The fear comes in the morning, even before the sun’s rays have had chance to warm the room. The cold feeling in his stomach as he wakes, a full three hours before the alarm is due, and unable to rest again as his mind is taken over by the threat of the day.

He knew he should just leave, move on, but it was never that easy. Never easy to get out of a situation when the next one might be worse. And besides, if he stayed as he was, and continued to complain, he knew his place in life as a martyr, a complainant, and the voice from the sidelines.

The one who sighs.

As usual, it was the sigh that woke Maggie. She turned to stare at him, bleary eyed and no longer sympathetic from the daily alarm call.

“Just.. go back to sleep.”

He didn’t reply. There was no point – how could he explain, other than it was the weight of the world that pressured his breathing.

The day ahead was still to come. Friday. The challenge of work, then, was nearly over for the week. But the weekend wasn’t long enough, and besides, that brought its own feeling. He considered everything, and ran to the bathroom to be sick.

The sky was still grey, but he could see without putting on the light. In some ways a relief. In others… admission that sleep had escaped. Early morning seemed odd, the half light between the full darkness of the night and the sun rising. Not that he’s see it through the bathroom window – it faced the wrong direction. IT always seemed like the entire house faced in the wrong direction, there was no sunrise, no sunset, and just the coldness of the wind on the wall of the bedroom. But the house had seemed a good idea at the time. And it was too difficult to change.

A cough brought nothing up, to start with. More emptyness. A pain all across his chest. It had been getting worse this last week. Should see the doctor, he supposed, but he’d started on the fags again, and the whisky was noticibly down, and somehow it didn’t seem the right time to get an appointment. Besides, he’d have to wait a week and he could be feeling fine by then. Or be dead. Either way, it wouldn’t matter any more, so why waste their time?

Another cough. This one seemed more contageous, shaking his entire body. Bloody fags.

Gwen Penguin And The Fear

One upon a time there was a little Penguin called Gwen, who lived in an icy lair next to the other penguins.

Gwen Penguin liked nothing more than to lock herself inside, away from all of the outside world. It was scary being a penguin!

One day, Gwen Penguin was cowering in the corner when she heard a knock at her door.

“What’s that?!” thought Gwen Penguin. “There must be something wrong.”

Gwen Penguin hunched herself up, and tried to hide under an old copy of Escalope, the Penguin’s Periodical. It was no good, and her beak cut through the cheap pages.

“Its only me” said Gwen Penguin’s mother, coming in to look at Gwen Penguin.

“And me!” said her father.

“I might have known,” said Gwen Penguin, with a heavy sigh. “Please try to be quiet. The noise frightens me,” she said, with a particularly beaky quack.

“We’re just off to get some seaweed for tea. We wondered if you’d like to come” said Gwen Penguin’s parents.

“No thank you. I’m going to stay here. I prefer a simple life.”

“Suit yourself” said Gwen Penguin’s parents, who left the lair, shutting the door behind them. And with that, Gwen Penguin put a blanket over her head and pretended that the world didn’t exist.

For a little while, all was well, and the world played along with the game. Until suddenly, Gwen Penguin was startled again, as she heard a knock on the window.

“Gwen. Gwen! Are you there?”

“Come out and play.”

It was Henry and Susan Penguins.

“No. I’m hiding from the world.”


But Gwen Penguin said no, and then sat under the bed, so that no-one would be able to see her.

As she sat under the bed, Gwen Penguin noticed a spider crawling across the floor.

“Help” she squeaked. “I don’t like spiders.”

The spider looked at her, and stopped.

“Why are you afriad, little Penguin?” asked the spider. “I won’t do you any harm. I just want to spin a beautiful web.” And with that, the spider made the most beautiful web that ever a spider had created.

“That’s a lovely web”, thought Gwen Penguin. But she didn’t like to tell the spider, in case it came near her.

A little while later, Gwen Penguin heard singing outside.

“Come outside and play,

in the ice and snow

its fun out here

no need to fear

and so many places to go”

Looking out of the window, Gwen Penguin saw that Henry and Susan had returned, with Colin Penguin, whose idea of leading the bass had been to bring a fish on a string.

“Come on Gwen Penguin. We’d like you to play in the ice with us” said Colin Penguin, skidding about as he released his new fishy friend back into a hole in the ice.

“Don’t be scared. We’re your friends.”

“And look. You’ve got a new friend.”

Gwen Penguin looked, and saw that there was the spider, standing next to her Penguin friends. And, behind them, the spider had made an enormous web trampoline.

“Come on, Gwen Penguin. You spider friend wanted to make you a tramopline, so that you would come and play, and not be scared.”

“Yes!” said Gwen Penguin. The other Penguins were her friends – and so was the spider. She would have a nice time playing with them, and maybe they’d even be able to do a little more singing.

When Gwen Penguin’s parents arrived home, they saw Gwen Penguin and her friends laughing and jumping up and down on the trampoline. The smiled at her, and she waved back. “I’m not scared now” shouted Gwen Penguin. “Hurray for my friends!”