ERUPT EDITION ONE 2021
WE ASKED OUR T WHAT MAKE Editor-in-Chief: Becky Croy When I erupt, it comes as a release of tension. It can manifest as a solo dance party at midnight or shouting at my walls over an opinionated comment on Twitter. The peace that floods my mind after, cannot be beat! Managing Editor: Jason Winn I’m not one to erupt that easily. I’m often dormant, but in the sense that I like to conserve that fire for later. It’s when the moon is cast high and the stars hang like glass shards does my mind truly begin to burst with activity and wander. Communications Manager: Jessica Wartski Every time I watch my dog, I erupt into something. It’s laughter at the odd moves he makes, a heated defence from someone thinking him ‘simply a dog’, or an overwhelming flow of love due to everything he is.
Financial Manager & Sub-Editor: Loren Sirel Not being one to erupt in anger, I’ll erupt in joy. I’ll simply explode with happiness when I see love, I’ll gush around the idea of hope, and I’ll transform at the very thought of courage and its existence.
Designer: Amin Rajbanshi Memories.
Editor: James Barnett Erupt. Passion. Art. Sound. Writing. Cinema. Plot twists. Dogs. Loved ones.
Editor: Jessica Hinschen All things Japanese. I love learning more about Japanese history and enjoying otaku culture with friends.
TEAM: ES THEM ERUPT ? Editor: Hannah Mansfield I erupt in small and big ways every day; cuddling my kitten so close his purrs turn to rumbling vibrations, or watching the sunset reflect over puffed-up clouds on my way home from work. But mostly, I just get really hangry. Editor: Elisabeth Roberts ‘Erupt’ automatically makes me think of anger, but that’s a bit of a downer so let’s think of something else … Most songs by the Smith Street Band make me erupt with movement (that’s more fun), especially ‘Birthdays’. I can’t help but bang my head when those drums come in. Sub-Editor: Grishtha Arya What makes me erupt? Humanity. And messy kitchens.
Sub-Editor: Julia Caitlin Fazzari The moon, the sea, the trees, and the stars. I breathe in the world around me and it feels like I will explode from this overwhelming tide. But I welcome it; I relish it.
Sub-Editor: Sheridan Harris When I think of the concept of erupting, I think of being passionate. I get passionate about pretty much all of the things I care about but mostly it’s being creative and the footy. Sub-Editor: Blair Morilly I’m on a path where I try not to let things make me erupt with anger. The injustices of the world, all the terrible things that happen to good people. I can say that my loved ones make me erupt with warmth and laughter. My passions make my heart erupt. Sub-Editor: Samara Tapp There is seismic catastrophe when someone calls sparkling wine champagne when it is not from ‘Champagne’ in Samara’s presence. More positive eruptions include discussions on the works of Zadie Smith, podcasts, and planning her next adventure.
FOREWORD Phew! We made it through a seemingly impossible and endless year! While we at WORDLY have been busy bees producing magazines filled to the brim with amazing writing and artwork from our incredibly talented contributors, the world around us has been burning and descending into a pit of chaos. For Australia, the former quite literally in fact! Now in 2021, though secretly I had my fingers crossed for a miracle, we still face many of the same challenges as we slowly adapt to a new normal.
Some contributors featured in ‘Erupt’ took this theme quite literally and I fully expected, bordering on insistent, at least one volcano within the edition. Maybe because I admire their dangerous beauty or maybe I just miss the excitement of my year seven science project. Either way, our fabulous writers and artists took on the challenge and made us erupt with laughter or crumble into pieces with their work. Our team, erupting with energy, worked tirelessly to create what you are holding in your hot little hands or scrolling through online. Though our work on this edition is becoming dormant, it is far from extinct. By reading, sharing with family and friends and contributing to our future editions, you bring our volcano back to life!
‘Erupt’ is an explosion of new possibilities and new environments for us all to get used to. I am finding there is no better way than to tackle this year head on, with enthusiasm, a healthy level of optimism and perhaps an unhealthy amount of caffeine. Let this be the edition to encourage you and me to not be afraid to let off some steam, or ash, every once in a while as we flow into another year! Becky Croy
Editor-in-Chief Becky Croy
Managing Editor Jason Winn
Communications Manager Jessica Wartski Financial Manager Loren Sirel Designer Amin Rajbanshi
Front Cover Artist Redscale Sky - Katie McClintock
Editors James Barnett Jessica Hinschen Hannah Mansfield Elisabeth Roberts
Sub-Editors Grishtha Arya Julia Caitlin Fazzari Matthew Galic Sheridan Harris Blair Morilly Loren Sirel Samara Tapp
Contributers Melissa Bandara James Barnett Emily Bennett Sarah Bishop Tarnya Braumann Brianna Bullen Danielle Davison Elisabeth Gail Rowen De Lacy Daniel Matters Katie McClintock Bridget Robertson Anders Ross Felicity Shagwell Abbigail Smith Ashlea Spierings Justine Stella
It’s Cartoon Time Stephanie Turbach Jason Winn Jessica Wiseman
WORDLY would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri and Wadawurrung people of the Kulin nation, the traditional owners of the land on which this magazine has been produced and edited. We pay our respects to their Elders: past, present, and emerging. © 2021 Deakin University Student Association Inc Reg No. A0040625Y All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
Opinions expressed in this publication belong to their respective authors, and it may not be the opinions of WORDLY or DUSA. Unattributed images sourced from Unsplash and Adobe Creative Cloud Assets. Want to advertise? Contact email@example.com for more information.
CONTENTS Keep Me Warm Tarnya Braumann
A Moonlit Lemon Tree Felicity Shagwell
A Volcanic Mind Ashlea Spierings
Iso Love It’s Cartoon Time
And the World Shall Open Anders Ross
Worship Services Postponed Katie McClintock
Finding the Lost James Barnett
Invasion Jessica Wiseman
Devil Cat Inc. Abbigail Smith
The Point of Paralysis Rowen De Lacy
Goodbye Elisabeth Gail
Scars & Constellations Sarah Bishop
Daydreaming Danielle Davison
Nature’s Gift Melissa Bandara
Hostage Daniel Matters
StarBurst Melissa Bandara
Softly Burning Jason Winn
The Lullaby Emily Bennett
Dear Mr Marlowe Stephanie Turbach
Narcissus Moves On from the Puddle Brianna Bullen Take Everything to Ground Bridget Robertson Multiply Justine Stella
32 34 5
Keep Me Warm – Tarnya Braumann @t.d.bear.designs 6
A VOLCANIC MIND
- ASHLEA SPIERINGS
ords erupt from the volcano, spewing letter after letter, creating a river of black text that flows across the digital page and seems to never end. It twists and turns, producing a current that does not look like its paragraph neighbour, but they work together in harmony to form something unique and breathtaking.
The work of the volcano is beautiful, but also incredibly deadly. It is not something to be taken lightly as it has burnt many who have taken up its challenge before. It is admired by all, but it has the power to vanquish opponents with ashen clouds of writer’s block and depression. It is ruthless, brutal, and destructive. There are many soldiers who lie fallen under the victor that is the brewing mind; words that were cut down out of necessity, and those that were killed out of spite. Many of these alphabet warriors sit forgotten on desktops, or locked away in musty drawers, waiting until the bubbling brain boils over and brings them back to life.
But what happens if there is not another eruption? What if it lies dormant for years, building up dust in its crevices and questioning whether it is worth the effort of creating something if no one is around to watch it? What happens when, rather than the tell-tale sign of smoke emitting from its crater, it keeps to itself and never shows a hint of activity again? People will wait many years for the magma hidden underground to surface. Anticipation brews as they wonder what beauty and destruction its display will bring. Everyone watches as the pressure intensifies, building and building, until the awaited day it explodes.
There is no telling when a volcano will go extinct. Sometimes there are signs, like its inactivity after an eruption. Stretching out over longer periods of time. Other times it will produce hit after hit before suddenly stopping one day, never to create again.
Even after so many years, people will continue to speculate; what could have caused the volcano to die out? Was it under too much pressure - or maybe not enough? Did it know its final eruption would be its last? Or maybe one day, rather than thousands of tiny dotted words filling the bleak white screen, all that remained were two. The End.
A MOONLIT LEMON TREE - FELICITY SHAGWELL
can’t help but admire the lemon tree from this angle, how it sits so serenely and just off center. The yellow and green burst from its branches and turn silver under the moonlight. A warm breeze shakes the leaves and the night seems to wrap itself around the entire backyard. This is where I squat drowsily and pee underneath the lemon tree every night. I wander from the basement into the yard to take advantage of the stillness and forgotten beauty that exists only after midnight.
Morning light cuts through the faded curtains hanging across the far window of our basement. I can’t ignore the sounds upstairs; kettles whistling, the morning show playing and the shrill laughter of my Mother—dressed as if from the cover of a 1950’s good housekeeping magazine. She putters around the kitchen, her lipstick matching the sliced Roma tomatoes that drip from her breakfast plate. I shift over, planting my feet on the carpet as the clicking of heels descend the cement steps. ‘Are you awake?’ Mum whispers, smiling at the door. ‘Morning,’ I croak.
‘Oh good! I have to head out, but could you please tidy and set the dining room for tonight?’ ‘Mum, I really am busy today.’
‘Sweetie. I will be cooking all afternoon.’ ‘You know I hate these kinds of things.’
‘What, family dinners?’ Mum stares disapprovingly. ‘Now up! It’s already late!’ She snaps, before briskly picking a dirty mug from the bedside table and making for the kitchen.
The door stays open and blue sky fills a corner of the frame. I consider the untidy floor and unmade bed and listen to the television upstairs switch off with a static buzz. My Mother’s footsteps make their way to the door, then silence follows once the lock clicks shut.
It’s the afternoon when hot air chokes me awake. Heat is rising from the cement steps and my toes burn as I quickly hop across them. I lock eyes with a portrait of Jesus hanging above the dining room table. He stares serenely at the broom propped against the wall near his feet. Picture frames hang the faces of accomplished children and family members huddled close. Graduation caps flying in the air and engagement parties. There wasn’t a single photo of a girl in the basement. No twenty-something broadly smiling, throwing her Centrelink letters towards the sky. I rush to set the table with mum’s favourite orange floral cloth, matching cups and plates. Gears shift and rumble on the curb outside and my Mother’s heels click on cobblestones as she approaches the door. ‘Ruby, darling. Can you help me with the shopping?’ ‘Yep, coming.’
“Great, I’m just running out of time. You know schnitzel is your brother’s favourite.’ ‘Sure.’
‘I can’t believe it’s been so long since you’ve seen him dear, you haven’t even met Jerry’s partner! She’s a solicitor you know.’ ‘You’ve told everyone Mum. I’ll be up for dinner.’
‘Sweetie, make yourself known when they arrive. You’re an adult you know.’
Sitting outside motionless and injured, I stare at the suburban roofs uniformly set in each direction. Mum is in the backyard filling her apron with lemons, while great breasts of crumbed chicken wait to be submerged into a boiling pot of oil. There’s a jostling upstairs as the door opens to a crescendo of high-pitched welcomes.
Jerry is seated and pressed against his fiancé Kate, both serene and dressed in plain crisp colours. Kate sips something bright and translucent, her left finger shimmering in the light alongside the liquid. I look down at the large platter of schnitzel on the table, golden brown with fat dripping at its edges. The lemons are cut open; their exceptionally round bodies bursting out a ripe and vibrant flesh. Mum quickly unties her apron before flashing a proud smile and taking a seat.
Kate dutifully answers each question. Wedding plans, salaries, four weeks of holiday, IVF, private health insurance and second mortgages. The food moves between knives and forks with salt and pepper falling like burning cane. lemon wedges soon turning to pulp under everyone’s greedy fingers.
‘Busy, but I’m glad to finally make time to come and visit.’
‘Must be a good season this year?’ Jerry suggests.
‘So Kate, how have you been? Busy I’m sure!’ Mum begins.
‘It means the world. Finally, this is Ruby. Kate has been dying for you two to meet. ‘It’s nice to finally meet you—uhm wher,’ I start to say.
‘Jerry dear! You haven’t even told me how work has been, or plans for the wedding, he never answers my calls you know Kate?’ Mum rushes the words and turns towards Jerry making a pretend frowny face. ‘Ha! Mum you get more phone time than some of my clients’ Jerry begins, ‘Ruby what were you saying?’
‘Oh, talking to your Mother isn’t a job’, Mum laughs, ‘Kate don’t you think?’ ‘It would never be for Jerry— Now Ruby, Jerry tells me you were living in Melbourne?’ Kate says, turning to me. ‘Mum tells me, everyone actually, that you’re a solicitor.’ I glance towards mum with a large smile.
‘Ruby is staying here for a while,’ Mum interjects before clearing her throat. ‘Three months so far,’
‘Yes, your brother and I met at university studying law,’ Kate politely continues. ‘What brings you home?’
‘I was working at a crumb factory,’ I reply somberly, ‘Someone left a window open by accident and pigeons got in. I lost my job and the owner was ruined, I still think I can hear them sometimes, flapping in the night.’
‘This is fabulous, and these lemons are so juicy. Are they from the farmers market?’ Kate smiles. ‘No, actually grown in our own backyard’ Mum gloats.
‘I was just thinking that.’ Mum, Jerry and Kate smile across to one another, as the last pieces of lemon are being squirted on to each plate. ‘No, it’s not the season.’ I chime in suddenly. ‘What dear?’ Mum asks drearily.
‘The lemons here are so sweet because I’ve been peeing on them every night.’ ‘Ruby it’s not funny,’ Jerry says with a heedful glare.
‘I’m not being funny. I pee on the tree outside because the upstairs bathroom is too far.’ ‘Wait, you pee outside in the dark every night?’ Kate asks and stares in disbelief. ‘Yeah I’m pretty sure urine is like a fertilliser for lemon trees,’ I continue matter-of-factly.
‘What is wrong with you?’ Mum wails. Disgust moves like a wave across the table as Kate and Jerry push backwards, their necks bulging and stomachs audible. Hands now grabbing at their abdomen as they move towards the bathroom. ‘How long have you been carrying on in the backyard like that?’ Mum growls, the red sunset glowing behind her as she rises from the table. ‘A while Mum, three months I would say.’
‘For God’s sake Ruby, why are you being like this?!’ Mum shouts, erupting from her seat. ‘Just because you’re jobless and boyfriendless doesn’t mean you can take it out on everyone!’
‘It doesn’t annoy me, it annoys you,’ I whisper, down to the ceramic flowers on my plate. ‘Enough you two, the food is going cold,’ Jerry says, and begins distributing large portions of salad, bread, and schnitzel.
deak i n uni versi ty stude n t asso cia tio n r u n by st u d ents for students
@yourdusa | dusa.org.au 10
Iso Love – It’s Cartoon Time @ictcartoons
AND THE WORLD SHALL OPEN - ANDERS ROSS Author’s note:
he Book of Daniel, moreover chapter nine, speaks of the sin of Israel; that is, the belief that no person is blameless under the light of day, for each of us has transgressed. And the passage below to which this poem follows, speaks of transgression—indeed sins—that any conscript or volunteer soldier, or perhaps sympathetic civilian, whatever their calling, ultimately commits in wartime. But war makes only one end of sins. In ‘post-war’ life, as in death, there is a toll. Yet, as these men in the poem have learnt, theirs is part of the Rapture. After Daniel 9:24
‘. . .To finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins. . .’ The long-buried sin, Lieth abed, beside Spring’s faded flowers; ‘tis Corrupted beauty, what once flourished here, Trampled now ‘neath weary boots. Young men with bones of old, Shouldered rifles, shrugged on coats, A match for a blind soldier, friend? Dragon’s breath for the cold? Peace be to their ashes, Afore a soulless death in brackish water, For the erstwhile world takes them up, Cleans their wounds of red; That they shall live as War erupts, Shall add some gold to their halo’d heads.
Worship Services Postponed – Katie McClintock @katiemcclintockimages
FINDING T - JAMES BARNETT
he tyres of the Toyota Camry rental crackled as Will drove down an unsealed road in the middle of nowhere. Road was a bit of a generous descriptor; it was more a kangaroo track through some bush. Will stopped the car to check the map again. Dust poured in through the windows that were open just a crack and tickled the back of his throat. He ignored it and unfolded the map. The screech of the galahs echoed as the wind whistled through the trees. He traced his finger down the road he had marked and checked the odometer. He had travelled ten kays so far down this path. The man at the farm supplies store had told him to go fifteen. Sliding the gear stick back into drive he set off again, the wheels kicked up more dust, the galahs squawked in defiance. It had been twenty years since Will’s dad walked out on their family. Twenty long years since the last time he had sat on his knee, smelled his sour breath, heard his raucous laughter and screams at the telly while the footy was on. The clinking of bottles had disappeared from their house for good. After that with a loud crash in the yellow topped bin, some bottles full and some empty. After that Will had asked his mum, ‘Where did Dad go?’ and ‘why are you throwing out his juice?’. Her face had pulled into a form he had never seen before. So full of hatred. It scared him. ‘Your dad’s walked out on us, the coward,’ she had said.
Now, twenty years later, Will was driving down a dirt track in Gippsland, armed with the knowledge of a hermit that lived out here in the middle of nowhere and had so for the longest time. Will was trying to track his father down. His mum had died two years ago. Her liver had failed after her body had gone septic from complications of pneumonia. She had been prone to it because of the HIV that his dad had given her.
His dad was a philanderer and a junkie. A single moment that lasted no more than a few seconds, a glint of a shared needle and a moment of euphoria, had changed the course of their family’s future forever. She hadn’t told Will how she had gotten it until she was on her deathbed. Said she didn’t want to “tarnish the memory of your dad for you”. So instead, she let his imagination wonder at the possibilities of the bad and selfish acts she did to get sick. It broke his heart when he found out it was his dad’s fault. All those years he had blamed his mum for Dad taking off. Through tears he would constantly ask for her forgiveness. Amongst the whirs and beeps of the machines around them—amongst the smell of urine, body odour, and death— she told him there was nothing for her to forgive. She had handed him a sealed envelope that had his dad’s name, Joe, written in her small and neat cursive on the front. She made him promise to find his dad and give him that letter. She had made him promise to ensure that his dad understood that she forgave him for everything. It made Will angry, but he held back that white-hot rage and agreed to the promise. After all, it was her dying wish—she died that afternoon at 3:14 pm. Will looked over to the passenger seat of the Camry and spied the now extremely creased letter. One night, in a drunken stupor about six months ago, he had scrunched up the letter and thrown it into the bin in his office. He had decided that there was no way in hell that he was going to give her forgiveness to his dad. He didn’t deserve it.
The next day, the letter was flattened out and sitting on his desk, creased but still intact. His wife, Mandy, knew what it was and had fished it out of the bin. She was such an angel; she didn’t even give him hell for being that drunk. It was then he decided to never drink again. After all, he didn’t want to be a drunk like his dad. When he stood behind the desk looking at the now flattened letter, Mandy had come in and rubbed a hand down the side of his face; a tear of understanding fell down her cheek. He made a promise to himself after that. A promise to find his dad and fulfill his mum’s dying wishes. He had already delayed it a year and a half because of his selfishness and anger.
THE LOST So now six months later, after chasing the path of destruction his dad left in his wake, he was brought here, to a kangaroo track, hoping to hell this suburban car would survive the trek through the bush. The path opened up to a clearing and in the centre sat a small, corrugated iron shanty with a lean-to on the side. He stopped the car, put it in park and turned off the engine. He looked back over at the letter. After a moment, he punched the steering wheel and gave out a cry. He lowered his head and put his hands over his temples, taking deep breaths to slow his heart rate.
A flywire door banged and drew his eyes back to the shanty. An old man with a beard had wandered out, one hand above his eyes to block the afternoon sun. He walked over towards the car and Will didn’t recognise him until he saw the man’s eyes. They were definitely his dad’s eyes. Will got out of the car, the letter in one hand, his keys in the other. They stood six feet away from each other. Will’s anger rose and his stomach turned at the thought of talking to this monster of a human being. He thought about wrapping his hands around the man’s neck and choking the life out of him. He looked beside the car and noticed a tree stump with an axe in it, firewood all around. He imagined taking that axe and burying it deep in the monster’s chest. He clenched his hand with the key in it and it dug into his skin.
‘Son?’ his dad asked, the voice weak and hopeful.
The darkness inside him continued to grow and he felt as though he might erupt. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. A hint of lavender, masked by the smell of the bush, entered his nostrils and he thought of his mum’s sweet face. He opened his eyes. ‘Will, I’m so happy to see you,’ his dad said, a gentle smile touching his lips.
Will glanced at his watch—it read 3:14 pm. He shook his head and pushed the rage back down within himself, if only to honour his mum’s dying wish. He lifted his arm with the letter and held it out. ‘From Mum.’
THE POINT OF PARALYSIS - ROWEN DE LACY
He speaks the past into existence— each minute hour year era formed by his words ancient creatures drip from his lips as life devolves—titans giving way to scuttling arthropods—primordial oceans submerge our bodies until the very earth unmakes itself ripping apart beneath us we are stranded in this vacuum of newly made space as the universe pulls together closer, closer, closer— until he falls silent AND all of history unfolds in an instant leaving us once more hand in hand, gazing at long dead stars.
Invasion – Jessica Wiseman @jessicawisemanphotography 17
GOOD - ELISABETH GAIL
t was early and the sun had only just started to peek over the horizon. The road was patterned with streaks of light slipping between buildings. Everything was quiet. Kit slowly pressed her foot against the accelerator, letting her car inch forward. It was safest to take things slow these days, even in the daylight.
‘You ready?’ she said to the still figure beside her. She watched his face waiting for a response. He stared back, head cocked against his shoulder, then let out a thin breath. Kit turned her eyes back to the road. ‘Yeah, me neither. But … it’s time.’ She slid her hand down from the wheel and held his. It was cold and rough, just like the morning. The two sat in silence as the car continued slowly along the barren road. Kit watched their surroundings, her eyes darting at every movement and shadow, every concrete corner and floating speck of debris. Everything was quiet, aside from the creak of the car against the loose bitumen. The stagnancy felt unnatural, artificial. It seemed like only days ago this town was filled with wailing thrashing bodies. And now it appeared peaceful. It felt wrong for anything to be peaceful, especially now. Soon they arrived at the edge of town, a tall chain-link fence separating them from the vast forest that lay beyond its borders. On the other side dark piles of garbage had been heaped against the fence. Those closest to the gate were the largest—people had gotten lazy. They held a seamless black form, unevenly lumped and dry, like some sort of dead fungus. A gust of wind passed through the fence sending charcoal flecks floating from the black masses. Kit turned off the engine and reached behind her seat for something. Her companion followed her movements with his eyes as she rummaged through a duffle bag and pulled out an old metal fire poker. Its handle was patched with rust but the tip glinted in the sun, filed down to a point.
‘I’ll be right back,’ she said, leaving him there in the car. He tried to tilt his head to watch as she moved towards the gate, but it barely budged. His brow furrowed in agitation. Nothing seemed to move below his cheekbones. He tried to groan, to call out somehow, but that seemed useless too. Inaudible puffs of air left his nose as he watched her walk away.
Kit approached the gate and began jabbing at the closest pile through the fence. It felt soft at first, then something hard stopped her. She pulled back and watched. Nothing. She jabbed at it again from a new angle. Still there was nothing. She continued in the same manner with each heaping stack that pressed against the fence, a putrid smell emerging as she prodded. She couldn’t be too careful. These had become hiding places for the creatures that lurked beyond the border, the creatures that destroyed this town. She couldn’t reach the piles that lay further out, but they were mostly too small to conceal anything.
She returned to the car and opened the passenger door. ‘It seems safe,’ she said as she began unbuckling him. Grabbing his waist, she heaved his body towards her until his head flopped gently over her shoulder. ‘It’s all right,’ she whispered as she began to drag him out of the car. Once his body was clear of the seat his weight pulled her down. He thumped against the ground and she fell onto him. Kit began to pull away but stopped, her face centimetres from his. She hadn’t been this close to him in a long time. He barely resembled the man she used to know. Even his eyes, though untouched by the incident had changed somehow. Their hue seemed paler and more distorted—he was changing.
DBYE She let her hand gently move down his face, from his soft cheeks down to the brittle burnt line surrounding his mouth—or where his mouth should have been. There lay a gaping hole between his nose and his collarbone, reaching down almost to the back of his neck. The flesh that lined it was mostly cracked and dry, though she could see some moisture at the back of his throat, a thick browning substance slowly dripping down along the bumps of his burnt spine.
He jolted his head forward beside hers as though to whisper something. Kit could feel heat radiating from his head, pressing against her cheek. She quickly pulled herself away. His movement was returning but it was more jagged than before. His hands lay against the gravel, fingers gnawed into twisted uneven lumps that slowly twitched. She kept her eyes on him as she moved back to the car. In a moment Kit returned with a rope and a large flask. She knelt down and carefully wrapped her arms around him, looping the rope tight against his chest. He wheezed as she worked, sometimes it almost sounded like he was speaking.
‘I think you’re all good,’ Kit said as she stepped back to view her work. The rope held his body in place, securing his arms to his sides. He wriggled against the constraints, scraping his bruised discoloured skin against the rough rope. His flesh tore slightly, another wound added to the scabs that crawled up his forearms.
Kit unbolted the gate and carefully dragged his body through behind her. A waft of sunburnt rot filled her nose. She tried to cough it out of her throat but it stuck, tickling against her uvula almost making her gag. She pulled his body up against one of the black heaps and poured most of her flask over him. She used the rest to drench the end of the rope, which she let follow her back to the gate. She stared at him again, his dull grey eyes looking back at her as his chest huffed against his restraints. He was turning fast, the disease was giving him life, but he was no longer human.
‘I guess this is goodbye Tom ... for real this time.’ Kit pulled a match from her pocket and lit the end of the rope. The fire didn’t hesitate, and in a moment, he was engulfed by the flames. A giant ball of heat erupted and glowed. She could hear him screaming beneath the crackle of the fire, yelping like a wounded animal. He squirmed and wriggled but there was no escape from the burning.
Kit watched until his body lay still. This wasn’t the first time she had seen him die, but it was harder knowing it was the last.
Devil Cat Inc. – Abbigail Smith @wintersblossoms
SCARS & CONSTELLATIONS - SARAH BISHOP Supernova My anxiety is a supernova Burning with a vivid intensity So bright that even the moon fears It will outshine her. On the outside I seem fine But they don’t see it Building up inside And one day I might just Explode.
Celestial Bodies My body waxes and wanes Like the phases of the moon And shooting stars caress my skin Leaving their tails in their wake As a reminder that there is A vast universe within my being Which without any constellations Would be nothing but Empty space.
Scars & Constellations My skin is a galaxy Of scars and constellations Of freckles and sunspots And solar flares. I try to see the beauty In my imperfections But space has always Scared me.
THE LULLABY - EMILY BENNETT
y little girl lives with her mother in a house that I built, behind a big metal fence that was made to keep me out. The fence is a new addition; it had appeared there one morning as I walked to work, just one week after I had paid Eileen their cut of my monthly wage, plus some extra to buy my little girl something nice for her birthday. Some mornings as I pass, I can still see my little one in the window, through the metal pillars. She’s often there, watching everything as though wishing to be exploring outdoors, and I long to take her to the park or the zoo or St Kilda beach. Her speckled face is more refined each day, for in three weeks, she’ll start grade two. I don’t linger as I pass, but I smile and sometimes let myself wave, and the smile she returns is the purest, most jolly thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but it’s also oblivious. She doesn’t know who I am. She doesn’t remember me. It’s been four years since Eileen and I separated. Our relationship was never ugly, but it was no great love story. Our real true love was our baby, so I faltered when she told me she wanted to raise our daughter without me. It’s been four years and 301 days. Eileen’s plan is working. ‘That fence is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen,’ my brother said. ‘It makes me want to rip my eyes out. She’s even gone and reinforced the bottom with concrete. An excavator would struggle to get under that bloody fence.’ But he was wrong, because it’s midnight now and I am a metre below ground, directly under the fence.
I have my brother to thank for planting the idea in my head, and my knowledge of the house has come in handy too. When we built the place, I made sure to elevate the floors enough to allow space for storage underneath the house. The result was a vast, dusty cavity that nobody ever used, but, if I’d calculated right, I should be able to dig my way into it in a matter of minutes. I’m happy with the progress of my tunnel, considering I’ve now left my shovel behind and am having to dig my way through with a pick. There’s a shudder from somewhere above me as a chunk of earth gives way—a good sign—and I squint tightly and blow the dust from my eyes. It can’t be far now, I think to myself, imagining my little girl sleeping just feet above. I used to sit with her as she fell asleep. When she cried, I’d get the harmonica out and let the captivating lullaby of my one rusty song carry her into her dreams. I’m vaguely aware of a cramp growing in the back of my neck as I shuffle further through the damp, supporting myself on one arm, and digging with the other. But I’m breathing in this rich, earthy air like it’s some sort of life-giving magic. Every gulp fuels me and washes away the sharp feeling in the base of my lungs. It’s serene, crawling through the soil that belongs to my little girl. When I got the diagnosis, I called Eileen. It took seven calls before she answered, and when she did, she said, ‘for God’s sake, make it quick.’ I told her there was cancer in my lungs and I’d be dead in forty days. I told her I’d like to see my little girl, even just for a minute, so that she could know who I was and that I loved her. The phone went quiet and I wondered if Eileen might actually be considering it. Her voice was weaker when it finally returned. ‘It would be too much for her.’ ‘But Eileen…’
‘I’ve made up my mind. It’s better she doesn’t know anything. That way she won’t have to grieve.’
My words couldn’t advance past the lump in my throat, so I just nodded into the phone and went to hang up, but Eileen said quietly, ‘Wait … are you in pain?’
It was a stupid question.
‘Always,’ I said, and put down the phone.
At last the pick breaks through the surface. Exhilarated, I scrape away enough rubble to haul myself through the gap and into the musty cavity beneath the house. Uncurling my shoulders, I trace my fingers along the roof until they find the hinges of the cellar door that opens into the corner of my little girl’s room. The door gives with pressure. My arms are shaking now, and I edge my head up into the warm, lavender-scented room. Her face is obscured, but I can make out the shape of her small frame rising and falling in bed. I close my eyes. It’s the closest I’ve been to her in years and it takes all my strength not to jump out and introduce myself. But no; that’d give her a fright. This would have to be enough. From my belt, I retrieve the harmonica; a new one, packaged and secured with ribbon. On the side of the case, where one would normally find manufacturing information in fine print, I got it engraved in German; my home language, but not Eileen’s. It reads, For my angel, in tiny letters, and then lists my brother’s phone number and address. One day, she may notice it, and find out what it means. She may even call the number. I leave the present, then empty a fine layer of glitter around the opening in the floorboards, as instructed by my sister-inlaw. All little girls like glitter, she’d said, as I wrapped the present at her kitchen table. Eileen’s fear of spiders meant she never dared venture under the house, but my little girl won’t be spooked by a few creepy-crawlies. I take one final glance at my sleeping child, and then slip back down, pulling the door behind me. I withdraw my can of spray paint and wipe the cobwebs from the back wall with my sleeve. There’s one last thing I must do.
I can’t say how long I’m here, but as I start back through the tunnel, rays of early sunlight peering in, my ears are filled with a sound so beautiful that I must stop, lie still on my stomach and just listen. And I’m laughing blissfully at the glorious, discordant string of notes that exalts the air. My little girl is playing the harmonica! She’s found it and she’s playing it, and she’s spectacular at it! And in this perfect moment, with my heart bounding and my head in the dirt, I can be certain that I hear an entire orchestra explode into a rousing concerto. Ha-ha! One day, be it tomorrow, or years from now, when a stray speck of glitter reignites her curiosity, my little girl will open the cellar door and climb down under the house to explore. When she does, she’ll find the far wall covered with memories. She’ll know I love her, and that she has a family that adores her on the other side of the fence.
Daydreaming – Danielle Davison @danielleallyce 24
Dear Mr Marlowe,
- STEPHANIE TURBACH
This is a confession. Vivian did not ‘take me away’. Instead, she wished me luck and paid me to never return. Yes that’s right, I’ve been wiped from the Sternwood family portrait and as soon as Daddy takes his place amongst the orchids, my sister will live out her days alone in the crypt that oil built. I, on the other hand, am free. Life is a nasty business. Daddy’s allowance couldn’t keep me in cigarettes, gettin’ sick of the nudie racket. Owen Taylor was a small-town thug turnin’ leaf when he took on the job as chauffeur. His rap sheet was a mixed bag, a of petty heists and misdemeanours. At first, he was an errant schoolboy but around. He told me he had the contacts and I told him we could be rich.
and I was over a new couple he came
Owen brought the car down the side of the house to the service door. The air was heavy as wet cement and dogs were barkin’ at the moon. We’d stashed the giggle water in the dumbwaiter who hadn’t had his ropes pulled in decades. Ten-inch nails had been driven into his sides to keep it that way. Eddie Mars was acceptin’ delivery at midnight. Owen loaded the crates in the back while I cocked my Banker’s Special and wet my lips. That night was gonna be our biggest drop yet. The next night was my usual with the slimeball called Geiger. He smelled of Chinese noodles and was as limp, but he paid well. He told me the photos were for his elite clientele. I didn’t give a damn. I’m comfortable in my skin and I don’t care who knows it, even if they hide it for when their missus does the shopping. Owen found out about the snaps, maybe saw them on the streets, and suddenly he was there gun pointin’ at Geiger’s head. You know how this part of the story goes, don’t you Mr Marlowe? Or at least you think you do. You see what you don’t know is that I played you—raised you with a royal flush. That night, after you’d delivered me across the Sternwood threshold, I went to meet Owen. I knew he’d be cryin’ like a baby down by the pier. I tried to talk some sense into him, but he was a stiff without a pulse. He told me I had to stop but I don’t take orders. He pulled out a bottle from under the seat and we drank it in silence. The stars took aim in the night sky and the whisky fuelled the flames. It was our last night together and it was good. I gathered my belongings and made my way home. Owen didn’t. With Owen dead I needed a new frontman so Rusty stepped in. He’d gone underground to avoid some old debts but kept in touch. He tried to stay clean after he said ‘I do’ but he was a sucker for the chase, bootlegging was in his blood. We made a good team until the day he met Mona Mars. Rusty told me he loved her and that he wasn’t going back to Vivian. I didn’t care. He said it wouldn’t change our arrangement, but you don’t have to be Einstein to know that messin’ around with the buyer’s wife would have consequences. We went for a drive to the old refinery. I was gonna come clean, tell Rusty I was cuttin’ him loose, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Rusty was a brat screamin’ in the breadline. What is it with men, Mr Marlowe? The next thing I knew he had me by the neck and was wipin’ the smile off my face. I managed to slip my hand in my pocket and felt for the pearl grip. I pointed the barrel into his side and pulled the trigger. I killed a man, a man called Rusty Regan. A no-good cheatin’ worthless man, but a man nonetheless. Do I like pluckin’ the wings off flies, Mr Marlowe? Only when they’re buzzin’ in my ear. Yours truly, Carmen Sternwood
Nature’s Gift – Melissa Bandara @melissa.bandara.design
NARCISSUS MOVES ON FROM THE PUDDLE - BRIANNA BULLEN
You took a career test you never expected would turn up with ‘professional orphan.’ Before she died your mother told you, before she went grocery shopping, ‘you shouldn’t be long.’ You misheard this without the gap between words and took it for Greek prophecy until you found yourself in the mirror. A breath in time counter-wise, struck from the clock in a caress of surfaces. You become a fleshy paper-chain doll, centred on a sliver of reflection—linked together as wolves locked in place, locked in pause. What is the wolf word for movement? Becoming. And togetherness? Being. A lone wolf ceases to be. It becomes buried in snow and starvation, crying as the lonely lunar fool. It’s as grave and reduced as a grasshopper mouse howling in the night, power made small and shrieking over depth and death. You expand in double—lungs lunging, lugging air luggage—then shrink into yourself. Sobs have such a strange texture, salty bubbles curdling in the larynx. You punched the mirror, rendering it red and flesh and cobwebbed, to let yourself escape in shards of many—hoping at least one would seed without ceding, dandelion splitting, into a found family.
BOOKS TO READ
“I recently loved Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. Twelve interconnecting stories, it’s narrated by black female/womxn protagonists, and is a compelling portrait of Britain told from a perspective rarely seen in UK literature. Funny, insightful and thoroughly modern, it is a refreshing picture of Britain today, and will hopefully open doors for more black female storytellers” - Annabel Gibb
“I just finished The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay. It’s a fascinating and written in such a unique way. A virus spreads through the world allowing humans to understand animals. It was very fascinating.” - Sarah K Gill
“The space between! Written by the creators of Shameless podcast. Funny and helpful!” - Enara Tompkins
“Stardust! If you’ve seen the 2007 film, you’re in for a surprise. The conflict with the antagonistic witch, Lamia, at the climax is resolved in a more unconventional manner. In addition, the book’s ending is far more bittersweet than the film’s heartwarming conclusion.” – Michael Pallaris
“How to Appear Normal at Social Events is a fantastically clever little book of left-ofcentre wisdom. The author, Lord Birthday, captures the awkward and introverted struggles of social interactions though the help of cartoons, lists and illustrations. Giving entertaining yet helpful advice on all life’s social problems. A perfect emerging out of iso read! “ – Becky Croy
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HOSTAGE - DANIEL MATTERS
he old Ford Falcon rumbled down the desolate highway, its two occupants staring out as the countryside fell under the veil of dusk. Behind them, reverberating from the car’s boot, came a dull cry for help. Thump. Thump. Thump.
‘Do you think he’s going to die in there?’ said Rodger as he drove, his eyes drawn to the boot’s reflection in the rearview mirror. Even over the arterial throb of the radio the desperate pounding was still audible. ‘Doubt it,’ said Cassandra, sitting in the passenger’s seat, watching the horizon as it melded with the oncoming night. ‘Do you remember that huge crayfish I brought for Christmas? I had it scuttling back there all the way from Melbourne Market to Gisborne and it survived that trip.’ ‘Yeah, but John isn’t a crustacean.’
‘You’re right,’ said Cassandra, amusement rippling through her body. ‘The way he tried to scurry off when we blackbagged him, he has much more in common with a mouse.’ Rodger’s eyebrows rose. ‘You really think that, don’t you?’ Cassandra crossed her arms. ‘You don’t approve?’ ‘I just feel uncomfortable is all.’
‘Well you shouldn’t.’ Cassandra’s voice became sharp as frost. ‘Not after everything else we’ve done.’ Thump. Thump. Thump.
‘We shouldn’t talk about that right now,’ Rodger said in a hushed tone.
Cassandra rolled her eyes and pulled down the sun visor, revealing the mirror embedded in its threaded flesh. ‘That’s a matter of opinion Rodge.’
Rodger opened his mouth to retort, yet as he glanced sideways at his passenger he could not help but stare. As she applied a fresh coat of waxed pomegranate to her lips, Cassandra met Rodger’s gaze. Her smirk was like a sun-touched glacier-perilous and intense. Leaning back into her chair she stretched like a wisp of smoke attempting to escape the atmosphere.
A series of violent honks broke the hypnotic moment, as the car drifted into the oncoming traffic. Rodger’s heart pounded and his fingers strangled the steering wheel like snow-blistered vines. With a sharp turn, he forced the car back into the correct lane. Rodger breathed in the stale air of the Falcon. Heavy shoulders sunk under the weight of each new breath. Thump. Thump. Thump.
‘Are you all right?’ Cassandra said, her own breathing still fast with excitement. ‘We can pull over if you want.’ ‘I’m fine,’ Rodger said, collecting himself.
Cassandra gave him a warm smile, a sign of reassurance. ‘There’s an old rest-stop not too far from here. It’s peaceful and secluded. I always thought it would make an excellent set for a slasher film.’
Chuckling at her own joke, Cassandra stopped short when Rodger didn’t join in. ‘Come on, it’s just off the main road.’ Reaching across the middle console, she ran her fingers over the stubbled curve of Rodger’s jaw, like a painter studying her subject. ‘We could stop for a while and …’ ‘And what Cassie?’ said Rodger pulling away from her.
Cassandra pouted. ‘You’re a grown man Rodge, do I have to spell it out for you?’ ‘No Cassie, not while …’
Thump. Thump. Thump. Rodger’s eyes flicked up to the rear-view mirror. ‘Not while John’s here.’ ‘What does that matter? He can’t hear anything from back there anyway.’ ‘That’s not the point. It’s just wrong.’
‘Morals didn’t seem to stop you the first time.’ ‘That was a mistake.’
‘And what, the next three times were too?’
Cassandra froze, the damage of her words branded across Rodger’s contorted face. An awkward distance grew between the pair. She turned away and cursed under her breath, ‘Damn you John.’ The pair sat distant and silent as twilight fully consumed the sky. The muted hues of the radio were the only light in the car’s interior. Thump. Thump. Thump.
‘How much longer till we’re there?’ Cassandra said as her fingers danced in wordless longing. ‘Just under an hour,’ Rodger said, his gaze unwavering from the road. ‘Why? Can’t stand it in here anymore?’
Cassandra shuffled in her seat. ‘I just want tonight over with.’ ‘Me too. For all our sakes.’
‘Don’t tell me you’re actually worried about him back there.’ ‘Would it be wrong if I was?’
‘Damn right. John has had this coming for years.’
‘I suppose.’ Rodger ran a nervous hand through his hair. ‘Do you think they know about us? The rest of the gang I mean?’ ‘I don’t think so. Why? Have they said anything?’
Rodger shrugged. ‘No, it’s just… It seems awfully suspect that we were the ones picked to collect John.’
‘You’re being paranoid.’ Cassandra looked back into Rodger’s green eyes, somehow more vibrant in the half-light of the radio. Cautiously, as if she was touching cracked glass, she reached out and placed her hand on his chest. ‘If anything, we were chosen because John would never suspect us, not in a million years.’
At her touch Rodger tensed. ‘That’s exactly what I mean. I …’ Cassandra’s lips cut short his words. At first, there was resistance, a shock to the system, but her touch held Rodger firm. Intoxicating, passionate, familiar. He melted into the tender embrace. The scent of warm bodies perforated the space between them. A want, a need, a hunger. THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! Rodger’s eyes widened.
THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!
‘Stop!’ The singular word was all that could escape Rodger’s mouth before Cassandra recaptured his lips. Like a fish caught in a net, he struggled for air, for freedom. But somewhere in the madness of that moment Rodger’s foot found the brake. Tyres screeched in agony, the smell of burnt rubber suffocating the air. A torment that ended in a single grip of tread catching against the road. Both Rodger and Cassandra were flung forward, suspended in the space of time where a camera’s flash exists. All too soon the scene rewound, and they found themselves wrenched back into their seats.
The world paused outside the car as the occupants forced themselves to breathe, to refocus, to realise what had happened. ‘What the hell Rodge?’ said Cassandra, more scared than angry.
Rodger wrapped his arms around his chest. ‘I told you to stop, but you didn’t listen. I told you I didn’t want to do anything while John’s in the boot, and you didn’t listen.’ Cassandra stared at him in bleak disappointment. ‘I can’t believe you’re ruining this. I love you.’
‘What about him?’ Rodger gestured with his head toward the back of the car. ‘What?’
THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! ‘John. Don’t you love him?’
‘Oh come on, we both know there’s no such thing as a happy marriage.’
‘That doesn’t make what we’re doing right.’ Rodger lifted his face, his cheeks streaked with tears. ‘Perhaps we should tell him.’ Cassandra bared her teeth in an unbelieving grimace. ‘Are you serious? Now you’ve grown a damn conscience?’ ‘Maybe. I just don’t know if I can handle this anymore.’
‘Typical.’ A tectonic change overtook Cassandra, pain boiling to spite. ‘I thought you were the only person in your family with any spine, Rodger, any passion. But it turns out you’re as pathetic as your brother.’ Rodger’s voice quaked. ‘Cassandra …’
‘Just start driving. Let’s get John to his stupid surprise party.’
TAKE G N I H T Y R E EV TO GROUND - BRID
Take everything to ground. Take what the liars say, the salted ash, and coat your tongue. Spit burley chunks for they will come for you anyway, so, you best be ready. Don’t hold their hands down gaslit hallways, their rooms are not your rooms and you did not build the house or erect its walls. It is not your home anymore. Tear down the structure bone by bone, every page and jack stud ledger that has kept your time and temper your bearing partitions. For they have been in place far too long.
Don’t for a minute think you have built this house, the flimsy walls, the pithy floors, the pitfalls were not of your making. See through the tiny holes to the subfloor. It is steady and the stumps are good.
StarBurst – Melissa Bandara @melissa.bandara.design
Multiply – Justine Stella @je.stella This photo features the artwork Forest of Resonating Lamps taken at teamLab Borderless in Tokyo. To find out more, please visit: borderless.teamlab.art
SOFTLY BURNING - JASON WINN
I avoid writing as if words were like water Calmly melding into each other within an infinite swill Such a slowness often leads to creative slaughter Barely rippling to the banks at the end of my quill Letters need to scorch out from my fingertips and brain Bursting and then proudly roaring onto the page Neurons fire and add to this ritual seemingly so arcane Let synonyms perish the dry rot of boredom ingrained with age Poised and triumphant every syllable needs to smoulder As if trekking into the wilderness they need to excite Beyond the thick briar and even the Sisyphean boulder Lies pages unmarred by the personifying light Innovation begins to die when the sun is backdropped by marigold The smoke rises and ebbs in small puffs of dulling inspiration Artistic visions are blurred and left alone in the sombre cold The sizzling cry of the departed flame warns of continuing this citation Once the flare subsides my mind once again becomes spent Embers are banished to a forgotten realm I don’t wish to pursue The words now simmered reveal the cause of my constant discontent The fire softly burns inside awaiting in a distant yet solemn hue
THANK YOU Grishtha Arya Melissa Bandara James Barnett Emily Bennett Sarah Bishop Tarnya Braumann Brianna Bullen Becky Croy Danielle Davison Rowen De Lacy Julia Caitlin Fazzari Matthew Galic Sheridan Harris Jessica Hinschen Hannah Mansfield Daniel Matters Katie McClintock Blair Morilly Amin Rajbanshi Elisabeth Roberts Bridget Robertson Anders Ross Felicity Shagwell Loren Sirel Abbigail Smith Ashlea Spierings Justine Stella Samara Tapp It’s Cartoon Time Stephanie Turbach Jessica Wartski Jason Winn Jessica Wiseman