Friday Flash Fiction 636 – Fur Babies

‘Pompom’ called a shrill voice.

When did real dogs turn to toys wondered Vince as he trudged through the mud, conspicuous as the only human without a dog. The dogs skittering around two women did not match the environment, what happened to Labradors and Rottweilers? As if in answer, a large muddy dog, originally yellow, bounced playfully out of the bushes only to find itself attacked by a tiny ball of white cotton wool.

‘Pompom, naughty boy, heel.’

The Labrador’s owner laughed, so did Vince until the ball of fluff veered towards him, jumping up growling to snap at his ankle.

‘If he was an American Pit Bull,’ said Vince gruffly ‘you’d be in trouble with the police.’

The owner scooped up Pompom and marched away as if he had incited the attack.

The walking business, to avoid blood pressure tablets and type two diabetes, was proving to be worse than going to the gym. Vince’s life of crime had not involved exercise, he had had other people to do that for him. But he hated hospitals, so he had no alternative but alternative therapy.

He paused to avoid a large puddle and looked up to see a young man pushing a three wheeler cross country pram. Inside it was a miserable looking baby, but slung under the man’s arm was a baby sling with a fluffy white face poking cheerfully out.

‘It’s even muddier further along’ said Vince, imagining with relish the pram getting stuck and baby falling out.

‘I know,’ said the man cheerfully ‘we must be mad. Oh, you haven’t got a dog… this one’s getting on a bit so he can’t walk far.’

That was when Vince had his idea. Fluffy toys didn’t attack Vince the Mincer and get away with it.



On the internet that evening he looked up breeds of dogs, it turned out the mini monster cotton wool ball was actually a valuable breed. Vince looked up battery operated toys and ordered some ‘Fur Babies’ – barking, bouncing, battery operated toy dogs that looked remarkably realistic.

His daily two mile walks had a purpose now. Among the many mutant miniature wolves he encountered, Pompom was a regular, his owner had a strict routine, returning to the car park at the same time each day.

At the dog parlour he bought a National Trust green puppy sling.


Vince hid in the bushes, hoping no one would think he was a flasher. Did blokes do that any more, he wondered, or was it all on the internet? In five minutes Pompom should pass that way, trying to avoid having the lead attached to his diamond studded collar. For Pompom was a real dog at heart, who preferred puddles and fresh air to the pink Kar with its sticker ‘Precious Pet on board’.

Some ancestral lupine instinct stirred in little Pompom as Vince waved the dripping fresh raw meat. Within seconds he was in the bushes, within seconds he was bound in the puppy sling and Vince was switching on the battery operated Pompom doppelganger.

‘Pompom, here Pompom, Mummy’s got a treat for you.’

Vince remained motionless, one large hand clamped round Pompom’s tiny muzzle. He remained just long enough to see the toy dog trot obediently out of the bushes and the owner bend down to pick up him up. Her scream attracted the attention of other dog walkers and Vince slipped away.


At home, Pompom was in an old rabbit cage and Vince was wondering if he should put the dog on EBay or if a ransom demand would yield more money, or perhaps he could do both.

That night he taped a notice on the window of the little coffee kiosk in the car park.
















Friday Flash Fiction – Cinderella

 As the great clock struck midnight, Cinderella flew down the sweeping stone steps of the palace; four… five… six. One shoe had slipped off on the top step, now she nearly tumbled down the last few steps; seven… eight… A strong hand reached out to steady her, she looked up at a pair of dark twinkling eyes.

‘Steady Miss, what’s the hurry?’ a deep voice asked. It was the coachman.

‘We must go,’ she cried ‘the coach…’


‘No hurry Miss, what about the Ball?’


Her heart seemed to stop as the chimes stopped, but the coach remained in all its splendour, the four grey horses stood tossing their heads proudly.

‘I don’t understand…’ Cinderella stammered.

‘Look Miss, the prince is waiting for you to have the last dance.’

She hardly dared take her eyes off the coach, but forced herself to look back at the golden light pouring from the great palace doors. There at the top of the steps stood the Handsome Prince, behind him his valet held aloft the beautiful shoe.

‘I shall be waiting here for you’ said the coachman, his rich husky voice sending a tingle down her spine.



Cinderella tried to walk gracefully back up the steps.

‘Princess, put this dainty shoe upon your pretty foot and let us dance again.’

The Prince twirled her back into the ballroom, but as his slender cool hands clasped her, all she could think of were the warm strong hands of the coachman. Something new had awoken in her and she wondered why she had thought the Prince so handsome earlier in the evening. Close to his perfumed powdered wig, she recalled the dark tousled hair of the other man. Glancing down at the whirling floor, she noticed the Prince’s boots had high heels, yet he stood only an inch taller than her. When she had first danced with him she had been relieved he had not asked her about herself; now she realised that was because he only talked about himself; how big his palace was, how many horses in his stable, how many princesses wanted to marry him. The words drifted over her as she thought of the man she had only spent one minute with. Now the Prince had glided her onto the balcony and she was relieved to glimpse her coach still there with its fine guardian. Cinderella felt something cold on her finger and glanced down to see a huge diamond ring; she realised what the Prince was saying.

‘…it will be a great privilege for you to marry me.’

A cold chill swept through her; hours ago she could only have dreamt of marrying a prince, now she realised she would be as much a prisoner in the palace as she was in the kitchen.


Jethro the swineherd patted the strong necks of the beautiful greys; they smelt of new mown hay and leather. How different from the pigs he had to tend every day. As the youngest son, he was never allowed to plough the fields or take Dobbin to market. This morning, as he cleaned out the pig pens, dreaming of meeting a beautiful girl, a blinding light had struck him and his Wizard Godfather had appeared.

‘You will meet a beautiful girl this evening, but you must return her home safely before sunrise.’

In a flash, Jethro found himself dressed in fine livery, seated on a golden coach, holding the reins of four fine horses. He truly had met the girl of his dreams, but she had met a prince. In a few hours the sun would rise and the coach and horses would be gone.


On the balcony, Cinderella managed to collect her thoughts.

‘Sire, I am greatly honoured; allow me to slip away and fetch my cape, then we may talk further, under the stars.’

She melted back into the crowded ballroom and soon she was creeping back to her coach.

‘We must leave immediately coachman, I cannot go home.’

Out of the coach window she caught a glimpse of the Prince, waiting on the balcony. Down the dark road the horses galloped on for many miles.


Now the horses were tiring and dawn could not be far away. Jethro knew he must stop the coach. He helped the princess down and showed her the twinkling lights of a town in the valley below. Cinderella felt they must have left the kingdom by now.

‘Princess, I have something I must tell you…’

‘Ssh, don’t speak, let us watch the sunrise together.’

Jethro knew his dream would be over in a few moments; he laid his jacket on the grass for her to sit on and moved close. As the first rays peeped over the horizon it happened; within seconds they were both sitting in dirty rags and turned apart in shame. On the grass behind them sat a large pumpkin and they glimpsed a flash of grey fur and long pink tails disappearing into the undergrowth. Nervously they turned back to look at each other properly in the dawn light. Jethro thought she was more beautiful than ever and Cinderella gazed admiringly at his rugged face. Marvelling, they exchanged their strange stories, but Jethro was in despair; how could he keep this girl and look after her?

Seeing his frown she said ‘Do you know anything about selling jewellery?’ and held up the magnificent diamond ring.

He gasped.

‘But first let us have breakfast’ she laughed, unwrapping a large bundle she still held, to reveal the white linen cloth she had whisked from one of the laden tables at the palace. As the new day started, they both knew more adventures lay ahead than they could have dreamed of yesterday morning.



Friday Flash Fiction – Black and Silver

She is not like the other women and I will dress her like no other. The whole world to see my creation, no apprentice will lay a finger on the precious material; every stitch sewn myself, I owe it to my country. All the colours of the rainbow; that is what they will wear on the night, diaphanous, floating, clinging, swirling, but my girl will be in black and silver, except perhaps rubies in her tiara, to compliment her black hair.

The other women walk and that is all they do, they have no art; she moves with elegance and speed in his hands. I unlock the drawer with the single key and take out a small box and another, sprinkle onto my palm the finest sequins, the most perfect pearl beads. From a tin I unfurl skeins of silver thread. I put them away; the designs must stay in my head while I cut and pleat.

Today she comes for a fitting, the bodice is perfect. She is a real woman, her body firm and strong, yet when she stands motionless, as I check the fastenings, she could be a doll.

The evening comes and I have summoned the best artist to dress her hair with the silver tiara, to make her dark eyes shine and her lips as roses. Her man in black is ready to lead her in front of millions.

They dance and spin, his strong arms lift her, she soars, head held high like the bird she is. When this magic night is over the crowds cheer; surely the silver ice will turn to gold.

It is not to be; silver turns to bronze. But it does not matter, she skated perfectly, my beautiful black swan.



Silly Saturday – Queen’s Speech Leaked

An unnamed source, claiming to be close to a Buckingham Palace spokesman, says part or all of the Queen’s Christmas Message has been leaked to a little known writer and blogger.


Queen Elizabeth the second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, broadcasts her message to the nation and The Commonwealth on television at 3pm on Christmas Day. How hard it must be to condense a year, a lifetime, the longest reign in the world, into ten minutes of wisdom interspersed with family movies.

But this year it seems the Queen is set to shake the nation out of their after lunch stupor.


“It was with great joy that I and my family celebrated two weddings this year, plus the birth of a new prince, reminding us all how important families are. We take comfort in the love of our families while all around us the world seems to face so many problems. The Christmas message of peace and goodwill can sometimes seem so far away and the World so hard to change, but we can all play our part. We must hold on to hope, at the same time taking every opportunity to offer help in practical ways. When my family and I took an AncestoryDNA test earlier this year we looked forward eagerly to the result, wondering what surprises lay in store. When the Duke of Edinburgh and I received our results we were reminded just how close we are to European Royalty, to mainland Europe itself; 33% Europe West, 33% Europe East 33% Europe Central were our precise results. It is for this reason, among others, that in 2019, the Royal House of Mountbatten-Windsor will be relocating to mainland Europe before the finalising of Brexit in March. The House of Liechtenstein have already offered us sanctuary, as has King Felipe VI of Spain.


But though Europe has been occupying our thoughts this year, so too has the Commonwealth and the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia were a great showcase. By the time of the next games in 2022 the Commonwealth of Nations will be larger. Last month a delegation from the United States of America visited Buckingham Palace to request closer ties between our two nations. As a result of very positive discussions my government will confirm that the monarchy is to be restored in the north american colonies. They will henceforth be called the United Kingdom of North America and the coronation of King Harry will take place on May Day 2019. Spring will also bring the arrival of the baby expected by King Harry and Queen Megan, this baby will be heir to the throne of the UKNA. It will be a great blessing for Megan to be reunited with her family and for her subjects to be united with their neighbours Canada in the Commonwealth of Nations.

May all our countries, ancient and modern know peace in 2019, I wish God’s blessing for you and all your families.”

Friday Flash Fiction – Virtual Christmas Card

Post Office

Post Office Lady: ‘Six pounds ninety six pence please.’

Alan: ‘Sorry, I only wanted a book of TWELVE SECOND CLASS stamps.’

Post Office Lady: ‘Yes, six pounds ninety six pence…’

Alan: ‘What! How much are… never mind, just give me one stamp to post this letter.’



Lynne: ‘What do you mean Alan, virtual Christmas Cards?’

Alan: ‘I can design my own card, e-mail it.’

Lynne: ‘But I’ve already bought the cards.’

Alan: ‘Use those for the hand deliveries. We’re not posting at that price.’

Lynne: ‘What about mother?’

Alan: ‘She’s got e-mail.’

Lynne: ‘She only looks at it once a month, she wouldn’t know how to download or whatever it is you do.’

Alan: ‘She’ll manage, it will be in Jay PeG  – JPG.’

Lynne: ‘How will you design a card?’

Alan: ‘Use one of my photos, that nice snowy scene I took on the golf course.’

Lynne: ‘The week before they found that body in the copse after the snow melted? That’s not very nice.’

Alan: ‘Your mother won’t know.’

Lynne: ‘They never found who did it, did they?’


Xmas Day at Lynne’s mother’s house

 Lynne: ‘Oh, you’ve got a new painting Mother, is it an Impressionist?’

Lynne’s mother: ‘It’s the Christmas card you sent.’

Alan: ‘It can’t be, that wasn’t real.’

Lynne’s mother: ‘Sean next door came round to help me with my e-mails, I didn’t know what all those higgledy piggledy letters and numbers were. He put it on a stick and took it to work; they’ve got an A2 printer. Hey presto, the biggest card I’ve ever had.’

Lynne: ‘Your photograph doesn’t look very good blown up Alan. Oh who’s that near the trees in a red jumper, I thought nobody was out playing that day. No hang on, that’s not a golf club he’s got in his hand, it’s a spade, I don’t think that’s a red jumper, it looks like blood!’

Silly Saturday – Secret Santa

I am thrilled to have as my guest author today tra la… Santa! He has found time in his busy schedule to answer 5.5 questions. But best to read his interview when your little ones are safely out of the way if you don’t want Santa’s secrets spoiled.



Father..ur Mr. Christmas…  Saint Ni… how do you like to be addressed?

Santa will do fine, though my friends call me Old Nick.

I don’t think many people will know you are also a prolific author, I guess you have to fill in the long months between Christmases somehow.

Until now I don’t think anybody did know and as you have so few followers I think my writing will continue to be one of my best kept secrets.

So it must be the creative satisfaction rather than sales figures that motivates you.

Yes indeed, I have plenty of other money making schemes on the go, writing is for fun and now I can self publish and don’t have to employ scribes I get a great deal of satisfaction.

The big question is what have you written, what is your favourite genre, heart warming fantasy I assume, lots of cute elves?

Why don’t you let ME answer your questions, this is why I so rarely give interviews… There is nothing cute about elves, evil, fiendish creatures… that’s why I love them. But my novels are mostly about human beings, pathetic creatures. Write about what you know, don’t they say? Well I know plenty about humans, been studying them for long enough and my novels explore what has gone wrong with the human race and why I have no intention of sorting it for them.

Oh, er that sounds very deep, can you describe how that pans out in your latest novel?

Daddy Juel – Daddy Juel whizzes round in his atomic powered sleigh visiting first world countries on Christmas Eve and at each comfy home atomises all the presents and festive food. He then bravely travels, dodging missiles and drones, to every war zone and refugee camp and rematerializes the gifts and food for the deserving, rather like Robin Hood, another character I created. Daddy Juel reserves a few goodies and returns to give them to the homeless while having a good laugh as the greedy and smug wake up on Christmas morning to find their larders empty and a few pieces of fossil fuel where their presents had been piled.  

Dark humour or gritty fiction? I can’t wait to read it. Thanks you so much for visiting. If book lovers want to find your novels do you write under your real name, Santa?

Santa is of course an anagram of my REAL name, a fact a few folk on Facebook have remarked upon; I have an Amazon Author Page, or they can find me on the dark web…

Friday Flash Fiction -Christmas Cheer

They first saw the house in late summer, the neat suburban cul-de-sac ‘Little Glades’ may have seemed a cliché, but to Helen and Sam it was their dream home. They did not dwell on the large deposit and huge repayments; Helen pictured pushing a pram, chatting to neighbours and admiring the beautiful front gardens. Sam pictured mowing the long lawn and throwing sticks to a large dog in the park. They both dreamed of peace and quiet after years of renting the cramped flat above an all night shop at a busy junction.

Even with heavy curtains, lights of every colour flashed into their flat; the neon lights of Price Saver below the bedroom window, the endless amber, red, green of the traffic lights. On the other corners the glowing cross of the twenty four hour chemist and the pulsating purple night club sign. Even the tiny kitchen-diner at the back was never dark, security lights glared until dawn. Then there was the noise; sirens, squealing brakes, dogs barking; supplemented at dawn with the arrival of delivery lorries and rubbish trucks.

At Christmas they had rotated round the relatives, next Christmas they would be the hosts, but this Christmas they planned to spend alone, enjoying the peace and quiet of their new home – and it would be quiet, the asking price reflected the fact that there was nothing convenient nearby, no bus stop, shops, pubs, schools or railway line.


It was quiet on the morning of December 14th as they drew into ‘Little Glades’ with the small rented van. All day they tidied, arranged, explored, determined not to set foot out of their home till it was time to return the van later. The furthest they ventured was down the damp garden and through the little gate into the park. When it started getting dark they were busy in their new kitchen cooking together.

But something was not right.

‘I hope there’s not a fire,’ said Helen ‘I thought I saw a flashing blue light.’

Moving into the hall they saw colours moving on the ceiling, they didn’t need to open the front door to hear

‘So here it is Merry Christmas Everybody’s having fun…’

When they did open the door they did not recognise ‘Little Glades’ – they had been transported into a dystopian grotto. Neat semi-detached houses transformed into flashing cartoon parodies of their real selves. Monster inflatable snowmen swayed in front gardens, brightly lit sleighs and grotesque reindeer balanced on roofs and a sinister Father Christmas climbed up a lamp post.

An even more scary Father Christmas approached them, a mittened hand extended.

‘Gary, acca Santa, number six. We thought we’d leave you in peace to settle in and now… welcome to Glades Grotto on our opening night. Every night is party night till January the sixth. Every year we raise thousands for charity, visitors from miles around, hope you don’t want to get that van out till morning.’





Friday Flash Fiction – Desk

There were oohs and ahhs as Liz walked into the office, it was only a few months since she last set foot in the place, but anyone listening to the other girls would have thought they had not seen her for years.

‘Oh, he’s gorgeous, take his hat off so we can see him properly’ said Carol.

‘Can I hold him? Look Lucas, do you like the Christmas decorations?’

‘Must be your family he gets his red hair from… he’s very pale, I thought he would be more sort of coffee coloured.’

‘Well he hasn’t seen any sun yet,’ said Liz defensively ‘besides, Jarrod’s got such a mixed ancestry I expect he had some ginger forebears.’

‘So how’s it been then, does Jarrod change the nappies?’

‘Of course, he’s a fantastic Dad, even gets up to make me a cup of tea in the middle of the night, fetches Lucas from his cot and plants him on my breast so I don’t have to move, then sits and chats so I don’t get bored.’

‘Lucky you, I had to make do with my phone for company during night feeds.’

‘Are you going to take the whole year then?’

‘I’m not sure, Jarrod’s so besotted he reckons he should take time off work when Lucas is on solids, he hates having to leave him to go to work.’

By this time a few of the fellows considered enough minutes had passed to show they weren’t gaga about babies and wandered over.

‘Pity you’re going to miss the office Christmas party,’ said Dave ‘wonder if it will be as wild as last year?’

‘I don’t remember it being wild’ Liz blushed.

‘You were so drunk you probably don’t remember anything.’

‘You’re a fine one to talk, Dave.’

‘I was quite sedate compared with the boss.’

‘No, he was dead sober,’ said Carol ‘at least he stayed till last to make sure everyone left safely, he was going to call a cab for Liz.’

‘So what else has been happening, did John go to head office?’ Liz tried to steer the conversation away from parties and tried to avert her eyes away from the desk that used to be hers. She hadn’t been so drunk she couldn’t remember. Hopefully Mr. O’Brian would stay in his office. It had been a mistake to come, but all the girls had phoned and e-mailed pleading to see the new baby. Liz couldn’t really recall how it had happened. She was gathering her handbag from her desk and he was leaning over to use her phone to call a cab – he did call a cab afterwards, for both of them, made sure she got home safely before he returned to his wife and their lovely children. She knew they were lovely because he had a photo on his desk, two boys and one girl, all with hair of burnished copper.




Friday Flash Fiction – Christmas Department


All Annie wanted was a new winter coat, but to reach Ladies Clothing she first had to fight her way through the Christmas Department… and it was only November the first. Lurid pinks and purples, gaudy gold and silver glitter for as far as the eye could see. Grinning reindeer, misshapen polar bears, fluffy mongrels and ugly kittens; a zoofull of cheap toys, not cheap to buy, just cheaply made.

She pictured the crates full of creatures arriving at the store, multiplied them by all the other stores in the country, envisioned a container full of crates, thought of the container ships she saw at the docks, piled high enough to topple over and sink. She saw a whole ship of stuffed animals, an ocean full of container ships ploughing through the waves bringing an endless supply of Christmas tack.

Annie continued her walk, still no sign of clothes racks, but a forest of excess packaging enabling gormless customers to be charged ten times the usual amount for a mug or pair of boxer shorts. Boxes, cartons, tins and tubs full of the most useless things, with the odd chocolate or packet of shortbread thrown in; crossword toilet paper, pink fluffy covers for mobile phones, ipads and ears. She thought she had seen everything till she arrived at ‘Gifts for Your Best Friend’; Father Christmas and ballet outfits for your dog and stockings for your cat to hang up.

The winter coat was forgotten and Annie’s blood pressure was soaring as she stepped onto the escalator, narrowly avoiding dangling decorations. As she ascended through the floors she blended in with other shoppers and none of them would have guessed her secret.

‘Excuse me Madam,’ said a young lady ‘this floor is staff only, offices and the managerial suite.’

‘It’s the manager I wish to see.’

‘Do you have an appointment?’

Annie showed her a small card.

‘Certainly, I’ll show you straight through.’

Annie sailed through the door before the girl had a chance to knock.

‘Get rid of the tat.’

The middle aged man behind the large desk stood up in surprise. He had only just heard the chain of stores had been saved from going into receivership and had no idea who the anonymous buyer might be.


When Annie had her surprise win on the Pan European Mega Autumn Lottery she had been overwhelmed. All she needed was a new coat, but she had always fancied owning a little shop…

‘The Very Useful Shop…’

‘Pardon’ said the confused manager.

‘That’s what I shall call the company, once we’ve done a few alterations… you can start by having all that stuff downstairs packed up and sent back where it came from.’


By early December Annie had been nominated for Woman’s Hour ‘Woman of Power’ and was a guest on ‘Newsnight.’

‘How many container ships were sent back?’ asked the presenter.

‘Enough for the world to get the message.’

‘Did you spare a thought for the livelihood of the people who worked in the factories?’

‘Certainly, I bought the factories; I pay the staff a living wage and we have taken on new staff to cope with the alterations. The Very Useful Factory Company is up and running.’


At Annie’s local shopping centre and in scenes repeated around the country, the pound shops, Christmas bazaars, calendar and card shops were empty. Everyone was flocking to The Very Useful Shop and the most popular department was Make and Take; the local news filmed customers of all ages cutting and pasting cards, painting pottery, knitting scarves and creating new garments from recycled clothes. Piped music was banned and customers were entertained by local choirs, hand bell ringers and a grand piano.

Rival businesses queried whether it was still a shop, but the Ombudsman reported that customers paid for the high quality raw materials and the delicious food served in the Meet and Eat restaurant.

Ministers from various departments came to visit and so too did several Archbishops. It was rumoured that the Queen was planning to film part of her Christmas Speech there, but more exciting for the children was the news that The Real Father Christmas was coming to visit.


‘Christmas Department’ was a runner up in 5 Minute Fiction’s Christmas competition 2012 and was featured on Christmas Eve in the on line Story Advent Calendar.

It rounds up the collection of stories in Hallows and Heretics – twenty four tales to take you through the year.




Friday Flash Fiction – Secret Society

It started as a joke, Barbara got the idea from Saga magazine; she thought it would pep up our sex life.  Dressing up and meeting new people; I wouldn’t call it an orgy and we didn’t believe we were really worshipping the devil. Obviously we met in a deconsecrated church, we didn’t want to upset the new lady vicar at Saint Stephens, especially as Barbara’s flower arranging club meets in their hall. Saint Peter’s has gone Pentecostal, so they would have taken us too seriously. The community centre was off limits with all their health and safety rules.

We managed to attract quite a few young people, which was nice. As Barbara said, in the dark what does age matter and as we were all anonymous it was very pleasant and relaxed. I was High Priest, but we were due to elect a new committee in the spring. We had bought all the costumes and paraphernalia on the internet, amazing how many sites there are. It was through the internet that Geoffrey got in touch, a mousy middle aged man who Barbara tended to avoid, but he was a good addition to the group, had some very imaginative ideas and some good props.


A typical meeting? Well we didn’t kill any chickens, I get queasy at the sight of blood. The setting of the semi derelict church made it very atmospheric; burning of herbs, spreading of salt, raising arms, throw in some Latin, then a few fertility rites. Barbara said she was having nothing to do with Geoffrey, he was creepy. She preferred the young chap who worked in Sainsburys, we did not let on we recognised him of course and I doubt he recognised us behind the shopping trolley.

When did it start to go wrong? The girl who had the fit was fine afterwards, lucky we had a paramedic amongst us, but we didn’t see her again. We did wonder if it was she who contacted the local paper. It was Geoffrey who spotted the planted reporter. I was just summoning ‘The Devil’ when we thought we heard a snigger. Geoffrey looked him straight in the eye, his usual reedy voice sounded different that night.

Do you think he has horns or will he arrive in a dinner suit, tall dark and suave? He’s here already, has been all along.

I’ll just catch the football on telly if I leave now said the young man shakily, adding as he safely reached the outside door and if I wanted to attend an orgy it wouldn’t be with you lot.

Numbers were down at the next meeting, though I could hear excited mumblings as I got robed up in the vestry. I was just about to start my opening incantation when Geoffrey interrupted.

We were just having an interesting discussion; did you hear what The Pope said yesterday? For a priest to abuse children is as evil as conducting a black mass; rather touching I thought, at least he gets it.

I didn’t understand what Geoffrey was getting at and assured him we were all consenting adults who broke no laws. It was as if he could read my mind.

No, you don’t GET it do you, I’m re… I mean HE’s REAL. Why have people in the past couple of centuries considered themselves cleverer than their ancestors?

By now he was addressing all of us, a chill I can’t describe had descended upon the room.

Why do those in the Western World dismiss traditions in the third world as ignorance. You give Him no credit at all; murderers are always mentally disturbed, forgotten their medication or taken too many steroids…or you blame it on other innocent humans, too much bureaucracy, not enough bureaucracy, hilarious that no one dares blame crime on Evil. Of course it’s the more insidious influence I enjoy, infiltrating every human institution.

Can we just get on with the evening entertainment called out a voice muffled by his mask.

That’s all it is to you isn’t it, all of you.

Geoffrey seemed different now, taller, his voice deeper.

I don’t need all this play acting, but what will you play next, the end game?

We all shuffled nervously, some sidled towards the door. Whoever he was you couldn’t argue with what he said.

Pathetic; every century you think you have the answer to improving the human condition; religion, science, education for all, democracy, communism, medicine, love, communication, even space exploration, how on earth (forgive the pun) is that likely to work? By the way, there is nothing out there so don’t bother looking.

Then he was gone, I mean literally, he was there, then he wasn’t.

Muffled voice said he was going to call it a night, wasn’t in the mood any more, nobody else spoke, they just shuffled off.

Barbara said her instincts about him had been right, but she still refuses to talk about any of it. I suggested we could still dress up at home, but she said rather sharply that it would hardly be the same.

They’re turning it into a Tesco now, that redundant church.