Aleena Ahmed

At each end of my mouth
there lays a sharp hook.
Whenever I smile, it is rapidly shaken.
The pain is poignant, and I start to cry.
Then slowly,
the blood starts to dry.


Walker Zupp

Tuesday, 9th May 2010

Dear Peter,

I often wonder what I could have been, if I had put some work in to my relationships, or indeed, where I could have been. That Romanian could have taken me back to her home country and I could have platonic pleasure upon lusty animosity! Then again, I suppose that deep down I’m quite old fashioned: one partner for life, like a bloody swan. Being married isn’t that bad – it’s a bit like having a really good friend being even friendlier, but not through buying you another pint.

We have a new flat in Clourn, in Upper Loxhall along with all the social rejects and lawyers. These days I’m a bit of both, even if they are indeed the same thing. That’s what she says at least. She’s been talking about having a child and I’ve been talking about work and I’m sure that you’re still talking about that Romanian. Few things change, don’t they? I told her that we couldn’t afford it (lying through my teeth naturally) and that we should focus our monetary supply on buying a better bloody house. Balls to the child, and I can say that because there is no child, as far as I know!

Oh yes, bugs. We’re getting the exterminator and the priest in next week to purge and bless the house, not necessarily in that order. Nothing political, I can assure you – it’s all just a precaution. That’s what she says at least. God knows why any old ghost or spirit or Flying Dutchman would want to move in to our little flat in Upper Loxhall. Then again, the insects have. I say more power to them. I like to see some motivation in the undergrowth because frankly, there’s none up here amongst the clouds and the employed. I’ll write to you soon probably, if the woman lets me. She hates you and loves me, I suppose.

Love to Sheila,


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Siobhan Mitchell

The waves of Whiteabbey kiss the pebbles on the shore,
leaving her glistening mark for all to see,
as I overturn the shiny rocks, looking for crabs.

Hours spent on that open beach,
finding new life in desolate hiding places.
My favourite place on Earth,
mixed blood blissfully unaware,
letting my shoes sink into the wet quicksand
longing for it to swallow me up, keep me there forever.

The old pier that would stand alone,
in the middle of the sea, parted long ago from his body
oh, what that old wreck must have seen,
through those troubled years,
spoken about in hushed tones around young ears
of the strange drums on a hot summer night
that mingled with the sound of the sea
as I lay, sound asleep

Granda would walk everyday down the shore
until he grew weak, sick and old like the pier
seven years gone
the waves of Whiteabbey carry on



Sam Heslop-George

A few days into university life, I lent my phone to one of my flatmates. I had thought nothing of it, a simple gesture for a boy I wished to become friends with. Lending this phone though proved to be one of those actions that much of your subsequent life pivots upon; crucial moments you either dread or yearn for.

The flatmate to whom I lent my phone was a quiet boy named Liam. Discernible features – pigeon chest; squinting eyes beneath glasses; thin, greasy hair – if little discernible personality. He had, on the last night of Freshers Week, summoned the nerve required to enjoy himself and I, sympathetic, was doing my upmost to coax him from his meticulously guarded introversion.

It was difficult to get him to enjoy himself; you had to lure him into conversation, trick him into unfolding his arms. He was alright though: you didn’t have to put in a completely disproportionate amount of effort to engage with him like other shy people. He obviously yearned to be social; he just seemed so nervous. Slowly though, he began to warm up. He let others into his persona. He joshed with the rest of the flat, most of who had not seen his skinny arms and freckly face in days. When he asked for my phone to make a quick call, I readily agreed.

I didn’t see him or my phone again that night. This was only apparent to me the subsequent, sober day however, and as the vague recollection of lending it to him surfaced, I made my way down the corridor to Liam’s room, the space within which he had spent so much of this first week.

“I’ve got your phone,” he announced as I craned my neck round the lightly ajar door.

There was an intensity about him: his bold announcement, the way he was sitting, the blaze of his eyes, locked upon mine. He looked disgusted, like a toddler who has just had his first taste of lemon. It didn’t sit right; this wasn’t the timid kid I knew. Something was up. I entered his room and, fear masquerading as politeness, asked if I could have my phone back.

“I’ve seen some of the stuff on it.” He, ignoring my request, told my blanching face.

This was bad. Let me explain why.

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Two Eyes, No Soul

Leah Derbyshire

Today is the day. The alarm echoes throughout the dorm and I hear murmurs as we collectively wake. The room reeks of stale conformity. I breathe it in as I shuffle to the end of the bed and collect my black burka. The movements around me are static-almost robotic- I guess that’s essentially what we are. Robots.

Just as I finish slipping on my black gloves the second bell of the day sounds: inspection time. Mirrors are a thing of the past, vanity is forbidden amongst women. Subsequently I have forgotten what I look like. I have no identity; I have no soul, just two numb eyes forbidden from truly seeing.

As my turn for inspection approaches I become increasingly nervous. At the Matron’s command the Jihadist dorm leaders drag the young woman in front of me into the whipping corner. I fight the urge to look. The thump of the whip followed by her piercing scream still manages to penetrate my body with fear no matter how many times I witness it.

The mandatory exercise demands I shake my breasts to eliminate the possibility that I am wearing a bra. Then the Burka measuring, glove checking and uncomfortable frisking ensues, this dignity-stripping act ensures I am in no way a source of temptation. For this reason men and women are entirely segregated. The only time I bore witness to the male city was on transportation day. Through the cracks in the wooden cart I could sneak glances at the industrial capital pumping out power. The sight was overwhelming for eyes that are used to seeing nothing. An array of new smells, sights and sounds lay before me, tormenting me before they were snatched away again. It was not at all how I imagined. Some men looked like dishevelled shells of their former selves, hunched and sullen, worn down by their superior role; in this way we cannot be wholly segregated.

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Re-generation: Out of Cracks I Come

Chandler Yang

A sudden burst of something shuddered the earth: some passion or otherwise.

Lashing onto the sultry ground was a great spurt of impatient fluid that on their first contact went scattering over the surface, clawing its way into the sodden soil. Millions of those life-nourishing droplets were embraced by the still-quivering earth and, tunnelling among stones and turfs, they came to two channels leading to separate ways.

One had to choose either way; no hesitation or halt was given by the great host of fluid. Some turned back with a solemn look for their comrades, now lost and trapped behind in some clay or peat, but most parted with a wholehearted cheer and shouted good luck. The first droplet who rushed into the ground ahead of the others was heard far behind, howling: ‘Come back, come back, it’s a trap!’ But whether it was an honest warning or a guileful trick his companions did not know; neither was the answer pondered nor cared by them. The two entrances now seemed foreboding without those glimmering drops in sight.

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Alako Abdul-Hafiz

I look in to their eyes, I see the beast. The scarred and spotted being called me. I peer into their soul, I see the truth. They think “oh he’s a monster, a beast unseen”.
I stare in the dark looking at a faint reflection, and I realize, the light is cruel but darkness subtle. And I think to myself the light reveals it “the beast unseen”, but the darkness conceals it.
I love the darkness for it embraces unlike people judging, staring at the faces.
I am the Dark Lord, and the darkness my abode. But even Dark Lords yearn for the light.