‘Mother-To-Be’ by Tina Morganella

 

At the baby shower, I watch the mother-to-be warmly welcome each guest. Soon exhausted, she accepts a chair and sits regally. Beatific. Drawn and tired, but plump with life too. Women paw at her belly and coo over her. She doesn’t seem to mind. I smile at her, at how beautiful she looks. She returns it, encouragingly.

Flutter, flutter, flutter. I can hear my hope’s wings beating. A little silver moth with metallic wings sits in my rib cage. Lately, my husband and I make love with intent.

The other women laugh and sip champagne. They offer each other nappy-changing advice as they childishly lick icing off cupcakes. Presents pile up in the corner, all bows and ribbons.

My sister refused to come. She doesn’t believe in a celebration before the baby is born. ‘What if it dies first?’ She has two of her own. Did she carry the fear to term? I try not to worry.

When it’s my turn to guess the size of the mother-to-be’s girth for the measuring game. I tentatively reach out a hand, but she laughs, takes it and presses it firmly over her belly.

Don’t be afraid,’ she jokes. ‘Can you feel her?’

The mother is so poised. I gaze back at her as I smooth my palms over her belly, my eyes wide. An unnatural warmth, like the energy given off by machinery. A sort of hum, a tautness, a pulsing.

I am unsteady. I can almost feel another heart beating alongside my own. My breasts seem to swell, and the back of my neck grows clammy. The twist of a frustrated scream spirals up from my toes and curls around my soul like smoke. The ache of want is unbearable.

Hope, at times a consolation, at times just cruel, is overwhelming. The moth’s wings are frantic. Flutter, flutter, flutter.

I pull away from the mother-to-be and step back. Another woman jostles into my place.

Retreat. Just for a moment. I go to the bathroom and breathe scented soaps and freshly laundered towels. I splash cold water on my face and gather myself; prepare for the kindly-meant but needling questions about when I’ll be starting my own family. They rattle my confidence. They know so much, but they don’t know this?

Maybe this month, maybe this month. Be positive. Flutter, flutter, flutter.

But when I pull down my pants and sit on the toilet, I see the familiar smear of sticky red-brown blood. My period. That earthy smell of promise which is no promise at all.

Hope is a celebration for a baby that hasn’t yet been born.

The moth folds its wings closed.

 


Words by Tina Morganella

Tina Morganella is a freelance writer and copy editor with an MPhil in creative writing. Tina is most interested in fiction and travel literature and has most recently been published in Rush (US), and STORGY Magazine (UK). She also has nonfiction articles published in the Australian press (The Big Issue, The Australian, The Adelaide Advertiser). You can read some of her work at www.tinamorganella.com

Artwork by Joel Tuckwell

‘Moving Earth’ by Riana Kinlough

 

You feel the low thunder of moving earth and remember a blow like a lightning strike on your temple. Light appears as the dirt vanishes. Your bones strain upwards, anxious to meet the sun. Your rebirth is breach. Small hands pause at the unexpected hardness of your ankle. Tenderly, with new purpose, they uncover all the tiny bones of your foot and continue upwards. As they unearth your left femur, you remember with a pang the heavy boots that shattered it. You were a runner once.

Slowly, every inch revealing another small act of violence on your poor body, the Earth lets you go. The hands that freed you belong to a woman. Her skin and clothes are dark with something more than earth. You wonder, only for a moment, what she was burying when she found you.

 


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Words by Riana Kinlough

Riana is an Adelaide-based writer, whose primary interests include murderous women and keeping her cat off the keyboard long enough to write. You can see her work in the CRUSH anthology.

Artwork by Rhianna Carr. You can find more of Rhianna’s art on Facebook @RhiannaCarrART or on Instagram

‘You and I’ by Tanner Muller

You’re standing outside your friend’s apartment building, your body soaking, your phone without a percentage. You lift your handbag over your head and begin to walk. It doesn’t take long for you to slip and fall onto the pavement. You cry, but the tears are hidden amid the rain that falls onto your face. Now, more than ever, is the opportunity to reveal myself to you. I lower the car window and speak to you for the very first time.

‘Do you need some help, miss? You look hurt,’ I say.

Your head turns sharply to face me. ‘Well, you must be a genius,’ you say as you examine my appearance, ‘Do I know you?’

I think, of course you do. I’m your future lover. You just don’t know it yet.

‘Unless you recognise me from Thursday quiz nights at The Lodge, I wouldn’t think so.’

You stare at me, bewildered. You’re clearly not amused.

‘Would you like a ride home?’ I say to break the awkward tension—hoping, praying, that you’ll accept my offer.

‘Give me a good enough reason as to why I should. For all I know, you could be a murderer.’

‘Well, I—’

‘Is this how you pick up chicks?’ you interrupt. ‘Prowling the streets in search for some girl who’s in dire need of assistance?’

‘Did it work?’ I say in my final attempt at getting you into my car. I’ve been anticipating this very moment since I first laid eyes on you. Now, my future with you all depends on these three words. You’ll either tell me to get lost, and refer to me as that maniac who tried to kidnap you on the street that night, or you…laugh. You laugh. I wouldn’t consider it to be my finest moment, but it’s enough for you to take a risk and put your trust into me. You step into the car.

You drench the leather seat covers, but I’m not bothered because I finally have you close to me; close enough to touch you, to smell you. Your sweet peachy fragrance lingers inside the vehicle. This was, of course, despite your soaking body. I could only imagine this scent from outside the window of your apartment, but now it fills my nose with delight.

As we pull away from the curb, I notice how gentle you appear to be from the corner of my eyes. You’re like a priceless family heirloom or an ancient glass vase, look—but don’t touch. And your legs are smooth, as though they were manufactured and shaped like a Barbie doll. I’m resisting the temptation to meaninglessly graze my hand across your knee. Heck, I’m resisting the temptation to pull over the car and penetrate you gently and fill your body with nothing but love. But I don’t. Of course I don’t. I must be patient.

‘What’s your address?’ I ask, though I know perfectly well where you live.

‘Why do you want to know that? So you can stalk me?’

You make the environment uncomfortable again, as though you’re teasing me, playing mind games to analyse my reaction.

You chuckle before continuing, ‘I’ll just tell you where to go from here.’

We’re a few more blocks away, but there is no conversation. Instead, you sit there politely with your hands folded into your lap, providing me directions to your building: right, left, left, right, left, right.

‘So, what were your plans for tonight?’ I say to interject the monotony.

‘Well, before I was drenched in rain, I was drenched in my friend’s tears,’ you say sarcastically, as though you didn’t want to be there. ‘Every time she has something troubling her, she expects me to pick up the pieces.’

‘That must put a lot of pressure on you.’

‘You want to know something? It does. I’ve never been able to say it out loud before, but it’s exhausting.’

‘So, why do you do it then?’

‘I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps I’ve become used to it—going out of my way to help others. Now listen, are you sure you’re alright with this? I feel as though I need to repay you in some way—’

‘Tell me more,’ I interrupt. ‘How does this person make you feel?’

‘Honestly,’ you pause for a moment, your mind lost in thought, ‘I dislike her, immensely. But I keep disregarding the importance of my feelings towards her, because I’ve convinced myself that it’s wrong to think that way. I place her at the forefront of my life, but have been shown nothing in return. She doesn’t care for me. She—’

You’re wanting to speak more, but you resist and fight to keep the words back.

We approach your apartment building, but I leave the engine running. You turn and stare at me with a polite grin.

‘Thanks for the ride, mister,’ you say.

‘The pleasure was all mine.’

It was in that moment I thought, you like me, don’t you? Even if you won’t admit it to yourself, you trust me already. I gave you my undivided attention and listened to your problems. In this short car ride, I’ve managed to begin chipping away at your walls of doubt and unhappiness. No one else in your life has been able to achieve this. I’ve exposed you to the emotions you were hiding. All you could see were limitations, stops signs. You were trapped and blinded by what you feared most: the truth, the correct truth, the truth you’re meant to be feeling. Through my extensive observations of you, I’ve been able to examine your behaviour, even in your most vulnerable states. So now it becomes clear that you want me. As a matter of fact, you need me.

‘I almost forgot to ask for your name,’ you say.

‘Derek,’ I respond, lying.

‘I’m Valerie.’

‘Nice to meet you, Valerie.’

You exit the vehicle and we wave each other goodbye. I wait as you enter your apartment building before driving away. Your peachy scent continues to linger under my nose on the ride home. I’ll be back soon. No doubt about that.


Photo 6-7-17, 20 40 04

Tanner is an emerging writer living and exploring in Adelaide. His work has been published in Glam Adelaide, Mind Shave, Verse Magazine and the Piping Shrike anthology series, among other places.

Website: https://tannermullercreative.com

Instagram: @tanner.muller

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tannermullercreative/


Art by Rhianna Carr. You can find more of Rhianna’s art on Facebook @RhiannaCarrART or on Instagram

Relocation

The stuttering crawl of traffic arrests, and a terminal red line on the GPS tells Gerald he should settle in. He sits straight-backed in a collared shirt, top button still buttoned, in the driver’s seat of his car, in a line of stationary cars, a still frame excised from a zoetrope.

On the passenger side, an emergency stopping lane hints at escape. It runs clear, but only as far as the next overpass. There, a massive pylon erupts from the ground like a memorial. For any who made the attempt, it would mark an end.

Gerald’s spent a lot of time on this freeway, rolling slow in the dusk, but he’s never been held up exactly here, at the top of this low rise. He’s noticed the graveyard, of course, beyond the concrete wall that serves to divide the locals (dead) and those just passing through (ostensibly living). The other side has it pretty good, with their freshly mown grass. Their gated community. Until now Gerald had never noticed the graffiti scrawled against the barrier: If you slept here you’d be home by now.

The vehicle in front of him inches forward in a restless zombie shuffle. Ahead and to the right, a transit van’s indicator light blinks like a tic. Fumes from all these idling motors start to cloy, so Gerald recirculates the air in his cabin. There: he is sealed off from the others, those commuter vessels, also static. Steel cannisters for single occupants. When the traffic flows again, they will diffuse into the suburbs. For each car a garage; for each garage a dwelling. Is that what home is? That’s encapsulation, thinks Gerald, but it’s too transient. Home should be a place to stay and sleep sound. At this rate when he reaches his destination it will be time to leave again.

More than anything else, Gerald wants a shorter commute. So he pulls into the emergency lane. He is moving, picking up speed, tearing past the other cars. He can see his new address.


Words by Andrew Roff

Andrew Roff’s first novel-length manuscript was shortlisted for the Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award at the 2016 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. His short fiction has appeared in Antithesis Journal and Antipodean SF, and has been adapted for community radio. Andrew’s interests in crime, politics and economics inform his writing. He tweets at @roffwrites and you can read more of his work at roffwrites.com.

‘Crashing Waves’ by J.R. Polkinghorne

 

Wind whistled over the deck, howling through every nook and cranny, growing in strength and lowering in pitch as it whooshed around me like a cold blanket encasing my body. Waves clashed on either side of the ship in rapid hits like a hundred thrashing drummers beating endlessly away at the ship’s wooden panels.
The wind picked up and the waves grew larger around me, while the crew snored away below. I was showered in a spray of icy salt water as I clung desperately to the ship’s edge, watching as Davy Jones pulled and tugged at the vessel, trying to drag us down into the watery depths of his locker.

I tied myself to the deck, the coarse rope rubbing against my soft flesh as the waves knocked me back and forth. One moment I was standing upright, and in another a wave had bashed me down onto my hands and knees. The first time it happened I tried to scream, but nothing came out. All I accomplished was filling my lungs with water and heaving it up on the deck until another wave came.
I should have stayed below with the others; they were all tucked away in their beds, warm and dry. I should have ignored the sounds coming from above, but by god, I was stupid. The thought of drowning in my sleep sent such fear over me that I scrambled on deck in nothing but my pants and socks. What a mistake that was. Every time the icy water hit me stabbing into my skin over and over. My limbs were getting stiff from the cold and yet the waves could still toss me around as though I was a ragdoll. And although the rope didn’t let me go far I still managed to slam painfully into everything. I thought of going back. Back into the dark under the deck, and yet I stayed frozen. The fear kept me in place and the fear would be my doom.

My skin was turning purple from both the cold and the bruises. I was starting to look like a prune. I was damned soul stuck forever in a loop of pain and suffering for the sins I have no doubt committed in my short life aboard this ship. This wasn’t the hell my mother warned me about, but I couldn’t think of another word to call this.
My body was going numb and all I could do was think. Right now I wanted nothing more than to curl up in my mother’s arms against her breast and cry as though I was a boy. She would sing to me, her voice sweet and soothed my aguish.

I wanted to sing, I wanted to open my mouth and let the words out, but I couldn’t, not with the fear of filling my lungs again with foul fishy water.
My thoughts left me, and all I could do was stare blankly at the deck, as it sank into the endless depth of the sea, the impending doom of my watery grave mocking me, the promise of gold and adventure sinking along with me. I shouldn’t have jumped on this ship, shouldn’t have thrown away the life my mother gave me for a chance at adventure, but the idea of sailing across the sea, my name striking fear into the hearts of men, so tempted me.

But alas, my dreams were lost and my hopes were drowning, falling deep into hopeless despair. My death was forming around me clinging tightly to my skin as the darkness crept in. Death was on my shoulder, his breath like rotten fish, as he waited for my demise.

As the gloom started sneaking in, another sound picked up through the beating of waves and screaming wind. It was just a faint whisper, carried out along the sea, settling down against my cheek. The whisper turned into a song, moving in time with the waves and floating along the breeze. It was truly beautiful and it brought a small flicker of light into my soul, fanning the fire of my heart. I tried to stand—but to no avail. I still couldn’t move, my limbs cold and numb. The best I could do was open my mouth to call out, but as I tried another waved crashed down. This was the end. I didn’t have the strength to force the water out, nor the strength to search for the angel calling out to me.

Another wave washed over, covering the ship and bringing silence with it. I was no longer cold, only the suffocating embrace of the ocean was around, squeezing my lungs. My body didn’t hurt anymore. My lungs did though, and in that moment I felt the urge to breath, to move, to swim away. My limbs sprang into action and moved against the pull of the sea, but I was tied down; attached to the ship as it sunk. The thing I thought would be my saviour was instead aiding in my death as I, too, was dragged down with the ship. I tugged at the rope, my skin rubbing raw. It was no use. I was trapped.

I was dying and there was nothing I could do about it. Scared, helpless, and small, I was held down by something bigger than me. Even though I knew it was hopeless, I still struggled to swim towards the surface. I still struggled for that last breath of crisp air.
But I only sank further, my strength leaving me, my limbs stopped moving.

It was then, in that moment of defeat that I heard it again. The sweet voice kissed my cheek, a whisper through the silence of the sea. I wanted to see it. I needed to see the angel calling out to me before I was gone, before everything was gone and the only thing left was this vast sea. I gritted my teeth and forced my eyes open, the salt stinging them every time they opened even the slightest bit.

The voice was louder now, and I could almost make out words. Against my lids I could feel light shining, begging me to open them. Again I tried, and every time I did I let out a little more breath from the pain. I was running out of time. I couldn’t let it end like this. I needed to fight through the pain, through the despair and hopelessness, but it hurt. It hurt so much, and every time I tried it seemed I only got further from my goal. Even in the water I knew I was crying, for that one little glimpse of the light that was taunting my death. I don’t believe I have ever wanted something more in my entire life.

The song kept playing, and it was now that I heard my name. The angel was singing for me and me alone. I needed to see it. With the final force of my body I flung open my eyes. Light consumed me as I was blinded by it, but after blinking I could see it. The angel calling for me was no angel at all but the captain holding a candle by my face, her gruff features illuminated by it. I was still on the ship. The storm had died down and we hadn’t sunk.
I was still tied to the ship and wet from the waves, but the air was light. I could breathe. I was cold, but I could move. I sat up and looked at the captain who gave me a puzzled look before standing extending her hand to me. “You shouldn’t sleep on the deck. Men drown doing that you know.”

I laughed. I laughed so hard it hurt my lungs but I couldn’t stop. Even though the captain kept staring I still laughed. I laughed at the captain’s words. I laughed at my foolish dreams. But most of all I laughed because I could, because I was alive.

 


Words by J.R. Polkinghorne

Art by Rhianna Carr. You can find more of Rhianna’s art on Facebook @RhiannaCarrART