Beacon – Gina Burgess

Tom stared at a greeting card of a chubby man in a red suit with a face obscured by a beard. Tom had heard of beards, but he’d never seen one. Only grown-ups could grow them.

He looked to Anna, the closest person he’d ever known to a grown-up. She was busily taping cardboard over the broken windscreen of a rusty, roadside car, which was to be their brand-new home. Earlier, glass fragments and crimson stains had covered the seats. Anna had sent Tom away until she’d cleaned.

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The Ballad of Robinson Clyde – Alexander D Jones

Down in the valley that nobody knows the name of lives a very old man. A man who’d seemingly been there since time began. He was the last line of defence. Nobody had asked him, he took it upon himself. 

He sat in his hut, four walls, three windows, two doors, one roof. All hours he sat. Waiting. Watching. Waiting. Watching the skies. Guarding the valley that nobody knows the name of.

They always landed in the valley, never quite the same place, never the same time, but every day, one came. Down in the valley that nobody knows the name of. 

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Behind the Wall – Hamilton Perez

It was the middle of the night that woke her. Savannah sat in bed, soaked with sweat, listening intently for the sound that woke her to come again. “Is someone there?” she asked the dark with shaky confidence, like she’d asked it a thousand times before and was still waiting for an answer.

The strange noise returned — thump, thump, thump, thump, thump — and Savannah couldn’t help comparing it to the once familiar sound of a husband returning home late from work, or a son sneaking back into the house at 3 a.m., or a knock at the door from a grim-faced policeman that signaled the end of the world. They weren’t really comparable, but she compared them all the same.

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Quid Pro Quo – Mark Keane

I was uneasy the minute I saw the Police Scotland crown and thistle crest on the envelope. I put the letter to one side, tried to ignore it and then tore it open. My assistance was required with on-going enquiries. I was to report to Chief Inspector Baillie, Edinburgh Division. There was no explanation but I knew it had to do with the accident. 

That started me thinking again, the same what ifs. What if I hadn’t gone to the retirement party? What if I had reacted differently? I shouldn’t have gone, I shouldn’t have stayed, I shouldn’t have spoken to Westacott and Macgregor and let them get to me. Shouldn’t, shouldn’t, shouldn’t but I did. There was no one I could confide in and I was sick of hearing the same well-intended advice. Don’t beat yourself up about it, I was told. It wasn’t your fault. You can’t change what happened. Life must go on. It was easy to be sympathetic, easy to blithely say what’s done is done but I had to live with the consequences. 

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Observers – Gareth D Jones

I was rather surprised when my Observer first appeared. I was watching TV – a reality show ironically – when he flickered into existence in the corner of the lounge. Like an old fluorescent light with a faulty starter, his image stuttered dimly, then sprang into full colour. I say colour, but he was pretty much grey and beige all over. Thinning grey hair, beige form-fitting top, grey trousers. He held a grey electronic notebook of some kind, though whatever angle I looked from I couldn’t see anything on the screen. I was surprised, but not freaked out. Thousands of Observers had been appearing for several months. I imagine the first few caused a lot of screaming and panicking. 

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Hecatomb 3019 – Callum Colback

Faint bubbling from the tubes in Carly’s nose was the only sound in the care home room. Helen stroked her sisters’ hair and gazed out the window at the city street. Magnetic Levitation, or MagLev, orbs zipped along the Admanium metal road, their drivers scrolling dataslates or talking into the screens built into their arms. Brilliant white buildings stood tall on the other side of it, advertisements projected onto their smooth surfaces in garish colours. One for a new protein square flashed up and Helen looked away, swallowed her anger at the fact thousands would be compelled to rush out and buy it right now. Her grey eyes flicked to the scar between Carly’s ribs, visible where her gown had fallen open on a breeze from the ajar window. Sweet scents drifted in with it, pumped from fans on the street, several levels below.

“I thought there would be a sense of relief,” Helen said, “having finally told someone. I was expecting a weight to be lifted. Amazing how naïve I can still be after all this time.”

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The Space Between Us – Melanie Rees

The vacuous space between our worlds clasped me in shadow. There was a strange feeling of static in the air, as if someone had rubbed a balloon across my skin. I couldn’t actually feel the ground, but as the Drukari representative floated through the blackness, a dirt track and crossroads materialised underneath her feet.

She looked the same as the other Drukari who had crossed the borders lately: heavy fustian tunic and pixie ears. Mousy hair draped across one shoulder in a loose plait. The long sword sheathed by her side hardened her graceful appearance. But she was still one of them

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If Man Is Dead, Everything Is Possible – Walter Milner

The holly bush was small, no more than three feet high, its glossy green leaves glinting in the low afternoon sun which slanted between the trees. It struggled for air and light, surviving on what escaped the great oaks and beeches and elms around it. The air had a dry taste of earth and moss and mushroom. The wood was quiet, with sometimes a rustle as a squirrel clambered up a tree, or the unmistakable sound of a woodpecker. When dusk approached the birds would chatter and argue as they prepared to roost.

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Perspective is Everything – Robert B. Allen

“It happened again I tell you! It really did! I was abducted by the giant aliens, the same ones as last time!”

Not this again….

“There I was, minding my own business, just grabbing a bite when I felt a searing pain. I was frozen in terror, paralyzed! And just like before, I was drawn up into the sky! I was so scared I could barely breath!”

“Giant aliens…rigghht…uh, Dave….”

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