Monday, 26 June 2023

'There's Always Time For One More' by Laura Cooney

You need to understand that there are endings, and then there are endings.

So, we reach the final curtain, sure, but can you hear any singing? Nope! Here we go, writing the last one! The real last, last one. May this sweet ending last forever and ever… and ever more. 

'The Encore' by Chris Albin

I’m a masochist. I could be anywhere in time and space, yet I come back here to this moment. I know it by heart now.

There’s the Kid at the front of the crowd; fifteen, overweight and with long curly black hair. He wears a black trench coat even though it makes him sweat like a pig. On his wrist is a black Naruto- bracelet, he still thinks counts as Metal. Currently, he is headbanging his little dweeb heart out.

In the back, there’s me; thirty-five, still overweight, slightly less black, and slightly more red plaid. I’ve been nursing the same lukewarm beer for a while now, watching him go at it. Avoiding eye contact.

God, he looks so happy.

I want to leave, but the envelope in my pocket keeps me anchored. Then, on cue, the final riff dies off and the crowd goes wild – the Kid is the loudest. I cringe and take one final swig, before moving in for the kill.

I elbow my way through the crowd unnoticed because I’m a tourist in the Kid’s world. In here music only matters when it’s loud and screaming. In here having a depression makes you interesting and the only place to show positivity is in the crowd and nowhere else. Here rebellion is conformity.

I hate how happy he looks.

But I’m just a ghost. I slide the letter into the pocket of the coat, and he doesn’t even notice I’m there-

Then the band breaks into the encore, I take a final beer to go and step into the December night. I don’t fade away, nothing timey-wimey. Just another tourist to the Kid’s world, leaving.

Only the letter in his pocket remains – two sentences. 

Keep trying, bud. Maybe you’ll find it for both of us.

'Bard' by Suzanna Lundale

The scene opens on a river scene. Plentiful swans are placidly swimming. The camera pans to a bridge – not a modern bridge, but a Tudor-era wooden bridge. A young man in early-modern dress leans on the bridge, watching the swans.

“Master Will,” says a female voice. “Well-met, indeed. I wondered if I might find you here.”

The young man smiles shyly. “Mistress Anne. Would it sound a lie if I confessed I was just thinking of you?”

Voice-over: [dreamy, sultry feminine voice] You have read his stories, seen them play out on stage and screen.

The camera irises out. We see the same young man walks in a dense wood, telling himself a story about a fairy queen and her kingly husband, who seeks to embarrass her after she snubs him. Not all of what he says is audible, but the audience can make out the names – Titania and Oberon.

Voice-over: [same voice] But what of the mind that conceived them?

The camera irises out. We see a montage. Will traveling to London. Will meeting men at alehouses, getting deep into discussion with them. The Globe being built. An early rehearsal. Culminating with criers touting Julius Caesar. The montage slows to show us a bit of the “Ides of March” speech.

Voice-over: [same voice] This fall, in theaters everywhere, the tale of William Shakespeare, the Swan of Avon, THE BARD.

'Situation Vacant – Still' by Rachel Burrows

She lies in the dark, reliving the whole sorry interview, trying to block out when she had s…
shit – she had said,  ‘A seag..’
Oh Lord, so ‘she could steal people’s sandwiche…’
Surely she …, how could she have been so clum…
see – she knew she shouldn’t  have applied for the stupid…
…post-traumatic stress now, thinking about when they asked about her reasons for wanting part-time and she said so she could walk the …
don’t go there, don’t go there, don’t go…
there’s a flashback to her saying she was most proud of the way she could balance a …
why hadn’t she mentioned Times Ed prize for …
disaster, disaster, dis..
after all that work and effort on the application…
for months, for nothing, for absolutely no…
thing is, they put her off with the, ‘we aren’t quite ready for you, there’s been a problem, we don’t seem to have your…’
details they didn’t need, yabber, yabber, always talking without think…
in the morning it will feel better won’t …
it was ex-crut-iat-ing and even the radio being on, and all the voices can’t stop her thinking about the answer to the question the students panel asked, and she can’t block it out because it’s right there frozen infront of her screwed up eye…
‘I would like to be a seagull, because
I like looking down on peop..’
Almighty God in Heaven – that’s what she answered, to that question, in front of the headteacher about what animal she would most like to …
B – o-l-l o-c- 

'Time to Call It A Night' by Tilly Greenland

Well, that’s it, that’s all I’ve got brain for.  My thoughts are becoming fuzzy and spell check is having to work very hard as I mis-click the keys on the keyboard.  And I keep using the wrong mouse.  Maybe got enough energy for one more... cup of tea before bed.

'The Nick of Time' by Suzanna Lundale

“Hi, are you a friend of Annika’s? I’m her brother, Nick.”

“Oh, I– Yes, she’s a colleague, but I only just arrived this term. Pleasure to meet you. Are you also in Time Studies?”

“I am, but more on the experiential end.” Nick gave a winning smile, and Annika knew with conviction that he imagined a little starburst over one tooth and a little ‘ting!’ like in the cartoons.

“Oh, you mean you actually time travel?!”

“Yes, I do,” he practically purred, popping open the business card case he always kept close to hand. “I’m something of a private detective…through time.” He fixed his gaze on the punch bowl by Dr. Erickson, staring into what he no doubt imagined was the middle distance.

“Nick of Time Investigations,” read the woman from the card. Annika wondered how she managed it without laughing, but some people seemed to find her brother charming.

Nick tried to suppress his crow of delight at hearing the name out loud, so it came out as a snort. “That’s my little witticism. Nick of Time, get it? Because I’m Nick!” Again the grin with the glinting tooth.

This proved a bridge too far for the woman. She muttered some excuse and walked hurriedly away. Annika would have to find out who she was and apologize, so she didn’t think the whole family is mad. Nick was still gazing after her when Annika sidled up to him. “Strike out?”

Nick started and looked down at his sister. “Nah. She’ll be back. Just in the Nick–” Annika groaned, which made him grin all the harder as he finished, “of Time!”   

'The Manuscript' by Cath Humphris

Imagine his hand, his bony fingers gripping the quill lightly, at the sloping desk in the stone room, where comfort is of secondary importance. Cold winter sunlight slants in from a biforate mullioned window, unfiltered. It sharpens the folds of his rough brown habit. 

The sleeve is pushed back to the elbow, exposing the lean brown arm that on other days wields a hoe, gathers in hay, empties the latrines. His wrist is angled carefully above the creamy surface of a freshly scraped parchment, lest he leave an unintentional stain. 

The other desks are cleared of all but the scars of sharpened quills and graffiti.  

Imagine the ink, in a stout pottery jar, and his tonsured head, bowed, gleaming, as he marks the curves  of a capital, snake-like. Now thick, then thin, neatly turning the tail with the last drop. He watches the glossy shape appearing and drying as he measures the distance for a smaller, downward line to follow. Knows without tracing how to place the three cross-marks. Parallel, perfectly balanced.

Thus, each letter, faithfully copied.  Blindly constructing not just a text, but a work of precise beauty in a language he cannot read, but knows by heart. For how many pages has he never touched the inks on the far side of the room, the blue, the red, the gold?

'They Said Not To Do It' by Sumitra Singam


But I’m doing it anyway and now there’s pee all over my hands and maybe since I have to wait five hundred years to see if it’s two lines or one, I can wash my hands and my God it takes a long time to sing three happy birthdays but also that’s only twenty-three seconds and I still have nine minutes and thirty-seven seconds to wait but what there’s a line! No it’s just the control line so that’s good the test will be valid but it also not because the IVF nurse specifically told me they’re inaccurate with fertility treatment, so wait for your blood test, but how am I supposed to wait ten whole days when for weeks it’s been daily trips to the clinic for bloods and scans and needles and creams and pessaries at twenty-two past four exactly in the morning and did you know the parking is seventy-five dollars for five minutes at that time? And all so that my psychopathic womb will stop just pretending to be a normal hospitable thing and actually become one in real life like one of those show homes with more throw pillows than sense and what the hell do they do with the throw pillows when they’re in bed asleep, put them on the floor? So wouldn’t you just not have them in the first place and it’s this thinking that’s got me into this situation in the first place so I’ll snap out of that completely unmaternal mindset and smile into my new throw-pillow-embracing self and holy watch what you wish for, Batman, there are two fucking lines on the pee test and what the hell am I meant to do with that, they told me not to do a fucking test and I did one anyway

'At the Arrivals Gate' by Suzanna Lundale

“You will love it here!” That’s what he’ll cry, when he welcomes her finally. He will wrap his arms around those shoulders again and painstakingly apply little kisses all over her face, and she’ll giggle.

“I know I will,” she’ll say, between giggles, joyful to be with him again, joyful to be on the threshold of a new life.

“I’ll grab your suitcases,” he’ll offer with giddy nervousness, turning toward the carousel, eager to get the suitcases and get her home where he will greet her properly. 

“I’ll come with you,” she’ll laugh, and interlace their fingers more tightly to show him she will never let go again. Not then, not ever.

And wrapped in each other, they’ll wait, only half-watching the bags go by, because the future will be in each other’s faces, and they will have waited so very long to get there.

'It will be blindingly obvious' by Jeremy Boyce

 It will be blindingly obvious to everyone because there will be an incredible flash, brighter than the dawn of creation or a nuclear bomb. Time will briefly stop, no birds will sing and clocks will not tick, or tock. All normal activity will be stopped and public transport will be suspended, the Stock markets will have a bank holiday, taxes will neither be demanded nor paid,commodities and futures given a day off at the beach, where no seagulls will fly and waves will not break on the grainless sand because the tides will stop pushing and shoving. Beneath the surface fish will take a break and have a much needed nap, all their predators doing likewise. The sun will stop spitting fire and the moon will be neither waxing nor waning, the universe itself will stop Quantumly expanding and all the black holes will suddenly turn white. The plants and trees will stop growing out of respect, and their flowers will not fade, so as to add joy to the occasion. Everybody will be happy and smiling and the bees, butterflies and other pollinators will collect pollen and nectar all day long untroubled by wind, rain or insect repellant. The mosquitos will stop biting and wasps will be happy to play among themselves, not bothering the festive barbeques or picnics. There will be no sand in the sandwiches and the dropped ice-creams will always land cone side down. On this day I will know I have found true love.