Tag Archives: flash fiction

The Emperors New Art

The Emperors New Art

A conversation between an art gallery assistant and curator, based completely on fiction and not on any real, publicly funded, art gallery in the north-east of England.

“I’ve been looking forward to this exhibition. You guys seemed to be really excited in the office. Gold trimmed Opening invites!”

“This is really a big deal for us. We’ve got national press coverage, television coverage, and the artist is going to be doing a walkthrough of the exhibition with the VIP’s.”

“Who are the VIP’s?”

“Wealthy and influential people from outside of the town. You know the type.  Businessmen, Councillors, and what have you. We need their donations more than ever to offset the council cuts to our budgets. “

“Cool, I guess I won’t be able to bring my girlfriend on the opening evening if I don’t get one of those fancy invites?”

“Sure you can. Between me and you the invites are supposed to be a bit of a false perk for donating to the gallery, but we’re a public institution so we can’t turn anyone away. Bring her; there will be canapés and wine.”

“Thanks. So where’s the first item? Someone ran off with it already?”

“Your stood next to it.”

“Its a box.”


“An empty, plain, see through box.”

“Yes. Fascinating isn’t it? Really speaks to you.”

“Seriously, is there something supposed to be inside it?”

“There is! That’s the clever part. Read the description.”

This container holds a one foot by one foot section of the atmosphere. It contains, amongst other gases – Nitrogen, Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Carbon Dioxide...”

“Can’t believe we nearly missed out on this in the bidding to Sheffield!”

“Uh, neither can I…  Wait, is this made out of the acrylic I saw in the Technicians workshop?”

“Yeah, he’s been making it all week. Cracked two of them and had to start again.”

“Let me get this straight. You outbid another gallery for the rights to the idea for an empty box.. sorry a box with ‘atmosphere’.  It isn’t even the original object made by the artist. It’s made by Peter in his workshop. And you are going to use this to attract donations from the well to do?”

“Hey the idea doesn’t take up space in our collection. We can keep that on a computer and make the art whenever we want it for display.”

“Wow, thats really… weird. Could you not have saved the thousands you spent on the rights to this idea and displayed any of the millions of pounds worth of art already in our collections out of public view?”

“Don’t be silly! This is a modern art gallery at the leading edge of the industry. We can’t start showing objects just because people want to see them. We have reputations to maintain. We’re even thinking of selling some of that old stuff to help us commission new works…”

“Like that collection of line drawing last year?”

“Exactly. We’ve worked out that if we sell some of the paintings and close one or two of the smaller museums we can plug the funding we’re losing from the council and central government. When the museums close, all their visitors will surely come here then and that will definitely help us hit our attendance targets.”

“You really think they will close popular museums to keep this place open?”

“Of course, we’re the flagship of the town!”

Image: graur razvan ionut /


Posted by on May 13, 2011 in Duologue


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The Lazarus Experiment – Part I

deathlakeIn the 1930’s a researcher from the University of California called Robert Cornish embarked on an ambitious project to see if it was possible to bring dead dogs back to life by using a mixture of adrenaline, anti-coagulants and a see-saw style machine that would rock the corpses up and down in order to help the recirculation of the blood. Incredibly the process worked and some of the dogs were brought back to life though severely brain damaged.

In 1947 Cornish resurfaced armed with a heart-lung machine made out of parts from a vacuum cleaner and other devices and declared he was ready to test out his process on a human. A death row inmate volunteered for the experiment however Cornish was refused permission. This much is public record. What the public did not know was the real reason he had been refused permission.

Three years earlier, at the start of 1944, the US Government had already brought a man back from the dead.


In November 1943, a thousand American scientists were shown a film by their Soviet counterparts demonstrating the process by which the organs of dead animals could be coaxed back to life outside the body. The video concluded by demonstrating what the Soviets claimed to be a dog being killed and then brought back to life 15 minutes later no worse for wear. A family of dogs, who had been experimented on in the 1930s, were paraded showing that the animals went on to live normal long lives, and even reproduce.  In the throes of total war, the possibility that Allied scientists may be able to revive dead soldiers offered a strategic advantage that should not be overlooked. The imaginations of the scientists, the generals and the politicians were captured. If possible, a straight forward war of attrition would result which Germany and Japan could not hope to win.

The approval for a research program into reanimating recently killed humans was swiftly approved and supported from a secret military research fund. Dr Conrad Kissinger, a sixty one year old researcher was appointed the head of a team of twenty who set up their operation in an undisclosed military base in the ‘Battle Born State’ of Nevada. Taking the research of their Soviet counterparts as the starting point, Kissinger’s team hastened by war canvassed the prisoners on death row at Ely State Prison. A handful obliged to give consent for the experiment when the proposal was sweetened.

“The execution shall proceed as previously discussed. In the morning you’ll have the opportunity for a last meal and a priest shall come to take confession if that is something you would like.  Your execution will be monitored by a representative from the attorney general’s office and an independent doctor, who will verify that you are indeed dead. After which we will move in and begin the revival. Do you understand?”

Kissinger observed his volunteer through steel rimmed glasses. The Caucasian male was about 6’1’’ in height, well built – formerly employed by the construction trade – and with dark brown hair. Frank Swan, convicted arsonist and multiple murderer, sat up on his cell bunk.

“And after you work your magic… I’m free?”

For Swan, Kissinger’s face was inscrutable. The scientist barely exercised a muscle in his face to reply with reassuring words. “You were sentenced to death Mr Swan. Once you’re dead, you’re debt to society is paid.”

Swan turned his eyes to stare at the gray wall of his cell opposite and nodded taking a few deep breaths. He signed the documents provided by Dr Kissinger and laid back down on his bunk when the researcher left. One last sleep, then he would be born again.

He awoke to a clanging on the bars of his cell in the early hours. A shave, a wash, a good last meal of steak and potatoes… it was effectively breakfast but he didn’t mind. It was the best meal he’d had in six years. No family visited him. There was nobody left to visit him. His closest relatives, two cousins were overseas fighting in the Pacific theatre. The priest came but Frank had no time for him. He would have felt like he was cheating God if he had given his last confession and the experiment to revive him worked. No, Frank told the Priest he would make his case in person when he’s ready. The waiting after the meal was the most unsettling time. He had spent days since being moved to his final home listening to men screaming, wailing, and begging to escape the gas chamber. Yet all Frank felt was not terror, but nerves. He wasn’t sure what to expect but just clung to the freedom he had been promised.

As Frank was being led into the gas chamber he noticed a cluster of researchers scurrying around an anteroom with an odd looking apparatus, getting ready for their experiment. The DA’s representative and other witnesses observed him coldly through the glass of the chamber wall as he came into view. He sat in the centre of the room, glancing briefly over his shoulder to the door that led out to the men who were entrusted with bringing him back. His legs and arms were strapped to the chair. Swan waited as his crimes were read out.

For the arson of his family home…

For the murder of his wife and two children…

He had been condemned to death.

“Do you have any last words?”

“I’m innocent.”

The gas was released. At first Frank instinctively held his breath but remembered the advice he had been given about the death being worse if it’s fought and tentatively inhaled the colorless gas that surrounded him. From outside of the chamber it appeared he simply went to sleep, shaking a little, but otherwise without struggle. The independent Doctor monitored a Bowles stethoscope that was strapped onto Frank’s chest inside the chamber and pronounced him dead at 8:02 am.

At 9:26 he woke up to the roar of an engine and the rocking of a van speeding over uneven road surfaces. He groaned as his entire body ached. The grotesque face of his prison guard loomed into view.

“I’ll give you this you rotten bastard. You got balls. I can’t believe you agreed to that ungodly experiment!”

Franks throat was dry, “I can’t believe you agreed to let me. When can I… leave… ?”

“Leave? What are you talking about? Until we get to the military base your still my responsibility.”

Frank coughed. Tried to move, and found that he was restrained. He identified three straps; one over his legs, one across his lower waist and the other his upper chest.

“Kissinger… said I was free if… if it was successful…”

The guard grinned at Frank and shook his head.

“My word, he sold you one didn’t he? They just brought you back from the dead Swan. You’re their lab rat. They’re never going to let you go till they have prodded and poked you back to death! You belong to the US Government now.”


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Image: Evgeni Dinev /


Posted by on January 3, 2011 in Scifi


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Ether Books publish KATAKOMBY and more….

If you have enjoyed reading some of the stories on the Cul-De-Sac and would like to read more of my work, several stories are now available to purchase and download from Ether Books iPhone App. Ether are a mobile publishing company specializing in short stories and essays and I am very proud to be included on their distribution system. Mobile phones and short stories have always felt like a perfect match to me, something you can read on the go whilst commuting between work and home or on other long journeys. The Ether Books App allows you to search by author or genre to find new content by established big name authors like Conn Iggulden and Paul McCartney and new writers just bursting into the literary world. Mobile publishing could well be the democratization of the publishing industry. As ever, the customer decides. All stories you download are kept in a little collection just like a traditional ereader so you can build up a library of short stories and pick and choose from them depending on your mood.

Some of the stories featured on Ether Books have also been published on the website here. Exclusive content is marked.

Below the title, genre, price and blurb for the stories is listed. To download the Ether Books App click here.


Czech Republic, present day. They had targeted him for a while and now they had their leverage… KATAKOMBY is a story of love, industrial espionage and prostitutes set in the underworld of a medieval town. Can he save the woman he loves?

Cost: 59p


Based on real council blunders. The ways of local government, and the benefit system in particular have often been described as ‘other’. Find out how this sense becomes literal as Daniel applies for the benefits he is entitled to and gets more than he bargained for.

Cost: 59p


Mankind’s insatiable appetite for resources has already had enormous impact on the Earth. In this short story the dream of unlimited resources is explored with a consideration of possible political and social impacts. And as Mankind reaches out to the stars, how will the universe respond?

Cost: 59p

Photographs submitted to the Facebook ‘Like’ Page..


The God Particle was 'What's Hot' on its weekend release...


Posted by on December 10, 2010 in Publishing


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Christmas Dinner: Tinsel Tales Entry


Read My Entry Here

The Writelinks Community have an annual christmas themed competition called Tinsel Tales. I was looking at a few of the entries so far for this years edition and thought I could give it a go. After all, with all the snow outside theres plenty of inspiration to be had… and I’m not likely to be getting much else done till the weather improves.

The only stipulations for the contest are that the story had to be on a christmas related theme and be a maximum of 250 words long including title. £5 to enter with prizes of £40, £20 and £20 along with bonus prizes of free membership to the Writelinks community and an ebook for finding markets for poetry.

***The Competition Closed on January 1st 2011: Below is my entry***

The attractive Chaffinch with its pink chest and slate blue head had gone through a frightening and exhausting trial to bring food back to its mossy nest in the hedge.

Winter had struck early and the gardens were a blanket of snow wherever one looked. Food was scarce so he was delighted to have found a bag of peanuts next to a bin. It was at the last moment he noticed the cat lurking in the shadows, the snow silencing his stalkers approach. Escaping by a whisker the bird with its prize subsequently flew against a window and had to risk returning to the ground to collect the peanuts again.

Flying back towards the nest the cloud emptied again, raining down icy rocks almost as big as the poor bird’s beak. He dodged and weaved through the storm flying against the wind that kicked up snow devils in the large garden. On reaching the shelter of his nest he dropped the bag and pecked at the peanuts that remained inside, breaking them up as best he could.

He perched exhausted but happy as he admired his meal. A rustle of the hedge alerted him to another; he hopped around in fear of the cat but saw a pathetic looking half starved Coal Tit that gave him a pleading look. He sighed and dropped the bag with a few remaining peanuts out of his nest.

The other bird may have been a Tit, but it was Christmas after all.

Image: Tom Curtis /

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Posted by on December 1, 2010 in Christmas


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