Friday, September 15, 2023

“The Shed” • by Nyki Blatchley

Mavis Culpepper had only one obsession in life: to find out what her husband did in the shed at the bottom of the garden.

It wasn’t that Mavis felt at all dissatisfied with her marriage in any other way. George had a good job that provided for all their needs, while she worked part time for a local charity and thoroughly enjoyed it. They had a nice house in a pleasant, leafy avenue, with flying ducks on the wall and all the latest gadgets. They shared long, intelligent conversations about the state of the government and the contestants on their favourite reality show. And she had no complaints about their sex life.

Why was George so secretive, though, about the time he spent in that shed? It nagged and gnawed at Mavis, evoking wild, implausible theories as she lay awake at night, until she almost hoped it was as straightforward as porn.

At last, Mavis could stand it no longer. She’d promised George ages ago that she’d never go snooping, but she had to know. One afternoon, while he was at work, she crept down the garden with a couple of hairpins, determined to get inside.

In fact, what she’d assumed was a simple padlock proved to be a slightly more complex affair based on the half-life decay of an unknown transuranic element. Fortunately, Mavis’s masters degree in nuclear physics came in useful here, as did her doctorate in advanced applied engineering, and she managed to get it open without even using the hairpins.

Mavis peered through the door, but nothing was visible, so she stepped inside. A strange feeling came over her, as if she were being pulled in a strange direction, before her head cleared, and she was staring into infinite distance.

Globes hung in mid-air: all sizes and colours, some of them elegantly banded, others with beautiful, glistening rings around them. Most looked quite small; but, as Mavis’s sense of perspective adjusted, she realised this was because they were millions of miles away.

She stood on a platform surrounded by a perspex bubble, lined with consoles full of buttons, dials and flashing lights. The globes were all around her, even behind, although the door was still reassuringly there. Some seemed to be in directions she couldn’t quite define.

Mavis stood entranced by the beauty and variety, unaware of time passing, until a quiet, apologetic cough sounded behind her. George had just entered.

“So you peeked.” He sighed. “I thought you would. Actually, I expected it sooner. So, what do you think of my collection?”

She stared. He looked just as he always did—just George—but how could this be? “Your collection? What do you mean?”

He shrugged. “Everyone has to have a hobby. Lots of people collect things: stamps, autographs, Star Wars figurines, that sort of thing. I collect planets.” His face fell. “You’re not going to insist on dusting them, are you? Because…”

“Er…no.” Mavis looked around the infinite space again, then back to George. “But…how do you do it?  I mean…do you have to go into space to get them?”

“Of course not.” George burst into laughter. “That would be silly, wouldn’t it? No, I get them by mail order. There are several companies that deal in planets. Naturally, you need your n-dimensional environment first, otherwise they’d have nowhere to beam them into. Do you like it?”

“They’re beautiful. But what do you do with them?”

He looked puzzled. “Do? Well, I arrange them into aesthetically pleasing configurations. It’s important to balance and cancel out the gravitational forces, of course, otherwise they’d start crashing into one another, and I’d be left with a very large collection of random asteroids. What would be the point of that?”

“Do you ever visit them?”

George’s eyes widened in horror. “Visit? Certainly not. These are in mint condition—still in the box, you might say. I wouldn’t want to spoil them by visiting.”

“Do you mean you’ve all these planets and you can’t get to them?”

“Well, no, I could if I wanted to." He waved vaguely at the consoles. “This platform can travel to any of them and protect me from any hostile conditions. It’s just… No, it would ruin them.”

“Oh, come on, George.” She put on all the persuasion that had ensured they’d gone to the Bahamas rather than Thailand for this year’s holiday. “Surely there must be one or two that aren’t quite as mint. Just once. Please.”

He hesitated. “Well…there’s AA2054, I suppose. I normally only buy as new, but that one’s of historical interest, so I got it even though it was only in fair condition. Perhaps it wouldn’t do too much harm. Just a brief visit, though.”

“Of course.” Yes, certainly a brief visit. She’d always wanted to travel to other planets, but still… “We’ll have to be back in time for Bake Off, after all.”



Nyki Blatchley is an author, copywriter and poet (as well as a strictly amateur musician and historian) who lives near London. He’s had a number of books published, mainly fantasy, including the novel At An Uncertain Hour, published by StoneGarden and the short story collection Eltava: A Sword for All Ages, published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing. Nyki has had more than seventy short stories and novellas published, most recently by Smoking Pen Press.

You can find more about Nyki’s writing on









KarinTerebessy said...

I adore the relatable mundanity of their lives, their past times and their way of interacting with each other.

Made in DNA said...

Exactly! The dichotomy is endearing, adding the perfect touch.