The Scramble for Stories | Article

Everyone loves a good mystery. Where we used to gather around campfires, now we cluster around flatscreen televisions or curl up with our Kindles. Stories are how we approach liminal spaces within our psyches, with conjecture, narrative, and counter-narrative serving to titillate and inform.

Society’s appetite for stories is so overwhelming that we forget that their retelling is sometimes invasive. During the disappearance of Nicola Bulley near the River Wyre in January 2023, people flocked to the area to take selfies and to carry out their own investigations. Sky and ITV approached Bulley’s family after a body was found, despite their express wish for privacy[1].

It is tempting to link such exploitative behaviour and the prioritisation of story over protagonist to modern mediums such as TikTok and YouTube. However, long before electronic media made communicating a matter of moving our thumbs across mobile phones, stories were shared via word of mouth, over wirelesses, and in print.

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Wean’s Crabbit | Short Story

Wean’s crabbit. Wee pudge-balled fists fleein’ every which way, from side a crib to gummy mooth, scrunched eye socket to ma maw’s knitted blankit. Slevers and tears smeared across those ragin’-red cheeks.

Teethin’ sae he is. Ma pinky gaes in for a sook, but it’s naw what he’s wahntin’. That foot in the onesie’s fair workin’ as well, fat wee knee shudderin’ wi’ ev’ry stomp.

Liftin’ him oot his crib, the blenkit near enough comes wi’ him. The wean turns, mouths, but yeh’ve nae luck son – yer da’s got nothin’ for you. Sook all ye want. Aye, cry then, wee man, scream the hoose down. Wake the dug, the neighbours, a’body, why not? Fat lot of good it’ll dae ye.

We’re stuck here together, ye and me baith, son, in the box room before break a day, each as much use te yun another as tits on a bull.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Image courtesy of Doug8888 on Flickr. My recent short stories include ‘Frost and Fight’ and ‘The Dead Don’t Moan’.

Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, Best MicroFiction 2021, Writer’s Egg, Idle Ink, The Wild Word, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at and tweets at

HMS Cleopatra | Short Story | Part Four

Read part one here…

Read part two here…

Read part three here…

The sound of rolling glass permeated Bligh’s slumber and he woke slowly to the smell of rot and dampness. Looking down from his repose, he saw an empty olive-green rum bottle rolling from beneath the surgeon’s desk and under a hammock occupied by Harper. The young topman lay sleeping and, judging by the rum fumes emanating from him, was well sedated. From what he could see of the boy’s ankles, Bligh did not think that the boy would ever again climb rigging. On top of the table lay slouched the surgeon himself, drunk. Bligh sighed and looked around him. As a place of well-being and recuperation, the sick bay of the Cleopatra left a lot to be desired. Situated in the aft part of the lower deck, there was little light and even less fresh air. Bligh took a moment to wonder why surgeons, always lecturing about how bad airs contributed to disease, were put to work in one of the dankest, dingiest parts of the ship.

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HMS Cleopatra | Short Story | Part Three

Read part one here…

Read part two here…

The scene that enveloped Bligh as he reached the deck was staggering in scale. Screams and shouts issued a group of women who were being forced to the hammock nettings of the ship by marines at bayonet point. Herded together like a writhing ball of herring, Bligh wondered at just how many had come aboard since the ship had anchored. Curses and threats rained down from the wives and prostitutes, more than a few of whom were spitting and clawing at the marines. These were dockyard women; scarred, calloused, and capable of defending themselves.

Standing serenely on the poopdeck and supremely unconcerned by the tumult beneath him was Captain Cowan. A mass of seamen were gathered opposite the pressed women on the main deck, held at bay either by the marines or by the force of their Captain’s will.  Men who had grumbled and muttered at Acheson’s flogging a few days earlier were now dangerously close to open sedition. Glares of fierce hostility were directed up at the poop deck and fists were clenched in anger at the treatment of the women.

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2020: Reflection

As a subdued Hogmanay draws to a close here in Scotland I thought I’d drop a line to say thanks to all my friends here on WordPress (I can’t abide the term ‘followers’ – there’s something far too messianic about the implied relationship!). I’m fortunate enough that after two and a half years of blogging my short stories and updates on the progress of my doctorate, I’ve met and engaged with some wonderful writers.

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Bar Creep | Short Story

The girl had been pleasant enough, but only just enough. She had returned Stewie’s attempts at conversation with disinterest, doubtless cataloguing his harmless chatter as just another sleazy old man’s attempt to chat up a student.

Stewie had patter; he had stories that would make the girl and her friends’ university pranks seem small time, but the teenager’s body language spoke louder than her clipped words. Stewie returned to the warm dregs of his pint as the girl took a call on her mobile. Jackie, the barmaid, was in the back, slapping the top of the CCTV monitor in an attempt to force it into showing a picture before the night’s rush began. As he watched her increasingly violent efforts, it occurred to Stewie to wonder what the pictures would show.

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