with increased menace.

‘I’m sorry, really I am, but I just don’t have it,’  George’s voice trembled.  ‘I can have it for you Sunday, after the weekend trade I promise.’

Jacobs picked up the second pool cue and gave it the same treatment as the previous one.  George ducked low behind his bar as both halves flew  past him and shattered the bottles in the optics behind him.  Glass and liquor stung into the back of his neck and soaked through his shirt.

The room boomed and Gary Jacobs’ chest opened in a bloody hole as George rose from behind the bar and pulled the trigger of his shotgun.  Neil Andrews watched as his friend’s head bounced off of a table and his eyes went blank.

George re-trained his shotgun on Andrews.  The nerves were catching, George could see his shakes echo through the outstretched weapon.  Andrews was trembling and ranting incoherently as he saw the final moments of his life coming into focus.

‘I never wanted it to come to this Neil. It was ruining me but I was happy to pay you boys once a month. I saw enough bloodshed in the forces. But I don’t have the money until after the weekend,’  George said. ‘Why couldn’t you have just waited until Sunday?’

Andrews didn’t appear to be listening.  His incoherent noise turned to sobs and tears started to fall down his face, joining spittle that flew from his mouth as he struggled to breathe.

‘Why today?’ George screamed. ‘Why?’

Andrews focused briefly and answered through broken sobs. ‘The missus wants me home over the weekend. It’s the Britain’s Got Talent final and she’s doing a party.’

George shook his head and pulled the trigger.

Aidan-ThornBio:  Aidan Thorn is a 33 year old writer from Southampton, England.  His short fiction has appeared in Radgepacket Vol 6, Gloves Off – the Near to the Knuckle Anthology and online at Thrillers, Killers ‘N’ Chillers and Near to the Knuckle.  He is currently working on various longer projects, including his second novel ‘Rock Idles’.  More on Aidan’s writing can be found here http://aidanthornwriter.weebly.com/

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Lady On The Bus by Carl Carswell

There was a lady on my bus.  I know, nothing extraordinary about that. After all I am a bloody bus driver so it kind of comes with the territory.  But….I’d never seen anyone like her.  I was instantly captivated by her. She was….special.  Even through the mirror, just a reflection, not even in the flesh, she mesmerised and beguiled.  And she was alone, alone with me, just the two of us thrown together by necessity and timing.  Just me and her; alone on my bus.

She had flagged me down, even though it was a fare stage, all matching leopard print and faux fur.  She didn’t pay.  As she fumbled for change in her imitation Louis Vuitton clutch bag, I rolled my eyes and nodded towards the expanse of empty seats behind me.  She acknowledged my generosity with a wink and the hint of a curtsy, then walked down the central aisle.  I followed every sway, every sashay through the mirror as she treated my bus like a Milan catwalk.  She went all the way, I knew she would.

Now sitting on the back seat, she performed every clichéd move in the book.  She crossed her legs, extravagantly.  She powdered her face and refreshed her cherry ripe lipstick, checking her appearance in a compact mirror.  She checked my appearance in my mirror.  She laughed into my mirror, and I grinned back.  From where she was sitting she would only be able to observe my eyes and their crow’s feet as my face creased in response to her infectious, irresistible smile.  For me, looking through that mirror was a lot like looking through a letterbox.  It reminded me of a joke, an old one, about a gynaecologist who wallpapered his hallway through the letterbox.  I laughed out loud.  She looked away.

I checked my watch.  I was running early.  I would have to stop for a while, just to get my E.T.A. back on track.  Round the next corner there was a lay-by.  I knew it well; I used it every night.

Indicating left, even though the road was deserted, I pulled off the main road and switched off the headlights.  As I killed the engine the interior cabin lights dipped in brilliance and my mirror framed my seductress in warm sepia; I knew I was lost.

I unclipped the half door that guarded my seat and rose into the aisle.  I should really have stepped outside for a smoke and a stretch, but I never.  I swivelled on my heels and began to stroll down towards the back of the bus, inextricably drawn by her intoxicating aroma.  Then I was above her, considering her beauty yet unsure of what to do.  She took control, gently tapping the seat next to her, beckoning me to sit.  I was forced to comply, a schoolboy awkwardness compromising my bravado.  She stared into my eyes, a familiar stare that I could not place.  Where did I know her from?  She placed her hand on my crotch and my mind went blank.

My arousal was obvious and yet her rhythmic stroking was comforting not sexual.  All the while she simply stared at me as if for her too there was no gratification.  I reached out to touch her face but she shied away, unwilling for any reciprocation.  I stared at her quizzically, unable to fathom out what she wanted, why she was here.  Then she spoke, her voice distant and hollow, her breath fetid and unworldly, “I didn’t want to be your ghost.”

Realisation ran through my veins like an overdose of narcotics.  My own room 101, locked away firmly in my mind until now, had been expertly sprung open.  Her; it was her.  Adrenaline filled my stomach with butterflies, hornets and vipers.  I reached out and grabbed her, two hands round her cold, cold throat.  She squeezed my crotch.  I winced.

I held her by the throat without pressure or conviction, yet my thumbs sank into her putrescence, its consistency, if not its odour, that of an overripe peach.  I turned my head away as the flesh surrounding her windpipe and spinal cord came away in a dripping pulp.  I released my grip, holding my hands before me, incredulously gawping at the pink-gray pulp slipping through my fingers.  I reconsidered her once beautiful face, which was wilting like warmed wax, and her left eye slipped silently from its socket, coming to rest sightlessly on her bloodhound cheek.  I lashed out.   There was no resistance, her bones were now brittle as balsa; she was relieved of her head in a second.  It landed next to her torso, sinking into the seat’s fabric like a dropped soufflé.

I had killed her.  Again.  Again. 

Once more the feeling of relief that she was finally out of my life was overwhelmed by a feeling of hellish inevitability.  I checked my watch.  I was running late.  

I returned to my seat behind the steering wheel, my breath short and my skin cold.  I checked my appearance in the mirror.  I looked pale and gaunt, my eyes hollow and sunken, my teeth seemingly oversized for my puckered mouth.  I tried to ignore my own demise as I turned the key in the ignition of my faithful old bus.  The engine cleared its throat once, twice, three times, then gave an apologetic cough before it died for the last time.  The lights in the cabin dimmed, and I sensed a presence behind me.  I felt the back of a bony hand as it stroked the nape of my neck, so cold it made me sweat.  I checked my watch.  Time had stopped.

I was running scared.

The haunting had begun.

Bio:  Carl Carswell is a one-time contributor to ‘Thrillers, Killers ‘n Chillers’ and is a factory worker from Carlisle in Cumbria. He is the author of the unpublished and little-read ‘Fifty Years in the Life of Phillip Phillip’ and is currently working on its sequel. He lives with his wife, Claire, daughter Hannah and Zak, the best looking Staffy/West Highland cross bred mongrel you ever did see. 

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