Photography: Miss Pearl grew up in Dublin and has strong connections to Wicklow and the West of Ireland, via Sydney. Miss Pearl has been an imaging professional in various guises for the past eight years and loves making pictures.
Short Fiction: What’s Not There
– By Colm Delaney
‘During periods of high stress the patient has been known to reduce his activity to its basic level of functioning. Last month after his treatment he rendered himself silent, he slept, ate, defecated, you could set your watch off his schedule but trust me, it’s nothing to worry about’
‘You’re just not listening doctor, this time is different, he’s…’
‘Practically recovered, the medication has been upped to 40mg, he’s stable, average functioning but this is normal post-treatment’
The doctor was taken aback with varying levels of disbelief. He had performed a thorough examination less than 24 hours previously, resulting in his decision to release the patient following improvement within 48.
‘The nurse went to check on him at 2 am, found him that way, frozen, a line of drool seeping its way down the left side of his chin. I have the audio transcript of his last session’
Transcript Audio File: Session #7
It’s that question, it gets me every single time. ‘Is something wrong?’ I try to tell them, about the confusion in terms, you know? Some thing. Thoughts just need externalization at times, inside the indescribable parameters of your consciousness they mean something wonderful, full of clarity and purity and then somewhere along the lines between mouth and mind and mind there’s a scrambler, that’s what I call the internal processor that pulverizes prior to vocal expulsion: taking a fully fledged idea and readjusting the structure, phrase, content and meaning of your beautiful intention. You know what I mean don’t you? Maybe you don’t and that’s fine. Most people fail to notice it because they feel the scrambler is their mind, when really it’s a minor player, a rusty cog in a well oiled machine. It starts early, but not as early as it would like to. I know how this might sound, but it’s not a separate entity I’m talking about here, it’s internal, just observable, like everyone can hear their own thoughts, you know, but they don’t come out as they should sound, as they do inside, that’s the scrambler. Remember the first time you tried to talk to someone you had your eye on, not adolescent fancies, real connection, someone you were inescapably drawn to. The monologue starts prior to execution. Just walk over, say something, a witty observation, nothing too whimsical or cheesy. Try ‘I saw you from across the room, you look beautiful, I’d like to talk to you, if that’s ok, and if it goes well I’d like to buy you a drink’. That way you don’t come on too strong, or seem like you’re trying to get her drunk and sleep with her, right? Wrong. Enter the scrambler: ‘You’re a ride love, tequila?’ Needless to say, I’m still single. The scrambler recognizes that the world would shred the open-book quality ‘you’ to pieces. Are you still with me?
Good. Sometimes I worry that I don’t come across good or well. What was I saying? Oh the girl in the nightclub? A seven, I like to think I can hold my own with a woman that beautiful. Very knowledgeable about Mexico and border relations. Interested in post-colonial literature of the Americas. Takes all sorts to make a world. We tend to fall for images you see, that distance that was initially between us, the chasm of disparity, was not traversed by my knowledge of her personal interests, no sir. And of course her abrupt rebuttal reflected that. Very strong individual. It’s dreadfully overcast isn’t it? I try not to think of the sky as a metaphor, with the exception of days like this, that v-shaped slice looks like the outward ripples of a boat crossing, Charon’s raft, floating across this pulsation of shapes. Don’t mistake me for a poet.
Well it isn’t exactly like that, the digressions are important you see they’re all part and parcel. I apologise for equating her attractiveness in obtuse numerical; that was particularly base of me. I didn’t see a data spreadsheet, I saw a beautiful woman, not quantifiable. So I walk right up to her and I notice that her dress fastens in the front, which I hadn’t seen before but I could see the practicality of it, I mean, for her that is. I’m not saying she’s a whore. We get to talking and she’s quite intelligent, from her interests as I’ve mentioned, so by now I’m intimidated, insecure. She’s way hotter and smarter than I’d consider myself.
No not really. Well you may have a point. You see my mother was a housewife. But that’s somehow relevant in your eyes I can see, some kind of bat-shit Freudian binary trap. I say my mother was an underachiever, by no fault of her own, circumstantial you see, comes with the times. And at this point I can hear the gears grinding into place. Click click click. So she was a waitress, and you get to thinking that I’m intimidated because my initial relationship, the blueprint for how I’m going to engage with the rest of the world is built off that, my mother, a woman, a housewife, not living up to her full capacity.
In everybody’s eyes, it’s not enough now to be just a housewife post second-wave feminism. Anyway, say I disagree. I say that I’m NOTintimidated by or attracted to this woman because she’s the polar opposite of my mother. Then, in all your analytic wisdom you say that she has the similar qual….
Well we ended up heading back to mine.
I got past it, we hit it off. Where there’s a will…But anyway we’re sitting there, cheap wine, cracked glasses and telltale limbs, signal fires lit and I’m taking aim. So I’m there and I can’t believe it and then I recall the book I read most when I was, like, 15. It’s about the pursuit of the unattainable, the narrator was a metaphor for you know, social outcasts and stuff.
Yeah that’s it. And you know the opening line? So she’s getting undressed. And I fall to my knees, raise my hands in the air and scream it, you know, ‘CALL ME ISHMAEL’. And it’s like I’m above seeing myself doing it, but I had dropped a few ‘shrooms. Needless to say the first thing you think isn’t the pursuit of desire, the manic obsession, that for that moment she comprised the entirety of my world, she’s thinking, ‘did that prick just call me a whale?’ Then everything goes quiet, still. She’s screaming and I’m on my knees, she’s leaning over me and I see each contortion of her anger, I’m getting spray from the screaming. And I start to roll backward, like I’m being consumed by a wave. Just like this [Note: Patient re-enacts at this point in time] I mean is that fucked up or…
Colm Delaney spends a lot of his time balancing the delicate equation of ‘how much he reads’ vs ‘how much he writes’ (and seeing as how he wishes to be honest: how much he procrastinates). He has a B.A. in English and Philosophy and is roughly midway through researching and writing up his M.Litt thesis. He has a pet Rubik’s Cube which requires very little in the line of maintenance or care as it is an inanimate object. Follow Colm on Twitter @colmjdelaney and check out his Blog.
Flash Fiction: Jack
– By Anthony Ward
Jack awoke with a bout of coughing that would have knocked him out if he were awake. He lay there taking in the ceiling while recapturing his breath, before looking down at his feet. Jack momentarily questioned his eyes, as, instead of the usual sight of stub like toes, they appeared elongated—like fingers wiggling.
Jack lifted his torso in order to get a closer look and saw what he thought must have been his reflection rising up towards him. He rubbed his fists into his eyes, clearing any dreams from clouding his vision, only to find his actions mimicked from the other side of the bed. He looked closer, squinting to get a better look, and was flabbergasted to find his own face looking back at him with the same expression of bemusement.
He looked down to his torso and followed it to his abdomen. Here he paused, since, instead of his eyes continuing down to a pelvis, they began to rise up an abdomen, and continued to rise, until he found himself looking into his eyes—as if he was looking at his reflection, with the axis of symmetry just above his waistline.
“This isn’t happening,” they said simultaneously trying to laugh it off, and closed their eyes in an attempt to go back to sleep. But they couldn’t sleep. They felt wide awake.
They tried pulling away from each other. But it was no use. They then tried rocking back and forth in an attempt to roll off the bed, only to end up resembling an old fairground seesaw.
They struggled and struggled; but it was all in vain.
“I must be dreaming,” they said at once. “This can’t be real?”
Minutes went on for hours. The passing of time made the outside world appear more exaggerated, with people thronging to and thro in all directions.
Their frustration grew and grew until they started throwing punches at each other, landing their fists as many times as they missed in their buoyancy. Before long they were at each other’s throats—squeezing tightly. The sensation of them disintegrating rose like water in an enclosed vessel, until they lost consciousness.
When Jack came to, he found himself looking at the ceiling. He sighed with a sense of relief that circulated his body as feeling filtered through him from head to toe. He stretched his limbs to shake out the rigidity and wriggled his toes.
Suddenly, Jack jerked forward and looked down at his feet, and saw what looked like fingers…
Anthony tends to fidget with his thoughts in the hope of laying them to rest. He has managed to lay them in a number of literary magazines including Enhance, Drunk Monkeys, Speech Therapy, Turbulence, Underground, The Autumn Sound, Torrid Literature Journal and The Rusty Nail, amongst others.
Flash Fiction: The Flood
– By Shane Ward
The stones had been hitting the house on/off for weeks now. Children. Children of approving adults.
The rain was the heaviest anyone could remember. The river at the back of the estate had washed away a hundred-year old wall and the water was cascading down the tarmac paths, along the patios and into the houses. It was coming in underneath the door and bursting up in a fountain from the toilet. He sank back into the sofa, letting his feet soak in the dark, rising waters and switched on the telly. The weather forecast was on.
The room was filling up quickly. The surface of the water was dotted with bits and pieces from about the house, the Sunday papers, an upturned welly, an empty box of fags.
They’ll let me drown the bastards, he thought. A good ridding. They’ll be herding pairs of cats, ducks and beetles onto a big boat before they thought of him.
“Bad luck to yous! I’ll sit here and that’ll be the end of the bother.”
He could hear the room strain and slap about. It’d been a fair enough place to live. You couldn’t blame the house.
Then, behind the sofa, a huge pike rose briefly out of the water and smashed back down over the coffee table. A bastard pike? He’d been fishing pike his entire life. He’d once caught a twenty-five pounder that took him an hour to land. He’d opened up its stomach and found a child’s shoe in there.
A landing net hung by the front door. He waded through the room, the water rising up and soaking through to his unmentionables. He took the net in his hands and set off towards the splash.
He found it drifting, quite still, next to the fireplace. It was hard to move now, as the water was up to his chest.
The pike let him come right next to it. It thought it was camouflaged against the maroon carpet. He dropped the net behind its tail then drew the net forward along its body and whipped the net up, lifting the handle right above his head to bring the pike out of the water. It hung there, tangled and thrashing in the net. After a few seconds it came to a rest. The water was at his chin now and he stared into the black of the pike’s eye.
It was simple, violent and remorseless.
Shane Ward is from Ballybay, Co. Monaghan. He has had work published in Wordlegs:30under30, The Irish Times, Minus Nine Squared and on wordlegs.com. As well as writing, he works in theatre and is currently studying for an MRes in playwriting from the University of Birmingham.
Categories: Issue 10