U OK, hun?

Detective Inspector Jose Mundalez knew there was something weird about this one. Just knew it.

He crushed his cigarette beneath his foot and moved one step closer to the body. Matty ‘MJ’ Jacobson had boiled to death in an enormous vat of baked beans, his corpse discovered in a desolate warehouse at just after 6am on a swelteringly hot Chicago morning.

Mundalez had worked some sick cases in his time. He’d been just a rookie when he’d solved his first serial homicide case: a psycho by the name of The Washing Up Liquid Killer (also known as Steve). Tortured by his memories, he’d drank too much, screwed too much, couponed too much. Ordered by his captain to take leave, he’d left Chicago P.D. to rediscover the convoluted sob story that had made him want to become a cop in the first place.

But now he was back, and something about this case had excited him. What was the victim doing out here? And why was he covered in beans?

Matty’s family, friends and co-workers had all confirmed that he didn’t even like baked beans. The CSI squad had recovered no beans from his house. So what was he doing dead in this warehouse, beans all up in his grill?

“Lopez,” Mundalez barked at the young detective examining the vat. “Have we confirmed the time of death?”

Lopez smirked. “In Heinz-sight that would have been a good idea.”

“Get back to work,” Mundalez snapped.

He stepped carefully onto the silver ladder attached to the side of the vat. Peering over the edge, he surveyed its contents.

Beans. Lots and lots of beans.

The smell was rancid. Like tomatoes and entrails and when you pull a load of hair out of the plughole and it looks like a small mammal. At the edge, a puffy face floated helplessly.

Teetering on the top rung of the ladder, Mundalez leaned towards Matty’s face.

“U OK, hun?” he whispered.

THE END 

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Deep in the Cornish countryside, there is a legend as old as time itself. A legend so ghastly, so blood-curdling, dear reader, that I am loath to utter it. For in the shadows, in the whisper of the trees, there resides a ghoul. Consumed with torment, she haunts the village with her anguished wails and icy breath.

Whether people are birthing a sheep, paying their respects at a funeral or watching reruns of Top of the Pops on BBC2, the ghoul will appear and start breastfeeding her ghoul baby indignantly. Only if you say “Please can you put your breasts away so I can eat in peace” three times will the ghoul float away, screaming, to the Daily Mail.

Living in constant terror, the country folk are unable to sleep or eat. The life expectancy is now 37. Crops are withering away. Cattle are perishing. So that’s where I come in. Timothy Rothchild, ghoul hunter extraordinaire, pleased to meet you.

*

“This’ll be your lodgings for the night,” Martin Jackson, the landlord of the local pub says as he places my suitcase on the bed. 

I glance around the room. It’s not much, just a single bed and a rickety wooden chest of drawers that looks like it will collapse at any moment. But there’s a pile of lovingly-folded blankets and a pitcher of warm milk to keep me cosy.

“This shall be more than adequate,” I say, taking off my flat cap. “I bid thee good night.”

Once the door closes, I change into my night garments and huddle beneath the blankets. Sleep is slow to come, but when it does, it embraces me fully.

Some hours later, I am awoken by a curious suckling sound. Striking a match, I light my candlestick and gasp. It is she. (The breastfeeding ghoul I mentioned earlier, please keep up).

“Be gone, ghoul,” I command, my voice wavering. “You are not welcome here.”

“But discrimination…”

“Be gone!” I shout, throwing some frankincense and eye of newt at her.

Her pale eyes glare in the darkness.

“You must leave this village and never return, do you hear me, ghoul?”

“It’s Sarah.”

“What?”

“My name is Sarah.” She floats to the window, gazing sadly into the distance. “I wasn’t always like this, you know. I didn’t assume that people were sadists if they’d prefer not to watch me lactate into someone else’s mouth while they’re eating a steak bake at Greggs. I wasn’t always hated so.”

“It can be so again,” I say, reaching my hand out to her. “Breastfeeding is a normal, natural part of life. No-one thinks it’s gross. Just stop being so smug and self-righteous about it.”

“You’re right,” Sarah says. “Thanks, Timothy.”

“Wait, how do you know my name?”

“I have always known,” Sarah says as she fades into the darkness. “I have always known.”

THE END

 

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It was the year 2023 and the Labour government had released its target that 86% of all school-leavers should be beauty bloggers.

It was Armageddon. The UK had gone completely tits-up. B&Q had run out of white paint, scientists had been forced to cultivate giant mutant avocados to keep up with demand and teens across the country were in counselling.

“I’m just not chirpy and kitsch enough,” they sobbed breathlessly. “I can’t take close-ups of my Benefit cheek palette because I have a moustache, I don’t know my foundation from my arsehole and I have to live in a hazmat suit to keep my room spotless enough to take artistically arranged snaps of my #MAChaul. I can’t go on like this. I just can’t.”

But it was the law. And so engineers, teachers and doctors had been phased out in favour of people who could take 236 selfies per day and use gross words like ‘adorbs’ and ‘totes’.

The population now stood at 1.7 million. Six million people had died of food poisoning after taking 28 minutes to upload pictures of their quinoa salad. It was a pandemic, it was cruel and it was the law.

“It is the law,” said Jeremy Corbyn during PMQs. “The UK will become a world leader in beauty blogging.” He clambered onto his bench, gyrating his hips slightly. “We will not surrender to Tory ideals of literacy and numeracy. Nor will we accept that people should do something better with their lives than make gormless pouty fish faces and then edit the shit out of their pictures. Hashtag effyourbeautystandards.”

As the population dwindled and the English language waned to just nine words – eyebrows, bae, fleek, on, MAC, strobe, NYX, Benefit and haul – the UK ground to a halt.

Eventually there was just one beauty blogger left. Her Instagram handle was @unicornrainbowglitterprincessveganmarilynmonroewasasize16primarkhaul and she was 19 Illamasqua Skin Bases old.

As she lay weak in the beauty section of House of Fraser, her pot of Anastasia Dipbrow Promade fell from her hands and rolled into the distance. With her last dying breaths, she typed a caption for her Instagram selfie.

Eyebrows. On. Fleek.  

*

Two centuries later, her crusty old remains were discovered and displayed in the Natural History Museum. They can still be viewed today for £8, or £6 if you order through Groupon.

THE END

*Please note some of this is not historically accurate.

 

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The day had finally arrived. The day that Julia was going to tell her husband that she was an alien.

Some might say this was quite a big secret to keep from one’s spouse – on par perhaps with an unannulled marriage, or undisclosed links to organised crime. But some did not know what it was like to be a Gleekon from Jupiter living in disguise in a three-up two-down on the outskirts of Chorley.

Plus technically she was only half alien – her father having relinquished the throne of Clajanka to abscond with a human back in 1979. Her alien heritage, if anything, was merely exotic – like an Italian accent or a rogue red hair gene.

Julia had imagined telling her husband the truth on many an occasion. He’d chuckle, shaking his head in disbelief. “Oh, you,” he’d say, prodding her stomach. Then they’d laugh, put a load of washing on, take the chicken nuggets out of the oven and coo over the drawings their son had scribbled at nursery.

You see, Alfie was nearly three now and the signs of his alien ancestry were beginning to show. The blue skin that had thankfully skipped a generation for her had blighted him with a vengeance. She’d been fake-tanning him for two years, hiding the St. Tropez bottles in a gap under the bedroom floorboards.

But people had begun to get suspicious. Doctors, specialists, Hell even a medium had tried to diagnose the biscuit-y scent, but she had cold-facedly lied. Now there was talk of skin grafts. She had to say something – not just to save her own skin, but that of her son.

“Mark?” Julia coughed as she entered the front room. Mark was sat on the couch with his back to her, his curly brown hair poking over the couch.

“I have something to tell you.”

He didn’t reply, engrossed in the cooking programme on TV.

“Mark, there’s no easy way to say this. You know you and Alfie mean the world to me. I’d do anything for you. We’ve been through so much. And I love our life, our home.” Her breath caught in her throat. “But I’ve been keeping something from you.”

Julia stepped closer to Mark, stroking his hair softly. “Mark, I’m an alien.”

Overwhelmed by the silence, she continued. “I know you’ll need time to think this over. If you need a few days, if you need to stay with your parents, I’ll understand. Mark, please, talk to me.”

She grabbed Mark’s shoulder to spin him around, gasping in shock.

It wasn’t Mark at all, but a load of Waitrose bags with a wig on top.

THE END

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Jessica was sat next to the window on her Cross Country train to Wolverhampton.

She was on the way to meet Josh, her kind-of-but-not-really-because-he-wouldn’t-acknowledge-her-Facebook-relationship-request boyfriend, who she’d met on Tinder a couple of months earlier. It was a cold, thankless journey and with only 7% phone battery left, she was relieved when the train finally shuddered to a halt.

As she jostled her way off the train and through the crowds, a curious sight unfolded before her.

A little boy, perhaps three or four years old, was being pulled along the platform by his father. With one hand clutching his father’s and the other trailing along a grubby toy rabbit, the boy was chattering excitedly. Just as they reached the stairs, his tiny fingers lost grip of the rabbit and it fell to the ground.

Her heart thudding, Jessica had a sudden realisation. This was it. This was her chance to shine. This was the moment her whole life had been leading to.

Everything around her seemed to slow down. She was in a tunnel of clarity, surrounded by a sea of grey, shapeless faces, and she, and only she, could emerge victorious.

Striding towards the rabbit, she called out to the boy. “Excuse me, you dropped this,” she said, as she scooped the toy into her hands and extended it towards him.

“Tha…” he lisped, but Jessica heard him not, as she had whipped out her phone and was logging into Facebook.

Just chased after a little boy who’d dropped his toy rabbit on the train platform. The look of joy on his face when I gave it him back gives me hope #ItsTheLittleThingsInLife she typed.

Her mind whizzed with sums. By her calculations, this good deed would garner at least 57 likes, maybe even a couple of shares. After that, who knew. Her mate Tasha had told a girl she had toilet paper stuck to her shoe in the toilets in BaBas, and she’d gone viral. She’d appeared on ITV’s This Morning with Phil and Holly, released a fragrance and had been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Strathclyde.

But, as with everything in life, there was a catch. It had been decreed that if a good deed was not posted on social media within one minute, time would erase the deed – as if it had never happened.

A bell chimed three times, symbolising that Jessica had 10 seconds left to post her good deed on Facebook before it was reversed.

‘God,’ she trembled, her brow beading with sweat. ‘Smiley face emoji or no smiley face emoji?’

5…4…3…2…

Jessica’s phone died.

“No!” She screamed, falling to her knees.

In the distance, a child’s cries echoed in the night.

THE END