More Betterer

More Betterer

by Marco Smith ©2017

What does he mean? The man who’s name I don’t recall at present; I’ll call him Henchman Number Two, has described this particular implement as ‘more betterer’ than the one I had elected to use. Despite his poor English skills, I of course managed to understand the point he meant was that this one was better than that one. The question remains however, in what way does he believe it to be better?
I picked up the proffered tool for a closer inspection of the most impressive engineering. In the mirror-like surface of the highly polished stainless steel, the distorted reflection of the dim basement lighting could be seen gently swinging behind my head. Each time the diminishing arc approached stillness the rumble of a passing train would set it in motion once again. The handle felt good in my hand. A well-developed shape to give a comfortable sure grip. Just the thing for such a dangerous instrument. The lightweight body was perfectly balanced and very professional, as though it was a tactile extension of my arm. One obvious point which stood out to me was the sawtooth pattern of a design I hadn’t encountered before. An image flashed into my mind of the efficient ferocity contained within the mouth of a Great White Shark. I began to wonder about my first impression of Number Two. Maybe the knowledge trapped inside him far surpassed the level he was able to express. A muffled protest from the subject brought me back into the room.

‘I’m sorry, but I can’t at present recall your name?’

‘Me name be Jed, sir,’ offered Number Two.

‘Of course! I remember now. My apologies, Jed. May I ask what it is about this which makes you think it is better than the one I chose?’

‘Err, it be makin’ ‘im scream more. Makes yer skin crawl it does.’ Replied Jed.

‘I see, well let’s put it to the test, shall we?’ I said, motioning for Jed to join me at the table.

The table has an all stainless steel construction, incorporating an all round channel for the collection and disposal of bodily fluids. A standard item that you might find employed by a pathologist in your local morgue. With one exception: this one has restraints. Taken from a psychiatric ward bed, the restraints prevent the subject from flailing around in a desperate attempt to escape. The subject remains held firmly in place by the strong leather construction, regardless of duration or ferocity of the struggle. 

‘The information given to me, Jed, is that Mr. Shaw here has been very uncooperative indeed, so far. Despite your best efforts we still don’t have the location of the key. This is the reason why our employer has called me in, as I posses significant expertise in information extraction. Having said that, your opinion has me intrigued, and I am quite open to the possibility of there being some truth in what you say. Although, I am seldom wrong.’

A rattle and creaking of leather accompanied by muffled cries gave an indication that Mr. Shaw obviously didn’t approve of our conversation.

‘It’s a shame there isn’t such an invention as a “Screamometer”, it would certainly take the subjectiveness out of play,’ I joked. Either my joke was in bad taste, or Jed was too simple to understand, because his dull stare remained unaltered.

‘Let’s begin, shall we?’ I announced.

Next to the table on the instrument tray lay the two surgical saws. I elected to first use my own tried and trusted saw. Admittedly, the teeth appeared to be far less intimidating than those protruding from Jed’s fearsome blade. The subject caught sight of it and began to struggle with a renewed vigour. Terror does incredible things to a man. This man had already felt the steely bite from the hand of Jed, but the sight of my blade added something new to his eyes. 

I laid the tips of my saw against the sweating and shaking skin of Mr. Shaw. His forehead to be precise: an area of extreme sensitivity to pain. Drawing it backwards in a slow drawn-out stroke released a terrible muffled scream from the resistant fool. Duck tape really does an excellent job when placed over somebody’s mouth. It’s much akin to a trumpet mute. Although, the notes produced by this horn were drastically out of tune.

As I reached for the Blade of Jed, the sudden realisation of my preoccupation with this comparison game hit me like a bucket of cold water to the face. I had forgotten the whole purpose of this torturous event and neglected to even ask the poor Mr. Shaw one single question. To interrupt the flow of my experiment now would be sure to affect the result, better just carry on, I thought.

Again the feel of Jed’s saw was sublime in my hand: I began to covet it. I laid the shark tooth like tangs upon his head and slowly drew it towards me. The coarseness caused blood to spurt in misty clouds as though peeling a ripened tangerine. A truly blood curdling scream ventured forth from behind the taped mute. 

‘Well I’ll be damned!’ I exclaimed, to both Jed’s and my surprise. ‘I stand corrected, my dear Jed. I do agree: this beautiful steel is indeed more betterer!’




by Marco Smith ©2017

Lucas Trotman strolled down the sidewalk in his hometown of Newhaven with a confident bounce in his step. To look at him was to see a well groomed, successful individual, a fully paid up member of society. His neatly pressed suit of the highest craftsmanship emanated a sense of strength and dependability to all who witnessed him passing by. The icing on the cake was his detective shield worn proudly on his breast, glinting in the sun, shining as a beacon of hope and justice. 

Detective Trotman, the pride of the department with a flawless record, walked the same route every morning. Seven short blocks through the centre of town, friendly morning greetings from his fellow Newhaveners abounded from every doorway. Main Street was filled with all kinds of shops, from Atkins the butcher through to Zooville the town pet shop. Lucas was making a little detour this morning however, as today was a special day, his birthday. 

As traditions usually dictate, Newhaven PD celebrated birthdays in much the same way as the rest of the working world. Detective Trotman had decided to pay a visit to the fancy new French patisserie. He bought a large selection of their finest cakes and pastry treats for his fellow officers. The Caramel Heaven donut stood out in the centre of the tray. Lucas coveted that donut above all the others, that one was his. The rest of his walk was a little slower as dropping this small fortune of deliciousness would really put a dampener on his mood.

Officer Mindy Parks greeted him with a beaming smile from behind the front desk of the station as he entered carrying his catch of the day. Catching sight of the Caramel Heaven donut, Mindy’s heart skipped and a desire grew within her as the already wide smile threatened to split her face in two. Forgetting all about the phone call she was involved in, Mindy followed the tray of sweet heaven through to the back office.

‘Happy Birthday to me’, Lucas announced to the morning shift. ‘I’ve brought some treats in for us all to share’.

As soon as had he put the tray down in the canteen area, a flock of sugar magpies had descended vying for a piece of cake. Mindy was homing in on the Caramel Heaven, her eyes set on her prey. Lucas feared that his choice of birthday treat would disappear in the throng so took steps to ensure its safety. The hawk vision of Mindy was shocked to see a claw swoop down and grasp her prize from right under her nose before she could reach it. She watched in horror as the thief devoured it mercilessly. In the hate filled eyes of Mindy, the Detective had just installed a grapnel into his soul, the line of which was firmly jammed in the fast-track escalator to hell.  

One Leg Oleg

One Leg Oleg

by Marco Smith ©2017

Part of the Flash Fiction Train on

Tumbling through the snow alongside a speeding train was not how his day was supposed to be turning out. Breathing had become a big challenge. That fall onto the frozen ground had ironically felt like a train had hit him from behind. The natural rhythm of his lungs was now as frigid as his surroundings. Drifting snow had offered some amnesty from the blunt force trauma normally inflicted in these types of fall, but not nearly enough. Falling into snow for most people is usually fun, but on this occasion snow angels were not on the agenda. Not that Oleg was a snow angel kind of guy. Not many international terrorists have the inclination nor frankly the time for such frivolities. Nevertheless, the impact was both blunt and forceful. Normal service resumed at snails pace as Oleg’s battered body percolated the air through his bloody nose and mouth.

Oxygen once more flooded his system, that suffocating sensation subsiding with each snatched breath. His concussed brain returned to processing information from his nervous system. Something didn’t feel quite right. It was glaringly obvious that things were far from right, he had just been thrown from a moving train after all. Anxiety took hold as Oleg forced himself to look down his body. His leg was gone! Neatly sliced off just above the left knee. Weirdly he could still feel the tightness of his combat boot. His left foot was the larger of the two, so was always a bit of a squeeze in footwear.

That was the moment it kicked in, the searing white hot pain. It felt as though some unknown force had taken a rusty old saw to his leg, and with vigour set to work hacking through his flesh. That was what his brain was telling him, but the reality was more like a surgical procedure had been performed without anaesthetic. The scalpel in this situation was the wheel of the train with hundreds of tons of weight bearing down on it as it flashed through his leg. The sight of his own blood spurting out, turning the snow into a horrific version of an appetising fruity refreshment, was enough to snap him firmly back to the severity of his situation. He was going to die! That was the stark reality, unless he could find a way to stop his vital fluid redecorating the railway embankment. His military training kicked in, and he whipped off his belt. Using it as a makeshift tourniquet, Oleg managed to stop the crimson flow. The train was long gone, an agency clean up crew would arrive on the scene in no time at all. He needed to move, now!

The pain numbing chemical, adrenaline, which masked the initial trauma was totally ineffective now. Delirious from blood loss Oleg cried out in agony. How he wished for a pretty nurse he could call to his bedside to administer some morphine, although a track bed doesn’t have a nurses station down the hall waiting for patients to press their call button. An icy gust of wind, heavy with snow, blasted his face pulling him back into the real world. He recoiled in shock, half expecting to have to defend himself from an invisible attack. Surveying the area, Oleg realised he was alone in a large patch of red snow. He noticed a sheltered banking not far away, and began the agonising crawl. His strength was dwindling, and shock setting in. Death wasn’t imminent, but to survive he realised help was needed. Evasion of capture would not be possible. The trail of blood would reveal his location regardless of any attempts to conceal his tracks.

He still had the tracker, maybe he could hide it nearby, and somehow get a message to his comrades of where it could be found. He fished it out of his pocket. It was small, easy to conceal in a suitable location. His concentration was dwindling, his mind drifting. Oleg washed his face with a handful of snow attempting to clear his head. He spotted a metal signal control box at the side of the track not too far away, the door of which was slightly ajar. He crawled over, and deposited the tracking device through the crack of the door. In the back of his mind this location was tagged, and stored for later retrieval. With his remaining strength he made for the shelter of the embankment. Maybe he could have lit a fire to keep warm, but in fact all that Oleg could manage was to slump against the dirt wall, and light a cigarette. ‘MI6 will be here soon’, he thought as he drifted into blackness.


This story is a part of a collaborative chain of flash fiction stories. Resources and links are available in the master post here:

Flash Fiction Train on

Thirty Thousand

by Marco Smith ©2017

“Mamma mia!”

Franco, on the fifth floor of the linguistics building, was talking to himself. The abstract concept most people referred to as ‘time’ had once again ticked around to 3am and Doctor Lingo, as his colleagues had christened him, was always alone when he worked so late. He was obsessed with his work. He lived and breathed it. Even when not technically at work his mind would be working on the problems renting space in his cerebrum. He was the foremost professor of linguistic science in the world and just a moment ago he had a moment of pure clarity. For years Franco, along with the rest of the human race, had dreamt of understanding what it was that the other beings sharing our planet talked about. More specifically, dolphins. It had long been common knowledge that dolphins talked to each other using a series of clicks. The problem was that nobody had succeeded in translating their language…until 2:58 this very morning.

Effervescent with excitement, Franco had to tell someone! He grabbed his phone to call his partner who had rather sensibly left the office over eight hours ago. Steven would almost certainly be asleep at this ungodly hour but Franco dialled the number regardless. The heralding of this quantum leap forward was surely a sufficient excuse to prod the sleeping bear.

“Brrrrrrrr……Brrrrrrrr……Brrrrrrrr……Brrrrrrrr……Hi, you’re through to the voicemail of Professor Steven Bur…”

Doctor Lingo hung up. Evidently the bear was sleeping too soundly. Undeterred, Franco flipped open his laptop and began in earnest to pen an email to Steven. An email that would surely be marked in the annals of history.

To: Prof. S. Burton
From: Me
Subject: Don’t choke on your breakfast!

Hi Steve,

I have had the most eventful night since that night we don’t speak of. I don’t want to be too presumptuous but I think I’ve done it. I need you to look over my results, get here as soon as you can my friend.

I was reading an old book about language and the term ‘Pasigraphy’ popped off the page. It’s the principal of a universal language using symbolism to confer meaning instead of words. I had a eureka moment. It suddenly occurred to me that dolphins were not using words at all. I started thinking along the lines that maybe, just maybe, they use a dolphin sonar WiFi system to send each other symbolic gestures directly into the visual cortex. After all they use sonar to build a picture of their surroundings by reading their own echo, so it’s not beyond possible for them to send a definitive ‘echo’ to the whole pod or directly focus it to another individual.

I fed the data from recorded transmissions into an image processor instead of into the language processor we have been using. The output was just garbage at first, but with a few adjustments to the syntax, the software started to make real progress. A relatively short time later and there it was, the first sonogram translated from a dolphin call filled the screen in exquisite detail. It was impeccably precise in every dimension with a superb fidelity of resolution. My conclusion therefore is that dolphins indeed have an extensive vocabulary. Analysis of the sonogram library was done by the computer which has extrapolated fifteen symbols for verbs. The rest of the language it has approximated to be a very large number, perhaps as high as thirty thousand symbols, all of which the computer has individually classified but assigned to one single group definition. It reads as follows:


–noun, plural (especially collectively)

  1. any of various cold-blooded, aquatic vertebrates, having gills,
    commonly fins, and typically an elongated body covered with scales.

Franco Lingo
Professor of Linguistic Science