FLEET - REVOLUTIONS, CYCLES, FLUX

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FLEET

NO.1

2022 Cover artwork and layout by Lucille Mona Ling Copyright in all contributions resides with the contributors 3


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CONTENT


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SCYTHES AND CYRAPOREUMS /

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VIRTUE / RIYAD UDDIN

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THE CLOCKMAKER / EVE MCINTOSH

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FOUR POEMS / J.M. WOODWARD

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EMPIRE IN FLUX / ZOE GEMMELL

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TWO POEMS / DIEGO DRAGO

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THE HUMANISTS / FILIPPO CABRAS

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TWO POEMS / LUCILLE MONA LING

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POSEIDON / FRANCESCA ASEOCHE

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TWO POEMS / LUCY LAUDER

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TIN CAN / EVAN COLLEY

SARA ABULHAWA

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EDITOR’S NOTE ‘Revolutions, Cycles, Flux’. These three words were the theme we chose for the first edition of ‘Fleet’. It is useful perhaps, to understand what this theme means to us in order to appreciate what you are about to read. Together the three words evoke a question: what is change? Does it come in an explosive moment or loop back around on itself? Does change even exist? It never mattered to us to find a single correct answer to these questions. Rather we were interested in seeing what answers you could provide, both by writing and by reading. Change is something internal and eternal, yet focused in the moment. We hope that reading the following pieces, can elicit the potential for change to occur, both in yourself and others. As you read and ponder on change, it becomes pertinent to investigate the creator of that change itself. Thus, a second question needs answering - what is ‘Fleet’? We envisioned ‘Fleet’ as a vehicle for freedom. But to suggest that something is free of any bounds necessitates that it be free of definition as well. So then, the answer must always be found within your own interpretation. Despite its conception within the Glasgow University Union, we would like to think that ‘Fleet’ surpasses any sort of institutional or textual boundaries. Instead, much like the great theorist Roland Barthes, we would like to express how sincerely we believe that this text’s unity lies not in its origin, but in its destination. And so, we would finally like to thank anyone involved in this project, for your words, your art, your time, and most importantly your faith, without which, ‘Fleet’ would never have succeeded in achieving its aims both in intent and practice, which we believe it has done so greatly. Thank you for reading. Evan Colley, Co-Editor in Chief Radoslav Serafimov, Co-Editor in Chief

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Sara Abulhawa

SCYTHES AND CYRAPOREUMS Cyraporeums bloom once in their lifetime. It is imperative that you capture their essence the instant they flourish. Good luck. Light refracts as it passes through copper leaves, splashing a rainbow onto moss-covered soil. “A watched pot never boils. Have you seen my keys?” Fae averts her gaze, smiling. “Not technically accurate. Checked on top of the piano?” She gestures towards it before resting her head back onto her hands staring intently. “Yep. Can we appreciate the ingenuity of that sentence, please?” She considers it for a moment and then laughs. “Yes, we can. The sloth dish?” Zinnia runs into the kitchen. “No, fuck! I’m gonna be so late.” She returns rummaging through her bag, as if they may materialise in front of her eyes. “If you get fired we can both be jobless together, we’d be living the life!” “So, we’ve moved back to the denial stage of unemployment?” “Yep. You can borrow my keys; I’m not leaving today.” “No, I’ll find them. You don’t need more motivation to stare at that plant all day.” “You’ll be eating your words when it works.” “You got it from the market… from Eli.” Zinnia holds her hands up at Fae’s glare. “Hey, I’m not saying anything bad about him, he’s a wonderful wee soul but I’m just not sure he’s all here Feather.” “Jack’s beanstalk grew, and Jack’s mum was so negative about it, but they were rich at the end!” “Well, if this Sierrapossum-” “Cyraporeum.” “Yeah, isn’t that what I said? Anyway, if it makes us rich then - The sink!” Zinnia runs to the bathroom. “Yes! Okay I can still make it on time if I get a taxi. We will 8


continue this conversation later. The bookshelf is arriving today so if you can leave your post for three seconds to get that, I’ll love you forever.” “So, you want me to leave my post to get post?” Zinnia laughs despite herself. “Sure banana, you know you should apply to be a comedian.” “I would crush that, and you would love me forever either way.” “I will, okay, love you, bye.” Fae lets her attention falter for a second as Zinnia kisses her goodbye. “Don’t stare at that plant all day!” *** Phoenix’s first semi-coherent thought of the day was ‘I should just retire and become a zombie’ and to be honest it didn’t get much better than that. “…it’s a long way down.” The scythe yielding figure states. “So, I’m going… yeah, no that checks out.” “Do you want company?” If Phoenix was still alive, he probably would’ve said no. “We need to make a pitstop first.” Phoenix shrugs with more nonchalance than would be expected given the circumstances. “Okay, I mean, I’m not in any rush.” “Yeah, eternal torture can wait.” “You don’t sugar-coat shit, do you?” “No.” *** Banging on the front door breaks Fae out of her trance. She blinks a few times and rubs her eyes. “Jeez, I’m coming one sec, you can just leave it outside, you know!” She opens the door to a hooded figure holding a scythe, and a red-headed stranger. “No.” She slams the door shut, and noise echoes through her flat. She shuffles through her flat with her back to a wall, because that’s definitely how to evade demons, so by proxy Grim Reapers must abide by the same code. She hears the clicking of the lock. “Funny how quickly you realise a scythe makes for an excellent lock picking device. So do you know why we’re here?” Fae continues inching away from the pair, keeping her back firmly pressed against the wall. “I mean I can take an educated guess, but-” “So optimistic! Don’t worry, it’s not your time yet, your time will be-” She holds up her hand. “I didn’t ask… so, if you’re not here to, you know, w-why are you here?” 9


“Do you know this man?” She takes in his appearance. “I don’t think so…” “Do you think he deserves eternal damnation?” “Excuse me?” The Reaper’s eyes roll right back, so Fae can only see white. “Humans need things repeated to them so many times. Should he be tortured forever?” “I mean, no? Why are you asking me? Also, and this isn’t important, but do you have to wear that outfit, or do you choose to?” The Reaper shrugs. “Everyone’s got a uniform, right?” “Not me, not anymore.” Phoenix narrows his eyes and clears his throat. “Whilst this conversation is riveting, can we get back to letting this literal stranger decide my fate?” “No, no I don’t think he-” “You don’t know what he’s done.” “Still, eternity! Eternity’s fucking long, isn’t it? And what does torturing him do, I mean he can’t learn, it’s just a cycle of evil repeating itself over and over, and maybe if you break it, he could learn and become better but instead you choose to make one decision in a split second which ripples-” “It’s time.” “Hey, no! You just said-” “Your plant is glowing.” Phoenix nods at it. “Oh!” Fae rushes towards it, making a pentagon in the soil and running one finger up the stem muttering “Minterplowerous Neeqyozurn.” The glowing leaves start turning purple, and as Fae grasps one, the colours start to spin around her, copper, plum, chartreuse, and then mountains stand before her, as far as she can see, wind sweeps around her, threatening to push her down from the peak. “Jump.” “Pissing shitcakes!” Her hand goes to her heart instantly, and she tries to regain her normal breathing rate. “I meant off the mountain.” “What?” “Jump.” The figure repeats bluntly. “No!” “Do you trust me?” “What? No of course not! I just met you.” “Okay fine… let’s go down this route. Have you ever been hurt by someone you trusted?” 10


“W-well of course I have, but… but that’s not the poi-” “So, why does trust matter?” “You were the one who brought it up!” They shrug, “I thought you might’ve said yes.” “Well, I didn’t! And I’m not jump-” “Jump or I’ll push you.” “You’re not very nur-” And then… she is floating… screaming… cold air whipping around her, she closes her eyes, waiting for a fall that doesn’t come… when she opens them, she realises she is almost at the next mountain, she pushes her body forward and exits the current, breaking her fall with her hands. “Okay, good. Now the next one.” The figure nods towards the mountain opposite. “Hey, no!” “I haven’t got all day, Fae. Great! I just inadvertently rhymed. This century is ruined.” Fae hesitates, then pushes her toes over the edge. “I said jump, not whatever you’re doing.” “I’m psyching myself up.” “Don’t make me push you again.” She closes her eyes and jumps and when she opens them, she is floating again, the circular motion still present, a lake far beneath her, the light glints over the water making it shimmer slightly and it is oddly calming, peaceful, she almost forgets that she could die at any moment. Almost. When she comes close to the next mountain she decides to stay in the cycle, breathing deeply and noticing more things, the way the cold air bites her nose, the way her candy-striped dressing gown flies out behind her resembling a cape, the complete feeling of freedom that envelopes her. She stays in the cycle for a few twists and then exits it with about as much success as the previous time. “Next one.” “Where are we going?” “You’ll see, come on, you’ve done it before.” The figure’s voice seems warmer, more encouraging. Fae jumps again but instead of being suspended in the air; she plummets. Just before she smashes into the ice floor, the figure shifts the air into a make-shift slide. The figure waits for Fae to catch her breath before speaking. “Okay so what did we learn?” “We? WE! I almost had a heart attack! You knew that was coming! There is no we about that! That’s so messed up! I just want to go back home.” 11


“You will. Now any reflections?” “No! I have nothing to reflect on, except maybe that you’re a dickface and that I definitely don’t trust you!” “This is such a thankless job.” “Oh, is it?” Fae scoffs. “Yes, it is. Where to now?” Fae takes in her surroundings. She hadn’t noticed the deep blue ice around her. She spins, unsure of which path to take. “Why do I have to decide?” The figure doesn’t respond. “Why me?” “You had a cyraporeum.” “But why was I given that?” “Maybe the person who gave it to you thought you needed it.” “But why, I’m not special!” “No, you’re not Fae. It’s you today. Someone else tomorrow.” “Until what?” “Until we’re not needed anymore.” “We?” The figure sighs at the confusion on Fae’s face. “It’s not just me, you met Graeme. And there’s others.” “Graeme?” “Dresses like the Grim Reaper, because Graeme, grim, you know… it was just a joke initially, but it stuck and it works for him, he has a different approach, we all do, different tactics for different people.” “So that man he was with?” “He is helping him.” “And you’re helping me?” The figure laughs, “I’m trying.” “Why?” “You know the answer to that Fae.” Fae considers this, then looks around and points. “Let’s go down here.” “Okay.” The figure waves their hand, pushing them through the ice tunnel towards a canopy. Birds fly above them and monkeys swing from the trees, Fae looks up in complete astonishment. “Now jump.” “There’s nowhere to jump to?” “Just do it.” And she does, and this time, instead of floating or falling, she flies. Right 12


up into the trees, laughter bursts out of her and she jumps again and goes higher, until she’s in the treetops. She sees the mountains in the distance, leaves fall around her, swirling as they do. She keeps jumping and sometimes she flies higher, others she floats in place, others she falls back down to the canopy bed. She rushes back to the ice tunnels and tries different routes, bounding in joy up waterfalls and down glaciers. Floating, flying and falling, from place to place, exploring every inch of every path and not worrying about where the next jump will take her. After it all she returns to the mountain top and looks down at everything, seeing it with new eyes. The figure smiles at her, “so what did we learn?” Fae laughs and then jumps, floating in the air, and colours spin around her, jade, amber, lilac, and then she is back in her flat, landing in her own special way. “If you could just pass me the Allen key.” Graeme says to Phoenix, then looks over at Fae. “Your post came.” “I can see that.” “Scared the poor wee soul to death… not literally.” Graeme pauses, expecting a response, but when he isn’t given one, he continues, “almost done.” They work on the bookshelf for a little while, arguing the entire time and then stand. “Ahh amazing!” Graeme places his hand down onto his handiwork with pride and the bookshelf falls apart. “You were saying.” “I think maybe we should go, wouldn’t want to overstay our welcome.” They hurry out of the door, and Fae watches, wondering what the stranger needed to learn, and whether he did or not. She turns, looking at the cyraporeum, letting her hands hover over the leaves. Then she walks over to the piano and sits by it, she hesitates. “Just jump,” she whispers to herself, and then presses down on the keys making up a melody. “We rich yet?” Zinnia calls, as she walks in, and the door slams behind her. “Nope. Did you get in on time?” Fae calls back. “Just. It was hella stressful. You were playing?” The surprise is evident in her voice. “Yeah.” She sings back. “Can I hear?” She sits beside her on the stool. Fae starts again, allowing the melody to change, to go where it wants to go, a few keys sound wrong but she continues, repeating notes, and covering mistakes with chords. “You were composing.” Zinnia whispers. 13


“Stop! Don’t make a big deal or it will feel like a big deal and… stop grinning at me.” “I’m not grinning!” She fakes a serious face, before putting her head on Fae’s shoulder and yawning. “I’m shattered.” “I’ll put the shopping away, butter bean.” “We’ll do it in a bit. Got you pineapple juice. Hey, do you know what ‘from concentrate’ means?” “No,” she laughs, “does anyone?” “I don’t think so. I saw the expiry date on a jar of pickles as 22/14/2022 at the shop today and I honestly thought I had entered into another dimension, like that was the only logical explanation.” Fae laughs, “don’t talk to me about alternate dimensions.” “Why? Are you okay?” “Yeah.” “That plant ever bloom banana?” Zinnia nods over to it. “It did.” “Hmm what happened?” “It taught me something. Not knowing if you’re going to float or fall or fly makes things a whole lot more exciting. I’ve been so paralysed by the idea that I’m not on the right path or doing the right thing that I’ve just been, I don’t know… doing nothing, but I think sometimes you’ve just got to jump and see what happens.” “Clever wee plant.” “Yeah. I think I want to fall, give myself to the world and see where I land, if I land, and if I don’t then that’s okay too.” “So, the piano playing is because of the Sierra thingymajig?” “Maybe, I just… felt inspired.” Fae grins. “Good.” Zinnia smiles back and nudges her, “it’s nice to see, nice to hear too Feather.” “Yeah, did you say you got me pineapple juice?” “Yep, in the watermelon bag.” “I love you.” “It’s just pineapple juice.” Fae glares at Zinnia and she laughs then yawns again. “Am I boring you?” “No! But I may need some coffee.” She stands and trips over the wreck on the floor. “What the fuck happened to our bookshelf?”

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Riyad Uddin

VIRTUES “What kind of son did I raise you to be?” I left, without word or notice. Ahead of me lay opportunity, seldom seen before by the eyes of a pet. Thoughts crashing against the sides, pulling me back to a town named Guilt. My ears are filled with music that from a time that I am now living, foreshadowing a reminiscent memory of a coachman, unaware of all the lives behind him. A memory that created a beginning by ending another one. Ending the only one. Brume flooded the motorways, and seeped into my head. Was it really a sin? To start a new life. To start a life. Poisonous days were my reality. Falling back into the ditch of regret and pride. She didn’t hold back on those letters. Having done the almost awful thing 15


one could possibly ever dream of, or a simple sheltered mind of morality. I did the right thing. I did the right thing. Constant fear of falling in. My skin no longer had a hold of me, from the fear of being held of a superior one. I found love in which I never knew I could. He found it in me, and so did she. I found it in myself, in the garments on my body, in the colours of each shirt, dress, jumper, and skirt. And in the final days of my journey, began the biggest one of them all. The Revolution upon my People, that was merely a figment of their own imagination. I left, without word or notice. Ahead of me lay opportunity seldom seen by the eyes of a woman of my creed, the beginning formed from the ending of another one.

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Eve McIntosh

THE CLOCKMAKER The Clockmaker’s brother is a disgrace to the family. The first problem is that he doesn’t quite look the same as everyone else. The endless years of choking smoke had snatched all the colour from the once shiny city, and then its inhabitants. The Clockmaker’s family, just like all the others, have slimy tar coloured hair, and skin so pale it is almost translucent. They recoil from any feeble attempts at sunshine, afraid of the pain that would sear through their glossy white eyes at the slightest glint of light. His brother Byron, however, has skin that caramelises in the sun, and a head full of yellow curls. Their parents had forced him to wear a dusty black cap to cover them, and advised him to yank it down to hide his warm brown eyes whenever he could. The second problem was the toys. The Clockmaker’s occupation had been thrusted on him by his father, who had learned it from his father before him. But, when the time came for Byron to learn the mechanics behind the gentle ticking noises their brains were tuned into from a young age, he had refused. The Clockmaker snorts at the memory as he shovels cereal in his mouth with a dirty spoon, trying not to acknowledge how everything he eats these days turns to slush in the short window of time from touching his cutlery to entering his mouth. Just like everything else, their kitchen is grey. Maybe it was white once. Years of grime line messy table tops, and grease rubs onto his trousers as he leans against them. The Clockmaker sets his empty bowl down with a thump, not dissimilar to the ticks and tocks of the clocks surrounding him. He has always known that their little house was not meant for the living, but the machinery they create. The clocks own this cramped, damp home, not their parents, and definitely not either of them. One day, as the perfect son, he imagines that all of this will be his. His younger brother will get nothing. The entire nation hates the sun, and it’s almost as if Byron was born into the light instead of the smog. And, instead of building clocks, Byron decided to build toys, as if he didn’t stick out enough already. One drizzly day in the last Rain Season, while the two brothers were hiding in the dry spots of the house fearing the acidic hiss of the rain hitting their soft 17


skin through the pattern of various holes in their roof, the Clockmaker had decided to ask him what on earth his problem was with their heritage. This made Byron smile, his wide, white smile, before he stated, “Ivan, the thing about crafting clocks is that time is always out to get you. Besides, I don’t want a title for a name. Doesn’t that make you more of a thing than a person?” He had a point. No one ever does call The Clockmaker by his name anymore. The familiar noise of the word “Ivan” on his mother’s lips had been buried with her. Sometimes, he doesn’t think this is such a bad thing. Having a title is much more grown-up than having a name. Still, his brother seems to clutch onto childhood. The Clockmaker wonders if assembling toys actually makes his brother happy. Happiness is something the Clockmaker has no time for. Ironically, he doesn’t have time for anything, except time itself. There must be twenty clocks all crammed onto one wall of their dusty kitchen, staring at him. He stares back, looking at the distorted reflection of himself projected over dozens of glass sheets. The Clockmaker is not sure that his hollow cheeks, deep frown, and the dark black fringe covering the top of his left eye look especially happy. The round purple circles under his pale eyes scream at him to get back to work. He sighs, and obeys. He couldn’t hear Byron’s laugh float through the house today. Normally, even a slight chuckle would rattle against their thin walls, and the tremendous noise of Byron’s new contraptions and his childish laughter would send the house shaking. Today, as the Clockmaker’s heart thudded along to the melody of his machines, the house was silent (apart from the constant ticking). This was odd. And now, hours later, as a brand-new glistening bronze clock starts to chime in with the rest of the chorus, the Clockmaker wipes his oily hands on his thighs, and stares at the clockroom. They line the walls, shiny faces smiling down on him. Discarded hands litter the floor, odd numbers bundled in small groups. A single brass three is stuck to the heel of his shoe. He rips it off, and throws it back onto the dusty floor, before pushing himself out of his rickety chair. He throws his arms in the air above him, and slowly feels his body stretch back to life, muscles that were once his friends screeching at him for keeping them stationary all day. He wonders if he should look for Byron. Over the years, their parents had made him believe that Byron was more of a stranger than his brother. But, surely, poking his head into the workshop wouldn’t cause either of them any harm. Besides, he thinks silence like this is eerie. The clocks always have too much noise to make, and Byron would normally drown it out with his own. The Clockmaker tries not to think about the third problem as he slips out of the clockroom, and into their maze of narrow hallways. He runs a finger along the faded wallpaper as he walks, watching as his skin turns from white to grey. But of 18


course, his thoughts get louder with every step he takes in Byron’s direction. He watches as the strange shapes of ticking metal on the walls start to fall away, walls packed with clocks slowly starting to spread themselves out, until the walls suddenly become bare, almost as if their mechanical minds fear the other brother lurking down the hall. The silence without his ever-watching companions is completely different to the silence in the clockroom. At least, in there, The Clockmaker knew he wasn’t alone. In this new stillness, he can hear himself think, and the third problem starts to creep into his mind. The third problem was none of his concern, until all of a sudden, it was. Byron had lived his whole life alone. The clocks owned a thicker branch in their gnarling family tree than Byron ever did. And, somehow, The Clockmaker’s brother still had the nerve to smile. Then the day came for The Clockmaker to feel the sharp twist that loneliness brought to his chest. The unfamiliar sensation of isolation soon became a friend to him. But it took a long time, and many hours surrounded by the never-ending noise, for him to realise that they were alone as each other. Two brothers in the same dark house, only ever metres apart, in two different universes. This is the third problem. Being accepted by their parents had made The Clockmaker no better off than his brother in the end. If anything, Byron was happier than he was. Byron didn’t have to whisper his name in the dark hours of the morning so he wouldn’t forget it. Byron didn’t have to construct the same sneering glass-faced machines day in and out. Byron is free. He watches as his feet stop their journey, coming to an abrupt end outside Byron’s door. He has no idea what to expect. For years, he’s heard the whir of mechanics from inside this door. Today, he hears nothing. The Clockmaker inches open the creaky door, his pale eyes scrunched closed. He takes a breath. He opens them. Nothing. The room is empty. The walls are bare. There’s still deep indentations on the dirty carpet of where furniture used to be, but it’s gone. A black hat sits in the middle of the floor. The Clockmaker moves towards it slowly. He had expected piles of dolls and toy soldiers and robots and aeroplanes, and his brother to be sitting amongst it all with a smile on his face. Instead, all that he can see is the hat. Byron’s disguise, left behind. The Clockmaker crouches beside it, reaching out carefully towards the worn, black fabric. As he lifts the cap, he notices something underneath it. Placing the last piece of his brother to one side, he looks down. Hidden under the hat, is a tiny wooden carving of himself, and a small piece of paper. But, it’s not him, is it? There’s a grin on his miniature wooden face. There’s some sort of spark in his eyes. This isn’t a figure of The Clockmaker. This is a figure of Ivan. In the carving’s hand, there is a hammer. The Clockmaker reaches towards the square of worn paper, unfolding it as if it were made of glass. The smile that begins to creep onto The 19


Clockmaker’s face feels foreign to him. In elaborate, cursive loops that must belong to his brother are the words: Happiness is not about pleasing anyone except yourself. The Clockmaker looks down at the little wooden hammer in his little wooden hand.

And, suddenly, Ivan knows what he has to do. He has always hated clocks.

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J.M. Woodward

FAMILY There was a family on the beach, today. The Children are moving with the tide and smiling in between the sand and the sea as it chases them up and down among the dappled shade of trees. The Father stands with them, sometimes chasing and laughing as they scream with joy, diving and bombing into deeper water, seaweed and sunshine up his back. The Mother sits on the rocks, face brighter than June’s sun coursing on the ocean, lapping up every wave and the smell of salt and her loved one’s towels. I watch, fervent: the present as it swells in, from the future and crashes back, into the past. And yet it remains, eternal. There was a family on the beach, forever.

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J.M. Woodward

THE VESTIBULE I heard a phone e c h o i n g Perhaps from the vestibule And knew for a moment You were about to jostle in With YourKeys J a n g l i n g And bags And stories to tell And I’d put the kettle on ! , but there is just the cars driving past outside and the Sound Of A Hammer That Continues Then Stops.

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J.M. Woodward

THE WASP’S NEST Years ago, When I was younger, Living at my childhood home, And the summers stretched endless, We would often find wasps nests hanging Thick from the Soffits round The back of The house. Each time, A man would come, Wrapped in gauzy white, With a long tube and a canister, Filled with a white liquid that sprayed powder, And he would pump gently and step away from the thing, And just like that the nest would be quiet and hollow and ghostly white. And yet, Time and again, Despite the exterminator, The wasps would return defiantly, Summer after summer we’d go to the back garden, And as if by magic, in no time at all, this thing would appear again, Even bigger than The last time, a brown And bulbous coil that Curved round gently, and 24


From its mouth, a fizzing Hoard of yellowjackets, Spitting in and out. I would guess they are Still there Now.

But why, You might ask, Do I mention this now, When all these years have passed, And my parents have moved nearer the grandchildren, And I myself have not laid eyes on that building in years, Why do I address you, here on this page, when I have not seen you since? Because you are Much like those wasps. I rid myself of you, I move Far away and throw out old journals I delete the old photos and your number And think perhaps that’s it. But then you Are there again, humming at the back of things, Growing bigger by the day and pulling On the roof, latching on to the wall, and Your mouth, screaming stingers that fly In through the windows and Scare away the neighbours And leave my face red and Raw.

And now you have grown into my foudations and will remain as long as I.

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J.M. Woodward

ROLL; OR, THE BURDEN OF SISYPHUS

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Zoe Gemmell

EMPIRE IN FLUX “It is said that empires last an average of 250 years before collapsing due to overreaching powers, civil unrest, and revolution…” That single leaf of parchment was inked with the words that instantly seared themselves into my mind like a branding iron. Perhaps I had been too eager in freeing that dusty old tome from its rubble prison; the aged pages riffling and spitting dust as I flicked each page by, as though the work itself was sputtering a final warning against my fingertips. Many of the passages were unremarkable- though the penmanship and illustrations were eloquent in describing a history long since passed -but it was page ninety-four where the dust finally settled. I was unsure whether it was the Winter’s bite, or this solemn prediction that cut me so deep; but regardless, the outcome was the same. I was rooted atop the pile of broken cobbles, shivering, my fingertips trembling as they trailed down the page. Though the quote itself was benign, it sent the gears in my mind whirling- surely there’d be context following it? An explanation for the claim- a silver lining or simple hyperbole? No. Despite my fierce desire for further knowledge, I knew I had no time for such ponderings. Forcing a glance towards the horizon only confirmed my fear; the light of dawn was already bleeding upwards to dissolve the blanket of darkness veiling the land. I was running out of time, so lest I desired further encounters with other ruin-looters or the so-called “freedom fighters”, I needed to move- now. The book shut with a heavy ‘thud’ and was quickly sequestered away into the satchel disguised beneath my cloak. In an instant, I was back on my feet and plunging back within the labyrinth of fractured columns and broken architecture that was once the grand library- ensuring my head was on a swivel as I retraced my steps. Though, with every heavy landing or pebble tossed by a careless footfall, a curse hissed from my lips with increasing exasperation- thankfully, only to the audience 27


of my fogging visor. Although it was difficult to parse subtle noise between my muffled gasps, the clunking of my boots, and the whistling of the wind, it was a skill I had had to perfect for the sake of my own survival. After all, a looter like myself had to learn how to dissect even the tiniest subtleties to avoid getting- “Someone’s there!” Shit! My feet screeched to a halt and my head whipped around wildly. There were no immediate shapes or shadows cast on the concrete teeth surrounding me, but the rush of footsteps was growing ever closer to the clearing. In an act of desperation, I dashed down the crumbling hill and crushed myself into the first exposed opening. Winding my way into a veritable nest of unstable rebar and masonry, I burrowed as far into the pile as my body could physically allow. Once suitably uncomfortable I drew in one final, sharp breath before... … The pound of footfalls came racing down the mound’s exterior. Gravel was tossed across the narrow opening, and my heart lodged in my throat as a boot caught right at the entrance. However, the subsequent sound of a heavy crash and tumble- alongside uproarious laughter and the rattling of dislodged stones - indicated I was still undiscovered for now. “Aye, ye really fucked that one, mate!” came a strained, raspy crow from above as a fleet of footsteps descended at a far more measured pace. I watched with bated breath as two shadows trudged noisily over the entrance.

“Oh, shut the hell up, alright!” a foul snarl echoed out. I strained my eyes to spot a vague figure shifting in the clearing below, “I saw some bitch! They couldn’t have gone far!” “Aw, now was it the hungry or the horny that got you down so badly!” retorted an amused giggle, followed by a fleshy ‘thunk!’, “Now get up, Prince Charming, or your precious little meal’s gonna get away!” What followed was a tense series of grumbled curses and shallow movements as the group of foul-mouthed thugs began to pick around the base of the concrete. Though, as I drew in another low breath and clutched my fists around outcrops of rebar (a foolish attempt to either steady the structure or become one with it), the thought slowly wormed its way into my mind. These thugs… The way they spoke, they certainly sounded like no “freedom fighters” - nor did their accents sound like any other viable faction from the area.

28


As the footsteps drew ever closer to my position, my hands began trembling. These thugs… were they nomads? But living in a group was exceptionally difficult thanks to the limited supplies- I had already learned as much. “Come out, come out…” the bandit cooed, the sickening crunch of his boots resonating like splitting bones. My eyes drew wide as a face crested over the edge of the entryway, imprisoning me. A Cheshire grin of filed teeth and dried blood spread wide as the wild eyes darted around the small compartment. As those manic eyes met my own, the word surfaced to my lips, “Cannibal,” I uttered in a small voice. With a triumphant roar of pure animalism, the thug’s arm sprung forth, swiping a frenzied hand towards my ankle. A reflexive shriek erupted from my own lungs as I bent his fingers beneath my boot - though this did little to dissuade the bandit’s movements. Adrenaline pounded through my veins as his fingers finally wound tight around my leg and began hauling me through - my clothes catching and tearing on loose rebar. With desperation I thrashed, twisted, kicked, spun, and screamed until“Ka-rak!!” A shot rang through the clearing. The grip upon my leg released in an instant; the bandit howling and reeling backward as he clutched a shoulder that was now oozing blood. His eyes darted back down to the hill, but his fiercely incensed expression drained to abject terror as he did. But I cared not; my foot sprang forth and collided with the bandit’s jaw to send him sprawling downwards to the awaiting figures at the bottom. Yet, as I hastily wriggled through the entryway and gazed down to his companions, it appeared their attention was firmly fixed on something other than myself. Briefly following their gaze caused shivers to run down my spine as a dark figure stood atop one of the fragments of concrete, smoke delicately wafting from the muzzle of a gun. The gears in my mind turned over as we stared, transfixed, as the figure’s cape wafted in the early morning breeze. This was not to last, however, as sudden movement from one of the marauders broke the spell of petrification and sent me running like a frightened rabbit - my feet pounding hard against the concrete without even a single glance backwards. My heart thudded in my ears as I raced for my life, the blood-red hues of dawn already flooding the land to render calculated movement obsolete. All I could do was run run and hope those bullets wouldn’t catch up to me! It felt as though my legs would give out beneath me by the time the harsh stone gave way to soil and grass beneath me. My lungs heaved as the towering pillars of mangled concrete were replaced by 29


the peaceful shade of trees and shrubbery. It was only here, where the sweet scent of morning dew dissolved through the fresh breeze, that I felt safe enough to allow my pace to wane. Yet, despite the air filling with the sounds of distant bird calls and my own panting, I kept glancing anxiously over my shoulder every few moments to ensure that I truly was alone. I exhaled harshly. My lungs were on fire, my limbs ached, and I was shivering. I couldn’t help but gently run my fingertips across the bruises and welts already forming across my skin as I resigned to trudge towards one of the larger trees. I was worn out, and despite the growing light of day, all I desired now was sleep. After a few moments of weary digging, a small crawl space was crafted beneath the heavy tangle of roots. Although forcing myself into yet another claustrophobic space was against my desires, this was safer than settling in the flimsy branches. Cursing beneath my breath, I reluctantly clambered in - shifting my satchel onto my chest as I settled against the cool soil. Though, as my fingers came to rest on the brass latch, an idea leapt to the forefront of my mind. A sudden enthusiasm sprung through me as I unbuckled the latch and yanked the heavy book from its confinement; the smirk that graced my lips being one I couldn’t resist. It was remarkable; thick, leatherbound, with corners bevelled with the most eloquent brass and a fine ribbon bookmark connected to the spine. Embossed lettering lay proudly on the front, finished with gold with barely a scratch. With such an enchanting look about it, I knew I could fetch a good trade for it from some travelling merchant or starry-eyed looter. Upon that thought, however, my smug smirk drained. My attention snapped back over to my satchel, and I began rummaging through the pockets- my mouth running dry at the realisation. I needed to find a trader, as my assorted rations of nuts, dried fruits, and cereals would barely last me to overmorrow. With the renewed anxiety settling in my stomach, I replaced the book within my bag - my eager enthusiasm having waned at the dawning realisation. My eyelids grew heavy, and soon I was adrift in a dark ocean of dreamless sleep… …Although… As I blinked awake… It felt as though I’d hardly slept at all. My bones ached as I craned my head to peer out of the hole I’d dug myself into - and the dying light of the sun only confirmed that yes, unfortunately, all of that time had indeed passed. With a hiss and a groan, I forcibly slunk out from beneath the tree, and promptly thudded onto the damp grass. The sensation was almost refreshing- if it hadn’t been for the anxiety in the pit of my stomach threatening to turn me inside out. It took me another few minutes to scrape myself back to my feet and begin the arduous task of picking around the forested landscape, with an eye and ear trained 30


for anything suspicious. For the first hour there was a grand total of… Nothing. The next hour… there was also nothing. By the fourth hour, my strength and will was fading fast. Although I’d managed to collect a few edible roots and find a small river for water, very little progress had been made. Yet, just as the sunset scorched the sky and my hope finally cracked, a bright glinting caught me from just beyond the treeline. I approached with caution to the edge of the greenery and focused my prowling eyes. It was sharp - like glass refracting light - and was unexpectedly followed by jaunty whistling. Curiosity gnawed at me as I picked through the shrubbery, my ears and eyes following the unique stimulus until a form took shape. On the small rocky clearing before me stood a nomadic man - though, clearly a wealthy one if his ocean-blue cloak and capelets were anything to judge by. The shimmering lights I’d noticed appeared to result from the reflections of ornate jewels included within the clothing’s intricate embroidery. He was mesmerising- even his hip-length blond hair was weaved into sophisticated braids and tied with ribbons, although his face was distinctly clean shaven. However, what truly caught my eye was the mule trotting sluggishly by his side; heavy cargo tied down by shabby leather and frayed rope. The poor creature looked so sombre in comparison with the man’s lavish attire - especially as the aged reins looped tightly around a ring-laden fist - to the point I speculated if this was the intention. I shoved aside my lingering thoughts and drew myself up straight. Burdened by the looming threat of starvation, I leapt from the shrubbery and onto the small plateau, “Greetings!” I hailed - perhaps a little too enthusiastically as the man jolted sharply and stumbled a step. I halted and startled back in turn, recognising my mistake in haste. Upon the reclamation of his composure, the man turned on his heel to directly face me - his elegant robes flaring and shimmering in the sun’s dying light. Though, before I realised it, the barrel of a gun was pointed to my heart. “Friend or foe?” the merchant’s retort rang coldly through the air, his trigger finger a breath away from erasing my existence. “F-Friend,” I responded hastily, raising one hand as the other tore down my visor, “I’m looking to trade for food.” His stern, hazel gaze softened as he searched my face, “Very well. You seem far too distinguished to be a mere brute,” he mused, briefly twirling the gun as he returned it to its holster, “Let’s see what you’ve got then.” I cautiously approached, drawing my cloak wide and ensuring my hands were visible. 31


However, the man merely chuckled as he fiddled with the string latching of his mule’s cargo, “Please, you needn’t be so nervous. You’d already be dead if I had a problem with you,” he hummed with a wink, “now, have you a name?” I was struck; his calm, almost playful demeanour was so foreign to the violent intensity of all other nomadic survivors. “Well?” “Scholar,” I stammered hastily, “just… Scholar.”

“Scholar, hm? Well, you’re certainly the mysterious type,” he remarked, “though, as for myself…” he pulled away from his cargo momentarily as he gave a low, sweeping bow, “Bastion Ryland Dhahlo, master marksman - though do call me Rye, if you will.” “Alright, Rye…” I stared, puzzled at this enigma of a man - though a quick shake of my head brought my focus back, “I have some salvaged trinkets to trade.” “Oh, so not a brute but a looter then?” “What, well, I-” “You know, I shot one of them this morning.” I bit my tongue at the realisation, “Well… Do you want them or not?” I snapped, attempting to cut through the small talk. Though again, much to my surprise, Rye responded with a hearty laugh, “Please, Scholar, you mustn’t be so serious.” I gave a resigned sigh, shut my mouth, and opened my satchel - desperate to shift the situation forth with as little agony as possible. “Ah… A book,” Rye hummed in a contentious tone as he lifted it from my grasp, “Just what I need now the world has ended.” I dropped my gaze and balled up my fists, “It’s from the grand library. Check the inside cover.” There was a moment of quiet riffling, before, “God’s blood…” Rye’s fascinated whisper came.

“I’ve not read the book myself, but I’m sure the information within will be…” I hesitated momentarily, searching for the correct words, “…enlightening, to say the least.” “Hmm…” the sound of riffling pages filled my ears once more as Rye inspected it closely. I slowly lifted my gaze back up to him, noting how intensely captivated he was with the literature. Though… there appeared to be a hint of trepidation behind his gaze. I dry-swallowed, “I’m sure if you got it appraised - or something - you 32


could haggle for a good bit of coin,” I urged, “all I’m asking for now is food for a few more days.” His gaze softened and his eyebrows lifted slightly, “Very well… I suppose I can entertain an offer like that,” he responded with a sympathetic tone. He closed the tome with a thud and turned his attention back to the mule. Relief flooded through every fibre of my being as he began picking through pouches and bags. I felt just about ready to either cry or collapse. However, as he idled away, a shiver ran down my spine and my relief was replaced by fear. I couldn’t help but gaze over my shoulder.

Nothing was out of place but… I couldn’t help but feel something was wrong. “I think… there’s someone here…” I whispered beneath my breath. A sudden crack of stone on the clearing opposing us only confirmed my theory, “We need to move - Now!” But… Rye seemed unmoved, “Keen senses you’ve got. They’ll serve you well.” “There are people here!” I hissed, instinctively tugging at his forearm. Yet Rye still appeared unphased, “They’re welcome to try,” he hummed in a low, nonchalant tone as his fingers danced on the handle of his gun, “You sure you don’t want to trade for one of these instead?” “What- No…” I grumbled, my eyes glued to the treeline where shadows had shifted away from view, “I’ve had enough violence.” “You certainly are a quizzical one,” he paused. His hazel gaze turned back to me, and I broke my stare to meet it, “say, Scholar, why not instead of a trade, you keep with me for a while. I could use those senses of yours.” I blinked. “What?” Rye chucked, “I’m heading back to a small settlement on the other side of the mountain- I only went to the inner-city rubble to collect some supplies. I’ve a greater chance of survival with your ears,” he spoke, rummaging idly - though he paused as he recognised my hesitation,

“Come on, do you really want to sleep rough and fight for every meal for the rest of your life? Why not join the world’s next greatest empire?” he gave a cheeky smirk. “Empire?” I shuddered… but… then considered the thought. 33


Life was getting more and more difficult… “Well…” … And friendly faces were becoming harder and harder to come by. “I suppose…” Perhaps a little aid, at least for a little while, wouldn’t be too much to ask for…

I exhaled, a long, deep, relieved breath, and mumbled, “Let the cycle begin anew.”

34


Diego Drago

CONCENTRICITY AND LOVE Seas underseas and overseas within rivers flow opposite streams and within those rivers, swim upstream others more Coasts that become and return to be new others and again shores across shores across shores Storms in the fog in the clouds above Amore Concentrico Amore Concentrico Amore

35


Diego Drago

LAWS OF TIME You witnessed warmth and joy and fields of sunlight. And now you dip your feet in cold waters grey, Walking along the shores of a moonless night. By some mundane god’s will, you come to see again and again the remnants of a beautiful day. Night shouldn’t so naturally follow daylight.

36


Filippo Cabras

THE HUMANISTS That the semblance of the sky should be reflected in the clear water-mirror of a river is, on its own, as uninteresting a fact as is available to the observation of the human eye. But that the same colour should be reflected onto the surface not only of one river, but of all the furrows that grove the earth; that there should be an experience shared, common to all rivers, is far less obvious. It is impossible for the naked eye to see the metaphysical connection that bonds the physical things of the universe. Unity is a thing of minds. I reckon it would be completely fair to say that when the name Madeleine Sewyer was first mentioned to me in the course of an extraordinarily boring debate inside the Hutcheson Room, I wasn’t even remotely aware of the brunt that her mind’s past enterprise would have on the present activity of my own. I was, of course, aware of her existence, like every other student in the School of Arts back in the autumn of 2000. Or, shall I say, aware of the existence of a mysterious woman, who had ceased to endure some two-hundred years prior and was now only a faint whisper in the history that to this day consumes the streets of Glasgow, where she had become the leader of a student society no less mysterious than herself. Madeline Sewyer was treated by the allegedly cultivated individuals that figured amongst the ranks of the student and teacher body with an elusive mixture of curiosity and reproach, of the kind that one usually reserves for urban myths. Custom had it, that neither her nor any of her fellows’ names should be mentioned aloud in conversation. It was, I take it, almost imperative for the first generation of undergrads of the new millennium – marching unaware under the pointed arches of the cloisters – to rekindle the blazing fire of secrecy that surrounded the lives of the members of Madeleine Sewyer’s Humanists, though, as it were, most of them had not survived its flames. All of this – the secrecy, the hiding of names – was a mere fancy. The real secrecy was elsewhere, much further down the line, beyond the people that stood 37


behind unmentioned names and the bare facts of their existence, into which no one seemed to have enquired. All seemed contented to have a shared secret, feel part of something. Connect. Their sentiment was oddly aligned with that of the Humanists themselves, though they ignored it. This, however, I could only discover years after that first, amber day inside the Philosophy building on 69, Oakfield Avenue. Honesty is what you expect of me. Understandably. In an attempt to deliver thus what you most desire, I should warn you of what is ahead. A writer’s worst sin is to pre-empt their reader from forming their own judgments about what they have written. A reader’s highest duty is to excuse this sin. What follows is not a reconstruction of the history of the Humanists. It starts as such, but only tentatively. In a way, it cannot help it; no story can. It momentarily covers the facts, but it does so just so that it can then delve into the space between them. I am not the author of what follows, but the witness. My writing is the assembling of a predetermined puzzle: the art is in the act. The fitting together of the pieces to reveal the image that hides behind their fragmentation. For it is of this that we speak when we talk about the Humanists: connection, interrelatedness of life.

I. The Facts The group was formed on a whim on Thursday, 4th September 1862. I say that it was born on a whim because before its birthdate, no written record about the prospects of organising such a symposium is to be found in any of the original four members’ personal diaries. No mention of the group is made before the fourth of September, nor is it clear to me (or to anyone to whom I have spoken about this) that its prospective members really knew one another intellectually before then. Then, suddenly, the group’s name starts appearing everywhere. The names associated with it are listed on the society’s secret register next to the role their bearer plays within the group and the amount that they have contributed to its capital.

Madeleine Sewyer, President and Founder, £3; Edward Mulligan, Secretary, £2 and 14 shillings; 38


Fergus Johannes Wallace, Chair, £2; Robert Morgan Gastrell, Treasurer, £2 and 10 shillings.

From nothing to a structured group, with a board and four whole members (who just so happened to coincide) in less than seventy-two hours. Taken individually, the lives of the Humanists appear unremarkable. Odd, may-be, but unexceptional. Mr Edward Mulligan, born in Falkirk sometime between 1840 and 1845 was a marine biologist. Madeleine says of him that he was a ‘headstrong, bull-headed man. Undoubtedly the most intelligent of the ones I have met so far’, and she’s not too far from the truth. The remains of his family records have given me the impression of quite the obstinate man. He is said to have broken up a grand total of three engagements in little over a year – each with a different girl, naturally. Upon his arrival in Glasgow, he writes to his mother that he has been effectively ‘forced away from the family home. Pushed away from those girls by an inscrutable current which takes its source in Falkirk and moves relentless towards the city’. F.J. Wallace, was, akin to Mulligan, a Scotsman. Not much is known of his life before the Humanists: he began his studies in Edinburgh in the summer of 1856 and moved to Glasgow in 1860, after completing a degree in Chemistry. Shortly after the premature dismembering of the group in 1864, Wallace moved back to Edinburgh, where he would die only a few months later due to complications of a phenol-induced kidney failure. Sewyer and Gastrell are, however, surely the ones of whom we know least. While the south-western origins of the former are made clear by the geographical spread of the surname, mostly limited to Gloucestershire, no information about Sewyer’s ancestry has reached us. What we know is that they had a few things in common. For a start, they were both, to put it mildly, on the extravagant end of the spectrum, as far as physicists go. Secondly, they both had to hide a good part of their personhood to do as little as survive under the rule of the unwritten Victorian code of conduct. Indeed, to say that the requirement for Madeleine to wear a man’s clothes and go by the name of Madoc so as to be granted an education was a choice, would be reductive. Similarly, no one could blame Gastrell for wanting to hide his lavishly libertine love life, which featured a higher number of partners as well as a larger variety of genders than was commonly thought proper. 39


It’s not surprising that the two of them, each made tough by necessity, often experienced frictions – especially with the people to whom they had revealed themselves whole. They were, alas, the ones whom the flames devoured most quickly when the group collapsed. They lost all they stood to lose, which, in their case, was everything.

II. The Space Between Them 1862 Unity is a thing of minds: to ask the dreaded question ‘what unites?’ is to urge upon the spirit that it fastens the whole world in a tight, universal grip. That it strings together the scattered flowers of life’s field. Mr. Mulligan – Sewyer writes only a few days before the birth of the group – your theory of marine symbiosis has been of great importance for my own thinking. We don’t know each other very well, but I hope that I will get the opportunity to talk to you about my theory soon. I seem to have reached a standstill. Though I have pondered immensely your discussion of personal flows, I fear there is something of which you and I alike have thus far failed to appreciate the importance. – careful, Miss Sewyer… Don’t you go hurting a man’s pride like that! – I mean not to oppose your theory; I am, in fact, as far as I am aware, in complete agreement with it. – that’s better – What I mean to say is, plain and clear, that there is something missing. I can imagine Edward Mulligan reading and rereading this letter in his rooms, trying not to allow his pride to get in the way of a scientific breakthrough. ‘Perhaps she is right’ – he must have thought eventually – ‘perhaps there is something missing. Something upon which I have not yet reflected enough. Some thought which I’ve not had the courage to pursue’. Personal flows, symbiosis, theories, unpursued thoughts… These are all nice words, you say; but so far, they mean nothing. Oftentimes, when reconstructing some historical event, it is better to follow the natural order of things, the real order if you will, the sequence in which the events actually occurred. But when reconstructing a theory, a set of ideas, (a mind!) it is essential that one abandons this rule. Minds do not exist all at once. They’re not the subject of endurance. They unfold like water lilies. Therefore, though it was not until her last days that Miss Sewyer summarised her 40


life’s enterprise with the following words, it is necessary that they be reported at present:

‘Life is like a powerfully intricate river, whose current we find ourselves thrown into, and forced to navigate. Every single life is its own convoluted rivulet, running repeatedly in circles, each of which I term a cycle. ‘The course of the river is never interrupted: each cycle is connected to the one before and after it. One cycle flows thus into the other, and then into the next, and the next, and the one after that still, as we float atop the riverbed. ‘But the transition is not seamless. Where one cycle ends, a sudden drop occurs – a waterfall. A revolution. ‘What is life then? A constant movement, a flow. Life is, strictly speaking, a difference. A sure and constant alternation of cycle and revolution, loop and waterfall.’

This, we might say, is the philosophy that glued the Humanists together. This, I must add, is only part of the theory. There is, so to speak, a flow of thought still unexplored; a distinction missed, a difference unpursued; the same that Sewyer herself had diagnosed in Mulligan’s work. A subtle distinction perhaps, but one irresistible to go after. There are at least two possible interpretations of the life-flow theory; one personal and one universal. Sewyer’s words seem to favour the former. Each individual life – she says – is its own rivulet. But the aporia of this reading is almost as obvious as its poetry: do the rivulets ever cross? Are they, that is, each on their own, isolated course or do they perhaps meet at some common juncture? To the reader who is still unclear about what justified the forming of a secret society, the accumulation of a capital, the zeal for new ideas, I say: here is your answer. The central pillar of the Humanist’s enterprise: of course, the rivers meet, but how to prove it? Scientifically, that is. A seemingly gratuitous endeavour and hence one most necessary. 41


1863 ‘I shall call it the theory of Universal Convergence’ Gastrell announces fiercely just a few months after the society’s first meeting, from what one easily imagines were the luxuriously padded armchairs that decorated his rooms on High Street, where the group met every other week, just a few minutes away from the Hamilton Building and the old Blackfriars’ Church. ‘Today I give you proof not only that life is, at every level, interconnected, but that it moves towards the same direction. The universe was one at the beginning and will be one again at its journey’s inevitable end. All moves towards the same focal point, all that has not yet met will, undeniably have to meet. A state of maximum concentration of the universe is unavoidable’. The awaited proof at last! This is not, beware, a capricious understanding of the world – a weakness of the perverse theorist. The history of human societies is proof of a clear, universal trajectory towards a single, undiscovered centre. F. J. Wallace’s discovery of the first chemical sub-element underlying every form of life – whose proverbial, latinesque name of existentium undoubtedly provokes some mixture of amazement and anger in every classicist – greatly catalysed the sensation that there must be something beyond the known laws of nature, holding all the cosmic stuff together, and that there must be a shared goal. A substrate common to all existence, something to explain the magnetic pull that makes one’s life increasingly and inexorably impossible to disentangle from all the others; present, past and future. An answer: each life, each single rivulet not only continuously crosses other rivulets, but merges with them. The lone flow of one’s own river is after all, not lone at all; it is itself but a mere ramification of the universal flow, of the cosmic river. So, while it is easy to think of individual rivers and personal flows, no such things exist. They are useful fantasies, to be sure, but that is all they are. There is no lone river, no singular flow: what appears to us as a singular entity is the result of a history of mergers. The Humanists’ own existences confirm this. That they must meld with one another as they did is only natural, and frankly, not that special. That’s what it means to be alive. Life is defined exclusively against the totality of space and time and there is no significance in its plural ‘lives’. Life is one. Life’s a blend! 1864 What is a waterfall? This the soil that remains unmapped. 42


The second pillar of the enterprise: the rivers merge, that’s clear, but how? Anne-Marie Dupont took transit from Calais to Dover on January 5th. By January 6th evening she was in London and by January 10th she reached Glasgow where friend and fellow luminary ‘Robbie’ Gastrell, was waiting for her. A breaking point. And a bridge. At once. Dupont was, for lack of a better description, a force of nature. The first woman to ever be allowed to sit in a lecture hall in the whole of the multi-centenary history of the Kingdom of France, she traced it all back to the French Revolution. Or blamed – depending on who you asked. In hindsight, she would go on to argue later in life, it wasn’t surprising that she had been the first woman in Europe to become a professional journalist. There was no way the first woman to be recognised an education could have been anything but French! Of course, the French Revolution was not special. It had been, in a way, unique from the standpoint of its magnitude but to say that it had been ‘special’ or ‘unprecedented’ would simply be a lie. The soil that still’s unmapped: what is a revolution? Everything and anything, according to Dupont:

‘A sunny day or a day of snow just as easily; a book, a memory, a person. These are the Revolutions of our lives. The ones that go unnoticed, of which we are often unaware. ‘The seams that tie together the fabric of life: the moment we realise that we’ve been moving in a circle is the moment we get the chance to be free.

‘The revolution breaks us off from the current cycle and shows us the way to the one that stands in front of us. A breaking point. And a bridge. At once.’

Each revolution brings the universe closer together because it pushes us away from one cycle and forces us into another, where new, untested waters come to merge. The universal flow grows infinite in power. All is swooped in its tides: nothing left outside its current.

43


III. The Facts, Again

We often are what we theorize. ‘Cycles, Flow, and Revolutions by Anne-Marie Dupont’. So read the front page of the pamphlet that marked the end of the Humanists’ journey. Or at any rate the beginning of its end. The second pillar tumbles as the first quickly follows suit. The group’s apocalypse came in two stages: first the pamphlet. Unauthorised by the board, of course. Written by Dupont in an effort, which, she must have known, would be a failure, to counteract what she perceived to be the fundamental misstep of her peers: ‘Ils ne font que parler’. Second, the letter. Addressed to Madeleine from Gastrell on the 21st of April, by noon on the 22nd it had been read by the most senior members of the college. It didn’t take long, even for the brightly obtuse minds of the members of the senate, to connect that mysterious woman’s name to their male protégé by the same surname. The temple crumples. For its foundations are not solid: Life’s unmeasured. Sewyer had to leave the University by the end of the following week. Gastrell, for whom the senate had been willing to turn a blind eye, departed from Glasgow at the beginning of May, worried other students would conspire against him. The chronicles of history ran sadly out of ink before their later life could be written. All that remains are a few notes in Madeleine’s diary, which testify she lived at least another ten years. Wallace, as it’s been said, moved back to Edinburgh. Mulligan’s name wasn’t connected to the group until three years later, when everyone seemed to have long lost interest in the Humanists’ ordeal. Dupont moved back to France. The humanist experience was but a dot in her long, successful life. I wonder if she would have been so lucky had she never crossed the river of the Humanists. A person. That’s all she was.

44


Lucille Mona Ling

DOVES AND OTHER DISTANCES do you interpret clouds differently ? or are birds also influenced by the frequency illusion this reality . in which you navigate me towards a dule of doves . I would like to sit under refractions with you , & listen to music but I am not hybrid enough , not bird enough & either way , I am unsure whether you can hear my music or if I can only hear yours . maybe together we compose a Magritte painting : Woman in Bowler hat , 2022 45


dove flying towards light veiling a face tracing wings beyond the frame of the painting’s perception only remains : a question mark , slowly and painfully turning in on itself , like a dying root . ( names are ar – bitrarily meticulous ; a good place to hide & kiss . ) in the shadow of their meaning . until your migrated family

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snruter


Lucille Mona Ling

ZOETROPE The light of my name makes our zoetrope spin around its own axis: endless pirouettes. On the tip of my tongue words pile like balancing rubble, staining my lips blue and orange: a capsule cracked open along the equator like an egg, leaking our compressed emotions: the fluid ink of time. William, patented the zoetrope on the 23rd of April, Valentine’s day in Catalonia, coincides with the deaths of famous authors, historical co/occurrences lead to the equalisation of books and roses. Words (are) worth: the spinning images that “flash upon the inward eye.” While speaking to you. The cylinder builds a bridge across the gap in sense-intertwined timeline. Earthly revolutions, synchronise with turning choreography. Only through silent screens the spukhafte Fernwirkung becomes audible, to you, hearing whispering action potentials of my mind. In scarcity, snippets of you appeared as collages in familiar Cornercafés. Now, the dead serve as benches for the living, who watch clouds fall off cliffs – trees are utilitarian umbrellas; petrified unicorns inhabit astounded mouths of entrances, propelling my zoetrope forward, along the spiralling curve of entanglement.

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Francesca Aseoche

POSEIDON He swam forward through the darkness, his heartache carrying him through the empty blackness of the ocean. He was gliding through, the waves becoming violent, feral, clawing at his frame like a rabid beast. His wounded tail ran a trail of crimson and flooded the inky stream of salt behind him. With the remainder of his strength he dragged the rest of his weight onto the jagged edges of rock, each slip of his hand driving a wicked slit down his palms, pulling life force away from of him, dissolving into the ocean like diluted ink. He stared at his blood as it painted a mural on the surface of the water, knowing it penetrated far deeper than the flashy waver that rippled under his gaze in fear. He knew that each drop the slashes in his skin sacrificed were predestined. Sacrifice was his purpose and mission, from the second he filled his lungs to the seconds he lay heaving in pain, he understood. Deeper than the surface, of the water, of the earth, of his core, his blood pierced past all of it. He weaponised it because the minute he even considers his fear, he loses. He drowns. Under the flash of lightning, the king lay, his chest heaving under the weight of his heart, his lungs gasping for water to drown the chokehold of fear. From a distance there was a beauty to him; a shock of silver curls maintained by the salty water from which he was borne, chiselled features and a muscular torso, covered in the open wounds of battle and scars past. A mass of a navy tail glistened to mirror a wave climbing to its peak, scales and fin and blood and honour decorated the creature. No less than grotesque, or beautiful, his head fell gracefully to the sharpness of rock below him. His eyes clouding with saltwater, he paused to taste the beads as they rolled down his cheek, accepting that he was leaking his power, weakening by the second. Silver curls stuck to the side of his face as a fresh wave of anger enveloped him in a violent embrace glazing his bleeding wounds with the familiar, delicious sting of salt.

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With the strength of the gods and the ache of his heart, he rose and dived headfirst into the void, dangerous to a stranger but home to him, he knowingly found his way to where he needed to be. Destructive anger flowed through his veins and coursed through his soul as he held the ancient relic above his head. It glittered with water, silver in the light of the storm with three prongs spiked and fuelled with the power of the ocean: the power he emanated. One silent second slowed the tempo of his beating heart as the ocean and he collided as one, peaking in a noiseless crescendo. The depth of the ocean rose with his inhalation, lifting him towards the angry grey sky. The ocean towered behind him as a harmonious obedient soldier, his power coursing through the waves, a menacing force he commanded to his will that obeyed. At the force of a battalion, his soldier attacked the lighthouse. It crumbled under the force of his water, wavering and weak but still standing. He was not satisfied. His commands grew fierce and emotional, controlling the sea to attack again and again, a feral battle between nature and man. For revenge he dragged the weapon above his head once more and the waves obeyed to intention, total demolition; a testament to his people. Destruction for revenge. A raging war against a mark of mankind: the lighthouse, its purpose to provide guidance. Its inhabitants, its mechanical construction, all presented no meaning to him. It deserved to drown. It deserved to perish. It deserved to die at the hands of a king.

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Lucy Lauder

CHRYSALIS CUDDLES ETC. What we must waste trying to understand trying to p e e l

apart trying to

get to the bowels of to become the undersides of

some salacious surface

and see all there is to see inside the synchromatic sink person

yet

i find i’m rather shallow set certainly no cavern no volume no no undersides of me

vastdarkdepths

no undersides but a boomerang because as soon as there’s beginning assumes a swift understanding yes see something 51


quick sink to the delicious depths of queue comprehension each eureka moment

is it an e

ureka moment affirms the moment that something ceases

not in a cease to exist disappear into thin air never to be found again sort of ceasing but in an everything is constantly in motion constant cycle constant metamorphosis and not in the kafkaesque bed ridden cockroach sort of cynicism but in a wonderful way it’s a wonderful world sort of way all things bright and beau ti ful sort of etcetera etcetera shallow because tomorrow the me of today is a mute point borrowings belate whatever is to be exhumed in eel exhilaration of course shallow, sir but in the best way, sir.

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Lucy Lauder

RECIPROCATION Time wraps around it does not extend it returns it moves it bends it becomes so absolutely incomprehensible that the blood on my upper lip is language language lead currency so that the refracted ribs are not mine that the blood bleeds red that it bleeds I need time I need you to say that I look pretty in this light because it means that time returns It means that time left me

naked and near enough reborn in the bridge I burned I need worship and to worry about nothing but the understanding that I am my mother And Not A Cell Less I need you I need time to be so absolutely fucking cyclical that the cycle of my tongue tilts back Tilts Time Time Tilts It Tilts 53


Evan Colley

TIN CAN “There was nothing else for me to do.” He tilted his head down and seemed to feel something. I realised then that he had brought me to the bay because to him I was separate. I had shown him something else, some sort of sympathy in his difference, and so he thought that the way I had acted toward him soldered a bond between him and me, consolidating a feeling, an emotion; and that was enough for him to want to save me, amongst all others. Standing there against that great bay, that void, that endless plain of darkness I was there with him. He angled his head back up to meet my eyes and then I felt, for the first time in my life how I imagined he did always; of nothing. The nausea which was to come had not instilled itself at that point. Instead I felt a profound numbness which could only be described as inhuman. In that sense, for the first time, I think, we did share something. Together, with our solitude, we both felt as if there were nothing to shake us. At least I think that is how he felt; I still am never sure. The heavy greyness of his eyes grew ever more intense. In turn I looked down toward my feet. Funny little things! Like little pegs protruding from the end of my fleshy stick like legs. How can I stand, wear socks and these cotton moongray plimsolls as if that is normal! What a funny thing. I felt like laughing. It seemed the only natural reaction to that instance. The absurdity had begun to show itself, and with that the darkened atmosphere began to absorb me. The space surrounding me for the first time seemed all too large, too infinite. I think I lost my balance and fell over. Perhaps I fainted. It would be only natural after hearing such news. Holy, holy! There was nothing. Nothing at all, nothing but our vessel, our space and ourselves. We were together, and together alone. Amongst the multitude of vibrant and deathly thoughts which lumbered through my mind I found myself focusing on the most obvious; Why was it done? We were 54


never sure the extent to which they were sentient, the extent to which they made their own decisions; It could have been completely so or not. We were never educated in the complete workings of them, though we evidently should have been. The extent of our knowledge was formulated entirely in knowing which ones were us and which were them. It wasn’t always entirely obvious, especially if you worked in a sect where there were few of them, but there were little discrepancies in their actions, their words which showed their difference. You could see it in the twitch of a hand which seemed that bit too static, too mechanical, or in the perfection of their dialogue which was always overly courteous and unnaturally fluent. They were made to seem so natural that they became the opposite, and in that, and only that, we could tell them apart. They were too much like us, and that was the error. They operated on oxygen, just as we did; they looked like us, sounded like us, dressed like us; in the making of them, there was a thorough attempt at perfection. Though as it turns out feigning or even succeeding in imitating perfection comes with its hardships. This case proved that something so perfect, objectively, could in fact never be so, and that perfection was perhaps just another one of our inhumane inventions. In the perfection of their mimicry they seemed to forfeit reality, leaving half the crystal mirror in a cloudy haze. Nevertheless, in the mist of my stupor I tried to reason. Not only did I wonder why was it done, but why me? I did not know the answer to either question then, and I still do not know now; Yet, I have an inkling of a theory which I know to be false, though I cling to it because I have nothing else to believe, and no other philosophy to develop. It begins with accepting a stance on the nature of them; that within them there is any form of sentience, any consciousness or any part of them which allows them to feel and act upon their own, individually chosen realms of rationality. If this is the case, no matter how little these aspects of their makeup impact their everyday, I believe that it was done out of a means to connect. Of course, I mean that this was the intent. The intent. This makes me feel that somewhere, deep inside them, there is a select part of their wiring, their coding, their mechanical makeup, their whatever, which is both able to influence independent decisions while also withholding a desire to, well, inhibit wants which I believe to be wholly, and exclusively, human. Whenever I have asked him why he did it, he says the same thing, in his disgustingly perfect little voice; ‘I do not know’. That is the extent of it. But I am inclined to believe there is more to it, which he has not been designed to be able to articulate. More so than any of the others, I felt I showed him kindness. I always greeted him with a wave or a smile, where the others would ignore him, and I would open the door for him here and there where the others would not care if it slammed in his face. In turn he would begin to do the same for me, mimicking the smile, the nod or the wave that went with it. I think he began 55


to enjoy our little exchanges, enacting each future encounter with more tenacity and excitement each time, and so it is my opinion that he came to believe we had formed a connection which he didn’t share with any of the others. He felt that we had something (that is, could he feel at all), and so he came to feel a friendship blossoming. Now this is it; it was the ability to feel and to connect, genuinely, which I believe he so craved, and so, in turn, he felt that at the heart of connection was an act. What consolidated the comradery was the cordiality, manifesting in a wave, a high five, a gentle nod, a smile, and so at the base of his understanding of friendship lay action. This is how I have come to believe he did what he did. In an attempt to connect, should that have been his aim, he acted in such a way that would evoke an emotion in me which could only necessitate a friendship. He felt he needed to show that he was just like me, that we were one and the same. In his corrupt, counterfeit, artificial little mind this is what he thought would get through to me. He thought that in doing what he did, a bond would form so strongly between us that afterward we could be nothing but the dearest of friends. And in that, should it be true, I have distinguished the greatest discrepancy between us and them. Yet it is also true that in the attempt, as truly sickening and tormenting as it was, there was a shimmering hint of a skewed humanity, prying its way through the griddles of his iron ribs as it tried so desperately to see the blessed light above. Attempting such a thing could only ever be characterised as something human.

*

Every day was the same. Our separate worlds revolved around our tasks, our social time, our exercise, our meal times and our sleep, all of which were done at the same time of day, six days a week. My tasks specifically focused on the upkeep of the different machines in the engine room. We were only ever required to make little changes here and there, as the machines were so well built and well designed that you couldn’t often find fault. The majority of the time we spent cleaning, dusting, and making sure the engine room looked as shiny and slick as the rest of the vessel. I always thought that this was a shame. I could not help but feel that my years training as an engineer were being wasted on what was legitimately called ‘engineering’ but was really just six hours of check ups, mopping floors and polishing chrome. I knew I had more to do, and was capable of such, but the opportunity simply never arose. Everyone had their tasks to do, and everyone did them well. If there was anything which was too complicated or difficult to accomplish, whoever working would just get one of them to do it; they were designed to be stronger and more capable of doing such things. Nonetheless, this place was an efficient, well oiled 56


machine, and there was no room for error. It was the seventh day of the cycle, and I was in the reading room trying to finish my book before the new work cycle started. Aesthetically, the reading room matches the rest of the vessel, with its bright, white colouring, all smooth and clean and easy to enjoy. It is a pleasant theme, though the uniform whiteness can become too much. At times, when you are tired or weary, it becomes harsh and bleak, and the bright icy lights which can be so energising turn to attack you in currents. This feeling has become common nowadays, where it seems like you and it are the only ones at all, constantly fighting, fighting, but never going down. It is tiring. I fear that state will one day become constant. Nevertheless, I was in the reading room, reading my book, content, and he came in. The reading room was my favourite room of all, even more so than my cell, because in it there is a great seamless window which stretches all along the back of the room, covering from floor to ceiling, wall to wall. With this, you are presented with a similar view to that which is only available in the control room, which we were not permitted to enter. In all my years on this vessel nothing has impressed me nor frightened me more than the view from the window in the reading room. It is as if you can see all of space beyond it, layers and layers of stars laying like studs against the black canvas of nothing, your nothing; It is infinite, and for a while, if you look long enough, it takes you, and then you are it too; It is a feeling which can not be matched nor replicated; you are presented with yourself, your indifference, and the endless existence of your home, of everything, of which you are and you are experiencing. Anyways I was drifting off, gazing through the window when he came up to me. “Hello,” he said, and waved his stick arm toward me, back and forth, back and forth. “How are you doing today? Are you doing well?” He asked, speaking normally enough. “Very well,” I replied cordially. A lot of us could be rather sharp with the others, so I always made an effort not to be so. I was never sure whether it made a difference, or whether they minded at all, but nevertheless I always reacted to them well enough. As I say, this is not supposed to be a statement of my character but more so an attempt to depict how some of my colleagues would interact with them. Though I reacted to their assimilation better than most of us, I only made the effort to express the bare minimum, which, I suppose, made me seem more affable. “I just thought I would try to finish my book before the start of the working period. How are you?” I asked. I felt this was already more than he would have gotten elsewhere. His grey eyes lit to a dirty white. It seemed he enjoyed being asked about himself. “I am very well too, thank you,” He said calmly. “In fact, I am better than well. I am excellent.” 57


“And why is that?” I asked blankly, returning my eyes to the page open in front of me. “Well,” He replied, with a distinct air of confidence. “I could tell you, but I think you would enjoy it more to see it for yourself.” “Oh?” I replied, lifting my head back up to face him. “Yes. You will see later on what I have done for you. How you will see! You will see. Yes, yes.” “What will I see?” I asked. I think he noted the suspicion in my voice, and so attempted to make an end to the conversation. “I will come to find you later,” He stared intently at me for a few seconds. A weak grin appeared on his face. “Goodbye, now. Goodbye.” “Goodbye, then.” I replied. This scene was unusual on many fronts. The only instances of interaction we had with them were either work related, or in passing. It was either an exchange of empty greetings or a request for them to pass the polish. There was never any more, and never any less; but this time it was more. It seemed that he had decided to make plans. This normally would not have shaken me such, but because of the determined relations between us and them I could not help theorising what it was he wished to show me. Could he have gotten me a present? Or perhaps he wished for me to meet someone? Perhaps one of us had asked him to say what he did, as part of some overly elaborate practical joke? Normally I can grasp such things, but this time I had no idea. Such an interaction was so bizarre and unusual that I had never had a similar experience. It played on my mind for the rest of my free time. I had to give up on reading my book, for I could not concentrate. I decided to take a walk around the vessel. As I wandered, I peered out of the windows, looking out at the starts, which seemed awfully bright and unnaturally close. I walked and walked, becoming more and more confused, totally unclear of what was to ensue. It seemed to be a great knot, harshly taught and complex, overly tightened to an impossible extreme. I do not know why I tried to untangle it. I laugh at the thought of it now. Though nevertheless I tried; and finally the time came for the answer. He found me in my cell. I believe I had just finished shaving. “There you are,” he said with a wide, toothy grin. “I have been looking for you for a while now,” He was ecstatic and jittery, more so than I had seen any of them before. “You are just in time. We are nearly there.” At this point my confusion grew. He grasped me by the arm and started walking briskly past the canteen and through to the gymnasium, which was toward the front of the vessel. “Where are you taking me?” I asked. “You will see soon!” He said, turning back to me with a foul smile plastered on his face. 58


“Tell me, now. Where are we going? Tell me.” “Don’t worry, we are here now.” He stopped just outside of the control room, which only they had access to. We were not allowed inside the control room for fear of human error. He opened the door and we stepped inside. Similarly to the reading room, the control room had a great bay window which stretched across the side to our left. In front of it were all the vessel’s main controls, glittering in lustrous chrome and white. “Why have you taken me here? What is it you must show me?” “In approximately fifteen minutes from now, you will see.” “Oh!” I said fiercely. “Stop messing around. What the hell is going on here? I have been anxious all day, waiting to know, and I won’t wait any longer, I won’t. Tell me what is going on this instance or I’m leaving.” “Please,” he said sheepishly. “Do not protest. We are so close,” he turned his head down, looking at his plimsolls. “Please.” It was then that I could tell something was wrong. I rushed back to the door from which we had just entered. I turned the handle and it would not open. It would not open. I tried frantically to open it, but it would not open. It was locked. It would not open. I turned back to him, whose freakish smile had returned. His eyes were hot white with excitement. He remained silent. I waited the fifteen minutes. I can’t remember what I did. I’m sure I shouted at him, or begged him to let me go. And then, after those long, seemingly timeless moments I looked back through to the gymnasium, where lay only the equipment and six icy, bloodless bodies. “Do you see what I have done!” he said, and beamed. His eyes maintained that crystal whiteness. He stood tall and proper. “Do you see what I have done for us! Do you see?” he said, with a sickening flush of pride. My mind grew crimson with terror. “Now I can turn it back on and we will have the whole place to ourselves,” I turned slowly to look at him. “Isn’t that nice?” From then on I rarely spoke to him. Nowadays I only speak to him to retrieve my meals and to designate his tasks. The day it happened he followed me as I walked amongst the different rooms, assessing the damage done. Finally, I approached him in the reading room, I sat down, and for the first time asked why he had done it.

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