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The Ship

It landed south of the Thames. No-one knew what it was or where it had come from, but its metal rim arced out of the brown sand like the hull of a ship. Each time a boat went past the tourists on board pointed and clicked their cameras, and the tide would swell up and lap against its sides. The area on the bank around it was overgrown with brambles, and had been cordoned off by the authorities once they'd realised what it was.

When it first appeared, before the dangers were really known, a few people had strayed close enough to touch it. The papers reported what had happened to them. Apparently one had fled the country after inheriting a significant sum of money. The other had been found hanged in his home.

The public became alarmed after reading conflicting reports of radiation leaking out into the water. In order to allay public fears and in order to ensure their own political survival, several ministers had visited the site to be photographed while wearing hard-hats.

That morning a minister from the Department of Health had come down to slip on a bright green vest and to chat with the security staff for the benefit of the cameras. He was a politically vulnerable man, whose controversial ideas and ambitions had been thwarted by public opinion and who knew that, unless he could radically shake things up he’d be quickly forgotten.

Sensing an opportunity for political kudos he made his way, in waders, along the shore line. He saw the smooth gleam of the metal and felt a strange sensation, as if warm water were spreading under his skin. As he drew closer the light flared and those watching on the shore saw him slowly swallowed by a nebula as brilliant as any star.

As he approached he stopped, trying to find the right words, and repeated over and over, ‘They won’t let me think, they won’t let me. Look inside me, find my secret desire and what I really want and pull that out of me. All I want is happiness for now and forever more. Let me change the world.’

As the light dimmed, the grey tide swelled and the sun spilt its blood over the Thames.

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen