Saturday 28 November 2015

The Sea in His Eyes

By Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga

Where the sea met the iron-laced rocks, great crashes of change echoed in roars as wave after wave of salty water cried and died. Slowly the impact and the salt had worn away at the existing structure until a gaping depression bore into the cliff in the form of a shaky alcove whose ceiling was unsteady under the jittery legs of Alexander Irvin.

"Please," he pleaded. "I need this."

The one he addressed calmly took a smoking cigarette out of his mouth and dropped it over the precipice. Alexander resisted the urge to move towards him, so much closer to the edge this man was that at any moment he could fall into the bellowing battle below.

"I'm not sure you know exactly what you want, Irvin," he replied. Putting both hands into his coat, the man stood still as a statue while Alexander shifted his stance, making gliding motions with his arms.

"I've known I've wanted this since the time my path took me away from everything I love," Alexander maintained. "The only one hesitating is you. Do you know what you want?"

The man casually turned towards the horizon: a line between navy and candy flossed blue. "I know I want peace."

"So do I!" Alexander insisted.

Shaking his head, the man once again faced the boy, wondering why only thunder echoed from his maw. "No, Irvin."

Alexander gritted his teeth and took a bold step forward. A terrifying instant but nothing happened. The man's bushy eyebrows lifted in surprise for a moment before gravity returned to cloud the oceans in his irises. "I want peace more than anything," Alexander repeated. "I know your amulet will give it to me."

"Your judgement is clouded," the man stated. A brutal onslaught of smashing waves shook the ground underneath their feet. "Raging want will not be gratified by what comes from outside its source."

As Alexander took another careful step forward, another wave smashed in tandem with his intentions to break this man's defences, "I swear on everything I've lost that I will grant your wish for peace."

"You cry salty tears," the man replied, "the waves crash as you do, crying to be heard, never appeased, only eroding away at what keeps them steady."

"I swear!" Alexander roared over the ocean. "Why can't you believe that?"

The man shook his head again and stared out at the ocean once more, the boy's plight all but forgotten. Alexander hesitated for a few crucial seconds, knowing every step towards the man was a gamble on both their lives. Finally, he resigned to backtrack. The ground cracked where he slid his foot back and he cried with alarm, hoping the man would come running back to safety. He was the only one to leap back to safer ground. The greatest crash echoed as the alcove imploded and the cliff was no more. Alexander knelt on its new edge, unable to believe in death, until he noticed an object shining in his hand. An trapped ocean glistened beneath the surface of a glass iris encased in gold tied to a chain. Peace, the man had wanted. Alexander shook, gritting his teeth against his body's seismic tremors while slowly bringing the amulet to his forehead. His tears joined the waves, still crashing in a never-ending tantrum.

Thursday 5 November 2015

The Phoenix Amulet.

By: Michael Carta.

“Only in the absence of all things can we come to appreciate that what is life. The unforgiving nature of nature confines us to our fates; all are destined to die after a blip of meaningless life without purpose or hope. Time is a cruel vehicle spawning life, just to take it away relentlessly without hesitation! How can anything be meaningful or understood with life being temporary? What is music without the contrast of silence? This is why we must find the amulet. Its secrets can unlock the future we are entitled to find. Imagine the fruits of eternal existence! You are the chosen few that can be trusted with this information. Go forth into the frozen tundra and pursue the wanderer who just escaped, for he is a thief! He has stolen your eternal life and he has killed you if you fail; remember that only with the amulet can we achieve our destiny!” Barked the darkly clad man who stood and watched as nearly a hundred men rushed off in pursuit.

“Master, they will all probably die before nightfall. None have ever returned after nightfall. They say the frost creatures are out lurking and hunting in the night with pale red eyes, not to mention the temperature sucks life like a demon leech!” said the short deformed man.

“Tell me, if none survive where do the stories come from? Relax, it does not matter if any survive, we just need them to keep the wanderer too busy running so he cannot make a fire, then the cold will do its job. Tomorrow, when the sun is reborn into the sky, we will go scavenge what is ours. I know he has seen the amulet and carries parchment with details of its location. I received encrypted word from our brothers in the south that this man has a map and escaped their grasp ass well. Fate has smiled on us this day! Foolish for him to come here seeking shelter, but then again, there is no where else to go up here!” Said the tall darkly clad man.

In the tundra, the frozen air carved into the wanderer’s exposed skin that the torn rags failed to cover on his face. No matter how he adjusted them, the cold would always find a way to remind him it was waiting. Waiting for him to get tired. Waiting for him to slow down and rest. Waiting to creep in and take him. Death was always hungry and it’s cold fingers were prodding him. He ached to be burned alive to remedy the frost accumulating on his thin clothing. He gave up trying to imagine what warmth felt like and tossed aside foolish memories of sunlight. The wind carried the echo of war horns behind him. He replayed the following memory in his head constantly throughout the day as if it were a movie on loop:

He still did not understand the situation at all; he had carried her for three days straight without sleep after finding her unconscious and alone in the desert. His feet were bloodied and knees weak, but he could not leave her. Her white dress and dark brown hair were so strange to see, especially in a place where life was so sparse. Instantly, he had become aware they were being pursued by a death party; this he could tell since they consistently blasting their war horns to demoralize those they pursued. Why were they after them? What had she done? She was too small and seemingly innocent to cause any trouble or harm to anyone. The death parties were scavengers ravaged by the effects of cannibalism anyhow. He had reached the cliff’s edge where there was a hidden path leading safely down the to bottom. There they could follow the canyon east to the frozen tundra. No war party would be clever enough to track them there. It was there at the cliff's edge where she spoke and admitted to being conscious the entire time.

“Please, take this; you have a kind heart.” The woman said extending her hand towards him. In her palm was a strange golden amulet that caused one’s mind to be more curious the longer it was seen. Almost as if being controlled by a strange force, he extended his hand and received the gift. It was strangely heavy for its size and seemed to generate heat. He could not help but feel anxious and confused. There was a elegant and oddly shaped bird in the center of the amulet.

“It is a phoenix.” She said noting his pondering. “Have you no worry, in the end you will understand. Though, you mustn't ever show it to anyone, it is now a happy burden for you as it was for me. It will help you find what you are looking for, even if you did not know you were searching.” she smiled at him softly letting her words sink into his consciousness. She had practiced this speech countless times over hundreds of years yearning to finally give it to the right person. Tears of immense relief filled her face as she bowed to him and stepped backwards towards the cliff’s edge.

“I am truly sorry, they will hunt you endlessly. The greed of man is a wicked cancer that persists after death and takes many human forms, you will recognize all of man's treachery soon enough. Just remember; nothing is supposed to last forever.” She said. Then, without hesitation, she stepped backwards off the cliff with a graceful intent. He lunged forward to save her, but was too late. Instead, he had to peer over the edge in horror as her body fell. It was the most terrifying and beautiful thing he had ever seen. She was so calm and stunning whilst her body plummeted towards the rocks far below. She smiled at him briefly before she closed her eyes, transcending deep into her mind. “Set free at last.” her final words.  

Brought back abruptly to the frozen reality, he slowly realized that he no longer felt anything at all; not even the cold. He knew it meant the end was inevitably near, yet he was suddenly filled with vigor. It was his bodies final urge to survive; as if he only needed two more steps to cross the finish line. He almost grinned as he stumbled for a few more steps in the snow. The amulet around his neck began to glow a faint green hue.

The end was not as he had imagined. It was not like pulling out the power cord to a computer and having the entire machine be silenced instantly. Instead, it was like booting up a computer, but in reverse. There was a domino affect of processes shutting down simultaneously to reserve as much remaining power for the primary vital organ, the brain. The loss of his hearing was quickly followed by a gradual narrowing of his vision, as if the hidden darkness of the world was finally consuming him. His drive, concerns, and consciousness drowned in the overwhelming sensation of falling. All awareness and thought left him as time was forgotten. A single green dot in the vast emptiness glowed warmly like a beacon summoning all attention to it. It was so close, yet completely unreachable. “You must wait”. -Whispers in the dark.

Rebirth; it was an unimaginably painful, yet overwhelmingly satisfying sensation that engulfed his entire being. It was like being completely doused with ice cold water and burning over flames at the same time. Oxygen burst into his lungs as if he was the vacuum of space taking advantage of a leak on a spaceship. Neurons fired in his brain connecting pathways long forgotten. Light filled the darkness with intense momentum while electrical pulses drove the system’s startup. He was painfully alive, reborn, and gasping for air. 

“Where am I?” He wondered. He was positioned on hay, bound in tight cloth, and surrounded by chickens. “It is awake!” Snickered one of his captors.  

Sunday 1 November 2015

Puzzled at Himself

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015


Andrew Simon Phillips, a noted scholar at a prestigious private high school just on the outskirts of inner city Sydney, was puzzled at himself, very puzzled. He stroked his foreign chin in the reflection of his father’s shaving mirror, the common toilette mirror in the bathroom. Andrew had recently turned fourteen years of age and yesterday had felt the dire need to fully lather his face in order to shave three dark hairs that had sprouted on his chin. Today he had a very respectable growth all over most of his face. He viewed both profiles of the dark forest more to ensure himself that it was indeed his reflection he was studying and that it responded accordingly. Ah well, he thought, nothing I can do about it. He had a vague sense that the covering would naturally go away.
     Andrew’s mother, Chrissy, while making breakfast for him and his father, told him to shave.
     ‘But I shaved yesterday!’
     ‘Andrew, you obviously need to shave every day from now on. It looks like you’re suddenly a man. So shave. Instantly!’ Andrew, though, hid behind his novelty in using a razor regularly to wheedle permission to shave when he got to school. Mrs Phillips agreed and gave him some money for a packet of disposable razors. ‘But today’s the only day you’ll do such. God willing,’ said Chrissy.
     Andrew was true to his head and headed straight for the boys toilets when he got to school. He passed no teachers to pose comment on his untidiness but some of his friends tried to detain him and explore such sudden manliness. He parted from them with difficulty.
     He forgot to bring the shaving cream from home, which actually made him glad. He hated that artificial, sickly sweet scent of the foam. Anyway, thought Andrew while splashing cold water onto his face in reflection, shaving is probably easier without the foam, less stuff to cut through. Face now thoroughly wet he applied the razor to the tip of his chin.
    He paused. Why should he shave, now that he thought of it? What was wrong with a perfectly natural growth? Why must he inhibit himself in this way, curtail his full expression? Especially with such a lovely beard, a deep black, covering his face and flattering his manly features. Why indeed? He put the razor away and joined his friends, looking forward to being the undoubted centre of their attention. At least for a short while.
     His homeroom teacher noticed Andrew’s scruffiness at the morning Assembly and pulled him out of line to tell him to go and shave.
     ‘Why?’ asked Andrew.
     ‘Just do it,’ responded his homeroom teacher, Mr Villiers. ‘You look like a bum, not a model student of this fine school.’
     ‘But it’s natural, nothing to be ashamed of.’
     ‘Mr Phillips, if you don’t shave at once you’re marching straight to your form master’s after Assembly.’
     ‘Mr Phillips, you can make your way there now.’
     His form master was Mr Edgeworth, or ‘Edgy’ as his pupils called him behind his back, because he was patently crazy, beginning and ending every lesson with a story from his time spent in San Francisco during the sixties. Sometimes he smelt like he was still there. He was hired to be form master for the year nines two years ago, solely because of his assurance that his theatre training would make the blossoming teenagers all terrified of being yelled at by him and his massive voice. All students did indeed turn to jelly at his sparingly used and frighteningly loud tirades. Andrew was now almost jelly himself, waiting outside Edgy’s office, dreading the inevitable dreadful roaring when he told him that he had no plans whatsoever to shave his alluring, manly shrubiness.
     Surprisingly, Edgy didn’t yell. He just suspended Andrew when he was convinced that the boy couldn’t be swayed. Personally, he felt Andrew had a point, but rules were rules: ‘All boys must be clean shaven and with hair not to exceed collar length.’
     Andrew headed home.


His parents couldn’t sway Andrew to shave either and they all spent the first night of his suspension in trying to dissuade Andrew from ‘expressing his fullest self.’ They gave up when it was bedtime, and Andrew was still adamant the next morning, a Saturday. Daniel and Chrissy Phillips had no chance but to put up with his stubbornness.
     They didn’t have to put up with it long though, for Andrew shaved after a quiet lunch, none of them finding use for conversation. He shaved because he couldn’t stand the itchiness. His parents were magnanimous in victory and let him spend his two week suspension however he wished. He spent the time reading philosophy, curious now as to exactly what constituted correct behaviour, and what rationale decided what was acceptable and what was not. It was the best two weeks he had as yet experienced.


On his first day back at school he put up notices wherever he could announcing a new club, ‘Thinkers Unlimited’, a group he intended to discuss a chosen philosophic text each month and how it directly applies to their own school enforced lives. Naturally, he copped a lot of teasing about it but the first meeting, a month after he returned to school, was respectably attended, and all of his own friends were there. Mind you, there was a high portion of students who came along expecting to partake in a revolt against the teachers, a hazy expectation that Andrew was going to make school a lot more interesting from now on.
      Andrew eventually brought the meeting to order. There were twenty-one attendees.
     ‘So, who didn’t read our first book, Plato’s Republic?’ All except three raised their hands.
     ‘Bloody hell!’ exclaimed Andrew. ‘How can we have a serious philosophy society if we don’t even read the assigned text? What are we supposed to do now?’
     ‘We’re Thinkers Unlimited aren’t we? We can just sit around and think.’ This was said by Andrew’s best friend, Tim. ‘We could probably come up with a way out of doing homework. If we try.’
     ‘Tim,’ said Andrew, ‘we’re not here to learn how to bludge. We’re here to learn how to improve our school and teacher dominated lives. How to get what we really want and to be taken seriously. Who says the teachers know best? We know best what we want so let’s aim for our claim.’
     ‘You’ve got to be kidding, Andy.’ This was said by Rogerson Irvine, the form bully. He was there with his small band of followers, some of the several students who sensed insurrection. ‘None of us can even vote. This is all pointless.’
     ‘I know something that we’ll all like.’ This was said by Dexter Ambrose, a pupil who spent all his time by himself, reading. He was genuinely happy with Dickens or Hardy for company and the other boys eventually learned that they couldn’t ruffle his feathers for his constant reading, no matter how hard they tried.
     ‘What? You know who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays,’ said Rogerson.
     ‘Even better. I seen Edgy naked and he doesn’t have a dick.’ Everyone then burst out laughing. But yes, when they all collected themselves, Edgy had no penis. Dexter had been reading in bed all night earlier this year at the form’s camp and had heard Edgy outside the dormitory door talking to someone, even though all the students were still asleep in bed. Dexter got up to investigate.
     Edgy was indeed talking to someone, someone who wasn’t there, explaining to him the importance of knowing trigonometry. He was completely naked and obviously sleepwalking. It was when Dexter was gently guiding him back to his room that he noticed his dreaded form master had no penis. He, or rather she, had instead a Brazillian shaved vagina. A very nice Brazillian and accoutrements. Dexter had told no-one because he had no proof, but if they all came up with some sort of plan they could easily out Edgy. Who knows, maybe they could make some money out of their secret. Rogerson was certainly keen and they all set to their purpose with a will.



The Thinkers’ plan backfired. They sent Edgy an anonymous note, revealing their knowledge, and asking for weekly payments of two hundred dollars for their silence, to be left at an abandoned house near the local train station. Edgy’s response was to call an extraordinary Assembly and to out himself. He explained he was born a woman but had always thought of herself as a man. She was in the final stages of changing her sex. She revealed the attempt to blackmail her and not knowing the individual(s) responsible she was going to discipline the whole school, with the Principal’s blessing.
     ‘So, gentlemen. Every student here is to give to their homeroom teacher at least two dollars today, or face detention, and all such monies collected will be used to buy four amulets of distinction, one for each year nine prefect. An amulet, gentlemen, is simply a gem with properties to ward against evil and these prefects will wear these amulets openly to constantly remind you, and protect you from the bigotry that is a serious evil, from all exploitation that is a sin, and to remind everyone that the natural world thrives on diversity, and you will all be constantly reminded of all these facts through your year nine prefects. Dismissed!’
      The year nine boys were now awed the more by their form master, and when the prefects eventually received their amulets they soon learned to wear them with pride. The amulets, in the shape of a Celtic cross, were indeed stylish and “of distinction” and the boys soon became jealous that only the year nine prefects could wear them; they glittered and shone so well in the bright Aus sun. The prefects themselves took pride in the fact that they had become more popular because of the rare gems, albeit unwittingly, and indeed took their role as prefects more seriously. None of Edgy’s fellow faculty complained of him, and only a handful of parents made a complaint to the Principal. Edgy’s monstrous ability to yell the skin from a wayward boy is now used even less and they have even changed his nickname. They now call him Changer, ambiguously respectful on the part of the boys.

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