The Grieving of the Butterflies by Anthony Hulse

Spencer Pardew whistled as he paced along the picturesque and tranquil harbour road. The morning sun heralded another fine July day, adding to the contentment of the thirty-five year old teacher. He and his wife, Jill, recently purchased a cottage in Whitby, after agreeing to sell their home in Loftus. The two teachers found employment in a local primary school; the circumstances prompting their decision.

 

Whist Jill was in the process of decorating the riverside cottage, Spencer opted to visit the local market, situated at the foot of the abbey steps. He breathed in deeply, the bracing sea air filling his lungs. The squawking seagulls foraged for food and tidbits, left by the early morning fishermen.

 

Spencer mingled with the locals and holidaymakers, who had risen early to search for a bargain. After purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables, Spencer headed towards a bric-a-brac stall. His unblinking eyes focused on two oil paintings. The first was of a young, unsmiling, medieval boy. He wore a brown, floral gown, black hose, and pointed shoes; his hair cut in a pudding basin style. The girl, who bore a striking resemblance to the boy, wore a green, laced-up gown. A black French hood covered her loose hair. She too showed no sign of merriment.

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THE ANAKIM CAN DIE by Peter M. Emmerson

Graphic by Paul and Carilla

Paul and Carilla

Paul lay on his back wrapped in his sleeping bag, the hood pulled tight until it all but covered his face. The tip of his nose was cold, but it troubled him not. His eyes were filled with the wonders of the heavens. The all encompassing ring of standing stones stood around them; comforting in their silent protection.
The stars; so close, so bright. The mesmerizing flickering layers of green which filled the sky to the North, so mysterious and enchanting. It had taken a great deal of cajoling from all three youngsters to obtain his mother’s permission for them to spend two weeks away from main camp on a hunting trip. He had promised to check in mentally each day.
Xjang had commented earlier, as they huddled around the tiny camp fire, that the shimmering green sheets were created by the souls of warriors who had died in battle. The diminutive Finn, in a counter argument, insisted that Bes himself had cast infinite handfuls of glow-worms into the sky to shine forever and defeat the darkness in those times when Khonsu, the god of the night hid his face.
Paul smiled at his friends, he knew the stars were suns like the one that shone down on them daily, but tonight he was happy to accept their more simple explanations. And watching the dazzling Aurora Borealis displays he was almost inclined to agree with the two young warriors. Continue reading

Rhaena by Chris Kaye

“Get off him … Now!”

I hauled her off the body; and almost threw her to one side. It was hardly an easy task, as she weighs more than I do, but at least she didn’t turn her teeth and claws on me. I’m surprised I got away with it.

She had left a bit of a mess. Launching herself from several feet away, in the bushes, her landing had crushed his ribcage, and ‘natural weaponry’ had pierced lungs, heart, and opened up the entire upper chest. He was dead: and I doubt he even had time to feel pain. I was glad to still be alive myself, however it would have helped if Astrillen hadn’t taken the attitude, “shred first …” and we won’t bother about the “… ask questions later” bit.

I spared a glance for the cat. She had, of course, easily landed on her feet, and was now sitting, fastidiously licking paws and muzzle clean. In all honesty, I hadn’t realised that she had been following me … until the attempted attack.

“Sorry about that, old girl. Thanks for getting rid of the problem … before he managed to become one.”

The totally unconcerned look that I got in reply was one I well knew. I suppose it’s the feline equivalent of, “Okay: friendship comes first, just don’t try that again”.

There were things I needed to do, and fairly quickly. The mind of the deceased might still contain some answers, if I could delve into it soon enough. I had plenty of questions whirling through my own head: starting with the obvious ones. Who would want to see me dead, and why? How did he get so close without me sensing him? Were there any of his ‘friends’ waiting further along the trail?

All of those would remain a mystery, unless I could rapidly scan my assailant’s memories. It was breaking a few rules: as if I didn’t do that a half dozen times every day … most days: nevertheless I ‘could’ access certain images directly from the brain … even a no-longer functioning one. Continue reading

The Grasshopper and the Merchant

There once was a grasshopper who lived in the reeds of a merchant’s garden. The garden was beautiful, so beautiful in fact, that it was held in greater esteem than the emperor’s own.

The grasshopper had many friends in this garden. The butterfly and the firefly, in particular, greatly enjoyed his company. Life was pleasant and good for them, even though the merchant who owned the land was foul-tempered and unkind. The townspeople avoided the merchant, and he ignored them, seeking nothing more than silence, for music was a blight to his ears.

Every night, the grasshopper would climb upon a simple blade of grass and begin his soliloquy. Nothing brought him greater joy. But no sooner would he start his concert each night, that the merchant, in a rage, would come outside and threaten him with an old broom. Our poor grasshopper was merely a grasshopper, however, and saw no harm in his chirps. The next night he would return, and carry on as usual.

This distressed the merchant, who found the grasshopper’s chirp lowly and unbefitting. After many nights of restless sleep, the merchant decided to take action. The next morning, while the grasshopper slept, the merchant commanded his servants to cut down all of the grass upon which the grasshopper liked to perch. The firefly was so heart-broken that he had to move away.

Quieter, and sadder, became our grasshopper’s nightly songs, but even this was too much for the merchant, who then ordered his servants to pull every flower in his garden up by the root. The townspeople cried to see the godly garden maimed, and the butterfly, no longer having any nectar to drink, was forced to leave as well.

How disheartened, our grasshopper friend.

The grasshopper was clever, however, and devised a plan. He knew that the merchant was a single man, for no married man would care about the chirping of grasshoppers—he would be doing plenty of chirping on his own.

He went to the river and gathered a great many reeds, which he bundled into a fine skirt around his waist. Then, he went to the lilies by the bank and painted his face to be in the custom of human women. Peering onto the water’s surface, the grasshopper found himself rather handsome, and the fish agreed.

He crept back to the merchant’s house and hid behind a window’s reed shutter. Chirping, in the sweetest voice he could muster, the grasshopper called to the merchant inside. “My, what a handsome fellow! I wonder if there is a home here for me?” For you see, that is the chirp grasshoppers make.

The merchant was quite charmed, and instantly ran to the window to pull back the reed. But the grasshopper stopped him, because if the merchant were to look carefully past the window reed shutter, he would know his true identity immediately.

“Oh no! Please don’t look. Only my husband can have the privilege.”

And so the merchant stopped, and rather than be suspicious of the secretive woman, he only found himself endeared. “Pray tell, Gentle Lady, what one must do to be your husband.”

The grasshopper could hardly contain his chirp of amusement. “Plant me a pretty lawn, to match my robe, and I will wed you.” And he flourished the lush reed skirt for the merchant’s desiring eyes.

The next day, the merchant hastened to install a fine green lawn in his yard. The gardeners toiled all the day. By evening, the firefly returned, drawn by the aroma of the fresh verdant grasses. This pleased the grasshopper, but butterfly had not yet returned, and he felt he owed the merchant a little more mischief. That night, he went back to the pond, where he gathered yellow ginkgo leaves to make an even finer robe. He returned to the window once again, and hiding behind the shutter, chirped sweetly, “My, what a handsome fellow! I wonder if there is a home here for me?”

merchantandgrasshapperThe merchant, confused, dashed to the window once more. But he remembered the lady’s shyness, so did not attempt to pull back the shutter. “I do not understand. Do you not see the fine green lawn I have planted? Am I still not fit to be your husband?”

The grasshopper shook his pretty, painted face. The gingko dress rustled like tin bells. “Oh, this lawn is very fine, but it is not nearly right enough. For you see, my robe is yellow. You must have gotten it wrong.”

The merchant, dismayed, apologized and promised to set it right.

The very next day, he had the gardeners remove the green lawn and instead plant a wondrous variety of yellow flowers. Daffodils, rape weed, roses, and gladiolus peppered the whole of the garden. The smell was intoxicating, and butterfly, drunk before noon, thanked the grasshopper heartily. The merchant, for his part, was certain that his night caller would be most impressed.

But that night, the grasshopper arrived in red. Petals from the crimson gum trees by the pond fashioned a royal skirt and corset, and it was all the merchant could do not to throw open the shutter and steal her for his wife.

Nonetheless, the grasshopper denied him, and chirping in his most lovely voice, begged the merchant to try again.

Now this continued for many days, and the merchant’s neighbors wondered at the drastic changes in his yard. Soon, everyone came every day to see the merchant’s most wondrous lawn changing color. On the day the changes started, it was a Monday, and now, by Sunday, they had seen blue, orange, purple, and white besides.

They did not know it was the grasshopper, and the merchant, a fool in love, never suspected a thing. But high time was coming, the grasshopper knew, that the game end, for he was tired of outwitting a simpleton.

On this final evening of our story, the grasshopper returned to the pond, and begging some scales from his goldfish friends, and the lights of a dozen or so fireflies, he fashioned the most wondrous celestial robe, and painting his face finer than any other night before, he returned to the merchant’s window.
This night, the exchange between the grasshopper and the merchant was quite melancholy, and the grasshopper cautioned the merchant. “I grow tired of your teases, my lord. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, will be your last chance to prove yourself to me.”

The merchant swore to appease his night caller, near mad with desire for the woman beyond his screen. The next day, he had the gardeners lay solid gold bricks upon his lawn, and before the night fell, every single one of them had been stolen by the people who had come to see his garden.

The merchant had become too poor to have his garden weeded, and the grasshopper was free to chirp to his heart’s content.

Also, everyone in town was a little bit richer.

Shopping and Lies by Kathryn White

shopping&liesthumb

Monday February 9, 2009

 

Underpants.

Right now, my biggest problem is underpants. This is despite the fact that just a week ago, I eloped with fiancée of five years and no one, except for Samuel (who is now, of course, my husband,) and my dad (who funded the whole thing,) knows about it and they all think that our real wedding is going to be this huge, elaborate ceremony that my mother-in-law (who thinks that she is my soon-to-be mother-in-law,) is organising and will take place on Saturday, which is not only Valentine’s Day, but it will be my birthday as well. Anyway, despite the obvious problem of having to either a, reveal that Samuel and I went and got married without her knowing about it and causing Ursula considerable hurt and upset, or b, go through with an elaborate ceremony that neither of us asked for or wanted, right here and now, my biggest problem is underpants.

Or, to be a bit more specific about it, my biggest problem is underpants that are completely the wrong style, not to mention the wrong size.

This morning, I was feeling a bit lousy, which I suppose is normal when you’re not only a liar, but you’re a liar who has just told the whopper of the year to the majority of your family and most of your friends (no, no, I’m not already married, I’m not getting married until next week,) and you also happen to be pregnant and have just gone for your billionth fitting for the maternity wedding dress of the year that your mother-in-law is buying for you and not only do you not want it, but you’ve just discovered that it does not fit and it will have to be altered again, and so I decided to treat myself to a brand new bra and a matching pair of knickers. I found the perfect pair almost straight away and was secretly feeling rather triumphant that I found them all on my own and that the bra was a perfect fit, meaning that I didn’t have to worry about any kind of interference from that rather smug looking woman who works behind the counter at L’duds, who always reminds me of Mrs Slocombe from TVs Are You Being Served. Her name, at least according the little piece of gold plated plastic that she has pinned to her apron is Florence but I bet that her name is really Shirl, Marj or Beryl. (I don’t think that there is anything wrong with those names by the way. I just think that it is silly for people to be embarrassed about them and to want to call themselves something else, as if pretending to be named Florence magically makes them a better person.)

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Caged by Ellen Mae Franklin

Birdcage

“JEREMY!”

 

Bolt upright, tangling all askew in sweat soaked sheets Trend reached out a shaky hand. He ran it over a mop of light, yellow coloured hair.

 

“Jeremy!”

 

Trend moved to the edge of his bed. The sheet snagged around his leg and with a heavy thud the boy fell to the floor. Memories, dream induced was a hazy reflection. The breeze blowing through the open window sent a shiver through his thin body. Trend wondered which star was his mother. Would she be watching him now? Did she know he lived?

 

He tried to stand. I have to shut the window I’m freezing, but of course Trend couldn’t. He fell to the floor, just another dark shape on the ground. Grunting he dragged his body a few inches. How could a one legged boy walk to the window? So strange to think he could feel the other one, as though he had two legs, only the pain lancing up a tender thigh failed to keep the wishing dream alive. He closed his eyes; sleep rarely came to him these nights for memories haunted the shadows, as much as they did the bright sunlight days.

 

The boor opened bringing with it a shaft of hallway cheer. A silhouette filled the doorframe. It stood there motionless.

 

Trend spoke, hidden from his brother’s sight having fallen from the warmth of his bed.

“Jeremy, please help me? I’m afraid.”

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GLB46 by HMC

 

hmc glb46 I knew the GLB46 Program was wrong. But I had a choice, be wrong, or lose my mind.

 

Nessy dragged me to the car. I couldn’t quite remember why I was angry at her, so I pulled in the opposite direction toward our waterside mansion where I’d rather be in front of my big-screen TV. Almost bowled her backward at one stage. Poor old girl. I was stubborn as an old nail, and I wasn’t coming out for her. Not today. My shows were on. She was making me miss my shows. San Tracey Murdock was about to shoot the bad guy, and he’d been aiming all season. Damned if I’d miss it. Damned woman!

‘Get in the car, you buggar!’ She pulled my arm. Strong grasp this one. I taught her that. Was all right to be a strong girl. Nothin’ wrong with being able to beat up the fellas. She pushed me toward the silver Mercedes. My fault she could handle me like Raggedy Andy. Some strange guy came over to us and helped Nessy put me into the passenger seat.

‘Who are you?’ I demanded.

‘I’m your driver. Harry. Harry Carmichael.’ He had a familiar face.

‘Harry’s been driving us for five years, Bill,’ said Nessy as she climbed in the other passenger-side door.

‘Where the hell’s Reggie?’ I demanded.

‘Shush! Have some respect,’ Nessy whispered harshly. ‘He died. And Harry’s his son, so be quiet and have some compassion.’

‘Oh,’ I said. Shame that was, Reggie being dead. Good guy he was. That’s why Harry was so familiar – looked like his dad. Didn’t matter he’d been driving me for five years. Some days I didn’t even recognise my own face, let alone my bloody driver.

Nessy strapped herself in. ‘Now, Bill, you need to be on your best behaviour. Do you hear me?’

‘Stop treating me like I’m seven, Nessy! I’m bloody-well 66 years old. You treat me with some respect, woman!’

‘You’re 74, Bill Bins. Keep your voice down.’ She was calmer than usual, believe you me. Nessy wasn’t called Nessy for nothin’. It came from her name Vanessa, but it also came from her brothers when she was knee-high, and she stomped around like the Lochness Monster.

‘What’s going on?’ I studied her close. ‘You takin’ me to a doctor?’

‘I’ve already told you, and if you can’t remember, then shuddupaya face and read the paper.’ She threw the Sydney Herald at me, and glanced out the window, as we pulled out the front gates. The paper said April 8th, 2015. Geez, time flies. Continue reading