Hollow Eyes

Written by Erin Nust
Art by Cottonbro


A man was standing in the middle of the clearing, the small hills of the estranged forest were adorned with giant, emaciated trees that worshipped the Moon goddess with their uplifted branches. An amphitheatre of dark branches lay in front of the sturdy man. A triangular hat sat on the top of his sheet-white head, a robe made of ebony embraced lightly his body. He bore a sober expression, effortlessly calm as if he had seen the end of the world, as if he knew everything. In the imaginary stage where soon, he would perform his act, he opened up his dust-touched tome and looked up to his audience: the hollow-eyed maids waiting to find their destiny.  

“Leigh,” the man’s voice sang as if it came from the depths of Earth itself. Silence devoured every sound. Only the constant, rhythmic breathing of the young women could be heard, who interconnected in an invisible web of existence, stood still, limbs hanging from their sides, their eyes empty of any emotion, any evidence of life. The man waited patiently, his hands holding his holy book tightly, his eyes wet and sparkling wandering among the scarecrow-like  maids.

A piercing shrieking voice, distant at first, arrived in the clearing with unimagined velocity, stuffing the human ears with its horrible sound. The man didn’t flinch; he had been in this place before, he had heard the screams before. 

On the top right, opposite to the man, as light rustling in the woods accompanied the shriek and the blonde maid with the nocturnal sea blue eyes, who stood there equal among the others, was dragged into the woods, never to be seen again. A devilish laugh was the last thing heard before the young woman was never to be seen.

No sense of fear hung in the air. The maids remained in their places, still, their dresses dancing under the feathery wind. The man’s eyes returned to the pale paper of his book. 

“Margaret,” his voice affirmative and sturdy as before. Another gust of wind blew the clearing, the young women fragile as autumn leaves, waited silently for another scream, obviously coming from a creature, a female from hell; and then Margaret was snatched. 

The man said four other names out loud: Nora, Elle, Jessie, Rene. None of them managed to get away from the violent grab, their voices stabbing their young and innocent souls with a million sharp needles. 

Only one maid, innocent, pure, waited for her own time to depart from the world as she knew it. Like Demetra, she would soon follow her own fate, her own personal Hades. 

“Clea,” the man said, only this time his call didn’t initiate any reaction. No voices approached from the woods. The girl’s body remained untouched, still and upright like that of a scarecrow. 

The man with the triangular hat waited, murmuring some words. It was part of the procedure, the calling, the prayer. He closed his eyes and then his mouth and turned his hand into a fist. He kissed it with reverence and raised his eyes to see the girl named Clea, as if waking up back to her simple adolescent bedroom with itslinen sheets and heavy wooden bed, welcoming her consciousness once again. 

Realising that she was in the middle of the woods, shoeless and vulnerable to the piercing chill of October’s night, the girl trembled. 

“Clea,” the man called for her. His voice was warm, welcoming, like a cup of cocoa in front of the fireplace after a long night in the cold. He stretched his head out and she followed him, an unknown man in the middle of nowhere. When she reached the clearing, Clea nodded her head in question. 

“You are chosen, Clea. You are pure enough to be one of them.”

The girl’s face was blank, her eyes searching for a meaning lost in the neverending darkness, as she was trying to remember if she knew the man, if she knew her own parents or where she came from. Swift moves split the thin air. Clea raised her dark eyes up to the sky, only to see a concoction of shadows entangling with each other. A sharp scream gave rise to a chorus of hellish voices, shouting, laughing, some of them whispering. Seconds later, her eyes caught the flash of an image: a crusty, old broom. Women rode them with pride and ecstasy. Witches. 

“Welcome, Clea.”

Witnessing the Unthinkable

Written by Erin Nust
Art by Donald Tong


The day was Monday, October 12. The clouds were impregnated with rain and I dragged my feet to the Fool’s Asylum—Libeton’s biggest prison. I would like to inform our loyal and new readers that not many of the reporters out there are determined to undertake such journalistic prompts. Watching a criminal leave his last breath was not and still is not part of any academic branch. “Why would someone in their right minds do such an awful thing to themselves?” you might reasonably ask. To this, I’m not going to answer. Not here, not in these pages, because what I would like to share has nothing at all to do with me; it’s all about the story.

The story begins on that Monday, the morning I visited another prisoner in the execution room. Writing is a lonely job, but connecting with people who have committed the most atrocious crimes makes things even lonelier. It forces you to alienate from the darkest, most sinister places in the human condition. 

The prison smelled like any other: stale and sweaty. Testosterone emanated from every hole in the walls, while screams and confusion reached my ears from every corner. I followed the steady, boot-worn steps of the guard—he paced in the corridors like a god—and they led me to the execution room. 

Donald Hopert was about to be executed with lethal injection at nine-thirty in the morning, accused and sentenced for the murder of Georgia and Jenny Hopert, his wife and only daughter. 

According to his confession, Georgia Hopert left the house with five-year-old Jenny, without previous notice. Donald came back from work to the empty apartment in Herrington Street, believing his wife had abandoned him. He claimed he had no contact with them during the weekend, although he was sure Georgia and Jenny found shelter at her mother’s. The devastated woman confirmed the fact in court. 

The reason Georgia and Jenny left never took a clear form in our understanding, as it usually happens in those cases. Hilary Farey, Georgia’s mother, described her daughter’s wedding with Donald “an awful mistake she didn’t know she would pay with her and her daughter’s life” and she added instances of emotional and physical abuse both to her daughter and granddaughter. 

We never found out why Georgia decided to take Jenny and go back to their apartment a week later. Mrs. Farey explained that she hadn’t noticed any sort of communication between her daughter and Donald. In fact, she was relieved and convinced that, soon, her daughter would move on with the divorce procedures. However, on 31st of August, Georgia Hopert took her daughter’s hand and walked all the way back to her marriage home. Was it an act of regret? Was love enough to walk her back to the abusive environment she raised her daughter for five years? No one knows. What happened for sure was that that night, Donald waited for them and in an electrified fight between husband and wife, the forty-two year old man took the life of both members of his family.

The following days are mostly known. Donald Hopert and his attorney began a campaign of winning over the public eye by stating reasons of mental unsteadiness. Indeed, Hopert, in his confession, expressed extreme sentiments of jealousy towards his wife; the couple had been fighting about the matter for months, since Donald tried to convince Georgia to leave her job and “be a proper woman, mother and wife.” It seemed he had tried to isolate his wife from the outside world, even from her own inner circle, including her mother and her two childhood friends. 

All that I heard and knew aboutDonald Hopert by the time I arrived in the injection room drew a picture of an emotionally and psychologically unstable man, who blindly obeyed the directions of his lawyer. When he entered the room, I realized I was right, but not fully: I saw a man indeed in an awful mental state, but I also recognized a sort of charisma that made him eerily powerful. Even if he was being led to what everyone thought would be the last moments of his life, he appeared as if he would cheat death. 

I have witnessed many executions during my career, but witnessing the preparation of sending a man to his death still upsets my stomach. I believed that if I collected enough horrible things and facts about the accused, I could discard any feelings of sympathy and sickness from my body. It never worked.

I touched the comforting paper of my spiral notebook and grabbed what I called my “job pen”. I turned on my recorder and watched Donald Hopert lie down on the bed and being tied by the officers. The silence was broken by a dry, awkward cough of the doctor. Donald closed his eyes and smiled as the deadly liquid travelled through the plastic transparent tubes and inserted his veins. His skinny body fell into deep relaxation.

The liquid went running and Donald’s body succumbed to the toxic substances of the injection. I won’t bore you with the medical procedures of this execution system, but the sufferer accepts three doses of three different drugs: the first aims to enter the unconscious state; the second paralyses the skeletal system (diaphragm included); the third causes death by cardiac arrest. 

The doctor, a serious, haggard-looking man, walked by the monitor to declare the time of death. His eyebrows drew together, composing an expression of confusion which evolved to surprise. By that moment, I knew something was wrong. I was going to experience something new; I was witnessing the unthinkable and I didn’t know it yet. 

The reason this article is being published now, almost a year since the execution day of Donald Hopert, is of course because the human mind is unable to accept a new reality, polarly different from the one it had already mapped out. 

I witnessed the first man unable to die. Donald Hopert after receiving three times the proportions of the lethal injection was still breathing, His body has been paralyzed and his brain has been severely damaged, but, clinically, the man was still alive. 

In what sort of world do you think I woke up the next day, dear reader? How could a man return to value his mortality when he had just witnessed a man unable to die? I am not writing this to enforce any kind of conspiracy theory. The aim of me sharing this story is personal, egotistical even. I wish to release this burden from my chest, maybe pass some of it onto your chest. Maybe now you can have restless nights like I do. Maybe you could think about, obsess over, what you are doing with your life now that you know that there is a chance that Death can’t touch you. 

This is what I did and this is what I have been doing for the past year. Of course, no paper would allow such an article to be published and you shall be certain I am writing this independently and resigning as a reporter. You can, as well, assume  that I have resigned as a human being. 

The human mind is a fragile thing. Push it too hard and it might turn against you. I have introduced to mine information that it is unable to handle, to process, so I pass this story to you to ponder.

What would your life look like if you knew that humans could no longer die?

Family Sins

Written by Erin Nust
Art by Maria Orlova


Jane didn’t realize that something was terribly wrong with the house until the golden-framed black and white photos of dead people dropped onto the floor in the middle of the night. 

I had fallen asleep on the couch. I had thought the right thing to do was to let Jane sleep in the bedroom as the guest. I had all the time in the world to sleep on the double bed. We had spent our evening losing every sense of direction in the maze-like roads and paths of the small Cretan village until we found some sort of shop to have something to eat. The man that served us looked nice and kind, but he didn’t speak a word of English. 

The couch framed my body with a rocky touch. I turned and twisted in my blanket for half an hour until I fell asleep from mere exhaustion. After falling asleep, I used to be a heavy sleeper back in New York; I wasn’t sure if I ceased to be one in Greece or if something had the power to get me out of my slumber with such force that I came back to the conscious world with short breath and soaked with sweat.

I woke up two times before the frames on the wall shook and fell. The first time was accompanied with a cacophonous, shredding chorus of  blubbering. I snapped the blanket away and pressed my body to a sitting position. 

“Jane?” I asked loud enough for my voice to reach behind the closed door and into the bedroom. I heard no answer. I touched my forehead with my clammy palm as if checking if I had a fever. My mind’s distinction between reality and dreams was thin. I was certain I had heard someone’s terrible crying in the room I was sleeping in, or maybe it was just a terrible dream I couldn’t remember. 

The temperature of the room fell below zero. I couldn’t know that for sure but, although I was dipped into my sweat, my body shook; the room had transformed into an igloo. I wished I didn’t think of myself as simply mad, and woke Jane up to ask her if she had experienced any strange incidents during the night as well, but I didn’t. 

I curled myself into the blanket and forced myself back to sleep.


May 9, 1936

It was Giorgis’s wedding day today. No member of the Florakis family was invited, but Konstantis came. The orchestra played, people danced, I was sitting by my husband’s side wishing the newly-wed every happiness in the world. Konstantis’s step was unsteady. The music stopped when we realized he came to gain the heart of Myrto, the bride. 

We held our breath. Things were very close to bloodshed. One wrong word, one wrong move, and the Chalkiadakis family could tear Konstantis apart for daring to come to this wedding. 

His eyes were locked to Myrto’s direction. He didn’t utter a word. A sharp dagger came out of his pocket. Giorgis’s father asked for his shotgun and I grabbed my husband’s hand in fear. 

Konstantis stuck the dagger in his chest and fell on the ground. Myrto let silent tears fall on her cheek. We gasped at the sight of Konstantis’s death, but nobody dared to move. Giorgis’s father ordered the feast to be continued, the music to be played, and he carried away Konstantis’s body with the help of my husband and his cousins. They brought it back to his mother.    


The cuckoo clock on the opposite wall showed time was quarter past three. I had been sleeping for an hour and a half since my previous nightmare. My eyes turned to Jane’s closed bedroom door again. All was quiet. “Jane?” I asked once more, but again received no answer. 

At least one of us is having a good night’s sleep.

When my mind came back to reality, I felt a thick bead of sweat slowly rolling down my forehead. I wiped it away with my hand, which was saturated with sweat. The temperatures were low in the village, I recalled. How did I get so hot?

My eyes fell on the woolen blanket which provided so much comfort and I set it aside. I inherited this blanket with the rest of the house from some great aunt from my father’s side; he couldn’t even recall her name or their exact relation. I thought moving into the house was my chance for a new start, not some survival test. “Change brings uncomfort,” I mused out loud, and I covered my mouth with my hand. I didn’t want to wake up Jane and let her catch me talking to myself. I was accustomed to being alone. 

When I folded the blanket I noticed that it was decorated with triangular patterns of red and brown. I put it on the end of the couch and I lied down again. To my surprise, I fell asleep almost immediately.


September 26, 1935

There was a family meeting in our house today. Everyone was there, the whole Chalkiadakis family. The spectacle of the night was Giorgis, my husband’s first cousin, who, outraged, declared war against every child, every man and woman who was named Florakis. 

Konstantis Florakis set his barn on fire, destroying his property and his livestock–a total of seventy sheep. I stood in the corner of the room, with a couple of other wives, and listened carefully to the conclusion of the meeting. 

A feud between the two families was born. 


Jane’s screams woke me up the third time. It reached my ears seconds after a loud thud. I opened my eyes and sprung from the couch. On the dusty floor lay the pictures that used to hang on the wall. 

“Lena?” Jane shouted and came out of the bedroom wearing her cotton pajamas. “Are you okay?”

I wanted to be honest and say no. I hadn’t felt okay since staying in this house, but I lied to her.

“Yes, yes I’m fine. What is it?”

“Didn’t you hear the bang? The frames fell on the floor. All at once. And… Please don’t think I’m crazy. I thought I saw a woman in the bedroom.”

My throat was dry.

“Woman?”

“Yes. An old woman. She was standing above me while I was sleeping. She had a crane, her hair was white and covered with a kerchief. She was there only for a second. I don’t know what to say right now.”

I opened my mouth to say anything to her, to try and calm her down, but the moment my voice was ready to be used, the cuckoo clock chimed so loudly I had to cover both my ears with my trembling hands. Jane followed my example. From an unknown source, a cold breeze swept through the house, bringing dancing particles of dust with it. The carpetless wooden floor started changing color. Blood spread and spoiled the wood until it almost reached Jane’s feet. 

She screamed. I still can’t remember if I joined her with the same pitched voice I had in my nightmare. I know what I saw though. In the pool of blood that formed, the image of a man on his knees impaling himself with a dagger, then falling with his face on the floor. I grabbed my suitcase and Jane’s hand and ran out of the cottage.

I don’t know why I’m writing all of this. I don’t even have a proper pen and paper. I am typing it in the notes app on my phone. I called my father that night. He sounded upset. I announced that I was coming back to New York. He said he had to share with me some things about that house.  


November 19, 2006

Lenio died today. There are even fewer of us remaining in this village. She died and it wasn’t me, nor someone of my kin who ended her life. We have failed. Our men failed. 

I can feel that my time is coming soon for me too, so I’m writing this letter to be considered an old woman’s wish, my testament. It had all started with a fire and I hoped it would end in fire.

I had no other choice but to participate in the upcoming bloodshed. My husband’s family was my family and our honour was spoiled with injustice. Pity and shame to those who fled, to those who betrayed their kin and left the blamers unpunished. 

The men of the family kept the feud alive. Children almost got killed, properties were gone. We couldn’t walk on roads that the opposite side took, mediators did their best to prevent any more blood from being shed. But their days and nights were filled with it.

When our men started to die from old age, the younger generations believed it was futile to fight for a cause that didn’t serve their interest. My children and their cousins and their children left the village to get out and seek a different route for their lives. At what cost though? They left us behind, they let injustice grow. I’m certain my husband’s and all our men’s bones are shaking under the cold ground. 

And now only me is left walking the empty roads. Now that Lenio is dead and I wasn’t the one who killed her, my life in this place is over. I have failed my dear husband, his father, Konstantis, all the people who died fighting for the right and all is good.

This is my will: I, Eleni Chalkiadakis, wish great misfortune to any of my kin who returns to this place. May my rage and their shame saturate their life in this land. May they and their antecedents suffer a terrible life, like the ones who lived during the great war of the feud.


When my father ended his storytelling, I wanted to laugh. How could I explain to him and to the rest of  the people who would soon ask me, why I ran away from that house? 

I saw Konstanti’s body on the floor that night; Jane did as well. All this bloodshed for the love of a woman, for another Helen of Troy. Konstantis was in love with Myrto, she was promised for another man, he took his revenge by setting the barn on fire.

I saw it all, but my father’s expression, the tone in his voice suggested he thought it was all just an interesting story. What he didn’t know was that the story haunted the present. I was touched by that woman’s anger, I witnessed my family sins.

Everything Happens For A Reason

Written by Erin Nust
Art by Oleg Magni


I never expected things would ever turn out this way. Definitely not in the beginning of everything, when I had to spend the nights locked up in the basement.

That my father was a hot-tempered, egotistical man, I knew it very well; that he would ever reach the point of such madness, never crossed my mind. Not consciously at least. 

When I was eleven years old I did my first prank. The victim was a girl named Lucy and she was a classmate. Me and the boys from the “gang” stole her glasses and hid them in my locker. Lucy, blind as a bat,  was a functionless being and we found it extremely entertaining to watch her walking around with her eyes half-closed and her arms extended in front of her like a zombie. My laugh drowned when Principal Lewis gave me a three-day detention. Me,but no other member of the gang. This was the first time that my dear mother, under the strict orders of father-tyrant, locked me in the basement all night. 

Young boys get angry very easily and express it in an ugly way. That night, after my fists were red and burning from banging the door, I wanted to destroy things. I thought that if I made enough noise, they would notice me, they would let me tell my part of the story. I wasn’t alone doing the prank after all. I dropped the two, big tool cases; I also dropped the oil dispenser, leaving a big stain on the wooden floor. When my mother unlocked the basement floor and finally let me free, she screamed at me for destroying her house, for being an inconsiderable, little prick. Ever since, I could see my mother’s joy in her face whenever father ordered her to lock me.

Over the next year, the reasons they found to restrain me in the basement became more and more personal. Father was working as a builder and by the years he grew violent and upset. Whenever he was in need of shouting at someone, of hitting someone, of accusing someone, I was the best (and only) candidate. And then of course I spent the night at Basement Camp, where I had to be grateful for the relaxing company the mice’s squealing gave me and the chilling pierce of humidity in my bones. It was the basement or the streets. 

I was getting used to it. The cold didn’t get me so easily and my nose grew accustomed to the faint smell of oil and mold. Father was supposed to fix the leaking tubes, but of course he never had the time and no one ever complained to him about anything. His eyes had a strange spark those days, I never dared to examine further. I tried to cause as little trouble as I could. I ended up being a ghost in my own house, a ghost that periodically lived and breathed in the basement. 

Resentment was poisoning me slowly, though I can see that now, thirty-two years later and wise as an owl. I still felt the heavy axe of injustice on my chest and wished to release it somehow. The basement had more to offer than I thought in the beginning. It hid secrets and small treasures, it hid memories. All I could do those nights spent in the basement was to take my revenge slowly. So I stripped them from their precious memories. 

I found old photographs of them as a couple that made me yack, pictures of old people who I supposed were my grandmas, great-grandmas and grandpas, letters, a pocket watch, old vinyls. With every visit in the basement, I took one thing from their memories and hid it in an old chest in my wardrobe. I locked them there and at times, when I was in need of some gratification, I opened it and touched them smirking with my evil genius. 

I never imagined what would come next. I don’t know. I think I wish I had never taken that small jar from the back of the top right shelf. Yet, again, I should know by now that everything happens for a reason and all leads to where you are supposed to be; but, I don’t think I ever understood why I should have ended up an orphan at the age of twelve. What have I done to deserve such a hard life? 

I didn’t know my father played the cards. I also didn’t know that he had holdings for some emergency. I never thought my father was such a money-considerate man, but once again I was wrong. There was a lot I didn’t know back then; maybe things would be easier for me if I was brighter back then. I can still recall the day he came from work and went straight to the basement to search for his savings. I was at the kitchen table doing homework, a piece of furniture that was breathing, when he stormed into the house with the same crazy spark in his eyes. My mother followed him with a towel in her hands asking him what was wrong.

I remember trying very hard to concentrate on what I was doing and not lend an ear on what was happening around me, but it was a total failure. I heard them shouting at each other; then I heard objects hitting the floor, some of them made of glass; I heard my mother screaming she didn’t take anything from the basement, she only went down there to clean; I heard my father’s fist landing on my mother’s body and her shouting in pain. 

I realized it wasn’t time for being a ghost anymore. Deep down in the caves of my mind, the knowledge was rooted that I had caused my father’s rage by gradually taking pieces of their memories: my revenge was delivered but I didn’t expect an innocent would pay for it. 

I ran.

I grabbed my notebook and I got out of the house. I even left the front door open and I ran. I only stopped when I heard the gunshot. I paused and looked at my old house, bearing the thoughts that the revenge I wished to have and the revenge I took were nothing but close. 

Now, I know that kids make mistakes and that they will do anything to let their resentment out of their system. I also know that my mother is dead and my father died in prison for I, a twelve-year-old boy, was ignorant enough to steal other people’s memories. 

Everything happens for a reason. But what had I done to deserve such a burdened life?

Shadow

Written by Erin Nust
Art by Sebastian Palomino


Car crash on Marrakesh Expressway kills two women and a three-year-old boy.

According to the Moroccan police report, a fatal accident took place on A3 highway between Morocco and Casablanca. Thirty-year-old Adilah Harrack lost total control of her car, resulting in a crash. Minutes later, Mrs. Abregel collided with her burning car, taking her life and that of her three-year-old son. Harrack was under no influence of alcohol or any other substance and the authorities reported, “the car collision was the result of unknown circumstances. The post mortem examination and reports showed that no alcohol was consumed from either part of the crash. We can only assume that Mrs.Harrack lost control of her vehicle and Mrs. Abregel collided with the flaming car, resulting in the tragic loss of her and her son’s life.”

———————-

The road unfolded in front of her smoothly, like a Persian carpet. She soon got bored of the ride, though. Short greenery and fields of brown, barren fields popped up on either side of the highway. It was quiet and lonely. The car radio had been broken for two weeks now; she never thought to fix it for her big exodus.

Her mind was a mess of jumbled thoughts that she somehow managed to cram in one corner of her mind. There was no turning back now and she wouldn’t manage to lose her focus. Her hands looked stable on the steering wheel. The tight grab gave her a sense of control (oh, you lost control a long time ago, love) which made her stabilize the screaming voice in her that cried for help. Eight years ago, she couldn’t even imagine that running away from the things she created—the things she had wholeheartedly believed were her destiny—would generate a sense of freedom.

Imane should be bed by now, Adilah could still listen to her biological “mother’s clock” (really does it still work? Do you even deserve to have one of these just break it and set yourself free?) flooding her with information for her ten-year-old only child.

And it was right.

———————-

Imane was indeed in her poorly lit bedroom, curled up on her bed, her dark brows on her forehead violently smashing each other, shadowing her wet cheeks. She could hear the distant sounds of the TV in the living room; dad should have slept on the couch again.

She didn’t know why her mother would do such a nasty thing to her and her father. Although the beautifully written letter announcing her way out of the family came as a shock to her, the knowledge was always there. The signs were staring at her young soul, but she didn’t have any way to deal with it.

The spite was boiling in her now. Everyone gets what they deserve, the dark but now pleasant (oh so pleasant) voice kept teaching her in her weird dreams, where Imane did bad, bad and violent things to people with the help of her shadow that looked nothing like her.

Imane never in her life had a wish so strong. Not even when she begged her parents to adopt a puppy, or a kitten, or a turtle, or to make a sister for her to lay alongside. No, her wish was impregnable to any objections this time. And it was feeding from her relentless spite.

She knew she could give her mother what she deserved; she could bear the Sword of Justice and make her pay for her crimes. She had done it before, listening to the voice. Then, she could have access to the shadow of her dreams. Imane could feel a strange tingling in her forehead. Her fingertips were numb and sore. The darkness was chaotic behind her closed eyes. The shadow was there and waited for her orders.

———————-

She managed to keep herself calm and driving. No turning back now, no turning back. She was the one in control. A slight movement in her car mirror caught her attention for a second. Adilah’s irises moved eagerly as if she was in danger. There were other parts of her body that told her so as well: her heart hammered in her chest, drops of sweat caressed the side of her face and her steady hands were now shaky.

She was right to be anxious. In the back seat, she carried a passenger that had no license to be there. With her boggled eyes, she witnessed a smoky existence slowly taking form into reality, creating itself from nothing. The car sank in a stench of blood, tears, sweat, and wet earth.

Time passed slower in her car than the world outside. The creature had fully transformed into substance and it wore the face of a tired woman with ash skin and long dark hair. Her eyes were not human; they looked more like they belonged to the body of a fish. In her hands, she held a sharp African machete. With a swift move, it ended up in her throat.

The world disappeared—her human, fragile control turned into dust and the car hit the cemented sides of the highway. She fell on the wheel, her blood choking up, the opening in her throat exhumed all life from her. She gave up on her last breath as the car was consumed by the fire. When it accepted one more hit from a speedy vehicle that—unluckily—bumped forcefully on her burning car, Adilah was no more and the fake dream of control had died with her. 

The Tower

Written by Erin Nust
Art by Pixabay


Gillan set her foot firmly on the hard soil and got out of the car. The red and blue lights on its roof created a party on the serene grounds of the monastery. Apart from the olive trees and the vibrant grass, in the court, scattered black-wearing monks were chatting with each other, they were praying silently with closed eyes, they were crossing themselves. Amongst the olive trees and vibrant grass, scattered black-wearing monks were chatting with each other as others prayed silently with closed eyes, crossing themselves. Gillan, Usher and a team of ten officers arrived with two more cars.

“Oh my,” Gillan said when she realized she had to face the monks. People of religion made her uncomfortable.

“I know. Just do your job, honey.” Usher’s voice patted her gently as he rolled out of the police car as well. Despite her original protest of their partnership, his reassuring words and loving touch gave her strength. It was the hardest case of her career.

Gillan sighed and walked towards a monk. “Good morning, I’m Detective Jade.” Gillan took out  her badge, but put it back in her belt quickly when she noticed the old man’s confusion. “I’m searching for Father Macarius.”

He didn’t reply, only nodded and walked to the other side of the monastery, where even more of the monks swarmed in malaise. The old man pointed to the side of a tall, thin man with a big wooden cross hanging from his neck. “Thank you,” she said, smiling at the helpful monk who only bowed before walking  away. Gillan wondered if all men of the Church were this talkative, but she doubted it.    

“Father Macarius?” She stopped when he saw the man stretching out his hand like a medieval princess, ready to be kissed. Gillian, remembering Usher’s words—Just do your job, honey—obeyed. “I’m Detective Jade” “God bless you’re here, my child.” His voice was sober, but trustful. Gillan finally regained hope that she would manage.

“Can you take me to the crime scene? And ask some questions of course?”

Father Macarius left the rest of the monks with a few words and a touch of reassurance before leading Gillan to the central door of the monastery. The rest of the policemen had taken the appropriate measures of security, without much disturbance. With no inquisiting citizens around who just want to take a sniff of adventure, to have a story to tell later in dinner, their work was so much easier. 

“We are not used to visitors. Only in the summer. The scene had caused great turmoil in the monastery’s soul.”

Gillian left the Father to lead and talk. She gave a quick glance to Usher back to the police car, wearing his reading glasses and filling in some reports. His job couldn’t really begin until they witnessed the crime scene. 

She was scared of what she was going to face, but she had already gotten her feet wet two months ago. That man on the mountain with a hole in his chest, dressed in ragged clothes tied up on a pole, with a stick on his back, marked her nightmares. Gillan had witnessed many crime scenes during her career. But killing a person and leaving them on the floor like it was a piece of a plastic wrap was only human in her eyes; putting them up as if they were puppies to make an actual theatrical scene was not. It was sick.

Usher was working day and night to create a full profile of the man (or the woman, don’t forget it can be a woman) they were searching for. Gillan admired him and his co-workers for the way they used their minds, like locksmiths trying to unlock the impossible: the mind of a serial killer. She could only use her mind to make strategies, and hunt. She was a huntress.

“It’s not as hard as you think,” he had tried to explain while eating dinner in front of the TV. “ Actually, serial killers, like other human beings, work with mental patterns.” Gillan had begged him not to compare the average human mind with that of a serial killer’s.  It made her uneasy.   To her surprise, the monastery didn’t smell of sage, but of heavy wood. A few sunbeams penetrated the darkness, entering from the small windows. Monks didn’t seem to like light very much. Father Macarius led the way through narrow corridors with wet walls and double wooden doors that opened their way to all kinds of different rooms decorated with simple, wooden furniture.

Gillan, Usher, and three officers stopped when Father Macarius paused in front of a locked door. He crossed himself and used his key to unlock it. Usher touched Gillan’s lower back as if he was preparing her for the worst.

The doors opened. The smell of wood was still strong but now mingled with something raw, unnatural and metallic. Father didn’t enter, he stepped aside and put his knotted hands on his heart and mumbled praying words. As if hypnotized, Gillian took step after step, deeper into the crime scene. The empty row of pews passed behind her until she reached the central stage with locking eyes.

Gillan gasped and grabbed her belly, as if closing the eyes of her unborn baby. 

Three people were murdered. 

One of them was standing tall, tied around the gigantic cross that decorated the room with rope. His eyes were still open and pointy horns decorated his head. Someone had drawn an upside-down star on his forehead with blood. He looked like a goat with a red tattoo. His right hand saluted with the palm open, the left hung loosely facing the floor. In front of him stood two more dead monks, totally naked, both tied up in wooden poles. Their necks were connected with a chained shackle. The blood formed a pool on the floor.

“Oh my God,” Gillan said, feeling for the first time the need to cross herself.

She looked behind her. Usher was taking notes. The other officers passed her to get  closer to the crime scene. They were already taking photos, doing their job as they were supposed to. Since when had Gillan found it so hard to be sober in the sights of a gruesome scene like the ones she was facing the past two months? What changed?

I’m becoming a mother, Gillan thought, and it was true.

Not just externally, seen by the bump of her stomach, but internally too, where all her  thoughts, all her stimuli are related to the protection of the child. 

A deep wish to catch the monster who committed all these miscreations brought her closer to Usher, who was putting his pencil on a piece of paper, drawing lines, copying a rough draft of the crime scene.

“Have you been sketching all of the crime scenes?” She asked after peeking at his work.

Usher shrugged. “Just the recent ones.”

“Can I see the others?”

Usher reached for his black, leathered backpack—it was her present and she loved that he never left the house without it—and fetched a handful of A4 papers. 

Gillan looked through them. After a quick glance, she could recall with details every one of them. She liked to have titles for every case of hers in the same way Sherlock Holmes did. She was a big fan. She saw the man with a dog and a bag on his shoulders; the man with a table and an infinity symbol on his head; the woman in white sitting between two columns, one white, one black; the woman in the middle of a field wearing a crown; the man whose body was sitting on a throne with a sceptre in his hand… She spread them on the floor in the right order. As she and Usher examined them, the room lit up periodically by the officers’ photos. 

“Why don’t we use the actual pictures?” Usher asked.

“No. This is better. This is human. Your hand, your perception of the scene. It’s helping me think.”

Usher didn’t respond. He pushed his glasses on his nose and did what Gillan was doing—thinking.

“Wait a minute,” he said, nodding his head, as if he was searching for his reading glasses and they were left on the top of his head the whole time. “It’s Tarot.”

Gillan frowned, listening to Usherwithout taking her eyes away from the sheets of paper on the floor.

“Major Arcana. Look,” he pointed at his drawings in order. “The Fool. The Magician. The Empress. The Emperor.”

“How do you know about Tarot?” Gillan’s voice was surprised, but excited.

“General knowledge.”

Gillan pierced him with one arched eyebrow.

“All right. Some nights I work with the TV on. I have seen the cards in a show.”

Gillan persisted.

“Ok, maybe I Googled them as well.”

“What card is next?” Gillan asked, being a detective and not Usher’s wife now.

“The Tower.”

“What does the card look like?”

“It’s a tower being hit by a lighting bolt. It means destruction.”

Gillan put her thumb on her lip. She thought of all the possible buildings in Astus. What could be used or seen as a tower? They didn’t have a real one, none of the medieval buildings in town managed to be maintained, so what-

The thought was clear and lit up like a neon sign.

“He’s going to Valor.”

There was only silence between them and the officers’ light chatting. Valor was the only big corporate skyscraper, just outside Astus, but thousands of people worked there. 

“I’m going to catch that sick son of a bitch,” Gillan said, caressing her belly.

Time

Written by Erin Nust
Art by Janez Podnar


Melinda dragged her feet as she was reaching the top of the hill. She could feel some of the dirt and the pebbles from the ground entering her old, leather shoes, making every step even more painful and tiresome; but she didn’t have time to stop and make herself comfortable.

The bridge was there and her brown eyes glittered with joy and relief. Her pace recovered the energy of the beginning of her journey.

She knew the flower was across that bridge.

It was exactly like Henry had described it to her: a strong construction made of heavy grey stones, a concrete structure that connected the two parts of the kingdom. Of course Melinda’s family was born and raised on the wrong side of that bridge.

She placed her foot steadily on the stony surface of the bridge and the sensation of the perfectly glued pebbles against the bottom of her shoes was extraordinary. Melinda could see why her people attributed the construction of the bridge to a witch.

According to her calculations, she’d have to walk for about ten minutes until she’d manage to cross the whole bridge and reach the other side. A ten minute walk that will give her access to the flower Henry asked for her brother.

The goal was shining and burning in her head like a piece of glass under the midday summer sunlight. She didn’t have time to moan or whine or worry about her little brother lying sick on his bed, with her parents crying and standing above him day and night. Henry, the village doctor, had made a request and Melinda had devoted the next two days to it.  She pushed the feeling down and kept climbing the bridge.

The sun had turned into an unexpected burden for her journey. It was shining too brightly, the clouds didn’t dim it. The direct sun rays hit Melinda’s naked  forehead, and droplets of sweat were born and ran across her face, some of them managing to enter her eyes, making them stingy and irritated. There was no turning back now, there was no time. Every second spent for her comfort was endangering Kyle’s life. Soon, she was feeling as if she was strolling through the deserts of the Old World, a feeling her mind could replicate only based on the tales she and Kyle heard from their grandma.

Melinda was almost halfway through the bridge. Her eyes caught some small object four feet away from where she was, lying on the stony ground. She tried not to pay any attention to it, to keep her eyes locked on her target, but it was too white, reflecting the hot sunlight. Unconsciously, her pace went faster.

It was bones.

Bones. In the middle of a bridge, where almost nobody crosses. For the first time during her two-days journey, Melinda stopped. She lingered above the bones and scrutinized them although she was sure from the first time she saw them they were human bones. The perfectly shaped bone of a human skull, with empty sockets, strong teeth, facing the Earthly sky as if searching for clouds.

Maybe it was true; what Henry had warned her about. Knowledge had started to shape into her head like a piece of clay into the experienced hands of a potter. She was so absorbed in the end goal that she ignored the signs, Henry’s words (you need to be careful, there are rumours that people didn’t survive, rumours I don’t believe are true of course), the isolation of the place. Only the flower mattered. And Kyle.

Suddenly her clothes were too hot against her skin, her shoes hesitating to move forward. She looked at the skull as if asking its story, her mind avoided the truth. The comforting image of Kyle rose. Melinda pictured her little brother on a hot day like this, helping her with fetching water from the river, running around, asking her questions about the flowers, the trees… The image gave her strength.

The river under the bridge ran smoothly, up to the point Melinda had stopped. She craned her neck, touched the wall and looked down to see what was going on. The water ran, but it was mute. Everything around her worked fine, but her hearing was lost.

She shrieked and removed her hands from the wall. Suddenly, the bridge felt contaminated with some unknown illness. The blinding sunlight was overcast. The previously hot sweat now turned into ice and ran down Melinda’s back.

“Who wishes to pass my bridge?” the voice of a woman made her turn her head.

She couldn’t take her eyes away from the view. Melinda was under the shadow of a gigantic, magnificent form of a female with wild black hair and skin made of ice. A dark matter floated around her and everywhere she looked darkness reigned.

“Who wishes to pass my bridge?”

“My name is Melinda,” she said, her voice a feeble leaf under the strong gust.

“Just a name is useless to me. Who are you?”

Melinda froze. She wasn’t sure if she was dreaming, if her long exposure to the strong sunlight was creating illusions. If that was the case she had to wake up fast. 

“I… I’m Melinda. I don’t know what else you need to hear.”

The woman’s eyes turned black with fury. It was her. The witch.

“We’re much more than our names, Melinda.”

Melinda felt the passing time giving her a strong slap to the face.

“My brother is in danger. Real danger, there’s a flower I need on the other side of the-”

“So, you’re a sister. I used to be a sister once, hundreds of years ago,” the witch’s voice was harsh but flat. There was no soul in it, no human expression, as if she was reading it apathetically from a piece of paper.

Melinda’s eyes passed through the magnificent figure of the giant witch who was still floating in front of her, and locked her final destination behind her. Everything around her surrendered in the darkness the witch brought, but under the shadows, there stood the meadows. According to Henry, the flower was behind those hills, carefully guarded by the witch.

“Nobody passes my bridge before stating who they are and what they’re about to pay in return,” the witch nailed her eyes into Melinda’s, piercing her soul.

She was at loss for words.

“I am a sister. I have no money on me, nothing valuable to exchange”

“You humans. I never talked about money, there are a lot of interestingly valuable things you possess and you don’t even know it. Pity.”

Melinda was suddenly intrigued with the woman. Her hair danced in the air as if she was underwater, her words made the girl think, ponder about what she possessed that the witch might find valuable enough.

Taking a closer look, she had just realized that the woman looked like a mermaid. Since her appearance aligned with the stop of the river, the girl was convinced that she was some sort of water witch, if this was something that existed. The magical world was too far away from her little mind, only a fairy tale when she was a child. The way her hair floated in the air, the light blue light that emanated from her form, the icy, pale skin was textured with scales.

“There is only one way to pass this bridge. Tell me who you are.”

“I already told you. I’m Melinda. I have a younger brother who is currently dying from a disease that can only be cured by a flower that grows on some rocks on the other side of this bridge. I don’t have time for chatting. Just tell me what you want and I’ll give it to you.”

The witch took on an expression  for the first time. It was a smile; or rather a smirk.

“Time.”

“Sorry?”

“You are time. The clock is ticking in your head. You can hear it, second by second, you can feel its passing on your skin. This is what defines you, what is most valuable for you.”

Melinda felt a heavy rock lying on her chest. Whatever the witch meant with that, she was certain it wouldn’t be easy or good. No thing asked from a creature like this could be good. 

  “Wh- What does that mean?” The air around her hung heavy and cold, darkness embracing her fully inside and out. Her soul had been seen, and worse, had been touched by a witch.

“If you still wish to pass this bridge, you have to give up time. This will be our deal. Time or you can turn back from where you started, running.”

The girl felt the witch’s hand already reaching her, scratching the veil between her physical form and her soul with her long nails. Melinda was taking some steps backwards. She was ready to do what the woman had proposed and run, run as fast as she could, run away from this horrendous being and curl up into her mother’s embrace.

But she didn’t.

“If this is what you need then my time is yours to take, if you can promise me an uninterrupted crossing both ways of this bridge.”

“It’s a deal, Melinda: sister and provider of Time.”

The witch outstretched her right hand in an elegant move and the tip of her nail touched Melinda’s chest. The pain was unbearable as she was tearing apart the veil to find Melinda’s soul and extract her value. She was screaming, but no entity in the world seemed to listen or to care. Nature had taken Her eyes away from this insidious exchange.

“I have been looking for Time for so long,” the witch whispered and the path before Melinda was clear.

The sun was hot on her head, the river ran smoothly in the stream, the bones sunbathed against the hot stones of the bridge.

Jessica opened the door in desperate hope it would be her daughter. Her disappointment was double: not only was it not Melinda outside her door, but the cure for her little boy was still missing, and time was running out.

“Hello?” she asked the old woman standing by her door. She was short, with heavy lines all over her face. A leathered bag crossed her body and reached her hip. The old woman tried to talk but the voice was too feeble to be comprehensible. She  made a mumbling sound.

Henry stood and went by the door. He tapped Jessica’s shoulder, indicating he would take care of the old woman and she went back to the boy.

“May I help you?” Henry asked and the old woman opened the leathered bag with her tired wrinkled hand and got out a small plant with tiny purple flowers in the shape of a bell.

“Oh my God, Melinda. I- I’m so sorry.”

Henry let her inside, after taking the flower and running to prepare with it Kyle’s medicine. His face was pale, as if he had just witnessed a miracle. 

“Mom?” Melinda said with a raspy voice. Jessica’s confusion dissolved after minutes of examining her. 

“I’m sorry, Jessica. I didn’t know, I never thought…” Henry mumbled as he was crushing the flower in a pot. He didn’t find the courage to look at Melinda’s mother.

Jessica came closer to her daughter and carressed the deep lines on her face. “There was no other way, mom. For Kyle.” Her eyes filled with tears listening to her daughter’s words. 

“It’s alright. I gave my time to Kyle. I would do it again. One hundred times, if needed.”

Inferno

Written by Erin Nust
Art by Moein Moradi


He wasn’t even moving. For hours, for days. His mind was so vivid, though, it was loud. The thoughts (what are we going to do now, what’s the point wh-) were shouting at him and he was standing still, still and small in front of a voice that replayed the scene again and again and reminded him of his doomed destiny, the dimness of the future, now that the baby was gone.

If you could listen carefully, you’ll hear her voice in his head, which had almost completely replaced his own. Her voice wasn’t crying anymore. She wasn’t mourning now, her voice wasn’t wet and didn’t wear black. He was afraid of her stillness, of her dead, cold position, the way she stood in front of his small, fragile body.

(Why? Just why? Why don’t you speak?)

Nothing.

Because he knew. He knew that what he did (again and again and again) was a one-way ticket. His lips were sealed, his voice was taken the moment (they were sleeping together in the same bed) that he committed the crime. Not that he didn’t want to speak, to scream from the top of his lungs, to shout to his mother’s cold voice that asked him for an explanation (they were sleeping together, he was only sleeping and then he did it). He craved for that.

But it was the price he was forced to pay (and then he turned over and the fat in his body swallowed his twin whole): the world not to hear his voice again. It wasn’t the punishment he chose for himself, nor the one his parents–his mother–forced him to take. He had no (he was a fat baby and his brother was feeble and he died with no cries, he had no air in his lungs and he died) other choice. The Divine had chosen for him and, oh, how sweet this freedom had tasted (he killed him because he was fat and sleepy and he dropped his body on his poor, little brother and he hasn’t spoken since then) and how much of a weight has been lifted now, that his mother took off the black garments and asked for excuses (again and again and again and)

He was sitting in a white room that smelled of old age where everything was blindingly white: the walls, the sheets and the blankets, the nurse’s clothes even (again.) He never spoke to anybody, he wasn’t even moving like all the other elders. He could barely hear the whisper that used to be his voice, the only remnant of an old monument that was ready to crumble. In his mind, he was still young and strong but small in front of the gigantic voice of his mother that had no physical substance anymore. It just asked him why. And he had no answer to that. He could only accept that this would be his inferno, until the weak (your brother was so feeble) whisper would fade away.

Unwanted Gift

Written by Erin Nust
Art by Sevenstorm JUHASZIMRUS


Violet bit her lip and dug it with her teeth. The corridors were white, shining, so clean that she felt she was contaminating the waiting room with her human bacteria and the illnesses she might have been carrying.

Farther down the corridor an old man was sitting alone, coughing in his fist, with his eyes closed and squeezing. Violet pushed her purse tighter to her lap.

She didn’t like that she had to wait alone.

“The doctor will come in twenty minutes,” the kind nurse with the red lipstick and the overall pin-up girl-look informed her when she arrived.

Violet thought the nurse was only too polite to say: You, madame, came early. You couldn’t bear the peace of your own house, could you?

The silence was more eminent in the hospital’s corridors, a fact which sadly surprised her. She expected the building to be full of life, with doctors talking after a harsh night’s shift, nurses carrying ill people to their rooms, surgeons shouting for assistance. None of those things happened.

The old man had another coughing episode and Violet discreetly moved a seat to her right. Hospitals had changed a great lot since she last had to visit one.

She could still remember the day. Peter had driven her to St. Helen’s after a strong pain in the abdomen and a heavy haemorrhage. They had just lost another chance to become parents. The incident happened two years ago, when Peter was well and unaffected by the illness.

He got it without warning, when no one knew about it, how lethal it was for those who, like Peter, worked underneath the earth. Like most of the miners he worked with, Peter’s symptoms included: heavy headaches, diarrhoea, and unexpected dizziness.

Doctors still researched what infected the fragile human bodies of the miners. The possibility their institutions had discovered something lethal under the surface scared Violet and many others who were affected by the mysterious illness.

And while people who still had the free time and the money to travel anywhere in the world, just entering the tubes in the former train station and the airports, the illness remained a mystery to the world. 

The hospitals worked only to help cure common diseases, because there was nothing they could do for those who suffered from It. They just left them to die in their homes, next to the people they loved, or alone, in some desolated cardboard box.

Violet never understood why the government didn’t use robots to do the heavy jobs; why they had to send real men to excavate minerals, and connect cities with wires, while robots remained on the surface and worked in offices and on the roads. Anger fuelled a million questions like these. Time ran and the doctor still was nowhere. She had to wait, silent, not to disturb the beautiful nurse, while she had to protect herself from the old man’s viruses. She was only a wife and a daughter after all. 

Peter was proud, too proud to yield to anyone with more power than him. Now that he was gone, thoughts tortured Violet: she had been a sort of hypocrite towards him. The reason she fell in love with him was his resistance towards power; how he didn’t give a second damn about her being the daughter of Lucius Hall; how him marrying a girl like her would probably cause him more trouble than good. Violet loved him for all of that, but she never understood why he preferred to work with no sight of sunlight, under heart-breaking conditions and provide for his family than to be fed by that corrupt son of a bitch and his dirty, lawyer-money.

She hated when he called her father like that. She didn’t approve of his mistreat of his employers (robots and humans), but he was still her father and she had to be respectful to his name, or else… her dolls would be taken away from her, no phone calls, no partying, no dessert. Marrying Pete was the most rebellious act she dared against her father’s power; and that because she wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences on her own, there would be two of them. The whole hypothesis was thrown in the trash of course now that Pete was not alive anymore. 

Violet lifted her coat sleeve and checked on her watch. It had been almost twenty minutes and there was no sign of the doctor or the pin-up girl. She searched around to check if more people were waiting, like her, if there was another woman she could talk to. The place was empty except for the two nurses in the reception and the old man in the end of the corridor. She would like to go and ask the nurse again when the doctor arrives, but she didn’t want to be perceived as annoying or needy. So she remained in her seat with the purse, holding her purse closely in her lap.

“Mrs Theole?” the nurse called and she sprang from her uncomfortable plastic seat.

“Yes?”

“Doctor Walter is here. You can come in.”

Violet pulled up her skirt and used her right hand to zip it on its side. She couldn’t look the doctor in the eye. Gynaecologists always made her nervous.

She lied down on the bed and nailed her gaze on the wall opposite to her. The doctor put on her gloves and spread the jelly in her.

Violet looked at the familiar screen on the side, for the first time wishing it would be empty.

“Mmm. Congratulations, Mrs Theole. You are pregnant,” the doctor said with a cheerful voice, but Violet couldn’t share his excitement.

There was no one to share the news with. Peter had been gone for almost two months now. How didn’t she notice? Her period had been late, but she never had a steady cycle; she had been dizzy and sick, but she thought– she wished– it was the illness and she would soon reunite with her Peter. She attributed some of the symptoms to the fact she was mourning  her husband’s loss.

The idea of a child was only relevant as long as Peter was alive.

Violet took the high-speed train and stopped three stops after. She stood before a skyscraper. She entered the turning door and she  saw busy people running with coffees in their hands, others with earphones plugged in their ears, all running  errands and copying files.

Her father’s office was on the fifty second floor and Violet was forced to cram herself in the elevator with eleven more people. She enjoyed witnessing people living, moving around, being busy, but she didn’t like to be touched.

The elevator took six minutes to reach its destination. It was the longest six minutes she had experienced in her life. After they heard the ding of the elevator, they swarmed out in different directions like ants that had been trapped and finally being released.

Violet followed the path to her father’s office which was boldly shined by the bright sun at the end of the corridor. She knocked, and a humanoid welcomed her with a seat and a cup of tea.

She didn’t like the tea her father offered to his clients. It was too soapy. After stating her name and business, she waited, holding the steamy mug in her hands.

Five minutes later the android let her enter her father’s desk.

“Violet! What a pleasant surprise,” he said without taking his eyes from his papers. He always sounded chipper, especially since Peter was gone.

Violet swallowed hard, bringing down her pain for his heartlessness.

“Dad, I need to work for you. I’m moving back home.”

A Tale About Men’s Nightmares

Written by Erin Nust
Art by Anouar Olh


“Where do men’s dreams come from?” the woman asked.

“Dreams or nightmares?” the voice replied.

“Both. Nightmares are dreams after all”

“Hmm. There’s a tale my grandmother used to tell me when I was younger, a tale passed down to her from her grandmother.”

“It sounds more like a family heirloom than a plain story.”

The voice was soft — enchanting— and reached the woman’s ears like it was omnipresent. 

“It is,” the voice laughed but quickly sobered again. “In the very edge of Earth, where the man’s hand can not reach or grasp, or reap and sow, there are water-touched, moon-washed caves. No human being ever managed to discover their buried secrets and that was what makes their magic remain. 

The caves are blessed to be flooded with the tides of the sea every time the moon is full and its magic powerful. Once a month, on hot summer nights or on gloomy days when the snow falls like tears from the thick clouds, the waters rise and the caves are full. The caves’ walls are saturated with the moon-blessed sea and then…”

The woman was mesmerized by the voice’s tale. Her breath was steady and her senses heightened as she waited for the rest of the story.

“Shapes, nymph-like forms, unravel from the wet walls, where they lived trapped for eternity. Once, mortal women sacrificed their lives in the name of their loved ones, their spirits were taken from Mother Moon and transferred to the caves where they could live forever. And on the most magical days where the Mother was full and giving to her children, they would come alive and be allowed to travel and find their loved ones if they wished. 

And they travelled through dreams, through men’s thoughts, and when they landed they asked where they could find their loved ones. They screamed and they cried, they begged and they let their anger free. The spirits’ cries haunted the living men in their dreams and when they woke up to the physical world, they felt dried out, moody, even scared. They call these dreams nightmares and they move on with their days forgetting about the spirits’ beautiful shapes and their enchanting voices.”

The voice paused, but the woman wasn’t satisfied with the ending. She needed more of this outworldly tale. 

“And when the full moon passes? What happens to men’s dreams then?”

The voice didn’t reply and the woman started to believe she had asked the question in a desperate way that repelled the voice. 

“When Mother Moon is no longer full and Her powers deflate, the spirits return to the walls of the caves. The echoes of their cries sometimes last though, and the men who were touched by them have nightmares for much longer, until the strength of the spirits’ power was totally diminished.”

This time,the woman didn’t say anything. She was clever enough not to argue with the voice and remained in her dark room with her eyes open, pondering over the voice’s tale. In her mind she pictured the dark caves, worn out from the salty hits of the water, the shapes of the spirits getting out and haunting the men’s dreams. 

The woman placed her head on her comfortable pillow and closed her eyes until deep sleep took her over.