The Banquet – A Short Story

1*I9Lcmmr_qd8yZy4eySSIBgAs the bright white light faded, Tom saw the strange hippy in front of him. The aged gentleman smiled at him running his fingers through his long beard.

‘Welcome traveller,’ he said.

Tom swallowed and replied, ‘where the hell am I?’

‘You, my friend are at the gateway. The place where it is decided if you are going up or down.’

‘Are you God?’ Tom muttered.

‘Me no. I am his understudy, God is far too busy to man the gates. I dress like this well because it seems to be what people expect. I would far rather be in my jeans and hoodie. You can call me Bob.’ The hippy said, offering Tom a handshake.

‘Bob?’ Tom was hoping he would wake from this dream soon.

‘You’re not dreaming my friend,’ Bob replied. ‘Yes that’s correct I read minds. Now let me see your tally.’

Bob held up a clipboard and started studying it, running his fingers down the list.

‘Um worked in a hospital as a nurse,’ Bob said with a smile. ‘Oh had an affair at 45,’ This time Bob raised his eyebrows in Tom’s direction.

‘I can explain,’ Tom stuttered.

‘No need the decision has been made, no explanations are needed. You, my friend, are going upstairs, congratulations.’

With this, a step ladder appeared in front of Tom. He frowned, a step ladder was not what was written in the books. Where was his stairway to heaven?

‘Yes sorry about that,’ Bob replied. ‘We had a load of politicians up over the last couple of years. They have persuaded God to privatise the stairway, it is only for VIP guests now. You get the step ladder.’

Tom took a deep breath, he had been wanting to ask something since arriving here. ‘What is hell, like?’

‘Well I don’t normally do this, but I feel sorry for you with all the step ladder business. Do you want to have a quick peek down below to see what it is like? Only for five minutes though and you have to come back when I call you, or you will be stuck there.’

‘Yes please,’ Tom didn’t even hesitate.

With that, Bob tapped the step ladder and the steps reversed. Tom took a deep breath and stepped on the first rung. Tom descended the steps. He reached the bottom step and emerged into a huge hall. In the centre was the biggest banquet table Tom had ever seen. The room was dark but he could still see all the beautiful food piled high on the table. As far as you could see there was food of all descriptions.

Tom thought it this was hell, then how good would heaven be? At that moment Tom saw the people all seated around the table. Every one of them had arms without elbows to bend. The arms stuck straight out from their shoulders. This was when Tom noticed the arms were so stiff they couldn’t reach their mouths with any of the food. They threw the food up in the air, but they never caught it. They tried to roll the food down their arms, but it never made their mouths. These people were starving to death even though they were surrounded by food.

Jim shuddered right at that moment he heard Bob’s voice calling him back and the step ladder reappeared. Tom ascended the ladder. He stopped to thank Bob, before continuing on his journey.

As Tom emerged into another massive hall, this one was lighter than before. The same huge banquet tables stretched from one side to the other. The same food was piled high. Tom looked at the people around the table and noticed that they too had no elbows. Looking down at his own arms he saw his elbows had vanished and he shuddered.

Finally, Tom saw the people sat around the table were laughing and looked far from starving. That is when he noticed that they were feeding each other. Everyone was using their non-bending arms to feed the person opposite them.

For the second time that day Tom saw the light, understanding life completely.


Parts of this story are based on an old Chinese allegory called The Allegory of the Long Spoons. I have taken the liberty of changing some parts but the essence is still there. I hope you enjoyed my interpretation.

Prisoner Pickings – A Short Story

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Jim sat on the Thailand beach letting the sun warm his bones. Getting into the country had been easy. The fake passport had worked, with not even a second look.

Someone was unloading beer barrels behind him. As metal banged against metal the noise took Jim back. Back to the horrendous first night, he had spent in prison.

Five years ago to the day, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for a murder he didn’t commit. He had been taken straight to Rochester, one of the countries oldest prisons. He was placed in a tiny cell for two on C wing. C wing handled all the long-term inmates. Jim was housed with all the murderers, rapists and career criminals.

The first week had been the worse. The more Jim tried to keep a low profile the more he stood out. It was almost as if the experienced prisoners were sniffing out fresh meat. The first month he went to the medical wing six times with various injuries.

Over the years he learnt to be smarter, to move away from trouble. To sense the landings where trouble was waiting for him. He chose his friends to minimise the beatings.

The person he enjoyed spending time with the most was Dr Matthews. His frequent visits to medical meant they spent many hours together chatting. The first couple of years it was everyday talk about football, films and books. As the years progressed Dr Matthews started asking about his case. When he said he was innocent the Doctor believed him. Everyone in prison was innocent it was a relief to be believed. The other inmates laughed at him when he proclaimed his innocence.

Almost 5 years into his sentence he got in the middle of a particularly nasty fight. He knew straight away when he felt pain in his side, that he had been stabbed.

Fifteen minutes later he was sat on Dr Matthews table being stitched back together. Placing iodine over the wound Dr Matthews stitched him up. As the Doctor put in the last stitch a nurse came in asking for urgent help to sedate another inmate. Left with his thoughts Jim saw the spare tweezers glinting on the side. Picking them up he placed them carefully, where no one would find them.

When Dr Matthews came back Jim held his breath to see if the missing tweezers were noticed. Ten minutes later he was back in his cell. Thirty minutes after that Jim got his second piece of good luck. His cellmate was too ill to be transferred back to the cell. Jim left it five hours before he removed the tweezers and started picking the lock. His father had taught him to pick locks when he was a boy, it surprised him how easy it came back to him.

Within five minutes Jim felt the familiar click and the door swung in. Crawling out Jim pulled the door too. He then crept down the corridor. He followed the route he had memorised, avoiding the creaking parts.

He managed to get through the next door without incident. The guard was on his rounds at the opposite side of the building as Jim had calculated. He was almost through the courtyard and at the goods gate when he saw the guard. As the guard emerged in front of him Jim hoped it was true about good luck coming in threes. He chanced his last piece of luck. Turning the tweezers round in his hand, he came up behind the guard. He pressed the tweezer handle into the guard’s neck.

Jim hissed, “open the fucking gate, don’t make a sound or I will split you from ear to ear.”

The guard didn’t get paid enough to be a hero he complied immediately and the two of them walked out the gate. Locking it behind them.

One mile away from the prison Jim committed his first real crime. Hitting the guard on the back of the head he left him unconscious but, safe.

The rest of the escape was easy. Jim stayed away from populated areas, living in barns and sheds. Two weeks after the escape a tramp jumped onto the Eurostar at Ebbsfleet. When the train stopped in Paris a smart clean-shaven businessman got off. Then straight onto a plane, landing several hours later in Bangkok. A short local flight brought Jim to this quiet Thailand beach.

He sat smiling at how free he felt. Caught up in the moment he never saw Dr Matthews walking up behind him. He jumped as he felt the pressure on his neck and then relaxed.

“ Told you it would work, didn’t I?” She giggled into his ear.

He turned around and for the first time in five years, Jim kissed Dr Matthews.

Kaleidoscope of Memories – A Short Story


Taking a deep breath Alice knew it was now or never. She had been putting it off too long, it was time to clear the shed. Armed with 5 black bags and one box for stuff to keep, she made her way down the garden.

Opening the door a wave of nostalgia engulfed her. No, not now. She wouldn’t let her emotions get the better of her. Taking a deep breath it was time to face her memories.

After two hours things were going better than expected. Four full black bags lay around her. Alice sat on the floor, dust-covered her hands.

One more drawer to go. Pulling it, the oak drawer seemed to hesitate before giving up its treasures. “The painting stuff, well, compared to some of the stuff this would be easy,” she thought.

Alice had managed a full two hours without crying. His gardening gloves had undone her but she had stuffed the sob back down.

She had thrown most of the painting stuff away when she reached down for the paint roller. It sparkled in the sunlight, it was so white. He was always so careful to clean the rollers after use. Just as she was about to throw it in the bag she saw the kaleidoscope of colour on the handle. Bringing the roller to her she looked down at it.

Red the colour they had painted the lounge. She chuckled to herself at the memory, the tears broke down her face.

Green the colour of the kitchen. It was the only colour that they could agree on in the shop. She had been cooking Lemon Meringue to surprise her mum. She never thought about checking the blender was together before she hit the on button. Lemon and sugar shot out from the bottom covering everything in a sticky mess. The only way to sort the kitchen was a quick repaint. How he had rushed to do the job and stop her crying. He did a good job too her mother never found out what a failed cook she was.

She spotted the yellow by the head of the roller and sobbed. Yellow the colour he had painted the nursery to surprise the expectant mum. The pride on his face. When he proudly revealed his work.

Alice sat and sobbed, what remained of her resolve crumbled. Why, why had someone taken this amazing strong man from her. Why, why had he been the statistic that didn’t survive cancer. All those things she thought she had time to say but hadn’t. She should have told him how much she loved him. How much she measured her life by making him happy.

The pain was too much, radiating from her heart like a burning hole. She picked the paint roller up and threw it in the black bag as she launched herself out of the shed. Her vision clouded as she tried to lock the shed door. Tears streaming, she turned from the shed.

’Happy Father’s Day, Dad, ’ she sobbed.


Fish Fear Me – A Short Story

Mark sat by the lake in peace and tranquillity breathing in the sweet smell of cut grass, he sat and watched the fishing hook below the surface. The float bobbing around the lake waiting with anticipation of his first big catch of the day. He had arrived early. Threading his fishing hook with great precision. He dropped the test float to judge the depth of the water. Putting the bait on his hook and flicking his wrist it dropped into the water.

Mark had been working all week at the factory so the quiet of the lake was a welcome relief from the constant noise. Mark was a big guy used to manual work who could sit for hours waiting for the float to drop. He had rough hands that were full of scars. This was not evident when he gently remove the hook from the fishes mouth. He sat mesmerised watching the line under the water and the fishing hook looking for its target. The only movement by the lake was the gentle bobbing of the float.

The float bobbed down for the third time that day. Mark reached for the rod waiting to flick the end, hooking the fish. As he moved, the fish went off in the opposite direction. The beautiful large body of the carp, swam past Mark almost as if it was taunting him. Mark had been trying to catch this fish for the last three hours. He had changed his bait and his fishing hook nothing was working. At least Mark presumed that this was the same fish. In his head, it was a battle between man and animal.

Again the fish came back dangling its mouth over the hook. Mark was completely engaged, nothing else was happening around him. He was going to catch this one, he didn’t care whether he was late home. He was going to catch this prey before the day was over. He still had several hours of light before he needed to return home.

Mark was so engrossed in catching the fish he failed to notice what was happening around him. It was only when he heard the noise behind him that he was brought back into the present. This was not a normal noise of the country. This was a strange unfamiliar noise like nothing he had ever heard before. The prickling sensation started on the base of his neck. He turned to see what was or who was sneaking up behind him. It was getting dark and there was something lurking in the shadows.

He could use the rod as a weapon. If he was lucky he might even be able to flick the hook and do damage. Hit the intruder to give himself enough time to run to his car.

Mark moved his hand down to his fishing rod feeling the weight of it in his hand. He was glad he had opted for his old wooden rod, rather than the new lighter one. Gripping it tightly he was ready to face whatever foe was coming towards him.

A cloaked man emerged from the bushes and smiled in Mark’s direction. Mark thought he recognised the face, but couldn’t quite place where. If you could actually call it a face. The stranger smiled and pointed his finger at Mark. Mark felt the pain start in the centre of his chest and then travel to his arm. It felt similar to when he had a fishing hook in his finger but 3000 times worse.

He didn’t immediately notice the bright beam of light coming towards him. He watched the light approach and change colour. A warmth spread throughout his body, the pain in his chest forgotten. The empty container of a body then collapsed by the lake.

The light disappeared as soon as it had appeared. The only movement at the lake was Mark’s float going under the water as the carp took the bait off the hook.

How to Increase Your Twitter Following


10 Methods That Added Genuine Followers to my Twitter.

Photo by Jakob Owenson Unsplash

Recently I decided that to increase my reader count, I needed to reach more people. My method of doing this was to increase my twitter followers.

I started searching for tried methods to increase twitter followers.

Not For Me

  • One of the common ways to increase followers is to buy them. You read that correctly, run a search on google and be amazed at how many companies offer to sell you, followers. The going rate seems to be approximately £10 for 500 followers.
  • Smaller companies will charge you as little as £1 to promote your profile for 12 hours. These are normally on a follow back basis. I will talk about the follow back system later.

Buying followers may be for you. It was not something I was prepared to do.

10 Methods That Worked

  1. Build an interactive profile that tells followers who you are. Use hashtags for relevant topics you tweet on.
  2. Use a profile picture, preferably a headshot. Do not use GIF’s and logo’s if you can help it.
  3. Search for hashtags on topic’s you write about. Comment, interact and follow through these hashtags. Much like other social media, you need to interact, to build a following.
  4. Tweet regularly on a range of subjects. I know its amazing, fancy saying you have to produce content for people to follow you. For times that you can’t tweet using a scheduling app.
  5. Always use hashtags in your tweets. Not too many I work on a system of two hashtags per tweet.
  6. Use images with your tweets. Tweets with pictures get more interaction and retweets than those without.
  7. Search popular hashtags and then write a post on them. At the time of writing this, it is World Refugee Day. This hashtag is trending very high so I wrote a couple of tweets on the subject.
  8. Comment on famous peoples posts, make your replies witty and entertaining.
  9. On articles and other social media include a link to your Twitter profile. This one is a bit cheeky because here I have included a link to my Twitter page.
  10. The last method is controversial and up to the individual. Operate a follow back system. If you do this you have to use the relevant tags and make public that you follow back. The disadvantage of this is you do not receive genuine followers. Your timeline can be filled up with content you are not interested in. With the new mute function on Twitter, you can mute their feeds from your timelines, but its time consuming.

Results

The results have not been instant and nowhere near as quick as buying followers. Over the last week, I have been following these methods and have seen an increase in my follower account of 100. It is also still rising every day.

Are there other methods that you have tried that worked? 

What would you recommend?