SWF 5.8 – Challenging expectations, questioning stereotypes.

Martin stood with his back against the bus shelter, his right leg at a right angle so the sole of his black and yellow AirMax trainer pressed against the glass. An almost incessant plume of smoke escaped from the shadow within his hood, the cherry of his cigarette intermittently illuminating his sullen face with a dim, orange glow. The pavement around him was speckled with his spit.

As the headlights of the bus appeared in the distance, cutting through the late night darkness, Martin took his last few long drags, and dropped the smoking butt onto the ground. He put it out with a stamp of his foot. He shuffled his feet as he retrieved his ticket from his back pocket, and waited for the bus to approach.

When the doors opened, a nervous driver looked out. Martin got on and quickly flashed his ticket, then walked away and swung around the vertical handrail to head upstairs. His baggy trousers made it awkward to walk quickly up the stairs, so he took his time. At this hour the bus was practically empty, but the dishevelled drunk in the first row got a long look at Martin’s exposed underwear, giving a snort of disapproval and a shake of the head.

Martin pulled his hood further down over his eyes as he walked slowly to the back of the bus, stopping and cursing and gripping the seats either side of him every couple of seconds, as the driver took a succession of speedy corners. Finally reaching the back, Martin dropped into the seat, squashing himself into the corner. Slouching down, and resting his feet on the back of the seat in front, he reached his hand into the inside pocket of his jacket.

A smile touched his face as he took out a flat, rectangular device, sleek and black. He pressed the power button, and was instantly immersed into another world – one with wizards and dragons, queens and knights.

Words, words, words. His absent family didn’t even know he could read.

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SWF 4.6 – Character / plot prompt.

Prompt: ‘A woman on a bus today carried her Pekinese dog inside her handbag. It had a red bow on its head that matched her sweater.’


As I fidgeted uncomfortably in my seat, I found my gaze falling upon a dishevelled woman nearer the front of the bus. Staring vacantly out of the window, I hadn’t noticed her get on. She didn’t look much older than 25, but there was a jaded look in her eyes that distracted from her natural beauty.

Her clothing looked expensive, and suggested a sybaritic lifestyle. Not what you usually see on public transport. The state of her clothing, however, suggested she had fallen on hard times of late.

Her red sweater hugged her body too tightly, as if she had recently put on weight. The ends of the sleeves looked soiled and frayed.  A gold foxtail chain – that once may have complimented the sweater – sat uneasily against her pale throat.

Before my eyes could linger too long on the slit up the side of her skirt, my attention was drawn by a slight movement near her feet. Atop a battered Louis Vuitton handbag I noticed a bright bow, the same red as her sweater. It looked out of place on the bag.

The bag shivered once more, and I realised there must be something alive in there. The red bow rose, now evidently not part of the bag, revealing a pair of intelligent eyes in a wide, fluffy face. A Pekingese. It looked lovingly groomed, and its fur lay sleek and flat, in stark contrast to its owners tangles. Its eyes met mine.

‘HI!’. One excited word exploding in my mind. My face dropped, and my hands rushed up to grasp my temples.

The Pekingese whined, penitently, and withdrew its head back into the darkness.

SWF 3.11/12 – New story idea, assignment.

Nuda sat on the grass verge, his bowed head concealed within the hood of his cowl, only his stern mouth and full, braided beard exposed. He watched as the clear stream flowed across the rocks and his submerged boots. His arms rested on his knees, his palms turned skyward before him. The sweet chorus of summer birds filled the glade, and the sun beat down, its rays suffusing through the sparse branches overhead.

As he let out a primal scream, darkness flowed into his aura. His thoughts polluted the air around him, and the grass withered where he sat. The sunlight no longer reached him, and he sat in shadow. His violet eyes shimmered within his hood, like candles in a midnight breeze. The birds fell silent, and all grew still, save the constant running water.

He raised his hands, balling them into violently trembling fists, as if he were trying to shake the breath from the very air. His own breath came in gasps, and his fingernails drew blood from the soft skin of his palms. The darkness surrounding him coalesced into a black orb that writhed around his fists, expanding and shrinking, until it abruptly dissolved into his flesh. Sunlight once more warmed his back, but the birds did not brave breaking the silence.

For the first time, he had taken an innocent life. It was an accident, but nonetheless it felt like a part of him had been lost.

Twisting to punch the soft earth beside him, Nuda cursed his lack of composure. If he let the guilt and fury overcome him, it would less likely unburden his soul than cost another theirs. He knew that his skill in Finesse was a gift – a hard earned gift – but it could be unspeakably dangerous. It had driven many experienced binders insane, and compelled others to commit grievous acts. Taking a lungful of fresh air, Nuda got to his feet, kicking the excess water from his boots. Looking down at the patch of dead earth, he sighed, then strode into the treeline.

SWF 3.6 – Editing practice.

Original The heavy black and blue winter sky groaned awfully with rain clouds that at any moment were really about to fall crashing heavily down upon the street where, because it was rush hour, so many people, wearing all manner of different clothes, hats, shoes, boots, some of them carrying bags, suitcases, briefcases, scampered and strolled about the place as though oblivious to what was just about to happen over their very heads. One of these people was called Hilary and concealed inside her voluminous coat she carried the loaded, snub-nosed gun, and she also seemed to be the only one looking upwards into the tempestuous thundery heavens.



Edited The early morning crowd bustled and rushed, oblivious to the dark, threatening rain clouds overhead. Only Hilary raised her gaze to the heavens, as she nervously fingered the trigger of the snub-nosed pistol concealed within her thick winter coat.

SWF 3.2 – Reviewing and redrafting (of story idea SWF 2.17)

The pilot points me in the direction of the waiting area, where I hope Jenna will be waiting. He wishes me luck, with a light slap on my stiff upper back, and takes his leave. I wait until he turns and walks away before I wince. That ‘light’ slap on the back felt more like a whip from a wet towel, but I wasn’t going to let him see that. He’s been nothing but good to me these last four or so hours.

As my eyes vacantly scan the surroundings, I pick at the inner stitching of the coat, my hands withdrawn into the sleeves. A metallic taste pervades my mouth, as nervous teeth find whatever they can to bite down on. An announcement over the tannoy startles me back to the present. Jenna.

I hesitate. I should be running to my wife, but I’m not. Not that I could in this state. I’ve wiped the dried blood from my face and neck, but can’t do anything to hide the souvenirs of my hellish experience. The gash across my left cheekbone, the variety of cuts, welts and bruises. The split lip, the broken nose and accompanying black eyes. My once well-groomed hair has been shorn off to the scalp… She’s really not going to like that. Everything else is, for now, hidden beneath the two-sizes-too-big-for-me black bomber jacket, and baggy cargo trousers.

I have absolutely no idea how to explain what happened to me over there.

SWF 2.17 – Story idea, radio prompt.

The pilot points me in the direction of the waiting area, where I hope Jenna will be waiting. He wishes me luck, with a light slap on my stiff upper back, and takes his leave. I wait until he turns and walks away before I wince. That ‘light’ slap on the back felt more like a whip from a wet towel, but I wasn’t going to let him see that. He’s been nothing but good to me these last four or so hours.

I hesitate. I should be running to my wife, but I’m not. Not that I could in this state. I’ve wiped the dried blood from my face and neck, but can’t do anything to hide the souvenirs of my hellish experience. The gash across my left cheekbone, the variety of cuts, welts and bruises. The split lip, the broken nose and accompanying black eyes. My once well-groomed hair has been shorn off to the scalp… She’s really not going to like that. Everything else is, for now, hidden beneath the two-sizes-too-big-for-me black bomber jacket, and baggy cargo trousers.

I have absolutely no idea how to explain what happened to me over there.

SWF 2.9 – Character sketch, part 2.

I can see clearly the pained expression on his face, with his furrowed brow and downturned mouth. It seems not to be caused by the pink Peugeot with eye-lashed headlights, that just seconds ago knocked him clear of his wheelchair, but the apparent distress of the driver as she rushes to him, her face distorted in horror.

‘I am so sorry! I didn’t see you. Are you ok?’

‘Don’t fret, my dear’, he says to her, ‘I’m absolutely fine. It’s not very well lit in here, and I’m afraid I’m not that visible in this thing’. He points to the wheelchair, lying at a peculiar angle, but with no evident damage. ‘Maybe some reflectors, or flashing lights, are in order!’

He untangles his legs from beneath him, and throws them down roughly. His trousers lie slack, outlining two skeletal legs and knobbly knees. The material is bunched up on the one leg, revealing a fading tartan sock, and a pale ankle. When he sees me striding over, my eyes on his limp lower limbs, he hurriedly pushes the leg down, a fleeting look of embarrassment on his face. He must think them unsightly.

He turns his attention back to the young lady, who is hovering, mouth agape, waiting for somebody to tell her what she can do to make things right.

‘No need to look so horrified; I’m perfectly fine. I needed to get out of that chair anyway and stretch my legs.’

Another poor joke, but at least he’s trying. It makes me chuckle, but his attempt to inject some humour into the situation looks to only have added to the young lady’s angst. He sees this, and lets out a silent sigh.

A cold, echoing honk reminds us all where we are. Another driver is trying to manoeuvre around us, but the Peugeot is blocking his way. Through the windscreen I can see him gesticulating, oblivious to our current situation. This new variable in the equation threatens to overwhelm the young lady, as she turns her head from the crippled man on the ground, to the incessant honker, and back again.

The man on the ground takes charge.

‘Young lady, I know you have somewhere to be, and I cannot tolerate that noise much longer, so please, just take off. Don’t worry about me. This gentleman will see me right.’

His gaze returns to me. He smiles, his eyes displaying absolute certainty in his words.
After a barrage of profuse apology, barely subdued by her palpable relief, the lady gets back in her car and drives away. The driver behind gives us an apologetic look as he rolls past the scene.

I approach the man on the ground, and upright his wheelchair. He reaches up his hand, and firmly grasps mine. I lift him carefully, thinking him frail, yet when within reach of the chair, he launches himself towards it, and effortlessly lowers into place.

‘Thanks for that, sonny.’ he says, setting his short, salt and pepper hair back into place, with a comb that seems to have materialised from nowhere. He looks about 50, but his wiry frame appears much healthier sitting up than sprawled on the concrete.

‘You’re welcome.’ I’m curious about his knowing look. I can’t imagine why anybody wouldn’t help him in this situation, but the look he gave me seemed to suggest a deeper awareness. I wonder who he is.

Oh! How rude of me; my name is Angus Moss. It’s a pleasure to meet you. And what’s your name, sonny?’

Did he just read my mind?!

‘Erm, nice to meet you, Mr Moss. I’m Robert. Robert Robinson.’

‘Angus, please.’

‘Are you hurt at all? You hit the ground pretty hard.’

‘Just my pride, and a few bruises. I’ve been through much worse’, he winks at me. ‘I’m more concerned about that young lady. What a terrible driver! And what a hideous car! Eyelashes… It’s abominable.’

Ha. I like this guy.

‘I sense a great power in you, Robert. And I sense you have many questions, to which I have answers. How about we discuss it over some food? My treat.’ He sits back in his seat, his head held high, and fingers interlaced on his lap. He has an infectious smile, and kind eyes that never leave mine.

What does he mean, a great power? I feel something, but I don’t feel powerful. And how does he know I have all these questions? What if he is a mind reader? I’m not sure I want somebody sifting through my thoughts. But, my curiosity gets the better of me…

‘OK, I’m up for some food.’