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Meat, stacked in columns within the village larder; the interior as bitter as the winter that lay beyond the door. Stepping outside, his breath a chain of clouds, William hefted another crimson-flecked sack from the wagon onto his shoulders.

The contents smelled reassuringly of jasmine and peppermint. Unwittingly William pressed his face into the sackcloth.

Snapshots erupted within William’s mind: summer meadows, golden hair, soft lips, whispered desires.

Tabitha.

Her fault.

Too slow, too trusting.

He had Frannie now, plain conniving Frannie.

Tears spilled, Will understood this was grief, the elders had warned it would come.

Yet he mustn’t forget to remain grateful.

For wasn’t he one of the free?

 

Clash of the Titans

The reality of being a superhero was beyond most people. Steve understood this, for he was an acolyte of isolation, devoted to the pursuit of vigilante perfection. Every night he spent at his secret base, the bedsit above the chip shop on Stapleton Road, pouring over volumes of comic book deeds.

Then he heard about Kick Ass. Steve was not what you would call a people person so he kept his distance from the neon hell that was the multiplex in town. He was tempted to download a pirated copy, but the hero within him chastised such thoughts. No, Steve waited patiently till the postman delivered his limited edition DVD box set with added postcards.

That night he sat on his beanbag and watched the film.

He hated it.

Some young upstart who lucks his way, via a near fatal accident, into being an inept hero fixated on girls? A total cluster farce Steve concluded as he munched into his second kebab of the evening. What use was such a hero when the world was being torn asunder by war, corporate greed, climate change and selfies?

It was time he made a difference.

Steve worked feverishly into the early hours, fuelled by a diet of lemonade and marshmallows. In the morning the god who stared out from the mirror was not Steve, though Steve knew he was in there somewhere. Before him was no mortal, nor a child in scuba gear.

This was Super Steve.

He wandered outside, his cloak of curtains billowing, his duvet harem pants surprisingly chafing. Yet he strode down the middle of the road flips flops flip flopping, his Staff of Power™ forged from a swingball pole and glitter feeling mighty within his grip.

From above a voice serenaded Super Steve’s emergence into the world.

‘OI WANKER!’

Super Steve looked up, a builder hanging from scaffolding, finger gesturing furiously.

Steve waved back, heart swelling with pride, oblivious to the No37 bus currently hurtling towards him.

Some witnesses stated that the tennis ball on the string tripped Steve up, others that his cloak got caught on something.

All agreed that the oddly dressed man lost.

Rather messily.

Clowning 1.01

The clowns bustled excitedly out of the ward, Pennywise’s stern painted face, intently focused on his examiner’s clipboard, halting their momentum.

‘What d’ya think boss?’ Mo broke the silence fingers anxiously twisting his horn.

‘Think? Well, what’s the first rule we discussed in Visiting Normals 1.01?’

‘Electric handshake, then custard pie?’

‘Optimise farting?’

Alfonso mimed taking something.

‘No stealing, a fine guess,’ Pennywise felt his blood pressure rising ‘but gentlemen, the golden rule of visiting sick children is…?

They all looked bashfully at the floor, the silence broken only by a mournful squeak from Mo’s horn.

‘Really … four weeks of lessons … nothing?’

‘Oh, oh,’ Mo shrieked hand in the air, ‘to not ask if the kid fancies seeing your puppy and going for a drive.’

‘Precisely! And that’s why you’re all getting Ds. Now off to the clown car and please gents, seven in the back and five in the front this time.’

 

Seventh Sense

Billy was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth, wanting for nothing. Tragically his silver cloud lifestyle was besmirched by a lead lining. Billy himself was unaware that the world he existed in was so different. It was his mother, stiff of words and manner, who noticed that Billy would often talk to the air. As if engrossed in conversation with no one at all. Finally she worked it out:

Billy saw dead people!

She freaked, as is natural for a parent challenged by such paranormal fears. So began an endless parade of specialists, counselors, hypnotists and electro-shockers, none of which found a cure.

Finally they met Dr. Pennywise who suggested the fault lay in the hippocampus region of the mind.

‘We’ll whip it out and hey presto normality restored!’ the Doctor confidently promised.

When Billy awoke from surgery, his parent’s concerned faces hovered into view.

They looked different, as if their faces were painted …

Billy screamed.

 

 

Our corroded dalliance

Forged by deceitful assurances

Manacling my essence to your will

“This was the first one I read and  I went on to read it over and over. “Manacling my essence to your will.” My goodness, that line is currently residing in my marrow.  Sad, raw, emotional, and profound.  A most deserving winner.” Judge’s Thoughts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Children bustled past Albert, scarlet balloons bobbing excitedly in their wake. Albert however was focused once more on his battered pocket watch. He had only an hour or he could bid farewell to the city of angels.

Albert was having one of those days, weeks in fact, existences if truth were told. Yet this morning things had taken an upturn when the phone of Albert’s Menagerie of Marvelous Creatures rang for the first time in months. Albert listened earnestly to the impatient voice reeling off a list of requirements for the film Aladdin and his Lamp. Typically Albert managed to drop his pen, abandoning the phone as he scrabbled under his desk. By the time he returned the line was dead. Yet Albert cared little, he had a list he could fulfill! Today was the day he got his break in a city filled with broken people.

That afternoon Albert ushered his asthmatic camel, the limping stallion and the incontinent donkey onto the set. Thankful that (a) no one had noticed the limp and (b) that, Albert aside, the rest of the gathered crew were bite and spittle free. Albert coerced his herd onto a nearby sand dune and under the light of a thousand candles waited. Finally the director Mr Capellani, short and clouded in a permanent cigar fug, wandered onto the set. He eyed Albert’s stock with a stern gaze causing the donkey to empty its bowels noisily onto the dune.

‘Where is my centrepiece?’ Capellani screeched in a voice laden with pepperoni.

‘Centrepiece?’ Albert replied.

Mr Capellani, then Mr Capellani’s assistant, his assistant’s assistant and then several producers all explained, with bursting veins and flailing hands that they were lacking the one thing they needed. And if Albert wanted to work in this town again he’d get it.

Today.

Albert scaled the zoo fence, wavering at the top before vaulting into the enclosure, lasso in one hand, a raw steak in the other. All he needed was to be confident, animals respected confidence.

Christ the lion was bigger close up.

The screams of the children drowned out Albert’s as red balloons floated into a clear blue sky.

 

Local fisherman, Yugoslavia. CC photo by GothPhil.

Local fisherman, Yugoslavia. CC photo by GothPhil.

 

Subaqueous Homesick Blues

Seb adjusted his footing on the undulating rowboat as the net taunted his callused grip. His shoulders complaining from hauling another seaweed slick disappointment up from the depths.

‘Nothing?’ Arch asked.

Seb shook his head.

‘Fuck it,’ Arch spat into the sea, ‘so what’s that today? Ten fish, some plastic shit!’

‘The Senate will understand.’

‘Yeah and one day they’re going to get their hands wet. No, reckon the lash this time.’

Seb slumped, the boat rocking in response, ‘we could go …’

‘Where precisely? Hell boy if its not the lash its exile, now stop talking stupid and grab an oar.’

The rhythm of wood slicing water broke the silence as they followed the meager assortment of vessels that comprised the scavenger fleet. In the distance the Senate’s oilrig lay squat on the horizon.

Weary and anxious, Seb gazed at the dark shadows that glided beneath them. Daydreaming about living within submerged towers that had once pierced the sky.

 

 

The Waiting Game

Now watch me cast.

Christ I feel sick.

Notice how the rod reacts as the line dictates?

Breathe, its okay, a routine emergency cesarean that’s what the nurse said. Happens all the time.

Now we wait hoping for a bite.

A name. A name so they both live.

Shouldn’t be long I reckon.

What did Emma want … Thatcher, not going to happen, far too Tory.

Hmm, can feel something teasing.

Something else. Damn where is she?

Ah a bite, now gently we reel it in, gently, teasing.

What’s the nurse carrying, is that my son? Bloody hell he’s so small.

Easy now, this one’s struggling.

Emma should be out by now, then she can meet … Elliot … Elliot that’s what we’ll call him.

Gentle.

Where is she? How can I cope alone?

Gentle.

He’s so beautiful. Must stop crying onto him.

Easy now.

Please, where is my wife?

There, isn’t she a fine specimen?

 

Photo by Ashwin Rao

Photo by Ashwin Rao

 

 

Adventures in Monochrome

A checkerboard flanks my every step up the worn wooden steps towards the lookout. The flowers of the ornamental garden are a constant lure for those intrepid collectors of light and time. As a man encumbered by foolish rituals I had lost many a day watching a petal unfurl, or the waltz of a pollen flecked bee from temptress to temptress. Gaining satisfaction from the poised finger, that moment one is sniper and artist. The click and serenade of spooling film confirming another kill. Followed by hours spent isolated under crimson light, watching time erode blank paper.

Regretfully since the diagnosis I have become tired of such things, so I’m certain it’s neither jealously nor pity I feel as I watch the photographer adjusting f-stops, tinkering with lenses. An old school acolyte quite rightly disregarding the obsequious phone, packed to the gunnels with deceits that mimics in seconds what real photographers spend days capturing and perfecting.

He notices my presence; a nod of the head enough of an interaction to satisfy us both, before he presses his eye into the sight, fingers slowly adjusting the lens. I tread lightly, peering over the rail to see his subject. Below poses a wonderful ebony orchid, from whose alabaster stamen hang pregnant bounties of ivory pollen.

‘Beautiful isn’t she?’ he whispers, looking up from the sight, ‘such richness, such grace, figured if I get this right I’ll submit to the comp.’

I nod appreciatively, then bid farewell with a raised hand as tiredness already threatens to overwhelm my spirits. I should be thankful, I mean I’m not the only one. Self help groups have sprung up, whilst doctors and specialists try to figure out what has caused this epidemic. They have at least given the condition a name:

Chromophobia.

Some opine its viral, maybe a psychic disorder. Some conspiracies have directed their suspicion at 24-7 rolling news, whose binary perspectives have split everything into black and white.

All I know is that that I exist in blandness. As if the world has been dished up to me unseasoned.

I walk home, past row upon row of monochrome.

Trying to recall yellow butterflies.