Monthly Archives

March 2016

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Poem

Overlord ( This is England )

Author: Richard Anthony McFerran

Illustration: Chris Hollis


See the soldiers, washed up on the shore…… soaked in the glory of fearlessness ….. decorated in death

A posthumous pardon from behind a desk … of a life that was meant to be led…

Not bled.
Across these sands,

Where families now love , hold hands….

Now today

Some seem exempt

Of vision, of valour.

Close eyes and heart to pray …. that we shall never know the pain.

Or see lost / last seconds through the eyes of boys, so far far away… from thought.

Yet who’s bodies may still remain.
Who’s faces, are still engrained

In the heart of our country,
our land.

For this?

This Is England.

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Short story, writing competition

His. Him. He. ( Runner up- The Gauntlet )

Author: Matt Kirby

Illustration: Christopher Harrisson

Ah, shit, I forgot all about it, his Rubik’s cube.

I wonder if I could kill him with it. I’ve never seen one looking broken, worn or old. Is it sturdy enough to crash into his head over and over and over again? Maybe. Probably.

I couldn’t figure the thing out, only picked it up so I could fiddle with something to relieve the tension. My first visit to his flat, streams of anxiety pulsing through my veins. He told me I should take it home. How could I refuse him when I’d yet to figure out if he was for keeps?

That was the second present he gave me, the first was the DVD. There were two ladies in the pub, one selling roses for some obscure charity, and the other flogging dodgy copies of films on the cheap. Can’t say I’d spotted him but he bowled over and sat right next to me. He said pub flowers were too tacky for his tastes as he handed me a DVD; The Wedding Singer. He can’t have known that I already loved the film any more than he knows that I now hate it because of him.

It was only three days back that I put everything I could find that had any association to him in a black bin bag. Left it outside a charity shop, one I never normally visit, to be long forgotten. Only the underwear couldn’t be recycled. I felt like burning it out on the balcony in the vague hope that he might be driving past to see the flames but I resigned myself to throwing them in the neighbours’ bin where I would never have to see them again.

That stupid bra didn’t fit anyway. Stupid men always assuming they know the answer to such an easy question to ask. But as he’d gone to the effort of buying it I wore it for him anyway and fucked him like I imagined he had intended the scene to play out.

It took a drunken tip-off from a friend of a friend, the latter deeply concerned and the former an apologetic messenger, for the truth to hit home. It’s not so much that I didn’t want to believe what I’d been told, more that I didn’t want to think I could been a part of his games. I can’t help but wonder how many others went the same way? Maybe there was a woman for every square on this cube, the fifty-three of them, and me, all played the same way.

The purge had to happen. He went first, closely followed by his lies, then his truth, then the multitude of his excuses, and then the bin bag of memories. I forgot about this cube though, hidden away in this draw I rarely ever use. This fucking cube. His fucking cube. What’s the point of them anyway? No use to anyone except maybe, just maybe, for caving-in his skull. Maybe.

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Poem

The Tenant

Author/Illustration: Nesbit & Gibley

 

The students above play Latin Jazz every Tuesday night.
With their partners, they dance on the hardwood floors
And share drinks and cigarettes on the balcony
Where they spout their stories to the city below.

The floor beneath, the television blares gameshow catchphrases
And crowd laughter as the couple, with their faces
Illuminated by the neon blue screen, glug beer and wine
And shake the room with their bellows of laughter.

In between the floors, nestled in an old shoe box
Hidden by a French girl in the 1980’s
Sleeps a tired tenant mouse, who in the same morning
Outran a fox, a cat and Mrs Belinsky’s mallet.

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Short story, writing competition

The Yoga Guru ( Joint winner of The Gauntlet )

Author: Alberto Furlan

Illustration: Christopher Harrisson

This is not what I had in mind when my friends recommended Kinziak the “amazing yoga guru.”

“You just have to try it,” they said, covered in suspicious bruises.

I’m looking up into the thatched roof of a mongolian yurt just off the M25 near Slough, breathing incense, London’s daily offering of smog and what is likely marijuana.

“Let my voice guide you” says Kinziak with the annoying voice ads use when they want to sound like they’re sharing a secret. Like they’re post-coitally telling me where the family treasure is buried in between Agents of Shield on a Sunday night.

“Picture the first thing that comes to mind when you hear me.”

Christ how long is this going to – did that clock just appear out of thin air?

Yep, a clock is hovering above my head. Whatever Kinziak’s burning with the incense, it’s good.

“You’re a natural” says Kinziak like I didn’t just break the laws of physics. “Now, imagine something you want to get rid of. It will bother you no more.”

I nearly sneeze. Hay fever. Mother nature’s special gift. A rose materialises. Am I totally off my face?

“A rose” Kinziak says in a non-chalant tone. He must be higher than me. “Let’s continue. Keep breathing. In… aaaaaaaaahhhhnd out.”

I want to murder – oh look a knife. I should keep this in check.

“Be careful where your emotions take you.”

What if I drowned him? There, a fish.

“Now, imagine something that you love, but hurts you. Something you know you should get rid of.”

He hasn’t even finished his sentence that a bottle of wine appears above my head. I could do with a glass of wine right now. How is this happening?

“Finally, imagine something that you miss, that you’ll never get back. Something you need to let go.”

Before I can think of anything other than calling the guru a tit, my sub-conscious kicks in and I conjure the notes of Bowie’s Starman in my mind.

Obviously this isn’t magic, so David Bowie, who admittedly I will miss on occasion, does not resurrect. However, I have wished for a starman, waiting in the sky, so I get Tim Peake. Tim Peake is now hovering above me in his space suit, and I can see his eyes through the tinted visor. He looks confused.

Kinziak does not.

“To end the ritual, think of something that you have wanted to fix for a long time.”

I’ve never tried very hard, but all those people who say it’s easy can fuck off. I hate the Rubik’s cube.

Tim Peake looks panicked.

“To finish the ritual” Kinziak inhales “this might be painful, but you need to let these things go from your mind. It’s you keeping them up there. Let go.”

“Are you seri-” I begin, turning to face this idiot with the powers of a shit Green Lantern. But then Tim Peake and everything else comes crashing down.

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Short story

Friends?

Author: Jonathan Woolley

Illustration: Christopher Harrisson

 

Do you check yourself regularly? the doctor asked.

Looking around the room awkwardly I said Define regularly.

The doctor sighed and pushed his glasses up his nose. I wondered where that finger had been so far today. This was the last place I wanted to be; sitting on a gurney/bed with a soft cushion knowing what was about to happen.

Well, I mean…how do I examine myself regularly? I have no idea. I thought we came to see you people to examine us. No one ever explained how.

What sort of diet do you have? the doctor sighed. Do you eat red meat?

Yes.

Do you drink alcohol excessively?

I suppose how would you define excessively?

More than 21 units a week.

Then yes.

Have you been constipated recently? Or had diarrhea?

No to both.

Do you eat a lot of fiber or vegetables?

Not really.

Do you have a lot of cheese?

Yes.

This could be the reason you have what I suspect you have.

What about a sedentary lifestyle?

Do you have one?

Not really, no.

I was clutching at straws. I was doing my best to avoid a lubricated finger. No one likes coming to the doctors; especially when it’s with a problem such as this. The receptionist seemed pissy with me because I didn’t tell her why I wanted to see the doctor. If I knew what was wrong then I wouldn’t have to see him would I was my reply. She sent me into a corner like a naughty child. The posters in the waiting room were full of smiling people who were advertising a wealth of recognisable symptoms, viruses, cancers, tumors, heart problems, and sexually transmitted diseases. Even the guy who might have genital warts didn’t seem that bothered with his predicament.

Was there a lot of blood?

Enough to make me worried and come here, I muttered.

And it was bright red?

Yep. Like that fake vampire blood you can buy from joke shops.

You need to become friends with your bowel Mr. Carter.

Friends?

You need to take care of it. You need to make sure you are eating the right foods and not drinking so much alcohol.

I will. Well. Is that it?

No. We still need to check you bowel, just in case there are any fissures or polyps that could have caused this problem.

We. He made it seem like we were a team. We were in this together. It was both of us that had blood and shit mixed in the toilet water and smeared on the toilet paper. It was both of us that looked at the brown and red slushy that was draped around my toilet bowl like a lascivious socialite in a hot tub. We were a team.

You’re going to have to take off your trousers and pants and then lay on your left hand side with your knees tucked towards your chest.

What choice did I have? He’s a professional I thought. This is probably the hundredth arsehole he’s seen today. The doctor turned around as I dropped my trousers and pulled my boxer shorts round my ankles. For some reason I didn’t take off my shoes so my jeans and underwear bunched up round my ankles. I lay on the bed and brought my knees up to my chest, just like I was told. I heard the snap of latex on flesh.

 Now in a second you are going to have a slightly uncomfortable sensation; almost like you have a stool in your bowel ready for ejection.

I wished he hadn’t told me that. I would have much preferred he had just taken me by surprise. I supposed he had to tell me that otherwise it could have technically been rape. Well, finger rape. I thought I should have paid more attention to his index finger. I couldn’t remember whether it was long and slender like a pipe cleaner or fat and stubby like a yam.  It was when I thinking about the possibility of a surprise attack I felt one hand come to rest on my hip. Then he said the dreaded words:

Ready? Just relax; deep breathes. And…in we go.

 

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Short story, writing competition

JOINT WINNER OF THE GAUNTLET- SCARS

Author: Guy Phillips

Illustration: Christopher Harrisson

Four o’clock. She’ll be here any second now. Four o’clock she said so four it will be. She’s never late. Strange certainly, but never late.

I remember the time she took me to the Spanish Main and we sailed with a privateer. The golden age of piracy and they were our prey, just for a few hours. That was the most terrifying thing we ever did, that I’ve ever done. I kept the dagger the captain gave me, and I still have the scar. A chunk blasted out of the mast by cannon destroyed my trousers and gouged a piece out of my arse, but I held that rope and the whole crew loved me for that. It saved the day.

Four o’clock and another adventure begins. She took me to Paris, to see the Revolution. I still have the scar. A graze from a musket ball across my wrist as we stood outside the Bastille. The madness of that day had really been something to see. The passion of the mob. The odd apathy of the dragoons.

The possibilities are endless.

She took me to see a play once. Shakespeare. Shakespeare was in it. Juliet threw a rose into the crowd during the famous balcony scene and I leapt to pluck it from the air. It was like no Shakespeare play I’ve seen before or since. I still have the scar. An ale mug broken across the back of my head when the afternoon descended into a riot. Best not stray too far from her this time.

All of history is open to us to explore. We met Darwin and stood on the deck of the Beagle; we saw the Galapagos Islands. The finches, tortoises. Animals she told me are extinct now. I still have the scar. That weird fish that clamped on to my hand. It wouldn’t let go even after I beat it against the bulkhead repeatedly. We had to pry its jaws open with a knife.

What shall it be today? I remember she took me to see my five year old self.

“Don’t get too close,” she told me. “Don’t let yourself be seen.”

I saw how happy the child me was. I remembered even as I watched, the hours spent puzzling over that Rubik’s cube. It took me months to puzzle it out, but it’s a great trick if you can manage it. I still have the scars. I forgot that when I was five we went to see the London marathon. Then I staggered across the race, running from my child self. Security beat the shit out of me. Four o’clock and another scar to add to the collection. Maybe we could stay in this time? Just the two of us. I’ll cook maybe. For a change. The trips are fun but… I don’t fancy more injuries. I peruse my scars. I look at the clock.

Four o’clock.

I look up. I see her. She falls.

“Shit.”

I still have the scar.