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Issue number 10 Winter 2017


Scrittura Magazine © Copyright 2017 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 www.scritturamagazine.tumblr.com EDITOR: Valentina Terrinoni EDITOR: Yasmin Rahman DESIGNER / ILLUSTRATOR: Catherine Roe SOCIAL MEDIA ASSISTANT: Melis Anik WEB: www.scritturamagazine.tumblr.com EMAIL: scrittura.magazine@gmail.com TWITTER: @Scrittura_Mag FACEBOOK: scritturamag


In This Issue 06 07 08 16 17 18 21 22 24 26

What Will Helen Mort Make of This? Paul Waring The Sea Annie Maclean Decisions James Bell The Marital Bed David Campbell Up a Tree Paul Waring Teller Paige Lyman Tempus Fugitive Ed Blundell Hero Worship Anthony McIntyre Lovers Angelica Krikler Backyard Terror David Campbell

28 32 33 34 40 42 43 49

Did I Say That Out Loud? Kylie Whitehead

50 52

Boudicca Angelica Krikler

Sofa Olympics Paul Waring Dear The Seeker Phoenix Macbean The Dogfight James Linton Bunny Angelica Krikler Solitude Ed Blundell A White Lie Ileen Younan Ideas About Journeys to be Taken James Bell

Balancing Act James Bell


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A Note From The Editors Welcome to the Winter issue of Scrittura Magazine! Not just an ordinary Winter issue, but issue 10! Scrittura is 10 issues old, how amazing! We’re thrilled with the progress we’ve made since we launched two years ago and are excited to see where we’re going to go in the future. We have some beautiful poetry, as always, with something to fit your every mood. If you’re looking for something humorous, try ‘Sofa Olympics’ (pg 32). For something romantic, try ‘The Marital Bed’ (pg 16). And for something scary, give ‘Backyard Terror’ (pg 26) a read. As for prose, we have a wonderful and thoughtprovoking story about friendship juxtaposed with a brutal sport, in ‘The Dogfight’ (pg 34) and one about the consequences of bending the truth – ‘A White Lie’ (pg 43). This issue’s cover art is inspired by ‘The Sea’, (pg 7). A massive thank you to everyone who submitted to us for this issue, and to those of you who have interacted with us on social media. We love hearing your thoughts on how we’re doing and how we can improve so do look out for us on all social media platforms. We continue to have a rolling submissions system, but the current deadline is January 31st 2018. As always, a huge thanks to Catherine, our brilliant designer and Melis, our wonderful social media assistant. Happy new year from all of us at Scrittura!

Valentina & Yasmin

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What Will Helen Mort Make of This? Paul Waring Girl on Northern Line. Pink plaits, black Stussy dungarees, polka-dot umbrella. The camera of my eyes clocked you get on at Chalk Farm and clicked away. Me, style warrior, Depp beard, autumn amber curls, tried to catch half-eaten red velvet cupcake that fell from your hand as we lurched to a halt between Angel and Old Street. I frowned when yellow-hair guy with matching teeth (carelessly) trod it into the carriage floor. As you got off, my attention system froze with an imprinted image of your face. I fear I’m the latest victim of a Rush-Hour Crush. My ego and internal saboteur are now at odds about what Helen Mort will write if she reads this.


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The Sea Annie Maclean In the summer in good weather we walk around the seaside harbour. The sea is salty. Its sparkles scatter. The sunshine makes its surface glitter. Once I saw a little otter swimming by to reach the river through the wavey, shiny water. The sea is gleaming. It looks silver. The moon and stars will swim there later.

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DECISIONS James Bell


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‘Take me back toooo Vienna,’ the drunk sings to himself, crooning to the empty street and the darkened windows of surrounding buildings. It’s two o’clock in the morning. He does not see me as I stand and smoke in a dark doorway. He would not see anybody, even in plain sight, so absorbed is he in his alcohol driven abandon. ‘Take me back toooo Vienna,’ he repeats. Drink has made him forget the rest of the song, or the lyric and tune is only some distant memory of a better time. We all have them. He does a slow dance in the middle of the road, arms held as if he’s dancing with a partner, perhaps a memory of a beautiful woman he once knew. Maybe not. The to of the phrase seems to extend further each time he sings it, as if trying to fill in for the missing words. It becomes a plaintive wail as if he is in pain, his drug of choice beginning to wear off. It occurs to me that the rest of this operatic refrain might not exist. We are both what I remember somebody once called ‘urban Bedouin’, people who, without any apparent destination, aimlessly

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wander the night time streets of towns and cities while most people sleep. It is wet. The rain has stopped. The drunk has stopped singing and moving. He has reached a junction where to continue he must turn right or left. As part of the decision making process he hauls out his penis and has a long luxurious piss in the road. The sound of urine as it flows onto the surface of the road echoes like a brief rushing stream. Finished, he exhales a great sigh of relief, zips himself up and walks to the left with some purpose, song and dance routine forgotten. As I watch him exit stage left I light another cigarette from the stub of the last one and walk in the opposite direction. He has made his decision and now I make mine. If an old drunk can sort out his life just like that, then so can I. After walking to the end of the street, I stop. It is also a T-junction, same as the drunk was faced with. I don’t need a pee though. I’ve had a few drinks, well, a lot, but don’t sing, never sing; I tend to become morose. The fresh early morning air has already refreshed me. Like the last living soul I’ve seen, I turn left. I am now on Leith Walk, the main thoroughfare between the city of Edinburgh and its once separate port; the latter now gentrified with wine bars, restaurants and old warehousing become posh loft apartments. Notice I say apartments and not the more bland word, flats. This long wide road probably got its name because most people did what I am doing. I’m walking in the Edinburgh direction and away from Janine in her own cosy little one bedroom flat. Now I’m footloose and fancy free, an expression that she herself had used the other night. ‘This is it, Drew, final warning, or you’re out, footloose and fancy free.’ I wasn’t acting dumb when I asked her what she meant. I just didn’t get it. ‘You know fine well. I’m fed up with you coming back in the early hours stinking of booze and still wanting tae party. I’m tired after a day’s work and you should be as well. It’s not often I’ve a night off when we could be together. I’d like us tae be together, like we wanted, but that could change quick and depends on you. Capiche?’ The words were clearer now as my fug lifted. I could see the impasse; our relationship could never recover. Perhaps this realisation hit home when I went back to the flat and found my two suitcases and backpack outside on the landing. A defining moment is also a blow to the heart when a final scene in your life draws to a conclusion. I search for my flat key on the bunch I carry and find it gone. She had taken it the night before while I slept. It has clearly been planned as well as any action I have ever been in, coldly and with precision, all emotion removed. Could I blame her? I don’t think so. I shrug again, as I did on sighting my stuff. This time I accept the change in my life. As an ex-soldier, change is normal to me. I decide to leave my stuff where


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it is, as I need to travel light for the time being. She will take it all back inside otherwise the neighbours will draw the right conclusions, having been an audio audience to our arguments and make ups. There is no doubt I have finally crossed the line. My plan is to get under cover where I can sit or lie down and have a few hours’ kip. I decide to make for Waverley Station in town. When the station buffet opens I can get breakfast, hang around, then get a bus out to work at Corstorphine. This was part of my resettlement package. Soldier with no family who decides to leave the only family he has ever known, so I get money, a bedsit and a job. The job is still there, still mine, part of a new family that happens to be the Scottish HQ of a supermarket chain where I work in its administration doing stock control manifests on a computer screen instead of looking through a rifle sight. I’ve got that, though it bores me to shit, but gives me money so I can now find a new place to live. Janine is a barmaid; that’s where I met her, made her laugh and asked her out. She gets offers like that all the time, calls it a professional hazard, with guys getting the wrong idea when she smiles and chats with them – lonely ones like me. What she saw in me I don’t know. Vulnerability, she said when I asked her once, a description I still don’t understand. Waverley is as it always is. There is always mechanical noise, mostly of trains, less at this time of the morning, goods more than passenger traffic. I find a bench on the main concourse where the ticket offices are and feel grateful I am able to sit at last. I am tired from the night, its outcome, the walk and most of all selfreflection, so fall instantly asleep, legs out, and head slumped forward on my chest. ‘Are you alright, sir?’ The question jars me awake. Soldiers are used to sleeping anywhere in odd positions so I feel refreshed, though with a sore head and a crick in my neck. It’s a railway copper talking to me, one of those with a tall helmet job. ‘OK thanks,’ I say, noncommittal. He looks at me without speaking further, obviously assessing me. I will appear a bit rough and unshaved but dressed in a relatively respectable manner. I still wear the tie I wear for work, though there is no dress code that says I have to. ‘Thrown you out, sir? Has she?’ he asks. ‘Yes. How did you know?’ I respond automatically, surprised. ‘You get to know the signs. The buffet’s open now if you want breakfast. Shaving tackle at the kiosk over there, disposable stuff. Ex-forces?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You know the drill then. Don’t make a habit of sleeping here though.’ With

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that he leaves me to it. I follow his instructions. First I breakfast at the station buffet. An all day breakfast fry up and a mug of black coffee with three sugars is not the healthiest of grub to start the day but it does the trick. Over a second coffee I make my plans for the day ahead. Wash, shave and general freshen up then bus out to work. Simple. The kiosk sells small transparent bags of shaving kit and a similar bag with a small tube of toothpaste and a folding brush. Obviously these are designed to be taken on planes but can do trains too. The wheels of commerce have to be oiled even with little convenient items like this. After use they fit neatly into my jacket pockets. I’ll get an early edition of the Evening News after work and see what’s going in the way of bedsits. Maybe I should try and stay off the booze for the next few days when all this is going down. On the top deck of a bus boarded on Princes Street, the constant bulk of the castle on its rock slipping away as I trundle out to the suburbs, I begin to reflect on the last twenty-four hours. Janine gives me the silent treatment that morning as I stagger up, get breakfast and watch some tele with a cracking hangover. I fear my drinking habit, developed and refined in the forces, will never leave me. I can almost see what’s coming but can’t stop. She must have packed my stuff that morning after I had left; probably very neatly, Marcus, dear boozing buddy Marcus, wanted me to go with him to a malt whisky tasting in Leith, some association he belonged to, and stupid Drew says yes. We work late as the company does flexitime for staff. Then bus round Edinburgh and along the coast at Granton to Leith. I know Janine is on a late shift so can play hooky with impunity. Marcus never gets drunk and I can’t work it out. He’s a big bloke, so maybe has more room to soak it all up. We eat fish and chips. It’s three weeks into the month and both of us are pretty skint until payday. We go into this discrete building through a vennel, an old but solid place that looks like it’s steeped in history. They are usually on the cool side and smell of polish and old leather like this one does. We enter a room filled with men on the north side of forty, some dressed in kilts. There are no women. Marcus is greeted like a lost son, though he was here a month ago. He, like me, is still on the south side of forty. I am introduced as a friend from work and welcomed warmly. Some ask me about my nose for whisky and my background in the army; in turn they talk about their own experiences, many of them old soldiers of some rank. Several small wooden kegs rest on trestles on the surface of a highly polished, large and very old oak table. I feel warmth from a sense of male camaraderie that I usually find in pubs. Somebody in charge draws the meeting together and says what’s on offer in the kegs. These whiskies are expressions from Speyside distilleries. It’s not


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the kind of stuff you buy in an off-license or sink down your throat with a chaser in a bar. No, this is the fine wine of the whisky world. A guest is introduced, an expert on Speyside malt whiskies who will speak before we are allowed a taste in a thimble sized glass. Each mini-talk seems to last forever and each thimbleful welcome with wide and wonderful tastes, notes, aromas. I become warmer inside too with malt along with the general bonhomie. This is all suddenly over when we’ve done the tastings and orders are taken. Marcus indulges; he earns more than me. We are offered a wee snifter from a bottled version of a Speyside malt. No blends are ever allowed here. I could still be home before Janine gets home that night, still reasonably sober. Marcus, sensible man, tells me he is going home now and says cheerio, see you tomorrow. I head off with the best of intentions; it’s not a long walk. Then the noise of friendly banter comes from the open door of a pub I’m passing and I wheel myself in with a big smile on my face. The rest, as they say, is history. It’s early when I arrive at work and there are only a few scattered early birds already hard at work before their screens, cup of coffee to hand beside the mouse mat. I reach my desk, park my jacket over the book of my swivel chair and before I sit down an office oracle calls me: ‘Clarke said he wanted to see you in his office as soon as you arrive.’ I say thanks and head off to see this quintessential company man whose nickname is Superman, after the superhero’s alter ego Clark Kent, though this guy’s name is his surname. The e on the end seems a bit affected to me. Nobody knows his first name and I couldn’t care less what it is. I lightly knock the frosted glass door and Clarke’s loud voice says to come in. ‘Ah, Drew. Welcome. Take a chair.’ He stands up and indicates the chair before his big desk. It has nothing on it except a leather blotting pad, the obligatory computer screen and keyboard. His chair, like his desk, is expensive executive stuff as is the rest of the room. ‘In nice and early this morning, Drew.’ I’m not sure if this is a statement or a question so say nothing. ‘You look a bit rough though. Heavy session?’ I’m not sure if he is trying to be friendly or intrude on my private life, so again say nothing. I know how to wind up this confident looking bastard. ‘Never mind, eh.’ He slides open a silent drawer and pulls out a slim file. A sticker has my name on it. Laid flat on his desk he flips it open to reveal a few typed pages. He sits back in his comfy chair, crosses his legs and intertwines his fingers on his lap. The dark blue suit looks expensive, the full head of dark hair neatly cut, chin fresh shaven. He is what women might call a handsome man. I call

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him a cunt. I’ve met plenty. ‘I’ve got good and bad news for you, Drew.’ He pauses for effect, to rub it in. ‘How would you like it?’ ‘Bad first,’ I say. He then goes into a spiel he’ll probably be refining as his day goes on. It’s what I suspect. ‘We’re having to let you go. You’re not being sacked but have been selected for compulsory redundancy. Afraid it has to do with performance. The company is reducing its administration function in Scotland and centralising in London. Their profitability has dropped so they have to tighten up somewhere and admin gets it every time. I could be joining you within the year. The good news for you is that you’ve been with us for over two years so are entitled to redundancy money. We’ll give you a couple of months pay in lieu of notice and that has been stretched to this month, today even, so you can go off home and relax, read the paper, whatever. The money will go into your bank today. This gives you a bit of a buffer to look for other work. Sorry, Drew. There’s no easy way to say these things. Other details will be in the post. Anything you want to ask about?’ ‘Nope.’ He stands up and extends a hand. ‘Good luck, Drew.’ I ignore the hand as I get up and walk out. He’ll get all sorts of reactions with others. I pick up my jacket at my now ex-desk and head for the door. Nobody speaks to me. I suppose it’s the shock that comes to everybody in this kind of situation. Now I have no job as well as no home and have a long day ahead as I try and think things through. Take the first bus that arrives and take it into town. It is one of these that follows a circular route and I’m tempted to ride around on it all day to kill time. I get off in town and go into Princes Street Gardens and sit on another bench. It and its like could become my new home. I think to myself, so this is how it happens. At opening time I walk up to Rose Street just behind Princes Street and wander into one of its many bars. Much later and many pubs later I’m not sure where I am and sit down on the pavement. It is dark. I try to sing to keep myself company: ‘Take me back tooo Vienna...’ and become vaguely aware I’ve just pissed my trousers.


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The Marital Bed David Campbell

Through the doors they come crashing, a whirlwind of tangled bodies, swishes of a pure White dress that trails teasingly along the carpet’s smooth skin, a rumpled black tuxedo, Sweat pooling slowly, erotically, from under the finely-tailored sleeves. The bed, with sheets That lay expectantly for use, with pillows that droop suggestively over the curves of the Bedframe, lies in place eagerly, beckoning the two bodies closer. The bedpost guards, Stand proudly erect, their wooden craftsmanship jutting forward pompously, part to Allow the two of one flesh access. Falling, guided by the elusive keeper known as Lust, the Bed sighs with content as the bodies caress the sheets, skin upon white, ripples of touch That crackle like the fiercest storm. Kisses by tender lips on flushed skin, curious, probing tendrils of a lover’s touch, the dress And tuxedo skins shed upon the carpet’s willing gaze. The bed is witness to all events. It is Proud to serve as a vessel to the joining of the flesh that ensues, the bodies twinned tightly, Sweat and Lust’s musky scent fighting for dominance. Creaks and groans, wooded sounds of Ecstasy, accompany the lover’s chorus. The symphony plays its tune, the bed as conductor Of the flesh never slows, the grinding of the orchestra becomes higher and higher. Then, Suddenly, the climax, a roaring, primal crescendo as the music fades out. The newly-formed Creature of one separates with tenderness, becoming two once more. Skin falls back onto Crumpled sheets, heads of tangled hair lay dreamily upon the drooping pillows of comfort, Eyes that are dancing with Lust’s mark draw their lash curtains closed. Stillness, long ignored, Enters once more to take a bow. Voyeuristic tendrils of moonlight streak in across the bed’s Exhausted surface, the last appreciative audience member.


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Up a Tree Paul Waring On days like this I reckon I’ll climb a tree; shin up cat-like, pop through the leafy roof. I’ll go for oak or sycamore, any big-boned bugger whose trunk I can hug to leave my roots behind. I’ve seen squirrels do the job. The trick is a sharp-fingered grip, well-sprung heels to shimmy up bark, floor by floor rest, climb, rest, climb, rest find a branch, take it all in: make the journey count as much as the destination. And, by the way, I won’t give a fig what you think about how ridiculous I look; I’ll have no plan to climb down.

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Teller

Paige Lymann


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Tarina, whose entire being shifted between different colors, paced around the large transparent screen in the middle of the room. Shelves and shelves of books lined the walls around her while a purple haze came from the floating orbs of light spread across the ceiling. A single door sat on one wall, allowing entry into the labyrinthine room. She stopped pacing, both hands clenching into fists at her side. She wanted to do something. In the corner of the screen, ink appeared, swirling around until words started to appear and a loud ding sounded, drawing Tarina out of her own head. She immediately turned, eyes flying to the top of the screen. The words had finished forming, leaving behind a message: The next section of your story Shattered Ink is due by tonight. Please work productively and creatively to complete it. A heavy sigh slipped out of Tarina as she scrubbed a hand over her face. Yet another day working on stories that would just be added to the mass of books that were already shelved all around her. She glanced up, taking in the familiar sight of all the books she had created and told and kept. Once, she would have been absolutely thrilled to see her handiwork all over the room. But now, there was almost no joy in the sight. She certainly enjoyed her work as a teller, but it was all she had ever known. For as long as she could remember, this room, with its constantly expanding shelves and large screen had been one of the only places she had ever stepped foot into. She could barely count the head teller’s office, since they chose to mainly communicate through the screen with her and others at her station. The tellers like her, the ones who remained mostly in their telling spaces, were just there to do their job; the job that seemed to have no ending in sight, ever. Tarina couldn’t say that being a teller wasn’t important. It was a position that required immense talent in storytelling and imagination that very few had. Or so she had been told. Being a teller meant creating stories that held worlds and characters and ideas. These stories were meant to be shared with the people that had no idea of the teller’s existence. The tellers toiled day after day to create all manner of stories, but Tarina was just tired. She stepped up to the screen finally, knowing she would need to at least get started on the next chapter. This particular story was the third in a series, following a young mage’s trials and journey through life. Tarina actually really enjoyed this story, the main character actually holding her interest for the first time in a long time. She touched the right corner of the screen, bringing forth an image of the book. It was right where she had finished the day before, where the young mage had received news of her teacher’s death. She sighed as she ran both hands across the screen to make the book larger. She tapped on the line below where the words ended, starting a new paragraph. As soon as she started to speak, the words immediately started to appear on the page, being typed by her voice alone. ‘Vera could barely believe what she was hearing. No – she could believe it.

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Her teacher, who had taught her everything he could, was dead because of that damn war. That war that mages had been dragged into once again to fight for a country that treated them like they were completely disposable. Most of the mages, Vera included, had undertaken the study of magic for non-war purposes. Personal, academic, healing, and any other manner of uses. But none of that mattered when the military ‘asked’ for mages to assist in the war effort. Man-handled and threatened was more like it. And look what it had gotten Fane, death. ‘Vera’s fist clenched at her side as she read over the stiff, pre-written letter that was most likely signed by a secretary. She had been listed as Fane’s next of kin since he had taken her as his apprentice several years earlier, but she had hoped that role would never bring her news like this. But, here was the damned letter, right in her hands.’ Tarina’s voice stopped, the letters on the screen following suit. The cursor flashed at her from the screen; her words now filled most of the page. She glanced around the room, eyes landing on the door that stood several feet away from her. Tarina’s brow furrowed as she quickly turned back to the screen. ‘Even though she wanted to deny that Fane was dead, she knew she couldn’t. She had been pulled into serving in the war herself and knew that people, mages and non-magic users alike, were dying all the time. But why? That’s what she couldn’t understand. Mages were forced into assisting in the war effort with very little payoff. Besides death. It drove Vera insane. She had suffered her own aftereffects from the war and the fighting, both physical and mental. She had wondered what more could be done and the universe had answered. She was done. Vera needed to change something.’ Tarina once more broke off from speaking. Change something? The character that she had created could change things in her own story. Tarina already knew the plot of the rest of the story. Vera would go on to become outspoken in both academics and policy in regards to the coercion and forceful recruitment of mages within her country, unfortunately finding enemies among her fellow citizens. But through all of that Vera would create change under her own power. Tarina once more let her gaze drift to the door. Other tellers were just outside in their own telling spaces. She had been outside of her own space before, but only to see the head teller and for very short visits with others at her level. Could she just leave now, with no other reason than to find a way out? Tarina walked towards the door, not hesitating when she pulled it open. The screen behind her let out a ding, signalling that she should return and finish her workload for the day. The corner of her mouth quirked up into a grin as she stepped out of the door, into the hallway where many other doors lined the wall. There must be something outside of these halls full of Tellers. They created these stories for people, after all.


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Tempus Fugitive Ed Blundell I grow older like my father, Nibbling plain biscuits with my tea, Solving crosswords in my armchair, Saying the world’s gone mad. I laugh like him, I cough like him, I look at him in the mirror, Each morning as we wash and shave, I listen to him when I talk. Time, ties us all in tangled knots, My father and I ignore it.

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HERO WORSHIP Anthony McIntyre As I walked through the car park I dabbed at the screen on my phone, searching for Jordan’s number. ‘Hello Son.’ ‘Hi Dad, how are you?’ ‘I just wanted to see how you are.’ I missed him so much now that he was away at university. Tears bubbled behind my eyes as I fought back tears of a proud father. I wanted to hear his voice. It always sounded laid back and full of confidence. I remembered the times we would go camping at the weekends, exploring caves and lakes. We would toast marshmallows over an open fire. We would lie with our heads sticking out of the tent facing the night sky looking for shooting stars and satellites. Jordan was always the first to fall asleep; I would gently place him into the safety of the tent where I would listen to his breathing. In the mornings we would wash by the cold tap, pretending to be tough soldiers out on manoeuvres. Then we would feast on bacon and eggs cooked on the two ring stove and enjoy man-size mugs of tea. With rucksacks packed full of survival goodies: crisps, sandwiches, chocolate and a fizzy drink, we would go in search of adventure. Walks along the beach were fraught with danger from flying seaweed; we would flick it up in the air towards each


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other, shouting, ‘don’t forget your hair’ as we dodged a tangle knot of sea wrack. Sometimes we would do all-nighters on the harbour watching cruise liners cross the horizon with flickering cabin lights. We’d hold our breath until the winking lighthouse beam omitting a gentle warning returned. We’d listen to the haunting clanging of rigging as boats bobbed in the harbour and drink hot chocolate until the seagulls fell asleep. ‘How’s the course going?’ I asked. ‘Great Dad, only last night I went to…’ He would describe the emergencies he had attended, a child choking, an elderly person that had fallen and a vulnerable adult that had drunk too much. He was training to be a modern day hero. 999 and ask for Jordan. My throat tightened as pride fought back the tears of much felt love. He had chosen a dangerous profession that brought more than weekend excitement. He explained he would not be home until December and I reminded him to call his Mum on her birthday. A voice in the background called him. ‘I’ve put some smile money into your bank account.’ ‘Thanks Dad,’ he replied, and I said goodbye to my very own hero.

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Lovers

Angelica Krikler

He had woken up in the pale light, where morning winked from a corner The smear of midnight’s kiss still evident on the foreheads of the Lovers Quietly, as if it would end, she placed her head on his stomach, the white sheets sticking to th He nestled back into Sleep’s cove, where only beloveds see through the night, put his arm aro They danced a tango with each other’s dreams, begged the day never to arrive Pleaded with Time that life would continue to be an underwater waltz, and the only way to su Sunrise persisted above the tower blocks; early morning thunder throbbed in the sky Threatening to break the gossamer atmosphere with the blink of an eye Consciousness bloomed like spring, and the dreams which survived Sleep remained in a perm Outside, the sky was still a hickey, the clouds a spattering of moles, the river below a single te Where it would fall into space, Nature forbidding it from landing. A suicide never finalised, b He tucked the trouser legs into his socks, slid on his shoes Brushed the palm of her hand good morning, Michelangelo touching his Muse The light illuminated her side, as if a fire burned to warm her. Her shoulder felt feverish to tra His hands shook by the door. Frosted knuckles that cracked under pressure. He had tested wi Neon signs flooded the concrete pink, purple, red as a rash. Chinese symbols, images of done


heir nakedness ound her form

urvive the current was to find the air in each other’s mouths

manent smile on his face ear sliding off the face of Earth, down to World’s End but forever set in motion

ace, Passion’s heat kept her alive in early November inter, and winter had bit back er kebabs tempted him, as the Lover left the flat to find his stash.

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Backyard Terror David Campbell Something is in my backyard, Poisonous hisses of breath are reverberating Through hallowed clumps of trees and bushes, a Sound which travels silkily along the delicate leaves of nature, Descending through the gnarled, decaying roots and across The padded carpet of grass towards the thin cotton of my socks. A vengeful gasp of air from nightmarish lungs, which tugs insistently at The small cluster of hairs on a pale shin. Nature’s symphony begins in earnest, aiding this malign entity. Creaking and groaning, arthritic trees add their despairing voices to the Chill of the night air. Wind, whistling its ominous tune, carrying the coldness of the Evening breeze to my very bones. The dull scrape of gnarled branches against the Decaying stump of the rear fence. A cacophony of sounds, overwhelming, masking The silent footfalls of the entity. I can sense its razor-sharp movements, glimpse the Brief flickers of distorted shadow at the corners of my widening eyes. Too dark, light is fading quickly, chased away by invading blotches of inky blackness. I lose sight of the entity, my vision snatched away, lost to the tendrils of night That consume the backyard. Panic breaches my brain, the veins on my neck pulse rhythmically, beads of Perspiration slide tenderly down the crevices of my forehead. I cannot see. Too dark now, only vague outlines of What-Ifs and What-Could-Be, of Threats and Hiding-places for the entity that stalks my yard. Its yard now, a mini-kingdom for A night terror that is surely going to pounce, rake its claws (it must have claws) Across my torso, burrowing its scythed talons deep into the crevices of flesh. Blood will pour onto the silent grass, a canvas of death, a mural to tonight’s horror. A squeal permeates the wall of sound, through the blackness a vague outline Struggling to take form, a shape swinging forlornly, miserably. The shed door. That’s Where it lurks, taunting me with the command it holds over my petrified soul. And suddenly there are the eyes, yellow pinpricks of corrupted light,


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Malevolent, aggressive, paralysing me to the damp grass that hugs my Dirt-strewn soles, a tiny pebble of comfort in an ocean of terror. Blood thunders A persistent drumbeat in my ears, everything seems to be spinning, I am a Patient of Death now I realise, he beckons me through those glaring yellow pupils. Stabbing, searing pain throughout the veins of my arm, every nerve ending on fire. It has me, the claws defying my predictions, not the torso but the arm, now a limp Unmoving piece of meat, as lifeless and artificial as a tailor’s dummy. Unseen jagged cuts are forming through soft skin, brittle bone, tattered veins, Carving out the blood that hides behind, a scarlet tapestry that weaves its way to Demonic teeth and forked tongue, draining me dry of all feeling. The claws grasp around my anxious heart, twisting, slowing the grinding machinery, The pistons that continue to pump in vain. No pain left, no fear, just acceptance. The backyard blurs and warps before my eyes, fading away, a final snapshot of Darkened trees and waving bushes imprinting themselves upon me. It is a windy, cold night in an ordinary suburban backyard, nature creaking all around, A shed door swinging free of weakened hinges, a solitary black cat, yellow eyes Sweeping the area lazily, leaps the rickety old fence, ready to explore new ground. The only other inhabitant is the body in the soft grass, lifeless, terror, revulsion And serenity etched in a complex mosaic across its pale features. It stares with glassy, bloodshot eyes at the sea of infinite stars above, Whilst the unsmiling moon looks back.


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Did I Say That Out Loud? Kylie Whitehead ‘Are you serious? Are you fucking serious?’ The blonde girl’s friend waits patiently, smiling and swilling what’s left of her pint. A few people lift their noses in the girls’ direction as the phone voice pierces the ambient chatter of the beer garden. They’re not particularly annoyed, there’s just something so unnatural about a phone voice. The blonde girl doesn’t bother moving the phone away from her face when she says to her friend, ‘she’s taking a seagull to the rescue centre.’ She laughs into the phone, speaks into it now, although she looks her friend in the eye – a rapturous audience of two. ‘I would rescue any animal.’ It’s not clear who this comment is directed at. ‘Have you heard my fox story?’ The friend nods her head, she has and so I don’t get to hear it. I wonder about the seagull rescue centre. Perhaps she just means a vet. Another girl joins, and another. Two pint glasses give birth to four, four to eight and so on. They loosen up, play games, they sound like seagulls themselves. It’s tedious, so I go home. I’ll be able to focus there. I fill the kettle, flip the switch. I’ve only had one drink but I feel a bit velvety around the edges, a cup of tea will set me up again. I’ll take it in my room, in the armchair I bought for reading. If I have a proper chair, I’ll be able to concentrate. Only I can’t, because there’s this shrieking sound. It sounds like a person doing a bad bird impression. It is a bird. It’s a seagull, even worse, its a baby one. They never shut up, calling and calling and calling for someone who never comes. I know how you feel. Did I say that out loud? *** Tuesday night I go for drinks with a couple of friends. We sit on a picnic bench outside the bar even though it’s November and we’re cold. The table is alive with rolling papers, filter tips, spilled drinks and gossip. ‘Did you hear about Eric?’, ‘yes, isn’t it awful’, ‘it’s so awful, I can’t even imagine.’ They don’t notice that I don’t join in. A skinny barmaid brings us a bowl of fries to share. We dip in, one at a time so that our hands don’t touch. There’s this wail behind me, a bloody scream from a horror film or something and my friend gasps. ‘A seagull just took that guy’s burger!’ Behind me,


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a man is laughing, shaking; a hand on each shoulder, neither of them his. Several feet away, the bird defends the burger. A chicken burger, no less, or so the man says. ‘Is it time?’ I ask the bird. ‘Not yet.’ *** Fingers flexed, fingers stretched, hovering above keys; I’m ready to work. A cup of tea the colour of biscuits breathes beside the laptop, a glass of water on the other side. A fresh white sheet mimicked in pixels. A quick scroll for motivation won’t hurt. It does hurt though, it always does. The people, the planet, lost and in pain. Aren’t we all? Yes, it’s true, but can we cope? Are we capable? I look out the window at the church that you have to know is a church before you can be sure that it’s a church. What’s that? Along the apex? Why are they lined up like that, uncharacteristically still and silent? One shrieks and then they all do; all of them looking at me. ‘Is it time yet?’ ‘Not yet.’ One by one the seagulls take flight. They know that it is always bin day somewhere. *** ‘Are you even listening? What’s wrong with you?’ ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.’ ‘I just can’t do this anymore.’ ‘I know. I know.’ ‘Do you want me to go?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘I won’t come back.’ ‘I know.’ ‘Fine.’ *** The silence is unbearable but I can’t hear it because the seagulls won’t let up. I touch the books, the TV, the laptop. I can’t commit to anything. I’m not sure if that’s a joke.

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‘Is it time yet?’ ‘Not yet.’ ***

‘Is everything okay?’ ‘Yes of course.’ ‘It’s just...you said you’d have it with us by Friday—’ ‘I know, I’m sorry.’ ‘Last Friday. It’s been over a week.’ ‘I’m sorry, I’ve finished it now though, here it is.’ ‘You didn’t even show up yesterday.’ ‘I’m sorry, I’ve had a lot going on.’ ‘It’s not the first time this has happened.’ ‘I know. I’m sorry.’ ‘I’m sorry too. We’re going to have to let you go.’ ‘Go where?’ ‘You don’t need to work out your notice. You can go right away.’ *** Do they know it’s a church? Would they still shit on it if they did? ‘Shoo! Shoo! Aren’t they just a nightmare?! Look at the state of my car!’ I think of her as an old lady and scold myself internally. I look at the brown and white crust she’s waving her hands at; it’s them alright. They’re not ashamed, although they scatter a little at the sound of her, the frantic gestures, the way her hands flap around on her wrists as if there isn’t a single bone in them. They soon settle again. She makes that noise people call a ‘harumph’, but it doesn’t really sound like that at all. I go inside to get away from her. *** ‘Is it time yet?’ ‘Yes, it’s time.’ I stand at the window, hovering above them. I sit down on the ledge and they begin to flutter furiously. ‘Not like that,’ they are saying. I get down. I go downstairs. The back door has expanded in the frame so I throw a shoulder to push it open. Weeds break free through the cracks. I know how they feel. Did I say that out loud?


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One by one the seagulls land; on the wall, on the patio, on the white plastic furniture dappled with green mould. Feathers tickle my nostrils. ‘It’s time,’ they say. I close my eyes and feel the ground rush up to my face. My nose no longer itches. I open my eyes and we regard each other. We spread our wings and retreat to the roof of the church.

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Sofa Olympics Paul Waring Unlike Kate Bush, I won’t be running up that hill or need to wonder if I only could, as I go for sofaloafing Olympic gold. Few know the sacrifices made to develop a medal-winning mentality: dedication to daily training; right-handed book lift repetitions, page turns, cup and glass raises, and channel surfing without looking at remotes - all done whilst browsing/messaging/chatting with the left. Positive, focused and relaxed, I’m visualising the perfect performance to become Olympic horizontal champion before doing a lap of honour; mindfully, without moving a muscle.

Running Up That Hill (1985) by Kate Bush (EMI Records)


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Dear The Seeker Phoenix Macbean

To search for who you are, is the first step to losing yourself. Oh the irony, Like a lit torch in darkness searching for the source of light, it will search forever. You must realise you are that very light, look within. Like a fire cannot burn itself, it can only be, A knife cannot cut itself, it can only be, Isn’t it clear? You must simply be. So, Stop letting the waves of thoughts and emotions dictate your course down the river of self, Step out onto the riverbank, Observe as it all flows by, Detached. This is the shift, this is the key. Now open the door.

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The Dogfight James Linton Checkers chased after the frisbee his Master had just thrown. He caught and returned it to his Master who threw it again. Checkers caught it and held it out, but instead of taking it, his Master crouched down and hugged him. His Master began speaking in Master-speak. Checkers didn’t understand, but he could tell his Master was happy with him. Checkers licked his Master’s muzzle and barked, as his back was stroked and his belly was rubbed. And Checkers was being led home. He was looking forward to an evening curled up with his Master in front of the fire. And then Checkers woke up. There was no fire here. No frisbees. Just a cramped cage and a bowl of water that hadn’t been changed in three days. Checkers had a new Master now. One far angrier than his old one. One that had never hugged him or rubbed his belly. Checkers had been woken up by the sound of Winston the Bulldog limping back. Winston had a thick-set body and a short tail, which barely extended over his rump. His muscles were visible under his fur, but patches of it were missing. His four legs were usually sturdy, but he was now limping, and there were scratches along his back. Checkers approached him, pulling at his chain that was catching on his cage. He knelt down and started licking at Winston’s scratches. The Bulldog was lying on his side panting. ‘What happened?’ Checkers asked. ‘Just getting old, kid. Too old for this.’ ‘Why does Master make us fight? It’s not right.’ ‘I am a Bulldog. You are an Alsatian. We’re dogs. They’re Masters. That’s the way it is.’ ‘Well, we can stop it. We can escape together.’ Winston rolled over. ‘There’s only one way out of this and you know it.’ Checkers bowed his head. He knew exactly what Winston meant. Only yesterday, his second day in this hell, he had seen Master take a Labrador outside. Checkers had heard a bang and Master had returned without the Labrador. But Checkers couldn’t give up. ‘We’ll escape. We’ll go tonight.’ ‘Don’t be stupid, kid. Go to sleep, you’ll be fighting soon.’


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‘I can’t fight. I’m not brave like you.’ But Winston had started snoring. Checkers returned to his cage and looked around. At the light struggling to penetrate the windows. At the dark rotting wood. At the things floating in his water bowl. At the Master machine in one corner that was used to train a dog’s stamina. Checkers had been forced to run on this when he had first arrived, and his neck still chafed from the heavy collar. When he had started running, he hadn’t been able to stop. Next to the Master machine was a pole, which had a soft toy dangling from the end. This was used to build up a dog’s leg muscles. Checkers looked over as he saw Winston shivering. He knew that the Bulldog was sensitive to the cold. He went over and lay by him, before going to sleep. Checkers ran up to his Master who was by the door. They must be going to the park. But something was wrong. His Master looked sad and wasn’t holding the frisbee. Checkers barked, but allowed himself to be led into the backseat of the car. The window was wound down and he stuck his head out as the car began moving. He started barking. He was going to the park, but then they drove past it. Maybe they were going to a different park. And then they stopped and Checkers was let out. He barked, as he realised that they weren’t in a park. There was no grass or trees, just concrete and cars. His Master crouched down and hugged him. Checkers licked his muzzle, but then his Master walked away. Checkers tried following him, but he was ordered to stay. He stayed and sat, as his Master got in the car and moved away. Checkers barked. Maybe his Master had forgotten the frisbee. He’d be back soon. Checkers walked to the wall and laid down. His Master would be back soon. He would wait. And Checkers had waited and waited. Day after day, as his stomach grew emptier. As the cars came and went. And then he smelt something. It was food. Coming from outside the car park. Checkers wanted to wait for his Master, but he was so hungry. He stood up and tottered to the smell. It was getting strong now. His stomach was screaming. He stepped up and hobbled over to a bowl full of food. It was only as the cage door snapped shut that he realised it was a trap. Checkers was woken up by his Master’s footsteps. He saw his Master holding a stick and he knew that he would be using it on Winston. He wasn’t going to let this happen. He stood in front of the Bulldog, waking him up. ‘What you doing, kid?’ ‘I’m going to protect you.’ Checkers looked up as his Master arrived. His Master shouted in Master-speak, but Checkers didn’t move. And then the stick crashed onto his back. But he didn’t move. It crashed down again, but he still

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stayed standing. And then three more times, but Checkers wasn’t going anywhere. ‘Go kid. I’ll be fine.’ Winston mewed out. ‘But—’ ‘Go.’ Checkers ran back to his cage. He looked away as Winston was whipped, as he heard his friend whimper. Once it was over, he picked up his water bowl and clumsily carried it to Winston. He slopped out half of it as he deposited it. He tried his best to lick out the dirty bits, before pushing it forwards with his nose. ‘Drink,’ he barked. ‘Don’t be silly. That’s your water.’ ‘Drink,’ Checkers insisted and smiled as Winston struggled to the bowl and started drinking. ‘You looked after me when I first got here, now I’ll look after you.’ Winston fell back from the bowl, allowing his whip marks to shine in the moonlight. ‘You need to look after yourself. You could have a long time here. I only have one or two fights left, before Master takes me outside and doesn’t bring me back inside.’ Checkers licked Winston’s wounds. ‘I can’t do this without you.’ Winston stood up and faced Checkers, so that he could see every wrinkle in the Bulldog’s face. ‘You said you’re not brave, but you’re one of the bravest dogs I know.’ The next morning, Checkers was woken up by a high-pitched ringing. He was scared of the noise, but more scared of what it signalled. Fight day. His Master entered the room and unchained him. Checkers was nervous; this was going to be his first fight. He was led into a big room with barred windows and lots of Masters talking in Master-speak. They all smelt of sweat. And then Checkers was led into the ring that had walls far higher than his two feet. It wasn’t really a ring, closer to a square. 15x15 metres. And carpeted. He was led into a corner and told to sit behind what looked like scratch lines. And then his opponent entered the ring and was taken to wait behind scratch lines in the other corner. It was a Pitbull Terrier, which stood five inches smaller than Checkers. Its fur was dull and drawn tightly over its bones. Even so, its teeth were bared and its jaws looked vicious. There was a high-pitched shrill and before Checkers knew what had happened, he had been knocked aside. The Pitbull had crashed into him, leading to the Masters cheering. Checkers scrambled around, flailing out with his legs, trying to avoid the Pitbull’s teeth. He managed to kick him aside before standing up. He tried reasoning with the Pitbull, but it was useless. It was too far gone.


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It charged into him again, mounting him and clawing his side. Checkers struggled to break free, but then the Pitbull ripped into his ear. Checkers howled and broke free, but the Pitbull knocked him to the floor again, before gouging its claws into his belly. He knew he was defenceless, that he only had seconds left to live. He waited for it to be over, but then an alarm blared out. A Master jumped into the ring and wrestled the Pitbull away. As for Checkers, his Master hauled him up and took him back to the cages. Checkers saw that there was a bowl of food in his cage, but whined as it was taken away. And then his Master returned with the stick. After he had been whipped, Checkers laid in front of his cage. How could Masters be so cruel? What had he done to deserve this? He lifted his head as he saw Winston waddle up to him, holding his dog bowl in his mouth. It had a little food in it. ‘Eat up, kid,’ he said. Checkers wolfed down the food as Winston licked his wounds. He felt a little better after that. ‘Who did you fight?’ ‘It was a Pitbull. It was vicious.’ ‘I knew a Pitbull once. He was called Cyrus. He looked after me when I first came here. Taught me everything I know. And he was kind and patient. Gentle, but brave. And then Master changed him. Beat him. Starved him. Turned him into a monster.’ ‘What happened to him?’ Checkers asked. He had finished eating. ‘We fought each other in the ring. A death match. I won. And the thing is, I think he let me. He wanted out and I made it happen. I made it quick, made sure he didn’t suffer. He deserved nothing less. Anyway, you need your rest. Today was your warm-up. Next it’ll be your death match.’ Checkers whimpered and shook his head. ‘I can’t do it. I can’t go back. I’ll lose. I’ll die.’ ‘No you won’t. I’ll make sure you win.’ Over the next few days, Winston trained Checkers. Unless it was for food, water or fights, their Master didn’t come to see them. Neither of them had been called for fights, which intrigued Checkers, but he didn’t pursue it. He needed all the training he could get and Winston was training him well. Winston taught him from his experience of a hundred fights. Teaching him how to attack and how to defend. When to go on the offensive and when to conserve his energy. Although hindered by the chains, they were able to spar with each other, and Checkers was taught the most vulnerable areas to attack. He was taught when to bite and when

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to scratch. His endurance improved, and he learned how to use an opponent’s weight and energy against him. All while the other dogs watched them. Broken and silent. Checkers learned all about Winston. How he had been adopted by a Master when the snow was on the ground, and how he had been given away when the snow had melted. He then went to a new Master who had lots of other dogs and who would sometimes give them to other Masters. This was what had happened to Winston. He had been given to the Master who had made him fight other dogs. On the fifth day, Checkers was woken by the high-pitched alarm. His Master entered the room and unchained him. This was it. Checkers was led out. He expected Winston to offer a few words of advice or at least cheer him on, but the Bulldog was silent. As Checkers was led into the ring, he couldn’t understand just why this was. It didn’t matter now. He was going to fight, and he was going to win. It seemed like there were more Masters than ever. Some she-Masters were mixed in with the he-Masters. But all of them were screaming. They all looked so angry. And then Checkers’ opponent entered the ring. The Alsatian barked in surprise as he recognised the Bulldog with the small legs and squat body. It was Winston. Both dogs were unchained and there was a shrill, as the fight began. The two dogs circled each other, as the Masters roared. ‘You knew this was going to happen, didn’t you?’ Checkers asked. He could sense the Masters growing impatient. He flinched, as some Master-food was thrown at him. Winston didn’t respond. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ ‘I’ve been doing this for too long, kid. I want out. And I want a dog, not a Master, to do it.’ ‘But, I can’t—’ Before Checkers knew what had happened he had been knocked onto his back. And he knew that he had screwed up. He had underestimated the Bulldog. Winston was faster than he looked. Checkers rolled back to his feet, but still had no intention to fight. ‘Defend yourself, Checkers.’ Winston knocked him down again and waited for him to stand back up. ‘Come on, kid. Give me a good fight.’ Checkers nodded. He waited for Winston to charge at him, but at the last minute, he stepped aside. The Bulldog’s momentum sent him crashing into the far wall. The Masters cheered at this, while Checkers inspected his friend. Winston was panting on the floor, and as Checkers stood over him, the Bulldog bit his leg, with his massive jaws designed to latch onto his opponents. Checkers toppled down. ‘Don’t let your guard down,’ Winston yapped.


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But Checkers hadn’t. He was exactly where he needed to be. Corkscrewing his body, he bit onto Winston’s belly and threw him aside. Checkers stood up and panted, allowing the blood to drip out. But the Bulldog hadn’t been beaten yet. The two crashed together again, and despite Winston being a foot smaller, he stood his ground. Both dogs brawled with each other trying to snap their heads around to bite. Checkers bit onto Winston’s ear and flinched as he heard the Bulldog yowl. He didn’t want his friend to suffer like this. They continued wrestling with each other, with Checkers mounting Winston and slashing his back. Winston wormed free, but Checkers barged into him, sending the smaller dog flying across the ring. He crashed down and whimpered, as bones were smashed. Checkers approached him, careful not to get too close. He whined as he saw his friend Winston panting. He had once been strong, brave and wise, but he was now a broken mess. ‘Just do it, kid. I’m done,’ Winston spoke into the ground. He didn’t have the energy to lift his head. ‘I can’t. Please. There has to be another way.’ ‘Don’t let your opponent suffer. That’s what Masters would do. We aren’t Masters. We’re dogs.’ Checkers nodded, and as firmly, but as gently as he could, he closed his jaws around the Bulldog’s neck. He pressed until Winston stopped struggling. And then the doors crashed open and new Masters stormed the room. Checkers’ Master tried running away, but he was tackled to the ground, as were the other Masters. One of the new he-Masters entered the ring. Checkers was scared and confused, but he was damned if he was going to let this Master get near Winston. He stood up and growled, baring his teeth. But this new Master seemed different. He crouched down and started speaking his Master-speak. He didn’t sound angry, but calm and gentle. He held something out in his hand. Checkers sniffed it and realised it was a treat. He snatched it away and after he had eaten it, he saw the he-Master approach him. He growled and the he-Master stepped back. Checkers thought for a few seconds, before sniffing him. He didn’t smell like the others. Not like sweat and hatred. Maybe this was a good Master. Were there any of those left? Checkers stood aside and nodded to Winston. The he-Master saw this and called out. A she-Master entered the ring and wrapped Winston in a blanket, before carrying him out. The he-Master led Checkers outside and into a van, where Winston had been laid to rest. Checkers climbed in and laid next to him. The seats were soft and there were bowls of food all around. Some of the other dogs were there too. But even as the van moved off none of this mattered to Checkers. For he was howling and whining for his friend, Winston the Bulldog.

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Bun

Angelica

The fabric dripped off he Swept up the room Her figure, though be A militant strategy within the Her physique slithered through the guests until sh Found him with her x-ray visio Positioned her skeleton to be his p For men to frolic in, g A design to be worshipped, t

Eyes like oil paint. It took so long for th Picked her out from a pamp Took her to dinner, bought her flowers. Sunflowe Sat on the grass of an opera house, unpacked the hamp Longed for her. But not the figure wh Longed for the version of her that might wake up on a Su Put on his business shirt, And then come back to him wit

When he tried to brush her hair from her face, she Pushed forward her breasts into Not out of pleasure, but Up close he noticed the stitches of her bra Her face, though young, no longe I curse the man that made you unable to feel, he sigh She settled into bed, separate – for tonight at least – turned off t Wrapped her arms around her bones in Her expression softene Dreamt of being a bunny safe in its hatc


nny

a Krikler

er collarbones, chest, hips m and everyone in it eautiful, was defensive e guerrilla warfare of escorting he twitched her tongue out, slavered over her man on, where targets spring up red paramour, a sculpture, a fountain get their tuxedos damp turned on, and then off again

heir lingering impact to dry in his mind phlet. She’s the one I want. ers; yellow was her favourite colour, said the agent per, poured her champagne, kept pouring, kept staring hose face could be imprinted on a coin unday morning, emerge from the duvet naked and warm , for overseas clients only th a tray of continental breakfast

e looked to the side and presented her body instead o his hands and closed her eyes t as if to wish him away fraying, and he willed them to move faster er had the capacity to be surprised hed, and I praise the website that brought you to me the lamp, closed her eyes with the covers resting below her chin n an embrace and hugged herself warm ed; her muscles relaxed ch, ready to be put into tomorrow’s pie

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SOLITUDE Ed Blundell Lonely as the daffodil cloud Without the crowd, butt in their taunts, Dared to be different, not conform, He stood outside the schoolboy scrum, Liked the library but not cricket, Listened to classical music. Everybody was very shocked The day he died. They didn’t see The bruises on his mind.


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A White Lie Ileen Younan

Marica sighed. Her nephews, all three of them, were running around the pond and refusing to come back to the porch. She looked on as the young boys splashed one another and giggled. They were engrossed in a game of tag, albeit having difficulty as they had to wade instead of run. She decided to call out to them once more. ‘Boys. You won’t get any supper if you don’t come out now!’ The boys paused until one decided to pipe up. ‘Does that include dessert?’ ‘It very well may.’ The children – Nate, Grady, and Rhett, all sloshed onto the grass. Marica set out several chairs and ran back and forth a few times, unstacking all the plates and unwrapping the food, including the cake, so that it could be laid out on the foldable tables that were always open and held her flower vases. She took one sniff of the Yellow Rain Lily arrangement she had created herself and set the vase on the floor, along with the other flowers. She only liked the yellow lilies. Any time a white one was found in the pond, she would pluck it away, even if she had to hike up her dress to get to it in the less shallow areas of the body of water. They were so grotesque to her. Approximately ten minutes into the meal, Grady put down his roast beef sandwich and prodded one of the yellow lilies with the heel of his shoe as the flower and its container laid next to his foot. ‘These funny things. Why not get the better looking ones?’ ‘There are no better ones,’ Marica responded promptly. Nate picked up his fork from the potato salad and motioned at the pond. ‘The white ones.’ Marica felt a pang in her chest and rose immediately. ‘You see any today?’ The child did not answer, opting to attack his food with the utensil weapon he held in hand. Marica felt the heat rise into her face and her vision blurred. ‘No ma’am.’ She took a sigh of relief and sat back down. ‘Thank you, Rhett.’ Rhett was always the respectful one. The quiet one, too. He had grown out of his whiny phase but not reached the rebellious one yet, being the middle child at the age of twelve. Meanwhile, Nate would give her a near heart attack with all his suggestions. How could he mention those ugly weeds?

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They didn’t grow around the pond any more. Well, there was a stray one here and there. But, those never lasted long under her watch. ‘You boys better be enjoying this meal.’ ‘We are. But, I have a question.’ Marica felt the frown lines appear on her forehead as she raised her eyebrows at Grady. What was he going to ask this time? ‘Ha. Aunt Mari, you always get so worked up.’ Nate was busy building a fortress with his fork in the potato salad. ‘Watching a primary school age boy like you, how could I not be?’ Nate only huffed. ‘That’s the thing I wanted to talk to you about.’ Marica turned to the teen of the group. ‘What, Grady?’ ‘You wouldn’t need to watch us if someone else were here.’ ‘Like?’ Grady’s indirect ways bothered Marica. Who was going to watch them? Some cute older babysitter? They were stuck with her whether they wanted to be or not; no one else was available to watch the three devils. The family lived in the middle of gun-ho nowhere, Alabama. It was all forest for miles around and the one car, a Cadillac Roadster, probably wouldn’t even make it another ten years to see 1960. She was aiming to raise them just long enough for them to reach adulthood, then they’d go to the nearest town and pursue further education after completing ‘Marica’s Rigorous Homeschool’. ‘Our parents.’ Grady was not giving his Aunt Marica any eye contact. He was focusing on the architectural masterpiece his brother was building. ‘What was that? I didn’t hear you clearly.’ ‘Our ma. Or pa.’ ‘Not an option.’ Grady looked back at his aunt. Both were red in the face, but for different reasons. His aunt decided to change the topic. ‘Well, today is your birthday.’ Marica placed a candle on the cake. One single candle would be enough to get the point across. It was every year. Fifteen were not necessary. Everyone there knew how old Grady was and Marica recalled the fifteen years she spent raising him vividly, in the same way she recalled raising Rhett for twelve and Nate for six. It had been overwhelming and she had the frown lines to prove it, but worth it if it kept them functioning. Besides, it would have been what her sister Luanne wanted.


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She lit the candle. ‘What is your wish?’ ‘The same every year.’ ‘To be an adult so you can leave? You get closer to that every day and —’ ‘You raise us here, spending all your time just doing chores and with these goddamn piss-colored flowers! Not telling us who the hell our mom is! Are you even our aunt?’ Marica pursed her lips. Sure, she was their aunt. Sure, she liked yellow flowers – not the white ones. But, how could she tell them where their mother, much less their father was? ‘My sister and your father both work overseas. Oh, and I am your aunt.’ Well, her sister had worked overseas for a time, so it was not a total lie. That was why Marica had agreed to raise the children. They had each agreed that country living was more stable than willy-nilly travel. Besides, the source of income was more steady with the flower shop Marica ran than the haphazard freelance writing income Luanne garnered. But that was no longer why Luanne could not see her lovely boys. ‘You’ve said that before!’ ‘You’re lucky I didn’t say a word more with the way you’re speaking.’ Grady stood up and picked up a vase. He flipped it over so that the water dripped into his brother’s potato salad, drowning it, and the flower itself fell to the ground looking untouched, unscathed, until Grady stepped on it. The vase itself went flying into the pond and was swallowed with a gulp from the body of water. Marica stopped breathing. She barely even saw the glass container shine in the sunlight before it sank without a fuss. Nate was annoyed that his hard work had gone to waste and was complaining. Rhett gazed on in horror until Marica took Grady by the ear and dragged him all the way around to the back of their cabin which was a ways off, out of their view and hearing. The difference between the two boys and their brother Grady was that they had accepted the idea of their parents never coming back. If their parents magically did come back from their enigmatic overseas jobs, would their way of life improve much? Probably not. Their lives were decent and while they had curiosity, it was never enough to argue with the woman who had raised them since they were wee toddlers. ‘When are you gonna say it? They abandoned us, right?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then what?’ ‘Why does it matter? Either way, they’re not here now. If they get done with work, you’ll see them. If not, then I can’t do nothing about it.’

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‘Not even one letter?’ ‘They’re really busy.’ ‘For years?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Then, I’ll have the same wish every year; to see Ma and Pa?’ ‘Dear, I’m sorry.’ Grady’s anger left him. There was nothing to say and it would only go in circles with Aunt Mari, he knew this. It always did. He’d ask, she’d dodge as if her life depended on it, then he’d contain his emotions and it was the end of the discussion until the next time he’d bring it up. Today was the exception; he had let his anger and frustration free – and even that had not worked. Mari had been resolute in her vague answers, cool as a cucumber. It was all the same. He was crying now. ‘I’ll be inside.’ He began heading towards the front of the cabin. Marica nodded. ‘Apologize to Nate for his food and Rhett for scaring him.’ ‘I’m sorry for the vase.’ ‘Are you really? Or are you saying that because you feel like you should?’ The boy stopped in his tracks. ‘The effect is the same. Why does the reason matter?’ Then, he continued the walk. Her own eyes widened at his answer. ‘I’ll be inside in a bit,’ she yelled after him. Marica saw something bright yellow out of the corner of her eye. It was a petal stuck in her hair. She thought of the Yellow Rain Lilies. Those had been her sister’s favorite type of flower when she had visited the flower shop. Later, her sister had made trips to the cabin often and she’d welcomed her with open arms every time. The final visit, she brought her spouse and there was an argument. On that drunken day, she and her husband had drowned in the pond. Only the white lilies were growing. ‘Luanne…’ Grady is just as stubborn as you. Marica felt a chill through her spine and began the walk to the front of the cabin to escape the uncomfortable draft.


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Ideas About Journeys to be Taken James Bell you could begin from here a journey that never ends or at least keep walking and find your way back again – the ‘why not’ factor conflicts with what calls itself rational rational keeps you here though you sit by a pathway watch the river already on the journey you propose – you might follow on another day not so cold you look for the dangers of both conditions and can find none – it is a matter of choice and opinion – you look into the distance for the next line of reasoning for reasons you cannot find you cannot find a reason just as you find the wind as harsh as yesterday the reason river birds stay grounded on banks and shore you could begin from here a journey that never ends though there is no reason why you should or should not this is the cycle that portends and is always the prison of the heart that beats to another tune not quite clear

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Boudicca Angelica Krikler

Would much rather poison her own apple than let a man light her Malboro Rather pay with the head of Nero than his gold Walks into a room, breaks a bottle top with her teeth. Gulps the beer down in three swigs. Sa and one for the journey Always wears her hair down, long and tawny, stands up to her full 7ft, burps in the faces of the that stare at her cleavage Snatches the cigarette from their gaping mouths, takes a drag, crushes it beneath her Chelsea b She lets her gold bracelets scurry up her arms, makes sure they glint under the overhead fluore But not so much as to diminish the sparkle in her dark pupils The ones that turn men to stone and deflate the airbag that is their ego She’ll let her shoulders be seen in Bardot tops, but only to highlight the muscle definition Paints her nails in the exact shade of blood, nothing else, rolls her eyes when they call her butc Smiles proudly when they call her a bitch No one knows the logistics of her job, but one would be right in imagining it is corporate Cutthroat corporate. Kick-down-walls, march-naked-with-blue-paint-on-your-genitalia-cor Loves Tartan, horse-riding, motherhood and enjoys the single life. She refuses to hide her tattoos for work; in fact they are the trademark of her company Plays Ice, Ice Baby on repeat. Wears braces on her hips. And nothing else She has a part time job building villages and doing local human rights law for pro bono in her neighbourhood. All about giving back. Destroying, demolishing, looting, robbing, loving, offering. Is a tad xenophobic and likes to wear fur on her day off.


ays, two more please,

he old bookmarks

boots escents at the office

ch

rporate

r

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Balancing Act James Bell

two swans stand very still out of water they are art installations on the sandbar pose in blatant white as contrast to the stub of tree bole round and brown lumped on the sand a carapace a boil upon the riverscape though also its own accident of art with no freedom to change position until the next tide will steam in sun dry out maybe crack all its parts its remaining earth

disperse root

on the light breeze for the river can still summon its own extremes even in balmy weather with a feather touch or no touch at all that would cause a disturbance while the swans begin to show life slowly shift exhibit their sense of balance


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Scrittura Magazine Issue 10 Winter 2017  
Scrittura Magazine Issue 10 Winter 2017  

Welcome to the Winter issue of Scrittura Magazine! Not just an ordinary Winter issue, but issue 10! Scrittura is 10 issues old, how amazing!...

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