My fiction. Long and short.


It’s so good to be out today. Alone, focused and present. Walking home, slowly, today is photo day.

The landscape is frozen, solid. I have to focus on each step, the path is like ice. But it is so quiet, even in the middle of the day. Today I am looking for nature, not people. 

I’m wrapped up warm but the chill is still penetrating all my layers. I have to try to keep moving, but not miss anything. 

So far, I have a few shots, but I don’t feel like there is anything special. 

The river is covered in snow. Footprints are crossing from one bank to the other. The place seems devoid of life.

There is one patch of unfrozen water, on the other side. It seems to be some sort of water inlet, there must be some water movement. It’s still strange though, the water shouldn’t be any warmer there, and it isn’t moving so fast. You would think that some birds would be there. If it’s warm, why not?

Above it, on the bank, is a small concrete block. Some sort of control mechanism I suppose. This is what I love, finding the details. It’s covered in some sort of design. Is it art? It’s hard to tell from here. 

It’s a long way to the other side but I have to get closer. Actually I could do with the walk. I’ve been standing around for a while and even my bones are shivering. 

When I reach the other side I feel better. I have warmed up after the walk, or the skate, I’m not sure what you would call it. 

This block is fascinating. What is it covered in? Is it graffiti? Is it natural? Maybe some sort of weathering, or a strange combination of the two. Whatever it is, it seems to draw me.

Details seem to jump out at you. A face, a hand and when you touch it…

I can feel the pores of the concrete, its skin. It feels like I can even sense a feeling.

OK. What the fuck? That was just too creepy.

And the ground shifts, or is it me? It’s me. As I fall, I throw my camera over my shoulder. Then brave myself for the cold. I take a deep breath and plunge under water.

I recover quickly, only because it is shallow here, close to the bank. Lucky, since I swim like a bag of sand. I say it is shallow, but it still rises under my arms. 

Confusion reigns, it’s warm. I know there is no reason for this. I suppose I should be grateful, otherwise I would be struggling. But the water is as warm as a bath. Why?

Anyway, for now I need to worry about how I am going to get out of this. The banks are deserted. I can either climb onto the ice, which seems sketchy. Or up the bank, but that inlet is the only area of bank with no ice.

I have to edge forward and be aware of the slippery boulders which form the bank of the river. They also slope upwards towards the bank, it would be easy to fall.

I’m next to the hole now. I might have to wait for help, I don’t see how I can get any purchase to drag myself up.

I turn around to look at the other bank, there must be some people around. As I do, I feel a warm gust of air on the back of my head. So that’s why it isn’t frozen here. I still don’t know why. There is nothing here. These are just channels from one arm of the river to another.

As I turn back to the hole, I get that feeling again. A presence. I can’t help but move forward, drawn towards whatever this thing is.

I feel something brush my leg and it is as if my bones have left my skin behind. I’m stumbling now, slipping back down the slope towards the ice, the frozen part of the river.

When I get close to the ice, it takes my breath away. So cold. This is how I should have felt when I first fell in. I struggle a little closer to the bank, and it is almost as if there is a line where I cross into the warm water. It isn’t a slow transition, it is instant. 

It takes a few minutes for the warmth to permeate my body and for me to stop shivering. I’m OK now, but I want to get out. I don’t know what this is, I just know that I want no part of it.

I start screaming for help, panic is beginning to take over. Where is everybody? Earlier, I was wishing for no people, now I’ve never wanted to see another human so much in my life.

Time to take a few deep breathes. Whatever touched me before would have been as boring and everyday as a carp enjoying the warmth of this area. This isn’t Star Wars. There is no creature here living in the depths, scavenging on lost and discarded items. 

I have to laugh at myself and my imagination. But as I get closer to the bank, there it is again. Nothing physical but a feeling. A sense of something, lost.

As I move closer, once again, I seem to feel so many emotions. One minute sorrow, of an unimaginable degree. Then anger, ferocious anger at the unfairness of the world. And also malevolence like I could never imagine. 

And finally, as I approach the hole, joy. A rapturous joy like I have never felt. It is flooding through me, what could make someone, or something feel like that? Maybe a dream coming true. What you have been waiting for, finally approaching. Another soul to add to your collection. 

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter



The countdown begins. Tension mounts. The rumble of an earthquake. Teeth shaking in your head. Trust in your colleagues. Trust in your training. The cockpit begins to blur. And then… Heavier than you have ever felt. More noise than you have ever heard. Can this thing possibly stay in one piece? But in the end. Weightlessness and silence. Such contrasts, so quickly.

via Daily Prompt: Ten

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Back Home (Inspired By Stephen King)

I should have trusted my feelings. I new something was wrong, could feel it. Now I can smell her scent. Hear her descending the staircase. I feel sick to my stomach.She is still so beautiful. Emily, such a sweet name, but I know better.

“I feel so much better for that. This city is filthy,” she says.

As she sits next to me, I can smell her newly washed skin. Her arm around me feels so alien. But I know how she can be, I mustn’t react. I must play along, for now.

“It’s so good to see you honey.” She smiles a sterile smile.

Sickly sweet, my cuddly bunny. But a bunny with teeth.

I thought this moment would be a long time coming, and hopefully never. But here she is, out.

“Have you missed me?” she asks.

“I haven’t stopped thinking about you for a moment,” I reply.

And I mean it. This woman has haunted every waking moment of my life for the last two years. I just haven’t been able to shake her, even when there were high concrete walls between us.

“Because I’ve missed you. I know you didn’t mean those things you said,” she says.

As she slips her arms around me every muscle in my body wants to tense. And I want to scream. But I must force myself to relax. But it’s too late.

“What’s wrong? I thought you’d be happy.” She looks sweet and disappointed. I used to fall for this act, many times in fact. But not anymore.

“I guess it’s just the shock. And I’m worried. You’ll be in so much trouble.” My mind is spinning now. How do I get away from her?

“I don’t care. I couldn’t live without you any longer. I knew you would find someone else, if I didn’t get home soon.” She’s getting angry now.

“Has there been anyone?” she asks, her eyes are growing fierce, her jaw set tight.

“Of course not. How could there be?” What am I saying? Who could believe this bullshit?

“You’re lying. I could always tell. Who is it? That bitch Lydia from next door?”

Jesus no, this is getting out of control, so quickly.

I don’t even see it coming, she hits me so hard the left side of my face explodes with the pain. And then she is on me. All I can do is curl into a ball and try to hide from her blows. Her punches and kicks have grown, if anything, more powerful.

Is it the pain or the shame that is the worst? I never was sure. I am the man, after all. Why do I let her do this to me? I know I am stronger, but she can be savage and the terror seems to overwhelm me.

“Look at you. Lying there. Why do I love you? How can I love such a weak creature?”

I can’t speak. I know that anything I say will be wrong. But so is saying nothing. My insides feel like they are contorting with the tension and the indecision.

“Maybe it would be best to just put you out of your misery. That’s what they do with dogs, isn’t it? When they are past their usefulness.”

She has never threatened this before. Of all the times, as far as she went, I only felt on the edge of death when she went too far. When her temper was out of control. But this is worse, she is deciding. I can see it in her eyes. She is weighing her options.

A knock at the door.

She looks out of the window, to check who it is. Maybe it is the police.

“It’s her,” she says. “The bitch. Now it’s time to end this. Two birds with one stone.”

It all happens so quickly, I am frozen to the spot.

Emily opens the door with on hand, and with the other she has Lydia by the hair, pulling her through the door. She is on her like a cat, hissing as she pulls hair out in clumps. Now attacking her eyes, scratching and gouging at them. Lydia doesn’t know what has hit her.

It’s almost like I am outside my body looking in. Just an observer unable to intervene. That’s what the fear has always done to me, made me impotent.

But this time is different, there is someone else involved. This time as I watch, seemingly from outside, I see myself move. Get up and creep forward, there is something in my hand. Something heavy. The clock from the mantelpiece.

As I swing downwards I seem to reenter my body, just before the impact.

A sickening thud, followed by a grunt and then silence.

Emily is slumped over Lydia now. Is she breathing?

I’m still holding the clock. The bottom edge is covered in blood and matted hair. I can’t drop it fast enough when I see this. Revulsion overcomes me.

Lydia’s face is a mask of horror, contorted in shock and pain. I remember how it felt, the first time. But, in time, it almost becomes expected. And accepted.

I don’t want to touch Emily, but I have to. As I pull her of and lay her to the side of Lydia, I can sense that she is gone. There is no longer the presence that was so strong. So intent.

Lydia is shaking now, sobbing uncontrollably. As I help her to her feet she clings to me.

“I’m sorry,” I say. It seems meaningless but I have to say something.

“How did she get out?” Lydia asks.

“It was on the news, that three people had escaped. I prayed she wasn’t one of them.” I still can’t believe it myself. How did she do it?

“Do I look OK? My eyes are burning,” she says with concern.

“She got you pretty good, but I think it’s just scratches. Can you see OK?” It looks worse than I am letting on, but I hope she will be fine. There is no point in panicking her now.

“Yes, it seems to be fine. But my face is so sore,” she almost whimpers. “You had better call the police.”

It’s good advice but I can’t deal with this. What have I done? Now I start to sob, I can hardly breathe. Why? I should be happy, it is over now.

My emotions are running wild. I put my arms around Lydia, I need to hold someone. And she hugs me back.

As I look at her lying there, that’s when it hits me. How dangerous that woman was. Not just for me, but for everyone she touched. And the first surge of happiness begins to flow through me. It is over, finally.

Now I can live, I deserve it.

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Echo: A short story

I sometimes wonder if I am cracked. It almost feels like places are speaking to me. Not every place, but ones with a history. But not what most people would think of as historical.

An abandoned factory, for instance, seems to resonate with past events. Just imagine the stories it could tell. Peoples’ blood, sweat and tears seem to impregnate those walls. Whereas, when I enter a church it seems like the emptiest of shells.

Today, I am exploring the former. A factory, abandoned for how long? I love exploring places like this. As soon as I enter, it feels like there is history here. This place is amazing.

The windows are almost all destroyed. Cracked and dirty, but allowing the occasional shaft of sunlight to illuminate the dust that hangs in the air.

The roof seems to be the home to every flying rat from within the nearest few miles. So, of course, the floor is covered with a fair amount of their history; as well as what was left behind when the factory closed.

But it is the machines that draw me in. I can feel the past here. How many hours did men spend standing at these beasts of the industrial age? Men who knew no other life, perhaps had no other option. But, perhaps, were happy with their lot; or perhaps not.

This space is cavernous and, in early winter, the air is cold and bites the lungs. But the sky is clear and has that deep blue which makes the world a brighter place.

It is so silent here now. But, once, there would have been a tumult; day in, day out. I can almost hear it now. No, I can here it now. I tell myself it is just my imagination, but I swear I can hear it.

The incessant repetition, as machines hammer and bend metal into shape. The shouts and calls of the workmen, struggling to make themselves heard. After a lifetime in this place, the silence of nature must have been terrifying.

If it is my imagination, it is so vivid at times, it feels so real. But I am not a believer of superstitions. There are no ghosts here, only memories.

But then there is another feeling, one of loss. I know men would have died here. Without knowing it for a fact, it would have happened. Lives lost, families torn apart. Their pain, their loss, still echoing through time.

via Daily Prompt: Echo

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Top of the Tower – Elected: A short story

Well it actually happened. I only really started thinking I had a chance with a couple of weeks to go. But, in the end, even the FBI came to the rescue. People really don’t like her. My scandals seemed to be ignored. Of course, I have some powerful allies; but still no one seemed to want to dig too deep.

And now, here I am. Now what? The enormity of it all still hasn’t really hit me. The most powerful man in the world, me? I told everyone that there would be changes, and there will, but I need professionals around me. I’ve dealt with politicians my whole life, but now I will be on the other side. I will even have to bury some hatchets; only figuratively, of course.

The wife is already complaining. She doesn’t want to move and live there. But I can’t do the job remotely, can I? They wouldn’t let me get away with that, surely? We’ll see. It’s not a bad house, I suppose.

I have to admit that I have a slight sense of panic, at times. This isn’t a land deal, or a construction project. And some of my supporters are scary, but that is who got me here. But when I see them with one arm raised, even I am disquieted by that image. For now, I hope they stay under the radar. Then in the future, I won’t need them and I can widen my appeal.

I plan on doing this job well, and don’t wish to be remembered as a joke. It has happened before, of course. Thirty-six years ago, people were not sure of another man. And now he is held up as the perfect leader, by many in the party. One day, maybe they will say the same about me.

We will be great again. And I will be the most winning leader ever. 

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Border 2, the move: A short story

At first I was worried that we would lose everything, but we were allowed to collect our few belongings before the destruction began. It was terrible to behold. What now, where? There had been talk of relocation, but there is such uncertainty. I just hope that the next move brings us closer to some permanence.

I find myself staring at the destruction, feeling numb, I can hardly breath. Nadia has her arms around Yaya and Abdo, trying to comfort them. “Now, we will go somewhere better”, she says. Please, I hope so.

The dream was always to reach Britain, we speak English and have some relations there already. At least there would be some friendly faces to help. But here, it seems like everything will be so much harder. But, believe me, even the Jungle was better than where we came from. If learning another language is the largest problem we have, the future will be bright. 

The police are coming now, directing us where to go. Single men here, families there, children here. It is unbelievable how many children there are, with no families. Teenagers with no one to guide them, heartbreaking. Our processing seems relatively simple, the decision has already been made where to send us. Another foreign name with no meaning for me.

We are put on the bus, with many other families. Time to leave. Part of me is sad, how strange to think I would ever feel sad to leave this place. I guess the channel crossing was always the end of the journey, and we never made it. And now we are off, to something better. I must believe.

It is easy to forget what a beautiful country this is, once you move away from the port and the city. We have been told we are going to a large village. This seems surprising, how will we find work there? And the people, what will they think?

Now we are moving, the children are more animated. There is excitement in Yaya’s eyes, it is infectious, I am starting to feel it too. The colours of autumn glow all around us as we speed towards our destination. There is nervousness amongst my fellow passengers, but so much hope.

After a couple of hours we are told we have arrived. What a pretty place, typical old-world French charm. I am amazed, I would not have believed that we would be brought to somewhere like this. It is obviously not the richest of places but it has a warm, welcoming feeling. Nadia looks too shocked for words, but she is smiling, nervously. 

Le Grand Hôtel, sounds impressive and looks fine. It maybe doesn’t quite live up to the name, but it looks clean, warm and dry. All the things we have been missing so much. The lady, maybe the owner, is very welcoming and takes us to our rooms. Yes rooms, two rooms with a bathroom. 

As soon as we are alone, Nadia begins to weep. Gently, at first, but when the dam bursts she cannot stop. You see, this seems like a palace to us. Two rooms, four beds and the children are already jumping and bounding from one to the other. Unbridled joy, it has been such a long time. The feeling of my wife’s tears, running down my face and soaking into my collar. The feeling of love, of hope. 

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Top of the Tower: A short story (perhaps based on real events, maybe)

I love being up here. This is when I really feel what I have achieved. People say my Daddy helped me, yeah he did. But I made it, God damn it. Look at them, all the small people. Carrying on with their small lives, totally unaware of how things work.

But I can’t look out of the window all day, there is too much to do. Can I really do it? At the start, I honestly thought I could just stir things up. Get some coverage, maybe snag a new show. But I’m still here, amazing. Now it’s getting serious. It’s so close I can almost touch it. I can’t mess this up. 

Most people are so dumb. But I’m not complaining, I’m grateful. Sometimes I wonder just how far I can go, what I can get away with saying. As long as I keep telling people it will be better, they don’t seem to care about the details.

But, just lately? I have to be careful. They can’t realise what I really think of them. What I think of everyone. They are all so small, so weak. Especially women, they are so easy to manipulate. 

I used to wonder if there was something wrong with me. I’ve never felt anything for others. After all, Daddy made it without needing love and gratitude; so why not me. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to snuff one of them out. But that is only a passing fancy. I’m more interested in making them feel worthless, that is the real power.

I have my own children and I think they will follow in their Daddy’s footsteps. They are like something else that I have constructed. I have my trophy too; I am still a man and it makes me feel good to see the way others look at her. And even better, when they look at my daughter. I am so proud of how she looks, my boys too. And they think like me too, it’s almost like I have programmed them. But I suppose that is what you do with your children.

Now it’s time to finish this. But I have to take it one day at a time. The next few days will be tough, I hope no other skeletons appear from my past. But there are some, some that are very old and very scary. What I did doesn’t worry me, just what it could do to me now.

Well, here we go again. Just smile and keep it simple. Can it really be that easy?

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Border: A short story

How could it have come to this?

They are so beautiful when they sleep. This is the only time when they look innocent and peaceful now. How could anyone feel at peace in this place? The sun will be rising soon and another day will begin. Another day to hope and survive. Hope for what? That the world will begin to care. It seems like a never ending fight, with very little to win. When the final bell rings, will we be victorious? Or knocked out.

I feel torn inside, when I look at them, and the life they have. We ran from one war, one where death was a real possibility. But now we are in a different type of war. Most people in this place are good, just searching for a better life. But some need to be watched, and these are the ones that scare me. These are the ones that scare the world.

I feel like such a failure. Did I do the right thing? It cost all the money we had to get us here, money we had worked hard for. Now we have nothing and no one wants us. Yes, we are here illegally. But what choice did I have? It is hard to apply for visas or official help when the soldiers are just around the corner. He said it would be OK, he would get us to Britain, for a price. And Britain is a modern, caring country. Right? But we didn’t make it that far and now even Europeans are being looked at with distrust. What hope for people with our skin colour?

The sky is beginning to glow through the skin of our tent, another day. Yaya is stirring; seven years old but with the eyes of one who has seen too much already. She should be carefree and playing with friends, instead she protects her brother like a wolf. I am so proud of her, but wish it was for different reasons. Now, I must be strong and not show how I really feel. They cannot see the hopelessness inside me.

“Good morning my love. Did you sleep well?”, I ask. “Like I was on a bed of feathers”, she says with a smile. But she is not on a feather bed, far from it. But she is always so optimistic, she is strong for us.

Now Abdo begins to grumble, he is more of a complainer. Maybe that is the difference between men and women. Women always seem to get on with things, especially in our culture. But he is so young, all he feels is discomfort and doesn’t have to pretend for the sake of anyone else. He is the youngest, after all. Four years old and already transplanted and transferred so many times. Yaya puts a protective arm around him and welcomes him to another day, with a smile.

These are the loves of my life. Yaya, Abdo and Nadia, my wife, their mother. A beautiful, intelligent woman who also deserves so much better. The children crawl all over her, and she awakes with a smile and a laugh. Even here, there are times to make you smile and feel grateful. But soon we will step outside and join the queues for breakfast. There are good people here, who are trying to help us. But there is only so much they can do. Hopefully there will be some fresh supplies today.

A light rain is falling, this is the worst. The dampness seems to penetrate everything here. There is no escape. I step outside, and make my way to the aid station. Everyone looks unhappy and nervous, something is wrong. There have been rumours that there will be some sort of operation, to clear some of this wasteland. And here they come. I can hear the roar of the vehicles as they approach.

In a panic, I rush back to my family. As I get there, the police are approaching. They herd us into an area, away from the tents and shacks that are our homes. We have so little, how can they take it away?

Here come the machines, on tracks, carrying huge scoops in front. Ready to pile our lives together with all the others who live here. Live, it feels ridiculous to even use that word. We don’t live, we exist. I feel sick, useless. I am supposed to protect my family, that is every father’s job; no? But what can I do, other than wipe away the tears from my wife’s face. And kiss her and pray.

They call this place The Jungle. A jungle may be dangerous, but it is beautiful and diverse. This is no jungle, this is hell.

via Daily Prompt: Border

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Jump: A short story

What is this? How did I get here? The panic spreads through me from my fingers to my bones. Breathe, just breathe. Do I know this place? I certainly don’t remember getting here. The bed feels warm, I must have been sleeping. When I sit up my head feels woozy. Then, pain shoots up my neck. I need to think. Thirsty, so thirsty. There is a sink in the corner but I can’t see a glass anywhere. I put my mouth to the tap and gorge myself. Better. There is a desk in the corner of the room. I need to investigate. Who lives here? Do I know them? It’s a mess, papers, dirty plates, a coffee cup with a new life forming in the bottom. Jesus, who does live here? Wait, what’s that? A photograph under one of the plates? It peels off, with a little effort. Laura, it’s Laura. It’s been so long, since she left me, us, the world. What is this doing here….?

What now? It feels like there is no air. And cold, so cold. I am spinning around, trying to keep my balance. I fall, hard. More pain, but this time something warm on my cheek. My head rests on a jagged stone and all I can do is blink, blink the pain away. Until I can finally focus. How did I get outside? My head is not so bad. As the pain subsides, I realise this place is familiar. Ben’s cabin is near here. I have many memories of here. Once happy, but those memories stopped a few years ago. When she left, I could no longer face this place. A sudden surge of guilt. He had lost her too after all. And then we lost each other. But how could I go back now. But maybe it is not too late….

Not again. Is this sickness or madness. Maybe both. I feel lost in reality but so many old feelings are coursing through me. No I don’t want to be here. I haven’t returned since she left. Just the sight of the cold stone, now covered with moss, sends chills through me. When she left, I had to turn a page and not think. But now it seems I have no choice. It was never solved. We just found her sitting there, alone. Silent. I can’t look anymore….

Here again? But something is different. The room has changed. A wallet is lying on the table. I rush to open it, I must know something. This is beyond me. It’s Ben. I see his picture as soon as I open the wallet. How could he live here? How could he descend from his cabin in the woods to this? From idyllic nature to this, this filth. It must have affected him more than I thought. Guilty feelings overpower me. Could I have helped him more? There is a diary next to the wallet. None of this was here before. I open it and…. No, it can’t be. He wouldn’t. How could he….?

On the edge. Looking down. This seems like the perfect spot, for how I feel. I don’t know how I have kept this inside for so long. And now this? One foot hovers and then….

via Daily Prompt: Jump

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

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