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Something worse

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  Dr Nielson handed me a plastic bag. “Hey Deano, throw these masks in the incinerator; we can’t use them. The box is damaged.”  I’d worked at the laboratory long enough to know to never engage in conversation with a scientist, especially one as shifty as Dr Nielson, so I just said OK and put them in my sack. I trekked down to the basement and took the box out from the plastic bag to inspect it. Since the surge in cases, decent masks were like gold dust. It seemed criminal to waste them if I could salvage any. I punched through the perforations and opened the top of the box. The stain on the lid looked like water damage, a little squashed on one side, but otherwise fine. The masks inside remained sealed in their cellophane wrappers. No problemo. After I torched the rest of the rubbish, I took the box back upstairs and slipped it into my bag. Security rarely carried out searches these days. You could forget staff protocol; the scientists were too busy finding cures for the pandemic. N

Lulu - a space oddity

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“I think there’s something wrong with your cat,” said Mathew as his friend Riley came into the living room with a jug of coffee. “She was acting really weird. She lay down in front of me, and her head kept twisting like she was having some sort of seizure. She’s run behind the sofa now.” Riley didn’t look overly concerned. “Oh, that’s normal. Lulu’s always acts a bit crazy when we have friends over. Sarah keeps asking me to pick up one of those cat-calming aromatherapy things, but I think they’re a con.”  “No, really, I think you should take a look. I’d get her checked out at the vet.” The two friends watched as Lulu squeezed herself out through the gap between the sofa and the armchair. She paraded up and down in front of them, her green feeling eyes unblinking and staring and her fluffy brown tail waving from side to side. It was almost as if she was trying to hypnotise them. “Lulu,” called Riley. “Come over here and get your belly rubbed.” But instead of trotting over to R

Footing the bill

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I knew it was a mistake to have a hire car in India.  As we left Delhi airport, it was like finding myself in a video game. Cars sped past, ignoring traffic lights and speed limits as Gerry swerved to avoid the rickshaws and tuk-tuks and people. ‘Ten points for a beggar,’ shouted Gerry, oblivious to any danger. I tightened my seatbelt. ‘Slow down; you'll hit someone.’ When a passing ox forced the traffic to a halt, a man, or rather a walking skeleton, tapped on my window. He held out a filth-encrusted hand, his words inaudible against the traffic's roar. ‘Keep your window up, Angela,’ said Gerry. ‘Hopefully, we'll be out of this jam soon. Absolute maniacs.’ Eventually, the traffic thinned, and skyscrapers and office blocks became fields and ramshackle dwellings. Gerry parked up at a small cafĂ©. ‘How are you feeling?’ he asked. ‘You look pale. Have you tested your sugar lately?’ ‘Bloody diabetes. I'm ok. I just need a Pepsi. How far to Agra?’ ‘Another

Rest in peace

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Grandad’s photo clattered off the back of the mantlepiece as Julie and David watched Strictly Come Dancing. The frame glanced off their boxer,  Alfonso, who woke up with a loud woof and lumbered towards the kitchen in search of biscuits. ‘How on earth did that happen?’ said David. ‘Shh,’ snapped Julie, who was lying sprawled across the sofa in her onesie. ‘The scores are in.’ David got up from his armchair and picked the photograph up from the rug. ‘Lucky the glass didn’t break. Really odd. It’s never done that before.’ ‘It’ll be a vibration from the lorries outside. Move out the way; it's Anton Du Beke.’ ‘Anton Du Lally, more like.’ The Viennese waltz was drowned out by a crash in the upstairs bathroom. This time, even Julie looked up. ‘That can’t be a lorry,’ said David pulling on his slippers.’ I’ll go and have a look.’ He returned a few minutes later. ‘Well, there's a funny thing. The shaving set your Grandad bought me for my fiftieth was lying on the floor,