Monthly Archives

January 2016

rsz_1photo
Short story

Stained Glass

Author: Rosie Allen

 

George negotiated the labyrinth of sleeping dogs and anorak clad tourists with typical irritability. Over the years he had become adept at balancing his glass between a thumb and forefinger with his packet of cheese and onion, ensuring that not a drop would spill from his glass. Gliding between tables he procured his usual seat – next to the stained glass window – by snarling at a family of French tourists with such ferocity that they retreated, scurrying to the restaurant in the next room. George’s window was an ancient relic, a reminder of the time the pub had been a convent. Now it was a refuge for the rain soaked, Glastonbury tourists that George despised, eager to pore over their acquisitions of healing crystals and too-pungent incense. He let out a comfortable sigh as he sank into his chair. A quick scan of the pub revealed that none of his colleagues had visited his namesake pub, The George and Dragon, on this Friday lunchtime. He was pleased. A glorious, golden hour of lunchtime was not to be wasted in hearing tedious details of other’s weekends. A ham sandwich with a slick of nose-searing mustard and Bounder, the ironically named and chronically lethargic bar dog sniffing at his feet were all he needed.

The pale afternoon light filtered in, refracting the faded cobalt and scarlet onto George’s skin like a watercolour painting. He loved to bathe in the glow of the window and he had made this seat his favourite for a particular reason. The glass depicted an effigy of the most glorious angel he had ever seen. Statuesque, with a halo of corn-coloured hair, Brigid, as he called her, was a picture of celestial beauty. He had felt drawn to her the first time he had visited the pub and had formed an attachment which only seemed to deepen with the passing of each visit. Brigid was a medieval Barbie – if she were real, not only would her slender and statuesque proportions make it impossible to walk on two legs, but she would be almost ghastly – too monstrously, perfectly beautiful to be real. George had never met a woman in his life that would be able to measure up to Brigid, and so he simply didn’t try. Apart from the odd tourist, no one else ever seemed to want to sit near her. This was perfectly fine by George who guarded her with a loyalty bordering on jealousy.

Finishing his sandwich George drained the last of his, now tepid, pint and looked at his watch. He noticed the bruises which had appeared mysteriously round his wrist at the weekend seemed to have spread, speckling his entire forearm in blue and red blotches. He tentatively pressed his fingers onto the nastiest looking splodge which was the sickly purple-black colour of an overripe plum. There was no pain, but little blue branches of vein which sat under the surface of his skin seemed to stand out more vividly than usual, as if his skin had turned slightly transparent. The chime of bells outside stopped George from meditating on his affliction any further, and he made his way back to the office for the last tedious few hours of Friday afternoon.

George’s weekend passed with no major event, the drudgery of routine marking only how especially unremarkable the rest of his life was. He visited the pub one more time on the Saturday evening, after his Fly-Tyers guild meeting, where he discussed with his acquaintances the relative merits of using pheasant feathers instead of hare fur. He had sat next to Brigid as usual and noticed, once again that the bruising had spread, this time making a rapacious journey past his elbow. The veins, now red and green, stood out as markedly as motorways on a road map. He would go to the doctors on Monday. And while he was at it he’d get his hearing checked. It had been getting worse very recently having been no cause for concern before. Probably the youngsters in the office having the radio on too loud…. George’s thoughts were interrupted by a friendly, if incredibly shrill voice: ‘And here’s George, I haven’t seen you for a while’. He was enveloped in a warm, patchouli smelling embrace. He felt immediately irritated. It was Helen, the treasurer for the guild. Everybody seemed to like her but George, for whom she ironically seemed to show a preferential fondness. God knew he never encouraged it. She was attractive enough for a woman her age, but her vivacity and spirit frightened him. He had never liked loud women.

Helen worked her way through round the group with ‘hellos’, every toothy grin mirrored by the faces she encountered. As she hovered next to Brigid the difference became ever more marked. Helen with her plump, lined and inanely grinning face was the opposite of Brigid, in her elegant and cool composition. Brigid was to her as an exquisite lily to a homely pansy. George made his excuses to drink up and go home.

The next day George reflected sombrely on what the Doctor had said that morning. Probably a dietary issue. Maybe anaemia, get more iron. Take some exercise, a healthier diet. But they’d run some tests anyway, just to be sure. His condition had rapidly got worse over the past few days. His sense of taste had dulled, turning everything he put in his mouth to tasteless mush. Only his vision seemed to have sharpened, with bright colours brought sharply and painfully into focus, a fact he hadn’t mentioned to his Doctor for fear of having to undergo more tests. He had hated needles since he was a boy.

He had been signed off work, but George would take himself to the pub at lunchtime for a medicinal Guinness – he remembered the grinning toucan from the adverts extolling the health-giving iron it contained. Maybe the next day he would go for that run – the doctor had told him exercise would be good to strengthen his bones. George ordered his drink and made his way towards Brigid, raising his eyes to hers only to be met with an agonising pain. The colours on the glass had intensified so brightly that they bored into George’s eyes like lasers. He dropped his glass, falling painfully to the floor, his hands covering his eyes. He remembered a crowd of faces surrounding him and nothing else.

George awoke the next day, having slept all through the last afternoon and night, feeling a different man. He felt more energetic than he had in years. In fact, he felt more energetic than he had ever felt in his life. He was surprised to find a scribbled note on his kitchen table informed him that he’d been taken home and a doctor called round, who recommended nothing but rest until his test results had come back. George went to the bathroom and looked himself over in the mirror. The coloured blotching had spread to cover every inch of his body, hardened into scales like a tiled church roof. The translucence of the colours allowed the pulsing veins and blood to be seen and a look in his wardrobe mirror showed a beating heart, kidneys and lungs all functioning lucidly under his now glass-like skin. Strangest of all, he seemed to have grown younger. His profile now matched the photograph he had on his mantle as a 25 year old. Wrinkles were ironed flat, a sagging jaw now firm. He was beautiful.

George pulled on his trench coat, tying the belt while sprinting out of the door.  As he ran up the high street past vegan cafes and crystal shops, everybody stared at this beautiful, translucent creature in a camel trench coat. On he sprinted, towards the tor where he was being compelled, as if a rope was tied from his heart to the relic, and was being pulled onwards.

Air rushed into his lungs, he could feel the blood pumping, bright and alive round his arteries; he felt euphoric, invincible. At last the tor came into site, and he sprinted ever faster towards it, ascending the hill with the exuberance of a boy of eight instead of a man pf 65. ‘Look mummy’ he heard a little voice say as he sped by ‘that man has wings’.

And he did.

George stretched them, tearing the coat from his body, these alien vessels patterned in stained glass, and took off from the ground. He could fly. Boring George the IT administrator was running like an athlete and he could also fly! Below the Somerset levels formed a patchwork, the spire of Wells cathedral like a galleon in the emerald sea of fields that surrounded it. Directly below him stood the tor, his Jerusalem. And on top of the tower, the realisation of his greatest dream – Brigid. She was as radiant as he imagined, more so. Her corn coloured hair lustrous in the sun, those eyes the same colour as the sapphire glass from which they had created. She had come for him. George had always known in his heart that she would. He circled the Tor for a few moments, savouring his happiness, before landing. She smiled and moved towards him, her arms and wings outstretched in an embrace. George pulled her nearer. She was cold. Chillingly so, and the blood in his veins seemed to turn to ice at her touch. And her smell wasn’t the scent of spring flowers as he’d imagined. She smelled of decay. She smiled at him. In the moment she snapped George’s neck into shards of glass and hurled him over the side of the Tor to shatter onto the ground, she looked more beautiful than she ever had.

The girl sat next to the stained glass window in the George and Dragon and waited for her friends to arrive. The light refracted the grey, brown and green onto her skin. Unusually dull colours, the girl had thought, for a stained glass window. The man in the window stared out sadly, a longing look in his cold grey eyes. The girl shivered, pulled her coat closer and moved away to another table. She never liked sitting next to the window with the sad old man in it.

crab and fish
Murderous, Short story

The Crab, the small fish, and World domination

Author: Mark Smith

A crab and a small fish found themselves imprisoned in a bucket of tepid sea water, balanced precariously on a rock which jutted over a pool. The water teemed with sea creatures ready to be captured by sunblock-smeared children, and unceremoniously dumped in brightly coloured plastic castles.

The small fish was ill-tempered.

The crab not so.

“Did you hear what that boy said?” asked the crab.

“No.” snapped the fish

The crab, seemingly unaware of the hostile water he now occupied, continued.

“The boy asked his father if the sea smells of crabs, or if crabs smell of the sea?”

A pause. A moment. Not long.

“What did the father say?” asked the fish, curiosity getting the better of his increasingly bad mood.

Sensing that he now had a literally captive audience, the crab took his time to respond. An upturned rowing boat was half blocking the bucket from the mid-afternoon sunlight, so he scuttled into the shade. The boats hull was splintered, casting a jagged shadow across the pristine white sand. A little girl traced the shadows edge with meticulous pigeon steps, with each one an adventure unfolding in her mind.

“He said crabs smell of the sea” said the crab, staring at the little girl through the clear plastic bucket. “And his dad laughed at him.’’

The fish followed the crab’s line of vision until all four beady black eyes were placed on the girl, playing in a World of her own. At home in Harlow her hair was the colour of coca cola. But here, the light imbued each hair with colour so that it shone like liquid sunshine. In summer, she was the girl with a flaming head of shimmering auburn.

The crab began to speak, but paused. A Long pause. Perhaps just 30 seconds for us, but for a crab and a small fish a tide or more.

“He’s wrong, of course” said the crab, eventually

“What do you mean, he’s WRONG?!” spat the fish

“The sea smells of crabs”

“You crabs really are stupid aren’t you?!”

“Maybe. Maybe not. But here we both are.”

The fish looked around the bucket, hoping there was a secret passage he hadn’t noticed leading back to the sanctuary of the pool.

There wasn’t.

“The sea does not smell of crabs, my poor deluded fellow” scoffed the fish, tiny bubbles rising, but too tiny to even penetrate the surface “the sea…..smells…..of….the….sea”

“That’s what they want you to think”

“WHO?!?!?!”

A magnum wrapper landed on the surface of the water, before five chubby little digits plunged in and grabbed it. The crab looked into the fish’s eyes.

“Of course” said the fish, sarcastically “The humans”

“Not much of a stretch is it?” replied the crab.

“The humans don’t determine what things smell like”

“But they do determine what we THINK they smell like”

“Ridiculous” Said the fish, his back now to the crab and staring out at the Atlantic, which seemed to be staging a rescue operation with every desperate wave clawing at the beach.  He wondered if his mother would be worried that he was late home.

“Maybe I don’t want to live in their castles anymore” said the crab, following the myriad of scratches on the inside of the bucket with his claw, running along each groove until he came to a dead end, then picking up another groove.

“Well, that we can agree on”

“Maybe……maybe this…..this could change things”

“This?” questioned the fish

“The sea. Smelling of crabs”

“Right” the fish sighed. “That.”

The crab’s sunny disposition had now darkened. He looked at his claws, slowly opening and closing them. “The sea smells of crabs” he said, pensively

“Ok. The sea smells of crabs. Sharks smell of crabs. Limpets smell of crabs. FISH smell of crabs. SO WHAT?! WHAT DOES IT CHANGE?! I’m stuck in a bucket, you’re stuck in a bucket, and that mass of water over there positively reeks of crabs!! It doesn’t change a thing!!”

In a flash the crab had the fish by its tail, panic spread across the fish’s eyes as he desperately tried to set himself free, a slick of blood trickled up to the surface where bubbles full of silent screams were popping.

The crab pulled the fish close to his jet black eyes. “Do you know how many crabs there are in the sea, little fish?” Said the crab, calmly, as the fish thrashed about in his grasp.

“To tell you the truth, I’m not too sure myself. But there are a lot. The sea bed is littered with my brethren’s, scavenging, fighting, clawing their way through a meaningless existence. We eat each other, little fish, we eat our own kind. But this information could change everything, this information could unite the biggest army in the World. We will pull their ships down to the oceans floor, we’ll drag them kicking and screaming from the land and lock them in OUR castles”

“YOU SOUND LIKE THEM!!”Screamed the fish, still desperately trying to wriggle free

Just then, a bright green fishing net was thrust into the bucket, scooping the fish out of the crabs clutches, and depositing him back into the pool.

Unfortunately for the crab it wouldn’t be so straightforward.

This small boy was fascinated and disgusted in equal measures by the mechanics of how crabs walked.  He had always loved watching them scuttling like a drunken old man across the sand. The boy tipped the crab onto the sand, to watch his homeward journey back to the sea. He liked imagining, as the crab made tiny imprints in the wet sand, that millions of crabs over millions of years had similarly left their mark on the beaches.

Back in the pool, the most curious of things happened; the fish slapped with morse code precision onto the surface of the water with his tail. From the crevices in the rocks beady eyes looked on, with grave realisation of what was unfolding.

The little girl, who had been imagining fantastical stories shrieked as the crab scurried across her little world, throwing askance the tiny lands and inhabitants she had created. Shortly afterwards a seagull flew overhead, blurring the shadow of the boat’s hull to her immense annoyance.

The seagull honed in on the crab, coordinates already locked in, and in a few seconds had expertly landed beside the crab.

It was pointless for him to run.

“The fish?” the crab asked the bird, staring at the water’s edge which was tantalisingly close. He already knew the answer.

“In the back or through the head?” replied the seagull with no regard to the crab’s question and with the world-weariness of a creature that had performed this routine many times before.

“The back please” sighed the crab, in gloomy resignation.

It was over quickly; the seagull plunged its spear-like beak through the crab’s back, sandy water spilling out his body onto the sand. The gull violently shook the limp body from side to side, before eating its fill and flying off, leaving the tide to wash away the remains.

As the first plop of the tiny crustacean’s corpse hit the water, a dozen of his kind were waiting to feast. They finished what was left of the crab with brutal efficiency.

As waves engulfed the rockpool, the little fish swam as fast as he could all the way back home; and what exciting news he had!

His family gathered at his arrival, and his wide-eyed expression told them that he had an exciting announcement to share.

“THE SEA” shouted the fish triumphantly “IT SMELLS OF FISH!!”

Landscape lantern
Murderous, Short story

The Lanterns of Pendoone

Author: Emily Weeks

Brandy burned brightly in so many bellies, a talisman against the chill of the onshore wind. The darkness made senses flare, compensating for robbing them of their sight. Thick with brine, the wind blew directly inland, promising much. The waves flung themselves onto the shore and were sucked back only to crash towards it again like crazed, foaming demons. Lumps of green water were hurled into the air and broke with loud booms on the edge of ancient rocks. Those stalwart sentinels of the cove goaded the water, tempting it ever onwards only to meet its ruin again and again.

Lanterns were lit from pitch torches and passed from hand to hand, carried spidering out along every path, animal track and rock large enough to bear the weight of a man, woman or child. Those who braved the outcrops could taste salt in the seaspray and were urged onwards, clambering over unsafe footings where even coastal plants lingered unwillingly.

If any sailors had been looking towards the shore from a ship far out in the coastal waters, so many lights together, strung from top to foot and round to the east, would have looked like the safe harbour of Trebarron. If any sailors had been looking towards the shore, straining their eyes, they would have seen the town’s many beacons which burned on stormy nights to guide ailing ships safely into harbour. The town itself was spread over the cliffs from top to bottom, as though it had spilled over the edge and had somehow clung on and managed to take root, however precariously. Trebarron was the only deep water port east of Lye, which would take fishing craft but never the deep water draught of a schooner or clipper. The tidal race further along the coast could prove fatal to a ship in too great a hurry to make port. There was nothing between the two harbours except Pendoone which was little more than a shanty town. Poor, dirty and hungry, the people of Pendoone etched their existence from the rocks of the cove and stared with hungry eyes at the ships which in fair weather sailed past on their way to unload their cargoes in the prosperous harbour town of Trebarron.

Slowly, pace by pace, the lights spread along and up the cove’s ancient crags. Lanterns were taken along cliff paths, along the narrow ways trodden only by the beasts which made the rocks their home. Some were metal, some were carved from mangolds or turnips. Tallow candles, rolled by women into greasy, tiny beacons, burned with a fatty, animal smell. They strained their eyes in the darkness, blinded by the immediacy of the lights they carried, eyes fixed firmly out to sea. Outside the orange glow there was only darkness and the vastness of the Atlantic.

If those sailors knew that particular stretch of coastline well, perhaps they would remain hove to out in the open sea… but a port with welcoming lights was far more tempting. If those sailors were not desperate and did not see what they wished to see instead of what their charts and navigational skills told them, they would know that Trebarron was surely another mile or two further along the coast. After Lye there wasn’t another safe harbour until Trebarron. There was only Pendoone.

To the eyes of those sailors in peril, the lanterns of Pendoone promised safe harbour. Desperation forced the deception and the people of Pendoone would not be sorry for it. Not even when the maw of a clipper’s bow would wail horrendously as its beams were torn against the rocks. Not even when the dead washed up on the shore. Once a course had been altered, nothing would stop the hidden rocks that lay far out in the deep water from splintering the hull of a great ship. Before the sails were loosed to ease the ship into the shelter of the cove, she would founder.

Behind the lanterns, they put their trust in the strength of the sea and they waited.

 

rsz_img_2610
Poem

Back Track

Author: Jason Haggerty

I’m on a train

Going backwards

I could swap seats

And go forwards

But then I wouldn’t be able to see

What’s being left behind

Stevie G
Comedy, Short story

My Cock blocking cat

Author: Hannah Smith

“Erm, I’m sorry, but I have a cat on my hand.”

Not a particularly disturbing sentence but when it’s said by the man you’ve just started having sex with for the first time, and you turn your head to find your black cat on their hand next to your head, well, it is a little disconcerting. Laughing, we encouraged her off the bed and then, eventually, out of the flat. It’s hard to navigate privacy when you live with a cat in a studio apartment. She started to scratch at the window to be let back in again.

“She’s going to hate me now.” He said, having been the one responsible for ‘letting’ her out of the flat.

I felt so guilty and judge me as much as you like, I do, but…well…it had been a year and well…I’m just a mere bloody human.

Cats know – it’s difficult to know what they know, for obvious reasons, but they know. Those big and mournfully sad eyes hold secrets about the universe even Einstein couldn’t imagine.

They know.

If you’ve ever been watched by a cat for more than a minute, and watched the cat back, you’ll know that the cat is trying to work out how to transfer its knowledge. They know.

And my cat knew.

“This is not just a one off thing.” He said as we woke the next morning, full of promise. As he kissed me the cat jumped through the window and onto the bed. We laughed. “I think my cat is cock blocking me.” I said.

We’d been talking online for a few weeks after we met whilst working on a project together, so we fell quite easily into familiarity with each other. It took me by surprise. I had been so closed off to the idea of meeting someone that when I did and found it so easy to open up to him, I half didn’t trust myself. Perhaps I just want someone, anyone. It felt too good that I may have found someone I really liked so easily, so effortlessly.

“I won’t let you down.” He said as he listened to my fears and doubts one night.

The cat settled herself between us, physically and metaphorically.

“You can’t know that.” I said.

“No you’re right, I can’t, but I know I’m not a cunt.” He said. (Oh don’t be alarmed, that is our pet name for each other.)

He drew me closer with his words; he’s very good at words.

“Stevie is so cute.” He said, as she nipped and clawed at the hand he had pushed onto her stomach, getting close before she was ready. Her tail flicked in discomfort before she put her claws in for real.

Stevie G cat is a cat of few words and those she has she uses very sparingly. She prefers to communicate by action – which, if we’re all honest with ourselves is in fact the only way we communicate. We use words but they fall flat very quick if they aren’t backed up with an action.

In the weeks that followed she would “arrive” through the window as the clothes were falling off, or jump on the bed as the kissing started, or curl up on top of him as soon as he had climbed on top of me. She did everything in her power to get in the way.

She knew.

At night when it was just the two of us she would curl up next to my feet, purring as she nuzzled in, showing me the love I deserve, the quiet, silent kind that is just there.

Words:

“I can’t wait to see your face.”

“I can’t give you the attention you deserve right now.”

“You do so much for me I don’t feel I deserve you.”

Words.

The cat looked at me.

I knew.

“You know.” She said with her wise eyes.

I let the kisses wash over me one last time; I let myself be held, I listened to the hollowness behind the words, I let them fall flat.

I knew.

As I lay down on the sofa after saying goodbye, she climbed up and snuggled next to my heart and she stayed there until it started to beat a little slower and the tears dried on my cheeks.

“Timing is everything.” She said, “And he wasn’t ready.”

“I know.” I said.

 

Bowie final
Article, Comedy, Music

Coke and Cake and David Bowie

Author: Rosie Allen

(N.B: this was written several days before Bowie’s death. I have decided to leave it as it was written. Goodbye David Bowie, the artist that keeps inspiring the Murder and Glut team in immeasurable ways)

  1. What do an overweight 11 year old girl with a bowl haircut that writes mermaid poetry for fun, and a shimmering, androgynous, multi-platinum-selling rock icon have in common?

Not much you’d think. And at first glance you’d be right. As a kid I was very insecure. Painfully shy. ‘Sorry’ was my punctuation, a word I said almost as often as I ate biscuits (clue – a lot). But, as every feel-good British film can attest, inside every lonely, quiet child, is a flamboyant, rainbow unicorn just waiting to burst out in a haze of glitter and eyeliner. But how, dear reader, was this inner mystical beast to be unlocked?

The late 90s was a barren wasteland for any budding alternative girl looking for a role-model. All Saints and the Spice Girls were skinny, fashionable and in no way looked like they loved Heathcliffe as much as I did. Even Blur, a band I worshipped (read: fancied three-quarters of) and the rest of the Brit Pop scene seemed too normal. They were popular, cool and hung out with the glamour-waifs of the Primrose Hill set, who looked like they shoved more coke up their nose than I shovelled the full-fat version down my gob.

It wasn’t until my older sister asked me to nick my brother’s bass so I could learn how to play Ziggy Stardust under her electric guitar solo that things slotted into place. We, the dark haired, female, Family Bargain-basement Hanson could play a real song! She made me a mix-tape (Singles collection, obv) and the more I read about this other-worldly demi-god, the more I was hooked. His music spoke of space and exotic characters called Buddy and Twig and Ziggy.

I’d go to the library, zoned in on the Pop Music section, seeking out pictures of his many phases. The long, flaxen locks of his Hunky Dory phase! The brazen flamboyance of Ziggy Stardust! The Berlin cool of the Thin White Duke! Luckily my 11 year old mind was able to completely block out the fact the record he was currently pushing was that drum and bass one, because NO I’M NOT LISTENING lalala (fingers in ears).

That weekend I went to Stevenage Indoor market and bought Stargazer glitter lipstick with which to daub any available flesh with space glitter. Mum went mental. Mainly because it gave me an eye infection and smelled like Stevenage Indoor Market (next clue: not very nice).

My Bowie obsession continued to grow intense and the obsessiveness spurred me on to learn how to play bass properly, join a band and eat less cake. But without Bowie and his ability to inspire that hidden fabulousness none of this would have happened.

I’m sure I can’t be the only one who dies a little inside every time I see a fashion magazine celebrating Bowie the ‘fashion icon’ or the latest instagram celeb-of-the-moment wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the face of Aladdin Sane. Because I can’t imagine they ever lay on their bed and cried listening to Sweet Thing. Or got funny over that saxaphone bit in Sons of the Silent age. Because ultimately, Bowie speaks to the outsiders. He is one of us, after all.