By David Stewart
I was walking through a really nice piece of bushland out past the Grampians. Really lovely area. Gum trees and a path winding through them. Not another soul around and the perfect place to get some thinking done. I’d seen a kangaroo off in the distance and heard a wombat passing through the undergrowth nearby. Looking up into the trees I thought I could see a Koala. To be honest it’s a fairly fine distinction between a sleeping Koala and a grey lump in a tree but I knew it was a marsupial when it started to move. I was delighted. Seeing a Koala in the wild is fairly rare but seeing one awake and moving is rarer still. Seeing one sing is something else entirely.
“Start spreading the news!”
He had really nice tenor voice.
“I’m leaving today!”
He danced out on a branch performing a sort of soft shoe shuffle.
“I wanna be a part of it. New York New York!”
I have no idea where the top hat and the cane came from. He must have been hiding them in the branches.
Then there were a whole chorus line of them. The male Koalas (bucks I think) in top hats and tails, and the girls (does, but don’t quote me on that) wearing sequined gowns. They danced in formation. They did tap. They sang backing vocals and hit all the notes.
Coloured lights came from the bushes. Shimmering confetti fell from the trees. At one point the first Koala grabbed a girl from the chorus line and danced while the band played on. They were amazingly light on their paws.
The finale was fantastic. He held the finale not for ages “New York Neeew Yooooooork!” They gathered in a formation behind him and froze grinning in a tableau while pyrotechnics went off.
I was too stunned to say anything. A wombat clapped and I think a kookaburra asked for an encore. Suddenly they were gone. The chorus line disappeared into bushes. The lead singer started to climb his tree, he got halfway and turned to me: “Breath a word of this to anyone and you’re dead”.
By David Stewart
Really excited. Today is my first day as a professional hit man. I’ve got my weapons (shotgun, pistol, hunting rifle and bowie knife) and I’ve placed my advertisement on the online classifieds site. I spent ages on the wording and I think it’s perfect. Vague enough not to arouse suspicion but clear enough that if you’re looking for a hitman you know I’m your guy. Now all I have to do is wait for the phone to ring.
I’ve had to revise my advertisement to clear up some misunderstandings. I got a lot of calls yesterday and everyone wanted to use my services but none of them wanted a hit man. They were all very sure about what it was they wanted and some had very specific needs. They were prepared to offer a lot of money but there isn’t enough cash in the world to make me do what some of these gentlemen wanted.
Three days and no calls. Mother rings every day, sometimes twice. I’m thinking of sniping her from a distance just for practice.
Four more days with only one call. Some cretin wanted me to take out the Prime Minister for $40. I told him a job like that would cost a lot more and he said he could go up to $67 if I did the Treasurer as well. All I want to do is murder people for Money. Is that too much to ask?
First real job. Not as glamorous as I hoped for but as the caller pointed out I never said “Humans only” in my ad. It should be easy because the target has fairly regular habits and I’ve always hated cats so there’ll be no conscience issues to worry about.
On lawyer’s advice I’m pleading guilty to all the charge even the public indecency one, although I still maintain that it’s the policeman’s fault for grabbing my pants as I was trying to get over the fence.
Just met my new cellmate. Ironically what he said he was going to do to me tonight is exactly what someone was prepared to pay me top dollar for when I first posted my ad. And he’s getting it for free. Worse still- it turns out he’s a cat lover. Regret killing my mum now because I’d really appreciate visitors.
The line was long and Richard was growing impatient. In two days he would be leaving on his trip around the world – his first wish – and he hadn’t expected things to be this bumpy. Now that he had more money than he could possibly imagine – his second wish – having to draw it out and physically change it to another currency was tedious.
His legs hurt. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other trying to get the blood flowing. Three people in front of him sat a woman in a wheelchair. At least she looked comfortable. His shins began to ache and a tiny sweat broke across his forehead. To his left was a comfy couch, invitingly vacant. He tried his luck turning to the person behind him “Ermm… Would you mind my spot. My legs are killing me?” He asked. The woman gave him no verbal reply though her incredulous look spoke volumes.
Fifteen minutes passed before there was movement forward. Richard looked toward the front of the line again. Wheelchair girl was first now.
First in line and comfortable.
Richard looked in envy and absentmindedly said on an out breath. “I wish I could swap with her.”
A flash of blue light washed the room as a Genie appeared from Richard’s bag. All except Richard were frozen in time. The Genie said to Richard “Master. Your third wish is my command!”
“No! No !” No! It was just a…” Before Richard could finish his protests the Genie turned to smoke and entered Richard’s body up his nose. As quickly as the Genie disappeared he shot out of Richard’s ear ricocheting off wall after wall then impacting into the wheelchair woman hard enough to make her chair rock in place. She shuddered violently, then the Genie escaped via her mouth and raced directly back inside Richard. When Richard was done convulsing the Genie slowly emerged from Richard’s nostrils like he was smoking toxic gas. The Genie floated over to the wheelchair woman. Richard’s eyes stared back at the Genie from the frozen body in the chair.”
“Your final wish has been granted. My servitude to you has been fulfilled. You have no more wishes. I am no longer bound to you. Farewell.” With that the Genie disappeared.
The world be around him began to move, none the wiser. The teller said “Next.”
Richard wheeled to the window weeping, “There’s been a horrible misunderstanding.”
The teller wasn’t listening. He was distracted by the man tap dancing three places back in the line.
By Jason Geary
February 27th 1933. Berlin. The Reichstag is burning.
Hitler watches with Goebbels by his side, speechless. They stand an island of calm amidst the chaos about them. Fire crews are dragging hoses and ladders past them with ignorance to the chain of events that is about to be set in motion.
Goring completes the trio. He is surprised by the calm of the others. “This is a Communist outrage! One of the culprits has been arrested. He was found inside, cowering from the flames.”
Hitler steeled his look. “This is a sign from heaven.”
With that the dome of the Reichstag collapsed.
By Rik Brown
10 seconds since he’d thought about her.
9 empty bottles beside him.
8 different ways she used to laugh.
7 years they’d been together.
6 weeks since she’d left him
5 days since he’d seen her.
4 times he’d betrayed her
3 times she’d forgiven him.
2 late to change things.
1 man alone at midnight.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
By Amy Bishop
Benches are places for thinking and parks are for the search of peace and tranquility but peace and tranquility can be elusive. Yet the haze of distress and uncertainty lifted as he reached for her hand. Escaping his reach she shook her head, walking away. She had a husband and kids to get back to.
By Jason Geary
Whenever I come across an errant piece of string I wrap it tightly around the first knuckle of my pointer finger cutting the blood flow and turning it purple.
It’s a habit I got into as a child, something I’ve paid no mind to for all of these years, until my wife pointed it out as odd. I tap the fingertip on surfaces around me, trying to gauge how hard I must push to register feeling. It’s a curious thing.
It goes cold, both to the touch and what I feel. This, in microcosm, is what it must feel like to be dead. I can cheat death. Not so as to offend it, just a white lie to keep things in order.
Then comes the point where I decide to let it go. This is not easy internal monologue. Part of me wants to set a record for amount of time the circulation is cut off. Another part of me wants to see how deep I can make the string dig into my flesh. The logical side of me says ‘Let it go. You’ll hurt yourself. Don’t be stupid.’ That’s the part that always wins, though the curiosity still lingers.
By Dave Stewart
Get back! I’ve got garlic!
Garlic? Right. I’m not sure how I feel about Garlic.
What do you mean? You’re a vampire. You hate garlic!
Do I? What were you planning to do with it?
Well I… it’s garlic… I was…
I have to say just waving it at me isn’t doing all that much. You could make me eat it but good luck trying to force feed me. And if it kills me I’m hardly going to chow down on some garlic bread am I?
Does it kill you?
Honestly I’ve got no idea. I saw a movie last week where Dracula hated garlic but in another one he just laughed at it. It’s so confusing being a vampire these days you just don’t know what kills you or not.
What about this crucifix! Cower before my crucifix fiend!
Now that does nothing at all. But then I don’t know if that’s because I’m not bothered by religious iconography or because that particular crucifix is made of lego. That’s just part of a spaceship that’s conveniently cross shaped. I don’t think I’m afraid of everything cross-shaped- I’d be a nervous wreck around lattice fences for a start.
I must say you’re making this very difficult.
Well how do you think I feel? You’re the human, your job is easy: run, scream, bleed, die. But thanks to modern vampire fiction my role is frustratingly undefined. I’m not even sure what I’m meant to do when I catch you- am I supposed to make two tiny puncture marks in your neck as a sort of penetration metaphor or do I savage you like a wild animal and emerge gore-stained and satisfied? Or do we fall in love and get angst ridden because we can never be together?
Well I’d actually prefer the last option although I would have to clear it with the wife.
Can I turn into a bat? When it gets light do I return to a coffin? When it’s a nice day can I go to the zoo and just put up with a bit of sparkling or will I turn black and die? It’s such a stress being a 21st century vampire.
I’d never really thought about it before. I had no idea you faced such a tough time. Care for a scone?
Thanks. Mmm nice. What’s in this?
Cheese and Garlic.
By Jason Geary
I stop at her headstone on the way to the riverbank. The ground is damp; the sun yet to begin its siege, dew is has a stronghold upon the ground. I step close to her grave and am taken by surprised when my boot sinks noticeably, I shouldn’t be, the grave is but three days covered.
I touch her headstone and apologise. I am a little embarrassed as I hear echoes of her chiding me. “Always the last word Daniel.” A crow in the distance calls back as if mocking me on her behalf. I nod, acknowledging her victory from beyond the grave.
Two more soft steps before I walk on solid ground again. The basket on my arm is growing heavy. The boy is no doubt getting cold in the morning air.
Before I descend down the riverbank I pause to take a last look of a life that was. Rolling hills. Stone cottage. Companionship. Happiness. Then I turn and simply walk away.
The muddy bank is more difficult to negotiate today. As if She is trying to hold me at arms length. I wade into the shallows. The small fish dart away at the intrusion but curiosity has gotten the better of them and they soon return. I take the basket off of my shoulder and remove the boy. He is wailing now. I wonder if there is a soul on earth that can not hear him. He looks at me with his mothers eyes I kiss each of them, which goes a way toward calming the boy. I hold him close feel his warmth against me one last time.
I am waist deep in water now. I hold him at arms length beneath the current. His limbs flail. I howl as the boy’s stare becomes void. My volume is matched by that of the crow, who has come to observe the commotion. The struggle doesn’t last long. The boy goes limp quickly. I release my hold and watch him drift with the current, the small fish pecking at him as he goes. The sun breaks over the horizon and mist begins to rise from the water shrouding the boy. He is gone. I cross the river, at its deepest point I am completely submerged, I could just stay here, join the boy.
No, I move onward, knowing that I will never be able to leave this place behind.
By Jason Geary
His heart was pumping hard. He couldn’t believe that DeNiro had just read his name aloud – that in itself was dream come true. His category – Best Supporting Actor – was filled with his heroes. He was dumbfounded to be sitting in such fine company. Clint Eastwood shook his hand when he arrived at his seat. He nearly wet himself.
A hush fell over the crowd and the pause between “And the winner is…” and the announcement of a name was timed to perfection. DeNiro knows how to play a pause.
“Donald Richardson. For Tides of Iron.”
The ground dropped from beneath his feet. His heart almost came out of his mouth as every famous face the world turned to look at him, applauding politely. He rose from his seat and felt a constant patter of congratulating hands hitting him on the back. His heroic World War 2 theme music played as he ascended the stairs to the stage where he shook DeNiro’s hand.
He turned and looked to the audience, he felt like the world was at his feet.
Every person who’d ever inspired him to act – in person and on screen – was smiling back at him.
This was the moment he would stake his claim.
The moment he would set himself apart from those who had come before.
‘Open with something cool…’ was his mantra as the applause died and the oversized clock at the rear of the auditorium counted backward from sixty. An expectant hush fell over the crowd. He knew he’d written a great speech. He just had to get through it. ‘…Open with something cool.’
He found, to his horror, that the first words from his mouth were “Wow. Thank you. I did not expect this at all.” He cursed his inability to rise to the moment. With an opening like that – this speech would be mediocre at best.
By Jason Geary
I recall first thinking that my bag was quite heavy for what I was carrying about a week ago. It took five days for that curiosity to get the better of me.
I emptied the bag of all its contents, placed it on bed and looked inside… Nothing.
Then I noticed movement in the lining. Clunky solid movement.
I prodded it with my finger and watched stunned, as the lining was illuminated bright red. Had something alive had been sewn into the lining? I grabbed some scissors and carefully cut a hole. Like a burst dam thick liquid poured from the hole and a half-formed humanoid foetus spat itself into bottom of the backpack. It lay wriggling blindly as the seeping thick red liquid was threatening to drown the creature in the bottom of my backpack. Instinctively I reached in and lifted the creature to safety.
Holding it by its feet gave me a chance to inspect it closely. The creature wasn’t fully formed, its eyes lolled without focus. Its hands, or what I think were its hands, were flailing trying to find purchase. Its chest glowed red. On closer inspection I could see a heart beating wildly in its chest, radiating light.
The creature puffed up large, the filled lungs shrouded the light from its heart and formed dancing shadows on the bedroom walls. With considerable effort it shot a solid mass from its throat as it exhaled forcefully. With its air passage clear it made a sound. It was uncontrolled, guttural and constant like an old man who’s lost his battle with emphysema.
Suddenly its eyes locked on mine. I wanted to look away but I couldn’t. I reached out to support its head trying to give it some stability. It calmed considerably. I held it in my palms letting its warmth merge with mine. I looked at its vicious mouth, its needle teeth were bared and its malformed lips smiled at me.
I felt myself smile back. Jesus Christ. I can’t give up now. I find a towel and wrap it tight. Its breath regulated the creature falls asleep. My phone rings. I let it go to message bank. “Hi! You’ve reached Toby. I can’t make it to the phone right now. I’m probably out partying. You know what to do…. Beep”
It is Jessica.
“Um. Toby. I can’t do this anymore. You can’t commit to anything. I can’t wait for ever. Don’t try and call. I’ll screen.” Click.
Can’t commit huh? I’ll show her.
By David Stewart
It was my fifth session and I was just starting to relax. I’d been reluctant to see a psychologist to begin with but Craig made things easy and was an excellent listener. He wanted to know if I had any recurring dreams so I told him about the rainforest, the dream where the animals all watch me from a distance and repeat anything I say. I stared at the wall as I told it and when I looked up Craig wasn’t writing on his pad anymore.
“Are there any… penguins in the forest?” He asked.
“Now you mention it there are. Lots of them. Some on the ground and some in the trees.”
Craig stood up, which is something he’s never done in one of our sessions before and went around to sit behind his desk. “What does that mean?” I asked.
“Oh nothing. Nothing. Nothing at all. Doesn’t mean a thing.” He was sweating even though the room was fairly cool. “What are the penguins… what is that they’re doing? If they’re doing anything I mean.”
“Dancing. They’re dancing”.
He jolted in his chair.
“Dancing you say? Well that’s interesting. Fancy that. Dancing penguins in a forest. Are they normal colours or-”
“Green. They’re always green.”
I heard him gasp from across the room.
“I’m sorry Mr Robson but that’s all we’ve got time for today.”
“It’s only 3: 46. We’ve still got-”
“Sadly that’s where we have to end it. I’m sorry. We’ll have to stop there.”
“Oh. Well shall I make an appointment with Miss Carstairs on my way out?”
“No. No that won’t…. just hold on a second.” He picked up the intercom and spoke into in a low voice but I’ve got excellent hearing. “Alice I’ve got a code red. The rainforest dream with green penguins and they’re dancing!” I could also hear a small shriek from the outer office. “Take the can of mace with you and use both locks.” He hung up. “Well Mr Robson. Thankyou for coming.”
“So another appointment…”
“I’m afraid I’m retiring. So I can’t take any more appointments. I’m totally retiring completely so it’s been lovely seeing you and good luck with… everything.”
I went to shake his hand but he jerked back suddenly and tripped over his own wastepaper basket. I saw myself out and heard the door lock behind me.
By Amy Bishop
It was amazing the confidence that a new dress could grant.
Whilst heels give height, makeup a clearer complexion and jewellery could imply wealth, a dress was almost singularly amazing in its ability to put forth whatever image you wanted – even to show your true self if you wished, Shannon mused.
You could be strong, delicate, professional, sexy or a combination of all of them if you wished. Shannon gave a small twirl in front of the mirror before fingering the way the dress fell on his hips.
He turned back to the slightly bewildered shop assistant and smiled at her.
“I’ll take it.” he said, turning back to his reflection in the mirror.
Yes, he definitely felt more confident in this then he did in trousers.
By David Stewart
Brian didn’t know anybody else on the train.
Stranger One: An older woman. 25 years ago she had called the police to complain about the noise coming from a party Brian had hosted when he was a student. He’d been arrested for marijuana possession. A few nights later he threw stones at her windows but got the wrong house by mistake.
Stranger Two: A middle-aged man who had written a letter to the newspaper which they’d published that morning. Brian said if he ever met him he’d like to punch him in the face. He once pulled Brian’s mother out of the path of a speeding cyclist and saved her life.
Stranger Three: A middle aged lady. She’d backed into Brian’s car in a Safeway carpark and then driven off. She’d been talking on her mobile phone at the time to a young woman who had rung the wrong number looking for a clothing company she wanted to work for. Brian had come back with his shopping to find a dented fender.
Stranger Four: The middle aged lady’s five year old son. In 12 years he would get Brian’s daughter pregnant. He would not go with her when she terminated the pregnancy. He would spend that night at home having cyber sex with an 18 year old waitress from Oklahoma.
Stranger Five: A young male office worker who answered the telephone in a clothing company. Three nights ago he’d had cybersex with Brian in a chatroom. He told Brian he was an 18 year old waitress from Oklahoma.
Stranger Six: A teenage girl. She’d called Brian by mistake earlier in the week because his number was one digit away from a clothing company she wanted to work for. He thought she sounded frustrated. She would later grow up to work as a nurse. She would hold his daughter’s hand while she terminated her pregnancy.
Stranger Seven: An accountant with the tax office. Later that day he would decide Brian’s taxes needed to be audited. When he was growing up he was terrified by the night someone threw stones at his bedroom window while he was sleeping. Earlier that morning he’d read a letter in the newspaper and told his wife he agreed whole-heartedly and wanted to shake the writer’s hand. Once he’d lost concentration while riding his bike and had nearly hit Brian’s mother.
By Jason Geary
Rachel met Kristy on the train three days ago and they’d been inseparable since. London had been good to them though they had been a little too splashy with their money. Paris would have to be done on a budget. The idea of saving a few pennies was appealing. The practicality of it was another thing.
“Are you sure this is a double bed?” The bed was small, in fact, Rachel was sure it was narrower than most single beds she had slept in.
”Yeah, it’s a double. That’s what I booked. The rooms are small here. Don’t worry. It’s a Paris thing. Top and tails?” She was still drunk; her spirits buoyed by the attention of a local man who’d bought her drinks all night.
”Sure.” Replied Rachel, trying to hide her nerves.
Rachel went to the bathroom and brushed her teeth. She returned to find Kristy passed out on the bed. It was only when she crawled into bed that the horrid reality became clear. Kristy was splayed out at odd angles and impossible to move. Rachel looked to the floor; maybe she could sleep there. On closer inspection, she wished she hadn’t looked at the carpet at all. She snuggled down and turned her back away from Kristy. She came to rest in a position that resembled an advanced yoga pose. She exhaled and closed her eyes. Tired, she drifted toward sleep.
Calm settled in the room.
Kristy shifted with a murmur and drove her knee deeper into the small of Rachel’s back, forcing a whimper from Rachel, the only sign that she was still awake.
By David Stewart
Yes, can I help you?
Yes that’s correct.
The same Mr Freemont who returned to life after being technically dead for three days?
That’s me. I’m a genuine medical miracle apparently.
You’re also in breach of copyright.
Mr Freemont I represent Universal studios who recently purchased exclusive rights to the story of Jesus Christ and your “Medical miracle” as you term it an act of plagarism.
I don’t understand.
A character in an upcoming film Jesus of Nazareth returns to life after a period of three days, you’re own return to life is-
Yes but Jesus was crucified on a cross. I fell down some stairs.
The manner of the death isn’t the subject of this law suit it’s the subsequent resurrection that breaches-
Hang on, my resurrection wasn’t my idea it was a miracle that-
I have to stop you there Mr Freemont as the words “Resurrection” and “Miracle” are now the property of Universal pictures as are “disciple” “messiah” and “leprosy.”
But I’m nothing like Jesus.
According to our research your father was a carpenter, you own a pair of sandals and last week your face appeared in a tortilla in mexico.
I thought that was Elvis.
It depends on the angle of the lighting.
This is absurd. Can you see it your christian hearts to forgive me?
I don’t do forgiveness Mr Freemont I’m a laywer and an atheist. I just serve notice.
God this is awful.
Don’t say God Mr Freemont, that character is also a registered trademark of Universal Studios.
Here is your summons to appear in court. Until your appointed court date I must warn you not to return to life again and to refrain from restoring sight, walking on water or feeding large groups of people with small amounts of food.
But I work in catering.
By Anita Clements
Her extremities drain of blood and she feels weak. At this moment, her blood is sucked violently into her Right Atrium, which contracts forcing the blood into her Right Ventricle where it waits for an uncomfortable period of time. Contemplating its master’s next move. She shifts in her chair. She mustn’t distract him. This weekly ritual sustains her. Undisturbed, he points his laser at the diagram on the screen. She sighs in relief.
He traces the flow of blood through the heart. His voice trembles with excitement.
Instead of plastic models, he uses the organs of deceased humans. Slicing his scalpel through each section and projecting the image onto the screen.
“Dr Death” the students call him.
“Sick and twisted Dr Death!” they mock.
Sweat runs from the side of his neck and pools in the crevice above his clavicle. It glistens in the dark of the lecture theatre. She tilts her head, narrows her eyes and imagines scooping the salty liquid up with her tongue. She gazes at his crotch.
Snapping her quickly from her fantasy, the blood escapes her Right Ventricle and speeds into the Pulmonary Artery, which obediently dilates. In a peristaltic motion, it spurts the blood into her lungs causing her to take a sharp breath in. It startles her. Silence. She looks at the screen. The red laser light disappears. The lecture theatre stills. All eyes are on her. He grabs the head of the lamp and points it into the audience, scanning, trying to find the source of the noise. She freezes. The light passes her twice, finally stopping on her face. Their eyes locks. She gasps, this time not caring what noise she makes. Smiling, he gestures her onto the stage.
The blood leaves her lungs and enters her Left Atrium. She rises to walk, but cannot. Her legs paralysed. The blood forces its way through the Mitral Valve and pools in her Left Ventricle, trickling slowly into her Aorta but going no further….
Around her chaos, screams. Bodies flee. Their eyes remain fixed. Her insides melt like hot chocolate. She feels wetness pooling around her crotch and calmly looks down to see her blouse open, bra undone. A careful incision along the length of her Sternum reveals a gaping hole where her heart once lay. Blood pours freely out. She lifts her head. Again he gestures for her to join him, as he caresses in his hand, her still beating heart.
By Jason Geary
I walk past her cubicle on the way to the photocopy room, as I’ve done hundreds of times before. This time I find her looking at me, offering a smile. I walk slower on the way back, see her dart her eyes away as she notices my approach. That’s all it takes. Now I can’t concentrate. I feel a little giddy, and I’m making photocopies of everything I can find.
Her looks grow warmer every time I pass, as does the feeling in my stomach.