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And it was still hot.”

Wren closed the relic bound by tape and adoration. Around her voices barked orders, feet stampeding across the ship’s deck. She sucked on her drip-tube, the bitter water of the condense-pouch as warm as the sun beating down.

Hands shading eyes, Wren gazed out at the various ships lying prostrate on the desert floor. Squat beasts, whose residents waited to see if Project Old Faithful, her father’s dream, would become reality.

Mind racing, Wren parted the fading pages. Max staring back from his sailboat beside a beautiful tree growing from blue-green water.

Wren had never seen a tree, let alone an ocean. Her father had once told her that air had come from trees not factories. That before the age of wastefulness forests had stretched across the world.

Wren lay back, feeling water under the ship, imagining the dark shade of trees cloaking the sky, spreading life back into the world.

Another sip, bitter warm water.

A klaxon wailed, footsteps falling silent.

Sitting up, Wren felt her father’s familiar grasp on her shoulders.

They waited, together in silence.

A dull thud off in the distance, then blue shards erupted, piercing the sky.

As her father’s tears fell onto her hair.

The silver coin spun in the moonlight, lions and nobility blurring into a mythical beast. Tabitha snatched it from the air, her patron disappearing into the East End’s gloomy labyrinth. The coin magicked into the folds of her emerald satin dress, joining the eight other crowns already earned tonight. One more and Tabitha could retreat to Old Sally’s, a glass of port for her soul and balm for her sores.

“Evening young lady.”

Moonlight traced over an immaculately tailored suit, top hat and gloves. The face was old but handsome, fine lines echoed by a fine moustache. In one hand the gent held a suitcase.

“Somethin take yer fancy?”

“Indeed, though not your undoubtedly welcoming embrace, I’m a collector by trade.”

“Collector?”

“Broken things, discarded things. Would you care to see?”

Tabitha nodded, the gent keeling, locks clicking. As he prised the lid open silver light spilled out, filling the alleyway. Tabitha moved closer, inside, lying on a blanket of darkness was the moon.

“Is it?”

He nodded encouraging her closer, Tabitha leaning in, hand reaching out, wanting only to caress this pearl of lustrous silver.

A push in the small of her back, suddenly Tabitha was falling, spiraling into endless darkness.

As locks snapped back into place.

AL-Z1-M#R

The sand splayed out before Zoe, shards of glass sparkled like jewels amidst the undulating dunes. Poseidon roared again from his lair, a frustrated wail that filled the world. Dropping to her knees Zoe plucked at the glass, a scarlet bead bursting into existence as a barbed thorn pierced her skin. Waves rolled down over black clouds as Zoe sucked at crimson. Meanwhile Poseidon thrashed and wailed, oblivious to her pain.

He hadn’t meant it, how could he when the Furies had cast their influence so deep into his very soul. All Zoe could do was perch on the edge of the storm watching his once noble face contorted by confusion and pain. When he had grabbed at the hourglass, demanding to know where she was, the love of his life, the giver of existence to Zoe, she had tried to calm him. To assure him that everything was going to be okay.

He had screamed in disbelief at the revelation, holding aloft this revered relic whose grains had counted Mother’s daily writing ritual. When blue skies were omnipresent and they were together.

In dismay he had cast the hourglass down, showering the floor in glass and time.

Time, which had eroded his consciousness like sand.

Festive Season Blues

The backwater that was Yiwu shook with the frenzy of factories churning out endless glittering baubles. Wei scurried past LED workshops, wraiths tinkering with soldering irons in pulsing light.

He was late, caught up writing a letter to his fiancé. Responding to her assurances that a smaller wedding was what she wanted, her pleas insulting his sacrifice.

The letter departed, his crimson fingerprints staining tear soaked paper.

The boss man tapped a manicured nail onto a watch that a thousand life times could barely afford. Wei bowed apologetically before grabbing a paper mask and the glue sprayer.

Five thousand polystyrene stars awaited on metal shelving.

Wei grabbed a star, spraying it with glue, before dipping it deep into the crimson glitter held within a battered oil-drum.

Lifting out a scarlet jewel, sparkling in the light of the bare bulb.

Grab, spray, dip.

Repeat.

Another mask, fingers stained crimson. Lungs hacking with shimmering dust.

Whatever Christmas was, Wei truly despised it.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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“Everybody wants to feel that you’re writing to a certain demographic because that’s good business, but I’ve never done that … I tried to write stories that would interest me. I’d say, what would I like to read?… I don’t think you can do your best work if you’re writing for somebody else, because you never know what that somebody else really thinks or wants.”
Stan Lee