How are you all enjoying ‘Women in Horror Month’? I am really enjoying celebrating women writers, directors and more, as well as having my socks scared off daily!  As part of my daily challenge, here is my ghostly short story ‘Reborn’.


He tried his best to contain his excitement as the small bundle was pushed into the cave, but the little squeal that started deep in his stomach burst past what passed for his lips, alerting the others. Soon, seven little ghosts were looking at the dozing baby, wrapped in thick woollen blankets to stave off the chill of the cave.

‘A baby,’ whispered one of the ghosts, slowing stretching one of her rainbow coloured tentacles towards it. She screeched as the stinger of one of her companions penetrated the tentacle. The rainbow colours rapidly dulled to black and it hung uselessly against her gelatinous body.

‘Don’t touch that child,’ her attacker warned. He was shaped like a foot, with three large toes, each with a sharp stinger on the end.

A third ghost moved between them, his two frilled antennae gently separating Rainbow and Toes. The antennae were attached to a spherical, clear body in which bobbed an ever watchful eye. The Watcher spun his antennae gracefully upwards, mindful not to touch the dripping walls of the cave.

‘Now, we must not disturb the child until the decision is made.’ His eye spun and one of his antennae whipped out at one of the ghosts who dared get too close to the child.

A bell-shaped ghost edged towards the group. He rippled as he spoke, the oily surface of his skin reflecting what little light penetrated the cave, ‘But which of us is it to be?’

Rainbow swatted the Watcher’s antennae away and drifted closer to the child, the others ready to pounce on her if she touched the pink, warm skin. ‘It should be me. My son needs me,’ she said, her voice breaking a little.

Bellringer pulsed as he laughed, ‘Your son’s been dead for generations, you stupid witch. Your pathetic attempts at magic were no more effective than that fools attempt to kill a god.’

The antennae folded around the Watcher. ‘I would have killed him, had I have had more men,’ he huffed.

A worm-shaped ghost with a spotted crest inched closer. ‘Your army was washed away by the same god you were trying to kill.’ Her crest quivered as she giggled.

‘His plan was no more ludicrous than taking a life just so you can keep your bath filled,’ a small, furry ghost muttered.

The Worm writhed angrily. ‘You mock me? I was trying to keep my youth. You were taking body parts to try to rebuild your deceased mother. That’s ludicrous,’ she shrilled.

The ghosts froze as the walls of the cave shifted, dislodging stones, dust and salt residue that the dripping water left behind. Several of the ghosts cried out as the salt hit them, causing their skin to sizzle and peel.

‘Be quiet,’ hissed a diamond-shaped ghost, the small spikes which covered his body clicking in agitation. ‘Any more loud noises will kill us all.’

The ghosts watched in silence as the dust slowly floated down, each all too aware of the nature of their prison. Only when the constant dripping of the water from the walls had resumed and the last particles of dust had hit the floor did they dare to speak.

‘The child is mine,’ proclaimed the Watcher, ‘I have had time to realise my mistakes and will not make them again.’

‘Which mistake is that? Attempting to kill a water god by stabbing the water?’ mocked Bellringer.

The Watcher snorted. ‘No. I need more men. Then, I’ll kill the water gods.’

Toes flexed his toes and flicked out his stingers. ‘Pah! You talk of killing a god. I plan to resurrect one! I was one kill away from my thirteenth and then my dark lord would have arisen from his fiery pit.’

‘It should be me,’ said the Worm. ‘I meant no harm, merely to bring beauty to the world. My beauty.’ Her crest rippled, the spots reflecting the dull light.

The hairs on Fuzzball bristled. ‘No! I should go. Mother needs me,’ he whined. The Watcher slapped Fuzzball with one of his antennae, sending him spinning dangerously close to the salt-covered walls. Fuzzball hissed in anger but dared not move closer to the group.

‘I had ‘em running scared, those filthy whores. Let me go back so I can finish the job. I can still remember the feeling as my knife gutted ‘em. Gotta cleanse the streets. Vermin they are, running around spreading disease every time they spread their legs. I’ll slice ‘em up real pretty with my knife.’

‘Please, you don’t understand. My son is at war and I need to keep him safe. If I continue making the sacrifices, he comes home to me,’ begged Rainbow.

The ghosts huddled together, arguing. Their movements causing a blur of colours until it was difficult to discern one from the other.

A short, sharp whistle brought them all to a stop and they turned to see Diamond-spike floating near the dripping wall.

‘You pathetic creatures. You argue and fight for the right to be reborn, for your petty beliefs or desires. You all want a chance to return and continue doing whatever ridiculous thing it was that got you sent here. But me? I was born evil they said, never had a chance to go topside.’

‘You mean, you’ve never….’ Rainbow trailed off.

‘If you’ve never been up there, then what right do you have to claim the child?’ demanded Toes.

Diamond-Spike spun lazily, his spikes grazing the wall but he didn’t flinch as the salt burned his skin. A slash of a grin appeared on one side of his body. ‘I seen a lot of your types come and go. All have their reasons for killing, for pleasure, for pain, their gods to serve or sacrifice. Some got ideas about purifying their race, others about keeping loved ones alive. But me?’ Diamond-Spike let the question hang in the air between him and the other ghosts. The others drew closer to him, eager to know his reasons for being sent to the cave. Diamond-Spike’s grin grew larger.

‘But me?’ he repeated, ‘I got a plan.’

He spun, flinging the droplets of salty water which had accumulated on his spikes at the other ghosts. They all howled and screamed as their bodies began to smoke.

Diamond-Spike floated down to the baby who had begun to stir with all the noise. The child gazed at the tiny speck which bobbed in front of its eyes. However, it let out a scream as Diamond-Spike forced himself inside its nose. The child thrashed its chubby arms around as a small droplet of blood dribbled from its nose and across its face. As quickly as it had started crying, it stopped, its blue eyes turning to black with tiny blood-red flecks. A thin grin spread across the baby’s face and it disappeared leaving the other ghosts in complete darkness.


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My Life and Death as a Plant

Daniel woke up and groaned. His mouth tasted awful, and his eyes were crusted over. His skin tingled, all the way from the base of his toes to the roots of his hair, feeling as if a thousand ants were skittering across his body. What the hell had they been drinking last night, he thought as he tried to move his aching limbs.

‘Let’s go out to the Wislow farm,’ suggested Sam, taking a swig from his can of beer. He belched loudly and laughed.
Billy grunted his agreement, too drunk to put up much of a discussion.
‘Dunno mate isn’t Old Mrs Wislow a bit odd,’ ventured John.
Sam jeered at his friend. ‘What’s wrong, you pussy? Afraid?’
‘Nah, mate, just something I heard. Bunch of people went up there to talk to her about burning her fields or cutting down trees or summ’at and didn’t come home,’ argued John.
‘Yeah, I heard that too,’ said Daniel. ‘I heard she’s a witch. Why don’t we just go to the woods? I can nick my brothers are air gun, we can shoot cans.’
‘You’re a bunch of pussies,’ shouted Sam, throwing his empty can at them. ‘Get in the car you mummy’s boys and let’s go find your balls.’
Daniel and John looked at each other and didn’t move. Even in their drunken states, they remembered the stories of what went on up at Wislow Farm.
‘Oi!’ shouted Sam, blaring the car horn. Billy was slumped in the back seat, snoring loudly.
John shrugged and walked towards the car, Daniel dragging his feet behind him.

Daniel’s neck was stiff and shrieked with pain when he attempted to move his head. He’d had bad hangovers before but nothing like this. Perhaps Sam had slipped something into his drinks? Nah. He could be a dick, but spiking drinks wasn’t really Sam’s style. More likely he had caught a cold or something, running around the Wislow farm in the middle of the night.

Sam had crashed into the fence leading to Wislow’s farm. They had fallen out of the car, spilling cans and rubbish in their wake. Daniel and John helped drag Billy out of the car and dumped him by the boot. Sam screeched with laughter as Billy slid down the side of the car and face planted in a bubble of mud. A wind whipped around them, icy tendrils piercing their thin coats, sobering Daniel and John. Sam had strutted towards the small house, the pathway leading to the door was lined with pots of herbs and to one side was a vegetable patch. Candle-light danced in one of the ground-floor windows but it otherwise looked deserted. The wind caught the door of the shed to the right of the house, the banging causing all the boys to jump.
‘This place is shit,’ moaned Sam, throwing stones towards the shed, smashing one of the small windows.
‘Let’s just go, mate,’ said Daniel, kicking the flower pots over and stamping on the plants. ‘Billy’s out of his head. It’s cold and there’s nothing going on.’
‘Witch my arse. Load of bullshit and you wankers were scared. Alright, we can go smash up windows around the school.’ Sam kicked the flowers again and stomped over to his friends, roughly grabbing Billy and pulling him to his feet. He staggered under the weight of his friend as he turned. ’Where’s the car?’
Daniel spun. The car which had been nudging the fence-post was gone.

The skin on his hands felt as rough as sandpaper and flexing his fingers was an effort as Daniel slowly remembered the details of the night before. He remembered running and falling so perhaps he’d badly skinned his hands. That would explain the rough scabs. Man, he felt rough. He should have listened to his mum. She’d never liked Sam and said he would get Daniel into trouble. Well, starting now, Sam was no longer his friend. He was done with all his crap. Last night was the final straw. He’d not wanted to go to Wislow’s Farm, it was dumb and now he hurt all over. A sound behind him made him attempt to wrench his neck around, causing a loud crack as his vertebrae popped yet he saw nothing.

John’s focus had not shifted from the house since they arrived. He stood, unmoving whilst his friends looked for the car.
He slowly raised his arm, pointing to the front door.
Daniel grabbed John’s arm. ‘What are you pointing at? Stop arsing around and help us find the car. John refused to move. ‘’Oi, Sam, get over here. John’s gone nuts,’ shouted Daniel.
Sam tried to turn around but was hampered by trying to hold up a semi-conscious Billy. Finally, dragging his friend, Sam turned. He frowned, following John’s arm.
He dropped Billy and ran into the trees.
‘What the fu….?’ muttered Daniel. A yelp behind him and he turned to find that John had disappeared. Spinning, he heard Billy groan but just as Daniel moved to help Billy up from the ground, he slid across the ground in the direction of the shed, his hands grabbing at unseen hands squeezing his neck.
‘What did you do to my garden?’ a voice screamed from the house. Daniel didn’t see the face of the witch but heard her cane smacking the stone footpath as she hobbled along the path. He turned and ran. Then it all went dark.

Daniel’s eyes were still stuck closed. He tried to move his hand to remove the gunk from his eyes before remembering the crustiness covering his fingers. He tried flexing them again, then wiggling his hands but they barely moved an inch. Trying not to panic, Daniel focussed on moving his legs but like his hands, they wouldn’t twitch. He couldn’t feel anything binding him or holding him down yet he couldn’t turn his head or open his eyes to check. Becoming frantic, he strained his eyes, silently begging them to open. He rocked his entire body but nothing happened. He was stuck.
‘Ah, I see you’re waking up,’ a voice cackled. Daniel tried to move his head to find out where the voice was coming from but despite his straining couldn’t sense anything.
‘Don’t bother to move my little pretties. You damaged a lot of my crops last night and winter’s coming in. I need to restock my shelves, else I’ll go hungry.’
Daniel felt himself being lifted and heard ceramic hit as he was put down. ‘Now, you’re lucky my boy. I’ve strung up your friends in my shed. I think their meat will cure nicely. Whilst I’m waiting I’ve decided to have a nice leg of brat for my dinner, and whilst it’s already beer-soaked, I will need some herbs to go with it.’ Daniel felt his arm being tugged, then excruciating pain. He opened his mouth to scream but all he could taste was dirt. ‘I think this rosemary would go lovely,’ the old witch laughed, ‘But maybe I need more.’ Daniel screamed as the witch continued pulling pieces off of him.

Rosemary bush

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‘My Wandering Uterus’ Wandering onto your bookshelf soon!

Cover for My Wandering Uterus

I’m very excited to announce that my short story ‘In Search of Sorrow’ will be published in an anthology titled ‘My Wandering Uterus’, edited by Kate Laity and H Byron Ballard with the stunning cover by SL Johnson.

My Wandering Uterus

The history of the wandering uterus is very long, starting in the Greek period. It relates to ‘women’s maladies’ whereby any illness or ‘hysteria’ experienced by a woman would be linked to her uterus. Greek physicians, including Hippocrates, believed that the uterus was a free-floating creature, an ‘animal within an animal‘, which would cause different symptoms depending on where it was in the body. Indeed, the term ‘hysteria‘ was coined to describe the action and symptoms of women, and comes from the Greek word for uterus ‘hysterika’. This paper by Terri Kapsalis on the Literary Hub looks at the history of the Wandering Uterus and how belief in women’s hysteria has perpetuated to the modern day. Kapsalis argues that the idea is so ingrained in our collective psyche that it will frequently be used to dismiss women’s role in society, undermine their skills and negate their freedoms. It’s a very interesting article and I recommend you take a few minutes to read it.

In Search of Sorrow

‘In Search of Sorrow’ is a short story, featuring my new leading lady, Sorrowful Jones. I’m really excited to explore her world more fully and am planning a series of short, interconnected stories which I’ll publish later this year (hopefully!). I don’t reveal too much of Sorrowful’s back story here, but she’s a traveller who is searching for women in need of her help. I’ve drawn a lot on our own travels when building the world of Sorrowful Jones, from her poncho which is woven with animals like those I saw in Peru, to some of the more supernatural ideas from Japan and South East Asia which I’ll explore more in the book.

I’ll keep you updated as to when ‘My Wandering Uterus’ will be published and also my progress with the rest of the book. I can’t wait for you to join Sorrowful Jones and me on the road.


The Silence

It’s been a long week. To differing degrees we’ve all been ill (even the pup,) and we’re shattered. Hubby has gone to bed early, taking the pup with him and the toddler passed out, still clutching her favourite book, hours ago. I’ve just finished watching a silly horror movie and should be working on the review, but as I turned off the TV it hit me: The silence. 

It’s not totally silent, the heating is doing that low hum, the clock next door which hasn’t told the right time in months is ticking and I can hear people and cars outside but I close my eyes and it’s so quiet.


And yet…..

A new set of voices has been nagging me recently, demanding I tell their tale. There’s been muttering, waking me in the night with a snippet of dialogue, a name or an action scene, a delicate whisper whilst making tea or a shout as I prepare our bags for the day.

And tonight, in the silence, their voices are a roar. I’m hoping tomorrow I’ll be able to make sense of the assorted post it notes I’ve written on, that half-formed ideas will percolate and be brewed overnight and things will be a little more cohesive. They’re whispering their names, shyly letting me know their preferences, twirling their costumes and sharing their voices. They’re coalescing, becoming more real (or as real as the Lamb’s assorted imaginary friends). I’m learning their wants, desires and mostly their challenges. This band of beaten women who want me to tell their story, now have an enemy to face and it will be a hell of a battle!

100Days of Happiness: Day Eleven 

Day eleven of our 100 Days of Happiness say the Lamb and I head to one of our favourite places, Killerton House. We met her bestie and I got to catch up with her mum (and my dear friend) which always lifts the spirits. The girls had a lot of fun belting around the gardens, I shared a delicious Victoria Sponge with the Lamb, then we all went on a ‘mouse hunt’ around the house. As always, we left very impressed at the volunteers who help run these National Trust houses and the assorted activities they have to keep little people entertained.

Here’s a bonus shot of one of the flowers still in bloom. So pretty, even on a rather cold, damp day!

As always, once the Lamb was in bed, it was time for me to get to work. I’m prepping a new novel, with elements of fantasy, horror, supernatural and adventure. It’s my first ‘big’ writing project since having the Lamb so I’m hoping to get back into it, and make a start on it during National Novel Writing Month in November. There’s lots to prepare for it, with character bios, locations and multiple fantasy worlds to create. I’ve been struggling to get back into writing for a while so I’m hoping this preparation will help and I’ll be blogging more about my experience so pop back to find out more.

What made you happy today?

Inspiration for Weird Wild


My collection of short stories, Weird Wild, was published on 20 March 2014. The first story I wrote for it was called ‘The Lake’ and was written as part of an online writing challenge. I didn’t know then what it would grow into!

My book babies, out in the wild!

I’ve always loved the woods. There’s nothing more relaxing than walking through forests, unless you’re being chased by a werewolf! We’ve visited forests in the UK, including ‘Wistman’s Wood’ in Dartmoor, as well as rainforests in Latin America and Asia and all helped inspire ‘Weird Wild’, with creepy mists, crooked trees and hidden dens.

Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor

The Stone Circle in Weird Wild is definitely inspired by my love of archaeology. I love Stonehenge and have been fascinated by stone circles, both in terms of what they tell us about our ancestors, but also the more mystical elements. My logical, scientific brain (and a number of my tutors!) debunked the idea of ley lines but there’s still something magical about these stones. Who’s to say they aren’t portals to the fairy realm?

Stonehenge. I visited it while studying and the image of the stones rising from the earth has stayed with me. Magical

How pretty are bluebells? It was an annual tradition growing up to visit ‘Bluebell Woods’ and see them when they bloomed each spring. I was fascinated to learn some of the more nefarious uses of this beautiful, if deadly, bell. I’d also never claim to be a poet, but the poem for Weird Wild was written fairly quickly, the voices and the bells ringing clearly.

Buriton 2002
Bluebells near where I grew up.


Dartmoor, UK

So many beautiful lakes inspired ‘The Lake’. Whilst Lago Roja in Bolivia isn’t surrounded by trees like the lake in Weird Wild, the stillness and sense of isolation crept into the story.

Lago Roja, Bolivia. It was so peaceful and ethereal here


Out in the wild!


As always, any sticky plot points were worked out during long walks. There’s something about being outside which definitely clears the fog and helps the writing process.

Check out those wild flowers!



You can get your copy of Weird Wild from Amazon, or contact me below for a signed copy!

Things That Go Bump In The Night

‘Monster!’ Christopher pointed a small, pudgy finger towards the wardrobe, hugging his teddy bear tightly.

His mum, Sarah, lay him gently down in his bed. ‘No, sweetie, there’s no monsters in your wardrobe,’ she said, tucking his blankets around him.

Christopher sat up and pointed again. ‘Monster, mummy.’ Sarah looked into his saucer eyes and signed inwardly.

Forcing a smile to her face she rose and crossed to the wardrobe in the corner of the room. She made a dramatic show of opening the doors and rummaging through the few items of clothing hanging on their small hangers. She lifted out the boxes of toys and even lifted out his tiny shoes and peeked into each. ‘See? No monsters. Now, time for bed.’

‘Bed. Monsters. Bed, mummy.’ Christopher started waving under the bed, tears springing to his eyes.

‘That’s enough Christopher,’ his father, Mike, stood wearily at the door. Sarah threw him a sharp look. ‘What?’ he asked. ‘We go through this nonsense every night. There’s no monsters in the wardrobe or under the bed. Playing along just encourages him. Come on, you little monster. You’re the scariest thing in this room, so off to bed.’

‘Dr Jenkins said we shouldn’t dismiss his fears,’ hissed Sarah.

‘Well Dr Jenkins can spend three hours putting him to bed every night as I’m fed up with eating cold dinners.’

Sarah glared at her husband before quickly forcing a smile to her lips and stroking her son’s cheek. She reached under his cot and pulled out a stuffed toy. She brought it to her lips and whispered in its ear before handing it to her son. ‘Now Chris, I’d like you to meet Mega Mo. He’s a monster eater and I’ve just asked him to look after you all night, ok?’

Christopher looked at his mum, then at the toy. he chewed his lip as he studied Mega Mo. Mega Mo had a small, squat body, clad in denim dungarees. Small black leather boots stuck out the bottom, laces tied neatly in a bow. His arms were disproportionally long and muscular, the stitching etching out his fingers of his broad hands. However, it was his face that Christopher spent the longest studying – it was circular with two small, black eyes made from buttons, two cloth ears stuck out at 90degrees from his head and wool stuck out the top to form hair. It was his mouth which Christopher spent the longest looking at as it was overly wide, almost slicing his head in half. Velcro stuck his lips together, but it opened easily as Christopher pulled. Mega Mo’s mouth was empty, just a cloth bag.

‘As if he wasn’t already seeing monsters, you’re giving him one to sleep with,’ muttered Mike.

‘Dr Jenkins suggested it as a comforter. Mega Mo isn’t afraid of anything, Christopher and he look after you, ok? Now, lights out, time for sleep.’ Sarah rose and before Christopher could complain moved to the door, flicking off the light. His parents paused in the doorway, giving their eyes a moment to adjust to the assorted night lights Christopher insisted light his room. ‘Night, sweetie,’ said his mum.

‘Night son,’ his dad called, already heading to the kitchen.

Within a few minutes Christopher head the ping of the microwave as his parents reheated their dinners and the television as they flicked through the channels.

Christopher hugged Mega Mo to his chest as he sat in his cot. He knew they were out there, waiting. Every night since they had moved into the new house was the same: the monsters under his bed would wake him up. Christopher didn’t know why they did these things, other than to torment him. He’d hear them giggling, their long fingers curling around his blankets before dragging them off of him. He’d feel their breath on his face as they flicked his ears and their sandpaper skin as they yanked his feet. Christopher squeezed his eyes closed tightly and pretended to go to sleep. Sometimes they didn’t bother him if he was asleep. Sometimes.

The familiar scratching started at his wardrobe door, one long fingernail dragged across the wood, slowly at first, then in faster, shorter bursts until the door creaked open. A low buzz filled the room, causing the bars on Christopher’s cot to rattle. He closed his eyes more tightly, covering them with his small hands, fingers splayed over his face.

His cot was moving now, bouncing on the carpet as the creatures bounded out from underneath. Christoper started shaking. It sounded like more of the creatures were coming than had ever before. The giggling creatures moved around the room, their long claws plucking at the carpet as Christopher continued to shake, tears free-flowing down his cheeks.

The sound of velcro ripping made him pause. He desperately didn’t want to take his hands away from his eyes, but curiosity finally pulled them down to his sides. He started to reach for Mega Mo, only to discover the toy was no longer by his side. Christoper quickly scanned his bed, his blanket rumbled beside him, his bottle the other side, but the stuffed toy was nowhere to be seen.

A squeak from under the bed drew his attention. He hesitantly reached for the bars of his cot, but pulled back when he heard another squeak, followed by a thump. His cot rattled, then stilled.

Swallowing hard, Christopher peered through the bars. He saw Mega Mo on the floor, his broad arms swinging like a windmill, his club hands knocking the creatures down. He paused, scooping up several of the creatures and, grinning widely before opening his mouth and dropping the screaming creatures into the chasm. A blue felt tongue whipped around, licking his lips before he started chasing more of the creatures around the room, gulping them down as he caught them. Christopher watched as Mega Mo ate all of the creatures until there was one left, cowering in the corner. He chittered to Mega Mo who smiled before launching himself at the creature. In one fluid move he swallowed it whole. He stood upright and surveyed the room. Christopher followed his gaze and for the first time, he listened to the silence of his room.

‘Wow, I can’t believe he’s asleep!’ whispered Sarah, retaking the blankets that had slipped from around Christopher’s shoulders.

‘I know, he’d normally have screamed by now,’ muttered Mike. ‘Told you it was just a phase.’

‘Or Mega Mo helped. Where is that toy anyway?’ Sarah’s foot nudged against something. She looked down and saw Mega Mo. ‘What are you doing out of Christopher’s cot? I told you to protect him.’ She bent to pick up the toy. ‘Blimey, you’re heavier than I remember.’

‘Forget about the toy,’ hissed Mike, ‘Just enjoy the tranquility.’

Sarah tucked Mega Mo in next to Christoper who instinctively hugged him. He smiled in his sleep, dreaming of monsters, and those who ate them.

Thank you for calling

Still buzzing from ‘Train to Busan‘ last night, I was reminded of this short story I wrote a while ago. From memory it was written during a protracted battle with our telecom provider (or as was the case, non-provider!) and I’m sure it’s an issue many people will know well.


Thank you for calling

‘Thank you for calling. Have a nice day,’ Peter disconnected the call, took a deep breath and hit the flashing read button.

‘Hello, your through to TalkPhone. My name is Peter. How can I help you today?’

The female voice on the other end of the phone tersely explained the issues she was having with her mobile telephone.

Not bothering to refer to the script the company ordered all employees to follow, he had long ago memorised it, Peter suggested that the woman turn off the phone, take out the battery and sim, then replace them. He waited patiently as she followed his instructions. Hearing a beep at the other end of the line told Peter that his recommendation had worked.

‘Thank you,’ cried the woman.

‘You’re welcome, madam. Is there anything else I can help you with today?’

‘No, thank you.’

‘Ok, then. Well, thank you for calling. Have a nice day.’

He didn’t mind the work. It was better than his old life and at least he wasn’t hungry any more. They had called him Peter when he first started working there, telling him to forget his old name, that having a Western name was much better. In time, they had been right, he had forgotten his old name. He had forgotten a lot about his past.

Another call. Peter automatically ran through the script, his voice dry and devoid of emotion. However, the man on the other end of the line would not be pacified. Evidently his internet connection had been interrupted and he demanded an explanation. Peter flicked through his script until he reached the section about the internet.

‘There has been a problem at the exchange, sir. Please be assured we are doing all we can to rectify the situation and normal service should resume shortly,’ said Peter, reading the first excuse on the list.

‘The exchange?’ spluttered the man, ‘Do you think I’m an idiot? There’s no problem at the exchange. Where are your offices? Are you in India? I bet you’re in India,’ sneered the voice.

Peter quickly looked at the board at the front of the cubicles, ‘I can assure you, sir, I am in London. It’s cloudy out and I can see the 10.40 tourist boat cruising along the Thames.’

The man on the other end of the line grunted to show he was impressed, but he was not convinced.

‘As I said, we are aware of the problem and our engineers will have it resolved shortly. Is there anything else I can help you with today sir?’ enquired Peter politely, not rising the the anger he heard in the man’s voice.

‘Yes, you can just go and …’ started the man.

Peter cut him off before the man could continue his rant, ‘Thank you for calling TalkPhone. Have a nice day.’

Peter disconnected the call but imagined he could still hear the man swearing. Customers would frequently rant and swear at him. He didn’t really understand why they got so angry and couldn’t empathise with their frustration.

The truth was, Peter, and all those who were around him were in India. The whole village had been suspicious of the white men in expensive suits who had arrived unexpectedly a year ago, offering a solution to their problems.

The red light was flashing. It never stopped flashing, no matter how many calls Peter took.

‘Hello, your through to TalkPhone. My name is Peter. How can I help you today?’

‘Yes, I hope you can help me. I think there’s a problem with my telephone connection.’

Peter looked again at the board in the front, covered with photographs of London, schedules for events, a large clock and the local weather reports. He watched the hands on the clock as they completed their loop and started again, continuous, never-ending. He had never been to London, had never even left the village and now, with his job at TalkPhone, the possibility seemed even more remote.

Around the call centre, there was approximately one hundred of his assorted neighbours and members of his family. All had been recruited when TalkPhone had come to town. They each had a small cubicle just over a metre square, with a desk, chair, headset, phone and the ever-flashing red light. No one had bothered to decorate their cubicles; they only ever looked up to check the board at the front of the room, so why bother? It was just them and the red button.

Pushing the insistent red button once more, Peter said ‘Hello, your through to TalkPhone. My name is Peter. How can I help you today?’

* * *

‘Do we need a bigger workforce?’ asked the man in the expensive charcoal grey suit which matched the colour of his eyes. His features sharp enough to cut glass as he stared out of the office window, overlooking the call centre.

‘I’ve got the boys out scouting for suitable candidates now. TalkPhone has increased it’s sales by 50% in the last quarter and the boys in accounting project it will continue,’ the second man, his face blurred in the blue smoke of his cigar as he creaked back on his chair. His suit was made of the finest materials and rippled over muscles honed not in a gym, but on the streets. While many entrepreneurs were forces to be reckoned with in the boardroom, he had made his fortune by forced takeovers using fists and muscle. ‘Well, when you have a workforce this cheap, you can afford to offer cheap phone calls.’ He barked a laugh while his companion looked out over the hunched figures, huddled in their small cubicles, the red lights on their phones twinkling like stars.

‘Do you think they know?’ the grey man asked.

‘Know what? They don’t know anything, except what we tell them. They don’t feel, they don’t think, they don’t eat and they don’t shit. They never need to take a break and they don’t stop working until we tell them to. Hell, they’re the perfect workforce.’

Despite his earlier nonchalant air, the charcoal grey suited man looked troubled. ‘But what about the smell?’

‘What smell?’ another puff of cigar smoke wafted towards the ceiling.

‘Of decay. They’re decomposing, despite the freezing temperatures in here.’ The man hugged himself involuntarily. The walls of the call centre were thick to keep out the blazing sun and industrial coolers whirred constantly. A light mist descended from the ceiling, coating the workers in a sheen of damp but none moved to brush it away or even seemed to notice it.

Outside the once vibrant village had been turned into a dried mud pool: crops had been abandoned, houses deserted, and cars untended, left to rust on unkept road. Dogs and cattle wandered unchecked with eyes glazed.

‘So? The smell don’t bother them,’ came the reply from behind the cigar.

‘And what happens when their bodies finally give out?’

The laugh barked again. ‘As long as they have a finger to push the buttons and their voices boxes don’t fall out, they work. Besides, there’s plenty more where they came from. Like I said, the boys are out recruiting as we speak. There’s a village downriver. We’ve already started pouring the chemicals into the water. They won’t know a thing. Soon as they start dying off, the boys’ll be there to grab them and bring them back here. Don’t worry.’

Unconvinced, the grey suit turned back to the window.

* * *

‘Hello, your through to TalkPhone. My name is Peter. How can I help you today?’

‘Hello, your through to TalkPhone. My name is Victoria. How can I help you today?’

‘Hello, your through to TalkPhone. My name is Daniel. How can I help you today?’

‘Hello, your through to TalkPhone. My name is Laura. How can I help you today?’

The voices drifted up, mingling with the freezing mist as the zombies kept answering the call of the red button.