THE DOVE – by ‘Dark Juan’

‘Dark Juan’

I had received the invitation to the party somewhat out of the blue. It was from someone who was outside my scientific discipline as they were not known to me either personally or professionally, but who clearly had a knowledge of my field, judging by the contents of the polite note sent to me accompanying the actual RSVP, signed by one Dr. David Fielding. The invitation was printed on a pale, almost white, blue card – tastefully inscribed by hand and requesting my attendance at a gathering at the weekend, in a hall tolerably close to my home. I was intrigued and also somewhat fascinated as my disciplines of aeronautical metallurgy and crash analysis are not well populated and are somewhat niche sciences, only called upon when disaster strikes and governments want answers, and to have a note expressing the desire to pick my brains about a “small problem” he was having was a welcome change from my usual routine. The note, although friendly and urbane in nature, yielded little clue about his “small problem” and I quickly resolved to attend the affair as my curiosity was piqued, both by the gentleman and the chance to grapple with a new problem. Yes, I replied cordially, I would be delighted to attend this function and to make the acquaintance of Dr. Fielding and the other guests. I acknowledged the dress code (suit, tie, but not TERRIBLY formal) and dutifully nipped out to the post office to post the reply first class, this being Tuesday and the party being Saturday.

A quick Google search after doing this small chore of Dr. Fielding turned up precious little, besides a few minor papers published in various scientific and metallurgical journals on his chosen field of stress-strain analysis. This didn’t unduly concern me as his field of specialty is even more rarefied than mine, although he probably had done more actual work beyond the research I covered with my search, which to be fair was quite half-hearted.

Saturday soon dawned, however. A busy week because of a small aircraft crashing at Church Fenton in Yorkshire had flown by (a terrible pun, I know!) and my analyses had confirmed eyewitness statements that the starboard wing had folded and broken at the root due to fatigue failure, causing uncontrolled departure from normal flight and an unrecoverable crash by the pilot, who had by some remarkable miracle, survived the accident but was in intensive care. Anyway, I hummed cheerfully as I bathed, shaved and donned my favourite grey Christian Dior tailored suit. Suitably attired and shod, and having availed myself of a small whisky on the way out, I made my way to the taxi I had called in a good humour.

Upon arrival at the hall, my coat was most courteously taken to the cloakroom by an extraordinarily polite young lady, who then accompanied me to show the way to the main room where the affair was being held. As I crossed the threshold, I was relieved of my invitation by a young, uniformed serving gentleman who propelled me in the direction of the bar and made sure I was provisioned adequately (with a stiff single malt over a single ice cube, as was my wont) before pointing out Dr. Fielding speaking to a small group of men and women at the far side of the room, near the large window. As I walked over to introduce myself, I noted the natural warmth of his personality on his lean face as he discoursed with his listeners. He appeared to be a jovial man, dressed in tweed and radiating bonhomie and good humour. He was otherwise unremarkable, looking pleasantly average in all departments as he appeared to listen intently to his conversationalists and sip from a balloon of brandy. He espied my arrival, and excused himself, strolling over to greet me.

Dr. Fielding shook my hand firmly, but without the excess pressure that men trying (and failing) to prove their own fragile masculinity use. I returned the gesture and greeted the gentleman cordially.

“Dr. Fielding. A pleasure to meet you, sir, although I am still somewhat confused how you have heard of me and how I can be of service to you, what with your “small problem.”

The good doctor looked directly into my eyes, and replied, “My dear chap, please call me David. I read the scientific and technical journals of metallurgy and failure analysis very closely. You kept appearing in them and your articles were arresting and concise, yet factual, which is a rare and treasured combination in academia, I am sure you’ll agree. The problem of which I spoke is merely a ten minute walk over the fields behind the house. But first let us enjoy the company of these fine people for a while longer.”

I nodded my assent and proceeded to mix with the other guests, including Mrs. Fielding, who proved to be a charming and erudite lady, quite capable of holding her conversational own with some of us fusty academics and engineers. At length, Dr. Fielding requested the pleasure of my company to view his small problem.

His problem was certainly unusual. Without a word, he gestured at it and the scaffold erected around it. I was taken aback, confused and affrighted. Dr. Fielding’s problem was a crashed aircraft, but of a type I had never seen in flight as it had been retired from service many years ago. It was a De Havilland Dove, in the colours (the “raspberry ripple”) of the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. That was interesting as to my knowledge the RAE hadn’t flown any Doves. Equally strange and disturbing was the fact that although the propellers were bent and the aircraft clearly had force landed, there was not a single piece of debris, or a trail where the aircraft would have dragged along the ground, leaving a furrow in the earth. It was as if the aircraft had been dropped from just above the ground into its current position. I looked for the serial number so I could possibly identify the aircraft and report it to the military authorities, but there did not appear to be one extant on the fuselage or tailfin. I turned to Dr. Fielding and spoke brusquely.

“Doctor. How has this happened? There is nothing that indicates that this aircraft met its demise here. It appears to have had its accident somewhere else and been brought here for purposes unknown. Forgive me for asking, but is this some kind of test, or unpleasant joke? Has any of this been reported to the authorities? None of what I see makes any kind of sense.”

Dr. Fielding turned to face me, all good humour absent from his face and his mouth drawn into a thin-lipped, tense line.

“Sir, I regret it is no test or joke. The local constabulary are aware and as far as I know have contacted the air force and Farnborough. Both organisations have denied having this aircraft in their inventories since the 1970s and wish nothing further to do with the matter. The owners of the house brought this aircraft to my attention one week ago. I have lain awake and puzzled as to how and why it has ended up here. All I know is that it is horrible. We cannot gain entry to the aircraft…” Here the doctor shuddered violently. “Pray, have you looked inside the cabin or the cockpit yet?”

I had not and told Dr. Fielding this. He merely indicated with a tired wave of his hand that I should go forward and said,

“Perhaps you should inspect it.”

 I pressed the doctor but he refused to be drawn any further into a discussion, merely maintaining that I should look for myself and then come and talk to him. He then descended the scaffold, moving like an old, stiff man.

I was dreadfully overcome with the fear of what I might see in the cockpit area, without knowing why, and every step along the fuselage brought a corresponding increase in dread until I very reluctantly reached the cockpit glazing – or what was left of it. Fighting against my instincts, I bent my head and looked inside.

Oh, the horror! I stumbled back and bounced off the handrails on the scaffold and fell to my knees, unable to blot out the scene within the cockpit by closing my eyes. My earlier whisky turned instantly acid in my stomach and I fought down the urge to vomit. The flight crew, pilot and co-pilot were still in there! And grotesquely, still in their seats forever joined together by a piece of stanchion or airframe that had separated from the aeroplane in the crash and punched through both heads, skewering them neatly, yet horrifyingly. Death must have been instantaneous. Sitting down as I was at eye level with the corpses, I found myself unable to drag my eyes away from this terrible tableau. Both crewmen were dressed in flying kit, and to my eye (even as I shuddered and heaved and struggled to contain myself) it was clear that their equipment was vintage, as was the uniform dress they wore. Both had their eyes open and both pairs of eyes had the milky film of death covering them. I shook off my horror and moved to the nose of the Dove. My fear then redoubled itself as it appeared that the dead eyes of the co-pilot had followed my ambulation and he was yet staring directly at me, without my having discerned any movement of his lifeless, cold eyes. Trembling, I took out my mobile phone and set it to record the horror within the Dove. I moved back towards the side glazing and took video of myself doing this, pausing at the side glazing to discover that the co-pilot was once again piercing me with his dead gaze.

This was enough for me and in a paroxysm of terror I threw myself from the scaffolding as fast as I could move and raced the full distance back to the house, where Dr. Fielding was waiting for me. I rushed straight past him and headed for the bar where I indicated I should like a large single malt, which I drank speedily. I ordered a second double which I imbibed even more speedily before turning upon Dr. Fielding, shaking with rage and terror. It took a moment to realise that all the guests had departed.

“WHY DID YOU NOT WARN ME OF THIS?” I demanded, loudly and hoarsely, my composure and manners utterly destroyed by what I had witnessed. “The co-pilot LOOKED at me! But he was dead! Stone dead. And there was no putrefaction of the corpses, yet they are clearly from the past… I have no idea…”

My voice trailed off as the enormity of my experience hit me, and I sat heavily in the chair behind me as Mrs. Fielding muttered intently into the doctor’s ear. He turned and said,

“My wife thinks you should come and spend the night at our house as you have had a very unpleasant shock. I agree with her. Please come outside and I will bring my car over to you.”

I was in no fit state to argue or disagree, as the grim tableau of the cockpit and the lifeless eyes of the co-pilot pierced me though once more in the eye of my mind. With shaky hands, I pulled out my phone and replayed the video.

Nothing. Not a damned thing. Just black on the screen. My expostulations of horror and terror and fear were clearly heard but there were no images. Gripped by disappointment, I replaced the phone in my pocket and loosened by tie and collar. Yet, I knew what I had saw and the images were all too vivid in my mind. I nodded assent to the doctor and his wife, not trusting my tongue, and followed them timorously to the car park.

The doctor and his wife got into a long, low Mercedes car and started the engine. It was parked next to a steep slope (the hall I had visited being at the top of an escarpement). I don’t know what happened to the doctor but the car reversed suddenly and plunged down the slope, hitting a rock that upended it, and it landed upon its roof with a stupefying crash and clamour upon the tarmacadam road beneath the hill.

I immediately rushed down to offer assistance. I shattered the passenger door window of the car in somewhat of a funk as it has been a most trying day and my mind has clearly resorted to action in place of cowering in fear, and pulled Mrs. Fielding free of the vehicle, trying to not cut her on the fragments of glass and failing in some small measure. Pulling her clear and sitting her up against a bollard, I got her blood upon my shirt as I stripped my suit jacket off and placed it around her shoulders. She was crying, the tears streaking mascara down her cheeks as fragmented words spilled from her between gasps for breath and wailing. One sentence was discernible – just one.

“Oh my God, it’s happening again!”

Then she returned to incoherence and tears. After assuring her she would be safe, I raced back to the car and reached in to turn off the engine, as Dr. Fielding’s foot was wedged against the accelerator and the engine was screaming. The noise ceased as the engine juddered to a halt. I spoke feverishly to the doctor, trying to ascertain if he was seriously injured. There was no response from him and to my horror I noticed that there was a gaping wound pumping scarlet blood from his arm, but it was the arm I needed to pull in order to get him out of his wrecked car. I came to a decision and pulled. Thankfully the doctor moved fairly freely as he was unconscious, but as I had to exert greater force to extricate him through the window of the car something deeply unpleasant happened. I de-gloved the doctor’s arm. In a spray of blood, the flesh came away from the doctor’s arm and I held a flopping, repugnant and bleeding mass of flesh and skin in my hands. In my already shocked state, I fell to my knees and vomited copiously and threw the appendage from me. My back was turned to Dr. Fielding as I prayed to God and continued to retch, until I became aware of a sound behind me.

I was terrified and afraid to turn as the noise, a grinding, BONY sound became underpinned with a thin keening. I forced my head to turn and to gaze upon the misshapen figure of Dr. Fielding standing. Looking at me with a ruined face and ululating in his throat. My sight was drawn to the tendons, cartilage and bones of his arm as it slowly and horrifyingly re-shaped itself. The bones of the hand retracted into the radius and ulna as they cracked themselves and stretched forward into points, flattening and fusing themselves as they did so. The mouth of Dr. Fielding opened and the ululating became a scream. A scream that was utterly inhuman and without syllabification. And of constantly increasing volume. Aghast, and frozen to the spot with terror, I watched as the bones of his arm finished their grim metamorphosis and I watched also as the jaw of the doctor grew ever more inhumanly wide and the scream became alien and so loud it robbed me of my senses. Still the doctor’s jaw stretched, sinews snapped and the jawbone audibly cracked and the screech started to create harmonic pains in my head. I threw my hands over my ears to drown out the noise from that impossibly wide mouth and squeezed my eyes tight shut, yet still the sound increased and I became conscious that I was screaming myself, yet I could not hear my own expostulations. I opened my eyes as the pain in my head became too much and then what was the doctor lunged, mouth agape and eyes of obsidian.

I looked down to my abdomen and felt the bone blade tear upwards. Pain became my universe. I looked into the eyes of the doctor and saw nothing but black.

Black forevermore.

Disclaimer: This short story is solely the property of Dark Juan. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

The Machine By Beth Jones

Here is another short story from Beth that was published and included in a short story anthology last year, with all proceeds going to charity. If you would like to purchase a copy, you can do so here:

The Machine
By Beth Jones

‘Injuries not compatible with life’.

That phrase was running around my head relentlessly as I sat in the waiting area of the therapist’s office, watching the rain make little rivers down the window before falling silently onto the ledge below. This was my first therapy session after the accident. Or at least I think it was. I wasn’t really sure of much. I might have been here before, but there was definitely a glitch in the matrix of my mind that was blocking out random things; who won the world cup in 1966, what that place was called that I went to on holiday when I was four, and what I had for breakfast on the day of the accident to name but a few. I had replayed that day in my head a hundred times, but always only to the same point, then nothing. Why couldn’t I remember?! ‘Injuries not compatible with life…we need to stop this…we are going to turn the machine off now…you need to let him go…injuries not compatible with life…’

I jolted as the receptionist touched me on the shoulder. Tried not to look like I had just woken up from another dark daydream. ‘Pasha will see you now’, she said, trying not to look amused at my startled glare.

Pasha didn’t really look like a therapist. He was tall, chiselled and wore a snappy suit that made him look a little overdressed for a therapy session. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure why I was here – why did I need therapy? I wasn’t depressed, I wasn’t mentally ill, I was just having a little trouble with my memory after the accident – I think something had got jolted in my brain, some wires had got crossed and accidentally deleted some stuff, but I was functioning. Pasha ushered me in and directed me to a large green leather wing backed armchair that enveloped me as I sat. He watched my every move with intensity. There was a pause before I realised that I was holding my breath. I exhaled and tried to look relaxed – lesson one, don’t look like a psychopath when sitting in a therapist’s chair. Silence.

‘So’, he said finally ‘I have read your file. You have had a pretty rough ride. How are you feeling?’

I wasn’t sure how to answer this, because I wasn’t sure how I was feeling. I was getting used to being still here I suppose. Everything still looked the same. Everything was still the same as before. I think.

‘Yeah, good, you know, just adjusting to life’, I said quickly, not wanting to let my guard down. ‘To be honest I’m not sure why they sent me to therapy, because I feel OK. I don’t have any pain, I’m not really suffering in any way, which is surprising considering what they told me in the hospital about how bad it was. The only problem I seem to have is with my memory. It’s a bit…sketchy’.

‘Tell me about that’, Pasha said calmly, touching his index fingers together at his chin.

‘Well, I seem to have lost bits, little things that have just gone, and then from the day of the accident, there’s nothing. Little bits maybe, but nothing that makes any sense. I remember coming round in the hospital. I remember how quiet it was. But I don’t remember leaving. I remember the face of the specialist who saved my life, Dr Yanich, but I don’t remember what he was a Dr of, or how he saved my life, and then….’ I paused. That phrase was running around my head again. Injuries not compatible with life. What did that even mean? Why was I obsessing on it?

‘Please continue’, said Pasha. His face seemed concerned. I didn’t like this, it suddenly felt wrong. Maybe this was progress, this was the first emotion I could remember feeling in a long time.

‘Can I just nip out, nature calls’. Oh my god, did I actually just say that – that is such a lame way of getting out of an uncomfortable situation.

‘By all means – you are free to come and go as you choose, how you use this session is up to you’.

I hurried out of the room, not quite sure why I was freaking out, but something wasn’t right. If only I could remember emotions properly, maybe I would make more sense of this whole thing. I didn’t need the loo, I just didn’t want to be in there all of a sudden. Pasha wasn’t right, this whole thing wasn’t right. The receptionist glanced at me over the top of her computer monitor. It was kind of an odd look, but she didn’t move. I stood outside the door of the room and listened. I don’t really know why, but something compelled me to. For a minute or two there was nothing, then I heard a telephone speed dial. There was a brief pause, then came Pasha’s voice, in a low tone.

‘Yanish, it’s me. Yeah, he is here with me now. No, he’s not in the room with me, what do you take me for! I haven’t got far, but I think we have a problem. He remembers your face. He remembers the lab. You said that you had erased the memory. This could be catastrophic, and you know who the agency will blame, Yanish?! You need to fix this!!’

He hung up the phone as I strode back into the room. I smiled the best ‘blissfully unaware’ smile that I could muster. What the hell had that conversation been about? Something was very wrong about this whole situation. Who was this Pasha? What was this office? I needed to go.

‘Ah, better?’ asked Pasha, an odd, twisted smile on his face.

‘Yeah, much’, I said quickly. ‘Listen can we do this another day, I’m really tired today – I guess I’m still getting my strength back’.

‘Erm……sure’, he said, moving to the door, ‘just call me again soon, I want to keep a close eye on your progress.’


I arrived home about an hour later. The traffic was all messed up again. The bus ride had taken so much longer than usual, and it was full of angry people late for meetings. There had been mutterings on the bus of another attack. I turned on the TV and sure enough the rumours were confirmed with wall to wall news. Another attack on the capital, the 38th this year, had taken place whilst I had been sat in that office. This time it was a bus into a crowd of people. The newsreaders were all describing the loss of life in too much detail, with a split screen of pro war demonstrations outside the parliament building. You had to admit that by this point, they kind of had a point. The country was under attack! How long could we stand by and let it happen. I sat in my chair and watched the story repeat on a loop every minute. I wasn’t really watching though. I was trying to make sense of the session with Pasha. What was it all about; the phone call, the smart suit, the receptionist? It just wasn’t right.

Injuries not compatible with life. What was that?

“………How many have we lost captain?! I need these figures now!!!”

“Sir, twenty-two sir, and four civilians. We have two crew and two civilians down, children sir. Injuries not compatible with life, sir!”

“Where are they?! Take me to them now!!”

“……………There is nothing more we can do for them, colonel, we are going to have to turn off the machines………….”

“…………. We have to make this disappear colonel. These men; our men. These children. None of this was meant to happen. This. Their blood is on our hands. Fix this. Do you understand?!”


I jumped awake to a loud banging on my door. It was a little after 8pm. How long had I been out? I sprang up from my seat and moved to the door, checking the peephole nervously. Eve, the receptionist from the therapist’s office – what was she doing here? How did she even know were I lived? I opened the door and she looked at me straight in the eye, as she had done in the office. I knew what that look was now. What emotion it showed. Fear.

‘Don’t say anything, just let me in…. Please!’ she whispered.

I moved to the side and let her come past me, glancing around instinctively. I shut the door and turned to look at her. She was standing firm, but I could see her hands were shaking, her arm outstretched, holding a file. In the top corner the number 39 was written.

‘This is your file. This is you. I know you are different. I know you remember; I saw that today. Please, read this.’ I started to speak, but she cut me off. ‘Please! Please just read. We don’t have much time!’

I moved towards her and took the file out of her hand. Placing it on the coffee table, I sat and opened it. The first page was a mugshot of me, with my name printed underneath – John Edward Harris. My heart lurched. That was my name! I hadn’t been able to remember it since the accident. I mean it had been there on the tip of my tongue, but I could never get it to come out. I don’t remember anyone ever addressing me directly since the accident either. What was this. I turned the page and skimmed the summary ………battalion………civilian reconnaissance…… navigation error………IED……casualties………INJURIES NOT COMPATIBLE WITH LIFE…………Subject 39…………reanimation commenced. The report was signed Dr Pavlov Yanich – Chief Homo-robotics Research Engineer. I felt sick. What was this?!

Eve touched my arm and I leapt a mile out of my chair, like a startled cat. I had almost forgotten she was there. So many thoughts and emotions were filling my mind all at once, it was like a dam breaking down. My friends in the battalion, the sands of the desert, my colonels face, then…yes… England! England won the world cup in 66! Some fans are on the pitch; They think it’s all over: It is now! It was Spain where I went on holiday at four – Barcelona. My mum held me up in the pool so I could pretend I was swimming. I took my wife there for our honeymoon …wait, what?! My wife?!! I have a wife! She was there! She was there when I died. I remember her cries. Oh my god my beautiful wife, Shannon, she turned off the machine! She had to say goodbye to me…

I fell backwards into the chair as if I had been shot. My whole body felt contorted and wrong. WHAT WAS THIS?!!! This nightmare. Who was I and how had I not remembered all this before? I could hear myself wailing and moaning, the room spinning round me like a merry-go-round. As if in a dream, I saw Eve come towards me, brandishing a screwdriver. I instinctively put my arm up to cover my face as she plunged the weapon and drew it down my forearm like a knife through butter. I cried out in pain… But it didn’t hurt! In that moment, time stopped, and everything was still. I looked up at Eve, her eyes wet with tears.

‘I’m sorry’, she sobbed. ‘I had to make you see!’

I looked down at my arm, where the screwdriver was still lodged. There was no blood, although my skin was ripped in a 5-inch gash. Under the skin I could see something glinting in the light from the TV. I reached out my hand and pulled back a fold of skin and was greeted by metal. Circuits and wires took the place of flesh and bones. I continued to pull back the skin, expecting to feel pain with each movement, but feeling nothing, but cold, dark dread.

We sat in silence for a long time. Then finally, as dawn broke, Eve spoke.

‘You are part of a programme now. A multi – national specialist weapons unit, sanctioned by many governments, in secret, to instigate war. They used your body as a transport system for terror. They want to start a war, and the only way they can do that in democracy is to have the people behind them. They have got the people behind them through terror. These terrorist attacks. They aren’t real. This is them. These terrorists. They are all like you. They had no more use for their bodies. They were broken beyond repair. They fixed you. They brought you back. But for their own means’.

I tried to take this in. This couldn’t be real. ‘No, no, no! You have got this all wrong!’ I said, bewildered. ‘I was in an accident, but I recovered, I just suffer from amnesia!’

‘No!’ snapped Eve sharply. ‘You are suffering from parts of your living memory coming back! They were supposed to erase it, but yours has broken back through! That is why I found you!! I saw that today in the office – I knew you remembered! You have to help me. They are using you, and others to start a war. They will vote on it in days, unanimously between the main governments, and it will be the final war. This could be the end of us all. I have seen their experiments, their reanimations. They have used you. They have used us all to gain power!’

She slipped a photograph into my hand. A young boy of about 8 years old. ‘Please help me, they have my son.’ She said. I looked at the picture. I recognised the boy. He was the boy I held in my arms as the IED exploded.

‘He’s alive?!’ I asked hurriedly.

Eve nodded, tears flowing down her cheeks. ‘They are using him as ransom. I continue to co-ordinate their attacks, they keep him alive, I stop, he becomes the next attacker. Please, we don’t have much time. You are number 39, but you have remembered! Please help me stop this.’

I paused. Clarity descended on me. I still had so many unanswered questions, but there was no time. I was a machine. But I was no longer their machine. Because a machine doesn’t feel. Science was good, but not that good. I was a soldier, and this was not happening on my watch. I stood and moved to the door. I looked back at Eve.

‘Take me to Yanich! Take me to Pasha! They want a war – I will show them war.’

Disclaimer: This short story is solely the property of Beth Jones. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Jack And The Box – By Beth Jones

Here’s another short story for you, this time penned by Beth. This was included in a short story anthology, with all proceeds going to charity. If you would like to purchase a copy, you can do so here:

Jack And The Box
By Beth Jones

Sarah closed the front door, resting her head on it as she did so. She exhaled and closed her eyes, tears rolling gently down her cheeks. After a few minutes she turned to look at her house. It looked cold, dark and unloved. Slowly, she slouched through the door to the lounge, and on into the kitchen beyond. She needed a brew. If there was one thing that could make things look better, it was a good cup of tea! That was what Old Jack used to say to her anyway, so she figured she would put his theory to the test. She filled the kettle and went to the fridge for milk. To her dismay, it was curdled and congealed in the see-through plastic bottle, and the fridge smelled like something had died in there. She sighed, rolled her eyes, and lumbered back towards the lounge, flicking the kettle off as she passed.

She sat in her comfy chair, where Old Jack used to sit when he came around for chats, and pulled a crocheted blanket round her shoulders. She hadn’t felt this alone in a long time. The sense of being totally lost and unsure what to do swept over her; something she hadn’t felt since her childhood. For a while, she sat motionless, staring at nothing, thinking about Old Jack and what she could focus on now he was gone. She had been so busy caring for him for the last two years, she had almost forgotten how to do anything else. When he was taken into hospital, she’d been with him every day, trying to keep him in high spirits, trying desperately to keep him fighting on, but they both knew he was dying, and that it was only a matter of time.

It was only a few hours since he passed, but the desperate need to see him again was like a black hole devouring her insides. He’d told her not to worry, that everything was going to be ok and that he was happy to be going home. Happy that the pain would stop, for both of them. But her pain hadn’t stopped, because now it was the pain of loss. The pain that takes away your breath and seers through your head, forcing every last tear that you own to come out all at once.

The last fifteen years, living next door to Old Jack, had been the happiest and most fulfilled she had ever been. She had no-one else in the world apart from him. She’d been in the care system since from eighteen months old. Both her parents were addicts and had died of drug overdoses while she was asleep in her cot. Apparently, it was at least 24 hours later when the police found her. She was placed into care as her grandparents were alcoholics. She spent the next sixteen years being pushed from pillar to post, from care home to foster carer. She had blocked out most of those years; the emotional scars too deep to face. Throughout that time, no matter how hard it was, she’d always been determined that her horrible past wouldn’t define her. She tried hard in school and ended up a ‘straight A’ student. She’d won awards for her hard work in the face of adversity, and for her achievement in Maths and Science. She had always been fascinated by scientific discovery. Physics was magical for her; like a playground of mystery where nothing was beyond the realms of possibility! When she was too old for the care system, her stubborn determination drove her to make a go of life as a fully blown, fully functioning adult. Social services had helped her locate a house – nothing special, a little two up, two down terraced. That was when she met Old Jack, her next-door neighbour. From that day, those childhood scars had started to heel. Now they felt wide open again.

Jack had been the closest thing she’d ever had to a father figure. She managed a little smile as she remembered the first time she’d met him. He’d knocked on her door the day she moved in and given her a welcoming present of a jar of coffee, a pint of milk, and a bag of sugar. She had told him, quite bluntly, that she didn’t like coffee! He had tutted and shuffled back to his door, then two minutes later had come back with a bottle of Navy Rum and two glasses! They had both sat on boxes and got acquainted over some very large measures. They instantly hit it off, as Jack had been a scientist all his life! She found him fascinating, and pretty soon it got to the point where they were always together, Jack sharing many wonderful stories with her, and her hanging on his every word, making tea in the gaps between stories, then urging him to tell her more.

He had once told her how he’d been a codebreaker in the war. She had her reservations as to whether this was true; it felt like it was just one story too far, but by then she had so much love and respect for this wonderful human who had fallen into her life so unexpectedly, that she never questioned it.

Suddenly, a familiar sound came from the meter cupboard in the hall, and everything went dark. The sound was the electric metre shutting off because she was out of credit again. She swore under her breath. She really didn’t need this now! She was too tired and numbed by the day to go out and get more, so she fumbled about on the mantlepiece for a lighter and lit the numerous candles she had dotted around the lounge for this very occurrence. The warm glow from all the little lights was somewhat comforting.

Then she saw it on the mantlepiece. The letter that Jack had given her when he knew he was beginning to fade. It came with strict instructions not to open it until he was gone, and it had sat there, in the same spot, for nearly six months. She stared at it for what felt like hours, hoping that it would disappear. Wishing she would never have to open it, but still slightly intrigued at its contents. Jack literally told her everything, so what could this little envelope contain that she didn’t already know?

Finally, she picked it off the mantlepiece and began to slowly open it, her hands shaking a little. Jack had the most amazingly precise handwriting she had ever seen; perfectly slanted cursive script, with every letter beautifully formed, and even when his health had started to fail and he’d grown weak, this skill never left him.

            “Dearest Sarah,

The fact you are reading this can only mean one thing. Don’t be sad that I’m no longer here – I’m not in the least bit sad that I have gone! Nor am I worried about what is to come next. For me, I should imagine it will be an extraordinary adventure! I might be flying though space as you read this; or growing into a coral on a far away planet, in a parallel universe, so have no fear for me. I am an explorer, and death is a mere diversion onto a new path!

I am also not worried about you, because you are strong, you are brave, and you are bright. More importantly, you are young. You have your whole life ahead of   you, and you shouldn’t dwell on my passing because to dwell is to waste time, and you will need all the time you can get to work on a project that I have designed just for you.

I always dreamed I would have a daughter, and in you, that dream was realised. I sometimes felt you thought more like me than I did, and this is why I am entrusting you with my unfinished work. I know you never believed my codebreaker story, but I want you to know that whilst my story was not entirely true, it did contain elements of the truth.

I was born and raised in Nevada. I did fight in the war for a very short time. I was an engineer in US military, until I was injured on manoeuvres and sent home! I took up a roll within the military on my return, working alongside intelligence to identify and replicate advancements in our enemies’ weapons. In 1957 I was working in the Nevada Dessert, at Groom Lake. You might know this place as Area 51.

What I’m about to tell you, you must never tell another soul! You are the only person to know this about me. This is the reason I never married or had any children of my own. If I had done, I would have put them in danger.

In 1957, the ever-suspicious US air force were working on secret technology, to enable them to create indestructible and undetectable fighting machines, to ensure that there would never be another war that they couldn’t win in the blink of an eye. They wanted to affirm their authority over the rest of the planet in a blaze of glory. The technology they were using there was not of this world. You’ve heard the Roswell stories; the conspiracies; the ‘loony’ UFO chaser tales. I can tell you now, they are all as real as the ground on which you stand, but the cover-ups have run so deeply that it is almost impossible to see things in plain sight now.

As a scientist, I was enthralled and enlivened by the idea of discovering and replicating alien technology, but as a human being, with deep morals, I knew that this knowledge was ultimately destined to be used for greed and power, and I could not live with myself being a part of that. I spent months planning my escape; my own exile from that place. I worked through scenarios and theories endlessly before making my move. That is how I ended up here, in our little town, in the back of beyond, our little secret corner of Britain.

My point in telling you this is I brought something with me. I managed to smuggle it out. I found it whilst picking through some pieces of wreckage debris that had been shipped in from Roswell. It had been passed over by the other scientists as insignificant, so much so that it hadn’t been recorded on any paperwork. So, when I took it, the only person who really knew of its existence was me.

I don’t know why it intrigued me so, but there was something about it that led me to think it was some kind of technology. Some kind of machine not of this world. No bigger that a match box, and with no markings or obvious buttons, I often thought I might be reading too much into it and it was just what it looked – a lump of unknown matter. A chunk of ‘stuff’ that wasn’t man-made or made out of any identifiable material. For years I puzzled over it. Right up until 15 years ago. Right up until the point I met you. I decided pretty quickly this would be my legacy to you.

I want you to have it. I want you to crack the code. Unlock its secrets and come tell me when you have. I have no doubt that you will be more capable of this than I, and although I may have left this earth, this existence; and you will have no physical ‘me’ to deliver your conclusion to, trust me when I say I will hear you.

Inside this envelope, you will find a small key. Take it into my house. Behind the fire in the lounge you’ll find a small safe behind a wood panel. The object, and my research papers, are in there. They now belong to you. Carry on my work Sarah. you now hold the key to the universe in your hand!

Until we meet again, Sarah.

Jack x”

Sarah didn’t really know what to say or do next. She kept looking up at the window, then back at the letter, suddenly feeling suspicious of everything. Was anyone watching? Had her house been bugged by some secret agency while she was at the hospital with Jack? Or was this just one of his crazy, mad science stories? She looked in the envelope. There was a small and dainty key nestled in the bottom corner. No, this couldn’t possibly be real, this must be one of Jacks little musings to cheer her up, she thought. She looked up at the ceiling and cursed him under her breath. She placed the key on the mantlepiece and sat back down in the chair. She drummed her fingers on the arm of the chair and fixed her stare on the key, which was glinting in the candlelight. After not too long at all, her curiosity got the better of her. Thumping her hands down assertively on the arms of the chair, she pushed herself up, grabbed the key, and fumbled in her pocket for Jack’s front door key.

It was nearly midnight and the rest of the sleepy road was tucked up in bed by now, even the curtain-twitchers would be snoring, so no-one would see her if she went round to Jack’s for a little investigation, to see if her dear, crazy friend was just pulling her leg for one last time!

She opened her door, and stuck out her head, looking up and down the street, trying (but failing) not to appear too suspicious. There wasn’t a soul about. Perfect! She tiptoed the few feet to Jack’s front door and quickly let herself in. Although it was pitch dark, she didn’t want to turn on the lights and raise any suspicion. Luckily, the clouds of earlier had cleared and moonlight was streaming though the lounge window, illuminating the room with an ethereal glow. She padded silently to the fire place. The house smelled of Jack. It was a comforting smell, like he was there with her, a protector on her new mission!

She moved the old electric fire over and gently tapped on the ‘wall’ behind it. Definitely hollow! She suddenly realised that her heart was beating fast, and that all her senses were heightened. The super power of adrenaline! She quickly surveyed the wall, looking for a way to dislodge the board. There! In the corner, was a tiny cut-out space, big enough for her finger to fit through! She slowly pushed her finger into the hole and felt something small, round and metallic. She pushed a little harder and, with a little pop, the whole panel moved and inch forward! She had to give it to Jack – a spring loaded secret panel behind a fire was pretty cool for a guy of his age! Slowly, she took away the panel, and sure enough, there was the safe. She put the tiny key in the lock and turned. It was a little stiff; the mechanism was obviously old, but eventually it gave a little click, which made her jump! Carefully, she opened the door, and there it was. A small, grey, metallic looking object, no bigger than a matchbox, sitting on top of a thesis of paperwork, all in the same beautiful cursive script that Jack had used to write his final letter. She sat back and stared, her eyes bulging. She had just opened Pandora’s Box. Her head swam with ideas, emotions, theories, fears. She took a deep breath and reached in to the safe to remove the contents.


Sarah got up at six the next morning. She hadn’t really slept all night if she was honest. Way too much buzzing round her head for sleep. When she’d got back in from Jack’s, she’d done what all scientists do; taken the ‘Machine of Unknown Origin’, as she was now calling it, to bed with her, put it under her pillow and had a good long puzzle over it instead of counting sheep. By 2am she was pacing her room reading the stack of theories that Jack had left with the MUO to try and find something he’d missed. A few hours later, she lay back down. So many questions had occurred to her. What was it made of? Where had it come from? What had Jack seen in it that made it special? Hell, was this even a real thing or was this just Jack trying to give her a project to focus on, so she didn’t miss him too much? If that was it, it wasn’t working. The hole in her heart felt bigger today than yesterday. It felt gaping.

She slowly padded down the stairs to the kitchen and placed the MUO on the work top by the sink. She flicked on the kettle and moved to the fridge, to get the milk, sleepily picking it out, holding it up to the light, and realising that it was the same curdled mess that had greeted her last night. Angrily, she wrenched off the lid and moved back to the sink to dispose of the putrid mess. Through her exhausted eyes, she attempted to aim for the plug hole, but missed completely, pouring the rotten stuff all over the work top, and covering the MUO in the foul concoction. She gasped and quickly bent down to get a cloth from the cupboard under the sink. “This is why I’m not a scientist “she shouted at herself as she knelt, rooting through the bottle of cleaning products. “The most important discovery in the world, ever, and I go and spill rotten milk on it.”

As she fumbled, she became aware of the room becoming lighter. She slowly looked up around the room, her gaze finally settling on the light source. The MUO was glowing, from underneath, with a strange, blue-white glow. She stayed knelt down, frozen to the spot, her pulse audible in her ears. For what felt like an eternity, she sat, transfixed at the enthralling light that was being emitted by this tiny object. Without warning the light faded to nothing. She slowly stood and leaned in closer to examine the MUO, her face now only inches from its surface. The silence within the room was electric, she hardly dared to breath. Time seemed to stand still around her, and nothing could break this fascinating moment.

Nothing would break this fascinating moment!

The MUO had her transfixed!

It had her complete attention!

But it did nothing…




Disclaimer: This short story is solely the property of Beth Jones. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

COVID-19 by ‘Dark Juan’

‘Dark Juan’

Rick Here.

We’ve all been having a chat at Ever Metal and some of the reviewers have decided to come up with some extra pieces on top of the reviews. Whether that be videos or, in this case, a short, fictional, story from ‘Dark Juan’ about what might happen in the circumstances we are currently experiencing! Read on and let us know what you think.

Before the cataclysm it all started with a virus and with a rush on toilet paper. Not even a particularly lethal virus. Just one that couldn’t be vaccinated against. News outlets with particular political leanings engaged in a culture of scaremongering in order to justify their own existences. Truth got lost under a welter of lies, obfuscation, tailoring the truth to other people’s requirements and demonising the less fortunate among us. Social media was even worse. A million voices all screaming conflicted and inaccurate information against each other onto screens all over the world. A silent, neverending howl of fact, counter-fact, lies and invention all spewing forth in real time and not giving the recipient time to assimilate it before other new theories or clickbait cures guaranteeing to make sure you’d never be touched by Coronaviruses or telling credulous men that their sexual potency could be cured and their penis grown in size and girth by this one magic pill.

One person said, way back in the past, “Society is only three meals away from revolution.”

They were wrong. Society degrades over decades of lies and poor governance. It degrades over governments slandering their opposition and arguing semantics and fiddling statistics to suit the way they think instead of being the agents of change and prosperity they said they’d be in manifesto pledges. Society becomes corrupt through the lies of the powerful and the cowed masses swallowing it verbatim. People got told what to think and repeated it parrot-fashion and the new truth took the place of the old. They didn’t even see their rights being removed even as they were. Goods started disappearing from shelves. The good people of communities across the world tried to help the less fortunate but there became a fulcrum – a tipping point where the good people had to look after themselves and their families first. And that is where the internal conflicts began.

Take Great Britain, long regarded as a bastion of the rule of law, politeness and good manners, turned in on itself. It became insane. People physically fighting in supermarket aisles over the last packet of pasta over a couple of weeks of shortages caused by the selfish and the unthinking who sat, temporarily secure in their homes with supplies to last a few weeks, never even considering that they had caused suffering and hardship to other less affluent or credit-worthy people. Then they would rampage back out into the melee and yelp pitifully that there was no pasta to be had, even though they had 20 packets in a cupboard at home. And then, one day, there was a quicksilver flash of metal and someone had died over some fucking toilet paper in Tesco’s Swindon branch. A knife between the ribs and all hell was set loose.

Panic reached ever greater heights. People armed themselves to obtain supplies. Police resources were quickly overwhelmed and the military was brought in to maintain order but they couldn’t cope either as the violence got worse. Delivery vehicles were waylaid and ransacked on the roads of the country and their drivers beaten or killed if they resisted and as the death rate from the virus increased, so did the death rate from the violence. A commensurate decrease was in the ability of healthcare providers to cope. Hospitals overflowed and people stole from them in order to obtain supplies they couldn’t get elsewhere. The good, kind and gentle people of the country faced a grim choice – do they maintain their ethics or do they plunge into the seething pit of survival and self? The forces of law and order pulled back to protect Government and the great and the good and left us all to fight like rats over dwindling resources. Useless platitudes and promises flowed from well fed men in suits that cost more than three months wages for an ordinary man in gilded palaces and then emergency law was declared. People were forced back into their homes at gunpoint and movement and freedom curtailed in the name of restoring order in a state tearing at itself from the inside out. Funds dried up as jobs were lost and taxes weren’t paid and people got increasingly desperate. Thievery and armed robbery became commonplace and fuel for vehicles became increasingly scarce as prices rocketed once the oil producing states had succumbed to the virus. Vehicles lay abandoned at crumbling roadsides and people grew yet more desperate.

The cities fell first. The people of the cities, in their competition for resources, ranged further and further afield to obtain the necessaries of life. Social media began to be a way of notifying each other where resources were, leading to hordes coming and stripping that resource dry. And the cycle would begin again. Rural towns began to suffer as communities who had practiced restraint and good neighbourliness and enjoyed adequate supplies were descended on by the ravening city dwellers and they too were stripped of their resources. Small towns and villages became small fortresses and bulwarks against people from outside and refusal to let outsiders in was often met with force. Death and serious injury became commonplace and then the communication network began to break down. When electricity supplies began to falter and then fail, and cellular and telephone communication was lost, an eerie kind of calm descended. There was an almost return to normalcy as people couldn’t report where delivery trucks were to be ransacked any more in real time. It all settled back down, but then the virus bit back HARD. Medical facilities once more overwhelmed and panic descended all over again. People dying in the streets over food, or malnutrition or lack of medication led to the complete collapse of the country into a seething, bloody mess of humanity ripping at each other.

The rest of the world was no better off. As resources dwindled, militaries began to face off and postures became warlike. Language started to cease using platitudes and preaching peace with neighbours and instead the ominous sound of sabres rattling began. Alliances broke and human suffering became the norm. The weak were trampled underfoot and nations began to tear at nations. Warfare became the new diplomacy and dictators rose and postured and preened and caused atrocities beyond words. Simmering tensions erupted into open warfare and the merry go round of the art of war spun ever faster, superpowers threatened and jockeyed for dominance and India and Pakistan threatened nuclear confrontation over the meltwaters of the Himalayas…

Among it all there were still optimists. After a muffled thump was heard at 0623 just outside of Dagenham, George turned to his wife in Dorking, and said to her,

“Look at the sunrise, love. It’s really bright today. It’s going to be a lovely day.”

Disclaimer: This short story is solely the property of Dark Juan. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.