"Good writing, for me, usually comes from groping around in the dark." J. Robert Lennon
Extracts
A song for the king

A song for the king

It was exactly as he’d always envisioned palaces to be. Supported by columns, paintings and statues in every room, animal skins draped over sofas, gold doorknockers, a ceiling too high to touch. And more than that, it was people. So many people, striding down corridors. This way and that, attending to affairs or looking to...
Reality check

Reality check

She registered his shadow, a passing cloud bringing inclement weather. “Clare?” She was not even sure she heard her name, but she watched his mouth form the shape. The stereo was turned up loud, his voice lost in drums and double bass. He ducked his face to hers, kissed her on the forehead, then crossed...
Filthy treasures at Flower Island

Filthy treasures at Flower Island

Bugeye heard indistinct chatter around him in his sleep, but decided to stay curled up and ignore it. “Wake up, honey,” his mother said, pulling the blanket off him. “It’s time to go to work.” She shook Bugeye, who managed to sit up but still had his eyes closed, and then stood him up by...
The house by the woods

The house by the woods

It is a few minutes past one in the morning when the front door slams shut. Anyone remaining in the house – but there is no one – would be able to hear, through the closed door, the footsteps of three people hurrying across the porch and down the stairs. There are voices, too –...
Forever girl

Forever girl

6:54 at night, Tuesday, September 7th The plastic electronic baby won’t stop crying. My Forever Parents said it’s supposed to be like a real baby but it isn’t. I can’t make it happy. Even when I rock it. Even when I change its diaper and give it a bottle. When I say ush, ush, ush...
Immortality

Immortality

The sentence he was writing as he hovered over his keyboard, staring at the screen, pursuing the pulsing vertical of the cursor as it left in its wake a new letter, then word, punctuation, space, till the final full-stop, gave Stephen Osmer such an access of pleasure that he died. He skipped off his seat...
The river of tears

The river of tears

The doors closed again. Matteo found himself looking over a huge open expanse. He was standing on a plain covered in black grass. It looked like those fields that Tuscan farmers burn in summer to fertilise them. Nothing else was growing as far as the eye could see except for that short grass, black and...
A selective objective

A selective objective

This year’s shortlist for the 2017 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award – open to any novelist or short-story writer published in the UK, and at £30,000 the richest prize in the world for short fiction – includes three women and three men, four American writers, one British and one Irish author. The US writers...
Pioneers Awake!

Pioneers Awake!

The Director had been pulling strings to get his nephews Mfoumbou Ngoulmoumako, Bissoulou Ngoulmoumako and Dongo-Dongo Ngoulmoumako onto an ideological training course in Pointe-Noire so they could later become section leaders of the National Movement of Pioneers for our orphanage. They still remained under the control of their paternal uncle and particularly under that of...
For Hekate

For Hekate

She wakes to the sound of axes. All through the forest around her, sharp over the howling of the wind. The sunshunted by sea-blown spray. Hekate unceasing, and the wind still hot, with no cloud, air warped and darkened. Her grandfather struggling to rise higher. The Minyae building on the shore, wearing very little and...