Green About the Gills – A Micro Story

This is a very little story so I’m not going to spend much time introducing it, but I’ve been deep in writers block for weeks now and so this was the result of really pushing myself to just write from the cuff and see what happened. Let me know what you think. 


Sit down. No, not there. The chair by the fire is much more comfortable. I’ll put the kettle on and join you in a moment. When we’ve had chance to enjoy the tea, I’ll tell you about my little murder. Don’t look so surprised. How else would you find me here. Of course, I knew it was a risk, sending the box to the papers, but I’m older than I look. I’m starting to feel it you know. There, the kettle’s on the hob. It’ll be whistling in no time. What was I saying?

Oh that’s right. I don’t notice quite where you’d expect. I was chopping wood for the fire yesterday. My husband, he used to take care of that but… well we’re getting to him. Anyway, I went all morning and didn’t feel it, but when I got up to answer the door just then. Oh you’d think I’d been buried already. There we go. That’s the water boiled. Now, where did I put that towel. I like the old kettles, but you you’ve to be careful. The handles get hot like you wouldn’t believe. It was tea you wanted, wasn’t it dear? I have some coffee somewhere but I couldn’t tell you how good it was. We don’t drink it, Bertie and I. There. I’ll give you the good mug. We got that shortly after we moved in, from Burrows, on the high street. Do you remember it? No, you probably wouldn’t. It didn’t close all that long ago, but the standards had been slipping since to rules on selling baccy changed. You don’t smoke, do you dear? No. It’s a nasty habit. Stains your fingers. I used to tell him off, but he never listened. Now isn’t that good? I only buy the best teabags, y’know.

Alright, don’t look at me like that. I’m getting to it. You saw the box I suppose? Letter, newspaper clippings and all that. I don’t know why I kept them. Why does anyone do anything. I suppose I just wanted someone to know, I never thought there’d be spotty boys from the newspaper at my door. Truth is, I thought if anyone pieced to together it would be the police. Young people are so ambitious today though, aren’t they. Anyway, I put in my little notes and all those thoughtful missing person articles they ran in the local paper for me. I suppose a photo was a little too much but I got carried away. I didn’t even say how I did it.

“Well.”

Oh, it speaks at last, does it.

“Maybe I could tell your side of the story, before it all comes out. You know? Make things go a bit easier for you.”

That sounds a little too good to be true, if you don’t mind me saying. What is it with young people today. So detached from reality.

“I could try. Why don’t you tell me what happened and we’ll go from there.”

Oh it’s not very complicated. You can be doing the same thing your whole life, and then one day you don’t want to do it anymore. Haven’t you ever felt like that?

“No, not really.”

Pity. It’s quite enlightening. You know, they say guns are so dangerous not because they’re so lethal, but because it’s so easy to pull the trigger.

“You shot him?”

Oh no, what do you take me for. But I’ve had a long time to think about it, guns are so quick aren’t they, but it didn’t take much more thought for me. I just slipped a spoonful of rat poison into his tea and… Oh what’s the matter dear? You look positively green about the gills.

Free Short Story Collection on Kindle Today!

twocephalopods3Hey guys,

My collection of Flash Fiction, Two Cephalopods Walk Into A Bar is free on kindle today!

If you’ve enjoyed the fiction I’ve posted here in the past, then I really think you’ll enjoy this book. It contains sixteen short works in a range of genres, thriller, horror, sci-fi, and the occasional comedy.

So, if you have a kindle or the kindle app on your iOS/Android device then pop along to Amazon and give it a go!

Hungry – A Horror Story

SmWell, it has been a while since I put some fiction of my blog, but I’ve been trying to get away from Flash Fiction and start writing longer stuff which takes a fair bit more time, so I’m spreading the work out more. This isn’t much longer than an old Fiction Friday post at around 2,500 words, but it’s an idea I’ve been meaning to write for a while and I think it turned out pretty well. 

A word of warning, however. I don’t write much outright horror, I’m usually more of a suspense and thriller guy, but this is a genuine gruesome tale so if that’s not your thing, then you might want to give it a miss. If you feel brave, read on. 


Hungry

Jessie hesitated for a second before launching herself after it. At a hump on the grass, all four paws left the ground as she launched into a mess of weeds and brambles, before emerging triumphantly with the battered old tennis ball. She trotted back with it firmly between her jaws and then dropped it at Sam’s feet. At least he was wearing gloves today, the ball was sodden with dew and drool, and was one good bite away from tennis-ball heaven. A good reward for five years long service. Sam lobbed the ball again and Jessie was gone, over the hill and through a net of thorn bushes. Sam walked on.

It was good to get out early. The new house was big and bright, just the sort of house Claire wanted. He bought more out of spite than anything else, but it was empty, imposing and judgemental. He hated every moment he spent in it, but it was his now and he needed at least ten years of pretending to like it before he could move on. The isolation was nice, at least. He had a good walk to the next house, and a patch of scrubland behind him for walking the dog. One afternoon he’d brought his notes out with him and got a good but of work done between pitching long throws for Jessie. That almost made it worthwhile.

She wasn’t back yet. He walked a long arc round the corner of the bank, before the fence lining the furthest reaches of the old farm started to box him in, until he was pointing in the direction Jessie had gone, and started off in that direction. She’d be distracted by a squirrel or a rat or something. She was only a mongrel but she had the nose of a bloodhound, and the attention span of a sparrow. As he neared the patches of thorns, he whistled, but there was no response.

“Jess!” He yelled, he thought he heard something, but it was faint. He walked on, circling the worst of the bushes and finding the old patch. “Come on, girl.” He heard it again, a whimper. She’d probably run through the thorns and lodged something in her paw. He followed the noise until he found the gap in the soil. It was a small opening, just big enough to climb down. Halfway between a cave and burrow, with a large rock embedded in the soil above the entrance. The whimpering came from inside.

“Come on, Jess.” He whistled again. Either something in the bushes had scared her down or she’d chased something in and become stuck. He slipped off his jacket and crouched down. It would be a tight squeeze, but he could probably make it. He pulled out his phone and pointed the light from the screen down the burrow. Jessie still whimpered somewhere inside, but he couldn’t see her. He would have to go in.

There was just enough room to crawl down, holding the phone in front of him for light. The soil at the entrance was dry, but got a little muddier as he went. He’d crawled about half the length of his body when he saw her. She’d become tangled in a mess of roots. He reached out a hand, and started unwrapping them from her back leg, but she was panicky and pulled about. “Easy, calm down.” It didn’t do much good. “We’ll be out of here soon.” He freed the last of the roots from her leg, he couldn’t make out much from the light of the phone, but he could see her turning. He started to inch back the way he had come.

Jessie was facing him now. He could see she was panicked, but it still caught him off guard when she bolted. Laid down in the burrow like this, she didn’t see, much smaller than he was. They were almost out now, but as she tried to force her way past him, something shifted. He felt soil crumbling over his feet and then pain. Sam could only guess, but the weight that now squeezed his right leg felt a lot like the stone that had been lodged in the soil. The burrow was completely dark now, he tried to move his leg but couldn’t, he couldn’t even feel his foot. He tried to shout for help, but that set something off again. Jessie was still in the burrow with him, and the more she moved, the more she pushed his body away from his leg. It felt like it would wrench his foot off. He tried to lift but it was no good.

Sam was trapped.

His first response was to struggle, but it was a waste of time. He couldn’t shift his leg in such a way as to free it from the stone, he couldn’t push the stone with his other leg without driving it further into his leg. Besides, the more he struggled, the more his fellow prisoner pushed up and down the tunnel. She barked. She was only a small dog, in the tight space it was deafening, and he reached a hand to stroke her. She was still distraught, but calmed at his touch.

The pain in his leg had been bad, but was easing now. His leg bled. He could feel it, but the wound could be treated if he could just get out. At last, he remembered his phone. He’d been using it for light, but hadn’t tried to make a call. His heart sank as he peered at the harsh, bright screen. No signal. It was rough out there at the best of times, now he was beneath a layer of soil. He felt his heartbeat pick up a little faster, his breath got away from him. He couldn’t seem to get enough air in his lungs, and when he breathed deep, he filled his nose with the smell of dirt and rotting leaves. It made him want to gag. Jessie picked up on his fear too, the light from the phone caught her eyes. They were wide and flicked about the place.

Sam told himself to stay calm. The way back was trapped, but the stone had not covered the entrance completely. On his bare ankles, he could still feel a trace of wind and on the air was the smell from the old brewery at the edge of town. He would not suffocate. That was something. Getting help would be a little harder, he thought about digging with his hands, getting enough space to let the dog squeeze through, and then hope for the best. She was hardly Lassie, but his options were limited. He started to pull clumps of soil out, but the weaving roots that had tangled her up in the first place were threaded through the top of the burrow. One hard pull and he’d bring the whole lot down on himself. He would have to wait. If she got desperate enough, she might just tunnel back the way they came and free some room for his leg.

Sam watched time pass on the phone. He turned down the brightness of the screen as far as it would go, and felt a little more nervous every time the battery indicator dropped a percent. He alternated between leaving it off for as long as he dare, and watching it intently hoping to see the phone pick up a signal, but it was no good. Jessie was still nervous, squeezing from one end of the tunnel to the other. Occasionally she would stop and sniff the air, but he couldn’t smell much beyond the damp soil now. His leg itched and tingled now.

He must have fallen asleep, because he was woken by the sound of a motorbike. Only a little engine, some off-road scrambler. Kids from town sometimes brought them on to the hill and bounced over the banking. This was his chance. He screamed at the top of his voice, he saw Jess get nervous by the noise. “Come on.” He shouted at her, his voice was tired and cracking, he needed her to make some noise. He felt a rumble in the earth just as Jessie started barking. The noise was almost deafening, but it was no good. The sound of the bike became more distant. They must have passed right over. Sam shouted for what felt like an hour after, but nobody came.

He was too scared to look at the phone now. The battery indicator had gone red. He didn’t know how long he’d been down there, and he was starting to get thirsty. Night must have fallen outside, because the tunnel seemed darker than ever and he started to get cold. He tried to keep Jessie sat by him, to borrow some of her warmth, but she was twitchy and couldn’t stay still. He heard her attempt to nibble a root and give in quickly. Though the space was tight, he was glad he was not trapped alone. He started to fall asleep again, but some glimmer of hope nibbled at the corners of his brain. It had been Monday when he walked the dog, if it was night now, in the morning it would be Tuesday, and on Tuesday the local Wildlife Spotters were usually out on the hills.

Jessie whimpered, walked in a little circle before sitting again and he placed a hand on her back. If they could just hold on a little longer, if he could just stay conscious until tomorrow morning, they might make it.

Sam’s head shot up. At some point he had fallen asleep. It was dark, his throat was sore and he was in pain. He knew he was not supposed to fall asleep, but he could not remember why. He tried to look around, but it was pitch black, and he remembered where he was. Why he could not sleep. Wait for people. He had to be awake when they passed or he wouldn’t have a hope. He doubted he could last another week down there. And yet he was exhausted. It was still night, he hadn’t slept for long, he could tell.

But why had he woken up. In he dreams, he had felt a sensation in his leg. That old pain from the rock, he worried it was becoming infected, and he hadn’t felt anything in his foot for too long now, but there was something. A sensation; a noise.

“Jess?” The noise stopped. He tried to reach down to his leg, but he could just touch his shin with the tips of his fingers. The skin that had been tacky with blood and grit was wet and smooth. The dog pushed past him and sniffed around his face. He heard her lick her lips. The fear took a while to set in, but when it did, it consumed him. His leg was still trapped, and the sickening smell that now filled the tunnel was clearly coming from him, but it was having a different effect on Jessie. He tried to count up the hours they had been trapped their, and while he counted, he heard her whimper and fuss. Even in the pitch black, he thought he caught a glint of white teeth hiding in her mouth. He was cold, and wet, and hungry, but so was she.

He shifted his weight to the side, tried to block her from getting to his feet. He told himself he had nothing to be scared of, that the two of them had only to wait until morning. She couldn’t be that desperate yet, but the smell of his festering wound seemed to be filling the air and the more he tried to keep her back, the more she struggled.

He lost focus again, the tiredness a constant threat, like the dog and went he came to, he could feel her sniffing at his leg again. The leg was numb to the pain, but he was still aware of her nose and tongue poking at the wound. With his other leg and kicked out at her, hoping to put her off the idea, but he caught he harder than he meant to. She snarled and barked in response before pushed past his ribs again and curling up in front of his head. There his listened to hear breathing, near his fast. The sound was not soothing, but its repetition became like a trance and the heat of her body rocked him closer and closer to sleep. He tried to fight it, but it was no good. Sam slept again.

In Sam’s dream, he was not in the burrow. He told himself to stay awake, to fight until morning, but it was no good. There was no need anyway, he told himself he was at home, in his own bed. Back in his old house and Claire was beside him. No, she was moving now. Sam slept until the pain hit his leg, for a split second he was awake and understood completely, but the old numbness soon returned. The smell of rot and decay still hung around, but there was a new smell. Something fresh, something clean. In the pit of his stomach he felt hunger again, but he was getting dizzy now. He would sleep for a few more hours, and then see what they were having for breakfast.

How to Plan a Short Story – About Writing: Part 2

Hey guys, this is the second article in my series about the writing process. If you’re interested in a broader look at the basics, check out Part 1, How to Write Your First Story. This time we’re going to look at planning in a little more detail. This article will show you how to turn a good idea into a great plot, so get out your notepads and follow along. 


 

coyote5Writing without a plan can be difficult, deceptively so, because part of writing well is making the twists and turns of a story look natural and flowing. In a well crafted story the hand of the author should be invisible, leaving the reader to getting fully absorbed in the tale. A well writing book leaves the reader thinking the writing process  was as effortless as reading it was, with one event occurring neatly after another until we come to satisfying end. Some writers do work this way and produce very good books, but for most the results turn out less impressive. Writing without a plan leaves the writer vulnerable to writing themselves into a corner, or losing all sense of pacing completely.

A good plan is like sketching out a canvas before beginning to paint, or framing and lighting a photograph before snapping away. Some free spirits will tell you that writing a plan is constrictive, but done well the process can be liberating. Letting you unleash all your creativity onto your first draft without worrying about how the plot will develop next. There’s nothing to lose, if you find the plan isn’t working for your story any more? Well, you’re not obliged to stick to it.

When people ask me about getting into writing, I always advise them to experiment with short fiction. I like to try out new things in stories around a thousand words because I like the format and you can get results pretty fast. If you read Part 1, then you’ll know I covered my process for a story that length from start to finish, but in this article I’m going to really try to explore planning in more detail. This is less of a step by step guide, but if the advice is useful to you, then you can go back to Part 1 and incorporate all of this into that guide.

A short story shouldn’t take as much planning as a novel (for obvious reasons) but you can still get yourself tied in knots if you aren’t careful. Part of the problem with writing off the cuff is that so often it’s hard to tell the difference between a good plot and a good premise. Having a great idea can send you scurrying to the keyboard, but there’s some development between “what’s the story about?” and “how does the plot unfold?” For example, “dinosaur clone theme park” is a great premise, but it tells you nothing about the plot. It takes a little time, and a little planning to turn that into “a billionaire clones dinosaurs to use as theme park attractions, he invites a small group to tour the park and endorse it, but during a storm the park is isolated and the dinosaurs start to escape.” And that doesn’t even include an ending!

A good way to think of planning is taking a simple premise and extrapolating a beginning, middle, and end. It doesn’t even need to be much. A functional short story plan can be achieved just by writing a quick couple of sentences that cover the key points of the plot.

When I wrote my story Lift, I started with a simple premise. An old lift (or Elevator for my American readers) is operating on its own in the night. When I sat down to plan, I set my target word count and broke that down into three blocks. I then tried to flesh out a story with that in my head. I knew I wanted a protagonist, someone to hear the lift operate, otherwise it wouldn’t be as spooky as I imagined. I knew I didn’t want to be to overt about the cause, so I came up with an ending I liked, and I went from there:

Block 1, Alfie hears the lift and thinks about hearing it night after night.

Block 2, Alfie gets up the courage to go investigate.

Block 3, resolution. (I’m not going to spoil the whole thing, you can read it here.)

The story only ended up a little over a thousand words, and the plot is hardly elaborate, but by planning out a loose sequence before I started I was free to write the story how I wanted. I really liked the way it turned out.

Most stories in the western literary tradition follow this three act structure. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s the model most TV shows, films, and popular books follow. If you’re reading this, it’s a form that you’re probably unconsciously well versed in, and that means that it’s a great place to start when it comes to planning stories. Formally it’s defined as Setup, Conflict, and Resolution. Though, you’ve probably also heard the “put a man up a tree analogy,” which says you should put a man up a tree, throw stones and him, then get him back down again. Place your characters in a situation, give them problems to overcome, bring them to a resolution. Again, remember that this is just a model. A guide to aid your own storytelling skills. It’s not a blueprint for every piece of writing you do, if you become to rigid about it your stories will feel stilted and contrived.

Personally, I find a character focused interpretation works well. What is your central figure trying to achieve? What stumbling blocks will they face in achieving this goal? How will they overcome this? That makes it sound a little lofty and dry, but it works pretty well for all kinds of stories and characters. Take a typical adventure story like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones wants to find the Lost Ark and rescue his old mentor. This is difficult because Nazis are also looking for the ark and they have kidnapped his mentor. He overcomes this by recruiting his mentor’s daughter, tracking the Nazi’s down, and learning the history of the Ark so when it opens the Nazis are killed and he isn’t. Of course, the film is a more layered and complex narrative, but the broad strokes still fit into this form.Most of the classic action adventure films do. Adopting the form for short works will make it easier for you to keep your plots focused.  When you move on to longer, more intricate stories it’ll still apply.

Plan it more detail if it’s helpful to you. For longer stories, I’ll usually devote a paragraph for each third of the story, and try to flesh out specific events in more detail. The more characters and scenarios you include, the more forethought it’s going to take. There are pitfalls, however. It’s important to leave yourself room to breath. A lot can change in the course of writing a first draft, and it’s important to have key plot points established before you begin, but you need room to work. If you find, over the course of a story, that it makes sense to drop a character, or for people to leave, arrive, change sides or even for the setting to change completely,  this shouldn’t send you completely back to the drawing board. Characters are important because they draw people into your story, but planning is about making your plot work on a functional level.

You probably have a few ideas for short stories already. Try taking one and breaking it down into three sentences representing the beginning, middle, and end. You briefly planned the story from start to finish! Now flesh out the plan a little, rewrite it in a little more detail, a couple of sentences for each act. For a short story, this is probably enough of a plan. For a novel, you can follow the same process, expanding a little more each time. 

The most important advice is always not to worry. At this stage you’re just framework for the story, the adornments come later. A story isn’t finished until you send it out into the world. It’s never too late to fix things, when you’re writing up, you might find your plan wasn’t quite so well structured as you thought it was. Don’t worry about it. You can hammer a lot of things into shape with a good rewrite. Just remember, the better the foundations at the start, the less you’ll have to fix up later.

Now go out and plan some stories, try using the process from Part 1 to write them up into complete pieces, then let me know how you did!


 

If this article was useful to you, then you might enjoy my book Two Cephalopods Walk Into a Bar. It’s a collection of sixteen short stories, written using the same methods I’ve discussed. It’s available on Amazon to read on the kindle, or the kindle app on your smartphone or tablet.

The Visitor – A Short Story

Hey guys, this was supposed to be posted last week, but it just wasn’t ready yet so I pulled it for another pass. It’s good to go now and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think. In other news, the switch to the new domain is completely final now. I’ve got everything working as I like it, so I can get back to posting and enjoying blogging for a bit. I’m still getting little bits of feedback from the Two Cephalopods Walk in a Bar freebie which finished the other week. If you grabbed the book and enjoyed it, you’d be doing me a massive favour by reviewing it on Amazon. If not, don’t worry, it’s never too long before another freebie. That’s all for now. If you like this story, check out The Octopus of Suspense, or Octopus Returns, which contain a lot of my other stories. Or, click the “Fiction” tab at the stop for some stories you can read free right here. 

The Visitor

1953

Grayling sanded the rail. There was a knot in the wood, it took longer to sand down. A dark spot in the finish and he couldn’t paint it until the whole thing was smoothed out. When it was done, he could finally sit back and say the job was complete. He looked out across the water, grey clouds hung off the coast, but the last of the summer sun was bearing down on him. Looked like he would be done just in time.

Two years ago, he’d have laughed if someone said he could build his own house. Now it was ready, well, maybe he’d get a good night’s sleep without worrying about the next day’s work. It was getting quieter now. Tourists usually filled the beach the last few weeks, but he hadn’t seen a soul all day. It was a small price to pay for peace and quiet the rest of the year. Besides, the house was firmly on his land. If he had enough, he could keep people on the right side of the fence. Most of them weren’t that bad anyway.

He worked the wood down some more, trying not to think about anything else. He whistled some tune he half remembered, he couldn’t remember the name. He couldn’t remember anything except that his mother liked it, and he knew that if he didn’t whistle all the way through at least once, he would be still hearing it when he went to sleep. He looked back into the sky, the clouds were getting nearer. He lifted off the sandpaper and blew away the dust. The dark patch where the knot had been was still visible, but when it was painted over, nobody would know any better. He would know, and it would niggle away at him. Little details always did. But if the clouds opened and it started to rain on the exposed wood, well a little dark patch would be the least of his worries.

He brushed down the rail, dropped the ragged sandpaper into his toolbox and went inside to finished the paint. When he returned, he saw the man on the beach. Not a tourist, he wore a suit. Even at this distance, Grayling could see that it was immaculately pressed. He walked right towards his house, and Grayling knew it was over.

He did his best to ignore the stranger, to hold on to the moment. He opened the can of paint, a blue he’d picked out just for the porch, and started to paint. He focused on the knot, trying to cover it completely. He went back to whistling, but he still couldn’t place the tune.

“Now, what is that song.” He said to himself.

“Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish.” The man was behind him now.

“Right,” said Grayling. He turned and dropped the paintbrush back in the can. “Harry Warren.”

“I believe so,” said the stranger.

“Here to visit the beach?” Grayling asked. The man shook his head and extended a hand. “I’m here to speak to you, Mr. Grayling.” He took back his hand and smiled. “Shall we go inside? I’d rather not catch a tan, if it’s all the same to you.”

Grayling walked the stranger into his house and invited him to sit. “Drink?”

“Please,” said the man. “Whatever you have will be fine.” Grayling laughed. Gin it was, how far would get if he poisoned the glass? Not that he could, who kept a stash of cyanide at their beachfront cabin. He gave the man his drink and then sat opposite, more than a little proud of himself. He’d played out this day in his head so many times, but never did he think he’d keep his cool so well.

“So, what can I do for you?”

The man took a drink and then placed the glass gently on Grayling’s coffee table.

“I’d like to tell you a story, Mr. Grayling.” He leaned forward. Grayling hated him, the bastard almost managed to look earnest. “It starts ten years ago, very far from here. The government gives a man a job, and it isn’t a very nice one.” He looks empathetic, even magnanimous. “The man, still young then, takes his expenses and his passport and leaves to do it. Word comes back to the government that the job has been done successfully, but the man in charge has been killed. He is given a hero’s burial, though no body is discovered.”

“Yes,” said Grayling. “That sort of thing was common a few years ago. Sad times.”

“Certainly. Now imagine it is discovered that the job was not completed. Not entirely.”

“I think I can do that,” he muttered.

“Well, then the government might start to suspect that some of their other assumptions were also incorrect. Might they.”

“Look, what’s all this about… what did you say your name was?”

The stranger stood and knocked back the last of the gin. “I didn’t. It wasn’t about anything exception professional courtesy, Mr. Grayling. Suffice to say, I am also a man who has been sent to do a job. I just wanted to really know what the job was first. I think we both deserve that.”

“I think it’s time you left.” Grayling stood and showed the stranger the door. “I’ve had quite enough.” The stranger nodded and left by the front door. When Grayling got up the nerve to follow him, the man was long gone.

When the rain began to fall, Grayling took his things inside. He stayed away from the windows, and without making too much commotion, he retrieved his old leather bound suitcase from under his bed and started to pack his things. As he worked, he felt the home he had built from the last year begin to close in around him, as if it were straight jacket. The walls felt smaller, and the doorways a little tighter, and the spot that had seemed so remote now felt exposed and in the full view of the world. How he had believed himself to be hidden, he could not understand.

He could pack light. Perhaps he had always known this day would come, because when he looked around he could see little that he could not do without. Now it was as if he had been living light, waiting for the day to come. He packed a change of clothes, he gathered all him money, his passport and the small collection of documents that would make travelling a little easier. When he belted up the suitcase again, it didn’t feel much heavier.

And then he sat. He didn’t leave the house. He watched the light fade outside his bedroom window and listened to the sounds of the beach surrounding him. He thought about the suitcase and he didn’t know why he’d spent the time with it. He was never trying to hide, he couldn’t stop them finding him. He just wanted to lay low enough to stop them having a reason to look. Now they knew he was alive, they would find him. His cheek felt cold, he raised a hand and felt that it was covered in tears. He did not have it in him to start running again, and how far would he get if he did.

Grayling sat on the floor until dawn came again. Then he opened up the can of paint and returned to painting his porch. He whistled Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish until he could really feel the sun on the back of his neck, and when it got dark again, he went back inside and slept through the night.