Civil War by Paula Puolakka

After the revolution, after a mob of army fanatics had helped the King to escape from his safe place in Colorado, the whole nation had spiraled into the same state it had been in the 19th century. The police forces were non-existent. All the armed resources had been pulled to Washington D.C. from the nearest states. It was true that the King was already 80 but the three decades of secluded living had made him even more dangerous. Together with his loyal cubs, he had bombarded most of the Eastern state capitals into dust. The first things he had gotten rid off were the base stations and cell towers. So far that had left a third of the country crippled. 

Golden God understood the King. It was the love and the fear of God since, though, he was the sacred one of his state, he hailed his master Kali and that meant the King. There wasn’t anyone else who had gained what he had gained before his capture and after his escape. He was a force of Nature. He was the reincarnation of Krishna in the time of Kali-yuga, the age of fire and steel. The Great Snake knew that he was a mere adder before his feet. He was the first ghetto lord who had acknowledged Kali’s authority after his escape and soon after the first three states had fallen into chaos. For a token of appreciation, the King had sent him a support group of cubs to take care of Ohio. All he wanted was that Golden God paid him taxes and publicly announced his loyalty to him.

Colson’s current status was a miracle. A year ago, he had pondered that maybe this was all: he had gained such a success with his musical career that he had been called a living legend next to Elvis. There had been only a way down, in his mind, and then the prison break had happened. The course of action during the next four months had been something from a movie. For almost a decade, Golden God had been the one who people had turned to in the time of distress. At the beginning of his career, he had cried and felt distressed by the love, admiration, and trust people had shown him. He was a nobody. He was a loser. That’s how he had felt and suddenly, he had become somebody and the rock of those who had been forgotten by the rich and famous of the society. 

When Hell had broken loose, people had automatically turned to Colson. What should we do when the internet is down? What should we do when the electricity has been cut off? Where can we get food and water? Where do we get medication? Basically, he had snapped his fingers and his gang had gone out and freed all the merchandises of Cleveland and eventually of the whole Ohio as the group’s tentacles were long and strong.

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Familial Loss by Charlotte Derrick

“Life,” your father told you as a boy, “has to be taken with a pinch of salt, and it’s the same for marriage.”

Your pinch of salt is screamin in the middle of the night. Bit over the top on it, like, but hardly a surprise comin from your wife who never seems to stop makin some noise or other to annoy the tits clean off you. And she just goes on and on and fuckin on like it’s to mean somethin. Poor wee Tess, with that fuckin voice on her like a politician. Always the same cuntin thing. You don’t know why you listen to half the shite she comes out with, you really don’t. 

“McDougal…”

Somewhere in those vows you made to her, you agreed to take her in sickness. Aye, sickness in the fuckin head! She’s herself convinced that she gets these awful migraines. She probably has one now. It’s all a load of shite, like, but you’ll be the one to nip to Tesco for her to get her some tablets because God forbid if she got off her fat hole and bothered to make the drive herself. The scandal! Fuckin alert th–

“McDougal!”

You’re not for movin. You’re not goin out again for her. You’re not her slave. What about when you’ve a headache, which is every fuckin day because of her gurnin. And, lo and behold, she’s startin at you by shakin your shoulder, then slappin at it, and then she’s for kickin the duvet off and screamin like a madwoman. You’re ready to slap her one because Jesus fuck, you’re tired, fuckin workin all day to come home to some ungrateful bitch, she never helps and she’s not helpin now, will she jus–

“Fuckin Christ, Tess!”

You fumble for the lamp, but before you can see, you feel the sticky sheets under your hands and it keeps spreadin everywhere, so you’re tryin to ring for an ambulance and reachin out to her in the dim light. She won’t stop her screamin and her blubberin and hittin the sodden sheets caught between her shakin legs and all the while there’s a hint of blame in her eyes and no matter where you’re for lookin, she keeps at it.

There’s a voice squawkin down the phone at you, askin for an address and all those kinds of details, and she starts askin about the condition of your wife and you don’t really know what to say. But never mind, because there’ll be an ambulance ‘as soon as possible, sir’ like that’s supposed to help. You’d love to see how she’d cope with a bloated whale for a wife yappin her name repeatedly into her ear, just in case she forgot it, the cunt. 

You hang up on her and turn to Tess, lookin her dead in the face. You smooth back her hair because it’ll be fine, she’ll be fine, it’s nothin serious, can’t be, you promise her. She collapses in on herself, collapses into you, tryin to catch her breath, but she just chokes on the air because the only thing she really can do is clasp her cunt and smear the gore up her arms as she cries even harder for you.

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The Claws of Trust by Zoe Fenster

“Ron, Julia, why don’t you three head upstairs so I can finish dinner uninterrupted?” Her voice was still warm despite the slight sting of her words. I remember my dad’s soft chuckle, and our obedient steps that followed. Up the curved staircase, lined with exotic plants, the carpet plush beneath my tiny feet. My tiny, dainty feet, exposed to no more than seven years of ground. My innocent feet that had no idea what they were walking into. The life lasting memory; a life long scar.

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The Nature of Loss by Julia Gagliardi

Nick paused and looked at his twin. Her arms were crossed over a black t-shirt, holes littering the bottom hem where her fingernails lingered and pried threads loose. Even if she was wearing blue or green or even yellow, it would have still looked dark in the night. 
“You say that as if it’s a bad thing,” he said, and leaned over the handles of the bicycle towards Nora. 
Nora whipped around to face her brother. Stringy dark hair muddled her creamy complexion. Nick thought of the coffee their father drank in the morning, when he tipped too much half-and-half over the rim. “Don’t you think it is?” she asked. 
Her knuckles gripped the edge of the bench seat. They paled to a bleach white as the air thickened to black around them, the night absorbing everything around the twins. The river and Nora’s bicycles lost their outlines.

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LEGAL TABOO by ABDULLAHI BALA MUSA

A taboo or an abomination in centuries ago. Today, it is legally and constitutionally permissible and popular practiced.
With legislative backing in some criticized countries, Benjamin can now openly and happily get married to Bernard while Benjamin’s father can now make love to her daughter without legal or religious consequences.
When Benjamin was interviewed on how he feels getting married to a fellow man, he explained that the homogenous marriage is more economic compared to marrying the opposite sex. Bernard also submitted that their unisex union is a contemporary call to reduce explosive population growth and maintain a new world order. The newly married men disclosed that their same sex solemnization is sweeter than the conventional wedding in the sense that both Benjamin and Bernard will enjoy a unilateral understanding of what concern or affect them because they both share the same sense and sensational stand.
At the white wedding of Emmanuella and Emelia, both the Master of Ceremonies, Disc Jockey, friends and well-wishers where all young girls and women. Unlike in the past, such unisex solemnization is usually conducted behind closed door and at odd or evil hours but the elegant wedding between Emmanuella and Emelia was publicly celebrated with all pump and pageantry expected in a conventional western white wedding. At the wedding registry, their wedding names were written as Emmanuella Emelia and for the first time, we get to create a marital form with the gender column to contain two same sex spaces e.g. female and female.

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Greed by John Mulligan

There are villages, towns and cities. Cities are the most undesirable of the three. There is a great lie protruding through society connived by the ‘responsible men’ who falsely claim the cities are the places full of civility, liberalism and decency. These same cities are no longer the hotspots they were once considered, they have changed quite drastically, and the reason for this was simple enough. There is nothing in the newspaper archives written by shameless journalists, neither was there anything in the academic journals written by dishonest scholars. The reason can be explained plainly and truthfully without grandiosity. There was a government policy which was quite clever in itself and devious to remarkable levels at the same time. The clandestine plan was to force the underclass, the unemployable, the elderly, single mothers and so on out of these cities and into more gruesome areas and the way this was achieved was through economic policy. It was a war by other means, but it had backfired...spectacularly. 

In one country which is the home of the greatest writer of his age, of any age, and the city which is the birthplace of the author of Paradise Lost is where we draw our gaze. The streets, roads, paths, bus lanes, train stations, shop entrances, in parks and everywhere else it seems are a certain category of people who are considered be the modern-day pariahs. These are the homeless who have come to the city to make their money begging on the streets. But this is untrue. They are not homeless but would have everyone believe so. They receive their training just outside the city, that is right, they require training to fill out their role in convincing the public that they are in fact homeless. The training takes place in a colossal building which looks like a gas chamber from some years ago, but it is not a gas chamber. The leader who trains these conniving beggars is an aging man called Percy Pickleflower, if that is the name he was born with then more the fool him for not changing it. Currently he is training the reprobates in the unknown location just outside the city.

‘Go about the city unshaven or with an untidy, scruffily dangling beard if it creates empathy from the public. The golden rule is this: most will ignore you, they will mutter obscenities, others will give you grotesque looks. Whatever they do the golden rule is to compliment them: have a nice day or enjoy your evening, then if they see you again, which they will, there is an even chance they will spare you some change. Remember you must act like businessmen, hunting your prey. Seek out the vulnerable and the naive. You must behave like there is a hunger in your stomach, look dejected, always be pathetic and put on a suffering voice. The time has come to make yourself proud. Let us make the free market proud and rein in the profits. Go, and like Henry the fifth, fight for England!’

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Aging Redemption by Joseph Ferguson

DAY 1

“Seeds can be stored indefinitely. There are cases on record of hundred-year-old seeds producing tomatoes every bit as plump … ” 
The lines of Ambrose’s face are etched deep blue by flickering cathode fingers. Hair ablaze with the sun’s first rays, his body sprawls motionless on the couch; a 3-d crime-scene outline.
The television drones. Words, like tiny insects float briefly then alight on his prostrate form. He stirs, eyelids sputter like a little-used faucet. His head moves enough to escape daylight. His children-of-the-damned eyes are blue saucers that only reflect the cathode-blue pantomime.
Such is the life of Ambrose: day, night, sleeping, waking, all merge endlessly in an uninterrupted and meaningless stream. While conscious, he watches whatever the TV spits out until sleep claims him, when he dreams whatever his mind broadcasts, until the blue void reclaims him.
Neighborhood children call him, “The Incredible Sleeping Man,” often holding vigil at his window; each secretly hoping that today he would really be dead. 
Ancient porch wood groans. Children scatter like birds.
Ambrose rises.
Sunlight, now grown to a perfect triangle, frames him like some B-movie space ray. He begins to move, shields his eyes, waving his arms jerky as the Frankenstein monster, unused to newfound limbs.
A few brave children reassemble at the window to watch Ambrose stumble about like a robot.
From deep within, a tugging, nagging, griping, primeval pull: hunger. He staggers, rifling cupboards, shelves, refrigerator. Nothing. Less than nothing – an open soda and what may once have been pizza, now a crawling, fuzzy infestation.
Ambrose holds his head as though playing some great tragic role. His stumbling takes him in wider and wider arcs, circling like a loose wheel until he comes upon needed items: a shoe, a wallet, the bathroom. He runs water and stares into a mirror so dirty there is no reflection. 
The children giggle. Best show in town. Ambrose cocks his head like an animatronic dog at the sound, then continues his helter-skelter rampage. To the group at the window, he is a pinball, bounding off walls and furniture, the rattling of cups, and other household detritus the bells and bumpers.
His random motions, like the birth of worlds and stars, solar systems and galaxies gradually assemble a man dressed to walk the earth.
Part human, part machine, he lurches to the door, his young sentinels, but memories of cartoon smoke.
Ambrose throws open the door as though tearing it from its hinges. Sunlight bleeds into the room, soaking brilliance into the faded rug. His own gray visage absorbs the spectrum until his clothes take on the colors of life – flannel checks, blue pants, fleshed-out face.
He is on the move, movements more lifelike with each step. Houses, trees, trees, houses, the world slips by as he slips through, destination a white light burning in his mind, more real than the reality he passes. His steps pound the pavement in automatic motions. One foot follows the other. Below, worms churn the earth, above, vultures circle.

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Life Journey by Tracy Morris

Roller Coaster:


We knock on the door with purpose. How did I let Sarah talk me into this. A fortune teller for crying out loud. What a load of rubbish, I think to myself. The door opens a man smiles “come in, come in” he says. He looks to be in his mid fifty’s, his hair is all grey. The lines in his face make him look animated when he speaks. “Come in ladies, sit down” he continues beckoning us to sit at a old but clean pine table. Sarah and I take a seat each, there doesn’t seem to be anyone else here. I am suddenly aware that we are alone in a strange mans house. This makes me slightly uncomfortable. 

Sarah is bouncing with excitement. “You must be Dave” she says shaking the mans hand. “Yes that’s me, and you must be Sarah, and this lady must be Vicky” he states looking at me. “Erm yes I mumble”. “Right ladies, who’s going first”? he asks. “Me.. me please” Sarah gushes. “I cant believe he knew which one was which, I’m so excited” She whispers as she brushes past me. Lucky guess, I think to myself he has a 50/50 chance of being right. Why am I here? I wonder there is so much going on at home. My husband and I barely see each other as it is and when we do all we do is fight. The kids are picking up on it and I can sense the tension in the house. It wasn’t supposed to be like this why cant we just be happy like normal people?

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Life and Death by Teninlanimi Owolabi

Nine.

Nine mouths to feed, excluding her own.

That is what Papa left behind.

No money, no wealth, no land.

Only nine open mouths attached to malnourished, searching faces.

She watched the mouths tremble at her father’s funeral. She watched them wail in sadness, calling the name of the man lying in the casket.

Her mother wailed the loudest. She had cried from the minute Papa’s body slammed to the ground in their kitchen, until now. Her will to mourn is unstoppable, she is an endless stream of tears.

Peace, on the other hand, stood stone faced, watching them from afar, thinking mostly of how she desperately needed a cigarette.

Peace works in numbers.

This is how she has learned to survive for the past 17 years. She always had to determine how much rice each person must eat for their bellies to be sustained and for the food to last the next day. She counted how many inches her siblings had grown so she could add more material to their already worn out school uniform for the next year. She also counted how many hours her father was gone at a stretch. What percentage of that time Mama spent crying. The number of times Peace had to find a way to provide the food for the family.

They cry as though they have forgotten.

Like they don’t remember those times that Papa coloured Mama’s body with bruises. As though they don’t remember how he was always with some other woman. They forget how he treated them like ants that he wished to stomp and extinguish.

They cry as though they have lost something.

They say “My father is dead! My father is dead!” as though Peace has not been their father for all their lives.

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Everything is connected

Human body is supposed to consist of 70% water. But what if it's pouring into your body, and the level is rising every second?

Water. The kind that stings your eyes. The kind in where you thrash your arms about, trying to fight it. The kind that wraps its hands around your throat, and squeezes. All you can do is watch. A mere spectator of a horrifying puppet show. Watch, and await the end. Because the end is near.

Scream. Again, and again. Although, all that does is push more water into your mouth. But when death is the closest, is when humans lose all sense. It is then that they forget every rule, every basic fact, and fall into a deep hole of despair. Of trying to get out, by scratching the walls, but realizing that the more you move, the bigger the hole gets.

Scream.

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ADDICTION by Daniel Murphy

September 2, 2018

‘Take a good look at yourself, Mr Slob.’ Jen said. All I’d done was say that I was going outside for a fag. Now I was backed into the kitchen sink. Her angry voice was overlaid with fruity notes of scorn and disappointment. She poked me in the stomach. ‘You’re more useless every day. Just a useless big galoot, that’s all you are,’ she said. ‘And how did you manage to find that smelly old sweatshirt. I thought I’d thrown that one out.’ She looked at me like I was something that she’d found on the sole of her shoe. ‘Is this really who you want to be?’

I had no defence to offer. She was right. The thing I most wanted to do, even then, was to reach for my tobacco. Either that or get frisky – she’s so sexy when she gets angry, her sharp face all flaring nostrils and wide eyes. But since I was keen to stay alive, that wasn’t an option. Hasn’t been an option for quite a while actually.

‘P–A-Thetic.’ she said, ‘You better sort your shit out or we’re finished.’

After I heard the front door slamming behind her, I let out another notch on the belt, sat on the back step, took out my pouch of Amber Leaf – at least she hadn’t asked me to hand it over – rolled myself another perfect cigarette and scratched my stubble. Thinking time.

* * *

It was only a week since she’d first told me she was pregnant. She’d made me read the NHS website on passive smoking again, then she read some of it back to me, slow and deliberate, like I was a kid in her classroom. ‘Exposure to second-hand smoke,’ she read, ‘Increases the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and … - … as if that wasn’t enough,’ she interjected. ‘If, by some freak of luck, the baby is born OK – … there is also increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Or …. ’ She closed the lid of the laptop and looked at me, all smug and dominant, ‘…. as it is commonly known, cot death.’

‘I never smoke in the house,’ I said. ‘So the baby won’t inhale any second-hand smoke…’ I carried on, though I should have read the signs. ‘I’m much more at risk,’ I said, ‘than the baby.’

I know. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to come out with. She stormed out the room. But she was back, seconds later.

‘It’s not about your health,’ she said from the door, ‘though I certainly won’t be looking after you when you get cancer. It’s not even the foul smell ... ’

‘That’s a bit harsh,’ I thought, ‘I’ve been paying much more attention to personal hygiene recently,’ but she was still talking …

‘… there’s more important things to think about now there’s a baby coming,’ she said. She was standing over me then, her arms folded. ‘How much are you spending a week on tobacco?’

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MEMORIES OF A SUMMER MYSTERY by Anthony Pont

One day we were doing grass work for the council. Ralph was hogging a borrowed motor-mower. A little tractor that was the most fun we had. But I didn't mind too much as that left me with our petrol strimmer which was second best. It was compelling to watch the undergrowth vanish in a green spray as I worked through the banks and hedgerows. Tommy pottered around with a rake, forming piles of scrub. This was thirsty work in a hot July and at our ages we were carrying more weight in cash than responsibilities so a lunch time visit to the pub was in order.

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FOLLOWING YOUR DREAMS by Noah Crawford

Her forbidden dreams would become her everyday life. She wanted to disappear forever and build an optimistic house that showered her in healthy white rose petals as she opened the dam to her mind and allowed the river of thoughts to flow onto a blank canvas frame. She wanted to surround herself with supportive people who will stare at her artwork in awe of the talent no one knew she had as the sun shone proudly through the trees. And she almost did. Almost.

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DISFIGURED DIGNITY (WITH A HINT OF DARKNESS!) by Sohom Das

You’re probably intrigued to know if I’ve become inured to my own image over the years. I think I have. I don’t really see the monstrosity that others see. That YOU see. When your eyes dart up for a sneaky peak. I mean I do, obviously, but I also just see me. The outside of me. The inside of me remains undamaged, normal. If anybody is every really normal. I’m probably as normal as you. On the inside (just to be clear).

I have often wondered if that would have happened with Lana’s beauty. If, over the years, I would have become inured to it. Maybe all of my awe would have run out one day. We will never know.

You might think that Lana was heartless to have left me, after it happened. My mother slipped me an aphorism at the time: “If she won’t stand by your side now, she was no good for you. It would have ended in sadness”. I disagreed, but at the time my face was covered with bandages and I was exhausted. A plethora of plastic surgery, strong painkillers and anaesthetic hangovers will do that to you. I couldn’t speak, so I didn’t disagree. But it DID end in sadness, I might have said.

Lana was at my bedside for a few weeks before she disappeared from my life and deformity crept in. You could argue that she owed it to me to have waited longer. Maybe after I’d gotten over the immediate shock. But then again, does anybody really owe anything to anybody? Also, it’s been twenty years. The immediate shock has passed, obviously, but I didn’t FEEL it pass. So when did it happen? How would she know? How would I know? What is the usual etiquette in this scenario? What is accepted and what has been agreed? These matters are confusing. So she just left. I couldn’t stop her.

On the tube, I stand and let the vibrations of the carriage gently massage me. The lights above flicker, as if desperately trying to communicate some urgent message. A pretty young black girl wears headphones that look far too big. Phones and computers have shrunk before my very eyes, but headphones are getting bigger. When did THAT happen? She screws up her face and sings along melodically. Her voice is stunning, but the angry clanging of the tube keeps drowning her out. How rude.

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THE PRESSURE OF STARTING OUT IN LIFE by John Sayles

One bad night we were kept awake by the bombs. We were told the Germans were trying to hit the railway marshalling yard which was fairly near. I recall hearing goods wagons being shunted at night - clang, clang, clang up and down through most of the night.

Possibly 1943 I recall seeing my first black man! A convoy of American ammunition lorries passed by and all the drivers were Negroes smoking big cigars and throwing out sweets to the children watching them go by. It was about this time I fell into the River Nene by the Custom House key. I was throwing stones at the fish and fell into the water. Having recalled the experience of seeing lovely green bubbles all round me as I came up to the surface I’m conscious that this interesting pleasure went some way to soften the hard words and concern the adults expressed when eventually my explanation was made on returning home. Not, at that time being able to swim, I was lucky to surface by the iron key-side ladder. Having managed to climb up out of the water standing, crying in a puddle of water wondering what to do. Nearby American soldiers made a fuss of me and gave me my first chewing gum and some money for the bus home. Being too embarrassed to say much at the time I did not say I had my cousins old rusty bike round the corner. Cycling home with excitement with a tale to tell having met my first Americans and given sweets and money. It was only later that I had pangs of conscience and thought God had punished me for throwing stones at the fish.

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LOVE LOST AND FOUND by Bryan Thomas

It is cool and misty this April morning. I am high in the desolate mountains of northern Greece. The sun tries but fails to break through the haze and wispy clouds writhe mysteriously through the packed cedars in the valley. It is the day before Easter, when Greeks roast whole lambs and the spits are being set up in the centre of the village. The smell of fresh charcoal reminds me of summer in my parents’ home in England.

My father is tending the glowing barbecue, carefully arranging the coals. My mother is yelling for him to clean up the mess he made preparing the skewers in the kitchen. He goes without a murmur. His sycophancy infuriates me. I query how he stands the harassment. ‘I love her,’ he said.

My own memories of Carole overflow again as locals in the Marketplace gather to talk, to sip tiny cups of strong coffee and to drink Retsina, that fishy mountain brew with a hint of rotting pines that here and only here tastes right. The barber is at work and fish and vegetable stalls are busy as I wander through the chatting groups returning friendly greetings of Yassus or Kalimera. Under a tree at the far end of the square I spot a small tent covered with mystic symbols. Over the canvas doorway a name, Arocel, and, below it, a word I guess means Clairvoyant. Is it curiosity or anticipation that makes me stroll over, raise the flap and walk in, hoping she will speak a little English?

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BLENDED FAMILY by S. Bee Boothroyd

All in the Mix

“The thing is mum, Adam's two boys are visiting us this weekend, so we thought a trip to the funfair might be good,” Gina began over the phone.

“It's fine, love.” Molly blinked back tears. Molly and her husband Tom had really been looking forward to seeing their grandchildren.

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WAR/FAMILY by John Davies

The train drowsing through colourless towns for three days, Captain Johnny Hughes had re-read Betty’s letters. The condition of their younger sister Frances was deteriorating.

The carriage suddenly pitching into the perfect darkness of a tunnel, Hughes closed his eyes, concentrating on the clattering of the train on track. When daylight resumed, Hughes saw that his old regiment had commandeered the compartment.

The Cheshires were cast in a spluttering half-glow, sprawling over the dingy carriage seats. Playing cards, the soldiers smoked and drank extravagantly. Languishing on their seats, dozens of boots dangled into the aisle.

Sitting opposite, Ronnie Toal was waiting for Hughes to increase his bet: “Cost yer more than that to see me, Hughesy, me old mucker!”

The left side of his face was shattered, stripped to its bone and working sinew; but this seemed of little concern to his old friend, swigging from a stained silver hipflask. “I’m wise to your game, mate.”

Hughes gripped the arm rests of his seat, closing his eyes as the laughter and shouting of the soldiers swelled in his ears like a night-tide.

Hughes dazedly climbed down from the train at Chester. The arrowed iron of the station clock’s flinched to its next calling as he scanned the crowd for his sister, wondering if he would still recognise her. Those heading for the trains looked his way, saluting as they noticed the rank of Hughes’ crumpled uniform.

Clutching the ticket he had been given for his belongings, a tremor ran through the back of his hand, pulsing the small inkblot tattoo. Occupying the window of the derelict tearoom, Hughes’ shot-through reflection rubbed at a smear on its shirt cuff, the dark spreading. He thought of Frances in the hospital, hoping that the doctors had somehow managed to control her convulsions.

“Johnny?”

Betty’s voice hesitant, she smiled at her brother’s startled expression, at the way he tensed at her touch. “It’s only me, you silly bugger!”

Johnny turned towards his sister, almost lost in their mother’s wool coat. Black hair, pale skin; her cheekbones sharper than he remembered. Bird-bone fingers clutching at air – feeling for something they had once held in the past, which could never be held again. Betty began to cry as she embraced her brother.

At the entrance to the station, an illustrated poster urged citizens to extinguish all light each evening, as a despondent cartoon Hitler seethed from his Luftwaffe cockpit, hovering over a darkened land.

“All fresh today!” Selling daffodils, a girl no more than fourteen watched them hopefully; her large eyes dark-smudged, peering out from a threadbare shawl.

“Remember how Frances could name most of the flowers by the time she was six? She liked daffodils the best.”

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ECHOES OF A BROKEN LAUGHTER by Som Adedayo

One evening in June, after dinner, Mama went mad. She sat on the verandah with her back to the wooden window picking kola nuts. The cloud above looked like ice against the blue sky and the moon shone brightly. It shone on Baba’s alupupu parked against the uncemented wall, on Mama’s three parallel lines on the sides of her cheeks straining away from her ears and on my head, shaved bald like the egg of a local fowl.

‘The moon will burst tonight,’ Mama said with a russet kola nut clogged to her teeth. I laughed.

The children soon returned with bats in the sky. Mama once said that bats travelled in the evening because they could see better then. She chased the children away with a long cane. ‘Won’t you kids get something over your sagging pants?’

The children came back in gowns that slipped over their shoulders, trousers and knickers fastened with tube rubbers and supported with hands, faded wrappers tied up to their breasts and faded oversized blouse that reached their knees. They sat, half-rounding Mama’s pile of kola; it was tales time. She told them the story of the sky. The sky was a suspended stream a little above houses, within the reach of human beings. But when they washed their oily hands and shit-stained anuses in the sky, it rose up there, far from reach.

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OBSESSION by Zoe Dunn

For as long as Evie could remember, which wasn’t all that long, she had always been fascinated by the meat aisle. The deep, rich colour of the beef joints an abrupt contrast to its neighbour of pale chicken and pork. Their soft flesh of dissected pieces covered in tight clear wrap that begged for her fingers to gouge through its shiny surface and claw along its cool and tender fibres.

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