Saturday 27 December 2014

What Sin

By Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga

The screen yawned like the cavernous mouth of a black hole, pulling Jun into its vacuum. She let it drag her there, away from thoughts and worries from a past life that threatened to stain the white furniture of her apartment red. The doorbell rang. The screen spit her out and Jun leaped over the back of her couch to get to the door.
“Who is it?” She asked as she pressed her eye to the peep hole. Pale blue-grey eyes stared back, framed by ghostly strands of hair escaping from a messy bun. Unlocking the door, Jun grimaced for good measure, “Ew. It’s Psycho Psyche.”
Psyche rolled her eyes. “I’m here to check on you.” Her eyes flicked around the room, a split second flash that Jun caught with practiced ease.
She narrowed her eyes. “’Check on me’, huh?” Leaning on the door frame, she crossed her arms. “You sense some Unseen here? You’re looking at one.”
Psyche shook her head. “You’re half-Unseen.” Crossing her own arms, she added. “Mind telling me why there’s so much Unseen activity in and around your house?”
Jun threw her head back. “Oh! Oh you think I would definitely allow Unseen to party at my place.”
Pursing her lips, Psyche replied, “I know you wouldn’t. That’s why I’m worried about you.”
Averting her eyes from the ashen blue of her teammate, Jun walked back inside, inviting Psyche to follow. Making her way to the kitchen, she took out two mugs and started heating water for tea.
“Earl Grey, right?” She called as her hands grasped a tin box. “Have a seat on the couch.”
“Yeah,” Psyche replied absently, eyes lingering on the plasma screen television before her. “Interesting décor,” she commented. “Because everything is white, all eyes are drawn to the television screen.”
“Yeah, well,” Jun leaned on the counter, focusing on the low rumbling of the electric kettle. “It’s how my mom likes it.”
Psyche turned her head around to meet Jun’s. “And your mother is…?”
“Not here,” Jun turned away, grasping the kettle to pour hot water onto the tea bags within each mug. Honestly, she thought. Could this girl have any less tact? She handed a mug to Psyche who took a deep whiff of the steam and exhaled with bliss.
“How did you know I like Earl Grey tea?” She wondered.
Jun shrugged. “It’s what you always have at Mr. Kyle’s office.”
“Ah,” Psyche nodded.
Noticing the way her hands shook as she held tightly onto her own mug, Jun set it down, hoping Psyche wouldn’t catch the one drop that landed on the glass top of the coffee table, though its brownish shade is hard to miss. Leaning forward, she let her hair hide the profile of her face as she rose to retrieve the cream and sugar from the kitchen.
“I like my tea black,” Psyche called.
“Yeah, so?” Jun snapped. Her lips trembled. Mine is too red, she thought. I need to dilute it.
Coming back with a white tray, she scooped up a spoonful of sugar to drop in her mug and quickly added cream, stirring it all into a calmer caramel colour.
“Jun, are you okay?” Psyche asked.
“I’m fine!” Jun snapped.
Psyche put a soft but firm hand on her wrist as she attempted to lift her mug. “You’ve made a mess of your table. Look.”
Indeed, the coffee table was littered with white sugar crystals and milk spills. Jun took a rattling breath.
“Why am I sensing so much Unseen activity in and around your house?” Psyche pressed.
“None of your business!” With a jerk of her arm, steaming tea spilled onto the white carpet, giving it a seeping brown stain. Like dried blood, Jun thought. Her stomach contracted.
“Jun? Jun, I’m sorry.”
“Look what you’ve done!” Jun cried. She grabbed her hair in helplessness. “My mom’s gonna kill me!”
“You wrote on your application form that both of your parents are dead because of an Unseen attack,” Psyche replied evenly.
“My mom isn’t dead!” Jun covered her ears.
“Then where is she?”
“There!” Jun pointed.
Psyche’s eyes widened as she saw the plasma screen television as if for the first time. They swept across the apartment’s main room one more time and it clicked.
“Jun, you have a portal to the Unseen realm in your house.”
“It was my mom’s,” she explained. Tears rolled down her eyes. “She went home from time to time.”
“How many Unseen pour out of there-”
“None!” Jun cried. “It’s so heavily fortified even I haven’t figured out how to use it!”
“Then how do you deal with the Unseen waiting to break into your house and use it?” Psyche yelled.
“They wouldn’t dare,” Jun assured. “No one messes with my mom or her property.”
“Jun…” Psyche bit her lip. Her teammate wore an expression that even the coldest heart couldn’t continue questioning. It was that dark-circles-under-the-eye, red-rimmed sunken face, as if Jun’s life wasted away in front of the television screen, as if its darkness took everything for the sake of remembering nothing, nothing of the horror imprinted in those dark brown eyes.
She pressed on despite herself, “…it’s illegal to keep a portal to the Unseen open.”
“It isn’t open,” Jun whispered.
“It is,” Psyche insisted. She reached for Jun with outstretched arms, hoping to soften the blow of, “If Mr. Kyle finds out, you’ll have to destroy it.”
Jun flinched away, slapping her arms down, eyes wild and glistening. “What’s wrong with wanting to see your mom again?” She yelled. Her voice increased in pitch. “Is it a sin to want to see my mom again?” Her lips shook out of control. “Mom…”

As Jun sank to the floor, sobbing like a lost four-year-old, Psyche wondered what on earth she could do for a friend who broke the rules to keep herself sane.

Tuesday 16 December 2014


 By Michael Carta.

//Activate v.203
//Recording external inputs
//Run /Thols.exe

A strong white light invaded her eyes whenever she opened them. It hurt too much to make out any figures, or shapes in the light.

“Where am I?” She murmured.

“You are about two hundred and sixty eight miles from Earth’s surface. You’ve been in a comatose state for nearly two weeks now. You don’t remember anything?” The voice was deep, strong, and comforting.

“I work at Franklin labs as a technician- what do you mean miles from Earth?” Every word taxed her body as her head throbbed.

“You’re in the international space station. The largest artificial body in orbit, welcome!”

“I don’t understand. I feel sick. Do you have any water?”
Her eyes burned when she tried to opened them, they were not used to light anymore, so she kept them shut as much as possible. “I feel so hung over.”

“You’re probably dehydrated. We did our best to keep you going, but as you can see there is not much medical equipment up and we’ve had a few hiccups.”

“What do you mean hiccups?”

“Well, we’ve lost nearly half our crew. We came up here with thirteen and now we are at seven since you pulled through. Space is not for everyone and this place is tiny with limited food. You can imagine things were rough at first- multiple people thinking they were in charge. We have had a deadly mutiny, some mental illness, and fatal accidents. Though, that was all long ago. This past week was our safest yet, and with you finally awake we have someone new to talk to!”

“Why am I even up here? Can I please have some water?””

“Oh, you must really not remember! I think it first started with the private medical industry’s push for nanotechnology. They developed the first human augmentation using this technology; things too small to see with the naked eye. Imagine tiny computers within blood cells that would pilot your body to a speedy recovery from any cancer. It was amazing. We had lifelike replacement limbs even stronger than the originals, brain implants eliminating Alzheimer’s, self-maintaining organs promising life over 150 with ease. It was too good to be true. If they had stopped there things would have been different, but the temptation of playing God can change any man.”

“Okay, I know that much. I have worked at Franklin Labs in the nanotech division for years. I just still don’t see why any of that applies to me being up here…I really need some water…”

“I know all about you Ms. Thols, I am Sargent John Nevy; U.S. Air force. I flew us up here. I doubt you are familiar with S.I.N. The origins of the first generation S.I.N. will forever be unknown; anyone involved has been dead for some time. We simply fell behind too fast to catch back up in terms of technology. The S.I.N’s capacity and speed to learn was drastically underestimated. What was thought to take them years to develop, they had mastered in minutes. Before it was realized what was happening, thousands of human lives were lost. Basically, we created the perfect organic machine capable of free thought and judgment. It was a conscious entity designed to better mankind. It was hoped that SIN would be able to develop new ways to combat disease and larger global issues. Boy, we were wrong. This first generation developed and created its predecessor without our knowledge in order to secure its survival. Its single mission: destroy mankind. Why? You might ask. Because to all S.I.N., humankind is a Cancer. We were destroying our host; Earth. We wanted to eliminate disease and better our environment; and I guess in that regard we succeeded. Our path on that planet was unsustainable. The Earth was severely polluted and over populated. SIN decided that getting rid of us was the solution the world needed- maybe they were right… Anyways, it is only a matter of time before the find us up here and finish their goal. Did you know that-”

“Listen I am completely overwhelmed and about to pass out if I don’t find some water soon. I can’t comprehend what you’re telling me. My head is pounding. I don’t know what S.I.N. means…”

“Oh, of course, so sorry! Here, there’s plenty, we have a urine filtration system that is linked to the garden since the Sun provides us with plenty of precipitation.”

She was ignoring him, all that mattered was the squishy baggy placed in her hand. It was cool and smooth. Her body ached for the liquid inside. Painfully, she forced her eyes open. The room was bright and extremely blurry. Her arms had barely any strength, but the lack of gravity allowed her to move with relative ease. While she was struggling with the cap, blobs of water oozed out and were floating in front of her face. She hesitated out of surprize for an instant then began shoving them into her mouth in a frenzy. Instantly she felt better, reborn- life was coming back to her. After a minute or so she closed her eyes and to rest again. The empty water bag was floating aimlessly above her.

“Thank you.” she whimpered.

“Oh, no problem. S.I.N. stands for Symbiotic Intelligent Nano, or in short, artificial intelligence within an organism. Did you know, this satellite has been around since the nineties! It was used by every manned spacecraft going to Mars. See, they had to dock here first to stock up and launch back around Earth a few times to build up speed and slingshot out towards the Martian planet. It is because of this that the SINs most certainly know this station is here. They may not know we are on it, but they’ll find out. Sadly, them coming up here will be to finish what they started. The colony on Mars, if they are still alive, has close to twenty scientists and engineers trying to set the framework for the construction A.I.s which will never arrive. In order to complete their mission, the S.I.N.s will have to confirm the extinction of man. This means getting to Mars and killing the only remaining part of our species. I am surprised we have been up here for almost two years now. We know they are building, we can see their massive structures from all the way up here!”

She was only half way listening and began drifting farther from consciousness. Her body needed sleep, there was too much to take in just yet. Mankind as an endangered species? Freethinking A.I. machines? She did not even notice the other women float into the room and join the conversation.

The women's soft voice was pleasing in contrast to Sgt. Nevy’s.
“John, maybe they’ve already been to Mars and finished their job without using this station first.  If they are smarter than we are, is not possible that they developed a better way to get there? Let’s face it. They don’t know we’re here, no one’s coming to save us, and we’re out of oxygen in about four days. I don’t know why you’re telling her so much, she’s useless to us. She would have been better off not awake- now we have to re-ration our supplies. No offense Ms. Thols. By the way I am Dr. Thraw and I am very curious about your origins...”

Thols was sound asleep now, rest was more important than anything they were talking about.

A few hours later Thols awoke suddenly and with new strength. Her eyes now permitted the light enough that she could see her surrounds better and with minimum pain. The moment she tried to sit up she noticed her limbs had been bound to the sides of the cot.

“What the hell” she exclaimed in frustration.

“Very interesting Thols…” Sgt. Nevy’s voice was concerning and stern.
“What’s going on, let me out of these restraints!”

“I should inform you that we are incredibly curious, that’s why we are still alive ya know. With that being said, I had my doubts and wanted to see first hand. I am glad I did. Very peculiar. Who designed you?”

“What the hell are you rambling on about now? Let me out of this cot, I did not do anything! I don’t even know why I am here!”

“I believe you. Really, I do. That’s what scares me the most. I believe you believe that you’re innocent and perhaps you are, but your potential is unknown and probably deadly.”

“What are you talking about? HELP!” She shouted and started thrashing about trying to get free even though her body was exhausted.

“Thols… you’re one of them.”

“W-What? What do you mea-”

“Your heart rate was strictly 45 bmps throughout your coma, which is rather low. My major concern is that now you are awake and full of rage. Which is normal but, your heart rate is still a solid 45 bmps. Additionally, that water I gave to you earlier was contaminated. You should be puking your guts out. It was not fatal, but would prove you have a normal immune system. Clearly you are something else. I think you’re one of them… maybe you were not always, but you are now. You’re a crossbreed, or fusion and you’re probably here to kill everyone even if you don’t know it.”

“You are delusional and ridiculous. But you are right about one thing, I do want to kill you once I get out of these restraints!”  

“Time to say goodbye Ms. Thols.” Sgt. Nevy was holding a small remote-like looking device in his hand and brought it close to the side of the bed.

“What the hell is that for? You’re going to taze me?” Her voice was filled with sarcasm.

“We’ll call this Truth. It’s a localized EMP. The range is about one cubic foot. Once I push this button it’ll either be lights out for you, or I apologize and unstrap you from this bed.”

“You’re trying to kill me?”

“Only if you’re a S.I.N. See, this device generates an EMP, or electromagnetic pulses that will fry any electronics in range. Even the small nanotech devices that are regulating your pulse and brain functions. In other words, anything artificial is undone.”  

“Just do it you sick son of a-”

Sgt. Nevy activated the EMP and with a demonic jolt, Thols’s body went limp. Her heart rate was now zero bmps.

She felt a quick sensation of falling backwards into dark ice cold water. Pulled out and apart, separated from all thought, feeling, and pain. Bliss overtook her and set her free.

//Connection terminated
//Thols.exe deactivated
//GPS location retrieved

Friday 5 December 2014

Angel's sin


If one sins by killing a bigger sinner, is it still a sin? Or do the two cancel each other out? If you think about it, some murders are actually an act of humanity, of compassion, a good deed; Especially if the deceased was a menace to those who walk with the Lord.

Yes, that is my logic, my beliefs. My name is Angel and I will not be swayed.


The repeat sinners name is Michael. He was my first love, my biggest mistake. I know now that I must kill Michael. His actions have left me no choice. Michael has led me to my destiny and himself to an early grave. What a shame.


If Michael were to go on living, his sins of greed, gluttony, rage would have continued day in and day out. His unholy actions would damage dozens of people, maybe more- though I certainly have gotten the worst of it. My name is Angel and tonight I full fill my destiny.


We are parked in Michaels Ford pickup in a densely populated area of Northern California, home of the Redwood National Forest. After driving us here I dragged Mike to the driver’s side where he now lays slumped against the door. His face is ash grey and his chest is barely rising and falling.


“Oh Michael- you okay baby”? My sing song voice is eerie, sarcastic, full of hate. For a moment it unnerves me.


I look over at my boyfriend of three years. He almost looks like the boy I fell for back in high school. There’s a sweetness about him, as his body fights the lethal dose of narcotics I have been slipping him for the past 48 hours. Yes in his comatose state he almost looks innocent-almost but not quite. With every painful punch he landed on my face, he lost a bit of his boyish charm. Every time he broke one of my ribs his face, took on a bit of darkness.


 I reach over and back hand Michael- hard. “Stupid prick”. This insult hisses out of me. I spit on his face. Nothing happens. There’s no reaction. He doesn’t jump up and choke me, no rants, no insults. Yes, he’s definitely out cold. The question is, for how long?


I turn my attention to the rearview mirror and study my skinny, bruised and bloodied face. I open my mouth to examine where my front tooth used to be. Michael removed it for me a couple days ago by slamming my face into the dashboard over and over and over again. God, I’m hideous. In that moment, I have no control over my body. Like a knee jerk reaction I throw my elbow, with all my might, into Michaels collar bone. There is a sickening yet satisfying popping sound. It makes me smile.


“I can see why you are so into this Michael- it’s kind of a turn on the have so much so much power. It’s exciting to cause bodily harm to the one you love. Especially if you have the upper hand.”

This time I cup the back of Michaels listless head. I take a deep breathe, and then slam it with admirable force into the steering wheel. I am, oddly enough entertained at the way his face works like a rubber ball being bounced.

 “ There’s only one big difference Michael. You deserve it. I didn’t.

Now it’s come to this. You’re going to die a sad, lonely death in the river you’ve been scared of since you were three. You know why Michael? Because you’re a habitual sinner. Because you have done nothing to right your wrongs. You’re going to be killed because you deserve you it. No one will feel sorry for you. The people who are forced to love you will be angry and disappointed in you. You will be remembered for exactly what you are a piece of trash drug dealer. A woman beating waste of space. In fact I hope that’s how your obituary describes you.”



I take a deep breath and step out of the truck. I need to control my anger. After all it is a sin and I am here to do God’s work. No mistakes Angel, I tell myself. There’s no turning back now.  This has to happen. It’s self –defense and a service to humanity. I look up at the sky dominated by the majestic full moon. The fact that the moon is at it’s best and brightest on this fateful night is no coincidence. The new harvest moon, also known as the super moon is a source of feminine power and rejuvenation. It symbolizes rebirth and strength. More importantly it provides just enough light for me to see what I’m doing, but not enough for others to see what I do.


“Breathe Angel,” I tell myself . you’re doing God’s will. “Why else would you and Michael’s paths cross? You are fulfilling your destiny. This is why they named you Angel”

The moon seems to give me a renewed sense of purpose . I feel a moment of clarity. I listen to the flow of the mighty Rogue River, which is only a few feet away, and focus on my breathing The air smells as it always does late in summer. Each breath fills my nostrils with a mixture of Pine trees, moss, Redwood and of course, cannabis. For being such a beautiful place the Redwoods of northern California coast certainly had a dark under current. Yew I’d come too far not to follow through. I begin to recite psalms 24

Yea through I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil, for though art with me.”


The words sooth and reassure me. This is God’s will.  I am not the only one damaged by the errors of Michaels ways, His little brother Noah already believes that slapping women is the only way to get them to love you. His sister Hannah thinks that “whore” is a term of endearment. Yes he has to be stopped for good. If he isn’t his sin will spread like Ebola, like corruption, like that black plague.


In a perfect world, I would just leave the sinner alone. Pack up my dignity (what’s left of it), my very few worldly possessions and leave. I would not say good bye and I’d live happily ever after. It just wasn’t that simple, God knows I tried. Six months ago Michael actually had a legitimate construction job. Pushing drugs, stealing and beating me senseless were only hobbies back then. One morning after a night of fighting and drug binging, Michael left for work, and I left him. I hitch hiked to my mother’s house and planned to never go back. Six hours later, Michael had set the house on fire and was dragging me away by my hair. I haven’t heard from any family members since.

 All these memories could not of come at a better time. It may be my destiny to end the cycle of sin, but it is in the best interest of many,

 I calmly pull a pair of cotton dollar store gloves out of my pockets and put them on. The time is near.


I continue to pray as I chant verses of scripture. “Thy rod and thy staff they shall comfort me” I calmly open the driver’s side door leaning against Michael to pop the hood I open the fuse box and lightly count by touch. One, two, three fuses to the left. I pull the fuse for the headlights and throw it into the river, I then replace the fuse with the defective one. No one would believe that a driver would travel fourteen miles without their headlights on… no matter how high they were. Also the truck would be found way too soon if headlights were seen floating down the river. I had to have enough time to execute and establish my final steps, I have to complete my destiny After saying a prayer for  Michaels soul, I prepare one last lethal cocktail. This time I mix heroin, cocaine and Xanax . I draw it up into the syringe carefully extracting every last drop. It is enough to  kill three people. I don’t want him to suffer , after all this is someone that I once loved. May he drown blissfully unaware of his last terrifying moments.


Once back inside the passenger seat, I turn the light switch and the key both to the on position. I use the moonlight to find a vein in Michael’s forearm. In reality Michael was not an intervenes user. He thought he was much better than those who were. He liked to smoke his drugs. He is a known drug user between both gossipers and government officials alike; it wasn’t going to be hard for the investigators to assume he’d graduated to a junkie. After injecting him, I put the needle into Mikes hands . Slowly, methodically I roll it back and forth back in forth, ensuring his prints were all over it. As I do this I quietly sing an appropriate tune ‘


Hey now

All you sinners

Put your lights on,

Better leave your lights on

Cause there’s a monster,

Living under my bed,

Whispering in my ear.

And there’s  angel with her hand on my head

She’s saying I got nothing to fear


I allow the syringe to fall onto the floor board. It has a bit of Michaels blood left in it. This is no accident. I remove the gloves from my hand, and carefully put them on his. His hands are cold, stiff, rigid. It won’t be long now..

I pause. I take one last long look at the young man I once loved. The smart boy with a bright future, turned waste of space. Such a pity he couldn’t be saved. He now is the epitome of sin.

As I continue to sing, it seems as though my voice is no longer mine. The song comes out eerie, distant, haunting.


there’s a darkness living deep in my soul,

It’s still got a purpose to serve.

Put your lights on creep into my home,

God don’t let me lose my nerve


“This is the end of the road for us Michael. I told you that you would be sorry. I begged you to repent. I tried to make you a believer, and free you from your sins. If only you had listened. May the Lord have mercy on your soul”. Silently I say one final prayer for his soul.


I take a deep breath. Firmly clasping my hands behind my back I bash my head into the dash with all of my might; six times. My wounds are now freshly reopened. I allow blood to drip from my nose and mouth onto the seat and floorboard for a full 6 seconds. With one fluid movement exit the vehicle, and I kick the rocks out from behind the front tires.

Without so much as a push from me, the truck rapidly rolls into the mighty river. As the under current whisks away the first love of my life and the epitome of sin, I continue to pray, I briskly climb to the road. I do not look back.


It only takes eleven minutes for the next car to come along the lonely dark highway. I wave my arms dramatically and jump up down. The concerned citizen stops and I tell her my tearful, well-rehearsed tale of a fight with my lover. I insist that that the reason my face is a mangled mess is because I jumped from the vehicle and fell onto the road. I tell her I suspect my boyfriend had taken narcotics.


My rescuer’s name is Debra. As she ushers me into her car and heads down the highway towards the nearest town Debra informs me that she does not believe my story. As it turns out Debra deals with such cases of sin every day. She is a social worker trained to spot a victim, and she tells me that I am a classic one. She assures me that Michael will not get away with this. He will be found and brought to justice.  She says I deserve better. Debra has vowed to stay with me and back me up every step of the way. Inside I smile.


And surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever


As we race towards the hospital Debra asks me “what’s your name baby”?

“Angel”, I tell her. “My name is Angel”.



Monday 1 December 2014

Bygones Beth

(c) Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014

Dedicated to Elizabeth Bell: mea culpa.
Rain always reminds me of unwanted passion. It’s raining now here in Chippendaille, shuttered Chippendaille, although ‘tis a light, sunny rain. ‘Tis also the middle of spring, 2014, and it looks like we’re going to be having a nice, roasting Aus summer. Why rain always reminds me of unwanted passion I do not at all know, perhaps because of its fleeting yet important nature. Passion has always scared me, the thought of someone desperately needing me, relying on me. I’ve always wanted security instead, the security of self-reliance, the only real security. Why I can’t exactly say. This need for self-reliance exclusively I’ve also had from as early as I can remember. In fact one of my first complete thoughts that I remember (I am perhaps a bit too introverted) is: ‘Trust no-one except yourself.’
     And unfortunately breaking this rule brought down disastrous consequences. Let me tell you about it.
     I had not long turned twenty-three years old and Bethany Bielle, also in her early twenties, had just moved into my share house in Chippendaille, on Dengar Street, just off of Chippendaille’s main artery of Cleveland Street, and after setting herself up upon the first night of her arrival she came downstairs to introduce herself to everyone, housemates and their friends, smoking pot in the large kitchen/dining area. I was there and when she said, ‘Hi, everyone. I’m Bethany’ my heart went out to her as I could plainly see that she was genuinely interested in making new friends. I decided to encourage her, and we talked about how she was coming off of heroin, and finding it very hard. Very hard indeed. And speed really wasn’t a good substitute because of its undisputed psychotic possibilities.
     What could I tell her?
     ‘Eventually. Eventually you’ll just get over it. It probably will arrive in small stages but you’ll get there. Just keep trying. Eventually.’
     ‘Eventually,’ Bethany repeated, looking at me with an appearance of an unlooked-for hope.
     She proved to be a quiet housemate even though she was always speeding. She was the only woman in the house and I tried to look after her, made sure she had at least one hearty meal every two or three days. Naturally she noticed my attentions, which were really more brotherly than romantic, being the eldest of three brothers, and she began calling me her ‘best, best beau. The only one that really cares for me.’ She was usually high as a kite when she said this, on pot as well, and initially I discounted it as idle rambling. But I guess I’m a typical male after all. She kept calling me her ‘best, best beau’, buying me the occasional sweet treat, asking me if I thought she was her ‘best, best belle.’ I always replied that I hadn’t decided as yet. That made her laugh.
     Yeah, so I fell in love with her, despite my best efforts to not get involved with a housemate, and eventually decided to declare it in a love poem. I know. Tacky and childish. But I have childhood issues which have always made romance difficult for me and thought this declaration would be the simplest, most straightforward way of gaining Bethany’s love.
     The trouble was that I shouldn’t have had any of the strong smoko before undergoing the necessary stress of the declaration. Before I headed upstairs to her room with my poem I noticed there was a small bowl of pot and a bong on the coffee table. Thinking some ganja would relax me I helped myself to a smoke. The marijuana made me anxious and paranoid instead, and while I was reading the poem I felt all normal inhibitions in my mind breaking away. Simply collapsing in on themselves to be replaced by whatever I defined as Right or Wrong, Good or Evil. And Bethany felt the brunt of this change, myself revelling in apparently a newfound power, in the grip of what I much, much later realised was legal insanity. I have very vague memories from this ‘incident’, with a vague recollection of saying that I was going to and not going to so deeply hurt her. At the time I thought that I had discovered a loophole in the Moral Law, allowing me to threaten harm but if I had no intention of following it through then it was not an Evil action. This realisation, I insanely thought at the time, seeing significance in each random observation, also redefines Good and Evil. Only I, then, had the real definitions of Good and Evil.
     I was of course completely wrong. And when I had sobered up the next day I was instantly horrified by the enormity of what I had done, by the sheer disgusting depths of my sins. I have never been a violent or disrespectful person so my natural shame at my actions made me decide to leave the share house before noon. I felt it was the most honourable thing to do.
     So, shortly before noon I left Dengar. Bethany had just then returned from a friend’s place in a van and I decided to wait until she stepped out. I then went up to her to bid her ‘Adieu.’
     ‘I’m leaving now, Bethany. I’m very sorry for what happened. I hope you have a nice life.’ She simply nodded, looking me in the eyes. Then I left her.


I bumped into Bethany exactly a week ago, in the heart of Sydney. By complete chance. I have never had a serious girlfriend since Bethany, simply being far too ashamed of my previous sins. But bumping into her I instantly saw the chance to explain my side of the story a bit more, to explain to her that I have a family history of schizophrenia on my father’s side and that ‘the incident’ was the product of insanity, that I was not in control of my actions in any reasonable and rational way. My schizophrenia is in full remission now so surely she could please spend just five minutes to fully hear my side of the ‘incident’?
     ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘But I want to have someone else there too, one of my friends. You can bring someone too.’ I chose to forgo the offer and in about half an hour three of us were at a café, Bethany, Rhonda, and I.
     I won’t bore you with the minutiae of that conversation, of how she revealed how terrified she was at the time, confused and terrified in a manner unlike any other. She said she knew if she were to flee the house I might get up and pursue her, aggravating things. So she decided to face the fear harassing her. I naturally expressed my long-felt and deep shame.
     But she revealed an ever deeper impact from my uncontrolled abominations: soon after I left she had begun entertaining thoughts of suicide, somehow becoming convinced that everything is simply an illusion, not real. Reality is impossible.
     It was when, the only time, that she drew a flatmate’s razor across her right wrist that she realised she was in serious trouble. So she went to her Doctor and confessed her trauma. Dr Cynthia Berring, knowing Bethany since she, Bethany, was  a teenager, decided to spend the next seven days showing Bethany that not all men, despite the one bastard, are monsters.
     Bethany told of how she responded well to the Doctor’s programme. She quickly realised that reason is a more powerful tool than she had supposed. She reasoned herself forward slowly, setting reasonable goals, finding a teacher’s assistant job that she absolutely still loves, and also had had a few romances since I had left.
     But the central thing she put down to allowing her to manage the pain I’d imparted was eventually throwing away my heart. Once, in her room, having recently bought a wristchain with sundry pendants, I accidentally let drop a heart pendant from the chain.
     ‘Beth,’ I jokingly said, pointing to the dropped heart, ‘I’ll leave my heart here in your safe keeping.’
     Beth made no comment.
     Anyway, after the last day of the sessions with Dr Berring, Bethany threw my heart into the bin. The terror was now trash and Bethany had been able to get on with her life again, albeit the far less trustworthy of those men interested in her natural good looks.
     When she told me that she’d thrown out my heart I was devastated. But looking about in angst I noticed that the ring on my right third finger had a heart in the centre. I had a wild, desperate hope.
     ‘Here is the heart, Beth. I’ve kept it isolated.’ She frowned.
     ‘Let’s meet again, go over our issues in more depth. After all, we were quite close in our own way and if all I ever can achieve with you is to be your guardian, an eldest brother, I will most earnestly thank God for being so. And never fail in my always clear duty.’
     Beth smiled, apparently genuinely pleased, and then looked around for the waiter. Eventually catching a waiter’s eye she signed for a coffee. Such imperiousness is very, very rare with her so she must have felt on the brink of a life-changing event.
     ‘So then at Dengar it was basically because you were an unmedicated schizophrenic?’ she then asked.
     ‘Precisely. But I had no idea of my family history. I know now and because I am compliant with treatment I am in full remission. Since about the middle of 2010.’ (I am now forty-two years of age.)
     ‘So it can’t happen again?’
     ‘Absolutely not. Not while I still take my anti-psychotics on time.’
      Her coffee soon after arrived. She took a sip.
     ‘Okay, Denis. I’ll give you another chance. But you’ll have to give me that ring with the heart in it. It’ll be a useful talisman in case things go wrong again.’
     I gave her the ring instantly.
     We soon bid our ‘Adieux’ and promised to meet up in a week, without Rhonda, at the same café at the same time to further tame our mutual demons. That is, tonight. We didn’t exchange phone numbers the last time we met so I trust that she’ll indeed be at the café. If she’s not, dear reader, I’ll most certainly let you know as that would be an ending contrary to the happy one I’m expecting from tonight. I won’t ask her out to a pub after the coffee, might be rushing things a bit. Anyway, now I’m about to start preparing a big dinner for me to be prepared for any eventuality tonight with the only woman I have ever wanted to protect in my best manner possible. Remember, if you don’t hear back from me, dear reader, Bethany and I are indeed beginning to properly mend. Adieu.


If you've been enjoying Denis' stories here you may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me. It tells the story of Tonia Esqurit Ailbe, a mathematics professor, and her unusual manner of making
her home a social hub, her life's fundamental aim: sitting at her dressing table mirror and imagining socialising with friends and family. It seems the only way, for one reason or another, that she can achieve her deepest aim. It is available on Kindle at for US $3.91, and via Smashwords, whom cover most of the other ereaders, at for US $3.99. If you don't have a Kindle or other ereader you can download one for free onto your smartphone or tablet.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Brave Soul

By Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga

My arms stretched back, muscles pulled taut high over my head as I rolled my neck around. Closing my eyes, I sucked in a deep breath and let it out in a tremoring wind like the sound of a rattling window frame when a train passes. Though my heartbeat quickened and my hands shook, I kept breathing until my eyes finally opened again and I faced my enemy.
I’m scared, I thought, shivering. So scared.
That’s how it grew. Throbbing with light at the sound of my aching thoughts, the sword in my right hand scraped the ground with its point. I raised it up, slowly. Will it be enough? I wondered, arm shaking. Will I be able to pierce it? My heart quivered. Probably not, my thoughts panicked. When have I been known to pierce? How will I even do it? Is my sword that sharp? What if I miss?
That’s when I knew: my thoughts worried over the finely pointed tip more than they worried over my aim. Questions of what if I miss or how will I do it were just stalling walls against my body’s undeniable strength.
One thrust should do it, I realized. One thrust would break the walls and pierce my enemy in one blow.
I took a ragged breath. Really? I wondered. One blow? That sharp? I glanced at my sword’s gleaming point and again hesitated, wondering what it would feel like to stab it through soft jelly and see wine spill out. Would it hurt? Would I hurt? What if I did? What if I completely failed because it was the completely wrong thing to do? I bit my lip, biting back tears, biting my eyelids shut.
I’m scared, I thought, shuddering. So scared.
The sword radiated heat in my hand and I clutched its hilt. I would do it. Just do it. Surging forward, my arm thrust and shattered the stalling walls, behind which stood my enemy, an unmoving white shape glaring in the darkness. My sword ran it clean through and I twisted, only to see ink sliding down its frame. In one savage move, I yanked my sword out and watched as more ink splattered all over the white and showered me with its taint. Absently wiping it from my face, I glanced at the back of my hand to see that the smear spelled ‘intuitive.’ Glancing at my enemy, now vanquished in ink, I scanned it until I found the word ‘imaginative.’ Wiping my hand against it, I effectively replaced the idea before exhaling sullenly.

I’ll just submit this, I thought. It’ll have to be enough.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Thus Encapsulated

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014

(This story, in a much shorter from, has been first published in my first anthology, Bearing all Gods and Goddesses, under the title, The Jar of Souls, published by Independence Jones.)

Dedicated to Elizabeth Bell, a wonder always in my heart.

Honestly, Veiran had entirely given up on humanity: she now classed herself as a Viral Being, which contained the best from both worlds of Virus and DNA. It wasn’t that she considered that all people to be inherently malicious and to be avoided, but that she couldn’t be bothered trying to converse with the worthwhile few. She had of course been told that this lack of motivation was a symptom of her schizophrenia but she simply didn’t believe she was mentally ill. Veiran preferred the term ‘eccentric.’
     Normally, this sort of attitude wouldn’t be a problem; just another nut on some loony bin trajectory. But Ms Veiran Neanders (her self-dialed name, betokening her unique nature. We’ll keep her former name a secret) also possessed the Jar of Souls, accidentally discovered in a Sydney, Aus, inner city Soul Patinson franchise. The labels on all their products declared ‘Souls’, at whatever price. What made it the more intriguing was that no-one else saw what she did, despite its being so obvious. She had of course shown all of her friends the label on one of their Jars that she had bought (a jar of vitamin C tablets) but was met with only dumb stares. Not enlightening these friends further was instinctual; God alone knows what havoc might have been unleashed if they chose to abuse the Jar’s souls.
     Yet, really, what was she supposed to do with it?  One couldn’t possibly ask her to become responsible for all of our souls – it was struggle enough just looking after her homeless self. Being homeless agreed very well with the twenty-three year old lass as she had always wanted to be as close to nature as possible when she had grown up. Mind you some of her family said that she still hadn’t grown up but she had made her choice and was still happy with it. She might even write a book about it someday. She hadn’t told any of her family, two parents, two younger sisters, and sundry aunts, uncles, and cousins, about her discovery, knowing full well that they would use that as an excuse to have her committed to Rozella Psychiatric Hospital again. And none of her friends were of any use in guiding her in the proper, ethical use of the Jar. They simply marveled at the Jar’s novelty, when Veiran did eventually decided to trust them and point out Its label’s dual meaning. They were also amused by the irony of such power being in the hands of a derelict, unstable young woman.
     She had tried burying it, hoping to abdicate her responsibility, but after, digging it up, she began to realise that her fate had been cast, albeit accidentally, and that the Jar was hers: to guard, and to not fail in her guarding.
     ‘Fine then, give me this responsibility oh ye Gods, but there will be conditions.’ The end result being that there was only Viral Beings now left with their souls safely accounted for and the rest of her disgusting citizens existing without the merest hint of a soul to resurrect them. This attitude became justified each time that she watched the news after the few times she took a shower at a considerate friend’s place, the friend being of course duly rewarded with a Viral Being nature, and thus a soul.
     This was the position, undisturbed, for about two years, which serenely coloured Veiran’s every day. Gazing upon her only jewel, this potent Jar, had really made her shiftless life valuable. Wasn’t it after all her homeless wandering that had unearthed this treasure? Of course. Gazing upon it was also the closest she ever came to feeling ecstatic, noble, and a person of consequence. In fact it would be fair to say that her guardianship of the Jar was the only real meaning in her life.
     Until the Jar was smashed, by a new, drunken resident in her Redferne squat, after she had brought it out for display. When he learned of the story, and saw the label (which still needed to be highlighted) his first response was outrage. Soon transforming into self-righteousness, and then on to violence.
     It can’t be replaced, since the franchise has redesigned their labeling content, and Veiran has been feeling so guilty, since Good Friday, last week, 2014, Veiran not being able to enjoy the warm Autumn of Sydney as a consequence.
     But there is nothing to be done: the Jar of Souls has been smashed, and it cannot be substituted. She had briefly considered breaking into a house somewhere near a Soul Patinson chemist until she found one house that had the potent Jar still with the original label on it. She dismissed the idea quickly though as ending up in gaol could well have disastrous consequences for her. She might be bashed senseless over a shoe, for example, and then all of her power would be eradicated along with her senses.
     Unless she made up her own label, to be placed on one of the original merchandise?  This could be justified on the grounds that she was simply replacing the label, and not so much creating it. It was also justifiable on the grounds that she had witnessed the original label and if anyone questioned this rejuvenated Jar she could simply call up Soul Patinson’s and have them confirm her initial witnessing of the label’s declaration.
     ‘Perfect!’ she exclaimed to herself, alone in the squat, two weeks after Good Friday. ‘Absolutely perfect!’ And her squat-mate will most certainly feel her ire in the form of his burning soul. The little fascist.
     And with thus the Jar restored, Veiran soon realised it wasn’t a toy, but great power and great responsibility. Something more than guarding It was needed; this power asks to be harnessed, utilized, otherwise it will disappear like It had tried to do. Through pure chance she must both guard and doom these souls, unfortunately having to destroy the rotten, while recognising that they also gave balance to brightness. But how to punish these horrid? She only had a limited amount of souls in the Jar, one hundred to be exact, and humanity’s filthiness numbered in the billions.
     The epiphany solving the conundrum was almost instantaneous: one soul alone could be shared by all the filth of the world.
     ‘Simple!’ she exclaimed to her lone self again.

     This one tortured soul she still keeps by her mattress with three sowing needles stuck into it. The Jar of Souls is also now in a safety deposit box (Veiran saves most of her dole payments affording her the bank fee for safely storing the Jar), and she can still imbibe its every possibility.


If you've been enjoying Denis' stories here you may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me. It tells the story of Tonia Esqurit Ailbe, a mathematics professor, and her unusual manner of making her home a social hub, her life's fundamental aim: sitting at her dressing table mirror and imagining socialising with friends and family. It seems the only way, for one reason or another, that she can achieve her deepest wish. It is available on Kindle at for US $4.14, and via Smashwords, whom cover most of the other ereaders, at for US $3.99. If you don't have a Kindle or other ereader you can download one for free onto your smartphone or tablet.

Saturday 11 October 2014


by Lyra Reyes

I've been here for two weeks  and I've felt so much better than I have the past few years. It's odd how quickly I've been accepted into the fold, so to speak. Maybe the people are just friendlier here. Or maybe this is how people really are and I'm just jaded by growing up in a large city.

Right now, I'm sitting at the village pub at 7:00 in the morning, being served a monster-sized breakfast plate by the most beautiful waitress I've ever met. If I wait until lunchtime, Maggie - the waitress and also part owner of the pub - might sing while serving food. It's fun, cozy, and so comforting.

I don't know what made me choose this place. I don't know why I'm staying. Hell, I don't even know why I left. But, right now, for some inexplicable reason, I feel like I'm where I should be.

Just last night -


Raina looked up from her laptop, blinked, then smiled at the ancient gentleman hobbling toward her.

"Good morning, Mr. Callaghan! I see you're ready for your tea."

"That, I am, fair Raina." Settling on the seat across from Raina, Callaghan smiled up as Maggie set down a huge half-filled mug of steaming tea in front of him. "Ah, thank you, Maggie, my love."

Amused, Raina watched as Callaghan took out a flask from his pocket, opened it, and poured its contents into the mug. Raina knew full well what the flask contained; on her first morning, Callaghan offered her a sip of his tea and her eyes watered at swallowing a mouthful of whiskey along with it.

After finishing taking his first sip, Callaghan looked at Raina, his bright green eyes twinkling. "How was your first ceili, darling?"

"It was wonderful! I haven't eaten or drank or danced so much ever!" Raina closed her laptop and reached for her coffee. Mornings talking with Mr. Callaghan never failed to perk her up. At eighty-three, Callaghan had a sharp mind, a happy disposition, and a harmless love for gossip. Raina thought he was perfect.

"Is that what you were writing about today?"

"Yes, of course. I feel like I've met everyone last night. And they all seem to already know who I was." Raina chuckled. "It was the first time I talked about who knocked up who and who stole whose cows with people I just met."

"Ah, well, those people like you."

"And I like them too, which is surprising because I'm usually alone in Chicago. It's amazing, really, how I feel much more at home here than I did ever -" Raina paused, blushed at how easy the thought can come out. She felt guilty, and a bit disloyal, to her hometown and her family there. In the two weeks she's left, she has never once called Chicago her home. It's a thought that she has been battling with, careful not to write down believing that doing so would make it much more real, and knowing that if she lingered over it she might not want to come back.

"Now, don't go feeling bad for saying the truth, girl." Callaghan said kindly. "We all have our place in this world. Could be that yours is here."

Sighing, Raina leaned back. "But I don't even know what I'm doing with my life, Mr. Callaghan. I don't know why I'm here or why I left. I don't even know why I chose this place."

"Could be you left because you're not supposed to do there what you're really meant to do." Callaghan took a sip from his mug. "You did say you wanted to write a book."

"Well, that's more like a pipe dream."

"Dream away. Dream with all your heart. Then do it. You young people need to stop thinking so much and just do. You may be young, but time is passing quickly. One day you're thirty-two and in a snap you're close to a hundred. What you do in between, and where you do it, is what matters."

Callaghan lifted his mug and gestured at Raina. "The world needs more storytellers. How else is she to pass on the knowledge of the ages without someone telling it? Your feet and your heart took you here, and rightly so, I believe. Haven't you been able to think more clearly, to write more, and to feel like you are yourself when you arrived here?"

Raina looked down at her plate. She agreed with everything Callaghan said. She just didn't want to admit it.

"And as to why you chose this place," Callaghan barreled on. "Maggie might have an answer to that."

Maggie? Raina looked up at Maggie standing by their table, holding the coffeepot. With a smile, Maggie said, "maybe this place chose you."

Smiling, Raina shook her head. "How can a place choose me?"

Maggie set down the coffeepot on the table and settled on the seat beside Callaghan. Leaning forward, she reached her hand out across the table. "Do you trust me, Raina?"

No, not really, Raina wanted to say. I've been here just two weeks, I don't really know any of you. But as she looked at the mischievous green eyes of Maggie, at the kind smile of Callaghan, she realized that she did. She trusted this woman and her great-grandfather with all her heart.

Raina nodded, then lifted her hands to grasp both of Maggie's hands.

Rolling green fields. A quaint cottage on top of a cliff. A garden full of colorful flowers. A woman and her lover strolling under the stars. A small child running among the flowers. Light shooting out of the woman's fingertips as she stood skyclad under the blood moon. A boar not quite a boar lurking at the edge of the forest, the light keeping it at bay. Then darkness and fear and despair as the boar struck the woman's lover with a powerful lightning.

Raina shook her head, wanting to clear it, but Maggie gripped her hand tighter.

The woman running through the forest with the child in her arms, the boar inches away. A light through the trees. A beautiful girl with sparkling green eyes and wildly curling red hair standing at the edge of a clearing, shooting light out towards them. The relief as the boar was driven away. Then the woman's tear-stained face as she stepped on a boat, clutching the child's hand in hers.

Always the woman. The woman with Raina's face.

Pulling away, Raina reached for her coffee, then gripped it with shaking hands. "What was that?"

"A memory," Callaghan said. "A remembering of an unfortunate circumstance that drove you away."

"Me?" Raina wondered. "How can that be?"

"You don't really think we come this way only once do you, girl?" Callaghan chuckled. "We all have a long past. Yours come from here."

"What does that mean?" Raina asked, her head spinning. Half-disbelieving, half-hoping.

Maggie smiled, stood up, then lifted a hand to run along her wildly curling red hair. "Welcome home, cousin."