By Kate Chandler

The girl walks, her soul weary. The Village was the only place that she had ever wanted to call home, its people the only ones she had ever wanted to call family, but through several long years she had failed to become accepted there. She had given them everything that she thought that they might want, and they had taken it all from her with a polite smile, never showing the slightest concern as to who she was or what she might be doing there. 

Their continued indifference has made it clear to her that she was neither wanted nor needed there, so she has given up. She has shut her heart to the ones who spurned her, and abandoned the village. 

There is no going back. 

She tells herself that there was nothing more that she could have done, and yet she cannot make herself believe it. If she had just held on, had spent a little more time there trying to find the secret ingredient that was needed to make them accept her enough to invite her to become one of them, to become a part of The Village, perhaps she could have had everything that she had dreamed of, instead of...

Trying to let go of her failed vision hurts her more than the rejection that has led to it. She knows that she must keep moving — to shake off the feeling of failure, to find a new home, a new purpose — but she can see no inviting path in any direction away from that which her heart had most longed for, away from that which she has been denied. She plods along wherever her feet will take her, not seeing a thing around her; the darkness that has settled in her heart blinding her to all. 

But one day she sees The Tree. The more she looks, the more it glows through the gloom. Its trunk seeming to pulse with light to the rhythm of her own heart. Its branches wave in the breeze as if beckoning her, and although she is far away from it she can hear its leaves whispering to her.

Come to me, girl, I offer you peace

Come to me, girl, and find your release.

Come to me, girl, just follow my song,

Come closer, I’ll show you just where you belong.

She moves towards it. 

The Magician looks on and shakes his head. He cannot just stand by and let this happen. He must arrange an intervention. He can see how difficult it is going to be to get through to her, but he must try. It is the least that he can do. He ponders his first move. 

The girl feels as if she doesn’t belong, but only because she was looking for a sense of belonging in the wrong place, striving to fit in with the wrong people. She only needs to find the right tribe and she will fit in effortlessly, her role in the community obvious, their loyalty and affection towards her assured with a shared vision and purpose...

The Magician summons up a team of geese, and sends them flying over the girl’s head in a V-formation, honking to each other all the way. 

The girl doesn’t see them. 

The Magician thinks again. The girl has suffered from trying to be something other than what she is in order to fit in with others. The more she hides her real self, the more frustrated and bitter she becomes when her sacrifice does not result in acceptance from others. She has shrunk and grown hard as a way of protecting what is left of her. If she could just realise the beauty that that will follow if she has the courage to open herself up and express all that she is…

The Magician decides to grow an array of beautifully coloured flowers at her feet. Some tall and striking, others tiny and delicate, they bloom with each footfall, unfurling their subtle intricacy and delicate scent to her. 

The girl remains oblivious.

The Magician strokes his chin. Perhaps, he thinks, he needs to remind her that everything in life is transitory, that this period of struggle that she is currently suffering through will be over soon enough. If she can just ride out the chaos and disappointment for a little while, it will eventually ease, ushering in a new phase of tranquility and contentment...

The Magician springs up a river beside the path that she walks. It morphs on occasion from its gently flowing state: as it meets and negotiates obstacles in its path, eddies, rapids, and small waterfalls appear then disappear. 

The girl proceeds alongside it, unawares, her eyes set only on The Tree.

The girl’s weary gait and forlorn expression makes the Magician sad. He has made the world to be a playground, and life is for the playing. There is nothing that should be taken so seriously as to make a heart so dark and heavy as hers... 

He sends out small forest animals to her, and they play and dance at her feet. Butterflies and dragonflies chase each other around her head. Birds whistle and warble in the trees while squirrels chirrup away in conversation with each other. 

The girl does not notice them.

The Magician starts to worry. Nothing he has conjured so far seems able to avert her attention from the lure of that tree. Maybe it is its glow that captivates her so. Perhaps if he can help her to see that maintaining a lightness in her own heart will enable any source of light to be reflected from it back out into the world, illuminating the darkness around her wherever she goes...

The Magician makes the moon grow bigger and brighter than it has ever been.

The girl is blind to it, and all the light that reaches her continues to be swallowed up in the black hole that her heart has become. She continues onward, her hunger unsatiated.

The Magician becomes desperate. It seems that the girl is not open to receiving any kind of coded message. Deciding that a more direct approach is needed, he creates an angel and instructs it to hold the girl’s hand and gently counsel her. 

The angel swoops down to the girl, falls in step alongside her, takes her hand and starts murmuring to her in a reassuring manner. It suggests to her that if she would only stop walking for a while, if she could just rest and be still enough to allow the pain and anger and helplessness to fill her up it would in time spill out, unburdening her, and giving her the space needed to let the magic of the world back into her heart again. 

The girl does not see, hear, nor feel the angel’s presence. 

The Magician is out of tricks. In one last act of love, he stands before the girl and spreads out his arms to enfold her in his embrace, intending to directly transplant some of his magic to her via the power of his touch.

The girl walks right through The Magician, her darkness so profound that it transforms him into cold, dead stone in its wake.

The angel vanishes from her side. 

The moon shrinks and dims, before being blocked out entirely by an immense funnel of black clouds collecting overhead. 

The animals retreat and take shelter in their burrows and nests. 

The flowers turn inwards and wilt. 

The sky lets loose a torrent of rain, filling the river so that it becomes swollen and raging. 

A strong wind whips up and blows at the girl’s back, hastening her journey to her destination. 

Moles dig frantically, turning the earth around The Tree into a giant mound that her feet climb unawares. As she reaches its trunk, vines stretch down to greet her, form into a noose and tighten around her neck. 

The river bursts its banks. It floods the land, collapsing the molehill from under her feet. 

The girl hangs, and the world falls dark and silent.


Spark by Eyglo

Spark by Eyglo

Copyright © Kate Chandler 2015


by Kate Chandler

"Oh, I love this song!"

“That’s about the tenth time you’ve said that in an hour.”

"Well I love good music. And you have great taste in it."

Tom smiled bashfully. In truth he had compiled the playlist solely to please Chloe, but she didn’t need to know that. He took a long glance over at her as she sang along to the song, and thought—not for the first time that day—about how one person can totally change the colour of your world, and about how lucky he was to have that person accompanying him this time on the semi-regular drive from Vancouver up to Whistler that he’d been doing since he left university the summer before.

As he was thinking these thoughts, he noticed a car parked in a layover off to the left, and a man standing next to it facing the road. On closer inspection, Tom saw that the man was holding a camera up to his eye, and he grinned to himself at the thought of his car driving into frame and photobombing the man’s picture. He set to wondering whether that picture would make it into any photo collection and, if so, whether anyone he knew—either now or in the past or future—would ever see it, never realising that it was him in the car, and what a special moment in his life the photographer had just captured. The photographer himself certainly wouldn’t have, and so would probably delete it. 

Tom often got caught up wondering about stuff like this, about the vast web of chance and happenstance that surrounds and connects us all unawares. He knew from long experience that it didn’t do to let yourself go too far down the rabbit holes of connections and potentialities, though, lest you never return from them in order to take notice of the surface of things, which was where the real enjoyment was at. Especially in moments like these.

"You want to stop off at Shannon Falls?" he asked.

"Why not," Chloe said. "Do the whole tourist thing. Haven’t been there for years. Have you?"

"I went for a hike up there not long ago, actually, to the top of the falls."

"I didn’t even realise that there was a trail that went up there."

"Sure there is. Stunning views. Maybe we could go together one day."

"Maybe we could," she smiled, giving him a look that made his heart leap.

He parked the car in the lot of the Provincial Park and, chatting idly, they strolled along the small trail beside the river to the viewpoint. When they got there a man had a camera set up on a tripod to take a photograph of the falls. They stood to one side of him, waiting for him to finish, but he shook his head and gestured for them to go ahead, so they walked right up to the barrier and gazed up at the waterfall. It thundered down at full flow from the Spring snow melt and recent rain, and Chloe commented on how it was really quite exhilarating to be able to get so close to the power of nature and how she didn’t seem to do it enough these days. Tom took the chance to further push the idea of a hike together in the future so she could see how great it felt to look down upon the falls from the top. By the time they got back to the car, they had agreed on a weekend to do so and Tom was feeling the most positive he had in months.

Further up the highway, he decided to take her to a little shack of a bar he knew for some appies and a beer. It was right on the river front near where it emptied out into Howe Sound, and was one of his favourite spots in the whole Sea-to-Sky area. Though he had kept it a secret getaway for himself for years, something told him that Chloe was going to be a special enough part of his life to make an exception for her. She seemed to love the place as much as he did, and they spent a happy hour there shooting the breeze and gazing out over the swollen Squamish river to the prettily frosted Tantalus mountains on the other side. 

Chloe went to stand on the bank of the river to scan the sky for eagles while he stayed at their table finishing up his beer. As he looked on at her appreciatively, taking a snapshot in his head of her figure against the backdrop, he could have sworn he heard a camera shutter click. He quickly turned around and caught the eye of the man sat at the table behind him just as he was lowering his camera. He couldn’t be completely sure but he looked like the man with the tripod and camera that they had seen at Shannon Falls. Tom smiled wanly, just in case, but the man stared back at him with a blank expression and, feeling awkward, Tom quickly broke eye-contact. When he glanced back moments later, the man had his head in his phone, busily texting or playing a game, and by the time Tom had looked at his watch to see how they were doing for time, flagged down a waitress and ordered two coffees, the man had gone.

After their coffees, Tom and Chloe took a walk down the path alongside the river and watched as some paddle boarders navigated the strong current. Chloe laughed as Tom had a little rant about what a ridiculous sport it was and how people should just figure out if they wanted to kayak or windsurf, and as she did so she caught his eye and held it and he knew that this was the moment he should kiss her. He smiled, tilted his head ever so slightly and moved towards her, but seeing a loon touch down on the river over her shoulder he instead found himself babbling “Oh look! A loon! What’s he doing on the river?” 

Chloe turned to look, and the moment broke. She spoke about how she loved loons, especially the sound of them calling to each other in the ocean at dawn throughout winter, but Tom barely heard her so thoroughly was he immersed in mentally enacting a series of violent attacks on his idiotic self. On coming out of this fog of self-recrimination, he happened to look up to the path above them, and saw the man from the bar pointing his camera in their direction and, feeling that something was a little out of sorts with this guy and needing to vent the frustration he’d been feeling at himself, Tom decided to confront him.

He left Chloe where she was and quickly scrambled up the steep bank to where the man had been, but when he got there he had vanished from sight. Rattled, but secretly quite relieved that a confrontation hadn’t occurred, Tom went to collect Chloe from the side of the river and they hopped back into the car and continued their drive up the highway in companionable silence, content to listen to the music and take in the scenery and the feeling of freedom that the open road instilled in them both. 

The deer came out of nowhere, chased onto the highway by some hidden predator. Before he knew what he was doing, he’d swerved the car over to the southbound lane and hit a semi-trailer head-on. It felt as if each bone in his body were being crushed simultaneously by individual vices, but through the pain he managed to open his eyes and look over to Chloe’s seat. She wasn’t in it. He looked through the smashed and mangled windscreen and saw nothing in that direction but pieces of her clothes and a lot of blood. The last thing he saw before passing out was the camera guy standing in the road, with the same blank expression, taking photos of the wreck and the scene of chaos beginning to unfold around him.

The church was packed out for the funeral. Even though he got there early, Tom found himself sitting towards the back with a bunch of Chloe’s colleagues rather than further to the front where he felt he deserved to be. He held several unwelcome pangs of envy back as he heard old friend after close friend after family member eulogising the girl who he had loved but only been allowed to have in his life so briefly. Towards the end of the service, they played Portishead’s Roads—one of Chloe’s favourite songs—and a lump arose in Tom’s throat as he realised that it was one of the last songs that he had put on his playlist for their little road trip, in the hope of eliciting conversation about their favourite sad songs. His eyes began to burn. His whole head seemed too hot. He needed some air. He looked behind him to see how clear a path there was to the exit, and saw the man with the camera taking pictures of the shrine at the altar and the congregation. Then he pointed the camera right at Tom.

Tom looked wildly about him, muttered his excuses and got up, tripping over and accidentally stabbing people’s legs with his crutches in his urgency to get to the back of the church. The camera guy had already gone by the time he got there, but as Tom pushed open the door to the outside he saw the man standing in the section of the graveyard reserved for crematory ashes. Tom went over to him, and saw that they were standing at the plaque where Chloe’s ashes were to be interred. The man’s face was leathery up close, and his expression was still blank, but Tom now saw something very familiar about him. He took a good look into the man’s eyes, and saw that they were his own. The man pressed something into Tom’s hand then disappeared. 

Tom opened his hand, and saw that he was holding a memory card.

Suddenly, Tom was sitting in a pub in Vancouver, drinking with some colleagues, when an old friend approached his table, one arm held out to shake Tom’s hand, the other around Chloe, pushing her forward slightly as he introduced her. Realising he was back at the beginning, Tom exited out of the photo slideshow and ejected the memory card from his computer. With a small sigh, he twiddled the memory card between his fingers for a moment then tossed it into the side drawer in his desk, locking it with the tiny key he kept stashed in the cover of a cushion on his sofa. There was a knock at his study door and Shannon walked in with his afternoon cup of coffee, full of teenaged angst about the new girl at school and how the boy Shannon loved had already taken a liking to her. 

Tom drank his coffee and listened politely, interjecting occasional fatherly platitudes about the nature of love and how things happen for good reason, never once believing a word he uttered, but all too aware that it wasn’t he who needed to continue to believe in the power of hope.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

ROADS copyright © Kate Chandler 2015

The Other Side

By Kate Chandler

Olivia was shattered: a particularly boring day at work had led to an uncharacteristically intense session at Fitness World. As she drove home, flushed and soaked with sweat (she was too self-conscious to shower and change in front of the goddesses who attended her gym), she caught a glimpse of her expression in the rear view mirror. What she saw there was empty of anything but catatonic stupor; there was nobody home.

She was startled enough to let some emotion creep to the surface, which she quickly cancelled out by turning on the radio and singing along to a Bon Jovi tune. She barely knew the song and certainly didn’t like it, but it did the job. She had discovered long ago that you can’t think when you’re singing a song that you are simultaneously learning the words to, and that it’s almost impossible to be blue when you’re belting out a tune at the top of your voice, especially if you are singing the chosen song deliberately out of tune in an attempt to convey your derision of it. Even though she knew there was nobody around to hear her, she didn’t want anyone thinking that she liked Bon Jovi.

As usual, there was no place for her to park outside of her house, so she had to park farther along the street, underneath the cherry blossom trees that were ripe to shed their delicate pink petals all over her recently washed white Toyota. She found it especially irksome when something that gave her great joy, and stirred her soul with its simple beauty, became a nuisance to her by its very nature. She would have much rather had a seagull — that pesky, noisy, evil breed of a bird — crap on the hood of her car than her beloved cherry blossom fall upon it. At least then when she was scrubbing it off she could curse at the culprit with a clear conscience.

She walked along the sidewalk to the entrance to her duplex and checked her mail box. Like anyone, she always hoped to find a letter from a friend or a long-lost relative lurking amid the junk mail, but the chance was very slim given that she hadn’t written a letter to anyone herself in the last five years. She sorted through the mail, keeping anything that looked vaguely interesting and discarding the rest, then made her way into the building.

She had bought herself a ready-made salmon linguine from the market for dinner, and so she put the package in the microwave to heat up. It was only when she came to stir it halfway through heating that she looked at it properly and make the observation that salmon linguine really shouldn’t have bits of bacon and leek in it and look so penne-ish. They had put the meal in the wrong packaging, the fools. It was too late to take it back — being that it was already half-cooked — and it tasted fine, and so she finished cooking it and began to eat it, but it hadn’t been what she’d wanted and she knew that the leeks would give her wind. It didn’t exactly ruin her day, but it didn’t help to make it any better, either.

“Happy birthday, Liv,” she muttered, raising an imaginary wine glass to toast herself with. She dared not open a bottle and fill a real glass, as she knew she wouldn’t be able to stop before the bottle had been finished. Drinking an entire bottle of wine on her own at home just for the sake of it was not a habit that she wanted to return to any time soon.

She took a hot shower, standing under the forceful spray thinking about nothing in particular until her skin started to crinkle. She had intended for it to prepare her for bed, but it actually woke her up instead. As she didn’t want to fill the apartment with the empty noise of reality TV and she wasn’t in the mood to concentrate on anything more challenging, she decided to go through the mail she’d brought in with her to see if there was anything worth looking at.

One quick flip through MEC’s Spring catalogue later, having ascertained that she couldn’t afford any of the gear that she might want therein, she picked up the white envelope lying next in the pile. It looked tatty and wasn’t sealed, and the front just had her first name scrawled upon it in ink, so it had evidently been posted by hand. 

Figuring it was a note from one of her neighbours, she opened the envelope and unfolded the piece of lined notepaper within. On it was a crude but sweet pencil drawing of a guy wearing a pair of green and red checkered trousers and a navy short-sleeved t-shirt, seen from behind seated on a small log amid a field full of wildflowers and mushrooms, staring out at a night sky dominated by the moon surrounded by stars and colourful swirls of light.

Olivia laughed in surprise, recognizing it immediately as a drawing she had given to Kurt, a good friend of hers back when they were teenagers. At the time, something about it had caught his imagination and he’d framed it, named the guy in it “Jake”, and imbued him with all the features and characteristics of his ideal man. She turned the paper over, and saw that on the back was written: “MEET ME AT DAWN. YOU KNOW WHERE.”

She furrowed her brow. She did not know where he could mean. They’d barely spoken in four years, and had drifted apart long before that. She didn’t know what would have possessed him to unearth this ancient treasure and send it to her out of the blue on her birthday, unless he’d just been thinking of her of late and had decided to involve her in a little mysterious adventure such as they’d enjoyed in the days of old before life got in the way.

The rest of the mail forgotten, she wandered through to her living room and fired up her laptop to check Facebook. Kurt wasn’t online, and from the looks of things hadn’t been all day, but his status update — posted that morning — simply said “Nuff Fluff.” Olivia smiled, understanding that it was a message to her, indicating that he wanted to meet her in the park where they used to get drunk and stoned and talk all night, the park where they had seen those two words graffitied at the bottom of a set of steps and puzzled over what they meant, in the summer before they had set off in different directions and everything had changed.


They had met under tragic circumstances when they were fourteen. Kurt’s eldest sister had gotten herself involved with the local drug scene and had run away from home after she was implicated in an assault and robbery. He had prayed that she would contact him somehow and let him know that she was safe, but she never did, and though he’d held out hope that this was because she knew that the police were in constant contact with their family and she didn’t want to chance it, in his gut he knew that something bad had befallen her. His suspicion was confirmed when a call came from the police up in Prince Rupert one morning a few weeks later to inform his parents that she and a friend had been found dead in an abandoned building they were squatting. It appeared that they had overdosed on a bad batch of heroin that had been doing the rounds of the northern part of the province.

Not long after he received the news, Olivia’s brother — a star athlete at school — had fallen down a tree well while out snowshoeing in the backcountry with a couple of friends. They hadn’t gone prepared with any gear and the tree well was so deep that they had been unable to pull him out or help him dig for sufficient air, and he’d suffocated before they could get a search and rescue crew to him.

They first became acquainted in the waiting room of the school counsellor one afternoon. At the time, Olivia was still struggling to accept the reality of the loss of her brother, while Kurt was stuck on tormenting himself with the idea that there was something that he could have done to save his sister. The bond made between them was instant and deep. It didn’t hurt that they had a mutual love of the paranormal, and their first year of friendship was filled with repeated attempts to contact their siblings on the other side via means of séances and ghost hunts and good old-fashioned prayers, rituals, incantations and spells.

Their parents believed that this was a morbid obsession, and thought that they were a bad influence on each other and were stopping each other from moving on, but Olivia and Kurt didn’t care. They never got anywhere close to finding what they had hoped to find, but as far as they were concerned the attempts served to help them make it through their respective grieving processes more quickly than they’d expected.

They grew out of their occult practices as they became interested in far more achievable pursuits and ambitions, but they never lost their fascination in the afterlife and their belief in parallel worlds, and would still talk of them during their time alone. They had even made sure that they were in possession of a detailed plan of action as to how one would attempt to contact and communicate with the other in the event of them dying and reaching the other side.

As time went on, Olivia felt the need to live up to her brother’s birthright in some way. Everyone had expected him to grow up to be a professional sportsman, though at the time of his death he hadn’t decided whether soccer or hockey was going to be his focus.  She had always been terrible at sports, but found that she did have a talent for public speaking, and she quickly became the President of the school’s Debating Society, competing and finding success in events nationwide and gaining popularity among her peers.

She developed a keen interest in politics along the way, and began to plan out a career in Local Government for herself. She graduated high school second best in her class and was offered a place at UVic. Victoria, not being too far from home but just far enough to encourage independence, and being home to the Parliament Buildings of British Columbia, was the perfect choice for her.

Kurt, meanwhile, had immersed himself heavily in gaming, and later taught himself to code, finding that he was very gifted at it. Though he never talked of it to Olivia, by the time he was seventeen it was obvious to her that he was involved in hacking or some other kind of crime, due to the large sums of money that he occasionally came into possession of. He used a lot of this money to buy weed and mushrooms (which she happily partook of), and occasionally LSD, mescaline and other psychedelics (which she did not).

He had a small set of friends with whom he enjoyed tripping his balls off, but in general he preferred to experiment by himself, taking copious notes and becoming quite the psychonaut. He kept most of this private, but would always report his major findings and experiences to Olivia.

Kurt was not at all interested in school, doing just enough to graduate. He wasn’t worried about his lack of traditional job prospects: he’d saved plenty of money and his plan was to bum around Europe and indulge in the party scene until that money ran out, then re-evaluate. He and Olivia spent one last summer together, getting completely off their nuts most nights so that it flashed by in a blur, then they had gone in their separate directions. Olivia went to UVic, and Kurt spent two years in Europe, dispatching occasional missives to Olivia to tell her of his various adventures, before moving to Brazil. It was at that point that she got heavily into her studies and work and completely lost track of him.

Five years later he had turned up on the doorstep of the townhouse that she had shared with a couple of work colleagues at the time, having tracked her down via her parents. It turned out that he had travelled around most of South America after his time in Brazil, and then had spent significant periods in Australia, Thailand, India and Alaska. He hadn’t found whatever it was that he was looking for in any of those places, and had grown bored of traveling, so he had returned home.

They had spent a wild couple of months catching up with each other’s lives and then, finding that they had nothing in common anymore except the past, slowly drifted apart again. The time between meetings grew to weeks, then months, and suddenly she realised that he had become somebody that she used to know — just another friend who she only ever heard anything of via social media.


Olivia’s alarm clock woke her up shortly before dawn. She rubbed her eyes and got out of bed immediately. She pulled on the clothes that she’d left lying on the chair by her bed, drank a glass of water, and then left the house and headed the few blocks to Douglas Park. It being early in Spring, the air had a chill to it, but felt and smelled wonderful and invigorated her to no end.

As she walked, the birds started up their dawn chorus, and her heart sang along with them. She promised herself that she would get up earlier from now on to appreciate this time of the morning, which had always felt mystical to her. Then she laughed at herself, realising that she’d never likely pull herself out of her usual routine of cozying up under her comfy duvet until it was absolutely necessary to get up.

She arrived at the park and saw a figure sitting on the steps in the centre of the park by the fountain. He seemed to be studying the ground but he looked up, saw her and waved at her. He was dressed in checkered trousers and a navy short-sleeved t-shirt. She laughed, impressed by the level of his attention to detail, and trotted over to him.

When she got up close to him, she reared back.  It wasn’t Kurt.

The man smiled at her. “Please don’t be scared, Liv,” he said.

He stood up, and held his hand out to her by way of greeting.

“I’m Jake. You know me, right?”

Olivia did not shake his hand, but neither did she turn and walk away. There was something comforting about the way he looked at her. She felt good in his presence, felt together in a way she had never before experienced. And she knew that he looked and sounded exactly like Kurt’s “Jake”. He had facial moles in exactly the right places and was even wearing the same aftershave as Kurt had favoured in his ideal man, for Chrissake. Her fear was overruled by her curiosity.

“You had better explain what is happening, and fast, or I’m out of here,” she told him.

“Okay, but will you sit down?”

Olivia perched herself on the edge of the fountain, facing him. He sat back down on the steps.

“The Other Side exists. I’m from there. Kurt is there right now — he finally found a way through, and he has sent me to tell you, because he knew that it would be the only way that he could make you believe him.”

Olivia did not want to ask the next question, but she had to.

“Is he dead?”

“Hell, no!” Jake smiled at her reassuringly. “He’s fine. More than fine. He’ll be here in a minute, don’t you worry. He just wanted to surprise you by sending me first.”

Olivia was bemused. She didn’t know what to think, but she knew how she felt: she felt like she would strangle Kurt when she saw him, for scaring her like this. A few seconds later she was shaking her head and laughing to herself. This was so like him, it’d just been so long since they’d hung out properly that she’d forgotten.

“Are you for real?’ she asked Jake.

“I’m for ideal,” he replied.

She looked at him questioningly. “I’m afraid I’m not quite following you.”

“The world I’m from is a world of ideals. Everything is perfect there, not real.”

Suddenly Kurt lolloped up behind Olivia. She turned and hit him in the chest, then hugged him, and then hit him again. She tried to say something, but found that there were no words available to her.

“See you later,” said Jake.

She turned in his direction just in time to watch him smile and then vanish.

Kurt looked at Olivia and snorted with laughter. “Oh, God, your face!”

He gently pushed her lower jaw back up to stop her mouth from hanging open, then held her by the shoulders and looked her in the eyes until she had gotten over her shock enough to be able to focus her attention on him.

“Walk with me,” he said, proffering his arm.


He took her to the edge of the park where a wall separated it from a neighbouring piece of land. Through the holes in a beautifully wrought black metal gate, she saw a large garden with  a natural pond in the centre, the grass around it dotted with wildflowers. He explained to her that he’d recently discovered that the dawn chorus was not just a random selection of birds trying to show themselves off to potential mates, nor were they members of the same flock letting each other know that they’d made it safely through the night and were ready to get up and at a new day.

The secret he’d found was that the dawn chorus is a carefully articulated code, and he had managed to decipher it. It was telling anyone who knew how to listen properly that the shroud that hides the real world from the ideal world, and vice versa, is thin enough to be breached during the time of the chorus being sung. It also tells one how to go about making the necessary breach.

“The real world and ideal world exist alongside each other, all the time. There is no Other Side, per se, rather it’s all the same side — we’re just hidden from each other by this shroud. It’s normally a little too thick for us to see through, and most of us are usually looking at things in the wrong way to be able to see the other world at the times when it is thin enough.”

He turned to face Olivia, to make sure she was concentrating on what he was saying.

“You have to learn to look in a new way, much like an artist does. Look at things as their essence, rather than the physical form they manifest in. Look at them as they are, rather than how you have learned to see them. There are certain places that can help show you this, that can give you a shortcut to learning to see in a different way. This garden is one of them. We need to go inside.”

He gave Olivia a foot up so she could clamber up the wall. When she dropped down the other side, she gasped audibly. She wasn’t seeing the garden as she saw it through the gate. It was as if she’d dropped into a Monet or Van Gogh painting. Kurt vaulted the wall and landed next to her.

“You’re seeing it?” he asked.

She nodded, dumbfounded.

“Keep looking. Or rather, keep letting it just wash over you. Try not to think about what you’re seeing or interpret it in any way. If you can manage that, you’ll start smelling it, too, and feeling it, and then you’ll be perceiving the ideal world as the truth, the same way as you usually perceive the real world as such.”

Olivia did as she was told, and before long she was fully immersed in the ideal world, and blind to the real world. It felt as if she were one person in a crowd of millions singing along to a song at a rock concert, completely lost in the ultimate harmony, the moment lasting for eternity. She felt both individual and part of the whole at the same time, everything that has been or would be in existence being perceived by her all at once. She was there, Kurt was there, Jake was there, her brother was there, both Kurt’s sisters, Olivia’s parents, her grandparents, all her ancestors and descendants. There was no place to be other than where they all were, and no time other than the moment they were all inhabiting.

Gradually she noticed herself standing back in the walled garden, her perception fine-tuning itself back to the real world. The flowers and pond regained their edges, their finer features, their individual differences. She began to feel the chill of the air, smell its fragrance. She heard the dawn chorus breaking up, the birds starting to go about their individual tasks for the day. She felt Kurt’s hand in hers, became aware that he was talking to her.

“…tell you as soon as I found out, but I needed to bring a bit of mystique back to your life first, get your head into the right mindset. Then I remembered that your birthday was coming up and that I could give you the ideal gift – literally. So, happy birthday, Liv!”

She leaned into him, smiling broadly. She knew that the experience was coming to an end, but that it would be experienced time and again now that she had learned that the way to reach the other side was to stop wasting time yearning and searching for something that wasn’t there, and start paying the kind of attention needed to see what was and always would be right in front of her.

Spark by Eyglo

THE OTHER SIDE copyright © Kate Chandler 2015

Goodnight, My Friend

by Kate Chandler

It started with a whimper. I had left my late shift at the hospital and was walking briskly through a dark, cold and blustery November night towards the bus stop, so bundled up in my coat and thoughts that I am surprised that I heard anything at all. But hear it I did, and as I stopped in my tracks to cock my head and listen more intently, there was a second whimper - a little louder this time -  accompanied by a shuffling sound. I turned my head towards the sound and saw a small square cardboard box on the side of the pavement, partially hidden by an overgrown hedge.

It was shaking.

I quickly looked at my watch and saw that I had plenty of time until my bus was due, and so I approached the box and cagily lifted it up from the ground. I don’t know what I was expecting to find underneath it - a puppy or something, I guess. When I saw what it actually was, I immediately dropped the box back down to the ground and jumped backwards.

You didn’t like that at all. You cried, in fact - a long wail that sent a shudder right through me, but that left me feeling rather more empathetic and less revulsed than I had been just a few seconds before. I stood there looking at the quivering box, heart hammering in my chest, wondering what to do. All I knew was that I couldn’t leave you, that because I’d found you a duty of care was now upon me. I knew I couldn’t provide a home for you myself, but that it was my obligation to find somewhere permanent for you to stay.

I went back over to you and lifted up the box. You looked at me. I looked at you. You tried to smile but it came off more of a grimace. I could tell you were pleading with me not to leave you there all alone. I smiled at you, picked you up, placed you gently in the box, closed the lid and wrapped you up warm inside my coat. The bus arrived a couple of minutes after we reached the bus stop, and once I’d boarded it and had settled down in a window seat next to a heater for the forty-minute ride home, I heard you sigh in contentment, and felt the sense of calm as it washed over you.

When we reached home, I lit a fire in my little wood-burning stove, found a large clear tupperware container in the kitchen and took you out of the cardboard box to place you in it. We sat together gazing at the fire for a little while as it burgeoned into life, until I noticed that you were thirsty and hungry. I couldn’t think what best to feed you. I placed small bowls of water and milk and gravy in the container with you but you hardly touched any of them. Then I tried you with a small piece of tuna and a few beans. You seemed more interested in those but not nearly enough, and made it clear to me that you needed a specific kind of nutrition. I dutifully pricked my finger with a pin and transferred a few drops of my blood into your water dish. You lapped it all up then sat back, seemingly satisfied.

I transferred you to a large mason jar and you slept in my bed with me that night, me curling around you like a cat protecting her kitten. Despite the cold glass divide it felt cozy to lay with you that way, and I felt more content and at ease than I had done for a very long time.

Still, I knew you couldn’t stay. I had to find you a home of your own and I had to do it quickly.

The next day, after an early breakfast, we got straight out onto the streets in order to find a suitable candidate. As we walked around town you slowly started to let me in on what had happened between you and your previous owner. You told of how you had been cruelly and relentlessly attacked by several of your own kind; how your owner - alongside you - had felt each and every blow that they had dealt you and, at his wit’s end after several years of suffering, had finally decided that the only way he could save himself was to abandon you; how, even though you had been the one abandoned, you couldn’t stop worrying over how he was now coping without you, his best friend, his cheerleader and confidant.

I might have cried for your pain, had I not been concentrating so hard on ending it. Your story just made me all the more resolved to find you a new home and a fresh start as soon as I possibly could.

The task took longer than I had anticipated. We crossed back and forth across the entire town, through main streets and back alleys, looking for the right person. We sat on the steps of the art gallery and watched people milling around in the crowd, picking out potential suitors, then approaching them and engaging them in conversation. We sat on park benches next to lonely souls in need of company. We scouted coffee shops and bars and ice-cream parlours for that certain someone. Not one of them satisfied your requirements. You wouldn’t let just anyone provide you with a home and call you their own - you were looking for some quality in particular. You assured me that you’d know the right person as soon as we were in their presence, so we kept on trudging the streets until it was dark again.

We found George at around 4.50 p.m., standing atop the wall of a railway bridge, swaying alarmingly close to the wrong side of the edge. I approached him slowly, cautiously, vocally making him aware that I was there so that I didn’t startle him into any sudden movements. He didn’t turn around to look at me.

“Leave me alone,” he said, just before I reached the wall, “You can’t stop me from doing this.”

“I understand,” I said, letting you prompt my words, “But fate has led us here to be in each other’s lives at this very moment, and I just can’t allow you to do what you want to do in my presence.”

“Then go. Leave me to it.”

Unperturbed, I walked right up to him. Up close, his clothes stank of spilled liquor and stale tobacco.

“I’m sorry, I can’t. Not without hearing your story at least. If I’m to be the last person on earth who sees you, I need to bear witness to who you are, why you’re doing this. Please talk to me, for my sake if not your own.”

He turned around and raised his eyebrows, evidently surprised by my words, and nearly lost his balance as he did so. Much to my heart’s relief, he recovered and turned back towards the steep drop the other side of us, and the railway tracks below.

“Okay,” he said. I thought I heard a hint of mild amusement in his voice.

He told me about his young wife, how he had married her out of graduate school and how they had been set to travel around the world to find their fortune until she had fallen pregnant and given birth to their daughter; how his daughter’s birth had changed his outlook on life, shown him just what sort of treasure could be had right at home without needing to travel to distant shores; how he had changed his plans to become some big-shot animator in L.A. or New York, and happily settled instead for animating low-budget films at a small local company that had felt like family.

He told me how he felt that his appreciation for this change in destiny had seemed to anger, rather than please, the gods; how three years beforehand, a car waiting to turn at a crossroads had been hit by a truck coming the other way and been shunted right across the street into the crosswalk just as his wife was crossing with his daughter in her stroller; how his daughter had been killed instantly and his wife had died some months later after a long battle with her injuries; how he had slowly fallen apart afterwards, drinking too much, picking fights with everyone who ever cared about him, until he lost his job, and then his friends, and then eventually even isolated himself from his remaining family; how he had spent the last year surviving on a cocktail of drink, drugs and sleep in an effort to blot out all consciousness, until he had finally realised that there was no hope left for him, and no use carrying on without it.

It broke my heart to listen to him tell his story, but you - I could feel you gaining energy. The force of compassion you were sending out filled my heart with an overwhelming sense of peace, so that I looked at this man not with pity, but with utter love. When he had finished talking, I touched his trouser leg. He looked down at me, his face cold and stern, but what he saw in my eyes got through to him and his expression immediately softened.

“I want to show you something,” I said to him. “Will you come down and look at what I have in this box? I promise you, once you have done so, I will walk away and leave you to it, if that is still what you want.”

I didn’t see why he would trust me with that promise, but he looked at his watch, noted aloud that the train wouldn’t be coming along for another five minutes anyway, and agreed to hop down and see what was in my silly box while he waited. He was a big man. I guess he figured that there was no way I, with my slight frame, would be able to stop him from climbing back up onto the wall afterwards and doing what he felt he had to do.

I passed him the box. He opened it. At first he turned his face away, but the strength of feeling you sent out immediately made him look back at you. Tears sprang up in his eyes, and a look of awed peace washed over his face, dropping five years of anguish from his features and posture. He smiled. A lovely, beatific smile.

“You want it?” I asked.

He looked up. “You’d give it to me?” he asked, astonished.

“I’ve got one of my own. This one wants to be with you - can’t you feel it?”

“Hell yes, I can.”  He giggled, unexpectedly and quite charmingly.

“Then, if you trust me, you’d better come with me now. We haven’t got a lot of time - it can’t survive much longer out of a body. I have a good friend, Drew, who used to be a surgeon but was recently struck off - don’t ask why, it was illegal, but nothing major - and he owes me several huge favours. I’ll call him over, we’ll get this thing into you.”

I stopped talking while the commuter train passed at full speed through the tunnel below us. He watched it go by with an almost maniacal expression on his face. He looked back into the box. He shook his head in disbelief and then looked at me sidelong, evidently trying to judge the amount of crazy that was hiding behind my pretty, young face.

“What the hell,” he said, “I’m supposed to be dead at this minute, what’s a little heart surgery going to hurt?”



George scrubbed up pretty well once he’d recovered from the operation. I found that I couldn’t bring myself to kick him - and you - out of the house afterwards. I’d got so used to having you around by then, and you make me feel alive like nothing else has in my life.

You and George have proved to be as good a match for each other as you’d thought. He is slowly getting back to his craft and looking for new work, and though he still has plenty of dark moments, and still drinks too much to try to block them out, it is obvious how much your presence calms him and brings him hope. Those beatific smiles of his are much more frequent these days and just as lovely, and the feeling of being charmed that I experienced in that first giggle I heard from him was not inconsequential. Now, when I curl around you at night like a cat protecting her kitten, it is not the cold glass of a mason jar that divides us, but the warm, strong body of a man who I think I am starting to fall in love with.

I can’t say what the future holds for any of us, but I promise you that I will never intentionally cause you pain, and will always protect you from any cruel attacks delivered by your own kind. And whatever George does, and wherever he takes you, I shall never abandon you.

Goodnight, my friend. Sweet dreams.


Spark by Eyglo

Spark by Eyglo

GOODNIGHT, MY FRIEND copyright © Kate Chandler 2015

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


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 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