Grandfather worked down the mines. He was an electrical engineer. During the war he tried to sign up. He wanted to join the Royal Air Force more than owt. But they said no because they needed engineers at home to keep things running. Granddad was very upset. He felt bad about it. Mum says he never got over it, not really.
He rallied his BSA motorcycle. He liked going fast and getting muddy. He met Grandma in Sheffield. She was working as a nurse at a hospital for the war-wounded, doing her bit, you know.
In the 1970s, a power station was built in a village called Drax in Yorkshire. Today, it has a really tall concrete chimney 850 feet high and she is mother. Sunshine stored in black rocks from Africa and Siberia trundles into the power house. Twelve brothers, 374 feet tall and 300 feet wide, wear concrete-grey suits…
Daniel is eyeing the bird feeder. It is suctioned to the kitchen window and contains a single, half-decimated suet ball with hulled sunflower seeds poking out of the top. He leans forward readying for take-off. There is a shadow on the other side of the feeder. It moves.
Gavin spots it first and whistles: ‘Dan, Dan, Dan, Danny, Daniel!’
Daniel stops and looks at Gavin: ‘What is it mate? I’m on my way to lunch.’
The giant shadow is standing at the sink. It has bright pink hands that it plunges into something white and foamy. It walks away.
Daniel grows impatient.
‘Sod this for a game of soldiers. I’m Hank Marvin.’
Daniel stretches indigo wings, leans forward and pushes himself away from the protection of the thicket. A flash of red shoots out from the cotoneaster and charges into Daniel knocking him off course. The red pecks viciously at his sweet-lined eyes. He is spun around and over and upside down before he falls to the patio floor. He lies on his back and blinks only once.
The ticket booth is sepia-coloured. The seller wears a beaked cap. His mouth hides behind a thick moustache. He tells me I can go on the steamboat or the train or even one after the other. As my sleeve brushes the counter, my fingers turn shades of pale grey. The gold pound coin falls from my hand and twenty silver shillings land in the centre of his square palm.
I step onto the platform. I look down and there is a newborn baby in my arms. There are black surgical pen marks tattooed all around his tiny cranium. The bosomy, wide-hipped woman who takes my tea-stained ticket looks at him admiringly. She does not see the oddity of his scars.
I board an open-top train and cling to the infant. Together we ride around the roof of a red-brick wool factory amidst an industrial landscape, over and over again.
Gavin is sitting on a bowed branch of firethorn outside the kitchen window. His hat is gleaming as the sun runs fingers over his plumy skull. He tilts his white cheek up to the right and blinks away the light to see a fresh, pale green shoot on the branch. He stabs his short beak tearing the newness to shreds and inside he finds a sweet, juicy aphid just the colour of lime pulp.
‘Mm…I haven’t had one of these in yonks,’ he mutters through part-masticated flesh with two, fine legs dangling from his beak, before gulping down the succulent bug greedily.
They, all alike, many though they be and other star in other path, are drawn across the heavens always through all time continually. But the Axis shifts not a whit, but unchanging is for ever fixed, and in the midsts it holds the earth in equipoise, and wheels the heaven itself around.
Founded by the world-renowned BBC Aeronautics Correspondent Reg Turnill and his wife, Margaret, to celebrate the life and works of HG Wells and encourage creative writing, especially among the young, the prestigious HG Wells Short Story Competition offers generous Senior and Junior prizes and free publication of all shortlisted entries in a quality, professionally published paperback anthology.