London Life

Author: Anonymous

Piccadilly Pink

Let’s seek joy in the greyness
The pink flowers in the city
The touch of life in melancholy

Let’s change history
White men and their smugness
Their busts and what they express

Let’s find fiction
About balloons and butterflies
To alleviate our lives

Let’s dream till sunrise
Lulled by love and wine addiction
Forget about the restriction

Jail Tower

Jail Tower
Deep blue sky walls
But I can’t see the sky
Neither a single flower
Welcome to one of London’s students’ halls
Don’t be shy, come by!

Explore this amazing place
Which is my space
Meet the grey squirrels and black cats
Which wander around the flats
And dive into the bins
Roaming little dark djinns

Let’s go now to my cell
Where floats a musty smell
I open the window to get fresh air
A scent of smoke or weed climbs to me
Thanks to the lower smoker or junky

Alone in my costly 11 square metres
Trying to find light in this darkness
To push those frail heaters
To overcome my loneliness
I hear noises at night
Phone calls, hair dryer, but no one in sight

I feel like I live with ghosts
Dirty and noisy hosts
Don’t know what “to clean” means
Those porcine teens

When I can I escape
Go to nicer landscapes
Take the old Tube lines
Far away from these swines

I flee to the city
Where I enjoy university
Museums, restaurants and shows
And inside my heart, joy flows

But at night I need to come back
To my dear bivouac
In the last minutes of the Tube I get ready
Warm my ankles up
Hide my bosom under my shawl
Hope to not see a soul
And I get up
Breathe deep and exit through the night
Since then, I always made it without a fight

I’ll soon be home
In my beautiful Swiss dome
I’ll miss the musicals, cream teas, salsa, and my girls,
I really found some pearls
But I’ll smile at the airport
Cause I’ll be out of S****** Court!

Go to Hell

Author: Katharina Schwarck

It is a warm, sultry day. The type of day that makes your body feel heavy and your skull pressured. The type of day that makes your limbs and your soul yearn for an explosion of the skies to release the earthly tension. Though you are not sure it is only the elements that are making you implode. A cure has been found, you are told. A cure that could have saved them. A cure that came too late. You think of them, your person. You think of them in disbelief. You think of them in pain. The type of pain that makes you pinch your skin because your only desire is to be in a dream. The type of pain that makes your cheeks twinge and cramp. The type of pain that makes you want to pull out your heart. Maybe, now, you think, you can bring them back. So, you travel. You travel to the place of the stories. You travel to the place of evil. You travel to the place that, for you, is the last place of hope. You are told to enter near a lake. Near a lake, near the New City. So, you go. 

On the journey from the New City to the lake, walking, and walking, pain and exhaustion overcome you. You lie down. 

Later, unsure of how much time has passed, you are woken up by a man’s voice in a tongue you do not know. You sit up. In front of you, there is an entrance to what appears to be a cave. In the mouth of the cave, leaning against the wall stands a man. He says “veniam et te adiuvet sed non possum”, shrugging and pursing his voluptuous lips. You slowly sit up and look at him, void of understanding. “Hic est introitus inferni. Sed vide. Lupa ostium custoditur.”, he pursues. You shake your head in confusion. “I don’t understand”, you explain in your tongue. “Oh!” he exclaims. “My bad. This is the entrance you are looking for. But be careful, it is guarded by a Great and Dangerous She-Wolf. And I would help you up but I can’t.” You nod, stand up, and dust yourself off. The man smiles.  

Do you

A) thank him and go home? Open the PDF document and go to page 2

B) ask him if he knows a way past the animal?  Open the PDF document and go to page 4

The Flight of the Seagull (First Place Winner of the “Tomorrow” Short Story Competition)

Images: © by Fanny Cheseaux

Author: Fanny Cheseaux

The seagull was croaking contently in the port. It had just stolen a juicy tomato and ham sandwich from a little old lady near Grand Canal and was gulping it down quickly. Standing between the agitated sea and the glass buildings of the Docks, its beak was shining, and its stomach slowly expanding. In its satisfaction, it couldn’t see the pair of eyes that were watching it intently. Blue eyes filled with hunger and a vast darkness that would have scared animals and humans alike.  

The man was looking at it, crouched in his usual spot under an old alleyway that led to the shopping centre. Red marks like wires were barely hidden under his green sweatshirt that didn’t protect him any more against the vicious wet cold. The man was hungry, and it was lunchtime in the City. He could see the businessmen chatting on the phone while distractedly eating their 8 euros Moroccan-spiced chicken wraps. 

He was thinking about how nice it would be to roast the seagull; about how cavemen had discovered fire one day; about the roast lambs on a stake of his youth, and how his foster dad would make him swirl in the air while the smell of slow cooking meat filled them all with joy. 

But that was long ago – he hadn’t seen these people he had once called family for more than ten years now. The smell of meat cooking had been replaced with scents of sweat, tears and the piss of drunks on the cobblestone corners. 

A woman with a long black coat walked briskly in front of him, giving him the usual look of pity and embarrassment. People did not seem to understand that this look wouldn’t feed him. The coins in his little paper cup were looking at him sadly. November was always rough for Bob.

He thought about extending his tired hands and stealing the sandwich from the seagull, but it flew away before Bob could even move more than his shoulder. Brave animal. The seagull was already high in the sky, surveying the city. Far away, the Poolbeg chimneys indicated the direction of the coast.  

The seagull landed on the north bank of the river. On the dirty white fence, two of his congeners were already perched on their legs, looking as if they were discussing the news of the day: “Patrick, I read in the Times this morning that Dublin was the sixth most expensive capital in the world for renters.” “Captivating! Do tell me more, John.”

On the other side of the road stood an old building—the Bachelor’s Inn. Workers walked briskly in front of it. Students sometimes took a stroll along the bank and pictured themselves living there. They imagined the noises the wooden floor would make when they came home at 3 a.m. after drinking obscure pints downstairs. 

Odhran, carrying all their hundred-euro books in a worn-out leather bag, passed the birds on the fence daily. Weird group of gulls, they would think. Whenever they saw the Inn on the way to the university, they would hope they could stay. How easy it would be, how comfortable. They could inhale the smell of decaying wood, which would replace the one of the cold cleanliness of their house. They could escape the sounds of broken minds, broken promises, and broken plates.

Odhran had tried everything: “Mom, Dad, please, I’m trying to study!” 

They would say, with apologies on their face:

—Odhran, I’m sorry it always goes like this. Your dad makes it impossible for me. 

—You know your mom is mental Odhran, right? It’s not my fault. Even her brothers say so.

—He screams at me for the most impossible things, why can’t he get a real job? I have to do everything here, while he goes out and wanders around the Wicklow mountains with his little mates. 

—Don’t listen to her, kiddo. Just promise me you’ll never turn out like her. 

—I know it’s hard for you, sweetheart, but please don’t leave me alone with him. What would I do? 

So, every day at university, during the classes where teachers spoke too low, Odhran would hunt on their computer. Their eyes were glued to the screen, browsing renters’ websites and Facebook groups, such as “Dublin cheap rooms” or the university accommodation section. They would spend hours classifying and saving ads. 

They played this game for hours with friends, criticizing the flaws of the apartments and rooms they found: I could never live there; there’s not enough natural light. This blue tiling is so tacky. Having a flatmate? Could never be me. Only three bathrooms in this flat? It made them laugh while they sipped their overpriced coffee. It made them forget the sad truth: they could never afford it anyway.

So Odhran would look once more, sadly, at the curious and mean seagulls and go on their two-hour commute – two buses and the DART – to go down to the kitchen, where dinner was served, and no one looked at each other in the eyes. 

The girl was there, as usual, on the corner of Grafton Street. Lily. She was an easy target – the seagull prided itself on knowing how to recognize kind people from unkind people. It always came back to the kind ones. She was wrapped in her half-eaten velvet blanket, the face of a little dog poking from it. In her cup, some coins, a few 2 euros, some 5 cents. She had an old piece of bread in her bag.

She always liked the presence of the seagull. She was looking at its little round belly with its perfect white feathers, all tidied up in order – oh so clean and soft-looking – and she would wonder; how would it feel to catch it? To squeeze the little belly? To grab it by one of its dirty yellow legs, to bring it inside her blanket and hug it while it would shriek, trapped? So, every day, she gave it a little bit of her food of the day – and she didn’t always have a lot – and every day, it got a little bit closer to her. It was a job for the long haul.

But today wouldn’t be the day – not yet. She threw the piece of stale bread at it and watched it eat it voraciously. Charming, she thought. When it flew away, she returned to thinking about her plans for the night. She would go back to the shelter, and the walk was tiresome. How long could she afford to stay out before getting too cold? 

Lily needed to find a public bathroom before walking back – or go to a restaurant, but the staff would usually shoot her dirty looks when she came in with her sleeping bag, her dog, and the blanket. But she had to find something to use for the first day of her period. Usually, it was toilet paper from the public bathroom that she would roll over and over again.  

Once, she had found free period products when she infiltrated a fancy restaurant’s bathroom. Did all those women dressed in flowy flower dresses with their marine suit-wearing partners need free tampons and pads? Lily had taken all she could fit in her pocket, but the operation was risky. She had had to leave all her belongings and Barjo on the corner of the street. Everyone could have taken the little dog – but she was tired of bleeding through the toilet paper that was falling apart. The products had lasted her two cycles. 

The cold was starting to pierce through the blanket and Barjo was wincing in pain. On the other side of the street, Lily saw Martha with her big colourful skirts. They waved at each other, in familiarity. She wondered how much the old lady had gotten today, in her usual spot by the Trinity bus stop.

The sun had set entirely behind the brick buildings, and the seagull was far away from the park, its nasty eyes looking for a place to rest. It was never cold, this seagull, it had many homes in the quiet town and it could land on any roofs to make a comfortable nest. Sometimes, it flew away to Bull’s Island beach to join its colony. Gliding through the night, it felt the eyes of all the shivery souls on the streets of Dublin following its flight through the polluted dark sky. 

Tomorrow, it hoped to steal a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich.

A Cheap Eulogy about Stars (Third Place Winner of the “Tomorrow” Short Story Competition)

Author: Salomé Emilie Streiff

   “You should write about the stars,” she said before coughing.
I nodded. I could write about the stars. I started to picture myself lying on top of a hill, with the sky as my limit and countless of lights. They were dancing to the rhythm of the nostalgic symphony nature plays when no one is watching. So far away from one another, they seemed slightly lonely. It was the price to pay to be this beautiful. Suddenly the night felt too heavy, like the pressure of a thousand worlds was resting on my chest.
   “But it should be comforting”, she added, still coughing.
I nodded again. Stars could be comforting. They are, actually. They remained still throughout countless lifetimes as if they were powered by the gods. They watch from above and listen to every wish. I could imagine talking to them and sending all my grief in unanswered prayers to the sky.
   “And anything but depressing.”
I looked at her with a smile in my eyes.
   “It’s a funeral grandma, it must be depressing.”
She coughed again and let out a sigh. With her wrinkled fingers, she drew a heart on my hand. I was sitting on the side of her bed, on which she was neither sitting nor lying. Old people know how to write poetry without words.
   “I guess you’re right, it has to be a bit depressing.”
I took my pen and started to write again.
   “What about comparing you to a star in your living era and saying something about you watching us from above, among the others?”
   “Come on Mackenzie, even for an old lady like me, it sounds cheap.”
The nurse came to feed her, letting me know my presence was no longer welcomed. I closed my notebook and kissed her on the right cheek. She held my hands for a while and pressed them on her lips, as if she was revealing to them her dearest secret. Old people know how to write poetry without words.
   “You’ll come back tomorrow, and we’ll work on that eulogy a bit more.”
She died that night.
The next week at the funeral, I was standing on a wooden stage in front of her family and what she called her “leftover companions”. My aunt, who drove from the south of France, seemed more tired than sad, her two daughters were too young to capture the essence of the moment, and most of my grandmother’s friends were too senile to understand anything. A few died in the year that followed to support this observation. After six nights of staring at my bedroom wall, searching for inspiration between waves of sorrow, I was left with a few sentences about the stars, and the recurring sound of her bad cough. My grandma sought out to dance among the stars and it suited her. For her eulogy, I said a few words about their shiny dance and her coughing poetry with acoustic feedback as only musical support. It was cheap, but everyone shed a tear; sadness tends to transform weak verses into touching art. For years, her last words haunted me, as if the perfect eulogy were lying in the day after. With each night that separated me from her funeral, it was growing a day older, always in advance. I could picture it, in the form of a young woman full of wit, smiling sardonically at me, knowing I would never capture her. I never came close enough to seize the rhymes that would flawlessly capture her spirit. Her eulogy resisted me, and its absence reminded me of the silence spell she whispered before leaving, as if she put in it the secret recipe to catch the perfect tribute. Every now and then, I still try to translate the poetry that she left in my hands. Sometimes it’s cheap, and sometimes there is a taste of tomorrow between the lines.

Crumbling Memories

Author: Jessi Cardinaux

It’s funny, the crumbs at the corner of your lips.

It reminds me of the biscuits that my mother used to prepare for me every morning before I left to go to the school three villages away from where we lived, behind the forest and the river that only had one bridge and on which we used to go boating with my uncle until he had his accident on that trip when he offered me for the first time to go with him, but I refused because I had met that summer and on that one bridge of the river the person who, I thought, would become the most important person in my life and with whom I had two beautiful children who then became the most important people in my life and whom I raised alone for many years, giving them enough love for two parents and the same biscuits my mother used to prepare for me every time they went to the school three villages away from where we lived, behind the forest and the river that only have one bridge still, but I never crossed again…

It’s strange how we remember things. A life can come back to us in a second, yet we can get lost in the meanderings of our memories for hours. So many memories… that I have accumulated in almost a hundred years of life. So many memories come together, intermingle and rearrange themselves each time a new one enters my mind.

And the more I accumulate, the less I can distinguish between the ones I have been told, the ones I have seen in films and comics, the ones I have read in books and the ones I have written down, and the ones I have experienced. But they all belong to me. Whether I am the author or the actor, the narrator or the listener, all these memories inhabit my mind and constantly spin, shift, change and rearrange themselves into a myriad of stories and legends, all more intertwined than absurd.

And even if I’ll forget it all tomorrow, still, my favourites are the stories your lips tell.

Ode to Peeing Girls*

Image: © tedeytan, “Gender Neutral Bathroom Sign Baby Wale Restaurant DC”, CC BY-SA 2.0, source.

Author: Anonymous

Having a vulva is no easy thing.

Your urethra is close, 

No direction to bring,

Too skinny are the clothes,

It’s not easy to wing.

*For the purpose of this poem, this term describes people with a vulva. The author sends love and appreciation to all people with a vulva who aren’t girls and all people who are girls and don’t have a vulva. The author hopes to see more gender-neutral bathrooms in the future.

“Tomorrow”

Author: Lisa Ziegert

[Content Warning: Suicide Attempt]

Tomorrow, that’s all he told me.
Tomorrow, that’s when it will happen.
Tomorrow, that’s when he will do it.
Tomorrow, that’s when I will lose him.

I curse the night. I curse the rest. I curse myself for sleeping so long. All this makes me hate myself because right now, it is tomorrow.

He hasn’t said anything precise about when and where. He just texted me “Tomorrow” and knew I would understand perfectly. I know it is not a joke or a drunk text. It is a promise. Reading these eight letters hurts so bad, and I know he knows it.

We know each other so well. Some would say like brothers, but it would be wrong, and immoral. I don’t like him like a brother at all. I love him with all my heart and soul. I love him like the wind loves the sea.

This love consumes me. It is the reason why his text hurts so badly. I know he fought for so long. I know he tried to find another way. I tried to help him so much, but it was in vain. It is in vain because it’s too late. Tomorrow. Well, today is truer but I cannot accept it, so my very soul perceives it as tomorrow. I cannot accept it because tomorrow is the day he’s going to die, and it breaks me.

It sucks the air out of my body. I feel like I’m moving through a thick fog, like the air around me is solidifying. I struggle to move, to get dressed, to grab my car key, to get out of my place, in my car.

When my butt finally touches my car seat, feelings, emotions, everything comes back to me. I start shivering. I try to calm myself, but my hands won’t stop shaking. I can’t put the car key in the keyhole. I drop them on the floor. It makes me lose it. I start to hit the steering wheel with my palms, shouting in agony, tears streaming down my cheeks. I let my head go back against my seat and just stay here for a minute, drained, crying, weeping.

When I manage to calm myself, I pick up my keys and start my car. I drive in silence. The roads are empty, everybody is away, on holiday. It is way too hot; I am sweating. I should open the window or turn on the AC, but I do neither. I just keep driving further and further to my lover’s place.

I spend the entire drive muttering “Please be home! Please, oh please be home, my dear precious angel”. This sentence turns around and around in my head. His face is imprinted on my eyeballs.

At 4, I see his house. I stop in the middle of his driveway. Get out, run to his door, and bang my fists on it as if my life depended on it.

There is no answer.

I try to open the door, but it is locked. I run around the house to the backdoor and am very relieved to find it open. I burst into his kitchen and start shouting his name. I search all the rooms on this floor but can’t find him. I run up the stairs straight to his bedroom. But still, he’s nowhere to be seen. I get out of his bedroom and scan my surroundings. I rapidly observe that all the doors are open except the one from the bathroom. I rush to it and try to open it. It is locked. I bang on it with all my might shouting.

“Please my dear, please open the door. Let me in! Let me help you! I beg you!”

But there is no answer.

I continue to pour my rage and despair on that poor door.

I end up breaking it at some point and am finally able to enter the room.

It is 4:20. At first, I don’t see anything. There is only a strong metallic smell. The smell of blood. Then I see him. He is curled up on the floor, blood pouring from his arms. He is weakly looking at me. His eyes are full of pain, relief, regrets, and apologies. I run to him. I don’t know what to do, or how to help him. I’m completely lost, helpless. I grab random towels and try to tie them around his deep open wounds. It is not working, but I am no doctor. I do not know how to do the only thing I must do.

At 4:40, the idea of calling an ambulance crosses my mind. I shout to my phone to call it and do my best to explain to the nice lady that the love of my life is losing all his blood in my arms. I am crying, I can’t help it, can’t stop it. But I don’t care. The only thing I want is for him to survive.

When the paramedics arrive, they ask me to move aside so they can take care of him properly. I know I should not protest but I can’t help it. I don’t want to let go of him. I cannot lose him. He is too important, too wonderful, too irreplaceable.

Still, I let go of him, exit the bathroom, and pace up and down the corridor. They patch him, take him in an ambulance and drive straight to the nearest hospital. I jump in my car and follow as well as I can.

When I arrive, the only thing left for me to do is to wait in a big light blue room, filled with dark blue seats and smelling of sanitizer.

A nurse comes to me with a concerned look and asks me if I am hurt. It is only at this moment that I realize, I am covered in blood. I reassure her, telling her the blood is not mine. She smiles faintly and leaves me to wait, alone. I have never felt lonelier. I pace in this room for hours desperately waiting for anyone to give me some news.

At 10, a doctor finally comes to me. He looks exhausted. When he arrives next to me, he puts his arm on my shoulder. It alarms me. I don’t know if his face shows concern or relief. I am not ready to hear him tell me something bad. I am not ready to confront death.

“It was long and took a lot of time. The cuts were nasty, and he lost a ton of blood but he’s going to live. We’re leading him to his room as we speak. You will be able to see him soon. You did the right thing calling us, Sir, a few minutes later would have been too late.”

Relief washes over me. He is going to live. It’s all I needed to know, all I heard. I don’t feel like I saved him. I don’t feel particularly heroic. All I did was save the person I hold the closest to my heart. In a way, it is selfish, I guess, since he tried to kill himself. But no, I cannot let him do that. I love him too much.

I am in his hospital room, bent over his bed, waiting for him to wake up. When he opens his eyes, I take his hand in mine. I look at him with eyes full of love and gratitude.

“I’m so glad you are alive! You scared me so much! Please let me help you more. I’m sure I can try to do something else. Let me help you. I love you; you know?”

He looks at me with tears in his eyes. A faint smile appears on his face. He starts to speak slowly, in a very hushed voice.

“I am sorry. I could not take it anymore. I will try to talk to you and let you help me. I know you love me. So do I, even if what I tried to do would tend to make you think the opposite.”

These words console me. They bring me peace and hope for the future, our future. I lean a bit further and put a gentle kiss on his forehead.

“It’s going to get better. I don’t know when, but it is!”

Things are complicated now but we will get through this battle together. We will make it out alive. We are strong enough and our love is stronger than ever. Nearly losing someone really makes you realize how much you love them.

We are survivors. We will keep fighting against his depression, suicidal thoughts, and any other issues.

We are strong.
We are united.
We will see tomorrow.

Autumn

Author: Anonymous

Everything’s dying
And seems to mingle with the melancholy of my sweet soul.
In the depth of despair,
That the scenery captures –
I feel comforted by the found friend.
I am a character
In the Autumn performance.

It’s Been a Day

Author: Furaha Mujynya

[Content Warning: Substance Use]

I wonder if people can feel my excitement just from the way I’m walking. I feel like I’m oozing energy. But I guess there’s no way they could tell. Still, I should probably try to look a bit more relaxed, just in case. Contemplating the possibility of an arrest for a second, Isaiah’s train of thoughts quickly goes back to the object of his desire. It’s the first time I have seen cocaine so pure, so majestic. God am I glad that I gave it a try before buying it! I almost feel like it’s not real. Exhaling deeply, his hands slightly shaking, he thinks – Gosh… I should really hurry home. It doesn’t feel right to walk around with this diamond in my pocket. Forgetting all about his drug-obsession for a minute, Isaiah moves towards a shop window. Oh yeah sencha! That’s the perfect combo. 

Jesus Christ, who does she think she is? Who cares if I was late? I should just dump her and be done with it. Even more annoyed than he was when he slammed the door in Jenny’s face, James gets his phone out. Okay. proteins, kale, bananas and that matcha powder thing. Heading towards the supermarket, he sees a large group entering. I guess that means Asian shop first. Walking up the street, he starts scrolling through dating profiles. This one’s not too ugly. Wait, she loves cats… Ugh and that one is too smiley… As he is about to enter the Japanese grocery shop, he feels something pushing him, causing him to drop his phone to the floor.

***

I hope she’s okay. It’s not like it’s the first time this happened. Maybe I should just stop by, make sure she’s fine. But I don’t want to impose. Nervously pacing through her apartment, Lizzy starts opening all her kitchen cabinets. If I show up with, like, brownies or something it will seem less weird. I could just say I baked too many. Right. Good. Did I really finish all the chocolate? I guess I’ll go buy some… Oh, and some milk, and maybe bananas. Oh, and I don’t have any more ginger confit or kimchi. On the beat of a slow ballad, she starts reciting her list of groceries, whilst strutting towards the supermarket. Bananas, milk, kimchi, ginger, cacao powder, chocolate, peanuts, and rice.

***

Dude, what the hell! Can’t you watch where you’re going? James keeps swearing and picks his phone off the ground, checking that the screen is still intact. You’re lucky it didn’t break, or it would have been your face on the floor! Now get out of my way, you moron. In shock, Isaiah stays still for a minute. What just happened… Of course he went into my tea shop. Dammit, I really wanted that sencha. Well I guess, I’ll just go home. After a big exhale he starts slowly humming – Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, It’s Christmas time…

Okay I think I got all the things on my list. Let’s go to the Korean shop! Moving from ballads to a funky pop tune, she whispers – Up up we go. I hope she likes brownies. I mean, everybody likes brownies, right? I don’t even know if she has allergies. Oh I’m probably overthinking this, as usual. As she is walking, Lizzy spots someone blankly staring into oblivion. Is he high? People nowadays really have no shame. It’s broad daylight and this is supposed to be a family friendly neighborhood. Anyway… ginger here I come! Quickly passing him by, she takes a few more steps to the Korean shop. As she walks back out, she spots something white on the ground near the bus stop.

Hello…? Could I get some help around here? Jesus this really is a shit day, he says just loud enough to be heard. I can’t find that matcha powder thing. The cashier points towards a small green box on the counter. Yeah, sorry I guess I didn’t see it. I’ll take just that thanks, he says with an awkward smile. As James heads out, he decides to sit at the bus stop for a second. I really don’t want to have to deal with her tonight. Maybe I can find some girl who’ll let me crash at her place. But I don’t know if I’ve got the energy to deal with some new chick though. I’ll probably have to buy her tons of drinks too. Ugh, might just be easier to go home. Who knows? Maybe she’ll have calmed down by then.

***

Home sweet home… I hope I have some green tea left somewhere around here. Ooh yeah, found it! Whilst performing what one might call a ‘happy dance’, he starts preparing his tea. God I’m as excited as a child! Maybe that’s not the right comparison, but hey, sugar highs are a big thing with children, so… Laughing at his own joke, he wonders – Maybe I should sleep a bit before though. Give my brain a minute to breathe. Yeah, I can wait 30 minutes. He goes into his room, puts on wave sounds, and starts to doze off.

***

I probably shouldn’t have picked it up. Geez, I panicked because I saw that douche coming out of the Japanese convenience store. I’m an idiot. I don’t even know what this is… I could contract a disease just from touching that thing. I mean, I probably can’t, but who knows?! What was I thinking? Sickened with worry and confusion, she runs up the stairs and within seconds she is home. I mean, what if he had seen me? It’s not like anything would have happened. How can I hope to be of any help to her if I can’t even face this dude without running away. Come on Lizzy. Just breathe. You got it. First, the brownies. We’ll deal with the rest later.

***

He takes his shoes off and goes into the bedroom but not without catching a glimpse of Jenny sitting in a corner, her eyes still red and puffy. Geez, she hasn’t moved an inch since I left. She’s pathetic. I’ll just get my stuff for the gym, prepare my shake and leave. With any luck, she’ll be asleep when I’m back. After mixing the ingredients for his smoothie, he looks at her and says: It’s really pointless, sitting here, crying like a three-year-old when you could have cleaned the apartment or made dinner. But as usual, it’s all about your feelings…You better not be in the same position when I’m back from the fit. He slams the door and leaves.

I think the brownies are almost done. Wait, is it him? Looking through the peephole, she sees James stepping out of the opposite apartment. Okay. He left. I guess it’s now or never. What do I say…? Maybe I should just slip her my number in the plate of brownies. I wish I could just give her a weapon, something, anything to fight him off. What if I… No, I couldn’t. I mean if I’m wrong and this is just some dishwasher powder then … I don’t know. But it could give her a chance to fight back. After a few minutes, she rings the doorbell and says to the bruised young woman – I know we don’t really know each other, but I made too many brownies and thought you might want some. I’m just across the hall if you ever need me. Jenny accepts the plate, with a shy smile, and closes the door.

***

Waking up, feeling disoriented, Isaiah gets up to go to the kitchen. Oh the water’s cold, got to heat it up again. I wonder how long I slept. Looking at his watch, he rubs his eyes. It can’t be. Did it stop working? Turning on the TV, he stares at the date at the top of the screen. It can’t be! I did not just sleep for almost 24 hours. Could it be the coke? Nah… Where did I put it anyway? Oh yeah, my jacket. I think it was in the left pocket… Uhm maybe it fell somewhere on the couch. I should check the bed too. Geez, where did I put it? Suddenly, he remembers yesterday’s altercation. Did he steal it from me? No way! As the weather report finishes, the local news starts:

A 27-year-old was found dead in his apartment yesterday evening at around 10pm. After a sport session at his local fitness center, the young man went home and indulged in some late-night snack, little did he know that this would be the cause of his death. The paramedics first thought that this was a drug OD – many cases have gone through the doors of hospitals since a new and very lethal cocaine has invaded the streets – only to later realize that it was a simple case of peanut allergy. We therefore implore you to be careful of the dangers of both drugs and the ingredients some food may contain.

Venus Flytrap (Second Place Winner of the “Tomorrow” Short Story Competition)

Image: © “Venus – JPL Travel Poster” by NASA/JPL, JPL licence. Source.

Author:  William Flores

It has been almost a month since scientists on board Venera III have identified what appears to be a pitch black spot, about 10 meters in diameter of… absolute nothingness in the Venusian sky. Every conceivable instrument has so far failed to show any reading of mass or energy. This excludes the initial hypothesis of a miniature black hole. For now, the United Nations Space Exploration and Observation Agency (UNSEOA) has instructed scientific personnel aboard all five Venera stations to continue monitoring the mysterious spot. That is certainly not too big a task for these miniature, self-contained cities that float in the dense Venusian sky and whose primary mission is to understand the planet’s cloud formation. Wesley Ramirez, an expert on dark matter from the Earth Astrophysics Institute has been sent by the agency to provide assistance to the team of highly trained yet, in this case, helpless team of astrometeorologists.

On March 29, 2297, Wesley finally arrived after a week-long trip aboard the fusion powered Horizon VI. Once in orbit, a small shuttle separated from the vessel and descended into the atmosphere, safely bringing Wesley to Venera III, where he was greeted by Sasha Stone, the station’s captain.
— Doctor Ramirez, welcome to Venus! It’s nice meeting you.
— Thanks! But please, call me Wesley. We’re both too young to call each other “doctor”.
— Can’t argue with that, Wesley!
After a friendly handshake, Sasha showed Wesley his sleeping quarters and its amenities. Although he knew exactly that there would be a telepod, a standard component of all crewed space habitats, the young astrophysicist expressed his relief upon seeing it.
— Got some important business on Earth, Wesley?
— Well… yes. See, last month I met someone at the annual Earth Science Symposium and we were supposed to go on a date. But that was before I was assigned to this mission.
— Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.
— It’s alright. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and besides, with the telepod I can still go on my date, more or less.
— I’m happy that you see it that way. Anyway, I’ll let you get some rest. Dinner is at 07:30 in the mess hall down the corridor. You’ll see that our aquaponic system provides us with exquisite produce.
— Great! That’ll be a welcome change after the synthetic food of the Horizon’s molecular assembler.
— I bet! Well, see you later!
And with that, the young astrometeorologist returned to her observation post. Just yesterday, the main computer indicated that the instruments of the Venera III had recorded a faint and ephemeral energy signal coming from the mysterious spot in the sky. Unfortunately, the crew was sleeping at that point, so Sasha hoped that she could make a direct observation soon.

At dinner, she introduced Wesley to the other members of the Venera III. They all studied the cloud formation of the Venusian atmosphere. Their mission was part of the United Nation’s Earth Climate Restoration Programme, often called “Gaia Project”. By studying the cloud formation on Venus, a planet which once experienced an extreme runaway greenhouse effect, the UN hoped that the collected data could help make cloud-seeding and weather modification efforts on Earth more reliable. While the programme, which was initiated in 2099, had already succeeded in removing excess carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere by 80%, the planet was still recovering from the recklessness of the Late Capitalist Period (1980-2089). Global temperatures peaked at 2.3°C above pre-industrial levels in 2103. This set off seven planetary tipping points that were now being reversed. Wesley was no stranger to the “Gaia Project”: both of Wesley’s parents worked for it and so did his date.
— Tell me about your date, Sasha said. “You don’t know how long you’ll be here, so we might as well get to know each other”.
— Fair enough, fair enough. Well, my special someone is called River and…
— River! What a nice name!
— Yes, indeed. They work for the “Gaia Project” as a marine biologist. Their specialty is coral reef restoration.
— That’s really interesting! When are you going on your date? And where?
— Well, we were supposed to see each other tomorrow and take the Underwater Vacuum Train from New York to Paris and just walk around and eat dinner in a cute bistro.
— How romantic!
— Yeah, the city is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination again. Temperatures are really comfortable there now.
— I’ve heard! But I guess that won’t work out for you exactly as planned.
— Yeah no. We have decided that I’ll upload my mind via telepod to my avatar body that I left in New York and take the train to Paris anyway. There we’ll just walk and talk, since eating won’t be an option, at least for me.
— Yeah, it’s sad how avatars are quite limited.
— It’s funny you know, it’s the first time I had an avatar made of me. It was a bit weird to look at that inanimate doll that looked just like me… kinda creepy even.
— Us astronauts are used to it. It’s the only way we can keep contact with our loved ones during missions.
— No doubt!
After dessert, Sasha mentioned the strange energy readings and asked Wesley to look into them in the morning.

Thus, after a good night’s sleep and a light breakfast, the young astrophysicist joined the team of the Venera III on the observation deck. Sasha looked both exhausted and excited.
“Morning, Wesley! LOOK!” she said while pointing at the spot in the sky. “Can you see the thin halo around it?”
— Morning Sasha! Yes, I can see it.
— Do you know what it could be?
— Nope, but I’ll have a look at the instrument readings.
— Apparently there’s been a brief surge in Hawking radiation.
— What? For real?
— Yeah, look at the recordings!
— Oh my god! You’re right!
— Do you think it’s a black hole after all?
— That can’t be! The gravitational pull would have ripped us to pieces!
— That’s what I thought, but what else could it be?
— Could be anything. Maybe a wormhole of some sort. To or from another part of space or… maybe time?
— Time?
— Yes, that would explain these bizarre time readings right here. Apparently, every time the computer observed an energy surge the clock ran…backwards?
— What? That can’t be!
— You’re right, there must be a problem with the instruments.
— We’ve already checked!
— We’ll check again. Because this doesn’t add up.
And so the crews of the Venera III and the other stations ran all conceivable tests to check if all instruments worked as intended. By the end of the morning they found nothing. All instruments on all stations worked perfectly. Exhausted, the scientists took their lunch break.

Meanwhile, Wesley returned to his sleeping quarters and got ready for his date. He undressed, put on his sensory bodysuit and entered the telepod while selecting the “transfer mind” option. A complete scan, on the subatomic level, was made of his brain, before an odorless gas filled the pod and made him unconscious. Thanks to quantum entanglement, the information from the scan was instantly transmitted back to Earth. Lightspeed was no longer an upper limit for the transfer of data.

Meanwhile, the mysterious spot in the Venusian sky continued emitting more and more energy. Sasha only took a short lunch break and was absolutely baffled by what she saw upon returning to her post. The bright halo that used to surround the spot now covered it completely. The spot went from pitch-black to blindingly bright just like that. “What the fuck” was pretty much the only thing Sasha could say to herself in that moment.

After a few seconds of complete unconsciousness, Wesley woke up in his New York apartment. His avatar body felt almost like his actual body. It was good enough, though. After getting used to walking in this body, he went to meet River at Grand Central.
— So, you made it after all!
— Told you so!
After giving each other a hug, they boarded the train and were on their way to Paris. The ride would take about 30 minutes, but after about 15 minutes the avatar body stopped responding. It was lifeless. “Are you still there? Are you okay?” River asked, in vain.

After a minute, Wesley regained consciousness. He was back in the telepod. “What the hell happened?” he told himself. After several failed attempts to reconnect to his avatar, he stepped out of the pod and got dressed. Something felt off. He went to the observation deck and was relieved to see Sasha and the crew. They seemed terrified, however.
— Sasha? What’s going on?
— LOOK!
She pointed towards the sky. The spot was gone.
“So, everything is back to normal?” Wesley asked naively, perhaps sincerely hoping that that would be it.
Holding back her tears, Sasha instructed the astrophysicist to check the date on a computer screen, any screen would do.
Upon doing so, Wesley was mortified.
— Tell me, Wes, what day are we?
— March 30th, 2007.

The Town And The Lake Prologue

Image: © Annegret Kammer, “Misty mornings at the lake”, Unsplash Licence, Source

Author: H.S


the town
the year Camille died

had the worst flood of the decade for the third year in a row
there was a black out for three days
I was in Uni at the time
and saw my childhood parks drown away
on the internet.

she was the same age as me
we used to tell each-other our dreams
one day she told me:

“The Lake,
I went thinking I saw someone drown,
but at the bottom I was knocked prone
and crushed by pressure.”

the day she died
she bolted upright in her bed
looked at the lake through the window
wide-eyed

“I swam out”
she said
and died.

Patience

Image: © “File:Chest.png” by No machine-readable author provided. Chikumaya assumed (based on copyright claims). is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, Source

Author: Sabine Weyermann

Autumn is installed,
I feel it in my lungs,
burning bronchi.
You don’t talk.

I’m heavily “dysregulated”, as they say,
stomach in knots, no more of this sweet,
fuzzy sensation of
honeyed warm milk I have
fostered in my belly, precious secret.

Your name, two comforting syllables,
or three, or four,
that I’ve known all my life,
slapping in the wind like
a mighty Greek standard, in several languages.

I repeat it like I could summon you,
and then whisper “Fuck you!”, of course meaning
something else, as if you were the culprit,
and not the innocent target of a disaster
that is mine, and mine only,
bursting, all guns blazing,
from my Amygdala.

Or is it?

Am I a burden?
sheltering your feelings, trying
to beat mine back into myself,
so tired of being the freakin’
cool girl, faking it.

As if I wasn’t fucking triggered.

When in fact I’m here, and all over your silence,
wide open to you, but biting my lips,
because your words
could rip my body apart,
not knowing if I have to let you go,
for my bloody own sake,
or to wait, wait, ignoring the urgency
to deliver that,

“I have so much of you in my heart”.

Inflation or How does everything get that expensive?

Author: Salomé Emilie Streiff

When I sleep, memories tend to pop up in my mind like popcorn in microwaves. They show up in groups, chatting about the past and yet haunting the days to come. Sometimes I touch myself and it’s enough to make them disappear. Often, they come back, sassier than ever. 

“Happy birthday”, they sang, holding a cheap store-bought cake with already used candles from the nearby mall. They were trying to smile, wanting me to enjoy the 1.30 francs spent per person for this surprise. However, if they were to be honest with themselves, they would have agreed that it should have been canceled as soon as I told them my friend died. 

“Hot girls that cry on their birthday are hot but girls that know a week in advance they will are hotter” he said. I wish the number of tears spent over the year could truly give me extra hotness point. Call me vain, I couldn’t care less. I wish I could gain anything in my grief.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”, she asked. Silence. I nodded. With her smart eyes and dancing hair she was too charming to be worried. I mumbled a somewhat mature and philosophical answer about life’s true purpose, its inherent will of moving on, growing flowers out of pain kind of bullshit. She smiled and the lie was worth it. She grabbed the gift papers and tossed them in the trash. We made out that night. The lie was worth it. 

“It’s been almost a year, did you realize”, she said. It’s been three, I thought. “Yes.” We broke up two weeks later.

“And what made you come?”, she asked. I kept inside the sex pun that was on the tip of my tongue. “Be honest”, she said with her serious looking glasses and typical tidy therapist cotton shirt. So, I tried to be. “It was the cheap store-bought cake with the already used candles from my high school’s nearby mall”, I said. Silence. “They wanted me to be happy, just so they didn’t waste their stupid money”. “And what made you angry”, she asked. Silence. 

And at some point, the flashbacks tend to stop, leaving an exhausting sense of numbness. I then close my eyes and pray to the God-that-never-replies for sleep. “Lord forgive me, I know I should not have touched myself. Could you let me sleep? Amen”. They all wanted me to be happy. I turn in my bed, tired of fighting the irony. The fucking joke was that I tried to be happy. The price of my happiness was 1.30 francs per friend that day. How does everything get that expensive?

“Grasp” & “Lost”

Author: M.W.

Grasp

please hold me,
i feel like moonlight, streaming through the gaps in your fingers,
light and glorious and not there at all.
like a figment of a stranger’s imagination,
i cannot grasp at myself.

Lost

She is lost
Out there in the fields
That go on forever never yielding
To the forests that used to cover everything.

She starts, she stops,
She walks without knowing
Why her eyes fill with tears
When she hears the larks sing.

About her pretty hair,
About her pretty eyes,
Crowned with thistles
She sings too
Sometimes.

Bring the Boy Back Home

Image: © Eloïse Wenger

Author: Eloïse Wenger

I.

It’s on the bench seat of a coach that I emerge
Panting and looking around a green and red train
When suddenly I hear the grim sound of a dirge.

I raise my eyes and meet the shape of Kurt Cobain
He turns his head and from my mouth escapes a scream
For a huge hole over his ear displays his brain.

Shocked, he stares at me with his eyes blue as a stream.
Then jokingly he shrugs saying: ʻCome as you are!ʼ
Horror! It can’t be true! It can’t be but a dream!

ʻWell look at you!ʼ He tells me, taking his guitar.
At this moment, I witness the blood on my chest,
That vanishes ‘til there remains only a scar.

At this sight I cannot help but to feel oppressed.
I try to ask my fellow what all this meant,
But he doesn’t answer, seemingly not impressed.

On this pause the train leaves and we start our descent.

II.

It’s difficult to say how long we’ve been travelling.
The sky’s neither any colour nor truly dark
And he refuses to say where we are going.

But before losing any hope for a landmark,
The quiet wagon slows down and halts at a station
On a sign is written Crystal Palace Park.

Through my window I spot with mortification
On the platform half lying down on the cold ground
An old woman in a state of desperation.

She doesn’t move for it looks like her legs are bound
And as she keeps weeping like a beast you slaughter,
I see iron devouring her legs like a hound.

But now I recognize the face of the monster.
At least my father used to call this witch like this.
Next to me Kurt shouts with a smile: ʻHi, Mrs. Thatcher!ʼ

The train starts up, leaving her shade to the abyss.

III.

ʻIt’s strange to see we can pity someone like herʼ
I stay silent but he keeps talking to me:
ʻAre you afraid of the meaning of “forever”?ʼ

Existential questions are not my cup of tea.
But I can’t think about it for too long
As we stop again at a station called Horley.

After a while, I hear the echo of a song
I turn my head and notice on a bench a dude,
Whose success was a long time ago seen as strong.

But who has now for only listener solitude.
From his mouth I hear: ʻImagine there’s no heaven..ʼ
He is whispering it with such an attitude.

This man who was the voice of peace is now broken.
With his tired hands he cries covering his head
And from his nose his pair of glasses have fallen.

Why is this man there? This question fills me with dread.
I want to ask him so many things. I speak: ʻHey, sir..ʼ
But I feel the wheels beneath me moving ahead.

My wound starts bleeding again as my senses blur.

IV.

When I wake up again, my eyes are still bright red.
My fellow musician is looking for my gaze.
However, I prefer to ignore him instead.

The tears inside my mad being continue to raise
When suddenly I notice we have stopped again
Like petrified, I can’t pronounce a single phrase.

I choose to look after having counted to ten.
Haywards Heath… I think I know where we are going.
My thoughts are broken by the vision of two men.

One is holding a skull to which he is talking.
The other one, louder, is praying for mercy
His eyes are filled with terror as he is crying.

He yells: ʻMy God, my God, look not so fierce on me!ʼ
But it’s only when he shouts ʻCome not, Lucifer!ʼ
That the entire atmosphere becomes gloomy.

A second, maybe a year, then a great clamour.

V.

The noise is followed by the grinding of some gears.
Too late to fly, the train turns into a rocket.
Landscapes are running, whistles are drilling my ears.

If it goes on like that, I will need a bucket
Though my companion is not suffering like me,
Dreaming at the window, one hand in his pocket.

But the train eventually stops, setting me free.
The doors open and I violently rush outside
Where I now contemplate the beauty of a sea.

Appeased by the slow movement of the rising tide,
Small tears of joy drop and turn my vision to a blur.
After a while I notice Kurt has reached my side.

We stay still until I’ve wiped away the last tear.
ʻAre you happy with our final destination?ʼ
I nod seeing standing before us my dear Pier.

ʻBrighton..ʼ this word flies from my mouth like salvation.
ʻThe place I was born inʼ, ʻAnd where peace will find you.ʼ
His sentence is followed by new agitation.

ʻThere is so much my friend you still need to go throughʼ
Whistles fill my head again; the ground starts shaking.
ʻSee you Daniel!ʼ… ʻDaniel! Doctor! He made it through!ʼ

I feel the hand of my mum and hear her crying.


Tribute to Daniel McLean