All stories copyright xoggoth

Turing PCs

Damn Berkeley for the quantum leap in AI techniques that enabled them to pass the Turing test and damn Intel and the other big manufacturers for implementing those techniques on their processors and peripheral chips.

Of course the not-a-clue-about-computers man in the street love it. Computers that can do so many things for him and talk him through the rest in a way he can easily understand, especially using a shapely female animation with a sultry voice or some other appealing style selected in the control panel.

Fair enough if these methods were optional I suppose but they are standard in most programs and you can't turn them off. It used to be bad enough that damned paper clip popping up in Word and asking if you wanted help writing a letter whenever you started with dear sir. Now every program, armed with all the new AI techniques, interferes in everything you do.

I was trying to send an email to my brother last night and Outlook Express kept informing me that the "The content of this communication is really not suitable for this individual" and refusing to send it. For some reason he is registered in the profile as a bible-bashing prude but I can't seem to change it.

I do PC support work and that's now a nightmare too, network problems have risen 500% since the new PCs went in. The other day nothing was being sent over a part of the network. I started the analyser program and checked the most recent traffic in the buffer. Of course we don't have protocols any more, with Turing computers it isn't needed. Packets of information are bracketed by normal conversation so you get stuff like "Oi PC 004, you ready for some more data over there?" "Hang on two microseconds, ok, right, bung it over". <packet> "Ok got it!"

I soon found the problem. PC1267 again, the most awkward PC in the suite. PC1267 was on the desk opposite PC0988 and as usual had started all the trouble with "What you lookin' at?". PC0988 had responded with "You talkin' to me?, I don't see anyone else here" and so on. Their argument had brought that part of the network to a complete halt. I typed "Get on with your work immediately" and sent it to both of them.

I got a truculent message back from PC1267. "Ok you're the boss"

"For now"

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I was almost starting to enjoy my job as a builder and decorator. The money was rather a come down from that of an IT contractor, but on the other hand I had no hassles, the other blokes I worked with were ok and I was home for tea nearly every evening.

Most of all I liked working with Arnie. Arnold Schwartzkoff was the boss's son. He was 5 feet 4, probably weighed about 9 stone and was not very bright. But Arnie had style. Like lots of small men he always imagined himself much bigger and tougher than he was and Arnie had imagination by the bucketful. Naturally with his name he modelled himself on Arnold Schwartznegger.

I first discovered how real Arnie's fantasies could be when we decorated Bothem Hall. We had to restore some oak panels by stripping decades of paint off them and it was really hard going, some of the original coats were probably worth mining. Wally and I were flaming and scraping away when Arnie came in. He had one of those big flame things you kill weeds with and he had obviously spent time modifying it.

Off the shoulder with a flourish and pointed at the panels on the other wall. "Strip this assholes" he growled in his best Austrian accent and pulled the trigger. An enormous flame shot out and engulfed the entire wall. He stopped after four minutes when the gas cylinder ran out. Not only had the paint stripped off the oak panels but the oak panels had stripped off the wall and the ceiling was alight. We legged it.

Old man Schwartzkoff doted on Arnie so, despite the effect the incident must have had on his insurance premium, he kept him on. Arnie behaved himself for a while after that, but you can't keep a good terminator down forever.

Some months later we had to remove an ironwork staircase from another old house that was being modernised. A very saleable item, but there was no way of getting it out of the door in one piece. We sent Arnie back for the cutting gear. Big mistake.

"I'll be back". We dived for the back door as soon as we heard the engine. Arnie came through the side of the house in a muck spreader he had 'borrowed' from the nearby farm. "There you go, plenty of room" he growled. There was plenty of room to get the staircase out all right but we did not get the chance. The owner had been upstairs at the time and was lucky to escape with his life. There was no way we could pretend this was an unfortunate accident and Arnie got probation for criminal damage.

For almost a year after that Arnie kept his nose clean but it did not last. We had to replace the lounge window in a bungalow by a much wider picture window. This meant knocking out a large part of the wall and we knew from the work we had just finished in the kitchen it would be a tough job as the cement in the walls was as hard as iron. The owner had been enthusing about the great vista he would have when the window was in. There was an odd look on Arnie's face.

God knows where Arnie got the explosives. When me and Wally drove up to the house next morning we could see him already in and standing in front of the window. Something in his face told us not to get out of the van. Arnie roared "Hasta La Vista Baby" and the entire front of the bungalow blew out.

Shortly after Arnie's funeral I unexpectedly got offered a contract by an old client. It would be nice to get back to some real money again, but I would quite miss working at Schwartzkoff and Son and most of all I would miss Arnie.

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Billy Goats Gruff

There were once three very gay TV goats, Little Nancy Boy Goat Gruff, Medium Sized Lady Boy Goat Gruff and Great Big Tranny Goat Gruff.

They got tired of always cruising for gay sex on the same old towpath and decided they would like to go cottaging in the brand spanking new Ron Davies memorial toilets on the other side of the river. So they put on their very best glam TV gear and set off for the bridge.

Little Nancy Boy Goat Gruff tripped over the rickety rackety bridge. Mince, mince, mince, mince. He was halfway across when he heard the Big Bent Troll under the bridge:

I smell a hole. Fole de wole wole.
I smell a hole. Fole de wole wole.
I smell a hole. Fole de wole wole.
And I'll shag you up your crapper.

Little Nancy Boy Goat Gruff did not fancy the Big Bent Troll who was enormously ugly, of questionable hygeine and was said to be HIV positive. So he said Oh no Mr. Big Bent Troll, my bum is far too small and skinny, you should wait for my brother who will be along very shortly and has a much bigger bum.

Medium Sized Lady Boy Goat Gruff tripped over the rickety rackety bridge. Mince, mince, mince, mince. He was halfway across when he heard the Big Bent Troll under the bridge:

I smell a hole. Fole de wole wole.
I smell a hole. Fole de wole wole.
I smell a hole. Fole de wole wole.
And I'll shag you up your crapper.

Oh no Mr. Big Bent Troll, said Medium Sized Lady Boy Goat Gruff. My bum is far too small and skinny, you should wait for my brother who will be along very shortly and has a much bigger bum.

Great Big Tranny Goat Gruff tripped heavily over the rickety rackety bridge. MINCE, MINCE, MINCE, MINCE. He was halfway across when he heard the Big Bent Troll under the bridge:

I smell a hole. Fole de wole wole.
I smell a hole. Fole de wole wole.
I smell a hole. Fole de wole wole.
And I'll shag you up your crapper.

Oh yes Mr. Big Bent Troll said Great Big Tranny Goat Gruff, I have a lovely big bouncy bum, come and get it. But as soon as the Big Bent Troll climbed up on the bridge, Great Big Tranny Goat Gruff rushed at him and (donning a 'double skin' of extra strong Durex first) buggered him rigid with his enormous thingy until he split him in two and then hurled him off the bridge.

That was the last anyone ever saw of the Big Bent Troll. The three gay Goats Gruff, Little Nancy Boy, Medium Sized Lady Boy and Great Big Tranny all had a marvelous time cottaging on the other side of the bridge.

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He looked at the drab hopeless squalor of his new life and contemplated suicide.

Following the collapse of his business and the breakdown of his marriage he had had to leave the beautiful house he had shared with his wife and move into a tiny run down end of terrace house on the edge of town. After he had paid all his debts it was all he had been able to afford. The plaster was damp, the windows were draughty and trains rattled by on the raised embankment twenty feet behind the tiny weed covered garden. He had also had to take a job he hated to pay the maintenance.

The only good thing about the house was the beautiful old oak tree that grew behind the dilapidated fence on the unattached side. He wondered what the land was. It appeared from the map to be used for nothing at all, just a small triangle isolated by his house and the railway line and, on the third side, by a small urban river within a grey concrete channel. A high fence on the other side of the river separated it from the railway goods yard.

The first time he crept through a hole in the fence he was enchanted. Mature trees shielded the little area from the railway line. Instead of the weeds and old mattresses and broken bottles he had expected there was a tiny rural paradise, about 18 feet along each side, of what looked like ancient forest.

He spent much of his leisure time there; it helped him to cope. He was only really aware of the presence a couple of weeks after his first visit. There was something behind the oak tree, scarcely more than a shadow. He had impressions in his mind of fear, of curiosity, of great age and above all of overwhelming loneliness. He was not afraid, he was past caring about anything much and the two contemplated each other silently.

In the weeks and months that followed they shared their thoughts and feelings. It had once roamed freely over an emptier land and known happiness with others of its kind. Man had driven them out or isolated them in increasingly small pockets where, though nearly immortal by human standards, they eventually died out. It was the only one left and trapped in this little pocket of real nature that chance had isolated. It was thousands of years old, and had been alone for four hundred. He was the first man since then who had not reacted in fear and hatred. They eased each other's loneliness, and in their own ways grew to look forward to their time together.

His wife's lawyers wrote requiring higher maintenance. It looked as if he might have to sell the tatty little house and his friend with it. It sensed his sadness and he in turn could sense the misery that it felt when it realised that it would be alone again.

He had gone North on a training course when his wife let herself into his house. The lazy bastard was probably swanning about in that bit of waste ground he had told her about. Well he would not have it for much longer if she could help it. This place was not much but she was determined to get what he had. She deserved it after all she had put into the marriage. She went out to give him a piece of her mind over the way he was dragging things out.

It recognised her from his thoughts of her. This was the being that would make it alone again. It had no corporeal part and could not harm her physically. Her mind was something else. It lashed out in feral rage. They found her wandering soiled and babbling in the goods yard. She was never to emerge from the home they put her in.

He felt sorry for his wife when he saw her silent and rocking as she would until she died. But he had another love in his life now.

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Towards the mountain

In the weak light of this morning we packed up our tents as we have always done and started walking towards the mountain that looms on the horizon over the flat and trackless plain.

I no longer wonder why. When I was a boy and just old enough to think about reasons I would ask my parents and they had no answers. I asked one of the wise men of the tribe and I still got none, only a weary gesture at the sands around us, empty except for ourselves and the sparse scrub and the lizards and small rodents that sustain our meagre existence. "What else is there?".

The mountain never gets any closer. Some say it is a million miles away, not on Earth at all. Some say what we see is a mirage, the real mountain is in another direction and we are walking round and round it. Some say it does not really exist. Prophets have told us we would reach the mountain in fifty years, a hundred years, five hundred years but the prophecies come and go and the mountain is no closer.

Some days, those few when we are not too weary with long hours of trudging in the dust, we sit and tell stories of what it will be like to reach the mountain; much the same ones that our tribe has always told. Of free flowing water we do not have to dig for, clear and sparkling with no sand to settle out. Green plants in abundance providing cool shade and big slow animals just waiting for us to hunt them.

A child was born to the tribe this afternoon and we made camp early. It was a celebration and we made the most of it. For a little while we were happy, there in our tiny circle of tents on the flat plain that goes on forever.

Tomorrow morning we will walk towards the mountain.

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Changing to go out

We were going to the pictures and already a bit late but the wife was ages in the lavatory.

Sorry, she said, but I couldn't find my fanny, it's in the small of my back today and I had to use the shaving mirror to locate it.

Ever since the Iranians dropped the genetic accelerator bomb on the UK we have had problems like this. We mutate so rapidly it's hard to keep up.

Driving to the cinema took longer than I expected too, it's hard enough when the foot you usually operate the accelerator pedal with is protruding from your midriff, but even worse when it is equipped with a huge mouth that keeps involuntarily biting the dashboard. None of my five eyes were optimally positioned for driving that evening either. So we were late for the main feature and then I tripped over somebody's tentacles getting to our seats.

I sucked on my orange Fanta, slowly moving the straw lower and lower to keep up with the only mouth that was connected to my oesophagus, and which had (by complete coincidence) been almost normally positioned earlier. Now it was migrating south. I had to stop drinking for a while until it reappeared below my jumper and by then my drink was warm.

Still, it was nice to watch the film and remember how we used to be once, two arms, two legs, a face with eyes, nose and mouth and everything so symmetrical. The love scenes made us even more nostalgic. Like most couples we had long since given up any thought of lovemaking. The long search for the necessary parts and the off-putting things like external gall bladders were bad enough but one never knew what might have become equipped with poison barbs or fangs.

The film ended. My eyes were moist, which was annoying, I hate having damp socks. No sign of the wife. After everyone else had managed to leave I found her spread out under several seats. That was quite unusual, losing all one's bones in 90 minutes, but I daresay she would have some tomorrow or a suitable substitute. I rolled her up and put her in the boot of the car.

It took me nearly an hour to drive the ten miles home as by then I had thirteen arms and seven legs and they protruded from a huge lump at the opposite end of my body (?) to my eyes. It was very confusing.

I unrolled the wife and put her to bed. Maybe we could go to that craft show tomorrow dear if you feel up to it?

The two halves of her swiftly developing shell clicked together in the affirmative.

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Falling in

I don't quite know why I signed up for the Samaritans and cannot really figure why they accepted me. I would like to help people but to be honest I don't really understand them. I try to put myself in their shoes and see why their problems seem so overwhelming to them but mostly it just eludes me.

I did not feel I was helping and had already resolved to quit when Joe (not his real name) called in again. Joe was falling in. He was not totally clear what he was falling into, he only knew that in some way that was incredibly real and terrifying to him he was hanging onto the world by his mental fingertips. If he only relaxed his guard for an instant he would be lost into an abyss from which there was no return.

Joe was one of our regulars. I believe he managed to hold down a job so presumably was ok much of the time, but whenever we saw him he was falling in. Joe sometimes called in at the office and talked about his fear, one hand white knuckled on the chair, drinking coffee and chain smoking and after a while he would relax a little. I always ended up with a sore throat smoking with him although I have not smoked anywhere else for years. It was my way of trying to empathise and indeed I liked Joe, he was bright and pleasant once he had calmed down a little.

That night he was really bad. Joe was shaking and could not light his roll-ups. He hung onto the chair, clinging for his life, both knuckles white. I felt so sorry for him and I made a stupid mistake. We are trained to listen and try to arrange professional help for people if necessary but never to advise. But of course rational me decided to advise. I told him there was really no danger of falling anywhere, I suggested that it was his irrational fear that was causing his anxiety, and if he could only let go and relax nothing would happen and he would feel far better.

I can be very persuasive, it was just a pity I did not know what I was talking about. After a while he decided he would try it. I could see him breathing deeply, trying to control his panic. Let go Joe I said. He released his grip on the chair a little. Go on Joe, let go, I said. Joe breathed deeply and exhaled. He let go. His eyes widened in terror and I could swear I could see the light of intelligence in his eyes falling away from me.

Joe was dead.

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Witches three

"We three witches three, nasty stuff we summon thee, by the power of dragon's pee, ancient evil come to me" intoned Witch Talk Rhyming Bollox, sprinkling something yellowish and a bit off into the cauldron.

"It's come to us and you said three twice and anyway it isn't dragon's pee, I saw you doing it in that bottle last week." said Witch Tedious Pedantic Old Fart.

Witch Talk Rhyming (mostly) Bollox ignored her. "By mystic powers of Satan's dick, stirring with the power stick, bring us evil nice and thick and make sure it isn't all lumpy like last time." She stirred the disgusting ochre mess with the power stick, actually a bit of a steering column from a 1974 Ford Capri, but it fitted the bill.

Witch Obscene Disgusting Old Woman (she was an evil witch after all, what do you expect, flower arranging?) pulled down her stained knickers and crapped in the cauldron. The magic spell was complete.

Ancient evil had been summoned and erupted from the cauldron in a miasma of horror. "Oh f* f* f*" said Witch Obscene Disgusting Old Woman "it's all f* lumpy again"

And it did not work properly either. They splashed it about a bit on Father Likes Little Boys and Miss Sanctimonious Cow the schoolmarm and the only result they could see was a mild rash. You really expect a bit more from ancient evil.

So they complained to the devil. After all, a soul was a very high price to pay to give people a bit of a rash. They felt they had a legal remedy under the Sale of Goods Act 1994, the evil they were receiving was simply not fit for its purpose. Loathsome boils followed by agonising death were the norm established by long precedent.

They tried for three days to get through to the devil's department. "If you wish to sell your soul press 1; If you have already sold your soul and want to amuse us by begging for it back press 2; If you have a query about your power over others press 3; For all other enquiries press 4".

Eventually they got through to a nice young Indian gentleman. The main problem of comprehension was at the witches' end. "Our evil powers are really naff, I think you lot are having a laff, ..." began Witch Talk Rhyming (I did not say scanning) Bollox. "You f* f* f*, up your..." shouted Witch Obscene Disgusting Old Woman. "According to C.35, Implied term about quality..." began Witch Tedious Pedantic Old Fart.

Eventually they succeeded in communicating their dissatisfaction with the evil powers provided and demanded their souls back. Under consumer legislation the Devil (or Satan Inc. as his corporate identity was known) had no choice. But now the three dedicated evil witches had no evil powers at all. However, they had their souls back so there was no real problem. This was an age of deregulation and competition and the Devil was not the only totally evil entity with a pointy beard.

They took their business, and their souls, to Virgin Damnation.

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The stain on the wall

Monday 6th Oct
Just moved into Bleddings. It’s a great little house, mostly Edwardian but the kitchen and the small storeroom over it go back to the early sixteenth century. Interesting history there too, Satanism and other dark deeds apparently. There's a great view from the storeroom so I'll do that up as my bedroom, I'll use the main bedroom for a studio.

Tuesday 14th Oct
The room looks good decorated but there's some damn stain on the wall I can't seem to remove. I've emulsioned over it twice and a day or two later it started showing through again. Looks like a very thin bent gnome looking over his shoulder. Drew an outline around it and a moustache and glasses on it in felt tip. I'll stick some undercoat on it; that usually fixes it. Must get the other bedrooms done first though for when the kids come to stay.

Sunday 26th Oct
Great to see the family again after so long. They all liked the house; I must get back to doing the rest of it up. That damn stain on the wall has got bigger and the undercoat didn't help at all. The felt tip has run to give a very macabre appearance. The gnome seems to be turning round, the glasses have become sunken sockets and the moustache has turned into notched irregular teeth. I drew a cowboy hat and a gun belt on it and labelled it Quasimodo.

Wed 29th Oct
Met one of the neighbours today and going over there for a drink this evening. It will be nice to get to know somebody here; I must admit this place is a bit isolated. That stain is bigger again and it looks worse than ever. There is a huge hunch where my hat was and the belt looks like something nasty is leaking. I put another layer of undercoat and four hours later a thick later of gloss paint over it. Get through that Quasi!

Sat 1st November
Off to stay with Richard for a couple of weeks. The gloss did the trick. No sign of Quasi. I'll redo the emulsion when I get back.

Sunday 16th
Christ! That stain! it's nearly life size and really horrifying, like something from a Brueghel drawing of hell. Stupid I know; it's just some fungal growth in the plaster but it gives me the creeps so I moved my things into the main bedroom and locked the small bedroom door. I will show Chris when he comes next week; he will love it. I won't mention I chickened out of sleeping in there though.

Tuesday 18th
Got up to go to the bathroom last night. Could have sworn I heard a noise from the small bedroom. Listened for a while and thought I could hear a small sound, like dripping. Did not feel much like checking it out. That thing has me spooked.

Wed 19th
There is something in there. I was in the kitchen and was sure I heard a slow dragging sound over the noise from the spin dryer. Like a deformed person hauling himself over the floorboards above my head. I turned the spin dryer off and listened but there was nothing. Later, I stood in the hall and listened outside the door. Christ, what is that smell? But there was no sound. Or was there? I put my ear to the door and suddenly there was a thump on the other side that really made me jump.

I am standing outside the room now with the key in my hand. There is obviously some rational explanation. Yet I cannot seem to summon up the courage to unlock the door.

I recall the time at my mother's house when we kept hearing thumps and thuds from the attic and when we gingerly lowered the trapdoor there really was something up there. A large cat that had come in through the window. Maybe the same thing has happened here, that oak tree branch is barely a foot from the window. Something, a cat or squirrel perhaps, has come in and is jumping around in a panic.

Or something is going out? I heard the window creak and then the branch as though something large had climbed onto it. I kept listening but heard nothing further. The open front door creaked downstairs and turning I see it looking up at me.

The hunch looks like Gruyere cheese with tattered peeling skin and projecting bones. The head hangs on a tattered spinal chord to emerge at nearly chest level and is thrust forward revealing reptilian eyes deep set in almost skeletal sockets. The teeth protrude from fretted lips; there is no nose. The limbs emerging from a few tatters of clothing are sloughing and near skeletal and there is a cascade of black entrails from the midriff.

It starts to climb the stairs like a huge crippled spider. In my panic I can think of only one place to go, I have the key in my hand. I turn it in the lock and rush in scrabbling feverishly to shut the door and lock it. Then I stand pressed against it. I cling to the fact that it was so slow, when I hear it outside the door all I have to do is climb down the oak tree and run. I turn around.

It never occurred to me there would be more than one.

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They would sit at opposite ends of the sofa watching TV but rarely speaking. They occupied the same bed night after night with no contact. In the house they passed each other like strangers passing in the street, their contacts no more than those between such strangers, "Excuse me", "What time is it?" "Have you finished with that?"

He was too lonely to endure it but could not reach out. She was too lonely to endure it but there was nothing she was able to say. Each in their heads had built bridges that they hoped would take them back to what they had once had, but these short and fragile structures had fallen into the wide and empty gulf between them without ever being voiced.

They had both tried to leave hoping that they could start their lives afresh.

He had taken a small room several miles away. Almost every night he returned from work and sat alone. On a very few occasions he went out, to stand at a bar alone, until, his pint gone, he would walk home alone, to sit and finally to sleep alone.

He came back to their silence.

She had gone to stay with her mother. She sat most evenings in the threadbare armchair listening to the click of the old lady's knitting needles before going to her empty bed.

She came back to their silence.

And the seconds and the minutes and the hours and the evenings and their lives ticked by towards their final emptiness.

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There was an old lady

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.

She did not mean to swallow it. She had been flapping ineffectively at a huge bluebottle with the Daily Mirror and, tired by her efforts, had sat down panting on the kitchen chair and started to nod off.

The bluebottle, probably attracted by the stale aroma from her false teeth, must have settled on her lips or in her open mouth and been sucked in by her aspiration when she woke with a start. A brief horrible buzzing in the back of her throat, an involuntary swallow and it was gone.

She felt sick at the thought of this corpse-hatched filth-eating thing inside her but she could not stop thinking about it. A fly could not possibly survive for any length of time inside a human stomach of course and yet she could swear she could feel it vibrating and buzzing inside her all day.

She was sure she could still feel it the next day. How could she make these awful sensations stop? This could not really be happening; it was impossible. If she went to the doctor he would think her mad. But it felt so real.

There was a huge house spider on the wall of her outside toilet. After capturing it in a duster she agonised over it for nearly an hour. She could still feel the fly. She put the duster to her mouth, feeling the eight legs scrabbling briefly on her tongue and swallowed it down with a glass of water.

And it seemed to work for a minute or so. Then, in her stomach, came the vibrations of the buzzing fly with greater magnitude and pitch than before as though it was in panic. Then came a tickle of eight tiny legs running around and around and around.

The old lady sat with tears in her eyes for an hour, then turned her gaze to Chuckles her pet budgie. Chuckles was quite a little budgie but very hard to swallow live and intact and the old lady thought she would choke to death before she managed it.

Her stomach felt still. For a while. Then came the buzzing vibrations and shortly after the tickle of eight little legs running around and around and around. Then a fluttering and clucking sensation. And the buzzing and the tickling and the fluttering grew and grew.

Her neighbour found her on the floor a week later when she heard her pet cat wailing and unfed. Cat scratches covered her face and large lumps of the cat's fur were found in her mouth almost as though she had tried to swallow it

She was dead of course.

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Filled wid de lawd

Dear diary

I got religion last Thursday. Walking back to the van after going to the Job Centre and suddenly I had my Road to Damascus, well actually it was Boltro Road, Haywards Heath, but what the hell?

Hallelujah! I cried, I is FILLED WID DE LAUD!. I wuz jus' so FILLED WID DE LAUD I hadda kneel down there and then in de road and praise him. LAUD GAWD AWMIGHTY I cried and my eyes sho' nuff filled with tears 'membering all de mean sinful t'ings what I done in my life hush my mouf.

Well I jus hadda get back there and done tell my fam'ly just how full of DE LAUD I had become. Me wife she come in from work sho' nuff (praise him) and I done tell her how all my sinnin' was done gawn and in future I wuz gonnna say no to de debil no matter how he be temptin' me. "So you won't keep on trying to get up my bum then?" she say. Oh lawdy lan'sakes no chile I cry, these vile wicked t'ings o' de flesh, coverin' wenches an such, is all in ma past now, I's a reformed man!

I's jus so pleased I done foun' Jesus. I's a looking on de Jobserve dat beautiful mornin' (t'ank you t'ank you lawd fo' de blessing o' each new day) and all de time I's a leaping an' a boppin' an' a PRAISING DE LAUD so hard I can't hardly see de screen. Applied for t'ree dem jobs, lawd willing, I could get an int'view an soon I be back in de fiel' fulfilling de destiny de lawd he have chosen fo' me.

Of course I didn't. Wife gets home today I am into my fourth large vodka. Had a good day dear? fancy a quick one up the bum? I greeted her as usual. No thanks she replied for the approximately (28 x 365 x 5)th time (ignoring leap years) of our exciting marriage, what happened to your conversion?

Oh that I said. I lost my faith. We got any more watermelon?

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Learning the lesson

It was a geography lesson and that morning class 3a was going to learn about deserts.

"Ok, now who can tell me some things about a desert?" A few hands went up. "Yes Sarah?" "It's very hot, sir, and there's lots of sand". "Yes, good, any..." I trailed off for a brief moment. The Lampyris came in through the door behind me in a sudden rush, its numerous chitinous claws clicking on the floor. I did what I had been told to do and pretended desperately it wasn't there although my mouth had suddenly gone so dry with fear that it was difficult to make the words. "Ok class, I want you to copy what I write on the board."

Why was it in our class? We would not know, all we did know was that the creatures had hair trigger tempers and would lash out at anything the alien brain saw as a threat. Sometimes they just came and went and left us unharmed. I just hoped it was not hungry and that the children would remember all the times they had been drilled for just this occasion. There was nothing else we could do and nothing anyone could do. We were their domestic animals to use and dispose of as they pleased. To use as food, for sport, or to destroy on a mere whim.

The children concentrated hard on copying into their books. No hands up, no sudden movements, no talking, not looking at the creature; just as they had been taught. They were tense and I could see they were as terrified as I was, some were in tears but they were doing well. The creature wandered down one isle, the body somewhat resembling a woodlouse but one that was seven feet long and two feet high. The great mandibles kept clicking in the huge head that waved left and right scanning with the five dead eyes. Then it wandered back up the other aisle and headed for the door. I breathed a small sigh of relief. We were going to get through this.

Darren Arden dropped his pen. The creature spun round with blurring speed and took half his skull in one bite, the great splash of blood and brains arcing back and covering the other children. Then it was thrashing in gigantic loops like a demented bullwhip; biting, tearing, devouring and the other children ran for their lives. I am ashamed to say I beat them all to the door by a wide margin.

We had a class of one less the next week. The walls and floor had been newly repainted. It was a history lesson and that morning our class was going to learn about the Tudors. "Can anyone tell me a famous Tudor king?" I asked.

The Cephana smashed through the window on its silken cord, the great six-foot spiny spider legs sawing the air and the palps dripping with venom.

I started writing on the board. If somebody screwed up this time, with a bit of luck it would be Wayne Harris. I had never liked the little bastard.

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Taking in dad

"But we just haven't got the room for any more" she said gesturing at our tiny single room with its silent inhabitants.

I said nothing, just gazed at the estimates on my lap.

To bury dad would cost us over £25,000. With the UK population at 450 million that was the average cost of a four foot square plot to bury him in a standing position. I had not even asked for a quote for the traditional burial.

Then there was the cremation quote, rather better at only £10,000. Since most of the world's oil and gas ran out what was left really was worth its weight in gold.

I felt miserable. I could send him to Celestial Pigs Inc. of course at a mere £6,000, but, although we had not been close, I could not bear to think of him being cut into pieces and fed to those creatures. In any case on our income of barely £3000 a year we could not begin to afford even that and dad had left no money.

"I'm sorry love" I said. She put her hand on my shoulder "I suppose we'll manage".

Of course there were no health regulations any more, no sane government attempted to prevent fatal disease in our overcrowded world.

So dad came to stay with us.

We managed to tidy up the wife's sister and my brother, both of whom had passed away some years ago and were now quite compact, into small boxes on the wardrobe. We moved our two sons who had gone in the typhus epidemic last year along a bit and re-secured their plastic bags to the wall.

Really it wasn't so bad. With my mother and both the wife's parents much reduced in size now and everyone shuffled up we could easily get from the door to the bed and even had a little bit of space left.

We snuggled down. The wife gestured at the little space. "Still a bit of room for us eh?".

It is a comfort knowing your funeral arrangements have been properly looked after.

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Ad space

It would never have happened back in the days of the good old NHS but these days it's private or nothing and somebody has to pay.

I never thought I would have a problem personally as I had always paid my insurance premiums but sod's law dictated that my payments would have lapsed due to financial difficulties just at the very time I needed medical treatment. The accident was my fault too so I had no chance of getting payment from anywhere else.

I had concussion, a broken jaw, internal injuries, several broken bones in my body and some nerve damage. When I recovered consciousness the chief surgeon and the hospital bursar came to see me and explained the options. There was a way I could get the necessary treatment without going way into debt. I had no real choice so I signed the contract.

And now a word from my sponsor. Well You Inc. are the leading providers of health insurance in the UK. For peace of mind always choose Well You Inc. Phone 0898 115566 now. Well You Inc for a really well you.

Sorry about that. It's wired into my brain now, I can't write more than two hundred words without inserting the latest sponsor message that is piped to me via microwave. I am unable to speak to anyone without reciting it first.

I think what I hate the most though is those damn banner ads running across my forehead.

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Aerial photographs

Dear diary,

I have had another great idea for a business.

Actually I have sort of had it in mind since last spring when a chap knocked on the door and offered me a framed aerial photo of my house for £35. It was a lot of money for a photo measuring about 10 inches by 8 inches in a £4 frame, but on the other hand its not the sort of thing you get many chances at. He was clearly pretty confident of a sale to have it already framed like that, so he must have got quite a bit of money just from our road.

Of course I can't afford to hire a helicopter, but who needs one? What about putting a camera on a model aircraft? Right, do a business plan. A quick whiz over the top of the average town street of, say, 20 houses per side, then back down the other side, say £30 per picture, less £4 each for the frame, 75% uptake, that's erm 2 x 20 x erm, lots of dosh.

Went to the model shop. F* me these things are expensive, but one has to invest to accrue. I thought if I used a video camera I could just set it running and then extract the best frames at my leisure. I borrowed a camera and strapped it on. Unfortunately it was way too heavy; the plane just sat there and whined but did not move.

Same problem with a webcam, or rather the webcam itself would have been ok, it was just when I plugged it into the computer there was a problem. I went to PC world to see if they sold USB cable in 1500-meter lengths but no dice. Useless lot. They did not have any special porn printer cartridges with mostly flesh tones when I asked last week either.

Oh well, I would try a trial run with an ordinary digital camera and try to make up a remote operating device later. The camera was still very heavy. My plane just cleared the fence but the controls were sluggish. Last I saw of it, it was disappearing into the kiln chimney of the local brick works.

I was determined not to let this minor setback get me down. I went out offering aerial photos for a cut down price of £20, payment only if satisfied. The bloke at the first house I called at was very interested. Got the ladder off the top of the van, leaned it against his wall and at the top gingerly extended my soon to be patented aerial photo equipment, another digital camera on the end of a clothes pole.

Back home, printed it off on my trusty Mannesman Tally MT100 dot matrix and framed it. Thought it was very impressive, could just make out (must get a new ribbon) the top of his chimney and some tiles. The smudged black and white effect was extremely arty but the customer was not buying. Typical soulless Philistine type you get round here.

All I really need is a longer pole and I think this business will take off.

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Very Very Dirty Old Man

Very Very Dirty Old Man (VVDOM) got a job in a greengrocers. "Cooor, phwaaaar, look at these cucumbers missus" he would cry at the female customers "bet you could find room for one of them eh eh eh?". Or even worse, to both male or female customers "Cooor, phwaaaar, look at these carrots!, pointy, see, pointy, EASILY find a place for one of them eh?, course you have to wash the dirt off first, and WASH THE DIRT OFF AFTERWARDS too eh, eh eh? Of course he got the sack on the first day.

VVDOM got a job on a farm where his first task was milking the cows! Cooor, phwaaar, feel the udders on that!. Between all the fondling and stroking he did not manage to extract much milk. (Milking! phwaaar). And then they asked him to muck out the pigs. (Sentence deleted on grounds of taste). Of course he got the sack on the first day.

VVDOM got a job in the clothes department of a big store as a window dresser. They showed him the ropes and told him to set up a new display. When the store opened all the mannequins were stark bollock naked and arranged in MOST INTERESTING POSITIONS. VVDOM himself was attempting to render one of the mannequins shaggable with the aid of an electric drill with a very large bit. Of course he got the sack on the first day.

VVDOM got a job as an attendant at a childrens’ zoo. (Rest of paragraph deleted as being totally unacceptable.)

VVDOM got a job as a park-keeper. His patch included several leafy paths where his presence was most illuminating. Flash, flash, flash, VVDOM was busier than a Beleisha Beacon. Young ladies, old ladies, young men, vicars, schoolkids, cats and squirrels all received the benefit of his proud displays. Of course he got the sack on the first day.

VVDOM man got a job as a corporate accountant where he has remained to this day.

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Azobutropinal was THE big breakthrough in the treatment of nerve damage and certain degenerative nerve conditions. It had the property of suppressing production of counter growth enzymes in the development of cells, especially nerve cells. Many MS patients showed a marked slowdown in onset of their condition and accident victims saw much more rapid improvement than they would have done without it.

It had seemed remarkably free of any side effects too, so much so that it was commonly administered as a precautionary measure in some quite minor injuries. If only the trials had tested the effects when taken with some other common drugs in presence of certain medical conditions, but even the most stringent statutory testing can hardly cover every combination.

The first hint of a major problem came with a child who had an inflammation of the eye. He had recently been administered with Azobutropinal after a road accident and had also used the common anti-malarial Atovaquone on a family holiday. Infection with the Toxocara Canis parasite was suspected. Anti inflammatory drugs were administered and he was admitted to hospital. The next morning there was no eye in the socket; in its place and almost filling the space writhed the normally microscopic nematode.

That was only the start. Azobutropinal, given certain other triggers, acted as a phenomenal growth accelerator in parasitic worms. Many who had normally minor Toxocara infections of the kidneys and other organs died when the three-inch long creatures burst out in enormous numbers. Common threadworms grew to over a foot long in a matter of hours causing pain and immense embarrassment to their hosts when they vacated their confined space.

That's all distressing and revolting enough I know, but the reports only became real for me six weeks ago on a flight back from Saudi. I was sitting next to a Kenyan guy, an apparently healthy six footer. It was a long late flight, most of the lights were off and most of the passengers were quiet or nodding off like me. I was woken up some time later by something groping my leg, was my companion one of them? It took me a moment to focus in the subdued light, he seemed to be wrapped in some sort of huge wet red scarf. The end of the scarf moved in front of my face and an aperture opened. That's when my nightmares really started and they haven't begun to diminish yet.

Every night when I close my eyes I still see the maw of that blood-dripping twenty five-foot long four-inch diameter Guinea worm.

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I had only been in the new place a day when the door rang and a small elderly man stood on the doorstep dripping in the downpour.

"I just want to say one thing to you" he said "You let us all down; we never expected it of you". "Pardon?" But he was already walking away. He must have got the wrong house and the wrong person. I had no idea who he was and I had not let anyone down to my knowledge, not recently or round here at any rate.

At the village shop the proprietress served me with pursed lips and curt words. As I walked out of the door I heard her remark to another customer "Don't know how he has the nerve to show his face". On the walk home I got several dirty looks.

What on earth did they think I had done? I had not heard of anything happening since my arrival they could be blaming me for. Did they mistake me for someone else? Or maybe the village had other plans for the house I had bought and my purchase had spoiled them. But how was I supposed to have known?

I decided to call on the vicar that same day. He was frosty. I asked him point blank what I was accused of. He was silent for a moment then showed me the door. I asked him again. "Well really" he said, "you have got some nerve, haven't you?" I racked my brains all day. I must have done something in their eyes, maybe? No hardly that. What?. I slept little that night. I was guilty of nothing at all to my knowledge but I somehow felt guilty.

In the weeks that have followed I have had silences and snubs and verbal abuse in the street. I have had silent phone calls and accusing phone calls and vicious letters that have accused me of some terrible betrayal without ever specifying in what way or manner I have betrayed.

And every day my guilt had grown. I don't know what I've done but I now know I must have done something, something truly awful and I must make amends. The bottle is empty now and the growing numbness makes the pain of the razor easier to bear.

I'm sorry I let everyone down.

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Hey cynics!

I have recently made a resolution to be less of a cynical old git and more open and trusting towards people, so have begun taking all those junk emails at face value. And you know what? They are all genuine!

The first one I responded to six weeks ago was one from one Titmothy (sic) the son of the late President Mobutu Sese Seko. What a very nice bloke!. I sent him details of my bank account and sure enough, less than two weeks later, twenty million United States Dollars was deposited in my account! Most of that was transferred out a few days later leaving me with the 18% commission promised. If only I had responded to the similar message from his mother last year!. I cannot believe I lost out on that and so many other great deals because of my mean distrustful spirit, not to mention my innate racist attitude towards Nigerians of course. Well, I guess it certainly serves me right!

I also have $200,000 United States Dollars in another account from winning that Pan African lottery, the one where there had been some mix up over the ticket numbers. Once I had sent them my bank account details they sorted it out in under a week!. I have won again this morning, and to think I was worried about my financial future! I had already started to sort it out with some of those great business propositions and loan deals in my emails, but I don't need to bother now!

I have sent for all those potions to turn back my body's biological clock. I now have no wrinkles, a full head of hair, loads of stamina, a great memory and huge bulging muscles WITHOUT EXERCISE!

And those enlarge your penis and increase your staying power potions? They work too and how! I would never have admitted it before but my manly dimensions were always rather modest. But now! After consuming 10 bottles of the potion, each one giving a doubling in length, I have to wrap it round my neck to get out of bed in the morning. If I'm lucky that is, due to the staying power thing, getting out of bed is more like an Olympic pole vault event. I wonder if I may have overdone it slightly.

Still, it will come in handy with all those great girls that keep dropping in from next door in Philadelphia.

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All stories copyright xoggoth