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Contents 03

Welcome

04

Exercises & Inspiration

05

Do you Haiku?

articles 06

Writing with Resonance - Sophie Playle

09

Retreat! Top tips on getting the most out of your writing retreat - Kristina Heaney

short stories 14

The Undertide - Lucy Hounsom

22

Whalesong - Troy Blackford

34

Love During Wartime - Timothy B. Dodd

36

Growing Apart - Maisy Mae

40

Fox Omens - Gary Budden

poetry 19

The Seasons - Carol Smallwood

20

Death’s Diary - Mariya Deykute

21

Night - Michael Dalelio

32

Rotting Robins - Melina Papdopoulos

39

Commitment - Ruth Asch-Ghazals

43

Hymn on Sunday - Peggy Aylsworth

art 04

Noah’s Ark - Matthew Dickerson

30

Autumn - Aleksandra P.

About Inkspill Magazine is a platform for emerging creative and literary talent. It aims to showcase writers with fresh, original voices who might struggle to get noticed in the crowded commercial market. Our mantra is: Don’t be afraid to spill some ink. We believe in being unafraid of making a mess in the name of creative experimentation. In order to construct something extraordinary, you must first deconstruct the ordinary. www.inkspillmagazine.com hello@inkspillmagazine.com

ISSN: 2047-1572 Based in the UK Current cover art by: Robert N. Cole xetuseer.deviantart.com soundcloud.com/xetuseer All work is copyright © the authors/artists 2012


Welcome This issue evolved to contain its own unplanned theme. There are a lot of stories and poems relating to animals, plants and body parts, making this issue feel alive and organic. The page count is slightly lower than usual, but this is because the pieces that made the cut just happened to be shorter this time around. However, just because there are fewer words, it doesn’t mean they don’t have as much of an impact. Be sure to keep sending us your work, and help support us by spreading the word about our magazine. Thanks for reading.

Sophie Playle Editor-in-Chief

Meet the team... Kristina Heaney (Senior Associate Editor) is a fiction writer from North West London. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from RHUL, and is currently working on her debut novel. She teaches Creative Writing for adult learners across the Capital. Kristina worked as a journalist before moving into media agency work, specialising in copywriting, and is now a full-time fiction writer. www.kristinaheaney.com Annabel Banks (Poetry Editor) graduated from Cambridge University in 2010, and received her Creative Writing MA with Distinction from RHUL in 2011. She is now in the first year of her practice-based poetry PhD at University College, Falmouth. She has had many poems and stories published. www.annabelbanks.com Philippa Moore (Associate Editor) studied English at the University of Tasmania. She now lives in the UK where she runs both the award winning web site Skinny Latte Strikes Back and as many half marathons as her knees and sanity allow. She has written a novel and short story collection and, despite the name of her website, she drinks more tea than coffee. Find out more at www.skinnylattestrikesback.com


‘Noah’s Ark’ by Matthew Dickerson (www.matthewdickerson.co.uk)

Exercises & Inspiration Take one of your short stories and swap the happy ending for a disastrous one. Do the same for a story without a happy ending – give it one. Take a well-known story and change the ending. What if Beauty hadn’t fallen in love with the Beast? What if the Biblical great flood never ended? Write a story from the perspective of a very old person, and the point in their life that, had their story ended there, would have been the happiest of endings.

“You always get more respect when you don’t have a happy ending.” — Julia Quinn “People love a happy ending. So every episode, I will explain once again that I don’t like people.” — Joss Whedon “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” — Frank Herbert


Do You Haiku? Last month, Inkspill Magazine ran a short haiku competition on Twitter. We had lots of great entries, but there could be only one winner (and one runnerup). Ray Morgan landed first place and was awarded with copies of Judy Croome’s novel Dancing in the Shadows of Love and poetry collection A Lamp at Midday. Kip Hanson’s haiku was chosen as the runner-up, and he also got a copy of A Lamp at Midday. (Thank you to Judy for donating her fabulous books!) Originating from Japan, Haiku are probably most famous for being short poems with a set syllable count (5/7/5). However, there is more to them than that – in fact, the syllable count isn’t a strict requirement

at all. The essence of haiku is ‘cutting’ (kiru), which is often represented by a word that separates two juxtaposing ideas, setting the tone and meaning of the poem. Often, too, haiku contain a seasonal reference. There is often an emphasis on ‘showing’ as opposed to ‘telling’ in a haiku. They usually contain a simple image that is rich in meaning. Stones are lost buttons Torn from the shirt of the world in sudden passion — Ray Morgan lazy dirt road heaven’s light shines through bug guts on windshield — Kip Hanson

Linkspill Newsletter Have you heard about our latest newsletter, Linkspill? Every month we’ll send out information on upcoming creative and literary events throughout the UK so you can keep in touch with your local creative community. Visit our website to sign up. Don’t forget you can also sign up to our general newsletter The Inkspill Insider for news alerts about the magazine.


Writing with Resonance How the way we experience and interpret the world provides us with the foundation for unique and evocative prose

Sophie Playle

A

s the old saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Similarly, the beauty of literature is a personal type of resonation. It is the moment when the words on the page become more than

just narrative – they transcend their medium, they make us pause, reflect, perhaps shiver with revelation. This might be from a particularly acute observation executed in an original yet deeply recognisable way. Or it might be


from a statement that describes an experience that previously seemed impossible to put into words. Or from an elegant dance between vocabulary and imagery that creates a vivid experience for the reader. So, how does a writer create these moments in their own work? Sir Philip Sidney in his essay ‘The Defence of Poesy’ (1583) states one of the most ingrained proverbs relating to the act of being a writer: ‘Orator fit, poeta nascitur’, which means ‘the orator is made, the poet is born.’ The debate about whether or not writing is an innate skill linked to a unique way of interpreting the world, or whether it is something that can be taught, is ongoing. However, there are methods that every writer can employ that will help them create vivid, resonate prose.

be open to beauty without being open to ugliness and every grade in between, because once you open yourself up to absorbing the experience of life, you cannot be selective if you want to experience deeply and authentically. Keats’ poem ‘ Ode on a Grecian Urn’ contains the famous line: ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’. Though there is so much meaning in those few words to adequately discuss in this short article, we can take from this that beauty in writing is resonant when it rings with truth – whether that is truth in description or meaning. This doesn’t mean that writing needs to be completely factual or bound by realism, but by injecting observed truth into our writing – whether it is pertinent to beautiful or ugly things – that in itself makes the prose beautiful.

Learning to see beauty

Methods of expansion and interpretation

If we reject that notion that writer’s are born with superior faculties to interpret the world and all its beauty, then we accept that this is a skill that everyone can learn. However, a person cannot

So, how can we actively expand and deepen our interpretation of the world so that it may intensify our writing? Unlearn the grown-up way of seeing. Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 7


| Article As a child, so many experiences were new and fresh, and because of this, our understanding of them was unique and pure to our own interpretation, without the taint of expectation or influence of others. It is impossible to shed our past experiences and their influence on our perception, but instead of relying on autopilot when it comes to living, try to be consciously aware of details and emotions as you experience them. When learning to be an artist, the student must learn to draw exactly what they see and not what they think they see. It is the same for a writer. Dig for details. It is the details of life that make it vivid, and it is the same with writing. Of course, it would be impossible (and impractical) to record every detail of absolutely everything, but by paying attention to the details in life, we can transfer them to the page with efficiency. Selecting the right detail can add the grain of the real to your prose, making it come 8 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

alive while adding originality. Read expansively, think deeply. Reading not only helps you become a better writer, but it helps you become a better thinker, providing you with knowledge, experience and understanding, as well as helping you develop your vocabulary, voice and sense of rhythm and structure. Widen your reading horizons. It is important to remember that whatever you write, your writing can never resonate with everybody. Inevitably, some people will never like your work. Great work often demands a dramatic response from the reader, whether positive or negative – and if the work is truly great, it will never be wholly negative. Write the way you want to write. Write the things you want to read. Practice incessantly, and your voice will emerge, your unique experience of the world will materialise on the page and, with any luck, you’ll start creating work that makes the reader pause and say, damn that’s good.


Retreat! Inkspill Magazine’s top tips on getting the most out of your writing retreat

Kristina Heaney

O

ne of the questions working writers are most frequently asked by people outside the industry is ‘Where do you get the time?’ The answer, in many cases is ‘I don’t.’ Juggling writing with other employment, family and

social life can be more than a circus act, and it’s always the thing that gives the least trouble that gets the least attention. The ultimate in Busman’s Holidays, the Writer’s Retreat has become an increasingly popular way for novelists to ‘get down to business’, Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 9


| Article away from the unavoidable distractions of day-to-day life. After a high volume of requests from readers on how to get the most out of a Writer’s Retreat, Inkspill presents its top ten tips: 1. Do your research Retreats can vary wildly in length, price and content, so before you do anything else decide exactly what you want from your trip. If what you’re looking for is a very hands-on experience, choose one with daily workshops and talks from authors. If however, you just want solitary time to work on your writing in a peaceful environment, avoid those that advertise word count races and literary games. You may want to look into retreats that offer full board so you don’t need to worry about where your lunch is coming from. Make a list of everything you will want to have available and then contact the owner/manager before you book: you do not want to arrive in rural Devon ready to do a week’s solid research online to find there isn’t a wifi connection for twenty miles. 10 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

2. Plan ahead Decide in advance what you want to achieve while you’re away. You may be the type that aims high to motivate yourself, or perhaps you’re more comfortable setting yourself achievable goals so you won’t become disheartened. Either way, creating a writing plan upfront will help to focus your mind on the task- you can always make alterations once you’re there. 3. Stay focussed You haven’t paid all this money and travelled for miles to play on Facebook all week- so knuckle down! Remember that you have limited time available before it’s back to the real world. Consider using an internet blocking programme such as MacFreedom. com, to stop you ‘accidentally’ wandering into procrastination. Or go one step further and try old-fashioned pen and paper.


6. Enjoy your surroundings 4. Socialise If you’ve booked a longer retreat with overnight stays, don’t stay cooped up in your room all night. Make time to eat with the group in the evening. This will be a great opportunity to talk to other writers and make contacts as well as giving your mind time to unwind. They may even have some helpful points to share. 5. Don’t overdo it The counterpoint to Tip 4: While taking time to relax in the evening is important, getting roaringly drunk on Cabernet Sauvignon and not making it to bed until the wee hours is not going to be conducive to good writing the next morning. Likewise, eating more than usual could interfere with your natural sleep patterns, making you drowsy during the day. Everything in moderation.

Remember there’s a reason you booked to go on a retreat rather than locking yourself in a room at home. Explore the local area with a half-hour walk each day. The fresh air and exercise will assist blood flow to the brain and the unfamiliar surroundings should help to boost your creativity. 7. Feed your brain Stephen King famously said, ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.’ Take a selection of reading materials with you. A couple of pages in the morning or before bed will keep your mind curious about the craft of writing. 8. Remember it’s not a contest While the man in the room next to you may have written seven chapters and an epilogue in the space of a morning, that does not mean you have to. By all means use the achievements of others as a motivator, but remember the pace is entirely up to you. Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 11


| Article No two people approach writing in the same way: while some splurge word count and edit later, others prefer to go line by line. There is no right or wrong way; there is just your way. 9. Experiment Many writers come on retreat because their usual writing routine has begun to stagnate. You won’t get a better opportunity to try a new approach free from

interruptions. Try learning more about your characters’ motivations by putting them in unusual situations; or perhaps spend your retreat writing without editing. 10. Enjoy it Foremost, keep in mind that this is what you love to do. It’s not a holiday, but it shouldn’t be torture either.

Popular Retreats: The Arvon Foundation The original UK writer’s retreat. Four key rural locations across the UK and several more on the continent, offering the possibility of tanning whilst writing. Retreats include full bed and board and grants are available for low income writers. The Arvon retreat takes a workshop-based approach, with talks and critical feedback from published authors and poets. Learn more at www.arvonfoundation.org Abri Creative Writing Holidays - Gardoussel Retreat, South of France. Retreats and courses are aimed at all levels of writing experience. Accommodation is on a full-board basis, in a magnificent mountain setting. Meals are vegetarian and the retreat also offers river swimming and a pool to relax. Open retreats also possible with mentoring. Learn more at www.abricreativewriting.com 12 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8


La Muse Retreat Based in the picturesque Languedoc region of Southern France, this course is available to all writers at any stage of their career. The retreat takes place in a medieval manor house and guests can choose to have a room in the main building or a cottage in the grounds. This is one of the longer retreats available; writers are encouraged to stay for a period of three weeks, though shorter stays can be arranged. Find out more at www.lamuseinn.com Writers’ Retreat Spain This course, which takes place amongst the glorious scenery of Southern Spain, is run by a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging fledgling writers and artists. This retreat takes a very hands-off approach; there are no workshops or literary adventures. Writers are given the space and peace they need that is so often missing at home. This is however a self-catered trip. Learn more at www.writersretreat.co.uk Limnisa, Greece This retreat provides workshops in a secluded location with its own quiet beach. Optional yoga, and great homemade food are all included in a weeklong full-board package. This retreat offers the space to write accompanied by the sound of the sea. For more information go to www.limnisa.com

Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 13


The Undertide Lucy Hounsom

H

e imagines sometimes that beneath the surface of the everyday, there is a tide which carries the bitterness of people. He used to hear it in his mother’s voice; saw it in his father’s gaze when he looked at the work of his loins. It frightens him – the riptide you cannot flee. Sometimes it is there at night when he is alone, and he wonders what it would be like to have the warmth of another beside him, breathing him in. Nobody had ever breathed him in. He knows he is too harsh 14 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

on the throat, like a fishbone or one of the cloying mists that rise off the canals in summer. Now he finds his home in the damp tunnels that lurk beneath. The city floats atop its waterways, crumbling in the sunlight he rarely sees. There are people up there, he knows. People from all over the world, but no one like him. The dark bricks, slick with a carpet of life forms, are the only things he admires. Fingers run down them leave a green film on the skin of his hands. Those hands are long and


[

The bile in Marinelli curdles the corners of his mouth. He is mistrustful, but they have an accord

[

slender, pale from years of darkness, each digit perfectly formed. He keeps his nails trimmed with the knife tucked behind his belt. He does not want the dirt to collect beneath them. He uses his hands for the laying of traps that bring him food. The hump that bends his spine with its weight enables him to traverse the low-ceilinged tunnels, dragging his short legs when he lacks the strength to stand. It is midday when he comes to reset the last trap. A burlap sack squirms on the ground beside him. Kneeling, he wraps his fingers around the wooden pipe and eases back the sprung mechanism. What waits inside is large and fat. He will eat well today. He reaches in, grasps the rat by the tail and deposits it in the sack with its fellows. Then he pulls a piece of rope tight around the neck of the bag, hefts the wriggling load onto his shoulder and begins the long crawl to the central docks. ‘I haven’t got all day, canal rat,’ Marinelli says when he sees him. The gondolier is

dressed in his usual ill-fitting shirt and trousers; they hang on his thin frame, stained at the crotch and the knees. The bile in Marinelli curdles the corners of his mouth. He is mistrustful, but they have an accord. Marinelli grunts when he sees the latest catch. ‘Doctor Morisi will be pleased with this one.’ His eyes glint beneath their heavy lids as he inspects the rat swinging from his fist. ‘You will eat well, Sposito.’ He drops the rat in the sack and stows it in the back of the gondola that bumps against the wooden pilings. Sposito holds out his hand for the coins, but Marinelli grimaces and slaps his palm. ‘You will eat well, but not yet,’ he says, and steals a look over his shoulder. What he sees chases the blood into his jaw. He swears. ‘Quick rat, take this,’ and slams his wide brimmed

Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 15


| Short Story hat onto Sposito’s head. ‘Get in the boat. Pull up your cloak.’ His legs fold beneath him when they encounter the water’s uncertain curvature. The gondola rocks violently as Marinelli springs away from it, ducks his bare head and hurries down the wharf. His thick fingers fumble with a coat to cover the stripes of his trade. Sposito watches Marinelli’s back until it is out of sight. He watches a man hurry past him heading in the same direction. There is a cudgel on his belt and a snarl on his face. He does not look at Sposito. The wharf is suddenly quiet in the sun. It is really too bright. He longs to return to his tunnel, but he needs the coins. The man who gives him his bread needs the coins. Minutes pass and Marinelli does not return. It grows hotter. The hat itches. ‘Excuse me.’ It is a voice and naturally he ignores it. ‘Excuse me, are you working?’ The voice belongs to a pair of shoes, which are not made of leather. They are small 16 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

shoes shaped for small feet. His eyes climb up to some knees and he is embarrassed at their behaviour. He has rarely looked at any knees other than Marinelli’s for eight years. ‘Are you ignoring me?’ The voice is growing insistent. Delight takes him; someone is addressing him and he has no idea how to respond. He revels in the irritation he hears. It is conveyed so politely. ‘Yes,’ he manages, returning his eyes to the shoes. They could be spun from cobweb, pale and marvellous. ‘I don’t believe you.’ He hears buried laughter. It is a sweet thing, wholly unlike the snorts issued by the feral Marinelli. He wants to hear more of it. ‘I need to go somewhere. Can you take me?’ He realises she has mistaken him for a gondolier. He ought to explain, but the gleam of her laughter stops him. He does not know the upper city as well as he knows its underside, but he listens to her request. ‘Will you take me to – ‘ and she names an area forbidden


him. The answer that falls from his lips is not the one he expects. Delicately, she steps into the boat. It barely rocks. He feels her settle in front of him, but will not lift his eyes. He is thankful for the hat that itches. There is an oar in the bottom of the gondola. He takes it, sliding his hands along the wood. Smooth patches reek of fingers, Marinelli’s fingers and the things they have touched. He grips the oar, uses it to heave his legs into a half-stand near the stern. Then he pushes the boat away from the dock. It is difficult to keep his head down; he must snatch his bearings with tiny jerks of the neck. His legs are trembling too, unused to bearing his weight. ‘A beautiful day,’ she says, and he darts a glimpse at her back. It is covered with lace, finer than her shoes and as creamy as milk. She must be one of the stinking rich, as Marinelli says. But she doesn’t smell at all. In fact her scent is barely discernable. The sun coaxes sweat through his pores; hers are not so easily manipulated. The gondola passes the underside he calls Drear Court. Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 17


| Short Story Up here it is anything but drear. The buildings are pale brick. A marble colonnade rises like a Fata Morgana, ethereal to his eyes. He hears the metered ring of conversation. Women talk on the shore, their arms and skirts covered in dragonflies. Maybe they are part of the mirage. ‘Their dresses are so lovely,’ she sighs, the musk of envy in her voice. ‘I have nothing to match those.’ He thinks her lace better. Dragonfly wings must tickle awfully. Next is an area he calls Rook’s Haunt. It is darker here, not unlike its counterpart beneath. The canal narrows and there are fewer bridges. Rook’s haunt is ancient and fearsome. He knows there is a maze, he has seen it. There are secrets at its centre, old laws that have lain undisturbed. The maze must not wake. May it slumber till the bricks of this city return to the water. May it sleep until the last vestige of civilised life is ended. May it – ‘You don’t say much do you?’ Her voice plucks the maze from his mind. ‘Thank you,’ he says, wildly relieved. He is grateful. Thoughts of rook’s haunt are 18 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

capable of distracting him to the point where he forgets to eat. ‘You are strange,’ she remarks, and he shares his silent agreement. They are swiftly approaching her destination. He is nervous now. This area is forbidden him. He left it many years ago and never intended to return. ‘Ah,’ she smiles. He glances at the houses to either side. They are mountains, brimming with loneliness and gothic decoration. They do not speak to him at all. He should leave. ‘Just over there,’ she says. ‘That dock please.’ She gestures to the most forlorn building he has ever seen. It is sheathed in grey marble with a front door to unnerve even the veteran postman. Reluctant to his core, he throws a rope to the dock and pulls the gondola tight against the bobbing current. ‘Thank you,’ she says and disembarks as gracefully as she boarded. ‘How much do I owe you?’ He is so stumped by the question that his mind empties and his hands drop to his sides. Water claims the oar. In the shadow of her home, the


wind is quick and cruel. He crouches in its gusts; a heart shrinking from mockery. Then it sweeps the hat from his head. His face is caught in light. The undertide is like her scream: sour and absolute.

Lucy Hounsom has a BA in English & Creative Writing from Royal Holloway and completed the Masters in Creative Writing in 2010. She’s featured in Decanto Magazine as Centre Stage Poet and you can find one of her stories in the Bedford Square 4 anthology. She lives in Devon and has just finished the first book in a planned fantasy trilogy.

The Seasons Carol Smallwood Ronald McDonald on skies becomes smiling faces on budding tree placemats as sun filters from windows facing west while customers decide on Swiss or American Cheese. Ronald McDonald on skies becomes smiling faces on budding tree placemats — in a few months will come the occasional sneeze driving in snow for fast foods offering their daily best. Ronald McDonald on skies becomes smiling faces on budding tree placemats as sun filters from windows facing west.

Carol Smallwood co-edited Women on Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful Women Poets (McFarland, 2012); Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing (Key Publishing House, 2012); Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity, and Other Realms (Anaphora Literary Press, 2011) received a Pushcart nomination.


Ed

ito

r’s

Death’s Diary Mariya Deykute The mad poet came to dinner. Had to unsuture his mouth, bled things onto the carpet. Wouldn’t remove the Latin, or his socks. We ate shoe polish, old newspapers, radio reels. I drank vodka, told him a man drowned in a spoonful of words, taking them for medicine. He is suspicious of me, I know. He thinks I’m communist, won’t let me lullaby him. The river Kiang flowed under our table, wet my bare feet. I told him to eat the lemon cake left over, put on a record. The mad poet grinned, cocked his head as if he was listening for someone calling his name but it was just the stillness under everything, echoing his own words back at him. Johnny Cash tells him about America. I can hear the songs rattling inside his bones, finding footholds in the mazes so strange I had to chat about the weather while the wind perversed: Essser, Ezzera, Uzzzura. I drank water, told him a man drowned. He lit cigarettes with straw from his mouth, broke my mug. If I were people, I’d hang myself with packing twine, send myself to a carnival of fruit flies, aware that they have no time to be anything better than wings, shimmer, light. I tell him this, and he treads water under the table as if walking across Piazza San Marco, squints, the sun in his eyes.

20 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

Ch

oic

e


Night Michael Dalelio We’d go to a man with mud in his dreads and a dull gold tooth. Mike would swallow whatever he gave us. He’d swallow pink dew off the tops of stalks of grass, the mottled bark of trees, light-stained cars, the old stone of the city. He’d swallow the quiet corner and shadow, the crumpled bills. He’d swallow the wide river. The bridge settled in his neck like a sword. He swallowed it whole and never thought a fearful thing.

Michael Dalelio lives on the New Jersey shore. He and his wife are raising their two children in the ways of zombie hunting, dragon killing and botany. He has had poems published in Red River Review, Flywheel Magazine and Stepping Stones Magazine: ALMIA, and stories published in Bewildering Stories, Intellectual Refuge and upcoming in Isotropic Fiction. If not writing, you might find him struggling to catch a striped bass, or, preferably, a whale, in the surf. Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 21


Whalesong Troy Blackford

‘V

erdure?’ she says, like she just got disconnected from a call with a guy by that name. ‘Verdant vellum?’ Her words drove green spikes into my mind, flashes of imaginary monastic manuscripts encrusted with mold. The extremity of Shelly’s words often produced rather pungent mental images – sometimes enjoyable, sometimes not. Mildewed manuscripts fell somewhere in the middle of the possible spectrum of nonsense. ‘It’s just me, Shell,’ I say, trying to bring the conversation back into the realm of things. The effort went unappreciated. 22 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

‘A virtuous murderess of verdurous nurturer, less the tutelage of a turbulent age. Again and again, the irksome tooth-herd works afield. An opulent setting for a hurt merchant, however hooked his instruments of red leisure.’ She pronounced it like the word ‘measure.’ I like it better that way, but saying it always makes me feel like a big phony, so I just say ‘Lee-zhure’ like everybody else. ‘Tentative tintinnabulation! The ebullient, effusive emollient that aims not for merely what is assiduate, yet ameliorates all that it acidulates.’ Shelly has a problem with her


brain which manifests in a rare one of those ‘outside chances.’ form of aphasia, which is just a Indeed, I’ve often wondered pretty way of saying ‘problem if, on a particular occasion, with language stemming from a her words really were reflecting physical brain injury.’ Some people some understanding of her with the kind of problem Shell surroundings. If there was any has can’t understand what is being significance, it was going to have said to them - at all, ever. Others to be dug for. The little abrasion can understand on Shelly’s brain just fine, but when when she spoke her makes her see the they try to talk, all voice reflected back world in shades of that comes out is a sound and patterns the flowing forms jumble of unrelated, of poetry, and when of the pulsing often completely she spoke her voice syllables that danced unintelligible sound reflected back the inside her head fragments. These flowing forms of poor people are the pulsing syllables trapped inside their heads. that danced inside her head. Shelly has a much more specific Because her way of speaking was kind of aphasia. Something to always so abstract, it was a little do with the type of lesion on her too easy for me to imagine some Broca’s Area, one of the most mundane meaning where there important speech centers in the almost certainly wasn’t any. brain. She – or so many doctors ‘Did you remember to tell assure us – can understand what is the nurse about your room being said, and there is an outside being so cold?’ I asked. chance that occasionally she might ‘Tasked to hold, but for a be able to communicate in an moment, the golden opening of intelligible way. Ever since the all future excursions - that perfect childhood infection that hurt her passageway to the ever-present brain and took away her normal eternity which lay before us,’ speech, I’ve come and sat by her she said, picking up her knitting bed in the hopes of catching needles. ‘Cold? What is coolness

[

[

Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 23


| Short Story but a blue hue upon which to throw my jagged nerves? A soft rock to trap the waves that radiate, that’s all my watch would warrant. I tried tarps and it didn’t help. I hurt it for five more inches before the gold green goes and gives up the ghost, but barracks built and burned before I should shiver.’ I turned this over in my head, the way an appraiser on one of those auction shows turns over an artifact, looking for signs of authenticity. My prompt about the nurse and the thermostat was just that – a prompt. I had already spoken to the nurse. This was more of a test: had Shelly tried talking to the nurse, and if so, could my sister pass that info along to me? I couldn’t decide, from what she had said. ‘Barracks built and burned before I should shiver.’ Did that mean something idiomatic, like ‘Me? Cold? Perish the thought?’ Or did it mean something else, or potentially nothing at all? Or, somehow, all of the above? Shelly doesn’t approach language the way you or I would. She sort of comes at it from 24 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

below, from a completely different perspective. I never really realized just how expansive our English language was until I started talking to Shelly after her infection. ‘It was only lately that I had become inured to the indolent merger. Inordinate and ineluctable, the delectable decibels detained me from further ends. Farther than father’s fob I fell, like a hail of feathers. I found friction in the air itself as I circled the airy drain of space, spangled like song with burning worlds of fire.’ I ran my finger across the stubble on my jaw, still thinking about the nurse and the cold room. Still going over what Shelly said, trying to decide if it meant something. ‘Available wherever commerce commences!’ Shelly said, suddenly sitting up ramrod straight. The twinkle in her eyes became a fire. ‘Collapsible communion canters in commodious camaraderie! Calamine and chamomile!’ I put my hand on her shoulder, tried to calm her. This kind of sudden, seemingly unprovoked agitation wasn’t uncommon with her. It almost never meant


anything. Took a few years to get used to. It’s hard to see someone you love getting so worked up and then tell yourself it didn’t mean anything. But it didn’t, usually. ‘Promise me you’ll miss your first bus.’ I looked at her. She looked back at me. Her eyes were clear, her gaze watchful. She wasn’t starry-eyed and dreaming. She looked alert, focused. My eyes narrowed, all thoughts of nurses and coolness pushed out of my head by this new development. ‘Promise me, okay?’ she said, a touch of urgency in her voice. It was the most coherent, conversational tone she had taken with me in years. The rings of Saturn didn’t spin around her eyes as she spoke, faint echoes of whalesong didn’t swirl around her words. They were just words, words like objects. Words that made a scaffolding that Shelly and I both could stand on for a moment, before it blew away in the wind. Words like I am using now – a bridge between two minds. Simple, plain, ordinary, transmittive. Ordinary in a way Shelly’s

flowery, mystic flow of words almost never was, and yet magical in a way that they hadn’t been in years, because they seemed to point to something we could both see. I didn’t know what reason she had to say what she did, but I could still take hold of the idea that she had sent to me in her words. I had waited long years for this to happen, but when the time came I was utterly unprepared. For a long moment, I didn’t react at all. Mostly out of the fear of breaking what I worried would be the all-too-temporary spell. ‘Say you promise,’ she said again, more sternly. ‘I promise,’ I said automatically, and found myself looking through my memory to try to remember what I had just promised. The bus. That’s what she had said. ‘Promise me you’ll miss your first bus.’ The more I thought about it, the less certain I felt that she could possibly have meant to say them. Not because I hadn’t taken a bus to come visit her – I had. I had, however, never done such a thing before in my life. And that day, I had never mentioned Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 25


that I had come on a bus. I usually drove myself to my visits, in my 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT 500. A car I have been keeping in such ridiculously good shape for so long that it takes an active act of mental intercession for me to remember that even still it’s in the shop. I got broadsided at an intersection a couple weeks ago. Not my fault. The insurance will cover the repairs, but I doubt the repairs will cover the car. It will never be the same again. All that, of course, is beside the issue. The real point is that I had ridden the city bus to go visit Shelly. The first time in thirteen years in which I had done so. And, for the first time in nearly as long, Shelly had told me something real. Something about the bus. It sounded like a warning. ‘My first bus?’ I asked, feeling the need to offer her some kind of meaning in return. Maybe she would expand on what she had said. ‘Yes,’ she said sagely, ‘but not until all the spots are grey.’ I sank back in my chair, my eyes glazed over in thought. 26 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

[

[

| Short Story

Had Shelly really tried to tell me something, or had a bit of her nonsense just seemed to make more sense than it really did?

The Shelly I had grown used to was back. Was the brief glimpse of something more only my imagination? Had Shelly really tried to tell me something, or had a bit of her nonsense just seemed to make more sense than it really did? In my experience, it doesn’t take a million monkeys typing for eternity to write out all of humankind’s most important literary works. At bare minimum, it takes only two: one monkey to diligently type any combination of sounds that came to mind, and one monkey who desperately wanted to find meaning in the universe, and looked for it everywhere. I wasn’t sure what type of monkey I was being right then. It was natural for me to want to believe that part of Shell could still get through, on rare occasions.


Then again, being able to say a simple sentence was also, for very many people, pretty natural. ‘The swan did walk, and the wand could sway, and all over there would come a hushed sense of anticipation, like the thrumming of high voltage through tense wires.’ Shelly looked at me as she spoke. The look of mundane reality was still in her eyes, but it was being replaced by something else. That wild-eyed thing inside her – the unbidden rush of sounds and thoughts - was pushing back, gradually conquering that glimpse of sanity. I stayed and spoke with Shelly a few minutes more, but only in the most cursory way. My real attention was turned towards a simple question: would I ride the bus home like nothing had happened, or would I go out on a superstitious limb and wait for the next one? This was a more difficult question that it might seem. I’m not a superstitious person. I didn’t believe in lucky sports jerseys, ‘cursed’ tombs, or in throwing salt over my shoulder. For me, deliberately missing my bus

because of my sister’s (potential) warning would have been a greater concession to my beliefs than it would have been for most. It would have been akin to saying to the Pope, ‘Look, I know you don’t believe in this Shamanism stuff, all I’m asking is that you at least wave this chicken around and say a few incantations. It can’t hurt.’ No, missing my bus wouldn’t have hurt. But it would reveal something about myself, something that ordinarily didn’t come to the surface. Something that might be painful. Was I honestly willing to act on potentially ‘psychic’ advice, just so I could believe my sister still had some capacity to communicate? Did my sudden willingness to believe that her words may have been portentous to me personally, just so they could at least mean something, violate my belief system? When all that my belief system consisted of was ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’ did it really matter if I ‘violated’ it, anyway? I pushed and pulled this idea inside my head, moving it from one corner of my mind to another like a sofa in an empty Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 27


| Short Story living room. Eventually, visiting hours at the house drew to a close, and I got ready to leave. Shelly gripped my shoulder as I kissed her cheek goodbye. I fully expected another warning about the bus, and had braced myself for it. She spoke. ‘Eyes in the dark hearken back to ancient days and spacious leather interiors, or so the loquacious Mr. Barnabee Jacobs demurs to his inferiors: Misters Platt and Jones. Heads like flytraps, skulls like bones!’ There it was again – the rhyming, metrical nonsense that I thought of as my sister’s personality. A stark contrast to her earlier words, themselves utterly at odds with her normal mode of speech. Whatever had been going through her mind when she voiced her ‘warning,’ it was now miles away. ‘Bye, Shelly,’ I said a last time as I walked out.

I

sat on the bus stop bench, watching the bus pull away from the stop a few blocks down and begin lumbering towards me. As it rolled my 28 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

way, I imagined taking a step backwards, away from the bench, and letting the bus pass me by. I imagined waiting in the stillness of the streetlights for another twenty minutes before jumping on the next bus, and then reading the next day about the ‘Metro Transit Tragedy’ that my sister had tried to warn me about. Almost as soon as these vivid images formed, I rejected them. I pulled out my bus pass, stood up, and walked up the metal stairs onto the bus.

I

shouldn’t need to say it. If you’re reading this, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? I survived. The bus didn’t explode. The driver didn’t have a heart attack. No fellow passengers went berserk. No puppies ran out into the road. We didn’t get a flat tire. No spilled beverages. We weren’t even late. The bus dropped me off exactly on time. And, in the interest of completeness, I checked the news the next day for any word. Nothing of import had happened on that bus line that day. Or on any bus in the city.


It seems pretty clear now that I was just ‘reading too much’ into my sister’s strange words. My willingness to believe my sister could form meaningful sentences had led me on a wild goose chase, that’s all. The whole spell would have been easy to forget about, too, if it weren’t for one thing: The next time I saw my sister, she looked at me, shook her head, and said, reproachfully, ‘You promised.’

R

ebecca Tanniger held her phone - which in turn held the book she was reading - on the palm of her hand as though it were a pearl of inestimable value. The work day had been a long one, and she was glad to be taking the bus back home. Except, she wasn’t really there. She was far away, lost inside the world of the book she was reading. It had been years since she had read anything that she had found as engrossing as the novel currently loaded up on her phone. At one point, a line of dialog made her laugh so hard she turned automatically to the person in the

seat next to her, to share the joke. The laughter died on her lips. There was no one there. She glanced around, embarrassed at her public exuberance, and then resumed reading. In silence. Alone.

Troy Blackford is a 28-year-old office worker with work appearing in Black Oak Presents, The Storyteller, the Avalon Literary Review, and Character I.

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| Short Story

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By Aleksandra P.

Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 31


Rotting Robins Melina Papadopoulos beneath all this fresh spring plumage, there are rotting red, red robins. around the deserts of birds’ hearts, hollow bones disassociate themselves as a skeleton. the morning trill recommences on a picket fence in the afterlife, sometimes bleak barbwire if there was no one to write an elegy before the grave. around the deserts of birds’ hearts, hollow bones disassociate themselves as a skeleton. they say, either make like Icarus and fly off with wings no longer yours, or let a mortician play your organs rusted and tuneless. sometimes they’ll mourn on bleak barbwire if there was no one to write an elegy before the grave, but they’ll always be prepared right for Heaven. they say, either make like Icarus and fly off with wings no longer yours, or let a mortician play your organs. the truth is, the mortician always has a concerto composed for sending dead cells crawling in phantom-fit gowns of cobwebs, but he’ll always prepare them right for Heaven halo-headed on the autopsy table. 32 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8


the truth is, the mortician always has a concerto composed for sending dead cells crawling in phantom-fit gowns of cobwebs. immortality may laugh at their breathlessness and closed eyes, but it will always confirm they are halo-headed on the autopsy table. they are then re-plumed to be either angels or doves while immortality may laugh at their breathlessness and closed eyes although it has never touched upon anything beyond the dreaming hours. but as soon as they are re-plumed to be either angels or doves, it comes out of the world timidly. and still, it will never have touched upon anything beyond the dreaming hours. the morning star arrives a late mourner. as immortality comes out of the world timidly, she steps forward with wild berries in her palms. the morning star arrives a late mourner. robins emerge from their decay and sing deep into her ear. as immortality comes out of the world timidly, she steps forward with wild berries in her palms. the morning trill recommences on a picket fence in the afterlife. Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 33


| Short Story

Love During Wartime Timothy B. Dodd

T

he young man arrived in the old town on foot, looking down at the crevices that were quickly filling with rain between the street’s loose bricks. It would be years before there were repairs, perhaps never, and it reminded him again of his teeth. He pushed on and waited at a corner as instructed, leaning against the chipped and decayed wall of an apartment building. A trolley arrived and opened its doors, but no one got on or off at the late hour. Maybe she would be on the next one, he thought. Maybe she would not come at all. She had asked him to visit the dentist for so 34 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

long, but there was no money. A pedestrian passed by with a deteriorating umbrella and turned the corner, head down. Five more trolleys came and went without her, and he kept count of them with little pebbles on the ground that he collected and rolled around with his foot. He could see them in the moonlight when the cloud cover separated, like when his mouth opened by the living room lamp and she would see the stains, the rot, the pothole between the two tracks of molars. More than a dreary hour passed like the minutes were waiting on themselves to move. She was all there was to


hope for, but she wasn’t coming. On his way to the docks the rain stopped. Insects swarmed one of the few functioning street lanterns as if they wished it to decay like the bacteria eroding his enamel. He pulled out a used cigarette in the darkness and smoked it to its nub until the shadow between his fingers disappeared. Two cars rumbled past on separate occasions, drivers unknown. He peeped into a tavern where five unshaved men sat at a small, wooden table under a single light, drinks tied to their hands. They would not care about his teeth, and he would not care about theirs. So he entered and sat down, making the table smaller. He saw that one of the men had pearls inside his mouth where no bombs had landed. This man never smiled, but it was easy to notice the precious stones when he spoke or pursed his lips for a drink. With such fine teeth, the young man thought over and over again that perhaps the old man was a retired dentist. And perhaps there was a way to ask for a free consultation or offer some item to trade in exchange for the

dental work needed to satisfy her. But after much thought and a couple of drinks the young man decided it was not worth asking. Probably the old man would have poor eyesight, diseased hands, taloned feet, or a callus on his heart. Or his dental tools would have been destroyed during an air raid. Or maybe he was her father, the parent of that sweetness which the young man felt decaying everything inside him, including youth itself. Maybe the old man once managed a sugar refinery and found processed dancers to keep the darkness lukewarm and cloudy for his own cold and lonely whiskers. Old men probably never found the answers either, he thought. Not for love, not for war.

Timothy B. Dodd is from Mink Shoals, WV. In addition to writing he enjoys oil painting and “forgotten places.� His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Yemassee, Main Street Rag, and William and Mary Review. Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 35


| Short Story

Growing Apart Maisy Mae

T

he bed we lie on grows Golden Creeping Jenny. It’s spiky to begin with. Its leaves poke into the waistbands of our trousers. I know the irritation will go with time. Strawberries form at our feet, our toes tangle as we play footsy, they cover in juicy reds and yellow seeds get stuck in our nails. Soft fragrant leaves of Lemon Balm and Mint cushion our heads. He strokes my nose with 36 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

the Lemon Balm, I feed him the mint, kiss him and lick the chewed bits from the roof of his mouth. They are still bristled and fresh. Wild Vervain’s elegant tiny lilac flowers and chives poke high, building a shallow wall around our bed. Each time I lean up he wraps his arm around my waist, his warmth spreads over me and I lower my head back down. He crushes the Wild Vervain between his thumb and finger


and smears it on my tongue. He tells me he just wants me to be happy. The rounded deep coos of a Wood Pigeon send me to sleep. Upon waking, the bed has been filled with Asparagus Shoots, Runner Beans, Wild Stepa Grass which is hairy on our legs and tickles. Next to our heads are Globe Thistles; they look like sharp purple suns, they are beautiful, we goad each other to touch them. I go too far and prick my finger. It hurts. He snaps the stork of an Aloe Vera next to his shoulder and rubs its translucent glop on my finger. On one side a Cambridge Gauge Tree grows, the other side a Fig Tree, its great plump fingered leaves patting our bellies. The fruits are still firm, we throw them to see who can get the furthest. We lean up to watch them fall, everything is taller and it’s difficult to see over our growing wall, but we manage. He wins and remarks on how the figs are too tough to bruise. We run the beans along each other’s bodies, they are sweet. We pop them between our teeth. The smell of aniseed explodes

over us as the fennel spreads above, the plants are creating a cove around us, Budlier’s add to the thickness of the roof. Yellow, your favourite colour and purple, mine. Their flower clusters look like tiny chandeliers dangling from our low ceiling. With this privacy I kiss you harder, we branch into each other. Curly Cale and Spinach become our covers. I pull doc leaves over my shoulders and smile into your chest. I’m safe in the shadow of these plants. We share some Wild Tomatoes and you eat my Spinach cover. You tell me it’ll make you strong so you can protect me. A Curry Plant is growing up where the small of your back is, you shuffle. The smell is boxed in and is itching my nose. I sneeze. You chuckle. I sneeze again and again, your laughter ceases. My nose keeps running so I wipe it on the leaves around me making it look like snails have travelled across them. You rip out the Curry Plant and push it through the gaps of the branches and stems. Figs and gauges are falling ripe from the trees now, I’m not a fan Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 37


| Short Story of figs but I eat them because you don’t want them and I think you’re still angry at me for sneezing so much. You eat the gauges until you feel sick. We’ve both got sugar rushes, you get excitable and I get anxious. We argue about my snot until the ‘Just Joey’ Rose grows next to your head and we muse at its name and calm down. Our home is too small for us but we don’t leave, I shrink while more and more plants grow, you are eating everything you can, the carrots, the raspberries. I want you to be strong so I let you eat my portions. My nails begin to fall off and imbed themselves into the earth. You’re obsessed with plants, you plant rhubarb and a Scot’s Pine, you thicken our walls so much there are no more gaps and I can’t see daylight at all. My hair comes out in chunks. I say nothing, you are so proud of our home. I am suffocating, there is no space for us but you keep adding more and more. Sage and Parsley grow up my nose, Periwinkle grows over my legs, Dwarf Beans poke into my ears. My skin is stretching as these plants grab at it. 38 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

When I tell you we need to move on and make a new home, you plant a fox glove at the bottom of our bed and tell me not to touch it. I find myself exhausted by darkness so I sleep and when I wake there is light coming from a hole in the wall of plants. You’re not lying in the bed next to me. You have cleared your side of all the plants apart from one. It’s mourning widow. Dark leaves spread out like a veil, small purple flowers poking out between them. I pull my body out of the plants, leaving my skin behind.

Daisy is currently working on her first novel Another Cuppa, she’s coming to the end of a year project called Untold Method (an apocalyptic themed literary/arts internet magazine http:// untoldmethod.com/ ) and has recently been short-listed for the H.G.Wells Writing Competition. She continues to drink too much whiskey and updates her blog (http://fillingyourselfin. wordpress.com/) every Sunday.


Commitment Ruth Asch-Ghazals Longing to be asked so long that I have no reply, Now you pose the question: Am I ready to commit? Images to feelings flash: pain and shame and joy, All the indiscretions love is happy to commit. Clouds at the horizon lumber over violet waves. Still fishers for silver, boats are ready to commit. Picnickers gaze anxiously at the hazy skies. If only the sun, like they, were eager to commit. Nervily the players angle round the bright, green baize Fondling the coins they are preparing to commit. Desperately the pauper watches by the chill bed-side. Picturing the crimes he could... but it’s wrong to commit. Love that twinkles nightly: pale, just another star; Love blazing with passion: freefall, turning to comet. Teetering in the heavens we guess the weight of harmony, Burning with love’s question: to commit? Ruth Asch-Ghazals is a teacher and poet, having published one volume of poetry - Reflections - with a very small publishing house, the St Austin press, at the end of 2009. She continues to write and translate poetry when she can, hoping to publish a further volume at some future date. Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 39


| Short Story

Fox Omens Gary Budden

I

’m hunting for the white foxes of Kent, sifting through the digital detritus of Google Images. I find it, the picture that I needed to prove that this happened. The pride in the hunter’s face is unbearable, his joy at having destroyed something irreplaceable. White foxes are rare, almost unheard of. The pair of them hang dead from his hands, their thick blood smeared 40 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8


scarlet across albino fur. Unique things, murdered by the shit-eating grin of an idiot. Carcasses to be stuffed, sold, turned into product. I feel anxious. I think on the Hunt Saboteurs I have met, the benefit shows I attend, the rusty foxes that rifle through the grounds of my local church barking, making their demonic lovemaking sounds. The white foxes, murdered in the Garden of England, are once more forgotten and slip from the headlines. I however, make notes on this man, find his address, print out his photograph. People are easy to trace these days. Approximately a year later, the white fox is seen again. I mumble and murmur as to what it means, marvel that they exist, feel uncomfortable, ashamed to admit that I distrust the albino. I have no one to talk to about these things. I try, but do not know what to say, am met with laughter. Feel part of what I was slip away, the knowledge that I am becoming something else. Something curdled, sour, more at home with foxes and the green than with language and my fellows. Stories drift in via the Twitter

accounts I follow, the messageboards on cryptozoology and folklore. Alleged sightings of the black fox, long believed to be a bad omen, a sign of ill-luck. The white and the black, the ghostly and the dead. The sightings are so sporadic as to be mythic. When the creatures are seen, they turn up dead soon after. Anyone privileged with seeing them will be met with calamity and personal misfortune. The latest witness is featured in the pages of The Daily Mail, alongside photographs of the ash-black canid by a busy roadside. Later, its dead carcass, murdered by the motorcar. The Mail spreads the sighting of the animal, spreading ill-luck to its readers. I obsessively watch the blurry videos on YouTube, stare at the photographs of the dead black fox on the website of national newspapers. Perhaps the curse will pass to me even through this digital refraction. I laugh about this as I tell of my exploits to bored friends in local pubs. Secretly, I hope for the calamity, an end to the stifling boredom, the crippling anxiety, the bad omens Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 41


| Short Story that I can see all around. No one other than myself seems to even notice the wildlife that swarms through this wretched city, let alone be able to name them. Except for the foxes. We all love the city foxes. I hope one day that the white fox, the black fox, will be there in my garden, nestled amongst the growing potatoes and the dying kale. I need proof of the impending calamity, the inevitable change. Their urban cousins are claiming the city as their own. Good luck to them. Out in endless space of rural Britain, the white and the black foxes are seen once more and I do not believe in coincidence. The Japanese say the black fox is a good omen, the white a sign of calamity. Foxes of Northern Europe are tricksters, cunning, charismatic, akin to that of the Native Americans who believe the fox helped create the world. Biblical authors considered the fox to be deceitful, assigning the word to false prophets. The Arabs view the fox as cowardly, weak, but still deceitful. These are not different species of fox. 42 | Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8

This is all our red fox, the one we root for in children’s tales.

I

begin taking trips alone out into what was once known as the countryside. Passing halfbuilt supermarkets, fungal flats growing from the ruins of their predecessors, canals thick with rubbish and shrieking moorhens, I head into whatever available green I can, hunting for them. My girlfriend, she worries and looks at me as if I am someone else. She likes foxes yet cannot understand why I have to find the white and black. I have to know what disaster is drawing near, I tell her, and she cries every time I leave the house. In sturdy Karrimors, binoculars hung like a pendant round my neck, packed lunch of cheese sandwiches and apples, a flask of coffee, I search for the death foxes. I pack a knife with me in case of an encounter with hunters. I leave my mobile at home now. Too many calls from work, from my girlfriend, from mother. It is a distraction and could scare the foxes away. I have the address of the white fox murderer and


think on paying him a visit. Five days now away from home, deep into the Kentish countryside. My stubble has bled out into beard. The sun is relentless and lacks forgiveness. This is fine. I demand no absolution. I am aware that I must stink, my clothing sweat-stiffened and smeared with dark stains. I believe it is a Saturday, as many families with dogs and small yapping children have passed where I sit and given me frightened glances. I try to grin back and talk to them, ask if they have seen or heard anything of the death foxes in the region, but the words will not come and I mumble a few sounds to them that scare the children and cause the parents pick up their pace. There are blood stains on my trousers, drying to a crusty rust colour in the heat. This morning I tracked down the man in the photograph, the one with shit-eating smile and the two murdered white foxes hanging from his arm. He had begged for forgiveness, for absolution. I had told him there was none as I pulled him from his LandRover. I had slit his throat and watched

his life pour out over the tarmac of a Little Chef car park, as the endless traffic thundered past, the noise drowning his gurgles and sad last gasps. It was early, dawn. I had run into the surrounding countryside, to find woodland, to find the death foxes. More families pass the spot on which I have chosen to wait. Birds are all around in the foliage, chirping, screeching, chirruping. The sound of life all around. I let gnats and mosquitoes feed on me with pleasure and good grace. Dusk arrives, but the foxes do not. I wait, still.

Gary Budden is director and editor at Influx Press, whose first publication ‘Acquired For Development By‌’ was released May 2012. He has written for publications such as The Occupied Times, The Cadaverine, Stalking Elk, Limbo Quarterly, Universe Magazine, Dead Ink Books, and more. He loves punk rock, literature, the British countryside and vegetarian food. He was born in Watford, grew up in Whitstable, Kent, and now lives in Stoke Newington, London. Inkspill Magazine | Issue 8 | 43


Hymn on Sunday Peggy Aylsworth Who could believe the red-blood truth of this: the human body? The mind and heart alone, deserve a front row seat on opening night. I drink a glass of water. It swims into a poem read by arteries and ducts more prepared for proof than the beleaguered editor of The Times. Think bones, broken or aged. They hold their own throughout, structuring the house of many rooms. What medicine is there as wise as the body’s own repair? Have you of late considered the iris of the human eye? If I racket the air with sound, my purple tongue has much to answer for. I leap and lope through words that reach the portal of your ear, another organ to applaud the concert. I bless these feet that walk me through the snow. Peggy Aylsworth’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals throughout the U.S. and abroad, including Ars Interpres, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poetry Salzburg Review.


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Inkspill Magazine Issue 8