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Hylurania by Bernadette Wouters

Hylurania by Bernadette Wouters

Helyna strolled through the Forest of Winterborough, the great forest which she had only just discovered. Five days ago, home would have been a big house in the centre of an enormous city. A house shared with her parents, two sisters, and one brother. It […]

The Last Inquisition by Liam Agius Camilleri

The Last Inquisition by Liam Agius Camilleri

Inquisitor Burnes looked out from his carriage window at the liminal space where the dunes met the sky, mused on the minimal grace with which men get to die, and stopped himself. He was thinking poetically, and that would not do at all, as that […]

Eternal by Kaylena Robin Steiner

Eternal by Kaylena Robin Steiner

Footfalls. Dying echoes of sudden movement.

A vast open plain. Winding lazily along its edge, a river. The river meanders towards a small forest. Forest and river meet plain at a copse of tall, leafy, deciduous trees that stand denser than the rest. Hiding in the heavy foliage is a treehouse. Small. Ramshackle. Falling apart.

A rustle in the plains. The man dozing in the treehouse lurches, muscles taut and body rigid. He cocks his head, eyes sharp and wide, gazing over the plain. Minutes of silence pass. 

He cautiously stuffs his small blanket in his backpack and pulls on his light jacket. He lowers a rope behind the treehouse and steals down, hand by hand. Once on the ground, he secures the rope behind hanging vines, obscuring it from cursory glances. 

His head twitches with every sound that demands his attention as he slinks through the woods, keeping close to the ground. The forest is copious, and his trek lasts hours. His stealthy advance slows him, as does every pause to calm his breath after he hears another rustle. He’s surrounded by forest, yet the rustles match that from the plain. Thinly wooden sounds, bark peeled from a tree. 

The weak sun hovers over the horizon when forest turns to stone and water. He follows the stream to a river, and the river to a spring at a waterfall’s base. He drops his pack and wades in, soothing his worn body.

A rustle. He submerges, eyes skimming the area. Nothing. Wait! – Birds erupt from a nearby hedge with a shuddering burst. He gasps in a gulp of water but suppresses a choking cough. Some danger moved them to flee.

He waits. No unusual movement. The heavy silence that followed the birds slips into a lighter bustle of woodland creatures. He slinks to his pack, then returns to the water. The pack bobs above his head as he swims across and climbs up beside the falls.

Protecting his pack from the water, he steps through the falls and into a cave. A shack fashioned from wood and old bricks leans at the back. Inside there’s a makeshift mat of rushes, five books, and food reserves: Neat rows of tins next to a single plate, fork, knife and spoon. 

Sinking into the mat, he withdraws his blanket and props the pack behind his head. From the five books he takes a tattered, leather-bound tome. Numbers introduce small sections, each spanning a few sentences. One reads of loneliness. Where is everyone? Then lack of knowledge. What happened? The most recent entry reads of fear. What else is out there?

He retrieves a pen and unscrews the cap from an ink bottle, handling both with delicate care. A few dips of pen into ink, then he writes a number. #113 I am not alone.

The book is closed and returned to the pile. The man turns over and falls asleep.

~~~

Footfalls. Dying echoes of trudging movement.

A small forest. Winding lazily through it and along its edge, a river. The river meanders towards a vast plain. Where plain, river and forest meet, the trees are a little denser. Within crowning trees, a treehouse is hidden. A rickety ladder leads up to it.

A branch snaps, a tree thuds, a rustle whispers. Within the treehouse, the dozing man awakens; resting body suddenly rigid, closed eyes now wide. He moves to the edge of the treehouse, examining the forest for a source of the sounds. Hushed minutes pass.

With swift movements, he packs his worn-out blanket and tugs on his leather jacket. He deftly descends to the lowest branches. There he slides down and hangs from his fingertips; He drops, rolls, stops. Muscles tense; senses alert.

Silence.

He sprints towards the plain. Another thud resounds from the depths of the forest. Closer.

He runs. For hours. Farther than he’s ever been before. A thud resounds closer. The plain seems unending. The river has long since winded away. A thud resounds farther. His breathing is hard, he slows to a jog. Yet he keeps going. 

The weak sun is well above the horizon when he stumbles onto a well. He nearly dives in, but he catches himself and drops a pebble first. Before a second has passed, it splashes. No monster roars from the depths.

A distant thud resounds. Taking a leap of faith, he dives smoothly into the water below. Parched, he gulps down water before the creature comes close enough to hear him. A thud resounds, closer. He submerges, covering ragged breaths. Eyes dilated and jaw clenched, his nails dig into his hands. A rustle from the plain. A creature moves above, rustles, runs past. Silence.

Another rustle from the plain. A creature comes slowly, sauntering. It moves past. The rustles are unending, eternal whispers of fluttering pages.

A thud from the plain. A creature shifts. Footfalls. It stops. Sniffs… It passes. The unending whispers, the page-turning, cackling rustles fill the well. As the thuds fade, the rustles retreat.

He counts to 3’600 before he ascends. The sun hits the twilit hour. He pauses mid-climb, gesturing at darkened stars. A mindful self-dialogue in a silent medium, calculation expressed through handheld words.

The rope sways as he contemplates, and his legs hit the wall. His hand should hit the wall but touches hollow space instead. He flinches but moves into the hole. He unhooks the torch from his backpack and switches it on, poised for a fight.

Within he finds bedding. Timeworn and tattered. Food reserves unlike his own. Stale bread and old tins. Rotting tins, he discovers, when he opens one. 

He rummages through the belongings, setting what he can use aside. Then he goes through the rest. Eventually he sighs and sits back on his heels. Closes his eyes, his face falls.

He takes a tattered, leather-bound book from a pile of five in a corner. He gently unscrews his pot of ink, delicately dips the pen. #113 There was someone else.

He lays on his back and sleeps.

~~~

Footfalls. Dying echoes of idle movement.

There is a river. It winds lazily along a plain, then meets a forest. A treehouse hides there, in a copse of lofty trees. Gravity sends siren-whispers to the sagging roof and it sinks lower.

Footfalls from the forest floor. Eyes open, alert and awake, staring at the treehouse ceiling. He tenses his body into rigidity. He gingerly rises, scales to the roof, then scrutinises the undergrowth.

Minutes of quiet forest. Merely birds and small woodland creatures. He withdraws, packs his warm blanket and throws on his dark jacket. From the roof he flies to the nearest branch. Then the next. And the next. He leaps, flies and glides through the upper boughs of the trees.

Sporadically he hears footfalls, whispers, rustles. Then he pauses and observes. His brows furrow deeper each time. He inspects his ears. With time, he inspects his eyes.

The forest ends and he alights by the riverbank, keeping cover in the bushes as he follows the river. He walks for hours, farther than ever before. The weak sun is half-hidden behind the horizon when he unearths a building. It’s stone, with stained-glass windows, a bell-tower, and a steeple.

He enters stealthily, poised to fight. Inside it’s dark, so he lights torches as he shadows the walls. The light offers brilliant pictures; the walls are covered in images.

He runs his fingers over the deadened artwork. Globes. Over and over. A sphere of green and blue, evolving from ice to cold, from cold to nature, from nature to heat. Creatures are depicted above each globe, performing activities. Farming, judging, fighting. As the spheres burn hotter, the figures become fewer and their activities shift. The paintings gradually worsen, reduced to clumsily created and poorly displayed murals, until the last globe is simply encased in flames with one creature left.

His fingers linger on some images, a puzzled expression on his face. One creature holds a torch like his own. He shrinks from the image and moves on. He rubs his eyes, as though trying erase the confusion. Exhaustion seeps from his body like a second aura. Blood seeps from cuts received from branches and slippery rocks.

The room holds mostly chairs, but he finds a place to sleep in the back: A long open box, perfectly suited for his height, with a pillow and comfortable padding. Next to it are five books, four bound in leather with gilded edges. He takes the first book, a tattered, leather-bound tome. Pen dips deftly into ink and he writes. #113 I am the last.

He retrieves his blanket, turns onto his side, and sleeps.

~~~

Footfalls. Dying echoes of determined movement.

River, plain and forest. The forest holds a house. The house does not groan, even as it falls apart, as the ladder creaks, as the roof sinks. It makes no sound at all.

The weak sun is bright when the man startles awake. Brows furrow, he chews his lip. 

He hears nothing. There is no rustling. No woodland creature hums: No birds chirping, no cats mewling, no bugs skittering. No sound at all. The silence screams.

Footfalls echo within the treehouse. Eternal whispers of page-turning rustles. They do not fade.

Where Man Lost his Soul by Reuben Zammit

Where Man Lost his Soul by Reuben Zammit

Problem Solver #2018 felt parched but walking to the nearest of the legally mandated water dispensers standing at regulation 80m intervals would mean giving up his 1 by 1 hot-desk to one of the 5% lurking around the low-ceilinged vault, the further ends of which […]

The Crimson Angel by Jacob Fiott

The Crimson Angel by Jacob Fiott

I was a fool. We all were. Every last one of us. We were blinded by his sweet words, his charm and grace. He played us like a fiddle. He never did anything illegal. He never did anything that was considered immoral by the majority. […]

The Nascency of Dawn by Claire Bugeja

The Nascency of Dawn by Claire Bugeja

It was the stars that caught her attention first.

She was sitting by herself near the lake, her face lifted to the sky, the bright blotch-mark of sunlight red against her closed eyelids. Her fingers trailed listlessly across the surface of the still waters, and silence enveloped her in its embrace. The world radiated endlessly from where she sat, and the sky descended to kiss the grass in a horizon that swept around her in an unbroken circle. Life flourished endlessly around her; death did not exist in paradise. 

She did not know what made her look at the lake. Maybe it was a bird, flying recklessly close to the water, its clawed talons breaking the surface of the water. Maybe it was the sudden discordant note in the song of creation, a jarring clang in that everlasting rhyme that should have warned her to stay away. Maybe it was the sudden freezing cold benumbing her hand as it swirled the water. Whatever it was, she looked down, and saw the starlight. The water, mirror-smooth, had darkened, as if an ocean of water lay beneath its surface. Stars dotted the darkness, forming strange constellations. A portal. They were not allowed here. No one could leave paradise.

She knew of stars, knew of their existence and of how they came to be, but it was never night in this place. The Divine had often mentioned their beauty, but she could only look at them through a mirror, such as this. She turned to the stars again, feeling an almost magnetic pull towards them. Against her wavering will, her hand moved towards them, treading through the water until she was stretching out trembling fingers towards the middle of the lake, balancing precariously on her knees, her other hand tangled in the grass, keeping her grounded. If only she could touch them, she reasoned desperately, she could perhaps experience what it felt like to bask in their twinkling light, to feel the coolness of the darkness, away from the blazing sun, that unblinking eye.

It wasn’t much use, in the end, to hold on to anything; the choice alone had been enough. The Fall was already underway.

Her hand had barely touched the edges of the murky darkness before she felt a great pull surge out of its depths. Her hand still grasped uselessly onto blades of grass that had been torn out of the soil even as she fell into the water. She gasped, water filling her open mouth, and yet she did not choke. All around her, darkness consumed her, and swirling maddeningly around her were the stars that had lured her in. Even though she was amongst them, they felt more distant than ever. For the first time, she realised that she was falling. The water had turned viscous; her dress billowed around her in slow-motion, her hair trailing behind her, a blazing halo in the darkness.

She felt fear ripping through her, and a blinding pain of separation. She did not have to look behind her to know that the doors at her back had been closed forever.

Time sped up to normal in a fraction of a second, and she landed heavily onto the ground. She groaned, the sound of her voice breaking the silence that had greeted her as soon as she became aware that she could hear again. Getting up slowly, she brushed her hair out of her face, noticing that her elbows had been scraped in the fall. Impassively, she looked on as a drop of blood trickled down from the wound, falling to the ground. So this is blood, she thought.

She turned around and started walking, not noticing that from where it had landed, a green shoot had immediately sprouted, leaves pointing in the direction of her receding back.

She walked in no particular direction, the sense of shock fading, bringing with it a flurry of emotions that had, up until that moment, been bottled up inside her in a resoluteness to stop herself from panicking. Questions lined up one after the other, remaining unanswered in her brain. What world had she landed on? What folly had driven her to reach for the unattainable? Looking up at this foreign sky, she noticed that no bright lights pervaded through the foreboding murkiness; the night was absolute.

Her elbows stung. 

She fell, harsh ground digging into her knees and breaking flesh again, and this time, she screamed. Frustration and grief tore at her heart, fingers tugging blindly at her hair. In her brief moment of madness, she lifted both hands upwards and yelled, incomprehensible words falling from her lips, barely aware of anything except the overwhelming fear of the unknown.

Suddenly, light split the dark sky like an open wound.

It was so sudden that her abrupt, inexplicable madness was forgotten almost as quickly as it had started; there, kneeling on her bloodied knees, hands still outstretched, she gaped at the sky. 

A rustle at her knees tore her gaze from above and forced her to look downwards. From where blood had spotted the ground, grass grew. She stared harder, comprehension dawning on her almost in tandem with the sky.

She consciously tried to will a portal into existence, and was stunned when it worked. She looked at that blazing whirlpool of light, her mind churning. Only the Divine and the Anti could create those. What had occurred during her Fall? How had it come to be that she had gained the power of creation? Had the residue of that power, still clinging to the portal that she had fallen through, been passed on to her in her journey through it? Had she gained all of that power? What were the limitations?

For now, she didn’t care. She knew where she wanted to be; now that her access home had been lost to her forever, she could go to the land of starlight. She would go to the First World, the World loved by the Divine. She braced herself, and plunged in.

She arrived in a blaze of colours, lighting the polar sky with brilliant, strange hues. The First Peoples named her Aurora, the Dawn, because she had lit up the sky like the morning sun. They worshipped her, at first. She gave them gifts, and they gave her shelter. When she had seen three generations live and die, she left them, discovering what a broken heart felt like and not liking it.

She found a tribe of people in a land far off from where she had first arrived in this world, having travelled by portal to many places and finding home in none. On her arrival, she fought off a pack of wild animals that had attacked her and emerged unscathed and triumphant, and so they called her Ashanti, the Undefeatable. Her dark skin matched theirs, and amongst them, she found home. They left many stories to their descendants of the beautiful goddess that had lived with them for centuries, but Ashanti, the Undefeated, the Dawn, lived ever more, and finally departed from her home; alone in every sense of the word, stripped from the Divine, her powers isolating her from everyone, she disappeared in the barrenness of a desert. The stars were far away; cold and mocking, they twinkled at her from the sky, and no matter how far she stretched her hands, she could never reach them.

She had resigned herself to dying alone, one day, when she would decide to stop using her powers to regenerate her dying body, once so effortlessly full of life. Today would be the day, she would say, and night would fall and she would still be clinging on to life, trembling at the thought of the empty void that was already waiting for her.

But one day, her resolve was firm, and she was ready for judgement to fall. Steeling herself, she prepared the words that would stop the ages-old spell that kept her alive.

An interruption, a noise in that barren, silent land. The sound of footsteps, and a man, with eyes of blazing fire. 

The spell fled from her brain as she acknowledged him. Could it be true?  Could there be another of her kind? She knew, instantly, that this wasn’t the case, but she felt it; a distinct pull towards him, as if something in his very making called out to her in its familiarity. Not a Fallen, no, but someone who came from them.

“Greetings,” he said, politely, blinking away the flames as if they were but a mere nuisance. “I’m Edward. I’m descended from those that Fell. Are you truly Ashanti?” Edward seemed to turn red, muttering to his shoes, “My research did not mention your beauty, my lady.”

Ashanti, alone for what seemed like millennia, convinced that no one would ever see her through her unique powers, burst out laughing, the first real joy she had felt since that fateful Fall.

“I am Ashanti,” she said, adapting to his language flawlessly, with little effort. “Why do you ask?”

Edward held out his hand. “I would rather show you.”  He turned redder, stumbling over his words. “If-if you will, of course.”

Ashanti, having lost everything, had nothing to lose. She grasped his hand, and together, they disappeared in a flash of fire.

The desert wind blew on, unceasing and uncaring that the world would heave and burn over the course of the near but still uncharted future.  The stars, hidden in the depths of the blue sky, twinkled on, unheeding and distant.

Automata by Jacob Fiott

Automata by Jacob Fiott

The night was vibrant. There was an electricity in the air that was tangible, and yet, there was something about it that felt dead. The city was visibly active in those dark hours, with people going about their individual activities, always the same, unchanging. Some […]

Nox by Marcon de Giorgio

Nox by Marcon de Giorgio

The large rusted door screamed as Ramiel’s hands curled around the lever and pulled it open. Rust plumed down in showers onto the grass, reddening the leaves. “It should really change this door shouldn’t it?” Ramiel’s joking tone was unfitting.  Louise said nothing, her palms […]

Liquid Gold by Ian Zerafa

Liquid Gold by Ian Zerafa

It was with an ostentatious display of wealth that Amintore Volantesso, the Margrave of Giaverno, had chosen to flaunt the first gratifications of his new position. An enormous column of glass descended from the ceiling, filled entirely with golden brown liquid. Avrahm reckoned that the width of its base easily exceeded five metres, and the room was well over three times as tall as the pillar was wide. Considering that liquid was constantly being drained from it without the level ever dipping, it had to be taller still, stretching beyond the ceiling to some sort of filling station. Avrahm didn’t spend too long contemplating it; he’d get a good look at the top later. 

Near the ceiling, smaller glass pipes spiralled out from the main column, twisting their way through the air just under the ceiling, and then coalescing to come down into a dozen evenly spaced, perfectly straight smaller columns on either side of the ballroom. Throughout all the pipes, hundreds of miniature bottled lamps floated, each of which would take a skilled artificer almost a full fortnight to make. A delicate mechanism corkscrewed in the main pillar, gently stirring the liquid and sending currents spinning off into the tributary pipes. The currents spun the hundreds of little bottles, and the light that danced through the amber liquid warmed the ballroom with a gentle swimming glow. Standing slightly away from the crowd, the glow helped him cast a particularly impressive shadow on the marble floor behind him. The cost of the containers and mechanisms, immense though they were, paled in comparison to the worth of the liquid they bathed in. 

Giavernan Impreso was the finest spirit known to man, and, as the other sentient races on The Continent had learned since humans colonised it a millennium ago, no one could make alcohol quite like man. The cost of a single bottle could buy a small ship, or a large house. For Volantesso to provide enough to sustain the horde of nobles at a party of this scale would have been considered showing off. For the newly appointed Impresario to provide a twenty-four-station free-flowing dispensary, an undiminishing reservoir large enough to house a family of sharks, and then use the whole thing as a glorified lightbulb, was arrogant rich bastardry of the highest order. As much as Avrahm hated Volantesso, the arrogant rich bastard within himself had to admire the audaciousness of the move. He responded with his own, of course. 

Standing slightly apart from the crowd, the glow from the central column assisted him in casting a decidedly impressive shadow across the marble floor. And though black-cloak was the official dress code, Avrahm’s seemed to drink the very light from the room. He was attracting quite a few glances. Most were in admiration, though he was sure that quite a few were from the more jealous within the crowd, sour about their own accoutrements being so radically outshone. “Let them stare,” he thought, “she loves to be ogled.”

“Lord Metzières! How delighted I am to see you here!” Volantesso’s voice broke over the back of Avrahm’s head like a bottle in a barfight. Avrahm turned, slowly enough to ensure he had enough time to iron most of the contempt out of his smile. “Lord Volantesso!” Avrahm greeted him with a bow, just low and flamboyant enough that an onlooker with an apprehensive disposition might have interpreted it as mildly sarcastic. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! Though, I must admit, I didn’t expect to be greeted personally by our most distinguished host.”

The taller man boomed with laughter. “Oh, come now Metzières,” Volantesso laid a tree-like arm across Avrahm’s shoulders. “The matter that divided us has been settled. And,” he added, in a stage whisper, “across the course of it, we got to know each other rather well didn’t we? I don’t know half the people here. I’m just glad to see a face I can put a name to.”

“Well, in that case, I’m immensely glad to be of service to our new Impresario,” said Avrahm, flashing a charming smile that carried all the warmth of an ice cube. Volantesso took it in stride. With his arm still draped around Avrahm’s shoulder, he turned them both towards the glowing centrepiece. “You were good competition. If you hadn’t spent so much time abroad cavorting with the elves, it would’ve been a very different story! The office is a great responsibility. I just hope I can do it justice.” This form of apologetic bragging was the foundation upon which all Giavernan courtly graces were built. Flaunting one’s successes in a way that would insult one’s opponent while leaving them with no room to politely rebuff was a delicate art, but Avrahm could dance through mazes of verbal thorns with the best of them. “I wouldn’t worry about it, the office has survived far worse than you,” he replied cheekily. Volantesso chuckled. 

Apart from being the cultural pillar of the state, financing all the great spectacles and requiring every noble family to have his writ of permission for any ball, dance or wedding party, the Impresario was also the figurehead for the production of Giavernan Impreso throughout his decade-long tenure. Volantesso’s stunt with the display and liberal distribution of the Impreso, ostentatious as it was to everyone else, should have been doubly biting to Avrahm, who had been his election opponent. But annoyed though he was at having lost to someone he had a deeply personal disdain for, the loss of the office wouldn’t inconvenience him much. He’d only run the campaign to try to save a couple of innocent lives. Volantesso was right about one thing. If Avrahm hadn’t encountered the elves, it would have been a different story.

They stood in silence for a moment, admiring the vitreous spectacle, then Volantesso shook himself out of his contemplation. “Pardon me, Lord Metzières, but there are others I am expected to greet. Before I go,” he said, pre-emptively stemming the torrent of regret Avrahm was about to express at the early dissolution of their most fortunate meeting, “Allow me to abuse the powers of my office in your favour.” He accompanied Avrahm over to one of the twenty-four smaller glass pillars, and the crowd parted at his presence. He deposited Avrahm at the front of the line to the  Impreso dispensary, and disappeared back into the crowd, chanting an exorcism of polite regret to shield himself from their attempted interactions.

Avrahm poured himself a particularly large glass, and exited the ballroom to the terrace overlooking the gardens. It was about as empty as he could’ve hoped for. With an uncharacteristically chill wind for the height of summer, and an unlimited supply of Impreso that could potentially cost a garnet a glass, very few people had bothered to grace the terraces with their noble feet. Most of the people out here had taken advantage of Volantesso’s generosity too liberally, and were now busy leaning over the stone railings, enriching the garden soils below with hundreds of florins worth of Impreso. Beyond the gardens, from this high up, the forest of the elves was clearly visible. He thought he could just make out Whitetree, but wasn’t sure.

Avrahm found himself an isolated section of railing to enjoy his drink. It started as it always did, with the traditional tang of a strong spirit. Then the alcohol burned away the tastes in his mouth and the wonder that was the Impreso revealed itself. The sweetness of barley sugar was replaced by notes of dry cinnamon and nutmeg. Fresh pine needles and hard green pear gave way to chocolate-covered caramels, then black pepper and orange cream flared up, before a thick hazelnut flavour dampened the fire on his tongue. He shivered, more from the drink than the wind, but his cloak misunderstood, and stretched down to cover his arms with the softness of black swan feathers.

He gave a light, surprised laugh, dipped his finger in the Impreso, and wiped a drop of it on his collar. The cloak sputtered. Ugh! Why does it have to have such a burn? It would be a truly sweet delight otherwise. “It’s the core of a good drink!” Avrahm replied, feigning offence. “I think I can see your home from here. Come on out, no one’s around.” He felt the cloak lighten as the floor took some of its weight, and a second later, rather than being wrapped in black fabric, he was being embraced from behind by a beautiful woman in a dress as dark as her hair.

“Lenorah,” Avrahm pointed, “that is Whitetree isn’t it?” 

“Of course it is!” The Queen of the Fae replied. “Are human eyes really that weak? No wonder none of you can see the damage that your industry is doing to it.”

“My eyes were good enough to appreciate you, weren’t they?” Avrahm retorted. She laughed and tightened her embrace. “It’s time isn’t it?” They both knew the answer and sighed, already regretting what they were about to do.

With Lenorah’s help, Avrahm scaled the building up to where he had calculated that the top of the Impreso reservoir was. Thankfully, filling it was hard work, and the men there had opened a window. She leapt off him, and they were dead before he’d clambered through. Innocent lives that wouldn’t have been wasted if he’d become Impresario. They’d run the numbers together. Six hundred dead tonight, or thousands once the forests wilted. Millions – of both races – if it led to war. Avrahm uncorked a small bottle, poured some of it into the reservoir, and drank the rest himself. Then he and Lenorah chanted together, and he began to scream as the molten gold in the reservoir turned into… molten gold.

Hundreds of screams burst through the air as every drop of Impreso within a mile turned to liquid gold, and the smell of charred flesh rose on the hot air and engulfed them. Delirious with pain, a part of Avrahm still felt proud that he would die for a right reason. Then, Lenorah’s lips clamped over his, and she sucked all the heat out of him with a kiss. The gold came up after, and she spat it on the floor with a splutter of disgust.

Avrahm stared at her. “You didn’t tell me you’d save me.”

“I didn’t know if I could. And I didn’t want to deceive you into doing this, it had to be your own choice.”

“Shit,” Avrahm sobbed, tears flooding his eyes. “Shit. I didn’t expect I’d have to live with this decision.”

Lenorah embraced him with one arm and began to plant little kisses all over his face. Her other arm sifted through the gold as she worked some more magic. “I know,” she said, “but it’s hard enough to find a good Elf these days, let alone a good man.” Though he saw nothing through his tears, he felt her slip the ring of gold her magic had wrought onto his finger.

“And I promise that you won’t have to live with it alone.”

The Cold by Corrine Annette Zahra

The Cold by Corrine Annette Zahra

I dragged my feet to first period History class and opened the black wooden door. The whole class looked at me as I gently closed the door and walked inside towards my desk. Our teacher, Mrs. Black who was from the Dark Side, said nothing […]

Half Blood Daughter by Claire Bajada

Half Blood Daughter by Claire Bajada

Dear diary, I have a dilemma. I have to make a choice today, either to embrace my true heritage or the life I was raised in. This is rather frustrating. I think it’s better to start from the beginning of this madness. All my life […]

The Tangibility of Darkness by Christine Galea

The Tangibility of Darkness by Christine Galea

The darkness was only being held back by his magic, but Melchior couldn’t keep it up for much longer. And even if he could, why would he?

The billowing shadows, reeking of death and destruction, had taken his whole world. His lover. His friends. His older sister right after she had shoved him through a portal that led to here. His parents as they tried to protect his younger siblings. Everyone.

Everything was gone.

He was utterly alone in a world that thrived off of communities and companionship, and he didn’t have the will to fight anymore.

Melchior let his shield shimmer gently out of existence and accepted the approaching darkness with open arms.

The trees had gone first, the million-year old leaves and trunks shrivelling and dying like his great grandma on her 500th birthday – the last day of anybody’s life. It was both a blessing and a curse to know when you were going to die. On the one hand, you knew how many days you had left to cut off everything from the bucket list. On the other, the dread would increase as one neared his last year. After all, nobody is ever quite ready to die.

When the darkness first touched one of the Natowers, they discovered that their 500-year-old mark was gone. The little Natower died once all the veins in her body blackened; a grotesque outline of the inner system of 5-year-old Annabelle. It took less than half an hour.

The Natowers barely had time to grow weary. Their once safe haven lasted no more than 10 turnings, all filled with despair and desperation and terror and horror as their world was ravaged and purged of everything that brought them joy; families were torn apart, disappearing forever into the shadows of the great river of Techalis.

Techalis, a warlock that had gone rogue in the great years before, and his blood-thirsty monsters had been entrapped in the river’s depths since before Melchior’s memory, and he still didn’t know how the river had abruptly evaporated. Nobody really noticed until the creatures, thriving on their newfound freedom, eradicated the face of their world.

It was plain malice, staring them in the face. The inky fingers reached for him, twirling around his arms and legs, anchoring him in a place that had once been home.

It was the bittersweet reminder of his home that encouraged Melchior to open his eyes and see where the darkness had taken him.

Purple sunlight flooded his surroundings, cocooning him in its warmth, much like his mother used to do when he was younger and couldn’t bear his destiny. Surely he would be able to save everybody! However, he learned quickly that this simply was not possible when Esmeralda, another young Natower, died in his arms, comforted by the mistaken notion that he was her older brother.

Melchior hadn’t witnessed any sunlight since the shadows started spreading, infecting everyone and everything within their reach and wrapping the world in icy darkness.

Yet, the warmth was not imagined.

His mother’s blanket, the one she used to wrap him in when he was younger, was draped over him, but he wasn’t the only one under it. His two younger siblings were curled on either side of him, their hair tumbling behind them to camouflage itself against the grass. His older sister was behind him, idly manifesting butterflies like she used to do before the darkness came.

Before the darkness came.

Everything was as it had been before the darkness.

His mother and father greeted him with hugs and food, the glittery flowers more than enough to quench both hunger and thirst. The trees stood tall and proud again; the mighty guardians of the realm. His friends danced near the stream, their orange spots as radiant as ever, and Melchior used his magic to shove them in the water simply because he could.

Their laughter was better than anything that his magic could ever supply him with – companionship can never be simply magicked; it either existed or it didn’t. You either had it or you craved it with all your being.

And then Chaslite was there, gathering him in a suffocating hug and telling him how much he had missed him. Melchior could barely find any strength to hug him back; he never thought he’d see his boyfriend again, let alone be able to hold him so dearly and once again feel the steady beating of his heart beneath his palms.

It was all too overwhelming, like an overflowing glass still being filled; its contents spilling over the edge and splashing against the surface below, droplets scattering everywhere.

Scattered, never to be united again.

Forced to separate because of greed and an insatiable desire for more than one could ever have.

Chaslite was still entrapping him within the embrace, suffocating him in a way that made Melchior’s blood run cold. The ferocious beating of his heart was distracting, tuning out everything except for Chaslite’s breath on the side of his neck – it was nauseatingly hot.

“This is all gone, my love. All of it.”

Darkness descended over his senses again as the inky shadows erupted from the ground and dragged him down into its abyss.

The shadows were ever lasting, stretching in every direction and pressing down on him from all angles. Melchior tried to illuminate a path, but there wasn’t anything to see; any light was stifled by the oppressing darkness and there was absolutely nothing around him. Where was he?

“The river evaporated, remember? It was quite deep, as you would know.”

The soft voice, once yearned for, came from everywhere and nowhere, bouncing off the rocks and making its way back to him in distorted echoes. But the sound had to be bouncing off something else.

Some things, not some thing.

The screeching of talons dragging over the ground was accompanied by the ominous clicking of what Melchior could only assume were numerous, gigantic pincers, ready to tear him limb from limb and then piece him back together again with his own innards, uncaring of the blood that cascaded down his body.

Unless he was already dead and this was just a hellish promo of the afterlife.

“You’re not dead, I won’t be that merciful.”

Chaslite’s voice came from right behind him, but Melchior only grasped at air when he attempted to make up for his loss of vision with his touch. He only realised his mistake when shadowy tendrils wrapped around his wrist. His knees buckled, tears racing down his cheeks as his whole body shuddered and jerked as if there was fire chasing through his veins – the notion of seizing was rare, but he had heard of it happening. Was this it? The everlasting pain ripped through him, quickly becoming too much to endure as his magic was leeched by the one he used to trust the most.

He unconsciously tightened his tentative hold on the last remnants of his magic, but there was no way to dislodge the probing shadows.

The blood curdling scream that met his ears chilled him, and he only realised it was him when his voice gave out and an unfathomable coldness settled deep within his core, replacing the comforting warmth of his magic.

He had nothing left. Not that he was going to use his magic against Chaslite.

He wouldn’t.

At least he would be able to fend off the creatures that were anchoring his legs and arms in place, their thorny skin making sure that he wouldn’t move unless he desired shredded limbs. Being caught kneeling to a mysterious foe was bad enough. Kneeling in front of a lover, a trusted comrade, blood-thirsty, cruel tyrant whose face he had once dreamed of was worse than Melchior could ever put into words.

“I don’t know how nobody noticed, honestly. It’s not like there’s much difference between Techalis and Chaslite. We warlocks were always too proud of ourselves. A bit too proud, if you ask me. But then again, all of you feared that which is stronger than you, so you locked me here for ‘all eternity’, unaware that eternity only lasted a year-”

The hypocritical pride was evident in his voice, but hearing the unoriginal, villain monologue was giving Melchior an indication as to where the other might be located, even if he had no knowledge of how the vast chasm was structured. Despite this, shock still dragged a harsh grunt from his lips when his hair was grabbed, jerking his head backwards in a move that left him vulnerable to any attack.

A freezing, bloody finger traced over his throat, teasing him with the warm glow of his usurped magic before plunging him in absolute darkness once again.

“Just get it over with, Chaslite.”

The hand wasn’t holding his head up anymore, but he could feel his own magic wrapping around him, immobilising him completely and highlighting the never-ending grotesque creatures around him; their numerous eyes glinted maliciously and golden blood dripped from their ugly pincers. His? He couldn’t really tell anymore; he was just doing his best to ignore the pain, putting it at the back of his mind lest he lose his sanity by dwelling too much on it.

Would that be a blessing or a curse?

It wasn’t like Chaslite was going to heal his wounds.

“Oh no, you know I always liked to be a tease Melchior, so this is going to be fun! Afterall, it’s just you and me now – nobody is going to save you. You’re mine for as long as I want you.”

A Forage in the Park by Maria Francesca Spiteri

A Forage in the Park by Maria Francesca Spiteri

Melly was restless. It had been a good day – all three of her children had come to visit with a card and flowers too. But Melly was bored beyond compare by five thirty in the afternoon – with the rest of the evening stretching […]

Love is Stupid by Ian Zerafa

Love is Stupid by Ian Zerafa

Kids, I’m running away. I know that’s not the sort of thing a dad should ever say to his kids, much less write it. Especially at 11:34 on a Wednesday, when I know we’re going out to dinner on Friday. But I’m going. This letter’s […]

The Bleeding Blue Rose by Joanne Bugeja

The Bleeding Blue Rose by Joanne Bugeja

The sky was growling like a starved hound.

The pale winter moon was buried underneath heavy silver clouds.

The Stars had taken their leave surrendering to the merciless downpour.

This was a night where lovers would clash, where pleas would fall on deaf

ears and cries for mercy would be met with heartbreaking indifference.

That stormy night mirrored the tumultuous journey of two epic lovers. A

journey which would come to a screeching halt on that special night

dedicated to lovers, unlike the stubborn winds that blew ever so forcefully

on that icy February night.

A night that would bear witness to a shattered heart, shrieks of despair, the

heart wrenching ending of fragmented love and an exchange of a single,

perfect blue rose.

Legend has it that if you paused to look closely, you’d notice a single trickle

of blood seeping through the exquisite, celestial blue petals, as the parting

lovers glanced back at each other one last time. 

This was the end of love. And the sky united in their grief.

HE by Claire Bajada

HE by Claire Bajada

His eyes so blue Lips so pink Smile so pleasant He makes me think He speaks with confidence A really kind soul From many different girls Their hearts he stole He gives me flowers Some daisies, some roses He comes up behind me And my […]

The Latecomer’s Tale by Daniel Cossai

The Latecomer’s Tale by Daniel Cossai

“Oh, grandmother, tell me the story of Cinderella!” “My dear,” the grandmother told the little girl as they sat by the fireplace. “It is lovely, but wouldn’t you like to hear a new story?” “Can you tell me the one about the sleeping princess?” “Yes, […]

Asphyxiation by Juanita Galea

Asphyxiation by Juanita Galea



I am not a sinner,
But sin itself 


I am the dark entanglement of deceit,
The attraction that many try to hide.
A fixation on the prey.


You run away from me,
Say it’s in the past
Tell me that I’m stupid, that it would never last.


But you cannot run, you cannot hide
For I am not a sinner,
But sin itself.


You try and try to get me out of your head
These desires are going to wind up with you — dead


The taste in your mind
And memory in your mouth 
Of the night you caved
And gave your entirety to me.


That night you took your first
Careful and Scared, yet finally at rest. 
No not rest. You shall never rest again. 


Covered in immaculate red
You took a breath and marvelled 
At the lifeless beauty she possessed.


I consumed you with faultless authority 
You consumed her with stained authority


I am not a sinner,
But sin itself
The kind that urges you
To seek pleasures beyond human understanding. 


It is not an infatuation with me that makes you
Like this my love,
It is the satisfaction that overcomes you 
When she can breathe no more.






Literature: The Last Standing Lighthouse by Mariana Debono

Literature: The Last Standing Lighthouse by Mariana Debono

“A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.” Percy Bysshe […]

Hexapoda by Jeanelle Arpa

Hexapoda by Jeanelle Arpa

It started a little over a year ago. Small, winged insects with compound eyes buzzed around fruit, bread, cups of tea and standing water. I shooed them away and crushed them with newspapers when I couldn’t. It never really did anything, but then again there […]