by Levi Noe
The rising sun bleeds in through the curtains. You try to bandage the light on your eyes with your pillow and go back to dreams of losing your teeth or using the toilet in the middle of a mall. Then comes a crow outside your window. He’s left his murder to caw a capella in that screeching, grating, baby strangling voice that makes you wonder what God or Nature, or evolution were thinking. They are all equally irresponsible. It makes you believe that some things in life are just meant to be ugly, trying, enraging.
This is not the way you wanted to start your day, with thoughts of killing another being. You emerge from bed, begrudgingly, with some big questions. Crows are supposed to be highly intelligent, why, then, do they sound like idiots? You prefer ravens, is that just because of Poe or anthropomorphic associations? Supposedly, a parliament of rooks will gather, encircle one rook and after much cawing and cacophony peck the lone rook to death. Is it because the rook was sick or breeding diseases? Or was the rook saying something the other members of the parliament disagreed with?
Either way, the day begins with or without you and this whole corvidae business reminds you of a joke: What’s the difference between a crow and a raven? Raven’s have one more feather on the wings than crows. These feathers, used for flight, are called pinions. So, really, it’s just a matter of a pinion.
What’s being read is not important
by Jack Buck
I liked the idea of having a newspaper delivered three days of the week; considered myself as the type of person who would sometimes read sections of day-old newspaper. Eva wasn’t anti-newspaper, she just didn’t like how it filled our recycling bag after only a week and half worth of paper. I have no valid reason of why I was lazy then, but I was when it came to daily doings, like, taking the recycling out back before Tuesday morning’s haul. There were stretches where I had neglected to remember on any given Monday night causing havoc between us. It’s rather easy; how difficult is it to be mindful of taking out the newspapers? I should have just cancelled the subscription, but I held on in hopes of creating something I have always wanted. It’s like a scene in a movie that you want your life to be like: two lovers, her, stretched across the floor on her beautiful belly, reading a book, and you and the newspaper that lays scattered across a table. You read interesting, beautiful, funny passages to one another and smile.
Salty and Sweet
by Lauren Maltas
Sun falls onto water like you describe. The grass captures it, in a jar like rice grains, contains it until the shoots themselves are dyed with their colour. I have walked with you every day, for most of the days we’ve had, and you tell me why all the time.
Sometimes I think you are salty, after all you’ve seen, how you took it all into yourself, became heavier, a drowned little buoy. But today you seem sweeter. You don’t care for those clothes, as though they taint your taste and don’t enhance it. Maybe they are the herbs your dish never needed. Maybe they pull you down. You need to see the Earth, walk it off. Stop wearing your raincoat when it’s soaked.
These fields and this sky, I’m knee deep into them. My boots are visible, my socks are not. We knew when we started that our jeans would rip and dampen, that the stones would be as hard as they are every time. Eventually they’ll look smaller when they’ve worn down, when we see them from further away. I have walked with you every day, for most of our days and still I don’t feel like we know exactly where we want to go.
Maybe I will be able to now, to navigate you with the echoes of the reasons you set out. Or maybe you will be let down by being so exposed, when I pass on the secrets you tell me. Wind will carry them off. I shall try to illuminate the sky when we’ve trekked all through the night, if only to comfort and not to guide you. Our roots are not what draw us back, we know the way and we can leave our footprints as an explanation.
by Jayne Buxton
Bobby doesn’t like it, the way the wheat thrashes about in the wind, the rushing sound it makes. He barks, urging me on.
Shut up Bobby, I say. It’s only wind.
To me it’s not even wind. Or wheat. It’s brushes, thousands of golden brushes sliding across snares, moved by the hands of an invisible drummer, providing the faint, mournful underscore of some louder, more insistent beat.
This whole place is an underscore. You can be born here, but you can’t be raised. You can’t learn how to be.
I tried though. Why can’t you just be normal? my mother said. I never really understood what she meant. Was my father normal, that tightly coiled being of so few words? Was she? Tiptoeing around the place like a nurse on night shift. No, nurses don’t tiptoe do they? They go about their business with a cheerful boldness, taking temperatures, cleaning up vomit. Sensible rubber soles squeaking unashamedly.
I thought drumming would help. A respectable hobby. One that would make me part of something. Only they didn’t ask, the bass players and the pianists. And a lone drummer isn’t much good. Without the bass and the piano he’s just making noise. The hobby that would make me normal only came to highlight that I was not, and this became an embarrassment, so I stopped.
They’re dead now, the people who so wanted me to be normal. That farmhouse over there belongs to me, as does this field full of whispering snare brushes. I could play the drums all day and night if I wanted to. I could be John Henry Bonham, esteemed for my speed and power, drumming my way towards fame and then happy oblivion.
by Lauren Bell
At first he spent hours in the kitchen making himself coffee after coffee after coffee. He had to stay awake.
It was different at night. He needed to sleep, but couldn’t. He spoke to his doctor who referred him to a sleep specialist, who didn’t know any better, and even joked you’ll just have to work nights from now on.
But Ed had a solution of his own.
He set up various microphones in his tiny cube of a garden and placed buckets beneath his flowering shrubs. He wanted to be right at the heart of the action.
Ed made sure the tape recorder was protected from any impending bad weather and had a mini tent erected overhead. With any luck this would only enhance the sounds recorded.
The sound quality was much better than he had expected. It made him feel as though he was really outside with his head thrown back, tasting the rain.
There was a crispness to the air, a freshness he had never noticed before, but listening to the continual pitter-patter of raindrops splashing the canopy and pelting the buckets with a satisfying drip-drip-drip, he realised he had brought the magic outside, inside.
Dance of the spirits
by Voima Oy
The field shimmers in the summer heat. If you look closely, you can almost see into the world beyond.
In the green field, the spirits are dancing, all the loved ones who have gone. They are wearing festive colors–magenta, saffron and turquoise blue, colors of the wild flowers growing by the side of the road.
They dance with the sunflowers and purple bee balm, orange daylilies, chickory as blue as the sky.
They beat the great drums like thunder, as if to summon the clouds and rain, dancing to the rhythm of the earth turning, round and round and round. They dance their days and years of this world, a blur of changing faces.
You reach out your hand to touch them, but they are just out of reach. They do not see you. And still the dance goes on, the colors whirling together in the setting sun.
At twilight, colors disappear in the deepening blue. One by one, the dancers turn into fireflies. Lights flashing on and off, dancing the summer night, the numbered days of grass and rain. They dance creation, love and death, lights flashing on and off, dancing colors back into the world, into the blue before the rose of dawn.
by Nod Ghosh
I’d scribble an x in my Bible each time it happened. The date and an x in the front cover right opposite the creation of heaven and earth.
I learnt not to cry out or make a fuss. My back chafed and other parts hurt like I’d been cut with glass, but I kept quiet. Roly would sit there, his head cocked to one side. He knew not to bark. The fractured sun found a path through shafts of grain that waved and bounced in the breeze.
When he fastened his belt afterwards, I bit my lip and held the scream inside.
My mother thought she was keeping Lorelei and me safe, not letting us go into town.
Don’t speak to strangers.
Don’t look anyone directly in the eye.
He’d been pastor since I was little. Ma used to welcome him into our home. He’d bring Roly. There’d be biscuits and tea and water for the dog. He’d dandle Lorelei on his knee and ruffle my brother’s corn-bright hair. He’d give me a special look that held the promise of something more to come.
And the truth was, I wanted it.
The first time it happened, I told Ma I’d walk back from church with Suzie-Lee. But of course I did no such thing. The hot summer melted me like butter. I knew what would happen if I waited long enough at Harrington’s field.
Afterwards he walked away, with Roly obedient beside him. His anorak was tied around his waist. He looked back to where I was lying. Only once.
I crept home through the back door. I took my Bible off the shelf. Wrote the date. Wrote an x. Took my first step towards hell.
The space between heartbeats
He is jogging along the road beneath the base of the cliffs when it happens. A crack, a phosphorus-flare. He halts, watching as the indigo sky fades to cobalt. And then.
Something slips into the space between his heartbeats, sharp-sharp like a knife. A savage twist, ripping-burning-stinging. Then, a deep, visceral ache, as if he’s been kicked in the balls. He falls onto his hands and knees. He looks up. His mouth falls open.
His shadow, silky-smooth, is slipping across the bitumen and over the rocks. It slides into the sea, where it floats like an oil slick. Bloating in the sunlight, black like melanoma.
Cumulus clouds tower overhead. Clutching his stomach, he crawls toward the edge of the road. His shadow is twisting, curling, stretching. He extends an arm. Blood runs off the tips of his fingers, swirling into the slate water below. The wind roars into his lungs. Blackening clouds sweep over the sun, like an incoming tide.
His shadow sinks like a stone.
His skin contracts and burns, burns and contracts. He throws himself into the water and dives again and again, but it’s gone. When he emerges, shivering and cold, a thick layer of darkness is wrapping around the coastline. He is afraid.
His body will wash up on the beach, later, his blancmange skin bleached to alabaster. They will play Moonshadow at his funeral, and talk about the mysterious oil slick that appeared on the day he died.
No one will talk about what can happen in the space between heartbeats.
by Jack Koebnig
He removed his stained mug from the cupboard and glanced at the cup and saucer. He’d never had the opportunity to use them. He’d come close though. After months of tireless determination, she’d finally accepted his invitation to tea. Although on that occasion they’d ended up doing something completely different and for her at least something utterly out of character.
She’d been on his mind a lot lately and while he added a nip of whisky to his mug he saw himself once again kneeling by her head, inhaling the sweet aroma of her long strawberry-blond hair.
He closed the cupboard door and returned to the living room. On the arm of the room’s only chair was a well-thumbed sketch book. He threw back his drink and with jittering fingers opened it.
When she’d visited him, she’d been wearing an ankle length skirt and a long sleeved blouse. Even now he couldn’t remember their colour. In the sketch she’s reclining on his bed. He licked his lips and flipped to the next drawing. There was just enough time to acknowledge her lying in the open boot of his car before he jumped to his feet and clutching the sketch pad, raced out of the room.
It was a short distance to the field but when he arrived his body was sticky with sweat. He took a deep breath and waded through the tall strands of wheat.
He found her near the centre, just where he’d left her. She was lying on the picnic rug and still wearing her ankle length skirt and blouse. He ignored their bright colours and looked at her face. ‘You’re so … so beautiful.’ He opened his sketch pad and began.
Coming To Grips
by Pattyann McCarthy
My friends and I took a jaunt to the countryside for a picnic. We were agog getting away from our lives for the day, just us girls! As we drove in the middle of no-mans-land, we stumbled on a place called, ‘Coming to Grips.’ Curious, we pulled into the naked lot. ‘Face Your Fears’ a sign read. How odd to be out here?
We’d decided a unanimous yes, since we all had something we feared. I was afraid of heights, another had issues with water, one, an issue being buried alive, and one of the girls, Janice, was deathly afraid of the dark.
We paid the reasonable fees, and had Janice go first.
My skin prickled when I saw the eerie attendant. He looked a throwback to the SS in the ʼ40’s, jet hair, translucent ultra-pale skin, ice-water gray-blue eyes that appeared bled of life, and as he led Janice to a soundproof box resembling an antiquated elevator, shivers ran my spine.
“You must endure the dark for ten minutes, yah? After that, your problem will be resolved! Simple, yah?”
‘Is that a German accent? Creepy!’ How could I have guessed?
Petrified, she halfheartedly nodded her head. He jerked her inside.
We heard the box ascend then nothing as we anxiously stood below.
After minutes, the box descended, the door slid open. We strained to see her in the darkness. A sickening red light popped to life. The walls dripped gelatinous red. Janice lay in a puddle of glistening entrails, her terrified eyes, wide, still.
We tried to run; he trapped us!
My other friends? The attendant drowned one in boiling water, and buried the other alive in black mud. And me? I’m standing on the edge of a precipice; the dead Nazi’s pushing me with an electrified rod!
by Malcolm Collerby
Hope watched the sender’s names spring open on her phone after she switched on. The only one that interested her was G.R., General results. Not ‘Grim Reaper’ as many morbidly called the hospital’s alerts that were now routinely issued since cut-backs had deemed the one-to-one consultations unnecessary.
‘Oncology Department – patient CL23/42997 now terminal, prognosis 3 months without A.S.’
No surprise there, she thought, having already decided on the assisted suicide option. The feeling of relief at getting the final result was far more intense than the dread caused by the initial diagnosis. Not knowing if it was treatable or not. Better a quick painless end than the rigours of treatment leaving a wrecked body, weighing less than a feather, lying on a hospital bed.