Aftertaste

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.
by
Grace Cahill

Ritual

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.
by
Hannah Whiteoak
@HannahWhiteoak

I, and my lovers

My mother’s first love broke his neck for the Weimar Republic; her second was exiled after Hitler’s demise. Long before the Velvet Revolution, we fucked in the firing line of cameras and tanks. But then a wall broken for freedom turned our passion to whimpers and drowned them in cards of sex business and videos. Is this what you wanted? cried the young man from Chemnitz. Now an old woman, I remember the peace years, the decades when we let love unravel and opted instead for online shopping. Outside, they are sharpening their axes, and striking about in word and deed. We shall rise from your ash, they scream as they tear down each post and lintel, and throw leather-bound books onto the bonfire of the frustration I, and my lovers, have sown.
by
Sylvia Petter
@SylviaAPetter

Probably Nothing

On the road to Waddington we pass a woman climbing out of a ditch. We pull up after 100 yards and turn to watch her through the TV of our rear window. She brushes something from her pink sweat crops, glances all around. Traipses off in the other direction. "We should’ve gone back," I say, after a while. "Well, we didn’t," says Pete. He leans across to the glove box. It gapes open onto my lap with a clatter of CDs. "Choose something upbeat, for Chrissake." I grab the nearest CD. "She could’ve been mugged and left for dead," I hazard. "Been dumped by an ego-ridden boyfriend. Hit and run. Date rape. Alien abduction." I turn to stare back at the empty stretch of horizon. "It could have been anything." Pete winds his window and sticks a palm out, resisting the breeze. "Yeah," he says, "but it was probably nothing."
by
Linda Grierson-Irish
@lamgiart

The Herd

The steam rose in silent clouds from the large backs of the animals as they ate. Maybe twenty or so in the herd were packed in the courtyard for the early feed as the light rose gently behind the far trees and seeped silk into the inked sky by the milking parlour. Only the small shuffles of hooves in the hay and their heavy exhales lifted out over the air. The calves remained in the straw-warmed barn, blinking a slow morning prayer. Apricot down licked up in tufts by the rough tongues of their mothers. I stood still as a reed, casting a shadow through the doorway longer than the walk there. I watched their stomachs rise and fall in steady peace. I know what I have to do.
by
Louise Cato

@pretendcato

A Life Deconstructed

In the days following her death he walked around the house gathering her things into small piles. Flat items were stacked – papers, cards; other belongings were stowed neatly into bags – unfinished knitting, toiletries. He cleared her side of the wardrobe, and seeing the clean space, emptied his side too. Despite his age, he managed to drag most of the furniture into the garden; and eventually it became easier to knock down the walls, rather than trying to heave the bulkier pieces out. He surprised himself at his own strength. Dismantling was not unlike constructing, it brought a certain purposeful satisfaction, and he arranged everything into tidy piles outside, until there was no 'outside'. A week later all that remained standing was a single front door frame, and he stood at its threshold, uncertain of where it might lead.
by
Laura Adams

Conscious Decisions Never Taken

The detective sergeant never had a pram in the hallway of the flat she lives alone in. At the end of her shift she takes the day’s criminals to her bed. Her lover does too. She doesn’t think there ever was a questionnaire. She can’t recall ticking a box that said No, it just never felt right to kill time chatting to mothers at school gates or in play parks. On weekends, she doesn’t have to drive her teenager, so she can take her car, that has no scuff marks on the back of the driver’s seat, out of the city, to practice the words to break it off with the criminals, telling them it’s not about you it’s just me, but she concedes that at least they’re dependable in their deceit and anyway when her lover won’t divorce his wife, who else is she going to spend Christmas with?
by
Marissa Hoffmann
@Hoffmannwriter

Or Hats

The child presses her nose to the window, still shy with the driver, this woman who is not yet her mother. Out on the road, a woman in pink sprouts tiny balloons for hair. A white plastic bag becomes a dove. This is the game the child plays. Smuggled from the other place, where staircases soared into space and corrugated sheets danced like striped dresses. Windscreen cracks snuggled friendly spiders. Bullet holes on a rusty white van bled a flock of birds against a bleached morning sky. At a junction the car stops. "Look," says the child, forgetting herself, "hats!" The woman glances over at a bush on the roadside, its leaves in floppy layers. She hesitates. "Leaves," she says, gently. The child turns back, drops her forehead against the glass. The woman makes a soft gulping sound, like a fur-balled cat. "Or hats," she says.
by
Linda Grierson-Irish
@lamgiart

You Will Hate Me

You will hate me. That thought is a weight on my shoulders and a tight strap across my chest. I have rung and they are on their way. You slouch in the armchair — oblivious. If life force is palpable it has seeped and leaked out of your pores bit by bit. You have moved like a sloth for days while I've circled the phone not wanting to upset you. Trim. The fat. Off. You don't see what I see — in the mirror. You don't concede your gaunt cheeks, your augmented eyes, and your dull strands of fine hair. It's falling out, did you know? You fail to notice your dismal bones, your frail posture. Your thumb and index finger close easy around your arm. It won't stop you. Every. Breath. Hurts. They'll hook you up to be force-fed. I'm your mother. My love is steel. You will hate me.
by
Charlotte French

Pop

I don't see her enter the train but I see her when she sits down opposite me. She locks her eyes on mine and I feel my cheeks begin to burn. I sink my head a little lower, lift my book a little higher and attempt to disappear. The rest of her expression gives nothing away. My eyes meet hers once more. That same stare in return. Instinct. She knows. But how? There's nothing to know. I pack my book away. Stand and move towards the door, preparing to exit. Smoothly she does the same, an invisible thread between us prompting her movements. She stands behind me. Too close. My heart beats faster. I exit onto the platform. She keeps pace. Annoyance suddenly surfaces. I turn to confront her. Face to face. She stands so close I can smell her bubblegum breath. She blows a single, perfect gum bubble. Pop.
by
Elaine Mead
@_elainemead

20 Seconds during an Earthquake in Walnut, California

you’re in class when it starts and your skin tingles and you smile but the kid with the tight haircut shouts for everyone to get under the desks so you roll your eyes and say yeah sure what the hell everyone down but you have some arthritis so you stay up and this whole thing reminds you about a lecture your father gave you thirty-five years ago about how you’re not a leader and he was right so to spite Tight Haircut and your father you fold your arms and lean back against the whiteboard like you’re James Dean or Marlon Brando not that these kids are old enough to know Brando but this isn’t for them it’s for anyone who wants to know what you’re rebelling against and this stance says, “What do you got?”
by
John Brantingham
facebook/jbrantingham1

Sinking

They say that’s where London used to be, but we don’t remember. We’ve seen pictures – sodden, then dried out, faded pictures. We’ve heard the stories – alcohol-soaked, never-to-dry-out, kaleidoscopic stories. We’ve felt their pain – sob-drowned, sinking, seeping pain. Up here, we say we’re drookit when we’re wet, but they don’t know the word, so they haven’t started to worry yet. We say, ‘Dinna fash,’ instead of ‘don’t worry’. They hear it as comfort. And it is. Though false. If we used their tongue, they’d hear the lie. Up here, even this high, we all lie. And I never did learn how to swim.
by
Karen Jones
@karjon

Miracles

If you pee on toothpaste, and it fizzes, you are pregnant. I want to know, but I am afraid to jinx it with a shop-bought test. But how do you pee on toothpaste? If I were six, I'd know who to ask; we used to deal with disgusting things: frog eyes, mosquito bites, soup made of compost. Now we do spreadsheets and go to staff meetings. I'm alone, it's 3 am. I squeeze the toothpaste and pipe out little people into the sink. This one is lopsided, and this is more like a mouse. I try again: this blob is like a girl. Cadmus had it easy. If I had dragon teeth to sow, I'd watch my warriors sprout out – all grown up, perfectly formed, ready for battle. I'd brandish my sword. Instead, I must become small and slowly go back into childhood, earth, and the dark corners of my body.
by
Roppotucha Greenberg
@roppotucha
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

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The Bear

The striped walls flap in the wind, making a sound that reminds him of summer storms from his childhood. If he closes his eyes he’s transported to the lush greenery, the cool air, and the fierce rustle of leaves before the thunder rumbled. Here, in a world of candy floss, so little is familiar to that time. His new world is one of chaos, loud music, vibrant colours and applause that circles him like a noose. It makes him tired. The lights flicker to blue and his trainer comes towards him. He stumbles to his feet. Thousands of eyes bore into his soul as he first balances a ball, then keeps a balloon in the air. After the applause comes relief. He can hide in his cage, and in the shadows he can cry his tears and pretend for a moment that they are raindrops, and that he is home.
by
Nadia Stone
@gathernomoss
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Bare Bones

'Us sardines have to stick togevver, mate. Life's hard enough as it is. Have you niffed the body odour of twenty sardines squeezed into a tin? Course you ain't. Who'd wanna do that? We have delicate stomachs, us sardines. Delicate bones, too. We squash easy. Ouch! it hurts just'a fink of it.' 'Me, I'm allergic to tin. Come up in hives, I does. Gawd knows why they're considering me fer food. Me allergies an' stuff, that's why I don't holiday in Cornwall. All them tin mines. Not to mention the freezing water in January! And them sharks! Nuff said, eh?' 'Absolutely. You poor thing. I don't understand what we're doing here, though. I was perfectly happy swimming in the Algarve.' 'Ha! You stuck-up toff. We're heading fer toast. Brown bread, dead! Y'know, even if it kills me, I'm gonna makes sure someone chokes on me bones!'
by
Gillian Ainsworth
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In a Bookshop in Finland

They have placed you on a high stool – metal legs, pink vinyl top – a high stool on a platform in the centre of a shop, in Finland where, surprisingly, your books are kept in stock. They have fed you vodka – 80 percent per shot – and you are smiling as if you’ll never stop in a bookshop in Finland. But these are shy people, won’t meet eyes when they talk and all they want to do is walk silently round a bookshop in Finland. They have no desire to gawp. While you are Nelson on a column, David Blaine on his pole, talent sliding off that slippery seat, running out into snow-covered street where the air is clear and chill as vodka. And you are left completely alone.
by
Anne Summerfield
@summerwriter
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Too Much of Anything Can Kill You

At first, it was just an innocuous shopping list. She’d placed it on her arm where it was easy to read. But when she tried to remove it, she found the low-tack adhesive had stuck fast. In time, to-do lists, telephone numbers, don’t forgets, and reminders started to multiply capaciously. Post-it notes were peeled from their stacks and added to her personage in quick succession to conceal the tasks completed or left undone. When an email address became embedded in her elbow she started to wear long sleeved tops. Her clothes became baggy, misshapen, housing the sticky appendages. Her identity slowly smothered; she became a smorgasbord of fluttering patchwork squares, concealing layers of wafer-thin paper cuts, tiny slices in her skin where ink tattooed her veins. She finally freed herself from the burden of every day responsibilities crushed beneath the weight of words.
by
Ellen Kirkman
@poeticnihilist
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A Brief History of Time in our House

This second is the same as the last, a press of the screen, the same exhalation.We lie in bed having social intercourse. Our hearts have pumped four ounces of blood. Minutes replicate themselves like bacteria. Your quantum of likes leave you unloved. We have breathed sixteen litres of air. Little is different in this hour. Our livers have metabolised another drink, the sky sticks on black with white moon. Lunar and menstrual cycles are looping. With variant ingredients we cook the same suppers. Together we have shed a complete layer of skin. We took an excursion around the sun again this year, five hundred million miles back to where we started. The Earth is a fraction warmer although it doesn’t feel it here. Expended another 1.25% of our lives, give or take. On the event horizon of a black hole, time is white. Our white blood cells die every day.
by
Steven John
@stevenjohnwrite
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Peat

There were no brides in Manchester in 1989. Unemployment, falling cinema attendance, and The Problem with Wearing White were offered as factors on the news. It was the year the bog man exhibit came to the museum. Visitors pressed their noses to a glass case, staring at the young man found preserved in peat. He appeared to be sleeping, cradling the land. His tanned arms curved loosely in front of him, as if allowing someone to slip in and out of an embrace. Girls clutched their satchels and wondered if they touched something enough every quality it possessed would seep into their hands. Rent was increasing. Satin reminded people of rain, but the most popular reason for not marrying was peat. Women addressed the camera and stated, Some nights I think about going clubbing, but find myself laid in the garden, touching soil, letting the cool soak into my legs.

Credits

fiction by
Angela Readman
@angelreadman

image by
Chris Espenshade

©
creators

No room for dark thoughts

While a suicide bomber killed whole families in Kabul and Hindu men raped a Muslim girl in Jammu, while Boko Haram kidnapped young women in Chilbok and US diplomats shared porn in Phnom Penh, while Assad gassed his people in Douma and five rangers were killed in the Congo, I walked my dogs over Bathwick Fields and watched the bloodied sun set over the city and breathed the soft English air and allowed no room for dark thoughts.
by
Colette Hill
@colettesylvia
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