Scrittura Magazine Issue 20 Summer 2020

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Scrittura SUMMER 2020 / ISSUE 20


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Scrittura Magazine © Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved. Scrittura Magazine is a UK-based online literary magazine, launched in 2015 by three Creative Writing graduates who wanted to provide a platform to showcase new and exciting writing from across the world. Scrittura Magazine is published quarterly, and is free for all. This means that we are unable to offer payment for publication. Submissions information can be found online at EDITOR: Valentina Terrinoni EDITOR: Yasmin Rahman DESIGNER / ILLUSTRATOR: Catherine Roe SOCIAL MEDIA ASSISTANT: Imani Dunkley WEB: EMAIL: TWITTER: @Scrittura_Mag FACEBOOK: scritturamag

InThis Issue 06 08 09 10 14 16 17

A Day at The Races Lynn White Anxiety John Baverstock Balloon Street Elizabeth Gibson

The Sweetest Pill Christopher Walker Cabaret Nights ML Sund Lifting The Veil Geraldine Douglas The Neighbour’s Fish Lynn White

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Ode to Covid Carers Steve Douglas The Children of The Serpent Christopher Laverty The Eye of The Perfect Storm Alice Chudes Glitter in The Cider Josh Oldridge The Portal of Thomas Wolsey Peter George Spectacle Ed Blundell Timescale Lynn White

A Note From The Editors Welcome to the Summer issue of Scrittura Magazine!

Issue 20 rounds off our fifth year – and it is a privilege to be able to bring this issue to you during such strange and unprecedented times. We do hope you’re all keeping safe and well. Of course exploring current issues is a natural part of writing for so many, so it is fitting that we have a couple of poignant pieces in this issue which explore the effects and impact of COVID-19, beginning with ‘Ode to Covid Carers’, page 18, which inspired this issue’s cover art, and ‘The Eye of The Perfect Storm’, page 22. For fiction lovers we have an intriguing short story, ‘The Sweetest Pill’, page 10, about a scientific experiment that takes an unexpected twist. For something more light-hearted, try the entertaining poem ‘The Neighbour’s Fish’, page 17. Finally, for a thought provoking read centred on mental health, check out ‘Anxiety’, page 8. This issue is filled with so many wonderful pieces of work that it isn’t possible to mention them all, but whatever your taste, we’re sure you’ll find something to enjoy. As always, thank you to all of our contributors for sharing your writing with us; if you’d like to submit work for consideration for our Autumn issue, the current deadline is July 31st 2020. Huge thanks go to Catherine, our brilliant designer, for producing yet another stunning issue, and Imani, our Social Media and Editorial Assistant, for her efforts in promoting all of your wonderful work to the world. An extra thanks seems appropriate this issue, to all of the key workers, from NHS staff to public services, for all that you’re doing to keep the world moving as safely as possible. We hope you enjoy this issue; don’t forget to let us know your thoughts via email or social media!

Valentina & Yasmin

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A Day at The Races Lynn White

My boyfriend was keen on The Races. Colourful and exciting, he told me, with a fairground atmosphere. I believed him. I expected a fairground as well. I don’t know why, perhaps he told me so, and I believed him. It was muddy, very muddy. All the colours were mud colour. The horses ran past quickly once or twice each hour. In between you could walk around slipping and sliding in the mud. There was no fairground, no atmosphere, there was nothing. He was miserable, he’d lost money even on his ‘each way’ bets. You’ll be as surprised as I was to know that ‘each way’ does not mean win or lose. It was cold, really, really cold. He said I was miserable. Of course I was miserable! It started to drizzle. “They’re under starters orders now! Look they’re off.” So was I; I went home on the bus.

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Anxiety John Baverstock

Feeling Worthless, Or unworthy, Could be both, Quite possibly. Curling up Into a little ball, Deeper, deeper, You start to fall. It’s your pain, It’s your shit, With only one answer, You have to deal with it. Hoping tomorrow Brings a better day. Too scared to talk, Who listens anyway? Safest place for doubt Is to leave it locked inside. To admit you’re falling apart Leaves you battling with your pride. So, the strain remains invisible; No one knows you’re depressed, Because it’s easier to pretend all is OK, Than to admit your world’s a mess. If any of this applies to you, And you want to fall no more, Anxiety won’t start to go away, Until you unlock that door…

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Balloon Street Elizabeth Gibson

I see it most mornings stretching up and away and it is empty now, lonely – but oh, its name. One day, I will buy balloons, a big bunch, and overcome my fear of them long enough to have someone take a photo from six feet of me posing below the sign for Balloon Street. With armfuls of colour, trying witty and cute, I will give this sad city a one-photo shoot. Who will take it, though? Someone who cares about Balloon Street and me. They must be out there.

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The Sweetest Pill Christopher Walker

I’m standing in my laboratory, a basement space that I rent on a busy street in London, I’d best not say where, and I’m staring out at the rain, the drizzle coming down, like it often does this time of year. The road is slick. There’s bound to be an accident soon. I hope there won’t be, but I know it’s inevitable and there’s another part of me that needs it to happen, terrible that it is to admit. The window is small, but it permits enough light for me to carry out my experiments, and I can see enough of the street beyond to know when something happens. It’s because of the bike path that bad things happen. Some drivers won’t accept that cyclists need their own space, so they drift too far over to the side, running them off the road and into the trees. Last week a delivery driver stopped on the curb opposite, and the door opened right in front of a cyclist powering down the street. He catapulted over, there was an awful commotion, and an ambulance had to be called. That would have been the perfect opportunity, but I hadn’t been ready for it, and now I’m waiting. There’s a box of pills on the desk to my right. They are the fruit of my labours, the work that I have committed my life to and upon which my career hinges. Tiny little things, these sweetest pills, purple and hexagon shaped, like snowflakes I suppose you might say. Five years I’ve devoted to them, and they’re a massive leap forward, but the initial tests I’ve conducted only involved rats, not humans. I’ll test the pills on myself if it comes to it, but I’ve not yet reached that stage of desperation. The rain is getting heavier. It seems to come down in curtains, sweeping from the right, and there’s no escape from it even if you’re hiding under an umbrella. I don’t know why people venture out in this weather, but they have to. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. I’m reminded of Barry Marshall. You know the story. He believed that the Helicobacter pylori bacterium caused peptic ulcers, but when he couldn’t get his research published for lack of evidence, he drank a batch of the bacteria himself and proved the connection first-hand. He was rightly rewarded for his sacrifice with the Nobel prize. I’d be willing to follow in the venerable Australian’s footsteps, but they don’t award the Nobel posthumously, so I’d much rather receive credit for my work by old-fashioned means. By now you must be wondering what’s so special about the sweetest pills that I’ve devised, and yes, I will tell you. They are a panacea, a cure-all for those caught close to death. It sweetens the process, it

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takes the pain away, and, most valuably of all, it provides the emergency services with additional time in which to save the victim. If you’re hurt badly in an accident, just slip one of these into your mouth, take a bite to release the active ingredient, and wait in a comfortable purple haze for the paramedics to get to you. True, I have yet to find a willing test subject for the pill, and it seems only to work with those who have a sufficiently elevated heart rate and weakened vital signs. I fed it to numerous rats, and only those who were on the point of death responded at all. Don’t ask me what I did to bring those rats to such a condition. It isn’t a pleasant memory. I’ll edit that part out of my life story, or the biographers will when they hear of me. But it isn’t fame and fortune that I seek. No scientist worthy of the name would ever do that. Progress is our goal, and progress too our great reward. Imagine the ways in which life would improve for the common man if the fear of a painful death could be ameliorated. That is what motivates me. If only those at the university, my erstwhile peers and colleagues, could have seen sense, I wouldn’t be fighting the good fight on my own in this dank basement, watching the rain, hoping somebody gets hit by a car. Still the rain comes down. I’ve hardly slept in days. All of my time has been taken up with waiting. The rain in London lasts for weeks at a time, I’m fortunate of that at least, but in the rain, it seems the cyclists are taking extra precautions, and there have been so few reckless drivers. I won’t ever find a test subject at this rate. Ah – what’s this I see? A cyclist without a helmet on, and what’s even better, he’s chattering away on a mobile phone. And coming the other way, a taxi, crawling along slowly as the driver looks for the right door. The driver in the car behind him is becoming impatient, and unbelievable though it surely is he looks like he’s about to attempt an overtaking. I must act quickly – not to prevent the catastrophe that I see unfurling before my very eyes, but to capitalise on it. In the name of science. I grab the pills. I’m already in my raincoat and boots, I have been for days, waiting for just this opportunity. As I race upstairs and to the front door, I imagine the squeal of the tyres desperately trying for traction, I picture the shocked expressions of the bystanders, and the howl of the brakes – too late! – reverberates down the street. And I will be there, to administer the sweetest pill to the cyclist. He doesn’t know it yet, but I’m about to save his life. I’m not even looking as I run out into the street to pull his prone body from the bike lane and onto the grass verge. The rain is coming down at an angle and I can’t see anything through my glasses. It’s so wet. It’s hard to keep from slipping over on the asphalt. Where is that cyclist? He should be lying in a heap right here, past the smashed front of the car that hit him, but I can’t see anything, it’s almost as if there hasn’t been an accident at all. Suddenly I hear the screeching, but it’s coming from the wrong side of the road. Whatever it is, it hits me on my left side, my ribs must have been crushed immediately, and as I fly through the air in the rain, I can feel already that my lungs have ceased their operation. I’ve lost my vision in one eye, my legs are travelling in contrary directions, the arm that I struck out protectively against the collision has crumpled. It’s a wonder that I’m still able to clutch the box with the sweetest pills. It’s a wonder that I can take one of those pills between my bloodied fingers and reach it up and into my mouth. It’s a wonder that I can bite down on the pill at all. Have I still any teeth left? But I know I’m successful because a wondrous purple blanket now drapes itself over the world and there’s no more pain. I’ll be all right like this until the paramedics arrive.

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If I survive, there might just be a prize for me after all. Strange though, that nothing is moving. Hovering in front of me, like dazzling crystals, the raindrops sit suspended. I admire a drop of blood on my twisted arm, a white protuberance halfway down where I suppose my elbow should be, and I see the drop wait and wait and wait, never dropping as it should. This is not as it should be. I feel as strong as an ox, though I cannot move a muscle and my eyes cannot even manage a blink. The rain crystals are still right where they were. I’m frozen. Time is frozen. Or is it? I’m forgetting myself as a scientist. I should investigate the phenomenon, working from the hypothesis that something in the sweetest pill has caused this, this freezing of time. First, I should count, one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, like that, and see if anything has changed… I’ve counted to a million and the world is as it was. I’m still here, though. I’m still alive. And I have the brain of a scientist, still fully operational. There must be something I can do, and if there is nothing I can do, I can at least think. By my estimation two weeks have now passed. The rain crystals still hover before my eyes. Is it me who has frozen, or the whole world? Surely that is not a possibility worth entertaining. Does this event lend credence to the supposition, widely supported, that all life is one great simulation? Have I crashed the software? It is at least a year since the sweetest pill took effect. Still nothing has moved. It is tiresome work, always thinking, thinking, nobody else in this head of mine but me and the sound of that distant laughter, also mine, and nearer to hand the sobbing that I cannot control, also mine, and now I’m being haunted by the memories of my life, since I have only memories to keep me company they have staged a kind of coup d’état and they think they run the place, but it is not they who are in charge but I, I think therefore I am, oh no, that’s all it is, I have been reduced to a thinking machine, with no observable output, so what’s the point? Oh god make it stop.

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Cabaret Nights ML Sund

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Seventh Ave., the night settles in Purple sky, black limo sin You arrive, can’t hide my desire Waitin’ all night, sets me on fire Our cabaret nights, babe Cabaret nights Underground groove, the band plays late Shirt and tie, velvet rooms wait The lights go out, our drinks run dry Exit stage left, now we burn high Tigress, black dress Kiss me deep You caught me now I’m yours to keep Our cabaret nights, yeah Cabaret nights You never told me why you come Your double life, you’re on the run Sinners, beggars, all the same Downtown train and a little game Who’re you now, black swan or dove? Monday is years away my love

B Line, D Line, girls call tonight Music pulses, red blue light Le Chat Noir, sit close my kitten Coco Chanel, wanna breathe you in Tigress, black dress Kiss me deep You caught me now I’m yours to keep Cabaret nights, hun Cabaret nights Don’t leave me now, the smoke is thick Kiss me, light me, candle’s wick The train can wait It’s not too late Keep me tight in your arms tonight Tigress, black dress Kiss me deep You caught me now I’m yours to keep Cabaret nights, cabaret nights Kitty’s callin’, cabaret nights

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An eerie feeling, A presence I cannot explain. Eucalyptus breezes my bedroom Like airborne jewels. A coppery twilight unravels With greetings of thin gold. Ripples of glitter form a young man… He sips shines of light, His love saturates my soul.

Lifting The Veil Geraldine Douglas

A passage to a familiar realm, Where Hummingbirds feast on elixirs of nectar. I inhale my first true breath! He walks with me, I feel threaded with astral silk A ribbon of silver attaches our spirits As he grips my hand. I hear… a hypnotic brook, We soak in its sounds. Swan’s wings, flapping on ocean’s petticoats. Fishing boats float on orange cinder As Blackbird’s notes pitch low, Then high, to a shrilled finale. My whole being, leadened once again… Deprived of peace, not belonging. Senses heightened still. Blue Tit chicks crackle-crack their porcelain snugs, Dewdrops drip from Bluebell’s indigo rim. I hear seeds being blown by flurries, Each separate, weightless, They kiss the ground…and awaken With sweet music to beautifully bloom. A movement of art. A miracle in this toxic world, We dishonour Nature…yet, Florets share aromas, heal, Our shivering air dreams of crystalized peace. My soul has seen a universe of beauty Where silence nurtures And Love gleams violet smiles. Based on recollections of an actual event. Dedicated to my son, David, who passed on 1st January 2003. and all bereaved parents.

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The Neighbour’s Fish Lynn White

The neighbours had asked her to feed their fish. They were going on a short holiday. It sounded straightforward, should have been straightforward. “But I overfed it,” she said, “and it burst open, exploded all over the place.” She looked glum. “But that wasn’t the worst of it. Next thing is the dog’s eaten it. And that wasn’t the end of it, next thing is he started to be sick, just puked it up all over their carpet.” She looked glum. “The carpet’s wrecked,” she said.

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Ode to Covid Carers Steve Douglas

To intensive care and virus wards each day in every town they make their way. Caring souls, disguised in blue and white, to fight against the Covid blight. Shift after shift, through light and night Brothers and sisters of mercy face up to our plight. Masked, shielded, smocked and booted lonely, fearful, solely commuted on the near empty bus and tram where no-one speaks or gives a damn. So worried they may pass on this bug to those at home they dearly love. Many plot up in hostels and hotels, exhausted in a room that feels like a cell. Restlessly waiting to return to the hell, of wheezing coughing comatose souls, whose lives hang under God’s control. Mothers, Fathers, from Bolton to Cannes, Uncles, Aunties, Grandads and Grans. Sitting ducks for an invisible killer, waiting for help from the Governing tiller.

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Mavis, fifty, knows all their names, has no regrets from when she became a carer who sings and gives pale cheeks a tweak trains young Alice who’s been there two weeks. They play Bingo and Chairobics with laughs a plenty as each dawn sees another chair empty. Carry on with a plastic apron and a pathetic mask risking all to perform their tasks, all the management can do is continue to ask. Politicians who have cultivated a mortal sin and consigned our old folk to the recycling bin. Ordinary people who deserve all the praise weekly applause? No, just PPE and a raise. Posties, Farmers, Busmen and Food makers, Supermarket workers, Butchers and Bakers, Coppers, Binmen, Drivers and Foodbank folk keep this septic country from going broke. Squaddies are helping to get us all tested so isolation shackles may be lifted. Until then, lockdown breakers like Westminster Bridge stay home you fools with your overloaded fridge. Was it you who bought all the gel and bog rolls? Should get your collars felt by the numpty patrol. One day in the future, if we are still here, we will look back to this time and our greatest fears, judging whether fat cats came before compassion, or economic worries outweighed oxygen rations. Failure to plan and stock up for a pandemic scene, voted down Nurses pay to cheers from the mean. Decade of healthcare cuts and shaming disabled, We’re all in it together is just another fable. So, will those ‘in charge’ face the fallout? For them, there should be no hideout. Will Boris pull out some of his blonde locks? It’s up to us at the next Ballot Box.

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The Children of The Serpent Christopher Laverty

Gales are gathering around your towers that lie crumbling – bolted gates and doors seem poised, the stained-glass windows restless rattle – yet to revelry they’re lost – deaf to the distant rumbling – children of the serpent – born of warriors once formed for battle. Leafless trees – whose boughs in frost are bound – you upwards reach the skies in frozen supplication – grey these days are where of late only weeds bestrew the soundless wilderness. No birds arise – warbling at dawn to rouse the landscape dull and desolate. Steadfast knights within still standing, silent in the gloom yet ready – though now looming statues – yet your oath of duty knows not death; would you stir from dreams unbroken, stir to meet this present eddy? Would to see your fallen children give your marble warmth and breath? Ancient house secluded – these gold-fringed tapestries your deeds narrate – splendid halls were warmed by roaring fires of myth, while you would dine over tables boasting banquets rich; to lutes and lyres you ate – then round Eastern carpets spun from silk raise chalices of wine. You have tumbled to decay – a family line degenerate; blind with idle words of fork-tongued flattery they cannot see – lured by ease and sweet temptation’s taste they shun the temperate and sensation seek – with eyes that reel in frenzied ecstasy. Shaken house – frail-shouldering these unchained elements – below villagers would hear unholy shrieks come piercing through the night; fearful of their feudal lords they pale and terrified would grow with unutterable secrets that would give the dead affright.

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Where are your children, silent knights? To fields and hills they’re gone, there in orgies of sensation revelling; down pathless days they have strayed. A kingdom rich with fruits forbidden they have won – late beneath the moon with songs and dance carousing in a craze. But the distant murmurs of unresting heavens passed unheard, while in pleasures lost they heeded not. Nor heed they now the cry of advancing blasts and hail – the trumpet calls of nature spurred – whose pealings tell the tempest is at hand – and cannot lie. In these walls retreated they; with fantastic masquerades they divert themselves; among the statues of their mighty dead – ancestors honoured long and far – they solace find; by colonnades – filled with monuments from glory days – their fantasies are fed – but now midnight strikes – above a crack of rolling thunder rings – motionless – at games and quaint amusements they no more contrive; every bolted door and stained-glass window sudden open flings, as they shudder with an inward chill to see the storm arrive – then a violent tremor shakes the earth – the walls and towers quake – cracks appear and widen round the halls – foundations undulate – tapestries disintegrate in flames while lavish mirrors break – as the building trembles with a certainty that tells its fate. Yet they cannot flee – forever more – for they have turned to stone – statues now they are – frozen their faces as the ceilings fall; lightning strikes – the building falters with a deep and primal groan – then collapsing on the children of the serpent buries all.

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The Eye of The Perfect Storm Alice Chudes

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This is the point of no return. Life as you know it, gone. Covid corpses to ashes burn. Nothing that’s done Can be now undone! This is the point of no return. Life as you know it, finished. What lies ahead, can you say? We all feel smaller, diminished. We aren’t likely to travel in May. This is the point of no return. Everyone tries to survive, Be it a wolf or a man, No one wants to forfeit one’s life. Everyone wishes to breathe Time and time again. This is the point of no return. The storm is upon us. We go through a rough patch. How long can we stand on our own? How far can we last? This is the point of no return. 2020, the eye of the perfect storm: We are trapped, helpless, inside. Everything that was once the norm Should be from now put on the side. This is the point of no return. We hear the thunder as the bubble bursts. The eye of the storm is such That everyone simply ignores What’s truly happening inside the crunch. This is the point of no return. We came unprepared, without a cushion. Our hospitals, doctors cannot withstand Perfect storm’s repercussions, Which as a tsunami go worldwide!

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Glitter in The Cider Josh Oldridge

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It was like nothing Matt had experienced before. The number of tents had doubled overnight and during early morning, and were now crammed into every space possible in a riotous sea of colour. It looked like the photographs of Brazilian hillside favelas, still fresh in his memory from textbooks he’d studied for secondary school Geography, with flags high above them like hostile warnings – only, these ones were decorated with symbols of love and fads. After a breakfast platter devoid of colour – a Ryvita slice, half a packet of cheese and onion crisps, a handful of raisins, and a swig of rum each, they picked up twenty cans of cider before leaving camp – four each, tasked with sneaking them into the arena. On the way, two of the girls decided to visit a van lining their camping area to buy a fresh cold pint. “Oh wow!” said one of them, stumbling into the other. “Tastes like Vikings.” The girls wore blue denim shorts that seemed too short, sunglasses, peculiar little smirks and patterns of glitter and star sequins across their cheeks. “Try some.” The girls offered the cider to Matt’s girlfriend. “Eurgh,” said Rochelle. The girls laughed. “Here, you try some, Matt.” One of the girls offered it to Matt, who could feel the eyes on him and answered quickly, “Mmm. I can practically taste the longboats.” The girls laughed. He felt good about it for a moment, but then a waft of weed, burnt disposable barbeque food, and urine drifted towards him, and he felt sad. They were ambling beside other groups along dirt tramlines between the tents. Some of the wilder ones had encroached onto the tramlines, woke up and came out of their tents with their shirts off, shouting things like, “Feels good to be alive”. These people didn’t mind that their homes for the weekend would be kicked during evening busy periods and destroyed by the end of the weekend; they had no intentions of sleep. Mist curled up around the metal perimeter fence in the distance where it met woodland, while campfire smoke sent little plumes spiralling into the air, again, as in those favela photos, only this was England, and this was by choice. It seemed crazy, but people had paid two-hundred pounds to be here for four days. What was even crazier was that – after only a month together – Rochelle had coerced Matt into doing the same. As they neared the queues leading to the arena, Matt watched as the girls put their cider cans inside their big waterproofs, down trouser legs, or even down the backs of wellies for those whose were many sizes too big. He shoved his into the pockets of his thin waterproof coat, kept his hands around them, and hunched over to conceal the bulges. They had their festival wristbands checked by volunteers and then security – men with tattooed biceps half-exposed by rolled up short-sleeved shirts, and women who did nothing but frown; eyeing up the festival-goers and selecting those they wanted to pat down. Matt stayed hunched over, trying not to look across to the other lines where Rochelle and her already drunk friends had spread out, and approached. One of the security men flexed his arm as he beckoned Matt forward. “Arms out,” he said. Matt released the cans and held out his arms. His eyes darted around the dry ground in panic as his pockets sagged from the cans. The security man patted the tops and bottoms of his arms and then his ribs and for a moment Matt expected him to come down further and pat his midriff where the cans lay. In that instant, he wanted to be back in a quiet classroom studying those favela pictures from a distance of many thousands of miles, and not in a wide-open field where people were doing strange things. But there were so many people to check through the gates that the security man had to move on quickly. He turned a leg out to let Matt through and beckoned the next person. Matt’s ears pinned back from the shock and thrill of making the safe passage. To his amazement, they all got through. They reconvened on the other side, immediately opened cans, and stomped over the hard-packed

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mud towards the stage under the big top which already had people spilling out from under. They pushed through a little bit, but soon hit a solid wall of human backs. Matt’s hands were sweaty. He wanted to take Rochelle’s but couldn’t risk embarrassment; so he held his first can with both hands, fidgeting with it as though twisting a pepper grinder, and put on a smile. At first, the music didn’t make sense. It sounded so different from the band’s records; worse. Sometimes the guitars were too loud or not loud enough, and people jumped everywhere and bumped into the girls and Matt. Sometimes a used pint cup flew overhead and they got doused in warm beer or urine. “They’re so good,” Rochelle leaned in and shouted. “What?” Matt replied. “The band – they’re so good.” Matt’s eyes were wide. In the large red tent bulging bright with midday heat, everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. Not just in their group, but the entire crowd. One of the girls who’d bought the Viking pint took out a strange little piece of paper with stuff wrapped in and ate it. Lots of other people in the tent were doing the same. Matt just sipped from his can of cider, at first, but as the songs kept coming he drank quicker and quicker and was soon almost done with can number two. This was the first gig of a weekend-full. At last the lead singer said, “This is gonna be our last song.” The crowd booed, then clapped, and someone shouted excessively loudly, “I hate you!” followed by, “I love you so fucking much,” which made all the band members laugh. When the first chord of the last song was struck, the crowd went into disarray. People cheered and pushed, the lights went crazy, the band went crazy, and the volume of beer and urine flying through the air quadrupled. “Come on,” said Rochelle. The rest of the group were either piling towards the stage or lost somewhere in the crowd. Rochelle took Matt by the hand and dragged him through. It had seemed impossible, but the air was even thicker and smellier near the front, and people were being bounced around overhead. “Come on,” shouted one of the girls, smiling in her sunglasses. “Where are we going now?” “No, come on!” She lifted his hands and pushed him and started jumping so he’d follow. When more sunglasses were pointed his way, Matt moved his feet just a little bit. “Woo!” screamed Rochelle. “Woo,” said Matt, trying to fit in. Then he realised no one could really hear him. He felt as though he was going red, but the canvas of the big top was also red and shone over everyone. He said it again, louder. And again, this time yelling. Some of the girls started laughing while jumping. Matt started jumping too. Then someone pushed him, hard, but he didn’t fall over; instead he felt the bustle of people around him vanish. He was suddenly released, free; revelling in the raw music, watching the condensed sweat drip down from the high peak of the tent. The moment lasted only a second or two, but he found it difficult to stop thinking about afterwards. Then – bosh! – a guy smacked him in the arm and ran off, smiling. The impact spun him around and he realised a loose circle of space – a mosh pit – had opened up, and he was the centrepiece. More people aimed for him but he dodged one, two, then escaped to the side, only to be pushed straight back in by a stranger. It felt aggressive and rude, but almost everyone was smiling or smirking or singing their lungs out. The band paused for a moment before the final chorus, and then exploded into life again and the pit got flooded. Matt was swept away by the crowd. Strangers now surrounded him, but they wore expressions like friends. Some of them had sunglasses on, too. He shouted even though the music wasn’t

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what he’d expected. He danced. He jumped. He contributed to the sweat dripping from the big top. The hot and humid atmosphere made it difficult to breathe, so it was still something of a relief when the band left the stage. Moderate filler music replaced the disproportionately loud bass and the stage crew scurried on to change sets for the next band. Matt swept a clump of sweaty hair away from his eyes and looked across to where he thought he’d been, but the group was not there, so he made to leave the tent. Then a girl from their clan bumped his side. “Fucking immense!” Matt smiled and nodded. “Where are the others?” She said she didn’t know. It was still busy as they aimed for the band of sunlight running all around the bottom of the big tent. Matt took off his coat and held it in one hand. The girl grabbed his other arm so they wouldn’t separate. Some of the crowd were still reeling, and some were pushing further inside for the next gig. Matt and his girlfriend’s friend almost broke apart. She moved down and held his hand. Matt’s eyes shot wide open. He looked down. Then he looked at her, but her sunglasses were pointed elsewhere, and she was singing quietly along to the filler music with a placid expression. He smiled and tried to protect them from being bumped too much as they waded through. Outside, the pale blue sky made bold outlines of blotchy clouds. They located the rest of the group, who were stumbling and shouting on the lumpy grass. “We asked the kind man over at the bar –” “The kindest man in the world,” said Rochelle. “The kindest man in the world, and he gave us empty cups! Can you believe that? Can you believe how kind that is?” One of the girls gave Matt a cup. “Pour your can in there, we’re going to the main stage now,” said Rochelle. “I fucking love Wolf Alice!” screamed one of the girls. “Here you go – here you go – here you go.” One of the girls was going around topping up everyone’s cider with vodka from a small bottle she’d sneaked in. “Thanks,” said Matt. The girl pouring looked up at him. “Oh dear. Immy will attend to your glitter requirements.” She smiled and shouted over her shoulder in a playful tone, “Oh, Imogen!” Imogen came over and glittered him, and then sprinkled some into his cup. “So you’ll continue to sparkle from within.” He looked into the cup. “Would you like a bomb of MD, too?” asked Imogen. She held out one of those small parcels of paper. “No,” Matt said. “Thank you very much, though.” “Not yet?” “Not yet,” he said. As they wandered and danced their way to the main stage, some of the group broke off in fits off laughter. One fell to the ground. Matt and Rochelle were hand in hand. “What’s going on?” asked Rochelle. “What he said,” one of the laughing girls replied. “‘Hmm, I can bloody taste the longboats,’ or something. We all loved that!” From a distance, above the food stalls, henna tents, gazebo bars, little stages, and thousands and thousands of people, a powerful chord struck from soundcheck on the main stage. Matt slung an arm around Rochelle’s shoulder and kissed her on the neck, which made her nose crinkle with happiness. The cider, vodka, and glitter sloshed together in his cup and reflected bits of sunlight every time he went to drink some.

Scrittura Magazine / 27

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The Portal of Thomas Wolsey Peter George

Look at Henry and his wives, First he would strike old Catherine out. Beware the cardinal. He could not please the king, Who wanted a divorce as soon as coins could fly. The coal has vanished from Ipswich Docks, Where barges are now rare among the yachts that came along, The docks no longer mentioned in the town of the butcher’s son. Failure embraced a prince of the church And a sword decapitated Anne. We can sympathise with divorces made in anger, And consent to be a witness of the rage and breaking down. The catastrophic breaking down that we have felt, Where coal is king and queen and underfed and screaming With the fantoms of the fever’s skin and bones That burn with their desires guts and ribs and apple tarts. If coins could talk, they might say, Throughout the highest heaven of the mouse And the lowest dungeon of the rat, Move on and leave behind the prince of the church Who failed to heat his palace-pride and candlelight With coal and wind and love and the politics of divorce. The College of Saint Mary does not exist behind the gate. Henry arrested Thomas and the school was abandoned Beside the church. That bears Saint Peter’s name and Saint Peter’s roof, Beneath the skies that pass above the traffic And lose and cannot find Divorce procedures and examination blues And the remembering of coal, And miners’ lives that spent their lungs upon the pits.

Scrittura Magazine / 29

Spectacle Ed Blundell

At the optician’s, for an eye test, Rows of glasses blindly stare, Peering blankly through plain lenses, Framed in silver, gold and black. Flattened ellipses, squares and circles, Eerie, empty, staring windows. Sightless observers look and stare. Curious, they watch me waiting, Watch me, watching them, watching me.

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Timescale Lynn White

We see the sights, gawp at the spectacles, go on expensive excursions to view them. We have forgotten that they were built to subdue us, to shock and awe make us feel small and insignificant, to know our place in the scheme of things. But we take for granted the everyday enormities, the skyscrapering giants of utilitarianism towering over our Lilliputian selves. We have long ceased to wonder, to be impressed by their scale. We play our games, and live our lives under their shadows, and we don’t even see them. It doesn’t matter our subjugation is complete.

Scrittura Magazine / 31


CALLING FOR SUBMISSIONS! We are looking for prose, poetry and scripts to publish in our online literary magazine. Deadline: July 31st 2020 Enquiries/Submissions: Please visit our website for our submissions guidelines: @scrittura.magazine @scritturamag @scrittura_mag


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