A specially commissioned piece to celebrate the debut performance of H@ndles.

handlessugar

You enter the building fifteen minutes early so that you look eager, your hair is unnaturally trimmed and you found that tie you own. You get in the lift and ride it to the fourth floor. When the doors open, you find yourself in a shabbier office that you thought you would.

There’s a woman sat behind the reception desk smoking, she looks like she slept there. She looks like she always sleeps there.

“Hello,” you say, “I’m here for the job, the agency sent me.”

She doesn’t reply. Instead she points her cigarette in the direction of a door and nods. You go through the doors.

Another woman greets you when you enter the room. You barely have enough time to look around and only get a brief eyeful of the place. There are several people dotted about the room at desks, typing away. No-one is talking to each other. The woman looks friendly enough though, she has the kind of hair that makes you think she’s about to describe herself as ‘crazy’.

“You must be new.”

“Yes, the agency sent me.”

“Good, good. We need as many people as you can get.”

She leads you to a terminal and you sit down.

“You’ll be Alan Sugar. Is that okay for you?”

“I’m what?”

“You know, balding guy, businessman. Just type away and if anyone asks you anything, just reply how you think he’d reply.”

You look at the screen in front of you. You are logged in to Twitter. Above you, a little sign hangs from the ceiling saying ‘@Lord_Sugar’. Alan Sugar’s face is the profile picture.

You look around for some more advice, but the woman has gone. The man sat next to you has a sign above him saying @MrDDyer. He doesn’t respond to your waving.

When you click into the box to write a new tweet, the emptiness is tantilising. You feel the infinite options ahead of you and you begin to type.

Words: 328

A specially commissioned piece to celebrate the debut performance of H@ndles

Handles_Lg

The Krathen lurk and lie, eating secrets for breakfast and regurgitating it back for lunch. Their favourite food is data; juicy tidbits of information about humanfolk’s lives.

At first we never realised they were there. Too many cat videos and articles and opinions to think about it. To notice them, just beneath the surface.

But slowly the Krathen ate more and more, pulling pieces of our lives apart. They chew with ferocity, strong jaws clamping down on notions we once upheld as proof we were living in an enlightened age. A post-everything age, where we can say what we like, as loud as we like. Soon we were screaming.

They seem to like the screams, although that slow realisation must have also provided them with entertainment. When the Krathen are excited, or happy, they emit a strong-smelling mucus, oozing from their oversized pores.

Now that smell is everywhere, in our nostrils, in our sleep.

Once we wouldn’t have thought twice before creating or sharing, reposting and tagging and blogging and recording every part of our existence. As the documentation became more desperate, that now-familiar squelch rose in pitch and volume, until it was vibrating like a hummingbird, deafeningly shrill.

The internet is our only way left to communicate now. But messages are dangerous; by the time we finally learned our lesson, it was far too late. The Krathen were everywhere and they were gorged on our stories, made rampant by our distraction and our malice that were thrown into existence the same way they are now thrown up.

Loneliness cannot be borne for long. We don’t stay quiet, no matter the consequences. The creatures know this too, and they wait, smiling, for us to crack. A single, slightly-rambling post; a 6-second video about nothing at all – we hope and pray that it is harmless. We should know better by now.

I should have stopped writing by now.

Words: 329

A specially commissioned piece to celebrate the debut performance of H@ndles

continue

10

We met in a local team deathmatch, Hairtrigger IV. She was a flame-haired Rogue with knife skills to die for and the best grenade aim I’d seen. For ages I thought she was a bloke.

9

He was careful with the friendly fire, didn’t swear at me once. I liked that. In respawn lobby he wouldn’t stop staring at my ava. I knew straight away he was a bloke.

8

I invited her, casual, to the PvP Mission, my heart thumping like a panicked rabbit IRL. She said ‘yeah sure’ then blasted me in the chest with a shotgun.

7

Maybe I shot love into him. Maybe it was too much, too soon. He was over-protective in Mission, taking us on long, romantic rambles to sniper nests, keeping out of the action. Three days in I caved and gave him the slip.

6

I shed armour and ammo like a rookie, my Ur-life dangerously depleted, my stamina more so. IRL I was tired, the chamberpot full and stinking. She was every headshot.

5

I went back to the Skins, pinpointed every sniper nest on World Map. Some distant bit of my gut ached. He was nice. He didn’t swear at me once.

4

They airstriked them: every single nest I showed her. I logged out for days, stalked the IRL streets for scraps.

3

I got my medal, got my heroics on the Board, then got out. I drifted back to the deathmatches, got a few wins into my stats. I watched for his tag, I think, or for derivatives. I wanted to let him shoot me. Get it off his chest. And onto mine.

2

So I hacked. New name, new ava, new gender, new age, new tag, and hunted her down. Sniper, trip-mines, chopperstrikes, shuriken. Got it all off my chest.

1

I found him again. No-one is ever that obsessive. So I Rogued-up, sidled over, flagged up chat.

0

WLTM? she says. IRL?

Continue?

Words: 328

A specially commissioned piece to celebrate the debut performance of H@ndles

130620122903

AWSOM SUNSET 🙂 TIME FOR AN INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT LOL

The journalist from the local paper had Aubrey pinned into the corner; his yellow jowls threatened to drip onto his dog-eared notepad. He asked Aubrey questions with a wet mouth and Aubrey, paint-roller in hand, fixated on the journalist’s flapping, glistening lips.

LONG DAY CANT WAIT TILL HOMETIME

It had started in the flat. Life had felt overblown and somewhere else. Holly Willoughby was on mute as she interviewed, said a television caption, a graffiti artist. Aubrey scrolled tweets on his Nokia: the deluge of self-promotion, of cries for help, of angry clutter. On the silent television, there was a montage of swirling graffiti. Psychedelic. Vibrant.

JUST KNOCKED MY ELBOW SO HAD TO NOCK THE OTHER ONE WTF

Aubrey bought his first brushes from a stressed middle-aged woman in the tatty hardware shop down the road. The barcode bleeps competed with her sighs. Aubrey felt a new dawn in his belly.

WHILE UR WATCHING THE VOICE IM ON XBOX 360! LOOSERS!!

His first painted tweet was in shaky red capitals on the living room wallpaper. He took down the wall clock first, but in a few days, he’d paint over anything. In his kitchen, purple and blue letters snaked over hanging pans and spatulas.

SWEAR MY AUTOCORECT GOT A LIFE OF ITS OWN LIKE SERIOSLY

Graffiti became design. He added rulers and set squares, rollers and spirit levels. Aubrey’s tweets travelled outside: the wall of the flats; the broken bus shelter; the side of the charity shop. Bigger, bolder, brighter. A new Twitter.

ATE MY FIRST BURRITO TODAY IT WAS OK

Aubrey stood in the street as he dripped green onto the pavement. He fixated on what came from the journalist’s dribbling mouth. Questions about motivation, about his opinion on urban art spaces, about… Aubrey felt like Holly Willoughby, broadcasting on mute to fearful men gazing into phone screens.

BORED LOL

“No comment,” said Aubrey. And the journalist wrote it down.

Words: 329

Handles_Lg

January 31 sees the debut performance of H@ndles, the first play written by 330Words creator Tom Mason. The piece, which is part of the Re:Play 2014 Theatre Festival, explores the ways social media affects human behaviour, demonstrating how Twitter and Facebook impacts on our sense of self-worth and identity.

To celebrate the performance, 330words will be publishing a series of tales from its favourite short story authors. Over the course of the next few days, the site will feature specially commissioned pieces from writers exploring some of the play’s themes. Featuring:

  • Fat Roland
  • Dan Carpenter
  • Dave Hartley
  • Benjamin Judge
  • Joe Daley
  • Kate Ashley
  • Nija Dalal

Words: 106

image005

Time of day was irrelevant. The allure, clearly too much. He couldn’t keep his hands off. Grubby, unwashed, nicotine stained fingers. The thought of them knocked me sick. And I was sure he didn’t wash his hands after the urinary act, or worse.
He was practically an addict, in more ways than one.

A magpie, diving for the shiny foil.
You could sense the impending lunge. A quick look around him, followed by an abrupt, purposeful throat clearing. Almost like his throat was collapsing under the constant strain of drags and tar.
Once he started, there was no stopping him. Grab after grab, more than is humanly possible. It was obscene. All you could do was sit, watch and listen.
I tried to blindside it at first and as weeks went by, I started to leave the room. On occasion, I actually ran out of the office, once I had casually walked by his desk.
The others thought I was overreacting. I wasn’t.
I wasn’t sure how they were dealing with it.
Offices can be a terrible place.

At first it started out as twice each day and that was too much. It soon became three and also obvious that I was avoiding the issue.
The others started to notice. Initially, they smiled and shook their heads as I left the room. Over time, they began to realise I had a point.
Some would join me I the kitchen to let the episode pass. Those that could stand to witness it, over and over, either laughed at me or had no idea what was going on.

I hated him.
Just for that, at first.
After a while, irrationally, I hated him for everything. Everything he did. Everything he was. Everything I imagined he did.
I pictured him alone, at home, sat in his underwear, covered in the filth of his obsession.
His pleasure became my disease.
He consumed my world.
How could anyone eat so many packets of crisps?

Words: 329

beethoven klinger

‘Ludo,! You made a mess in your nappy again. Never mind, Mummy will clean you up. Soon you’ll use the toilet like a big boy. When Wolfy was your age, he already used the toilet. You’ll practice until you can do it like him, then Father will be happy.’

Ludo made a Churchillian expression.

‘daa daa’

His mother grimaced as she inhaled the fetid stench of his yellow mess. Hopefully this child will live, she thought.

‘One day, Ludo, you will create something perfect.’ She promised. ‘You will be the greatest.’

Ludo knew Father would shout. He toddled into his own world and looked at the trees while his mother drank. There were other children but he didn’t join them. They made funny noises. He knew he was not like them.

***

The old man’s eyes are locked on eternity as he settles his fat naked buttocks onto the porcelain throne and readies himself. Then it comes; not in parts, but whole and perfect as though cast as a single piece. He doesn’t hear the splosh – he is profoundly deaf, but he knows that he has, at last, completed his masterwork. There is no-one to share the moment. He thinks of his mother, his immortal beloved.

His work is so perfect that he discards the paper in his hand as he has discarded all earthly things.

Not even a glory wipe is called for. His output is so perfect that nothing could be added or taken away.

‘Not even you, Wolfgang, could have created this,’ he bellows. ‘I have made something unlike anything before. Centuries from now they will talk of my creation. I have produced the perfect expression of humanity.’

He rises to his feet and lifts his arms wide as though conducting an orchestra.

‘Oh Joy! Oh Joy! This kiss to the entire world! Can you sense the creator?’

“da da da da, da da da da , da da da da daaa dadaa”

Words: 326