The Facebook Birthday Wish

Claire didn’t mind Stephen. He was alright. She wasn’t sure why she had him on Facebook as they never talked and she couldn’t picture his face without stalking his profile, but he was harmless enough.

But when it came to writing on his wall for his birthday, she just couldn’t do it. It’s not like she wanted him to have a shitty birthday. It’s not that she thought he was unworthy of birthday cheer. For some inexplicable reason, she just couldn’t bring herself to say those two little words.

So when Facebook sent her a notification reminding her to wish him a happy birthday, she thought it was a bit pushy, but clicked off it and got on with her day.

Then during a meeting with Barbara from accounts, she got a text from an unknown number.

It’s Stephen’s birthday.

Sliding the lock on her screen, she leaned back in her chair. ‘Probably just a coincidence,’ she told herself.

After returning home from work, she threw her keys on the kitchen table and headed towards the fridge. Grabbing a jar of pickles, she nudged the fridge door shut, before gasping and dropping the jar to the floor.

Arranged in plastic letters on the fridge were the words ‘WISH STEPHEN A HAPPY BDAY’.

“What the fuck?” Claire said.

Checking her door and window, she closed her curtains and sat on the couch to watch Coronation Street. Her eyes heavy, she felt herself drifting off.

A few hours later, she jolted awake to a curious rustling sound.

Peering over her couch, she watched as a note was pushed under her door.

Her hands trembling, Claire got up off the couch and opened the note.

Do U wAnT to WiSH sTePhEn a HaPpY bIRthDaY?

SEVEN YEARS LATER

Claire had moved to Costa Rica, grown a handlebar moustache and bought some Gucci sunglasses, but The Facebook Birthday Wish had tracked her down.

She was tired of looking over her shoulders. She was tired of running. Of living in motels, paying in cash, and taking on a new identity in every godforsaken town.

As she nursed a double whiskey at the bar in some scummy downtown joint, the bartender called over to her.

“Hey, chica,” he shouted. “Some hombre has left a message for you. Feliz cumpleaños for some Stephen dude. That mean anything to you?”

Claire downed the rest of her whiskey in one burning shot, and pushed some crumpled-up cash onto the bar. She now realised that she would never escape.

Back in her motel room, she booted up her laptop and logged into Facebook.

Taking a deep breath, she clicked on Stephen’s profile and began to type.

*

Under the glare of the streetlamp outside, The Facebook Birthday Wish smiled. Its work here was done.

THE END

The Con Artist

“You are brought here today accused of a wicked, heinous crime. A crime that has shocked and appalled in equal measure. A crime that has sent a shiver down the spine of every right-minded person in this community.

“You stand accused of defrauding countless men across the UK. You stand accused of deceiving men with your lies, your illusions, and your deliberate concealment of your true nature.

“In your wicked pursuit, you have left hearts shattered, Oyster cards used for no good reason, and haircuts purchased in vain. You have cheapened saucy Snapchats, invalidated tentative sexts, and nullified restaurant reservations.

“In your heartless mission, you have wasted WhatsApp messages and hours spent carefully evading the Friend Zone by concocting the perfect formula of exuding sexual dominance without seeming like a complete a-hole.

“You have quashed men’s hope of finding The One. You have made them feel used and vulnerable – mere shells of what they once were. You have left them devoid of trust, no longer knowing whom they can believe.

“Lauren Alisha Williamson, you are hereby charged with the crime of looking absolutely fuck-all like your Tinder pictures. How do you plead?”

THE END

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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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