Texts copyright 2015 The authors
Cover and pictures copyright James Knight 2015
Published by James Knight at Shakespir
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In July 2015, I published a surreal dystopian fantasy called Mono. I had selected 60 of my own digital pictures (all of them montages made using image-editing apps), which I used as stimulus materials for the writing. I would look at a picture, allow myself to free-associate, and write a brief text in response to it. The only (arbitrary) rule I applied to the writing process was that I would use the second person, rather than the more usual first or third. Very soon the texts were the product not just of the pictures but also of the preceding texts, and so the project started to resemble a novella of sorts, in that there were recurring characters, events, themes and motifs. The finished book presents the reader with a monochrome picture on the left-hand page and the text that sprung from it on the right, in a kaleidoscope of mutating storylines.
To promote Mono, I ran a creative writing competition that reflected the way I had written the book. Entrants had to pick one of three pictures and write a text of no more than 200 words in response to it. Writer and editor Kate Garrett kindly agreed to blind-judge the entries, selecting all of the pieces for this book and awarding first prize to Ethan Miller for “Panic Slip”. Joint runners-up were Voima Oy (“Flowers of Alba”) and Ian Foulger (“End Game”). Kate was blown away by the overall quality of the entries, as was I! It was fascinating to see how my pictures morphed in the febrile imaginations of the writers represented in this book.
Broken Reflections collects together all of the texts selected by Kate, organised into three sections, each one beginning with the picture that had been used as the stimulus. What is immediately striking is that no two texts are alike, despite their shared ancestry. The mutations are violent and beautiful. I hope you enjoy them.
James Knight, November 2015
The Room is Empty Even When I’m Inside It by Anna Venishnick Shomsky
I have lived what seems like a thousand years and I feel each moment of it. The time collects, weighs heavy. There is a sense of waiting. A long nothingness. Time is empty. It can’t be filled easily. It can’t be filled alone.
Everyone I have ever been is layered, one on top of the next, a collection of selves. I consider talking to past selves to pass the time, but we have little in common. I think about empty space, and how I could fill it.
My past begins to disintegrate, old relationships die out, becoming unreliable memories.
Perhaps if I wait some more, something will eventually blossom?
Broken World by Danielle Matthews
It felt like a nearly-falling at first. Like a petal dripping from a flower, I slanted to the right and everything shunted along with me.
My eyes struggled to focus on images blurred in real-time, my glasses useless against the sloping universe which had revealed itself to me.
The last time this happened, I eventually slid back, but begrudgingly. Everything was more beautiful, somehow more pure, in this skewed multi-world I had re-entered. Objects splintered like fractured glass in moonlight, their refractions visible only to me and my staring eyes.
Pieces of world float around me in grey-scale dimensions too vast to comprehend.
And then it turns.
The nearly-falling becomes a plummet, and down I go, through the wormhole. Nightmares live here, and they spring out from innocuous nests with vicious eyes. I scream but only in black and white.
Intrapersonal Intercoursory Instantiation by Monsieur Mess
Bursting out of stock roles, the bat man stopped at his humanness, never to come back. Alfred fled the country, others followed, things were quiet at last. Gradually forgetting how to think, worry, socialize, get a nice cuppa, Batty took to fragmenting his identity into countless selves to reach a consensus on what to do next. The thinking couch was no longer necessary when buttocks were but a mere figment of memory; nevertheless it gladly accepted the role of mediator in the selves’ congress, a role that only laissez faire could subdue. Screeching away at random, severely but duly noted were Couchy’s proceedings of these uneventful events. Whereas indoor derelict sidings threatened to rain in doors, the Batties finally decided it was time to let go of the Goths’ City and roam the world, wondering at its creatures. It was a happy-sad occasion to bid farewell to Couchy, each one of my selves ripping off a piece of fake leather as a memento of foregone times bobbing at grandpa’s knee whilst listening to the story of the bat man who was. The wooden carcass waved its goodbyes, my selves are flapping, blood will be shed, fare thee well.
End Game by Ian Foulger
Stereo is on max, Meatloaf screams about a fledermaus transcending from Dante’s inferno.
I sit pondering whether Mozart ever experienced the smell of bat guano?
Is it possible to push a needle into one’s eye without pain?
What does it feel like to inhale fire and let it cook your lungs from the inside out?
Soon I will know and with all the other questions of the universe answered, I may return to tell you or I may not.
Will you wait?
Flowers of Alba by Voima Oy
What fragrance is produced by the white flowers of Alba? It has been compared to the aroma of peonies blasting from a laundromat in November.
No. And it is not the smells of a seaside holiday, the ozone of an approaching storm, the petrichor of Paris, or fresh-cut grass. It is not the gasoline of a truck stop off the interstate, or coffee at 2 am. But it could be a blend of these things.
It is gathered in the silent gardens where the flowers bloom among the vines of moonflowers and lilies. It is gathered under the light of the waning moon by the widows of Alba.
It is a scent that never leaves them. It clings to them like dew. It lingers on their fingers, and they cry as if they were cutting up onions.
It is addictive, intoxicating–the perfume of nostalgia, melancholy, saudade.
The flowers weep, tears of snails for the sea.
Fortress by Pleasant Street
Your shell is tough
and you were built to ride dirty.
Maybe with some luck
you could find someone who adores
distance and treble,
downbeat when one’s ears want to hear strings.
Every girl you meet is emotionally discordant.
That grand lady, the one that pulled up
in an Escalade dressed in camo-
What was it that drew you like
a magnet in a hardware store?
I could see the horizon.
I knew a storm was coming.
You never took one step backwards.
You were better off with someone like me, a girl
that knows about double-lined housing,
immune to quick rights and undercuts.
I still like soft things and sweet aromas.
My head wasn’t installed straight,
my empathy like paint on the walls.
My heart is one of those wind up toys.
You and I could weather any desert.
Silverpede by Adam Wimbush
Beneath the undergrowth of subconsciousness
A grotesque grub is growing.
The landscape it lives within cracks as mental textures morph.
A moon globule has splashed.
A cognitive transmission loaded from the armoury of phases.
This conceptual caterpillar feeds on logic.
Digests your thoughts.
It’s built from bastardised ideas.
A flung together, mish-mash monster
gestating inside your brain.
Pregnant with its form,
is your mind ready to give birth?
In placenta spectrum frequency.
Haphazard echoes bounce into a 3D nightmare.
The unfurling limbs of Escher sections sprout
microcosmic machine mouths, hungry for colour. Insects in the gloom.
Attracted to the imagination’s instinct.
Feel surreal spokes whirl,
see unreal whorls puncture space.
Hear reality cages clang.
In this jelly spasm infected environment, fungal exoskeleton teeth glint off negative horizons.
This is the mind meat on which mad maggots feast.
When the egg of your skull hatches,
revealing the succulent parts to pollinate the Think Travellers,
it will become a motor of metamorphic material roaring,
sending Optic-Origami shadows shivering.
A carnival of chaos; a clown car gone mad!
We are all racing reflections caught in the splintered mirror of time.
Pole position poltergeists of each other.
The Bone Creatures by A V Laidlaw
The first bone creature taps on my window with a knuckle stained by years in the grave. Its eye sockets contain the loneliness of midnights.
I pull the curtains and return to my Bible studies.
The cat-flap clicks open and claws skitter across the kitchen floor – the neighbour’s cat, run over last year and buried in a plastic bag full of the lies they told their children. Tiny bones scrape as it slinks into the living room and skulks behind the armchair, wheezing feebly as it has no tongue to mew.
I turn the translucent pages of the Bible, the words beginning to fade under the influence of the bone creatures, the Jungian sorcery of a faithless city.
Another bone creature beaks the window upstairs and climbs in. I hear it rattle around the bedroom where the double bed remains unslept in all these years. It rifles the drawers for memories. Bone creatures pick the lock of the front door, clamber down the chimney, creep in through the drains. Now they lurk on the border between the shadows and the light of my reading lamp.
I close the Bible.
We have made peace with the bone creatures.
Primitive Cubism by Marc Nash
The master craftsman carved with whetted blade and an unstudied calibration. Treble strata, inlay abutting inlay. Sunken upon cameo upon intaglio upon relief. Dovetail joints for a fountainhead martial spirit. No nails or pins to hold them in place, solely the natural tension between forces. Carved all of a piece. Hot stones placed inside the stripped flesh to cure it. Human integument attaining the quality of mud and straw. The features preserved in perfect ratio unlike those headshrinking lip servers. Those butchers satisfy their barbarity by sewing the labia shut, when you need to be able to observe the teeth. The white enamel tombstones and a portal for the soul to escape. Similarly the lamina of the skin cells. Like the train tracks that trammelled the country. Flattened contours, bearing the footprints of a culture marching up and down the continent. Primitive Cubism.
There by Saxon Pepperdine
I go there when I’ve done it again.
My father helped build this railroad, way back.
Way back when he was a good man.
He showed me how to do it.
He once told me each sleeper represents a dead man.
He hit me. Hard.
They died building this damn railroad, he said.
And hit me again.
Yeah, this was when he was GOOD.
Imagine how it got.
So he was my first, my father, right here.
When I’d had enough.
Only idiots go around painting, he’d said.
Elegant last words, I thought.
One more sleeper.
Years come and go and visits there stack up.
Sleepers, more and more.
Men died for this railroad.
Panic Slip by Ethan Miller
It was draped over the edge of the well, flaccid and starting to tear in the middle. Its bones were broken trampled and the sharp edges only made further tears. Its batteries were charged with only enough power to send a tiny neon tingle up and down its length. It sang a tired beacon ping ping ping.
The half that finally, after millennia, fell on the outside of the well met the dry matted weeds with relief and a sense of closure. It would dry out there, it would be so much dust under the warm sun.
The half that fell into the well used what little strength it had to writhe in panic. It was not the death that had been washed clean and scheduled with the moonrise. It was darkness and armies that would march through tissue, merging and transforming to make swarms and matrices. Nothing there was just itself, nothing there could possibly recognize itself for more than an instant.
The panic lasted longer that it did; panic turned liquid and locked in cell walls, panic as molecular cogs turning sporadically. There was also panic turned into nocturnal birds that glided in the slippery moonlit atmosphere.
An Invitation of Logic and Sense from the Cheshire Cat by Sean Fraser
The low viscosity entrail-type darkness had flowed effusive from the glass
and the depth of dark was reflected
on the obsidian become effluvia
that had the chamber filled;
The dark lantern had been positioned Cyclopean light burned eternal
of entrance wooden steps corrupted by Age
that led into the everdarkenedlands beyond
the glass purloined,
waiting for one who would
not be returned;
On the mantle
a small bottle strangled by the wire wound on a carte
on which was written,
One More by David J Wing
Her face fucked the railway sleepers one by one until her teeth shattered and fled her gaping mouth.
She laughed the way a hyena does when it sets upon a victim. The red couldn’t be seen in the moon light, but she could feel the dripping wet and the dry straw between her fingers and under her knees.
The noise increased yard by yard as it grew nearer. Her eyes fixed on the path and waited for the engine to grind.
The barrel watched.
The glow edged closer, with venom and reason. Her feet twitched and her toes twisted in her sneakers. A splinter pierced her shin and gave stark reminder that it wasn’t over, not quite yet.
The barrel tapped her temple and with a feral turn she savaged upon his wrist. Her nails dug deep, her leg swung wide and in a moment their positions had reversed.
The glow became light, became caustic, became fatal.
His midnight scream made her smile.
She sat and bathed in the breeze from the pumping engine arms and ran her fingers over her soaked face.
She staggered towards his car, turned on the radio and reached for her list.
have fun and good luck by Daniel A Nicholls
pelt of leaving
under a settled field
in the Adirondacks
we reintroduce cougars to their prey
there is a valence
to meet there
a smile in
Ian Foulger : an Ancient who enjoys economic use of words to create worry and unease. Believes in mass destruction of words that do no useful work. Can be found here, dabbling in Dark humour. wolfspaw.blogspot.co.uk/ and on Twitter: @Wolfpaw36.
Sean Fraser wrote his first story at 10-years old. The first poem—at fourteen—he wrote was “The Walrus and The Carpenter” (Variant). Later admitting, "I haven't a clue #WhyIWrite; I'm not even certain that it is I who does." The Theatre Optique [http://www.theatre-optique.com/] CHIMERA https://chimeragroup.wordpress.com/category/annals-of-personages-in-the-autumn-of-history/ Twitter: @TheatreSean
Kate Garrett writes poetry and flash fiction, and edits other people’s poetry and flash fiction (the Slim Volume series for Pankhearst, and her own webzine and small press, three drops from a cauldron). Her books include Minor Things, The names of things unseen (as part of the six-poet collection Caboodle from Prolebooks) and most recently Bewitched and Other Stories (Pankhearst, August 2015). Her newest pamphlet The Density of Salt is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2016. She lives in Sheffield with her folklore obsession and her dreams of running away to be a pirate.
James Knight makes monsters from tweets and public domain images. His most recent book is Mono, which he describes as “an entertaining nightmare.” thebirdking.com Twitter: @badbadpoet
A V Laidlaw lives on the clay beds of the Western Weald, among the ghosts of ancient woodland. His nights are haunted by the mournful. child cries of foxes. Also, owls. His hobbies include breathing. Twitter: @AvLaidlaw
Danielle Matthews is a writer from Manchester, UK and a lifelong Word Nerd. She has been published numerous times and won both poetry and fiction competitions. Danielle lives with her books, and they’re all very happy together. facebook.com/daniellematthewspoet
The faux Frenchman Huge Mess doesn't know whether he's a literary dilettante who teaches English for a living or an English teacher who writes for fun. He tweets at @le_mesie, mostly in Spanish, including the occasionally trending #Jueverotic twitterary orgy.
Ethan Miller is a writer based in California. Twitter: @narrat_uni
Marc Nash has published 4 novels and 5 collections of flash fiction, all of which seek to push at the boundaries of narrative form and language. He lives and works in London. amazon.co.uk/-/e/B005K1KSOC sulcicollective.blogspot.co.uk youtube.com/user/SulciCoilective Twitter: @21stCscribe
Daniel A. Nicholls has work in Agenda Poetry, Honest Ulsterman, Open Letters Monthly, Compose Journal, CHEAP POP, and elsewhere. He can often be found declaiming poets and poetry on Twitter: @nomopoetry.
Voima Oy lives on the western rim of Chicago, near the expressway and the Blue Line trains. Her writing can be found in both FlashDogs anthologies, and online at Flash!Friday, Angry Hourglass and Visual Verse. Proud FlashDog. welcometoveridian.wordpress.com Twitter: @voimaoy
Saxon Pepperdine’s previous writings have been published and shortlisted at Ilkley and Eastbourne and several other Literary Festivals, a few online pushers of lucid tenets and bamboozling prose. York mix.com, The Other Publishing Co. He has been ignored by dozens. Maybe thousands. Debut novels to appear via the brilliant, NEVER KNOWINGLY MAINSTREAM, Burning Eye Books in 2016.
Anna Venishnick Shomsky is an ESL teacher who lives with her family on a Puget Sound island. She writes and produces a radio show featuring surreal vignettes and stories. You can find her on Twitter: @anjvs
Pleasant Street is a mother, baker, and poet. Writing a series of thrillers-never finished. Thinks too hard and feels too deeply. Appears to be stuck in 1948. Dreaming up a way to use baked goods as legal tender. Geletilari.wordpress.com Twitter: @AreYouThrilled
Adam J Wimbush blends old and new technologies, manipulating images, sounds and words into an esoteric language. His contributions to Brighton’s burgeoning poetry scene include hosting Vapour Vox, a monthly psychedelic showcase of avant-garde literature and sonic art.