written by Srishti Kadu
edited by Rebecca Parkinson

Shalini jogs across the canteen towards us, stuffing her sparkly red iPhone into her purse, “Guys, my mother has called me at least five hundred times by now. I think I’d better leave.”

It is twenty minutes past nine. There’s twelve minutes till the next train. If I leave with her right now we could easily make it. I might even reach home before midnight tonight.

“But we still don’t have judges for the Contemporary Dance event, Shally!” Atif is beginning to get agitated.

Arrey yaar, don’t take tension, it’s only Janfest! And anyway, Chiki said her dad would be happy to step in if we can’t find anyone else. He’s a movie producer. That’ll work right?” She starts stuffing books and pencils into her purse.

“I think we should call it a night. It’s only November.” I yawn. God I really need to sleep.

“It’s the 26th. We’ve barely got two weeks before Christm—“

A loud boom drowns out Atif’s words. The glass of water in front of me nearly falls off the table before Atif steadies it. Fireworks? I don’t remember dad mentioning a cricket match this week. Maybe it was for some festival.

“What the hell was that?” Atif asks as he looks around the canteen.

“Doesn’t matter. You coming or not?” Shally hitches her purse onto her shoulder as she looks at me. I nod. We both usually take the same train home from CST. It makes the sweaty hour-long journeys less painful. Being crammed in with irritated middle-aged women in the ladies compartment means that there is always someone having a fight, and Shally somehow forces her way into the middle of them all. Her abominable Hindi skills means that I get to hear some really funny arguments.

Oye! Lissun! Lissun!” Ram Singh’s broken English reaches us before we see his short, plump form running across the quad. His wooden stick waves in the air, calling for attention.

“No one go. Stay on campus. Everyone follow Shinde. We are lock down now. Go! Go! Jao!”

“What the hell?”

“What’s lockdown? What’s happening?”

“Is this a drill?”

“Why would they do a drill at 9:30 in the night?”

“Shit man, my mom is going to kill me if I get home late again tonight.”

Panicked voices echo off the stone walls as Shinde hurries us up a narrow staircase and into LR 22.

Shally had her cell phone pressed against her cheek, “Why is there no network? There’s always network in 22.”

Once all of us are inside, Shinde locks the door and calls for everyone to be quiet. He speaks quickly into a walkie-talkie before bolting all the windows shut and switching off the lights. As soon as he does that I hear another loud boom. The windows rattle. I feel a hand grab my arm.

“Get down! Away from the windows!” Shinde yells at us. He spits angry Marathi into his walkie-talkie. After a moment the room is completely silent. In my two years at St. Xavier’s, I have never been in a lecture room with so many people and have it be this quiet.

“Okay, now listen. Very quietly. This is serious. I don’t know exactly what’s happened but right now, there’s a terrorist attack happening at CST. And we all need to remain calm, and safe. Police has been informed, and they’re sending back up, but I’m afraid we’re all going to have to stay in here for a while. They have jammed signals, so you probably won’t be able to call up your family.”

“Thank God we didn’t go.” Shally whispers from behind me.

I text both my parents letting them know I am alright. I don’t get a delivery notification, but I want them to get that message as soon as they unjam the signal. All I have to do now is wait it out. Shally, Atif and I sit cross-legged with the other students on the floor.

Even though the windows are thick, I can hear the gunfire and the screaming from across the street. Sometimes I can hear the sound of feet falling heavily against the tarmac. At least I tell myself they are feet. My eyes adjust to the dark and I see people sobbing and hugging each other, murmuring softly. I try not to cry as the windows rattle dangerously.

Shinde’s walkie-talkie fills the room with static. He speaks at length to whoever is on the other side. He then claps once to get everyone’s attention. It’s unnecessary, we are already listening.

“Be extremely quiet right now. Terrorists have moved to attack Cama hospital. There’s a big group of them, they’ve targeted other places too; Leopold’s Café, The Taj Hotel and Nariman Point. The police is doing its best. We’ve barricaded our entrances. There is no way they are getting inside the college. You’re all safe here.”

Despite his reassurance, I can hear the alarm in his voice. From the windows on the left, the pale yellow wall of Cama hospital is all I can see. It is too close. If they can get into the Taj, then no barricade could stop them from entering our college. I tick off all the places they are attacking against my mental map of Mumbai. It’s all in the South. At least my family is safe. The relief I feel barely lasts a few seconds as I process what Shinde had said earlier. How many people are lying dead right now? How many more fighting for their lives? Being rushed to hospitals? What about their families? Why is this happening?

I wonder how my parents must be feeling right now. I can picture my father, panicking because the phone lines aren’t working. I hope he isn’t desperate enough to drive all the way here. The TV is probably tuned onto some news channel while my mother and younger brother stare at it in silent prayer. Will they remember to pray for the others too?

It is almost midnight now.

I look around me. Almost everyone is awake, but it is still dead silent. Atif and a few others fan themselves with paper and for once no one complains about how stuffy LR22 is. I hold my breath to see if I can hear anything. But there is nothing now. No sirens, no shooting, nothing. Even Shinde’s walkie-talkie seems to be holding its breath. All I can hear now is my own heartbeat.

The Olives

written by Konstantina Sozou-Kyrkou
edited by Tanjida Hossain

‘Humble yourself in front of God, Xenia. You’re too arrogant. God can’t listen to you. He can’t protect people like you,’ my sister, Elena says, dining on the black Kalamon olives I keep in a blue plastic bowl. She wipes the extra olive oil off each one carefully with a paper napkin, then nibbles at them, her thin lips wincing into a frog’s pout as the vinegary taste fills her mouth. She abstains from meat, fish, dairies, even oil during Lent and every Wednesday and Friday (today is Wednesday). I’m not sure if this includes all kinds of oil or just olive oil.

‘So, He’s a discriminatory God. He doesn’t love all his creations equally. He doesn’t allow for divergences. Is this His idea of freedom?’ I cast an accusing squint at her. ‘And what do you mean arrogant? What have I done wrong?’ I slice through the pork steak I’ve just taken out of the steamy oven.

‘You’re too self-centered.’ She picks an olive stone clean, like a busy rodent. ‘You don’t care enough about other people…’

‘But I do…’

‘And it’s not that He doesn’t love people like you. He just wants you to repent, to follow the right path in life.’ A flake of olive peel is stuck in between her two front teeth, cracking her grin in two.

‘And what’s this right path? Going to church every day, fasting to starvation, getting stoned on too much incense?’

‘You’re exaggerating, as usual. If you can’t follow the church’s route, just ask for forgiveness. Pray more, confess your sins to God, confess to a priest…’

‘For God’s sake! What sins? I haven’t committed any, as far as I know.’ I start picking my teeth, meat wedged between my incisors. ‘Well, I do gossip sometimes.’

‘See? You envy other people. That’s why Theodora…’

‘Theodora what?’ I wish she had choked on a stone before saying this. ‘So, God is punishing me through my daughter’s suffering?’ She’s hinted at this before, me being responsible for my daughter’s heart condition, but I turned the other cheek, like a good Christian. I avoided confrontation, like a coward. But now she hurls it at my face. ‘She’s just a kid. An innocent kid, damn it! This God of yours is vindictive and cruel and…’ My sister’s stiff palm is raised against my gaping mouth, like a bar at a toll road.

‘He does this out of love. To make you identify your mistakes and repent. To turn you into a better person. Then, He will help you out of this.’ The olive stones are arrayed on a white paper napkin, like black sheep in a snowy field.

‘So, he needs to be bribed. He wants a token. And then everyone will be happy, I guess. For evermore.’ A bitter chuckle escapes my mouth.

‘Uh huh.’ Elena nods in eagerness. ‘God is merciful. Trust me, I know.’ She cups the back of my hand – the one that’s still holding the steak knife, with her fingers of skin and bone, the condescending and forbearing grin of the Pope promising absolution to his flock on her face. I wonder how long this steely glint in her eyes has been there.

I pull the plastic bowl my way, make to cap it, when I see all these olives swimming in the oil like sleek seals. Elena used to be such a free spirit before becoming so engrossed in the practices of this religious community of the local church. Her existence flowed along the river of her life, the occasional bumps against the pebbles explained by cause and effect laws, not by some ruthless, divine intervention. The olives have now turned into earless dogs with gnarling gnashers when out of the oil, barking their way in herds across unsuspecting sands.


written by Melissa Shode
edited by Betty Doyle

And after a while, we just do it
Because we have to;
Like waiting for sunrise,
When every day is pitch black.

If I concentrate hard enough,
I can hear you spit out,
“I still love you.”
These fresh petals are even
Stained with the smell of you.

I wish I could say that winter is the reason
That I’m catching snowflakes on my tongue,
But it’s the middle of June and half a jar later,
I can still taste you.

The bathroom is painted with
One litre of colourful remedies –
Russian Standard, I think they call it.

I keep wishing that
This monstrous furnace
Lodged in my throat,
Would just burn me to ashes.

The moon is slicing through the curtains,
Illuminating the dirty, unforgivable ink.

Magic bursts out of my veins,
And dances on the page like
Crimson fairy dust.

But I’ve found one thing that will hold me up,
Till you get back anyway,
I’ve put on my best clothes,
For when you return,
And I’m wearing your favourite necklace…

Please don’t be mad.

But I’m tired of waiting for you;
I’m tired of waiting for my sunrise.


written by Siobhan Diston
edited by Lauren Wood

In the midst of a rain-drenched high street stands a shop. It is a small boutique; the word that springs to the minds of passers-by is ‘shabby’, and today no one gives it a second glance as they hurry past, heads burrowed under umbrellas with collars turned up against the wind. Nothing about the old shop-front particularly stands out and the only things people bother to say about it reference the state of disrepair it is in. The window display is sparsely decorated; a worn length of velvet cloth that was once deep red covers the display stand and on it rests a variety of unusual objects. Although some of them are quite commonplace, it’s rather odd that these objects have been grouped together in such a manner and placed with some items that aren’t commonplace at all. A pair of faded pointe shoes sit beside a large antique hourglass filled with a fine ashen dust. Next to that is a set of three jet black candles, only one of which is still lit, the other two flames sunken into the growing pool of wax around the wicks. A battered compass with a large crack in the glass cover lies next to a set of colourless playing cards splayed at the front of the window, the black and red of the cards faded with time.

You stand outside the shop, the rain drenching your coat and plastering your hair to your head. Staring up at the peeling sign above the door, squinting to keep the sleet out of your eyes, the words ‘Otto’s Antiques and Oddities’ can just about be read in gold lettering.

You push open the door, your eyes adjusting to the dim lighting as the high-set windows are covered by exotic veils in rich reds and purples. True to the sign, the shop is indeed clustered with antiques, oddities and things that seem to be some combination of the two. A musky, pungent odour that smells like frankincense pervades your nostrils making your nose wrinkle in disgust. There appears to be no sign of Otto, or of anyone else for that matter, so you quietly walk around the small space, being mindful not to knock anything over in the dark confines of the room. Everything has an air of negligence to it, so much so that you think it must almost be a requirement for everything on display although, oddly, everything is as clean as if it has been recently dusted. You spend a few minutes pondering over what appears to be a large black and white chessboard, only instead of knights battling bishops and kings and queens the figures range from small woven dolls to roughly hewn wooden carvings and even something that you’re sure is a miniature shrunken head, although you hope it isn’t real. You’re enthralled for a full five minutes by the way the light plays on colourful crystals in shades of rose and violet that fill a bookshelf next to old circus equipment. Focusing on your footing, you carefully walk around the chaotic pile of discarded diablo, unoccupied unicycles and tangled tightropes, almost tripping on a stray juggling ball but accidentally kicking it instead. A curse escapes your lips as it rolls across the dark wooden floor, bouncing off a table and getting lost in the depths of the shop. You glance around in fear, despite knowing the shop is deserted, half expecting a reprimand to be uttered at your carelessness. However the room’s silence is unnerving and you set off in pursuit of the ball. Questions of where this Otto could possibly be and even whether the shop is actually open for business crowd your mind.

A chipped grandfather clock silently stands watch as you begin the search. You pass a display case filled with amulets, a mahogany dressing table cluttered with broken pocket watches, each detail of their cracked golden casing being reflected back by the spotted mirror above them. A desk pushed against the wall holds numerous items of jewellery positioned on fantastically carved busts sporting elaborate headdresses from cultures you never even knew existed. An eyeless doll leers at you as you search around the base of a table, the surface of which seemed to have bleached bones carved with runes littered across it. The back of your neck prickles and for some reason you can’t help but feel like you’re being watched by unseen eyes. The ball isn’t found by a chair supporting nothing but a pile of empty gloves; not one of them seeming to have a pair, or by a set of pewter weighing scales that sat on the floor because they were so heavy they were impossible to lift (as you find out while trying to move them).

The back of the shop is filled with dozens more strange artefacts but with a sigh of relief you see the colourful ball resting at the foot of a large marble statue depicting an ancient Greek figure of some kind. After stooping to retrieve the ball you straighten up and a lone shelf on the wall catches your eye. The shelf is nondescript; it’s made from knotted pine and is covered by an old lace veil and you get the impression that it’s not meant to be noticed. Underneath the veil the shelf contains an untidy arrangement of apothecary bottles which vary in shape and size and come in all colours and patterns imaginable. Some have elegantly spun glass stoppers, others have corks wedged into their necks, some bottles contain unknown liquids and others are empty. They look so delicate that you dare not touch them, but you enjoy looking at them for some time before your eyes alight upon a small box at the back of the shelf. It is small, rectangular and flat; at some point there must have been another bottle stood upon it so it could be seen better, but there was nothing on it now. There is writing on it and, reaching out a hand, you pick up the box and bring it closer to your face. The words Cartes de Tarot can be read in fading ink. Replacing the veil upon the shelf, you open the box of cards and carefully flip through them, marvelling at them. Each card depicts a beautiful image that has been exquisitely painted, you think, by hand and you carefully replace the lid of the box as though holding something precious and make your way back through the shop, bringing both the ball and the cards with you.

After placing the ball back amongst the clutter of circus contraptions, you continue onwards towards the door. You look around for a place to pay, or someone to enquire about the cards but the area has many disorderly tables, any one of which could be the right one, or none of them could be. With some difficulty and confusion, you locate what you think must be the till; a desk slightly larger than the others and with a small silver bell discernible on the cluttered surface. You walk over to it and give the bell a tentative ring and wait expectantly. When nothing happens you ring the bell again, a little louder. When still nothing happens you impatiently ring the bell once more and look around the shop for any signs of movement. Turning back to the desk, a small sign next to the bell piques your attention which you could have sworn wasn’t there before. Bewildered, you stare at it curiously for a moment before deciding that you probably overlooked the sign amongst the clutter and read the bizarre message printed on it: “Pay however much you think it is worth”.

After analysing this statement for a few seconds, you search your pockets for some money but you only find a few meagre coins. Filled with dismay, you let out a sigh before placing the cards on the counter and turn to leave. As you raise your hand to open the door you see it: the ring upon your third finger. It is an old ring, left to you when an elderly relative died but you had never really cared for it. Heading back to the counter, you pick up the cards where they had been left and, slipping off the ring, leave it in their place. You carefully tuck the cards into a pocket of your coat and depart from the shop, glad to be leaving and return to the street once more as you begin your journey home. What you didn’t see as you left the shop was a stooped figure emerging from the shadows. As you walk down the rainy high street he walks over to the window, twirling your ring between his fingers, the flickering light from the one still-lit candle reflecting in his round glasses as he watches you leave.


written by SJ Callender
edited by Siobhan Mitchell


The hardened green chairs shaped all of the women to a straight posture. Silence.

They all stared straight ahead. They remained as still as the statues that festooned the recently renovated building. Before, the badly aligned red-brick screamed ‘accessible town hall’ that pretended to value the voices of its citizens. Now, the bricks are painted a clinical white, with statues of naked women adorning the stairs as they release their empty, marble flesh on entrance to the hall; they mocked angels.

But they seemed to forget that the red-brick still remained underneath.

The contours and curves of these statuettes reflected the sun as clear as they reflected the ideals of society. All with long wisps of hair around their shoulders, draping to the small of their backs resembling Aphrodite. Everyone is given a marble doll, an idol of these women; a symbol of the beauty that all females aspire to. Religiously some prayed to these demi-Gods before they slept, after their allotted times with the mirror, wishing for the boobs, the bum and the body.

Amy James imagined becoming one of these statues, being covered in marble and living as an eternal echo of beauty for others to see, for others to envy and pray to. She could only desire the unnatural power of these empty statues and the beauty they possessed. Now, they reflected the desires of the mute women that awaited their inspection.

Amy shifted her weight on the chair and pressed her legs tightly shut in a silent protest, reminding herself of her soft body as she strained to keep upright.

‘NO!’ A woman screamed from inside the Private Room where the monthly checks and weigh-ins took place.

Several women jumped and the ominous silence followed.

The mahogany door groaned as the surgical man opened the door; the hinges needed a good seeing to.

Escorted by two white-haired women, the screaming lady was taken to the Other Room; none of the waiting women knew what was behind that door. The two elder ladies gripped her arms with their thin, claw-like hands until their knuckles turned a marble white, as she kicked and spat at them. One of the elders stumbled with obvious trouble in search of a steel, tarnished key to open the Other Room, removing it from the inside pocket of her structured, official uniform. Inserting the key, the screaming youth buckled and fell to the ground, her eyes wet with fear.

They hauled her mangled, now useless body to a standing position, as her cries echoed through the hall like a sparrow’s song, tormenting every eardrum. Her grey, terror-filled eyes locked with Amy James’ in an attempt to beseech some comfort from the stone women; a reassurance that there was hope behind the door to the Other Room. She knew she was helpless.

Amy’s brown gaze only gave an empty response back while the other women remained fixed and focused on the air in front of them, afraid of disrupting the peace; there was no solace in the unknown.

Amy turned her head and faced forwards to hear the screams dissipating as the door closed.

In Your Anemone

written by SJ Callender
edited by Siobhan Mitchell

You pulse your tentacles to pursue me;
Little shrimp. Your venom filled hair injects
Poison into your lair; polyps digest
Flesh. A little Medusa who chokes me
And blooded veins, a slither to the eyes.
You watch bodies crack in stone with a stare:
A sculpted statue trapped within your snare
Cracking with the sunken echoes of lies.
You once had irresistible charm, dear;
Flower of sea, a soft-bodied daisy.
Now there’s a stone that stills a falling tear;
The deep rooted coral I failed to see.
I envy clown fish, immune to your spear;
Not mangled prey, in your anemone.

The Whittler

written by Antonia Wood
edited by Sianne Fraser


The wooden curls fell into the bath water, darkening as the damp spread through every splinter. Each flake that hit the surface began to float towards each other, clustering as if trying to fuse into a new piece of wood. Those that escaped the formation clung to the gut of the man occupying the bath, who persevered with his furtive whittling at the chunk of Beech clasped in his palm.

His brow was knitted with concentration as he carved, angling the blade with precision to create the desired curve.

“It’s all about the strokes,” he muttered under his breath. “Smooth strokes, with the grain of the wood.”

The blade in his hand moved obediently.

He wedged his tongue between his thin lips as he carved; his expression almost amounted to fixation, his pale blue eyes quivering with excitement as he performed the final stroke.

“There now Polly. All finished, aside from a lick of paint.” He chuckled to himself, holding the wooden figure before him, arms outstretched so he could admire his work from a new perspective. The model was about five inches in height, and resembled a head resting above an hourglass figure, which was slight, and distinctly recognisable as girlish.

He thought about how he had painted his models in the past. His own method of making them ‘come to life.’ He gave each figure the correct eye and skin colour with acrylic paint, before using his own organic colourant to stain the fabric of the dresses. He took this dye from what he called ‘leftovers’, and each model wore the same colour, though the dye was unique to each doll.  The man’s pulse began to quicken as he thought about staining the dresses, about the pungent stench of iron as he opened the jar of ‘leftovers’, dipping the cloth into the sticky liquid. Still red. Still warm…

Yes! Then he would apply the hair, gluing it on strand by strand from a lock of hair wound tightly around his finger… No, no! The Whittler shook his head violently, as if trying to shake off a wasp that had already stung him once, and was preparing for a second attempt. He pounded a fist against the bathroom tiles.

“NO! No, no, no, no!”

He began to take deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling until his pulse slowed and he felt calm again.

“Come on Joshua,” He told himself, panting. “Not today. They’re going to check on you today. You’re not a monster, you’re a person. You’ve come this far and you don’t deserve to go back there.”

Placing the carving calmly to one side he stood up and got out of the bath. Reaching for a matted towel, the Whittler proceeded to pat down his body. He was tall and slight in build, aside from his protruding stomach, which made him look exceptionally top-heavy. Both his torso and head were hairless, and he wore a smile-less expression, which gave him a permanent look of sincerity. After the ritualistic drying was completed, the man pulled on a towelling robe and reached for his model. He inspected it meticulously, stroking a calloused finger along the smooth wood, praying he hadn’t made it damp with all his splashing. Once satisfied, he made his way across the well-lit landing to his bedroom, where he dressed himself, before making his way downstairs.

He had only just had time to make himself a cup of coffee when there was a sharp knock at the door. He glanced towards the digital clock on the oven: Its green digits read 8:55am. She’s early again. He thought. When people say 9 o’clock, I expect them at 9 o’clock.

He stuffed the model into his pocket and opened the door to a large woman wearing a knee-length floral dress with a button up front. She had a dark complexion, but her cheeks blushed a rose colour. Her smiling face was framed by her hair, which was peppered grey. An identity tag was pinned to her left breast, and a clipboard was wedged tightly under one arm. The Whittler detected a hint of stale cigarette smoke disguised by her floral perfume and he flared his nostrils in repulsion. Why did they always send this repugnant woman? She was all flesh and smiles and smoke. He found it so very distasteful. So very impure…

“Good morning Joshua… Ooh, lovely day isn’t it?”

“Well, I guess it’s warm.” He tried his best to muster a polite smile, masking his dislike for the woman. Other adults made him uncomfortable, particularly women.

Joshua Robertson had little more to say, and stepped into the house. He gestured for the woman to follow, which she did promptly.

“Cup of tea, Violet?” Mr Robertson muttered, again trying to seem hospitable.

“No thanks, I’m far too hot… I’ll take a glass of squash if you have any?”

The woman sat down. Joshua padded over to the sink and began to pour a glass of squash. He was reluctant to begin speaking to her, and ensured that he took his time measuring out the correct amount of orange squash and running the water over his finger until it was as cold as possible. After a few minutes, he handed her the drink, and sat in a chair opposite her.

“Thanks,” she began. “Right, so… how are you finding the rehabilitation programme so far?”

“It’s good. The meeting groups are proving very useful.”

“Mm, yes,” the woman nodded whilst making notes. Joshua tried to peer at them but she kept them well hidden. “I know that they are very different to the programmes whilst you were with us at Lindholme, but do you feel like the programmes are working together, you know, giving you consistent coping mechanisms, control methods and such?”

“Yes, I mean… well… I still sometimes get these thoughts… flashbacks… I spent many years inside dwelling on it… but… the sessions are helping.”

“Well, that’s fantastic Joshua. That’s great to hear, really it is. You do realise that we still need to monitor your progress? We aren’t legally able to leave you be until you are what is considered ‘fully recovered’.”

“Yes, I know.” His voice was pregnant with relief. “I’d rather it be that way. I like knowing that you are here, in case I feel-“

“-That way again, yes, I know.”

Violet noticed the model bulging out his trouser pocket.

“What’s that Joshua?” She smiled, nodding towards what she had seen. The man felt a sudden wave of anxiety. He began to sweat nervously, his stomach churning. She can’t know. He thought. She musn’t know about the dolls. She mustn’t know about my girls. They arrested me for assaulting one girl, the girl that got away. If they knew… If they knew there were others…

Amongst the blind panic and ‘what ifs’ rolling through Joshua’s mind he developed an idea.

“Oh… This?” He pulled the doll from the trouser pocket and handed it to the woman. “Sometimes I just whittle, it’s a hobby really… I use it as an outlet. It helps.” He smiled. It was what the woman wanted to hear.

“Yes, of course. It’s good that you have an outlet. Very good. And might I add that this is marvellous craftsmanship… really marvellous. Although if you feel the distraction isn’t working…  Just make sure if you feel as though you are slipping into old habit-“

“Yes. I know your number. I have every contact I need. Trust me, I don’t want to go back to that place.” Joshua felt relieved that the woman had not attempted to delve any deeper into his fascination with doll making.

The conversation continued for another hour, the woman asking endless questions, offering advice, handing Joshua leaflets to further group sessions. Eventually, she got up to leave.

“Joshua, you really are making fantastic progress, really. You should be proud of yourself. I’m seeing a real progression in control. We’ll get there soon, it’s just a matter of continuing with the counselling for a while longer.” After the door had closed behind her, Joshua smirked to himself. She had believed him, perhaps he’d even believed himself. After all, he’d believed it enough to be placed on the rehabilitation and relocation programme hadn’t he?

Feeling hopeful, he waved the woman goodbye from the kitchen window, watching as she drove away.

A figure in next door’s garden caught his eye. It was Polly, the neighbour’s sister’s daughter. She was a frequent visitor next door, The Whittler had begun to recognise her as the girl that played with her dolls in the back garden. Polly with her expression of childish bewilderment. Polly with her skinny, girlish frame. Polly with her ginger curls. Polly.

He watched the girl. Glancing at the field behind the garden, he pictured her hot blood running into the soil. The Whittler thought about painting the doll in his hand, staining the dress red, her hair coiled round his finger…

     One last time.