He was sat on a chair with a needle and thread in his hand. I wanted to be anywhere else at the time but I knew I was trapped. The periphery of my vision entirely excluded as my focus was solely on him. He was naked from the waist up. Attractive but terrifying. I think the room was dank and bare but he commanded every saccade my eyes made. Before he spoke I knew that every command he made I must follow; for what reasons I know not.

He described in detail what his intentions were but I did not believe him. He told me to sit on his lap, facing him. Aware of the disparity of his being more clothed than I, and shaking, I followed his order. He made me lick and bite his neck and shoulder whilst behind me he threaded the needle.

At first, I did not feel the sharp steel enter my skin and it was not until he was halfway through sewing his name into my back, over my left kidney, that I became aware of how very real his intentions were. Initially I bit down so as not to scream but as he stitched on, the horror bubbled through me. Leaping up, I reached around, desperate to wrench out the thread. It would not come and each attempt stung my entire body acutely. I was dragged from my despair into consciousness with his terrorising smile burnt onto my retinas.

(A small story)

He did not know where he was or who brought him. They came up from behind and threw a sack over his head, only for him to emerge naked in a dingy, metal room. When the burlap was removed he saw nothing except for a table covered in metal instruments. They glistened and shone like fresh snow amidst the drab hole of the place he was in. Sharp.

A voice from behind him began to explain what each of the tools did. He tried to shut off the auditory processing of his brain; trying to protect himself from such knowledge of harm.

The voice talked long and hard of how each of these instruments would be so specifically utilised on his body once he emerged from The Tank.

Then the voice was silent.

He stared at anything else but there was nothing to fix his attention. Time and time again his eyes were dragged back to the silver flash of those cruel devices.

He lost sense of time and motion. He guessed he lost consciousness through sleep but was unable to tell how often or for how long. He was sure he could see things begin to move in the dark but he was not sure if he was dreaming.

The sack was thrust back over his ears as rough voices told him it was time for The Tank. He instantly imagined those tools and what was to come. He was so fixed on them he could not even comprehend what The Tank was; the metal strips filled the entirety of his imagination.

He felt the hessian move free as a shove hurled him backwards and he fell into warm water. A lid closed down on him and he discovered he was in a small wooden box filled with water no more than two feet deep. He floated with ease and appeared to drift in no direction as the pool held no current. There was little light to see by however the whole case held a dim ethereal livid glow. As he blinked up at the ceiling he could neither hear, see or feel anything remarkable.

Time drifted on in its bizarre unknown way. As he continued to stare at the ceiling he noticed an array of colours swirl before him and wondered what narcotic the water held within it. Within the spectrum he saw dots that began to shine and form distant shapes. In the back of his mind he became aware of a nagging feeling of hunger. His mind was collected enough to know the outcome of any shouts for food or water to be brought to him. Even as he processed this the vision of those metal instruments appeared out of the sequestered dots before him. They took on a three dimensional form and he attempted to shrink back into the water - wary of not sinking his face - so as to be as far from them as possible.

His hunger grew. The shapes became ever more maleficent yet he could not tear his eyes from them. Nor could he blink in case one should shoot out towards him. As his eyes began to stream down his face he thought only of what horrors would await him once the silence and the solitude was broken.

Prologue
They were looking after the small boy. He wasn’t that small. Maybe 14. They weren’t really looking after him; his grandad was asleep in the chair. J said he couldn’t leave the house because they were looking after his brother. Looking after the small boy just in case he did something. I convinced him it would be safe to leave him. His family hated me for it. He was away when the accident happened.

They brought me to their mansion to question me. What reason had I to lure J from the house - away from his brother. I sat near the end of a titanic mahogany table. I looked at them. I knew I had to tell them. I had to explain. It didn’t matter what the small boy did. I had done worse. Yet I was still here. He could survive learning to survive. Even in his condition.
*****
I had to visit somebody in hospital. The hospital was a city. It went on for at least a mile. A mile of grey Pompadou piping with it’s own grey train to ferry sick people and sick visitors. I was on the train. I was not ready to disembark.

I rode the train to the outskirts of the hospital. I walked out to the barren wasteland beyond. I saw the fire engine and climbed in. I couldn’t contain my glee. I pressed on the accelerator and kicked the dust up. I circled around and around the scrubby sand. As I stalled to a halt, I noticed people walking towards me. They were shouting. They looked like zombies. I noticed the shotgun in the crook of my arm. They were in my sight. I took aim.

When I woke up I was sat on a metal table. A man in a white coat was next to me. In front I saw a map of the USA carved from fresh clay. As I studied it, it changed. The new US map had scores and lines on it. It changed. Each change came quickly before I could study the map. Each change came quicker. I felt hot. Lines appeared on the maps. Busier. Busier. Busier. I screamed at the map. I bounced up and down on the table screaming. LINESANDLINESANDLINESANDLINES. My attention was drawn away by the white coated man. At first to a soap dispenser. Very quickly it became a small sculpture. A small blue orb with a gold Saturn ring. It span. It morphed. Quicker and quicker the shapes morphed into different pieces of art. I began to bounce again. I shook. That was the last thing I remembered.

Epilogue:
I told the family that I had been worried about the shotgun and the fire engine. The doctors had reassured me. I was running around on my own. No fire engine. No shotgun. No clay maps. No sculptures.

I’m told the screaming was real.

(a small story)

It was on Tuesday that the grey post appeared. Perhaps it had been before, or maybe it had always been there, but Cassie noticed it on Tuesday. It was a light grey metal; the colour of the spring sky and the height of a good British oak tree. Cassie thought it was perhaps six inches in diameter and it reminded her of an unfinished lamppost. Perhaps it was.

The grey post sat on the corner of the crossroads and could be seen from her bedroom window. Cassie would sit and stare at it, almost expecting it to grow or change in some way. Each day had a certain time allocated to staring at the grey post in order to divine any difference in it from the day before.

No workmen ever arrived to finish this possible lamppost and Cassie reasoned that it was so unlike any other lampposts that her first hypothesis must be wrong. The grey post simply stood there. The grey post did not change.

Gradually Cassie became more absorbed in the meaning of the grey post. She fantasised extraordinary reasons for its use. Perhaps it would one day light up and beam a message into the sky. Perhaps it could be switched on whilst people were getting secretly microchipped in order to control the minds and actions of local people. Perhaps that wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Cassie spent longer and longer each day staring at the grey post. She found that when she managed to tear herself from her bedroom window, her thoughts remained there. Soon she struggled to move from the window at all in case suddenly the grey post changed. How would she reconcile with herself if she were to give up her vigil and miss the inevitable activity.

Cassie thought of nothing but the grey post. She would constantly pinch herself to stay awake and did not know how long she had sat in this fashion for her eyes never strayed from the grey post to her clock. When she blinked all she could see was the grey post. She did not see the bruises spreading over her skin; she saw nothing but the grey post. The grey post simply stood there. The grey post did not change.

(a small story)

Mark and Sarah had always walked passed the disused Cannon Brewery building with a look of wistful longing. It had been closed for many years but the architecture of those dusty halls had a strange pull on them. It seemed perfect then when Sarah discovered that the security gates - usually bound by chains - was open a few inches. Calling Mark he informed her he’d be there in ten minutes. Sarah loitered and wondered what was so special about that day. Why was it finally open? Mark arrived slightly out of breath and stared at the gate. They reached for each others hand, furtively looked over their shoulders, and walked in.

As they scoured the ancient rooms they were delighted at the idea of being the first people in decades to walk across the dusty floors. Sarah tested the stairs with her weight and finding they bore her, took the flight up. She noticed footprints in the dust. Maybe they weren’t the first here. Maybe they weren’t the only ones to desire the old building.

As Mark shuffled around the floor below, he noticed odd cables which seemed to hold a precise order.

As Sarah tip toed across the floor above, she saw a skittish string of wires from wall to wall.

Mark looked to the ceiling.

Sarah looked to the floor.

Their simultaneous call to the other was aborted by the implosion.

Setting: In a red desert with my cousin.

Story: We have been here for some time. We have not been struggling for food as we managed to find a deserted US army bunker and have slowly been making our way through their stores. We are beginning to run low and so start to devise plans of finding food elsewhere. We have seen another unit in the distance. It looks like a metal cargo ship container surrounded by something – probably barbed wire. We don’t know what it contains, but it appears to have subsided into the desert sand.

We agree that we should investigate and so, by the light of the moon, set off towards it. As we approach, we find it is surrounded with posts joined by barbed wire. Not every row is barbed however and we are able to pull the wire apart to slip through. There are no lights or sounds coming from the container. As we follow the ground down, something stirs. Suddenly a huge red male lion appears from the container. We turn and flee only glimpsing him long enough to see his ribs and know that he is starving. Diving between the wire fence as though into a pool, I am amazed that I am so elegant when in such desperation to get away. Maybe it wasn’t elegant. Maybe I just thought it. We run back to our base, but the lion never made it beyond his fence. We curse ourselves for wasting so much energy; knowing that we have little food to replenish ourselves.

Over the next few days we begin to see more and more soldiers in the distance. They have developed a new technique of jumping into the air and putting their arms around each others shoulders. When three soldiers do this, a mattress like square forms around them and they are able to fly. I watch three men soaring across the desert. I watch the anti-aircraft missile launch towards them. I watch their mattress catch fire. I watch the horror on their faces. I watch them disintegrate and fall back to the earth. I try to imagine what it feels like. As a body hits the ground, a US flag springs up so that it can be retrieved. I quickly sprint out of my bolt hole as there is nobody in sight. I am nearing the body and thinking of how the meat will already be cooked from the fire. I am nearly there when a truck appears seemingly from around the corner of a small bush. Terrified that I will be caught I run. Knowing I won’t make my base, I lie flat on the ground and attempt to blend in. I realise that wanting this won’t make it happen. I run again. Nobody has followed me.

When I return to the base a blind and haggard old woman points at me and laughs. I turn around and see my cousin and beyond her, the truck that must have seen me.

We dash to the fridges and pull out the shelves and boxes. We climb inside. After huddling for sometime I question whether it is a pointless endeavour; they probably having infra red cameras anyway and have already picked up our body heat.

Some time later we take another excursion and find a house with no back on it. There is a little girl asleep in one of three beds in a room. Her sisters appear, surprising us and say if we can play the violin they will hide us. As I pick up the instrument, a peg falls out and all of the strings become loose. I attempt to insert the pegs and tune all the strings. They won’t stay tight. We are doomed. My cousin looks drawn. We both know she is ill. Stomach cancer we think. She keeps talking of death. It doesn’t help. I draw the bow across the violin but the sound is much too low. We know we can’t stay here.

Epilogue
It is some years later and we are in a pub in a small traditional English village. My cousin has ordered horse neck and has gone to the stable to decapitate the horse herself. When we get to the stable the horse is still stood up, but it doesn’t have a neck or head. My cousin has expertly cut out the oesophagus of the horse and is sat on the floor eating. She exclaims it is the best meal she has ever eaten.

Setting: It begins at home

Story: I have a wedding to go to in London and I am getting stressed as I am running late. I have a bunch of things ready to take including a huge, ancient book. The need to leave becomes so desperate that I start running to London. My boyfriend and his friends follow in the car behind. I manage to get a few miles before I realise I don’t have any of my things - particularly the book.

The rain has really started to come down though. Everybody is trying to leave town. Traffic is everywhere.

I convince the boys to turn back to get my stuff after arguing that I can’t go to the wedding in sodden jeans.

At home I collect the huge book. I take great care as some of the smallest movements can rip the fragile leaves of paper.

We now have two cars and my friend is sat in the backseat of my car. My boyfriend’s friend tries to get in, but the door is locked. I speed away from the slip road. In my rear view mirror I see him trot back to his car.

We shift scenes and I am suddenly in bed. The book suddenly speaks to me. It tells me how it will care for me like no other. It is the length of my torso, wider than me by a fair way, and heavy. I manage to gather it up and cuddle it in bed; believing it truly loves me. It tells me to run away.

At the airport, we queue to check in. The airport is small, dark and almost a building site. Instead of all the things I needed for the wedding, I now have the book, two silver spoons, and a rock. When I place them on the counter I realise I can’t bear to be away from the book. I feel I have been carrying its weight for so long my arms and front are imbued with its musty scent.

The plane is about to land but I see no runway when I look out of the window - merely a green grassy strip instead. I turn my attention to the book. The plane is descending steeply. When I next look out, the green strip is before our faces. The plane still feels like it’s nose-diving. I scream and begin to hyperventilate despite our safe landing. Everybody stares at me. I cling on to my decrepit book.

Setting: The last day of a music festival and the beginning of a civil war.

Story: Azealia Banks is the headline act. For some reason I *have* to see her perform. I sneak through security by pretending to be Justice’s bassist and speaking French to the staff. I manage to get on to the stage and end up interviewing her mid-performance. She looks like a giraffe to me.

I find everybody after quite a search. As we are leaving the site, C’s dad brings us a platter of a whole frozen salmon and some green veg mousse. K and H make candy floss out of something poisonous but it tastes delicious. C’s dad throws the salmon away when we’re done saying it was on it’s last good day. I try and find it in the bins to no avail - they have all just been emptied.

As we are leaving the festival site, we hear news of growing financial troubles in the banking sector and that there may be an uprising to overthrow the government. Entering the car park/town we learn of the collapse of society.

I find myself in a 4x4 following the leaders of the revolution; R and J. I have a shotgun in my lap and there is a young boy in the passenger seat. I see a mercenary ahead of me. His eyes lock onto mine but he holds his gun sideways and shoots a passerby. I try to run him over before he can shoot but I am too late. The 4x4 rolls. I climb out and see that the small boy has found a machine gun and is firing at the fuel tank. I stop him before he explodes the entire truck; he is too young to understand the consequences of firing a gun.

I take his hand and we run towards a stone structure in the village. I feel we will be safe there. Inside I find many of my friends - a potential resistance movement to the insane mercenaries. The government were wrong, but this is not the answer. R & J just seem to want to kill people for sport. As I climb on the wooden bannister, I find a graffiti’d copy of the newspaper. The scrawl rails against the government; blaming them for the crisis. I hold the paper up and we all shout in unison; together in our resistance - not of the government but of this insane revolution. We want change, but achieved peacefully and democratically; not like this.

We create a new camp in this stone structure. It is meant to be closed off as I am concerned about everyone’s safety but people keep leaving the gate open. I grow more fearful of the borders - they are not as secure as I thought. Much of our hold is surrounded by a forest border. I become increasingly paranoid that the woods are being infiltrated by R and J’s mercenaries. I should have led my friends to a safe place. If they get hurt, it will be my fault. I shouldn’t have united them. I shouldn’t have stayed here for our base.

I become so scared of R and J breaking into our camp I suggest that we each take turns at being guards at the gates. One person quickly volunteers but expects to be paid. This is impossible. We have no money. Supplies are running low as it is and they are the priority. People quickly break away from their original ideals. There is lots of infighting.

L stalks the grounds of our camp like it is her castle. Her arms are outstretched with ever growing neon guide ropes attached to her fingers; growing steadily in a neuronal network of power and corruption.

I become ever more paranoid. Constantly straining my eyes to the border to make out shapes lurking in the forest. I sit uneasily with the knowledge that we are all going to be killed soon.

Setting: A Japanophile’s lair.

Story: I have been taken hostage by an Englishman who is a Japanophile. In his dark underground layer, the deep grey walls are covered in samurai swords. He wears a grey, black and red kimono. I awake on a table. I feel as though I am rousing from a drugged sleep. I can recall being on a cliff by the sea, but I do not know this man. The room is so silent and still, it is unnerving.

He sees that I have woken and gently takes me to a bath where he washes me and gives me fresh warm clothes. He has prepared a meal and asks me to carry it to the table. The ramen is in long, shallow wooden plates and is full to the brim. As I carry it, I stumble and spill some of the soup. He is apoplectic with rage and slams his fist onto the table, breaking the plate clean in two.

I hear a man shouting in the distance. I look through the wall and can see the cliff by the sea. Drunken Cupid from Tangled is hollering at large white pieces of card. As he yells, words appear in the form of a ransom note, laid out like the front page of a broadsheet.

The Japanophile sees him too, then sees the words the drunk has yelled. I can’t read them as they are bizarre symbols unlike any language on this earth but his rage increases. The news that Cupid is creating is utter nonsense, infuriating the Japanophile as people always believe the news.