Thursday, 28 May 2009

Just a Doll

I told her to paint her face.  Put on mascara, eye liner, and red lipstick.  Powder your nose.  And wear sexy undies.  I want to tape this, I said.  I built Doc another martini, and we sat in my tiny apartment parlor waiting.  Eventually she came out.  She tottered on her heels.  "I'm just a doll," she said.  "I'm just a doll."  I told her to shut up.  I had had enough of her act.  She had been a pain all evening.  We had gone out to dinner at a nice restaurant.  She had picked at her food.  We stopped at the Waikiki afterward and had a couple of fish-bowl size drinks.  Rum and God knows what else.  When we left, Doc and I were in high spirits.  She didn't say two words all the way home.

When we got back to my apartment, I took her into the bedroom, and we had a little talk.  "Be nice," I said.  Then she started up again, and I got mad.  I barked at her.  She looked at me with big eyes.

Afterward she was in a better mood.  She sat in Doc's lap and played with his tie.  Her brown eyes danced.  Doc sat there with a grin on his face.  I rewound the tape and hit the play button.  I told the girl she ought to get an Academy Award.

Jack Swenson

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Karen Wheatley

Karen Wheatley phoned to say she was pregnant. I was gonna be dad. I was in a panic. I didn’t wanna be a dad. I couldn’t look after myself let alone a baby. There was also the fact that Karen was only seventeen years old. I was two weeks shy of my nineteenth birthday. Karen and me had been going out almost eight months.

Karen said she wanted me to meet her parents. After a month of putting it off I turned up at their house in Streatham. Her mum and dad were sitting on the settee in the living room. Her parents kept staring at me. They looked confused and angry. Karen’s big brother John was built like a brick-shit-house. He was sitting in an armchair across from me. He was smoking a fag and giving me filfthy looks. I was shitting myself.

In a shaky voice I told the Wheatleys that if their daughter decided to have the kid I’d do my best to be a good father. Then in the heat of the moment, with every body watching me, I got carried away. I suggested Karen and me get married. I said we could either do it now, or wait ‘til after the baby, our baby, was born.

Karen’s dad stood up and paced the room. Karen’s mum put a protective arm around her daughter.

I understand what you’re saying Danny, but as far as we’re concerned, Karen’s far too young to have a baby, said Mr Wheatley.
Anyway she ain’t marrying a little prick like you, Karen’s brother broke in.

He stubbed out his cigarette, folded his arms and glared at me. 

Now there’s no need to talk to the boy like that, said Mr Wheatley. 

Karen’s mum went to the kitchen and came back with a pot of tea and some custard- creams. I didn’t feel like drinking tea or eating biscuits. I was still thinking about what Karen’s Brother had said.

After fifteen minutes I got up to leave. Karen walked me to the front door. So that was it. There wasn’t gonna be a kid after all. Karen gave me the address of the clinic where she was going to have the abortion. The whole thing was making me feel ill. Karen held my hand and half jokingly mentioned eloping. I shrugged as if to say it wasn’t realistic. Anyway I worked as a cleaner. I hovered offices. In truth, I knew I couldn’t support a teenage girl and a baby. I hugged Karen and she started to cry. I did too. Then I left.      

By Michael Ford
(Michael has also written stories for Straight No Chaser, Jazz Magazine, 3am Magazine, Pulp Faction and Nuvien Magazine.)

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

When Stars Fall

I ran because I didn’t know what else to do. 

I ran because I could hear them yelling in the living room, shouting about this, that or the other, screaming about such and such, fighting over nothing in particular. I ran because it hurt when they fought, because the knot in my stomach twisted tighter and tighter with each hateful word, because Mother and Father didn't really care if I ran, so I was going to run.

I ran out the back door and into the night, where the warm breeze fluttered through my hair, where the tall grass swished through my bare feet, where the words of my mother --"Look, John, now you've gone and made him do it again..."-- faded away and I was left alone with my thoughts. Past the picket fence, down the long dirt driveway and up the hill with the willow at the top I ran. The willow whispered to me as I desperately climbed its branches, whispered how it understood and that no matter what happened, it would never, ever yell at me or hurt me. Never.


I climb to the top and the stars shimmer to greet me. The stars are brighter out in the country, where I live, where my parents fight. Mother used to tell me they were the tears that Jesus shed when He knew how much we were going to abuse His Creation. How much we were going to sin. And every time you see a shooting star, He's crying again.


I'm too old for most stories, but I will never be too old for that one. Because every time I see a shooting star, I think of a time when they fought, and how much it hurts, and I wonder how many tears He's going to have to shed before Mom and Dad don't fight anymore.

I shiver, but not because of the cold. It's such a wonderful night, and not to be wasted at the house. The breeze and the willow sing me a song, but I can't hear the words. The melody drifts around me, it wraps me in its arms, it speaks of peace and love and truth and joy...I listen until my eyes close and my arm droops lazily over an outcropping limb.

"Gabriel! Gabriel!"

I open my eyes and look down to see my father standing at the bottom. His face is warm and his eyes are kind, and I can see that the fighting is over for tonight. I climb down and let him hug me and tell me how everything is fine now and that they won't fight ever again, but I know that they're going to do the same thing in a week or so.

I smile and say "Yes, Dad" and let him lead me home. On our way down the hill, I look up at the sky and see a star shimmer across the horizon. My dad points to it.

"Look, Gabriel, a shooting star!"

I look up, and then down as a tear of my own drops to the ground and is soaked up by the understanding earth.

And no matter how many light years apart we are, I know He understands.

Lost In Translation

We set out for a nighttime stroll along the lake. The breeze, uncharacteristically warm for November, ruffles through the trees. "I wish we could go out on a boat tonight", I say, glancing at the empty boat docks. "I wish someone would buy us a drink", she says, glancing at all the couples walking past. 

Strolling past the massive ship housing the yacht club, we reach the bench at the edge of the dock. Looking out across the lake, with the city behind us, we talk about everything and nothing. What we want from life, what we will someday name our kids, who we will marry, where we will live.

Hours later, a cooler breeze wraps itself around the dock. Shivering, we call it a night and start the walk back towards the city.

Suddenly, a voice cuts through the stillness. "Girls, hey girls!". A man looks down at us from the deck of the yacht club. "Girls, why don't you come on up for a drink?". Not the types to turn down adventure (or a free drink), we look at each other, shrug, and head towards the ship entrance.

We manoeuvre our way up to the deck, feeling like we are in a more modern and smaller budgeted re-make of the titanic, complete with a grand entrance hall and winding staircases. We are met by the gentleman (Harry) and quickly realize that he is most definitely old enough to be our grandfather. We politely decline his repeated offer for free drinks but accept his invitation to tour the boat. 

Harry asks us where we are originally from and is overly delighted when the answer is Russia. With a wistful look in his eyes and speech not slightly slurred by alcohol, he says "I met a Russian girl, Ludmila, on the internet once". Ten minutes later, we are acquainted with all the dramatic details of the online union and its sad conclusion (Ludmila is now dating a German man). Fifteen minutes after that, when he has asked us the same questions three times and begins to ramble about Ludmila again, we decide that alcohol is the only thing that will get us through another five minutes and take Harry up on his offer to buy us a drink.

An hour and two Stellas later, we walk off the ship. "Well, at least we went on a ship", I say. We walk in silence for a minute, then she says "Perhaps I should have clarified. I would like a young, handsome man to buy us a drink".

Universe, take note.

 By Anahit Gomtsian

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Watching the play from backstage

The ability to read minds is nowhere near as cool as it sounds.

Growing up I was an intelligent kid but as surly as all get up. I had my reasons. Imagine living every day of your life with a mild headache. Sounds do-able I know, but I'm talking ceaseless day and night fuzzy pain for 13 relentless years.

I was 13 years old when I first realised that I was the only one who was hearing the hum of other people's thoughts. 13 years to figure out what that hum was and that it was unusual.

Everything changed there and then. It was as if I'd been listening to white noise for all of my life, like there was a radio on in the background somewhere, and then suddenly a 'transmission' came through.

I don't know whether I accidently 'tuned in' or whether it was due to the strength of the thoughts, but one particularly nasty playground fight later and the floodgates were open.

Now every conversation is like a movie whose plot has been ruined for me. It's like I'm watching a film that I've never seen before but nonetheless I am, for some reason, watching it with director's commentary turned on - getting all the background trivia at the expense of the content.

Sorry about all the movie analogies but I really don't tend to do much else with my spare time than go to the cinema. Peace and quiet for me is watching a generic action movie - high octane, low plot density. Something to make everyone around me shift their minds into neutral.

I'm not really able to talk to many people about what I can do because it tends to make them start thinking about what they are thinking about, which can be absolutely deafening, not to mention tedious. Plus, people who know generally don't like to hang around me too much. Can't really blame them.

The few people who know and stick around nonetheless sometimes ask why I don't become a detective or something, and use my powers for the greater good. I figure, why should I?

Do you have any idea how depressing it is listening to the thoughts of so-called normal people? I really don't want to spend my life in the company of criminals, psychos and the all the poor bastards who spend their working life staring into that particular abyss.

So instead I teach little kids. Their minds may be loud and annoying and juvenile but the beauty of these guys is how closely what they say resembles what they think.

Because that's the thing I can't stand. Imagine if you immediately knew without a doubt every time someone lied to you. Do you even realise how often people lie? 'It's so nice to see you', 'Sorry mate, no change today', 'There's absolutely nothing to worry about', 'I love you'. Day after day after day.

What I wouldn't give for a little blissful ignorance.

By Mark Clarke

(Read all Mark's stories at

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


It was a paper box that could have held a new router or portable clock radio. There was a wall of these boxes all the same size as if one size fits all: a sumo wrestler or ballerina. On the cover of his box was an envelope addressed to the Memorial Company (Levitt-Weinstein) and the Certificate of Cremation for Tamma, done up like a prize. Inside the envelope another card Permit No. 422 signed by the Crematory.

He didn’t want to open the box and didn’t want to deal with the contents until he had thought it through but then it was Tamma and he could imagine her saying: “what the hell is your problem…do this now I’m not staying on the floor in your shitty filthy car. Put me in the ocean.”

So he thought about where. Was there a board walk so the ashes wouldn’t blow back on the beach? Did it matter? Were there rules about this stuff? Should he wait until it was dark? Say a special prayer.

He ended up on the beach in Delray by a restaurant called Luna Rosa because she loved to go there and they had spent most of their Florida time in Delray. It was raining now and so he just grabbed the box and dashed to the water and sat down on the sand and opened the box. He pulled out the clear heavy plastic bag and dropped it in the sand between his legs.

The stuff inside (Tamma stuff) looked just like the sand but not as fine. It didn’t look like ashes.

And then there was this plastic brad holding the bag together that clearly required a tool to safely remove. He could imagine a frustrated mourner just heaving the bag directly in the water or tearing the bag and having the ashes blow everywhere. So he worked the tab up the bag using his fingers like a needle nose pliers and somehow got it off.

He put his hand in the bag and let the ashes fall through his fingers. Inside the bag was a metal coin stamped ABCO Crematory 30336. With the bag open he walked into the ocean up to about his waste. He forgot his wallet was still in his jeans. He let the ashes fall into kind of a milky cover like creamer in your coffee.

He was alone with her.

She was not drunk.

No rabbi, no body in a box, no family.

Only one mourner.


Richard Schwachter

Sunday, 23 November 2008


The bright yellow candle flame flickered in its place, casting feeble rays if warmth upon the dirty walls of the underground cave, luminating the musty dust particles in the air… My heart palpitated in anxiety as seconds passed with mounting fear. Tom had never been this long out before.

Three years. Three long bitter years had I not stepped out of this cavern once, fearing that if I were to be seen by the dreaded Kempeitais, never will I ever have the chance to live the day, to feel the warmth of the bright sunlight wash over my face again.

War had turned our once beautiful and peaceful homeland into a battlefield, strewn with debris and corpses. The fighting had torn families apart and mine was of no exception. A happy family of four that had lived quietly in a small hut in Jurong was now forced to abandoned their home and hide for survival. My son, a brave fourteen-year-old child, was sacrificed in his bid to save the rest of the family. When the Japanese police had tried to capture us, he caused a diversion to go after him instead, a memory that always manages to bring heart-wrenching tears to my eyes.

Fidgeting nervously in my seat, my mind was forced to race through all the possible theories that could have held up my husband, each more dreadful and daunting than the last. He had tried to sneak out and gather food before, but never taking as long as this before.

“Mummy… where is daddy? I wonder what took him so long…” enquired my fifteen-year-old daughter, Sarah. Her face was a picture of worry against the dimly lit walls. I paused in my thoughts and told myself to relax. It seemed crucial to not stir up the fear that was slowly crawling into our hearts.

Just then, as if in response, a loud crunching sound was heard. Tom appeared in the doorway, clutching his ribs in apparent pain. Such a powerful wave of relief had swept though me that, for a moment, I felt light-headed. Without further ado, Sarah and I rushed forward to his aid.

My eyes widened and my jaw dropped at a better look at Tom. The warm glow that had flared inside me at the relief of his return was extinguished as something icy flooded the pit of my stomach. Tom was puckered up in pain and his face was drained of all colour. There was a gaping puncture wound at his sides and blood was trickling down fast, leaving a trail of bloody footprints and a dark pool where he rested. A little cry of horror slipped through Sarah before she could stop herself at the sight of her father. Tom collapsed into my arms. Warm blood seeped into my clothing.

“Honey… I’m so glad I could make it back… to see you again. The Japanese soldiers are fighting a losing battle. The war is won… we don’t have to … hide anymore… I’m sorry… I don’t think I have … much time… left…” Tom murmured. Streams of tears started to pour from my eyes. I had imagined this scenario, yet I was not prepared for the molten wave of dread and panic that seemed to burst through my stomach at the sound of the growing weak rasp of his voice.

With the last ounce of strength he possessed, Tom whispered into my ears “Live… well… ”

A feeling of emptiness gripped my heart as his hand slipped from my embrace...
Eyes blurred with tears, I understood perfectly. It was time to let go.

By Kathy Kitty

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Bus Stop

bus stopping Its hard to look at the face of our better halves when they are not lying next to us as we wake up, when they are not there just yet. I feel strapped to my bed, unable to start up. Unreasonably tired after heavy idleness. Sometimes one finds it in himself to – shit! I’m late for work! Spring out of bed and go straight to the bathroom. Quick shower, quick shave, quick breakfast and quick brush. Run towards the bus before I – too late. See it passing by the other side of zebra. Next one will be here in five. No problem. I can relax now and light a one up, by the time I am done the bus will be here. I can never be bothered with music lately, too much of a headache in the mornings. Should probably get that checked out by a doctor. Can’t wait till four o’clock. It is far too early now, and I’m still going to be thirty minutes late, I’ve been going to work thirty minutes late for the last week or so.

A man comes to wait for the bus by my side, and I start hearing an intermittent buzz. He looks oddly similar to my father. He moves quickly to the other side of the road and then I swear that he tries to tell me something. The sound gets higher, must be some construction site behind me. My cigarette is half done, I look back up at the man and he is gone. But from his general direction comes a girl shouting out what might be my name, cannot hear over the annoying noise. It’s my girlfriend, with the gym bag under her arm; she crosses the street quite quickly and hands it to me. I try to speak to her over the noise of the machines “You, know, you didn’t have to come all the way here,” I have to end up screaming, “I can take care of these things myself, I don’t need to be cared after, I don’t need a mother.” Then she smiles that smile that I love so much and gives me a kiss, then she tries to unbuckle my pants but I shove her to the road the bus runs her over and I wake up, sweating, letting out a bland scream.
By Alonso H. Garrigues Muñoz
Comment from author:
'I'm a 21 year old Spaniard (though fluent in English) just now starting to publish my stories on the internet, I wrote this little 393 word story and just thought this site would be be great.'

Thursday, 30 October 2008

New story: "The Lake" - just in time for Halloween...

lake on Halloween night It's getting closer and there's nothing he can do about it. He can hear it out there in the dark, snuffling and shuffling ever closer. He looks down at the wadded cloth that he has pressed to his side, now completely crimson-soaked. Thinking about it makes it somehow worse and his head starts to swim.

'No time for that now' he growls quietly and pulls himself to his feet with considerable effort. He wonders for a moment why he's even bothering to run, what he could possibly have left to live for after tonight. Worry about it later, he thinks with bleak pragmatism, survive now.

From across the lake lights shine and shimmer their way across the breeze-rippled water - dazzling outstretched fingers of civilisation. His nerves fire protests through his body as he lurches forward as stealthily as he can. Stumbling almost immediately, he feels something rip beneath the wadded cloth and an unwelcome sticky warmth spreads quickly across his finger tips.

A sharp gurgling sniff sounds out nearby followed by a silence that roars in the man's ears. For a moment there is no sound. Anywhere. He holds his breath wishing he could hear that rattling wheeze, place its position. Far off a child's cry skips weakly across the tranquil lake and fades away.

He stumbles on with a queasy lethargy imposing itself more and more upon his panicked state of mind. He's haemorrhaged beyond the point of caring and crashes toward the water's edge with a clumsy primal need, stumbling his snapping way through the noisy undergrowth. He ignores the low growl of the predator padding softly after.

Splashing into the shallows of the lake he stares with unfocussed eyes at the yellow warmth of the lake houses - so frustratingly close. He falls to his knees and lets his head loll back until the clear night starlight fills his tear-choked eyes. There's a delicate splish behind him announcing the predator's arrival.

His head rolls forward in despairing resignation until he sees salvation. A row boat is drifting in the lake not ten metres away. He has no time to think it through, no inclination even. He sees a chance to survive and without further thought leaps to his feet, fighting through the water to reach the boat.

The predator, reacts to this sudden movement with practiced and ruthless efficiency. Simply instinct.

A sudden, snarling flurry of splashing activity is heard and a man starts upright in his row boat.

'What was that?' he asks.

'What was what? Oh it could have been anything, Alan.' his companion replies shortly buttoning her blouse, 'Come on, let's get back, it's getting cold out.'

'Ok,' Alan replies and sets his oars before stopping a moment. A short way away he sees a figure dragging something from the lake back into the darkness of the midnight forest.

'Now Alan,' snaps the woman, trembling.

Alan shakes the sight from his thoughts and turns his head toward the warm yellow lights of home.

By Mark Clarke

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Request for autumn/winter 2008 short story submissions

Shortfolio is currently looking for more 500-word short stories, following some amazing submissions over the summer.

So if you've got a short story hidden on your hard drive or floating around in the dark recesses of your mind, now's the time to send something in. Just email it to

Happy writing...

A friendly conclusion

For those of you who have read A Friendly Rendezvous and Friendly Drinks by Mark Clarke, you can read the slightly lengthier short story that ties it the two together, A Friendly Conclusion.

Let's hope it all ends amicably...

Email from the author: Weighing in at close to a whopping 2,700 words, the conclusion to the 'Friendly' trilogy is more than five times the size of its forebears. Indulgent editing by Mr Clarke, or a necessity in terms of tying up all of the convoluted plot lines? Only one way to find out... Let me know what y'all think.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

A Close Encounter

train frontThe Sidhar sat preening his elaborate moustache, staring out of the window in deep contemplation; his stature and girth took up most of the compartment. Perhaps he’s fifty five, I mused, though as strong as a bullock. He was a Sikh - a green turban and an officer’s insignia - probably of Pathan descent, those that vanquished the British and later repelled the Russians.

Suddenly he turned, ‘what country sir?’
'Ar British, good. I’m an officer in the Indian army. How do you like our India?’ He hardly gave you the chance to utter more than a few syllables before he started up again. Just then V, my travel partner, returned; quite a tall girl. His eyes shot out as he scanned her lithe torso, then addressing me, ‘she’s your wife?’
‘Yes,’ I acquiesced, unconvincingly; we kept up this charade in India.

Touching his moustache his eyes tracked V’s respiratory movements; V put on her dark glasses. His wife and teenage daughter entered the compartment, attired in colorful saris and dupatas. They began to fluster over their luggage. The officer lurched forward, dominating the frame, speaking confidentially, ‘we must look after the ladies, no pranks sir. I am just along the way with my fellows. If you’d care for a tot of whiskey …’

‘It’s only eleven,’ I managed to put in. With that he stood, stony faced, as if I’d insulted his honor. I noticed his short sword, a relic of Sikh gallantry.
Lord, he thinks he’s back in the Raj, I thought.

It was an Ac compartment, 3 tiers. We relaxed, lunch was served and we ordered an extra 300grammes of curd. V placed the curd on the upper bunk. We ate, and V went to wash up. The ladies reclined on their adjacent bunks, mother pulled her dupata over her head, for modesty’s sake, and they both snoozed.

I thought I’d take a nap myself. What combination of cognitive thought processes led me to commit such an act, I have as yet failed to deduce, though in future I will endeavor to be more considerate whilst in possession of viscous liquids on Indian railways. Placing one hand on the rail, I made an athletic leap onto the upper bunk.

The plastic bag of curd went, ‘bang!’ The curd shot up the wall, and spewed whey through the air like shrapnel. Quickly I took off my T shirt and mopped the bunk and wall. I then turned and looked below – horror of horrors – beloved daughter and mother, splattered with specks of curd. The Indian mutiny - Pathan tribes men charging into battle - stark images dashed before my eyes.

V returned, and we went into muffled peels of childlike laughter. Thankfully, the 2 ladies lay sound asleep; one strand of the girl’s fringe coated thick with curd. V saved the day, tentatively cleaning the ladies up as they moaned, and so enabling my head to remain intact.

By Steve Jones

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Dawn and dusk

Sun risingShe had always loved getting up this early in the day. Before sunrise the world always seemed so different and so very, very quiet, like it was waiting for something to happen. She hardly ever felt sleepy at all when she got up this early. Preparing for a journey at this time always seemed to instil a hushed, business-like sense of purpose in people.

She knew that she wasn't meant to be excited but it just all seemed so much like an adventure. More so than it would have done had they all woken up at the right time of the morning.

'Did you remember to get your toothbrush, sweetheart?' her father asked her quietly, crouching down to her level in front of her to make sure of her attention. She nodded quickly.

The hushed voice that everyone put on at this time of day was another thing she liked about the time before sunrise. Everyone in the house was awake and busy gathering their things and yet they all moved carefully and hummed quiet conversation at each other only when necessary. It was as if they were already at grampa's bedside, afraid to disturb him.

'Good girl' her father said, absently touching her cheek, 'now don't forget to bring Claudia with you, it's going to be a long car ride.'

'Ok Daddy' she said quickly and ran back up the stairs to fetch her doll from beside the bed where Claudia had fallen after her father had woken her up. His voice had been all tired and sad. She hoped that they would start travelling before the sun came up. She always loved to watch the sun come up and she always saw it best from the car.

As she carefully made her way back down the stairs, step by step, with Claudia, she was delighted to see that they were already getting into the car. They'd be on the road in plenty of time for sunrise.

'Are you ready sweetheart?' her father asked reaching to pick her up.

'Daddy, are we going to going to see Grampa?' she asked wrapping her arms around his neck. Her father sighed slightly and hugged her.

'Yes sweetheart,' he said even more quietly than before, 'we're going to see Grandpa.'

By Mark Clarke

Sunday, 7 September 2008

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Thursday, 4 September 2008

90 degrees north

polar horizonMy love affairs were starting to get out of hand. My love affairs, and my drinking. There was nothing for it but to run away to the North Pole.

Johansen and I surveyed the endless icy wastes. That was our job now. All the same, we often found ourselves overwhelmed with emotion. We would sit on our snowmobiles and weep at the immense, impossible snowy beauty of it all.

“Have some coffee”, Johansen said, handing me the flask, “it has brandy in it. Like always.”

He had left behind a wife and a six-month-old baby girl to come here, to the end of the world. The money was good and they were planning, eventually, to buy a house back in Sweden.

Dr Kristina Gjenistad stalked the corridors of Ice Station B. In her native Norway she was an Olympic cross country skier, a swimmer, a runner of marathons and ultra-marathons. Ice-bound now for six months of the year, her smooth, muscular thighs still strained to escape the limitations of her tight regulation uniform and carry her, stotting like a gazelle, off across the sea-ice.

I was a little bit obsessed with Dr Kristina Gjenistad. I wanted to make love to her on an ice floe while the aurora borealis crackled and whooped over our heads. I invented excuses to go to the clinic to see her.

“My hand’s a bit sore today”, I’d say, or “I’ve hurt my ankle”, or “do you need any more medical supplies?”

Unfortunately she’d seen my kind coming a mile off all her life and would have nothing whatsoever to do with me. She recommended aspirin, hot baths, and keeping off the affected limb. I argued that these things were of little use in cases of unrequited love, but she remained unimpressed.

Polar bears were reported. We posted a twenty-four hour armed guard. First thing every morning it was my job to go out and clear the rime that had gathered on the anemometers.

Through the dark months of February and March we played cards and drank and outside the wind screamed by at one hundred and fifty miles an hour in the interminable polar night. The temptation, sometimes, to just step outside and surrender oneself to the elements was acknowledged. We watched each other for the telltale signs and waited for the spring.

There were talks on scientific subjects, animal husbandry, literature. We discussed “The Arctic as Metaphor”. The Scandinavians used their block vote and the motion was defeated.

“I don’t know what we’re supposed to be doing here anymore,” said Johansen, as we watched the watery sun come up for the first time in three months. I took that as my cue to leave.

When I got back to England I wrote a book about my adventures and became moderately rich and famous. Your applause makes me feel better about myself, for a while.

It’s said the Inuit have no word for “memory”, but I saw nothing much to convince me either way.

By Owen Booth

Read Owen's other Shortfolio story - And then...