29 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #23 - Happy After

It had quickly become every morning that my radio alarm was waking me with this one song about a man lucky in love until his belle died of cancer… ‘and a very good morning to all our listeners’. I retuned to a classical music station – more cheerful, but failing to wake me up. Brass Band FM, anyone?

But the miserable ditty was still in my head. I needed it gone.

Replacing bad memories with agreeable – albeit fabricated – ones can make one feel better and, with songs, a parody may be long remembered, the original forgotten.

A demo couplet plus refrain came quickly. I considered doing the whole song, but this much was evil enough:

On the day the soldiers came
With Kalashnikovs and blew out her brains
Well, Bitch had it coming

Well, I lived happily after that!

David Wilkinson, raised in Greater London but now living in Yorkshire, has taken to dabbling in music and literature to welcome his second childhood. If he ever left his first.

We Are 138 #27 - Punk Is Dad

What you need to know about my dad is that he is the biggest Misfits fan there is. At least he thinks he is. The Misfits are a punk band from America. They are all about horror movies and gore. My dad knows everything about every single line-up of the band and he is not shy to share his enthusiasm with anyone whether they are prepared to listen or not. When we went to university open days, he’d wear his fan shirts and walk around campus proud like a dog with a big stick. One of the tutors noticed and made a remark in his presentation about liking Glenn Danzig. My dad cornered the poor bloke afterwards. It was so embarrassing. Luckily, I got accepted at another university. I am doing forensic science and am loving my course

Michael Gratzke is an academic and zine maker. Twitter: @michael_gratzke

27 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #26 - Gone

His blue eyes and mousy hair stick in my mind, along with his laughter, so infectious. I can’t hear it anymore, but I can see his face lit up in a fit of laughter, tears welling. But I can’t hear it.

I stop mixing the batter.
“Mom, have you seen my keys?”

I hold up the wooden spoon and try to listen to what she’s saying.

“Mom! My keys!” her footsteps head towards me.

I blink hard, a tear falls as some batter drops back into the bowl. “Sorry sweet, they’re on the counter, by the washing machine… you left them in your pocket.”

“Oh. Sorry, See you later!”

She’s gone. I cough slightly and squeeze my eyes shut, gripping the wooden spoon harder than ever. She’ll be home when she gets hungry, unlike my boy, gone forever.

Charlotte Ford is a writer from the West Midlands, UK. She’s working on various projects and runs her own website http://charlford.com, hoping to break into the writing world as a published author.

26 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #24 - The 138 Word Death

He had one hundred and thirty-eight words to save his sorry skin. One hundred and twenty-six now and rapidly decreasing. 

The gun was in his throat, the pen jittered in his hand. A lifetime of procrastination, faux matriculation and pointless mastication with seconds on the clock of doom. Gagging on the barrel that whiff of cordite from the last shot, that redistributed the brains of his partner across the Anaglypta wallpaper like a crazed butcher's Jackson Pollack.

Sixty words left and counting.

“So dude, let us recap, you have to write down in one hundred and thirty-eight or less why I let you live. As you can see from your now headless partner, I will not be accepting a scribbled note in blood with the words Screw You. I have standards you know”

Five words left.

“Screw You”

Andy Hill likes to think, write and eat cheese. He is British, so has poor teeth and talks like Hugh Grant having an enema. Buy his stuff here - Andy Hill

We Are 138 #22 - Falling Apart

There is nothing else I can say
About tomorrow or yesterday
That could take the pain away
Or make either of us want to suffer more and stay 

So why not begin from scratch?
Because stories would boring if we just stuck to facts.
But I suppose when emotions are involved even those might not match.

We thought it was solid, but now looking back, I am pretty sure if we wanted, we could point out the cracks beneath the skin.
Under a foundation that we grew up being told was founded in sin.

In media and dreams,
The kind of love found in songs and on screens.
All internalised and romanticised on other ends of a spectrum, before we saw the fucked up consequences through our families and how it would damage and affect them.

And us...

@Rudebrowndude leaves short poems on stickers around Birmingham and the Black Country. If you want to read more short poetry based around life, love, stress and setbacks check him out on Instagram.

23 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #19 - Creature In The Shadows

There is a creature in my bedroom. It is watching me. It watched as I undressed, spied as I removed my makeup, and stealthily gazed upon me as I applied moisturiser to every inch of skin. I turned to climb into bed... there it was; dark, sinister eyes level with mine, quietly daring me to do something as it waited for my scream. Neither of us moved... this monstrosity awaiting my next move, biding it's time before the eventual attack. I prepared myself to fight - too long have I screamed and ran away in terror... no more! I told myself to be brave, braced myself for what may come... but I stalled. I flinched. The beast took its chance... pounced as I shut my eyes and screamed. Now I have no idea where that fucking spider has gone!!

Leanne Cooper is a sleep-deprived mother of 2 feral weirdos, who writes poetry and prose at the ungodly hour of  3 AM.  - www.facebook.com/leannecooper.author

20 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #21 - Arcana Victoriana: A tale from an alternative London.

Fletcher ran. If he could just make it to The Rookery he would be safe…

Behind him came Ugly Tom, who stopped at the edge of the slums. Knowing that most of his fellows refused to enter, he stepped into the darkness, his red eyes gleaming.

He hadn’t gotten far when he was challenged. A pair of labourers, with rough clothes and rougher manners blocked his path.

“Your kind ain’t welcome here.” said the first. “So…”

Tom interrupted him, clubbing each to the floor with a huge green fist.

“My kind will go wherever we want to.” he growled.


Fletcher had only gone as far as the first boozer. He cowered as Tom’s massive body blocked the doorway.

“But you… you’re a…”

“That’s right.” grinned the orc, showing his badge. “I’m a policeman. And you are under arrest.”

By Shaun Lewis. Teacher, role-player and occasional story-writer

We Are 138 #20 - I Found Your Letter The Other Day

I found your letter the other day. The one that started, I’m doing a ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. I’m on the nutty ward. Down New Cross. Your Jack Nicholson T shirt has come in handy, they all think I’m taking the piss. Same sort of characters wandering around. It’s a long story how I got here…

And you were right, it was a long story. A very, very long story. And even though we offered you juicy fruits, safe footings, a different narrative arc, it wasn’t enough. Though, in truth, the combine didn’t get you in the end. More the combination… the combination of brown and booze. Self-medication time, self-medication time, self-medication time.

And no…I wasn’t jealous, what with it being my favourite film. Just sad when the end came. Like we always knew it would.

Emma Purshouse is a freelance writer and performance poet. Her latest poetry collection ‘Close’ is published by Offa’s Press (2018)

We Are 138 #16 - Survival

It kills me to see you like this. Crying. Covered in blood that isn’t yours. Done. Exhausted. It’s like a knife to the heart, or should I say head. Because that is what you’ve done, what we’ve had to do, over and over. Stick knives straight through their heads. It’s the only way to stop them, the only way we’ll ever survive. You don’t do guns. The noise draws them.
You’re a killer, but you’re not. Well, not really. You’re saving us. How long it will last, I don’t know, but for now, we’re safe. Kind of. I will never be able to thank you enough, so for now, let’s just lie here, together, and hope, pray, that we’ll still be here tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. We can do that, can’t we?

Lucy Onions hails from sunny Walsall, West Midlands. She lives with her husband, her daughter and a crazy, Staffordshire Bull Terrier. She has a few self-published books to her name. Good for Nothing, Shout the Call and If You Should Ever Leave Me, which are all out now in paperback and e-book through Amazon.

17 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #18 - Run

Panting. Sweating. Bastard. Rotten, brown bastard! I did my routine poo before the gym!

I started running on the treadmill, I could feel it rattling around inside of me, a mini scotch egg inside a balloon. It didn't even feel like an important one.

Fuck sake.

I refused to stop. 

My running was crap, frequent stops and fucking swearing. I stomped to the toilets, angrily, slammed the door and slid down my compression leggings determined to not let this bastard ruin any more of my session. My sweaty arse cheeks slid across the seat, ironically quicker than I'd ever moved before, my back whacked against the loo bowl, my legs shot out under the cubicle, my balls slammed against the bottom of the door, and that little brown bastard shot across the changing room like a fucking torpedo.

Matthew (Matty-Bob) Cash is a prolific writer of all sorts of shite and chieftain of Burdizzo Books and Burdizzo Bards. Google that shit and you'll find the fucker

We Are 138 #17 - A Wife's Choice

Hello dear, how do you feel now? I bought you some soup in a flask –
The doctor said what the problem was? Possibly gastro? Good -
No, dear, not good for you, of course.
Sorry I'm late visiting but Roger was sick –
Yes, dear, I know you think I think more of the cat than you.
Anyway, he was in that herb patch of her at number 32 –
Well, she calls it a herb patch but I know the police would be very interested in it, if they were called, and anyway I saw Roger chewing on one of those plants and sure enough he was violently sick after -
Yes, rather like you were after dinner –
Just half an hour after you kicked Roger, yes –
Yes, exactly the same symptoms –
I do hope that soup went down well dear –

Jon Hartless’ latest novel, Rise of the Petrol Queen, will be released in late August and is a sequel to 2017’s Full Throttle, a steampunk motor racing adventure examining the gulf between the powerful and the dispossessed.

12 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #15 - Paranoia

Ellie lights the gas.

She’s worried that her housemates don’t really like her.

They might be out without her now. Drinking, laughing. Flicking fringes from doe eyes. Whispering through loose lips, close to one another’s ears.

In fact, they’re upstairs. Ellie can hear them. But that doesn’t prove much.

Like last week when Stacey broke Ellie’s cup, even though she said she hadn’t used it. Two days later Ellie found the cup back in the cupboard, with the crack removed. So they could be capable of anything.

Ellie leaves and locks the door. She knows they talk about her. Why else would they have implanted the microchip in her head? So they can live in her mind.

She closes her eyes as she lights the match. That way they won’t see her drop it through the letter box.

Jonathan Squirrell would like to be a writer, or to learn how to stop trying. He has published short stories of his own, and reviews the books of others with very little seething envy.

11 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #14 - Home Sweet Home

I’ve been here for six hours now, staring at the same four grey walls, the same half-drunk Styrofoam cups of cheap, bitter coffee.

“Where’s your wife, Tommy?”

“Thomas,” I correct them.

“Where’s your wife, Thomas?” I can tell she doesn’t like me, doesn’t believe me.

I’ve told them the story three times already. We had only just moved into the house, and started re-decorating as soon as we were settled, pulling up carpets and stripping the old, faded wallpaper. The staircase had been boxed in with plywood boards and we wondered what condition it was in underneath.
When we uncovered the door, Kelly was excited, “We’ve got a basement!”
I went to find a torch, Kelly couldn’t wait, “I’ll just take a quick peek.”
Those were the last words I ever heard her say.

She didn’t even scream.

Dale Parnell lives in Staffordshire, with his wife and their imaginary dog, Moriarty. You can find information about his collections of short stories and poetry at -www.facebook.com/shortfictionauthor

10 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #13 - Re: tuesday

That lass I once went out with who turned up in Razzle Reader's Wive's went on to become a tattooist. Actually that’s not strictly true, we never had a relationship per se, we just drank in the same nightclub and had a nasty habit of finding each other when we were both hammered at 01:30 and having a drunken snog and fumble.
Saturday nights out would always start with “dude, your lass has turned up” off my mates, I’d spend 10 minutes vehemently renouncing any intention to repeat last week’s actions, I suspect she was having similar conversations with her mates. Then 01:30 would roll around and we’d be snogging in the corner again.
Anyway its all a moot point, she was a fucking awful tattooist. She specialised in doing cross-eyed pictures of people's pitbulls on their shoulderblade

@safeasfuck is a middle-aged Welsh hippie who can rarely say hello in less than 3000 words. Nobody is more surprised by the brevity of this tale than the author himself

We Are 138 #12 - New Ride

The engine thrummed softly as Chet manoeuvred his vehicle into a suitable parking position. Once satisfied, he turned the key and the engine fell silent. There was a reassuring clunk as the lock disengaged and a hum as the door opened. He closed the door gently behind him and pressed the alarm activation button. He smiled, his machine was truly magnificent. It stood out amongst all the other dowdy vehicles, battered pick-up trucks and rusted sedans. It was brand new, gleaming silver, all curves and impressive styling details. He sighed. He hoped it would be safe, still intact when he returned to it. He headed across the asphalt towards the seedy bar. He checked his reflection, naked but for the cowboy hat perched on his bald grey head, ‘Hi I’m Chet’. Everyone screamed. Stupid name. Stupid fucking humans.

Rachel Oram is a dabbling wannabe author and very occasional poet. She has a husband and two cats.

We Are 138 #11 - Homecoming

She startled as the long-expected key grated in the lock.
“You bitch”, he spat, looming in the doorway. “I’ve heard all about you”. Her plan, ‘be compliant, don’t argue’, shaped in hours of dark waiting, shredded like rotting lace.
“Dirty whore. You fucked them all”. He described each graphic detail with spite and relish. Stomach rolling, she whispered “who?” but, his venom spent, he left.
The vase she grabbed in sudden rage smashed against the closing door. Clutching the biggest shard she raced after him, thrust it at his face then, even as his fists clenched, gently tried to tend the newly-opened wound.
Next morning, she had to pick at last night’s scab, asking, dry-mouthed, “Who said those things about me?” Not wanting to know.
“No-one”, he smirked, “I made it up. To see what you would do”.

Jane James writes poetry and occasional short stories. Sometimes the stories are fictional- but this one isn’t.

5 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #10 - Reunion

"Come and tell your Aunty Peg all about it”
I faltered as I heard this. I was wrong, a bad person, a worry to all. Yet she welcomed me, I always knew she loved me and wished to heal me. A special person to trust. Family? Home?
I told her everything. She nodded, she wiped a tear. She held her arms out to hold me afterwards. I was better now. I could breathe without that hammering in my chest. Freedom?
“Not yet,” she said as if reading my mind. “Go tell your Dad, Mam and sister, leave your Nan to me”
I couldn’t, wouldn’t, fear returning with wings aflame, scorching my safety.
“Tell them” she repeated.
Two years later, at her funeral, my tears soaking the collar of my shirt, they held me, Mother, Father and my Sister.

Big Paul lives in Carmarthenshire, where he gets inspiration from his surroundings. An ex-poet, he aspires to become a writer of stuff. 

3 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #9 - Sweeping Ashes

Dave’d sid ancient ones - knew what to call ‘em. ‘E was a mon a words. A curious mon wi’ curious skills. Thass why Krampus was at his funeral.
We was waiting - waning around the crescent of the crematorium. Sombre silence broken in whispered celebrations.
Breezes conducted the trees into sways, seashore sounds. Hush.
Look! ‘Orns! Look!
Above the ‘edge was a pair a ‘orns. It bobbed the boundary. Appeared. A black figure, red faced - hungry, menaced. It tapped the ground wi’ a besom - swept a semi-circle. It took six steps - repeated. Dave would’ve called it ‘Dead Man’s Boogie’ or summat. Shoulders back, ‘ead ‘igh, stalking - eyeballing each mourner.
Emma giggled, Thass so Dave!
One follow one, we all giggled. An’ we cried as we did an’ we knew fo’ sure ‘e was a curious mon wi’ curious skills.

R. M. Francis is a writer from Dudley, author of five poetry chapbooks, his full collection and debut novella will be published in 2020. Check him out at https://rmfrancis.weebly.com/ and twitter @RMFrancis

2 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #8 - Our Friend

Has a strange concept of respect does our friend
Confusing it with muscles, intimidation and bags sold and all the little bits of violence that never get old
Well not for him, fancies himself as a Black Country Reggie Kray will be rich and famous one day
Will, of course, make his mark on history by sitting in the pub regurgitating Daily Mail headlines off his tits on vodka shots
Prison sentences don’t put him off, they're worn like a badge to brag and show off to all the hangers on and the sycophants
Staggering home, he falls over three times, eats a kebab and smashes a window
Then he slumps in front of the telly and wakes up from his nightmare reality
Clarity decides that his whole life is a huge fucking lie so he, sobs, cries

Matt Humphries is a writer, promoter and joker from Walsall, he enjoys trying to be creative from disturbing memories as a way of making sense of them. He lives with his wife, a plant pot called Milly and memories of his stolen Vespa, Molly.

1 Aug 2019

We Are 138 #7 - Awaken

I don’t know how I got here. I’m not even sure where here is. But it’s warm, blood warm. There’s a humidity here and my body sweats. I feel sick, feverish. The walls are soft, like scarred flesh. It yields to the touch. I’m worried if I push too hard it’ll break. I’m not sure if it’ll bleed or some sort of pus will emerge. Either way, I’m not sure if my mind could take it. I’m hoping, begging that this is a dream, but my arms are showing painful welts from where I’ve been pinching myself. The floor under my bare feet is similar to the walls, but callused, more solid. It’s springy underfoot, clammy to the touch. I stand with difficulty, it’s hard to balance. I hear a harsh, guttural noise close by. Panicked, I turn…

Dan Oram is an author and performance poet. He has recently published his novella ‘Confessions of a Renfield’ on Amazon and can be reached on Facebook @Dan Oram - Author

We Are 138 #6 - 'hood Samaritan

I hear them before I see them. Through the crowds I make out a couple arguing, passers-by giving them a wide berth and pretending not to notice them.
“You slept with that bitch!”, she screams at him. She is petite, while her (presumably former) beau is much bigger and well-set, both dressed smartly and not where you’d expect such disquiet to come from.
He tries to plead his case, tells her it meant nothing, that she came on to him, but she is relentless. She starts to jab at his chest and with little else left in his arsenal he raises his fist to punch the woman in the face.
But the car behind me sounds his horn. I raise my hand sheepishly and slowly pull away from the traffic lights, already putting both embarrassments firmly behind me.

Nathan Spong is a spasmodic writer with articles published both online and in print, all of which are published under a variety of pseudonyms. He writes more stories in his head than are committed to paper, and has turned procrastination into an Olympic discipline.

We Are 138 #5 - Cardiff, Winter

Homeless people are adverts for capitalism, not warnings against. A subliminal message to never rock the boat. Mortgage means death pledge. Your credit rating will be affected if you speak out on their behalf. Your job may be under threat if you offer them food or shelter. 

Your data is harvested in the hope you’ll prove malleable to the influence of big business. Which you will be. Your phone listens to you. Your opinions are unoriginal, vintage, retro. You kid yourself you are a free man as you queue for a coffee you neither need nor like the taste of. You pay on your phone. An algorithm decides you are probably pro capital punishment.

In the city sky, tall cranes sway above future slums. An icy wind screams at a flimsy tent in the shadow of a bank. 

Paul Jenkins is a modern-day Bartleby. He lives in South Wales where he sometimes writes short stories and more often doesn’t write them.

We Are 138 #4 - Amputation

She looked faint.
She sputtered “w” syllables. Trying to say, “What?” but it wouldn’t come out.
“It’s my right arm,” I said. I suppose it was difficult to tell precisely what it was with it being wrapped in plastic. And I suppose the shock stopped her noticing there was no right arm under my jacket.
“I said I love you so much I’d cut my right arm off for you.”
Her eyes filled with tears. She threw her arms around me and planted rapid kisses on my lips and face.
Then she unfastened my belt. Slowly drew the leather strap from out of the loop of my jeans. She wrapped it around the top of her right arm as we walked to the shed. I held her tightly from behind and kissed her neck as she started cutting.

Dave Pitt is a performance poet, playwright and storyteller. As one-third of Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists he is trying to take over the world one poetry gig at a time.

We Are 138 #3 - Poetry Gun

I shot him with the poetry gun. 
He looked thoughtful then advanced, bugger it’s only set to haiku. 
I turned the dial quickly and fired again. He laughed, what’s this gun set on now? Crap it’s a limerick, I twisted the dial. 
One last chance, I turned the gun up to its maximum setting. Holding the trigger down I riddled his body until the ammunition indicator hovered near empty. 
As he died I looked at the gun’s new setting. 
It read, a selection of the wielder’s angst-ridden shit he wrote at junior school when Becky wouldn’t go out with him. 
I don’t remember writing when I was at school I thought, I can’t have been that bad. I held the gun to my head and pulled the trigger and the last thing I did was remember I was.

Richard Archer often imagines he is a poet. He has written far too many books all of them are on Amazon, he recommends A Pigeon Among the Cats.

We Are 138 #65 - Level Crossing

Red lights started blinking to the accompaniment of warning sounds. Advertisement barriers blocked the road on both sides of a level crossi...