Short fiction and serialised novellas of GJ Fairlamb

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Savage Writing: 100 words

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This week’s topic was to write two pieces, one of 100 words and one of 500 words. I gave up on the 500 word one, so here is my 100 word piece.


Floating in Space

Weightlessness soothes me. I am suspended in the deepest, blackest ocean, and soon I will forget to breathe as my suit exhausts its oxygen. I don’t think I’ll have the crushing panic that I imagine comes with a watery grave. Just bobbing along, in endless dark, just existing in this frigid womb of space. I wish I could see stars in the endless night about me.

But below turns the earth, white-blue scarred marble, home. Everything that has ever been. It’s a shame. I wish someone could hear me describe how beautiful it looked today, afterwards.


Written by G.J.

15/11/2015 at 4:11 pm


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Katie’s husband shot himself in the head. He locked himself in the bathroom. Katie sat outside, screaming at the door, begging him not to do it.

She sent an e-mail round to her close friends and family afterwards. That’s how they know what happened. She sent it to my sister Anna, and Anna told me the night after I was introduced to Katie, and that’s how I know what happened.

She heard him pull the trigger.

He knew you all loved him, she wrote in the e-mail, apparently. I told him how much everyone loved him.

I try to imagine yelling past a wooden door. It’s so faceless, unyielding, lacks any passion or emotion. Imagine only facing that, knowing that the person you love most is going to turn their brains to goo.

Worse, I try to imagine when the door was opened afterwards. I think the police did it. She didn’t have time to call emergency services between him grabbing his gun and the deed. I mean, in that case you’d assume that you can convince them better yourselves, right? Of course you’d assume that your husband would listen to your pleas more than a policeman’s.

But imagine: shot. Loud. Then absolute silence. She calls for him again. She sobs down the phone – or talks down the phone, quiet monotone, numb and unable to process. Waits. Then they come and talk through the wood block door, stern solid words to coax him out, nothing in response. They kick down the door.

Did she shrink back? Did she peer in, despite knowing what she would see?

And what did she see?

I can’t imagine what a person looks like with their head shot through. I mean, I’ve seen it in films, but you never know how realistic they are, do you? And it’s a world of difference, I suppose, between seeing some unknown actor playing an expendable mook get his skull blown through, and seeing the man you’ve slept with for ten years with a head like a smashed egg.

God. I just can’t imagine it.

What that would do to a person. To your mind. To your perception of the world.

The first time I met Katie, she was normal. A little quiet. It happened last year, you see. I don’t know how long it takes these things to process, but I feel a year is a little too short. She mentioned she works in IT support, we joked about the kind of people you have to deal with and the nonsense you constantly put up with. She’s small. Pretty. Brown hair. Thin. Looks young for her age. Not the sort of person you’d think would have seen gore first-hand.

When I met her again, because I knew, I wanted her to look different. I tried to find signs that she was traumatised in some way, but came up with nothing concrete. I mean, everyone gets tired and down sometimes, no matter how good your life is – and she wasn’t even depressed-looking that day. She looked a normal level of tired. I wondered how she looked the days following her husband’s death. When Anna made a joke and we laughed, I wondered how long it took her after Neil’s death before she smiled again.

‘Does she ever talk about what happened?’

‘She misses him a lot,’ Anna replied, like the question glanced off of her.

‘No, I mean, has she ever told you what it was like?’

‘God no,’ she said, giving me the look that all siblings have perfected – the “what the fuck is wrong with you, you inferior being” look. ‘I wouldn’t do that. I don’t want to bring it up again.’

I wonder if it makes Katie felt better or worse, that no-one will bring it up.

‘I’m doing a half-marathon,’ she said, the third time we met.

‘Good for you.’

‘It’s for a mental health charity.’

I hesitated.

‘Oh, that’s good.’

‘I’m doing it in Neil’s memory,’ she said, eyes on the floor, no other sign of distress.

Was that a cry for help? A sign that she wanted to open up? Or was it nothing at all? What was I to make of that? Words hovered over my lips, but in the end the easy, cowardly, gentle way won out.

‘Yeah…good for you. I mean, that’s good. I’m sure you’ll do well. How much are you asking for sponsorship?’

Not what I wanted to say.

What I want to say, and what I’ve always wanted to do, is corner her one evening, get her alone, and ask her what it’s like to face mortality up close. To hear the man you love die. To see his blood. To know he chose his broken mind over your wellbeing (and wouldn’t that make you doubt how much he loved you?). I’m not sure she could answer this, but I wonder how the grief compares to other, less dramatic, more normal grief. Like, on a scale of grandma-dies-in-sleep to child-is-murdered, how fucking awful is it? I imagine it’s one of the most awful things in the world. And yet she looks normal. I don’t get it. How can you look normal, after that?

I’ll never ask her about it, of course. It’s not done, and Anna would kill me besides. Might trigger some grief relapse or something. It’s one of those things you just don’t do.

But I wonder. Every time I see Katie, I wonder. And I imagine.

Written by G.J.

22/02/2015 at 1:23 pm

Savage Exercise: Won’t Get Fooled Again

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At the end of the last meet, we had enough time for a ten minute writing exercise. The group’s become so busy now that we haven’t had time for one of these for a long while. Downstairs was playing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” so Doug decided that was the topic. This is (a now edited version of) what I came up with in ten minutes.


‘It won’t work,’ Marie said. ‘He’s going to know it’s you this time.’

‘Shurrup,’ Cathy replied, as she stuck the tenth post-it note to his computer monitor. ‘Fuckin’ prick has it coming.’

When she was done, each note on the screen said “WANK”, with the exception of the one in the centre, upon which was a detailed picture of a hairy cock and balls.

‘Ace,’ Cathy said. ‘Soon as he’s back from his meeting, he’ll get an eyeful.’

She walked back towards her desk, Marie in her slipstream on the way to her own computer.

As soon as Cathy’s monitor came in sight, she frowned. Her own monitor was also covered in post-its, excepts these stickers contained no insults or doodles. Instead, out of order, were small numbers: 1, 18, 3, 7…

‘It’s like an advent calendar!’ Marie said.

Cathy tore off number one. Underneath, on her desktop, was a small window of a Notepad document. It said, all caps, HI.

Number two, in the bottom right corner, said CATHY.

She tore each note off in sequence, Marie reading each window’s message, until the sentence came in full:


An Internet Explorer tab was also open. Youtube. The song by The Who.

Written by G.J.

04/06/2014 at 11:09 am

Savage Writing: For the Long Haul

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My idea tank ran empty so I left it alone for a few weeks, and it proceeded to throw a fit and pitched four ideas at once. Be prepared for those in the coming weeks.

This week’s task was “Endurance.” Was an interesting meet, and also the last for one of the best writers in the group, so much reminiscing and sober praise was had alongside the usual revelry. This silly rant/atrocity was my contribution.



Dear Gran,

Me and Rick have been screwing nearly as much as we’ve been fighting recently, and I tell you, he’s a lot better at prolonging one of those things than the other. It’s like we’ve become trapped in a perpetual make-up sex circle, where we start sniping at each other as we put our clothes back on, then keep on bickering until it escalates into full-blown arguing, and finally at the point where we’re shouting we rip each other’s clothes off and the whole cycle begins again. I wouldn’t mind it if the good part lasted longer, but he says the tension of fighting makes him pop when it comes down to it. He must be lying, because that would mean he’s pretty much always tense (since we pretty much always fight) and I know for a fact that when he’s playing that new shootie-army game he’s the most relaxed person on his internet team. Maybe pretending to kill people is easier than dealing with me, or maybe he pretends that every ethno-terrorist he guns down is me and that’s why he’s so happy.

It’s not like we don’t spend time away from each other, don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of time where we’re geographically apart and we can’t really fight, like when one of us is at work or football or whatever. It’s just that because of technology we can always text each other mean things. Though half the time when he says something sarcastic I don’t get it because he doesn’t seem to realise that words don’t have tone and that you should always use emoticons for these kind of things, and that usually blows up in both our faces when we meet in person again because, say, he’s said “Don’t you think we have enough rice?” when we have none for dinner, and I think, “Oh, we must have some that I don’t know about, I won’t get any,” and then he gets annoyed when he’s halfway through cooking and realises I didn’t get any rice and I say it’s his own damn fault and there we go again.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to blurb all that. Jenny’s away in Australia for a few weeks and I’ve not really had anyone to talk to. I mean I couldn’t say any of that to mum now, could I? And nothing much has been happening, so fighting with Rick is all I’ve really been thinking about apart from work and the telly. The point is the only thing that happened this week was mine and Rick’s anniversary meal, and when mum phoned the night before she kept asking why I stayed with him if we’re not happy any of the time and I had to explain that no, it is a kind of happy, we are happy, we just don’t show it in the way that other people do, like by kissing in public and all that teenage stuff. I thought I’d explain to you since you’re more open-minded than she is with these things.

See, the last time I had an anniversary meal with a boyfriend it was with James, and you remember how I used to complain that he was a pushover on everything, and said we could eat wherever I wanted and bought me red roses in the morning and all that gross crap. So I was really looking forward to Rick fighting me about it, and sure enough he said he couldn’t stand Italian food and it was all a rip-off anyway, and I said I wanted atmosphere more than value for money and couldn’t he just give me my “Bella Noche” thing? I only said that to rile him up – I can’t think of anything worse than someone eating my spaghetti – and it worked a treat and we were screwing about ten minutes later. Then I said we could go for Japanese like he wanted but he said we could go Italian if I wanted and it was stupid and funny and we bickered about it again. So finally we went for Japanese and had a go at each other all the way through the meal and the people beside us and the waiters all looked at us funny. It was great.

Anyway, he said I ate my soup inefficiently because I scooped too much onto the spoon and then had to blow on it five times as I sipped it. I said if he didn’t spend a fiver a week on lottery tickets and scratch cards every week, he’d have enough money to buy that motorbike he’s always wanted by now. And he smiled for a second and looked at me and said, “You know, if you keep on winding me up like this and doing everything wrong, I might have to marry you one of these days.” And I said “Don’t you fucking dare,” but I couldn’t keep a straight face. He’d better not fucking dare, because if he asks I might have to say yes, and how the fuck would either of us manage a wedding? (Excuse my French, but really?) He knows I’m in this for the long haul. We don’t need to change (except for that one thing I mentioned before).

I know mum thinks it’s weird but you might understand. I mean, it gets really tiring sometimes, constantly pretending you’re hating each other, and trying to figure out the genuine complaints among the wind-ups, but if you’re tired then that’s what sleep is for, right? I’d rather fight constantly for a thousand years than be or be with a doormat. And everyone else is so damn genuine all the time and it’s boring. Me and Rick aren’t boring. I dared him to be sincere for half a day and he refused and said the only way he could do it is if he didn’t talk, and didn’t see me at all, and neither of us want that.

Anyway, that’s all my news for now. Give my love to Auntie Mabel and try to stick up for me to mum when she next visits. Glad to hear you’re still going strong, and don’t worry that Curly’s still humping your leg now he’s back from the vet’s – it shows neither of you are past it.

Lots of love,


Written by G.J.

29/05/2013 at 10:44 pm

Savage Writing: Fourteen

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Theme for this week is Fourteen. Am uploading this early so I can read it from here during the meet. 

Fourteen minutes past four a.m. Fourteen eyebrow hairs standing vertically as he lay asleep on the bed. An akward number, fourteen, like how it was an awkward age to be – the age where everyone had greasy hair and spots and both loved and hated the opposite sex. Fourteen, not decimal, barely divisible, only splitting into two sevens. Like when a chauvinist goes to a bar and sees two women he considers unacceptably normal-looking, and says to his friend ‘But put ’em together and you get a fourteen!’ as if he could easily convince two women that they are so unacceptable that only being together for his benefit would counteract their deficiencies.

Ten. I had decided to go out to the party. A drunken flat gathering where everyone met friends of everyone else. Ten-fifteen, I had finished two drinks and had therefore drunk enough that I could get everyone else off my back about drinking. I drank coke the rest of the night and acted loud and stupid and watched everyone else disintegrate, laughing inside, knowing that I was having fun and wouldn’t pay for it tomorrow.

Eleven. I saw him talking to a group of guys I know and dislike, and decided that he fit among them and so I shouldn’t bother to talk to him. Eleven-fifteen, we bumped into each other and he offered me a tea towel from the kitchen to wipe it up, laughing since I only managed to smear day-old pasta sauce from the towel over the coke on my t-shirt. We started complaining about messy kitchens, and kept talking about how much we hated dirt, even as he put his hand in the grease on the hob. He didn’t move it, as if he didn’t want to interrupt us, but I could tell he was shuddering inside, so I gave him the tea-towel back and we laughed about that too.

Twelve. A bunch of the crowd decided it was time to hit the clubs, and I expected him to go. We had barely moved from the kitchen the whole time. He said he was going to go with them, and I was disappointed but said okay, knowing that a man’s friends are more important than anything and that their whining always trumps a girl’s. Twelve-fifteen, I was talking to a friend when he reappeared at my side, saying he had changed his mind, that they had changed which place they were going to go to and he didn’t like that kind of club so he thought he’d stay. We talked about music for the next while.

One. People were playing drinking games, and spilling secrets. I let out that I wasn’t drinking, and no-one believed me. Thank God, he said beside me. One-fifteen, he admitted that he was glad I wasn’t talking to him just because I was drunk. A girl like me, he said, never normally talks to a guy like him. I said no but he was right.

Two. Everyone was winding down. I’d held my friend’s hair back as she puked, and put her in her bed, and since it was her party, that signalled the end. Taxis were called. “I’m going to walk home,” he said, “since I’ve no money for a taxi.” This is it, I knew. “You can share one with me,” I said. “Okay,” he said, with no indication of where he lived and whether it would be going in the right direction or not. Two-fifteen he got in the taxi with me.

Three. We lay about naked, talking about life, and people, and the kind of stereotypes you can make based on appearances, and how they’re wrong but you stick to them anyway because they seem right the majority of the time. Three-fifteen we decided we were hungry so we got up and made french toast in the kitchen, him wearing my bathrobe, still talking. We got egg everywhere and laughed about being hypocrites.

Four. He fell asleep.

Fourteen is an awkward number. I watched him sleep, and I counted every freckle he had and every mole and every stray hair in his eyebrows, until the bedside clock clicked past fourteen, and onto fifteen. Then I lay down next to him, and at four-fifteen I fell asleep in his arms.

Written by G.J.

06/02/2013 at 7:00 pm