All stories copyright xoggoth unless otherwise stated


False Memories

It had been a very good few years in Richardís career. At long last it looked as if his company, in cooperation with the NHS and with the help of many volunteers, was close to finding a solution to the growing national problem of Alzheimer's disease, and it was progress that he had played a major part in as the senior researcher. An effective drug treatment was one factor. The other was a new type of brain cell stimulator, which drew on the technology of different types of radiology similar to those used in body scans. When used for a sufficient period, the drug had significant effect on regenerating the affected brain cells. The scanner was then applied at intervals using safe, low dose, levels with fluctuating patterns of intensity and was found to have a measurable effect in stimulating those same brain cells. What was especially ground-breaking was that it succeeded in restoring lost memories, some of the volunteers could remember things they said theyíd forgotten about for years.

He was very proud of his achievements; the current project was not the only major advance heíd been involved in during the course of his career. Some people say that success in life is determined by your heritage and upbringing but that certainly wasnít the case in Davidís family. While he was a renowned pioneer in medical research, his younger brother Simon had never been anything but a truck driver. Oh well, adults make their own decisions in life and Simon was happy enough and didnít seem to do too badly financially, having managed to buy a decent flat on the other side of town. It was surprising that he had been able to afford it in a rather expensive area but, as Simon kept telling him, heíd managed to save because he did a lot of overtime and was very frugal with his money. Anyway, they got on very well despite their differences. Simon was as intelligent as he was, he just lacked ambition. They always found interesting stuff to talk about on their regular meet ups. They were getting together for a drink at The Rose and Crown later.

When Richard arrive there that evening, he saw Simon sitting alone at a table, gazing down at a full glass of beer, and almost immediately he knew something was wrong. "Whatís up Simon?" he asked. Simon looked at him and then burst into tears, got up and walked out into the garden. It took a while standing out there in the freezing cold before Simon calmed down enough to tell him the full truth. His relative affluence was not solely down to lots of overtime and a frugal lifestyle as he had told Richard before. He had been making money illegally on the side, transporting drugs in his trucks for a major local gang. Now something had gone, really, really wrong and he knew it would not be long before he was in jail for a long time. "Good god, Simon, how could you get involved in something like that? I would never have thought it of you. I think for dealing class A drugs you could go to jail for at least five years" Simon shook his head and was silent for a minute before he blurted out "No, itís far worse than that, I.., I..., I killed somebody. Some bloke from a rival gang found out what I was doing and when Iíd picked up the stack, he tried to take it from me. We got into a fight and, well, I stabbed him. Iím not the murdering sort, it was self-defence, but Iím not sure theyíd believe me. Iím just a dealer to them. Please, please, tell me you believe me Richard" Richard just stared at him. His own brother, a man he lovedÖ He didnít not know what to say, he turned and walked away.

He had the weekend to think over the options. Should he turn in his own brother? Should he pretend heíd never heard the confession and just let fate take its course. Or should he try and help him somehow? Can you really turn your back on your own flesh and blood? He made the decision on Sunday and went to see Simon. Heíd wanted to reassure him, to do what he could to help his defence, perhaps pay for a decent lawyer. Simon was quiet and subdued, it seemed as if heís accepted his fate. He told Richard that the gang he served was part of a powerful multi-national group with some people in influential positions and it was in their interests to protect Simon from prosecution in order to protect themselves. They were working on eliminating real evidence and creating false evidence to point to another gang but that could take some time. If the police acted quickly enough, it might not be long before they came knocking and he could be doomed to a life sentence.

He was back at work, but Richard found it hard to concentrate on his job. He just couldnít stop thinking about what Simon has told him. If only the police could be distracted long enough for the evidence against him to be destroyed, he might stand a chance. A distraction! MaybeÖ As the main driver of the work on tackling Alzheimerís disease he knew quite a few things that the other workers didnít and had been doing some research on the side into the results of the radio therapy method. He had had doubts that all of those memories that the volunteers claimed to recover were actually real as some appeared rather unlikely given their background and may have been false memories. It only took a little testing on a few volunteers to determine that some memories could have a more mundane source and could be triggered by recent events. While the machine was working on their partly sedated brains, they were encouraged to relax with soothing music and computer images of slowly moving lights and tranquil scenes. He made changes to the computer program so that it subliminally whispered certain things while showing them faint related pictures. Once the tranquiliser had worn off, he asked them about things they remembered and discovered that his fictional stories had become facts in their minds, things they were sure that they had really experienced.

Simon was his brother and he had to help him out by distracting the police from their pursuit. The last elderly volunteer of the day came in and Simon gave him the sedative and helped him into the machine. Then he replaced the usual relaxing video with the one on his memory stick. After he came fully round the old chap seemed rather uneasy but said he couldnít think why. It was in the news a couple of days later. An elderly chap has walked into a police station and confessed to stabbing the man his brother had killed. That should distract them for a while, maybe sufficient time for his brotherís gang to get shot of the evidence against him. He hoped so, his brother would escape justice.

It was several days later, and it was in all the news headlines. Numerous older people has walked into police stations in his area and confessed to the same killing. What the hell? He thought he had, but he must have made a mistake and failed to replace his subliminally suggestive video with the normal one. One old chap who volunteered at his research centre making a false confession was not significant but, over twenty of them, how long would it be before the police made the link and came calling?

Oh well, maybe there was a plus side, he and Simon could still be together.

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Short of Space

As far as Julie was concerned, they had the nicest home possible for them. It was a little cottage with a garden in a lovely area of countryside, well away from any noisy roads or neighbours, yet not too far from a small town with all the shops and things they needed. She and Bill were in their mid-fifties and they might have to think of moving to somewhere less remote in about 20 years but, for the moment, it was perfect.

For her anyway. Bill was not so content as the cottage did not have the space he needed for his various weird hobbies. Their only spare room was taken up with his workshop and his model railway, which had got bigger and bigger over the years. A major problem was that there was nowhere for their children to stay on their occasional visits. Their single younger son had to use the couch in the front room, while his brother and his wife would stay in a B&B a few miles away. Bill's models looked fantastic, she had to admit, with a beautifully crafted landscape, tiny buildings and people but she always wondered, seriously, why did a grown man still want to play with toys? She and Bill had become more and more detached over the years. Once they had had a good social life, now all he wanted to do spend his time with tools creating his little model world.

It was becoming a real source of tension between them. He wanted more space to expand his models and had suggested they could move into the spare room so he could use their larger bedroom, but she had put her foot down. There was no way she was abandoning their bedroom with a nice view and moving into that dark little room at the back. They had quite a lot of savings and could afford to move somewhere bigger, but she didn't want to move somewhere else just to accommodate his hobby, she loved their current home. Bill suggested looking at the possibility of an extension, but she wasn't keen on that either, as it would reduce the size of her garden that she cared for so much. Then there was all the hassle of it, like getting planning permissions and having to put up with noisy builders working for months.

Bill suggested another option a few weeks later and he had obviously been meticulously planning it. Maybe he could dig out a small basement underneath the garden and use that as his workshop. That would leave quite a bit more room to expand his railway. It did not need to be anything fancy; about 6 feet wide by eight foot long would do to start with and he could slowly expand it as required. If it was six feet high and just a foot or two below ground level no major structure would be needed, light breeze blocks and some wooden struts with a corrugated iron sheet on top for a roof would be quite adequate. A foot or so of soil over the roof would let her grow her flowers and vegetables as usual. The entrance from the house could be narrow and just behind the middle of the garage door so the structure of the house would not be affected. He could do it all himself and keep it secret so there was no need for planning permission and all that stuff.

She wasn't keen but if it meant they didn't have to move she could put up with it. Bill started working on his latest project and became as obsessed with it as he was usually obsessed with his railway. She didn't see much of him except at meal times, he was either down there digging away, moving the soil to an old pit in the neglected woods behind their house or off in his little van buying more breeze blocks and things at the shopping centre at the edge of the nearest city. It wasn't as though she wanted to see much of him anyway. She had to accept they had nothing in common anymore and she kept on going out with others in her social circle without giving him a thought.

It was at a girls' night out in the pub, that she met somebody else and he rekindled a spark that was still inside. Casual friendship soon became a love affair. She never thought that Bill would notice but clearly he had not become entirely lost to the world and he started becoming suspicious of her late comings and goings, of her sudden interest in buying new clothes and the increased time she spent doing her hair and makeup. He kept questioning her until she pretty much gave herself away and he became really hostile and unpleasant. What could she do? She had to be honest with herself, she didn't really give a damn about him nowadays and yet, what were the options? No way was she going to ditch her new lover but she couldn't put up with Bill's animosity which she was afraid could turn to violence, and she did not want to go through a messy divorce when that might mean losing the little cottage she loved.

If only there was some way to get him out of the way. Or maybe there was. His little underground workshop had been finished some weeks ago and it all looked very solid. The walls and roof were all firmly concreted and Bill had covered it over with soil which was already becoming covered with the wildflowers she had seeded. She waited until he went off shopping at the local DIY centre, then went down there and removed all his tools so he couldn't use them to break out. When she saw his van return she waited until he went down into the workshop, then rushed out and slammed the heavy door, then dropped a length of heavy timber she had cut to size against it so that it would not open. Ignoring his shouts and bangs, she started filling up the entrance with all the spare breeze blocks, bags of sand and other heavy stuff that was lying around the garage and garden. There was no chance that anyone would hear him down there unless they were in the garage as she was, and she was not expecting any visitors for a few weeks. All should be silent by then.

Over the next two weeks, ignoring his increasingly faint calls, she finished off filling and cementing up the entrance, put back the stone slabs that he had removed from the garage floor and planted more flowers above the roof so nobody would readily spot that his secret workshop had ever existed. She put all his tools back in the spare room, so that it looked just the way it always had. Would she get away with it? Would they search the property properly or would her husband join the list of unexplained missing persons? Only time would tell.

He had wanted more space and he had got it. Give it a couple of years and she could get rid of that damn model railway and have a bit more space for her own stuff.

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Lost Creativity

Darn it. The little writerís group meeting was less than three weeks away and he still hadnít managed to think of a story. Tony wished he hadnít signed up for it, but a lady friend had bossed him into it. He could hardly pull out now, it wasnít as if a lot of other people had signed up and he wasnít sure if the group could afford to lose even one person. If he couldnít come up with anything he could always just read out his old stories but what would be the point?

What the hell had happened to him? Once upon a time he had had a great imagination, did cartoons, posted lots of stuff on his blog and regularly came up with short stories. It was usually weird stuff, a bit of horror or science fiction or, more often, in the fiction category of plain silly. Granted, they were not exactly on a par with the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury or Mark Twain but at least they were usually quite original and, more importantly, he had enjoyed writing them. Now it seemed that his imagination and enthusiasm had deserted him. Would they come back? Probably not, in the end, age seems to strip you of everything.

He went for a drink at his little local social club the next day and was talking to another ageing neighbour, Brian. They drank a bit too much and moaned the hour away talking about their problems. He told Brian about his difficulty with being creative and Brian told him he had heard of a local couple who gave therapy sessions that were supposed to be good for low mood, lack of interest and similar problems. They advertised in the local chronicle. Brian said he was dubious about that sort of thing, there were so many charlatans around, but he did know one bloke who had actually found them rather good.

Later that evening, Tony checked out the advert and the course didnít look too expensive. Even better, for a mean old bloke like him, the first session was free, a taster, and he would be told what the course involved before it began. If he didnít want to sign up for the whole course, it wouldnít cost him anything! It would probably be a total waste of his time, as so many so-called remedies were, but it was certainly worth a go. He phoned the contact number and booked a session a couple of days later.

He felt rather more positive when he turned up at the address, he was welcomed into a very expensive house by what seemed to be a nice, indeed, a rather posh couple, James, and Susan. They hardly seemed to be the sort who would need to come up with scams to make money. They ushered him into a lovely annexe in the middle of a large, manicured garden and told him what their business was about. Both of them were now retired due to physical health reasons but had been professionals working for the UK Mental Health Foundation. It was in their job that they had first met. They told him they had loved their jobs and still had a dedication to improving mental health of the community, whether the problems were serious or minor, as in Tonyís case.

The first session started and involved various methods he had heard of, even tried in some cases without success, although none of them had been combined in quite the same way. Relaxing the muscles, deep breathing, contemplation, thinking about some specified subject while relaxing music played in the background. Not just mental, at the start they gave him a fairly hefty drink of some relaxation remedy. Itís ok, said Susan, itís purely a mix of natural herbal substances which have been proven to relieve stress. "Quite legal I assure" you she joked.

He left feeling a little uncertain. Certainly, he felt in a slightly better mood than usual, maybe a little more bit more relaxed, perhaps even a bit more imaginative now he was a little less focused about not being imaginative. Maybe he could do a story about a ghost in a TV set or something. Hmm, fairly sure that had been done on some TV series. Oh well, he may as well carry on with it, it wasnít costing him a fortune.

More than two weeks into it and he still wasnít sure. He didnít regret doing the course because, actually, he was quite enjoying it, the relaxing effect was quite good and, when he lost his focus, he could always surreptitiously peer at Susan, a rather attractive lady for her age. The trouble was, he didnít appear to be any more imaginative than he had been, and he still couldnít come up with an idea for a story. It was one thing coming up with various random daft ideas, quite another trying to piece together a short story that made any sense.

The writerís group was tomorrow, and he confided in Susan that he still had no real confidence in his writing abilities, whatever it was he once had, it was gone. Darn it! He felt upset and close to crying. Susan saw how he felt and said she was so sorry they had failed him. Perhaps a little more of their herbal remedy would calm him down. It tasted rather unpleasant but, what the heck! he might as well drink it. Heíd drown his sorrow in vodka when he got back, then phone his bossy lady friend to tell her he would not be coming tomorrow.

He felt a little odd when he got up to leave. Thatís what stress does to you maybe. The oddness grew quickly as he walked through the immaculate garden. Funny, that hedge there seemed to have numerous faces, all looking at him. Somehow, he felt they welcomed him, as if he was one of them. Then the ground below seemed to be transparent but that was ok, surely everything was transparent? It was the way that crocodiles always felt when they lost their golden toenails, it was the norm!

James and Susan had been watching him from the window, thinking he looked a little unsteady on his feet. They were not prepared for what happened next. Tony ripped off all his clothes and flung them all in the air, except for his blue jumper which he was whirling round and round his head. He was shouting, at the top of his voice, "Wastepaper baskets to the world" over and over again. James turned and looked at his wife. "I think you put a few too many magic mushrooms in the relaxation mix that time Susan!

Tony woke up feeling confused and groggy with a horrible headache. What the hell had happened? Must have had too much vodka. Oh well, heíd take a couple of Paracetamol and stay in bed for a while. Should feel better soon. He rolled out of bed and then realised it was not his bed. What the hell? He was in a stark little room with bars on the window. A bit later on, a policeman came in and he was summoned to an interview. It appeared he was being accused of outraging public decency and multiple assaults on more than one member of the public.

What the hell? He didnít remember a thing, apart from something about wastepaper baskets. Oh well, at least he had an excuse for not going to that darn writersí group.

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Land for Sale

One of the things Dereck and Susan liked most about their property was the lovely wild area behind the garden. They had a lot of free time now that they were retired and quite often, when it was sunny, they would sit together on the bench and enjoy the view of the grassy slope and the woodlands behind it. It was a good place for nature. Quite often they would see deer at the edge of the woods, squirrels in the trees and the occasional rabbit. In the spring the Bluebells were lovely. Dereck always joked about Susanís addiction to Bluebells.

They hoped it would always be the same while they were around and would not end up with hundreds of houses built on it as had happened with so many nice green spaces in their area.

They were most interested when a flyer was put through their door saying that the land was up for sale as individual strips. The one behind their garden was a bit less than 2 acres in size and going for £39k but they werenít short of money and, as land prices were always rising in the Southeast, it would be a good investment anyway, probably safer than stocks and shares these days. Something that was worthwhile to leave to their kids and that they could enjoy for a long while yet, they were both pretty fit and would be up to the maintenance.

They couldnít resist and put in an application straight away. 5 months later, the plot was all theirs and it was time to use it. It was a lovely spring day, and their children and a few friends had been invited for a little celebration party. At exactly 12 Oíclock they pulled down a section of the fence and wandered onto their new land for a picnic and drinks before exploring the woods.

The maintenance was a bit harder than they expected in the following months, there were a lot of old broken tree trunks and branches to be cleared and they had had to get a professional in for some things, but they werenít regretting their purchase. It was so nice to go for a rural amble with the dog without having to get in the car and drive somewhere.

Next summer came around and the woods were mostly in nice condition, there was just that very rough area not far from the house to tackle. It was a deep pit surrounded by brambles, some twelve feet across and full of debris. Possibly a WW2 bomb crater or, more likely, an old iron age mine pit. There were a lot of them in that area, it was quite famous for its iron workings. After a long hot period, the pit looked dry, and it was the time to tidy up. Dereck and his son Ray got started in clearing the pit out. After a couple of hours, it was all looking much better. It was so interesting to have a bit of history on their doorstep.

The next day Dereck came back to finish the job and it was while pulling out some gorse at the edge of the pit that he found there was some stonework there. Interesting. He got out his mattock and started cutting back the soil. After a couple of hours, he could hardly believe what he saw, an old stone archway that looked like the entrance to a tunnel. He came back the next day and began the task of removing the soil inside the arch. After another couple of hours, he was so excited! It was! An old stone tunnel. It seemed to be heading towards his house. It couldnít be connected in any way to it, his house was built in the 1960ís, but perhaps here had been some other old building there once.

It seemed safe enough, if it hadnít collapsed in the last hundred years or more it was unlikely to do so in the next few minutes, so he dug his torch and tape measure out of his toolbox and walked along it. He reckoned it was about 95m long before it came to some steps going up. The top of the steps was walled off. He measured the distance from their house boundary and checked his house plans and by his reckoning the end was under the lawn, close to their patio.

He showed the tunnel and his plans to Susan and they both agreed it would be interesting to open it up, so they had access to it from their garden. However, Susan was insistent that they should hire a professional to make sure that everything was done safely. She didnít want Dereck injuring himself with stones falling on top of him. In any case, as there was a noticeable bend in the tunnel, how could he be sure exactly where it ended, she didnít want a big hole in the patio that theyíd spent a lot of money on. Dereck shrugged and agreed. More money to be spent.

The next day he was back in the tunnel and thought, sod it, Iíll do it myself. Iím sure my plans are pretty accurate. Susan was staying with her sister for a couple of days, so if he got started now, she would not be at risk. He got a pickaxe and started cutting out the wall at the top of the steps and the ceiling above. It was harder work than he expected and after a while he started to think Susan was right. He had removed a lot of rocks just to find more rocks behind and after a lot of chiselling at the ceiling he could see no sign of light. It could be deeper than he thought, and it would be dangerous to carry on. Heíd do as Susan had suggested and get a surveyor in, maybe some professional builders later on, depending on what he told them.

After she got home, they spent some time online trying to find a nearby surveyor. In the evening they sat down to rewatch one of their favourite movies on their expensive new big screen television. It was so good, brought back memories of the old times. After the ads, they sat back down with a cup of tea and some biscuits and there was funny creak. "What was that?" said Susan, "is there something wrong with the sofa?". A few minutes on and there was a louder noise in front of them, it wasnít the sofa. Suddenly, there was a huge crash and the TV, together with the fancy glass table, the video recorder and all the other pricey stuff ripped through the wooden flooring theyíd had fitted just a few months ago and disappeared into a gaping hole.

Susan turned and stared at Dereck with a furious expression. "You started doing it yourself didnít you?"

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A Conspiracy Theory

Itís a funny old world we live in, full of nut jobs. There would have been just as many in earlier times but these days, with the internet and social media, they can do their best to throw their loony ideas in everyoneís faces. Mind you, it was quite interesting, especially reading about all those daft conspiracy theories.

In Jackís opinion, one should never ignore all conspiracy theories, after all it was human nature for people to rig things in their own favour and people with power, money and influence could, and probably did, do it sometimes. That said, some of the most peddled ideas were plain idiotic, they were just not practical. It was not impossible for minor events, like the Black Hole of Calcutta, to be an invention given the few people involved. More recently, Princess Dianaís death could have been deliberate, and Dr David Kelly could have been murdered by somebody in the Blair government. That said, invention of some other things was plain impossible. How could the holocaust be a myth given all the evidence including the testimony of umpteen thousands of witnesses?

Some of the popular theories in more recent times were equally as daft. The biggest current one was the idea that Covid was a global scheme, mastered by Bill Gates according to some, to wipe out the global population using blood clot inducing vaccinations. According to some conspiracy theorists, people were dying in millions all over the world. It was rather odd that this huge fatality rate did not seem to be in any way obvious in his local area or in those of anyone he knew.

And the scheme required a degree of cooperation that was just impossible given that vaccines had been developed by different companies, were being used by countries all over the world and the statistics came from all levels of society from people of different political persuasions. Was it really likely that China, Russia and the West, that Israel, Iran and Arab nations would all cooperate over such a thing when they could not find agreement on anything else?

All that said, Jack found these theories very interesting. After all, fake news wasnít any worse than the real news these days, given all the horrible things going on. He got more and more obsessed with delving into all the latest daft ideas, and some of the older ones too. David Icke was an especially interesting chap, all that stuff about the world being secretly controlled by a cabal of giant lizards was fascinating. From the way he wrote, Icke was clearly no fool, and Jack was doubtful whether he believed some of the dafter stuff he peddled. Given how much his books sold for, it was more likely he had just found a way to make money and find fame of a sort.

That was an idea. Maybe he could gain minor fame by posting a new conspiracy theory online. So many had been done, the government spying on you using smart meters etc., and he spent a few days looking into various things before coming up with a new idea. It had been reported on reputable sources that LED light bulbs could have some adverse health effects. The blue light generated could disrupt sleep and flickering caused by the sensitivity to voltage could trigger headaches. He could take it further. Maybe an almost imperceptible flickering could be controlled by those smart meters and used by the government to control your mind in subliminal ways.

He posted the idea on his blog and made it more believable by quoting expert sources who had scientifically proven it to be true. Those sources could be found nowhere on the internet of course, as they did not exist, but that was no problem. In the usual conspiracy theoristsí way, he said that they had been removed by the government to supress the truth and that the experts had mysteriously disappeared.

Few read his blog and he did not get much feedback until a much more popular blogger came upon his post and referenced it. After that, a lot of people began to comment, and he frequently updated his posts quoting more "research" that supported his view. Soon the idea began to spread across the internet and became almost as popular as the Covid conspiracy theory. Great! Maybe one day he could be a major conspiracy theorist and make money like David Icke did.

A few months later he got an email that appeared to be from another noted conspiracy theorist about a meeting they were having in London. He turned up at the venue and waited for some time but there was nobody else there. He was about to leave when a couple of well-dressed men came up to him and said they wished to speak to him in private. He tried to refuse but they were insistent and would not take no for an answer. He was ushered into a small office. It looked like a police interview room with one of those one-way mirrors at the rear.

They sat him down and suggested he should stop promoting his ridiculous idea on the net. "Is it because you want the government to be able to keep controlling the people?" he asked. "Donít be ridiculous." said one of the men. "That is complete nonsense, the problem is that you are damaging the profits of companies involved in producing them. More importantly, you are causing public anxiety and making people ditch LED bulbs in favour of less environmentally friendly options. Your actions are not good for tackling global warming. We are asking you this once to desist in your actions. Give it some thought."

He thought about it for a few minutes. He had believed his idea was nothing more than a joke himself, but now he was not so sure. This was government control at its worst. "No, I am beginning to wonder if my assertion does not have some validity after all. I will carry on exposing what I now suspect you may really be doing."

The two men looked at each other and shrugged. "Ok" one said, "If thatís what you want, we will have to change your mind another way." With that they left the room and the bright LED lights on the ceiling started to flicker. Soon his mind began to drift, he was losing control. As part of the pattern, the lights went off for a few seconds and his confused mind saw what was in the dimly lit room behind the one-way mirror.

On the other side of a long table was a line of giant lizards.

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Something Different

Life has not been that great since Michael had gone through an acrimonious diverse with his wife Susan a few years ago but now, after retiring, it seemed even more empty. He had a few friends he drunk with, but you canít spend your entire life at the pub, he needed to find more things to fill his me time. More interesting things anyway, the stuff he did, like gardening and watching TV in the evenings, wasnít really a life, it was getting all so samey.

He was sitting at home sipping his Earl Gray tea and gazing at the trees behind his garden. What had happened to the twenty something him who spent months hitchhiking round Europe, and who had all sorts of hobbies? When he wasnít at discos getting drunk and trying to pull the birds that is. Darn it, he couldnít carry on like this, he must make some decisions to be more adventurous.

Later that week he booked one of those solo holidays in Greece. It was a good start, and he was looking forward to it, but holidays can hardly fill your life and it wasnít as though he could afford more than one or two in a year anyway. He signed up for a few volunteer things and social groups, they were nice, but he didnít want to go overboard with fixed schedules. It was nicer to do things that suited your mood at the time. Maybe he should try that online dating thing again, find himself some nice female company, but it hadnít worked out so well the last time he tried it. He had to face the fact that he was not as attractive as he used to be, either physically or otherwise. "Face the facts Michael", said his inner voice "Youíre a boring wrinkled old git".

Maybe he should concentrate on the smaller things, the little things that filled most of his waking day. After all, look at what most happy people did with most of their me time, they werenít climbing Everest or going to the moon, they were just doing the everyday things they enjoyed. Whether it was posting drivel on social media, walking the countryside, growing vegetables, or filling their time with strange hobbies. Some of the hobbies you read about seemed daft, like building models of the Eiffel tower using matchsticks, learning foreign languages you will rarely, if ever, use, or train spotting. He could understand having an interest in old steam trains, but why would anyone get satisfaction from standing by railway tracks making notes of modern trains that passed by? Some of the things people did, like knitting, bird watching or playing board games. seemed downright boring.

Think positive Michael, he told himself, it doesnít matter what they do, the important thing is that they like doing it. Get out there and be more adventurous. Make yourself a list of various things at random and give them a go, and if they donít work for you try something else. Look too at the everyday things you already do and tweak them just to make them a bit different.

He started trying. Instead of going to the local supermarket for his weekly shop he started travelling further afield to other supermarkets in nearby towns then wandering the shops before having lunch in different cafes, sitting looking at the people. Instead of local walks along the same old tracks heíd plan his walk at a new place most days. At home he tried some new hobbies, sketching or painting things that popped into his head, writing short stories, making models from all the old bits and pieces he had in his shed. It seemed to be having some effect, he was feeling a bit more content.

Just a bit though, he still had times when things seemed a bit empty. Maybe heíd try and change every little thing he did in some small way, so life was never quite the same. He started having different things for every meal, moving around the house in different ways - like walking backwards or crawling around on all fours, putting his clothes on the wrong way round, shouting out the names of dinosaurs whenever he went to the loo, putting things down in random places. It wasnít annoying to lose things anymore, it was an adventure looking for them!

It was Thursday. He had wriggled down the stairs pretending to be an earthworm and had had some cabbage sprinkled with curry powder and Liquorice Allsorts for breakfast followed by a cup of coffee with vinegar. He was going to the art group later so would return to normal mode as he always did for social things, but what different ways could he fill up the couple of hours before? Ah, that was an idea, heíd do that! He went to collect the things he needed.

About an hour later his mate Ralph got a phone call. The voice was faint and muffled, and he couldnít make out what was being said but the phone showed the call was from Mike and, from the high pitch, it sounded like he was in some sort of trouble. He walked up the road to Mikeís house as fast as he could. He rang the bell and got no reply, so walked around the back of the house and peered in through the rear window. God almighty! Fortunately, the window was open, and he managed to get in to help Mike out of his predicament before calling for an ambulance.

It was on his mind all that day, what could he tell Mikeís family about what had happened? He didnít want them to think Mike was crazy. But then, maybe he was. Who else but a loony would Sellotape plastic bin liners all over themselves, tie their ankles to the bannisters with a collection of old jumpers and then jump over them with a bucket on their head? The pain from the minor injuries to his spinal cord had prevented him from reaching up to untie himself.

It was lucky he had had his mobile phone tucked into a box of hair curlers glued to his underpants.

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