BOOK TITLE: The Australia Times - Fiction magazine. Volume 3, issue 6

Vol. 3 No. 6
June 2015
e team
The team behind the TAT Fiction
Whats on
Upcoming festivals and events in the
writing world.
Editors Top 5 Editions
Our Editor looks back at some
TAT Fiction highlights from the
past two years.
e day the
Internet died
‘Only then was it realised how much
had been gained the day Internet died...
“We never stood a chance.
Whoevers manufacturing them
played God better than God. No
mistakes. They knew their purpose.
They were made to be better.”
e Forest Guardians
‘Granny has divined that there is only
one way we can be saved. A gift must
be given to the Forest Guardians...’
A Soldiers Life
As Jock McMaster watched his son
board the HMAS Sydney, he knew
Angus would not return...
Summers Lease
‘It struck her she must have been
blind her whole life to have missed
the beauty jostling for attention all
around her...
Dry Argument
The stranger entered the bar – the
shade offering welcome relief to the
40 degrees outside...
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he beauty of fiction is its ability to open unexplored
doors for its readers. We are given the ability to slip
into other skins, inhabit different worlds, and gain in-
sight into things we have never before experienced. With the
turn of each page, we are faced with obstacles we hope we
never have to face in reality, but also the kinds of moments
and places that we can only dream of.
Through fiction, we become limitless.
Enjoy, and happy reading!
The Editor,
Meg Hellyer
Party by Eric McGregor
(Flickr Commons)
Vol. 3 No. 6
June 2015
We offer both veteran and undiscovered writers the opportunity to get published.
Have something to communicate, or an opinion to state, we are your voice!
Want to join a like minded community in a great project
We are always on the lookout for new writers and stories.
Please send your submissions by the 1st of July for inclusion in the
Stories can be sent directly to the Editor at
For a look back at our past issues, click here.
e Australia Times Fiction Magazines
are now also on Facebook.
You can follow us
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And now we are 2!’
t is with great pride that I welcome you to
our Second Birthday edition.
Two years on – I can hardly believe it! TAT
continues to grow and grow, with many exciting
things going on behind the scenes as we head
into our third year of publishing.
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is month we celebrate by taking a look
back at some of our favourite stories from
over the past two years, re-featuring the
very best of TAT Fiction.
To our brilliant team of writers, sub-editors
and designers, I say thank you. It’s been an
amazing journey so far, and our magazine
wouldnt be what it is today without you.
To our fantastic senior TAT team: thank
you for all that you do – TAT Fiction
would not exist without your tireless hard
work and support.
To our readers: we have absolutely loved
sharing our stories with you, and look
forward to continuing to showcase quality
Australian ction.
We do hope you enjoy this issue.
As ever, happy reading!
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Meg Hellyer is a freelance writer and editor
living in Melbourne. She has sub-edited for a
range of publications that include ArtsHub,
Ferntree Gully News, and e Pun, and is also
the author of several short stories.
Growing up surrounded by books, Meg has
always had a love of literature. When she is
not editing for e Australia Times, she often
nds herself writing about the people she
sees on trains.
You can nd out more about Meg at her
website, www.meghellyer.com.
Tristyn Harrison is a freelance writer and
amateur blogger with an interest in all things
out of the ordinary. She writes for herself
rst, shaping the raw mass of creation and
inspiration into stories that reach in and pluck
the heart-strings. She shares her ideas and her
work with her writing groups, both online at
e Writer’s Café, and at the NSW Writers
Centre in Sydney, and alternates between
working on her rst novel, perfecting her
craft, and revisiting the work of professional
authors who have shaped her lifes journey.
The team behind
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Alexia Derbas studied Writing and Cultural
Studies at the University of Technology,
Sydney. She writes all sorts of things and
doesnt do much else, though a great deal of
her time is spent bush walking. is occurs
under the guise of scouting out perfect
writing locations. Her work has appeared
in various publications including Seizure,
Voiceworks and the Spineless Wonders
Writing to the Edge anthology. She tweets
with regret @lexderbas.
James Noonan is a Melbourne-based writer
and editor who has held a number of
publishing roles locally as well as in New York.
He was the recipient of the Victorian Young
Writers’ Award in 2014, and his ction has
also appeared in Grith Universitys creative
writing anthology, Talent Implied. James
is currently working on his rst novel, and
at this rate will have it nished by the year
2030. By then he also hopes to have gotten a
match on Tinder.
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and events in
the writing
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Our Editor looks back
at some TAT Fiction
highlights from the past two years.
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Welcome to the Machine
(March 2015)
Inspired by a story from Boris Glikman, ‘Welcome to the Machine
featured a fantastic collection of stories which explored themes of
dystopia, fate, lost dreams, greed… and even time travel!
Well done to our writers for a stand-out edition.
Remembrance Day
(Nov 2014)
is special edition commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the
First World War, exploring themes of remembrance. Writers paid
tribute to the sacrices made by our diggers, examining the eects
of war from many dierent angles. Very proud of this edition.
A big thank you to all the writers whose works have appeared in TAT Fiction over the
last year:
A huge thank you as well to our fantastic designers, who do a beautiful job in bringing
our stories together.
TAT Fiction wouldnt be what it is today without your hard work!
Danielle Shelley Carr
Paul Carr
Maureen Cliord
Julie Davies
Sandra Fitzgerald
Boris Glikman
Adam Gregory
Margaret Gregory
Tristyn Harrison
Kurt Heath
Michael King
Marilyn Linn
Bozena Helena Mazur-Nowak
Laura Money
Beverley Prosser
Jonathan Robb
Barbara Scott
Justin Sheedy
Max Voice
Barnaby Wilde
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(Dec 2013)
We marked the end of 2013 with our very rst themed edition,
‘Reections’. In life, it is always healthy to look back and see how
far youve come! e edition featured some wonderful, introspective
stories from TAT Fiction stalwarts Boris Glikman, Margaret
Gregory, Barnaby Wilde and Purnima Nandy.
First Birthday
(June 2014)
With great excitement, we celebrated TATs rst birthday in June
2014 – complete with some cracking reworks on the cover!
Tis the Season
(Dec 2014)
To get in the festive spirit, TAT Fictions December 2014 edition
featured stories of letters to the North Pole, Christmas lights, snow
and travelling home for the season. I really felt this edition captured
the magic of the season – and our designers really did a beautiful
job to boot.
And lets not forget our rst ever edition, where it all
began. Originally dubbed ‘Wunderkind’, our rst edition
launched in June 2013. We sure have come a long way
from our early editions!
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 :
Illustration by Andy Paciorek
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t was widely known that Internet had been ailing for
some time. Its poor health had made it rather slipshod
in the execution of its duties. Some people had to
endure days of frustration until an online connection was
established, while for others the connection kept going
on and o every second, like a ickering light globe.
For a while Internet hovered in a half-dead condition,
with one foot in the grave, and mankind held its breath,
fearing Internet would continue to deteriorate and then
give up the ghost altogether.
And then the day came when Internet breathed its last
and nobody could believe their ill fortune. It was hard to
grasp that Internet no longer dwelled in the world, and
that the burden of living would never again be lightened
with the ever-present alternative of escaping into an
online existence. No one would be privileged any more
with the luxury of having two worlds to live in.
e most eminent computer technicians of the land
were assigned the task of performing the autopsy. eir
unanimous conclusion was that the Internet died of
virtual causes. What nobody had suspected was that the
Internet possessed a nite life span. Everyone had always
assumed it would be around forever, yet it too carried
within itself the lethal seeds of eternal oine-ness.
  
,  .  
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e next most pressing issue was the burial. Issues never
considered before needed to be addressed urgently, for the
sight of lifeless Internet lying prostrate on the ground was too
heartbreaking for the world to take. Where should the funeral
ceremony be held? In which language or computer code should
the memorial service be conducted? Who should give the
eulogy? Where to entomb it?
e matter of whom to invite to the service proved to be the
most intractable issue of all. A certain number of tickets were
reserved for those most deeply aected by Internet’s death -
online pornography addicts, social mists, ingrained introverts,
Twitter-obsessed celebrities, Nigerian scammers and long-term
residents in Second Life’s virtual world. Otherwise, it was nearly
impossible to determine who was genuinely grief-stricken and
who only wanted to attend the ceremony so as to be a part of
this historic occasion.
Eventually, all of these matters were resolved, although not to
everyones satisfaction, and the world gave Internet the sending
o it deserved. Straight after the funeral, the world went into
a shutdown, mourning Internet’s passing and remembering
wistfully how it could answer any question; satisfy all
emotional, mental and bodily needs; thrill the mind and the
senses; provide instantaneous information, entertainment,
relaxation and titillation; and even cure loneliness. Tragically,
given the magnitude and depth of the loss, some could not
bear to continue living in a world without Internet and logged
out permanently from this world.
Once the unbridled, hysterical wave of grief nally subsided,
people sobered up and gradually realised how the Internet had
debased and disgured their lives.
ey recalled with horror and consternation the way Internet
enabled people to dawdle their lives away in the endless morass
of net world, leaving vital tasks undone and crucial issues
unresolved; how googling had supplanted the wisdom that
comes with age, experience, learning and, with instantaneous
information always at ones ngertips, the value of knowledge
was lost; the way online reality became the only world and
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real reality was jilted and forgotten, just like the plain sister
of a gorgeous girl; how Internet robbed life of its multifarious
richness and beauty and reduced the world to a small,
rectangular screen; the way online reality became a prison
in which humanity willingly immured itself and then threw
awaythe key.
Mankind recognised how fundamentally Internet had altered
the nature of social relations and the nature of ones relationship
with oneself. Invented to facilitate communication and for
bringing the world together, the Internet instead became
the perfect tool for dissimulation, distorting the truth and
separating oneself from the world, thus allowing people to
not only misrepresent their true thoughts and feelings, but to
falsify their entire lives and the very essence of their being, to
themselves as well as to others.
People discovered that ngers were not just for typing and
shifting mouses but had other uses too; that out of their
torsos extended a pair of lower limbs which could be used for
perambulating across the spatial dimension; that Evolution had
equipped their bodies with tools perfect for conveying thoughts
and feelings; that their faces possessed well-developed muscles
which could be employed to signal emotions such as (amongst
many others) surprise, annoyance, happiness, and frustration.
Consequently, successful communication could be achieved
without intermediary electronic devices. Most startling of all
was the revelation that other people were not identical to their
icons - at and forever stuck in the same pose with the same
smile on their faces - rather they were three dimensional beings,
moving about and changing their facial expressions.
Having friends and partners in the physical world meant
that you were free from the precariousness, uncertainty and
unreliability of online friendships and relationships, and no
longer subject to the capricious actions and decisions of your
web pals, to whom, after all, you were just an ethereal, abstract
entity that could easily be deleted permanently from their life
with just a click of a mouse. Consequently, the constant threat
of online friends and lovers inexplicably ceasing all contact and
disappearing forever was gone for good.
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“Back to Reality” tutorials proved to be very popular and
helpful, covering such topics as “Learning How to Single-
Task”; “Becoming Acquainted with the Sun and the Sky”, and
“How to Survive in a World that Cannot be Photoshopped”.
Life slowly regained its meaning as mankind clambered, one
small step at a time, out of the online abyss it had dug for itself.
Without the Internet, no one had to grapple any more with the
problem of how to balance ones life between the two worlds.
Time started to ow more slowly; instant gratication was no
longer craved; contemplation and patience revealed their true
worth. It was now clearly seen that online reality provided only
eeting pseudo-meaning; that emotions felt in the web world
were only ephemeral ersatz feelings; and that real self-esteem
came not from social media popularity, but from within.
Each human being now experienced life directly, rather than
through the distorting, diminishing and vicarious lens of a
computer screen; facing the good and not so-good things in
their lives without escaping into the net world and evading the
reality of their existence; and being true to their inner selves,
instead of hiding behind their icons and online identities. Only
then was it realised how inextricably Internet had woven its
fateful thread into every aspect of mans existence and how
much had been gained the day Internet died.
Boris Glikman is a writer, poet and philosopher. e biggest inuences on his writing are dreams,
Kafka, Borges and Dali. His stories, poems and non-ction articles have been published in various
e-zines and print publications. Boris has appeared a number of times on the radio, including Australian
national radio, performing his poems and stories and discussing the meaning of his work.
He says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to
a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineable
Questions and Innite Beauty. It is my hope that these stories of mine will allow the reader to also
catch a glimpse of this universe.
Boris welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at bozlich@yahoo.com.au
You can nd more of his writings in his blog: http://bozlich.gather.com/
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We never stood a chance.
Whoever's manufacturing them
played God better than God.
No mistakes. They knew their purpose.
They were made to be better.
 :
Andrew Kruspe
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ichard lay on his back. He knew he was on his back because his
throat was thick with phlegm; nasally and burning, dripping
backward down his gullet like tar. It made him breathe
heavily and snort in a way much like snoring but more grotesque. It
had always driven Emily up the wall. Maybe that was why she did it. It
was always those little things that pushed her over the edge.
Richards eyes were open. He realised numbly that they had been open
all along – dry and sore like hed walked through a eld of fresh-mown
grass in spring – but only now that he was actually awake, was he able
to see. But what could he see? An aura of rippling pearlescent stars
shimmered overhead; white on white. A thickness in the corner like
jelly, making it impossible to really focus. A blistering sun too white to
be real. It was there inside his eyes, burning from behind.
Richard swallowed hard. He might have tried to close his eyes to rid
himself of their light, but the pain was too...
Is too–
Suddenly it lled him. He realised he could no longer close his eyes
even as he tried. He pushed down, bit his cheeks as he struggled, as he
thought about how he wanted to close them... and nothing happened.
He couldnt remember how.
e fear of that choked him. Like re, it tingled along his ngers,
surged up his spine. It lled his mouth and so Richard began to scream.
* * * *
   – ,  .  
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“Hes awake.
As quick as it had come, the pain rushed from his body, now distant as a dream.
Richard tensed up in his bonds. He icked his eyes around, searching for the
source of those voices. But everything was cast in that thick pearlescent salve, like
a sheen of Vaseline, how it was used to blur faces in the seventies. Everything was
still out of focus. Eyes open under water.
To make matters worse, Richard could hardly turn his head, and when he wrestled
with whatever was stopping him all his bones began to burn again. Stung down
the urge to scream this time, he swallowed phlegm and coughed.
A gure moved overhead, thin as a blade of grass and wobbling in the heat.
“Do you remember your name?” the shimmering stranger asked him.
Richard did. Of course he did. Why wouldnt he remember his own name? But
when he tried to tell them, his mouth would not obey.
“He seems to be experiencing some loss of motor control.
“It ith to be ethpected.
“Expected, yes. But not desired.
“Hes exhibiting all the usual symptoms.
We know how to treat the uthual thymptomth.
We do. But then never to this degree. We dont know how deep its gone.
Or what triggered it.
“Should we test his memory?”
We need to make sure hes all there before we proceed.
And we need to nd the cauzthe.
* * * *
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e pub was hot and stuy, near empty but for himself, the barman, and some
soiled stranger. e summer heat laid siege to the weatherboard walls, making the
ceiling sweat. Amidst the beads of condensation a fan circled painfully slowly. At
either end of the bar rotator-fans swivelled noisily as they blew hot air between
one another like a game of pong. ere had been a bucket of ice in front of them;
now it was just water. From the feel of it, the air-con had died a good half hour
ago. But Richard couldnt remember it ever being on. He couldnt even remember
how he got there.
He looked down at the half-drunk pot of beer he was nursing in his hand. e
taste of dry hops settled on his tongue as if hed just taken a sip.
Across the table, the barman leaned back against his bench. His eyes were xed on
Richard as if he were awaiting the answer to some question he had never asked.
“You right mate?” the barman said at last. His voice was crisp – it didnt have that
metallic edge. at was a kindness. He was human.
Richard took a sip of his beer, and let the chill of it work its way down to his
gullet. To his right, the other man slumped down against the bench had his head
lost in a damp towel, his hand pressing an unopened stubby against his neck.
Richard followed his lead, taking his own beer and placing the frosty glass against
his forehead. It was a welcome relief from the heat. But from everything else?
“I’ve seen my fair share of sorry lost souls sittin’ right where youre sittin’ now,
mate,” the barman confessed. “Only a few reasons they look so glum.
Richard watched as the mans gold-ecked eyes scrupulously dissected him.
He felt them run slowly from his sweaty brow and balding head to his soiled
annelette shirt, the dirt in his curly chest hair beneath it, the pimples beneath
that, and the pale esh beneath that. Drinking it all in. Weighing him. Knowing
him. Proling him against a hundred other sorry lost souls. Richard wondered
how he fared in comparison.
ose gold-ecked eyes rose back up and xed upon his wedding ring. Richard
felt it suddenly burn hot against his nger. He wished hed lost it, or left it behind.
He should have taken it o. Why hadnt he?
Richards thoughts must have shown on his face, for the barman was smiling.
Wife left you, huh?” When Richard didnt answer, the barman shrugged. “Dont
beat yourself up over it. Happens to the best of us.
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“Does it?”
“Sure,” he said.
Suddenly there was a fresh beer sitting on the bar, cold and golden, bubbles rising
slowly. Richard eyed it suspiciously until the barman added, “On the house, mate.
Richard nished the dregs of his pot and eagerly took up the new one. It was
beautifully cold. e barman was watching him curiously all the while.
“So what gave it away?” Richard asked nally, sure the barman wouldnt let up.
He felt he owed him for the beer.
“Folk usually come here to escape their wives. Ring says you got one. Or, well,
had one at least. It’s forty-six outside. In here it’s closer to fty. So I dont think
y’here for the air-con.
Richard forced himself to laugh. It sounded like a wheeze. His back twitched as
a bead of sweat dripped down from his neck.
Trust me,” the barman said, “if I had any other place to go I wouldnt be here.
Neither would he.” He kicked his head toward the only other man in the bar
whose unopened stubby had stopped being cold enough to sooth him. e man
wasnt moving. “She took the house I take it?”
“Nah,” Richard shook his head. He still had a lovely home, climate-controlled
and tinted to fend o the summer heat. “Just doesnt seem right. Everythings...
A reminder.
His eyes icked anxiously to the television jutting out from the wall on a stainless
swivel-bar. It was old, not as paper-thin as his, made at least a year before they
updated the hologram lters that were giving people cancer. Not that that bothered
Richard now. What did, though, was the woman spreading the news of another
upgrade. ey were making them better again. Integrating a new system to stop
some strange anomaly that was causing them to... whatever. It was nothing new.
ey were always better, that’s why he was here.
Want me to turn it o?”
Richard glanced away from the screen. He hadnt realised what hed been doing,
how hed been breathing heavy and clutching the pot.
“It’s ne,” he lied.
e barman turned it o anyway. e woman on the screen, if she was a woman,
frizzled into dust. “So the memories they create are–”
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“So,” the barman rested himself back and sighed. “Left you for one of them,
A bloke named... hell, I never knew his name.
Whatever the name, its not a bloke. We’re blokes. You and me.” He jabbed his
thumb at his chest. “eyre just Others.
“at never seemed to bother Emily.
“Is that her name? Emily.” e barman tested it on his tongue. “Pretty name. I
picture a tall, fair-haired lass... am I close?”
“Something like that,” Richard lied again. He didnt want to think about what
Emily looked like, or he couldnt remember.
“Does it ever strike you as strange that they built them full with tackle? I mean it
werent even an upgrade they thought of later. Like, ‘Hey we can make a mint if
we market them for sex.’ It was basic design. ey came o the shelves that way,
ready to screw us.
Richard felt like he had heard that before. Or at least he thought he had, but he
couldnt quite picture whod said it.
“I get it, they made them look like us ‘cause it’s less threatening. But thats what
makes them threatening!” e barman must have realised what he was saying, for
he coughed and laughed and said, “Oh, sorry mate. I get carried away sometimes.
Talk t’pass the time, aye?”
Richard forgave the man if only for the cold beer in his hand. Yet even as he tried
not to think about it, what the man said held a great deal of merit and began
to conjure things. It was never an upgrade. Dancing the tango was an upgrade.
Cooking á la carte was an upgrade. But screwing? ey were already better than
him as soon as they walked o the line in all their basic glory.
“Go back,” the barman said suddenly.
Richards eyes icked up from his beer, startled. “What did you say?”
“Huh?” the barman looked confused. “I didnt say anything.
“You said–”
“Go back further.” His lip shook. His voice was not his own. “Take him back, I
want to see if he remembers her face.
Richard pushed himself o the bar. “What the hell is going on?” e beer was
still in his hand, so he slammed it on the table and pointed at the barman with a
shaky nger. “Youre one of them?”
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e barman inched. “What are you talking about, mate? I get that this has all
got you in a bad place but– take him back now!”
* * * *
Richard was walking up the stairs, eyes down-focused tracking his footsteps,
trying to keep them silent. e noises he heard coming from the bedroom made
him feel sick. He prayed he heard wrong, maybe he was losing his mind. Work
had been hard lately; it was why hed come home early that day. ey made him
leave even though he said he didnt need to.
How clichéd. Came home early to this.
Not this.
He was determined for it not to be this.
But then he heard that familiar groan, the one Emily issues when shes in the
moment. No. is was dierent. Deeper. roatier. It was the real thing, not
the one that tipped Richard over the edge too early because he thought she was
getting close. It was truer than all that. And it pained him to realise hed never
gotten her to make those noises. His own wife. Two years of marriage and the
three years before. He was always too eager for all the good it did him, always too
aware of himself but negligent of her.
Even as he felt like hed throw up, he grew hard in his trousers. Richard
hated that. How his body betrayed him even now. He felt guilty, perverted,
Somehow this got him thinking. Hoping. at maybe...
Maybe shes alone...
Hed found her once before with this same feeling sinking in his chest. Hed burst
in, blurry-eyed and ustered, ready to throw-down against some other man. But
there was nothing else, just his wife enjoying the last hour of her time alone.
It was a welcome relief that time, walking in on her all with only the holo-pad
dancing that couple in coitus. Hed been hard then too, against his will, but it was
good. e two of them had watched that movie on the holo-pad together.
But now?
Not now.
Richard came to the top of the stairs and the holo-pad was there sitting on the
corner table. Disregarded for a better model.
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“Not this. Further back.
Richard stopped in his stride.
“Careful. We dont want him to remember this yet.
“Not yet.
“Not at all.
Richard felt himself shaking. He rushed forward, unable to control his movements.
Legs stumbled, his breathing faltered. Something hard struck him in the chest.
He threw open the doors to the bedroom. Light burst through. Waving, white
and shimmering light. He was blind.
“Go back! Now! Quickly!”
* * * *
He had been a boy when they had come.
“Shit. Youve gone too far.
e procession was a grand spectacle, like a fair with oats and balloons and
bands, all owing down High Street like a thick rainbow river. Richard sat upon
his fathers shoulders, dodging streamers and covering his ears from the sound
of hooting trumpets raised on high, until nally he saw them. Hed never even
dreamed they would be real, and yet here they were, introduced simultaneously
to the world, to halt greed and envy and black market trade. Released upon them
smiling and waving. ey didnt seem any dierent to him.
Were here now. Just let it play.
Watching this will make it worse for him.
“It’ll make it clear.
ere had been too many theories surrounding their arrival so the government
took no chances. ey werent programmed or given laws to obey – they had
nothing to break and so couldnt be broken. ey would mingle. ey would not
replace. ey would help. ey would not be better.
His father said they were not really machines, but just another version of ourselves.
Others. ey were born, they lived, and they died. ey had free will: some were
bad, and they were treated as we are treated when we are bad. Some were good.
Despite intentions, most were better.
“is isnt working. Hes still confused. His memories–”
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“Of what?”
“His heartbeat is elevated. Look.
Alright. is isnt working.
Take him forward. is time try and lock onto something we can use.
* * * *
Richard watched as time raced by. He stood there, confused, in the midst of it all
as water churned about his feet. Faces stared at him through the glass. Wide-eyed
strangers. Hopeful strangers. He thought he recognised them, but then they were
* * * *
It was only a year before they were integrated seamlessly with humanity. e
rst protests began for equality after that, one equality in particular. But seeing
as sexism, racism, and all other -isms were dead and gone, Mechanism had no
foundation to stand upon. It was snued out the moment it arose. It never had
time to breathe.
e protest lasted a day before the edict was passed and the party kicked o
again. A day compared to all the other protests that had lasted hundreds of years.
But what else could there be in the heat of a mechanical age? Tardiness? Never.
Now Richard stood laughing, smiling, though he didnt really feel at ease. He had
his arm wrapped around a girl– a pretty one this time, and smart and charming.
One he was determined not to lose. He had tried so hard to keep her interested,
to make sure his anxiety and doubt and paranoia didnt repel her. He made sure
not to sabotage his own eorts out of fear. So far it was good.
Emily hung o him awestruck, staring up at the holo-screen as people cheered,
as the ribbon was cut. Richard couldnt tell if the ribbon cutter had been one of
them or one of them. No one cared. at was the point of cutting the ribbon in
the rst place.
What ith thith?”
“e Equality Ribbon.
“I know that, but why ith he remembering it like thith?”
“Hes remembering what he wants to. His corruption is deeper than I rst
“Fast forward it. I dont want him to catch something again.
“It’ll delay recovery.
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“Exploring this further will terminate recovery!”
“Okay. Doing it now.
Time washed by around his feet.
Richard stared upwards. He found himself surrounded by strangers. Emily was no
longer on his arm, but he was still there. Wasnt he? When states started passing
the bill that allowed marriage?
At the time Richard had thought little of it. His mind danced with the other
more important matters of life; how his assignments were going to be late, how
he was getting a haircut tonight, wondering if his current workout routine would
build his shoulders enough. He was twenty-two, standing with a coee at the
University Café. Truly, he only cared about one thing.
We can get married now if we want,” Richard overhead a woman say beside
him. She sounded so happy.
Richard laughed pitifully. When he turned away he witnessed two men from his
Chemistry class, Darryn and Je, as they stared up at the gigantic holo-screen with
empty, hopeless, hate-lled eyes. In this quick little fray everyone had forgotten
about them. Isms might be dead. Phobias were not.
“ere you are,” Emily said. She was suddenly there staring up into Richard’s
eyes. Her gaze froze him to the spot. “You heard the news then?”
“It’s all over our heads,” he told her. He pointed up and, sure enough, above them
a wash of colour revealed the news. ose cleaver nanos zzled to dust again and
scattered. en they washed about and zipped back to the start to play it all again
in a wave.
We should toast to it,” Emily told him.
“Should we?” He turned back to Darryn and Je, but they were gone.
“Of course we should! Everything’s changing.
“Everythings already changed.
Richard looked around, startled and confused. Who said that?
Everyones voices made a hum as they walked around him. People lined up to
get their lunch. ere was a barista standing behind his coee machine. Richard
could tell by the glint of his eye that he wasnt human. But he wasnt staring at
him. His eyes were xed on Emily. Richard followed the look, saw Emily ush
and turn away.
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“Careful now. It’ll trigger the other one.
We cant keep him away from it forever–”
“Be careful!”
“I am–”
“Oh, shit!”
* * * *
Richard was walking up the stairs, his eyes down-focused tracking his footsteps, trying
to keep them silent. e sounds drifted out of the bedroom door. ey were getting
louder. One voice. Not two. So maybe... but the holo-pad was sitting on the table.
“Careful. Hes regressed.
“I can see that!”
Richard froze in his stride. at voice came from behind him. He turned.
We cant go further back. Not without triggering this one again.
Well we cant go forward.
We need more time.
“If he realises then he’ll be forced into rejection.
Richard blinked hard. “Whos there?” he shouted. Emilys hearty grunting
suddenly stopped. e hallway fell silent.
“Is he talking to us?”
“Of course not, thats ridiculous–”
Who are you?” Richard felt his chest tighten around his heart. Everything began
to hurt.
“I didnt think it was possible.
“It shouldnt be possible. Not unless his–”
“Quiet! We’ve bled through.
“Hes more detached than I thought–”
Whos there?” Richard shouted again. His throat was sorely dry. Everything was
spinning, turning white. His eyes were straining to see. He held his hand above
his eyes to shield them but the light still came through. It was inside him. Right
there in his head.
Suddenly the stairs were gone and he was falling.
* * * *
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Why hath it never been taboo to thcrew them?” Pete’s childhood lisp always
made him seem naive.
Well they were built for it,” Emily told him. “e man-bots walked o the shelf
with an assorted range of size hidden down their trousers. Wanted to make them
Her laughter was coy, it hinted at too many things.
Richard sat there across the table seething into his beer. Hed heard the rumours
as well as the rest of them. But while Emily had grown curious, he had grown
“Oooh-hoo-hoo,” Jake tossed back his cider and pointed his skinny nger across
at Richard. “Got some competition, mate.
“Oh, relax Richy,” Emily touched his ngers across the table. “I’m only being silly.
e table burst out laughing.
Richard tried to laugh with them so it wouldnt seem so obvious he wasnt.
Kate stirred her coee and bit her lip suggestively. “I bet youve thought about it,
she told the boys in her usual boisterous slur. She was an attractive, open-minded,
assertive, brown-eyed, brown-skinned pest. Richard knew she was thinking about
it right now and making them all do the same.
“I think I like the real thing,” Jake told her as he stood to get another round. He
was lost to the crowd in the blink of an eye.
What about you?” Kate asked Pete, who in turn ushed red. “ought so. A
fantasy. You should do it for real. If you can get a girl do to it for real.
“Leave him alone, Kate. It’s ne for you whos been carrying around a toy in your
handbag since you were fteen, but it’s just wrong for a guy. Desperate. And it’s
not a girl. It’s an it.”
Richard didnt remember saying that, but his voice told him he had. e table
looked at him. Emily took her hand back. Kate cocked her eyebrow. Even Pete –
who Richard had been defending – curled his lip.
“eyre people, Richy,” Kate said earnestly.
Richard furrowed his brows. “So why are you all talking about them like theyre not?”
Were not,” Emily said suddenly. She stood from the table. Kate stood with her.
“You are. Jealous prick.
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“eyre eng dildos!” Richard felt his blood rush to his cheeks. Everything was
turning white and shimmering. “Sure they can touch and talk and move on their
own, but when you break it down theyre just–”
“Better than you?” Emily stared across the table incredulously. en she was
gone. And Kate and Pete had gone with her.
Richard sat there all alone for a time, wondering what he’d said, why they had
turned on him so viciously. Jake came back to the table with a tray of ciders, all
pale yellow and bubbling up the glass.
Wheres everyone gone?” Jake asked as he took his glass.
Apparently I oended them.
“Hmm...” Jake had always been intuitive when it came to Richard. ey had
grown up together after all. He took a sip of cider and frowned. “You dont need
to get all jealous, mate. Youve got her. Reign in your crazy and let it be.
“You didnt see the way she got, Jake...” Richard tried to tell him how he felt, but
the words caught in his throat. He took a mouthful of cider. ings didnt seem
to t. Not just now, but for a while.
“Relax, Richy. She wont leave you. It’s just exciting, a fantasy. e prospect of
what-if, you know?”
“I dont know, and youre making it worse.
“Youve never even fantasised about being with one?”
“Like you, I prefer the real thing.
Jake got coy then, until his sheepish smile twisted into a smirk.
Richard felt sick. He wished hed not asked. But now he had to. “Before you
said–” He sighed. “When?”
“e other week. Her name was Ruby. Met her in town.
He didnt really want to know. But then part of him had to. Richard leaned back
in his chair, and sighed. “How was it?”
e reaction he got from Jake was enough to make every fear he had play out
before him.
“I dont mean to salt your wound or make you worry... but holy shit, Rich, I’ve
never... I’ve never... I’ve never...
Richards cider caught in his throat. He choked. “Jake?”
“I’ve never. I’ve never.
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Whats wrong?”
“I’ve never.
Richard jumped back from the table.
Whatth happening?”
“His mind is rejecting–”
“No. It’s remembering. It’s leaking again.
What? But this never happened!”
“Hes imagining his worst fears.
“ose fearth came true, didnt they?”
“ey came true here. It’s what drove him to–”
“Dont! We’re bleeding through again. Look at his face.
Richard felt light headed, as if hed be sick. He stumbled back with his cider in
hand. Jake was sitting across the table, repeating those same two words over and
over. “I never. I never.
e cider in his glass began to bubble and zz. It began lling up and pouring
over the lip until it slipped from his ngers. Glass smashed everywhere, swimming
across the tiles. Light began to shine through the cracks. It was a trick at rst, like
seeing stars. But then it ruptured right through and Richard fell away, screaming.
* * * *
Whats happening?”
“Control him! Direct him away–”
Richard was walking up the stairs, his eyes down-focused tracking his footsteps,
trying to keep them silent.
“I cant!”
ose sounds were getting louder. ey drifted out the door.
“Keep trying! If he goes into this memory–”
“Shit. Shit. Shit.
Richard paused before the door. Held his breath. Closed his eyes. He let it ll
him, those sounds, let them wash right over him like the ocean until he was
drowning in them. He could hear the bed rocking now. e squeak-squeak of the
springs, the bed head banging against the wall. He could feel the rhythm inside
him. e moaning. e grunting. He remembered it all, or at least he pretended
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he did. But then it had never really been like this when they were together. Emily
had never sounded so happy with him.
“Oh God, weve lost him.
Richard tried to bust through the door angrily, tear it o the hinges and scream.
He wanted to frighten them. To make them cower and fall beneath his hand as
he stood there shaming his wife and her lover. Instead he found himself turning
the latch softly and he entered the room in near silence.
Emily didnt even notice him. But then she was on all fours and had her eyes
closed, so she wasnt likely to. It wasnt until she reared up into her lovers embrace
that she opened her eyes.
Even then, Richard had to cough twice before she realised he was standing right
there. At least when she did she stopped moaning.
To spite him her lover did not stop. He just xed his darkly glinting eyes on
Richard and thrust all the harder. Emily was quiet for a moment, but then quietly
her moaning resumed. Whimpers. en groans. Suddenly it was as though he
was never in the room at all. Richard felt sick as he watched his wife come. As
Emily gave in, she closed her eyes, and oered up a long throaty scream. Her
ngers wrapped up in the sheets and squeezed. She still had her wedding ring on.
Whatever Richard was feeling he could not say. He stumbled forward, his walk
made awkward by his manhood engorged in his trousers.
“Hes slipping again!”
“How did he even get back here?”
“He wasnt meant to see this! Stop him before the end!”
“It’th too late!”
“Catch him! Quick!”
Richard closed his sts and ran forward.
“Catch him!”
Emily rolled out of sight, she was lost to him now. But that Other was not. He sat
there, arched up on his knees upon the bed Richard had woken in, sheets mussed
around beneath him, a glistening eshy mast bragging for all to see. He looked
human. He looked better than human. Richard hated them all for that.
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e sound it made when Richard struck that fake-tanned meat-suit was anything
but natural. It resonated, like clanging a steel bucket with a rod. Like banging a
gong. e man opened his mouth and hissed in a metallic tongue, then burst into
a thousand shards and sent Richard reeling into oblivion.
Richard crashed into the barstool. He looked down at his hand and saw the beer
hed been nursing. Across the table, the barman eyed him.
We never stood a chance. Whoevers manufacturing them played God better
than God. No mistakes. ey knew their purpose.
Richard reeled back from the table, tossed the beer to the oor.
“Easy mate,” the barman said, calming him with open hands.
e man beside him stirred upright at the sound. But the face on that man was
not that of a man at all. No eyes. No nose. No mouth. Just slits and metal, a shelf
for a brow, a slab of silicone where lips might have been.
e barman was saying something, but Richard didnt hear him. He was running
backwards, his legs waving beneath him like a marionette. e oor was liquid,
a rising rainbow river, a wobbling silk carpet pulled from beneath him. And then
there was nothing.
Just darkness.
* * * *
Richard stared down at the bed. Emily had always demanded it be made well,
so hed made it. Hospital corners and everything. He hadnt even changed the
He curled up on the blanket. He could smell Emily; her rose-oil perfume, her
natural scent, her sweat, her musk, her body. But for all their human echoes, how
they were built to pleasure and simulate, cook á la carte and tango, how they
could even ejaculate – and that, too, was something Richard could never properly
do – those Others had no smell. It was if a ghost had been here. It was as if Emily
had been all alone.
For a moment Richard believed she had been. And that moment was good.
en, as it drifted away, but before reality slipped through the cracks, Richard
took his razor and nicked his wrist.
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“Hes come all the way. Hes seen it all.
What now? Is he repaired?”
Was it necessary to put him through all that?”
“You know as well as I do that it’s the only way–”
To separate it, yes. To remind him. But we also know it doesnt always work. He
could have died.
“Is he still with us?”
“Ith he back?”
“Careful now,” the voice told him.
“Ease into it.
“He shouldnt have come here so violently. at was too quick.
“No. We’re ne. Look. Hes ne. Hes strong.
“Open your eyes, Rich.
“ats it. Easy now.
“Yes. Careful–”
Everything washed away in the blink of an eye. Richard watched his world pull
from the covers: the blood, the sheets, the bed; everything ripped away into shards
of broken light. Shimmering. Pearlescent.
He reared from the stirrups. e gures before him ed. Richard saw four of
them, all masked and covered by aprons of plastic. e room folded underfoot,
the oor rushed up to meet him.
Richard held out his hand to steady himself. He tumbled, slid along the tiles like
glass in cider. Something behind him clattered, something else shook.
He spun around on his arse, gasping, cursing. His voice was metallic. He had a
drone in it. A crackle. Richard cleared his throat, tried to spit up all the phlegm
that had choked him. It came up a thick gurgling mess. He wiped it o his mouth
and stared down at his hand, at the sleek black oil. At the hand that was dierent
somehow. It looked like his hand. But then it didnt. His hand wasnt made of
carbon. Or was it? Maybe somewhere in the base levels of his structure. He had
known that once. Chemistry. Darryn and Je. But not like this. Not black and
prickling like the hairs on a y. Not dripping with oil from his lip.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
His heart began to drum inside his chest. But it wasnt beating. It was turning.
It was clicking. It was hissing. It was clocking. It rose up to choke him. Richard
couldnt breathe.
He spun around, riing through all the detritus that had scattered about until
he found something he could use. He took the mirror shard in his carbon hand.
Stared down at the reection.
Ive seen you before, he realised numbly. No eyes. No nose. No mouth. Just slits
and metal, a shelf for a brow, a slab of silicone where lips might have been.
“Easy now, Richard,” the man spoke as he entered the room, slow and cautious.
Others came in behind him, all moving in that same way, inch by inch, fanning
out gently as if he might startle. “We dont want to hurt you.
“Hurt me?” something asked. It took Richard a moment to realise that it was
“You hurt yourself, Richard,” a woman told him. She came forward, and for a
moment was nothing but light before settling into a face he knew too well.
Emily smiled. “Yes, sweetheart.
“I...” Richard couldnt get the words out. But he didnt have to. Jake was there,
always-intuitive Jake.
“You gave us a pretty big scare there, Richy,” Jake said as he stepped forward, in
his hand he held a cider. “Who was it you thought you saw on your bed?”
Kate smiled. “A fantasy.
Pete ushed red.
Emily lowered herself before him. She had something in her hand. A little box.
She opened it and showed it to Richard.
“Here,” she told him.
What is it?” he asked quietly.
“You’ll see,” she told him. “It’ll sort this all out, help you remember.
Hesitant, Richard took the box.
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Inside was a set of three old photographs taken before the pictures rose o the
page and, instead, only moved thirty frames and repeated.
e rst was a man and woman, young, maybe twenty-two. e man stood
behind a coee machine, staring over at the woman as he made her coee. He
gave it to her. en he leaned over and planted a big kiss on her lips.
e second was that same man and woman dancing at a party. A fancy well-
respected party, with suits and bow-ties. ey danced the tango up the centre of
the oor.
e third was that same couple again, this time standing in front of a cut ribbon,
holding each other and smiling. ey looked to each other and the woman said
something. It was a photograph and so it had no sound. But it didnt need to.
Richard remembered what shed said to him that day. He remembered everything.
He looked up at Emily, his wife, and smiled.
* * * *
A. J. Gregory is a Victorian artist, freelance writer, and novelist. He primarily works within the
genres of Fantasy and Science-Fiction, and there seizes the ordinary and crafts it until it becomes
otherworldy. His characters, while dancing with the forces of ction, are to their very core human.
ey are awed, they are tragic, they are what we are now but in a world we have for the most part
forgotten. Or a world we are yet to know.
e Pirate and the Witch (Lace. Magazine 2014) saw A. J. Gregorys debut in short ction and
introduced readers to the vivid world of When the Wicked Sleeps – his ambitious novel series.
You can contact him at: a-j-gregory@hotmail.com
If youd like the opportunity to share your work with the world,
wed love for you to send your stories for publication.
You can send stories directly to the Editor at
If youd like to contribute and join the team at
e Australia Times, you can also go to the Join page at
http://www.theaustraliatimes.com/ and drop us a line.
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 :
‘Forest’ by A Vahanvati (Flickr Commons)
   
 
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‘Granny has divined that there is only one
way we can be saved. A gift must be given
to the Forest Guardians...’
ts a cold night out, with the wind tossing my hair wildly and blowing
leaves and sticks into my face. I’ve been visiting my mothers great-
grandmother, so I have a little time before I will be missed. Legend has
it that she stole the life from her daughter and her daughters daughter
so that she could live longer. Its true that she’s been alive for a lot longer
than is normal. Some say that its her herb-craft that helps keep her young. She
has treated almost everyone in the village at some point. Some say that it is
witchcraft and that she casts spells in the dead of the night to preserve her beauty.
Some even whisper that it is the devil in her, keeping her young to trap us into
wicked ways. And, well, they keep those thoughts quiet – most everyone in the
village would laugh them out of the community if they tried to hold to those
beliefs. We have seen the devil, and it was not our Granny.
Some will vilify any who are dierent, or those that will help and require no
payment. ey are so bitter and twisted that they cannot understand simple
kindness with no thought of reward. And often, they kill or drive out these people,
not knowing they are harming the heart of their village with their actions. We
have seen other villages fall that way. Once their rst line of defence is gone, and
their only chance of hope with it, the demons come among them to poke and
prod and cause strife where there was none. And when the streets run red with
blood, the devil takes their lives one by one, until nothing is left but an empty
village, and a cautionary tale.
Sometimes the little old women that live out by their lonesome and heal the
village with herbs and kind words are indeed nothing but kindly old women, and
sometimes they are witches, with the blood of the First Maidens running strong
through them. ese are the women that hold fast to the old ways, weaving the
protection of their village. Our village is blessed with a matriarchal line that breeds
true back to the eldest and rstborn of the First Maidens. Granny is the culmination
of three hundred years of breeding, and is the strongest witch discovered so far.
Which is why, when the devil came among us, we were not stricken. Our line held
fast the doors of the village heart, and the devil was cast out.
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However, the ght was not without cost. My mothers mother, and grandmother,
were among the price paid, and I have been marked by the hand of blood. So it
is now that the three of us hold the village, ruled by Granny. e price was too
high, but still not enough. e devil has been thrown out, but there is a new
enemy that we witches cannot banish. e huntsmen come to take our crops,
our livestock and our forests. ey say that they ght for a king in the north, and
that it is their right to take these things from us. We know no king though. All
we see is our hard work taken from us, our elds trampled, our children starving.
Granny has divined that there is only one way we can be saved. A gift must be
given to the Forest Guardians, and they will protect us. How they will do this or
what gift must be given she wont say, but I have seen her look at me in sorrow
when she thinks I cannot see, and I know it wont be long before she is forced
to make a choice. I have heard tell of villages that disappeared forever from the
world, held secret and safe in a pocket of magic, only to return once the world
is made new. I have also heard tell of the price for this protection. e villagers
must pay a blood gift to the Guardians, and if the gift is worthy, the protection
will be bestowed.
Our world is ruled by blood, and the blood price is our religion and our culture.
I have heard stories of lands far distant that pay the blood price, but they have
been corrupted so that the price becomes meaningless, and they kill for money,
for fear, for all of the vain and small reasons our minds can come up with. Not
so here. Each of us is valued and treasured, and the blood price is not paid by the
least of us.
Here and now, that price, the gift to be given, is me. I am strong in my own
right, even before the full ush of my womanhood, and I have been marked as
special. A mark as powerful as the hand of blood is a sign of high favour indeed.
And it is this that makes me the perfect gift. But my mother will not agree. e
villagers will make great protest, while secretly being glad it is not them. Granny
will hesitate until we have no other choice, and even then, she will try to bargain.
She cannot accept that this is my part to play. Maybe I could convince her, make
her see. But by then it will be too late.
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e time is now, and the place is in these woods, where I played as a child, where
I grew and learnt at my familys knee. I have made my peace, and I have not far to
go now, to reach the place where I mean to proer my gift. e very glade where
I rst glimpsed one of the Guardians, half a world ago, when I knew nothing but
playing in the sun. Even now as I approach the glade, a form begins to take shape
in the clearing. It is the Wolf, who I have seen only once, but somehow, it is a
sight more familiar to my heart than my own reection. I nd it ironic that he
will be the one to take my sacrice. He has no mate among the other Guardians.
It was my dream that one day I would join them as his mate, as the protector of
the forest and the village. But I grew up and realised that it was not to be so. Not
for us mere mortals to be wed to such power.
As I reach the edge of the glade, I stop and gather my will to summon the other
Guardians. As they shimmer into sight, I push away my fear and doubts, wipe
away the regrets and unspoken goodbyes to my family. I begin to speak the formal
words of gifting, asking for their help in return for the blood price, and they
speak the response, asking why I approach them as sacrice. I explain my value
to them in the formal terms. ere has been no record in the scrolls of a gifting
speech for one touched by the hand of blood, however, so I have had to write my
own words for this. ere is a pause, a visible hesitation as they glance at each
other, and I worry that my wording has oended them, but I hold my tongue. I
cannot disrupt the ritual now.
Finally, one of them speaks. e Raven tells me my gift is too great for what I
ask, and that I should go back and send another in my place. How do I explain
to them that there is no other to send in my place? Regardless of all else, I will
not allow someone else to die where I might be able to save them and prevent
any further price to be paid. I summon every bit of uency at my disposal. I tell
them that I pay not only for this event, but for the protection of my village far
into the future, and that I am the only one that can pay the price. e others still
hesitate, but one of them steps forward to stand in front of me. It is the Wolf,
and my heart quickens to be so near to him. He tells me to be not afraid, and I
have not the words to explain that it is not fear but excitement that stirs me. My
consolation in this is the fact that his will be the last face I see.
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He bends forward to me, but instead of taking my breath before I spill my own
life-blood, he breathes upon me and I fall to my knees in front of him. I have
lost my hold on the knife, but it no longer seems to be important. My mind is
expanding, lling with knowledge I had never imagined. As I fall through the
stream of secrets explained, I realise what is happening. I will never know if my
change took seconds, hours, or months, but when I see the world again, I raise
my muzzle in a howl that shakes the treetops, and turn to look at my mate. He
holds still, unsure of his welcome, and I move to him. Never again will I yearn
for that which was beyond me. Never again will I be alone. From this moment
forth, I can protect my people directly. is is what I was born to do. I nuzzle him
gently, and then I turn and run. He gives chase, and we leave the others behind.
My knowledge now tells me that this was pre-ordained, that fate marked me and
led me here. But even still, the nal choice was mine, and I could have chosen to
let someone else be sacriced in my place. e task would then have been passed
on. To my daughter perhaps. Or to her daughter, or to one of the following
generations. What might have been is irrelevant now, lost to the shroud of time.
My gift was the ultimate sacrice, given freely and willingly, and the reward was
more than I could have ever expected.
It will take much learning to realise the full extent of what I can do, but even
now, I can feel what needs to be done, and as we run, I perform the twist of will
that takes us out of the world. One day, when the world is ready for us, we will
return. Hundreds and thousands of years may pass, and yet we will stand guard
and hold our people from the ravages of the world. In the shadows of the forest,
we are running still. My Wolf and I.
Tristyn Harrison is a freelance writer and amateur blogger with an interest in all things out of the
ordinary. She writes for herself rst, shaping the raw mass of creation and inspiration into stories
that reach in and pluck the heart-strings. She shares her ideas and her work with her writing groups,
both online at e Writer’s Café, and at the NSW Writers Centre in Sydney, and alternates between
working on her rst novel, perfecting her craft, and revisiting the work of professional authors who
have shaped her lifes journey.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
   
 
by Paul Carr
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
He sat on the end of the pier. An old man
now, he wore a long gabardine overcoat and
a red scarf to keep the wind at bay. His black
brogues were slightly scued. After Gillian died
he didnt see the point in keeping them shiny,
a life-long habit broken. Her lingering death
from cancer made him challenge everything he
stood for. Spit and polish and an ordered life
regime had not helped her.
A ships horn sounded. He turned his head,
his blue eyes watered in the wind. Coming
downstream was a sleek grey warship, pennants
streaming from its mast. His eyes glazed and
his mind wandered back in time.
He remembered another grey ship in another
harbour over twenty years before. en, he
was standing tall and proud on the docks as
the Sixth Battalion of the Royal Australian
Regiment sailed out of Sydney Harbour. He
saw his son Angus standing to attention on
the deck of the carrier. Another McMaster
son heading o to war. Angus McMaster
was the third generation of his family to
march o to war this century. Also, like ten
of his family before him, Angus did not return.
He lay dead in a steamy rubber plantation in
Phuoc Tuy province.
As Jock McMaster watched his son sail, he knew
Angus would not return. It seemed to be the
McMaster destiny or curse that the rst-born
McMaster son would perish in war. e proud
man fought back his tears as he remembered
the erce argument he had had with Angus the
night before in the Sheraton Hotel.
As Jock McMaster
watched his son board the
HMAS Sydney, he knew
Angus would not return...
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“I absolutely forbid you to marry her, Angus,” yelled Jock across the hotel room.
“But Dad, I love Jane,” replied Angus, the anguish clear in his voice.
“I know, but shes not right for you.
“You mean shes Catholic,” accused Angus.
“No I dont.
Angus moved out from behind the self-serve bar in the corner. “Oh come on
Dad, you know you do. Youre just too damn stubborn to admit it.
“Do not marry her. I forbid it,” he ordered.
“I’m sorry Dad, I really am, but I have to do it.” Angus picked up his kitbag and
strode to the door, his knuckles white as he gripped the door knob.
“Give her up, Angus.
“No!” yelled Angus as he slammed the door behind him.
Jock waited in the plush hotel room for two hours, silently praying for Angus to
come back.
Finally, just as he was packing his overnight bag, there was a quiet tap on the
door. It must be Angus, he thought as he raced across the room.
In his haste he barked his shin against the low coee table. “Damn,” he exclaimed
as he limped the last few steps. Grabbing the door knob, Jock ung the door
open and steadied himself to embrace his son. He would forgive Angus.
His mouth dropped as he stared at the diminutive gure standing nervously in
the hall outside the door. It was that woman, she who would steal his son. His
temper ared.
“You,” he yelled accusingly. “You… what do you want?”
“Mister McMaster, I… I’m sorry,” she said plaintively, edging away from the
erce man. “I didnt mean…” Her sentence faded as her nerve failed. But it was
enough. Jock had started to calm down, and began to look carefully at the young
It had been raining and her hair hung down around her face, clinging to her
cheeks. Her make-up had run around her eyes, leaving her with a hollow, empty
look. e light reected o a shiny spot on her nose.
Her shoes were very wet and there was a ladder in her stocking, it ran down her
left calf. en there was the dress. Jock gasped. e dress wasnt anything fancy,
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just a simple oral pattern in the loose style of the day, but it clung ever so slightly
around her middle. She was pregnant.
Jocks temper faded completely.
“Come in girl, youre soaked,” he said gently, moving away from the door and
motioning her to come in.
She hesitated for a moment. “ank you Sir.
He smiled. “Jock will do nicely. Please sit down”. He waved his arm in the general
direction of a lounge chair, but his eyes were rmly xed on her stomach. She
noticed him staring, and tried to cover her tummy with her hands. It made it
all the more obvious. In her embarrassment she wrung her hands together and
looked out the window. e hotel sign reected o the building across theroad.
For a few moments they sat there quietly, both feeling uneasy, each wanting to say
something, but unable to do so.
Jock felt numb, so much had happened tonight. e ght with Angus and now
the young girl, carrying his sons child, Jocks grandchild. Grandchild. He was
going to be a grandfather and Gillian a grandmother. Suddenly it didnt seem all
that bad. A smile started to form on his weather-beaten face.
“Youre smiling Mister Mac… Jock.
Why yes, I am.” He leaned forward and beckoned her towards him. Pointing
at her tummy, he said with a lilt in his voice, “I’m going to be a grandfather,
She smiled and looked down, “Yes you are, in about ve months.
“I assume Angus knows?”
“Yes, its why he wants to marry me.
“Does he love you?”
“Yes he does, and I love him.
No wonder Angus was so insistent, and so angry with me earlier, thought Jock.
“Did you see
Angus tonight?”
“He came straight over after hed seen you. He was very upset, confused. Angry.
Where is he now, can I see him?”
“Hes back at the barracks, even I cant see him until the docks tomorrow.
“Can I come with you?”
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She hesitated. Angus had been very angry with his father, insisting hed never
speak to him again. “I dont know, you know how stubborn he is.” Jane thought
for a moment. “I s’pose you could come down tomorrow”.
What time are you meeting him?
Ten o’clock at Garden Island.
“Good. I’ll be there.” Jock got up and moved towards the door. “Would you be
needing a lift home?”
“It’s alright, I’ll get a taxi.
“I’ll walk down with you.
By ten o’clock Jock McMaster had arrived at Garden Island dock. ere were
thousands of people milling about, all focusing their attention on the troop
carrier HMAS Sydney, gently bobbing beside the quay. Australian soldiers were
slowly making their way up the gangplank.
As each soldier got to the top he paused and surveyed the crowd. As he spied
his loved ones he waved ruefully, then turned towards the ship and disappeared
Jock frantically searched the crowd looking for Angus and Jane. ere were so
many people about, he couldnt get a clear view. As the minutes ticked by and
more soldiers boarded, he became frantic. He started yelling for Angus. People
stopped and stared at him, but he didnt stop calling for his son.
About twenty yards away he saw a tall ocer, a lieutenant. “Angus, Angus,
he called, but the ocer didnt react. “Angus,” he called again. Another man
Who do you want, mate?”
“at ocer,” said Jock pointing towards the Lieutenant. e man nodded.
“Hey mate, Lieutenant.” e ocer stopped and looked back uncertainly.
“Yes, what is it?” he asked the man calling him. But Jock had already seen it
wasnt Angus.
“Sorry,” he said and moved on through the crowd. e ocer and the man looked
at each other, shrugged and went on their separate ways.
e PA announced the departure would be in twenty minutes and all troops were
to be on board in ve. Jock stepped up his search. He was nearly running now,
blundering into people.
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e PA rang out again calling for the crowd to move back from the ship. All
soldiers were on board, lining the deck of the former aircraft carrier.
As the gangplanks were withdrawn, Jock cursed his Scottish temper and
stubbornness. If only hed listened longer the night before. A wave of regret
ooded through him. His heart heaved and tears welled up in his eyes. e self-
control he tried to maintain during the departure dissolved as he broke down, his
body racked with heaving sobs.
“Mister McMaster,” she said quietly. “I’m sorry.
Jock looked up. It was the girl. “I couldnt nd him, I looked but there were too
many people,” he said through his tears.
Angus had to board early, right on ten. I only had a few moments with him.
Was he still angry with me?”
“No. I told him about last night, and he seemed pleased.
is cheered Jock a little. “What will you do?”
“I’m catching the train to Melbourne tonight to stay with my sister.
What about your parents?”
“eyre very upset. Strict Catholics.” Jock nodded as if he understood.
Will you keep in touch? You know youre welcome in our house?”
“ank you, but I’ll stay with Marcie.” She looked up at him, kissed him quickly
on the cheek and left before the guilt of not telling him about the dawn wedding
overcame her.
Jock watched her melt into the crowd. e Sydneys horn blared, signalling her
imminent departure. He turned back towards the ship, scanning the soldiers
lined along the deck, until he found his son. Lieutenant Angus McMaster RAR
was standing to attention, but his eyes had spotted his father. Brigadier Jock
McMaster (Retired) drew himself together, stood tall and proud, then saluted his
son. A tear ran down Anguss face.
* * * * *
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Jock McMaster had himself sailed to war in a grey warship many years before.
In 1939, hed boarded an old Royal Navy cruiser bound for Alexandria. He
was a twenty year old lieutenant in the Scots Guards. In his uniform, he stood
at six feet two inches, his hair jet black and his eyes a steely blue. He marched
proudly and erect, his troops snapping to attention instantly when he bellowed
the command. Lieutenant McMaster held the respect of his senior ocers, and
an awe and devotion from his lads that had not been equalled before or since.
By 1945 Jock had risen to the rank of Brigadier and had been wounded three times,
once seriously. e steely blue eyes had seen the joy of victory and the sorrow of
defeat. His strong arms had carried the severely wounded body of his sergeant out
of three battles, saving the sergeants life each time. His chest carried campaign
ribbons North Africa, Greece, Crete, North Africa again, Sicily, Normandy and
Germany. His chest also carried the maroon ribbon of the Victoria Cross, and the
colours of other auspicious decorations.
His heart carried the grief of four dead elder brothers, and two dead cousins. As
in the Great War, World War Two had decimated the McMaster clan.
After the War Jock McMaster resigned his commission and migrated to Australia.
e old Scottish farm had felt desolate and empty. His mother had stared out
over the glens all day long, waiting for her sons. She passed away on Christmas
Day 1945, still looking out over the snow covered glens. e day she was buried
Jock booked his passage. He soon headed for the Tilbury Docks and the P&O
ship to Australia.
Jock arrived in Brisbane on a stiing February day. Dressed in a suit and waistcoat
he strode down the gangplank and hailed a cab. He was determined to start
afresh in a new, young and exciting country. e cab took him to the home of an
Australian captain he had met in Cairo.
ey spend the night reminiscing the War and planning the future. e next day
he fronted a stock and station agent. By the end of the day he was on a train to
the Darling Downs.
Within a year his property was prospering, but Jock was not happy. He was the
only McMaster left and he needed a wife.
Gillian Robinson was the widowed daughter of the Toowoomba solicitor. Her
young rst husband had perished on the Kokoda Trail. Now she was a qualied
solicitor, the only woman solicitor in country Queensland, and running her
fathers practice. Jock met her when he was arranging the purchase of the property
adjoining his. Somehow many legal complications kept arising and he had to
make many visits to Toowoomba. After an appropriate interval Jock asked Gillian
to accompany him to a dance. For the rst time in his life his strong voice failed,
the request barely squeaked out of his mouth. Nevertheless, Gillian accepted.
ey were married soon after. Angus had been born a year later.
* * * * *
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
As the modern frigate slipped quietly past him Jock struggled to his feet, put on
his hat and wiped the tears from his eyes. He turned and walked along the dock,
his once broad shoulders slightly stooped and his once long stride slightly shorter.
e ship had brought back many memories, some glad, others sad. Funny, he
hadnt thought about Jane for many years. She never did stay in contact. Jock
and Gillian had tried to nd her for years, but as they didnt even know the girls
surname every lead was a dead end. He still now persisted with the search because
somewhere he had a grandchild. With Gillian gone he needed his family more
than ever.
On the deck of HMAS Darwin, Lieutenant Stephen McMaster (RAN) watched
the old man shue along the pier. As Stephen had not known his father he did
not know he was the fourth generation of McMasters to head o to war in the
Twentieth Century.
HMAS Darwin sailed out of Moreton Bay and headed north. Its destination?
e Persian Gulf.
Its mission? To ght Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait.
At that same time a postman delivered a letter to Jocks house. It was from a rm
of solicitors acting on behalf of the late Jane McMaster. Her will requested that
her late husband’s relatives be contacted after she died.
No Australian servicemen died in the First Gulf War. Although he didnt know it,
Lieutenant Stephen Mc Master had broken the McMaster curse.
* * * * *
Paul Carr is a writer, sportsman, car nut, historian and an IT professional. His writing career began
with writing boring technical computer manuals and a great many trees were sacriced in their
publication. Fortunately for the forests technology has moved on and his more recent technical
writing has been published electronically.
In the nineties Paul found the time to write on subjects close to his heart and was a winner of the
Womens Weekly Short Story Competition in the crime story section. He has since written two
novels, childrens books and numerous short stories. His interest in cars and military history led to
articles published in the Cat’ Whiskers and quizzes in an online American Military Magazine.
Paul is also a contributor to the TAT Sport Magazine.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
 .  
 
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
  were unusually heightened this
morning. When shed pulled back the curtains,
and felt the rst rays of sunlight bathe her face,
she experienced it internally. Shed read somewhere
that light is both a particle and a wave, and today she
almost understood. She could see waves of light rippling
through the trees overhead, and feel sparky particles as
they struck the surface of her eyes, and zipped to the
back of her brain.
She nished watering the ower beds, and sank onto the
grass beneath her beloved jacaranda tree. She stretched
out her long legs, joints protesting, and leaned against
the mossy bark. A late blossom from the solitary cluster
above the burgeoning leaves fell into her lap – mauve
manna from heaven. Jennifer could do with a little
intervention from heaven right now.
She picked up the bloom, and noticed an iridescent,
orange and green stink beetle inside, busily hoovering
up nectar along the stamen. It was oblivious to its world
crashing down – upside down or right side up seemed
to make no dierence.
“Lucky little stink beetle,” she thought. “Maybe higher
intelligence isnt all it’s cracked up to be.
It struck her she must
have been blind her
whole life to have missed
the beauty jostling for
attention all around her...
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
She turned the blossom around, watching the beetle continue its unworried way
around the curve of the trumpet. Shed never understood why these beautiful
insects had such an ugly name. It was as though they were dened by the disgusting
smell they gave o after some indierent thumb had crushed them, rather than
their living glory. ere had to be a metaphor for life in that, but she couldnt
think of a good one ohand.
Jennifer carefully placed the blossom and its glistening cargo down, and pulled
herself up with an eort. She wandered around the verandah, wiping a table
here, straightening a chair there, drowning in a tsunami of cicada song. A few
cicadas hatched every summer, but a mass hatching like this happened only once
every ten to fteen years. Today, it overwhelmed her and she was unable to settle.
Ordinary things became immensely signicant, and distracted her from her usual
e day drifted by until the sun hung low in the sky. It seemed to stand still,
and melt along the smoky line of distant hills, as though reluctant to leave her.
It reminded her of the image shed had of God when she was little: a golden orb
surrounded by an arc of rays. She wondered if He really did watch every sparrow
fall. Was He watching her now?
Finally darkness enveloped her, but she remained outside. Furry brown moths
uttered against the kitchen windows, disoriented by the light. Fat tree frogs
sheltering in her neat garden squatted like green Buddhas on the windowsills.
Occasionally they broke their meditations to catch and dreamily munch a moth,
before resuming their Zen state.
A chill wafted from the ground, but still Jennifer was reluctant to go inside;
reluctant to leave rampant life for the sterility of her home. She wanted to drink it
in, imprint it permanently on her consciousness. Shed always been so houseproud,
but that didnt matter anymore.
When weariness nally claimed her, she rose to go inside, before glimpsing a
small light ashing rhythmically at the far corner of the garden. It was getting
closer. rough the darkness she saw her border collie Jack approaching. A tiny
beetle clung to his haunches, strobing like a miniature lighthouse. Struck with
wonder, she gently plucked it up, and watched mesmerised as it continued to
ash. She turned it over, and could see that its tiny abdomen, only a couple of
millimetres long, was the source of all that pulsating brilliance. She realised it
must be a rey, although shed never seen one before. It felt like a gift. With
uncharacteristic tenderness, she tossed it into the air, and watched the tiny speck
of life vanish, as though it had never been.
Later soaking in the bath, she turned the hot tap on and o with her toes as the
water cooled, lingering to watch geckos catching insects. Shed always disliked
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geckos because they leave their smelly little calling cards everywhere, but tonight
she was spellbound. She watched them dart around the walls and ceiling with
the ease of Chinese acrobats, the splayed, ridged pads of their feet sticking to any
She started when a frog jumped on the outside of the dripping window. Shed never
minded frogs because they stay outdoors, leaving their colossal droppings on the
sills. Lying in the rising steam, Jennifer pondered the mechanics of amphibian
digestive tracts. All other animals pass their waste in parcels proportional to their
size. Frogs deposit single dung balls one-quarter the size of their bodies, even
though they need watertight rectums. She shook her head, wondering how they
managed this expansionary feat.
“Just one of lifes little mysteries, I guess.
She giggled at her own silliness, but the laughter caught in her throat. It struck
her she must have been blind her whole life to have missed the beauty jostling
for attention all around her. e planet is thick with life, throbbing with it. It
seemed so precious and wonderful now, whereas her only concern before had
been to keep it out of her immaculate house. But then a diagnosis of stage four
pancreatic cancer does tend to focus the mind, and rearrange priorities. ere is
no stage ve.
In the twenty hours since the specialist had given her the news, shed refused to
think of her family, or even Jack. How was she going to leave them when she was
riven with loss over leaving her garden and its wee residents?
Lines from some sonnet shed learned a lifetime ago in high school buzzed like
mosquitoes around her head:
‘... Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
She nally understood what it meant. She had to make up for the fty years shed
lived half asleep.
Julie Davies is a writer from Central Queensland, who sits under her blooming jacaranda tree to
cheer herself up whenever shes going through yet another midlife crisis. One day she saw a glorious
little stink beetle on a bloom and took a photo. When she later had a false positive cancer diagnosis,
the two experiences coalesced into this ctional story, which is now in the process of growing into
her second novel.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
 .  
 
The stranger entered the bar –
the shade offering welcome relief
to the 40 degrees outside...
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t was his welcome to town. A ragged, putrefying bloated mound of road kill and
a couple of black crows stalking arrogantly across the road towards their road kill
natures undertakers
taking care of business–
One of those towns that if you blinked you missed it. Spanning both sides of the highway
miles from anywhere but close to somewhere. A town out on the mulga plains baking to
a crisp in the hot midday heat– where the heat haze shimmering o the bitumen created
mirages of lakes in the distance.
Telegraph poles marched relentlessly onwards as far as the eye could see– each connected
to his neighbour by wire shackles– their only means of communication. Termite mounds
stood on their North South axis like decaying monoliths of a forgotten age, casting barely
a shadow at this time of day.
tall shackled shadows
like images from the past–
indigenous slaves
It was like a ghost town. Empty spaces waiting for the end– which was nearly here
from the look of the place. One service station– closed now– with its pump rusted
and dry, and its windows boarded up. Red sand thick across its forecourt and the sign
dangling askew at a rakish angle advertising petrol, cold beer, meat pies– last for 300
A red phone box stood empty, minus phone– with all its glass panes shattered. On the
other side of the highway stood the pub– a run down, paint starved, lackluster building.
Iron roof red with rust, dust covered trees and shrubs limp and listless around its perimeter.
Weatherboards sagging, verandah posts listing as if it too had given up all hope.
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disconnected –
in so many ways
for so many reasons
A dog– thin, brown, nondescript lay on the verandah in the shade– at out like a lizard
drinking and too lazy to stir his stumps. e old fellow sitting on the bench behind him
said a few mumbled words that he didnt catch.
“G’day Mate– is the beer good and cold?’ Jim asked, bending to fondle the old dog’s ear.
Obviously the old codger didnt hear the question, oering no answer as he slowly hoisted
his scrawny frame from the bench and shambled down the three steps to the beer garden.
Oh well– maybe he was a solitary type.
no warm welcome–
unresponsive locals
and ice cold beer
e stranger entered the bar– the shade oering welcome relief to the 40 degrees outside. It
was clean enough– shabby and run down. Brown carpet, brown walls, brown upholstery
kind of colour coordinated with the dog. Serviceable like– didnt show the dirt and God
knows there was plenty of that– acres and acres in every direction.
What can I get you, mate?” asked the bloke behind the bar. A rhetorical question
doubt they did champagne cocktails here.
“Just a beer and a couple of pies will do thanks. Bloody hot today.” e beer duly arrived.
Cold, wet, light golden with a froth of foam on top. Nectar of the Gods. Condensation
beaded the glass and left a ring of moisture on the wooden slabbed bar top. A y crawled
up to it and started to drink– never let a chance go by.
e pies looked good. Homemade, big, meaty pu pastry encased cholesterol raisers. Gravy
rich and brown oozed from their sides and they smelt divine. His rst bite was big. God he
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was hungry. Flaky crumbs of pastry drifted onto his chin. He closed his eyes and embraced
the moment, washed it down with the beer. It doesnt get any better than this, he thought.
light and aky
pastry encased richness
of departed souls
Tucker nished, thirst quenched and it was back to business– didnt really look forward
to this but it had to be done. No sentiment in business so they say and no doubt the old
bloke had known it was coming. Bit of a shame though, but ever since the new highway
had bypassed the old town things had been heading on a downward spiral. Custom had
fallen o– hardly any one used this road any more– beer sales were down. You know
how it goes.
He introduced himself to the Licensee Reg Jamieson, the bloke behind the bar, oered his
hand and his credentials.
“Sorry mate,” he said, handing him the envelope, “but this here is the message from the
Brewery. ey wont renew your liquor license– not enough beer being sold here now.
Reg knew it was the end– no way can you keep a pub with no beer going.
He took it rather well Jim thought, took it like a man– on the chin. He was relieved
by that scenario. He hated the hopeless arguments that sometimes eventuated in these
situations or, even worse, the threats of physical violence to his person. is one was
almost a textbook case.
verbosity nil
recriminations avoided
as the axe falls
Two tallies of amber uid slid across the bar, the glasses wet with condensation, the head
thick and foamy. Nectar of the Gods.
“Have another beer, mate,” Reg said. “No good letting what’s left go to waste.
Maureen Cliord, aka e Scribbly Bark Poet, is a writer and poet living in regional Queensland.
e Editor of the TAT Poetry Magazine, Maureen is a member the Australian Bush Poets Association
and also the author of ‘Aussie Tails and Aussie Males and one or two other things’, an e-book of
Australian Bush Poetry (available through Booktango, Angus and Robertson and Google Books).
When not editing for TAT, Maureen also runs the Australian Bush Poets and e Lil Brumbies
Facebook pages.
You can nd out more about her at her blogsite, http://scribblybarkpoetry.blogspot.com.au/
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Mitochondrial disease (mito) can
affect any organ in anyone of any age.
It is often terminal; there is no cure and
few effective treatments exist.
One Australian
child born each
week will develop
a severe or life-
threatening form
of mito.”
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