The Planets Series – Saturn

I sat alone in the small, dark cockpit large enough to fit one average sized person and no more. My senses tingled as the lights on the dashboard blinked yellow and orange in my peripheral vision. I dipped my head to look left, then right, through the side windscreens of my pod at 2 of my opponents. It gave me some small sense of relief to see that each of them looked as nervous as I felt.

My ear piece crackled to life giving me a jump. My AI co-pilot, VAHMIS (Vehicle and Human Maintenance Internal System), advised me that the race would commence in 2 minutes time and that he had began warming the engines. The large transparent bag strapped to the right hand side of my seat expanded with a dark yellow as I involuntarily emptied my bladder for what felt like the hundredth time since I’d climbed in the pod. I compulsively checked to make sure my feeding tube was plugged in correctly above me then sat back to take in the view in front of me.

2 or so clicks (km’s) ahead of me stood the enormous, terrifying black void. Only the twinkle of star light and the shining of 2 or so of Saturn’s 62 moons provided a hint of illumination ahead. The mixture of the gritty brown and icy white track below me seemed to be swallowed up by the darkness as it disappeared off into the distance.

This was it. I’d literally dedicated my life to this moment. 12 participants. 550,000 miles. 1 lap. I would be navigating this icy, rocky terrain for a period of 2 days (or slightly less I hoped). But the navigation was only half the battle. The other, arguably tougher test, was the mental game. Confining yourself to a small box with only a computerised voice in your ear for company and carrying out all bodily functions through tubes was not everyone’s idea of a good time. It was all I had dreamed of since I was kid.

In the 3 days previous I had embarked on an intensive stretching routine for 4-6 hours a day. This would allow my body to settle come crunch time. I’d also went through 2 hours daily digestive therapy involving a number of terrifyingly huge needles. This would provide me with a specially developed serum to relieve my body of all requirement to sleep for the following 72 hours, maintaining my optimal functionality for what was to come. The reported after-effects weren’t pretty – a migraine on steroids mixed with temporary paralysis of the body – but these were the sacrifices those at the very top of their field required to make and I was more than ready to make them.

“30 seconds” crackled VAHMIS. As the familiar cranking, whirring and whooshing of machinery and engine fire burst into life my small pod raised itself slightly above the track until it hovered a metre or so in the air. Following my pre-race routine, I slipped in my gum shield to avoid crushing my teeth during the initial acceleration and then commanded VAHMIS to commence playing my personally devised playlist. An aggressive, thumping bassline filled the space around me and vibrated through my whole body. I watched the lights above me begin their ten step sequence to indicate the start and bit down hard on my gum shield.

As they hit green I slammed both feet down onto the accelerator and planted them as hard as I could. My teeth bit down even harder on the protective shield in my mouth whilst my head and neck slammed back against my chair. Pinned there for a number of minutes I began to panic as blood poured onto the panel in front of me. On cue, VAHMIS indicated to me over the pounding bass that I was experiencing a number of ruptured blood vessels in my face but it was not a risk to retaining normal physical or mental functions. Great.

I felt a slow trickle of relief as the initial rush of acceleration eased and I settled into a steady pace on the shoulder of the defending champion who had evidently elected to make himself the pacemaker. I could see on my screen that one pod had already crashed out, disappearing wildly off the pod’s radar as their name was dramatically scratched from the digital leaderboard. 11 of us remained.

With 499,000 miles to go, I spat my bloody gum shield out, checked my vehicles’ vitals across the panels in front of me and slowly began to settle my nerves.

The annual F Ring Endurance Grand Prix around Saturn had begun.

The Game

Sam Thompson removed his jar of coffee and ‘Mr Grumpy’ Mr Men mug, placing it on the cabinet above him then emptied his pockets, placing his phone, wallet and keys into his small locker.

Zombie-like he trudged through to the clinically white small kitchen area and filled his mug with boiling water from the communal urn. Slamming the fridge shut he spun round and filled his large mug up to the top with milk.

It was 8 weeks since Sam’s wife had given birth to their first child, Harry. The period of paternity leave had been dream-like as Sam and his wife Holly had existed in their own little bubble, changing nappies, sharing feeding responsibilities and making lots of tea and coffee for excited visitors. The little guy had quickly become the centre of their world and at times Sam couldn’t remember what life had been like before Harry had come along.

One thing he could remember, however, and had been fantasising about since Harry’s Moses basket had replaced his bedside table, was how good it had felt to wake up naturally after a sleep longer than 4 hours. He was happy to split the baby responsibilities with Holly, he wouldn’t have had it any other way, but he missed his bed. He missed a decent sleep.

“Hey Sammy boy!!! how goes it?”

Jack Fennel flew into the kitchen area like a cyclone, slamming cupboard doors, throwing his tupperware lunch into the fridge and spinning to look at his workmate.

“Aye, not bad Jacko, how’s you” muttered Sam. It was as auto-pilot a response as you could get. All over their office-space you heard variations of the same conversation. Pleasant morning greetings followed by hollow small talk as people started their days. One of these days someone will answer that question truthfully, thought Sam, and the person asking the question probably won’t like the answer.

“Excellenttyyyyy” Jack replied enthusiastically in a faux Spanish accent. He was a morning person, everyone in the office commented on it. As sure as it was likely to rain in Scotland’s capital city where they worked, you could guarantee Jack would be bright eyed and bushy tailed first thing in the morning.

“Well?” Jack prodded at Sam’s shoulders as he trudged from the kitchen to his desk. “Well??” he repeated. Sam, concentrating on the task of not spilling his coffee during the walk, ignored him and slumped down into his chair. He unlocked his computer and turned to look at Jack. “What are you saying pal?” he asked.

“Wellllll???” asked Jack, a giant smile on his face and jazz hands shaking directly in front of Sam’s tired eyes. “Did you watch the game last night? It was amazing! What a masterclass from Messi eh?”

Football had been Jack and Sam’s common interest when they’d both started together at the company on the same day. It was an easy conversation piece to break the ice and as much as Sam enjoyed watching games when he was younger, in recent years he’d fallen out of love with football.

The outrageous sums of money shelled out by British clubs who were predominantly owned by Russian oil barons and Saudi Prince’s to kick a ball about had left him soured. In a world where his newborn child’s children may not even have a planet to live on, he couldn’t swallow watching talentless athletes being paid £100k a week to flop and roll about on the floor feigning injury in an attempt to con their way to a victory.

If Sam had a fiver for every time he had been asked this question by Jack – “did you watch the game last night?” – he’d have been able to pay to take Harry and Holly to Disneyland for his 1st birthday.

Whenever he was asked about the game which had been on the previous night, Sam had politely feigned interest with enough vague knowledge of some of the players Jack was enthusing about to hold a convincing conversation. After 10 minutes of an expletive filled rant from Jack about the influence of Italian defending on the Chelsea back line, Sam would nod, shrug his shoulders and turn back to his computer. This, he had learned, would signal to Jack that the conversation was over and he’d bound across the office starting up the same conversation with whatever poor soul was stupid enough to make eye contact with him. He was like an energetic puppy. But even the cutest of puppies urinate on carpets and tear apart your brand new sofa.

They had been going through the motions of this conversation about ‘the game’ for 18 months now.

“I’m saying” replied Jack in a mocking tone “did you see the game? You must have surely?”

“Do you know me and Holly had a kid 8 weeks ago mate?” replied Sam.

Jack looked at him blankly. “Uh, yeah. Enough about babies though! That’s women’s chat!” he laughed. “Did you watch the footy last night?” He shrugged off Sams question and pursued his opportunity to wax lyrical about Argentina’s greatest gift to the beautiful game since Diego Maradona.

“No mate. I was in my bed by 8 o clock. Holly stayed up to do the late feed and then I was up again at 2am to feed Harry. I didn’t get back to bed until 5am so I’m really quite knackered. Do you mind if I just crack on here? I’ve got things to do and I really need this coffee.”

“You didn’t watch the game?” Jack said, his face contorted in disgust. “It was the Champions League semi finals, how could you not have watched it?” he was incredulous. It was as if Sam had said he’d went into town and beaten up a few homeless people then burned down an old folks home for good measure. Jack took a minute to let this information sink into his hyperactive brain.

“Sam” asked Jack sheepishly. “Yes, mate” Sam replied without looking up from his computer. “Did you really watch the game or are you having me on?”

Sam’s heart thumped in his chest as his blood bubbled to boiling point . His sleep deprived brain sent adrenaline flushing throughout his body. Jacks mouth gaped wide open as Sam’s mouse disintegrated in his bright red hand. He flopped back in his chair before Sam grabbed him by the badge-covered lapels of his jacket and screamed in his terrified face. “I. DIDN’T. WATCH. THE GAME. YOU. IMBECILE” he raged. “I’M TIRED AND JUST WANT SOME PEACE. PLEASE JUST SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!”

He threw Jack back down into his seat and stormed off to the kitchen area. Breathing hard, he filled his coffee cup, slowly coming to the realisation of what he’d just done. Four of his colleagues popped their head round the kitchen door to ask if he was OK and to congratulate him on finally shutting Jack up. He assured them he was fine and just needed five minutes. He wasn’t proud of himself for losing his cool and felt bad for Jack, who just wanted someone to chat to. He shuffled back round to his desk with the intention of apologising.

“Listen Jack” started Sam in a low voice, his head dipped in regret “I’m really sorry about that, I’m not sleeping well since..”

“It’s fine!” interrupted Jack, puppy-like excitement had returned to his face and he was smiling erratically at Sam. “Did you watch the game though? You must have!”

By the time the twinkling shards of glass from the 3rd floor window had stopped raining down around Jack’s lifeless body which lay contorted, leaking pools of scarlet on the car park below, Sam was in his car and already out of the office car park. He opened his window and flicked on the radio, allowing the breeze to cool his adrenaline sapped face.

“This is BBC Radio 5 Live.” said the soothing voice of the radio presenter. “So, Maureen, before I ask you about what weather we’ve got coming this weekend, I have to ask you…” “NO!” screamed Sam. “DON’T YOU DARE!!” he shrieked.

“….did you watch the game last night?”

The Book Assignment

After another round of aimlessly running his index finger along the dusty row of books, Thomas sighed and slumped down in the uncomfortable plastic chairs which were dotted around the school library. He was running out of time now, the library closed at 4pm and it was pushing 3.40pm. He had been here since lunch time and was yet to find anything he was remotely interested in.

Mr Graves had been clear about the assignment. Pick a non-fiction book, preferably an autobiography, written about someone you’ve never heard of. The 3 month assignment then required pupils to read the book, do some follow-up research then submit a report to Mr Graves about who the person was and what you’d learned about them. Tomorrow, Thomas would be required to tell Mr Graves the book title and subject, right now he was looking at failing the assignment before it had even began.

His friends had been so excited to come along to the library after class had finished. They were all having a great time picking out all sorts of weird and wonderful titles, laughing at the strange characters who adorned the front covers. Mrs Mayer, the head librarian, had warned them that if she’d heard anymore laughing and shouting when there were people trying to study they’d all be banned for a month. She explained to them in great length how she she’d happily tell Mr Graves why none of them could complete their next English assignment. As their heads dropped and they apologised in whispered grunts and shrugs, she returned to her task of stamping a large pile of returned books with a smug look of satisfaction on her face. This ticking off had resulted in the group grabbing books in the ‘biography’ section of the library at random and trudging out one after the other like a conga line of extras from Night of the Living Dead.

Thomas, though, couldn’t find anything that interested him. That’s why he’d decided to use his free afternoon to find something and someone he could get lost in. He had an obsessive behaviour type and he felt there was no use spending 3 months researching, reading and probably obsessing about someone if they’re as dull as dishwater.

Sat there, drifting off into thought, Thomas cursed Mr Graves. Why couldn’t they have done what his brothers class had done only 2 years ago? That would have been so much better. They had each got to pick a book and research someone they classed as their hero. Thomas’ brother, Barry, had ended up actually meeting his hero, footballer and infamous granny-botherer Wayne Rooney, after messaging him on the social media site Twitter to tell him all about the assignment.

These thoughts vanished suddenly as Thomas was jolted backed into the present when the library bell rang out to signal 3.45pm.

“15 minutes children! grab your books and bring them to me at the desk” announced Mrs Mayer.

She pursed her lips and seemed to be making a particular point of looking directly at Thomas. He acknowledged her with a nod of the head and pushed himself out of the small, uncomfortable chair. The plastic arms clung to his thighs as he tried to make his way out of it, almost as if to try to coerce him into sitting back down again. He shrugged it off and gave it a little kick back under the small desk.

He had been sat opposite the ‘autobiography’ section and as he stood up the pitch-black spine of a book caught his eye. It was tucked in between 2 brightly coloured books which each had small square pictures of their subject with bright, witty titles dancing down the sleeves. This one, however, was completely black. He placed his finger on the top of the spine and gently pulled it out, blowing the dust off the front cover. It was completely black. No title, no author – just black. He flipped it over to check out the blurb on the back, but to his surprise the back was the same as the front – completely blank, pitch black. This was clearly odd but it was also really intriguing to Thomas. The mysterious cover had drawn him in, he needed to find out more. His quiet surroundings and the ticking clock evaporated as all he was concerned with at that moment was opening the first page and finding out more. His eyes danced across the page as he took in the introduction.

“My name is Frank McQueen. I’m 25 years old and I’m a Newark native. I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve walked up and down these streets my whole life, as a kid and as an adult. If you’ve lived here and walked these streets too, we’ve probably bumped into each other once or twice. But, you wouldn’t know me. I’m no-one. No-one has ever given me a second look. I’m a boring-looking average Joe. I look like every other dumb schmuck who sleepwalks his way through his life from being a gormless kid beat up at school to suffering through some dead end job to make ends meet. No-one will remember me. No-one.”

Wow, thought a dejected Thomas. That’s about as boring as it gets. That’s the dull dishwater he was looking to avoid. Mr Graves had said they should look for a book that would challenge them. Thomas thought the only thing challenging about this book would be staying awake to read it.

“Ouch!!” shrieked Thomas. Pain radiated between his shoulder blades as something piercing struck him and burrowed into his muscles. He spun, switching his focus from the words on the page of disappointing mystery book to the cause of the pain. Mrs Mayer was stood staring down at him, hands on her hips, lips pursed like she was sucking on a lemon with a solitary long red nail pointed directly at him.

“2 minutes Thomas.” she squawked. “Some of us have homes to go to you know.”

He looked down and realised, in his haste, he had dropped the black book at his feet when he had been prodded in the back by the stuffy librarian. As he reached down to pick the book up with the intention of disappointingly putting it back on the dusty shelf, he noticed it had landed open on the following page from where he had been reading. Putting Mrs Mayer and her oddly sharp, painted talons to the back of his mind, he read on.

“My name is Frank McQueen. I’m 25 years old and I’m a Newark native. I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve walked up and down these streets my whole life, as a kid and as an adult. If you’ve lived here and walked these streets too, we’ve probably bumped into each other once or twice. If you’re a dirtbag, a scumbag peddling drugs to our kids or fancy yourself as some kind of kingpin, well we’ll have definitely bumped into each other. You’d know me. I’m the guy you met in the dark. The guy who made you rethink your career choices. I was your worst nightmare. I’m the man they called the New Jersey Devil and I stalked the streets of our great city from 1982 to 1987 wiping scum face-first from the earth. This is my story.”

“Wow” said Thomas out loud into the silent room. He grabbed his bag from his feet and ran to the check out desk. Mrs Mayer sucked her teeth and tutted as he snatched the book back from her and flew out the library door in a haze of excitement.

Wrestling With My Demons – The Mike ‘Miracle Man’ Morrison Story

The following is an excerpt from the controversial autobiography of professional wrestler Mike ‘Miracle Man’ Morrison. Get your copy in Hardback, in the Kindle Store or on Audiobook when it’s released 14 September 2019

Chapter 14 – Revival

The least expected revival in the wrestling business came at a time when I was sure I was done. I was a journeyman. 46 year old, living on the road 320 days a year. My kids were in school and I was missing out on them growing up, every time I’d get a text or a Facetime I’d be staring into two ever-growing, ever-changing faces. And they were staring into the face of an ever-aging, out of shape, has-been. Sure, whenever we rolled into Pittsburgh I’d see them but it was never for long enough. With both knees having been replaced, my right shoulder hanging on by a thread and the threat of another concussion looming over me, I’d almost made the decision to pack my bags and tell the company I was done after Ring Revolution, our year end PPV. That was until that fateful August Monday night.

I got the call from show writer Dirk Henley that I was to meet him in the writers room as soon as I got to the building that evening. This wasn’t too peculiar an event, normally if I was going on first to open the TV show it would be to job to (lose to) whoever they wanted to get over. They’d let me know who it would be and in what fashion. I’d then meet up with whoever the new young wonderkid was I was laying down to that night and work out the details of our match. As I knocked and went in, I realised there were alot more bodies in the writing room than normal, including Henley, the boss Harrison Pritchard and our companies champion, Achilles Cage.

Cage was the biggest thing in the wrestling business, probably ever. He was so over with every single demographic that he’d never had to pay for gas or food as we travelled across the country that year. The fans absolutely adored him. As did all the guys (and girls) in the back. He represented us professionally across every platform. Articulate and intelligent he could hold his own debating politics on Good Morning America just as well as he could throw a football and bench press the equivalent of a large family of Samoans with the guys in the gym. Only in his mid-20’s, he was destined to be a star for the next 25 years at least.

Cage, glistening gold Championship belt thrown over his shoulder, welcomed me into the room with a chiselled, handsome smile and laid a large hand on my shoulder as I walked in. Pritchard, backed by four or five writers, looked extremely animated as he began to explain my segment in the show that evening. To my utter astonishment he explained that they were going to turn Cage heel tonight, in my hometown. For those that aren’t up to speed on their wrestling vernacular, the companies blue eyed boy would be turning bad guy. Remember, Cage was the darling of every living room in America and he was making the company so much money through merchandise that they could have probably put him out in the middle of the ring reading a telephone directory and still made a profit. So, to turn him heel was a shock to say the least. The part I didn’t get at that point was why Pritchard emphasised that this was my hometown and, more to the point, why he was telling me.

“Obviously you’re massively over with the fans Mike, especially here.” he began explaining. “Yes, you’ve had some bumps in the road lately but you were a Territories legend. First ever NCPW champion, first ever PNWD champion. You’re a living legend. To people in this town, you’re a hero.” I felt my chest begin to swell with pride, then, just as I began to feel some warmth course through my my cold, aching body, POP! I was deflated like a burst balloon. “That’s why you’re the perfect guy for Achilles to turn on. We’re going to use you to turn him heel, tonight. I want you guys in a tag match against the Boom Benders. You guys will beat them handily then Cage will turn on you after the match. I want you to get up and make it a fight, but you’ll take a severe beating, that’s how it has to be to get him some serious heat. Cage, you know how to work the crowd after that. This is history in the making guys! The biggest star in our company turning heel on the hometown legend. Achilles, this’ll set you up for a momentous rivalry with Black Mamba which we’ve planned to go right up until Ring Revolution”.

Admittedly I was excited, slated to work with the biggest star in the business again after years of jobbing to younger guys on the come up. I’d be top billed with Cage on the Monday Night Mat Slam TV show, something for my kids to boast to their friends about on Tuesday morning at school.

Cage and I met with the Boom Benders backstage to scope out the plan for the match. The Boom Benders aka Jackie Ace and Fergus ‘Braveheart’ Ferguson are two amazing guys, genuine lifelong friends of mine. They wouldn’t mind me describing them as a couple of journeymen wrestlers – they’d done it all in this industry as solo competitors – but recently they’d built themselves a new lease of life and a huge following as a heel tag team in the company. Their ‘Here Comes the Boom’ shirts were in the top three sellers in the company, just behind Cage and Mamba’s merchandise.

The plan, as we had put it together, was for me to basically take a beating from Jackie and Fergus for a good ten minutes, allowing them to showcase all their best tandem moves. They were so innovative as a team and produced so many new, original moves together. Eventually, though, I would counter and tag Cage in to unleash hell on them and finish them off with us ending up eventual winners. This was a fairly standard, well used tag team blueprint: one of the good guy takes a beating from two heels, eventually he tags in the hero, the hero whips some ass and finishes the match off. That would only be the appetiser though. As Pritchard had told us earlier, the real main event of the show would be the heel turn of Cage.

The tag match went without a hitch, almost exactly as planned. The beating I took from the Boom Benders was brutal and convincing. Given the number of matches I’d had with both Ferguson and Ace across the years as single competitors, our chemistry was excellent. I was selling their moves like I was back in my twenties. The crowd were eating it up, booing them and chanting for their Miracle Man almost non-stop. From their perspective their hometown hero was being given a hellacious beat down. Ultimately, once Cage got in, he cleaned house quickly and put them both away in impressive style.

It was at this point that things swayed from the plan.

After the Boom Benders had cleared the ring, Cage gently picked my broken body up from the bloodied canvas and lifted my right arm to the adulation of the crowd. They were going wild. “MI-RA-CLE, MI-RA-CLE!!!” reverberated around the arena. As I raised my left arm in unison, Cage slipped my right arm behind my back, snaked behind me, grabbing me from behind and suplexed me hard onto the back of my neck.

As I landed on the hard, bloodied canvas my brain rattled about in my cranium and my shoulders and back burnt like they’d been set on fire. I lay there, as if I’d been ejected out of a fighter jet, eyes to the rafters as the crowd fell completely silent. They were shocked. I tried to suppress a smile as they’d reacted exactly as Pritchard had hoped. Cage walked over and grabbed me by the hair to lift me back up. He whispered into my ear “one more, then reverse it” I nodded briefly. He slipped my lifeless arm behind my back again and brutally suplexed me once more. This time the boo’s from the Pittsburgh crowd were deafening. My lifeless body lay, eyes closed, as Cage began to berate the crowd and then berate me. He stood over me, arms raised, soaking in the boo’s of the crowd.

He decided he hadn’t gone far enough. He leant down over me and spat directly in my face. The crowd erupted, they began throwing whatever they had to hand into the ring. Drink cup, hot dogs, burgers, programmes rained down on us.

The heel turn plan had worked perfectly. But at what cost? I felt I’d not just been used as part of a plan to get Cage even more over but I’d been wildly disrespected in the process. Spitting in my face? Listen, anyone who has ever worked with me will tell you, I’ll sell every move in the book, I’m happy to be used to put over any new young guy in the industry. I understand how hard it can be to get heat from the wrestling crowds, especially a guy who was so over that he was a household name on every sports and celebrity channel going. But, spitting in my face? What was left of my ego couldn’t stomach that.

“Fuck was that?!” I shouted up at Cage as I lay there as if beaten to a pulp. “It’s cool” he grinned as he bent to pick me up by the hair again “just go with it, I need the heat. OK, reversal time”. As he held my wobbling body by the hair he lifted 3 fingers to the crowd to indicate I’d be going for my third ride courtesy of Cage airways. However, as planned, I slipped behind him and yanked his right arm hard behind his back. “Here’s your fucking heat” I spat into his ear. I grabbed him round the midriff with his arm trapped and suplexed him as hard and fast as my broken body would allow. We both landed with a sickening crack onto the canvas. He screamed. Not, ‘wrestler selling a move’ screamed but genuinely screamed in excruciating pain. I can admit right here right now that I immediately regretted it. I’d lost my temper, the spitting had royally pissed me off. I’d reacted in the worst possible way.

As all this had transpired and I lifted myself up to check on him, the crowd were going absolutely wild for what had just happened. Referees and company officials flooded the ring, pushing beyond me to check on Cage. Within seconds, EMT’s were called and Cage’s battered body was quickly lifted onto a stretcher and moved to the back. The crowd, still believing this was a work, continued to litter him with trash as he was wheeled past them into the back of the arena, beyond the curtain. This poor guy was being stretchered out with what would ultimately result in a broken right orbital bone, a broken right collarbone and a fractured right humerus and he was being pelted with half eaten burgers and watery light beers.

I’d resigned myself to the fact that I would be fired. I’d probably get my ass kicked once I made it into the back from some of Cage’s closest friends, particularly former MMA Heavyweight fighter Mamba. But that was the least of my worries, I can handle myself physically, despite my age. It was the threat of legal action from Pritchard and the company that scared me. I’d not only just ruined their headline feud for the foreseeable future but I’d also just potentially ended the career of the biggest star in the wrestling business.

As the TV show went off the air I soaked in the adulation of the crowd for one last time “MI-RA-CLE” still rang out through the arena and each time I climbed the turnbuckles to raise my arms and thank them, they got even louder. I trudged slowly to the back, the fans chants ringing in my ears.

As I emerged through the curtain into the backstage area, I was met by, amongst others, a red-faced, perspiring Pritchard and a clearly enraged Dax ‘Black Mamba’ Duffee.

Wrestling with my Demons – The Mike ‘Miracle Man’ Morrison Story is in stores 14 September 2019

An Everyday Scottish Villain

Before A tell ye my story, there’s somin ye should know. A didnae ask for this. A didnae ayways want tae be like this. A didnae create some mad serum in a lab to give ees super strength or build a mental technological suit to help ees fight crime. Christ, A barely even looked after myself. A wee 5km run there, a game of 5’s wi ma pals if they were short o’ bodies there. Maybe a’d half-arsed try tae diet if I noticed the auld capital D graun in the mirror but that was it.

And listen, am no writing this tae ask for yer apologies, for ye tae turn up at my door an’ say “it’s awright mate, aw is forgiven”. Am dain it cos A wantae be left alone. Aye A ken how that sounds but it’s true, A wantae be able to sit aboot in ma kegs playing FIFA or just gaun oot wi a bird to the cinema withoot some arsehole interrupting the film tae tell ees am their hero, or worse, expecting ees tae save their fucking granny fi dying eh cancer. So, here gauns.

First time A ever flew was the night A tried tae top myself. A was absolutely fucked, A’d been on ma ain aw day listening to depressing as fuck music, drinking aw the bevvy in the hoose until A’d drunk it dry. By the end ae it, A’d decided A’d had enough.

So, there a was, stood in the pishing rain, greeting ma face off, pish staining the front o’ ma joggies and shite running doon the back of ma leg. What a fucking pathetic excuse for a human being. A felt sorry for the poor cunt that had tae wade oot for what was left o’ ees the next day or even worse scrape ma brains up fae the side ae the water. Sorry mate, A thought, shouldae stuck in wi yer exams though. What a fucking weird thought that was eh? My last ever thought and am critiquing some poor bastard coonsel workers life choices.

A looked doon intae the dark unknown and stepped off the edge. It’s true what they say mind, as soon as e dae it, ye regret it. A’d have geen anythin tae have reversed that decision. Lucky for me A never hit the concrete wall ae water 50 feet beneath ees then eh? aye lucky boy, that’s me right enough.

A opened ma eyes and looked oot at the darkness. A could see fuck all, a wondered if a’d somehow woken up in a fuckin box. That’d have been the perfect fucking end for a fuck-up like me, couldnae even dae that right, A thought, a’ve ended up waking up in my fuckin coffin destined tae fuckin rot tae pieces. As it turned oot, A could tell that A was getting soaked tae ma skin, so A kent A was still ootside. A felt the pulsing waves beneath ees tickle ma feet through the cauld ae ma trainers. A looked doon and if a hadnae shite ma’self awready, A’d have done it right there and then. A was stood, naw that’s no right, I was hovering half a metre above the waves. Then, just as easy as it is tae get oot yer wankin chariot in the morning and shuffle through for a pish, A took off toward the edge o the water, landing on the safe, solid concrete. As A hink aboot it now it sounds ridiculous. A wouldnae believe it if some cunt started slaverin oan about how they were takin their dug for a walk and suddenly they realised they could shoot lasers oot their eyes.

Fae there A developed mare hings. A could lift anyhin A wanted. A could run fast as fuck. And aye a could shoot lasers oot ma eyes. Ma body started lookin like one o them erseholes on the front o Men’s Health magazine. Ripped as fuck. Like Hulk Hogan on even mair steroids than he was on when a was a bairn. Even if A ate 7 chippies a week I was still ripped tae fuck. Listen, superpowers or no, A wisnae planning on ditching ma king rib suppers fae Sergio’s.

Efter realising A was the only person on Earth wi superpowers I did what maste folk would dae. A got fuckin steamin and sterted textin aw ma auld birds selfies eh ma 6 pack and muckle biceps. A got a class yin o me shooting lasers across ma kitchen, burnt right through the front o ma fridge door tae. Course the replies were pretty much aw the same. “Aye gid yin dickhead” came the first. “Nice special effects app, whit yin is it?” came another. The best one though “Haha, there’s mare chance o me graun a muckle cock than there is o you being ripped like that”. Aye, cheers Big Courtney.

The final hing A realised A could dae was heal hings though. I say hings cos A only realised it when A was oot running fast as fuck and belted straight intae this wee dug. A went right through the wee bastard, blood and guts awwhere. A went ower and picked up his wee heid, greeting an apologising like it’d make the blindest bit difference. Except, it fuckin did! The next hing a knew the wee bastard was licking ma face and kicking his wee back legs intae my stomach.

After the dug A decided tae dae a wee experiment. A waited until the middle o the night and ran doon tae the cemetery. A took a wee wander roond in the pitch black, shining ma laser eyes tae illuminate the grave stanes until A came across a tiny wee yin. Some poor wee laddie that had deed at 8 yer auld. A’d love tae tell e A stood there debating the moral consequences ae what a was aboot tae dae but to be honest a couldnae have started shovelling the dirt up fast enough. Quite literally. A had the wee coffin up in nae time wae ma mental strength and fast as fuck airms. A ripped the top off and grabbed the poor wee laddie in ma airms. He can only have been deed weeks or months cos he wasnae rotten or that but he was grey as fuck and he was definitely fuckin stinkin. His dusty wee eyes flickered open and he started breathin fast as fuck, shiting umself. “It’s awright wee man” A says tae um “A’m healing e.” Poor wee bastard almost passed oot straight away, thankfully eh managed tae croak oot where eh lived before he slumped back intae ma airms. A flew um hame and left um in his wee bed, still aw made up.

If yer reading this e probably ken much o the rest. The parents woke up, shite themselves then sterted posting photaes eh the wee fellae on social media. Cos nothing’s every really happened unless e post it online eh? Fuds. What seemed like the whole world, had set up camp ootside this families hoose in Bathgate. Fae aw kinds ae media, tae cults dedicated tae the wee fellae, tae religious freaks thinking this wee boy was the second coming o whae-ever. The family were making an absolute mint off it. And fair play tae wee Andy he never said what happened tae him. Maybe ae couldnae mind but A suspected he wanted tae keep me his ain wee secret.

A gave it a few weeks before A eventually came forward and contacted the BBC tae tell them what a’d done. They immediately banned ees fae contacting their social media accounts and somehow managed tae cut off ma phone line and broadband efter contacting them that way. A wouldnae have believed ees either of course. They left ees nae choice but tae make a wee surprise appearance on the 6 o’clock News. A rushed past security, flew ontae the screen and picked up the tidy wee lassie dain the weather. She was lovin it, nae doubt about it. Efter A stopped the bullets fae the security and they stuck the cameras back oan, a was able tae tell ma whole story. A telt yees aw aboot ma superpowers and how A found oot aboot them. It was class. I was living the high life. Getting sent aw this designer stuff tae wear and getting DM’s fae aw the top models.

For aboot a week, that is.

Then it started. Locally to begin wi. Folk fi ma auld school knocking doon ma door asking me to heal their maws arthritis or take a look at their da’s prostate. They didnae even have the decency tae try and get on ma gid side either. No even “awright mate, mind that time a knocked e oot behind the bike sheds cos e looked at ma bird in fourth year”. Naw. It was mare like “Haw you, heal ma maw.” “Hoy, dae what ye did for that wee laddie tae ma Uncle’s deed budgie”. A ended up just flying away up tae the sky and thrawn stanes at them. A obviously didnae mean to kill that cunt wi that stane, a forgot ma ain strength. And a flew doon and healed him onyway, a never understood what the big deal was.

Soon efter the Government were doon ma throat, getting me tae dae wee missions for them. “it’s yer duty son, for Queen and Country” they said tae me. Flying intae war zones and lasering fuck oot ae these mad Barbarians and jihadis. I soon realised that it was up tae me tae make that decision though. This isnae Gotham City. There isnae the good guys and the bad guys. And there’s nowt tae say that the Government are the gid guys. In fact there’s alot o evidence tae suggest otherwise. Why should a knock off wee Kimmy Jong just cos some posh toff cunt tells ees tae? How div a ken he’s no sound? He hings aboot wi Big Dennis Rodman so I reckon he must be awright like.

That’s why a did what a did. A realise now that it was a bit extreme but if you were a miserable wee shite that wanted tae top yersel then ye turned intae Superman mixed wi the Hulk, ye might gaun a wee bit power hungry tae. A ken A shouldnae have done it, but a did. Folk need tae get ower it.

Am sorry for slaughtering aw they MP’s awright? Is that what ye want tae hear? Am sorry. A was steaming again. I flew doon tae speak tae them at Westminster, they started freakin oot and condescending ees and a lost it. The lasers came oot, heids started rollin and my thirst fur blood turned ees a wee bit mad. These things happen. Well they dinnae anymare obviously cos av calmed doon a bit. There’s nae point sending the airmy, there’s nae point the Yanks trying tae fuckin nuke ees again cos none o it works. So please just leave ees alane. If ye want tae say awright or gees a wee high five when e see ees that’s fine, a’ll try no tae break yer wrist like a did that wee laddie in Washington. A was still learning then.

Am no a Villain just cos a dinnae want tae heal the world like Michael fuckin Jackson. Am just a normal guy. So, please, next time ye see me dinnae ask ees tae bring yer wee guinea pig back fae the deed, dinnae ask ees tae assassinate that fanny in the White Hoose and for the luv o fuck dinnae ask ees for a selfie, am fed up payin oot for new phones. Stupit fuckin laser eyes.

Oh aye, and for aw the folk asking online: no am no single, aye A am gaun oot wi Margaret Boaby, Hamilton’s very ane Margot Robbie Impersonator and naw, nae amount o superpowers stop e fae blowing yer load prematurely.

Finlay & His Super Buddies – A Superhero Story for Kids

It was Saturday!

Finlay woke up quickly with a giant smile on his face, he knew it was Saturday because his Mum and Dad weren’t running about the house, half-dressed and screaming about being late for ​ boring​ work.

He threw his Spider-Man covers off, jumped down from bed and ran to put on his light. His eyes stung from the bright light. Taking a minute to shield his eyes, he ran over to the giant mirror on his bedroom wall. What awesomeness would it be this Saturday when he looked in the mirror?

Giant muscles so he could pick up cars?

Wings to help him fly?

Sticky hands to climb walls?

After a minute of checking over his body and spinning round and round in the mirror he came to the shocking realisation that this morning he was just Finlay. Boring old Finlay. He put the light off, shuffled back to bed and pulled the covers back over his head.

Maybe I should explain.

Ever since Finlay could remember, he has been special. He knew that because his Mum always told him that he was her special boy. Finlay quickly realised that all Mums and Dads think their children are special but this wasn’t the only reason he knew he was special. Finlay was another kind of special.

You see, every Saturday Finlay would wake up with a new amazing, mega, fantastical super power, something so unbelievably astounding that when he lay down in bed on Saturday night he immediately got excited for the next Saturday.

Some weeks he could run so fast he could outrun a cheetah. Other weeks he would be so strong he could lift his Dad’s car. One amazing time he had gills to let him swim under water. He beat the local swimming pool record for staying under the water by 5 hours and 42 minutes. He knows it could have been a lot longer but his Mum and Dad, 2 lifeguards and the local police chief finally wrestled him out. But this Saturday, there was nothing. Not even something half amazing, like the ability to eat 100 cookies without getting a sore tummy or maybe x-ray eyes to see what sweeties his Mum and Dad had bought with the shopping. Nope, nothing at all.

This had happened once before, when Finlay had the dreaded chicken pox. When he woke up that Saturday and saw that he was covered in red spots, he couldn’t wait to find out what superpower they would give him.

Unfortunately for Finlay all that happened was his Mum smothering him with cream every few hours and the red spots made him itch all over. Not a cool super power at all.

So, back to that awful Saturday morning, the awful, wretched, horrible Saturday when Finlay had no superpowers (and no red spots). He was sat, sulking under his covers in the dark when he heard his Mum’s voice. “Where’s my special boy?” she said in that sing songy way that Mums do. He heard footsteps approaching. Two hands appeared under his covers, wandering their way towards him like two playful spiders. He let out a half smile. “I don’t have anything Mum” he said, as he pulled the covers off, looking at his Mum with a sulk and pouted lip. “Oh, sweetheart, that’s ok” she said, giving him a hug. “You know you don’t have to have superpowers to be my special boy”. He tutted. What a typical thing for Mum to say, he thought. “Yeah, I think being able to lift a car or read James’ mind is a little bit cooler than just being boring old me, Mum” he said. “Well” she said, “let’s go and get some breakfast and we can see what your friends are up to today”.

When Finlay and his Mum walked into the kitchen Finlay’s Dad had his back to them, singing and dancing along to the radio, he didn’t know they were there and was singing at the top of his voice. Finlay and his Mum watched for a minute as his Dad tried desperately to hit a high note like the singer on the radio but failed miserably. They both burst out laughing and watched as his dad turned round, shocked at their laughing. Finlay’s dad burst out laughing too.

“Don’t give up your day job, Ross” said his Mum still chuckling. “I think I’ve got the X Factor” he said with a smile. He walked over and lifted his hand to Finlay “hello big boy, how are you today?” Finlay gave his Dad a high five, he didn’t slap his hand very hard but his Dad still acted like it was the hardest slap he’d ever had, it always made him laugh. “I don’t have anything, Dad” Finlay said as he looked at his feet. “Oh buddy” his Dad replied with a silly face to try to make him smile. “That’s ok! Don’t be upset, we can still have a great day”.

Finlay liked that his Mum and Dad were trying to make him feel better but he thought he’d feel a lot better if he had a cool superpower to show his friends. Charlie, James and Hamish were Finlay’s best friends. They always had been ever since he could remember. His Mum and Dad told him that they had been best friends even when they were babies. Finlay had saw photos but he couldn’t remember, he just knew that these three boys were the best friends he’d ever had. Every Saturday morning the boys met outside one of their houses to check out what Finlay’s latest amazing, mega, fantastical super power was. Today was no different.

“Can’t wait to find out what he’ll have today” said Hamish excitedly. “Oooh! Maybe it’ll be the flying power again,” said James with a big smile. “Remember when he was invisible and got us all those doughnuts from his Mum’s kitchen?” said Charlie staring into space, the very thought of those delicious doughnuts dripping with custard had his mouth salivating. His stomach let out a ginormous grumble like the roar of a hungry bear emerging from hibernation. James and Hamish looked at him, laughing. Charlie had an uncanny gift of managing to slip the topic of food into every conversation they had.

“Oh look! Here he comes” shrieked Hamish, giddy at the sight of Finlay walking up the hill with his Mum, Dad and dog. “Hi boys!” chirped Finlay’s Mum “Hiiiiiiiiiii” droned the boys in unison. “OK Finlay, we’ll be over at Hamish’s Mum and Dad’s, see you boys in a couple of hours for lunch, don’t get into any mischief” said Finlay’s Dad with a smile. Not much chance of that, thought Finlay.

“Well?” said Hamish, so eager he was practically standing on Finlay’s feet. Charlie circled Finlay a few times looking puzzled “nah, I can’t see it this week, is it something hidden?” Finlay shook his head keeping his eyes firmly at his feet, he was scared if he did speak that he might cry. James could tell there was something wrong. “Are you OK pal?” Finlay nodded, he waited a few seconds, took a deep breath and went for it. “I don’t have anything this week guys”.

In a flash Hamish took off like an olympic sprinter. No-one had ever witnessed a little boy run so fast in their life and if the Guinness Book of Records had been there right at that moment Hamish would surely have been awarded the “fastest little boy alive” title with no questions asked. After about 100 metres or so he stopped and hid behind a bush. Every 30 seconds or so he peeped his head out, looking over at the other boys. He was like one of those little meerkats Finlay had seen on the TV. Stunned, the boys all gave each other a puzzled look and stared over at the bush Hamish was hiding behind. Eventually he poked his head back out and shouted over “I’m not getting chicken pox again, they were sooooooooo itchy and my Mum put cream on me every ten minutes, I felt like a bar of soap! I can’t get them again!”

The other boys all looked at each other and erupted into laughter, James was laughing so hard he ended up lying on the grass, doubled over. Finlay and Charlie pretended to fall over and they all ended up on top of each other giggling together. After the laughter had stopped Charlie looked at them very seriously and whispered “You can’t get chicken pox twice can you?” “NO!” shouted Finlay and James at the same time. All three burst into laughter again which went on for a lot longer than Hamish, who was still hidden behind his bush, would have liked. “Is something funny?” he called from behind his bush. “Yeah, you!” shouted James smiling, “He doesn’t have chicken pox again and you can’t get it twice! Get back over here you numpty!”

Hamish trudged back over to them looking bashful. “Sorry Finlay, those things are just super itchy, I didn’t want to take the risk” he said. “Don’t worry” said Finlay laughing. He felt that pang of butterflies in his stomach again as he got ready to disappoint his friends with the news that he didn’t have any super powers. “I just didn’t have anything this morning when I woke up.” Finlay looked up from the ground at his friends. They were all staring back. He couldn’t believe it! They were all still there! He half expected them to leave as soon as he said it. He expected to be left to wander back alone to meet his Mum and Dad whilst his friends left him to go find another boy who had superpowers, someone they could watch lift a building or stop a train or steal them custard doughnuts (he knew that was Charlie’s favourite ). “Why do you think that is?” asked Hamish, looking at Finlay with genuine interest.

He wasn’t angry or upset or ready to cross him off his “Coolest Guys Ever” list (he genuinely had that list, it currently had 6 names on it: Charlie, James, Finlay, himself, Santa Claus and his Dad). “I’ve no idea” replied Finlay “Maybe I am sick, maybe I’ve ran out of superhero juice or something, all I know is I don’t have anything. I’ve checked myself over 100 times” he said. “Man, I was soooo hoping you’d be invisible again” said Charlie enthusiastically “my Mum baked this big cake last night and I kind of hoped you’d be able to get it for us, I even brought a spoon”. He reached inside his coat and pulled out what appeared to be the world’s largest serving utensil. Hamish and James burst out laughing at the sight of it. “What on earth is that and how did you fit it in your coat?!” asked Hamish. Charlie looked bashful “I saw my Mum serving soup with it last night, I thought it looked the perfect size for the gateau, I just thought that Finlay could…” Hamish and James began to snigger as Charlie slowly slipped the ladle back into his coat pocket.

The laughing soon stopped as all three boys turned to look at Finlay who had started crying. James hated to see his friend crying “Hey pal, come on, there’s no need to cry, I’m sure you’re fine” he said reassuringly. “I’ll just head to meet my Mum and Dad – you guys will have better things to do than hang around with stupid old me” mumbled Finlay through sobs. “Don’t be daft!” said James, “we’ll do something cool together anyway”. “Yeah!” agreed Hamish “Who wants to go over to the park, I’ll get my rugby ball to throw about, or we could go get Amber and take her a walk?”

Amber was Finlay’s dog. An energetic, loveable Golden Labrador with a heart of gold. Amber adored each of the boys and thought of herself as one of them. She went wherever they did. “Yeah” chimed in Charlie, “I didn’t even want any of the cake” he said defiantly “I saw my dad licking a bit when he thought no-one was looking so he probably ruined it anyway”. He turned and gave Finlay a big smile and a wink.

Finlay was bowled over with relief, he couldn’t believe it! The smell of food cooking and the noise of laughter hit them as they walked into Hamish’s house. All the adults were sat around the living room laughing and playing a game together whilst what smelt like homemade pizza’s cooked in the oven. Who knew what these adults got up to, thought Finlay, probably super boring adult stuff.

As the boys walked into the living room, footsteps suddenly appeared behind them, they had been ambushed! First James was taken down to the floor, then Hamish, then finally Charlie was decked. In the blink of an eye they were being given a soaking wet licking by their assailant, it was Amber! As usual she was so excited to see the boys she had greeted them the only way she knew how, by skipping, hopping and jumping around them and licking them all over! The disgusting hot, wet, sticky drool was everywhere! Amber completed her ambush by stealing Finlay’s shoes from him and bounding away with them back upstairs. “Ambbeeeeeer!!!! come back with my shoes!!” cried Finlay. “How does she always manage to get her tongue right in my ear?!” moaned Charlie. “Help me up” said Hamish, Amber had somehow managed to pull one of his socks off and had licked his hair into a mohican. James chuckled as he pulled Hamish back to his feet. “That dog is a menace!” he said with a smile.

“Hey there boys, lunch won’t be ready for a while yet” said Hamish’s mum with a look of concern. “What are you doing back at the house so soon? Is everything OK?” “Well, if it’s alright” said Hamish, “we were thinking of taking Amber for a walk, is that OK?”. He had no quicker said the word “walk” when he heard the footsteps flying back down the stairs again. He felt a meaty slap of a wet tongue on his hand followed by the panting of breath against his leg. He looked down at Amber who was obediently sat looking at him, panting, with her tongue hanging out one side of her mouth and her lead hanging out the other.

Finlay’s Dad was in a fit of laughter at something Charlie’s Dad had shown him on a card from the game they were playing. After what seemed like 10 minutes of loud cackling and wiping away tears he finally managed to calm himself down to reply “Pheeeew, of course that’s fine boys” he said taking a deep breath. Then he added, a bit more seriously, “but just make sure you keep her on the lead and take some bags in case she drops some heat”. James and Charlie looked at eachother confused. “it means do a poo” whispered Hamish to them a little too loudly.

One of the parents let out a snigger, then they all burst into laughter as the boys wandered out the living room door. Charlie’s mum came to the front door to see them off, carrying Charlie’s baby sister. “see you later boys, please be careful and don’t get into any mischief OK? see you all for lunch”. “okkkaaaay, byeeeeee” they replied together. The door shut behind them and with that….they were off on their adventure.

No sooner had they left when the rainstorm came on. It was coming down hard, bouncing off the pavements. Rivers of water ran alongside them as they wandered along past all the houses in Hamish’s street. They were heading towards a big field behind Hamish’s house which led to a bridge over the river and beyond that, the dark forest. It was a tough walk in the rainstorm but no amount of wet weather could dampen the boy’s spirits, they loved the rain! “This. Is. Aaaaaawesome!!!” screamed Charlie as all 4 boys ran and jumped into the world’s largest puddle, the splash covered right over Finlay’s head and soaked him from head to toe! Eventually they made it to the bridge, they agreed to take shelter under it and wait for the rain to pass.

“Wow” said Hamish “this is crazy, wonder if we should go back, Ambers done the toilet so we could go back and play at mine for a bit?” “It’ll dry off soon” said James “we could go over the bridge and into the forest? since you don’t have any powers Finlay, we could play Huntsman?”

All the boys nodded with excitement. Huntsman was a game they loved to play together. The game was simple: one person closed his eyes, counted to 20, then the rest of them ran away and hid. The person counting had to find them. The winner was the last person to be found. It was a game that could be, and was, played anywhere much to their parents’ frustration. The other boys preferred to play when Finlay didn’t have any superpowers, the ability to hide underwater, fly or push down trees really gave him an advantage!

The rain had finally stopped. Elated, they made their way over the bridge. After all the rain that had fallen the river was flowing unbelievably fast, the boys stopped on the bridge and looked over. Charlie picked up a stick at his feet and dropped it down into the river. The stick flew peacefully through the air then was suddenly, violently, pulled into the flowing river. It was swallowed up by the river then every now and again burped back up to the surface. It was downstream within seconds. “coooooool” said James. It gave Finlay a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach. He shook his head as they kept walking over the bridge towards the forest.

Then it happened.

A small animal, Finlay wasn’t sure what, a badger? a rabbit? maybe a weasel had come running out the forest. It had obviously saw Amber, gotten a fright then changed its course and jumped straight into the ferocious flowing river.

Finlay felt a jarring tug on his arm and was suddenly pulled off his feet. He fell with a thud on the soaking wet grass, banging the back of his head as he landed.

Dizzy, he pulled himself to his feet. Everything seemed blurry, he could see the outlines of his three friends and could hear screaming and shouting but couldn’t see what was happening. He rubbed his eyes and gave his head a shake, he looked down and saw that he was no longer holding Amber’s lead. That was when he realised that James, Charlie and Hamish were all stood at the bank of the river screaming.

“Ambbbbbbbbbbbbeeeeeeeerrrrrrr!!!” “Heeeeelllp heeeeeeeeeeeeer!!!” “Someone please help!!!”

James came running over to him. “Finlay! Are you OK?” He wanted to say a million things but all that would come out his mouth was “Wh, wha, what’s happened?” He felt sick and was a little unsteady on his feet. “It’s Amber, she jumped in the river after that rabbit. She’s in the river!!”

James helped him up and the two of them ran over to the river bank. Amber was swirling and twirling in the water, being thrown around by the violent current of the river. It looked to Finlay like she had been put into mums washing machine and was being swept round and round. She looked terrified as she tried desperately to claw her paws up on the side of the riverbank.

Charlie turned to them “I’ll run back and get my dad, he’ll know what to do” “No!” shouted Hamish “There’s no time! that river is far too fast, she’ll get pulled away!” “We’re wasting time!!” said Finlay, scared and worried for his dog. “There’s no way she’s not getting out of that water, let’s think!”

Suddenly James ran into the forest, he appeared back, breathless with a thick long branch from a tree. “Let’s hold this out to her, one of us can use it to grab her” he panted. “YES!” shouted Finlay. “let’s go!” They ran over, Amber was clinging onto the riverbank for dear life. Her back legs were still in the water, being pulled away from her as the river thundered on underneath her trying desperately to pull her back in.

Hamish lay down on the grass with his head over the side, he slowly, quietly began to reassure Amber with a soothing voice. “Okay Amber” he said “We’re going to get you out girl, don’t you worry, you’re going to be OK, clever girl” With those reassuring words her tongue appeared out her mouth, she looked like she was smiling! “Keep doing that!” shouted Finlay, “it’s helping!!”

Hamish gave him the thumbs up and continued to coo reassuring words to Amber, she kept her gaze firmly fixed on him whilst she struggled to keep her front paws locked onto the side of the riverbank. The river hammered along underneath like a pack of stampeding bulls. Charlie, James and Finlay lay the thick long branch down.

“Okay” said Finlay “Here’s what we’ll do. You two, hold the branch down over where Amber is, put your full weight on it, I’ll climb along it and grab her” Charlie raised his eyebrows “BE. CAREFUL.” All three boys gave each other a nod and headed to the river bank.

As Hamish continued to speak to Amber, James and Charlie laid the giant branch down, hanging it over the side of the riverbank. They both dug their feet into the grass and placed their hands over the branch, holding it into place. Finlay took a deep breath and dropped onto his hands and knees. Slowly he shimmied along until he got to the edge of the riverbank. He braced himself and gripped on tightly to the branch. It wobbled slightly as it took his full weight, a pang of fear hit his stomach but he knew he couldn’t stop now, he had to get Amber!

He looked up at Charlie and James who were gritting their teeth and pushing their bodies over the branch to take his full weight. He looked down and could see Amber still there, still looking at Hamish with her tongue hanging out. As he got closer to it the noise from the river was terrifying. It continued to hammer along like an angry volcano underneath him, ready to swallow him and Amber up at any second. She spotted him shimmying out over her and started to try to climb up the riverbank. “No Amber!” he screamed “Just stay there, I’ll get you!” Any slight move now and she could fall in. He reached down with one hand and grabbed her by her collar. He pulled with all his might but couldn’t move her. She wasn’t a big dog but she was heavy and Finlay could only ever pick her up in his arms with two hands.

“She won’t budge!!” he shouted up to his friends in frustration. Hamish hopped up from his position on the river bank and tip-toed along the branch. He got to Finlay’s feet and helped pull him back up onto the branch. Amber clung back onto the riverbank looking up at the boys, desperation in her eyes. “I’ll hold your legs, you hang down with both hands and grab her” shouted Hamish “You can do this Finlay!.

Finlay looked up at Charlie and James. Their faces were bright red, holding onto the branch desperately to take Hamish and Finlay’s weight. “Do it!” shouted James through gritted teeth “Hurry!”

Finlay closed his eyes. From the minute he woke up that morning he had felt frustration and anger at not having a superpower. It was Saturday, why hadn’t it happened? Why would his friends still want to hang out with him? Could he have saved Amber with a superpower? Easily, he thought. But suddenly, in that moment when Hamish had looked at him, told him what to do, told him that they were there for him, a feeling of calm and confidence came over him He looked at Hamish “Let’s do it!!”

Hamish grabbed him by the legs as Finlay hung upside down. He was face to face with Amber. Water from the river hit him in the face every now and again as he dropped his arms down to grab her. She licked at his face which made him smile. “You’re going to be OK Amby” he whispered to her.

He grabbed her by the collar with his left hand and then dipped his right hand into the flowing river, grabbing her by her back legs. He braced himself and pulled as hard as he could. She let out a little yelp as he raised her up and out the river, his arms shaking as he took her full weight in his arms. He let out a roar as he threw her onto the grass to safety on the riverbank.

“Yeeees!!!” screamed James. “YOU DID IT!!!” shouted Charlie. “Now get back up!” screamed Hamish who was still gripping tightly onto his legs. He reached up and Hamish grabbed him by the hand and pulled him up onto the branch, They both felt a horrible jolt and a snapping noise. The branch was going to break!! Hamish dived off the branch towards the riverbank, dragging Finlay with him by his jersey. They landed on top of each other on the riverbank with a thud just in time to see the giant branch snap in half and disappear off down the river.

They all lay there for what seemed an eternity, just breathing, staring up at the sky. Eventually, they all got up and looked at one another.

Wooooooo!!!!” screamed Charlie “I can’t believe we did it!!!” shouted James. He jumped up and hugged Finlay!!! Charlie and Hamish were high fiving and jumping about. Amber danced round and round them, hopping up on her two back legs, licking whoever and whatever she could.

Suddenly, the celebrations were broken up by some commotion over the other side of the river. 8 bodies were running down alongside the river bank and coming straight towards them over the bridge.

“CHARLIEEEEEEEEEE!!!” “FINLAY !!!” “HAMISH!!” “JAMES WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!” It was their parents. They came flying over the bridge together, all looking scared. They wrapped each child up in hugs individually. Finlay and his friends were hit with a million questions all at once. “What on earth has happened?” asked Hamish’s dad “Where have you all been?!” said James’ mum. “Why is Amber off the lead??” shouted Finlay’s Dad. Charlie’s mum was crying and squeezing Charlie in one arm and juggling his baby sister in her other.

“We’re all OK!” Finlay told them. “Can we go home and explain? It’s freezing!” The walk home didn’t take long. All the boys got a piggy back from their dads with their mums fussing over them every step of the way. Amber walked slowly next to Finlay’s Dad on the lead, tongue hanging out and tail wagging.

“Oh my little Hamey Wamey” said Hamish’s Mum as she kissed him on the cheek for the 100th time. “no Mum!” he said bashfully “not in front of the lads!!!”. James, Charlie and Finlay laughed at him “Hameeeeey Wameeeeey” they all sang together.

James, Charlie, Hamish and Finlay sat in Hamish’s living room on the comfy couch. They each had roasting hot cups of hot chocolate in their hands and were all energetically explaining to their parents what had happened.

“Well there was this massive puddle and Finlay got soaked” laughed James “Then we crossed the bridge and a rabbit or something appeared” interrupted Finlay “Amber fell in the river!” shrieked Hamish “Then I found this massive branch!” jumped in James “and Finlay hung upside down on it” “I couldn’t reach so Hamish helped me reach her” said Finlay. “oh, my turn, my turn!” shouted Charlie with his hand up All 3 boys and all 8 parents, who were sat listening in awe at the story their children were telling them, turned to Charlie waiting for him to finish off the story. He looked at them all with a smile “Ummm I have no idea what they were saying but… there any of that pizza left that was cooking when we left?” Everyone burst into laughter.

All the parents were delighted that their boys and dog were home safely. The boys had an amazing, mega, fantastical story to tell everyone at their school for a very long time and this time it included all of them, not just Finlay and his superpowers.

They had hot chocolate and then they got pizza! Best day ever, thought Finlay as he waved goodbye to his friends.

That night, Finlay’s mum tucked him into bed and gave him an even bigger kiss than normal. “Mum” he whispered “I can’t wait until next Saturday comes” “I know sweetheart, you can’t wait to see what superpower you get next week” she said nodding as she sat at the end of his bed stroking his hair. He sat up and looked at his Mum. “No Mum. I don’t need superpowers anymore.” he said. “I don’t WANT them. I’ve got my best friends, we can do anything together. They ARE my superpowers. I can’t wait until next Saturday, because I can’t wait for my next adventure with my superbuddies.

A Divine Vacation


He looked down at his phone to see the last name he wanted to see calling him, this could only be bad news. His vacation had been just what he needed after such a tumultuous time at work and the last thing he wanted to see flash up on his phone was “Boss” calling.

His doctor had suggested he take the time off after a smattering of problematic conversations in which he’d sobbed his way through his work issues. His boss had grumbled but was ultimately content for him to take the time off with the proviso that he could guarantee his staff could take on his workload. He had entrusted his two best members of staff with the reins and departed with a spring in his step. He hadn’t even thought about work once as he lay back with his feet up. After four decades of what felt like constant graft, he could finally relax safe in the knowledge that things were being taken care of.

He took a deep breath, braced himself and swiped to answer. “Hi Jay!” he cheered “how’s things?” “How’s things?!” spat Jay down the phone incredulously in a tone which suggested that things weren’t entirely great. Someone clearly needed their own vacation he thought. “How’s fucking things?! Do you have any idea how long you’ve been on vacation for?” He thought about this for a second, he wasn’t entirely sure if it was a rhetorical question. “To be honest, times gotten away from me Jay, I’ve been focussing on me for a change and trying to just take the time to relax, how, uh, how long has it been?” he knew he was expected to ask but given the tone of the conversation, he really didn’t want to know the answer. “Times gotten away from you” muttered Jay under his breath. “It’s been six fucking decades mate” Jay said bluntly. A pregnant pause hung between them. “Did you hear me?!” Jay shouted “six fucking decades. And those two buffoon’s you left in charge have made an absolute shit show of things. My Dad is furious, man. Things are going to shit. Get it together, get back here and meet me at 10am tomorrow. Sharp.” Jay went to hang up then jumped back on “Oh and Peace, don’t bother speaking to those two fools you left in charge before tomorrow, I think it best if you just come in blind, it’s going to be a bit of a shock to the system. Bring coffee.” He hung up without any pleasantries.

Peace looked down at the phone, shook his head and looked in the mirror. Six decades, he thought. What could have possibly happened? When he left things had looked good. War had been quiet, knocked back down to the small time criminal she’d been in the very early 1900’s. Yes, she’d been responsible for the 2 biggest events in human history to date but Peace had taken her to task and beaten her to a bloody pulp, sent her off with her tail between her legs. The people had even come up with a little sign for Peace’s name, they were all throwing it about, it was like the new way of saying ‘goodbye’. His name was literally on everyone’s lips. He’d felt he’d left things on a high. Bowed out at a perfect time to hand the reins off to someone else. ‘Buffoons’ Jay had called them. He’d had full confidence in Tranquility and Serenity to keep things ticking over, yes they were young but they’d come up under him and he’d thought they were ready to lead.

He began packing his things, trying to maintain positive thoughts, he wasn’t ready to throw away all this good work just because of a bad phonecall. Tomorrow was another day.

He hadn’t slept well. He’d been tempted to phone Tranquility or Serenity during the night but had thought better of it. The way Jay had spoken to him was enough to give him the feeling that today wasn’t going to be a good today and, even worse, he’d mentioned his Dad being furious, probably best to play things straight. Not the greatest idea to piss off for six decades then go against the boss’ wishes when you get summoned back to a supposed ‘shit show’.

He checked his watch, 9:59am. At least he wasn’t late he thought. He punched the ‘up’ button at the lift and jumped in, making sure not to spill the two coffees he was carrying. He pressed the illuminated ‘T’ for top floor and slowly paced the lift until it chimed. The doors opened presenting a beautifully lit corridor, filled with bright, oddly shaped lamps. At the end of the corridor just in front of a large wooden door stood the silhouette of his boss. “Come on then” said Jay as he opened the large wooden door to his office and beckoned Peace in.

“Chill man, it’s OK” said Jay as Peace bent to lay the two coffees down on the large faux-mahogany desk in front of him. He had noticed the numerous beads of sweat dripping down onto the glass surface. “I realise how I sounded on the phone last night and I apologise for that. I’d just had my ass chewed out by my Father and passed that onto you. Yes, things are in the shitter, but I’m hopeful we can sort it out today. Do I have your forgiveness?” Peace wiped his forehead, picked up Jay’s lofty name tag reading ‘Jesus H Christ, 2nd in Command’ which he had knocked over in his haste to put down the hot coffees and pursed his lips to blow out a long deep breath. “Of course” he said, smiling at his boss and longtime friend.

They had sat for an hour or so sipping their coffees exchanging small talk and catching up on the last 60 or so years before Jay had stood up and started throwing down files across his desk like a Vegas blackjack dealer. It never seemed to end. He couldn’t believe his eyes. That son of a bitch Evil, who had been small time for years, had unleashed this guy Charles Manson just after he’d left, ambushing Tranquility and Serenity. Evil and Terrorism had put their heads together and birthed the 9/11 attacks, he could imagine that puppet master Death kicking back in his office chair revelling in the chaos.

War had reared her ugly head again, years after he’d left. She’d been busy – Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, The Falklands, Bosnia, Kosovo, Syria. She’d been everywhere it seemed. He winced each time he apprehensively opened another file. Regret filled him like an air tight blow up mattress. He felt like he couldn’t breathe. How could he have been so selfish?! How could he have disappeared for so long with no inkling that this was going on? Jay had talked him down, reassured him that he’d left things in a fantastic state of affairs after decades of battling with that jezebel War.

Jay bent over the desk and dramatically slid all the files off the desk. The discarded paperwork made a dull thud as they dropped off the edge of the table and flopped across the shiny wooden floorboards. “OK, I know that’s alot to take in but bear with me” said Jay. “I’m not telling you all this to bum you out and to make you feel guilty. No, all of that sets the foundations for what I’m about to now show you. I need to introduce you to a few of the newer guys on the scene. These are the guys I want you to concentrate on, just like you did War all those years ago.” Again, Jay began dealing out the files, throwing out names as the files hit the desk. “Bigotry, Narcissism, Climate, Ignorance, Disease, AI” Peace looked them over, taking in the names Jay was reeling off. “I suppose I’m not surprised about Disease, he’s always been an asshole. But Climate? Why’d she switch sides?” he asked. Jay scoffed “Yep, you’ll probably need more coffee for her, that’s a big file.” He had spent the rest of the day reading about social media, fake news, humans’ love affair with technology, the abuse of antibiotics and issues of race and religion which he thought he’d eradicated when he defeated War decades earlier. His head pounded and the pit of his stomach ached with regret.

It was now late and much to his surprise 12 hours had passed since he had walked into Jay’s office. He had his work cut out. He knew that. But he had a good team of people who he would link back up with tomorrow. For the first time that day he booted up his laptop and opened his emails. He drummed his fingers as the 4.25 million unread emails filled up the screen before him. He clicked on ‘compose’ and began scrolling through his address list, he clicked on his most trusted of colleagues that he knew he would now need with him to fight this forthcoming battle. He just hoped they were still up for it. He plopped his fingers onto the keyboard and began to write:

To: Unity; Inclusiveness; Love; Empathy; Hope; Intelligence

CC: Serenity; Tranquility

Dear Friends,

I know it has been many years since you have heard from me and I know that you are now facing battles well beyond what you faced when I was last in office. Today I have received a whistle stop tour of the last 60 or so years from Jay. I understand that his Father is mightily concerned. He believes he is losing the battle with the Red Prince. Having read Jay’s files today, I understand why.

I am confident, however, that with you by my side we can slow the plans of that nefarious bastard Death. We know we’ll never stop him, but we cannot allow him to achieve his ultimate goal. If he does, we will no longer have a purpose. His master will have won. We cannot allow that to happen.

If you are with me, meet me tomorrow at the usual place. I have a plan. We can do this.

Your trusting friend,