The Space Between Us

Alison Wassell 


Snail slow, we pass neighbours stiff as sentries lining the crescent they call a waiting room for the graveyard. On the main road a bus queue of pensioners pays its respects in what looks like a choreographed routine. When the lights at the bridge are against us you drum the seat as I twist Mum’s ring, the one you said I had no right to, round my too-fat-for-it finger. We stare straight ahead, The Favourite and The Other One, although we never could agree which was which. I ask if you remember the time Grandad’s trilby blew off here, in a blizzard, on his way to wait in for the man coming to mend the telly and we found it, days later, sad and soggy in the thaw. Your lips twitch, but just in time you remember we’re officially not speaking. In silence we pass the school where I fulfilled my potential and you failed to live up to expectations, and the park where you hung out with the rest of the cool kids while I sat in my bedroom watching Top of the Pops on a black and white portable, writing poems that read like suicide notes. We crawl past the pub where we had our first underage drink, me part of your gang for once, stumbling home, arm in arm, to Dad on the doorstep, half-pissed himself and doing his best not to laugh as he read us the riot act. I give you a shy sideways glance and know, somehow, that you’re thinking of the same thing. By the time the car turns into the driveway up to the crematorium our hands have breached the space between us, and our little fingers are entwined.


Alison Wassell is a flash fiction and short story writer, published by Bath Flash Fiction Award, Retreat West, Reflex Fiction, The Cabinet of Heed, NFFD and other random places. She lives in the North West of England with her elderly cat and has no desire whatsoever to write a novel. She wishes people would value short fiction more highly.

Green

Tom Frazer


“Green is the most misunderstood colour. There must be more shades of green in the world than stars outside of it. And yet we call it all green.”

He sighs.

The old man is somewhere in a forest, lying on his back.

His sight is starting to fail. He can barely see the canopy above.

Still, he can remember.

He remembers trees he saw once. Remembers the dancing strangled light and the shifting greenness and the blood-black soothing shade and the crashing, seductive whisper of their melody.

He can still hear the melody, even if the rest is hidden. The song hasn’t changed; nor then, he reasons to himself, have the myriad of greens that sing it.

“Did you hear what I said?” he calls out.

No one answers.

There’s no one with him.

He smiles. The melody is just for him.


Tom Frazer is 28 years old and writes in London. He is studying a part-time masters in English Literature alongside work as a barrister.

Grounded

Christie Borely


I fell off the apple tree. An air-clawing spectacle halted by a rotten thud. Jostled limbs rained soft leaves and premature fruit to the earth around me. In the first landed moment, a crick stinging through my neck, I thought I might be dead. In the next, I wondered why I wasn’t. The third brought a huffy, childish feeling – tugged away by resigned adultness. The branches near my face sway their resentment at me, indicting my meddling, bumbling, inconsiderate humanhood. Guilty conscience brought defiance to my bones, blame to my pouted lip. Where was God? Where was justice? That I, scrambling, clawing my way to the top, should be shoved down by a minute’s distraction. A vain bubble inflates in my chest. It presses on my throat to roar. I scream. I stamp. I see. A swinging orb, red in front of me. In the whirlwind’s eye I recognise it as a gift. And suddenly I am sweet as it, and shy to take. And undeserving pops the bauble in my breast.


Christie Borely is an attorney, emerging writer and poet from the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Her multi-ethnic heritage is made up of East Indian, West African and French Creole ancestry. She aspires to tell vivid, poignant stories that convey a philosophy of inner peace and strength in community. Her writing has been published in Rebel Women Lit and Derailleur’s The Rail.

Wheretime

Ben Lockwood


An old bird flies over an old road, as a man drives west through the countryside. He drives to a town that is unremarkable, neither large nor small, and its signpost lies face down in the grass.

As he drives, the man sees no cars, nor bicycles, nor vehicles of any kind. He drives down a street with no lines, and he sees no unbroken windows nor intact doors.

He turns on the radio, but no stations are nearby, so he hears no voices, nor music. No lights illuminate the buildings, and when he rolls down his window, no scents stream from the restaurants.

His view is a sea of gray asphalt and brown-boarded windows until he comes to an overpass at the edge of town spray-painted with the words:

what makes space a place?

Somewhere else the bird flies over a patch of woods as a woman runs along a trail. She has run it many times, for different reasons: sometimes for time, sometimes for clarity. Today she runs it for memory.

At the end of the trail, where the dense forest transitions to a neighborhood, sits a house. It’s a modest house, where once a man with a cat lived. In the woman’s youth she smiled when she saw the old man working in the yard, and she laughed when she saw the cat darting between the fence posts. Today she will see neither.

She is out of breath when she reaches the trailhead, but she realizes she does not want to linger near the house with no man and no cat, so she pushes herself on as the dirt trail gives way to paved sidewalk, and the house is nearly behind her when she notices the words beneath her feet, written in chalk:

where do places go when they change?

Away from here, the bird flies over a man throwing pieces of glass and concrete into a dumpster. He stands where there once was a school, but soon will be something else.

The man was not here when the school was, so he does not know the building or what was in it. He did not learn here, or laugh, or cry, or fight. He did not say goodbye to one life here, and hello to another. He did those things elsewhere.

Rock and glass crunch under his boots as he walks, and when all he sees is stone and debris he can’t imagine that anything ever happened here until he notices the old wooden desk with the words carved into the grain:

is where i’m from still there now?

The old bird sees none of this, or perhaps all of it. On it flies, gliding over the winds of time and space.


Ben Lockwood is a Ph.D. candidate in the Geography Department at Indiana University. He studies a lot but doesn’t know very much. 

My Son Who Dares to Climb a Crane

Katie Coleman


I click on your channel after your mother’s gone to bed. The video freezes, and the wind blows off your cap. We share the same thick hair. Way back, I used to do a decent Elvis impression. I’d swing my hips like the King and never listen to the things people said. Your balance must’ve been rock solid to climb that crane. I used to surf down the aisles of British Midland trains, checking tickets like I was riding waves. This video misses your heart shaped sign-off. But still, I picture you at the top, just like the King.


Katie Coleman’s short fiction has appeared in The Ilanot Review, Bending Genres and Potato Soup Journal. She has a master’s in creative writing and works as a teacher in Phuket, Thailand. She can be found on Twitter (@anjuna2000).

Extract from Here and There

Samaré Gozal


I thought about how one day, probably soon, he’d be carried out of these rooms.

The space would not register his departure, let alone his infinite absence.

The walls would remain still and mute, awaiting the removal of the lamps and wardrobes

and the cup and spoon he was holding in his hand at that very moment.

One by one the objects would leave the space and soon there’d be no traces of him

other than a picture of him and one of Ola staring into a black and white sun.

A shaky hand reached for the sugar bowl in the centre of the table. Two spoons full and

a seemingly ceaseless stirring commenced. Round and round. I didn’t know where to go

so I sat down in my wet coat. He put a cup in front of me and poured. ‘Why is there

even sugar in this bowl? You’re not supposed to have any sugar at all.’ I felt a piercing

pain in my head. As if a hundred needles were about to be pressed against my eyelids.

I pushed the cup away and leaned back.


Samaré Gozal is an Iranian born Swedish filmmaker who has primarily worked as a director and producer in Ramz since 2005. Samaré  holds an MA in Political Science from the University of Lund in Sweden after which she started her film studies at the European Film College in Denmark. Since then she has been working on a variety of audio and writing projects internationally.  

Sally and her postcards and the death that comes after

Emily Harrison


This story has a content warning

You take a seat on the sofa and sink into her cushions. Across from you, she sips the coffee she asked you to make. Three teaspoons. No milk. Her face sucks in so sharp that it looks like she’s swallowing her teeth. There’s dust on the armchair that props her up. It’s made of fabric and dust. The clothes on her kiss it.

This was an accident. You. Here. Your parcel sent to 21A rather than 41A. It’s unusual for the delivery service to do mix ups. 

The scent of mildew and soap floats like flotsam. There’s something medicinal in it, as if she scrubs her skin and the surfaces with the slippery bar, leaving small suds marks as she goes.

‘Quite a collection,’ you say, as she points you to another of her postcards. She’s laid them out for you to view. You wonder when she last had a visitor. 

‘Isn’t it just, Thomas.’

Your name is Tobias. She must have read the parcel wrong.

In front of you there are prints of a sunken Scarborough and the former haunt of Whitby Abbey. The Humber Bridge against a sunset. Saltburn Pier strewn with dots of bodies. On the back of the postcards, in the margins, reads the scrawl of a year. 1997. 2009. 2021. Nothing after 2040.

‘I can’t look at that one,’ she tells you. You’re holding Hartlepool Marina. ‘Not since the place vanished.’

You don’t reply.

‘I have one from Robin Hood’s Bay,’ she says, to fill your gaps. ‘That’s a good postcard. Four pictures in one.’ She holds up four fingers, though they are closer to dead branches. ‘That place was nice.’ 

She sips, mouth pursed, and you sift through the postcards to be polite. Another of Whitby. One of Whitley Bay. Redcar and a donkey on a beach. Under a grey sea now. 

You ask why she never sent them to anyone.

‘They’re my memories,’ she replies. ‘Do you have any?’

She doesn’t define it. Postcards or memories.

‘I don’t,’ you say.

Time slips, and after a while you make your excuses.

‘Thanks,’ you offer, as you linger at the front door, parcel in hand. ‘I appreciate you taking it in.’ Through the wrapping you can feel the bottle of pills. One hour it said on the website. One hour, a series of hallucinations, then death.

‘If I need another coffee, can I knock?’ she asks. One of her eyelids is drooping like melted candle wax.

‘Sure,’ you say, knowing there won’t be an answer. You hope she isn’t the one to find you. It wouldn’t be an easy sight.

You’re halfway to your flat before you realise she wouldn’t make it. She’d probably crack her head before the thirtieth floor. The stairs are so narrow in these tenement buildings that one wrong step can be fatal. They’re dark too, purpose built not to let the light in. It’s easier not to see what you’ve lost.

Later, when the pills are swimming – you swallowed them with home brew that tasted of chalk – and the hour is counting down, you think of the sun on her postcards. The old world lit up. She’s there, dancing. A weird jig in her armchair on Scarborough beach.


Emily Harrison has had work published with X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Barren Magazine, STORGY Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, Litro, Tiny Molecules and Gone Lawn, to name a few. She is a onetime Best Small Fictions nominee, which is pretty cool.

Roadkill

JP Lor


They drift by, as I lie in the middle of the road, stiffly twitching, insides outside, muzzle crushed but an eye staring at the sky. 

These beings, idly fast, following each other, like ants but untouching, seemed harmless. The sterile road too. So I tore through the barbed wires and chased the bullheaded sun as it buried itself behind the mountain. 

The wind played with me, for the first time, picking up my hind legs high into the air. Gently nudged and kissed my nose. Wrapped its arms around me until my eyes and cheeks were wet, until I couldn’t breathe. 

I was free.

Now, blood spills further away from me, swelling hazy dark clouds.  

Was I supposed to ignore the rousing pull and pinch of life, ensnaring me into wanting more? Were the dead grassy hills and the cages all? Were my frail bones and muscles supposed to grow bigger, beautifully slow under a smooth gleaming coat, just so the whistling stompers on horses with ropes could gaze in wonder?  

A burning screech.  

A swerve. 

Down the hill, an unflinching roar. Faster and faster it comes. Will it put me back together? A gurgling cry escapes from what’s left of my throat. My legs move. Rumbling red gravel jolts my heart and I


JP Lor has stories in The Dillydoun Review, CC&D Magazine and Versification

Reveal

Elizabeth Guilt


Melissa smoothed her silk dress, checked her hair, and rubbed sanitising gel on her hands. Her husband handed her the little plastic device, and she smiled as she pressed firmly on the clicker.

The needle shot round into her thumb, stinging more sharply than expected.

“Ow!”

He took her hand and, pressing gently, guided it so the swelling drop of blood fell into the square well on top of the box.

His arm around her shoulders, they hurried away and waited.

Silence fell. Everyone waited.

Melissa sipped at her lemon soda. It shouldn’t take this long. It hadn’t taken this long when she’d held Aimee’s hand three years ago.

“Did you do it?”

“Yes, Mum!” Melissa snapped, more harshly than she intended.

It had only seemed a few moments before Aimee’s silver rocket had zoomed into the sky. Had Aimee felt the time dragging like this, before the explosion of super-cute pink bears?

She turned to her husband. “Do you think it’s…”

A fizzing crackle interrupted her question, and he squeezed her shoulder.

The rocket didn’t fly directly up as expected. It spiralled, executing wild loops until it hung, spitting sparks, over the summerhouse.

Melissa held her breath.

Showers of green and orange stars rained down in torrents. A purple train flew out to one side, and a noise like the blare of trumpets shone over the uneasy group staring at the sky.

“Mummy, you said it would be…”

Aimee shushed her daughter.

“Melissa, are you sure you did it right?”

“Yes, Mum!”

“But it shouldn’t be all those different colours!”

“It must be a manufacturing error” said her husband, his arms protectively around her.

Everyone looked from Melissa to the box to the space in the sky above. Memories of the vibrant stars shimmered behind their bewildered eyes.

A week later, when she’d had a proper test at the hospital, Melissa had cards made. Beautiful, darling little cards that unfurled into blue vintage racing cars. She sent them to the party guests who’d travelled so far but gone home awkward and confused.

Melissa brought Benjamin Albert home from the hospital, wrapped in a sky-blue blanket, and settled the baby in the nursery they’d painted ready.

It was years. Sixteen years of toys and books whisked out of sight; of reluctant Saturday morning rugby practices and screaming fights over clothes; of awkward conversations with the school. And tears, so many tears, before Melissa accepted that the exploding box had been correct.


Elizabeth Guilt lives in London, UK, where history lurks alongside plate glass office buildings and stories spring out of the street names. She has had fiction published in Luna Station Quarterly, Electric Spec and The Colored Lens. You can find her online or on Twitter (@elizabethguilt).

Not your fault

Mia Lofthouse


You are a child in a room of locked doors with a key that opens none of them.

In the room there are many things, you know one of them can hurt you, you cannot know which. You stand still. Hoping if you scrunch your eyes, count to ten, you’ll wake up somewhere safe, in your mother’s arms as she whispers, ‘It was a dream, only a dream.’ You do this. But the room is the same and you are running out of time.

Ok then, if he wants you to play, you will. So, you must choose, choose and hope you find the way out. You run to the bookshelf, feel rather than see him move behind you, move closer. You take a book, hold it out in trembling hands. This won’t hurt you. But it won’t save you either. You’ve always been bright for your age, bookish, wise, but you are still a child and nothing you have learnt could have prepared you for this.

Something else then; you stumble to the bed. It seems impossibly far away. Your heart flutters, a moth failing to take flight. He is getting closer. You reach for your teddy, the one you have had since you were born. You press it against your chest. It turns to dust and vanishes. No comfort can be found in this.

You move on.

You know where to find the knife, you have had it hidden for weeks, for this exact moment. You point it at him.

He laughs.

You notice how much your hand is trembling. The room should crumble now, you think, but it doesn’t. You let the knife go. Nothing he can do will ever make you stoop that low; after all, you are the child and he is the monster. It was never any other way. 

You’ve lost hope now. You know there is no way you’re leaving this place without being scarred, but then you remember something. You reach into the pocket of your jeans for the chocolate bar you earned at school. You break it in half and offer part to the monster. He takes it and you both eat, looking at each other. Then he tosses the wrapper and reaches for you.

As you shrink in his shadow you realise the truth. It was your kindness that hurt you. Your kindness after all. And as you close your eyes and wait for it to end, you pull your kindness closer. He will not take that from you.


Mia Lofthouse is a 21-year-old writer. She writes both short stories and novels and is currently studying for a Masters degree in Creative Writing. In 2017, she was a finalist in the Wicked Young Writer award and more recently her story, ‘The Road Home’, was published in Personal Bests Journal.