The Woman by Amber Jager

He sat alone in his chair, quiet for now. It is the first time all week that he has kept to himself, the soft slippers given to him when his daughter last visited settled calmly on the grey industrial-style carpet. All around him people mill about; those others that live here easily distinguished by their walking aids, grey hair, and shuffling steps. Slippers to match his own are extremely common, some marching slowly from place to place and others seated in chairs identical to where he now rests. Among the groups is the occasional younger person, the footwear being the comfortable easy walking style common in those that work in the medical profession. Not all are nurses, but all work taking care of those unable to take care of themselves any longer after the sands of time took their toll.

For the most part, everyone leaves him alone. Some smile over at him if they even bothered sparing him a glance, but he does not pay attention to them. His focus lingers on the far wall, waiting. The nurses call him ‘troubled’ and do what they can to keep him settled, but no one dares try to move him to another place with another wall to watch. This was the only place where there was ever a quiet moment. If ever placed somewhere else, he would fight and scream and demand to be placed in his usual chair.

When he had first moved into this place it had been different, of course. He’d had the occasional episode. Moments where his children were frightened by his rage-filled tirades, directed at empty spaces. He never turned on them specifically, but after one day where he had fallen after lunging at a lamp, they’d had no choice but to seek out somewhere that he could be kept safe. Since then, the episodes grew more and more common. The medication had helped in the beginning, but now he instead had straps carefully keeping his pajama-clad arms in place on the chair, which was securely bolted to the floor. Short of constant sedation, there was only so much that could be done for someone in his situation.

“Hello Mister Turner. How are we feeling today?” The voice came from his right but he didn’t turn. The nurse came to check on him every afternoon, and he didn’t dare look at her and away from the wall. He did give her a slight nod though, an acknowledgement of her greeting. Continue reading

War of the Words by Ellen Mae Franklin

Carol BondProse was a pretty thing with dark hair and brown eyes whose smile lit the world around her. This day found her hard at work. Sheets of paper lay scattered on the desk and floor, screwed up balls of the unwanted stuff littered the room and the quills that she so loved to write with – her most treasured of possessions – were spread out before her in loving array. Feathers and inkpots, scrolls, and the ability to create infinite worlds belonged to this dedicated writer, Prose was proud of every word.


“I have finished! I have finally made my mark.” Prose leapt out of her chair. “It is done at last, my very first story. It’s a pearler and once it’s published I know it will go straight to number one.” She hammered on the wall with her fist and the scraping of a chair on the other-side followed, then a came a knock on her door.


“Come in, come in Ink and hurry up.” Prose shouted, well aware that every writer in her building would be frowning at the interruption. Every time a writer placed the last dot on the end of a tale, indicating that the manuscript was ready for other eyes there was a celebrated shout: disrupting the usual quiet that enveloped her building.

  Continue reading

Going Home by Anthony Hulse

As we touched down at Heathrow Airport, my feeling was one of relief. Given that my occupation called for me to swim amongst sharks and other fearsome creatures of the deep, a routine flight from Australia should have held no fears for me. I managed to release my grip on the armrest, before unfastening my seatbelt. My throat was as dry as the Sahara with nervousness, and I was in dire need of some liquid refreshment.

The retrieving of my luggage went better than expected, as mine always appeared to be the last to be unloaded. I glanced at the clock on the wall and adjusted my wristwatch, before realising that the clock was wrong. It showed nine-fifteen, which was three hours out. My confused mind was calculating the time zone difference, and I concluded that it must be after six-fifteen. Again, my attention was focused on the wall clock, and I noticed that the second hand was moving backwards, which caused me to smile. Continue reading



Catalina by H.M.C

I’d climb in her window at night. Sounds boomed through the house and we’d listen. Sometimes it was her mum yelling at some poor shmuck she’d brought home to soothe the loneliness. Some feral from the pub down the road who had it comin’. I’d hold Cat tighter on those nights and I could feel the pain resounding through her body. She’d stiffen, but act like it didn’t affect her. Maybe it was more embarrassment than anything else.

Cat’s dad was long gone – another bruise in the long-line of life beatings she took. It was just another thing that should’ve turned her into an ungrateful punk of a teenager, but it never did. She should’ve been a right bitch, really. Most chicks our age were.

We used to think that no one could understand how deep our love was for one and other – like we were the only ones in the Universe. Her face lit up like no one else’s. That’s the beauty of first love, there’s a passion and yearning so new and vulnerable, falling from grace feels like death.  It’s laughable to think back now at how dramatic we were. At the time, we were always right.

Other girls would talk to me. Cat hated that. She was jealous. Imagine a beautiful girl thinking I’d leave her. I told her every day she was perfect– remind her she was all I’d ever want. Sometimes I got sick of it.

Continue reading

The Banquet by Anthony Hulse

pic-homeFollowing the long, winding driveway, I came across a magnificent spectacle that was most pleasing to the eye. Langley castle in Northumberland was my destination. Built in the fourteenth century the leaflet had said. I did not know quite what to expect after receiving an invitation from a mysterious host. The invite had been too tempting and had aroused my curiosity.

“Congratulations,” the letter had begun. I looked over the letter with a suspicious eye. Usually anything starting with congratulations meant dipping into your pocket, but this letter was different.

You are invited to a grand evening at Langley Castle, where King Henry VIII has summoned you to his supreme banquet. I’m afraid the invitation is for you only, but your attendance will not go unrewarded. You may find this invitation rather forward, but all will be revealed on the evening. Costumes will be provided for the banquet; all that we require from you is your presence. I look forward to meeting your acquaintance. The evening will bring you your just rewards.”

The letter was not signed and I had no inkling who had sent it, but it was enough to tempt me to the north east of England. The just rewards part had me hooked. The possibility of a long lost aunt or uncle wishing to leave me their fortune entered my greedy thoughts. How I could do with the money.

Nobody would employ me after the events of the last year. At the age of thirty-four, my life lay in tatters, disgraced and branded for something I was not guilty of. The additional letter I had received this morning had lifted my spirits. These two letters could possibly change my life and offer me financial security. Perhaps it would be a happy Christmas after all.

I switched off the window wipers and peered through my windscreen at the smattering of snow, viewing the splendid structure with its white walls and numerous towers. I attempted to count the arched windows, but gave up at thirty.

My battered old Escort looked so out of place in the presence of such grandeur as I eyed the other plush vehicles. I exited my car and ran towards the main entrance. A doorman greeted me and accepted my invitation card before showing me to the welcoming panelled bar.

The light-hearted conversations were evident and nobody seemed to notice me. I ordered my expensive beer and shuffled over to the open fireplace, where a roaring fire was most welcoming, considering the freezing conditions outside.

My eyes scanned the lavishly decorated room, with umpteen portraits of the castle and past monarchs occupying the wooden panelled walls. The Christmas music was playing gently as my eyes searched for a familiar face, but I was disappointed.

“Mr Fallon,” came a voice from behind me.

“Yes, I’m Fallon.” Continue reading

“Let Down Your Hair”

12453094Ruth snuggled more deeply into the hollow between her mother’s arm and her side. They were just getting to the good part, the part with the prince, and Ruth always liked to get all cozy at the good parts.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair,” her mother read.
Rapunzel lowered her hair down, and the prince started climbing up. Her mother’s head jerked toward the window, bonking Ruth on the head, and she let out a loud, “Ow!” right in her ear.
“Mom! Stop yelling in my ear!”
“Ruth! Stop pulling my hair!” Claire said at the same time.
“I’m not pulling your hair!”
Claire’s face smooshed into Ruth’s as her head was jerked toward the window again. It wasn’t until that moment that they realized they were no longer in Ruth’s bedroom but in a round, stone room with only one window and no door. Claire’s hair, which had been only shoulder length moments before, was now trailing out that window, a long, golden braid snaking, ropelike, across the windowsill.
Ruth thrust her head through the opening and yelled, “Stop pulling my mom’s hair!”
Claire threw one arm against the window sill and another around Ruth as her head was, once again, jerked violently toward the window, and she slammed into Ruth from behind. If not for her arm around Ruth, Ruth would have gone tumbling out of the window.
“Mom, look!” Ruth pointed down, “The prince!”
Claire looked, and, sure enough, there was a “prince” climbing up her hair. He looked just like the prince in the book they had just been reading before she flung it across the room to keep from going out the window. Of course, he looked like any prince from any children’s book or any Disney movie, for that matter. Lots of reds and purples. Flowing cape. Gold circlet around the brow. The thing that made it creepy, though, was that he looked he disturbingly both like and unlike her husband, Will. The face was his, and, yet, it was not his. The expressionless eyes and maniacal grin probably had something to do with that.
“Mommy?” said Ruth, “Is that daddy?” She looked both repulsed and intrigued.
“I don’t think so,” said Claire. “The more important questions is what are we doing here?”
Ruth blushed, “I’m sorry, Mommy. I didn’t mean to!”
Ruth wiggled out from under her mother as Claire braced herself with both arms, the prince continuing mindlessly up her hair.
Claire gasped out, her head twisting around from the weight of the thing hanging from her hair, “I know you didn’t mean to… You have to mean not to!” Continue reading

Pollard by Ellen Mae Franklin


I sat in that place I favoured so well, letting the memories wash over me. Leaves swirled and danced on the floor and the wind teased my thick long hair, as it carried the sad overtures of what had once been. It covered my face as I turned my head a little to look at the door. A cracked mirror leant against the weatherboard wall and I caught a glimpse of myself. There were a few I had known that had said I was slim and pretty, but what did they know, I had been locked away forever and a day with her, never leaving the house, except to take Withering to the shed.

The trouble with living in a small town was that everyone knew your business. It troubled me that my grandmother was able to keep our business a secret. Were we safe because of the empty, outreaching fields and the rolling hills beyond that, as they bled away into endless stretches of colour? I didn’t know, nor did I really care. This town had skeletons roaming its dusty streets and no one seemed to give it a second thought that they crowded up against our place.

So many had died by Pollard’s hand and there, among the leaves, hidden under the hessian bag I used to cover my nakedness sat more tears. Shaped and hardened into coloured marbles. They were full of sin and other things. Some held disbelief and anger, while the pale yellow balls, catching the sunlight in my lap, shimmered with pain. It was easy to hurt, easier than forgetting.

“Justice, stop your moping and help me with the old man. Your grandfather’s been seen walking. Pollard’s name is on everyone’s lips this morning, so grab yourself an umbrella and get me to the shed.” Withering’s voice was as gnarly as the body she walked in. Long earrings hung from stretched earlobes and the many rings on her fingers clacked their impatience. Continue reading