2018 ‘Shared Adventures’ won an International Story Competition
2020 ‘Circles’ won Editor’s Choice
Shared Adventures (500 words)
Toby and Scott had been friends for several years. In fact, they’d been buddies ever since Toby had moved in next door.
Scott’s house was a big, old, rambling place with creaky polished wooden floors, which were great for sliding on and even more exciting when they chased each other. But games like this were stopped quickly because they got too excited.
They were both seven years old and enjoyed doing the same sorts of things, usually playing for hours in the huge wood across the road.
This area became their own personal playground, where they enjoyed some of their best times together. Usually, when they returned home, they’d be worn out, grubby and sometimes in need of a bath.
On adventure days, Toby would sit on his front porch and wait until his friend arrived. On this particular day, they found a great place to hide.
It was a small cave but as they investigated, it became an extended tunnel, which was scary because it was very narrow in a few places.
It also smelt like a fox or badger had lived there and they both knew, a badger was something they shouldn’t tangle with.
Putting those thoughts to the back of their minds, they’d ventured in and what they found kept them entertained for hours. It was huge inside with small tunnels heading off in all directions, but most were too dark and some smelt very strange.
Walking home later, they came across a lake, so decided to take a rest. However, they soon became captivated by a large bird that circled the expanse of water at a great height.
Sometimes the bird looked as though it had stopped in mid-air, but moments later, it dived down at great speed and tried to catch something hidden in the water.
The last time it swooped there was a great splash, but the bird flew away towards some trees, so they couldn’t see what it had grabbed.
Toby didn’t see Scott over the next few days.
He’d wandered over to his place but there was no sign of him. There was no music playing as there often was and the yellow car that usually stood outside, wasn’t there either.
A day or so later the car was back, so Toby sat waiting on his porch to see if his friend would arrive. There was still no music but he thought he could hear the faint sound of crying. It crossed his mind to go and investigate because he sensed something rather odd.
Then the phone in his house rang. A moment later the porch door opened and someone arrived at his side. A hand rested lightly on his head, gentle fingers played with his ear, followed by a soft voice.
“Scott won’t be coming over anymore— sadly he died yesterday.” Toby didn’t really understand, so just wagged his tail. Then thought he’d wander over to see if he could find his friend.
Published by Hammond House in their 2019 book, Precious
On Sale £16-95 @ https://bryanwade.co.uk/buy-a-book/
( 3,00 words )
When I finally returned to work after my stomach operation. I found things a little strained between me and management. It was probably due to the secondary infection that had forced me back to the hospital, only days after I’d returned.
I’m not a key player; the world would continue to operate without me. I’m a backroom guy, a data analyst assisting astronomers and physicists who push projects forward. I methodically analyse a few hundred pages of data, highlighting anomalies that meet particular criteria, before handing it back with pages tagged and a brief summary.
An hour after arriving at my desk, I was summoned to the boss’s office.
“Come in, George, and take a seat,” he said, shuffling papers on his desk. “You’d better close the door.”
As I sat opposite, we made eye contact and he slowly shook his head.
“I’m afraid it’s bad news, George. I’m going to have to replace you.” He paused and drew air in through his teeth. “We’re under pressure. I need every able-bodied hand to the wheel, so to speak.” He rearranged the same papers and drew more air. “As you’re only a year from retiring,” he broke off and sighed, then added the killer punch. “To be honest, you’re not looking that well. So maybe it’s time to take it easy and put your feet up.”
I thought— you bastard! I almost busted another gut, trying to get back to work— it wasn’t as though I’d planned my exploding internals.
“George, we’ll give you three months’ severance pay but would you mind sharing your office with Nickola for your last couple of days? It would be a great opportunity to give her some useful pointers.” With that, he patted my shoulder as he went to open the door— then asked my replacement to join us.
I’d noticed her when I arrived. An attractive young thing straight out of university, I’d guessed.
Mind you— when she walked in I could see my boss’s point about me not looking that well.
Compared to her glowing youthful aura, I looked like I’d popped my clogs weeks ago.
After introductions and a brief chat, where I agreed to everything, I was dismissed.
Dawdling back to my office, I wondered if I should’ve told him to shove the whole kit and caboodle up his fat ass but I didn’t have the energy or willpower.
Over the last few months, I’d had the stuffing knocked out of me and after this stab in the back, I felt like giving up completely. Life didn’t seem fair at all.
I know what you’re thinking. Pull yourself together, man up. But maybe my doctor was right— I’d worried myself into this bloody illness.
It had all started nine months ago when Cathy, my wife, had been killed in a car crash. We’d been together since University. We liked the same things and didn’t want children.
Well— she did but couldn’t. I said it didn’t matter but I would’ve loved a couple. We’d talked about adoption but I could tell she wasn’t interested, so never mentioned the topic again.
The police said both occupants had been killed instantly.
Mr Willis, the driver, must have fallen asleep or been distracted. He’d smashed into the back of a truck which had broken down on the slip-road into Tree-Tops Motel.
I had no idea who Willis was or why she was in his car. Cathy had told me that morning she was meeting her sister for coffee and would probably do some shopping.
She’d been a part-time dental receptionist for several years and seemed very content with life but things were not what they appeared.
I met Willis’s wife at the inquest. A short well-built reserved woman, who had four children and lived on the other side of town. Cathy would’ve called her a homely-body but at the conclusion of the inquests, she tore my heart and mind to shreds by telling me in a calm matter of fact manner that her husband’s affair with Cathy had been going on for three years and they’d been planning to live together in France.
I was numb for weeks. The house, my home, felt cold and empty, as did my life.
A month later it got worse. Bobby our dog was killed by a kid on a motorbike, close to the cemetery where Cathy was buried. How the dog managed to get out of our garden, I’ll never know— then later that week, my stomach problem flared up.
The doctor told me I needed to relax and get a hobby. Said I was worrying excessively. I’d confessed to having had a couple of anxiety attacks, the week prior to my visit. Plus I’d been consuming loads of indigestion pills.
But now sitting here in my soon to be vacated office, I felt pissed off and raw.
Raw because the nurse who’d removed my stitches yesterday obviously hadn’t had much experience. I wondered if she’d purchased her certificates or trained as a vet.
Glancing around my small bland office, soon to be filled with feminine paraphernalia. Made me ponder my declining situation further.
In reality, my life was as stark and boring as this bloody office. And my tedious routine, a circular rut I was trapped in. Get up— Go to work— Go home- Watch telly— Go to bed.
To add to this mind-numbing lifestyle, the time between these repetitive events appeared to be getting shorter.
Life— my life— was vanishing at lightning speed and I couldn’t see any point in continuing.
Swivelling my chair to face the window darkened my mood further. Storm clouds filled the sky. The heavy rain that had started yesterday hadn’t relented.
I stood and glared at the glistening car park far below, then realized I’d opened the window.
The leap from the tenth floor would take seconds.
Opening the window further, I wondered if I’d hold my breath or scream on the way down. Would I look at the ground rushing towards me or keep my eyes—
A female voice behind me interrupted my thoughts. “I hope you’re not thinking of doing something sinister?”
Slowly I closed the window, then turned and forced a brief smile.
“I needed to fill my lungs with cold, wet, polluted air to anaesthetize my brain,” I said, wiping rain from my face. “So, Nickola, what can I do for you?”
“May I come in and have a chat?” she asked. I pointed at the only other chair in my box.
“I’m sorry they’re letting you go, George. I hope you don’t think I’ve prompted that decision?”
“Well— you’ve just taken my job,” I replied flatly.
She grimaced. “Yes, I know— Oh! Gosh, George, I feel so bad about this. I’d hoped they’d give me a job, but not someone else’s— if you see what I mean?”
I leaned towards her across my desk. “Look, Nickola, don’t lose any sleep over this. It appears my time has come, a bit earlier than I’d expected. So for me— it’s a bit like the final straw— if you see what I mean?” I added sarcastically.
She nodded and gave a brief awkward smile, which basically meant she’d been brought up-to-date on my situation. We sat looking at each other for several seconds before she asked, “Do you really believe the Chilbolton Crop Circles are an alien response?”
Surprised, I sat back and gazed at her. Then she added, “A response to a binary message sent into deep space twenty years ago by the Arecibo Radio Telescope?”
“Why would you think that’s of interest to me?”
The right corner of her mouth lifted slightly as though a smile was about to follow but she spoke instead. “I read your notes attached to a data file, which appears to have drawn very little comment apart from— vaguely interesting and not worth further investigation.”
With my elbows resting on the desk, I supported my head as though I was tired or bored but I was neither.
Twenty years ago, I’d found an anomaly in data generated by one of NASA’s deep space projects.
In a distant star cluster 25 light-years from Earth, a faint beacon was transmitting repetitive data, information we’re still unable to decode but it appeared someone or something was trying to catch our attention.
Within days NASA had responded by transmitting a high powered digital signal lasting almost three minutes.
This compact binary message, when viewed as a diagram, showed a human figure, our solar system, a DNA molecule and the telescope that sent it.
Oddly, several months ago, the Crop Circle at Chilbolton replicated this diagram but with subtle changes. This had sparked an intense debate in many quarters.
“So what’s your conclusion, Nickola?”
She shrugged. “As a child, I was dragged around loads of Circle sites by my mum, who was fascinated to the point of delusion. She was, or is, an old hippy and it was her interest in this phenomenon that spurred me to study Physics at Uni.”
“What does your mum do now?” I heard myself ask.
I wasn’t that interested due to my state of mind but years ago I’d done the Crop Circle thing too. And I’d met some interesting and weird people, who’d given my life a nudge towards university. This was something I’d not really considered because I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do with my life, let alone study.
Nickola was shaking her head and said. “I worry about her. She takes off at a moment’s notice with the excuse she’s collecting inspiration for the short stories she writes.”
Towards the end of the day, I’d shown my replacement a great deal and her questions and thought processes were impressive. She’d be a great asset to the company.
As it was Friday, I left work early and drove to one of my favourite steak-house operations. Thought I’d cheer myself up with a couple of pints and a steak— while I could still afford it. Probably then I’d wander home to watch a bit of telly. Then go to bed— again.
The Fox and Hounds was quiet. Staff were milling about, getting ready for the evening rush, so I sat at the empty bar and waited.
Moments later the barman arrived carrying a cardboard box.
“George, how are you? It is ‘George’, isn’t it?”
“Correct, good memory,” I replied.
“Haven’t seen you in a while, George. Been away, have we?”
I didn’t get a chance to answer, as someone walked up behind me.
“Kimberly— let me introduce you to George.”
I turned to be greeted by a woman who was obviously dressed for a night out. Not someone who was on their way home from work. And, she’d probably just come from the hairdressers, because her auburn hair was—
The barman’s voice chipped in. “Sadly, George, she’s spoken for. Arrived here fifteen minutes ago to meet someone— but he’s a no-show. Can you believe the guy?” Then added in a camp manner, “Kimberly darling— shall I move your drink down here next to George? Then we can all have a good old gossip.”
His animated routines had always made Cathy laugh. It was all done in such good humour.
“Pleased to meet you, Kimberly. You look like you’ve just returned from abroad, nice tan.”
“Thank you, George. I’ve been back a few days. I have a tiny villa in Italy that I use a great deal— due to my problems.”
The sudden glint in her eyes was mischievous, so I had to ask.
“What problems could you possibly have?”
She grimaced then smiled. “My love of red wine and sadly— arthritis.” Rolling her eyes she added, “Probably from sleeping on wet grass as a young thing.” Then laughed freely, which I found very refreshing.
Over the next fifteen minutes, she told me about her love of travel but suddenly stopped. Glancing over my shoulder she smiled.
I reasoned her date had arrived, which made me sad. I was enjoying this woman’s company. Even though I knew very little about her, I didn’t want to share her. She was natural and easy to talk to, making me feel very relaxed. She was unaffected in a laid-back way and any quip the barman had come out with, she rebutted with an equally hilarious one.
“Darling— you’re here at last,” she said lovingly. “You look tired. Have they been working you too hard?”
The words stung deep in my brain. Remembering how hollow my relationship with Cathy had been. Then Kimberly said,
“George, let me introduce you to Nick.”
I was quickly finishing my pint— I’d a sudden urge to get away. Slipping off the barstool, I turned in readiness to meet some good looking guy.
“Oh! Hi, George, you’ve met my mum then?” said Nickola.
I gawked for a moment. “I thought the eyes and smile were vaguely familiar.”
“Do you two know each other?” Kimberly asked.
The next fifteen minutes were taken up with explanations and a good deal of laughter, which was something I’d not done for a while. Then it seemed in only a short time, last orders were called.
After a very enjoyable evening, we all linked arms as we walked across the car park. Luckily the rain had stopped and the air smelt fresh and clean.
“George, thank you so much for treating us to dinner. That was extremely generous,” Kimberly whispered.
“You’re very welcome. You guys brought some sparkle back into my life.”
Kimberly squeezed my arm affectionately. “George, tomorrow I’m planning to go to Cornwall for a week. Would you be interested in tagging along?”
The question brought me to an abrupt halt. “Gosh. What a wonderful idea. I’d love to— but sadly, I have work Monday and Tuesday— my last days for the company.”
Nickola stood in front of us with her hands on her hips and an ironic look on her face. “George— do you think they’d believe you were back in hospital?” she asked, glancing at me then her mother.
I just nodded.
“Mum— do you want to know the truth about Crop Circles?”
“What!” Kimberly exclaimed. “He knows stuff about our amazing Circles?” Nickola burst out laughing. “He knows loads, mother!” Then she turned and walked off as she shouted over her shoulder. “Guys, go enjoy yourselves. Life’s shorter than you think.”
I turned to the woman next to me and grinned. “I have a distinct feeling I’ve just been given the green light on Cornwall.”
“Fabulous— we have a plan, George!” Kim said excitedly.
“Why so taken with Crop Circles?” My question brought a brief grimace, followed by a coy smile.
“I was seduced by an alien in one,” she said seriously, before laughing.
“A good enough reason, but did you marry him?”
“Good God, no, darling. I’m a free spirit, the proverbial candle in the wind.”
“Well, you’ve certainly been blessed with a very smart daughter.”
“I can’t say she gets it from me— and I don’t think it came via her father either. Mind you, he could’ve had hidden talents.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“He told me he was a ditch digger and worked on the local farms. Not that bright but as I remember, he did have the most beautiful bottom.”
We both laughed, then looked at each other for a few moments before Kimberly added, “Can I trust you with a secret?”
I smiled and nodded.
“My ditch digger was a perfect young male specimen.”
“With a great butt,” I added.
“Yes, with that— and amazing blond hair that was so fine and curly, it was gorgeous. He worked in this area because we get more Crop Circles, which gave him the opportunity to visit them all. Reckoned they gave him insight and energy,” she paused and grinned at me for a moment, before continuing her story.
“We met one afternoon at a fantastic circle and sat there in its centre, talking into the small hours. Anyway, one thing led to another and to cut a long story short, I became pregnant with Nickola. Over the coming months, I pottered around the area on my old scooter trying to find him. I didn’t want anything, just wanted to share my joy. Oddly, none of the farmers in a twenty-mile radius of that circle had ever seen the person I described,” she paused and gazed up at the stars. “Not one of them,” she whispered.
“Anyway, fifteen years later I’m in the middle of a Circle in the Wiltshire countryside, meditating. When I open my eyes, I see this heavily pregnant woman standing at the circle’s edge, looking at me. She couldn’t have been a day older than seventeen and probably only days away from giving birth.
She asked how often I visit Circles. After explaining my ongoing fascination, she hands me a postcard. Then says, if I ever see her friend, could I pass it on. When I turned the card over from her address details, I almost fainted.
It was a sketch of the face of my beautiful ditch digger. The amazing image she’d produced, with shaded textures and fine detail was photograph quality. Seeing that face again made my heart pound but oddly, my Crop Circle lover had not aged a day.
I quickly turned the card over, to stop his hypnotic eyes drawing me into his.
The mother to be was Jessica Mason from Maiden Bradley, a village fifteen miles away. And she’d signed the card, with love from Jessica and Nickola. I’d gazed at her quizzically and asked who Nickola was.
She’d smiled and ran a hand lovingly over her swollen stomach. I gawked at her— my hunch made me lightheaded. But was I making too much of the coincidence?” Kimberly paused and stepped back.
“What are you grinning at, George? Having second thoughts about hanging out with a fruitcake like me?”
“No— but you might. I’ve a strange story to tell about Crop Circles too. Equally astonishing, but never felt comfortable about telling it— until now.”
To be Published 2021 in ‘Survival’ by Hammond House & Grimsby University
For more Short Stories please follow the link below
‘A Wild Ride’ Paperback on Sale for £16-95 @ https://bryanwade.co.uk/buy-a-book/
If you wonder about what’s going in the world right now and you’re into conspiracy theories… Have a read below… I wrote this 2 years ago.
The annoyed man sat the other side of the desk didn’t respond, apart from shaking his head. So Jeff Whiting continued while pointing at the top-secret file. “We have to go public,” he stressed forcefully.
Bob slammed his hand down on the file. “If this gets out, we’re for the high jump.” He glared aggressively at Jeff. “Bullet in head. Suicide note in pocket. Easy to understand stuff. You knew that when you joined AD-NAD.”
Advanced DNA Decoding, was a top-secret facility controlled by the CIA and was into some terrifying stuff.
Three days ago, Jeff had analysed test results on a virus and realized a horrifying fact. The micro intruder was a modified version of a virus NASA had found on moon rock.
He’d relayed this to Bob but hadn’t updated his computer log, which wouldn’t go unnoticed by big brother. He probably had only days before they started asking questions.
The phone rang. Bob snatched it up. “I said, no interruptions,” but the voice momentarily captured his attention. Replacing the receiver, he uttered solemnly. “Our overlords have just landed on the helipad. Heads of department, to report to the conference room in five minutes.”
Agent Mulldover strode in with her usual arrogance and urgency. Wearing a well-cut black suit, with her auburn hair pulled into a tight ponytail. The two men, accompanying her, looked stern and intimidating.
“I’ll get straight to the point. Doctor Whiting, we know what you’ve found,” she affirmed in a rapid business-like fashion, before adding. “My question is doctor— is it possible to stop the virus?”
“Not feasible at the moment, it’s modifying our DNA.”
The CIA agent strolled around the table. “Thank you, that’s what I’d hoped you’d confirm.”
“What!!” Jeff and Bob shouted in unison. The other four people just stared in disbelief.
“That’s good news?” Bob exclaimed loudly.
“Correct Professor,” then continued in a flat monotone, as though reading cooking instructions.
“Changes to DNA will make sixty per cent of the world’s population sterile within a hundred years. Population can be kept in check by those in charge. The world’s food problem solved. A topic you’ve been out outspoken about doctor Whiting,” Mulldover paused briefly.
“As you’ve seen, the virus targets the infirm, those on substandard diets, sugary drinks, obese, lack of exercise types.
The masses can have their fast-food, reality TV shows, cars and holidays but at a price. Lifespan will be shorter and their offspring sterile.” A sly smile crossed her thin lips as she concluded, in a cold matter of fact tone.
“The math works well.”
“How do you propose to stop the rioting when this gets out?” asked Whiting.
The agent placed both hands on the table and leaned forward in an intimidating stance, before relaying in a slow, deliberate tone.
“One way or another, this information will never surface. Those privy, are aware of the repercussions- if it did.”
Q………………….. is manipulation at work ?
‘A Wild Ride’
Paperback on Sale for £16-95