Afterlife

Abel Kane, a photojournalist who worked on the world stage, was renowned for the bravery and compassion of his images and considered a lunatic for his habitual early morning runs, even in the midst of war. Living alone, in a depressing afterlife, in a small bleak apartment in Narrow Street, London, he regrets not making a long-lasting relationship and envies those with comfortable boltholes. Latterly described as ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’, he’s unhappy, but understands its cause: he’s elderly and has cancer, but thinks, If only I could still run, I could live. 

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Paternoster Square

Jon, a recent graduate with a first-class degree in Philosophy from Leeds University, had not aspired to work as a private security guard protecting Paternoster Square in the City of London. He feels lucky to have found work, but disapproves of the private ownership of public space (POPS). This is exactly the situation in Paternoster Square which is owned by the Mitsubishi Estate Company. It is one example of the growing trend to privatise hitherto freely accessible public spaces, not only in London but nationally: the Duke of Westminster owns thirty-four streets in Liverpool city centre. 

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The Mirror

Morgan mourns the loss of his wife, Caterine, who, without warning, vanished early one morning from their bedroom. He’s also exhausted and distraught by the police’s assumption that he’s guilty and involved in her suspicious disappearance. Caterine’s body is never found and there was no sign of her in the seven years after she went missing. Morgan thought he’d be pleased when the Declaration of her Presumed Death was approved by the High Court, but he wasn’t: he desperately needs to know what happened to her. 

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Flies

Stefan hears the distant sound of a bluebottle buzzing as he sits at a table staring at the phrase he’s written across the centre two pages of his notebook – All stories begin with a question. The sound grows louder. A large bluebottle lands in the gutter between the pages of the notebook. Imperceptibly, Stefan, holding his breath, slides his fingers under the book’s hard covers. With great speed he slams the book shut crushing the fly between the words he’s written. 

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Coltman Street

Houses were first built at the southern end of Coltman Street in the 1840s. The grand houses at the northern end were completed around 1905 and accommodated affluent middle class merchant and fishing industry families. By November 1980, after the Cod Wars of the 1960s and 1970s and decline in shipping, the northern end has slipped into multiple occupation and dereliction. Travellers’ horses are tethered on a patch of wasteland where north and south of the street converge.

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Chernobyl

On Saturday April 28th 1986, the number 4 reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power station suffers a massive steam explosion. The reactor core is exposed and vast amounts of airborne radioactive contamination are released. It’s finally contained on May 4th. At first the Soviet Union attempts to conceal the disaster. Facts are scarce and barely believable.

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Ryker

Ryker never allows the use of his forenames or the title of Mr; that would take up too much time. At school they called him Road Runner and beep-beeped each time he passed. In middle age he’s trying very hard to avoid endlessly repeating to himself: time and tide wait for no man, and, I’m late, I’m late for a very important date as he rushes hither and thither. Self-service in a restaurant is the only way he can cope with eating out. He does his weekly supermarket shop after midnight using self-scan to avoid queues. Someone once told him he should be a time and motion analyst. What an absurd idea, he thought, Watching others going slowly, no thank you! 

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The Black Shield of Falworth

Henry Falworth goes to the Central Cinema every Saturday, paid for from his paper-round earnings. This Saturday, in 1954, he sees ‘The Black Shield of Falworth’ starring Tony Curtis as Myles. He’s so excited: how could there be a big Technicolor film with his name in the title? He leaves the cinema, as usual, in a state of euphoria. What is different is that though he knows he isn’t Myles, as he’s only eight years old, he, like Myles, has to stop the baddies.

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Hair

Blanche is thirteen years old, an albino, and tall for her age, but not as tall as her mother, Eugenie, who is a high-wire walker in the circus where they live and work. Blanche’s eyes are ice blue in an unblemished white face. Her circus costume is a black and red spotted leotard, crimson tights and red Dock Marten lace-up boots. Her hair is pure white, silky, heavy, and hangs to the back of her knees. She wants to wear black lipstick, black mascara and eye shadow to make the most of her natural attributes and look like a Goth. Eugenie will not, under any circumstances, allow this. We’re artistes, darling, not freaks, she tells her daughter.

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