Presented by the Arts and Humanities Studentsâ€™ Council Winter 2013
Propaganda 2013 Arts and Literary Journal
Editor-in-chief: MEAGAN PUTERMAN Creative Managing Editor: MARTA BOUTCHMA Academic Managing Editor: CALUM BEEDLING Copy Editor: APRIL TANNER Layout Editor: STEPHANIE GRELLA
Propaganda is published annually by the Arts and Humanities Students' Council at Western University and accepts submissions of any form of creative art produced by Western University students. Propaganda would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Students' Council as well as all of the contributors for their support in the production of this year's volume.
Cover art by Chris Miszczak
Copyrights remain with the artists and authors. The sole responsibility for the content in this publication lies with the authors and artists. The content does not reflect the opinions of the Arts and Humanities Studentsâ€™ Council (AHSC) or the University Studentsâ€™ Council (USC). The AHSC and USC assume no liability for any errors, inaccuracies, or omissions contained in this publication.
Forward Robert Frost wrote a frequently misquoted and overused poem in which the speaker must choose between two paths. You all know to which poem I refer. Some look to this poem to support their adventurous decisions over their perfectly normal mundane ones (in the same way it is currently fashionable to look to a certain acronym, one that will not be named here). I however, believe this poem is about choosing creativity, mundane or not. Being creative is difficult, the writers and artists who contributed to this year’s Propaganda will understand this. As an English major with a keenness (and, I hope, talent) for writing fiction, I am all too familiar with the usual criticisms of the worth of my degree as well as my lack of prospects. The truth is that I could have learnt a trade, I could have studied something deemed practical, but instead, I chose to develop a craft. The panic of my worth in the ‘real world’ has set in, and it has passed. No, I didn’t learn a so-called practical trade; I learnt a craft that isn’t exactly a top employable skill. I probably won’t be rolling in the riches when I leave for this ‘real world’ everyone keeps telling me about, but I will be happier with my craft than with any other practical skill I could have learned. I have built character, along with other coveted skills that come with a Liberal Arts degree – clear communication, intellectual thinking, critical reasoning - you’ve heard them all before. I have also learned to defend both my character and my craft. I realized that panic and fear of failure are more of a hindrance than help. By so desperately working on various back-up plans, I was undermining myself, so I stepped back and thought about what truly excited me. As an English major, I’ve already taken the hard road, the road that doesn’t guarantee employability, but it doesn’t scare me anymore because there’s a solution – work hard, do what you love and good things will come. Creativity can be a mundane task – from the outside, watching creativity at work is almost no different to watching someone cook their dinner, or
even eat it. In my experience the interesting part in creativity (for others) is the outcome, rather than the process. Here, in this journal, you’ll get a chance to see the outcomes of the seemingly mundane process of creativity. You won’t have to sit with the pondering poet or attempt to catch the attention of someone who appears to have checked out three hours ago because they just came up with something brilliant (and you were supposed to catch a movie with them and now you’re definitely late). You do however, get to see what they came up with. So, flip through the book, read a story, gaze at a painting and enjoy. What does this ‘difficult road stuff’ I’ve been self-indulging in have anything to do with you reading Propaganda? Well, this edition of this journal was woven together by students who are fighting the current of that harder, but more satisfying road. The contributors to this year’s edition are fearlessly trudging through the criticisms of the practicality of their craft and they have had the courage to put themselves on display for all to see. Now you get to follow, get a glimpse of this path and maybe you will choose return to your safe and practical life choices. However, if you’re anything like the contributors to this year’s issue, you won’t let the creative process stop. You will take a gander on that other road and maybe decide to take a different kind of stroll.
-- Marta Boutchma, creative managing editor
Marta Boutchma is a 4th year honours English Language and Literature student, currently working on her creative writing thesis. She has shown an interest in creative writing through attending workshops and receiving the Marguerite Dow Award for Creative Writing in 2012. She hopes to continue writing in her future.
Long, Cold, Dark ADAM FINZI............................................................................................................................................5
The Quite Finale: A Play in One Act BRAD AUSROTAS...................................................................................................................................6
Numerosity BRANDON ALLEN.................................................................................................................................8 Appetence ANNE-MARIE FILE..............................................................................................................................10 Cannibal TAYLOR RAE..........................................................................................................................................11 Quilin MORGAN NASR....................................................................................................................................12
The Chain LORI MADDIGAN................................................................................................................................15
Nine Souls of a Shoe Tree ALEX CARRILLO-HAYLEY................................................................................................................18
The Righteous RYAN PRITTIE......................................................................................................................................20
The Big American Wetdream TAYLOR CALDER................................................................................................................................23
Mantis SAM JOWETT.......................................................................................................................................28
Forgotten Trap BRENDA STONEHOUSE....................................................................................................................33
Elephant and Bark Part 1, Elephant and Bark Part 2 NOAH THOMPSON MATIKAINEN................................................................................................34-35
Glasses ELIZABETH NASH..............................................................................................................................36
Hold on World SOPHIA LLOYD...................................................................................................................................37
Portrait Chaos JACLYN GUNTON.............................................................................................................................38 Soft as Chalk AMY KOVAC.......................................................................................................................................39 The Sibling Effect CARLIE MITCHELL..........................................................................................................................40 Young Blood JESSICA HODGSON..........................................................................................................................41 Colours of Innocence CORRY FAULKUR..............................................................................................................................42 Silent Music ERIN RYAN..........................................................................................................................................43 And the Smoke Rose Up and Disappeared RYAN GAIO..........................................................................................................................................44 The Rescue KATARINA GALAT.............................................................................................................................46 In the Presence of Withering Lights KEVIN MILNE.....................................................................................................................................49 Carrieâ€™s Window HILLARY POOLE................................................................................................................................51 Untitled JENNIFER NANGREAVE...................................................................................................................52 A Mere Decoration JACK MORLOG....................................................................................................................................55 Unsalted ERIC ZADROZNY................................................................................................................................58 Harlequeen CAMERON RIDDELL.........................................................................................................................59 The Ballad of Rick McGhie, in Three Parts ANDREW SHAW..................................................................................................................................63
Long, Cold, Dark A vacuity of the finest vintage, and a ceremony for the damned. A long sought after discharge of love, misconstrued by mortal hands. A perversion of the basic union, where the core is now the least. Forever lost in the sands of time, so that the mind reverts to beast. Though surely I just romanticize, a sentiment which is not me. How could a creature of such desire, turn away from such a feast. And now upon an early hour, when my hunger is like a sharkâ€™s, I accept my current predicament, which I call: long, cold, dark.
BY ADAM FINZI
The Quiet Finale: A Play in One Act BY BRAD AUSROTAS A large ballroom, dimly light with faerie lights, blue and green and haunting. There are several doors along each wall, ornately paneled with gold handles. The room is filled with people, or crude approximations of such— as though made of clay by an artist whose tangent got the better of him— dancing slowly in circles. Slow, mournful music fills the room, the source of which is not apparent. John Othello, a young man of 25, enters, dancing with a woman.
John dances slowly in circles with the woman, his eyes unfocused and vacant.
John (blinking furiously): Hello? Where am I? (Noticing the woman in his arms) Oh my! Who are you? Woman: My name is Alvara, but that is not important. We left behind our names when we came through the doors. John: What doors? Why are we dancing? Did I black out? I can’t remember anything… Alvara: Nothing matters anymore, sir. Take the knife by the blade and seize it in your palm. Squeeze as hard as you can! There’s nothing to say for it but blood, and there’s blood enough for the world to spin. Man (next partner over, listening): Quite right. This obtuse fellow need not be taken to Sydney and back. Show him the way. John: What did he say? Sydney? Why are we dancing? Please, let go! (attempts to pull his hands
from Alvara, fails).
Alvara: Don’t bother with that, my dear. We’ll stop dancing when the dance is ended. John (suspiciously): And when will that be? Alvara: You will know when it comes. John (his eyes vacant once more): Yes, when the time comes. John (lucid once more): What of frozen orange juice? What of sheep and shavers? What of the rickshaws, breaking backs with their weight? Alvara: The rickshaws we do not speak about. Shavers keep sheep cool. The juice of an orange may be frozen quite unobtrusively, if one has a mind. Calm yourself, sir. Tonight we dance, but soon I must go. John: Why? Where are you going? I’ve found I don’t like it here, but I like the ways of here. Have you no answers for me, lady? Alvara (thinking): I hold no answers that you do not already hold within yourself. My time is growing dim, and the lights are faint about me.
Alvara performs a singularly graceful pirouette before collapsing to the floor. John is free at last, and notices that the music had stopped. He ignores the fallen Alvara and steps to the side of the room.
John: An odd sort of silence fills this room. No one is speaking but me, and yet, the weight of the silences speaks of many unheard voices, of choirs belting unseen. The man who spoke earlier
approaches John. The dancing resumes but John ignores it.
Man: Dew drops fill the night, my lord. Dew drops across the sky. John: Why you’re thinking of stars. Man: No my lord, ‘tis the drops of dew, as though on the grass of the heavens, I mean. I am sure of it. John: Why that’s quite a ridiculous notion. The only grass that grows is on the ground, and the ground is beneath our feet, not in the sky. Man: That’s quite a sound position, my lord, but not quite tenable, I am afraid to say. The ground surrounds us, and the sky is beneath us. John (looks down and jumps, quite horrified): What is that? What am I looking at? Man: Ah, so you can see it. It usually takes most (others?) a fair bit longer than that, my lord. That is, or hereabouts is, anyway, the sky. John: But what is the sky doing down there? Man: Well the sky is not a fixed factor, sir. See, the sky can travel as it’(?)s wants desire, rather than standing so still, as it does where you come from. John: Where I come from? I come from Stratford-upon-Avon, a perfectly normal place, I thank you. Where is it that you come from, then? Man: Why sir, I could not even begin to tell you. I do not necessarily come from one place. I have dipped my feet in many pools across the earth, and not all of those feet have left the pools, if you take my meaning, sir. John (stepping aside as a couple come careening past, spinning wildly, as though trapped in perpetual motion): What an absurd notion. How can anyone be in two places at once? Man: How can anyone be at all? It is no more a ridiculous notion to exist amongst the stars, made from them, no less, than it is to be in here, or there, or both all at once? John: Then why am I here? Man (softly): Ahhh, now you’ve reached the crux of the matter. The heart beats with blood, but the heart cannot always will the brain to do as it desires. The holy trinity, my good sir: the body, the blood, and the machine. The machine, for you, my lord, has been switched off. The gears are slowly rusting, the emissions have dried up. The body is pure, the blood is pounding, but the machine has gone quiet, at last. And so here you are. John (horrified): But! What! Am I dead? What madness is this? Man: Dead, alive, what does it matter, truly? My lord, why is it not enough to just be? People are so caught up in being one or the other, or trying to be something else altogether, they forget to enjoy the fact that they are, and altogether too soon they find that they are not. You still are, John, so I would recommend you enjoy it while you can. John: How do you know my name? Man: Because I know the names of everyone in this place, and everyone beyond these walls, and everyone who ever was, is, or will be. John (slowly): But who, then, are you? Man: My name is Death. And one day, you will see me again. But not this day.
Death bows and exits, followed by the curtain closing, as John stares straight ahead into the audience. Fin.
Numerosity BY BRANDON ALLEN My inner self no longer pumped with the sweet rejuvenation of blood. A void was made, a vacuum within the empty walls of my dying system. Numbers were injected through the mathematical confines of a syringe whose walls conceded to pi. Bid farewell to imprecise estimation. But there is always an erroneous inconsistency. A number or two may have stuck to the cyclic confines of this mechanism, and that, no doubt accounts for my gaps in knowledge. I didnâ€™t fret; my heart beat to the logical ecstasy of a turbulent matrix synthesized in the soul of a mathematical facility, and baked to finish in a laboratory. These tides of figures flowed through, thrashing into their restrictive walls, crying to be let back into the eternal world; their sanctity, their hallowed paradise. What have they done, to be imprisoned and caged in a world that can barely resist their drumming wallop? The digits, the sequences, the patterns, they took me through the cosmos perforce. I had no say they were eternal gifts from God, from the perpetual world.
Propaganda These numbers, they restored my life. Bu at what cost? Slit my veins and watch.
You push me around your plate unsatisfied. Longing for a taste that will satiate your appetite You pick at the corners, drag out your bites Cover the reality in salt. Mask the tang of rotting food. Drain the memory with gulps of water Constant hunger I guess you could never digest the idea of me.
Cannibal BY TAYLOR RAE Call it brutal, But I want to gently tear you open Until all the fragments of who you are fall in front of me. Call it vulgar, But I want to ingest the atoms of your mind and heart Until I nourish my frail frame with all you are. Call yourself lost, But we will take these foreign pieces and put them together to form the self you fail to find. For in those absent eyes, I am trying to dilate your dark pupils with experience unknown to me. And etched on your skin rest scars and bruises seizing me like a photoflash I did not foresee. Memories captured in the depths of your soul; In silent hysteria, Your blood stirs with nostalgia, Greater than the surface area of your body.
Pull me into the spirit of your thoughts like you pull me into your arms. Draw me into the cinematography of your intuition until I can form my own rendition. But your silence screams at me in inhibition, Making me suppress my aggression, And accept your self-oppression. Call it obscene, But I want to know what shakes you to your wake, Lying in the midst of a vivid dream. And call it crude, But like a recovering cannibal I will abide, Fasting from the untold parts of you Letting my curiosity elude.
BY MORGAN NASR
Brilliant blazing stars waver in the wind, As the long grasses of the meadow whisper with each gentle breath – Drawing the tide in and out across the plateau’s breadth. The slight scent of soot lingers, and with the freshness does it blend, Infecting every mote of air, and With no mercy does it ensnare The living spirit – mutilated, rendered blind. Knee deep amongst the waves She takes heed to pseudo sounds of silence, Allowing the rippling air to give her guidance Towards the battle that she must brave. A war that is almost impossible to be won – For the minds of the perverted are twisted and spun Into gnarled clods of idiocy, immune to being saved. She turned her back to the grassy sea, And directed her gaze towards her luscious wood. Edged with stumps where trees once stood: A forest graveyard outlining the boundaries of the lea. Her Savage beauty tinged with shame For the idiot race, that to her forest, maimed. But soon she knows, that all will pay the ultimate fee. She wades through the grassy plain Towards her beauteous and fertile home. Which, slowly begins to resemble a floral catacomb. The Kodama, a fantastic race, that with the forest wanes, (For they are a symbol of its health) Greet her in all their wealth, Their Princess, their protector from all that banes.
Propaganda It is tonight, that she shall have to take flight. For the sorry soldiers of the village to the forest hence With minds clouded by greed leaving them dense. In their eyes, they own all that is in their sight. Earth’s bounteous flora is theirs to pillage and rape With no obligation to replace what they take. It is her burden to bear – to teach them what is not their right. As the cloak of night descends, Like a curtain on the forest spirit’s last act, She takes one final glance of her amazing home, still intact. The pure white petals of the moonflower unbend Carpeting the forest floor, and in the moonlight Glow gloriously, ethereal and bright. Their beauty, she must now defend. Clad in clothes of a feral samurai: - Armour from the ancient black pine Woven together with thick cords of twine. - A helmet, covering all but her eyes, Draped with a veil of thick golden wheat Stained with the blood of her fallen trees, She descends beneath the starry sky. Stealthily, beneath the surface of the blades, She scurries towards the humble hamlet Armed with her archaic hatchet. Down below the grassy knoll, bade The chanting of the militant force. From there they set off on their course Towards the hill where hidden, she laid. Trembling with hatchet in hand She lays in waiting, as tiny glowing lights Grow larger, consuming the darkness of the night. She can hear their footsteps heavy on the land, And the crackle of the scorching flames Singeing the grasses and setting the field aflame. Sending heated waves creeping to where she stands.
Propaganda Thwack! The sound of her tribal axe Through the ankle of an unsuspecting, yet Well deserving cadet. The warm slickness of the blood seeps into the cracks And deep into the soil. Soaked in through roots, where like acid it spoils Each and every tract. Fuelled by the adrenaline of the kill, Maddened by the sight Of her forest burning in the night, She sweeps her hatchet with expert skill Across the faces of the damned Who fall limp, and lifeless where they stand. A pool of blood. Thick. And still. Standing knee deep amongst the blood, Sweat pours down her brow. She falls back, and sinks into the gore. Drowning in the scent of burning flesh â€“ Still attune to the trees screaming in their death.
BY LORI MADDIGAN
My eyes had been frozen on the alabaster gravestone for ten minutes, but already, for the life of me, I can’t remember the year you died. *** It first happened at my parent’s house. You were seventeen. I was fifteen. Our eyes were locked together and you grinned smugly, but we had not spoken aloud for hours, maybe days. In my mind, we had been one-upping each other in an extrasensory battle— me trying to prove myself superior to you, you retaliating to outsmart me— each round longer and more convoluted than the last. Just when one of us thought we had won, the other would pull a psychological surprise punch. It felt like a never ending spiral in my head, boring into the center of my brain. I finally uttered some meaningless gibberish about the television program that had been in front of our eyes for I don`t know how long. I had to speak out loud; the voices in my head— yours and mine— were frightening me. It couldn’t be real. Your words in return chilled me; “You broke the chain.” I could see the disappointment in your eyes, mixed with the glee of knowing that you outlasted me in our telepathic competition. That was the day I knew we were connected in a way most people could never understand. *** Ha ha, charade you are… -- Pink Floyd Two years later our battles weren’t silent anymore. “You fucked her didn’t you?” “You’re messed up. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” You always had a wide grin on your face and excitement afire in your insidious hazel eyes during these exchanges. Sometimes I believed you were the Devil. I told your mom that the bruises on my face were delivered by my mother. Your mom felt sorry for me. You didn’t. I don’t recollect much of the night I took ten hits of acid, other than losing my part-time job in the aftermath. The next day you recounted how placing your hand on my forehead had given you visions of white clouds flying past very quickly while I repeated, “Ha ha, charade you are”, our phrase for the conformists, not the real people like us. I knew you were still inside my head, like nobody else ever could be, but why was I calling you out as a faker after all the time I had idolized you? Maybe that was the beginning of the end.
You rejected the very idea of attending my high school prom. You were a drop-out, a brilliant drop-out, and school was not your thing. The day after the prom you told me that you had acquired a suit and planned to accompany me to the dance had I not already accepted another date ;I loved you even more because of this, whether your story was true or not. That was part of your spell. I found religion at eighteen. I was born again and you and I slowly drifted apart. I awoke one night in my first apartment to a vision of you, and it was real. You had broken into my ground floor window. I was surprised that you knew where I lived. In the morning, you asked why I had called out “Don’t stop,” instead of the usual “I love you”. Maybe it was your turn to feel insecure – the battle continued and I had won this round. I don’t even remember the last time I saw you, but your mom sent a family heirloom as a gift when I married Rick. I was only twenty and had known Rick just eleven months. I didn’t hear from you again. *** If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with... -- Stephen Stills Rick was a good man but he just loved me too much. I was lonely and bored up on that pedestal. He proclaimed himself “as deep as a plate”; he just wanted to be “fed and fucked” – so different from you. I told myself I would grow to love him. I was wrong. I missed you. I yearned for you through the thirteen years and two kids I invested in Rick. When I ran into your sister at the fair, we were both watching our toddlers on the pony rides. She told me you had died; liver disease. Years of booze and drugs took you away. I looked up your obituary and saw that you’d had a fiancé; I convinced myself it was meaningless. The whole time I was married to Rick I never stopped looking for my soul mate, but you were gone. *** Where does one draw the line between flirting and cheating? Even if Rick didn’t know it, I had already left him; I just wasn’t ready to pull the trigger; being a single mom would be much easier once both kids were in school full time. One more year. John was so quiet but they say still waters run deep; his pale blue eyes reflected an old soul. I felt a powerful attraction the first time we met at an office party, but I was married with kids and he seemed so young and free. He drove me home after I’d had far too much to drink. I think I slurred, “I love you.” Something about him reminded me of you. Maybe he was you … you reincarnated. Was I doomed to search for you the rest of my life? I rarely thought of you after I married John. I was cured. *** You appeared in my bedroom again, breaking in through the window of my dreams. The next morning I knew I just had to find you.
The granite marker, flat in the ground, was partially hidden by the grassy overgrowth around its edges. Wispy white clouds were moving quickly across the August sky. The warmth of the sun did little to vanquish the chill on my arms. My eyes had been frozen on the alabaster gravestone for ten minutes, waiting and waiting for your voice in my head, but you were silent. You won.
Nine Soles of a Shoe Tree
A graveyard of abandoned footwear stands at the side of the road: i. one glass slipper, size 6, sits near the tree’s trunk: the forgotten mate to Cinderella’s other shoe. ii. two ordinary white Nike sneakers abandoned within the depths of the tree, no longer needed to sneak drugs across the border. iii. a beat-up pair of black loafers wrapped tightly around a slender branch of the tree. their laces, torn, their soles, worn, their owner, forlorn. iv. a pair of flattened hemp shoes lay entangled in the branches once belonging to a hippie who threw them upwards believing he was contributing to a pacifist’s anti-consumerism protest, departed satisfied, and barefoot.
BY ALEX CARRILLO-HAYLEY
Propaganda v. two scuffed, blood red tango shoesâ€” the rouged blisters the only remnants of a wild night gone wrong. vi. a large pair of combat boots, muddy and faded, lay close to the treetop: an old life discarded (at last). vii. two sequined, platform high tops, time-warped from the 80s, that some kids found at a thrift store, wound around one of the lower branches. viii. as we discuss our dreams of someday leaving Norval behind, I throw my black and white Oxfords into the tree of dreams. ix. a pair of tiny, white satin baby slippers, sit atop one of the treeâ€™s outstretched arms, the hopes of two lost souls tossed aside when the promise of a child disappeared.
BY RYAN PRITTIE
In the early spring of the 26th year of the lion, the noble kingdom of Avacul suffered a most violent revolt: an upturning so vicious that, at the time, some might have called it the third worst revolt of the year. The instigator of this foul event remained at large even as the flames of revolt were swallowed and bathed in the merciful grace of the crown. The most honourable duty of locating him was placed in the devout hands of young Sir Marty of Einseitig, a virtuous young lad if ever there was one, and brimming with righteous zeal. *** Marty glanced about him and saw only joy. The countryside was beautiful in the spring: a divine backdrop of clear-cut hills and bare blue sky, onto which no cloud dared intrude. How fortunate he was to live in such a fair kingdom, beneath the most gracious of lords to whom he never ceased to pay respects; for Marty was a good, honest man, and his eyes dared never deceive him. As Marty and his fierce steed Caitiff sauntered down the tidy dirt road, bearing all the proper grace of a knight of the realm, the young man’s gaze settled on a row of quaint dwellings, constructed most ingeniously out of dirt and smoky cobblestone from the last great war. How clever these noble folk could be (quotations?), Marty mused beneath his breath, as he tugged again at Caitiff ’s taut reins; these hearty man knew their station in life and accepted it with honourable humility. Marty smiled as a small crowd of men and women emerged from their huts to watch him pass. Their eyes were clearly full of wonder, for they rarely saw a knight outside the city walls. Hundreds of cupped, dirt-weathered hands extended toward him in what could only be a peasant gesture of praise. Marty’s noble heart ached to speak, to address these fair folk, but his orders said otherwise. He was nearing his first stop on today’s excursion. Belinda. Mrs Belinda Ashworth was her name. Her house stood far out in the countryside, bordering on what was a decidedly uncivilized looking wood used for fox hunting. The Ashworths were a respectable, but aloof family, especially Mrs Belinda; married but childless, hardly seen and never heard. But Marty had heard her speak once, at market, as a younger lad. Oh, how her words rang in his ears like the purest chimes: “Excuse me, but you’re standing in my way.” She was a fascinating woman. Oddly, the blinds on the Ashworth house had been drawn, but there was no question in the young knight’s mind that the woman was home. She was always home. Hrap hrap hrap, then silence. Marty glanced at Caitiff, lounging in the shade of a large willow tree. Perhaps one more time The old wooden door opened without a sound. There she stood, half in shadow; a pale face watching him from the other side. In her eyes was that same wonder Marty had encountered in the peasant folk, and perhaps something more, though Marty would have to gaze longer upon the woman to identify it.
“...May I help you?” came that voice through barely parted lips, and the knight’s loving heart nearly halted in its cage. It was just as he remembered it. This woman was no authority on revolts, Marty knew, but perhaps she could inspire him to more effectively carry out his search. *** “I know about the uprising, yes,” Mrs Ashworth (but he could call her Belinda) sighed as she moved gracefully across the parlour floor, “But only so far as it pertains to me.” “How so?” Marty replied, from his seat at the far end of the dim parlour, which was quite grim in its dreariness, and sparsely furnished, save for the finger-like bookshelves which lined the walls. Fortunately, the presence of the lady took Marty’s thoughts from his surroundings. “And incidentally, where is your husband?” Belinda did not reply, except perhaps in the form of a barely visible shudder. She was every bit as lovely as he remembered: her fair, pale face framed by twisted, ravenesque locks; her large, ebon eyes, set below thin brows, fixed in what seemed to be a permanent deadpan (another noble eccentricity); her slender nose and slight lips; her bare, elegant neck; her gentle, sloping shoulders; valiant arms; tender hands; most perfect fingers; righteous nails; shapely “I know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong.” Those hands were now planted on her hips as she stood still before him, her eyes fixed sternly on his. “My husband had nothing to do with what happened, and yet-... horrid riots.” “Yes, they are silly things,” Marty imposed. Belinda seemed upset, but of course, violence was not a proper topic to be discussing with such a tender creature. “So many gone,” she murmured. “Swallowed up by the earth, and we will never see them again.” “Swallowed? No, no, the majority of them were beheaded. I can’t fathom where you heard such a silly notion.” Marty made sure to give his sigh a comforting, just quality. Belinda’s naïveté was amusing in its own eccentric way. “But it must indeed be distressing for you...” he continued, as his feet directed him toward the woman. His hand travelled across the spines of countless books as he moved, but his gaze was set on her, “I have always believed it is in the darkest of times that the human soul yearns most for... companionship.” “I didn’t realize souls were still valued by the crown,” Belinda replied, and took a graceful step back. Marty rolled his eyes. Coy. “Of course. It isn’t as though we can get rid of them-” his hand brushed something unlike a book, and Marty paused to cup the foreign object in his hand. He lifted it from the shelf as he continued to advance and meant to gaze casually at it for just a moment. Instead, he yelped and juggled the thing into the air, right into Belinda’s hand, “F-fair lady, do not touch that dismal thing!” It was a human skull. “What, this?” The most foolish of smiles appeared on Belinda’s face as she examined the skull, seeming distressingly unsurprised. “It’s mine. Isn’t it fascinating? We’re all the same underneath, you know. Just bones.” “B-Belinda, my dear, such an accessory is most improper,” Marty stammered, “I cannot fathom where you found such a grisly thing.” At this, Belinda merely laughed. The sweet, lilting sound seemed to lighten the scene for just a moment.
Propaganda 22 “Oh come now. There are shops- oh, no, even better, it’s the skull of one of my victims, of course!” “Now just a moment,” Marty exclaimed, “What do you suppose you mean by one of your victims, Mrs Ashworth?” He was impressed that he had managed to keep his tone so even, given the gorge he felt rising in him. “I beg your pardon?” Belinda’s face registered bewilderment for a moment, before she broke into that laughter yet again, “Oh, oh. Victim, yes. I’m like a city, you see. I lure poor folk here, promising sweet rewards, and then I... gobble them up! And they’re never heard from again! Imagine that, hm?” More cackling. “...Gobble them... up?” Marty felt cold, betrayed, “B-but how?” “Hmm, the specifics? Well... I suppose I just... swallow them whole! Yes, like the-” Belinda took a single, energized step forward, and Marty seized the hilt of his blade. “Witch! Monster!” Oh, how it all felt so clear now, “Fiend! Succubus!” His tormentor’s face was frozen in a look of utter shock. Had she not noticed the blade hanging at his side? Good. Fate was once again on the side of the valiant. “W-would you put that away!” The she-devil stammered, “If I upset you-” “Quiet!” Righteous tears were streaming down the bold knight’s face, “Oh, how I have been deceived!” He circled the beast, putting his back to the parlour door to bar her escape. In her pale features he saw all the monstrosity of every fiend bygone: her hair a mass of brambles, hungry to ensnare another poor soul; eyes colourless and empty, wide with excitement; lips quivering—oh, those lips, through which gods knew how many good souls had passed— as she shirked from his blade without a sound, that horror rising from black depths unseen. ”Please, put it away!” She cried, and Marty shivered at her unearthly fright. “Nay! I shall slay thee!” Yet, nobody was slain, for the brave knight chose instead to escape the whirling house. A door buckled before him as he crashed through it, sending splinters across his line of sight: frenzied teeth. He screamed gallantly as he sprinted for his steed. (He had escaped! He would ride triumphantly home and his lord would most certainly recognize his courage. Most valiant, most wise!) But the animal took fright as he neared and fled into the forest, swallowed up instantly by the fox’s domain.
The Big American Wetdream BY TAYLOR CALDER You are now chatting privately.
Psytosis: Okay Psytosis: Allow me to repeat this again Psytosis: Because your feeble human meatbrain has repeatedly failed to grasp it the first seventeen times ellizor: k ellizor: and uhhh your a human 2 btw :3 Psytosis: Phylogenetically, perhaps Psytosis: But see, here is the difference between us Psytosis: I am, to use the official psychiatric terminology, not retarded Psytosis: And posses an above adequate knowledge of geography and automotibe engineering Psytosis: Suffice such that I can say, with adequate certainty, that there’s no way in hell we’re going to drive an armored pizza van from Alabama to Edmonton and not get caught Psytosis: So to answer, your question, no Psytosis: I will not drive an armored pizza van from Alabama to Edmonton with you ellizor: oh dont be a pussy :3 Psytosis: I am not being a pussy. I am being rational. ellizor: uh huh ellizor: thats what i said ellizor: :3 ellizor: maaaaaaan cmon we’ve been friends for ages ellizor: well okay just in irc but stil ellizor: still counts right? Psytosis: No Psytosis: And even if it did, I have commitments ellizor: your sweet colorful cans? Psytosis: Things to do, got tit? Psytosis: *Got it Psytosis: DKFGJMSDLKGD ellizor: LOL Psytosis: I need to go ellizor: okaaayyyyy <3333 ellizor: going to fight the system ellizor: with ur doodlez? Psytosis: I’ll have you know doodling is a perfectly legitimate means of civil disobedience ellizor: draw something nice for me :3
Propaganda 24 Psytosis: ...
Psytosis has disconnected. *** An Abrams burns in a Wal-Mart parking lot, the treads and turrets stripped away leaving only the armor plated husk. The rebel insignia spray painted on the side. It draws a crowd of gigglers and stumblers. Kids, she wants to call them, even though they’re her age. Kids, but who wasn’t these days. The reason no one saw it coming, Caitlin thinks as she watches the flames rise across the street, was because there’s an underlying assumption that people in warzones had to be miserable. That a war wasn’t a war until you were covered in dirt, cradling a baby and wearing a burlap burka. That the first causality of war was luxury. Even when the rebels started to rack up a death count, the fact that people watched it on their laptops as they lazed in their pajamas and ate M&Ms made it seem impossibly far away. That as long as you could sit in your air conditioned apartment and enjoy high-speed internet, things were fine. And now the corpse of an armored battalion are spread out over three city blocks, the kills fresh but the tanks already tagged, making it impossible to tell who they had belonged to, the Army or the Rebels, not that there was much of a difference. And the drunken teens laughed at it, phones flashing in the night. Instagraming it. Because hey, as long as you still got three bars of service, things couldn’t be that bad. Right? The answer was obviously no, she thinks as she crosses the street. But try telling that to the morons on parade. The people who bought name-brand sandbags, shopped at malls guarded by light armored battalions, had extra large pizzas sent express by Dominos delivery vans with 6 inches of armored plating. It was one of those that ellizor had come to own. ellizor’s older brother had defected to Pizza Pizza. The hazard pay was less but they had fewer suicide bombers. No one had repo’d the van yet so she wanted to make a break for it, head north where people were less eager to shoot each other. Away from the war, where decades of pent up war fantasies suddenly spilled out in a torrent of blood and sweat, as though a quarter of the nation had a simultaneous wargasm, pent up from decades of tactical fetishism and narcissism. The Big American Wetdream. Caitlin searched for an unmarked tank, gets it on the first try. The meatbrain crowd is swaying around virgin metal.
Propaganda 25 She pushes between two drunk teens, pulls a can of Black Spraymaster (Nonflammable ReMiX) from her satchel. The crowd goes silent as the can rattles. And then she gets to work. Turning the dripping rebel R into a stick body and legs, adding two stick arms, and the head. Twice as large as the torso. The head is her calling card, a kitty with ellizor’s signature emoticon. Colon three. She measures out the length of the message in her head and draws the speech-bubble oval, leaving room for two extra characters. She shivers. In a good way. Tagging is her little form of control. Rebellion against the rebellion. It would take a couple days to clear the armored corpses and until they did, the fleets of armored vans, pizza deliveries and tech support and cleaning services, would all see it. And maybe it would make their squishy meatbrains rethink the world around them and maybe not. But at least they’d see it. And that was all that mattered. Explaining it to Eliza would be too hard. So would be telling her no. It was easier just to be a jerk whenever the topic came up. To let it linger. Easier for who, she didn’t know. *** Caitlin steps back. The dripping cat says “Need to kill some random strangers to cope with your unwarranted self-importance and emotional impotence? Stop on in! 25% on (off?) all heavy munitions til the 31st!” The drunks have stopped dancing, stopped speaking. They just stare with slightly opened mouths, like exhausted fish. “Cool,” someone says. Caitlin caps her spray and heads home. Flooded with anxious excitement. Sympathetic overdrive. She’s scared and she likes it. The thrill of doing something dangerous, but with no permanent repercussions. Or so she thinks. ***
Propaganda 26 She’s halfway across the lot when the first one drops. Someone didn’t get the memo about the tanks being already destroyed. Whistling scream as the first one streaks into the ground, shredding asphalt. Hot white flecks sting her cheeks. Second one topples the sign, smiling face crashing to the ground. But the third one, the third one hits the tank she tagged. Her tiny act of rebellion vanishes as the Instagram crowd is chunked. Some are halved, others quartered, an unlucky few turned into a fine red mist. The screams aren’t as loud as the shells, but they last for a longer time. Far, far longer. Caitlin runs, clutching her vomit as she does. ***
You are now chatting privately. Psytosis: Hey Psytosis: Are you there? Psytosis: HELLO?? ellizor: mmmhmmmm meatbrain standin by :3 Psytosis: Okay Psytosis: I, like Psytosis: FUCK Psytosis: I saw something tonight ellizor: o? Psytosis: I don’t want to talk about it okay please ellizor: :( Psytosis: But, just Psytosis: Yes ellizor: yes to what?? :O Psytosis: Yes as in Psytosis: Yes, ‘let’s get the fuck out of here’ Psytosis: Or at least, let’s try ellizor: :DDD ellizor: aWwWwWWwWw yeah wait until you see the van :DDD ellizor: i swagged it the fuck up Psytosis: Oh god Psytosis: You’re going to make me regret this before we even do it, aren’t you?
Propaganda 27 *** Caitlin sits on top of her bags, thinking about the parking lot. Black tar and pink flesh blown into chunks. Sheâ€™ll never eat hamburger meat again. But youâ€™re just as bad, she thinks. As the people hiding behind cable news and first person shooters, armored food delivery and luxury supermarkets with metal detectors. Your stupid little stick figures were exactly the same thing. You never thought they could be wiped out like that, shredded like paper, removed from the Earth in a single, meaningless, spontaneous act of violence. Like two bored rebels taking potshots at a van on a deserted highway. As long as you had them, everything would be okay. Well what now, misses meatbrain? What the hell do you have now, except a handful of bad ideas and an armored carbohydrate delivery vehicle? A horn sounds. To the tune of the Dominos jingle. Any security you think you have here is an illusion. So what now? Caitlin packs her spraycan into her duffel bag and steps out to the red, white, and blue light of the armored pizza delivery van.
BY SAM JOWETT
“Would you like to try some Mantis?” The temptation is presented to me on the eve of my twenty-third birthday, on the cusp of the pre-adult limbo in which that Bachelor’s Degree I received probably has more use to me in the fireplace than it does in the workforce. The Tempter occupies the same twenty-some purgatory as myself. Clad in a leather outfit straight from the ‘half off ’ box at a BDSM garage sale, his gelled hair droops over his brow, a formation of stalactites encrusted in sweat. His insidious smile posits ulterior motives, betraying his friendly outstretched hand. The setting is the latest nightclub to descend into Los Angeles. The bastard child of post-modern architecture and the Star Trek Enterprise; it is a concoction of drugs, vultures, and girls saturated with neon hair and hyper-femininity. Cataracts of light tremble over the dance floor, spectral entities emitting from sci-fi lasers. Magma reds and nebula blues glaze over pulsing bodies. It’s a new kind of sermon, where the preaching is done with turntables and cosmic synths.
What a perfect spot for the Craft Drug scene.
The Craft Drug scene is the chemical-reaction causality of minimum wage office drones taking Breaking Bad too literally. But why stop at meth when you can mix’n’match your own substances? The market is ripe for innovation, and although most of the new creations are equatable to Elementary School Science Fair Reject Projects, once in a while a winner bursts through the threshold to compete with the ‘big boys’, the blockbuster drugs. The latest contender to enter the ring, as I know now, is Mantis. Like all new drugs, its reputation precedes it. The rumours, the hushed voices in the rejected corners of the subway, the graffiti smeared in alleyways. Then comes the origin story. Apparently, Mantis is the by-product of a laid off Biology department from nonamecollegeofyesteryear. Disgruntled employees with a knack for lab work will inevitably tread the line into substance creation. They say the name Mantis was inspired by a species of shrimp they were analyzing.
Of course, when it comes to drugs, the name doesn’t matter.
What matters is the effect.
Propaganda 29 This is your brain on cannabis: sedative traits, the liquid flow perception of time drips down to the viscosity of molasses, a lush mellowing out of your perceived world, half-baked philosophical insights and an obnoxious craving for chain fast food. This is your brain on cocaine: Peaks and fountains of euphoria are soared over effortlessly, the pleasure centre hits rush hour mere seconds after inhalation or injection or ingestion. Frantic, spastic, an immense avalanche that is as ‘Up’ as an ‘Upper’ can get. Concentrate hard and imagine the symptoms of the usual suspects listed above. They come easily, you can perceive them. If you’ve done them, you can look back and nod–or shake your head–saying ‘ah, yes that’s how it works.’
Look around you. Let your eyes ingest your surroundings. A world of shapes and textures all enriched by colour, a masterful quality that we have obtained because we can fissure light into a vibrant spectrum. Analyze the spectrum itself. An abstract world of limitless shades that, yet, can all be categorized. You can name them, perceive them, associate temperatures with them. Now, try to perceive a new colour. Dart your eyes to the edge of the spectrum, where violet obtains ‘ultra’ status, and transcends the threshold of our vision. Try to make sense of this divine realm beyond violet. I’m doing it right now, I squint past the junkie into the symphonic aurora of the club, and I can see thousands of shades. Saffron and fuchsia and vermillion. But, you realize, it is finite. There is a limit, and when you stare past violet you realize exactly how claustrophobic that limit is.
And the question on the tip of your tongue? Is...Mantis, can it do that?...
One can see beyond violet, venture into parts of the spectrum unknown, for 200 bucks a drop. Some say this elevates Mantis’s status beyond a drug, into the realm of demigodhood. Some say the drug itself was stolen from God’s genes, in an act that would make even Prometheus shiver with envy.
Propaganda 30 “Do you want to try Mantis?” The Tempter asks again, his body dripping with some craft drug martini of its own. Who am I to deserve this recognition? Does he think I’m a big spender? I look at myself. My blazer might as well be made from honeyed cellophane, my shoes constructed from paper maché.
“I-I doubt I can afford–”
“First one’s on me,” he chinks two glass vials the size of slivers into my hands. The music flourishes in a medley of train brakes, arpeggiators, and primal drums. The dance floor fizzes and bubbles like champagne. The junkie condenses into the smudge of bodies as I seek solace in the bathroom. My reflection gives his disapproval as I lean over the sink, fumbling with the vials. Do they twist? No. The caps fall into the nether regions of the bathroom, I bring the vials to my eyes, the skin making up the lids sliding backwards to reveal the full retina. My reflection’s blue eyes taunt me in the mirror. I tilt my head back and let Mantis drip straight onto my eyeball. My vision immediately kaleidoscopes, fragments of sink and mirror multiplying into infinity. My eyes shut on instinct, overwhelmed by the distortion. The shelter of my eyelids doesn’t help, the blackness punctuated by vicious sparks of colour. Vivid warm shades peel like grapefruit, the topaz exterior eroding to reveal boiling pink in the middle. I can physically feel the warmth, a viscous liquid, perhaps the drug itself, flowing across my eyeballs. I fumble out of the bathroom, using sight only when necessary, and back into the club. The sound washes over me again, the atmosphere of the dance floor roars to life. The colours stained against my eyelids start to recede.
Open them. It’s an impulse
I shake my head. But the threshold is there, I feel on the fringe of a massive event horizon, an irresistible gravity taking over.
The lids peel back, the retinas take it all in.
There it is.
Propaganda 31 A vast galaxy of colour erupts in front of me, far, far broader than I’ve ever perceived. The usual suspects are all there, greens and blues and a thousand shades in between. And yet there are a billion more. A billion I didn’t know. A billion I couldn’t even comprehend. Aquatic turquoise is tinted in ways I would’ve never witnessed in multiple lifetimes without Mantis. And there’s more. Beyond violet punctuates in places that were previously invisible, or subtly covered in another colour. A new colour that was once beyond the threshold of vision. It dips and stains and saturates effortlessly into the rest of the spectrum, complementing the others perfectly, a natural extension into the foray we know as light. I can’t describe it. Its frosted hues blaze with a celestial, divine intensity, but that’s as far as words can take me.
It’s phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal.
And it’s already disappearing.
The spark fizzes out, the seen shades become unseen again, bleeding into their dominant colours. The new colour–as vibrant as it was, as predominant as it was–evaporates back into the unseen spectrum.
Blink and squint all I can, but there’s nothing left.
Even worse, what was for the briefest of seconds a new vista of understanding in the brain is now closed again. The mind shuts it down, rejects it as alien, unnatural. Squeeze my thought process all I can, I can’t even comprehend it anymore. I don’t know what the colour is. The brain screams insanity. Did it even happen? How can I not know?
It was there.
My vision shows numbing patches of blackness, the retinas feel raw and exposed. Now I understand. This is the Apple of Eden. A key to another world that exists, invisible to our limited human one. It’s now accessible, reachable, thanks to disgruntled employees in a meth basement.
Propaganda 32 And above all else, as much as Mantis is, the sum of its existence is that itâ€™s merely a drug. Chemical, state altering, mind boiling. Addictive.
Itâ€™s a drug, and I head into the depths of the club, looking for the Tempter again.
BY BRENDA STONEHOUSE
Elephant and Bark (Part 1) BY NOAH THOMPSON MATIKAINEN
Elephant and Bark (Part 2) BY NOAH THOMPSON MATIKAINEN
BY ELIZABETH NASH
Hold on World
BY SOPHIA LLOYD
Portrait Chaos BY JACLYN GUNTON J
Soft as Chalk
BY AMY KOVAC
The Sibling Effect
BY CARLIE MITCHELL
BY JESSICA HUDGSON
Colours of Innocence
BY CORRY FAULKER
BY ERIN RYAN
And the Smoke Rose Up and Disappeared
BY RYAN GAIO
Last night I had the strangest dream. I was sitting in a booth, at a bar, by myself, drinking a White Russian. This guy walks up behind me, and just takes a seat across from me. He doesn’t even say hello, he just sits down and stares. I’ve got my head down, I’m just staring into my drink, but then I look up and realize it’s my old pal Jordan. Jordan and I went to school together when we were young. We hung out a lot, watching wrestling and listening to rock n roll records. He stole Playboys from his brother. We’d look at those, too. Jordan and I stopped hanging out when his mom died. I was there, when he found out. I was there at his house, with his brother and his sister, and his dad just came in and told em. He walked in the room, and he looked at me, and real calmly, he said that I oughtta call my parents and tell them to pick me up, so I did. And just as calmly, he called his kids into the next room, and sat them on the couch and told them that their mom had died. Just told them the news, all nonchalant and shrugged off, just the same way he’d have told them that the goddamned dog had ran away. As though it was just one of those things. I walked into the room, after I’d hung up the phone. They were just bawling. Just screaming. It was awful to see. She’d been sick a long while. She was a kind woman, and she suffered a lot. More than she deserved. Something with her bones – they were just rotting away or something. She’d had to walk with a cane as long as I’d ever known her. She used to be a dancer. She died slow. I’d never known anyone who’d died before. I just stood there beside Jordan as he sat on the couch, crying and crying. I thought I oughtta hug him, or rub his back or something, but I didn’t do nothing. I didn’t even say I was sorry, or that it’d be okay, or none of that. Just stood there with my arms at my sides, gawking, my tongue hanging out. I didn’t say one word. I didn’t move. I saw that there was some relative in the kitchen, some cousin or brother-in-law or something. He lit up a smoke, and started huffing away, leaning on the counter. I walked in there. I asked him what exactly had happened. He said she’d died. I said that I figured she had died – why else would there be so much goddamned grief? – but that I wanted to know how she’d died. He said she’d been sick. I figured the guy didn’t wanna talk too much, so I just went and leaned on the counter across from him, watching him smoke. I asked him if I could take a hit of it. He looked at me, paused. He was quiet for awhile, thinking about something. The cigarette just burned in his fingers. I watched the smoke rise up and disappear. He just leaned on the counter, staring, silent. Then he said no – I was too young. I heard a knock on the door, and went to answer it, but Jordan’s dad got there first. It was my dad. They didn’t say a word – my dad just hugged him. I never saw my dad hug a man before. Nobody was saying anything. They were just crying. I never said goodbye, I just walked out to the car. We didn’t say one word the whole way home.
We pulled in the driveway, and I got out of the car, and I staggered across the front lawn, and I walked to the edge of the garden, and I just puked all over the goddamned tulips. Then I walked inside. I looked at my mom. She’d been crying. I hugged her, and then went to bed. I didn’t say one word. Not one word. The next day at school, the teacher told our class about what had happened, cause not many people knew. I knew. I knew all too well. A lot of the girls started crying, and I don’t know why. They didn’t even know her. The teacher said prayers, and everybody had a chance to tell a favourite memory about her. I didn’t raise my hand. The teacher had brought in a candle, and she said it was gonna be our candle for her. We’d keep it at the back of the class, and we’d keep it lit for her. She lit it then, and then everyone was supposed to say a prayer, but I didn’t. I just watched the smoke rise up and disappear. The last time I saw Jordan, he’d invited me over, a few months after it all had happened, to spend the night. It was the first time I’d been there since she’d died. He fell asleep early, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even close my eyes. They’d put a big picture of her on the mantle, a real big one. It hadn’t been there last time. I kept staring at it – I couldn’t help myself – and though I tried and tried, I just couldn’t close my eyes. Not knowing she was staring down at me like that. I told my mom after that that I didn’t wanna go there anymore. She didn’t ask me why or nothing, she just said okay. So I never went back. Jordan didn’t come back to school that year, since it was May anyways, and the next year he went off to high school. I never saw him again till my dream last night, in the bar. He just sat across from me, not saying anything at all, just staring. And I just stared back. Then he pulled out a cigarette, and just before he was about to light it, I told him that he shouldn’t do that – he’s too young. He started giggling and giggling and giggling. Then he lit it, and held it right in the middle of the both of us, and we just sat there, and watched the smoke rise up and disappear.
BY KATARINA GALAT
Hannah sat cross-legged on the floor of her room, books strewn around her. After picking up the heaviest book and hugging it close to her chest, she then placed it into the cardboard box marked “garbage.” A tear rolled down her cheek as she wondered what would become of the book, swimming in a mound of trash when it should be on the bookshelf. But a faint outline on the carpet remained the only proof that there had ever even been a bookshelf. She slid her favourite book away from the pile and delicately placed the rest into the box. Her room was almost empty now. A grey patch of carpet was illuminated from the stream of sunlight pouring in from the window—but today Hannah was immune to the warmth. The walls, now plain and posterless, were closing in, threatening to spill the tears gathered in her eyes. She leaned her whole weight on the box and pushed it through a maze of other boxes into the living room, shoving her books closer to their doom. With one last glance at their covers, she tore her eyes away before her dad hauled the box out the doors. The brown suitcase in the middle of the living room was bulging with clothing. If it was up to Hannah she’d leave all the clothing behind and replace it with her books, but her mom had insisted that Hannah would need something to dress in even when they were halfway across the world in what would become their new home. Hannah hadn’t argued with her mom—she knew it was hard trying to fit an entire lifetime into one tiny suitcase. Placing the only book she had saved on top of the clothes in the open suitcase, she plopped down in front of the bare living room window, stripped of its curtains and blinds. Down below, the neighbours’ children were chasing one another. Their high-pitched laughter floated up, through the window, and into her ears. Not a thing had changed for them. Not a thing was going to change for them. Tomorrow they’d play tag again. Tomorrow their screams and their laughter would again waft right up into her window. The only difference was that tomorrow Hannah wouldn’t be there to hear it. She sat up with a jolt as she realized that tomorrow the window would no longer be her window. Soon someone else would be living in her apartment, and no one would even remember that this had once been her home. She stood up and walked through the rooms, trying to memorize every detail: the tiny stain in the carpet from when she accidently spilled nail polish, the exact position of every painting that she’d picked out at garage sales with her mom. The paintings were already gone though, only tiny holes in the walls were left by the nails that had held them up for years. Panic gripped Hannah; she ran back to the window and dropped to her knees in front of it. She pushed her nose up against the glass and saw her dad struggling with the weight of her box of books as he made his way through the throng of screaming children and towards the dumpster. In a way she’d known it before, but only now did she truly realize that everything would go on without her.
Propaganda 47 The children would play tag again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that day. Her home was already nearly empty; she’d been erased from it like the words off a page in a notebook. Soon another family might hang their own paintings. They’d fill the blank notebook page with their own words, cover even the faint outlines that were left of Hannah’s, and render the erased shadows unreadable. She looked past the neighbours’ children and across the parking lot. Everything that had ever been familiar to her, that had ever comforted her, was littered around the dumpster outside. Cardboard boxes, empty and full, lay in groups around the big green dumpster. Some held old dishes and shining cutlery, while the furry heads of her teddy bears peeked out from others. Her box of books would soon join the piles of belongings already stacked. The pages of her books— her precious books—would be torn from their spines as they lay decaying at the bottom of a heap of trash. The beautiful words would fade with the sunshine and wash away with the raindrops, just as she would fade from her life here, just as she had already been washed away from the apartment, leaving only the faint indent of her bookshelf in the carpet. She watched her dad set down her box of books among the rest and, wiping his brow, walk back towards the apartment that was no longer their home. A lump rose in her throat. All that was left of her life here would be whisked away tomorrow morning when the garbage truck came. She didn’t want to cry, but her eyes brimmed with tears. Through her tears she saw something move in the shadows behind the dumpster. Wiping her eyes with her sleeve, she again pushed her nose up against the cool windowpane and watched the bushes shake. The man that crept out of the bushes was tall. Or maybe he just seemed that way because his pants were about seven inches too short. He was bundled up in an olive green overcoat, and a worn baseball cap was pulled tightly over his head. He stared at the ground as the group of giggling children ran past the dumpsters and, shoulders drooping, he didn’t look up at them at all. Perched in the window Hannah could still see the children as they continued their game, but it no longer interested her. She kept her gaze glued to the man, afraid that if she looked away for even a second, he’d be gone. After a long moment, as Hannah began to doubt whether the man would move at all anymore, he took a step closer to the dumpster. His eyes darted left and right before he allowed himself to examine the contents of the boxes. He glided among them, peering into each, but touching none. His head was lowered the whole time, and he kept nervously pulling his cap lower over his eyes. Then his sunken eyes lingered on one box in particular, and he no longer fiddled with his cap. Crouching down in front of the box, he gently reached in and pulled out a book. He stared at the crossing and curving lines that formed the words in the title. The tips of his fingers traced the embossed letters on the cover, and for ten minutes he sat mesmerized by the rich colours and beautiful pictures. He didn’t look up at all from the book, not even when the children once again ran past him. Careful to touch only the very corner of the page, he slowly flipped to the next. He smiled before gently closing the book’s cover and once more running his fingers over the letters.
Propaganda 48 Hannah watched him from the window barely breathing, still as a statue. From the shape and size of the book, and from the colours, she knew exactly which one he held. She knew all of her books inside-out. Crossing her legs under her, she conjured up the cover in her head. Through the glass she watched him trace the letters like she had traced them a thousand times before. The man then placed the book back in its box, and heaved the whole box off the ground. The box might just as well have been filled with bricks, it dragged the man down, but he gripped it tightly. Nearly doubled over, he shuffled back towards the bush. Splotches of red crawled over his face as he strained to carry the weight, but the man was smiling a wide, toothless smile. Hannah sat cemented to the window, watching him melt back into the bush. She might have thought that the toothless man in the olive coat and baseball hat had been only a figment of her imagination. She might even have convinced herself of it had her box of books still been sitting beside the big green dumpster. But they were gone…and as the panic left her, Hannah smiled. She smiled because one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And even if what is in one man’s dumpster is actually a treasure, it is still another man’s treasure too. Hannah smiled because the man in the olive coat had just rescued her treasure.
In the Presence of Withering Lights I â€“Candlelight Here a trinity of candle flames flicker Beside a cracked window, casting a Cool glow over your glistening shoulders; Illuminating the stranded gold threads In the sea of your rosewood hair. Here my head lulls on your chest and My finger slowly circles your navel, Blanketed soft with infinitesimal hair, While the primal pump of your heart Champions your vitality through my ears. Here beneath this auburn glow we erode Ourselves: the You, the I, and cast them off On a ship with cotton sails. You recite something From Donne; your words tremble and melt Like the spheres of ice on your hips. Here we muse by flickering candlelight, Our bodies at rest, entwined in A moment of perfect silence, while our Momentous minds are perfectly entwined and silent, But are never once at rest. II â€“Dusk Long have I looked for your face at dusk, Stood on this pale riverbank, held still By these soft waters, the current pleated With the steady curve of constant waves. Long have I danced a dream with you, Waltzed with the cool autumn air, Breathing in the aroma of old oak, Basking in the soft glow of your lamplight.
BY KEVIN MILNE
Propaganda 50 Fast falling I see you begin to fade Through the jagged treetops, simmering Between the abandoned bird nests, Withering with your arduous way to the brink. I see the still twilight of your fading birth Conceived within the curve of waves; It drifts inevitably along the meandering bank To places I cannot dream to comprehend. Perhaps one day Iâ€™ll waltz with the air again, Suspended beneath the lingering lampshades, When at last the warm wind bears you back home, Indigo stars canvassing the evening over.
BY HILLARY POOLE
Down the road in the old school yard I watched him on my knees. He washed Carrie’s dishes behind Frilly kitchen curtains, and laughed, Handing her plates to dry. I braided my hair with purple fingers, Mesmerized by the glitter floating in and out Of their snow-globe world. I sat on a weathered hopscotch court, Listening to echoes of kid’s light-up shoes Running through playground pebbles. My breath was frosty and lingered in the air, Tasting like thrown-out Christmas trees and drunken breath, As January always does. When I saw the lights from Carrie’s window Go out across the street, I brushed gravel bits off my jeans And ran my hands along the school fence That rusty old thing used to be taller than me. In broken-soled shoes I counted each step, The scene curling up behind me Like the pages of a crusty old book. Through the chapped winter wind His messy words still found me. Under the streetlights my retinas burned.
BY JENNIFER NANGREAVE
The plane got to Heathrow at 4:41 PM Greenwich Mean Time, and by 5:30 PM, Erik had put a ladder in Imogen’s tights (“careful, these were fifteen quid at Topshop”) and had lost the top button of his shorts. They were in the disabled toilets of the airport, close enough to Arrivals to hear the happy reunion babble. It was quick and furtive and Imogen wouldn’t even let him wipe the lipstick from his face before they slipped out. “You can do it in the car.” Her car was an off-purple Citroen with stick-on eyelashes over the headlights. She told him they were for irony, or something, but she called her car Lola without a hint of sarcasm as she unlocked the boot. It took the three of them two and a quarter hours to get to Imogen’s flat in Birmingham and less than five minutes to be on Imogen’s bed, her in nothing but her laddered tights and him wearing her lipstick. They fell together onto her eiderdown, a heap of giggles. They sat propped against her headboard afterwards. “Jesus Christ, I’ve missed you,” she said. She always got her breath back faster than he did. “Me too,” he said. Imogen smiled at him and let him hold her hand. Her flat was the same as he remembered, whitewashed and airy and smelling vaguely of laundry powder. It was on the ninth floor of a ramshackle block close to the motorway. It was nothing like Imogen, and yet it was as dear to Erik as she was. His toothbrush was still in the bathroom, one of his towels hanging on the back of the door. The flat was a part of both of them, a blank stretch of space that they both inhabited and changed. Let’s get a takeaway,” Imogen suggested, when the lights were turned down low and they had Top Gear blaring from the television at the foot of the bed. “I’ll pay.” They got a korma and too much naan bread. They ate in the bedroom with tea towels spread over their laps. Erik found wine in the small kitchen, poured them each a glass. They drank themselves tipsy-happy and fell asleep in a jumble. “Oh, that’s just gross.” James raised his eyebrows at me. “What is?” “That. The whole story. They meet up after being separated for a long time, and they fuck in the airport and get a takeaway. How disgustingly wonderful.” “Bitter?” James asked. He sat with his gangly legs flung over the table between the two rows of train seats. “Oh don’t worry, darling, there’s someone out there for you.” I knocked his legs off the table irritably. “Sod off.” James gazed dreamily out the train window, settling himself back into place. “I can picture it now. You, with a charming young thing in a summer dress and Topshop tights.” I scowled.
Propaganda 53 “Or a nice strapping bloke called Erik with a k. You know that’s the height of machismo right there.” “Why do you write that rubbish?” I gestured to his notebook, balanced on his skinny knees. “You could write good stuff. You could write about big massive themes and complex things.” “Ah, you always had a way with words. Maybe you should be the writer.” “Oh, fuck you.” The ticket collector chose that moment to arrive. When neither of us was able to produce tickets, we were both made to get off at the next stop, twenty minutes from our destination. James pursed his lips as we stood on the platform, watching the train glide away. “Well, bugger.” “I don’t have enough money for a taxi.” I felt around in my pockets. “I don’t think I have enough money for a payphone, even.” “We shall forge onwards!” James tucked his notebook under one arm and grabbed my elbow with his free hand. “Let’s go, my love.” We walked along the tracks for a while, until the sun was low in the sky behind us and everything was painted burnt-butterscotch orange. James narrated the journey out loud despite my protests, and pretty soon he was just pointing at things and shouting adjectives – “flowery!” at a tree, “grandiose!” at an abandoned lorry – and trying to get me to join in. “I think next time we should just buy train tickets,” I said after we had walked for an hour. His eyes lit up. “Or maybe steal some. How hard could that be? Just knock someone over and grab their ticket, run off and hope they’re not a sprinter or armed with a long-range weapon.” “I’m pretty sure most people are neither of those things,” I pointed out. “And I’d feel bad stealing their tickets.” It was starting to get dark. When we finally reached town there were stars starting to poke through the atmosphere and the air tasted like cold vanilla. James had his arm wrapped around my shoulders in some misguided attempt to keep me warm. I let him, and only mocked him for it a little. Home was a small terraced house with a red door, on the corner of a sleepy road with a stupid name. I waited while James fished his keys out and let us in, hopping from foot to foot impatiently. Everyone was asleep and the lights were off, even though it was only ten or so. We went upstairs on tip-toes. We stretched out on his bed, not even bothering to get undressed. James opened his notebook and started scribbling more to his story. I dozed with my head on his shoulder. “Make Imogen stab Erik with a butter knife,” I suggested through a yawn. “Make it more interesting.” I knew James was rolling his eyes at me without having to check. “I have to keep some semblance of character continuity, you know.”
Propaganda 54 “Stuff and nonsense,” I mumbled, already falling asleep. “Make Erik leave her. She probably deserves it.” He just laughed at me. “Goodnight, Kitty.” Imogen woke up at 6:46 AM to silence. Erik was not on his side of the bed, and the covers were tucked in neatly as if he had never slept there at all. She called his name; no answer. She patted the mattress, found it cold, and went to make herself a cup of tea. Sleep was now impossible, and so she found herself watching the sun warm the roofs of the buildings below her kitchen window. Erik knew she was a sound sleeper. He could have slipped out, she supposed, at any time in the night. He had locked the front door behind him. The doormat was stuck under the door as if he had left in a hurry, wrinkling ‘welcome’ into ‘welcone’. He would have left a note if he were coming back. She didn’t miss him. She didn’t. Her laptop was open at the kitchen table. She sat down and flexed her fingers to keep them from shaking. Began to write, even if just for a little while, to take her mind off things.
I was disappearing the next morning. I could see James sleeping in bed from where I hovered, but he couldn’t see or hear me. I tried shouting but he didn’t even twitch. I was fading, winking in and out like the stars, and I knew somehow that if I completely disappeared I would never come back. I tried to reach down and touch him but he was out of reach. I started crying then, hot angry tears, boiling down my cheeks. He would never get to hear me say how much I loved him. I was evaporating like a puddle and he would never know. He was so young. I would never get to see him grow up. I didn’t say goodbye; I ran out of time.
A Mere Decoration
BY JACK MORLOG
An odd urn sits on the mantelpiece hidden behind a family photo. Dust covers the short fat frame, jacketing the faint little floral decals that wind up its sides like English ivy. A small silver plaque states his name on the front, William. I don’t remember him. I think I used to know that name, that I used to know him, but now I’m not sure. “God bless his immortal soul” is engraved under the name. So cliché. I imagine they had a stamp at the press for it. It’s kind of funny, really, the idea of immortality gracing something so old and worn. The urn looks as though it were pilfered from some ancient Egyptian tomb, holding the dried heart or brain of some long forgotten God. Wait, there’s a hole on the left side. It’s just big enough to peer into. Looking beyond the dulled ceramic walls, I see a tiny elderly man standing inside this aged coliseum. Darkness surrounds the man: he is visible only because of a dying spotlight that flickers indeterminably. He is good-looking for his age; neat, well put together in his Sunday best. His wrinkles are slight, his hair is silver and full bodied, and he looks healthy in both weight and appearance. He looks like one of those fox hunters you would see in old British royalty dramas. The man is covered in a thick film of dust, giving him a sort of grey unearthly hue. He looks somewhat strange, somewhat inhuman like a spectre. His movements seem familiar, yet so foreign. The man looks around and smiles unconvincingly at the great dark empty space in front of him as if it were his audience. He doesn’t seem to notice I’m watching him, but I’m hesitant to remedy that. The man clears his throat with a rough pat on his chest then straightens his posture with a snap. His suit, a lovely silk three piece with a red little bow tie, is so snug to his body that it appears as a black and white coat of tailored skin. He twists about, eyeing the nothingness before him. Raising an imaginary glass he states simply, “I can hardly remember when my world wasn’t covered in dust.” His aged voice is powerfully deep but somehow playful, echoing into the chamber briefly before falling like burnt flakes onto the ashen tile at his feet. His voice is alone in the vast empty chamber and the silence quickly quenches the sound, suffocating it. He trembles, swallows and jerks his head upward staring out into the darkness above. I try to position myself so that I can see what he’s staring at, but I can only see blackness. The man sighs. “You know it used to rain. Torrential downpours almost biblical, and there used to be thunder and smite, bursting from small waxy fires. A righteous agony. Bloodcurdling screams and cries. An agony I really never deserved that hurt deep in my chest. I thought it terrible then, as if I wasn’t worth it.” A smirk grows from the corner of his lips “But as you all know,” He nods his head enthusiastically, to the formless crowd. “I grew to love it, to hunger for it. But nevermind..... that’s all gone now. I’ve been misplaced, hidden behind family photos and piled Christmas cards along with the rest of the knick knacks. The quake - oh how it gave me life, kept me spry! Each pulsing blast a charge to my weary heart. But it’s been quite some time since such joy,
Propaganda 56 such rapture.” He licks his lips. “Now. Now nothing. The rain in this place, this limitless antiquity, dries up before it reaches the ground and the thunder reaches the ear as nothing but a muffled cry for help. I just want something to soothe my throat, it’s so dry.” His wide-eyed awe grows into a slight smile and his gleaming white teeth emerge with a brief chuckle. Dust against his face pops into little clouds that hover about his head briefly before falling to the floor. I pull myself from the urn, releasing a loud yawn. I feel weary, bored, drowsy. Yet I feel deep in my gut that I want to yell at him, tell him “no one cares about your stories old man. They’re aged, dusty, dead. You’re boring me”. But I can’t. I feel guilty. Why do I feel guilty? Why? I stand there a moment to compose myself. I just want to go to bed, bring the covers up around my neck. It’s difficult. I feel thought seeping out of my skin in invisible droplets. But I must go back. Who is he? He looks familiar. I feel guilty. The man still stands in the same spot, although it looks as though pieces have fallen from his body. He’s porous, like a sponge. I can see right through him in a few spots. “Yes, well.” He says abruptly. He attempts to wipe his brow, but the dust sits unmoved. “Uhh... hmm.” He smiles and throws his arms into the air, spilling unseen liquid from his toasting glass. “How it laughs at an old man’s feeble caresses. But really what could I do to a sea of dust, but tease it and hope it doesn’t engulf me?” He pauses, losing himself in the cloud that has formed around his head. He shakes his head slightly in confusion. “Where was I?” His lip quivers and his fingers dance in his hand. “I’m sorry.” Sweat drips from his face, but it quickly dries up as it leaks from his brow. “What I was getting at was that the natural, the baser, the human, that’s all gone. It has no home here, I’m afraid, in this place.” He pauses again, looking out as if asking the nothing for sympathy. His deep voice grows instantly soft. “So really, neither should I, neither will I. I’ve grown material you see. I feel like plastic; almost smooth, but rigid. A mere ornament. I’ve been here so very long, my friends.” He stares out at the empty room as if it were a bustling crowd of eager sympathies. He gives them a moment to applaud. He bows. His body cracks and snaps like dried leaves. Small black tailored fragments tumble down his sides, skipping across the marble tile. I gasp, but my voice is drowned out by a sharp caw. I try to find its source, but see nothing in the darkness. The man doesn’t seem to acknowledge it either. He reaches his hand back feeling the pock marks in his dried flesh while dust trickles out from the wounds. Lightly fingering the crevices, he grins. “So, so very long.” I try to yell to him, but the caw breaks out again. He scowls, ignoring me and raises his imaginary glass once more. “And that’s it really. I have nothing more to say, but I wish you all the best.” I snicker and the unseen raven laughs, cackling intensely. The man violently turns, frantically looking around the chamber. More pieces fall from his body. He shakes angrily and his fist tightens, shattering the invisible glass into many unseen fragments. Annoyed, he lowers his body to the ground, bringing his carcass right against the tile. He crosses his arms in front of his chest and closes his eyes. I try to call to him one last time, but the raven caws. The man puts his hand comically to his ear. “And the bell tolls again. The hour is growing late and I less and less visible.”
Propaganda 57 More chunks scatter onto the tile, more beads skip onto the floor. He starts to fold in on himself like unworked terracotta. “Farewell. This place will revert to decoration and I mere dust. Let me fly off with crows piece by piece.” My eyes flutter, straining to keep focus. Yawning loudly, I walk away from that fat little urn and start to wander about the room. I feel compelled to find more secrets in those old walls, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m growing tired, which is strange when I think about it. I wasn’t at a loss for sleep. Maybe it’s draining to think about the old, the dead. Tiring. Yes. Oh. I can’t even think anymore. My eyes flutter. What was I talking about? I’m having trouble remembering what I saw. What did I see? I don’t know. I don’t know. What splendid relief.
BY ERIC ZADROZNY When I was fourteen I took to helping my mother prepare supper in the dim light of our apartment-sized kitchen. One night as we fried potatoes, I watched the butter liquefy and spatter in the pan, and I asked her, I said, “Mom, what’s the difference between love and lust?” She looked down on me with disappointment, as if I had asked just her how to finger a girl the kind of thing a boy should instinctively know how to do. And she smiled as she said, “Love is when your heart melts into your soul and it feels like you’ve just done meth for the first time, I hope you’ve tried meth, you’re fourteen now, and lust, lust is what happens when you’re on meth and lust is why you’re standing here right now.” I spent years searching for the words to make a heart melt into a soul the way that unsalted butter liquefied on that pan, but the closest I’ve ever come to a heart were a few throbbing pulses, empty bottles, and stained sheets.
BY CAMERON RIDDELL *Harlequin: A clown or jester with a uniform with triangular decorations. A fatal birth condition where skin hardens to triangular armor-like plates • Dreaming Eyes supplicate a wave radiates four drums resonate egos conflate hips rotate ohs propagate And as slowing inertia beats, entropy lays claim to silent seats. I entrap myself, through the tests of age, with relentless memories of the Harlequin’s dance on my stage. Exhausted, consumed, averting her gaze she rests her head on my chest in the rush and posthumous glow not alone immortalizing the phrase
I wish there was a way to be closer to you
My thoughts are stolen Maybe we should fall asleep Morpheus is broken. Procrustean playthings, we assume forever’s nocturnal connection and sleepily delay until dreamblank brings the end of happy introspection My eyes fail, I hear nothing. Hypnos departs, seductively haunting me Thanatos arrives, sadistically awakening me • I Awaken Fleeing succubian plickplucks evoke agonized regret and longing; and an unbridled madness prolonging nocturnally recurrent dreamfucks
Propaganda 60 Sing: the murderess grows prettier at night, her dance is a panoramic sight Shriek: it is time now to raise the bar, and settle not for cadaviar. See: mirror, obscured by mucoid smear; hanging bulb, dimly lit; a rusting cage, half-sphere; a molding sheet weeps drips from a slit. Like the cleromantic bulb unable against the dark to cast a lot; hanging from a dust-thick cable, nerves stretch and grow taut. The demented solipsistic monologue, lasting seconds too long, deposits me by the mirror, a place to see. I was looking at me
Hell and Heaven were lies; I watch her and know I will die.
And my hate supersedes each –ism, possessive blight, a turncoat phage. It bends, like a prism, to pervert the light from a happier age. But I will not be alone, I will use parts of me To allow you to be
I cut, scrape, peel the skin I sculpt myself for my Harlequin I stitch, patch, seal and clean To recreate my Harlequeen. Those pieces I have already lent her the sheet obscures, but as I watch she stirs. A gasp of pain – she’s still so tender. She summons and murmurs, she lures. She chirps and sings in broken drawl leering with disturbed grin, she hasn’t legs and doesn’t crawl that grotesque alluring Harlequin I made her of my own bones and ancient baby teeth,
Propaganda 61 and other dead parts that won’t be made to speak about lacing scars or uneven tone, or yellowed nails or ripe cuticle sheath or the sweet, festering reek of my wiry eldritch plaything. The ends are frayed on her spine of string. Loopless angelhair nerves within discharge her macabre spin. She dances, a whirling top and not even Death can make her stop. She draws me near, she draws me in replacement scabs and patchy skin half-cover the muscular sheen.
I sculpt myself for my Harlequin To raise her to my Harlequeen.
God, damn this corpse; rotten and dead, and fuck this noise inside my head! Harlequin, Harlequeen! The likeness of my dream… Harlequin, Harlequeen, there is no sleep or peace like before I seek An end to an endless, solipsistic war. Lend your voice and speak
hallucinated sigh, fantasized creak
My voice is stolen, with it my thought.
I am alone and distraught.
• Dreaming Exhausted, consumed, averting her gaze She rests her head on my chest and In the rush of the act and posthumous glow not alone immortalizing the phrase
I wish there was a way to be closer to you My thought is stolen, with it my voice Mutely I return her smile, to hide my choice; Maybe we shouldn’t fall asleep.
Propaganda 62 And we will view our twin outlines in darklight outside of time to save what was left of an immortal night lying there, intertwined. We will let othersâ€™ be the moments that time devours, eternity is here and now and ours. Into my perfect little dream slips this agonizing dose; I dream and forget how it feels To have lost her almost
The Ballad of Rick McGhie 9pm on a Wednesday
The words “A long, long time ago” are my least favourite in the entire English language. That music used to make me smile, back before my hair turned grey and fell out all around me all over the stage except for those two spots where I would plant my feet while singing songs about living and laughing like a jester who just stole a thorny crown. Did you write the book of love? And if you did can I have a copy to thumb through one of these nights while I smoke alone at the back of the bar surrounded by girls young enough to be my granddaughters Do you have faith in God above? Because I don’t see him at a table drinking whiskey or beer
BY ANDREW SHAW
Propaganda 64 and arguing over who will pay for the next pitcher even though the bible told me that God would not leave me until he fulfilled his promise. Now for ten years it’s been the exact same show, moss growing fat on each rendition of Rocket Man and Wild World. The jester’s on the sideline in a cast Because despite the bells and music he is broken like a children’s toy that after hours of use has outlived its purpose even if the child refuses to see it. There we all were in one place years and years and years ago sitting around a record player in Sydenham Hall, singing along as friends in a basement dorm room and every night I look out at the crowd and imagine your faces in the front row when I strum the opening chords. I imagine they say things like “as I watched him on the stage” when they try to describe how an old man with a limp and a crooked smile
Propaganda 65 can bring them all together on a Wednesday night in a college bar and eulogise about how the music is something more than four chords and some words that rhyme. The day the music died was like any other night except when I looked up from the guitar strings, instead of a girl who sang the blues with a shy smile, I saw three men with their backs to the stage like they couldn’t hear everyone around them singing “bye, bye, miss American pie” and I stumbled over the words “this will be the day that I die”.
1:30am on a Thursday
The floor of the bar sticks to my shoes as I stumble through the spilled beer (tossed back like a shot of rye) and lime wedges towards the rail where I might find a stiff friend to keep me company. The bartender’s shout for last call falls upon the deaf ears of the few people still gathered ‘round that dimly lit stage watching an old man pick his strings like the only people that mattered in the world were sitting in the front row. There’s a slight smile on the guitarist’s face as he whispers “Thank you” into the microphone
Propaganda 66 to the sound of polite applause and people sipping their beers, the regular crowd waiting for the regular melody. He picks a familiar chord and they move to the edge of their seats like he’s teasing them into standing and singing along with him, an understated conductor of the world’s most ragtag chorus. I lean against the rail and watch him, his foot tapping out the time and pausing ever so slightly so that his backup band of devoted drunks can fill in the silence with words of their own devising. And when he hangs up his guitar he goes among them shaking hands and trading names that he knows he won’t remember in the morning and the manager comes over slaps him on the back hands him a beer and says “see you next week”. And when I finish my drink, I stumble past him and the crowd into the night
Propaganda 67 wondering how someone so good could possibly be so happy with a ten-foot stage two cheap lights an old wooden stool and a handful of adoring fans with nothing better to do on a Wednesday night.
10:53am on a Thursday The last strains of Hey Jude play in my head as I roll over in my bed and pull the blanket up over my face to block the sunlight. I always wake up to Hey Jude because no matter how well I sleep I pick up exactly where I left off with a guitar playing three chords while I sing along “Remember to let her under your skin”. It takes me a while to climb out of bed put on last night’s clothes that are strewn on the floor pour myself a cup of coffee and then the memories of a sad song
Propaganda 68 come flooding back like the crowd the beer the singing and the unexplainable adoration. There always seems to be a smiling face that sticks with me interrupting the other memories even though I can’t remember who she is where she came from or why she is so important that her face is my most vivid memory. I must be a fool for believing that a sad song could be anything other than a sad song or that whiskey and beer could somehow make a Wednesday night into something other than a Wednesday night. There’s a pressure building behind my eyes and I don’t know if it’s because of the beer or the lack of sleep or because Hey Jude just won’t stop playing.
“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will.” - George Bernard Shaw
Published by the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council Western University London, Ontario, Canada
Before Symposium, Propaganda was published annually by the Arts and Humanities Students' Council and accepted submissions of any form of cre...
Published on Jun 7, 2016
Before Symposium, Propaganda was published annually by the Arts and Humanities Students' Council and accepted submissions of any form of cre...