The Wedding

Written by Caleb McLemore 

'My fucking head.'

Clark stumbles out of bed and slowly makes his way to the bathroom. He opens the medicine cabinet and grabs the aspirin bottle. He takes a couple, fills a cup by the sink with water, and takes a drink to wash it down. He walks back towards his bed when he notices a very beautiful woman sitting on it.

'I don’t have time for this,' said Clark.

'Oh. That’s a real shame since I’m here and ready to go for you.'

Clark takes a moment to realize she is naked.

'You seem curvier than usual.'

'It’s all for you. Isn’t this how you like me?'

She begins to seductively crawl on his bed towards Clark. She stops at the edge. She lays over the edge of the bed on her back. She lifts he legs up and spreads them as far as she can.

'You always were a fan of how flexible I am.'

'Go away.'

The woman flips over on the bed with puppy dog eyes.

'That’s no way to talk to someone you love.'

She gets on her knees and looks around. She gets off the bed and walks to the trashcan in the corner of the room. She looks inside and has a naughty smile.

'Based on the tissues in here, it looks like you’ve been thinking about me a lot.'

'I told you to leave. There’s enough on my mind without you making things worse!'

The woman looks at Clark, offended.

'What? Is there something going on that I’m unaware of?'

She looks towards his desk and she sees a letter. She walks over and looks at it.

'Oh… that’s right. Today is that day.'

She spins in a circle and suddenly is in a wedding gown. She is a spectacle of beauty. Clark looks away in pain at the sight.

'You can’t even look at me like this can you? Why not? Aren’t you happy for me? I’m finally happy.'

'If I say yes, will you finally leave me alone?'

'If you could let go of me that easily, you would have done it by now.'

Clark turns around to try and collect himself. He feels anger and pain. His eyes begin to tear up, but he quickly composes himself. He can’t allow himself to be seen like this.

'Of course I am happy for you. All I have ever wanted was for you to be happy.'

The woman begins to laugh while wagging her finger at him.

'That’s a half-truth you’ve been trying to pass off for years now. Do you want me to be happy? Sure, but you leave out the convenient detail that you want that happiness to include you as the significant other.'

'Well…yes, that’s exactly what I wanted, but that clearly wasn’t mutual.'

'Then why do you stick around?'

'I don’t know. Maybe I thought things would change.'

'As the dress shows, you clearly wasted your time doing that. By the way, why aren’t you at the wedding?'

Clark takes a deep sigh as he reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone. He fumbles with it until he reaches an email. He reads it out loud.

'Hey Clark. I know that by now, you’ve received the invitation to the wedding. I wanted you to get one as a sort of peace offering, but unfortunately, you can’t come. My fiancée would be rightfully furious over your arrival due to our… intimate past. I’m really sorry, I wish you could be there.'

Clark puts the phone away as a couple of tears roll down his face. He didn’t want to remind himself of this terrible situation.

'Wow,' said the woman in a mocking tone, 'is that how far you’ve fallen with me? I sent you an email? No texting or phone calls? I used to send you topless pictures of myself at random and now… this?'

Clark glares at the woman. 'Stop trying to boil everything between us down to something sexual. You know damn well it was far more than that.'

'Ehh… maybe for you it was.'

This surprises Clark. 'What do you mean?'

The woman laughs. Her wedding dress turns into a skintight shirt with very short shorts. She walks over to the chair at Clark’s desk and takes a seat.

'Let’s see… we started as regular friends in college. I have a nasty breakup with my boyfriend at the time. We realize we have A LOT of sexual tension, so we get it out via foreplay and the occasional fucking. Fast forward past college. Every time we get together, we end up having sex regardless of whether or not I’m single at the time.'

'I was against that part.' said Clark in a weak attempt to defend his honor.

'Right, I remember that. The whole, "we can’t be doing this since it means you’re cheating on your boyfriend." I broke you of that pretty quickly.'

Clark slumps his head down. He knows she’s right. He goes over to his bed and sits.

The woman continues. 'So we have this sort of friends-with-benefits-thing going on and I decided to stop that when I found someone that could benefit me more than just the occasional great night of sex. From my perspective, it seems like I was only in it for the sex that you have always been more than happy to supply.'

Clark begins to sob. 'I’d like to think it was so much more than that though.'

'Why’s that?' says the woman who is getting annoyed with Clark. She gets a sick smile on her face. 'Is it because I was the first woman you truly fucked?'

Clark’s head snaps up, 'Of course not!'

'Holy shit! You are suffering from first fuck syndrome! You’re like a teenage girl that can’t figure out why she can’t leave her prick of a boyfriend!'

The woman begins to laugh. Clark, now boiling mad, stomps over to the woman, and grabs her by the wrist and brings her in as close to his face as possible.

'We both know that isn’t the case with me. Everything was going just fine until that day in the park. You know it. I know it. The fact you were the first woman I had regular sex with wasn’t a factor whatsoever.'

Clark lets her go and she fall back into the chair. She processes what Clark said for a moment.

'I remember that day. That’s the day when you stopped being Clark in my eyes. All you did was remind me of… him.'

'You compared me to a monster!'

The woman looks guilty, 'It wasn’t anything you did though! I was being triggered about events in my past…'

'That doesn’t matter!'

Clark stands up and for the first time in a long time, is taking charge.

'I did nothing but shower you with love, compassion, and empathy for your struggles and how did you reward me? By using me as some sort of booty call for whenever you got bored with your fiancée? Does he not pleasure you enough in bed or did you get some sort of sick thrill out of triggering yourself when we had sex?'

'Clark, I’m a figment of your imagination. I only know what you know, so how could I possibly answer any of those questions?'

Clark looks down in frustration. He knows she’s correct, but those questions have been burning in him for years and now the wedding makes it clear he’ll never get answers to them. The woman isn’t going to let Clark off easy.

'So what’s the plan then Superman? You going to wait it out in hopes I get divorced so you can swoop in and save the day? I could finally be your Lois Lane.'

'…no.' says Clark weakly.

'I’m sorry hun, you’re going to have to speak up when defending your terrible choices in people.'

'I SAID NO!'

The woman leans back in the chair in shock like as though a strong wind blew through.

'You want me to answer you? Sure, let’s give you an answer. I hope you have an amazing marriage, complete with many memories, kids, pets, vacations, and everything else that would create the ultimate Disney ending!'

The woman leans forward in the chair, 'Why on earth would you want that?'

'Because I love you. How many times do I have to say that?'

The woman stands up and walks over to Clark. She alternates talking between each ear as she seductively moves around him.

'Since you created me, I know your thoughts. You feel like you got screwed because you were the sacrifice for my fiancée. You did all the work and he’s reaping all the benefits. How could you possibly want happiness for me after that? Don’t you want me? You know how much fun we have together.'

The woman grinds against Clark and begins rolling up her shirt. Clark pushes her onto the bed.

'Yes Clark! You know this is truly want you want!'

Clark begins to take his shirt off, but stops. He puts his shirt back on and falls to the ground sitting. The woman is furious.

'What is wrong with you?!'

'Sorry. You can only hump a pillow so many times before it gets old. You aren’t real, remember?'

The woman stands, almost turning red in anger, and changes back into the wedding dress to hurt Clark.

'Is this better for you then? The culmination of all the years of work, friendship, sex, and relationship with me all done away by the simply mutter of two phrases? Saying, "Yes" to the ring and then saying, "I do" at the ceremony? You know I’m having sex with him right now, right?'

'I’m sure you are,' says Clark as he gets up. He cracks a smile. 'I think about that a lot actually, so that’s nothing new, but I think I finally understand you.'

'What?'

'Will another woman come into my life someday and make everything between us ancient history? Maybe, but I’m not assuming anything right now. All I know is that I love you and the fact you are happy is good enough for me.'

The woman notices her hands are beginning to fade.

'What’s happening to me?'

'It seems I made a breakthrough. I know that the hurt I feel from you choosing another over me isn’t going to go away for a long time, but that’s okay. Part of being human is dealing with hardships and actually experiencing the emotions attached to them. It helps reach a good place and who knows, maybe even move on.'

The woman looks down and half of her body is completely gone, she’s beginning to panic.

'But what are you going to do? You’ve spent so much time and energy into trying to win me over. You are just giving up on all of that?'

'I don’t know what I’ll do and honestly, I like the thought of not knowing. I never planned to meet you in the first place and look at the adventure that unfolded from that. Perhaps another woman will provide the same thrill, with hopefully better results. But no, I am not giving up on you. I told you, I love you.'

The woman’s arms are gone and only her head and chest are left. 'How can you still love me? You’ve lost. You wasted years on me that you’ll never get back.'

Clark, with a confidant smile, says, 'That’s the funny thing, if you truly love someone, then it was never wasted time. Love doesn’t have to be a two way street. It’s ideal, sure, but not required. I will always have a place in my heart for you and while the hurt from your wedding will take time to heal, I know how I feel about you and that isn’t changing. There’s just one thing I regret with all of this.'

The woman is almost completely gone, but manages to say before disappearing, “…and what’s that?”

A tear rolls down Clark’s cheek, 'I didn’t figure this out sooner so I could tell you in person.'

Clark looks around to an empty and silent bedroom. He has a happy smile for the first time in what seems like ages. He checks the time on his phone.

'Glad that aspirin finally kicked in.'

Clark plops on his bed and quickly falls asleep.

There You Were

Written by Joy Yarrington

 Photograph by   Neven Krcmarek

Photograph by Neven Krcmarek

I texted you for Christmas. "Merry Christmas", it said. I put a smiley face with a nose. I know that’s how you like it. I texted you for your birthday, too. And Easter. And the Fourth of July. And Halloween. And April Fool's day. I got a text back on that one. I got so excited. Who would do that? The little blue bubbles piled up a mile long. Unread. Unread. Unread. Unread. Unread. Unread. Unread. It became a pattern.

On your birthday, I baked you a cake. You didn’t blow out the candles. You still made a wish, right? It moulded over waiting for your slice. It’s still in the back of the fridge, if you want it. Jamie tried to make me throw it out. You know her; she doesn’t get it. I told her no, that you would want some. Then she drank six beers. She’s lost weight, you know. You help her a lot. She’s been eating less and less and sleeping more. Drinking more too.

Jamie made me go to therapy. She says I need it. I don’t know why. The Mrs. Vengal there made me draw my feelings. I didn’t know what feelings to draw. I think she wanted me to be sad. I drew a whirlpool, like I’ve seen in the movies. You like drawing whirlpools, right? You once said it was relaxing just to go round and round and round and round and round. She looked at me weird when I did that. Jamie forgot to make me go back after that.

I went into your room today. I hope you don’t mind. I didn’t touch your Star Wars posters. I washed your shirt. It looked dirty. Jamie got mad at me. She said I was wasting water. How is cleaning wasteful? I put up your Christmas tree for you. You can put the ornaments on. Please remember this year. They’re collecting dust. The one at the very top, the only one you let me put up, is my favorite. You know, the one with the two melted candy canes in the shape of a heart that I got for you. I put it near the very top. It will look good under the angel when you put it up.

Why don’t you wake up to your alarm anymore? Every morning, it seems, I have to go in and turn it off for you. I reset it, though. I know you like hearing “The Final Countdown” in the mornings. Jamie doesn’t like that song anymore. She says it’s the stupidest song she’s ever heard. I thought she liked that song. That’s why she bought you that clock, right?

Jamie doesn’t like me, I think. She doesn’t take me to school in the mornings in your place. I have to walk. She just stays in her room. She’s always tired. And mad. She gets mad a lot more. She doesn’t want me to call her Mom, which is fine because I don’t want to either. But she says it all the time, even though I don’t ask. There’s something behind her eyes, something I can’t make out.

I fed Roger this morning. He only likes the orange flakes, now. Oh, and I found your Easter basket under the sink with his food. You aren’t good at finding them. That’s the third one this month. I’ll re-hide it, though. Don’t worry.

Did you get my messages? From when I called? You don’t like to pick up anymore. I know you’re probably too busy. It’s okay. I like leaving you messages and I know when you open them all up, you’ll feel so loved. Do you need love now? I miss you, Dad. I know I need love.

The Treasure Huntsmen: Hall of Riddles - Part II

Written by Samuel Gaitskell 

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To read Part I, click here.


The group passed through riddle door after riddle door, with a surprisingly small amount of failure. After Ryan’s first mistake, they made sure to go nowhere near whatever buttons the door held until they were sure of the answer.

'P-a-w-n-s.' Julia punched in, the second to last door opening happily in result. The group walked through without question, finding themselves in front of a unique door indeed.

The other doors were made of metal, but designed to look like wood. Reinforced doors that couldn’t be just… broken down, but made with a certain aesthetic. Specifically made to appear to be mahogany. This one, on the other hand, held no such style, and instead simply looked like a door that might be placed in a vanilla bank vault. This door even had a small numbered keypad, instead of the massive, flashy, show off one found in the last number related riddle lock. It was almost as if this door was the first to be made, the others being added as they went when they found the first to be too easy to get through.

Above the bank vault door, a metalic frame stood, this frame silver in color rather than gold like the others. In the frame, a set of numbers.

''1, 11, 21, 1211, 111221, 312211, 13112221, 1113213211, 31131211131221, 13211311123113112211'' followed by a blank space.

'Okay, this looks… complicated' Julia admitted, looking over the numbers 'Maybe it’s some sort of… equation, where the number that you have to add grows bigger by-'.

'I doubt that it’s an equation.' Ryan piped up, copping glares from the others 'I mean, these riddles are designed to slow us down, while the guards catch up.'

'Your point being?' David asked, eyeing him curiously.

'Well, if we got this far, it means that someone on our team is incredibly smart,' Ryan said, gesturing over to Julia with a smile. 'But maybe too smart. A smart person might get stuck up on trying to figure out how twenty one adds up to one thousand, two hundred and eleven, in example.'

'... That’s a surprisingly smart observation.' Julia remarked, looking over to Ryan as if examining a complete stranger 'So what you’re saying is that I’m too smart to solve this, then?'

'... maybe? I mean I’m sure you could, given enough time,' Ryan stated 'But I don’t think we have enough time, so-'

'So you want to try it?' Nathan asked, an edge to his voice 'Remember how that went last time?'

'That time, I was trying to be smart. That’s not my job.' Ryan chuckled out, looking up at the numbers curiously 'But… I think I’ve got this.'

'Care to explain?' Julia urged, seeing no relationship between the set of numbers.

'The first number is one. The second, eleven, or in other words, one one. The third, twenty one, or two one. The third, one thousand, two hundred and eleven, or one two one one. The numbers list off the components in order of the previous… number.'

Ryan smiled to himself, the others looking at him strangely. Honestly, there was probably a way that he could have described that using simpler words, though Ryan was nothing if not a natural born show-off.

'So the next number… should be…' Julia said, looking up to the number '11131221133112132113212211..?'

'Punch it in!' Ryan said with a cheerful tone, happy to be the one to solve the final riddle. Julia punched in the lengthy code. All went silent, for what felt to be an eternity, but in reality was little more than a few seconds. After those excruciatingly long seconds, the door’s lock released, and began to creak itself open, the sound of rusted metal being forced open grinding against the group’s collective ears.

The door flung open to reveal treasures far greater than they originally thought. Originally, all they expected to find was a sceptre made of gold that contained a fist-sized diamond upon its head. What they found, along with that, was a reinforced room filled with tapestries, art, precious gems, bars of gold, all equally valuable, all more than likely stolen.

'Jesus, there’s got to be… billions worth of treasure in here.' Julia gasped as she carefully moved from display case to display case, examining the pilfered goods available.

'We came here to steal the sceptre,' David reminded Julia. 'So we should just grab it and… wait, is that the Mona Lisa?'

David gestured over to a wall, where a large amount of paintings hung. Sure enough, the Mona Lisa, or at very least a very expensive recreation of it, hung casually, as if it were just another painting on the wall. In fact, the painting to its right was The Birth of Venus, and to the left was The Starry Night.

'Those have to be just… incredibly convincing recreations, surely.' Julia stated, not too sure about that, as she examined the paintings closely.

'I’m liking that doubt.' Called an unknown voice over the speakers, causing the four to jump. A screen lowered from the ceiling, revealing a crimson lipped woman, with cheekbones sharp enough to cut the diamonds that she had stolen 'Unfortunately, they are just recreations, though you would have no idea how much a convincing fake can fetch, if one knows where to look.'

'We’re not looking for any trouble, we’ve just been hired to-' David began, before being cut off by laughter.

'Not looking for trouble?' The woman chortled out, her laugh as fake as her eyelashes 'You knocked out my guards and broke into my vault. You have an interesting way of not looking for trouble, sweetie.'

'This sceptre was a piece within a museum, as donated by the archaeologists who unearthed it.' David explained, gesturing towards the sceptre, its brilliant diamond shimmering in an almost unnatural way 'You stole it. I have no idea how, considering the security within the particular museum, but you stole it nonetheless. We’re here to steal it back.'

'So, you’re looking for trouble.' The lady confirmed, with quite the smirk, before hatches began to open along the walls, revealing what looked to be machine guns of some sort, all aiming towards the four treasure huntsmen. Instinctively, Ryan raised his hands into the air, Ryan and Julia following his example shortly after.

'Before you fill us with bullet holes and find a way to make it look like an accident regardless,' David began, trying his best to stall for time 'I have to ask… what’s with the riddles?'

'The riddles? That’s quite simple, really. As a child, I only really loved two things. Things of great value, and riddles,' She cooed, a gleeful smile spreading across her face 'I always had a mind for them, you see. So, when I found myself within my line of work, I decided to craft a vault with locks that could only be open through riddles.'

'And how’d you find yourself within that line of work?' David urged, trying to continue to stall the lady, as the other three looked around the room.

'I see what you’re doing, sweetheart, and I’m afraid that it won’t-' The woman mused, before she was cut off this time, by none other than Ryan.

'Wait, wait, you said you had a mind for riddles, right? How about a wager?' Ryan offered, piquing the woman’s interest, and causing Julia, David and Nathan alike to shoot him looks that screamed ‘please shut the hell up.’ Looks which Ryan chose to ignore. 'One of us, the person chosen by you, gives you a riddle. Get it right, feel free to fill us with lead. Get it wrong, you let us go.'

'... my my, what a delicious wager' The lady hummed '... Alright, I accept.'

'Okay, and seeing how you’d probably select the dumbest member of our group to choose a riddle for you,' Ryan continued 'I guess that I should think up a riddle for-'

'You? Oh, no, no.' The woman laughed out 'Please, you’re much smarter than you or your friends give you credit for. That final riddle? You solved it like it was child's play! And let’s not forget how quickly you did that math in the earlier room? Even though your maths was completely unnecessary, I couldn’t help but admire how quickly you managed it all. No, I think I’ll choose…'

The woman paused for a moment, considering her options, before her eyes landed upon one person, a wicked smile splintering her near plastic looking face.

'You' She said, looking to Nathan 'The lady over there is far too smart, nearly on my level, so she’d be too big of a challenge. The challenge maker there thinks differently, perhaps in a way that I wouldn’t be able to follow. So it was between you and your leader. And obviously, he’s your leader for a reason. So naturally, the hired muscle was the last choice.'

'Jesus, do you overthink everything like this?' Ryan asked, surprisingly finding himself somewhat impressed… though he would never admit such.

'So, give me a riddle then.' The lady demanded, ignoring Ryan’s little question. Nathan looked between the three, as if silently asking for help, which the lady wagged her well manicured fingers at 'Ah, no outside help, dear.'

Nathan mentally cursed. He didn’t like to admit it, but honestly, sometimes he did feel like the weaker link. Julia was smart beyond her years, David was beyond amazing at rallying troops, him being the natural born leader that he was, and Ryan… well, he was the string that kept everyone together. What the hell was Nathan good for?

… Survival.

'Alright, I’ve got your riddle.' Nathan said, stepping forward with a faked level of confidence 'Four treasure hunters, three men and one woman. They stand in a room filled with treasures. In front of them… roughly forty guns, lining the walls, all aimed towards the group and ready to fire. And yet they survive. How?'

'Child's play!' The woman laughed out 'They just get behind whatever looks the least expendable. If the rooms filled with treasure, the guns are there to guard it, so the controller of them would never risk shooting!'

'Thanks!' Nathan smiled, before the group quickly grabbed some display cases and rearranged them to act as a shield. Without a single second left to spare, the group dived behind the shield, Julia quickly grabbing the sceptre beforehand. The woman’s eyes widened in realisation.

'You tricked me' she hissed out 'You tricked me, and so very easily, too.'

'And because of such, we’re at an impasse,' David said, smiling and giving Nathan a grateful nod 'You shoot, we die, and your precious things go with us. You don’t shoot, we don’t die, and your precious thing goes with us. Tell me, what would you rather lose? One treasure, or many? If you’re as smart of a woman as you claim to be-'

'-Then the answer is obvious,' The woman confirmed through gritted teeth, before the guns retracted and the panels in front of them closed 'You may go. And take that sceptre with you. It’s far too tacky anyway.'

The group carefully edged towards the door, making sure to drag along the display cases, just in case. Upon reaching the door, they rushed out, happy to escape.

Well, happy until the saw their path blocked by the guards they had left unconscious earlier, all armed and all harboring nasty grudges.

'... Not going to be that easy, huh?' Ryan asked with a sigh.

'When is it ever?'

Grae is the Colour

Written by Grae Westgate 

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As long-running musical comedy drama, Grae is the Colour, shuffles towards what promises to be one of its most moving mid-season finales to date, we take a look back at the highs and lows of season 32 so far.

As any good writer knows, allowing a show to stagnate in one location for too long can, after a while, cause audiences to lose interest and, inevitably, a drop in ratings despite the best efforts of a strong cast. After almost five whole seasons of multicultural educational adventures at ETC International College, the producers of Grae have decided to follow in the footsteps of Fear the Walking Dead and Doctor Who, giving the show a soft reboot by moving our eponymous lead to an entirely new environment.

Towards the end of season 31, we saw our hero finally land a place on a PGCE course, having spent the last few seasons wandering somewhat aimlessly through life. Prior to this, there had been an obvious sense of creative fatigue from the writing staff, and it was nice to see the show heading in a new, positive direction. It gave some much needed hope to what was rapidly becoming the empty shell of a formerly great show. Unfortunately, due to scheduling issues, the first half of this season has felt very much like filler, stretching out rather lacklustre storylines over the course of six months while the creative team have spent their time concentrating their efforts on a stronger second half. Hopefully this tactic will pay off, giving, as the producers promise, one of the most exciting story arcs to date. In a new environment with a plethora of new cast members, perhaps we’ll get some more interesting interactions. After all, there is only so much we can take of the age-old “Grae can’t sleep” and “Grae feels a bit pants” motifs. The college-based episodes have become repetitive, and despite the best efforts of the ever-watchable Oliver and Patsy, along with Tilly (finally promoted to “also starring” this year), it’s definitely time for the show to move on to pastures new.

That’s not to say that season 32 has not had its highlights so far. After a few cast changes towards the end of last season, with Everton and Jack both leaving the show, audiences were slightly concerned. The Troy and Abed relationship between Grae and Everton had become a fan favourite in recent years, and since moving the show to Bournemouth, Jack had provided the much-needed younger brother role previously provided by Luke and Harry during the series’ Croydon and Durham-based seasons. Fortunately, comic relief was provided by newcomer Chad Echakowitz, whose Peter Pan-like antics have charmed younger viewers whilst providing much-needed eye candy for older gay fans of the show. Sadly, it was recently confirmed by Entertainment Weekly that Echakowitz will be departing the show due to creative differences early next half, so we can only hope that amongst the influx of characters currently being cast, a worthy replacement will step into Grae’s much-needed “nerdy buddy” role.

There have also been some great side stories this season; Ben’s bizarre relationships with ladies from the continent have continued to cause much amusement, reaching a hilarious high point when it was revealed that Grae and Dan’s former nemesis, now working alongside Ben, had taken a shining to him. Ben remains one of the most bizarre characters on modern television, and one can only imagine what the writers were smoking when the character was born. The recent “show within a show” entitled The Nether also proved to be a smash hit with critics, showcasing some of our cast at their very finest.

Despite certain amounts of complacency on behalf of the production staff, Grae still manages to pull off a few innovative styles; the show’s use of social media as a way of keeping fans up-to-date with former characters has proved a great hit. It’s amazing to know that the writers still care about their babies and continue to remind audiences of much-loved characters that many other shows would have simply allowed to disappear into the ether. Random events such as Lacey’s engagement, along with updates of Pia’s adventures at medical school create a real legacy feel to the show, and prove that the writers, much like the fans, continue to care deeply about characters that they have created. Few teams could pull this technique off quite so seamlessly, and credit has to be given to the writers for their world-building abilities.

There have also been some big-name guest stars this season. Along with getting previous characters such as Everton and Jack to make occasional cameos, the producers have really pulled out the stops when it comes to star power this year. The Walking Dead crossover episode proved a massive hit, with fans delighting in Grae finally getting an on-screen hug from long-time crush Christian Serratos, as well as the further development in the relationship with recurring guest star Michael Cudlitz, who continued to play his mentor role with graceful charm. Other highlights included the Torchwood cast making their first appearance on the show in ten years, along with a surprise cameo from Batman himself in the shape of young David Mazouz. Sadly, internet rumours of an appearance by voice-acting legend Jim Cummings proved false, but the producers will hopefully manage to get a cameo from him at some point over the next few seasons.

With less that a month now until the midseason finale, audiences should prepare themselves for some big changes. Due to the reboot, we’ll be saying goodbye to a number of fan favourites including the ever-lovable Patsy, along with everyone’s favourite “colleague, NOT friend”, Oliver. It’s gonna be a tear-jerker, ladies and gents, but, hopefully this will be a change in the vein of Woody and Rebecca joining the cast of Cheers, rather than that of Michael J. Fox leaving Spin City.

The Grae is the Colour midseason finale airs on August 17th, with the second half premiering on September 3rd.

Starring: Grae Westgate, Manami Tsumita, Dan Withey, Ben Rogers, Oliver Monckton, Patsy Pett

Also Starring: Paul Nelson, Tilly Dick, Chad Echakowitz, Alex Wadham, Michael Dickinson, Timothy J. Howe

With: Lydia Westgate, Luke Westgate, Harry Westgate and Martin Westgate

Music: Adam Duritz, Bruce Springsteen, Barenaked Ladies

Country: UK

Year: !986-Present

Episode Run Time: 24 hours

No. of Episodes: 11,803

 

The Treasure Huntsmen: Hall of Riddles - Part I

Written by Samuel Gaistkell

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Julia took a long, deep breath, ignoring the stinging dust flooding into her nostrils. Before her stood a door with 26 buttons upon it, each button representing a different letter of the alphabet. Beside her, three men - David, Nathan and Ryan - stood, looking very confused .

‘What are we doing here?’ Ryan asked, looking around the nicely polished wooden walls. ‘It seems a bit more… I don’t know, modern than our usual scores?’

‘We were hired to retrieve a treasure that apparently was stolen from a very valued collection,’ Nathan explained, yet again, an annoyed look washing over his face. ‘We hunt treasures. Not all treasures are ancient-’

‘Shh.’ Julia hissed, trying to concentrate. While David, Nathan and Ryan’s expertise lied in breaking and entering, scaling over or under walls that shouldn’t be scaled over or under, making rash decisions that shouldn’t be made, that sort of thing, Julia’s area of expertise was undeniably riddles and puzzles, making her the perfect person to solve their way into the middle of this modern, mind-bending maze. Or at least she would be, if everyone would just stay quiet.

Above this door sat a seemingly simple riddle. Framed in gold, and written all in capital letters, on paper that hadn’t even been glanced at by time, were a series of letters.

O T T F F S S _ _ _

Naturally, Julia assumed the letters and the three spaces following the final ‘s’ had to be a series of some sort, one she had to complete. But how?

‘... O T T F F S S …’ Ryan thought aloud, wrongly believing to be a help ‘... Maybe… maybe it’s something to do with-’

‘She said shut it.' Nathan glared over to Ryan, who promptly shut his mouth. Nathan did always have a strange way of getting Ryan to listen. No one really knew why, either. Not even Nathan himself.

Julia shot Nathan a grateful, weak smile before doubling her focus.

‘Come on, Julia, you can do this.' Julia thought to herself, frustrated over the fact that the very first riddle was already stumping her focus.

Julia stared at the letters intently, repeating them in her mind over and over. O T T F F S S…O T T F F S S… O T T F F S S… And in a sudden, and near inexplicable moment of brilliance, she had it.

‘Ryan, count up from one.' Julia said as she spun to face him.

‘You told me not to talk though.’ Ryan protested.

‘Just do it.’ She groaned along with a roll of her eyes. She preferred not to waste too much time here, seeing how the guards to this place wouldn’t stay knocked out forever.

‘Alright… uh, one, two, three, four-’ Ryan began, before being cut off.

‘And the first letter of each of those numbers?’ She asked, before the penny dropped, for Ryan, Nathan, and David alike.

‘That’s… so simple. It’s counting to ten,’ David said, looking up to the riddle 'The answer has to be ‘e n t’ then, eight, nine, ten.'

Julia, with a particularly bubbly bounce in her step, moved back over to the door covered in lettered buttons, where she punched in ‘E, N, T’. With a satisfying pop, the door flung open, to reveal yet another room with yet another door, yet another riddle positioned above it.

'This… could take a while' David sighed out before the four carried on

***

The group continued on, expecting, or rather hoping, that the riddles from that point onward would be as easy as the first. They were sadly very wrong, or rather their hopes were sadly dashed.

The next room’s door had far less buttons. Just 10. Each button having a number, one to nine, zero on the bottom. Above it, another riddle.

On my way to St. Ives I saw a man with seven wives. Each wife

had seven sacks.  Each sack had seven cats. Each cat had seven

kittens. Kitten, cats, sacks, wives. How many were going to St. Ives?’

'Oh, okay, so just simple adding?' Ryan scoffed, taking the riddle at face value. 'So, seven wives, seven sacks, each having seven cats, so that’s seven times seven, which is 49, and each cat had seven kittens, so that’s 49 times seven, which is… uh… 343, plus the seven we started with, so that’s 350, plus the seven sacks because… wait no hang on.'

'Okay, maybe leave the thinking for the thinkers, Ryan' Nathan said, gesturing over to Julia, who was looking up at the riddle, carefully reading over it. 

'Wait no, so it’s just seven times seven times seven times seven, right?' Ryan said 'Plus one for the person on their way to Saint Ives. So seven times seven equals 49 and 49 times seven equals 343. 343 times seven equals  … uh… 2401… roughly, plus one is 2402!'

Without warning, Ryan moved over to the number pad and began to punch in the number 2402. The three looked over to Ryan, their eyes widened with a mixture of confusion and anger, before a portion of the floor opened up and dropped away. Specifically, the portion that Ryan had moved on. Acting exclusively in panic, he managed to grapple to the ledge, not wishing to fall onto the spikes that he could see far below.

'That was the wrong answer!' Ryan called out, stating the obvious.

'Shit, Ryan!' Nathan said, a surprisingly genuine sounding mixture of panic and worry in his voice, as he hurried over to Ryan. Just as he found his fingers slipping, finding no decent hand-holds to grapple to, Nathan managed to clamp his hands onto Ryan’s arm, his eyes widened with a mixture of panic and fear alike. Ryan could only watch on helplessly as Nathan grunted, his body straining to pull him up. After a few excruciatingly long seconds, Nathan managed to pull Ryan out of the trap, the pair both panting heavily.

'I… uh…' Ryan stammered, suddenly finding it hard to speak, as he found himself embraced in the arms of the panicked looking Nathan.

'Uh… D-don’t touch anything ever again!' Nathan commanded, his usual scolding tone slowly returning, his face almost looking as if it was blushing.

'...Okay, so it looks like we only have a limited amount of guesses,' Julia eventually stated, deciding to ignore the strange interaction, or at least choosing to ignore it for now. 'Roughly three, I’d say, because the first wrong answer-' Julia paused to send an annoyed glare over to Ryan 'Caused about a third of the floor to drop away.'

'But all the math was right, as far as I can tell.' David began, looking up to the riddle '... oh.'

'Oh?' Julia asked, looking up to the riddle herself. It took her a second, before she got it too. '... oh!'

'Care to fill us in?' Nathan asked, trying to calm his rapidly beating heart.

'The answer is one.' David said. 'The riddle only said that one person was going to Saint Ives, and along the way, he saw others, though they weren’t going.'

'... Well, I feel dumb.' Ryan admitted.

'That’s because you’re the dumb one.' Nathan quipped, hiding a smile as Julia moved to the number pad and punched in the number 1. Once again, the door popped open with a confident pop, and once again, the group moved on.

Garden of Secrets

Written by James McCann

 Photograph by  Alisa Anton

Photograph by Alisa Anton

Melanie was tending her garden, the late spring morning seemed to be made specifically for tending a garden. Despite the cool breeze she still managed to work up a slight sheen on her her forehead and a damp patch on her lower back. Small, but dark, quarter moons had developed beneath her arms. The beauty of tending the garden was that she wasn't actually having any affect on it, she was merely knelt down in old jeans, turning soil over with a trowel.

They, being Melanie and her husband Thomas, had a man who came in once a fortnight to sort the garden out (clipping the bushes, mowing the grass etc) whether it needed it or not. This was just something Melanie enjoyed as a form of relaxation and meditation. The garden looked pretty, if not slightly mismatched in terms of where things were. A garden designer would have put certain flowers together, knowing that come their bloom the colours would compliment each other and everything would look so pretty.

But, not in this garden. Not in Melanie's garden of secrets. They were secrets because, each flower, each bush, each gnome, each piece of furniture, represented something that Thomas wasn't aware of, and he never would be. Each part of the picture represented something that Melanie had attempted, or only ever thought of attempting. The three gnomes, painted brightly in green, yellow, blue and red, had been bought after Melanie had tried her hand at writing a novel. She read a lot, so she thought it couldn't be too hard to make the leap to writing them as well. She only manged to get down one chapter (and that had felt like a lot of work to her) and had quickly sent it out to people, and had quickly heard nothing back.

That was the end of that endeavour.

A rose bush had been bought and planted when she'd considered joining an evening class. Twice a week she was going to spend an hour learning Italian. Melanie had never got the end of the online application. The idea had been to watch the rose bush grow as her knowledge would grow. The garden was supposed to be her world, she was going to watch it bloom and grow, and thrive.

Whenever Thomas wanted, Melanie was happy (for the most part).

to give herself physically to him. The physical side of their love had always been very good and satisfying, but there were parts she could never show him. There were parts secrets she could never let him know about. There would always be a part of her, of who she was, that would be inaccessible for him, for anyone. She supposed the same was true for Thomas himself, that he held secrets, and each time he bought a new book or a coffee mug (how many did they need?) that it was representative of a failed attempt at life, that it was the symbol for one more secret he was keeping from her.

Melanie supposed that was how most, if not all, marriages worked. Everyone kept a secret or two, and perhaps it was our secrets that defined us?

The Treasure Huntsman: The Oblitus Heart - Part III

Written by Samuel Gaitskell

kaymakli_underground_city.jpg

To read Part II, click here. To go back to where it all began, you're going to want to click here


The ladder lead to a blank, dark, dusty room that looked much older than the building below. It looked as if this particular room was built into the side of the cavern centuries before the building, while the building was just built to give easy access to this room. Or at least that was the assessment that Julia gave.

David traced his torch around the room, to find a rather unsettling sight. In the centre rested a golden, anatomically realistic heart that seemed to be permanently oozing a suspicious red liquid which David sincerely hoped wasn’t what he thought it was. The heart itself was held in the hands of a statue of a skeleton, the skeletons ribcage seeming to have been blown open from the inside.

'So, what are we thinking?' Nathan said, trying to put on his Business As Usual routine to distract from the horrific image burned into his mind. 'Weighted mechanisms, triggered when the heart is removed? Something along those lines?'

'It doesn’t look like it,' Julia commented, observing the arms through what limited light that David’s torch provided. 'As far as I can tell it’s just a regular statue.'

'So… are we just going to grab it?' Ryan suggested. 'I mean, if it’s not booby trapped or whatever, so-'

'We can’t be sure that it isn’t… booby trapped.' Julia stated, really hating that term. 'While I doubt it’s a weighted mechanism or whatever, we can never be too careful.'

David approached the statue carefully, sizing up his options. Honestly, just the classic grab-and-run strategy sounded pretty good right now. It was a strategy that, in his experience, never worked, but quite frankly, it was an ancient statue, how ‘booby trapped’ could it be? Well, very, quite frankly, but as ancient as it was, surely it could be outrun.

With all of his strength, David lifted the surprisingly heavy heart from the hands, trying his best not to spill the thick crimson liquid on himself. He cursed softly under his breath as a clicking noise of some sort splintered through the silence. The entire statue began to sink into the ground, a similar thick liquid beginning to ooze from its eye sockets but instead of red, this liquid’s colour was as black as pitch.

'Time to run?' Ryan asked, looking at the liquid.

'Time to run.' David confirmed.

***

The four treasure huntsmen rushed from the building to find massive spouts of a similar black liquid squirting from various statues along the road like busted fire hydrants. A very peculiar trap, indeed. Surely, if they had such an advanced system of pipes, they could just dump a big rock on top of the potential thief. Why risk the entire city?

'No one touch the liquid.' Julia commanded as they ran back towards the exit of the city.

'Oh, really? Don’t touch the mysterious black goo spouting from the ancient statues?' Ryan sarcastically quipped. 'That’s a real shame, ‘cause I was going to slurp a cup-full up.'

'Can we save the sarcasm for when we aren’t about to die?' Nathan added with a huff, narrowly avoiding yet another fountain that sprung from a nearby statue of what looked to be an angel.

The group ran and ran, dodging spout after spout of the mysterious black liquid, before their exit was finally in sight. The group bolted through the opening in the cave’s wall, pausing only to take a look backwards at the city. The fountains grew larger and larger, flooding the streets with the ooze, with next to no sign of stopping. It looked as if the entire city would be submerged eventually. Such a sight brought a feeling of sadness to Julia. The entire ancient city, drowned. All that history, and all the mysteries which came with it, flushed away in a sea of pitch black sludge. And all by their very own hands, no less. To a degree, Julia knew that disturbing history was a part of the job. But on this scale? Julia couldn’t help but linger, as the other three began to leave through the tunnel they had came through, while she watched the liquid rise. It was almost like she could see all those untold stories, all those memories of another time, being destroyed in the flood. Sure, they got their treasure...

...But was it worth it?

 

Curtain Call at the Chestnut Theatre

Written by James McCann

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1

The Chestnut Theatre was a grand old place that, despite not being the largest or best-funded entertainment venue, had seen some of the all-time greatest performers grace its stage. Singers, comics, poets, ventriloquists, magicians, and everybody else that had an act had been seen and heard on its boards. During the summers, brief comedy shows would be the dish-of-the-day, hour-long sets before people headed into town. During the winter, it would be two hour plays with inexpensive tickets that were the huge draw.

Over the last few years, the advent of technology had taken its toll on the place. Why go out when you could watch any number of films and TV shows or readings on your phone? As it was, Arthur Martsen had seen the writing on the wall. Arthur was 86, but was by no means feeble-minded. His grandfather had been an actor-singer, and after a summer-long run at the theatre the owner at the time had absconded (with both the money and his secretary). In a very quick legal battle, it was determined that Grandfather Martsens owed monies roughly the equal to that of the value of the theatre.

With the slashing scrawl of a signature or two, the Martsen family had acquired a theatre.

Grandfather Jesse Martsen had used the place to put on his own shows, and was quite the showman. However, it was Jesse's son, Arthur's father, Eric, who had truly realised what the place was worth. Eric had begun promoting other shows in the building, even putting on children's puppet shows and family-friendly farces during the early afternoon, and then having a risque Saucy Susan burlesque show on the same stage later that night. For Eric, an empty stage was a travesty, because an empty stage meant empty seats, and empty seats meant an empty cash register.

Often times Eric would book three, sometimes four acts per day, letting each act know that if they went over their allotted time, or if they didn't pack their belongings and get out of the dressing rooms on time, he would dock them quarter of their pay.

Eric Martsen ran the theatre with clock-work precision.

By the time Arthur took over (he bought it from Eric, no way was the elder Martsen just going to hand it over), some of the bigger acts were actually asking to play the Chestnut, such was its reputation.

2

One such act was Johnny Blues. Nobody ever knew his real name (hell, that might actually have been his real name for all anybody knew) but everyone felt like they were his best buddy. He was slightly on the portly side, but each night he put every last ounce of his being into his performance. He would tell jokes and sing deeply moving, incredibly energetic songs. Depending on his mood and what night, the jokes were interludes between songs, other times the songs were thrown in to break up the jokes.

During the show he was a dynamo, he was a keg filled with nitroglycerine just begging for a spark. He was his own pyrotechnics. He was his own laser show. He was a tornado in a tux, electricity  on the loose looking for trouble. Away from the stage, he was prone to bouts of manic-depression. He could be the calmest, coolest guy in the room, and then-boom! - he'd be crying in a darkened corner lamenting his failed career (as he would see it in those moments) and ask what the point of it all was.

It was this violent shift that made him the most captivating man Arthur had ever seen.

3

Arthur walked, slowly but unaided, through the aisles. He let his stubby and arthritic fingers caress the backs of the plush seats, looking up at the stage, wishing at some point he'd had the guts to get up there in front of a crowd. He could tap-dance, in his much younger days, and had  a few good jokes that he bought off an old touring comic some decades ago. Arthur couldn't remember the fellow's name, but less than twenty months after killing at the Chestnut the stand up went and killed some lady, bashing he head into pulp in the door of his car.

No matter now.

He sat in one of the seats, closed his eyes, and inhaled deeply, relishing that smell, that odd mixture of fresh cleaning products and old-time muskiness that lets you know some real living had been done in the room.

Arthur checked his watch. It was three pm.

They'd bought the place. They being some multi-national conglomerate, going to tear her down, brick-by-brick, put up a huge (and ugly, no-doubt) block of luxury apartments in her footprint. Well, they'd paid Arthur handsomely. Enough certainly for him to not care what they did with the place.

'That's a damn lie and you know it, Artie.'

Arthur opened his eyes. He knew the voice, and even if he hadn't recognised the voice, only one person had ever called him Artie. His mouth hung wide open, looking for all the world like a large, smiling cavern. His eyes full of joy and love and laughter. On the stage, in his best tux, was the ghost of Johnny Blues.

'Johnny..?'

'That's right, Artie.' John patted himself down,  as he always did, looking for that always-escaping pack of smokes. 'Damned things go?'

'But, no Johnny, you're... dead, aren't you?' Arthur asked, not really understanding what was happening. Not really wanting to. He knew it would be heart-breaking to wake up now, not when he'd just been reunited with Johnny.

'Does it matter, Artie? We were never ones for labels.'

'Oh Johnny,' Arthur began, 'are you angry because I sold the place?'

Even from the distance to the stage, Arthur could see Johnny's slight smile, the twinkle of mischief in his eyes. It was a smile that meant he could eat all of your food, take all of your money and stand you up yet you'd still be completely in love with him. With the idea of him.

'No Artie, I ain't mad. The world moves on. I just wanted to be the last guy to ply his trade on these boards.'

'Even if it's just for an audience of one?'

'Especially because it's an audience of one.'

A smile came across Arthur's lips, a blush of roses bloomed in his cheeks, and a tear ran from his eye.

'Close your eyes and remember the old times, Artie. I'll sing your favourites.'

The band began to play-

where are the band you know where they are but how you know how

as Arthur closed his eyes, got comfortable, and listened to Johnny Blues close the show one last time.

4

The coroner's report was nothing special, it held no perverted secrets or sexy break-throughs. It simply stated that a man in his mid-eighties had died peacefully in his sleep. The time of death was placed at three pm.

The Treasure Huntsman: The Oblitus Heart - Part II

Written by Samuel Gaitskell

kaymakli_underground_city.jpg

To read Part I, click here.


The group moved on through the city, looking for any signs of the treasure that they were hunting. They came across countless buildings that appeared to be stores of some sort, and one which looked to be some sort of library, which Julia was fairly hesitant to leave behind. Eventually, however, the group stumbled upon a building which was definitely different to all the others.

The building, rather than being made of stone and wood like all the others, seemed to be made of brass or some sort of similar metal, and apart from the occasional patch of greenish rust, it looked to be in alarmingly good condition. The door into the building looked as if it belonged in some sort of submarine.  The building looked to be centuries, possibly even millennia, more advanced than anything else within this underground city.

'This is… amazing.' Julia gasped, looking at the impossibly advanced building before her. 'I… I don’t even know how to describe this!'

'Well, seeing how it’s the only one of its kind, I’ll wager that it’s where we need to be,' Nathan guessed, looking up and down at the building. 'so, shall we?'

The group all nodded to each other, Julia wearing an amazed smile, before they all walked towards the entrance.

***

The second that the three opened the rather bulky brass door, a hissing noise could be heard. The four prepared for the worst, though their fear was quickly replaced with confusion as the building flooded full of light, which came from some automatic gas lamps that lined the walls. The group gasped, their eyes straining to adjust to the new levels of light. Once their eyes finally recovered, they found themselves in a bizarrely well-furnished room, filled with brass pipes that sprouted from the walls in various places, along with what looked to be an oak table, which was covered in undamaged, though slightly dusty, maps and tomes.

'This is impossible.' Julia claimed, immediately taking to the table to look over the maps. 'The gas lamps alone raise enough questions to put the smartest of scientists out of commission. I mean, the city outside is ancient beyond all belief, but gas lamps weren’t developed until the late 1790’s, give or take.'

'So someone found the city and built this place years ago?' David asked, looking over the papers lining the grand table.

'Well, that is the logical thing to assume, yes.' Julia stated. 'But there were no records of anyone finding this city before us, so whoever did find the city certainly didn’t advertise it.'

'Okay, scary thought,' Ryan piped up, looking through a slightly murky window. 'what if they didn’t tell anyone because they never left? I mean, I could have sworn I saw something moving in the shadows earlier, maybe-'

'That’s a bit of a leap.' Nathan said, though there was a level of concern in his voice.

'Nevertheless, we should probably be careful.' David declared as he handed what looked to be a well weathered journal over to Julia. 'Julia, could you quickly look through this while we all take a look around?'

Julia didn’t have to be asked twice. She happily picked the book up and carefully opened it, before beginning to read through it.

No more than five minutes went by before a horrifically loud siren went off, that almost sounded like an angered crow. Everyone near instinctively turned to Ryan, who had decided to push some sort of button, caring little for the consequences.

'Goddamnit Ryan!' Nathan hissed, covering his ears with his hands.

'Ryan, your ‘they never left’ theory may have been alarmingly accurate!' Julia added, yelling over the alarm as she stared out the window. 'Because we have company!'

The group rushed over to the window, where they saw cloaked figures approaching through the shadows.

'Alright, Ryan, Nathan, work on barricading the door!' David ordered, having to yell over the horrific alarm. 'Julia and I will search for a way out!'

Nathan and Ryan instantly jumped to work, swiping the maps and papers off of the grand table before moving it in the way of the entrance, while David and Julia searched through the room for any type of escape.

“Guys, over here!” Julia yelled out, trying her best to force open a similar door. The others quickly rushed to her side and helped open the door.

***

The alarm was slightly quieter on the other side of the door. Unlike the previous room, this one possessed no gas lamps, though it did have an awful lot more pipes, along with a spiralling staircase leading upwards. Hearing what sounded to be the front door crashing open, the group didn’t hesitate before beginning to head up the stairs.

'This is bad, this is very, very bad.' Julia stated as she ran up the fairly tall brass stairs, only lagging slightly behind the other three, as she hastily read through the journal.

'Just focus on getting up these stairs, Julia.' Nathan said, 'You can resume reading when we aren’t about to die horribly.'

'Right, right…' Julia mumbled as she closed the book and picked up the pace.

The stairway lead up to what looked to be a glass room with a bizarre looking door leading into it, which was locked by some sort of strange, unfamiliar lock in the shape of a simple button. David, Julia, Nathan, and Ryan respectively all attempted to press the button to open it, and unsurprisingly, each failed. The level of desperation began to rise as a noise that sounded like the door opening at the bottom of the stairwell opening could be heard.

'Well, I guess this is how we die.' Ryan joked, though it was obvious that he was panicking just as much as everyone else.

'Maybe not.' Julia chimed in, as she quickly opened the journal, remembering something she read. She hastily flipped through the book, before stopping on a particular page. 'Okay, here we go: according to this journal, from what I can tell at least, this lock is called a "personalised pop lock", made to only open to a specific fingerprint, which is beyond amazing because fingerprints weren’t discovered until-'

'All very interesting, Julia, I’m sure, but not exactly useful' Nathan said, trying to hurry her along.

'Right, right,' Julia nodded, snapping back on topic, 'basically, the journal says that the lock, while being incredibly advanced, were easily broken when exposed to several everyday things, such as certain vinegars, certain alcohols, and…'

Julia paused to quickly open and ruffle through Ryan’s pack, confusing all the others considerably. After a few seconds, she pulled out some sort of candy, which she proceeded to unwrap before slamming it against the lock. A sizzling noise sounded from the button-like lock, before it seemed to short circuit, causing the door to lazily swing open.

'... pretty much anything with high levels of sugar.' Julia finished with a huff, releasing a breath she didn’t even realise that she had been holding.

'Right, everyone in.' David said, as they all rushed into the glass room. Julia, being the last in, paused to look at the door.

'Problem, guys…' She said as she entered. 'The lock on the door, that’s broken. Whoever is following us will have literally no issues with opening the door.'

'I’ll hold it shut, then.' Nathan said, as he closed the door and held it shut. 'You guys look for a way out or something.'

'We mightn’t need to,' Julia said, reading on, 'I think this whole stairwell is a trap room of sort.'

'Elaborate, please.' David said, looking down through the glass floor to see the quickly ascending cloaked figures.

'As far as I can tell,' Julia began, 'there should be a button in this glass room somewhere that, once activated, causes all the air outside of the room to be sucked out, suffocating whoever is in the stairwell. Once again, technology which far exceeds the time period.'

'Over here.' Ryan said, gesturing to a button mounted on the only metal wall of the glass room. 'Should we press it?'

A sudden pounding could be heard against the door into the glass room. The cloaked figures were trying to get in.

'Press the damn thing!' Nathan demanded, straining to keep the door shut. Ryan didn’t need any more convincing before he pressed the button. Immediately, a near deafeningly loud humming noise pierced through the air. The cloaked figures all seemed to drop to their knees, horrifically gagging and coughing as the air was being ripped from their lungs. As they choked, their cloak’s hoods were flung from their heads, to reveal nothing more than ordinary faces. One might assume them to be entirely normal people, in any other circumstance.

'P-please…' one managed to choke out, desperately, if not weakly, pounding against the door, 'let us in.'

The group stood in horrified silence as they watched the cloaked figures thrash about, desperate for air, though it wasn’t long before their choked tears faded into silence. The group stood quiet, unsure of what to think. Those people… they were dead. They were dead, no less, because of them. Those people never hurt any of them. Hell, they never even showed any real signs of wanting to. As far as they knew, they just killed a group of innocent people.

'The the air should cycle back into the room automatically in about ten minutes…” Julia mumbled out, attempting to break the near deafening silence.

'We… we should continue,' added Nathan, 'We’ve come too far to let… to let this stop us.'

Though Nathan’s words were of a determined treasure huntsman, his tone was less than convincing. Nevertheless, the group pressed on because, as unconvincing as his tone was, Nathan was right. They had come too far to stop now. Even if they really wished to. So, with a false level of determination, the group climbed up a ladder, moving on.

 

A Word in Waylon's Ear

Written by James McCann

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1

Waylon Payne turned in that night a little after Nine, he didn't know why but recently he'd been getting tired earlier and earlier each night. He was in his mid-40's and thought of himself as being very pragmatic and very logical, so he had begun a course of nighttime medication in a bid to stop whatever illness it was that was trying to get a grip on him. Waylon hated being ill, not just because of how it made him feel lousy but because he hated not having control.

Trying to always find the best in all things, Waylon liked the side-effect that had come along with the medicine (he wasn't sure if it was the pills, or the syrup, or the hot brew, or a combination of them all) which manifested itself as wonderful dreams. He spent each night in the arms of a beautiful woman, usually a celebrity that was plastered all over the gossip magazines in the racks by the supermarket door, or one of those dirty girlies on the late night channels who kept shaking their phones at the camera. Once in a while he dreamt of a former teacher or a crush he had back in school or college.

He got up to things with those women in the dream world that he would never even admit to thinking about in the waking. There were kinky things, things that Waylon supposed most people took in their stride, but he had never thought about before. It was those dreams that Waylon had grown to look forward to.

Sleep came to him quickly that night, less than five minutes after his head touched the pillow.

2

When camping in the Outback, they advise you to check your sleeping bag before climbing in at night, and to bang your boots in the morning before you put them on. This might not be too bad an idea for people in other places as well, something that Waylon Payne would have done well to remember.

It crawled out from beneath his pillow once it was sure the breathing had become slow and steady. That was when it slinked its way out. It was about four inches long, slightly thicker than an earthworm, its maroon body lined on each side by hundreds of sharp, yellow legs. Its head was conical to a point, flanked on each side by large, lobster-like pincers.

The alien bug made a short circle before climbing up the pillow and over Waylon's chin, pausing momentarily to defecate in his mouth, leaving its scat just beneath Waylon's tongue. It crawled out, tickling Waylon's bottom lip slightly, and then ran across his cheek. It scuttled its way into his ear, the pincers pinching on anything it could get within reach of. It burrowed further and further in, snipping slithers of brain off and devouring the bloody grey matter.

On previous nights it had gone in only so far, the very end of its body still slightly visible, poking out of Waylon's ear. This time, however, the thing was especially hungry. Since it began eating at the Waylon All-Night Diner, it had grown in length and girth. Very soon it would go through a birthing process; up to seven or eight babies would pop out.

3

Waylon had incredibly pleasant dreams that night. They would be the last of his life.

4

The babies were born in Waylon's room, the same as hundreds of thousands were, and still are, every night all over the world.

Sweet dreams.

The Treasure Huntsman: The Oblitus Heart - Part I

Written by Samuel Gaitskell

kaymakli_underground_city.jpg

David, Julia, Nathan and Ryan cautiously walked along, David aiming his torch forward, as they ventured deeper into the underground city of Oblitus. It had been a good few years since they began this little treasure hunt, and after countless false leads, they’d finally found the fabled buried city.

The group wandered through what looked to be a long since abandoned street, lined with ruined, ancient buildings of stone and wood. Statues of sorts were found on just about every corner, depicting what looked to be gods of some sort, though time had worn away most identifiable features. Hell, time had worn away just about everything down here.

'Could we please take a break soon?' asked the ever impatient Ryan, drawing deep, heavy breaths. The group had been walking for a good few hours at that point, so a break did seem necessary, even to David, who had proven to be nothing but stubborn not only on this trip, but ever since Ryan had known him. All Ryan needed to do was throw the slightest of nods to David before he collapsed onto the ground and began to rummage through his bag for something to eat.

'What are we looking for?' Nathan asked, as he took his seat on a crumbling stone wall. 'I mean, I know we’re looking for the lost treasure of whatever, but where would that be? The middle of the city? At the far end? Hidden inconspicuously in an ancient toilet of some kind?'

'I doubt that it’ll be in a toilet,' Julia chuckled, 'Considering that, according to our research, this city was made centuries before plumbing was around. They probably just threw their waste onto the road.'

Ryan stiffened a bit, realising that he was sitting on the road that more than likely was once covered in an ancient civilisations "leavings", so to speak. Still, unsurprisingly, it didn’t seem to dampen his appetite in the slightest, as he still shoveled various sweets into his mouth.

'Ryan, honestly, couldn’t you at least try to eat healthily?' Nathan sighed, looking down at his fellow treasure hunter. 'We’re searching for ancient treasure, not having a quick lunch break between finger painting and nap time.'

'Hey, this has a fruity gel in it!' Ryan argued, holding up some sort of candy in protest 'Fruit is healthy!'

'Flawless logic,' Nathan said with a roll of his eyes. 'Honestly, why are you even here? I doubt that we have much use for such a bumbling, childish arse such as yourself-'

'Can you two please spend just ten minutes without going at each other’s throats?' groaned David, looking between the pair, before his eyes rested on Nathan. 'Ryan is here because we need him here, just like we need you. He’s not going anywhere, no matter how much you want him to. So would you please kindly suck it up for the sake of everyone’s sanity?'

Nathan begrudgingly mumbled an apology to Ryan, who surprisingly didn’t bother to gloat too much, before the group was left in silence. Julia spent her break reading away at some sort of leather-bound book, Nathan and Ryan spent theirs in silence, Ryan quietly eating, Nathan keeping a cautious eye open, and David spent his time idly enjoying the silence.

'Did… guys, did you see that?' Ryan suddenly began, a level of panic in his voice which seemed to spread to the others. Ryan quickly shot up onto his feet and pointed into the inky blackness ahead of them 'Over there, I could have sworn that I saw something moving.'

David cautiously raised his torch and swept it along the general area where Ryan gestured, to find nothing more than decrepit, dusty ruins. The group carefully studied the scene for several moments, before deciding that, in reality, nothing was there.

'We should get moving again.' The now slightly paranoid David said, hopping to his feet and throwing his bag back over his shoulder, the others following his example. 'Just… keep an eye open, everyone.'

***

The Meeting

Written by Ramona Thompson

 Photograph by   Miriam Espacio

Photograph by Miriam Espacio

Leo massaged the back of his neck, thankful the meeting was finally over. Now his real work could begin. He always felt so damn stupid hiding his true skin underneath a human mask. Long ago, Leo had vowed in his heart that every last one of them would pay. That was the day that began his master plan.

'The earth will again be ours!' He bragged to his mother as she welcomed him home that day after work and he entered his bedroom, located down in the basement. Strange how she had shook her head so sadly at him, he thought as he descended. Maybe she had turned against the cause. It would seem fit since she had married and bedded one of them. A hated human man who liked to call himself "Leo’s stepfather". Ugh, another bastard of a flesh creature intent on conquering and rubbing Leo's kind out! Yes, that had to be it! She has turned! He would have to kill her!

Leo scowled as he gazed at his reflection in the mirror. It still puzzled him how, even alone, he could not remove his human mask. The one time he had tried to take it off with a Butcher’s Knife from the kitchen. His mother and "stepfather" had called the Human Flesh Cops and sent him away. All part of the human’s plan to keep him down... or something more nefarious. He still was not sure he wanted to know, no matter how curious it made him. Maybe it was for the best to hide out like this in plain sight. Heaven forbid someone walk in and find him in his true skin. He could not help his people if he wound up a prisoner of the flesh creatures' so called "Government."

His skin broke out now in a cold sweat as a thought he had not entertained in quite some time took a monsterous hold of him. Dear God! What if it was true? What if he really was just a man gone mad? Just one of them? The hated flesh ones. No! It could’t be! He would’t let it be! Would he? Did he even have a choice?

As Leo swallowed down his daily pill he smiled and began to calm. How silly. Of course he was’t human. He was the leader and savior of the fallen alien race. Didn’t all the voices he heard in the night say just that? As he heard his mother call him to dinner, he even started to whistle. All was well. He would enjoy the night, reading his comics and watching the Sci-Fi channel. Tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow. That would be soon enough to finish plotting how he was going to end the reign of the dreaded flesh creatures starting with his mother and "stepfather."

Oh yes. Starting with them.

Skeletons

Written by Leah Nichols 

 Photograph by Leah Nicols

Photograph by Leah Nicols

He heard the creak of the door opening behind him and footsteps on the wooden, polished floor, William turned and set eyes on a very familiar face.

'John, very good to see you again.'

John Swarbeck Gregory had been the Bankes’ family solicitor for as long as William could remember and he had come to regard him as a loyal, dedicated friend.  John was older than the middle aged William but had every single sense expertly trained, grey hair that was thinning at the top and eyes that never stood still, always looking, observing.

'Mr. Bankes, always a delight to be of service,'

'Come now, John, do call me William, I think we have been through enough together to dispense with regular formalities,' William said smiling.

He took William’s hand and shook it without, William noticed, a sympathetic  smile.

'As you wish, William,' replied the genteel gentleman. He took a seat at the large, varnished oak table that stood proudly in the centre of the room, placed his leather briefcase on the table, opened it and took out a file and began to sort through its contents. 

The room around them, that once gave out so much light, was now seemingly darker than William remembered from his youth. The weather outside reflected how William felt.  Rain fell from the grey sky and hit the full-length windows with unrelenting rage.  This was a far cry from the days when he would play in the greenest of grass with his brother and sister. The sun was shining, it always seemed to shine back then. The birds were singing to him and his siblings as they ran around the grounds chasing each other. Young William was so full of life, a well liked boy and, although she never said it, his mothers favourite. Back then, the only thing he was worried about was getting grass stains on his clothes.

William paced around the room. He had his hand to his mouth, resisting the temptation to bite his nails.

'Mr. Bankes,' said John weakly.

'William,' William insisted.

'William, I’m so sorry but reading the charges against you and the statements given, I’m afraid there won’t be much we can do this time.'

'is massively different this time?' asked William skeptically. John nodded his head and looked at the floor.

'Yes of course, but there are reasons why I decided to take the case, William.'

William’s heart dropped to his stomach, he gave way to temptation and started chewing his fingernails. He knew he had taken the case last time because his father had paid him a substantial amount but he was glad to have a familiar, friendly face on his side.

'What can be done?' asked William. His voice was shaking with complete fear.

John Gregory sorted through the mountain of papers in front of him with a solemn expression on his face.

After a cruel silence, John broke it with a massive sigh.

'Mr... William, now is the time you are honest with me.'

William looked at his friend. His eyes were gentle and William knew he wanted to help. He had to be honest; this was the one person he knew would be on his side.

'Are the charges against you true?' asked John.

William stood there, looking his friend dead in the eyes and slowly nodded his head. He felt the shame rise in him. The knot in his stomach grew tighter. His eyes left the kind man’s face and sank to the floor

'Okay, you understand that this puts us in a massively difficult position, an MP being charged with something such as this.'

William nodded again.

'So everything this report says,' John said, waving a sheet of paper, 'is completely true?'

William went to the table and took the sheet of paper and began to read the statement. He sat down. His eyes were filling with tears as he read.  Everything the sheet of cursed paper said was true. When he had finished reading, he pushed the paper back towards John and put his head in his hands.

'So the best case scenario is possibly 10 years.'

'Worst case?' William asked. He leaned back in his chair and ran his hand through his once fiery red hair.

'I don’t really want to focus on what could happen, lets just deal with what we have,' said John but the look they shared said they both knew that if he got the full force of the law,  William John Bankes would only be a memory that would be soon forgotten.

'I was acquitted of all charges,' said William. Last time this happened they dropped all charges against me.'

'Only because there wasn’t enough evidence,' reminded John. 'This time you were arrested, you even gave a false name at the station.'

'I was terrified! I was so scared,' declared William, 'I was only too aware of the trouble I would be in.' William stood up and moved to the other side of the room to give himself distance between himself and this sordid situation.

John put his pen down, pushed his papers aside.

'How did Mr. Bankes react?' he asked,  'He is a very reasonable man.'

'My father came to see me at the station,' explained William.

 

William sat in that cold police station, hair unkempt, clothes unclean and a reputation potentially in ruins. Again. William’s hands were shaking, his breathing was heavy. The heavy door of the room creaked open to reveal a young man in a uniform.

'Your father is here,' said the blonde police officer. William nodded slowly.

'I’ll show him in,' the officer left the room without another word.

This is what scared him the most. His powerful father. William didn’t know how he was going to react and that terrified him.  He never wanted this to happen but he never had a chance to express himself. He knew he was different but he never understood why until recently.

The old door creaked a second time and an elderly gentleman entered, the walking stick hitting the floor. Henry Bankes was an elderly man with silver hair that was still as thick as a horse’s mane. He was as tall as William, the same strong jaw-line but his eyes were deeper, Henry was a strong, hearty man but nothing would have prepared him for his own son’s arrest.

'William,' he said.

'Papa, thank you.'

'What for?' he asked. he sat opposite William but not once did he look at him

'For coming to see me. I’m so scared,' said William

'With good reason,' said Henry 'Oh god William, what happened?'

William sighed and shook his head. He hadn’t planned on telling anyone what he was doing in Green Park last night.

'I didn’t mean for it to happen,' explained William 'I wasn’t expecting to…'

'I know you didn’t,' said his father, 'But you were apprehended and arrested, they don’t arrest people without a cause, William,' his father would look at everything but him and yet he spoke so gently.

'And what happens now?' asked William.

'Oh, my boy,' said Henry. 'The unknown is always scary,' William nodded, he had to agree, there was nothing worse than not knowing what the future held.  When William travelled to Egypt in his younger days, he made sure he knew every movement of every day so he could plan ahead of time.

'You told me when I was younger that you could only win a game of chess if you planned moves ahead of time,' said William

'The same applies in life,' said Henry, 'I remember.' 

'I’m so sorry Papa, I can’t win this.'

           

'William?'

The dreary, golden room snapped back into focus. The calling of his name wrenched him back from the past like a fish being reeled in on a hook.

'Is everything okay, William?' asked John.

'Yes, sorry, I was miles away,' he shook his head and made his way back to the table.

'I assume your father was supportive even though he doesn’t fully understand?'

William snorted, in response.

'The only person who hasn’t completely disowned me or treated me like I have the black death has been Ann,' said William.

'Your sister?'

William’s sister was the best support anyone could need. She didn’t shy away from him after the news came out. The family had made sure that if there was any risk of this being in the press that it was quickly accosted as to avoid further damage. His father and brother had been scouring the papers endlessly on a daily basis.

'We try to keep the details away from her of course but she’s a smart girl.'

John walked to the metal drinks trolley and poured two large cognacs.

'You have a wonderful family here, Billy,' he said, passing the larger measure to William.

'Do you know something? It tears me up inside that this house, my family and my reputation will be ripped away from me,' said William.

'I cannot imagine how you are feeling right now, after everything you’ve done,' said john as he shook his head, 'but you need to be positive.' William took a large gulp of his drink.

'You know, when I was younger, I never dreamed my life would turn out like this,' said William, 'My mother was so good to me when I was growing up, I remember once she had a party and she sent Ann and Henry to bed and I was so defiant, I refused,' he remembered,  'I stayed up late into the night, dancing with mother’s friends. Mother told me I was the life of the party,' The two friends sat there in the comfortable silence, drinking their drinks as William smiled at the past.

'Your family have been a big part of my life, and never have I met another woman like your dear mother, William,' said John, 'She has loved you more than anyone.'

'She has, I know it,' William conceded.

'And she will continue to love you, through all of this, she hasn’t deserted you yet and she never will.'

'As for Ann, never have I seen a sister more devoted to her brother,' said John fondly.

'It cannot be this bad!' shouted William. He had been patient long enough. This unknown was unbearable, and in all this he was losing sight of the severity of the issue.

'William, look, what happened wasn’t technically legal.'

'It should be!' declared William.

John set down his papers, looked at William with a look that he didn’t recognise. William could feel heat rising within him. He was way beyond the realms of feeling sorry for himself. The anger at the injustice of it all was sickening to him. But it didn’t seem sickening, William noticed, to his ‘dear friend’ at the table who was meant to be defending him.

'It shouldn’t! Why is it that men can commit their perfectly sane wives to an asylum from hell, treat them appallingly, beat them, emotionally slaughter them and nothing is ever said against them! But yet a gentleman takes his chance in the dark…'

'Mr. Bankes…'

'And face possible incarceration, when I didn’t hurt anybody!' he finished.  He looked out of the window at the sodden grass below. John stood up and walked over to William.

'I am so sorry you are going through this, truly.'

William looked at the aging man that stood beside him and placed his hand on his shoulder and gave him a small, tired smile. He meant well.

 'I will do my best to help you, I swear I will.'

'What do you know?' William snapped 'Have you ever dealt with a case like this before?'

'I’m trying to…'

William didn’t want anyone telling him it would be okay, he didn’t want sympathy. He wanted justice and acceptance. The thought of other men feeling this agonising, deep -rooted fear repulsed him.

'How many men like me will be in the same position?' William demanded 'How many more men will suffer at this? How many great minds will perish because of how they naturally feel?'

William went to sit down in one of the matching oak chairs. He sat there in silent contemplation while John looked on at his friend with a heavy heart.

'It doesn’t look good,' said William finally.

'Tell me what happened that night William and we can see, there may be something we can do.'

'You said yourself! I gave a false name, I panicked, I begged them to keep my name out of it if I ran away.'

John was looking down at the table in front of him with his hands placed firmly on the top. As he listened to William, he knew John felt out of his depth with this case but John was the only one he could think of who would even consider helping him.

'The charges against you will be crimes for a long time to come,' explained John. 'Now, what happened? From your point of view, tell me your side.'

 

The moon was shining high above London in the early hours of the morning when William was strolling through Green Park at ease and taking in the crisp, morning air. The grass was damp and people were talking as they passed him by.  As it grew darker, William began to see men in uniform wandering around the park. He was smiling at each of them to gauge their reactions. Then he found him. When William smiled, he returned it. He looked at the young man. He was taller than William, had lovely blonde hair and opal blue eyes. His smile made Williams heart beat faster.

'Evening, sir,' said the young man.

'And to you,' said William, smiling his dashing smile.

'What brings you to this area at such a late hour?' enquired the soldier.

William started to walk towards a clump of nearby trees and the solider obligingly walked in step with him.

'Oh nothing particular, but I thought something I like may happen by me,' said William.

'And has it, Sir?' the young man was walking so close next to William and he didn’t try to protest. Why would he? He was getting older, so if a younger, attractive man wanted to make him happy for a while, William didn’t see anything wrong with that, he was willing to indulge again if the opportunity arose.

'I should say so yes,' he replied.

As they neared the trees, they went behind them but after what seemed like no time at all, they were interrupted.

'And what is going on?' came a strong voice. The soldier ran before he could be accosted or even look to see who asked the question, William tried to run, his clothes a mess, his shirt untucked and his trousers loose. This was a factor added with his age that stopped him from achieving a speedy escape. He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder. He was horrified to see it was an officer of the law, his heart fell to the floor.

'You’ll have to come with me sir,' he said, 'I am arresting you on suspicion of indecent exposure.' William started to panic, the fear was setting in but this was the real, gut wrenching fear he had never felt before.

'William,' said John 'Let’s think about the best way to come to this.'

William snapped out of his daze and was suddenly listening intently.

'Yes?' he said eagerly.

'There is only one thing I can think of that has pros and cons on both sides,' John stood up and walked to the window and looked down onto the grounds.

'What is it? At this point I’ll do anything to make this go away,' William joined his friend at the window and looked at him with expectant eyes.

'Run,' he said solemnly.

William’s heart skipped a beat at the sound of the word. Every reason to not do this flashed through his mind: the family home, the amount of work that he had spent so many years developing, his artifacts but most importantly, his beloved sister. How could he just leave her?

'If you run, Billy, you will be beyond British law,' explained John, speaking with such a calming, almost paternal tone.

'But, if you run, everything you own will be forfeited.' he said.

William stood still, the room around him swirled. It seemed to fade, John’s face in front of him became blurred and unfocused. He felt his body grow heavier, his knees buckled, he could hear the blood rush to his ears with an ear splitting buzzing.  He could feel the weight of his body falling when suddenly, hands wrapped around his waist and allowed him to fall carefully to the floor.

 

William opened his eyes and sat up. He was still on the floor and his body felt cold. He looked around and saw John was sat at the large table scouring through different papers, reading sections, casting them aside and reading another with such aggravation.

'John,' said William weakly. John looked up, saw William and instantly took to his side.

'Billy,' he said calmly 'Thank god you’re okay,' William observed John and saw he was smiling at him with relief. It reminded him of the way his father used to when he was growing up. William resisted the urge to hug the man beside him for a moment of comfort.

'There is something we can do, Will,' said John, helping William to his feet and both men took a seat at the table.

'If we sign everything over to your brothers, the courts cannot touch it if you run.'

'The house?'

'Yes,' replied John.

'All of my artefacts?'

'Everything, William.' William had so much work he still wanted to carry out on the house, the grounds. He knew all too well his brothers wouldn’t take as much are of the place has much as he did. His younger brother would send things back and keep the money, he was sure of that. Every negative scenario was going through his head.

William thought for a second, ran a tired hand through the greying hair. He knew there wasn’t much choice.

The Last Shift

Written by Tim Mason Scott 

 Photograph by   Tim Gouw

Photograph by Tim Gouw

Another day, another Dollar, I said to myself as I pulled open glass door with the words 4th Dimension Marketing sprawled across it.

'Good morning Rick, nice and early as always,' Anetta called from her desk before I even had time to make eye contact with her.

'Hey,' I replied softly. We exchanged a glance for the briefest of moments before I continued past her towards the rows of cubicles.

My desk was all the way at the back, which meant being stuck acknowledging everyone that I walked by. That was what motivated me to get to work just that little bit earlier than most of the other staff. I was by no means at all a model employee; I just hated having to pretend to act interested in other people’s personal lives. I ran my hands against the sides of the cubicles as I passed them; it was a harmless habit I was well aware of. When I reached my desk at the back right of the building I threw my bag underneath it and glanced around. 8.45 a.m. the clock read on the door above the boss’s office, which gave me 15 minutes before the place was full of people. I turned back to my desk and sat in the chair, cracking my back in preparation for the uncomfortable support the chair provided. I stared blankly at my computer screen; the desktop was of my mates and me paintballing. Gosh, how much I wished I was doing that instead of being stuck behind a computer doing data entry. I clicked on the iTunes icon, hit play on the first song that came up and lifted my enormous headphones over my head. I didn’t like to converse much with the other staff members, not more than I needed to. This was just a job to me, not something I was passionate about, so I wasn’t going to bother making more of an effort than I needed to. As my music blared in my ears, I opened Excel and began.

Next to my desk was a large pile of speakers that I had to check the serial code of each individual device and enter it into the computer. It’s monotonous but it passes the time, and being able to listen to music makes it a pretty relaxing task. As I typed the serial numbers in, and each song faded out into the next one, I could hear the faint sounds of people arriving and moving about the office. I shifted my eyes to the clock at the bottom of my computer screen; I was surprised to see it was already 9.30. I could hear some screaming and yelling overpowering the music. It was probably Margaret in accounting getting excited about some story one of the other staff members told her. She always found the littlest things exciting (another reason why I avoided her like the plague).

I felt something touch the top of my head, and I began to get that sensation that people get when someone runs their fingers up your back. Suddenly my headphones came completely off. I swiftly turned to see a man in a balaclava standing in front of me.

'Holy shit,' I said before I had a chance to take in what I was seeing. The man grabbed me by the back of my head and lifted me out of my chair. Pulling me out of my cubicle, he held on tight to my head - it was awfully painful. I had no idea what was going on, my heart was pounding against my chest. My vision was blurry in all the commotion but I could make out the faint details of a line up of people on the ground. Suddenly the masked man let go of my hair and pushed me onto the ground. My head sank and I grabbed the back of my head, I think he pulled a chunk of my hair out. I looked up to see all of my co-workers kneeling in a line on either side of me with horrified looks on their faces.

'Get on your knees,' the hair puller said to me with his pistol aimed at my head. I noticed that my whole body was shaking and I couldn’t do anything to stop it, I just obeyed the man’s orders. I counted four guys, they all had their faces covered and each of them carried a different weapon, a pistol, a shotgun, some sort of machine gun and the guy standing near the entry had a hand gun and a machete. Just looking at all these weapons, I knew that I was neck-deep in shit and the chances were that this was not going to end well.

'Take your masks off, we gotta blend in,' the guy with the shotgun said to the others. Simultaneously, all four men took their balaclavas off. I could hear sirens blaring past the street outside. The guy with the shotgun turned to the other gunmen near the door.

'Vaughn, can you see anything?' he asked. The other gunmen, Vaughn, peered outside the entry doors, the faint sound of a helicopter joined in with the noise. He looked up and then pulled away from the door, turning to the guy giving the orders.

'They have no idea where we are,' Vaughn smirked. The one that grabbed me looked concerned.

'How long are we gonna need to hold up here?' he asked the others.

'Hopefully not too long.' the guy with the shotgun remarked.

I could feel my knees vibrating against the group, aching unbearably. The only thing keeping me from falling onto the ground completely was the knowledge that if I did, I would probably end up dead. The leader of the group grinned as he walked along the line of hostages, his shotgun nestled on his shoulder. I turned to my left to see Anetta shaking uncontrollably, tears streaming down her face.

‘Hey!’ yelled the leader towards me. I turned my head forward as his stepped in front of me. He lowered his head towards mine, allowing me to see his face up close. He had a scar on his right cheek; his tanned skin had made it less noticeable along with the stubble covering his jaw line. “No looking around kid”, he said as his eyes pierced mine. A slight sense of relief came over me as he moved away and continued to pace between the hostages.

At the other end of the line up, someone’s phone began to ring. My heart instantly sank; this could only make things worse. Vaughn raced over to the person like he was on a mission. I couldn’t make out exactly what he was doing without moving out of the line and there was no way I was going to do that.

'I’m sorry,' my co-worker, Eric called out, it must have been his phone that was ringing.

'Give me your goddamn phone right now!' Vaughn yelled at him. I could see through the corner of my eye, Vaughn lifting his arm and swinging back. There was a loud thud and everyone on that side of the room made some sort of squeal or cried out. I wasn’t sure exactly what happened but I think Vaughn had hit Eric pretty hard. 'Empty your pockets, all of you now.' Vaughn screamed waving his gun at all of us. The other armed men showed no reaction, they just allowed him to continue. I put my hand into my back left pocket and pulled my phone out. I didn’t hesitate throwing it to the ground.

'My phone's at my desk,' one person cried out, I couldn’t tell who it was.

'You better not be fucking lying to me,' one of the other hostage takers said. Vaughn and two of the other men began collecting all the phones one by one into a bin.

'Cox, go pour water on these,' Vaughn said passing him the bin.

The guy with the scar kept walking up and down the line; he had a perpetual smirk on his face. I couldn’t stop worrying that he was going to use his shotgun at any moment.

'Stop this please, what is it that you want from us?' came the voice of my boss, James Murphy. The leader tilted his head at James’s outburst, as if he was shocked someone would ask him such a thing. I could tell that James instantly regretted yelling out; the fear on his face was a dead giveaway. Vaughn walked towards James; put his arm out to stop him from proceeding.

'It’s James isn’t it?' the leader said, caressing his shotgun almost as if it was his pet. Shivering, James nodded his head in response. 'Hi, I’m Mason,' he said. 'You see James, I’m running things from now on, you understand? This is my show and I’m gonna tell you how it’s going to play out. So if I tell you to shut up and do what I tell you, you’re going to shut up and do what I tell you.' Mason explained, still maintaining his smirk. 'Is that clear, James?'

The whole room was silent, everyone on the floor were still with fear. All of Mason’s men looked as if they were anticipating how this scene would play out. James didn’t respond, as if the fear had blocked his throat. I turned slightly to look at him, and could see the sweat dripping down his face. My eyes darted back to Mason, his annoying grin had begun to fade and his face now looked frustrated.

'James, James, James. I asked you a question. The least you could do is show me the courtesy of a reply'. James’s breathing became deep and loud enough to be heard from where I was kneeling.

'Uh, yes that’s clear.' he finally responded.

'Good, man!' Mason exclaimed, his smirk now transformed to a complete smile. He turned away from us and walked towards the exit before returning to his original spot. 'Alright people, listen up. We’re moving to the conference room,' he stated. 'I want you all get up and stay quiet.' Nobody reacted at first, I think everyone was too scared, I know that I was.

'You heard the man!' Cox yelled, returning from the bathroom. We all slowly rose to our feet, I looked around to see all my co-workers shaking. Some had tears running down their face; others appeared as though they were trying to save face. I could see Eric now that I was standing. His nose was bleeding but he generally looked okay, thank goodness. I turned to my left to see Anetta still on her knees looking down at the floor. I reached out my hands towards her.

'Here,' I said, pulling her to her feet. She squeezed my hand; her normally happy face was nowhere to be seen.

'Thanks, Rick.' she said in between the sniffles. We began walking; her hand was still firmly gripped to mine. As weird as it might be to say, it felt nice to be comforting someone, even though I was by no means comfortable myself.

Everything became blurry again as I walked into the conference room. High intensity situations always had a habit of making me light headed, it’s why I had to quit going to the gym. The room was set up like a support group with the chairs circling around the room. I slumped into the closest chair to the doorway and rubbed my eyes. I was too disorientated to notice how everyone else was handling our situation.

Mason pushed past his men and entered the conference room; he looked calm and confident as he moved into the middle of the circle. 'Everybody listen up. Here’s the situation,' he paused for a moment. 'We are taking over this office for the rest of the day or... at least until the cops outside piss off.' he explained. Mason pointed his shotgun at James, 'Come up here.' James cautiously rose from his seat and stood beside Mason. I felt sorry for him, he was a good guy and a nice boss, and this guy just kept picking on him.

Mason smirked, placing his hand on James’s shoulder, James quivered. 'Thank you James. That takes a lot of balls.' He let go of him and gazed around at the rest of us before returning his eyes to James. 'Now, if the police come in here asking who the boss is, what are you going to say?' he asked. James hesitated; I could tell he was unsure of what to say and what to do.

'Um… I am?' he questioned Mason. Mason backed away, scratched his head and walked around the circle, chuckling to himself.

'Damn James, I was beginning to like you.' he said, as he walked up behind him. Without warning Mason hit James across the back with the barrel of his gun. We all watched helplessly as Mason hit him again, this time on the back of the head. James fell to the ground as he was hit a third time, I could see blood dripping from his mouth. I felt like vomiting and crying at the same time, it was sickening. 'Not bad man. You took it like a champ.' Mason said, as he wiped his gun on the back of James’s shirt.

He stepped away from James like it was nothing and started to wave the shotgun at the rest of us. 'Now that was an example of what happens if you don’t pay attention to what I have to say. So if none of you want the same fate as James here, then I suggest you stay quiet. If the cops do come in here you’re all going to pretend that everything’s fine and that we’re just having a meeting.' Mason exclaimed as he paced around us. As he looked at me, my anxiety peaked and my throat locked up. I had never felt such fear and uncertainty before. Over the course of ten seconds my eyes completely fogged up, I couldn’t see anything. My body shook erratically and I began to feel myself lurching forward, with no way to control my movement.

'What the fuck is wrong with him,' a muffled voice said.

'I think he’s having an anxiety attack!' someone else yelled. As I hit the floor, my vision began to clear up but I was still shaking uncontrollably as if my soul was trying to escape my body.

'Bathroom,' I cried out without even thinking.

'I’ll take him,' I heard Cox say. I felt an arm lift me up and hold my weight as I began to walk out of the room, no longer paying attention to anyone else other than myself.

'Just makes sure he doesn’t try anything,' Vaughn said to Cox as we passed him.

Continuing out of the room, I stumbled against a cubicle wall as I lost my balance. Cox pulled me away and motioned for me to keep moving. 'You better not be playing me,' he said as we continued down the narrow walkway. I began feel my strength coming back the more we walked, as if leaving the conference room had already lifted my spirits. I caught a glimpse of my desk as we walked past it. My bag was still sitting under the table and my headphones were lying on the floor. Those bloody speakers sat on my desk in a pile, what I wouldn’t give to be doing data entry right now, I thought.

Cox pushed the door open for me and turned the tap on. I stared briefly at the water as it gushed out before placing both hands under and splashing the cold water over my face. It was amazingly refreshing, and I instantly began to feel better. I looked at myself in the mirror, my face was more pale than usual and my eyes looked strained.

'You good kid?' Cox asked as he stood guard next to me, he looked uneasy. I began to dry my hands, '

'Yeah, a lot better thanks,' I replied. He pushed the door open with his foot and motioned with his head for me to start walking.

Walking out of the bathroom, I could see the exit to my far left. A desire to run towards it began to come over me. I felt a push and fell forward a few steps.

'What are you doing kid? Move!' Cox yelled. I started walking, thinking about all the hostages I had seen on the news that had escaped crisis situations like this whilst everyone else was still trapped inside. Maybe I could get out of here, warn the police and save everyone. I had to act fast, this was my only chance and Cox and I were almost about to pass the door. I turned my head back to see him with my peripherals; his eyes were fixed on me. 'Keep moving,' he said as I surveyed where his weapon was. I couldn’t see it; he must have put it behind his back.

A mere two metres from the door, I looked forward to see what was happening in the conference room. Mason was saying something to the group and the other two were lifting James up, probably moving him. Now’s your chance, the voice in my head kept telling me and I knew it was right. I had the opportunity to save myself and, potentially, everyone in the office if I succeeded.

I pushed my right leg off the ground and suddenly I was running, my legs working harder than they ever had in my entire life, I felt like an Olympian. I pushed against the doorway bursting the double doors wide open. I could hear Cox yelling out in the background but my focus wasn’t on him. I was outside; the fresh air flowed through my body as I sprinted into the car park. The gorgeous sun was almost blinding, I could barely see. I wanted to turn around to see if Cox had pursued me but I needed to keep going. It was at that moment that I heard a loud bang and felt a piercing sensation through my chest.

It wasn’t painful at all; in fact the most surprising part was how little I could feel. I knew a bullet had just made its way through my body but rather than agony, I just felt cold. My legs gave way and I dropped to my knees, the bones cracked as they hit the pavement. I began to look down at my chest but my vision blurred. I could see what looked to be blood, a lot of blood, in front of me on the ground. I placed my hand over my chest in an attempt to slow it down, when suddenly I felt all my energy drain and I fell face first into the concrete. I forced my eyes open and in the distance, I could see the outline of people rushing toward me but I couldn’t tell if they were friend or foe. My eyes closed, I had no more energy to give and with that, the sounds around me dissipated into silence.

Grizzly and The Killer Vampire - Part II

Written by Sophie Ramshaw

 Photograph by   Ján Jakub Naništa

Photograph by Ján Jakub Naništa


- Click here to read Part I -


The walls were lined with old oil paintings – mostly of forest landscapes and night skies, but here and there Grizzly would spot some old portraits of two beautiful people. A man and wife. The lady, he recognised, was the same from the tombstone outside.

He lowered his head and followed the bloody arrows throughout the musky scented hall, stopping every now and then to try one of the many doors lining his path. Each was locked and bolted. With every denied click a pounding echo of fear shuddered through his ears. His poor little old man hands trembled so ferociously he brought Sebastian the nutcracker back out to clutch him comfortingly between his palms.

Then came an uncomfortable churning feeling in his stomach. Like a sickness induced by the mind being aware of another presence in the room. As Grizzly hobbled through the long corridor, the sickly feeling got stronger, and he became certain someone was following him. But where was they? He kept asking himself.   

A flourish of candlelight appeared before him and he realised he had come to the end of the hall. There was a thick door surrounded by bloody arrows and flickering torches, with the sign DINING HALL/KITCHEN above it.

Grizzly gulped, but once again lifted his beaten trousers high up his hips and reached his wrinkly fist out to knock politely on the surface of the door. The wood creaked open as Grizzly knocked and he gently stepped inside.

The room was engulfed in darkness, but a sickly sweet aroma wafted through the air. His stomach growled at it, but his brain was less excited. It wondered what could be making that smell from the dark depths of the shadows.

There was a sudden clapping noise from somewhere in the dark, and the room erupted with a series of tall candles like magic. And a golden glow cast twitching shadows across the now visible stone ground. A long mahogany table sat in the middle – laden with meats, vegetables, and foods of all sorts. Mountains of croissants and other baked goods were piled against each other and two wine glasses filled with a suspicious red substance sat untouched on each end of the table.

Seemingly set for two.

Grizzly's heart jolted inside his chest like a pair of maracas working over-time. A strong, fleeing pulsated around his brain and told him to run, run! RUN!

He couldn't move. The sight of all that food screamed at him. He hadn't eaten in so long, and it wasn't fair. He was a good man – a nice man. Someone people should be friends with, not afraid of! He started to cry again and held Sebastian close to his heart. His tears got caught in his unkempt, bushy beard and he patted it dry with a musky lapel. Why did things have to be so hard? He never complained about his life or how things had played out for him, and yet here he was – so desperate for food he was putting himself in such a danger. And he knew he was in danger. 

Something gently patted him from behind.    

He slowly glanced over his shoulder.

His eyes widened. A strong shiver exploded through his entire body. His mouth went dry.

A pale, slender man with dark eyes and pointy cheekbones stared down at him with a doleful expression, patting Grizzly's shoulder lightly with a set of bony fingers.

Grizzly shrieked and flung himself away, tripping over his own feet and landing painfully on his backside.

This was the man from the portraits. The husband standing beside his beautiful wife, not looking a day older. But how was that possible?

The man clasped his hands together and flashed Grizzly a smile. 'I am so glad you could make it to my home,' he said with a thick Romanian accent. 'But I must ask, child, why do you weep?'

For some reason, this question caused Grizzly to weep even further. As the man talked he flashed the hobo a set of sharp fangs and the dull light from the flames made them glisten and shimmer. Grizzly didn't like it one bit.

The man was almost twice the height of our friendly hobo and hovered over him like a bulimic sasquatch. He extended his hand and gestured towards the table. 'Please, take a seat my friend.' The way the Romanian spoke made Grizzly light-headed and the room spun around him. He felt like he was being mocked and looked at with eyes as hungry as his own. But in a far meaner way. 'I did set it up just for you,' the man added.

Grizzly's brow furrowed and he was afraid to move. 

'As soon as I saw you enter my woods I knew we would be the best of friends,' he whispered with a sly chuckle.

Grizzly shivered.

'I may have already had supper,' he flashed the hobo a quick smirk, 'but I'm sure I could fit in seconds.' His eyes turned an unnerving shade of red and his fangs peaked out of his gums like two knives ready to start carving. 

Grizzly screamed at the top of his lungs and jumped up from the hard ground – bounding passed the vampire with every ounce of strength he had left. He burst out of the dining hall and ran as hard as he could back through the creepy corridor of creepiness – desperate and begging all the Gods for energy.

'I ain't done nothin' wrong! I ain't done nothin' wrong!' he screamed.

Sweat flung from Grizzly's forehead and he prayed for the strength to escape. He knew the outside was a cold and desolate place for him, but now he decided he'd rather take his chances with the unforgiving weather, than become some mean vampire's midnight snack! He flashed a glance behind him as he frantically sprinted down the isle. The visage of the pale-faced Romanian stared relentlessly back at him, levitating off the floor and rapidly following behind him with his chest thrust out like a hummingbird.

Grizzly squalled and jerked his head back in front of him.

He managed to run his way back to the main hall and grasped the thick handles of the two large wooden doors as quickly as he could. He heaved and pulled for a few moments before they gave and swung open with a noisy creak. He bolted down the stairs, past the monument and back into the forest – never looking back again.

The vampire stopped at the entrance and called out to the hobo as he bounded away. 'No, wait!' he yelled, holding out his arms. 'I just want to be friends!'

It was too late. He lost sight of the man in the dark fog wafting from the forest and had spooked him to the point of no return. He let out a long, disappointed sigh and slowly skulked back into his mansion.

'I'm so lonely…' he said to himself.

The wind picked up and slammed the doors shut violently, but he took no notice of it. Instead, he slumped down on the end of a velvet sofa and covered his face with his pale, bony fingers.

'Stupid Alphez!' He slapped the side of his face and starred solemnly at the floor. 'Stupid vampire! Stupid, stupid, stupid!' There was a golden-framed mirror hanging from the wall beside him, he turned to look at it and saw the reflection of the couch staring back at him. 'Was it something I said?' he asked with a shrug. He glanced over to the red arrow he had painted months ago, welcoming visitors to his dining hall. After all, Alphez was a fabulous cook and he wanted to share his talents with the people. He hadn't had a proper dinner party in nearly three centuries. And that was upsetting.

He shook his head at the arrow and huffed. 'Perhaps the red paint is a tad off-putting?'

Alphez stopped and cocked his head at something on the floor. A small, wooden something that stared back at him with a friendly face made of acrylic paint. It was a small toy nutcracker with a weather-beaten paint job and well-loved personality. Alphez flashed a look at the main doors, believing the artefact must have belonged to the friendly bearded gentlemen.

He picked up the toy and swayed back into his dining hall, placed the nutcracker on one end of the table before taking his place at the other. He raised his glass of priceless Italian red wine and took a sip.

'Ahh,' he sighed, 'good year.'

He looked up at the stiff nutcracker and smiled at him. 'Welcome to the Mikkael Mansion!' he said, humouring himself. 'I hope you like your stay here. May I ask you name, sir?'

 There was no reply.

'Hmm,' nodded Alphez. 'The silent type, are we? Well that's okay.' He studied the face of the nutcracker and tilted his grey head at him. 'You look like a Sebastian if you ask me.' He raised his glass again and grinned at the toy. 'Well, Mister Sebastian, here's to the start of a most wonderful friendship!'

Alphez looked over his shoulder at a large painting of his late wife, Mona. She smiled down at him with all the grace and beauty he always remembered her exuding. He nodded at her while a small, perfect tear rolled down his undead face. 'You wont have to worry about me anymore, my dear,' he told her. 'I finally have a friend.'

He sighed and closed his eyes, breathing in all the delicious aromas of food from the table. He smiled to himself and thanked that friendly hobo, hoping maybe one day he might possibly return for his nutcracker, and the three of them could become the best of friends. Paint landscapes together, cook banquets and host dinner parties, maybe even start a band, who knows?

It sounded unlikely. But a vampire can dream, can't he?

And he did have eternity to wait and see, after all.

Extract VIII

Written by Melissa Booey 

 Photograph by   Liana Mikah

Photograph by Liana Mikah

You’ve gotta give the people what they want. You’d better yell something good.

I sat there and tried not to get mad. I figured, “well, we’ve made it this far, anyway, suppose we can make it a bit further.” I’m sure my buzz and batch of benzos I’d been unknowingly slipped were wearing off, but I know I looked directly at the bone. It was protruding from my wrist and had split open through my “YoHo” tattoo. The wound was slightly held in tourniquet by my elastic hair tie, and as I raised it beneath the moonlight to examine it closer, I laughed. I laughed and screamed at the Escalade who put on their brake lights and kept going. I laughed at the houses who didn’t turn on their porch lights, laughed harder at the ones who did, but didn’t come outside. They say if you’re being raped, yell fire - like you’ll fucking remember that. Literally. When you crash your car into an orchard and are stuck for four hours, yell something. Don’t impatiently break your ankle trying to get out like me.

Extract VII

Written by Melissa Booey

drink-alcohol-cup-whiskey-51979.jpeg

Growing up, whenever my relatives traveled anywhere and asked what I wanted them to bring back for me, I would ask for a shot glass. Even as young as seven, or eight, I liked collecting them. So when my sister took a cross-country trip, she brought me back souvenir shot glasses from each and every state she visited. My favorite was the Kentucky shot glass, because it was in the shape of an actual, tiny gun-handle and all. I took it to my friend's one night, and proceeded to drink an entire bottle of Captain Morgan Rum chased with green olives. Once I blacked out, I had somehow misplaced the small glass pistol, and was convinced that someone at the party had stolen it. I took an empty Corona bottle and broke it over the countertop, threatening the entire household that no one was leaving until I got my Kentucky shot glass back. My best friend tried to wrestle the bottle away from me, but it proved difficult within the confines of the busy kitchen. Afraid I’d stab myself or someone else, he choked me out and put me to bed. I woke up the next morning and heard tales of my antics. Still drunk, I rifled through my purse for my phone, ready to send some apologies and take some names. There, at the bottom of my bag and perfectly intact, sat my Kentucky shot glass.