There were two of them when she walked in. Teachers never went in those toilets normally. The doors to each stall, like using a hand towel to get changed on the beach. And they stank. But it was before school and she had no choice. It was awkward to position herself in the cubicle and balance on the Lilliputian throne. Looking down and touching in disbelief; knowing immediately what it meant. From that point, the experience becomes a before and after. The after is a memory of senses with no accompanying thought. Her dress had a blue bird print. The toilet paper in her underwear was balled up like a mistake. Her face was wet before she doused it with water. Her abdomen clenched like a fist. In the basin where yesterday there would have been paint flecks and PVA, there was blood. She left, almost certain she was alone.
Kristina Jackets

Bin Day

I tear off a bin liner and begin in the kitchen. Spices we never used; asafoetida, saffron and zatar are trash. Saucers, sauce-boats and saucy fridge magnets. From the dresser; your late mother’s silver cruets are recyclable into solar panels. From the bathroom; lubricant jelly and last Christmas’s antidepressants. From the bedroom; yoga mats and the Working Couple's Karma Sutra. I feel facial winkles flatten out. From the living-room, the family photos, books of haiku and scatter cushions are excess. Stepping into the bin liner is a liberation, a delicious weariness. I knot off from the inside and re-read your note. ‘Tuesday. Bin Day. Remember!’ Your notes are a sales pitch for euthanasia. The light inside the bin liner is black, the air, womby. I feel like an eggshell, broken, but with some inner purpose. The calcium in me is good fertiliser. I can be puréed and added to toothpaste.
Steven John

White Noise Playlists at St. Bernardine Medical Center

FILTER BY: (Name) (Date Played) Julie Ramos: Waterfall in Yosemite, Waves at Big Sur, Bathing in a Tub. Sammy Jefferson: Auto Assembly Line, Interstate Highway, Wind. Thomas Nez: Mockingbirds at night. Rachel Chin: Inner City Park, Brooklyn PS 320 Recess, Suburban Playground. Marine James: Wind in the Sequoias, Clay Chimes on Back Porch. Bob Alameda: Walking on Fall Leaves, Campfire in Yellowstone, Cicadas. Mary Robeson: Fetal Doppler, Heartbeat. Hiroaki Nakamura: Crowded Theater Lobby, San Pedro Fish Market. Jim Abbey: Colorado Thunderstorm, Summer Rain, Faucet Running. Andy Morgan: Freight Train, Train Whistle Across Nebraska, Mourning Doves. Sara Maduro: Raking Leaves, Tumble Dryer, Furnace Ticking. Mark Barone: Typing on Manual Typewriter. Henry Washington: Whetstone, Sizzling Bacon, Montana Morning. NEW PLAYLIST (Create) Name: Amy Jiang Password: •••••••• ADD SOUNDS TO YOUR PLAYLIST: (Browse Categories) (Play Random) (Search) Travel RESULTS Airplane Cabin at Cruising Altitude Sailboat on Chesapeake Bay Commuter Train Harley Davidson Whale Song
Charles Duffie


Sam sees the flint head. Its fish-like shape reminds him of cat biscuits. The glass case steams up as his breath pours a fog across the surface and the flint head swims away. Salt water slides down his cheeks until he licks a drop. Eyes squeeze, heart pumps, his pulse bounces like a ball thudding - don’t, don’t, don’t. Jack watches, “Are you crying?” His whisper crackles like static. His fish hook smile is close to Sam’s cheek. Mum said count to 10. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10..” 10 bored school children, 10 washed out yawns. Mrs Keel’s T-shirt has 10 flowers on it. She’s too far away to see. Always too far away to see. To see the scrape of a heel down Sam’s shins, the pinch of overweight hands on Sam’s flesh. Maybe she needs glasses – mum says lots of people need glasses.
Sarah Richmond

Abyssinia Beloved

Abyssinia, the horn of Africa. I hold my life in a bowl. The rice of today sits fluffy and white as the foam of the sea. The rice maybe my only food for today so, I wait to midday to consume my food. The bowl then becomes useful for coin. My parents departed when I was an infant and I became an orphan to the motherland. I refuse to beg for coin so, I sing the songs of the faithful. I chant the names of the most-high and praise humanity's beloved. When the sun seeps into the bowl of the sea I rest under a nursing tree that my parents planted when they had married. I cup my praying hands into a bowl and speak. ‘I am grateful for my voice, my tree and my bowl. May the joy of life always keep my bowl full of passion and love.’
Abdul-Ahad Patel


Sine over cosine equals tangent. A fly is hitting the window, over and over, by his ear. The square on the hypotenuse is equal ... Every time it hits, the buzz-drone jumps. He is staring at the pattern of its tiny marks, and imagining Charlie, naked. Want to smell my cheese? It's his mate, this fly. Trapped, like him; cruel, really. He bends back his clear plastic ruler to give it a good, hard whack into oblivion, and misses. The fly fizzes up the pane to do its business further off and Miss looks straight at him, sideways, as always. His eyes drop to the notes on his desk. Eat it and find out. Two desks to his left, Charlie shimmers: perfect, engrossing, red cheeks glowing under eyes as blue as this summer afternoon. But those eyes are not on him. They are on Miss. An equailateral triangle. Always.
Andrea Bennett

505 Streetcar

On Sumach, blinking strings of Christmas lights hung with old twist ties light the cracks in broken windows and split veneer, a half-moon is on its back rocking in the severe cold warning at the edge of the tenements near the misplaced Mercedes Benz dealership marking the cross into civilized territory and we still avoid eye contact, the look of disgust on one guy’s face is palpable while he stares at a sex worker who’s staring at me because I’m an easy target for her amusement, white-knuckling my purse, sweating though it’s cold, until the streetcar shakes and screeches into a turn on Broadview, out of the projects, to the station where we burst from the doors and start breathing once our feet touch ground and we part with a secret we can’t tell, like drunk strangers who fuck and wake up hungover, pull on our clothes and slink away.
Trasie Sands

Great White Shark

Sharks rarely attack people. But, when they do, you don't want a top-of-the-food-chain great white. The great white will sever your leg in the blink of a cold, black eye. Probably swim off when she realizes her mistake, but life leaps away with the bloom of your blood if the medics don't get to you quick. Victims say they feel nothing. Just look back and their leg is gone. Can't imagine being so numb. Most sharks are cold-blooded, but great whites are endotherms: they can raise their temperature for sudden bursts of speed. I throb for you all of the time. People think great whites are ugly because they're scary. But – beginning with Jaws – it's the music that renders them monstrous. If you extinguish the noise, they're majestic: their beauty literally awesome. Like yours. If only you came with a soundtrack that would teach me not to love you.
Michelle Christophorou

The Ocular Precision of the Photography Teacher

His finger caresses the shutter button of the Nikon like the lips of a lover. When he’s captured enough life, he takes the camera and retreats into the dark room like a hermit. I follow on the whisper of hope. As he dips and swirls, rinses and hangs, I watch the miracles appear. He spreads his images on the table and points to the tiny details he’s picked up, things he says are not discernible to the human eye: The sun feathering the wing tip of a red kite. The glint of white fear beading the blackness of a vole’s eyeball. The wind sweeping the whiskers of wild barley. But there are things he doesn’t pick up. The red glow highlighting the swirling steam of my coffee cup. The quiver of my blouse covering my beating heart. The pheromones of longing keeping me close to his side.
Louise Mangos

Falling in Love with Vinnie Sparrow Inside and Out

Vinnie Sparrow regularly turns his eyelids inside out on the playground at break time. We squeal with grossed-out delight as he chases us with his sherbet-furred tongue sticking out and those pale pink slivers of skin half covering his sky-blue irises. It snows for four whole days in February, and a group of us goes to the top field to slide down with bin liners borrowed from the custodian’s cleaning cupboard. Vinnie loses control of his stolen canteen tray half way down and tumbles into the wire fence at the back of the football pitch. The packed snow drift behind the goal is splattered with crimson. I clutch him, and stare into the chasm of his gashed cheek, past the shiny amber jewels of fat globules, to the blank white smoothness of his jaw bone. Until Mrs Smithfield says they really need to get him to the hospital.
Louise Mangos

This Is Why Grown-ups Buy Torches

I was a child once, pretty good at it too; laughed too loud, wriggled in chairs, lifted my toes when trying on new shoes. My father spent his days amongst wires and dials, had little time for wriggles and laughter and knew he was a size 10 without lifting a single toe. He gave me a switch for my birthday, 11th or 12th, can’t remember exactly. He told me when it was time to become a man, when I’d grown tired of youth and weary of hope, when my feet were a size 10 and I knew it, I could flick it and turn on the light of adulthood. The day arrived. The world smelled of wet paint and tasted of salt and I bought new shoes without trying them on. I flicked the switch. No light came on but, one went out.
Richard Kemp

Living With the Enemy

We've skirmished for the last twenty years. Our scripted gunshots are programmed into every hour, of every day and so on. We know each others irritated retorts even before we spit them out. It drives me mad (him too). Sometimes I'm so frustrated, I could scream. I feel I'm being smothered by toxic gas and I'm tempted to leave to save my life. Then I look at him and can't actually make it to the door. Yesterday, we found we were on new ground. I didn't want him to come with me, but he came anyway. I'd hoped to be free of his lectures about politicians, the economy, the appalling driving habits of everyone else on the road. I'd wanted peace to face whatever was coming, a clear head. What came was a gigantic truck. After the oncologist had finished explaining, my sparring partner said, 'I'm here, lean on me.'
Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon

Useful objects and fabulous creatures

It wasn't my fault. I just wanted to keep the cats off the lawn. The Catalogue of Useful Objects described it as a harmless deterrent. A local tabby arrived, halted, slunk away. 'It's magic,' said Poppy. 'It's the noise.' I explained how some creatures can hear sounds we can't. 'They've got magic ears,' said Poppy, dismissing ultrasound. Next door's dog came out, bounded towards her, then halted as if at an invisible fence. 'Will it stop unicorns?' Poppy asked, mouth turned down. 'I'm sure it won't.' She doesn't differentiate between real and imaginary. The daylight faded. Poppy dashed down the garden. I thought she had grown three feet till I realised she was mounted on a white, horned animal. 'Come on,' she told it. 'Mum has sugar lumps.' The unicorn moved towards me, hit the barrier. It bucked, turned and trotted off, taking my daughter with it.
Jenny Woodhouse

The Night the Fishmonger's Van Reverses into the Youth Club Pop-up Disco and Shifts Debbi's World

She is spinning when it happens, a big bang, pilchards slithering in an ever-increasing arc, spilled from a giant blue bucket on the back of the fish truck, ice cubes scattering like stars on the shiny black universe of a portable dance floor, spinning, spinning in the centre, Debbi is a brightly-coloured planet wobbling on her axis, thrusting her hips to keep everything suspended in the vacuum, a single mirrored ball sending out filaments from its solar corona, as she sucks the caipirinha from her plastic beaker, bursts of lime juice vesicles stinging her tongue like scales, but she can’t stop spinning, mesmerised as the fish approach in the perfect synchrony of an expanding super nova, as the closing bars of “Discotheque” fade, Bono is the king of the heavens, the Neptune of the deep, and Debbi’s hula hoop clatters to the floor with the last of her determination.
Louise Mangos

A new life

There were no street names to help her orient herself so she followed scents of rosewater and cardamom. Stumbled through cobbled streets and lines of washing, dragging her battered red suitcase to a tiny, yellow rose-filled tea shop. She clutched the key round her neck, the one that unlocked a house that no longer existed, as she drank tea and ate sweet pastries like her mother made, felt the ridges of her neck relax.
Anita Goveas


The cough near lifts him off the ground. Dislodges a deep chunk of something. Like an ice shelf dropping into the sea, much faster than expected. Tries to spit but it's all strings. Between his fingers. A child's game that tells a story if he could only remember the correct shapes. Wiped on his leg. There's a town below the window and he can't remember when he last stepped out. If he's allowed to. If he could make it down the stairs. It's all he can do to catch the pigeon feathers that sink from the rafters and to dream of the ocean beyond the buildings. All this gunk inside him, but never enough wax. He still works away. There's sun out there. Open sky. He could take it in both hands. See his boy again.
Charlie Hill

Only About Love

When I shave him he moves his mouth and face around like he's chewing an invisible sweet. He offers up his neck with absolute trust; I glide the blade down beneath his chin and over his Adam's apple. It's massive, like he's swallowed a rock.     I hear the rasp of his stubble and it's almost like the noise is coming from me, because there is sandpaper inside me. My stomach is made if it. My heart is made of it. My throat. My insides have been transformed into a million tiny pieces of rock.     He can no longer speak, but words are unnecessary. Life is now simple in its cruelty; he once cared for me and now I am caring for him.     Each touch of my fingers on his skin reminds him that love still exists. I want all his waking thoughts from now on to be only about love.
Debbi Voisey

Highway 349

His Plymouth Valiant, the car he'd had since he was sixteen, lay overturned in the ditch. After he had crawled out from under it, Tom sat by the road. It was completely dark, save the headlights pointing, cockeyed and aimless, out into a field. Tom lit a cigarette and inhaled. Some blood had dried on his cheek and he could feel it crack and flake. Jesus Christ, he thought. Jesus. What a mess. After three cigarettes Tom stood up. He felt weak and nauseous. He thought for a moment about turning the headlights off, to save the battery. He laughed. The battery? He had three or four hours of walking ahead of him. He was in the absolute middle of nowhere. But the stars were bright, inspiring, ancient. The car was just a hunk of metal after all. Nothing but a pile of steel and wires.
Travis Cravey


She dresses in white, like a bride, or a sacrifice. A virgin, an angel, a slick-skinned plastic mannequin in the window of the defunct Kohl's in Peoria, where she used to live with Brent, but that was a long time ago, wasn't it Now she lives in New York City. She has left the past behind. The self help books say that is the right thing to do. Move along girl, you are growing and going and doing your thing and toning your butt and drinking kale in a glass! In the restaurant she sears wagyu, pounds duck so thin it melts to nothing. She lashes coconut milk over bittersweet custard, punches rosemary into sourdough, bruises the sweetness out of honeycomb. She sears, pounds, lashes, punches, bruises, she, she, she. Brent is an aftertaste. In the newspapers she is little white hands full of watercress, truffles, saffron strands, michelin stars.
Grace Cahill


It's our Sunday tradition to drive into the Peak District, strap on our water packs, and start our GPS watches. The world brightens during the uphill slog. Ascent defeated, our reward is to share a pack of Jelly Babies as we soak in the view. Today, fog shrouds the summit. Freezing rain drives into my face. I don't stop at the top, but push on, slipping and sliding down the muddy slope. You were always in better shape than me: racing to the top and then looping back, nimble as the sheep that skittered out of your path, to run the steepest sections a second time. I said you had the heart of a man twenty years younger, and you laughed and said you hoped he wouldn't want it back. Driving home alone is the hardest part.
Hannah Whiteoak