Sunday, 31 August 2014

Rejection Blues and Burning


I'm editing again. I cannot honestly say that the first draft is done, as I'm never quite comfortable saying that until it is ready to be read by another. And it would be more accurate to say this is, at least, the second incarnation.

This time last year I had just started my collection of rejections. I did my research, soon encountering the vast sea of my ignorance and dived in regardless. I've always found learning by fire a good way to temper knowledge/action, and yes I blundered, a bit, occasionally. Ahem. Instead of the coldly calculating wisps who slid easily into snide that I had been fearing, and seen much moaned about online, I found my correspondence with agents, and their assistants, to be rather friendly. Even the form rejections are written with a hand that holds yours comfortingly, perhaps offers advice from an experienced perspective. It is important to remember that agents are people and, not only that, but people who read. We all want good books.

Over the autumn I carried on writing the next part of the story, carried on submitting, researching, learning. There are some sites that advise that writers can collect a 100+ rejections before getting that longed for acceptance. I've always thought you would do better to try and identify why it elicits such a negative response. A few may just be down to luck or a matter of taste. If it is just based on your covering letter then perhaps that needs to be improved, but if its on a call for your first chapters? That strongly suggests it's your writing, story, or characters (or worse, dread of dread, the whole lot).

"trap of over writing"
"far too overly florid"
"it just didn't grab me enough"
"need to have a better idea of what the main drama and thrust of the plot is"
"the writing can be tightened up and simplified"

Some of the constructively critical barbs that struck. It took a few months for objective scar tissue to form, for me to figure out whether it was just the first three chapters that were a shambles or if the problem went deeper. To figure out how restrictions cause friction, how to utilise that and when to let go and recognise that structure is not rigid, but more a glue, an anchor, a backbone. Your writing does not hang from, nor frame, your plot but flows from it. There is a part of me amused that one of the themes explored is that journey, those concepts of innocence and experience.

In the spring I burned around 51k of prose, plus an unknown amount of sentences, paragraphs, phrases, a few characters; sub plots died or evolved. The 30kish that had been the beginning of book two merged with the old, contracted, expanded. The chronology fell to chaos. The arc in Of Bloody Reflections was shaken down and combed over, redistributed and refined into a duology. I certainly understand the value of a working synopsis (not notes or plans) better now. Like an ultimate spoiler guide/battle plan/literary analysis.

The discordant mess of  Song of Sorrow settled, slowly, into something approaching a story once more.


I've missed my self imposed deadlines, but am not too fraught over it. With every cliff I jump off it gets a bit better. I think. I mean...not just florid, not just far too florid, but overly far too florid! Florid to the third degree. FFS. That haunts me.

But summer is maturing into autumn once more, and the writing has ripened.

Soon it will be ready to be read, again, for the first time.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

When the End is Nigh: Understanding Narrative

   On lock down.

Pressure of last ch.s, followed by yearned for and feared readers, leads to much stereotypical anguish.

Coffee, how I used to drink it, and cigarettes, note to self:

Less words written is more.

Re-read: MS; structural edit and synopsis, time-lined plot/s/arcs/themes/clues. Re-examine chara's action/reaction vs motivation/conflict. Hold disparate threads clear in mind and view as a whole.

Word count is important (whatever it may be): data to delineate pattern of story structure. All those pies from childhood, less strenuous to an already chaotic mind.
-how aligns to classic structures?
-how/why differentiates?
-overlay/overview

//buisnesshead: Look at what sells in market, commerciability consideration to temper creativity.//

Re-writes: Understand what you meant to say, but probably failed at.
-Keep final ch.s trim//pacing
-Expand within rise/fall of earlier tension (just replace the unnecessary description from where your subconscious knew where something was meant to be but wasn't quite a kenning exactly what it was yet.)
-Keep taunt

Restrictions create necessary friction but beware constriction. Don't hold back. Let go of fear and remember the smell of books on a rainy summer day, curled up around another world.

(also: blogging doesn't count)


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Made Glass

Softly gently dust is blown from
these hidden gems, these hard worn gleams
of dreams, memories.
When fear crowds close.
When grief keens.
Edges of reality in blurred sharpness.

Moments caught in grass, in conversation, in books,
in the sky setting like blood.
And always laughter.
And adventure.
When life trespasses briared boundaries.

And sometimes in seems,
caught in striken impasses,
that those moments never last
they linger, made glass.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Poetry & Pieces of Soul


   As last summer came to a close, back when I had first begun submitting that rather rambling first draft, I started to attend some poetry nights. I had become aware of the scene via my terribly talented friend Moden and slowly the enticement won over. My prose style had always had a poetical leaning, and this creative transition was to mark the beginning of a refinement in my writing style. I think. I hope.

And poetry has that habit, of coming from a much rawer place within.

Which contrasts strangely with that next uncomfortable realisation: the confrontation of an audience. When you are writing long form you have to get lost in your world, your narrative, in the story. It is easy to lose sight of the outcome of publication. Being that people are going to read the bloody thing.

And that seems like losing a valuable insight, a way of writing aware of impact.


Because there they are, these faces; anticipating, shuffling beyond this strange, intimidating contraption that is the mic. As you may have guessed by the saturation of adjectives that this situation makes me rather nervous. The first time I shook like a leaf in changing winds, turning colours and twisting on an uneven stem. I read a prose-poetry extract from Song of Sorrow to the wonderfully supportive, lyric twisters of Fenspeak, a group run by Elaine Ewart and Leanne Moden, with Atlier East. I explored the scene a little more with Allographic hosted by Faye Roberts. Slowly growing more comfortable, confidant enough to enter a slam or two at Russel J Turner's The Birdcage in Norwich, and Hammer & Tongue. Starting to memorise poems, to shed that barrier of paper.

I want an audience to be spell bound, to rouse that fire and let it burn bright...

Fire there was in plenty, born on the darkside, following an experience of sexual assault. Another, and I doubt the last. And so I thought of this, trying to remember hope, scratching scraps of words on envelopes, stuttering and starting with the final chapters of the book. Remembering to take time and breathe, embrace routine and easy moments.

An opportunity came up for a set on the Wild Strawberries Stage at Strawberry Fair. I took it. Planning to perform, from memory, Naturalising and the new poem I was working on.

As Anthem began to coalesce I also thought of 'we', of what feminism meant to me, to others. Of the need. Of the hundreds of missing Nigerian schoolgirls, of pictures of the two Indian girls who were gang raped and hung, of the tumult of shared voices via The Everyday Sexism Project and #YesAllWomen, of the women that were murdered in the Isla Vista shooting.

The morning broke with storms, of course, but the sun burned them off and talent spilled golden. The usual suspects that are always good to hear and talented new voices too; Meg Burrows and Joe Navarro.


I asked the audience to repeat the lines that began with 'we', to catch the rhythm and spit it back at me. The first set went well, they heard, words caught and were called back. Lyrics flowed but my nerves hemmed me in... I also entered a later slam, a smoother performance perhaps though with a greater constriction of allowed time. This time their perception was cooled by the judging process, though I hope my words still stirred.

Anthem

We are hurt
Shot, stabbed, raped
and we are leaving
the false safety of your sails

No longer knotted in conforming
contortions of genteel glamour,
but teeth bared
gritted with a rage that clamours

We are marching
Weary, wary, ready
and we are speaking
denouncing the lies that pale

And I find myself betrayed,
wearing beauty like a blade,
my body made political when
I fight the force of fingers seeking

To strip me from my autonomy.
My sisters,
denying repression, suppression,
this is expression

And you will listen
And we will rise
With rage and words
tears mixed with ink upon the page

Its time for a new age.

We are hurt
Shot, stabbed, raped
And we are fighting
We are speaking

Its time for change.

Song of Sorrow, Extract: VI The Last Eagle



   Creak. Hiss.
    The vicious wind, coldly cutting, soughing through; twisted branches, razored outcrops.
      The man-thing waited, wary.
        No song was sung.
         Stone failed to scour his broken feet. White slashes evidence of his long standing relationship with pain. In his dreams he remembers boots. Tough, leather scented, practical existence. The pinch and rub of breaking them in, once bemoaned. He finds a longing for such pain now, with its promise of protection.

 The man-thing stirred, peering.
   Crept from the dubious shelter of an old landslide. Shards of rock angled together like the primeval arrowheads of some gigantic god. There were no gods. Just…

 The man-thing snarled, twisting.
   Exposing the broken fragments of his teeth;  blackly mouldering. His emaciated grip tightened on his crudely fashioned spear. Twisted wood, a broken sword fastened to its tip. More rust than iron now.  Useless, really. He scrabbled down the steep slope, seeking the dark depths of the wooded crevice below. Within the pines death waited. But he had no choice. He must continue onwards. This route offered a possibility of a pass. Above a purple topped mountain loomed, behind him the sky was violated with a host of thrusting peaks. Now but one remained between him and the north. He didn’t really know if it offered hope. He didn’t really care. He had fixated on it long ago. His thoughts tangled and he stopped thinking. This is best. Keep going. Don’t think. Don’t stop. Don’t look back…

   The slope splintered abruptly. Stunted trees clung to shadowed fissures. His scabbed nose snuffled, the aroma of dead meat caused his hunger to roar! Muscles trembling, his crooked fingers sought handholds…for a moment he hung on the precipice with desperate fervour. Violent mutterings of shock echoed from his hollowed gut, head beating its agony. Mortality weighed heavy on him. It would be so easy to let go. To choose his ending.

   His poor feet scraped against a cruel surface, and he flung himself there, breathless. He pulled himself farther in the weeping walls. Long deteriorated fabric tore, the once shirt fluttered from him, caught fluttering on the wail of the wind.

   The man-thing hungered, famishing.
     The corpse of a rodent, found. Blunt teeth and torn nails ripped apart the aging flesh ferociously. Chewing briefly, gagging the meat and maggots down. Bones gnawed, crunched, sucked clean. The foul remains a bloody smear dripping in his matted beard.

   The man-thing wept, unknowing.
     The whites of his eyes flashing wildly, he eyed the great pines swaying before him. Pale fabric spilled wantonly down a darkling trunk. Terror struck him; no, no! No...just harsh light, slicing through the tapering treetops. His bloody fingers slipped as he heaved himself out, down. Blood bought knowledge finding the slightest handhold. Where no more were offered he dropped.

   The man-thing crouched, fearful.
     Softly, silently on the needled ground. Gaunt form ready to burst into movement, spear poised; still. It snarled and drooled, its eyes seeking, sweeping, surveying the ancient quiet beneath this towering world. Each shadow lay evilly, eyes awaiting his next move. This was her territory. She had taken them, the others, one by one. Inevitable her embrace. He alone remained. Bloated, she hunted him. Slowly. His face spasmed uncontrollably, fingers danced nervously on his spear. Don’t linger, don’t linger, don’t look back…

   Toes digging deep into the mast he ran, a stumbling, limping gait. The valley, such as it was, lay narrow and dark before him. Run, run. Run! Breath came in stabbing gasps. Always he searched ahead. There: white clawed hand gripped rough barked branch. Red sap oozing. No! No...no. A bird cawed its annoyance at his intrusion, small teeth like splinters in its beak.

   Everything was hungry here.
    The wind abated.
      The man-thing bolted, panicking.
        Pushing speed from his abused body. The sound came. The rush of rapids, the awful staccato rumble of rocks falling, the deathly maddened yowl of a mountain cat. Her laughter lapped at his heels. Fear sickened him. His terror escaped him in inhuman noises, his throat constricted, distorting the sounds of his sobbing into madness. He ran, ran. Run! This is no madness! Oh no, if only...only too real, this hunt, this fear, this pursuit. An ending, inevitable, but the horror of such pitiless rending drives him beyond.

   Don’t look back!
    The man-thing screams, defiantly.
      The wind returned. With a roar it beat at his back, assaulting his mind with twisted desires. It sought to harden his manhood with images of her carrion feeding, searing his vision. Far too late. The desiccated, grey member lay shrivelled; his bootlaces tied tight, scarred flesh creeping over them. Agonising, it gave him enough power to remain aloof of her urgings. To keep running. His body, so empty of what makes man, propelled him up the sudden cliff that closed the valley. Lacerated flesh bled listlessly, his manic flight wearying. She called him.

   No!
    The man-thing on all fours, running.
      Fingers breaking grievously on the gravel. Too weary for bi-pedal existence, he regressed. Was lost, broken, prey. His voice ripped from his lungs, body tensely clinging to the final cliff top.

    The man-thing’s mind, breaking.
     Not understanding what he saw. Far, far below waves crashed with mindless abandon against the feet of the mountains. Endless, mist wreathed seas. Sails flashed in the distance, an almost forgotten memory of civilisation glowing white in the sun. Overhead a great eagle soared, dun feathers rippled in the wind. Its mournful screech shattering his last moment.

  Despair won.
   Nowhere to run. Don’t look back…
     The man-thing turning, abstracted and final.
       She stalked. Emerging from the dark and quiet of the primordial woods, her smile fracturing her face.
   She reached for him.


Friday, 30 May 2014

The Collective Conscious

   My writer's circle and I started this story, and I need your help to finish it.

Essentially we took a rather amazing story prompt and ran with it, each developing characters and story ideas following the last post. We've got a good set up, lots of tasty, tangible threads to play with....and almost no rules.

Its speculative fiction. Don't hem yourself in, explore, be brave, be creative.

Be diverse.

Keep posts to a roughly same length. I'm not going to give you a word length, write what you need to write but consider flow and others contributions.

The story needs meat, needs a hefty middle.

This is about sparking off one anothers creativity, reveling in constraint and twisting the truths that already lie.

Have fun!

***


   It was cold, though that wasn't the worst thing. It was also cramped, wet, foetid, claustrophobic and dark, but none of these were the worst things either. To Richard Sinclair, the worst part of the whole damn trip was the waiting. He'd been aboard the USS Penitence for nearly a fortnight, en route from the base at McMurdo, and before that the Antarctic wastes. When he was selected to be part of the mission he'd been excited, but after unearthing the resting place of expedition 42A7, and the secrets they had been pursuing, he became driven, desperate to return home and report on the nature of their discoveries. They couldn't trust anyone, certainly not even the most secure of communications, not in that hemisphere at least.

Now, only a few hours out of Naval base at Kings Bay, he was nervous. Would his superiors believe him? He had scant evidence, barely making out of that hell-hole alive with more than half the team buried under the infinite white of the Antarctic tundra, but the fragment was everything. Secured in his footlocker he hadn't dared examine it 'til they were at full depth, and well under way,just in case his resolve had failed him. The little he had translated was... He couldn't even consider the enormity of it all.

And in four hours he had to tell a board of the highest ranking members of the military and some of the most powerful members of US government that everything they had based their lives on, the tenets of their religions and the fundamentals of their science... Was wrong.

He'd been wrong too, Richard realised. The very worst part of this trip would be to finish it.
 
Simothy Quayle
 *
The old man  wheezed out stiff plumes of laughter. He had long abandoned the narrowed vision of his hood in favour of the sight that so delighted him. The women sleek and predatory glided about their victim. Soft snow muffled over hard ice, the dimming white glared at the vibrant hue of spilt blood, tracked inwards of time whilst the struggle continued outwards. The women’s speckled leathers form fitting and stark, puffs
of white hair like angry clouds mounting their heads. Their dark creased and crinkled faces puffing, breath matching dying breath of the fat snow leopard.

A mournful bellow marked her passing. The old man, and the women too, listened gravely, as was fitting. The wind was rising. Shrieking over ocean and land, and ice that blurred the two, it bore stolen snow. The women swiftly swarmed the felled beast. His women. His people. People those soft skinned northerners didn’t know existed. Despite their poking, and digging, and measuring, and dying. Despite their houses built above the ice, despite their terrible iron hulls, despite their fouling of the frozen purity.
That would change soon.
The women left him the heart, still luxuriously warm, and strips of fatty flesh already freezing. They rubbed their round heads over him and he could see the signs glycopeptides rising in them too. The rest they took. The old man burrowed into his little place, subterranean light rippling, the blizzard would overtake him soon. He sucked the life blood from the heart whilst he still could. His eyes rested on the gift. He grinned a bloody grin. Old Ernest left whiskey in his wake as penguins left shit. When they passed through the convergence his people knew it was nearly time.
The old man waited. 
Ashley Fox
 


The sun was rising. The only indication she had of this was from the gap of light pouring through her bedroom curtain. She stretched, tried to swallow and choked. Her throat was beyond dry. She knew she needed a drink. The ropes around her wrists had started to itch and she desperately wanted to scratch at them. The ones around her ankles had long become sore and had started to bleed. How long had she been here? Well, by the look of the untouched food rotting on the plate on her bedside table she'd say six maybe seven days? She'd lost count. Time seemed to weave itself  into her nightmares. After the second day she'd stop screaming, after the fourteenth she'll stop caring.

The door creaks open and she quickly shuts her eyes feigning sleep. Her heart beats so hard she swears he can hear it through the dirty sheets. She feels a weight on her side of the bed and refuses to open her eyes, fear beating at her nerves. The hair on her face is gently brushed back and it takes all she has left in her not to scream. A tear escapes it's hiding place and it's over. He knows. She has to open her eyes now, otherwise...

“Good morning Amy”

“Urgh” she croaked, her eyes darting quickly at the covered face and back towards her door.

He was wearing a different mask today. One she hadn't seen before and one that was by far the creepiest. She tried not to memorise it's lines like she had done with all the others. She'd seen so many they all blurred into one and made a distorted face every time she closed her eyes.

Rachel McKensie

*
 The markings were what frightened him the most.

Of course they were letters, Richard could see that now. But when he pulled the fragment of tarnished metal from the corpse of a frozen naval officer - the icy flesh unyielding at first, as if it had enclosed around the object - Richard had dismissed the words as scratches. Nothing more. Scratches rent into the material as it tore through the ship's hull and ripped into the abdomen of the corporal. But as Richard held the fragment in frost-bitten fingers, the symbols became brighter, more vivid, and warmer beneath his grasp.

The symbols swam and danced under his gaze, undulating like waves lapping at the ship. Richard felt a throbbing deep within the core of his being. It felt like a the pulse of distant drums.

In the quiet solitude of his quarters, with the door bolted to deter unwanted intruders, Richard opened his footlocker and unwrapped the metal shard from an old jumper. It was cool to the touch, and as he
held it, it warmed like skin beneath his fingers. The metal itself was unfamiliar to him, light and strong. More akin to bone than iron. The object was shaped like a paddle, or a wide, flat blade. The edges were
smooth. No tool marks on its surface; it was almost entirely unblemished, as if the strange markings had grown organically. Like mushrooms. Or bacteria.

Richard brought a handkerchief to his mouth and coughed into it. He shuddered with effort of it and felt a sharp, coppery taste against his tongue. The hieroglyphs glowed under the harsh, yellow light of
the halogen lamps, but Richard was afraid to extinguish the light in case the symbols remained illuminated.

It made no sense. How could such an object exist? There had never been any settlements on this continent. No indigenous populations. Not so much as a hot dog stand. And yet...

The symbols seemed to be grouped into words, though the language was inconsistent. There were certain elements which resembled classical Latin, while other letters appeared to derive from Cyrillic Script. Others emulated the calligraphy of ancient Persian. Richard knew little of languages, though certain symbols felt warmer than others as he passed his fingertips over them, feeling the grooves they made in
the metal.

For three days now, Richard had been studying at the fragment, willing it to disgorge its secrets. After hours of careful study, five of the runes had formed a pattern that chilled Richard beyond expression. DEATH, it read.

It seemed, they were not alone. 
 
*
 'Is there anything else I can get you?' asked Tamara on her way out. 
 'How are you for time machines?' replied Richard his eyes not leaving the screens above the dashboard.

    Closing the hatch behind her, Tamara Coil straightened up and gave a quick nod to the sentry outside. His cheeks were rosy but Tamara reasoned that it had everything to do with her being the only plain- clothed female aboard. Besides, as Mansons' understudy she would of course be spending unruly hours alone with him. And what discoveries they had made. Death, the end being misunderstood by science as closure when really mortalities final stasis is in actual fact a barrier.

Her inner voice was in barely controlled hysterics, shooting out the social ramifications of the recently gathered the evidence not to mention....well... As she attempted to squeeze away the violence pulsating across her frontal lobe, Tamara had found herself once again confused by the labyrinthine nature of
Penitences' winding lime causeway's. Her breath was noticeably short.
 'You O.K mam?' said Oppenheimer.
'Oh, you know, this place. I'm all good thank you.' replied Tamara
doing her damnedest to talk to Oppenheimer's face and not his chefs hat.
'How is tonight's special going?'
'Oh you know,' he said with a humble but playful smile,
 'This place...if you saw who I had to work with'
    Tamara returned the friendly expression. The chef continued, 'I'm not saying that this is a five star restaurant but Toby should be flipping burgers. Mark my words, that boy will start another
fire.'
    
Tamara wanted to chuckle but she kept it in settling for a grin saying, 'Last nights lasagne was good.'
 'Merely Good?,' retorted Oppenheimer, 'I aim for special. Don't tell me your taste-buds are not the delicate receptors I imagine Fräulein?'
'Your imagination is doing overtime O.' replied Tamara with a slight wave heading back the way she'd come.
   
'How is your special going?' shouted Oppenheimer.
Tamara felt her headache swell, 'I'd rather be cooking lasagne.' She said without returning his gaze.
    
'You scientists. You don't really mean that.' laughed the cook on his merry way.
And he was right thought Tamara envisioning the runes on Richards fragment.
    
They looked more like scars.  
 'Shit!' voiced Tamara a little too loudly. One of her buttons were undone.
The rose coloured cheeks of the sentry outside Sci Ob deck A filled her with a desperate gnawing pang. 
*
“Fishy, fishy, fishy! Blop, blop, blop. Fish-wishy-in-a-dishy, splish, splash….SPLOSH!”

She let her laughter bubble out as loud as she could, giving a really, really good shrieeeeeeeek at the end.Her Nana pulled her squashy face (the one where she is unhappy but still  thinks it’s a bit funny) and turned the dial in her ear. Her mash was mounded up like an iceberg with her chip fish swimming round it, and her fish finger boat had just set sail through her sea of peas. She giggled. Chips that pretended to be fish, and fish that pretended to be fingers. Nana was right, this world was a fucked up world. She darted a guilty glance at her Nana, who was just sitting there not seeing anything, before she remembered she couldn’t hear inside her.But you could never be sure with grown ups.

“Has mummy caught her baby yet? I cant wait to meet my sister! Letita
has a sister, but her sister is just normal, my sister is special.”

Her Nana twiddled the dial again and her hands crabbed across the table in search of her glasses. She always did this so Mia choose that moment to stuff a whole fish finger in her mouth. And she HAD to eat with her mouth open so she could breathe.
“Mia bee, your mother isn’t catching babies. Remember? She is a special scientist, she’s been visiting the penguins, and they have been showing her secrets.”
Mia looked at Nana, they both knew she was right but sometimes Nana got too sad to talk properly.
“I know that Nana! Silly. You told me, I remember. Because I’m going to be special too, and Mummy is finding the truth. And making a baby.”
“I think you will see your Mummy very soon, my love. Would you like that?”
“Yes…but…I love you too, Nana. As long as I don’t have to go to the ice, my legs will fall off and my hair will turn into ice cream!”
“Ice cream! But then all the seals will chase you trying to lick you!”
“I know! And I cant run if I got no legs. Then they will like my head right off! Then who’s gonna look after my sister?”
“Oh you are a silly billy, Mia bee. Give me a kiss.”
Coz Nana had that sad, tired look again Mia abandoned her dinner and climbed up Nana like a mountain. Then she wrapped her arms tight around her, squeezing as hard as she could so Nana would feel how much she loved her and gave her an extra long kiss.

It was almost light when she got up. Her belly woke her, growling like a beastie. She was careful walking down the corridor, mustn’t walk through the dark stripes. Like a stretched out tiger, so stretched out all the good colour had faded away just leaving the boring bits. And the scary bits that felt like her yucky dream. She had an accident when the toast went POP and dropped the jam. When Nana did that she did this big whoosh breath, huff huff huff. So Mia went huff huff huff as she tried to push it back in the jar. Most of it went in and coz her hands were all jammy she just wiped them on the toast. Knives were not for little girls, only grown ups. She got out the milk and poured an extra big glass, after she put it back in the fridge she forgot about her hands and pushed her snarly hair out of her eyes. Ooops.
Getting down from the chair was hard, but she only dropped the toast once. Then tip toe down the corridor, the milk kept jumping out the glass. Stupid milk. Nana was still in bed, so she put the plate and glass on the little table. There was only a little milk left but she didn’t think Nana would mind.
“Nananananananananananaaaaaaaaa! Wake up! Rise and Shine! Mia’s here!”
She took a running jump onto the bed, the cover slipped a bit and she nearly fell, but she grabbed Nana’s arm and finally, finally got up.

“Nan! Nan! Nan!”
Nana dint move. Not one little bit. She was cold and a funny colour… sort of dull, faded like the tiger.
“Nana?” Mia’s voice whispered. She crawled up to Nana’s face and
stroked it. Her skin was still so soft and wrinkly like an old balloon. But she didn’t move, or open her eyesor go Boo! She just lay there.
Nana was gone. Mia knew. She couldn’t feel her. Mia hadn’t thought she’d leave so soon.
She moved Nana’s arm and got under the blanket. They did this sometimes if Mia was being a grumpy bum in the morning. They’d get back in bed and cuddle. It didn’t feel as nice now, but Mia was crying and her heart felt like it had burst. Lots later when the sun had his hat on the fat lady who helped Nana came round.She always just walked in. She found Nana and Mia still in bed. The fat lady started screaming and hollering and crying. Then everything went crazy and Mia decided to ignore them all. All the people coming in her house, poking at her Nana, telling her what to do. Stupid people in their stupid uniforms. Till the calm man came.
He was different. He ignored the others too and just watched her quietly for awhile.
“Hello Mia. My name is Lewis. Do you understand what has happened?”
“Yeah.” Mia had stopped crying ages ago.
“I’m sorry for your loss little one. You are being very brave. I work for the same people as your Mummy. I’m going to take you to a place where your Mummy will come and get you in a few days. Is that ok?”
“No. She wont come. Don’t you know about the secret yet? You are going to take me to her.”
“No Mia. Your Mummy will leave her work, after…this.”
“No, Lewis. She can't. You will take me. But we’ll have to get Amy first.”
“Is Amy your pet?”
“No! Amy is…never mind. Shhhh.”
“Ok Mia. But first I think we need to give you a bath, hey? You’re all
sticky!”
“I’m not sticky anymore. I’m crusty and tangled and got fluff stuck on me. Nana would call me a scraggle head.”
Lewis was smiling at her, to show he was her friend. But Mia knew, he had a shark smile. She had seen him in her yucky dream with blood on his hands. Mia took his hand, and when he stood up she saw the banger under his black jacket. Mia smiled, she needed a bad man, she knew he would get her to her Mummy. 
Ashley Fox
*
    Richard was back in his study. Reassured by the comfortable surrounds of his Boston home he allowed a pent up sigh to rise from his chest and surge past his teeth. He dropped into the chair behind his desk and began to sort through the clutter that had arisen in his absence. Flicking through the letters placed in his in tray, one with familiar handwriting caught his eye. Opening the envelope in one swift movement he withdrew the letter from the ragged seam. He smiled as his suspicions were confirmed. It was from his sister, Marcy.

It reported, in painstaking handwriting, that she, her husband Brian and their children were well. Whilst Richard had never married, nor did he really entertain the idea, he enjoyed being the favourite (if only) uncle to little Thomas and Sarah. The letter continued on to say that Brian's job was going well, a few successful tenders resulting a bonus, which in turn gave them funds to plan a trip for them all to Disneyland, of which he was not to speak to the children as it was a surprise. Marcy had also apparently taken up her painting again, after a hiatus of nearly a decade, the results of which she bemoaned, derided and critiqued, but admitted to perhaps having a small showing in a few months to which he was cordially invited. There were the usual polite enquiries into his work and health, and more pointed ones regarding, as she put it, him romancing a suitable 'lady brain' to which she ascribed his future happiness. He laughed at her continued determination in the face of his recalcitrant bachelorhood. She signed off with the suggestion that he should, when convenient, arrange to come stay with them for a few days as she so rarely so her favourite (if only) younger brother.

Still smiling he placed the letter to one side and made a mental note to call her in the evening to catch up. He opened and digested the remaining correspondence until he came across a small packet, previously buried under mail at the bottom of the tray. In plain brown parcel paper it was stamped with a US Navy postmark, but bore no return address. The label had been typed hurriedly on a typewriter, the ink smudged and letters double stamped as mistakes were corrected. He had a terrible sense of deja vu as he pulled open the paper, even though he could not recall anything from memory. Contained within was a small, battered journal and a sheet of folded notepaper, which was blank except for the headed print declaring it to be from McMurdo Antarctic US Naval Research base. Before he even opened the journal he knew it's contents. It contained the last recorded notes of Regis Morley, Professor of Esoteric Histories at Harvard, who had been Richard's own teacher once upon a time. He realised the source of the deja vu.

This was all nought but a memory. A dream. In actuality he was aboard a submarine, a scant few hours out of Kings Bay. He looked up in sadness at the now sunset filled study, dust dancing in the shafts of golden light arcing in the windows. He didn't want to leave this moment of solace and return to the cruel truths of reality. Shadows moved as the sun faded. One in particular detached from the wall and leapt at it him, tentacles and teeth and venomous hatred. He barely had chance to scream.

Gasping and coughing, Richard awoke. He hacked and heaved onto his hand, blood wetting his knuckles as his lungs spasmed. The fog of sleep cleared, taking with it detail, but leaving the sense of horror and fear. Looking down he realised he had slumped asleep across the artefact, only partially masked by the torn sheets he had swaddled it in. Desperately he covered it up, not wanting to see it's alien surface.

A siren sounded and a call came over the tannoy. They were surfacing. Richard began stuffing his notes and belongings into his pack, the object dropped smartly into a satchel. In doing so he caught sight of himself in the quarters sole mirror. Pale skin highlighted the unshaven stubble on his cheeks, cherry red blood smeared across his face. Rubbing his face clean with his sleeve he wondered what fresh hells the next 24 hours would bring.
Simothy Quayle
*
   Mia pressed her face against the little circle of plastic. It was cool and thin. She pushed it a bit, but it didn’t fall through. She giggled at this, it sounded all flat in her ears. The seat belt was digging into her tummy, but she didn’t care, kneeling higher and twisting her head so she could see everything.
Blue, blue, blue! Sparkling gold on the white wings, chopping through big, fluffy clouds. If she twisted enough she could just see the ground so far, far below. She felt like the giant up his bean stalk. Except there was no green here. Nana had got her a rug that looked like that, with little twisty rivers and roads.
She used to talk about God with Nana. She remembered her Nana always looked so sad, she used to say “I don’t recognise God anymore”. People said that God was the boss of heaven. Mia thought that the sky was really pretty, and it was fun to see everything like a bird, but she thought it was empty. There wasn’t a big juicy green vine to climb down on, and the gold was just sunshine. It was like her Nana gone in her bed. If dead people went to heaven, why did it feel the same as the bodies when they were gone?
Mia wiped her cry’s away sucking her salty finger after.
“What do you want to be when you grow-up, Mia bee?” Her Nana had asked her that on the last bedtime.
“Lightning or maybe a Transformer.”
It was nice remembering her Nana now. 
Lewis was taking on the fone again, all grumpy and jittery. He told her that they had to go see her Mummy’s boss before they could take her too her Mummy. She knew that something was wrong, Lewis tried to hide it from her. But she knew that this was the only way she would get to her Mummy in time. Lewis was a bad man, but her was her bad man, with his gun. Gun. He would protect her.
Mia smiled at him, feeling sad. Lewis looked at her, not talking for moment, his eyes like glass. She looked back out of the window at just clouds and blue and sunshine. Heaven. Nah. Maybe people thought God was good and in heaven coz he was like her Nana. A memory. She was like her Nana too, they
had the same black eyes. So was she like God as well? Was heaven the
nice feeling?
“When I’m grown up, Nana, I’m gonna be God.”.
Ashley Fox
 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Naturalising


It rolls us under, much and less than before.
Tripping caress of tongue over teeth, lips,
drool spools words gone dry.
So, you pass it back.
So I breathe, release a tentative smile.

Cold winds chasm between us,
but we bridge it with thighs pressed together.
Eyes, many eyes, too many
snatching memories of
my brows drawn in, your blush, my fingers dancing,
your breath stirring neglect.

We flex, pass it back
Amlost...not enough

There is hope that the broken parts are not
too sharp.
Though they claw beneath the yawn
and fear, red, worming into silences that stretch
strangely comfortable.

we have lips that could kiss...
we know

Round faces of strangers, seen, always at the edge
we are not alone, nor able to escape (that which shaped us)
perceptions stunted, then too broad.

So, you pass it back.
So I, I make an offering of a smile.

And it stings.
Burns beneath my breast, in the pit of me
an aching
breathless yet with laughter, hidden behind a hand that shakes.

I take sips from the gentle ocean of you
your eyes reflect my storms