New Year’s Day – Jon

*Features adult language and themes.*


 

The day was crisp and clean. The air felt cold in his throat as he sucked it in. The walk across town had been a bit of a challenge. Jon hated pushing the buggy. The wheels had a mind of their own, they veered off in surprising directions and found every rut and hole in the pavement.

Robbie sat in the buggy happily, he didn’t care about the ride, but he was excited about the destination. Jon had promised him a trip to feed the ducks the night before to bribe him to go to bed. He’d hoped Robbie would forget. But kids never forget. They’re like elephants, but smaller with a greater potential for destruction. Jon based this observation on their flat which was littered with Robbie’s toys and mischief.

Robbie had got the hang of taking toys out of the cupboards and boxes they were stored in, but he hadn’t twigged that they needed to be returned. Jon imagined that he was always amazed when Evie cleared them all away again. There’s nothing as painful as standing on lego bricks in bare feet. I’m surprised they don’t use it instead of water-boarding.

“Quack, quack, quack,’ said Robbie excitedly as he recognised where they were.

“Yes, Robbie. What goes quack?”

“Ducks.”

Jon wheeled the buggy through the gates into Christchurch park. He used the entrance at the bottom of an adjacent road. It wasn’t the main entrance to the park that led up to the Mansion. This was a short cut to the ponds and the ducks.

He locked the buggy’s brake into place and lifted Robbie out. “Time to use those legs of yours.” Robbie immediately tried to make a run for it, forgetting about the little harness he was wearing that Continue reading

New Year’s Day – Simone

*Features adult language and themes.*


 

She woke up gently. It was a pleasant, unfamiliar feeling so she decided to savour it. Simone was completely aware, no fuzziness or lethargy but she couldn’t remember much about the night before. She kept her eyes closed, the darkness was comforting; light was doing its best to tempt her to open them, but it was a soft light, not like dawn at all. There was a gentle hum coming from somewhere but it was difficult to describe. Not like a noisy fridge or a radiator warming up; a more pervasive sound. Her leg was cold where she had stuck it out of the quilt. Somewhere in her mind she thought she could regulate her body temperature by keeping one part of it chilly. The pillow was soft against her face and the mattress firm beneath her body. Everything she felt was comforting, yet edged with a sense of strangeness.

It was strange. Her own bed was soft, she usually sunk into it. Her usual pillows were lumpy and uneven. The humming noise was definitely different.

I guess I better open my eyes and see where I am.

The hotel room was stylish and immaculate. The only things out of place were the clothes strewn across the floor. A cocktail dress, shoes, bra, bow-tie and knickers.
Bow-tie?

It was still night, the room was infused with soft light turning everything blue. The window was open slightly, a gentle breeze ruffling the open vertical blinds making them clack together. Through the window she saw the lights of the South Bank and London Eye. The hum came from the streets below with their ceaseless traffic; the noise of a city where things don’t stop just because the sun disappears.

Simone’s memory began to come back. It was early morning on New Year’s Day. The first dawn of the New Year hadn’t arrived yet and she felt a growing dread that she’d done something stupid already. The light snoring behind her confirmed it.
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New Year’s Day – Evie

*Features adult language and themes.*


 

It just sits there waiting for me to do something. Each time I look at it, I feel it staring back at me accusing me of laziness.

Evie turned her head away trying to ignore it. It wasn’t going to win this time. She wasn’t going to give in. The trouble was she wanted nothing more than to fill the vast white blankness.

It’s only an empty bloody canvas. I’m starting to think of it as a puppy that needs walking.

Light played over the softly textured surface creating vague and shifting images of its own. It yearned to be used. It was waiting to be marked. Evie wanted to. She was full of ideas, but none of them made the journey from her mind, out of her fingers, onto the canvas.

She had a huge list of things on her mind that she needed to do. All of a sudden each one seemed more important than standing in front of her easel trying to paint.

I’ll make myself a cup of tea, that’ll make things better. Somehow.

She turned away from the table, knocking a brush to the floor. It stabbed into the carpet depositing a splash of red paint that made the floor look as though it was bleeding. Bollocks, something else to clean up.

Walking across the living room and into the kitchen she tried to ignore all of the other household chores that littered the flat. The task was more difficult in the kitchen; if she really wanted a cup of tea she’d have to do the washing up. She refused to rinse out a dirty cup and use it, she would have to do the lot. He never does the washing up. I’m sure he just leaves it because he knows it’ll drive me crazy and I’ll cave before he does.

Evie briefly contemplated drinking her tea from a gravy-boat before proceeding to wash up in a filthy mood. She washed everything vigorously, splashing water all over the work-top and the front of her cardigan. The water began to drip onto the floor, pissing her off even more.

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New Year’s Eve – Kurt

*Features adult language and themes.*


 

What’s the point of having a party on a boat if it never leaves the dock? It’s like getting into a taxi and paying the driver to stay put. Sure the view was good, but the floor didn’t stop moving. Plus the sound of water lapping at the side made Kurt want to piss constantly. Though with the amount he’d already drunk no other excuses were needed.

He stood at the rail looking out over the dark water of the Thames. Soft jazz music filled the air not occupied by the slapping of water. The boat had been moored just down from the London Eye. Firework central on New Year’s Eve. He had to give it to the magazine, they really hadn’t skimped on the promotion. I’m just surprised they had this sort of money left after my advance.

Self Magazine had hired the entire boat, all three levels of it. Kurt’s wife had told him it was the place to be to bring in the New Year. If you care about that sort of thing.

Martha did. She cared about anything that her friends deemed important. The latest production, the hottest restaurant, the popular bars. Seemingly any place that was preceded by an adjective. She had been thrilled when he’d told her about the magazine column. Her yoga friends were avid subscribers. They bought into the whole holistic, touchy-feely editorial. In fact Kurt had gone up considerably in his wife’s estimation with the deal. He’d had four books published, two DVD’s, countless sold out shows and a bank balance big enough to support her lavish lifestyle, and it was a few crappy magazine articles that justified his career. It’s only because her friends approve. She gets to use me as social lubricant. She finally sees a reason to show me off.

It was such a shame her friends were a bunch of cunts.

One of the biggest revelations to Kurt upon moving to the UK was getting a good grasp on the slang and swearwords. He was quite aware of the ‘c-word’ back in America, but the Brits seemed to use it with such flair.

It was such an apt word for Martha’s friends. It had a harsh sound, especially if you put emphasis on the ‘c.’ It reminded him of the meaningless noises they made when they greeted each other; strange squealing expulsions. The end of the word was also stamped with a strong ‘t.’ The same sort of noise they made when they disapproved of something. It just fit.

Kurt was a writer, it was his job to use words to describe a plethora of things. He had an extensive vocabulary, yet in all of the hundreds of thousands of words available to him, that was the one that best described Martha’s friends.

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New Year’s Eve – Daisy

*Features adult language and themes.*


 

The statue always gave her the creeps. She didn’t understand why the council thought it was a good idea to make a statue of a cartoon character. It wasn’t like it was Homer Simpson. The statue was of an old woman with round glasses wearing a big overcoat and a tea cosy hat holding an umbrella across herself defensively. Like most other old people in the town Daisy felt like it looked down on her.

She often thought of the old proverb: ‘Never judge a book by its cover.’ People thought they knew a lot about her by the way she looked. The trouble was they weren’t far from the truth. Still, it was rude to make assumptions no matter how accurate.

She sat on the plinth beneath Giles’ Grandma, knees tucked up to her chest, jittering up and down making her look cold or nervous, taking sharp pulls on a rollie.

There were plenty of people wandering around town considering it was late-afternoon on New Year’s Eve. The shops started the New Year’s sales early, usually on Boxing Day. It was strange but she guessed the shops needed all the help they could get. Anything to make people spend their money.

As if they didn’t spend enough before Christmas.

Daisy needed the money too.

She threw her dog-end on the floor, stamped on it, slung her canvas bag over her shoulder then made her way up to the market square.

Most of the market traders were beginning to pack up but it didn’t stop a few last minute shoppers looking at the wares as they were put away for the year. A lot of people were wandering through the square, most with shopping bags some with bottles and crates of booze, on their way to the night’s entertainment. Daisy wanted to make her own entertainment, but she needed the funds to make it happen.

The familiar itch had started a few hours ago. It was gnawing in her chest and tingling at her finger tips.
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New Year’s Eve – Charlie

*Features adult language and themes.*


 

“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”
– Steve Martin

 

* * *

 

The march had taken them all night. They’d battled through the patrols; taking them unawares and making sure that they didn’t raise the alarm.

They made a strange pairing, a troll and a dark elf, but they seemed to work well together. The troll’s sheer strength combined with the elf’s speed and finesse had outwitted the enemies so far but two of their party had been lost.

They were so close to completing the mission. The fortress was in sight. They had to find a way past the gates and assassinate the fortress commander. It was a big ask for just two of them. They hoped that their compact number would be an advantage. Their weapons were stealth and surprise.

The plan was for the troll to cause a diversion while the dark elf slipped in to take the commander out. They were using the darkness as cover and it wouldn’t last much longer.

An arrow thudded into the ground next to the elf. He had no idea where it had come from. Retreating behind the troll, who could take more arrow fire, he drew his knives and prepared for an attack.

The enemy charged from behind, the arrow had been a ruse to turn them around. The troll jumped over the elf landing on the first attackers squashing them into the mud with its big stone shoes.
The elf hesitated for a moment too long, trying to decide if he should run and continue the quest alone, or to stand and fight with the troll. The decision was made for him when the fortress guards closed in. There were four of them wearing leather armour and carrying longswords. He raised his knives, swirling them around, loosening his wrists. The guard on his left feinted forward as the attacker on the right slashed towards his leg. He parried low and stabbed high, his knife sliding into the guards throat with sickening ease.

He had to swing around to block a second attack then kicked out at a third guard. Then threw one of his knives to stop the fourth guard taking his head off. The patrol was too big, they were surrounded, there was no way out. His troll companion had been felled and guards were climbing all over him hacking and slashing as he roared and struggled.

“Die, die, die… We’re dead.”

Charlie pushed his chair away from the desk in defeat. He continued to watch the slaughter on his computer screen. Light had started to leak into the room through half closed blinds. The diffused light made the mess in the room look a little sinister. The room could easily have been mistaken for an amateur bomb-maker’s workshop. Tables and shelves ran all the way around the room filled with technical books, computers and components. Dotted amongst the organised chaos were empty fast food packets, crushed cans of energy drink and a few collectable figurines. The limited wall space was filled with notice boards of post-it notes and scraps of paper covered in scribbles and notes. In between the boards, and sometimes underneath, were anime movie posters.

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Prologue

*Features adult language and themes.*


 

“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
– Abraham Lincoln

 

* * *

 

“Are you happy?.”

Fraud.

“To be happy you have to accept and embrace your true self.”

Phony.

“You have to protect yourself from negativity.”

What does that even mean?

“Negative thoughts are roadblocks across your path to happiness”

I can’t believe how easily the words spill out of my mouth. They landed softly on the microphone to be amplified and projected at the audience.

Presumably the audience was still there. He couldn’t see anyone beyond the first three or four rows. The spotlight shone in his eyes obscuring them.

Oddly, he never got many walk-outs; he assumed plenty of people were listening. At this point, he didn’t care if the place was empty. The theatre was sold out, he’d got their money. He didn’t give a shit if they hated the show.

The rows he could see were full. Full of people hanging on his every word.

“There are many forms of negativity. You must become resistant to them. Eventually you can learn to process that negative energy and send it back to its source as positivity.”
They sucked it up so willingly. It was pathetic. Some of the crowd were perched forward on the edge of their seats, caught up in his words, so willing to learn the great secret that would make their lives better.

He decided to take a stroll across the stage. He’d been standing at the lectern all evening, it was time to wrap it up, time to give the people some sort of closure. Make them think the last two hours of their lives had been worthwhile and enriching.

In many ways he was an illusionist. Instead of trying to make them think he mutilated an attractive assistant, he used words. The people came into the theatre expecting knowledge, possibly enlightenment. They came willingly, and paid good money, to learn something that would improve their lives.

What they got was a guy on stage using a slideshow to tell them they already knew how to be rich and happy but for some reason they were stopping themselves.

He couldn’t believe he got away with it.

The power of a slideshow should never be underestimated.

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