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Index: Contents


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Lady bear


She was standing at the edge of the clearing waiting for him to come in. She’d rubbed her fur against a tree and she was feeling groomed, pelt shining and smooth, free of burrs. She had gone to the river and brushed her head and ears under the water and shaken herself dry, the shaggy hair around her throat fluffing up. She felt beautiful. She was ready. She was waiting. Continue reading… (910 words)



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Inky


Hunched in his trenchcoat, the little man limped down the alleyway. A grey darkness and the smell of discarded burger wrappers surrounded him. He hated the city. The sky was too low and, in the alleyways, the windowless buildings pressed too close together. The little man was not the kind of person to ever wish for anything: he knew whatever he wanted, he did not deserve it. But in the alleyways he felt a yearning to be back on the road. He had been thrown out of the circus; he couldn’t go back there, not after what had happened. He’d have to start again. Start again with another show, other people who didn’t know him, another act. Something so amazing, so good, nobody would ask where he’d been before.

 

 

As he thought dark thoughts something darker than the darkness of the alleyway moved to his right. Something fluid. Continue reading… (1102 words)



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Math


Four stripes on the crossing, twenty-one slats on the fence in front of Mr Jenkins’ house, eighteen feet of adults waiting at the bus stop, sixty-three stitches on the hem of the lady’s dress in the opposite seat. Mike’s mother holds his hand firmly. They are on their way to the doctor’s again.

 

 

More tests. Mike knows he can’t press his face against the wall and count the fibres in the old wallpaper, because it makes his mother upset. He swivels on his chair, three pushes to a full turn. His mother and the doctor are talking: two tired voices. Mike counts the heartbeats in his chest. The number is always the same. Continue reading… (160 words)



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Animal Spirit


So this sheep was there at the foot of the office building, its leg folded at a strange angle, and it seemed, well, it seemed as if it had jumped. This was an unusual case, obviously, but forensics did their job and found the hoof marks on the window. There little bits of wool on the broken glass. Witnesses said the animal had seemed determined. It had run straight at the double-glazing while the other office workers watched frozen, cups and bagels still halfway to their mouths, fingers poised above the keyboard. Obviously motive was difficult to determine, you know, it was a sheep. And as to what it was doing there, nobody knew. Most of the workers had assumed it was a motivational aid brought in by management. Continue reading… (137 words)



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Scurry


I am a monster. My brothers and sisters scurry around me; they have brought me crumbs and bit of rotten vegetables, the only thing they managed to get from the masters today. They climb on me and deposit the food in my mouth, while my arms and legs wave helplessly in the air.

 

 

It’s dark here, dark and damp, and warm. I can hear them all whisper around me. They think I cannot understand them, because my voice is a strange senseless gargle, but I can. Continue reading… (965 words)



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Justine Farnsworth’s Diary: Part 3


 

Title

 

There are three things in this world I have been searching for all my life. The first is a child-sized Iron Maiden, whose niche in the attic of Farnsworth Mansion has long been filled with dust; the second is an eighteenth-century Venetian snuffbox said to have belonged to the great Casanova; and the last is a signed copy of the Marquis de Sade’s ‘Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue’, bound in a rare leather. All three belonged to my mother, and how they disappeared after her death has always been as much of a mystery as the reason for her suicide. I have forever cherished the foolish hope that by finding her vanished possessions, I would unlock the secret of why she was taken from me. Continue reading… (1558 words)



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Justine Farnsworth’s Diary: Part 2



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The answer to my last article was quite overwhelming, and I wish to thank the surprising number of gentlemen who wrote to me. A great many invited me to stay with them while my fortunes get better and the house gets back to its former glory. But Farnsworth Mansion, dilapidated as it may be, is my home, and I could not leave the library and the badgers behind; so I must thank these gentlemen, and decline. I must apologize to those I have not replied to; but I am sure they will understand that the extraordinary events that unfolded recently have prevented me from engaging in any correspondence, and kindly forgive me. Continue reading… (2207 words)



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Justine Farnsworth’s Diary: Part 1


And So Tibet

Life for a time passed rather quietly in my Lambeth mansion. Pemsi at first was taken aback, not only by the size of the house but also, I fear, by the state of disrepair the grounds have fallen into. Since the death of my father, Major Farnsworth, I have unfortunately run into some financial difficulties and the old family home is not quite what it was. The house was some time ago deemed unsafe by some “social workers” from the Borough of Lambeth. Why exactly I don’t know; my recollection of the incident is quite hazy. I must admit that at the time I was still somewhat tender from an evening entertaining the men’s squad of the London Rowing Club with the last bottles of Château Cheval-Blanc my father had left me, and I had no time to beat a hasty retreat to the disused oubliettes under the servant’s kitchen when I saw the polyester-clad, clipboard-waving civil servants rounding in. Continue reading… (1890 words)



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Justine Farnsworth’s Diary: Letter to the Editor


SIR, I thought it would interest your readers to hear of my recent travels in the barren expanses of Tibet. Having decided to reach the forbidden city of Lhasa by yak, dressed up as a man – to avoid undue attention from the most uncouth of the region’s inhabitants – I set off from the exotic incense-swathed streets of Kathmandu, setting my course to the north.

I had attached to my service a young and able-bodied sherpa servant boy, who soon took a keen interest in the few copies of The Chap I had taken care of packing in my light travelling bag. Soon he was proficient in the art of waxing my moustache and helping me dress in a proper gentlemanly fashion, which ensured I was not discovered as we crossed deserted plains and encountered gruff but gentle nomads herding their cattle below frozen glaciers. Continue reading… (126 words)



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Le Compositeur


This is a short story that I wrote when I was 16. It won the Prix du Jeune Ecrivain 1993, which was organised by Le Monde. It looks like I’ve always had trouble getting tenses to match up in any story I’ve ever written – but I must say, apart from that, it’s still a pretty good story.   J’ai attendu longtemps avant d’avoir un appartement dans la Tour de la Musique. Enfin, ce n’est pas vraiment un appartement — c’est une chambre au deuxième sous-sol de la Tour avec salle de bains commune à tout l’étage. J’étais sur une […]