...And tied in a bow

You tease my heartstrings out and tie them in a bow. But not before you've YANKED with all your might, unreeled me to my spinning, naked core. Not until you’ve run with my quick around the neighbourhood, twice, (I grab the door frame with both hands, not to be dragged after), wrapped my sweet and tenders ‘round house and lamp post and dazed-looking dog. (The door frame’s splintering.) THEN we get to the neat, tidy bow. Not as light as you’d think birds alight on my wires. After-school kids use my innards for skipping. Total strangers stumble over me. The Special Brew crew use my elastics as hammocks in the lager-y light of evening. I’m all out there. Spooling through this pinhole in my chest. That's what you do to me. Every single day. And every day I come back for more.
by
Nick Black
@fuzzynick
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

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Blue

Blue is the only colour. They all look at me as if I am crazy. I'm not crazy. The sky is blue. The sea is blue. I have blue swimming trunks, a blue bucket, a blue spade, a blue towel and a blue lunchbox. With a wave of her hand, Mum makes them stop sneering and laughing. I love Mum. She wears a blue slide in her hair, for me. I spot a small lump in the sand. "Look Mum, it's a red stone." I put it in my bucket. Mum's hand flies to her mouth. A tear appears in the corner of her eye. She smiles triumphantly. Nobody is watching her. Nobody else sees her tear and her smile. I'm not crazy. I'm special. So is my red stone. Blue is not the only colour. There's red. Mum knows. Now she can wear a red slide in her hair.
by
Alva Holland
@Alva1206
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Lights Out

"Chokedamp!" The cry rolled out, silencing all other sounds. Wide eyes, shocking white against mud-coated faces, stared at the low flames in the Davy lamps. Tools clattered to the ground and feet pounded: Hell was coming. A young boy stood, looking back into the darkness for the other miners. "Dad?" Only his voice echoed back. With a whimper, he bolted forwards. An old miner caught him, pulling on him. "Ye cannae go, lad!" he shouted. "Rotherhithe's got 'em." "Dad!" he screamed again, tears leaving silver streaks on his cheeks. The old miner peered into Hell's maw for any light from dying lamps. He saw nothing, muttering truth into the boy's ear. He keened, then stiffened: the lamp at their feet guttered into a taunting wisp of smoke and light. "Run!" the miner growled. "Stop for nowt." He fled, and the miner smiled, even as blue wisps danced for him.
by
Sian Brighal
@sian_ink
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The eye of the beholder

I have a secret. I am a secret. I feel the clasp of my bra bite into my back and pinch my skin; instead of irritating me it feels like a softly whispered secret - “I know you”. Beauty is pain after all. The dull girl on the customer service counter calls my name - “Paul Roche” - and I stand up while the same voice that whispered softly now indignantly screams “Paula” in my head. The inner Paula strides confidently forward in high heels, the docile Paul shuffles in loafers.
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Blot

She is like an ink-blot – this is what I thought. Dark, shapeless. I grew used to having her there, she became... part of the furniture. I felt happier, in some vague way, when she was present. And then one day I came down to breakfast. The room lay brilliant, stroked by sunbeams. But her face turned as I sat down; she looked not at me, but at the newspaper. It was the subtlest gesture, the slightest sign. And I felt slighted. Cut, to my very heart. I was surprised at the pain of it, and at how the ache persisted, as I drank my coffee and discovered I could not eat. The bread became tougher as I chewed. I glanced up, just twice, and yes, she was like an ink blot. The longer I looked, the more I saw in her.
by
Sheena Power

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adhocwinner

Telegraph

First came men with stakes and measures, next the hole-diggers, then the pole-setters, last of all the wire party. Ox-wagons, heavy with felled trees, shook the dust from the earth. The workers had such a thirst she feared they’d drain the well. Her silent husband counted the bills they paid him into the strongbox under the bed. A young Irishman showed her the tiny machine at the head of the line. It clicked like a locust, devouring words. They rumbled onward, straight, across the plains. She shaded her eyes until all she could see of them was a dot. Her husband flattened her, then, for talking to the Irishman. Now, while he harrows the fields, she leans against the pole, one hand on her swelling belly. She listens to the wind humming through the wire, imagines the words chattering up and down, the swarms of unseen people in cities faraway.
by
Sharon Telfer
@sharontelfer
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1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to telegraph@adhocfiction.com

On The Wire

There’s a whisper. That’s what he says. Every day. Drenched in sweat, refusing to stay in from the burning rain. I touched him once, just for a moment. He flinched, but not before I felt his skin and flinched back. Old Ma says he’s got demons in him now. He wandered too far out into the void. No one ever spent a night out and came back. Not till he did. Now they all think he’s gone mad. They tell him to shut up. Still. He’s got me thinking. I run my hands along the receiver, feel the smoothness in its metal shell. It’s unlike anything else in this place. All cut up and jagged, ripped and ruined. I catch him staring at me, chilling me to the bone. There is a crackle as the receiver speaks again. No one pays heed. There’s a whisper. This time I hear it.
by
Paul Alex Gray
@PaulAlexGray
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Death Rattle

He’d begun to defragment sounds so he could distinguish each single click of friction. His razor over morning stubble; if he could decelerate so that each hair was ticked off like the stubby little pins in a music box. The butter knife over toast; if he could smear each crumb one at a time. The metal drum on his cigarette lighter; how deliberately could he thumb it and still get a spark? He took the milk bottle from the fridge without a scrape. Could he insert the spoon in the sugar without the phlegm of a spade in shingle? Stir his tea without clinking the side of the mug? He could hear the scrub of her toothbrush and the static of her hairbrush. Her shuffling walk. He winced, his teeth on edge.
by
Steven John

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Stones ike birds

Stones Like Birds

It’s extraordinary, she thinks, how her brother can skim stones like that – flip-flip-flip across the water. Stones flying like birds. Stones dipping in, out and across the water like a flock of sandpipers. Her brother’s face so serious. Frowning. Concentrating. Two small lines knotted on his forehead. She watches how he flicks his wrist, effortless. She finds up a flat stone. Holds it in the palm of her hand, her fingers. Copies. The stone rises into the air, crashes belly-flop into the lake and sinks out of sight. Her brother turns and laughs, showing his small white teeth. Behind the lake the mountain is covered in pink heather. Damn! She won’t master this. Her brother grunts and flaps his arms. Spittle dribbles from the corners of his mouth. He’ll never speak, they say. Never. She’s the one with words. But between them, they’re just perfect.

Credits

fiction by
Bronwen Griffiths
www.bronwengriff.co.uk

image by
Elena Guzinska
ElenaZinski Art

©
creators

The Light Show

He finds it very hard to branch his thoughts, which meeting him, you would not guess. Works shifts around his studies, parties on the weekends and Going Up in the world. Unusually well-adjusted. He talks so fast, hands rounding and quivering the air like he’s catching at the tails of something swarming there, ideas quick-linking, expansive; fetching him beyond his short stretch of years and making you forget that student-budget suit, chafing at the collar. You do not peer beyond the patter. On the train home that night, he reads a book called ‘Lost Histories’ and fiddles with his phone, the carriage so up-lit he cannot catch a glimpse of flashing darkness past the lurid face at the window. But the lights inside are losing connectivity. Five years behind, a gangly teenage boy with poetry in his pockets and a playlist called ‘Forever’ is crying to him, silently.
by
Olivia Sutherland

Can You Illustrate This Piece?

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2. Send your art to thelightshow@adhocfiction.com

The Disappeared

It is curious that Evelyn would unknowingly find herself lost on a walk she had completed a hundred times before. But what is most curious is that she would join a search party for herself without the slightest clue she was both lost and not lost at all. The missing persons alarm was raised some time around eleven on the eve of Evelyn’s routine walk and by half past, the search party had covered considerable ground. It wasn’t until midnight, however, when Evelyn joined the party herself. The disappeared was now in their midst; unawares and unidentified. Evelyn was suspicious she was the missing person but sceptical about speaking up. Surely they would know by now. What was the catch? As the search dwindled, she no longer felt like Evelyn but, instead, a searcher. Their torchlights licked the earth and the thick smattering of rain soon drowned out any voices.
by
Andrew Richardson
@ARichardson1988
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to thedisappeared@adhocfiction.com

1. This Is The Title

2. You work at the Central Library. 3. You’ve worked there too long. 4. It's driving you crazy (see No. 8). 5. [You may copy/paste a better metaphor under No. 4 later.] 6. It is your job to classify, number and order books. 7. Apart from the bible, very few stories are numbered. 8. That’s a fact. 9. You find this is a drawback, because you can’t refer back (see No. 8). 10. You're writing a numbered story about your life as a librarian. 11. You don’t have to be a good writer to become a librarian. 12. You do need to know a lot about writers and books. And about readers. 13. Did you know that some people like to read the last sentence first? 14. Those people probably don’t like surprises. 15. This story ends with No. 4.
by
Richard de Nooy
@RicharddeNooy
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

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Smoke Screen

He pulls a tin of bait from an old canvas bag, faded to murky green. During the week, the tin of bait sits in the fridge, maggots wriggling in confinement alongside lettuce and a block of cheddar. She lets go of the rod to get out the red tartan Thermos. Sharing a hot, strong tea from plastic cups that taste like summer picnics, they silently watch a duck’s feather float along the surface of the water. Finished drinking, shaking the droplets into the grass verge, she reaches into her jumper and pulls out a ten pack of Marlboro’s from under her bra strap. She knows he ain’t been near there in years, so it’s a safe hiding place. Taking pity, she lights one from her own and holds it out to him between yellowed fingers. He takes it, and they sit together in silence, smoking and fishing.
by
Kate Jones
@katejonespp
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to smokescreen@adhocfiction.com

A heavy man by Jayne Morley

A Heavy Man

She always knows when he is coming - the ornaments rattle in their cases. There are a lot of ornaments and cases in her house, because her mother likes to focus on things that are pretty but that don't matter. He is a heavy man, her mother's husband. He makes the ornaments rattle with his footfall, and he squeezes the breath from the girl just by lying on top of her. He lies on top of her quite often. She has started to scratch at herself, in the night and the early morning. Trying to hurt. She is embarrassed by the chicken scratches on the tops of her skinny thighs, smears of ketchup on French fries. They are not enough. She holds a piece of broken glass, from her princess mirror he has smashed. But still she can't cut. The ornaments begin to rattle, and she conceals the shard. Ready now.

Credits

fiction by
Kathy Stevens
@KathyStevens91

image by
Jayne Morley
jaynemorley.tumblr.com
@jftmorley

©
creators

Heat - Louise Mangos

Heat

It was the hottest summer on record. Everyone waited impatiently for the rains. Dust blew off the clay-baked earth. The heat was so thick it buzzed in Jay’s ears. He poured a few drops of precious water onto his favourite neck scarf and laid its fleeting coolness on his cheek. He wished Mamma would hurry back with ice. The first locust hit the mesh screen with the sound of a torn high voltage wire. Jay ran down the hall and slammed the door. His heart pounded in rhythm to each thud against the rough siding of their home. As he checked the last window in the front room, he looked out to the driveway and saw Mamma in the front of the Chevy, her palm pressed against the windshield, her mouth a perfect round O, her scream drowned by the beat of a million papery wings.

Credits

fiction
&
artwork
by

Louise Mangos
louisemangos.com
@LouiseMangos

©
creator

You scratch I'll sniff-Lance-Tooks

You Scratch and I'll Sniff

The Greyhound’s chemical toilet began stinking fifty miles back. Southern Indiana rolled past and was no distraction at all. He had an itch to travel, not to smell the world. The stench fated the late afternoon heat and he groaned in disgust. Two old ladies in front of him took pity and shared their olfactory defense. They were mid-western angels. “My niece gave me a pack of scented cards, aren’t they pretty?” There was Midnight Surrender, Desert Mist and Sunset Passion. “Don’t worry, young man, we’ll scratch and you sniff.” They smiled and giggled like school girls in a science lab. Pressing “Heavenly Waves” to his nose, he assented. Gossamer Moon, Silken Evenings and Tropical Harmony took him another hundred miles. He lost his saviors in Indianapolis, within the crowds of dreary smelling folk, who might never discover the delights of, Celestial Dew, Infinite Notions, Magic Journeys and Wander Lust.

Credits

fiction by
John Dapolito
Facebook/john.dapolito.50

art by
Lance Tooks
lancetooksjournal.blogspot.com

©
creators

Just a Moment

…he pulls, and this time papa raises a blind and bloody bundle, suckling into cold light, seeking hot skin and beating heart, and papa reveals tears, and fears, and godly thoughts and thank-you’s, and when from behind papa’s pillared legs the infant peeks round, grappling for papa’s clever hand, well… from under papa’s skin bursts a proud shield, bearing ironed-out dents, patched holes, and a new bullet-proof coating, and this life-time’s work shelters junior as he steps forward, reaching for coloured spools, stitch after stitch, he weaves seven sorrows and sins, ecstasies and wonders, until a young man, stands, still and tall, he understands, and spins his own creation, procreation, discovering tender-lust, and the twining and binding of love and lives, for life, a beating, systole-diastole, through the umbilical-thread to mama, till it’s time, and she pushes…
by
Ruth Tamiatto

Can You Illustrate This Piece?

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2. Send your art to justamoment@adhocfiction.com

29

Signe rose from cupronickel sleep into her 29th year. Raw, newly ored. The trick this year was to stay malleable. Last year, her nickel year, she was hard and slow to react, drawing others to her without melding. Signe’s village neighbors had all passed through their copper year before her, and Signe had been hungry for it: the freedom to be verdigris—beautified by weathering, protected by corroding. The year ahead was open as a prairie, an endless age before she brassed into her zinc year, a bitter and brittle one to be sure. Placing a penny in each shoe, Signe stepped out of her cottage and into the wet winter fog. She followed the dirt road, which after a time became a paved road. Into the city, into the shining city, dreaming of some tin soul to bronze with, some livewire to plate herself around and conduct into electric night.
by
Jessica Franken
@jes3ica
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

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Nighthawks by Jayne Morley

Nighthawks

She slips onto the next stool, lips as red as her dress. “Buy me a cuppa coffee, Mister?” I tip my hat and nod to the boy behind the counter. The urn spits and steams. He stares at her breasts as he sets the cup down, his acne raw under the fluorescents. A whisper of silk on silk as she crosses her legs. She holds up the coffee to warm her face, though the day’s heat lingers, even at the witching hour. A lone car passes up Greenwich Avenue. I offer her a Marlboro but she shakes her head. “You got any dough?” I reach in my pocket and hand her a fold of greenbacks, no questions asked. She holds it up in the fingers of one hand, then looks out through the plate glass window to where someone stands watching, his cigarette glowing in the hot feral night.

Credits

fiction by
Fiona J. Mackintosh
@fionajanemack

image by
Jayne Morley
jaynemorley.tumblr.com
@jftmorley

©
creators