Ours Not To Reason Why

Kate Chandler

Communicating how I feel
Would mean admitting it as real.
If anger, sadness, hurt and dread
Were really what were in my head
Then surely I could reason why?
But no; I simply sit and sigh
And wait for time to drive away
The latent source of my dismay.

Tomorrow — by the break of dawn —
The chances are I’ll be reborn.
Recalling how I feel right now
Will leave me with a furrowed brow
If I attempt to reason why.
For ponder it until I die,
I'll never know why I was low
And so, I guess, I'll let it go.

 Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

In 2011, Kate Chandler turned in her badge and scanner gun, leaving an eleven-year career in librarianship to become a Mother and Armchair Philosopher-Psychologist.  She enjoys observing, pondering, analysing, writing and curating interesting web links and aesthetically pleasing pieces of art, and sometimes manages to bring these things together to create something that she deems worthy of sharing.  UK born and bred, she moved to Vancouver, Canada in 2005, thence to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, where she currently resides in the sleepy seaside town of Sechelt with her husband and four-year-old daughter. http://kchandler.wordpress.com/ 

Kate Chandler (@kateycanuck) | Twitter

 

OURS NOT TO REASON WHY Copyright © Kate Chandler 2015

 

Ivy's Trail

Katy Luscombe


The crack of sunlight drove gentle tendrils of gold through a gap in the curtains and stroked Ivy’s cheek until she stirred awake. She stretched and shifted her frail body. The bones which had felt so heavy of late seemed lighter somehow. Stronger. Fiercer. The frayed edges of her diminished vision pulsed with colour and shadow. Thoughts which had lain dormant, trapped in the tangled snare of ageing sinew, trembled into life and swarmed through her head. 

For the first time in months, Ivy felt like going for a walk.

She swung her mottled legs over the side of the bed and her bare toes searched for the floor below. Taking small, birdlike steps Ivy slipped towards the door, pausing only to softly brush the hand of her sleeping husband with her fingertips. If only she could channel the strange healing forces that she felt on this curious morning to share with him. But instinct whispered that this gift was for her alone, and Ivy agreed not to pull him from the peaceful arms of sleep just yet.

She glided down the stairs and to the front door where her boots and jacket waited patiently for her like a quiet invitation for secret adventure. Once her nightdress was enveloped in generous folds of cotton and suede, Ivy stepped out into the cool green morning and headed for the fields. Her feet quickly remembered how to navigate the uneven country paths and she marvelled at the unfamiliar dexterity vibrating through her limbs. Filling her lungs with rich late summer air, Ivy let herself be overwhelmed by tranquility.

As she walked, she became increasingly aware of an unexpected bulk beneath her coat. Puzzled, she reached into her inner pocket where her fingers detected a foreign article. Ivy delicately withdraw the package and stared at it in wonder.

***

Claude tumbled from black to blue, soft pink to vivid grey, until he fell out of his surging dreams and into an empty bed. He rubbed the lingering shards of slumber from his eyes and extended a cold, weathered hand to where Ivy should have lain. Her lack of presence rippled and radiated from rumpled sheets. Claude eased himself up and scanned the dawn-tinted bedroom for his wife’s invisible trail of careful movement. Like a raindrop in a river, Ivy was gone.

He heaved himself free of the bedclothes, which suddenly felt obstructive and unwelcome. He squinted at the sliver of hallway visible through the unclosed bedroom door and his ears laboured to quieten the tinnitus that had kept silence at a distance for more than twenty years. Beyond the incessant drone, Claude could not hear the footfall of his wife and muted unease began to rise in his throat. Why would she have risen so early?
With rasping muscles, Claude pulled himself to his feet and fumbled for his glasses before slowly creaked out of the room. The dusky house was devoid of smells which might indicate a breakfast in progress; the perfume of tea, the dry warmth of toast. Whilst the physicality of Ivy was absent in every room he searched, the ghost of her glow hung in the air and permeated the spaces between familiar objects.

It became apparent that Ivy was no longer in the house and Claude ventured into the garden, a battered overcoat slung hastily over his pyjamas. Scanning the tidy, well-tended lawn, a flash of colour winked at him through distant trees and drew him towards the fence. A small figure crowned by silver hair grew smaller still as it wove past branch and leaf towards open fields. As Claude watched, recognition gradually ignited. He hesitated only briefly before treading towards the garden gate.

***

As daytime slurred into life, the patchwork hills rose quietly to surround the elderly lady striding through a glistening haze of green. Ivy’s feet continued to step, step, step as she examined the package in her hands, and now she realised what it was. A bundle of photographs. 

She gently plucked the first picture from the top of the pile and brought it close to her face. A little girl’s solemn gaze drifted out of the sepia fog and locked Ivy in a hypnotizing stare. More than eight decades had passed since the photo was taken, yet Ivy recognised herself immediately even though the portrait was an unfamiliar one. It took her by surprise to consider that she had ever been that small; a blank canvas yet to be imprinted by the joys and dreams and fears of growing older. The little girl with the solemn stare encapsulated in an eternal childhood was a world away, and it had been a long time since Ivy had paid a visit. 

Squeezing her eyes shut for a moment, she opened her fingers and let the photograph float away from her hand. The gentle breeze tossed and whirled the memory until it came to rest in the dew soaked grass.

The next photo from the top of the pile showed a slightly older Ivy making daisy chains in the garden with her two big sisters. Even though the picture was devoid of colour, Ivy could clearly see the blond hair, rosy cheeks and hazel eyes of the three children. She could almost hear the melody of their voices. Squeals of laughter echoed and reverberated in her head, and Ivy was filled with warmth as she remembered with a rush the friendship and affection that knitted them together. She’d forgotten how much she missed those simple days before the deceptions of adulthood had begun to interfere. 

Like before, Ivy let the photograph fall from her grasp. She continued her journey across the fields, leaving behind the quiet ricochet of children’s voices.

***

Hurrying along the path he knew his wife had followed, Claude wished that he had taken the time to change out of his slippers before leaving the house. The soft soles snagged easily on stones and twigs, and within a few minutes the dew had soaked through to his bed socks. Each step felt clumsy and hindered, and Claude fretted that his slow progress had caused Ivy to slip out of view. He adjusted his glasses, imploring his eyes to slice through the expanse of trees which monopolised his vision and infringed on his consciousness like an unwelcome visitor.

Like Ivy, Claude loved the rural landscape and normally felt awash with contentment when immersed in the sanctuary of the hills, but today he struggled to place himself within the atmosphere. He felt like a stranger, his presence an intrusion on some cryptic natural power. Claude couldn’t figure out what it meant. If only he could catch up with Ivy, he was certain that the universe would rebalance itself.

Whilst trudging through the fields, something winked at Claude from the path ahead. He squinted, trying to work out what it could be, and felt compelled to investigate. He folded his tired bones until his fingers grazed the tips of the grass blades, and retrieved the time-stained photograph. It took a moment for him to recognise the child looking back at him, but once he noticed the elfin ears and saucer-shaped eyes there was no mistaking the infant Ivy. She looked so serious as a child, but Claude knew that the clever humour which drew him to her as a young woman must be lying dormant in her soul. 

He pondered briefly the strangeness of his find, how a baby photo of his wife should be waiting for him on this pathway, when he noticed a fluttering further down the field. As he approached, the glistening shape murmured noiselessly and he had a feeling that he know what it might be. 

Claude collected the second photograph and stepped back in time once again. The love between the three sisters seeped from the image like flour through a sieve, falling delicately from the paper to be quickly absorbed by the hungry earth. 

The picture seemed to nourish Claude, and he picked up his pace in the hope that Ivy was just a few steps around the next corner. 

***

Ivy devoured photograph after photograph, pouring over each one and letting herself melt back in time. Snapshots of her youth danced happily in her hands; family, friends, the blue-doored cottage where she and her sisters lived for more than 14 years, the neighbour’s grumpy black Labrador which Ivy spent many determined hours trying to befriend through the garden fence, school uniforms, birthday cakes, a battered red bicycle with a wilting daisy chain threaded through the spokes. A world of misty nostalgia descended to swathe Ivy in its kindly embrace.

Each picture absorbed, each picture discarded. The memories fused with her consciousness and she did not need the physical reminder. They would never again be forgotten. 

Ivy watched herself mature; features sharpening, coming into focus. Flowery dresses superseded by pencil skirts. High school girls replaced by college friends. She thumbed her way through the pictures into adulthood and suddenly, there was Claude. A lopsided grin twitched on his freshly shaved face, a trademark trilby nestled in a mass of chocolate curls. She remembered the lithe, energetic man who had quietly, carefully seized her heart and suspended it in waves of love. As a young man and as an old man, Claude’s capacity to set her heart thrashing against her rib cage with a few simple words was absolute, though he had never realised the power he had over her. Ivy let herself be consumed by the lifetime of love stored up in the fibre of her brittle body. 

As the morning sun yawned higher into the sky, its heat warmed her bones and she prickled under the heaviness of her coat. Still clutching the remaining photos, she shrugged it from her shoulders to bare the lilac nightdress underneath. The coat dropped in a crumpled pile, now nothing more than another part of the undeniable trail she was leaving behind her.

***

Claude’s breath quickened as he pushed himself to increase his pace; his exertion countered by the anticipation of catching up to his wife. He marvelled at how far from their home they had both travelled. Recently, their mobility had not extended beyond a gentle stroll around the blossoming garden. He was unprepared for the pilgrimage which was wrapping itself around him.

He had collected, examined and carefully stowed each discarded photograph which illuminated his path, every snapshot of a story reminding him who he was so desperately searching for. A narrative unfolded from the pictures; a young woman’s life laid bare and retold through frozen glimpses. When Claude himself became part of the chronicle, he swam through deep caverns of memories, surfacing only to remind his feet not to stop moving.

Their wintery wedding day, the miniscule rooms of their first rented flat, the proud but tired smiles of new parents returning from the hospital to a life unrecognisable from everything which had come before. Fortified with fear and joy. A bigger house, enriched by games and crayons and tiny handprints. Parks, beaches, caravans, snow, Christmases, parties, craft projects, school uniforms, gap toothed smiles. Claude could remember teasing, reprimanding, comforting his family so many years ago more vividly than ever before. Is this how Ivy feels right now, he wondered?

He had stumbled when his feet caught in Ivy’s abandoned coat, lying damp and forlorn amongst the still-moist blades of grass. Yet more pieces of herself she was leaving behind. Suddenly, he began to feel her slipping from him as if the rules were shifting, the unquestionable tether of more than five decades of marriage growing frail and opaque. Startled and uneasy, he broke into a lurching jog and filled his heavy lungs with air.

‘Ivy!’, he bayed at the stoic, swaying trees ahead. The trees regarded him silently, and gave him no comfort.

***

Ivy had already grown old once. Now she watched herself grow old again as the photographs abandoned the energetic young mother, clearing a path for crow’s feet, grey hair and sun-spoilt skin to emerge. Her children towered above her at every gathering, and eventually she saw their own youth seeping away. While she and Claude still shared their unfaded smiles with the camera, she knew the mortal strains that their faces concealed; aches, deficiencies, unwelcome lumps, tentative remission and slowing organs. 

Despite the betrayals of their bodies, their world was still woven with fortune and blessings. Retirement in a chocolate box country cottage, chubby grandchildren bouncing on knees and dancing through the garden, peaceful breakfasts consumed to the soundtrack of bird song, jigsaws and crosswords completed in front of a real coal fire. These photographs were just as welcome to Ivy’s hungry eyes.

The stack of memories in her hands grew smaller and smaller until Ivy realised she was clasping the very last one. Less than an hour old, she cradled the image of Claude asleep in their bed as she had left him before she started walking. This image had not been captured with a camera, but Ivy didn’t question it. 

She was starting to understand. 

***

Claude’s painfully slow run was fraught as he battled with his old bones, and broken as he still tried to stoop down for photographs as they fluttered and glinted. Some he managed to seize, other slithered through his fingers and fell behind. Those which he snatched were gripped hard, and he tried to steal glances as his vision bobbed up and down. 

He was pursued by the sensation that Ivy was being pulled from him, moving further into the distance. As if he was travelling through water, each movement felt dragged and hindered by a rushing force. He wheezed out Ivy’s name as often as his burning lungs would allow, but it was as if someone had turned the volume down. His voice was as muted as his physical progress.

He rounded a corner, and realised he could finally see her. His heart leapt and his muscles felt revitalised. Ivy was no longer obscured by nature’s landscape, he was almost there. All he had to do was get to her. 

***

The path rose in front of Ivy and her legs worked harder to match the incline. She was dimly aware of a muffled sound…was that her name floating up on the breeze at her back and trying to invite her attention? Maybe it was, but she had finished looking backwards; she’d relived her life already today, the rest of her journey could only take her forwards.

We are only the sum of our memories, she thought to herself. Everything we experience becomes a reflection which is absorbed and retained. The people we touch, the places we visit, the rhythm we live; it shapes us, moulds us, scars us and heals us. This is how we have been created; each breath composed and immortalised in recollection. Without our memories, what would be left?

The sun peeked curiously over the brow of the hill, blooming larger and brighter with every step that Ivy took towards it. The breeze played cheerfully with the folds of her skirt and pushed casually at her back like a guiding hand. She reached the top of the rise with a lightness of spirit that swelled and threatened to overflow. 

The trees nodded encouragingly, and she continued down the other side of the hill.

***

Claude’s throat stung with the effort of shouting, but Ivy was not responding to his breathless calls. He was gaining on her, but not fast enough. The frustration gathered in his eyes and spilled over into tears.

As Ivy stepped over the hill, he was only a few metres behind. Surely she could feel how near he was? As her silver hair disappeared over the slope, he thrust himself through the ice and fire of expired, devastated muscles to just keep going for a few more paces. He could almost touch her. He crossed over the brow and…

…Ivy was gone. 

The shock threw Claude sideways. He faltered, stumbled and crashed noisily to the ground, his sweating hands sliding painfully through the dust and gravel of the track. From where he lay, he frantically scanned the landscape convinced that his misty eyes must have missed her somehow, but the soft green landscape held its secrets and Ivy was nowhere to be seen. Where there should have been two sets of footprints, he was distraught to notice that he could see only one.

***

Claude did not get up for a long time, even after his breathing had returned to normal. Scattered around him, the fallen collection of photographs winked and shone but did not blow away. When Claude eventually felt strong enough to move, he reached out his arms and gathered the pictures to his chest. He stared at the images of his wife, whom he had felt slipping from him as he followed her trail, and let himself be overcome with her loss. The pieces of Ivy that he held in his hands were all that remained. 

He rose heavily to his feet, and clutched her tightly on the long walk home.

 Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

I grew up in the wilds of the Northumbrian countryside where I developed a fondness for reading my books halfway up a hill, with only a decrepit walkman for company. I'm now happily settled in Newcastle where I work as a trainer for an organisation which doles out cash to charities, which is quite lovely. I'm lucky to have found myself a tolerant husband and ginger Labrador to share a home with. Currently cooking up our first baby, which we're excited to welcome to the world in October 2015. I can't wait to share my love of literature with a little person through bedtime stories :)

IVY'S TRAIL copyright © Katy Luscombe 2015

Untitled

Lydia Mulvey

Seven years crumbling to dust.
A car crash in slow motion.
A never-ending fracture of love and devotion.
Safety-glass not included. 

Seven years tumbling to the crust.
A churning black ocean.
An infinite storm of faith and good notions.
Life-ring not included.

 Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Lydia Mulvey is a screenwriter whose short film, ZONE 2, directed by Anna Elizabeth James and starring Anne Ramsay, is scheduled to show at festivals all over the US. She's a BBC writersroom contest winner, a Page Awards finalist and is currently working on several script projects. 

IMBD / Twitter 

© Lydia Mulvey 2015

The Only Humans Left

Kate Chandler

I can smell them. 

They have hidden themselves well — I have neither seen nor heard them in the two weeks since I made my last kill — but today their scent is unmistakable. It must have been masked all this time by the smell of the body I was still working on. 

I thought that I had killed the last human in this village, so I had been rationing myself in order to make the meal last as long as possible, surviving on scraps these last couple of days whilst working on a strategy to take over one of the larger neighbouring villages. But — ah! — sweet, succulent, fresh flesh is nearby, and I am hungry!

I circle the part of the village where I first caught the scent. I soon narrow their location down to one street, but which house is it that they occupy? Or which houses? I am certain that there are at least two of them — I can smell both male and female pheromones. 

My hearts beat fast with anticipation.

A light in one of the houses switches on, and then switches off immediately. I can’t believe my luck. They have given themselves away without my even having to spend time tracking them. I drool, my stomach keenly aware that it is almost feeding time. I draw closer to the house.

Do they have any idea that I’m out here, what a mistake they’ve just made? They will surely be on their guard for the next little while, expecting an attack in the event that they were seen. I hide behind a large oak tree, and decide to keep watch and bide my time; they can make no escape without my seeing.

Two uneventful hours pass by. It is dawn. Time to make a move.

I walk around to the side of the house where there is only one window. It is high up near the eaves — an attic room, presumably. I invert my skin so it is sucker-side out, scale the wall up to the window and use my horns to bore two small holes next to it. I peek through. The room runs the length of the house but there is nobody in it, just a few pieces of broken furniture and some large cardboard boxes sealed with yellow tape. 

I use the sharpest of my tentacles to cut around the window pane. I remove it, noiselessly, and slip inside, sniffing at the air. There is no mistake, they are definitely in this house. I revert my skin back to its protective state, shell-side out.

I can’t hear anything that might give away their exact location, so I follow my nose. I slide quietly down the steep stairs. A full sweep of the second floor — where I saw the light come on — proves fruitless. The beds in the bedrooms are all neatly made and clothes hung tidily in closets. The bathrooms, however, are both covered in a thick layer of grime. I turn my nose up at the mess and make my way down another set of stairs to explore the ground floor.

I tread lightly. Though they have no way of escaping me now that I am this close, it’s far more fun to hunt stealthily than to go on a rampage. It makes the anticipation last longer, and there’s always the chance that they’ll be lying in wait and willing to put up a good fight. They can never win, of course, since none of their weapons can cause anything but a slight surface wound to my armoured body, but it’s amusing to watch them try. And for some reason they taste better when they are killed in such an emotionally aroused state.

Two minutes later I am standing by the front door scratching my head. There is no one here, and yet the smell of them is stronger than ever. I go through the house one more time, searching more carefully, but come up empty-handed. Just where are the blighters? 

It suddenly occurs to me that there may be another floor to this house. I curse my stupidity: if there’s a cellar, then they’ve probably made a base camp in it, and may well have an escape route below ground level.

I search the floors for a trapdoor, and find one in the kitchen. I open it and sniff. Their scent is at its most potent here. If they are not down in the cellar, then they cannot be long gone. I run down the stairs, not caring how much noise I make now, flipping the light switch as I pass it. The fluorescent strip lighting illuminates the entire cellar. It is stocked with an array of bottles of various sizes, but there is not a human in sight. I make my way to the end of the room, searching on both sides for any evidence of a tunnel to the outside world

I sense a presence behind me. I turn around and come face-to-face with… well, actually I couldn’t tell you what it is. It smells human but looks like nothing I’ve ever seen. It is ten times the size of me, has mottled skin the colour of fresh bruises, and many more limbs than I can imagine uses for. It’s mouth is as big as my head. 

It leans down to look me in the eye, and then grins at me. Its breath is repugnant, its huge jagged teeth dotted with globs of rotting flesh. I turn aside and retch several times before looking back at it. The confusion must be evident on my face. The creature places a large glass bottle into my hands. It is half-filled with a most delectable smelling pink liquid. I read the label.

Nature Humaine
Eau de Parfum
1 gallon

The creature makes a ghastly screeching noise, and my hearts have two seconds to sink before the pain begins.

 Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

In 2011, Kate Chandler turned in her badge and scanner gun, leaving an eleven-year career in librarianship to become a Mother and Armchair Philosopher-Psychologist.  She enjoys observing, pondering, analysing, writing and curating interesting web links and aesthetically pleasing pieces of art, and sometimes manages to bring these things together to create something that she deems worthy of sharing.  UK born and bred, she moved to Vancouver, Canada in 2005, thence to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, where she currently resides in the sleepy seaside town of Sechelt with her husband and four-year-old daughter. http://kchandler.wordpress.com/ 

Kate Chandler (@kateycanuck) | Twitter

The Field

@Neefsck

The field of undreamt dreams. Each stalk catefully tended by its owner. Those who existed but never lived.

 Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

The Salesman

by Eygló

I am looking out the window, from my apartment in Dis, down towards The Darkest Sin, where the highest of the low live. I see that the light is on in one of his majesty’s suites and I stand and wonder what he does in there. 

And that’s when I realise it. It just hits me.

I am happy here.

It’s the uncensored, bloody truth and it hits me like an avalanche of hot, sulphur-stinking lava. Sure, it has its downsides being here, but have you ever been anywhere that the description didn't fit? 

I don’t know exactly what it was that landed me here, but I don’t resent the fact that this is where I ended up. I guess I deserved it too. 

I don’t know much about the place. I don’t know if it was designed to just bring like-minded souls together or if it was actually meant to punish those who did wrong in their lives. That's what we believe hell is for, right? 

The fire pits, the flaying and the torture is no picnic, obviously, but we all go home at the end of a long day, just like we used to — and to be honest, this is easier. All you have to do is show up for work. The demons handle the rest and there is room for advancement. You get Tuesdays off and if you endure the punishment that’s been picked out for you personally, you get to be the one dealing out the blows in the future. There is also administration, bureaucracy, not to mention the entertainment industry or marketing. And if you’re talented you might get the chance to excel, to design and built a house like The Darkest Sin, or paint something to decorate the walls of his majesty’s suites. There are opportunities here, and shrinks for those who can’t handle the pressure.

Of course, it isn’t all hunky-dory. I won’t lie to you. If you’re still up there, enjoying the sun and somehow reading this, then I won’t claim it’s all good. This place isn’t for everybody, but neither is Iceland, New York, Sydney or Bora Bora for that matter. You do what you have to, you endure, not always happily — but life still happens. 

Even down here, it does, and this time you come back again and again, like Odin’s einherjar on the field of Valhalla, who all woke up from the dead, ate a giant meal and drank beer after the battle was won or lost. What a life! Or death, whichever you prefer.  

When I opened my eyes for the first time down here and saw a demon wearing two horns, a tail and a rather pathetic-looking snout welcoming me to hell in a hoarse voice, I really thought that I would be miserable. I must admit I was a bit surprised too, it’s not something you expect even when you’ve done the things I did.

I guess you could compare it to being sent to prison. I was fucked. I was sentenced for shifts in the fire pits but later I got promoted into the river of boiling blood. We call it River Sanguinem, or Seq for short. I spend my days there. An average working day is about ten to twelve hours. Afterwards I go to the local pub and take a drink, both souls and demons alike do that. After hours we’re all equal, more or less. 

Dis is a dark city. Above there is nothing but darkness, and the lights emanating from the houses and the streets seem somehow to get gulped up by it. As I stand watching it buzz with life, I revel in the drunkenness I feel from the beers I drank earlier and I revel in the love I have for this city. Especially though, I revel in the love I have for the harpy who feeds upon the rooted souls. Her name is Elá and she gets mad if you pronounce her name wrong. The rooted souls are stuck in the sand all day long, and they are fed upon by the harpies. Elá has a beautiful dark hair, glaring eyes and a bosom so big on her dark, feathered body. That was the first thing that struck me about her. She folds her wings when she enters the bar and she only spreads them out when I ask her very nicely. I long to become one of rooted souls. 

I felt the passion towards her right away. What I didn’t expect was that I would find a soulmate in the midst of the fires of hell, deep in the city of Dis, where the sun never shines and all you can see in the sky is the occasional demon on his way home from work. 

I watch The Darkest Sin and I hope one day to be a resident there. I do. I hope that my talents will come to use, that I will be recognised and offered a place there, among the masters, maybe I’ll even meet the mayor himself one day. 

I never expected to be happy in hell. At first I wallowed in the sickness that comes from the stench of the pits and the agony that daily life brings, but the realisation has made me a new man, a happy man. 

I have hope, and even in hell hope is an ally.  

 Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Eygló was born and bred in Kópavogur, Iceland. She studied literary theory at the University of Iceland before moving to the south of Sweden where she is playing house, taking pictures, writing, reading, running and living, when there is time. She never grew up enough to start drinking coffee, but she does know how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull and how to do a fishtail braid. Instagram and Site.

The Salesman is copyright © Eygló 2015

Ghost Train of Youngstown

by Joseph Robertshaw

Not long ago our earth was rich and black
Then the trains came on earth hewn, fire wrought track.
We burned hope in our fires and sold molten earth
For greenbacks and ale draughts; far more it was worth.

They dug in their spurs and rode us into the mills,
With hot blood and cold sweat the tall orders we filled.
Rail-cars stacked high with sheet & tube dreams
Rolled heavy away in dark waves of steam.

The spurs are now silent but tempered we still
Mourn empty orders that no one can fill.
The trains used to stop at each mill’s back lot
Now they roll on, already full, and no need to stop.

Our children now ask for guidance and vision
We’ve nothing left here to reach in and give them.
With our pain they were raised and handily fed
Now we’re old dried up husks and more use to them dead.

We made them a life of steel, wheels and coal,
Now away like our dreams on those rails they will roll,
To seek better fortunes and dream their own dreams,
Never seeing nor caring that they ride on our beams.

 Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

My name is Joseph Robertshaw. I like poetry and prose and try to write both. I was asked to leave my high school English class and my high school but all these years later, I have just written a fantasy book. I have dropped out of high school and have earned two master’s degrees. I have taught cooking, safety, customer service and now, for the past five years, First Year Composition. I am a husband and a father and, in my life, I have killed turkeys, cooked chickens, thrown crabs, siphoned salmon. I have been a stay at home navy spouse. I have sailed the Bering Sea and rolled through Europe on the rails. I currently live in Ohio and I expect to earn a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing in 2018. 

Ghost Train of Youngstown is Copyright © Joseph Robertshaw 2015

Where Dreams Hide

by Eygló

There is something growing on the trees. It’s alive. I noticed the first time I got here, but I still don’t know what it is. It looks as much alive as the trees it lives on. 

I can’t remember what I was doing here the first time I came, or how I got here, and I don’t much care. I remember I just wanted to sneak a peek. I knew it was magical and that I wasn’t supposed to be here. It was dark and the darkness made everything look grey and mystical. I was so excited, this was my Narnia, a dark and frightening one.

I walk along the fence, among the trees. They look so old, as if they are antediluvian — and maybe they are? What do I know about this place? What do I know of its history? Of its life before me? Nothing. Or not much. I just know that I found it, and that when I come here to walk among the trees the fog thickens and the wind chimes in the distance sound low and muffled, but can still, always, be heard. 

When I get to the trees with the silver leaves, I always stay and just watch for a while. I can almost see the sensibility, feelings, dreams radiating a slight aura around them. The beings on the bark seem to thrive there especially. I always take a long time walking underneath those trees, hoping I can find a leaf that has fallen to the ground. 

When I do, I pick it up carefully and go to sit down by the fence. I lean towards it, but it isn’t very comfortable, the wood is old and it needs to be repainted, it’s easy to get splinters if you’re not careful. But it is better than sitting by the trees. They don’t give much support and always seem to squirm away, like a fidgety child that doesn’t like you very much but is too polite, or too shy, to say it. 

The silvery leaves that fall to the ground are filled with dreams that aren’t mine. It’s quite wonderful. I sit with the leaf in my hand, feeling the heaviness of it and the rough texture between my fingers and the way it emanates the strongest of emotions. Emotions I have never even felt before come to me, and in my mind's eye I see things, wilderness, landscapes so fantastic that I doubt anything like it has ever existed in the whole wide world. I see wonderful people, evil doers, monsters, men and women who lived long ago, or who never lived at all. I see tales, long and short, told like they are playing right here within me, like they belong to me, like they are my own memories. And they become a part of me. I hide them within me.

I never pick the leaves that haven’t fallen. They aren’t ripe and I know that plucking them, before they are ready, leads to nothing but madness and death. I was warned by someone who used to wander the garden, if a garden is what you can call this place: a garden is kept but this place keeps you, like a rose in the shade. She was an old woman, smaller than a mouse with grey wavy hair and cold eyes. She whispered the secret to the leaves, said that the leafs would claim me if I broke the rules. Then she walked into the garden, plucked a big leaf of one of the silvery maples, sat down by the picked fence and just vanished. 

I saw it all, in my mind's eye, from one of the leaves, and I don’t know if she is me or I am her. But I know the same thing will happen to me one day. I don’t fear it. I don’t dread it. I will become a memory here myself, a dream, and I will hide in the garden until I am ready to fall and if I’m lucky someone will pick up that particular leaf, feel the smooth texture underneath her fingers and be overwhelmed by the stories, by the notion that I’ve stored. 

And I will always belong to this place, because I am your wildest dream and this is where dreams come to hide. 

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Eygló was born and bred in Kópavogur, Iceland. She studied literary theory at the University of Iceland before moving to the south of Sweden where she is playing house, taking pictures, writing, reading, running and living, when there is time. She never grew up enough to start drinking coffee, but she does know how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull and how to do a fishtail braid. Instagram and Site.

Where Dreams Hide is copyright © Eygló 2015

A Keyhole In The Sky

Joseph W. Robertshaw

The light pokes through a keyhole in the sky
To show us what we think we know is really a lie.
Many say the end has finally come,
But I can’t help but ask where the light comes from.
And if I might return there with it someday,
Perhaps if I am good and don’t bother anybody that much. 

Star fall and light rage for night has come to call.
Surely soon we must die but what if this isn’t death at all?
Not destruction but a concerned parent peering through the bedroom door, As we lay sick and dying, they pace the hallway floor,
And we are rocking gently in the embrace of mother earth, 

Waiting for the fever to pass and those soothing promises to become truth. 

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

My name is Joseph Robertshaw. I like poetry and prose and try to write both. I was asked to leave my high school English class and my high school but all these years later, I have just written a fantasy book. I have dropped out of high school and have earned two master’s degrees. I have taught cooking, safety, customer service and now, for the past five years, First Year Composition. I am a husband and a father and, in my life, I have killed turkeys, cooked chickens, thrown crabs, siphoned salmon. I have been a stay at home navy spouse. I have sailed the Bering Sea and rolled through Europe on the rails. I currently live in Ohio and I expect to earn a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing in 2018. 

A Keyhole In The Sky is Copyright © Joseph Robertshaw 2015

Oft In The Shadows

Joseph W. Robertshaw

Often in the shadows you will find me, patiently waiting for my moment in the sun, Watching his inexorable
march across the sky.
Slowly drifting over
the treetops and 
opening blooms, 
Like tiny drops 
of sunlight 
along the way.
Now and again I may creep out and catch a warm ray 
Only to dash away again
Taking it home to ward against the night
Like a blanket in a cool wet misty May morning
For now I may steal my moments of fun fearing to stay too long in the sun, 
But soon the day will surely come, when in summer’s warm embrace,
I will stride with upturned face and drink of the golden light.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

My name is Joseph Robertshaw. I like poetry and prose and try to write both. I was asked to leave my high school English class and my high school but all these years later, I have just written a fantasy book. I have dropped out of high school and have earned two master’s degrees. I have taught cooking, safety, customer service and now, for the past five years, First Year Composition. I am a husband and a father and, in my life, I have killed turkeys, cooked chickens, thrown crabs, siphoned salmon. I have been a stay at home navy spouse. I have sailed the Bering Sea and rolled through Europe on the rails. I currently live in Ohio and I expect to earn a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing in 2018. 

Of In The Shadows is Copyright © Josphe Robertshaw 2015

The Deep Wood Path

Joseph W. Robertshaw

Everyone at home is asleep at the close of day 
The soft scent touches my mind and I am away 
On winged memory I flit along the shrouded path 
Careful to dip beneath the heavy green boughs 
They shall be none the wiser. 

Have you come also to walk in the quavering pines? 
I’ll walk with you but slightly out of time,
Perhaps when you return in your memory
We’ll walk again along the deepening path 
And we will be none the wiser. 

Here have I been and here I long to return. 
In the wood, I was grown from the earth 
And there I shall again dissolve in the end 
When the dappled, muted light fades away 
I shall be none the wiser.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

My name is Joseph Robertshaw. I like poetry and prose and try to write both. I was asked to leave my high school English class and my high school but all these years later, I have just written a fantasy book. I have dropped out of high school and have earned two master’s degrees. I have taught cooking, safety, customer service and now, for the past five years, First Year Composition. I am a husband and a father and, in my life, I have killed turkeys, cooked chickens, thrown crabs, siphoned salmon. I have been a stay at home navy spouse. I have sailed the Bering Sea and rolled through Europe on the rails. I currently live in Ohio and I expect to earn a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing in 2018. 

The Deep Wood Path is Copyright © Joseph Robertshaw 2015

The Woods

Kate Chandler

The day had been bright at the time Clare had entered into the woods, but patches of light grey cloud had been rolling through the sky all afternoon, and were now starting to darken, slow in pace and collect together into a form that threatened rain. She hadn’t prepared for it, and there were another two kilometres to go before a branch of the trail would open out into a residential street where she could, if necessary, nip into the little heritage general store and have a drink while waiting out a rain shower. She picked up her pace.

Thinking of which of the many types of beverage she’d most like to order at the store if she needed to go in, she walked along mostly oblivious to the environment around her until she was jolted out of her thoughts by what sounded like children’s laughter off to her right. She stopped to listen. There was a small cheer and more laughter. Curious, she went over to the side of the trail and peered through the trees.

At the bottom of a heavily treed bank, there was a slow-flowing stream that she hadn’t been aware of. She must have been following alongside it for a while, yet she hadn’t heard the sound of water, and hadn’t remembered seeing it as a feature on the map at the beginning of the trail, either. The children she had heard were leaping up to grab a large tree branch that was hanging above the stream, and swinging themselves over to the other side. There were three of them, two girls and a boy, around nine or ten years old, she guessed.

She smiled, hit by a feeling something like, but not quite, nostalgia: the scene was such a visceral reminder of her own childhood growing up near woods very similar to the one she was standing in. She checked the sky, and when rain didn’t appear imminent, she decided to climb down the bank a little way and lean against a tree to watch.

After a couple of minutes, there was a small splash as one of the girls landed feet-first at the edge of the stream. She hadn’t fallen, and can’t have got wet more than up to her ankles, but she stumbled along the bank away from her friends as if injured, and sat down heavily with such a forlorn expression that it shocked Clare. Her friends looked a little sad, but not concerned. and they didn’t ask if she was all right or attempt to comfort her. Clare figured that maybe they were used to her sulking out of injured pride. The other girl and boy continued with their play, which was only a little more subdued, and Clare continued to watch them.

A little while later, the boy completely misjudged his swing and fell heavily on his butt in the deepest part of the stream. He quickly got up and waded through the calf-deep water over to where the girl with the wet feet was sitting, and crawled up onto the bank to sit beside her. They both now looked forlorn, but they didn’t speak, and the girl who was still dry continued her play, albeit now with a more serious air.

Clare watched on, fighting a sudden maternal urge to interfere, to go down and comfort the sad children. But as she looked at them, her eyes seemed to be playing tricks on her: the children’s feet were camouflaged to the point of disappearance. The more closely she looked, the more she was convinced that neither of them had feet any more. Disconcerted, she looked at the girl still playing, at the amount of concentration on her face. She looked back at the other two children, and gasped when she saw that the boy now, unmistakably, also had no legs and no lower arms.

Before she was able to properly digest what she was seeing, a loud roll of thunder burst open the sky and a heavy rain began to fall. The girl still playing took one last swing over the stream, briefly hugged her friends, and dashed to a nearby stand of trees, where she somehow made herself small enough to squeeze into a hollow in one of them. The other two children, unable to run, remained sitting on the bank. They now huddled up close, and Clare’s breath hitched painfully in her throat as she watched the pair of them wash out of existence in a matter of minutes.

She stood there, motionless, staring at the spot where the children had been sitting, until she found herself dragging the inside of her sleeve across her eyes to dry them. Pulling herself together, she stumbled down to the bottom of the slope of trees, jumped over the old stream-bed, dry for decades now, and ran straight to the hollowed tree.

The girl wasn’t there. Clare reached into her pocket and took out her keyring with its miniature flash-light, turned it on and stuck her head inside the gap that she used to be able to squeeze her whole body through so easily as a child. Inside, on a natural ledge, she found the small box of mementoes she had stashed there during the summer that she had played daily in these woods with her two friends before the day that a great storm unexpectedly blew through, felling the big tree that they were climbing and trapping them all under the surface of the stream beneath its heavy branches.

Clare gazed thoughtfully out at the woods around her for a few minutes, then took a deep breath and allowed her spirit to be absorbed into the hollow tree.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

In 2011, Kate Chandler turned in her badge and scanner gun, leaving an eleven-year career in librarianship to become a Mother and Armchair Philosopher-Psychologist.  She enjoys observing, pondering, analysing, writing and curating interesting web links and aesthetically pleasing pieces of art, and sometimes manages to bring these things together to create something that she deems worthy of sharing.  UK born and bred, she moved to Vancouver, Canada in 2005, thence to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, where she currently resides in the sleepy seaside town of Sechelt with her husband and four-year-old daughter. http://kchandler.wordpress.com/ 

Kate Chandler (@kateycanuck) | Twitter

The Woods is Copyright © Kate Chandler 2015

In The Silver Light

Joseph W. Robertshaw

In the silver light we walk alone together
And meet to talk in any weather

My body thinks that I should be in bed 
Still I come to drink your thoughts instead 

Late into the night your words transport 
Until morning beams come to report

Eyes cannot close when magic words engage
I should leave you now but still I turn the page.

In the moonlight
of the darkest night
my vision seems most clear
In soulless forest deep
your faithful company I keep 
and that’s what draws me near.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

My name is Joseph Robertshaw. I like poetry and prose and try to write both. I was asked to leave my high school English class and my high school but all these years later, I have just written a fantasy book. I have dropped out of high school and have earned two master’s degrees. I have taught cooking, safety, customer service and now, for the past five years, First Year Composition. I am a husband and a father and, in my life, I have killed turkeys, cooked chickens, thrown crabs, siphoned salmon. I have been a stay at home navy spouse. I have sailed the Bering Sea and rolled through Europe on the rails. I currently live in Ohio and I expect to earn a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing in 2018. 

In The Silver Light is Copyright © Joseph Robertshaw 2015

Curving Path

Stephanie M. Wytovich

Winter is a dust-covered palette,
a cumulus memory
in diluted ink;
it survives in blacks and grays,
in crows and fresh ash,
and I paint a forest of trees as barren as I am,
their branches like arthritic arms
holding me against the wind
but it hurts and
I cough on icicles,
see my breath on its canvas,
an impasto of sickness and age;
I use its solstice brush to smear
charcoal against the sky,
a chiaroscuro background of
feathers and soot
yet while blended and blurred,
a path evolves towards Spring
and I curve it out of darkness,
make it bone,
virginal in asylum-white,
but this blank madness is a snow bank,
a chest of clouds that hold the secret to rebirth
to second chances,
but it’s too bright for my sorrow
so I cover it, too, in shadows
of storm,
in a thunderous moor
uncontained by page
by season
or by art,
and now I can sleep,
sleep sound and sleep tight,
hibernate with snowflakes
that kiss my hair like serpents,
curl up next to winds that
scream my dreams
into nightmares.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Stephanie M. Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, a book reviewer for Nameless Magazine, and a well-known coffee addict. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the HWA, and a graduate of Seton Hill University's MFA Program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker award-nominated poetry collections, Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, and An Exorcism of Angels can be found at www.rawdogscreaming.com, and her debut novel, The Eighth, will be out in 2015 from Dark Regions Press. Follow Wytovich at stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com and on twitter @JustAfterSunset.

The Curving Path is Copyright © Stephanie M. Wytovich 2015

The Mountain Stream

Joseph W. Robertshaw

In deeper pools and eddies whirls time can stand near still, To nourish and revive the wood
Before it babbles down the hill.
Opportunity breaks the surface and just as fast is gone Tumbling along in the frolic of the flow,
A rolling rock, a mossy rolling stone.
Time slips away, liquid, cool, insistent,
Beneath the verdant shroud of circumstance,
Unerring and unending, unhalting downward to the sea.
Chance may bend the course of time and wrest her from her bed Spilling out to feed new lands
Or revive some forgotten desert sands.
For now the rushing torrent sound as it runs across my face, Reminds me that the river soon in other forms,
Will return again to this place.
I am just a mountain so I must stand and wait. 

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

My name is Joseph Robertshaw. I like poetry and prose and try to write both. I was asked to leave my high school English class and my high school but all these years later, I have just written a fantasy book. I have dropped out of high school and have earned two master’s degrees. I have taught cooking, safety, customer service and now, for the past five years, First Year Composition. I am a husband and a father and, in my life, I have killed turkeys, cooked chickens, thrown crabs, siphoned salmon. I have been a stay at home navy spouse. I have sailed the Bering Sea and rolled through Europe on the rails. I currently live in Ohio and I expect to earn a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing in 2018. 

The Mountain Stream is Copyright © Joseph Robertshaw 2015

The Leader

Roger Scouton

The leader, dressed in his robes of silk, wool, and gold, steals a last look on his enemy-free shore. A storm is beyond the sun.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Roger Scouton grew up in Minot, North Dakota. In 1974 Roger began his studies at the University North Dakota School of Law. After graduation Roger clerked for a United States District Judge. Thereafter, he entered private practice. The long legal career added to his life experiences by exposing Roger to a variety of “dramas” in both the criminal and civil settings. Roger developed the art of storytelling over the years as he wrote legal briefs and presented oral arguments. Currently his writing projects include screenplays and novels. His sites are here and here

The first Jack Fields and Amber Reyes adventure GOLDPLAY was published in 2013. The adventure continues in VEYRON. Roger is currently working on Jack and Amber’s third adventure, DESERT ICE, as well DINNER WITH LUCIFER, and a young reader science fiction novel. 

The Leader is Copyright © John Scruton 2015