- strange things? -
PROGRESS ; “It is through disobedience that progress has been made,
through disobedience and through rebellion.” - Oscar Wilde Of course, we were hoping that this publication you are holding in your hands would be something exceptional. What we could never have anticipated, however, was the quality of the work, the range of issues tackled and the emotional response that we had toward them. It is for that reason, and with great pride, that we share with you strange things? Collective’s first zine on the theme of progress. The submissions across these pages have the potential to fill you with anger, pride, sadness and joy, and we hope that you are as moved by them as we are. Here’s to many more zines, Jenny and Angela Editors of strange things? Collective
Contents The Arts: Creative Progress that cannot be seen Melis Anik PG4, Lucky Escape Jamie RJ Richmond PG5, The Moonscape William Shaw PG5, Progress in the Art of Love Aoife Inman PG6, Something Like Nico PG7, Unititled Piece April Robson PG7 Black Dust Andrew Openshaw PG8-9, Eve Angelica Jones PG10-11, PAZ Sian Whitfield PG12-13, Eve Angelica Jones PG13, Let Go Andrew Nicholas PG14-15, Progress; Definition Rivka PG16-17, My Progression to Self Love Cheyenne Williams PG18-19, Such Recent Mercies Eliza Temple PG20-23, Resisting the Urge to Hate My Sick Brain Jenny Whitfield PG24-25, Biographies PG26-27. -2-
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//Progress is about a journey; you
donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to be there but youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re on your way. Stepping stones, checklists, milestones - its all progress, be it the very first, shakey step (it could be the first first step, the second first step, or the first step for the zillionth time)
or the whole damn marathon.
Please be conscious of the fact that this publication deals with some potentially distressing themes. An age of 16+ is recommended. -3-
- strange things? -
Creative Progress that Cannot be Seen Melis Anik
To write without telling others you are doing so, is
my work, or dramatically announced that I, an
to write freely. It’s to write without expectations,
awkward teen, wanted to become an author, would
or deadlines. It’s to create a new world without
be a lie. I had grown impatient of writing without
the unwanted input of others, who despite their
the validation that I craved, and call me optimistic,
best interests, distort the muse that had once
or just naive, but I believed that other people could
been concrete within your mind. For to invest time
give me what I wanted. And they did…for a while.
into the arts, is to accept that not all progress
They fed my creativity as they eagerly awaited
can be seen. It’s to accept a future of uncertainty.
my story, their excitement fuelling my own. Then
It’s to believe in something far superior than the
realisation dawned upon me, as the expectations
mundane life you’ve grown to accept.
began to overpower all of the progress I had
When I was a young teen, the idea of becoming
//For to invest time into the arts, is to accept that not all progress can be seen..
made. My dream was no longer my own, as I grew indifferent from my writing, and the characters who I had theoretically come to know. Whether you deem it ironic or not, questions, especially regarding the arts, often seem to transcend daily life, filtering into successful careers, both fleeting and sustained. From unpublished writers to bestselling authors, the monotony
a bestselling author was dependent on simply fin-
never ends. It doesn’t matter if you’re holding your
ishing the book. I battled with self-doubt, and the
debut novel, the pages crisp, the ‘new book’ smell
guilt that always proceeded an unproductive day.
emanating around the room, in your hand. You will
I wrote when I felt like it, and I thought about the
still be asked to describe it, as if the blurb, Amazon
book when I did not. It was a project that I kept se-
synopsis, and array of similar interviews online,
cret, typing away when everyone else was asleep,
aren’t good enough. I was a teenager when I decided that I wanted
each chapter a small step closer to my goal. When my ‘debut’ novel came to nothing more
to become a bestselling teen author. I’m now an
than an unfinished manuscript, left forgotten, and
adult who is content that I am neither. Every story
hidden away, I found myself growing restless.
was once a blank page until an author made it
A fresh idea had made me excited to write once
their own. So, whether you write to be published
again, and this time, I wanted other people to
or not, do not discount the progress that you have
know. To say that I spontaneously revealed
made, or value a chapter over a page.
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Lucky Escape Jamie RJ Richmond
There was once a teenager named Ben who
though the debris but the more he fought against
hated cleaning his room. He hated it more than
it, the more he sunk. He fought the tide of rubbish
homework, detention and maths put together.
until he had no strength left to fight but then Ben
So, in order to avoid it, he would make excuses or
suddenly found himself back in his room.
pretend to forget about it. Then one day, he invited
Ben thanked his lucky stars, grabbed the black bag
his friend Daniel around to play on the computer
and tried to pick up more rubbish. However, this
(completely forgetting about his messy room). To
time, for every item he picked up another replaced
his surprise, and horror, there was a note in the
it. A can of Fanta replaced with a bag of half-eaten
kitchen when he got home from school. It read:
crisps, a rubix cube replaced with a pile of legos, a pair of socks replaced with a stained jumper. He
‘Won’t be home until late tonight, there’s money in the usual place if u need anything. Love you, be careful. Mum and Dad x’
did it slowly but the items replaced themselves at the same speed he was picking them up. He then found by going quickly, he could get a few things in the bag before one item replaced them. So, after
The Moonbase William Shaw
a frantic 60 minutes hard work he was done, his room was clear of rubbish. Ben then took two of the eight bags down to the
Ben immediately texted his friend to call the whole
bins outside but as he walked towards the green
thing off, but he began to feel guilty before he even
bin it seemed to move away into the distance.
pressed the send button, he couldn’t do it. He
He tried walking faster and faster but the bin
tried to coax his sister into doing it but she was
got further and further away. He turned around
out with her boyfriend until late. There was only
and walked back towards the house and the bin
one thing for it, he would have to clean his room.
neared, but as soon as he turned his back it would
Armed with a black carrier bag Ben journeyed into
speed away again. After what felt like a twen-
the unknown, (he could normally get from his bed
ty-minute run, Ben arrived at the bin, and placed in
to the door without touching the floor.)
it the two black bags he was carrying. He caught
At first the rubbish wasn’t too bad, an empty can
his breath and then retreated to the house to grab
of Coke, a Twix wrapper, a worn t-shirt. But then
two more. He repeated the process until all eight
he began to reach the serious stuff. Pizza boxes,
bags were gone.
broken toys and some old crusty socks, the smell
After a non-extraordinary hoover up, dusting at-
was revolting. Then as he reached for some more
tempt and an entire bottle of Febreze, Ben’s room
toxic socks he tripped and fell, but he kept falling
was clean and fresh. After a quick shower and
and falling and then with a lame thud he landed on
a bite to eat Daniel was on his way. They had a
something soft and squidgy that broke his fall. It
great time on the computer together, it was so fun
was an old beaten mattress.
in fact they made it a weekly thing. But whenever
‘How did this get here?’ He asked himself as he
they had something to eat or drink, it went straight
looked around the room confused, but to his sur-
into the bin and whenever they were finished play-
prise, it wasn’t his room anymore. Blue metal walls
ing with anything it was put straight back away.
surrounded him, it looked like he was in a giant
Ben was always meticulous about that, ever since
skip. He panicked and tried to claw himself free
that day he woke up in a skip. -5-
Footsteps on the moon Vibrate across the surface Of a coffee cup. You forgot to check For monsters under the bed; Empty grins emerge. Though plastic smiles melt Beneath this caffeine potion, Techno-ghosts will march. Faced with an army Of never-could-be humans We switch on the storm. The moon rejects us; A silent, silver thrashing Thrown into the sun.
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Progress in the Art of Love Aoife Inman
I don’t know how to love Because I was never taught that you could show affection Like This. Such tenderness was never branded wrong But still, There was no space for presentation, Representation of our femininity united In a bond that wasn’t friendship, But something more Potent. My childhood growth was defined in black and white and good and bad - boxes built from binaries. But where was the space for the exploration of my limits, the interrogation of the demarcations of “normal”? You gave me centimeters. Let me reach to taste the waters of acceptance but not to drink it. As such the scent of shame hangs heavy about my neck. And meanwhile we have all conceded to these small steps, Secured progress in the eyes of the persecuted without loosening purse-strings, But your tolerance does not acceptance make and we have yet to jump cleanly that first hurdle. Subsequently I am formed, fully grown and fumbling with my expression. For it is only now that I have found my feet and learnt to run. All elbows and knees, Awkwardness at every turn, Identity in its infancy, And I can’t help but think that this ending could have been
less bitter if my mouth wasn’t soured with the aftertaste of classrooms and corridors. You didn’t preach hate, Outwardly. But you called out difference like a symptom of disease. You made it absolutely clear you had no problem with them. But that word erected signs that screamed out “other”. A singular pronoun That created divides in children who saw only technicolour And like that you made my world fade sepia. Meanwhile you’re calling out shops for championing free choice Saying you’ve never heard such insanity from the mouths of mothers Instead of questioning when along this line we abandoned humanity, a connection to a spirituality of kindred souls. Because the threat of a girl who likes trucks seems rational. Doesn’t it. It’s the world that’s mad for demanding more than damsels Not the forums of hate spewed over skateboarders in skirts. Doors always closing Options narrowing That world of butterflies and glitter crowns was a fortress – Because they weren’t wrong when they told me Rapunzel was trapped in that tower, I only wish I’d know she didn’t need a man to save her. That gender did not impede upon my agency and that I had a choice over my body, that the expression of my sexuality was never yours to make a problem.
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She’s not like the other girls. When someone asks you, in a teenage game
You imagine kissing her on New Year’s Eve,
At the time, you understand it like this — she
of Truth or Dare, to reveal who you have a
beneath the lights of Times Square. You
has short hair and wears flannels and chang-
crush on, you choose a boy in your class with
imagine dancing on prom night, arm in arm,
es the topic when you talk about hot guys, and
an unassuming attitude and sweet smile.
her hand against your side. You imagine first
this is different, and dangerous for it.
dates and fiftieth dates and proposals and big When a summer camp roommate daydreams
But she is also different in a way that you can
of marriage, you smile and insist you wouldn’t
accept. She doesn’t care about popularity,
be a good mother, you don’t want a big wed-
You imagine telling her, “I love you,” but you
about relationship drama and friendship
ding, your career will be more important.
are scared, still, of the distance between your
drama and boy bands and chick flicks. She
lips and the beats between your breaths, so
just happens to like what you like, this set of
When you see two men holding hands by the
trivialities that you label important, and that
bike path, you laugh, awkwardly, to yourself,
makes her matter enough for you to look past
turn the other direction, even though there is
One day, by the ocean, your hands tangle
what you do not understand.
no one here to watch you.
together for half a second.
And she is your best friend, and she is your
When a girl in your class turns to you with
And it is not enough, and you wish that you
comrade, and she is your confidant. And she
raised eyebrows and asks, “Are you gay?” you
could be more. But when you close your eyes
finishes your science project for you while you
stutter and stammer and pull your head down
and she squeezes your hand, it feels some-
read your novel and relay the funniest lines.
you shut your mouth and say nothing.
thing like progress.
And she drops back to keep pace with you
because these people do not deserve the
when you run laps, looping round and round
answer like She does.
the track field, laughing about everything and nothing at all. And she sits next to you
She still has short hair, and wears flannels,
on the couch as you watch the same three
and changes the topic when her friends talk
episodes of her favorite anime, hours feeling
about hot guys. But when you look at her, you
see those same traits in you, your reflection
This, you tell yourself, is what girls are meant
staring back from her eyes. You are ready,
to do for each other.
now, to confront her implication.
Imagery by April Robson.
BLAC BLACK DU D - strange things? -
The conflict came out of nowhere. Details are sketchy, with few left alive when it began. Those who survived remember a hot summer of protests. The usual sort. Austerity, poverty, wars, taxes, education. A kaleidoscope of issues. Diverse groups filling every imaginable niche. Left, right, green, orange. Symbols that meant something back then descended on town centres, village greens. Poured onto the streets of major cities. A rainbow river of flags and placards. Of course, not everyone demonstrated. Not at first. Demonstrations were something minorities did. Even if they represented a bigger social or political group, most preferred to watch. Analyse. Discuss in cafes. People had jobs to go to, colleges to attends. Major demos got on TV. You could sit at home in peace. Watch the excitement unfold thanks to twenty-four-hour rolling coverage. The hot summer dragged. Things escalated rather than dying down with the change of the seasons. More people mobilised every day. School teachers, doctors, students,
office workers. Folks stopped going to their jobs. No more get up, have breakfast, meetings, lunches. You left home each morning to join a march. Ingratiate with the buzz; the resentment and the anger. Many politicians joined those on the streets. Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d distanced themselves from the people for too long. Leaving their constituency offices, they too blended in with the rest. Laws for organised protests could no longer be upheld. Even if you did fill out the correct forms, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be nowhere to take them. Institutions disappeared. Bureaucracy crumbled. At some point, clashes between the police and the protesters also stopped. From then on it was protesters against protesters. The police fading into whatever group they preferred. Anyway, when it was clear the police were no more, the army was deployed. You see, a cabal remained. The elite. Those with the most to lose. They sent in the troops. Tanks and other armoured vehicles roamed the lanes. Cascading into car
CK K UST DUST - PROGRESS -
parks, smashing their way into giant shopping centres. Like I said, all these years later the details are sketchy. Memories cannot be relied upon, tales become tall. The accepted narrative around these parts is that the media, and hence the news, stopped broadcasting six months after the troubles began. Instead, you relied on chatter via apps and blogs, but who could you trust? Even those communications were intermittent. And connectivity to the web declined over time, till it too ceased altogether. Sitting at home meant you would starve. You had to join in somehow. Find out what was going on. Neighbours, for so many years ignorant of each other’s existence, were forced to introduce themselves. Safety in numbers, to venture out into the chaos. Rumour: the army is airlifting people to safety over at the old council building. Another rumour: anyone seen in the streets will be shot. Another rumour: many of the soldiers aren’t even soldiers, they’re just people who have killed soldiers and stolen their fatigues and guns.
Mutinies were common. Soldiers refused orders and chose to offer their services to civilians. Hired protection led to the dispersal of incredible weapons, from the hands of the few to the many. Even the most desperate souls procured deadly machines. Weaponised drones, grenade launchers, sound-bombs which deafened whole suburbs. Roads scattered with corpses. Heads on stakes. Black Dust was the end and the beginning. Sickening. Worse than anything else. The fighting in the cities and towns had to stop somehow. This was the answer. Missiles fell at daybreak. Tower blocks fell. Out of this devastation, the Black Dust rose. It filled our skies. Killed birds and plants and everyone you’d ever known.
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- strange things? -
Carlisle born and bred street artist talks tiles, truths and tatty spraycan cats. Sitting in a gem of a Carlisle café, I wait for the
tiles, and messaged the account to ask about it.
at least to the quality he aspired, was suddenly
mysterious ‘PAZ’. It dawns on me that, as I found
Part time street artist and full time working
out of reach. “it took me about three years to get
him and got in touch online, I have no idea what
in the hospitality industry, ‘PAZ’ is just an alias.
anything back. It started again with the launch of
he looks like, nor him me. By the time he comes
“As far as ‘PAZ’ goes, I like to keep it anon.” I
the iphone, believe it or not!”.
through the door, I have awkwardly smiled at
ask about the local radio station, who recently
about three different people before they sit down
launched a small scale hunt to find the man
or an escape; “I was an alcoholic. It came with
with their coffees – quite a few tables away –
behind the tiles. Why say no to them but be happy
the trade I’m afraid. It happens a lot in my line of
leaving me looking like a melon.
to meet with me? “I didn’t want to be part of all
work. I could have had half a bottle of vodka, right
that - the ‘Carlisle gossip mill’ – nothings going to
now, and you wouldn’t even tell. Over the past ten
him this time), wearing a talking heads t-shirt
come from that. It’ll have the neighbours talking, a
years, it’s been a lot about finding myself again.
(so at least he’s good taste in music), he comes
bit of slagging off, nothing else. What would it do?
I have found I have a very addictive personality,
across a little shy, but once we get talking, that all
This project, it could lead to something. It sounded
so decided I just had to find something else to
dissipates. Talking about his work, his wife, his
interesting. Connect me with the right people.”
replace the alcohol.” Talking about the secrecy of
life in general he becomes ever more animated,
I think of this, and ask about Carlisle’s ‘arts
When he does comes in (and thank god its
It also stemmed from the need for a distraction,
his alcoholism, I draw a similarity between that
giving away how passionate he is about all of it,
scene’, or more lack thereof, and if he knows
and the need to keep PAZ so secret. “Er, maybe. I
including his tiles.
of any other artists. “Theres nowhere to go.
don’t know. It’s a lot of things really. There’s a lot
In my first year of university, exploring a new city, trying to ‘adult’ and figure out exactly why anyone ever moves away from the comforts of home, I came across one of these tiles stuck to a bridge on my walk home. A small, black and white image of a building, with the letters P. A. Z. hand written underneath. I hadn’t noticed it before on any of my many trudges through the rain from tescos back to my home-from-home of the student halls I was staying in. I snapped a quick photo, and posted it to Instagram; Found this today, anybody know anything about it?. Evidently, nobody did, as my question went unanswered (and to this day, that insta only has 2 likes. 2.). However, wandering around the city (normally because I was lost), I started to notice them elsewhere; corners of windows, stuck to street signs, hidden in back lanes. It drove me mad. How was it possible that they were everywhere, yet nobody seemed to know anything about them? I asked people who’d lived in Carlisle all their lives (what tiles?) and looked incessantly online. Eventually it was through Instagram and by happy accident I found the account @paz1971, and met PAZ. I’d already decided I wanted to do a project on the
//this bloody police car came screeching right round the corner The council, they constantly make all of these promises. They’re going to set up spaces, give us places to go, to show work, places you would meet people. It’s never happened. Besides, they’re more ‘traditional’ artists. If you don’t like what they like, you’re not ‘in’, y’know? The only other ‘street artist’ I’ve even noticed in Carlisle is that bloody horrible cat” [a cat-like figure has been popping up spray painted around Carlisle recently] “ – have you noticed it!? It’s feckin’ awful.” I ask him about how, or maybe why he started his tiles. He laughs. “Well, that depends! Er, I guess, how in depth do you want me to go?” They started with a love of photography; “Landscape photography. That’s my area, that’s what I love. In another life, that’s what I’d do.” But by losing his camera and equipment in the floods that devastated Carlisle in 2015, landscape photography, or - 12 -
of reasons for why I do it. I’ve got to do something – I can’t still be doing this [dayjob] in ten years time – I’ll be knackered!” Curious as to how he makes his tiles, his process, I ask him and he turns bashful – “I’m going to have to tell you, or my Mrs will kill me. She made these coasters as a present for my sister for her birthday; we got these pictures off of facebook and she turned them into coasters by sticking them to tiles and glazing them. I thought, actually that’s really clever, and kind of stole it! I have her to thank!” speaking of family, of his work and how he does it, he has found an eclectic method to fund it. Mortgages have to be paid, and bills can’t be ignored, so funding for his work can’t affect his family life financially in any way. “I started collecting 20 pence pieces. Just saving them up – you don’t notice saving 20p away. I have about £150 saved so far, for the next lot of tiles – hopefully they’ll be up soon!” But up where? “When I first started doing them, I was kind of stupid. I was putting them up in in really obvious places. Right in your face. They would either get taken down straight away, or someone would come along and nick them – I only used
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to use a little dot of glue to fix them up, so they
get it to stick. Theres this group of kids hanging
started panicking a bit. They were getting closer
would be easy to just pop off, and of course peo-
about, and I just knew they were going to bloody
and closer, I was trying to act casual, but this
ple did. I used to take pictures of a place and stick
ask me for one. I’m trying to act all nonchalant,
bloody police car came screeching right round
them smack bang in the middle of the same place.
but every time I move, the tile moves a little bit. It’s
the corner! I just thought, bloody hell, I didn’t think
I’ve learned; I’ve gotten more subtle since then.”
a strong resin, but it takes a while to set, and every
they were that mad about it! They jumped out the
How subtle can you really be though, sticking tiles
time it moves I think ‘I’m going to end up stuck to
car – and walked straight past me. Some kids
up in very public places? “I’ve not been caught –
this wall. The resins going to stick to my jacket,!
were messing around in an abandoned building,
yet. There was one outside of café nero – its gone
But no, I got away with that. Somehow! There was
that was what they were after. I was shaking.”
now, I stuck it right on the doorway – I’d managed
one down on The Pools [leisure centre] too, I’d
to get the resin on the back and got it on the wall,
just done that one, and had wandered back up the
and was leaning against it, having a fag trying to
road. I could hear sirens in the distance, and
Angelica Jones I wanted to vacation in Venice I didn’t realise why until I got home and My ribs collapsed into my stomach and Canals in my eyes drown my City and The sunken chapel arches of my heart crumbled and washed away down the Stream of my throat I didn’t realise I wanted to go to Venice because everything is beautiful and Falling apart I wonder if anyone could find my abandoned house Lock themselves in my rooms Row boats across the waters of my skin And find that I could not find Something that I could not find in Venice
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Find PAZ’s tiles all over Carlisle, and on Instagram at @paz1971
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- strange things? -
1. forward or onward movement towards a destination. 2. development towards an improved
or more advanced condition.
Words have meanings, unsurprisingly; stock phrase that is used to define the garble of letters that we’ve melded together. Some definitions are accepted by everyone and they very rarely change, whereas some other words have different meanings depending on who you ask.
Progress: the development towards an improved state. A state of physicality, perhaps.
won them in the grand lottery of life. My definition of progress changes from day to
You’ve done more sit ups today than yesterday;
day. I got out of bed this morning, I remembered
brilliant, that is progress. A state of intelligence,
to take my medication, or I simply drank a glass
maybe. You finally worked out that pesky sum that
of water. Focusing on my mental health has never
was giving you trouble?
been something that I’ve wanted to do, and why
//Why did people lock
would I? For me, it’s a burden, something that I have never desired and my attitude was always
themselves in their rooms
along the lines of ‘maybe if I ignore it, it’ll just
and never get out of bed?
take care of your problems. It grows, consumes
Why didn’t they go outside with their friends and enjoy the sun?
disappear’ but just like a rash, that isn’t how you and without the proper care can take over you until you have trouble telling up from down. This is why it is so important to not force your definition of progress onto someone. When I was younger, I didn’t understand. Why did people lock themselves in their rooms and never
Amazing, that’s progress.
get out of bed? Why didn’t they go outside with
Or maybe, if you’re like me, this concerns your
their friends and enjoy the sun?
state of mind. My state of mind hasn’t been great
I’m sorry and I have learned.
for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it’s because of the stars, or my dad,
Progress isn’t inherently positive, either. Quitting a job that you hated can be progress.
or just me being me. I didn’t choose to be like this,
Finishing a relationship can be progress.
just like nobody else dealing with mental issues
Throwing out an idea that you knew wasn’t going
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- PROGRESS -
to go anywhere can be progress. These things let you cut loose ties and stop
someone that favoured my own company, solitude, and quiet than the loud roar of a crowd,
had at least three self-destruct buttons. April 1 st 2017: critical system failure. The
you from hanging onto an unfavourable past,
the shoulder grabs and the need to converse.
wail of ambulance sirens, the biting cold of the
allowing you to blossom, or some other butterfly
Sitting in front of my console, my computer or just
early morning air, blood dripping down my chest,
analogy that has been lost on me.
lying in bed reading a book was enough for me.
leaning over a boy’s lap as my eyes flutter and
//Dropping out of
For me, dropping out of university was one of the best things that I have ever done. Since I was little, and tagged with the somewhat anxiety-inducing label of being a gifted child, I knew that I was going to go to university. Experience a new city, live in dorms, meet new people; and I did, I did experience a new city, live
university was one of the best things that I have ever done.
in campus quarters and socialise with a completely different range of people than I had experienced before.
Dropping out of university was one of the best things that I have ever done. I don’t need a slip of paper, or a graduation cap, or the ability to recite the works of Ovid to know my worth. I don’t need to experience a different city to be adventurous. I don’t need to put myself through individualised horrors to feel like I’m getting somewhere when
Until it wasn’t. Not until I realised that my mood was taking a steep nosedive. Razors mani-
I’m really just sinking further and further into the deepening pit that is my mental health.
I hated it.
fested into close friends and unopened bottles of
My course, as much as I loved it, wasn’t
whiskey became my personal confidants.
accepted by everyone. Dropping out ofuniversity
enough of an incentive to stay in a city that
Sneaking between my room and the communal
was my progress. But for you?
trapped me and as much as I adored my friends, I
kitchen at ridiculous o’clock in the morning to
couldn’t stand to be so far from my family for such
make the dinner I forgot about became a common
long periods of time. My family are my rock even if
habit, hiding in my room from my noisy
they don’t know.
roommates and sleeping through fire alarms
University was the worst thing for my mental health. I’ve always been a closed-off person;
because of how sleep deprived I am. I was a robot and not even a cool one. I was on auto-pilot and I - 17 -
Words have meanings. Some definitions are
You decide for yourself.
- strange things? -
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- strange things? -
Adrien lived with a ghost.
Such Recent Mercies Eliza Temple
It was not the kind of thing she brought up in polite company—or indeed, any company at all, really—but it was true nonetheless. She’d heard the stories from the neighbours before she even bought the flat in the first place: how a hundred or two hundred or three hundred years ago, depending on who you asked, Teresa Smith had thrown herself from the window of her husband’s estate in a fit of the hysteria that affected so many young women of the time. The family’s reputation had been ruined, and somehow the once-grand estate had ended up converted into flats for the kind of poor, eclectic people the ancestral owners would have
//She’d expected to be frightened, but she wasn’t. abhorred. Ever since, residents had reported seeing the ghost of the late Mrs. Smith wandering the halls, wailing, weeping in white. - 20 -
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Adrien’s first encounter with the ghost had been when she was still living out of boxes, her things not yet
The ghost blinked slowly. There was no colour in her,
For a moment, Adrien didn’t know how to reply. But
unpacked. She was finding homes for her belongings
a dead girl was still a girl all the same, she supposed.
when she glimpsed her, white-faced in the window
Ignoring her would have been rude.
wearing a nightgown Adrien could have mistaken for the lace curtains. She’d expected to be frightened, but she wasn’t. And she wasn’t frightened either when she saw her around again, and again and again in the house.
all just shades of white and grey, but Adrien had the feeling her eyes might have been blue. “I see.” She said, her tone polite and distant. Despite
//Her sister’s fiancé was
being dead, she spoke the way a living person would,
the exact kind of man
understand why she was doing what she was doing.
and Adrien recognised that confused tone of voice. She’d heard it many times from people who couldn’t
“No,” She started, slowly making her way over to the
ghost. “You see…”
she’d moved to for school, angry sign still in hand. The
“It’s… for a protest.” She said carefully. She kept her
thing that people discussed in polite company, but she
old estate had been her home for a month by then and
distance, but she still turned the sign around to let the
didn’t consider her current company polite. She’d been
she was used to seeing her spectral roommate; she
ghost look. There was something hazy and insubstan-
in a foul mood before she even arrived at her parents’
barely batted an eye at the sight of her sitting crouched
tial about her, a slight and strange thing that could have
house for dinner to meet her sister’s new fiancé, since
by the windowsill, half-hidden in the long shadows. The
been blown away by a breeze.
she’d been forced into a dress. Tessa—she had asked
The second encounter had come when she was returning home from a protest in the loud and dirty city
heart attack came when she spoke. “Why are you holding that?” The ghost’s voice was not a voice, but a collection of sounds that formed words. The floorboards creaked and the house settled
“What are you protesting?” This time the voice came
Adrien lived with a dead girl, and it wasn’t the kind of
to be called Tessa—had been fascinated by the way
from the wind and the leaves outside the window.
Adrien dressed. The idea of a woman wearing trousers
Adrien knew immediately how to answer.
was a novelty to her, and she had spent a long minute
“The new prime minister is a known misogynist and
combing her ghostly, insubstantial fingers through
and somewhere in another room the boiler hummed,
its unacceptable for him to hold a position of power like
Adrien’s short hair, feeling the fuzz of her undercut on
and all together they sounded like, why are you holding
that when he doesn’t believe in the humanity of half of
the population.” - 21 -
- strange things? -
“I would never have been allowed to do this.” She
always wanted to know if the stories surrounding the
said quietly, self-consciously touching her own long,
house were true, but it seemed impolite to ask. So,
blonde curls. Adrien had always expected ghosts to be
she had waited until Tessa brought it up herself, the
shrieking disgust. She didn’t know what the best case
unsettling, and Tessa was. But she hadn’t known she
morning after the night before when the girl Adrien had
scenario was, but she knew she hadn’t expected Tessa
would still be so human regardless.
been seeing lately had gone home.
to rest her elbows on the windowsill and then her
The bad mood only worsened the longer the dinner
“What were you doing last night?” Tessa asked,
went on. Her sister’s fiancé was the exact kind of man
white face peering around from the curtains where
she despised; after the introductions were over, he’d
she always tended to manifest. Adrien just raised her
opened the dinnertime conversation by condemning the very protest Adrien had just taken time off work to go to. “It’s just ridiculous, really,” He was saying, scoffing as he waved his fork around like a finger wagging in
//I wanted him to be a girl.
disapproval. “Who cares if he’s made some off-colour comments? Women today have it just as good as men. There’s no harm in words, they teach you that in primary school. Maybe once they were worse off, but they’ve got their rights now.” They and never you, as if there weren’t three women sitting right there at the table with him. Or perhaps he was only bothering to address Adrien’s father. It had taken many meetings scattered over several weeks for Tessa to talk about her death. Adrien had
“Yeah, well,” She said. “I like girls.” In a worst case scenario, Adrien had expected
head in her hands, gazing dreamily into the apartment through the thick glass. “I loved girls.” She admitted in a faraway murmur. For the first time since she had met her, Tessa finally sounded warm, flush with emotion and fondness. “When I was alive, I think they were the thing I loved most. I remember after I married Edward, I would sit right here and watch them in the park, in their dresses...”
eyebrows, hoping that the smirk on her face didn’t look too smug.
Adrien blinked. “Did you… want girls? The same way that you
“You used to be married, right? You can’t tell me you don’t know what sex is.”
wanted your husband?” She knew that women like her had always existed; she had read Sappho, and Anne
“I do.” The dead couldn’t blush, but Tessa looked like she might have been anyway. “But that was… you were with a girl.” Here, Adrien thought, was the tripping point. So much of the world had improved since Tessa had been alive.
Lister and Patricia Highsmith. Seeing it first hand was something else altogether. Tessa shook her head. “I never wanted my husband.” There was no pause between question and admission, but she still looked
- 22 -
- PROGRESS -
ashamed of herself for saying it. “My parents wanted
stairs, swallowed bleach and scalded their skin to try
him for me. I hated letting him touch me… I wanted him
and carve out the thing that grew inside of them? Their
to be a girl. I can still feel his hands…” Her sad, small
rights were such recent mercies, won too late.
voice trailed off, the fingers just visible beneath the sleeves of her nightgown trailing up along her arms. Adrien’s throat felt full, from the ache in her chest travelling upwards. Her heart cried out in pain and pity and fury for Tessa and every girl like her. “Is that why you killed yourself?” Adrien asked, her voice as quiet as the dead themselves. Tessa looked up at her, doe eyes wide and startled. She gave her head a tiny shake, curls bouncing. “I was pregnant.” She admitted. “I’d just found out,
At the dinner table, she blurted, “Abortion is still illegal in Ireland.” In the awkward silence that followed,
be a mother—than be his wife just another second longer. So I did.” Her eyes met Adrien’s again, and she heard the wet, pathetic noise Tessa made when she swallowed her sob. Then she simply vanished. That night Adrien grieved. How many people like her had suffered, how many had died with their ears ringing full of slurs or opened up their wrists? How many women had thrown themselves from windows and down
“I am.” She said. “And a few decades ago I couldn’t have been that either. People like me had to fight tooth and nail for everything we had.” “And now you have it.” He said, coolly detached
she added, “And a lot of other places.”
from a conversation he had no real stake in. “You got
//There were millions of
other girls in the world who were still breathing and striving to survive.
and I… I couldn’t.” She wrung her hands, still helpless hundreds of years on. “I would rather have died than
“That’s not enough.” It wasn’t enough when not everyone had it yet. Even if—when, they did, it still wouldn’t be. It was not enough—would never be enough. They deserved not justice, but retribution. “What more do you even want?” He asked, confused. She couldn’t explain it to him—he would never understand it. All she could think to say was, “Everything.”
Her sister’s fiancé gave her a quizzical look. “What does that have to do with anything?” “You’re saying that women have all the rights they need now, but we don’t even have the rights to our own bodies.” Adrien said. The man across the table from her raised an eyebrow.
Her sister’s fiancé gave her an unsettled look before he turned away, once again addressing her horrified father. Content to let the argument die, Adrien simply sat there to think about Tessa again—and not just her. Adrien knew one girl who had been hurt so badly she was now beyond saving, but there were millions of
“Why does it matter to you? Aren’t you a lesbian?” There was something derisive about the look he gave her, lip curled, up and down. Adrien was ready to spit - 23 -
other girls in the world who were still breathing and striving to survive. They had all come so far from where they had once been, but there was still so far to go…
- strange things? -
Resisting the Urge to Hate My Sick Brain Jenny Whitfield
Lately, when I’ve been spouting excuses like “I
me, the fear that my Twitter peers secretly hate
have failed essays and exams, missed college and
don’t think I can make it out today”, what I really
me is way more nerve-wracking than any cult
work-related deadlines all because my depression
mean is “I can’t bring myself to leave my bed”.
classic horror film. The only thing I have had more
tells me I am bound to fail anyway, but my anxiety
nightmares about than The Grudge, was the boy
forces me to remain the perfectionist who refuses
I’m feeling so tired this morning”, what I really
at my school who touched my face when I was 15,
to ask for help. My depression would then chime
wanted to say was “I’ve hardly slept all week
because I convinced myself that this germ-ridden
in and say I don’t deserve help anyway. Petrified
because I’m scared of being sick”.
stranger could make me terminally ill. To this day
at the thought of losing contact with those I care
I can still feel where his fingers grazed my cheek,
about, but not making a fuss because I feel I am
made other plans”, what I meant to tell you was “I
despite the fact that in the hours that followed, I
taking up too much of everyone’s time. My anxiety
have been sat fully dressed, makeup done, shoes
cried enough tears to sterilise my whole face, as if
says that everyone hates me, whilst my depres-
on, knees trembling in front of the mirror for an
he had never even been there.
sion argues that nobody cares about me enough
Every time I’ve told someone “I don’t know why
And when I said “I’m sorry, I forgot I already
to form an opinion at all.
hour, but I am terrified to go outside”. Tonight I should have been out with my friends,
Then, there is my depression.
my bed because, although my illness started over
In the past five years I have rejected job interviews, award ceremonies, my own school prom,
but I am writing this piece from the familiarity of Sometimes acting to contradict my anxious ten-
countless parties and “let’s catch up” coffees. I
five years ago, at 19 years old I am still cancelling
dencies, though often it feels like they are working
have messed up exams, dropped qualifications,
plans and avoiding anything and everything.
together to completely debilitate me. As if one
writing jobs, lost friends, given up driving lessons,
I appreciate that staying away from scary
kicks me in the gut so the other can push me over.
alcohol and who knows what else.
situations is common for the majority of people,
Because anxious Jenny is too scared to be left
The reality of it is that when I have to choose between crying all night at some party, or crying
and often very sensible, but as someone who lives
alone, but depressed me insists on shutting every-
with anxiety my idea of ‘scary’ isn’t jumping out
one out. My depression makes me want to sleep
all night in my room, I will choose the latter be-
of airplanes, it’s people throwing up at parties. To
all day whilst my anxiety keeps me up all night. I
cause at least then I don’t have to put makeup on.
- 24 -
- PROGRESS -
At this point, it would be easy for me to quit. Retire to my bed in defeat (which I definitely still
literary, and my burning desire to pet every dog I see. In addition to all the bad, everything I love
do some days), and give in to the temptation to
about myself comes from this anxious, depressed,
hate my sick brain. It is hard to keep trying to be
chemically-imbalanced brain of mine.
brave and look after a part of my body that has ever been sympathetic toward me. But this brain, the one that cringes at the
Right now, I am staying alive by reminding myself that the relationship I have with my sick brain isn’t always going to be rainbows and fluffy
thought of people-filled spaces, is the same one
unicorns and being a self care goddess. If it was,
my partner calls selfless and kind.
I wouldn’t be mentally ill. This is my attempt at
It is the one that, despite a tough year academ-
making my recovery less about a destination and
ically, managed to secure a place on my dream
more about progress, acknowledging all of the
course at my first choice university.
good and bad things that my brain does for me
It is the reason why I have recently become
– whatever it takes to be my best self. If ‘getting
employed, why my two best friends continue to
better’, whatever that entails, means succumbing
support me regardless of my bad days, and why I
to despair and having a day in bed once in a while,
am able to write the way that I do.
then so be it, as long as I try to get up the next day
It is the reason why a friend told me the other day, “you always know what to say to make people
and give it another go. So, lately, when I say “I think I’m going to have
feel better”, because whilst I see this mind as a
to cancel tonight”, what I want you to understand
burden, it allows me to help others.
is that I am currently going through a bit of a
It is responsible for my enthusiasm, my ambition, my empathy, my love for anything
rough patch, so please be patient with me. But I promise, I am trying. I really am. - 25 -
This piece was originally published on the wonderful www.verbalremedy.co.uk
- strange things? -
Featuring the music of Picnic, a 7 piece jazzy pop band from Sunderland.
To all our contributers, creatives, editors, funders, printers, anyone and
Find out more at: www.facebook.com/picnicbanduk
everyone that has helped to
create this zine, hopefully the first of many. the strange things? collective
Melis’ passion for writing, and her dream of becoming a published author, inspired her to study English with creative writing at university. In her spare time, she enjoys a range of things, especially reading and blogging, which led to the creation of her own blog, Coffee Shop Dreams. She hopes to travel more in the future, and document her experiences along the way. You can find Melis on Twitter @Melis_Anik, and at her blog, www.coffeeshopdreams.wordpress.com
William Shaw is a blogger, poet, and all-round amateur from Sheffield. He has work published or forthcoming in Scifaikuest, The Martian Wave, and Space and Time Magazine. If you buy him a drink he’ll tell you about the time he met Nick Jonas and told him to fuck off. You can find William on Twitter as @Will_S_7, on tumblr at themadmanwithablog.tumblr.com, or at his own blog, www.williamshawwriter.wordpress.com.
A historian, artist and general lover of words both spoken and typed. Aoife is a History postgraduate student and freelance writer. Her short story A Pawn in Spring was long-listed for the 2016 Royal Academy Short Story Award and later published in Electric Reads’ annual Young Writers Anthology. Her prose, creative journalism and poetry have also been featured in a number of international publications including Oh Comely Magazine, ELL (Beijing) and the “A Little Messy” zine. You can find Aoife on both Twitter and Instagram as @aoifeinman
From Pendle, Lancashire. Collage creator and editor of the (occasional) ‘Northern Souls’ zine. Hoping to start a project on being body positive in the new year. I also write about growing up in a grey northern town, my brother’s struggle with multiple sclerosis with a few gig reviews thrown in for good measure. Lover of giallos, street art, social history and all girl groups. You can find Andrew on Instagram as @cavedweller71 or get in touch at email@example.com
- 26 -
- PROGRESS -
Jamie RJ Richmond
Jamie RJ Richmond is a NE based writer who has had a number of his short stories published online by Nebula Rift, Storgy and Defenestration magazines. Jamie also likes to write longer-form fiction and recently released his first book “NightFall’, which will be the first of many in the “Apocalypse Genesis” series. He is always looking to work on new projects with new people. You can find Jamie on Twitter as @JamieRichmond16.
My name is April, I am 16 years old and I love to take photographs and I also write a bit of poetry and some short stories. I love my family and I love dogs and animals, especially pandas, moon bears, dolphins, penguins, etc. I hate insects, especially spiders. I’ve got a difficult life that has no stability but it never stops me from doing the thing that I love the most. You can find April on Instagram at @aprils_strange_ways.
A Graphic Design Student originally from the North East of England, she now studies in Carlisle. Her work mainly focuses on editorial and typographic aspects of Graphic Design, as well as being based mostly in print opposed to digital. She has worked on publications such as The Squealer and Watermark (2017), and is now working with the strangethings? collective. You can find Sian on Instagram @sianlwhitfield/ @sianlwhitfielddesign, or on her website www.sianlwhitfield.com
Andrew Openshaw is a copywriter from Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK. An avid reader of fantasy and horror, he is now taking tentative steps into the world of speculative fiction. To date, his work can be found in Palm-Sized Prompts, Schlock! Webzine, The Dirty Pool, Corner Bar Magazine, Literally Stories and Scarlet Leaf Review. Always keen to connect with other writers, he can be reached via Twitter: @moriskarass and at his website http://www.andrewpenshaw.com.
I am currently studying art and design at university and aiming to establish a career in this field. I enjoy painting, photography and creating sculptures out of soap or neon lights. But, whatever I create as part of my personal work I like it to have meaning and purpose. Whether to discuss my life, or social issues regarding feminism or race. You can find Cheyenne on Instagram as @mrslightskin or at her website www.cheyennefrancesw.wixsite.com
The author is a young woman somewhere around, who moved to london, england from the undisclosed small town where she was born, for the purposes of further education. she writes strange and fantastical things inbetween the pursuit of a literature degree and excursions to explore her old and lovely city. You can find Eliza on Twitter as @deareliza
Nico is an aspiring author/student/Gemini hailing from Nevada. You can find her on Tumblr @nicowrights, where she probably won’t post much but is happy to talk about anything! You can find Nico on tumblr as @nicowrights.
Based in the North East of England, Rivka spends most of her time being asked why her accent sounds so funny and then complaining about it to her dogs. An all-round clumsy fool that reads faster than she runs. Her walls are a nostalgic mural and her floors are crawling with books.
I’m an art student living in the north east studying fine art at Northumbria. I’m interested in exploring text in my artistic practice, and a variety of other media’s such as embroidery. You can find Angelica on Instagram at both @angryapricot_ and at @_angieart.
Jenny Elizabeth is an angry bisexual writer, embroidery enthusiast and all round mess-maker proudly based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She is the co-editor of the strangethings? Collective. You can find Jenny on Twitter as @JennyElizxbeth or at her website www.jennyelizabeth.co.uk - 27 -