Footsteps like strides a publication
This publication is a showcase of our work, which we hope you will enjoy. We have worked together to bring our words to print and hope this will be the first of a series of NWS Rye Writers’ Squad publications. Miles
New Writing South Rye Writers’ Squad is a dynamic group of 13 - 18 year olds who meet once a month on Saturday afternoons to explore, share and experiment with different styles and approaches to writing including flash fiction, poetry, short stories, rap and playwriting.
My mother and I had just arrived at a small, local café. We took seats at the back, near to a woman so deeply absorbed by her book that she was practically being swallowed by the text. Over the course of a cup of tea, a bowl of soup and several bread rolls, we began talking to our fellow customer, whose name was Hilary.
Here are some things the members have said:
To cut a long story short, an in-depth conversation on writing brought up the subject of Writers’ Squad. And so, here I am.
Footsteps Like Strides is their first publication.
…….a cauldron of imagination …….a nerve centre where one pulse of an idea can create a ripple of inspiration …….and you get biscuits!
Quinn Nineteen people have attended the Writers’ squad over the past year. We have a strong core of nine who have contributed to this publication. Rye Writers’ Squad means that we all have the creative freedom to write anything we want, getting feedback and having a great afternoon. We’re positively challenged whilst being given time and space to put the best of our ability to paper. Nathalie and Amelia
If you would like to join the Squad in September please send us a sample of your writing entitled Bananas . You can write in any genre up to 500 words. Send you work to Anna Jefferson firstname.lastname@example.org along with your full name, age, an email address we can use to contact you, postal address and telephone number.
Rain I looked outside the window. It was prematurely dark. Dark cloud had covered the beautiful blue sky and I was afraid inside. I was tired of being alone. The same beautiful home I once had didn’t feel like home any more, just a mere house. I feared the loneliness I had to face everyday. So I said to the rain that would be coming down in few minutes ‘Dear rain, please don’t let me down.’ At the same instant my cell phone rang and my heartbeat quickened. I pressed the green button and whispered a barely audible ‘hello’. As the man on the other end of the phone spoke, an unuttered joy rose inside me. I hung up and went outside in the soft drizzle without bothering to lock my house. Sudden blinding lightening and the drizzle changed into a downpour. I had my hood on but it didn’t protect my hair from being wet. I was drenched. This was the first winter rain this year but it didn’t cool the warmth inside me. The contentment inside me could not be washed away. People kept indoors fearing this weather but I walked on.
One of the men who knew me, saw me and yelled at me ‘Hey you girl, go back to your house right now otherwise you will catch a cold.’ I just smiled at him and kept walking, on the wrong side of the road. He said ‘kids these days!’ and went inside his house. I was too happy to care about anything. The cattle which were set free in the morning to graze for the day were running along the road to go back to their master’s house. A huge truck came with full speed and missed me by inches. But the muddy water it splashed didn’t miss me. My black clothes turned into brown. That time I didn’t become angry like I used to. I just walked on silently humming to myself. I left the road and took a narrow gravel path. I walked on in the heavy rain and reached a basketball court. I went inside it and kneeled down. Tears of joy were rolling down my eyes mixed with the rain. The rain that always brings me joy. I could not remember how much I had waited for this day, how much I had prayed for this day. Then I looked up to God and shouted ‘I love you and thank you for every thing you have given to me in my life.’ I said these words aloud and I meant them because the guy on the phone told me that my mom was coming back home after one month of serious illness, medicines, injections and depressing hospital rooms and beds. My mom, the only one whom I had in this entire world and the one who meant the world to me was coming back home in this beautiful RAIN.
SPECIAL DAY POEM
A special day, a loud cry, a relieved mother, A special day, a word, a happy mother, A special day, a few steps, a proud mother, A special day, new uniform, an excited mother, A special day, robes and hat, an ecstatic mother, A special day, you drive away, a tearful mother, A special day, a new child, a delighted mother and grandmother, A sad day, no more memories, a dead mother, grandmother and a mourning daughter.
HOW TO BEAT THE BULLIES One day a girl pulled my hair, I ran home crying.
I told my mum, she made me feel better. Next day, the girl pulled my hair again, I ran home crying.
I told my mum, she told me not to worry. Next day, a girl pulled my hair, I pulled her hair back.
The next day, the teachers came Artist’s Palette Here she stands, alone, alive, wishing. She smiles, her crooked teeth showing. She shuffles around the well in her pink fluffy slippers, hoping to get a better view of the sunset. Her eyes squint, she sees the colours blending into a haze of happiness. She turns, opens her closed palm, closes her eyes and drops a penny into the well. It is a perfect picture, her and her wishing well silhouetted against an artists’ palette spilled across the canvas of the sky.
And told me I was bad. I ran home crying.
I told my mum, she came with me to school next day. She pulled the teachers hair, and made them run away.
Normality So here is the sun, in the bright blue meadow. Take a shine to the long forgotten shadow, And watch the soft colours as they flit past your vision. The pastel tones, with utmost precision. Shifting, changing, avoiding collision. Racing off the metal, off the windows, off the tree. The darker bee, the children with their hungry plea. Smaller, subtle details, forgotten to the eye. Only then picked up by the shroud of the cry. Although only does happiness see, as they shriek out in glee. For only the sly adrenaline rush can appease them.
Now it changes florescent, as the light deepens. Sending chills up your spine as the excitement steepens. Calling out to the friends and family, cheering and waving down below. Holding out the sugar, all on show. Followed soon after by the rowdy, the older, the louder. Pushed away are the thought of fancy restaurants, eating clam chowder. Take it all in, before the day lightens. The sky full of powder. The turning of the sun, as night becomes day. And where it all once lay, there is only pressed clay. You took it all in, before it was whisked away. And now itâ€™s over, so the plodding begins. Followed soon by the broken limbs, as everything shifts back into place, You scold, And normality takes hold.
The Middle The first thing he noticed was the ceiling. It was white. A brighter white than he’d ever seen before. He frowned, his eyes glued together with fatigue. Bringing his head up slightly, he glanced around the room, a perfect cube, taking in the empty space and the four white walls around him. Becoming aware of himself, he realised he was fully clothed, clad in garments he’d wear to work. A suit, a tie, polished black shoes. He was an accountant. At least, he thought he was. He couldn’t quite remember. He grasped how unfamiliar he was with this room. Hurrying to his feet, he staggered across the floor towards the door, stooping to ensure his head did not hit the unusually low ceiling. He turned the door handle uneasily. Outside it was very similar to a train station. Busy, full of life, there was a jumpy atmosphere. People hurried around the place, bumping into each other, trying to get through the bustling throng. He could sense the crowd was unusual, different, but couldn’t quite understand why. Overwhelmed by a wave of claustrophobia, he turned back, hoping he’d have time to breathe. Reaching for the door he grabbed at thin air. The door had disappeared and in its place, more people. After being pushed around for a while by people scurrying past, he regained his stability and carefully, gradually, rose to his tiptoes, with his head above the crowd, trying to find the door. It wasn’t there. There were no doors, and he couldn’t see any walls either. The people just seemed to carry on forever. Looking up, he noticed that there wasn’t a ceiling, just a white sky. He was interrupted by a passer-by shoulder-barging through the masses, and he stumbled over. His glasses fell from his face as he hit the floor, and he swore under his breath. He reached out, but heard the crunch of a shoe crushing the glasses before he could even register where they were. The crusher, unconcerned, glanced back at him, huffed, and continued with his rushing. As he scowled he looked at the crowd properly for the first time, and abruptly understood what was so unusual about it. Returning to his feet, he looked at the people more closely than before. They all seemed to be very old, or very young. There were some his age, but they were outnumbered. The people, no matter what age or physical differences, were all walking, or hurrying, at the same pace. Young babies, walking with ease, the crowds separating around them without seeming to consciously realise that they were there. All the people had aims, and seemed to be dashing in roughly the same direction he was facing. Curious, he peered through the crowd, looking for something to stand on. A desk stood ten or so feet away, with a chair. Shoving nervously through the crowd he reached it in a few seconds, and cautiously stepped on to it. Looking around the room from a better angle, he saw that all along one side wide
hallways, separated by a few yards, led off from the room he was in. At the end of each one, a glow, not dissimilar to the one above him, but brighter still, beamed. Above the entrance to each one, a sign had been placed. Every one a different colour, with words, sometimes just one, sometimes a few, written on them. Words like ‘HOME’ and ‘RETURN’, as well as names for places he didn’t recognise. People flooded down the corridors, some more full than others. They all seemed to have a common aim, a desire to be somewhere. He had none. Abandoned to a state of complete confusion, it became apparent to him that he had absolutely no idea where he was, or what to do. His situation had suddenly become dire, and gasping for breath he stood down from the chair. “Can I help you?” He leapt out of his skin, uttering a small cry. The woman, around thirty, smiled knowingly. “So you haven’t been here for very long?” He scowled at her childishly. “What made you think that?” Her smile widened. “I’m Sarah. I’m here to help you. I heard you call for help.” “I didn’t call anyone.” “Ah, but you did. Here, it doesn’t work like it does on Earth.” “What do you mean by that?” Sarah shrugged, “If I knew that, I wouldn’t need to be here.” There was a small pause between them, before the questions resumed. “Where am I?” “The Middle.” “The Middle?” “The Middle.” He sighed, and his scowl returned. “What is The Middle?” “Exactly that. The Middle. The small gap between life and death. People only think it’s one or the other. They don’t-“ “I’m sorry – between life and death?” “Yes, didn’t you know? Oh, I’m sorry. I hate to tell you this, but you’re dead.” In the middle of the hustle of the crowd, with people running here and there, there was a stony silence between him and her. “Why are you doing that?” What she had said had sunk in, and it was his turn to bully her. “Sorry?” “Pranks, jokes, they’re all funny and that, but this is too far.”
“This isn’t a joke.” Something about the tone of her voice made his mind stop dead in its tracks. He almost felt himself believing her. “How can it not be a prank? I’ve just woken up, in a strange room, in a strange place, and I have no idea where I am. This is just a joke.” “I want you to think now, think carefully. Where were you when you fell asleep? It might take you a while to remember, but you need to if you’re going to be able to go on.” He racked through his brain, pushing past and shoving away any unwanted thoughts. When he fell asleep, when he fell asleep... and then he had it. A hospital bed. Beeping. That clean, unpleasant, saline smell. Nervous, quiet, voices. Hurting. Lots and lots of hurting. So much hurting. That distinct feeling of discomfort and disturbance only ever felt in hospitals, mixed in with a desire to stay there, to sleep, to get up, to speak to people, to sleep, to eat, to laugh, to sleep… She was right, he realised slowly. He was dead. Her facial expression changed with his, acknowledging his recognition, but he was disinterested, focusing intently on those days spent in that hospital bed. There had been no build up, no particular indication he was about to die. He just did. That was that. “I’m dead.” He said monotonously. “Yes. You are.” She spoke sympathetically, with genuine kindness. There was no ‘last moment’ he could remember – just a mush of days, months, years, he didn’t know, and then here. It was an uncomfortable thing to think about. “What now?” He quietly asked. She relaxed, clearly on a more comfortable subject. “So, this here – this is The Middle. The bit between life and death. It’s a crucial point, much more crucial than your life ever was. Some think that the life after life is reliant on the former. If you’re good then, you get a wonderful afterlife. In reality, it’s much more simple than that. In The Middle, you can choose where you want to go. You see those corridors, leading off from those doorways with the signs. They’re the gates. It doesn’t matter where you want to go, how you want to get there – there is a gate for everything. This hall, it goes on forever, we haven’t found an ending yet. So no matter where you want to go, if you keep walking far enough, you’ll find it.” This was too much for him to take in at once. “So, there is no heaven?” She smiled. “Heaven’s along here somewhere, maybe thirty gates or so to the right? We have the paradisiacal lands for every religion you can name.’ “And a hell?”
“Obviously. Someone thinks it’ll be funny, that it’s just a joke, that they can come back afterwards. But they’re wrong, as you can imagine.” He felt sick. “So you mean when you decide where you’re going, that’s it, you go wherever you decide to go now, no second chances?” “That’s how it is. Nothing we can do about it, I’m afraid. It was like that when we got here.” A small grin spread over her face. “Why is it like this? How come you’re still here, and you haven’t gone to one of these places?” “We don’t know. It just is. I can’t go through a gate just yet because I have unfinished business. Every now and then, someone can’t go through a gate because they have things left to do. I’m one of them. Until I can think of what it is, I’m stuck here, helping you. Once I know what I have to do, then I can go.” She let a small, disappointed smile run across her face. It was clearly not her favourite subject, but he had one last question before he’d let it go. “Am I one of those people?” “I don’t know. You’ll have to try and get through a gate to find out. But make it the one you want to go down ultimately. Don’t play around. It’ll end badly.” “What if I choose the wrong one for me?” “Think like you did earlier, about your death, but this time think about your life. If you think thoroughly, if you think deeply enough, then an answer will present itself to you.” Finally, there was a pause while he thought. He thought about his life. His mother, his father, his brother, his sisters, his friends, his school, his job, his dreams, his hopes, his disappointments, his interests, his troubles, his feelings, everything he could think of. He thought of the time he’d fallen off the roof of his tree house as a seven year old, screaming in pain while his mother hurriedly tried to reset his broken arm. He thought of the time he first got drunk at 14 and tried to walk on water, and nearly drowned as a result. He thought of his first marriage, and his second, and his third, all before he was 30. He thought of his days he spent wishing he’d done something else with his life. He thought of his life long best friend who’d once successfully persuaded him to go to a salsa dance class with him. He thought of his mother and his father again, and his brother and his sister. And then he knew. She knew when he did. He didn’t know how, but it was evident. “Are you sure?” “Yes.” And with that, he spun around on his heel, and hurried through the crowd. He knew where he was going.
Miles Howell Part One Hunters In The Dark In the dark night the forest was still and bathed in shadow, not even a whisper stirred the clearing. Hesitantly a fox entered and nuzzled the bodies of three men lying on the leafy ground. It tried to turn the bodies but failing that started to gnaw at them. The undergrowth crashed and out on to the clearing came a group of five men. They were clad in thick fur cloaks and armed with spear and bow. The fox slunk away; there’d be easier pickings elsewhere. The first ranger went up to the man and turned him over. He produced a Flameless Torch from a satchel on his back and switched it on, shining it on the man’s face. The Ranger recognized the dark hair and lightly bearded face of Cal, a huntsman of his tribe – The Red Pelts. The other two were Con and Carl, forest tracker and skinner. ‘So that’s what happened to them – it cannot be a lone fox which took down three experienced men’ said Gret ‘But who would have done this, surely not any of the local tribes of Thern.’ ‘Outsiders perhaps or banished tribesmen’ suggested Gris. He was the eldest member of the group but his actual age was a mystery as were all the elderly of the Rangers tribe. They kept no written records of births or death preferring the traditional, oral, way of remembering. ‘That’s how my father learned about his ancestors and his father before him. I have no care for paper or pen. I don’t care if they found it in the ruins of the Old Kingdom. This is how it’s always been for us’ said Gantha the chieftain of the tribe when asked on this matter. ‘No’ said the Ranger ‘it was no human who did this’. Bending down he plucked an arrow from Cal and displayed it to the rest of the party. It was an ugly arrow with a sharped hooked end and a black feathered plume. ‘These are the arrows of the Dwellers.’
The other men looked around them uneasily now more aware than ever. Every bush could hold a lurking Dweller, every tree could hide the monstrous spiders they bred. ‘Such things are unheard of, the Dwellers hunt in the gloom of their subterranean caverns not in the open. These are the workings of other tribes using Dweller arrows – The Stone Skins or the Blood Birds’ said Gren, not noticing the discomfort. ‘Perhaps but we cannot be certain’ said the Ranger. What Gren said was true enough and it would certainly be in character for The Stone Skins, the most powerful tribe in Thern, to kill foragers, though not perhaps the Blood Birds who lived on the banks of the White Water, the river of Thern. They were friendly to the Red Pelts and three hundred years ago shared the Flameless Torches with the other tribes after they were found in an Old Kingdom ruin three hundred years ago. The Old Kingdom was the ancestor of the tribes of Thern and some say ruled the outer lands such as Baltar, Lly and Morvok working many marvels. The Dwellers were said to be descendants of them as well. Now all that was left of their forefathers were their strange devices. ‘We should be heading back’ said Gris ‘or Galthar will wonder where we are.’ ‘These are grim tidings indeed’ muttered Gren ‘let’s return Cal and his men to their families. I am sure they want to know what has become of them though I fear it will not be to their liking.’ And with that they headed back home to the village watchful every step of the way, eyes open for any sign of Dwellers.
Part Two In The Light Of The Morning
As soon as he said that a shiver swept through the group. ‘Impossible’ said Gret ‘The Dwellers lurk in the burrows of Thern. They are blind and love the dark, they hunt on smell alone. They dare not come out onto the surface.’ ‘So you think but this arrow is a Dweller arrow like the ones we recovered from their burrows. If this is here in these men then it means that they’re here, on the surface, hunting us.’
‘Tell me what you saw again.’ The Ranger sighed. Since the crack of dawn he had been interrogated by Ganthar the Chieftain High Hall and so far had told his story a dozen times...
So JACK AND HARRY ARE AT A GRAVESIDE. JACK CARRIES SOME FLOWERS.
Jack: So... Harry: You gonna’ do it then? Jack: Oh yeah, yeah I am yeah. Harry: Okay then. Jack: Yeah. Harry: So... PAUSE
Harry: Look, I can do it? If it helps. Jack: No no, I will it’s just so... JACK STARTS TO ARRANGE THE FLOWERS.
Harry: I know. Jack: So... Harry: How is it... Jack: I think you, it can, I think... Like so... Harry: Yeah okay, that looks good. Jack: Yeah, yeah she would like it. Harry: Yeah, yeah she would wouldn’t she? Harry: So... Jack: So... Harry: I miss her. Jack: I know, we all do. But it just happens sometimes, you know? Harry: I was there. Jack: Sorry? Harry: I was right there. Jack: You were there, like there there? Harry: Yeah, I was. And I know I should of, but I just, I didn’t... Jack: I know, don’t worry. Harry: I do though I can’t help it, it’s just so... Jack: I know.
That Day That day. I knew it was ‘that day’, as soon as it had come to be the day that was ‘that day’. I knew it, I just knew it. It was all the same, similar, in every way to ‘that day’. I could really tell, I could really feel it inside, deeper than usual. My pulse raged, and I rose, looked up and said “it’s ‘that day’ today”. It’s the same day as before, that one, that we called “that day”. I didn’t want to remember it though, I really didn’t. It wasn’t as bad as ‘that day’, but today, oh today it feels like that sort of day. One like ‘that day’ was. The memory is crisp and vivid now, I can hear and smell it, but I don’t want to. It wont help, the person said it will but it doesn’t. No not ‘that day’, any other day but not ‘that day’, please. I’m asking now, I don’t want to, I really don’t, please. No. I hear it again, from the same room, him crying. He remembers ‘that day’ I know he does. He always remembers. “But I don’t” I tell myself “no I don’t remember ‘that day’ at all” no. Nothing; not even, the, smell as it lingered in the air for the rest of the day. Or the sight of seeing her there, but she wasn’t there, was she? No, I thought so but no, it wasn’t really her. Not on ‘that day’. Not ‘that day’.
Quinn Owen Despite the outrage at the loss of his companions, Scythe remained still, waiting. As he had hoped, a head appeared. Scythe pounced, crashing down upon The Enemy. ******************************************************************* As one, the three assassins leapt from the saddles of their vezaaphs, silently alighting on the Palace roof. They padded toward the gutter and peered contemptuously down at the two Royal Guards on the crenellated balcony below. Needless to say, the green-uniformed soldiers noticed nothing. One of the assassins, Arrow, reached for the blow-pipe and darts on his belt, but froze as an iron grip closed upon his wrist. Relinquishing his hold, the lead assassin, whose Creed-name was Scythe, held up a finger in reprimand. Below, the guards remained conveniently unobservant. Trusting the third assassin, Sabre, to curb any more… extravagance, Scythe glanced up to where their mounts – elongated creatures resembling dragonfly-mantis hybrids – hovered, twenty feet above. They were where they should be. He turned back. The guards were too. Of course, there was no need to check, but… well, you couldn’t be too careful… could you? The following minutes blurred as the black-clad trio crouched, fingering various secreted weapons. Their gazes periodically flicked between the guards and the door to the stairway-turret at the side of the balcony, which led down to the South Wing of Catolem Palace. A shrill screech of hinges rang out, startling the assassins. However, it was only another Royal Guard beckoning his fellows to join him. Looking relieved – for it was not only the assassins who had jumped – the two warriors exited the balcony. As they did so, Scythe indulged in a satisfied smile; there is, he thought, nothing a soldier likes more than routine – especially if it’s a routine tea-break. From either side of him, his companions swung down onto the balcony – and hesitated. Leaning forward, he saw what had confused them. The walls of the Royal Apartments were made of two inch thick panels of faultless quartz, through which thick velvet curtains could be glimpsed. One of the panels had been slid aside and the night breeze caressed the drapes. In the silence, it was impossible to miss the consecutive thud-thud as a small dart sprouted from each assassin’s abdomen. Slowly, almost melodramatically, they keeled over. A movement caught Scythe’s horrified eye. Emerging from the gap in the curtains was a small crossbow. It was, of course, fully loaded. For several seconds it swivelled to and fro, then abruptly withdrew.
Hunter and hunted rolled in a tangle across the balcony. The vicious exchange of kicks and blows continued until assassin and warrior suddenly broke apart. They both staggered upright, bent double and emitting small, high pitched yelps. They glared at one another. They were so evenly matched, it seemed, that both had exploited the same weakness at the same time. There was a flurry of activity on the roof. Unable to control his instincts, Scythe glanced upwards. One of the vezaaphs had settled nonchalantly on the tiles. Pain. It blossomed in his right shoulder. The blade of the dart was cold in his flesh – far colder than the crisp night air. He looked into The Enemy’s face… and swore explosively. But as his legs failed and his vision collapsed in on itself, all he could manage was a choked: “You!” In the Guardroom-come-Armoury (i.e. tearoom-come-games room) Corporal Ahzor Remmid listened to the anticipated thump. He leaned forward and studied the sand timer on the table in front of him. He sat back, satisfied, and unleashed a ka’nipstained grin. “Three minutes and forty-five-ish seconds. Bad luck, Sonon.” There was a mixture of groans and cheers from the half-dozen soldiers present. The guard opposite Ahzor, Sonon Tarna, flicked his one remaining ear in resignation and reached for his purse. As he handed over the coins, Sonon asked “How does he do it, Ahzor? I mean… well… know that they’re coming?” The room quietened as the collective ear perked. Ahzor frowned slightly. “’Aven’t a clue. And from what he’s told me, neither does he. He just gets a sort of… feeling, usually just after supper. And judging by the fact that we’ve yet to find him floating face-down in the Lenn, I’d say His Royal Nibs has yet to get it wrong. On that note…” He stood and stretched. The white light of the sconce-mounted solaryte globes cast a pallor over his uniform: dark green trousers, chain mail shirt and dark green tabard, bound at the waist by a burgundy sash. It was the uniform they all wore, except that his sash bore the tassels of this rank. He relaxed slowly. Luxuriously. “On that note…” he repeated. “…Let’s go ‘an see if the assassins have been thirtysixth time lucky.”
IT’S BEEN LONG
If there was ever anything that Ananias had been sure of it was that Jacob was different. He had not been sure of much, especially then, but he had been sure of that. He had been surer of it than he had ever been of anything. Jacob was most definitely not the same person he used to be, not the same young, quiet and withdrawn boy they had grown to accept. He had changed monumentally, and his change still left Ananias speechless and with an empty head that failed to understand the transformation. Ananias stood awkwardly besides his stiff father. He skimmed over Jacob’s head, frantically searching for anything proper to say to him. Ananias bit his lower lip hopelessly, feeling the oppressive presence of his father’s rigor mortised body next to him. “Best of luck,” Ananias spat out involuntarily. It felt wrong, profusely wrong. Ananias felt sickness whirl up in him as he minced over the excessiveness of the wrongness of his words. He wanted to shake Jacob’s hand, for some vague reason he could not figure. Ananias prodded out his right hand. Quickly, seeing Jacob’s head bowed down abstractedly, he felt no longer at ease with his decision to shake Jacob’s hand. His hand levitated confusedly and limply in mid-air for a moment before he let it flop down, disheartened. Jacob and Ananias’ mother could not stop crying. She wept. She wept hard. She wept until her body shook terribly. Ananias could not bear to see her like that. He moved over to her, away from his father, and got there only to realize that he did not know what to say. Would he say, “It would be all right?” Maybe it would not. “Do not worry?” It would be absurd to expect her not to worry. Would he say, “I am sorry?” For what would it be that he was sorry? For something that was ultimately beyond his control? Ananias turned away from his mother, to his father, then escaping, to his brother, then left with no haven to flee to he looked to the heavens.
Vincent Tembo Their mother reached out feebly at Jacob, grabbing softly his neatly ironed khaki trousers, just above his dusty black tyresandal and Ananias caught the glimpse of a slightly self-righteous smirk on Jacob’s cheek before it quickly disappeared under a flush of seriousness like deep thought. Ananias thought that Jacob looked a little like Jesus. The Bundu1 Jesus - Jesus in a farmer’s-shirt - Jesus, the head emptier. “Best of luck,” Ananias repeated dryly. He should not talk, he felt. He felt that Jacob had to do all the talking between the two of them. He felt that he had to listen to Jacob and not the other way round. He felt Jacob had to make his head empty and full of not-understanding, not he do that to Jacob. Ananias wished his father would rouse out of his rigor mortis and say something, anything more appropriate than his “Best of luck.” However, Ananias could tell from his father standing stiff behind him that he was not going to shake off his numb stiffness and say anything. Their mother wept piteously at Jacob’s feet. She looked imploringly up into his eyes but he said nothing. He continued bowing. Their father coughed. There was something in Ananias that built up. It built up until it unbottled in him manifold anxieties that threatened to explode out of him in the form of spit. Ananias’ eyes gaped wide, and then his mouth, and then a hot dry cough came out of his mouth whose parched sputum desiccated the air about his lips. “You don’t have to go, do you?” their mother asked three times. Jacob did not answer. “Do you?” she asked again. Still Jacob kept quiet. “Do you?!” their father barked rigidly. It came like an electric shock over Ananias; painful and weaving through his whole being like razor blades. “I do,” Jacob promptly replied in a low toned 1 South African and Zimbabwean term meaning somewhere (especially in a wood) wild and uninhabited - used, sometimes, as a term to denote lack of civilisation or to emphasise that something is rustic.
voice Ananias felt was alien to Jacob. “Why?” their mother asked three times as she clawed lamentingly at Jacob’s neatly ironed khaki trousers. Jacob did not reply. “Why?!” their father roared fiercely. “Many reasons,” Jacob replied meekly. “Many, many reasons I would never finish stating unless I sat down with you and told you about them until the day I turn to dust. Many-many reasons that each hold sway as much the other - many - many reasons, each as important as the other. However, first and foremost I go for myself, I go because I feel it deep inside me that it is something I have to do lest I hate myself forever.” Ananias felt better now that Jacob had spoken. This reminded him of the day before, when the two of them talked (or at least Jacob talked and Ananias listened). He had hated it, even then, as they sat by the contraband fire in their room (which Jacob had lighted), watching it cackle sickly, slowly dying away into fierce embers; talking for the last time. However, it was different now... Maybe it was because he had become accustomed to listening. Ananias looked intently at Jacob. Even in his last moments at home, instead of saying something banal yet usually sweet; cliché; he had to say these big things that dug deep down into the soul. Jacob was most definitely different, not the same quiet and withdrawn boy they had come to accept before his sudden transition. Jacob edged back a little. Their mother cried out infirmly, “My son... Good-bye. Good-bye.” Their father approached Jacob stiltedly. His hand shook self-consciously as it stretched out in front of him, ready to receive his son’s cold and unfamiliar handshake. Jacob looked up tentatively at his father’s bearded chin and shook his hand uncomfortably. They shook hands uneasily for what seemed ages, constantly strenuously contemplating whether to let go yet or not, or maybe to say
something... Until their hands slid off each other mechanically. Jacob looked down. Ananias looked down. Ananias felt that he had to say something, but he also felt that he had to listen to Jacob and not say anything. He had to have his head spun and not spin Jacob’s head with big things that would leave any head empty, filled with not understanding. Jacob and Ananias were quiet for what seemed the longest time. “Err...” it almost came out but remained on Ananias’ tongue. He could see his father’s stiff body in front of him, reproaching him, warning him not to give in to his juniors. Jacob is only two minutes younger. It does not matter, children are children, and children kneel to their elders. The two were silent a long time, having approached each other. Ananias wished Jacob would say one of those big things that would make his head empty and full of not understanding. That would make the emptiness in his soul go away. Nothing came. The silence was long and engulfing. “See you then,” they both finally said, simultaneously, unsure whether it was the right thing to say or not. Jacob walked away. His body slouched affectedly. Under a film of tears, Ananias watched the hazy figure of Jacob walk away. Something heavy and big settled inside him. He raised his eyes to the sky with much effort, frantically searching for answers – to know if his twin brother would make it alright or not, to know if he would one day come back and make his head empty and full of notunderstanding once again. A crow’s feather floated past; and all he got from the sky above was a hollow, brittle, and dry sigh.
Darpan Bohara, Nathalie Evans & Amelia Lampitt
POUNDLAND Inside Poundland. A WORKER is stacking shelves, JIM approaches.
This packet of seeds? How much is this?
Uhm, a pound.
Excuse me sir. I see you’ve got quite a selection of trowels. Could you please talk me through the cost of each one?
Well, they’re all a pound.
That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! If you expect me, in this financial climate... On a packet of seeds?
Mate, this is Poundland.
Well yes I know that, I’m just surprised these trowels are all a pound.
They’re only parsnips!
What’s the problem?
It just seems to me that these trowels are worth so much more than a pound. I mean, look at that handle, it’s silicone!
This guy’s getting a bit touchy about these seeds, he doesn’t expect to pay a pound.
Um yes, well it’s still a pound.
It is Poundland. He knows that?
I suppose it is. Is everything a pound?
I think so, I told him enough times.
Is he OK? You know, up here?
So, these gloves, a pound too?
And this hosepipe nozzle? A pound? Why, it’s even got a spray function!
And this? A pound?
But surely not this?
WORKER shrugs, looks at JIM who is muttering about parsnips. BOSS:
You know what, it does seem a bit much. A pound, for a packet of seeds.
But boss, we work in Poundland.
And this, is it a pound too?
Yeah, it is. But you know what? You could buy that for fifty pence at Poundstretcher.
The Untold Tales
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Off With Their Heads
I can read now!
Pen Blazing Fire
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