Friday, 13 July 2012

Submission: "Biography" - Barry

                I know he hasn't slept in days. We lounge in the living room, the lights off, blowing smoke rings into the air. The French doors are open, letting in the cold January air. The intimacy of the scene should be a set up for a secret rendezvous or something equally salacious.
                The funeral is tomorrow.
                I remembered the day vividly. I sat in the kitchen of our student house, waiting for him to make his phone call. An old friend had been bothering him to get in contact all day, so he had finally caved in and made the call. “I’ll be a few minutes. It’s only James, knowing him he’ll want me to reshoot his portfolio work” he said with a chuckle. Even though we’re only housemates, we spent every waking moment together, truly the definition of best friends.
                He borrows my phone to make the call and goes into his room. I begin to cook our dinner, because we often eat together these days. Time passes and the food has been ready for a while. It slowly cools on the counter. I start to feel worried.
                He finally emerges. His usually pale complexion is even more pallid than usual. I knew in that moment that something had happened. Something terrible.
                “Callum has hung himself.”
                Tears flowed for the first few hours, heavy and continuous. We sat in the garden and I held him while he wept liquid heartbreak onto my shoulder. I could almost feel the pain through my damp skin. It began to rain and we stayed sitting on our garden wall, for trivialities seemed so very unimportant to him now.
                Two weeks on and here we are. A part of him also died that day. I live with a stranger now. There had been the typical tears and symptoms of grief one would come to expect. He suddenly wore Callum’s old jumper every day, as though a piece of fabric could replace the touch of a lover. His weight had dropped drastically and his eyes had become bruised from lack of sleep. I tell myself that it’s only been two weeks. Time heals.
                He lights another cigarettes as we talk about our latest assignments. He hasn’t spoken about it in days and I am afraid to broach the subject. Our usually easy repertoire is uncomfortable and heavy, as though we are both walking a tight rope without a safety net. Or carrying a glass filled with too much water, if we stumble we’ll make a mess.
                He takes another swig of coffee. He takes it black these days, fitting in an oddly morbid way, though I suppose it has more to do with the fact he can’t afford milk. I brace myself and ask the question I have been dreading.
                “The funeral is tomorrow. How are you feeling about that? Are you going?”
                He visibly stills, as though he can fade into the background. It reminds me of an animal, hiding in the grass from a predator. But there is no avoiding this. The predator in this situation is his own grief.
                “Yes, I am going.” he says shortly. He takes another drag of his cigarette, the embers lighting his face and giving me a brief glimpse of the tears that have gathered in his eyes. “It’s odd you know. I’ve never really known what to say about this whole situation.” He takes another drag and I see the tears falling freely now. His voice is thick and I know he is struggling to keep it in.
                “Did I ever tell you about the last night we spent together?” he asks. I shake my head and realise he can’t see me. “No, you haven’t.” I whisper, curious about what he will say next and regretting broaching the subject in the first place.
                “He called me at 4am and I walked to his house. It was raining, but he was upset and I had to see him, even though we’d broken up.” He takes another drag between words. My own cigarette sits in the ashtray, forgotten. I don’t move in fear that I may break his train of thought.
                “I got to his house. We argued as usual. I said… I said I didn‘t care. I ended it that night in no uncertain terms. He always threatened to hurt himself if I tried to leave him and that night was no different. He was always trying to make me feel guilty, trying to hurt me. But he told me that he loved me. I believed that he loved me. I just didn‘t think it was enough anymore.” He takes swig of coffee and a drag on his cigarette, exhaling loudly.
                “I told him I never wanted to see him again. That I never loved him. But that’s not true. He’s the only man I have ever loved. Or was. Because he’s dead now.”
                I take his hand in mine and move closer to him. He begins to cry, squeezing my hand as though it is the only thing keeping him together. An anchor stopping him from being swept away by grief.
                “The worst part of this whole thing is that I would take it all back.” he sobs, barely getting the words out. “I love him even though he is gone. How can you love something that is no longer here? It hurts. Love hurts and it’s sick because all I can think of now is that night and how I wish I’d stayed.”
                He lies his head on my shoulder and his beard is wet from tears.
                “I wish I was dead too.” he whispers. 

- Follow Barry at

Submission: "Biography" - Justin

It was a simple day for me. I went through my day like it was butter. I was the knife, gliding through my classes with ease.

His day was not nearly easy enough.

He told me at great lengths about what had happened the day before. That Sunday while they were driving home from that trashy pancake place that pretends to be high class. Every few words he paused, as if to think, only to vomit out another two sentences immediately. His story came through as if they loved him. He almost felt at ease, I could see it in his face. But we both knew it wouldn't be that easy.
He told me the feeling of nausea that arose from the deepest pits of his stomach when he thought about the coming days, the coming weeks, the coming months and the coming year. Coming was all he did it seemed. He's paving a future but he can't see it. It's hard to see the walls have crumbled after you're convinced they're there forever. 
He spoke of the problems he in his classes, the inattentiveness and the "spacing out" that plagued his productivity. The pain he felt when the word God was brought up, and how it all made him felt. Like the fires of hell seared his feet as a reminder of his crimes. The pounding of his heart. The sweat of his brow. All during an American Literature class. I knew he wasn't scared for school. He had a reputation already. He was safe here, and it was peaceful. There was an occasional slur, but he considered himself lucky.

But that was then. We both knew he would have problems. Everyone did. We all congratulated him, but that only furthered his unease. The next few weeks were hard. Hard on me to see him, hard on him to BE him. They asked questions that really upset him. They said some things about God and how he'd smite down the unholy ones. They didn't take it well at all. I thought he would be fine, but here he is now, in my room. On my bed.
"I just lurched when she attacked me. My entire body ached as she said things a mother should never say. I was overtaken by rage. Rage that's been building for four years. Maybe even more. My entire body radiated heat and my skin was like a tomato's." He said, looking down. His eyes were bloodshot. "I felt like it wasn't her place. I deal with a lot of hate. A lot of ill feelings, just because I'm too short or too thin. I don't need my core attacked. My looks are transient. I would rather die the painful AIDS ridden death she threatened then to give up me as a person."
"Do you want to go back home? You can stay here if you need," I reminded.
"I can't stay here. There is no hope for me if I do. That means they won. I already missed a big performance because of their petty attacks. Their rage that could fuel entire cities. Their limitless hatred over one single facet of my life that they don't even need to know. I shared it with them as a choice. I could have gotten a beard and gone to my family events for the rest of my life, but I chose to be honest. They insulted who I was over missing clothing. It was a stressful time for me, right before a performance, and they provoked me into yelling and screaming right back."
"But what do you have to pro-"
"I have everything to prove to them. Staying here means that I've become less of a person. They'll take it as an attack on the family. I'm stronger and better than them. I'm not a racist prick, I'm not a bigot, and I'm not ignorant." He spat.

As he left my house he at me for a fleeting moment. It was dark and I knew he was leaving just to satisfy the questions his parents had. He opened his mouth only once more.

"Do not weep for me, weep for those who are set in their ways. They are unmoving and jaded to the world and its people."

- Follow Justin on Twitter at @Schmippo

Monday, 9 July 2012

Hiatus (again).

Ben is currently travelling around various parts of Europe and as he may not always have internet connection, we have decided to do another short hiatus until he returns!

On another note, we've received a few wonderful submissions, so we'll be posting them instead this week!
A big thank you to those that have sent us submissions, we've enjoyed reading all of them and seeing how you've interpreted the themes and obstructions.

- Andrew.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Week 4: "Biography" - Andrew

He was leaning down by the edge of the river and I knew instantly that I would look upon my right shoulder for guidance of my next move. Edging closer, I thanked the early afternoon weather for being as hopeless as my chances of winning the football tournament a had been in. We had travelled to Bournemouth about a week prior and had to bring him along. The heavens were a pallet full of monochromatic oil paint and the surroundings seemed to follow the sky's lead. As I stepped over to where he was hunched over, I grinned with every step that made me realise the light pattering of the overhead drizzle which nulled my footsteps on the undisturbed grass that protruded through the sticky, sucking, possessive mud.
                Stalking over him, remaining silent, I got within jumping distance and saw my own reflection in the flowing mirror of the stream. The waters were murky but I could clearly see the devil in my eyes and the innocence of an angel in his. When he was realised my intent I gave him no chance for reprieve and thrust him into the river.
                As soon as he hit the water he began flailing; the sight was sinfully appealing and one which should be savoured. He couldn’t swim well, but he was far from drowning. You could see the absolute concentration in his face at how hard he tried to stay afloat, and I had only wished to bring along a camera of sorts. He swam against the flow of the river and grasped at a low beam by the side, tears streaming down his face fast as the river’s flow increased due to the rain picking up. As he was about to pull himself out of the water, I grasped him arm and helped him out.
“I saved you!” I yelled; a grin still slathered across my face.
                He ran home crying, drenched in the foul, pungent smell of muddy waters. Later that night he gave his recollection of what happened to mother, his tongue serpentine as he told the absolute truth.
“...And he pushed me in!” he broke down in another batch of tears, his eyes sore and a vibrant red which stood out against his pallor.
“I did not! You must have fallen in; you know how clumsy you are.”
I maintained my story and received no punishment. Evading prosecution was the sweetest of fruits from the most plenteous of gardens.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Week 4: "Biography" - Ben

The second I asked it, his tears stopped and I began to sob regret.

            He had come over the previous evening (today and the night before had woven together, thick as rope). I met him at the station and together we’d bought cheap spirits and he mocked me for it and asked why I didn’t drink wine. I could tell he was uneasy and the alcohol fought to loosen him up. We swigged it as we walked and I longed to touch him but I was gripped by so much fear.
            When we got back to mine, the minutes waddled like a pack-mule up and up a steep hill. I wanted the right time (the night time), when I could take him to bed and not have him think me forward and I could take his fragile virgin wrists between my hands and pin them to my headboard and touch his own stigmata.
            We watched some television I loved and I noticed how urgently and fervently he kept moving his hands awkwardly over my body, like a child greedy for attention, discovering something that enraged the grown-ups. I kept drinking to blur everything and I think he had stopped because he was drunk on the anxiety and the anticipation.
            Then it was late enough to turn off the lights. I found his body- but he lay stiff with nerves, though he kept kissing and moving. It was like a smile through pain. I impressed him but I felt apathy to the whole thing and I think I just gnawed and played occasionally out of duty and not because I was really present in the moment. I came four times. I had not satisfied him once. We fell asleep.

            The next day I felt lost. We went in together and I ached and I felt as if wandering a vast desert. We didn’t speak all day, though we glanced at each other readily. I didn’t want anyone to know and the secret had an unpleasant taste to it.

            We spoke a little on the way home.
            “My friend is having a leaving party tonight. You’d be welcome to come.”
            “Okay,” I had mumbled.
            “I’d like you to meet my friends.”
            My stomach knotted with fright at this proposal.
            This time, he met me at the station and he walked me to the party. I felt manipulated- a great marionette. My feelings were a ribbon and the ribbon was tangled and the ends of the ribbon were tucked inside the knot- so I didn’t know where my feelings started and when they stopped. Really, I didn’t know what I felt at all.
            Inside, his friends intimidated me with how rapidly they spoke and what they spoke about. I told him this.
            “They make me feel stupid,” I explained.
            He laughed it off and the flippancy of his regard for my comment angered me. It made the fracture between us more evident.
            I had bought the unfinished bottle from the night before. It had been a gesture- that I would drink my own and not take from the host, but he glared at me when I swigged from it and he turned his shoulder away from me and towards his friends. I noticed everybody else drinking grain or grape. The fracture grew larger now and darker.
            I tried to talk to him, tell him what I felt. I began to untangle the ribbon. At first I was repentant of what had passed between us.
            “We rushed into things,” I urged. “I didn’t want us to go so far.”
            He blinked and his eyes took on a pearly shine while the outdoor lights haloed his hair. Then blame was loosed from the knotted ribbon.
            “You forced me into it. I wanted your company.”
            Each word, I could see, was a lash to his body. He winced at each blow and I punished him. The ribbon was untangling between and yet none of my fears, my grievings felt assuaged. The ribbon was longer than ever and still unravelling and now tears curled from his eyes. His friends looked concerned and I winced with shame, like a dog that has soiled a new carpet in front of an angry crowd. His bottom lip jutted out and I hated him for this cliché.
            I realised then that the ribbon of tangled emotions I felt was the selfsame fracture I saw spreading between us. Now our fingertips scraped as our arms stretched desperately. The hellfire from beneath seared us, ablaze with the energy of severance. And then I saw the solution. Rather than stop grasping for his hand in the heat, I poured mud into the fracture- mounds of plaster and clay, tumbling into the rift.
            “Let’s make it official.” I smiled through the pain as he had with his body.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Week 4: "Biography"

Theme: Biography:- Re-tell a moment/event in your life from a different person's view point (i.e. you must not be the narrator but must be a "character"). All names can be changed, if desired. (400-1000 words)

The Three Obstructions
  1. Religious imagery must be included.
  2. The piece must be exaggerated for dramatic effect (especially speech).
  3. You must include frequent use of simile and metaphor.
Theme chosen by Ben.
Obstructions chosen by Andrew.

Please feel free to suggest future themes or obstructions in the comments for consideration.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Week 3: "Negative Space" - Andrew

He stood by the entrance of the tent, that space of undefined territory of not being inside, yet not being expelled to the darkness. The tent was filled with no wood or stone. Soft surfaces of the now-skinless beasts were a luxury which he could afford. At the corner of the tent where she was laying, no darkness could be found. The lamps and luminous bottled insects had exorcised the darkness yet from where he stood, no light had graced his presence. He did not want to intrude, but he was still too worried to stand outside in the engulfing nothingness. Her screams had transcended the portrayal of pain; they had become grotesque. And rather than causing woe, her pain felt like a black hole at the centre of his being, right in the centre of his chest where she had rested her head the night before. As her wails continued, it emptied him of his soul, leaving only a pale membrane of skin and hope.
                Defying the orders of the midwife, he took a step inside. Just a step. Just enough to show he cares enough to be present, but not too much in case he hindered the process. The first signs of crowning became apparent as the midwife continued to command her, despite the profanities that she directed at everyone in the tent. The crowning continued and her handsome face was reduced to whimpering and a look of being hopelessly hopeful during the intervals of winces.
                The babe was delivered as the sixth moon eclipsed the fourth, at the hour of complete silence of the insects and beasts. The babe was loud, its cry breaking the rigid soundlessness of the tent. My eyes were open but they saw nothing. With each intake of breath my lungs felt no relief. Her pain had drained me and her death had emptied me.
                The babe was an ugly thing. She had told me to expect a phoenix, a beautiful bird full of fiery liveliness, but this creature entered the world in blood. The babe smelled of it, that pungent scent of the dead and the dying. How suitable, he thought. Removing his eyes from the now ugly, mangled corpse, his eyes drifted down as the midwife handed him the cleaned baby. Its fluorescent purple eyes were intoxicating to an addictive degree. The moons flew and the suns rose and all he had done was look at her, and all she had done was exist. Time was all he had in this respect; time had been taken from him in another.
                He foresaw a great huntress in her, for her skin was soft yet her grip was firm. He entertained thoughts of them hunting together for a while, until his stomach growled like a beast of his imagining. He closed his eyes for a minute and could imagine the soft, bloody meat covering his tongue; the rapids of salt-filled blood flowing throughout his mouth as he ground the meat between his teeth. He decided it was time to eat as the baby began to cry (from what he thought must be hunger) and realised...

What do babies eat?