Short Stories

Doppelganger in Mechanics’ Institute Review – October, 2016

As he sat, he realised that he had ceded all control, that such was his desire to see his words afforded the validation of a theatrical run, no matter how small, that he had allowed others to interfere with his fiercely wrought sentences, his words wrestled from him and placed in the mouths of outsiders. What had he been thinking? He was pleased, honoured even, that someone saw dramatic potential in his life story. Not everyone could say that. Perhaps, getting carried away, he thought, the next step might be a film adaptation, his life given credence on the big screen. His ego’s masseurs were accustomed to long hours.

The Phobia Room at Liars’ League – August, 2016


Shrines Longlisted for the Royal Academy and Pin Drop Short Story Award – May, 2016

At first, she just took photographs.

A scuffed bunch of flowers, entwined to railings, had drawn her to the roadside. From decaying stems poked a card that stated plainly, in rain-drained cursive: to our darling daughter, taken from this world to soon. A car accident, she presumed. Each morning, as she walked to work, she noted their sad droop. On the fourth day, further wilted, she had taken a photograph.

Space Invaders Shortlisted for the 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize – March, 2016

She shopped ethically, fried free-range eggs in a cramped flat. Before she found her bijou home, she had endured the ritual humiliations of the property search, had joined the desperate wrestling over square footage, engaged with over-exuberant estate agents in their pseudo-bar lairs, focused on commutability, the underground network’s delineations treated as different time-zones. And this was just to rent. She read with dismay, the escalating forecasts of deposit accumulation: five years, ten years, twenty years. Ownership would not happen in her lifetime.

Moonwalking in Suburbia in Wildness – February, 2016

In the corner of a field, his home, a caravan, had been converted in line with his fixation. It was a tumbledown abode, no longer mobile, mounted on bricks. He had transformed it into something approaching a lunar module. His imagination unhindered by age, he playacted his way into space. The walls he papered with tinfoil, a half-hearted Faraday cage. With a brush, he darkened the windows, painted over daylight. Suitably blackened, he spotted them with luminous stars. At night, a retractable screen in the ceiling revealed, through a skylight, a view of the heavens. By day, he scraped the illusion-shattering splatter of bird shit from his moonroof. He did what he could to forestall reality’s intrusion.

Moonbird in Vol. 1 Brooklyn – January, 2016

In her hands maps were smithereened, atlases reduced to snowflake catalogues; on the floor a confetti of networks: jumbled junctions, fragmented crescents, a pile-up of motorways.

Home Improvements for the Apocalypse in Gone Lawn – January, 2016

In the evenings, his haven was finessed, by night, road tested. He did not wish to discover structural troubles once the undefined end was nigh. He would not breathe his last, painfully, in a soil-choked mausoleum. Slumped in discomfort on a sandbagged seat, spooning food from tins, he transported himself back in time. Preparing to live off-grid — the future would offer no electricity — a treasure chest of candles would see him through dark times.

Tight-lipped in The Ghastling – December, 2015

Hushed, the crowded room had fallen under the Harry’s gaze. Sympathies shifted from themselves to this pseudo-orphan, silenced without his partner, his voice taken to the grave. Returned to the world of the inanimate, it was, in a sense, his funeral too. He would remain resolutely mute from now on.

B is for Beard in The Nottingham Review – September, 2015

As they strapped the queen, Perspex-coffined, to his chin, as his jaw was slathered with honey, as people smiled, cameras poised in anticipation, as a veiled man prepared to free the bees from the hive, he wondered how he had found himself in such an absurd situation.

The Event of Fire in Bird’s Thumb – July, 2015

Whilst insurers assessed the damage, he rented a small place, moved in with his accumulated photographs. He spent evenings in their assessment, wallowing in what was lost. Seated at a table he would retrieve a handful, lay them out as though he was dealing cards, a backwards-glancing tarot pack. Slowly he shuffled through his regimented history. Randomly splitting them, he observed the perished – things incinerated that he would no longer hold in his hands. It became an associative task, each item dredging certain memories. Their well-lit, glorious reproduction caught them in their prime, before due wear and tear would take its toll.

Felt-tip Phantom in Black Heart Magazine – June, 2015

She could not recall exactly when she first spotted the bogeyman.  He was quite indistinct, a frenzied felt-tip rendition. Leaning over the young girl’s shoulder, her finger traced the outline of this turbulent emergence. And who is this? Shy, the girl shrank from her touch. She refused to give a name to this monster, as though utterance would summon it.

Death Cap in Number Eleven Magazine – May, 2015

It was the beginning of the mushroom season. His father hoped to ingrain a joy of foraging, his son a piglet snuffling for truffles. A badly wrapped gift concealed a field guide. As his son tore the paper with rash abandon, disappointment leaked across his face. It was a book fit for small hands. Humouring his father he flicked through it, admired the pencil illustrations. For the purposes of identification, fungi hovered, freefalling, their soiled roots on show, muted jellyfish as envisioned by mycology’s Michelangelo.

Secrets No Longer Taken to the Grave in Confingo – May, 2015

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She was left to wonder whether he had ever acted upon his desires. The pictures on his laptop seemed culled from the internet, people unknown to her and possibly even to him. If he featured in the photographs, he was masked, disguised. She tried to recognise his paunch beneath rubber, looked for the familiar ripples of his middle-aged spread. Was there a cache of bondage gear waiting to be unearthed, a tannery’s worth of duplicitous perversion?

Manuals for equipment no longer owned in Valve – May, 2015

Pic5571 Pic5577

How often were these manuals consulted? Flicking through their warnings, he saw their true purpose; a directory of disclaimers that relayed, in detailed terms, how every potential mishap would be your fault, the owner implicated before the event. Pamphlets produced en masse in fear of litigation.

Limbos in Long Story, Short – May, 2015

For his own amusement, surveying the sickly, he allocated ailments, tried to separate the gonorrhoeal from the terminal. He imagined the eagerness with which they presented their abnormalities – a unique protuberance, a lavish rash – a parade of bilious strippers. Sleeves rolled, freckles proffered as though they were pulsating tumours, their doctor bracing himself for their magnified maladies, the exaggerated dramas they twisted from their symptoms, underwhelmed repeatedly by deviations of little concern. Considering the furtively restless man to his right, he imagined him to be the type to deliver a five-minute monologue by way of explanation, before apologetically lowering his trousers ready for inspection. How did one keep a straight face during such presentations? Turning he received a friendly nod. Christ, may he be spared that, induction into their feeble fraternity.

Lucky Once in Holding Antlers – April, 2015

It was not a mountable prize, could not compete with dual-antlered souvenirs, the flesh scrubbed clean from grim, grinning skulls.

“Lucky Once” by Stuart Snelson

The Boy with the World Inside Him in Synaesthesia – March, 2015

At night, he believed that this leafy landscape levelled with him. Whilst he slept, the forest would lie flat, would follow the path of his spine’s curved horizon. When he rose, the forest would shift with him, reconfigured, dense, branches reaching upwards within his ribcage.

Splintered Miracles in The Honest Ulsterman – February, 2015

In the evenings, with her husband away all hours, she passed time trawling websites for evidence of similar discoveries. She clicked on myriad images. Places that the likeness of Christ had been seen included, but were not limited to: a shadow cast by a tree upon a fence in a caravan park; the mould on a dirty shower curtain; the underside of a dead sting ray; on floorboards; in ice formations; in brain scan shadows; in a halved potato; the frost on a car window; inside the lid of a jar; a lump of firewood; at a chocolate factory; in a pizza pan; in a grilled cheese sandwich; on a pebble; in clouds; upon a chapatti; in shadows; on a tortilla; in a tree; on dental x-rays; in cooking utensils; in rock and stone formations; on painted and plastered walls and upon a loaf’s worth of toast. She wondered if there was anything that had not been graced by his presence.

Death and the Clown in The Lonely Crowd – February, 2015

Lavatorally confined, his mind turned to the mile high club. He did not begrudge them their upright ruts, just wondered how they mustered enthusiasm within this chemical cell. It was an arousal beyond him. For himself it was of no immediate concern, seemed unlikely he would find himself insinuated into claustrophobic aerobics with a game stewardess. It required a brazenness best left to squalid opportunists. Maybe it never happened, was purely the domain of micro-budget porn scenarists. If these cramped enclosures leant themselves to anything surely it was mile high suicide, a passage into the next life as vexed leg crossers rattled the handle.

Freeze Frame Ophelia in Squawk Back – February, 2015

How did he account for this morbid fascination? As a youth, ice-skating in the park, a girl he had a crush on, but to whom he had never spoken, plunged through cracked ice into the freezing waters below. Vividly, he recalled her retrieval, her peaceful demeanour as she lay gently by the lake, blue yet beautiful, as efforts were made to revive her; a queue of good Samaritans leaning to her lips. By the time the emergency services arrived, she had slipped from this world. Since then she haunted his dreams. Vivid visions witnessed him scooping her from the lake, tending to her, her glowing skin cold to the touch. Each new addition to his files recalled him to her. This, he thought, would legitimise his fascination. But there was no girl, no lake. It was a false memory summoned to justify disturbing desires, the type of scene to be fashioned for a fictionalised account of his life.

The Amazing Vanishing Girls in Maudlin House – February, 2015

In self-portraits, they held pieces of paper upon which they wrote their decreasing weights. Personalized countdowns to zero. In mirrors, flashes obliterated reflected faces. They engaged in below the neck assessments, uploaded pictures of headless skeletons, Harryhausen extras. They would not recognise each other in the real world.

The Wall in SAND – November, 2014


In the small hours, the restless would find themselves down at the site. It became a shrine of sorts, a place of worship. Insomniacs would prowl the perimeter, searching for clues, anything that would throw light upon what went on within. They took torch beams for walks, the boundary intermittently lit before them. Some had walked its circumference, no small undertaking. The intrepid few gained no greater insights than those who stayed at home.

The Crack-Up Addict in Fugue – October, 2014


It seemed a very modern condition, to awake, hungover, and negotiate with technology to unravel a headache’s heritage. Glumly, he had approached his computer, prepared to spar with his recent past. Typing his name into various search engines, he braced himself, fearful that the previous night’s performance already awaited him.

Field Recordings in Wyvern Lit – October, 2014

She was not without beliefs. Evangelical about her field, she stressed the importance of the natural, of biodiversity in urban environments. She was possessed of a skyline idealism. She imagined future cities clad in shrubbery, workers fringed by living things, exteriors crawling with life. Her optimistic vistas replaced the grey, mirrored monotony with a maze of breathing skyscrapers.

Pool Envy in Liars’ League NYC – October, 2014

He designed, in sun-parched climes, swimming pools for the prosperous.

To any whim he catered. He unearthed guitar-shaped hollows for rock stars; snake-hipped singers dipped in his myriad kidneys. For doe-eyed lovers he had designed a yin and yang pool. Blindly besotted, they only realised after installation that they were doomed to swim forever apart.

Any design realised, he had declared. It was a statement he would come to regret.

The Dewey Decimal Ark in Lighthouse (Pushcart Prize Nominated) – September, 2014

[304] His approach to life had been Dewey skewed. All interactions were referenced. He catalogued conversations as they occurred. In this way, he recalled events in his life. He had made a library of his mind, memories filed and coded. As in the physical library, some areas found greater favour. And some he tried to avoid altogether.

The Last Painting in The Stockholm Review – September, 2014

Whilst he was good at making money, he was even better at losing it. His life had been one of aesthetic pleasures. He had surrounded himself with things of beauty. This was relative. Works in which he took pleasure others often found bewildering. More than one woman had walked out complaining about his oppressive tastes.

In the dark canvases, the twisted sculptures that overshadowed his home, he, at least, took great delight.

Scream Quietly in Bare Fiction – August, 2014


In his studio, they exposed their vulnerability, hesitantly unveiled their husband’s disgraces. Clothes removed they stood wearing only their bruises. Their stances were not those of his typical models, women who had become comfortable in strident nakedness. Instead they slouched, shrivelled before the lens: timid, shivering, ashamed. To him alone they revealed intimate brutalities, a lover’s inflictions. Like kneaded dough, some retained a fist’s impression, malignant finger marks. Their bodies bore the brunt, the impact of their husband’s inadequacies.

Breathing Space in Prism – July, 2014

The look but don’t touch protocol was at the gallery’s insistence rather than the artist’s. They feared litigation. Though visitors were effectively confronted with the world’s largest cuddly toy, the gallery explained that someone, somehow, would still find a way to lose an eye. (Site no longer active)

Flesh and Blood in Vending Machine Press (Pushcart Prize Nominated) – July, 2014

During their time together, he hoped to foreground background noise. He would use the city as a shield, the clamour and chaos drowning out their interrogations. The last thing he wanted to do was to spend the evening at home with them, an oppressive silence waiting to be filled with awkward questions.

Home Taping is Killing Music in Mixtape Methodology – July, 2014

With this mixtape, he would win her heart. Encircled within plastic casing: a shimmering lasso with which he would reel her in.

Erosions in Hark Magazine – April, 2014

He found the present state of decline dispiriting; deterioration was not what it used to be. Buildings were no longer allowed to loosen into desuetude. In western cities, a dearth of incapacitated architectures: skyscrapers stooping from bad posture, brutalist blocks riddled with concrete cancer. At the first sign of trauma the demolitionists moved in, razed the ailing to the ground. (Site no longer active)

The Psychedelic Portal in Here Comes Everyone – April, 2014

Of the church to which it had been the entrance, he knew little. It had ceased to be a place of worship many years ago: last candles had been snuffed; final prayers offered by the genuflecting; choirs muted.

It now welcomed worshippers of a very different order.

Impressions of Death in Visual Verse – March, 2014

He forwarded portfolios to funeral parlours, suggested himself as an artist in residence. It was either that or gatecrash, usher himself in to sneak stealth portraits of the perpetually restful. To his surprise, one expressed interest. He needn’t go rogue, hire a present-day Burke and Hare to source models.

Siren in Flashing for Kicks – February, 2014

For a song she sang after dark, lit-up the midnight shift in a ramshackle jazz bar, low notes wispy on her lips. Between numbers she soaked up the cautious applause of degenerates. After hours, to unwind, she drank elsewhere, cast aside lowlifes in dive bars. (Site no longer active)

Tenement in HOAX – January, 2014

Cultivating aromatic plants by artificial light, he had many visitors.

The Double Life in Ambit – January, 2014


It was whilst watching his own funeral that the gravity of the situation finally struck him. As friends and family gathered about his grave, weeping as they wished him fond farewell, he realised that there would be no return, no second act.

The Spurned Taxidermist in Structo – January, 2014


The appearance of a dead hamster in her freezer, lodged frostily between more commonplace corpses, was perhaps the point of no return. He had failed to honour her not unreasonable request: don’t bring death into my house.

Routine Voodoo in The Bohemyth – December, 2013

He recalled childhood games, tweezing hindrances from a lifeless patient, a flattened sap reliant upon steady-handed children to remove sidesplitting obstructions. A piercing buzz nettled the hesitant. In this field, as the operator, he had proved himself a surgeon of distinction. He imagined approaching it now, his hands trembling deliriously, the ceaseless screech that would greet his intervention.



Snow Globe Shadows in Word Bohemia (Winter Journal) – December, 2013

Though she had never left the country, she had snowglobes from all over the world, landmarks forever one shake away from winter. Her calm kingdoms were defenceless, bluster and flurries summoned at her whim. Initially family and companions had boosted her collection; friendships grown frosty, she now sourced her own. In markets and charity shops, she rounded up her kitsch acquisitions. She treasured the spoils of other people’s holidays.

Wrecking Ball Boogie Woogie in 1000 Words – November, 2013

He himself felt no attachment to it, his piano days nearing their natural conclusion. In a sense, they had reached decrepitude in tandem. As the piano struggled with certain notes, he too had succumbed to time’s advance: the slow onset of arthritis had taken grip. As his fingers clawed, his playing became restricted by their constrictions.  (Site no longer active)

The Architect of Haunted Houses in Curiosity Cabinet Magazine (6) – November, 2013

Since childhood, he had harboured dreams of living in a haunted house. Alas, possessed properties seldom came on the market, or if they did, they rarely advertised themselves as such; nobody openly flaunted hauntings, made a selling point of poltergeists. Even the sites of notorious murders were now routinely demolished, removed permanently from the property market, tainted addresses razed whilst souvenir seekers were discouraged from the rubble.

Shelter Drawings in The Londonist – October, 2013

He proved an invisible scribbler. Wilfully ignoring his presence, sitters were oblivious to his furtive assessments. He drew secretively, one dirty hand concealing the work of the other, souls stolen stealthily. His bloodied, hooded eyes turned on whoever sat closest. Occasionally he would find himself the subject of a snatched photograph, an image he would never see, an Instagrammed tramp adrift in cyberspace, clandestine photographers little realising that he was simultaneously capturing them.

Mugshots in Thirteen (Soul Bay Anthology) – October, 2013


With the blunt tools deemed safe for the task – plastic reminders of knives – he would be lucky to cut butter; but to his shaping ends, they would suffice. Not that he had any say in the matter. Working from life, success was not instantaneous. His first fumbled forays resulted in lopsided profiles. It was a number of weeks before true likenesses emerged. These hardboiled gargoyles were in no danger of flattering their subjects. Whilst far from polished, the feel was there, and he was soon making headway.

Snakepit in Far Off Places (Issue 3 – Under the Bed) – October, 2013

He had no strong desire to confront her past in this way. Would it be prudish to point this out? He already struggled with the ghosts of her former lovers; scale models, their dimensions arrested in perpetual tumescence, could only compound the issue. He had obviously appeared more cocksure than he was. He tried to disengage. As she lined them up on her bedside table, he willed himself not to look, attempted to ignore the monstrous shadows cast by her lamp. Intimidating, they inched towards him.

Lion Tamer Blues in Popshot (Issue 10 – The Wild Issue) – October, 2013


In the local pub, barpropped, he would regale regulars with his exploits. His figure would kick the drink to stand firm. Aslobber, jawdropped sops hung on his every word. Commanding roaring drunks was now the extent of his mastery. At the night’s end, he would return to his boxed life, a memory rush of adrenaline with no outlet.

Spray Can Romance in 3:AM Magazine – August, 2013

She soon tired of waking alone, a fanned hand revealing the cold depression of his absence. Was she unique, or was she one of a legion of graffiti widows? She tried to imagine, across the city, a dormitory’s worth of half occupied beds, restless women awaiting the return of their fume laden heroes. It seemed somewhat implausible. She imagined that it was a singular pursuit, bachelors of the arts returning home to empty beds. It seemed an inherently male culture, struck her as unlikely that there existed a similar sisterhood of spray-can spinsters, women foregoing intimacy to spend their nights outlining their thoughts upon walls.

Grindstone Cowboy in Notes from the Underground – March, 2013

On dry land he never strayed, considered himself a faithful husband. Offshore, his loyalty lapsed, his sea legs leading him into betrayal. Having never previously cheated, he always imagined that if the opportunity arose he would politely decline. Within his first week, finding himself sweating atop a woman whose name he didn’t even know, he shuddered at his naiveté. He found he was powerless in the face of proposition. He had failed to pack the mythical stick with which to beat such women away. (Site no longer active)

The Recovery Position in Litro – February, 2013


She arrived discreetly, by post. Unwrapping his parcel, he regarded his new partner, shrink-wrapped in a box. Through plastic sheeting, their eyes met. Upon unfolding her, preparing to breathe life into her, he contemplated her deflated form. Previously he had scorned men who resorted to such desperate ends to satisfy themselves, their flat-packed mistresses only one step up from having sex with balloons. How many married men harboured collapsible concubines? Guilty husbands secretly engaged in airtight adultery? He had entered into his own rubbery negotiations with a higher goal, he reassured himself. That said, he had no intention of revealing to his wife the intricacies of his rehearsals. With his lips he had breathed if not life then at least form into her. Upon curved air he would perfect his manoeuvres.


On Safari in Postcard Shorts – January, 2013

They found themselves on safari in a bid to save their marriage; to this, the animals were oblivious. Exactly how the trip would inject life into their deathly marriage remained to be seen. Would it prove an exotic requiem?

Defacement in Paraxis – January, 2013

Unable to sleep since the incident, he took to haunting hospitals. Amidst the nocturnal chaos of the accident and emergency ward, he slipped unnoticed. Sunk in a plastic bucket seat, he became a self-appointed artist in residence. Sitting patiently, he watched unfortunates clutch bloodied rags to gushing wounds, attempts to stem the flow from newly acquired apertures. As they struggled, he would sketch discreetly, a war artist documenting the casualties of urban warfare, battles staged whilst others slept, the glum, pummelled faces of pub-crawl brawlers.

Tasteless in Litro – December, 2011


At dinner parties, strangers were politely delighted by his response to career enquiries. A food stylist? That sounds fascinating, they would say, before allowing him a seemingly endless opportunity to prove that it was not. He could talk at length, deliver soporific lectures, upon the best methods for depicting the potato in its manifold forms. He had found, consequently, that social engagements began to dry up.


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