Brian Dunster; The Tangram Enigma

The Tangram Enigma 

(Part 2)

            “Make sure you tighten those pipes firmly together.  You don’t want the steam to blow in your face again, do you?”

            Master Morfran immediately took me under his wing when I arrived to work in the underground chambers below the Ministry of Stuff and Things.  He’s a surly fellow but he does know the ins and outs of the job.  He’s proud of his maintenance skills and likes to brag about how he alone saved the Governingmen from collapse by fixing the heating and returning hot water to the sauna.

            “That was one heck of a day.  They were this close to abandoning Plana Petram.”

            Master Morfran has been working in the chambers since he was my age.  He was too young to remember the destruction of the round world and he doesn’t like to talk about it.  He thinks it’s all a load of hot steam.

            “What does it matter?  Who cares if there was once a round world?  We’re here now.  And we all have to make the best of what we got.”

            Master Morfran doesn’t believe in chasing things that aren’t real.  That is why he has never left the chambers his entire life.  But the long exposure to the cramped, hot passageways have not been kind to his face or body.  His skin has wrinkled like a prune and hangs from his bones. And his posture is bent and broken causing him to look smaller than he actually is.  Due to his condition he has learned to move in a unique way, hobbling from side to side to propel himself forward.

            “Hope is a lost practice best forgotten.  Focus on what is in front of you.  Get the job done.”

            Despite our philosophical differences, Master Morfran has been kind to me for the past several full moons.  He has shown me the art of discipline and patience. He is proud to call me his apprentice.  I respect the man and I have gained much wisdom from his teachings.  I would not have made it this far without him.  The brutal conditions under the Ministry of Stuff and Things are much more harsh than I would have imagined.

            “Don’t get all soppy on me, lad.  Now, pick up the wrench and tighten that bolt.  After we’re done you can sneak off to see your girly for ten minutes.”


            Natsuki sits at a solitary desk inside a great hall, directly in front of the elevator that leads to the top floor where the Governingmen reside.  She is secretary to President Comfort and the others and is their only staff member.   While sneaking about the ground floor of the building she caught me but said nothing of the incident to her superiors.  Every night after I braved another scouting mission, I’d always end up teetering at the door on the far side of the hall and admiring her.  At first she was nervous.  I could understand why.  Here’s some guy who shouldn’t be here, staring at girl like a painting with moving eyes.

            “We don’t have long.  I have to type up some reports before midnight for President Comfort.  Maybe tomorrow night we can talk?”

            One night as I approached her door she stood waiting for me.  She smiled and held out her hand.  I didn’t know what to think.  Master Morfran told me from the very beginning that I should trust no one in this world but myself.  That others would betray me and want to hurt me for their own gain.  I thought those were some very wise words at the time.  But at that particular moment I chose to ignore them.  I took  Natsuki’s hand.  Her skin was soft and clean.  Compared to mine her hand seemed like it was crafted from the Goods themselves.  Her eyes glowed bright blue and her crooked smile greeted me with a warmth that is hard to describe.  I chose to trust her in that very moment and from every moment since then.

            “I have some curious information I want discuss with you.  I think it might help with what you’re looking for.  But you better hurry back to the chambers for now.  Security will be making their rounds.”

            Natsuki was fascinated by the elder stories I told.  She could hardly begin to imagine a complete world where one could walk its circumference.  Our land mass, our Plana Petram, is engulfed in a dome and travel beyond it is impossible.  In fact, you’re forbidden to reach within a mile of the dome itself.  Patrols guard it constantly and are ordered to shoot on site.  But sometimes Natsuki and I would sneak away and get as close to the forbidden zone as possible and stare into the vast expanse.  In her eyes I could see all the chunks of rock and debris, floating out in space, come together and connect like a jigsaw puzzle.  Her whole life she had worked for the Governingmen and forced to do their bidding.  While society festered and rotted, she watched as President Comfort and his cronies relished in others suffering. Yet there was nothing she could do.

            “I want to help you find the Tangram Enigma.  I want the world that once was to come together and be whole again.  I want the Governingmen to fall off their high tower and plummet into the graves we’ve dug for them below.”

            I was too afraid to ask for her help.  I knew it was dangerous for her and if she were exposed it could lead to unspeakable things.  Despite the consequences and reality of being murdered or worse, she pressed on in helping me discover the secrets the Governingmen were hiding. 

            I didn’t know if there were seven other Plana Petram’s.  The Tangram Enigma could have been just a fairytale.  Everything I was told came from questionable sources.  But there were enough consistencies in how each elder told their story that some truth had to exist. 


            “How was your date, lad?  Remember what I told you, trust no one.  Especially a young lass with her own office.”

            I found it hard to concentrate on work.  Natsuki possibly has evidence that would prove some or all of my theory.  Master Morfran noticed and I’ve never seen him so inquisitive.  He wiggled a mallet in front of my face and grilled me.  He wanted to know what my intentions with Natsuki were and what I was planning on doing if we’re found together.  I’ve never seen him so worried.  His concern frightened me to my core. 

            Natsuki and I fell in love with this wonderful idea of a round world and playing revolutionaries.  But had we considered what the ramifications of our actions would be?  If exposed, the people would declare all-out war.  The Governingmen would have no choice but to defend themselves and use whatever means necessary.  Our way of life would cease to be.  

            “Nothing in life is worth risking peace.  Even if peace is slowly sapping away people’s lives, it’s much better than the alternative.”

            For a man whose spends his time in the dark fixing pipes, he’s very convincing.  But he wasn’t entirely wrong.  People have shown up dead from just uttering the Tangram Enigma.  If I were to expose it, those deaths are on me. 

            “Be comfortable with what you are.  Don’t reach for something out of your range.”


            Natsuki waited for me at the entrance to the great hall.  She saw me sneaking about the corridor and ushered me over.  Before I even opened my mouth she grasped my hand and dragged me to her desk.  A glint of excitement in her eyes.  An inflected tone in her voice.

            “While sorting through all President Comforts memos and correspondences to the other Governingmen I came across this.”   

            Natsuki handed me a piece of paper with the initials TTE inscribed at the top.  It was then followed by a desire to immediately discuss preparations for departure of PP and disposal of the excess waste.

            “I have other curious correspondences that relate in similar ways.”

            TTE – The Tangram Enigma.  PP – Plana Pentram.  Are the Governingmen planning on ditching our world to occupy another?  Had they discovered the whereabouts of the other land masses?  My mind raced with so many questions but provided few answers.  It was a start, though.  Natsuki has given us the first solid evidence that proves we are living a lie.

            “What do we do now?  How does this help us?”

            “It doesn’t help you.  It helped me.”

            The voice was deep and calm but sent shivers down our spines.  We turned to find a colossal man standing before us with several armed men, who looked harmless next to him.  I had seen his face many times plastered about Plana Petram but those posters did nothing to prepare me for the sheer magnitude of his presence.  President Comfort made the great hall seem small.  We wanted to run but the doors were already sealed shut.

            “There’s nowhere to go I’m afraid.  Only one way out for you both.”

            “We know about the Tangram Enigma.  We know what you’re planning.”

            Natsuki stood before the giant and held firm.

            “So?  There’s not much you can do about it now, Natsuki.  And to think, I was considering bringing you along.”

            Men with guns surrounded us from all sides.  By the Goods above we have no way out.  And to think we were only just beginning to discover the truth.  Master Morfran was right.  Hope is a lost practice best forgotten.

            “I tried to warn you, lad.”

            Hobbling from behind President Comfort he stops short of me.  Master Morfran cracks his back as he looks up and meets my eyes.  I can read his face; he’s disappointed. 

            “What did I tell you from the beginning?  Never trust anyone.  They’ll only hurt you for their own gain.”

            I couldn’t argue with him.  He had told me that from the start.  I should have expected this.

            “Mr. Morfran was kind enough to warn me of your goings on.  I was amused by your enthusiasm.  You might say I admired it.  But unfortunately we can’t have disorder.  And it is here where we end this little adventure.”

            “I’m sorry, lad.  I can’t have things being disrupted.  I’m too old for it.  Peace comes at a cost. No hard feelings.”

            “Yes, no hard feelings.”

            Presdient Comfort took his gargantuan hand and threw Master Morfran into me.  I managed to catch him in my arms before toppling to the floor.

            “Are you mad?  That could’ve hurt me!”

            “Quiet, you old pipe-cleaner.  By the grace of the Goods you’re lucky I didn’t squash you with my bare hands.  Now die with the ones you betrayed like a good sewer rat.”

            President Comfort returned to the elevator.  As the doors closed his mouth grew wider.  It was hard to tell but it looked like a smile.

            The armed men took aim and cocked their weapons.  I held Natsuki’s hand and drew her close to me.  I was shaking but she remained strong.  Master Morfran muttered under his breath then let out a burst of curse words towards the guards.  I never seen him so animated before.  He turned to us and pulled out several nuts and bolts from his jacket.  A sinister grin formed on his crumbled mouth.

            Just then the floor shook and the marble exploded, giving birth to a cloud of steam.  Several more explosions burst through the floor and filled the great hall in mist.  Screams of men echoed throughout.  The blasts must have gotten them and now the hot steam is melting their flesh.             

            Master Morfran hobbled his way through the misty hall as we followed him.  The steam was quite dense but he waltzed through as if it were a clear day.  The screams eventually died out as we reached the doors.  An explosion had conveniently ble them open and we managed to get through. 

            We made our way out of the Ministry of Stuff and Things and took shelter in a nearby bush.  It provided much needed cover as we catched our breath.  I wanted to punch Master Morfran very much but I could see what little difference that would make to our situation.  We were fugitives from the Governingmen and they would stop at nothing to hunt us down.

            “What do we do now?”

            Natsuki wasn’t concerned about our well being but rather what we plan on doing about President Comfort and the Governingmen.  If not for her I would have certainly given up and scurried into the deepest hole I could find. Which, ironically, is exactly what we did.



Brian has an itch… A mighty big itch. But it is no ordinary itch, oh no. It’s an itch for storytelling. Brian creates for a living. He can not see himself doing anything else. He has spent the last ten years building a portfolio of work, producing short films, music videos, and short stories. Brian studied film and television in IADT Dun Laoghaire and since graduating in 2011 has been evolving and honing his skills ever since.  He has won awards for his work, winning Best Student Film at the Kerry Film Festival ion 2011, and has showcased several other projects in numerous festivals across Ireland, including the Jameson International Film Festival and Cork Fastnet Film Festival, to name but a few. Keep up to date on his Facebook page – and check out some of his work on Vimeo –

Sheelagh Russell-Brown; Lilacs: The Word Collector’s Tale

Lilacs:  The Word Collector’s Tale

            The Scent of Lilacs on the Wind.  Cat and Mouse at Play.  Newly birthed titles, still fresh, inscribed in crimson ink on the ivory pages of the book where she kept such things.  Frost Feathering the Window.  How Large the Sky.

            How small the room she sat in and traced the shapes in crimson ink of all the words she heard.  The world turned dark outside the room, and still she sat and wrote the colours of the universe inside her.  She did not hear the rain, tiny fingers tickling the windows like the ivory keys of a piano, ivory like the paper, nor the mice inside the baseboards as they scratched out their grey yet eager lives.  She’d sat inside this room for months, for years, while seasons turned and passed again.  She did not see the frost flowers on the windows, the scrawny cat who prowled the room, the lilac bush whose purple buds sent out their heady welcome, whose branches tapped at the window, joining the rain in a neglected symphony.  She sat and wrote.

            She wrote, but only titles left their mark, like carvings on a tiny piece of ivory that hinted of things unsaid.  The world’s ephmera condensed into a half a dozen words or so.  She adorned the few words with curlicues and figures.  As if a mediaeval monk within his cell, she reimagined them as fish and fowl, as funny folk engaged in tasks unknown to her in life.  Atop each page a set of words.  Below, blank space still waiting for its story.

            She lived her life within the walls of wood and bricks and paper.  She lived, but did not see, or hear, or smell, or touch, or taste all that it offered.  She saw, but only in the few words she wrote, the street, the people walking on its stones, the trees.  She saw the lilac bush, the frost tracing its tales upon the window, the snow upon the roofs.  She saw but did not see their truth.  She heard the wind scattering the lilac petals that fell to earth, the cries of children playing in the park.  She heard.  The hearing did not touch her life.  She smelled the lilac petals as they fell, as they were crushed by tramping feet, as they were washed by rain.  The Scent of Lilacs on the Wind she wrote.  The petals stirred no memories for her.  Nor did they stir desire.

            She sat inside, collected words, shards of a life that glued together might spell, might speak some meaning if only words would come.

            How Large the Sky she wrote in crimson ink.  How cold her heart.  Her room was small.  How vast the field of white upon the pages.

            One day in spring she woke, ate her small meal, took out the book to write down there the titles that had come to her in sleep.  But as she turned to a new page, The Scent of Lilacs on the Wind had no blank space below it.  Instead, in crimson ink, a half-familiar hand spoke out its story.  She turned the page, and there was more, another page came after that.  She dropped her pen upon the desk and read.

            “The scent of lilacs on the wind entered her dreams.  She stood upon a bare hilltop and raised her arms to the lowering sky.  Her bare feet gripped the cold green grass.  Her gauzy gown blew in the breeze as if, once cloth was filled with air, she could take flight.”

            She read these words and quickly closed the book.  She opened it again.  The words still spoke.

            A mirror stood upon its legs in a long-forgotten corner of the room.  It had been years and many springs since she had looked into its world.  She held the book up to the mirror and saw inside the glass no words except those seven of the title.  She also saw she had no face, no features, was just a shadow on the glass.

            She walked toward the window and held the book into the light.  The words appeared again.  And in the glass she saw reflected a still young face, a puzzled face, her eyes seeking beyond the glass for answers and for stories.

            Again she sat and read a tale of a young girl who fled the world of sorrows and of shadows for a universe of words.  She read of blood that flowed like crimson ink through youthful veins and stirred the passions of the heart to flower like the lilacs gathered in jars upon each empty surface.  The scent of lilacs filled the room as she read on.

            She read on, and the world grew dark outside.  There was no light inside, but still she read, crimson words glowing.  A whole life was held inside them and it spoke.  A simple meal appeared beside a book. She ate and read until she heard the sad yet soothing call of a mourning dove amidst the lilac branches speaking to its mate.  She smiled a little then to see it there upon the pages.

            The door stood open.



After having taught at an international high school in the Czech Republic for seven years, Sheelagh Russell-Brown is now a lecturer in English literature and a writing tutor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Her research interests are in nineteenth- and twentieth-century British and European literature, the portrayal of the Roma in art and literature, and the foregrounding of marginalized female roles in neo-Victorian literature.  She has been published in The Fem e-magazine, in Abridged poetry and art magazine, and in Tales from the Forest e-magazine, and will have a short story published by TSS in November of this year.  She has also won second prize in the first Irish Imbas Celtic Mythology Short Story Contest, and was shortlisted for the second Irish Imbas contest, as well as for the 2016 Fish Publishing Short Memoir Competition.  She is a contributor to Backstory e-magazine, to Understorey e-magazine, and to Historical Honey.

Colin Watts; The Weight of Dunlins

The Weight of Dunlins                                                      

I was on North Uist, walking the machair, that thin strip of fertile land between beach and peat bog that graces a few of our remote north-western shores. I didn’t really know why I was there. Just to get away, I suppose, though I wasn’t sure what I was getting away from.

On the ferry over, a local man had told me how the sea ground down shells over centuries to form the beach. How westerly winds spread sand over the peat. How calcium in the sand reacted with acid in the bog to form the machair: Gaelic for “the fertile land behind the dunes”. ‘Treat it gently,’ he’d said, ‘it’s a precious gift.’

It was one of those days when late summer meets early autumn; one side of you warmed by the sun, the other chilled by the air. A tang of salt; a breath of peat. The wild flowers were looking tired, ready to lie down for the winter. Though it was mid-afternoon, the light was still so sharp you could have cut yourself on it.

I tried spinning round to mix up the sun and the chill, but felt dizzy and had to sit down. That’s when I saw her, walking along the strand. She wore sandals and a long dress of dark blue cotton. Her hair was that red that so many highland women are blessed with.

‘I saw you spinning,’ she said, as she approached.

I got up, apologised and explained.

‘You should turn more slowly,’ she said, ‘then you wouldn’t get dizzy.’ She had freckles and high cheekbones and her hair glowed like old rust. It moved in waves, though there was scarcely a breeze.

‘Were you looking for something?’ I asked.

‘The wow factor,’ she said.

‘Wow!’ I said.

She laughed. ‘Every day I look for something that makes me go wow! at its beauty or strangeness.’

‘Doesn’t that defeat the object?’ I asked. ‘Looking for it.’

‘No,’ she said; ‘it’s about keeping yourself open, going to new places, meeting new people. You were nearly my wow for today.’

I felt myself blushing.

‘Sorry,’ she said, ‘have I embarrassed you?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Why only nearly?’

‘Because I didn’t go wow! I have to go wow! for it to work. I only went weird!’

‘Thanks very much!’

‘I meant the situation. You look nice though, quite cuddly – for a Sassenach. And you blush easily. We’ll have tea later. Four o’clock at the museum cafe. See if you can have a wow in the meantime and I’ll try too. Don’t try too hard; just let it happen.’

‘OK,’ I said. ‘We could exchange wows I said,’ blushing again.

‘Ha ha,’ she said, and strode off.

Wow I thought, but it didn’t appear out loud, so I guessed it didn’t count. By then it was after three, so I set about doing whatever it was I had to do to get a wow. I turned round slowly with my eyes shut, counting to five, then set off in the direction I was facing (towards the beach), stepping gently.

When I got to the museum, she was already there in the café, drinking tea.

‘Sorry I’m late,’ I said.

‘You’re not,’ she said. ‘I’m early. I got thirsty. You apologise too much, even for a Sassenach.’ She poured me a cup. ‘Did you have a wow?’

‘I did,’ I said. ‘Did you?’

‘I did, but you must tell me yours first.’

I took out a pebble from my pocket. ‘I’ll show you. When I’m walking on beaches I play this game; I pick up a pebble I like and then try to better it as I go, looking for one more extraordinary, more pleasing, more perfect.’

‘Wow!’ she said. ‘Almost a perfect sphere. And the colours; reds and pinks and greens.’

‘That streak there is the colour of your hair,’ I said. She didn’t blush. I did. ‘Hold it,’ I said; ‘let it roll in the palm of your hand.’

‘It’s like it’s alive. And it feels much heavier than it looks.’

‘I think it must have some iron in it, making it move towards magnetic north.’

‘Or it’s imbued with the power of the sea, and is moved by the moon.’

We drank some tea.

‘Tell me your wow,’ I said.

‘I’ll show you,’ she said. She took a small cardboard box out of her shoulder bag. In it was the skeleton of a young bird.

‘Wow!’ It must have been out there for months.’

‘I think it’s a dunlin, a fledgling. I found it in an abandoned nest. Maybe a fox got the mother and insects did the rest. Feel the weight of it.’ She took it out of the box and placed it in my outstretched palm. It was lighter than the touch of her fingers, which stroked mine as she took back the skeleton. 

‘How much do you think it weighs?’ I asked.

‘A pelican,’ she said, ‘grows to approximately 5 feet long and weighs nearly 20 pounds. Its skeleton weighs in at 23 ounces.’

‘That’s really interesting,’ I said, trying to sound sarcastic.

‘Isn’t it,’ she said; ‘I found out about it here in the museum. There was nothing about the weight of dunlins.’

We finished the tea.

‘I have to go,’ she said.

‘Me too,’ I said, not meaning it. I wasn’t really going anywhere. And I wanted her to stay.

‘We’ll exchange wows,’ she said, ‘like you suggested.’

‘I’d like that,’ I said, without blushing.

She put the skeleton back in the box, which was dark blue and, as I found out later, smelt of lavender. I wrapped the pebble in a paper napkin that was stamped with a thistle design. We exchanged our wows, shook hands and went our ways. I never even asked her her name.



Colin is seventy four, married, with grown up children and has lived in Liverpool for many years.

Publications include two poetry collections in print and short stories on-line and in magazines and anthologies. He’s had plays performed in and around Liverpool.

He cycles everywhere and cultivates a quarter of an allotment. He is a long-standing member of the Dead Good Poets Society and co-runs a regular Story Night at The Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool.

Facebook: Colin Watts

Twitter: Colin Watts @FentimanW



Lorraine Whelan; Prayers for My Children

Prayers for My Children

The bedside light is dim and two of my daughters speak to each other in subdued tones. I can’t quite hear what they are saying, but if they were speaking on a normal day I know they’d be talking excitedly about art and writing. They think I am asleep and I am doing my utmost not to disabuse them of this idea. But I also know they are watching me closely, despite their conversation, in case there are any changes in my breathing, any signs of discomfort or pain.

I can hear small sounds of night-time traffic outside. Footsteps. A car door. Someone calling in the distance, laughter – people on their way home from the pub. This is a busy street during the day, but there is always some noise or other, at any hour. I insist on having one window open at least. It gives a welcome coolness to the air. Prevents an accumulation of odour. A sick old woman, me, is near to death. A bit too near for my liking. Earlier today, my eldest daughter had plugged in one of those discreet air fresheners that you can buy in any shop nowadays. She must have been worried that I would be insulted, as she waited till she thought I dozed off before fiddling in the corner with the outlet and freshener. However, it was a relief to me too; the air was cloying. I appreciated the thoughtful gesture.

The hospital bed whooshes and settles. Like the freshener, it too is plugged in to an outlet and is regulated to a constant air pressure for my maximum comfort. At first this sound was startling, but everyone – both me and my various carers, my daughters – is well used to it at this stage. I have been bed-ridden for at least a month, confined to this small room. Maybe it has been longer, I am not sure, as I navigate the fuzzy edges of time these days. I have friends who visit often and a lot of children, who cater to my every need. Well, some more than others.

This room used to be my mother’s sitting room. I have a permanent image of her seated between the bay window and the fireplace, watching the “soft parade”. I understood this phrase later to mean the outside world passing by. I was determined not to be like my mother. I would fully participate in everything life had to offer. And I did. I don’t know where the time has gone, but I would so love to have more of it. There is still much I could do. Fun I could have. “People to meet, places to go” as they say. If only.

Changes were made to the room before I got home from hospital. Items brought down from my upstairs bedroom. Lots of photographs form a collage on a cork board: my numerous children and grandchildren and great grandchildren watching me from the wall. But no books. No art. None of the clutter of my life. My bedroom here, now, is more clinical than I am used to, but it is pleasant enough. It is practical. In one corner there is a table for medication – so many prescriptions, syringes and tiny plastic cups – a veritable nurse’s station. In another corner the potty chair looms; it is moved closer to the bed in the evening, when non-family visitors have gone home. There are several tapestry covered foot stools that I bought years ago and a comfortable chair for special guests. The small set of drawers has been brought down from my room to contain the clothes I need now – mostly pyjamas – and one drawer of bed linens. It is a practical room to die in. 

The two daughters who are with me now like to talk to each other, but when they realise I am awake they change their focus to me. Other siblings have accused them of “partying” with me when they are here together at night, and I am wondering who could have started this strange rumour. I only wish I could dance, be capable of a party! I love dancing.

I ask for painkillers, the potty, food. Generally that is the order of things. Though less “asking” – more demanding, or motioning if I can’t speak. Sometimes I can’t speak, the pain is so bad. And sometimes I can’t even indicate where the pain is. They try to keep me comfortable. I try to escape in sleep.

We laugh when I am on the potty. This has become the state of things: there is no longer a time and place for private bodily functions. They help me out of bed, slowly, slowly. Sometimes I am in more of a hurry but still everything goes very slowly. I can’t will my feet to move. One daughter always massages my feet while I am seated. Or rubs my back; this I love. Her hands are so warm. They are considerate of my modesty and place a shawl on my lap. My daughters sit beside me, hold my hands, ask gentle questions, tell jokes, reminisce. I am joyful with them. There is still much joy in my life.

I’m hungry and one of the girls offers to fix me a bite to eat and the other takes the potty bucket upstairs to clean. While one negotiates the steep staircase to the main bathroom, the other walks – quickly – down the hallway to the kitchen and investigates the fridge. I hover over her shoulder, peering inside the refrigerator as soon as it is opened. I like the look of the cooked drumstick of chicken cling-wrapped on a small plate behind the milk carton.

My daughter brings me a ham sandwich with a light salad and a cup of coffee. I can’t hide my disappointment with this fare and ask her about the chicken leg. The expression on her face is priceless: she has a look of surprised awe. Then I remember that I have been in my bed this whole time, and though I correctly saw a piece of chicken that was there in the fridge, I am confused at my guesswork. She explains “out-of-body” experiences to me, and describes the incident in detail when my other daughter returns to the room. She is hugely interested in this “astral projection” as she calls it, and talks about her own, related experience from a hospital bed, in another country, many years ago.

To placate me, the chicken leg is brought on a saucer along with the pepper mill, and I devour it with gusto, obviously dismayed when I reach the small bone and there is really nothing left for me to gnaw on. My two daughters look a bit shocked, but they are also amused. I return their smiles and suggest dessert. Simple rule: if I am awake, I am hungry. It is 4 a.m. One of the girls runs to the kitchen to fetch me some raspberries, cream and a bit of cake that she has made. I realise that this is what the other siblings have complained about as a “party”. But when I first came home, they explained what the Palliative Care nurse had told all of them: “be led by your mother’s desires and give her whatever she asks for; don’t forget to be a daughter as well as a carer”. I don’t have much time left, so it hardly matters how outrageous my requests might be. We all know this. A bite to eat and a coffee in the middle of the night is hardly outrageous.

After more medication and more time seated on the potty, I am tucked in, kissed and gently cuddled by both sisters. I worry and ask for my rosary beads, which are nearby on the bedside table.

One of the girls is not sure what to do; she abhors Catholicism though I know, deep down, she believes in the spirit and the soul. She just isn’t sure how it all fits into the modern world; this is something she will discover on her own terms. My other daughter is more fluid: with good humour she embraces the best of all religions and kneels by the bed to murmur the prayers with me, holding my hands steadily while I touch each bead.

I start with the Joyful Mysteries. The repetition of prayers is comforting to me. The “Mysteries” represent the stages of Christ’s life, a man’s life – well, anyone’s life. My life. Joyful. Sorrowful. Glorious. I think the “glorious” part is supposed to be the next life. After death. I’ll soon find out.

My daughter who is praying with me thinks that what we are doing is parallel to chanting a mantra in Buddhism. She is proud of herself for remembering the order of the prayers from her childhood. The other daughter is completely quiet, listening but not participating in this ritual.

I pray for both these daughters and the others too. They will all need a lot of help in the coming days to face their fears and despair. They have shown me the depths of their care and I know they will support each other with strength and love when I am gone. I pray that they will be kind to each other. This is my most important prayer. It will be a time of deep sadness for them, but I pray they will remember my joy. This will be my legacy.



Lorraine Whelan is a writer and visual artist based in Ireland.

Fiona Perry; Circumnavigation


(Part 2)

The calm, pretty midwife wanted the absolute best for my baby and me. I could tell by the way she said, “I’ll be back in an hour to give you the first pessary”.

I was aware that I had been nodding and grinning at her too excitedly as she spoke but I had just finished a box of Black Magic chocolates which Loran had given me for my hospital bag and I was ready for anything. The other mothers-to-be on the ward were nervous, weary or in pain so I was consciously trying to tone it down a bit because my mood seemed so hopelessly out of synch with theirs. But I couldn’t resist taking out a small Babygro and stroking it. There will be a baby inside that by tomorrow.

The heartbeat couldn’t be found. The normal precursor, a musical introduction of rushing blood, was absent too. “There’s something wrong with the Doppler,” I thought, refusing to acknowledge the concerned expressions and solemn hush in the room. But the look registered on Loran’s face could not be ignored.

When Michael was born he had to be untangled, set free. His cord encircled his belly and coiled fully several times around his neck. It was as if he had been attacked and squeezed lifeless by the tentacle of a giant squid. In fact, his umbilical oxygen supply had been cut off as he dropped to be born. But I wasn’t listening to explanations at the time. I was cradling my perfect baby, who was still warm from being inside me, and contemplating why the awesome power of birth had cast out this tiny, suffocated corpse instead of the wailing, pink newborn of my imagination.

As the heat dissipated from Michael’s body into mine, I began to disappear, my molecules mingling with the surroundings. Lorcan’s expression changed from pity to fear as he shouted something at the midwives.

I was bleeding out a crimson river over a tundra of starched hospital sheets. Before long, I found myself swimming underwater, Michael in my arms, admiring green swathes of seaweed and darting fish. I tried so hard to hold him but he wriggled free and swam away into the watery darkness.



“The Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways,” I whispered at the kitchen window overlooking my David Austin Tranquillity rose bush, as I sometimes did when I thought of Michael. 

            Geraldine looked at me wide-eyed, clearly surprised that the subject of the Holy Spirit had made a reappearance in our conversation.

            “I don’t know Mammy,” she said in a casual tone, as if controversial theological discussions were a common occurrence between us, “that belief has been used to cover up a multitude of sins for the Church. I’m not sure it should be employed in this instance to excuse the mysterious predilections of priests.”

            She looked cautiously towards me, blushing right up to her hair line, but when she turned back to read the paper, a smile flickered on the corners of her mouth.

            That’s it. She doesn’t deserve this lovely dinner, I’m going to throw it all in the bin!

            After I placed the mashed potatoes and the steak steeped in oniony gravy in separate casserole dishes and covered them with foil to keep warm in the oven, I told Geraldine that I was off to work in the spare room.


I’ll say the Mysteries and start an Our Lady of Hope Novena for her tonight. I was sure I could convince her to continue with Medicine. History? What kind of future does that hold? Teaching? Untold years slaving for some bossy headmistress? I sat in an armchair running my eyes back and forth over the knitting machine’s needle bed for a long time. When I came to myself, I saw that I was wringing my hands.

            I picked up the body of a baby cardigan and started to sew on a sleeve when I heard the familiar dripping noise, subtle but present. Predictably last night, Lorcan had said he couldn’t hear it, presumably just to annoy me.

            In an effort to screen out the sound, I slipped wantonly into my customary knitting daydreams; Geraldine is a cardiologist renowned for her surgical ability; now she is a paediatrician reassuring a despairing couple that their beautiful boy is in safe hands; finally an oncologist speaking to the World Health Organisation about new, cutting edge therapies. Her confidence and poise astounds onlookers. Her hair is shiny and groomed.

             As I finished the last stitch on the armhole, I had the despairing thought, “none of those dreams will come true now,” and the words spiked with every irritating drip sound from above. The infuriating pitter-patter was increasing in volume the more determined I was not to listen and it wasn’t confined to one location above the ceiling but moved around and overlapped like light rain fall. I jumped up and wandered around the room following the sounds.

            Resolving to find the cause, I stormed into the kitchen and grabbed a torch from the drawer. Geraldine looked up from the paper and gave me a bored look. She was massaging the back of her head again.

            I pulled apart the step ladder in the hall, wobbled up the steps slowly and lifted the attic hatch door. My head and shoulders were now above the entrance as I cast the torch light around.

            In the corner of the roof space, seemingly floating just below the eave, was a huge, white oval-shaped object, as softly contoured as a Georgian wig. Imposing and stately.

            A wasp’s nest.

            I had a sudden recollection of my father tackling one on the farm by dousing it with petrol and setting it alight with a blowtorch, it didn’t seem to bother the wasps but he badly singed his eyebrows. It is was very funny, right enough. A little shudder of muted giggles washed over me. I tightened my grip on the horizontal door frame to anchor myself, my heart was fluttering like insect wings.

            As I continued the investigation I noticed that the wasps in flight appeared to be astonishingly stupid and uncoordinated. They were banging off the roof and wall, emitting little tapping noises with every collision. That explains the dripping sound. Why are they incapable of flying in an efficient, straight line? I singled one out to track it with the torch light. It was facing the nest whilst flying in a series of ever-increasing arcs away from it. The movement looked like a hypnotic act of worship, every conceivable angle of the nest was being lovingly memorised as if the insect had just witnessed a miracle inside. “The wasps are trying to tell me something,” I thought, swiftly followed by, “I’m losing it. Mary, mother of God preserve me.”



Fiona’s short stories and poetry have been published in The Irish Literary Review, Spontaneity Magazine, Into The Void, Dodging The Rain and Skylight47 amongst others. She grew up in Ireland but has lived most of her life in England and Australia. She currently lives near a volcano in New Zealand. Follow her on Twitter @Fionaperry17.

Bayveen O’Connell; Collooney Man

Collooney Man

The storm woke me, cleaved the old tree and threw my bones into the air to feel the darts of Connaught rain in the shadow of my Maeve in her cairn. Someone in the sky was throwing spears of light. Barely a man when I was buried face down and alone, I was catapulted into a new time and space, with half of me tangled in these roots. Who were my people? What was my crime? Why was I brought back? And my bed, my eternal bed exploded?

     The wind died down and dry leaves scraped along the marrow, drying me, though I felt no cold. Days and nights passed. I saw the stars hadn’t changed. Cows kept their distance from the cavity left by the wrenched tree. It seemed that cow pats looked the same but gave me little bother without a nose to smell them with.  A farmer appeared with a dog a few times. The dog sniffed, whined and made to go for my leg bone, while the farmer clutched his chest and just peered down at me with his gob gaping.

     Not long after, more folks came with white gloves, masks, brushes and tiny spades. These strange hands were gentler than those that buried me. My skull was carefully plucked from the high roots, my shoulders and spine unwound and lifted down, and I glimpsed my hips and thighs being dug out little by little. The touch put me in mind of a mother or a lover. All lost and long gone. 

     I was put on trays with little tags, covered in sacks and placed in a strange cart that was driven from the inside. Later, under a very strong light near my eye sockets, the people with gloves and masks put me together again. They took each bit of me, looked at it, put it back down and made a little scrawl on their vellum.  Staring at me and shaking their heads, they smiled excitedly. I wanted to tell them that I was just old bones.

     Couldn’t I have stayed looking up at the sky after having my face full of dirt for all these years? If I’d been able to reunite the pieces of myself, where would I have gone? Taken the back road towards Strandhill, struggled up the slopes of Knocknarea, and knocked on Maeve’s grave to see if she was awake?

     I missed my earth blanket with its peace and quiet. It wasn’t much of a grave but it was mine. Someone was done with me all those days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries before and placed me there. Did Maeve really toss me back up to have all these eyes on me? To be danced around like a bonfire?

     The people disappeared and the giant indoor sun went out. It was no place to sleep – on some table made of silver. Please Maeve, I prayed through broken teeth, send another storm, set me free once more.  



Bayveen O’Connell lives in Dublin and delights in dark things. Her flash fiction and short stories have appeared in The Bohemyth, Nilvx, Rag Queen Periodical and Molotov Cocktail. She is currently seeking a home for her Historical Gothic novel set in a medieval village. 

Kurt Tucholsky; Flu Remedy

Flu Remedy

At the earliest signs of the flu—recognizable by a slight tingling in the nose, foot cramps, coughing, a shortage of money, and an aversion to going to work the next morning—one should gargle a pinch of ground cocaine mixed with half a drop of iodine. This helps the flu to take hold.

The flu, also known as Spanish flu, influenza, and the common cold (in latin: the sniffles), is spread by nervous bacteria which have themselves come down with a cold: the so-called infectious animalcules. The flu is sometimes accompanied by fever, which begins at 128 degrees Fahrenheit. On days when the stock-markets are strong, the flu is somewhat milder; when the markets are weak the flu is stronger—so it’s generally stronger. In order to expedite contagion, male flu-sufferers are advised to kiss a woman; female flu-sufferers, a man. Consult a medical professional if you are unsure of your sex. Contagion can also be achieved by visiting a cough-house (or so-called “theater”). But avoid covering your mouth when you cough: this is unhealthy for the bacteria. The flu is not strictly-speaking contagious, but it is an infectious disease.

Cold compresses always did my husband the world of good—for best results cook up a warm batch of semolina pudding, pack it in a linen cloth, eat it, and then give the patient some brandy—within two hours the patient should be tipsy; after another hour, blind drunk. In lieu of cognac, furniture polish can also be used.

It’s best to avoid all vegetables, soup, butter, bread, fruit, compote and dessert. Homoeopaths are advised to lick a five-Pfennig stamp three times a day, or, if the fever is particularly high, a ten-Pfennig stamp.

One must not leave the bed under any circumstances—it does not necessarily have to be one’s own bed. In case of chills, woolen stockings should be worn, preferably around the neck. To avoid bare legs, wrap each leg in a detachable shirt collar. The main thing is warmth: so a trip to the thermal baths is in order. On the return journey, make sure to sit on the top deck of the omnibus, but have the other passengers close their mouths to avoid a draught.

Conventional medicine is powerless against the flu. It is therefore a idea good to hang a pendulum over the belly: if it swings from right to left, it’s influenza; but if it swings from left to right then you’ve got a cold on your hands. Wash your hands immediately and proceed to Dr. Weissenberg for treatment. Take the white cheese he prescribes and smear it directly onto the flu; sticking it to the underside of the bed is a sign of medical ignorance and hard-heartedness.

Under no circumstances should you bring this mysterious ailment to a so-called “Doctor.” If you have the flu you’re better off asking Frau Meyer. Frau Meyer always has a remedy. If there is an outbreak of flu within a circle of acquaintances, it is sufficient for one member of the circle to seek treatment—the others can just follow the same instructions.

Principal remedies include: Camomile tea, elderberry tea, magnolia tea. rubbertree tea, and cactus tea.

These remedies go back to our grandmother’s days and are not particularly effective. Our modern age has seen the advent of new means of supporting the pharmaceutical industry. Popular flu remedies include: Aspirol, Pyrimidine, Bysopeptan, Ohrolax, Primadonna, Bellapholisiin, and Ethyl-Phenil-Lekaryl-Parapherinan Dynamite acetylene Koollomban-Piporol—In the latter case, it’s enough to pronounce the name several times in quick succession. Take all these remedies immediately—for as long as they help—in alphabetical order (“Ph” counts as a single letter). Bicarbonate of soda also does wonders for one’s health.

Prophylactic injections (lac, from the Greek. Lit: “milk” or “lake”) are proven to be particularly successful after treatment. These injections have a 100% success rate in cases of flu which are already over.

Americans are known to treat flu by filling cold compresses with hot Swedish punch; Italians keep their right arm extended in the air for long durations; the French ignore the flu, just as they ignore the winter, while the Viennese write lengthy feuilletons each time they fall ill. We Germans tend to treat the matter more methodically:

We go to bed, catch the flu and don’t get up again until we have a really high fever—at which point we rush off into the city to take care of some urgent business or other. A telephone by the bedside of female patients can considerably lengthen the course of the illness.

The flu was invented by the English priest, Rev. Jonathan Flue in 1725; it has been scientifically curable since 1724.

The signs of a full recovery include back pain, coughing, foot cramps, and a slight tingling sensation in the nose. These symptoms however do not belong—as the layman might be inclined to believe—to the old flu, but to a new one. The duration of a common domestic house-flu is three weeks with medical treatment, twenty-one days without medical treatment. Additionally, male patients suffer from so-called “self-pity” with roughly the same amount of fuss that women exhibit during childbirth.

Julius Caesar’s go-to remedy for flu was laurel-leaf soup; at the Vanderbilts’ palace they prefer platinum-broth with soft-boiled pearls.

I’d like to conclude my remarks on the subject with the words of the world-renowned Fluologist Professor Dr. Dr. Dr. Ovaritius: The flu is not a disease—It’s a state of being!


Translated by Daniel Kennedy



Kurt Tucholsky (1890–1935) was a German-Jewish writer, journalist and one of the most influential satirists of his time. He wrote under multiple pseudonyms for a variety of magazines and newspapers, most notably die Weltbühne. He tirelessly and mercilessly satirised those he considered to be the enemies of democracy and human rights, but grew increasingly pessimistic about the future of his country.
He left Germany in 1924 and travelled widely before eventually settling in Sweden in 1930. In 1933 the Nazis revoked his German citizenship and burned his books.

Mitchell King; The Fairy With The Turquoise Hair

The Fairy With The Turquoise Hair

(Part 2)

 “Do you remember anything from before?”

“I don’t believe there is anything to remember. I exist because I was Dreamed.”

“Have you ever undergone, sorry to be rude, but…studies?”

“If you are asking if I’ve ever been poked by men in white coats, then yes, and you’re right to be


“Did they disclose anything to you?”

“About myself?”




“Would you like to ask if I’ve ever had a period or any other intrusive questions while you’re here?”

“No!—I just—well, have you?”

“I was Dreamed by a seven year old boy in 1946—I have nothing but a smile and blue hair. Peter didn’t think to make me anatomically correct.”

“So, you’ve continued to exist years after Peter died.”

“Yes, he died young and I don’t age and now I think I’d like it if you left.”

“Are you angry at him?”


When The Fairy With The Turquoise Hair slammed her door behind me, I stood on her front porch under a trellis of wisteria and whispered to her blue oak door my last question—I had been too afraid to ask in our five minute interview—do you wish you didn’t exist?

I came home from Maine and our father had three new pairs of goggles and it was dusk and he was getting ready to head out and walk the same corpse roads looking for the dead and he offered me some chocolate milk and I said yes and he said he would make it special which means he just adds a splash of French Vanilla coffee creamer to it and it does taste better but I think drinking milk this way is going to clog his heart.

When I woke up I was holding a twitching hand with pearlescent nail polish and my hair was blue. I went downstairs and waved the hand at dad and he said “nice hair” and I threw the latest hand into the pile and it disturbed the butterflies into a ripple of flying orange and insect smell.

Our house is on stilts. Hanging from it is a garden fed by rain run-off and in the back yard there is a large oak tree beside a honey suckle plant and some nondescript shrubs that bud violet in the late summer. Our house has three bedrooms. Sometimes in the spring a wind will ride up against the house and the timber holding it up will lean. The house will snap back into place. We lock all the cabinets shut in the spring so the dishes don’t fall out.

“I think I’m going to go back to Maine and see The Fairy With The Turquoise Hair.”

“Would she like that?”

“Yeah, we got along famously.”


“Come home with me.”

“Get off my porch.”

Spring is colder in Maine than it is back home and I saw inside her house how she had the logs dancing into her small fireplace.

“Can you change things?”

The logs stopped dancing.

“Why would I change anything for you?”

“Because you are The Fairy With—“

“I know my name. What do you want changed.”

“Is dream stuff identical—composition wise—to the real thing?”

“What do you mean? Most of the time Dreamers bring back unique things.”

“I’m bringing back hands. Is it as real as a hand from this world?”


Spring is a season of mud and butterflies. Our backyard is a mess with them both and the fairy had to lift her skirts as I showed her the pile and the butterflies and the smell and the red mud around the pile which was held together by chicken wire like a compost heap and I told her how sometimes when I come outside I find foxes chewing on the fingertips and I have to chase them away with a broom and she felt sad but she told me she couldn’t guarantee and then our father introduced himself and I could tell he thought she was pretty because he told her the joke he only tells pretty women and she asked about the goggles and he got embarrassed and I told him it was alright because I told her everything—that she was here to help—and he smiled wide and toothy and I could see the caps on his teeth and I think the fairy liked him too because she likes wood things and one of his teeth is polished and finished sycamore and then they went inside and he offered her some chocolate milk with a splash of creamer and the fairy giggled because she had never heard of drinking milk that way before and our dad said it was a family secret and I heard all this from outside because I have good hearing but I didn’t come in I just kept counting the butterflies on the pile of ivory hands and I kept losing count at 350 but some would leave and others would come back and I don’t have a word for a hive of monarch butterflies except maybe to say a “court” of butterflies or a “palace” and they shifted and blurred and I couldn’t see them as individuals anymore because they were a kaleidoscope because I had water was in my eyes and it seemed like a breathing heap of smell and orange and I wanted to lay in the mud but instead I went inside and took a shower.


The Fairy With The Turquoise Hair was standing over me as I counted sheep and I could hear her wand swishing in the dark air above my bed. Before that I told her what I wouldn’t tell dad— about ache and memory and heartwounds and she said my tears might help so she caught each one with the tip of her wand and I sank further into the bed.

“I don’t know if this will work.”

“I appreciate you’re trying your best.”

Dad had said she could sleep in the empty third bedroom and sometimes you hear things and it opens a space in the middle of your body like a small black hole and all you feel is empty and sucking and light draining.

“The angles of your room are helping—did you do this yourself?”

“I’ve been rearranging it for months trying to get the layout right for this.”

“You want whole things.”

“I want whole things.”

And then her wand touched my forehead right between my eyes and she said something about the third eye and chakras and bringing imagined manifestations into reality but I fluttered shut my eyes and thought things like the vowels of your name.



Mitchell King is a runaway witch living in Kansas City. Someday he hopes to colonize the moon.

Natalia Godsmark; The Bridge

The Bridge



I sit on the edge of the bed, my hands clamped over my ears. Matthew is crying again. I can’t listen anymore. He never stops. Never. I just…need some sleep.

            Nine years, we tried. Nine long years. Every month I would let myself get caught up in excitement; maybe this month will be the month. And each month reality would hit me like a punch in the stomach and I would weep and sob and rage. I would sit in the bathroom, the drip of the tap mirroring the dull thud of my heart, while the fan would sigh with me. I would flush the toilet and it would roar in anger. And then I would pick myself off the cool bathroom tiles and wipe my eyes with the back of my hand. Get back to the slow rhythm of my life.

            Then one day it happened. Just like that.

Matthew was conceived, quite out of the blue, when I had long stopped thinking it was a possibility. I was 39 and Jonathon was 40. Our little miracle.

Nine uncomfortable months later, he was born, with dark, wide eyes just like his father’s, but with a soft jawline and fairer hair like my own. The desperate longing I had felt for nearly ten years was satisfied; I would never want for anything else.

            And now, just two weeks later, I sit at the edge of my bed, with my hands clamped firmly around my ears. How can a creature, so tiny and beautiful, make that sound for so many hours a day? He’s hungry again. Or maybe he has wind? Or maybe he just doesn’t love me?

I don’t know what to do. I can’t hold him all day and all night. I need some sleep. I just…need some sleep.

            Jonathon picks him up and hold him until his screams quieten to soft little mews.

            “Sarah,” he says, tiptoeing forward to sit beside me on the bed, “I think he might be hungry.”

            I reach for Matthew without a word. Let the bruise-coloured bags beneath my eyes do the talking.

            Jonathon puts his hand on my shoulder and together we watch Matthew’s tiny mouth latch onto my nipple. He suckles furiously and I close my eyes.

“Once you’ve fed him, just go to sleep. I can watch him,” Jonathon says.

            I shake his hand off me. “I’m fine,” I say. And I am fine. All I need is Matthew.



For the fifth time tonight (or is it the morning?) Matthew’s screams pull me back to consciousness.

I was having that dream again, or I guess it was a memory. Isobel and me on a night out in London eating at a restaurant overlooking Tower Bridge. She was telling me her plans, her hopes for the future. They didn’t involve me. Not the way I wanted to be involved anyway. I had started a row; how could she be thinking about these sorts of things without consulting me? Didn’t she want to be with me?

No, it turned out, she didn’t. Because when sweet, innocent Sarah had come along, she had pushed us together. Practically set us up. Sarah who wanted a football team of children and whose life plans involved making her future husband and children very happy.

            I can see now it was the turning point of my life, that night at Tower Bridge. Had I not started the argument, who knows what would have happened? Perhaps Isobel and I would have stayed together, making each other miserable, each of us putting ourselves before the other. And Sarah and I wouldn’t have ended up together; we’d never have suffered through those ten unbearable years of what we thought was infertility.

            I pick up my son. My beautiful, very noisy, little boy, and, for the first time after dreaming of that night, I feel no sadness that it happened at all. Sarah mumbles in her sleep and I brush a loose tendril of hair off her face.

I take Matthew into the living room and lie him on my chest.

            “Ave Maria, Gratia plena…” I sing, and very soon, his whimpers become the snuffles of sleep.



Natalia Godsmark recently resigned from her day job as a Compliance Officer in an Asset Management organisation (but she’s a much more interesting person than that makes her sound). She has a one year old and is currently trying her hand at writing flash fiction and short stories. In April this year, she was longlisted for the OhZoe Rising Talent Award with two children’s story manuscripts.

Natalia Godsmark; Da Capo

Da Capo


I sit in the church hall, listening. The soloist is singing over the hum of chattering guests: “Ave Maria…gratia plena…”

My heart is racing like the staccato beat of a metronome. But it’s not from nerves; my day has finally arrived.

I close my eyes and take in a long, deep breath. The scent of wild flowers woven through my hair fills my nostrils.

A choir joins the soloist and I open my eyes, blinking back the brightness of the day.

Linda hands me my glass of champagne. “One more sip for luck!”

I take a gulp and the bubbles fizz on my tongue.

“Are you ready?” Dad asks. He holds out an arm and I take it, pulling myself up and giggling.

“As I’ll ever be,” I say with a wink. He guides me to the huge wooden doors and they open with a percussive bang. And as the Wedding March begins I see my Jonathon turn, and a warm, happy smile spreads across his face.



             Married… My goodness. Married! Well if that doesn’t draw a line under things, I don’t know what will. 

I had allowed myself one final glance at her before Sarah arrived. One peep. Imagined it was her walking up the aisle. That it would be her wrapped in my arms tonight. She was wearing scarlet lipstick – she knew I loved that. And a dress that fit her curves so snugly I had to avert my eyes, for fear I might give myself away.

            The choir was silenced and the organist began to play the Wedding March. Sarah looked beautiful, of course. But it was never her looks that I objected to.

She just…wasn’t Isobel.

I got through the vows, a Cheshire cat grin plastered across my face. You proposed, I remind myself. You set all this in motion.

I remember her face when I told her. Remember the blink of surprise and then the smile, all teeth and red, juicy lips.

“I hope you have a very happy life together,” she had said, without a hint of hurt, regret, or anything to suggest she didn’t mean exactly what she said.

So that is what I plan to do.



            The crescendo of the babbling guests is broken when my husband stands to deliver the Groom’s speech and the best man tings on a glass with a teaspoon.

“Thank you all for coming today, to join my wife (ha ha!) and I on this very special day. Those of you who know us well know we met studying music at Nottingham Uni. Those of you who know me well know singing is my strength; speeches have never really been my forte (ha ha!) Probably because my jokes always fall flat (ha ha!)…”

            Jonathon’s face is the picture of happiness. I hope when we have children they favour him in looks; his smiling eyes, his square jawline and his wide, handsome grin.

            When the speeches and wedding breakfast is over, he pulls me from my chair to cut the cake with him. His eyes glisten as he places his hand over mine around the handle of the knife.

            And then it’s time for the first dance. My friend, Maya, sings ‘The way you look tonight’. Jonathon chose it. Said it would describe how he knew he was going to feel on the day; that I would be beautiful. Hand in hand, we glide towards the stage and begin our slow dance. The pools of his deep brown eyes lock on my own and I feel as though I am the only person in the world that matters to him.

            “I love you,” I say, and he kisses me softly and slowly on the lips. Our guests cheer wildly, dragging me back to the moment.

            In music, there is a term ‘da capo’ that means ‘from the beginning.’ It is written as a directive to return the musician to the start of the score and repeat what he has just played.

If this day was a piece of music, I would write da capo here.



Natalia Godsmark recently resigned from her day job as a Compliance Officer in an Asset Management organisation (but she’s a much more interesting person than that makes her sound). She has a one year old and is currently trying her hand at writing flash fiction and short stories. In April this year, she was longlisted for the OhZoe Rising Talent Award with two children’s story manuscripts.