Page 1

WHO? Caitlin Schokker is a 20 year old creative, living in a city considered a regional town on the East coast of Australia. Recently graduated from university on the other side of the country, she currently juggles volunteer jobs and paying jobs working with an online magazine, at an art gallery, in a kitchen, and as a freelance photographer. She hopes to begin travelling the world in the near future, capturing the beautiful world and the people around her, and creating content for other creatives. See more at

WHAT IS THE BEST CHANCE YOU’VE EVER TAKEN? The best chance I took was moving out of home for the first time and relocating to the other side of Australia to begin my creative freelance endeavours. Having made this big move, I’ve gained confidence in myself to directly contact multiple places to work with or for. Taking a leap in life is necessary, even if sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you imagined.

“If you knew that your life was merely a phase or short, short segment of your entire existence, how would

you live?


nothing 'real' was at risk, what would you do? You'd live a gigantic, bold, fun, dazzling life. You know you would. That's what the ghosts want us to do—all the exciting things they no longer can.”


Nature’s Song……………………............NIAMH MACDONALD Dead Stars………………………………..........PJ CARMICHAEL Halloween with Cindy and Her Friend from PA……………………………………KIM MORALES Phosphenes…………………………………………..MEENI LEVI Mirrored Skirts……………………………………….KATY GALE Photograph of a Painted Man………........JACK PEVYHOUSE Self-analysis on a Train…………........HANNAH VAN DIDDEN 1002 Stories………………………………..ALFINDY AGYPUTRI Have Heart……………………………...........NATALIE HARMAN Never Any Return Mail…………………….JACK PEVYHOUSE I Wait……………………………………………….SARAH BELLIS Stages by a Suitcase……………………………...JOYCE EADE


The Cycle……………………………….….NIAMH MACDONALD Blink…………………………………….……TIMOTHY NEWTON Torn Apart………………………………….….JUANITA PIROZZI Bees and Bones……………………………..…AMANDA WOOD Blood, Basil, and the Teeth Of the Fox………………………………..ASHLEE POEPPMANN Sentimental Illness……………………………PJ CARMICHAEL Schedule Eight……………………….…….LACHLAN DANIELS Intimidated by the Lion………………..ASHLEE POEPPMANN Darkly Humorous Death of Banquo………………………………….……JACK PEVYHOUSE Obscurity…...………………………………NATALIE WARNOCK The Harlequin………………………………….…ELLINOR SUTT


NATURE’S SONG To walk through a forest alone is to walk still surrounded by friends. A merry band, we each play a part. The birds sing the chorus. The wind whistles along. My feet the percussion crunching leaves, underfoot. The trees and the grass and the flowers sway in time. Nature has a song. Everybody knows, not everyone listens. You are in the orchestra.



DEAD STARS American youth have a tendency to both idolise and immortalise dead rock stars and a lot of people think that they are rock stars but I am not a rock star. A lot of people who think that they are rock stars are not rock stars. A lot of people are idolised but not immortalised. They die and are forgotten. I am an American youth.



HALLOWEEN WITH CINDY AND HER FRIEND FROM PA Let the ATM take all my money in small fees My legs will pay for the rest of our drinks I am cheap silk on a plastic hanger I am a soft discharge on expensive panties Ignore how people stare at the running black tears on your cut up face and in your pantyhose We can fix those both with some drunk sex I am a chipped press on nail I am waxed and drugstore red Slurp up the leering men and their veiny eyes And let them pay for the rest of our drinks


PHOSPHENES Red is a rose you prick your finger on she calls you in summer forgets you the next day when you call back she says she never had your number and you're not sure anymore Pink on the other hand doesn't lie to you and doesn't apologise when her punch feels like a caress So when you meet a blue with hands like jazz guitars you don't ask him for anything

Lavender is the fix-it dream you didn't wish for it is sweet and short-lived and leaves you panting with foreign smells hanging around your clothes for weeks Yellow believes in you. You don't believe in yellow. Green talks to you like they don't care what you think they take to your body like rain to bronze And when turquoise tells you he has anxiety talking over the phone you feel like healing again.



MIRRORED SKIRTS The skirt sways just below my knees. It is old and ragged and carries a scent that reminds me of Father—safe and familiar. The suitcase swings just by my calves. It is brand new and shiny and smells of the shop from which we stole it. The hand my mother clasps slips from her grasp and hangs loosely by my side. It is covered with sweat and has small halfmoon indents in the palm from where I was pressing my toolong, chewed-up nails. I’d had the skirt since I was three. My father bought it for me, flashing it at me mid tantrum: an attempt to pacify me. I never had a comfort item like most children until my father handed me that skirt. Then, it was ankle length, and had small mirrors around the outside that glittered and flashed in the sun when I spun in circles, the material billowing around me. It was a small battle to take it off me. My mother resorted to slipping it off me in the dark of night and washing it, before replacing it at the foot of my bed.

I am six now and the skirt is shorter. Most of the mirrors on it are cracked and broken from tumbles. My mother says it’s like carrying around a millennia of bad luck with us, all those broken mirrors. I clutch at the skirt with my dirty fingers, twisting the material around until Mother bats my hand away. “Can’t you leave that filthy rag behind?” She hisses at me. I widen my eyes at her and tilt my chin up. No. She breaks the stare first. When she’s safely at the front of the line again—her lips pinched and creases ever present on what used to be a smooth forehead—I look around. I do not like the airport. The giant planes scare me, those fuel guzzling beasts that will propel me to some unknown land. All around me people run, devices clutched in their hands, suitcases wheeling behind them and knocking away everything in their path. It is simultaneously too fast and too slow, too loud and too quiet here. It confuses me. My mother still won’t tell me why we must go. I have a vague idea—the teachers at school speak about me behind my back,

quiet snippets of information passing between them behind hands, as though my future is a game of Chinese whispers. They believe that after my father died my mother took desperate measures to live, and that is why we must leave. I glance at my newly stolen suitcase and wonder if maybe all the gifts my mother bought to comfort me after my father’s passing are the reason I must board this plane. The skirt sways just below my knees. Looking out at the clouds into which I am about to ascend, I am glad I have it with me.




PHOTOGRAPH OF A PAINTED MAN i saw a black and white photograph of a man who only existed in vibrant paintings. Pipe in mouth, glass of absinthe in hand. A suit with stagnant legs and arms, more squarish head than in his self-portraits. No longer filtered in flickers of paint.


SELF-ANALYSIS ON A TRAIN I never realised how my midline had bloomed until I plucked at its image on the Perspex window tonight. I thought black was supposed to be the most naturally slimming colour. Why did no one say the pantyhose elastic edge, once a flattering waistband, creates a ledge, fatty tissue sucked in and ballooning right out where the nylon-spandex blend meets with hip?

The polished girls who flocked in before me landed a row—how nice for them!—with me standing by. They’re gawking, joking, laughing. Are their cackles for me? I think so. It’s their stop, thank God. They flee and I’m faced with a fresh visage and a free seat or three, perhaps a chance to hide my continental shelf. Bag of spuds tied in the middle now seems my adiposity’s best descriptor.



1002 STORIES She can tell you about the first time she saw snow how she walked out of the house barefoot shouting "Whoa!" she didn't care that the temperature was so low she just wanted to make lots of snowballs to throw she can tell you about the time she went to Spain of all the adventures and how she’d go again she can tell you about how clouds produce rain of all the knowledge she can fit into her brain she can tell you about the souls in her attic how they make noises and disturb her sleep how they obey her words in an instance, panic don’t mean to be numinous but it’s magic she can tell you about how she learned to cook and bake a chocolate brownie at the age of five how she drove from Perth to Broome in a car that shook stopping at each suburb to rest and read a book and in the end you'll come to comprehend that she’s just a lady with 1002 different stories.



HAVE HEART Every morning he would come in, oh, around nine, and buy a handful of balloons printed with phrases used so much they’d lost their meaning: get well soon, I love you, best wishes. Y’know, the ones you get for a sick person trapped in the hospital, as if a foil bladder filled with gas that makes your voice squeaky could cure anything from a common cold to cancer. He probably thought we didn’t notice him. Truth was we found him hard to ignore; he was always there in front of the store, like a signpost. When he moved, though, he was a dandelion fluff caught in the breeze, filled with a purposelessness that seemed like purpose. We were worried he might dissolve in the wind, and much like a blown dandelion, all that would remain of him would be his skin fluttering through the air like flakes of candle wax. If you called him strange, you felt as though you were commenting on the weather. If you asked him about the weather, he’d probably think you were strange.

But we were raised not to talk to strangers. Through the whispers of genetics, our children had learned to do the same. Still, we couldn’t help wondering what the balloons meant. Perhaps they were a form of self-pity. A ritual born from some kind of absence (or boredom). Or his way of interacting with us. “I tells ya once, and I tells you again. He’s widowed,” Agnes said one evening at the pub between sips of sherry, shrouded by a crowd of people. “Wife died years ago. Heart attack. If you ask me, I reckon he’s started fiddlin’ with young girls, ’n stores his victims in the basement of his big old house, like in all those crime shows on the telly.” “Doesn’t explain the balloons, Ags. He’s just a lonely bloke. They’re harmless in small doses,” Pip muttered from the other side of the bar, stoking his pipe with his calloused hands until the tobacco spilled onto the countertop. “Just drop it already, will ya?”

The rest of us didn’t know whose side to take. Judging from the old man’s scent of eternal insomnia and flowery perfume, either one of them could have been correct. Eventually we decided his purchasing of the balloons was a kind of friendly gesture, a way to interact with us. So we tried to return the gesture. We made the gift shop owner say stuff like “Have a lovely day,” and “This one is beautiful, isn’t it? Whoever’s getting this is really lucky.” He just stared at her with those faraway eyes of his, as if he’d lost the ability to speak long ago. Maybe he was taken aback because she was a real looker. She was popular among the townspeople because of her straight black hair, creamy skin, and those unforgettable blue eyes. Maybe he was still human after all. The last time he seemed so alive was just after he moved here. His house was always filled with sound: jazz, opera, and singing, too. The sound echoed down the valley through our houses, tying us together.

As the sweaty summer nights trickled by, we sent our children up to his front doorstep with a cup to put against the door. A muffled man always crooned through static and wood, asking them to go fly with him. We can’t remember when he stopped asking. “It has to be her,” Ags crowed one night, lifting her face out of her mug. “He buys all those balloons because he fancies her. The gift shop owner.” Pip was the only one who bothered to respond to her. “But what about all the time he spends in his house?” “He could be doing it up.” “You could give it up already.” Ags was right, in a way; the old man did renovate his lair sometime between then and now. But even though the white floors were so clean they reflected the blue walls, he forgot it takes two to make a house a home. After his wife passed, he baked for a long time. How long exactly? Oh, months, maybe. Plain biscuits, winged cupcakes,

cloud-like meringues. The scent tied us together as the sound once had, and we thought he’d be fine. Pavlova, chocolate mousse bursting with air bubbles, balloons made from spun sugar. Sure, he ate well, but he wasn’t satisfied. On one rare occasion when the old man was out of town, we went to his house with our children to poke through his belongings. We found the rest of his hobbies. Collections, mainly. We told the kids it was a market, and they could take whatever they liked. That everything was free. One boy said he reckoned this was how Santa felt. They all borrowed some items and gave them to each other as gifts. We also took a list: 1. Snowglobes (each with a single house inside). 2. Clipped wings: insects, birds, reptiles, mammals. 3. Disassembled model planes with worn joints. 4. A broken gyroscope.

Other than curiosity, the only reason we went to his house was so we could find a theme, purpose, or reason. He didn’t seem to own any of those, though. Soon enough we took the stolen gifts from our children while they slept. Slinked over neighbours’ fences when their defences were low. Grave-robbed dead theories from past pub sessions. We gathered these tools together, yet separately, creating a competition that unknowingly provided us with purpose and reason. Theme kept eluding us, but we were closing in on it. We were reassembling him; connecting the items to our collective thoughts as the tendon barely manages to unite bone and muscle, connecting them to make a whole. I think each of us felt that if we could pull him together, we could then extract the bits we didn’t like with the precision of surgery. But minds are not as orderly as a doctor’s surgery. There are no appointments to keep things flowing smoothly.

So when everything became tangled all you could do was sigh and start again. At some point, when you weren’t paying attention, this had become all you knew how to do. The leaves fell from the trees in the park; the old man’s fossilised footsteps that led to the gift shop disappeared; the gift shop owner stopped making calls to restock her balloons; the pub was struck by a beer drought; the only face Pip saw was his own staring back at him through his over-polished counter. The town once oiled by obsession broke down, became rusty. Then one morning a door slam sounded across our town like a gunshot. For a moment we feared that we had run out of time to work him out, because he had offed himself. Committed suicide, y’know. But it didn’t seem that way. …Well, not at first.



NEVER ANY RETURN MAIL The wireless electric carrier pigeons never come back to the roost on the roof why is that, I wonder? The ones with mail orders come home, with wrapped up books and food and sniper ammo they must not care for peace treaties of the undisciplined sketches of imagined nude figures or even the couplets about what must’ve gone on in these old buildings.



I WAIT I wait Hoping for sweet good mornings And kisses marked with an x On too bright pieces of glass. I wait With a smile, amused by words With double meanings And winking faces As my towel clings to Falling droplets. I wait With longing for the time when Your face is no longer Just pixels, And your smile Is captured by my lens alone. I wait Needing nothing more Than for your sweet nothings To become my sweet somethings.


STAGES BY A SUITCASE I Numb and quiet She packs the suitcase with unseemly calm hands Wonders what to wear II Felled to the sea-rolling floor Blinded and wretched with pain, clutching the suitcase Guilty to be feeling III Batters the suitcase With piercing blame, with sudden frenzied fire Extinguished by desperate tears IV She is lost without And within is as forlornly bare as that suitcase All flung outwards, wrung out of care

V Around the suitcase Scatterings of caught light reflect into corners Remind her there was love VI Gathering light-dusted memories To rearrange among pieces of jigsawed heart in the suitcase She whispers lullabies like a mantra VII Closes the halves With deliberate, lingering hands that accept she will carry it Always, my love, always.



THE CYCLE You too are nature. A delicate existence poised on a knife’s edge. Do not search for purpose take pride. Only one thing is certain we are all sure to die to merge to blend with the ebb and flow of the earth again. When I die, I will be compost I will be roots I will be a tree.


BLINK I open my eyes and the world appears before me. I can’t be sure if it’s there while they’re closed, what it looks like if it is, or what I’ll see when I open them again. For all I know, every time I blink everything falls apart, pulling itself together into simple shapes and familiar forms of home, but by the time I open my eyes I’m a million miles away again, adrift in this dreamspace where you left me. For now, I’m standing on the edge of a cliff that goes on and on into nothing. No, not nothing—if I look closely I can see a shape, someone standing on the sheer face of the cliff, their back to me, shoulders hunched like mine, looking down. I wave,


and the figure raises its hand. I step off the edge of the cliff and the figure tilts forward into oblivion as well. Gravity takes me for one breathless second, and then my head spins—or perhaps the earth does—and I’m standing on flat ground again. Behind me, a sheer cliff drops away into nothing. There is no one else in sight. I blink, and when I open my eyes again I’m floating in space. The stars are too bright, too many, too close, and I can’t hold my eyes open against their light. I blink again and they’re distant pinpoints of light, again and they’re gone, and I’m alone in the blackness. I close my eyes and hold them shut, let the lonely dark envelope me, and I try to focus my thoughts on you. I reach back through our history, grasping for a moment to hold onto. I’ve done this more times than I can count, hoping against reason that I might find some way to pull my scattered world back together and escape this madness, but the only image I can ever see clearly is your hand letting go of mine, the instant before I blinked and you were gone.

I open my eyes and there’s ground beneath my feet. I’m at the bottom of a valley in a towering mountain range, bathed in shadow and surrounded by trees and broken stone. There’s a cabin in the distance, and I start walking toward it, but I blink and it’s gone. I’m on the edge of a vast and murky sea. Thick clouds block out the sun, turn its light into a dull glow. I don’t like it—the lifeless light and open space remind me too well of the truth that follows me through all these shifting worlds: I am alone. So I blink again, and I am alone somewhere new. A hallway, with floors, walls, and ceiling all made of the same dark wood. There are windows at intervals all along the walls, but no doors. I try to look through one of the windows, but the glass only reflects my own weary face back at me. The look in my eyes unnerves me, and I blink and turn away. My brain barely has time to register my new location—the floor is metal here, and it’s warm—before I blink again. I keep blinking, faster and faster, taking in flashes of sound, smell, colour, not caring where I land.

Grass Smoke Stone Silence Wind Stars Darkness Thunder Cold Red Bright Everything Everything Everything Nothing Nothing Nothing

As I move faster and faster the images and impressions begin to blur. I see incomprehensible shapes, colours I don’t know how to categorise, still frames of impossible things overlapping one another as they rush by. When I finally stop it feels like stepping off a spinning platform onto solid ground, and I stumble and reel as the world swims slowly into focus. And then I see you. You’re behind a pane of glass that stretches out into forever, and you’re looking right at me. I force my eyes to stay wide open, suddenly aware of how hard it is not to blink once you decide to try. I try to meet your gaze, but you keep looking right past me, like you don’t even know I’m here. I wave, I scream, I pound on the glass, but you just stand there, looking off into the distance. My eyes are burning, but I hold them open, train them on your face. My fists bounce off the glass harmlessly, and the edges of my vision blur with tears. I grasp around me for anything I can use, find a rock with my left hand and a heavy pipe with my right. I hammer at the barrier between us, and it

begins to shake. Cracks form, split, spread, and I keep swinging, swinging, swinging until everything happens at once. The glass shatters with a deafening crash. You start at the sound and turn your wide eyes to meet mine. A hot, angry wind comes tearing through the hole in the glass, and I close my eyes against it. I can’t be sure if you’re still there, if I’ll see you when I open my eyes again. So I keep them shut. As long as I don’t look, we can be here together. I let the lonely dark envelope me, and I try to focus my thoughts on you. On home. I feel your hand on my shoulder. I hear your voice say my name. For one breathless moment, I let myself hope. I open my eyes and the world appears before me.



TORN APART One stupid phone call forever changed us A favour was asked of you, my other Your rage expressed with every single cuss The truth well hidden from one another Talking to you has never been the same Joking and laughter to never return Replaced with stilted chatter so inane The distance between us cause for concern Attempts making amends were pointless Our relationship eternally strained Apologies accepted but useless The gap between us worse than being chained As hurt as I am and always will be I wish you well unlike you did to me


BEES AND BONES A silver tongue runs over gleaming, pearl teeth— How will I move you, use you, feel you, it whispers. Seamless words drip from your lips like honey but I have smelt the rot in your bones past the sweetness of your words to the disease that slithers through your skin. Slaughtered bees lay at those feet pulled by desire you sewed in their bellies they are stuck in the amber rivers running from your mouth drunk on your kisses and the paradise formed from your breath.

In their last moments they see the bodies of their sisters they know the fruit you fed was laced with poison but they are stuck in your embrace paralysed while they decay They look on in horror as you speak to those untouched— Come here, let me tell you of your beauty, let me show you the sweetness of my love. My wings are stuck together my eyes peeled open— Don’t listen, I scream but they cannot hear me from down here among the bones and broken bodies.


You remind me of a humid summer afternoon And the sight of the sunset casting shadows Through the window, over your potted basil And onto the dusty wooden floors. But you have an independent shadow Quiet and brooding, suppressing your feelings. And I’m worried this mystical demeanour Will begin to manifest in your bloodstream. Because you bottle too many emotions Into your bones, carved like tree branches And I’m not always going to be there To tap this black syrup from your blood. Be careful of lipstick stains on your teeth A fox needs to be full of wit and grace. As foxes are as wise as they are wild And I doubt you’re one to forget. While your independent shadow moans Your red cheeks show a rosy future. Your blood and teeth are as strong As the tree branches carved in your bones.





SENTIMENTAL ILLNESS The aesthetic of an orgasm during wartime is the knife that cuts from within. (Here’s another swansong for the teenage statistics.) I bet they’d gut me if given the chance. A true martyr for amorality. They’d denounce me as heathen while shouting in the churches; “Nothing is sacred!” I’d bet my last dollar bill on the judgment of youth: trial by fire and a jury of my peers. It’s such an open-minded witch hunt for the poets and the shamans.



SCHEDULE EIGHT “Good morning! I hope one day I’ll never see you again.” He said this to me upon his arrival at precisely 9am, without fail, for 73 consecutive days. As he spoke, one could notice a slight upwards curl of the right side of his mouth. In a man less time-worn, perhaps, this would become a smile. Of course when you make a living dispensing little green cups of methadone you encounter some interesting people. But I had never met a man who evoked as much curiosity as Alexander Campbell. He was tall, with a head of slicked back brown hair far thicker than the average man in his fifties. He liked to joke that his socks were more colourful than his personality—he wore thick, black, woollen socks. Every day he wore the same brown tweed jacket, with a single cigarette burn on the breast pocket. When he spoke, I got the impression that despite the rapidity with which the words flew from his mouth, they were always one line behind where his thoughts were.

“Don’t tell, show! And definitely don’t foreshadow too much at the start. It’ll give away the ending. You want suspense! Yes, the audience will be interested in what’s going on, sure, but anything can be ‘interesting’—porn is interesting! Ha! But you don’t really care. What you need is for the audience to be invested in how the story might end.” The only thing Alexander loved more than telling stories, was telling other people how stories should be told. As a pharmacist, my affinity for storytelling doesn’t go beyond anecdotes regarding the efficacy of whatever drug I need to dispense. I never cared much for his advice. But I shouldn’t simply ‘tell’, and I shouldn’t ruin the ending by giving too much away at the start (according to Alexander). I’m not a storyteller though. I will tell you outright that Alexander was an addict. What he wanted more than anything else in the world, though, was to no longer be an addict. That’s how this story both starts and ends. Sorry, Alex.

Alexander was one of some 14,000 Victorians every year who receive pharmacotherapy maintenance for opioid dependence. He got addicted to heroin, and so he fought fire with fire by, drugging away his narcotic withdrawals by taking methadone—. Replacing an unregulated and destructive heroin addiction with a regulated methadone addiction. “Some stories are better than others. Have you ever heard a terrible story?” he said on day twelve. “Some are boring,” I said, lowering my voice in the hope that he would reciprocate. “Not exactly! The story might not be boring at all, just told in a boring way. Or by a boring person. Have you ever met a boring person?” “They’re often quite talkative,” I said, turning to my computer to make the hint less subtle. “Perhaps. But unlikely. Interesting people don’t just tell stories, they create questions!” “They probably have jobs to do as well...”

“They create questions to ask, Doc Brown! Many questions. One for you, in fact!” “Other customers require assistan—” “Why methadone?” he asked. As this was a rare instance, in which part of a conversation with Alexander actually fell under my job description, I obliged. I told him that in the '60s a psychiatrist in New York, Dr Nyswander and metabolic specialist Vincent Dole found that they could treat ‘narcotic hunger’ with controlled doses of opiates, namely methadone. Heroin rapidly attacks the opioid receptors deep below the cerebral cortex, thereby eliminating any significance the brain attaches to incoming stimulus, allowing the mind to drift into a euphoric state. That’s the first hit. “Stories are a little like opioids, Doc Brown.” (I never cared much for this nickname.) “You only need a little bit to end up wanting a lot. Think of every love story ever told. All the audience needs to know is that two people want to be together, yet there’s an obstacle preventing this, and the audience is

hooked. Great storytellers know exactly what details they need to sell in order to hook the audience.” “I prefer not to employ that terminology.” “Hey! I guess they do hook people in, a little like the drug dealers themselves!” “Opiates are very high poten—” “Why don’t we give these dealers enough credit? They sucked me in! And now you’re dragging me out of the theatre, one green cup at a time! Ha!” “Please, Alexander. You asked a question, allow me to explain. The opioid receptors in the brain eventually lose their sensitivity, thus larger doses are required in order to create the same euphoric effect, followed by the brain having to ‘pay back’ the time of decreased sensitivity to incoming stimulus, with a time of greatly increased sensitivity.” He was looking everywhere but at me as I said this. “Never dedicate a story to any one person. A story is for the storytell—”

He went on these rants as often as he came in to receive his doses. Alexander was never permitted to have ‘takeaways’ (certain clients are permitted to take doses home if they can’t make it to the pharmacy the following day). Alexander’s file stated he was not responsible enough to be granted this privilege. But in all my interactions with him, Alexander never seemed like a man of questionable character. To be quite blunt, I found it hard to believe he was an addict. He was voluble, excitable, self-deprecating, and many other things that seemed out of place in a pharmacy at 9am. But never impolite, never rude to anyone in particular, and though his eccentricity was a tad perturbing, it was never frightening. His quasi-insights were often quite morbid, even depressing. Sometimes I found them offensive, but the conviction with which he presented them had me listening to every word, to the point where I even began writing brief notes in his file. He’d once told me taking notes was vital to developing a character profile. I told myself that part of my job was understanding the

client's disposition in order to better communicate their progress to their psychiatrist. Day 14: Alexander claims if there was ever an argument for living fast and dying young, it’s the suicidal octogenarians in mental hospitals. So close to what they want, but so far from achieving it…body both on the brink of death yet unable to find the energy to go off and seal the deal. Don’t like his choice of words, but can see how someone would think this. Day 19: Postulates addiction to social media as the new alcoholism. Rather than searching for happiness at the bottom of a bottle, people now search for it at the top of a Facebook feed…they refresh and refresh hoping to find happiness in someone else’s fabricated identity. Shouldn’t equate substance abuse to social media addiction, can see where he’s coming from though. Day 22: Says he feels sorry for modern day flashers. People just aren’t shocked by nudity anymore, it must be such a shame for the exhibitionists. They work so hard to find the right time and place, wait for hours to spot a suitable unwilling audience,

and they just get pepper sprayed… hate to think of what desperate measures they’ll have to go to if they want to shock anyone nowadays. They’re just showmen, really. Artists….we don’t even offer the courtesy of at least labelling them as ‘transgressive’. Is he trying to attach nostalgia to sexual assault? Day 30: Explains how a man could make his living by travelling the world donating sperm. In Australia it’s an ‘altruistic act’ so you can’t be paid. However, you are reimbursed for your time at the cost $250 per donation—convert that to an hourly rate, Doc! Profit $250 for your sperm, then it’s $150 for a week in a backpackers, $40 for an interstate flight, and a generous $60 for food! (Where did he pull these numbers from?) And the US is where the big money is—they pay! Which reminds me, Doc, how do I go about obtaining a prescription for Cialis? Couldn’t help but laugh. Once he’d left. Day 39: Alexander questions Christianity. God makes man in his image—does that make God narcissistic, or uninspired? Either way it deems God as the ultimate everyman …

audiences always support a man of the people! So if God’s just another man, then wouldn’t that make whoever he inspired to write his stories—The Bible—just God’s marketing team?…What if Jesus wasn’t God’s son, but his publicist!…God, what with his wrath and all, would’ve been a cunt of a boss [sic], but being a disciple would’ve been a lucrative gig, wouldn’t you say?” He walked away before I had time to say anything.

I was as intrigued by his ideas as I was frustrated by his prolix. Most other clients on the methadone program were shy and subdued. To the other staff, Alexander was an unappreciated anomaly. As the days passed, though, part of me began to welcome his exuberance. It was only on day sixty that Alexander started to seem odd to me. He lowered his voice to a volume that neared acceptable. His gesticulations bordered on normal. He came in, took his dose, and left. No peculiar greetings, no loud tangents, a different tweed jacket, brand new—colourful—striped socks.

Seeing him like this made me uneasy, and he was like this for the longest fortnight of my life. For the first time ever, I went against my job description: I worried for Alexander. “Mr Campbell,” I began, as he eyed off his small cup of methadone. It was day seventy-three, and he was due for a decreased dosage, as per the guidelines negotiated by his psychiatrist. “Mr Campbell? Is my father around? I’d hope not. His corpse must smell awful at this point. Ha…” he said, still eyeing off the green cup. “Alexander, then. You mentioned to me a long time ago that interesting people create questions, yes?” “I recall, Doc.” “Well I have one for you. Why stories?” “Doc Brown, how inquisitive of you. Let me tell you this, when I was thirteen, my uncle gave me my inaugural pearl of wisdom regarding females: ‘Never stop dating a girl until you’re already dating the next one.’ So with stories, I take my life, I craft it, I pour myself into it using the pen as a vessel. I’m not

going to take a story of mine to market for it to be destroyed by the public knowing I’m still that intimate with it! I need to be close with a new story before I’m ready to take the blow of an editor eviscerating my earlier work!” “So you have written something?” I jumped. “What’s it about?” “How would I know what it’s about? I haven’t finished it yet. And I don’t think I can.” “Why…” A catch in my throat came just in time to help me compose myself. Was this what was bothering him? “Why can’t you finish it?” He lowered his head and put his hands inside the two outside pockets of his brown tweed jacket. “If we’re reminiscing about past conversations Doc, do you recall my comparison between stories and opioids?” He was speaking at almost a whisper. “I remember. Why is that important now?” I asked. “Well let’s say heroin is my first story, and this green cup is my second. But unlike stories, you can’t just stop writing it.”

I took a deep breath, “Alex, the methadone is essentially a steppi—” “Doc, Listen. I’m only here to stop me from being out there. I’m here every morning, because I’m an addict. Addicted to heroin, just not using. Addicted to methadone, and using daily. What makes one drug better? I’ll always need something.” I rubbed the sweaty palms of my hands with my thumbs. “Methadone is more of a med—” “No, Doc. People take methadone for years. They’re bound to who they are—addicts. They’re bound to be intimate with their first story no matter how hard they try to move onto the next, and they’re only onto their second story because of their first. I could create the greatest story of all time, but I’d still be locked into these liquid handcuffs.” That was the last thing I ever heard Alexander say. “Alex—” I stammered, but he had already left. The little green cup was still sitting in front of me, untouched. Today, as I finish writing this, it would’ve been Alexander’s 150th day on the methadone program, and at this point clients

are usually advised to discuss with their psychiatrist the possibility of tapering off the dose until they’re off entirely. I don’t know where he is, and I haven’t received any information from his doctor. More confusing than any of Alexander’s mannerisms, right now, is how much I miss my most unlikely acquaintance. So this is for you, Alex. I hope you see this. Contrary to a wise man’s words I hope, one day, to see you again. I’ve taken your advice and started writing another story in case this doesn’t get published. I’m still working at the pharmacy, but I’m no longer dispensing methadone. Perhaps you’re out there, and you’ve finally figured out how your story ends. If you need someone to write a foreword, you know where to find me. I get in at nine.



INTIMIDATED BY THE LION I can’t look in your eyes directly They pierce with tight precision You have a mighty quiet voice And a tongue full of sparks Wildly perfect hair that frames a face That gives me a steady cold stare I was intimidated by this on first impressions I sensed you had this animal instinct That always got you what you wanted But I’ve known you for a while now The colours of your eyes tell a different story

Your posture caves under pressure Your diary has missing pages Quiet nights with lost keys I feel your gaze losing power And your breath rising short You sound like an old soul In smooth golden skin But I feel sorry for you now Knowing the opposite is true I realise you’re still so young Trapped in a roaring old body That’s too wise, too loud For your soft growing soul



DARKLY HUMOROUS DEATH OF BANQUO banquo’s death from Will Shakespeare’s macbeth is fucking fascinating—it’s a quick noir film, in-an-alleyway kind of murder banquo: (to fleance, his son) it will rain tonight first murderer: let it come down i mean, how cool of a bit of murder-dialogue is that? then banquo’s dead and fleance fled, and the three killers literally just shrug and say “fuck it, we’ll just tell macbeth we only got one.”


OBSCURITY You walk the path alone. It’s crowded with thorns, sharp and hard, choking the way forward. A little black creature lands on your shoulder; it climbs in through your ear and stretches itself over your brain. “Listen only to me,” it whispers in the abandoned parts of the night — forcing your eyelids open. Its venom slinks thick through your veins, replicating, replacing until there is nothing left to feel. Anaesthetic oozes through the self that you used to use so vigorously — now still, obliviously obeying silent commands to cease. Along the path rain pricks at you — a shower of pins, each drop stinging as it rolls over your shirt collar and down your spine. Sometimes you feel the sun breaking through as the world around falls silent; the hammering ceasing for a brief moment — but then the crack disappears and the downpour begins. Again and again and again

and again and again — It never washes away the dirt that clings — dirt that turns to mud and leaves a dank feeling underneath your skin. All the while, the creature mocks you, stealing the voice of your thoughts and turning them against you. The drops build up, collecting interest — compounding themselves. First puddles, then pools — waves form and wash over you. Each one crashing harder until you can no longer feel gravity below or the air above. You claw at your throat, you thrash — kick — shout — No light penetrates through your worn out eyelids. Hands stop tugging, legs still and lungs draw long shallow breaths. There is one last option. A way out that has been sitting on your back tantalising — enticing you since you started this journey. Eventually you reach for it — deliverance — the only solid thing you can grasp. As the air runs out and your body is too heavy to move you feed it in through your ear. It wraps itself around your brain, encasing the creature and at last the struggle —



THE HARLEQUIN With a swirl of red and yellow the masked man caught the staff he had thrown high in the air. It tinkled happily as the man bowed to the crowd. He hadn’t said a word during the entire performance. He just appeared—dressed in his motley of red and yellow—and cleared the street. Actually, he hadn’t cleared the street. It was the people around him. They behaved the way people usually do when confronted with someone strange—they stared an inch above his head and took a detour to avoid the scene. I had seen the man through the window of my café. I looked up from my book, as I do sometimes, to check how the new waitress was doing, and when I turned my head back to the pages I caught the fiery colours in the corner of my eye. If it had been summer and the sun had been shining, the flowers had been in bloom, and the girls had been dressed in bright skirts, a man in red and yellow would not have stood out.

But it was a drab autumn day. The sky was stubbornly grey and it was drizzling outside. Everyone was dressed in black and grey, as if they’d woken up and decided to match. But the man, he was lithe and thin. Half of his face was covered in a mask, the other half was painted white. Except for the lips. They were a dark red. His long black hair was tied back in a braid, his head topped with a hat covered in mirrors and bells. I rose, nodded to the new girl behind the counter, and stepped outside. The street was lined by shops. There was an empty flower garden in the middle, paved with smooth stone. I stood by the door and stared at the man. The Fool. The Harlequin. He removed his jacket, deep red with yellow fringes and details, the sleeves artistically widened from the elbow to the hands. It reminded me of an 18th century military jacket. Not one you would wear to war, but one you would wear on a parade. Underneath the jacket the Harlequin wore a tight striped hose and a tunic, tied with a rope around his slim waist. There

were bells around his wrists and ankles, and at the tips of his pointy leather shoes. His staff was decorated with strips of red and yellow cloth, with more bells. He moved too quickly, too smoothly. He jumped and stayed in the air too long. He threw his staff and with happy tinkles it flew higher than gravity made possible, spinning and landing in his outstretched hands as if magnetized. It was enchanting. It was something I had never seen before. And I, being somewhat of a connoisseur of the circus (I go at least once every six months, or as soon as a new one passes through town) had seen many Fools, Harlequins, Acrobats, and so on and so forth. The people, the grey and black and drab and stressed, stopped in their tracks. Forgot their destination. Forgot the ice cold wind, the drizzling rain. Stood shoulder to shoulder in a wide circle and stared glassy eyed at the dance. My waitress opened the cafÊ door to ask me a question, but she too stopped, walked to my side, and stared. But she was too late. The Harlequin stopped. He bowed to the crowd—to the North, South, East, and West. He picked up

pocket until only the sphere at the top was visible. When he turned and walked away the crowd seemed to wake. They shook their heads and continued. The waitress asked me about the coffee machine and I answered without looking at her. I was still staring at the Harlequin. I felt I should complement him. Pay him. I don’t know. I ran and caught him before he turned a corner, touching his small shoulder. He turned and looked at me through the slits in his mask. His eyes were dark but glowing, like dying embers. The shimmering memories of a fire. I had no voice. He smiled at me, revealing a row of small white teeth, like a child’s. “I know,” he said. He bowed again. “You are one of the strong ones.” His smile changed to something wistful. I swear that I did not blink, and yet, all of a sudden, he was gone.



his coat and buttoned it again, slipping his staff into a deep





Paper Crown: Issue Two 2016  

The second issue of Paper Crown magazine. Peak inside for stories, poems, art, and photography—a world of sweet observations and lost chance...

Paper Crown: Issue Two 2016  

The second issue of Paper Crown magazine. Peak inside for stories, poems, art, and photography—a world of sweet observations and lost chance...