I never thought of myself as a workaholic. My natural state is lethargic, idle and usually a little bit drunk. Well, no time for that these days!
I off-roaded the old car in December 2016 when I got the ‘new’ one (which is the same age as the old one but has better ground clearance). It went into the garage with a dying battery and there it stayed until a few days ago. I finally got around to putting in a new battery and… it started first time! I actually sat there in stunned disbelief for a few minutes.
Of course, the brakes had rusted so it took a bit of effort to get them to pop free and it’ll almost certainly need new brake discs and a full service. Oh and an MOT – fortunately the garage in the local Tiny Town does them so I won’t have to risk my life by driving it too far. However, I need to get it back in the garage before my son fills that with wood for projects. The farmer has been engaged in an extensive deforestation program and there are huge piles of dismembered trees here now.
Along with the car and other stuff, I am currently working on three books at once. Actually that’s not as bad as it sounds. Lee’s is in final edits, Longrider already has his edited and has covers etc. all set to go, and the latest Anthology is in its final stages too. I aim to have them all out in April and as long as nothing terrible happens, that’s definitely possible.
Having said that, I did buy a machete and a flamethrower this week so…
Anyway. As I said, the latest anthology is in its final stages. Here’s the contents page:-
– The Police Interview
H. K. Hillman
– One Way Trip
– My Bitter Valentine
– 23-David and 81-Mohammed
Roo B. Doo
– Jackanory Jackalope
– Nine Lives
Cade F.O.N Apollyon
– Sometimes a Door
– Hee Haw Hockey
– Pour Know….Poor, No.
Dirk J. J. Vleugels
– Bali Hai
– Sumba, a Tropical Paradise?
– In a Pub in Bali
– The Old Dutch Lady in Surabaya
– The Ear
– The Queen of the Bricks
– The Death Penalty
– The Dancing Lights
– Tigers’ Lair
Dirk is a new addition this time around. His stories are English translations of a few of the real-life events he recounted in Dutch in ‘Feesten Onder de Drinkboom’. I hope he eventually translates the whole book, although I now that will take time. ‘Tales from Under the Drinking Tree’ is a catchy title.
I put Justin Sunshine last this time because I really wanted to end on ‘Tigers’ Lair’, a tale that could well have a basis in reality (it’s fiction, honest!) in this modern world. The book therefore finishes on a chilling note. I like it that way.
Three of my own stories in this issue have not appeared anywhere else before, but that’s about to change. Here’s one of them as a sample. It just a short one, won’t take up too much of your time.
Relax, have a drink and enjoy…
Derek closed his front door and threw his keys down next to the telephone on the small table. He aimed a kick at Badger, his wife’s black and white cat, but missed. Badger scurried away into the living room.
“Penny? You home?” Derek shouted while he took off his coat. “Penny?” No answer, so Derek made a quick circuit of their small flat: his wife didn’t always answer; she might not be speaking to him again. “Great. She’s not home.”
In the living room, Derek poured himself a whisky and took it into the tiny spare bedroom where he had set up his computer. Webcams surrounded his chair, one atop the monitor facing him, one trained on his fish tank, two aimed in opposite directions out of the window, and his favourite – the one behind his seat, so that when he tuned it in he saw himself watching the screen, with himself on the screen, and so on into infinity. A feedback loop was the technical term, but to him it was an infinity of Dereks. Ego beyond the scale of the universe. Derek sipped his whisky and watched himself do the same infinite times. So much whisky. So many Dereks.
He set the whisky down, turned off the webcam and connected to the Internet. Penny hated the sites he frequented. Some of them could get him arrested, he knew, but he just couldn’t resist. He flicked through pages of images where the predominant colour was flesh, but settled on the best live-action cam site he had ever seen.
Death in Life. The site’s name described exactly what it meant. For a fee, anyone could arrange to have someone killed. In itself, that was nothing new – there were pubs in the seedier part of town where such things could be arranged for a few hundred pounds – but Death in Life had one quirk. How the authorities had failed to track the site was beyond Derek’s ability to comprehend, but it still existed.
The site’s gimmick was simple. Someone arranged a hit. The site owners not only carried out the hit, but their assassin wore a head-mounted webcam. Everything was streamed live to the Internet. Derek clicked through options until he found a current hit in progress. He sipped his whisky and settled back to watch.
The screen showed paving slabs. This was normal: they never identified the street in case the police were monitoring them. Derek chuckled. There must be police officers glued to screens all over the country, hoping to identify the location before the killer could escape.
No chance. These opening shots served one purpose only – to reveal the weapon of choice for the current hit. A gloved hand came into shot, holding a long thin spike.
Derek grinned. “Ooh, that’s gonna hurt.”
The camera turned off, so Derek took the opportunity to run to the living room and collect the whisky bottle. There’d be a few minutes’ pause while the killer gained access to his victim’s home, and they never showed the location until the end. Derek returned to his seat in time to see the gloved hand insert a key into a lock.
Derek sat up straight. When they had to burst into a home, the victim always fought. These stealth operations meant that the hit was paid for by a family member. The last one had been a cheating wife. Derek leaned closer to the screen and scratched his crotch. He hoped this one was in the shower.
The door swung open. A small table came into view, bearing a phone and a bunch of keys. The killer moved without looking from side to side. He must have been well briefed. He knew exactly where to find his target.
The victim came into view. It was a man. Derek released his crotch and started a groan, but it caught in his throat.
On his screen, past the back of the victim’s head, was another screen. It showed an identical picture, including another screen. Derek set down his glass. The victim did the same. Unable to tear away his gaze, Derek stared into the infinite feedback loop before him.
An infinity of ending.