After six months of brilliant contributions from around the world we have decided to take a brief break whilst we decide what steps to take next. Our intention is to come back in full force in October, with a sparkly new plan!




We believe that there should be the opportunity to read better free publications in London.
There is a space in our lives for shorter, alternative forms of literature and literary magazines
We aim to present a diverse collection of voices for you to enjoy in a publication printed monthly and spread across London.








by Sayannel E. Myrrdin

The rain began falling anew, but something about it was different this time. It was not the slow, slant-like lashes of a wrathful cloud, nor the sharp, sprinkling, needle-sting of water unable to settle for either rain or hail; no, it was the soft, chiming patter of small feet on lovingly threaded carpets, gently settling rather than falling through the wistful autumn air. A rain loving enough to raise dead memories from their slumber in the ancient highland turf-halls, powerful enough to call the songs of the past and make them answer the summons one last time. A rain the likes of which only once had I seen – long, so long ago. I was but a lad then, young and sprightly and exuberant. I had been raised among the stories of the Olde Folke – my ancestors, as Grandpa used to say as he whispered tales of their wondrous adventures beside my bed, his eyes shining with some inexplicable youth while my mother listened with a half-smile and my father tried to hide a scowl. He was a sensible soul, proud and strong as the rocks that are the bones of our land but, like them, immutable in his beliefs. He cared not for the lure of Grandpa’s elfin tales, nor for their obvious sway over my imagination. He was, as I have stated, a sensible man and though I loved him dearly, my grandfather was the object of something much deeper: my adoration. Old and tall he was, worn by years of harsh winds and salty blusters from the great sea. In many ways he bore much resemblance to an ancient tree; gnarled and knobbly as his limbs might be, he had a strength in him which I have never since seen replicated in another human being, that strength which is both of the soul and of the body and which marks those of truly regal heart. His character was, to most, brittle and rough, yet he never held others to any standards that he himself did not follow in the strictest respect. He had weathered more than his share of storms, more than even he cared to speak of. But even through the shadows that clouded his clear grey eyes when grim memories arose from untold depths, there always shone that light - that youthful, indefatigable light. But my tale today is not of my grandfather, though in most ways it could not have been born without him. No, it is a story of myself, one long withheld but which to-day must come to light. I was at that time in the autumn of childhood, not yet wizened enough by age to discard the words of the unseen but old enough to feel my sense of awe growingly tinged with a desire for something more – a desire to feel, to understand. It was on the eve of All Hallows or, as we called it still in those remote stretches of half-tamed remnants of the old world, the ancient rite of Samhain. I had been out all afternoon, playing on the moors with some close friends, and day was slowly preparing for its nightly slumber when I crossed the threshold of my home, covered in grime and bruises but as happy as ever I had been. I had barely entered the room though when my grandfather came up to me with a shimmering smile. He was clad in his usual traveler’s cloak, ragged and patched and bleached by years of salty sea air, and held one of his many walking sticks – his collection rivaled even old Mr. Sean’s. But his hat… his hat was peculiarly different. How I could not say, nor can to this day, but it lent him the air of one who is more than he seems, like a woodland spirit or secretsmith. Smiling still, he bade me follow him, answering my incessant questions as to his intent with only a twinkle of the eye and a wind-sway of the beard – which was long and brittle as the rugged hawthorn bush from which, thought I, he must surely have sprung fully grown, like some wild sprite lost in an era that was not his own. We did not walk very far; some way into the old forest through a side path which I had never seen, then up a slope until we reached a vantage point formed by a set of protruding rocks rising out of the ground to form a seat of sorts from which one could see not only the whole vale with its moorlands, forests and brooks scintillating in the gradually dimming light but also the cresting rise and fall of our beloved highland hills. Motioning me towards the seat – the Seat of the Kings of Yore, in the times when we were almost human but not quite so, he said – my grandfather extended his hand, reaching out to me with the shadow of a promise in his outstretched palm. It felt warm, rough and callous and taut as it was, and that warmth was the same which cradled me to sleep when he would trip me gently into night’s arms with his fabulous tales. I held it tight and followed its lead, stepping here and there through the wreckage of nature and of powers long forgotten until I felt the cold soothing embrace of stone upon my nape and arms. I paused for an instant, enjoying the simple, honest feel of the living stone, then turned my attention outward, preparing to send my thoughts and gaze rolling over hill and comb as they unfurled before me, but a hand – a well-known and well-beloved hand – came across my eyes, ushering in an unexpected darkness. Wait, the voice said, wait but an instant, yea, an instant yet. So I waited, and as I did I heard the distant murmur of winds rising from their restless sleep deep in the dreams of the world; and the storm answered, calling them to join his heavenly halls for a night of wild reveling such as only wind and storm could host; and their merriment was a delight to hear, rumbling in raucous rolls throughout the hills, swirling about our weather-aged mound in great blustering guffaws of thunder. And then – then came the rain, and with it the unveiling of the hand. My over-eager eyes instantly cast out all their will, summoning the secrets of the dales and of diminishing day from out the storm-clad country that stretched ahead. And they came, yet they were blurred and smudged, as though sensed through a grimy window long-forgotten. Shadows of the shadows of figures that moved in a world of mists; colors and shapes; places far and near, and both at once; names called out in tongues never spoken, and tall towers that danced in the rain; stories unwinding and rewinding on the coils of time, and music. Music the likes of which I had never heard, nor expect to ever hear again, like the chiming of a thousand flowers struck with sunlight, or the fragile hum of the spider’s web filled with the Moon’s song, or the vast sky echoing with songs not yet written. Yet only fragments of these could I hear, as though refracted through a many-faced crystal the endless facets of which never could shine as one. Then I heard his voice, and it was deeper and older and taller than any that I had heard before in a man. It told me to look into the rain. Not through it, but into it. Into the heart of that very life that surrounded us. Obedient – perhaps it was the tone of the voice, or even the mere sound of it, severe and wise, that elicited such unquestioned loyalty to its words – I complied and cast the net of my consciousness not out over the land but into the bristling tempest. I ceased to see the world and saw now that what I had thought to be a flowing, shifting curtain of stormy tears was much richer and much more intense than I had imagined. Every drop, every heavy dash of water against the canvas of wind and sky was a world unto its own. In one I saw a tree, greater and more luminous than its mundane earthly brethren, nursing a race of eerily-shaped people into sentience while Time’s flames licked enviously at the lives it could not reach. In another I caught flashes of a high-vaulted hall, with many a banner and exquisite ornament, and in it a crowd of men with alabaster skin and north wind eyes, and on their foreheads that bore the sign of ageless wisdom they wore gems of all colors – and even of some colors unknown to man – that shone like earthen-bound stars. In another yet I saw nothing, but heard the songs of my forebears as they crossed the Great Sea, or the smell of the last blossom of the last whitemane flower, lost now in the hallowed halls of the lord of winter’s eve. In another still I gazed as through a raven’s eyes, all-knowing and all-seeing, upon lands which were those of my youth yet which I had never before seen. Creatures lived there, creatures of strange blood and stranger lineage, half-human at times or even not at all. I saw their life, their death, their joys and sorrows and hopes and worries; I saw light and I saw darkness, and saw the seed of metal fall to the earth in a blaze that crippled the night. This I saw and much more still, for each single droplet told a tale which, though I peered through each watery lens but for the briefest of instants, held me under its spell for many a lifetime of man. Ages of the world – or at least of a world that felt intensely familiar – unfurled with each pearl of blue light, as time and space were distorted for that most sacred and important of purposes: the telling of a tale. How long I sat thus, straining my eyes against the impossible to catch every falling story, I know not. Dreamlike I felt, and could almost see the unusual shadow we must have cast to the unsuspecting onlooker: the child, his eyes burning with fierce will, sitting upon the stony throne with the bold demeanor of an explorer delving into the unknown; the old man, unmoving and silent, like a statue of an ancient sorcerer watching over a young king with a knowledgeably mysterious smile playing upon his lips and eyes; and the primeval force of the elements all around, wild yet lovingly protective of the two immobile figures. Strange and fey we would have seemed then, even to ourselves had we been able to witness the scene from afar. Perhaps even we would not have recognized ourselves, but thought that we had stumbled upon some frozen image of a time long lost, of some mighty youth of the early ages of time and of his trusted advisor and friend and teacher. And we would have returned home on the woodland paths, never knowing for certain of the reality of what we had witnessed yet ever, from thence onward, under the spell of that singular and compelling vision. In time the enchantment subsided and eventually faded away into those regions of which we know naught, as all things must, and though my soul echoed with the murmurs and songs and cries of countless ages of the Earth, I knew I had but glimpsed a fragment of all that had come about me that night, and I wept to think that those tales which I could not hear had now passed away into the silence beneath the Earth, beyond the reach of even that greatest story-teller, the wind. As we made our way down the hill that day and back into the darkening skies of our usual lives, no words we spoke, nor did we share even a look. We knew, or perhaps felt, that none were needed and reveled silently in the recollection of those fleeting moments. And when, pressed by my mother to answer as to what had kept us abroad for so long a time when the table was already laden for dinner, my grandfather merely answered “Across” with a calm soothing smile, I finally understood what it was that had always drawn me to him, that which set him apart and lent him such wisdom and authority in my eyes. And thereafter my smile, I have been told, bore a quaint resemblance to that which I so loved to see upon the old man’s face and with which he greeted even the inevitable darkness that came for him in the end. This was many a year ago, yet though long ages numberless as the leaves of trees have come and gone I still remember even the smallest and most insignificant detail of the tales I saw that day, the faintest tune and the subtlest fragrance. And though I went back into the forest many times after that, I never could find the side path again, nor the hill with the ancient seat. And never again I saw the same rain that was not truly a rain, and never again I travelled in sight and mind and sense to these strange lands which once I had seen within the storm. Never, that is, until last night. For yesterday, at the time when day was preparing for its nightly slumber and graced my aged shell with the last of its warm caressing rays, I heard once more the long expected sound, like to the soft chiming patter of small feet on lovingly threaded carpets, gently settling rather than falling through the wistful autumn air. Now, as dawn prepares to lift the mantle of darkness I hear still the call sounding all around me, beckoning me to return to the fold. And as I look out the window, absent-mindedly putting on a battered traveling-cloak and picking up the cane without which I can no longer tread the world, I find myself back there, upon that tempest-crowned crest. The stories unfold one by one, beginning the recanting of narratives of which I have not, to this day, forgotten the merest element, and in each one there plays a singular light, whirling about the heavenly spheres like the secret wit of a man who, dying regretless and sinless, cast out what he had that was most precious into the sky of the night of his life, that the world might be a more wondrous place. I do not expect I shall ever return from this last journey with my old friend the storm. He and I must go now to the place where all things go when their story is told. But I have hope that my story may yet be told one day. Not the story of me, no, that would be a little tale, one for a fresh spring morning stretching out among the dew, hesitant to wake yet trembling from the coldness of the crystal pearls lying on the grass. It is in the story of the elder man that I place my faith, in the hope that others shall follow his stead and guide youths much like myself to the worlds within the rain, that they too might have upon their lips that indefinable smile and within their eyes that ever-enduring light and within their hearts the greatest tale of all: the tale of the rain-folk.  


by Nick Lovell

She knew what I wanted As I stood there, Lusting before her. She asked the question And I answered honestly, Perhaps a bit too desperately. "I want". I paused, Pondering the possibilities. "I want to nibble your melons. I want to taste the sweet nectar Of your delightful fruit of passion. Let me peel your pomegranate And prise out its succulent, Juicy, pink flesh with my tongue. Let my palms clutch your peaches Savouring their firm, pleasing weight While sticky, lemon honey syrup Fills my senses, delighting me With its fleshy tang. With closed eyes, with reverence I will pluck your cherry from its stalk With my tender lips." Our eyes met for the first time As she smiled, leaned towards me and whispered, Her scented breath tickling my ear. "So, that's one fruit salad... D'you want cream or custard"  


by Rachel Stone

Everywhere are women touching themselves with shadows and paints named things like pistol, tainted, moonstone. Paint the eyes as bullets, eyes as silk boudoir sheets. Every part of your body can be a vessel for sex or glitter; did you know that? Your makeup does itself over and over in chairs across the city, and I’m feeling like a cake like a sex cake the colors confuse themselves in the palate and I’m foxy, dark truffle and crave across the eyes, I look beautiful which means I look edible I look like a weapon I’m rimmed in cadmium red and match the city in something better than blood, something like power among the shimmering miraculous things I’d like to consume until my hair grows in glimmering and diamond strong. Consume me and spit me out. I draw my eyebrows in thick and walk out into it.  


by Judy Calhoun

The first postcard arrived on Wednesday. Norvin checked the mail as he usually did before taking his dog, Chester, to the park. He stopped at the fountain with the Cerberus, the three-headed dog statue, and shuffled through the mail in his hands, until he saw the postcard. It was addressed to Norvin Pondexter, 5 Cooper Road, Knowles, New Jersey. Pondexter’s Family Restaurant, Daily Specials for Automatons. Try our new Barbeque Anus T-Rexxla. Weekly family specials. We serve all kinds. The return address: Outpost Number Nine, Non-hostile Colony, Mars. There was something very familiar about it. He scratched his head, wondering why something so outlandish would be so memorable. It was such a good fake, too; a great mock-up of a faded, vintage, late 1950s photo. A younger version of himself was standing in front of a restaurant, with a tall sign shaped as a spacecraft and yellow neon letters flashing, Eat at Pondexter’s. In the background were red mountains, and clay-like rock formations. What really bothered him was the message. Parsifal doesn’t know where to put the slugs. He won’t listen to me, he says I’m not the boss. How many times have we warned him not to throw the leftover squid in the Android dump? He’s doing it again. Now we have trouble. Predator Droids are scrounging for more. I’m doing everything you suggested in hopes of discouraging them from hanging around, frightening our customers away. The place is going to Galaxy hell. We need you! When are you coming home? Norvin was sure he knew who was behind this scheme. It had to be the work of Sid and Darius. It made sense. At the office, they were always playing jokes. They called him Green Martian Man––mostly because of his physical appearance. He had a grayish-green pallor to his complexion matching his pale gray business suit. His hands might have been considered small for a tall man, and his dark eyes were unusually large; but he believed these things were simply genetic malformations, nothing more. Norvin suffered from asthma. His skin pallor and large eyes with dark circles beneath them were due to the number of allergies he suffered. Norvin drank cherry cough syrup as if it were Pepsi Cola. The other predisposed traits could all be easily explained. A few times a week, at work, Sid and Darius would leave articles and illustrations of hairless green aliens with huge eyes, accompanied by post-it notes saying, Recognize anyone in the photo––family, friends maybe? The problem was he thought he did recognize them. That made him uncomfortable. He could even remember that they liked to eat jelly babies, lava worms, and synthetic terrestrial ice tubes. He shook himself. How could he know that? Norvin stuck the postcard under his doctor’s magnetic business card on the refrigerator and decided to forget about it. He had bigger problems. Chester wasn’t eating his kibble. Several times, he found vomit on the carpet. Norvin had changed his food, hoping that it was just an allergy to the new Bow Wow Chow, but the dog was still sick.


Within two weeks, seven postcards covered his refrigerator. Most of the images were the same. Some with the spaceship sign and words advertising; Bring the entire colony to eat! splashed across the front. On Friday, he took one of the cards to work to show to Sid and Darius. They laughed so hard they weren’t able to speak. Norvin returned to his desk, shaking his head with disgust. A few minutes later, the evil twins grabbed the card from his In basket. “This is so funny!” said Sid. “Wish I’d thought of it.” “The paper is different from anything I’ve ever seen,” said Darius, holding it up to the light and squinting to read the fine print. “Whoever did this is wicked talented.” Norvin wasn’t fooled. He figured they had orchestrated this hoax. Somehow, he’d find out the truth.


While the Veterinarian was examining Chester, Norvin noticed a postcard under a butterfly magnet. It was similar to his postcard. Yet, in this one, Doctor Jean stood near a massive brick structure. He yanked the card from under the magnet to examine it closer. Below her image the words, Vote for Mannford, mayor for Sectors Nine and Twelve. On the back he read, If you return soon, you will get your seat back on the Senate. Most colonies have already voted to give you the raise you wanted. Please, let us know what you decide as soon as possible. “Where did you get this?” Norvin asked. “I keep getting those in the mail,” she said. “Frankly, I’m surprised. I didn’t think anyone mailed out postcards anymore. We used to send them out as appointment reminders, but now we use the Internet. I think it’s someone’s idea of a joke.” “I’m getting them, too,” said Norvin. “Mine are about my restaurant, on Mars.” “Do you own a restaurant?” she asked, while examining Chester’s eyes, and feeling around his throat. “No,” said Norvin. “I’m an architect. I design buildings. I can’t cook very well. I usually order take out.” “Do you feed Chester any of that food?” she asked, raising one eyebrow. “Sometimes,” said Norvin. “That could be the problem,” she said. “You’ve changed his diet far too often. I’m going to give you some pills to settle his alimentary canal. If that doesn’t help, come back and we’ll run some tests.” Norvin was still holding the postcard, frowning. This hoax had gone far beyond Sid and Darius, unless, of course, Jean was their veterinarian, as well. “How many of these cards have you received?” asked Norvin. “Six, I think,” she said, searching through her desk drawer. “I tossed out the first one, but when I started getting more, I saved mine as evidence, you know, in case I have a stalker?” “Do you ever dream about Mars?” I asked, remembering my dreams where I was cooking weird food for an alien Creation Day party. Whatever that was. She looked directly at Norvin. “I’ve never told this to anyone, but I’ve been dreaming of debating in the Senate. I see monsters arguing Martian law. I’m actually enjoying myself.” “What if this is not a joke?” said Norvin. “What if we are from Mars, and lived another life on that planet?” “Of course it’s a joke. Mars is uninhabitable,” she said, shaking her head. “Maybe you’re right,” said Norvin. He hoped that after April first this entire matter would be finished.


At work, Norvin watched Sid and Darius huddled together over Sharon’s desk. They must have been plotting out more April Fool’s Day postcards. Norvin remembered last year when they sent everyone in the office fake tickets to Hawaii. When people opened their thick ticket folder, they were squirted in the face by a rubber flower. Then on Norvin’s birthday, they hired a man in an green alien costume with a music machine. He played Radiohead’s song, “Subterranean Homesick Alien,” which is a hard enough song to sing––especially since the guy couldn’t carry a tune. Sid and Darius posted the video on the Internet.


The next day was the first day of April. Norvin received a typewritten letter on elegant stationery instructing him to prepare for his return to Mars. He was to walk his dog Chester to the park and stand in front of the Cerberus sculpture. There were no other directives. Most people would toss the note in the trash and decide they weren’t going along with this prank, but not Norvin. He would accommodate them, mostly out of curiosity; he had to know how just far Sid and Darius would take this prank. He’d never seen anyone go to such great lengths, just to yell, April Fool’s! When he awoke, he found a suit of clothing at the foot of his bed. How it got there he had no idea. It was very thin and silver gray. The color made his skin appear even deeper green. As he stood studying his reflection in the mirror, he realized he was wearing the same suit in the postcard photos. The label inside said: VPS Stratum Matrix, Elf-Galaxy, Sector Five, Mars. Grumbling to himself, he followed the instructions and walked Chester to the park. He stood in front of the Cerberus, waiting for the cameras and the joke to blow up in his face. Within seconds, the park became very crowded. People appeared around to him, he guessed a hundred or more, all wearing the same suit. Norvin recognized some co-workers from his firm, and even his dog’s vet. The crowd made him uncomfortable, because he was afraid they’d spontaneously break into dance. He really hated flash crowds––and that was the joke wasn’t it? Then he would be a part of some silly group dancing in suits. That would be the ultimate torture; the ultimate prank. Still, nobody danced. Chester barked, just before a sudden gust of wind bent the trees and nearly knocked Norvin and the others over. In a blur of rapid movement, the group was no longer standing in the park, but were now inside a wide room encircled with panels of flashing lights, and looking very much like a spacecraft. Norvin thought this was a pretty darn good hoax. A disembodied voice instructed the group to prepare for debriefing. He had no idea what that could mean. He watched as people were called out, one by one, until it was his turn. Norvin was taken to a green room. A small, older, redheaded woman sat, dwarfed behind a heavy glass desk. He slipped into the odd-shaped chair across from her, feeling his brain buzzing and his mind trying to understand at which point the hoax had ended––or had it just begun? “We scanned your brain when you arrived. It seems you have learned much while living on this planet,” she said. Norvin smiled. “Okay, how did you guys pull this off?” When she began to frown, Norvin said, “Come on, I’m not from Mars. I was born right here, in New Jersey.” “This is typical of most Martians who’ve been on earth too long. It’s no wonder you believe that this planet is your real home; you’ve been researching their way of life for over thirty earth years,” she said, her frown deepening. “Look, I don’t know who you are, but if Sid and Darius put you up to this, I’ve got to tell you, hands down, this is the best one yet. Tell them I think they did a fantastic job.” “Who, or what, are Sid and Darius? Are they food, animals, or intelligent humanoids?” “To tell you the truth, I don’t think they’re very intelligent. They’re animals for sure, and as for food, well, they leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Where are they? They are here somewhere, right?” He turned in his seat, looking around for them. Her fingers were pushing buttons on some invisible computer screen in the air in front of her. “Not yet,” she said. “They worked with you, is that correct?” “Yes. Listen, I know it’s April Fool’s Day,” said Norvin. “But it’s also Sunday morning. I work hard, I should be able to sleep-in at least one day of the week.” “The dreams and postcards you received were intended to jog your memory. You must understand, Norvin, that your time on this planet is complete. You’ve paid your dues. You get to go home now, back to your real life,” she said. “If you feel you have some additional benefits to offer us in remaining here in your human life, you must tell us, now.” Norvin thought what the heck, why not keep up the pretenses. That way it would be much sooner, rather than later, that he’d get back to his own bed. “I can learn more about food and what health benefits I might discover for the Nephropidea Arthropods.” He was tossing in words that Sid and Darius would have no clue what they meant; the question was––how did he know? “You’ve already given us some food samples,” she said. “However, I am definitely interested in your proposal, since the Arthropods’ diet has always been a real problem in your region. Let me see what I can do.” As Norvin watched the tiny woman walking away, dragging a long lizard tail behind her, he stifled a giggle. The longer he sat there, the more he began to wonder––what food samples she was talking about? What did it matter––this was all a game. At this point, he would say anything just to end this façade. She returned with a smile on her face. “It seems we can help you. And we are sure you will enjoy this next assignment much more than any other. Your background will be different, of course. This time, you were born in New South Wales and live in Nelson Bay with your dog, Chester, two blocks from the beach, and three blocks away from your own local restaurant.” “I know nothing of Australian’s culinary food choices––and I can’t cook!” Norvin protested. “That’s never been a problem,” she said. “Once you arrive, you’ll comprehend all of the cultural differences, and current colloquialisms. It’s already programmed into your memory bank.” She stood up and slammed her right hand across her chest. Norvin guessed he was supposed to do the same, so he did, feeling foolish and waiting for that punch line which never seemed to come. For that matter, where were Sid and Darius?


When Norvin opened his eyes again, he realized he had been dreaming about using a little curry in the banana pudding. He sat up, and glanced around, finding himself in a strange room, with olive-green walls and dark green trim. Two neon green surfboards leaned up against a closet door. Chester stood next to the bed, making strange whining sounds. Norvin noticed that he held something in his teeth. As Norvin climbed out of bed, Chester dropped the envelope at his feet. Norvin bent to pick it up. It was from his restaurant on Mars, and the letter said; We are happy that you decided to extend your research stay. I’ve chosen a side of giant glow-worms to go with that new delicacy you’ve added to the menu. I’m getting excessive orders. The dermis-eating arachnids wanted me to ask if you can get your claws on more; they’re willing to pay any price, which is incredible because you know what misers they can be! Check out our latest postcard. Norvin reached back into the envelope, pulling out a full-color image of Parsifal cutting up the new menu item. The new delicacy, the one food everyone wanted to eat, was strapped down onto the cutting block. There, with looks of terror on their faces, were Sid and Darius. Big red letters were splashed across the bottom: Martian’s number one human-burgers, try them today, with a side of giant glow-worms!  


by Candy Parfitt

(Light, shadow, light, shadow, the silhouettes of trees, a timeless choral harmony, a woman on stage, dancing wildly, silk and chiffon like sails. Whispering breathlessly as she dances) Come in, I hate you. Come in, I hate you. Come in, I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. Come in, I hate you. Come in, I hate you. Come in, I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. (a navy commander enters) Commander: I’m here with bad news. Dancer: I’m devastated. Commander: Did my news shake you out of your bourgeois nightmare? Dancer: I live for the bourgeois nightmare. I drink it. Commander: Are you tired of symbolism? Dancer: Are you tired of checking this. Every season, you check in. “Are you tired of symbolism?” you ask. Commander: It’s my job. Dancer: Teach me to love. Commander: Will we kiss? Dancer: I refuse your proposition. Commander: I am disappointed. (they dance, a melodramatic, rhythmic, lustful dance, never touching)  


by Danny Kent

  The wet black boughs put us in brackets then, and deep red black-heart syllables gets caught in my throat again, the truth of it? Well that falls in to damp wooded holes, and without saying a word – you turn and walk away from me. “But Baby” I shriek. Like a dying man falling over some dead time “ I know your genesis, I know your alchemy!” “ Fuck off.” She says, as she laughs at me. “Don't you dare get poetic with me Danny because you were always a bad, fucking poet.” “Damn” I say, whimpering now, “ You're as cold as ice...in the snow.” And I leave that God awful metaphor lying there like a simile that makes no fucking sense, “And don't you dare, try and write about this.” she says. At that point, the truth of it? Well it climbs out of the damp wooded holes and gets back into me, and I think – no you know what girl I'm going to write a dreadful poem and give it a dreadful name just to piss you off , and this is it; I can't read that Marquez book I bought anymore because all he writes about is lost love, I can't watch that John Woo film I caught because I'm sick of all the White Doves, my rhyme scheme has to be AA it can't be AB, because I'm trying to compensate for our lost regularity. That comfortable routine of you and of me. And I know, I know the exact Alchemy of you; it was two parts your Gucci perfume and one part me – sniffing. Trying to recall some better time, like Proust and his lemon biscuit fumes. And I know, my old darling, I know the exact Alchemy of us: it had lived. Inside of you. For two months. Our ingredients had crashed together and we'd made a new life like Gods do. A new life, that we ended, because we said, we would make another. And now, we won't be making another well we? That was our alchemy, some sweet smells some better tastes and the crash of our chemicals forming a new life like people tend to do.  


by Charlotte Newman


You’ve been to other cities, of course. One was a girl, a delicate pearl upon her finger. No knickers. One was hot, hot, hot. It danced without a pause. It dripped sweat from head to spiked heel. Everything pounded: street, heart, fists. This city is a boy. Grubby-chopped, sticky-fingered, frank. Ringleader, trouble-maker. The Northern Line is closed.

Thursday. The City lords it over neighbouring Shoreditch. The buildings are spies made of glass. They glint and glare at the workers beetling beneath them. Pop up boutiques elbow each other. Ribs dressed in faded velvet. Everything set to a soundtrack of Lou Reed. You read about suburbia in discarded magazines. All big pink skies and ugly motorways. Lawnmowers, so many lawnmowers. Hollow plenty in supermarkets. A family toasting the week with Yorkshire puddings. The boned rooftop of Shadwell Station arcs over your head. A whale’s skeleton. You try hard to make up your own mind while it’s wrestled over. Scoffed at? Acid ink. The lure of Ecuadorian coffee beans. You only saw her for a moment. She untied her hair and it fell about her face like water. Her hand hovered over the bell. She had the sort of cheekbones you don’t argue with. You were thinking about her crescent eyes, her river sprite eyes, when she yelled at the bus driver to

slow the fuck down.

Cider in belly, belly in hand. You’d eaten at that dodgy burger place, hadn’t you? Stripped lighting like an emergency room. Questionable chicken. Remorseless jaws. She rang the bell repeatedly. Your stop too. Your fabric shoes slapped along that hard wet pavement. She disappeared into the south city night. The buildings were the stems of headless flowers. You passed a patch of weedy, damp earth, sprouting mushrooms. Soft discs from outer space. Just you and the frogs. They belched in the margins of soaked grass. You took care not to disturb them, but one of course plonked in front of you. Stamped your feet, no response. Your dad told you he’d stepped on a frog once, accidentally, bare footed. It had screamed and then exploded, green sinewy jelly flying everywhere. You cupped your hands but couldn’t bring yourself to close them around its leathery wet body. You crouched, urging the frog in a hoarse whisper. The gig had been rude and beery and you’d shouted louder because you didn’t know all the lyrics. Clicked your tongue, what were you thinking? It’s not a pony. Three shadowy figures shuffled towards you. A drunk three-headed troll. Still a bit afraid of ghouls. What would you say about the frog? You didn’t have to say anything, the troll stepped around you both, its three lolling heads grumbling about the football result. You travel into the centre for work. London is exhausted. Please mind the tedium between the train and the platform edge. The jaws of the river are full of brown, boozy liquid. Huge cranes nip at the sky. But you like the bells and the clocks, don’t you? Those old, gold spires that spear the city. The markets where they sell giant snails from Africa. They test the smog with their eyestalks. They don’t know they’re food. You like pub windows, bright prisms that throw colour at the frantic feet of tourism. Remember that pub? Cheerful bulbs in the beer garden. Those fringed lamps, the careless offspring of the seventies. Tropical wallpaper. You kissed someone, there, on that beaten up old sofa. Your lips stained and sticky with balm. A Spanish trill. You thought about arid earth and sun-baked cattle. No, no, Northern Spain, it’s just like Ireland. I was raised in the rain. You’re all on the roof, sipping sweet hot chocolate from flasks. The Sunday night sky is apocalyptic in Peckham. Girls around you with dip-dyed hair and tartan and stomachs as flat as stones smoothed by the sea. Their ears are heavy with moonstone. One of you has brought banana cake wrapped in silver foil, a slice of homemade heaven, she says. By the time you get down to street level, all veg is £1. Bruised, punctured specimens, wrinkled skin, thorny stalks. A homeless woman. She can lactate on cue. You look at the leaking, puckered nipple, sore and dark like squashed fruit and you want to cry too. The milk dribbles. She has no baby with her and you have no change, really, you have no change. You give her a crumpled five-pound note and then you go. A cat skitters past you, full of the night.  


by Andy Owen Cook

  let's play a game where we chug a kettle of boiling water and describe the sound of the motorways where we each had our first kisses. let's play a game where we explain queer theory to idiots and where a thesis is unwritten every time someone has a thought about a person they've only seen on tv. let's play a game where we market wars to people who don't like wars, cigarettes for people who don't like cigarettes, shades that reduce the world's opacity. let's play a game where the landlord is coming and i am hiding my stuff under the stairs again. let's play a game where we give in to frappuccinos and hair cuts like stately home gardens and laugh like people who've nothing to do but laugh. let's play a game where we do This Is Your Life and the Lowest Point bit involves being missold PPI. let's play a game where we go around putting up Lost Pet signs for Missingno, throwing empty bottles of strongbow at cats bemoaning the loss of an adolescence as if it isn't just that. let's play a game where i have another dream in which everything is narrated by you and you are dead and instead of saying bye we say 'please don't die before i see you again.' let's play a game where i can't sleep bcos i'm so excited the strength of my heartbeat is causing tsunamis on the other side of the world - there goes a fishing village in cambodia - and anyway instead of saying sleep we say 'simulation of nonexistance' and feel better about the whole thing. let's play a game where we are clones and are incinerated every night before stealthily replaced by men in teal suits while we make trying to catch up a neat sleepover activity. let's play a game where i say i feel like the inside of a jelly baby. the last time i felt low it was christmas and you say, ‘the demand for content from brands is greater than ever’ (Grocki 2014, p. 24) and i say, ‘why don't i have any emotions i can't do a smilie for,’ and i hold shift and ) until i pass out, waking just in time to hit send before you go to work.  



by Colin Bancroft

The net effect is an inward force at its surface that causes water to behave as if its surface were covered with a stretched elastic membrane I lay silent, below the fog, inhaling the humid vapours which inspissate my lungs the way that flour ladens soup. My head breaks the water’s surface, a buoy bobbing in floral spume. Ablutions. Baptism reversed. I soak for hours; like marrowfat peas In the glass bowl downstairs, Softening until my skin is stripped. I watch your words on the mirror - scrawled in some other time of rain - slowly reform like a spectre, declaring your message anew.  


by Sophie Fenella Robinski

When did the city become a lung? Watch how it breathes soft road fumes takes me back to my inability to fit in the space you made for me next to the fireplace here for everyone to see but no one notices when I stop asking questions I am breathing and well versed in your Sunday roast parties or is this your secret gathering your confession of dreaming of taking pilot lessons of learning to figure skate we never talk about that the candle flame bends in sympathy Tudor wax for dramatic effect weave skin stretch flesh across the table let me be a part of the woman in the red dress see how she pours gravy dear woman she doesn’t know she is protecting herself from our bomb shell if this was my party I would make everyone stand by the window and breathe like the city like roots becoming undone from trees swelling deflating tell me about your decision to cut the potatoes in wedges was it your mother is this what she left you these handmade name cards are cute but not like us really are they?  


by Isobel Atacus

Left her in a hostel. Prague. They were eighteen. Sunny, stuffy grunts in dorm room beds shoved close, and when she wakes up he has gone, no note. Underarms smell, stale. Tears open packet of energy tablets, begins to suck, brow furrowed. Bewilderment / surprise / anger (settles into place), now becomes aware, now she really knows: needs to pee. Communal shower room, dripping wet footsteps: his feet. Mirror steamy from ablutions. Squats over hole in ground, then rinses fingers. ‘Fuck you’ carved into glass with index finger of his left hand. This, his note. Shrugs. Wipes mirror clean.  


by P A Levy


Could be an idle river, he said, then went on about
meloncholic willows, water voles, and kingfishers;
the blue flash diving for silver fish from the banks.

He stopped me dead in my tracks.
What this is really about, said his finger
to my chest, is the peace and quiet …

and we stood perfectly still considering tranquility
as insects hummed and buzzed
and there was a wind shuffle of leaves,

until that too was drowned out
by the clatter rumble of another
eastbound District Line train

reflected in the languid canal, where graffiti squiggles
and glutonous oily colours run aground
on abandoned supermarket basket islets.

Could be country, he said, as we climbed through
a hole in the fence, and as I caught my sleeve
on rusty barbed wire, I gave a smile for the CCTV camera.


by Jack Crowe

When the wallet factory shut down
We were all paid off in leftover stock
We shuffled home gripping barrowfuls
Hand-stitched by our own hands

Skint, I went to the corner shop
Swapped a week’s shopping for ten brown wallets
I tossed my eleventh to a homeless man on the way home
Others did the same

One woman swapped her wallets for a mortgage
Contract and a shopping trolley deposit keyring
I heard of a fool who burnt all his wallets on the stove
His mother had a cold

Soon, if your wallet was worth more than what you bought
You could get a smaller wallet back with your receipt
Or instead you could print a form
That said I have 10 wallets and they believed you

As for the wallet factory, it reopened
It cost 10 wallets to make 10 wallets
At the end of the week we got paid
In little pictures of the queen


by Lily Blacksell

Call it pleasure, but come back with something better. Your handful of mostly mouldy berries is fun, though not as much as we’ve both had. It continues, convenient and lit by your laptop. A handful of mostly mouldy berries, dusty old blueberries, spoiling by the day. It continues, convenient and lit by your laptop. (I don’t know much about myself, do you?) Even though the blueberries are spoiling by the day, you ignored my urgent shin-kick at the party. I suppose I don’t know much about either of us. We may have less in common than we thought. You ignored my significant shin-kick at the party. I can drink for twelve hours straight if I want to. We may have less in common than we thought. Call it pleasure, but come back with something better.


by Norbert Hirschhorn

  Once upon a time there was a Princess who thought she was a turkey. She refused to dress, walked with a waddle, spoke with a gobble. She hid beneath the royal tables, pecking at fallen food. The King, desperate, promised the hand of his daughter to any man in the realm who could heal her. Many tried, none succeeded (charms, chains, potions, incantations). One day, a doula – a traditional birth companion – came into town; someone used to hard life, sorrow, but also joy. She saw the announcement on a broadside in the market and thought she could at least offer comfort. The King’s wizards laughed uproariously, but the Queen said, “Let her try, we have nothing to lose.” Rather than interrogating the Princess about her childhood, or shouting at her to stop being silly, the doula simply undressed, crawled under the table, and began to peck at the crumbs. After days, the Princess asked the doula, Who are you? To which the doula replied, I am a turkey. The Princess, surprised, replied that she, too, was a turkey. They continued to forage together. After some weeks, the doula told the Princess, You know, we can still be turkeys but turkeys who wear clothing. She put on a shift. The Princess, astonished, agreed to a chemise, later slippers, and eventually her gown. She returned to the tables of the Royal House; but whenever she wanted, she could still be a turkey, just like before. The doula went on her own way.  


by Harriet Mather Lamb

  Black. Twisting shadows. Shapes, indistinguishable. Closer, closer. One shadow moves, leaves unfurling like brilliant emeralds under the weak midday sun, hissing in an unintelligible language both comforting and sinister. A face appears from the black, familiar, like an old friend, but so strange all at once. The body is thin, all angles and bones, and clothed in a mixture of assorted greens – celadon and chartreuse and teal – with tiny, pointed shoes, like those of a jester’s, on the feet. The Spirit of the tree. The Spirit of Eden. “Back again, Alice?” In his hand he grips a bright red fruit, almost perfectly spherical but for the slight uneven edging at the bottom and the leaf sticking out the top. The name escapes me at the moment because I haven’t seen fruit for years. I forget how many. The Spirit sighs, and smiles, and the shadows begin to dissipate further. Under my hand, so soft on the coarse skin, is a simple colourful flower. They grow in the orchard behind us, but I’ve never been allowed to enter. None of us are allowed to enter. “You shouldn’t return, Alice.” I pick the flower, the petals feel cool under my grainy fingertips, soft. So soft. Like wool blankets or a horse’s mane. It is covered in a multitude of pretty colours also; blues and purples, all stretching towards the centre. I believe Nana once called it a Forget-Me-Not, but her face is fuzzy and distorted in my memory so I can never be sure of exactly what she said. “Why so sad?” I speak this time, and my gaze returns unwillingly to the Spirit. He looks so lonely and despondent and trustworthy. I call this my Paradise; he calls it captivity. “You shouldn’t be sad, Spirit. I won’t leave again. I’ll never leave again.” A breeze ruffles the branches of the Tree of Knowledge, my Tree of Knowledge, and the Spirit begins to sing in a throaty, deep grumble. The words begin indistinguishable but I know them. I have heard it before. “You must not eat fruit from the Tree That is in the midst of the garden Neither shall you touch it Lest you die” The Spirit tosses the red fruit up once, twice, three times, catching it after each fall with practiced ease. His eyes remain on me. “Choose wisely, Alice.” That name again. Alice. I’ve never heard that name before. Alice. I want to scream that I’m not Alice, I don’t know any Alice, but the Spirit throws the fruit at me. I watch it tumble to the ground and roll a few feet away, delicious and edible. As I reach a tentative hand out to touch it, the shadows begin to close upon me once more. First the fruit – apple, I remember suddenly – disappears, even as I grasp for it, and then the Spirit and, finally, the Tree of Knowledge. Why do they go? Why do they leave me? A voice, a touch on my shoulder. Whispering, louder, louder. Indistinct. My fellows. My prisoners. 24518 touches my wrist. We have no names here. Together, we glance at the supervisors. Their eyes are on us. I pull myself away and get back into position to continue my work. The bottle of N-Hexane lies at my side, half-full. I take a glance. It could be dangerous but already I crave being back in my Paradise, with the Spirit, and the Tree, and the apple. If I taste the sweet juices, could I stay? My hand grips the bottle. Sniff. Black.  


by Jessica Faleiro

  The memory of you is lost behind your own eyes. You look at me and see a stranger, who you feel you once knew. It feels like a long time ago. The emptiness stretches between us and you try to fill it with words. ‘Who are you?’ you ask in a voice that was once so confident and pleasing to me; my haven. Sometimes I’m your daughter; sometimes your friend Mary-Anne who you used to play Rummy with on the verandah. I remember how the evening breeze caught that one errant tendril of your gray hair. The one I always tried in vain to curl around your ear. Today, I’m your childhood friend Gita. You ask me how I am but I don’t know. She died ten years before you became trapped in the absent, short-circuited memory of your life. I never even got the chance to ask you about her. But you, I know. I am your memory now.  


by Jim Reeve

  A guide to the intoxications that draw humans in flocks, much like those bitter apple carcasses and coke cans in the playground bins, evoking that famous waspy delirium. GAMBLING It hides under crafty corporate pseudonyms. It occupies a number on every dice and a card in every deck. Driving tables of gamblers to a temporary euphoria, permanent insanity. Stake your dignity to gain a few pounds, or risk boredom. MONEY Notes and notes of tickets for materials, smelling fresh, straight from the mint, decorated in dull royal face £ Gives them all access to better things £ Makes them all look big and clever and successful £ Happiness substitute, much strove for and reliable £ The formula is the more the better, but never enough £ To be achieved at all costs. ALCOHOL It sits in glass bottles and burns throats flowing from barrel to barrel, dripping into your consciousness, masquerading in effervescence. On Saturday nights it is cool to be stupid and forgetful. Poison. This is the chimerical anaesthetic that will never stop pervading civilisations. LSD If life was an equation – a big, obscure, hallucinogenic, profound, terrible, illusory jungle full of impossibility and inexorable dreaming, your calculator will need an ACID button. Upload a tab into your consciousness. Only ACID will help you escape it. COKE Comes in hermetic white lines and goes right up the nose then right back down. Powdery white painkiller, numbs the gums and gets the heart racing. A bag will sort you out for the night, probably. The devil is fun and expensive, and white. ECSTASY In warehouse realms, floating seas full of wide eyes dance and appear content. Conspicuous chemicals delight in the bloodstream. Manipulate serotonin and guide through celestial nights… Finished, cast into dreary wastelands, making them hate themselves for even bothering. Do intoxicate with caution and bear in mind that death and sadness are inevitable.  


by John Farrow

  it's come off it happens a lot the splintered old wicker shopping basket lies on its side..one wheel in the road its contents strewn before me a small loaf..some carrots...utterly butterly here let me i pick up the little wire wheel the rubber is very worn as is the owner very small and thin.. an old topcoat and headscarf a matchstick figure.. fallen off the back of a lowry where's the nut no nut...i havent got a nut. tape.. sticky tape i puts sticky tape around it...in my pocket i bring it with me. i'm not sure... i say yes yes.. sticky tape..wrap it round there we put the provisions back in the basket far to go... i ask no.. she says just to the end of the road.. and round the corner shall i... no no lovey.. thank you very much she leaves..steering her basket around the cracks the wicker creaks.. i stand watching until she reaches the end of the road she turns the corner... the wheel comes off.  




You've reached the bottom of our blog!
Just think of what more you could achieve...
You could probably still get out of bed. Hey, c'mon, it's never too late in the day.
Why not un-handcuff your teddy bears? It's been making you uncomfortable, that's for sure.
I think fresh air is always good. Don't worry about clean clothes, you should probably avoid people anyway - y'know, just to be safe.
Now look, don't bring that. Remember what happened last time? You only need your keys. TO get back in. Maybe a bit of money for an ice cream.
Yes, I know it's not sunny, but screw it. Live a little. That's basically what I'm trying to say.
Go on now. You can do it. I love you. Be back before dark. And don't talk to Brian. You know he's not real.