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Table of Contents Foreword By Matt Leyshon   Untouchable By Rosalie Parker   Figures in a Landscape By John Coulthart   Bluehill Gang By Don Webb   Where the Marshes Meet the Sea By Edward Pearce   Live Bait Works Best By Murphy Edwards and Brian Rosenberger   Across the Water By James Everington   Bus Routes Through the Sticks By Richard Farren Barber   The Rocking Stone By Ian Hunter   A Remembrance of the Strange By Justin Aryiku   Stale Air By Rhys Hughes  

Cover By Aria (ShePaintsWithBlood) - http://shepaintswithblood.deviantart.com Proof-read By Sheri White All material contained within the pages of this magazine and associated websites is copyright of Morpheus Tales. All. Rights Reserved. No material contained herein can be copied or otherwise used without the express permission of the copyright holders.

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Untouchable By Rosalie Parker

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n a fine day, the dale could hold its own. White clouds scudded across a pale blue sky, casting shape-shifting shadows over the land, and just before dusk a translucent light bathed the fells in a fairy glow. The ridges of medieval and more ancient cultivation lay under the younger fields of the lower slopes, and a peaty river bisected the valley floor. On the higher ground, heathery moors were the home of red grouse, curlew and hardy breeds of sheep. The unique beauty of the dale lay in its concentration of the geographical diversity of the North of England in one, little-known place. When a blanket of cloud obscured the sun, or a cold front swept in from the Atlantic, the dale showed its other side. On stormy nights the wind battered the stone houses. The rain found out invisible cracks, soaking through saturated mortar, dribbling its dirty trail down kitchen and bathroom walls. The ground became waterlogged, and the unpredictable, ever-changing Pennine conditions often caught out those ramblers enterprising enough to have map-read their way in. In winter it snowed, and the roads became impassable. Half way up the northern slope James paused to catch his breath. Even for a fit young man, the climb was testing. He took out his binoculars. The view was obscured for the most part by low cloud and mist. Despite having lived in the dale nearly all his life, James was not considered a native. For that you had to have been born locally, or lived there for at least thirty years. James’s family had moved from Devon when he was seven. The reason for the move was never discussed, but James thought it had something to do with a court case his father had been involved with. James’s father shoed horses owned by the local farmers and landowners, and those stabled by racehorse trainers in a nearby market town. He was conscientious and took care to be outwardly respectful, and his business thrived. The family moved from a small rented cottage to a larger one, on which they took out a mortgage. When James’s younger sister Freya was old enough to attend primary school, their mother completed a course in landscape architecture and set herself up as a garden designer. James and Freya were at least considered ‘of’ the area, if not truly ‘from’ it, because they attended the local schools, and participated in village events such as the summer fete and the fell race. The latter was a charity affair, pitting the young and fit against each other in a seven-mile run across the river and up to The Crags, a sandstone outcrop on the southern side of the dale. Both James and Freya had proved to be talented cross-country runners – she won the race several times and soon moved on to competing in regional, and then national events. James was proud of his sister - she was currently in her first year of studying for a maths degree at university. Although James had done reasonably well at school, he didn’t much enjoy it. He knew his parents worried about him. Like them, he was not a natural scholar he preferred to be outside. After his ‘A’ levels, he took a series of practical courses in countryside management. At 19 James applied for and was offered a job as assistant ranger for the National Park Authority. The salary was meagre, but he was able to make ends meet by living at home. Much of his work time was spent repairing dry stone walls and clearing footpaths of vegetation, sometimes with colleagues, but mostly on his own. On other occasions he helped rescue inexperienced or unlucky ramblers who had become lost. Some of the middle-aged ladies were overly grateful, but James remained professional and did not let their obvious admiration affect him. He liked his job; it gave him certain freedoms, and on fine days the dale was his dream of heaven on earth. But today was not a fine day. It was the kind of day you just had to get through. James had called Graham, the head ranger, at 8.30am and been assigned to assess a collapsed field wall reported by a local farmer. The wall was just below the moorland high point of Fin Top. It was a long trudge up the footpath beside the fast-flowing beck that provided the village water supply. As James drew level with the small, nondescript building that housed the water treatment works he saw through the drizzly murk that someone – a bored teenager? – had scrawled something on the door. He peered at the large, crooked letters over the perimeter fence. 3


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Figures in a Landscape By John Coulthart

“T

he National Grid has replaced our ancient ley lines; electricity pylons now conduct the dormant powers of the earth.” Pine needles make for an uncomfortable seat in the early morning. Alex might have been warming himself by his fire instead of sitting at the edge of the wood, but he wanted to watch the world emerge from the vapours of a long midsummer dawn. He tried to remember the source of the quote. The words had come to mind easily enough, but the name of the author eluded him: too mundane for the cosmic speculations of John Michell; Brinsley Le Poer Trench seemed a better candidate, or maybe one of the more cerebral types, T. C. Lethbridge, perhaps, or Colin Wilson? The pylons stood in a layer of receding mist like a parade of skeletal waders, rigid and faceless figures carrying a burden of electrical fury across the Litchbourne Valley to towns in the east. Further away, the second file of pylons was showing itself, a sketch of lattice towers on a bluegrey sky. The air was cool, infused with the scent of the pines and the exultant noise of waking birds. Alex watched a pair of ungainly shadows hop through the wet grass, two crows flourishing their ragged wings. Dawn was his favourite time of day, “the thin hour” when the world seemed it might reveal a face which was otherwise hidden. Three days previously, luck or coincidence blessed him with just the revelation he was hoping to find in Litchbourne, a brief and intense play of coloured lights which flashed at random intervals above the pylons. The incident fit the frustrating pattern of so many unexplained events; having journeyed there with the sole intention of recording unusual lights in the sky, his camera had been in his tent when it was most needed. By the time he fetched it the show was over. He stood and brushed the needles from his jeans then walked back through the trees to the remains of his campfire. He stoked the embers then sat for a while with his hands to the flames. The days so far had been warm and mostly dry, but each morning brought a mist that lingered until the sun had cleared the surrounding hills. In the village he was told it was the shape of the valley, that and the presence of the Litchbourne River which cut across the fields half a mile away. Once he was feeling sufficiently warmed he fetched an apple from his tent and returned to his seat at the edge of the wood. The trees stood on a low hillock in a pasture which sloped from the Litchbourne highway down to the river. The power lines crossed each other at an angle in the field over the road, then were carried by the pylons past the wood and over the water, there to be crossed in turn by a third line of taller pylons running north along the valley. The shape made by the lines was a product of chance, but Alex saw in their formation a material analogue of the so-called “Litchbourne Triangle” which had lured him with its history of aerial phenomena. He was agnostic on the subject of UFOs, and preferred to avoid the term, but the promise of mystery had led him on similar pilgrimages. In recent years the name of Litchbourne had become as familiar to skywatchers as Warminster and Rendlesham, yet unlike those other zones its catalogue of sightings had steadily grown. Now he was here, and had seen the persistence of the valley mists; he wondered how much the atmosphere and the presence of the pylons might account for its enigmas. The crows pecked for a while at something in the earth then abruptly took wing, flapping away into the neighbouring field. Mist still veiled the river but the standing stones near the bank had begun to show themselves. Monolithoi. The weak light turned them to acolytes of the lattice-work giants: hunched figures peering at the earth, or cowled figures standing tall and waiting for--what? Alex couldn’t decide. Why would they be waiting for anything? Aside from the land itself they were the oldest things in the valley, and were subject to a different measure of time. The few stones visible from the wood had been part of a neolithic circle that compassed the surrounding fields. The circle was marked on his map of the area, as was the hillock at its centre. On his first day there he found two more stones inside the wood. The first was long and flat, lying under the bed of pine needles; it might be a part of the hill but also might have been a fallen megalith. 5


Bluehill Gang By Don Webb

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here were three cabins on Bluehill. The highest belonged to Joe O’Donnell, who retired from big city life to become a surrealist painter. Joe had been dead nearly twenty years, so he didn’t visit the cabin often. Occasionally you’d see a light at the broken window, sometimes you’d find a freshly painted canvas inside. Nobody minded much if you sold it in town. Bluehill was that kind of place. Pity death hadn’t improved his art any. Dr Emma Edmunds owned the lowest cabin. She was gone most of the time at her stressful, super-intelligent job of being a world expert on poisonous fish, or man-eating plants or something. She’d only lived on Bluehill for fifteen years, and Winecresters don’t cotton to outsiders. The Middle Cabin belonged to the Bluehill Gang. Now, it wasn’t a gang in the sense of being a menace to society. It just had always been called that. It was for the bravest of the brave sixteen-year-olds. It was an all-male preserve until Martha Wills breached its walls by surviving the gruesome Initiation back in ‘76. Martha was an orthodontist now, and provided some pretty gruesome initiations of her own to current members of the gang. The gang’s main function was to scare the poogies out of fifteen-year-olds. Those terrified tots then became the next crew of the cabin. The gang had another function, but each and every member forgot it when they turned seventeen. Adults never paid too much attention to the cabin, and none thought to ask the basic questions. Who keeps it up? Who does it belong to? It is the lack of such questions that keeps our world safe and boring. Tonight, the Gruesome Initiation awaits its five victims gathering in the twilight at the base of Bluehill. They lump themselves together just at the edge of the yellow light cast by the street lamps--and just above the poetry told by the roofs of the safe city. The highway humming in the distance tells them to go back, to live in a sane town far way. Most hear that voice too late, when they’re eighteen. Susan Saban, the last of the sixteenyear-old gang members, celebrates her birthday tonight. She closes the cycle, and so must initiate the next five. First, Susan takes them through the sacred questions: “What does the Bluehill gang think of Joan of Arc?” “We think she’s the TOAST of France.” “What does the Bluehill Gang think of frog’s legs?” “We get a kick out of them.” “What does the Bluehill Gang use to open Bluehill Camp?” “We use a skeleton key.” “Are the Bluehill Gang good talkers?” “Yes, we always make CRYPTic remarks.” “Why does the Bluehill Gang study hard?” “We’re boning up for your finals!” ### As the cool breeze blows down the mountain, even this routine loses some of its corniness. Susan says, “I wish I didn’t have to do this. “When Tommy Rackow initiated us last year, he told us that now was our last chance to run away. I’m telling you-now is your last chance. Use it! Run away.” “What’s there to be sacred of -- old Mr. O’Donnell?” asks Scott Gullat. “No,” replies Susan. “Mr. O’Donnell is just a ghost. We know what ghosts are. The Secret is what you should be scared of.” “Oh, why don’t you just tell the stupid Secret?” asks Traci Tarheel. “We don’t need to climb any old hill.” 6


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Where the Marshes Meet the Sea By Edward Pearce

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t hadn’t rained for four days, and when that happens in April and there’s firewood to be scavenged, it’s best to get out and collect it while it’s dry. Besides, when you live out in the middle of nowhere any walk is a welcome diversion, even on a desolate coastal path. It was never easy to find that remote car park, at the end of winding lanes in an empty, hedgeless plain of deep dykes and green-brown-purple fields, dotted with bungalows and farmhouses. Eventually we located it, and a final second-gear twist took us up the little slope and onto that lonely square of tarmac, edged by low wooden fencing and with an abandoned roll of carpet in the corner as the only other occupant. Luna shivered as she zipped up her fleece. We stuffed bin liners into our pockets, negotiated the narrow wooden kissing gate and walked slowly along the top of Arthur’s Bank. The sea wall was a greenish line four hundred yards off, the horizon a grey one a mile or two further. Now and then the short grass moved in the faint breeze. A flat, dull sky promised neither rain nor sun. From the sea wall, brown saltmarsh dotted here and there with colours of spring stretched away into the grey waters of the Wash. Samphire grew on these marshes, visible as light-green patches, but would not be ready for months yet. We turned left on the sea wall. The limit of the last spring tide was marked by a long line of detritus piled at the lower edge, plentifully scattered with driftwood. “Come on!” said Luna enthusiastically, diving down the bank. Below, we were invisible from the car park, screened by distance and some ten feet of earth and grass. “We can always come back for the rest of it”, Luna said after we’d lugged the fourth bag up the bank. “Do you think there’s anything interesting along here?” She gestured to a wooden gate at the other side of Arthur’s Bank. “Let’s take a look,” I said. We stacked our wood by the fence and stepped carefully round the muddy puddle under the gate. The path dropped to the foot of bank, sending out a sploshy branch towards the distant sea across a thick carpet of stubby plants. We walked a little way down this arm, to a short, rickety metal tower of unknown purpose, its girders now rusted, beside a creek of grey mud. I pushed this tower, it shifted slightly, and I decided it was best left alone. For the rest, the landscape was featureless. We returned to the sea wall and made our way along the foot of the bank, covered in long, dead grass with younger green poking through. After only about a hundred yards we came to a wide breach, where the other end of the dirty creek we’d seen earlier came inland, to join a brimming ditch on the landward side of the bank. It was an ugly spot. Big chunks of concrete, the remnants of some defunct structure or maybe just hardcore to strengthen the banks, poked out of the soil. Grey mud sloped smoothly, treacherously down to the water. The breach in the sea wall was some fifteen feet across and the creek was too wide to attempt jumping, even if we’d wanted to. We poked around this unappealing scene for a few minutes, vaguely looking for anything that wasn’t junk, but there was only rubble, bits of chicken wire and a few unidentifiable bits of rusting iron. The scrub on the marsh concealed treacherous holes and crevices. A body could be lying here and nobody would ever know unless they stepped on it, or a spring tide floated it to the foot of the bank and left it there to stare vacantly at the sky. The silence was broken only by the gurgling and guzzling of the dark water as it flowed through the inlet. You might expect deep silence to be tranquil and soothing, but here it had an oppressive quality. The dull day was duller, somehow empty and devoid of life. Everything about this place, even the way the grasses bent in the breeze, seemed meaningless, idiotic. As we mooched around, I began to get an uncomfortable sensation which I couldn’t pin down to anything. I wondered whether we’d made other arrangements and forgotten about them, but I was sure we hadn’t. The unwelcome feeling pushed and jostled to the front of my mind, forcing me to acknowledge it. Something was bothering me, making me feel itchy. It was a mental equivalent of having the same clothes on for a week and wanting desperately to get out of them. 8


Live Bait Works Best By Murphy Edwards and Brian Rosenberger

F

rank Pridy popped the hatch on his Range Rover and eyed the case full of gleaming new fishing gear. The tackle box contained Rooster Tails all the colours of the rainbow. Jigs, and spoons, and plugs. Buzz baits and crank baits and rubber versions of worms, frogs, mice, minnows, and salamanders. Their hooks gleamed in the early morning sunlight. Frank dug into his suitcase and dry swallowed two ibuprofen to help his headache. The steep, winding road over Blackberry Mountain had jostled his kidneys and he needed to take a leak now that his head was taken care of. He wrestled the new fishing vest on, ignoring the dangling price tags, and hunched behind a patch of scrub to relieve himself. He hoped it wasn’t poison ivy. The last thing he wanted was an unwelcome itch on the journey home. Frank looked around, satisfied no one was watching and unzipped. Full-tilt urination, better than the key to Heaven. He felt the first trickles of sweat forming on his brow and mopped them with his sleeve. The sun had yet to find its zenith and he was already sweating. He hoped it wasn’t going to turn into a scorcher. There was a slight breeze kicking up, carrying with it the sounds of distant locusts. Damn bugs. He’d grabbed a quick bite at a little diner called Margie’s All-You-Can-Eat, although the place should have been called Margie’s All-You-Can-Stomach based on his internal apocalypse. The sausage, eggs, and green pepper omelette was playing tug-of-war between his oesophagus and colon. The grease helped his morning hangover but he was paying for it now. The West Virginia country air was small comfort. Margie’s parking lot had been full. He figured if it was good enough for the locals…. When in Rome… right? The diner had fabric walls in place of wallpaper, staple-gunned in place. The flypaper was purely decorative, like a streamer saying “All Bugs Welcome.” The photographs adorning the walls were black and white. People with guns, people with stringers of fish, people posed with dead mammals. Frank was interested in the photos with fish. He pulled out his wallet. Cash Only said the sign. When paying up at the antiquated register, he eyeballed the missing persons flyers. Have you seen…? Runaways he figured. Who could blame them? “I’d hop a train out of here, too,” he thought. He wondered if bears were in the area. Coyotes maybe? Wolves? Great! Maybe he’d see some. From a safe distance, of course. Something he could talk about back in the office beyond the normal backstabbing and gossip. What really captured his eye were the guided Bigfoot tours. Witness the Missing Link… Track the Ancient Wonder… Hunt the Mystery… if only he had more time and was less gullible. At fifty bucks, what a bargain, and a BBQ meal included plus homemade cornbread. Bigfoot tours… Christ. He’d rather throw his hard-earned dollar bills at strippers courtesy of Puss N’ Boots, the local adults-only dance ensemble, clothing and morals optional and the source of his morning hangover. Frank stopped the Range Rover two more times to relieve himself; it felt like his colon would never be the same. Fortunately, some of the local vegetation produced leaves large enough to be useful in such circumstances. Last time he’d suffer Maggie’s breakfast omelette to be sure. Frank was in town on business, sealing a deal to lock up all the suture contracts for the three major surgery centres in the Mountain State. The signed deal moved him several steps closer towards a vice presidency position and the bonus included. Who cared if the company could deliver on his promises? Not Frank’s problem. He just collected the official signature that sewed up the deal. He promised the moon and customer service could deal with any problems moving forward. Deal signed, the CFO David Perkins had volunteered the source of his favourite trout stream, even gave Frank a custom-made fly the CFO swore the trout couldn’t resist. David said it was a Stonefly nymph, one he tied himself. Frank recognized the hook but little else. He had no idea the craftsmanship it took to create a fly that worked. With a wink, David said Tug Fork was a place to catch his limit. Frank was an out-of-towner; he lived life without limits. 9


Across the Water By James Everington

T

he cottage would be Griffin’s for the duration of summer. From the bedroom window he could see the canal and the worn concrete around the lock; the bank on the other side was hidden in darkness. And it was quiet; he could hear neither people nor traffic, and he allowed himself a moment’s satisfaction. There was a faint, constant noise on the still air - the water lapping or willows rustling maybe. But it was soon ignored. The only downside to the situation was the unseasonable heat, which meant he’d have to sleep with the window open. He’d been the oldest applicant for the summer job, and the interviewers had assumed he’d applied out of a lingering, romantic attachment to the idea of canals, narrow boats, and the previous century. He’d let them think that. The minimal pay hadn’t bothered him; the rent from his property in town brought in more than enough to live on, despite how much was taken as tax. The job came with a refurbished lock-keeper’s cottage as accommodation and lasted the tourist season. What season there was, nowadays; truth be told the canal itself was half-derelict and he expected his duties to be light. He’d been assured he would go days without seeing a boat. Initially, so it proved. Griffin didn’t see anyone for the first few days, so he sat by the water and read the newspaper; like most, he read that which confirmed rather than challenged his beliefs. In the quiet he hoped some of the anger was slipping from him, for it couldn’t be good for his health. He’d already had one ulcer, no doubt from having constantly to deal with the type of person he despised. His hometown was full of them, the layabouts and immigrants, and he’d felt crowded and in need of escape. Yet also guilty, for he was one of the ones who housed them; by taking their rent money it was like he was legitimising their presence. At least by the lock he didn’t have to live with the visible evidence of them. He seethed to remember it: the louts drinking midday cider in the park; the old post office now a Far East Cultural Centre; the parasites on the dole who thought they deserved money for doing nothing more than queue. Thought they deserved his money, essentially. The babble of languages all around, crude versions of his own included. Griffin despaired of his country. On the third night, he awoke to a high, whining sound in his ear. He sat up spluttering and wafting his hands in front of his face. His blood was immediately roused by the peculiar hatred he had always felt towards mosquitoes - he remembered his mother swatting one with a rolled up newspaper, and how its limp, alien body had stuck to the wall with blood. Not its blood, yours, his mother had said cruelly, and the next morning he’d scratched and scratched at the puffy bite mark on his arm. He heard the insect again in the darkness and the sound of it set Griffin’s nerves on edge. He imagined more than felt the touch of thin wings and the weak, trailing legs against his flesh. He fumbled for the lamp, but when the room was illuminated he couldn’t see the mosquito. He hoped it had flown back out the open window. He listened, on edge and his skin tingling, but the whining sound was gone. Still, it took him an age to fall back asleep. ### There was a single puncture mark on his hand the next day, but the tickling sensation of it tormented him out of all proportion to its size. He was absently scratching at it when he saw the speck of a boat dawdling down the canal, a harbinger of all those to come. As it neared, Griffin stared at the figures on its deck; because of the sunlight all he could see of them were two dark silhouettes, but their voices and laughter carried across the water to him. Something about the way they spoke set his nerves aflame. Even here! he thought angrily. Griffin went to operate the lock paddle, aware for the first time how he had almost to kneel to do so (the hydraulic system previously installed had long since gone to rust). As he worked he was aware of the couple on the boat staring at him and when he looked up he saw there was a child as well, peering back at him. ‘Mixed race’ he guessed was the term nowadays. The child waved at him and said something unintelligible; the couple laughed and spoke to the child; even though he knew it was English it was no language Griffin understood. He stood, uncomfortably aware of the heat and sweat on his skin, and of the dirty smell of the water flowing through the opened gates. 10


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Bus Routes Through the Sticks By Richard Farren Barber

T

he bus should be here soon, I thought as I checked my watch. It was nearly ten o’ clock. I dipped into my pocket and pulled out the tub of paracetamol. There were four small white pills at the bottom. Funny, I thought there were more. The headaches were getting worse. I took out two pills and dry swallowed them. The raw taste lingered in my mouth. I tried to count out in my mind how many pills I had already taken, but the headache refused to let me concentrate. Pills made no difference; nothing seemed to take away the dull ache. What a godforsaken place to site a bus stop. There were no houses around, nothing except the empty country lane. A mist rolled in through the trees in a gossamer web of blue-grey smoke. It covered the low brambles and the skeletal remains of a fallen tree. It crossed over the road and swallowed black tarmac. It dampened the sound so that the bus approached with a muted thrum. Mist clung around the headlights – two pale discs growing larger until the dark bulk of the vehicle pushed through. I stuffed the pillbox back into my pocket and held out my arm. For a moment I thought the bus wasn’t going to stop and the idea filled me with panic. To be left stranded here seemed like the worst imaginable fate. I only put down my arm when the air brakes hissed and the bus came to a halt beside me. The doors opened and the interior light glared out at me, blazing down like a searchlight. “Come on if you’re coming,” the driver mumbled. His voice was a low drawl. He didn’t turn to look at me and, with his cab in darkness, he was nothing more than a dark silhouette. I paused. The hesitation made no sense when just a few moments before I had been terrified of being passed over. Now the idea of climbing onto the bus caused the muscles in my stomach to tie in knots. I stepped onto the bus, my feet stumbling over the metal steps. Behind me the doors brushed shut and the bus jerked forward. “Hey!”

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The Rocking Stone By Ian Hunter

T

he man with the peeled face looked at him. McKenna spluttered on his pint. He rubbed his chin with the back of his hand and dabbed at the wet patches on his jumper. “Christ, who is that?” “It’s just the procession. Part of the local festival,” Trev explained. “There’s various events happening this week. This one marks the boundaries of the area, down past the course towards the Druid’s Graves.” McKenna nodded. The man had turned away, but there were others like him. Tall and spindly, dressed in white, as if wrapped in bandages, but the white was stained red in places, bloody. Like their faces. Peeled, glistening. “Who are the accident victims?” Trev smiled. “Druids. Killed by St Margaret when she was on one of her holy crusades across Scotland, bumping off the unbelievers. The Druids had it in for her, she believed, so she got to them first and killed them all.” “Really?” “Yeah, down by the Druid’s Graves where all their ceremonies took place. It was the site of a big massacre.” McKenna looked out of the window. The procession was almost out of sight, but he could still see the spindly figures and dancing shapes around them. Children, he guessed, stabbing at the Druids with sticks. “Is it far?” “Not really. Down the valley and over some fields.” Trev sighed. “Don’t tell me you want to go? I’ve been there, done that. We had picnics there when I was a kid.” “Well, I haven’t been there, and sitting here drinking pints isn’t doing my diet much good.” McKenna slapped his belly. “I’m reversing all that good work out on the golf course.” Trev laughed. “Good work? After the way you played?” “You know what I mean, walking in zig zags with a golf bag over my shoulder has to burn up some calories.” “Pity about the two pints of lager and a cheeseburger and chips,” Trev pointed out. “So much for exercise.” McKenna raised his pint glass at his friend. “All the more reason for you to take me there.” ### It was colder than he expected, the trees hemming in on both sides of them, tendrils of mist snaking across the ground. Very spooky, very Tolkien-ish, he thought, but at least he wasn’t lugging a golf bag over his shoulder and the walk was relatively flat until they reached the edge of the valley. He could see the tail of the procession, like stick figures dressed in white, crossing a field away on the right. Trev stopped, raised a hand, and cocked his head to the side. “Can you hear it?” “What?” His friend smirked at him. “Don’t worry, you will.” “What?” “Come on,” Trev said, marching down the hill. “What?” McKenna insisted. There was a farmhouse at the bottom and a pool of water over the road. Trev pointed to the wall. “They call that St Margaret’s Well.”

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A Remembrance of the Strange By Justin Aryiku

Y

es—listening to the self has been proven valuable. And this was made more than apparent by my recent trip upstate. Since seeing the face of adolescence, I’ve come to believe that the body has a will of its own. This will is one that desires experience—and when I had finally become aware of this, I began to pay attention to the wants of my frame. I noticed that when I thought of certain things, regardless if they concerned emotions or events, the body would experience a stark shudder—and I’d suddenly have the urge to act upon those thoughts. At first, I interpreted this reaction to thought to be a result of excitement, but after meeting with a sense of fulfilment every time I would act upon the jerks that responded to thought—I came to see that my shudders were a result of meaning. I had to respond to whatever the body responded to. And that is why I decided to drive up to my old town this past week. The body was again prompted by an urge from sources unknown. Before my trip, I had recently finished a month-long project for my work as a programmer, and there came a night when my colleagues and I got together in celebration of our works completion—a last meeting amongst computer-driven minds before our two-month vacation. Don’t you think it’s funny, reader, how that particular bodily sensation—how that certain shudder sprang into being—upon the sight of a thought that considered I visit my hometown since I was now provided with the time to do so? I tell you, this was no coincidence. There are latent desires in the mind, and our shells are here to discover those which we seek most. I was happy to be gone from the dense air of New York City for some time, but even happier to see that the old town of Larbie was still one where towering stone and metal were replaced by hidden homes of wood, and plentiful nature. Furthermore, upon entering Larbie, excitement had infected me with a horde of violent shakes. With that spasm of the frame, it occurred to me that yes—the body did want to experience the old nature in which I had once lived. Still, the air of the town was quite crisp; and the sun, which shone warmly on the vacant roads and on the peaks of the leaf-filled trees, still added soporific qualities to the atmosphere. I was even forced to abandon my appreciation of the cool and drowsy air when I found that the only way to prevent my eyes from leading me into unconsciousness was to close the car windows. A snigger escaped me as I perceived the porches of the many small wooden houses tucked between the trees to be barren. It always amused me to see the lack of walking or outdoor-idle life in this area, seeing that the weather during spring was always exceptionally pleasant. As usual, the faces of bipedal life could be seen appreciating nature from behind their windows, a choice made by the naturally independent air of the townsfolk (an air that I was strangely able to avoid during my youth). This habit of theirs to experience the outdoors from within walls made the mind depict them as a certain type of creature, one that was wholly faithful to a Father who lied beyond their homes— but that never dared to stand before Him out of fear of being subject to stark powers. Riding toward my destination, which was some ten minutes into the town, still observing the appreciative, but wary faces behind square glass, I reflected on what I knew to be the reason for my frame’s desire to return home. It was a simple reason—but quite significant given its importance in my life. This reason was to read. The most distinct memories from my time as a child are those which involved reading, and my father was one who encouraged this pastime. He often read to me outside—the country setting of the sun’s mellow shine scattering warmth about our bodies as we lay on fine grass, and smaller nature dancing blissfully around us, proving perfect for hours lost in the mind of another. 14


Stale Air By Rhys Hughes

T

hey had been stuck indoors all week, Toby and Gerrold, and so they decided to go for a nice walk on Sunday afternoon. But first they went to the pub for lunch and a few pints of ale. By the time they set off again the sky was clouding over and the path through the woods seemed less enticing than before. Toby stopped in his tracks and yawned. “I’m so tired!” “It’s all the fresh air,” said Gerrold. “Let’s find somewhere to sit, shall we? How about over here?” “In the graveyard?” asked Gerrold. “Yes. That tombstone looks comfortable enough. The light will be fading in about an hour. After our rest we should turn back.” They scuffed through loose earth to reach the tombstone. They removed their jackets to make cushions and dangled their legs. Toby yawned again and Gerrold followed his example. “Too much fresh air!” they chorused. Gerrold opened his knapsack and removed two plastic bags. The first contained four cans of ale, the second held a packet of tobacco, rolling papers, a box of filters, and a lighter. They both yawned again. “I don’t understand,” began Toby. “What don’t you understand?” pressed Gerrold. A can of ale hissed in his hand as he opened it. Before he could take a sip, he yawned. Toby yawned as well. Contagious.

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