The Reaper

Gary had always loved the sound of their screams. At 6am every morning, he cut off another pretty little head and left it purposely to rot beside those still living, imprisoned in their earthen pits. A warning of their imminent future.

In these uncertain times, he was lucky enough to have a job he truly enjoyed, even if the salary was poor. Lord Mycroft had entrusted him to keep the estate immaculate, and thus given him free reign of the grounds. He must have known about Gary’s hobbies, having regularly witnessed him massacre thousands at a time, rotating blades with glee as their bodies spattered and fell about him. And yet, he still kept him in his employment. In fact, he encouraged it. Asked him to bury innocents; hundreds of them in neat rows, just to pillage their limbs several weeks later. Gary was all too happy to oblige.

He would often linger in the toolshed after hours, caressing the equipment of his sadistic pleasure. The shovel was a personal favourite. At a touch of the worn metal, he imagined pushing it deep into the flesh of the earth, feeling the agony of the ground beneath, begging him to stop. Of course, that only drove him to continue, until a gaping wound had been made. In this he would bury a fresh victim for his games. It was an obsession. There were millions just waiting to feel pain at his hands, and nobody was going to stop him.

Oh yes. Gary fucking loved being a gardener.


What a Catch

She looked at his once-handsome face. The chiselled jawline and strong nose were still there. If she focused hard enough, his eyes were the same green-blue as the day they met. The only problem now was that the rest of him was also green-blue.

She reached out a tentative hand and stroked his cheek. No longer did it feel soft, but rough and scaly. Where there had once been warmth, there was nothing but slimy cold. This wasn’t her Jeff. This, apparently, was Jub.

“I’m still me,” he whispered, raising a webbed hand to cover hers. “I still feel the same.” He started sobbing, great shuddering breaths gasping through his large lips. She didn’t know how to react. Then she realised he wasn’t actually crying; her hand was covering his gill.

“I’m sorry,” she said, backing away. “You’re just…uh…not my type…anymore.” And with that, she ran, Jub reaching a solitary fin after her.

She’d been suspicious from the first date. They’d enjoyed the fairground rides, and she’d laughed at his unusual sense of humour. Things were going swimmingly, until out of nowhere he fell to his knees and broke down at the coconut shy. He refused to speak of the incident, but now she remembered the little golden fish, suffocating in plastic bags.

He’d always downright refused to visit the Seaquarium too, appeared almost angry whenever she suggested it. It occurred to her now that maybe some of his family were captive there. If he even had a family.

Oh God, she thought, clutching her stomach. I hope I’m not pregnant.

Cougar: Part Three


“Oh hi darling! Come in.” I kiss Kate on both cheeks and take her coat. “Cup of coffee? Or should we have a cheeky midday vino?”

“Just a coffee thanks,” Kate says, wiping her feet on the doormat. I bustle off to the kitchen, humming I’m in the Mood for Dancing. My mini chandeliers twinkle above me, casting droplets of light over my perfect, pristine home.

“Jake not in?” Kate calls from the hallway, probably making use of the large mirror. The words sting me.

“He’s at Paul’s,” I reply, watching the wine glug into my fanciest glasses. “Got the house to myself as usual!”

Kate walks in and perches herself on the sofa. I join her with the two large glasses of Sauvignon Blanc.

“Babs, I said coffee!” Kate moans as I thrust a glass into her hand.

“Oops. Must’ve misheard you,” I wink.

Kate sighs. “You are such a bad influence,” she says, elbowing me.

“Careful! I’ll spill it everywhere! Not wasting the sog-vig-non, it’s my last bottle from France.” Now that was a holiday. Sun, sea, suave French men…

I settle next to Kate and the cool leather instantly sticks to my bare, silky smooth legs. I pull my skirt down a little. I turn the TV on, and the speaker system booms around the room, making Kate jump. I giggle at her. I instantly switch to Channel 4. The Sex and the City theme tune begins playing. It’s so difficult not to squeal with excitement.

“Did you watch last week’s?” I ask as casually as possible.


I gasp and spill wine on my faux fur rug. “Oh my God, when Sam got with Jerry! I knew that was going to happen!”

“You don’t think he’s a bit young for her?” Kate asks sceptically.

“Oh God no. Haven’t you seen him? He’s a dream! I would.”

Before Kate can reply, my Blackberry buzzes. I pick it up in my perfectly manicured hands and feel the familiar disappointment.

“What’s up?” Kate asks.

“Jake’s staying out again. I hardly see him anymore. When’s he going to realise his mother needs him?”

Kate swirls her glass. “He can’t stay at home forever, you know.”

“Why not?” I snap. “He’s my baby. I’d be happy to have him.” We sip our wine in silence for a while, watching the TV. Both of us have our phones out, checking Facebook. But I can’t focus on the TV. I can’t focus on anything now.

I sigh and throw my phone gently onto the cushion. “I know why he’s always out,” I say bitterly. “He’s in love.”

Kate sits up and faces me. “Well Jessica is a lovely girl.”

I snort. “Oh, he left her the other day apparently. She’s the ninth girl he’s dumped without giving a reason why.”

“He gets bored easily then?”

“Not at all.”

“Cheats on them?”

“Nope. I feel like shaking him sometimes, it’s so obvious to everyone but him.”

“What is?”

I stare into my glass, tracing a line with my index finger around the rim. “I don’t think women are his type.

Kate gets my drift and tries to hide her smile. “I suppose men as good looking as him never bat for the right team.”

I look at her incredulously. “Dirty cow! Have you got the hots for my son?”

“Not at all!” Kate insists. “I’m just saying he’s handsome for a boy of his age, that’s all.”

I glare at her for a bit longer, teasing her. At that moment the key turns in the front door. My heart leaps out of my throat, and I leap off of the sofa.

“Hey baby!” I say as soon as Jake’s through the door. I wrap my arms around his neck.

“Alright, mum?” He says absently, hugging me back. He looks at the glass in my hand. “On the wine already?”

“We’ve been gossiping,” I say, tapping my nose and giggling.

“I see. Well I’m just gonna grab some stuff. Paul’s waiting round the corner.” Oh, that sinking feeling again.

“Say hello to Kate first!”

“Hi Kate.”

Kate waves back.

“What time will you be back tomorrow?” I ask hopefully. Jake shrugs and takes off up the stairs, three at a time.

I roll my eyes at Kate. “Kids, eh?”

Kate giggles before downing her entire glass. “I think I’d better be off,” she says suddenly. She hiccoughs.

“What? Why? You’ve only been here ten minutes!” I whine. Why does everyone always have to leave me on my own? I’m not even fifty yet, but I might as well start wearing beige and going to Bingo with all the action I get lately.

“Think I left the damn cat in the kitchen. God knows what she’s gotten up to! I’ll call you later.” Kate grabs her coat and shoots through the door before I can even reply.

“World’s gone mad,” I mutter. I sit on the sofa, eyes focused on the screen, but brain wandering elsewhere. Jake comes thundering down the stairs, rucksack swung casually over his shoulder.

“Bye mum,” he calls.

“Jake, wait a minute,” I say, tottering into the hallway and grabbing him by the shoulders. He rolls his eyes. “Look, if there’s anything you want to tell me, anything at all… I’m a cool mum. I can deal with it.”

Jake looks confused. “Anything…” I say desperately. “Anything about your latest relationship?”

His eyes widen guiltily, and I think I’m on to something at last. Finally, he’ll open up to me.

“You and Paul…?” I ask tenderly.

Jake shrugs me off. “Wait a second… you think I’m gay?”

“And that’s fine!” I gabble. “Just because you have fashion sense and like to look good and like men doesn’t mean our relationship’s any different! It means we have more in common for starters… but I’m still your mother! I still love you!”

Jake’s lip curls into a half smile. “I’m not gay, mum.”

“Well why else would you dump all those pretty girls?” I huff, hands on my hips.

Jake smirks. “I realised I prefer a more… mature kind of woman.” He kisses my cheek, and leaves me puzzled on the doorstep.

I close the door and flop down on the sofa, feeling the sudden emptiness of the room. Why is everyone acting weird and talking in riddles? Why is everyone abandoning me? And when did Kate even get a cat?

My phone buzzes again, and I immediately pick it up. It’s Jake. I open the message eagerly, and then my heart skips a beat.

Hey baby. Im round the corner. Cant believe mum still hasnt caught us out! See u in a few 😉 xxxxx

This isn’t my phone. It’s Kate’s.

Cougar: Part Two


So I’m standing here with flowers. Never done this before. But I can’t stop thinking about her. The feel of her body against mine, the experience of those hands, the curve of her spine… I saw a whole new side to her that day. A side I want to see every time I wake up.

She hasn’t seen me yet. She’s too busy with her clients. Man, she looks sexy in her uniform. Black and pink suits her. I stand in front of the window, admiring the view. That’s when she finally sees me. I wink. Her eyes widen and she puts down the brush. She plasters a smile onto her face and tells the old woman in the chair that she’ll be back in a minute.

She says something to her boss, who looks curiously at me and nods. Kate walks through the shop door, letting out a waft of hair products and heat. “What the hell are you doing here?” She demands. Not the reaction I was after.

I point to the flowers. “Isn’t it obvious?” I grin.

“You know what I mean,” she says, looking around guiltily. Her boss keeps taking side glances at us from within. I’ve never seen Kate look this uncomfortable.

“I’m here to take you out for lunch,” I say. “You can take lunch at one, right? I’m paying…”

She glances at her watch and considers it. “Okay fine, but you’ve got to go away until then. We clear?”

I salute. “Yes ma’am.” She doesn’t seem to see the funny side, as she grabs the flowers and storms off. I watch for a couple of minutes as Kate undoubtedly makes an excuse to her boss as to why I brought her flowers, before I walk away.

I cross the road to the park and find a bench to sit on for the next half hour. It’s oddly peaceful here, despite the rumbles and beeps of the cars along the main road.

I feel calm, away from the stifling neatness of mum’s house. But even here the wild is tamed; the unruly grass is clipped, the flowers are dictated to grow in certain places. I feel claustrophobic, even out here in the open.

The kid’s playground lies deserted in the distance. The crumbling, rusty metal frame, red and yellow chipped paint, chains broken and coppered. I remember when that paint was fresh, when mum and dad used to take me to the swings every weekend. Those days are long gone now. So is dad. Now I’d much rather be in the pub. So would mum.

A Yorkshire terrier runs over to me and starts sniffing my shoe. “Hey little guy,” I say and scratch behind his ears. His owner, a pretty young girl with a gorgeous tartan skirt, walks over and begins batting her eyelashes at me.

Instantly I sit back and put my headphones on, ignoring her until she goes away.

The world is made so much more interesting with music. A slow, elegant tune will make even the sunniest day tinted with cold sorrow. A quick, funky beat will make me see something good in any situation.

I’m listening to a happy tune when Kate walks shyly up the path towards me. I turn off my iPod and stand up to greet her.

“Sorry, lost track of time,” I admit.

“It’s okay…” she begins awkwardly. “Sorry if I seemed a little harsh earlier.”

“It’s cool,” I grin. I’m just relieved she agreed to meet me in the first place. But I don’t tell her that. Keep up the façade; today I’m the relaxed, awesome Jake. Not the cowardly, pathetic Jake who just wants to run and hide from this gorgeous woman.

We stand around silently for a moment. How can we be so embarrassed with each other when we’ve shared something so intimate?

I grab her hand. She pulls away as if to protest, then decides against it. She feels tense. We set off down the path at a casual pace. A jogger stares at us as he runs past, and Kate hangs her head.

“Good day at work?” I ask, trying to take her mind off things.

“It’s been alright,” she says vaguely, and we fall silent again.

“Guys, guys, look at that MILF!”

We turn to see a group of boys a bit younger than me, hoods up, pointing and laughing at us. They start making meowing noises, and I hear the words “cougar” and “dirty slut” hurled in our direction.

I look at Kate. She looks as if she’s about to cry. So I grab her arm, pull her to a stop and kiss her. Fiercely. Instantly it’s as if we’re alone. As if nobody else matters. She melts into my arms and we protect each other from the unwarranted rain of hatred.

The meowing turns into retching noises, but the boys soon pass.  Dickheads.

Kate’s shaking though, as if the cold words pierced her skin.

“Don’t be put off by them,” I plead.

“How can they be so horrible about people they know nothing about?” she asks angrily. Her fists clench. I put my arm around her, and walk her slowly in the direction of the pub.

People stare at us in here too, but I ignore them. I guide Kate to the bar and order our drinks. The bartender looks at us and asks me for ID. I feel Kate cringe next to me. This is going so well…

I show him my provisional and he studies it for a while before walking off to pour the drinks. “Aren’t you going to ask the lady for her ID?”  I shout after him angrily. “She looks shifty to me. Barely even eighteen!” He looks at me like I’ve just asked him to shave my balls.

But Kate laughs. It’s the first time I’ve heard her laugh since before her breakup. She looks gorgeous. I smile at her, pay for the drinks and follow her to a table in the centre of the room.

Cougar: Part One


Bastard. How dare he. How dare he. After all I’ve done for him! He is not getting away with this. Not this time. If he wants to run off with a younger model well then that’s his problem, and I won’t let him forget it. She won’t be as experienced as me. Bastard.

…But how can I live without him? He’s everything to me! Now I have no-one to come home to at night, nobody to buy me flowers or make me feel special… We planned everything together! Our house, our future children, even my perfect wedding… all gone. Poof!

Barbara doesn’t understand. She just keeps pouring wine down my throat and telling me it will all be okay. That I can do better than him. She’s a bit rubbish at this whole comforting thing really. God I’m a mess. I need a man in my life, pronto.

Barbara keeps flicking between channels, changing every time there’s an on screen romance. I’m slowly going insane. Her nineteen year old son Jake comes down the stairs and flops onto the other sofa, paying us no attention.

He laughs at something on his phone, and his thumbs busily stab at the buttons.

“What’s so funny, baby?” Barbara asks eagerly.

Jake looks up with the laughter still bright in his eyes. He’s kind of hot for a teenager. If only I were twenty years younger…

“Nothing. Just something Jess said,” he replies, and goes back to ignoring us.

Barbara totters off to the kitchen to get more pinot. I’m sat here awkwardly, trying not to eye up her son. I end up studying the room, even though I know it better than my own house. The pink fluffy cushions, the expensive light fittings, the designer wallpaper over the fireplace wall, and the marble mantelpiece contrasting against all the pink.

The sides are littered with pictures of Jake growing up: toddler Jake in dungarees on his mum’s lap. Primary school Jake’s toothless grin in his melancholy uniform. Teenage Jake playing the guitar… He’s a boy, I remind myself. I’ve watched him grow up, for God’s sake. I’ve babysat him. You’re just hormonal, and he’s the only guy in the room. It’s nothing.

“Oh shoot!” Barbara comes clip-clopping back into the front room, bringing a welcome break from my thoughts. “I’m all out. Don’t worry, I’ll nip to Waitrose.”

“I’ll come with,” I say, eager to leave.

“No!” Barbara almost shouts. She smiles at me. “No, you sit here and finish off that glass. I expect it all to be gone by the time I get back!” She gives her son a kiss on the head and whispers to him in the I’m-tipsy-so-I’m-not-really-whispering-at-all voice, “Dave just broke Katie’s heart, so don’t leave her on her own. Oh, and don’t talk about Jess or anything relationshippy.”

Jake nods absent-mindedly, still absorbed in his texts. “Do you want anything from the shop, baby?” Barbara asks him.

“Pizza and beer would be good, thanks mum,” he says. She kisses him on his forehead again, grabs her jacket and leaves.

The silence is unbearable. Barbara’s message has alerted Jake to my presence. He’s staring at me, and I’m looking anywhere but at him. Admittedly the wine’s helping my eyes to roll around the room by themselves. I must look like the Sindy doll I had when I was five; bleach blonde hair, fake tan and eyes jiggling around in the sockets. Even the black smudges around my face must look similar to the felt tip eyeliner I applied to poor Sindy.

Jake stands up and plonks himself down next to me. He puts his hand on my knee. “Are you alright, Katie?” He asks softly. Meaningfully. I’m being comforted by a teenager. A teenager in a successful relationship. A teenager in a relationship giving sympathy to a depressed, middle-aged, single, no hope, alcoholic woman. I burst into tears.

His arms shoot around me instantly and before I know it I’m crying into his chest. His arms feel strong and safe. He smells faintly of sweat and Lynx… it’s good. Oh God, what am I doing…

We stay embraced for a little while. It’s calming me, sobering me up. But I don’t want to be sober! I want to be young and wild and free for anything to happen. But I’m not. I pull away and examine the mascara smears all over his designer white T-Shirt.

“Sorry,” I snivel, attempting to wipe the shirt clean despite just wanting to rip it off. “You’ll want to change that before your mum comes home. Don’t want her getting the wrong idea.” I giggle hysterically. Jake smiles too. Ugh, I want to mount him.

The silence is awkward again. I finish off the wine as Barbara instructed me to. I am going to leave, I decide. I’m going to leave right now, and forget about this moment. I do NOT have feelings for Jake Aspinall.

Unfortunately, nature calls. I tell Jake I’m nipping to the loo and make a sharp exit. Sat on the toilet, knickers around my ankles, I try and slap myself out of it. But I can still smell him on me. My body has soaked in his fragrance. As if it needs to tell me it wants him. I want to hide in the bathroom forever. I shouldn’t see Jake again. But I have to leave sooner or later, so I flush, wash my hands and open the door.

Jake’s stood directly outside. He’s looking at me, and if I’m not mistaken, he has lust in his eyes. Before I have time to return a smouldering look, or think clearly and reject him, his mouth is pressing hard on mine and his hand is already unlatching my bra…

For the first time in forever I feel alive. I feel sexy. Dosed up on sex and alcohol, I could quite happily sleep. I can hear the rhythmic da-dum of this gorgeous man’s heartbeat pounding in my ear. I can hear him still panting for breath. I can hear…

…The front door opening. We both look at each other and race to find discarded shirts and underwear . “yoo-hoo!” Barbara calls from downstairs, bottles clinking in the carrier bags. I can’t find my knickers, so I have to go without. I race down the hall to the bathroom and run my fingers through my hair. I take a quick glance in the mirror, flush the toilet and turn the lock on the door. I walk down the stairs, face flushed.

Barbara looks at me expectantly, holding up the bags.

“Got caught short,” I say, and she believes it.