‘Frankie’ by Fabio Sassi

frankie.jpg

Collage, 8″x11

 


FABIO SASSI makes photos and acrylics putting a quirky twist to his subjects. Sometimes he employs an unusual perspective that gives a new angle of view using what is hidden, discarded or considered to have no worth by the mainstream. Fabio lives in Bologna, Italy. His work can be viewed at www.fabiosassi.foliohd.com.

Copyright © 2019 by Fabio Sassi. All rights reserved.

 

‘Fragments’ by Steven Tutino

“Art is the highest expression of my being. I was born to create. I live freely through art. I think in color and dream in color. Color has significance for me because color is the expression of spirit. There is a spiritual significance to color and the merging of colors that blend and fuse while still retaining their distinctiveness. When I create, I am no longer a stranger in the world, but a welcomed guest. The feeling of creating a work of art is absolute fulfillment, the sense of having acquired an inner peace through the integration of mind, body and spirit. Art conquers and washes away fears and anxieties. When I create, I am no longer divided or cut in two. Rather, I am wholehearted, blissful bliss pouring out of my being into love of all things. I am whole and young. I give a sigh of relief. I am at peace with myself, a freely-flowing unity, lover of all things. I am real. I am alive. I am myself. I am reaching toward Spirit. Art is about a spiritual quest, the attainment of a purity and dignity in the reaching toward Spirit. Painting is like dancing in color, through color, with color. It is discovery, revelation, Being, Truth, Goodness. Art is the hunger-mark of my being. I create in freely flowing streams. Nothing scares me anymore. I am no longer broken. There are no broken pieces inside. Pursuing art is pursuing the attainment of a higher good, a good that is dignifying and ennobling and that enables spiritual growth and transformation. Art can lead to a transformation in one’s outlook on life. It can lead to an expansion of horizons. It is a true conversion experience. Art is a marker of the human spirit, the desire to create meaning in the act of pursuing what is valuable and worthwhile. Art is Love. Art brings communities together. It forges communities by bringing people engaged in the pursuit of meaning and a higher, more noble good, together. And together, they sustain one another in their pursuit of wisdom and their longing for the discovery of knowledge and truth. They support one another in the pursuit of a common goal. Here we see a community united, devoted, in love… Their is a spiritual truth in the desire to communicate more fully what it means to live and die for art, what it means to live and breathe like the wind and surrender oneself to the fury of sunrises and the fury of a thousand kisses and the fury of a fiery love, ardent and noble and true that it leaves you clinging to the other more fully.”

 


STEVEN TUTINO is currently a graduate student at Concordia University in the process of completing an M.A. in Theological Studies. He obtained a double major from Concordia as well in Honors English Literature and Theological Studies. His poetry has appeared in Concordia University’s Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality, The Paragon Journal, Halcyon Days, Perspectives Magazine and Founder’s Favorites. His artwork has appeared in Word in the World, The Paragon Journal, The Minetta Review, Beautiful Minds Magazine, GFT Press: Ground Fresh Thursday, Michael Jacobson’s The New-Post Literate, The Omnicult, November Bees: Journal of art and literature, Inside the Bell Jar, and Hour After Happy Hour Review. Steven currently resides in Montreal, Quebec.

Copyright © 2019 by Steven Tutino. All rights reserved.

‘Indigo’ and ‘The Arcade’ by Phiz

 

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PHIZ is a queer artist and 3D Designer based in London, UK. Her illustrations focus on mental health, feminism and queernesstrying to deal with the big issues through flowers and magic. Through her work, Phiz hopes to give a voice and offer representation to a community who is severely lacking it. Follow her on Instagram@lunaticillustration

Copyright © 2019 by Phiz. All rights reserved.

‘Creatures of a Moment’ by Samantha Thayer

Jarred

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

On Wednesday, I watched her steal a daylily from my garden. On the following Sunday, she chose an orchid.

At first I thought she had mistaken them for hers. After all, our neighboring gardens nearly overlapped. It was on Thursday, I watched as her despairing gaze visited my home. Then, when she failed to see me hiding behind the curtain, she reached over and plucked a tulip.

I respected that she was so careful—as though the flowers were built of shattered glass and she was afraid of cutting herself. She always chose specific flowers. Perfect specimens, regarding every petal. Her visits were infrequent enough to never affect the garden’s growth, as it still flourished with over a dozen breeds of flower.

The reason behind her thievery was a mystery to me. Although she had been my neighbor for years, she hid beneath a dark baseball cap as though she was ashamed to look at the world. But she was not fearful. No, she stood tall and proud. One could gain a moment of confidence just by watching her.

Her name was Ava. That was all I truly knew about her. I had made idle attempts to get to know her, but small talk could only get me as far as knowing that tomorrow might be a little cloudy. Her confidence made her challenging to face. I could never find the guts to press a conversation, let alone a confrontation. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought much about her until she started stealing from me. Before then, I was only aware that she didn’t appear to like other people much. So, I left her alone.

Perhaps I should have confronted her on the first day I caught her stealing. Something had prevented me, however, from swinging open the window and demanding to know why she didn’t take from her own garden. Part of me wanted to see where she went with it, the other half was focused on how depressed she appeared as she buried the flower in her palm. I couldn’t build up the courage to interrupt that, not until Monday came.

In the early hours of that morning, I caught her once more, delicately pulling up one of my flowers, which would now only have hours left before it wilted away. They only existed for a moment in time, after all.

Opening the window felt wrong, but I did it anyways, if only to let in a carefree breeze that swept by me and raced eagerly into my home. I did not welcome it. I was already too focused on the girl in my garden, just as she was focused on me

“Excuse me, but . . . just . . .”

Talking was hard. It was always hard. Fighting my tongue to allow the worlds to roll off, rather than cram them back down my throat, was a constant battle. I suddenly wanted to shut the window in hopes that I could shut out that gnawing anxiety. She was stealing and yet I was worried I had interrupted her.

“What are you doing?” My question fumbled out at last, but the breeze was no longer there to carry the vibrations of my quivering voice atop its vigorous waves. Instead, my words dropped to her, placing a visibly heavy weight on her shoulders.

“I’m sorry.” Unlike myself, she did not hesitate. She paused for only a moment and, in that brief passage of time, I watched her collect herself before she straightened to look me dead in the eyes. “I know what I’m doing is wrong,” she said with the same despairing look she had on Sunday, “But I need this.”

It was hardly an answer, barely the distant cousin of an explanation. I watched her focus on the flower. “What do you do with them?” I asked, borrowing enough confidence to lean slightly out of the window.

“I give them to someone.” The vagueness covered her intentions like a widow’s veil.

“To who?” I asked. “Why can’t you bring your own?”

“It’s not that easy to explain,” she responded.

“Then can you show me?”

I hadn’t expected she would crack, let alone cave. Strange as it was with our usual reluctance to share words, I was frantic that come Friday, there would be more than just a flower missing from my garden.

But somehow—miraculously—an agreement was made and I found myself walking side by side with mystery. There was no connection between us other than our overlapping gardens and stolen flowers. Though, that was enough to lead me away from home on a short leash of curiosity.

Of all the places I could have imagined she would bring me, a graveyard was the last of them.

We entered through its gates, the fences’ sword tips stretching towards the late August skies. I wanted to tell her to turn around. I wanted to tell her that everything was okay. She didn’t need to show me so much. She didn’t need to show me where the flowers went after all. Hell, if she wanted to, she could leave me right at those gates and, come Saturday, I could turn a blind eye when her hand trespassed onto my property to snatch away a rose. But I didn’t say anything; instead, I swallowed my words.

When we came to a little gravestone that had the name “Sebastian” carved into its concrete flesh, I lost all my borrowed confidence.

“He loved your flowers.” As she spoke, she lowered the carnation onto the head of the grave where it would eventually fade away. “We always told him to take the flowers from our garden if he wanted them… but when we weren’t looking he would just reach over to yours and . . . ”

The wind caught her words, sweeping them away as easily as a stolen daisy, leaving us both in silence. The momentary inability to speak was cruel, but I understood it all too well.

“He was your brother.” I remembered him. A head of messy brown hair and a wild smile that lasted even through the vicious effects of chemotherapy.

“He never kept the flowers, he just gave them to people.” Her expression was haunting, as though her eyes saw the past while her body lived in a tormentous present, fearful of her future. “They made him happy, so I guess he thought they would make others happy too.”

I had asked where the flowers went, but I hadn’t anticipated they would be only one of many in a cemetery of roses. A dying garden.

More often than not, I think about that visit. Though the world may have continued to spin around in its usual pattern with merciless ignorance, everything changed for me. I began to sleep with my body curled into a fist of protest. The fleeting memory of a lively smile on a dying body became the centerpiece of my dreams.

Now, every few weeks, I meet with a girl who hides beneath a dark baseball cap to plant a variety of flowers, in our overlapping gardens. Then, on scattered days of the month, I wave to her from the window as she passes by.

Then, on Tuesday, I watched her borrow a daffodil.

 


SAMANTHA THAYER is a creative writer studying both English Literature and Interior Design in Montreal. She was born and raised in a small town that has inspired many of her creative works. When she is not pursuing creative endeavors, she is working in professional pet care or furthering her education.

Copyright © 2019 by Samantha Thayer. All rights reserved.

‘Mythical Forest’ by Renée Cohen

Mythical Forest.JPG

Acrylic on wood

 


RENÉE COHEN is a freelance writer and a mixed media collage and abstract artist. Her work has been exhibited in group and solo shows in Montreal.

Copyright © 2019 by Renée Cohen. All rights reserved.

‘Rooftopper’ by Susan Grundy

Rooftopper.jpg

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

Liam was six when he started to shimmy up the doorway moldings. “Look Mom!” he’d cry from the ceiling. “No hands!”

Lena tried to discourage him. “Why don’t you play hockey or soccer like a normal kid?” she would ask, but there was no stopping the climb that carried her son through boyhood and adolescence, from doorways to signposts to the roof of their house and all the other roofs in their neighbourhood. The taller he grew, the greater the assent. The therapist said he would grow out of it. Lena was not so sure, but she carried on as single mothers do.

“I’m glad you’re here,” she confessed to the police when they came knocking on her door –– incriminating words that she later denied. Although she was angry with her idiot son, Lena had no intention of testifying against him. She claimed to be ignorant about his YouTube video, the one responsible for the new silver strands in her hair, the same video that had blown up on social media

The police forced her to watch the footage, all eyes upon her. “Do you recognize your son’s baseball cap?” they asked.

“No comment.”

“Does it bother you, what he does?” one of the cops whispered, hoping for a confession.

“Breaking into abandoned buildings, hanging off forty-story buildings? What do the kids call it? Urban exploring? Urbexing?”

Lena said nothing.

The police lingered for hours, waving their search warrant, checking every drawer, every closet. They confiscated cell phones, computers, camera equipment. Before leaving, they locked Liam’s wrists in handcuffs.

“Looks worse than it is,” Liam told her.

As Lena closed the door behind them, she heard the neighbours congregating on the sidewalk, her privacy now invaded on both sides of the front door. Her son had gone too far this time.

Liam returned home victorious, the evidence too thin for a conviction. Urbexing had triumphed over the legal system. It was clear to Lena that her son had learned nothing, and had every intention of carrying on as usual. The video of Liam, teetering on the edge of oblivion four hundred feet in the air, played over and over in her mind. She couldn’t sleep. But when she explained to Liam that his urbexing was slowly killing her, he simply took Lena’s hand, and told her not to worry. Lena stared down at the fingers she loved so much wrapped around her own, and the germ of an idea began to form.

At five o’clock on a Friday afternoon, Lena pushed against the revolving doors of the Imperial Bank Tower in Downtown Montreal, and made her way against the crowd of exiting office workers. The guard behind the security desk turned away to answer the phone. Lena waited for the elevator to be empty, and then stepped inside, pressing the top button for the 40th floor. As the door was closing, a tall man with a briefcase slipped inside, and studied the panel before retreating to the far corner of the elevator, diagonally across from Lena. He tapped his feet while they were hurtled upwards, his Louis Vuitton loafers gigantic next to Lena’s sneakers. She watched the numbers flash on the panel. When the door opened onto the 40th floor, Lena rushed into the hallway, tripping over the grey-blue carpeting. Her knapsack fell to the floor.

“Can I help you?” the tall man’s voice called from behind her.

She stopped and turned. The skin on his face was smooth and flushed. He looked young enough to be Liam’s older brother.

“I’m looking for Blake & Smythe.” She remembered the law firm’s name from a sign in the lobby.

“Their offices are on the 30th.” He eyed the backpack with either curiosity or suspicion–– Lena wasn’t sure.

“Your first time here?” he asked.

“I’m familiar with the building.” It wasn’t a lie. She’d watched Liam’s video at least fifty times.

He pressed the down button for the elevator, and showed no sign of leaving.

“Think I’ll take the stairs. I need the exercise.” Lena sprinted towards the flashing exit sign that she recognized from the video. Inside the stairwell, she steadied herself against the concrete wall, and studied the bright red steel of the rooftop door looming from the top of a narrow set of metal grated steps. The door appeared more intimidating than on film, and she considered that it might now be connected to an alarm. She pulled down on the metal bar, and then pushed. The door didn’t budge. She pushed harder. Nothing.

“You’ve got to be joking!” Lena hurled every part of her raging motherhood against the steel. The door yielded. Lena held her breath waiting for the deafening bell or shrill siren, but the only noise came from the high-pitched whistle of rushing air. She stepped outside and the door slammed shut behind her.

The force of the wind whipped Lena’s long hair in every direction, blinding her. She crouched down and pulled out a camera and a black ski mask from the knapsack. After adjusting the mask on her face and tightening the straps of the knapsack, she set out to follow the phantom footsteps of her son.

Later that evening, Lena wrote the first entry in her journal.

The rooftop swept away the anger towards my son, and the tedium of responsibility weighing on my shoulders. No longer playing the starring role, I graduated to a silent spectator. What a performance! Under the sky’s unfathomable vastness, the sinking sun illuminated the city with her fabulous golden light. Everything else paled in comparison. For a precious moment, nothing mattered.

Lena did not mention in her journal how the door had refused to open, that she was stuck on the rooftop, how she made an unforeseen phone call for help, and forty-five minutes later a pale-faced Liam had flung open the red steel door. She didn’t have to record any of this. It was all caught on film.

“See how it feels?” Lena asked her son through the lens.

Liam was quiet that evening. They ordered Indian food, and watched her video. Lena helped herself to seconds. Liam barely touched his plate. He asked his mother to swear that she’d never pull a stunt like that again, or post anything on the Internet. Lena asked what he would promise in return. Neither agreed to anything.

* * *

A year has passed. Last spring Liam graduated from college, and moved into his own apartment on the other side of the city. Tonight he treats his mother to dinner.

Lena checks the weather before changing her clothes and stepping outside. It is almost midnight when she crouches down on the gravel and grabs on to the gutter rail, expertly swinging her legs over the edge of the roof. Her dusty shoes dangle seven stories above street level. A bitter wind bites on the bare skin on the small of her back where the windbreaker rides up. She adjusts her ski mask. Breath softens. Heart calms. This is her favorite moment, the one that follows the inspiration, the planning, and the uncertainty of what might happen. She has arrived safely at tonight’s destination. Perched on this rooftop under the night canopy, Lena feels alive.

Clouds recede, the atmosphere clears, and shadows become transparent. Lena leans forward to peer down at the street. This is not the highest rooftop she has navigated, not even close, but the days are numbered for this abandoned building, once a garment factory. Tomorrow, it could be sitting in concrete rubble. Later tonight, while the details are still fresh, Lena will record notes in a journal for the book she will one day write. In the meantime, she reaches for her camera.

The sound of crunching gravel. Lena turns her head as the flash from a lighter reveals the faces of two teenagers. Confident the boys will keep their distance, Lena looks to the east where the full moon has paused directly above the Imperial Bank Tower; hovering like a luminescent large dot of exclamation. “Perfect,” she whispers, and takes a photo.

Lena looks to the north where Liam is fast sleep. She thinks of quitting her job, and exploring other cities. For now, she swings her dangling legs back onto the roof and brushes the gravel dust from her jeans. The two teenagers say nothing as she heads for the fire escape. They’ve heard the stories about a middle-aged woman with a black ski mask who never speaks. There’s a rumor among the city’s outlaw explorers that to cross her path on a rooftop is a sign of good luck, like receiving a mother’s blessing. It is the boys’ lucky night. They stand and salute her.

 


SUSAN GRUNDY recently changed paths, from marketing consultant to fiction writer. One of her short stories has appeared in The Danforth Review. Earlier this year, she completed her first novel, a story about a hard-edged Montreal architect who breaks free from a painful ancestral cycle. Susan lives in Montreal.

Copyright © 2019 by Susan Grundy. All rights reserved.

‘Alley Cats’ by Jeanne D

2019-03-11

 


JEANNE D is a young illustrator and designer living in Montreal. She spends most of her time wondering about her place in this world and likes to stay home way too much. She might be seen sitting near these windows at the National Library, only on sunny days, if you are lucky.

Copyright © 2019 by Jeanne D. All rights reserved.

 

‘Wedding Pictures’ by Isobel Cunningham

Wedding Pictures

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

Hi, Honey! Oh, Granny is so glad to see you. I hardly ever get a chance to baby-sit now that Nanna lives with you guys. I can’t compete with her!

Oh, my. Look how you’ve grown. You’re a big girl now, five years old already! C’mon in, Granny has oatmeal cookies and milky tea just like the other time. Only don’t tell Mummy or you’ll never be allowed back! Just kidding, darling . . . wave bye-bye to Mummy in the car.

Yes, Granny’s been decluttering—throwing out old pictures and books and things. What, this big white book? That’s Granny’s wedding album. Pictures of the day Granny got married to Grandpa. No, Grandpa doesn’t live with Granny any more.

It’s a wedding, you know, the day people get married. Marriage. Do you know what that is? Well, maybe you don’t.

You’ve seen people riding around in big cars in the summer in white dresses or in a horse and carriage like last summer when my neighbors finally got that lowlife to marry their youngest . . . well, never mind. So, these are Granny’s pictures. From the olden days! D’you want to have a look?

Wait, Granny will just pour the tea and get the cookies and we’ll look together, OK?

Why do people get married, honey? Well, they love each other and want to promise in front of everybody that they’ll keep on loving each other, and stay together, and share everything and raise a family. It’s a lovely day. It was a lovely sunny day for us, I remember.

Well, no, Granny and Grandpa didn’t stay together for our whole lives, darling. Ten years was quite enough.

Lying? Of course not. How could we have known we’d get divorced?

I know Nanna always tells you that you should keep your promises . . . and not tell lies. Yes, she’s quite right.

It’s hard to judge though when you’re just a young girl. What’s that? Your Nana says you shouldn’t judge other people? Well, that’s easy for her to say. Her husband died young before he had a chance to go off the rails, poor guy. You see, there is such a thing as “Good Judgement,” and Granny didn’t have any of that when she married Grandpa.

Yes, we do all look nice, all dressed up and smiling. Except this old man? You’re right, he does look a little grouchy. That’s my Daddy, your great grandfather. He was pretty mad that day. He had to pay for a big party for the wedding and he didn’t like Grandpa very much.

So, why did he pay? Well, I guess he wanted to please me and my mom, to make us happy. No, I wouldn’t say he was a people pleaser. I know, Nanna says you shouldn’t be a people pleaser.

That man in the long dress is the priest. I’m sure you don’t know any men in long dresses like that. Your Nanna’s a Baptist, and they don’t go in for that, and I doubt your mother and that man of hers—yes, dear, Barry—have set foot in a church in twenty years.

That’s the priest blessing us. I don’t really know what that means, dear but he made a sign of the cross like this over us. No, you don’t need to make that sign at home…well, yes, maybe over the cat. That would be alright.

We went to church because it was the most important day of our lives. Not any more, only at Christmas and Easter. I go for the music.

Look! This picture shows the whole family. Nice, eh? People always come together for a wedding. That’s my older brother, James. Oh, I haven’t seen him for years. He took all your great grandfather’s money when he died, and didn’t give one red cent to me, his only sister, so we had a big fight and I haven’t seen him since.

Yes, I know I tell you not to fight with your brother. This was very important though, he —oh, well never mind. Have another cookie and we’ll turn over the page.

Oh, there I am with my long veil and the train on my dress all spread out. You know, that was my grandmother’s dress. That’s why it has long sleeves and doesn’t look like a bathing suit or a chorus girl’s outfit, like the wedding dresses the brides wear these days. Maybe one day you’ll wear it at your wedding. Would you like that? It’s a tradition in our family. Even your mother wore it once.

I have to admit it hasn’t brought much luck the last couple of times it was worn, but maybe if you carry on the tradition – what’s a tradition? Well, it’s something we do over and over again. We like doing it, and it feels comfortable.

No, dear, not like biting your nails. That’s not a tradition.

Here we’re putting on the rings. Yes, I have mine somewhere in my jewelry box. You have to make your promises when you put them on in the ceremony. To love, honor and obey. That’s what I had to promise. They told you what to promise in those days. You couldn’t make it all up yourself. No, only the last part was really hard. I did love Grandpa and honored him like any other human being, but as for obeying some of the nonsense that came out of his mouth, well, really honey, there are limits. You’ll find that out as you get older.

I guess it is a silly idea if you think about it. Marriage! After all, imagine making promises about things you can’t be sure of.

Is there anything I’m sure about, honey? Not many things, not anymore, but there are still a few. I know I’ll always have milky tea, oatmeal cookies and love waiting for you.

Let’s put this old book away now. I think I’d like to paint a picture this morning. How about you? You can take it home to Nanna if you want, and she can do a critique. What’s a critique? Questions, questions! Go get the paint box.

 


ISOBEL CUNNINGHAM writes short fiction and poetry. Her poetry book, Northern Compass, appeared in 2015 and is available on Amazon. Her poetry has appeared in The Lake, Rat’s Ass Review and Silver Birch Literary Blog. Her fiction has appeared in Passager Journal and Dime Show Review. She is working on her first novel.

Copyright © 2019 by Isobel Cunningham. All rights reserved.

‘Tartes aux Bleuets’ by Sabrina Fielding

Tartes Aux Bleuets

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

April 7th, 1958
Dear Mr. Arthur Brenner, 

My name is Elizabeth Wellington. I’m writing to inquire about a matter that is both entirely critical and absolutely none of my business. I have mistakenly received a bill bearing your name for a purchase of 68 tartes aux bleuets from Lefort’s Bakery in Saguenay, Quebec. I want to be sure you are to pay for and receive your order in a timely manner, but I am ashamed to admit it was not my main incentive to write—and this is where the “absolutely none of my business” part comes in—I am curious to know what a single person could do with 68 blueberry pies. I’ve had good pie in my lifetime, but I cannot fathom eating nearly 70 of them myself. That was the other thing that intrigued me: why 68? Why not round it up to an even 70? Are you on a budget? Where would one store this much pie? 

I have far too much time on my hands. I am a twenty-three-year old English literature graduate, and I have recently returned to the small Vancouver suburb where I spent my childhood. I had hoped to return to a horde of publishers looking to print my work. Instead, I was greeted by my house cat Gerald who was twelve pounds fatter, and my mother, insistent I learn a “real” skill. She likes to say that it’s never too late to get a woman in the kitchen—as you can see, my future is promising. That is, if I don’t go mad first. 

I apologize for my nosiness. Please know that you are merely humouring a pathetically eager woman who could once list every work by Oscar Wilde, but whose apron-wrapped soul now wastes away in a casserole dish. 

I hope to hear back from you. 

Sincerest regards,
Elizabeth

***

June 29th, 1958
Dear Mr. Brenner, 

I am going to assume by your silence that you are either:

a. Too busy consuming the monumental number of pies you purchased, or

b. Feel it unworthy of your time to respond to such a foolish girl.

Out of respect for my own sanity, I shall go with the former. 

I woke up this morning with salt encrusting the corners of my lips, and that’s usually how I know summer has arrived. When I was a little girl, my mother allowed my brother and I to venture down to Kitsilano Beach to search for seashells in the evenings. She would allow an extra slice of rhubarb cake to the child bearing the most impressive seashell. It was always me, until I turned twelve, and she told me that boys wouldn’t care for a girl with the eating habits of a starving wolf. 

Sometimes I still feel like that—a starving wolf, that is. And not for rhubarb cake anymore. It feels as though there’s so much to know and so little space in my brain to know it all, to absorb it. Do you ever feel that way, Mr. Brenner?

I’ve been thinking a lot about your pie predicament, and since I have yet to hear back, I have drawn what I consider to be a very solid conclusion. I believe that you are a young man who spent his own childhood summers with his family in the east by the St. Lawrence River. Perhaps you have your own shell story to tell? You have a large family: there are seven or so of you . . . my regards to your poor mother. You’re a family of all boys, I bet. Boys with identical upward-curve noses, sand-coloured hair, and matching red-and-white swim trunks. I imagine you spent the days part human, part fish, your fingertips wrinkled, and your skin slowly deepening like golden pastry crust. At the end of the day, you would make a stop by Lefort’s Bakery for their world-renowned tarte aux bleuets, where M. Lefort himself would package up the pie and throw in a few Linzer cookies for good measure. Once you arrived home, you would eat the pie straight from the box, the blueberry filling warm from the sun, staining your teeth a deep purple. 

I imagine you grew up to be a businessman, a “mover and shaker” of sorts, the youngest CEO of some expansive, faceless corporation that you’ve managed to take under your wing. You are a bachelor with far too much expendable income, so when you received notice that Lefort’s was going under you did not hesitate to chip in in order to preserve this piece of your childhood. Perhaps exactly the price of 68 pies was all it took to bring the company out of bankruptcy, which would account for this seemingly random number. 

I’m sure the city of Saguenay thanks you greatly for your benevolence. 

Warmly,
Elizabeth

***

August 5th, 1958
Dear Mr. Brenner,

I have finally conceded that I shall most likely never receive a response to these letters, but alas! I am writing yet another one. When my mother saw me with my pen and paper at the kitchen table this morning, she asked me who I could possibly be writing to. I was slightly miffed that she assumed I had so few acquaintances that I hadn’t a single person to whom I could write, but I suppose I cannot really refute it as I am here, scratching out another pitiful plea for an explanation. 

I told my mother it was a boyfriend, and then felt a terrible guilt seize me when her face lit up and she said: “Oh, I’m just thrilled. You’re going to make a fine housewife.” 

I believe I have figured out the true reason behind your order of 68 pies. I’d thought it was an effort to save the bakery, but now I’m sure it must be something more. You are not a bachelor, as I once believed; you have been seeing a sparkly-eyed woman with colourful trousers and a knack for crochet, and after a year, you finally decided to marry her. It couldn’t be a run-of-the-mill marriage proposal, of course. Not for her, the girl who makes the world feel just a little bit sunnier. Perhaps blueberry pie is her favourite dessert, the dessert she made you share with her on your very first outing together. Maybe you met on June the 8th, and you felt the day should be commemorated by a plethora of tart. And then, surrounded by the pastries, you knelt down on one knee and asked for her hand. A lump gathered in your throat, but you tried to swallow it away as you thought about the rest of your life with her. 

She said yes, of course. Nothing says I love you like the sickly-sweet insides oozing from a pie. 

I wish the very best for you and your future wife. A lifetime of happiness and sweets, and all the lovely things. 

Yours,
Elizabeth

***

May 6th, 2018
Dear Ms. Elizabeth Wellington,

I apologize for the slight delay in response, and I hope you are well. My name is Gérard Larouche, and I am the administrative executive of Arthur Brenner Furnishing Co., supplier of all your furniture needs based out of La Malbaie, Quebec. As we are moving distribution centers, I was clearing through a few boxes of paperwork, and came across your letters. The former admin must have kept your letters out of amusement, so they have been sitting here in this office for the last 60 years. 

This may be a disappointment to you (although time heals all, as they say), but I’m afraid the Arthur Brenner you wrote to does not, in fact, exist. A.B.F. Co. was established in 1938 by Ronald Arthur and Edwin Brenner, a businessman and carpenter from Montreal, respectively. From what I am told, they started the company as a small passion project, and eventually became one of the top-selling furniture companies in Eastern Canada. 

As for the blueberry pie, I had to do a little bit of digging to figure that one out: after calling the former admin, and reviewing some archived orders, it appears that in order to celebrate their 20th anniversary, the company ordered pie from a bakery in Saguenay. Though the intention for the original order was for six blueberry pies to be delivered, a clerical error was made, and the number became 68 on the final bill.

I hope this finally answers any questions you may have had, and if you are in need of any furnishings, we would be happy to offer you ten percent off your first purchase. 

Sincerely,
Gérard Larouche, Arthur Brenner
Furnishings Company
249 Rue Montréal, Unité #3
La Malbaie, Québec

 


SABRINA FIELDING is currently studying education and French at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She is a writer for the Queen’s chapter of Her Campus and has had her short stories published in the on-campus magazine, Ultraviolet.

Copyright © 2019 by Sabrina Fielding. All rights reserved.

‘Child’ by Mark Towse

Child

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

There is an evil to him that goes beyond the worst I have read in books or seen in movies—an evil far more threatening than the shadowy figures I bring to life in my stories. The moments when I catch his eye make my skin prickle and my body shudder. It feels like he is running his fingers up and down my spine, and the coldness lingers deep inside me for hours afterward.

My fascination with dark fiction exposes me to all sorts of menace, but nothing ever comes close to the Man that only I can see. I was ten when the visions first started, and, as I got older, they gradually became more frequent. I am thirteen now, and, until the last week, I have been seeing him almost every day. In the beginning, he appeared as a blurry shadow out of the corner of my eye, but each day his presence has become more defined and lingers a little bit longer. I have seen him outside of the house, too. He’s at school, the supermarket, the park . . . everywhere. The same taunting smile greets me every time. He is always wearing the long dark leather trench coat that completes his ominous Manifestation.

Upon first glance, there is a handsomeness to him: pitch black hair, matching stubble, sharp features, a strong chin, crystal blue eyes that suggest purity. When he fixes you in his cold gaze and smiles, an innate ugliness consumes him. His eyes turn black and any humanity fades. It is more than a look of disdain, as though it is causing him pain not to reach inside your chest and rip your heart out. His smell is overpowering and lingers for hours after he visits—rotting meat doused with cheap aftershave.

I live in fear.

At bedtime, I don’t let myself relax, afraid that he might materialize from the darkness. My body lies rigid, eyes fixed on the corner of the room where the moonlight doesn’t reach, and I lay there praying for him not to appear. Eventually, I fall asleep, but sometimes he steps out from behind the closet and I run screaming into my mum’s room. The sound of his taunting laughter is not far behind.

My mum says it’s just a phase, like having an invisible friend, but she’s looked more than a little concerned of late. The interrupted nights and worry for me have depleted her to the point of exhaustion, and I feel guilty for that.

In a desperate attempt, she took me to see a psychiatrist a few weeks ago; a middle-aged lady called Doctor Roper. But, as expected, the Man appeared in the session. At one point he stood behind the doctor with his hands around her neck, mimicking strangulation. I was too scared to speak.

“Tom, take a lollipop and go and sit in reception for a few minutes please,” Dr. Roper said.

Five minutes later, my mum came out with smudged mascara and tears down her cheeks.

I love her. I know she must have been through so much after dad died, but that was so long ago now. It still feels like a dark cloud hovers over our lives. There have been a couple of men in her life over the years. Brian was the coolest, and I hoped he might become part of our family, someone I could perhaps call dad. Towards the end of their relationship, she started treating him badly and kept pushing him away. Eventually, he never came back.

Mum pretends to be strong, but I know it’s just an act. Sometimes I hear her crying in her room. I want to comfort her, but I don’t know what to say. If she is having a particularly bad week, I bring her breakfast in bed. She doesn’t even care when I burn the bacon.

I want to see her smile more often. It makes me feel warm inside when she does, but all I seem to do is worry her.

I often wonder what happened to my dad? How he died? I didn’t know him, and mum hasn’t told me much. If I even mention him, she shuts down. It doesn’t seem fair, but I don’t want to cause any more distress than I already have.

My episodes with the Man have put extra pressure on us. I try not to bother her with it, but his presence has felt more malignant of late, and that terrifies me. Last week when I sat at the kitchen table with my mum. He bent over and whispered in my ear that he was going to kill her and take her head back to hell as a trophy.

It’s hard to tell what’s real or not anymore.

Days have passed since that threat, with no sign of him. I try to convince myself that it was just a silly phase after all—a figment of my over-active imagination. Either way, the house is different without his presence, and things seem to be returning to normal. Last night I slept through for the first time in ages. Mum looks a lot less tired too.

Now, as I lay in bed, I am thinking about new characters for my next story. I even contemplate writing one about the Man that has been tormenting me, perhaps as a form of closure. That might be a bad idea, especially after the last few times. I get so engrossed in my stories that it feels as though the monsters might suddenly jump off the page. Sometimes I can smell them, and if I really concentrate, I can hear their low guttural growls as if they are with me. During my last story, I even thought that I heard footsteps approaching from behind, and I got so scared that I had to throw the pen down. I wondered if it is all just in my head, but that day I swore I felt hot air on the back of my neck. That’s how I know I am getting better at it.

As I am about to close my eyes, a scream rattles through the house. It’s unlike any of the movie screams I have heard before; this one is more of a howl, raw and pained, blood-curdling.

I jump out of bed and rush down the hallway into my mum’s room. The Man turns to look at me as I enter. He is straddling her on the bed with his hands wrapped around her neck. He smiles that signature smile, unveiling his perfect white teeth that only serve to emphasize the darkness of his eyes. He begins to howl with obvious pleasure, removing one hand temporarily to beat his chest in celebration.

I feel as though I might pass out and I lose all feeling in my legs. Frozen in place, all I can do is listen to my mum’s croaks as he continues to choke her, her hands flailing in front of his face.  She’s beginning to look like a blueberry.

Eventually, the room stops spinning and the dream-like sequence becomes all too real.

“It’s been a long time coming, child!” The Man screams.

I feel the warmth spread across the front of my pants and I know he sees it too.

“You’re next, piss stick.”

The mocking laughter that follows flicks a switch inside, and my anger erupts.

I close my eyes, and with the darkness serving as a suitable blank canvas, my imagination beings to paint the worst. The fear has left now. My body trembles with hatred instead, and it fuels my creativity. Soon the spine-chilling cries begin as the first few creatures take form in the temporary dungeon I have created. They are frenzied and starved, and there are sounds of tearing flesh as they begin to feed on each other. Bloody saliva pours from mouths filled with razor-sharp teeth.

As I begin to unlock their makeshift cages, the monsters roar and scream with anticipation; yet, they still feel two-dimensional—fine for my stories, but not good enough to save my mum. I will only have one shot at this. I need this creature to live, breathe, and feel. It must be authentic enough to be brought to life in this room. It needs desire; to be ravenous for murder and the accolade of most evil.

With my eyes still closed, I refocus. This is my last chance. I NEED to save her.

Then I am there, back in the darkness, but this is a new place—one I haven’t been before. There is a putrid smell of death here so strong it makes me want to gag. In the middle of the drab concrete floor, a dark green pool of viscous liquid angrily fizzes and bubbles away. And then the first green vine slowly breaks the surface and begins to dance erratically, as though feeling out its surroundings.

It feels much more real this time. I am its creator, and I have given it life and purpose.

“I demand your presence here with me!” I scream.

Before long, I hear raspy breathing in front of me, and the pungent smell of rotting vegetation fills my nostrils. The creature is born.

I hear a weak groan from the bed. Mum. I almost lose focus but keep my eyes shut tight and add the finishing touches to my creation.

Its green scaly exterior is fortified by hundreds of tendrils that are capable of latching onto their prey and holding them until there is no longer a need. The head is dark green and crowned with two large horn-shaped rocks. Its eyes are as black as coal and sit slightly above its oversized snout. Its nostrils searching the air for its first meal.

The elongated mouth opens to reveal layers of razor-sharp teeth, and its tongue drips with the green substance that hisses as it lands on the wooden floor below.

I open my eyes and watch the Man release his grip around my mum’s neck. He commands the creature to leave, announcing he is already doing the dark work. For a moment, I doubt myself and feel my legs start to go once again. The creature starts to fade, and the Man laughs and places his hands back around her neck. I briefly think that it might be too late.

“This is your fault, child!”

I stare at the scene with mouth wide open. My concentration has gone and with it my creature.

“She killed me, child – put a knife straight through my chest.” He says this as he opens his trench coat, exposing the two-inch wound.

“She killed your daddy, but I’m back now, and I’m going to take care of you both.”

I close my eyes again, and my mind explodes with confusion and rage. Soon the creature is back, but even more desperate and hungry. The roar is fiercer and more intentional this time. Its only sustenance so far has been the evil that I fed it, but it is present now in our world and with all the smells and temptations of fresh human flesh. The creature quivers as though it is all too much, and the tendrils start to dance in the air like kite strings. Finally, they start to work together and slowly pierce through the air towards the Man. He releases his grip and there is another plea for the creature to back down, but it doesn’t help him this time. The creature has fully crossed over.

The tendrils hover a few inches from his face, and although he manages to knock a few away, they keep on coming. The first few launch their attack, coiling around his neck like serpents, and the scream that follows is satisfyingly human. Slowly, they slither upwards leaving a sticky trail on his skin, and then the first one enters his open mouth. I see it visibly snake its way down his throat. Others follow, and soon the Man is clawing at his neck and gasping for breath. The ones not already in his mouth twist and writhe around his body in excitement and soon he is cocooned and incapable of movement.

As I finally open my eyes not wanting to miss the moment, I see the tendril’s hoist the Man’s heart from his mouth. The lifeless body falls to the bed, and once again the eyes fix on me. There isn’t a smile this time though, just a lifeless pose and an unnaturally swollen neck.

The creature roars once more and begins to feast on the heart.

I look towards the blood-painted face of my mum, unable to do anything but watch as my creation continues to dine on its prize. I can see she is starting to take in strained mouthfuls of air. In only a few moments, the Man is stripped of most of his flesh and his intestines lie glistening on the bed next to him. Once done, the creature begins to sniff the air again, ready for its next meal.

“Mum!”

The creature turns to look at me and bares its flesh covered teeth as it sends its tendrils towards me. I close my eyes again and vision the beast back to the place it came from, but it is strong and is not going without a fight. I feel one of the tendrils slide against my cheek, and then dampness around my neck as others begin to slither their way around me. The pressure around my throat begins, and as I begin to struggle for air, I hear the creature move in towards me. It doesn’t want to be locked away again. It has a taste for flesh now. All at once, I unleash the other monsters from their cages, but this time they feel even more real as though I have taken them to the next level. This is getting easier.

The green tendrils work astonishingly fast, pinning them against the wall and ripping them to shreds one by one. There are limbs and heads flying everywhere, accompanied by an orchestra of vicious snarls and pained whimpers. Then I bring a strategy to the savagery, and I begin to flank it from the left with my earlier creations. While it is busy making light work of them, my latest and worst rush in from the right. After a monumental struggle, they eventually manage to bring it down and drag it into its newly formed iron cage. The heavy gate falls behind it.

Finally, I open my eyes. Evil has left the room.

I run to my mum. She is in pain, but at least she is breathing. Her voice is hoarse, and there are red marks around her neck, but we hold each other tight in the knowledge we are lucky to be alive.

As she begins to recover, she tells me she has been seeing him too. Doctor Roper told her that it was just the guilt resurfacing – her brain playing tricks and projecting a physical manifestation of her inner turmoil.

“It wasn’t guilt,” she says. “I would do the same thing over again. Black and blue he used to beat me. That wasn’t the worst of it.”

She goes on to explain that if she tried to resist, he’d threatened to hurt the child. That is what he used to call me apparently, the child—not son.

“Something snapped inside him when he found out he was going to be a father. I refused to get an abortion, and that’s when it all started. He didn’t want to share me and punished me for loving you so much. We weren’t even allowed to leave the house. He said he would kill us both if I ever tried. One afternoon, I walked into your bedroom and found him holding a pillow over your head. That same night, I killed him. I took the largest knife I could find in the drawer and plunged it into his chest. . . and I am not sorry for that. He was an evil and manipulative bastard.”

I guess he even bargained with the devil for a chance at vengeance.

The bruises and cuts plastered all over her body were enough to convince authorities that it was self-defense.

I finally have my answers.

I understand now what made him so terrifying. This character was not a fabrication in a story. He was real—once human but with a soul tarnished by evil. His hate had continued to build even after death and was strong enough to bring him back into our lives.

I hope we have seen the last of him, but if he does return, I will be ready for him.

Evil lurks in the tunnels of my mind, too.

 


MARK TOWSE has only been writing short stories for five months now, but his passion and enthusiasm are unparalleled, and this has recently resulted in paid pieces in many prestigious magazines including Books N’ Pieces, Artpost Magazine, Page & Spine, Montréal Writes, Flash Fiction Online, a recent acceptance for The No Sleep Podcast and six anthologies.

Copyright © 2019 by Mark Towse. All rights reserved.