The Gulf

Written by Atticus Payne


There is the Land of Like and the Land of Love. This isn’t to say they’re very far apart, or in completely different universes—anyone will tell you people usually have to travel through one to get to the other. This isn’t even to say these lands are whimsical and nothing more than a child’s bedtime story, though their names might seem so. They are very real, as plenty of grown-ups will assure other grown-ups, though that makes for a terrible case, since things grown-ups say to each other are often lies. So take this: plenty of grown-ups say it within their heart and believe it each day. They take some uneasiness with it. 

Now, do you believe me? They both exist. And at the first look, they may both look similar, or even the same. Both happy (mostly), light (mostly), and full of things ready for people to use. Mostly.

There’s also a gulf between the two. They’re close to each other, yet Love is…quite inaccessible, to say the least.

Of course, as with anything whose name is prefaced with “the Land of” and overall sounds simply delicious to visit, you get past the oh-so-conveniently-inconvenient gulf by sprouting a pair of wings. Plenty of people do this all the time, though some fall somewhere into the gulf while trying. They are quickly forgotten. The length of the gulf itself depends on the person. Thus the strength of the wings, of course, doesn’t.

To get to a person’s Land of Love, you often have to do all you can in the Land of Like first, to hopefully strengthen those wings and take flight over the gulf. But even then, you may never sprout wings and instead remain very happily living in the Land of Like. It’s perfectly fun. But most people want Love.

That’s fine too. Often, these people are met harshly with the truth against one of the stupidest lies ever to be told: that Love is a lot like, well, liking. It is not.

Love is Love. Those wings get crumpled fairly easily, but the lucky ones just get blown back to the Land in which they belong.

Others—and this is the worst—believe dreadfully well that they deserve a place in the Land of Love. So they’re impatient (or simply smart, but having come to the wrong conclusion) and try to build their own plastic wings. Lamentable things, those.

Sometimes they’re worse and demand the wings be given to them. They’ll still be plastic. And they’ll still fail. But when they fall, it’s not cushioned at all.

You can’t fake the wings, I suppose. They just grow. No one ever knows why; a lucky few can understand how; most will have been fortunate to simply understand about the wings. Maybe they’ll each understand how fortunate they are with their own bits of knowledge.

Probably not.

But for those that do make it to the Land of Love, there’s another rude truth that might wake them from a lying haze. Might. Some are lucky to have learned this from somewhere else, someone else, before: that the Land of Love is big. It has many things.

Some of them hurt.

Some that get to the Land of Love, still hurt. Some of the wings stay long enough to take them back away. Sometimes no one will know why.

There are thorns just as there are fruits in that land. And the chances of pricking the first are more or less as high as finding the other. Because the wings, the people, and the land, aren’t perfect. They aren’t heroes.

Neither is anyone. And that’s not a bedtime story.

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the red kettle burst on my stove

Written by Gabriella Troy


nana told me that 
the water would never boil
if i watched the kettle,
if i didn’t let the kettle
fill with pride on its own,
that the kettle couldn’t sing
if my glare withered its flames.
the red kettle burst
on my stove last night
because i stared with something
worse than a glare.

the kettle has never been fragile.
i have dented the kettle
and chipped away its paint.
i have doused its flames
with my midnight tears
and choked its song
with my self-destructive fumes.
the kettle never falls
from the burner, and
the kettle never fails to
keep my mind awake.

nana never told me that
watching the kettle with
the envy of a bubbling purpose,
with the dependence of a child
led carefully across the street,
would feed the kettle too much.
she never told me that 
too much tea would burn
me away to brittle bones
and leave me branded as 
the one without enough fire.

i thought the kettle could share
its warmth and lift me higher
on its steam. But the kettle burned 
ever brightly as tea exploded 
from its spout. I should have known
that the kettle’s song could be replaced
by my screams, that screams were all 
i ever sang, and the kettle 
would burst because of it.

no longer should the 
red kettle stand
on my stove. 

Youth, Observed through Fog

Written by Tabalith


What youth –
What is this unknown
That I can’t give
A name to,
Like the vocabulary
Of a foreign language?
You forget
Out of indifference
You cannot 
Translate
To make it known
When seeing it
On a paper sheet
Of uncontrollable white

What youth –
What is this shadow 
Hushing behind 
My open rips, 
Holding between 
Its powdery  white 
Claws;  
Sand or crushed bones 
Or the shadows of 
Sand or crushed bones?
And it howls 
A serenade
I am too blind 
To understand 

What youth –
What is this beginning 
Of no sun 
With its rising 
End 
Of even less sun. 

Countless days 
Filled with 
Nothing but fog 
And sometimes: blueness 
With her sealed lips
And her fear 
To sing in red 
For my purple ear.

The New Year Before You

Written by Callan Latham


A quiet stillness at dawn. I think of you now, 
not yet a beginning—a cluster of eyes on the horizon,
blinking in the dark. I awake to a slivered window. 

It stares into other homes, glittering orange 
bulbs in the half-light. It’s a new year 
and I am being pulled in three directions. 

My mother’s body is warm beside me as she stirs. 
We go out in the city, watch the locals in the rain. 
It is in our blood to speak this language, 

but we have forgotten. The city wakes slowly. 
Even in the storm, the harbor is untouched—
a mirror, shining our way to the center. 

I ache for the sea’s knowing, for your inevitability. 
The light bulbs glow again. You are a long way
from home. You don’t see me yet.

Shahrazad

Written by Tabalith


From one broken heart to another: 
Bring me back my lover – 
His frozen blood is waiting for me 
Even if he’s too blind to see 

The lakes of his veins are itching 
Under the feet I am bewitching

I flutter for his pumping red 
In the cracks of his lakebed

And dust and oil and sand 
Lick clean my meatless hand 

I look up to the drying clouds 
And your face that it enshrouds

My crackling heart is singing
To you with your eyes stinging

This wasteland has no name
And my despair sets it aflame   

I can’t think of a better place 
To put my lips of haze 
Than on the scar under his blue eye 
Oh goddess – hear my cry

I Have Come To Free You

Written by Atticus Payne


“My child, my child, I am so sorry.” A voice echoed from a cluster of white and gold mist as it rushed in, somehow still managing to look like it was tripping over itself. Sagging, too, like it’d taken all of its strength just to get here. But that couldn’t be true: people never spent energy getting here. They did, however, burn out by trying to leave.

I looked up, gesturing with my shackled wrists to show the plastic chains. I’d spent countless nights trying to speak, but couldn’t. And that’d only been after I’d known the truth of the Prison.

Still, the mist rolled closer, now darting left and right, looking over me. I let it. I had no idea what it’d see, anyway. The Prison was blinding.

“Oh, my poor child. I am so sorry. For years, I’ve been questing to find a way in. And a way out for you, after that.” Then it froze and gasped upon noticing my arms and neck. I knew it had no idea what to say because no one ever did. Neither did I, really. Arms hadn’t been made to bear that many scars, all in varying stages of healing, most grossly infected.

There was a flash, and the chains were gone. Impossible.

My tongue loosened. “Who are you?”

The mist had a form and a face now, of endless beauty. It was kind, and warm, with quiet, slanted eyes, and a set mouth. It felt safe.

It shook its head. “I am Death, child. I’m sorry I took so long. We must leave; I have come to free you from Life.” It smiled, easily, reaching out a hand.

I gladly took it.

Might This Make Sense?

Written by Tabalith


What am I to you?
Not that!

What for me are you –
Oh, crackling mirror of truth

As the winter sun is to ice
My throat melts tasting your eyes

And never! have you touched my thin skin
Stretching like marble flavored gum 

I do not bleed yet in the mirror, so
Bite me open until I bleed and then!

Cut into my chest your red name
I swear, mine has always been the same

My pumping lips shout out, still
The syllables dancing on my breasts

Your blue spice
Your blue spice

Your eyes meet mine and long
For the mirror’s sparkling dots

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Written by Erin Nust


She had begun gaining her consciousness. The previous hit had sent her sprawling onto the marble floor and knocked her out instantly. The first feeling when she opened her eyes was the one people have after napping in the middle of the day. For a moment, Kellie forgot where she was, but the thick, impenetrable darkness around her reminded her. The room’s temperature had fallen close to zero and her heart raced in her chest. Too frightened to move, she remained lying on the floor in a ball, trembling on the freezing marble surface. Kellie Kalmar was waiting for the next hit and a hunch in her promised it would be a strong one.

A bright spotlight turned on and broke the blackness of the room. Her eyes were instinctively drawn to it, like a moth drawn to fire, but it hurt her head. Kellie saw a full body mirror with its glass reflecting the poor image of her on the floor. Something called her towards it, an urge too strong to fight with her common sense, which was screaming to get out of the house. She stood gingerly and walked towards the mirror, pausing at the sight of her reflection. The urge commanded her to pull up her light blue sweater and reveal her snow-white skin. Purple marks dotted her stomach, all in different shapes and sizes. Terrified, she looked down and realized the bruises were only reflected in the mirror: in reality, her skin was clear white. Seconds later, just before the chilling atmosphere crawled into her skin, purple marks peppered on her belly at the same spots her reflection did.

Panic rushed through her. She thought she had left of the past and her marks behind. There were not much she could do as a child, she answered, the few times she decided to reveal her most traumatic past to a friend. She could only endure the pain and live by the rules someone else made for her. When someone asked her why she never reacts when people treated her degradingly (like Professor Trevor did when he decided to expose her bad essay as an example of bad writing in the whole class), she answered there was not much she could do but to live by the rules the world made for her.    

Kellie let the sweater down immediately and drew a step back. The only thing audible was the crescent rhythm of her breath. The spotlight turned off, as though the house could read her inner thoughts and grant her wish to disappear into the darkness. It didn’t last long. Seconds later the light turned on again. Kellie’s mouth was half-open. She moved her hand, waved to the mirror just to check what the new reflection would do. The little girl with ribbons in her hair did the same things. Her left hand was raised and then she waved back. As time went by, she realized that the girl looked familiar. She reminded of herself when she was a child-

She didn’t manage to follow the conclusion in her head when the spotlight turned off and on again, but instead of the cold white light, the dark room was illuminated with a red one. A gasp of agony came out of Kellie’s mouth when the image in the mirror showed the shape of a strong woman’s body, with messy curly hair and a wide forehead. The cold, angry eyes were nailed on hers and it was only then that she wanted to run, to run as fast as possible and save herself from this nightmare. But she was paralysed.

“Don’t ever dare to talk to me like that again! You stupid kid! I’m your mother! Don’t ever forget that.” The voice of the reflection seemed so real that Kellie covered her mouth to swallow her own scream. The woman in the mirror grinned at her, a grin crooked and wicked that fit perfectly on the face of a demon.

“Kellie, how many times have I told you to clean up your bloody room?” Sounds of wooden furniture moving against each other, glass objects crashing and human hands striking another body surrounded Kellie. It was like she was watching a movie and she was standing in the middle of the act.

“Come here, Kellie! I’m not finished with you yet!”

A well-shaped, muscled arm came out of the mirror, like the reflection of her mother was striving to get out of her entrapment and jump into her reality to catch her. The previous stifled sounds crescendoed into a scream that filled the room and echoed back from the invisible walls of the house. She didn’t have many options. She had been inactive human flesh, welcoming hits and punches.

(much like when you were a little girl with ribbons in her hair isn’t it, Kellie?)

Images bombarded her, flashes that played tricks with her mentality. She wasn’t even sure why she was going through this nightmare. Visiting the mansion was a joke she simply made with her friends, a bet she had to pay for not being brave enough to tell them she was scared. Now it had turned into a self-torture game. And it had to be over.

She took another step back and ran towards the mirror, driving her left shoulder into the fleshed-out arm. Shattering pieces of glass impaled her skin, oozing blood while the fleshed arm shaped a fist and tried to hit her. She grabbed it and used all of her power to break it. The vanishing screams of the demon filled her ears while she grabbed the body of the mirror and dropped it onto the floor, breaking every piece of glass that remained on its surface.

The red light faded and the room sank into darkness again. Kellie’s breast was heaving. She stood in the middle of the room, lost in the blank waiting for another punch to hit her over. Only this time she was ready to fight.         

facing recovery

Written by Gabriella Troy


if i thought i could recover
maybe 
i would try. 
but my mind, 
it’s a funny thing:
it doesn’t know my body.
it doesn’t listen.
it likes to fight
and hurt and crush
my personality into
ash so i am free
no longer to burn, black.
black, black, monsters
crowd my mind.
my mind suffers
an alien invasion 
and my limbs submit
to the whims of a puppeteer;
i have lost control and
i have lost myself.
i am neither a mind
nor a body,
just a chaos of pain 
and doubt and defeat
because i have rejected
myself.
if i thought i could recover,
maybe
i wouldn’t want to
maybe
fear would feed my monsters
maybe

i need someone to collect my ashes

maybe

i’ll just be

for now.

Consequences

Written by Erin Nust


The idea which wandered in his mind and tortured him day and night was that he had to face every single one of them under a new light. What was more, he had just been burdened by accusations for her death and that made his guilt even more unbearable.

Although one might believe that his daily routine would probably change, the truth is none of the things he did while Janet was still alive ceased their flow. He woke up at the same time (7:30 in the morning), he washed his teeth, and he drank his coffee by the window. The difference was that there was no one to keep him out from the toilet or the kitchen where she made breakfast. Since she was gone, breakfast was just a luxury to him and he skipped it. Then, he had to do the hardest thing for the day: go to his office, sit down, and write.

Writer’s block hit him harder after his wife’s death (death, you make it sound like it was something natural, like something that would happen anyway) and going to the office and actually sitting on his comfy red chair was literally harder than breaking an egg without dropping any shells. He decided to go out that day and skip the writing session, as he did with his breakfast. What’s the point in trying anyway, nothing good will come out of it.

He put on his black coat and he took Apple Street. It was his favourite route because it was a small road, all covered with grey stones and a pavement which was stacked with, as the name pointed out, apple trees. Now that the summer was fading out and September took over, the leaves had already started to lose their green brightness. He anticipated the October weather when they fall off and the red colour of the apples pops out in the midst of naked branches. Following that road, he would end up in Greystone, the main street in North Crennal that was always busy but never in the kind of car jam that happens in the centre of Astus. Moving here was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. And it wasn’t even my idea.

He walked along the street until he reached the crossing. He pushed the button and in seconds, the light turned green. A happy green man that paced appeared. George passed Greystone and took the second alley to his left hand. A big label appeared that exhibited the brand of the local bakery shop, CRENNAL’S BREAD AND TOFFEE. He entered and the smell of hot bread and the cookies made his empty stomach rumble. George cursed himself for not having breakfast.

“Good morning,” he said and smiled at the little fat guy (George tried to remember his name. Leo or Louis, he wasn’t sure). The baker smiled until he realized the man standing in front of him was George Frazer. He didn’t reply.

“Two loaves of bread and a box of these wonderful cookies, please,” he said and stood witnessing Leo or Louis moving in curt ways and staring at George impolitely. Of course, they do, they all know who I am, what I did. The smile disappeared from his face, adapting to the situation.

The man outstretched his arm to give George the bread and the box and he looked at him coldly. “Two forty.” His voice was that of the executioner.

George put his free hand to his right pocket and fiddled in clanking coins until he felt the right ones. “Thank you.”

“She was a good woman, your wife,” the man said when George reached the back of the store. “Why’d you do something like that to her?”

George turned around and looked at the man, glad that he had the chance to explain to someone. Even convicts had the right to one last wish.

“I didn’t know, I would cause such harm, mister. Things were completely out of hand lately and…” he didn’t know what else to say. How could he explain the situation in his marriage, in his house to a stranger? He couldn’t, so he decided to spill the raw truth to him. “I’m sorry, for everything that happened.”

He liked the small, fat man–even now. Before his nightmare would begin, he used to welcome him with a friendly smile and he always offered a cookie or two just because. Now things didn’t work that way.

“Sorry is not enough most of the time,” he said with a tone of wisdom and George knew he was right.

He decided he had enough interaction with the world outside and he took the route back home. Suddenly, the idea of sitting behind his blank page was not so terrifying. On his way back he noticed nature around him and he firmly believed that even the apple trees treated him differently. He imagined how they turned their backs on him, how from beautiful and welcoming they became terrifying and apathetic.

A couple of women started chatting when they saw him passing by the road and George lowered his head. He knew these women. It wasn’t much time ago that the one with the brown coat called him and Janet on her birthday. It seemed like he deserved the good behaviour and the warmth of his neighbours as long as he had Janet by his side. Gone, and the smiles were gone with her. Is this really who I am now? Or was I this man all along but Janet made me better?

A cold breeze made his eyes wet and he rushed to find his keys and enter his home. In his solitude, he could define better who he was and who he wasn’t. When he put his foot in the house, an idea electrocuted him and made him stop. It was as if a Muse was waiting for him by the door and hit him with an idea at the moment he entered like a homeowner would do to a burglar.

He put the bread on the table, grabbed his coffee and the box of cookies, and rushed into his office. He opened a blank file and typed like crazy. He would write a story inspired by his life. It was a story about a writer that had an affair with a woman twenty-five years younger than him. His wife had depression and clawed to their relationship when she caught him with that younger woman, she fell off a cliff near their district.  He was left to face the consequences and himself.