• Review: Something Constructive

    This essay on the adventures possible in modern video games was overall pretty funny. The introduction was creative, and the description of the author’s less-than-amiable relationship with his alarm clock was the highlight of this.

    He goes on to describe a day in the life of a character he has created in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which is intricately and passionately relayed. It’s interesting that he never mentions the name of the game specifically, yet the way he describes it makes it easily recognisable. The tone of the adventure in the story is sometimes interrupted by anachronistic phrases, which could do with some revision, but the piece is entertaining and does what it is supposed to do.

    The finale is really quite clever, and an excellent punchline for the surreal adventure that the reader has just experienced.

  • Review: Boys in Poppy Fields

    To see the spring’s new darling buds and know

    no innocence was kept within them.

    They are stained forever, colours unforgiving,

    in fields of blooming ruby petals,

    while gentle voices woke in songs of soldiers falling.

    Eyes stung with tears unshed,

    and hearts swollen large with faces gone in moments passed too quickly –

    to see the spring’s new buds

    stained by hands so unforgiving, in a war of man’s ignorance,

    and doomed for time to keep repeating.

    A war in which boys dress like men,

    helmets falling in their eyes

    and shoes so large they flop about

    in a field of stained red petals.

    Their hands could hold the world, if only we had not killed them.

    I chose to review this poem as it was the most touching, and the characterisation of the boys with helmets falling in their eyes was an image that conjured convoluted feelings of humour and sadness.

    I would say that this poem was originally supposed to be a sonnet, but instead became a free-verse poem with no regular meter. The imagery is striking, particularly in the recurring shades of red, and the sentiment of boys pretending to be men is heart-wrenching.

    Some of the lines are clumsy, such as the line, “and hearts swollen with faces gone in moments passed too quickly,” which evokes a very strange image that I don’t think was entirely intended by the author, but it is partly redeemed by the earnest solemnity of the poem itself.

  • Dougie Buck Run of Scenes

    .

    Ext.Roger’s park Car park.late morning

    The taxi pulls up to park in front of a wooden bollard in the car park, the gravel crunching beneath its wheels. DOUGIE opens the passenger-side door and steps out. He closes the door and then retrieves his pack from the back seat. ERN rolls down the passenger-side window and leans over the seat.

    ERN

    You good to go, Doug? Got everything you need?

    DOUGIE

    Yeah. What’s the meter at?

    ERN

    Fifty-five and twenty-four cents. Call it fifty.

    DOUGIE pulls out a wad of notes from his pocket and counts out fifty dollars in notes. He pauses, and then he puts all the money together and hands it to ERN.

    DOUGIE

    Here you go, pal. Buy yourself something nice, huh?

    DOUGIE smiles and ERN looks at him with something like concern.

    ERN

    Come on, pal. I can’t take all your money. Here.

    ERN tries to hand back some of the cash, but DOUGIE just heaves on his pack and begins to walk away.

    DOUGIE

    I’ll see you on the other side, pal.

    ERN watches as DOUGIE rounds the corner of the track that leads into the forest beyond the park.

    EXT.ROGER’s Park Forest track.same time

    We see DOUGIE looking back towards the car park as he sets off on his journey to Roger’s hut. He chuckles to himself as he walks. The gravel crunches under his boots and the sound of birdsong echoes in the trees. He looks up to the tree-tops and grins when he sees BIRD 1 puffing out its chest and calling out for a mate.

    DOUGIE dumps his pack on the ground and unzips it. He rummages around in it until he finds one of his bottles of whiskey and then he pulls his pack on again.

    BIRD 1

    My feathers are big and colourful! My nest is big and safe!

    He unscrews the cap and takes a big gulp, and then he holds the bottle aloft.

    DOUGIE

    And he’s got a giant pecker!

    BIRD 1 looks down at DOUGIE from his perch.

    BIRD 1

    Fuck off.

    DOUGIE looks momentarily bemused, but then he smiles.

    DOUGIE

    Alright, good luck, fella.

    DOUGIE lifts the bottle to his lips again and turns to walk off down the track. He retrieves a lighter and his pack of cigarettes from his pocket and lights up, clumsily cradling the whiskey in the crook of his arm.

    BIRD 1

    (distantly)

    My nest is big and safe! And so is my penis!

    DOUGIE hums the tune to ‘Paint It Black’ as he walks down the track. The sun shines through the leaves of the trees, creating golden god-rays and colouring the leaves a glowing emerald. He sips from his bottle and finishes his smoke. He pauses to stub it out on the sole of his shoe, and then he deposits the butt in the pocket of his coat. He carries on.

    A young woman out on a morning run passes DOUGIE by, and she briefly smiles as she makes eye contact with him. He smiles back instinctively. The young woman’s smile quickly fades once she is past him.

    Eventually the forest opens up and DOUGIE comes to a swing bridge in the track. It spans the width of a rushing, foaming river and passes above a stretch of rapids. DOUGIE makes his way to the middle of the bridge, then he stops and leans on the railings, looking down at the water, dangling his bottle of whiskey over the edge. After a moment, he spits over the side of the bridge and lets the saliva drip slowly down until the strand breaks and a glob falls and disappears into the foam.

    DOUGIE smiles and continues along the bridge, bouncing as he steps, so the bridge undulates along its length. He jumps off the end and lands on the dirt track on the other side of the bridge, stumbling and kicking up dust as his pack overbalances him. He regains his footing and carries on into the next stretch of forest. We see him disappearing into the forest with his bottle raised to his lips again.

    EXT.ROGER’S Hut.Early Afternoon

    We see Roger’s Hut in the middle of a grassy clearing in the forest. It is located at the top of a bank that slopes down into a slow-flowing river littered with boulders. DOUGIE walks over a small wooden bridge that stretches across it, and then he sets his bag and bottle down, leaning his bag against the side of the hut.

    DOUGIE stretches out his back and breathes out an exaggerated sigh, then he walks down under the bridge to the river. He cups his hand and drinks from it several times before he splashes his face and rises, reaching for his lighter and another cigarette. DOUGIE hears a commotion in the hut and realises there are people inside.

    Woman

    (muffled)

    I don’t care! I told you we had to get back by four, didn’t I?

    MAN

    Yeah, but-

    Woman

    Did I, or didn’t I?

    Man

    Yeah, but-

    WOMAN

    Alright, so let’s go!

    There is some low, indistinct muttering from the MAN.

    Woman (Cont.)

    Yeah, well, you can come back and do it with your buddies if you want. I’m not going to stick around for that. Either you come with me or you can stay here by yourself.

    More indignant, indistinct muttering from the MAN.

    WOMAN (CONT.)

    Yeah, well, sometimes I have my doubts.

    The WOMAN marches out of the hut with her pack on and sees DOUGIE staring at her from down by the river, smoking his cigarette. She is dressed in a purple polar-fleece jumper and stripey leggings. She is wearing a headband that holds back her red, shoulder-length hair.

    The MAN exits the hut next, with his own pack slung over his back. He looks frustrated and dejected. He has short black hair and is wearing shorts and a black wind-breaker. He looks at the WOMAN, and then follows her gaze. The MAN’s expression quickly brightens as he sees DOUGIE, and he waves.

    MAN


    Good morning!

    WOMAN

    (reproachful whisper)

    It’s the afternoon.

    DOUGIE raises his hand in greeting.

    DOUGIE

    Good morning!

    MAN

    Fine day for it!

    DOUGIE

    Oh, for sure. You heading home today?

    MAN

    Yeah, just a one-night-er for us. Yourself? You going further up? I heard there’s a slip on the track past the Falls turnoff.

    DOUGIE

    No, just planned on a one-night-er myself. Just as well, I suppose.

    MAN

    All by yourself?

    The MAN glances at the WOMAN quickly.

    MAN (CONT.)

    You don’t want some company by any chance?

    DOUGIE looks at the WOMAN, who turns to glare at the MAN. Eager to send them on their way, DOUGIE speaks before she can.

    DOUGIE

    Buddy, I’m just looking to find a place where I can jack off in peace. You know what I mean?

    The WOMAN’s jaw drops and she frowns at DOUGIE’s remark, but the MAN laughs heartily and starts to usher her towards the bridge.

    MAN

    (chuckling)

    Okay, buddy. You do what you gotta do, huh. We’ll leave you to it.

    DOUGIE

    Thanks a million.

    DOUGIE salutes the MAN quickly, and the MAN laughs to himself again as he and his partner cross the bridge. They both disappear down the track into the forest, and the WOMAN can be heard indistinctly berating the MAN for indulging DOUGIE.

  • Son of Suns: Work in Progress

    At 9:30, once his father had fallen asleep in front of the television and his mother had gone to sleep, James slowly rose from his bed and went to the closet. He could hear the laughter from the television in the adjoining room, and pale blue light flashed on the carpet underneath his door. His breath tight in his chest, he eased open the closet door and winced at the shrill creaking of the old hinges. In the corner of the closet was his backpack, stuffed with two sets of clothes, a water bottle, his toothbrush, and twenty dollars in cash. He picked it up and looped the straps over his shoulders and closed the door again.

    He stood in the dark silence for a minute, listening for any disturbance, then he slipped his boots on and laced them up and went to the door. He opened it a crack and peered into the living room. His father was snoring now, his head tipped back against the headrest and his mouth open. He was holding an opened beer can in one hand. James stepped through the door and left it open behind him. He thought about turning the television off, but decided against it, in case the sudden quiet woke his father.

    The door to his parents’ room was shut. He imagined his mother sleeping fitfully in her bed and felt a pang of shame at abandoning her without leaving a note, but there was no time for that now. He padded gingerly across the carpet on the balls of his feet and wished in that moment that he had put them on after he left the house instead. His father must have spilled the beer on himself at some point, because he could smell it hanging bitterly in the air.

    As he reached the front door, James heard his father snort, and he froze in place. He stole a glance backwards, eyes wide in the light of the television, but the snoring resumed, and James breathed deeply to quell the lump caught in his throat. He looked around the room quickly, trying to take in small details, just in case he ever wanted to remember it some time.

    On the wall above the television, there was a picture of James and his father at the beach. His father had one arm around his shoulders, and in his other hand, he was holding a brightly-coloured fish by the tail. James was holding a rod and line, and staring up at the fish with a wide smile; the fish was as long as one of his legs. James’ father was grinning beneath a straw hat and a pair of aviators. For the past few years, that photo had seemed like an alternate reality – some image of an era that might never have existed, and would never exist again. The thought made his lip quiver briefly, and he hurriedly wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.

    And then, James heard a dampened thud from across the room, and he looked to his father to see that he was staring right at him, his hands gripping the arms of the chair tightly.

    “James!” he shouted. “Where in the hell do you think you’re skiving off to at this hour?” Henry rose up out of his chair clumsily and his foot kicked the beer can, which he had dropped, sending it spinning off across the carpet.

    James felt his hands start to shake, and he clenched them tightly at his sides. “I–I–wh–” h stammered.

    “Wh–wh–wh–” Henry imitated, his chin stuck out and his eyes wild. “What, James? We’ve got to be up at six in the fucking morning tomorrow, alright? I don’t need you stumbling around more useless than you already are. Get back to your room, and give me that fucking backpack.” Henry strode over and snatched at the pack. James tried to dodge backwards, but he hit the wall, and Henry wrenched the pack from his back, pushing James’ head forwards with one hand so that his arms bent painfully backwards.

    “What have you got in here then, eh?” Henry said, rifling through the pack. “Got some clothes, a toothbrush, a bottle of water… Well, if I didn’t know any better, James, I would think you were trying to skip out on your old man – leave him high and dry to support your mother on his lonesome, eh?” Henry dug deeper, tossing out the contents onto the floor, and then he pulled out James’ money from the bottom of the bag. “Oh you little fucker.” Henry held it out, crumpled in his fist. “I told you we were hard up for rent this month, and you want to try and hoard your own little fuckin’ nest egg for yourself! Huh? What would your poor mother say?” Henry snarled and chucked the bag onto the floor amongst the mess of clothes, and he took a step towards his son. James felt a new rage building up in him and he gritted his teeth tightly and put his fists up in front of his chin, spreading his feet a little wider.

    “Hah!” Henry crowed, “The boy’s got a little fight in him! Alright then, son, put up your dukes! Let’s see what you can do, you little shit.”

    There was a bang as the door to James’ parents’ room was thrown open, and his mother was stood in the doorway in her dressing gown, and she screamed, “Henry, stop it!”

    Henry whirled around and glared at her. “Stay out of it, Lydia! You want to keep a fucking roof over our heads, you stay the fuck out of this!”

    James looked between them uncertainly, tears stinging in his eyes, and then he lunged for the kitchen. He flicked on the light and was momentarily dazed by the fluorescence. Henry moved to round the breakfast bar. He slapped the counter-top and bared his teeth in a fearsome expression.

    And then James saw them begin to form beneath the lamp-shade above him – a hundred tiny beings with too many eyes and too many mouths. They had wings, some of them, and others had six legs and a tail. They were some mix of shadow and light that at once blended into the fluorescence and also struck a stark contrast against it. And they began to whisper their sinister things into his ears. “The knife!” they said. “Grab the knife!”

    James whimpered quietly, but then he dove across the kitchen counter and tugged a broad knife out of its block, spilling the others onto the counter and across the floor. He spun around to face Henry, with the knife shaking in his fist.

    Henry yelled in exasperation, “James, I swear to God I will chain you to that bed of yours if you don’t stop this fucking nonsense! I’ll starve you! Yeah, would you like that? I’ll fucking starve you until you…”

    “Put it in,” the things in the light whispered to James. “Put it in his stomach.”

    James felt tears running down his cheek and he cried out to his father, “I don’t want to kill you!” He began to cry openly, but Henry only saw it as an opportunity to ridicule him.

    “You don’t want to kill me?” Henry laughed a disgusting, throaty laugh. “Boy, you couldn’t pierce my fuckin’ ear. Put that fuckin’ knife down. Look, you’re going to bed now, okay? You’re going to go to bed, we’re going to forget this little shit-show ever occurred, and then we’re going to get up and go to work tomorrow, alright? I promise I won’t tie you to your bed, but only if you put that knife down right fucking now.”

    Henry lunged towards James with his arms outstretched and James turned his head away as he stuck the blade out in front of his body. He heard Henry grunt and felt a sickly pressure on the handle as the knife sliced across the palm of his father’s hand and plunged into his stomach.

  • In the Deep

    It makes us question why we first gave in,

    The fact that love hurts all the more when lost.

    Because to err feels like another sin,

    It seems that every choice comes at a cost.

    We hold onto the pain like it’s a thing

    that just needs water to survive and may

    then be revived, and we’ll cease suffering

    Because it’s still alive. But some would say,

    That which was lost was never yours to keep.

    The choices made, they never had a flaw;

    The choices made were moving in the deep —

    Made long before the time when you were born.

    And you were moved to love and err and doubt,

    And wonder what the whole thing is about.

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