This month, we’ve skewed “a picture is worth a thousand words” and instead would like to know if five emojis are worth 500 words – can you help us out? Thanks.


  • Your story must include YOUR INTERPRETATION of ALL FIVE of the following emojis, in any order:
  • Your story’s first word MUST BE AN ANAGRAM of its final word(s). (You cannot simply repeat the same word and the story title is separate.)
  • Your story must include the phrase (completing it yourself): THERE WERE 11 ____  IN THE _____. (Can be a whole or part sentence; not in CAPS.)

Batshit. At long last, I’d gone batshit insane. It was the only explanation, I decided, for why my brother was standing right in front of me, clear as day. He wasn’t supposed to be there. 

It was the middle of the night, for one.

He was also dead. 

“Daniel,” he said, by way of greeting. “Alright, mate?”

“You’re not real,” I said.

He smiled at me. He hadn’t changed a bit, I realised. Not one bit in 14 years, his face full of youth, his head full of hair. No lines etched into his cheeks, no tiredness deep beneath his eyes. 

Unlike mine.

“We need a word,” he said.

I went to take another swig of the beer in my hand, looked at it for a long time, and set it back down. 

“I must be off my face,” I said. Instead, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cigarettes.

“That’s part of it,” my brother replied. He sat down next to me on the kerb, the night eerily quiet in the small hours, the only sound my stilted breathing as I took a drag. He was there, under the streetlight, looking as solid and as real as I’d ever seen him, and he looked at me with something resembling pity.

“Mate, you’ve spun quite a tangled mess.”

“Fuck off, Jonathan,” I said. His name felt strange in my mouth, and I realised I hadn’t said it out loud in years. I tried not to think about the fact that I was abusing my own hallucination. 

He ignored my outburst, the night once again covered in a thick blanket of silence.

“Daniel,” he said. “Do you remember the night I realised dad wasn’t coming home?”

I didn’t respond. He knew I did. 

“I was pretty angry. I guess I was angry at a lot of things, back then. But mostly, I was angry that he could just … leave. Without any sort of consequence. Just cut ties, and start again, because it was all too hard.”

I tried determinedly not to listen, slowly counting my cigarettes one by one. There were eleven in the packet, which was cheerfully adorned with an image of a burnt-out husk of a lung. I started again. One. Two.

“Do you remember what you said to me?” he asked sharply.

I stopped counting and looked up.

“You said the most important time to stay is when it’s easiest to leave. And you promised, promised me that you would never do the same. You shook my hand and swore,” he said.

“I remember,” I said quietly.

“Mate, stop blaming the world,” my brother said. “You need to go home.” 

He stood up, turned around, and disappeared into the night. 

I sat there a while, alone, for what felt like hours, and sobbed. Then I took a deep breath, got up, and started walking, throwing out what was left of the beer in the first bin I saw. 

Maybe it was time to break some habits.