Lana Visits the Shadowlands, Pt 2 of 3


Part One is here

They marched for what felt like forever and hardly any time at all. Lana had barely enough time to think of her next question before Wilson opened the glass door to his lamp and blew the candle out. Darkness descended like the heavy thing on top of the wardrobe you’ve forgotten you put there until it comes down on your head along with whatever it was you were getting down in the first place.

‘What’s going on?’ she whispered. There was no reply from her guide, but the light blossoming before them gave her the answer. She wandered towards it until she seemed to step out of a tunnel and into blazing sunlight.

She stood in a street, but it was like nothing she’d ever seen. The stones beneath her feet were the colour of mustard and the house she faced was much the same. It glowed gently in the sunlight, along with all the other buildings along the street.

Voices called to her from all over. They spoke a language she thought might be Arabic, but could just as easily have been French. The voices were loud and fast and were definitely asking her something. She tried to turn but she was stuck fast, stuck staring at the wall.

Then she moved, though it wasn’t of her own choice. She turned left and moved along beside the houses. Her view reminded her of playing an old shoot em up. She bounced gently up and down and her vision was fixed somewhere between the round stones on the floor and the end of the street.

The sun beat down but she didn’t feel it. She didn’t feel much of anything. She turned left again into the front of a shop filled with carpets and rugs. They were beautiful, as beautiful as furnishings could be, stitched in reds and golds and oranges and purples. She turned again to face the front of the shop and stopped.

Men and women came and went. The women wore burkas and beautiful dresses in the same colours as the rugs. The men spoke loudly and hugged one another and always seemed to be smiling. It was peaceful, in an odd sort of a way. But there was an edge to the peace.

She was, she had realised, someone’s shadow. The man who sat in his shop all day. And he wasn’t happy. He gave warm greetings to all who entered, but deeper down than that, there was an aching sadness. She didn’t know how she felt it, but she knew he felt that way and there was no way to escape it. Slowly but surely, she found her own mood slipping and slithering until she felt close to tears.

The man was in mourning. Something had happened, years ago, from which he’d never recovered. He smiled and nodded and hugged and shook hands and haggled as though nothing was wrong, but it was. Had she been a customer into the shop, she’d have had no idea. She wished she was a customer.

As the day passed, the sun dipped low to the houses and she began to feel tired. She yawned, stretching to the roof above her, again and again. The sun touched the top of the house opposite and her eyes began to droop. A hand touched her shoulder and she jumped and found she could turn.

Wilson stood behind her. His clothes were even odder here but it was nice to see him.

‘Where am I?’

‘Tunisia. Do you like it?’

Yeah, it’s alright. It’s not home though.’

‘I thought you didn’t like home.’

‘Well, yeah, not so much. The man is very sad.’

Wilson’s head cocked to one side and he raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow. ‘I beg your pardon?’

‘I was that man’s shadow, right? He was sad.’

‘You could feel his emotions?’


‘I see. Well.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Come, let us be on our way.’

He lifted his lantern as darkness descended and they set off once again. She’d taken only a couple of steps when something brushed past her shoulder. She glanced behind but there was nothing there. ‘What was that?’

‘What was what?’

‘Something touched my shoulder.’

‘I’m sure I don’t know. Perhaps you imagined it.’

She nodded and shrugged and shivered. She hadn’t felt the sun, but it was colder without it. They walked until her legs grew tired, but she couldn’t remember blinking. Then Wilson raised his lantern and blew it out.

She was ready for the darkness this time, but it still took her breath away. She’d noticed darkness like this when she moved to the countryside. It was never dark in the city, not properly.

The sunlight blossomed before her and she walked out into a city street. Glass buildings towered above her, but she could see only to the second floor. A yellow taxi came hurtling past, screeched around the corner and sped out with a blast of its horn.

The noise was tremendous. Cars, people, the beeping of the crossing lights. It was wonderful. She began to move, once more without any control. She bobbed across the road and set off down the street. Her bearer arrived at an office and she stared at the inside of a lift for longer than she thought they ever went. The building must be huge.

He was doing random, miscellaneous stuff and he didn’t like it. She focused on his emotions this time, trying to find more than just the feeling. It left her on edge and grumpy. He wanted to be outside, in the sun, but he had no choice. He wanted to be talking to someone, though she couldn’t work out who. He wanted lots of things, none of which he had.

Part of her felt sorry for him, but the rest just got annoyed. He was supposed to be working, but all he was doing was moaning away inside his head. And she was getting it all. She wanted to shout at him to shut up, but couldn’t.

Lunch time came and he bounded out of the building and into a huge park. They sat beneath a tree and she could look across the grass at the joggers and mums with babies. Her bearer’s mood changed entirely. It was like being with a different person. Why was he working in an office if he felt so crappy about it?

He rose from the bench and slumped his way back towards the office. On the way he made a phone call. She was getting waves of regret from him, strong enough to make her pant for want of breath. He spoke to his mum, though from the sounds of it, the person on the other end had no idea who he was.

Lana listened for a while, but the feelings grew stronger and stronger until she could hardly breathe and had to focus on sucking air into her lungs. Her bearer shoved his phone in his pocket and the feelings softened just enough. Something was wrong with his mum, something that made talking to her the most painful thing he’d ever done.

As he sat back in his chair and let out a long sigh, she realised she wanted to leave. But she was stuck, his depression beating down on her. She waited impatiently for the sun to drop and her guide to reappear. When the sun drifted past the window, exhaustion hit her like a train and her eyes barely stayed open.

She tried to glance over her shoulder, but she still couldn’t move. She was about to shout his name when something brushed her shoulder. She caught a glimpse of something black and shiny, sidling past her and into darkness. It breathed.

She wrapped her arms around herself.

‘Wilson, where are you?’

A hand touched her shoulder and she jumped. She could turn now and looked with relief into Wilson’s dark eyes. ‘I don’t like it here.’

‘You don’t? I thought you liked the city.’

‘Yeah, well, only when I can actually be there.’

‘You are there.’

‘I’m not.’

‘This is New York.’

‘Yeah, well, it’s nice, but it isn’t home. And that guy is seriously depressed.’

Her guide frowned. It struck her because it was the first time he’d shown any emotion save smugness. ‘You could feel his emotions?’

‘Yeah, of course. Why is that weird?’

He shrugged. ‘No matter.’

She bit her lip and shook her head. ‘No, it is. Come on, what’s weird about me?’

‘Well, most shadows cannot feel their bearer’s emotions. It’s highly unusual.’

‘Oh. So why can I?’

‘I don’t know.’ He looked mighty pissed about that and turned away before she could ask anything else. Darkness came down and she was already looking over her shoulder when it came. It looked like a panther, huge and muscular and very real as it brushed against her. It slipped away, darkness swallowed by darkness.

She rushed to walk beside Wilson. ‘What are they?’


‘The big cats.’

‘I’m sorry, I don’t know wh—’

‘Yeah you do, you know everything. The thing that brushes against me every time we come back in here. Wherever here is.’ She muttered the last, but as before, he still heard her.

‘This is the Inbetween. The place where shadows come to sleep.’

‘Is that what the cat is, a sleeping shadow?’

Wilson smiled at her. One of her feet caught behind the other and she stumbled. He caught her arm before she fell and when she looked at him again, the smile had changed. His eyes twinkled. ‘Even a shadow leaves a mark.’

Then he blew the lantern out and she found herself back in the darkness, wondering whether it was possible for him to get any creepier.


The final part will be out Monday 8th December

Lana visits the Shadowlands, Part 1 of 3

This one was trickier to write than the last few. I found inspiration on a walk very similar to the one Lana takes with her parents, but after spending the evening wrestling with it, had to put it aside and finish it today. It could still benefit from some tweaking, but I’m happy enough to post it and invite comments now. Happy reading. 🙂 


‘I hate you, leave me alone.’

The door slammed behind her and she stared at it until the shaking in her hands died away. She stomped across the room, making sure every footfall would be heard in the kitchen below, and threw herself onto the bed.

I mean it, she thought. I mean it for real this time. They’ve evil, pure evil. The entire point of their existence is to ruin mine. Why do they hate me so much? Why did they even have me if they didn’t like me?

She rolled over and stared at the wall. Down below in the kitchen, the shouting started up, same as always. She pulled her pillow over her head and waited for the inevitable slam of the back door. It came quicker than usual this time as dad stormed out.

Peace descended.

Lana tensed, her back becoming the barrier with which she defended herself against the inevitable tapping on her bedroom door.

‘Sweetheart, can I come in?’

‘Go away.’

‘Come on now, sweetie, there’s no need for that.’

‘Go away and leave me alone. I never want to talk to you again.’

The door clicked open and Lana tightened her shoulders. If she curled in a tight-enough ball, mum wouldn’t be able to unroll her. She wished she had spines so mum couldn’t even come close. Her bed sagged and mum’s hand landed on her arm.

‘Please, darling, I need you.’

She needed her. What a joke that was. If she needed her, maybe she should be nice instead of judging her. Judging her was all she ever did, over and over again.

‘Go away.’

‘Please, darl—’

‘Go away, go away, GO AWAY.’ Tears came running down her face as she sat up. Mum jumped off the bed and Lana felt good for all of a second about the look on her face. Then the guilt set in. She opened her mouth, but by then the life had gone from mum’s eyes and she was backing away.

The door clicked quietly shut. Lana grabbed her pillow and threw it, following it up with Mr Tricks. The rabbit bounced off the door, rolled over and came up looking at her. His glass eyes, once so cute, seemed to mock her. She scowled at him but received only the usual smile, so she turned away to face the wall.

Lana liked this patch of wall. It was plain and white and simple and didn’t ask her any questions or shout at her. She stared at it until her teeth finally stopped clenching and the sound of mum doing meaningless baking drifted up through the floor.


The next day they went for a walk. It was one of their mundane, inane, pointless Sunday activities that was supposed to be quality family time, but was instead excruciating and boring. Lana quickened her pace the minute they reached the river path. She got far enough ahead that she couldn’t feel the glares being exchanged above her head.

Why didn’t they get a divorce? Shauna’s parents got a divorce when she was, like, nine, and she was fine. They said it was for her, but since they both hated her and everything she was, it made no sense.

They hadn’t always hated her. It seemed to start when they moved here.

She’d liked living in the city. Apparently they came out here for her as well. She paused to stare at the ducks. They were digging at one another with their beaks and making sounds not unlike mum and dad when they were having a bad day. She scowled at them and wandered on.

The schools were better here, apparently. She’d only been in comprehensive school for three years, but she already knew it wasn’t better than where she’d been. There were less people and not one of them knew anything about the world. They all had two parents and nice cars and skiing holidays. Except Shauna, of course, but Shauna was different.

She grinned and pulled out her phone. She could text Shau—


She ground her teeth together and put it back in her pocket. This was that counselor’s fault. No phones at the weekend, unless you were alone. She took a deep breath and wrinkled her nose at the smell of duck poo. She was fourteen, what the hell did they care if she had her phone out?

It was better than talking to her parents. Or listening to them quietly bitch at one another.

‘Lana, your mother and I would like to talk to you about something.’

She glanced back. Dad was staring at the ducks and scowling. So this was gonna be good. She looked at mum. She looked so tired. She looked so pathetic.

Lana set off. She raced away from the river and across the grass. There were wide meadows beside the water with tall, narrow trees at the far end. The sun was low in the sky, throwing shadows the length of the field.

She ran so the wind blew out her hair and made her cheeks sting. She laughed, though she had no idea why she was laughing. Maybe it was the sound of mum’s voice, calling her to come back. Maybe it was just better than crying.

The shadows played across her face like fingers, first pressing down, then away, then down again.

She ran through a shadow larger than most and her laughter dried up like two day old cereal. It felt like someone had grabbed her heart and given it a good squeeze. She gasped as the air in her throat became so cold she couldn’t breathe. Then she left it behind and the sun stole the shock.

The next shadow was bigger still and she had a second to realise there were no trees big enough to cast one that big before she reached it. She plunged into the shadow and out of the sun, and the world went black.


Lana stopped so fast her shoulders didn’t realise and she nearly toppled forward. Her hands went out to stop her fall and someone grabbed them. She screamed and flailed about, fending off her mysterious attacker.

‘Please, young lady, be careful where you swing those things.’

That wasn’t mum or dad. With an accent like that, it may as well be the queen. Why was it so dark? She blinked and looked behind her. Darkness. Complete and utter darkness.

She looked forward again and saw something. A glint, like light catching metal. A flame burst into life and she covered her eyes, squinting.

‘Oh goodness, I am sorry, how thoughtless of me. Here.’

The light dimmed considerably and she cautiously removed her hand. The man held a lantern. It was one of those old fashioned ones, with black, wrought iron top and bottom and, at the moment, an iron guard in front. The bearer suited the lantern perfectly.

He wore trousers that ended an inch or two above his perfectly shined, black leather shoes. His waistcoat and top hat only added to the impression that she was talking to someone from, like, the 1960s. He also had a moustache, which was very much eww, but not as bad as some she’d seen.

‘Are you doing Movember?’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘You know, that charity thing?’

He frowned and shook his head. ‘I’m sorry, young lady, I’m not entirely sure what Movember is. But I am fairly confident that I’m not taking part in it.’

‘Right. Where am I?’

‘Where are you? You are in the Shadow Lands, where else?’

‘Well, I kinda thought I was in Marlow.’

‘Oh, well, perhaps you were. You all come from somewhere. But now you are here.’

‘Great, thanks, very helpful. Where are mum and dad?’

‘Where did you say you thought you were?’


‘Yes. I would imagine they are there, then.’

‘Right. What?’

‘The Shadow Lands. My domain.’ He frowned. ‘I am sorry, I’m being remiss in my hospitality. My name is Mr Wilson, welcome to my home.’

‘Right. What?’

He smiled and waved a hand. The world lit up around her and she covered her eyes again. She looked around and saw the fields and the river. Mum and dad were on the towpath, staring wide eyed towards her. She waved. ‘Hey, I’m here.’

They took no notice of her. Not a surprise. Then mum ran towards her and Lana spotted the tears on her cheeks. What the hell. Mum was running, actual real running and she wasn’t slowing down. Lana leapt aside, but mum kept going.

‘Mum, I’m here.’

‘She cannot hear you.’

‘Why not?’

‘You are in the Shadow Lan—’

‘Yeah, you said that. What does it mean.’ She blinked, surprised by the tears pricking the corners of her eyes.

‘Look around you. Properly.’

Lana did, scrubbing her eyes with one hand. The shadows that fell across the field were darker now, richer. It was like someone had come along and painted them onto the grass. The sunlight, on the other hand, was pale and barely worth mentioning. Lana shivered. ‘Where am I?’ she muttered it to herself, but Wilson heard her.

‘You have left behind the world that you know and journeyed into Shadow. We lie behind the reality to which you have become accustomed. We walk just behind them and just in front, but never with.’


‘Ahh, a better question. I would hazard a guess you saw something here that was better than what you had out there.’

‘That wouldn’t be difficult.’

‘There you are, then.’

‘But…’ she rubbed her face with the palms of her hands and shook her head. ‘I mean, what?’

He patted her gently on the shoulder. He wore black gloves but it was still touching. She shied away.

‘I apologise. Some find a little physical contact reassuring at this time.’

‘Don’t you physical contact me. How old are you?’

‘As old as the sun, more or less.’

‘Oh…’ Her thoughts ran around like a headless dog. They wanted to please her, but had no idea where to start. There was a very strong possibility she was still asleep. It was that or she’d fallen in the river and this was drowning. It was far more interesting than she’d imagined.

‘Would you like to take the tour?’

‘The tour?’

‘Indeed. You have to choose a shadow.’


‘You seem to like that word. You might find adding more detail to your questions garners more helpful answers.’

She scowled at him. He reminded her of dad, only without shouting at her. ‘Fine. Why do I have to choose a shadow?’

‘Well. You’ve come to the Shadow Lands and most who do so, choose a shadow.’

‘What if I don’t want to?’

‘You may leave any time you like.’

‘What, like, right now?’

He held out a hand. ‘Please, be my guest.’

Lana looked past him to where mum had turned around and was stumbling back across the field. Dad was digging about near the trees, like she’d burrowed beneath them. Mum shouted something and dad scowled at her and threw his arms up. She could go back and make them alright. For all of five minutes.

‘Okay, where do we start?’

Shadows smiled and set off. As he walked, the light around them dimmed until the world went away and left the two of them marching in the glow of his lantern.


Part Two will be here Thursday 4th December

Sun Dancer – A Tale from the Solar Trading Paths between Titan and L’Lastinar

This one was inspired by the terrific Fantasy and Sci-Fi Writing Prompts page on Facebook, so cheers, Meredith. 🙂


They were two days out when they saw it. It danced and span between the nebulas, throwing its arms of fire-laced wind miles out into space. First Mate McGinty said it was a space serpent and the crew weren’t fast to disagree with him.

But he knew what it was. He’d seen one before. Indeed, he’d been through one before. But what Captain Talis would never tell the crew was that the last time he’d faced a tornado, only one man had come out alive. And that was the man now gripping the tiller with iron-tight hands and a face set like plasticrete.

They’d all seen them from afar. It was from tornadoes such as these that tales of space serpents and dragons had sprung. But normally they were half a solar system away, wrapped around some hapless planet or playing marbles with meteors.

This one lay in their path and there was no escaping it. The solar winds took them down paths long travelled and whilst those paths shifted, any brave enough to sail them were still at the mercy of the routes they took. Map makers had long since given up trying to plot the winds. Talis had learnt the routes from his old captain, before the ‘serpent’ took him and the rest of the crew.

Now the Sun Dancer was his and his only hope was that he wouldn’t be the only one left standing when they came through.

If they came through.

A sleepless day and night passed and the tornado filled their future. The winds had rushed them past Sinar, the closest planet to this star and they were approaching what had, until now, always been Talis’s favourite part of the journey. They would skirt the flares on the edge of the star and get the energy to blast out into space and into a new system.

Their destination was L’Lastinar, where they would unload their cargo and take on new for the next leg. It would be nearly two years before they would pass back this way. By then, the storm would have blown itself out. The conglomeration of flares and tides that created one would have moved on.

But none of that mattered now. Talis stared into the tornado, daring it to stare back. It looked like a serpent. It filled space in both directions, a slate grey serpent hundreds of miles wide and endlessly spinning and dancing. From its mouth and claws came fire, solar flares sucked up by the pressure and spat out as warning to the unwary traveller.

But no traveller could see what lay before them and be anything but wary. Talis though his crew were a little more than wary. Some, the older hands, had already strapped themselves to something. McGinty was in place beside the wheel, but he hadn’t tied himself down before strapping Talis’s hands to the wheel.

It was the act of a good First Mate, but there was more than blind loyalty involved. It would be Talis’s steering that got them through the maelstrom. His knuckles whitened against the wheel as he felt the first pull.

Their path was lit before them, streaks of sun fire running beneath the ship, dragged along by the winds. And that path ran straight into the dragon’s belly. He shook his head. Now even he was thinking about it as some mythical beast.

Perhaps that was right. This was no natural phenomenon. This was a monster, to be fought and tamed.

He clenched his teeth until they hurt and flashed a sharp grin at his First Mate. McGinty fired one right back, nodding as the prow of the Sun Dancer began to buck.

One last glance back. His crew were all tied on now, clinging to every line they could wrap their hands around. He would get them through. He would because he had to. The cargo below was too precious to let go to the whimsy of the solar winds.

She was kicking now, bucking and pitching as the tornado took hold.

‘All sails to full.’

McGinty’s eyebrows rose and he swung his head back and forth as though trying to out do the ship. But Talis had seen this before and he remembered what they had done last time. The softly softly approach didn’t work. They had to charge into the eye before they were torn apart.

The winds were driving across the deck, carrying heat with them that burnt away his eyebrows in seconds. It wasn’t the first time. Lines caught and extinguished just as fast as the charms did their jobs. His crew were moving, but too slowly.

‘Sails to full, NOW!’

The men jumped lively, looping ropes around themselves as they crab crawled across the deck. The sails ran up and caught the wind and the Sun Dancer leapt forward like a scalded whipcat. Talis took one last look at the dark of space before they plunged into the serpent.

solar winds

The solar winds wrapped them up and chewed on them. Gusts the temperature of the sun and faster than even the Fleet’s Destroyers hammered across the decks. The Sun Dancer screamed in protest, every rivet eager to escape and join the twisting terror that railed around them.

His face cracked and burnt, and he watched the skin on his hands peel in seconds. The sails cracked and snapped beneath the pressure, but they stayed whole. And the ship moved forward, cutting through the storm.

Screams reached him but he couldn’t look back. His eyes were fixed on a point far ahead of him. It looked like the tavern he knew awaited them on the docks of L’Lastinar. It looked like the pint of beer that would be thumped to the wood and the woman who lived above the tavern who had promised to keep her bed warm just for him.

He saw all of those things in his mind’s eyes and he knew he would see them for real in only a few short days. The winds screamed and his crew screamed and still he faced forwards. Some primordial creature had hold of a whip made from baking hot wind and drove it across his shoulders.

Talis dropped to one knee, held up only by the ties that kept him attached to the wheel. He heard the crew gasp as one as they saw their captain fall. For a moment, Talis contemplated staying on his knees. The winds would tear the ship from his grasp and his arms would break. The Sun Dancer were be swept away and he would no longer have to cling on.

He glanced over his shoulder and saw the eyes that begged him. He gripped the wheel tighter and pulled himself back to his feet. His men neither cheered nor clapped, but he could feel the change, the belief that came flooding back just as quickly as it had fled.

The ship was turning, the tornado threatening to pull it off course. He heaved on the wheel and McGinty joined him, adding his weight to the effort. Slowly, agonisingly slowly, the Sun Dancer came around. The path they followed was visible only as the lightest, palest lines that ran at odds with the storm. But it was there, guiding them on.

He held the wheel as the storm held his ship and he steered them through.

Tears ran down his face and his shoulders ached when the sound dropped and the serpent spat them out. Ragged cheers rose up from the crew but he turned so fast and so aggressively that they were silenced in an instant.

‘We’re at the centre, no further. This is the calm, gentlemen, prepare yourselves.’

There were groans and mutterings, but there were just as many shouts and exhortations. Already they had done what so few lived to tell. They were halfway through and they could make it the rest of the way. Talis faced forward, face set.

The second part was always the toughest.

The calm gave them time to reset and check the sails. Six crew were gone, stolen from the decks, but the rest stood firm. His chest swelled. It had taken years to lure anyone back to the Sun Dancer after he had limped into port, a lone sailor with no words to describe what had come before.

He closed his eyes, seeing again the storm that had stolen his captain and his friends. In his mind’s eye, he imagined the serpent had swept its claws across the deck and gobbled up his companions in greedy jaws. But when he opened his eyes, all he saw was the wall of wind, filling his horizon and mocking him.

There were no serpents. There were just the vagaries of a universe that mocked all and any who tried to tame her. He was one such and he knew he would never tame her. But a beast didn’t need to be tamed to be ridden. He just had to hold on hard enough and long enough.


The prow shifted, the pull of the wind jerking at the wheel. Talis set his feet and held on…


The Sun Dancer limped into port three days later. The stern mast was gone and the port side cabin nothing more than a pile of twisted metal and plastic. Of the twenty seven men who had set out from Titan, fourteen remained.

Those fourteen were changed. Their eyes stared wildly about them, as though searching for danger in every place they looked. They tramped down from the ship and into the tavern where their Captain bought them all drinks. He sat himself on the stool at the far end and sipped quietly, watching his crew. The locals said that his eyes were different. From his eyes, it was said, a serpent stared back.

The precious cargo was unloaded later that day and beneath the watchful eyes of the crew, twenty four barrels were rolled gently down the gang plank and along the quay. Stamped on each was the word that made the contents of the barrels worth more than any amount of guns or liquor. They held the one thing that the men who rode the Sun Dancer would go back through the tornado for again and again.

McGinty settled himself beside Talis, thumbs hooked in his belt. ‘Chocolate’s unloaded, Captain. What are we taking on for the next leg?’



Lah – A Short Story From Far Away


Have you been wondering how brilliant scientists can send a space ship millions of miles, yet mess up something as simple as landing gear? Me too. It turns out, there is a very good reason why Philae failed to land properly. To learn the truth, read on…


Lah wasn’t much to look at. He knew it and everyone else did too. Three feet tall, the sort of grey you found round the dark side of the comet and completely bald. In those respects, he was identical to the rest of his extended family.

It was the fine details where he failed.

His nose was a little too large and his ears a touch on the small side. His eyes looked like they were trying to mate and his arms hung half a foot lower than the rest of the tribe.

He had been reminded of these deficiencies for much of his childhood and things hadn’t changed much since. Every time the comet span, he rose from his tiny bed deep in the rock, scratched his way out through the tunnels and onto the surface.

That’s when it began. The snide remarks, the nudges that sent him spiraling away from the comet on his bungee whilst all the others laughed. Decades had passed and still they picked on him and still they bullied him. Even the mother didn’t treat him with the same love and devotion she gave the rest.

It had gotten bad recently. In the last few years he’d started to dream of the inevitable Day of Wonder. One day soon, their tiny home would change and become a glorious meteorite. On that day, they would plunge through the atmosphere of some distant planet and life as they knew it would end.

He longed for it. He would lie in his bed, stare at the stone inches from his nose, cross all eighteen fingers and toes and pray that the next day they would find that elusive planet.

But today would be different. Because Lah was going to catch God.

The great and mighty being had arrived a few days ago and now span around their tiny home, over and over again. For the first few hours, they had stood and stared, mouths open wide in amazement. Once they realised it wasn’t going to speak to them, they went back to their work.

But Lah’s mind had started turning and when it did, wonderful things happened. They mocked him and laughed at him, but they all knew he was smarter than them. He wondered sometimes whether that wasn’t why they were so cruel.

He had stopped mentioning the automatic crane arm that they now relied on for most of the work. The crane arm he had invented. He’d stopped even thinking about the space nets that caught their food. The space nets he’d created. They knew, just as well as he, that without his expertise, they would still be grubbing around in the minerals, instead of living like little grey kings.

Nowadays, he kept quiet and kept mining. But the arrival of God had changed everything. Today he was going to show the rest of his extended and narrow-minded family they were wrong to mock him.

He slipped from his bed shelf and out into the corridor. He gave the dust shower a cursory glance of his body and pulled on his overalls. As he did every day, Lah sniffed at the drab grey material. Given more time away from mining, he could create something wonderful to wear. Something with colours.

He reached the surface, clipped on his bungee, and the father pressed a pick into his hands. He joined the others and soon found himself hacking away at the dirt grey rock of their home. Tiny flecks of stone flew off into space and he paused to watch one.

As if it knew his thoughts, it turned and turned until it brushed past God. The mighty being hung above them, its wings spread wide and shining in the light from the distant sun. In its centre, the red, flashing eyes were still staring down on them.

The Philae landing craft... God

The Philae landing craft… God

Did it judge them?

He had to imagine so. But what did it see? Did it see their hard work? Did it see his mind, whirring and thinking? He liked to think so. It was, after all, God, so surely it saw everything.

Lunch break came and he put down his pick with shaking hands. The time had come to enact his masterful and daring plan. He crouched, bracing his legs for the jump. His heart pounded against his tiny ribs and he rubbed his chest in a vain attempt to slow it. He could do this.

He stared up at God and everything stopped. God was changing. He came out of his crouch, mouth falling open. God was opening and inside was a creature. Small and hexagonal and covered in beautiful silvery panels, it spoke to him. That was when he realised. The mighty craft they had been watching wasn’t God.

This was God. This perfect little machine being exposed beneath the craft was the real deity. Then he realised something else.

It was going to land.

He came out of his crouch and raced back through his family, ignoring the usual sniggers and sneers. He needed to figure out where it was coming down. He unclipped as he dashed into the tunnels. He slithered to his room, pulled out his toolkit and scurried back up to the surface.

The craft was still opening. But the landing would be soon. He set up his seeing eye and got a closer look. It was even more beautiful close up and he could see fire emerging from the back of God. It was angry. Either that or it was firing a propulsion device to bring it down to the surface.

Considering the faultless hard work it had observed, Lah figured it was more likely to be readying itself for a descent. He had already tracked and recorded the orbit of God and now he set off to follow it.

The surface of his home was pitted and mountainous, rising and falling faster than his peers’ opinions of his worth, and chasing God was hard work. But it was worth it. The great being shook and came free of its craft and in that moment, he knew exactly where it would land.

Beh’s plateau. It was flat, smooth and the perfect place from which God could survey him and his family. He scrambled across the comet until he reached the plateau and got himself set. He would need to secure God the moment it touched down. He also had to be certain it couldn’t escape.

Lah stretched ties across the plateau and set up his electronic counter measures. Once he was done, he hunkered down just over the edge and waited. Sure enough, a few minutes later, God hove into view.

He couldn’t contain himself and squeaked and squeaked as the great being came closer. So shiny. So straight and neat and ordered. God came closer still. Lah paused with his finger over the button. Was he sure he wanted to do this? It felt like sacrilege, but he couldn’t stop himself. Once he’d caught God, they couldn’t look down on him, not ever again.

He thumbed the button and watched with wide eyes as the legs sprouting from beneath God halted halfway out. He’d done it. The mighty being landed on the ties and Lah held his breath.

They didn’t spring closed.

What was going on? He leapt out from hiding and began to check the tensions, but it was too late.

His eyes narrowed and he clawed the rough stone as God struck the comet and bounced off. As it sailed back into space, Lah chased it with a howl of frustration. God was leaving. God couldn’t leave, not when he was so close to finally finding his redemption.

But he was watching its flashing red lights dwindling into the blackness far above his head and there was nothing he could… he slapped his little grey head and shook it. There was something he could do. He scrabbled back to where he left his pack and pulled out his stuff.

Scraps of electronics salvaged from the space nets and tied together with chunks of clumsy solder formed the huge device he held in his hands. He opened the back and tweaked it, pulling wires out and moving them here and there. Satisfied, he slapped the back in place and switched it on. It came alive with a hum and he smiled. He could do this.

Lah twisted dials and listened with his tiny head cocked to one side. His machine made buzzes and clicks and whirrs, but through it came the unmistakable sound of circuitry, live circuitry. He tuned in on the signal and sent out a homing beacon. Sure enough, the signal changed and responded, calling back to him.

He was speaking to God.

He whooped and giggled, then stopped himself. It couldn’t land here. Everyone would know it was here and that wouldn’t work. They’d take it from him. They’d steal his secret and take God apart to see how it ticked. Lah scooped up his pack and started to run.

He dashed across the barren landscape, darting round towers of rock shorn smooth by the solar winds. He raced down canyons and through narrow defiles until he reached his secret spot. It was perfect.

He checked his machine and nodded. It was still a long way out, but it was communicating with him. He was getting other signals also. Something, or someone, was trying to communicate with it. Someone else thought they could talk to God.

He grinned, showing his little sharp teeth, and upped the power on his box of tricks. The other signal faded away and God’s voice came through loud and clear. Now he just had to wait.

It was the longest three hours of his life. Every second that passed brought God a little closer. But it was also another second that might mean someone came out looking for him. They rarely did when he went walkabout. It wasn’t like there was anywhere for him to go and when night fell, he had to be in the tunnels. But still, just the thought of it made him shiver and wrap his arms around himself.

The hours passed, agonisingly slowly, until God came into view. The red lights flickered as it came down and underneath the cliff. Lah set his machine down and stepped back, bowing and resting his forehead against the cold rock.

God landed.

Its feet hadn’t extended fully and it sat at an angle.

Lah watched God.

God watched Lah.

He was about to creep closer when God made a series of beeps and began to move. First, tiny drills emerged from beneath it and drove into the stone. Then other devices came out, sniffing the rock and flicking at it.

It all looked a little mundane. Lah watched for as long as he could before he had to race back to the cave as night fell. The night was long and he slept for little of it. The second the day bell went, he was up and racing once more across the surface of his home.

God was still there. He leant against the rock and waited until his thumping heart slowed before approaching. God was beeping quietly to itself, the red lights flashing on and off.

He spent the day with it. Sometimes he spoke to it. He told it the tales of his people. He told it their dreams and their beliefs and how he had always known that God would one day come, as it had so many years ago. He told it his own dreams, even the guilty ones that would bring his life to an end. He told it about the bullying and the mocking and how much he hated his life.

Sometimes he just watched. The drills would pop out now and then, as did the arms. The beeping went on and off. The lights flashed. It was thrilling. And slightly boring.

Perhaps it wanted something. He sneaked back into the caves and pinched some minerals from the kitchen. He tried to feed God, but there wasn’t anywhere he could put them. He ended up scattering them beneath it for the drills to grind into.

Night time came again and he sloped grudgingly back to his bed. God was hungry and he didn’t know how to feed it. God was thirsty, but what could he give it to drink? He slept better that night, but woke with no more idea of what he could do.

He was heading out once more when the father caught him.

‘Now, now, Lah, one day off is more than enough.’

‘But father—’

‘No. There is mining to be done and although you work more slowly than your brothers and sisters, still you must contribute.’

It wasn’t true. He worked just as fast as they did. He worked faster than some. But they weren’t smart like him. And they didn’t have funny, close-together eyes. He scowled, accepted the pick and went to work.

He didn’t have the chance to visit God again that day. He slowed on his way back to the tunnels, but night was falling and he couldn’t make it there and back in time. He growled and climbed reluctantly into his bed.

The next day he was up before the bell and waiting for the distant sun to crack across the pitch black of the comet. When it came he was out, clipping on his bungee and racing down towards his secret spot.

God was still there! He picked up his pace, smile finally creeping across his face. It wasn’t until he was almost there that he slowed. The smile fell and he dropped to his knees.

The red lights were gone. God was dead. Or sleeping. Perhaps it was just resting. It would wake soon. He crawled across the last few feet and sat with his back against the wall, staring at the tiny eyes in God’s side.

He waited.

The day passed and God slept on.

The next day was the same. And the next. Every morning he would leave the caves before the day bell and race to check on God and every day would be the same.

Lah had failed. Somewhere between the food and the drink, he had failed God and left it to die. He sobbed for days, inconsolable. All he could think was that if he hadn’t tried to catch God, none of this would have happened.

He had killed God.

As the days passed, he stopped sitting beside God. Instead he would climb up the cliff and sit atop it, staring up into space. God’s craft still circled his home, waiting patiently. Did it know something Lah did not? What secrets did it house inside its shell?

As time went by, the first seeds of an idea crept it. If he could just get up there…

Mr Amazing – A Superhero Story. Pt 2 of 2


The day went downhill from there. His period four, year elevens were hell on Earth, so halfway through mangling algebra, he froze the lot of them and spent ten minutes reading his paper. The first five minutes were pure bliss, but after that the fear of someone coming in and seeing 28 students frozen in time, mouths open in mid-cuss and hands raised clutching paper airplanes posed for flight, ruined it.

In the end he unfroze them, shouted a lot, and managed to get most of them to work out the value of A. Lunch time was duty again and he spent most of it trying to catch Michelle’s eye without making it too obvious. In the end he wasn’t obvious enough and she didn’t see him. Or she did see him and ignored him.

The suit was chafing. He’d forgotten that about the day suit, but it never seemed that important when he was fighting for his life. Trying to find the circumference of a circle, however, wasn’t quite thrilling enough to block out the constant itching in his crotch.

The year sevens trooped dutifully out and he prepared himself for period six, the last of the day. The year tens arrived in dribs and drabs, mooching along. Most were far too cool to wear costumes, but there were a couple of half-assed Batmans and one, horribly tight-fitting Flash that had him wincing.

He opened his mouth to begin and closed it again. He could teach the lesson, but he’d spent the last week getting excited about today and all he’d done so far was break up a fight and cause the removal from the space time continuum of 28 maladjusted teenagers. There had to be more he could do.

Ten minutes later, the fifth member of the class climbed onto the table he held above his head whilst he continued talking. ‘So, as you can see, sometimes weight doesn’t equal—’


The table wobbled and nearly went over before he got his hands to it. He deposited the desk, complete with five wide-eyed students, on the floor and dashed out into the corridor.

The maths department was on the main drag through the school building and at the same moment Mr Amazing came rushing out, another fifteen or so teachers stuck their heads out of their doors. Not that someone shouting AHHHHHH in school was all that unusual, but this cry had an extra layer of panic and pain.

At the far end of the corridor stood someone Mr Amazing had hoped never to see again. He never thought of himself as having arch nemeses, but had he done so, The Incredibly Evil Bastard would have come top of the list. They had fought four times in total and every time, the Incredibly Evil Bastard had escaped through some dastardly fiendish plot.

He stood now, resplendent in his lime green lycra, glaring straight down the hall at Mr Amazing. John’s eyes, though, were drawn to the woman struggling in his grasp. Michelle, despite the Wonder Woman costume, looked terrified, her eyes wide and her face pale. It was no wonder. The Incredibly Evil Bastard held his Instant Manglation ray gun to her head.

Mr Amazing set off, not thinking even for a second of what it would mean for his job. So long as someone wasn’t filming him. He’d taken about two steps when he heard someone gasp and looked to his left. Natasha had crept out of his classroom and had her phone pointing at him.

‘Natasha, what are the rules on mobiles in school?’

‘Only ever outside, never ever inside?’ She tried to make it sound like a question, as though that would make her somehow innocent.

‘And where are you now?’

‘But, siiir?’

‘Put it away or I’ll take it away.’

She scowled and slipped it into her shirt pocket. He took a step towards her, warning eyebrows at full raise and her scowl widened. She pulled the phone out and disappeared back into the classroom to put it in her bag. He turned and ran full pelt for the villain still posturing at the end of the hall.

He couldn’t help noticing that most of the other teachers had gone back into their classrooms and closed their doors. Some things just weren’t worth the effort at three pm on a Friday. Miss Hidgepuddle, on the other hand, had left her RE room and was striding purposefully towards the Incredibly Evil Bastard.

Now and then, Mr Amazing was grateful for his super hearing. The nascent twang of a warming-up elastic band had certainly saved him more than once from untold misery. This, however, wasn’t one of those times.

‘Excuse me, young man, but I really do think you’re taking things a little too far. Please release that teacher and perhaps you and I can talk about the appropriate levels of student/teacher rela— goodness me, Mr Ashworth.’

Mr Amazing stopped in his tracks, mouth falling open. It couldn’t be. He couldn’t be him. Suddenly, though, it made perfect sense. Dave had always been morally lapse. John had once been moment’s away from accusing him of stealing his white board rubber, which in a school was only one rung below murder and piracy. Add to that a distinct lack of respect for anything involving Pi and it was obvious. Of course Dave was a super villain.

Mr Amazing strode closer until he could gently move Miss Hidgepuddle to one side. ‘Please, I’ll take over from here.’

‘Mr Evans? Take over what, don’t be daft, I just want an AHHHHH!’

This time the scream was fatal. Dave, aka, the Incredibly Evil Bastard, had turned his ray on Miss Hidgepuddle and moments later all that remained of her was some mangled, bloody remains. The teachers and students John had hoped were tucked away in their classrooms all began to scream and panic at the same time.

He had to ignore them, though. The real danger lay right in front of him. Michelle and Dave were both staring at him. Michelle was green but still giving him an admiring look. Dave’s mouth hung open and he shook his head.

‘It can’t be. Bloody hell, you’re Mr bloody Amazing. How didn’t I realise?’

‘Maybe because I was kicking your arse every time we met.’

‘Hah, good try, mate. I seem to remember putting you in traction with a bus not so long ago.’

‘Actually, that was two years ago, and in case you’ve forgotten, you needed help from Swamp Boy and the Fantastic Diego.’ He glared at Dave, resting his clenched fists on his hips. ‘Let her go.’

‘What? You’re having a laugh, aren’t you? I’ve been trying to get her for—’

‘Dave, you’ve been here nine months. That’s not really all that long. Besides which, you aren’t getting anything, you’re kidnapping her and that is unlikely to get you very far.’

‘My name isn’t Dave.’ The words came from between clenched teeth. ‘It’s the Incredibly Evil Bastard.’

‘Right now, you’re being the Incredibly Stupid Twat. Now let her go.’

‘NEVER.’ Dave aimed his ray gun and fired. John leapt aside, grabbed the top of the stair rail and threw himself straight over Dave’s head. He landed just as his enemy span around, still with one arm wrapped around Michelle. But she slowed him just enough for John to launch his own attack.

His fists blurred and Dave was forced to block.

‘Run, Michelle, go.’

She wriggled free and raced off down the corridor, chased by Dave’s anguished cry. Mr Amazing kept attacking, driving blow after blow against the Incredibly Evil Bastard’s defence. It soon crumbled and his blows began to land on his face and chest. Dave dropped to one knee, then two knees until Mr Amazing was able to launch one, mighty strike that knocked him flat on his back.

‘Enough. Please, you’ve got me, just, please, that’s enough.’

Mr Amazing stepped back, folding his arms and glaring down at the Incredibly Evil Bastard. ‘You’re going to jail this time, you Incredibly Evil Bastard.’

‘I know. I just, I love her so badly.’

John groaned and shook his head. ‘Please, don’t embarrass yourself.’

‘Haven’t you ever loved someone?’

John glanced over his shoulder. Michelle stood close by and she caught his eye. He smiled and the returning look was another invitation. He swelled and turned back to the Incredibly Evil Bastard. ‘Maybe I have. But I wouldn’t kidnap them.’

Dave’s eyes were wide open and his lips were pulled back from his mouth. ‘Her? You love her? You can’t, she’s mine.’ He moved faster than John had ever seen and the ray was back in his hand. ‘You can’t have her, you can’t.’

Dave fired and John raised an arm in some pointless attempt to stop his impending doom. A doom that never came.

A sound like breaking glass rattled down the corridor and John reluctantly opened his eyes. Dave still crouched before him, ray held up, but he wasn’t moving. A glowing, hissing yellow rope was wrapped tight around his arms and neck, holding him in place.

Between himself and The Incredibly Evil Bastard, John saw Michelle’s arm. The wrist band on it looked like really good fancy dress, like someone had spent a lot of time hand stitching the leather. He followed the arm back to its owner and stared at her.

‘No way.’ He breathed and she smiled and nodded.

‘I have to ask, where are you guys from? Is there some new indie that’s been doing well? Don’t tell me you’re some new crap Marvel’s cooked up, because in my day, the Incredibly Evil Bastard would never had stood up as a name.’


‘Yeah. Get used to it, cowboy. Tell me, what was your get-out plan, if I wasn’t here?’

His mouth flapped open and closed and he shrugged. ‘Um, I don’t know.’

‘You see, that’s why you’ll never be working for one of the big guys. I mean, Marvel will try anything if they think they can get away with it, but my boys? They require a certain degree of logic to their close calls. You were mangled any moment’

Wonder Woman sighed, shook her head and turned away. She stalked down the corridor and he stared after her, watching her long black hair wave like some fantastical realisation of a child hood dream. ‘Wait, Michelle.’

‘Diana, please.’

He flushed and looked at his feet.

‘Are you coming then?’

He glanced up. She was standing at the corner of the corridor, one finger cocked and beckoning. With his heart in his mouth, John raced after her.

As they left the school, a plethora of police cars arrived with sirens blaring. The two of them strode away without so much as an enquiry, two superheroes amongst the crowd of costumes milling outside.


That evening, in a little house in a long row of little houses, Mr Amazing hung up his day suit and settled himself in his armchair. It had been something of an unusual day, and it wasn’t over yet. For the first night in six years, he was going to have company on patrol. Now if he could just sort out the chafing, life would be perfect.


The next story will begin on Monday 24th November

Mr Amazing – A Superhero Story. Part 1 of 2

This one was inspired by a charity event at our school last Thursday. The theme at ours was Film and TV, but everything else happened exactly as I’ve told it here… 🙂


In a small house, in a long row of small houses, lived Mr Amazing. As the sun crept through his window, he woke, stretched and lifted his legs out of bed.

On most mornings, Mr Amazing would slouch to the bathroom, perform his ablutions and slouch downstairs. He’d tuck into a bowl of cereals, whilst maintaining that soft sort of grumble normally mastered by single men who know their clubbing days are far behind them.

Today was different.

Today, Mr Amazing leapt from his bed with the life and irritating chirpiness of a five year old on Christmas morning. He bounded into the bathroom, performed his ablutions with an alacrity that amazed even him and took the stairs two at a time. As he tucked into his cereal, he flicked on the news.

‘…Schools all over the country will be taking part. This is being called the single biggest charity event the country has ever seen.’

Mr Amazing settled his spoon on the side of his bowl and beamed at the TV. The newscaster went on.

‘The theme this year is superheroes, which I know my children are very excited about. We’ll be visiting schools all through the day and bringing you pictures of the best costumes, so stay tuned.’

She continued but Mr Amazing had already drifted away into wonderful thoughts of what lay ahead. He had twenty four hours, not even that, and he was determined to make the most of it. Cereals finished, he headed back up stairs and opened his cupboard. He leant in and pressed the small button hidden behind his trousers and leather-elbowed tweed suits. The movement was unconscious, but there was something wonderfully fresh about doing it with the sun coming through the window that made his stomach perform back flips.

He chuckled as the back of the wardrobe slid aside and he stepped into the dark space behind. The lights came up as he put his weight on the floor and he checked the cave. The weapons racks were untouched and his cleaning stone was empty. It had been a quiet week.

His suits hung on their stands and he paused before them. He’d been using the night suit for so long he rarely even looked at the day suit. But it was definitely a day suit kind of day. He took down the lycra tights and top and pulled them on. He wrinkled his nose at the mustiness, then attached his utility belt, clipped on his cloak and slid into his boots.

The mask came last. He checked himself in the mirror and smiled. The kids would think the six pack was part of the suit. Despite the lack of use, the reds and blacks were still vibrant and the yellow stitching, still damn classy. He gave himself the thumbs up and turned to the weapons rack. He chuckled and turned away. He didn’t need them today. Unless his year ten maths set turned nasty. He almost turned back, but headed for the exit before he got any bad ideas.

He stepped back through the wardrobe and the door slid closed behind him. As he approached the front door, his pulse sped up like it hadn’t in years. He did this every night, but this time was tougher than all of those. He picked up his briefcase, took a deep breath and opened the front door.

Miss Ellis was just strolling down her front path with her shopping bags. She did a double take, then smiled and waved. ‘Morning, John, great costume. Your kids are going to die.’

‘I hope not, Miss Ellis.’

‘You won’t be saying that by the last lesson of the day!’

He laughed obediently and climbed into his Mini. There was another jarring juxtaposition as he put the key into the ignition instead of pressing the button hidden just beneath the steering column. The regular engine coughed reluctantly into life and he was off.


The corridors were quiet when he arrived and set about getting his lessons ready for the day. The noise levels outside in the playground slowly rose and after a while he stopped and took a look. It was a wonderful sight.

There was a good scattering of the navy and brown uniform of Channelside school, but amongst them ran hundreds of Spidermans, Supermans, Batmans and, he was pleased to note, a good number of Wonder Women and Black Canarys. The playground was awash with superheroes.

His smile froze and his hand gripped the back of the chair as the most horrible thought struck him. Everyone knew who the kids were being. Everyone knew Superman and Spiderman. But who was he? He was Mr Amazing, but no one knew Mr Amazing, because he operated in secret. He wasn’t to be found in the pages of a comic or on the screen.

What was he going to say?

He paced away from the window, drumming his fingers against his utility belt. This was a problem.

The door was flung open before his thoughts could spiral any further out of control and Dave strolled in. He wore a suit and a long rain mac and looked smarter than usual. Dave Ashworth was the youngest in the maths department and probably belonged in PE, though John wasn’t going to be the one to tell him.

They looked at one another and Dave broke into a huge grin. ‘Mate, you couldn’t even find a real comic book character?’

‘Yeah, well, I me—’

‘Don’t get me wrong, Mr Incredible is cool, but— Hey, hang on, ‘No Cloaks, absolutely no cloaks.’

His impression of the costume designer from the Incredibles was remarkably good and John was so relieved at receiving help from such an unexpected source that he burst out laughing. ‘Yeah, I know, I just fancied having one. Looks pretty good though, eh?’

Dave paced around him, nodding. ‘Absolutely. Bloody hell, mate, how long did it take?’

‘Oh the lady next door helped out. She loves all that sewing stuff.’ It wasn’t completely untrue. She had done lots of the stitching, just not all at the same time. He hadn’t really thought about the similarity, but short of putting a bloody great A on his chest, it was tough these days to find an original costume design.

‘So who are you then?’ John asked

Dave thumped the lapel of his great coat. ‘I’m Constantine.’

‘Constantine? Like Hellblazer? He’s not a superhero.’

‘Close enough.’

‘Close enough, my arse. You just wanted to dress up smart for the day, which I must say makes a nice change.’

‘Yeah, well, Michelle in IT said she was coming as Wonder Woman, so I’m making a good impression, aren’t I?’

John laughed and shook his head. ‘Sorry to disappoint, but she’s got a kick arse Hulk suit on.’

‘What?’ Dave’s eyes widened and he raced, muttering, from the room. John laughed and turned back to his desk. Actually, he really hoped Michelle had come as Wonder Woman, that would be well worth seeing. He shook his head and sat, flicking on his computer and taking a breath. Michelle was five years younger, ludicrously pretty and far more interested in someone like Dave. Someone who had a social life and didn’t go out at nights dressed in Lycra.

Actually, Dave liked cycling, so maybe he did. Still, it wasn’t the same.


John had promised himself he wouldn’t use any powers. Wearing the suit should be enough. He was on his best behaviour until break, which was when it started to slip.

He stood on the back playground on duty, as per usual, and watched the maelstrom of children, running, flirting, chatting, shouting, hitting, laughing, eating and generally causing chaos as they swept around him. Now and then one would wave and he’d give his awkward wave back. Maths wasn’t a cool subject and he wasn’t a cool teacher, so he could never decide whether they were taking the piss.

He’d had plenty of compliments on the suit, though, and they were genuine.

The tell-tale roar of a fight beginning made him start running. It was on the field, away from the buildings, and now the centre of a growing horde of children. Within moments he was wading through them, shoving them aside and demanding they ‘GET AWAY’. He wasn’t sure why he shouted it, because it never worked.

A break-time fight was like curtains to kittens, utterly irresistible. He peered over the press, trying to see who was involved. He saw a fist fly up then down, and redoubled his efforts. Fists was serious.

Across the press he saw Michelle, Miss Themies at the moment, coming in from the other direction. She saw him and smiled in the tired, frustrated yet endlessly patient way all the best teachers had. He smiled back and found himself blushing as he waded through the last few miscreants.

As they realised he was there, they backed away, the front runners trying to hide their faces in a vaguely guilty way. Thomas was on the floor and Musa was on top of him, driving his fists against the poor boy’s upraised arms. There wasn’t any blood that he could see. What he could see were tears streaming down Musa’s face, which was never a good sign.

He was wearing a Spidey costume. It was the sort that came from a really bad fancy dress shop and certainly cost less than the fancy, home made Daredevil outfit Thomas was trying frantically to keep clean. John was about to raise his voice when he glanced down at his costume, shrugged and smiled.

He leapt forward, picked Musa up by the scruff of the neck, did the same for Thomas and carried both thirteen year olds kicking and shouting out of the press. He caught sight of Michelle staring open mouthed from the corner of his eye. He thought about jumping the huge group of children that insisted on trying to pull him down like some malevolent wave, but that would have been harder to explain.

He carried them into the building, set them on their feet and demanded an explanation. As suspected, Thomas had decided to cuss Musa’s costume and paid the price. A few minutes later the two boys, suitably contrite, wandered disconsolately to their head of year’s office and John stepped back into the playground.

Michelle was waiting, arms folded and looking every inch like her costume was made for her. John bit his lip and tried not to stare at all the naked flesh on show. It was tricky, but he found himself captured by her striking dark eyes and then breathing, talking and indeed doing much of anything except staring became difficult.

‘Have you been working out, John?’

He shrugged. ‘They weren’t that big.’

‘Come on, be honest. I didn’t know you were into anything except maths.’

‘I’m not into it, I just believe in being healthy.’

She laughed. It was a dirty sort of laugh, rough and in the back of her throat. He thought it was dirty. It might have been taking the piss. He just didn’t know. He’d spent half of the winter chasing the Evil Rat Badger around London and failed to catch him again and again. The frustration of those times was nothing compared to how he felt now.

‘There’s healthy and then there’s beefcake. You just picked up a child in each hand. And Musa’s pretty big.’

He shrugged again. ‘You look great.’

She blushed and looked down at herself. ‘Thanks. Funny how you don’t think about the kids seeing you when you put it on in the morning.’

John laughed. ‘I know just what you mean. Still, it suits you.’

‘Does it now? You think I should wear this every day?’

He opened his mouth, but once again his brain got in the way and he stammered a bit before she patted him on the shoulder. ‘Just joking, don’t have a heart attack. I’m not sure the head would be too pleased.’

‘I know I would.’ It came out before he could catch it and his cheeks bloomed bright red. The smile she gave him was definitely more than just a friendly smile and he managed to unclench his toes in his boots as she said, ‘Well, I’m sure I could wear it for you some other time…’

There was an invitation there. She was asking him something, he just had to work out how to answer without making a tit of himself. He opened his mouth and the bell sounded from its place on the wall all of three feet away. The sound drove them away from the doorway, hands clasped over their ears. The moment was over and John watched helplessly as she waved, smiled and headed off for period three.

Part Two will be here on Thursday 20th November