By: RJ Newlyn

But my grandfather died when I was only a year old so how can any of this be true? There’s a photograph from the day they dismantled his house and I’m in the garden, clearly barely able to walk. In later years I spent considerable time and money on therapists who had plenty to say about snakes telling stories. But now I am nearly as old as my grandfather, I find myself less sceptical. And still I wake on summer mornings with a tear-stained pillow and half-memories of rushing air under my wings and the clouds beneath my feet.

Story four

They closed us down three days ago – the whole lab. I don’t know where the others are, but they offered me this desk job so long as I said nothing. I’m not breaking that promise – there are so many galaxies out there, you wouldn’t know where to look. But try Draco on the winter horizon if you’ve the right equipment.

We’d been monitoring that sector for a few months and had made some decent images for the media. Then I trained the scope on a region we’d not covered before and left it on overnight.

What came back couldn’t be explained any other way. There was the nebula in the background (I can’t give its name) but that was nothing compared to the shapes weaving in and out of it. Wings, claws, sinuous tails, the works – unmistakable. We sat there in front of the recording, silenced by their beauty.

But then the time came to upload. We knew it was over but relished two hours of tranquillity before the vans arrived with the men in suits. I’ve loved the stars since childhood, and for a few years I lived that dream. It’s over now but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Story five

My abduction of the celebrated Mr Darwin was unreported at the time and is likely to remain so hereafter. It was simple enough to accomplish – despite the furore surrounding his work, he kept no guard and continued to travel openly.

We secured him in his cabin for the voyage, which I suspect was the kindest course of action in the circumstances. The old steamboat was tossed by mountainous waves and those of us on deck were fortunate to escape with our lives. He suffered nothing more than profuse seasickness.

His writings were already draining the world of its magic; I could not countenance that without taking a stand. I took him out alone in the skiff and rowed as close as I dared to the island.

‘Look at them!’ I shouted above the crash of the waves. ‘How do they fit in? What use are your theories here?’

One of the creatures glanced at us with a lazy eye before hauling its vast bulk along the beach: scales hissing against the shingle, two spirals of smoke issuing from its nostrils.

But he could not see them. He simply sat shivering in the stern and gazed wearily towards the grey horizon.

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