Archive for December, 2012

photo (12)

Holly, I can’t see your fireworks from space.

I lied to you.

Two hundred miles, the toposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere stop me from seeing each chinese lantern, chrysanthemum and kamuro you fire up into the night’s sky. But you were young and scared and I wanted to make you feel better. And even astronauts lie sometimes.

So, whenever you called from Houston and asked me if I’d seen your New Year’s Eve firework or your Independence Day firework or your Hello Daddy, it’s Saturday firework, I always looked into your green eyes, smiled and said I had and that it was beautiful. You giggled, went shy and looked up at Rachel.

I never saw your fireworks, but there are some things you can see from space.

There were six of us that day, all squeezed into The Cupola, eyes darting across the planet’s surface as the clouds mushroomed up into the atmosphere. We saw light flash over continents, little firecrackers that fizzled and popped; grey clouds that swelled across the orange land below us.

We waited for news from the surface, a call or a message, but they never came. At first, we took turns to sleep next to the dark mirror. Floating in that space between sleep, I had dreams that touched the surface of reality; a crackle from the video screen, an image of your mother with a smile on her face or your voice, echoing down the tubes of that sterile sarcophagus.

A month passed, maybe two. We tried to continue with our work, but it became fruitless. Yuri and Anne-Marie had already left and, towards the end, there were just the two of us, vigilantly recording information from our experiments and sending back daily packets of data to the lifeless planet below. But, there are plenty of ways to go when you’re in space and eventually, I was left alone.

I’ll be coming home soon, Holly. Light the fireworks so I can find my way back home.

Words: 330

Read Full Post »


As the last embers of 2012 die on the fire, it’s a time for reflection and review here at 330Words. This, our third year, saw nearly 11,000 of you visit the site to read one of the 73 stories sent in by 42 different authors. During the half-time break of 2012, we also celebrated a major landmark, welcoming the 200th tale onto the site. Not too shabby.420902_10100557300627485_117035156_n

2012 kicked off with some of my favourite stories from the year. Oli P.Lill started the ball rolling with Bisto, while the ever-present talent of Dom Conlon and Top Man Benjamin Judge wrote two of my personal favourite tales of the year in the form of Another Angel and The Island.

The quality continued into the rest of 2012 and February and March saw brilliant submissions from author Jane Hammons, Laura Maley and first-time contributors Meg Burrows and Michelle Goode.

In April, 330Words took part in the Chorlton Arts Festival as part of the Manchester writing collective #Flashtag, while I penned one of my most satisfying tales of the year with The Girl on the Moon, a story that would go on to appear in the launch issue of 2020 Magazine (Pictured above).

Valerie O’Riordan reads at #Flashtag’s Chorlton Arts Festival event

In May, Flashtag took to the stage once more with a unique live event for National Flash Fiction Day, while 330Words welcomed fantastic tales from Misti Rainwater-Lites and regular contributor Christopher Marshall. 330Words also made an impromptu appearance at Salford Art Festival, Sounds from the Other City.

330Words reads as part of National Flash Fiction Day

Spring was replaced by summer and tales from Sal Page and Clare Kirwan kept us entertained as rain fell across the city. We also had the first tales from a number of talented writers in the shape of Phil Monks, Rachel Campbell Zaino and Sheba Curran.


Flashtag hero David Hartley appeared on the site in July with his tale Shoot, while exile from Manchester didn’t stop Nick Garrard from plying us with words in Gift of the Gab. We also had a lovely tale from Emma Hinge and the apocalypse rose its head in Armageddon by Stella Turner.

Lucy Uprichard saw us into Autumn, while stories from John Risby, Gary Kaill and Dom Conlon kept up the ante as November approached. Meanwhile, The #Flashtag collective graced the launch issue of Manchester magazine Now Then, while I represented 330Words in the Manchester Weekender, courtesy of Tales of Bad Language.

December saw the return of Dom Conlon with his unique take on Christmas in The Visitor, while Laura Maley sneaked into the site during the last weeks of 2012 with Shape of a Laugh. If you grow weary of turkey and tinsel, their stories offer ample respite from the festive spirit.

In other news, it’s been a busy year for #Flashtag. In September, the group hosted a unique live music/words event with Word>Play for Didsbury Arts Festival, featuring the charming Valerie O’Riordan, Monkeys in Love and local poet Adrian Slatcher. Meanwhile, Benjamin Judge and I represented the group in the Lancaster Literature Festival.

Clips from Word>Play

It would be remiss not to mention the folks over at Bad Language, one of the region’s best performance nights, which celebrated its second birthday in November. It’s a fantastic evening of live words and poetry and I’ve always had a lovely time reading there. The group has some interesting stuff planned for 2013, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for them in the new year.

It’s been a wonderful year for 330Words and it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to read all of your tales. I’ve got big plans for the site in 2013 and, hopefully, you’ll all pop by next year for more words and pictures.

Have a peaceful Christmas and a prosperous new year.


Our authors in 2012

Paul Askew
Nick Garrard
Natalie Bowers
John Risby
Lucy Uprichard
Gary Kaill
Emma Hinge
Stella Turner
Helen Thomas
Sal Page
Sheba Curran
Tom Allmark
Rachel Campbell Zaino
Clare Kirwan
Misti Rainwater-Lites
Andrea Wicks
Richard Brown
Patrick Trotti
Richard Brown
Sarah Grace Logan
Stephen Shaw
Kristian Jackson
David Stedman
Jennifer Michaud
James Massoud
Meg Burrows
Michelle Goode
Laura Maley
Anthony Griffiths
Julie Morgan King
William West
Oli P.Lill
Christopher Marshall
William West
Dom Conlon
Claire Symonds
Benjamin Judge
Leah Leaf
Tom Mason
Chris Sims
Sonya Kunawicz

Words: 674

Read Full Post »

0027-The Visitor

Despite a near death experience with Santa, Christmas 1976, was great. The night before, I’d half-dragged a sleepy Timothy into the living room, still warm from an untended fire despite the gap under our front door. Mum’s cigarette glowed like Rudolph’s nose and a magical fog clung to the tree. It was quite beautiful, apart from the smell.

The last present Mum and Dad ever gave me started a tradition of buying Christmas number ones. We’d bought Bohemian Rhapsody together and I wanted to keep buying but I didn’t expect much. A handful of presents lay around the fireplace like bricks from a broken home. Each parcel was addressed to Mum and it felt strange not seeing Dad’s name. Stranger, even, than not being wrapped.

That night, when I saw the parcels lying by the open fireplace, I put my arm around him and said maybe He hadn’t been. But Timothy seemed confused seeing an empty wine glass next to Mum’s ashtray.

I was thinking that maybe I could get Timothy back to bed and then sneak down, wrap the presents and arrange them under the tree when we heard the noise.

Approaching the fireplace, I brushed Timothy behind me. The noise grew louder, like a match striking a wet box, and a raggedy-black shape snowballed down the chimney, wings unfurling as it hit the glowing coals. Timothy and I jumped but the whole thing might have ended there were it not for a second noise.

With a loud ‘ho ho ho’ our front door burst open and Santa appeared. A startled Timothy slammed into me and I fell into the hearth. The bird and I caught fire and Timothy’s cries woke Mum who came downstairs to see a burning bird in the fireplace and Santa smothering her eldest son.

It took a few days for Santa’s restraining order to come through so I spent Christmas with Mum, Dad and my little brother by my bedside.

Like a normal family.

Words: 329

Read Full Post »


“There!” Eyes wide, mouth smiling too strongly, she continues, “A full moon. Well, nearly full. It’s so low.” She pauses. “Great big enormous thing; it doesn’t even look real! It must be really close tonight. You feel like you could stretch out and take a chunk. Shall I scoop up a bit of moon cheese for us?”

Her chatter fills silent days. Five or six questions form a meandering rhetorical sentence, and she can relay the dullest encounter in great detail, carefully embellished, designed to make him laugh.

And she will continue doing so for as many months or years as come to them. But today is different. Today the change she started trying to ignore six months ago was complete. Today she stopped waiting for words. His face contorts into the shape of a laugh, a big broad soundless one; head thrown back, crinkled eyes and two rows of teeth line a black cavern. Instead of words now there’ll be a nod, or his eyes will lift slowly to meet hers. For a moment she hopes, then remembers that more often he’ll stare at a space just beyond where she is; a space she can’t quite inhabit.

Sitting together in the dark sitting room, blinds drawn, their eyes adjust to take in the dusting of stars across the sky. Remembering what laughter looks like, they silently admire the same nearly-full moon.

Words: 233

Read Full Post »

Eggs – Written by Tom Mason

photo (11)

Miriam Smith lies dying in her hospital bed.

We don’t give name to the monster which eats away at her. If we speak of it at all, we spit out words like ‘it’ or ‘that’. If we speak of it at all, our hatred bubbles up through our mouths, frothing between our lips. That is, if we speak of it at all.

Miriam Smith lies dying in her hospital bed. She was a great woman, but you wouldn’t know that. She never cured a disease or sailed around the world. She never invented or wrote.

But she used to let me help. I’d stand on an old Yellow Pages and watch as she’d potter about the kitchen, bringing a bowl down from the cupboard, counting the eggs in the box to make sure we had enough. I couldn’t have been older than six.

When you crack an egg, there’s that moment when the yolk hangs in the air, suspended between the kitchen counter and the fractured shell. There’s that moment when time stops.

Someone explained it to me once; an interstice. A space between moments. The violin rising to the chin, a swimmer on the diving board, the yolk hanging in the air. Brief pauses sandwiched between events.

‘Don’t let it spill, mum,’ I used to say as she’d reach across the counter.

I was so terrified. I’d hold my breath as she’d gently tap it on the side of the bowl, for luck, before raising her arm and cracking the shell on the corner of the glass. And time would stop. I’d look up at her with fear in my eyes and she’d glance down, making a mockery of gravity, and wink.

‘Your mum is an expert,’ she’d say.

Miriam Smith lies dying in her hospital bed. Time has stopped here too. The clock on the wall doesn’t have the heart to continue. And so, I sit at the side of her bed, gently clutching her frail hand, adding to the space between moments.

Words: 330

Read Full Post »


When I came to Master Sinto, I had heard only of his reputation; stories of bravery and battle. I came to Tokyo to learn about the glories of war, lessons from the man who, if you believed the tales, had faced clans of Samurai warriors alone, striking down legions with just a kantana and a wakizashi. I came expecting to meet a legend; a beast cut and scarred with the slashes of victory.

‘There must be some mistake,’ I thought as I laid my eyes on this small, frail man.

Despite my persistence, Master Sinto would always dismiss talk of his past glories, irritably flicking away my insistence with a thin, wrinkled hand. He would sit for hours, his thin frame propped up against a lotus tree, silently observing my chores from beneath the shade of the pink blossom. He could sense my impatience. I had travelled across the oceans to seek knowledge from a warrior; there few lessons to be learnt from carrying water pails and sweeping leaves.

Two years passed.

And then, one morning, he took me aside. We walked through a hallway I had not travelled down before, entering a doorway I had never stepped through. Monstrous demons snaked across the walls of this room, twisting across the corners as fire blazed from their scaled snouts. In the corner stood his battle armour, dull black and scarred with the blows from countless foes.

We sat cross-legged under the shadow of its monstrous grin as he recounted his war stories; the battle for the East, the cold war against the southern clans, the defence of the dragon province. He spoke in a calm voice, describing each battle, each blow, in soft whispers.

The room was ablaze with the orange embers of the dying sun. Fire danced from the jaws of the beasts painted across the room.

‘Do you understand why I have told you this?’ he asked.

I nodded. There was no glory to be found here.

Words: 330

Read Full Post »