Brit Grit Alley

Brit Grit Alley features interviews, news and updates on what's happening down British crime fiction's booze and blood soaked alleyways.

By Paul D. Brazill 

This week down Brit Grit Alley, I give you a slice of Brit Grit flash fiction.

Life On Mars? by Paul D. Brazill

Jed waited until he heard the door slam. Then he crawled over to the side of the bed and attempted to sit up. The room jolted as he moved. He took a deep breath and waited a few minutes before trying again. A cold worm of sweat crawled down his spine. His body prickled. Acid gurgled in his stomach.

It was Saturday.

He eased himself up. It would be a good hour before Niki came back; she always did a tour of the charity shops on Saturday mornings, looking out for those old paperback books that she’d collected for as long as he’d known her.

He opened his eyes, took another deep breath and then stumbled out onto the landing.

First stop was the bathroom. He wobbled onto his knees and held onto the toilet bowl as the bile burnt its way out of him. Tears poured from his red eyes. He held onto the sink, eased himself up, and then rubbed his face with a cold flannel. He crept downstairs.

There wasn’t a great deal of debris from the previous night’s party; Niki had obviously tidied up a little as the night went on. But there was enough to suit Jed’s needs.

At the end of the night, before he’d gotten too drunk, he’d tried to remember to leave something in the bottom of each can of cider before opening a new one. Then he’d left them strategically around the front room, ready for the next morning’s pick me up.

Over the next few minutes, he downed the dregs of each can; simultaneously gagging and smiling to himself as he felt the hangover slowly edging away.

He sat down on the sofa and picked up an almost full bottle of blue coloured WKD from the coffee table. He remembered Niki chastising him for buying ‘that chav crap,’ saying that the chemicals in it were probably even more lethal than the vodka they were mixed with. He had to admit, it was pretty disgusting, but it would do the trick and keep tomorrow’s shakes and horrors at bay.

A glance at the clock and Jed hurried himself. He picked up a glass and the bottle of WKD. He headed upstairs, taking two at a time, tripping and farting as he went.

The bathroom smelled of puke so he opened a window and sat on the toilet. He pissed and picked up the bottle. He had a sip and poured the booze into the glass. Then he carefully filled the empty WKD bottle with the blue mouthwash that he kept near the sink. He washed the bottle out and filled it with the booze from the glass; it looked pretty much identical.

That would help him get through tomorrow morning. He took the bottle downstairs, yawned and trudged back to the bedroom.

A warm, womb-like feeling crept over him as he went back to bed. Just before he sank into the quicksand of sleep, he thought he heard the front door open.


Cutter had known it was Jed from the moment he’d first clapped eyes on him. Mind you, he’d changed a bit over the twenty-odd years since he’d last seen him; he looked well respectable now, though, what with his linen shirts, sandals, Oxford don specs. But that weird walk was distinctive. It could only have been him. Little heel clicks like a Gestapo officer. That was Jed Bramble to a tee.

When they were teenagers, Jed and Cutter were a team. The first Clockwork Orange skinheads in town. They had a right old laugh, too. Especially on Friday nights, after they got kicked out of the Youth Club.

They’d started off smashing up phone boxes, putting in the Paki shop windows, tripping up pensioners. Beating up the odd tramp that was asleep in a bus shelter. And just after midnight, they kicked the shit out of the two old donkeys that were tethered up in the graveyard. Until one of them went blind and the other died.

They had to up the ante, though. Raise the stakes. Which was where the old puff came in. They got a lot of laughs out of him. He always let them into his house, hoping for a feel, probably. They’d drink his crap sherry and smash a few of his antiques, slap him about a bit and then piss off home. But that got boring, too.

Then, one night, they tried to use a fountain pen to take a big lump of wax out of one of the old puff’s ears. Hacky they were. And he was squealing as they did it. He wouldn’t stop. Annoying, it was. Cutter lost his rag and slammed the pen hard, deep into the eardrum and the old bloke collapsed, blood trickling out. Jed freaked out. So they grabbed his wallet and burnt the place down.

Cutter didn’t see much of Jed after that and then Jed’s family moved somewhere down south. He saw him in the local paper once, though, getting his degree from some posh university. And that had been that.

A few years later, Cutter went inside for GBH and met up with Beetle Bailey, a bloke that was doing time for stabbing a blind man and setting fire to his guide dog. They had a cracking time in the nick. Plenty of pills, home-made booze and ‘pets’.

When Cutter eventually got out, the probation sent him down south, since none of his family wanted anything to do with him. His home town was off limits, they said.

The half-way house where he lived was a shithole, though. Worse than prison. But seeing Jed the other week gave him an opportunity. A way out.

So, he’d started following him. Learned his habits. Found out where he lived. Where he hid the spare key.

And today, he’d waited until Niki had left home and headed off toward the park. Then Cutter had walked towards the house and let himself in.


Niki soaked up the sun as she strolled down the high street, a couple of vintage paperbacks stuffed under her arm. She’d been to the deli, too, and picked up some organic sausages and some cactus juice for breakfast. She swung the canvas shopping bag as she strolled into the park. It was a golden autumn morning.

She spotted a couple of the men from the halfway house sat on a bench, smoking roll ups. She nodded to them and gave a weak smile. They sat there every day watching the world go by. People usually gave them the cold shoulder but she thought they were harmless enough. Well, apart from the one with the pony tail and the bushy moustache. He gave Niki the evil eye whenever she saw him. But he wasn’t there now and Niki felt relieved, for some reason.

And, again, she counted her blessings. The kids were doing well at University; Jed and her had good jobs and were in good health. They had a nice house, in a nice area.

Not for the first time, Niki felt that the world was a benevolent place. That she was at one with the universe. That the stars and the planets had aligned to make her … a lucky woman. A contented woman.

The sense of well-being stayed with her as she walked home and she only shuddered briefly when she walked up the garden path and saw that the front door was wide open.

The End.

Life On Mars? first appeared in the anthology OFF THE RECORD, edited by LUCA VESTE.

  There'll be more carryings on down Brit Grit Alley very soon, sorta kinda thing, like.

Paul D. Brazill is the author of A Case Of Noir,Guns Of Brixton and The Neon Boneyard. He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, Finnish, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste. His blog is here.