Flash: Colour Bleeds Out/Only Birds by C.R. Dudley

Colour bleeds out, sounds wind down. Muffled, blind. Straight lines, thick and thin, washed in white and grey. It is winter here. Gentle snowflakes fall, though they strike as something sinister. Am I the only one conscious, the only one not a golem made of meat? Playing pieces for cruel gods. This pawn has slipped through the gaps, into the liminal. I call out, and I see my words, my breath, in emanating waves. Mirrored in the puddle surface a boot hovers above, paralysed by my downcast thoughts. Happily it would have splashed, a small pleasure on the way to work. But now all of that is tainted, and we see, the boot and I, what really lies beneath.

Whole buildings erased, replaced by sea. Wave after wave of attempted communication washes away the humanity stored in my flesh, strips me to my cartilage and cleans it thoroughly. Now I match the snow, barely seen at all and becoming flatter all the time. A whisper on a slate of white noise. No pavement below me, no sky above. Only birds, angry that they are suddenly no more than ink blots on a damaged canvas, furious that the screeches they thought they owned have been supplanted in an instant by silence. In the absence of direction, of anything else at all, they gather to peck at my bones, and I am glad.


C.R. Dudley is author of metaphysical science fiction collections Fragments of Perception and Mind in the Gap. She is also a visual artist and mind explorer, fascinated by the human condition and the inner worlds we create. She considers every project to be part of one continuous artwork. You can follow her blog here.

She is also owner and editor here at Orchid’s Lantern press.

Flash Showcase: Fritter by David Lawrie

1.

The story only ever goes one way.

2.

The fragment reads:

“…and I leave you now as you left me, with nothing but wretched words and bleeding ink. I do not understand your letters anymore, Hombre. They may loop from your pen with indubitable grace but I receive them with a senseless mediocrity. I will not accept the blame of you. I will always be behind you, Hombre. I am all over you. It is senseless imprisonment, and I, who have never wronged you, who saw nothing beyond the kindness in your heart, I am the one serving my sentence in your shadow.

I am watching your progress with the control that I have yearned for.

It is in my pain that I will haunt you so. And it is with lustful violence that I shall one day rise up, a malevolent presence over you. As my ink stains the purity of this parchment now, so shall I stain the fabric of your immortality. You will not be able to shake my ghost. You will not be able to claw the words of my testament from…”

Continue reading “Flash Showcase: Fritter by David Lawrie”

Flash Showcase

I would love to showcase a new flash story, prose poem or piece of creative non-fiction on the website every week. Pieces will be submitted on a voluntary basis at first, with the view to making this a paid opportunity in future if it is successful.

Stories should have fewer than 1,000 words and must be in keeping with our preferred themes and interests:

  • Philosophical, psychological, mystical or scientific concepts explored through fiction
  • Autofiction and Creative Non-Fiction
  • Imagining the future
  • Unusual POVs
  • Subjectivity
  • Consciousness (ordinary and altered)
  • Identity
  • Memory
  • Dreams

Stories may be part of something longer but must also function as self-contained pieces.

Stories may have already been published elsewhere, as long as your submission to us doesn’t violate any terms you have agreed with other publishers.

You can submit again if you have been accepted before, but only one submission at a time please.

Send submissions to Caroline via submissions@orchidslantern.com with ‘Showcase’ in the subject line. Stories should be attached (not linked to) along with a short bio as you would like it to appear on the footer of your story if published. I will also accept links to your own webpages or stores for the footer. Word documents preferred.

If your story is accepted, I will aim to contact you within a week to let you know your showcasing date and any minor proofreading/presentation points.

Reminder: We are also open to submissions for our second anthology until 30th June. Details here.

Book Review: Calibration 74 by William F. Aicher

I knew this book would be for me as soon as I read the description: an experimental, poetic, flow-of-consciousness exploration of reality, fantasy and all the spaces in between. Yes please!

This is the kind of book you bring yourself to, in that you’re never 100% sure whether your experience is what the writer intended or whether you pasted your own meaning over the top of their words. There’s enough continuity, enough thread to hang onto, to make the text flow through an arc, but it also leaves a lot to interpretation.

I read this as the narrator delving into and confronting his own psyche. Perhaps it comes from knowing this was written during the first pandemic wave, when many felt isolated and helpless, but I see someone grasping desperately at straws to find meaning; someone left alone with his thoughts and falling deeper into their clutches. He picks at scabs, seeks out dark corners, obsesses over repeating motifs and patterns, and he digs.

Continue reading “Book Review: Calibration 74 by William F. Aicher”

Writers on Lockdown: Kenny Mooney

Kenny Mooney’s books are experimental, ‘unapologetically nihilistic’ prose poems that skillfully thrust the reader into new perspectives. In the first of a new series of interviews, I caught up with him to chat about isolation, writing style, philosophical influence, and the importance of ambiguity in literature.


Hi Kenny, welcome to Writers on Lockdown!

Thank you for having me!

So how are you faring in these strange times – is isolation beneficial to your creative process or a hindrance?

The isolation isn’t a problem for me. I’m an introverted, fairly anti-social person, so being told to stay indoors and not socialise is basically my life. I’m amused at how many people, mostly those I work with, have been going on about how they don’t know how they’re going to manage, and it’s been about a week. I imagine them already chewing their fingernails down. These will be the fucking idiots buying all the food in the supermarkets. 

Isolation definitely benefits my creative process though. I’m not the kind of person who can write around other people, I need a totally separate space that I can control and manage. Not that I’ve been writing very much lately, but when I do, having somewhere away from other people is certainly required. I guess because this whole situation isn’t actually that much different to my normal life, for me, I don’t feel as compelled to take advantage of the lockdown and do something creative.

I think pressure to be productive can have a negative effect on output for creatives. Would you agree?

I would definitely agree, at least for me. Different people respond to different stimuli, but in my experience, pressure is not a great way to encourage creativity. And I think that can often be part of the problem for writers, and other artists. We put ourselves under so much pressure to reach some arbitrary level, be it a particular word count, or to be original or funny, experimental, or whatever. I think if people just relaxed and let the work be itself, to arrive in its own way, they’d be happier, and maybe more productive. But who knows. I’m wary of giving or listening to writing advice. Do whatever works for you.

Continue reading “Writers on Lockdown: Kenny Mooney”

Emanations VII

And why shouldn’t he be naked, as he scuttles around my kitchen like a rat? I’d probably do the same in his situation. Harry’s lost his cloak, see. His cloak of mirrors, made from fragments of every surface, sound, scent or taste in which he’s found a piece of his soul reflected back at him. Fairground mirrors are ten a penny; true mirrors are a treasure to find. So when he comes across one, he cuts it out, stitches it to the others. Trouble is, mirrors change just as we all do. Sometimes they become foggy or scratched, or show versions of us we’ve long since surpassed. Sometimes they show us the future, and we don’t recognise those at all. Cloaks become lost.

So now, in my kitchen, he lifts up linoleum squares to caress the concrete beneath. He sniffs around the waste bin. Then he cries until I put his favourite drone track through my loudest speakers so that he might hear it in this new context.
“If I can find the mirror of the moment, I will know who I am,” he says. I nod. I know. “Perhaps we should move the sofa?”

But Harry’s looked behind the sofa before. He’s spent time buried in a pile of rocks, he’s watched television static for 24 hours straight, he’s rolled sewing needles between his forefinger and thumb at the top of a mountain. He’s set an alarm for 3.44 in the morning to take the hottest shower possible. Always looking for the Harryness in things. He’s used every part of his body to make paintings, sometimes on drugs so he can paint with their melting counterparts. You’ve got to wade through some mud before you find the truffles.

“Ssshhh,” Harry says, raising a finger to my face. He cocks his head to align with the worktop; has his metaphysical scissors at the ready. He’ll only take a sample: a swatch big enough to start a new cloak. That way, I’ll never lose myself. It won’t harm the mirror, of course, because they grow back to fill the space they’re afforded.

I used to think, when he collected enough mirrors, there’d be a gateway. A way out of this labyrinth. We’re going to see the goblin king! Perhaps he’ll take our souls! But now I know the whole thing is only a matter of preserving sanity. No matter the meaning we choose, so long as we do choose, right?

Harry has a gift for finding the glimmers among unexpected and discarded mental combinations, but today is not meant to be. There’s nothing there for him.
“How will you be soothed, Harry?” I say. “Shall I take you to the sea?” They say there’ll be a storm tonight. Harry likes storms. But his wrinkled flesh has already begun to shudder.
“The mirrors just don’t have the timeless quality we’d like, Stephanie. They show us only how our souls are trapped in time. Trapped in time!”
Trapped in time. I stroke his grey hair, and he sucks his thumb. We’ll probably stay this way until morning.

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***

Emanations is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These surreal fragments come from states of meditation, excitation, or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing. I consider them to be little windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Emanations VI

A world of light. It’s quiet here. Peaceful. My forehead is pressed against yours, and I think: you are older now. So much older. Am I older too? Sunken eyes. Grey, worn skin. Wise with it, though. For a moment it seems as though we are about to kiss, but no. We’re way beyond that.

There are no words, categories, or sensations anymore. Only thoughts mingling as one. I send you the violet energy from my reserves, so that you might be nourished, rejuvenated. I see it tunneling through your veins, and you gasp.

In your eyes now there’s a different light. An abstract sort of light. You send it shining right at me. I know it’s time. We have to let go. The cogs whir into action all around us, all at once. The hands begin to twitch. The face is blank. A new consciousness will soon rise.

***

Emanations is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. Each slice is to be read as a stream of consciousness, a little window into the back rooms of the mind.

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Emanations V

The memory man wanted to leave scars. To stun and ravish, scorch and discard, slice and heal. He wanted to cleanse the mind, beating thought down as it arose to leave a blank canvas for the marking. It was said that he would bind his victims to chairs and play heavy, emotion-laden songs while whispering stories to complicate their depth. I was all ears.

I was all eyes for the images he tied to scents. All skin for the scraping he tied to taste. He parcelled them up with pretty pink ribbons and hooked them onto my neurons with bent silver pins. His name was etched upon every one because that’s how the magic worked.

The magic. The pain. The scars of remembering. Will they ever be gone?

Laying me down on a child’s bed and showing me the moon. Hanging a playing card on a chain around my neck and shooting the Joker. Blood running down my collarbone, words only gurgles and spits. Filling in the holes with soft towels and expensive shampoos, unwashed bedsheets and no safety catches.

Locking me out but forcing me to look in, lids forced open with drops of barbed verity. The pages of the memory book jumbling before my eyes, but don’t worry. The magic will stick them back together with sour milk and tears, all in the wrong order. Force them into geometric shapes with folds that shouldn’t exist. Boxes and boxes and boxes filled with terror and a hint of lust ‘n’ lemon. They might be here forever.

***

‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These absurd little stories burst directly from states of meditation, excitement or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing for clarity. They are intended to be read as impersonal streams of (un)consciousness; windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Emanations III

In October of last year, I fell into my shadow. She was vicious, bold and offensive; unafraid to say everything I never could. And she was so damn attractive with it! I never stood a chance.

As soon as she knew she had me, I found myself alone on her shore. The sun had set long ago, but a cold glimmer from her skin lit up my world. Her eyes brimmed with the awe of all I could become. How do you extract your good potential when it’s so mixed up with the bad? Everything beyond ego, including the shadow, cares little for the distinction. I didn’t know the answer, and that could only mean she held that particular key.

So, when I raised the question, she raised her mace. I cowered. I screamed. I tried desperately to claw my way out through the sand. But she was quick, and she had no mercy. She swung her weapon and thumped me right in the chest with it. My rib cage shattered into a thousand jagged pieces, and moths burst out in a cloud. Some turned to dust upon contact with the air; others flew away across the sands. I strained to take a breath, but my lungs and throat were pierced in too many places. Through fading consciousness, I could just make out my shadow picking up a piece of bone, turning it over in her fingers and admiring herself in its reflective surface. With the other hand, she ripped out my heart.

The life poured out of my veins. I could do nothing but lay in wait of the tide. It was over.

My shadow flicked away her makeshift mirror, and pulled a jar out of her back pack. She squeezed the contents of my heart into it: a deep iridescent red. Memory, personality, soul. As she took a sip, her sharp posture began to dissolve. Her black hair softened to light grey, her fur robe melted away to reveal the pink butterfly dress I’d been wearing that day, and her smile turned from cunning to kindness. At first I could only see through her eyes from a distance, but it didn’t take long for my mind to recognise its home. Everything came into focus. I screwed the lid tightly onto the jar, strapped it to my back pack, and began my ascent back to the village.

***

Emanations is an experiment in automatic flash fiction writing. These stories are intended to be read as streams of consciousness; little windows into the back rooms of the mind.

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Emanations II

Is that a uterus or a spaceman with his arms outstretched? The rose-lit dome I visit in my dreams has begun to play tricks on me over the last few nights. The hospital say it’s one of the signs. I know that should terrify me, but it doesn’t. It just makes me feel I’ve been taking the pills properly.

His thoughts are channeling through my veins. I can hear him in my spleen. He’s saying something important.

“I don’t know if you can understand me. They say you can’t, that you aren’t developed enough. But I believe there’s a chance, and it feels only right for me to talk to you. I’ll be the provider of your nourishment, after all. I’ll be your guide. So we need to establish our bond, don’t we? You need to know it’s all going to be ok.

You are in the womb of the fourth dimension. Everything you’ve learned in your ‘lifetime’ is simply the pieces clicking into place to prepare you for a normal birth up here. You have to learn three to know four. All the sights, sounds, smells: they’re chemical reactions as your mind builds itself. Side effects. Echoes. A vague awareness of what’s beyond.

Linear time is a weird phenomenon that happens only while in the womb, too. I can’t imagine what that’s like. But please know that all the mental suffering, the cognitive dissonance, and the sense of taking a one way trip is because you are not here. You are not where you belong. You are contained in a space of limitations that is unnatural to our kind. You are but a cross-section of what your whole self will be.

When you take your infinite breath, there’ll be treasures you can’t imagine. I promise you that, my angel. Movement without boundaries, and a plane of time. You and me. One more pill. Just one more pill.”

*

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

~ C S Lewis.

***

‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic (but human) fiction writing. The words come from states of meditation, excitement, or indifferent vacuity and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing. They are intended to be read as streams of consciousness to open windows to the back rooms of the mind.

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