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Painted Words 2014

An anthology of writing by Bendigo TAFEs


Professional Writing and Editing Students

Painted Words 2014 is Copyright 2014 Bendigo TAFE


Bendigo TAFE
136 McCrae Street,
Bendigo VIC 3550
Telephone: 1300 554 248
www.bendigotafe.edu.au
Copyright is retained by individual authors. The moral rights of the
authors have been asserted.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved
above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or
introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any
means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise),
without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above
publisher of this book.
The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) allows a maximum of
one chapter or ten per cent of this book, whichever is greater, to be
photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes
provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has
given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL)
under the Act.
First published in Australia in 2014
Printed by:
Griffin Press
3749 Browns Road,
Clayton VIC 3168
Ph: (03) 9265 8252
web: www.griffinpress.com.au
ISBN: 978-0-646-92966-8

Cover illustrationPeter Wiseman Re-Imagined, digital collage, 2014.

Painted Words 2014 | v

Foreword

rom the Digital Revolution to Transmedia Authorship:


Celebrating 10 Editions of Painted Words
This is the tenth edition of Painted Words making it a gala
or commemorative edition of sorts. The many staff and students
who have contributed to the journal over the years might pause
for a moment to reflect upon what has been achieved. Since 2005
weve published hundreds of stories, poems, essays, reviews,
novel extracts, film script extracts, songs, etc. by almost as many
emerging writers and poets.
More personally, this is perhaps the moment to reflect upon
changes in the writing industry since we published our first edition
of Painted Words back in 2005. Back then, the print-based element
to the journal was fundamental (even though that first edition was
also available in CD Rom and Web formats). Interestingly, it was
the CD Rom format (new and shiny in those days) that eventually
went the way of the dinosaurs. Currently, print books and onlinedistributed ebooks slug it out in a fight to the death over dominant
species status. For our purposes, like many PW editions over the
years, this tenth edition will be available in both of these formats.
Back in 2005 writers and publishers were struggling to come
to terms with the impact of textual digitization on older notions
of authorship. Convergence media is the technical term for what
was unfolding. Statewide curriculum developers, PWE staff and,
of course, students, had to confront the role instability unleashed
by the digital revolution. We had to absorb the identity problems

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(for writers) that emerged when sound, moving images and


computerization began to coexist online with older text-based
creative disciplines like poetry, fiction writing, journalism, etc..
Another word used back then to describe the first stage of the
digital revolution was multimedia writing and publishing
cultures were undergoing a multimedia revolution. As PWE
teachers we tried to prepare students for a work life immersed
in an online, digital multimedia environment. Storytelling was
becoming increasingly collaborative.
It is now obvious to all that digitisation trends accelerated
exponentially after 2005. As a consequence, further destabilization
of traditional notions of authorship, writing and publishing was
inevitable. Various communications revolutions swept through
the cultural sphere in quick succession: e.g. revolutions centred
upon social media, tablet/mobile devices, and augmented reality
devices (which will eventually lead to our graduates writing
content for the Internet of Things). Old media authors and
publishers, still reeling from the fall-out related to the first stage
of the digital revolution, were forced once again to adapt or
perish. Concepts such as co-creation, participatory creativity,
memes and expanding narratives provide labels to explain the
impact of the second stage of the digital revolution on writing.
At the core is the notion that digitally born audiences/readers
want to access and participate in stories via multiple media
entry points (platforms, is the technical term). The term being
used to define the kind of writer best adapted to this multiplatform, co-creative, textually volatile media environment
is transmedia author. The concept first surfaced for me whilst
strolling around Hobbiton (situated in the North Island of New
Zealand). Clearly hobbits are inspirational creatures despite their
excessively hairy feet!
Later, after a fascinating presentation by Creativity in Cultural
Context student Angus Fenton, it struck me that writing course

Painted Words 2014 | vii

teachers need to accept that the various writing identities we


teach to (e.g. poet, scriptwriter, journalist, novelist etc.) are
currently merging with a sort of uber writing identity i.e. the
trans-media author. Anguss talk tracked the spread of the
Slenderman phenomenon across dozens of media platforms.
What was fascinating to me was the fact that Slendermans core
narrative blossomed in forums and social networking sites long
before it spread to traditional (i.e. old) media platforms. Sadly,
a book version of the Slenderman narrative was all but last to
emerge strangely enough, as a weird form of monster erotica!
Many things change when we begin to see writing, authorship,
publishing and storytelling in the light of these multi-platform
media trends. Clearly, our graduates need to be equipped to
understand the opportunities attached to such developments.
At present, we dont advertise the fact that we are preparing
students for the brave new world of transmedia authorship
many applicants might not understand how such a mythical
beast connects to traditional notions of authorial identity. Neverthe-less, courses on the topic have started to appear in university
programs around the world. Individually, and as a team, PWE
staff are monitoring this new writing revolution with great
interest. Luckily, the IT skills required to participate in such an
environment are already being taught in our Computer Skills,
Desktop Publishing, and Editing streams. I suspect, however,
that a subject called Transmedia Storytelling will soon become a
staple in our program.
***
Long term PWE teacher and coordinator, Dr. Tom McWilliam,
retired in April after many decades of service to BRIT. His
retirement gathering was well attended with numerous staff
and students present. Tom is a true friend of the creative arts
and humanities in higher education and his wry humour and
immense learnedness is already missed. Tom was replaced as

viii | Painted Words 2014

Editing teacher by Geoff Brown, former BRIT Student of the Year


and editor-in-chief at Cohesion Press. He took on the tricky job
of convincing students that learning about editing is good for
a writers soul! Hes done an admirable job since we still have
many editing students even this late in their sentence.
The small team of Diploma level Project Management
students led, as ever by their teacher, Peter Wiseman deserve
special thanks for their efforts producing this years journal. The
design and organization of the journal is stunning clearly all
the stress, sleeplessness and sedation had creative consequences
for that small but dedicated team! One day I think we might ask
Screenwriting students to devise, and then film, a reality TV show
that follows Project Management students around as they attempt
to produce the journal. It would make for gripping television! I
should also mention Geoff Browns dedicated proofing for this
years journal. His delicate but precise hand (as an editor) is
apparent on every page of Painted Words 2014.
This year we also introduced a new section Mythic Reimaginings, or MR for short. Here writers and poets have taken
an old myth or legend and reworked it for a modern audience.
When you read the work in that section see if you can figure out
the original myths behind each story or poem. Some wonderful
poems by students in my Poetry and Lyric Writing class (held in
Castlemaine) also feature this year, and there are some excellent
pieces by students in Tru Dowlings Popular Fiction class. You
can also read extracts from novels in progress before dipping into
numerous insightful non-fiction pieces birthed and structurallyedited in classes like Journalism, Non-Fiction Writing and PR
Writing.
This gala edition of Painted Words has much to recommend
it. Readers will be treated to short-short fiction, experimental
poetry, suspenseful novel extracts and epic re-imaginings of
timeless myths. So, in the spirit of the dawning age of transmedia

Painted Words 2014 | ix

authorship, Ill conclude with the wish that some of these


wonderful pieces might spread, propagate, go viral, mutate
etc. across numerous media platforms before snowballing into
global super-memes that blur the lines between fact and fiction
at that point their worthy authors might even become fabulously
wealthy!
Dr. Ian Irvine (September 2014)

x | Painted Words 2014

Contents
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Flash Fiction
Life Cycle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cathy Flanagan-Curtain
The Ties That Bind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Jaime McDougall
All the Time in the World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Luke Poulter
Hidden treasure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Marilyn OBrien
The lift . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Marilyn OBrien
A Cautionary Croak . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mitchell Roberts
Frogs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Robyn Miller
Fire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Shannon Carter
A Last Meal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thomas Alexander

2
5
7
10
12
15
17
18
21

Micro Fiction
Jar of Hearts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Jaime McDougall
Rapid Ten . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Luke Poulter
Gone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Lynda Graham
Piss up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Noel Parratt
Aged legs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Noel Parratt
Warning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vanessa Hughes
Condoms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vanessa Hughes

24
25
26
27
27
28
28

Painted Words 2014 | xi

Short Stories
Ghosts of the Past . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Adem Besim
In Dreams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Anthea Matley
Best Kept Secrets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Bryce Gordon
The Ninth Sea Yacht of the Dessert King . . . . . . . . . . . 46
Carolynn Roberts and Jarrad Camm
The Blue Peter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Elvira McIntosh
Two Saddles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
Elvira McIntosh
SKYFIRE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
Harley Ryan
Mischa, Men & Mykonos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Renee George
Alone in the crowd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
Robyn Miller
Stillness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
Shannon Carter
Taking a Chance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
Shannon Carter
The Prodigy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
Shannon Carter
The Escape Artist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108
Shantara Johnstone
Billabong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
Vanessa Hughes

Mythical Re-Imaginings
OIL VERSES COAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
Donna Bridgeman
The King of all Chocolates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125
Donna Bridgeman
Mother Knows Best . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133
Louise Wardle
U.N.C.L.E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
Cathy Flanagan-Curtain

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Mr Prewitts Fall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140
Louise Wardle
Silent Sirens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
Tru S. Dowling
The Birds of Rhiannon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
Ian Irvine
The Witch Goddess of Snowdonia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
Ian Irvine
Hens Night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
Jamie McDougall
The Black Door . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
Jan Bayliss
Siren . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171
Harley Ryan
War of the Olympians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176
Shannon Carter
How to Be a Mighty God and Family Man: by Zeus . . . . . . . 183
Shantara Johnstone
Thunder Hooves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190
Shantara Johnstone

Novel Extract
The Black Wedding Dress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198
Elvira McIntosh
Forests of Pelo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
Shannon Carter
Greenview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
Louise Wardle
Dark Echoes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220
Jamie McDougall
Grimheim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226
Shantara Johnstone
Fey Walker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232
Thomas Alexander

Poetry
Absence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Allis Maun

244

Autumn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Anthea Matley

245

Painted Words 2014 | xiii


Fading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 246
Anthea Matley
Omelettes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247
Anthea Matley
Runaway . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 248
Angus Fenton
Spider . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 249
Lynda Graham
Left . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 250
Lynda Graham
Jazz Family . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251
Noel Parratt
At Heide, January 2014 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 252
Robyn Miller
Code Complete . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253
Jan Bayliss
Refugee Football . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 254
Noel Parrat
Pandemonium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255
Shantara Johnstone
Ode to the City Magic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 256
Shantara Johnstone
Orbs and Blue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 257
Shannon Carter
Autumn, Harcourt 2014 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 258
Robyn Miller
Rochester Rite . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 259
Noel Parratt
An Ordinary Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 260
Jan Bayliss
The Drop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262
Allis Maun

Non-Fiction
Faraday . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 264
Anthea Matley
Mental Health . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266
Anthea Matley
Easter 2014 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268
Carolynn Roberts

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Wreck-It Ralph Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 271
Carolynn Roberts
Medieval Nights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 272
Louise Wardle
New Position for Cardinal Pell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 276
Louise Wardle
Re-enactments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279
Heather McSwain
Traditional Japanese poetry and the
influence of Haiku on the Imagist poets. . . . . . . . . . . . . 284
Jan Bayliss
Invisible Woman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 293
Lynda Graham
An Open Letter to Boris Johnson, Lord Mayor of London . . . . 295
Lynda Graham
Dear Graciela: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 297
Elvira McIntosh
They Made Her Wear It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 300
Elvira McIntosh
With The Slight Exception of Rhubarb . . . . . . . . . . . . 302
By Noel Parratt
About Four Weeks Into Our Trip . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 305
Noel Parratt
Lets Not Stop the Mosque . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 307
Adem Besim
The Journey to Recovery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 310
By Heather McSwain
Train Travelling Adventures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 313
Heather McSwain
Dungeons and Dragons: the Last Nerd Closet . . . . . . . . . 317
Vanessa Hughes

Flash Fiction

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Life Cycle
Cathy Flanagan-Curtain

ts a glorious day; the sun is shining brightly on this tall gum


tree and filtering through the leafy branches that sway in the
gentle warm breeze. I am an excited cicada. My summer love song
managed to lure a willing obliging mate, who had his way with
me, early this morning, as he happened to pass by. He heard my
calling melody from far away; he managed to feel the vibration
of my transparent tambourine wings. They are like stained glass
windows, fine veins mimicking leadlight lines that glisten in the
sunrise. I was waiting, clinging patiently to that broken branch
laying down there on the ground, hoping that maybe, just maybe, a
handsome black prince suitor would find me, and he did. He filled
me with his desire and our wings sang in harmony together. We
had a friendly frolic in the grass. Morning dew was still running
down the long stems like sparkling diamonds as the first sunrays
peeped through and warmed the earth. I have waited an eternity
to reach this maturity, to have my splendour in the grass and fulfil
my long life purpose and duty to my species, to be a mother and
ensure that my breed continues in the scheme of things.
***
I now continue the cycle of life with my mothers ritual, the same
as her mother before her, the same way it has always been. I began
as an egg. I was laid inside the tough bark of a host gum tree by

Painted Words 2014 | 3

my mother. The tradition is set; no-one can change it. After several
months I hatched and emerged as a nymph and fell to the ground,
landing amongst the leaf litter piled up at the base of the tree. I then
had to quickly dig and excavate the crusty surface of the ground
beneath. I spent days tunnelling deep crevices underground to find
a suitable place to call my nymphal home. This consisted of a small
space in the ground beside a tree root, which I could then tap into
whenever in need of a juicy feast. I had many changing exterior
shells, the metamorphoses that my companions also experienced.
Each of us grows from a nymph into a juvenile and then an adult. I
grew new body armour when I outgrew my old one. While still soft
and pliable, I could squeeze my way out of my old self into a new
shell that was soft until it cooled hard in the air. This happened to
me several times until finally I was strong enough and the weather
was fine for my journey deeper into the wonderland and I could fly
into the tall gumtrees. That was the day I emerged with wings on
my new body that would very soon dry in the wind like sheets in
the breeze. They shimmered and sparkled and looked magnificent
with the veins and panels of many colours, delicate as a rainbow
spectrum.
***
It is amazing I have survived this far. There are many creatures
conspiring to extirpate me; they think me a nice juicy dinner
beneath my crusty shell. Why only this morning while I was
humming my song, a giant flying monster with large feathered
wings swooped in and tried to snatch me in its talons. My armour
is only a skeleton of my former self; it is not invincible to all the
horrors of this wide and vast land. Children, I am told, like to go
hunting for our former shells and collect them when my mates all
lull in song together in the heat of the long hot summer days and
warm nights.

4 | Painted Words 2014

***
Well, back to the business of laying my eggs. I am now very, very
busy using my sharp scythe to cut slits into the thick bark layers of
the timber gum tree. I lay a few eggs and push them into the woody
pith and then move along to a different spot and repeat the process
again and again, until all my eggs have gone. This system gives
my baby nymphs a better chance of survival. They will emerge at
different intervals. If they manage to survive, they too will soar in
flight into this enchanted world of dense forests and open fields.
I hope they have a chance to sing sweet lullabies. Thats the best a
mother can dream of for the offspring she will never see.

Painted Words 2014 | 5

The Ties That Bind


Jaime McDougall

is sense of humour was the first to go. He supposed he


shouldnt have been surprised. Not really. His hold on his
sense of humour had always been tenuous at best, so perhaps it
was fitting for it to be the first to leave him.
His love of music went next. That did come as a surprise. Music
was one of the few things hed held onto through his life. Unlike
his sense of humour, which gradually flowed away unnoticed, he
felt the music leave him. It oozed from him, unrelenting, and left
less of a man behind.
It still did not trouble him. He knew, felt deep within him, that
there were worse things to come. The agonising tearing within
him that would not show him the kindness of physical pain
When he began to lose all the good things hed done as few
as they were he began to grow concerned. He did not speak,
though, for no one else in the ward did. Were they feeling the same
things? Losing the same things? Had they been left with only their
bad actions to think about?
The tearing within him continued.
His depression was short lived; soon his bad works were
drained from him, swirling away like water down a sink. He felt
content seeing them go. The same with his job, his family, and his
memories. Still, when his voice no, his words began to leave

6 | Painted Words 2014

him, he wondered if he should have said something.


His words poured from him for what felt like days. From his
nose, his mouth, his ears and even his fingertips they all bled his
words in a seemingly never-ending stream. He began to shrink
inside himself as they left him. How much of his life had he filled
with words?
Finally the bleeding stopped, leaving only the pain.
With no words or memories left to him, he craved a sense of
time. To count it, to feel it, to think about its passing. But even that
had been taken from him.
The ripping deep within consumed him, flowed through him.
He felt no real pain, but with no words, he no longer knew how to
miss it.
Slowly very slowly he wrenched free.
***
Two women walked into the silent ward. Though no whistles or
alarms had sounded, they knew he had finished. They stood over
his bed, looking down at the small, glowing orb left behind.
This one took a while, the first woman said.
Some do. The second woman reached into the oversized
pocket of her apron and produced a small jar. Crude, perhaps, but
the jars occupant was hardly in a position to complain.
None of them were.
She gently captured the orb and closed the lid.
I thought hed never stop letting go of words.
Some people are full of words, the second woman said,
holding the jar at eye-level. Some are full of music. Others are full
of regrets. In the end, the rule is always the same.
The first woman sighed and took the jar with a sense of
reverence her companion had long since lost. Should I take this
one to storage?
No. Demand is still high. It wont have long to wait.
She almost envied it.

Painted Words 2014 | 7

All the Time in the World


Luke Poulter

verything was a blur, though I recognise everything; car,


house, another car, driveway, gate, ground, backyard, fence.
Open space ahead. Finally I stopped to catch my breath. Theres
no way out. I didnt stop to think very long and again was on my
way. They never saw it coming; in, out and down. No one saw me
coming.
Like every morning for the last three months, I got up, ate a
snack breakfast and went off for a run, blinded by each passing
windscreen. The wafting temptation of coffee and cake wasnt
enough to deter my run. Something was in the air and it was there
for all to see. With minimal preparation, I knew things had to be
swift and I pray for no hiccups or cowboys to get in my way.
Public transportation works for me; well, for the first half of
proceedings anyway. The standard of having a getaway organised
and nearby wasnt required. My training while inside and once
out transformed this once gaunt shell of a man into a shredded
machine. Go in as hopeless train wreck, leave there hardened and
a focused man. My old methods were crude, desperate and petty.
This time I had a new strategy; slick, silent and well worth the risk,
but how it all went down shocked me to my very core.
After lunch, with less than an hour until the bus and my
potential windfall, I could feel it, walking the already worn tracks,

8 | Painted Words 2014

deepening the groves in the carpet. Tension and adrenaline; there


was nothing quite like it. I geared up and grabbed my tools. The
job required me to not only look the part, but be ready for anything
and anyone who gets in the way.
2.27pm. Time to strike. I went in looking like every other
corporate suit, as I made it through the doors and walked
casually to the withdrawal/deposit slip wall. I scanned the
premises, to see how many, then I snapped into action. Plans
are fickle at best of times. I snapped open the latches, reached
inside and went to work.
Alright you know what this is. Im no fly-by-nighter, so just do
as I say and well you know.
The teller put what she had at her station and I moved to the
next one. Each one complied, no heroes here. A guard appeared
from nowhere. Hed been hidden from my sight as I was walking
out.
Dont move, or Ill shoot. The guard, thinking he was a cop.
Not today buddy, I said.
I said dont move.
And I said not
I took off without delay as a car approached, and I sprinted
toward it. I motioned for the driver to stop. They slowed down,
and I leapt over the hood and took cover from the bullets whizzing
past. When you pull a job, danger is always present, especially
when firearms are a factor. I peered out to see the guard still there,
so I slid back near the front passenger door. Shattered glass rained
down upon me as the screams of bystanders echoed. I had no
choice if I was to escape so position myself to retaliate.
With the car as my shield I fired a warning shot in the general
direction of the bank. My aim was successful, my shot was too
perfect.
The sun glared off the road surface. The guards body lay there
in a pool of blood. An old lady who saw everything was screaming

Painted Words 2014 | 9

and the loud blare of sirens was getting louder by the second. I
looked straight at the body then I turned round, swinging my neck
and head and gazed down at the old lady.
Look I dont want die so please dont kill me.
I would have already, if I wanted to, I replied, just to set things
straight but it didnt quite work out that way.
Help, help, hes going to kill me, help.
That was my cue to run and I did, sprinting down the street and
heading to the main road, toward the oncoming cars. The sirens
were near the scene. I was certain they would catch me. No use
standing around to be caught, so I took off and headed down the
street.
I sat there past the housing estate and contemplated what to
do next.
Freeze, youre surrounded. No point running, you understand?
I turned to see flashing lights, and more barrels pointed straight
at me
Yeah I do. One thing though. Is he dead?
Yes, a voice said.
I sit here with all the time in world, and yes, I deserve to never
run free again. Sorry will never be enough.

10 | Painted Words 2014

Hidden treasure
Marilyn OBrien

ou could tell by the smell that the cat had been locked in that
house for a long time. He had survived by eating the rotting
flesh of the corpse. His owner, Ms Ivy Hastings, had sat in front
of her little two-bar heater in the icy winter of 2009 to watch the
final episode of Big Brother, when her heart stopped beating for
the last time.
The coroner reported that her lifeless body had slumped on her
couch for three weeks. The heater had partially cooked her lower
legs; something like bread left in the toaster for weeks, burnt on
the outside and still soft and mushy on the inside. The cat had
no other option but to gnaw on those toasty treats. His survival
depended on it.
Poor Ivy died with only the cat for company. No one was aware
that her decomposing body was in that house until the cat meowed
so desperately loud to get out that passing school children alerted
her neighbours. Shocked by what they discovered, they vowed
they would never eat meat again.
Why did she die alone without anyone knowing, they asked?
Some said that she just locked up her house after her parents
left ten years ago, never going out or letting anyone in; even her
groceries were delivered to the front doorstep, disappearing after
dark. Others said they never saw her, they were vaguely aware

Painted Words 2014 | 11

that someone lived in the house, but they never knew who.
After the funeral, Ivys family turned up from everywhere.
There were always rumours that Aunty Ivy had a fortune hidden
in the cellar under the house and as no-one had bothered to visit,
no-one knew if it really existed.
While children were running amok on the front lawn, breaking
branches from trees, swinging on the front gate until its hinges
gave way and the iron frame clunked loudly onto the concrete
path, their parents, undeterred by the smell, searched for this
mysterious fortune.
Loud screams were heard a block away as the scavengers fled
from the house, collecting their children on the way. The sight of
old Mr and Mrs Hastings lying under that trap door in the lounge
floor, now skeletons, was too much and not the treasure they were
looking for.
The elderly couple were described as loving parents; however
Ivy saw them from a different perspective. She was treated like a
slave, made to cook and clean; was never given any money and the
limited number of friends she had were discouraged from visiting.
Ivy was full of hate for her parents but strangely they never
suspected that the unusual tasting soup would abruptly end their
lives and see them entombed with the house foundations.
Not to be detected for her awful yet perhaps justifiable crime,
she became a recluse. There was, however, a considerable estate
left behind and as there was no will the government received a
large portion and the relatives wanted nothing to do with a house
that had become the temporary resting place for the deceased.

12 | Painted Words 2014

The lift
Marilyn OBrien

hate lifts. I always feel trapped and anxious in that confined


space. Once the door shuts and the lift ascends between floors
there is no escape. Here I was in the foyer of a very old building,
waiting for an old lift. Thankfully I was only going up to the fifth
floor; there were only five floors.
The bell rang and the light above lit up as the doors opened.
Thank god its here, I said aloud. The quicker I get this over
with the better.
Just as I put my foot through the door a young man pushed
past, yelling Coming through, let me past. I pulled the rest of my
body in as the door began to close. I looked up at the young man
now standing at the back of the lift. A tall, skinny kid with red hair
and freckles looked back with the biggest grin that showed more
of his needle-like teeth than necessary.
Im in a bit of a hurry, late for work, he said.
Really, I replied.
Yeah, I work on the fourth floor, in accounts. Ive already been
here for twelve months, due for holidays and Im taking them, too.
Im going to sunny Queensland. Ill be glad to see the back of this
place and this awful cold weather.
The lift took off with a jolt and slowly ascended. Here I was in this
old lift with a red-haired, freckled faced kid who not only nearly knocked

Painted Words 2014 | 13

me off my feet, now he wants to tell me his life story.


I said nothing. He wasnt looking for a reply and just kept on
talking. About what I dont know, all I heard was blah blah.
Finally we passed the second floor. Red was still talking,
something about his brother becoming a dad as his girlfriend was
pregnant and how thankful he was that it wasnt him. I bet his
brothers girlfriend was too. I too was thankful that he wasnt going
to the fifth floor.
Then to my horror the lift stopped. It didnt jolt or make any
noise it just stopped between the third and fourth floors. I looked
over at Red, expecting to see another look of horror. Instead he had
an even bigger grin.
Sweet, he said, this will be the second time this month Ive
got out of work for the morning.
I cant be in here all morning! I cried.
Maybe even longer if we hang off calling Ted.
Ted? Who is Ted?
The lift mechanic.
He said the name as though he knew him well, and oh surprise
he did, they were friends.
I want you to call him now and tell him to get this lift moving.
Chill, old man.
Dont tell me to chill, you annoying boy.
Annoying am I? Im the only one who can help you get out of
here and youre calling me names.
With that my knees became weak. I fell to the floor holding my
chest, breathless; not able to get any air into my lungs.
I heard Red scramble to the phone.
Ted, Ted, he yelled in a panic, there is an old man in the lift
I think hes having a heart attack. Get the lift moving. No, I dont
want to spend the morning in here, I know I told you I did. That was
because Kelly from Lingerie was supposed to be in here. Just get it
moving and call an ambulance. My phones not working in here.

14 | Painted Words 2014

Within minutes the lift started moving, faster this time. Red sat
down next to me, apologising over and over and hoping I dont
die. Offering me his holiday to help me feel better. Said he thought
I needed it more than he did.
I couldnt tell him I was only having a panic attack.

Painted Words 2014 | 15

A Cautionary Croak
Mitchell Roberts

ou know, they say royal blood tastes of gold instead of copper,


the thug gibed menacingly, picking out a piece of apple from
between crooked teeth with a wicked dagger. The brutes gums
bled, but he seemed not to notice or care.
Nonsense, said the woman, unperturbed. They say old
women can turn men to frogs also, do they not? The bandit spat
out a cruel laugh, followed by the hacking cough.
Would make sense. Since I hear you lot eat frogs legs, it would
save you looking for frogs. but I spose we cant go believing
everything we hear though, eh? His eyes fixated on his prize
intensely, and he felt a slight heat wash over him. The brute took
another deep bite of the apple, then tossed it aside.
You arent half bad you know. Fer an older girl, you fill out that
pretty gown of yours just nicely, he said, beaming a twisted grin.
Now Im just torn, you see, whether to sell you off like Id planned
or keep you for meself. He wiped dripping sweat from his brow.
His breath was heavy and foul as he leered over her. He grabbed
her by the hair and growled
What makes you so bloody calm? he screamed.
Thats simple. I dont find animals like yourself intimidating.
In any way. She rose abruptly to her feet, and her captor at once
felt pathetic beneath her imperious glare. He stumbled backward,

16 | Painted Words 2014

and fell doubled over, clenching his stomach in intense agony. His
eyes lolled back into their sockets and his throat began to swell as
if he had contracted a horrendous plague. Then came a sudden but
welcome pause in the suffering.
It was bad enough that you woke me up in the middle of the
night, that you dragged me down here and ransacked my stores,
but having the nerve to call me old, that was just plain... foolish.
The lady reached down and laid a single finger lightly upon his
forehead, and all the bones in his body snapped like kindling. He
didnt even have a chance to scream before he was lost to darkness.
The man awoke. His vision was oddly blurred. hHe could see
the ends of the room clearly, but the shape of his tormentor, less
than a foot away, was indistinct. He could not seem to focus on
her. She towered over him like some kind of hellish giant. He tried
to gulp, but found his throat throbbing for the effort; and vastly
swollen like some kind of giant boil.
It seems sometimes what they say is true after all, although
whoever told you I was the queen must be as blind as you are
stupid. Im Her Majestys cook and close friend. This gown was
a gift from her. The cook picked up the helpless amphibian and
gazed into its bulbous eyes, sensing the terror trapped within. She
glowered, a broad smirk of utter malice.
Oh yes and coincidently, her majesty does quite adore the taste
of frogs legs.

Painted Words 2014 | 17

Frogs
Robyn Miller

ts May 2013 and the autumn break is late. Finally it rains. The
frogs rejoice.
In the evening they are drawn to the light inside the house.
They climb the window in search of insects, their little pink-white
undersides and tiny suckered feet showing clearly on my side of
the glass.
My cat goes crazy. You know how it is with cats. She wants to
go out, then come inside, and then go back out again. I realise she
is hunting the frogs and trying to eat them.
I slide the door open to bring her in and there at my feet sits a
defiant grey-black toad as big as my fist. It glares straight ahead.
The cat doesnt touch the toad, but steps carefully around it, with
her eyes all glistening pupil.
What is that sticking from the toads mouth? I realise, shocked,
that its a pair of little pale frog legs extended in a rictus of fear
and death.
Still the toad doesnt move. I shut the door wishing that what I
had seen were whiskers and not those stiff little limbs.
I open the door ten minutes later and the toad is still there, but
the legs have gone.
Have you ever seen a toad smile?

18 | Painted Words 2014

Fire.
Shannon Carter

t marked his arm, a symbol of his strength and his weakness. It


was there for all to see that he was a fire mage, which also meant
he was destined to die young. A lot of fire mages didnt lived past
the age of twenty-four and those that did could never use their
abilities fully again.
It required a lot of the human bodys life energy to use. It was
stronger than the other elements and those doomed to its curse
would never have a full life. The fire masters also said that those
who were reckless died young while those who were conservative
would make it to a ripe old age.
Why cant everyone be dragons? Flame asked himself under
his breath. Were at least immortal.
Sighing, Flame stepped forward to the young man with the
mark. Ethan had deep red eyes and short white-blond hair, the
mark of a demon-born as well as a fire mage. He was short for his
age, barely reaching five foot one and was malnourished. For one
so young, it was a dangerous sign.
Tobias, call a medic for this boy, Flame called to a senior
apprentice.
Why should I? Tobias, a tall young man with long blond hair
and gray eyes, called back rudely. He was practicing a fire spell on
the already-dead tree in the courtyard.

Painted Words 2014 | 19

Because I said so! Flame shouted angrily, letting a fireball


form in his hand and tossing it at the senior apprentice. Do it
now!
Tobias ran off, not even bothering to bow. Flame decided to
discipline the apprentice later. As a dragon, he was the equivalent
to a king or emperor.
He turned his attention to Ethan. Are you okay, boy?
Ethan looked up, his eyes devoid of emotion and understanding.
Yes, he said in a quiet voice. You dont have to help me.
Flame gave an inhuman growl under his breath. Humans.
Always the same, he grumbled. Flame extended his left hand to
the young man and patted him on the head. Everything will be
fine now, young Ethan. Welcome to the Order of Dragons.
Ethan gave a tight smile but the emotions didnt return. Clearly
where he had come from was worse than Flame expected humans
would be from.
It was at that moment Tobias returned with one of the doctors
to give the boy a once over. Flame took the opportunity to step
away since doctors made him uneasy, mostly because of their
curiosity over his own inhuman origins. After being assured the
boy would be fine, Flame took the young boy to the mess hall to
acquire food, calmly flicking miniature fireballs at other uptight
senior apprentices.
The mess hall was empty as Flame acquired a plate of food from
the kitchen and took it over to one of the tables and handed it to
the new initiate. The white-blond boy took the plate and began
gorging himself, not even stopping to breathe.
Flame sighed heavily. This boys arrival by the dragon Septimus
had surprised Flame, considering that the initiations had ended
six months ago. Septimus had told his offspring to care for the
boy before changing into his true form and disappearing. It was
always the same for Flame since he was only a child living in a
church orphanage and Septimus was pretending to be a wealthy

20 | Painted Words 2014

visitor. He didnt care; it has been a decade since he had even tried
to. His main focus was now on the boy called Ethan.
It is rare to come across half-demons such as you, Flame said
to the still eating boy.
I was lucky, Ethan replied. The people that raised me also
had a demon hybrid who knew what to do. I was happy amongst
them.
I was raised in an orphanage, Ethan. I was lucky I knew who I
was when I was born as well. Flame gave a brief smile to reassure
the boy.
It clearly didnt work and Ethan returned to eating.
Flame gave another sigh. It was going to be a long year.

Painted Words 2014 | 21

A Last Meal
Thomas Alexander

inner will be ready in thirty minutes, she said, the pestle


smacking into the mortar, crushing together the lemongrass,
herbs and salt. The whole chicken sat already in its tray, carrots
and onions and potatoes chopped and scattered about, around,
and beneath it. Felicia Lerner picked up the bottle of olive oil, the
slow drip cap letting out only a quick spurt as she upended it over
the granite bowl, her other hand blending it into the pesto mix.
Taking hold of the chicken, she lifted up the edge of the skin near
the neck and slid the tip of her chopping knife under.
Flick, flick went her wrist, separating skin from meat as she
slowly opened up the cavity. When the skin was completely
separated, she grabbed the mortar and moved it closer, taking a
finger load of the mixture and slowly, carefully, pushing it under
the skin, rubbing it around the breast to cover the whole chicken.
Once it was done, she moved to the oven, pressing her thumb
to the spark plate. She could hear a click as it began to spark.
Click. Click. She pushed inwards on the knob, turning it clockwise,
until the marker landed on 200 degrees. There was a wet, hollow
whoosh, and a wave of hot air rushed across her face. She could see
the flames dancing in the back, a pale blue heat strong enough to
sear flesh from bone. Grabbing the chicken tray, she smiled, and
pushed it onto the second rack.

22 | Painted Words 2014

When Jason Lerner sat down to eat, he was so hungry that he


tucked right into the golden piece of roasted chicken sitting on
his plate. The smell of lemongrass and herbs filled his nostrils as
he gorged on the slightly greasy yet crunchy skin. Such was his
feasting that he never saw the smile on Felicias face, nor the soggy
skin that adorned her piece of dry and listless bird.
Halfway through a bite, Jason stopped. Something wasnt right.
His arm felt sore, and his chest was tight and solid. His vision
swam, and his breathing became laboured and heavy. He tried to
stand, but his legs wouldnt support him, and he fell to the ground
with a crash. The last thing he saw was his wife stand and calmly
walk to the phone. The last thing he heard was his wifes voice, as
she spoke the words; I need an ambulance; my husband is having
a heart attack!
He never saw the bench in the kitchen. He never saw the
receipt from his motel on the highway, from the night hed said
he was going to watch the game at a friends house. He never saw
the metallic tray that had held a cheap piece of delicatessen roast
chicken.
He never saw the long, half-chopped foxglove flowers sitting
beside the mortar and pestle.

Micro Fiction

24 | Painted Words 2014

Jar of Hearts
Jaime McDougall
He collected hearts like some guys collect baseball cards. Eventually
it became more about how many he had and a lot less about the
sport.

Painted Words 2014 | 25

Rapid Ten
Luke Poulter
Still alive, time expired months ago.
Dont go in there too late.
Dont go in there you did.
Did you see that? Sure did.
Where do ghosts sleep? she asked.
As white as that ghost, ghost!
I opened the door, shouldnt have.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!
The gun was in his hands.
Go out just like Hemmingway shotgun.

26 | Painted Words 2014

Gone
Lynda Graham
It was raining, but, still inside, my face was wet. I hadnt realised
that he had left the door open.

Painted Words 2014 | 27

Piss up
Noel Parratt
Piss up in brewery, invitations lost.

Aged legs
Noel Parratt
Aged legs, urgent dash, pride dented.

28 | Painted Words 2014

Warning
Vanessa Hughes
Warning: bloody lamp contains deaf genie.

Condoms
Vanessa Hughes
Condoms. Use only as directed. Whoops.

Short Stories

30 | Painted Words 2014

Ghosts of the Past


Adem Besim

dont know why Im still waiting here. I walked over to your front
door and placed the envelope on the ledge of the window almost
an hour ago. Ive even forgotten how cold it is. The streetlights
fade off in the distance down the road, and the stars are barely
visible through the blanket of frost thats hovering above. I should
really get going. I told my family I was stepping out to get some
fuel, but stopping by to drop off that letter brought back a flood of
memories from an old life thats no longer my present-day reality.
Its nothing more than just a dark, distant memory. Sometimes, it
feels like it was another lifetime ago. I guess five years and a new
life would do that.
As stupid as it sounds, I think the reason why Im still here is
that Im hoping youll step out, slip your shoes on and spot the
letter sitting there, staring back at you with your name on it. I want
to sit here, in my car across the street, and watch your reaction
as you read my note on that lined piece of paper. I want you to
look sorry for what you did. The harsh truth is; I bet you dont
even remember. People like you always seem to do all the damage
to others and are never mindful that years down the track theyd
be lying awake, late at night, trying to make sense of why you
said what you said, why you did what you did. I know I have.
I sometimes wonder how many other people youve hurt, and

Painted Words 2014 | 31

it makes me feel better that it wasnt just me who has been left
confused and scarred.
I really thought that after all this time, I wouldve forgotten
about it, and the scars wouldve faded. It looks like theyre
not going anywhere. However, sooner or later, youll read my
anonymous note and know someone from your past hasnt let
go of what you did. At least, not until you become aware of the
damage youve done.
My final year of high school was supposed to be the best
year of my life, and you made it one of the worst times Ive ever
experienced. I know its pointless to blame and cry about the past,
nothing can change it. But I just need you to know that you once
made my life so depressing and unbearable, and I felt so desperate
that I thought about ending it altogether. Ive always been known
as one of the happiest people, and enjoy making others laugh, but
what you put me through left me feeling like I had no way out.
I know now that killing myself wouldve been a huge mistake.
I love life too much to do that, anyway. But whats worse is that I
actually allowed you to have that amount of power over me. No
one should let anyone have so much control over the way they feel
about themselves and their own lives. That is my biggest regret.
This time, five years ago, you controlled me. The thought of you
being out on the oval kept me off it, the thought of you wandering
around the school with your mates made me think twice about
walking to class alone, and the thought of passing you on the way
to the canteen left me not wanting to go out and get something to
eat. I chose to go hungry instead.
But now, I dont fear you at all. Id love to walk past you down
the street and look down at you. In a way, all I really have to say
is, thank you. Everything I went through back then only made
me stronger. My life has only gotten better with every year that
has passed and this small town is no longer my home. Im living
my dream life in a large city, which has worked to remind me how

32 | Painted Words 2014

small this place is. Im just down for the weekend and tomorrow
Ill get in my car, cruise out of here and back to my new life.
Sometimes, I find it hard to believe just how much my life
has changed. How much Ive changed. How great everything is
now, compared to how hard it was back then. Maybe youve even
changed. Youre no longer in high school; youre out in the real
world, where you dont have your friends by your side every day.
From what I last heard, they all moved away for university and left
you behind. Im not completely sure. I dont care enough to know,
but I was told that youre unemployed and finding it hard to get
accepted anywhere for work. It makes me feel great, actually.
Karmas a good thing. Its fair you get what you give.
Maybe finding it hard to make it in the real world has softened
you, but the damage is done. The thing is, Im no longer going to
let myself be haunted by the past. Now that you know what I want
you to know, I hope you spend a long time figuring out who the
letter is from.
I turn the key in the ignition and the car starts. I put the car
into drive and slowly veer away from the curb and move forward.
I glance just once more at the house, and imagine the person
formerly responsible for my shitty life looking at my letter and
feeling as bad as they once made me feel. Ill never know what
thoughts run through their head when they finally read it, but
theyll know mine. I reach the end of the street and look in the
rear view mirror and for the last time, I look back. I turn out of the
street and suddenly feel as though a substantial weight has been
lifted off me. I guess for the first time in five years, Im finally free.

Painted Words 2014 | 33

In Dreams
Anthea Matley

grey, moist fog rolls down off the mountain, hugging the
ground and spreading out, enveloping Aggies cottage. The
steaming fog reducing visibility to a mere two hundred metres
and as a result of its mass, muffling sound.
Aggie is waiting. Snuggled into a supple leather club chair. The
twin chair opposite her is empty for the time being. The only light
is coming from the glowing and efficient pot belly stove.
A serviceable mantle clock chimes the quarter hour. Now and
then there is a loud crack from the burning mallee wood.
Aggie is waiting. She knows the fog is helpful. It covers things
so they shouldnt be seen, shouldnt be heard. It is going to be a
good night after all.
She stretches out her legs and looks at her feet. Once they spun
across gleamingly polished floorboards, the colour of brickys
sand. Her skirt flaring out to a circle as she was spun around to
the sounds of Chubby Checker. Now gnarled and twisted with
arthritis, her dancing days long over, leaving some good and bad
memories. Cant have the good without the bad. Her mothers
voice in her head.
Aggie isnt in any hurry. The night will play out as it should.
She and Jimmy have planned this night for a long time.
Still, shes startled by the brisk rat-a-tat-tat on the brass knocker.
Already?

34 | Painted Words 2014

Ready my lovely Aggie?


And theres Jimmy, in the door before she has time to heave
herself out of the chair.
He kicks the door behind him, places the laden paper bags on
the kitchen bench and steps across to her holding out his hands.
Let me help you with that. He reaches for her and pulls her
gently up and enfolding her, presses his lips to her forehead.
She closes her eyes, holding the moment. He steps back, holding
the tips of her bent fingers. His are not much better, both pairs
showing large blue veins and freckles which have swum together
to form flat patches of brown. He drinks her in, noticing the new
perm, the lace evening dress he bought for her, how long ago was
it? Twenty years? Doesnt matter now.
You look lovely, he whispers.
You look very dashing yourself, she says, taking in the tuxedo,
the fresh haircut. Not much to cut these days, but still.
How are those headaches?
Worse today but I took a tablet, just to get through this
evening. She looks over his shoulder at the bags he brought in.
Mushrooms and bread, what we agreed. She hadnt asked
but he saw the question in her raised eyebrow. Remember when
we first went mushrooming along the Wimmera River?
She remembers. Letting go of his hands she moves to the
mantelpiece and lifts up the photo there. A black and white one
of herself at twenty holding eight-month old Teddy. Looking
seriously into the camera, one hand twisting his ear. His last year
with them.
Sit back down. Ill put a record on, pour some wine then Ill
start dinner.
She sighs and lets herself be helped back into the chair. He pulls
out some records.
Your choice, Chubby Checker or Roy Orbison?
I think the evening calls for Roy Orbison, she says. Only
the Lonely

Painted Words 2014 | 35

He glances at her then turns his attention to the packages.


Out comes a bottle of Moet champagne, butter, bread, garlic and
mushrooms. He knows the fridge is empty. They had cleaned the
house from top to bottom. A long and tiring job at their age but it
was part of the tidying up of their lives.
He opens the wine and slowly pours two flutes. He brings them
over, hands her one and settles himself in the spare chair opposite her.
Heres to a life well lived and to our next life.
They touch glasses and sip. She has another question in her eyes.
Yes, Ive got the tablets, one each. Itll be quick, in our sleep. A
dreamless sleep, he says.
They sit holding hands listening to Roy Orbisons melodic
voice, sipping their wine. They wont be interrupted tonight.
Are you hungry yet, will I start dinner? He knows she wont
be, not much passes her lips these days.
Id like to watch you prepare it, see the kitchen in action one
last time.
He refills their glasses and starts unpacking the bags.
Its all business now as she watches him take over the kitchen.
Frying pan out, gas on, he peels the soft fruit and slices them
into thick fingers, crushing in garlic. Next the butter. A fat slice
dolloped into the heating pan. An instant reaction of sizzling butter
sputtering over the sides in tiny droplets, misting the stove top.
Thick slices of sour dough into the toaster. In go the mushrooms,
garlic, salt and pepper. A flurry of stir frying. On goes the lid. Five
minutes, the toaster pressed down.
Another five minutes and the mound of mushrooms have
collapsed into a soft, spoonable concoction. The aroma of butter,
garlic, mushrooms, fills the kitchen.
Her stomach starts to wake up. The thought of food still
interests her even though she cant keep it down. Toast is buttered
and mushrooms piled on top.
He takes two steaming platefuls to the carefully laid dining

36 | Painted Words 2014

table. He helps her out of the club and into a dining chair.
She looks eagerly at the plate and breathes in the heady flavours.
She takes a mouthful, expecting the buttery, mushroomy flavour
she anticipated.
Something jars. After chewing slowly and swallowing, the
familiar metallic taste fills her mouth. She throws her fork down
and slumps back. Her shoulders crumple suddenly, her chin points
to her chest. She begins to sob.
Jimmy places his fork down slowly his eyes glistening. He was
expecting this but wanted to try anyway.
Come on, we expected this. At least you can still drink.
It looked and smelled sooo delicious. If I could ask for only
one thing it would be to enjoy my last meal again!
Jimmy moves to her and puts his arms around her. Lets have
a dance.
They shuffle around the floor gripping each other tightly. He
reaches into his pocket and takes out the two pea-sized capsules.
He tilts her head back and slips one under her tongue and the
other under his. He gets a glass of wine and they each take a sip.
He gently leads her to the futon style sofa lined with soft pillows
and pulls the cashmere throw over them both. They close their
eyes to Roy Orbisons, In Dreams.

Painted Words 2014 | 37

Best Kept Secrets


Bryce Gordon

arah Camson thought to herself for what felt like the


hundredth time since she had left Highforge. She was a thief,
and a very good one at that. She could steal anything from even
the best guarded of mansions or vaults.
So why the hell was she hiking through the mountains, in
winter, to find a library of all places?
Sarah reminded herself of the job details again. The old man
had kept things simple and, to her annoyance, rather vague. Find
and enter the library, steal a specific book, and return it to him.
He hadnt mentioned any other details as far as she remembered.
When pressed for more information he had simply smiled and
stated that she would know what to look for. The only thing he
told her with any certainty was where to find this library; in the
mountains east of the city.
The mountains near Highforge were the last place she expected
to find any form of civilisation, but the man had been generous
with his advance payment, so Sarah figured it wouldnt hurt to
check it out. Besides, if she didnt find anything, she could just
abscond with the money and find work elsewhere. It wouldnt be
the first time shed done so, and her skills were always in demand
somewhere in the world.
As she crested the ridge, she found herself looking over a

38 | Painted Words 2014

secluded vale. A small copse of pine trees grew around the rim
of the hollow, their branches bending slightly under last nights
snowfall.
Two things immediately caught her attention as she made her
way down into the vale. The first was a pond that lay at the centre
of the hollow, water still as a mirror. She frowned; the temperature
was definitely cold enough that any body of water should have
frozen over, yet there was no sign of ice at all.
The second oddity was a small stone platform off to the side of
the pool. She wasnt sure why she noticed it at all; it was flat to the
ground, and mostly concealed beneath a layer of leaves and frost.
She supposed that her years as a thief allowed her to notice subtle
details, and she moved down for a closer look.
As she cleared away the ice and leaves covering the stone, it
became clear she was on the right track. The granite surface was
covered in an intricate array of geometric patterns, which she
quickly recognised as runes of some sort. The only imperfection
was a mark that resembled a handprint at the centre of the platform.
Before she knew what she was doing, she placed her hand in
the imprint, feeling the characteristic buzz of arcane power as the
patterns on the stone hummed to life, blue-white energy pulsing
through the channels.
Why the hell did I do that? she wondered out loud, only for
her train of thought to be interrupted by a blinding eruption of
light from the pool.
The water in the pond was gone. At the bottom of the pool
was ring of stone blocks, decorated with the same patterns as the
platform. The space between the stones shimmered like a mirage,
allowing her to vaguely make out a room beyond.
Well, nothing ventured... she muttered to herself, and despite
her usual aversion to the unknown, stepped into the portal.
She felt the sensation of travelling a great distance in only a
second, and suddenly landed roughly on the carved floor of a

Painted Words 2014 | 39

cavern. She immediately looked around, checking for traps, both


mundane and magical. She relaxed as she realised nothing was
out of the ordinary; the tiles were scratched and worn, but she
expected that for a place like this.
Okay, she thought. Better make this quick.
For some reason, she felt as though she knew exactly where
to go, almost as though she was being guided by something. She
moved through room after room, all of them filled with bookshelves
that reached towards the vaulted ceilings like castle walls, but she
knew none of them held what she had been hired to collect.
After only ten minutes, her brain told her to halt. She looked
over the shelves she had stopped behind, and instantly felt her
eyes drawn to a book on one of the upper shelves, a good twenty
feet above the ground.
Not much of a challenge, she thought as she clambered up the
shelves to retrieve her prize. As she pulled it out she took a
moment to look it over. It was lighter than she thought it would be,
bound in what felt like hide of some kind; she couldnt recognise
the language on the spine, nor the symbols printed on the cover.
She slipped it into her pack and began making her way back out.
She had made it through only a single room and entered a large
open space when she felt her foot suddenly catch on the ground,
almost spraining her ankle as it twisted uncomfortably beneath her.
No, not now! She felt a twinge of panic begin to creep in as she
heard a voice echo from across the chamber.
Well now, what have we here?
A man stepped out from behind one of the nearest shelves to
stand in the middle of the space. She couldnt make out his features
or complexion, but she could tell he was taller than average and a
little broader as well.
He looked around the room. Nice to see the runes are working
after all these years.
Sarah looked down at the ground. What she had previously

40 | Painted Words 2014

assumed were scratches in the floor now pulsed with a soft bluewhite glow. They were faint, but still bright enough for her to pick
out repeating patterns. Thin tendrils of arcane energy sprouted
from the sigils nearest her feet and twisting around her ankles like
vines, anchoring her in place.
Youve got to be kidding me! If those are runes they shouldve
reacted the moment I stepped on them, not after Ive rummaged
around for Her eyes involuntarily widened with realisation.
The man smiled, obviously amused.
Sarah reached into her pack and pulled out the book she
had snatched. In the top corner, looking like nothing more than
scratch marks was another rune, a miniature representation of
those on the floor.
Son of a bitch.
Ill ask you to cease the profanities in my residence, young
lady, the man said, sounding like a grandfather scolding a child,
as he reached out with his hand. The book leapt from Sarahs
grasp, landing with a soft clap in the palm of her captor.
Allow me to introduce myself, he continued. I am Skadruin,
keeper of the Archive Eternal and all the material it contains. And
you, Sarah Camson, are trespassing.
How did you know that!? I never said
Skadruin tapped a finger to his temple. Not everything is
immediately obvious. Mind-reading, for example. Mnemonic
blocks only work if youre expecting it, so right now I can read
your mind like a book.
Sarah said nothing.
Skadruin continued. Born in Greycliff to poor parents. Stole
your first gold coin from a nobleman when you were ten years of
age. Since that time you have been practising your trade across
the kingdoms, but only ever stealing from those who you feel
deserved it. I guess I should be flattered to have been picked for
your endeav

Painted Words 2014 | 41

His speech was cut short as Sarah threw the knife she concealed
in her vambrace in an underhand motion, sending it singing
through the air towards the mans throat.
The knife never hit its mark. Skadruins shadow suddenly
stretched off the ground and plucked the weapon out of the air. It
hung there like a viper playing with a rodent.
Skadruin didnt even glance at the weapon. Did you really
expect that to work, Sarah Camson?
Sarah felt herself try to take a step away from him, impeded by
the runes on the ground. What the hell are you?!
Skadruin smiled as he stepped back into the animated darkness
behind him. As soon as hed disappeared completely, the shadow
stretched upwards and outwards to several times its original size
before dissipating like evaporating mist.
The man was gone; in his place stood a colossal figure that
seemed to reach the roof of the vault. Bat-like wings, large enough
to cover the ceiling, stretched over the rows of bookshelves.
Scaled limbs capable of crushing a horse sat where human feet
had previously, tipped with claws that would have made any
predator envious. The once-human face had stretched into a
reptilian muzzle and yellow, cat-like eyes now regarded her
shocked expression with amusement.
The beast that had once been the man Skadruin rolled its
shoulders as though stretching after a nap. Ah, it is good to return
to normal. Glamouring oneself as a human is uncomfortable for a
being of my size, especially without the proper preparation.
Sarah almost forgot that she was capable of speech. You
Youre a Dragon?
You were expecting an orang-utan? the beast rumbled as it
tilted its head to one side.
What the hell is an orang never mind! I certainly wasnt
expecting this at any rate!
Then I suppose you didnt expect this either, Skadruiin said

42 | Painted Words 2014

as he flicked one claw almost absent-mindedly.


Sarahs head suddenly felt like a knife had plunged into it, and
she collapsed to the ground screaming and twisting in agony. Had
he used her own thrown blade against her? Was this how it ended,
as a plaything for one of the most powerful creatures in the world?
But the pain subsided just as rapidly as it had arrived, and she
found herself lying on the flagstone, breathing heavily. As she
propped herself up she looked at Skadruin. The dragon hadnt
moved, and just regarded her with piercing yellow eyes.
What did you just do to me?
As I said before, Sarah Camson, not everything is immediately
obvious, he said, looking away as he spoke.
Sarah followed his gaze down to his left forepaw, and almost
instantly saw what had drawn his attention. A human form,
composed of dim violet energy, writhed furiously beneath the
dragons crushing grip, bound in the same shadows Skadruin had
used while in human form.
Psychic construct, Skadruin spoke before she could even ask
the question. Rather intricate one at that. Weaves itself in amongst
its victims thoughts and influences them to do whatever its creator
desires. You were lucky, Sarah Camson.
What? How is it lucky I had a a a parasite in my head!
Skadruins tone suddenly became serious. Because this one
was about to terminate itself, and you along with it.
Sarah felt a chill run up her spine. Several things now made
sense; how she had known exactly where to go and what she was
looking for, despite not actually being told. She looked back at the
construct as it twisted in its captors grip. Now that she looked
closely she noticed its glowing features matched those of the old
man from Highforge.
Son of a bitch...
I believe I asked you not to use that language. It is unbecoming
of a lady such as yourself.

Painted Words 2014 | 43

Well excuse me for realising my employer planned to kill me


with a magical brain assassin! This doesnt happen every day,
you know!
And for that I am thankful. This is dark magic of the highest
order, and whoever did this is not likely to forgive your failure.
Skadruins paw suddenly pressed down on its captive, and the
struggling apparition vanished with a hiss, leaving no trace.
Let us see how he can handle his own poison.
What did you do?
Skadruins face made what could only be the draconic equivalent
of a smile. Psychic constructs such as that little beast are linked to
their masters at all times, like a pair of climbers joined by a tether.
I simply sent it back along the tether to the master.
Will it kill him?
It might, but I doubt it. Hell have a headache, but if he created
it he can probably remove it from his own head given time. But
that is not the worst part.
And what is?
Skadruin made a gesture, and the book hed taken from her
floated out from behind his form to hover in the air near his right
forepaw. This tome, you do not know what it contains, do you?
Um, no, I dont.
I did not think so. This book was written long before humans,
before elves, before any civilisation that you or any of your scholars
have heard of. The things in this book are very important to certain
people, and none of them are good.
Hows that?
The less you know, the better your life will be. Suffice to say,
should one of the aforementioned men claim this book or any of
a hundred others, then every man, woman, and child across the
world would be at risk. That is the reason I keep them here, away
from prying eyes.
Sarah cocked an eyebrow at the dragon. Hate to break it to
you, but it wasnt exactly hidden.

44 | Painted Words 2014

True. Even if you hadnt had that... parasite in your head, you
would have discovered it eventually.
Then why was it there, not sealed in a locked and warded vault?
Skadruin leaned his head in closer. Because I needed bait to
catch you, Sarah Camson, or at least someone like you.
Me? Why?
The dragon smiled. So that I could make you an offer.
The statement took Sarah aback. Dragons were quite possibly
the most powerful beings on the continent. For one to ask anything
of a lesser mortal was extreme to say the least.
She managed to compose herself before speaking. Are we
talking about a job here?
I do not know if you have noticed, but I do not exactly blend
in well with a crowd, even glamoured. There are some places that
I simply cannot go and tasks too delicate for me to perform. For
that, I require agents of my own, and you would be the perfect
candidate.
How do you know that? The test wasnt exactly hard.
Skadruin smiled again. Do remember I was able to look inside
your head, Sarah Camson. You certainly have the skills, but I
also say that, at heart, you are a person who tries to do the right
thing. All of your previous thefts were directed towards those of
ill intent. Only on this occasion were you tricked, probably due to
your former employers parasite. I know that if Id explained the
situation, you would have given the book up willingly. It is for
those reasons that I make this offer to you.
She thought for a second before speaking again. Is refusing an
option?
Skadruin nodded. Of course, but I will remind you that your
former employer is probably not going to take kindly to your
survival, and do not think he cant track you down wherever you
go. I can help you take care of him, or at the very least hide for the
time being

Painted Words 2014 | 45

Sarah sighed. One of the things shed learned over the years was
when to take someones advice. Point taken. Alright Skadruin,
you have a deal.
The dragon shuddered noticeably, vanishing into the shadows
again. When the darkness dissipated Skadruin the dragon was
gone, and Skadruin the man was standing before her again, a
kindly smile on his face.
Thank you, Sarah Camson. I am sure we will work well
together.
Sarah smiled back, simply at a loss of anything better to say.
This was going to be some adventure, that was for sure.

46 | Painted Words 2014

The Ninth Sea Yacht of the Dessert King


Carolynn Roberts and Jarrad Camm

any people know of the Seven Seas, although few care of the
Eighth Sea as it is quite boring. However, even less know of
the ever elusive Ninth Sea. For only the truly mad sail there. This
is a story about that sea.
Captain Jellybeard gazed out upon the ocean. Its deep blue
waters were calming to him as it reminded him of home. It had
been many moons since he had left his small village of Jellatopia
to sail the seas as a ferocious pirate, and he couldnt help but
feel somewhat accomplished even if his first mate was a sea-sick
cat. Jellybeard knew about hardships, as he was one of the Great
Jellyfish that had been persecuted by so many.
Have ye spotted them? Jellybeard asked to the cat, who had
recently finished throwing up. The feline looked over to him as he
licked his paw to clean his face.
Does it look like Ive been able to? His name was Maximillian
Von Maximillius and few people knew how or why he and the
captain had become friends. Maximillian was from the upper
class, if his dress didnt give that away, and Jellybeard wasnt, to
be honest. Jellybeard was a drunkard and a thief while Max was
extremely proper and clean.
Well if ya aint be using the tele-thingy give er ere, the
massive jelly said with a slimy appendage stretched out. The cat

Painted Words 2014 | 47

placed the telescope under one arm and pulled a shiny gold pocket
watch from his waistcoat.
Checking the time he spoke, Telescope, that its na, Max
turned a shade of green, which was quite the feat as his fur was
ginger. He once again spun towards the ocean and began retching
but still held out the pocket watch. Jellybeard snatched the
telescope from under the felines arm and held it up to his eye
patch. That was when he saw it, the luxury yacht of the King of
Desserts, Doug. Jellybeards face moved into some kind of smile,
but it was hard to tell for anyone looking; he threw the telescope
over him and screamed,
Ya mangy curs, kick Otto in the teeth and tell him to get
moving.
One of the pirates yelled something below deck and it followed
down until it got to the engine room, in which Otto the Engine
Octopus began to run on a giant wheel. The massive fan stuck to
the back of Jellybeards frigate kicked into high gear and set them
rocketing across the ocean.
Oh god, no! Jellybeard heard Maximillian yell as the cat
clawed into the wood.
Ye must get thar fast, the engines on that ting are much better
than ours! the captain yelled to his crew.
Max looked over to Jellybeard. Wait, that sounded strange, could
he be faking the pirate talk?
Wait, you sounded almost intelligent then, the cat yelled out.
Jellybeards eye patches went wide as Max spoke.
Umm, I meant to say, the thingy make em go fast, The
pirate covered poorly. Max thought about another question as
they approached the target. Also, how did you see through that
telescope?
There was a mighty crash as Jellybeards ship smashed into
the yacht. Several pirates quickly jumped on deck with weapons
drawn, but were met with resistance.

48 | Painted Words 2014

Dougs loyal army of ice cream men and their minions, ice
cream cone-men attacked. The ice cream cone-men made some
of the pirates body-conscious with cruel taunts and gave most
of them ice cream headaches. The ice cream men hurled massive
scoops of Neapolitan without the chocolate.
Those monsters! exclaimed Max.
Me thinks its time for us to join the fight, Jellybeard looked
towards Maximillian who nodded to his captain. Both jumped into
action. The first ice cream cone-man laughed at Jellybeard.
Ha, youre so fat! The cone-man pointed at him. Jellybeard
crossed his limbs.
Mell ave you know, that me is quite attractive as a jellyfish.
Jellybeard caught one of the pirates looking at him strangely. Um,
Me means die He pulled out one of his flintlocks and shot the
cone-man.
Oww man, I was just using words and you took it too far, it
cried as it collapsed in a pile of melted cream. Jellybeard put aside
his guilt as he turned to find Max perched on a screaming coneman. The feline was contentedly licking away the ice cream.
Oh god, get him off, get him off, it screamed. Jellybeard
laughed as he heard a shout of victory. He watched as his crew
tied up the remaining ice cream men.
What should we do with them sir? one of the pirates asked as
Jellybeard floated over to them.
Monsters like this need to feel pain, well maroon them for
their crimes against the people. Everyone cheered at this.
Neapolitan without chocolate, what villains, the captain
whispered to himself.
We found him sir, someone yelled out from below decks on
the yacht.
Bring im up, Jellybeard called down. One of the pirates came
on deck with a rope in his hand, at the end of which was a white
unicorn.

Painted Words 2014 | 49

Doug the Unicorn. Jellybeard smiled.


What is the meaning of this? Ill have you know that I paid
for the highest of protection. Doug the Unicorn spoke with
confidence. There was a loud buzzing in the distance.
Ill tell you why, you The buzzing sound turned into a high
powered engine noise.
What is that? Max asked as he looked into the sky. Jellybeard
reached behind him and pulled out the telescope.
Where did you you know what, I dont care, Max said as
he shook his head.
Trouble, that what it be. As Jellybeard spoke, a massive rocketpowered jet fighter screamed overhead and a body smashed into
the yacht. A massive dust cloud kicked up, and after a few seconds
a figure emerged from it.
I am Lord Vienspalvis. He was dressed in all grey; Jellybeard
and Max just looked at each other, then quickly walked together
and whispered to each other.
Lord Vanspillson? Jellybeard asked.
Lord Vienspalvis, the lord corrected.
The two huddled again.
Vinspanner? Maximillian asked
Vienspalvis! Vienspalvis shouted at them.
Vooveevoo? Jellybeard asked.
That time you didnt even try, you just made vee noises. The
lords eye twitched.
Lord V-thing, thats about to get his butt kicked, Max
chuckled.
Thats not my name! Vienspalvis eyes went slightly bloodshot.
Tis now, Jellybeard said, as they both began to laugh.
Argh! Ill show you! he howled as he held out his index fingers
and began to shoot highly concentrated rainbows into the eyes of
two nearby pirates.
Im blind! screamed one.

50 | Painted Words 2014

That is quite annoying! yelled the other as he stumbled off


the yacht.
Lord Vienspalvis quickly blinded several pirates and mildly
annoyed three others. Finally, Max and Jellybeard stepped
forward, and his lordship smiled.
I know a felines greatest weakness, Vienspalvis said, grinning.
Max smirked.
Unlik whats that? He spoke as a red dot appeared on the
floor of the yacht.
Chase the red dot, kitty. The lord began to move his finger
around the ship.
Gotta catch that! Max screamed as he began to chase the dot
around. Vienspalvis held his index and middle fingers towards
Jellybeard. Two rainbows shot out and hit the two eye patches the
jellyfish wore. Nothing happened. Again he shot out the rainbows
but once again nothing.
Hey, thats not fair, youre wearing eye patches, his lordship
said sulkily.
Lets see how me be without then. Jellybeard lifted the eye
patches. Vienspalvis quickly shot another rainbow but nothing
happened.
You see, the Jellyfishs greatest strength is Jellybeard
began as he lifted his noodle appendages. We dont have eyes!
the Jellyfish shouted as a massive bolt of lightning arced from
his tentacles and struck the ground below the lord. The massive
explosion sent him flying into the sky.
Ahhhh! Next time Jellybeard! he screamed as he rocketed
off into the distance. Max walked over to Jellybeard, now
composed. Both looked at Doug as he looked off to where
Vienspalvis had gone.
Wait come back he whispered. The unicorn turned to face
the pirates.
So, I guess you are here for the leprechaun, Doug held
himself high.

Painted Words 2014 | 51

Wait, what leprechaun? Ill take the leprechaun, Max said


with a gleam in his eye; Leprechaun meant gold which means he
might actually be paid this month.
Youre not here for it then? Doug looked perplexed. Jellybeard
stepped up to him and shoved a tentacle in his face.
Last year, ya made me a berthdee cake, me asked for chocolate
icing and ya made me vanilla! He howled, a tear forming below
the right eye patch. Doug looked as though he had been hit on the
head.
What, thats it? he asked with a look that said, my brains just
ducked out.
Thats it? The captain stared at the unicorn and spoke with
a tone that could only be described as insulted. Of course!
Jellybeard screeched. Give me those! he yelled as he tore a set
of keys from the unicorns saddle. Now git off me new boat, the
captain said, pointing to the ocean.
You cant be serious, its three days to the nearest port, Doug
protested as he looked around. When he looked back at Jellybeard,
there was a flintlock in his face. Max watched as a sweat began to
pour off the unicorn. Im sure I can manage though, he giggled
nervously as he jumped into the sea. Max watched as Doug slowly
swam away.
Is that it, me should ave shot the landlubber, Jellybeard spoke
as he brought a pipe up to his face. Max thought of asking where
he got the pipe from but he decided to just let it go, he probably
wont get a real answer anyway. Now will someone make me a
cake? the captain shouted. Everyone laughed. Jellybeard slowly
turned around, with a mad look on his patches.
No, really, someone make me a cake, he pulled out a flintlock
and clicked it back.

52 | Painted Words 2014

The Blue Peter


Elvira McIntosh

he salient promontory locals call it The Nut keeps a


silent vigil over the small fishing village of Stanley in the
northernmost part of Tasmania. It will play a small but important
role in this strange story.
It is the story that Peter Forrest told, about the greatest impostor
he ever met. Peter was one of only three survivors of a fateful
trawler accident off the shores of Tasmania in 1948. At the time of
his rescue he never thought he would ever sail again, the horrific
injuries he had suffered during the explosion had seen to that. But
when he took his first unaided walk in hospital, an indescribable
longing in his soul to sail again compelled him, and became the
motivating force behind his subsequent recovery.
He obeyed the calling of the sea, albeit apprehensively at first.
Nobody survives such tragedies without gripping fears embedding
in his soul. When he eventually sailed into Stanley from Hobart
after the accident, his friends began to call him Blue Peter, after
the maritime flag that announces the arrival of ships to shore.
Thats the time when Joshua McAdam, the intriguing fisherman at
the centre of Blue Peters tale, asked to join his crew.
The story really begins, as Blue Peter would say, before dawn on
the day of Grace Hobbs death, although he is mistaken; Joshuas
story begins a long time before that. Her body lies on a pristine

Painted Words 2014 | 53

white bed in a small room of a cottage on the foreshore. The room


is silent. The moons light streams into the room through the small
window and is aided by the flickering flame of a small candle on
the dresser. An angry Miss Dawn Hornsby, a widow, who observes
the body, mutters to herself again and again.
Its a good thing I have no feelings whatsoever, she says,
mistaking anger for the absence of sorrow. No feelings at all. No
emotions, no sir. No tears.
One can almost imagine the life and the love that had once
radiated in this home. Peters eyes well up with tears that come with
the evoking of his tale. Gracie is the life of the home, the radiance of
Stanley, the light of countless friends. But now, through this death,
the exuberance of life has to be toned down by dark coverings.
Dawn turns away from the funeral bed, to cover the mirror with a
dark green cloth, straightening it with visibly defiant strokes, as if
venting her wrath on it. She then spreads a black cloth over a large
wooden box by the window. The only other piece of furniture in
the room is a rocking chair by an unlit fireplace.
Downstairs the living room is shrouded in darkness. The
night is cold.
Miss Hornsby returns to the body, and, taking coins from her
pocket, closes the eyelids of her friend, placing a coin on each.
Ah, cousin, I thought Id go first! she mutters irritably. Not
fair, it is simply not right that you should die like this, so young
and beautiful. She is about to pull the white sheet over the face
when suddenly she hears a strange noise. She stops the action
indignantly, nostrils flaring in disgust.
What on earth...! she says angrily, as she turns around
towards the door.
Someone is heard but not seen, clumping noisily up the stairs.
A childs shriek of laughter is followed by a dogs bark as a door
bangs in the distance. Miss Dawn stops to listen but she doesnt
venture out.

54 | Painted Words 2014

Its that little girl again! Just as well I have no feelings, or I


would be spooked. But she gathers her arms inside her shawl and
sits down on the rocker to wait for the morning.
That little girl, as Miss Dawn calls her, is the unexplainable
presence that has visited the cottage before and, Blue Peter says,
she visits still. It is hard to believe that Miss Dawn can dismiss
her in such a matter of course way, but as she explains to herself,
those things do happen, thinking, no doubt about Hamlets There
are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are written in your
philosophies.
That little girl has visited three times this week. Miss Dawn
knows the score. No more eerie child-laughter, no more dogbarking, until next time. May she rest peacefully twix and tween,
she says as she rocks lightly, drowsily. She knows that tiny muddy
footprints on the polished landing will have to be cleaned once
more. Its the mud that upsets her the most.
As morning begins to break, the front door quietly opens and
Old Mrs Ellis, the nosy neighbour from across the road, enters the
living room. She is indeed rather old and gaunt, but with a hint
of command about her. She is not entirely happy in the house,
or anywhere else, really. She is one of those women who could
smile if she wanted to, but she does not allow herself the luxury of
crinkling her face to do it. She survived the first war working as a
nurse in the Middle East. The second war saw her knit dozens and
dozens of brown socks, collected by the local Country Womens
Association War Effort Group. She thinks of herself as instrumental
in getting the fisherwomen to bake Anzac biscuits to send to the
boys at war. She is well respected but not loved. Mrs Ellis is,
despite her age, the local midwife. And the funeral dresser. There
at birth and there at death. She now sits quietly in Miss Dawns
darkened living room downstairs. Its what she likes doing best,
thinking up ways of startling people.
Is that you, Mary? Miss Dawn calls out. Mary is her young

Painted Words 2014 | 55

and rather uncouth daily helper whom she has to correct all day
long. How many times do I have to tell you to knock at the door?
No answer comes, and Miss Dawn feels obliged to investigate.
Bother! she says, Why couldnt they leave us alone. She
is still warm and Her growling is interrupted by the sight of
Mrs Ellis.
Ah, no you wont! she says. Adding action to words she lifts
Ellis from the chair and pushes her out of the house.
How dare you! Ellis curses follow but the door is slammed
on her face and locked.
How dare she! She, of all people! Just as well my feelings are
well under control. Miss Dawn goes to the kitchen to boil the kettle
for a much needed cup of tea. Grace Hobbs death has drained the
last of her energy and Ellis intrusion provokes her self-restraint
sorely. She is trying her hardest not to feel. No feelings, she says,
no tears, no emotions, best way to cope.
Where is that Joshua McAdam when you need him? She
opens the garden door and there, standing with her hand on the
doorknob is Ellis again. Its broom-chasing time, but as Miss Dawn
turns to grip her weapon, Ellis turns and runs for her life.
Just as well I have no feelings she lies to herself once more.
Blue Peter and Joshua are meanwhile trawling their daily route
off the easternmost coast of Tasmania, hauling nets full of fish
behind them. Two figures are watching their return from the height
of The Nut. One is Mrs Ellis, shading her face with her hand, shawl
tightly held against the cold wind. The other, some fifty yards
away from her, is Joshuas grandfather, Fergus. He blends into the
shadows of the trees, clutching his bagpipes under his arm. Both
have news for Joshua.
Annie Forrest is waiting on the shore with the fish-baskets lined
up and ready to receive the daily catch. She too has news for him.
The rising sun glows on, and as Joshua says to Peter, through her.
Her long and wavy reddish hair, abundant, radiates in the autumn

56 | Painted Words 2014

light. Peter Forrest says he loves her over and over again. Joshua
shares the sentiment, playfully, a brotherly understanding between
them. Peter kisses her, Joshua lifts her up and swings her around,
making her squeal and box his head until he puts her down again.
He does not envy Peter, for he does not desire Annie for himself.
But he does hope that one, the likes of her, will love him one day.
You are one lucky man, Blue, he says to Blue Peter, ducking
one last blow from the strong fisherwoman.
Grace Hobbs is dead, she says abruptly, trying to hold back
her tears and not succeeding. Peter wraps his iron-like arms
around her shaking body. Looking over her head at Joshua,
who has immediately removed his thick woollen cap on hearing
the news.
Go to Dawn, Josh, she will be needing you.
Joshua nods, replaces his cap but then reconsiders.
Lets unload first. He knows that fish need to be handled
swiftly and he needs the physical activity to distract his emotions.
He has known Grace since he can remember. She is the prettiest
woman he knows, even compared to Annie, and always so good
to him. With her job as town librarian she ensured that both Joshua
and Peter had reading material for their long stays both at home,
when the weather for fishing was bad and at sea, to pass the
time away before activity set in. In many ways Grace was like
a mother and a sister and a teacher to the fisherman cum soldier.
How she fretted when he went to war, and how she rejoiced when
he returned almost without injury. The shrapnel embedded in his
back was the almost.
Leave it, Josh, if I know Miss Dawn she will be beside herself
with worry, you know her, says Annie through her tears.
Josh looks at them both but ignores them and begins rapidly to
unload. Soon townsfolk arrive and take over the job, urging him,
no, pushing him to go. The haunting wail of bagpipes suddenly
fills the air.

Painted Words 2014 | 57

Fergus McAdam, his grandfather, plays the pipes under the


tree. His news will have to wait.
Mrs Ellis turns on her heel towards town. Her news can wait
too. Right now she fancies a bit of fresh fish.
Miss Dawn opens the door to Joshua McAdam, the young
returned soldier. He is about to discover why she mustnt allow
her feelings to overwhelm her.
Joshua is the first person Miss Dawn has allowed to see Grace
Hobbs. After Mrs Ellis, a stream of callers try to pay their respects
but she swiftly gets rid of them. They can return in the afternoon,
she says, and they wonder why.
She looks so at peace, he says, quietly taking in Graces
arresting features. How he is going to miss the grey-blue eyes
looking at him again. Those eyes that pierce right into your soul.
Eyes that speak of joy. Eyes that reproach unkindness. Eyes that
emanate love without words. Closed forever. Grotesquely lidded
down with coins.
Joshua, Cousin Grace asked me to give you something that
belongs to you. Miss Dawn says, fighting to get the words out
without a trace of emotion. She hands him a key.
Whats this? he asks, intrigued. He cannot think of anything
that could possibly belong to him amongst her things.
Its the key to that chest, she points to the black-draped chest
under the window. Go on, open it.
When he opens it, besides books and what looks like framed
photographs and papers, there is a large envelope on top addressed
to him. He opens it and reads it silently, frowning when he gets to
the end.
This cannot be! he says. Is it really true? Miss Dawn nods,
the brown in her eyes deepening.
This is how Blue Peter discovered that Joshua McAdam was the
biggest impostor he had ever known. He had known him since the
day that Joshuas grandfather had arrived into town one day on

58 | Painted Words 2014

the Hobart ferry, bagpipes under one arm and a baby under the
other. All the time he thought him as a precocious, hard-working,
loyal, truthful, friendly boy. And when he enlisted for war the
whole town missed him, then welcomed him back on his return.
An ordinary boy, living an ordinary life amongst ordinary folk,
thats all.
Joshua, according to the document in his hands, it turns out,
is Grace Hobbs son whom she couldnt acknowledge because of
what the document says. He is not a fisherman. He is not a soldier.
He is not ordinary after all.
He is the son of the King.

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Two Saddles
Elvira McIntosh

here was an apprentice saddle-maker, whose name was


Charlie Cafferty, who could never do anything right. His boss
found fault with everything he tried to do. First it was the leatherparing skives he wasnt putting back exactly where hed been told
to. Then it was the oils, either wasting, or not enough. And to make
things worse, he cut his thumb with the circular head-knife.
He was angry at his father for making him do this. All
because he couldnt read proper at school, the way the letters kept
scrambling on the page or turning themselves backwards. Useless,
hopeless, dingbat and other words he couldnt spell were hurled in
his direction.
When he turned fifteen he refused to enrol at school again.
His mother pleaded. His fathers words sounded like a labyrinth
with no way out. He decided to run away. Which he did, for one
whole afternoon. Trouble was, the dog followed him. Trouble
was, he got too hungry. So he turned around and made it back in
time for dinner.
Father returned that evening with good news. Old Mr Casillis,
the saddle-maker in Bourke would take him on as an apprentice.
Every man in the district older than seventy was respectfully called
Old out of an unspoken rule of Far-Western etiquette.
You will get to learn how to make saddles, son. It is a good

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trade and Old Casillis is determined to pass his skills on to


someone younger.
But it had been no use. Two years of this and he still felt clumsy
and good-for-nothing. He was rehearsing in his mind how to tell
Old Mr Casillis that he wasnt coming back, when two things
happened almost at once.
First of all there was a knock at the door which he tried to ignore.
The knock happened again, more insistent and louder. It made the
head-knife jump in his hand, cutting deeply into his thumb.
He wrapped the injured thumb with some of the scrap cotton
they used for dabbing the leather oils and dyes. The dirty rag
absorbed the blood but the cut stung mercilessly and almost made
him swear. This explains in part why he didnt run, but hopped to
the door, much like a kangaroo, with the pain in his whole arm. It
also explained why the door was splattered with blood ever after.
Wincing with pain and with the sun shining in his eyes, he
stared at the man standing there. He shouldnt have done that.
What are you staring at? asked the man at the door.
I am not staring, I am... what do you want? I mean, how can I
help you, sir? he said.
You cant help me. Wheres the boss?
Damned if he knew, he shrugged his shoulders.
You work here? he asked incredulously, that anyone would
employ such an uncouth fellow, well, whats the world coming to?
Im just the apprentice. he said, wishing it was with at least
some pride in the words.
Find the boss, will you? the emissary commanded. Charlie
spied an old gentleman with snowy-white hair in the utility
outside.
He walked to the house, calling out to Mrs Casillis. She answered
from somewhere upstairs.
Give me a moment, Charlie. and then, Lachlan, shall I call
the doctor? You dont look well at all. And then a shout, Charlie

Painted Words 2014 | 61

come here, quick! He climbed the stairs two at a time. He tried to


discard the dirty cloth around his wound but it bled profusely so
he wrapped it back again quickly.
Stay with Mr Casillis. No, you cannot do much with that hand
bleeding all over. Listen, go to the kitchen and call Doctor Lopes,
hurry, you remember the number? Lost in the confusion of things,
he shook his head.
All right. Stay here and Ill go.
He stayed and he wished he hadnt, for no sooner had the lady
turned her back that Old Mr Casillis went the purplest anyone
could ever look, arching his back in pain.
The doctor came, the ambulance came and the emissary went,
but not without telling Charlie the reason for his visit.
The boss urgently needs a new saddle in time for the Bourke
Show in three weeks time. Gomes said.
I am sorry sir, but you just saw Mr Casillis go to hospital
and theres no one else who could make it for you. I am just the
apprentice and not at all good at it, he thought, Youll have to find
someone else.
Charlie was glad he had made his point quite clear. He also
thought what a stroke of luck it was for the boss to get sick just
when he wanted to stop working for him.
You will have to do. Theres no one else around for miles, he
insisted. You know how to do the work, dont you?
Charlie thought for a while. Of course he knew how to do the
work. He had made two saddles already, and although Mr Casillis
had complained all the time, both had been sold straight away. It
dawned on him that he couldnt be as bad as the boss made him
out to be.
Yeah, all right, he said. Ill give it a go.
Mind you, we need it before the show, Gomes said. The
emissarys name was Gomes, whose father was said to have been
Old Persian Mr Sarkis who owned the quaint bazaar in the middle

62 | Painted Words 2014

of town. Old Sarkis had known a thing or two about saddle-making.


Mr Casillis had learnt the trade from him before he became Old.
Old Sarkis lived to his hundredth, the oldest of the old.
All right, Ill have it ready. Charlie felt important all of a
sudden. It felt, in fact very, very good.
You do know how to do it? Gomes said again, with suspicion.
Charlie nodded vigourously, O yes!
Gomes walked back to the utility, Charlie saw the old gentleman
turn to him, his grey eyes smiling. It was Old Mr Tully, the famous
horseman. Too late, Charlie waved frantically, making the blood
spurt again, splashing his face. He forgot to ask what kind of
saddle he needed. Western, or English?
I think Western, he told himself, better for working horses. I
just hope its not for a dressage event or then Ill be stuffed.
Still, he had to start immediately, and by and by it all became
clear in his mind. He got out the templates and placed them on
the large workbench. He got out the wooden forms for the horn,
the back, and what saddle-makers call the saddle-tree. Then the
metal insert for the seat and at the end, all the metal bits that make
stirrups and tie-holes plus tacks and nails and studs and rivets. He
then began to place each tool in the order he would need them. All
sizes and shapes of knives, leather-scissors, blades, skivers, rasps,
pliers and hammers. And the tin of strong glue. He knew how to
use the electric cutter for the small pieces and he knew how to use
the industrial sewing machine. All was in order, the way he liked it.
There was only one hitch. He couldnt find enough leather to
do the job.
No worries, he said Ill phone Mr Paige in Bree and see if he
has any. He phoned Old Mr Paige, and Charlied drive out to get
it. No worries there.
Mr Paige was the competition, though at the safe distance of
another town. Charlie hadnt been as happy as he felt now. He felt
so energised he didnt stop to think enough about the challenge he
was taking on.

Painted Words 2014 | 63

First it was the pattern. There seemed to be something the


matter with it. That night he had the first of many nightmares.
He dreamt that his face was being moulded inside wet leather.
It was his blanket wrapped twice over his head. But awaking, he
saw it clearly: he had the saddle-skirt pattern back to front and
upside down!
Then there was the utility, it wouldnt start, try as he may, after
fiddling with this and that. Luckily he thought about the sparkplugs, he changed two of them without a hitch and off he went.
What he wasnt expecting though, was a flood. Yes, without
television or radio to tell him, a flood had risen overnight, closing
the only road between Bourke and Bree. One nightmare later, he
dreamt of himself floating on a table and he wondered how that
would work.
People at the pub who saw him wade into the water with a
wooden table on his head thought he was what they had always
suspected a bit mad. He also borrowed one long post from the
pubs back yard.
The people from both towns stood on either end of the water
watching him row himself on the pub table. With much difficulty
he rowed across the water, a couple of times feeling the table list to
one side, then the other. They all cheered when he got to the other
side. Then they held their breath when he loaded the roll of leather
onto the table-barge for the trip back. It nearly capsized when he
clambered back in. The women began to shout instructions and
the men cursed his stupidity. Some of the youngsters laughed
unashamedly. He managed with extreme difficulty to row back.
As he approached the finish, he stood up and sure enough, he
tumbled into the water. All seemed lost until he stood up in the
water and began to push the table with the roll of leather. The
flood was only about a foot deep.
That sturdy table stands with pride in the corner of the pub and
the story is retold every time someone new chooses it to enjoy a
pint or two.

64 | Painted Words 2014

What few people know is what happened after the flood.


Mr Paiges apprentice found out what Charlie was doing and
decided to beat him to it. He went back and enthused all of the
workers in the workshop to work on a saddle for Mr Tully. They
would halve the time and beat Casillis to it, working together. Mr
Paiges apprentice, whose name was Leiko Joe, but it could have
been the other way round, Joe Leiko, except that he got called
Leiko comma Joe by the teachers at school and the name stuck.
Well, Leiko Joe was too late.
You are too late, Leiko Joe, said the emissary when he received
the phone call, Mr Tully has already ordered a saddle from Old
Mr Casillis and I am sure hes not going to be wanting two saddles.
Not at once, anyhow.
Just ask him, will you? Leiko Joe was not one to give up easily
once hed made up his mind about something.
So Gomes did. He asked Mr Tully what he thought about two
saddles.
Ill let the horse decide, he said, without even lifting his eyes
from the newspaper.
All right, Gomes told Leiko Joe, when the flood recedes,
bring your saddle to the farm and Mr Tully, or someone with a bit
of nouse, will decide then. Gomes thought it was a great joke, the
one about the horse who chose its own saddle.
Meanwhile back in the Casillis workshop, working under
extreme conditions, due mostly to the hot November weather,
Charlie spent hours and hours working on the saddle. The cutting
of the leather was in a sense the easier part, for you used the
patterns. The hard part was building up the wooden saddle-tree
with several layers of thick leather skived all around to fit snugly
tucked under each new layer, and a metal sheet for added strength.
The last layer was soaked in hot water to mould over the whole
thing. It was slow and careful and meticulous work requiring
patience which for Charlie was in short supply.

Painted Words 2014 | 65

Now that he was alone, though, he seemed to take a lot more


interest and a lot more care in the work of his hands.
There was one last thing he had to do to truly finish the work.
Engraving. He had never done that. Even though he watched Mrs
Casillis do this part of the job, he had not had any practice on it
as yet. And she was still in town with her husband so he felt a bit
disappointed about it. Never mind, he thought, I can give it a try. He
looked into her engraving cupboard and got out her tools, then,
after moistening the leather with her sponge, he began.
Every day he skipped smoko, lunch, arvo tea and had a late
microwaved dinner until he had the skirt and the back looking like
a true Western saddle. He even managed to engrave his name with
such flowery disguises that only he could recognise.
One last push and the work of art would be finished. Well, he
didnt exactly call it a work of art, but he was mighty pleased with
the end result just the same. One last oiling, one last buffing up, one
last polishing the metal bits and he nearly cried with exhaustion
and joy. He was so glad to be alone with his tears of happiness.
Tomorrow he would rest and then on Monday he would phone
Mr Tully to tell him that his saddle was ready. It had taken him
about 60 hours from go to woe. Of course if you added up the trip
over the flooded river to collect the leather, well that would add a
whole day, but he didnt count that in. Glad to have been there, done
that, he thought.
In the meantime, Leiko Joe had gone ahead with his workmates determined to finish the saddle in half the time Old Tully
had given Old Casillis. Trouble was that when the boss found out
what was happening without his knowledge, he was so angry he
literally hit the roof, well, the wall, with the first thing he could put
his hand on, a heavy saddle-horn. He refused to agree to the work.
Instead of fretting as he should have, Leiko Joe told his coworkers that, as members of the Leatherworkers Guild, they had
rights. Old Mr Paige dismissed them. The Guild intervened. No

66 | Painted Words 2014

luck, Paige was adamant. The workers downed tools and sat in
the middle of town with a table with leaflets demanding wages for
time wasted. The boss was stubborn but he knew he stood to go
under faster than he could hire others, so reluctantly, he agreed.
In jubilation, the workers said that they would work, but work
slowly, as per union regulations and by the clock.
The day of delivery arrived. Mr Casillis recovered but his wife
commanded him to stay in bed or else. She drove the utility with
the saddle and Charlie. The old man was absolutely certain he was
going to be the laughingstock of the district with the terrible job
that Charlie had done with it. As soon as his wife left, he drove
himself to Tullys horse-yard, expecting the worst.
Old Mr Tully brought out Silver, his newest horse. Gomes
led him to the centre of the ring. Mr Tully patted the horses head
and rubbed his ears, all the time looking at it in the eye. He then
whispered something that took almost a minute. Charlie felt the
saddle getting heavier in his arms.
Oright, Leiko Joe, your saddle, please. Leiko Joe put the
ornate saddle on the horse. No troubles there. The horse stood still
and moved its head to one side, ever so slightly. One minute, two
minutes, three passed by in absolute silence.
Oright Leiko Joe, mount it, please. Leiko Joe didnt
understand. Did he say mount it? He was a saddle-maker but a
fearful rider. But he drew courage from somewhere and seated
himself on his saddle. Immediately the horse began to resent it. In
no time at all Leiko Joe was on the ground, spitting out red dust.
Oright Charlie, your turn. Charlie froze for a moment. He
wasnt expecting this. But he took a deep breath and walked as
nonchalantly to the horse as he could.
Listen mate, he said to Silver, this is my first time, go easy
on me, will you?
He placed the saddle on the horse and strapped it firmly on
it. It fitted like it had been moulded by Michelangelo . He put his

Painted Words 2014 | 67

foot on the gleaming stirrup and holding the saddle horn firmly,
swung his body over. The horse almost smiled. Silver led a happy
Charlie around the circle.
When he dismounted he suddenly felt like a grown man. In
fairness, Leiko Joes saddle was paid; well Old Paige, was paid.
The saddle would be used for dressage work.
If this had been a fable, it would have probably ended with
Charlie getting the hand of the princess as reward. But such luck
only happens in books. Lucky for him, though, Old Mr Tully
offered him a job.
As saddle-maker? he was aghast. He had enjoyed the pressure
of the challenge but he wasnt sure if that was his choice of destiny.
No, as horseman, said Mr Tully who knew a good man as
he knew his horses. Still a bit of a rawhide, but we can train you.
What do you say, lad?
Old Mr Casillis was now between them. Charlie didnt know
what to say.
Maybe we should let the horse decide?

68 | Painted Words 2014

SKYFIRE
Harley Ryan

he first body landed at my feet about 1.33pm. I had just


eaten lunch.
Blood and other things sprayed the sidewalk like some abstract
form of graffiti. Some circles in the art world would have framed
that mess and charged a dime. The third body had crashed to earth
by the time I realised what was going on.
The airship overhead was tilting at a bad angle; an angle that
makes them tip people out like drops from a watering can. It didnt
strike me until later that night that none of them had screamed.
Although screaming whilst falling has always seemed a strange
thing to do as far as Im concerned; as if protesting your fall will
miraculously stop you from plummeting to your inevitable doom.
But I digress.
Then the explosion shook nearby windows. Glass flexed like
plastic, but somehow didnt shatter. And yet chunks of concrete fell
here and there about my feet. How is it that glass can be sturdier
than concrete? Looks, as they say, can be deceiving.
Men, women, and children all ran screaming as if their hair was
on fire. Perhaps it was. I was too busy watching the airship list
to the side and plummet into a hill some distance away. Again,
the screaming. Are they trying to fend fear off with their shrill
cries? It baffles me no end. I assure you that when the shit hits

Painted Words 2014 | 69

the proverbial fan my instinct is not to begin screaming. I do not


enjoy drawing attention to myself. Perhaps they are not so selfconscious. But again with the digressing.
Where was I?
Yes, people splatting, things possibly burning.
It was pandemonium, and I seemed to be the only person
nonplussed by everything going on. It isnt like Im accustomed to
people exploding at my feet, it was just that I had been expecting
this for some time. The event was late. By two months. I dont
like arriving early to a party people dont know theyre hosting.
Its awkward. For everyone. Well, for me. Its a lot like being the
only sober person in a room of drunken idiots. Youre aware of
everything.
But this was no party. Although the not-drunk-possiblyburning-people were tripping all over the place like hippies on
acid, I still felt no urgency to move. I didnt feel any danger would
befall me. Im a little arrogant like that. Danger is something other
people are in; I am merely in the presence of said danger. Theres a
difference.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. I had to fight my instinct to turn
and throw a left hook. When I saw it was my partner, Wallace, I
still had to fight that instinct. I dont know what it is; he just has a
punchable face. The kind of face that invites violence. Its not his
fault. Thats why I dont punch him. See? I can be nice.
Somethings happening, Wallace said. He has this uncanny
ability to state the obvious.
I looked up at the empty sky. It is, isnt it?
Should we go? Wallace looked around like he had misplaced
something. I saw he had the brown briefcase. That was good.
Go where? I said, spreading my arms. This is where its at,
Wally. He hated being called Wally. It was my way of getting his
attention.
Wally was about to say something when he got distracted by

70 | Painted Words 2014

the fire truck screaming down the street in the direction the airship
had gone down. Sirens blaring, horns blasting, and still people do
not shuffle out of the way. I couldnt be a fireman. Id run people
over. You know, so I could save other people faster.
I was about to speak when an explosion tore through a building
four blocks away. It seemed it was a day for unsaid things. The
fireball rose high into the sky until it dissipated into nothingness.
Henry, Wallace shouted over the screaming panic. We
need to go!
I sighed. Alright. Lets get to moving.
***
The hotel we met the others at was precariously close to the raging
inferno that was the building across the road. Why we were meeting
next to the scene of our crime was baffling. I should have been in
charge. I would be a better head of the division. For instance: I would
make sure we met our contacts on the other side of the city, AWAY
from the building we had blown up. Maybe its just me and most of
the time Im sure it is but I let logic dictate my actions. Sometimes
curiosity, but mainly logic. And it is only logical to investigate ones
curiosity now and then, right? Okay, so Im a hypocrite too. But at
least Im aware of it. Nothing worse than an oblivious hypocrite.
Theyre almost as annoying as Wallys face.
Paunch and Byron entered the small room, both covered in soot
from head to toe.
Bit heavy on the foundation, ladies, I said looking them up
and down. But I give you a six, I pointed at Paunch.
Fuck off, Henry. Paunch. Hes never liked me. I cant
imagine why.
Well, youve hurt my feelings. Now you get a five.
Paunch looked like he was about to hit me when Byron stepped
between us, albeit subtly. You dont get in Paunchs way unless
you want to become part of his destruction.
Byron looked at the briefcase Wally held and said, That it?

Painted Words 2014 | 71

Wally nodded and went to hand the case over. I had other ideas.
I often do.
I reached out and took the briefcase. Hold on a second, I said
as I looked the case over. This isnt the same case.
Wallys eyes widened. They were already too far apart. He
would do well to keep his features neutral. What are you doing?
Wally said.
What the fuck is this? Paunch stepped forward.
One question at a time, gentlemen, I said as I shook the case
for added effect. Youll overwhelm me.
Henry, Byron was intent on making eye contact. If this is
your idea of mucking around Im going to let Paunch break your
kneecaps. Give me the case. He held out his hand expectantly.
Byron is used to asking once and getting once. Its a good system. I
pride myself on destroying systems. It is, after all, what I do.
Nope. I opened the case and grabbed the thin metallic device
that looked like a stove lighter. Before Byron could even register
what I was doing I had squeezed that tiny trigger and watched his
head snap back as if I had hit him with a sledgehammer. Paunch
got sprayed with blood and tiny bits of cranium. He blinked it
away dumbly. He opened his mouth to threaten me most likely,
but I punched a hole out the back of his head with a second ignition
of that unassuming device.
Wally slumped back into an armchair, staring at the sudden
devastation and trying against hope to blink some semblance of
reason into his misshapen head. He looked up at me with confusion
painting his features. Henry, his voice was soft, almost a whisper.
Henry, he repeated.
Wallace, I said looking at the device.
What are you doing? He sounded so confused, so hurt, that I
almost felt sorry for him.
Im taking back whats mine. This, I said as I held out the
device, is mine. It has been for a very long time.

72 | Painted Words 2014

I dont understand.
I know you dont, and thats alright. All that matters is that you
helped me. That matters because it prevents you from ending up
like them. I looked at the bodies of Byron, and of Paunch whom
had slumped over his partners body, almost in an embrace.
But why did they end up like that?
Because they never would have allowed me to reacquire this
for myself. This thing, and a few other things like it, have allowed
me to do some very important things. Things that you wouldnt
be able to understand unless you had seen through my eyes. And
even then
I moved to sit across from Wallace so I could get him to look
me in the eye. I suddenly had an urge to make him understand.
Sometimes I like to tackle the impossible.
Wallace, I said. He didnt look up. Wally! That got him. I
even got a scowl. Listen. That man you got the case from? He
nodded. He took that from me a long time from now.
What?
Just listen damn it! The world was meant to develop differently
than the way it has. Or maybe it was merely another alternative.
Either way, the world is a better place because of something I did
years ago. I prevented a great war that would have decimated the
world. The world would have recovered, but there would have
been another war to follow. I stopped that from happening, and
the only way I can keep that from ever happening is if I have my
tools. Do you understand?
No.
Good. Now get up.
But, Henry-
Now, Wallace!
He reluctantly stood, which is lucky because I almost found my
excuse to hit him. I really had no ill will for the man, but I found
myself constantly on the precipice of violence. All I can say in my

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defence is look at the world through my eyes for one day and tell
me I dont have a will of iron when it comes to restraint.
Ignore the bodies. That was necessary.
I led Wally out to the hall. His eyes still searched the floor for
meaning. He halted halfway down the stairwell. What did you
mean, a long time from now, you said?
My shoulders slumped. Look, Wally, the only way I can
explain is that sometimes Im allowed to travel. When I travel I
witness something horrible, something that should never be. Then
I travel again to make sure it never is.
He stared at me the way a dog does as it tries to decipher the
noise that is human speech.
See? I said. Sometimes its better to not ask questions.
Youre right, he said, nodding. It is.
Going now?
Again he nodded.
***
I spent the night fending off more of Wallys questions and awoke
with an unsurprising pounding in the base of my skull. I ran
my hands over my face; my palms came away with blood. The
nosebleeds are caused by the travel. I think. I deduced that from
the fact I never got nosebleeds before the travelling started. Proper
detective work that.
I went to the bathroom and rinsed the blood from my hands and
face. The water clouded red, spiralling down the drain. It always
makes me think of war. The blood of the dead just seems to wash
away, leaving a surface free of the human smudge. I considered
shaving and thought better of it. I didnt want to risk seeing more
of my blood.
Wallace had also awoken. He stood at the open window and
looked out over the city with its myriad of sparkling lights. I forget
that things like that are still new to people. Even where it isnt
new, they still get mesmerised by the warm glow all the moths are

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addicted to. We are much like moths in some ways. Our days are
numbered, and were drawn to shiny things.
Lots of lights, Wallace said almost to himself.
Like a moth to a flame, I said quietly.
Huh?
Nothing. Its only 5am, you can still go back to bed.
Cant sleep. Keep thinking about all the crazy things that
happened.
Yeah, I keep thinking about that too.
I dont get why the airship crashed.
Interference, I said, hoping a vague answer would suffice.
There was no way I was going to tackle that one with him.
Your interference?
Chaos is present and you automatically think of me?
I do.
Thats sweet. And how could I have brought that airship out
of the sky?
You have your ways. He turned to look at me. He was
studying me, searching my face for something. Your tools. He
said tools like it was a dirty word.
My tools dont do that.
Just holes in people, huh?
Is that self-righteousness I hear in your voice, Wally? Stop it, it
doesnt suit you.
I just dont understand.
We came to that conclusion already, Wal. Go get some sleep.
I sat on the couch with no intention of sleeping.
In-ter-fer-ence, Wally said, sounding out each syllable. You
are a strange man, Henry Myles. A very strange man. He went
into his room and closed the door quietly.
Coming from Wallace that really spoke volumes about my
strangeness.

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I left Wallace a note in the morning. The note didnt go into


detail, just that I had to continue on my own. I almost wished him
well in the note, but that just isnt in my nature. Sentimentality is
of no use to me. I have enough crutches already. The frail legs of
sanity shake more with every step I take these days. It was worse
that Wallace seemed to be able to look into me and see the very
worst parts. I get enough of that with mirrors and other reflective
surfaces. I dont need to see it in the eyes of simple men.
The sun was just beginning to rise ahead of me. The first glint
of the day was like the flashbulb of a camera. I blinked away the
black spots in my vision. Nothing like the morning sun to make
you feel exposed and hung-over. And I dont drink. Or lie.
Screeching of tyres up ahead had early dog-walkers and
exercise enthusiasts scurrying from the road like frightened mice.
The erratic vehicle a black Ford - swerved and came to an abrupt
halt a few yards from me. A figure stepped out of the passenger
side, silhouetted by the climbing sun. Trench coat, fedora. Thats
all I saw. But I felt the impact in my stomach like I had swallowed
a grenade with an absent pin. For some reason the rapturous boom
of the pistol echoed through my mind only after the pain had
registered. Sometimes I like to work backwards. And in this case
I fell backwards. My head hit the pavement with a hollow thunk.
It was like the ocean when you dive under a wave and hear that
distant crash above as it rolls away. Or maybe I was just delirious.
I could hear a womans voice. She sounded miles away, but
close. The paradoxical nature of my thoughts werent getting any
clearer.
Does he have it? I heard her ask.
Only then did I realise the man wearing the fedora was
rummaging through my pockets.
Roll him over, the woman said.
Suddenly I was face down, smelling sidewalk. I had that urge
to kill, but the distinct lack of motor function to make that happen.

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Ill tell you now there are not many things more frustrating than
ordering your body to kill and having it disobey.
Where is it? Her voice was getting higher. Panic, frustration,
bewilderment.
Hes got nothing on him but a tape recorder. No tape.
My senses were returning as Fedora rolled me onto my back.
He was a mean looking bastard with a scar that ran across his
throat. There was a good story behind that scar, and if he wasnt
in the process of slowly murdering me I would have liked to
have heard it.
I found my voice. What are you looking for?
Fedora was shoved to the side. A woman loomed over me,
dressed all in black. Seemed appropriate. You know what we
want, she said, putting steel in her voice. Tell us where it is and
well let you go.
Oh, I said, youll let me go. So I can bleed to death over there
instead? I pointed off to my left. Kind of you, but I think Ill cry
ignorance. Maybe follow that up with actual crying. Dying hurts
you know? I spat blood on the pavement.
There are more painful things in this life than dying, Henry.
I dont doubt it for a second, sweetheart. I tried to sit up, but,
you know, bullets in the stomach and sit-ups are not in my fitness
routine. Ill stay down here, I said, lying back down.
Put him in the car, she said to the big man.
I levitated to the back seat of her car. Maybe Fedora carried me,
but Im sticking with the levitation story. Thats how bleeding to
death felt to me anyhow. Euphoric, I think is the word.
I sat propped up in the back seat, my head lolling at
uncomfortable angles. The pain in my stomach was spreading in
a dull wave through my torso. The car stopped. Deserted area.
Perfect for murders.
Where is it? she said. Just tell us where the damn device is.
Oh that. I reached down the front of my vest and produced

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a little silver device no larger than a matchbox. One last surge of


adrenaline, then I took the tiny blade I kept in the hem of my vest
and used it slash Fedoras jugular. Whoever gave him that scar
didnt know the business of slashing throats. His blood sprayed
the inside of that car like a hose turned on high.
To her credit, the woman didnt scream.
I held the silver box up and flipped it open like a zippo
lighter. I pressed my thumb against the flat black surface and it
hummed to life.
Your body searching skills leave something to be desired, I
said to the quickly emptying fellow to my right. The device whined
a high pitch melody that dogs would howl to many miles away.
Good day.
I vanished from the backseat of her car and materialised years
away. I wish I could have seen the look on her bloody face.

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Mischa, Men & Mykonos


Renee George

ischa rubbed her eyes, looked at the black smear of mascara


and eyeliner left on her hand, then over at the tossed sheets
beside her. The space was absent, much like her memories of the
drunken night before and the man she had brought home. This,
she thought, this has become my love life.
Mischa sighed then realised her phone was ringing on her
bedside table. She answered it just in time. As expected, it was her
mother, who usually called at this time every Sunday morning. If
Mischa didnt answer, her mother would drop by to check on her.
She knew what Mischa got up to on Saturday nights, much to her
disapproval.
Mischas mother had invited her to lunch that day at her parents
house. Mischa searched deep inside her unkempt wardrobe for
an appropriate knee-length dress amongst a pile of mini-skirts
and bodycons. Fumbling through the clothing at the back, she
recognised a sheer fabric she had not worn for a very long time. She
tugged at it, and pulled it out, sending a heap of clothing tumbling
with it. Mischas eyes studied the powder blue gown she was given
as a gift during her trip to Greece. She ran her fingers through the
sheer layers of fabric, each layer evoking a different memory of
her experiences in Greece. The blues reminded her of the hues of
the glassy ocean, the soft touch of the fabric reminding her of the

Painted Words 2014 | 79

gentle touch of her first love, Alex. She hadnt worn the dress since
shed left her lover in Greece to return home to Australia. Mischa
gently folded the dress up and placed it in a drawer, then found a
dress that had fallen on the floor that was suitable to wear to visit
her parents in Sunbury.
Mischa drove out of Melbourne on the Tullamarine freeway, the
same road she usually took to see her parents. She didnt visit them
at home much. Mischa felt she had lost touch with them since she
left for Greece. She was their only child, and they werent too keen
on her going overseas on her own. They had warned her about
hanging around those loose Greeks. When they found out that
she had been having a relationship with a Greek man, Alex, who
turned out to be married, they were furious. But Mischa hadnt
experienced anything like it before or since she was with him.
Mischa passed the airport on the freeway, part of her wanting to
turn in and catch the next plane to Greece. But she felt that way
every time she took the Tullamarine freeway to her parents. Hes
probably still with her anyway, she thought, reassuring herself,
pushing a little more firmly on the accelerator.
When Mischa arrived at the house, her parents were in a fluster,
forgetting to put the roast potatoes in the oven. They often worried
themselves into fits. Luckily, Mischa didnt inherit this from her
parents. She was stronger than that; so much so that she used
her strong mindset to become a lawyer. When she returned from
Greece, however, cracks began to appear and weaknesses became
her open wounds, letting men into her life irresponsibly, as well as
causing her to struggle to win cases in court. It was if she had left
the best parts of herself in Greece, with Alex.
In an attempt to get away from the bustle in the kitchen, Mischa
thought she would check her make-up in the bathroom mirror. On
her way to the bathroom, Mischas mother called out, Oh, theres
a parcel for you, Mischa.
Mischa didnt usually receive mail at her parents house. Curious,

80 | Painted Words 2014

Mischa inspected it. It was addressed to her in handwriting, the


senders name and address handwritten on the back: Alex Santos,
from Mykonos. Mischas stomach churned. It was the first time she
had heard from him since she returned to Australia.
Mischa pulled the string bow and tore open the brown paper.
She unfolded a silk scarf with floral motifs, beautiful like a
watercolour painting of Monets garden. It felt even softer than the
dress Alex had given her a year ago. The beautiful treasures took
her straight back to Greece. Mischa opened the letter.
Mischa,
I found this scarf that reminds me of you when I visited that market you
loved so much when you were in Mykonos. Kylie and I are no more. She
left me when she found out about us. I wanted to write sooner, but I
wanted to prove it was over so I have waited until she moved out. If you
still feel the same please come visit me, I still live at the house I showed
you when you were here.
Alex.

Mischa couldnt believe what she had discovered. She bit her
bottom lip and somehow concealed a little scream. She ran her eyes
over the note numerous times, over the little flecks in his cursive
handwriting, sending shivers through her body. She placed the
letter and gifts inside her handbag and didnt mention anything to
her parents. They werent sure why she was suddenly so radiant,
but were happy to see her rare smile nonetheless.
Mischas plane touched down exactly one year and two months
after she had first landed at Mykonos International Airport.
During the flight all she could think of was Alex as she flew over
blue waters. She remembered the sounds of lapping waves as they
walked hand in hand along the beach and the smell of ocean air
from the balcony of his hillside home. She remembered studying
his chiseled arms and soft brown hair and eyes. He looked like those
muscular Greek statues you find at galleries. She remembered his

Painted Words 2014 | 81

delicate ways hidden under that sculpted body, his soft kisses and
supple mocha skin. His accented voice was rhythmic like Spanish
guitar. His imperfect English made Mischa laugh.
When the plane touched down, Mischa passed through the
airport gates and spotted Alex amongst the crowd. He was exactly
as she remembered. A tweak of his smile appeared when he saw
her. She gave a subtle skip as she hastened towards him. He lifted
her lightly off the floor as he embraced her in his arms, planting
a soft, polite kiss on her cheek. Mischa pulled him closer, as if she
were pulling the better parts of herself she left with him back into
her body. It was like she had never left.
When they left the airport, Mischa breathed the salty air, fresh
and the familiar, much like the kiss she experienced with Alex on
her arrival. Mischa strode with a spring in her step, but noticed
Alex lagging behind. She asked if he was okay, he said yes, so they
continued walking towards a caf on the waters edge. As the sight
of the ocean became clearer, Mischa gave a little squeal, letting go
of Alexs hand to run to the waters edge. She laughed as the waves
lapped up her ankles, an overwhelming sense of disbelief washing
over her.
I cant believe Im here! Mischa called to Alex, who was
still lagging behind. He raised a smile and a wave then dropped
his hand.
Mischa sensed that something wasnt right, but he had told her
he was okay and she trusted him, so she turned back to the ocean
and continued playing in the waves. When he caught up they
made their way to the caf where they ordered sea food and coffee.
Mischa and Alex didnt get much of an opportunity to speak to
each other as Alex was too busy greeting the locals.
After lunch, Mischa and Alex headed back to his house, walking
up steep concrete stairs that weaved between the white houses
with blue dome roofs and hanging pot plants. Mischa kept turning
back to see the horizon growing with each storey they walked.

82 | Painted Words 2014

Isnt this the most pristine place on earth?! she joyously


remarked.
Youre happy to be here, yes? asked Alex affirming.
Why yes, are you happy to have me here? she said knowingly,
but wanting to hear his confirmation.
Yes it was difficult being alone he said softly. She gave the
widest grin she could hold.
Well, Im here now. I still cant believe it!
They both went quiet; the only sound was their out of sync
footsteps and some talking from people living further around the
hill. Mischa felt that she needed to fill his silences.
Youve been practicing your English, Alex, I could tell by your
letter. Alex smiled, but said nothing else.
The gifts you sent were lovely, and your letter was so sweet.
Mischa squeezed Alexs hand tighter, looking up at him. He
held his gaze upward at his house, now visible from the stairs.
We are here now, so let us not dwell on the past.
When they arrived at Alexs home he stoked up the wood
in the chest of the stove and placed a kettle filled with water
on the hotplate. He went to gesture for Mischa to take a seat at
the dining table, but she had already made her way onto the
balcony. Alex let out a sigh. When he found her she was leaning
out towards the ocean, the breeze flicking her brunette hair like
streamers in the wind.
She noticed his presence behind her and turned to him. I dont
ever want to leave here, she said dreamily, placing her hand on
his chest, looking deep into his eyes.
Alex gave a weak smile, put his arms around Mischa, and
rested his chin on her head, looking sadly out into the deep ocean
on the horizon.
This, he thought, this has become my love life.
Alexs eyes lingered on the ocean and Mischa held her embrace
for minutes they hadnt felt go by, a quiet hissing came from the

Painted Words 2014 | 83

kitchen. Oh no, the kettle is over boiling! Alex ran inside, Mischa
slowly following him.
When she caught up to Alex he was cursing in Greek, holding
his hand under a running tap.
Did you burn yourself? Mischa asked politely. She had never
seen him so worked up and red faced. Alex didnt answer her and
kept cursing into the sink, until he dropped his head and slumped
to his elbows, weeping.
Mischa didnt notice him while she was wiping up the puddle
on the floor, but realised he was sobbing when she got up to
squeeze the water from the cloth into the sink. Oh Alex, is the
burn that bad? Let me see your hand. She took his hand that was
weak. There was no blistering. Alex? she asked softly, but he
didnt respond, still staring into the sink. Alex I dont understand.
Whats wrong? He trembled for a moment. It was silent, but some
of Alexs tears made a ping as they dropped into the sink.
Mischa, I dont know how to tell you, but I just dont feel the
same way.
Mischas heart sank. It really was too good to be true. All the
overwhelming joy she was experiencing had been crushed, like
the reaction Mischas parents gave her when they found out about
Alex. Mischa didnt know how to respond to Alex. She stood in
silence for a moment, contemplating her response But but I
only just got here, she quivered, feeling humiliated.
I am so sorry Mischa, but since I left Kylie all I can think about
is her and what a fool I am to leave her.
Mischas blood began to boil. She couldnt believe how nave
she was. She felt as vulnerable and used by Alex as all the men she
let take advantage of her back home. But I thought our love was
stronger? Mischa said, trying to reassure him.
I think those feelings were only stronger because the fear of
getting caught made it so exciting, that I forgot the enjoyment of
having a normal relationship. I only realised after that I miss what

84 | Painted Words 2014

I had with my wife said Alex, moving to a wooden dining chair


at the kitchen table.
Then why did you bring me here? Mischa asked angrily.
I thought having you with me would make things better, make
me happy again, yes? But I only feel guilt for Kylie, like I am still
cheating. I dont want to cheat on her anymore. I didnt want to
hurt you either and Im sorry Mischa.
Mischa sat opposite him, unable to look at him in the eye. Her
eyes were blurry from gazing into the oblivion before her. She
didnt move, cry, or say anything while Alex squirmed and ran his
hand through his hair.
Alex paid for Mischas ticket home to Melbourne while Mischa
treated herself to two nights in a Mykonos hotel, giving her three
warm days to wash her feelings for Alex off into the ocean. Before
Mischa left Mykonos for good, she returned to Alexs house one
last time. She had remembered a stash of money he hid in his sock
draw beside the bed. While Alex was at work, Mischa climbed
through an open window and proceeded to his bedroom. Alexs
sock drawer gave a squeak as Mischa pulled it open, reaching
through the socks and into the back until she felt the paper notes
and pulled out a handful of cash. He can have a piece of me, but
itll cost him, Mischa thought, raising her first grin in days.
As she made her way back out through the house toward the
widow, she decided to take one last look out from the balcony. The
ocean was dark and moody, the sun a little paler than the days
before. She pulled the scarf Alex had given her from her handbag
and tied it around the chain on one of his hanging pot plants. She
watched as it flickered and danced with the breeze, before checking
her watch and fleeing out the window.
When Alex returned from work that night he took a bottle of
beer from his fridge out to the balcony where it was moonlight.
As he went to take a seat a dancing piece of silk caught his eye. He
went over to study it, running his fingers through the material.

Painted Words 2014 | 85

He recognised it immediately. He decided to leave the scarf tied


up. It reminded him how strong a woman can be, and just how
weak he was.
Three days later Mischas parents discovered an expensive
looking bouquet of flowers at their doorstep with a note attached:
Sorry, you were right about the Greeks. Lunch on Sunday?
-Mischa

86 | Painted Words 2014

Alone in the crowd


Robyn Miller

lone in the crowd I joined the queue outside the MCG; inside,
the stadium was brightly lit for the night match. Breath
clouded on the cold air and people stamped their feet for warmth
while they waited for entry.
I took my seat and pondered, barely taking in the biting cold
of a Melbourne winters night. It was a mistake to come on my
own. What was I hoping for to see her face? Foolishness and loss
enveloped me. I settled down to watch the game, not looking right
or left, caught up in my thoughts, ignoring the roar of the Pies
supporters as they followed the on-ground antics of my team.
At half-time, startled by the scalding meat of the obligatory pie,
I swore out loud.
The woman near me leaned over with a smile and said, Yes,
they get you every time dont they?
Mmmf. I breathed open mouthed trying to cool the hot ball of
meat. I must look disgusting, I thought to myself and turned away.
Swallowing, I turned back to her and said, I dont come very
often, but youd think Id remember that one thing. Then I took a
mouthful of beer, breathed out and relaxed a bit.
She eyed me. She was in the oppositions colours Carlton
The Blues. They were doing badly this year and poorly tonight.
She was dressed in a Carlton cap and scarf. Her long dark hair

Painted Words 2014 | 87

framed her face. Pretty, I realised. I had been so self-absorbed I


hadnt even noticed her.
Who do you barrack for? she asked.
Collingwood, I replied.
Oh! Whyve you been so quiet? Theyre doing all right tonight.
I havent really been paying much attention. This is sort of a
sentimental journey for me
She waited. For some reason, I felt I could tell something deeply
personal to a total stranger.
I met my wife here at a Blues and Pies match, twenty years ago.
She isnt with you? The query showed in her eyes. I dont
mean to pry
No matter she died two years ago breast cancer.
Im sorry, she said.
She seemed to mean it. Her green eyes looked deeply into mine
and I felt a flash inside a once familiar feeling of connection
which unsettled me.
A roar went up from the crowd and we both turned to see
Swan running, punching the air another Collingwood goal.
The Channel 7 helicopter dipped overhead, the noise of the rotor
blotted out by the massed cheer from the Collingwood fans.
Why did I bother to come tonight? she laughed. Its not
looking good for us again.
***
Collingwood was six goals ahead at the end of the third quarter.
Some Carlton fans started to leave the stand in the break.
I dont think Ill stay, she said. There doesnt seem much point.
Her hair skittered and shone on her shoulders as she shrugged.
There was that feeling again.
I jumped in, How about we go and have a drink somewhere,
coffee, wine, whatever you would like?
Thank you, but I could do with an early night. Its been nice
talking to you, good night.

88 | Painted Words 2014

She was putting on her gloves, rearranging the scarf around


her neck. She placed her rug on her left arm and gripped her
handbag with her left hand. As she stood I saw that she reached
for a walking stick with her other hand. She put her weight on it
and made to leave. I stood up and moved to the end of the row to
give her space. Its now or never, I thought.
Could we meet sometime? Im sorry; I didnt introduce myself,
my name is Douglas, Doug really. Christ, I was embarrassed, I felt
like an eighteen year old dork.
My names Lorraine, she rested her stick against her hip,
nice to meet you Doug.
As she spoke, she took off her glove and offered her hand. It
was soft, her fingers did not linger, but again her eyes seemed
to speak. We were illuminated in the spotlights and our misted
breath intermingled in the light above and around us.
Nervously I asked, Could I have your phone number,
Lorraine?
She hesitated, Id rather have yours if you dont mind.
She said it with a smile, but I wondered, Does she think Im
some sort of creep?
I gave her my number and we said good night again. I went back
to my seat, and watched her until she became lost in the crowd of
despondent Carlton supporters. She didnt look back.
The cold was settling in, I hunched over and thought, What
else, what else? There was something, yes, it was her voice. She
had a slight accent. There was a lilt to it. Thats it: Im a sucker for
an Irish accent.
Joffa had his arms raised in victory and the fans were following
his directions. Coll-ing-wood, Coll-ing-wood, sang the Pies
supporters.
I felt my spirits lift, She might ring me.

Painted Words 2014 | 89

Stillness
Shannon Carter

n the stillness of space, the beauty of it was always something to


be admired. Stars glittered like diamonds against a velvet night,
planets shone in an elaborate display of colours as they orbited
their sun, and the occasional space battle often went unnoticed by
many except those involved. The fact that the universe did not care
much for its inhabitants games, sometimes destroying whole star
systems and even galaxies to accomplish it, meant that in the end
everyone was alone.
Such was the case of Flight Officer Matthew Vales, a young
fighter pilot attached to Blue Squad. The youngest of the four pilots
in the squad, he also had a wide-eyed perspective of the universe
itself. After all, he wasnt sure what he was most of the time.
Blue Four to Blue Leader, checking in, Matthew called over
his headset to the leader of the squad. Picking up no abnormalities
within the system and no signs the Imperials have been here.
Copy, Blue Four, The squad leader replied without his usual
bluster. Blue Squad, proceed on patrol.
Roger, Blue Leader, Blue Two answered.
Copy, Blue Leader, Blue Three called from her fighter.
Copy, Blue Leader, Matthew replied and proceeded to move
in beside Blue Three.
Matthews wingman was Flight Officer Alanna Torah, a young

90 | Painted Words 2014

human woman four months older than Matthew from the New
Earth colony of Alpha Cygnus IV. Kind and friendly, and one of
the few people who could tolerate Matthews behaviour when he
was hyperactive. Alanna liked to go fast in any way, shape or form
but was ever so lovable. She was the sister Matthew wished he had.
Alanna had long, dark hair that barely touched her shoulders when
not tied up, and grey eyes that shone with a deceptive innocence.
She was also the squads medic and could heal any wounds and
listened when someone needed a shoulder to cry on.
Blue Four to Blue Three, coming up beside you, Matthew
called to his friend.
Okay, Blue Four, Alanna replied distantly. Clearly she was
occupied by other things.
Hows your boyfriend? Matthew asked over their scrambled
frequency since they didnt want their leader to find out.
Hes okay, Alanna answered softly, clearly thinking about
him. Hes been assigned to the Excalibur as the chief engineer so
hes pretty happy about it at the moment.
Matthew breathed in slightly. I take it your request for transfer
to Excalibur was denied by the commander?
Yeah, Alanna said quickly. He says my assignment here
in the squad was important. Whats so important about scouting
uninhabited systems for signs of the enemy in one squad compared
to another?
About as important as it is to scramble your frequency, Blue
Three, A third voice over Matthews headset replied, startling him
and Alanna slightly.
Sorry, Caitlan, Alanna replied quickly. I didnt think you
would be listening.
Blue Two chuckled. Consider yourself lucky the commander
wasnt listening. Hes busy informing the Valiant of our situation.
Really? I thought we were fine, Matthew replied with some
sarcasm in his voice. In fact, I thought we were just going to be

Painted Words 2014 | 91

doing a normal routine of scanning till we fill the files.


Blue Two snorted through the headset. The commander is
Tellurian. Hes always paranoid.
Alanna burst out laughing. I cant believe you just said that on
an open frequency, Caitlan!
Alanna, Im the squads communications officer. I know what
Im doing. Blue Two soundly replied before signing off and
returning to patrol.
Matthew always liked Lieutenant Caitlan Myers, a human
native of New Earth and the squads communications specialist.
She had long light brown hair that cascaded down her back and
blue eyes that were always bright and cheerful. She did have the
drawback of always being on edge when it came to Matthew, but
they got on regardless.
Caitlan was always quite religious. Unlike Matthew, who
believed in God and much of the older Christianity stuff that
came from Earth before its capture by the Empire centuries ago,
combined with the religion native to his home-world, Caitlan was
much more immersed in it, though not to say that she wasnt open
to new ideas.
Crossbreeding with other species was one of them.
Matthew breathed in and concentrated on his scanners. The
system they were in had been originally known as the Alpha
Centauri C or Proxima Centauri system centuries ago. It had since
been renamed as just the Proxy system by the Coalition of United
Worlds. It was once inhabited by humans before the Empire
destroyed the third planet where the colony was during the Earth
Conquests. It now lay on the border with the Imperials and was
one of the hotspots that Coalition forces scouted often for enemy
activity.
Today, so far, there was no activity.
Blue Three, Matthew called to Alanna. Ive got nothing.

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Same here, Matt, Alanna replied. Maybe intelligence was


wrong for a change.
Doubtful, Matthew said. Ive never seen them wrong.
Banking his fighter closer to the fifth planet of the system, a
red and green gas giant orbited by more than twenty moons,
Matthew noticed something on his forward scanner. He increased
the magnification but couldnt get complete details before it
disappeared behind the planet.
Alanna, Im going to take a look at the other side of the planet.
Matthew said to his wing-mate. Tell Blue Leader.
Okay, Blue Four, Alanna replied. Be careful.
Matthew didnt reply and turned his fighter towards the
right side of the giant. Because of the radioactive waves and the
radiation coming from Proxy V, Matthew skimmed past the outer
moons that were outside the radiation zone. As he began to move
in-system, he began to see signs of recent starship activity.
Fuel trails, Matthew muttered and switched off his fighters
engines, allowing inertial drift to guide him around the planet,
catching its orbit and using the planets gravity to push him. When
he did reach the far side, Matthew cursed.
Out there was a large fleet of destroyers. The triangular whitehulled vessels were over a kilometre long and about two hundred
meters wide from the aft engines. Their weapons dotted across its
hull and two huge hangars that may have been filled to the brink
with fighters were on both sides. The fact that the fleet numbered
over two hundred meant that this was no exercise.
Biro accrue solemai, Matthew muttered in his native language.
It wasnt actually very nice and often went untranslated by most
humans. Powering up his fighter, Matthew banked and turned tail,
pushing to full power to escape orbit and return to his squad.
Unfortunately, it didnt go unnoticed.
Matthew looked at his rear scanner.
Six fighters bearing down on me, seems like a little overkill,

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Matthew grumbled. Then again, so was destroying half the


human colonies in the Conquests.
The enemy fighters didnt even bother trying to get Matthew
into range and most of the shots passed right across him. Some,
however, managed to shake him.
Damn it, Matthew shouted when a shot hit the hull. The
damage was superficial, easily repairable. He flicked on his
communications headset. Blue Four to Blue Leader, I got six
fighters coming at me. Theyre almost on top of me.
There was no reply. Matthew tried again. Blue Leader, come
in. This is Blue Four, I need help. Come in please
Again, no reply came to him. Where the heck are they? Matthew
thought desperately.
Blue Squad, come in. Blue Four to Blues Two and Three, where
the hell are you, girls?
The six fighters drew closer, almost on top of him. Matthew
tried to desperately manoeuvre around the enemy fire but the hits
to his shields were slowly weakening it and slowly, slowly, the
shields began to fail.
Baku molar Caitlan no Alanna moki olla daff! Matthew shouted
through his headset, cursing them in his native language.
No need for that, Matthew, Caitlan replied. Watch your
head.
Matthew looked up and saw two fighters coming straight down,
firing all shots straight into the six enemies behind him. Four of
them were destroyed immediately; the remaining two collided
with each other when trying to avoid the fire, exploding into small
bits of flame.
Matthew breathed out.
Where the hell were you, girls? Matthew shouted. Wheres
Blue Leader?
He met an unfortunate accident, Caitlan replied solemnly.
Lets just say he betrayed us all. Alanna answered. Caitlan

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had to shoot him down before he transmitted the co-ordinates for


New Earth.
Matthew wasnt surprised. He never liked Commander Helot
anyway. He was always suspicious that someone was going to stab
him in the back. Clearly, he didnt expect his wingman to do it.
I never liked him anyway, Matthew admitted. What now,
Blue Two?
Caitlan was startled, but she was more senior to the younger
pair, in age and rank. We bug out and head to the Valiant.
Copy, Blue Two, Matthew replied.
Lets go before more Imperials arrive, Alanna said.
Programming the co-ordinates to return them to their carrier,
Matthew took a quick look behind to the giant. He knew that
behind it was an entire fleet, ready to wipe out the Coalition and
the last free people of the galaxy.
Jump on my mark, Caitlan called.
Copy, Alanna replied.
Matthew clicked his tongue in acknowledgement.
Looking ahead, he saw the women transit into hyperspace.
Pulling back the lever, the hyperdrive hummed, and soon space
turned completely black and a blue tunnel formed in front of him.
Soon he was travelling forward at speed faster than light itself.

Painted Words 2014 | 95

Taking a Chance
Shannon Carter

avin lay on a small hill, looking up into the night sky, seeing
the stars blink randomly in their fevered dance, unaware of
what happened to him, here on this planet. Somewhere out there
was home, not this stinking dust ball on the edge of the universe.
He only wished he could get there.
But he couldnt, his parents had abandoned him here as a child
to be raised by his dominating uncle while they went off on their
extended vacation away from their only son. That had been ten
years ago and the pain was still there, just as much as the pain of
being beaten by his uncle for not doing his homework or cleaning
his room.
He bruised easily too, causing his only friend to be worried for
him. Who could blame her; the bruises were always brown against
his fair skin and his left eye was now forever damaged. He could
barely see out of it, which meant he could never be a pilot like he
wished to. He was trapped here with no way to get out.
Unlike most human colonies, this one had no state-of-the-art
medical centres. It was simply a colony of free-loaders who did
nothing except go to the nearest pub, get drunk, get beat up by
their mates, come home and take it out on the nearest person
available. In Gavins uncles home, it was always him.
Staring into the stars, tears welled in his eyes and sadness came

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over him, forcing him to sit up and curl into a ball, his knees hard
against his face as the tears flowed. It was always like this, every
night since he was nine, since the day his parents told him not to
expect them back anytime soon. The same night his uncle came
home and beat him up for being in the way by complete accident.
Every night for ten years he would sit on this hill, look at the stars,
remember that day, then break down and cry. He was alone these
nights and to him it felt better than having his violent uncle around.
So this is where you hide?
The voice startled Gavin out of his melancholy and made him
jump to his feet. The tears had stopped but he still felt puffy around
the cheeks. He turned , and saw a young adult male in a military
pilots uniform standing in front of him.
Gavin had seen the pilot before. He had come to his school to
pick up his younger cousin a few days ago. The pilot had noticed
Gavin and came over to speak to him. They had got along well but
although they werent friends. Gavin remembered his name.
What do you want? Gavin asked as he tried to clean up his
face as best he could.
I dont want anything, replied Shannon. He walked over to
Gavin and sat on the ground. The question is what I can do for
you?
Gavin relaxed slightly and sat back down again. Okay, talk.
The pilot grinned at him. His hazel eyes showing the unique
shine often present in non-humans.
You wouldnt believe the trouble Ive had trying to find you.
Shannon looked up at the stars and smiled wider. I managed
to find your friend Alexia. Sweet girl by the way. She said that
every night youd never be home at this hour because of personal
problems there. She said to try the nearest hill.
Traitor, Gavin muttered under his breath. So what do you
think you can do for me?
Shannon turned to him. You told me you wanted to be a

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pilot so you could leave this place and find a home. But you cant
because your left eye is damaged.
Gavin turned away. So why are you telling me something Ive
already said.
The pilot smiled. Cause I can make you a pilot.
Gavin turned to Shannon in surprise. What? .
The pilot chuckled. Im a captain in the Galactic Coalition of Star
Systems military. I also happen to be the leader of the best training
squadron in the Coalition. Im looking for people with natural talent
that can pilot, regardless of age, gender or species. I just so happen
to be on leave when I noticed you and Alexia.
Gavin turned to face the stars. But my left eye, wont that be a
problem?
I can get your eye fixed. Shannon replied. I made some
concessions when I gained command of the squadron. So your eye
wont be a problem.
Gavin quickly got to his feet. Thanks, but no thanks. I dont need
any help.
He began to walk down the hill back to his uncles.
Is this what you want? Shannon shouted after him, To go
through every day trapped on this terraformed rock, just going to
school, going home and getting beaten up by your uncle. Is being
alone when Alexia leaves and spending the rest of your days by
yourself what you really want?
Gavin stopped and turned back to Shannon. The pilot stood there
impassively. Gavin was puzzled. How did he know all that? How could
he? Did Alexia or someone else tell him?
Do you think I want that? Gavin shouted. Do you think I
enjoy the pain I get from my uncle? Do you think I want to be
alone? I was abandoned by my parents on this rock while they ran
off to the core worlds to enjoy their new lives without me! Ever
since that day I have not known what I could be! I knew what I
wanted to be but I just couldnt reach it! Tell me how Im supposed
to follow my dream?
Shannon continued to watch, silent for a moment. Then he finally

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spoke. I offer you an opportunity to be what you want and how to


achieve it. The question is: do you want to come with me?
Gavin thought about it. He was sixteen-years old, plain looking,
a student, a half-blind one at that, a victim of familial abuse,
someone with no innocence left. He was broken and he felt he
couldnt get back together again. The only ray of hope was always
Alexia, whom he loved. She was the only reason he stayed alive,
and endured this while she helped his wounds. If she left, he
would have nothing left. He would be alone, trapped and forever
never finding a place to belong.
This is my chance, he thought, why am I wanting to stay here? Why
am I so broken?
Agonising over the decision of a lifetime, he felt like he was there
for hours before he turned back to the pilot and walked towards
him. The pilot stood there, the neutral look broadening his face.
If this is a cycle, Im not gonna get stuck in it any more.
Gavin finally looked up, a smile creeping into his face. If you
can fix my left eye and get me away from here, Ill come.
The pilot chuckled, a smile returning to his face. Alexia said you
would. My shuttle leaves for the training ship in half an hour. Want
to grab anything?
Gavin didnt even think about it and shook his head. I have
nothing worth bringing. Get me the hell off this rock.
Shannon looked at him with amusement. You are either the
most insane or the most stubborn trainee I have ever met. Lets go.
Making their way to the launch pad, Shannon and Gavin walked
across the hills, not saying anything. When they arrived at the
shuttle, Alexia sat on the ramp waiting for them. Gavin breathed out
and ran towards the shuttle, leaving Shannon to walk on his own.
The smile on Gavins face made him feel that he was ready to find
a place to belong. As long as he was by Alexias side, he was happy
to have his dream come true, even if it could get them both killed.

Painted Words 2014 | 99

The Prodigy
Shannon Carter

nother punch, another grunt, more blood pours.


The sparing session between the two apprentices was
getting more brutal by the moment and for once, their master was
wondering if he should step in before things went too far.
Then again, they need to work things out between them or theyll never
achieve their goals, Master Olean thought solemnly as he watched
the smaller of the two apprentices connect his fist with the left side
of the others jaw. It wasnt so much a rivalry between the pair as it
was a difference of classes.
Braden, the eldest, with fair blond hair and dark brown eyes
and standing about six foot, was a member of the elite Korbin
Family in the kingdoms higher circles. He was the only son and
heir to his familys fortune when he was older, so it was no surprise
to find him here as an apprentice for the Assassins Guild.
Reilly on the other hand, with his dark hair and greenish-gold
eyes and significantly shorter than Braden, was a peasant orphan
with nowhere and no one to care where he was. Reillys mother
had died when he was born and he never knew his father, so hed
been raised in an orphanage until he joined as an apprentice for
the Assassins Guild, having impressed the Guild Masters with his
skills with short-range weapons and hand-to-hand combat.
Both the apprentices couldve been good friends if Braden and

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his other friends of elitists would look past the classes that divided
the kingdoms for generations and realise that inside this guild,
they were brothers. Turning to the sparring apprentices, Olean
sighed, for the outcome had been decided.
Reilly managed to block another punch from Braden, this time
by dropping below the elders waist and using a leg swipe that
brought down his rival. Braden toppled in surprise, falling onto
his back with a screech. Smiling, Reilly stood up and planted his
left foot just above Bradens neck, ready to step down on the others
vocal cords and choking him to death if he could.
You should yield, the younger apprentice said. I dont think
killing you would prove a point anyway.
Bradens eyes bulged slightly. As he was about to retort however,
Bradens reply was cut off when Olean clapped twice, indicating
the match was over. And this time, Braden was the loser.
Well done, young Reilly, Olean spoke. It seems strength isnt
everything now, is it, Braden?
Braden sat up and swore under his breath, indicating his answer.
Looking the older apprentice up and down, Olean saw bruises
forming on Bradens face and bare chest. It was clear his nose was
broken, though he could still stand easily, indicating that the fall
hadnt concussed him.
Turning his eyes to Reilly, Master Olean took note of the black
eye forming around the youngers left socket. Other than that,
Reilly seemed completely unscathed.
He is learning. Olean smiled, his left hand covering it quite
deliberately. It seems that Bradens taunts only made him stronger.
Go to the healing quarters, Master Elman will see to you,
Olean said. Then report to the Mess Hall for dinner.
Both apprentices bowed, though Braden was a bit stiffer, less
from pain and more from the embarrassment of losing. Regardless,
the pair turned as one and walking towards the healing quarters of
the training temple, no words spoken between them. It was clear

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that this sparring match wasnt the end of their rivalry. If anything,
it seemed Braden was going to take it a step further to satisfy his
own sense of honour. Sighing, Olean turned back to the sparring
circle, taking in the number of spectators to the match.
Clear off, all of you, Olean shouted. Or Ill have the initiates
use you all for target practise.
As one, the group dispersed and returned to what they had been
doing; pretending they hadnt witnessed the Grand Masters star
pupil being beaten by his own younger prodigy. There was bound
to be talk, talk that could result in extremely bad consequences.
I hope that things wont come to that, Olean thought as he turned
on his foot and headed towards the Mess Hall. Because, I have a
feeling that either way this goes, Braden will be dead.
***
The Kingdom of Imercia had long kept the tradition of training
assassins in an official capacity, having found centuries ago that
it was better to have a guild of trained and controlled killers as
opposed to hundreds of uncontrollable murderers. It made things
a lot clearer for the citizens of Imercia as it often made the act of
removing a person a bit cleaner.
Reilly of course didnt believe in the rubbish and still thought
killing was just that. Even when hed been in the orphanage,
struggling to get food for himself, hed never justified killing
someone just for the sake of it. Though it didnt mean he hadnt killed
someone before; the overseer whod tried to take him, for starters.
That was self-defence, Reilly thought solemnly. But it was still
murder.
Night had descended by the time Reilly had returned to his
room after having his eye healed. The healers could always make
everything feel as good as new. Theyd helped Reilly when hed had
his right arm broken and the bones in his right foot shattered from
a mace whilst practising with his fellow apprentices. Though hed
always claimed these incidents were accidental, Reilly knew that

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they were in actuality done on purpose by the elitist apprentices


hed been forced to train with.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, Reilly removed his top and threw
it across the sparse room. Unlike many of the other apprentices,
his room only had a bed and a small cupboard which held his few
clothes, all of which were provided by the Guild itself after hed
joined as an apprentice. Reilly never had any personal belongings,
only the occasional book hed borrow the occasional book every
now and again, an old practice from his days in the orphanage
when hed taught himself to read. Sighing for a moment, Reilly fell
back onto the bed and closed his eyes.
It was maybe half to midnight when the door burst open. He
wrenched off the bed by his right arm and thrown onto the ground.
Dazed, but now a more alert, Reilly looked up to see Braden come
at him with a dagger in hand.
Jumping to his feet quickly, Reilly grabbed his rivals dagger
hand and managed to flick the weapon away, only to receive a
punch to the face that sent him to the ground again. Looking up,
he saw the sneer on Bradens face as the elders foot connected with
Reillys stomach. Coughing in sudden pain, he could barely hear
the words Braden was saying.
How dare you think you are better than me, Braden was
saying. You are nothing but a bug under my foot, a stinking
bastard peasant. You are a waste of space and you will never be
above me, never!
And then the fists and legs came. Reillys screams were muffled
by the brute force Braden was using on him and by the time the
elder had stopped, Reilly was in agony.
Braden grabbed his hair and pulled him up. Remember your
place, peasant, Braden spoke. Or you might not survive here
much longer.
And with that, Braden threw Reilly to the ground, right next to
the dagger that lay where it had fallen earlier.

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Acting on instinct, Reilly grabbed the dagger and slashed the


back of Bradens bare feet, sending the older apprentice toppling
to the floor. In a flash, Reilly was on top of him, using the dagger to
slash the larger boys vocal cords to prevent him screaming before
taking the dagger in both hands and stabbing him in the chest.
Up, down, up, down. Blood sprayed from a new wound each time
the dagger withdrew and coated everything in hot red blood. The
gurgling in Bradens throat stopped quickly but Reilly kept stabbing
until finally he was too weak to do any more, leaving the dagger
embedded in the others chest and falling back next to the bed.
Eyes wide from the sight before him, Reilly couldnt believe
what hed done. Hed murdered someone, again; and this time it
wasnt in self-defence, it was an animalistic rage that had boiled
over from all the times hed been hurt by Braden and his friends.
To make matters worse, it was the son of an Imercian nobleman,
not to mention the Guilds Grand Masters grand-nephew as well.
Reilly couldnt explain this one away. He was nothing more than
an orphan whose father was unknown; he had nothing to fall back
on. He was dead regardless of how people looked at it.
Wasting no time, Reilly grabbed his discarded shirt and quickly
cleaned as much blood off his bare skin as he could before dropping
his pants and rushing to his cupboard and grabbing a new set of
clothes and quickly changing. Grabbing a small bag, he grabbed
his third set and stuffed them into it and then grabbed the book
he was currently reading and some basic soap and teeth cleaner
before running from his room, heading to the food stores in the
Mess Hall. Itd be deserted at this time of night so no one would
notice him.
Within minutes, his bag stacked with two days worth of food
and a knife hed found left on the counter in the kitchens, Reilly was
over the wall and running into the forests beyond, not stopping to
take a look back. That life was gone and there was no sense in
looking back.

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***
Some days later in the training temple, the Grand Master had called
a meeting of all the masters in the temple in the Grand Chamber.
The chamber was usually only used for ceremonial roles, including
graduations and funerals. Today, however, wasnt one of those
times. Considering how quickly the Grand Master had returned
from his business in the capital, Olean knew this was about the
death of Braden, the Grand Masters star pupil and grand-nephew.
Sitting between Master Elman and another man, whose name
escaped him at present, Olean looked to the centre of the Grand
Chamber where the Grand Master sat, his face red with fury for
obvious reasons.
I call this session of the Guild Masters, called the chief acolyte
who served as the Grand Masters assistant and chamber speaker
for the duration. Will Master Olean please stand and make your
way to the centre.
Sighing before getting his feet, Olean made his way down the
tiers to stand before the Grand Master. Reminding himself to
remain calm, Olean waited for the Grand Master to stop looking
at him as if he was responsible for the Dwarf Extinctions. Finally,
the Grand Masters eyes calmed and he turned to the chief acolyte,
who nodded in reply.
Master Olean, the chief acolyte said. You were charged with
the training of a class of apprentices, which included young lord
Braden and the orphan Reilly. Care to explain why you were not
aware of Reillys plan to murder Braden?
What makes you believe it was murder? Olean countered,
looking up to note the faces of his fellow masters. Braden was
found in Reillys room, his own dagger protruding from his own
chest. One could interpret this as an act in self-defence.
The chamber buzzed with soft whispers.
Answer the question I asked, Master Olean. The chief acolyte
replied.

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If Reilly had planned to kill Braden, he was able to hide it


very well. Olean answered. But I highly doubt he could. He was
raised in an orphanage and I have noted in the time he was here,
Reilly has never shown much in the way of advanced planning.
Master Olean, are you saying that he couldnt have planned the
murder of Braden in advance? the acolyte asked, the large eyes
turning to the Grand Master; who looked like steam was literally
coming out of his ears. He did after all manage to escape without
being detected by our patrols. That appears to be vital planning.
Olean sighed. If Reilly did really plan to kill Braden, then the
act wouldve been less brutal than it appeared, he then turned
to the Grand Master. If hed truly wanted to kill your grandnephew, Grand Master, it wouldve quick and less messy. We do,
after all, train assassins here and Reillys technique to kill Braden
was anything but clean.
The Grand Master fumed more and turned his gaze to his
spokesman, who seemed to shrivel at the gaze. Then a are you
saying, M Master O Olean, the acolyte stuttered, that it w
wasnt a a planned m murder? R rather w was it a spur
o of the m moment?
Oleans eyes turned to meet the acolyte. Yes, I do.
The chamber murmured more loudly and intriguingly the
masters present seemed to agree with Olean on this. The Grand
Master waved his hand, albeit stiffly, causing the chamber to
descend into silence.
Then why would the orphan Reilly run away? The chief
acolyte asked. Surely if it was an act committed in the spur of the
moment, then why is he not here to answer for it?
Olean turned to the acolyte and smiled. Perhaps because he
knew that regardless of how anyone interpreted this, Reilly would
still have been put to death.
Which he will when we find him, the Grand Master bellowed.
He has broken the sacred rule of never spilling blood in murder
within sacred grounds.

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Olean sighed again and turned to look away from the Grand
Master, he felt no desire to see the look on the old mans face as he
spoke his final words.
As of this moment, the orphan Reilly is hereby stripped of
his apprenticeship to the Assassins Guild and is condemned to
death, the Grand Master spoke, his voice reaching each corner of
the chamber. If any assassin of this guild comes across the boy,
they are to kill them and bring back his head as proof of his death.
Olean heard no further. He walked out of the chambers and
stepped into the courtyard, where he left out a blood-curdling
scream that surprised many of the apprentices walking about.
For him, the thought of hearing of the death of his prodigy and
perhaps the best apprentice he had ever known was quite possibly
the worst thing he could ever hear in his entire lifetime.
***
The seasons passed as they did in Imercia. Summer became autumn,
autumn became winter, winter became spring and spring turned
to summer, repeating the circle time and time again. Spring was
now in full force in the kingdom, though it had been a gruelling
winter with the icy chill having only just lifted last week. And the
roads were once again filled with travellers journeying across the
land, whether to return home or seek new places.
Master Olean rode his horse down the well-travelled road on
his journey to his old hometown. A week ago, a letter from his
sister informed him that the lord of the manor above their town
had died unexpectedly and the people were upset with the new
lord and had paid for a rogue assassin to take care of the successor
quickly. Though it was unlikely the rogue assassin, rare even in
Imercia as most of them belonged to the Guild, was even still in
the town, Olean thought it was best to check to see who it was that
was responsible.
It had been some years since Olean had left the training temple
to return home for a visit and he relished the opportunities to

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stretch his legs as it were. It had been to visit his nephew when
he had married some six years ago. It had been a joyful occasion
and Olean had finally felt happy for the first time in the two years
before that.
When wed lost two brilliant apprentices, Olean thought with
a sigh.
As he continued his journey south, Oleans eyes remained alert as
he scanned the travellers. It was then he had noticed a short young
man in his twenties walking in the opposite direction. He wore a
dark-hooded cloak that was well-worn and well-travelled, and
clothing that had probably seen better days, though they were skintight and very clean despite their age. And despite the hood, it did
little to cover the short dark hair and familiar greenish-yellow eyes.
Despite himself, Olean couldnt help but smile as his eyes
made contact with the young man in front of him. They didnt
give away that they knew each other. After all, the young man
walking in the opposite direction was a fugitive with a death
warrant on his head. It was when they were next to each other,
the pair stopped moving.
Keep your blades sharp, young Reilly, Olean spoke softly.
I always do, the young man replied as he passed his old
teacher, strong and confidently, That is what you taught me,
Master.
Without a further glance, the two quietly parted. Even in all
his years and no matter how many students he had taught, Olean
would never forget the one student whod forever impress him,
regardless of where he went in life. Olean had little doubt who he
was supposed to search for in his hometown, but now he had no
need and thought he could have a good vacation after all.

108 | Painted Words 2014

The Escape Artist


Shantara Johnstone

nk-black strokes on a coat of flame move fluidly with each


step the tiger takes. Every stride brushes the floor of the arena
with purpose and poise, gradually gaining the momentum that
will see her gracefully jump through the burning ring. A glint of
playfulness shines within wide open eyes, and a long tail dances
in time with her feline instinct. Her toes barely touch the ramp as
she flies towards the biting flame, welcoming its fleeting embrace.
For a moment she is one with the inferno a beast of supernatural
power. She breaks through to the other side, unscathed, a tiger
once more, receiving food and water and soothing words in an
alien tongue.
At the end of the day the tiger is greeted by cold steel walls
and a bed of straw. Her neighbours are rowdy but she ignores
their presence. She directs all her attention to the meagre meal she
is given, attempting to distract herself from the wistful thoughts
creeping from the dark corners. Her cage is jolted as its joined
with another, signalling the start of another journey through the
night. Despite the rumbling and shaking that proceeds, it is not
long before her limbs give in to the weight of sleepiness, and her
eyelids soon follow.
She dreams of the sun in a bright blue sky, its light filtering
through a canopy of leaves to illuminate the rich green scene

Painted Words 2014 | 109

below. Birds are calling to one another with a hundred different


songs, each one contributing to an orchestra greater than any
other, accompanied by the stirring whispers of the wind through
the trees. The tiger follows an invisible path in the undergrowth,
learning to trust her instincts again. Ears catch the snap of a leaf,
and a nose draws the spices from the breeze. She senses something
travelling by her right side, a mirror to her every move, but she
does not alter her pace. Her tail poised and whiskers twitching,
she looks straight ahead. Gradually the unseen beast moves closer,
and closer still, until its image breaks through the foliage, and the
tiger, no longer able to hold back her curiosity, turns to face it.
Excitement erupts deep within the tiger, forcing her to wake.
It is still dark, but if she looks up she can vaguely see the picture
on the wall of her cage; a poor depiction of the place she once
called home. Cloaked in shadow, the image of another tiger is only
visible by the light in its eyes, and she sees sadness within them.
She attempts to settle down once more and return to her dream
world, but those wistful thoughts circle her mind and refuse to
leave. Caught up in a spiral of time and trials, she lies awake until
the ground stops moving.
For many moons the tiger is trapped in a cycle; her only source
of release is that fleeting moment she shares with the flame. Her
every thought revolves around the fire as she tries to understand its
secrets of grace. She feels it blossoming inside her and encouraging
her to find an escape. She continues to leap.
In that infernal moment, time slows down and the arena
disappears, leaving the two beings with only an awareness of each
other. They speak in low growls and hisses, learning and teaching
and moving until they become one and the same. The fire shows
the tiger how to be courageous and passionate, while the tiger talks
of desire and desolation. Coming out of the flame, the tigers eyes
gleam a little brighter, and her tail flickers a little more playfully,
but the spirit is quick to diminish.

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***
There comes a time when the voices call less frequently, and her
paws are weary from climbing the ramp. Shes brought to leap
through the ring less often, but desire is still flickering strongly
in her heart; a longing for the warmth and comfort which is now
denied to her. The constant companionship of her cold, dark cage
drains her strength and dims the light in her eyes. She can feel her
time running out.
She enters the arena once more. She walks softly and slowly,
suddenly afraid that she might take a wrong step and fall apart,
extinguishing the last spark inside her. The voices urge her on, but
she hesitates, for the wind is bringing with it another call. It hisses
and tells her to be ready.
A strong heat and rush of air pierces the arena, sending a tiny
spark to ignite a pile of straw. It grows in a flurry of excitement,
devouring everything it touches. Leaving behind a trail of charcoal,
the fire sprints through the stadium and climbs the walls, opening
wide a gateway to the outside world. It takes hold inside the tigers
heart, and without a second thought, she pounces upon the black
path and follows it into the light. Again she is far beyond ordinary
existence, and nothing is able to lessen her newfound strength.
She performs her famous feat one last time and leaps between the
flames.

Painted Words 2014 | 111

Billabong
Vanessa Hughes

ams bunyip was back. He was sitting at the end of the pier.
Shoulders hunched, he stared out over the billabong, through
the gum trees, at the hills just visible in the distance. His tail hung
over the side of the pier and swept back and forth, the lazy force of
it creating ripples that reached halfway across the billabong.
I stepped onto the pier and, as the wood creaked, the bunyip
turned his head and looked at me out of the corner of one dark eye,
then turned back to gaze through the trees. I walked over and sat
next to him, placing a parcel of fish and chips between us. I took off
my thongs and put them behind me, then pulled my long skirt up
so it wouldnt get wet. In the last year my legs had grown just long
enough for my feet to reach the water. I moved them slowly back
and forth, the cold almost painful on the hot soles of my feet. The
dirt on my toes loosened, and then floated away as if it had never
been there at all.
Sighing, I lifted my head and reached over to the fish and chips
to tear a small opening only big enough for a hand, so the heat
wouldnt escape. I pulled out a potato cake and held it towards
the bunyip. Reaching out a paw, he gripped it between two thick
claws. Each was the length of my hand, curved, black, sharp as
Dads best knife. But he took the cake delicately, not piercing the
batter or touching me at all, then moved it to his other paw. He

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licked the salt from the tip of each claw, then reached into the
parcel and mucked around a bit until he found the squeezy packet
of tomato sauce and squirted some onto the paper. After carefully
dunking the potato cake in the sauce he placed the whole thing in
his mouth and crunched down, munching noisily. Batter crumbs
stuck to the hair on his snout. I picked up the other potato cake,
but just held it, staring at the reflection of the trees on the water,
suddenly not feeling hungry at all.
Bunyip and I sat, waiting for the in-between time. This is the
time when the birds finally stop chattering their faces off and
settle down for the night, when the sun has drifted behind the
hills but its not quite dark yet. That was usually when Sams
ghost would appear, if he decided to. Id come here every night
for the last month to see him. Every night since the funeral. It
used to be Sam and I who would sit here in the evening, eating
fish and chips. Wed steal money out of Dads undie drawer for
the chips, knowing hed be pissed when he found out, but doing
it anyway. As the light faded wed sit and talk about stuff that was
going on at school, or whether Dad had figured out about Mum
and Uncle Phil yet, or sometimes we just sat, not talking at all.
Now, the bunyip and I waited for my brother to appear, and for
the first time I wished he wouldnt.
Couldnt you give him some more time?
The bunyip shook his head. Soul willlose its edges. Dissolve.
Like a chip in a billabong, and he threw one in. When that
happens, too far gone to make trip to the next place.
I nodded, but felt sick with guilt. The bunyip had waited this
long for me, not for Sam. Sam was ready to go, had been ready
since the moment he knew it was inevitable. It was me who
couldnt let go.
Sams bunyip first appeared on a hot still day in the middle
of summer. We were lying on the pier, the lazy sunlight drying
my hair and just starting to burn on my legs. Wed been swinging

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on the tyre swing Dad had made, taking turns to see how far we
could launch ourselves into the billabong. I would stand on top of
the tyre and pump my legs to get it to go higher and higher, and
when it was as high as I could get it Id launch myself off, bring
my knees up to my chest and do a bomb into the water. Id plunge
deep, sometimes almost hitting the bottom. It had been a long, dry
summer and there was less water in the billabong than usual. Dad
would have banned us from coming if hed realised how shallow it
was, so we were careful not to say anything.
Sam and I swung and splashed for an hour until, completely
buggered, we swam over to the pier and dragged ourselves up
to sunbake. After a while Sam sat up, paused then stood up.
Theres a bunyip over there, he said, lifting a hand to scratch a
scab on his left knee.
Where?
Over there, between the tyre swing and the ghost gum. I
looked where he pointed. The bunyip was sitting there quietly,
trailing his tail in the water, and every now and then raising
his nose to sniff the air. Green-grey-blue-black, like the bush at
night, he had shaggy mammoth hair that blended so well into
the trees I had to strain my eyes to see him. He must have been
twice Sams height and just as wide. We stared for a minute,
then Sam lifted a hand and waved, just once. The bunyip looked,
paused, then raised his hand and waved back. After a couple of
minutes he pulled himself up and disappeared into the trees,
not making a sound.
Whatd you wave at it for? I asked.
Its come for me.
What? I started to feel a bit sick in my stomach.
Its come for me. He said it so quietly I almost couldnt hear
him. I tried to see, just staring across at where the bunyip had been.
Starting to panic a bit I elbowed him in the ribs, then smacked him
on the arm. Still no response.

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Hey, theres no way its come for you. Why would you think
that? Its probably here for Mr Phelps. Have you seen him recently?
He looks half dead already. Must be at least a hundred. Next time
we see the old fart well say Oi! Your bunyips here. Not long now!
Probably be a relief for him.
But Sam was right. It was his bunyip, and my brother died the
very next day. Hed swung out on the tyre swing for about the
millionth time in his life, only this time he didnt tuck his legs up
and bomb. He dived. Dived into a billabong that was shallower
after months of no rain. Dived when he should have known not
to. Dived after Id spent half the night telling him to be careful.
Afterwards I could never figure out if hed just forgotten, or if hed
caught his foot on the tyre and twisted around, or if hed actually
meant to do it.
I dragged Sams body to the edge of the billabong, and there
was the bunyip, waiting.
Eff off you bastard, I said, and threw a rock at him. The rock
went wide and the bunyip didnt even flinch, just stood there and
waited patiently. I held Sams body for a long time. Until the sun
went down. Until the moon came up. Until I was cold and had
no more tears. Then the bunyip walked over and knelt down, his
shaggy knees right in front of my face, and softly placed one paw
on the back of my head.
Not yet, I whispered. Not yet, and the bunyip spoke for the
first time.
Okay. Not yet.

Mythical Re-Imaginings

116 | Painted Words 2014

A re-imaging of the Myth Demeter & Persephone:

OIL VERSES COAL


Donna Bridgeman

enelope worried about the same things as other sixteen year


old girls: her hair, pimples, and boys. What she really wanted,
but was totally beyond her grasp, was to live a normal life.
Her father, Zachary Clinton, was the president of the Empire
and it was extremely difficult to have a conversation with other
girls whilst two bodyguards hovered behind you, their hands
poised only inches above a revolver. Definitely not the easiest way
to make friends.
Penelope didnt have friends, only acquaintances, so she spent
most of her time away from New Norfolk Ladies College, with her
mother.
Her Mother, Demi, was a powerful and influential woman. She
was the sole heir of her fathers oil conglomeration and when Demi
married Zachary Clinton, the son of a coal tycoon, the headlines
screamed it was a union made in hell. Natural resources were
in high demand and the empires reliance on the finite supply of
fossil fuels meant Penelopes parents controlled very valuable yet
volatile assets.
Whilst Zachary pursued his political career, Demi devoted
herself to her beautiful daughter. She managed the Empires oil
supply and production via email and video conferencing. Penelope

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never wanted for anything as Demi doted on her. Mother and


daughter developed a bond which was unbreakable.
Her father, on the other hand, rarely spent more than two
nights in a row at the familys mansion. It stood atop the highest
mountain in New Norfolk and overlooked the sprawling city
below. Penelope was required to make an appointment if she
wished to see her father and they could never go for a walk in the
sunshine together as it was a security nightmare.
***
Penelope stepped out of the limousine and smoothed the skirt of
her baby blue ball gown with her hands. She nervously twisted the
end of her golden pony tail around her fingers as her body guards
scrutinised the crowd of teenagers around her. When she finally
got the nod she moved awkwardly on her high heels toward the
entrance of the auditorium.
Once safely inside, she gasped in delight. The organisers of the
prom had done a marvellous job with the decorations. The theme
was spring and flowers adorned almost all the available wall and
ceiling space. Pretty white sprigs of wisteria hung from the ceiling
whilst vases overflowed with bouquets of roses and irises, which
filled the room with colour and the most delicious scent.
Penelope was drawn toward the centrepiece which dominated
the table spread with party food; a perfect blue hyacinth. As she
reached out to touch it she became aware of eyes on her. It was
not unusual for people to stare. The mere presence of her minders
made people assume she was important. But this felt different. She
could feel a pair of eyes bore into her very soul.
She paused, her hand inches away from the gorgeous flower,
and turned her head slowly to the left. She didnt want to alert
the security staff that there was something amiss. She searched the
room for the source of the electric eyes. Across the now crowded
room she locked eyes with Mr tall, dark and mysterious. Penelope
shyly looked away and when she plucked up the courage to glance

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his way again, she groaned with disappointment. The resident


mean girl of the college had set her sights on the same boy and
they were now engaged in deep conversation.
Penelope took the opportunity to study him whilst he was
focused on Heide. He looked older than the other gangly, pimply
students from the neighbouring boys school, St Marks; more
sophisticated and suave in his black suit and tie. He was very
handsome; almost too handsome. As though he wasnt quite
real. He seemed ... otherworldly. He looked her way once again
and smiled. Penelope almost lost her balance and had to steady
herself against the table. Her favourite bodyguard, Aaron, rushed
over to assist her, but she had already managed to right herself.
Embarrassed, she didnt dare look in the direction of the stare.
Penelope helped herself to some of the party food and nursed a
glass of lemonade as she watched with envy some of the other girls
twirl around the dance floor. She was beginning to regret even
coming to the dance when one of the previously-mentioned pimply
boys, who said his name was Frank, asked her to dance. She was
impressed by his bravery, so accepted with a smile. Penelope gave
her two minders a reassuring smile and they hovered awkwardly
on the edge of the dance floor.
Penelope and the red-haired boy didnt exactly twirl around
the dance floor as the poor boy had two left feet and her toes
were beginning to burn from the persistent pounding. Yet, she
was grateful to him for this small taste of normality. The beat of
the music quickened and she was glad to break away from him
and move about independently. She once again became aware of
searing eyes upon her. Mr Mysterious was dancing with Heide
nearby. Penelope, feeling braver, returned his stare and his smile.
Whilst lost in his eyes, she became aware the music had stopped
and the crowd were now focused on the principal, Mr Evans, as he
tapped on the microphone. As he read out the names of the prom
king and queen, the other students listened with bated breath, then

Painted Words 2014 | 119

turned and smiled at her as they clapped their hands. She turned
toward Frank, who looked disappointed as he backed away from
her. Confused, she took a step after him but was swept up in the
arms of Mr Mysterious.
Penelope gasped and tried to recall the words Mr Evans had
uttered, Penelope Clinton and Stefan Black.
So, your name is Stefan? asked Penelope, as she glanced up at
his face. Now she was so close to him she no longer felt as brave.
He nodded before he twirled her around the dance floor.
Penelope enjoyed herself, and for once she didnt mind the others
staring. Stefan didnt speak as he skilfully moved with the music.
She began to wish her mother was here to see this momentous
occasion. She would be so proud of her daughter.
Before the song had ended, Stefan whispered in her ear, Would
you like to get some fresh air? Penelopes heart skipped a beat and
she stole a quick glance over her shoulder to check if her minders
would notice if she slipped outside with Stefan. She bit on her lip
and nodded Yes.
Stefan manoeuvred her towards the side entrance in one fluid
movement. As she stepped outside into the cool air, Penelope
lifted her chin toward the moon and inhaled the sweet scent of
freedom. When Stefan asked her if she would like to take a ride
in the black limousine waiting outside, she didnt hesitate and
together they sped through the night, far away from New Norfolk
Ladies College.
***
Demi paced up and down the lounge room floor. She had received
an urgent call from Aaron, Penelopes minder, twenty minutes
earlier. He reported Penelope had danced with a boy and now
they both were missing. Demi was fraught with worry; it was all
she could do not to race down to the school herself to help look
for her beloved daughter. She tried to reassure herself Penelope
was hiding from her bodyguards so she could spend some time

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alone with the boy. No-one knew how much Penelope longed for
a normal life more than she did. But something didnt feel right to
Demi, she couldnt shake the feeling something had gone horribly
wrong.
She looked out the plate glass window onto the lights of the city
below.
Where are you Penelope? she demanded of her reflection.
The phone in her hand buzzed and Demi sighed with relief
when she saw it was a text from her daughter. However, the words
Im sorry Mother spurred her into action. She didnt even bother
to call her driver; she jumped into the Jaguar and dialled Aarons
number.
Make sure no-one leaves that dance until you have questioned
everyone. Somebody there must know something.
Demi sped through the darkness, unsure of where she was
headed but not content to leave the fate of her precious daughter
in the hands of those not as invested in the outcome as herself.
For nine days and nights she searched for Penelope. She was
positive she could hear her daughters voice on the wind calling
to her, begging for her to come, to save her. Demi began to despair
about ever seeing her darling daughter again. She was alive ... she
was sure, but she was hidden, very well.
On the tenth day Demi received a call from Heide, the mean
girl from New Norfolk Ladies College.
Please forgive me, my lady; I wasnt aware everyone at the
dance had been questioned. I left the dance as soon as I saw
Penelope leave with Stefan; I was so upset he had chosen her
over me.
Demi quickly collected Heide from her parents home and
together they drove to the offices of the head of the Secret Service,
Henry Hughes, to deliver the information in person.
Mr Hughes, I trust you are aware of the crisis my family is
involved in. My dear daughter, Penelope, has vanished without a

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trace after last being seen, by Miss Heide here, as she left the prom
with a boy named Stefan Black.
Hughes raised his eyebrows as he regarded the two before him.
He had already speculated about the fate of Penelope Clinton and
did not believe the case would end well, but he was moved by the
grief of the wife of his employer and so agreed to make enquiries
into the background of the said Stefan Black.
Demi and Heide spent many anxious hours awaiting news of
Penelope. When at last Hughes summoned them back to his office,
his grave face caused Demi to almost faint with anticipation.
My lady, you must sit down as the news I have to deliver to you
will cause you much heartache.
Heide gasped and reached out her hand to Demi, who grasped
it tightly as she sobbed.
I have consulted with my employer, your husband and he has
revealed to me the most distressing information. Hughes paused
before he continued with the news he could not quite fathom
himself, It has become apparent that your daughter, Penelope,
was in fact taken by the boy named Stefan Black, as we suspected.
Heide squeezed Demis hand as she wailed, But why, why my
Penelope?
Henry Hughes cleared his throat, It would seem your husband,
Zachary Clinton, president of the Empire, made an agreement with
the family of the boy. Stefan Black would have your daughters
hand in marriage, in return ...
In return for what? shouted Demi, no longer a pathetic
crumpled figure. She rose to her feet and radiated pure power to
the two she stood before.
In return for the continued supply of coal to the Empire, My
Lady.
Coal? But my husbands family controls all the coal in the
Empire and beyond.
Yes, my lady, that is true. The boy appears to be a relative of
your husbands.

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Demi continued to stand as she considered the incredible


information she had just been given. Are you saying, my
precious daughter has been taken, with the consent of her father,
in order that his subjects may enjoy the benefits of a continued
supply of coal?
Ah Yes, My Lady, that seems to be the case.
Would I also be correct in assuming that Penelope is being held,
in the underground mansion belonging to my husbands family?
Henry Hughes nodded his head.
Is it also true that I would be refused permission to see my
daughter and that anyone I would send in my place would be
denied access to the depths of the underground coal mansion?
Yes My Lady. Your husband made it very clear that this was a
permanent arrangement. Your daughter is to remain underground,
as the wife of the heir to the coal empire.
Demi paused to consider her options. A cruel smile played
about her lips as she punched some numbers into her phone.
Be informed, she told the person on the other end of the
line, oil production is to cease, immediately, until further notice.
Anyone who continues to allow the production of oil or the
continued supply to the Empire will be severely punished and will
be answerable to me.
Two can play at that game, laughed Demi, Now lets see
what my darling husband intends to do about his permanent
arrangement to keep my beloved daughter underground and
away from me.
***
Many months passed and industry within the Empire ground to a
halt. With no oil available, transport was grounded and people were
no longer able to go about their daily lives. Vehicles sat dormant
in garages or idle on the side of the road where they had faltered.
Food was scarce and the people were becoming dissatisfied with
the rule of Zachary Clinton. As winter approached, the strain on

Painted Words 2014 | 123

the coal industry intensified as the people opted for alternative


forms of heating. Mutinous murmurings were to be overhead
amongst the corridors of the government.
Zachary Clinton was at a loss as to what to do. His wife had
disappeared abroad and resisted all his attempts to contact her. He
had appeased his brothers demands by agreeing to hand over his
only daughter, but in the process, had unleashed his wifes fury.
There was nothing left to do but tell his brother that his wife could
not lose her daughter to the underground world. He intended to
offer Stefan any other girl of his choosing.
Demi was overjoyed when she received word her husband was
to renege on the deal made with his brother. She quickly returned
to the Empire to greet her beloved and much missed daughter,
Penelope.
As she waited at the gates of the underground coal mansion for
the return of Herman, her husbands most trusted aide, she began to
feel uneasy. What if Stefan Black refused to give up his future bride?
Or worse, what if Penelope did not wish to leave the boys side?
Demi was overjoyed when she saw her beautiful daughter
approach the gate with Herman. Penelope ran to her mother and
the pair embraced with all the intensity of the months spent apart.
Demi pulled away to study her daughters coal-smeared, tearstained face.
You look troubled, my beautiful girl. Is there a reason for your
tears? Are you saddened to leave the boy behind?
Oh Mother, I dont know what to do? Ive missed you so much
but I really like Stefan ... a lot, and he treats me well. But he has
only let me return to give this warning to you and father.
What is the warning my dearest one?
He says if I refuse to stay with him, my uncle will withhold the
supply of coal to the Empire. There will be no electricity, Mother,
no ... Internet! How can I allow this to happen to the girls at college;
they will not survive.

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Demi stifled a grin, Perhaps there is a way we can appease


everyone, she said as she dialled the number to her husbands
personal phone.
And so it was decreed by Zachary Clinton, President of the
Empire, that his daughter, Penelope Clinton should, from this day
forth, divide her time between the two worlds. She shall spend
two-thirds of the year with her mother in the family mansion but
once the first snow fell, she was to return to the underground coal
mansion to be reunited with her husband, Stefan Black, for the
winter.
Demi and Penelope happily returned to their home. Penelope
contacted Heide to thank her for helping her mother and they soon
became firm friends. Penelope, although delighted to finally have
a friend and a handsome husband, lamented the loss of any chance
of a normal life.

Painted Words 2014 | 125

A re-imaging of the Myth Cerridwen & Taliesin:

The King of all Chocolates


Donna Bridgeman

aroline had always had a passion for chocolate. From an


early age she had coveted the texture and taste, and began to
experiment with many unorthodox flavour combinations.
Some forty years later she was on top of her game: world
renowned and respected as an international connoisseur of
chocolate and a sought-after judge at food fairs all over the globe.
She sighed as she stirred her precious concoction on the stove.
She had planned this variety for many years but had wanted to
save it for a special occasion. She knew it would be a chocolate
unrivalled anywhere in the world; an instant success which would
change the way chocolatiers worldwide viewed their craft; this
chocolate was to be the king of all chocolates.
Her apprentice, Harold, had shown much promise when he
commenced his indenture with her. He had been full of passion for
his work and so eager to learn she thought him a worthy successor
for when the time was right for her to step aside. But lately, she
was becoming more frustrated with him as he had begun to arrive
late to work and had made many mistakes which cost her dearly.
Caroline could not bear to see any batch of chocolate discarded; it
hurt her both financially and emotionally.
The special occasion which had triggered the creation of the

126 | Painted Words 2014

King of all Chocolates was the annual international Chocolatiers


Convention. Caroline had had an entry in the event for the last
fifteen years, and had been a judge for the past seven, but this year
was different. The fiftieth anniversary of the event had taken on a
much different twist. This year each chocolatier was to enter their
protg to represent them in the competition.
Up until a few months ago, Caroline had been pleased for
Harold to fly the flag on her behalf but now she was in a quandary
as to what to do. It wasnt just Harolds change in behaviour which
concerned her, but a problem closer to home was the driving force
behind the birth of the King of all Chocolates.
Caroline had been in her early twenties when she had
fallen pregnant. Shed been very fortunate in securing her
apprenticeship with the most famous Swiss chocolatier of his
time. Shed studied abroad and returned home triumphantly to
commence her own fine-chocolate-making business, Decadence.
But a chance encounter with a former flame had resulted in the
birth of her son, Derryn.
Derryn suffered from constantly being in the shadow of his
mothers reputation. The further Carolines star had risen, the more
withdrawn and socially isolated Derryn had become. Caroline
was concerned he was sinking into a severe mental illness and she
was desperate for him to shine in his own right. But the more she
pushed and cajoled him into being a success, the more he resisted,
as though determined to fail to spite her.
She had informed Harold of the competition months ago and
he had eagerly worked on his own chocolate creation. At first he
babbled constantly about his masterpiece but lately, he never
mentioned it, even when prompted. If Caroline had been paying
attention, she wouldve realised the change in Harolds behaviour
coincided with his lack of enthusiasm about his convention entry.
Caroline glanced at the clock; it was almost time. She took a
last taste of her precious mixture and congratulated herself on her

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achievement. It was close to perfection; it just needed one small,


yet vital, ingredient to turn this chocolate from nobility to royalty.
She called out to Derryn. If her plan was to succeed it would
work better if Derryn was actually involved. No answer. Frustrated
she dialled his mobile; still no answer. She didnt have time to hunt
him down she had to leave immediately. In desperation she
summoned Harold. She gave him detailed instructions about the
care of the King of all Chocolates. She had to be careful though. She
couldnt let him know this recipe was special; that it was anything
out of the ordinary. As she took her hooded blue coat down from
the hook behind the door, she reminded him they would leave for
the convention at first light.
She drove through the night until she arrived at the small town
at the foot of the lonely mountain. She sipped on coffee from her
flask as she waited for the moon to reach its fullest. The secret
ingredient she needed for her masterpiece needed to be touched
by the light of the full moon to achieve optimal flavour and
texture. At last it was time. She carefully made her way through
the bracken and dewy undergrowth until she reached the foot of
the magnificent oak tree. The moonlight was slowly creeping its
way along the ground toward her treasure.
Caroline almost squealed with delight as she saw her prize
burst from the base of the giant oak: black truffles. A delicacy
amongst food circles and the ingredient she had planned to make
her recipe exceptional. She carefully plucked the precious fungi
from the tree until she had filled the pail she had brought with her.
As she settled herself back into the drivers seat to make the trip
home, she smiled to herself. Everything was coming together. The
recipe she had perfected in her mind over many years was close
to fruition and the plan she had concocted to change her sons life
was set in motion.
She arrived back at the factory and was relieved Harold was
nowhere to be seen. If she could coerce Derryn into preparing

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the truffles and pouring the mixture into the moulds, she hoped
he would be willing to claim the King of all Chocolatesas his
own work.
Excitedly she ushered Derryn into the kitchen and steadied
herself to present her plan to him. He was to be her protg at the
Chocolatiers Convention. His entry named Divine Decadence
(Carolines King of all chocolates) would inevitably crown him
as the winner of the competition, and he would become the toast
of the chocolate world. All the culinary experts attention would
be focused on Derryn and she would willingly fade into the
background to let him have his turn in the spotlight.
Derryn eyed her dubiously as she waited for his response to
her plan.
What happens when they ask me questions I cant answer?
Youll be fine darling; Ill be there and I can prepare you
beforehand.
He shrugged his shoulders and walked toward the mixing bowl
Caroline had her back to.
Wed better get to work then, he said.
Caroline squealed and wrapped her arms around him like
a child. At last, they were doing something together and soon it
would be Derryns time to shine.
Here, she said as she emptied the pail of truffles onto the
bench. Help me prepare these and we can get the moulds poured
tonight.
When the truffles were ready to be added to the mix, You do
the honours, my darling, said Caroline.
Derryn scooped up the truffles and threw them into the
mixing bowl.
Ok, ready to add the chocolate, he said.
The smile faded from Carolines face. You just added the
truffles to the chocolate mix.
Derryn peered into the mixing bowl. That would be a negative.

Painted Words 2014 | 129

Caroline rushed over to the empty mixing bowl to see for herself
before she frantically searched the kitchen in vain for her precious
chocolate concoction. Wheres Harold?
He left a while ago.
Caroline fell against the bench and put her face in her hands.
The pinnacle of her chocolate making career had disappeared and
so had her apprentice.
Caroline left for the convention the next morning, much later
than she had anticipated. Harold hadnt arrived and so she left
alone. with no protg and without the Divine Decadence. She
drove with a heavy heart. Her son, Derryn, would continue to
resent her and she had no idea how to resurrect his life or her own
at this point. However, she had made a commitment to attend
the convention as a member of the judging panel and with her
reputation on the line, she forced herself to continue on.
Her colleagues greeted her with the respect she so deserved.
She was puzzled as to why no one asked about her missing entry
as she had been prepared to explain it away as an unfortunate
accident with the mixture. She checked into her hotel room and
prepared herself for the afternoon ahead. She gently wiped away
a tear when she read the agenda for the day. The programme
proudly stated Divine Decadence as the entry from her studio.
It was approximately four oclock and she sat at the judges
table. She drank tepid tea to cleanse her palette between tastings.
She picked up a sample from the next unnamed entry and took
a nibble. Immediately she was swamped by the overwhelming
taste. Her eyes widened and swept the room to see if anyone was
interested in her reaction to this particular chocolate. The flavour
was so familiar, she had tasted it only the night before; it was her
unfinished masterpiece, Divine Decadence.
She caught sight of Harold at the back of the room, trying to
look inconspicuous under a red baseball cap as he hid behind other
onlookers. Without hesitation, Caroline launched herself toward

130 | Painted Words 2014

him, without any regard for her safety or the spectacle she created.
He froze when he saw her close in on him but turned and swiftly
bolted from the room.
Caroline made her way through the throng of convention
attendees, unashamedly pushing aside those who stood in her way,
in her desperation to catch up with Harold. She caught a glimpse
of him as he pushed open the heavy industrial door at the rear of
the building, but lost sight of him as the door automatically closed
behind his retreating figure.
She burst out onto the street through the same door Harold had
exited. She ran to the end of the laneway and frantically searched
up and down the street; looking without really seeing. She saw a
crowd on the opposite side of the road and was positive she could
see a red cap bobbing up and down through the shoppers. Caroline
tore after him and almost tripped as her heels hit the bitumen. She
avoided the crowd by running up the road, dodging and weaving
around cars. She saw Harolds slim form disappear into the large
department store at the top of the rise.
Panting she ran into the foyer of the store and tried to grasp
her bearings. Directly in front of her were escalators which took
customers to shopping delights above her head and below her feet.
To her right was a bank of elevators. One stood with its door open
ready to receive patrons. Another was making its way downwards
whilst the closest was rapidly making its way upwards. Caroline
skidded across the shiny, slippery floor and threw herself into
the empty elevator. She pushed the up button several times and
groaned as it slowly shivered and rattled as it ascended.
Think, she told herself, Think. Where would he be heading, how
was he planning to get out of here? The door opened and, without
thinking, she hurtled out of the lift to the surprise of the shoppers
who had called the lift to that floor. As though she had a tracker
on her apprentice, she made her way to the stairs at the end of
the childrens clothing department. She opened the door to the

Painted Words 2014 | 131

stairway and could hear footsteps quickly making their way down
the stairs below her.
Im gonna get you! she screamed involuntarily over the banister
and spied the red baseball cap several floors below her. Caroline
paused briefly to slip her high heels off and swung them around
her finger. Although she was furious, she wasnt suicidal. With her
hand reached out to steady herself on the railing, Caroline flew
down the stairs as fast as her stockinged legs would carry her.
She descended the stairs, becoming dizzy from the constant
whirling as she reached the landing between floors. She burst out
into the foyer of the ground floor and madly scanned the crowd
for the red baseball cap. She slipped her heels back onto her feet; a
woman of her standing needed to keep up appearances, and then
hurried back to the front of the store, where she had originally
made her entrance. She scanned the crowd once again for the red
cap, without success. She caught a glimpse of her dishevelled hair
and untucked silk shirt in the massive store display window. She
paused to smooth her hair and force her shirt back inside her skirt.
Suddenly aware of peoples stares and, overwhelmed by fatigue
and hopelessness, Caroline turned around and walked defeated
back down the hill to the convention.
As she arrived in the hall, she was dismayed the judging had
continued in her absence. As she walked into the convention she
was greeted by thunderous clapping and cheering.
Congratulations, Caroline.
Marvellous achievement, you must be so proud.
There you are Caroline, we have been looking everywhere for
you and Harold. Congratulations! Please come up on stage to
accept the trophy on behalf of your protg.
Caroline didnt know why she was surprised Divine Decadence
had won. Of course, it would. Even without the finishing touch, it
was far superior to any of the entries submitted from around the
world.

132 | Painted Words 2014

Caroline accepted the cup and the winners cheque with a wry
smile. Her reputation within the chocolate world was intact and,
as the prize for the winning protg was a year-long stint with
a chocolatier in Switzerland, Harold would soon be someone
elses problem. Besides, she still possessed the secret ingredient
which would turn this winning concoction into the King of all
Chocolates.

Painted Words 2014 | 133

Mother Knows Best


Louise Wardle

dont trust him! yelled Mother.


Cora walked towards her mother, keeping the kitchen table
between them. Why? she asked.
Mothers eyes burned with anger. Just look at his eyes! Theyre
grey! You cant trust a person with grey eyes. Theyre cold. Like
steel. She slammed both hands down on the kitchen table making
cigarette ash spill from the overfull ashtray.
What does the colour of a persons eyes have to do with
anything? Cora asked. She was motionless, stunned by the sudden
tirade. Cora looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car.
Hes older than you! Way older! Mother shakes her head.
Whatll you do when hes old and youre still young?
Cora folded her arms across her chest and asked, Whats age
got to do with love?
Stop and think, girl! Just stop and think! Mothers lips had
become hard, thin lines.
But were in love and love conquers all. Cora said, confused
by her mothers words. She shook her head. I just dont get you.
Dont you want me to be happy? Dont you want grandkids?
Do whatcha want! You always do! Mother turned and stormed
out of the kitchen. Mark my words. One day youll regret this!

134 | Painted Words 2014

***
Coras big day arrived. The sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was
shining and the birds were singing. The trellis and archway were
stunning white and lavender roses bloomed throughout it.
Haydn looked immaculate. So handsome. He waited under the
archway for Coras arrival. The celebrant was giving last minute
instructions to Haydn and his groomsmen. An excited but hushed
buzz could be heard coming from the garden where all the guests
awaited her entrance.
Here we go. Father slipped his arm into Coras.
I cant do this, Cora whispered to him.
Yes, you can. Youll be fine, He said as he patted Coras hand.
Cora swallowed hard, fighting back the tears that threatened to
spill down her cheeks.
I cant do this. Im not ready Im not sure its right Im not sure
if hes right O, God. I cant let Mother know Okay I can do this.
Looking neither left nor right, Cora focused on the path in front
of her and walked on. She paused at the beginning of the trellis,
as instructed by the photographer and waited for the cue to move.
The video camera was recording her every move and the guests
were crazily snapping photographs.
Shes gorgeous!
Beautiful!
Oh M Gee
She scrubs up okay, hey?
Cora nervously twitched her bouquet. I cant do this Get
it together, girl. Everybodys watching Mothers crying Dont
embarrass yourself
The deed was done. She was now Mrs Haydn Hellier.
***
Father stroked Mothers head. Cheer up, luv. Coras only ninety
minutes away, he said.
Mother sat at the kitchen table, her head buried in her arms.

Painted Words 2014 | 135

Between sobs she muttered, It may as well be a million miles.


Father put the kettle on and set about making a cup of tea for
the both of them. When it was done, he sat down opposite Mother
and lit a cigarette. Blowing out smoke, he said, You knew it was
going to happen one day.
Thats easy for you to say! spat Mother. You havent lost a
daughter! She knew how I liked things done! Shed never hesitate
to do jobs for me! She cared about me!
So? You think I dont care about you! Youve lost a daughter!
At times, you can be such an ungrateful and an insensitive witch!
Father had pushed back his chair and was stomping up and down
the length of the kitchen.
Mother grabbed her hot cup of tea and flung the contents at
Father. She thumped the cup back on the table so hard it broke. She
stared straight at Father and said, Now look what youve done.
Mother turned and stalked out of the room. The bedroom door
slammed. Muffled sobs followed.
***
Look, luv. You cant keep doing this, Father said to the distraught
woman. You need to get out. You need to move on.
It wouldnt be so bad if Cora had married someone else,
Mother said.
You know damned well that it wouldnt have mattered who
she married, said Father.
Get out! Get out and leave me alone! Mother screamed.
For Gods sake, woman! Get off your fat, lazy arse, yelled
Father. When was the last time you had a shower? You stink!
You dont understand! screeched Mother.
Be damned if I dont. Youre just wallowing in self-pity. Father
walked to the bedroom door, stopped and said, Coras not coming
home. She has a husband and shes looking after him. He opened
the door and held on to it. You could take a leaf out of her book.
Father walked out, closing the door behind him.

136 | Painted Words 2014

***
Brrring, brrring Brrring, brrring Brrring, brrring
Cora raced to the answer the phone. Hello.
Father was on the other end. Hey, sweetie. Its Dad.
Hi. Hows things? asked Cora cautiously. Father never rings,
its always her Wonder whats wrong with Mother?
Um Its ya mum Shes really down She misses you,
said Father.
And? inquired Cora.
Can you come home? Father asked. Please?
We cant really afford it. Haydn still hasnt found work, Cora
explained and then added, I shouldve transferred, not quit.
Okay, sweetheart. I understand. Father went quiet then
quickly added, Love you, and promptly hung up.
Cora whispered, Love you, too, down a silent line.
***
Mother looked up as the bedroom door opened. Expecting to see
Father, she was taken aback to see Cora framed by the doorway.
Hey, said Cora.
Mother smiled sheepishly. Hey, yourself.
Do ya want a cuppa? Cora asked.
Yes, please. That would be lovely, said Mother as she reached
for her dressing gown.
Okies. Ill put the kettle on. A smiled crept over Coras face as
she turned and headed back to the kitchen.
Mother joined Cora at the kitchen table and took a sip of hot tea.
To what do I owe this visit from you?
Please dont start, Cora asked.
An awkward silence followed, broken by Cora. Ive got a part
time job.
Good, said Mother. What does Haydn think about that?
Hes pleased, answered Cora.
Humph! Still doesnt explain why ya here. Mother stated.

Painted Words 2014 | 137

Cora was astounded. Good grief!


Why do I bother?
Okay. I cant find a job where we live, so I contacted my old
work place and theyll take me back part time. Five hour shifts,
four days a week.
Mother raised an eyebrow. And?
Oh, Mother. You can be so frustrating! said Cora. Ill spell it
out for ya. I have four days work a week. Here. And I wont be able
to travel from home to work and back again each shift.
Again Mother asked, And?
Grrrr! Cora took a deep breath and asked, Can I please stay
here while Im working? You know. Drive up, stay four days n
three nights, and go home till I have to work again.
Of course ya can. That would be lovely. Mother picked up a
cigarette and lit it, trying to conceal a smug smile.

138 | Painted Words 2014

U.N.C.L.E
Cathy Flanagan-Curtain
Persephone beautiful nave child
You have been abducted from the house,
Seized by the dark one called UNCLE
Universal Negative Cyber Land of Emptiness
The mind, the soul, the will compelled.
You have been taken and corrupted
The entire world can see your space
All has been revealed on the screen.
Queen Demeter can not save you
From the clutches of electrode snakes
They wrap around and drag you in
You are called and seated to obey.
Image of self takes precedence
It is forever cold in your brain,
Among the chips of cyber space
Worldly knowledge at your finger tips.

Painted Words 2014 | 139

Now you have tasted of the fruit


Click, click your finger, danger is great.
You the mouse like a cornered rat
Cannot escape, you are trapped.
Mother earth must pull out the plug
Then she can bring you home again.
For a time, order can be in place
The seasons will control this space.

140 | Painted Words 2014

Mr Prewitts Fall
Louise Wardle

ardon? Youve organised what? For when? Chloe stared in


disbelief at Dominic.
Whats the problem? Dominic knitted his eyebrows.
Whats the problem? Whats the problem! You mean to tell
me that you cant see the problem? Youre such a dumb-arse! You
never see anything beyond your own selfish little world!
What the hell? Wheres this coming from? All I did was
agree to my boss suggestion for his potential business partner
to stay with us for the weekend. I mean weve got the room, the
houses been renovated, weve all the mod cons, and youre a
great little hostess.
And you dont see the problem? Chloe dropped her head to
hide the tears. You just dont get it do you? You just dont get it.
***
Mister Dominic Prewitt. Immaculate in his grey suit, white shirt,
wide shiny mauve tie and pointy black shoes. He carries a black
leather briefcase in his left hand and a set of keys in his right.
He glances back at his two-storey, four-bedroom, four-bathroom
mansion with an indoor swimming pool, before pressing the
unlock button for his car. Its the latest model Lamborghini has
to offer: a slick and silver Gallardo. He catches sight of his hair in
the Gallardos tinted window and smiles at his reflection. The new

Painted Words 2014 | 141

dye job looks great; slightly darker than his natural colour but it
sure does cover that grey. The top is neatly trimmed and the back
looks awesome with the newly acquired perm. Tilting his head
to the right so that he can see his left ear lobe, he proclaims to
himself, I reckon a diamond stud would look really cool He
wrenches open the door, throws his briefcase onto the passenger
seat and slides his bum behind the wheel. Glancing at himself in
the rear vision mirror, he cant resist admiring himself and his
achievements.
Who wouldve thought it possible? he asks, grinning
sardonically as he slams the door shut and clicks his seat belt
into place. With a turn of the key, the Lamborghini roars into
life, conveying Mister Dominic Prewitt to the Kings Lair: Kings
Software Company.
***
Chloe breathes a sigh of relief as she hears the Lamborghini leave.
It was becoming harder and harder to keep it all together. She
gazes around the newly renovated kitchen. The work benches
gleam. The morning sunlight glints off the you beaut fridge/
freezer pigeon-pair combo. The oven and microwave are set flush
with the cupboards and at just the right height for her; gone were
the days of having to bend over to reach the oven and lift out hot
food. An energy efficient dishwasher was installed below the sink.
The sink, draining board and counter-cum-storage unit make up
the island bar that separates the kitchen from the dining room.
Everywhere she looks is crisp and new. So perfect. Chloe sighs again
as she glances at the clock. Shit! Were gonna be late! Again!
Chloe looks up at the ceiling as if she can see the kids. Cmon
guys! Getta move on!
Thump, thump, thump.
Juliana! Stop draggin ya bag!
Thump, thump, thump.
For Gods sake, Juliana! Every. Single. Godamned. Morning!

142 | Painted Words 2014

Thump, thump thud.


Hey! Watch it! spat Juliana.
Isaac rushes down the stairs and in passing, pushes Juliana into
the wall.
Freakin Emo! shouts Isaac.
What did you just call me?
I called you a freakin lard arse Emo.
Mum! Isaacs being a dick!
For Christs sake! Does every bloody school morning have
to be like this? Chloe grabs her car keys, phone and handbag
and heads for the front door. Get your goddamned arses in that
bloody car! Now!
***
Ben glances up as the lift doors opened. Mornin.
Yo, Ben! Hows it hangin? Dominic struts out of the lift and
past Bens desk without bothering to wait for a reply.
Ben shakes his head. Ha Ha Ha Bloody moron! Youre
headin for a fall, dude And I hope Im there when it happens. Ben
glances around the room before going back to Facebook to make a
status update: LMFAO Humpty Dumpty has entered the building
Waddle, Waddle, Waddle
***
In one fluid motion, Dominic closes the glass door of his office and
drops his briefcase onto the seat of one of the two ornately-carved
chairs. He stops to remove his suit jacket, places it on a wooden
coat hanger and hangs it on his intricately-carved coat stand. He
briefly gazes around his office. It felt good to be surrounded by
reminders of just how great his life was.
Who wouldve thought it possible? he marvels to himself as
he sits down in a desk chair that matched the office chairs and
turns on the latest MacBook Pro to check his emails.
Ping! An intranet memo from his boss flashes onto his screen.

Painted Words 2014 | 143

Dom, could you pop over?


He rises, straightens his tie, brushes imaginary fluff and dust
off his trousers, and admires his reflection in the glass door of
his trophy cabinet. Giving himself a last minute smile, he heads
on over to the boss office. Passing by the boss secretarys desk,
he nods and winks at the secretary. She smiles back. He comes
to a stop in front of the boss chunky door and gives it a short,
sharp rap.
A deep muffled voice responds from within. Yep.
He opens the door, enters, and closes the door behind him. He
sports a confident smile as he extends his right hand to shake his
boss hand.
His boss accepts the extended hand, then ushers Dominic to
a chair.
Howre the renovations coming along? The boss perches his
bum on the edge of his desk and folds his arms in front of him.
Theyre finished now. You wouldnt know it was the same
joint. First-rate. Yeah Good Dominic tries not to frown.
Ready to entertain?
Err Yes, sir.
Good! Good to hear! King Co. are looking to merge and I want
you to look after our potential partner.
Lol You had me going there. I was wondering what you
were gonna suggest. Dominic wipes the pretend sweat from his
brow. Hell, yeah! Thatll be no probs. Whens he comin?
Fan-bloody-tastic! Just what I wanted to hear! His boss stands
up and makes for the business side of his desk. Tomorrow
evening. You can pick him up, right?
Dominic walks calmly out of the boss office and closes the door.
He again acknowledges the secretary with a quick nod and a wink.
Keep it together boy. Just a bit longer. He keeps repeating this over
and over again until he finds himself in the quiet of the copy room.
He closes that door too. Punching the air he mouths, Hell yeah!

144 | Painted Words 2014

and does a little dance akin to Gangnam Style. Things just seem
to be getting better and better. Yes! You little beauty!
***
Hey, honey? Im home! Dominic couldnt wait to tell Chloe the
good news. Sweetie? Dimples? Come out, come out, where ever
you are. He hears a door slam and some god-awful music being
turned up. Mentally he acknowledges Julianas presence and then
immediately dismisses it.
Chloe comes out of the laundry, almost running into him. Oh
Youre home.
You sound disappointed?
Gosh, no Its just that youre earlier than usual. I didnt hear
you pull up. In passing, she gives him a quick peck on the cheek
and heads to the kitchen to prepare a cup of coffee for him.
Dominic sits on a stool at the island bar and watches her go
through the motions of preparing him a brew. The way she moves.
The way she pouts. Sheer poetry in motion God, Im so lucky... A
beautiful wife who cares for me... A gorgeous car. A knock-out house in
a great location. An awesome job. A boss who trusts me What more
could I ask for?
***
Chloe breaks Dominics reverie by placing a mug in front of him.
Why the hell does he do that? I wish hed stop watching me. He makes me
feel like Im on the menu.
He frowns. Why instant?
Technically, its not? Its a sachet.
He ignored her comment. Guess what the boss asked me to do
for him?
Im not sure if I want to know
What? His frown is quickly replaced by a smile. Oh, darl.
Youre a funny one. Anyhew... Kings Co. is looking at merging
with an interstate company.

Painted Words 2014 | 145

And? Chloe prompts. Bored with the conversation already.


Its always about you, isnt? When was the last time you asked about the
kids? Do you even care about me? You never ask about my day?
Oh, babe! Dont you see. This is sensational. This is fantabulous.
This is gonna take me so much further!
What the hell are you talking about?
Us, honey! Us! Weve been asked to play host to the possible
merging partner. We get to impress him. Its bloody awesome.
She raises an eyebrow and stared at him. She takes a deep
breath. When and for how long?
Tomorrow till Sunday.
I beg your pardon?
Tomorrow until Sunday.
I heard what you said. She stares at a vacant spot above his head.
Whats the problem?
She stares long and hard at him before responding. Whats the
problem? Whats the problem! You mean to tell me that you cant
see the problem? Youre such a dumb-arse! You never see anything
beyond your own selfish little world!
Chloe drops her head and walks out of the kitchen, leaving him
to nurse his sachet coffee and to figure out why she reacted the
way she did. In the end, he mumbles, It must be that time of the
month and sets off for a shower and to wallow in his own selfsatisfaction.
***
Dominic hears Chloe in the next room. Gee, what a doll. Shes
already preparing the guest room. Im so bloody lucky. He continues
his morning ritual. Primping, preening and modelling in front of
the full-length mirror till he feels he looks just right. Then down to
the kitchen for his usual breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato,
onion and toasted Turkish bread.
Sweetie? Wheres my coffee? Um wheres my breakfast?
Buy it! Chloe shouts down the stairs.

146 | Painted Words 2014

Okay Im going now. He waits at the foot of the stairs for


his goodbye kiss, but it never came. He shrugs it off. She must be
busy getting everything perfect. He sighs. Im so lucky.
Ill be home round three so I can swap cars, he calls as he
shuts the front door.
***
Chloe breathes a sigh of relief as she hears the Lamborghini leave.
She glances at the bedroom clock, Cmon guys! Get a move on!
Thump, thump, thump.
Chloes case is heavy.
Thump, thump, thump.
Juliana sports a smile.
Thump, thump, thud.
Isaac has thrown his bag over the bannister.
Chloe grabs her car keys, phone and handbag from the hall
stand. As she opens the front door of her prison, she shouts to the
Universe, This is one small step for woman, one giant leap for
womankind!

Painted Words 2014 | 147

Silent Sirens
Tru S. Dowling
Sirens sit
still
on the shoreline
to watch the sunset
mime their silence.
The tide caves in,
bellowing,
swirls round their toes,
lulls and pulls
to tempt them back to deeper
delights.
But sirens are not
concerned with men this hour
(that ship has sailed)
nor with the places where riffs begin
in ripples,
undercurrents,
or the bellies of creatures
on the ocean floor.

148 | Painted Words 2014

Sirens lounge
in rock pools
holding mirrors in the shallows,
capturing
light, sea-spray or a fisherman,
spellbound by dusk.
Sirens
pose as rocks, huddling
embryonic,
soft as molluscs inside
their shells
while the sea beats
their shoulders satin.
Silent sirens
mark horizons
in ink and ochre,
learn patience
through meditations
the tantric dreams
that measure rhythms
of wind and time and tide,
swelling
as they slowly
sink into song.

Painted Words 2014 | 149

The Birds of Rhiannon


Ian Irvine
I
Your gifts: songs that never really entertained,
By three black birds on the lamp-post singing
Creatures cursed as much as charmed - still
The deal was sealed with longing
And everyone moved on - you fed the horses
And I fed the birds (the Birds of Rhiannon)
Three skylarks (to be exact) on the lamp-post
Singing - singing such sad, sweet songs.
Three birds (and a photograph), nothing more
In the witch hours freezing - shrouded creatures Still, I fed those birds (those Birds of Rhiannon)
And they rewarded me with useless song.
One day a dead man sat up, groggily. He cocked
A rotten ear and stared at those birds - in
The witch hours freezing (shrouded creatures)
Gasped and, without a thankyou, he moved on

150 | Painted Words 2014

Later we met a leper, her skin unearthly white,


Face bruised, eyes bloodshot and pleading with
Those Birds (those Birds of Rhiannon) - their song
Sure enough, was healing, and so she too moved on
Without a thankyou - for joy forgets reward
Even to the worthy. And besides, the birds
Were not yet done: for a berserker charged us
Blood rage boiling, axe head swinging,
Death approaching - I was ill-prepared to fight Thankfully the birds disarmed the Viking, though
I do not know how - for theyd charmed me into
Sleep - the deepest sleep (those Birds of Rhiannon).
II
I have known no celebrity or praise - after all
Your gifts: songs that never really entertained Still, I have witnessed miracles, wonders of song,
By three black birds (skylarks to be exact) on
A lamp-post singing (three Birds of Rhiannon).

Copyright, Ian Irvine (Hobson), 2014, all rights reserved.

Painted Words 2014 | 151

The Witch Goddess of Snowdonia


Ian Irvine
On the way down

throb of injured knee
I rest above the lake,

the desolate lake, its
slate rubble banks (snow-worn),
its sheer, dark escarpments,

the remains of a stone house

jumble-tumbled now to a stark ridge

of blue and jagged rocks.
Ideal abode for a witch goddess
Her countryI do not doubt it

especially in winter

at three thousand feet.
Cerridwen:

queen of bards, cauldrons
and mountain scree!

152 | Painted Words 2014

And what was it she left here



(at the Panting Cliff)
a wolf or an eagle?
I dont remember
Im sweating, and nothing pure

to drink.
I check my watch, notice
clouds thicken about the cliff-top

and the sun is weaker the sensation of coldness
as

a soft white mist
wind-stirred

spreads slowly across the lake the impression of a cauldron

bubbling, brewing, frothing.
Its getting late

I pack up my epiphany
and trudge downwards, one step at a time,

(twingy knee)
in the direction of Mona

Isle of druids and fighter-jets,

burial mounds and helicopters.
As a witch-goddess,

of course, shed fly to Mona
She still had wings

at the close of the Bronze Age.

Copyright, Ian Irvine (Hobson), 2014, all rights reserved.

Painted Words 2014 | 153

Hens Night
Jamie McDougall

here comes a time in a mans life when he knows its in his best
interests to give up his jocks and be done with it.
Josh knew his time had come at the hens party.
He sat on his bar stool and watched the last of the pink-clad
women walk out of the pub. Through the front window, he could
see the bride-to-be pulling his red jocks off her mass of blonde
curls.
He grinned.
The barman put the last of the dirty shot glasses into the
dishwasher. He started the machine and, with a sigh of relief,
leaned back against the sink.
Like a bloody cyclone, one of the locals said.
You got that right. The barman smirked and looked at Josh. I
see you lost your jocks.
Josh shrugged, his grin widening. I couldnt say no.
What defence has a man against a womans frenzy? The
chuckles and conversation from the half-dozen men sitting at the
bar immediately died. The strange question from the old man at
the end of the room hung in the air along with the smell of vinegar
crisps and beer.
Through the chaos of the hens shots and giggled conversations,
the old man had sat in silence with his knotted hands curled around

154 | Painted Words 2014

his pot. His wide-brimmed hat hid his face as he stared down.
Josh looked around at all the downturned faces and shrugged it
off. I wonder where theyll go after this, he said. He looked back
out the window, though the women were long gone. I wonder
what happens when theyre done with the pub crawl.
A few of the guys glanced at the old man. He finally looked up,
revealing pale eyes and a thin-lipped frown. The end of a hens
party is a place for no man.
Id listen to him, the barman said quietly.
Okay, Josh said. Im hooked. Whats so bad about the end of
a hens night?
The old man finished his pot with one swallow. The barman
had a fresh one for him within moments. He took a drink from that
one, too, before clearing his throat.
Nearly thirty years ago, he said. My best mate, Paul, was
getting married to his girl, Angela. She had to have a hens night.
Everything was fine until the hens got restless and swooped down
from their mountain
***
Paul dropped down on the stool next to his best mate, David,
and ordered another pot. Hed left his fiance, Angela, to a day of
pampering with her female friends nearly ten hours before.
A day to himself just before the wedding? Good times.
Hed been sure that his future mother-in-laws mansion at the
top of the hill would be the perfect place to contain Angela and
her wild friends. Even better, her trouble-making mother, Diana,
wouldnt be there because she had to work. Things were finally
going his way
He and David had settled in for a few evening beers at their
local. A footy team had come in to celebrate their latest win, and
everyone seemed to be in good spirits.
Two days, mate. Two days.
David, who was also the best man, never let a chance go by to
rib Paul about the wedding.

Painted Words 2014 | 155

To Paul. David held up his glass. Well never forget the man
he was before Angie put his knackers in a
They heard the whoops and hollers only moments before the
pub doors slammed open.
More than a dozen women walked into the pub, all laughing
and talking as they did. They crowded in, each trying to find a
place at the bar and get the attention of the barman at the same
time. Everyone there stopped and stared at the strange vision.
They wore cream-coloured toga tops over their jeans and skirts.
Some wore pink sashes wrapped around their torsos, proudly
boasting Maid of Honour, Bridesmaid and the like. Every
woman wore a crown of ivy leaves on her head.
One womans crown of ivy had roses woven in amongst the
leaves. Probably Dianas idea just like the garden wedding
had been.
Angie? Paul asked quietly.
David lowered his drink and stared open-mouthed at the
women. The jukebox blared into life. Every woman wielded an
oversized vibrator like a wand, hitting the bar with them and
demanding drinks.
From spirits mixed with milk to the sweetest honey bourbon,
their orders knew no boundaries or price limit. Two more bar
staff jumped in to help the first, every hit of a vibrator on the bar
demanding a different concoction.
The women tore through their drinks as if they would never
get hangovers. They took other prizes as well. Some stashed away
coasters and the like, crossing off things on the cards hanging
around their necks. Others ignored the bizarre scavenger hunt
completely. They laughed and squealed as they dared the young
men of the footy team to pick shots out from between the womens
breasts without the use of their hands.
Angie? Paul asked again.
Angela looked up, catching his stare. She smiled and waved as

156 | Painted Words 2014

though she didnt recognise him.


I thought they were going to have a quiet one at Angies mums
place, David said.
They were, Paul muttered.
Then she walked in.
Diana stood in the open doorway, proudly wearing her Mother
of the Bride sash and her own crown of ivy. Weaving through the
women, she made it to the bar and ordered a glass of red wine.
Then she walked over to Paul and David.
Fancy meeting you here, she said and took a sip of her wine.
I thought you had to work? Paul said.
And miss this? She smiled tenderly at the group before
looking back at them. I pulled a few strings at work. Got my Get
Out of Jail Free card. No work today only pleasure.
David looked longingly at an ample-chested bridesmaid who
carried not one but two shots between her breasts.
Paul elbowed him. What happened to a quiet day at the
mansion?
Dont be angry, she said, her mock sweetness thick like honey.
Whats a hens party without a pub crawl and a little chaos? At
his silence, she continued. This is the last stop. I swear. Back to my
house after this.
Right, Paul said and drank the rest of his beer.
I mean it, she said, pouting. She quickly finished her wine
and then whistled. The piercing note brought all activity in the
pub to a halt. Last drinks, ladies! Back to the house.
The women hardly missed a beat. Many still danced to the
music of the jukebox as they left. Diana paid off the tab and waved
to Paul and David before walking out.
Angie promised Paul sighed and shook his head. I bet
they go to another pub.
David swirled the last of his beer around the bottom of his pot.
You could find out.

Painted Words 2014 | 157

What?
Follow them. He glanced out the window. Its dark. Theyre
drunk. Nobody will know.
No, Paul said. This whole thing has my guts going.
I know a shortcut that will get us there first.
Paul studied his friends face. Okay.
***
Twenty minutes later, they huddled behind the hedges surrounding
Dianas house. The women danced their way in, laughing and
shouting. Paul and David watched for a while before creeping
along the hedge to the back of the house.
The back yard had been decorated in gold and green Christmas
lights. A dozen bamboo torches lit what the lights couldnt. Two
tables had been set up for the party. Small sandwiches, cakes and
all manner of alcohol had been spread out on one table. On a
second table, presents of all shapes and sizes waited to be opened.
Pauls guts churned and gurgled. David looked at him, and he
shrugged.
They heard the women before they saw them. Their shrieks
and hollers were enough to wake the dead. But even that didnt
compare to the delighted squeals they loosed when they walked
out the back doors and into their private paradise.
Paul stared at Angela as she shoved three cakes into her mouth.
She then moved over to the alcohol and grabbed a bottle of wine,
barely having the patience to pull the cork out of the bottle before
dancing away.
AC/DC began to blare from inside the house before Diana
walked out. She was all smiles with her glass of red in her hand.
Paul could only shake his head as he peered over the hedge.
With her long, chestnut hair flying in all directions, Angela led a
manic dance around the swimming pool. Half the girls followed,
throwing their hands up in the air. They danced in ways that had
more to do with movement and less to do with the music playing.

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The other half of the party tore through the tables like nothing
Paul or David had ever seen. Amidst the laughter and high-pitched
conversations, the hens destroyed the delicate finger sandwiches
and tiny cakes. The drinks went as easily and as quickly as
the food. The two halves crashed together like ocean waves, all
congregating around the presents.
Pauls guts gurgled again, this time loud enough to draw a few
glances.
We need to go, David said. Your guts are going to get us
caught.
No, Paul said. Give it a minute.
Havent you seen enough?
Paul didnt answer, and David shook his head. Paul could get
caught by the horde if he wanted to. Keeping low to the ground, he
crept away to the nearest tree and hid behind its trunk. Everything
in his gut told him to leave the sorry bastard, but a best man was
a best man.
The decision made, he turned to retrieve his mate.
Thats when Paul let one rip.
Everyone seemed to freeze in that moment. David. Paul. The
women. AC/DC still blasted from inside.
But that revealing breeze was all it took.
The women were on Paul in a flash, pulling him out from
behind the hedge. They forced him to kneel and danced around
him. David crept forward to where they had been spying before
and wondered how he could possibly get Paul out of this one.
Naughty, naughty, Diana said as she walked over to him.
Ladies, what should we do to him?
The women laughed and clapped. Paul tried to laugh, too.
I think we should let the bride decide, Diana said. Angela?
Angela danced forward, grinning. She stared down at her
groom-to-be. Something about the way she looked at him made
David wonder if she even recognised Paul.

Painted Words 2014 | 159

I have an idea, she said quietly. Too quietly to mean


anything good. She stood straight and raised her fist in the air.
Heat up the wax!
David looked away. His last vision of his friend was that of
Paul being pulled into Dianas house while the women pulled
off his clothes.
***
The pub remained still and quiet.
Josh swallowed hard and whispered, Did they?
David nodded. I crawled up to the windows, thinking maybe
I could save him. Do something. But I
There was nothing you could do, the barman said.
They buzz cut his hair first. Then his eyebrows. We both hoped
theyd stop there. But then Diana brought out the hot wax.
Every man in the pub shuddered.
His screams David said. I still hear them in my nightmares.
They waxed everything. His armpits, his chest, his back
Everything? Josh asked.
Everyone looked at David.
Everything, David said.
Another collective shudder rippled through the group.
Angie apologised the next day. She really was sorry. David
shook his head. But Paul was never the same after that. He
couldnt even wear boxers on his wedding day.
Murmured conversations slowly took over the subdued silence
of the pub. Some offered their condolences to David. Many others
stared down at their drinks, taking a moment of silence for the
Paul lost on that night.
The front door burst open, grabbing their attention. The mother
of the bride from the hens party walked in. She smiled at everyone,
but even her happiness wavered at the horrified stares.
She walked up to the bar. One of my hens left her purse here.
Little black thing with a silver chain. I dont suppose anyone found it.
The barman nodded and handed it to her without a word.

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She gave him a wink before looking over at Josh. Youre the
one who lost his jocks. Thanks for that.
He rubbed the back of his neck. No problem.
I dont suppose youd like to join us, she said. It could be a
lot of fun.
His eyes widened. Definitely not.
Your loss, she said before she walked out the door. Anything
can happen on a hens night!

Painted Words 2014 | 161

The Black Door


Jan Bayliss

o! Corrine willed herself to stop, but she continued down


the corridor towards the door, rising panic clutching at her
throat, smothering reason. She was vaguely aware of passing other
doors on either side of her. They too were closed. The corridor was
dim, lit with hanging, art-deco-style lamps. They shone with a
garish light that, eerily, did not reach the floors edge or illuminate
the walls. Everything was a grey-green except the door.
It was black.
A shadow surrounded it, like a void around a collapsed
supernova, a black hole where light was drawn into a maelstrom
of malevolence and then extinguished. The longer Corrine gazed,
the more the blackness seeped into her, curling through her mind,
feeding her fear.
She stood before it. Cold dread washed over her as she watched
her hand stretch out and grasp the battered brass knob.
Dont open! Please, dont open!
The catch snipped back and the door swung silently inwards.
She caught a glimpse of worn stone steps before she felt herself
falling...
***
Corrine stood in the queue of the tiny city caf and rummaged
through her bag to find her phone. Her heart sank when she

162 | Painted Words 2014

read the cryptic message from her boss Jennifer: pic up pieces from
stanfords and take to museum. h expects u ASAP.
Great! she mumbled as she edged her way out to the street.
She hoped the apple buried in the depths of her bag and the
bottle of water would be enough to sustain her. She paused for
a moment, enjoying the warmth of the autumn sun on her face
and then looked at her shiny black, patent leather shoes. Thisll be
interesting, she thought, and headed down the street towards the
station as fast as her stilettos and tight pencil skirt would allow.
Twelve minutes later she gazed critically at her reflection in
the mirror of the womens restroom. She pulled the brush from
her bag and raked it through her dark hair, retying the ponytail
and black velvet ribbon. Corrine thought it added a touch of
sophistication, drawing attention to her slim neck and heartshaped face. She smoothed her skirt and reached for the lipstick
that matched the red poppies on her Cavalli silk blouse. Both were
new, bought the previous week for the job shed landed at Hydra
211, Jennifer Sinclairs exclusive fine art and antiquities gallery.
After reapplying the lipstick, she gave her nose and cheekbones
a strategic pat with mineral powder and brushed her fringe away
from her large, dark eyes. Finally, a rub on her wrists with a light,
floral perfume (a free sample in a high-end fashion magazine),
and she was ready to face the train journey to the exclusive outer
suburb and the Stanford estate.
She met Robin Stanfords personal assistant, Mrs Harris who
bustled her into the house to check the figures and the Beazley
archive numbers. She watched Corrine sign the paperwork, and
locked the case before she escorted Corrine and the case to the
waiting limousine.
It was late afternoon when she arrived at the museum. Standing
by the lifts in the foyer, Corrine chewed on a finger nail as she
waited for the security escort. Corrine had descended into the
bowels of the museum twice already, assisting Jennifer and Dr

Painted Words 2014 | 163

Henry with the approaching exhibition and sale of a selection of


antiquities from the Stanford collection. The lift doors opened and
Tracy, her usual escort, appeared with a trolley. She stepped into
the lift and handed the case to Tracy who strapped it to the trolley
and hit the lift button. Corrines stomach turned over as she felt
the lift drop, picking up speed until it slowed again and came to
a gentle stop. The doors slid open, and she faced the source of her
nightmares.
The corridor was the same as the corridor in her dreams, long,
claustrophobic but with one exception: there was no black door,
only arrows painted on the wall with the signs Loading Bay, and
Atmosphere Control Rooms 1-4. A green exit light indicated the
emergency escape route.
She listened to her stilettos rapping loudly on the polished floor,
feeling both relieved and foolish. Beside her the trolley rattled. As
her nerves eased, she noticed the light did reach the walls and that
the doors on each side were not solid but fitted with glass. She
could see people working quietly in the rooms as she passed.
A door opened and George was there. George made her skin
crawl and he had an unnerving habit of suddenly appearing. It
was hard to pick his age from the long grizzled hair and sagging
jowls. After years of working as a maintenance electrician, he
knew the museum inside out. A work accident had left him unable
to continue in his trade. Now he did odd jobs. She suspected that
George had been watching them on the CCTV monitor.
Hello Corrine, he said, staring at her with his pale, protruding
eyes. Dr Henry is expecting you. His twisted smile revealed long,
yellow teeth. He let the door slide shut behind him and sidled in
close to her.
I can take Corrine from here, he said, his eyes fixed on her. She
was relieved when Tracy shook her head.
I have to accompany Corrine to Dr Henry, George. Its
procedure.

164 | Painted Words 2014

George shot Tracy a cold look, his thin lips narrowing. He


remained silent and motioned them forward with a slight nod of
his head. When he opened the door for her, Corrine sidled through,
determined not to touch him.
Dr Henrys rooms adjoined the laboratory and restoration rooms.
They were expansive and crowded with benches, bookshelves,
cupboards and glass cases. Every surface was stacked high with
books, journals, and folders bulging with notes. Artefacts, genuine
and reproductions, lay scattered amongst it all. Locked in a glassfronted bookcase behind Dr Henrys desk were the other Stanford
antiquities. Dr Henry appeared from one of the adjoining labs
and walked swiftly over to shake Corrines hand. George watched
them closely from under heavy, greying brows.
Thank you, George, said Dr Henry, looking pointedly at him.
Thanks Tracy, Ill take it from here.
Tracy nodded as she placed the case on the desk, smiled briefly
at Corrine and followed George out of the room, taking the empty
trolley with her.
The last of the Stanford pieces? he asked.
Yes!
Well, lets have a look at them! he said, unlocking the case and
lifting the contents deftly out onto a table near his desk. Corrine
watched as he bent over the figurines, inspecting them carefully.
I like the Demeter, he said finally, looking up. Of course the
Isis is probably worth more, but Im a bit of a Demeter fan, in
case you hadnt noticed. He smiled and pointed to a poster of the
colossal statue of Demeter that currently stood on display in the
Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge. Corrine smiled back.
***
It was the first time she had seen him smile. She thought it suited
him, softened his features. Corrine wasnt sure how to take Dr
Henry. She was surprised when they first met, for hed appeared
out of place in the museum basement. Tall and broad shouldered,

Painted Words 2014 | 165

he walked with the swift, determined grace of an athlete. As usual


he dressed casually, in black jeans and a white linen shirt, open at
the neck. His short, black hair was styled to fall across his forehead.
The black-rimmed glasses he wore were tinted and obscured the
colour of his eyes. He reminded her somewhat of a young Ralph
Fiennes, except for his nose, which was finer, more chiselled. He
gave the impression of confidence although Corrine knew by now
he was reserved and avoided idle conversation. Today, however,
Dr Henry appeared more relaxed.
Do you know of the curse of Elesfina, Corrine?
No.
Its an intriguing story and one that adds layering to the myth.
I use it occasionally in my lectures, for interest. Elesfina is actually
the old city of Eleusis of the Eleusinian mysteries of ancient
Greece and the Demeter and Persephone story. It was one of the
most sacred sites in the ancient Greek world after Delphi. Over
time the statue had become buried up to its neck, but was still
considered a sacred object by the local people. St Dimitra she was
called. You note the Christian overlays?
Corrine nodded.
Well, he continued, around the turn of the nineteenth century,
Edward Clarke, from Cambridge University, discovered it whilst
taking the Grand Tour and took it back to England. It was rumoured
he bribed the local Turkish governor, removing the statue against
the peoples wishes. The governor was probably happy to get rid
of it. The extant legend of Persephones abduction had a wicked
Turk carrying off the daughter of St Dimitra.
What happened? she asked, shifting her gaze from the poster
to find Dr Henry watching her, his head slightly bent and his
eyes half-closed. For a fleeting second she thought she caught a
slight twitch of his mouth, but then he answered her question, his
demeanour once again serious.
The city went into a decline. In the second year the crops failed.

166 | Painted Words 2014

As with the Elgin Marbles, theres a campaign to have the statue


returned.
Corrine moved forward to closer inspect the poster.
Do you think it will be returned? she asked, the statue I mean?
I doubt it, he replied.
A red-figured amphora caught her attention. The scene from
The Rape of Persephone depicted Hades holding a sceptre and
cornucopia as he pursued Persephone. Corrine moved slowly on,
her eyes alighting on a beautiful Attic period fluted, silver bowl
and behind it an exquisite Athenian black-figured kylix decorated
with scenes of naked youths.
The musical ringtone of her phone sounded. Startled, she pulled
it from her bag.
Corrine? Jennifers voice sounded rushed. Tell Theo Dr
Henry Im running a little late. Be a darling and help us out with
the catalogue tonight?
Sure, Jennifer...
Great. See you shortly.
That was Jennifer, she said apologetically, glancing at Dr Henry
who was leaning against the front of his desk watching her. Shes
running late, she wants me to stay and help.
Excellent, he said standing up. Time for a break! Would you
like some tea?
Oh! No thanks, not for me.
Better have something now. We wont be stopping once Jennifer
gets here. Never known a person to rush around so much and get
so little done! He quizzed her with his eyes and she laughed.
OK then, she said, relaxing.
George, make us tea.
Right away, Dr Henry, said George from behind her. Corrine
felt her stomach lurch and turned to see him standing at the door
to one of the labs.
Dr Henry dragged forward a chair for her, and she sat down.

Painted Words 2014 | 167

Something to eat? asked Dr Henry and, not waiting for her


to answer, called over his shoulder, Sandwiches and the cake if
theres any left, George.
Yes, Dr Henry.
One of my assistants had a birthday, so we had a little celebration
for her, he explained, smiling at her. Not strictly permitted, but
were pretty relaxed down here.
She watched him pick up the figurines and lock them in the
cabinet behind his desk.
George wheeled in a trolley with cups, plates, a white china
teapot and an array of sandwiches only a little soggy from
spending all day in the refrigerator. There was also cake, a lovely
layered affair topped with strawberries. Dr. Henry had poured tea
and was handing Corrine a cup when Jennifer appeared, walking
swiftly, mobile phone in one hand and designer bag and coat
swinging awkwardly over her other arm.
Ooh tea! Lovely! Just the thing! Sorry Theo got caught up,
she said breathlessly and dropped down in a chair beside Corrine.
Jennifer dumped the bag and coat on the floor and reached for a
sandwich.
God! What a day! Thank heaven its the weekend. Catching
his questioning look, Jennifer grinned. Helens looking after the
gallery this weekend, and Im taking a well-earned break at the
beach house.
Nice for some, he remarked drily.
Well you can join me if you want Theo, she said teasingly. Im
having a party tomorrow night and youre welcome to come. You
know youre always welcome. He never comes to my parties, she
complained, leaning towards Corrine.
Corrine smiled politely and sipped her tea, shifting
uncomfortably in her chair, acutely aware that George was
standing to one side watching her. Dr Henry glanced at her.
Has everyone gone, George?

168 | Painted Words 2014

Yes, Dr Henry.
Then tell security well be finished by seven. Ill see everything
is locked up. There was no mistaking the curt dismissal.
George disappeared again. From the muffled sounds, Corrine
assumed he was collecting his belongings from his office that
adjoined the back room. She caught a glimpse of him through an
open door as he walked down the corridor wearing a long coat.
She listened to his fading footsteps. The basement was noticeably
quieter without people moving around and the background hum
of computers.
He freaks me out! Jennifer said and shuddered, glancing
at Corrine. Been here forever of course as mouldy as half the
exhibits here!
Hes harmless enough, he said. Have a sandwich, Corrine, or
some cake.
Corrine took a sandwich and ate quietly, more relieved than she
cared to admit that George had finally gone.
Jennifer swallowed her tea, brushed the crumbs from her fingers
and opened her document case.
I want to go over the catalogue entries as soon as possible. The
deadline for the printer is Thursday. The photographers booked
for Wednesday morning
Relax Jennifer, at least till I get rid of these things said Dr Henry.
Corrine helped to carry the tea paraphernalia into the back
room. It was narrow, with a kitchenette at one end and Georges
office at the other. Dr Henry placed the used crockery into the sink.
There was one small piece of cake left.
Have it, he urged, it wont be any good come Monday.
Corrine gave in to her hunger and took the offered cake. The first
bite was moist and sweet. The fresh strawberries and yogurt filled
her mouth and set her tastebuds zinging. She bit again and her
teeth sank into a plump jewel of tangy sweetness.
Strawberry and pomegranate yogurt cake, he said, watching

Painted Words 2014 | 169

her expressions of surprise and pleasure with amusement. Its a


favourite of mine!
He left her to finish her cake. She was about to follow when she
caught a glimpse of Georges office. The door had been left ajar.
Feeling curious she moved over and pushed the door open.
It was a drab little room, with a battered old desk, a reading
lamp and an ancient swivel chair. A filing cabinet stood against
one wall which was also covered in old charts with diagrams of
electrical equipment, switches and connectors. Another chart had
instructions on how to rewind a motor. She noticed a framed print
of Dante Gabriel Rosettis Proserpine. Intrigued, she moved closer.
She would never have picked George as an art lover.
She turned to leave and froze, her heart thumping wildly as
she stared at the black door of her nightmare. It was a photo, an
old calendar, its pages curled and yellowed with age, hanging
on the back of the office door. The black paint was pockmarked
and flaked with age. Some areas appeared rippled like petrified
lava where the door had been repainted without stripping back
the previous coats. Corrine knew it was the same door, with the
same battered, brass handle. Fear slid like cold fingers down her
spine. She stepped quickly out of the room and pulled the door
closed. She heard the calendar swing back and forth on its nail,
then another sound reached her, soft and horribly familiar the
snick of a door lock. Terrified, she hurried back to the others.
They finished just after seven but Corrine had been too shaken
to concentrate properly. Dr Henry escorted them and she was
relieved when they were at last on the museum steps. The streets
were alight with neon and after the deathly quiet of the basement
the rumbling traffic seemed wonderfully alive. She breathed in the
cool air. Exhausted and tense, she vaguely registered Dr Henry
assuring Jennifer that he would have the two votive figurines
verified by Monday afternoon.
Goodnight, Corrine, he said, shaking her hand. I hope we
meet again soon.

170 | Painted Words 2014

Goodnight, Dr Henry, she said, thinking that there was no way


in hell she was ever visiting the basement again.
***
Corrine pushed her key into the door lock, her thoughts on a hot
bath and bed. As she turned the key, she heard the familiar snick.
Dread washed over her as the door swung open. She stared down
the corridor. The black door was waiting for her and she knew, this
time, it would be open. Bag and shoes slipped from her hand onto
the floor and she felt herself moving.
It was ajar.
Caught in her nightmare, she saw her hand stretch out and
push the door open. The light fell on a floor of worn flag-stones. A
figure stood in the shadows and, beyond the figure, the edge of a
stone step and a descending stairwell.
She wanted to scream, to run, but her throat was dry and she
was paralysed with fear. The figure moved forward and her eyes
widened in shock as Dr Henry loomed over her, a slight smile
curling one corner of his mouth. The tinted glasses were gone
and she could see his eyes, mesmerising pools of velvet darkness
flecked with amber. Dark stubble peppered his jaw and his hair
was tousled.
His eyes speared hers as he reached for her hand. She felt the
strength in the long fingers that curled tightly over hers.
Kore, he said in his deep voice, what is my name?
Theos, she replied breathlessly.
His cruel smile broadened. He drew her towards the stone steps
and down into darkness.

Painted Words 2014 | 171

Siren
Harley Ryan
1872
Somewhere off the coast of Spain

he Royal Leviathan carved its way through the black sea with
incredible ease.
The galleys crew members scurried over the slick surface of the
deck as they pulled down the main sails and secured the cannons.
The storm looked like it might pass them by, but Captain Douglas
wasnt going to take any chances.
Andrew Brevet held the spyglass to his eye as he scanned the
swirling black sea. It looked like thick black whale oil churning,
threatening to swallow smaller vessels. He would have been
frightened if he hadnt seen the Leviathan sail through worse. This
was going to be his final voyage. Sea life had suited him better
when he had no one to return home to. Hell, it was easier when he
didnt have a home. Now he had a young wife and a child on the
way, all he could think of was returning home and staying there.
A crack of thunder snapped Brevet from his reverie, the spyglass
almost falling from his grip. Before he knew it the storm was
upon them, sudden and furious. Wind lashed at the sails as the
rain streamed down in sheets. Men were yelling, barking orders
and cursing. One man, a deck hand from Bristol, slipped and was

172 | Painted Words 2014

swept overboard in one swift motion.


Man overboard! Brevet screamed, but no one could hear
him over the raging storm. His gut twisted, fists clenched. The
intensity of the wind and just how quickly it had descended upon
them was enough to overwhelm the most seasoned crew. He
saw panic in the men. He saw helplessness and confusion. Then
he saw Captain Douglas at the helm, wide-eyed, transfixed on
something to starboard. He seemed to be in a trance. Brevet was
about to approach the captain when a shiver crawled through his
body and then he heard the singing. A womans voice singing
a wordless song. The chilling sound ceased as another rapturous
boom overhead caused Brevet to duck instinctively. Douglas, too,
had snapped back to reality, looking over at his quarter master
with a look of bewilderment. He suddenly didnt look so steady.
Brevet crawled across the heaving deck toward the captain. He
didnt remember falling over. A pounding in his head made him
feel sick. He hadnt thrown up on the deck of a ship in nearly ten
years, but before he knew it he was retching the mornings oatmeal
onto the deck. Captain Douglas was gesticulating wildly to the
crew, or perhaps it was directed at the storm. Everything became
white noise in Brevets mind. The violent ebb and flow of the ocean
was causing him to slide along deck, slamming him into the ships
wheel and knocking him unconscious.
Brevet opened his eyes to see the captains pale face hovering
over him. Brevet, the old captain said. On your feet. He held
out a hand and hoisted Brevet to his feet. The weary quarter master
looked around, his brow furrowing. The sky was a beautiful burnt
orange, the kind Brevet had only ever seen after a violent storm.
The ocean was placid in its serenity as it reflected the sunsets
beauty back upon itself.
The crew? Brevet croaked.
Captain Douglass voice was sombre, Lost almost half.
We lost fifty men?

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The captain nodded. Near enough.


Brevet was about to speak when he heard the faint, haunting
singing once again. The song carried over the glassy surface of the
ocean, sending another chill through his body. He wasnt sure if he
was the only one that could hear it, but the captain turned to him
and said, I heard that during the storm.
I Brevet searched for the words, I did too.
Douglas didnt respond.
Brevet listened intently when his throat almost seized. My wife.
It sounds like my wife.
Captain Douglas shouted, Brevet, were setting sail. He
pointed toward what looked to be a small island resting on the
horizon. Brevet didnt know why, but he couldnt wait to set sail.
He felt compelled to set off toward that speck of rock jutting from
the sea. He nodded to his captain and took the helm.
The closer they got, the less it looked like an island. Jagged black
spires protruded from the ocean like the Devils fingers, ready to
drag passing ships into hell. Yet onward they sailed. Brevet knew
he should change course, knew that to continue meant wrecking
on those monolithic rocks, but the wordless song filled their sails
and carried them into the darkness.
With the sun just set it left an azure stain streaking along the
horizon where the sea had swallowed the light. Brevet squinted
and thought he saw arms waving from the ocean. His first thought
was that it was one of their crew members that had gone overboard
during the storm, but the logical part of his mind knew that wasnt
possible.
In the water Captain Douglas said. He was taking off his
coat and unbuckling his cutlass. He got one boot off.
Captain, Brevet said, wait but Douglas had dived
overboard. Captain overboard! Brevet rushed to the rail and
watched his old friend swim toward where they had both seen
those waving arms. Brevet scanned the ocean, just the Leviathans

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Captain swimming furiously toward nothing. No flailing arms or


screams for help. Rushing back to the helm, Brevet realised the
singing had stopped once more. His mind was clear all of a sudden.
The madness of the course they were taking suddenly apparent.
He struggled with the wheel, desperately trying to avoid the rocks
they were on a collision course with.
One of the deckhands screamed, Were gonna hit em!
Brevets eyes slammed shut as the ship lurched, the sound
of wood cracking and splitting like thunder. The crew on deck
screamed in terror as the ships hull was torn asunder by the
jagged claws of volcanic rock. The bow was torn apart, opening
a cavern in the hull to swallow the ocean in gulps. Brevet felt
the ship rise from the sea as the bow filled with water, slowly
dragging them under.
Abandon ship! Abandon ship! Brevet watched men throw
themselves overboard, one man dashing his head against the rocks
with a spray of blood. Brevet managed to hold on to the wheel
until the last man had jumped into the sea. The captain was meant
to be the last off the ship, not the first. He realised that, moments
before death, things like that didnt seem to matter all that much,
but he suddenly felt responsible for every man on the Leviathan
or what was left of her. Watching the massive vessel break apart
like a childs toy and descend into the sea made him feel so small,
so fragile. Moments before the ship went vertical, Brevet threw
himself into the cold embrace of the ocean. His body twisted in
mid-air and he landed hard, the water slapping him in the face,
disorienting him momentarily.
For a few terrifying moments Brevet couldnt figure out which
way was up. The sea was a murky green, and with the sun gone
he had no way of knowing if he was upside down or not. He was
about to start swimming when the singing halted him, freezing
all motion, clouding all thoughts. The wordless, ghostly tune was
hypnotising. Brevet didnt have much air in his lungs, but it didnt

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seem to matter anymore. All that mattered was the song. Through
the murky haze of the dark sea a silhouette came into focus. The
slender shape of what looked to be woman emerged, snaking
through the water like an eel. All Brevet could think was my wife
my wife my wife. But for the tail the tail was wrong. That wasnt
possible.
She moved closer, within an arms length. Reaching out to touch
his face. All he could think was how wrong she looked. Through
the gloom of the sea she had appeared mostly human, but the closer
she got he could see she was anything but. Her mouth stretched
from ear to ear like a serpents; her eyes were a deep golden like
glowing embers in a forge. He wanted to flee, but she had him
entranced as she embraced him like a lover. As he felt her arms
wrap around his neck he heard her whisper something inaudible
in his ear, the song filling his mind, drowning his thoughts.
As she dragged him down into the abysmal depths of the ocean,
the same thing ran through his mind, his final thought: My wife.
Until there was nothing but silence, nothing but black.

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War of the Olympians


Shannon Carter

he giant doors parted and twelve men and women, dressed in


robes in varying colours and designs, entered. They moved in
two by two before parting to take a seat at the semicircular meeting
table, not even glancing at each other as they sat down.
At the head of the table, High King Joab of Zeus, a grey-bearded
man in his fifties who wore a pure white robe with gold linings,
stood again and took the goblet in front of him in his right hand.
He glanced at the six men and five women and raised his goblet.
The golden taste of ambrosia, give us, the rulers of Olympus,
strength, he stated.
As one, the eleven beings in the room took the goblets before
them. Each person then rose and raised their goblet.
May we rulers of Olympus be blessed, they spoke as one and
took the long drink, not stopping until they were empty.
When they were done, eleven of the twelve beings took a seat.
King Barak of the military planet Ares, a man in his mid-thirties
dressed in a scarlet robe designed like a military uniform with
silver braiding on his chest, remained standing and turned to Joab.
So, Joab, Barak began in his gruff voice, would you mind
telling me why you have called us in the middle of our conflict?
Joab smiled. Because it will give us the opportunity to finally
discuss a combined war effort, and to begin our plans for victory.

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A meeting that couldve been done by visual conference, Im


sure, Barak replied. I am much needed on the battlefield with
my armies.
To Joabs right, King Bryce of the water planet of Poseidon stood
up. Im sure, Barak, the armies of Ares can function without you
for some days.
Across the other end of the table from Barak, the young teenage
Queen Angela of Hermes, dressed in a light red robe with a
light yellow belt, jumped up onto the table and sat cross-legged,
smiling happily. Barak just wants to split heads open with his big
weapons, and leave the rest of us to watch him win.
Barak turned to the girl and growled under his breath. It
seems that the armies of Hermes havent even engaged the enemy
without being as silly as you.
Angela chuckled. My armies have won battles, Barak. We just
dont like being over-stiff about it.
Enough, both of you, Joab called from his high seat as he
turned to the younger man dressed in a sea-blue coloured robe
holding a trident. And you as well, Bryce. I tire of your own
games.
To his left, the white-robed High Queen Isabella of Hera spoke.
Perhaps, dear husband, I should take control.
Joab turned to his wife and smiled. Of course, my dear, go
right ahead.
As he tried to take her hand, however, Isabella moved it out
of the way and gave a quick look of annoyance before turning
to the gathering. We have met here today to finally begin what
shouldve happened years ago if it werent for the lack of action of
one of our memories.
As if as one, the body turned to a young man seated between
Queen Angela of Hermes and the young Queen Lynda of Artemis.
For a moment, Prince Regent Shannon of the library world Athena,
a young man in his early twenties who was dressed in a navy

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blue robe draped over a dark coloured tunic and pants with dark
brown hair and shining gold eyes, looked at each member of the
gathering and seemed unhappy at being drawn to the centre of
attention.
Shannon sighed. I fear it is the fault of my father, the King
of Athena, who believed negotiations would succeed even as
Ares, Artemis and Poseidon prepared for war. Though I am now
formally Prince Regent, I still have limited control of the military,
and my parliament regrettably wishes to keep most at home.
Typical Athenian, Barak growled. You are all cowards,
Shannon, regardless of whoever is in control of your planet.
A planet that desires peace, Barak, Shannon replied. Even if
I was King of Athena, I would not be as reckless with my armies as
you, Leland, Lynda and Frederick seem to have been.
Im sure thats what youll say when Jupiters forces overwhelms
your planet, Barak replied, for Ares will fight to its last breath.
The Prince Regent of Athena chuckled. I suppose then we
should be thankful the Sumerians havent intervened.
Gods forbid if the Shinto becomes involved, King Leland of
the twin world Apollo, a blond-haired male in a yellow robe with
a green belt, replied. He and the presently silent Queen of Artemis
then stood up together. Lynda and I shall fight to our last breath
also long before Jupiters forces overwhelm us.
Bryce chuckled. Just what I would expect from the king and
queen of the twin worlds,
He turned to Joab and Isabella. Perhaps Zeus and Hera should
combine their resources with Poseidon and Hades.
Only you would desire such a feat, Bryce. The voice croaked,
then chuckled. We of Hades are content with what we have.
Ethos, King of the Underworld, was a bald man with a long grey
beard stretching down his front. He was dressed in a black, hooded
robe that covered much of his face. The oldest of the monarchs of
the Empire, a man in his sixties, he was the ruler of the tidal-locked

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world of Hades. The planet was divided with one side of the planet
always facing the sun while the other was frozen in ice. The people
of Hades lived on a line, a habitable band between the two sides,
which doubled as Tartarus, the penal colony for the criminals of
the Olympian Empire, and Elysium, which served as a gateway to
the afterlife for the older citizens of the planet.
The bearded man turned to look at Shannon. Does your father
still believe in any form of negotiations, Shannon?
Shannon seemed to suppress a shudder and looked at the
woman sitting on Baraks left. Why dont you ask our esteemed
sister of Aphrodite?
The woman in question, Queen Vanessa of the paradise world
Aphrodite, was playfully rolling one of her long blonde curls in
her petite fingers before she looked up and smiled.
What would you mean, Shannon? she asked innocently.
Before he could respond, Leland intervened. What we mean,
dear sister Vanessa, is that perhaps if you were not flirting with the
Lower King of Hephaestus, then perhaps she couldve controlled the
good brother King of Ares and prevented this war in the first place.
Barak turned to Vanessa, his face bright red. What were you
doing flirting with the Lower King of Hephaestus?
Vanessa looked up at the older man on her right side for a
moment, and then seemed to take an interest in her fingernails.
I was bored, dear brother, she stated. The lower king seemed
more interesting.
A slight chuckle from the King Frederick of Demeter, seated
between Bryce and Queen Matilda of Hestia, caused all eyes to
turn to him. Tanned with a dark brown skin, a result of spending
much time in the sun, Frederick seemed more a farmer than a king,
particularly with his dark brown robe, with dark green trim, that
he wore rather loosely. This wasnt uncommon, considering that his
world was known as the food basket of the Olympians, and many
times its planet-wide farms had been used to feed a war effort.

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I am surprised that none have taken an interest in what my


forces have accomplished along the border between us and our
enemy. Frederick chuckled. After all, we have done better than
even our great son-king of Ares in accomplishing it without his
help or the help of the twin worlds.
You shouldnt be so smug with your accomplishments,
Frederick. Isabella stated. You have lost many of your soldiers to
ensure the destruction of the agricultural colonies on the border.
Yes, Frederick said, then chuckled. But now the Ceresians
will struggle to feed their armies and their counterparts.
And what about your dead, Frederick? Shannon asked.
Despite the destruction you have managed to accomplish, you
forgot to retrieve your dead and bring them to Hades to be buried,
as per our customs.
Sometimes customs must be forgotten when you fight a war.
Barak stated.
Angela laughed loudly. And you accuse my people of
cowardice. When its my fighter squadrons who have accomplished
more casualties for their side despite our own losses and yet we
retrieve our dead.
Barak turned to the pre-teen girl. Your people have always
been flighty, Angela. But I have never accused the Hermesians of
cowardice.
Angela smiled rather innocently. You may not have, but
others have.
This drew loud intakes of breath from several other members
of the body, in particular from Bryce and Frederick. It was a
well-known fact that the Poseidon space navy and the armies of
Demeter had already rejected the support of the Hermes fighter
corps, considering them to be nothing more than cowards who
prance around a battlefield rather than actually fight.
A croaky cough caused eyes to turn to Ethos. The bald and
bearded man was giving Frederick a look that spoke many

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volumes. For the younger monarchs, it drew visible shudders,


except from Angela who seemed distracted by the end of her robe,
while from the older ones, it drew looks of concern.
You break our traditions because it suits you? Ethos asked,
barely seeming to contain his anger. Do you not remember that
all who die are mine to collect?
Frederick fell back into his seat. We are at war, Ethos; we dont
have time to even consider collecting the dead, let alone discussing
other traditions.
Ethos seethed. Then perhaps I should consider withdrawing
our own agreement between Hades and Demeter that is as much
sacred as the compact between all worlds of this empire.
The long-standing agreement between both worlds was that
with when a son or daughter of Hades came of age, a son or
daughter of Demeter was given to be married. This agreement was
more a tradition dating back to antiquity and was almost as hard
to consider being broken as the pact of sending their dead to the
so-called underworld.
You cannot do that! Frederick shouted. That is a time
honoured tradition that is as sacred as it is agreeable!
Then you should respect our traditions! Ethos croaked loudly.
We are at war, Ethos! Barak cut in. We dont have time for
traditions right now!
War should not be an excuse! Even your father, Barak, and
your mother, Frederick, knew better than to break our pacts!
And so the arguments began.
Barak and Frederick attempted to shout out that traditions
cannot be fulfilled in the crisis they were in. Ethos, backed up by the
twin rulers of Apollo and Artemis, were calling them out on their
behaviour. Bryce then intervened, calling Leland and Lynda out on
their own personal sins, both professional and personal, causing a
rise from the normally quiet Matilda, who then demanded that
someone consider the common folk of the empire and how the war

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would affect them. Vanessa got into a ridiculous argument over


how much Hestia wouldve preferred not even being in on this
body of rulers in the first place, causing a rebuke from Isabella over
Aphrodite monarchs many affairs. Angela then started jumping
off the table to stand on the pedestal at the centre of the room and
making many poses, ignoring what was going on around her. In
the middle, Joab had finally given up on trying to calm everyone
down and just sat back, rubbing his temples furiously to starve off
another headache.
All through this, Shannon sat back and watched with sadness
at seeing how far the Olympian Empire had fallen. Despite talks of
victory, it seemed that their counterparts in the Roman Concordia
were right all along, if what hed heard from his own counterpart
the Princess Regent of Minerva was true. Even if the Olympians
won the battle, they would still lose the war.
How the mighty have fallen, Shannon thought with a sigh. And
those left standing can only weep.

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How to Be a Mighty God and Family


Man: by Zeus
Shantara Johnstone

o You Want to Rule the World


Im going to give this to you straight: being an average man
sucks. Mortals are small and powerless. They have to eat and
sleep. They bleed. Cut them open and all their guts falls out. Its
disgusting. As if that isnt bad enough, they make up these rules of
morality, which only inhibit their potential even more. They only
end up killing each other, which can be quite amusing, but not so
much if youre dead.
You dont want to be mortal. You want to be a deathless god.
And that, my friend, is a wonderful choice. But why settle for
immortality when you can become a king of the gods, a being of
ultimate power, a supreme ruler of the entire world? Its not as
difficult as you may think, especially with me to teach you. As the
king of Mount Olympus, I have been through it all myself, making
my life a prime example of morality for all lesser beings. Pay close
attention to this guide, and you cant go wrong.
***

The best time to start taking over the world is when youre a baby.
Everyone loves babies, so they wont suspect a thing. Now, the
first thing every potential ruler must keep in mind is this: do not

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get eaten. Sure, it sounds like strange advice, but when your titan
father decides to consume all of his children to avoid a prophecy
of his downfall, then such a warning could save your life. When
he asks for your name on the menu, get your mother to feed him a
rock wrapped up in a blanket taco. He wont know the difference.
Obviously you will no longer be able to live with your parents,
so hire a divine goat to look after you. Your nanny goat will help
you grow into the strong, clever, and extremely good-looking
young god you were prophesised to be.
When you feel absolutely prepared, its time to face your father
once more. Disguise yourself as a servant, and ask your mother
for her strongest bottle of poison. Uh oh! Clumsy little servant you
are, you accidentally pour it all into your fathers royal wine of
wisdom. Then you wait, and watch as the kings face turns green.
He throws up all the contents of his stomach, including your longlost brothers and sisters, still alive and fully grown. Its best not
to ask what theyve been doing all this time. Reunited, you work
together to chop up the king titan into tiny pieces, and throw him
into the deepest depths of the world. You cannot be too dramatic
at this point.
The other titans will be on Daddys side, so be prepared for a
bloody war. As future god of the sky, its fitting for you to take
the thunderbolt as your weapon, and force those bullies into the
Underworld!
Your biggest problem will probably be Grandma Gaia, a.k.a.
Mother Earth. She may seem old and frail and grumpy, but she can
knit together the most fearsome monsters. It might take a while,
but with bravery and persistence, you will be victorious.
Now the world needs a new king! To keep things fair, draw
lots with your brothers to decide who takes the sky, who goes
to sea, and who gets the rule the Underworld. This is extremely
important: do whatever it takes to draw the sky. That is where
your golden throne awaits.

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The Ladies Man


So youve made it to the clouds. Congratulations! Now you can
prove just how awesome you are by building a palace on top of
Mount Olympus, made entirely of marble and gold. No one will
be able to deny your magnificence. If they dare to try oppose you,
casually throw a lightning bolt at them. Isnt it fun to watch the
little peasants scamper? You can relax here for a while, enjoying
the sacrificed meals of mortals, but soon your responsibilities are
going to catch up with you.
The other gods will be aching for power, so give your favourite
ones their own throne in your palace smaller than yours, of
course. You can choose to listen to their opinions a well, or you can
let them argue amongst themselves. Youre the boss, so you know
whats right for everyone. Always. If at first you arent victorious,
try and try again. One of the greatest qualities a leader must
possess is persistence. Never ever give up.
This value is particularly useful when women attract your eye.
There will be a lot of these situations, in which it will be common
for them to choose their own husbands over you, or simply think
youre a moron. So you think you might have to change your
approach. Good idea! Turn into the image of their husband, or a
swan; girls love swans!
Eventually every king will need his queen. Using the method
mentioned above, this should be no problem. If you change your
mind, you can eat her (although this could produce some strange
side effects, including the birth of your fully-armoured daughter
through your forehead. Now that is a headache). But eventually
you will find the perfect queen for Olympus: the only woman as
ruthless and irresistible as you are.
Heres a wedding tip: seek some help from the goddess Viagra,
and youll be enjoying a three-hundred-year-long honeymoon.

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Creative Ways to Punish Your Enemies


As King of the Gods, youre likely to make a few enemies. These
may include all the titans youve overthrown, and your own family,
but usually it will be the husbands and fathers of all those women
you took a liking to. Even if they realise you are a god, mortal men
will be very reluctant to share their wives and daughters with you.
As supreme ruler of the world, it is all too easy to deal with these
imbeciles. But after a few hundred years of throwing thunderbolts
at them, punishment can get a bit tedious. These are my favourite
ways to punish rivals, based on experience:
Prometheus was the little turd who presented the secret of fire to
mankind. Soon they were burning down the land we gods worked
so hard to grow, over and over again. To artistically represent my
frustration and cause Prometheus unimaginable pain, I nailed him
to a great rock, where my eagle could peck out his liver every day.
Every night his body would heal, only to be destroyed again. It has
provided me with an eternity of entertainment, and my eagle with
an eternity of her favourite delicacy.
My son, Tantalus, offered the diced body of his own son to the
gods as a banquet. Ive done some ugly things in my time, but
that was downright revolting. Demeter ate some of the sacrifice
by accident and she was ill for days. The only thing that would
make her feel better was to put the pieces back together and bring
the traumatised boy back to life. As for his father, Tantalus was
imprisoned underground, with a branch of delicious fruit that
always stays just out of reach and a pool of water that recedes
whenever he bends down to drink from it. Tantalising him is one
of my greatest amusements.
The Fields of Punishment are worth a visit for some great
punishments, but Tartarus is the museum for my most prized
eternal torments. The atmosphere down there is thrilling!

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Sometimes Your Family Will Hate You


And they will attack you and put you in prison. Its a tough lesson to
learn: you cannot please everyone when you please yourself. Now
you have plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of existence,
and why youre not popular. Eventually you will realise that theres
a lot more to ruling the world, after all. Im not saying that all my
earlier advice was wrong. Its important to make mistakes and be
completely reckless in order to become a better god. You end up
learning a lot, and you cant deny that it was fun!
Now that youre feeling pretty good about yourself, its time
to get out of that cage. The others have probably forgotten about
you while they argue over the new rightful ruler. You can escape
unnoticed. Then its time to face those backstabbers. Youre going
to have to be a better man and apologise to everyone. You might
have to say it one hundred times, and promise to do the dishes for
a thousand years, but theyll forgive you. Theyll even let you be
King again. Isnt that nice?
Now you need to punish them temporarily, and in all fairness.
A year forced to live as mortals will do just fine.
Time for Change
It comes down to a combination of high moral standards and
strict discipline. Youll find that you get a lot more out of being
a god if you think about what people need, which makes them
actually appreciate you. Try this experiment: stop chasing after
women for a few days and pay attention to your wife. Tell her
how lovely she is. Now feel that warm, fuzzy sensation in your
chest. Its better than ambrosia, isnt it? This means you are
officially a good guy. Well done!
Making this a habit is not going to be easy but, now that
youre a new man, all of these other gods are happy to help.
Youll find theyre not all bad, and its about time you made

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some friends. They can help you out of awkward situations, and
youll have twice the fun dealing out punishments when you do
it together. Theyll even run your errands for you. Ive got my
buddy Hermes, and he once saved the world from an eternal
winter. Great guy.
When Mother Earth Wants You Dead, Again
Life is now better than ever, but do you remember Granny Gaia?
Well, shes back, and fouler than ever. This time shes bringing
her giants, each one designed to hit a specific gods weakness.
You should be worried, because it gets worse. Youll have to
ask help from mortals. Your omnipotent reign is now on hold.
Its humiliating, but necessary. Try to look on the bright side:
at least, now youll get a chance to meet all of your illegitimate
children, and watch them save the world. It may bring a tear to
your eye. Dont panic. This is perfectly natural.
Then again, you may want to panic, because Typhon is
freaking scary. Youll know him when you see him. He is human
in shape, apart from his legs, which have been replaced with
thousands of snakes, hundreds of miles long. And his head
touches the stars, which is just plain cocky. There is literally
nothing you can do to defeat this guy. Dont think twice. Just
run.
Im kidding! If you retreat, Athena will never let you hear
the end of it, assuming you survive this ordeal somehow. You
have no idea how annoying she can be when she finds the
opportunity. Do not let her taunt you. Get angry. You didnt
come this far to be squashed by some new guy. Youre going to
win this thing, single-handedly if you have to!
He picks up a mountain, about to hurl it at Mount Olympus
and destroy everything upon it, including your beautiful
golden throne. Hell be vulnerable in this position, but only

Painted Words 2014 | 189

for a moment, so get focused. Set your thunderbolts to rapid


fire, and with one hundred perfectly-aimed bolts, you will bring
Typhon down. The mountain he holds will finish the job: falling
and crushing him.
***
The world may be half-destroyed after that battle, but your throne
will still be standing, for a very long time. You will be remembered
as the most fearsome, charming, handsome and exciting god the
world has ever known. Now you can party on, and enjoy that
power, keeping in mind that one day another god will take your
place. Teach him well.

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Thunder Hooves
Shantara Johnstone

he climbs up the maintenance ladder, gripping each rung with


pale hands and naked feet. The wind thrusts against her and
the rain pulls on her nightgown, cold and heavy. The bars are slick
with water. It is terribly dark. There is roaring in her ears: the wind,
like a wailing voice. She shouts in return, but her voice is hushed
by the torrent. She clenches her jaw and continues to climb.
The roof is a concrete square with low brick walls. She drops
to her knees in the centre and looks towards the city. Above the
shimmering lights spanning the horizon, snakes of colour swirl
through the sky, dancing weightlessly in the downpour. The
clouds are heavy curtains above. She folds her arms across her
waist and watches, exhausted and shivering. The colours slow her
racing mind.
All at once, the rain and the wind ease their efforts. The serpents
whip around and dart out of sight. She gives them a weak smile
goodbye. There is a moment of peace, a deep breath.
The flash of light is blinding; she has to close her eyes. Thunder
explodes in rippling vibrations overhead. It shakes the surface
beneath her shins. She imagines a herd of wild horses galloping
under the stars, somewhere beyond the dark greyness, too light
and fast to fall through.
***

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When she was very small, she went on a walk with her mother
through the rolling fields. That was the first time she had ever seen
a horse; there were several of them, galloping wherever the spirit
guided them. She watched them with her mother for a long time,
tracing each extension of leg and wisp of tail until she fell in love
with every single detail. It seemed they were flying rather than
running. Her mother explained that they did indeed belong to the
sky and were sent down by the light to watch over the mothers
and children of earth. They ran for the sake of desire.
She sat on the roof of her house, making pictures in the passing
clouds. They mostly looked like squiggly creatures. She heard
her parents arguing in the kitchen. It would be dinnertime soon.
She stood up next to the roofs gutter, and found her balance on
the slope. She pretended she was a princess of legend, regal and
enchanted. She tried summoning the horses from the fields. She
imagined all seven of them running on the wind towards her, the
black one offering its back to ride on. She was teetering on the
edge when she heard a door open, and her father stomped out
of the house. He shouted at her to get off the roof. She swore she
wouldnt fall, but he didnt believe her. She embraced him as he
pulled her down. His shoulders were cold and hard. He smacked
her; she was never to leave his side again.
***
She opens her eyes to the stormy night. Her heart is beating
frantically. Pressing her palm to her chest, she wills it to calm
down. The thunder rolls away past the city. With the tiny lights
glistening below, it is like she has climbed beyond the stars.
Her heart becomes quiet.
She blinks hard with the second lightning strike. Sky-horses
leap out of the blast and charge in all directions, cracking the solid
air and releasing another downpour of water as they make contact.
The rain massages her shoulders with tiny tapping fingers, easing
the tension.

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The moisture on her lips is salty. She forces herself to swallow


and stand up. She notices a shift in the clouds and focuses on
it intensely. It comes closer and takes on a shape. At first its a
squiggly creature, but then she recognises the powerful figure of
a wild horse. It is just like the horses from the fields but ethereal,
made of water and light. Every colour is refracted through its
body, constantly changing as it walks through the air. Its mane and
tail swirl into oblivion behind it in streams of vapour. Its hooves
are marvellous. They looked like diamonds, and when they hit the
invisible path, they click as though they are hitting solid ground.
She steps backwards automatically when the sky-horse touches
down on the concrete before her. It gazes at her, unblinking, with
eyes of black. She can only think to stare in return until it draws
a leg back and bows its head as if in greeting. She drops into an
unsteady curtsey. When the horse stands up straight, its chest
swells and its wispy mane, like fine silver thread, extends and
waves in the wind. Her heart flutters. Those eyes are darker and
denser than the night sky, like doorways into nothingness, and yet,
they are saying something.
She reaches out her delicate arms. The sky-horse walks forward
and presses its head against her stomach. She envelopes its cheeks;
it is like holding a living water statue. Its nose warms her core.
You are ill, Rhiannon. You must rest. You have reached the top of the
mound so you need not worry anymore. It is time to follow your desire.
She turns her head to gaze over the edge of the wall.
***
She once came home from school to find that her mother had taken
a sudden one-way trip to the airport without muttering a word.
The only sign left of her mothers existence was a picture in a frame.
She eventually ran away as well, with a boy from her senior class.
The way he had looked at her seemed so familiar. He swept her up
in his words, and she forgot all about pain. He was charming and
funny, and he liked the things she liked. Most importantly, he liked

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her. They were engaged shortly after graduation. They moved into
a nice neighbourhood amongst people who delighted her, but they
were always very busy. She spent most days on her own, and every
night with only her husband. When her baby was born, her life felt
complete. She would wrap her up in a soft blanket and cover her
sweet face in kisses. They played together most of the day, and at
night she put her to bed as delicately as painting a picture, always
making sure the bars of the crib were securely raised.
The neighbours were so nice. They didnt say anything about
her bruised face. They did not accuse her of anything when her
arm broke. They only nodded at her and trundled away.
***
The sky-horse steps aside. Her knees hit the concrete, tearing the
skin. She cries freely.
Rhiannon!
He steps over the top of the maintenance ladder. His hair hangs
like seaweed over his furrowed brow. She scrambles back.
Rhiannon, please. His voice is as rich as velvet. Youll get
hurt out here. Lets go back home, and we can sort it all out. I
promise I wont do anything to hurt you. I love you.
I know you do.
Im sorry. God, Im so sorry. I dont know what came over me.
I I can change. We can go back to how it was when we first met.
Remember how happy we were?
I loved you too.
He is kneeling, arms reaching out towards her. There is still
time to fix this. Weve got the rest of our lives to right the wrongs
Lightning never strikes the same place twice, you know?
***
She had entered the dark nursery in the early morning to find her
baby wailing with a fever. With trembling hands she lowered the
bars of the crib and picked it up, begging it to be quiet. He entered

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the nursery too, and their eyes connected. His were bloodshot and
narrow. He stank of alcohol. His eyebrows knotted, and all the
confident charm disappeared from his face. In a second of horror,
he looked just like her father. He lurched at her with an ear-splitting
shout. It was all her fault. She didnt know how to look after family.
She had abandoned her own father without hesitation she was a
monster.
Once the terror had subsided, she huddled in the corner of the
nursery, a doll-like figure lying in her arms, perfectly still. Its skin
was like porcelain, smooth and cold. She held it close, her own
skin starting to lose feeling. She sat for such a long time in silence.
Falling tears were the only warmth in the room. She stared at the
floor, where a babys blanket lay creased and worn.
***
Rhiannon his voice is barely a whisper upon the stirring wind.
She raises a hand to her throat; the skin feels tender. He looks so
small and helpless, like hes drowning. How can he be saved?
She stands up tall, her fists down by her sides. She looks at the
sky-horse; it blinks its empty eyes and nods.
You can try to change him if you must, or you can keep on running.
Sometimes thats all there is to do. There is no need to feel ashamed.
She looks down upon the wretched man on the concrete.
It is time she ran wild.
At first his eyes grow wide. Then lines of anger tear through his
face. You cant leave. You have nothing without me! NOTHING!
No, youre wrong, she whispers. I am so much more than that.
Speak louder.
No! she cries. You are the one with nothing. And I am
leaving.
Where could you possibly go? he drones.
She looks to the sky.
The sky-horse raises its forelegs high and brings them down
by the man with a deafening crack. Blades of light shoot down

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from the sky and explode above the rooftop. She stumbles
backwards and trips on the low wall. She is freefalling, and she
feels no fear at all.
A rush of air collects her from behind, and a sky-horse canters
in after it. She instinctively grasps its neck as it flies past, and then
she is riding. With nothing but water and light beneath her, it feels
more like flying. Over the city they gallop together, and up into the
heavens, higher and higher, until she falls asleep.
There is no need to worry any longer. She will be safe with us.
***
The sky has cleared by the time she awakes, enfolded in the soft
covers of her bed. It is very quiet; there is only the sound of her
steady breath and the morning chirp of songbirds outside the
window. She sits up and ponders. Where does one go once she has
been set free?

Novel Extract

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The Black Wedding Dress


Elvira McIntosh

CHAPTER 1

uring combat he had lost the fear of war, but he couldnt


understand why he still feared his father.
The ticks and the tocks of the air base clock seemed louder
and slower this evening, stretching time. At ten to seven one
hot December night in 1945, Lieutenant Carlos Castillo de Leon
drummed his fingers on the bar of the officers pub at Williamstown,
north of Sydney, trying to ignore the pain on his side.
You ready, Pancho? American Lt Truman Santini asked in his
affable way. All Mexican pilots were Pancho as far as Truman was
concerned, claiming it made it easy for him to remember.
As ready as I will ever be, Truman. He tried to sound friendly
but the painkillers were wearing off, making his impatience
escape a little.
They said nineteen oclock, buddy, but now that the war is
over, they like dragging the time. Yesterday they kept us waiting
in Sydney for six hours. Truman was as impatient as Carlos to
take off, but for other reasons. He was to receive his well-earned
medals: the D.F.C, the Air Medal and the coveted Silver Star as
soon as they touched down in Texas. A jolly, rotund man, Truman
had valiantly earned his glory. Carlos heard him tell his stories

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several times while in rehabilitation when the Pancho thing had


started.
Carlos was the only Mexican Air Force officer in the group of
airmen that were about to leave for Randolph Airbase near San
Antonio, Texas. There he would receive his service papers and
then fly on to Mexico. All the other members of Squadron 201, his
brother Mauricio amongst them, were flown back from Texas to
Mexico three months previously. Three coffins, including his older
brother Enriques, had left on the same flight as well.
What about it, Lieutenant? Any decorations coming your
way? Truman asked.
Carlos smiled as he slowly shook his throbbing head. Not
brave enough, Im afraid.
He felt genuinely glad that his exploits in action went
unnoticed, glad to have little to show but his war papers and a
Philippines campaign ribbon. Not brave enough... in his restless
dreams, he could still feel in his useless, broken hands the
desperate, slipping grip of his co-pilot as they fell. He could still
hear the muffled screams and taste the foul air of war he that
had filled his lungs with black phlegm. He didnt know about the
burns to his side until he woke up in the hospital ship en-route
to Australia. Right now, the irritatingly slow ticking of the clock
seemed to intensify the pain. The doctors warned him to take it
easy for another six months.
We were all brave, buddy, medal or no medal. Truman
collected his tray of drinks and walked to his noisy group.
Carlos smiled and downed the last of his whisky. Silently he
began to compose a plan: a two-night stay with his brother and
father in their town-house in Mexico City and then off to Zacatlan,
some two hundred kilometres east, to the farm and to his mother.
His father, the busy district magistrate, would undoubtedly come
back to the ranch for the weekend as he always did.
Once more he glanced impatiently at the persistent clock. He

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had participated in over fifty sorties over the Philippines, yet


hadnt felt as nervous as he did now.
He was angrily rehearsing in his mind the likely conversation
he was about to have with his father. Would he approve of his
plans to study Horticulture instead of Medicine? Would he, would
anyone, understand Carlos passion for growing new varieties of
apples? Or will Dad, the notable-lawyer, continue to be his stubborn
self and insist Carlos goes off to medical school like his brother?
When Mauricio returned to Mexico with the squadron officers,
he immediately went back to university. He wondered how his
parents felt about the death of their eldest son in a freak accident.
Enrique died on June 5 when his P-47 crashed after take-off. He
was on a short, functional check flight when the engine failed. He
attempted to avoid a bivouac area, earning him posthumous merit.
How Carlos missed him; there was nobody to look up to now.
Carlos wounds delayed his return. Would anyone care that
he survived? His pigeon-hole remained empty of personal letters
almost the entire time he was in the Philippines. He saw Mauricio
once in Luzon city, but the pressure of their missions ahead wiped
out their chances at conviviality. Not that Mauricio cared for him.
He had teased him cruelly, in front of other officers, mocking the
gangling appearance of his baby brother and telling stories of
his awkwardness as a kid. Carlos silence hadnt helped to dispel
his taunts.
He took a deep breath; he knew that he needed to calm down
and stop adding trivial nonsense to his hard-to-shut-off rapid
thinking. Controlling his painful breathing was hard enough, and
smoking was out of the question. He had to give his lungs a chance
to heal completely. He ordered another whisky and forcefully
conjured the thought of sprinting once more through Las Piedras
(The Stones) forest outside Zacatlan, although he doubted his
running ability, due to the stiffness of his leg.
He thought of Claire, the Australian nurse he had first met in

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the Philippines and then at Newcastle Hospital, and wondered if


shed really write.
I will write, sir, shed said, her unlit cigarette dangling from
the side of her mouth while she rummaged in her handbag for a
pencil to write down his address.
Sir, sir ... watch it, young lady, I am Seor Carlos. He liked her
friendliness. Her lack of airs and her prompt acceptance of him.
Are you really Mexican? she had asked her first morning on
duty, rolling up her sleeves, ready to sponge-bath him, You dont
look it.
I am very Mexican, Nurse Callahan. What do you mean I dont
look it? He was intrigued.
Well, she said, as she gently bathed his injured torso, you
dont look like the banditos you see in the movies, for a start.
Carlos wanted to laugh, but the pain on his side was severe
enough to prevent him.
Its ban-di-dos with ad, not at, bandidos. Say it like this, he
showed her, slightly biting the tip of his tongue between his teeth,
Ban-dee-dohs and she complied, puckering her lips, her attempts
ending in loud laughter from her and a cry of agony from him.
Turn around; hang onto my shoulder, she ordered,
composing herself.
The warmth of the soapy flannel soothed the intense throbbing
beneath his skin. The gentleness transported him back to the
cosiness of the high-backed tin bath in front of the roaring fire, in
the kitchen of his parents ranch in Zacatlan.
Nurse Callahan, he said, almost purring.
Hmmm? She was trying hard to avoid the seeping crusts of
the worst burns.
Thank you for this. It feels so soothing, he said.
You are a very polite boy, you know? said Claire looking up at
him. All these other brutes need to learn to say please and thank
you like you do. Tell your mother that she taught you well, she

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said, and meant obviously it. He detected a touch of pain in her


glistening eyes.
You okay? he asked.
Oh yes, she lied, Ill survive. Manners were the least of her
worries. Sexual crudeness, their predator hands and eyes made
her wish some of them dead.
Turn around again; let me rub oil on you. God, I never thought
Id see you again, you know? He didnt know; he didnt think
shed remember him. He witnessed the lightness she had brought
to the group of airmen huddling in the corner of the dancing hall,
that first time in Manila. It seemed too long ago to belong to the
same story.
Not many other Mexicans to mix you up with, mate, she
said when he asked if she remembered him. Damn, if only he
could laugh.
Through the painful rehab sessions that usually followed, she
became the professional. She was, in fact, quite stern with him
whenever he balked at the inevitable skin-stretching exercises.
Of course you can, she insisted, Try it again, it wont kill you,
will it... and again. Not like that, sir, youll bust the stitches... and
again... thats better. An hour of this every other day left both of
them on edge and exhausted.
She was not exactly beautiful, but she was forthright yet tender,
exacting but kind, and Lord, how she made him laugh! Later on
he appreciated their outings, reportedly obligatory, as an effort to
build up his confidence, although it took some convincing.
Theres a new movie I want to take you to on Friday night,
Seor Carlos. I think its time you tried your wings again. More a
command than an invitation.
I dont think I could do my shoelaces up, so how do you think
Ill manage the bus, tell me? He was nervously angry. She winced
a little at his outburst, but she was more stubborn than offended.
Be ready at six, no excuses. Im driving. She outranked him

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quickly. And that was it, no excuses, just be ready, thats all that
indeed he could do. Be ready. As it turned out, he enjoyed the
movie and laughed, in spite of the pain, when they took it in turns
to slurp ice-cream at the cafe on Nobbys beach.
As time passed by and he felt more human again, he was happy
to do Claires bidding. Newcastle beach, Saint Edwards Park, Salt
Ash, Wollemi Forest, Morpeth, and his favourite: the string of new
vineyards in the Hunter Valley.
Look at this, Lieutenant, said Claire, handing him the
newspaper one day. Big fiesta for the Mexican Squadron 201. Sad
you missed it?
He read all about the national celebration the squadron received
in Mexico City, and was honestly glad he missed it.
My brother would have been there, I guess. he said, and he
imagined their fathers pride to see him get the public accolades.
Oh yes, father would feel proud of Mauricio all right. Carlos tried
to remember a time when his father told him how he felt about
him except with displeasure.
An unexpected emotional breakthrough for the bashful airman
happened one stormy afternoon when Claire took him to shelter
in one of the alcoves in the pub at Morpeth, ordering cold beers.
Tell me about your nightmares, she said. Night duty had
alerted her to them.
His back stiffened and his brow corrugated, throwing an almost
visible dark veil over his face.
You are going to play therapist, are you? he asked, looking
away, hardly concealing his disdain.
No, Im going to play friend. The light in her eyes was real.
Friends leave you alone with your nightmares. He looked more
like a grumpy child than the adult hed become through the war.
Friends care, Seor Castillo De Leon. She hoped to tease the
words out of him. He remained sullen. I am a friend, Seor, even
if you dont want to play marbles with me. This was going to be

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harder than what she thought.


A tiny corner of his mouth raised a fraction; the thought of
Claire playing marbles amused him.
All right, he said with a touch of sarcasm, lets make it a deal.
I tell you about my nightmares and you tell me about yours.
Deal, she said.
He placed his elbows on the table, his swollen hands splayed
on top of his head, evading her look. He tried to put into words
the recurrent nightmare of feeling, actually feeling, the grasp of
his gunner and his inability to grip him back with his broken
hands. Abruptly he lowered his hands to the table, looking darkly
at her. How can you properly explain the nauseating smell of
war? And how can you transpose wailing from a noun into a
verb, into a memory? And how can you, with words, evaporate
the involuntary emotions that were solidly entrenched in the
memories of falling? How can you do this with words alone? And
tears simply wouldnt come to his aid. He tried his hardest to speak
of the guilt, the desperation and the shame he could not shake off.
And the choking terror and the sadness that grabbed at his throat
at unexpected times. And the doom that hung about him making
him panic without apparent reason.
I know what you are going to say, he said after a pause when
his breathing became shallow. You are going to say that I ought
to let it go, that its finished, that its in the past... well, dont.
And raising his voice a little, he continued, Dont say it. It isnt
true. Its not in the past. How can it be in the past if... And then it
happened. The tears. Oh, the rage that tightened his jaw but failed
to make fists with his still- inflamed hands.
Claire didnt touch him, or pity him, or talk. She didnt move.
Her eyes pierced with force and somehow he knew that she knew
something he didnt. She turned pale with his telling and then
apple-red, as her eyes bored into his soul. It took an eternity, but her
silence and persistent dark look stayed on him while his shoulders

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heaved and his sobs choked his already laborious breathing.


I was going to say nothing of the kind, sir, she said eventually.
What I was going to say is that if you didnt tell me your nightmare
I would have to punch it out of you. And she raised her fists to
show him, making him smile. After a pause she added, Thats
what friends do. And after another pause she said, Friends care,
thats why. Only then did she lean back on her seat, small tears
brightening her eyes.
And what is your prognosis, friend? he said, fumbling with
his handkerchief.
Professionally? You, and every other Tom and Harry Ive met
have one thing in common, mate: nightmares.
And? he demanded.
And the sooner you accept them as part and parcel of the
awesome job you have done, believe me, the quicker you will
deny them the pleasure of hurting you further. She said this
deliberately slowly.
Awesome job... What do you mean? he said, astounded,
although in truth he was already feeling lighter for the tears. He
never heard anyone refer to his job as awesome. But the reality of it
suddenly made sense. The thought hit him in the gut with force. He
had only thought of flying in combat as a job, and a bad job at that,
not thinking of the times he scored his target, but remembering the
frustration of the times he had missed it. And here is this woman...
You dont know what you are talking about, he said in a
dismissive tone. But he was wrong.
I know what Ive seen, mate. She remained quiet.
You mean, he said, with derision, that I have a nightmare
and I wake up and I say, Oh, thats right, it is not real, it is only a
nightmare and it goes with the awesome job Ive done getting hit
and letting my friend fall to his death. Just like that? If Claire were
anybody else, he would have walked out on her, but she was his
friend and he knew that she respected him.

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She shrugged her shoulders. Shed seen it before. If she could


make them angry while they spurted out their nightmare, the
truth behind their pain began to help them to put it in a more
balanced, if still cruel, perspective. We are all heroes, buddy, medal
or no medal. Truman was right.
Looking at her sombre face for a moment, he began to laugh,
and after a while, she laughed too. And then, simultaneously
they both got up and embraced hard and long. She kissed him on
the cheek, but she covered his mouth with her hand and did not
let him kiss her back. She feared the consequences, it happened
before and she loved her job too much to let it happen again. He
was baffled.
God knows how much he needed a mothers touch and a sisters
friendship, what would she be like as a sweetheart? He couldnt
answer that one; he didnt know what love is. He didnt know the
hunger, the glory, the sorrow, the regret and the disappointment of
love or its terrible power.
We must get you back to the hospital, she said, putting her
coat on and walking quickly to her car.
Tick and tock and tick and tock, the clock at the Williamstown
bar seemed to mock him a little.
He forgot to ask about her nightmare.

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Forests of Pelo
Shannon Carter
Forests of Pelo is a medieval fantasy set on the eastern continent
of an alternative world. Divided into three different empires, the
Eastern Empire of Trbas encompasses the small kingdoms of Pelo,
Trbas and Clibak. Sedlon, the Prince of Pelo, and his four friends
try to unite the Empire in order to battle the fierce enemies of the
Western Lands across the Dividing Sea. In this chapter, Sedlon
and two of his friends meet Hallem, a green-skinned Halban
(people who are connected physically and mentally to trees) in the
southern forests of Pelo.
Chapter 1

he trees seemed to shake with the warm breeze, and the leaf
clusters on the ground were like cushions to stand on. The
morning dew was still fresh and the sweet smell of the forest with
its hundreds of years of growth was refreshing.
Sedlon, the Prince of Pelo, stood beneath a tree and looked into
the early morning sky. The sun had risen over an hour ago and
its warmth encouraged Sedlon enough to get up. After putting on
his leather riding pants and loose shirt, he left his tent to go to the
nearby stream. He washed his brown hair and cleaned the grit out
of his eyes before deciding to watch the sun continue to rise.
Your Highness! A deep baritone voice came from the camp
site. Your Highness! Where are you?

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Sedlon growled under his breath and cursed. Coming, Dered!


Walking into the camp where three tents were perched around
a small campfire, he found his two friends waiting for him; one
angry and the other amused.
Your Highness, said Dered. You mustnt wander in the
forest without a sword. The demons could kill you before I draw
my sword.
Dered was dressed in a mail shirt and heavy armoured pants,
not suitable for riding in a forest, and wore his sword on his left
hip. He was eighteen and already a Church Knight, an armoured
monk dedicated to worship and defence of the Church. Dered had,
as usual, disagreed with coming into the forest to camp because
of the Churchs anger towards its inhabitants, the tree-dwelling
Halbans. Dereds father was the Baron of Pel Manor, the fanatics
capital of the kingdom. All church, no play.
Fere, the other man, was dressed in leather trousers and a grey
loose shirt, much like Sedlon was dressed. Fere was sixteen and
son of the Lord of the Pelo Plains, nomads who cared for horses
and treated them like brothers and sisters. His sabre could cut
through a man in one slash. Fere, despite the pleasure he received
from maiming, was still caring and easily amused. He kept his face,
covered by jet-black hair, lowered. He was secretly enjoying this.
Sedlon, also sixteen, may have been in between the others in
age, but he could order both Fere and Dered around. He was the
Prince of Pelo after all.
Dont be stupid, Dered, Sedlon said, annoyed with his older
friend. The Halbans would never kill in the forests. It would upset
the trees.
Demons! Dered said and looked around at the trees. Never
give you a moments peace.
Fere burst out laughing. You cant be that suspicious, Dered.
Theyre only trees.
Dered glared at Fere in anger and was opening his mouth to

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speak when the Church Knights right arm lunged for his sword.
A figure, however, got there first. The creature, his skin a
greenish hue with tattoos of different coloured leaves on a vine
that extended up his arm, had a dagger to Dereds throat and
another at his gut.
Move and youre dead. said the Halban, his voice crackling
between a boyish lilt and an older, more mature, adult tone.
Fere couldnt stop laughing and collapsed on the ground next
to the fire, pounding the ground with his right fist.
Sedlon smiled. Let him go, Hallem. Hes harmless.
The young Halban let go and jumped out of Dereds reach,
smiling as he sheathed his daggers and stood up straight, giving
Sedlon a chance for a proper view of the new arrival.
Hallem wore a green silk top with clear sleeves from his elbows
down to show the tattoos of leaves and green pants. He was
without boots, revealing his bare greenish feet. His short brown
hair stuck out in some areas and his golden hazel eyes shone with
deceptively child-like innocence. He wore daggers on both hips
and a lightweight wood crossbow hung on his back.
Are you sure I cant cut him a little? Hallam asked, his voice
crackling again. Maybe on his throat so he wont spout lies?
Fere stood up with a look of mirth. That would be interesting.
Sedlon smirked. Better not. You dont want to make things
worse between your people and the Church.
Hallem smiled. The Church already hates us. What could I do
to make it worse?
Dered lunged at Hallem, intent on bringing the Halban boy down.
He nearly crashed into Hallem when the smaller but more
agile Halban quickly moved out of the way. Dered landed heavily,
smashing his face into the ground. He screamed suddenly in pain
for a moment. Hallem then got behind him and kicked the young
Church Knight between the legs. Dereds voice went up two octaves
before he ran out of breath and fell silent, closing his eyes and mouth.

210 | Painted Words 2014

Fere gave up composure again and fell into fits of laughter.


Sedlon himself however kept a straight face, knowing that Dered
shouldve really expected this outcome.
The prince sighed. This is what I get for being friends with a Church
fanatic, I guess.
Hallem looked at Dered for a moment, his eyebrows raised in
slight surprise and confusion. The young Halban then broke into a
smile and turned to Sedlon.
Dont Church Knights wear armour on those parts? he asked.
Sedlon chuckled. He forgot to pack it.

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Greenview
Louise Wardle
Greenview follows a young girls life in a lunatic asylum, and her
subsequent (mis)adventures. Jane Glover, under the pretext of
being sent to stay with her Aunt Frances in the country, has been
committed to Greenview Lunatic Asylum by her stepmother for
being an over-inquisitive child. Jane quickly discovers the truth,
and her whole world falls apart. In Greenview, Jane has found a
nemesis in Matron Bower, and must contend with the harshness of
the asylum, the zombification of some of the patients, and the pain
of abandonment. Janes ordeal is softened by the kindness of a few
staff members and patients, and the gentleness of her newfound
friend, Nurse Carey.

he door slams. A key turns in the lock. A woman is slumped in


a corner, leaning her head against a wall. Her matted, greying
hair hangs limply down the sides of her head, hiding her dirt
encrusted face. A continuous stream of drool leaks from the corner
of her mouth. Her tongue flicks in and out to wet her dry, cracked
lips. She casts her unfocussed eyes across the door and then around
the room. White. White. Yellow. Brown. She frowns. Wood. Plaster.
Paint. Glass. Metal. Dust motes lazily drift in the sunlight that
streams through the window above. Light. Dark. Light. Dark. Light.
Hahaha! Stripes! Her eyes momentarily glint, grow dull again, then

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dart to the ceiling, suddenly fascinated by the peeling of paint.


A scream from nearby jolts her out of her trance. Huh! Ow! My
head hurts. Everythings blurry. She brings her clawed hands up to
massage her brow before raking her long, filthy fingers down the
sides of her face. She studies her brittle yellow nails and the new
skin fragments crammed beneath them. Whats that? Blood? She
shakes her head and turns her hands over to look at their backs.
She flexes her fingers watching the knobbly joints come and go.
There you are. She smiles. Oops! Gone again! Hahaha! Oh! There you
are. Hahaha! Now ya gone! Now ya there. Gone. A clang from outside
her door startles her. She sees an eye looking through the peep
hole. She draws her legs in and clutches her knees to her chest. No.
No. No! Not again! Please! No! Dont. No. She drops her head to her
knees. Cold. So cold. She places her hands on the cold floor, then her
knees. Slowly she crawls to the sunspot, flops down on her side
and curls up into a tight ball to stay warm. Another scream rips
through the air. Then another. Followed by heart-wrenching sobs.
Where am I? Why me? Whats to become of me? She lays shivering and
shaking as sobs wrack her body. Please. Please. Stop. I dont want
this. Please. No.
1.

ane pulled her topsy-turvy doll in close to her chest. She looked
up at the constable, then slid her hand into his.
Youll be right, luv. Constable Tucker looked down at Jane,
squeezed her hand and gave her a lopsided smile. Just stick
with me.
Janes eyes darted around the platform. There was so much
noise. People talking. Children screaming. Babies crying. Angry
mothers scolding. Steam billowing. Whistles blowing. Conductors
yelling. Men mumbling as they tip their hats to familiar faces. Soot
and ash falling softly from the sky, blanketing everything in grey.
The smell of smoke, grease, sweat, stale food and pee hung in the

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air. People. A sea of people. Ebbing. Flowing. Overwhelming.


The crowd parts, a very loud woman with a child on her hip
and a couple of kids in tow pushes through, and the crowd closes
again. Men in hats with umbrellas and newspapers tucked under
their arms, bags in hand, weave in and out of the crowd. There are
ladies in bonnets, ladies with buns, flashes of lace and rustles of
skirts. Boys in short pants and caps are pushing through the crowd
or running helter skelter. Girls in pinafores and pigtails, standing
around giggling at the boys antics.
Aunt Frances, why do you live so far away? I wish Daddy was coming.
I wonder what she looks like? Tears trickled down Janes cheeks as
Constable Tucker led her towards a carriage.
Here we go. Constable Tucker helped Jane step up into the
carriage.
Thank you, said Jane.
Still holding Janes hand, the constable found a seat and put
her luggage on the floor in front of it. He let Jane squeeze past
before sitting down beside her. Jane used her topsy-turvy dolls
dress to wipe away her tears, and then turned her doll around so
they could both look out at the crowd to-ing and fro-ing on the
platform.
The carriage filled up quickly. Passengers sat down with their
newspapers and books, or chatted with fellow passengers while
they waited for the train to move.
Did ya ear bout the murda? asked a man with a black
moustache.
Dya think it was that escapee wot done it? queried a young lad.
Nah! Ow could that looney get ere so fast? a mature-age
woman asked.
Greenviews not that far away, said the gentleman seated
opposite them.
I believe this train goes past Greenview, said a man from
behind his newspaper.

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Jane looked at Constable Tucker and asked, Who was killed?


The constable looked at Jane and said, Now don cha go worrin
ya pretty little head about such nasty things. He patted her hand.
The forcell nab em quick smart.
Is Greenview a nice place? queried Jane.
Um Its a right stately manor. Huge walls, huge gardens
Looks a right royal treat, said Constable Tucker.
Does Aunt Frances live there? quizzed Jane.
Er I dont think so, he said.
Where does Aunt Frances live? she asked.
Constable Tucker frowned, Do you always ask questions?
Yes sir. I do sir, said Jane.
Its a long trip. Why dont ya have a nap? suggested the
constable.
Jane looked around at the other passengers and then back at
Constable Tucker. I am a bit tired, she said as she tucked her legs
up on the seat, rested her head against the window and snuggled
her topsy-turvy doll in close.
When the constable thought she was asleep, he leant over to the
gentleman seated opposite him and said, Poor little mite.
The gentleman turned from the window to face the constable
and said, Hmm?
I mean, what am I sposed to tell her? She doesnt deserve
this. Wheres the harm in asking questions? I was always asking
questions. No child should be punished like this, said Constable
Tucker.
The gentleman raised his eyebrows while the constable rushed
on with his thoughts. Her parents dont deserve children. Wish I
was married. The missus and I couldve looked after her. Bloody
duty. Why the heck did they have to go and choose me for this?
The gentleman shook his head.
Poor little mite, said Constable Tucker.

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***
The train slowed to a halt at a tiny station. G-R-E-E-N-V-I-L-L-E.
Jane sat up and looked straight at Constable Tucker. Greenville?
But you said Aunt Frances didnt live at Greenville?
Um Come on. We just have to meet the cart here, he said
picking up her luggage.
Jane walked through the almost-empty carriage. The gentleman,
who was sitting opposite them, gave Jane a reassuring smile as she
passed by him.
Oh, gosh. Look at all the trees. Wheres Aunt Frances? Is that
her driver waiting for us? Jane was full of questions. She was so
excited.
Constable Tucker never said a word. He placed Janes luggage
in the back of the cart and then helped her up into the seat beside
the driver.
Why do you look so sad? Arent you coming? asked Jane.
I have to get back to the police station, luv, he said.
The cart started off. Constable Tucker gave a brief wave and
with a heavy heart, headed back to the train. Got on board and
took his seat. Poor little mite, he said to no-one in particular.
***
Jane was enjoying the ride. The breeze was refreshing, cooling
her down from the hot and sweaty train ride. There was so much
space. There were bushes and trees. There were kangaroos in the
paddocks and birds twittering. Golly gee! Wowee! Hey mister?
Wheres Greenview? Jane asked.
Just up there. On top of the hill. Look! The driver said,
pointing to the building ahead of them.
Oh. My. Gosh. Constable Tucker was right! Jane gushed. Its
really pretty. And really big!

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2.

he cart pulled up at Greenviews front doors. Jane stood up


on the seat and gazed around. Wowee! The people who live
here must be rich? She clambered down off the cart and ran to the
fountain. Hey, Mister? Are there fish in here?
Hey, Missie. You come back ere, the driver called.
Jane held out her arms and spun around, laughing as she did
so. Oh, golly gee! This place is going to be so much fun. I wonder if
they have animals. And servants. And lots of spoons and glasses and
plates and cakes.
Now, see ere, missie, the driver said as he removed his cap
and scratched his dirty mop of hair. Missie stop! Come back ere!
He shook his head and replaced his cap. Theyre not gonna like it.
Nope. Not one little bit.
***
On the second floor of the building, Superintendent Sebastian
Parsons stood with his hands clasped behind his back in front of
the stained glass window. He watched as the cart pulled up. He
watched as Jane jumped down and dashed wildly towards the
fountain. Without turning he called out, Matron Bower.
The matron walked forward to join him. Yes, sir?
Look down there. He indicated out the window with his
head, Tell me. What do you see?
Outside, sir? asked Matron Bower. Whatever for?
Just do it! said Superintendent Parsons.
Matron Bower stepped closer to the window and peered
through the blue segment of the stained glass window. The sky
fields trees the fountain a cart
I would advise you, Matron, not to be so flippant, said the
Superintendent. This is a serious matter. Look closer.
The little girl? Matron Bower stood transfixed, watching the
antics of the girl below her. She pressed her lips together forming a
thin straight line. She looks to be of an inquisitive nature.

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Hmm That she does. Superintendent Parsons eyes never


shifted from the scene below him. Shes a live one, alright.
Why is she here?
According to her step-mother, Miss Glover asks too many
questions. The superintendent picked up his notes and skimmed
through them. It appears that she is never satisfied with an
answer she just keeps on asking questions. Shes disrespectful to
adults. She cant sit still. Shes into all sorts of mischief. She doesnt
know when enough is enough Oh, and she cant mind her own
business.
Ah! Matron Bowers eyes sparkled. One of those sorts.
Apparently so. Superintendent Parsons frowned. Shes so
young though. I would have thought shed have been sent to an
orphanage rather than a lunatic asylum. Still We have the two
required doctors signatures I guess they know what theyre
doing
Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. The wooden clock on the mantelpiece
filled the silent room.
Matron Bower turned from the window to face Superintendent
Parsons. Do you have any thoughts as to how to treat her?
Thats really none of my concern. The superintendent glanced
at the matron, and then turned his gaze back to the girl. Ill leave
it up to you to carry out the physicians instructions.
***
Superintendent Parsons sat with his back to the stained glass
window and waited for the nurse to close his office door. Matron
Bower stood to his left but slightly behind.
Biting her bottom lip and clutching her topsy-turvy doll tightly
to her chest, Jane stood on the other side of a large wooden desk.
She nervously looked from the woman to the man and back again.
Aunt Frances?
Matron Bower stared straight at Jane, No.
Wheres Aunt Frances? Jane again looked from the woman to
the man and back again.

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I dont know an Aunt Frances, said the matron.


Jane stamped her foot. But, you must do. Daddy said I was to
stay with her.
Miss Glover. Miss Frances Jane Glover, said the superintendent.
My names Jane.
Superintendent Parsons reached for the arms of his chair and
gripped them tightly. I would greatly appreciate it if you were to
be quiet and were to listen. He moved his hands from the chair
arms to the desk, interlacing them as he did so. Now Frances
Jane, said Jane.
Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.
Little girl. The question of your name doesnt matter. What
does matter is that your parents dont want to be burdened
with a child such as you. They have decided that you need to be
taught how to behave. Therefore, they have signed you over to
the Greenview Lunatic Asylum. To us. To make a good girl out of
you. The superintendent continued to look at Jane.
Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.
Jane felt a light touch on her shoulder. She had forgotten about
the nurse standing behind her. Jane tilted her head to one side until
she felt the soft warmth against her cheek.
Sir? asked the matron.
Hmm? Superintendent Parsons still stared at Jane as if daring
her to speak.
Sir, the papers? the matron prompted.
The superintendent turned to Matron Bower. What?
The matron clicked her tongue. The paperwork. I need to
complete Frances admission and have her medical records in
place ready for the physicians visit tomorrow.
Superintendent Parsons passed the papers to Matron Bower,
She shouldnt be here.
Well, she is. And thats all there is to it. The matron grabbed
the papers and stormed off. At the door she paused and turned to

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the nurse, Well, Nurse Thomas? What are you waiting for? Get
moving!
***
Here ya go, luv, Nurse Thomas placed Janes bag on a bed. Just
wait here while I get you a uniform.
Jane watched the nurse leave before casting her gaze around
the dormitory. There were twelve beds, head-to-head, squashed
into the tiny space. Along one wall were three big windows. On
the opposite wall were four wooden doors with little round peep
holes. There was a woman in the next bed, half naked, hair matted
and limp. Further over, on the floor between the beds, a woman
hugged her knees and rocked back and forth. Another stood as
still as a statue, looking out of a window. Spit dribbled from the
corner of her mouth and she was standing in a puddle of pee.
Jane sank to the bed and buried her face into her topsy-turvy
doll. Oh Dolly. Dolly. Dolly. What is this place? Why does Daddy hate
me? Wheres Aunt Frances? Oh Dolly.
Jane felt the bed dip. An arm encircled her and pulled her into
them. Oh, luv. There, there. You poor little mite. Nurse Thomas
stroked Janes head until Jane fell asleep. She gently laid a blanket
over her and quietly went back to her duties.

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Dark Echoes
Jamie McDougall
Lily Peterson is a wolf who hunts alone. Haunted by the attack
that left her best friend permanently human, she will do whatever
it takes to catch her prey. Jason North is one of the Neuri, a pack
of werewolves with special abilities. He knows hes never met Lily
before, but his instincts tell him he has. Hell keep her close until
he figures out why. A war that has played out across lifetimes
threatens to consume Echo Falls. Friends become enemies, and
old enemies become allies. Lily fights against memories that arent
hers, forced toward a fate she doesnt believe in. Fate is about to
learn that Lily doesnt like being told what to do.
CHAPTER ONE

ily heard the engine long before she saw the car. She stepped
back into the shadows of the alley, waiting until she could no
longer see its rear lights before walking back out into the street. She
paused, taking a slow, deep breath and letting her senses readjust
after the intrusion. Every smell and sound came to her in sharp
detail. A bitter autumn wind stirred dead leaves and trash on the
ground, and she pulled the collar of her jacket up. She took another
breath to steady her heartbeat and silently moved forward.
Her prey was close.
She could smell him now, his scent a mixture of sweat and dirt.

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He was nervous. Hed no doubt felt her gaze and her presence on
the main street, but hadnt caught a glimpse of her. Anyone else
would have listened to instinct and backed off for the night, but
not him.
He made a jagged trail through the town, avoiding the most
brightly lit streets. She guessed his destination would be the
abandoned construction site by the lake on the east side of town
the place shed first seen him a few nights ago.
She wouldnt let him get that far.
Thick mist began to obscure the streets as she followed him.
His pace slowed, and she slowed with him, letting her smell and
hearing make up for her lacking sight. Although shed grown up
on these streets and walked every one of them, they felt unfamiliar
and unsettling at such a late hour in a way that lay heavy in her
stomach. Shed explored the mountains surrounding the town as
both wolf and human, going far beyond the territory of the wolf
pack. The mountains made her feel more at home than she ever
did in town for reasons she couldnt put into words. Lily belonged
to the mountains, and she never felt more powerful than she did
on the hunt.
Echo Falls did not belong to her nor she to it.
She wished she could shift so she could hunt in her true form,
like she was meant to hunt. Balancing her weight on four paws
instead of two feet would give her the speed and stealth she truly
wanted. But she wasnt allowed to hunt as a werewolf. Not in the
town and not for this. As a human, she still held an advantage: she
could do more than a regular human. Unfortunately, so could her
prey. She could smell the wolf on him, that tinge of wilderness that
marked him as something other.
The heaviness in her stomach began to churn, and the feeling of
being watched prickled her skin across her shoulders.
Focus, Lily. Focus There.
Her prey had stopped at the corner of an old brick building

222 | Painted Words 2014

and looked around. She could hear his muttered curses as he


rummaged through his pockets. She stopped to watch as he pulled
out a phone. The glow of the screen turned his torso into a dark
silhouette, and she moved closer.
Crap, he muttered, letting the hand holding the phone fall
to his side.
Not wanting to risk him getting away, she sprinted forward. He
would hear her feet on the concrete, but he wouldnt have time to
react. One tackle with a few fractured ribs would keep him still
long enough for her to interrogate him. She sprung forward.
Easy job.
She was wrong.
He pushed away from the brick wall and turned, leaving her to
hit the road. She landed mostly on her forearms, the sleeves of her
jacket saving her from the worst of the scrapes. She coughed and
desperately gulped down air. Rolling onto her back, she saw him
stop and look back over his shoulder. Pushing past the pain in her
chest, she got to her knees and scanned the ground to see what
hed lost. Her muscles tensed, and they looked at each other.
Whatever it was, he decided it wasnt worth the risk and took
off again. She sprinted after him, catching him before he managed
to cross the road.
He stopped and spun around, slamming his fist into her jaw.
The force of the blow nearly knocked her to the ground. He pushed
past her as she stumbled, and she made a mental note to never
underestimate a werewolf.
Even the ugly ones.
Adrenaline began to course through her, and she sprinted
forward. Within a dozen steps, shed closed the distance between
them. She jumped forward and tackled him, throwing them both
down on the pavement. Before he had a chance to recover, she
punched him in the stomach. When he curled to protect himself,
she pushed him onto his back. Straddling him, she pinned his arms

Painted Words 2014 | 223

to his sides. He slowly stopped squirming.


Then he laughed and spit in her face.
Do you like punching women? she asked.
Her fist stopped any answer he could have made. His head
wrenched to the side, and he coughed blood. She raised her fist
again and looked around. She could smell someone, and the
sensation of being watched quickly followed. A familiar scent. A
human.
David.
He began to walk toward her, and she looked down at the
werewolf. Scum giving a bad name to her kind, as far as she was
concerned. Her jaw began to ache. He began to twist and turn
beneath her, cursing as he tried to buck her off.
Ill kill you! he raged.
She raised her fist to punch him again and heard Davids quick
footsteps coming toward her. He caught her arm and all but pulled
her off the dealer. Satisfied that she wouldnt have another go, he
pulled the man to his feet.
I have it under control, she said and scowled at him. She
didnt like being handled by anyone.
You always do, he said.
She growled softly at him and, as usual, he ignored her. Shaking
her head, she walked back toward the corner of the brick building.
His English accent made him sound like he was always talking
down to her. She had to remind herself that they were working for
the same cause.
David said nothing as he followed her, easily keeping his grip
on his captive while she searched the ground. It didnt take her
long to find the guys phone. The screen had cracked because of
the fall, but it still worked.
This could be useful, she said, picking it up and examining it.
Thats mine, you dumb
Before he could finish his sentence, David gripped his throat.

224 | Painted Words 2014

He sputtered and coughed, but he didnt call her the word hed
been thinking.
Language, David said, loosening his grip.
She dropped the phone into her jacket pocket and, not finding
anything else, walked over to the pair. The man struggled, but
David held him tight as she searched him. He didnt have any
weapons other than a small knife, no doubt relying on his werewolf
strength to keep him safe. Idiot. Another lone wolf causing trouble.
She found what she wanted in a small pocket on the inside of his
jacket, close to his armpit. He only needed a small pocket for those
kinds of goods. She couldnt be completely sure of their colour in
the poor glow of the streetlight, but she didnt need to be. The feel
and the weight of them told her all she needed to know.
Drug dealer, she said, putting the baggie into her pocket with
the phone. She watched him struggle. I need some information.
Im not gonna tell you a thing.
Are you sure about that? She lifted her hand so he could clearly
see it. He screwed his face in an expression of annoyance until he
noticed that her fingernails were growing. And they werent only
growing they were forming sharp points.
Pure bred, he whispered, his voice a mixture of awe and
disgust. He shook his head and raised his chin. Running around
harassing us normal wolves.
Im interested in what youre selling, she said.
His eyes narrowed as he studied her face.
She cleared her throat. Something just for werewolves.
The dealer visibly relaxed and leered at her. Why didnt you
say so? I got the best Bane in town.
She frowned. Bane had started appearing in Echo Falls months
ago. Supposedly only a decent high for humans, some tweaking
had turned the drug into the ultimate high for werewolves. It
promised to expand all the senses to wolf levels while the user
stayed in human form. Every werewolf could feel like a pure bred

Painted Words 2014 | 225

even during the new moon when they were at their weakest.
Already more attacks and violence were being reported, not only
around Echo Falls but in the surrounding towns as well.
No thanks, she said. I want something specific. That comes
in a syringe.
He sniffed. I dont deal that crap.
She crossed her arms over her chest.
Gel caps only. Easy to move, easy to hide, easy to take.
You dont have anything else? David asked. The Cure?
The dealer snorted and shook his head. Lemme go, morons.
If you wanna believe in fairy tales, I dont want nothin to do with
you.
As much as Lily wanted to keep questioning him, she sensed
he was telling the truth. With nothing to lose and two potential
customers to gain, he would have told them if he had anything
close to what they wanted. He might have tried to pass the Bane
off as something else, but he wasnt smart enough for that.
Another dead end.
She began to feel the cold and her lack of sleep, her mind and
her muscles all protesting. Lets tie him up.

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Grimheim
Shantara Johnstone
The world of Grimheim is dissolving into chaos and madness. In
an attempt to rebuild order, the queens army has attempted to
develop heroes of extraordinary power to find and conquer the
source of the decay by temporarily sending conscious minds into
a bigger, tougher, more solid world: our planet Earth.
Erica Reinhardt unknowingly possesses one such consciousness.
She despises her mundane life, so when a series of strange beings
lure her into their chaotic universe, she is entirely willing. But
when she arrives, she must face outlaws, monsters, curses and
the constant threat of insanity in a place where the earthly laws
of nature are not obeyed. She must learn to use the chaos and her
humanity to her advantage, and journey to the World Tree with
her new friends: a reckless troublemaker, a heartbroken soldier
and a wild, riddling girl. Someone is poisoning the Tree, and the
illness is spreading throughout Grimheim. Erica must find a cure
before the world is entirely rewritten.
Flight of the Wren

rica woke up late in the morning. Her eyelids felt heavy and
swollen, and a dull ache travelled around her head, but her
mind was clear. There was no emotion left inside; she had used it
all. Her only desire now was to stay under the warm blankets and
sleep forever.

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There was a tap on the door, forcing Erica to pay attention. She
buried her face in darkness under her blanket, and pretended to be
sleeping, but Roland was never fooled. He walked in and knelt on
the floor by her side. The rich smell of chocolate reached Ericas nose.
Are you going to stay in there forever? he said gently.
Erica tried to nod with her face full of blanket.
Alright. Ill make sure no one else bothers you. But youre
bound to get hungry sometime, so I made you some chocolate
pudding. I think I finally got it right.
Erica peeked up at him. Even though he was trying to cheer her
up, he still looked terribly sad.
Thank you, she managed to whisper.
You were extraordinary. Its the least you deserve.
Then why do I feel worse?
Roland took a deep breath, and placed the bowl of pudding
on the table. Its hard to be positive in a place like this, especially
when youve seen its darkest secrets. But youve given the people
someone to admire, and something to hope for. All you can do
now is put on a brave face and tell them everything will be okay.
Will we be okay, really?
He shrugged. I have no idea. But the sky is looking a little
brighter today. He stood up. Ill be downstairs, if you need
anything. Oh, and Leah would like you to visit her today.
A few minutes after Roland had left, Erica felt just strong
enough to sit up and take the bowl from the table. Everything hurt
inside her, but it did well to remind her that she was still alive. She
hugged the warm bowl and breathed in the fragrance. She had
never smelled anything sweeter.
***
Leah was sitting in her dining room. All of the furniture had been
pushed to the walls, making the room look much larger than
normal. Sunlight hit the centre of the floor from the tall window.
Dust floated eerily through the air. Erica imagined there would be

228 | Painted Words 2014

some punishment ready for her. Her shoulders tensed, and pain
shot down her spine.
Good afternoon, Leah, said Erica timidly. She saw the teachers
look of disappointment, and remembered at last to curtsey.
Indeed, Erica. Roland has told me of yesterdays events.
You were stupid to save that pawn of the Queens, but it had a
devastating effect on the morale of the Hive. I wouldnt have
believed the story from any other mouth, but Roland is dear to
me, and he clearly wants to help you. So he has convinced me to
continue your training, starting today.
Erica couldnt stop her shoulders from sagging. She couldnt
take the abuse for much longer.
Whats the matter? Do you need to be somewhere else?
No, not at all, said Erica weakly, but Im exhausted. I can
barely think.
That is perfect, said Leah. Dont think. Dont even speak for
now. Clear your mind of all that nonsense you fill it with. It will
do you good. Now walk to the middle of the room, and face me.
Erica reluctantly stepped forward until her feet were illuminated
by the light, and tried to ignore her impulses. She wasnt going to
run away or crumble this time. Roland had given her a second
chance to learn from this irrational woman, so she was going to
take it, for his sake.
Stand straight and tall. Thats it. Arms by your sides but hold
them strong. Chin up, girl. There we are; now hold still. Leah
slowly stood up from her chair. You have a grand imagination,
and youve proven how far it can take you. But the mind is weak
without a body to carry it. You are not physically strong, which
makes you unbalanced and easy to catch off-guard. So, we will
train your body to be as strong as your mind, and then perhaps
you will be unstoppable.
If Ericas head hadnt been so quiet, she would have missed the
hint of concern in Leahs voice, or thought she had imagined it.

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I dont need to be unstoppable, Erica replied. The Hivers have


crawled back into the ground. Theres nothing else to be done.
Leah shook her head. You know that isnt true, otherwise we
would all be celebrating. Youve only solved half the problem.
What?
Leahs eyes opened wide, and the tendons in her neck strained.
Use your eyes, and your ears! The steps are already laid out for
you. Put them together and you will have your dance.
Sorry, my what?
Your dance! Youre slouching again.
It hurts to stand straight. And I thought you said I couldnt dance.
Breathe through the pain. Thats the only way youll get
anywhere in life. Now shut up! Leah slammed her foot on the
ground. Ripples seemed to move through the air, hitting Erica
with a force that knocked the voice out of her chest.
Leah took a slow, deep breath, and closed her eyes. Then she
continued, quietly, You know that I used to be one of the gypsies.
I was a dancer, the best they had. I would stun the crowds in every
town, and lure in piles of money at the end of the show. It was my
grandfather who taught me how.
He told me that the trick was to release all thought, to open
yourself up to the world. The ethereal nature of this place has
one great advantage: it can be influenced, by anyone who knows
how. Dance is one way of changing things; some people are able to
use music, or even alchemy. With such a talent, you can make the
ground tremble, or draw money from someone elses pocket. You
could even alter someones mind.
Ericas voice finally returned. I dont understand-
No, your mind does not understand. But your body does. Look
at how perfect your posture has stayed this past minute.
Erica was all of a sudden surprised to realise how tall she was
standing, and how natural it felt. Breath came and went steadily, deep
within her chest, slowly pumping away the weariness of her muscles.

230 | Painted Words 2014

Leah sat down again, and for the first time, she smiled.
Now you are ready, she said.
She twisted around to pick up a lute which had been hanging
on the back of the chair. Well begin with music, to make it a little
easier. I wasnt a musician as much as a dancer, but I think I can
manage a simple tune.
She plucked at the strings, one at a time, and notes filled the
room with warm chimes.
You know the routine already, so dont think about it. Listen to
the music, look straight ahead, and let your body follow through.
The song began simply, with four notes in steady repetition.
Erica stared at the wall, and struggled to remember how the dance
proceeded. It seemed so long ago that she had learned it. If she
could just get the first step, then...
The music rose in complexity, and Erica felt a spark of
recognition. She could hear a melody, but it wasnt coming from the
lute. It came from somewhere deep inside her chest in the air of
her lungs. The deeper she looked, the stronger the melody became,
until it was almost too much to bear. Then she remembered the
first step. Erica was dancing, in twirls and leaps, and strong steps.
At times she missed a beat, or fell out of a spin, but she didnt
stop. She repeated the sequence over and over until it was perfect,
until it spoke the melody in her lungs. Her bones felt hollow, like a
birds, and she was able to twist through the air without resistance.
She didnt have to think about it. There was only emotion. She felt
truly insane, but she also felt alive, like she wasnt just a survivor
anymore. If she pushed a little further, perhaps she could fly.
***
The music ceased, and Erica broke free from her trance. She stood
for a moment in a daze, and then her knees collapsed, and she
hit the floor, gasping. A hand rested gently on her back, and she
looked around to see Leah, whose eyes seemed maternal.
I had convinced myself that you couldnt be taught, but

Painted Words 2014 | 231

Ive never been more wrong. What were you feeling, in that last
moment of the dance?
Erica spoke in pants, I wanted to fly I went mad.
Leah laughed. Madness and wisdom are very close friends.
You floated just now, for a couple of seconds. You spun through
the air and your feet didnt touch the ground.
Erica couldnt quite believe it.
Its interesting that they call that song, Flight of the wren,
king of the birds. Now, you need to rest. I dont expect you to feel
too good in the morning, but the reward is worth the pain. Take
the time to stretch your muscles, and then come back tomorrow
afternoon. We still have a lot of work to do.
Erica didnt remember much of what happened that evening
before she collapsed into her own bed. There was only a single
image that stuck in her mind. When the lesson had ended, the sun
was shining from the horizon, and the entire wall opposite the
windows was lit up. Erica had finally managed to stand up again,
and on the wall she saw her shadow: a silhouette of a tall, strong
girl, looking back at her with quiet determination.

232 | Painted Words 2014

Fey Walker
Thomas Alexander
Imelda Webb is a recently-migrated Englishwoman starting her
new life in Portland, Oregon. In her first day on the new job at
Spitteris Second-hand Books, Imelda finds she has the rare ability
to travel between the realms of the human world and the world of
faeries, elves and spirits.
Under the reticent tutelage of veteran Fey Walker Lucinda
Caroll, Imelda must come to grips with her new powers, all the
while trying to start a new life away from home. But when threats
from the Fey start to follow her back into the real world, Imelda
must fight against time, nature and magic to protect her new
friends and keep the worlds from going to war.
This section appears shortly after the beginning of the novel; Imelda has
travelled into Portland from the outer suburbs to go to her first day at her
new job

melda walked down, past the circle of couches and armchairs,


where the light pre-lunch crowd were sipping their organic, fair
trade soy monstrosities. She passed the row upon row of tables
laden with pre-loved books, literary masterpieces sitting alongside
pulp holiday fare, and past the sparse shelves reserved for the
obligatory bestsellers stocked for the inevitable customer who

Painted Words 2014 | 233

failed to read second-hand on the window out front. Finally,


Imelda made her way to owner and manager Alice Spitteris tiny,
shoebox office. Um, hello Imelda said, but stopped when Alice
held up one finger, the other hand tracing along the last few lines
of a page in front of her. As Alice got to the bottom, she carefully
turned the page, placed a bookmark, and looked up, smiling.
Oh, hi; youre early, she said, and Imelda bit her lower lip,
unsure of how to respond. Luckily, Alice remembered her request,
and her eyes widened as she stood up.
Oh, right; yes, theres a public liability insurance form I
need you to sign before we can get you out onto the floor, Alice
exclaimed, looking around her desk for a moment before finally
pulling a sheaf of stapled papers out from under a small stack of
books and a coffee cup. The top page was faintly stained in a ring
where the cup had been sitting. Handing the form over with a pen,
Alice began to move the stacks around until she was able to push
out past Imelda, as she waited for her to finish signing. Imeldas
careful, neat signature, its loops and swirls practised and precise,
was finally added, the ink running slightly in the still damp coffee
stain. She handed it back over to Alice and the two women moved
out into the main room.
Well have maybe an hour, but your resume said youd
worked in bookstores before so this should really be nothing
new; orientation more than training, yeah? Alice asked, and
Imelda nodded.
Yes; I worked at a Borders before they closed, and then at a
small boutique on High Street she began to explain, but Alice
had already moved on.
Excellent! So, theres not much to show; youll take counter
while I do the books in the afternoons, then stack that days
acquisitions after closing. Therell be some other minor duties; restacking shelves where the customers have moved things around,
running the counter over at Rhys end if he gets swamped, that sort

234 | Painted Words 2014

of thing, Alice said, before looking around with a frown.


Actually, speaking of Rhys? Alice asked, looking over at the
tall black barista.
Yeah, boss? Rhys replied, handing change back to a customer
with their cappuccino and muffin.
Do you reckon you could help Imelda out while she gets the
hang of things here?
Hmm, he replied, as another customer arrived, heading
straight for the bar, Id have to close up the counter I cant help
run the store and serve coffee simultaneously.
Oh, god no, thats where most of the business comes from.
Its just there should have been a delivery today, and I need to go
check with the post Alice trailed off, looking around the room.
Whats wrong with the new girl taking a shot at it? Theres
not too many people here, and she seems capable, Rhys replied,
winking at Imelda, who once more felt her cheeks flush. She
was glad for her darker skin, or she was sure she would have
been a bright pink. Alice was looking at her sideways, as though
sizing her up.
How about it; how quickly do you think you could take
the reins? she asked. Imeldas eyes widened, but she smiled
nevertheless.
Oh, straightaway, Im sure, she replied, and Alice nodded.
I can handle it, I promise, Imelda replied, and Alice smiled.
Okay, well lets get you a log-in for the system, and then Ill
leave you to it, she said. Creating a new account took only a
few moments, and soon Alice was throwing her satchel over her
shoulder and wrapping a scarf around her neck.
Okay, Ill only be about forty-five minutes an hour at the
top. If you have any problems that you cant solve on your own
and Rhys cant help, record it and Ill look at it when I get back,
Alice said.
Of course, Imelda replied, and Alice left with only a short
backwards glance.

Painted Words 2014 | 235

Imelda was left seated at the high stool behind the counter,
smiling, looking around the room.
Of the few customers present, most were nothing significant
to the average onlooker. An older man, perusing a history of
wars long passed that he most likely fought in. A woman flicking
through childrens books, her other hand resting on her sevenmonth-pregnant belly. A trio of bespectacled young students, a
boy and girl arguing profusely over the finer points of Vonneguts
works while a second boy sipped his latte. But of them all, the eye
was consistently drawn to a figure near the front, leaning against
the window and flicking through a large hardcover, the dust-cover
long lost to the ages, its embossed title too distant for Imelda to
make out.
The figure was that of a woman, in her early twenties, her fair,
aquiline features giving her an air of maturity in contrast to the
impish grin tweaking the corners of her mouth. Her hair, tufty
and short, was a vivid orange-red, like liquid flame caught in
a moment. Her limestone blue eyes and lips were made-up in
black, making her pale skin glow. She wore a leather jacket over a
singlet of a band Imelda had never heard of, and skinny magenta
jeans tucked into knee-high black motorcycle boots. In short,
the girl looked and stood in such a way that, to Imelda, justified
the existence of several genres of music, most of which strongly
featured electric guitars.
It was in her admiration of this apparition that Imelda found
herself lost when she suddenly realised someone was attempting
to speak with her.
Excuse me! repeated the old man, visibly frustrated, I havent
got too many days left to spend any of them waiting on dreamers.
Oh! Im so sorry. How may I help you? Imelda asked, flushing
slightly.
The old man pressed his lips together and rolled his eyes. I was
asking if you had the next one in this series? he asked, waving a

236 | Painted Words 2014

small paperback in Imeldas face. Wordlessly, she took the book


from him and looked at the frontispiece.
Okay, sure, so the next one is The Grand Alliance. Please wait
here and Ill go and take a look, Imelda replied. The old man
huffed and nodded. Imelda locked the computer, threw her
lanyard and swipe card over her head, and moved back through
the door behind her into the storage room.
The room beyond was deep, with high, vaulted ceilings and
filled wall to wall with shelved boxes of books. Once upon a time
the building had been a hotel, with a grand entrance hall and
reception dominating the lower floor. Now, with the rooms above
converted into apartments, the entrance hall had been split into
the shop out front and the quiet maze of shelves. Imelda almost
felt as though she could sense the years piled up and forgotten, her
footsteps sending echoes throughout the room as they fell upon
the old marble flooring. The air was cool and dry, and Imelda could
feel the hair begin to stand up on her skin as she looked further,
trying to find a shelf for historical memoir.
As Imelda ran her fingers across the outside of the second box
stacked full of true crime thrillers, she heard a sound, rather unlike
any sound she expected. It was of a whispered voice, too hushed in
tone to make out any words, from deeper into the stacks.
Hello? Imelda called out to the room, but the whispers
continued as though the speaker hadnt heard her. Looking around,
to see if she might spot the source of the noise, Imelda walked on,
and the whispers grew clearer.
The court the court has assembled has assembled came the
voices. It was clearly more than one. Although they seemed to
be saying the same thing, there was a slight delay to some of the
speakers, the words tumbling over one another like a creek over
stones in its path.
Hello? Imelda asked again, and began to walk faster,
moving from row to row to try and find the source of the noise,
but finding nothing.

Painted Words 2014 | 237

Onwards she went, twisting through the gaps as the shelves


split at odd angles, running down between corridors of books
and all the while straining to catch any hint of the direction she
should run. After a moment, the voices faded away, and Imelda
slowed her pace, everything silent as she moved towards the end
of one shelf.
When she realised she could no longer hear her footfalls on the
marble, she stopped.
Looking down, Imelda saw that her shoes no longer stood upon
dusty marble tiles. Instead, they stood upon packed earth, like on
a path leading through a forest. The air felt warm on her skin and,
looking up again in shock, Imelda found that she was no longer
standing in between the shelves of the bookshop storage room.
Instead, she was standing in the middle of a well-trodden path
through a dense, lush forest. The trees hemmed in around her,
long, vine-choked branches criss-crossing above her head. Large,
spindly ferns reached up from the forest floor. In every possible
gap, either hanging from tree branches or poking out from between
plants were the most vivid array of bright, lurid flowers, speckling
the greens and the browns of the forest with oranges, reds, blues
and purples.
What in the world Imelda exclaimed, looking around for
any sign of the store. Instead in every direction, the store had
vanished from her entirely, leaving nothing but the forest.
Turning back to face her front, Imelda spotted a glimmer in the
distance, a flicker of light between the trees.
Hello? she called out, starting to walk towards the light. There
was no answer. The path, which had been perfectly flat a moment
ago, was now riddled with divots and channels where water had
flown through, and Imelda very nearly twisted her ankle as she
walked carelessly forward.
Ow, she cried aloud, and when she looked up once more she
noticed several more flickers of light had joined the one she had

238 | Painted Words 2014

been following, off in the distance. Whats more, they appeared


to be moving, almost like fireflies. As she approached, the lights
lifted up into the air, disappearing into the canopy above her head.
No, wait, she called out, rushing forward, although she
was not entirely sure why. Something within her said that the
lights were not harmful, and she would be better off near them
than away.
As Imelda delved deeper into the forest, the track narrowed,
until with every step her skirt brushed the ferns either side.
Now and then she was forced to stop and brush aside spiny
creeper vines which tugged and snagged on her clothes, all the
while focussed on pushing deeper, to reach the spot where the
lights had been.
As the path began to slope downwards, Imelda could hear the
sound of running water, like a creek or river flowing up ahead.
Pushing between two trees, Imelda looked ahead and saw a gap
in the tree line; a fallen trunk that stretched out over a stream.
The trunk was old, but solid, and its surface was coated in a thick
layer of flowering moss, most likely due to the mist rolling off
the waters surface. Floating gently above the stump, out over the
middle of the stream, were three floating lights, similar to those
Imelda had seen only a few moments before. Now, though, she
was close enough to see that they were definitely not fireflies.
In the centre of each corona of light floated the form of a small,
human-like figure. Their legs floated beneath them, like wasps,
and their small eyes were nearly entirely black. Each was dressed
in scraps of leaves and ferns, and their hair was wild and long,
male and female each. Imelda was so shocked by the sight that she
didnt even notice the branch she was leaning against had begun
to bend, and with a crack it collapsed beneath her and she crashed
to the forest floor. The small figures looked around, and catching
sight of her they shot into the trees, moving quickly and sharply
like insects.

Painted Words 2014 | 239

Wait! Imelda cried out, but the creatures had disappeared.


Imelda picked herself up from the ground, and crept out onto the
log, sitting and looking around.
Hello? My name is Imelda Webb. I I dont know how I got
here. I dont know where here is. Please, if you can help, Id like
to go home, she said, and with a catch in her throat she realised
that she really was more frightened than shed thought. She had no
idea how shed ended up here, but she wanted to be gone.
With a start, she realised that one of the creatures had landed
beside her, and was looking up at her with curiosity in its tiny,
dark eyes. Scaled up in size, Imelda considered that the little man
would be physiologically similar to an adult, but the expression of
curious wonder on his face was so pure and unfiltered that Imelda
felt like she was looking at a child.
Cautiously, she reached out with her hand and laid it flat, palm
up, on the log in front of the tiny faerie. Slowly, like a wild animal
sniffing out an unfamiliar piece of food, the little man approached,
and climbed up onto Imeldas hand. Careful not to move too
quickly and startle him, Imelda raised her hand to her eye level,
and examined the tiny creature. Up close, now that she was used
to the light that streamed off every exposed inch of skin, she could
see the long, gossamer dragonfly wings that stretched from his
shoulder blades down to his ankles, and the large, heavy muscles
on his shoulders and abdomen that moved them.
Can you help me? Imelda asked, and the little figure nodded.
With a short, sharp buzzing sound, the little faerie shot up into the
air, and moved to float over the other end of the fallen tree, on the
other side of the creek. Imelda pushed herself back up to her feet,
balancing awkwardly on the moss-covered bark.
You want me to follow you? she asked, and the little creature
chittered, buzzing forward and back. Imelda nodded, and began
to move forward.
She was about halfway, when there came a sudden, immense

240 | Painted Words 2014

crashing noise, and for a moment she was surrounded by a cloud


of light. As the cloud moved on, Imelda realised that an entire
swarm of the fairy creatures had taken sudden and frantic flight,
flooding around her as they moved across the creek, away from
the noise. Imelda struggled to keep her balance, and had just
returned upright long enough to look around when she was struck
heavy on the side by a much larger figure shooting from the trees,
hurtling her across the rest of the way to the other bank.
Hey, what she began, before looking up and seeing the
flame-haired woman from the shop standing over her. The woman
was pulling a large green handkerchief from her pocket, and was
hunkering down over Imelda.
What are you she stammered, but the woman turned and
slapped a hand over Imeldas mouth.
Stay quiet, and dont look at it, the woman snapped, before
twirling the handkerchief in the air. One second the strip of cloth
was only a few inches wide, the next it was a massive blanket that
floated down around them. Imelda looked up at the other woman,
but she had her eyes screwed shut, covering Imelda with her body
and listening hard as another crashing sound echoed around
them, much closer. The crashing sound was followed by a series of
thuds, like a large animal moving heavily up the creek bed. There
was a loud, drawn out hiss, and a sudden, warmth, like a blast of
hot breath tinged with the smell of rotting meat. Imelda gagged,
struggling to keep quiet as a shadow passed overhead.
After a moment, the crashing sound moved on, further up the
creek, and the flame-haired woman picked herself up off Imelda,
the blanket once more only a small strip of cloth being stuffed
hastily back into a pocket.
Are you okay? the woman asked, and Imelda nodded, taking
the womans proffered hand and getting back to her feet.
What was that? Imelda asked, her breathing ragged. The
woman rolled her shoulders back and leant back onto one foot.

Painted Words 2014 | 241

Basilisk; youre lucky the Little Folk showed me where youd


wandered off to, else youd be lizard-chow by now. What are you
doing out here alone, and without any gear? she asked, frowning,
and Imelda opened her arms out wide.
I have no idea where I am? One second I was in the storeroom
at the bookstore, the next second I was here. What the hell is going
on? she growled. The other woman looked sideways at Imelda,
one eyebrow raised.
You seriously just stepped through? Unintentionally? she
asked. Imelda shrugged, and the other woman looked away for a
moment. After a second she held out a hand.
Lucinda Caroll; friends call me Lu, she said, and Imelda took
her hand.
Imelda Webb, she replied.
Well, Imelda Webb; welcome to the world of faeries, elves and
beasties. Youre a Fey Walker now.

Poetry

244 | Painted Words 2014

Absence
Allis Maun
chair
standing there
like a held breath
waiting

Painted Words 2014 | 245

Autumn
Anthea Matley
Grass parrots burst through branches
in waves,
one tree ahead.
The cold afternoon light fades
Stillness
shot by darting movement and startled cries
of a green cloud.
Dipping and weaving,
with wings folded tight
against green and gold bodies
Plunging through branches.
surprised
by a traveler
in heavy boots.
Unsettled now
perched in a gum.
Will she move on,
leaving them alone?
She walks on, to the far
wooden bridge.
The green cloud moves back
biting on unripe fruit,
spilling flesh
to get to the stone
A carpet of black, brown and green
lies under each tree
Spoilt
Compost

246 | Painted Words 2014

Fading
Anthea Matley
Red geraniums, crouched
Among purple salvias
Demanding to be seen
Soft lambs ears
Quietly positioned
Taking centre stage
Cream dirt paths
Curve through the boobialla
Their white star flowers
Studded with bees
Trying to work
With shortening days

Painted Words 2014 | 247

Omelettes
Anthea Matley
Inside
three straw-cushioned nests.
In each a hen-warmed egg
blue, white, brown.
The Silki is warm
as I lift her light body,
small bones pushing through
white feathers.
She pecks and struggles,
growls
as I remove her miniature egg,
place her gently down.
She fluffs, shakes flightless wings,
settles down,
on her empty nest.
Outside
a rooster scratches hard
in frost frozen mud.

248 | Painted Words 2014

Runaway
Angus Fenton
Well Mr Runaway,
What have you for me?
Ive been outside this door
Since half past three
We went for a walk this way
I was shocked by what Id find
A place Id seldom seen,
But you didnt mind
The night air welcomes me in
And leaves without a trace
Well Mr Runaway,
What happened to your face?
You think you go your own way
But you know not
Lessons learnt by runaway
Are easily forgot
You took me by the old churchyard
To see where your heart died
But it still reminded you
That day you went and lied
Down by the river bed
You saw your journey end
Ill always remember
My old friend

Painted Words 2014 | 249

Spider
Lynda Graham
You did not mean
to be so lowly born,
and with a countenance
lost to cruel function.
You did not mean
to breach our human space
and test its ownership
with your nightmare tread.
You did not want
to lose your web pashmina
and your offspring, shrouded
within its plasmic folds.
You did not want
to finish in that place
but halting steps exposed
your ghastly presentation.
I did not want
to kill you.

250 | Painted Words 2014

Left
Lynda Graham
His cold pipe
in a glass ashtray
Leather pouch,
left unbuttoned
Brown shoes
creased, abandoned
Glasses on
an unfinished book

Painted Words 2014 | 251

Jazz Family
Noel Parratt
The Drummer, Sax and Bass.

A singers voice
Smooth, like honey on a summer afternoon.

Patriarch on the brand new Grand.
Ivory, reed and strings.

Bright lights and centre stage.
The evenings cold warmed up.

Sax solo
Rhythm accompaniment.

Soul-full tunes that stir deep
down deep.
Siblings play connected by an unseen thread.

Grand master on the Grand Piano wisely directing.

Crescendo building, fingers running and jumping.
Vibrant applause.

Telling a story. Jazz style.
Get comfy relax see a pattern find a hook.

Not too relaxed now
A chord
a beat
a run of keys

A snare drum

Reverberates against.

The voice soothes
connects the notes
The bigger picture joined a musical canvas of colour and light.
Shafts and movement.

No still-life here.
The joy
rich.
Echoing through joints and sinews,
Connecting elements.
A tingle here
a buzz there.
A flow-a-space-a-direction-a-gap all join together.
Expressing
A whole.

252 | Painted Words 2014

At Heide, January 2014


Robyn Miller
Oaks stoically
create cool havens
the poplars gasping
shed silver-green leaves in swathes
Sluggishly opaque
the Yarra mirrors glare
Swirling sculptures defy
gravity and dissolving heat
Corrugated- iron cows graze
the air above ripples in mimicry
Concrete buildings hunker
voices stifled within and without
Artworks forsaken
prostrate in the shade
I watch a kookaburra
feed her fledgling, on the ground
unafraid.

Painted Words 2014 | 253

Code Complete
Jan Bayliss
she begins by reading her mobile
activate menu item

=> open file

mask of flesh

arent you

curious?

profit is not a dirty word


Copernicus introduced a heliocentric theory
we fear

the unknown

myth of stable requirements


oversight

of the compliant
chain of fate

we cannot see

package a dependency relationship


use a binary search

watch the endpoints

now

hes condemned

top down decomposition


code complete

254 | Painted Words 2014

Refugee Football
Noel Parrat
Manus island wins premiership cup, with displaced person
Swing man conventions governing six points
Relief workers aid handball stats for a free pass
Key defender stops scathing attack on team song
Tough stance for equalisation measures and border protection
Match winning people smugglers use tall ruckmen
Illegal entry to hall of fame by boat people
Goal kicker a shameful act say record crowds
Vulnerable enemies and AFL boss just fear mongering
Season defining in stopping boats for final eight
Heightened secrecy a knee operation with subsidiary protection
A Winning streak, eligible visa and low tackle count
Forced to migrate downfield free a war on truth
Out of bounds refugee agency poaching players
Persecution problem, demons or saints, lost at sea
Umpires call, a tough stance, the final siren sounds.

Using newspapers articles about refugees and newspapers articles about


AFL football, I selected words that were commonly used for each subject.
Then, more or less at random, I wrote them, in pairs and in turn about.
(ie)
two words re refugee issue, two words re AFL, two words re refugee
issue,
two words re AFL, two words re refugee issue, two words re AFL,
repeat.
Then just for fun I added some linking words. (Italics)

Painted Words 2014 | 255

Pandemonium
Shantara Johnstone
The mystery of a stranger
The witness of a murder
Essence of black
Eyes of a cat
Demon blood
Enochian shock
Splinters of self-confidence
A kiss in the witchlight
A vampire bite
The cold, dark dirt of the street
A scar of the heart
Guilt
Mirror shards
A truth too hard to bear
A dash of courage
Screams of anger
A great sacrifice
Love
Hurl together
Expose to the light
Fly
Drown
Cover in layers of paint
Reach in
Breathe out
Remember
Seal up tight

256 | Painted Words 2014

Ode to the City Magic


Shantara Johnstone
Theres something about a trip to the city
That makes you want to dress the p/art
And be anyone you want to be
Just for one day
Theres a sort of inescapable music playing on every street
Like the tick of a clock
Behind a show-stopping number
Drowned out by a tenth symphony
Emanating from a street-side guitar
Theres the shimmer of third-floor stores
And empty cans in the gutter
Drawing you every which way

(Its all about money at the end of the day)
And theres the endless variety of people
Perfectly placed by a mechanical hand
With their suitcases and light-bulb minds
Theyre drawn to the totem for dreamers
The bright lights and high-risers
They move around and around the clock-face design

They pretend to know where theyre going...
The city casts a sort of haze
A constant balance of light

and dark...
The breeze is ever-blowing and the stars ever-glowing
You can see it when you look through their eyes

Painted Words 2014 | 257

Orbs and Blue


Shannon Carter
Orbs of Onyx
And Blue
Framed by Black
And Gold
One tied in White,
Blue, Black
The other wrapped Orange
And Black
Together again,
Onyx and Blue
Together again,
The blades are true.

258 | Painted Words 2014

Autumn, Harcourt 2014


Robyn Miller
The soft green grass of autumn
shows its shy head
then velvets
confidently
frogs clamour in the damp places
tiny spiders float
tying up airy gaps with fine silk
shining loops stretch in the breeze
the earth and I breathe
thankful
that the sun still follows its course
to the north
turning its fierce face away

Painted Words 2014 | 259

Rochester Rite
Noel Parratt
The green grass turns into a car park
Death waits patiently for those dressed in black
The preachers gentle tones offer comfort
Urging belief in a life everlasting
Family huddles near on white plastic chairs
Beneath the warm bright autumn sun
Standing behind for strength and support
Friends recall a mate they wont easily forget
Silent heads bowed, low with despair
A joyous life has ended with sadness
A recital of a favourite tune is played
By a son on his masterful trumpet
Sweet sounds that demand lifted glasses
Wiping eyes dry for a loved one so near
Rose petals sprinkled from above to below
A peaceful farewell to reluctant denial

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An Ordinary Day
Jan Bayliss
The day began in such an ordinary way,
it was, just an ordinary day,
discomfort of travelling, early summer heat,
unusual, unbearable,
beating,
on the roof of the car,
blood pulse magnified
at my temple.
A blue line on the horizon drew us,
down into town,
a sea hamlet,
you took my hand,
we walked along the beach,
breeze, cool, sand whipping our faces
sea surging, pounding,
an endless shoreline,
waves running across sand,
ripple,
slap,
of white foam,
water, air, silver, white,
sand, velvet gold,
brocaded with sea-weed,
colours,
deepened by evening light,
saturating air already heavy and salt laden.

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We searched for pipis,


hyperbole marks in wet sand,
water foaming,
speckled,
sea-drawn by the undertow,
we laughed at each new find,
soothed by endless motion of,
water, wind,
vastness of beach, isolation of ,
towering dunes,
and always,
the relentless roar of ocean.
Except for the gulls we could have been,
the only living creatures.
Later we sat wharf-side, ate fish and chips,
the night hot, still,
sleep,
disturbed by whir of air-conditioner,
lethargy of morning,
drained we drove out of town,
winding hills,
through sultry air shimmering with heat,
into forest,
vibrating with,
the deafening song of cicadas,
faint tang of smoke.

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The Drop
Allis Maun
jagged
black stone
falling
into
flowing rivers
end

Non-Fiction

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Faraday
Anthea Matley

araday is a name associated with a dark past, but the Faraday


of today has shaken off the shadow of its infamous school
kidnapping and moved on.
The two approaches to Faraday could not be more different.
You could join the throngs on the freeway and feel the desperation
of drivers of all sorts of vehicles: motor bikes, cars in all their
shapes, colours and forms; small vans to B-double trucks, all
vying for space and position, hurtling through Faraday at 110kms
an hour and not seeing anything except roadside vegetation and
other traffic.
Or approaching Faraday from the Melbourne side, take the
road now less travelled; the Old Calder Freeway, now renamed
Harmony Way. This road was once as hectic as the new freeway
but is now a quiet, meandering thoroughfare, ushering travelers
gently into the peaceful and rural village of Faraday.
A variety of land uses is evident. Serious farming sits
beside hobby farms, olive groves and vineyards. New housing
showcases the popularity of the area, mainly by people who
want a quiet and private rural existence. Houses are dotted
through the trees discreetly and the abundant wildlife attests to
quiet lifestyles led here.
Although there is no established infrastructure in the solid form

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of buildings, meeting halls, sports grounds, or recreational areas


supporting a village, there is a community group and a strong
community spirit.
The community now gathers at Dunstans Flat. This beautiful
piece of land, accessed from the Faraday-Chewton Road and
fronted by two oak trees, is an open woodland. Its gently undulating
ground is carpeted by wildflowers, soft grass and shaded by giant,
open limbed eucalypts.
A small, dedicated group of Faraday residents produce a
newsletter and organise social events. With the popularity of the
area increasing it is hoped to more people will assist with growing
our little community.
Yes, Faraday today is a changed place, and all the better for it.

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Mental Health
Anthea Matley

ental health issues. Such a generic term, and one which


doesnt begin to describe the everyday problems of so many
in our society.
Its the father who, despite caring parents, children, medical
professionals, constant care, still decides he would rather kill
himself through alcohol than engage with those that love him? He
had all the help available; money wasnt an issue, and yet he still
preferred to keep drinking.
Its the friend, gorgeous and accomplished says Im not good
at anything. Or the sister on Zoloft for anxiety attacks but living a
fulfilling life and enjoying it.
Its the engineer, an expert in his field, with engaging hobbies,
but still cant lose the weight that may kill him.
Its the teacher, retiring early, no longer able to cope with the
constant verbal abuse from her students with no support from
the school authorities and now doesnt have the concentration to
read a book.
The lack of confidence, feelings of inferiority, are these mental
health issues or just part of the human condition?
The extremes can be easily identified when alcohol or drug
abuse effect the people closest to them and are brought to the
attention of the legal or health systems.

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Its those who arent so obvious who need help too. The
individuals who struggle through their days, perhaps not having
anyone to talk to. The ones too poor to have access to those outlets
which may lift them out of a slump. Weve all had those slumps.
For some, they may only last a day for others weeks.
The elderly are particularly vulnerable. Especially if theyre
in aged-care homes where the food is bland, the physical layout
bland, life in general bland, a rotation of sameness. Nothing like
the homes they had to give up. No personal space except their
bedrooms, and even there the necessary intrusions take place. If
they dont have someone on the outside to take them out, see fresh
faces and taste real food, the days all roll into one. These outings
can have a negative effect too, as it reminds them of where they
are, what they once were. Their infirmities accentuated as they
struggle in and out of cars, slumped on walking frames. No young
faces in those facilities.
It doesnt take much to feel enriched and involved. Happiness
is fleeting, I prefer contentedness. We all feel disappointed, angry,
or anxious at some time, but does that mean we all have mental
health issues?
As Gordon Livingston said, we all need someone to love,
something to do, something to look forward to.

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Easter 2014
Carolynn Roberts

he thundering of firecrackers, the rumbling of drums, the


crashing of gongs and cymbals and the ringing of church
bells off in the distance. This is the sound of Easter in Bendigo.
From the audience, everything looks so easy and amazing and
you dont know how much effort goes on behind the scenes.
The Bendigo Chinese Association (BCA) starts preparing for
next years Easter almost before the current Easter has finished.
It involves long days of training, along with months of early
mornings and late nights spent in preparation. It involves inviting
teams from across the country, planning what we are performing
and gathering volunteers and sponsors. This year, Easter was just
as busy as always.
Every year thousands come to the Gala Parade on Sunday to
see Sun Loong weave through the streets of Bendigo and nearly
ninety volunteers are needed to carry him, but before he can come
out, he needs to be woken up. The Awakening of the Dragon is the
title given to the event in which we wake up Sun Loong from his
year-long sleep.
Each year, the Awakening of the Dragon has something new
added to it and the donation dance gets better, with money raised
going to Bendigo Health. This year it was an unseen northern lion,
or Pekingese, versus the southern lion. These lions would normally

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perform separately as they are two different styles. Also new this
year were three new dances by the Plum Blossom dancing team;
the semi-seniors waist drum dance, the seniors long sleeve dance
and our alumni, who are members who cant come to training due
to family and work commitments, long fan dance. To close the
awakening, a string of 100,000 firecrackers is lit to ward off bad
spirits. This year we added another string of 100,000 crackers to
wake Sun Loong.
Prior to the awakening, teams have a chance to perform at
Spring Festival, involving the items that arent being performed
at the awakening with all teams performing lion dances. Hung
Gar Yau Shu (HGYS) perform a drum dance every year and it gets
better every time, with more drums and bigger ones added. The
Chinese Youth Society of Melbourne (CYSM) have a Lotus Dragon
dance, where they start the performance off dancing with ten lotus
flowers that join together, with a head and tail added to form a
dragon to finish the performance. The BCA Plum Blossom dancing
team performing all of our old dances, leaving the new ones a
surprise for the awakening.
Sunday was the gala parade, with Sun Loong as the main
attraction. This year we were a few volunteers short but we still
managed to have all our dragons and props out. Before the parade
we had an inter-team egg hunt organised by CYSM for anyone who
wanted to participate, with all the teams having lunch together in
the back car park behind our training rooms and all volunteers
having lunch in the side car park. A few of us were still tired and
sore from the torchlight event the night before. We tend to look
forward to this, but this year we didnt. None of us wanted to walk
down View St and we all were feeling cold. Huddled together to
keep warm, we discussed the new route, and how View St wasnt
going to be fun for any of us. Looking at Chinese Youth League
(CYL) in their warm hoodies with flashing zips, we thought we
could go for one of those.

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During the torchlight, the walk down View St wasnt as bad as


we all thought it would be; it was easy and a short walk back to
the Golden Dragon Museum with a really good turnout for the
weather, the streets lined with three or four rows of people all
trying to watch. Whereas for the people in the gala parade, it felt
harder. We started the walk up Park and Gaol Rd; it was harder to
do in the day, because we could see where we were walking. The
wait in the QEO car park wasnt as long as it was for the torchlight,
so we werent complaining about sore feet like the night before.
Before long we were moving down View St; it was difficult to walk
slowly down the hill stopping every few metres, dancing and
posing. Once we started on Pall Mall we felt a little bit of relief; it
was almost the home straight, but we felt like we were walking for
a long time.
Friday night was the welcome dinner with the visiting teams,
Hung Gar Yau Shu Martial Arts School from Melbourne, the
Chinese Youth Society of Melbourne and the Chinese Youth
League of Australia from Sydney as well as all performing team
members of the BCA. The dinner is a huge barbeque with games,
and a chance to meet new friends and catch up with old ones.
Getting back to the rooms was joy, knowing that it was all over
for this year and it went well. Now to start thinking about next
year and what we can do differently. We all hope that the parade
route goes back to normal next year, just for the guys carrying Sun
Loong and pushing the drum carts.

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Wreck-It Ralph Review


Carolynn Roberts

reck-It Ralph is a great family movie. It is action-packed,


funny, and will appeal to all age groups. Its about a video
game villain who wants to be a hero like Fix It Felix Jr (voiced by
Jack McBrayer), the hero of their video game.
After thirty years Ralph (voiced by John C Reilly) is tired of
being the bad guy. While trying to fulfil this dream, he wreaks
havoc throughout the games arcade when he sneaks into a modern
first person shooter featuring tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun
(voiced by Jane Lynch).
His plans to prove his heroism go awry when he accidently
unleashes a deadly enemy into the arcade.
Will Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman), a
young troublemaking glitch from a candy-coated cart racing
game, be able to teach Ralph what it means to be a good guy before
its game over for the entire arcade?

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Medieval Nights
Louise Wardle
Do my eyes deceive me? Is that a medieval skirmish in the middle of
Bendigo?

endigo, just a two hour drive from Melbourne, had humble


beginnings as a gold mining town in central Victoria. It is
a multicultural city full of historical buildings, a delightful art
precinct, and a colourful Chinese precinct. It has retained that
great country feel, openness and hospitality. Over the decades
Bendigos population has steadily risen and now boasts over
100,000 residents and is still growing. Even with such a large
population, Bendigo still manages to hide its medieval skirmishes
well. Tucked in among the new hospital development and the
showgrounds is a medieval warzone. Anyone driving past would
not be blamed for thinking they were entering an episode of the
Twilight Zone. Men and women, sporting chain-mail and tabards,
charge at each other with drawn swords and shields across a green
playing field cum battlefield. Just add a few fire-breathing dragons,
a couple of catapults, a castle wall, and a token damsel in distress
and the scene would be complete.
Tarps and road cones representing bodies of water and bridges
are strewn about an inner suburban sports field, nestled between
a bowling club and a soccer ground. Enthusiastic role players dot

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the field in varying degrees of costume from full medieval regalia


to tabards and makeshift chainmail. LARPing (Live Action Role
Playing), in the form of Swordcraft, has descended upon Bendigo
and is attracting both males and females, and the young and young
at heart.
Over the years I have encountered a few role playing games
and, unbeknown to many, have taken part in a few Dungeons
and Dragons games (choosing to play a bearded-female dwarf
with healing powers) and hosted a couple of Murder Mystery
dinners for my daughter and her friends. So this fortyish mother
of three understands the basic concepts of role playing. However,
Swordcraft (LARPing) is a form of role play that goes one step
further. Rather than sitting around discussing moves by and
reactions of characters, it involves live action: swords, shields,
bows, arrows, chain-mail, tabards, medieval themes, warfare,
parries, thrusts, thumps, bumps and bruises. The Swordcraft
website describes its form of role playing as paintball meets
medieval/fantasy battle (with a hint of martial arts, historical reenactment, larp [sic] and cosplay) and is inspired by such games,
books, movies and TV series as Warhammer, Lord of the Rings,
or Game of Thrones. David, a novice Bendigonian Swordcrafter
simply describes Swordcraft as taking on a role. You take on the
personality of a character, whether your own idea or a prescribed
one its pretty much just hitting each other with foam swords
David was first introduced to the concept of LARPing through
the movie Role Models (2008) but it wasnt until Swordcraft came
to Bendigo that he actively became involved with LARPing.
Before that, he was content to sit around the lounge room playing
Dungeons and Dragons with family and friends, and/or interacting
with on-line members on role playing forums. Yet, that was all to
change for in mid-spring, in the year twenty-thirteen, Swordcraft
Melbourne (est. January, 2011) set out upon their epic quest to
conquer Bendigo and to recruit keen new soldiers. After an arduous

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drive of some 155km, they arrived in great spirits and proceeded


to overcome the opposing Bendigonian army and establish new
territory; the Swordcraft Bendigo Division was created. Through
Swordcraft Melbournes input of time, energy, experience and
foam swords, Bendigos Swordcraft branch has had its confidence,
equipment and members boosted.
Describing himself as being a medieval enthusiast, David says
he is neither a historian nor a master in swordplay. Despite only
having a couple of opportunities to attend the Bendigo Swordcraft
events, he says he enjoyed the scenarios and liked to lose himself
in the adventures. I was just a skirmisher, often with one or two
swords I called myself a bard who joined the frontline for a new
story to tell (David is a budding writer and likes to use his varied
experiences for story ideas). Of the other Bendigonian players,
David describes them as being a mixed bunch. [S]ome are
brilliant players. Some have fantastic costumes, and some are just
loud, obnoxious children who play rough. His most memorable
Swordcraft experience was when a Melbourne Swordcraft team
(the Bretons) came up for a Wednesday evening skirmish. The two
Bendigo teams (the Order and the Vanguard) united and managed
to defeat the longer established Bretons. David said that the
Bretons described the united Bendigo team as the most organised
barbarians they had ever met.
When asked what can be learnt by participating in LARPing/
Swordcraft, David said the main thing that he learnt was that a lot
of people he didnt get along with liked similar things to him. He
said, for him, this was an advantage as it increased his enjoyment
the fun of the participation and the joy you get from wailing
on someone you dont like with a foam sword [in] moderation, of
course, as you want them to come back healthy so you can beat
them again. In general, role playing games teach diplomacy,
respect, craftsmanship, storytelling, patience, strategy, teamwork,
history (depending upon the theme), and as a sport, keeps you fit.

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If youre over 16, have a hankering for role playing of the


medieval kind, are prepared for a few scrapes and bruises, and have
a few hours to spare, why not rock up on a Wednesday evening at
6:30pm to the Shadforth Oval on Fenton Street, Bendigo?
You dont need a costume, just something comfortable to
battle in. You dont even need a sword as one can be hired for
$2 on the night.
First-timer players pay a low fee of $2. After that, its $10 a night
unless you bring along a new player and then its just $5 for the
returning player.

For more information on Swordcraft, check out: www.swordcraft.com.au or


www.facebook.com/groups/swordcraft

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New Position for Cardinal Pell


Louise Wardle

ardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, has been


appointed to the Vatican by Pope Francis as head of the
Secretariat for the Economy. The reshuffle of appointments to the
financial and administrative departments have been welcomed,
for the Vatican has come under-fire for the way in which it has
operated some of its departments, especially finances, in the past. I,
for one, agree that the reshuffle is a good thing. However, I question
the wisdom of Pope Francis and the Vatican in appointing such a
controversial figure as Cardinal Pell in such a prominent position.
Cardinal Pell will take up his Vatican position after he has given
evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to
Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney at the end of March, 2014.
In a 2012 press conference, a reporter asked Cardinal Pell if a
priest confessed to committing sexual abuse on a child, whether he
would report that priest to the police or not. In response, Cardinal
Pell said that if the confession took place within the confessional
then he could not report that confession but whatever he was told
outside the confessional, he could. Hence lets get this straight if
you are of Catholic denomination and choose to confess your sins
to a priest inside a confessional you are absolved of your sins, or
is that only for other priests? If child sex abuse cannot be reported
then can other abuses, perhaps murder, also go unreported? Does

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confessing ones sins stop the confessor from recommitting the


same sins? The mind boggles at the implications and possibilities
I thought Christianity promoted morals and the concept of good
and bad and the protection of innocents? It seems to me that it is
the sinners who are protected through the existence and rules of
the confessional rather than the innocent.
In May 1993, Cardinal Pell was the support person for Father
Gerald Ridsdale when he was facing court for child sexual abuse
charges. Where was the Churchs support for the victims? Father
Ridsdale was also called back to court to face charges in 1994, 2006
and 2013. Not just one batch of victims but four, and Cardinal Pell
supported this man?
According to Broken Rites Australia, a group who support Church
child abuse victims, Cardinal Pell had known Father Ridsdale since
the early 70s having lived in the same parish for a while. By the
mid-to-late 70s, the Church was well aware that Father Ridsdale
was sexually abusing children, for he was moved from parish to
parish, often moving within a few months of his appointment. The
Church even gave him time-off in the United States of America.
Just how many children did Father Ridsdale abuse, in how many
parishes and how many countries? If the Church knew, then
it is plausible that the clergy knew too. Therefore Cardinal Pell
could have known maybe even had the privilege to take his
confession(s) of the accusations against Father Ridsdale. This
raises the question of who the Church values more, a man who can
keep secrets and protect the institution or a man who can protect
his innocent flock?
It is a sad day when you come to the realisation that the Church
does not exist to serve and protect their flock, but merely exists to
protect itself.
Please note: Broken Rites Australia has helped to make
the Australian public aware of church-abuse of children. In 2013

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this culminated in the Australian Government establishing a


Royal Commission of Inquiry into how religious organisations
have handled (or mishandled) the issue of child sex-abuse.
http://brokenrites.org.au

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Re-enactments
Heather McSwain

became interested in the Inglewood Court Re-enactments when


I lived in Bridgewater in the Old Railway Station. I was invited to
come along by Kevin Poyser. I had no idea what I was to experience,
however I was given the job of the jury Foreman. Ive been a part
of this wonderful group of people for about eight years now. The
Inglewood and District Historical Society commenced these reenactments in 2003. Court cases of the past were written in great
detail. Without the newspaper records of this era and the diligent
journalist of the time; this would not have been possible. John
Morrison, one of the original players, researched the newspapers
of the time and created six scripts of actual cases. Thanks to the
commitment of the Inglewood and Districts Historical Society
members who kept all records and memorabilia.
Our timetable starts half an hour earlier. This allows everyone to
be ready in costume for the arrival of the bus. Visitors are greeted
by ladies in early colonial long dresses, hats and shawls. These are
the days of the Gold Rush. Inside the court we step back in time to
the 1860s. Visitors are led to a seat and some are asked to sit in the
jury. The seating isnt terrific, but its only for one hour.
The Clerk of the Court announces all rise, then he
introduces the warden of the court. The warden presided over
all the mining disputes.

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The first case is a concern about the water reserve of the Gold
Fields. It is a tricky situation which requires the full attention of
the warden. Mr. Cropley has brought the women to court because
overnight they had filled in his shaft. Sarah Egan tells everyone
that this creep has no intentions of digging his shaft. He really
wants to set up his own Puddling machine next to the water
reserve when the water seeps into his shaft. The women win their
case, which is very unusual in those days because it was a mans
world, especially in the courts. When the warden leaves the court
room the women erupt with great cheering and celebration. Well,
not really, they all go off to change for the next case.
The Clerk of Court introduces the presiding judge and requests
everyone to stand. He enters wearing a big, grey, curly wig and
a black robe and formally bows. A case of Larceny, explains
the Clerk of Court. The judge makes sure the jury knows they
have an important job to do and that any shenanigans from the
two in the dock should be ignored. Then the two women of the
night are bought up from the cell into the dock and they are not
happy until they see a lot of men. The judge asks if they have legal
representation. A calamity breaks out from the two women in the
dock and the clerk calls for order. The judge asks them again and
they answer together very sweetly, no, Your Honour. The clerk
asks for Mr Ung to be called. The policeman on duty at the door
calls out extremely loudly. Mr Ung.
A small gentleman of oriental appearance, shuffles in and
heads to the witness box. He is wearing a black gown, a conical
straw hat, and has a very long black hair plait down his back. The
audience giggles momentarily, then gives their full attention to
Mr Ung. There is a candle lit on the Clerk of Courts desk and Mr
Ung is sworn in by the clerk, and then the candle is blown out by
Mr Ung. This is a very quiet, arousing moment. Meanwhile the
two women in the dock are enjoying the situation, even trying to
blow out the candle.

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Mr Ung is asked to tell the court what happened.


The two women had made a plan to rob the gentleman and when
they had emptied his purse they threw it in the fire. Unfortunately
for them, the clasp didnt burn and the police found it in the ashes
in the fire place. There is also a question of a small amount of gold.
The jury finds them guilty and the judge sentences them to four
months hard labour. No more shenanigans for these two.
The next case is announced by the clerk as a Public Nuisance.
An old farming couple have been neglecting their duties in farming
pigs. The couple come in arguing with a bucket and a piglet and
disrupt the court. Once more the Clerk calls for order. The judge
makes his decision and the couple leave. On their way out the
farmer has a go at his wife for not fixing the fence.
Next case is for Assault. (Sorry, I cant tell you everything).
Someone is singing in the foyer of the court and a policeman
brings in a young woman. Henrietta is escorted by a policeman
and they walk closer to the Judge. Henrietta is intrigued with
the judges hair and tells everyone, Hes got a lot of hair. The
policeman then states that Henrietta is harmless, but very much
insane. After the doctor is called as a witness, he explains all the
things Henrietta has told him. The judge signs a certificate and the
court pays for her travel to Melbourne to the asylum. She thinks
she is going on a holiday and is very happy about it too.
Even though Henrietta is a woman, she is more like a child by
her behaviour. This is kind of a funny but sad situation, however it
is what happened in those times.
Abduction is the next case, says the Clerk of Courts. The groom
is placed in the dock and his young bride sits on a seat opposite her
new husband. The clerk asks for Mr Augustus Palmer to be called.
The duty policeman calls him and he walks to the witness box.
His daughter is trying to tell him hes a silly old bugger. After he is
sworn in the judge asked Augustus what happened yesterday?
Mr Palmer said that his lovely daughter was married to that man,

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and he points to the man in the dock. The judge asks the man,
What do you have to say? The groom takes a piece of paper from
his pocket and the policeman hands it to the judge. This paper
is the marriage certificate and as the judge reads it, he asks Mr
Palmer, Who gave the bride away? Mr Palmer answers, proudly
I did. And the judge declares, Case dismissed! Immediately,
the bride stands up and yells out Come on, come on, lets go!
And the groom hurries out through the dock, meets his bride at
the door and runs off with her. Now the groom was a fair bit older
than the bride, but it was a very successful marriage and they had
fifteen children. Some of the descendants still live in Inglewood, so
the names have been changed. To spice things up, the bus driver is
always the groom.
The Clerk of Courts requests that everyone rise, then the judge
stands and bows. On his way out the door he takes notice of the
two flasks, lifts one up and gives it a shake and takes it out the
door with him.
All the players come back into the court room and Kevin tells
the audience a little bit about the court house, how we came to be
there and where we all come from. The groups are farewelled at
the bus and we rush inside to change. A cuppa is ready with freshly
made sandwiches and cake. We enjoy each others company and
like what we do. This may be the only time we are all together.
Alan and Michael come from Bridgewater, and Ken comes
from Newbridge. Alex comes from Maryborough, while Murray
comes from Melbourne but has a home in Inglewood. I now live in
Bendigo. All the others live in Inglewood. In the whole bunch we
have two Alans, two Kevins and two Lyns. Before Dot remarried
and moved to Berrigan, we had two Dots.
Kevin Poyser is always on the lookout for recruits, as it is hard
to keep so many people together at the one time. We all have a
job to do but some of us have more than one job. I used to have
three jobs but if there was an idiot on the bus, I missed out.

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However, I must have become more of an idiot in the last few years
because I always get the job. We only have these jobs in autumn
and spring. There is no pay involved. We are all volunteers for
the Loddon Shire Tourism. In 2011 we were invited to the Loddon
Shire Business and Tourism awards; ten of us dined out in a very
pleasant atmosphere. When the final announcement was made
Kevin and Lyn took to the stage for the presentation. We had
won and Kevin held the crystal trophy proudly. It was a really
memorable evening. I was so happy to have been involved. Then
in 2012, the year of celebrating the Australian pioneering women
or Suffragettes, we were awarded a grant of $6,000.
The cost is only five dollars, not too bad for an hours
entertainment and if you are interested you can purchase a soft
cover booklet written by a local.
A few years ago my mother toured the district with her
Braeside Probus. They were delighted and laughed heartily
with our one hour pageantry. I was very happy that Mum came to
see what I was involved in.
This is our eleventh year since the idea of Robyn Vella came to
fruition. If you are in a club, and you could get a bus full of people
interested in joining the audience then your secretary needs to
contact Robyn Vella at the Loddon Shire Office in Wedderburn.

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Traditional Japanese poetry and the


influence of Haiku on the Imagist
poets.
Jan Bayliss

raditional Japanese poetry possesses unique characteristics,


reflecting the influences that shaped the social structure and
cultural consciousness of the Japanese people. These included
cultural influences from China, a long tradition of imperial
patronage, centuries of isolation from Western contact, and the
influences of Buddhist, Confucius, Taoist and Shinto philosophies.
This essay analyses the traditional Japanese form of haiku using
examples of the haiku masters Basho and Issa and discusses the
influence of Japanese haiku on the Imagist poets Ezra Pound, Amy
Lowell and William Carlos Williams.
It was the arrival of Commodore Perry with four United States
Navy ships in Tokyo harbour 1853 that broke the self-imposed
isolation of Japan and opened the way for trade agreements with
America, France and Britain, enabling a cross cultural exchange
of luxury goods, art and literature (Columbia University, 2009;
National Gallery of Australia, 2001, p. 3). According to Brower and
Miner (1961), until this time, Japanese poetic forms had relied on
a tradition of over eight centuries (from about A.D. 550 to 1350),

Painted Words 2014 | 285

(Brower and Miner, 1961, p. 94). Stylistically, the predominant


features of traditional Japanese poetry include free verse and the
absence of meter and rhyme, with the stress placed on syllable
count (Stillman, 2006, p. 74). In addition the brevity of the major
forms is another distinguishing feature of traditional Japanese
poetry (Brower and Miner, 1961, p. 319).
This distinctness also applies to the imagery and the treatment
of subject matter of Japanese poetry which continued to evolve
over time, although the use of imagery may be considered in terms
of technique as well as style (Brower and Miner, 1961, p. 365).
Traditional Japanese poetry was inherently imagistic, although
imagery was treated in various ways in different ages (Brower
and Miner, 1961, p. 365). As Brower and Miner (1961) state, the
poems of Fujiwara no Teika (1162 1241), consist entirely of
images, demonstrating that once styles and techniques have
been invented, they are not dropped in favour of new ones, but
are maintained for certain kinds of practice (Brower and Miner,
1961, p. 306).
One such traditional form is the haiku, a short three line poem
of seventeen syllables which Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), elevated
to a new prominence within Japanese poetry, imbuing it with an
elegance of simplicity and a Zen quality (Reichhold, 2008, pp.
8-9). Matsuo Basho, is considered the father of haiku form that
developed from renga, or linked verse and was known in Bashos
time as hokku. The short poem was popular with the newly rich
merchant class who viewed this form as an amusing pastime
for displaying wit and humor (Reichhold, 2008, 1961, p. 9). Born
into a Samurai family, Basho rejected the Samurai way of life to
devote himself to a disciplined, simple lifestyle, reminding us that
Buddhist teachings and the poetry of Basho train us to search for
the essence, the very being of even the smallest, most common
things for it is this search for the essence that characterises
Bashos poetry (Reichhold, 2008, p. 7-17). Metaphors such as dew,

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rain, cherry blossom and frogs were already considered clichd


metaphors in Bashos time, however Basho discovered new ways
of presenting images, as one of his most famous poems reveals;
At the old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

In this poem Basho writes of the plop the frog makes into the sound
of water, rather than into the water itself (Reichhold, 2008, pp. 10,
152). In addition, Basho employs sense switching a technique
that evokes one sense and then switches to another (Reichhold,
2008, p. 402). Another technique commonly used in haiku is the
season word or kigo, which are nouns that imply the season
because they have been traditionally associated with certain times
of the years in Japanese literature and/or real life (Reichhold, 2008,
p. 415). However, the apparent simplicity of haiku is deceptive and
it is incorrect to treat the seasonal associations and the surface
imagery of haiku as simply nature poetry as the following poem
demonstrates;
a Fuji wind
placed here on a fan
a souvenir of Tokyo

This summer poem relates to the Japanese ideas and conventions


of elegance, inherited from the courtly elegance of bygone eras
and references the traditional etiquette of offering a gift on a fan
rather than letting it touch ones hand. Having little to give, Basho
is offering only the coolness the fan itself can bring to the host
(Reichhold, 2008, p. 246).
Issa (1762 1826), was another haiku master who also wrote
of the commonplace. However, much of Issas poetry was more
personal and reflective, imbued with the philosophy of Pure
Land Buddhism (Hamill, 1995, p. xix). Although still adhering to
tradition, Issa treats the clich of dew, a metaphor for tears, in the
most poignant manner when he writes,

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This world of dew
is only a world of dew
and yet

This poem was written after the death of one of his children
(Hamill, 1995, p. xix). Issa is reflecting on dew as a metaphor
for the transience of life without engaging the emotion of grief,
but rather expressing it in the Eastern concept known as sabi
(Reichhold, 2008, p. 409). As Hamill (1995, p. xix) states, the poem
is large enough and particular enough to say it all and the brevity
of the statement allows the magnitude of what is said and what
is not said to interplay. This underscores an important concept
of Japanese poetry that can be compared to the white space of
calligraphy which is considered an active positive space rather
than as negative space, as in a Western aesthetic, and where the
calligrapher does not ponder how to fill it, but how to activate it
(Flint Sato, 1999, p. 55). In a literary context this is translated as the
spark gaps a term used by Kenneth Rexroth warning of the pitfalls
of translating Chinese and Japanese poetry into Western syntax
(Rexroth, 2003, p. viii). According to Rexroth, the real danger of
translation was the loss of the spark gaps of meaning and where
what results is a series of logically expressed epigrams, usually
sentimental (Hamill quoting Rexroth, 2003, p.viii) In other
words the poem ends up missing the point of haiku and Japanese
poetry in general, calling to mind the bull in a china shop analogy.
Finally, the briefness of the haiku form highlights the importance of
image construction and specific word choice inherent in Japanese
poetry, and it was these concepts which were to have a profound
effect on the Imagist movement.
The Imagist movement was a further literary development
in Western modernism, a reaction against the Romantic literary
theory of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,
influenced by the French Symbolists and the writings of T. E.
Hulme who began the movement in 1908 (Poetry Foundation,
2009, pp. 1-2). However, where the Symbolists sought escape into

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the self-enclosed form, the poem as a verbal (and semi-musical)


event, resonating with suggestion, brilliant evocative, the Imagists
sought to escape enclosed forms, emphasising the visual rather than
aural, in the direct treatment of things, images, colours, sounds,
scents in their poetry (Stead, 1986, pp. 34-39). Ezra Pound was a
central figure in the Imagist movement publishing his manifesto in
1912 (Rothenberg and Joris, 1995, p.156).The brevity and imagery
so integral to Japanese haiku provided a fundamental shift for the
Imagists poets including Amy Lowell, William Carlos Williams
and Ezra Pound who acknowledged the influence of haiku in his
essay on Vorticism in 1914 (Hakutani, 2009, p. 69).
One influence on Pound may have been the work of Yone
Noguchi, a well-known Japanese and American poet who had
corresponded with Pound as early as 1911, and who sent him two
volumes of his own English poems, The Pilgrimage, (1908, 1909),
(Hakutani, 2009, pp. 69-74). Pound was a central figure during this
period, involved in both the Symbolist and Imagist movements.
Metro, begun in 1914 and finalised in 1916 is an example of the
influence of haiku in Pounds work (Hakutani, 2009, pp. 70-71).
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

In this poem Pound demonstrates the clear, concrete treatment of


the image through the juxtaposition of two seemingly disparate
statements to create an association which intensifies both images
using the traditional haiku technique of simile (Reichhold, 2008, p.
399). However, Metro drew criticism from Rexroth. In his essay, The
Influence of Classical Japanese Poetry, Rexroth likened Metro to the
more sentimental poetry of the Edo period (Hamill, p. viii), when
Japan had opened its borders to the West and was in turn being
influenced by Western literature, one contemporary form being
Romanticism. It is true that Metro, while imagist in Western poetic
terms, leaves much to be desired when critiqued in haiku terms.
The poem is heavy and didactic. There are no spark gaps and it

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lacks the elegance, subtly and open nature of true haiku technique.
William Carlos Williams, another of the principal poets of the
Imagist movement, uses language in a similar way in his poem The
Red Wheelbarrow, (appendix: 1), treating the thing in concrete and
starkly visual terms (Rosenthal, 1994, pp. 1-2). The construction
of the poem in four stanzas resembles four brief packets of
information recalling the brevity and essence of the haiku form.
The first stanza introduces an enigmatic and portentous opening
to the poem so much depends upon followed by the brief and
beautifully constructed images of the red wheelbarrow glazed with
rain. The poem is painterly in the way the red of the wheelbarrow,
a humble contraption, is juxtaposed to the white of the chickens
(Hollander, 2013, p. 1). The tightly constructed images stand alone
in the manner of haiku, evoking a response from the reader of
contemplation of the meaning of the poem and where it is leading
you. The deliberate use of specific colour is important. Colour
codifies the painterly quality and inserts a seductive quality into the
image, a technique that sets up resistance to a literal interpretation
of the poem. Why is the wheelbarrow red? Why are the chickens
white? Evoking colour (and very specific colour), in a poem of
limited words effectively loads it with the history and symbolism
of colour in art. As resistance to interpretation is evoked, the space
created between the words and the possibility of meaning opens
up, recalling the essence of haiku technique.
Amy Lowell also uses a painterly technique in Opal, (appendix:
2). The first three lines of the poem focus on bringing together
opposing images of ice and fire that has the effect of intensifying
the image. The use of crimson and moon-touched magnolias is
similar to the treatment of imagery in traditional Japanese love
poems Japanese and the visual association of the heart and the
frozen pond evokes the image of Bashos pond. Lowells white is
an eroticised, kinetic, flashing white that encapsulates the heat of
erotic love juxtaposing it with the sense of absence and loss that

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culminates in the frozen pond in the second last line, reinforcing


the agitation felt in the last line (Bradshaw, 2013, p. 1). Opal was
published in Lowells Pictures of the Floating World, that borrows
its title from the Japanese Ukiyo-e, (pictures of the floating world),
by notable artists including Hiroshige, Utagawa and Hokusai, that
depicted the life of courtesans, famous actors and other activities
of the pleasure quarters of Edo, (Tokyo), (Calza, 2005, pp. 6-9). The
themes of Ukiyo-e were often erotic, even pornographic which is
reflected in the illicit homosexual love in Lowells poem (Bradshaw,
2013, p. 1).
This essay has analysed the Japanese traditional poetic form of
haiku, the poets who revitalized these forms and the influence of
the haiku on the Imagist movement. It remains a supreme irony
that the Imagist poets were drawn to the free verse, imagery and
brevity of a poetic form that belonged to a culture of long standing
and with a profound respect for tradition and rules. Furthermore
it highlights the continued absorption of ideas, the possibilities of
re-contextualizing traditional poetic forms and the influence of
cross-cultural exchange between Japan and the West against the
backdrop of a rapidly changing world made possible through the
relaxation of Japans isolation policy.
REFERENCE LIST
Academy of American Poets, 2013, http://www.poets.org
Bradshaw, M. 2000, Modern American Poets, On Opal, From
Modernising Excess: Amy Lowell and the Aesthetics of Camp. Diss, State
University of New York, Stony Brook, http://www.english.illinois.
edu/maps/poets/g_l/amylowell/opal.htm .
Brower, R. & Miner, E. 1961, Japanese Court Poetry, The Cresset Press,
London.
Calza, G. 2005, Ukiyo-e, Phaidon Press, London.
Columbia University, 2009, Asia for Educators: Commodore Perry and
Japan (1853-1854), http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/special/japan_1750_
perry.htm.

Painted Words 2014 | 291


Flint Sato, C. 1999, Japanese Calligraphy: The Art of Line & Space, Mitsuru
Sakui, Kaifusha Co Ltd., Osaka, Japan.
Hakutani, Y. 2009, Haiku and Modernist Aesthetics, Palgrave Macmillan,
New York.
Hamill, S. 1995, The Sound of Water: Haiku by Basho, Buson, Issa and Other
Poets, Shambala Publications Inc. Boston.
Hollander, J. 2001, Modern American Poets, On The Red Wheelbarrow,
Gale Group, Inc. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/s_z/
williams/wheelbarrow.htm ,
National Gallery of Australia, 2001, Monet & Japan, Exhibition catalogue,
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Poetry Foundation, 2009, Preface to Some Imagist Poets, www.
poetryfoundation.org/learning/poetics-essay/237876
Reichhold, J. 2008, Basho: The Complete Haiku, Kodansha International,
Tokyo.
Rexroth, K. 2003, Love Poems from the Japanese, Shambala Publications,
Inc. Boston.
Rothenberg, J. & Joris, P. 1995, Poems For The Milleniume: Volume One,
University of California Press, Ltd., London.
Stead, C. 1986, Pound, Yeats, Eliot And The Modernist Movement,
Macmillan Press LTD., London.
Stillman, F. 2006, The Poets Manual and Rhyming Dictionary, Thames and
Hudson, United Kingdom.
University of Pennsylvania, 2008, Modern and Contemporary
American Poetry; The Red Wheelbarrow, http://www.english.upenn.
edu/~afilreis/88/wcw-red-wheel.html
Last modified: Monday, 10-Nov-2008

292 | Painted Words 2014

APPENDIX: 1

The Red Wheelbarrow


so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens.
(William Carlos Williams)
APPENDIX: 2.

Opal
You are ice and fire,
The touch of you burns my hands like snow.
You are cold and flame.
You are the crimson of amaryllis,
The silver of moon-touched magnolias.
When I am with you,
My heart is a frozen pond
Gleaming with agitated torches.
(Amy Lowell)

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Invisible Woman
Lynda Graham

kay, so Im in a caf having coffee and I look around at the


folks coming and going and I notice that there are quite a few
older women, sitting singly, doing the same as me.
Not unexpected really, its a mid-life thing, a mid-week, midmorning, mid-shopping kind of situation.
But then I notice something else, none of us are uncomfortable
sitting alone amidst the hurry and flurry of young mothers and
their children, cool young types in cool-cut clothes and the rushin-rush-out take-away business types.
That, in itself, is a comfort, as lately I have begun to realise that
I, and women over fifty in general, are struggling to maintain a
sense of place in our go-to youth-focused society.
Were just not noticed.
I dont see many middle-aged reflections of my own personae
looking back at me from the film or television screen with the
wonderful (and thank God for them) exceptions of Maggie Smith,
Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, blessed icons of mature dignity and
grace that they are.
Older faces are creeping into daytime advertising; thats if you
dont instinctively avert your eyes from funeral insurance ads and
medical aid promotions (sorry Dawn).
On the street and in shopping centres its a completely different

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story. We are nowhere to be seen. How many minutes of my


life have I wasted trying to be served in trendier clothing stores
while scantily clad nymphs skit about, possibly presuming Im
someones mother.
Well, I am, and I was trying to buy something in a sale (big
mistake) for my student daughter, but surely they could see me I
was twice the size of anybody else in there!
Years ago walking past a building site was a marathon of
embarrassment and noise, now I blend into the background and
slip past unnoticed. Bit of a relief really.
And theres the truth of it. With all the nostalgia of days past
dealt with, a new freedom beckons past middle years. I can dine
alone in a restaurant or pub and be left to enjoy my meal in peace.
New male friends are freely made without any sexual tension or
social proclivities getting in the way of solid conversations and
great new relationships with them, their wives and partners.
I no longer need to dress to please others. Oh I know Ive
never had to really but, slim figured and fairly presentable it
was fun to add a bit of sex appeal to your wardrobe. Now I can
delight in the joyous comfort of low heeled shoes and well
whatever pleases me.
Its time to finish my coffee and walk back through the park. I
might stop off at that new wine bar on the way for a sneaky chardy.
My cloak of invisibility firmly in place, I head home knowing there
are limits to its powers. Inside my own front door it has no effect
at all.

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An Open Letter to Boris Johnson, Lord


Mayor of London
Lynda Graham
Dear Boris,
May I call you Boris? As I am an officially adopted Antipodean
of London birth, using your formal title feels fairly unfriendly
and creates an uncomfortable separation. Well actually, scratch
that, as I am feeling rather less than friendly towards yourself
and those employed in your office to care for one of the greatest
cities in the world.
Lord Mayor, having recently visited my old home for the
first time in over a decade, I have left feeling disappointed,
angry and heartsick at the unseemly and vulgarly commercial
use of many of Londons iconic sites and the ugliness of its overdeveloped skyline.
The Tower of London no longer towers over the landscape and
is completely dwarfed by neighbouring buildings including two
so unimaginative and bullish in style locals refer to them as the
mobile and the cheese grater. Indeed the mobile insults the sleek
design of current mobile phones; it resembles more the ancient
top-heavy Nokia bricks of twenty years ago. I believe its glass
front is untidily draped in black cloth to prevent solar reflection
crisping parked cars below? What a triumph that town planning
decision was.

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Your own obese fishbowl council offices bulge out over the
River Thames like a drinkers gut, obviously setting the standard
on current architectural leanings.
My deeper sadness occurred however when I visited, or tried
to visit, Westminster Abbey and St Pauls Cathedral. My husband
and I declined to pay 18.00 and 16.50 respectively to enter those
churches, our churches. Wanting at least to have a memento
of St Pauls we descended to the cathedrals gift shop, feeling
slightly manipulated and guilty as we did so. And what did we
then encounter? A caf. Yes, a caf. Diners sitting enjoying their
focaccias amongst the crypts and tombs of long dead heroes and
ancient loved ones.
The area around St Pauls, and in particular Paternoster Place,
is well served with restaurants and cafs, more than enough for
the high season crowds we saw. So why, oh why have you turned
Christopher Wrens masterpiece into a sideshow and soup kitchen?
Could you not have left this iconic place of worship alone?
No doubt youd say the money goes towards the buildings
upkeep but I am sure the national lottery plus Londons high rates
and taxes would amply cover that. You may negate my criticism
as coming from an outsider but my opinion is my birthright. Just
how far do we need to stoop in pursuit of the bottom-line?
Jesus Christ threw the money-lenders out of the temple, you
have invited them back in offering a flat white or cappuccino
during their stay.

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Dear Graciela:
Elvira McIntosh
Dear Graciela,
I think it was one Christmas, a long time ago, when I last
wrote to you. I cannot remember how much of myself I told
you then. You wanted to know all about it: all about living on
the edge of the desert in outback Australia, a far cry from our
bustling Mexico City metropolis. I was so young when I wrote
that letter, and still as stupid and green as I was when I first
met you. Remember the silly things we got up to, particularly
our last year at college? That road trip to Cancn was simply
fabulous.
How time changes us. It is now some forty years since that
Christmas, and some of the earnestness of life has settled a little,
at last. When I knew you, I was still full of the anticipation of
romance and vocation. I know we were already in training to
become teachers but we were already thinking about post-grad
possibilities. Remember how idealistic I was? I wasnt going to
be your ordinary, everyday, bun-haired, bespectacled teacher. I
was going to work out my very own philosophy of education
and implement it in my very own school. I wanted children to
enjoy the process of education rather than fear it or be bored
with it. In a sense I wanted them to have the best of what I had,

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but without the fear that went with it. The fear of expectations.
The fear of high standards. The fear of perfectionism. The fear
of duty. The fear of what others might think. The fear of failure.
The fear of self-doubt.
I dont know where my lofty ideals came from. I now wonder
if it was a mixture of the ancient stories both my parents told
of their own idealism, or if it was a personal, weird ambition I
developed, or if it was somehow connected with an invisible
compulsion from God. Will I ever know? Maybe not, and just
as well, eh?
When I look back and remember how I didnt want to be a
teacher and how, if it had been left to me I would have become
a doctor instead, I chuckle to think how I ended up where I
eventually did! Inside me, I wanted to understand how a body
functions, and then malfunctions, and then one acquires the
knowledge to repair it, much as a mechanic fixes an engine. I
guess I might have had an innate inclination towards helping
others. I dont know any more, for I didnt travel that road.
Instead, my father made up my mind as soon as I told him my
choices; you know how it was in those days, doing obediently
what our parents told us to. After much arguing, he told me I
could become a doctor, if, and only if, I first became a teacher.
His silly reason was that all the women in his family had been
teachers and he wasnt going to let me break the tradition. I
wonder if this is why, in my idealistic philosophy of education,
I shied away from telling children what they should become?
And yet, looking back at the dozens of kids that I ended
up teaching, I wonder if I subversively directed them to the
careers they have followed? I know I wanted the teachers in my
dream-school to recognise talents, inclinations, skills, and even
spiritual gifts, and to help the children channel these towards a
career. I added our prayers to our efforts, to make the students

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future a happy one. I now wonder what percentage of them


achieved this?
But thats not what I wanted to tell you here. Life is not just
a career, is it? Life is life, with all its ups and all its downs.
About that I can assure you, I have lived it to the full. At halfthrottle now in retirement, but still living it with a measure of
optimism. Of course, I tried my best, but with honesty, my best
was not always my very best, and that gives me sorrow. But
we gave it a bloody good try, didnt we? I look forward to our
reunion next year.
Your turn to write,
Love,
Elvira

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They Made Her Wear It


Elvira McIntosh

here is a wedding photograph which has never been on


display, for people who have seen it tend to have the same
reaction when they do; surprise, bordering on horror.
They made me wear it, the eighty year old woman whose
beauty has altered little since the photo was taken says.
We didnt care, did we, love? the handsome man who has
been her husband for sixty years continues.
We loved each other so much Margarita begins to add,
and that was all that mattered... Doctor Castillo completes
her sentence.
at the time! they chime in unison with their shoulders a bit
hunched up, chuckling, touching wood for good luck.
One can tell they have told this much of their love story before
by the way they complete each others sentences, and also by what
follows as his arm almost instinctively goes round her shoulders
each time they are asked about it.
Her head nestles lightly on his shoulder as her smiling eyes
gaze up at his chin. As he returns the look of love, they smile once
more and kiss lightly.
It takes some thinking to decipher who they made her wear it
are. Her family?
No, no, my family were not that heartless, she says, forgetting
a little.

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Well, we could say it was my father who imposed his will,


and my mother who carried it through. But not really. If theres
something we have learnt together is that we cannot judge too
harshly those who have no chance of understanding the truth.
Father did what the priest told him. The priest did what he thought
the church dictated, but in the end even the Pope himself couldnt
have stopped what they did, he says, throwing back his head in
open laughter.
We didnt care, did we, love? Its her turn to say it.
You looked so beautiful. You still do. He kisses the top of
her head.
One sunny day in the month of May in the Mexico of 1946,
Margarita Ximenez, wearing a black wedding dress, married
Doctor Carlos Castillo de Leon. They made her wear it, but the
bride and groom didnt care one bit at the time.
On their 60th Anniversary they renewed their vows. This time
Margarita was resplendent in a white frock. They finally framed
their wedding photo and put it on display.

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With The Slight Exception of Rhubarb


By Noel Parratt

ast week I suffered another birthday. Fifty-eight, but whos


counting.
H. suggested Sunday lunch at Bress Winery in Harcourt as a
good birthday treat. Fifty dollars a head, set-menu, who was I
to disagree. Wed tried unsuccessfully to book into Bress on four
previous occasions so I didnt get my hopes up as the place is
extremely popular. But at 10.05 Sunday morning, Bress said yes.
The set-menu sounded great, with the slight exception of rhubarb,
but that could be easily slipped to Hs plate so we were on.
Sometimes things just conspire to make a day absolutely
perfect. The weather was crisp with the sunshine offering snatches
of warmth. The venue is a working vineyard with the storage
shed for the wine vats incorporating the dining area. Guinea fowl
scuttled across the driveway as we entered and Ollie the dog is old
and friendly so said the sign. Lunch is to be served at 1pm and
its only 12.30 we have time for some wine-tasting.
Sue is in charge of the wine-tasting area she owns the space.
She knows her wines, offering anything that was available and
seems to remember who had what last and is keen to recommend
and spruik the next offering. At ten to one, twenty or so people are
tasting the various Bress wines and ciders within the confines of
this small room. Sue never lost track, despite also being in complete

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control of the dining seating arrangements.


One minute past one we bounded enthusiastically to our allotted
table a shared one with us down one end and three vacant seats
at the other. Nobody seemed to be in any rush; Adam, the owner,
walked past saying to a group of us why dont you pick up a wine
glass and follow me.
More tastings this time in the shed where the wine barrels are
stored. We were entertained with informative lectures, comparative
wine-tasting and simple infectious schoolboy humour that only the
host could get away with. I thought before we even get a chance
to eat Ive received my fifty dollars worth; the environment, the
lovely day, Hs excellent company, already enough excellent red,
and some supremely friendly and hospitable hosts.
The real meal-call came at1.30pm. The gold Shiraz selected
during our wine tasting session was purchased as the entre and
arrived served on a wooden share-platter. End of season salad
vegies, including tomatoes, capers, and zucchini fresh from the
garden; caramelized onion tartlets and filo pastry cigars of minced
lamb, kale and feta with a chutney accompaniment. On checking
we were informed that the cigars were so named because of their
suggestive shape.
The entre was fresh and delightful, a special taste after the
excesses in wine tasting. Beautifully presented, a great foretaste of
what was to follow. As you can tell Im having a good time and the
three seats at the other end of our table were still empty.
Finally, just as the waitress took our empty platter away, a
couple with a small child arrived. Panting from rushing, flustered
from getting lost, annoyed at being late and very apologetic. We
couldnt have cared less. They were lovely, Ed and Cathy. The child
was quiet and soon enough whisked away to play with the few
other children there. This place thinks of everything.
Settling in after their entree plate arrived Ed took one bite, leant
over to Cathy and said,

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Youll really love this sausage roll when you get to it. Id had
just enough wine to see the amusing side of this description of the
lamb cigar. He was right on both accounts. It was a sausage roll
and it was lovely. I pointed out the cigars official title and we now
had a table of four instead of two; the added company was also
lovely.
Cathy reflected that the tomatoes from Melbourne just didnt
taste as good as the garden-fresh variety picked hours before. They
taste so sweet, theres more sunshine in them! We all agreed.
The chicken and mushroom hotpot, which had been slowcooked in the outdoor wood-fired oven, arrived in its cooking pot,
enough for the four of us to share. Tasty, plenty of it, accompanied
with more Shiraz and conversation about tea which happened to
be Ed and Cathys business. We concluded that just as baristas go to
coffee school to learn how to make a good coffee, the equivalent is
required for tea. First, professional tea-makers need a catchy name.
Teaistas was suggested. Tea School should also be compulsory, so
that everyone who orders tea at a cafe can be assured of receiving
a well-made cup of tea, just as the coffee aficionados demand from
their baristas.
Desert was meringue, rhubarb, drunken mandarin, pistachios
and cardamom. Ed took one look and said: Surely were going
to need more than these little spoons? I liked his thinking.
Undeterred by his small spoon he somehow managed to polish
his plate clean in minutes flat. Yes it was good, especially after Id
palmed the slithers of rhubarb onto Hs plate.

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About Four Weeks Into Our Trip


Noel Parratt

went fishing yesterday. Beautiful little beach (Cape Ritchie). We


were the only ones there. Frank, the caretaker, gave me some

bait and said throw a line in, not over the weeds, cast over the
sandy bottom so the fish can see it.
Im not sure why I went. The water was cold, I havent fished in
ten years, I dont eat fish, and basically I find it boring.
But the machismo of camping around the open fire, under the
stars, in the middle of the outback, brings out the hunter/provider
instincts.
So I lose my shoes and socks, take a drink in one hand, rod
and bait in the other, and walk the four metres to the beach. I
patrol up and back in a meaningful, measured hunter-like fashion,
determining the best location to lure a fish. The reality is Im
looking for a spot that is within my meagre capabilities of casting.
Fourth cast, I exaggerate not, Im fairly sure Ive caught a fish.
A little confused reeling in supports this theory with a writhing
6.9 inch fish, a little beauty and nearly legal. Halfway up the shore
the little blighter flips himself free of the hook. Quick reflexes, so
I pounce on him and pop him unharmed into the bucket of water.
He swims around furtively.
I call Heather from her artistic pursuits to review the hunters

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prize. She walks the four metres to check out her prospective
dinner. Looking in the bucket at the live, healthy, juvenile fish, and
remembering Frank had already asked us to dine with him, we
both decide wed feel much better if we called it all a silly mistake
and put him back.
I had a few more casts, but by now my heart wasnt in it. And
besides, I needed to replenish my drink.

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Lets Not Stop the Mosque


Adem Besim

ere all aware of the mosque thats been given the green
light for Bendigo. But is everyone happy about it?
Unfortunately not.
While Australia has been branded a racist nation, its been
a mission to a vast majority to escape this label of our society.
However, there will always be a small minority full of hate that are
determined to stop the mosque. A group of anti-mosque bigots
have been on a tirade of trying their best efforts to brain-wash
other local residents into sharing the same ignorant stance on the
mosques development.
Yes, Muslims have had a bad reputation since September
11, 2001. As a result, stricter rules apply to flying, security is
dramatically increased and, as other terrorist attacks followed,
their image was only painted into a negative light by the media.
Needless to say, those minorities of extremists do not represent
what all Muslims are really like.
As a Muslim, I can say that killing innocent people is not
permitted and certainly not what Islam is about. Islam is about
peace and love. A real Muslim is not in any way allowed to take
a life, unless in self-defense. Most people would know this. Yet,
the rest, who are filled with a mixture of bigotry and ignorance,
are going to keep their uneducated opinions of both Muslims and

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Islamic culture with the evil terrorists association.


I was born into a Muslim family, and even now, as a twentythree-year-old, I can admit that my knowledge about Islam is
still expanding. Reading, listening and sometimes attending the
Friday afternoon prayer and hearing what the Imam has to say
has educated me further. Of all the people Ive come across in high
school, the jobs Ive had since, and the courses Ive studied and
currently studying, I have not met anyone who held anger or fear
towards Islam.
It has given me the opportunity to perform my duty as a Muslim
to try and educate people and perhaps change a negative attitude
they mayve secretly harboured towards it. More often than not,
they were interested in what I was saying.
The mass-media generalisation of a long beard, a white dress,
and a malicious plan to blow up innocent civilians is pretty much
what some may describe as a typical Muslim. Men in the Taliban,
those fighting for Jihad, as well as any other form of extremism, are
not in any way representative of what Islam advises its followers
to do. In the Quran, it says that in terms of fighting for Allah, you
can kill those who are trying to stop you from believing in Islam.
This however applies to the days of the prophets, the last living
over fourteen hundred years ago. Nowadays, no one is trying to
stop Muslims from following Islam.
Anti-Muslims are just ignorant individuals who, instead of
finding out information about what the religion is about, are off on
a mission to try and convince people that Islam and Muslims are
bad and a dangerous threat to society. I think the biggest threat to
our society in 2014 is ignorance.
I cant help but think, what do they honestly think is going to
come out of building the mosque? Muslims will gather and plan a
terrorist attack on Bendigo? Understandably, if you are uneducated
about the religion, you may think something like that as extreme
as it is. A mosque is a peaceful place of worship.

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Australia is all about diversity, and I cant think of a time in


which it wasnt. Our ancestors came on a boat or plane and took
over the Aboriginals land long before that. Racism will, sadly,
always exist in this country. But I honestly believe that the number
of racist people will diminish, as it has in recent years. People are
becoming more educated. Bendigo locals were asked to hashtag,
#ItStopsWithMeBenddigo on Instagram to show their support.
I am glad to see that the Bendigo Council has approved the
mosque. It shows that despite the negative and hateful minority,
Bendigo, as well as Australia, is moving forward in the right
direction to stop racism in our nation. I read an article from Bendigo
Weekly that stated over 170 organisations from all over Australia
have vowed to support the fight for an all-encompassing, nonracist community. Bendigo Mayor Barry Lyons said, This is an
opportunity for us to join together and say no, no racism. Its a
simple message but a powerful one.

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The Journey to Recovery.


By Heather McSwain

y life changed dramatically in 1988. I met Tony and moved


to Mildura, far away from my family and my life began to
fall apart with our addictions.
But by 1991 I was attending Al-Anon meetings, as I had finally
come to understand that my partner of three years had a disease.
About five months later I discovered that alcoholism was also in
my family. It was a relief to have found some answers.
Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon exist separately yet share
the same twelve step programme. They also co-exist by sharing
time together; these are called Anniversaries. Life changes began
to take place in both of us.
We heard of the National A.A. Conference in Queensland with
Al-Anon participation. It was for four days at Jupiters on the Cold
Coast. Tony and I decided to work hard and save for this trip. The
slogan was Living Free in 93. Ill never forget this precious time
we spent together. It was a very successful trip on our journey of
recovery.
The Alcoholics Anonymous World Convention of 1995 was
held in San Diego. Neither of us had been overseas so this was an
opportunity we couldnt miss. Tony decided we should also spend
some of our time as tourists, so after landing in Los Angeles we
decided to visit Disneyland, the Grand Canyon and Mexico.

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I was so glad we went to Disneyland for two wonderful days.


This was a great decision. Unfortunately we didnt get to see the
Grand Canyon, as maintenance on our plane delayed us by two
hours and I refused to sit in an airport when we had travelled so
far. Another couple joined us in a taxi back to Las Vegas. As we
wandered around the sights a very welcome fine mist of water
cooled us. We were so hot with the sun beating down on our heads.
The temperature was 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Shopping helped me
learn how to handle the currency quickly and I became much more
confident in every way. I loved Las Vegas.
We picked up our tour bus and headed to the airport. Soon we
were in a plane on our way to San Diego. The captain made an
announcement so we could see the white cliffs where the condors
make their nests for breeding. Then our plane arrived at our
destination and we could see the glorious sights of San Diego.
Our accommodation was in a grand hotel. I remember the rows
and rows of palm trees we passed before we were delivered by cart
to our room. This place was enormous and I worried about how
we would find our way around. After we unpacked and freshened
up, we went down to the waters edge. People were enjoying the
sunny weather in boats and yachts. We enjoyed looking around
and discovered some of the sights of San Diego. The next day we
travelled into Mexico on the tram and shopped around for cowboy
boots, a belt and a buckle for my line dancing. We had a fantastic
pizza for lunch. After finding everything we wanted, we returned
on the tram to San Diego to find the convention centre and register.
I was given a pin to place on the world map to show where we had
come from. A hundred and fourteen countries were registered.
This was an incredible feeling.
That evening everyone was welcome to join the music and
dancing in the park in three separate areas. Most people just
wandered around in the very pleasant atmosphere. There was a
buzz of excitement in the air.

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The next day Tony and I had different venues to attend at


different places and we met for lunch. It was a miracle we found
each other in the crowd as 60,000 people had registered already.
The AA people had their meetings in the largest high rise hotels,
like the Marriot, the Madison, and the Mercure, while the Al-Anon
meetings were held around the town in smaller hotels. Yellow
school buses were our transport and everything ran extremely
smoothly as it was so well organised. Attendees numbers increased
and by the time of the official opening of this world event there
were over 80,000 people present at the baseball stadium. Feelings
of joy filled my heart as the evening progressed. Tony and I didnt
find each other, but I wasnt worried. We were all one family.
Ill never forget the phenomenal sound of 80,000 people reciting
the Lords Prayer. I didnt absorb as much as I did at the previous
National Convention, but the experience was life changing. The
Al-Anon/AA journey has given both Tony and me a new way to
live, even though our relationship didnt survive. I am so grateful.

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Train Travelling Adventures


Heather McSwain

first became interested in travelling by train in my early twenties.


Since then I have enjoyed many interesting and memorable
journeys to various parts of Australia via rail.
My first trip was when I visited Perth, on the Indian Pacific, to
compete in a basketball carnival. Our economy cabins were rather
uncomfortable, so we spent most of our time partying in the lounge
carriage. After the carnival, we hired a car for a touring holiday.
We travelled north as far as Kalbarri to see Natures Window, east
to Wave Rock at Hyden, then we caught a ferry west to Rottnest
Island and then south. In Sun City we were invited to see the
famous yacht Gretel, Australias first entry into the Americas Cup.
At Pemberton some of us climbed the Gloucester Tree, a seventytwo metre high fire lookout. One late evening, at the Swan River,
we netted prawns, made a fire, cooked, peeled and ate them on the
river bank. This was a fantastic holiday and the start of my train
travelling adventures.
Six years later we again travelled to Perth on the Indian Pacific,
this time for a family wedding. As we had two young children, we
chose to travel first class and we had a great time on board making
use of the different carriages. It was very family-friendly, with
activities for everyone including reading, colouring-in, games,
relaxing, or just viewing the countryside through the windows.

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The children enjoyed this trip as much as we did and, when we


arrived home, we discovered our daughter had hidden a few
treasures (rocks) in our luggage.
My next train trip was on the Ghan to Alice Springs. We travelled
from Melbourne, on the Overland, to Adelaide where we boarded
the Ghan. The meals were an experience of authentic Australiana
and we were treated like royalty. In Alice Springs we joined a bus
tour which took us to Uluru. Unfortunately, the day we visited it
was raining and we were disappointed we were unable to climb the
landmark. However, it was a beautiful sight to see the rock with
dark- grey clouds above and waterfalls flowing over its surface.
Our bus driver played the song Raining on the Rock, which was
real goose bumps stuff!
In the year 2000 we enjoyed a very comfortable journey on
the old Southern Aurora diesel to the Tamworth Country Music
Festival. Along the way we stopped for meals prepared by the
local Lions Clubs and people waved happily to see the old train
on its new adventure. Our cabin was also our accommodation for
the nine days of the festival. Most of the days were very hot so
we were grateful for the air conditioning in our cabin. Our stay
was made very comfortable with temporary toilets and showers
provided our use on a siding. Each morning we enjoyed breakfast
at a nearby hotel. This was an exceptional holiday.
When the rail line to Darwin was completed, my mother and
I enjoyed a trip on the Ghan together. At our first stop in Alice
Springs we went shopping. Next stop was Katherine, where we
were taken by bus to the gorge for a boat trip. The day was perfect
with the bluest sky and the deep, clear, fresh waters of the gorge.
It is such a beautiful place. To our surprise, a man dived into the
water. We were all splashed and shocked: Hey! This is crocodile
territory! The captain was stunned but said nothing as he pulled
him back into the boat.
As sunset arrived Mum and I viewed the pink sky with

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silhouettes of palm trees and the lights of Darwin in the distance.


We toured the national parks, visiting Kakadu, the Rio Tinto
cutting, waterfalls, and cooling off in their refreshing pools. On
our visit to Arnhem Land we sat on the whitest of sands with the
blue of the distant mountains in view. The scenery appeared just
like an Albert Namatjira painting.
My husband became interested in steam trains, so we joined The
Steamrail Society. Our first trip from Ouyen to the South Australian
border was in spring and the countryside looked magnificent. The
engine driver stopped at intervals for travellers to take photos. The
engine was reversed for a distance while the crew shovelled coal
ready to make billowing steam and smoke. We slept the night in
our cabin, however as the toilets were at the station, it was a long
hike for that first morning relief. Not a problem for the men as
there were plenty of trees in the bush.
Our next trip was to Robinvale through the wheat country. We
stopped at a ghost town while the train took on water and coal. At
Robinvale Station we showered and went to dinner at the club. On
the return trip we stopped in the middle of the road at Wycheproof
for photos and a meal at the hotel. The train slowly moved to a
siding where we spent the night. Next morning as we travelled,
we passed workers and their vehicles. Shortly after, a tray truck
sped beside the train and eventually hailed the driver to stop.
Unbeknown to the driver, the loop of a power line had been caught
in the roof of the first carriage and caused some damage. We could
just imagine the look on the workers faces when the steam engine
passed by them.
One Easter, we travelled through NSW, almost to Oxley. It was a
really hot day and the old boiler broke down. The Oxley Hotel was
called for an order of 140 meals to be delivered somewhere down
the track. At first they thought it was a hoax call but somehow the
whole town managed to provide everyone with a delicious roast.
Sometime during the night we travelled back to Tocumwal, where

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the engine was guided onto a turntable and then took on water
and coal. That night we stopped at Dookie on a siding and the
Lions Club supplied our meals in a hall. Next morning we clickityclacked all the way to Melbourne.
Steam train trips are only for the adventurous as its a different
kind of holiday experience. It may seem expensive, especially
without some of lifes luxuries; however, its very relaxing and
rewarding. The crew are very committed volunteers who have a
great love for the old steam engines and I congratulate them for
their hard work.
I have been very fortunate to have seen many of the sights of
Australia through the windows of a train. I highly recommend train
travel as a relaxing and comfortable way to travel. The hospitality
of the people in the towns visited along the way offer a unique way
of exploring our great country.

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Dungeons and Dragons: the Last Nerd Closet


Vanessa Hughes

any aspects of nerd and geek culture have been accepted


by mainstream culture in the last two decades. People are
happy to admit to their friends that they enjoyed the latest Star
Trek reboot, that they cant wait for the next Hobbit installment,
and that Game of Thrones is fantastic - and isnt Joffrey a complete
a***hole? However there is one dark corner of Nerddom that is still
spoken of in hushed tones. Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D as
those on the inside refer to it. Comics and their associated movies
are cool, science fiction and fantasy are perfectly acceptable, but
confessing that last Thursday you sat on someones living room
floor and pretended to be an elf in a Dungeons and Dragons
tabletop role-playing game is still likely to earn you funny looks
and cause cool people to slowly back away.
First published in 1974, Dungeons and Dragons is a tabletop
role-playing game so popular and widespread that its name is
familiar even to non-nerds. Millions of people play the game
each year, yet it is the one aspect of nerd culture that, despite its
popularity, remains a byword for socially inept nerdy outcasts.
Even celebrity players, despite being successful enough to be
immune to nerd taunting, generally admit it with an embarrassed
laugh. Producer, director and actor Jon Favreau said on The
Nerdist Podcast, Ive had dreams where Im playing and I wake

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up feeling dirty. Yet despite the stigma and embarrassment, the


game remains popular. Why do players stick with something
that seems to cause so much shame?
Tom Moore, a writer and RPG enthusiast, had his first
experience with tabletop RPGs at university and has been an
avid fan ever since. He says it is some of the best fun Ive ever
had like writing a fantasy novel, playing a board game and
theatre sports all rolled into one.
RPG games like D&D are make-believe for adults, and in many
ways resemble a television series, with a central story arc, or
campaign, that slowly unfolds over many episodes or sessions.
Players might get together once a week or once a month to a play
a session, exploring the world, tackling adventures and slowly
moving through the story arc of the campaign. This is not a quick
game. My first game started at 7pm and went to 3am, Tom
says. That game has now been running for three years, with the
players only up to level four, out of an expected eleven.
Players are assigned a character they will inhabit for the entire
length of the game. Overseeing everything is the Game Master
(GM), who acts as narrator and adjudicator, guiding the players
through the campaign, presenting them with challenges and
answering any questions about the world or quest. Some GMs
use whiteboards with grid patterns on which they draw out the
map of the invented world, assigning each player a piece, like for
a conventional board game. Games with more seasoned players
take place almost entirely within the players imaginations, with
the GM keeping track of the bigger picture.
An enormous amount of effort goes into preparing for a game,
often more time than is spent on the game itself. Tom estimates
hes spent about two hundred hours in preparation, including
building characters, creating languages, designing worlds, and all
this for maybe sixty hours of game time. Unlike a movie, this is not
a nerd aspect that a non-nerd can dip their toe into for a little while

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then go back to normal life. D&D demands more of you, which is


perhaps why it has yet to go mainstream.
Whats unusual about RPGs compared with other games is that
they are co-operative rather than competitive. If a character wants
to succeed at this particular adventure its in his best interest to
combine his characters talents with everyone elses or the quest
may fail and the game grind to a halt. However, Tom admits it
doesnt always work out like that, as the people I play with are
a little bit mental. Some of them can be munchkins, a word for
a competitive player in a non-competitive game, who twists the
rules to his advantage, keeping to the letter but flouting the spirit
and often derailing the game. Consequently, a Games Master
has to stay alert and flexible. Tom used to spend hours crafting
detailed plots, but now he keeps it to a list, outlining plot point,
plot point, bad guy, plot point. He shrugs and says no point
spending hours scripting when everyone else is improvving [sic].
However the flexibility and character autonomy that allows
someone to derail an entire game is part of what makes RPGs so
appealing. Its not about memorising rules and following them
slavishly, but about using the rules as a jumping-off point for
the imagination. Many players use games as a way to inhabit the
world of their favourite TV show, movie, novel or comic book. Star
Wars, Doctor Who and the Marvel and DC comics are particularly
popular. Others start from scratch, like Tom who is currently
developing a game based on a novel he wrote.
Even though the question Tom gets most often from nonplayers is isnt it just a nerd game? he says that, despite what
many players fear, most reactions are, if not positive, generally
neutral rather than negative. Ive yet to see anyone who got a
bad reaction. The various celebrities coming out of the gamer
closet may be helping to shift the publics view, despite any
embarrassment when doing so. Actors Vin Diesel, Judi Dench and
Karl Urban played Dungeons and Dragons in the evenings after

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shooting The Chronicles of Riddick, and Dwayne Johnson (AKA


The Rock), Robin Williams, and Alice Cooper are also reported
to be RPG fans. RPGs attract the creative, the intelligent and the
imaginative, and when you are young, unless you are also blessed
with fame or muscles the size of cantaloupes, the nerd or geek
labels inevitably follow. Nevertheless, Jon Favreau admits that
despite the embarrassment, the time spent playing D&D gives
players great experience entertaining a group of people through
storytelling and makes them uniquely qualified to actually
create worlds and understand game balance. He says its given
him a very solid skill set thats uniquely qualified for the type of
film making thats very popular now. So, if the D&D nerds are
that successful and having that much fun, maybe its time they
came out of the gaming closet, or time everyone else climbed in
there with them?