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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 […]

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 white as she clenched them. Dread filled her the instance she was given this task. What a cruel joke.

Ramel sighed. “Loulou, lighten up.”

She wordlessly stepped into the tunnel, her nose wrinkling at the putrid smell. It was too dark to see. She snapped her fingers, her palm emitting a dim light. 

Ramiel whistled as she did. “Fancy. Your skills come in handy.”

She shot him a glare, trying to stop her hand from shaking as she illuminated the tunnel. There seemed to be no end as she led them through it. Her heels stepped over bones, causing them to snap beneath her soles. She took uneven breaths, willing herself to calm down. Being tense meant she’d be unnecessarily on edge, the worst thing she could have been at that moment. She glanced at Ramiel; his hands were leisurely tucked into his pockets. A smile formed on his lips when he met her gaze.

“You should show some fear. Arrogance will get you nowhere.” She warned.

“Oh, I’m scared out of my wits!” He laughed. “I took a long ass anxious shit right before we came here. It’s exhilarating.”

She rolled her eyes, unamused by his choice of words. She might have appreciated it had she been under the influence, but at that moment her mind raced on other matters. Her anxious state got slightly worse when they were met with another door. She glanced at him expectantly. He cracked his knuckles, slight sparks emitting from them as he did, and grabbed the wheel in the centre of the large door. Each turn rattled her chest. Each turn was a step closer to what was beyond it.

The rancid air increased tenfold as Ramiel pushed open the door. Louise made her way through the crack, the door being too big to open fully. The air was stuffy and weighed down on her. She stretched her arm out, illuminating the room around her. It was here, she could feel it.

Ramiel stepped in behind her, his squinted eyes surveying the darkness. “Nox!” He yelled recklessly.

Louise was about to hit him, but stopped when she saw movement from the corner of her eye. She turned, watching the abysmal darkness shift and move around them. 

It used its hands to help itself stand up, its body shifting and contorting, forming the vague shape of a man. If a man had four arms at uneven length, a slouch that disguised it’s true height, and a mask for face. The figure slowly circled them, regarding them both curiously, its arms and legs moving in unnatural ways as its smoke-like body moved through the air. Louise eyed its face, a theatrical mask that gave it the look of constant euphoria. The smile unnaturally curled upwards, its snake-like tongue slithering out from between its razor-sharp teeth. The darkness of the room concealed them well, but not well enough to hide its grotesqueness. The creature stopped, a predator who had successfully observed its new prey. 

It loomed over them as Louise raised her hand to see it better. She gulped, fear consuming and paralysing her. Its face was frozen into a perpetual wide smile, a mocking gaze. It knew. It knew the fear that held her voice. The fear that haunted her dreams, her memories. The creature contorted, writhed and twisted as the smoke turned into skin, the shape morphing into that of a very handsome looking man. A stolen face.

“What is it that you want from me?” It said with a low and bewitching voice. 

Louise couldn’t move. She glanced at Ramiel; whose lips were parted with admiration. He chuckled, almost maniacally. “That never gets old.” She refrained from rolling her eyes, expecting him to go on.

The creature stuffed its hands into its pockets as Nox’s new face huffed. “I don’t have all day.”

Louise cleared her throat, willing herself to speak. “T-the Goddess.” she managed. “She has another assignment for you.”

Its face remained impassive, waiting for the details.

“A mage by the name of Reed. They’ve been accused of blasphemy and treason. A top tier magic user, specialised in wood magic.” She continued, tense.

Nox slowly nodded, unblinking.

“She warns you not to underestimate them.” Louise said, glancing at Ramiel to avoid its gaze. “She wants them alive.” She then gave it the news it was waiting for, “You may steal their husband’s face.”

The handsome man’s face contorted into a playful smirk, a maniacal joy. It started to chuckle. “Oh joyous!” The body began to contort into another person, a nimble woman this time. “A new face to add to my collection.” said the new voice.

Ramiel watched with awe as Nox changed shape. Louise couldn’t understand how he could be so fascinated by such a horrifying sight. He should have been unsettled! Especially when one of the faces Nox possessed was Ramiel’s old lover. She willed herself to move. Their task was done, they were allowed to leave. She was about to tell the disgusting creature this when she watched its face contort into something familiar. Her face paled significantly; the light she was emitting faltered as shock pierced her stomach. A muffled sob escaped her lips. The young face looking back at her smiled sweetly. The little girl’s eyes matched her own, her hair as black as hers. She wore the same dress she did from that night. She felt warm tears escape her; she had no control over her emotions. What a cruel joke.  

The little girl’s smile turned foreign, enjoying the reaction it was getting. Louise’s hands closed into fists, the room darkening completely. She let out a raging yell and slashed through the air, a bright ray of hot light cutting through the darkness and slashing everything in its way. 

“Don’t. You. Fucking. Dare!” She yelled. The creature turned back to smoke, watching her with avid curiosity. “I will not sit here and let you mock me! We’ve given you your task. Report to her once you’re done.” She arranged her collar, rage snuffing out her fear as she glared daggers at the cruel creature. Nox merely cocked its head to the side, a mocking or questioning gesture. She bowed her head, not wanting to further aggravate the situation, and turned, walking out of the tunnel. Ramiel whistled and hurried after her, he didn’t dare say a word. If it was out of respect, or if it was the fear of receiving the brunt of her anger, she did not know. She only focused on getting out of there, her steps heavy and digging into the cracked soil. She didn’t look back, not once, not until they were out of the tunnel.

She let out a ragged, but relieved breath once they were out, taking in the cold air. It was completely silent for a while, except for the occasional rattle of the greenery around them. She let herself calm down, her moment of weakness finally over.

Ramiel pierced through her brief serenity, his voice prodding at her. “What was that?” he asked. “WHO was that?”

“That’s none of your business.” She shut him up, remembering that her birthday was soon. She should light a few more candles for her this time.

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 […]

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 I’ve lived in what many would call heaven, what the Ancient Greeks called Elysium. I guess you could say that I was raised by angels. My favourite was Gabriel, the messenger in heaven who had taken care of me since I was born. He played with me, educated me and always had an answer to my never ending queries. There was one question, however, that he had never given me a straight answer to—my parentage. All I knew was that my mother was an angel and that she had died after giving birth to me. When I would ask about my father, Gabriel would change the subject or simply stay silent and walk out of the room. As I grew up, he became more protective, often becoming possessive and paranoid. By sixteen years of age, I was no longer allowed to roam Earth with him, his reasoning being that it was no longer safe. I always argued that if anything, it should be safer as I could protect myself much more as I got older.

On my eighteenth birthday was when he crossed the line. After I woke up and got dressed, I went to meet the other angels, Uriel and Rafael, in the garden, but when I arrived, only Gabriel was there. When I asked him about the others’ whereabouts, he claimed that they were unable to come. Normally this would be a plausible explanation, however they had promised me the day before that we would celebrate my birthday together. I demanded the truth but he simply led me back to my room and locked the door. I was livid. As I was pacing furiously around the room, I heard a buzzing in my head and my hands felt like they were on fire. I screamed, but not in pain, no it was rage, pure rage. Darkness enveloped my vision and I fell into what seemed like an empty void. 

The next thing I remember is waking up on a bed, a comfortable one for sure. I also remember opening my eyes, but instead of the crisp white walls of my room in heaven, I saw black and gold walls. My eyes trailed to the bed I was lying on. It wasn’t covered in my usual ivory bed sheets but, rather, red satin was draped on it, the ends elegantly cascading to the floor. Saying that I had a panic attack would be an understatement. I was wheezing and blinking furiously, trying as hard as I could to get everything back to normal, to wake up from this lucid dream. What felt like hours was probably only a few minutes. A man who looked no older than forty suddenly appeared and attempted to calm me down. Any sane person’s normal reaction to this complete stranger hugging me unexpectedly and telling me to relax would be to panic further, but I, being the oddball that I am, felt safe in this man’s presence. It was the comforting feeling I used to get when Gabriel would rock me back to sleep after a nightmare when I was a child. I stopped, relished in this feeling, and that’s when I saw him. The black hair and blue eyes, his youthful face and the look of sheer joy on it. 

What shocked me the most however was when he said “Oh Lucifer, you look just like your mother. I can’t believe those angels kept you hidden from me for so long. Welcome back my beautiful daughter”. Now, when a strange man who looks like he could easily beat the living crap out of you calls you his daughter, you probably shouldn’t slap him, but that’s exactly what I did. He was stunned, and honestly so was I, but admittedly I had a pretty good reason. I expected him to be mad but he simply laughed, the kind of laughter where you hold your stomach and tears come out of your eyes. I waited for him to settle down and then ordered him to explain what was happening. When he did, I wished that I had just kept my mouth shut. He said that his name was Faramir, my reaction to which was to laugh and ask him if he could take me to Gondor. He merely smirked and asked me where I thought that Tolkien got it from. He also told me that he was known around that place and to mankind as the demon of lust, and that he was my father, before the angels took my mother, before she had me and they hid us from him. So it’s safe to say I was in both figurative and literal hell. 

When he told me the entire truth of how I came to be, I had a flurry of emotions flowing though me, the two most prominent ones being happiness that I had found my father and disbelief that I had been lied to by the angel that I had thought was my closest familiar. Faramir, or should I say my father, led me out of the room to the dining hall, assuming correctly that I was hungry. There I met six other people err… demons. There were two females and four males and they happily introduced themselves to me as my aunts and uncles and lo and behold they were gluttony, sloth, pride, greed, envy and anger. Despite the stigma surrounding them, they were all nice to me, especially gluttony or Uncle Zeno as he requested me to call him, who admired my ability to consume my weight in food. After the dining experience, I was led to a huge library. Father had said that it was my mother’s favourite place when she would sneak down there to meet him. I had questioned whether he had truly loved my mother or not, since he was the literal embodiment of lust, but the sad expression on his face when he picked up a photo of her and showed it to me was all the proof I needed. 

Before the tour of the palace was over, (oh yeah my father and his siblings actually had their own freaking palace), I asked how I had come to hell in the first place. He explained that the anger I had felt in heaven was enough for Anger, Aunt Aithne, to track my whereabouts and portal ship me to the palace. That day had been the best one of my life. I met my father, found out that I had six other relatives and that I was a Nephalem who had the ability to become even more powerful than the full blooded angels and demons themselves, with the proper training. Sadly, however, this news came with a condition. I couldn’t choose to keep aligning myself with both sides forever, but would eventually have to choose a side. The side that I chose would determine the powers that I would acquire and where I would keep living my life. My father sensed that my attention was no longer on him and stopped speaking in order to take something out of his pocket. It was a letter addressed to him from my mother on the night that she was taken. When I read it, I could almost imagine my mother writing it, telling her beloved Faramir that she was with child and that she had to leave in order to prevent a war between the angels and demons. Her words showed how much she had loved my father and his rebellious nature, as well as how much he had made her feel free in their time together. 

At the end of the letter however, there was something addressed to “my dear daughter Kaida”. She had addressed these words to me, writing simply “Light is good and family is light”. Before I could ponder on this, Zeno came running towards us saying that the angels were requesting my presence immediately. I saw hesitation on my father’s face before it changed quickly to determination. He looked at me and grabbed my shoulders, telling me firmly to remember that I was free to choose. We walked outside of the palace and I immediately saw the angels that I used to look up to, the ones who had raised me, only to then let me live a lie. Gabriel stood at the front in all his brightness, calling joyfully out to me, though at this point it only made me sick. I walked forward and met him half way. He engulfed me in a hug and told me to go back with him, apologizing profusely for keeping the truth hidden. 

I almost agreed, when he made a side comment that Faramir was a disgrace of a father. Then, with a force that I didn’t know I had, I pushed Gabriel away from me. I was fed up with everything and announced that I knew about the choice. My father then requested for a civilized meeting to be held, in which I would deliberate and make my choice. And that brings me to you diary. Now you see that I’m in quite a sticky situation. I have to make a decision soon, and although it will be hard, I will think of my family, my mother. I think I know what I will choose.

Goodbye Diary, and wish me luck.

Yours truly,

Kaida

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 […]

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 only reason I’m not in a taxi yet. I’ll explain.

First off, I do not expect you to understand. Not yet anyway. But maybe in a few hundred thousand white hairs’ time you’ll be stupid enough to get it. And that’s kind of my point. I’m a stupid man. I’m proud to proclaim myself a much stupider man than either of you. Not because I’m senile. Just because I’m old. And, being old, I’ve had the opportunity to love so much more than you two have had. So, let me tell you, kids, there’s nothing on God’s green earth stupider and more wonderful than love.

I’ve loved a fair few people in my life, and none of them compared to your mother. I loved her from the moment she first broke my nose, and I haven’t stopped doing stupid things for the sake of loving her since. It obviously wasn’t the drunk girl tripping over a barstool and crunching her head into my nose that got the heart racing. But when I opened my eyes to blink the tears out of them, there she was. Her beautiful face contrasting so heavily with the stream of profanity coming out of her mouth that I knew I’d never get her image out of my head. That was the first time she’d ever made me laugh – and I must’ve snorted half a pint of blood out of my nose.

The first stupid thing I did to be with her was right after that. Instead of letting your Uncle Al drive me to the emergency room, I took her up on her offer to walk me there. Trudging through a foot of snow while dressed for clubbing and a quart low on blood was probably the most stupid and lovely thing I’ve ever done, until recently. I was unconscious less than two miles later, and she rode in the ambulance with me.

And you were right kids. Her death did hit me harder than I let on. That’s the stupidest thing I ever did for the sake of loving you. I tried to keep all the pain to myself, instead of letting you be there for me. Instead of being there for you. And I am so, so, sorry. We should’ve faced her death as a family, and I forced us all to face it alone. I convinced myself that the pain of my loss was so much worse than yours that I had to shield you from it.

But that’s not why I’m leaving. Before I explain that, let me just say that you are both shit detectives. Yes, her death hit me harder than I let on. Yes, when you were over and I was sad, I used to go upstairs for a few minutes and come down happier. No, I was not doing drugs. If you gleaming little shits thought for a second that you got away with all those whispered conversations and loud attempts at drawing me into conversation while the other slipped upstairs to rifle through my drawers, let me assure you that you were wrong.

I guess that’s something stupid you two did because you love me. I’m not mad, it’s what made me realise I was being selfish in my grief. But I did have something hidden up there. Remember when I said that walking through snow was the stupidest thing I had ever done for love until recently? Hold that thought.

I’m dying. The cancer’s is back, and it’s not responding to treatment. It’s not bad yet, but it will be. And sooner, rather than later. Your mother was so brave. She fought her illness until the end, and always stayed strong for us. I love you two, and I love your kids, and I want to do the same. But like I said, no one I’ve ever loved has compared to your mother. And I know that writing that I still love your mother more than I love all of you combined probably makes me the shittiest person ever to be called Grandad, but it’s true. I don’t want to face cancer again. I can’t fight like she did when I know I’m so close to seeing her again. I’m going somewhere sunny, and I’m leaving my heart pills behind. Two weeks, maybe three, and I’ll be with her again.

So, about that stupidest thing, and what I used to do upstairs? Well… it’s your mother’s fault really. When we got married, we wrote our own vows of course, and the last thing she said to me before that wrinkled vulture of a priest let me kiss her was that her heart would never belong to anyone else. I couldn’t hear anything the priest said after that, and I just stared into her eyes until they invited me forward.

So, considering the ardent obsession with which I’ve held onto those words for the entirety of our lives together, you can understand if I was slightly miffed when I found an organ donor card in her purse. That heart, she’d said, would never belong to anyone else. So a couple of days after she died, I sauntered into the hospital, borrowed a gown, and stole the damn thing. It’s been in the upstairs freezer ever since. I just used to go up there to talk to her for a bit and tell her everything you’d told me. What used to break my heart was remembering that she couldn’t be there to see what amazing people you two have been becoming all this time.

I have no interest in slowly declining until I’m too weak to walk over to her. I have no interest in spending my last months in a hospital bed, knowing she’s alone at home, and that I’ll never speak to her again. And I certainly have no interest in you two finding a heart in my freezer one day with no explanation and thinking the worst of me.

So I’m running away. I’m putting her in an ice chest, and I’m taking her with me. And somewhere, on some beach, hopefully at sunrise after we’ve spent a whole night chatting, my heart will give out with hers in my arms, and we’ll be together again.

Lead your lives stupidly kids,

Love,

Dad

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 […]

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, of course, my child. But let me tell you what really happened this time. Do you want to hear the secret history of the beautiful sleeping girl?”

“Yes please, grandmother!”

The old lady put aside her knitting and began.

***

Once upon a time there was a little country girl, the prettiest you could ever see. Her mother loved her very much, and her father even more so. They called her Gemma, which means jewel.

When she was still a child, her mother grew very sick. As she lay dying, she was visited by a wise old fairy, and pleaded with her not to let her child suffer from such sickness.

“Madam,” the fairy replied. “Your child will never grow sick, but her demise will be caused by a man who loves her, but who will forget about her after not speaking to her for a year.”

Upon hearing this, her father, desperate not to lose her like his wife, decided to lock Gemma in a tall tower with no doors or stairs, in order to protect her from any man from the nearby villages. He visited Gemma every day, told her stories, and gave her everything she could ever wish for – but he never let her out.

When Gemma grew up, she began to ask, “Father, will I ever go out into the world and meet my Prince Charming?” To which her father would reply, “My jewel, who could possibly ever love you more than I?”

And so they lived for years. When she was alone in the tower, Gemma would sing to bide the time. She had a very beautiful voice, and one day a handsome prince who was riding close by heard her singing and decided to follow.

***

“Oh, grandmother, what was his name?”

“It was Doroteo,” replied the old lady. “But quiet now, and listen to the rest of the story.”

***

Doroteo finally arrived at the tower, and saw a beautiful young lady sitting on the window sill, the most beautiful he had ever seen.

“What is your name, maiden?” he called out.

“I am Gemma.” She was smitten, for it was the first time she had laid eyes on anyone who was not her father since she had been in the tower, and Doroteo was a very handsome man indeed. “And you?”

Doroteo and Gemma quickly fell in love. Doroteo visited her often, but could never find a way to get into the tower.

One day Doroteo lost track of time while out hunting, and arrived at the tower an hour later than usual. Gemma’s father was there, and he was furious when he found out that Gemma had been seeing a man for almost a year.

Now Gemma’s father was a powerful warlock. Eager to avoid the fairy’s prophecy, he decided to test Doroteo and conjured a large and dense forest all around the tower. Wanting to sound fair, he told Doroteo, “If you can find the tower again and be here by sunset tomorrow, I will let Gemma out and she will be yours forever, and I will welcome you as my son.

“But if you do not make it in time, she will fall into a long enchanted sleep, from which she can only wake with true love’s kiss exactly a year after.”

Doroteo accepted the challenge and headed back to his village. Clever as he was, he took out a piece of bread and dropped crumbs all the way out of the forest, so that he might find his way back easily the day after, and win her father’s approval.

***

“And then he found her and they lived happily ever after! What a beautiful story!”

“Have patience, my dear girl. Sadly, there is more to this story.”

***

The warlock had no intention of letting Doroteo find Gemma in time. He wanted to see whether Doroteo still loved her after a year, to make sure he was a safe match for Gemma. So he ordered his pet raven to fly throughout the forest, eating the bread Doroteo had dropped.

When Doroteo arrived at the edge of the forest the day after, there was not a single crumb left. He tried and tried to find the tower, but it was too easy to get lost in the woods.

Gemma waited all day on the window sill, singing to try and help him find her. As the sun sank lower, her heart did too.

“Doroteo, Doroteo,” she cried in agony, falling to her knees. “Where are you, Doroteo?”

And she fell asleep.

***

“Did he find her a year later, grandmother?

“Yes he did, my dear, but perhaps it would have been better if he hadn’t…”

***

Doroteo did not forget about Gemma, as the fairy had predicted. For a year he explored the forest, found the tower, and learned the path by heart. He thought of how he could get inside the tower to kiss Gemma awake on the anniversary of her sleep, and decided to grow out his hair. By the time the day arrived, he had the longest hair in the country.

When he arrived at the tower, Doroteo realised that without Gemma there was no way he could tie his hair to the window and climb up. He was just starting to despair when – lo and behold! – the little old fairy appeared.

“Fairy, fairy, tie up my hair!” he cried.

With the fairy’s help, he climbed up the tower using his own hair, into the window, and finally lay eyes on the beautiful Gemma again. He went up to her, kneeled down, and kissed her.

But alas! She did not wake. For her father had forgotten that while she was asleep, she still needed the most basic thing – to be fed. Doroteo was too late – for love, for joy, for happily ever after. Gemma slept on forever the way she lived, inside a tower, without a prince.

***

“What happened to Doroteo then?”

“When I was a little girl, as young as you, I was passing through the woods on the way to my own grandmother’s house when I met a wild man whose hair covered the forest floor. ‘I am the one who arrived too late,’ he told me. He said that getting lost in the woods can be devastating, and helped me find the way to grandma. ‘You go down this path, and I will go down this one.’

“He never stopped loving Gemma, my dear child. He ran away and lived the rest of his life in the woods. He never cut his hair, and sometimes climbed the tower to be with Gemma one more time. They say he could speak to the animals, and even today, if you listen closely enough to the wolves’ howls at night, you will hear a faint echo.

‘Gemma, Gemma, Gemma…’

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 pastTell me that I’m stupid, that it would never last. But […]

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 weren’t many of them to begin with. Until there were. I found them in my rice, crawling through new packets of flour, floating in the oil, gnawing through the fabric of my clothes. They were in the bathroom, in the bedroom, the shed, the kitchen, the lounge. Then there came a profound shift in psyche once discovered in my hair. I used to have a lot of it. The insects would get tangled and struggle for a while, before deciding they quite liked it there. They crawled over my scalp with perversely bristled legs, laying their eggs and shedding their skins and leaving behind viscid clumps buried in their own excrement. I washed my hair so frequently my scalp ached sore from a chemical fire. It helped for a while, but never for long. I tore at my head with fevered panic every second of every day, trying to get the damned things out; trying to relieve an itch that never ever went away. At night I lay awake in fit of abrasion, rubbing my head against the pillow, trying to smother them and stop them from settling into my eyebrows and lashes. Their wings hummed, their mouths clicked, their feet tick, tick, ticked far too loudly in the darkness, far too close for comfort. I could not sleep, and instead fell sporadically in and out of consciousness, each moment plagued by inescapable delirium. Eventually my hair dried up, each strand a shrivelled husk. Then it fell out in clumps, and finally- relief. I shaved off what was left. I pulled out all my lashes. I did not leave a single follicle on my body.

The relief was short-lived. In summer, the bugs stuck to my body, drawn by the sickly sweet smell of clothes and sheets and skin drenched in sweat that staled and dried and reappeared as reliably as I would breathe. I tried to swat them away but they pinched and bit in retaliation, leaving behind small red lumps. They itched even worse than my scalp had. I tried to resist, but I couldn’t. I scratched until the bites bled, infected, scabbed over, and were re-opened by my nails or by the bugs themselves. Then they started burrowing. I couldn’t stop them, not even when I dug them out with scalpels. More and more would appear, and soon I had larvae crawling out in hideous, purulent, writhing knots. Dousing the holes in bleach would get rid of them for a few days. But they always came back.   

Now I sit in water. My tub is filled to the brim and I crouch below the waterline. If I did not have to breathe I would submerge myself completely, and at times I consider doing it anyway. The water is the only thing that keeps them away you see, though not for lack of trying. The surface is choked with little corpses who, in their final moments, were compelled by the septic contents lying within. I cannot remember how long I’ve been here. For all my planning, I forgot to bring a watch. The radio plays the same song over and over again but does not announce the date. I have littered the bathroom tiles with food wrappers. I had food with me, but now I have run out. Maybe it has been very long, and I don’t remember. The water has turned dark, and it is for the best. I cannot see my legs, or my stomach, or my chest, and I do not want to. They throb and slough and I move them reluctantly only to jolt them awake from their buzzing coma. But it’s better than the itching; anything is better than the itching. Bloated flesh and festered wounds aside, I know little else of my physical state. Despite my mirror, I can see nothing of my reflection. The insects are attracted to the bleak ultraviolet light of the lamp and have swarmed it in hordes. All I see is the quivering mass of six-limbed bodies, apparently content to snap at, step over, and copulate with each other in no particular order of preference. I look at them sometimes, but mostly I don’t. I like to keep my eyes shut. It keeps the insects off.

But now they are open, because I hear someone coming. I crane my neck and look out through the window. Distorted figures yell at my house, their heads obscured by thick swarms of flies. More come out of a van and break down my door. I had spent long days meticulously sealing every gap in my home with tape, and now it’s been destroyed. It was useless anyway. The flies came in regardless; they crawled through the cracks, flowed through the taps, bled from the sockets in the walls. Does it really matter if more come in through the door?

They are looking for me downstairs, room by room, and I wonder why they’ve come. I expect it’s an overdue bill for one thing or another. I don’t remember where I’ve put my money, and I’m not sure I have any left after all. The people still call my name. I don’t understand how they open their mouths so freely. They don’t sound cross, not at all, but they have searched the first floor and are coming up the stairs. Something heavy drags across the carpet, and the noise scares me. I did not lock the bathroom door, and they can hear the music. I scratch my skin in panic, but I feel nothing more than a blunt tickle. I forgot: my nails fell out a week ago.

The invaders finally burst through the doorway. I open my eyes, vision clouded by frantic flies disturbed from rest. The people ignore them. They are speaking to me, slowly and with exaggerated movements. The flies settle on their skin, crawl through their noses and fill their mouths. They remain calm, pulling in a stretcher behind them. I want to scream but cannot stand the acrid taste of ingested hexapods. I don’t understand their words. One of them leans forward and puts a gloved hand on my back. He is speaking and I see his lips move, but no sound comes out except the buzzing, the humming, and the clicking. I search his face and see nothing. The others are approaching too, and they are dressed in white. I feel more hands on my skin, and then a prickle. After so many insect bites I would have missed it had it not been followed by a strong injection of sedative. The room sways and I slump forward, directly into waiting arms. A fog starts to creep over my thoughts. As if by contradiction, my vision slowly clears, the insects dissipate, the buzzing deadens. My eyes grow heavy, and I have just enough time to read a nametag pinned to a pristine uniform:

T. MacPherson

Paramedic

St. John’s Psychiatry Clinic

Oh.

 

 

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About the Author: Jeanelle is a biomedical engineer, artist and writer with a particular love for chinchillas, cake, and dark humour. She is currently reading for a PhD with the department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering to develop implantable electrodes.

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Track the Dead by Sarah Zammit Munro

Track the Dead by Sarah Zammit Munro

She knew what she was getting herself into. She always did. Into the black, into the dark unknown, unfathomed by all who see the light. A mind capable of standing out in the crowd, a deep crimson stain growing, eating the body alive, the monster that reflects the inner self. Sometimes it takes over and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The train was coming.

The station was a barren space, her footsteps echoing alongside the tracks. She wore a pair of chunky boots, covered in the dirt that was left behind from her past mission. The spikes protruding from them disguised their intended use well. It would only take the click of a heel to send one flying. It was an accomplishment to have plucked out two eyes at once, in less than five seconds, not even blinking. It was like crossing off a to-do list, except it was not simply like getting from one place to another – it was more like getting a soul from one realm to another, wherever that might be.

It was life. It was about making a living. She never thought that she would resort to this. Blood was merely a red consequential colour, nothing more, nothing less. Incapable? Unable? Such words didn’t exist. Darkness is found in everyone, she thought, but some hide it better than others. It takes a specific memory, experience, or harmful event to trigger the pain, exposing it. ‘Assassin’ might be too harsh of a word to describe her line of work. It was a rather odd kind of profession.

It was almost like social work. Her lonely chuckle echoed in the eerie station. She was helping society through her contribution, she thought. Dealing with her anger whilst purging humanity from people who are inherently evil was a win-win situation in her bloodshot eyes. She was merely accomplishing what others were too scared to attempt.

She snapped herself back to reality. She was still at the station. The train was still coming.

She could feel the tension in the air rising as she waited. He would appear any time now, and he’d better come soon – she needed to act quickly.

A voice. She turned her head sharply and her long black ponytail followed. It was him. The memories flooded back and she remembered hands; hands creeping up mercilessly, and a helpless body, stiff and paralysed. She shuddered and hatred started boiling up inside of her. He would pay. All men would pay for dehumanising her and reducing her down to body parts. He would soon find out what that was like.

Her fox-like ears kept track of his every movement. She was good at hiding – after all, she had spent her whole life hiding from the world.

He walked along with large strides to the edge of the station platform. She could sense that the train would approach any time now. She knew that after this was over they would come looking for her. They were already doing so, but she was always on the run – some would say she took the fast lane on the highway to hell, but that was their opinion.

She hid behind a column and counted down the seconds.

7

6

5

Her mind was racing. She should escape and attempt to live her life elsewhere. This would be her last job. She was tired of running. She wanted this to be her best work yet, to see the terror and pain sparkling in his eyes.

4

3

2

1

She sprung out from behind the shadows just as the train burst through the arches. With great strength that was not her own, she shoved the man onto the tracks, head first. The railway was poised to tear him apart like a piranha’s fang-like teeth ripping him into shreds. With no time to react, he started to topple over, almost too slowly.

His eyes registered panic and then shock as the train lights shone on her face and he recognised her. As he turned his body during the fall, he grabbed hold of her ponytail and yanked her with him onto the tracks. She screamed as their bodies were hurled downwards. The oncoming train slammed into them with such great force that their bodies shattered, just as she had predicted. She had wanted to see his limbs tear apart, his skin and bones crumbling under the weight of the train carriages and yet, her remnants and his became one as the train sped on to the end of the platform.

Time stood still. A man silently approached the gruesome scene. This would be her last, he had heard her say multiple times before. Now it finally was. As if he were a shadow, he walked towards the train and with his gloved hands, picked up pieces of the woman’s skin and bones. He placed them in a transparent sachet with her name on it and stuffed it in his pocket. He loved working for her agent, his rival. He would tell him the good news and continue to track the dead.

 

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About the Author: Sarah Zammit Munro is a third year, studying Communications with English and has a passion for writing. She is also interested in poetry, theatre, dance, filming, and photography. 

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