Archive for December, 2010

As the year draws to a close, 330 Words would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to contribute to the site.

330 Words was launched in March this year and, since our inaugural blog post, we’ve been honoured to host work from some of Manchester’s best writers. The site has been home to stories of alien invasions, romance, horror and more than a few tales of bananas. The past nine months have seen a wide-variety of work grace our simple WordPress layout and, in all honesty, they’re all been brilliant.

So, in no particular order, we’d like to thank the following for their contributions:

Claire Symonds
Jayne Robinson
Percy Herbert
Sarah-Clare Conlon
James Roome
Dom Conlon
Greg Thorpe
Dave Hartley
Benjamin Judge
Chris Houghton
Seb Randle
Sam Phillips
Fat Roland
Jez Green
Francis James Butler
Isabel Joely Black
Julia Farrand
Larner Caleb
Craig Pay
Craig Ballinger

Here’s to the tales and adventures of 2011.


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This is the best way to spend Christmas. Settled by the fire with the cats on our laps, watching movies, relaxing. It’s Christmas Eve, and we’ve finally got the boy off to bed. Typical Christmas Eve; he didn’t want to go to bed.

The wife tuts and says, “He’s just excited about Father Christmas coming. And he’s only six.”

The clock on the mantelpiece has just struck midnight. The wife looks at me.

“You should put his stocking in his room,” she says.

“Isn’t it your turn? I can’t move.” I indicate the cats. They’re sprawled all over my lap, purring loudly. They’re not usually this affectionate.

“Well, I’m the same,” she says. She is. Two more cats are curled around her. They came in from next door, I think. That big ginger tom looks familiar. I know they’re not ours, at least.

I hear a cry from upstairs, and we both start. In the quiet, it’s very loud. “I’ll go,” I say, and one of the cats on my lap digs its claws into my stomach in protest. I push them off – they’re heavy, these creatures, and very reluctant – and head upstairs, carrying my drink with me. I’m not missing out on that, at least.

There’s another couple of cats in the hall, watching. Where did they come from?

Sam’s in his bed, sitting up and pointing out of the window when I get to his room. I give him a frown. “What’s up, buddy?” Sit down on the edge of the bed.

“They’re coming!” he says. He looks scared. He should be excited. Behind me, one of the cats pads into the room, rubs against my leg.

“Father Christmas, yes,” I say. “But he won’t be coming unless you lay down and get some sleep.”

I’m already tucking him in, but he’s resistant. The cat jumps up onto the bed, purring. Sam gives it a sharp look, then back to me.

“They’re here!” he whispers, terrified. “They’re here!”

Words: 330

You can find more about Isabel, and read her continuing web serial, Amnar, here.

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Geoffrey did not want an Action Man for Christmas. He did not want an Optimus Prime, a Leeds United football shirt or a remote-controlled helicopter. For, as he sat cross-legged on his bed watching the snow idly drift past the window, all Geoffrey really wanted was to see his father again.

And while the good boys and girls of Yorkshire were sound asleep in their beds, Geoffrey recalled his letter to Santa Claus, written earlier in the week.


“Dear Santa,” it began. “I know you’re busy, but…”


“You should talk to that boy’s mother,” she sneered through shrivelled lips. “A boy shouldn’t grow up without his father.”

Richard watched his mother cram another cigarette into her mouth.

“When was the last time you spoke to her?” she exhaled in a cloud of pale grey smoke.


“So, he called last week?” Samantha asked over her wine glass.

Alison shrugged, picking at the roll of tape. “I can’t find the end of this damn thing,” she replied.

Samantha sighed, staring up at the corner of the room.

“You know, I thought about divorcing Shaun once,” she admitted, before reaching into her handbag for a box of cigarettes.

“Do you mind if…?” she gestured.


“Go ahead and give my presents to some other kid,” Geoffrey whispered. “I’ll be ok.”


“It’s not going to be ok,” Richard yelled. “She won’t even return my calls.”


She watched as the pale grey smoke packed itself into the corners of the living room.

“Will the smell wake him up?” asked Samantha.

Alison shook her head, before taking the football shirt out from the bag.


Outside, the snowflakes began to fall faster from the sky.


“No. He’ll be asleep by now.”

“And they’re both there when I wake up.”

“What do you think I should do?”

“Pick up the phone.”

“It’s Christmas.”

Words: 330

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Angels are at their most vulnerable at Christmas. It’s a fact. Not well known, perhaps, but no less true. Perhaps it’s the time when they take their foot off the pedal (an unfortunate turn of phrase here but an apt one) as they ease into the festive period. After all, who amongst us mortal folk would keep a clear head when subject to such celebrity adoration?

So it should not be a complete surprise to learn that the moment Charlie’s car impacted into the back of an overburdened family car, that at that moment his Guardian Angel wasn’t really paying attention.

Three of the four children riding high in the other car were killed instantly. And perhaps it was unavoidable, perhaps it couldn’t be predicted. Certainly not by someone on Charlie’s Angel’s pay grade.

Still, the angel wasn’t on the ball, high, no doubt on Christmas cheer, the smell of the party and the thoughts Charlie was having about the presents his son would be getting. That’s the trouble with angels, they say they are altruistic but they aren’t, not really. Like mortals doing good on the promise of eternal life, angels are ultimately in for themselves.

Not that Charlie knew what his angel was thinking. Certainly not as his ribcage splintered against the steering wheel and certainly not as a shard of glass surgically removed part of his oesophagus.

This is, however, Christmas. Good things happen at Christmas and so Charlie’s wounds, severe as they were, escaped being life threatening. And as the back of his head was shattered by the missile-like impact of a sackful of toys, Charlie saw his Guardian Angel for the first and last time.

Sadly, the Guardian Angel wasn’t so lucky. Impaled by the shockingly close inevitability of its ward’s death, the angel was killed outright.

For the rest of his life, Charlie would look over his shoulder, hoping to be watched over but knowing you only get one angel.

Words: 330

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I remember when the world was green. But then I’m old.

They said it was a blip, when it started to get cold. The politicians told us not to panic—

Politicians? They ran the place—

Like Elders? Yeah, I guess they’re similar.

First thing that happened, we ran out of food. That’s when people started getting mean with each other, just arguing at first, but it got nasty enough when the fuel rations cut in. Didn’t take much for us to turn on each other.

Back then, they were worried about the world getting warm. You believe that? Everywhere was getting flooded. Something to do with us burning what we dug out from the ground—

No, not like stick-picking. If you keep digging through the snow you get to ground, right? Hard, so you stop. If you keep going for miles there’s black water down there called oil which you can burn—

Sure you can burn liquid—

I don’t care whether you believe me or not. Back then people used to kill each other over it. Guess it’s the same now, only it’s wood. And that’ll run out soon enough, just like the oil was going to. They used oil for making heat and electricity—

Electricity? You know that wind up torch old Barth has…yeah, like that. But it came through the walls—

Don’t be ridiculous, it’s not magic. Doesn’t take much does it? Just a generation or two and it’s all forgotten.

Maybe it’ll warm up again someday. It’ll stink. Everything rotting, all those bodies.

No, don’t put any more wood on the fire. Help your old man up, we need to get going. I know a perfect spot a couple of day’s walk from here. Used to be an old beech coppice, hundreds of years ago. More firewood than we can carry, and we’ll dig down at an old supermarket I know on the way back. Get some cans of food and maybe a bottle if we’re lucky.

Words: 330

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There was a time when I was loved. She wouldn’t go anywhere without me.

I was her comfort, I could make her smile and laugh. The moment I fell from favour is hard to pinpoint, the reasons difficult to find. It’s odd how circumstances can change so quickly. The pace at which you can be catapulted from someone’s bed is dizzying. Without that warmth it’s barely worth moving. Sometimes it’s easier to lie here surrounded by dirt and cigarette butts. Will someone else pick me up or do I have to pick myself up?

Maybe she doesn’t know where I am. Maybe I’ve been forgotten. Maybe I was never important at all. It’s impossible not to feel needed when you’ve been held so close. No room for even air between us, it felt like we were always touching. Her scent is still on me, I’ll never wash again. I do need to write some things off though. I’m going to avoid all of the parks and the sunny places we went to. And those long afternoons in bed would be torturous alone. So too those car rides to anywhere.

If only I didn’t feel the longing for a squeeze. I’m cursed with a need for affection, though I suppose I’m not alone. We all need someone to show them some warmth, someone to say the right things. Someone with the heart to love and the head to understand. I think I found those things in her. Maybe she didn’t find these things in me. It’s odd the things you see when you’re looking up from the floor; when you take time to look at events from a different angle. Things march around and around your head, free from the fog of the moment.

So the cig ends pile up and the debris gathers, as I now have only time for company. The past is present and there is no future, as I lie here with all my failings exposed.


Read more of Craig’s work on his blog.

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Seeds, seeds, seeds, all the types of seed; and nuts and bits of fruit, all for eating, all good for eating, ‘specially on this cold day, and here comes Bluetit to get his fill, and here’s another finch or two, Mr. Greenfinch, Sir Chaffinch, there goes Coaltit, we are all happy feeding, feeding.

But there. Bobbin Robin. That lost look in his eyes. He turns his back on the dark place.

The dark place.

That place.


With no seeds. Just a long slab of dark air.

And something in the darkness.

Bobbin Robin saw it. Now Bobbin Robin only eats from the floor like the Magpies. Keeps his back turned to the dark place.

Hello wagtail! Busy feeding, feeding? Seeds, seeds and bits of nuts, try the pine nuts; sweet this time of year, I’ll take some apple after the main course, peck peck, yum yum.

I’m Bullfinch, strong and proud and some call me brave; Bullfinch the Brave; Bull but not Bully, big proud chest, bright pinky-red plume that says; bold, noble, gallant…

…and brave.

There’s something in there.

Well! I’m full! Full of seeds, seeds, and nuts and bits of squishy fruit! And I feel strong! I can feel my bully Bullfinch blood pumping through my veins.

Hello Bobbin Robin. Come for some grub? Where have you lost yourself? In the dark place.

I’ll help.


I’ll help you, Bobbin…

Bobbin Robin.

Deep breath. Flicker of my brave wings. Zip, nip, zoom and I land on wood.

The dark shifts, away, away. Six big round eyes, hard glass; what? long, thick stalks, leading to hulking demons, pointing at me! POINTING AT…

…CLICKITYCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICK! Wolf claws on stone! A cat grinding its teeth!

One gets so close I taste the stench of heat rising through my beak; I am frozen! to the frost! My wings won’t work, my beak forced open, the cat will get me! the wolf will eat me!

Bullfinch the Brave! Fly you fool, fly!


Words: 330

Read more of Dave’s work on his blog. He also does film reviews.

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And it all tasted like shit. It wasn’t the breakfast I needed. A haze hangs heavy in the still air of the room. I hear the boiler flare in the kitchen. My head is as dry as ash. I stare at the floor and wonder what’s wore off first and what I still feel. I know I can feel the lights and the roads. I can still see the cold and the magic. The magic crept up on us as we crept around; Paris sparkled for us. We swirled in its darkness.

Now the sky has turned again and its light pushes in through the shutters. On the floor at my feet lie an entwined pair of lovers. Their peaceful sleep makes me jealous; my mind will not surrender to dreams just yet. The only comfort I can take is that their problems are bigger than mine; they will wake up to their touch.

When I close my eyes, I’m bombarded by images; embellished versions of memories. Faces and words I don’t recognise. There is no rest to be had. I just have to wait it out. Lay next to me is a girl, her face calm with sleep. I try to think about how I feel about her, but nothing occurs in my mind or chest. I felt so much yesterday, but how much was fiction?

Across the room, a body stirs on the sofa. Pascal sits up with a jerk, then softens again. He gently stretches and runs his hands through his wild hair. I smile as he fixes me with weary eyes. We share a sigh.

“I have to go. I have no drugs.”

Pascal pulls on his shoes and coat before making an exit. My mind wanders after him. My body waits until it can rest; it waits for my mind to stop.

Words: 307

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If you look up when night falls and the moon is in just the right position and enough clouds are gathered, you will be able to see that the sky is made not of space or dark matter or any of the strange exotic things they tell you it is made of but rather that it is formed by a forest marching in from the edge of the world.

These are ghost trees of course. I don’t need to tell you that. Not at your age. You’ve climbed enough trees of the ordinary kind to know the difference. Your trees are a sort too heavy with children and rogues swinging on them to float nightwards.

Ghost trees are trees that used to be. Cut down at night, they migrate naturally toward areas of the planet we have not yet touched and know nothing about in order to continue growing although, truth be told, they no longer can be harmed by our tiny axes and feeble flames.

It is a slow spread however, slower than the sequoia and slower, almost even than mountain ranges as though they have read ahead to the end of the world and chosen to take their time. It must be hard to turn away from sheltering us, no matter what we do to them.

Such reluctant growth does not, however, still the need to fill the form they were promised a thousand years before you and I ever thought to climb one; and definitely a thousand years before you and I ever thought to carve a boat.

Bound then by night, these trees grow without fear, choking the stars and piercing the moon.

True, the day sends them back, the sun, bleeding though it is, still has power to sweep away their claws but they know that blood will one day drain and the trees that need no sap and take no saw will become one tree upon which will hang the world.

Words: 326

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