Key In

I wedge my palms over my eyes, trying to block out the glare. The room has no comforting shadows, no dark corners. Nothing but coruscating white. Makes me think of that nightmare where I’m in a spotlight, but I don’t know my lines and can’t see the audience.

How in hell did I get here? More to the point, how do I get out?

I move my hands and look at them. My skin looks almost dusty in this light, like chocolate that’s been left in the fridge too long. Not that I see that often.

I don’t know my name, but I know I eat too much chocolate?

There’s nothing on my hands or – I touch my face – my head. But I have a feeling that there should be. Or… there was.

I try to think, but the music makes it difficult.

It’s the one feature in this blank space, and it’s a jarring one. Synthetic and repetitive. And there’s something wrong with the tune. Every so often there’s a gap. My irritated brain desperately tries fill the space. Two beats, I think. I’ve never had an ear for music – I literally don’t know ti from tea.


“Everyone knows girls are useless at games, anyway.”

“Don’t be stupid.”

“I need the computer. Go and do some cooking or something.”

“Shut up, I’m finishing this level.”

“You’ll never beat my score.”

“Already did. Why don’t you do your piano practice? Mum’ll only nag you.”


Da-ding, da-ding …………………………..  ding, da-ding da-da-ding

I recognise the tune, now. It’s from an old computer game.

I walk around, trailing my fingers along the walls. The room isn’t square. It’s sort of oblong, with a narrower section at one end – a corridor that doesn’t go anywhere.


“You need the key to get past this level.”

“Stop distracting me! What key?”

“THE key.”

“Very helpful. Go away, Aaron.”


My idiot brother. I drop to the floor, cross-legged. Key. It has lots of meanings. Keyboard keys, door keys, piano keys, answer keys, even – if you’re not bothered about spelling – dockside quays.

My shoulders shake as I start to laugh.

“Aaron, you asshole!” I say out loud. “Piano key? You know I never got past two-finger chopsticks.”

There’s no response that I can hear, but deep in my belly I can feel him laughing.

I stand and walk back to the widest part of the room. Then I wait.

Da-da-ding, da-ding, da-ding… goes the music and right there, I jump, landing feet flat on the floor, as hard as I can. The floor lurches and I’m rewarded with a dooong. Without pausing I do it again. There’s another sound and then the tinny music continues.

Did I fit the two notes into the gap?

The answer comes as the wall at the end of the narrowest part of the room slowly disintegrates until there’s nothing but blackness. It’s inviting after all this glaring white.

“Press any key to continue,” I chuckle, as I walk onto the next level.

Author’s notes

This story was written in response to a challenge to write a story in which the main character wakes up in a featureless, white room (in 500 words). Writers are often advised to avoid the cliché of starting a story with a character waking up in unfamiliar surroundings, so this was always going to be tricky to pull off with any finesse. Does it make any sense? I’m not entirely sure! This story definitely has its issues, not helped by the short word count, but I’ve left it in its original form.

© Kat Day 2018


Beasties and Ghosties and a Small Green Bear

Clunch turned away from the dusty window and jumped onto a pile of old suitcases. Swaying, she flung out her arms and jumped again, carving an arc through the air. Just as she began to fall, she caught the light cord between two paws.

With a click, the single bulb hanging from the ceiling lit up, yellow fingers pushing back the shadows that lurked behind boxes and in between stacked picture frames. Clunch dropped to the ground with a soft thump. The black eyes of the stuffed salmon in the glass case near the door twinkled. She shuddered.

“Hi wish you hwouldn’t do that,” said Nancy Blush from her usual position on the scarlet cushion on the broken chair. “Hyou know that hi dislike that borrowed light.” When Nancy had been made, electric light had been a newfangled idea, not to be trusted.

“Shut up, Nancy,” said Clunch. “Dolls should be seen and not heard.”

“All toys are supposed to be seen and not heard, you impertinent green monstrosity. You move about too much.”

“S’my job,” said Clunch. “I’m a protector. Keep the beasties and ghosties away.” And she had, once. When she’d had pride of place on Emily’s bed she’d slapped away the tentacles that crept from under the mattress, closed the wardrobe against the pale shadow that threatened to slither out.

More than once she’d wedged a paw under the bedroom door, making it stiff and difficult to open quietly.

For some monsters, that was enough.

But then Emily had grown too big to need a furry green bear, and Clunch’d been dumped in the manor house’s attic with Nancy and her habit of scattering extra ‘h’s through her sentences.

Nancy sniffed. “Hyou shouldn’t turn the light on, someone might see it and come hup here.”

“Good,” muttered Clunch, glancing at the window again. “Maybe they’ll take me away from you, you snooty old skizzle.”

“Hwhat did you call me?”

“Ssshhh,” said Clunch, ears twitching. “People!”

Both toys crumpled, all signs of life disappearing, as the attic door opened with the high-pitched whine of uncared-for hinges. A woman entered, followed by a young girl.

“Well you were right, Saffie,” said the woman, “the light is on. How strange.”

“I told you, Mum, I saw it, from outside.”

Over the years Clunch had developed a knack of falling in such a way as to allow her to see. The girl’s hair fell across her face, but it didn’t hide the purple circles under her eyes.

“Oh, look,” said the woman. “It’s Clunch! She slept on my bed every night when I was your age. What’s she doing on the floor?”

She picked up Clunch and handed her to her daughter, who stroked the soft, green head.

Clunch looked at Nancy Blush and thought that, perhaps, she saw the faintest of nods. She considered the man she’d seen through the attic window. She was a toy who protected children from monsters.

It was time to do her duty.

Author’s notes

This story was runner-up in the monthly ‘Flash Comp’ in Writers’ Forum magazine (December 2017, #194). Great, except… there was no prize money for  runner up, and the story was printed in the magazine. It was nice to see my words in print, of course, but it does mean I’ve lost first publication rights. Who knows if I could’ve sold the story but, in any case, there’s a lesson here for aspiring writers: read the terms and conditions! I didn’t pay to enter this particular competition, but there are lots of paid competitions out there that can look very appealing. It pays to check what they might do with your entry. And bear in mind that there are plenty of publishers who will read your work entirely for free. Very occasionally they’ll even pay you for it! Check out the Submissions Grinder for suggestions.

© Kat Day 2018


A little something for Christmas

The tinkle of distant bells, a thump, and someone swearing. Loudly but… oddly squeakily. James started in his chair. He’d been wrapping Christmas presents and, possibly, there had been one too many mugs of mulled wine. He was sure he’d only sat down for a moment.

“Bugger,” said a voice from the direction of the fireplace.

James blinked. Hang on, he thought, we haven’t got a fireplace.

“Hey, what happened to the TV? And who the hell are you? What the hell are you?” he asked, pushing himself out of his armchair. The space on the wall where the flat-screen TV had been had, indeed, turned into a large grate. Complete with the charcoaled remains of a log, a sprinkling of ashes, and a rather nice cast-iron surround with twiddley bits. The whole thing was three and a half feet off the ground.

On the floor underneath, brushing dust from her clothes, was a small creature wearing a long, yellow coat and a hat with a large needle pushed through it. There was something that looked like a brush stuffed through her belt, and strips of brightly-coloured cloth poked out of her pockets.

“All right, all right, keep yer hair on,” said the creature. “I’m just helping out. S’all hands on deck these days. The Big Man can’t get to every house with kiddies in it on Christmas Eve. He has to del’gate. Not just elves these days, neither. Us brownies get collared, too. Even the tooth fairies has to help out. Mind you,” she added, “that works out quite well. They bring presents for all the kiddies wot asks for money to save up for stuff.”

“Oh,” said James, looking suspiciously at his empty mulled wine mug. “That… makes sense, I suppose.”

The brownie nodded and rummaged around in the sack. She pulled out two boxes wrapped in red and green paper and peered at the labels. “Mabel and Maria,” she read, “they’re yours, right?”

James’s eyes drifted to the framed family photo on the wall. It was slightly crooked. No matter what he did, it always ended up hanging slightly crooked. He thought of the girls asleep upstairs. It would be their first Christmas without their mother. He’d been determined to make everything perfect. But now there were scraps of wrapping paper all over the table, bits of sticky tape on every surface, and he didn’t even want to think about the mess in the kitchen. He wriggled his big toe which was sticking painfully through a hole in his sock. Amelia would’ve bought him new socks. It had been a sort of joke between them. Socks as a present, always: birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, she’d even given him a new pair as a wedding gift. He sat back down in his chair, pulled off the offending sock and threw it on the floor.

“Yes,” he said.

The brownie had followed his gaze to the photo on the wall. “S’a lot to do at Christmas,” she said softly, turning back and studying him.

James nodded. It had been busy enough with two of them, in the years before. Now the mountain of jobs seemed un-scalable. “I meant to clean up,” he said, waving a hand tiredly around the room, “and maybe make some cookies. My wife always used to make cookies at Christmas.” He pulled off the other sock.

The brownie pushed Mable and Maria’s presents under the tree. “Got any milk?” she asked, thoughtfully.

“Oh, yes, I did manage milk!” said James ruefully. “Over there.” His daughter Maria had been very insistent that they had to leave a glass of milk for Santa. James had suggested that he might prefer a nice brandy, but his older daughter, Mable, had said firmly that even Santa shouldn’t drink and drive.

The brownie trotted over to the glass, sniffed it cautiously, then picked it up and downed it.

“Yum,” she said, wiping her mouth on her sleeve. “Right-ho, I’d better get going, lots more deliveries to do this evening. Y’know how it is. You get to bed. It’ll be all right, you’ll see.”

“Will it?”

“We-ell, maybe not all right,” she conceded, looking at him again. She had the eyes of a Labrador, full of warm intelligence. “That ain’t possible, really. Nothing’s perfect. And you can’t just replace wot’s missing. But people appreciate a bit of effort. There’ll be more smiles than tears, and who can ask for more than that, eh?”

James smiled, blinking away blurriness.

“Go on, now,” said the brownie, nodding at the door to the stairs. “Those girls’ll have you up early in the morning, if I’m any judge.”

“But I have to…” James looked at the paper-strewn table.

The brownie put the empty milk glass down. “Don’t you worry,” she said. “They’ll only see the tree. And then there’ll be paper everywhere anyway, right?”

James chuckled. “Right.” He looked at the wall and thought of something. “Um, you are going to fix the TV, aren’t you? I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I don’t think I’ll manage to sort out lunch without some sort of support from Pixar.”

The brownie waved a hand airily. “Don’t you worry. S’magic innit. All back to normal once I’m gone. It’s only cos you ain’t got a chimney. It was a good idea, a few years ago, using TV screens,” she added darkly, looking up at the wall, “before people started putting the bloody things half-way up the wall.”


“Oh, you weren’t to know. Right, go on, off with you to bed,” she said, making a shooing motion.

James turned obediently and put his hand on the door handle. He looked over his shoulder to see the brownie standing there, eyes twinkling in the dim light of the Christmas tree lights. She made the shooing motion again. Shaking his head, James opened the door and trudged up the stairs.


“Daddy, dadddeeeee!” The bedroom was dark, but for every bit of missing light there were seven doses of extra noise. “Dadddddeeee, it’s Christmas!” squealed Maria, jumping on the bed and landing heavily on James’s chest.

“Ooff! Be careful!”

“It’s Christmas it’s Christmas it’s Christmas get up, Daddy! There are presents! Father Christmas has been!”

“All right, all right,” said James, pulling his daughter’s unruly hair away from her face where it had become stuck to a small patch of snot. “You’ll have to get off me though, sweetie.”

“Okay,” she said obediently, rolling off and accidentally kneeing him in the side.

James swung his legs out of bed before there was any more damage. He reached for his dressing gown. “Where’s Mable?”

“She went downstairs. Hey, Daddy, did you bake cookies last night?”

James pulled on his dressing gown and headed for the stairs. “I was going to, but I ran out of time. We’ll make some lat–” he opened the kitchen door and stopped, staring. There was a huge plate of cookies on the worktop, beautifully iced with snowflake and Christmas tree patterns. Not only that, the dirty dishes he was sure he’d left in the sink had disappeared. The floor looked spotless. The stainless-steel sink gleamed. There were no crumbs anywhere.

“Good cookies, Dad,” said Mable, from behind him. She crunched. “Just like the ones Mum used to make.”

James nodded slowly and walked into the living room. Maria had darted down the stairs and was now sorting through an artfully arranged pile of presents under the tree, which looked rather more symmetrical than it had last night. The carpet looked better than it had in years, the table was clean and, when James ran his fingers over it, the wood actually smelt faintly of polish. He looked at the wall. The family photo still hung at its familiar, slightly crooked angle, and the television was where it had always been.

“Daddy, there’s a Christmas card in with the presents!” said Maria, handing him a white envelope. James turned it over. There was nothing written on the outside, but he could just make out a jolly, red Santa printed on the cardboard through the white paper. He tore it open.

Inside was printed the usual “Merry Christmas” greeting and, underneath in irregular, smudgy letters, another message.

Thanks fer the milk. I dun yer socks.

James looked down. Lying neatly over the arm of his chair were his socks, perfectly darned. He picked them up and smiled.

Somewhere, in the distance, there was a faint tinkling of bells.

Merry Christmas! xxx

© Kat Day 2017



The In Between Place

My story, The In Between Place, is now live on Daily Science Fiction – hurrah! Do go and have a read! Here’s the first paragraph…

John and I bought Katie a domino run for her eighth birthday. She and I spent all morning setting it up, lines of colored tiles all around the house. When it was done we held hands and tapped the first one, and watched as they began to topple. [read the rest]

Thank you again, lovely followers, for all your support!


I wish I could

A thud, wet and sick. Pinging sounds as gravel hits the windscreen. A crack. A scream – I don’t know if the voice is real, or an echo that’s now permanently tattooed in my mind. All the noises of a world in a slow motion. Except for the radio. The music carries on at normal speed, absurdly bright. The taste of copper and ozone. I look, wanting not to see what I know I will see. Red streaks on glass. A strand of hair.

A white bubble on the screen of my phone says “Undo Typing”.

I wish I could.

Author’s notes

This is another drabble – a 100 word piece. It came about from a prompt to write something along the theme of “wish”.

© Kat Day 2017


News: stories soon to be published!

A short update for those that follow this blog to say that I have two stories due to be published – yay!

The first is called “The In-between Place” and will be published in the online magazine Daily Science Fiction (DSF) in the near future. If you haven’t already signed up to DSF’s email service, I highly recommend it – they send you a lovely (very short!) story every single day, absolutely free.

The second is called “We Have Now” and will be published in the anthology 24 Stories. This anthology is being edited by writer, director and performer Kathy Burke and has been put together to raise money to support the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) related needs of the survivors of the Grenfell tower fire. All the proceeds are going to the Trauma Response Network (a sister charity to Trauma Aid UK). The anthology contains stories on the themes of community and hope, 12 of which are written by well-known authors, and 12 of which have been written by relative unknowns – like me!

Please support this project if you can – it’s a great cause. You can pledge here to buy a copy of the book or, if you can’t do that, you can always follow @twenty4stories on Twitter and/or share a link – the more people that hear about it the better.

Thank you, lovely readers, for all your support!


The trip of a lifetime

Dear Han and Lettie,

Having a wonderful time in E. California. It’s so different from the forest – the rocks are the colour of cinnamon and chocolate and the sky is clear and bright, like peppermints. Tomorrow I’m going to visit the local “Nut and Candy Store”. I’m sure I’ll find some lovely knick-knacks to bring back. Maybe something pretty for the gables. I hope there’s air-conditioning. The heat here is ferocious. They say that if you crack an egg into a pan and leave it in the sun, it will cook. I can believe it – the ground is so hot it’s like a stovetop. It’s tough on my old bones! Thanks again for spending some of your windfall on little me – it’s been the trip of a lifetime,

Baba Rosina x

Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley

P.S. Look after the cottage, darlings, don’t eat me out of house and home!

Author’s notes

This piece came from this idea: What if Hansel and Gretel didn’t so much as push the witch into an oven, as send her away to one? All the places mentioned – the Nut and Candy store, Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley – are real locations. The witch’s name is an amalgam of the old “Baba Yaga” myths and Rosina Leckermaul, from the Engelbert Humperdink opera. 

© Kat Day 2017