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Editors Note Nathan T. Dean

Ponderings D. Davis
Twitter: @amelia_blade & @abacus_blade

Impulse Nathan T. Dean


The min Toby J. Reichelt

Twitter: @TobyIsAFace

Cemetery Weather Evelyn Hollow


Boobs Lily West


Self-Herding, In Deference Steele Tyler Filipek


Joy Can Never Be Delusional
Foolish People / John Harrigan

This issue comes with a beautifully donated soundtrack. Each of
these artists has given us a piece for free so we can add
dynamism to Esoterica. Thank you all. Listen gently and wildly.
Live in the same way. For every note of music, explode within
yourself and find a second path, away from the first, that is
rough and rigid and pure. Like a piano played by an improvised
blind man you can be anything in this world. Like a violin
thrown down a well. Like a clarinet blown from the wrong end.
Be everything for me, dear reader, be everything:

OK by Christelle Elwin

Outside, A Dream by Fifty Grand


A Fathers Love {from the soundtrack to Broken} by

Thomas Rackham

Smog by Agent Zero & Th3 Gr3y Matt3r


Ive Seen Things You People Wouldnt Believe by Myles Curwen



You may be reading this on Valentines Day. Once upon a

hagiography ago, one of the many St. Valentines some of
power, some of epilepsy, some of secretive Christian marriages
became elevated to sainthood, and from the dripping down
effect of spiritualism to consumerism this day of love, cards and
apology chocolates was born.

As much as I could happily argue the pros and cons of a day

such as Valentines, this is not the point I wish to dive into, like
a Kingfisher into an unclear lake. St. Valentine helped marry
those who, at such a time, could not become married an idea
that is not beyond even our modern era and died for this act.
His behaviour lead to his demise, and thus his saintliness. His
actions, inspired by his inner self, lead to his mythology. Over
centuries, we arrive in the era of the wonderful now, and
nothing has truly altered in regards to our inner selves and outer
selves fighting and creating our behaviour. A simple change in
the importance of a day from Feb 14th to The Day of
Romance and our behaviour alters accordingly (or un-
accordingly, depending on how cynical you may be).

Around the world people are persecuted for their loves. Around
the world fetishes are fetishized, loves are martyred, men and
women are murdered, elevated, destroyed, pushed aside. Around
the world love is warped by the behaviour of others. From the
lonely girl dealing with an adulterer, to the gay preacher hiding
in the shadows. There are a hundred meanwhiles, because-ofs,
and solidifications of this adoration, romance and love all
around the world. Remember that.

My point, which I still avoid, like a fish in an unclear lake who

has spotted a Kingfisher, is that our nature, our behaviour, our
actions and beliefs, are in a constant state of flux. And not

always because of an internal decision. Sometimes we change
without consent. Sometimes we reach the next chapter of our
lives before we really understood what we wrote before.

This issue we have poetical ponderings on faith and goodness,

an analysis of uncontrollable id impulse, two genres fighting
within the confines of the same story, a Bolao-esque psychic,
the secret pains of what it means to have only one body, and an
elephantine democracy. Our interview gives an excellent view of
the modern artist in a world moving fast ahead of previous
epochs of free expression. All of our pieces this issue should, if
youll allow, if your behaviour will accept it, teach you a little
about yourself. And those around you. And how St. Valentines
becomes The Day of Romance, how a martyr becomes flowers,
how one act becomes another.

Faith. Love. Acceptance. Nonconformity. Rebellion.

Submission. Half is you, half is the world around you, and its all
about behaviour.

This is why I left. You have begun to find

your answers. Although it will seem difficult
the rewards will be great. Exercise your
human mind as fully as possible knowing that
it is only an exercise. Build beautiful artefacts,
solve problems, explore the secrets of the
physical universe, savour the input from all
the senses, filled with joy and sorrow and
laughter, empathy, compassion, and tote the
emotional memory in your travel bag.
Ryan Power speaking in Waking Life by
Richard Linklater


Ive pondered innocence and wickedness perceived

and it always comes down the heart of the matter
and there are as many equations and judgements as days
but sift and sort it all down to the bare bones
and in my opinion righteousness is only as staunch as the
actions emitted
and the thoughts of the heart may be unseen
but they are not unknown
and in time all things are revealed

we, each of us claim humanity, a station, an upbringing, a

heartbreak, a dream
some of us, humanity as a thing to be glorified
some of us, humanity as a thing to be ashamed of
were we not all young once?
born of a mother, feeding at her breast
even the mightiest in their prime were, at a time, expendable to
but priceless to someone, somewhere

the heart and mind are malleable, conductors of currents

and there are more shades of heart than there are skin
and does anything have more power to shape either than the
crucible of life and experiences?
take a man out of his power and influence and throw him in the
and then judge whether hes different than those born and
raised with the challenge of disadvantage
give a poor man wealth and will he be the wiser for it?

show me a body that is not male or female
show me a body that is not the compilation of motives, mindset,
soul, lungs and memories stored up
susceptible to pain, pleasure and demise
and in the honesty of it all who has chosen their era, parents,
country or race?
but I will tell you, and it cannot be denied
we are all born and raised and victim to something
but on the other hand righteousness is a learned behavior and
kindness a practice
but history is as much a laundry list of tyrants and crusades
saints and martyrs
murders and rampages
countless bones of the weaker piled up in unmarked graves
and fathers and brothers and sons who left behind mothers and
sisters and daughters

todays not much different really, just the tip of time and
repetition of the past
blood lines conceived and extended in love or lust
descendents born and raised and self governed
each leaving their own mark on the face of the earth and the
backs or memories of those whove encountered them

so many legacies, so many sides to a story

visit a prison and label the sinners
visit the house of a God fearing man and beg his story
sift through the case files and evidence rooms of solved and
unsolved crimes

and listen to the heartbroken story of the mothers who raised
sons and daughters who discarded the morals they were raised
or the stories of those raised in hostility left bitter and broken
and you will find as many shades of heart as shades of skin

some, ashamed and closed off

others humble and open and
just as many attaching a justification to the state of their being
and the actions theyve paid for
but is there ever a reason good enough to justify every cause?
perhaps, perhaps not

if you place your concern on the heart of the matter

and if we are all susceptible to emotion and deception as either
the deceiver or the deceived
who is fit to set the value of a man on something as trivial as
sex, color or origin?
when the contents of the heart are what stir up the conduct of
the tongue, the actions of the hands and the path a man follows
where are judgements drawn and who may draw them?
if weve all our own truth, then who is fit to judge?
are we not all equally knit and shaped in the womb?
are not all of us born in blood and pain?

tell me if you still feel hope for the future of our children
the bright beginnings of a generation still wet behind the ears
I do not, unless the children of the fatherless are caught up in
the arms of a wise man
unless the children of wars are swept up into homes of sure

and refugees shored up in the harbors of tender kindness
and our children taught that we are all prone to wickedness but
we are also all capable of righteousness
but, not by regulation and ritual
for when has the fear of the law ever produced a willfully tender

whoever made it about religious slavery was black hearted

whoever made it about the outer form of a man or the woman,
or their station, or the home they came from
was a fool clever enough to stir up a fog of such ignorant
blindness as to obscure the simplistic
measure of a God who deals with each of us on no other level
than the shape and condition of our heart
and the things we honor and value in our affections

and some would say there is good in mankind, but I don't see it
not in man kind itself
if we were made in the image of God, but do not bear His image
in our actions and conduct then we are children of wickedness
and pushed to a limit
any person is capable of the things they condemn others for
and we haven't all got murder on our conscience
but we've each got enough shame, anger and self serving pride
to drown in
and on the flip side of the coin, love isn't prejudiced, its specific
and intentional
but where does it come from
if not from ourselves?

say its the heart, say its the moral statutes of the fibers of the
very makeup of each thought and extended hand and open
but what standard do you judge the state of things by?
can we all be makers of our own truth?
I think not, or isnt the state of the world proof enough?

but who breaks the cycle, and who resets the pattern?
perhaps its beyond us, and always was
and if we were made I say its worth considering where we came
or who created us and why are we still here if not to return to
the source of life
to ask the question of why are we still here?
and what reason suffers the state as it stands
if not an invitation to become acquainted with the complexities
of the heart and the many facets and faces of God? and in so
doing we will see people as they truly are
darkened hearts capable of transformation into an enlightened
frame of mind
to view our brothers and sisters of the flesh as being capable of
containing a heavenly perspective towards one another
bearing with each other and walking in honesty before all
heaven and earth
with no cause for reproach but executing righteousness in our
daily practices
and extending love to stranger and enemy alike
because if circumstances and encounters can twist us
so can meritless love and kindness
and there is a redeeming quality in that and a hope indeed

~ 10 ~

I have to throw her jewellery into the ocean. I have to. I can tell
its expensive, and that explains half of her screaming and
squealing (the other half, naturally, being that this guy in a fluffy
coat is trying to rip her jewellery off her neck), but it has to go
into the ocean. If I could explain, shed understand. Maybe.
People get attached to things more than they do events and
ideas. Its why at the end of Christmas we have sales on
televisions and not on community projects; its why everyone
goes out and gets a new laptop rather than continue seeing the
family. So, even if I did explain, maybe shed keep the necklace.
But it has to go into the ocean. It has to.

After a few minutes her girlfriend turns up and punches me in

the jaw. Id flinch, but Im used to this feeling now. The change
thatll come later will hurt a shit tonne more, so I cant really
complain about the suckerpunch. If this were any other guy and
gal rapey man steals jewellery from middle class victim Id
probably punch the guy. But its me. I dont entirely deserve
this. But theyve moved on now and that shivering feeling
behind my eyes is still there. I watch the jewellery move away,
and my brain aches, expands and contracts like a mountain
climber breathing heavily, and the fatalistic urge begins to grow
and grow and grow and grow the necklace isnt under the
waves. This is a huge problem.

Im alone on the beach front and my impulse hasnt been

satiated. Do you get those? Impulses. Weird psychological
hiccups where a thought slides in from left field, like eat that
chewing gum on that bench or punch that old man sat across

~ 11 ~
from you, and even though you 100% do not want to do that
thing, for a fraction of a moment you were going to? Do you
ever get an urge incomprehensibly strong, and then in the same
beat realise this is not you, never will be you, and you really
dont want to do that thing.

I had to throw her jewellery into the ocean.

I didnt.

I run down the little stone steps, trying to look inconspicuous,

and I saunter across the pebble-dashed sand to the abandoned
pier. Graffiti, cigarette butts and heroin needles stare up at me
like jewels at the bottom of the ocean I cant get the thought
out of my head. Its all I can think about. The failure to succeed
in my impulse. The impulse itself. It doesnt know Im done,
doesnt realise there is no chance in hell I will complete the
bizarre act. Its telling me to run after her, galloping, squealing,
and finish the job. But Im not going to. Its easier to prowl
down here.

The blood in my jaw doesnt ache any more. The spines growing
out my back, they hurt. When my eyes change shape, like
pottery, that hurts. When my lips fall off to reveal the satanically
goat-like maw. That fucking hurts. And I wait for the five hours
it takes, trapped at the back of my own mind, as this new
creature (which is also me) this thing muscular and black and
furred in the wrong places, twice-tongued, double-jointed
prowls in circles, eating the heroin needles and the sand for
sustenance, growling; it is the impulse incarnate. I am nothing. I
am the abyss of thought I dream for every night.

~ 12 ~
I wake up cold and wet. The tide had come in. The sky is wild
blue and red. I no longer need to throw her jewellery in the
ocean. I sit up and check my skin, little pockmarks healing
where the needle fur had grown out me. Shit. Theres a girl.
Shes mostly viscera now. I must have gone hunting. I really
should have thrown her jewellery into the ocean.

I return to the hotel room in ripped clothes and I am glad for

the secrets concierges keep. I change. Laying back on the bed I
think of my curse, and how in other stories Id be more scared,
or question it more. Even Kafka questioned being an insect. But
instead I accept, knowing that my transformation is a part of my
nature, unavoidable. I believe everyone is like me. Everyone gets
these urges, they just dont become them if they dont enact
upon them. They just move on. In a way, I think this is worse.
They just suppress forever; they never eat a girl on the sand. I
do feel remorse though. That little darling didnt deserve a
monster to find her and devour her whole. She never meant to
be Red Riding Hood. But I cant help it. Its an impulse, you see.

I have told no one of my affliction. Why would I?

I sit at the end of the conference table not out of importance

but from lack of free seats, and the woman at the front, who is
important, uses a laser pointer to tell me how much weve made
this quarter. I do not care. I talk on telephones to people who
require advice when their internet goes down, and most of the
time they dont have a problem. They are the problem. But I do
this job because I rarely get the foreign impulses. My tiny booth
does not inspire that part of my psychology. And if it does its
like eat your eraser or throw that pencil under the table and

~ 13 ~
I can do these without being seen, and can continue my day.
Though, let me tell you, eating your rubber-erasers gives you
awful stomach ache. But at least we are up from last quarter. At
least the woman delivering the talk keeps making eye contact.


I look up, properly this time, from my collections of doodles

scrawlings autobiographical and look her in the eye. She has
finished. A little shitty applause from the lecherous ones, and
she sits down to one side. New guy now. More shit I dont care
about. But shes still looking at me. I may invite her for coffee.

On the ride home I get an impulse to eat a sweet I found. I can

imagine the story of the sweet. It is hard-boiled, stuck to the
chair with gelatine. Somewhere, in an old womans white coat,
there is a gap where this sweet once laid. I have to eat the sweet
or I will transform and kill everyone on the bus, so I eat the
sweet. The bus ride is twenty minutes.

I bet you wonder what I look like. Human.

When I get in I light a cigarette and listen to the radio. I prefer

the radio to television, gives me room to breathe. And I breathe
in the nicotine, and wonder what the difference between this
drive and the other is? I learn nothing from the broadcast. I
finish the cigarette slowly, and relax into the evening. I have had
no urges since the bus, and the monster is deep within me; I can
no longer feel its fur and its alien mouth. I am me, in an
armchair, thinking about a woman. I will definitely invite her for

~ 14 ~
It is a fine coffee. She is a fine companion to it. She also hates
the job and the quarterlies and the pointless pie-charts. We
laugh, sometimes. Other times she just listens to me. Sometimes
I listen to her, when she is interesting. We are both interesting.
As she buys the third round of caffeine I blurt out my curse. I
tell her about impulses. I thought I was the only one. She says.
I frown and realise she believes the monstrous part is metaphor,
Like, the other day, this guy was wearing a hat and I just
needed to steal it and wear it. I didnt. Didnt know the guy. But
I had the urge you know. I say I do know. But that if I hadnt
worn the hat I would have become something foreign to the
cosmos and eaten the man in his hat, and all the fish in the river,
and said things in twice-tongued fury. She laughs. Finds it funny.
She finds it funny? She invites me back for a glass of wine.

As we walk to her flat I have a hiccup-demon-urge to grab her

hand and so I do. She squeezes back. Maybe the monster knows
things I do not. I also get an urge to whistle and she tells me to
stop, but I cant til the urge passes. I dont want to eat her (not
that way). She gets annoyed. Lets go of my hand. We still drink
wine. After a couple of glasses I try and explain again, and in her
intoxication she gets it. She realises I am being honest, truthful.
That girl She murmurs, and the television talks of an animal
attack at the beach. I explain it was me, I killed the girl, I turned
her into viscera. She fucks me.

The next day I have to turn the lamp on the desk on and off
twelve times before ringing a single human soul. My office
buddy tells me she has OCD too, and gives me a business card
for her psychologist. I thank her, then bin the card. I help
someone set up their wifi and not a single urge envelops me.

~ 15 ~
My relationship with this woman goes well. We even said I love
you once or twice, as if no one else ever says it. We said it like
we were the only two people in the world with that urge, with
that impassioned romance. I love you. But we both know
millions of people say those three words, most of the time to get
what they want, or to lie to themselves. But at least we believe
we say it honestly. We go to dinner parties and my urges turn
strange, and we have to excuse ourselves. I expect to be scolded
by my lover, but she understands, holds my hand like when we
had coffee, soothes me, tells me she understands. She doesnt
want the monster beyond my ribs and soul to appear. She liked
those people. The hostess cooked a good pork roast. Why ruin
it with lycanthropy?

We get home one night after a particularly horrible meal. The

host a gentrification adoring, faux erudite smile and cardigan
look of a fool had invited everyone he thought smart to his
cheese and wine fuck-uppery, and then a smattering of people
like us. People he believed not smart. People to submit to his
ego. But we didnt submit. We argued. We drank all his wine. I
got an urge to smother him with a cushion and I did for a bit
and we were asked politely to leave. My lover kept giggling. She
was very drunk. She didnt hold my hand. That was great. She
said, hissing, her lip bleeding. I cant remember how that had
happened, Did you do that because you had to or because you
had to? She slurred into bed and became the same as the quilt,
and I spooned her til sunrise. Breakfast was McDonalds.

Work continued.

I continued.

~ 16 ~
I transformed for the first time in front of her and she kept me
locked in the bathroom. She said that although I was nothing of
Earth nothing chthonic I had slept all night in the bath, all
limbs and fur and the sound of buzzing wasps. I said I could not
remember. We were lucky that night. And from the days
onwards her eyes glimmered with a wetness of excitement I had
never seen in any human, even my own strange eyes regular or

And then I got the urge I had feared. I came into the bedroom.
She was on her period, always a tough time for her, for her
body. Her womb tried to rip itself out of her, and she curled up
with a hot water bottle and Netflix and waited for the
apocalypse to end inside her. I told her I had to have sex with
her. She said not now. I said I had to. She said not now. I
explained this was not me wanting to have sex with her, but that
I just had to. For a second she contemplated it before
scrunching up her little face, Its still rape. She murmured.
And I agreed. It would be rape. She wouldnt want me to have
sex, and Id be inside her, screaming the urge away. She adjusted
the hot water bottle, You know, Ive never really liked the

I went next door instead with my mind breathing like a

mountain climber about to fall.

~ 17 ~

They slept in what was the old knights library. A forgotten

smell of books lingered in the air, faintly; in their memories the
soothing sound of pages turning faded. They slept to the tune of
flick, flick, flick.

The floor was oak, like the window frames and the
rafters. Even the shelves were oak, to hold the books that once
went on them. The books were taken away; they werent allowed
those. A balcony reached around the room, filled with more oak
shelves without the books. With the smell of books and the
sound of pages a once sweet reminder came: Off the Librarian,
whose feathers glowed red and blue and green, the way he
squawked at you as you went past, as well as the Three Wizards,
Yn, Yl, and Yx; their beards were still there, when you
remembered them, a palimpsest of unheard laughter, weird and
wonderful robes of crimson cloth and violet velvet, gentle lutes
humming, flicking orange candles, showering the readers with a
frost of light.

And it is not as though they yearned for the future. Off

was a well enough parrot, he could talk legibly, better than most
people on the min. The books in that library held stories of
the future and the past, the future books being a new
instatement after the Yukhsten, the looking-stone, was found.
The future was never far away: no, for it was in the old knights
library. People read and read and read, where did they learn that
talent for insatiability? They wanted to know more, knowledge
was the key to understanding the min, future and past. War is
Coming, that was the popular book, of the Changers attacking

~ 18 ~
the min. Nobody knew when it was coming, how could they
know that it was so near?

The war that came cast down all their beliefs and ways
of life, giving them a new spectrum of behaviour: obey. They
have their places, the people of the min, beneath the Changers.


The smell of books was in the air, still in the air, a

reflection on the days before, as they tried to sleep, in the
mattress-less cots that had been set up in rows, spaces between
them as talking was, by all means, forbidden without consent.
Telepathy wasnt forbidden, though. The Changers didnt know
about telepathy. That was how Wyck and Sevron spoke.
Through the mind.

The candles had burned their last long ago, after the
Changers came. They stripped the library of all magic, deeming
it sorcery and unworthy of their advanced ways, but Wyck
knew better. He knew that they couldnt perform magic
themselves, so why keep it in the min?

They forgot about the staves, though. They were strung

up on the wall like the time before, ready to be grabbed and
used. All you had to do is say the right words and a strange
substance would come out the end. Inverro Paclum, Froverro
Paclum, Ezthro Paclum, Luxthro Guilatom: Summon me fire,
summon me frost, summon me earth, and light guide my way.

No wands, though, wands were strictly forbidden. Not

even the Guardians were allowed wands. The Guardians, who
patrolled the room in organised routines, had only swords, but

~ 19 ~
not like the ones on the min. They were thin, without cross-
guard, their handles made of a queer foam. Each blade glowed a
different colour. Sometimes a Guardian would patrol with a
purple blade, some days a red one, some days a green one.

Wyck and Sevron spoke often in their heads. How do

we get out of here? she asked once.

We dont, Wyck replied.

Are there any others, like us?

Telepaths are a rare thing. We were lucky to be


But even forbidden words did not stop those next to

each other from speaking. Silent words, mouthing, learning how
to read lips. One by one they learned names.

Wyck. Sevron. Gulmer. Jon.

They were allowed to walk side-by-side, twice a day, once at

dawn, once at dusk. Silent, in a yard, with grey walls, twenty feet
high. A gate to the north side, iron bars four inches thick. The
people of the min were vile creatures, thats what the Changers
say. On his dawn walk, Wyck walked with Sevron. Look, said
he, looking up at the Guardians on the yards wall. These ones
had strange devices which they called guns. They were long,
about an arms length, with a thin nozzle on the end, and a large
chunk of wood from which the nozzle was suspended. Theyre
facing away from the yard. Why?

~ 20 ~
Sevron said, Maybe they cant bear to look at us.

At least its privacy.

Or revolt.

They walked around the yard once more, and were

escorted back inside by the Changers.

This is your workstation, said one of the Changers

when Wyck got forced into a high-ranking officials house. It
was the Chapelwell, it once was the Chapel, but the seven-
coloured windows had been smashed and replaced with frosted
glass, colourless, plain. The wreaths had been taken down and in
their places, air. Blank plaster had covered the Gods. This was
not the Chapel anymore. This was foreign, inspiring no love or

You are to run errands for me, said the high-ranking

official. He gave Wyck clothes as befits a man of his rank: grey
robes, like the ones the Three Wizards wore, only grey, thin,
roughspun robes. He made him walk barefoot, but if he
behaved well then he would be rewarded with some sandals.
When Wyck looked down, he noticed his feet were bare and
black, gnarled like tree roots. I want you to go to the tax-
collector. Ask him what the highest intake was for this month,
and where it came from.

Yes, Commander. Wyck was told firmly before he

came in: Speak properly, this isnt the damned min anymore.
Under Yellans rule, you will speak to your betters with the
respect that they deserve. And no fishy business, neither. You

~ 21 ~
will say Commander. Fail to do that, and its into the Hole with

He went to the tax-collectors manse. It once was the

smithy, but its anvils had been thrown away, hammers and
pincers, blades, furnaces, coals, oils, maces, armour, all thrown
away. There was only the shell of a happy mans life there. There
was only the tax-collector and his desks now, his grey hair tied
back, thin, he looked haggard.

Ah, you must be Commanders new minion, he said,

not looking up from his books of numbers. He preferred the
story they told, it was said. Theyre plainer, less open to

Yes, Commander. Was Wyck to say Commander? He

did not know. The man did not command, he was commanded.

But who was not commanded?

Har! You dont have to give me formalities. You will

call me Sir, and that will be over and done with. He finally
looked up, and almost gagged at the sight of Wyck. The mans
nose perched at the end, his face was pinched up, his eyes close
together, beady, like a dogs. His jaw thrusted forward and at the
end of his chin were a few salt-and-pepper hairs. What does
Commander want?

He wants to know what the highest intake for this

month is, Sir, said Wyck. He also wants to know who it came

~ 22 ~
Huh! Well, hes not lost his appetite for money, Ill give
him that. Lets see here Sir began leafing through all of his
books, papers, notes, and scribblings. He frowned. Finally, he
picked up a dusty sheet, and observed the scrawlings. Pleasure
house. Four thousand seven hundred twenty one shards. Not
our best, but there was a valiant effort.

Wyck nodded. Thank you, Sir. He left what was the

smithys and walked back to the Chapel no, not the Chapel,
the Commanders househead down, silent, obedient.

Wyck learnt to see the world in gasps. He could look up

with his eyes, but not move his head, he could see whats to the
side of him, whats in front, but not behind. He saw the
Guardians patrolling the streets; they all had red swords this
time. The swords hummed lightly.

On the walls were the hanging bodies of escapists.

Some were old, some young, nearly all of them men. The crows
had been at them: that much was beyond doubt: their eyes had
been torn from their sockets, their tongues were missing, and
their skin had been ripped apart. And the smell, the smell drifted
through the streets, pungent and merciless.

Quickly, Wyck hurried from the bodies. He reached the

Commanders house, and bowed before him.

This isnt the min anymore, fool. Stop your savage

formalities and approach me properly.

~ 23 ~
Wyck obeyed. He walked towards the Commander, and
stood up straight. He bent his elbow and put his forearm across
his chest, so his fingers touched the shoulder. I am yours to
command, Commander.

Better, said he. Now. Tell me what you found out.

The most we got this month was four thousand seven

hundred twenty one shards, Commander.


The pleasure house.

Very well. The Commander smiled. Pay them a visit.

Give them this. The Commander handed Wyck a small, leather
pouch, which felt like they had paper in them. Wyck hadnt felt
paper in what felt like years. He hungered for it.

She felt the man take her, thrusting, hitting her body from
behind. She dreamt that it wasnt happening. She dreamt that
she was far away, on the shores of Crabs Bay, near the city of
Bellux, where the knights dress in yellow cloth robes and wield
scimitars instead of swords. She dreamt that it was someone
else. She dreamt that it was Wyck.

When he was done, he finished inside of her, with a

stifled grunt. She wanted to cry. You shant cry, said Isla. You
shall smile, kiss your partner, make passionate love to him.
Disobey me, and you will see the Hole.

~ 24 ~
She didnt disobey. She did her duty, for that was where
they placed her. Youre fortunate to be here, she was told time
and time again.

The man threw a coin at her and was done with his
business. She picked it up, and bit it. It was real. Real enough,
anyway. She would have to go to the bank and exchange it for
shards, soon. Isla would punish her if she didnt. Maybe she
could say that he didnt pay, and the man would be hanged.
Maybe theyd find out that shes lying.

She went to the main room of the pleasure house, and

there she found Isla talking to a poorly-dressed man, with hard
feet and a sagging face. Then she noticed. Wyck, it was Wyck.
What was he doing here?

He must have noticed her, because as he turned, he

gave a quick wink. But he stopped by the door. I have shards,
he said. How many shards for her? He pointed to her.

Fifty. Shes a goodun, that one. Sevron, thats her

name, though shes called Saffy by the regulars. Call her what
you like when youre in with her though.

Wyck repeated the name and smiled. He stared at her.

Give the shards to her once youre done. Isla turned

and stormed away, as though she were angry at one of her

When they were in the room together, Wycks mind

spoke loud and clear. They didnt have to whisper together, not

~ 25 ~
when they could speak in the mind. Have you been in the
library recently?

No. I havent.

Do you know if the staves are still on the wall?

I think they might be. The Changers dont know what

they are.

Wyck smiled. Is there a back entrance to this place?

No but the windows open far. Maybe we could

climb out towards the rear. Nobody should notice us

But if we do get noticed, were in the Hole.

But well be in there together.

I hope so.

There was nobody about in the Library. Wyck dashed, silently,

to the walls where the staves hung. There were three: one for
each of the Three Wizards. Wyck grabbed one. It felt nice in his
hand. It was long and hard, smooth ash, an orb of dark red at
the end. It stood seven foot tall, towering over him, but it was
light, and he felt its magical embrace through him. Sevron was
in the shadows, hoping they wouldnt be seen by any surprise

Wyck pulled the staff back and thrusted it forward,

saying, Inverro Paclum! From the end of the orb came a small
ball of flame, which ignited one of the bookshelves.

~ 26 ~
Why did you do that? said Sevron.

I I didnt think it would work.

Well youve done well now. The library will burn if we

dont put it out.

Wyck didnt care. He was ready for the Gods. Let it

burn, he said. Dont you think weve been here long enough?
Dont you wish for a better life?

Sevron sighed, and her face grew sad. I do, she said. I
dont want to be here anymore.

Then let us be rid of this place. Come with me. Please.

What are you going to do?

Im going to let the souls of the Wizards come back

and take vengeance.



Are you true? Do you wish to do this? Ever since

Wyck brought up the idea, ever since he set the Library aflame,
she had been pacing back and forth like a caged tiger.

He remembered the past. He wasnt old, but he wasnt

young either. Wyck had been an avid member of the Arts of
Conjuration, whilst dabbling in Alchemy, Barterting, and Divine

~ 27 ~
He remembered the past. It had been a sweet summers
noon, and he felt the salubrious air as he fletched his third staff:
it was made from Papas Oak Tree; only good, strong wood
came from it. The sun lorded over a host of clouds...and over
the green streak. What was that curious shooting star? It ripped
open the veil between sky and heavens.

Then they landed. The Changers. They stormed the

min with fierce might; neither mage nor general could oppose
them. They reaved and pillaged. When the sun fell, the min fell
with it.

Wyck had been told once, when a young boy, that there
is nothing to fear but fear itself. Yet in the min today that
wasnt true. Many things were worse than fear. Fear was the
Hole, the shackles, the guns, fear was the knife in the gut.

But now it was time for them to reap what they had

The platform in the centre of the city was bare, but the
throng of citizens around it were as thick as any day. Guardians
encircled the platform with their queer, foreign weapons. They
will reap, Wyck thought. His heart pounded. They will reap. He
found his way to the centre of the myriad of people, and there
stood a guardian of a plain face.

Youre not supposed to be here.

Wyck shoved him aside. They will reap. The staff

slipped around in his sweaty hand. In the other hand was

~ 28 ~
Stop! shouted one of the Guardians as they ascended.
Heads turned. Guns pointed. Stop this folly. Get down from

They will reap. Despair made him shout. YOU HAVE

NO AUTHORITY IN THE MIN! There sounded a soft
click of a gun.

Lost his wits, said one woman. Hell be on the wall

soon, said another.

Get down from there, this instant, and I might only

send you to the Hole!

In response, Wyck chanted. In the oldest tongue he

could think of, he chanted, Souls of Yn, Yl, and Yx, come
now, come and avenge your people! The hearts of the innocent
yearn for you! Wyck could feel the guns on him. They will reap.
They were going to fire them, he knew it. Sevron was on the
back corner of the platform, hoping not to be noticed.

Wyck slammed the staff on the ground. He stood

amidst the shower of fiery, dancing sparks. From under the
shadow of the walls all that could be seen was the glow in his
eye and the silver of his beard. Behind him was cast, a long,
malevolent shadow that seemed to be darker than any shadow.
It moved independently from him, as if it too was making its
own incantation. In the putrefying air above him formed black,
swirling mists, and from them came the terrible smell of rot, and
death itself. The swirls swirled, the shadows grew, the sparks
danced and flickered, until they combined, and from them came
a demon himself.

~ 29 ~
Then he felt it.

The gunshots cracked into the air as loud as thunder,

but without the raw power of a storm. In comparison, really,
they were tiny. Even if they could be mistaken for thunder there
was no sky. It was just another murder in the city.

Blood streamed from his chest and belly, and all of the
world turned faint and black and then white. A foul stench
assailed his nose. He heard the muffled groan of Sevron as she
too was shot, and the roars of the demon he recently conjured.

When the floor of the platform rushed up to meet his

face, darkness washed over him. The light drained away so fast.
A chill ran down his spine. The chill of fear. The same fear he
had when he saw the Changers.

Do you remember Bellux, Wyck? he heard her say in

the mind. Her voice softened his passing. It comforted him.

I do

He took Sevrons hand, and they went through the red

rain-curtain of the world together into the shores of silver and
gold and white.

~ 30 ~

The lavender Texas moon goes down like a swollen sailor at last
call. The parking lot feels like somebody's idea of a ghost town.
Weeds grow up between the tyres of pick-up trucks and dusty
motorcycles; nobody here is staying long enough to see the
flowers bloom.

You sure this is the joint?

Says so up there, don't it?

The sign above the bar reads MAE'S ROADHOUSE in glitchy

neon red lights.

I watch Ryder adjust his ten-gallon and spit into the dust.

Your Mama raise you in a barn?


Nothin'. Let's get this dog and pony show on the road.

The inside of the bar is more Virginia tobacco smoke than air. I
can't see past four bodies deep but the bar must be in the centre
because that's where most of the yelling is coming from. I have
to push and shove past a couple of old rangers and a particularly
sweaty looking biker dude to get to the front. I stick my neck
out between the beer taps and holler for one of the sweeter
looking bar maids, but I get a face full of this old boy instead.
He looks like the bottom of Bruce Springsteen's boots and I can
count his teeth on one hand.

~ 31 ~
Can ah's help y'all?

Uh, yeah. We're looking for Mae.

What you wantin'?

Business. She's expectin' us, I flash him my badge to save us

the kick back.

Right y'ar then.

Springsteen's boot turns to one of the bar maids and dribbles

something in her ear. She gives me a small smile and waves us
over towards the back end of the bar. We jostle our way through
and meet her at a service door.

Roy says y'all are looking for Mae? I can take you to her.

Yes ma'am.

We follow the girl through some sort of store room and up into
a second floor. The air is cleaner up here, but not by much. I
pick my way over steel beer kegs and upturned floor boards,
silently grateful that I never ended up working for the health

The roar of the bar downstairs falls away and is replaced with
the low murmur of a wireless talking to itself. The girl halts
outside a peeling red door and knocks.

Mae, I got some gentlemen here to see ya.

Send them in.

~ 32 ~
She steps aside and I push the decaying door open. The room
looks like a yard sale for a dead kleptomaniac. There are piles of
newspapers almost up to the ceiling, I thumb through a few and
the dates vary from decade to decade. I find one from the day of
JFK's assassination and consider tucking it inside my jacket.

Son, don't even think about it.

I jerk back and bump into Ryder, I can feel his hand on his .45
through the skin of my back. Well ain't he a little twitchy.

You must be Mae? I venture.

Tha's right. I was expecting cops, but cops don't steal from old
lady's, do they now?

I don't know what you mean...

The old girl motions for us to come through the doorway and
sit at a small tea table. The doily is held together by dust and
nicotine residue, but I see no ashtray.

Ryder sets his hat down on the table and the file of papers next
to it.

He doesn't even wait for her to sit down, he gets right on into it.

Ma'am, we spoke on the phone. I'm detective Ryder and this is

my partner, detective Thompson. We're here about the Mills
case back in '94.

Right, Right. Hell of a thing. Young girl got gutted down by

Galveston beach, they found her in the back of her truck. She
was just 17. Damn shame.

~ 33 ~
That's right. According to the file here you were instrumental
in apprehending her killer...

Instrumental? Son, I came right up to the sheriff's office the

day the news hit the radio and told y'all that I knew who gutted
that young girl. Nobody wanted to know. Err'body was hell bent
on stringing up that fella she was seeing.

Her boyfriend? He was the primary suspect, initially, but was

cleared within a week or two.

He got cleared because he was innocent. Poor boy. I kept tellin'

y'all, I knew, I knew. But nobody wants to listen to old Mae.
Not until it was too late.

Our understanding is that you provided the sheriff's

department with an address for one Bobby-Lee Brown, is that

Yep. But by the time y'all dragged yourselves out there he had
already gotten himself another one.

Ryder flips through the file and pulls out a few old 35mm prints.
I've seen those photos two hundred times, they're burned onto
the underside of my eye-lids, everyone in the department old
enough to remember knows those photos. Nightmare fuel if
there ever was such a thing.

He spreads them out on the table and my left eye starts


They're of the inside of Brown's filthy shithole of a basement. I

only know it's the basement because of the scene account in the
file, it could have been any room, there was no flooring or

~ 34 ~
furniture, just blood. More blood than you would ever imagine
the 120lb body of a nineteen-year-old girl to contain. I find
myself thinking of sci-fi films that roll on the TV in the small
hours of the morning. Bad C movies that blow most of their
budget on gore FX with a director that gets off on medical
dramas. There's so much blood in Brown's basement that it
looks staged; it can't possibly be anything other than a lo-fi film
set. It's so devastating that it's almost comical.

The police arrived at the address you gave and found a second
victim. Brown confessed to both murders but the second girl
was never identified. Brown never gave her name.

The old lady barely glances at the photos, she chooses instead to
focus on the dying sun struggling through the dust encrusted

I guess there wasn't much left to identify her with.

No ma'am. There wasn't.

Let me guess, you wanna know how I knew where to find


The file says that you, uh, well it says that...

I don't have time for this tea party friendly chit-chat horseshit.

Listen lady, it says that you dreamed it. You saw Brown at the
first scene, down on the beach, then again going into his house.
That's where you got the address from. A dream.

Well, I guess you could call it that...

~ 35 ~
Whatever deal you had with the office back then, whatever you
were runnin', that's all gone. Whatever you were leveraging,
whatever they were covering you for, I'm not party to that, ya

Ryder elbows me in the ribs and I dig the heel of my shit-kickers

into him under the table. If he wants to sit around all day
holding this bat's hand and eating up her act then that's fine, but
he can do it on his own dime. We're losing daylight here.

Uh, what my partner means to say is that, it's not clear exactly
how you came to know Brown's address, or his involvement in
the murders. We were hopin' you could provide us with more

Yeah, am sure that's exactly what he means.

I jerk forward in my seat and Ryder hits me with a stare as cold

as the heart of my mother. Asshole. This is a waste of our time.
She's either crazy or covering some wicked shit.

When you say that you found out about the murders from a
dream, how exactly do you

I get sweat rash somethin' awful in the summer. That one back
in '74 was a scorcher. I was indoors a lot, couldn't cope with the
scratchin'. I was up here, reading the cards, and I

Sorry, reading the cards? What cards?

Mae looks at Ryder like he's a cockroach that suddenly burped

at the dinner table. I think she's about to smack him one but she
gets up instead and goes over to a drawer by a wire frame bed in
the back. She comes back with a wooden box, all carved and

~ 36 ~
fancy like. She tosses it down on the table and flips the lid,
inside is a deck of even fancier looking cards, held inside a silk

Tarot cards, boy.

Uh, tarot cards?

You deaf or somethin'?

No, ma'am.

She deals the cards like a casino crap-shooter pro. Fanning and
splaying and shuffling at a speed faster than any gambling man I
know. She must be, what, in her late seventies? Her fingers pop
like knitting needles. I'm impressed, but I don't think I'd play
cards with anyone this fucked in the head.

Before I owned this place it belonged to my brother, he ran the

bar downstairs and I ran a little business on the side up 'ere.
People came to me when they wanted to know things.

What sorta things?

Behaviour. Other people's, their own, the world's.

You were a psychic?

I prefer the term fortune teller. Psychic implies I got some

kinda control over things. I just tell 'em what the cards tell me.

...And the cards, they told you about Bobby-Lee Brown?

~ 37 ~
She plucks a card from the deck and tosses it at Ryder. He holds
it up. On it a pale skeleton hangs from a malnourished horse,
scythe in hand, scales in the other.

Every time I tried to ask the deck anything, I drew that card.
Love life? That card. Fortunes? That card. Future? That card. At
first I thought the deck was telling me I would be punching my
ticket ahead of God's schedule. Then I got the blindness.

Ryder puts the card down on top of the case file, the skeleton
replaces the carcass of our Jane Doe.

You lost your sight?

For a whole two weeks. I woke up one mornin' and there was
nothin' but nothin'. A pale black and a lot of fuzz. County
doctor came to see me and said there wasn't a damn thing he
could do. I was as blind as a leper.

I cut Ryder off before he can respond.

Well you ain't blind now. So how about you wrap this pity
party up and tell us what any of this has to do with Brown?

If you could hold that tongue of yours, boy, you'd find out.
Two days after I lost my sight I started getting' these dreams.
Clear as the world in front of me now, ugly as it is.

Ryder smiles and I cross and re-cross my feet.

Same dream every time. Girl running along the beach front,
screamin' hell's bells, being chased by man. Big fella in a hunting
coat. Then a car stereo playing some old dance hall tune and a
dog barking in the distance. Next thing I know I'm seeing the

~ 38 ~
trunk of this old pick-up, there's blood everywhere and it smells
like the inside of a hundred dead crabs. Young girl, small and
pretty like, all mangled up. Stomach cut open.

...And then what?

Then nothin'. I wake up. Happened every time I tried to sleep.

I drove myself damn near crazy trying to stay awake so it would
stop happening.

... what you talkin' damn near, I grind out under my breath.

She doesn't miss a beat.

Let me tell y'all, when you can't see nothin' when you're awake,
dreams become the only sight you've got. You imagine that
horror show being the only thing you can see. The only thing.

And what made you take these... uh... dreams, to the police?

One morning I heard the news on the radio. A girl had been
found in the trunk of a pick-up on the shore of Galveston
beach. They didn't say much else but I knew. That day I didn't
dream of the beach. Instead I saw a man going into a house, he
went down into the basement and there was a different girl
there. She was tied up to the pipes.

And he killed her?

No. Not right away. He tortured her good and slow, it went on
for a damn eternity. Then he branded her with a cattle iron. I
swear I could smell that poor girl's burning flesh in my very
nostrils, right on the back of her neck. Then he gutted her.

~ 39 ~
And this man, he was the same one from the first dream? The,
uh, big fella in the hunting coat?

I could never see his face. But yeah. Same coat.

And that's when you went to the police?

I had my brother drive me straight to the sheriff himself. Told

him the whole thing. He said he'd look into it but weeks went by
and nothin' moved. Eventually I went back and told him if he
didn't do something I'd let his wife know about his little, job on
the side.

The sheriff was having an affair? Did, uh, did the cards tell you

Ryder is a good detective, but he ain't the sharpest.

No, you damn When you live above a bar as long as I have
you get to know things.

Right, right.

The next morning they matched my description to an address

out near Galveston. And well, you know the rest.

We do. But what we don't know is the connection between the

two vics. Being unable to identify the second girl certainly don't

Mae looks between the two of us slowly with a stiff, measured,


Detectives, those murders are more than two decades old. Why
y'all want to drag back up that hell? What's the sudden interest?

~ 40 ~
I open the secondary case file.

You're the psychic, you tell us.

Ryder rolls his fucking eyes at me.

I mean fortune teller.

I pull out two photos and toss them down in front of Mae.

Those were taken a few days ago.

She rolls up her face like she's been suckin' a lemon and I fight
the urge to smile.

Victim is an 18-year old college student. She went missing on

her way home from a party, police found the body the next
morning, gutted, left off a by-road. Take a real close look at that
second photo, the one of her neck.

...It's a burn of some sort.

It is indeed. You should be familiar with it.

Mae doesn't move for a few minutes. The light leaves the room
as the sun retires and my head fills with the sound of the
buzzing AC unit. I can feel the sweat on the back of my neck
sliding and I know that she knows.

It's the same brand as the one on that poor girl that was tied to
the pipes, Brown's second victim.

Correct. Except the brand was never found on the first girl,
Mills. The one in the pick-up on the beach.

~ 41 ~
What are you getting' at?

I'm getting' at the fact that a little over twenty years ago two
girls were slaughtered, one of them was never identified and the
killer left that same nasty lookin' brand on the back of her neck.
The other was sure killed the same way, but she never had no
brand and the sonofabitch left just enough for us to identify her
from dental.

Now I don't pretend to know much about the sort of creatures

that go round killin' young girls, but it seems to me like Brown
got more ambitious with his second victim. Which would have
never of happened in the first place had the sheriffs department
listened to me when I came to y'all.

She's either slow or playing dumb, or both. I can't stand this

fucking room anymore and my throat is dry.

Mae turns to Ryder, knowing that my patience is slipping, if I

ever had any to begin with.

What are you boys tryin' to tell me, that there's some kinda
copycat out there? Some sicko doin' what Brown was doin' all
over again?

No, ma'am. We're thinking that Brown only killed Mills. The
second victim was done by somebody else.

... But she was in Brown's house. I saw him. I saw him on the
beach and I saw him go into that house, and that's where the
second girl was found.

He never gave up her identity and he never marked the first


~ 42 ~
But I saw him. Plain as I see your dumb sorry face right now,
boy. I saw him in my mind.

Oh fuck me, there goes my patience. Listen lady, Brown

probably had a partner, and whoever they are, they not only did
the second girl, but now they're doin' it again. We're only here
because we got nothin' on that second vic. Nothin' at all. The
only person who knows something about her, is you.

Mae's voice drops to a rough whisper, the noise of the bar

below us nearly drowns her out. I only saw her die, that don't
mean I knew her.

It means you know more than the rest of us. So you either cut
the fortune teller freakshow crap and tell us how you know what
you know, or we start doing this the fun way.

Mae gets up and turns the wireless off. She stands perched by
the window like a bird contemplating flight with a busted wing.
The sky outside is the last departing scream of defiant blue
before the black envelopes.

You two aren't going to arrest me, especially when all yous got
is some suspicion. I'm an old lady now, you can't just toss me in
a damn cell.

Ryder shuffles the photos back into the files and I can feel him
jigglin' his leg under the table, anxious like.

You're right. We ain't gonna arrest you. Like you said, we got
nothin' but some suspicions.

I un-clip my gun from its holster and set it on the table.

~ 43 ~
But why don't you sit down all the same.

~ 44 ~

This is no once upon a time story. The following is a factual

account of what my life has been from the age of 15 until now.
This is not my life story: this is one specific aspect of my life
that I feel I should share with the world anonymously because
people are not allowed to talk about this kind of thing in this
day and age without being persecuted, or so it seems. It is a
short excerpt because if Im honest this was incredibly difficult
to write because it brought back a lot of feels.

So it's about boobs. If Ive lost you here, please just, go.
I really don't want you to half-ass this story; it's important to me
and there are probably people out there of both sexes who will
understand the struggles. Since I was 15 my breasts have ruled
my life. I don't mean that in a controlling way, because especially
when I was younger I really enjoyed the fact that my boobs
changed the way I behaved. It's just not the story is... very

The first time I realised they were changing my life was when
my friend asked me to do some modelling for her end of year
art piece at school when I was 15. She said it would only be the
teacher that really saw it as our work rarely got displayed in the
halls because when you're 15 and the art teacher tells you that
you can draw boobs and balls thats what you do. The
headteacher did not approve. My friend said, "its not crude, Im
not drawing you naked, I just think you have a very womanly
figure and I think it will suit what Im trying to do". I was so
flattered, I had always been a tomboy, very laddy and boring
looking and this really impacted the way I started to view myself.

~ 45 ~
I began immediately altering my clothes, hair and
general look to complement my figure and became more
confident around others, especially flirting which 15-16 year olds
and what came with that. All my girlfriends embraced this at
first. Then for my first ever house party I went as catwoman. I
was naive and borrowed my friends mums catsuit thing.

The scorn I received at this party was unreal.

It was not a particularly low cut or slutty outfit on my

gangly teenage self but it clung to my breasts and thats all
anyone seemed to care about. Not that I was trying my hardest
to impress these new people, that I was being understanding of
all the drunk people and that I was happy carrying my friends to
the car. Nope. Just my breasts and how hopelessly angry they
seemed to make everyone at this party. CORRECTION. Every.
Girl. Jealousy is a cruel mistress.

As soon as I reached sixth form it just got worse. It

coincided nastily with a bad breakup. It was horrible; we were
told in sixth form we had to wear "office clothes" so my mum
quickly jumped on the bandwagon and brought me an array of
lovely outfits for school. WRONG. She bought me an array of
very flattering clothes that made all the guys want to cop a feel
and the girls bitch about me when I wasn't there. To the extent
at one point my teacher suggested I wear turtle necks to school.
Oh yeah, my teacher embarrassed me in front of my friends. Do
you know what, so far, I really hadn't given a shit up to this
point? However not long after this comment by my teacher the
boys in my year felt that this had given them the ability to haze
me every day of my year 12 life. I was 17 years old. No 17-year-
old girl should have to deal with this. My close friends did get

~ 46 ~
over my figure very quickly and consisted of a tight group of 6
girls & 3 guys but my teacher needed to comment?! Which
had lead to being bullied about my breasts? Needless to say the
remainder of my school life I received the nickname juggasaurus
rex and juggzilla and any other horrific nicknames about boobs
you can think of.

No-one knew I was dying on the inside.

This story doesn't have a happy ending. I have

continued to dress as I want because I don't need the approval
of others, especially other women or flirty men. I now live
comfortably with my partner who loves me exactly how I am
and has discouraged me from speaking to these people that
grind me down. However, I worry that one day this will break
me and I will finally go to the doctors and get the breast
reduction that I want so desperately to stop people staring at

That's pretty rash behaviour, don't you think?

~ 47 ~

The matriarchs turned as one as a low bass note warbled out

over the procession. Seven-Hill-Ear, the Speakers grandson,
stood on the rise, his tusks glistening in the sun. He lifted his
trunk and trumpeted again: the Call of Procession. The
matriarchs responded in kind. They had heard. They moved
forward, the earth trembling beneath. The symposium had

He has quite a voice for one so young, Pronged-

Water-Leg said.

Tall-Grass-Toe flapped an ear in agreement, not really listening,

or paying attention to her colleagues emotionposture. The day
was too early yet for small talk, and too hot. Toe knew that the
artificial mudbaths would be filled quickly, as soon as propriety
allowed. She would have to come up with an interesting
hypothesis early on in the day so that she could head a troop
into a prime spot in the sludge; all of the females had come for
science and sisterhood, of course, but there was no way that a
cool dip would be far from their minds.

Would that I had the time for calves of my own, Leg


Toe whickered her eyelashes in annoyance.

Leg either didnt notice or didnt care. She moved in closer. Of

course, I treasure my apprentices. They are the best of the
Pampas Beyond, coming from afar to help us understand the
past. You really should make the journey out sometime.

~ 48 ~
Would that I could, but its such a long journey from
the Tall Grass, and my field studies Toe allowed her voice to
drift off so that she wouldnt have to embarrass her colleague.

Of course! But youd be surprised what you could

learn in our realm. So far away from the hubbub, youll find that
the silence

Toe tried to pick up her pace, but the herd had slowed up ahead
as it reached the gate to the convention. The males had done an
excellent job: the entire site had been transformed into a perfect
replica of a grassland thatch. Large trees had been bent to create
an opening into the thicket. Shadow danced underneath the
canopy in the environs beyond. Toe could just make out
mounds overtop the shoulders over the others. That would be
where Speakers would hold court, above the gullies where low
conversation could be held so that certain topics didnt rumble
beyond the ears of those whod been invited into controversial
discussions. The theme, From a Time Before, had been
followed to a tee.

That meant the entry was small, though, too small for more than
one scientist to pass through at a time. When predators had
threatened pachydermic kind tens of thousands of years before
the Die Off, such surroundings were needed so that sisters
could protect the sick, so that children couldnt wander off.
Access could be guarded by one or two individuals, such as the
males who stood there now.

They werent barring the way, though. Hah. As if. Something

else had stopped the processions entrance.

~ 49 ~
Toe noticed that Leg was still rambling, imploring her in an
unsubtle attempt to bring the prestige of a well-landed matriarch
to her studies. Despite all the bravado, Toe knew that Legs
discipline was tolerated--kindly, perhaps--but largely ignored by
the community at large, like a toddler pulling at her
grandmothers tail. And just like that kind of annoyance, Legs
protestations could only go for so long.

Matriarch Toe of the Tall Grass.

Toe turned her head at the address. Ah. Of course. Rolling-

Hills-Shoulder. Toe would recognize her rival anywhere, with
the jewelry on her trunks and the oh-so-fashionable makeup on
her rear. Who was she trying to impress? This was a gathering,
not a gala.

Shoulder of the Rolling Hills, Toe replied. To what

do I owe the honor?

Only an offer of peace. Shoulder motioned toward

the entrance. I had reached the entryway first, but could not
take the honor of it. I am eager, of course, to hear everything
that we are to discuss and that has made me think, who am I
eager to hear? None other than my well respected sister, Toe,
whose work has caused such wonderful discourse.

So, that was it. Shoulder had already staked her claim in the
honor of entry but not for herself. For Toe. Such an act
would be trumpeted about across the land. How Shoulder was
so magnanimous. How, despite their differing opinions on the
nature of the Die Off, that she would facilitate such an honor.
How Toe would accept it

~ 50 ~
and in so doing, take a subservient role in this herd.

Toe would not have it. The Tall Grass people werent egotistical,
but they had pride. Toe arched her head up, accepting the
compliment, but said, You do me too much honor. Indeed, I
have come alone, without my children, grandchildren, or
apprentices, so that I could be one of many. Not a leader but a
participant. That is the nature of this congregation, is it not?

Gurgles of assent rippled across the crowd. The matriarchs

parted so that Toe and Shoulder could face each other outright,
and so that they could shift their positioning depending on
whose arguments they agreed with.

Toe held back the disappointment from her face. Already,

science had given ground to politics.

Shoulder continued: It is good, then, that we have met so early

on. Perhaps we can come to some finality over the trivial
differences between our hypotheses.

Toe fanned herself with her ears lightly. You couldnt just
accept a compliment completely, nor could you throw it off.
Instead, she replied, I do so hope so. Nothing would please me
more well, than to offer the most honored position to
someone more deserving.

So far, the troop was fairly split. A few more of the attendees
had aligned themselves in parallel with Shoulder, but they were
nursing mothers: the calves toddling at their feet wouldnt count
toward a consensus. Toes congregation, meanwhile, seemed to
be made up of the conservatives. No calves by choice, they
instead focused on their work. That would damage her standing

~ 51 ~
with the progressive in the undecided flock standing in the
middle, but the chaotic forms they took showed that they were
still waiting to be convinced.

You show me great deference, far greater than I

deserve, Shoulder said. However, she swung her trunk to
accept the compliment. Yet what of this new reframing of the
Ozone Theory that Ive heard trumpeted by the longspeakers?
Surely you arent once again positing that old premise of climate
change? No, you are much too intelligent for that. Please, lead
on. None of us can wait to hear what you have to say.

Toe took the initiative as if it were the invitation: Your

wordsmithage is famous for good reason, Matriarch Shoulder, as
is your deductive reasoning. Indeed, I would not posit that the
Die Off was interrelated with the depletion of our atmosphere. I
hope to showcase my conclusions once we have been
triumphantly led in.

Pah. Shoulders minions--matriarchs in name only--would never

be swayed by reason. They stood too much to gain from their
allegiance to the Rolling Hills People. Prestige. Feeding grounds.
Water rights. Shoulder had never had to defend her arguments
during apprenticeship: no one would have dared to offer such
an offense to such a powerful family.

Indeed, the commoner matriarchs appeared unmoved by Toes

opening remarks (quite literally) though they had yet to shift
even slightly to Shoulders side of the entrance. Neither side had
lost a single female to the other. The game was far from over.
No scientist would dare enter yet. The drama unfolding might
not have been enticing as the topic of the day, but it was more
of the present, more visceral.

~ 52 ~
Toe walked around the perimeter, reaching out her trunk to
touch all those that would allow her. Which was everyone. No
one would dare to deny a sign of peace at a scientific gathering.
It was brazen, surely, but it also intrinsically allied them all with
the point that Toe was about to raise: I hope to have a chance
to converse to each one of you over the course of the following
moon cycle. You will see that my propositions are not so earth-
shattering, not with the recent discoveries in the High Star Mud

Whispers fluttered. Had Toe made a mistake? Almost all of her

peers accepted the new fossil line as irrefutable. It showed a
clear demarcation between the pre-extinction era and the post,
more firmly establishing the date.

Yet the herds bodies now almost uniformly showed a bit of

deference to Shoulder.

Surely not, Shoulder said. She swelled her cheeks,

accepting Toes statements as a joke. It was meant to deflect
embarrassment for Toe. If anything, it only burned the scorn to
the point of the summer sun. Surely that has been settled by
the extrapolations of our illustrious Knee of the Salt Edge.

One of Shoulders entourage swayed her trunk. Knee, of course.

Toe had never met her, had never had much dealings with the
Salt Edge people. Knees collection of such underpowered herds
had continued unabated, it seemed.

Toe had to change tactics. The river of sentiment had turned

against her. I have studied much of our sisters findings, but
have yet to confirm them with onsite study. No doubt they are

~ 53 ~
correct, but as a scientist, I cannot use them as foundational
until Ive examined them in depth.

So, then you admit that your position on the Die Off
may be unfounded?

How brazen! Toe wanted nothing more to slap the false

questioning off of Shoulders form. Even her emotionposture
lacked dignity. Back leg bent, trunk swinging to the left: sincere
regret of bringing such a topic up, but of the kind that said that
there was nothing to be done about it.

Somehow, Tall-Grass-Toe forced her ears to stay still. She

couldnt show rage here. It was unbecoming of scientists in any
situation, let alone on the Speakers range.

The males guarding the entrance dared not intercede. For one,
all hope of mating with any female would be finished, anywhere
and forever. Insalubrious rumors spread faster on the veldt than
wildfire. Toe thought she recognized the one at the left yes.
Crosses the River Quickly With Rump in the Air. Such a typical
male. Such a typical male name. He was a former mate of Salt-
River-Knee, and even he refused to take sides here.

Not that it mattered. Toe had to accede. The troops would

disperse after this matter, but if she belabored the point, shed
risk losing status for the rest of the symposium for the rest of
her career for the rest of her family. How could such a
bullheaded matriarch lead a pack unless that pack were equally

Indeed, all of the scientists had abandoned Toe. Their postures

were all aligned with Shoulder. The day had been lost. Even Leg

~ 54 ~
had moved to the dwindling folds of the undecideds, unwilling
to take a stand even for a sister shed been begging for a visit
only a little bit of time ago. Toe couldnt even blame her. No
one else stood with her.

Well, that wasnt entirely the case. Seven-Hill-Ear still stood on

his pedestal and he was aligned with Toe. No, that wasnt
right. Toe turned her head to see with whom the grandson of
the speaker had aligned himself.

How odd. He was aligned with Leg.

It made no sense. Leg had made no argument, said nothing. Did

Ear know her personally? Maybe her work? That could only be
it. There was no other reason.

That was what made it perfect.

I wouldnt go so far as to say that I have reexamined

everything in my career, Toe chuckled. Besides, I believe you
misunderstand me. I am not asking you to defer to my position,
nor indeed to my leadership.

Shoulder paused, her head still low in defused pride. She didnt
speak. There was nothing to say. To ask for clarification was to
admit Toes point. To say that she didnt need clarity would
force her into a position which would force her to admit that
she wanted to enter. That would lose her the troop immediately.
Nobody liked a braggart, particularly among scientists.

Toe continued: This congregation is about science, after all,

and science is about discerning the truth. Who better to discern
that truth than someone with fresh eyes, someone who is willing

~ 55 ~
to challenge all of our ideas? Someone who has traveled from so
far away to join us, despite being nearly singular in her

You mean Pronged-Fork-Leg, Seven-Hills-Ear said.

Toe had to stop herself from trumpeting in laughter. What a


Did you speak, Child? Shoulder stated. Her ears had

flapped, her irritation at this outburst as plain as day. Hah. Toe
had won already.

Indeed, the herd almost butted their heads against each other as
they swung away from her alignment.

Do not insult the grandson of the Congregation

Matriarch, Knee said. A direct admonition, even!

I-I-I meant no insult, Shoulder stuttered. She forced

her ears back and her neck up. Indeed, I give deference to the
lineage of our beloved leaders herd.

Nobody spoke. Toe gave Ear a hard look. The adolescent nearly
stumbled over himself as he walked forward, realizing just in
time that he was being given authority to speak. Im sorry that I
spoke out of turn, Ear said. I know that this is a matter of
honor that I have no place in.

Indeed. Toe strode forth and encircled Ear before the

boy could commit anymore social gaffes. Hed done his part.
But the truth comes from the unfettered mind. Seven-Hill-Ear
has hit upon it. Our sister, Leg, has brought exciting

~ 56 ~
propositions, some of which I hope to discuss with her over a
prolonged journey to her realm, if she would have me.

Well! I I mean, of course, but my findings

youve all read them? Legs face beamed over her stumbled
words. The herd swayed in agreement. Toe doubted that any of
the herd had studied such obscure findings, but none would
ever admit to it publically. To do so would be social suicide.

Therefore, Toe said, moving the herd away from the

entrance with sheer force of will, in the spirit of the theme of
our symposium, I take bended knee and ask of your, sister Leg:
will you lead us in?

And so Leg did.

All thirty-seven scientists, the matriarchs of their disciplines and

herds, followed the lead of a doctor of neo-primate studies.
They trooped in, gabbing and trumpeting and gossiping as if this
were the most natural thing in the world. It was like something
out of a longspeaker comedy!

And now Toe had to pay back the favor.

Seven-Hill-Ear had been walking to the side ever since the

procession had begun, his head raised in apology to every sister
who passed so that they may stroke his head in forgiveness.
None blamed him for his interruption, of course; he was just
out of calfhood, exuberant, inexperienced. At the most he was
just very curious.

Toe exited the flow of pachyderms to wave Ear over with a wag
of her trunk. When that didnt work--so shy for being so

~ 57 ~
brazen--Toe literally walked over and escorted the boy by his
shoulder. His trunk was waggling uncontrollably. So, maybe not
shy. Just nervous.

Matriarch Leg of the Pronged-Water People, Ear

squeaked, finally, as they approached the head of the group.

Leg turned, not even realizing that her moment of glory had
passed. The matriarchs were already spreading out to fill the
various rolls and gullies of the thatch. Leg was left with Toe and
Ear, whod touched his trunk to the ground, waiting.

Legs eyes squinted in delight. Even Tall-Grass-Toe was

impressed: such formality from a noble to a scientist. Leg
touched the calfs forehead, lightly, as she greeted him with the
same air; Ear, Son of the Seven Hills.

Ear snapped his head up, his eyes bright and eager. I had
hoped to speak to you about your treatise.

Pronged-Water-Legs lower lip waffled in confusion. On the

ape evolution?

Oh, yes. Ear dipped his head to the left in contrition.

I should have been clearer. Your work is quite voluminous.
Ive listened to it quite often over the evening air-share. Ear
took another deferential emotionposture: apologies but with
interest. I overheard my aunts and grandmother speak of this
particular work the other day. Do you really hold that the
primates originated beyond the Biggest Lakes?

Leg flapped her ears, but not unkindly. A common

misconception. My argument is that, due to fossil records, we

~ 58 ~
can see that the common ancestor of modern two-legged
primates originated there. The Catastrophe killed off so many of
them--as it did with all remaining species of microfauna--that its
now impossible to determine their true point of origin, at least at
the present.

So, Ear said, whatever caused the Die Off killed

their contemporaries worldwide, leaving the Big Lake Apes to
slowly spread out again. But how could they have done this in
isolation? There are no land bridges across the waters.

You have listened to the air-share treatises. Well, this is

my current working hypothesis

Tall-Grass-Toe watched them walk toward the watering hole.

The children were already serving fermented fruit bowls, but
Ear and Leg were too deeply engrossed in conversation to take
one. Indeed, Ear must have said something remarkable, because
Leg flapped her tail in laughter.

Ah, well. It was too bad Seven-Hill-Ear was born male. Soon,
hed take up with a bachelor troop, throw off his honorable
name, and assume a ridiculous one. If hed been born female,
Seven-Hill-Ear would have surely accepted Ear as an apprentice.
Alas, all hed wind up as was a stud for his grandmothers
political machinations.

Such a waste, Tall-Grass-Toe muttered to herself.

Without even realizing it, shed bent her back leg and swung her
trunk to the left.

~ 59 ~

I am very unfortunate, having never had the delusional joy

of experiencing your pieces in person. Can you, for our
readers who have been as unlucky as me as well (and
hopefully for those very lucky indeed), try and explain just
what you do, but also how that makes people feel?

Joy can never be delusional.

We create all kinds of art, films and books. One of the facets of
our work that were most well known for are our immersive
theatre projects. FoolishPeople create living story worlds, which
inhabit spaces. The stories we have created have inhabited
disused buildings, landscapes and traditional theatres. Our work
has links to immersive theatre, but the main difference between
FoolishPeople and other companies is that our practice is based
in ritual. We create rituals that attempt to offer audiences an
interaction with the numinous. Our work aims to instigate a
moment in which people transcend their expectations of
traditional experiences of entertainment.

It would be impossible for me to give you a definitive answer on

how this makes people feel, as there are many kinds of people
who have experienced our work, each with their own thoughts
and ideas. However, some of the emotions people have shared
are happy, sad, angry, obsessed, love. Also, our work (especially
our immersive theatre projects) can be experienced in many
different ways. Once people enter into one of our rituals, they
are free to explore the entire space in the order they feel is right,
this means no one has the same experience within the work

FoolishPeople enjoys skipping from one format to another.

Cinema. Theatre. Novelisation. It is common practice to

~ 60 ~
find a specific field, and nurture it, rather than finding a
specific theme and propelling it out through so many
media. Why are the stories you tell necessary to break
down these boundaries of what format a creator should

Is it a common practice to find a specific field and nurture it? I'd

argue that's not really true anymore, you just need to look at
artists such as Lena Dunham, who creates work across all kinds
of forms to see this isnt true any longer. I think artists no longer
feel that they have to stick to or perfect one form. The most
popular forms of storytelling exist across multiple forms. You
only have to look at modern gaming to see this.

Ritual is the oldest form of storytelling, it uses dance, masks,

oral storytelling, art and every other form of human
communication that you can think of to create and share stories,
so by their very birth rite, stories have never been tied to just
one form. They evolved long ago, escaped our imaginations and
spread across reality. Stories exist in all form of communication.

Ritual is at the heart of what we do, we create rituals and ritual

uses every part of the animal, so to be honest I've never been
aware that these boundaries exist in the first place. I've always
seen my work as an artist and creator to use whatever was
available to communicate an idea or story in the manner that felt
right for the story I was attempting to tell.

The kind of stories I enjoy experiencing open gateways to other

worlds, where it's possible for you to be changed by what it is
that you witness. There can be no higher encounter in art than
to be utterly changed by what you experience in an encounter
with a work of art.

~ 61 ~
As time moves on, we keep losing artists and creators that
mean so much to us. I recently wrote about the passing of
David Bowie and Alan Rickman, with the worry of the
impossibility of filling those shoes. You write of how you
are inspired by a plethora of artists, David Lynch included
in that list what I am trying to amble towards is to ask
in the future do you think there are any prominent figures
lined up to be the next great cultureshockers, or do you see
someone in your own theatrical party accomplishing such?
What is the next big cultureshock? Who?

I'm not sure that it's possible for the kinds of artists you
mention to exist and flourish in culture as it exists today, I think
that true outsider art and the artists who create cultureshock are
few and far between in this day and age. Media is designed in
such a way that it suppresses the ideas and art born from these
kind of people. Culture has become homogenised. So it's rare to
see work that's truly breaking new boundaries.

However I do think this is an age in which the art of storytelling

is being perfected and strengthened. You just need to see the
work taking place in the second season of The Leftovers to
understand this. This was some of the best storytelling I've ever
experienced in any form.

I see your pieces alongside Bjrk, and so many other

gorgeous creatives. Any one you desperately want to work
with, and why? Anything you currently feel too impossible
to create at this moment in time, that you need to make
before concluding your opus?

There are so many people I'd love to work with, I love

passionate people, who are willing to jump off the cliff in the
pursuit of the work. We're always on the look out for new

~ 62 ~
Ill end on a little question. But with a big answer
hopefully What one thing does the arts need or an
artist need that would revolutionise the whole damn
scope of it all forever?

Time. Time to think. Time to develop. Time to experiment.

We're filling every moment we have with irrelevant assaults on
the time we have been afforded to experience what it is to be
alive. Looking at your phone is low bandwidth existence, yet its
the most popular and addictive form of human exchange.
Viewing the experiences of others once removed. Endlessly
seeking validation via the glow of our smart phones. Glamoured
and fed a steady diet of meaningless data, rather than taking the
time to think and read and exist in the moment.

It takes a great amount of time to create work that could

revolutionise our world. Im not sure the time remains or that
anyone is even listening or cares. I think that mother nature will
find a way to fast track the whole damn scope of it before it's all
too late.

~ 63 ~

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