Lockdown Unlocked – A blog from a social distance by Thomas Willshire #1 A Reaction

Numerous friends and friends-of-friends have been nauseatingly productive during the lockdown. It’s awful. Scrolling through my social media right now is akin to attending the music halls of old. Tickets are free, the virtual playbill is crammed with resourceful comic turns and despite being a packed house there’s infinite standing room available. So here I am, sat front and centre, resenting and admiring the endeavours of my vaudevillian pals in equal measure. “Bravo!” I cry, “But no fucking encore I beg you…”. This blog is to be my reaction. Not a response and certainly not a review (I quite like having friends, after all). No, this is definitely a reaction. The herd are bleating and I’m joining the shrill chorus Read More

LISTED by Alex Voakes

Permission. What a bitch. Jonathan Stride, Mr Stride to you, or maybe even Sir to be on the safe side, glanced down at the thick sheaf of paper on his desk. The final deeds for Lot 2574, West Acorn Street had been his for over a year, but wrangling an agreement for its development had taken all his patience and guile, as well as a few less noble qualities. Still, the residents’ petition had been finally silenced, the local Council placated, Government regulations for affordable housing circumvented, and now all that stood between him and a dozen luxury apartments was this guff from the Historic England Society. Whoever the fuck they thought they were. With the agreement that all fixtures, Read More

Virtual Jehovah by Zach Smith

For Redeye the weekends were reserved for video games. His consul of choice was the obscure Nintendo Virtual Boy, an early red on black monochromatic experiment in 3D gaming, which looked like a red turn of the century peepshow box. Redeye was one of the few dedicated players. Today he planned on doing nothing but playing. It was a gray and dizzily day outside so he wouldn’t feel too bad for having “wasted” his time. For nourishment he had a large glass of tomato juice with everything you could imagine inside it: limes, beer, vodka, cheese, olives, tabasco, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, ice, etc. The straw was cut at a 30 degree angle leaving a sharp point Read More

TOMTECH, INC. by Alex Voakes

  “Thanks for this interview. Our readers are very interested in all things organic.” Janet glanced down the gleaming-white corridor. She knew that the word ‘organic’ conjured up a very different picture in the minds of the subscribers to Renewable World. “Our methods are impeccable – we recycle the majority of our water, our solar panels actually feed excess energy into the national grid, and in the past we used natural biological controls on pests.” Dr Bryan smiled. “Ladybirds. Ideal for removing aphids. But since we really locked down on physical interfaces, very little has been getting in or out. We aim for only two organisms in this entire complex. Humans and tomatoes.” “Physical interfaces?” “Where the outside world meets Read More

Matariki & The Love-Torn Sailor by S S Haque

Matariki and the love-torn sailor Sun rose regal and high in the sphere sky strong and eager winds spurred to twirl the heavens. Aukai’s crew loaded stone and tools onto his double-hulled wood canoe this day bodes well for several at sea, he thought but his body’s memory sunk into the soft wet warmth of Alaula, his dawn light, roots and earthly delight   eager sails filled with powerful gusts Aukai palmed the rock around his neck remembered what Alaula had said I’ll love you until all the dawns are spent I’ll love you in the dark of the ocean I’d fly with the fishes for you Aukai rubbed Alaula’s rock breathed sun and salt left the solid shore his Read More

Fearful Symmetry by Fiona Glass

  In the night’s heat a sudden breeze stirs the jungle’s fabric.  Fronds sway uneasily and leaves dance; a shaft of moonlight creates deeper shadows amongst the shadows and is gone, leaving darkness in its wake.  A dark that has nothing to do with velvet, but crushes and cloys, a steamy weight on your chest.  Thunder growls in the distance: a summer storm – or is it the breathy grumble of some wild beast, stalking through the dense under-canopy of vines and shrubs?  There are eyes amongst the fronds now, and the dark stripe of stem on stem could almost be… a tiger, on the prowl. The breeze stirs again and you can almost hear the rustle as it moves, Read More

The Double by Alisha Mughal

  Marie watched herself in the mirror, running the fine-toothed comb down through her long black hair. Keeping her movements slight and to a minimum, she watched her hands, one with its light grip on the comb and the other open flat and hovering behind each tuft the comb ran through, move in a way that reminded her of the stiff, statuesque movements of a doll’s unarticulated limbs. With her head tilted to the side, her hair cascading down over her left shoulder, she admired her bared neck, her right sternocleidomastoid muscle taut. Her reflection in the mirror became her self in front of others, and she thought about how beautiful her neck would look in that soft light that Read More

Body Work by Neil Leadbeater

  The building, noted for its long, low roof and floor-to-ceiling windows, lay at the far end of the school grounds on the north side of town. There was nothing extraordinary about it once you walked inside. It was just a large empty space. There was none of the fancy paraphernalia that you see in gyms today. We went to it once a week between French and Maths. The instructor was an ex-Army Sergeant Major, the sort whose talk was all shout; whose face showed no emotion. We were fresh out of the packet, green as grass; boys without names trained to obey his loud commands without any hint of complaint. Our world was circumscribed, purposeful, exact. We were exercising Read More

How to Break Through Writer’s Block by Alex Voakes

Writer’s Block. It sounds almost reassuring, doesn’t it? You may not be actually producing anything, you may be knotted up and despairing, or guilty and restless and convinced of your own worthlessness as both a creative and a human being, but at least a) there’s a name for it and b) that name includes the word ‘writer’. It could be caused by all sorts of reasons – writing is, if not exactly hard labour, then definitely time-consuming and difficult, and it could be that the writer is too worried about money, or is wrestling with a bout of TB, or has to look after six children under five, or is dealing with PTSD from a recent event, or any one Read More