visit to the national gallery

i am aware i have come here for a specific reason, but i do not know what the specific reason is just yet. it could be that i want to restore myself after so many days of watching the news, or it could be that i want to go to a quiet place that is not actually quiet. it could be that i want to go to a church but can’t justify it, or that i want to go to a church to look at the windows, or both.

 
it could be because i don’t know how to talk to people properly and that i feel a bit sad. it could be that i don’t know how to talk to people without wanting to shake them and tell them the apocalypse is coming, while simultaneously wanting to cry because i am so paralysed into inaction by my own fear. it could be that i want to see history printed in a definite place, so i can at least anchor myself here, in the midst of a quicksand millennium, where nobody knows who is killing us or why, or how to do anything but feel guilty for not worrying enough or indeed at all, or for actively avoiding the worry in the unconscious knowledge that i will probably be dead or in some other place, astral or physical, before i need to take action.

 

it could be that i want to write. it could be that i want to find roots. it most likely is that i want to see things like fish, eggs, land, expressions, things i know in ways i don’t, things i can copy and use to pretend i know, things that are so common that their very fact in these paintings reassures me, tells me that i can use these resources too, that i am allowed to speak too.

 

i feel bad for speaking. i feel bad for having dreams. i feel bad for having wants. i want to punish myself for capitalism, for evil, for lack of healthcare, for bad weather. i feel bad that i want someone here to look at me and find me attractive.
wanting attention is a fundamental part of my existence. wanting attention and not wanting it exactly when i don’t want it is also a type of attention, a type of making others aware exactly how much i do not want them to look right now.

 

i reject what is being given to me, on the grounds of it being what is given to me.

 

every time i walk by a person in the gallery i make eye contact and briefly imagine having sex with them, and then i berate myself for not having more sex, for having nobody i would choose to have sex with other than strangers, strangers with whom i have fashioned an uncomfortably intimate fantasy life with in the space of minutes.

 

i have had hundreds of relationships and none of them real. i have moored myself in my own body and set up vague images of a future i think i am supposed to want, misted over in the obstacles of what i know i want, what i think i should think is unspeakable. i am greedy for people to think i am right and talented, to connect with them on some unparalleled level . and i am not prepared to work as hard for it as i should. and the fact that the world is ending gives me some solace in this, in the idea that i can talk a big talk and trick people into thinking i am important and not have to show any actual work.

 

the background stuff of this is that i work a badly-paying job and barely make rent most months. i drink in people’s houses and buy event tickets online to avail of student deals. i have bad teeth and feet and hurt myself lifting trays of glasses in work. i spend all my money on nothing and have less to show for it. and i am one of the lucky ones, because i have finally decided to address the burning ambition in my stomach and let it override (mostly) the doubts it engenders. it’s really fucking hard to figure out what matters.


Anna Walsh has been published in the Honest Ulsterman, the Bohemyth, and Poethead, among others. She is working on her first book, and co-runs the Gremlin.

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Peaches

i)

I put the seconds I can spare in my pockets

Count and collect count and collect count

Again. I can’t know if that’ll be all of them

Or if that’s how it’s meant to be.

PUT_CHARACTERS_HERE Pick up the peaches
PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREAnd hold them in your mouth’s eye like a dog

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREWould with three tennis balls. You know the image.

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREImagine it. Small eyes looking back in the mirror

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREWith a glint of three peaches. I don’t know what

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREThat means. I don’t think you can know either. But

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREIf I had a reason for those peaches being here it might

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREMake it clearer. There’s three of them. They’re peaches.

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREThat’s all there is to know. And the brown bag they came

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREIn. All together. Close. Fresh. Touching. Sweet.

(Sacred)

I don’t think I imagined them.

I can feel their skin.

   It doesn’t seem right that

I can take a bite and you can watch on as I do so.

So, leave. This is when they decide to crawl out of

The dark they came from rubbing against one another.

Now they’re separate. Not together. Apart. A part

Of the room until they aren’t anymore. I say this since

I’m going to swallow them whole. One after the

Other. I’ll keep in my pocket next to the seconds,

One

PUT_CHARACTERS_HERE To have right until the end. It’s not like the ones I’m

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREabout to indulge in. It might last longer. Look around.

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREEnjoy the sun that made it grow. Not long ago I didn’t

PUT_CHARACTERS_HERECare for it. I do now. I’ll bring it for a walk

PUT_CHARACTERS_HERETo see the ducks.

 

 

ii)

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREOn my way down the stairs all

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREWinding. Wooden banister. Stone steps

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREAt the end. I turn the corner of the building.

PUT_CHARACTERS_HERERight here the boulangerie throws a look at

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREMe. I blush. Why me. It’s written in red.

I’ve just been.                            (Just now I swear I’ve been)

But it looks right at me and invites me in and I can’t

Say no. I’ll feel better for it. I already swallowed down

Two peaches in the room. Think. Mind to stomach

Stomach to mind Mind mind your stomach.

I have seconds to spare from earlier. I don’t know

If they work here or if that’s alright. They might.

Try. Pat my thigh clank of time and something soft

On top. It’s not hard It’s my peach. Best it’s ever

Felt. Best I’ve known. I’ll ever know. Surprised

  If I ever see another

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREI’m afraid that/I don’t want/I think I want

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREIt to make me feel anxious. Being in this place.

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREI could bump in to someone I know. No I

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREDon’t want that. I’ve decided. I am

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREAwake. Keep walking. Carry your buckets

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREAnd show the peach

          PUT_CHARACTERS_HERE PUT_CHARACTERS_HERE (How alive you are)

 

 

iii)

Have I tried to start something with words I’ve spent.

Using my time between seconds I heard my name being called.

There’s things I want to know like photographs I walk through

The peaches. The stairs. The boulangerie. The ducks in front of me.

It’s all set to start again.

I thought I had been or was being.

 

The moment passes

PUT_CHARACTERS_HERENow I’m sure. I am not

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREAwake. I’ve decided. I’d pinch myself but I’m soft.

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREYes it is as it is. I come from here and now

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREI’m nearly there. I haven’t quite finished what I set out to do,

PUT_CHARACTERS_HERE   To show the peach the ducks and how alive I am.

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREI’ve been distracted but I’ve enjoyed the sun while it’s lasted.

I’ll keep going

    (I swallow the peach)
PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREAll the seconds aren’t in vain.

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREThis isn’t a confession. I will collect them again

PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREBefore the peaches arrive. I can’t make sense of it.
PUT_CHARACTERS_HEREIt can’t make sense. I’ll continue to fill

                                    PUT_CHARACTERS_HERE PUT_CHARACTERS_HERE Empty pockets.

 


Rob Smith is from Wexford, an English and French student in St. Patrick’s College, currently studying in Rennes, France. Twitter @RobSmith_0

Cycle

 

1: George A Romero and Becoming A Woman

On screen undead flesh

bites, but in my sodden pants:

True apocalypse.

 

2: Mother

Sh. It’s a secret

she says, wiping it away

a leaking confidence.

 

3: Remedy

Chocolate. Chocolate, two

Panadol and a bullet

should suffice, thank you.

 

4: Our Own Erasure

Cold water, salt, scrub

This is the secret we keep

washing red sins clean

 

5: Joining the Ranks

Super-absorbant

crouching, I plug myself up

O, brave cotton mouse.

 

6: Intrusion (or: Sunny-Side)

Violent, my blistering

cystic covered egg yolks splat

and fizzle down my thighs.

 

7: Hurting

They call it pussy

for its softness, clean open

mouth and for its claws.

 

8: Admiration

Hillary Clinton:

in the situation room

on her period.

 

9: Admiration II

She tucks clean away

bleeding from her wherever

a neat discretion.

 

9: Spring is a Stubborn Verb

Buds open, birds sing,

ovaries try to kill you

and then daffodils.

 

10: Ownership

I’m dark and I lurk

full blooded, sensitive and

nearing explosion.

 

11: On Death

When shrivelled, you will

pine the rush, living ocean,

vital red river.

 

12: Breathe

Swim. Swim and wear white,

take walks in the wood and know

your cunt attracts bears.


Gillian is a playwright using poetry as procrastination from getting any real work done. Her first play, Petals, was nominated for the Irish Times Theatre Award for Best New Play in 2015 and she is seriously so full of potential, you guys. Watch this space.

A Study

 

The Scientist comes to Seward’s Institution in November. It is a bright day and the inmates are in incomparable humour. Having been granted access by the head of the institution, The Scientist begins his tour with a conscious cancelling of human impulse, that is, he begins to train himself to observe the patients as subjects rather than people. This is necessary in order to avoid bias. And it is initially, not difficult.

I arrived punctually, on the three-fifteen train… Was collected from the station. One may note that… there isn’t much in existence in a ten mile radius… that is to say… If a person were to escape on foot, there is a long way of nothingness before they might reach something close to humanity. Presumably the reason that this location was chosen.

Internally, he repeats ‘shell’. The word ‘shell’. The word ‘carapace’. ‘Uninhabited.’ He feels better. With a handkerchief perfumed with violets, he covers his mouth and nose. He makes the rounds, with the orderlies, walking the narrow passages between bars. His mind is brought, unwittingly, to the image of a rhesus monkey he had worked on some weeks before, a test subject in his laboratory. It had tiny wrinkled hands. It had unsettled him, how human it was. For some reason, this was easier.

The lasting effects of the device are, of course… regrettable… But it is important to note that the subjects themselves have been selected based on the likelihood of their recovery being low… And so, ethically… we avoid.. That is, you and I, McCallion, as joint inventors of the method… avoid any crisis of conscience.

He makes his first selection based on nothing much, three women caged together, one he had thought was male from her shaven head. He had wanted a balanced group, but no matter. There wasn’t much of anything left inside these people, let alone gender. He requests the orderlies to strap them in and steps outside to take a breath of air. The porters are still unloading the trunks containing the machine. He nods to them. He has some time to have a cigarette.

When he returns the women are restrained, on tables, unsedated, and gagged. He moves around them, unboxing the apparatus. They are quiet as he works. They are watching him. Unable to concentrate, he asks an orderly to cover their faces. ‘But,’ says the orderly, ‘I thought you wanted to take their picture.’

…And with the recent developments in motion picture… As we saw photography being put to great use by Charcot and Londe at the Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris.. Became a greatly useful diagnostic tool by observing.. Changes in expression and posture… and here we do one better by using this device, the McCallion-Burrows device, to explore, very roughly of course… The inner workings.

He requests that the orderlies leave and loads film into the Cinématographe Lumière. He screws a bulb into the projector using a square of silk to protect the glass from the oils of his fingers. The rest of the machine is himself and his partner’s own patent. The coil of wire sings as he unwinds it. The handkerchief falls away from the face of the first woman as he bends to work on her. Her eyes roll like a horse. She is about the same age as his mother. Saliva runs from the sides of the gag and shines on her neck. He tries not to look at her.

And McCallion I am aware that you and I are highly reactionary people, which is why… I may be so bold in saying, we work so well together. Some may say sensitized. What I mean to say is, we are not savages. So of course I, and you, I imagine, can’t help but to be affected by such scenes, but… the imperative, and the why and wherefore is… The furtherment of the scientific method. And so, on your advice, my friend… I rise above.

One of the subjects shifts in the restraints, making a moist chittering sound. She is one of the shaven ones, wearing a yellowed shift. Her wasted hips jut through the fabric like the pin bones of a starving cow. The Scientist decides to leave her until last. He doesn’t want to touch her. He tries not to think of the word ‘she’. He tries to think of the word ‘it’.

Pre-experiment, in the research leading up to this venture we began to see… something in common here… many of these people all talk about Old Scratch. Put in a note to.. Explore the commonality of a community’s mythology, and it’s effect on… The deterioration of those in danger of psychological weakness

He finds the point on the first subject’s temple and tightens the clamps. The subject smells like an animal, and it catches in his throat. The dress it is wearing is leathery with dirt and sweat and filth and the fat, salt secretions of the body. He turns the awl, and when it pierces it’s skin the only sound it makes is a small sigh. The grinding of bone is worse for him. There are no nerves there. He is certain it can barely feel it. Grey matter has a smell. He thinks of the word ‘tissue’. How delicate it is.

….A treatment of the most basic hysteria whereby the patient is immobilised by being wrapped tightly in wet sheets. They are placed on rows of beds and they cover their faces and it’s easy to see how… over time there is a loss of the perception of humanity and individuality by the staff and so I believe that the effectiveness of these treatments has not been questioned in some time. And so these treatments, I believe, have only the effect of making a hysterical patient into a catatonic.

Behind him, the bulb of the projector throws a flickering square of light onto the wall. The points have made contact. The Scientist imagines he can feel the light on his back, like the sun. He breathes in slowly. He wills himself to turn. This is the moment of reckoning. The first test on a human subject. With rats, there was only blankness, and the dancing scratches of the film itself. With a dog, nothing – they had thought there was a shadow but a review found only a smudge of dirt on the film. Then there was the Rhesus monkey. And finally, the beginnings of an image. Shapes dancing on the screen. And so the next stage was obvious.

There is only a flicker… McCallion, I don’t suppose you can see this

And there it was. A moving picture. Grey, shadowed shapes. And there, as one draws closer, filling the frame, The Scientist can make out the dark blur of eyes, and a mouth. And he recognises himself, his form, bending over the subject only seconds before. The shape of the room is there, and he moves closer to look, but then it switches, to the swirling mess of madness inside the subject’s head.

I was only young so you must forgive me if I get a little misty. It was almost a rite of passage in those days for certain kinds of girls, we all went there, those who chirrup-chirruped, talked too much, wouldn’t braid and hated closed doors, and wouldn’t wear nightgowns, and walked, barefoot, into the wet streets at night crying because I don’t know why, because, I suppose, it was nighttime and we could all feel the weakness of our own skin, like needles.

making a note that there appears to be far more clarity when the subject is attuned to the more fantastical aspects of the mind… that is to say, the imaginative spaces… and in the case of these subjects in particular it would be pertinent to presume that the poor creatures inhabitant within this place would be here indeed for the reason that to them, these aspects appear to them more real than reality itself.

The pictures are clear. A human face, the mouth moving gibbering and spitting. Then a child on a merry-go-round, its flesh blurring and melting as it spins faster. The slow dismemberment of a kitten. The Scientist is breathless. At the edge of frame, flickering, the only constant in the image, there is a smudge of darkness. His hands shake. He moves to the next subject.

And think of the glory, McCallion, that you and I will reap as we present our findings to the board… I picture us on the auditorium stage as we play the actual record of our discovery to an audience of our peers.. I believe the application of this method will prove indispensable in the future study of maladies of the mind. And so it pays off, the long hours in our laboratory, although, were it unsuccessful, I still would not regret an instant of it, nor, I am sure, would you…

This one shudders as he drives the contact points into its skull. It still has its hair and looks like it was beautiful before. He thinks of a Faberge egg as he feels the crunch of the awl on the bone. It is tapping its finger lightly and fast on the table. He wonders if he had hit a certain nerve. Its eyes look frightened before the points break through and everything slackens. Its mind sparks, rushes down the wires, and flickers up into pictures on the screen. These are more vivid than the last. The imagery more disturbing.

I was not the same after the baby. I wanted nobody to look at me. I closed my eyes and stepped into the road. A carriage hit me. I didn’t want to die. I just didn’t want the people looking at me. Misstep for a second and end up cross-armed, wrapped tight, dipped in water, waxy, like a cooling candle, until almost cured, but always shaking slightly. I was sitting, sitting, by the window and took my hand up through my hair and it felt wrong, it felt like dust so I stood and went to the mirror and saw my hair was moving and when I shook my head a thousand moths lifted off my scalp and whispered all around me

And this is why I believe us to be bound in soul, McCallion, you and I, in our single minded pursuit of discovery… How refreshing it was to find you, a man of equal mind and manner to myself. Of course I thought it a pity that you took distance from this project, our shared enterprise, at the point of human testing… For it was indeed your sensitivity which drew me to you also, and I cannot begrudge you that. Though I know once you view the findings you will… I am certain… Understand the means to an end.. And although the process may be destructive to some it will be of benefit to far more… And I know that you will join me on the podium

And on this subject too there is that darkened shape, hovering within the frame. It occupies a similar area (left, edge) but in this subject the lines are more clearly drawn. Beside the images of screaming horror filling the subjects mind, there is a quietness to it. Something observant. It moves along with the flickers and jumps of the film. The Scientist stares.

Observe, if you will, on the second reel, a commonality with the first. Initially thought to be a fault of the celluloid, on closer examination… I surmise that this may be visual evidence of the very disturbance of mind that committed these poor souls to their life in this place… This piece of information will prove critical in future diagnostics. It is also interesting to note that… perhaps due to the human tendency to discern a familiar shape in something unclear… the darkness on frame is appearing in the form of… a human figure… somewhat tall… with as yet no precision of feature.

He moves to the last of the subjects. This one damp and stinking on the table. Its white skin and bones. Its black lips worn back and stuck to its teeth. Its wet, chittering noises. This thing, obliterated, a vessel of sickness. It had soiled itself. The Scientist shakes with disgust and anticipation. He handles its head into the vice fast and hurts it. He is surprised that the skin feels just like skin. The thing has two eyes that blink at up at him. Shining. He is eager to turn the awl. The moment the points break skin the subject screeches, and The Scientist lets out a satisfied sound that shocks him. No. It is an animal. Did he feel sympathy for the Rhesus? He cannot remember. All there is now is the room and the flickering light. The machine whines and clicks, recording his accolades, his future glories.

Claude Bernard has said… That the only means by which to examine life exist only by bringing about the death of same… ‘If we wish to attain the exact conditions of vital manifestations in men and animals, we must seek them not in the exterior cosmic environment, but rather in the organic internal environment…’ Through invention of this device, you and I, McCallion.. Have broken this rule… and many others. And many others.

He turns. And stops. His mouth is dry. Something has gone wrong, this time. The square of light is blank, just like it was when they tested it with rats. Only the dancing fragments of dust on the film. The clicking of the projector pounds in his head. This one is so far gone it has regressed to the point of becoming an animal. No. In the eyes there had been some awareness. He turns back to the subject on the table and turns the crank harder. The needles drive further into its head. It makes a sound like a baby. And the grinding moist sound of its flesh. He turns back.

Just a flicker

A darkness flickers into frame. There is a shape there. Something forming.

Like… Clouds.. the shapes are swirling.. But undeniably coming to form.. And it is the same, unmistakably… This thing… The personification of madness itself… the fear of all men… And it it here with me

Snaking up inside me always there no but since I was a child or a baby something wrong something rotten and it was always coming for me and pulled my hair and pulled my clothes in sleep and when I was alone always behind me and when I was in bed it lay beside me and I so scared scared til morning but when it was light it hid inside me and it waited and it waited scraping against my skin and screamed and screamed inside my ears and told me things in whispers when I was by myself and showed me corpses crouched in corners on the street and fluttered in my heart and grinned and said it was my mother and said it was my father and said it was my sister and took everyone around me and wore their skin and I would tear my flesh to try to get it out but it grew up through my bones and took my arms like sleeves and took my hands like gloves and took my feet like shoes and made me –

No matter the outcome McCallion… It is always with fondness that I will look back on our days together… Forming the basis of something that I truly believe… Will be the making of me… Of us… And a great step forth for humanity

 


Lauren-Shannon Jones is a playwright, performer, and founding member of Pygmankenstein, an all-girl horror collective. She tweets @cellcass

‘A Study’ originally appeared in the promenade horror theatre show ‘Mother Stokers Sickly Stories’ produced by the Gremlin and Pygmankenstein for the Bram Stoker Festival 2016.

The Blind Dentist

Many years ago, there was a young man living on this street called Tom. Now, Tom was a young, healthy man, but was beginning to tire of the same dismal dinner of baked beans, tinned peas and the leftover vegetables from his landlady Maud’s weekly stew. After a few months, his diet and lifestyle began to take its toll. A dull ache emerged in his back teeth . It had begun with a momentary spasm of sudden, shocking pain that lasted the full heavy bite of his cold, black carrots. The spasms became more frequent. Tom resigned himself to the fact that he would have to visit the dentist.

Once he thought this, Tom immediately wanted to drink a bottle of whiskey and hit his head against a wall until the offending tooth fell out. The only dentist he knew of charged a lot of money, and had very red skin and hair, something he imagined was symptomatic of being constantly covered in patient’s blood.

Tom’s landlady Maud bustled in, holding a large steel pot of what smelled like terrible stew, and looked at him sharply.

‘What’s the matter with you?’

Tom looked around dolefully.

‘Riddled with toothache I am. I can’t get a grip on it at all.’

Maud rolled her eyes.

‘You lads can’t handle a bloody thing can you? Pull the thing out!’

‘I can’t! I tried but I couldn’t get back far enough to-ow!’

She grabbed the side of his face roughly and felt the back of his jaw.

‘Open your gob.’

He dutifully opened up and she recoiled.

‘Jesus boy, it’s a cesspit in there, are you not able to clean your teeth at all?’

‘I do! It’s just so sore lately that –‘

‘Christ. This won’t fix itself.’

Before she said the words he knew she was going to, Tom was gripped by a sudden and immeasurable dread.

‘You’ll have to go see someone.’

‘I can’t! I can’t afford it and – I just can’t!’

‘I wonder….’

She trailed off and folded her arms.

‘My sister’s husband’s sister knew a fella before, he went to this chap across town..Worked out so he didn’t have to pay half of what you’d pay Red up the road there.

Tom thought of the red-faced dentist running his hands through his red hair, brandishing rusty equipment and grinning, exposing red gums and too white teeth.

‘Oh?’

‘Yes. I’ll ask them during the week when I see them. Can’t have you dying of something stupid in that lovely room of mine, you never can get the smell of death out of a place.’

A week of increasing pain later, Tom woke up one morning to find an envelope beside his mattress, with his name in block capitals. He tore it open and unfolded a large sheaf of paper. On one side there was a rough diagram, on the other, scribbled instructions.

TOM

Go to the top of the street

Left, till Mrs Reilly’s (you’ll know it, all the cats)

Up the down bit of the road

Down the right till Pa’s house (no cats at all)

Past the old school, follow to the park

When you’re almost at the end of the street, turn back 5 yards.

Posh looking house, steel knocker

Knock after 6, three times.

The dentist does take some money off the price, more if you tell him a bit of a story.

Don’t touch anything.

Tom felt a little dizzy, and read through the instructions again. There was no sign-off at the end. He flipped the page over and looked at the crudely drawn map. The map was no more intelligible the second, or even the third time he studied it. Tom sat on the mattress and felt depressed. He picked up a tin of beans and ate a few mouthfuls, wincing. He looked in the back of the spoon after he was finished to inspect his teeth.

Tom had taken to checking his teeth every couple of hours during the day. This operated in tandem with his newly vivid dreams, which consisted of his teeth very slowly but surely slipping out of his gums over the course of a day. In the dream, he tries to push the teeth back into the gums but every tooth he tries to push back in, simply serves to push another tooth out, until the penultimate scene where Tom is forced to hold all the teeth in with his hands, unable to talk or breathe properly and so resigns himself to letting go of them. Standing in front of the mirror, Tom watches silently as he takes his hands from his mouth and a cascade of teeth slip out, down the sink, bloodying his shirt.

He took a mouthful of water and swished it around before spitting a considerable amount of blood into a bowl. He put on his jacket and hurried out the door, map in his pocket.

Tom set out from the end of his road and tried following the map as directly as possible. The first two times, he ended back up squarely in front of his own house. The third, he ended up outside an old shack that seemed to be infested with …something furry. But on the fourth try, he managed to arrive at a shabby, imposing Georgian house. He had walked by it the first two times because its every orifice was choked in ivy, and felt as though he had missed the house in the blink of an eye, but chose not to dwell on it.

He banged the steel knocker three times. There was no answer. He knocked again, another three times. Still, no answer. He stood facing the door in silent anger. Turning around, he made  to storm off in a huff, when he tripped. Brushing himself off as he stood, he saw the door half opened.

‘Hello? Hello??’

He tentatively put one foot over the threshold. Fully inside the door, he faced into a long, well-lit hallway. He walked to the end of the hallway, and to his right saw a small flight of stairs going down into the basement.

‘Oh fuck’

He looked around, grabbed a candle and made his way down the steps.

‘Hello?’

‘Tom?’

A thin voice piped through the darkness and concrete walls.

‘Er, yes?’

‘I’ve been waiting for you all day.’

He could not see very well in the clammy dark, but was hesitant to move anywhere near the voice. He waited for it to speak again.

‘Tom? Come into the right there, the light is rather dull down here I’m afraid.’

Suddenly, the basement hall was illuminated. He looked down the now-lit hallway, and saw a large door at the end of it.

‘Tom, come. I don’t bite!’

Walking towards the door, Tom was hit by a hot burst of moisture in the air. It smelled familiar, but with an underlying sourness, like warm butter in a bin.

Once in the door, the smell was not as overwhelming. It was not as well-lit as the hall, and Tom squinted around to get his bearings. There was a large, black leather dentist’s chair in the middle of the room, with a small table attached to its side. Facing this was a desk, covered in papers and an array of tools.

‘Ah, you made it.’

Tom started. Behind the desk was a man. He once again felt as though he had missed something in a the space of half a second.

‘Wha-I – I didn’t see you get here.’

The man chuckled.

‘I was here all along.’

Tom looked at the man. He was very round, and almost translucently pale. Tom could not tell if the man was sitting down or simply very short, the desk covering his entire lower half. He wore a very tight medical cap on his head, and several pale hairs sprouted from underneath it. The most notable thing about his appearance was the fact that he was wearing small, very round sunglasses, perched at the tip of his button nose, which appeared to be covered in a light sheen of sweat.

‘Are you nervous Tom? I have a lot of people come to me very anxious and worked up over simple problems that tend to…. run away with themselves.’

Tom nodded.

‘Well, we haven’t been properly introduced yet. My name is Dr Paul, it’s very nice to meet you Tom.’

The dentist did not make any gesture to shake hands.

‘Yes, nice to meet you too. How did you know it was me?’

The dentist laughed.

‘You have some good people looking out for you Tom.’

Tom waited for further explanation and when it was not offered, he cleared his throat again.

‘So.. do you want to tell me why you’re here?’

‘Ahem… yes. Em. My back teeth… They’re really sore. And now so are my front teeth. They didn’t hurt at the start but now they do.

‘And why is it you came to see me specifically?’

‘Well… I was told that you very kindly charge people less than the usual fees…And I was wondering would I be eligible for this and I-‘

‘Say no more, I don’t need to be privy to your personal affairs. Let’s see what we can do.

‘Take a seat, please. Now Tom.. There is one catch in the agreement we choose to make, as you may have suspected. You’re an intelligent boy, and I appreciate you must think there is something…off about my situation.’

Tom breathed in deeply.

‘As you can see from my glasses, I do not see very well. In fact, I am fully blind. My license would have been taken off me when I began to lose my sight. I had been practicing for 25 years and then, my body betrayed me. I had good friends Tom, good friends like you do. They helped me relocate and set up my small word-of- mouth business here, where I can do some small good for other good people, and not have to fear the state taking me out on some irrelevant detail. I have relearned my trade through utilising the best parts of all my senses and intelligence. For the procedure to cost an affordable rate, the patient must understand all of this and agree to my conditions, which is that the patient must wear a blindfold throughout.

‘Uhm..ok. Why?’

‘Ah, consider it a matter of personal comfort, an insecurity even. I prefer the patient and I to be on an equal footing, I find it adds to their understanding of my work. If the patient does not want to agree to this, that is also entirely fine. I bear no ill will to those who may feel somewhat uncomfortable in such a situation.’

Tom fidgeted in his chair and weighed up his feelings.

‘em..okay.’

‘Ah! Are you sure now Tom?’

‘No, yeah it’s grand. I’ll do it.’

‘Ok Tom, I’m just making out a form here for you to fill in after we have a look and see what’s going on. I’m going to give you a small amount of dilute anaesthetic that will numb the gums for you, just in case I need to dig a little deeper to get to the bottom of things. The vial is on the table beside you, and there should be a stack of blindfolds beside it. I’d like you to put on the blindfold now, and to take the vial immediately after. I expect you will be nervous, but don’t worry, I’ll talk you through everything.’

Tom found the blindfold and the vial. He popped the lid off the vial and took a deep breath. He was hit again by the smell of hot butter as he tipped the solution into his mouth, but did not find this strange.  Lying back, he rolled the sweet liquid around in his mouth, already feeling the numbing effects as the pain in his teeth faded.

‘How are you feeling Tom?’

Tom felt as though he had fallen asleep for several hours. He could not tell where the dentist’s voice was coming from. He blinked under the blindfold, seeing nothing but blacker darkness. As he went to reply, he found he could not move his mouth.

‘Ah, the drug has taken effect. A very excellent recipe if I do say so.’

The dentist sounded closer. His voice had climbed several pitches. Again, Tom tried to reply, but found he could not even remember which muscles he had to use in order to do so.

‘Ah Tom…. don’t upset yourself. Just relax.’

Tom heard an oozing sound as something in the room began to move. It was very slight, but unmistakable. Tom blinked furiously under the blindfold and was horrified to find he could not move his head. When he tried to move his arms and legs he found he had been restrained with what felt like very tough rope. A high chuckle came from the side of the room, and the smell of sour butter became even more pungent. He tried shaking his head and began to thrash his arms and legs as much as possible. They were so tightly bound that he managed only to hurt himself with the force he was using, but he continued.

As he tried to break free, his blindfold slipped slightly to one side. The room was very dark, and out of the corner of his eye Tom saw something coiled, white and monstrously large beside him, latching onto his leg with its small round mouth. He felt something breathe hotly on his ankle, and wet himself suddenly. The thing sucking on his leg seemed to notice this, and slowly moved its baleful head up to meet Tom’s eyes. It appeared to be looking at him but had no eyes, only a small wet hole for a mouth.

‘Oh Tom….’

The giant worm spoke with so much moisture it got flecks on Tom’s face. It oozed up to his face, almost as though to kiss him, and the sweet earthy smell from its mouth made Tom want to retch. He felt his stomach contract as he noticed the dentist’s clothes crumpled in the corner, and the pale hair sprouting from its giant white head. The worm rubbed the part of its face where the eyes should be on Tom’s cheek, its skin so thin Tom could almost hear the blood pulse through it. It continued to stroke his cheek with its face, and its breathing became more and more shallow. Tom faded in and out of consciousness, gasping intermittently in an attempt to breathe through the bile in his throat. The last thing Tom saw was the giant worm licking where its lips should be, with a long, thin white tongue. His body came back to life just in time for him to feel the worm’s tongue slip wetly into his own mouth, engorging and pulsing inside Tom’s oesophagus until finally he did not breathe anymore.

 


Anna Walsh is from Mullingar and holds an MA in Creative Writing. Published in Headstuff, the Bohemyth, Poethead and Dead King Mag, amongst others, she is currently working on her first book.

Lemonworld

Not so long ago but far, far away in the deep dark of the sea, it was raining, pouring. Thunder rolled across the waves like a death knoll ticking down the time. Ellie was 12. She had long thin hands and dark sunken eyes. The straggly strands of her hair were pulled back into a cap and her head was fully submerged in a bucket. Every time she’d have to purge and plunge her head between the plastic folds she would experience a moment of fetid relief in the black. It was a pleasant sort of darkness, the kind of darkness that had potential, like closing your eyes on Christmas Eve and opening them on Christmas morning. But all too soon she would succumb again, her tiny body wretched and racked in motion with the stormy swelling sea. During one particularly violent heave, something small detached from the inside of her mouth and landed with a soft thud in the bottom of the bucket. She reached in and picked it out, holding the last of her baby teeth curiously between her thumb and forefinger and her imagination bloomed with the hypnotic ‘drip drip’ of the saliva slipping from her open mouth. She was snapped from her reverie by the captain’s pronouncement that they would be arriving at their destination in less then 5 minutes and her fathers subsequent squeal of delight. She fought hard to stop her eyes from rolling back at this, his latest venture. Her father was a round man with hair that curled in the shape of a bonnet on the top of his head; he had a small nose like an infant and very smooth fingernails. His substantial wealth had been acquired through familial gain rather then a measured sense of toil and ethics and as a result he was known to have a certain proclivity towards excess. This time it had manifested in the hefty investment in an oilrig off the coast of Texas and it was this that had prompted their ill-advised journey to sea in the middle of a storm. She wiped the sick and blood from her mouth on the leg of her pants, steadying her trembling knees with her palm in passing and stood to join him at the bow. As they squinted through the dense fog for first signs of their quarry, a clap of lightening illuminated the sky for a brief moment and she gasped despite herself at the looming fortress nearly upon them.

 

The rig was a circular platform with a giant metal structure that rose through its center. It stood like a majestic monolith of dripping black. The thunderous rain seemed to float around it, unable to breach its dark fortitude. A lone figure swathed in mist stood waiting on the jetty that looped down to meet them. His expression was muted through impenetrable goggles and as the boat bumped to a shaking stop, he began to walk back up towards the rig. No words welcomed them, or perhaps he had spoken and they had not heard as the waves crashed around them in a deafening din, nonetheless, the twitch of a gloved hand behind his back seemed to beckon them forward. They traipsed upward soaked and shivering, sloping past masses of stained machinery and cold metal until they came to a steel bolted door. For the second time in just a few short minutes, Ellie fought to suppress her shock as they walked into the entrance hall of what appeared to be an old, stately manor. Elegant chandeliers bounced light onto ornate carpets and walls lined with portraits and aged ochre paintings. It was as if an ancient dynasty had lived and died there for hundreds of years. They were led up a grand sweeping staircase to an old oak door, through which beautiful singing was filtering. Their guide knocked twice and the singing stopped, as it swung open to admit them. They were in a grand drawing room lit by a roaring fire. Beside it stood Mr. Warpole, the owner of the rig and their host. He was a tall thin man, impeccably dressed in a waistcoat of rich red velvet. As he walked toward them, arms graciously aloft, his pointed features fought with his will to suppress the natural curvature of his mouth into a sneer. “Welcome, welcome and thank you for travelling to us in this dreadful weather” his accent was both grandiose and ambiguous and held a drawl that added an air of cold condescension to everything he said. Ellie’s father proceeded to introduce them and his southern twang sounded mumbled and weak in comparison. Warpole smiled, “Charmed to meet you both I’m sure and may I introduce my daughter, Ada.” Ada rose from a chair beside the fire. She was about 13 years old and breathtakingly beautiful. Her blonde hair flowed in swirling ringlets to the base of her spine and as she looked up, her eyes locked with Ellie’s who marveled at the depth of their blue. Something passed between them in that moment, a heat that charged through her skin and she looked away sharply, fearing that it hadn’t gone unnoticed. Warpole’s hand curled onto Ada’s shoulder as his voice lost some of its pretense. “There is food prepared if you wish to eat, but if you’ll excuse us, we must retire.” And with that, he led Ada from the room and closed the door.

 

Ellie woke late the next morning but it was still dark, daylight couldn’t penetrate the thick sheets of fog that circled their floating fortress. The day’s activities comprised of a thorough tour of the rig that served to solidify her suspicions about the separation between the ancient sanctity of its interior compared to that of the filth and rancor of the outside. Their divide felt tense, temporary and it unsettled her, as did the fleets of identical looking workers, whose darkened goggles and thick gloves gave the impression that they had neither hands nor eyes and like everything here, were covered in the oozing shiny sheen of the oil that made them impervious to the weather. They reminded her of the gargoyles on the top of old houses, un-feeling, un-moving sentinels, fixed in time and place with no regard to the living or the dead. And then there was the oil itself, she felt as if it were following her, the drips angling unnaturally in her wake as she moved. Her father became enthusiastically smeared in black as he examined every nook and cranny of the rig but in Ellie’s mind it became imperative that she avoid the sticky stains, to touch felt like an invitation. Later on, left to her own devices and wandering the halls she heard the singing once more from the night before, start up again somewhere nearby. She followed it down the hall; through a pair of wooden doors and into the most miraculous room she had ever seen. It couldn’t be called a room; it was more like a greenhouse, a forest, a wild place. Ada was sitting beneath a circle of trees that held the biggest lemons Ellie had ever seen. The seemed to emit a glow and a deep air of warmth and contentment washed over her.

 

Just as Ellie felt her eyes begin to droop, the singing stopped and a soft voice spoke in its place. “Hello”. Ada was staring at her. She fidgeted momentarily with the sleeve of her shirt then walked towards her. Up close Ellie could fully appreciate the lemons dangling down, they were beautiful, pulsing with life. “Do you like them?” Ada piped nervously, “Yes” Ellie replied, “But what is this place?” Ada smiled, “I call it my Lemonworld”. “Why are you singing to them”, Ellie asked. “Because they’re sick I think or sad, I don’t know but something has changed…ever since you and your father have come.” She paused and blushed, Ellie couldn’t understand why but Ada continued on. “They keep the balance you see, when the lemon trees are ok then so is the rig, so are the workers. But when they aren’t ok…well, bad things happen, there have been accidents.” Ellie scoffed “But that can’t be because of the trees.” “You don’t understand” Ada snapped and Ellie and could tell she had annoyed her. She thought for a moment. “When I was younger I would get scared when I’d lose a tooth. Scared that a part of me was leaving forever and I’d never get it back. And then I thought, what if they’re not supposed to be a part of me in the first place, what if they have their own lives to live.” Ada giggled and it was the most glorious sound. “So what do you think your other teeth are doing right now?”. And so Ellie started to invent stories about her teeth and the more she spoke, the more Ada seemed to glow, it flowed out through her every fiber, a shimmering shroud of purity and hope. Neither of them noticed that the more she glowed, the more the lemons began to dim.

 

That evening, Ellie and Ada returned to the drawing room to find it dark and cold. A voice spoke out from the din and the glow of a single candle sparked to life, illuminating Warpole sitting at the end of the table. The shadows seemed to elongate his pointed features and the fire turned his eyes red and flashing. “How were the trees today Ada?”. His voice was deathly quiet and held a deeply unconcealed threat. “Fine, father.” In seconds he was upon them and the force with which he hit Ada reverberated sharply around the room. She crumpled to the ground. ‘Enough’ he shrieked, he voice was high and unnatural. “I’ve told you before how important this is, how important you are, what will it take for you to obey me”. “Leave her alone”, Ellie screamed. Warpole turned to look at her and she felt all turn to ice. Suddenly one of the workers appeared in the doorway and dragged her from the room and down the hall, locking her in her chamber. She collapsed on her bed and cried in desperate, choking frustration until sleep took her. That night Ellie dreamt of darkness, but this time it was the bad kind, a deep black that suppressed and consumed anything else in her mind. She was awoken suddenly from her sleep by a distant singing. Sweat dripped down her brow and the force of her breath catching in the back of her throat was sending a shooting pain into her ears like a siren. She climbed out of bed and paused by the door, it was unlocked and she took a tentative step into the hall. The soft lining of the carpet felt like a lie under her feet, as if it were trying to lure her into a false sense of security and she rubbed her heel nervously back and forth wishing she could burrow down to the cold metal lying beneath this sickly sated illusion. The ground along the length of the hall was illuminated by sporadic circles of light, glowing down from the portis holes above her head. They were too high up for her to see out but she knew that there was no way the moon could be shining through this fog and she shivered involuntarily. As she stepped into one, she imagined the black shadow of a hand coiling around her ankle but soon the source of the singing became her only concern so that she was blind to all else and didn’t notice that as she stepped towards another, the ones behind her were going out. When she found her, Ada was sitting among the lemon trees once more. She spoke through barely suppressed sobsIt’s not working. I don’t know what to do. It’s like they want something, an offering but I don’t know what”. Ellie pulled out her tooth; her voice rent with desperation “Maybe we could offer them this, the tooth’s life for Lemonworld?”.

 

Ada took her hand and held it under the earth so she could place it by the roots stretching down. Submerged in the soil, Ellie couldn’t tell the difference between her tiny trembling tendrils and the coiling, searching bark, but as her own hands started to react to the guided pressure she closed her eyes, longing to be free and lost in the folded, crumbling sea around them. She felt a heat spread from Ada’s hand, up through her wrist and into her body. A love, their love coursing through her veins, making every synapse pulse and glow. Ada’s eyes found hers, orb like, incandescent, all consuming. Suddenly there was a deep rumbling in the ground that caused their hands to separate, and Ellie looked up sharply as one of the lemons dislodged and fell to the ground with an echoing thud. Behind her another, drooped dimmed and dead and Ada’s eyes were full of fear as she begged desperately. “You have to go, please, please, you can’t be here”.

 

Ellie ran from the room and back down the hall but the light filtering from the portis holes had gone out. She tried not to panic as she sped down labyrinthine like passages. She couldn’t remember how far she’d come and the black was getting deeper, darker around her. She looked down at her skin, still emitting a light glow and hoped it would be enough to see her safe. She reached her fathers door and barged through. It was dark but she could just about make out his silhouette by the window. She reached for him but as he turned his eyes were black and oozing, the oil spilled from them and from his open gaping mouth. He dragged her from the room and into the hall where they joined a procession of workers. And suddenly she realized that what she’d once thought had been gloves were just their hands bloated in death and scabbed by poison. She tried to struggle from his grip, clawing, biting, screaming but he held tight. They were bringing her back toward Lemonworld. A cacophony of noise preceded the garden as the workers marched monotonously through the wooden doors. Ada was singing so loudly that Ellie broke out in a cold sweat at the sheer force. The glow from the lemons was almost blinding and surpassed anything that felt warm or right. Warpole was standing at the base of the trees; eyes boring into something beneath the ground and she frantically scanned the room searching for the source of the sound, for Ada. Her father pulled her towards the trees but she didn’t struggle, she wanted to see, she needed to know. They reached the base and Warpole smiled at her, it was a terrifying malevolent grin and she knew then that all hope must be lost, that he’d won. Her eyes fell on the freshly dug patch of ground at his feet and she realized with horror that the singing was coming from underneath the ground. ‘Ada will sing to the trees forever now’’ he sneered and as he spoke one of the workers pushed Ellie into another hole beside him. The song reached a fever pitch and white light obscured all else in her mind. The soil rained down upon her and Ellie dreamt of darkness forever.

End.


Hannah Mamalis is a writer and an actress. Lemonworld originally appeared in the promenade horror theatre show ‘Mother Stokers Sickly Stories’ produced by the Gremlin and Pygmankenstein for the Bram Stoker Festival 2016. Hannah co runs the Gremlin and tweets at @Hantmam.

Lines written in dejection in the grounds of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The sun ghosts the church in corners

A monument of intimate architecture of love

A love poem of brick and stone and perfect masonry

Still cascading sparkling

worship, prayer

sanctity.

 

the church reaches out to the perfect blue sky

the stones and bricks in a frozen holy choir of cemented manmade falling beauty

singing to the blue sky as clear as mountain water,

not the hazily drunken grey that clouds my hanging head

I wish I was in Naples, bottled and sold I

drink my water

 

 

ghosting the church in black symmetry

shadows ghost my insides

more dead phonecalls, silences, a language only ghosts know

unutterable ivy choking nonword ghost talk .

 

 

the sun brings its beauty alive

I will try to build you a monument of memory

So when the sun comes I might see the rocks the stones cascading sparkling the steeple

I could’ve built for you.

But I got dizzy on top

With life with love and all

the gravitational pull of a childish soul hiding in the shadows

Where shadows made sense

Where the ivy grows again to cover and hide

pulling me down to the earth, to the grass where tourists litter the park

like flies they stare at nothing with their sunglasses on

godcrushed looking at this love poem standing

choirs of stones cascading sparkling

Clarity pollutes the day

I can hear the mountain stream-scream that haunts the church


Patrick is a Navan-born actor, poet, and writer based in Manchester. He studied English and History at UCD and Acting at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Patrick has enjoyed a 15-year career in Irish theatre and independent film and a life-long passion for poetry and writing. He co-wrote and performed in the acclaimed comedy show Jack Kairo and the Long Hard Kiss Good Bye.