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It’s All Relative

“Come on, we’re going to be late”.

Amy got in hastily, throwing her bag through the gap between front the seats. It hit the rear passenger seat in a haphazard fashion causing a small container to bounce out from the unzipped top which fell into the foot well.

“Can I put my iPod on?” she said ignoring Alice’s last comment, instead reaching behind her left shoulder for the seatbelt.

“Yes” huffed Alice in a resigned monotone breath. It was the same routine every morning. They were always up with plenty of time to spare but they always seemed to end up rushing.

There was never any good reason as to why this was other than the fact that they spent playing most of their mornings playing ‘get ready chicken’, sitting in front of the telly watching repeats of ‘Friend’s’ or whatever Alison had ‘taped’ the previous evening.

Amy was always puzzled by this expression, she was younger than Alice and as a result some of the phrases that Alice used like ‘change the record’ or ‘hang up the phone’ left her somewhat mystified.
They had shared a house together for nearly eight years now.

It hadn’t always been plain sailing, in all honesty, things had been a bit tricky to begin with. Alice could be more than a little demonstrative and had a habit of telling Amy what to do while Amy was not always the tidiest of people and didn’t exactly pull her weight around the house but overtime they had got used to each other’s ways and grown to really like each other. It was fair to say that they were more than friends.

“Stop playing with the heating!”

Amy was twiddling the knobs on the central pillar control panel in the front centre of the car. She was a terrible passenger. Always fiddling. Messing with the heating controls, fast forwarding tracks halfway through in case the next one was a ‘banger’.

“I’m cold.” She said.

“You’re always cold”.

“No, you’re always hot”.

“I might have known that it would have been my fault”.

“Besides, costs, ”  said Amy “I’m only turning it up on my side”.
This was a running joke. Alice’s dad had sold her his old car when he upgraded to a brand new model.

It was one of those executive motors cost a fortune when it is in the showroom but is worth practically nothing five years later because no one wants to pay the heavy road tax and high fuel bills but because Alice didn’t do a lot of miles and because her dad had let her have it for an absolute song she found herself the proud owner of an executive luxury saloon. Her previous car had been an original mini which she called ‘Angus’. She loved that car.

Okay, it leaked like a colander and when it rained the windscreen wipers didn’t actually make very much difference, oh and on an icy day you may as well have not even bothered to steer because the car just went where it wanted but it was fun. It had style and it was nippy, it was like driving a go-cart.

The new motor was more like driving an armchair. It started first time every time, it was dry and warm and comfortable and boring. It also came with a bizarre air conditioning system where you could set a different temperature for either side of the car. A feature that was utterly ridiculous because air moves.

Amy pulled down the sun visor and started sticking her tongue out at the mirror.

“What’s the matter now?”

“I’ve got this thing in my mouth and it’s really annoying”

“I had that!” Alice replied enthusiastically. “Like a loose bit of skin that’s really sore?”

“That’s it”. Amy said, clearly happy to be part of the same club “It’s driving me mad”.

“You probably bit the side of your mouth at some stage and there’s a loose bit of skin hanging off”.

“I don’t remember biting the side of my mouth”. Amy mused pensively.

“That’s how I did mine”.

“Either that or mouth cancer”. Countered Amy.

Alice had a thing about her health. She wasn’t exactly a hypochondriac but if she ever did come down with something she always feared the worst. She would never go to the doctors.

Her philosophy was that if it was nothing major then it would go away in its own good time and if it was something serious then she didn’t want to know about it. She wouldn’t even go to opticians for her free yearly check-up because she had heard that they can tell if you are terminally ill just by looking into your eyes.

The only way that they could make her go was to stop sending her daily disposable contact lenses. At first, Amy’s approach to Alice’s nervousness about health had been to be sympathetic, caring and understanding but as time went on she discovered that the best way to deal with it was just to take the piss.

“I bit my tongue, I remember doing it” shrieked Alice.

“Definitely mouth cancer” replied Amy now starting to giggle


“Yeah you’re right” said Alice joining in “Definitely mouth cancer”. laughing along.

Alice drew the car to a slow halt as the winding country road that she had been travelling along started to merge with the bi-pass.

“You going out later?” enquired Alice without looking at her passenger, instead craning her head sideways, looking for a gap in the oncoming traffic.

“Don’t think so, no one’s doing anything”.

“You should get yourself out more, you spend too much time stuck in the house”.

Amy sighed inwardly, there goes the advice again. She knew that Alice meant well but she was her own woman and she was capable of making her own decisions.

“Maybe your right, ” she sai, “I’ll call round a few of my mates and see if anything is happening”. Which meant: ‘I’m not going anywhere’.
Alice found a short break in the traffic and slammed the accelerator to the floor.

The beastly leviathan of a motor slowly eased forwards. ‘Angus wouldn’t have done that’ thought Alice ‘he would have been halfway down the bi-pass by now’.

At that point, Red Alert by Basement Jaxx came on the iPod and Amy burst into song closely followed by Alice. They always sang together on the early morning commute.

They both had very similar taste in music and they were both actually very good singers so when a song they both loved came on they would both join in at the top of their voices in full gusto.

It never felt weird and it was never embarrassing unless of course they pulled up next to someone at the lights in which case they would stop. Situations are only embarrassing when noticed by other people. The two of them singing together just felt right.

The way something only can when you know someone very well. Basement Jaxx turned into Beyonce and Beyonce turned into Whitney, not easy divas to serenade to but the girls carried them off with aplomb and the tunes carried them all of the way along the bi-pass to the large roundabout where Alice took the third exit and then the next right into a small road crowded with cars.

hey stopped at the crossing and waved at the traffic warden as they did every morning. He waved back. Alice drove on a few hundred yards and pulled the car up onto the kerb, straddling the double yellows lines. There was never anywhere to park outside of the school.

Alice unlocked her seatbelt and stretched round to the back seat retrieving Amy’s school bag and the small plastic ‘Frozen’ lunch box from where it was currently dwelling in the cars foot well.

“Have a good day at school”. Said Alice, leaning over to give her daughter a kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks mum”. Replied Amy as she grabbed her bag and pulled on the handle to open the large passenger door.

“Fish cakes for tea”. Alice said loudly watching her eight-year-old daughter as she disappeared through the school gate. “I love you”. She added.

There was a brief silence, Alice’s heart began to sink as she wondered if her daughter had heard her parting words, then she heard “Love you too”, drifting back from the school playground.

Then she was lost in the confusion of the crowd.

Her daughter and her best friend.

The End



Where are my keys?

I hate days like this, I’ve looked everywhere. In the draws, through the cupboards, down the back of the sofa and I can’t find them anywhere.

Oh, there they are, on the side. I’m sure I just checked there.

Ouch! They’re red hot. They’ve just burned my hand. How can that be? I am standing here desperately blowing on my hand, trying to cool it down. Still, I need to get out, I’m late for work. I need something to pick the keys up with. I’ll use an oven glove.

Oh no, the gloves gotten stuck on my hand. I am pulling and pulling but no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to get it off. At least I will be able to pick the keys up now. I’m fumbling at the door. Every time I try to put the keys in the lock I drop them. It’s this stupid glove but it still won’t come off.

Finally, the lock turns, I can open the door and I’m outside.

Who is that! She is the most beautiful girl that I have ever seen. I have to talk to her. I’ve gone over to speak to her but she’s ignoring me. She’s far too busy playing that trombone. I am waving my arms in front of her face to attract her attention but she just keeps playing, keeps ignoring me. I know what I’m going to do, I’m going to propose. That should get her attention.

Here I am, down on one knee, confessing my undying love for her but she still doesn’t acknowledge me. Hang on, who’s that other guy? The one acting like a bit of a Lothario. He’s after her also. I am going to fight him for her. I hope this stupid glove doesn’t get in the way.

Fortunately for me, I am a black belt in karate and many of the other martial arts, I’m going to batter him. Hang on he’s a bit tasty himself, he looks like a champion boxer. Our arms and legs are flying everywhere but we just can’t seem to hit each other, must be down to all of this custard that we are immersed in.

The only person among us who seems at home with this sea of yellow is the Olympic swimmer who has been doing lengths up and down the custard ever since we started. You know the guy, the one who always jumps every time he hears the word ‘dinosaur’.

I know that you are laughing at me but let me tell you it’s not funny.

Don’t think that I can’t see you. Sitting at your tables, dressed up in all your fine clothes with your bottles of wine all laughing.

Although not all of you are laughing. There’s the man in the smart suit. He not laughing. He’s just counting backwards.

“Five, four, three, two, one. You are no longer in a trance and you’re back in the room”.

The End

Missing in Action

I can’t believe that I have made it this far. The odds are surely insurmountable; I feel like some kind of superhero. I remember little before the amphibious landing craft hit the beach. I think my amnesia is due to adrenaline running through my body. There were hundreds of enemy soldiers waiting for us. Now the whole beach is carnage, strewn with blood and bodies. Bullets flying and shells exploding. I feel strangely oblivious to the horror of what I am witnessing, focused purely on the objective, to capture the beach. Everything else, even my own mortality is secondary. The objective is everything.
How I managed to get through the blockade it is nothing short of a miracle. I have done campaigns before. I’ve been stationed in the desert, parachuted behind enemy lines with the special ops to capture a radio station, taken out enemy munition dumps. You could say that I am something of a veteran but this is by far the bloodiest conflict that I have seen.

I made it to the top of the beach and took out the machine gun nest inside of the pill box with a grenade. Inside the concrete bunker, once all of the enemy had been neutralised, I found some stores. I have managed to replenish the ammunition of my pistol and have swapped my rifle for one I found inside. My new rifle is lighter and has a bigger magazine that my previous model. I also found some food I scoffed instantly and it has helped to restore my strength. I ran out of the bunker and vaulted over the barricades that lay behind. That’s when it happened. Judging by the force of the impact it must have been a bullet from a high calibre sniper rifle that hit me right between the eyes. I didn’t stand a chance. The last thing I remember thinking was ‘Bloody hell, that was a good shot’. As I lay there bleeding on the ground a white mist surrounded me. It swirled and twisted into a vortex, into a tunnel of white light and I felt myself being drawn along towards a portal at the end. “That makes sense”, I thought as my soul travelled towards its final heavenly destination.

I have to say that I was less than prepared for what happened next.

I emerged from the light into a very large room with bench seating that stretched as far as the eye could see. On the benches sat various soldiers from all of the ages, sitting in groups. There were Tommie’s from the first world war. There were Knights and Persian warriors I assumed a fall out of the Crusades. There were what looked like Vikings and there were some very futuristic looking soldiers in black armour wearing full face helmets. That bit I could cope with. That bit kind of made sense. What didn’t make sense were the groups of dragons, wizards, elves and talking dogs, that was just weird. A guy approached me from one of the benches.

“How far did you get?” He asked enthusiastically.

I froze. He looked exactly like me. Not in a kind of familiar way. Not even in an identical twin kind of way because in all honesty, even identical twins are not actually identical. No he looked exactly like me. His uniform, his hair cut, his face, everything.

“Pardon?” I said. It was all that I could muster.

“How far did you get?” He said again and then he said “Oh right, sorry, you’ve just come through, I’ll give you a minute to acclimatise”.

“The beach” I stammered, “I was on a beach. There were bunkers and”

“The Beach!” Blurted out my doppelganger “You made it as far as the beach. “Hey lad’s.” He turned to a bunch of identical soldiers behind him and shouted “Pete made it as far as the beach.”

He turned his attention back to me again and said:

“If you got past the bunkers you were nearly there; the extraction point is on a hill just behind them. Then of course you would still have had to infiltrate the fortress, which is no mean feat but if you’d done that you’d have finished”.

“Finished?! What are you talking about!” I exclaimed, I could feel my frustration growing.

“Don’t worry mate, it’ll all come back” said the large blue hedgehog who was passing by with a tray full of coffees.

“What the?” I said to my mirror image friend.

“Come and sit down” he replied, “soon you’ll understand”.

Sitting down sounded like a good idea. Five minutes ago I was storming around a beach in Normandy and now I’m talking to a spiky blue mammal in bright red shoes and spats. I sat down with my look alike to find myself surrounded by many more people who looked just like me. I should have been shocked but after everything that had gone before the whole thing now seemed kind of normal.

“He made it to the beach!” said my new found friend.

“The beach!” exclaimed my counterparts “You were almost out”.

“I know,” I said, “I’ve heard”.

“Still the beach,” said one of my guys on the bench “I didn’t make it out of the desert”.

“You were lucky,” said another “I didn’t make it through the tutorial”.

“The tutorial!” The other’s laughed in unison and I have to confess I laughed along with them. I was starting to feel at home. There was a kind of a camaraderie between us, that and there was a familiar sense about the place, like I had been here before.

“Alright!” replied the poor bloke seemingly regretting his admission. “It’s not my fault, I wasn’t in control”.

“How did it happen?” I enquired.

This was clearly a question that he didn’t want to hear. “I ran straight off a building” he mumbled into his collar sheepishly and then turned away to cover up his ever-reddening face.

“Is it starting to come back yet?” asked a guy from the bench.

“Yes.” I replied. “It all seemed so real”.

“So real!” exclaimed one of my look-a-likes from the end of the bench. “Which part exactly? The fact that you could suddenly take on the whole German army pretty much single handed or the bit where you could be shot repeatedly all over your body and then be restored to full health by eating a loaf of bread an apple and a banana?”

“Give him a break” said another of the mirror image men, “it does look so real now. I mean in the old days when the bad guys were basically made up of assorted blocks and they spoke but their mouths didn’t move, then there would be that voice at the back of your head that said ‘hang on a minute, something’s not right here’ but now it’s much more lifelike. There are shadows that move according to what time of day it is. The sun comes up, you can see the grass move, water actually looks like water. If you ask me it’s getting scarily closer to reality and if you’re in for a while, I think that it’s understandable if you go native.”

That’s when the whole thing came flooding back. My name is Peter Pixel and I am not a war hero, I am an entertainer. You have seen me many times before in many guises but it’s always me. I change my appearance to suit your requirements, it all depends on what game you choose to play next. In this one I was the war veteran, the man who could get hit and keep getting up, the man who goes for days on end without any sleep, the man who can fire a sniper rifle in the wind and take out a guy in a tower a mile away. I was the impossible hero. Who knows what I might be tomorrow? Perhaps I’ll be battling zombies or fighting dragons. All the worlds a stage, well, mine is.

“Pete, can I see you in my office please?”

I was being called into the manager’s office and he looked worryingly uncomfortable about what he had to tell me.

“Have a seat Pete, I’ve got good news for you. You won’t have to go on a vigorous gym training routine for the next one. In fact, we want you to do as little as possible and while you are at it we’re putting you on a high-calorie diet ready for your next role”.

Strange I thought, what kind of hero am I?

“And here’s the new uniform,” said the manager reaching in a cupboard behind him and producing a pair of brown boots, a hat, a red sweatshirt and dungarees.

My heart sank. ‘Oh no,’ I thought ‘not Mario’.

The End

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