Imposter Syndrome

“Who are you?”
“You know who I am.”
“No, I know who you say you are, but you’re not.”
“How do you know I’m not who I say I am?”
“Because I don’t know you.”
“Ah, but if you don’t know me, then how can you say I am not who I say I am?”
“Wait, what?”
“It’s easy. I’ve said who I am.”
“I know you’ve said who you are, but that doesn’t make you who you are.”
“If me saying I am who I say I am doesn’t make me who I am, who does it make me?”
“It takes more than saying who you are to make you who you are.”
“Actually, it doesn’t.”
“Doesn’t it?”
“No. You know I know who you are and I know you know I know who I say I am. But, if I’m not who I say I am, then who am I?”
“I don’t know, which is why I asked you ‘who are you?'”
“A better question is ‘who am I?'”
“Who am I?”
“You are you.”
“I am and I know I am, but that doesn’t answer my question.”
“That’s because you’re asking the wrong question.”
“And what, precisely, is the question?”
“Am I not who I say I am just because I say I am or am I not who I say I am until I believe I am who I say I am?”
“That’s the same thing.”
“No, it isn’t and you know it isn’t.
“I’m confused.”
“Let’s put it in simpler terms.”
“That would be good.”
“I am who I say I am, you are who you say you are and we are who we say we are. What you’re having a hard time accepting is that who you say you are and who I say who I am is the same person.”
“How is that any clearer?”
“You are a writer, you know you are a writer and you write like every writer. But though you believe you are a writer, you don’t believe you are a worthy writer and are therefore an imposter. However, when you stand here, you want to believe you’re a writer rather than believe you’re not a writer and so you ask yourself ‘Who are you?’ hoping that the mirror you will have the answer.”

Sobering Spirits

To say the theatre was old would be an understatement. Built by a man with foresight to bring entertainment to the locals who lived and worked the area. Then it surrounded by warehouses, fed by river traffic, and two active churches. One beside and one behind and no doubt the city council of the time never expected it to survive.
Now however, it is protected by listed buildings and cobbled paths. The churches still stand but aren’t used and the graveyard to its left hasn’t seen a deposit for nigh on a century.
Compared to modern structures it was small. A seating capacity of three hundred and ten, forty of which were in the upper gallery but unlike recent counterparts, it had charm. Patrons and actors alike loved the place, and it was a rare occasion indeed for performances to be given to a less than full house.
At some point in its long history, it had been dragged into the present. A modern reception area, a small bar, access to a patio for the warmer months, a second studio for rehearsals or other events as needed, and of course, plumbing. The gas lighting had been replaced with electric and every few years, a fresh lick of varnish.
But the main stage and seating areas hadn’t changed much at all. True, the stage had been rebuilt, raised to make access underneath easier but not enough to crick the necks of the front row audience.
Two rear doors give access to the auditorium. Fifteen rows of fifteen seats in the centre, with two sets of three seats on either side of the thick red carpet. The seats themselves are the folding kind. Weighted at the rear to rise up the moment your butt was off them. Made from dark mahogany, each seat has a curved back rest, solid arms and a deep cushioned seat, covered in a red velvet to match the entrance carpet. Whether you’re watching a play or sitting in silence, the weight of ages and shows long past can be felt in the timber structure.
Six weeks of rehearsals were over and this evenings dress rehearsal—the first of three—had ironed out the technical issues. One minor issue with lighting, two wrong stage entrances and that damned alarm clock.
You know the one, wind up mechanism, two bells on top that are enough to wake the dead. Some bright spark had decided to add ambience to the stage set. They must have realised how noisy that ticking sound was because they then hid it in a china teapot.
Twenty minutes of hunting through the bric-a-brac on the shelves, all the while the actors were working through the scenes and the director made last minute alterations to timings. Problem was, it was a key piece to the final act, but that ticking was distracting. How anyone could sleep with its incessant tic-tic-tic like a metronome on steroids, was anybody’s guess. Even after stuffing it in a box filled with cotton wool, you could hear its heart beat.
Act three—The bed scene. Yup, you guessed it, more than a few challenges getting the bed on stage, set and ready for curtain up. The actors got to take a rest while we, the crew, figured it out. Of course, a single would have been ideal but no, the Director wanted a double. Figured it out, tested the process and got it down pat in under eight minutes.
Rehearsal completed. Short break. Ran again. Much smoother. Same time tomorrow.
Thanks to all, a few discussions with the crew and director while the actors departed, then a walk round to lock the place down and ensure there weren’t any stragglers.
Including myself, three people remained. Early start tomorrow, lots to do. Not in the mood for the long, fog laden drive home. One choice, stay the night in the theatre.
With everyone gone, there’s much less noise. Is it me or does that damn clock seem louder?
“We’ve got two comfy sofas in the Green room, one and a small cot in the changing room upstairs. Where’d you want to sleep?” I said.
“Green room is fine for me,” Mich said.
“I’m going to take the bed,” Jay said. “I like to stretch out.”
“Even with your diminutive size, I doubt you’ll stretch much on that cot.”
She grinned. “Not the cot, the bed!”
We turned to face the stage.
“You’re sure?” I said. “You do know this place is haunted, don’t you?”
“You too? Others have been trying to scare me with that hocus-pocus all week. I don’t believe in ghost and that’s a perfectly good bed. Yeah, I’m sure.”
Mich gave me that look.
“O-kay. Here, take this torch. We’ll be in the Green room next door if you change your mind.”
In the main office I switched off the lights, checked the security system then headed back. Mich had her torch on and I followed the bright light till I reached her then we cut past the stage and through to the back rooms.
“Sleep well Jay.” I said.
“If you try and creep up on me, I’ll hit you with the torch,” Jay said. She hefted the rubber coated torch for emphasis.
Our green room was painted green, a historic colour but no one seems to know why it was originally chosen.
“Where did you put that clock?” Mich said.
“In the office, why?”
“I can still hear it.”
“That’s a relief, I thought I was going mad.”
She chuckled.
I made a beeline for the other sofa, took a last look across the room as Mich killed her torch.
“Finally! Good night, Mich.”
I have found that I can sleep anywhere and have including much to some surprise, a nightclub, a coffin in a cinema and the nook of a tree. Shoes off, feet curled to the side against the backrest, I am lost to a world of my own devising in the midst of slumber.
The scream pierced my ears, my thoughts and my dream. My legs spasmed and I hit the floor with a thud. Its sound chilled me more than a bath of ice cubes ever could
“What the fuck was that?”
It came again. I fumbled for the torch, remembered I had given it to Jay and stopped. Hands out in front of me, I took a tentative step forward and stumbled over my shoes.
A light blinked on and blazed a light saber trail in the darkness. “Was that a scream?” Mich said.
“Yes! Twice! So I guess you’re not playing a joke on Jay then.”
The torch flickered then died. Goosebumps crawled up my arms.
“Why is it so cold?”
“You think Jay forgot where she was and fell off the stage?” Mich said.
“Possibly, better go and have a look.”
I reached out and took Mich’s hand then led the way to the stage.
Up three steps, light seeped around the backstage curtains. The air here was chilled too. It’s never been this cold even in the dead of winter.
“You hear that?” Mich whispered.
I pulled the curtains open.
Light blazed from the front of the stage.
We stepped in and moved toward the bed but halted. The auditorium was packed.
“What the—” Mich said.
She rushed to the bed, Jay was there.
The covers pulled up to her chin, eyes brimmed with tears but she couldn’t tear herself away from the sight.
The audience clapped, to what, only they could know.
The gas lamps on the front of the stage dimmed as more gas lights brightened along the walls.
The audience began to rise, oblivious of our sudden appearance. The seats thudded into the upright position as they filed into the corridor between the seats. They reached the closed exit doors, and passed through as if open. As the last person departed, the gas lights extinguished and we were left in darkness.
Heat rushed in to fill the void and Mich’s torch returned to life giving her a start.

The Assignment

The banshee scream had cost Mack more than one relationship, that and the odd hours he kept, but that melodramatic off-key sound mixed with nails on a chalkboard, did its job and woke him.

He grabbed it off the nightstand and deftly swiped the screen to accept the anticipated call. The auto record kicked in to capture both sides of the conversation even while he dashed off the details of the assignment. The call over, the gravel-laden voice bade him “good luck” and hung up.

Everything had been cleaned, organised and laid out on the table. With nothing left to chance, he gave all the equipment a final review. Of significant importance were the remote trigger devices, and each were tested again before methodically packed into the foam cushioned case. That extra protection would cradle them for the rough journey to the target’s location.

Three hours later, he arrived. Nothing had changed since he his last visit; nevertheless he took his time to surveil the area and ensure it was clear of people. The barriers that had been arranged to prevent the public from unexpectedly walking into this section were still in place as were the signs that directed them to another path.

  He took out the scope. A slight breeze drifted in from the west but it hardly stirred the area and would not impact the shot he had to take.  The sun had yet to snake its way above the horizon though dawn was fast approaching.

He carefully set up the tripod and made sure all the legs were firmly positioned then connected the barrel and body together. The solid click confirmed they locked into place. He attached it to the tripod and ensured it was perfectly balanced and aligned to the targets point of entry.

The low-light and distance made the shot a challenge. To compensate, he attached a specialised piece of kit, designed to ensure the firing action would be exact. The shot had to be perfect and the laser trigger was the best option for this job.

There was complete trust in the equipment, he knew it well from previous assignments, yet did a final check of everything to ensure there were no loose connections.  As a failsafe, he tethered the unit into his phone. If all else failed, he could manually trigger the shot or change the rate of fire if the need arose.

Satisfied that everything was as it should be, he removed the lens cap and switched on the laser trigger.  The moment was upon him and this time nothing would get between him and his target.

Behind him, the first rays of light flowed over the horizon and stretched like long fingers across the land. They warmed his back and bathed the land with a rich golden colour. His breath stilled, Mack focused down the scope and waited.

Tentative movement, a flash of colour. The Malachite Kingfisher emerged, flexed its wings and broke the laser’s beam. The rapid fire triggered and the camera captured the first moments of flight.

The Smile

As she stood in front of the doors and waited for the train to pull into the station, she casually glanced at her fellow passengers, most lost in their phones or a conversation, except one who looked directly at her. He was well dressed and confident with a strong build. A brief raise of eyebrows was followed quickly by a smile, displaying his pearly white and perfectly straight teeth. It seemed innocent enough – but it didn’t end, as though his face had been frozen in that moment. It sent a chill through her bones.

The speakers blared into life announcing her station. She launched through the half open doors and made straight for the stairs. Stepping down them she glanced up to see his smiling face beaming down at her like a searchlight that had acquired its target.

She picked up her pace, bounded down the stairs then turned the corner. She slid her card over the reader and passed through the barriers as she made her way to the underground exit, farther away than she wished.

The station was unusually deserted, the daylight struggled to shine through the murky, grime stained windows and the weak illumination from the low watt bulbs cast bleak shadows in all the wrong places that only amplified the eerie and pervasive desolation of the place.

Just before she turned to enter the tunnel, she risked a brief glance back. He was there, on the same path as her, his pace unhurried, his manner calm and relaxed like he had all the time in the world. Their eyes met and he raised is arm in a wave and flashed his smile, like neon, those pearly whites appeared to glow; far too many teeth visible. It did nothing to calm her nerves especially as each time she caught his eye, a macabre—perfectly aligned—smile came readily to his lips sending a chill through her.

Her steps reverberated off the tiled corridor of the walkway like a maniacally beaten drum that hastened her pace. At each turn she could not help but glance back. Her heart raced, pounded, pumped blood in her ears. All other sounds fell away. 

At the final corner, she chanced another look. The harsh strip lighting casting its ugly shadows everywhere else except the smile and upraised hand. It made him appear more menacing than ever.  She swivelled her head back front as she turned the corner in time to see the clown that stood in her path. Her heart skipped and she screamed as she fell to the floor. The clown’s happily painted face loomed over her as he danced, laughed and asked her to play, in a childish and silly voice.

It lasted only a few seconds before her unwanted stalker felled the clown with a hefty right cross.  Stalker, saviour, serial killer, he stood above her. No words. Just that smile plastered across his face, manic from lips to eyes. He reached into his jacket and a torrent of gruesome images flooded her mind, her heart thumped in her chest. Then he held forth an object and spoke.

“You dropped your phone.”

To see the original short film made by RandomlyKreated, click here

The Navigator

Three or four times a year, my parents would take a trip to visit old friends in Coventry and for us kids in the back it was always an exciting time. On the way there, a routine was followed. A brief stop in the city, buy some barley sugar candies, lemon sherbets and bon-bon’s. Then head out the city and on our merry way.

Listening to music, singing along to whatever was in the tape deck, playing eye-spy or counting cars based on their colour and depending on the time of year, spending a few minutes holding our noses as we went past an extremely pungent section of garlic growing in one of the many fields.

Two days at our God parents, having meals at strange times as our god-mum, while a great cook, was so deeply embroiled in conversations that a 10 minute job of peeling the root vegetables could take several hours. It didn’t matter though, it was the time together, the catch ups, shared news and good company that made these trips so much fun and if it was during the summer holiday period, then we kids would get to stay for an extra two weeks while our parents had some time to themselves.

The return journey’s were usually much more subdued. Thinking back, I’m pretty sure they tried to wear us out so we’d sleep most of the way. But you know kids, always defiant.

Dad loved to drive (and was until I was much older) then only one who could. Happy with some classical music drifting gently from the speakers, he travelled familiar roads from Coventry to Norfolk.

Mum, relaxed yet exhausted from a busy two days, happily asleep about an hour into the return journey and us kids in the back lost in sword fights and dangerous dungeons, fighting warlocks on a mountain top or lost somewhere in the depths of space depending on the book we were reading at the time.

Even after bypasses were built and journey times could be quicker, Dad still preferred taking the same old roads back home. I remember asking him about this once and his response was enigmatic.

“People are in too much of a hurry to get from A to B, they don’t take the time to enjoy the scenery. It’s not just the destination that’s important but the journey you take.”

It was a good answer and one I have always remembered. And though he was talking of our particular trip home, it was always a reminder of life, to enjoy the journey, the moments along the way and not just to aim for what is at the end.

But I digress.

In the twenty years that I had been a driver, many roads changed. Bypasses and motorways were built and the small country roads that took us to wondrous places all but vanished, or so it seemed.

But not for Dad, for our little excursions, he much preferred the old routes and with everyone else taking the faster new roads, he only had to share them with locals and the infrequent tractor or combine harvester.

I would struggle now to tell you exactly where on our journey this next part happens, but it always did and only ever at this one junction.

The countryside routes he took were familiar and he could always find a way to get him where he was going. He was also sensible enough to carry a book of road maps with him. Even when sat-nav became inexpensive, he chose to stick with what he knew and refer to the trusty book if ever he went somewhere new.

And yet, even though it was rare for him to make the same mistake twice, there was one particular part of one specific journey home that always created a smile.

It is almost like déjà vu or would it be a Schröedinger moment? Could I honestly say that Dad wouldn’t have gone the wrong way? No, not that he got a chance.

The road in question ended at a T-junction. A simple choice; left or right.

Yet just as we had started to slow and before Dad could flip the indicator in either direction, Mum would wake up, announce clearly: “You need to turn right.” And just as quick, settle back into her head cushion and be asleep once more.

Dad’s response was always the same, a chortle, followed by a lasting smile. On would go the indicator and once free of any traffic, he’d turn right.


“Last chance to back out,” said Karl. “Any takers?”
Feet shuffled but no one left the line.
“Great! Let’s get this show on the road.” He walked up the ramp.
In two columns, we filed up the ramp and into the dark maw of the beast.
“Turn and face inward.” Feet shuffled again. “Clip on.”
The click-swish of twenty snap hooks fastening to the internal steel cables rippled along the cabin.
Karl walked between the rows inspecting each clip. Satisfied, he turned and faced us. “Be seated.”
We sat as one, backsides thudding onto benches.
Cocooned in a metal tube, there wasn’t much to see except each other. Whining of hydraulics signalled the door closing, many eyes focusing on the exit.
A rumbling coughing sound as the engines fired up, first the left then the right. The vibration felt in every bone, jarring the senses before the roaring settles to a purr.
The engines rev and we’re moving. Bouncing and jostling against the hard wood seat. Squirming to find the impossible comfortable position.
Does my face betray my inner turmoil? The anxious excitement? Or as I look at the others, is it nervous smiles and vacant stares?
The bumpy ride ends with a stomach dropping lurch. Airborne at last!
The vibrations ease to a fizzle as the plane climbs in lazy circles.
Jaws chomp on imaginary gum to pop ears made deaf by altitude. Joy over the released pressure is fleeting when unabated noise fills the gap. Conversation not an option.
Final checks are done and confirmation is given. It’s on and we’re a go!
The droning of the engines blasts in around the lowering rear door. Wind whistles through the cabin while beyond, clear blue skies beckon.
The first two are up, they shuffle forward, wait, then vanish.
And so it goes, with each pair, one on either side. Stand. Shuffle, Wait. Vanish.
Till me.
Shuffling along, the noise is phenomenal but the view is spectacular. Blood pumping in my ears. I reach the edge, follow the hand signals. Wait. It seems forever but is seconds.
Left foot.
Right foot.
From noise to silence in the blink of an eye.
One one-thousand…
Buffeted from all sides, the world spins around.
Two one-thousand…
Head back, arms and legs out, the snap of cloth catching wind.
Three one-thousand…
Body jerked upward, then quiet, solitude, peace.
Four one-thousand…
Back arched, head back, four-second count, check chute.
Damn that was exhilarating! Must do it again!
It’s there, my canopy. Never doubted it for a second.
A patchwork quilt of green and yellow fields stretch for miles in every direction broken by a road or river.
Floating down out here is peaceful, relaxing. The calmest I’ve ever been. The rustle of feathers stroking air catch my attention as a bird flies past, indifferent to my existence.
A second or two more to enjoy the view, revelling in the freedom. Alas, it is over far too quick. Time to focus.
Landing area, landing area. Ah, there you are, at my three o’clock.
Adjust toggles, gentle sweep in, aim for the bullseye.
Knees and ankles together, legs slightly bent. Remember to roll.
Bloody hell! They weren’t joking, that last hundred feet really does seem to rush up to greet you.
Textbook landing, perfect roll. Up and gather the parachute. Check vicinity for other jumpers and wait for pickup. I want another go!


“Okay Callie, when you sweep in from stage left, make sure you end up standing just here,” said Andrew indicating a point at the front of the stage. “Give your lines and then exit stage right.”
“Okay,” said Callie.
“SM, is the machine all geared up?”
“Yes, the unit has been charging for an hour, the canister is full and loaded.”
“Good. Right, when you hear the lines ‘cloud of confusion’, I want you to fire off a long burst.”
“Right-o Andrew.”
“Great! Places everyone. We’re going from the top of scene three.”
“Hey SM, Danny said you might want a second on the machine,” said Bill.
“Sure, follow me in, just mind your head as there’s not much space under the stage.”
I slipped the release and crawled along the narrow space to the front of the stage, being no more than a metre in height, it was hard on the knees and the joists in key locations lowered that even more.
The machine had been set up at the front, with the stage raked, the front end was even lower than the rear. The space comparative to a large piece of luggage would have made a gnome feel claustrophobic. I was thankful the machine itself was the size of a shoe box and allowed me to clamber to the other side.
Above, the muffled voices of the actors could be heard along with their footsteps as they moved about. Keeping my voice low, I walked Bill through the process.
“On the days of the performance, this needs to be set up and charging at least a half hour before the show starts.”
“Got it.”
The unit was simple in design, a metal box with a heating unit, an exhaust pipe at the front and a canister that plugged top down into the back. A heavy duty carry handle and two switches. A rocker next to the power cord at the back and the other a big red button to fire the unit sat raised on the top.
“First things first, always check the canister is screwed in finger tight and make sure this light is on.” The power indicator glowed a bright orange. “Don’t touch the unit if you can help it, the damn thing gets hot real fast.” I showed him the blister from the first day. He cringed in response.
“We’ve affixed this tube to the exhaust port so no one else has to try and hold the machine in place while they’re using it.”
A tube led from the front of the unit to a hole in the floor. He craned his neck to look, footsteps approached as Callie took her place and started saying her lines.
“It’s hard to hear what she’s saying,” said Bill.
I nodded, holding a finger to my lips and tilting my head, one ear to the floor above while I rested my finger on the button.
“Your magic won’t work against me!” said Callie standing over us. “I curse you with the cloud of confusion—”
I pressed the button on cue, the machine hissed as it worked.
“AARGH!” her voice changed from a command performance to a shriek. “What the fuck was that?”
I released the button early, that clearly wasn’t part of the script. Above muffled laughter mixed with placations make it impossible to know what’s going on.
“Bill, go see what the problem is then let me know.”
Turning on the spot, he scurried out like a mouse on a mission for cheese. How someone four inches taller than me is that nimble amazes me.
While I wait, I check the connections. The canister had gas in it, we heard it fire, the pipe is in place otherwise we would have been on the receiving end and our crawl space filled with fog.
“Hey SM, Andrew says to come out with the machine and do a test fire.”
“Okay Bill, give me a minute.”
Hose clips released, I pull it free, click the base switch then pull the plug. With the power cable coiled, I hold it and the handle. Hunched like Quasimodo, I inch my way back under the stage to the exit, glad to be free of the confines that always feel like a sauna without the steam.
On stage, machine in hand. “What happened?”
“Can you test it here?”
Bill is one step ahead and unrolls an extension cable handing the end to me. Setting it down, I wait a few minutes for the light to steady, then hit the button. A jet of liquid sprays out then rolls down the stage.
Sniggers from cast and crew alike. All except Callie.
“Sorry Andrew, didn’t know. It tested fine earlier. We’ll get the workshop to send us a new and backup unit while this is in for repair.”
“If you think for one moment, that I am standing over that hole again to have fog fired up the skirt, you can think again!”