The entries in the journal had stopped over a week ago. Carl knew that he hadn’t long to find his missing person or else it could happen all over again. It should have been a straightforward case, the kind he dealt with all the time, only this one felt wrong. Failure had visited Carl too often in his life, but he was determined to break the pattern. He knew the consequences could be disastrous if he didn’t. Sifting through the box he dug out another memory at random.

2000. “Dear Diary…”

2001. “Dear Diary…”

2002. “Dear Diary…”

It wasn’t exactly War and Peace, but it was proof of an existence. Then nothing for five years. Carl rubbed his forehead, felt the pain behind his eyes and knew he was getting too close to it again, too personal. It happened sometimes. It was late, he was tired, he had drunk too much. He reached for the bottle of Scotch. Somehow it slipped through his fingers. He tried once more only to find he had trouble focusing. He desperately needed to rest and wondered if his mind would allow him. He stumbled backwards, tripped and fell. The bed was somewhere behind him, yet it seemed like years until he hit it. His eyes rolled a little as he fought the battle to sleep. He must hurry up and find him. He must find him soon.

“Never heard of him.”

“It’s a photograph.”

“Never seen him, either,” Jimmy sneered.

Everyone was a smart-alec these days. Carl blamed TV. “You were at school together.”


“You must remember.” Carl looked at the dead eyes in front of him and knew his question was in vain. He picked the photograph up from the table, carefully stored it in his pocket and went to leave.

Jimmy’s hand caught the sleeve of Carl’s coat. “You drag me all the way down here for that?”

Carl looked at his contact questioningly. “I paid you for your time.”

“Not enough.”

“More than enough for what you told me.” Carl shook his arm free and made his way to the toilets. As soon as the door closed behind him, he knew it was a mistake. A small, enclosed, silent, space. The door re-opened. Carl bolted for a cubicle and tried to lock it shut. He was too late. The lavatory door slammed into his face knocking him backwards. Jimmy loomed over him.

“Now are you going to pay me?”

“No.” Carl knew what the answer meant. Taking a beating was all part of the dirty game.

It wasn’t a particularly savage encounter, but dabbing the cuts and bruises that night Carl realized that he barely felt them anymore. It was a bad sign. The worst of it was it had cost him the best part of an evening, which could prove fatal in the long run. He looked in the mirror, swabbed and remembered the first time.

“What do you mean?” Staddon’s voice erupted across the classroom.

“I’m just…”

“You’re just what?”

Silence was usually safer, but the way Staddon marched towards him, Carl knew that he had to answer. “I’m just not sure, sir.”

Staddon reached Carl. It was as if the boy had been cast adrift from the rest of the class. The teacher stood barely two feet in front of him. Heads in the classroom swiveled to focus on the eye of the storm. Did they really believe? All of them? Was he the only one who doubted?

“You’re not sure?” It was barely a whisper. When Staddon whispered it meant real trouble.

Carl braced himself for the blow. It never came. Staddon wanted an answer first. “I suppose what I mean, sir, is how do you know?”

Staddon’s eyes blazed with the glow of certainty. He grasped Carl’s hair and yanked it until the boy was forced to look at the crucifix nailed above the teacher’s desk at the front of the class.

“I have faith, boy. I do not doubt. I believe. Do you believe, Watts?”

“Yes, sir.” Carl was shaking.

“You lie to me, boy. I know you don’t, for if you truly believe, if you desire strongly enough, anything is possible. What is possible?”

“Anything, sir,” echoed the class in unison.

“I want to believe, sir.”

Staddon let go of Carl’s ear. He marched back to his desk and sat down. “Do you hear that, boys? Mr. Watts wants to believe. Do you know what I think? I think he needs help. Would you care to help him, boys?”

Like a chorus the class chimed, “Yes, sir.”

Carl sat down with dread in his heart and waited agonizingly for break-time.

Complete story available in the print edition of Big Pulp Winter 2010



Tony Haynes recently sold his first short story to the e-zine Romance Stories Magazine. He also has sold a sports story to Midnight Showcase Fiction, for a short story anthology anticipated in Spring 2011, and a science fiction tale to Short Story Me. Earlier, he had a handful of stories printed in the University of Plymouth magazine as an undergraduate and two articles published in local newspapers as a freelance.

For more of Tony's work,
visit his Big Pulp author page


This feature and more great
fiction & poetry are available in
Big Pulp Winter 2010:
Ted Bundy's Beetle

Purchase books and subscriptions
in the Big Pulp book store!



Purchase books and subscriptions
in the Big Pulp book store!


Store ø Blog ø Authors ø Supporters ø Submissions ø About ø Exter Press ø Home
Art gallery ø Movies ø Fantasy ø Mystery ø Adventure ø Horror ø Science Fiction ø Romance

All fiction, poems and artwork © the authors. Big Pulp © 2012 Exter Press