knives, deeper

in the act of failure,

in the hands, in the heart, in this
mouth filled with sharpened teeth

but not my own

a warmer violence

sunlight or a bleeding fist

a thought,
but turned outward,
twisted, stretched into
some new shape

the highway maybe, where it
arcs out around the city

the city as it falls into ruin

a cancer? a virus?

slow decay, in any event, with
the houses all collapsing in on
themselves, the cellars filled
with bones, old yearbooks, baby shoes

the past is the enemy, of course,
because everyone dies


a theory, maybe
but not a solution,
and then what?

the movies, the books, the
songs, and what do they all
have in common?

they end

they fade

not the city as it
is, but the city

the heart,
which betrays the body

the body, which
doesn’t stand a chance

we will all feel better
when we’re gone

John Sweet

John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include A FLAG ON FIRE IS A SONG OF HOPE (2019 Scars Publications) and A DEAD MAN, EITHER WAY (2020 Kung Fu Treachery Press).


“A kò ní rí L’áburú”,
a kò ní rí L’áburú?
it’s a little too late for
that, don’t you think?
my father looks at me like
i have just shoved a lemon
down his throat, and my
mother places both hands first
on her breasts, then on her head.
“A kò ní rí L’áburú” 
it’s the tenth time she’s saying this,
but i have seen him:
he wears the face of my late
French teacher, monsieur Jack,
and when i first saw him,
i thought i was dead too.
that day, i drank a little
quantity of sniper.
i was only eleven years old
but i had been bullied
one time too much.
while i was rolling on the floor,
clutching my stomach in pain,
L’áburú came in.
he just walked in through the 
door, a camera around his neck,
a smile on his lips,
“smile for the camera” he said.
“why?” my mother asks,
my father seems to have gone
completely mute, stunned.
i can’t tell them why,
can’t tell them it was L’áburú.
who will believe me?
i hated monsieur Jack,
i was terrible at French
and i never did my homework.
“puff out your cheeks”
he used to say,
then he’d slap the air
out of my inflated cheeks,
and i had to say
“merci, monsieur Jack”,
but then he died.
the first time i cut myself,
L’áburú was there.
i used a new blade,
it wasn’t a very big cut,
but it made blood run in
curving lies down my thighs.
L’áburú came in just as
he had the first time,
“smile for the camera”
i cried.
“merci, monsieur”.
“Yejide” my mother’s hands
are folded in her lap now,
“talk to us”
“i’m sorry” i say,
and i really am,
it was all L’áburú idea.
he started giving me tasks,
L’áburú. very simple ones
at first: cut your finger,
cut your hair, and always,
always “smile for the camera”.
after this last one,
i heard him laugh.
it was a harsh, breaking
sound, like a radio
with poor reception,
it made me pause in surprise,
otherwise i would have…
“hmmn” my mother sighs and
twists her hands in her lap,
“we know you are sorry,
Yejide, but why?”
she breaks into a sob
“why did you try to
stab your father?”


Chide is a Nigerian student who loves to read psychological thrillers and daydream the impossible into reality in poetry. She loves taking long strolls just after dark and she has work forthcoming in Karma Comes Before The Magazine and the Creative Zine.


It is I, the dead girl on display, and behold a bouquet of spectral

circuitboards and wires burst from under my teeth. Static

blooms from my skeleton and an endless fatal system error

germinates between my retinas—it husks my skin of melanin

and my eyes of sight. I am a butterfly made of microchips and

motherboards; my wings are pinned to a frame of weeds

and other death things, but it is too late—this body is the

fossil of a phoenix that has already soared away.

Therefore, dear doctors, what may the verdict be? After

all, you cannot kill what is already dead, yet you cannot

bury the undying. Even now, I feel the self abstracting into

something better: out of my ribs, cybernetic bees erect a

hive; my intestines keep a garden for vines and voxels. Dear

doctors, you may call me horrifying, but I call me beautiful;

my body will decompose into electrodes and ivy, but I will live

forever. Observe me now, degrade my memory with your

autopsy—scratch your human brains incarcerated by the

analog. When you die, I will scrub your memories off the hard

drive, shatter your legacy off the mainframe with my bare

hands. To be forgotten is to die once more; how will

it feel to die forever?

A. Wong

A. Wong is a Chinese-American student writer. Her works focus on dreams, memories, and most importantly, home depot tools. Find her studying at a nearby coffee shop, where upon closer inspection, you can tell she is not actually studying. Online, she can be found at @awongwords on Twitter, and @and.the.player.dreamed on Instagram.

The End is Light

Life is weird. I mean, I always knew that, but it took me until this moment to realize just how weird it is. I don’t remember how long I’ve been walking but now I’m here. For what reason even? What is here? How far have I traveled? Have my legs carried me for hours? Days? Months? I don’t know. I never know. It’s partially why I left my life behind. Has anyone even noticed that I’m absent from my place in their lives? I. Don’t. Know. 

I think I’ve hit the end of the world. It’s something people only whisper about. A conspiracy amongst them, something to talk about without having to worry that it could potentially be reality. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, at least not anymore. I mean, here I stand on a ledge overlooking nothingness. There’s no water or trees or grass or pavement or anything. All I can see is darkness. Just a void. Something with no exit and no entry. Nothing. Is the end of the world just filled with nothing? 

“Is this really the end? There’s nothing else?” I don’t know why I sound disappointed. It isn’t like I was expecting anything to begin with. I just wanted to see if it was real. “You just aren’t looking hard enough,” a voice materializes beside me and it takes every bone in my body to not jump. I’m sure the owner of the voice can still tell they’ve startled me. They can see it in the way my eye twitches and my shoulders tense. I turn my head, not sure what to expect. If this is the end of the world, who else could have decided to choose the same path as me? They’re smiling at me, mirth dancing around in their eyes. Their eyes are as dark as the world in front of me. Their hair too, as it moves with a wind that doesn’t exist. Or maybe it does and I can’t feel it in my hair or on my skin. I can’t really tell what they’re wearing. It feels like I can barely focus on seeing them, like a slight glitch in the universe. Someone who’s there but not all the way… someone who’s…

“Are you part of the end?” It doesn’t hurt to ask. It makes them laugh and I can see a shrug but it blurs their face. This doesn’t make sense. Nothing is making sense. Maybe the walk here has meddled with my mind. The atmosphere of nothing is creating that same void in me. 

“That’s for you to decide.” Their face clears up to reveal a large grin before they’re tugging on my sleeve, and pointing into the nothing. I don’t budge, trying to pull my arm away from them. I don’t want this. I should just turn around and go back to my life. I’ll tell people I had urgent matters to handle that they wouldn’t understand. They tug harder and I stumble forward, surprised by how strong they are. “Well? Are you going to decide?” They seem overly expectant. 

“It’s… a little dark… I don’t know if I want to continue…” I know that I’m just making excuses at this point, there’s no reason to not step forward. The end is the end, what could go wrong if I just entered it? 

“Dark? Are you even looking at it clearly?” They sound confused and we stare at each other for a long moment. What do they mean? I break eye contact first, looking ahead seeking the darkness and instead finding a lit up path. Everything around it is still dark, but there are lights floating around the ground now. I blink in confusion and the strange person tugs me forward again. “You see it now, right? Have you made a decision?” 

“I… uh…” They drop my sleeve as I try to mumble a reply, walking up to the path. They step over the gap that sits between the grass and the end of the world. I still can’t focus on their entire being, but I know they’re still grinning at me. I can assume their hands are resting on their hips, one foot tapping as they wait for me to make any sort of move aside from an inability to talk. Huh. Maybe the end of the world is more than I’ve been leading myself to believe. I stick my hands in my pockets and follow after them, it probably won’t hurt to just follow them for a little.

The end of the world still doesn’t seem like anything special, but I’ll humor this persistent person for a little while longer. 

It feels like we’ve been walking forward for hours without actually moving. The only evidence that we’ve made progress is the fact that the grassy field we had started in is just a speck now. Where are we even going? I want to ask, but they seem too focussed on the journey to give any solid answer. Ugh, I could use a nap. No one ever took the effort to tell me that the end of the world never ended. Someone out there would probably appreciate the irony of that. I get so caught up in my own thoughts that I don’t realize my… acquaintance has stopped moving until I walk directly into them. 

“Ow! What the fuck are you made of? Steel?!” I check my nose for blood, startled by this person for the nth time in the amount of time I’ve known them. 

“I don’t know what I’m made of, really. But look, we’re here!” They step away from me, presenting to me whatever it was they were blocking. I don’t see it right away, too busy admiring the fact that I can finally see them solidly. They’re dressed in all black, it seems like a skin tight bodysuit clinging to their skinny frame. Everything about them is dark, except for a pale face and red shoes. It’s nothing like what I expected. I almost want to go back to the inability to focus on the entirety of them. I tear my eyes away after they smirk at me, trying to avoid the feeling of judgment. 

“Oh… wow…” What lies ahead is incredible. It makes the whole journey feel worth it. It makes me feel warm outside and whole inside. Like nothing wrong has ever happened. The end of the world isn’t void of anything, but it also isn’t full of anything. It just is. My stranger holds their hand out and I take it.

“I’m the end, and the beginning, and so much more. But you’ll never learn of everything.” They tug me forward again. This time I don’t hesitate, I’ll follow the end of the world anywhere. I feel like I settled on that decision when I was born and have been walking towards it ever since and the idea of it is exhilarating.

C.K. Stein

C.K. Stein is an aspiring author from Western New York. They’re currently pursuing an MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing at Emerson College. They tend to mess with POV in the works they write. Their crowning achievement (outside of writing) is being the founder of a small Worm Cult in their undergrad’s creative writing department.


She sat at a window table, like she’d said she would, with her glass beyond halfway empty and her eyes on her phone screen. From the street it looked like she might be giving a date a chance to walk away and text a tactful excuse—a chance to cancel without hurtful words she’d no doubt add to a back catalogue to leaf through with regret on lonely, sleepless nights.

It was charity, really, Keith decided, that he chose to stay.

He eyed her again from the anonymous safety of the street outside the tall windows of the upmarket bar. The roots of her light brown hair betrayed grey. A deep crease between shaped eyebrows suggested a career that caused her to frown, perhaps teaching or nursing. To Keith, she looked like she would soak up a shower of compliments like thirsty ground, long deprived of rain. 

He gave his reflection’s pastel shirt and good jeans a once-over and sighed. He couldn’t be too picky these days. He went inside. 


She looked up and smiled as he sat opposite. He slid a glass towards her, condensation beading on the cold surface and wetting his fingertips. “You must be Keith.”

“I got you Pinot Grigio. It’s what the girl said you were drinking.”

The line between her eyebrows deepened. “Thanks but—”

“My treat, gorgeous. And it’s a large one. Let your hair down.” 

She wasn’t his type. But there was no need to ruin the chance of an easy lay, and he’d learned from bitter experience that the kind of girls who usually caught his eye wouldn’t meet his gaze without a sneer. She was too old to be pretty, in his opinion, but maybe she’d make up for it in gratitude. He’d give her a couple of drinks then move in for a squeeze. If she brushed him off, he’d laugh and buy her another and maybe she’d say yes after that.

Keith drove the conversation with polite questions, pausing to let her reply, then gave answers as if the question had been for him. 

What do you do for a living? I’m a freelance journalist. I write for a couple of local papers, crime reports. Let me tell you, you ladies have to be careful! Anything can happen out there if you’re alone at night… 

Across the table, Sarah tipped her first glass of wine slowly against her lips without drinking and smiled as Keith boasted. When he got up to visit the bar again, she emptied the glass he had bought her into the base of a plastic plant and set it with the other empties on the table. 

By his third drink, Keith decided he was backing a winner when the girl asked about his family. She commiserated with sympathetic nods when he expounded on his shoddy treatment by his ex (who never understood him) and grown-up kids (who never called even though he sent them birthday cards). She asked where he lived then leaned in and murmured, “My place is closer.”

Keith excused himself to the men’s room, examined his teeth in the mirror, checked he had condoms in his pocket and grinned at his reflection. Back in the bar, he watched the girl take out a mirror, dab a finger on the tip of her tongue and smooth her stray hair. When she noticed him watching, she stood up to stretch and put her coat on. 

She could be fifty. Bit younger than you, mate, but no spring chicken.

In the taxi, Sarah slapped his wandering hand, twice, but she laughed and said, “Just you wait until I get you home,” in a voice that made his skin prick up into gooseflesh and his stomach flip.

Inside Sarah’s little terraced house, Keith’s heart sank when he saw the living room. Three cats glared at him from three different surfaces. Just his luck. He could have set up a date with anyone, but he’d picked the cat-lady. She poured two measures of something dark and handed him a glass in exchange for his jacket. “My profile did say ‘must like cats’. You’re not allergic, are you?”

“No.” Keith eyed the ginger tabby on the bookcase with suspicion. “I’m a dog person myself. Cats are sneaky. You never know what they’re thinking. How many do you have?”

“A few. They come and go.”

Keith tried to push a tuxedo cat off the arm of the sofa and received deep tramline scratches as reward. He yelped and dropped his drink. “Jeez! Maybe I should go.”

“Don’t go. Stuart’s the newest and still a bit jealous of visitors. I’ll fix that in no time.”

He’d guessed right about nursing. Sarah dabbed Keith’s hand with gauze and sprayed it with something that stung but stopped the bleeding. Then she led him upstairs. A couple more cats lazed on her bed and another vanished into the dark safety underneath.

Keith shook his head. “No. Not with them watching.”

Sarah laughed. “They don’t care, but I’ll evict them for you.” She clapped her hands three times rapidly and all but the under-bed cat stretched, yawned and sedately left the room. She knelt and looked into the darkness. “Colin, I see you hiding!” Three more claps and a shape shot through the door. Eyes shining and sparkling, Sarah grinned up at Keith. “Now, what am I going to do about you?”

Keith grinned back. This promised to be worth the expense of the wine and the taxi fare after all.

He woke up warm and comfortable. It must be later than he’d intended to stay, he thought, because sunlight filtered through the lightweight curtain and made him blink. He yawned, forgetting to cover his mouth. He heard a familiar sound, his name perhaps, and there was a light scratch on his head. It felt odd, but he liked it and angled his neck for more. He knew he should do something, go somewhere, but he couldn’t concentrate on what or where or why. He closed his eyes again, rolled onto his other side and stretched out long, feeling a soft caress from his shoulder to his hip. Nothing seemed to matter. Nothing at all. He’d stay.

Sarah regarded her new pet with a gentle smile, rubbing the short white fur under his chin. She lifted him up and cradled him in her arms, dropping a kiss onto the top of his grey, striped head. “Who would’ve thought a nasty old tomcat like you would turn out so handsome! Come and meet the others downstairs, Keith. There’s tuna.”

Ali Coyle

Ali is a science educator by day, a fiction writer by night, and has been an unapologetic daydreamer since birth. Whilst studying physics at university, Ali chose to interpret the “scientists can’t write” stereotype as a personal challenge and has been writing down their daydreams ever since. Ali can be found at @alicoylewrites on twitter, and at https://


(The Cicada Spends Most of its Life Underground, but the Cicada is Made to Rise)

This is about how we break.

This is about how we recover
—and also the ways in which we cannot recover—
from that breaking.
It is about what changes
and what stays the same.
How we are marked by the ways we hurt.

It’s that crashing-chandelier-feeling of everything happening finally now at once.

In this, some darkness exits, some light enters.
Some light exits, some darkness enters.


In one scene, I try to catch the object but am not able to get there in time.
In another, I don’t even stop it from happening.

In both cases, the outcome is the same: the object is broken.
The question is about intention, and how much it matters.

This is not about what you were trying to do;
it is about what you actually did.

Failure to act is also an action.

This confuses many people.
Many people seem to feel that if they simply do not act then they cannot be held responsible.

Here is a question for Oedipus—
should we share his bleeding eyes?


The clock is an attempt to control something that is so entirely outside of our control. It is a measurement for something that cannot actually be measured.

The clock is a mistaken idea about the power we think we have.

In calculating to the nearest second or mili-second, we are claiming to possess that thing.
In naming something so acutely, we mistakenly believe we have dominion over it.

Why do Cicadas spend so much time underground?
And how do they know when it is time for them to rise?

Let us not forget that the body of a cicada has both wings and eyes—their bodies are made for flight and for sight even though they spend almost all of their life underground in darkness.

Their bodies are not made for where they spend the most time, but for the apex of experience, not for duration but climax.

The cicada spends most of its life in darkness underground, but the cicada is made to rise.


Calendars stand for the passing of time. The ways in which we can’t stop it from happening. We cross out the days; we tear out the pages. They accumulate in piles at our feet, these lost moments—the present which is constantly becoming the past and burying itself.


All I can do right now is express what I’m feeling, tell the stories again and again, record the pieces for later. This moment is singular, and once it happens it will be gone forever, each moment slipping over and into the next. And here I am trying to collect the pieces of myself—the pieces of what happened—for something to hold onto, to salvage what I can so that later I can try to make sense of it.

Something about recording feels safe, to not lose it forever, to not just let it pass away and be gone without remark as if it had never happened. I want to honor this time by recording it, by remembering it. Later I will want proof that it really happened.


The mirror distorts even as it reflects. It even flips what we see so that words are backwards and our right becomes our left. Each mirror changes the reflection and yet we are asked to trust it—not as one perspective but as absolute.

To break the mirror is to break the idea of the absolute. When a mirror is broken there is not one but many different versions of the self reflected. A whole shimmering multitude of selves. I believe that a shattered mirror is more accurate.


Remember please that it is not possible to move backwards.
Everything is different now.
It will never again be like it was.
Everything is always new.

& so now I must emerge with my own scabbed wings.

I must become the Cicada.

And so I dance counter-clockwise to un-spin the direction of my past.
I unravel myself.
I untangle myself.

This is how I eat the darkness and vomit up light.

I spin against the direction of the clock to go back in time.
I spin backwards and anti-clockwise.
I spin until I am strongly struck by vertigo:

by the fear of falling mixing with the desire to fall.

Aurora Bones

Aurora Bones is eternally curious about the relationship between the internal and external worlds. She enjoys planting sunflowers, and often spends her evenings catching fireflies and then letting them go again.   


On a night in Bristol city centre when the cold of winter was setting in, Hannah Newman hurried in the direction of home. It had been another long night and she was thoroughly exhausted. The wind was like ice cutting through her, and she pulled at her coat. This was useless, as she hadn’t had a chance to change out of her work clothes and her legs were bare. 

Hannah enjoyed her work, generally. It wasn’t where she had expected to be, but then nothing had been for the past few years. She had never been much of a performer, but she fit in well with the rest of the dancers, and the sex was tolerable, whenever she was chosen. She was good enough to be kept on and to be paid, and that was good enough for her. 

But the man she had been with tonight had been difficult. He had been some kind of  higher-up, part of the management elite, and he had been tense, with aggression held back just below the surface. Hannah had been afraid to ask him about it, and her efforts to calm him ineffective at best. The whole night had left her drained, and she longed for home. 

The journey felt even longer than usual. She arrived at home, a cheap first floor flat in  the rough part of town, the first she and James had rented together. She approached the door and fumbled for her keys, her fingers numb, and hurried inside. 

The flat was dark and quiet. Hannah took a moment to rest, and something moved in  the darkness. Tall, broad, and looking just as exhausted as Hannah, James stepped forward. 

“Hey, Killer,” he said gently.

“You’re still up?” said Hannah. 

“Yeah, I am. You look frozen,” he said. She stepped towards him and they embraced  each other.  

“Long night, huh?” said James, his tone low and tired. “You want to eat?” 

“No,” she said, her head pressed into his chest. She could feel his arms around her, and his warmth was a welcome change. She breathed deeply, and she could smell the long day of work he had had. 

“Okay,” said James. “Bedtime.” 

They went into the bedroom and Hannah tossed her work clothes aside. After  changing into her pyjamas, she and James went to the bathroom to clean their teeth. The heating wasn’t on, and Hannah still carried the chill from walking home. She anticipated climbing into bed with an almost desperate pull. 

Once done, Hannah and James fell into bed. They lay facing each other, and although they were both exhausted, neither of them fell asleep right away. In the darkness they looked into each other’s eyes, saying nothing. Nothing needed to be said when they were so close. 

By the time the sky had begun to lighten, they had both drifted off. 


They woke the following evening. Hannah rose first and peered round the bedroom. In the fading daylight she could see that it was a mess. She and James did their best to keep the place nice, but they didn’t have a lot to work with. She found her dressing gown and put on a pair of socks, then went into the living room to make breakfast, or what passed for breakfast  at that time of day. She poured two bowls of cereal, only to find that there was only enough milk left for one of them.  

James came in to find her eating the one without milk. He rose an eyebrow and said, “Really?” 

“You should’ve woken up first,” said Hannah. 

James sat down. “I’ll go to the shops later,” he said and picked up his spoon. This was a little ritual they shared, eating meals together. Neither of them needed to eat like this, of course, but this was a small comfort for them both. But they still needed to feed, and Hannah had been feeling the pull more often lately. James must have been feeling it too, she thought,  and she made a note to arrange an appointment with the abattoir. They were eligible, and their names were on the list. But that was a grim thought, and it could wait. Now, she and James ate and enjoyed each other’s company. 

After eating, James went into the bathroom to have a shower. Hannah went back to  the bedroom, ostensibly to tidy up, but she noticed something on James’s bedside table. It was a worn book with a faded green cover. She knew what this was: a book of poetry by Robert Burns, the famed Scottish poet. It was the only possession James prized, and he had owned it for as long as Hannah had known him. It had been given to him by his mother. 

She picked it up and leafed through its pages of archaic Scots poetry. She couldn’t pretend to understand any of it, but she knew they meant a lot to James. 

When he returned, clad in a towel, she said, “Have you been reading this?” 

“Oh yeah, I dug it out to pass the time,” he said, rummaging for his clothes. “Why, you interested?”

“Sure, if you are,” said Hannah. “What’s your favourite poem?” 

He pulled his shirt over his head and pulled it down, filling it with his bulk. “Do you want the actual answer or the romantic answer?” 

Hannah perked up. “There’s a romantic answer?” 

“You bet there is,” said James, and he put on his accent, the accent he had grown up with. “We Scots are a romantic bunch.” 

“Like fuck you are,” said Hannah. “I’ve been to Glasgow.” 

“Then how do you explain this?” 

James took the book and opened it to a dog-eared page. “Listen to this,” he said. “I can see him writing this, you know. Over that desk in that little cottage.” 

He began to recite the poem, “My Luve is like a red, red rose, That’s newly sprung in  June; My Luve is like the melody, That’s sweetly play’d in tune.” 

He spoke the words on the page and Hannah could hear the poetry in his speech, the gentle cadence of the words. There was an honesty in what he was saying, a genuine passion that she so rarely got to hear. She watched his mouth and lips move, his body sway with the performance and her fingers curled tight as the poetry moved her heart. James went on, “As fair thou art, my bonnie lass, So deep in love am I, And I will—” 

There was a sound from outside, a knock at the door. James stopped and shot up. The mood died. 

“Who’s that?” said James, confusion and strained beginnings of panic in his voice. “I don’t know,” said Hannah.

They dashed into the living room and eyed the front door. James nodded to the corner  of the room. “Stay there.” 

Hannah started to protest, but he gave her a reassuring look. “Be ready,” he whispered. 

He crossed the room and there was another knock. It was polite, but firm. James opened the door, keeping it on the latch and peered out. “Yes?” he said. 

Hannah couldn’t see the visitor, but she heard him, even across the room. “James Franklin?” 


“Are you alone?” 

“What’s it to you?” said James, already defensive. 

“My name is Greggory. Greggory Mayer,” replied the man. “I’m here about the recent disturbances.” 

“Are you police?” 

“No, no,” said the man. “I’m…” 

Hannah didn’t see what happened then, but James’s stance changed slightly. “Can I come in?” Greggory said from behind the door. 

Cautiously, James undid the latch and opened the door further. He stepped back into the room to reveal the man at the door. Warily, Hannah went to James’s side and they clung  to each other. The man, Greggory, was tall and well dressed. His age was hard to determine, but he looked older than either of them. There was something diplomatic and self-assured about the way he held himself.

“James, thank you,” said Greggory. There was a hint of an accent in his voice, maybe Eastern European. “And you must be Hannah. I know this is unexpected, but I promise I’m here for a good reason.” 

“Who are you?” said Hannah, refusing to let her guard down. 

“A friend,” he said. “You heard my name, of course. And if I may begin to allay your concerns…” 

He lifted his hands to his mouth and pulled up his top lip back with his pointer fingers, revealing something unusual. Both of his upper canine teeth were abnormally long and pointed, protruding from his gums like elegant little blades. That could only mean one thing. He was one of them. 

James glanced at Hannah. She understood a little better now, but they both knew to remain wary. 

“You’re in the club?” said James, with cautious aggression. 

“I am in the club,” replied Greggory. “So, I’m sure you can believe I’ve come with  friendly intentions.” 

“Not necessarily,” James said. 

“How’d you find this address?” asked Hannah. 

Greggory replied, “You could say, we make it our business to know these things.” 

It was an enigmatic answer, and Hannah scoffed. “What kind of secret society bullshit  is that?” 

Greggory narrowed his eyes. “Less of the attitude, please. I’m here for your benefit,  and the sooner I make you understand that, the better.”

“You said something about disturbances,” said James, keen to keep the conversation moving. “What disturbances?” 

Greggory tilted his head. “Don’t you know? I thought you would have, considering the circles you work in.” 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” James asked. 

“You work on the industrial estate. In one of the factories, correct?” said Greggory.  “There’s an unease among the work force, from what I gather. A discontent among the  labourers, and certain individuals with an interest in propagating it.” 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said James, but his tone suggested this that  wasn’t true. 

“And Hannah,” Greggory continued, “You must hear things. Those night clubs are a practical hub of information. Something’s coming to this city, and we need to take this time to prepare, to consolidate. That’s why I’m here, to offer help.” 

Hannah thought back. All the whispers, the rumours, the things overheard at the bar that led to fearful speculation. There was the feeling of hostility rising to the surface everywhere she went, and she couldn’t ignore it any longer. 

“James, I think he’s right,” she said. “The other girls have been talking, and the owners are spooked. It’s like there’s something going around.” 

James looked at her. “You think there’s danger?” 

“I don’t know,” she whispered. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.” “Neither do we,” admitted Greggory. “But whatever’s coming, we can help you.” “Who’s ‘we’?” James asked.

“Other people like us in the city, and people sympathetic to our plight.” He reached into a pocket and produced a card with an address and a phone number on it. He offered it to them, and Hannah took it. 

“You might be surprised by how diverse we are,” Greggory continued. “We would like you to meet us properly, although circumstances are not favourable.” 

“You think some shit’s about to go down,” said Hannah. “When, and where? Where can we be safe?” 

“Hard to say. But it’ll be soon,” replied Greggory. “And you should stay out of  public, stay out of sight. There are those who want to bring hatred to these parts. Hatred is  attractive, you know. It’ll attract some terrible things if they have their way. They would see you both dead in the gutter, don’t forget that.” 

“Trust me, we won’t,” Hannah muttered. 

James held her tighter. “I don’t know what’s going on, but we’re going to be okay. I’m sure we will.” 

“I know,” she said, looking into his big, brown eyes. “I know.” 

“That’s all well and good, but I do need to be getting on,” said Greggory. “You’re not the only hapless kids in this city.” He turned, but then his face softened. “James Franklin,” he said. “Your mother was Scottish. She died on that night when you were changed. It’s all public record. All kept track of by the government.” 

His body language shifted. “Nobody deserves something like that. Nobody. It’s unfortunate, truly, but there are people who understand, people you can call friends. Neither of you are alone.”

He moved towards the door. “I have to go now. There are others I need to see tonight.  I’m sorry I couldn’t offer you any more advice or protection. Contact me if you need to. I’ll tell you where to find me.” 

“Thank you,” Hannah said as they watched him leave. 

“You know, I’m not going far. I’m meeting someone near that old church.” He stopped as if a thought came to him. “Have you ever met a Catholic vampire?” 

Hannah and James glanced at each other. 

“It’s an ordeal,” said Greggory, and he was gone. 

They were left alone in the quiet flat. The sun had set by now, and it was dark once again. 

“Hannah?” said James. 

“It’s okay,” she said. “Come on, sit down.” 

She led him to the old and ruined sofa that was their only item of furniture aside from the dining table and chairs. They sat down and looked at one another. 

“That man…” said Hannah. 

“He was a vampire, like us,” James said. 

“I know. Does that mean we can trust him?” 

James thought. “I don’t know, Killer. I think he might want to help us, but… I don’t know if trusting him is worth the risk.” 

“He’s right though, isn’t he?” said Hannah. “There is trouble in the city. People like us are in danger.”

“Hannah, people like us are always in danger,” said James. He bowed his head. “I wish it didn’t have to be like this. I wish we could feel…” 

“No,” said Hannah. “James, no. We’re not going to feel like this. We don’t have to be scared.” 

James looked back up. Hannah went on, “We have each other. We’re strong. We  always have been. We have each other, and… there are others, like us. There are friends. He must’ve been right about that, there have to be people who can help us! There’s no way we’re alone. There’s no way.” 

James smiled, but it was a strained smile. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. We’ll be okay.” 

They hugged each other in the dark. James said, “We’ll be okay. We’ll be okay,  Killer.” His embrace and hearing his nickname for her made her feel safe and warm inside, and they stayed like that for a long time. 


Hannah fell into her chair, out of breath. Someone passed her a bottle of water, and she drank gladly. A few days had passed since their unexpected visit, and since then her concern had not faded. Despite this, she and James had no choice other than to continue as normal. 

Tonight’s crowd had been quite modest, Hannah thought. But there had been more  than a few big names in the audience. Businessmen, club proprietors and even alleged gangsters were among the ones Hannah had recognised in the stalls. She could only imagine what that would mean next.

The other girls whose routines had ended were all chatting to one another. They were talking openly about the rumours now. There had been an increasing number of factors contributing to the fear felt by the city’s night life. Certain statements from political leaders; decisions made by companies in the area that invited grim speculation, and a murder of a  young man reported in the news that had shocked the nation. Hannah heard it all, and only talked about it with James, when they got the chance. Despite this, she went to work and did her job. But she was still afraid. 

The door to the dressing room burst open and an older woman barged in. She cast a  glance around the room and found Hannah tucked away in her corner. 

“Hannah,” the woman said. “Make yourself presentable. Room two, twenty minutes.” Everybody knew what that meant. All eyes were on her as she stood to ready herself. 

She changed out of her sequined leotard and feathered tutu into a pair of denim shorts and a crop top, and then reapplied her makeup. Once done, she dashed upstairs. Now she had to wait for the client. 

Sure enough, he arrived. He was quite overweight, and in his thirties. He wore a suit and tie and spoke with a refined, but husky voice. 

He said, “Oh, hello. They tell me you’re a vampire?” 

She nodded. “I’m Hannah.” 

“Good. Call me Charles,” said the client. He produced a pack of cigarettes. “Do you mind if I…?” 

“Not at all,” said Hannah. She did, in truth, but she couldn’t tell him that.

The man called Charles went to the doors leading to the room’s balcony. He opened them, letting in the cold of winter. “Come and join me, if you want,” he said. “There’s no  hurry.” 

Hannah thought about leaving him alone, but decided that would be a bad idea. She went to his side and leant on the railing. 

“You don’t smoke, do you?” said Charles, offering her the pack. There was an unlit cigarette in his own mouth. 

“No, thank you,” Hannah replied politely. 

“Fair enough.” He lit his cigarette, inhaled, then breathed out a jet of smoke. “It’s not for everyone, you know. Although I suppose a vampire wouldn’t have a problem with it. No need to worry about cancer.” 

Hannah said nothing to that.  

“Not like us,” Charles continued. “We get told about the dangers all the time. Lung  disease, infertility…” He shook his head. “You’d think we’d listen, but apparently not.” 

Neither of them said anything after that. Hannah looked out over the city at night, taking in its electric-lit beauty. Streetlights and tower block windows twinkled like stars clinging to the ground. She heard the distant sound of traffic mingling the wind buffeting the buildings. 

They stayed like that for a few minutes. Charles let out another puff of smoke and said, “There’s some shit going down in this city, Hannah.” He flicked the cigarette away. “There are people with ideas who want to ruin the order of things. If I had my way…” He  stopped himself then let out a chuckle.

“Yes, things are moving, believe me,” he said. “It’s all very troubling for a man like me. Do you think you can make me forget about it for a while?” 

Hannah knew to turn it up a notch, and took an ever-so-slightly suggestive pose. “I can try my best,” she said with a hint of devilment. 

“That’s what I like to hear,” said Charles. “Now, I…” 

He was interrupted by a buzzing from one of his pockets. He swore and fished out a Blackberry smartphone to read the message. He frowned. 

“Sorry,” he said to Hannah, and strode into the room, tapping at the screen. Out of earshot, he began to speak into the phone. 

A little bemused, Hannah turned back to look at the city. It worked away to itself as  always. She thought of James. He must have been working hard in the factory. In that  moment, Hannah felt a longing she had felt too many times before, a longing to be with him and everything was easy. She longed for enough money to live in a nice neighbourhood, to get married and be with him forever. She wanted things to be fair so badly, for them both. She felt very far away from the boy she loved at that moment, and it simply wasn’t fair. 

And then there was a scream. It was far away, but unmistakable as a scream, one of pain and fear. Hannah’s attention snapped to it and she strained her hearing. There was a  commotion coming from the direction of the scream, like a crowd of people shouting and moving in one direction. It must’ve been only a few streets away. Then there was more noise from elsewhere, not as clear as the rest of it, but recognisable as a disturbance. 

A thought came to her. Pulling away from the distant sounds, she peered into the room. Charles was still on the phone, and his expression was concerned. More than that, he was pacing and muttering almost frantically.

Something’s come up for him, Hannah thought. And there’s something happening in the city. She pondered this, choosing her next move carefully. 

Then there was a string of loud popping sounds from far away. 


That made Hannah decide. It was time to go. 

She went for the door. If Charles protested, she didn’t hear it. She was downstairs and  out of the building in moments. 

On the street, she oriented herself. James was on the industrial estate. That was her  destination. She planned the route in her head, then took off running. It was another cold  night, and again she was underdressed, but she didn’t have time to worry about that. 

She didn’t get far before encountering trouble. There was a stream of night club goers  and late-night pub patrons stumbling down the street. Hannah slowed to navigate them and  looked in the direction they were running from. There were men, armed with clubs and machetes brandishing their weapons and shouting aggressively. They were some distance  away, but they looked like they were revelling in the chaos. Hannah had never seen such a  display of violence. 

But she needed to move. She dashed down an alley and, at the other end, peered out to  see if the coast was clear. There was more commotion, but she could run past unnoticed. She ran and kept running with only her goal in mind. 

The industrial estate was on the other side of town, but she got there. As she approached, she noticed more violence, more armed people stirring up trouble. They had  started fires and damaged property and left people injured. Passing a building site, Hannah  saw an elderly security get pulled from his booth and struck several times. The sight turned her stomach, but she didn’t have time to stop, and she went on towards where she knew  James worked. 

She arrived at the big ugly building and looked frantically for an entrance. There an alarm sounding from somewhere, and people running, confused and unsure of what was  happening. 

Hannah took a moment to get her breath back, but she didn’t wait long. “James,” she  said, as though to reaffirm her goal. “James!” she shouted this time. Then she shouted his  name again, and again, circling the building and searching frantically. 

Then she heard a response. “Hannah!” called a male voice from a distance. Her attention darted in that direction and she was a lone figure in the shadows. 

Without thinking, Hannah ran towards him. She and James met and hugged each other fiercely. 

“Hannah,” James breathed. 

“James,” said Hannah. “Are you okay?” 

She looked at him and saw his face had a collection of fresh bruises. Bits of his clothes were torn. 

“I’m okay,” he said, and hugged her again. The comfort let her realise how much adrenaline had been in her system, how much shock she had been carrying. The hug helped to ease it, if just a little. 

“We need to get home,” said James. “Maybe out of the city.” 

Hannah nodded. “We’ll make a plan. Call Greggory.”  

“Are you sure?”

“There’s no-one else.” She locked eyes with him. “We can do this.” 

“Yeah,” he replied. “We can.” 

And then there was a sound. Something horrible and cruel coming from nearby. Once they heard it, the blood in their veins ran cold. 

Hannah and James peered into the darkness. Hannah felt a subtle change in her mind, a primal shift that told her there was something approaching. There was another noise, like a  pained scream prolonged into a single moment and distorted into itself. It made them feel like nails were being dragged over their very bones. 

The thing responsible wasn’t human, but it might once have looked like one. It was  hunched over with an elongated torso and long, thin limbs. It had no skin, as if it had been  flayed. It had no apparent bone structure; it looked like it was held up by muscle alone. Its  head was bowed, attached to a thin neck. It looked up and its only facial features were a mouth full of jutting, misshapen fangs, along with a pair of gaping eye sockets. 

They knew what this was, they knew instinctively. This was the Night-monster, the  Beast That Lived In The Woods. This was vampire, taken to its logical conclusion. 

It peered at them from its hunched stance. It was drawn to them, reaching out with its horrible, clawed hands, it spoke again with its terrible voice. The sound went through them,  frightening them like nothing else. 

“Hannah,” James whispered. 

“I know,” said Hannah. She would not let the fear take her. She refused to let it take her. 

They turned and ran.

Elis Rowlands

Elis Rowlands is a creative writing student at Cardiff Metropolitan University. He enjoys reading and writing fantasy, science fiction and speculative fiction about nationality and identity. He has previously been published in Cardiff Met Anthology 8.