Archive for: March, 2017

The Smiler by Samuel Elliott

Mar 26 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

All Tobias knew was pain. At first, he could not distinguish night from day, could not discern where he was, only that he was immobilised and in agony beyond his darkest imaginings. He gradually became aware of his surroundings, lighter shades of rudimentary outlines, contrasting with silhouettes dipping in and out of his vision like a procession of waifs.

He reached for them, yet did not move. Unfazed, he exerted himself to the brink of fainting and still did not budge a fraction. His first fleeting thought was that he was a quadriplegic, but with tremendous focus he found he could wiggle his digits from hands and feet alike. That knowledge brought about the realisation he was bound in a body cast, set in place by traction.

With his sense of touch returning so too returned sound. Minor at first, a steady thump of his heart, accompanied by a more incessant, odious beep. Tobias clung to the chirp with the assiduousness that only the doomed and delusional can, hoping its existence would blot out the pain, maybe make him forget his current ordeal. Over time he understand that he was hearing a heart monitor, his heart monitor, reminding him that he had been denied death and was left in the realm of the living, rife with suffering, devoid of respite.

That sound grew to be reassuring, a constant presence, the marker he used to determine if he was awake, or if he were immersed in a drug-forged world of make-believe. In this ominous land of dream Tobias was submerged in an ink-like liquid, a sentient, stagnant black pool with little to illuminate the dismal surroundings.

He would hang suspended, floating in place, a spirit without form, a crippled vessel, condemned to inertia. Then a light would appear, pinpricks that punctured the pitch-black waterscape. These two cones of light marked the surface, their unchecked descent signalled the immense depths of the abyss.

Tobias would watch, a malaise spreading thick and choking in his unseen chest as the pair of lights sank further down. Eventually and invariably they would disappear altogether, consumed in the belly of the black, snuffed as candles extinguished, with the same finality, the same futility of rekindling.

And then the voice would speak.

The words he could (mercifully) never recall when he managed to regain the reigns of his mind and wrest himself awake. But the voice left a lasting impression, a widening stain that his brain and soul could never cleanse itself of, gnawing at him, digging further into his mind and cracking open his resolve, laying waste to what courage he had accumulated.

It was the shrill voice of his mother’s in reproach, and the bestial snarl of his father’s. It was the sound of a dozen former lovers’ accompanied with peals of mocking laughter and others still less definable. The voice of a child, the wail of a baby. The sob of a geriatric and the shriek of a stuck pig. The voice, though disparate and forever changing, seemed to always originate from one source – himself. Reverberating from a fetid chasm within his own damaged mind. It grasped him like the calloused hand of a drunken brute, tightening inexorably until he woke up gasping, dry of mouth and saturated of brow, sweat-soaked and urine-soiled.

He tried to trick himself into believing the recurring nightmares were solely attributed to his delirium. A manifestation of the suffering chasing him from the waking world, to that which Morpheus presided over. But his assurances lacked conviction and he dreaded every night, when he could endure no more and succumbed to the tide of sleep. The passage of time continued, light rose and then faded, precipitating another round of torment, of which he spent the next day futilely trying to recover from.

Yet his condition steadily improved, perception begrudgingly and belatedly returned. A softened version though, as if his own mind wanted to spare him the extent of the harsh reality. Memories ebbed back, edges frayed with hallucination and doubt, accusations from a mind and self at war. Tobias singularly focused on recalling how he had arrived to this special Hell.

The car, the boozy night, his friends stuffed into the back. The rain-lashed windscreen, wipers on overdrive, two plastic appendages frantically trying to staunch the deluge pummelling the glass. His shit-box car submerged in a world of blurred outlines and streaks of weak light. That was all he could dredge from his memory banks, and the ubiquitous pain overrode all, dragging him back from wherever he had tried to envision himself.

‘Signs are promising,’ said a voice, a female voice, owned by a distorted face leaning into his. A thumb of light stabbed his eyes, blinding and unpleasant, he could only squint and wait. ‘Pupils reacting, breathing stabilising, all vitals normal and stable given the circumstances. Can you hear me?’

The words had no meaning, impossible for Tobias to grasp on, for him to process. He mustered every might of his being, trying to project the voice of an irked god, demanding he be left be.

A pitiful snorting sound emerged, taxing all his breath, creating new plains of pain for his senses to roam through. Attempting to speak for the first time in eternity, alerted himself to the fact that something was lodged in his mouth, thick and plastic, coated in a sickly sheen of his saliva. He wanted to purge, to rid himself of the vile object, but it was fastened firmly in place, taped to his emaciated face.

‘Don’t try talking just yet, Tobias,’ the voice lightly chastised. He felt a touch, sensitive and nimble, settling somewhere on his forehead. ‘You are lucky to be here.’

He found that remark highly contentious, spoken by a clueless fool unaware of the ordeal he was nightly subjected to. He swam away from the reality and floated on the tepid waters of pain. He sought a balance, to attain some mental nirvana that always eluded. Blackness enveloped him, the discombobulating, disconcerting haze of a drug-induced slumber, a simple cease-to-be, willing time to pass and fate to transpire. His thoughts seldom strayed from death, that sweet eternal release of all things, the ceaseless agony tethering him to the world. Tobias wished for that demise, welcomed it beyond all measure, beyond any lust he had felt, any drink he had ever wanted to drain.

As if to spite him, his health continued improving, transitioning into a new era of highly-attuned senses, his immobile state sharpened them, bestowed him preternatural abilities. His hearing became keen, so too his vision. Smell flooded his nostrils, exquisitely foul, the stench of sterility, of disinfectant, imbued with an indelible stench of shit, of piss. The miasma was a harbinger of recognition, identifying the wretched place he presently languished in.

‘How are you?’ The same voice as before asked, tone unreadable, reduced to impassivity, that of a trained and seasoned professional. ‘Do you feel up to talking?’

The owner of the voice stepped into his eyesight, his burgeoning vision rendered a young woman, garbed in a pristine-white coat. A stethoscope around her neck held the reverence of a crucifix which she occasionally thumbed, as if to draw solace against the grotesque sight he made.

‘You are awake.’ She remarked, a brief smile brightened her features. ‘I’m Erica, no need to tack on any officious-sounding titles to the front of that. Erica will do.’

‘What happened?’ Tobias asked, the words jumbled together in one guttural croak, the plaintive cry of a felled beast. They were a mess even to his ears.

She somehow understood him.

‘Those are questions for later.’ She said, producing the penlight from the ether. ‘Paramount priority is seeing you make a speedy recovery.’

The light prodded at his eyes, claws that raked, he could only stare into them and lament. She was mercifully quick.

‘How about seeing me?’ Demanded a voice.

The doctor did not shift her attention. Tobias tried his best to maintain her gaze, to project some fortitude, as if he were not forever on the verge of wailing out in a manner better suited to a child afflicted with a skinned knee.

‘Be with you shortly Mr Luscombe.’ She assured, fiddling with one of the many machines huddling a congregation around Tobias’ bed. He only knew of their existence because they kept him aglow in their pallid, twinkling lights when all others in the room were extinguished.

‘I’ll check on you tomorrow,’ she assured Tobias, giving him comfort that he could never hope to articulate. ‘You are making decisive steps forward, don’t exert yourself. It’s a slow, tedious process.’

Erica took her leave then, off to tend to the complainant. Tobias concentrated, expending whatever energy he had accumulated to track her movements. It was only a short journey across the room, where another bed-ridden patient waited in woe. Tobias distinguished a wizened man, sunken into the sheets, a pale streak of a geriatric, with features drained of all colour, save the slash of a mouth and the pearly, almost iridescent glow of his eyes.

Tobias dozed off again, grateful for the interaction with the doctor to while the time away. For an age he slept soundly on his own accord and was spared the umpteenth session of a nightmare.

The respite was ephemeral.

He was awoken, by a wetness on his face. Something slick and corporeal, swept indolently from one side of his brow to another. His eyes opened tentatively, still too befuddled by sleep to feel any fear. It must have been in the dead of night, for the room was draped in darkness, an abundance of shadows ran rampant, creating a hellish place where the imagination roamed and the malignant whim of fantasies took shape.

Tobias’ pulse quickened as his dread commenced in earnest. He implored his eyes to adjust to the gloom, but they were weak and traitorous. He peered upwards, trying to identify the origin of what was touching him.

‘Wanted to wait a while,’ a voice advised, it sounded like it was shaped with a smile, wide and perpetually on the precipice of laughter. ‘Until you had regained some of your mental faculties before I paid you a visit. Revealing myself takes a toll on a mind as feeble as yours. Suggestible to such fanciful things, a puppet tugged on strings.’

The voice was familiar, but incongruous, and given the location – impossible. It belonged to Hamish.

‘Hamish?’ Tobias asked, more to validate his disbelief than anything else.

‘Hamish is here,’ the voice said.

‘So is Alex.’ Alex identified.

‘And Tristan.’ Tristan said.

‘Paul here too.’ Paul said, his throaty voice sounding oddly alien, hostile, bereft of any warmth cultivated by a decade of friendship.

‘How?’ Tobias asked, the word a whisper, barely audible. The question an entreaty, a prayer, one that he sorely wished would not be answered.

‘You know how.’ This voice was a fusion of all of his friends, merged into one dissonant din. All of them speaking the words individually, simultaneously, a maddening babel that twisted in Tobias’ like a rusty blade.

The sopping digit lingered around the bridge of his nose, leaving a trail of foul-smelling sludge. A cry from the other side of the room shifted Tobias’ attention. He found Luscombe, sitting upright, rigid as rigor mortis, pointing, aghast.

‘What is it Luscombe?’ Tobias demanded, managing to produce a voluminous voice, terror had gifted him a fresh set of lungs. ‘What is it? What? What?’

Luscombe slowly shook his head from side to side, the lone finger pointing toward him shaking violently. Tobias saw the old man’s throat bob, his mouth shaping words yet producing no sound.

‘What is it?’ Tobias repeated, louder this time, more commanding. The moistness on his head was burning his flesh, corrosive-like.

‘Stay out of this old timer,’ menaced the voice, though it had changed, now no longer belonging to Tobias’ friends. It was inhuman, a buzzing as if made from a million insects imitating human speech and failing miserably. ‘I haven’t forgotten about you either. I’ll get to you later.’

Luscombe folded in on himself, his gaunt frame vanishing behind a sheet he pulled upward. The sounds of an elderly man weeping inconsolably only unnerved Tobias more.

The slippery appendage that violated Tobias’ helpless face was removed, complete with a slurping sound, a comical smacking as if the owner were savouring a fine meal.

‘Tasty,’ the hybrid voice, remarked. ‘Very, very tasty.’

Though he wanted to look away, Tobias kept his eyes locked firmly at their extremities, wanting to catch sight of whatever had licked him. A shape shifted, and floated over his head with the languid, graceful motion of someone, something, submerged under a still sea. A moment later, Tobias beheld what it was.

A mouth, larger than any mouth should be, swam into his field of vision. Absent were lips, though the mouth itself was amply stocked with two rows of teeth, polished to a blinding radiance and perfectly spaced.

But the dimensions were off, each respective tooth’s shape unlike any humans, that of the artistic rendering of an alien drawing what they thought a human’s mouth might look like. It was a maw of maleficence that split the very fabric of the atmosphere, all light seemed to shrink away from the abomination as if fearful of being devoured like plankton to a whale. The mouth was twisted in a perpetual insidious sneer, a tongue thicker than Tobias’ arm danced around, at ease in its expansive lair, sliding around the teeth, pink as dawn, forked and serpentine, tasting the air, savouring the reek of fear emanating from Tobias.

The travesty of an orifice sensed Tobias staring, despite lacking any discernible eyes. It opened wide, exposing darkness beyond all reckoning, an oblivion that did not end, that could not be measured. Tobias stared into the ominous abyss nevertheless, feeling like he had dived past the event horizon of his own demise. This was not a human darkness, not one in which could be located anywhere on Earth,  for that sort was tameable, capable of being defeated with torches.

This extended far beyond.

Tobias knew he was peering through the gateway of the damned, a realm of no return, where suffering untold lay.

Realising that the longer he stared, the less likely he would be able to ever look away, Tobias manoeuvred his gaze downward. He discovered that the monster supported itself on a myriad of legs, some thick and stable as the trunks of a tree, others gossamer-thin. All of which worked in sync, digits of some gripped, others pumped to create motion, others with unknown purpose were tucked in, fists like those of a foetus, retracted but ready to be put to use. It descended from its perch slowly, with the ease and gait of an arachnid stalking its web.

‘Nine months of traction my boy, this whole body cast,’ it said. One of the cherub-sized hands rapped its tiny knuckles on the plaster of his foot, as if a prospective customer kicking the tires of a car. Tobias could see his own stupefied reflection in the gleam of the teeth, impossibly shiny, poised to bite his face off, swallow his head whole. ‘We have plenty of time to get to know each other. Before the rest of your life that is, however long you decide that may be.’

Tobias refrained from speaking, because to respond in any way would be an admission that what he was studying was real, a being that inhabited the same plane of existence that he did.

‘Don’t be childish,’ it scolded, playfully, the smile seemed to widen, more teeth proliferated. ‘We are bound to one another now, you and I are inseparable.’

Tobias resorted to snapping his eyes shut, pretending they were sealed with airplane glue. Anything to rid him of the reality, to keep hysteria at bay.

‘Now, now,’ the voice, his mates’ voices reduced to a perversion. ‘You cannot outrun yourself Tobias, eventually you’ll always trip over your own feet.’

Tobias felt something prodding at his eyelids, several digits, nimble and sturdy. They pried his lids open without difficulty, forcing him to stare straight into the gaping mouth of the monster an inch before his face.

‘Luscombe.’ Tobias begged.

‘Leave me alone.’ Luscombe’s muffled voice derided. ‘You’re on your own.’

‘That’s right,’ said the monster, chuckling. ‘No one here but us, you best get used to that now.’

Mercifully, Tobias fainted.

A scream brought him back, a moment later Tobias registered the chilling sound did not belong to him. He opened his eyes to discover daylight, glorious daylight, had flooded in, heralding the providence of a new morning, where shadows were merely that and cast to the corners of the room in resignation. Tobias gathered his bearings as quickly as he could, noticing a commotion on the opposite side of the room, where several nurses and assorted others were situated around Luscombe’s bed. The doctor, Erica, stormed in, her coat flapping her consternation.

‘Get her out of here.’ She demanded, pointing to an inconsolable nurse shrieking in the tight embrace of two others. ‘All of you clear out. You, stay.’

She pointed to a grim-faced man standing close by, his face furrowed in pensiveness and directed toward the unfolding scene. His body and those of the others were an obstruction preventing Tobias from seeing what lay beyond.

‘What’s happened?’ She asked when the others had left, ostensibly having forgotten of Tobias’ presence.

‘Something rather dreadful I’m afraid,’ the man replied, duly sombre, scratching at the bristles on his double-chin. ‘It appears that at some point in the night Mr Luscombe here gouged out his own eyes. Subsequently dying of shock or blood loss or possibly a combination of the two.’

‘How?’

‘Remains to be seen. I was under the understanding he was incapable of such feats of strength, given his severe condition.’

‘Neither.’ Erica’s head snapped up and she noticed Tobias trying to steal a glance. ‘Go back to sleep Tobias. Rest. This doesn’t concern you.’

She did not wait for an answer, instead dragging the curtain around to cordon the area off. Tobias had no choice but to do as instructed, though he was far too energised to actually attain sleep. The day was punctuated with further visits from necessary personnel, though Erica, now wise to Tobias’ attempts at snooping, was vigilant to have every interview, every exchange, conducted outside of his earshot. He strained himself trying to hear the hushed voices of the police outside the room, but could glean no information.

He supposed they would want to speak to him at some point, though no one did, likely they were forbidden under the explicit instruction of Erica. The day faded, its passage marked by the ancient and decrepit television suspended over Tobias’ bed.

Tobias wanted to sleep so he could feel refreshed and ready for another evening of staving off its allure. The rest did not come and Tobias’ imagination wandered, composing grisly images of the his former roommate’s remains, gaping sockets stared at him, blazing with intense energy of hatred, flinging fiery accusations. The more Tobias wallowed in the image, the more his other senses were incorporated, he began smelling the sickening, pungent stench of violent death, sinking in the pit of his stomach, tightening his bowels and constricting his throat. He spent the next few hours trying to refrain from vomiting, worried that he would choke to death if he relented to the impulse.

Erica eventually arrived with several burly orderlies in tow.

‘How would you feel about being moved?’ She asked Tobias. He appreciated her posing it as a question, though the implication of an order was abundantly clear.

‘Fine.’  He mumbled, labouring with the plastic tube lodged in his throat.

Which was the truth, Tobias had no desire to be kept in the room of such carnage, though more crucially, he hoped that a relocation would spare him another visit from the monster.

Erica nodded to the waiting men and they steadfastly set to task, dismantling all of Tobias’ machines as Erica removed the IV drips attached at his hands, the tube remained secured in his mouth, much to his chagrin. The event was over soon, with Tobias wheeled into another room impossible to distinguish from the previous, save that he was now the only occupant. When moved into position, the same machines were there to be reattached to and a fresh set of IV drips were gently inserted into his hands. The orderlies were dismissed and Erica lingered, a woman with a face full of conflict and a mouth empty of words, neither profound nor inane.

Tobias waited, hoping she would soon shatter her own self-imposed silence.

‘Did Mr Luscombe say anything strange to you last night?’ She asked. There was a curiosity shaping her normally neutral voice. ‘Do anything peculiar? Anything at all?’

For a fleeting moment, Tobias resolved to confide all, no matter how absurd his story sounded. That passed quickly. He reasoned that Erica would dismiss his ramblings as that of a madman, perhaps merely from a drug-induced fever, or from a pre-existing, undiagnosed mental condition. Plus to do so would be an open admission that he believed what he had seen, that it was not merely a figment of his morbid, relentless imagination.

‘No.’ He replied, wishing he could shake his head to stress his conviction.

‘And how are you? Overall?’

‘Do you have anything that will knock me out all night?’ He tried to keep his tone indifferent, devoid of desperation.

Erica shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, but no.’ She tapped the chart at the foot of his bed and gestured to the two IV bags hanging overhead as ghosts tethered to his tortured soul. ‘You are already on a very serious concoction, anything additional would risk slowing your heart.’

Tobias had expected as much, but could not conceal his disappointment. The realisation of another night of sobriety and whatever that entailed was a bitter pill to swallow.

‘It’s an adjustment, I know,’ Erica said. ‘Learning to accept that you will be in such a situation for several more months would be tough. I understand.’

‘What about visitors? Why has no one visited me?’ The question for some inexplicable reason had not sprung to Tobias’ mind earlier, but now he was consumed by it, all his friends shunning him beggared belief.

Her mask of professionalism faltered, exposing something raw and worrisome underneath. Erica swiftly set her face right, features hardening, to someplace cold and impenetrable.

‘There will come a time for that later. For now you are my patient and this is where you will be spending the remaining duration of your stay. Concentrate on that, and only that.’

Curiosity piqued, Tobias implored her, trying to peel back the façade, to learn the truth.

‘What’s happened? Am I in trouble?’

Erica’s rattling was not replicated, she shook her head, the resolute action of a person shutting a conversation down.

‘That’s information I cannot divulge Tobias. I’m sorry. And for now, you should only be concerned about getting better. You still have a long way to go.’

Tobias went to say more but was cut off by her curtly raised hand. Erica favoured him a tight, enigmatic smile and she departed from the room, leaving the air heavy with questions unspoken and unanswered.

She returned once more, haltingly, as if battling her better judgement.

‘Try and get some sleep,’ she suggested, her eyes conveyed what could almost be interpreted as an apology. ‘You need to rest, it’s the only way you’ll properly recover.’

She disappeared for good and darkness arrived in her stead.

Another night to overcome, now on his lonesome, abandoned by all except his own thoughts. He focused on the television as if it were the giver of all life and knowledge, pretending that he had the luxury of changing the channel, when in actuality he was subjected to the cruel whim of whatever was programmed. Around the time when the last late-night movie had ended and an evangelical priest began a fire-and-brimstone diatribe, Tobias gauged he was no longer alone in the room.

‘Like what I did to Luscombe?’ Asked the voice he had by now grown familiar with. Each time the monster uttered a word was like a bodily blow, something cold and sharp twisting in his innards. ‘Wasn’t even really my handiwork, the poor fool topped himself rather than endured more of me. Happens. Happens the majority of the time.’

‘What are you?’ Tobias asked the burning question, eyes peering at the darkness engulfing the room, prodding for shapes moving, some telling outline that would reveal the location of his nemesis.

‘I’m you, in a manner of speaking,’ it answered, the voice originating from somewhere above. ‘Manifested from you, just like I was for Luscombe. You made me.’

Tobias composed himself and swung his gaze upward. There on the ceiling, lounging comfortably, was the monster. The mouth had grown, spanning meters, the length of Tobias and beyond, it’s many appendages, shifted and swayed, picking at the teeth, cleaning them, beckoning to him, making obscene gestures.

‘How?’

‘You don’t remember any of it, do you?’ The monster slowly descended, the insidious smile broadening, the polished teeth, luminescent. They had a macabre beauty, something mesmerising that Tobias could not look away from, tantamount to a predator luring its quarry to its death with a display of lurid colours.

‘No?’

‘Well I’m not here to provide explanations, only torment, torment unimaginable and torment eternal.’ The creature came to rest a foot short of Tobias, suspended directly above him. ‘The day will come, when you can take no more, and you will gladly dive into the end, the end of this life and the beginning of the next.’

‘Kill me then,’ Tobias felt the ice of his dread melt as rage boiled and breached the surface of his composure. ‘Kill me now, if you are real, go on, do it.’

‘Would that I could.’ It replied, the rows of teeth parted, the tongue splayed out, dangling from side to side with an undulating motion, a pendulum of muscle, red as blood, engorged and exultant. ‘And even then I wouldn’t. Why should you get the easy option? To end it? When they couldn’t?’

‘What’s your name?’ Tobias demanded, outrage delaying the encroaching terror.

‘You can call me whatever you like for all the good it will do you.’ It replied. ‘If I can make a suggestion, I think the moniker most apt would relate to my dazzling smile.’

‘The Smiler?’ Tobias suggested scornfully, meaning it as a vile obscenity, handling the name as if a curse to be spat as hastily as possible.

‘The Smiler.’ It repeated, relishing the word, enunciating each syllable as one would sample a succulent dish. Its myriad of appendages extended in a theatrical flourish. ‘I like it. I like it very much. No one has gifted me a name before.’

The Smiler chuckled for the umpteenth time, the voices of all his friends, mocking him, fused as one, digging into his ears, shredding whatever meagre resolve he had amassed. The sparse few lights illuminating the room flickered and dimmed, creating a phantasmagoria, shadows came alive and found definition, doubtless controlled by the creature.  For one moment all lights were extinguished in the room and Tobias was tossed into absolute darkness. Entombed in this absence of all hope, despair reigned, Tobias felt its disease racing through him, decimating him. He tried to assiduously focus on his breathing and willed light to return, that of the room, and the light of optimism that dwelled within him. As if to remind him of the futility of his plight, illumination returned slowly, scarcely enough to pierce the gloom.

The Smiler had vanished.

Tobias could sense the monster prowling around, just out of sight, revelling in the emotions it evoked within its helpless prey.

‘I am guilt and I am shame, I am terror untold and despair beyond belief.’ There was a tangible degree of pride in the Smiler’s stolen voice. ‘I am your mother’s barbed tongue and your father’s fists, I am the children’s ridicule in the playground and the scorn of all your former lovers. I am all your base emotions realised, those which you could not prevent, could not diminish and could not adjust to.  I am abject misery made flesh and all that which you’ve hated about yourself. I am you, and we are bound.’

‘What do you want?’ Tobias demanded, scanning his surroundings as thoroughly as he could.

He found no signs to pinpoint the Smiler’s location.

‘For you to suffer, I am not atonement and I will offer you no respite, this is what you deserve and you will accept all that I subject you to.’

The creature glided up from the foot of Tobias’ bed, motions graceful, all appendages working in perfect concert, lifting the smile cynosure, with its colossal mouth pulled taut, too wide, up to face Tobias.

‘You fool, you bumbling, clueless fool.’ The teeth, larger than Tobias’ head, gleamed, neon-bright, shimmering. ‘You need to understand why.’

The monster’s tongue shot out from the mouth, a blur hurtling toward Tobias. He had no way to brace for the impact and it caught him directly on the forehead, knocking him out.

Tobias awoke in a flashback, watching himself behind the wheel. Hamish riding shotgun, Tristan, Alex and Paul in the back. Rap music drowned out all other noise, not that that deterred the group from straining themselves to be heard, screaming into one another’s ears. The whisky bottle was passed, back and forth as its contents rapidly dwindled.

Tobias squinted at the road with disinterest, having reached a level of inebriation where the act of driving was dismissed as a video game. Shards of rain buffeted the wipers, making it impossible for them to wipe any sort of clarity to what lay beyond.

Someone prodded Tobias in the back of the neck, he turned and took the firewater, applying it to his lips and taking a long slug. When he diverted his attention back to the hand the bottle to Hamish his eyes returned to the road and registered a sharp corner that had materialised from the watery ether. One that he could not possibly break for. Tobias’ body operated on instinct, the miraculous hand-eye coordination and sure movement only afforded the insane and the divinely attuned. He opened his door and dived out.

Tobias watched himself land and roll onto the unforgiving road, his body limp with drink rolled dozens of times, as the asphalt broke flesh and bone and bashed one into the other, reducing him to a mangled sack of meat. Tobias, now in the role of omnipresent spectator  remained in the car with his friends, as the driverless car left the road, reduced a wooden fence to kindling and dove deep into a creek.

The impact of hitting the water was immediate and cataclysmic.  The deceleration trauma sent the four friends flying, none of them had the presence of mind to wear a seat belt, all of them collided with one another. Heads connected with heads, knees found homes in faces, limbs entwined and snapped.

‘They were in your charge, your care,’ all of their voices, now appropriated by the Smiler, addressed him, he could picture its smile, smug and vile. ‘They entrusted you and you cost them their lives.’

‘I did.’ Tobias acknowledged, as he watched the tragedy unfold. Hamish and Tristan were killed on impact when their heads clashed. Paul went flying through the windshield, and died shortly thereafter. Alex however, was in a stable enough condition to gauge the peril Tobias recklessness had ensnared him in. He first tried to open the car door, yet it was sealed tightly shut by a wall of water, more of which gushed in through the opening in the windshield that Paul’s skull had made.

‘Can you taste his fear?’ The Smiler asked. ‘The rampant dread? That realisation that his demise is certain? Can you?’

Tobias could, the malaise tightened and spread.  The self-same sensation Alex had felt in his last minutes, they were now sharing, unbearable but unavoidable.

‘How was I supposed to know?’ Tobias voice waivered. ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.’

‘Don’t extend your flimsy remorse to me boy,’ the monster rebuked. For the first time Tobias detected a trace of annoyance, anger even, in its voice. ‘I’m not the one you should be slobbering some apology to. Look at what you have done, process that. Understand.’

‘Could have been any of us driving.’ Tobias shot back, not trying to weasel out of the blame, only to buy his sanity some extra time.

‘True.’

The Smiler gave pause.

Tobias could hear the monster musing within his own mind, an infinitesimal sound of its lithe tongue rolling across the smooth expanse of each tooth, a perversely sexual act akin to fondling one’s genitals to incite disgust in an onlooker. ‘And if any of them were, I would be sharing this exchange with them instead.’

Tobias tried to avert his mind’s eye, to sweep his sight somewhere, anywhere, else, yet his vision remained on the static shot of the car’s interior. When his efforts at forcing the door open failed, Alex resorted to rousing his unresponsive friends, shaking at their broken bodies. After a few moments spent with frenetic and futile motion, the understanding that all life had seeped from his friends dawned on Alex’s features.

‘He’s not far off.’ The Smiler needlessly pointed out, clacking its teeth in immense amusement, the strident sound reverberated through Tobias’ resolve, shredding it. ‘And he knows it.’

The water sluiced through the wreck, amassing, rising until the last pocket of air was no more. Alex lasted until the very end, kicking at the window, flailing around, shouting his final breath, a call for help that went unanswered .

‘That’s it, drink deep.’ Instructed the Smiler. ‘The stopper has well and truly been lifted on this bitter draught. Watch his eyes closely now, the outrage at what you have caused is clear, even when he loses all the fight in him and his life slips away.’

‘Enough.’ Tobias asserted, wanting to have his voice punch like a fist, curled with conviction. ‘Nowhere near,’ the monster refused. ‘You and I are in this for the remainder of your days, however many, however few.’

Tobias steeled himself, refusing to reduce to begging. He was in tumult, torn asunder by the visages of his friends, contorted in castigation at him, at their murderer.

After an eternity, Alex’s thrashing ceased and his body stilled, his fingers unclenched, his mouth agape without a single bubble emerging. Alex’s eyes held Tobias’, not losing a shred of their intensity.

‘You’ll never adjust, never learn to live with me.’ The Smiler promised, as if merely stating facts, though gleefully divulging them. ‘I’ll be waiting for you every waking moment and for every one of your fitful slumber. And after this life has ended for you, I’ll be waiting in the next, and on, and on, until time is dust and everything is nothing.’

The trauma of the ordeal taxed heavily on Tobias, his mind reeled, discombobulated and beyond salvaging. Normally he was sharp of wit, so quick to act and with such decisiveness, now he was a child banished in a barren land, jutting with the jagged edges of consequences and preyed upon by his own failing courage. Whenever he took mental breath, and paused for a moment to collect his thoughts, his friends’ faces were there, unravelling him, leaving him stricken with guilt.

Tobias would’ve wept if he possessed his own eyes. He readied for death, to cease to be, succumbing to the sheer shock of the harrowing episode.

‘That should do for now,’ The monster remarked. ‘Wouldn’t want to overwhelm you now, ending things prematurely and all. That would dampen my spirits to no end.’

The procession of his dead friends’ and their scarring, haunting countenances dissolved. Tobias was pitched into a new place, devoid of all colour or fixture, he could only liken this endless expanse to purgatory, the realm where hope had no place, life had no chance and the brain could not persevere. The Smiler materialised, or perhaps was always there, only now making its presence known.

The central fixture of its being, its infamous smile, had broadened, the teeth had multiplied, so too the rows, and had grown into cartoonish proportions, teeth larger than moons, amply sized to grind the galaxy into nothingness.

Tobias found solace in talking, to give voice to his thoughts just might hold off the onset of madness. The words themselves were not much of a comfort, but some semblance could be derived from the delivery, if only to throw back something at the Smiler, a final defiance to prove his sanguine outlook and mettle before the monster steadily defiled him, destroyed all he knew.

‘I have one of those faces that cannot be demolished by a brute’s hand, nor a personality that can be weakened by a intellectual’s tongue.’ Tobias felt insanity-induced bravado blossom through him, buttressing his beliefs, coating his words, moulding them into bullets, turned him into a locomotion. He knew he wasn’t just pissing on the hornet’s nest, he was setting the accursed thing ablaze too, his acerbic wit had returned with gusto. ‘I am one of those few that orbit in the lofty atmosphere of ineffable satisfaction, those handful that possess such total acceptance of their flaws that no one human or creature can cause them harm.’

The Smiler gnashed its teeth in vexation, with its current size, the noise produced seemed to tear all perception into shreds. After a beat the monster donned another smile, that of its norm.
‘That so? You truly believe that drivel?’

‘It is.’ Tobias assented, bristling, wondering if he had any physical form, yearning to lash out. ‘I do. Nothing can be done to unravel my composure. You hear me? Nothing can taint my self-worth. You say that we are bound, good. It’ll take a hell of a lot more to drive me crazy, or do anything to try and escape.’

‘You sound so sure. Spoken with the assurance of a priest reciting gospel.’

‘I’m not Luscombe, or any of the others.’ Tobias was coasting on his assertiveness, a temporary invincibility, that rare kind only bestowed the utterly insane and the hopelessly doomed . ‘So you can do anything, try anything, nothing will work. You picked the wrong one.’

‘I didn’t pick anything,’ the Smiler fired back, its namesake had reduced, whether the result of Tobias’ epic outburst remained unclear. ‘You did. Though-’

‘Yeah whatever.’ Tobias cut in, adopting the unflappable attitude that only those armed with the temerity of youth could wield with aptitude and aplomb. He had been crippled with his own terror, now he was transfixed by his renewed vigour, eradicating resignation, banishing the defeat he had been enveloped in.

The Smiler stayed mute for an age. Tongue indolently traversing over teeth, similar to a rattled academic stroking their beard deep in thought. Tobias felt himself recede, plagued with pernicious doubt with each passing second of the Smiler’s deliberate inertia.

‘You are an interesting one, I’ll admit that.’ The Smiler eventually responded evenly. ‘But the ruse is feeble and a final act, even your voice is telling. You best get comfortable Tobias, we are going to get to know each other very well.’

Clicking, the clicking of fingers.

Tobias opened his eyes to find Erica leaning into him, her trusty penlight poised some half an inch from his right eye. She shrank back, startled. Tobias observed her face undergo a myriad of expressions. She recovered the mask of professionalism soon enough, with the set jaw and the stoic eyes, glazed with indifference. Daylight flooded through the windows, offensive and unapologetic, colouring the room in a rich golden glow commonly found in blissful dreams, those of impassioned sexual encounters and reuniting with loved ones long dead.

Tobias had survived another night.

The first, of the rest of his life.

‘You look like you just had a nightmare.’ He mumbled, throat cracked and wit dry.

A minor curl of her lip.

‘Funny,’ Erica said. ‘I felt the same about you.’

‘You’d be right.’

‘Yes, well,’ she averted her gaze and reached for the water. ‘You look thirsty.’

‘Am.’ He admitted, and allowed the humiliating process of her steering the straw into his mouth.

‘Particularly bad one I take it?’ Erica asked, feigning disinterest, but he noted how her eyes held his, how she was yet to exhale a long-drawn breath.

He attempted to nod, realised that he could not do so in the body cast and grunted a bark of yes.

‘What happened with Luscombe?’

Tobias made no attempt to reply. He lay in the pale, exquisite glow of the flourishing day, floating in the amber hue, his lids partially closed. With such freedom in waking he felt like he could cleanse his mind and journey through someplace else, to transport his mind to this sanctuary and simply let the morphine drip do its one job.

Erica was adamant about doing hers.

She leaned in even closer, Tobias could detect a faint aroma of cigarettes and energy drinks permeating from her, a pleasant, intoxicating scent that equally stirred his long-dormant loins and ignited his imagination.

‘Are you going to tell me?’ Erica’s insistent voice intruded on his peaceful musings.

And Tobias very nearly did. He would tell her everything, describing in exhaustive detail all of the encounters with the Smiler, of the nightmares, of the indelible stain on his soul that was growing with each day, rotting him inside out. He would reveal that his body could and would mend but his brain never would. He craved the chance to describe the Smiler to her, if only to burden someone else with the image so that it might make it more bearable for himself.

But he didn’t.

Tobias held his tongue, he resolved to tell no one, for he conceded that war had been waged on the Smiler, and that said war was singularly his. There would be no allies and there would be nothing to tip the odds in his favour.

This determination must have etched into Tobias’ features. Erica’s own face set and her mouth tightened. She leaned back, folding her arms across her chest.

‘Two detectives are outside wanting to speak with you.’ She said, her voice detached, whatever sliver of warmth that once lilted it into affability was absent. ‘Do you feel up to talking to them? They are rather insistent.’

‘Yes.’

Her face was now so consciously impassive, Tobias had no way of knowing if she was surprised by his reply. She turned to leave, her demeanour had reduced the room’s temperature several degrees.

‘Do you know why they are here?’

‘Yes.’ He would have preferred another few sobering gulps of water, but the damage had been done, his declaration had been made resounding clear to Erica as much to himself – he was alone – and sought no assistance or consul, no sage word of advice or heartfelt prayer uttered on his behalf.  That was his punishment and that was his pledge.

‘Good.’ She said, but the word sounded like anything but. She departed from the room without so much as a fleeting glance of appraisal directed his way.

Tobias waited.

He wasn’t trying to fortify himself, wasn’t thinking up some brilliant performance to give, some plausible story to tearfully recount to win them over. Nothing the detectives could do would instil any sort of fear in him, not when he knew what waited for him in the vulnerability of another night fallen. This night looming, and every night thereafter when light evaporated and the puppet show of his dead friends would occur, with the Smiler artfully tugging the strings.

How it all progressed hinged entirely on himself.

‘Tobias?’ Asked the voice.

‘Yes.’ He confirmed, clearing his throat and opening his eyes.

The Smiler stood attendant at the foot of the bed, its eponymous smile atop the body of Erica, lab-coat and all, her name badge gleaming brilliantly. It spoke with her voice, yet its smile was its own.

‘What’s the matter?’ The Erica imposter enquired.

‘Is this him?’ Another voice asked.

Tobias’ eyes swivelled to regard two figures standing behind the fake Erica. Both of whom were dressed in drab, cheap suits, both of whom had the Smiler’s smile atop their heads, grinning, teeth gleaming, pearl-shiny.

‘Tobias.’ Demanded the Erica Smiler. She stepped forward.

‘Go away.’ Tobias screamed.

‘Where’s your defiance now?’ Asked the figure on the right, the self-same voice of the Smiler, not the voice of his dead friends, but the horrific insect-like buzzing, inhuman and terrifying. ‘Where’s that hefty scrotum that empowered your words before?’

‘Stricken with terror now?’ Asked the second figure, its smile widening, the same voice, spoken through all three of the figures, the agents of the Smiler. ‘You are sure singing a different tune. You think that you could outrun me? That daytime would be your salvation? I can manipulate all time and space.’

‘Go away.’ Tobias repeated over and over, the mantra useless.

‘Tobias stop,’ the Erica Smiler implored, her voice briefly returned to the one he had known, the one he felt assured by, but only for a moment. ‘And accept your fate.’

The three figures advanced on him, as their smiles stretched beyond all measurement, splitting the air, the very fabric of reality, all light was snuffed, reality was a nightmare.

Tobias thrashed as much as he could, screaming himself hoarse, until his frayed vocal cords failed to produce any more sound. The Erica Smiler imposter produced some needle and plunged it into one of his exposed bits of flesh. Tobias vision was blotted with black, he felt himself losing the tendril of reality, of his sanity. His last conscious thought before he was fully immersed in oblivion was of hearing the Smiler’s chuckle.

#

Bio: Elliott, a twenty-seven year old Sydney-side author, divides his time between a uni degree, a job within the television industry and penning his next novel.

Elliott has been published in MoviePilot, Blue Crow Magazine, Pure Slush, Vertigo and The Australian Times and The Southerly. One of his novels, The Sisters of Satan was published in 2011 and the second edition was published in 2012, a horror novel that is still available internationally and has been translated into six languages. As of August 2016, his crime novel, Hoi Polloi is available from Book Booster.

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The Death of Sebastian Briglia By Sebouh Gemdjian

Mar 19 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

Dear Ms. Gordon,

So I was thinking about you, the literary agent reading this, and somehow you made me think of a time machine. Here is how you made me think of it, actually: We’re both under the same stars, with the same planets orbiting some of them, and among them there just has to be a pure world where anything can happen, where one doesn’t need connections to get a book into the right hands… Where there are no books yet even, just potential stories. A world with clear water in large lakes with gorgeous reflections at night…

If we had a powerful enough telescope to zoom in on the reflection of Earth in the water molecules of the planet Osiris in the Pegasus galaxy (which I understand is rich in liquid water and ice) we would see Earth as it was 300 years ago. Just thought of it right now. See, that’s how long ago the reflection left Earth. Osiris is 150 light years away.

When an astronomer in the future, who has a powerful enough telescope to zoom in on details in Earth’s reflection like you and I reads this book (which is going to be all about this query letter, forget the pages I’ve attached) and designs a contraption for zooming in on Earth’s past, he will look at us right now, at the moment of the idea’s conception. Perhaps he has figured out a way to look inside, and he is looking at you. Perhaps he has found a way to interact, and is altering your future as we speak. Imagine the present moment drifting away at the speed of light into a reflective glacier in another galaxy and bouncing back into the lens of an inquisitive mind enriched by 300 years of progress and evolution that wants to know about you…

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

Sebouh Gemdjian

Dear Mr. Gemdjian,

I must admit part of the reason I’m responding so quickly is that I’ve never received a query emailed from a J-Mail account. It took me a Google search to discover that J-Mail is a prison email service. I learned that inmates like you submit hand-written letters, the Corrections Officers scan them in, then disperse printed copies of the replies, all for $10 per month. I was fascinated, and I figured I’d better respond quickly, as this sounds like a time consuming process.

I apologize in advance for sounding so forward and being so frank, but I must confess that your letter found me precisely at the moment of a tragic crossroads in my personal life. My husband of four years perished in an intentional overdose just before I left New York last year, and I’m just coming to terms with this now. It feels like he did this as a result of my decision to be honest with him. His terminal rejection of my truth was all I could think about until the few moments it took me to read your letter, which introduced a witness to my ghastly predicament, a tragedy that still resonates in me so far away from my home.

Right now I’m looking at a sunset. It’s coming through the gap between two brutalist communist-era apartment buildings in a place where I can live cheaply. You’ve probably found me at the top of an agent list because I sold The New Dead series to Random House and optioned it to Paramount for the Trident Agency, but that was a year ago. I’ve been working for myself since then and it hasn’t quite panned out. So here I am, still in the northern hemisphere, under the same stars, though looking at a sunset eight hours after you’ve seen it, a field in the distance with a wisteria-covered museum in honor of a Hungarian nobleman who gave his life failing to stop the Ottoman Turks from conquering Varna, this ancient Bulgarian city, and from dominating the Balkans 600 years ago.

Everyone smiles at me in the elevator because I’m American, and because they don’t suspect I’m not exactly… straight (which I’m sure you know about, if you move in our niche literary circles). This is Eastern Europe after all. Will it still be strange in 300 years, at the time your scientist is watching us through his time telescope, that otherwise conservative people who never speak about sex can’t stop thinking about it if they suspect that your preference is sufficiently different from theirs?
I remember New York, your town, as it was, across the East River, where I would wake up every Thursday with breakfast in bed that my late husband made me. His name was Sebastian Briglia. He was an author and once started a story he called Free Range Humans with the phrase “A last breath is all there is.” The idea was that if it is crueler to eat free-range animals because they enjoy life, where as animals tortured by industrial farming actually want to die, where does that leave humans? Heard of him? Nobody has.

I decided to become a literary agent during one of those breakfast-in-bed mornings. Sebastian made those a tradition every Thursday after his night off, as a part of an ongoing apology for working the graveyard shift at the news bureau and for leaving me alone most afternoons while he slept. It was on such a morning that he died… It was also on such a morning that he proposed. The morning I’m speaking of, however, the morning I decided to become a literary agent, was three years after his marriage proposal. He hadn’t started hearing buzzing sounds and chasing them yet… Which should have given me an immediate clue that he had relapsed last year. The stories he had written about creative shoplifting to finance his “dragon-chasing” that included stuffing ground meat into his shirt (thinking it worked because it made him appear chubby when in actuality it was effective because the blood soaking through made him appear wounded), stopped being entertaining once that happened.

You know, Mr. Gemdjian, Briglia means bridle in Italian. That’s the headgear used to control a horse, the same thing your name means in Armenian. Do you believe in coincidences, or do you think the scientist watching us from the future had something to do with that? You suggested that perhaps he has found a way to interact, rather than just observe us in Earth’s reflection. Tell me, Mr. Gemdjian, how does he do that? This detail is essential if you’d like me to sell your novel. As for me, I’m an idea woman but I’m known to jot a few things down, like this essay about the morning that made me want to represent literature. I posted it on my writer-advice blog, but I will smoothly incorporate it into my email here through the magic of cutting and pasting (not a luxury you enjoy in prison, I’m still shocked to have found out).

That morning National Public Radio was playing, as it always did at the beginning of my author-husband’s traditional “sorry I’m not successful yet” breakfast in bed day. There was a news item on about a cancer treatment that has extended the life of rats but does not work on humans.

“I have an idea for a sci-fi novel,” he says. “It’s a realistic post-apocalyptic story. Scientists are trying to make humans immortal, test the serum on rats, and make the rats immortal. It doesn’t work on humans. Now we are overrun with rats that can’t die of natural causes and keep reproducing, relentlessly fulfilling their rat duties of gnawing and nesting and depleting resources. You know, as a background story, instead of zombies.”

“What?” I roll my eyes. “That’s not interesting… You have to make them intelligent. Intelligent lab-rats that try to escape from the scientists. Two of them. They get separated and reunite in the end.”

“That’s just plot, who remembers plot? Think about it, really old rats, older than any human, like ancient trees. You can kill them, but just the fact that they’re so healthy they can’t die of natural causes creates a problem. Get it? It’s just an idea for a back story; there can be a dramatic plot with humans, a realistic one…”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about anymore” was my response to that, but I wrote my version of the immortal lab rats on experimental cancer medication story, where they are in love, get separated and reunite. With zombies. I sold it, under his name. He had never received payment for fiction before, only as a journalist, and my sassy prank just rubbed it in his face. From that point on life became a countdown to some inevitabilities for both of us: me turning away from teaching third graders, getting an entry level slush pile job at Trident and working up to having my own client list, and his relapse. Though my husband’s actual relapse happened a few days after I told him that the reason he has never met my parents was that not only did I run away at 14 to work for a photographer in Boston, but also that the photographer financed a not-so-legal sex change operation for me. Yes, I was a boy up until the age of 14, which is why I don’t look like I’m trans now I was prepubescent. Sebastian became very quiet after that, and started hearing insects… But that’s another story.

This might betray an unfulfilled motherly instinct on my part, but considering the possibility that your unborn astronomer from the future is observing me at this very moment is giving me a reprieve from the resentment of losing Sebastian at its most painful. You see, at the very moment I began to read your query letter, my late husband’s thorough rejection of my true self, it just… And I don’t mean his rejection of the pre-pubescent boy I was, not of the woman I believed owed no explanations, no, his rejection of my true, transgendered me with meat-and potatoes literary tastes that finds his work pretentious and sub-par that rejection of his (including his rejection of my rejection) still had me so distraught that I was about to give up on the future all together. As I read your letter, I realized much of the loneliness I felt in a meaningless universe could disappear if that very moment were witnessed by a future that cared.

It would be wonderful if this possibility came true, but you would have to write such a compelling piece about the moment I read your query letter that future generations would consider it a classic. That’s the only way we can be sure 300 years from now an astronomer with a powerful enough telescope to zoom in on our reflection on the planet Osiris would be looking at us.

Judging from the pages you sent, however, this will not be the case, unfortunately. Your turn of phrase leaves much to be desired, English is clearly not your first language, and your insights are mostly unrelatable to the general public. Please don’t stop reading, I may have a solution. It occurred to me to write a book about this, to steal your idea as it were, but in the unlikely event that you do write this book and it does become a hit, the astronomer from the future would perceive me as the villain, a possibility I can not possibly allow. So I have decided to assist you in writing this. You see, the secret to a successful novel is a dose of candid reality. I want you to write a story about a moment in your life that you never speak of. We can incorporate that into the astronomer-from-the-future-witnessing-our-lives premise.

I’m looking forward to reading it. I really do hope that you take my offer. My future depends on it.

Sincerely,

Hannah Gordon

Dear Mr. Gemdjian,

Let me assure you that while what you’re doing now may be something Sebastian would have wanted, whatever prank the two of you were working on before his death is wildly inappropriate now, do you understand?

What you have sent me is clearly his autobiographical work. At first you had me convinced there are an incredible number of parallels between your life and his, but as I read your story and the similarities kept mounting, it dawned on me that you’re merely having a go at me.

The very reason I settled in Varna, Bulgaria is that Sebastian was born here, apparently much like you, you’d have me believe. I vividly remember his descriptions of communist bread stores and authoritarian kitsch. What you sent me sounds like a transcript of my memories of hearing him speak. Here, spend some more time with your plagiarism, think of what I felt like reading my late husband’s nostalgia presented to me as yours:

It’s a sunny, beach-scented day in mid-80’s Varna, Bulgaria. I’m in first grade, so the extent of my homework is drawing a crayon picture of my favorite form of transportation, which I’ve already done (a ship, though I had never been on one). I tell my mom I don’t have homework, but I want to just keep working on my pictures.

“Go outside,” she says. “Find some friends…”

I figured I’d drag myself to the playground, swing by myself for a while and come home, as usual.

“I want you to spend at least an hour outside. Go to the store and pick up some bread while you’re at it. Don’t forget to count the change.”

This last part deflated me because it meant I had to talk to strangers. I waited in line, imagining in my mind slapping the money on that counter. Then I did. I slapped it on there, and looked up. Is the clerk-lady going to mutter “Just get out of here, kid” at me through her teeth? She could, if she wanted to, just keep my money and kick me out. Who is going to believe me? I’m just a kid. The wood paneling in the bread store gave me a warm, though institutional feeling. It really was a bread store, not a bakery. There were bakeries downtown, but not here, among what we called “The Blocks” — no cakes, no pastries, no oven. Just white and rye, and the expensive country style bread. They delivered the bread from a huge factory bakery with chimneys and rows of hangars with triangular roofs and lots of smoke and ladies with babushkas taking it out of the gigantic ovens with enormous wooden paddles. At least that was what the art deco mural on the back wall had to say about it.

“White or rye?” I don’t know. I need a story if I get it wrong. My mom probably told me, I forgot, my mom will get mad because I always forget, so I need a story. I’ll say they only had white, they were out of rye if I was supposed to get rye.

“Rye.” Why did I say rye? When do we ever get rye? No one ever eats rye. They probably just make it for decoration. I can’t change my mind now. The lady will get mad and kick me out.

On the way back I saw the old man that always sits in his first floor balcony and talks to himself.

“Hey champ,” he barked. He called me champ. That made me smile. “Show me your pee-pee.” He is a nice man, I thought, I feel bad I’m not allowed to show him my pee-pee, I hope he doesn’t think I don’t have one.

“That’s not all the change… And when do we ever eat rye?”

“I stopped by the playground, mom, maybe it fell out of my pocket when I was on the swing.”

“Did you play with friends? Go to the playground and find the change if that’s what really happened.”

My parents would have me hang out with Jarvis, the kid across the hall, who was a few years older and apparently a trouble maker. He was loud. I decided to work on making friends, so I hung out with him and his friend, a big boy. Jarvis called him Tanker and he definitely had a mischievous gleam in his eyes. Tanker was old, maybe ten, and would catch bees and hornets, tie strings around them and take them for walks with us in the woods. Now that I see him in my mind’s eye, I remember the infernal gleam of a proto-drug-addicted me in Tanker’s pupils as he pulled the strings of his flying insect minions.

Did Sebastian instruct you to send this to me as he was planning to leave me, before he overdosed, along with the idea of a future astronomer finding me in Earth’s reflection in a lake on Osiris? He always had a cold, almost sociopathic sense of humor, and I’d have to assume yours is identical:

When I was six I used to have a blinking tic. A psychiatrist said it’s not a big deal; I just have a difficult personality. At the time I thought this meant I was challenging myself subconsciously to keep blinking, and succeeding, out of sheer steadfast moxie. It turns out he meant that I was looking for attention and should just be ignored. It went away. My brother developed a stutter temporarily. The consensus about that was that it was my fault, when I was seven, and it was preceded by a literal whipping by my mom on my bare ass with a plastic sword, for letting Tanker pressure my three year old brother Ari to defecate in bushes that left thorns in his underwear.

However, having now donned my literary agent hat, I must say that while passages may have read better than anything Sebastian had churned out while alive, the writing is still sub-par, the structure is loose and the focus is at times completely lost.

Also, how would your mother, or Sebastian’s (who would also recognize his style I’m certain) feel after reading this? Publishing it under a different name is meant to solve that problem, I suppose. I loved him to death but he was such a cold, calculating man sometimes. And at other times he was a sweet putz… His clumsiness, a sure sign of being self conscious, pointed to his over inflated ego… I wouldn’t be surprised if Sebastian Briglia was not his real name. No Bulgarians have names like his, not even gypsies. Think of your mother reading the passage you sent me about how she spanked you, something that is exactly the type of thing that would have happened to Sebastian, whose entire personality seemed to have bloomed out of mommy issues. I must admit this paragraph I’m about to make you re-read redeems you a bit, though you lose the credit you’ve gained at the end by implying that your addict personality was the product of a “metaphorically” incestuous union through a beating with a plastic sword… That’s the kind of thing that might make a reader throw in the towel, Mr. Gemdjian:

The stress of having to deal with a seven-year old with a “difficult character” while protecting a three year old in a time and place when it was not outrageous to send your children out roaming the neighborhood at a young age was enough of an exonerating circumstance for my mother, but all actions have consequences. My criminal-minded addict alter ego was conceived then, a product of that plastic-sword-beating-officiated metaphorically incestuous union.

You know, I swear to the Future Scientist as he looks down upon us, at times I felt as if Sebastian could have killed me. Not for being a transgendered woman and not having told him in advance. For continually rejecting his writing, which he was convinced he was too much of a genius to rewrite.

Speak to you soon,

Hannah

Dear Mr. Gemdjian

This is not the original email that I wrote you. That one failed to save as a draft for some reason, and expressed my incredulity at realizing that you have not been receiving my emails at all.

Apparently the pages I thought you sent in response to my request for a candid, real story from your life were another attachment in your original email.

I suppose the officers scanning your hand written pages made two attachments, instead of including everything in the first one, and it mislead me. Which means you have not responded to me at all.

This left me feeling I was simply not leaving an impact on you at all, like a ghost… I calmed down and convinced myself your prison’s Corrections Officers were just taking too long to bring you printouts of my replies. I was less than inspired to rewrite the email at that point. But then things changed.

I realized that no one, not a family member, friend or social media connection, sexual or otherwise, has responded to anything I’ve sent lately. The sexual connection part is the one that made me really suspicious — I’ve had estranged lovers with whom I’ve ended things rather aggressively respond immediately upon my sending them a questionably “artistic” personal photo. Yet these normally effective snapshots seem to have lost their allure somehow, suddenly failing to secure any response at all.

Perhaps my panic at being ignored is compounded by the fact that I’ve chosen to let the world forget my birth by starting over with a new gender at 14. Maybe this is what a ghost is: Someone whose death is remembered but whose birth has been forgotten. When that happens perhaps death takes the place of the ghost’s birth by default and that last moment of panic stretches out for countless lifetimes of being stuck in limbo. Maybe mistaking death for birth is what a soul is too.

My car inexplicably won’t start, the mechanic doesn’t understand me on the phone and I could have sworn he spoke English before, the bus doors close in my face leaving me in the cold morning in the glow of the sunrise coming in behind the mountains, abandoning me at the bus stop in front of the forever greening foundations for an unknown construction project next to the museum honoring knights that failed to hold back the Ottomans 600 years ago. I almost gave up trying to reach you. But then…

Then my eyesight problems began. I keep zooming out. Sometimes I feel like I’m looking at myself over my own shoulder through my kitchen window and into my tablet when I’m checking my email, and I feel I have to be by the window or outside to see anything that I’m doing. The further away I am from a window indoors the grayer the world becomes… You know what I’m getting at, Mr. Gemdjian. Or should I say Sebastian? I’m beginning to identify with the future astronomer’s perspective.

Last time I saw you your eyes seemed frozen, fixed at a bathroom ceiling, lungs collapsed in an empty tub, skin blue-green from a heroin overdose.

You always talked about how the only way to truly erase your past was to fake your own death. And what is this, revenge? You finally figured out what kind of story would get me truly invested in your writing, and to get me back for having chosen to identify as a woman early on, you got me to identify as a man now, the Future Astronomer, even if it kills me. Sounds paranoid, yet I wouldn’t put it past you, Sebastian.

Or was that me lifeless in the bathtub? Was I the one who died in New York that morning, because yes, I demanded a taste of your relapse when you told me about it, and the moment before I stopped perceiving may have stretched into an infinity, perhaps in the middle of you reading me this very story.

Hoping we both enjoy our new identities, whatever time span they occupy,

Hannah

 

Dear Students,

As you step back from the first temporal reading telescope prototype at the Vasar National Collection Library, read this message slowly, and please do not rush disengagement. Remember, as this artifact is the very first temporal telescopic book ever devised, the software is primitive, and we have let it remain unchanged for authenticity.

Backing away from the viewfinder will be accompanied by a sudden acceleration. When you begin to find yourself on the other side of a 21st century interactive device with a sense that you’re fragmented into six billion pieces please lean forward until you find the exact moment at which this email dissolves into the sound of my voice. At that point it is safe to disengage and re-join basic deja vu reality. If you have failed to do so and are now drifting back into the content (i.e. emails you’re reading over the character’s shoulder) all you need to do is make sure the text version of this first ever temporal telescopic novel is published within its own reality while you’re trapped in it. Once it is, you will find yourself at this prompt again.

Remember, the Vasar National Collection Library is supported by lives like yours.

Thank you for your time.

The Future Astronomer

 

 

 

 

Short Bio of Sebouh Gemdjian

As a child Sebouh Gemdjian wanted to be American, and luckily for him at the time, so did his parents. They emigrated from Bulgaria in 1991, not long after the fall of communism. As an adult, he toyed with the idea of being Bulgarian again, though unfortunately for him at the time Bulgaria as he remembered it did not exist anymore. Later he began to suspect that Bulgaria as he remembered it never existed.

As a journalist, he has written for The Highland Park Mirror and The Dateline Journal in North New Jersey, as well as for New York City’s Bulgarian community paper Nedelnik. He wrote under a pen name at The Italian Tribune News in Newark, NJ, where he worked as a staff writer over a decade ago. He currently works in public relations, writes about meditation and marketing (http://www.burrellesluce.com/freshideas/2013/12/just-add-mindfulness-the-right-way-to-multitask/) and plays guitar in two New York bands: Like Herding Cats (http://www.likeherdingcatsmusic.com/) and Memoirs of Addiction (http://www.memoirs-of-addiction.com).

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Public Service Announcement by Elizabeth Syson

Mar 12 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

Community Announcement #729

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbits are not what they seem. The Council acknowledges that rabbits appear to be three-foot-tall, steam-powered monsters built of steel panels and whirring gears, but the Council wishes all citizens to remember that rabbits are, in fact, small, fluffy herbivores.

You may have heard rumours stating that rabbits are a danger to your children or a breach of security. The Council denies these rumours. Despite subversive lies regarding rabbits’ alleged ‘machine-gun eyes’ and ‘razor-sharp teeth’, rabbits are harmless.

As a citizen, it is your duty to protect those spreading dissension by reporting them to the Council. It is important that you report anyone you hear propagating these vicious rumours about rabbits, as rabbits’ ears are not, as you may have heard, sensitive microphones adjusted to pick up human voices and relay information to the Council’s Watchmen, and the Council therefore relies on you to help protect our community.

Community Announcement #732

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbits perform a valuable community function. The Council does not understand why so many community members would believe the lies about rabbits circulating through the population. Rabbits—again, the Council emphasises, we are referring to those small herbivores that cannot hurt anyone or relay secret information for the Council’s Watchmen—keep our community safe by encouraging proper behaviour and adding a charming, rustic aesthetic to the street corners where they stand of their own accord, certainly not by any executive order from the Council’s Watchmen.

This aesthetic is not improved upon when certain community members scatter steel gears in the streets and refer to these gears as ‘rabbit guts’. This is anatomically incorrect as well as offensive. The Council urges all citizens to remember that rabbits are an important feature of our social infrastructure and must be protected for ecological and political reasons. Citizens should not attack these harmless creatures.

Once more, the Council reminds all citizens that it is vital to our community that any unsettling rumours be put down before they can upset the peace. Citizens attacking rabbits will also be put down.

Community Announcement #737

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbits are resilient. The Council is shocked that some citizens would be so hateful as to intentionally damage such vulnerable, harmless creatures, but fortunately for the Wildlife Society and the Council’s Watchmen, only one rabbit was seriously injured. A veterinarian has assured the Council that this damaged rabbit will be fully functional after a few days of rest and intensive welding.

Although no permanent damage was done, the Council considers this an act of animal cruelty and political terrorism. Community members suspected of involvement will be collected for questioning and mandatory re-education by the Council’s Watchmen.

The Council’s Watchmen are also searching for Citizen 0634 and Citizen 0913, who did not appear for last night’s Community Loyalty ceremony. In this time of civil unrest, the Council reminds citizens that Unlawful Search and Seizure Immunity Points can be earned by reporting subversive neighbours to the Council.

Community Announcement #738

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbits cannot be overcome by homemade explosives. The Council would like citizens to remember that homemade explosives are both dangerous and illegal, and that leaving them near rabbits is irresponsible. While the Council acknowledges citizens’ sense of humour in staging these practical jokes, attempting to kill defenseless rabbits shows a serious lack of taste and will be punished severely. The Council is enforcing early curfew this week while medical officers from the Wildlife Society tend to the injured rabbits.

Citizen 0634 and Citizen 0913 are suspected as complicit in this act of gratuitous violence, and the Council’s Watchmen would like to discuss their lack of community spirit in person. As they have not been discovered yet, they are considered fugitives. Any community member seen with or suspected of harbouring these two will be considered in opposition to the Council and subject to in-person discussion with the Council’s Watchmen.

Community Announcement #739

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbit blood is not oil. It is also not the black paint used to shamefully graffiti local government offices. Citizens are urged to ignore both the viscous paint scrawled across the Councilhouse and the graffiti’s slanderous implications that rabbits are equipped to injure citizens. The Council is not attempting to control the population through these small, fluffy rodents, and citizens caught promulgating such disloyal falsehoods will be taken for re-education by the Council’s Watchmen.

Community Announcement #740

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbit deaths should not be celebrated. The Council would like to remind citizens that killing rabbits by shooting at them with heavy artillery from fortified rooftops is neither legal, nor sporting. Community members are invited to instead celebrate the executions of several citizens apprehended by the Council’s Watchmen. They will be executed at moon rise tonight by heavy artillery firing squad.

Community Announcement #742

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbits must be protected. Therefore, as civil unrest and general anti-rabbit sentiment has infected the general population, the Council’s Watchmen will be patrolling the streets fully armed in order to prevent thoughtless citizens from nearing any rabbit with weapons, metalworking tools, or blowtorches. Citizens are furthermore reminded that weapons, metalworking tools, and blowtorches are illegal, and the possession of any of these will result in a mandatory in-person interview with the Council’s Watchmen.

The Council would like all citizens to ignore the subversive lies and hate speeches scrawled in what looks like, but is not, rabbit blood across government buildings across the community. As a reminder, contrary to what these graffitied messages suggest:

Rabbits are not mechanical monsters designed to harm you;

The Council’s Watchmen do not execute anyone, child or otherwise, without due process;

Citizen 0634 and Citizen 0913 are not revolutionary heroes but dangerous and possibly mentally ill delinquents;

Reporting fellow community members to the Council’s Watchmen is not a personal betrayal but a sign of responsible citizenship.

In addition, the Council’s Watchmen will be executing on sight and this announcement will serve as due process in the following cases:

Citizens caught painting subversive graffiti;

Citizens caught discussing rabbits;

Citizens caught near rabbits;

Citizens caught with any device, utensil, or weapon capable of damaging rabbits;

Citizens caught outside during curfew hours.

Community Announcement #745

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbits cannot be eaten by foxes. The Council would like to remind community members that not only is it illegal to create giant foxes with steel teeth and lever-action jaws, it is also futile, as rabbits, despite being small and harmless, are impervious to attacks from mechanical predators.

The Council’s Watchmen will be summarily executing any citizen suspected of contributing to these tasteless mechanical foxes’ creation or activation, because although these foxes cannot harm rabbits, their inception constitutes a breach of good citizenship.

Community Announcement #746

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbits will be weaponised.

The Council has decided to take the step of arming these harmless creatures in order to protect them from criminals with homemade explosives and the shameful mechanical foxes that uncooperative community members insist on releasing into the streets.

Loyal citizens will not be harmed and should be encouraged to know that the Council’s Watchmen have successfully apprehended several clusters of subversive community members in possession of weapons and black paint that mimics the oily tone of rabbit blood. The Council is disappointed to report that even the children among these subversive groups have been so brainwashed as to fear rabbits and declare support for Citizen 0634 and Citizen 0913. As a result, most of these have been executed as criminals. The rest will be re-educated and released as probationary citizens after treatment.

Community Announcement #747

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbits will be attending the public execution of known associates of Citizen 0634 and Citizen 0913. Community members are invited to view this dispensation of justice and contribution toward community safety.

Community Announcement #748

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbits will not be carrying out the execution of Citizen 0634 and Citizen 0913. The Council urges community members to ignore these baseless rumours and remember that rabbits are harmless, not steel killing machines, and therefore could not possibly carry out an execution. Rabbits have been invited to the execution in order to show their community support. The Council’s Watchmen will be carrying out the execution in the usual manner. Parents are encouraged to bring their children for this edifying experience.

Community Announcement #749

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbits are not dangerous, but foxes are. The Council would like to state that the unmitigated slaughter of innocent community members at the execution of Citizen 0634 and Citizen 0913 was not, as has been rumoured, the result of rabbits’ ‘laser eyes’ and ‘razor teeth’ but was an unprovoked attack by illegal mechanical foxes.

Foxes do not symbolise freedom. The Council reminds citizens that while rabbits contribute to community aesthetic and are harmless, foxes contribute to community unrest and are uncontrollable, illegal, and homicidal.

Because these illegal mechanical foxes present a danger to the community, the Council’s Watchmen will be destroying any foxes in the streets as well as any community members near them or suspected of being complicit in their creation. The Council recommends that citizens remain indoors for the next several days while this purge of undesirable foxes and community members is carried out. The Council’s Watchmen will be breaking and entering in order to apprehend any suspect citizens and summarily executing any community members who intervene.

Community Announcement #751

Public Service Announcement:

Rabbits have not been withdrawn by the Council. This would be impossible, since rabbits are small, harmless wild animals, not enormous, deadly surveillance machines controlled by the Council. Rabbits have not been destroyed by the foxes but have merely moved on in their natural life cycles, following migratory patterns as observed by the Wildlife Society.

Citizens observed celebrating rabbits ‘removal’ or overheard referring to the revolutionaries’ ‘victory’ will be considered disloyal. The Council mandates that citizens attend the communitywide farewell to rabbits ceremony to commemorate their presence in our community and acknowledge their voluntary departure.

Bio:

While consuming tea and coffee at an alarming rate, Elizabeth Syson reads obsessively, writes compulsively, and pursues an unnatural love of copyediting. Her publications include radio scripts, devotionals, creative nonfiction, and a handful of blogs for Odyssey online. She is a third-culture kid who collects boarding pass stubs, passport stamps, and useful bits of foreign languages. Her suitcase is currently open in southern Arizona, but it will open in Africa next. Although she’s never seen it, she knows a monster lives beneath her bed, and she’s considered naming it. She blogs at everydayterrors.wordpress.com and ejsyson.tumblr.com.

 

 

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The First Taste by Sarah Tanburn

Mar 05 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

This is how I began, with the tang of wine, the sour of anger, the spice of treachery. All salted with red blood and spilled friendship. We all have to start somewhere. You might have come to it in a church, or a school, or the public street. Or in your lover’s arms.
We all know, you never stop at one. But you always remember the first time. Who it was, where you were, why. I was in a provincial gallery, one brisk night in October.

#

Wine splashed in my glass. I was rough with it and the red meniscus swayed to the edge of danger. I lifted it to my lips. The sharp tannin scent nipped me, belying the sweet taste flooding my mouth, smooth on my tongue and voluptuous on my gums. The first taste was always the best. All the others were chasing this moment.
Especially that night, with Simon’s injunction to behave ‘just this once’. My promised compliance was the bitterness in the back of my throat, the smell wrinkling the bridge of my nose. I gritted my teeth at the memory of the controlled cajoling, the lurking admonitions as he reminded me of the importance of his appearances at this week’s little soiree. London critics were coming, drawn by the School’s increasing reputation. Amazing what a few aggressive collages will do, judiciously hawked to grace nouveau windows in Clerkenwell or the Jewellery Quarter. Really, Sophie was the one in the spotlight. She’s the special effects guru.

Around me the clacking of the party hummed along its accustomed tracks. Kissy, kissy. Smiling chit and chat. Little deals made, minor pledges disavowed. Nobody looking at the walls, everyone ignoring the photographs that excused this schmooze-fest. I took another mouthful of the merlot the college doled out on these occasions. Once the first rush was past, I could taste the vinegar. It didn’t stop me drinking. You know how it feels.
It hadn’t started out like this. Long ago, so long ago, before Simon, the wine was just part of the fun. The witticisms, the easy eroticism of studenthood. The arrogance of knowing you were the best, the brightest spark ever seen, that the critics were just waiting to kiss your feet. We never had the money for spirits, nor anything much really. Occasionally, very occasionally, there was a bender. But usually a few glasses, a few tokes, some casual fumblings on a bumpy mattress under a thin duvet and some smelly blankets. Then a bright morning, and more pictures.

That night, the night I began, I twisted the remnants of my precious glass, seeing the young Simon in the lees, and the even younger me. The best, the brightest spark in the Art School caught the attention of the firebrand trophy lecturer, took fire at his energy and authority. We walked hand in hand on the beach. Sure, I was old enough, wise enough to be trusted with a relationship with faculty. There was a row of course, but they let me graduate. Simon’s promises, his determination to marry me helped.
And here we were, him with his reputation and me with my pathetic little sinecure. Allowed to fool around in the darkroom. And I only had that thanks to Sophie. Dear Sophie, who’d stuck by me ever since those hangover-free halcyon days. Strange I couldn’t see her, but she’d be around somewhere. She even rescued me when I was drunk during the Royal visit, covered for me with the Dean. I would be long gone, to perdition perhaps, or to Paris, if not for her. If I stayed sober through the evening, it would be for Sophie. Sod Simon.
I topped up my glass and turned away from the table, looked around the long gallery. All the usual damn faces. Smug, glowing, radiating in the lights and heat that pressed against the long windows. As always, in this space, I could see our posing reflections in that wall, striated, shattered by passing headlights, observed with amused aloofness by passing students. My jaw clenched, I could feel my molars grinding. I was here on orders. And on sufferance. I’d better just look at the pictures.
The nearest one I remembered from the darkroom, a big, dramatic piece. The student had struggled with the minute variations in black that made up the texture of old stones at the mouth of the well. The shot, straight down the shaft, had the pull of a Kapoor sculpture, deep and heavenly. Hung here, the glass reflected the lights, the window wall, myself. Mousy hair, sallow skin, in my drab skirt, safe blouse and little cardi, approved by Simon as not drawing attention. Not pulling attention away from him. I had less colour than the well. Where had all my colours gone?

I peered closer. I could see Simon, that ridiculous gold waistcoat glittering in the depths. He had insisted on wearing it, despite my jeers that the whole town must be sick of it. He’d worn it every evening since he picked it up in some London flea market. Since when did he start prinking like some charity peacock, a down-at-heel bird of paradise? It wasn’t for me, I was sure of that. He was standing behind me, off to the left. He must have thought I couldn’t possibly see him, even if I bothered to look. Tricks of refraction and reflection, bright lights and dark walls of glass, of silver enamel on shiny paper, put Simon’s tiny figure inside my wine.
He stood next to Sophie. There she was, my old friend, my pal, the smoother of my path. She had her hand on Simon’s arm, her rings twinkling, a distant star in the black sea. She looked up at Simon, at my husband, and smiled. Her hair was more rich darkness against Simon’s golden stomach. His hand so white, punctiliously clean, like the underbelly of a lizard, came up and stroked her cheek.
I heard myself hiss. Simon and Sophie. Surprise! The kaleidoscope’s click took my breath away. The pattern was obvious, once seen. The twisted instant rewrote my life. How had she done it? She had listened, oh so carefully, to his woeful stories of my drunkard’s cunning. My every smash confirmed it. She must have cooed and cosseted him. She had so often pampered me! Simon must have loved it. Invisible me to nag and hector. Sophie to charm, woo, bedazzle. Their trap to keep me in place. His respectable cover, her safe cop-out. Everyone around us must know; nobody looked askance at their caress, or so much as glanced in my direction. They had played a long game with me.
Not any more. I could leave them to it, just walk away. After all, no-one would miss me. But that wouldn’t do. Even they, devious, deceitful, would expect some display from me, a last flare up of the brightest spark. They would be disappointed if, at the last, I behaved.
I threw my drink, still full, in to the deep well of the photo. Hard against the glass, shattering, tinkling. Loud. Shards, sharp, glistening with red, scattered around my feet. The clackety clack halted and the faces turned to stare. Simon’s mouth was distorted, bouncing with frustration, wanting the floor to open under me. Sophie, starting away from him, stepped forward, arm outstretched. Concerned. Caring. So keen to tidy me away.

“My dear,” she started.
I hissed again, stuttering over their names, struggling to utter all their betrayals. Then pulled myself together.
“Lovely photos,” I said, moving towards her. “Just the show you promised us all. I’m so glad I could play my small part.” She clutched at me without grace as I enfolded her in my arms. I could feel her relief that the worst was over, that I had shot my bolt.
My teeth met through the skin of her neck. The pretence that all was well broke against her scream. Salty, viscous fluid ran over my lips and the tip of my tongue. Her perfume mixed with the stink thick in my nostrils. My gums curled back at the unaccustomed subtleties. I swallowed, the new sensation rich and hot in my stomach. No wine or spirits, no bodily fluid, would ever taste the same again. I could get used to this, to the oaths implicit in the taste of warm blood.
Red smears showed across my teeth as I smiled at them all. “Goodnight darlings,” I said.
In the awed silence, broken only by Sophie’s panting sobs, I walked away. Feet steady and back straight, I walked out of the shattered glass and the bright lights and the avid faces. In the dark, on the cold pavement, I breathed deeply. The fresh air was intoxicating.
#

That was how I began. Now tell us your story.

 

 

 

 

Biography

 

Sarah Tanburn lives in South Wales in a small flat overlooking the sea. She writes fiction, travel and poetry.

 

Her published work includes the short stories The Ocean Is My Lover available from www.etherbooks.com, Blessed Are the Peacemakers published by Snapshots of History in 2012 and Switzerland which won the Get Writing Cup in 2012.  Her creative non-fiction and reviews span travel memoir, including Partition, [wherever] magazine,  and December: Dusk at www.inksweatandtears.co.uk.

 

In 2016, she spent two months on a tall ship exploring the far south; you can read about it at www.sailingtoantarctica.com.

 

 

 

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