Fiction: Selections from Ben Coppin
Ticket to Ride
As the woman behind the window slid me my ticket, I felt Charlie’s eyes on me. Perfect timing, as ever. I’d been counting on it.
“Join me for a farewell coffee?” he said, smirking. “Old times’ sake?”
“Why not,” I said. “Ten minutes til the bus goes.”
“Stay on it until the end of the line, if I were you,” Charlie said, sipping his coffee. “Town’s too small for the two of us.”
“The deal with Louie happens in an hour. I’ll be there, and you’ll be...” He waved vaguely towards the line of buses. “Wherever.”
This was the big one. The handshake that would determine who could supply heroin to the town’s dealers. It was me or Charlie. Or it had been, until now.
I opened my eyes wide, looking past his left shoulder.
He turned his head to follow my gaze. Just a second. Long enough.
“No hard feelings,” Charlie said. “Now Louie’s in town, things are going to be different. We both know it.”
“That’s right, Charlie,” I said. His eyes were drooping.
“Jusht, just be sure—” He couldn’t finish the thought. His head slumped, landing next to his doped coffee.
“Help me with my friend?” I asked the waiter. “He’s not well.”
Together we half walked, half dragged Charlie to the bus and sat him at the back.
I checked my watch. Half an hour.
“Like you said Charlie,” I told him, putting the ticket between his thumb and forefinger. “No hard feelings.”
This date was working out no better than the rest. He could almost taste her disdain.
“It’s been a lovely meal,” she said, eyes remote. “Perhaps we’ll meet again.”
He sighed and managed a silent nod.
“Which way...?” she asked. He pointed.
He headed to the manufactory for one last try.
He noticed a setting on the machine he had not seen before: “Something new”. Why not?
After five minutes, the machine beeped: the manufacturing process was complete. He swung the hatch open, and stared. Tentacles? That was certainly new. He shrugged. He had a good feeling about this one.
The Sailor with the Far-Away Eyes
As a child, I had a strange fascination with the sailor with the far-away eyes. My mother did not trust him: he’d lost his soul to fairy-wine, she’d say.
Nevertheless, the day he beckoned me into his lonely shack for a drink, I barely hesitated. The first sip of wine made me dizzy. But by the time I’d finished the glass, the world had changed.
He and I are the only ones who see the world as it truly is, the sailor tells me. But now my mother’s eyes are cloudy; I strain to hear her words, so far away.
Ben Coppin lives in Ely in the UK with his wife and two teenage children. He works for one of the big tech companies. He's had a textbook on artificial intelligence published, as well as a number of short stories, mostly science fiction, but also horror, fairy tales and other things.