Outside The Comfort Zone

  A digital serf finds himself exploited and demoralised 
  by his employers at a ‘cultural filter’ website.

  A celebrity publicist finds his past coming back to 
  haunt him in ways he could never have imagined.

  A taxi driver under extreme pressure experiences a 
  kind of nervous breakdown mid-fare.

  Alan Devey’s first collection of short stories, Outside 
  The Comfort Zone is a set of despatches from the heart 
  of contemporary Britain. In the wake of the financial crash, this is a place of insecure work, 
  desperate poverty, civil unrest, looming technological threat and the ongoing housing crisis.

  Like the films of Ken Loach or the world depicted by Sleaford Mods, these eleven tales track the    
  lost and dispossessed of Austerity Britain; men and women who find themselves at risk in 
  extreme circumstances. From a suburban job centre to a garage inhabited by hapless child-men,
  from backstage with a rock star to a council flat annexed by criminals, from the serial killer
  drawing in the bored and listless to the uncertain life of immigrants and their children. 

  All these people are forced out of their comfort zones in a collection that encompasses life and 
  death, dignity and failure, uphill struggles and sudden redemption. They are characters left 
  behind by our unequal society or still trying to ride its wave before being inevitably undone. This
  is life in the 21st century as depicted by a storyteller unafraid of delving into his country’s ugly

Alan Devey
Writer - Reader - Presenter 

New novella now available for the Kindle,
You Don't Bury Survivors

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Email: enquiries@alandevey.net

 As a taster, there now follows a short story from the collection entitled ‘This Dead Cat Won’t   
 Bounce, Michael’...  

 “Kirsty? Yes, that’s right. Could you put me through right away? Thank you kindly.

 “…Michael? You know why I’m calling of course. Yes, I’m following it here, as best I can anyway. How did no  one anticipate this? Well yes, I know they’re out on the streets every week, I’ve seen them go by my second  place, but this just isn’t cricket. How did it get out of control, and so suddenly? There must be a way to know  who mobilised them. I thought our people would have this in hand.

 “You know, I don’t like it when you say that old man. I’m very much au fait with ‘the internet’; I use it all the  time. You can’t blame ‘the internet’, not nowadays. There are real culprits out there Michael - ringleaders,  criminals; men with nefarious purpose in their hearts, and they leave a trail. I’ll speak to the Home Secretary;  make cracking down on it a top priority. 

 “I have utter faith in them; they’ve been instructed in a good deal of detail. What I need you to do now,  Michael, is put together some distraction. Do that right away. I don’t have a preference, no. You’re the ideas  man here - that’s why I keep you on. I can rely on you to react positively under this kind of pressure.

 “That’s not going to grab anyone’s attention now is it? Don’t be so foolish man. Can’t we raise the threat level?  Imminent attacks, specific intelligence - you know the drill. It’s a cliché these days I suppose. What’s a better  word than ‘specific’? ‘Incontrovertible’? The police will have a line. Oh yes, I recall. How silly. I don’t suppose  we can add another level above the highest? No, you’re right of course.

 “Why don’t we start with talk of a resignation? Someone must have spoken out of turn while I’ve been 
 away - it was happening twice a week in June. Well, you’re the communications guru. What about  incriminating emails? Who on earth told you to stop monitoring them? Oh yes, that’s right. I suppose it was  necessary, at the time.

 “Are you telling me I shouldn’t be worried? I’m telling you there’s no need to worry Michael. No, I don’t buy  that argument for a second. If we have nothing on the others then we’ll need to take a long look at ourselves.  No, of course not. I was going to ask you old chap - how are things with Angela? Still the same? That might be  something we can work with.

 “No, Michael, hear me out. Your private life is a last resort, for all of us. We both know the mess you call a  marriage can’t remain secret forever. How is Louise? Lovely girl yes, all that. Did I mention I knew her 
 father? You might have to move out of her place, just for the short-term. Would Angela agree to a brief  reunion? The prodigal father, back in the family home; all that. 

 I know its difficult Michael, no laughing matter, not at all. Believe me, I know what you’re going through. 
 How long have we known each other Mike? The point I’m trying to make, if you’ll just listen, if you’ll  just listen, is there are no obvious hypocrites in my cabinet. No one available, not anymore. This is the only  way to direct the attention elsewhere.

 “Is it still that raw? She must have calmed down by now, surely - it’s been months. Has it? Well then Mike, tell  me who knows about the damn separation. That’s good. Yes they have been, enormously discreet. But can we  rely on it when the journos start sniffing around…?”

 “What’s that you say? Yes, I can go to one. The Wi-Fi here’s dreadful but I should be able to…. Well, of course  they’re moving in. Who do you think signed off on the procedure? If those blighters behave that way they  must expect to be dispersed. Oh, I don’t know Mike, whatever it takes. Horses, batons, kettling. The usual  gumpf.

 “Don’t give me that. I’m watching as well and they’re teenagers or worse. That’s who commits the vandalism  you know, ask anyone. If they’re old enough to go to something like this they’re old enough to understand  actions have consequences. It’s the real world we’re dealing with here. You can’t cause a ruckus like this and  expect to get away with it.”

 “Oh I see, yes. The thing was always meant to be operational. Well within their rights, yes. Hold on a second  Mike. The bloody picture’s falling apart so I’ll have to take your word for it. Any response we endorse  is always proportionate… There it is now. I can see the thing being wheeled out. There she blows, right on 
 cue. At least we know the bloody machine works. Always needed a live test in the field, that’s what I told 

 “They really don’t do they? Such lack of control Mike, bringing it all on themselves. That has to be our line. A  level-headed reaction to an extraordinary situation. Do you need to write that down?

 “Yes, I can see the emergency services on the way through. Reports of injuries won’t surprise anyone, not the  way they’re behaving. How much damage is there? Can we speculate a figure? My government gets the bill 
 for clearing it up of course, I can tell you that much. Let this be a lesson to them….

 “Mike, are you still there? Mike? The picture’s gone again. They’re telling you what? Is it substantiated? Don’t  listen. You and I both know what the supposed witnesses are like. Take speculation as gospel and we’re 
 asking for trouble. I’ve been burned that way before. 

 “'Several independent reports now confirm…' Good Lord. That’s what it says Mike, scrolling across the  broadcast here, ad mortem. Do we know? A boy, they think it’s a boy? Let’s get one thing straight Mike, we  establish his age and then we refer to him as a ‘young man’, should that prove to be the case. ‘A boy’, my  God. 

 “I want you taking ownership of this, right away. Assemble a team if you have to. Look into the fellow’s  background: run-ins with the law, school records, trouble in the household; that sort of thing. I’ll let you go  very soon, we need to reach the end first. I can see them dispersing, absolutely. The worst seems to be over.  Now we need to start fixing this Mike. I’ll talk to Lachlan; see if he’s holding a dead cat in reserve, for this kind  of eventuality. Slap some distraction on the table, get ourselves a bit of a bounce…”

 “Send my condolences, yes. We’ve an agreed wording don’t we? Slot his name in, whatever it is. Tailor our  statement to the known facts. Strong, decisive action. That’s the only way to go with this. Make that clear to  the Mayor… 

 “We can’t do that Mike; he only got rid of the last Commissioner seven weeks ago. This one has to stay on our  side. Why remove his only reason for keeping it under wraps? Who do you think gave the man his orders in  the first place?”

 “I’ll decide in due course. In the meantime, it might be an idea to convene COBRA. Speak with the acting P.M.  will you? What do you mean ‘for what’? To show the country we treat these events with an appropriate level 
 of concern! It can’t hurt to get everyone in a room, brainstorming. Maybe they’ll come up with something.

 “No Mike, I really must protest. There will be no sitting in awkward silence if you brief them in advance now  will there? What do you mean ‘on what’? On the dead cat, of course! Bear in mind, we only move beyond  disparaging if it’s absolutely necessary. I’ll make that clear to Lachlan. Going off full-cocked is how this mess  happened in the first place. 

 “Who put the application in? Of course, it would be. Bloody pedagogues. Unimpeachable for the most part, at  least in the eyes of the fourth estate - even the Marxist ones. Christ, I’m getting a terrifically nasty one behind  the eyes… Wait, no, I’ve got it. There’s scope for military action isn’t there? Not against our own citizens, God  no. What do you think I am Mike? We target the enemy - the enemy!”

 “That’s the question isn’t it? The defence secretary has all the guidelines. He’s on holiday too? Don’t bother  disturbing Roger, not yet. Who were those ones, the real buggers? It’s slipped my mind…. Gibraltar! That’s the  one, Gibraltar! Oh yes, I’ve had about enough of the Spanish and their blasted incursions. British territorial  waters, absolutely correct. Well within our rights. Roger can get HMS Sabre out there and any other ships we  can spare. 

 “It sends a message; makes the Iberians think twice about letting boats malinger where they aren’t welcome.  Perhaps not, but he’s always liked my ideas in the past. I’m relying on you Mike. Speak to Roger, get his  viewpoint. Disturb him now, yes. Start with a Risk Assessment if you must, but hurry. I’m looking to get the  Royal Navy pumped right up, they’re our first defence remember. We’ll stop those Spaniards mucking about  with our sovereignty. On Roger’s say so, put word out to Brits on the rock. They should be outside, cheering  our boys in…”

 “We’ll keep the Yanks informed, of course we will. I know Europe isn’t going to like it, but that’s hardly your  department now Mike is it? If you look at it a certain way, Brussels caused this whole mess in the first place.  That’s the chap, right away please. We could tell the media it’s been in the works for a while. I trust you to  convince them. If the Defence Secretary clears it we’ll go with something like this: Tensions have escalated  and we were unable to reveal any details until now. Imply it’s all very recent. A bit hush-hush, MI6 and so on. 
 I don’t care how it looks; this is our first armed conflict in years. Reuters will be all over it.

 “I still need you to fall on your sword Mike. Ready yourself and the relevant loved ones please. Have a Press  Conference lined up to follow that COBRA thing. Say I reluctantly accept your resignation. Release some  details to the Sunday papers. They might want to lead on you tomorrow. We’ll keep the diversions coming. 

 “God, they’re just feasting on this kid aren’t they? Bloody vultures. We’ll appoint Tristan as your successor I  think Mike. Make sure he’s briefed by close of play would you? What’s that you say? Has it? Yes, I can see that  now. We need this footage taken down of course. Water jet just sends him flying doesn’t it? Wow, I’m not  surprised. Doubt anyone could survive that. 

 “I’m turning everything off now. I’ll make a couple of calls then try to relax. Don’t worry Mike; it’s not your  fault. We’ll meet for a drink, once I can be seen with you again. Autumn, possibly sooner. Off you go now old  fellow, the nation’s counting on you.” [Click]