Fear and Loathing in Birmingham

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 6

Challenge #3: Write a piece of Gonzo Journalism with a word count that is also a Cuban Prime.

I had just lost my job, I had a gash in my leg the size of Warwickshire, and the Navy thought I owed them money. It was the perfect time to spend four straight days playing videogames.

Five days including travel.

Somehow, at some point several weeks before, I had managed to snag the very last early entry ticket to EGX, the biggest games event in the UK. I’d had vague plans to try and land a better job there, so actually the timing was pretty handy. I hopped on the train to Birmingham, arrived at a station that wasn’t on my ticket, and spent the night in a dubious hostel just across the road from some absolutely top notch graffiti of Inspector Gadget.

I set off the next day for the NEC, a building so incredibly huge that I think I’ve seen more of Birmingham inside it than out. The place is bafflingly massive—a bizarre cross between an airport and Purgatory—so rather than bother to get hold of a map, I simply followed a guy who was either dressed as a character from Fallout 4 or just super into BDSM. Handily, whichever one, he was going the same place as me.

By the time I got to EGX itself, the queue was already starting to move through the door, but I still got to stand around watching the same Resident Evil 7 trailer again and again because although the queue was moving, it wasn’t moving very fast. It was as though everyone passing through the nice wide cattle-run type entrance to the event was immediately stopping to get a load of something just to one side. So I just kept shuffling forwards and prepared to get a load of whatever that was for myself.

I know what you’re thinking. I called this thing Fear and Loathing in Birmingham: where are the drugs?

“TORNADO,” says the lady at the booth, holding out the can.

It’s not a question. It’s not an offer. It’s just TORNADO.

Except it’s not TORNADO either, it’s:




in huge letters laid out down the side of the can like that. Letters so huge that you couldn’t possibly miss them even if you’d just imbibed half a litre of questionable substances. Questionable substances that are listed in prominent (though significantly smaller) block capitals running around the top of the can.

“Cool, thanks,” I say, kind of bummed that this can of aggressively branded liquid crack is what has absolutely, positively, for sure cost me a chance to have a go at Horizon: Zero Dawn any time today.

So I get into the event and I queue for over an hour to have a five minute go at a PSVR remake of an ’80s arcade game. It’s actually pretty good. More like a standard FPS than you’d expect, but stuck to your face while a crowd of people gulping down TORNADO gawps at you.

And you know what? It’s at this point I realise that I completely forgot to bring a water bottle to this thing. And though you can buy a bottle of water at basically any food place in the NEC, it’s going to cost you about as much as a boat anywhere else. And remember that I suddenly don’t have a job. So it’s also at this point that I decide I could go for a little TORNADO myself.

Have you ever force-fed cocaine to a wolverine, nuked its urine in the microwave and sealed it in a can? Because I haven’t.

But someone has.

The rest of those four days is kind of a blur, but at some point someone hands me a minigun and (in an unrelated development) I end up getting another job, so overall it’s pretty boss.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

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