1. List 1

    Go to the last shop on the high street. Oh, alright, not the last one then, but the second to last one, and whilst you’re there walk in a slow, languid place around the edge, picking up objects now and then.  Occasionally making eye-contact with the proprietor.  After you have done this, go to the counter and ask him for three reams of the thickest paper.  Not the white, but the off-white. Then take the reams like this: two in one hand, and one in the other. Ok no, that won’t work. Two in one hand and then the other under your arm, and then walk back here with them, slowly, but not too slowly. Slowly enough so as not to arouse suspicions, but make sure you make eye contact with everyone you see. Fix your gaze to theirs for a number of moments, I’l tell you how many. But don’t smile, as they’ll only get the wrong idea.

     

  2. Myra

    I move in and out of sunlight, and it’s that white light that says its morning. Greyish white light - in and out - chopping at the floor. The trees stand tall on either side, crackles shiver underfoot, the bones of leaves, jawbones skulls of tiny creatures. All ground to dust; mulch for the forest to eat.

    I grew hooves when I came here, and now my head is hard at the temples with the beginnings of things.  But I can’t see myself, so I wouldn’t know. I’m invisible. There are people who crunch along on frosty mornings - dog walkers, runners. Then there are the men from the timber yard. They come to the edge of the woodland, marking trunks with piss-yellow spray. They don’t see me - I can move straight past them now. I wonder if they hear a rustling, but they never look up. They’d never know it was me. 

     

  3. Guests

    In the lights outside the bar she looked softer, prettier.  In broad daylight she had an anaemic complexion and hard angular features, but outside in the metallic evening air, under those lights, she looked different. Softer somehow. She would grab your hand and run with you. Head back, laughing.  You tasted blood in your mouth when she kissed you.

    Somehow, she moved in, to the paint-clean box whose carpets you’d wallowed in on that first day.  Whose balcony smiled down on the gleaming river. But you didn’t mind so much.  She would lounge on the balcony smoking long thin cigarettes, her hair catching the evening sun. And she’d laugh at your jokes.  And she had nowhere else to go, she said.

    At parties, she’d pose in the corner like an angle-poise lamp. Never properly listening.  This began to irritate you, and you started dropping hints that maybe she should think about moving out, and maybe you both should think about moving on.  She’d say nothing. Squared-jawed and smiling.

     One day you return from work to find her sitting, wrapped in a blanket, on the sofa.  She has her back to you; silvery hair curtains her face.  As you walk over you realise that she is holding something in her arms, cradling it.  You peer over her shoulder, and he smiles up at you, her pallid face flushed, her eyes dancing like jewels.  The bundle in her arms stirs, and in a dark, plummeting moment you realise that she holds a living thing.  Someone else is here.  To your horror, she beckons for you to sit next to her on the couch.  She looks different somehow; the pointy features seem to have rounded, softened.  This is no longer a trick of the light.  She rocks her bundle to and fro, murmuring and cooing – softly and privately.

    She tucks the blanket tightly around it in preparation.  You still cannot see its face. Your skin creeps and crawls.  In a dulcet voice, like waves kissing the moonlit shore, she invites you to hold out your arms.  Your arms are made of lead, and are bound, by ropes, to your sides.  She asks again, more softly, coaxing your limbs upwards.

     

  4. Inventory

    Here is what needs to be done. You must do it; you shall do it. I don’t want you to do it, because already I know that you are not going to be able to do it all.  You really should be capable - as any reasonable person should - but knowing you as I do, I can already foresee that even these basic and straightforward tasks will be challenging for you.

      - Firstly, there is the cabling. Please ensure that all floorboards are removed and that cabling is placed underneath as discussed earlier this month. I do not want to see any cables when I return.

     - Next I would like you to remove all of the ointments and pill-boxes from the large cabinet and make a full and comprehensive inventory of these. Discard any that are out of date.

     - There is a birds nest at the very top of the tall pine tree at the end of the yard. The mother bird has left, probably killed. Could you climb the tree and retrieve the eggs. If no live birds remain, please discard the shells.

     - In the basement, there are a large number of jars which I have packaged and wrapped in paper ready for shipping.  Please would you put these into the medium sized refrigerated van, and drive to a location that I will send you in a separate message. When you get to the location, you must wait for a man named Raoul, who will unload the cargo form our van into his.  Do not look in the packages, and do not speak directly to Raoul. 

     

  5. ART

    I like art that isn’t like this. 

    I like a different kind of art, you know, proper art. 

    I like art which solves problems and heals the sick.  I like it when art has a function, and a purpose.  I don’t like art that tells me what I need, or what I like.  

    I do like art to make suggestions about what I might like. I like art that can cure minor illnesses, that can clean up the sick from the floor of the waiting room.

    I like art that cooks me dinner, and does the washing up afterwards.  I like art that isn’t too noisy, or too bright or smelly.  I don’t like art with too many big ideas, but I want something that looks nice, that lots of people can enjoy.

    I like art that understands me, that respects what I’ve been through. I like art that wants to learn from my experiences, that wants to help me, but not in any way which undermines my existing achievements.

    I like art that tucks me in at night. I don’t want art that tries to wake me up by smashing my wing-mirror off as it speeds past, or causes a disturbance whilst I’m having quiet time.

    I like art that is like the art that happened before, a kind sort of art, with soft edges, like a jelly.

    I like art which helps me feel better, that stops bad things from happening in the world.  I want art that everyone likes, that everyone can enjoy.  I don’t like art that damages the environment, or art that could upset people.  I like art that I can understand, that speaks to me in my own language.  

    I like art that cats make, and the poor, and the blind.  I like art that takes the time out of its busy schedule, just to check in with me and see how I am. I like art that can be by my side at all times, but also knows when I need my space.  I like art with the same music tastes as me, and the same dietary requirements.  I like art that votes for the same party as I do, that agrees with my thoughts on the economy and immigration.

    I like art that stops me from choking at a Christmas party, rushing over and squeezing my diaphragm in just the right place to dislodge the vol-au-vent which would surely have ended my life. 

    I like art that my children can play with, but safely, without risk of harm. I like art that does not offend war veterans. I like art that doesn’t offend anyone. I like art that comes in a hygienic cellophane wrapper, see-through so you know exactly what’s inside.

     
  6. Pizza Toppings //

    Mozzarella

    Tomatoes

    Olives

    Anchovies

    Jam

    Pepperoni

    Spinach

    Beef

    Courgettes

    Salt

    Coal

    Beer

    Cigarettes

    Disappointment

    Rage 

     
  7. Years//

    You woke up and you went downstairs, and you went into the kitchen and then you had breakfast and then you got dressed and then you found your keys and your wallet and your computer and then you left the house. And whilst you were walking to work you realised, with a sort of innate sense, that everyone that day was 55 years old and overweight. And at first you didn’t pay this any mind, as there are lots of middle aged and overweight people in the town where you live, but some feeling, some creeping feeling snuck upon you, and by the time you reached the supermarket (around halfway to the train station) you were certain you knew what it was, and by then the absurd and terrifying reality was unavoidable. They were all over 55 and overweight. The children on their way to school were middle aged and fat, teetering on their cheap leather loafers, rummaging in their handbags. And a dog pissing against lamp post stopped, mid-flow, to answer the loud ring of a mobile phone. Heavy, tired teenagers lugging briefcases scudding along on skateboards, and that’s when you knew that it was all over.

     
  8. Dear Sirs,

    I am writing because I am rather concerned by the recent news that I have read about in my local paper. No doubt you have received numerous letters similar to this regarding the horrifying revelation that there has, for some time now, been a scheme in place to build a perimeter fence encircling the town.

    I was disturbed, as were many of my neighbours, to discover that not only was this plan approved by yourselves some time ago, but that significant work has already been completed in the installation of the fence. In the newspaper, you refer to an “extensive process of consultation followed by a meticulously coordinated evacuation and rehabilitation strategy”, but neither I nor my neighbours were invited to participate in any of this.

    Frankly, we are rather confused as to quite who you invited to participate in this “process” as the town has been very quiet for some months now. But then that’s not surprising considering the terrible decisions made recently by yourselves. My neighbours and I feel strongly that we would like for you to hold another meeting, so that our views on this monstrosity may be heard. I’m not against a perimeter fence per se, but I’m deeply confused as to why I was not consulted at its inception, as it is well known that I spent several years as a fence-erector.

    We have been to your offices to discuss this matter in person, but we were dismayed to find that the premises were boarded up. We went around to the check point on the fence but were told (quite rudely I might add) that we were not permitted into the holding zone, and that it was dangerous to be out of doors. We have now been without electricity and running water for a month and there appear to be large animals roaming the streets after dark, which is very distressing. We would appreciate a response to our concerns before we take this further.

     
  9. Cuisines //

    I’m so terribly depressed. But not for the reasons you think. You think I’m depressed about failing my cookery course. You think I’m depressed because I had such high hopes about becoming a chef, and you know how much cooking means to me. You think I’m depressed because I stayed up all night, every night for a week in order to perfect the delicate and nuanced techniques required to become a world-famous culinary impresario. You think I’m depressed because I will never be a TV chef, never own my own gastro pub, never release a series of best-selling yet timeless cookery books. You think I’m depressed because before being able to do any of these things I was expelled from the cookery school because of that terrible thing that I did that night, that awful and horrible thing that nobody must ever mention again. But that is, actually, not why I am depressed.

     
  10. Dogs //

    You stole my dog, and I want it back, and I wrote to you about it, and you still didn’t give it back, and then I went to the police and you still didn’t give it back, and then I called and I called and pressed my finger down hard on the doorbell so it just rang and rang continuously and I could hear the echoing doorbell noise ringing through your house and then I could see the newspapers thought the glass panel in the door and the post piled up on the floor on the doormat and that’s when I realised you had taken my dog away, and I would never see you again.