Friday 31 July 2020

The Bus to The End of The World

by Henry Lewi

iced water 

 The flyer dropped through his door early one morning. In bright red with bold white lettering it announced, “The Bus to the End of the World”. Below the title it continued,
“Transport for London is pleased to announce a new service from the weekend.”
Take the Bus to the end of the world,
  See sights that’ll amaze you,
  Watch the changing stars,
  Get to meet new and interesting people,
  Take tea with the Old Gods,
  Have cocktails with such celebrities as Bacchus, Thor and Odin.
  Eat Dinner in the Halls of Valhalla  
  Catch the Bus at your nearest Bus Stop
  Pre-Booking is recommended
  All Major Credit Cards Accepted.
  TfL permits the use of Oyster Cards on this route
  Concessionary Travel Cards will be honoured  
Please book by going online at

He quickly went online and found that there was a single slot left for that evening, so he booked it knowing that it was all free with his Senior Citizen Bus Pass. 

So, what to wear for the event he thought, opening his large wardrobe. He spotted a white blazer with vertical red stripes, perfectly complemented by white trousers, white shoes and a white shirt, he topped this off with a red bow-tie and a straw boater with a red stripped Ribbon. Admiring himself in the mirror he thought, “I look just like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins!” 

After a few minutes he muttered to himself, “that’s strange, I don’t remember buying these clothes – oh well, they’ll do.”

 Just after dusk he waited patiently alone at the bus stop, no-one was around, and then he saw the bus, it was a new Routemaster – he remembered the old ones that he used to take to school when he was a boy in London. It was a number 937 – “A prime number.”  The thought just popped into his head – “how did I know that?” 

 The destination shown on the front was, “The End of the World”.

 Getting on, he showed his bus pass to the silent driver and went upstairs to take a seat for a better view, but the windows were so dark he couldn’t see out.

“That’s weird,” he thought, “there’s no one else on board, oh well, I’m sure they’ll pick up more passengers en-route.” 

After an indeterminate period of time during which he thought he must have dozed off and missed most of the journey, the Routemaster pulled up and the driver announced, “last stop for the End of the World.” 

   Looking around he realised he was the last one remaining on the bus.  “Strange,” he thought, I haven’t seen any other passengers. He quickly descended the stairs and got off the bus. It was getting quite dark and he initially thought he was alone.

“Where were all the signs to the Tea Rooms, Restaurants, Bars and Halls of Valhalla?” He wondered.
Out the corner of his eye he noted a number of black clothed figures all heading toward some bright lights. Following,  he was intrigued to see that the lights flickered on and off and got brighter the closer he got to them 

 Unexpectedly he was at a gate when a uniformed attendant shone a light in his face and asked, “where is your admission ticket?” 

“I, I don’t have one”, he replied, as the light grew brighter and more painful, “I didn’t know I needed an admission ticket,” he said trying to turn away from the light,  he found he couldn’t, and it was now becoming increasingly more difficult to speak. 

Suddenly he heard a voice, “It’s OK, don’t struggle, welcome back Fred, you’ve been in a coma for the last month, but it’s all fine and you are back with us. There’s a tube in your throat which is why you can’t speak, so we’re going to remove it now that you’re awake.”

About the author

 Henry is now retired from the NHS, and has had a number of short stories published by Café Lit. He is a member of the Canvey Writers Group.  

Thursday 30 July 2020

The Seagull Man

by Maxine Churchman

dark rum and coke

Tall and thin, he walked confidently along the seafront, seagulls screeching mournfully as they circled his head. 
He wore a thick woolly hat, even though the summer sun was hot. The bony tips of his angular elbows, protruding through holes in his sleeves, were red as though embarrassed to be in view. His gait was light and unhurried; the stones hardly moved beneath his worn shoes.

Gulls large and small, some with their youthful brown colouring, landed by his feet and kept pace with him, their eyes watching each other and the plastic bag dangling from his hand. One particularly large gull landed on his shoulder, his slight frame dipping a little under its weight.
Squabbles broke out on the ground, with beaks jabbing and feathers flying. The man kept smiling and the bird on his shoulder seemed unconcerned.
When they reached the edge of the sea, he stopped and opened the bag. The noise of the birds grew in anticipation of a feast. More scuffles broke out. Still, the largest bird of all stayed on the man’s shoulder. At last the man upturned the bag, shaking out crumbs and crusts of bread and other tasty morsels. Some were scooped up in mid-air; some were snatched by smaller nimbler gulls on the periphery on the main action, darting in and out before the deadly beaks of the larger gulls could impale them. And still, the king of the seagulls perched on the man’s shoulder.
The man looked at the bird and brought the back of his hand up to its white chest, smoothing down the feathers and cooing to it like a lover. As the last crumbs were snapped up by the eager feeders, the bird stretched its neck, opened its beak wide and called its familiar refrain. All the other birds flew into the air as if of one mind. The man stretched his arms wide and three of the largest gulls joined the one on his shoulder: two stood on each side. The birds rose into the air slowly, lifting the man and carrying him over the sea and away.
Where he is now?
I have walked along the seafront on numerous occasions but, I haven’t seen him since.

About the author

Maxine Churchman is from Essex UK. Her hobbies include reading, hiking, yoga and more recently writing. So far she has concentrated on short stories, but hopes to make progress on a Novel in 2020.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

The Ethical Hacker and the Jinn

by Mason Bushell


“Gadgi-Tech.” Kelvin read the computer store sign above the entrance and stomped inside out of the rain. He paused to wipe his glasses off with a grumble. “I may as well live in this piggin’ place!” Ignoring the phone and television departments, he went straight for the computer section. He selected USB leads, a pack of microfilters and a large memory stick. Approaching the help desk, he caught the eye of the server and technician Rupert Hutton. Kelvin knew he hadn’t been on staff long, but he was very good at his job and the two had become friends. It was hard to believe; Rupert in his smart suit used to be a homeless man living in a doorway by the park. Kelvin admired him for how he’d changed his life around.
“Hallo, Kelvin. It’s not all good news I’m afraid.” Rupert took a box from the customer collection shelf and came to the counter.
“I thought as much. What’s the verdict? Have I lost everything?” Kelvin rubbed his face stressfully. Sometimes he hated computers with a passion.
“The patient is as dead as a technically advanced dodo. However, the phoenix rises from the fiery microchips – You see, I was able to get your data from your hard drive and implant it into this new one for you.” Rupert patted the box with a victorious grin.
“Oh, you star! You just saved my life.” Kelvin wrung his hand and smiled for the first time in days.
“My pleasure. I found something weird when I took your old hard drive apart.”
“Really? What?” Kelvin dreaded the coming answer.
“Well, the ribbon cable, inside, was twisted into a nice neat bowtie. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
“That is weird … Anyway, thanks again, Rupert. What do I owe you for the hard drive surgery and these?” Kelvin put his purchases on the counter and took out his circuit board design wallet.
Rupert rang the purchases into the till and bagged everything. “That’s eighty-nine, ninety-five, please.”
“And worth a fortune in recovered data too.” Kelvin paid in notes, never realising he received an unusually large and abnormal coin in his change. “Thanks, man.”
“See you next week.” Rupert gave a cheeky salute.
Kelvin rolled his eyes, waved and left for home. He wanted to get back and check his data really was okay - as soon as possible.

Kelvin lived in an apartment within view of the river. It wasn’t big or beautiful but it suited his needs. The little white kitchen had a microwave to nuke a reasonable meal when he forgot to order pizza. The bedroom was a place to crash; it didn’t need to do anything else. The lounge was the furthest from a resting space as you could get. A sweeping desk of monitors, keyboards, modems, game controllers, circuit boards, pen-drives with yellow ducks on them and an assortment of fast food cups and boxes filled one wall. To its right, a tv screen was mounted on the wall. It was playing a space show on a sci-fi channel as Kelvin came in with his bag in one hand and a pizza box in the other. His eyes ran over his collection of comic book character figurines as he dumped his bag on the cluttered sofa. He loved superheroes above even technology. He threw off his Krypton trench coat and collapsed into his big leather swivel chair with a sigh of relief. Going out was always an anxiety-inducing experience. Still being able to sit and devour a five-cheese, three-pepperoni, sweet-pepper, bacon, barbecue pizza, hold the pickles was well worth it.

With his pizza devoured, he threw the box on the pile burying the sofa, chucked his wallet on the desk dislodging some coins and unpacked his new hard drive. As the computer booted, he noticed his low WIFI speed with a disdainful scowl. Pulling out the new microfilters, he ducked beneath the desk to install them in the phone socket. They were his last hope to boost his speeds. Crawling out, his hand brushed the tower of plugs. The spaghetti junction of electrical cable shocked him. He flinched backwards, bashed his shoulder on the desk, dislodged his glasses and scattered disposable coffee cups and gadgets on the floor. Amid them, something hit him over the head. “Aww, blast my luck!” he cursed while searching for his glasses.
Finding his spectacles amid the debris, he shoved them back on his nose. Looking through the lenses again, he felt his focus returning and noticed the odd coin sitting on the floor.
“That’s weird,” he muttered as he picked up the talisman with a hand over his sore shoulder. He took in the horned demon surrounded with flames and read the inscription around it. “Rupert must have paid me with you.” Kelvin hurled things back on the desk and sat down again never realising an old computer tower had taken on a red glow. He tapped away on his keyboard, never noticing smoke issuing from the CD Drive. “Bloody great, HHD Error – Oh wait; new hard drive. I have to let it install its driver’s fir —” Bang!
Kelvin almost fell off his chair as the computer tower erupted in a flash of fire. The sides fell off and the CD drive shot out. It rocketed across the room like a cruise missile, decapitating several superheroes on the shelf. Kelvin’s mouth fell open and his glasses almost fell off his face as he watched on in shock. A five-inch tall figure emerged from the smoky interior of the computer tower holding a circuit board. As though chiselled from rock, the red-skinned demon blinked and looked about through thick-black rimmed glasses. He had on large red boxer shorts, baring images of computer mice and a slogan. ‘If you like my mouse, check out my stylus baby!’
The Jinn peered about as if struggling to see. Eventually, he spotted his summoner and scowled. “Thanks a bunch! That was my most painful summons in a while.” He held up the circuit board. “I don’t know what this is but it brained me in there.”
“Figures, it’s a … Erm – it’s a memory card.” Kelvin gulped as he cleaned his glasses and tried to figure out whether to believe his eyes or not. “What are you?”
“I’m a Jinn. You summoned me.” The Jinn squinted about him and took the geeky glasses off. He smiled as his vision cleared. With a snap of his fingers, he turned the glasses into designer shades before putting them back on. “That’s better. I hope you didn’t summon me to clean this room out, its looks and smells awful in here!”
“Sorry about that, I have a lot of work to do. I work with big companies to detect holes in their security as an Ethical hacker you see.” Kelvin opened his arms and shrugged apologetically.
“Ethical hacker? Last time I saw someone get hacked it was on the football field – there was nothing ethical about that let me tell you!” The Jinn walked through some of the gadgets, turning his head to look at them. “What all this stuff?”
“Well, that’s a WIFI pineapple.” Kelvin pointed to a gadget with lots of antennae. “That allows me to find, use and penetrate any device or security network so long as I have a WIFI signal I can use.”
“Hmm, sounds painful.” The Jinn scratched his head. “What’s this?” he indicated a green circuit board with lots of ports and components attached.
“That’s a raspberry. It —”
“Ha! Like to see you try and eat that with your fruit salad!” The Jinn gave it a kick. “You wouldn’t need a Jinn then; you’d need a good dentist!”
“I didn’t name it.” Kelvin grinned. He liked this sarcastic little guy. “I just use it like a hacker’s Swiss army knife. It's like a mini-computer that allows me to manipulate so many things when trying to execute entry into computer portals and servers.”
“Ahh, now, portals, I know about. Don’t try and enter one of those unless you know what you’re doing. Trust me, its no fun getting your anatomy rearranged. I once knew a Brownie who made that mistake; he walked around with his head stuck to his arse for a fortnight until I managed to repair the damage.”
“Wow! Poor guy,” Kelvin said.
“Yeah, he reckoned taking a crap was a nightmare. At least he could see what he was doing with his toilet paper though.” The Jinn roared with laughter and ended up holding his sides.
Kelvin chuckled too. “Oh, I see, you’re a big joker,” he remarked while tapping away on his keyboard.
“I do like to have a little —”
Kelvin slammed his hand down on his keyboard furiously. “What do you mean internet connection lost? Stupid damned computer!” he blustered at the screen.
“Wooo! That inanimate object really knows how to make you mad, huh?” The Jinn folded his arms and grinned up at him.
“Shut up!” Kelvin retorted, now stabbing his keyboard with furious fingers as he attempted to diagnose the problem.
“Fine.” The Jinn vanished in a puff of smoke and reappeared on the shelf of superheroes. “If you tell me what’s wrong, I might be able to help,” he volunteered, having taken hold of a Superman figurine by the shoulders. He gave it a shake and a slap to see if it was alive.
 “Agh! No – put that down now! You already killed two of my prized figures.” Kelvin indicated the decapitated heroes on the floor with the smoking CD Drive. That one is a limited edition and worth a fortune.”
“He’s a bit crude, having his underpants on the wrong side of his trousers, isn’t he?”
“Says you walking about in your boxer shorts,” retorted Kelvin, resorting to swearing at his computer again. 
 The Jinn returned the desk and put on a swagger. “I do, but at least I make these look good. Don’t you…” the little man flashed out of existence as Kelvin punched the desk, sending coffee cups flying across the surface. “…Geez! Calm down before you break your hand!” he said having reappeared sitting on top of the screen.     
“Sorry. This thing drives me mad. It must have Gremlins or something.” Kelvin slumped in his chair and sighed.
“Did you say - Gremlins?” The Jinn dropped down on the keyboard and began hopping about the keys.
“Yeah, its gotta be, by the number of times this heap of neurons has gone wrong.”
“Yeah, I’m not surprised. The Gremian, Vexii – or ‘little pain in the arse’ commonly known as a Gremlin; has a knack of making any sort of machinery malfunction. They began slipping into your world when the aviators learned to fly. They…”
“Wait, Jinn. Are you saying Gremlins are real?” Kelvin sat up and looked at him in shock.
“Oh, yeah. They’re real alright. Let’s see if you have one.” The Jinn stood in front of the computer screen and rolled up his imaginary sleeves. Raising his hand, he said, ‘Gremian aperio.’ and shot a bolt of indigo light at the screen.
“Wah!” Kelvin recoiled in fright. “Don’t blow up my computer! I … still … need ...” he spluttered to silence, his eyes widening as the screen grew bright and millions of windows, webpages, executables and documents began opening, closing and flashing all over the screen. At the same time, all manner of horns began blaring from the speakers.
“Yup - you got a Gremlin!” The Jinn hit the screen with another blast of indigo magic. This time a blue fog grew out of the screen. It ejected a skinny, sallow-looking grey figure, wearing denim overalls and a lurid red shirt. He shrieked as he landed on his head, rolled a few times and slammed into the mouse.
Standing, he staggered about until he shook off a cross-eyed look. He revealed himself to be an inch taller than the Jinn (not including the last few strands of his wispy grey hair) and just as rude as he promptly flipped his middle finger at him. “That bloody ‘urt!” he complained while rubbing his pointed nose.  
“Huh, Marlin. What are doing here? I see your manners haven’t improved.”
“ ‘Allo, Jinn. ‘ow the devil is ya? Doris alright, is she?” Marlin beamed making his thin lips and dark eyes appear like those of a friendly gargoyle. He came over, ears flapping as he clapped him on the back.
“Hi, Marlin. Doris is fine thanks.”
“Jolly good! You should see that guy up there when I cut ‘is internet connection, or make ‘im think ‘e’s ‘itting all the wrong keys – Woowee! ‘e gets boiling mad, ‘e does.”
“I noticed,” said the Jinn leaning against the printer looking unimpressed.
“Excuse me. Are you saying, you caused all my computer problems?” said Kelvin leaning in close with fury narrowed eyes.
“Oh, yeah, matey. Bin ‘aving a lot of fun for the last few weeks, I ‘ave.” Marlin grinned. “Thank ya very much for the entertainment.”
“Entertainment!” A vein began pulsing in Kelvin’s forehead. “I should bloody kill you for all that hassle you caused and for ruining my hard drive, you little b—”
“Kelvin! Calm down you’ll blow a fuse. I’ll …”
“Ooh! Don’t you worry about that. I’ve got a collection of fuses. Big ones, little ones, ‘eavy duty ones. You tell me what amperage you is needing and I’ll fetch it for you.” Marlin said looking pleased that he might be able to help.
The Jinn slapped his forehead. “I don’t even want to know where you’re getting those from.”
“Well, you see.” Marlin put his hand over his mouth and carried on in secretive tones. “These ‘ere ‘umans is needing them to protect and earth all their gadgets and gizmos. When you vanish fuses, things stop working and ‘umans get super mad, see. I’ve seen ‘oovers flying out windows, men wrestling with power cords. And you should of ‘eard the lady next door, Woowee! The things she called ‘er electric mixer, were dark enough to curl my delicate ears – and all because I took the fuse out!”
“She’d be calling you worse things if she got hold of you, you idiot.” The Jinn rolled his eyes.
“Ouch!” Marlin made a pained expression. “I’m not going back there again then.”
“You’re not going back in my computer again either, you ugly, walking nightmare,” Kelvin told him with a finger pointed at him.
  Marlin looked stunned. He furrowed his little eyebrows and scowled. “ ‘ow dare you insult me. I is just ‘aving some good clean fun with you. That’s all.”
“When will you learn, Marlin. People don’t like troublemaking little gits. Especially when they make a person’s expensive computer malfunction.” The Jinn conjured a swirling portal. “Now, sod off home. I’ll see you at the Tipsy Toadstool for a pint of nectar later.”
Marlin hung his almost bald head and slumped at the shoulders. “I is sorry ‘uman. Gremlins is unable to sit still for too long. We is ‘aving to tinker with things and cause trouble to be ‘appy, you see.”
“I understand. There are no hard feelings, mate.” Kelvin put out a finger and smiled as Marlin took in both hands and shook it.
“You is nice ‘uman,” he said humbly.
“Well, I do try to be nice.” Kelvin became thoughtful for a moment, “You know what, Marlin. If you promise to make things work with your tinkering, instead of breaking them - you could visit from time to time.”
“Really?” Marlin beamed and danced a little jig.
“Sure, I could use a hand repairing things now and then.” Kelvin returned the smile.
“Aww, in ‘e a nice ‘uman, Jinn?”
“Yeah, too nice. I’d have squashed you flat if I was him.” The Jinn sighed and winked at Kelvin. “Goodbye, Marlin.” He added before kicking him up the backside. The Gremlin was caught unawares, the impact sent him flying through the portal.
Kelvin was sure he said something unrepeatable as he vanished but he’d never know now. “Will Marlin come back; do you think?”
“Well, he can make portals to Earth, so he might.” The Jinn spread his hands as he rose into the air. “Well, your computer troubles are over, anyway.”
“Affirmative. Thank you, buddy.”
The Jinn snapped his fingers as his body took on a warm red glow. “Your superhero’s have their heads again too.”
Kelvin saw his figurines beautiful restored on the shelf. “Cheers, Jinn. I appreciate a man who repairs the damage he causes.”
 “Me too!” The Jinn was now hovering under the ceiling fan. “So, when you ethically hack someone, I guess you say ‘sorry’ afterwards do you?”   
“I…” Kelvin closed his mouth. The Jinn had vanished. Kelvin smiled, shook his head and laughed. That was the strange half-hour of his life.



Tuesday 28 July 2020

Summer Pleasures

by Roger Noons 

a cup of Yorkshire tea

‘I thought you were sitting in the garden?’ Melanie said, as she walked into the lounge.
    ‘I was, but I can’t hear the cricket because of those bloody bells.’
    ‘It’ll be a wedding.’
    ‘I know that, but it stops me listening to TMS.’
    ‘It was your idea to buy a house near the church. No nuisance there, you said. “Folks in the cemetery are always quiet.” You were dead keen.’ 
    ‘I thought less people were marrying in church these days?’
    ‘That was the case for a while, but it seems to be changing back according to Woman’s Hour.’
    ‘See, you get to listen to that.’
    ‘Ten ’til eleven on a weekday, Gerry. Not many weddings at that time. Anyway, sit in the conservatory, or watch it on TV.’
    ‘Too hot in there and it’s not on BBC, it’s Sky.’ 
    ‘I hesitate to tell you, but we’ve just had an invitation to your Brian’s wedding. In June next year.’
    ‘Bet he’s not getting wed in church.’
    ‘He is actually, a small church in Corfu.’
    ‘Is she Greek?’
    ‘No, she’s from London but they first met on the Island.’
    ‘Should be good then?’
    ‘Nice time of year to go there.’
    ‘Long time since we were in Glyfada. It was nice, I enjoyed it.’
    ‘We can revisit if we make a holiday out of it?’
    ‘Yes, let’s do that.
    Mel kissed her husband on top of his head, ruffled his hair. ‘I’ll go and make some tea.’
    When she returned, he stood up. ‘The bells have stopped, I’ll take mine outside.’
    ‘It was just on the wireless, England lost by forty four runs. The series is drawn.’    
    ‘Quiet, isn’t it,’ he mused.

About the author 

Roger Noons specialises in writing flash fiction and is a regular contributor to Café Lit. His Slimline Tales was published by Chapeltown Books in2018

Monday 27 July 2020

Mom's Bills

by Clive Aaron Gill


I loved to dress up as a princess and parade in front of Dad. But when I was five, he walked out on my mother and me.

Mom worked in a bakery during the day and as a waitress at a diner in the evening. She spent money on gambling and clothes. Everything but the bills. The debt collectors pestered Mom, warning her they would take our trailer and truck if she didn’t pay. Somehow, we scraped through the years.
When I was sixteen, Mom met Ryan, a mechanic who became a regular at the diner. They dated for three months, the longest time she had dated anyone since Dad abandoned us.

On a beautiful April morning, Mom said, “Abigail, I’ll be gone all night.”

 “Why aren’t you coming home, Mom?” I always found her in bed in the morning after her nights out.

“I’m going with the ladies to a show at the casino. Afterward, we’ll play the tables. I’ll sleep over at a friend’s place.”

“You’ll gamble too much.”

“I’ll keep to my limit.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yup. After that break-in at our neighbor’s place, I don’t want you to be alone.”

“I’ll be just fine, Mom.”

“Would it be okay if Ryan comes over?”

“Ryan? He’s your friend, not mine.”

“He said he would like to spend some time with you.”

I scratched my head. “Well … I guess.”

Mom drove away after dinner, and I strolled outside the trailer to gaze at thousands of stars, pinpricks of light in the jet-black sky.

Ryan, a tall man with a stomach that pushed against his shirt like a water-filled balloon, drove up. We went inside the trailer and sat on the sofa while we watched a movie and ate popcorn. During the movie, he snaked his thick, hairy arm around my shoulders.

“Did your Mom explain things to you?”

I shook my head.

Ryan’s pink scar, running from his ear to the corner of his mouth, reddened. He shocked me by kissing me on my lips. His breath smelled of beer.

“Just … just go,” I said.

He stared at me with dark brown eyes, steady as a hawk’s.

“Please go,” I said, pushing my elbow against his chest.
At five in the morning, Ryan walked out the door. When I got up, I found a fat, manilla envelope stuffed with fifty-dollar bills on the kitchen table.

I grabbed my mother’s dresses out of the closet and threw them into a stinking dumpster.

After loading my backpack with clothes, toiletries, and the manilla envelope, I left the trailer.
I never told anyone about Ryan’s visit. I was ashamed and disgusted and scared to go to the police or a hospital.

Since the day I walked out on Mom thirty years ago, I haven’t seen or spoken to her.
I live in the prison of my horrible memory.

About the author

Forty-five stories by Clive Aaron Gill have appeared in literary journals and in “People of Few Words Anthology.”

He tells his stories at public and private gatherings.

Born in Zimbabwe, Clive has lived and worked in Southern Africa, North America and Europe. He received a degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and lives in San Diego.