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vortex 2013 Edition


Introduction In 2013 VORTEX celebrates its 10th anniversary; it began, all those years ago, as a Heath Robinson venture managed entirely by the early cohorts of Creative Writing students at the University of Winchester, and is now an established, and hopefully very much valued, feature of the writing landscape both at Winchester and more widely. Each year we publish our own selection of gems, and give readers and writers (I hope) pleasure. This time around the Editorial Board, who read all the submissions carefully and diligently, consisted of (and to whom I offer great thanks): Kass Boucher Glenn Fosbraey Vanessa Harbour Nick Joseph Joan McGavin Mark Rutter Judy Waite In addition, Judith Heneghan has done her usual diligent and professional job of editing and proof-reading – leaving me to do little more than work out the running order and write a few simple words of introduction. Enjoy reading this edition of our magazine – if you are encouraged to submit your own work for consideration in 2014, all the better. Each year we publish only around 15% of the work that is submitted, so to have your work selected seems to me to be a wonderful thing. Best, Neil McCaw Editor September 2013

If you would like to check out the VORTEX archive for previous editions, dive right in: http://www.nxtbook.com/fx/clients/ uow/view.php Guide to Submissions Students wishing to submit work to be considered by the VORTEX Editorial Board should send all submissions to Neil McCaw (Neil.Mccaw@winchester.ac.uk) by 30th April 2014. All work should ideally be paginated, double-spaced, and in 12 font; prose should be no longer than 2500 words, poetry should be no more than 50 lines (or 4 discrete poems). For further information about VORTEX contact the Editor, Neil McCaw, at the above address.


Contents The Mister-in-the-Deerstalker’s Peculiar Chests – Jazmin Overton ............ 02 Dear Clare – Clare Holman-Hobbs ................................................................ 05 Miss Stress – Clare Holman-Hobbs ................................................................ 06 The Sea – Clare Holman-Hobbs ..................................................................... 07 The One Who Held the Strings – Sam Garett ............................................. 08 Curiosity – Amy Brown ................................................................................. 09 Mirror, Mirror – Beth Hobbs........................................................................ 10 One – Josh Perez............................................................................................ 12 Butcher’s Trial – Anne Anderson ................................................................... 12 Katherine Mansfield’s Metamorphosis – Christian Bone............................. 13 Ribbon – Katherine Gearing .......................................................................... 17 Atlantis – Kimberley Ford............................................................................... 17 Manstar – Jack Connell ................................................................................. 18 Absence (Revised) – Ryan Carrier ................................................................ 21 As in Slavery – Sophie Fletcher ...................................................................... 22 Hanging Basket – Sophie Fletcher................................................................. 23 Owlman – Jade Clark.................................................................................... 24 Contemplating My Sole – Tabitha Hollis ..................................................... 28 Spread Legs and Insert – Tabitha Hollis ....................................................... 29 I’d Like to Address Your Suicide – Tabitha Hollis ........................................ 29


02

Jazmin Overton

The Mister-in-the-Deerstalker’s Peculiar Chests Each member of Henry Flemming’s family was a character of doctoral quality; Henry’s sister was a doctor of teeth, his father a doctor of equines and his mother a doctor of philosophy. Henry was a doctor of domestic gastroenterology or, as his prouder colleagues would say, ‘a plumber’. Plumbing, as far as Henry Flemming could see, was bloody important. A house without plumbing was a cold, smelly, uninhabitable shack, but with the skilful addition of a few pipes and valves it could become a home. And when this home was poorly, Henry would receive a call, ask for symptoms such as vomiting, excessive sweating or irregular temperature, and deliver a diagnosis. It was an ugly morning. Henry didn’t want to get up because he was snug in his bed with his spaniel’s head on his chest, but his phone had an epileptic seizure on his bedside table. He picked up the call and within three minutes of this eccentric client’s description, Henry had determined the infection. ‘Sounds to me,’ Henry slurred, scratching his dog’s nose absently, ‘like a nasty case of pipus rusticius.’ The strange chap sounded anxious. ‘Not to worry, sir,’ soothed Henry in his dulcet medical tones. ‘I will be over pronto.’ Henry scribbled down what he understood of the man’s complicated directions, petted his dog, slipped into his overalls, picked up his faux leather work bag and leapt into his van. Down the motorway he stopped at the service station to pick up a strong coffee and an Emmental croissant. It took him five wrong turnings, three missed turnings and six turns of expression until he finally saw the signpost swinging from an iron archway that the client had described. YETTS O’MUCKHART MANOR ¼ MILES When Henry first spotted the manor he felt his croissant balloon up his oesophagus and he had to take several deep breaths until the bile had slipped back where it belonged. The manor was perched on the tip of a precipice which hung over a tiny chapel, like someone had carved a semi-circle out of the hillside just to construct an ecclesiastical building in the most awkward


place. The unusual cliff looked like a natural formation. It was jagged and had roots and large shards of rock protruding from underneath; it hadn’t been carved with perfection in mind (if it had been carved at all). It didn’t look right; almost as though the cliff was a wave that had been trying to engulf the chapel and the lower banks but had unfortunately been turned to stone in the process. The manor at the summit was ugly. There were iron gates that suffocated the strange building, which was too tall for its width. There were too many windows, too many chimneys, too many styles of architecture: Gothic, Rococo, Renaissance, Elizabethan… Beside a pond of thick green moss, invaded by toads, was an ugly statue holding a wooden box above its head. Henry parked his van between two dead trees and tried his best not to step on the dead things that littered the driveway: carcasses of rats, dead pigeons, bats, bones, withered flowers… He rang the bell and watched inquisitively as the door was coaxed open by a tiny man in a deerstalker. He was wearing a teapot around his neck like a talisman and had long greasy hair and a fiercely unshaven face. ‘What’s your name, sir?’ The mister giggled, then tipped the teapot’s spout into his mouth and dribbled the majority of the black, tarry liquid down his chin. ‘Er… Henry,’ said the repairman, prodding the name on his overalls automatically. ‘Henry Flemming.’ This seemed to please the man a great deal; he burst into a loud operatic rendition. ‘Flemming! Flemming! FLEMMIIIIIIING!’ he hollered, making the house quake, which in turn made him giggle and bite his index finger out of excitement. ‘Good name, that. Tis vey Flemmink!’ he boomed in a Russian accent. The mister-in-the-deerstalker proceeded to give the reluctant repairman a tour of his unusual house: the kitchens (where he introduced him to the rats), the cellar (where he let Henry sample some 1727 Rüdescheimer), the long gallery (where the mister referred to the art as the infinite spider-webs that embellished the ceiling, not the paintings) and the sacristy (where he performed a folk song about a man who married a mermaid). Eventually he guided Henry up a small windowless turret to the bathroom - a tiny chamber with a panoramic view of the cliffs and hills. In fact it reminded Henry of a lighthouse, an outrageously rusted lighthouse.

*

Repairing the shower took all of four hours, throughout which the mister sat on the toilet seat and chatted manically about the most prevalent causes of ecclesiastical deaths, the surveys he had conducted in the local village and the proper pronunciation of ‘scone’. The latter theme seemed to frustrate the mister interminably and he moaned and quoted and stamped his feet at the ignorance of some counties. Halfway through the repairs, the mister had fetched some tea. It tasted dusty so Henry left the teacup by his feet and didn’t take another sip. The mister also returned with two small saucers upon which were two scones, layered with jam and cream. This Henry did finish, but the mister didn’t touch his, or his tea; instead he launched into another fit of anger, poking his finger violently into the cream and waggling the jam at Henry in an effort to convince him he had been saying the word wrong his entire life. ‘Malabsorption…’ Henry muttered, peering at the sink brimming with filthy water and unidentified grime. ‘Might be a macroangiopathy. Clotted veins. Liquid fats. Probable internal leakage. Have you recently noticed any damp appearing in the lower floors, sir?’ The mister was folding a square of yellowed toilet paper into an intricate origami bird. ‘Oh it’s permanently damp at Yetts O’Muckhart, Flem.’ ‘Have you noticed any extra dampness though? Specifically on this side of the house.’ Henry gestured to the bathtub. ‘Any unpleasant odours?’


The owner was too absorbed in his origami to respond. Henry rolled his eyes and started to inspect the rest of the bathroom for more afflictions. He noticed that the toilet didn’t flush and when he peered into the cracked porcelain tank he discovered all the organs had been removed, replaced with a doll. Henry pulled the doll out by its long white hair and shook it in front of the mister, spitting water all over the toilet paper bird and dissolving it into papier-mâché. The mister-in-the-deerstalker glanced up at the doll and smiled. ‘Ah, I wondered where that went.’ He snatched the doll and dropped it into one of the cavernous pockets of his coat. Henry returned to the shower and started to fiddle with the strange dials and cogs, oiled some, tightened others, until, at long last, it rained hot water. He grinned, and just as he was about to write out the bill, the mister hooked his arm through Henry’s and piloted him down the stairs without even bothering to turn the shower off. ‘I knew you would be able to fix it,’ he said, patting Henry’s shoulder as they strode. ‘I had a feeling that you possessed all the good qualities of an efficient domestic gastroenterologist. This,’ he boomed, releasing Henry and gesturing towards a large iron door, ‘is the Treasury. Come along, Flemmy, it’s really quite a sight!’ He nudged the door open with his foot and propelled Henry into the musty haze. The only light came from the filthy glass roof; the fog outside bathed the room in a shadowy grimness. When his eyes adjusted, Henry leapt backwards in terror, dragging the mister onto the floor in a tangled contortion. The Treasury was a labyrinth of statues; life-like statues with crumbling faces and chipped mouths. Each of the statues was in agony. Their mouths stretched open forming deep wrinkles from their noses; their eyes were sometimes tight with pain, sometimes wide with fear and their hands were reaching out – straining or begging... The first one Henry noticed was a detailed statue of a little girl in an old-fashioned frock; she wore a bonnet and her long curls flailed around in the imaginary wind. She was crying, holding a little box to her chest. The mister thrust Henry towards the statue, though he slipped on a puddle and tried to back away in terror. The statue was actually weeping tears; there were streaks of water from her sightless eyes, droplets that accumulated on her chin, and the puddle Henry had just slipped in was apparently a puddle of her tears. It must be some kind of sick fountain. The mister grabbed him by the scruff of the neck with surprising strength for a man that miniature. Henry was steamrollered into the room past hundreds of similar statues - not just children, but men and women, dogs, horses, cats and vicars… And each of them was clasping a small box. The mister was babbling on about death again, how these people had died, but Henry wasn’t paying attention; he was too sickened to listen when his eyes were being tortured. Some of the statues had realistic wounds carved into their flesh; they had been painted red and were bleeding all down their grey bodies, smearing the floor in pools of glossy scarlet. ‘Ask me what’s in these chests!’ giggled the mister, tapping several of the boxes and pirouetting. Henry didn’t want to know but his mouth moved and the question came out regardless. ‘Wonderful question, Flemmy! Let me show you.’ The mister snatched Henry’s collar and pulled him close to a woman who had a gash from her throat to her navel, a gash that was still leaking. The mister opened the chest in the woman’s hand. Henry met the ground. The puddle began to seep into his overalls. It coated his hands. The mister took something out of the chest and examined it keenly. He poked it. Licked it, staining his lips. He chatted about it. Casual. Indifferent. Henry stared at the fleshy thing in the mister’s hands. How in God’s name was the heart still beating?


Dear Clare

Dear Clare

Never bite the hand that feeds you Especially when it is thai or curry Stop getting crumbs in your notebook And eating your weight in Super Noodles, in desperate attempts to cure your hangover Stop buying books You don’t need another reason to be sitting down Laziness will be your downfall So will the internet So will The Sims 2 It will always be hard to find your glasses without your glasses on You are your father’s daughter Please accept you are a hoarder Your clothes don’t always have to be in a pile No matter how much you use it, lobstomonous will never be a word It’s a good thing you got rid of those earrings Not only were they covered in sick But they were weighing you down Stop counting words and hours It will drive you mad Dear Clare Do not tempt fate You are a pioneer Never give up on what’s important to you

Clare Holman-Hobbs

05


I am your mistress Miss Stress I want to give you all of me

06

But you’ll take, take, take, I kept my mouth shut Words stuck in my throat Like bile Neither of us know how Or why

Miss Stress Clare Holman-Hobbs

The ghost of your lips Tattooed along my shoulder blade The look of your face in the moonlight The taste of your lips around every bottle. I want to write you A bottled memory Of sorrow, so when you elate me With your smile I remember where we came from. Pull down your bricks

That light inside you is fading Like a candle burning out I spend my time wishing Things were different between us

I want to relay you Properly this time Blow away the dust Make them red again A burst of passion

It overtakes you Fills you up The space at the nape of your neck I can feel you slipping through my fingers

The colour of my cheeks And of your bitten lips

Time I look up The curve of your chin Like the arch of your back A beautiful ecstasy You say Enough, enough now.


You are under my skin Under every part of me The bags The baggage of my eyes Deep circles It never ends Like a fist Colliding with my cheekbone That you once kissed You are beneath my ribs Heimlich Break them Clean in two Feel it All that I can from you Maybe I’ll suffer Always Like an ache That never really goes away Like the sea I yearn for something I cannot keep I cannot keep you but‌ A dove for peace A white flag

The Sea Clare Holman-Hobbs


The One Who Held the Strings Sam Garett

Night had arrived and so too had weary travellers. Some were family, some friends; most appeared kind though all were not. The fire crackled absently. Almost everyone’s attention was fixed on Leon as he strummed away on his guitar but Harley’s gaze was firmly fixed on the hot embers before her. She could still hear him though, playing on that stage the men had built years ago whilst she had been forced to stay inside the farmhouse. ‘But why can’t I go out?’ Harley had asked, desperately wanting an opportunity to prove her worth. ‘You can’t go out because that’s men’s work and s’not for ‘lil girls,’ replied her mother as Harley pushed back dirty blonde hair and clenched her fists.

*

Leon continued to play, for play was the only thing that ever seemed to be on his mind. Harley remembered the first time they had met beside the flames. She had been twelve and Leon twenty-one. In this period the stage had been standing for four years and for four years the Hicklestone family had waited for their ‘famous cousin Leon’ to return. And return he did. Leon wasn’t a bad-tempered man - not like the others - but there had always been an underlying sense of aggression to him. An underlying sense that had kept the other boys from making trouble with him but that had brought a tension amongst them. Almost as soon as Leon had arrived that day he had gone again, swept away by that music of his. And so this tradition continued; he would disappear and reappear, years apart. Applause broke out and Harley chanced to look up as Leon, bearing that grin of his, finished his song and took a swig from a bottle. Harley was seventeen now. For years she had garnered the unwanted attention of other boys and for years she had pushed them away. All she had ever wanted since she was little was to come and go like Leon - to just leave this place. She had tried once, a year before in fact and had made it far, further than anyone in her family, besides Leon of course. She didn’t care about her small hillbilly town any longer. Harley wanted freedom; the freedom to roam, the freedom to choose. She hadn’t realised just how far she had got but she knew one night after stumbling into Leon. To be in his very presence again was a sure indication. ‘Leon!’ she had called and he had smiled and finished his set. They had talked, but the morning after her stay Leon made her turn back. ‘I’ll come get you in two years, Harley. Once you’re eighteen, you and me girl, we’re going ‘ta see the sights.’ And she had foolishly believed him.

*

Now seventeen and with one year to go, she highly doubted any one-way ticket out of Hicksville. She pulled her legs back, her feet inches away from scalding as her thighs clapped against her bulbous belly. Her family watched and listened to Leon’s beat. To his beat and not the one that had begun to grow inside her.


Curiosity Amy Brown

9

The door is open. Beyond, a ginger tabby observes the girl from the top of a staircase and meows, once, so quickly that when silence returns she wonders whether it has made a noise at all. Its absinthe eyes never leave her as she holds out a hand and whistles. The cat rolls to its feet, bell on collar jingling, placing one of its back legs awkwardly as though in pain. Concerned, the girl steps over the threshold and the door slams shut behind her. She gasps but the cat seems unalarmed, almost as though it has been expecting it. Shakily, the girl creeps up the stairs and gathers the cat into her arms. Then she descends and tries to open the door. It is locked and she can see no key. Seeking another way out, she walks down the hall and into the kitchen. The room is brightly lit although there are no windows or lamps. There is also no back door. The cat lets out a menacing hiss until she exits the room, and hisses again when she endeavours to enter the lounge. Instead the girl carries the cat back upstairs. Once she reaches the top, the stairs vanish. She thinks this peculiar, but the cat meows reassuringly and she proceeds onto the landing. The same ghostly light creates silhouettes on the bare walls, which, along with the dour silence, makes the girl feel like she is dreaming. Upon entering the nearest room she discovers a bathroom with a first aid kit lying open. Inside are bandages which she uses to bind the cat’s injured leg. When she is finished the cat limps off and she follows, the bathroom disappearing behind her. The cat leads her into a bedroom and scratches insistently at the wardrobe door, so she grasps the handle and pulls it open. It is stiff and moans sadly, but eventually she can see inside and suppresses a scream. An old man wearing a fancy black and red suit stands before her, eyes shut and clasping a key in a white gloved hand. The girl looks at the cat which looks at the key. Timidly she grabs it and the man’s eyes flick open. He bursts out of the wardrobe and nods politely to the girl, but his cunning smile robs the gesture of its sincerity. ‘Congratulations,’ he says to the cat whilst bending down to remove its collar. As soon as the black leather leaves its skin the cat transforms into a small boy. The man takes the key from the astonished girl’s hand and gives it to him. ‘Leave the door open and keep the key as a souvenir. I’m changing the locks.’ The boy does not hesitate to run from the room, leaving the girl alone with the man. ‘You’re going to make a pretty kitty, my dear,’ he says, and secures the collar around her neck before she can respond.


Beth Hobbs

I can see myself reflected in the glass. I’m wearing my favourite dress. It’s made of polyester with three little buttons running down the front. The print is of birds and they remind me of a garden. And I hate it. Yesterday it was my favourite. It lay straight over my stomach and made me look slender and tall. My legs looked shiny and my hair was straight. Today my legs wobble like jelly. The dress hugs that extra muffin that wraps around my hips and the birds are mocking me, laughing at me. I tear it from my body and throw it onto the pile of discarded favourites. It lies there like an empty skin, the life of someone else, someone I was yesterday or may be tomorrow. I’m different today. I’m standing in my underwear, right in front of the mirror, my legs hip-width apart and my arms at my side. One arm is longer than the other, I’m sure. I run my eyes over my body; they are ice cold, following the lines of my skin. I look not like a lover but like a bully who has caught you in the changing room and seizes the opportunity. She’s standing there in front of me. She’s pulling on the skin that hugs my legs, she shakes them till they won’t stop. I watch as each fleck of skin vibrates and refuses to be still. Then she grabs my face; she draws lines against my freckles, joining them up to make words. She wiggles my ears and pinches my nose. She pulls at my hair till the brown falls out and the ginger curls return. She bounces them till I grit my teeth and shut my eyes.


11 When I open them a little girl has replaced her. She’s got my ginger curls but she’s bouncing them herself and laughing as they spring back. She’s got my favourite dress on. It reaches down her legs all the way to her wellie boots. Both are covered in mud. I notice there are flowers in her hair and clips in the shape of farmyard animals. She shakes her head at me and laughs out loud. She pulls the edges of her dress out and spins in a circle, still laughing. She waves at me as she cartwheels off into the distance. I see a final glimpse of her fiery hair and frilly knickers, then she is gone. A young girl walks up behind me. A pale face and blonde hair. She is not me at all but she is standing in her underwear. She is saying something I can’t hear. She is pulling out the skin that clings to her like rope, trapping her. She is hitting her flat stomach. She reaches for her hair, her legs, her bum, dragging her hands over her body with such anger though there are tears in her eyes. She keeps pulling and I fear she may pull the skin clear of the bones. I reach out to her but she shrinks back like I’ve touched her with burning coal. She turns to me and points at my body: my arms, my face, my boobs. I look at each part as she points and it’s like seeing it for the first time. My arms look like a gorilla’s and they hang limply in odd places. My cheeks are bright red and littered with freckles. She reaches up and licks her finger. She leans towards me and begins to rub away the dirty freckles, then she straightens my arms, softens them; they look paler, slightly. She runs her hands down my body and the skin becomes tighter. She brushes my hair and long brown hair grows from my roots. I look back to the glass and a beautiful woman looks back at me. Her underwear matches and her body is without flaw. The skin is soft as a baby’s, the hair light as air. The legs are longer than mine. The nails are manicured. She reaches for my dress and pulls it over her head. She turns slowly in front of me and the dress moves like a dance. The birds flap their wings and she’s floating. As quietly as she came, her face begins to crack. The rough brick skin falls to ash as the dress once more falls to the ground. I’m looking at myself again and my painted body is a patchwork of ideas and ideals. I look hard at myself, see what they see in me. It’s some time before I notice the man next to me. He’s looking into my eyes. There is no smile on his face, he just looks at me. I feel his touch before I see it. He runs his hands over my skin; this time it does not change. I wait a moment, searching my body for some sign of renewed perfection. It is just the same. His eyes still fixed on mine, he puts his hand on my leg. His hand is as cold as marble. Looking again for perfection, I find none. I look instead for the imperfect and also find none, I cannot see it. I watch his hands and they slowly move across my skin and slowly as he moves I find I cannot focus on what is imperfect and I can only see myself. My skin never changes, my hair is still chaos but I hardly notice. He wraps his arms around me and I see myself wearing my favourite dress - the one with the little birds on it and the three buttons down the front. I pick up my bag from the doorway and switch the light off as I leave.


One So here lies the poem of a pre-destined form, AB, CD, GG. All things considered, with Romantic norms, Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, Poetry? Or should I instead, contrast your rhythm With Eliot’s free verse and loose rhyme? Your set of strict rules and complex algorithm Will be the burial of the dead, in time. At number eighteen, the eye of heaven shines I will show you fear in a handful of sonnet. With its darling buds of May, Shakespeare’s looked to the sky Before what the thunder said rained upon it. Such a staple, however, my sonnet is done. (It seems every poetry collection gets one.)

Josh Perez

Butcher’s Trial Because my shelves were skew-whiff Because my son’s room was untidy Because we’d become lovers for too long You didn’t judge me for liking you a little bit?

Anne Anderson

You tried me in your common court


13

Christian Bone

Katherine Mansfield’s

Metamorphosis Actually it all looked rather lovely. The sky was positively ideal for the occasion with an angelic bluish hue that it only has in the summer – and also spring, autumn and occasionally winter. The garden itself looked so neat and tidy it seemed it had been visited by heavenly cherubic spirits who had danced around trimming bushes and flattening the grass with their tiny toes during the night. In all, it could not have been a more perfect day for a garden party if not for the fact that one of the family had turned into a cockroach. ‘How ever shall we tell everyone the garden party is cancelled?’ said Flora, in a fretful tone that only people who have found their brother is suddenly a cockroach can produce. ‘Oh, and it was all going so splendidly!’ ‘Don’t be so extreme; stop the garden party, indeed!’ cried Rose. ‘Don’t be so melodramatic! It will carry on as planned.’ ‘But how can we possibly have a garden party when one of the guests is a cockroach?’ The cockroach really was an eyesore. Standing in the doorway from the kitchen to the garden, it was a large unseemly lump of a chocolate brown colour. It shifted on the spot, wiggling its serrated back. Its stench was also quite pungent; those nearby refrained from mentioning it, despite the squirrels dropping like acorns from the trees. ‘Nonsense!’ Rose said. ‘He only stands out a tad. Look.’ Rose removed her azure hat from her head and attached it to that of the cockroach, which did not move as she tied the ribbon round its moist underside. She stood back and admired her work, after wiping her hands on the overalls of one of the workmen. ‘There we are.’


It was not excessive to say that the giant cockroach looked out of place within the garden of a fine establishment, next to a bed of rhododendrons, with a wide-brimmed hat fixed onto its head. Attention was immediately drawn to it. Besides, blue clearly wasn’t its colour. ‘Topping hat!’ said Lawrence who had appeared suddenly and then proceeded to disappear as quickly as he came. ‘See?’ Rose said. ‘Really, Flora! If you are going to call off garden parties every time a relative becomes a cockroach then you will have a very tedious life.’ Flora began to be very furious. She stormed inside to catch her mother who had wandered off to order the workmen about. ‘Mummy, you see my point, don’t you? We can’t possibly have our party with a cockroach around.’ Her mother turned white. ‘A cockroach? Here? It hasn’t reached the food, has it?’ ‘No, I mean poor Gregory! He miraculously transformed into a giant cockroach overnight.’ Mrs Sherrinford let out a sigh of relief. ‘Oh, I see. You gave me quite a fright there! No, no, we shall not call it off.’ Flora was bewildered to find that her mother was equally blasé about the incident, merely standing twirling her hair in her hand. ‘Think about it, my darling, we have nothing to hide. It is a grievous accident but no fault of our own. Besides, I’m sure this sort of thing occurs quite often within our class.’ ‘Wouldn’t it…’ It all felt very wrong. ‘Wouldn’t it be awfully callous of us, Mother?’ Her mother cocked her head to the side. ‘Look at you, my dear girl, you look so lovely! We wouldn’t want to waste your beautiful dress now, would we?’ Before Flora could muster a reply, Mrs Sherrinford caught hold of one of the passing waiters carrying a silver tray and stood him in front of her daughter. For a moment, the worries of the party and her transmogrified brother slipped blissfully from Flora’s mind as she noticed the very charming-looking girl in the reflection of the tray. Clad in a daisytrimmed hat with a divine red ribbon on top, she looked much better in her hat than the cockroach did in his. Was her mother right after all? ‘You know, Mother,’ Flora said, eventually. ‘I think this will be quite the best garden party we’ve had.’ ‘Indeed!’ Her mother was now jubilant. ‘By the by, Flora, please refrain from calling me Mother. For the remainder of the afternoon I am Katie, a single twenty one year old who’s up for anything.’ ‘Can I move now?’ said the man holding the tray.

*

Everything was fully prepared by half past one, ready for the guests’ arrival a near whole hour later. It seemed Flora’s mother was correct as the guests had taken well to her explanation that keeping a giant cockroach as a household pet was a common practice in several auspicious circles. It had enticed many to say that they were also planning on purchasing one; Mrs Godfrey was apparently in the process of buying two in time for her next gathering. The cockroach itself turned out to be not the most interesting of characters. Still attired in its sky-blue hat, the thing scurried about within the flower beds at first, which kept it out of the way, before coming out into the garden properly where it received the odd stroke from a few of the guests. At one point, it showed quite an interest in the greenjacketed band playing under the marquee. One unfortunate, the violinist, slipped in the cockroach’s leftovers - a thick trail of mucus that glistened in the celestial sunlight - and


fell head over heels. ‘Aren’t they the most adorable creatures?’ Miss Mainland said of the individual after his fall. ‘Like frogs with moderate musical talent.’ ‘Ra-ther!’ said Lawrence, who had just arrived on the scene. Flora became inwardly annoyed at the attitude of her friends. It was the doing of these ludicrous notions of class which she never gave into. Not one drop, not one speck, not one iota… ‘If you could move just a little to the left,’ she said to the waiter she was using as a footrest. ‘And do sing one of those quaint little tunes I heard once in the kitchens.’

*

Nearing the end of the day, Flora thought it had all been a complete success. How wonderful it was to frolic about in a wonderful garden, a garden full of happy-looking folk with pressed on smiles. All were enjoying themselves immensely. ‘A most astounding garden party…’ ‘Never in all of Christendom has there been a greater…’ ‘Thank you for saving me from choking on this olive, this really is a very nice…’ The afternoon had bloomed to its fullest. Now it was about to wilt. ‘I don’t suppose anyone knows of Gregory’s whereabouts today, eh?’ said Mr Sherrinford, helping himself to multiple sandwiches. ‘He is around somewhere, Daddy dear,’ said Flora, telling the utmost truth. Gregory had sat – if indeed a cockroach could sit – watching them from outside for several moments but was now shuffling their way. Seemingly in the grip of some kind of fit, the cockroach, which had been on the most cordial behaviour all afternoon, suddenly jumped upon the table on which the food was laid and began scampering across it, its feelers wriggling ferociously under its hat. For some of the guests this was too much and several women fainted, not to mention a few of the men. That was all it took for them to turn against the creature. ‘Dastardly animal!’ said Mrs Godfrey. ‘Foul demon!’ screamed Franz. ‘I say!’ uttered Lawrence before taking an apple from the table and flinging it at the insect. The cockroach screeched as the fruit impacted on its equivalent of a snout. The other guests soon caught on; each grabbed a piece of fruit from the bowl and aimed it squarely at the creature. The cockroach jerked off the table and out of the room as the fruit kept coming in its direction. ‘I’ll get you, matey!’ cried one of the workmen, who rushed up behind the animal and locked it in the smoking room. An awkward silence fell about the place then; some fidgeted in their seats or prodded fainting companions. It really was very tactless of the cockroach to run amok like that… Flora’s mother nervously eyed everyone around the ruined display of the table before attempting a nonchalant giggle. No one else accompanied her. It seemed, after the excitement, everyone was now a little uninterested. Gregory had never been at the centre of parties before; he was certainly going through a lot of changes lately. ‘I know, let’s make up a selection of scraps for it!’ said Mrs Sherrinford after a while. ‘The poor thing was probably only trying to get to the sandwiches. Do you agree? It’s bound to be a great treat for the love after all that exercise.’ Assorted nods came from round the table. Flora once again wondered why she didn’t think the same as everyone else. Surely the creature who was formerly her brother wouldn’t want that? Didn’t he have any dignity left?


‘Don’t be so silly, Flora dear,’ her mother said after she had voiced her concerns. ‘You really have been most peculiar of late.’ Before she could protest any more, Flora was loaded with a tray of sandwiches and other foods somehow damaged in the cockroach’s charge across the table top. ‘Oh, and do take some of this gorgeous cream cheese and lemon curd,’ said Mrs Sherrinford. ‘It is your broth- the cockroach’s favourite.’ ‘But the moisture might stain her party dress,’ said Rose. She did have a point. ‘Very true - just the sandwiches for him, then.’ Flora tried to calm herself before she saw the cockroach. She felt apprehension for her brother, yes, but she still felt giddy from the fun of the party. She was positively brimming with all the features of the wonderful afternoon. How terrible that was, she thought. Flora knocked on the door of the room through habit rather than reason. Upon hearing no answer – not that she expected one – she let herself in. The wood-panelled walls and maroon leather armchairs of the smoking room matched the russet shade of the wretched creature within. Flora’s plan had been to drop off the tray and leave it to its own devices (whatever they might be) but, no, she had changed her mind; she had to go and inspect it. The gloomy thing was lying on its back, exhibiting its intricate, amber-coloured underbelly. It wasn’t writhing around. Flora noticed a bright red apple lodged into the soft tissue of its side; a translucent liquid was pouring forth. Something bad had happened. Without thinking, she removed the azure hat with the flowing ribbon from its head. Other than that hideous gaping wound, it looked simply asleep. Well away from this place of garden parties now. ‘I forgive you for the hat,’ she said, not knowing what else to say. She put the tray on the floor and walked back into the hallway where Lawrence was also standing, complimenting people’s headwear. Flora blew her nose loudly and dabbed at the tears in the corner of her eyes. ‘Dash it, are you crying, darling?’ ‘No,’ Flora said. She was, though. ‘Oh this day! This glorious day! It’s been so…’ But she could not find the words. ‘Hasn’t it?’ Lawrence nodded. ‘Ra-ther!’ ‘And the world is just…’ ‘Isn’t it?’ Flora felt cheered already, knowing there was someone else who shared her thoughts. ‘I’m so glad you agree, darling.’

16


Ribbon

Katherine Gearing

I had wedged a bullet in my brain, so deep it was as much a part of my being as any other vital organ, as a valve or a lung or a vein. A trail of blood from the top of my head to the tips of my toes followed me for months, like a silky scarlet ribbon dragged across the ground, tracing my steps so all might know where & what I’d come from.

Atlantis Far across an ocean Beyond flight’s reach Beneath wave’s thunder

Kimberley Ford

And gull’s shriek A phantom cry laments A loss A pain A fear In a drowned land Reclaimed by mighty water An abundance of drifting kelp-fronds Smother Conceal Devour A world Gone.


Jack Connell

No victim of the mindflu proved more notorious than Thornton Anduin, the man who became a star. The Swiss-American ornithology graduate, who worked as an assistant manager at a tailor catering to amputees, often had difficulty recalling what happened just before his brain stellified. Interviews with him gave wildly contrary accounts, which ranged from suddenly developing a nosebleed while checking the price of orthopaedic shoes, to waking up particularly hung over after a night on the town with fellow alumni of the University of St Fiacre. The most recent interview, published in the Minneapolis edition of the Daily Chorus, had him claim to have forgotten the exact cause. Regardless, at 11:36 on the morning of July 19th, Anduin’s one-bedroom flat, along with the seven one-bedroom flats surrounding it, was promptly consumed by a blaze of light, although no scorch marks were found. One of the apartment building’s walls appeared to have sheared away, leaving a large, neat, oval-shaped hole along with Thornton Anduin bent double on his knees, attempting to reach what had once been his head, and was now a perfectly round ball of white-gold plasma. Regrettably, he could not clutch his head in despair at the thought of killing his fellow tenants; his hands were blocked by all the loose change, brick dust and debris circling his newly found gravitational pull. What proved most beguiling to CERN, who had the means both to study him and safely contain him 100 metres underground near the Jura Mountains, was that Anduin’s cognitive functions were still intact. He responded positively to visual and sonic stimuli, and electrical signals similar to brain patterns continued to pass through his solar cranium (a fact that caused much pulled hair and countless sleepless nights trying to figure out how this was possible). When made emotional, usually through anger or sorrow, his plasma began to expand, redden and shake violently. He was even capable of speech by using the gravity field around his head to shake the air in such a way as to make sounds: first rudimentary grunts and words, then single words and, later, sentences. At his peak, he could give speeches to delegations and engage in public debate. Anduin described the process thusly in his interview with the Chorus: ‘It was long and very complicated, almost like learning a whole new language, but it was something I had to endure if I wanted to communicate again. Human speech, the manipulation of teeth and tongue and tonsil - that proved quite useless to me. Instead, I studied instruments, particularly horns and pipes and woodwinds, and how they moved air about to make all kinds of sound. I could never manage the – (at this point in the interview, Anduin sketched an ‘F’ in the air with his finger) – that sound, though. It tended to go on longer than intended, or it sounded like a V.’


18/19 Two years and twenty-three days after his stellification, Anduin left CERN and made his public debut outside the Palace of Nations, addressing the crowd alternately in English and French. The speech’s purpose was twofold: to announce what was officially called telepathic influenza, known to everyone else as the mindflu; and to declare that fellow mindflu sufferers need not be afraid of their symptoms, no matter how debilitating - they could still live rich, full lives. Nobody had quite figured out what caused mindflu, or how it was spread, but CERN concluded by the influx of patients they received following Anduin’s address to the world that the symptoms were a severe headache, followed by a brief period of retrograde amnesia, then uncontrollable mutations and deformities of the body. No two cases of mindflu were the same. Vanja Stanisław, a Serbian-Polish lab assistant, found her skin peeling to reveal a cold metallic exoskeleton, and began suffering periodic nosebleeds as her body tried to expel unwanted quantities of iron. Canadian teenager Lacer Tancurie, meanwhile, had a rather alarming full-body mutation – his blood became electricity and his bones became tungsten, leaving him a glowing skeleton unable to wear clothing or make any noise. As a result he developed a purely optical form of language. His body was pure intellect, the electricity in his brain running over every inch of him, but he had no way to communicate what he saw to anyone but three people who could interpret his light-based tongue with an inexhaustible supply of sunglasses. Copies of The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud and The Collected Works of C. G. Jung were soon outselling the Bible. To best avoid contagion, people were encouraged to read the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and other soothing fantasies, to inoculate the imagination and dream state against any foreign threats. Everybody soon became very careful about what entertainment and media they consumed, because the embarrassment of coming into work dripping ectoplasm from a hole in the forehead, or being followed about by two ravens who remembered everything better than the person could themselves, would never be lived down. Not that this discouraged Anduin from remaining a public speaker and activist for sufferers and victims of mindflu. On the contrary, it gave him new purpose. With his stellar head, deep artificial voice and collection of robes and dressing gowns he wore in lieu of T-shirts, Anduin proved a distinctive and charismatic figure on the social and political landscape. He gave talks in Washington, Edinburgh, Hong Kong, Zurich, Amsterdam, UCLA and – most notably – a much more intimate seminar in the New Mexico town of Truth Or Consequences, where he led the gathered crowd from the conference hall to the local hot springs in celebration of Fiesta, just so people could appreciate nature some more.


In all his talks, Anduin was accompanied by Lacer Tancurie, the Canadian boy made of light and tungsten. Following one of his talks in Toronto, Anduin asked specifically to meet Tancurie and the two spoke privately for an hour. Reports conclude everyone within a one mile radius suddenly needed sunglasses. Occasionally, Anduin was flanked by a second individual in a suit: a Caucasian man one day, a Korean woman another day, then a Nigerian androgyne and so on, but always someone in a suit. It is rumoured these individuals are in fact the same person, one ‘Rallen Gainsborough’, whose mindflu infection apparently caused him to change appearance and personality, but not identity, with every crescent moon. No conclusive evidence has been found to prove this theory. The main belief espoused by Anduin and the many followers in his wake was that if – as widely believed – the mindflu was a manifestation of the unconscious, then it could be harnessed for the better by envisioning and maintaining positive thoughts – thoughts of love, thoughts of hope and so on. This, Anduin preached, would lead to a widespread period of enlightenment that would ultimately benefit the human race. So confident was he that a campaign was launched called the ‘Million Mind March’, to be initiated from Skara Brae, the oldest surviving Neolithic settlement. Anduin marked it out as Ground Zero for the development of humanity, a return to our oldest available roots, so humanity might begin anew. And so, on 31st August, Anduin and his followers gathered around Skara Brae. Those unable to come joined by webcam, and millions upon millions of minds joined together in pondering the deeds of angels and Buddhas and gods to create mass enlightenment on a global scale. For reasons pertaining to public safety, the events that transpired during the Million Mind March are never to be mentioned or recorded again. Simple recollection caused numerous horrific outbursts of mindflu, most of them untreatable and irreversible, so all text, audio and video accounts have been destroyed. The following is all that is permitted to be repeated: the mindflu became far more widespread. Lacer Tancurie broke an arm and his wild, unleashed consciousness killed fourteen people before falling into the sea, travelling oceans and electrocuting sea-life. He has yet to be recovered. The United Nations set up worldwide censorship boards to control and regulate media - the first global censor in recorded history. Anduin, meanwhile, went into self-imposed imprisonment following loud cries for his head to be thrown into a particle accelerator to provide twenty years’ worth of clean energy for all of mankind. The following are selections from his last interview, undertaken in a reinforced glass cell at CERN where his extraordinary new life began. There was very little recorded emotion, other than his star-head gaining a slight blue tint as Anduin explained how he could potentially spend millions and millions of years underground, since his unique physiology makes him too much of a threat to place anywhere else. ‘But I’m all right where I am. My sweat glands have proved unnecessary in the years since I became stellar, and all I consume is air and other constituent particles. How DOES a star eat, anyway? Nobody ever sussed that out. (Pause) I hope I can get out again. Maybe attempt the Million Mind March again. I know that the potential is still there. It’s just disappointing we hit such a stumbling block. Yes, that’s what I shall do once I’m allowed to leave Switzerland. I shall wait until then. I have all the time in the world.’

20/21


Absence (Revised) My absence has little to no effect, do not attempt to convince me otherwise. I often find myself wanting to hate, but you and I both know it is far too late in the day for that. I’ll watch from afar, forever wondering where you are, what’s taking up your time and are you happy? I’ll pretend not to know where you go, move away from the window. They’ll say there’s more to life than that bitch and her knife. Try to tell me that your toothache hurts more than this.

Ryan Carrier


It’s not a home like you described it. I took off my coat

Or perhaps you didn’t but at the time we both thought you did. Your mother

all the same. Manners,

and her boyfriend didn’t

I suppose. Do manners

have a caravan, they slept,

exist in this place?

smoked and choked

When you lifted my backpack

in a big, purple, metallic

onto the staging of the caravan

thing with wheels and a dog

I looked at you and

chained as in slavery. They

questioned my motives.

showed love for the dog

I thought this was what

and left you to suffocate

rebellion was. A Cambridge citizen cannot sleep on such a hard floor as this. Your parents are of no abode and of no

under the lacy weave of their cigarette smoke. They put us outside waiting for us to play like child monkeys at lunch time.

love. How was it that you loved?

Sophie Fletcher

22


}

That lonely wreath

Hanging Basket Sophie Fletcher

in the beginning where one would expect an end. My mother’s uncle hanged himself before I was born. And she dreamed that he lay in that very bathroom, turned to her, smiling and ill – eely eyes – ‘I’m fine,’ he said. Lonely wreath at the funeral where the priest refused to speak. No man of dignity would take his own life – no – but many would consider it. Lonely wreath, of course it is lonely - no other would stay if they knew where he had hung. Bathroom pole mother’s hanging basket. Every year it dies and no note left for her to forgive that slip knot tie.


Jade Clark

‘If he is a man, well God help his soul for believing he is the very monster of the night.’ Pliny ‘Do you, Mr Duron? Do you want to get better?’ asks the doctor, shuffling loose pages on his desk before putting them under a fake skull. I fail to reply. ‘Mr Duron, I am going to hold up a few images, if you could just tell me what you think each one is.’ I know exactly what this exercise is supposed to prove. ‘Boat,’ I say. ‘And this one, Mr.Duron?’ ‘Is this really necessary?’ I can feel myself sticking to the leather surface of the sofa. ‘Mr Duron, it’s been two weeks since you jumped - ’ ‘Flew,’ I cut in. ‘Yes – flew - from that building and you have not cooperated as well as one might have wished.’ I look outside the window and see the light dimming. He watches me and alters his position. ‘I’m sorry, but I really do need to go,’ I say. My back begins to burn. ‘I do,’ I add. He clicks his tongue. ‘Very well,’ he says, ‘I shall see you same time next week.’ This has been my second session. I know he thinks he’ll be able to help me. He doesn’t know that this has been happening for ten years. Nor will I tell him. I am a milkman and that is all he needs to know. The first session was like an interrogation. ‘Do you have vivid dreams, Mr Duron?’ ‘Sometimes, I guess.’ ‘And do you remember these dreams?’ ‘Not always, no.’ ‘Are you always in the dreams?’ ‘No.’

24


Yes. But I am not always the person living the dream, sometimes I am just in the background. ‘What do you think when you wake up?’ Where am I? ‘The same as everyone else, I presume.’ ‘And what is that, Mr Duron?’ ‘What will today bring.’ The first time I awoke I was on the church tower. I lifted my arm to the sun and watched the light dance between the small tufts of hair that were as fine as fluff. ‘Why did you leave Cornwall, Mr Duron?’ ‘I fancied a change.’ ‘Of course, of course. It wasn’t due to the death of your mother?’ I took a sip from the complimentary glass of water. ‘Not entirely, no.’ ‘And how was that for you?’ ‘How was what?’ ‘The death of your mother.’ ‘I didn’t realise I was here to talk about my mother.’ ‘Of course not, but you see Mr Duron, sometimes, by talking about past traumas, we find the root of all our troubles and fears, and in theory our problems.’ ‘Problems, Doctor?’ ‘Yes, problems.’ I don’t have any problems. ‘Did you know, Mr Duron, there was a curious case in Cornwall back in 1976. People claimed they had seen a figure as tall as a man with wings and large, glowing red eyes.’ Orange eyes. ‘Have you ever heard about this Mr Duron?’ ‘No I haven’t.’ ‘Have you ever visited Mawnan Church?’ ‘When I was a child, yes.’ He studied me with his beady eyes and began to scribble in his black leather bound notebook. ‘People named him Owlman.’

*

‘George! Come on, we’ll be late. You know that lateness is a sin, don’t you?’ I knew all right. I remember how the reverend’s eyes would bore through my skull when I was late. He’d pick me out in the back row the moment me and my mother walked in. ‘You’ve got your pens and pencils, yes? Remember our talk, George - you better behave yourself today, got it?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Yes, what?’ ‘Yes Mum.’ ‘That’s better, now come along, hurry and fix your shoe laces.’ Even now when I bend down to tie my shoes I remember the smell of the saliva from her spit shine which she mixed with the black polish. I hated church, even more so in the winter when the cold hard wooden benches would cut into my backside and send my back into spasm. My mother wouldn’t let me take Holy Communion. She said I wasn’t ready to drink the blood of Christ, nor eat his flesh. And in fact I was glad, because who would want to eat someone anyhow? Once or twice, I dropped the Bible and it landed with a thud that rocked the altar at the front and echoed around the small church. My mother’s glare could scald you without hot water. I kept my head down and said Amen when expected.


‘If the children of the congregation would like to make their way to the back rooms with Sally…’ I slowly stood up. ‘Remember, George.’ ‘Yes Mum.’ And although I remembered the words she spoke to me, I couldn’t bring myself to abide by them. I walked with the other kids to the back halls for Sunday school. I walked at a slow pace, keeping to the back to create distance between them and me, to make my escape more inconspicuous. They spoke so loud, they never heard the twist of the small handle of the back door which led to the church garden. ‘George, aren’t you forgetting something?’ Sally was a rather large girl with rat-tailed plaits and wide-rimmed glasses. I reached into my pocket. ‘Don’t be long,’ she said as she took the coins. The day was crisp; my breath created swirling plumes of smoke that danced in the autumnal air. I looked out through the stone arches and saw the mouth of Helford River. I shivered in my thin blazer. Greyness. Everything grey. The river, the sand, the church, the grass. Me. My mother said I had no vigour in my blood. I didn’t know what that was supposed to mean. I knew she was as bitter as the river. A born again Christian since the disappearance of my father. I took a walk round the grounds, careful to avoid the windows which would give away my position. The leaves scattered at my feet. The graves were covered in moss and lichen, their inscriptions barely visible. I felt a fraud, me alive, them dead in the hard ground. My mother told me not to think of these things, plus it was just the shell of the person who was down there anyway. Just a shell. Their spirit flies elsewhere. It was then I heard something fall to the ground. It was almost like someone had tipped over a basket of apples from the top branch of a tree. I looked around, no one was near. I crept over to the trees and parted the bushes which covered the railings with my hands. An owl lay on its back, one wing slightly raised, the other limp. I looked up. Had he fallen? I was scared to move him, a glorious thing he was. Eyes like sparked embers, round as an orange; beak like slate, carved and sharp. I took off my blazer and gingerly lifted him and wrapped him in it. Then I ran for the church doors. My mother was furious with me for losing my blazer. She didn’t believe me when I said one of the boys took it back home by mistake. I wouldn’t tell her who. This only fanned the flames. The owl never regained its strength, no matter how many mice I brought it. It would not drink any water but just stared at the tops of the trees, ever so slightly breathing. Then that ever so slight breath turned into nothing at all. I dug him a grave and wrapped him tighter in the blazer and tried to think of a hymn that I knew all the way through, but I didn’t know any. ‘I hope all you leave behind is your shell,’ I said, simply. By my teenage years I stood at just over six feet tall, one of the tallest in the year, but I was as quick and quiet on my feet as any of the dancers in the school shows, more so in fact. I didn’t set my head to studying as much as my mother wanted. I had my head in books, but not the kind that would help me pass my O-levels. Unless it was Classics, which my school didn’t offer. ‘George, will you feed that bleedin’ bird!’ I huffed and got up from the sofa and went over to feed Jupiter, god of the sky, currently


out of action because of a damaged wing. He was a budgie, an escaped one. I didn’t know who he belonged to. My mother hated him, as expected. She kept threatening to suck him up with the vacuum cleaner if I ever let him out. I eventually let him go once his wing was back in order. I couldn’t bear to keep him locked up inside. I knew he was grateful for this. Every time I saw him locked in that cage it sent my skin crawling. I opened his cage and then I opened the living room window. He flew over and sat on the window ledge. I expected him to fly out immediately, but instead he sat there pondering for a good couple of minutes. I watched him as he slowly put out his head and took flight, his tail trailing behind. He was like a newly hatched butterfly. The wind ruffled his feathers and I felt it on my own cheeks as I put my head out of the window and watched him rise and rise until I couldn’t see him anymore. He was gone. At times I felt I had to get out too; the walls seemed to bore into my skull. I liked to sit on the roof and watch everything. How futile everything seemed, how insignificant my life was, I was. My mother always shouted at me to get down – at least, until there was no one to tell me to get down anymore. After her funeral I went back to Mawnan Church and pushed back the hedgerows to see if he was still there. Weeds gathered and clumped together in irregular patches. I ripped them out and then saw the little stones I had placed at the head of his grave. I couldn’t help but think of my mother. I started to climb the church tower. The land was dead. No one was around. I could faintly hear the waves lapping against the shore. The smell of salt and seaweed mixed with the muddy wet earth - the fresh smell of rain that’s just passed. Dew crowded on my brow and my upper lip as I climbed. It wasn’t very high. As soon as I reached the top I fell on my knees and sobbed. It was like I wasn’t crying at all. The mist came and cradled my sobs as if they were her own. I took off my sodden jacket and threw it from the tower. I did the same with my trousers and top, until I stood in just my underwear. I stretched my arms out to the sky and let my wings billow outwards. I felt my life wind from me like ribbon, as each stitch of fibre wove itself into feathers with the delicacy of a Persian rug. My nose snapped and my fingernails tore. I looked round and saw my body fall like the outer shell of a walnut. It was heavy and broken compared to the lightness I now felt. Then I flew. I heard shrieks, but I didn’t know if that was me. I winged higher and higher. The coldness of the night was being deflected by the heat which soared from my body. I was as weightless as a child in water and my senses overpowered me to the extent I felt I was twitching from the new found energy. I was just pure raw energy, alive, like how you are when you walk out on a clear blue crisp autumnal morning. Aware of everything, aware you are cold and because of this you twitch, but you’re glad you can feel something. You’re aware of your body.

*

‘Two girls and their father walked through that church on April 17th. The girls claimed to see this curious Owlman. It is a very strange tale, don’t you think?’ ‘Very strange, Doctor, yes.’ ‘Almost like a myth, you would say.’ ‘Almost like a myth, yes.’ I guess the more I see, the less I speak, or the less I want to. I have the ability to transcend speech. Words can’t justify the things I’ve seen or done. I don’t want to explain myself because then my experiences, my world might seem flippant and fickle. I realised this the day I stood on the church tower at Mawnan, when I thought of the empty shell of my mother under the ground. She had fled, and finally so could I, because I didn’t need this body. I realised this the moment I opened my arms, and the moment I leapt.


Contemplating My Sole

He took me out for dinner. The evening fizzled on a low heat, slightly undercooked. I ordered the sole, so fresh its fin flapped desperately on the plate. Business dribbled from his chin. I began digging deep into my sole and I sucked out those insides like they were my very own. The waiter asked if the sole was to my taste. Is yours? I asked whilst licking the neck of the wine bottle. He left I clapped they stared. Yet he still vomited figures and meetings wipe that spew from your chin sweetie. O look at that, my sole’s gone cold.

Tabitha Hollis


Spread Legs and Insert

His eyes glowed a distant carnival crammed full of colour teeth black as tyres his bulging belly that hungry dog that whines.

That ocean that you swallowed whole bit back, didn’t it Daddy? You folded grown men into the pocket of your coat and flung cows into the sky in the hurricane of your anger and passion yet I barely stand, let alone be counted. Perhaps part of me (all of me really Daddy)

I’d Like to Address Your Suicide

is glad the ocean finally consumed you. Someone needed to scald you with the cold tap, even if, truthfully, that’s what you always wanted.

Tabitha Hollis


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For further information on Vortex contact: Neil McCaw Faculty of Arts University of Winchester neil.mccaw@winchester.ac.uk

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Vortex UoW 2013  

In 2013 VORTEX celebrates its 10th anniversary; it began, all those years ago, as a Heath Robinson venture managed entirely by the early coh...

Vortex UoW 2013  

In 2013 VORTEX celebrates its 10th anniversary; it began, all those years ago, as a Heath Robinson venture managed entirely by the early coh...

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