Work Place Horrors

A Good Place to Work

A tale of a good place to work, by The Big Snake

It’s eight in the morning. Technically the work day doesn’t start until nine, but Larry likes to come in early. He’s not the owner or even the manager, but he was given a key and an alarm code about 30 years ago so it would be kind of hard to take it back at this point. The privilege was bestowed upon him by the owner back when this was still a privately owned company. Reliable Larry, is what he used to call him. He is reliable, and everyone does call him Larry even though his full name is Lawrence. 

First thing Reliable Larry does when he gets in is brew up a full pot of joe, then boot up all the computers (incorrectly, of course) before cracking open the day’s paper and flipping to the weather section. B2 is typically the page. RL (short for Reliable Larry, friends of Larry will call him this) prides himself on keeping up on the weather. You’re not going to stump him when it comes to that, no sir. Is it going to rain on Thursday? Ask Larry. It rained on Thursday, but how many inches of rainfall did we get? Ask Larry. Cold front? He’ll track it down. Low pressure system? RL has got eyes on it. If he hears you ask a question out loud about the weather anywhere in the building, he’ll be sure to stand up and announce his answer loud and clear for everyone to hear.

Eight forty-five rolls around and here comes our next employee. 

“Mornin’ RL” the man says, as he hangs his coat up and heads toward the fresh pot of joe he already knows Larry brewed up.

“Mornin’ Lou!” Larry looks up from his paper. “How are you?”

“Livin’ the dream!” Lou shouts back from the break room, while filling up his Must Be Monday coffee mug. Lou has a different novelty mug for every day of the week. 

Lou hears Larry chuckle at his response and smirks with satisfaction. “Gets’ em every time” he says confidently to himself.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Lou is quite the jokester. A real cut-up, kind of the company comedian. He’s got one for everything too! Go ahead, talk about your haircut. Lou will say “Should have got them all cut.” Taking a piss? “Don’t take it, leave it.” One of the ladies that works in the back announced that she was going to the bank once and Lou said “Be sure to bring back some free samples!” That was one of Lou’s best. Does having multiple divorces under your belt make you funnier? Probably not. If you were to try and make that case, however, Lou would be your best piece of evidence. He’s been divorced four times. 

“You’re quite the comedian Lou, I’ll tell ya.” Larry says to him as he heads back over with a fresh cup of joe in his hand.

“What’s new RL? What’s the forecast looking like this week?”

You can see Larry’s eyes begin to brighten, so drastic is the change that you would think he must have been damn near dead before. That’s no big surprise to us around here, so don’t be alarmed. This question will always light Larry up like a neon sign on the Vegas Strip! The mere mention of a barometer will have RL surging to life, like a dancing animatronic bear on an amusement park ride. 

Looks like RL’s weather run down will have to wait for now, the front door just swung open.

Lou beats Larry to the greeting “Oh boy, here comes trouble!”

It was Beverly. For two old dogs like Larry and Lou, she is quite the sight for sore eyes.  

“Oh Lou, stop!” 

Bev is a big and boisterous woman. Laughs loud, talks loud, likes her wine on ice and plenty of it dammit. She has the kind of laugh that could penetrate a bunker wall. Being around her often feels like being inside a Dave & Buster’s. Noisey, overwhelming, but hey sounds like everyone is having a good time right? Right. 

“How was your weekend?” Larry asked.

Old Reliable Larry has a bit of a thing for Bev.

“Yeah, what kind of trouble did you get into this weekend?” Lou follows up.

Beverly belts out one of her signature laughs, she has a bit of a thing for Lou. Doesn’t care much for Larry.

“Just stayed up late to catch SNL, then started to get the pool ready on Sunday.”

Bev was a real TV junkie. She’s been watching Saturday Night Live since the early 90s, hasn’t missed an episode in almost thirty years and she IS NOT about to start. That’s just the tip of her prime-time television iceberg, however. Hawaii 5-0, all fifteen reiterations of the CSI series, Two and a Half Men, just to list a few. She really loved The Ghost Whisperer with Jennifer Love Hewitt, even wrote the station an email plea in hopes they wouldn’t cancel it. They cancelled it anyway.

Bev lets out a giggle and cracks a smile.

“Have you guys seen that new Progessive Insurance commercial?”

All regular TV programming aside, Beverly’s specialty was commercials. She remembers every jingle, every slogan, every product and every silly gag. From the Geico Cavemen (better believe she watched the spin-off show), to any product Ron Popeil would peddle on early weekday mornings. 

 “Oh it’s hilarious, so it starts on the beach…”

Bev continues to recant the commercial, in its entirety, line from line- scene to scene. 

It kills.

Larry follows up with a run down of this week’s weather forecast.

Lou throws in a classic line: “You know what they say about the weather in New England. If you don’t like it, just wait a minute!”

It kills.

The clock strikes nine and here comes John, right on time. He is sporting his classic morning look of a rumpled peacoat, and puffy red eyes. Gripping onto a large Dunkin-Donuts coffee like his life depends on it (John presumably has a bit of a drinking problem). 

The gang quiets down, and doesn’t make direct eye-contact with John.

Thing of it is, John is the acting manager around here. He started with the company about six or seven years ago, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He had the ambition of a racoon on garbage day, and the patience of a new father (at the time John just had twin boys, and was indeed a proud father). 

Once the owner sold the company to public investors however, John kind of…. changed. We understand change is to be expected, and to be honest a lot of things changed around here after that. Not like how John did, however. We assume other events in his personal life contributed to this change but, we aren’t sure. It’s best not to speculate, and gossip will sure travel fast in a close-knit work environment like this one. One thing is for certain, all of a sudden he stopped talking about his children and stopped bringing his wife to the company events. 

Okay, so we have SOME theories about what happened. I mean, a curious matter like this will lead to some rumors. Our UPS guy swears he saw his old lady with another man out at the Woodtick Plaza Chili’s. Some say he found out the twins weren’t his, walked out and lost it all in the divorce. There are a few more far-fetched claims too. Like his children were just a figment of his own imagination, and he is now on an intensive psychiatric drug regiment. Some even suggest foul play was afoot. Does John have an alibi? Has anyone thought to ask? The price of child-meat on the black market is high, and wife meat… a little less valuable, but still high enough for a handsome pay day. Okay, enough with this hearsay.

  Point is if he is nursing a nasty hangover, it is best to leave him be in the mornings. Much better to go around John in the afternoon. And guess what? Lunch-time is where he really shines.  

If you ever need a recommendation on where to grab lunch, he is your man. What are you in the mood for? How long of a line are you willing to wait in? He’ll take all these factors into consideration before giving you a plethora of options. Oh you like Sushi? Do you remember where the old A&P used to be? Place opened up there a few months ago, food is decent and the prices are great. More of a pizza guy, huh? Gosh, at least four solid places to choose from: FIRST for a thin crust: SECOND for house-made sausage: THIRD for great novelty pies (philly cheese steak, arugula + mushroom, etc): The FOURTH will get you a slice for two-bucks, and that thing is like the size of half-a-damn pizza! Four bucks at that place can mop up a monster hangover.

John looks at his watch and then glances at his employees. This is usually the point where he will tell everyone to get to work and stop “hanging around”, or just continue to his office. Again, depending on how much he had to drink last night.

He turns away and heads to his office.

It’s damn near nine-fifteen now, and here comes Caleb. Late.

“Oh, how nice of you to join us!” Lou shouts out upon his entry.

Caleb doesn’t laugh like the rest, instead he looks up and lets out an unenthusiastic “morning” that is so flaccid you can practically see the word spill out of his mouth and hit the floor like vomit. He doesn’t even bother to take off his jacket before making his way clear past the gang. His hair still wet from the shower it looks like he jumped out of five minutes before he was supposed to be here. 

Caleb is, for lack of a better word, different. We say this not to be judgemental, that boy is just a tough nut to crack sometimes. He’s been here for almost two years, we figured he would have warmed up a little by now. No such luck. Still mopes around the place, pulling out his cell phone whenever Bev tries to talk to him about a classic Saturday Night Live sketch. Never laughs at any of Lou’s classic one-liners. Hell, he will just straight up walk away from poor RL when he starts spouting off about the weather.

We just don’t get it. He is one of those millennials, but John is only about seven years older than him so it can’t be strictly generational differences. We even had a twenty year old intern last summer who loved it here. Tess. She was going for her undergrad in Bipartisan Bee Colony Diplomacy at the University of Phoenix. Now Tess was a good kid. 

Caleb? Not so sure. It’s like he is just here to collect a paycheck. We don’t get it. This is a good place to work.

John notices our gloomy late comer, and pops his head out of his office.

“Caleb! Check your email this morning!”

Needless to say, John has not been happy with Caleb’s aloof attitude since starting here. They have had more than a few meetings about it.

“You got it.” Caleb sits at his desk to find that, once again, dumb old Larry has unplugged his monitor to conserve energy. “Fucking Larry…”

Power restored, he sees the email John must be talking about. It was the only email in his inbox. As a matter of fact, it was one of the only emails he has gotten since starting here.

It reads:

“Valued employee, we appreciate your feedback. In response to your complaint we ask that you call this number at your earliest convenience 1-800-XXX-XXXX”

“That’s odd…” Caleb thinks to himself. He doesn’t recall filling a complaint. Sure, working here wasn’t his cup of tea. More of a means to an end really. We all got to eat. But he would never file a complaint. You have to care to file a complaint. Besides, this is the easiest job he ever had. No one seems to even do any actual work around here.

He picks up the phone and dials the number, it barely gets through a full ring before someone answers.

“Good morning Caleb.” The voice is unfamiliar, flat and grim. The kind of voice that you would expect to give you a sinister secret, or expose a government conspiracy.

“Yes hello, I’m just calling in because-”

“We know why you are calling in.”

“Okay, well I don’t recall filling a complaint so pardon me if I’m a bit confused.”

“The complaint was filled by your manager. We, however, wanted to let you know that you are doing an excellent job here. Really, exemplary work.”

“Well uh, thank you.” Caleb is confused. He can’t recall any work he has actually done here. As a matter of fact, he is not really sure what anyone does around here. This mystery man on the other end of the phone doesn’t need to know that, however. Time to deploy a clever trick to get more information without tipping him off.

“One quick thing, sir… what portion of my work are you referring to?” Nicely done Caleb!

 “All of it!” There is a brief pause. The voice deepens, shifting the tone of the conversation. “You do know what we do around here, don’t you young man?” 

Okay so apparently the response wasn’t that slick. It’s time to drop the act, Caleb’s curiosity is overwhelming at this point. 

“Honestly sir, no I do not. I have no clue.”

“We engineer workplace stereotypes.”

A company that engineers and perpetuates workplace stereotypes? Whoever heard of such a thing! How is that a profitable business model?

The other end is so silent you can hear the whiskers on the man’s face rubbing against the phone handset. 

“What? Is there a market for that?”

“You get a paycheck don’t you, Caleb?”

You can see all the thoughts scrambling through Caleb’s head as he takes the phone away from his face. Paralyzed by the information he is trying to process, like an iPhone downloading a new version of IOS. This must be how those people on Reddit feel when he makes a mind-melting radical post like “Change My Mind: I think Healthcare Should Be FREE” (That was his most popular post to date, with a staggering 187 upvotes). 

He looks around the office at everyone. It makes sense. Beverly quoting all those commercials, Larry’s constant run down on weather events, John coming back from a long lunch on a Friday, with a mouth full of chewing gum. Lou’s fucking public domain jokes about everything. One thing doesn’t track though, why is he here?? He’s not like them, dammit! He is different! He has dreams! 

He puts the phone back to his ear. 

“But if that’s what we do, then why am I here? I understand Bev, John, Larry and definately Lou… but me? I’m-”

The man fires out a loud, dismissive laugh. “Of course, you’re different Caleb. This is just a means to an end for you, right? By the way, how’s that novel coming along?”

*click*

Dial tone. He hung up.

A spike of adrenaline stabs Caleb in the heart. He has been working on a novel for some years now, yes. The working title of it is “Dunce Cap Willie”. In it Caleb intends to expose the flaws and evils of unchecked capitalism in modern society, through the lens of the lovable protagonist, who is a simple dumbass. It was going to be his “Forrest Gump”. He still picks it up once in a while, but he never told anyone here that. How would this gravelly voiced stranger know about it? What the hell is going on.

Caleb looks up to see John leaning over his work station. Grinning like a maniac.

“So, Caleb. Let’s talk about lunch.”

Victorian England News

Goldsworthy: Part 2

Miss out on part 1? You can read it here: Goldsworthy: Part 1

Goldsworthy

Part 2

A Mick Murton Story

PILOT’S LOG, ENTRY #3

I, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, greatest inventor in all the British Empire, have sought the use of my extraordinary invention – the STEAM CARRIAGE (patent pending) – on this evening to test its viability as an emergency response vehicle. A rider by the name of Samuel Throckmorton came to me as I was testing the latest iteration of another of my brilliant inventions – the BUDE LIGHT (patent secured). A slight mishap occurred with this light, however I will not go into more detail in this entry, as this is the log book for my STEAM CARRIAGE (patent pending). Throckmorton, foolish young man that he is, at least bore enough wit to come straight to myself to request that I perform an emergency surgery, and who could blame him? All the Queen’s subject know that I, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, the archetypal gentleman scientist, whose brilliance is only matched by his good looks,

“Sir Goldsworthy?”

It would appear that the young man seeks to get my attention. As I continue to fill out this log entry, I dismiss Throckmorton with a wave of my hand. He would do well to heed my dismissal, as-

“Sir Goldsworthy, your attention please?”

Not now boy,’ I tell him. Honestly, the nerve of some people. Were I not such a forgiving man, I would order Throckmorton to be punished for his insolence. Does he not know that I have been knighted by the Queen?

“SIR GOLDSWORTHY! Please!” At last, Throckmorton managed to get Gurney’s attention.

“Samuel, this had better be important.”

“With all due respect for your scientific procedures, I must request that we get going as soon as possible. Need I remind you that this is an emergency procedure?” Sir Goldsworthy tapped his chin as he pondered this for a bit.

“Murton! How is the steam pressure?” Barry Murton, a relative of mine and assistant to Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, took a break from shoveling coal into the firebox at the rear of the steam carriage to check the large array of dials and gauges used to measure the many working variables of the carriage’s engine.

“It’s, eh…” Murton scratched his head and squinted hard as he attempted to decipher the sheer volume of information before him. “Which one is it… I think we’re all set, guv!” Sir Goldsworthy nodded in approval.

“Very well, then. Samuel, Jonathan, you two will ride in the passenger compartment. Murton and I shall remain on the outside to operate the carriage.” Mister Jonathan, butler to the Goldsworthy family, opened the door to the carriage. Murton boarded first, then Mister Jonathan loaded a sizable picnic bag into the carriage before entering himself. “Now then, shall we… Ah, one more thing.” Goldsworthy reached into his pocket and produced a rolled package. “Murton, did you bring the teacups?”

“I sure did, guv!”

“Excellent!” Goldsworthy opened his package, removed two teabags, then handed them to his assistant. Murton used a tap on the side of the carriage’s steam boiler to pour hot water into the tea cups, inserted the bags, and handed one to his employer. “Good show, Murton.” Goldsworthy downed the entire cup of tea in one swig, then climbed back over the carriage to the driver’s seat up front. “Now then,” he started as he grasped the steering tiller and turned it back and forth to test it, “Full steam ahead!”

Inside the passenger compartment, Samuel Throckmorton took to drumming on the armrest with his fingers as he tried his best to wait patiently. Mister Jonathan sat across from him, ever attentive, showing no sign of concern for anything but his duties as butler. Samuel jumped slightly as he heard the carriage’s whistle sound, followed by a lurch forward. “We’re finally moving,” he said. Mister Jonathan simply nodded as the carriage rolled forward.


In a familiar pub, the owner busied himself polishing a glass as his sole customer sipped on his gin. Without warning, the door flew open and in came a group of hooligans. There were four in all, all wearing sleeveless shirts, led by a particularly mean looking man with a shaved head. With a scowl on his face he strode up to the bar counter and slammed his fist to get the owner’s attention. “OI! Get over ‘ere!” The pub owner nearly dropped the glass he was polishing, then headed to his new customer.

“May I help you?” he asked calmly.

“Me name’s Mad Barry Ferguson an’ I’m the toughest bloke around. Right lads?” He turned to the other hooligans and they all nodded in agreement.

“Ol’ Baz Fergo’s never lost a fight,” one of them chimed in.

“S’right!” Barry yelled. “Now I’ll take a round of pints fer all me lads ‘ere, an’ I ain’t payin’ fer it!”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t give away anything for free,” the pub owner replied. Barry Ferguson’s face turned bright red with anger.

“WOT! Do you have any idea who I am?!” Barry reached across the counter and grabbed the pub owner by the collar of his shirt. “I says I’ll take a round of ales, an’ I says I ain’t payin’ fer it! Now are you gonna listen or am I gonna ‘ave to clock ya in the gob?” The pub owner seemed oddly calm, despite the menacing snickers from Barry’s gaggle of hoodlums.

“With all due respect mister Ferguson, if you don’t stop threatening me I’ll have to call Percy.” Barry’s eyes widened and the red faded from his face, then he burst out laughing as he released the pub owner from his grip.

“Percy?! I ain’t afraid of no sod named Percy!” The rest of the hooligans joined Barry in laughing hysterically.

“Wot’s ‘e gonna do,” one of them asked, “politely ask us to leave?”

“Yeah!” another one added. “An’ then ‘e’ll get on ‘is little tricycle an’ try to flee!” The whole group of them kept laughing and poking fun, each comment resulting in uproarious laughter, until a shadow came down over them. All four hooligans stopped laughing immediately, their mirth replaced with terror, as they looked up at the massive figure who stood over them.

“Oi… Who’s makin’ fun of me name?” Standing before them was Percy, the largest and most fearsome man any of them had ever seen. He stood head and shoulders above anyone else in the pub, with his two boulder-like fists balled at his sides. He appeared as if he were already dressed for a fight, with the suspenders holding up his worn slacks being the only clothing covering his barrel chested torso. The man’s brow jutted out like a rocky ledge, casting shadow over his eyes, and the bald crown of his head rose up above his long grey hair and bushy beard like the peak of a great mountain rising above the treeline. He jabbed a big meaty sausage-like finger in Mad Barry Ferguson’s direction. “Was it you?” Barry gulped.

“I, uh… Well…” One of the hooligans chimed in.

“We was, uh, on our way out just now actually, s-sir.” Percy glanced over in his direction.

“That’s funny, ‘cause I swears I heard one-a you sayin’ ya wanted a round o’ pints, an’ ya weren’t payin.” He grabbed Barry by the collar of his shirt and lifted him into the air like a simple farm boy lifting a sack of turnips. “An’ I fink it was you!” Barry gulped as he hung there, helpless in the giant man’s grip.

“I-I didn’t mean it sir, I swear. I-I’ll pay for everything, I’ll even buy you a pint.”

“I ain’t no sir,” roared Percy as he tossed Barry back towards the entrance of the pub, “I’m a right bastard!” He pounded a fist in his free hand and rubbed them together eagerly. “An’ yer pissin me off!” Barry and all his hooligans fled from the pub, running as fast as they could.

The group of hooligans ran for a while down the street, then all stopped to catch their breath. “Do you… do you think we’re safe now?” one of them asked, breathing heavily.

“Yeah,” said Barry. “Yeah, we’re safe.” He straightened up, having caught his breath. “An’ if that sod Percy followed us ‘here,” he said as he jabbed his thumb into his chest, “I’ll clean ‘is clock, I will!” The other hooligans cheered, their spirits lifted by their leader’s bravado.

“No one can take Barry!” one of them exclaimed. Their cheering died down, however, as they heard something approaching.

“Wot’s that?” a hooligan asked. “It’s not footsteps…”

The hooligans cautiously backed into the shadows as they tried to figure out what was coming. The four of them listened carefully.

“Right, it’s not footsteps,” Barry said.

“Sounds like carriage wheels,” said one of the hooligans.

“But I don’t hear no horses,” another hooligan added.

“Look!” another hooligan shouted as he pointed down the road. The whole group gasped as they saw what was coming towards them. It was Sir Goldsworthy Gurney’s steam carriage. The hooligans, though, had no idea what they were looking at. Their hairs stood on end as they watched it approach, shrouded in smoke and steam.

“It’s moving without any horses pulling it,” said the first hooligan.

“Is it the headless horseman?” asked another.

“No, he’s got a head but I don’t see no horses,” said another hooligan, pointing at Sir Goldsworthy in the driver’s seat of the carriage.

“I’ll tell ya what it is,” said Barry Ferguson. “It’s a bloody haunted carriage! RUN FER YA LIVES!” The group of hooligans all ran off in separate directions, screaming in terror.

“Even Bazza can’t fight ghosts!” one of them yelled.


Barry Murton watched from the rear of the steam carriage as the group of young hooligans ran off screaming into the night, yelling something about ghosts. He scratched his head, wondering what they could be going on about, then heard something clearly.

“Run Bazza, don’t let the haunted carriage get ya!”

Barry Murton knew who that had to be. “That’s Mad Barry Ferguson’s gang,” he mused to himself. “And they call him Bazza? I like that.” He turned forward and yelled to get his boss’s attention. “Sir Goldsworthy!”

“What is it, lad?” Sir Goldsworthy asked. “A problem with the engine?”

“No sir,” he responded. “I was wondering if I could trouble you to call me by a new nickname.”

“What?”

“Will you call me Bazza, sir?”

“…What?!”

“Bazza, sir. I want you to call me Bazza.”

“I heard you the first time, Murton. Why in God’s name would I call you Bazza?”

“Well, uh… Mad Barry Ferguson’s blokes call him Bazza.” Sir Goldsworthy was dumbfounded.

“First of all Murton, I have idea who you’re talking about, and second, how can you possibly expect a gentleman such as myself to be influenced by the behavior of this… this… Max Harry-”

“It’s Mad Barry Ferguson, sir.”

“Right. This Mad Barry Ferguson and his bunch, who I can only assume are a group of street toughs or some other manner of plebeian?” Murton thought about it for a while.

“Well, I-”

“Forget it. Murton, I’ll have none of this nonsense. Now pour me another cup of tea.”

Inside the passenger cabin, Samuel Throckmorton was getting anxious. How long has it been so far? “Mister Jonathan, do you have the time?” The butler seated across from him shook his head.

“I’m afraid not, Master Throckmorton.” He reached into the picnic bag and withdrew a small parcel, which he unwrapped. “I believe this is Irish cheddar. Would you care to sample some?”

Many hours later, all the way across Victorian London, Sir Goldsworthy and his traveling companions finally arrived at their destination- the Throckmorton estate. Samuel peaked his head out the carriage window. “We’re here!”

“Excellent!” shouted Sir Goldsworthy. “Murton! Stop th-”

“Call me Bazza, sir!”

“Murton, you will stop this carriage immediately, and for the last time, I will NOT call you Bazza unless you wish to be out of a job!” Murton gulped and applied the brake, then shut off the steam flow to the engine. He opened another valve to release the built up pressure in the boiler, but something seemed off. Wasn’t there more steam to release last time? This was a long journey, perhaps the water tank was running low? But if that was the case…

“MURTON! Follow us!” Sir Goldsworthy waved for him to follow as he ran towards the house, with Mister Jonathan and Samuel close behind. They all sprinted toward the door, but before they could knock, it was open. Standing at the door was an older woman in her evening wear. She looked utterly deflated as she dabbed the corners of her eyes with a handkerchief.

“You must be the surgeon,” she said. Sir Goldsworthy straightened up and pounded his chest.

“At your service.”

“I’m afraid it’s too late,” she informed him. Samuel stepped forward.

“You mean… Uncle Nigel…?” The woman nodded her head in sorrow.

“Nigel is no longer with us.” Samuel was in shock.

“I am terribly sorry,” Sir Goldsworthy stated as he bowed his head in sympathy. “We came here as fast as we could.”

“Did you now?” Samuel responded, angrily. “It took nearly as long to prepare your horseless carriage as it did for me to cross the whole town on horseback.”

“It would have taken nearly as long to prepare Sir Goldsworthy’s horses and we wouldn’t have been able to bring Mister Jonathan with us,” Murton responded.

“And a fat lot of good that did!” Samuel yelled. “All he did was feed us cheeses the whole time, and Sir Goldsworthy stopped no less than six times because he decided that we needed sausages to go with it!” Sir Goldsworthy nodded as he took a bite out of a sausage.

“Master Throckmorton,” Mister Jonathan chimed in, “had we traveled on horseback, we wouldn’t have been able to bring Sir Goldsworthy’s surgical tools.”

“Surgical tools?” Murton exclaimed. “Blimey, I knew I forgot to pack something!” Murton, Goldsworthy, and Jonathan all began laughing hysterically, as if coming all the way across town for a surgery without any of the proper equipment was the most hilarious thing they’ve ever heard of in their lives. Samuel Throckmorton’s face turned bright red with anger. He was about ready to explode, until he noticed… golden light? Could it be?

“The bloody sun’s rising!” yelled Samuel. “I arrived at your place no later than 9 pm, and it took you until sunrise to get here!”

“So it did.” Sir Goldsworthy opened his log book and jotted down a few quick notes. “It would seem my steam carriage is not suitable for use as an emergency response vehicle after all.”

“And one more thing, Sir,” Barry interjected.

“Yes, Murton?”

“I think the boiler may be empty.” Sir Goldsworthy’s expression changed to one of deep concern.

“Murton, please tell me you put out the fire.”

“Why’s that, guv?”

“Murton, when water evaporates, it increases in volume by a thousand times. When the boiler runs dry, if you don’t remove the heat source, then if even a few drops of water find their way in, they’ll evaporate instantaneously, and then-”

“GET DOWN!” Mistern Jonathan shouted as he draped a picnic blanket over the four travelers. The steam carriage exploded with a deafening blast, causing broken pieces and flaming coals to rain down all over the Throckmortons’ property. The hoop of a carriage wheel, its spokes broken into uneven lengths, rolled by. Mister Jonathan uncovered the four and began re-folding the picnic cloth. Sir Goldsworthy looked over the wreckage, then back at Samuel Throckmorton.

“I don’t suppose I could trouble you for a ride home?”

Victorian England News

Goldsworthy: Part 1

by Mick Murton

It was a rainy night in Victorian London. The dim glow of gas lights lit the streets as the shoe shine boys packed up for the evening, and gamblers made their way to the dark alleys and abandoned buildings where they conducted business. Inside of a poorly maintained pub the owner sat, reading the paper while his sole customer sat at the bar, sipping a warm English ale. It would seem that the British Empire could soon be faced with a tonic water shortage. What, then, would he sell his customers to go with their gin? He couldn’t possibly offer them gin and regular water. Would anyone drink gin and root beer? Just then, his customer spoke up.

“Pardon me, could I trouble you for a gin?” The pub owner nodded.

“Of course. One gin and tonic, coming up.” Just as he reached for his ice tongs, his customer spoke up again.

“No no, not gin and tonic. I’ll have straight gin.” Straight gin?, thought the pub owner. The absolute mad lad! Why hadn’t I thought of that?

“One gin, coming up. Straight.” It would seem that he would make it through this tonic water shortage after all! The pub owner poured his customer a gin, and as he did so a rider on horseback galloped by.

The rider was cloaked in dark heavy wool to protect him from the rain. He was on the way to fetch Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, the world renowned surgeon and scientist. He knew he was headed in the right direction, but he didn’t dare check the paper he brought with the address – in this rain, it would only disintegrate. He knew, though, that Gurney’s home would be easy enough to spot as he drew near. Just then, he saw it.

Shining from the third floor windows of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney’s home was the brightest artificial light that the rider or anyone else in Victorian London had ever seen. Having been commissioned by Parliament to build a lighting system for Westminster Palace, he was currently in the process of building the latest iteration of the Bude Light – his own invention – and it would be the most powerful yet. He took a step back to admire the light. With welding goggles on and his sleeves rolled up, he wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. Truly this would be the most powerful gas light ever built! The heat was unbearable. The light was blinding.

Perfect? Not yet.

“Murton!,” Sir Goldsworthy yelled. “More gas!” His assistant, Barry Murton – a relative of mine – was hesitant to comply. He readjusted his welding goggles and, hands shaking, reach for the valve. “Do it, boy!” yelled Goldsworthy. “Give it all the gas we’ve got! I must see how my light shines!”

Meanwhile, downstairs, Goldsworthy’s butler, Mister Jonathan, was preparing a tray of fine cheeses when he heard a knock at the door. “I’m almost there!” he announced. Mister Jonathan made his way to the door and opened it to see a cloaked figure.

“Is Sir Goldsworthy Gurney at home?” the man asked. “It’s an emergency.”

“What sort of emergency?” asked Mister Jonathan.

“A medical emergency, across town. We need a surgeon imme-”

Before he could finish, a loud explosion from the third floor shook the house violently.

“What on Earth was that?”

“That would be Sir Goldsworthy,” Mister Jonathan answered. “He’s upstairs working on a new gas lighting system.” The rider was speechless.

Back upstairs, a soot-covered Goldsworthy Gurney was putting out small fires throughout the workshop with a watering can while a panicked Barry Murton shut every gas valve he could find as quickly as possible. Just as the last flames were quenched, he heard a knock at the door. “Ah! That must be Mister Jonathan with our cheeses. Murton, clean up this mess.” Murton first looked at the destroyed Bude Light prototype, then the burnt crisps of wallpaper that had first peeled off the wall from the heat, then been incinerated in the blast. He let out a defeated sigh and grabbed a broom.

Goldsworthy opened the door and greeted his manservant. “Well met, Jonathan.” Mister Jonathan raised an eyebrow.

“Is everything quite alright, sir?”

“Of course it is, my assistant is just cleaning up after our experiment.” As Murton swept, a large tube fell from the destroyed light and hit him in the head. He dropped his broom and clutched his head in pain.

“Well sir, your cheese platter is here, and you have a guest as well.”

“Oh?” The rider, now no longer covered in his cloak, took a step forward.

“My name is Samuel Throckmorton. Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, we need you across town for surgery. It’s an emergency.” Goldsworthy considered the man for a moment.

“Did you come by horse, Samuel?”

“I did, sir.” Goldsworthy nodded in acknowledgment. “Mister Jonathan, have the stable boys put up Samuel’s horse for the night.”

“But sir, I must come with you!” protested Samuel.

“And you will. Murton! Enough cleaning, prepare the Steam Carriage!” Goldsworthy hurried out of the laboratory with Murton close behind. Samuel Throckmorton was puzzled.

“What on Earth is a steam carriage?” Mister Jonathan raised an eyebrow.

“Would you like to sample any of these fine cheeses?”