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Issue number 4 Summer 2016


Scrittura Magazine Š Copyright 2016 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 WEB: www.scritturamagazine.tumblr.com EMAIL: scrittura.magazine@gmail.com TWITTER: @Scrittura_Mag FACEBOOK: scritturamag


In This Issue 08 10 12 13 17 18 20 21 32 34 36 37 42 43 44 45 51 52

Lessons in Submission Hakim Lewis No News is Good News Peter Flint Slips Ed Blundell Lines Molly Draper Near Calais Ed Leahy Snow and the Street David Campbell Same Shit, Different Day Saquina Karla C. Guiam The Redhead Helen Brooks In the Curtain Light Ed Leahy The Triptych of Rain Mendes Biondo Rambling Sarah Thorogood Ghost Writer Peter Flint Missed Call Ed Blundell Catwalking in Catastrophe Peter Flint God Descends and Then Some Saquina Karla C. Guiam One Ahead Emily Pierce The Second Faerie Curse Emily Pierce [identity] [politics] delete where applicable Rosa Walling-Wefelmeyer

54 Bus Samaritan Anthony McIntyre


56 57 58 59 60 66 67 68

Upon a Blooming Saquina Karla C. Guiam My Toy Car David Campbell Anybody Would Katie Lewington Washed Out Ed Blundell The Hunter-Gatherers Max Dunbar Hitting the Wall Sarah Thorogood Metaphor’s Point Rosa Walling-Wefelmeyer How to be Awesome Reyna Koh


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A Note From The Editors Welcome to the Summer Issue of Scrittura Magazine! This issue marks a complete annual cycle for us. Issue 5 will take us back to autumn, where it all began, and we can hardly believe it! It’s been such an amazing journey; we’re so proud of what we’ve achieved and the fantastic writing that we’ve published so far. It’s quite surreal to think that something that started off as a tiny idea in our heads has now been running for a whole year! We’ve featured over 100 pieces so far and we’re hoping that the next annual cycle is even bigger and better! Scrittura was designed to be a platform for budding writers and one thing that amazes us each issue is the variety of submissions we receive, the diversity of our featured writers and the locations from which they come. As usual, this issue is jam packed with some fantastic writing. A powerful poem about abuse (Lessons in Submission, page 8), prose and poetry about the trials and tribulations of romantic relationships (Slips, page 12 and The Redhead, page 21) as well as a humorous little script set at a child’s birthday party (One Ahead, page 45). The cover art is inspired by a short and sweet poem, The Second Faerie Curse, turn to page 51 to read more. A huge thank you to everyone who submitted their work for this issue; don’t forget to share the magazine and get your work out into the world! And a gentle nudge to anyone who’s been considering sending us their writing -- go for it! We love reading everything that comes through to our inbox and are always on the lookout for new writers. We have a rolling submissions deadline, but if you’d like to be featured in the Autumn Issue then do submit before 31st July 2016. Finally, a big thank you to Catherine, our fantastic designer, for another wonderful issue! We hope that you enjoy reading all of the great work featured, and don’t forget to let us know your thoughts online and via social media!

Valentina & Yasmin

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Lessons in Submission Hakim Lewis Learn silence. It will be your best friend when your voice is forbidden & holding back tears is no longer an option. Accept that I am all you need because I love you so much that it hurts. Our conversations aren’t an effective dialogue cause you have nothing to say worth hearing. Look at me when I talk to you! Whatever you’re looking at isn’t as important as what I’m saying. You are so selfish! All I ask is that you do everything and anything I ask and how dare you be less than perfect. You live with me so I own you. You owe me everything and I will beat you until you are perfect, after all you must learn that love is violent and love is painful and I love you so much that it hurts. Learn obedience for my word is law and anything else is capital punishment. Learn that I am everything is equivalent to genocide. Understand that freedom is dangerous and I am protecting you from it. That I am so good that I will save you from independence. Accept that you are only safe within my chains,


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only sheltered within my cage and only happy under my instruction. Know that you don’t need freedom when you have me. Someone who will do all of this for you without you even asking me to. Finally accept submission release all that you are to me. Let me control you. Let me manipulate you. Let me mold you and I will make you into the best thing that I think you can be. Hmm? Why are you crying? There is no reason to be sad. I will make you into everything I ever wanted you to be. And don’t worry no need to thank mommy. I do this for the same reason that I do everything for you. I do it because I love you I love you so much that it hurts... You.

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No News is Good News Peter Flint So you’re just back from your holidays Did you have a lovely week? Here, things were pretty middling Nothing special…so to speak. We took care of your goldfish At least ‘til Wednesday night Then your Tibbles came and ate him Ee, it was a gory sight! We’re sure he didn’t suffer We never heard a scream or moan Just the constant croaking Of Tibbles choking on a bone! Well, we were in a panic We did not know what to do, Until Harry had a bright idea And phoned your best friend, Sue. She was really wonderful She knows how much you love your pets, So straight away she volunteered To take Tibbles to the vets. Sadly, she had no transport, So she asked to use your car I thought, ‘It can’t do any harm, ‘Cos it isn’t very far…’ We think it was petrol leaking, No one should really take the blame, When she switched on the ignition Sue…cat…car…went up in flames! A piece of red-hot pussy… Perhaps a flying spark… They don’t know how the house caught fire, They’re still completely in the dark. Three engines and a rescue squad


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Those brave lads really tried. They said it was a pity, Your mum and dad were still inside. Your dad, he’s…was…so forgetful, And your mum weren’t all that bright… The gas-fire must have been on hours, Waiting for a light! They heard the explosion miles away And felt the wave of heat Which wasn’t so surprising, Since it flattened all the street! The rats ran from the debris Though the details are quite vague One bit poor Mrs Jefferson And gave her bubonic plague. There’s no way to contain it I’ve got the sweats and boils, you see Still, I’m glad you enjoyed your holiday… Would you like a cup of tea?

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Slips

Ed Blundell I keep your slippers by the door, The way you always used to do. When you came in from cold and rain, You’d slip them on and purr with joy, “It’s good to be back home,” you’d say. That was, of course, before you left. I keep them there in futile hope That all that passed was just bad dreams And one day I’ll wake up and find You standing there with slippers on.


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Lines Molly Draper He is a confident man. I can see it in the way he stands, his legs set wide, his pelvis tilted up to greet me, rocking forward and back on his shoes. He offers his pivoting hips out like a platter of canapés. He can hardly retain his smile when he sees me; he is jubilant. He had a good feeling when he woke up this morning; another reason to pat himself on the back, another good call. He congratulates himself through his pocketed hands. I know why he gives me the job. I can see at the interview what kind of man he is. He watches me sit with wet eyes. He asks questions of my mouth, reacts too slowly to the answers. He doesn’t care what I say. I am the right one because he wants me. He asks me when I can start, thinking he has made his first offer, his opening gambit. He has done this before; he is enjoying himself. He presumes I am ripe for the plucking. He relishes the power he assumes he has over me. He loves to give me things to do. He leans over me while breathing on to me. He smells like old paper. He constantly chooses me to assist him while the other women look away. He shows off in front of me. He brags and makes strange boasts. He speaks too slowly, looking down at where he wants my nipples to be. He draws slow circles on his palm with his pen that can write in space. He likes to be the only man in the office, or in the stationery store, or break room. He delights in catching me alone. He does not look to see if my cheeks flush. He does not hear if my speech is awkward. If there is a look of dismay on my face when I am called to be in his presence, he does not notice. But my cheeks don’t flush, my words are clear. I am a blank, unlined page before him. The other men are banished quickly from my presence with perfunctory tones. Out they go on sales calls and meetings. His eyes follow me from desk to bin, to kitchen, to copier, waiting. His pen rolls slowly over his desk, moved by some unseen flick of a fat finger, it drops off the edge and hits the nylon carpet with a dull thump. I go down on one knee to retrieve it and bring it up quickly to him, catching his expression as he leans ever so slightly over to watch me bend for it. I feel his far away eyes stay on me as I leave rooms. He shifts his buttocks forward as I walk out backwards when he motions that he is too busy on the phone to accept his files. He lifts his crotch in his adjustable swivel chair with detachable

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arms and I think I hear him moan. I feel it cold and clammy about me all day, like remnants of an illness or infection. I think about him a lot, like recent bad news. I deliver his files, neatly depositing them in his in tray, and turn to leave without making eye contact, sensing the disappointment low and heavy about him. He wants me. I enter his office for the nth time to push his files across to him. I hear the slow pen begin its roll across the wide oak desktop and I pause, for just a moment. I twist to a dropped hip, and slowly raise my arms up behind my neck under my hair, pulling my hand through my curls and letting them drop where they fall. I arch my back, pushing my pubic bone forward and slowly drawing my hands down from behind my head, splaying my palms across my breasts and drawing them up as if to pinch the nipples between my finger and thumb on each hand. I lift my pubic bone up onto the corner of the table and let it rest there, gently rocking back and forth while looking directly at him. I moan, slow and low and end by biting my bottom lip and closing my eyes for a long time. The room is filled with the rasp of his heavy breath and the slow rustle of the fabric of my skirt against the desk. When I open my eyes, he hasn’t moved. He sits holding the chair arms with white knuckles, his face peaked. His shirt fabric darkens in circles under his arms. He coughs and takes a long, deep breath, trying to gather himself, or regain himself. But before he can, I take a step back and retrieve the pen from the floor. I rock it slowly back and forth across his eye line and he watches it, childlike. I lean over the desk and lift a knee on to it to hoist myself further towards him. I place the pen between his lips, which he opens automatically as my hand approaches him. He holds it there. I retreat from the room holding his gaze. I take the door knob in my hand, touching it palm first, moving slightly to one side to enable his line of sight completely. Slowly, I draw my fingers around the end, and as I turn it I bend my knees and let them drop slightly to one side, letting out a small sigh before leaving the room, with him sweating at the centre of it. I stand with my back to the other side of the door and breathe deeply looking about the room. Nobody looks up, the drone of the office remains constant. I time myself to be with him. In the car park, we arrive together and I watch impassively as he tries to smile and chat and offer me the doorway. In the lift, I walk the two strides to him with my eyes on his to stand toe to toe with him, close enough to feel his breath on my face, hot and sweet. I hold his face and turn it to the mirrored wall where we are repeated, and say calmly to us ‘No one will believe you.’ I take a moment to admire my reflection, running my hand down my body and up between my legs, leaning in to him to free myself. As the lift stops, I stand again,


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quickly bringing my fingers to his mouth to place the wet highlighter pen I have retrieved there. He lets it fall from his lips and we both watch it on the floor between us before the door opens with a ping. The women in the office feel it first. Their voices are clearer, a little louder, maybe. But nobody says anything. There is stillness to the place, even in communal areas, a calmness of slight anticipation, a sense of waiting. But nothing seems to happen. A mild boredom sets in again, with an underlying scent of something else, something slightly different. He begins to get his own files. He makes excuses as he picks them up that it was on his way. Nobody pays much attention, apart from me. I am watching him now. He refuses eye contact and walks quickly past my desk. When he is nearby, I open my legs wide and hold each knee from the inside and wait. I bend down at strange angles. I hold impossible poses. The filing cabinets obscure me from all but him and when he passes, my mouth is always set glistening in an exaggerated O. His face drops when the lift doors open and he has no option but to go past me. I don’t move to one side or adjust my body and he desperately folds himself up to pass without touching me. I show him puncture wounds on my hands, in twos, in rows, and pull the last staple out and offer it to his shaking hands. On Monday morning, I wait at his desk with my skirt pulled high and one leg up on his swivel chair. As he enters the room, I see his surprise. He stumbles forward and I bring the shatter resistant ruler down with a wide, swift arc on my bared thigh with incredible speed and ferocity. It slaps with a crack against my skin and I gasp. His face is appalled, eyes wide and eyebrows raised in shock. He raises a hand to stop me as he steps forward. But I pull my skirt down and leave quickly, my face impassive as it passes inches from his, leaving him comically frozen, hand delicately raised, in the centre of the room. His suffering increases. He tries to make himself small and quiet, afraid to draw my attention. I seek him out in dark corners behind cabinets and suck lollies at him. He is getting thinner. His off white shirt hangs from his toneless frame. At lunchtime I roll a pen across my desk to the floor, and then retrieve it lazily, kicking it back towards my chair before picking it up in a pinch like a used tissue. I call him at home from unknown numbers and tut slowly into the receiver. His jacket gapes from him and when he passes I take his smell in like a cat on the doorstep ready for the night prowl, craning my neck to reach him and sniffing in deeply. I feel him try and close his pores, shutting his eyes and pursing his lips. He keeps his office door shut, but if he forgets, and when he might be able to hear me, I purr, low and guttural. He can’t concentrate. He shifts and twitches in his sweating chair, his eyes

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moving about the office from window to desk to wall to floor. His work is suffering. He looks up to see where I am and I wait until he does to squeeze water into my mouth from a sports bottle, keeping eye contact with him. Water spills across my face and I leave it trace down my chin and neck, all the time looking at him without expression through the toughened glass of his office. I slow down for him. Every movement drawn out to its extreme, every limb flexed and pulsed in exaggerated exercise. Bent over, pushed out, raised up, mouth open, arms held, head back, spread wide, tilted up, pulled to, held down. This is how he sees me in the office. He looks for reason in my face and I open my mouth to show him my tongue, dripping in blood, a tack deep at the centre of it, puckering it inwards like a leather cushion. A deep red trail drops from my bottom lip and he watches it, his face flitting quickly through expressions. When the phone rings, he jumps and grabs for the receiver quickly, frowning and barking impatiently down the mouthpiece. Sometimes it is me, listening to him and watching him listen. I breathe heavily into his ear, or let out a small moan of pleasure, or a mournful sigh. He looks into the receiver questioningly before replacing it. I watch his shoulders moving up and down in sobs. He returns from lunch and I watch as he sees the envelope on his usually clear desk. He glances over to my desk but I am not there. He holds the envelope at arm’s length and tips the contents onto his desk, leaning over to examine it. The colour drains from him as he reads slowly, his mouth forming exaggeratedly around the words on the page, his eyebrows raised in disbelief. ‘I must try harder. I must try harder.’ He looks up and around the office, seeking me out, crumpling the paper in his fist. Shaking his head slowly he rises to take his jacket from the back of his chair and then walks through the work stations to wait for the lift with his head down. He doesn’t come back to work, and his absence is excused by another management reshuffle, his office quickly occupied by another. Nobody really questions his departure. I rarely hear his name once he is gone. I see him months later in the supermarket. He is deep in thought at the checkout, finalising his purchase. He feels me watching him and looks up just as I lean in. I hear a little air escape his pink mouth, a slight whine. He forgets to lift the handles of his grocery bag, and leaves it on the floor at his feet. He pauses almost imperceptibly, and then walks quickly from the shop leaving his bag at the foot of the till. I watch him cross the car park through a gap in the poster-clad window. He quickens his step, changing direction sharply so that I can’t see him anymore, and I am not sure which way he has gone.


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Near Calais Ed Leahy

Again the sea wind shakes the shutter rust, And the loose latches that snatch At the swooping rain of blue-brine wind, Sing with the stuttering waves, White crashing with the gulls, Who cackle among the latches While the wild rain sparks on shutters, That shudder and rust in their dock. The hinges are loose on the homes of men, Loose here, and loose then: gesturing disorder, To the limb drifting legions filing by latches That still shake from war, like the gulls Cackling still more at the infernal flow Of limb drifters in rags by snags of wet bramble That cluster berries and old bombs To sour in the dew. The hinges are loose, and convulsing too, Shaken by the whispers of an old world, And brittle like the bones beneath. I saw the path, tree lined with dew, Was there too with the ragged ghosts, Of listing men; a child in the bramble, Hearing Dad talk bullets and barb, Watching Earth’s axle buckle the path.

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Snow and the Street David Campbell


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Why does the morning snow envelop the street so silkily? Like the overprotective mother, it hugs the pavement Crushing it to its white, frothy chest. Its babies, the small, innocent little dew drops Cling desperately to the tree leaves. They must hang on, they cannot fall. For falling spells annihilation, disintegration. But fall they always do. Drip, drip, drip. Right onto your snazzy haircut. Why does the morning snow fit so perfectly? If we step back and gaze at such a scene All we see is beauty, a picturesque moment Just perfect for the time of year. The snow supersedes the street with its beauty. Grey, dreary slabs of concrete cannot compare To this messenger of Winter. Perhaps it is not hugging, not protective. Perhaps it is greedy. Greedy for appreciation, dominance, your approval. Its cousins, the watery messy slush piles Gather menacingly by the side of the road Waiting to pounce. Swish, swish, swish. Right over your new shoes. Why is the morning snow accompanied by rain? Like the short, freckled boy who tags behind the big boys It is always following in its wake. The raindrops come drizzling down Spattering your nice new coat Which only cost thirty something down the high street. Inevitably it grows louder, a screeching cacophony That strikes the street with the force of the gong Being struck by the hammer of steel. Patter, patter, patter. But we don’t mind. Not one little bit. It’s beautiful. On a postcard.

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Same Shit, Different Day Saquina Karla C. Guiam

turn, move; you wake up and the day is already out to get you. your body becomes a warrior clad in an armor of words, your mouth’s ready to fire, but at the same time, you also have to buckle, curl into yourself—a comma of a body. the back has been scarred, the skin’s numbed to forgetting; you probably can’t feel anyone touching you but sometimes that glacier’s better than the hands that are not hands: they lurk outside your bed, your home, sharp as the barking of dogs, cutting as sunlight—burns your tongue, burns your skin, burns you inside out. you roll dice, think of choices, think of coin tossing; gambling’s a lost cause.


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The Redhead Helen Brooks The train thrummed, vibrating, set to leave the underworld gloom of Roma Termini. The other passengers seemed harmless: a middle-aged couple reading newspapers, an old beardy bloke and a stout, moustached woman with a teenage daughter both solemnly munching salami rolls. Anya avoided their eyes but caught her own reflection slanted upward in the dark window where the grubby white clothes looked clean. Jeans, socks and plimsolls were a bit much for this late summer heat though. She fanned her face with her book. The journey to Rome, only a fortnight ago, had been a laugh with Veronica. The Polish boy called them Anna and Vronsky that evening when they sat outside eating pizza, and Julian bought her the flower off the beggar-boy. Theirs was never a passion though, just a friendship. Passion led her back to revving Vespas, cool cellar air and hot bitter tears. She sighed and opened her book. It was all over now. The shoes—the shoes had caused all the trouble. If only she’d gone on the trip to Pompeii. *** On that first day at university, when Veronica’s six foot frame unfolded from a chair in the student kitchen, Anya joked, ‘Ay up, you’ve ’ad some hoss-muck in yer boots!’ The self-conscious, round-shouldered Surrey girl frowned, puzzled, then burst out laughing. ‘You’re not from round here, are you?’ After that they joined forces for Fresher’s Week. Veronica considered her height a disability so she valued Anya’s blithe unconcern. For her part, Anya appreciated Veronica’s acceptance of her flat Midland vowels which stood out in Bristol’s predominantly RP world. Away from her small home town at last, Anya was greedy for experience and surged into Fresher’s Week like a tug boat with her new friend in her wake. When Anya, in punk bin-liner and safety pins, was puking in the gutter, Veronica, in white with fairy wings, held her long dyed red hair back (an improvement on boring brown, however nice Mum said it was). ‘I’m your guardian angel.’ ‘Don’t need no guardian angel,’ said Anya after a while. ‘We don’t need no thought control,’ sang Veronica.

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Anya bounced up. ‘Let’s go back in.’ On the Sunday, they checked out the Chaplaincy—Veronica’s idea. (To shut Mum up, Anya had gone to evening Mass the Sunday before she left home. Mick Freeman from primary school days was there too. He suggested the pub after and they finished up in the back of his van. He was even shorter than her so not really boyfriend material but had a quicksilver sexiness. He said he couldn’t believe his luck, she were grand. Any road, she could do what she liked: she was on the pill.) Veronica examined the noticeboard after Mass. Yawning, Anya shoved her hands in the pockets of her man’s dinner jacket, feet apart in her pixie boots. Veronica read out: ‘University of Bristol Catholic Chaplaincy. Holiday in Rome, July 1980. Palazzola, overlooking Lake Albano. Private room, swimming pool, food included.’ ‘Too good to be true at that price,’ said Anya. Veronica peered at the small print. ‘You have to make your own way there. We could go Transalpino.’ ‘I’ll have no grant left. And it could be all Holy Joes and prayers before meals.’ ‘Yes, but—Rome!’ Fast-forwarding to summer, Anya saw herself slot back into the bed opposite Lizzie who would be as annoying as ever, continually practising her Irish dancing. Mum and Dad would plod through the daily running of Enderby Electrics with its old slogan still in the window: ‘Don’t kill your wife with work, let electricity do it!’ and the aproned lady in high heels pushing a hoover. Mum would nag, Dad would ignore her. Her parents’ lives were so dull. Saturday night was bath night, then watching the football in their dressing gowns. Sunday meant Mass, roasting the joint and Mum washing up while Dad washed his Cortina. A week at Pwllheli in the caravan. Pulling pints at Uncle Frank’s pub (fending off the creeps who ogled her breasts—‘a good pair of assets for a barmaid’—thank you, Uncle Frank) and reading reading reading until she could escape. Rome would be an adventure—glamorous, like Three Coins in the Fountain. Her black-ringed eyes gleamed. ‘Why not? Might meet the love of me life!’ She caught the biro hanging on a string and wrote her name on the list. After a term, the friendship with Veronica was flagging. They lived in the same hall of residence but Veronica joined the orchestra—she was an oboist—while Anya joined NorSoc and met others with similarly unusual accents on Pie and Pint nights (although to her, North meant Liverpool or Yorkshire). She usually had too much Pie and too much Pint but she wanted to swallow life whole, cram it in. She played darts and flirted, once drunkenly ending up in bed with an Economics student, but the


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next day saw his spots and the error of her ways and gave him the shove. She didn’t go back to the Chaplaincy, but the Rome trip was booked and paid for, so she and Veronica travelled together. None of their other friends were going. At Gare de Lyon, they struggled with heavy bags. When they slid open the compartment door, all the seats were full and six blank faces quelled their queries. In the crowded corridor, Anya sat on her rucksack and Veronica stood. Later, the only space they could find to stretch out was on the floor outside the toilet. ‘Well this is nice; boiling hot and in the stinkiest place on the whole train. Sherry, darling?’ Anya yanked a bottle out of her bag. ‘I can’t believe you bought that and no water—and all these books! Where are your clothes?’ ‘Couldn’t resist the duty free. Need the books. I’ll manage for clothes.’ She eased out the stopper. ‘They’ve patented that sound, you know. Bottoms up!’ ‘Mind your teeth,’ said Veronica. ‘Cheers! This is Mummy’s favourite, actually.’ She pulled a yellow paperback out of the bag. ‘I’ve heard of this.’ ‘Fear of Flying? Haven’t read it yet. Wanna borrow it?’ Veronica shook her head. The sherry passed to and fro. The train clattered through the night. ‘Transalpino,’ said Anya. ‘Sounds like Latin, “I cross the Alps”. But where are they?’ ‘Out there.’ Veronica waved at the black windows. ‘Lurking.’ ‘Lurcio.’ ‘Uh?’ ‘Up Pompeii.’ ‘Oh yeah! Dad likes that. The innuendo.’ ‘My father disapproves—but he watches it.’ Veronica tilted the bottle again. ‘Actually there’s a trip to Pompeii.’ ‘I—I wanted to be a Vestal Virgin!’ Anya spluttered with laughter. ‘I am one—Virgin Veronica!’ Veronica squealed, then put her finger to her lips, giggling. ‘Ssh!’ ‘They wouldn’t have me now.’ ‘Ooh—do tell. Who, when?’ ‘Thought I was in love in Lower Sixth.’ Anya fiddled with her cigarette packet, flipping the lid open and back, open and back. ‘God, he didn’t half keep on—but I kinda wanted to, just to get the whole losing your virginity thing over with. So I did. Then he finished with me. Bastard. Still, that’s ancient history now.’ She lit a cigarette. ‘Now I just go with someone if I fancy them.’

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‘Maybe you’ll meet somebody nice on holiday?’ ‘Aye—maybe.’ In the morning, Anya woke stiff and dry mouthed. A place called La Spezia showed a triangular glimpse of blue sea and some passengers left so they got a seat and snoozed. From behind smudged eyelids she imagined the train on a map in an old film, winding its way down the boot of Italy. Palazzola was a little heaven perched on the side of a hill. Its gardens, formal Italianate rectangles with trees for shade, overlooked a calm lake amongst hills. A path led through a wrought-iron gate to a swimming pool in the rocky hillside and a broad wall separated the garden from the long drop down to the woods and lake. Anya lay on the wall in a halter-neck costume that showed off her cleavage, pretending to read while watching the boys in the pool from behind her sunglasses. Or rather watching Danny—golden curls and hazel eyes that made her heart race. She’d heard he was a champion pole vaulter. Maybe that’s how he got that body. He was in a noisy game of water polo. She couldn’t join in—she didn’t know the game and would not look good beetroot red. Veronica had a migraine and was indoors. ‘Hey Anya.’ Julian’s pale lanky body dripped beside her. He was a third year and a Chaplaincy Rep. On the first night he’d shown them the refectory and library and led them down stone steps to the cellar where a huge vat held wine they could drink at will. He’d introduced them to some girls in Lady Di ruffles who she’d dismissed as proper goody two shoes. He brought them pasta puttanesca and listened to the story of their journey. Now he kept hanging around. She raised her eyes from the book. ‘Yer blocking me sun.’ ‘Sorry.’ He put his straight hair behind his ears. ‘Are you coming into Rome this afternoon?’ ‘I might. Who’s going?’ ‘Oh, everyone I think. The idea is to see some sights then eat in Piazza Navona.’ ‘Piazza what?’ ‘Navona.’ Julian’s awfully well-modulated vowels Italianised. ‘We’ll ’ave a gelato in the piazza.’ She wouldn’t play. ‘I’ll go and get me togs on.’ Opposite the bus stop in the village was a shoe shop, closed for lunch. In the tiny window, a pair of shoes shimmered. Like ballet slippers only more substantial, they were made of cream leather and tied around the ankle with ribbon. On the


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insole, Romanza was inscribed in gold. They’d look a treat with her white jeans. She would come back when the shop was open. On the bus, Julian’s long thighs hardly fit so he sat on the outside while Anya, with childish glee, took the window seat. Julian’s arm snaked behind her to point out the film studios, releasing a sour whiff. Danny was right at the back with Jacek, a Polish student with acne whom she had never spoken to, and some of the boring girls. They scarpered as soon as the bus stopped, but Julian stayed with her. She couldn’t help gawping at the Colosseum, where wild beasts once tore the condemned to pieces, rearing like a film set in the middle of traffic. At St Peter’s she scrutinised Michelangelo’s Pietà. It had been vandalised in the seventies by a mad Hungarian but now you couldn’t tell it had been damaged. She sat on the Spanish Steps like Audrey Hepburn then wandered down to find the house where Keats had died, or nursed his brother or something. It was a museum. Keen to go in, she looked around for Julian but he was lost in the seething mass of tourists going up and down like angels on Jacob’s ladder. Oh well. She stepped inside and forked out a few hundred of her precious lira. It was worth it. She emerged into blue dusk with a bookmark and a resolve to visit writers’ houses whenever she could. But she must find the others. Best head for Piazza Navona. Some English tourists indicated the general direction and she set off, reading elegant carved street signs above unsightly graffiti. She zigzagged through back streets with a sense of unease in the stony quiet. Still, they’d done self-defence in PE and she could always run, so she dawdled, remembering Yossarian wandering the streets of Rome in Catch 22. Lovely curling street-lamps were coming on and a bar brightened the end of the street then Piazza Navona opened up before her, all high brown buildings and fountains. And there were the others, taking a group photo by the fountain. She slipped in smiling next to Danny and he casually slung his arm round her. She leant against his firm warmth then the group fell apart before she could take one of everybody with her Kodak Instamatic. They moved to a cafe with seats outside. Danny was buttressed by Jacek and Julian but she took the next seat. They ordered shockingly expensive pizza. ‘Vron would have loved it today,’ she said, pushing down money worries. ‘Vron—hey, Anna and Vronsky!’ said Danny. He’d got her name wrong. ‘Better not throw meself under a train.’ She nearly said why she was named Anya: how Dad saw War and Peace on the telly and fancied something Russian and thought Tolstoy’s other book was Anya Karenina. Last year she read it for the 19th Century module—Anna’s wonderful doomed passion. But it seemed foolish, to be named by mistake. ‘Pizza in the piazza,’ she said instead, with her mouth full.

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‘Thank goodness you found it,’ said Julian. ‘I was worried.’ ‘It’s not square, is it? For a piazza.’ ‘It used to be the Stadium of Domitian—for chariot races.’ A bright-eyed boy hovered, selling flowers; Julian placed a note in his dirty paw, then turned to her. ‘Please accept this fiore from your ammiratore, signorina.’ She took the cellophane-wrapped rose. Julian put his arm round her and leaned in to kiss her cheek. She recoiled. He jerked his arm back as though she’d burnt him. ‘Sorry, I thought—’ She fiddled with the rose, unhelpful, conscious of Danny laughing. Julian recovered. ‘My mistake. Forget it, okay? Let me pour you some wine?’ ‘Okay. Here’s to Roma!’ ‘And tomorrow, Pompeii!’ The fold-up travel alarm jangled early next morning. Veronica knocked, calling, ‘I’m better! Pompeii here we come!’ But Anya had seen the list; Danny wasn’t going. She called through the door, ‘I’m not going now—no money!’ Veronica would pal up with one of the boring girls probably. Soon she had Fear of Flying open and a slick finger probing, circling, tapping until her body arched, convulsed and sank back into sleep. The quiet, late morning courtyard was like a bright painting framed by a shady cloister. What had Veronica said? Angelica somebody. The stone bench struck cold into her heat. She smoked and read, hoping Danny would pass. Surely he must sense her, see her desire like a pulsing halo. Then a muddle of male voices—laughter—Danny, with his arm round Jacek’s neck, Jacek bouncing a basketball which echoed round the cloister like gunshots. They were almost past when she blurted out, ‘Hey, where you off to?’ Jacek threw a reply over his shoulder, not stopping. ‘Round the lake to Castel Gandolfo.’ Oh, thanks for inviting me, you spotty wazzock. Why can’t you bloody show a bit of interest, Danny? They disappeared through the archway and the gunshots ceased. She drooped, then perked up; she would go to the village and buy the shoes. The track sloped gently with a strip of dead grass down the middle. A lizard skittered into a crack. She pushed her sunglasses up. Should have worn a hat, never mind. At the bottom was the main road and thin woodland. A gap in the trees


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suggested a path but she chose the road. There was not much traffic—sporadic cars then a couple of motor scooters which slowed for a wolf whistle to pierce the engine noise. She realised the skimpy vest hardly kept her breasts in check and the jeans revealed every contour of her behind. By the time she grasped the hot metal handrail and mounted the steps to the shop, the toe-post of one flip-flop had rubbed her sore. The shoes were still in the window, posed like a ballerina’s pointe shoes, their ribbons in artful curlicues. A bell chimed and an old lady with a face like a walnut materialised from some inner gloom. Anya pointed and smiled. The old lady nodded. Her feet were swollen and dusty but no pop socks were offered. ‘They’re a teensy bit tight—bigger?’ Anya spread her hands apart. Mrs Walnut shook her head, gesturing at her feet. ‘Bella, signorina.’ They’d do. She handed over her lira, some huge number but really only a few pounds. As she left, a hand placed a sign in the window: Chiuso. It was searingly hot now. She swung her carrier bag. She would take that shady path through the woods—it would hide her from passing motor scooters—if she could just find the way in. A gap opened on her right; a dry earth path led through spindly trees. Bliss to be in the shade though any sylvan charm was spoiled by scattered plastic bottles and cans. If only she had something to tie her hair up with. The sore place on her foot was worse. She persevered for half a mile then opened the shoebox and soon had the ribbons tied round her ankles. As she crouched, putting her flip-flops in the carrier bag, a buzzing noise made her turn. Four or five motor scooters zoomed up, skimmed close in a cloud of dust and blocked the path. Brown-haired boys—men— with cheeky grins—leers—faced her. She rose, stepped forward. Should she smile? Could she barge through? Up ahead the path was empty. A glance behind—no-one. They revved their engines. ‘Ciao, Bella!’ ‘Ti amo, sexy!’ ‘La Rossa! La Rossa!’ chanting as they circled her. Their scooters kept close—a ring of stylish curved metal and chrome—she would hurt herself trying to break through. Anyway they’d chase her. Her heart began to thud. The scooters came closer. Mouths opened, teeth smiled, bared. The air was blue with exhaust. Her throat caught and her eyes stung. She jerked her head from side to side, wide-eyed, and paced backwards and forwards in a sick dance which seemed to unfold at a slow tempo, the dusty ring of scooters like a circus act, or like a nature programme she’d watched where some big fish herded little fish

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they would prey on. Then one leaned in and pinched her arm; another slapped her bottom. She shouted, ‘Get off! Stop prattin’ about!’ but they kept on, round and round. Her breasts, bottom, midriff, upper arms were pinched and prodded. She couldn’t break out. A hand went up her vest and squeezed. She shrieked. Another wriggled in her waistband, then out. She was crying, clutching her carrier bag to her breasts, her vest straps pulled down, hair plastered over her face as she twisted this way and that. Outrage suddenly sparked in her chest. Bugger this. Fight the bastards. She lunged and pushed with all her might at the handlebars of the pale blue Vespa in her way, grunting with the effort. The machine keeled over releasing a jet of angry verbiage from its rider. A mirror snapped off. His mates were jeering as she sprinted off up the path, sprinting that felt like slow motion. Her heart thumped. If they chased her she would fight and kick— But they didn’t follow. When she took a quick panting look over her shoulder, the last scooter was peeling away back down the path, engine puttering like a harmless hairdryer. She ran away so fast she tripped and dived forward, nearly falling over but rescued herself and carried on until she was gasping painfully and had to stop, bent double, tasting bile. Blood pounded in her ears. Birds were singing. She checked behind. No sign. Her feet were agony. She ran on. At the main road they were not there, thank God. She eased the shoes off and slipped the flip-flops on. She bundled shoes and box into the carrier bag, dragged her hair off her sweaty face then limped quickly up the track. The cloister was deserted. She walked calm as a nun to her room, locked the door and collapsed on the bed, her face in her hands. She could not stop the high-pitched wails, the ridiculous blubbering. She woke feeling wretched. In the shower the water assaulted her feet which were a mess of angry pink patches and blisters, some pale, some burst and ragged. Drying herself she fingered the ugly yellow bruises and was jerked again by sobs, like a puppet. On the last night, the cooks sent up huge bowls of spaghetti carbonara and the golden wine flowed. She consumed it all with appetite as though no unsightly blueblack bloomed beneath the white shirt; as though her sleep were not broken by episodes of threat that woke her, sweating. Danny would make things better. When he went to fill the carafes for their table, she drained her glass and followed him, somewhat unsteadily. In the dim cellar he was squatting to operate the tap at the base of the huge vat. Inspired, she opened her arms.


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‘Oh, for a beaker full of the warm south!’ Danny stood. ‘Wine?’ She tottered over and reached up to his shoulders, alluring. ‘No, you.’ His denim shirt smelt freshly laundered. A darling curl sprang from behind his ear. ‘Ah. Sweet. The thing is,’ he whispered, ‘Jacek wouldn’t like it.’ Her nose wrinkled. ‘What’s that spotty git got to do with it?’ Her strident voice echoed. Silence. Cool shivery air. ‘That spotty git is my boyfriend.’ Danny turned away. Boyfriend? She blinked at his broad back then rushed stumbling upstairs. Oh God. What an idiot. She was so stupid. By the black glassy swimming pool, she lay on the wall, loosened her jeans and looked up at the crazy stars. Hot tears dripped down her temples. Her chest ached. Danny could have tenderly kissed her bruises, caressed her hair, her face. She ran the movie in her mind. He was strong yet tender. She leaned against his manly chest, safe. But the gritty surface of the wall pressed sharply through her shirt. Come on— to feel grief for a romance that had never happened. Could never happen. The stars came back into focus. She wanted a cigarette. She would go and be nice to Julian. He might be a bit of a posh beanpole but he liked her. It wasn’t too late. But someone was there. ‘Romantic, isn’t it?’ Two girls on the other side of the pool. She kept still. ‘Mm, romance is in the air. I see Julian and Veronica are an item.’ ‘It all happened in Pompeii.’ ‘They got hot!’ ‘Something erupted!’ They chuckled. ‘I thought he liked—you know, the Northern girl.’ ‘The slutty one?’ Anya shot up. She heard gasps. ‘What do you mean, slutty?’ She swayed forwards. ‘You don’t know me! S’not fair!’ She marched over to them but had forgotten the swimming pool. She dropped through the black surface as through a trapdoor. The waters closed over her head. One girl jumped in, one hauled her out and all lay laughing in the dark on the poolside. The girls—Pauline and Jo—apologised. She made light of it, sobered and embarrassed. Back at the party, in dry clothes, she gave Danny and Jacek a wide berth. Veronica and Julian had disappeared. She sat under the trees with Pauline and Jo and a carafe of wine. It all came out. They were horrified at the assault and

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sympathetic at the mistake over Danny. Anya heard her words boiling up like canal water under lock gates. She’d hardly spoken to anyone properly all holiday. The next day Veronica, in a pretty cotton dress, joined her on the bench overlooking the lake. ‘I picked some bay leaves, d’you want some?’ Anya’s sunglasses faced forward. ‘What for?’ ‘You put one in coq au vin.’ She placed some in Anya’s hands. ‘I hear you and Julian are…’ ‘Yes. We had such fun in Pompeii, really hit it off. And,’ Veronica whispered. ‘I’m not a Vestal Virgin anymore.’ ‘Aha!’ A sudden flash of their old camaraderie. It’d be fun going back. ‘Actually Anya…’ ‘Go on.’ ‘I’m not going back on the train. Julian’s brother is coming down by car. Their people have a place near Sorrento—we’re spending some time there before we go home.’ ‘Sounds amazing—have you got any money left? I’m skint.’ ‘Don’t worry, my parents are sending some. Will you be okay though? I feel rotten, abandoning you.’ ‘Don’t you worry either, duck. Have a great time.’ ‘Duck?’ Veronica laughed. It was hard though, watching them pull away. Why did it have to be a sports car? Julian sat in front by his brother; Veronica, in a headscarf, waved gaily from the back seat, her knees poking up. The low-slung car negotiated the track, then sped off with a sudden growl. Anya’s arm dropped. She trudged back to pack her bag and had an idea. There was time. She rummaged in her toilet bag and fished out a pair of scissors. Soon ruddy locks criss-crossed around her feet. She shook the short bob. The ends looked chopped and uneven so she cut vertically into the hair. Pretty good. She winked at herself in the mirror. What a holiday: a blind crush on a homosexual, assaulted, lost a nice boyfriend and missed out on a trip to Sorrento in a sports car. Bloody hell. If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry. The troublesome ballet shoes peeped at her from the bin. She stuffed them in her bag along with books, clothes, bay leaves, and a small replica Pietà for Mum from the gift shop. Lizzie might like the shoes. Dad—he could have the bookmark. She boarded the train fully prepared to kick up a fuss but her seat had no


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impostor in it. Pauline and Jo were in the next compartment. If a seat became free there, she’d move. A creased shirt hid the bruises. Her socked feet had plasters over the blisters. Her book, The Rainbow, was for the Symbolic Novel module next term. Lawrence was from round her way—time she saw what all the fuss was about. Maybe she could visit his house. She took a swig from her water bottle. Her white jeans were filthy. Mum would say, ‘What are you, one of the Persil dirt collectors?’ Mum could have the bay leaves—maybe they could make coq au vin. It would be nice to have a proper cup of tea. Once home she might see what Mick was up to— but maybe not. She closed her eyes, Isadora Wing come to her senses after her foray round Europe. No, plain Anya Jenkinson, survivor, unburdened by long heavy hair— enlightened. The thrumming heightened in pitch and the train juddered then began to glide out of the dark station into flooding light.

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In the Curtain Light Ed Leahy


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In the curtain light you can see the dust drift From when the universe unfurled like a rug, And motes of past men or matter unmade, Orbit in elegy for their forgotten forms. And I was contained in that first container, And am contained by what I contain, But remain a moment of realization For the small dots I am and am not. Struck by all things alike, But mostly in that shaping of slime, Into a cell song that sings of its own sublime: In this curtain light, sun-rays shape gold doors, That close across suburban walls like Janus Who jangles his keys to chime our mind to horology. Here is a wonder that cannot be parsed Absolute and indissoluble in any form: I leave it as it is, like a bug one ought to jar, And tell you how I watched it crawl What more from this elegant scrawl? Place wonder in the penny press, And a poem will fall. Whose Helicon has an observatory today? Where we scope the will of creation in a humble yawn, And find trance when tracing in our ears, The bore black years back to the womb of time. From this I make no retreat - These words may be yours but that wonder is mine, And sometimes you poets light a stove To show the meaning of fire – Yet know the universe is so designed That we shake in deep sleep From faraway vows between voids of light, And are contained by what we contain Though never free, But always a freedom of kind for us, Who have felt once, our atoms more real than our selves.

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The Triptych of Rain Mendes Biondo

I how powerful is the rain that incessantly falls on the heads of men on living bodies that flee it with fear that hardly accept it rain is made of drops now cold now hot and falling all together each one in its solitude are able to bend the will of little men II children are not afraid of driving rain that washes them from head to foot they do not fear the mud that soaks the clothes they are deaf to the prayers of soaked parents they fear only the thunders and the lightning brights from a few years you’ll find them changed after the times of springs after the falls they will be hard as oaks as those trunks where they run after each other


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wait for their white hair and they will become dry and the rain will be for them only a damp hassle III from the window I see lightning flashes lights a thundering storm and my eyes hurt to each flash to each glow to each light the fat droplets fall the tram rattles slowly the cars pass like waves on the sparkling tracks on the slippery asphalt I could close all this behind two shutters of wood I could shut my ears with cotton wool I could stick my face into the pillow but how would the day tell me that it’s all over how would the sun reassure me that the flashes are over how would the cries of the children in the park tell me that summer can still return

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Rambling Sarah Thorogood

On the outside, looking in Not really knowing where to begin Quiet and thoughtful, don’t want to talk Just open the door, leave and walk Subdued and cold, do I belong? Oh, if everyday could be a song No worries, unhappiness or tears A place where you can face your fears To write it all down, a way of showing To understand, be all-knowing Where you can feel you have a place To be yourself, show your face The poem and story, my space to hide To flow, to dance and slowly glide Every moment a happy and bright day Not having to think about what I say Expressing thoughts, words on the page Happy or sad, or in a rage To be exactly who you want to be Something real or make believe to see A life you can just pretend To choose how you want it to end.


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Ghost Writer Peter Flint ‘Westerby House?’ ‘Westerby House…they’re going to knock it down.’ ‘Look, Frank, am I missing something here?’ ‘I’ve just told you…the Council have put out a demolition order on Westerby House…they’re going to knock it down…’ ‘O.K...O.K…I’m with you but can I ask one question?’ ‘If you must…’ ‘Where is bloody Westerby House and, more importantly, what the hell has it got to do with me?’ ‘It’s that big old place just off York Road…used to be some sort of a residential home…been empty for years.’ ‘You mean the place just beyond the Texaco garage…surrounded by trees…the police had to clear out a load of druggies and squatters a couple of years back?’ ‘Yes, that’s the one.’ ‘Bloody eyesore if you ask me, best thing for it--knocking it down I mean. Why are you interested…is the paper doing a ‘Ruin of the Week’ column?’ ‘Close, my son, but no cigar…truth is I want you to do a piece on it…you know the usual stuff. “Another piece of our priceless heritage sacrificed to developers’ greed”…etc.’ ‘But, like I said, it’s a dump, an eyesore, sooner it’s gone the better if you ask me. Why in the name of goodness do you want me to waste my valuable time writing about a demolition site?’ Frank grinned. ‘Have you got anything else on at the moment?’ ‘Well…no…but…’ ‘Just as I thought you lazy sod…so get on that computer and find out about the soon-to-be-ex Westerby House…it’s supposed to be haunted…here I’ve just had a better idea…do you believe in ghosts?’ ‘Ghosts? No, load of superstitious rubbish…now the girlfriend’s mother…she is seriously scary…always have a few cloves of garlic in my pockets when I go round there. Why are you asking?’ ‘“Fearless Chronicle Reporter Spends a Night in House of Horror”…or some such rubbish…are you on?’

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‘You mean…?’ ‘Why not? It’ll make a great story. You’re bottling it aren’t you?’ ‘Me? I’ve told you, the only thing that scares me is the girlfriend’s mum…but I’ve got better things to do than–’ ‘I reckon you’re scared…tell you what, I’ll bet fifty quid you won’t do it.’ ‘Fifty quid? Right, you’re on…set it up and I’ll show you who’s scared of ghoulies and ghosties…er…as long as you swear that you won’t send Mrs Cameron round in the middle of the night.’ ‘Mrs Cameron? Who’s Mrs Cameron? ‘I’ve already told you twice, you pillock…the girlfriend’s mother!’ Frank laughed. ‘You can rest easy. I’ll get onto the Council Planning Office, find out who we need to approach to set it up…oh, by the way, you had better research the place…we want more of a story than “Camp-bed cosy…mice kept me awake with their snoring…nothing else happened.”’ Phil was sent out on a story; a local mum had been charged with vandalism for painting the white stripes on a school crossing bright red to draw attention to the danger of speeding traffic. When he got back to the office it was late. Frank had gone but there was a note on his desk, ‘Whoooo! He…he…he! Your luxury break at the Westerby House Spa has been booked for next Tuesday…enjoy! Don’t forget to find out about the place or we could end up with the biggest non-story of the year. Ciao!’ They say that the road to hell is plagued with good intentions; Phil’s certainly was…ish. He fully intended to do some background research on Westerby House, however, as is the way, other things were more important or more interesting; Sara, his girlfriend, phoned to invite him to a party on Saturday. Sunday, for a variety of reasons, was something of a blank -- well, a blur at least. By Monday, Phil had almost decided to reapply for membership of the human race. To add to his woes, a big story about credit card forgery kept him pounding his keyboard until late. Tuesday night. Frank drove him to Westerby House and helped him unpack some basic provisions; a sleeping-bag, food, a lamp and reading material to wile away the long, dark, hours of his vigil. Phil did a brief recce of the old place and chose the least damp, dirty and smelly of the rooms. He carefully scooped up a couple of large hairy spiders and dropped them outside before setting up his stuff and pouring himself coffee and snuggling down in his sleeping-bag with a book. At half past eleven he was bored, he had worked out that the commanding-officer’s leggy secretary was the one who had killed the C.I.A.’s undercover agent and there were still two hundred pages to go. He yawned, put the book on the floor by the side of the bed, finished the coffee (which had gone cold) and rolled over to sleep.


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He was awakened by a furious hammering. He wriggled out of the sleepingbag to see the sun pouring in through the window. He glanced at his watch…Jesus! It was half past ten! He rubbed his eyes and grinned, nothing like a haunted house for getting a good night’s sleep. The banging continued. Phil pulled on his parka and went downstairs. ‘Bloody hell, Phil, you had me going there…I’ve been banging on this bloody door for over fifteen minutes. You know, daft as it sounds, I’d begun to think…’ ‘You thought I’d been devoured by the Spectre of Westerby House! You daft bugger…the only spectre this place wants is the sanitary inspector…God it doesn’t half stink…’ ‘So…you’re sure you’re alright…I mean, when it got to half-past nine and you hadn’t shown up at the office…well we…did anything…er…unusual…er…spooky… happen? Did you hear anything? See anything?’ ‘Sorry to disappoint you old mate. Wish I could show you the punctures on my throat but there was nothing, zilch, zero. I told you it was all a load of old cobblers. Oh, and, by the way, you owe me fifty quid!’ ‘I was hoping you’d forgotten that. Still, I’m sure you found something in the archives you can whisk up into a thrilling tale for our gullible readership?’ ‘The archives? Oh…er…yes…er…there were a few juicy bits…er…a bit of hankypanky on the back-stairs…that sort of thing…Sex in the City couldn’t teach those Victorians…Georgians…whatever…a deal.’ Phil sat staring at the screensaver swirling its meaningless pattern; he had thought it was witty and hilarious when he set it up but now it just mocked his lack of inspiration. He supposed he could invent some scurrying, a bit of creaking, some half-heard shuffling footsteps, a white emaciated face with red eyes and dripping blood-stained fangs. The truth of the matter was nothing happened. Abso…bloody… lutely nothing! He had evicted a couple of innocent spiders, sussed the plot of a rubbish thriller, drunk half a flask of foul luke-warm coffee and crashed out until midmorning. Suddenly he found himself typing. His fingers flew over the keyboard and the screen filled with words; but these words, whatever they said were not Phil’s. For almost three-quarters of an hour he worked solidly. Apart from a slight fuzziness behind his eyes, Phil felt perfectly okay; in fact, he could honestly say it was some time since he had felt this good. At last his fingers pressed the final full stop and the story…whatever it was…had reached its ending. Phil clicked “Print” and waited for the sheet to emerge. He began to read:

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Oliver Laxton had been a groom at Westerby House. He had been hanged at York on the 14th of February 1803 for the brutal murder of one of the daughters of the Harmiston family. Lucy Harmiston had been battered to death in her bed-chamber. The murder weapon, a walking-stick belonging to the young man was found by her side smothered in her blood. Money and jewellery missing from Lucy’s dressing-table was discovered hidden behind a loose board in Laxton’s quarters in the stable-block. The chief witness against Laxton had been the father of the girl, Sir Nigel Harmiston who swore on oath that he had overheard Lucy remonstrating with the groom about a loose stirrup prior to her setting off on a hunt. He told how Lucy had, with good cause, threatened to turn the groom out of his post -- the stirrup could have slipped throwing her -- perhaps resulting in serious injury. Sir Nigel described the venomous hatred on the young groom’s face as the girl hurled abuse at him. The jury took only twenty minutes to return a guilty verdict and, screaming his innocence, Oliver Laxton, aged nineteen, had been dragged from the courtroom to his death. According to the sheets Phil held in his trembling fingers, this was not the true version of events. Lucy had been riding alone in the nearby Crakenfield Wood when her stirrup had slipped and she had fallen. Fortunately the groom, Oliver Laxton, had been searching for mushrooms and come across the girl lying unconscious by a large beech tree. Oliver had run to a nearby stream and collected water; he had bathed the girl’s wounds and made her comfortable before racing over the fields for help. Frequently, he had made an excuse to visit the house and ask after her. When she recovered he had made sure that he was around the stables whenever Lucy was there. A romance had blossomed and the young couple made plans to marry. Sir Nigel was furious when Lucy told him of their dream; it was impractical, unheard of, unthinkable, impossible! It was then Lucy revealed that she was carrying Oliver’s child. The thought of the sniggering, the shame, the utter humiliation of this revelation drove Sir Nigel beyond reason. Snatching up a heavy brass candlestick, he beat his daughter’s head to a pulp. When his sanity returned and he realised the horror of his actions, he set about ensuring that the man who had brought his daughter to this end would be punished. There the story should end -- did end -- some two hundred years ago. Despite its violent tragic ending, the case was a farce, a stereotype, a cliché. No self respecting writer would produce such hackneyed rubbish. This was Phil’s critical assessment of the story which had mysteriously appeared on his screen. True, he now had an angle on Westerby House that the readers would lap up. The Microsoft Magic Wordsmith had saved his bacon, but the case was ancient history. The lad had


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been tried and executed; it was his word against that of a wealthy, highly-respected landowner. ’What else is new?’ thought Phil. Then he noticed that the story was not finished; it went on to tell that Sir Nigel had written up an account of his humiliation and his, to his mind, justifiable actions, in his journal. Shaking, Phil switched on the computer and scoured the files on Westerby House for any reference to a journal but there was nothing! All contemporary references confirmed Oliver Laxton’s culpability. His deadline was approaching, Frank was threatening to burst a blood-vessel, so Phil gave up and wrote the account of the murder and the impending exorcism to be carried out by the bulldozers and wrecking-balls. ‘Here Ted…look at this…’ Roy Armitage took off his yellow safety helmet and wiped the sweat from his forehead. He held up a once-handsome leather bound book. ‘Found it behind some of that panelling I was ripping out…looks like some sort of a diary…’

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Missed Call Ed Blundell You said you’d ring but didn’t call, I watched the clock tick past the hour. I wondered what the problem was, I worried that your car had crashed, That you lay injured, maybe dead. Perhaps you’d met somebody new And now you snuggled in his arms, Kissing his nose like you kissed mine. You could be ill, some sudden stroke, A heart attack, a rare disease That stole from you the power of speech, Leaving you paralysed and dumb. So I was mortified to find That I had simply slipped your mind.


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Catwalking in Catastrophe Peter Flint She wore a borrowed dress Nor did her crown belong to her Still, she looked beautiful Stalking between vassal ranks Of fawning, enchanted courtiers Breathing a miasma of greed, lust, envy She spurned them all At once a predator and prey Prowling, zombie-eyed Face a corpse-like mask, Lips swollen as if gorged with blood Regal, she turned, oblivious of her disciples, Down the wolf-whistle, sighing walk Back to the paint, powder and chaos Of the real world Shedding her borrowed finery Which would be catalogued and copied To be sold for a pittance In High Street temples of commerce Laden with bags with escutcheons Much more familiar…much more affordable Than this unique Dolce-Gabbana creation A bargain at a mere £32,000! I doubt if the Saturday night revellers Preening in their day’s purchases Would give a moment’s thought to The price of the original…nor The nine hundred souls crushed under concrete Erected carelessly by inefficiency and greed Working fourteen hours for coppers Making cheap copies of such ‘borrowed’ dresses Nor of the starving Syrian child Staring at us in fear and bewilderment Sharing the page with this icon of consumerism.

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God Descends and Then Some Saquina Karla C. Guiam i.

ii.

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Figured His Grace comes to the people in mosques but I’ve only been in them two or three times because I don’t trust myself with the stuttering Arabic on my tongue. Someone once asked me if I believed in Him and maybe I said no or I said yes—memory is like going underwater: everything you see slants and moves and linearity becomes something akin to myth. I could have said I believe but I don’t want to put The Big A in one box as if creation is a man’s talent, as if man could make me and the sky and the ocean— Speaking of oceans, can we talk of drowning as baptism rites? Look to how sea foam anoints you: salt in the tongue more like godflesh, a communion holier than I’ve ever known. Too many absences from the nearest masjid but I don’t think He cares much for attendance. I think He cares more whether you’ve been good, you’ve been talking to Him—could probably hear Him say I’m just an old friend—you’ve taken His Hand and walked next to Him on any day or any night. I’ve heard Him talk to the waves once and I thought even The Most Merciful can get lonely.


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One Ahead Emily Pierce

Cast of Characters An ACCOUNTANT: Never wrong. Married to the SOCIALITE. A SOCIALITE: Indignant. Married to the ACCOUNTANT. A MAGICIAN: Hasn’t quite outgrown his awkward stage.

Scene A secluded living area in a well-to-do apartment, during a child’s birthday party.

Time The present.

Recommended Props Balloons “Happy Birthday” banner

AT RISE: Empty stage. Suddenly, ACCOUNTANT and SOCIALITE burst in. SOCIALITE

Unbelievable. Un-be-fucking-lievable.

ACCOUNTANT

I said I was sorry!

SOCIALITE

And that magically fixed everything, didn’t it?

ACCOUNTANT

Oh, because it’s my sole responsibility to—

SOCIALITE

God, how can you be so flip about this? Did you SEE how your mother was looking at me?

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You know, I wasn’t exactly focusing on you...I was paying attention to my daughter. That’s what you want, right?

SOCIALITE is about to respond, but takes a moment to collect her thoughts. SOCIALITE

Everyone in that room knows exactly what’s going on.

ACCOUNTANT

Bullshit. They don’t—

SOCIALITE

Oh, they do, and instead of being ashamed of you, they’re pitying me! Your mom looks at me like I’m dying of some…some…some self-inflicted disease!

ACCOUNTANT

You’ve never skipped out on a pity party before; why start now?

SOCIALITE

(fiery) People are gonna talk about this! Okay? They’re gonna put all the blame on me for not keeping you satisfied. Meanwhile, no one gives a shit that I’ve had to lie to Pamela for months about why you come home late, while you’re out screwing your boss... maybe they should talk about that!

ACCOUNTANT

Yeah! Maybe they should, and you know what? While they’re at it, maybe they should bring up how much you spend on keeping up appearances!

SOCIALITE

This is not about my surgeries—

ACCOUNTANT

If you’re so concerned about your reputation, don’t lie about your nose job!

SOCIALITE

Having work done is not the same as being cheated on!

ACCOUNTANT

(smugly) Well, you’ve lied to Pamela about both, haven’t you? The kid’s six. She’s not stupid.

SOCIALITE

(after several beats) Seven.

ACCOUNTANT

What?


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SOCIALITE

Oh my God. She’s seven. It’s her BIRTHDAY.

ACCOUNTANT

Cut me some slack; it was a long day at work, okay?

SOCIALITE

You’re really gonna pull that now? I guess you lose track of time when you’re caught up in goddamn infidelity!

The MAGICIAN enters. Nobody takes any note of him; he realizes that this is probably a bad time and tries not to be seen. ACCOUNTANT

Oh, SHUT up.

SOCIALITE

I could’ve cheated, too, you know! I’ve had plenty of opportunities!

ACCOUNTANT

Don’t flatter yourself. You flaunt the ring I bought you enough; you wouldn’t let it just disappear.

SOCIALITE I kept my shit together, for our daughter. I wish you’d tried the same! ACCOUNTANT

Well, congratu-fucking-lations!

SOCIALITE

Oh, go straight to hell!

ACCOUNTANT

With pleasure! Any place without you in it is—

The ACCOUNTANT turns to leave, notices the MAGICIAN, and stops abruptly. The MAGICIAN realizes just how awkward this situation is. MAGICIAN

...Hi.

SOCIALITE

...What are you doing here?

MAGICIAN

You hired me for the party and—

SOCIALITE

Yeah, I KNOW that. What I DON’T know is why you’re standing there like a clown while we’re trying to have a conversation.

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MAGICIAN

Uh, well, you see, I’m not a clown…

ACCOUNTANT

This is a private discussion. I bet you’re breaching your contract, right? Want me to withhold your pay?

MAGICIAN

(steeling self) I’m sorry, but, um, I’m a magician, and you paid me two weeks ago! That money went towards making balloon animals for your little girl!

ACCOUNTANT

Oh, excuse me!

SOCIALITE

“Balloon animals,” ha! I bet it was cheap gin and good times.

MAGICIAN

What?

SOCIALITE

You entertainers are all the same.

MAGICIAN Look, I don’t know why you’re throwing daggers my way. (jokingly) That’s my job. I’m the magician. ACCOUNTANT You’re using daggers out there? Good God, I specifically said this was for a child’s birthday party! MAGICIAN

That’s a pun! I’m not...your mom sent me in here to talk to you.

SOCIALITE

What on earth could SHE want?

MAGICIAN

SHE wants to see you two. (beat) Pamela’s really upset.

Several beats. ACCOUNTANT

She is?

MAGICIAN

She’s crying...kept on getting distracted during my act.

SOCIALITE

I wonder whose fault that is.

ACCOUNTANT

It’s not our problem that you can’t do your job.


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MAGICIAN

Wait, what? No, it’s—she’s upset from the yelling! It’s the yelling!

ACCOUNTANT

How unprofessional.

MAGICIAN

Could you at least come talk to the kid? I’m trying to make her laugh with a rubber chicken and all she can think about is her parents having a knock-down, all-out fight a few rooms away!

SOCIALITE

No, I think that’s all YOU can think about. You’re clearly crossing a line here. And why would my mother-in-law send a shitty magician as a messenger? She should come in!

ACCOUNTANT

Oh, what, now you WANT to see how pathetically she looks at you? You were so against it a few minutes ago.

SOCIALITE

Can we please just deal with the situation here?

MAGICIAN

(to self) The Alliance of Magicians never told me how to deal with something like this. I’m in over my head. I should have let the old lady take care of this.

ACCOUNTANT

(forcefully) Hey!

SOCIALITE

(to MAGICIAN) Listen. We hired you for a very specific reason.

ACCOUNTANT In case you weren’t aware, your job is to make sure our daughter is happy. MAGICIAN

I—

SOCIALITE Pamela’s crying out there. Obviously, you’re screwing something up! MAGICIAN

But I’m not—

ACCOUNTANT

Yeah! That kid deserves your full attention. It’s her birthday, for God’s sake! She’s seven!

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SOCIALITE

Now, what I want you to do is get your ass back out there and do your little magic show again. The RIGHT way.

MAGICIAN

If you would just—

SOCIALITE

Put your whole fucking soul into it, sweet pea, because Pamela’s gonna blame you forever if you fail.

ACCOUNTANT And if you wanna just mail in your performance, because you feel you have to...just remember that you’re the one who chose to be a magician. Several beats pass. MAGICIAN ...Well, thanks for the tip. You two definitely know what you’re talking about. The MAGICIAN looks at the ACCOUNTANT, then the SOCIALITE, inhales, and then takes his leave. Several beats pass. ACCOUNTANT

Now, where were we?


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The Second Faerie Curse Emily Pierce To the gardener who chokes her plants with seawater, wondering all the while why they shrivel and turn: may you beg the moon for blessings, palms upturned, as you trample that mythic clover underfoot with steel-toed boots.

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[identity] [politics] delete where applicable Rosa Walling-Wefelmeyer a finger is pressing down just where the mountain is moistening letting a little of the soil’s sweat gather to steep the passage of a moving scratch towards a mouth momentarily forming for the simple but necessary pleasure of letting the amorphous pass through

[writer’s name] lives in [current city name] with [one of two possessives] partner [specify/do not specify gender/marital/family status depending on wish to be subversive/conservative/ambiguous] and teaches [creative writing/humanities subject] at [reputable institution]. [one of two pronouns] has been published in [selected reputable journals online and in print] and was the winner of [national awards in this section] and [international awards in this section]. [one of two pronouns] has published [number of] pamphlets and books [titles here] with [publisher’s name unless embarrassing/obscure/contentious].


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sartre is rejecting the nobel prize for literature by the tiniest pressure of ink welcomed into papered space where it slowly smudges its many compounds dispersing and emerging so that an image of sartre is forming as blurred as the movement between consciousness and the ink itself

[writer’s name] has [rejected/accepted] the [name] award, on the grounds that it [compromises/confirms] their values, earning [writer’s name] the reputation of being [interesting/unusual] and highlighting [one of two possessives] [strong integrity/self-righteousness] and [humility/pretentiousness]. When not writing, [one of two pronouns] can be found [list of interesting/self-consciously quirky activities or facts]. More of [one of two possessives] work can be found at www.[name/amusing quip].com and for further information and updates follow [name] on twitter @ [name/amusing quip].

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Bus Samaritan Anthony McIntyre Maria felt nervous of the man waiting at the bus stop with her as the wind slammed the rain horizontally into the perspex windows. What if he was a murderer or a mad axe man? He certainly looked like one. He carried with him a shopping bag, similar to those that old ladies carry. She wondered what was in there, a rope, a knife, a hooded mask? She felt defenceless. If only she had worn a more sensible pair of shoes. She wouldn’t get far in these shoes if she had to make a run for it. ‘Horrible night,’ said the man, startling her. Maria ignored him. To her relief, the bus came into view; she felt safe as the doors opened, bathing her in light and warmth. Showing her pass, she made it along the bus in search of a vacant seat. Finding one, she began to relax. She watched the man fumbling for his fare. Maybe he would sit at the front away from her. He made his way towards her and took the seat immediately behind. Maria thought about moving, but that would attract attention. She would have to endure the ride home aware of his presence; feeling his eyes staring into her head. He may get off before her. Several stops later, he was still there. She could text her father to meet her or perhaps her brother. Cautiously, she placed her hand into her handbag to extract her mobile phone. Looking at the digital screen, a grey reflection indicated that her mobile was out of power. The bus stopped everywhere releasing its passengers into the darkness. If only she had gone for the earlier bus. She wanted to be home and safe. Should he follow, she would have to make a run for it. Seeing her stop approach, she got up and made her way to the exit. To her relief, the man was still in his seat as she hurried down the aisle. He waved violently at her as the bus pulled away. Just as she thought she was safe, the screech of tires and the sight of angry rear lights released him back into her nightmare. He shouted towards her but the words were lost amongst the heavy late night traffic. Kicking off her shoes, Maria began to run. Seeing the light of a public house she made in that direction.


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Bursting through the door she startled the regular drinkers. ‘Help! A mad axe man is chasing me!’ The landlady put a caring arm around her and led her to a seat by the fire. ‘It’s him!’ Maria shouted as the mad axe man entered the pub. Two young men, for whom he was no match, wrestled him to the floor. ‘Call the police,’ ordered the landlady. ‘Let me explain,’ he said, his face hard against the carpet. ‘Quiet!’ answered one of the men. Feeling brave, Maria approached. ‘What do you want?’ she asked. ‘To return the mobile you left on the bus.’

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Upon a Blooming Saquina Karla C. Guiam Fields and fields of white lilies, nothing broken or still— a whirl of wind, a heatwave that burns your tongue; how do they look at the sun and not combust into flame—so unlike me (my skin’s smoking, charring, little tendrils of my ghost rising, my rib cages storm surges) and this, this brave, defiant tranquility singing my name at the sun and I want to stay there—let the ground take me like how the ocean takes stars, bury my firestorm in the earth, the birth of snapdragons with a lily’s light.


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My Toy Car David Campbell All that matters is the wheel, the wheel, the wheel My pudgy finger spins it and I watch, hypnotised By the rotating, black circle of plastic steel. With eyes that bore into the tiny spokes, the plastic rivets I am enthralled, bound by pure ecstasy, excitement. The wheel must keep turning, turning, turning. Please don’t stop, continue your magic for a while longer. But stop it always does, slowing with a teasing finality That mocks me, dares me to spin again. So I do just that. It is my addiction, my vice. And when the spell is broken I am left crawling back through reality. Boring. Push the throttle and watch it go... That’s what I do but my hand is the throttle. I shove, shove with all my might And the car goes, trundling, bouncing On the cobbled kitchen floor. I watch its movement and calculate precisely. Ten seconds until impact time. Plastic meets garish wallpaper suddenly. My car spins away, slowed, its great journey ceases. I don’t think so. The car is picked up and shoved forward. I watch the crash again and again Stuck on an endless repeat. And always I gurgle with delight. Who needs to play outside When I have my toy car?

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Anybody Would Katie Lewington We are all attracted, glaringly so To the morally wrong Who chose the morals of our society anyway We need to have an opinion To authorize our presence in a group Gossip not enough This is abominable This is wrong Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Attention grabbing headlines The wives are scandalized We all want to be loved I’m not talking about sex We crave affection Attention A safe place to be understood


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Washed Out Ed Blundell Red and risque, white, laced, scanty Black, brief, frilly, chic, silk, sexy, Once, they shocked sly peeping neighbours, Flashing, spicy, decking your lines. Now comfort overcoming lust, Just plain white cotton, snugly soft, Not wafting in warm, saucy breezes But tumbling dry in some machine.

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The Hunter-Gatherers Max Dunbar Visibility was poor. Roebeck could barely see the road in front of him, even with the lights on full blast. And Boyd kept fucking with the radio. ‘Can you not do that?’ ‘Do what?’ ‘Just hop through the frequencies like that.’ ‘What, a five mile drive and I can’t have the radio?’ Boyd punched the DAB again. Massive Attack sang that love is a verb, love is a doing word. Beep. A man with a Donnie accent shouting that he had the best used car prices in town. ‘You can have the radio. Just don’t keep flipping the damn channels. Pick something and stick with it.’ Boyd punched the DAB again. Educated-style voices talking politics. ‘There you go,’ Roebeck said. ‘Politics. You like politics. You’re practically a politician.’ ‘I like something therefore I am that thing,’ Boyd said. ‘Makes sense.’ In the mirrors, the Dales was carpeted nightside. Periodically, Roebeck checked the wing for lights. Roebeck and Boyd were driving through the hills at midnight to hunt stone. They had known each other for six years. Roebeck came from a large herdwick family in Brearton: Boyd lived on a dairy farm two miles south. Like many teenage friendships, Roebeck and Boyd’s was based on mutual dissatisfaction; Roebeck wasn’t interested in sheep, Boyd wasn’t interested in cows, and neither was interested in school. Both boys drifted into the rural bad element. Their thing was metal. They cut cablings from disused power stations, stripped meters and boilers from council voids, and peeled copper from church roofs. It was an unlikely partnership; Roebeck being a tough herd boy and Boyd a more bookish and geekish type who used to get bullied until it became known that he was with Mark Roebeck. But Boyd was interested in science as well as many other things, and knew about conductivity and reactions, things that could save your life if you were chopping through overhead fibre in the middle of the night. To Boyd’s knowledge, Roebeck brought muscle and contacts. Now on the high road, Roebeck remembered the last time he saw his father,


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dropping by to pick up some belongings. The old man had been bitching about wool and rain and markets, like he always did, and when Roebeck had offered money, his father had shouted that he wasn’t gonna take the metal money, cause he knew where it had come from, and did Roebeck know that the operation he’d pulled at the car factory last month shut down production for six hours? ‘These lads ain’t get paid if they can’t work! You’re taking food off people’s tables here! Good working families!’ His father told him he was ruining his life, and Mark had laughed in the old man’s face at that, because he, Mark Roebeck, was making two grand a week from metal; he and Boyd had a gaff in town and enough for clubbing and holidays and women, whereas his father would be selling lambswool at penny-rates for the rest of his life. But Roebeck didn’t like to think of that memory on this high road, because in this height and this darkness he remembered the other things his father had told him. About the stones. He parked at the campsite in Hardknott Rath. The two men got out, rubbing the pins and needles from their legs. The car park was a little up the way from the site. Roebeck glanced downroad; a field of tents and camper vans. He caught the sound of life in the night air, but not much– the tourists and ramblers would be settling down to sleep. Upward were the caves. He checked the pub over the road. Locked and darkened. Boyd was pulling their rucksacks from the back of the van, riffing all the time on something about the economy that he’d got off that radio show. Roebeck shushed him. They were in the shadow of the Tor and he could feel it. ‘Chill, Winston,’ Boyd said in that silly faux-Jamaican voice. ‘The sheep are in the paddock.’ Roebeck smiled; it was an in joke of theirs. He hoisted his rucksack and locked the van. It looked brand new, and did not stand out from the phalanx of shiny tourist vehicles on the hardtop. Boyd put on his own rucksack and they began to climb the Tor. Although he’d been born and raised in rural Yorkshire, the Tor amazed Roebeck afresh. It was a hundred-foot sandstone climb, riven with hardscrabble and odd winding passages where water had once flown. There was a path, but it was steep and difficult to follow even with his head torch and flashlight. The lads scrambled up jagged passageways where you could see nothing except rock and sky.

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In daylight, the Tor would have been spectacular and otherworldly, at night it was like something out of that Game of Thrones. He remembered something that Boyd had once told him, that of all the land in the UK, only a small percentage was developed – only small patches of it cultivated with houses and roads and farms. The rest… This is the true country, Roebeck thought. We’re just passing through. Maybe trespassing. He glanced back and saw that Boyd was sitting on a mossy outcrop, and had lit a cigarette. ‘Fuck’s sake, put that out.’ ‘What? This is a nightmare climb, man, I need to rest my strength.’ ‘Strength?’ Roebeck laughed. ‘You ain’t got any strength. You’re as skinny as the day I met you. You got to get down the gym, build up them muscles. Only exercise you get is lifting a book.’ ‘Not true. I lift pints.’ Roebeck chuckled in spite of himself. ‘And pints. Yeah.’ He sat down next to his friend. Although he wouldn’t admit it, Roebeck was tired too. He began to think about his father again. And about the stones. Six months ago, Roebeck and Boyd’s metal business had began to founder. The Romanians had packed up their caravans and moved on, the Chinese had gone to ground as well. The turning point came when they had taken a load of prime substation coppering to Gypsy Phil at the Malton scrapyard... and he didn’t want it. ‘Government coming down hard as fuck on metal now,’ the dealer said. ‘No more cash payments, you got to have a licence and SmartWater detection and I don’t know what-all.’ ‘But we spent six hours on the roof getting that copper,’ Roebeck said. The dealer shrugged. ‘Ain’t worth my while taking it, son. Diamond Pete got raided last weekend, week before, they got Robbie Marston. Word is, these boys’ll be lucky to stay out of jail. I ain’t into that. Thing is, metal theft is dead. You boys need to – what’s the word? – diversify.’ So they had needed a new scam, and naturally Boyd had an idea. Instead of hunting metal, they would hunt stone. Instead of ripping off metal, they removed topping stones from boundary walls, tiles from rooftops, and paving slabs from the street. It was a proper buzz, hammering apart pavements and walls in broad daylight, while everyone just milled about; like Boyd said, once you put on a highvis jacket, you become invisible. And Boyd knew about geology, what stone was valuable and what not. Roebeck knew the quarriers and builders who paid cash and asked no questions. Soon the money rolled in again.


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It had been Boyd’s idea to dismantle the Hardknott Stones for cash, and this too had seemed a good idea, but now, halfway up the Tor, Roebeck wondered. All his childhood he’d heard things about the stones. Every time their herd lost a sheep, it had vanished near the stones, every time the cops had knocked on their door for a missing person, it turned out that person had vanished in the vicinity of the stones. There were rumours of lights, the sound of bells, and strange music. Superstitious bullshit, Boyd had said. Technically the climb was the riskiest part. Two men climbing the Tor in the middle of the night were liable to be picked up by rangers. Roebeck’s plan in that eventuality was to pass themselves off as Duke of Edinburgh lads, unfamiliar with the terrain and separated from their group. Worst case scenario, they’d get a lift to the nearest campsite and an irritated lecture. Big deal. In any event, they reached the top unchallenged. Roebeck took off his rucksack and opened the top. Under the tentroll and sleeping bag he carried a rock hammer. The stones didn’t look too spooky in this night. They just stood there in a rough, meandered circle. Roebeck began to breathe...and then he noticed that the ground here was thick with grass. The Dales was full of walkers, his father had constantly complained about the townies with their packs and their boots and their fucking dogs, but the walkers weren’t coming near the stones. There were no gates or signs, people just... stayed away. ‘Come on, big man,’ Boyd said. ‘Let’s get this done, like you say.’ Roebeck’s hammer was the length of a man’s arm and had a head like an anvil. Roebeck swung it in a neat, powerful arc. The hammer struck the stone and an awful recoil jolt juddered up Roebeck’s right arm, that made him cry out. He heard Boyd shout ‘What the fuck?’ and in this awful ticklish pain recognised that the stone was still standing. Roebeck had his headlight trained on it, and the damn thing wasn’t even scratched; its texture looked as ancient and strong and worn as ever. But something was – They were inside the circle. Roebeck’s arm felt light. He assumed that he’d dropped the hammer, but when he looked, he saw that the rock hammer was falling to pieces. It melted like snow in summertime and sank as moisture into the grass. Right, this is not good, Roebeck thought, and figured now would be an excellent moment to call it a night. Apparently Boyd had the same idea, for he was running towards the stones at quite a pace. But when Boyd reached the circle, he was slapped back and hit the deck, as if the little man had run full pelt into a brick

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wall. Roebeck felt it; another electric shock knocked him to the ground, and the last thing he saw was the stones fading into moisture, too. He awoke to busy voices: - Uplanders, dare steal from Dé Danann? Kill the – - in youth, resourceful, possibly of use – - hunt with I, Drayfield? Ridiculous – He opened his eyes and there was a group of people standing over him. Roebeck propped himself on his elbows to make them out. A man on horseback noticed him – in the same way, Roebeck thought, that people notice insects. Greenish-white eyes bored down from a cheesy moonface. ‘Ah! The hunter awakes. We’re not your Uplander Park-Rangers, Mr Roebeck, as I think you have realised.’ Roebeck just looked at him. The man was covered in what looked like a cross between armour and leather, impossibly aged. His horse was the kind Roebeck’s dad would have called a “kickin’ demon.” In this half-light, the beast appeared to have scales. He figured that they were up against impossible odds here – he could see other riders, a whole posse of strange folk cantered right back to a mad turquoise sky – but damned if he wouldn’t stand up to them, all the same. Roebeck said, ‘Alright, boss, you made your point. We shouldn’t have tried to steal the stones, maybe we shouldn’t have even come up here. But I were born in the valley.’ He got to his feet and waved a hand at the lowlands where his farm had been (Roebeck didn’t take in the fact that the Shire Brook Valley and everything in it appeared to have been replaced with an eerie, teeming snowscape under a pair of wheeling red suns). ‘I got as much right to be here as you. This is my land.’ A laugh rang out, and Roebeck noticed the woman. Sat on her own steed, tall and beautiful, her hennaed hair plaited with bones. Her voice was haughty and powerful, her eyes the colour of lost souls. He saw that, as the woman spoke, Boyd stared at her, lost for words and ideas for once, transfixed with desire and apprehension. ‘Your land? You spent your life rejecting this land, boy, and stealing from it. Even had you tended this land as a faithful peasant, like your sheep-worrying folk, your life would have passed in the span of an eyeblink and left nothing upon the surface of the world. ‘Yet, you are hunter-gatherers, of a kind. In time you may prove useful to us. But first, for your error, a spell in the quartz mines.’


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Twenty years later, a potholer exploring the Hardknott Caves lost sight of the tourist ropes and, wandering, made a troubling discovery: two young men hacking at the walls. The young men were dressed in rags, sweaty and bone-thin from overwork. An old-fashioned cart lay near, glittering with stones. The potholer believed he might be imagining things in his tiredness, because for a moment the cavern seemed full of these toiling slaves. The potholer offered to guide them out, but one of the young men – the smaller of the two – said it would be pointless. ‘They find us and bring us back and strap us.’ Besides, this starved apparition said, one got used to the work. The slave picked up a stone from the cart and rolled it between his thumb and forefinger, so that it winked into the darkness. ‘And anyway, so pretty,’ said the boy. ‘See it turn and sparkle.’

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Hitting the Wall Sarah Thorogood Having that type of day Where you run out of things to say Forever just staring at the blank page The words stuck, taking an age The need to write is always there But sometimes all I can do is stare At the white haze in front of me Blocking the creator I want to be When your imaginary friends stop talking to you Called writer’s block, a feeling of blue So many ideas just floating around in the mind The imagination not feeling so kind All the stories and poems only just begun Looking back and longing, but left feeling glum At the abrupt way I have left the sentences, lines In the hope that I can pick up another time But tiredness, work and life just get in the way Leaving me feeling I have nothing left to say So to my books and online to borrow Any inspiration to get me started tomorrow


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Metaphor's Point Rosa Walling-Wefelmeyer There comes a point when metaphor is too many tongues removed from the horse’s mouth to grasp what bit there is and fix its gaze; your rolling eye. There comes a point when metaphor leads the beast to every water source, but yours and holds the horse too close to see its coat; common piebald. There comes a point when, at the beginning, you must stop calling it a horse; call it rape, call its stable gender – look, our hands, clutching at straw.

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How to be Awesome Reyna Koh One, carry a pocketknife wherever you go, you don’t know who you’ll meet or get to know. They might like lollipop sticks, or unusual knick-knacks or bric-a-brac. Two, wear black in a chemistry lab, when you bash atoms together like so many heads in an alleyway. Don’t wear goggles if you already have glasses on. Three, talk a lot, shoot your mouth off, because people like you, might not, of course, like you, but be cheerful and they might. Four, don’t talk at all, not one peep, one squall and you just may be awesome. Five, petition to the school, and make it known, that you have petitioned to make the last day of term free dress, especially if your uniform is usually rubbish.


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Six, name your first pet hamster or your first dump in a dumpster after a Communist leader, say, Mao or Lenin or Beria or Kim or Mom. Seven, write, write a lot, so you have stuff to show to the staff on your floor. Also, your mom will be proud, and dad will brag, just not as loud. Eight, have mercy upon your worst enemies when they lie on the gym floor begging for your forgiveness. You will taste monarchy like you have never tasted sweet candy before. Nine, never be yourself, because with you, there will be a pressure to be you and only you. Congratulations then, you have been awesomified.

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Scrittura Magazine, Issue 4, Summer 2016