Our short story of the week is a historical fiction story by Nick Cooke.

Nick Cooke was born in London in 1961 and attended Christ’s College Cambridge, where he graduated in English Literature. He spent six years in Turin, Italy, as a teacher and translator, before returning to London in 1989, since when he has worked in Further Education as an EFL/ESOL curriculum leader and teacher, and a CELTA teacher trainer. He combines this with writing and other interests including politics, sport and music. For some years in the Noughties he was a songwriter, vocalist and rhythm guitarist in a post-punk band named Live Wires.

Having been keen on writing poetry at school and university, he started writing on a serious basis in his mid-twenties, and produced a collection of stories in the late 1980s. Since then he has completed three novels, plus a novella, and has three more fiction projects in the pipeline. He has had four stories published in various outlets, along with around fifty poems and twenty reviews of poetry collections. One poem won a Wax Poetry and Art competition in 2016 and several poems have been given Commended or Highly Commended status in other competitions. He has also written around twenty stage plays, some of which have been longlisted in competitions, and eight film scripts.

Prey unfolds against the background of an authoritarian regime, following the havoc wreaked by a strange spider.


It is siesta time in the town. Today, the silence of slumber is more complete even than usual, since the only citizen permitted to continue work after the midday curfew bell has for once elected to waive the privilege. His sleep seems all the deeper for its rarity, but no one could say that he has not earned it. He is the most accomplished theologian of the region and he has just finished the final draft of his magnum opus on freedom of choice. In the tiny study where most of this work has been written, his head rests on the keys of the antique typewriter that he has been using for years despite offers to buy him something more up to date from no less a figure than Cardinal Strega himself. Occasionally his shoulders twitch and his head lifts a few inches as if an awakening were imminent before (it is a large and weighty head) crashing back down onto the keys, so that a few unwanted letters and mathematical symbols have appeared, detracting somewhat from the intended solemnity and definitiveness of his last Amen. This is nothing that a little correcting fluid cannot put right, and of that substance there is never a shortage, as the theologian is a most severe self-critic. Somewhat more difficult to blot out will be the effects of the wolf-spider’s strike.Read more…