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Words by Olivia Morcom
Illustrations by Kitty Chrystal

“Meg? Oh yeah we were pretty good mates for a long time. Ages actually. I don’t know if I’ve felt that close to anyone since. She was a lot funnier then she thought she was. That’s what I liked about her. She was one of those people who just existed on another plane, like she went at her own pace and in her own damn way no matter what people said. Stubborn… yeah, I guess you could say stubborn. But not in a negative way. She was just… Meg. It sounds cheesy, but I knew from the moment she did that Clint Eastwood impersonation, that she was from my tribe. You know? You just get this feeling about some people, like you’ve known them forever even if you’ve only just met.” 

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The day that Meg blew into their lives was the same day Ella’s body decided to take another step towards womanhood. The weather had been good that morning, so the kids had spent the best part of it playing cricket on the sandbar. Tempted back to camp by the smell of sausages and wood smoke, Jack, Daisy, Ella, Drew and Kyle walked barefoot along the ti-tree lined path, the boys still in dispute over the final score. Lost in her thoughts, Ella trailed behind them and absentmindedly watched her brother repeat his Shane Warne bowl for the benefit of the younger boys. Drew towered above them all, already taking on the lanky dimensions of a boy mid-puberty. Jack and Kyle idolised him, and hung off his every word as he educated them on the finer points of spin bowling. Daisy was way up ahead of them, poking a stick at an ant mound with the intense curiosity that five year-olds often possess.

“Take one more step and I’ll shoot!”

Above their heads, in cut-off denim shorts brandishing a piece of driftwood, sat a girl whose face was a map of freckles and sunburn. Her tanned leg dangled down from the gnarled branch of the Moonah tree, swinging back and forth in casual disregard. Drew snorted, and made as if to keep walking.

“I’d like to see you try,” the girl continued in her best Clint Eastwood voice. Ella took a moment to silently thank her dad for making her sit through all those old western movies, for as the rest of the band stood dumbfounded, staring up at this strange girl with the stick in her hand, Ella leant down and picked up a Banksia pod that had been lying next to her feet, straightening slowly and narrowing her eyes.

“Go ahead,” she growled as she twisted her mouth into a grimace. “Make my day.”

The girl in the tree held her gaze for a moment, then letting out a peal of laughter, sprung cat-like from the tree landing squarely in front of Ella, hand extended.

“Meg Delaney. We’re camped in site number twelve.”

And before Ella or any of the boys could say anything useful, she was off down the beach track, strawberry blonde plaits dancing behind her.

When Ella went to the toilet that night, she found marks the colour of burnt rust in her underpants. She buried them in the sand dune behind the toilet block and didn’t think about them again for several months.

After that camping trip, Meg Delaney became an inseparable extension of their family. The parents bonded, as they often do, over wine and the trials and tribulations of raising children. Discovering that both families hailed from the Mornington Peninsula, school holiday catch-ups and weekend barbeques became a uniting factor for the Delaneys and the Stevensons. When Ella’s first real period did finally make an appearance, it was Meg who gently showed her how to fit a pad to her undies and told her everything she knew about the female body. The usually tomboyish Meg softened in this sisterly role of authority, comforting the confused Ella with a sideways cuddle and a hot Milo. The extent of her health education so far had been a very confusing class with Ms Scott who had sighed about the “complexities of the female condition,” which made the girls giggle because Ms. Scott had a boy haircut and only wore hemp.

The next three summers were spent back at Croajingolong in much the same way. It was only the summer before Ella turned fifteen when something shifted. Some invisible thing changed and all of a sudden, Meg withdrew into herself. Ella remembered feeling confused, as Meg refused to be tempted from her camping chair by bushwalking or beach cricket. She spent most of the trip with her nose buried in a book, and though she tried her best to seem interested in Ella’s conversation, something was missing. Waking up in the tent one morning, Ella found Meg’s arm draped across her waist, a casual affection that made Ella’s heart beat in her chest. It had been so long since Meg had hugged her in the rough bear-hug way that she used to, let alone this. Her arm was warm, and Ella concentrated on the weight of it lying across her hip.  When she reached out to take Meg’s hand though, the arm withdrew back into the sleeping bag a little too quickly for someone who wasn’t awake. Ella rolled onto her back and watched the silhouette of an ant crawl across the waterproof ceiling of the tent, outlined by the morning sun.

“She’s just hormonal,” Julie Delaney explained as they foraged for kindling in the surrounding campsites. Ella’s mum Bridget raised her eyebrows knowingly and gave her a pat on the back.

“Don’t take the moodiness personally love. She’s having a tricky time.”

But Meg’s continual silence did hurt. And her fourteen-year-old self felt something that, in hindsight, was akin to heartache for this wild girl who had changed her life.

***

Rain had started to fall in the garden, and realising her cup of tea was getting cold, Ella raised herself to re-boil the kettle, shaking the pins and needles out of her feet. Maybe too much reflection isn’t good for the soul, she thought as she stood watching a raindrop hurry down the windowpane. But then, she had always been most comfortable with the company of her own thoughts. Reflection, it seemed, was an inevitable part of being Ella. She had been thinking about her teenage years more than usual lately though. Something about turning thirty had kicked off the nostalgia perhaps, or maybe it was because there was something not quite right about her memories of that time. She felt like she was putting together a jigsaw, but the piece that made the picture make sense was missing. The way Meg had looked that summer, subdued and soft, haunted her in a way that she couldn’t understand. She still saw Meg occasionally these days: their kids went to the same school. But there had been a gap after that camping trip, up until they both finished high school, during which they hadn’t seen much of each other at all. Meg dropped off the map. She came to school sometimes, but kept mostly to herself. She dyed her radiant hair a dark chocolate brown, and stopped going to parties. Something was keeping the wild girl with the killer smile from being herself, but Ella didn’t feel she could ask Meg what was wrong even now. There had been too long a silence, too much time with no explanation. Steam curled up from Ella’s cup of tea, and she was carried back to the summer of 2010, when the smell of the sea was never too far away and there was always sand in the bed no matter how many times you shook out the covers.

***

The striped sunlight that filtered through the gaps in the veranda above cast strange shadows on the near-naked torsos of Meg and Ella as they sat under the house, hiding from the 35 degree heat. Both absorbed in their books, neither of them noticed that they were sharing the space beneath the house with two reptilian eyes. It was only when Ella rolled over on her towel that she noticed the glossy black coil half obscured by an old wooden pillar.

“Get out, get out get out!” she screamed, grabbing Meg by the upper arm, and half-crawled, half-stumbled out of the shade. The snake had by this point realised that its hideaway had been discovered and was skating like liquid ebony across the packed earth towards the girls, in confusion more than wrath. Their screams brought Ella’s uncle Ben running, who upon seeing the snake, grabbed a piece of driftwood that had been drying next to the veranda. He brought it down hard on the ground in front of the snake, diverting its path from the lawn where the girls had run. They watched it disappear into the dense coastal scrub at the end of the garden. The strings of Ella’s bikini had come loose in the swift exodus, and heart still thumping, she absentmindedly readjusted herself as they stood glued together on the dry brown lawn. Ella will always hold the memory of Meg’s arm clamped around hers, sweaty and shaking, and how she noticed that one of Meg’s nipples had been exposed, a small brown island in a sea of pale early summer skin.

“What were you doing under the house anyway?! You’re both savvy enough to know about snakes, with all those darn camping trips. Under the house is where they go when it’s bloody hot! Use your heads!”

“Don’t be mad at them mate, just be thankful it wasn’t worse.”

Ella’s dad sighed and slumped back onto the couch, rubbing his temples. Uncle Ben winked at Meg and Ella.

“Just as well there was a bloke around eh?”

Ella nodded feebly and Meg smirked, but then watched Uncle Ben as he walked into the kitchen, her eyes following his retreating back with an intensity that reminded Ella of the look the snake had been giving her before she had registered its silent and dangerous presence.

“From now on, this is where we write our stories. Our near-death experiences. The important stuff.”

“I don’t wanna go back in there! Are you nuts?”

The girls stood outside the cavity under the veranda, Meg holding a piece of charcoal in her hand.

“Suit yourself. I’m going in. We got away Ella, we need to commemorate this death-defying feat.”

“Meg, we screamed and ran. You basically cut off circulation to my arm.”

Meg’s back was already disappearing under the house. Hesitating for a second, Ella followed, trying not to think of spiders as she bent to enter the shadowy hideaway. On the bottom of the veranda slats, Meg was writing something, shielding her eyes with the other hand from the falling charcoal dust. A childlike drawing of a black snake, and the date, 26 January 2010, was scratched onto the wood.

“Good. Remember this Ella. It’ll be our secret place.”

And there was that look again, that expressionless yet solid look that Ella had seen in Meg’s eyes in the lounge room the day before. For a reason that she couldn’t pinpoint, Ella shivered despite the heat of the afternoon. Crawling back out into the warmth, she turned her head to the sky and watched the strange mottled red colour of behind eyelids, the only thing keeping her eyes from the blinding sun.

***

The weekend before they sold the beach house, Ella had got on her hands and knees and crawled into the space under the veranda. She sat for a minute, looking out at the parched lawn from the shade of the cubby. Then, crawling to the back of the hideaway, she held her phone up to illuminate the veranda slat roof. There, further back than she remembered, was the faded outline of the charcoal snake. Narrowing her eyes, Ella looked closer and made out more images on the adjacent slats. A childlike drawing of two girls, both triangles with circular heads, their stick like arms crossed in a cartoonish hand-hold. Further along, was a stick figure man, taller than the girls, with its arms held out wide. In an attempt to give the man a face, a black hole had been scratched on as a mouth, giving the impression a of a Jack-o-lantern leer. A bogeyman. Ella crawled along through the dirt, illuminating the next charcoal sketch on the wood. She looked at it for a long time, until her feet ached with pins and needles and the faded black lines became hazy and undefined. Memories flashed by her with new significance, a jigsaw puzzle that she no longer wanted to finish. The two forms etched onto the furthest slat burned themselves into her mind, obstinately daring her to look away now, after all these years of guesswork.

Here we are, they said. We have always been here, but you never dared to look.

Outside, the cicadas had begun their afternoon chorus, a wall of shrillness that pulsated upwards from the ground, accusing and hysterical.

Ella slumped down into the dust and the cobwebs, her phone sliding off her lap onto the packed soil that eighteen years ago had felt the warmth of two adolescent bodies, full of life and the salty wildness of the sea.

Words by Jacqueline Cowcher
Illustration by Jennifer Crow

He pushed at the cold white flesh. It gave under his thumb. Disgusting, repulsive, foreign. He looked at the clock on the wall. He started to imagine how it would feel to smack the limp body. How it would fall if he were to roll it off the bed and onto the floor. How it would sound as it hit the floorboards. Would it be different to a living body? He stared at it and decided that it would be, simply because the sack of meat that used to be his pigheaded wife, could offer no resistance. Clarissa had died in her sleep of a brain tumor that had been forming slowly and gnawing at her mind, unknown to anyone, since she was twenty-three. But Phil had spent the past twelve hours staring at her body convincing himself that he had willed her dead with his hatred, and that everyone would blame him.

He went into the kitchen and made a cup of tea. The radio mumbled quietly about the upcoming Olympics. The cat meowed, a tractor slugged up the dirt road, a tap dripped. He felt sick. He could hear Clarissa’s mobile vibrating in her tacky handbag on the kitchen table. It stopped. It started again. It stopped. He cleared his throat, coughed, and then cleared it again. He cracked his knuckles and told himself over and over again that he’d done nothing wrong. He put on slippers and went out to the porch to smoke a cigarette. He smoked one, and then four and then five, and then he finished the packet. It hadn’t been his fault that they’d grown apart, he thought to himself, grinding the last butt into the ashtray. She’d changed.

Cicadas droned around him so loudly that he started to feel as if he was inside a giant pulsating cicada, that Western Australia was one big buzzing creature. His head throbbed. She’d been the one who had gotten old and mean. He rubbed at his temples with his thumbs. She’d pushed him away. He went inside and took a Xanax from the bathroom cupboard, careful not to look at his wife as he walked through their room to the en suite. He stood by the sink for some time, staring at her dirty underwear and bunched up socks on the floor under the basin. He hung up her damp towel from yesterday. He spent some time studying his stubble in the mirror, then went into the kitchen and grudgingly did the dishes. She never did them.

The phone rang, shrill and artificial. He answered.

“Mmmm?”

“Phil? It’s Penny, is Clar there?” Penny, Clarissa’s mother, always condescending and rude.

“No.”

“Oh… Well, she’s not answering her mobile.”

“No?”

“No. Well… Phil. Would you tell her I called?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. Ta.” She hung up.

He would have told her, but he couldn’t.

He would have to eat soon, and sleep. It was Sunday; he had to prepare the silage in the morning. There was always so much work to do on the farm before winter and he was falling behind. He looked at the fridge. It hummed. He pulled out a steak and prepared a meal. He ate in front of the TV and felt slightly better. Clarissa’s Cocker Spaniel yipped at him. He gave the dog his leftovers and guiltily realised it was the first time he’d fed her all day. He went into the pantry and got her two cups of pellets. He looked down at her.

“Sorry mate.”

She grinned and licked him, her stupid pink collar twinkling. He’d never paid much attention to the dog. He patted her on the head and took off her collar. He felt better. He showered, got changed, and put on a load of washing. Everything seemed slightly more okay, more normal. He realised he should probably do something about Clarissa’s body. He turned the TV off and sat in silence as he braced himself to go back into the bedroom.

The strangeness of her being just a sack had evaporated and he saw his wife. He sat down beside her and felt the closest thing to grief he could manage. The depth of his sadness surprised him. He lay down and stared at the ceiling, breathing in deeply and allowing his back to fall into the familiar grooves in the mattress. He braced himself, then rolled over and looked at her. She was almost peaceful, lying there. He felt guilty. He hadn’t really looked at her for a long time. He had seen her, but hadn’t seen her. She wasn’t so bad. He remembered that Clarissa used to be pretty once, that her hair had been so smooth and soft. He had loved her hair. It was matted and wiry now. He touched it, gently, with his index finger, and then shifted his body forward so he could easily stroke her hair with his entire hand. He combed out the knots with his fingers, unconsciously at first, but he was soon working methodically through the snags. Her eyes, although glassy, were still beautiful. He went into the bathroom to retrieve her brush and tried to prop her between his legs so he could brush her hair, but with a slight twinge of revulsion he realised she’d gone stiff. He delicately pulled the bristles of the brush through her hair as best he could and then left her in peace.

That night Phil slept on the couch. He woke up early, fed the dog, and showered in the spare bathroom. After smoking a few cigarettes on the porch with a coffee and the paper, he put his overalls and boots on and went down to the sheds. He spent the morning fixing one of the tractors that had a broken axle. After stopping for a quick lunch he checked on the water troughs and the fences, making sure everything was just as it should be. For the rest of the afternoon he weeded. He covered as much ground as he could, pulling out smaller weeds, and spraying the large thistles with the weed killer he carried in a plastic pack on his back. As the sun went down he could feel the straps cutting into his shoulders and his lower back cramping from the weight. When he got back to the house he fed the dog, and spent some time scrubbing the pink dye from the poison off his hands before preparing some dinner. Avoiding the bedroom, he showered in the spare bathroom and found clean clothes in the laundry. But he couldn’t concentrate on the television drama he was watching; he knew he would have to go into the bedroom eventually.

His palms grew clammy as he turned the doorknob. The room smelt strange, but it wasn’t as bad as he had expected. Clarissa was still lying there peacefully, just as he’d left her the night before. He walked over to her, and kissed her forehead, but her skin felt wrong. He went into the laundry and filled a bucket with warm soapy water and sponged her gently. He found her some clean pajamas and decided they could do with an iron. He ran the iron over them, enjoying the way the steam rising off them smelt like washing powder, and the way it felt as it tickled his neck and face. He changed the sheets and then slowly and patiently undressed and redressed her, carefully working with her wooden limbs. He was surprised by his sudden desire to have one more night to lie beside her in their bed, without any anger or animosity between them. He just needed one peaceful, restful sleep with her. He undressed, pulled a light sheet over them, and quickly fell into a heavy and dreamless sleep.

He woke to a stench so repugnant that he clamped his hand over his mouth and nose and flung himself at the window, struggling violently with his free hand to pull it open. He shoved his head through the window and began to convulse with vomiting. His vomit spattered onto the rose bush outside their window, weighing the blooms down, making them sag and fall from their stems. He gasped desperately at the air, sucking in deep greedy lungfuls, his eyes bulging. He spun around and stared at her accusingly; she was the source of the smell. He rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand as he stormed past her to the bathroom, furious. He splashed his face and looked at his reflection, his mouth was distorted with revulsion. He spat bile into the sink. He wasn’t sure what to do. He stood by the bathroom window, gathering his thoughts. He desperately tried to block out the drum of cicadas coming in through the window. It seemed with each second that they grew louder, closer, more incessant. It was all he could do not to scream. He slammed the window shut. It muffled the cicadas slightly but now his nose filled with the stench leaking through the door from the bedroom.

Phil slid the door open and stood in the doorway of the en suite watching his silhouette sharpen and dim across her body as the fluorescent light in the bathroom flickered behind him. She was grotesque. His saliva became bitter and tangy in his mouth. The insides of his cheeks and the roof of his mouth felt like they were sweating. He forced himself to cough. He ground his jaw, hard, and coughed again. He fought back the acidic bile rising in his chest and gritted his teeth against his arching tongue.

Clarissa’s feet, which awkwardly protruded from beneath the blanket, had darkened. They had become swollen and disfigured. They did not look human. If Phil squinted and blurred his vision with his eyelashes, they took on the appearance of large pig trotters, all pink and black and fat and fleshy. In her rot and decay he saw her for what she truly was, a carcass. Every part of her, he saw with horror, had swelled and bruised. She was a translucent package of liquid fat. She was ballooning and moist and foul. He realised it was too late to tell anyone, that he had taken too long. The stench and the realisation made him gag. He stood by his side of the bed, leaning over her, and threw up. She had to go. A strange sense of calm overcame him. The sweet sickly stink of her reminded him of decaying waste, of silage. The way her organs were fermenting beneath the tightening outer layer of her skin was like grass matter rotting beneath the plastic. She was a decomposing mass, and she could complete this process in the mixture grasses and weeds that he would put out to decay in a few hours. He would be rid of her.

Phil placed the silage in a large heap on the ground and rolled over it methodically with the tractor, pushing the air out. It took considerable effort to compress the substances in silage so that they cured properly; Phil had mastered the process. He carefully laid a sheet of black plastic over the pile, placing tires around the edges and over the top. He stepped back and admired the large plastic heap, the sun setting behind him. He always took immense satisfaction from knowing that beneath the heavy weight of the tires the silage would begin to ferment within a couple of days. Phil liked the idea that within two weeks, this pile of grass clippings and waste would become a supply of nutritious feed for his livestock. It had been a productive day.

Words by Sam Perkins
Illustration by Cassandra Martin

I often come down to the old station. After the school bell rings, and they all go home to close the shutters and stare at screens or pages. I walk with my friends for a short while before turning down a different, derelict road and heading down to the gleaming tracks. The station is always empty; trains don’t stop there. They used to slow down as they passed, as regulations required. Now I don’t think the drivers see the station any more. It’s a ruin. The platforms are so overgrown with weeds that they stand as a pair of matching hillocks on either side of the track. The drivers cruise past and the turbulence disturbs the grass.

They’re usually freight trains, carrying wheat and barley from towns further out than ours. Heaving loads that fill trains a mile long. I’m not reminded of my father’s pick up, with its feeble crop of tomatoes held in crates in the back. It’s only after I eventually and inevitably go home and slump my schoolbag on the veranda that I see the truck and think of the trains.

He’s pressing tobacco into his pipe with square, stubby fingers when I come into the lounge. He doesn’t look up, his attention solely on his task. My sister is playing a game, sneaking and talking her way through a far future city. I watch her briefly as she lingers on a balcony to admire the view from a skyscraper, before crawling back into an air vent. She always comes straight home, dumps her bag and fishes out a second-hand controller from the tangled wires in her desk. Its cable is frayed and has been repeatedly repaired, the plastic weary and groaning at the labour it’s still forced into. We have two, but she insists that she only uses hers, and mine lies neatly coiled and covered in a thin film of dust under my bed.

It’s a shame they never stop, my father used to say bitterly. I don’t remind him that train drivers don’t buy produce. He could sell snacks to them, maybe. The extra few coins would be welcome. But they probably bring lunch anyway, I think.

It’s not worth thinking about. The trains don’t ever stop, so my half-baked plans could never happen. I can still go and stand on the platform though, close my eyes for a few moments and see the smooth asphalt under my feet, the freshly painted yellow safety line and the illuminated words cycling through on the face of the sign hanging overhead. A suited man from the city looks at his phone, confused as to where to go. Children are herded by their parents, but one breaks away and stares through the glass face of a vending machine, surrounded by the ebb and flow of people. Opening my eyes stifles it all.

These days I think about what would happen if I found a long stretch of track, where drivers could see far along it. I’d do it on a clear day. I’d pack a bag and stand on the track. A driver would have to stop, if I gave him enough warning; if they saw me from far enough away. Even if they didn’t I’d still escape this town. I can’t lose, either way.

Words by Camilla Eustance

I was coating myself in glue

so I wouldn’t have to move

when you came to warm

your ego by the fire.

 

Your face was

carefully constructed,

an ice sculpture

you crafted yourself

in the mirror that morning.

 

But your voice didn’t reach me—

it paused and got stuck

at the letter ‘I ’.

 

I glared through the flames

and spat out the sparrows

pecking at the walls of my heart.

 

They struck you above the ears,

such was the shock

that your eyes loosened,

unscrewed themselves, and fell out.

 

I caught them in my modest hands,

clutched them

to my chest.

 

When you left

to comb your black hair

with a brick

 

I kept your eyes

rolling around in my pocket

with a twenty cent piece

and a list of neglected wishes.

 

I found a park, where I sat

next to a patch

of marbled white mushrooms

and stared at my knees.

 

After an hour, I felt your eyes

looking through my clothes

at the ridge of my back,

my spine stretching forever

up, down and across.

 

I took out your eyes

and held them up

to the nearly cloudless sky,

begging them to see

from a higher point

or a more distant planet.

 

The six o’clock light

was stroking my cheeks,

begging me not to cry.

 

I tried to swallow your eyes

after my cup of hot lies

and a slice of dry hope

but I choked.

 

They wouldn’t go down

because they could never be

a part of me.

 

So I left them that night

on a street corner

underneath a flickering street lamp

in the hope that one day

they would see light.

Every issue, Brendan McDougall takes a classic literary text and fills it with graphic, explicit,
filthy, transgressive, don’t-show-your-grandma sexiness. Keep it under lock and key.

Words by Brendan McDougall
Illustration by Sarah Layton

MEDIA_clasixxx_207x877Macbeth: How does your patient, doctor?

Doctor: Not so sick, my lord,
As she is troubled with thick coming fancies,
That keep her from her rest.

Macbeth: Thick cumming fancies!

Doctor: The fingers of her right hand be shoved
So far up her baby-hole
I cannot budge them.

Macbeth: I’ll cure her o’that! Seyton, haste!
Fetch Macbeth a jar of kingly lube
And I’ll uncork her wrist from lady-tube.

Seyton: Right away.

Exeunt Doctor, Seyton.

Macbeth: Malcolm moves closer to my front, yet ‘tis
My front which stirs against what lies behind
That door. I’ll disrobe now and surprise her,
And bite with gentlest teeth the lobe of her right ear
‘Til from her vag drips free what spirit lies
Twisted dormant ‘neath her crazed hysteria
My love, what sorrow darkness must possess her!
Quickly will I with eyes and hands undress her.

MACBETH enters the ante-room where LADY MACBETH lies.

Lady Macbeth: Out damn spot! Out, I say!—One: two: why,
then, ’tis time to do’t—Hell is murky!—Fie!
My lord! Who would have thought the old man
would have had so much blood in him…

Macbeth: He is full up with blood, anticipating
His lady’s four-lipped kiss to warm it
So that it may release from it’s angry eye
The white nectar, the liquid moon, the medicine
That may surely cure all that ails thee.
Birnum Wood outside moves little, nay, not at all
T’ward Dunsinane. Yet there is another wood
Moving against thy person, and perhaps one
of thicker girth and veinier disposition at that.
Choose thy orifice and prepare for a stuffing!

LM: I shall open up my mouth once more before
I swallow your sword great gulped to the hilt
So it may tickle my poor heart: a question.
Do you trust me?

Macbeth: Trust you? What trickery is this?
I makest thou a queen and offer thusly
To fill thou with a King and spawn in you
A prince. —You ask me wild questions such as this.
It is a lucky thing your holes are still as tight
As when first I plugged them in your father’s garden
As now I do.

LM: Screw your courage to the sticking place.

Macbeth: O!

LM: Aye!

Macbeth: Fie!

LM: O!

Macbeth: Ho!

LM: Come to my breasts and take my milk for gall!

Macbeth: Hitherto!

LM: Fie!

Macbeth: Speak on the subject now I ask of thou –
Art thou still a little harlot?

LM: A little harlot I am my lord.

Macbeth: Of course this is the case! And thou enjoy
My kingly balls thumping hard against thy pelvic bone!
I knowest thou do!

LM: More than any other thumping thing m’lord!

Macbeth: Now remove your hands now clasped from round my neck
My windpipe is obstructed.

LM: I cannot hark my lord,
These throes of ecstasy seem to have
Unbalanced my hearing

Macbeth: Hear this then, I cannot breathe.

LM: Or maybe ‘tis the great Macbeth unbalanced
Which I hear now.

Macbeth: I have no words, my word is in my sword.

LM: And thy sword is in my cunt! You conspire
With witches to make me Queen and now
The blood stained on my hands must be removed.
Your Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth: Hold, enough!

LM: Thy blood razes my palms clean and thy seed
Enters my uncaring womb where now it turns
To dust. Your son sleeps here forever.
King, Cawdor, Glamis, all thou art betrayed.
Thou knowest this tale ends not another way.

Macbeth: Ooo! Fie! Alack! Now I am slain!

Dies.

LM: Lie still, thou creamy hubris you have stuffed
Wastefully, all up here in my Macduff.
‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.

Words by Rhea Bhaghat

Brunswick

Last dregs of summer,
Scorching soles, shrivelling souls,
Roadkill’s reeking rot.

Buzzing flies, shattered eyes,
Float to the top of my cup,
Melt into froth.

Club X Catholics,
Churches and Crazy Horses,
Fifty degree hellfire.

Dreams of dollar shops,
Dashboard Buddhas, seeing eye charms,
‘Gifts from the Orient.’

Shopping mall astrologer
(two dollar tarot cards/palm reading)
predicts the apocalypse.

The man with DD’s asks
me for some ramen noodles.
He’s from out of town.

Pit stains on the train,
Bogan sweat seeping down my spine,
Eskies and stubbies.

‘She’s a solid eight!’
Buzz cut schoolies, VB slabs,
‘Oi! Let’s get fucked mayte!’

ICE CREAM! sluuurp, drip, drip,
Peeling sunburn and chafing thighs,
Stale air, blinding glare.

 

Fitzroy

You shave in the bath,
Mould rings, floating pubic hair,
Razor burn/carpet burn.

No door, sticky floor,
Graffiti penises &
‘L.V. is a whore.’

Bikini body,
Trellises of underarm hair,
Deodorized despair.

Playing a tune on
My xylophone vertebrae,
Bare under the glare.

Oil slicks coat fingers,
Condoms smell like gloves we used
in Chemistry class.

Chatroulette regret &
Duck face fornication, Cosmo sex.
This is different.

Words by Ellen Cregan
Illustration by Kitty Chrystal

Her back faces the ceiling, unarmoured yet somehow impenetrable. The bones in her spine stand distinct from the rest of her, as if to say, “We’re here, and far tougher than we look.” She sleeps cheek to pillow, hips to protruding bedsprings. Watching her I can feel the swollen springs against my own skin. It doesn’t bother her much, she says—she’d rather feel the suggestion of those metal coils than the empty air against her goose-pimpled night time skin.

Taking her elbow to the hollow beneath her ribcage, she pushes it in to settle herself, a reminder that her body is still soft and vulnerable. She presses on her gut, feeling comfort in its compression. Her flesh becomes one with the bed sheets, and once she has closed her eyes nothing can come between them.

A few times during the night she’ll release her arm from beneath her torso and grasp at the air. Quickly and repetitively she forces blood through her veins and into her fingers, but it always retreats soon after. She never rolls over in her sleep—she once told me her stomach is something she cannot bear to bare.

Childhood forbade me to sleep with my toes dangling over the edge of the bed. Eventually, the feet-eating creatures that lurked below stopped me from sleeping at all. Her monsters are organ eaters. They can tear her body from belly button to collarbone, devouring her pink, limp innards. So she hides with her face in the pillow.

Outside a car alarm goes off, but I hardly notice. Her resting breath is louder to me than any other noise. She murmurs, but I can’t make out what she says, her words muffled by unconsciousness and goose-down. She resumes her rest.

Finally my eyelids begin to sink, begin to heal the red rawness that has plagued them these past few days. I wonder what her words meant, or if they meant anything at all. But it’s not time for these thoughts now.

I’ll have to ask her about them in the morning.

 

 

 

Words by Allee Richards
Illustration by Ella Shi

Sometimes I stare at strangers on public transport, and I start to date them in my head.

On the tram today you are clean and intact, like a newly completed puzzle. Your backpack is a cube and your clothes are all straight lines and unobnoxious bright colours. The only circles are your expensive-looking headphones. They play music that is overly produced, and that you’ll say I’ve never heard of. Your face is like a wall in an exhibition: a clean surface with two thick black frames each mounting opaque brown spheres. I untuck my shirt and reveal the stain I hid behind my waistband in the morning.

I always wanted one of those relationships that starts with hate, like Katherine Heigl has. We won’t hate each other, but I will hate the things you like and you will hate the things I like. We will disagree on every book and film, because even though you study maths or engineering or something, you’re more opinionated than anybody with an Arts degree.

We will be disagreeing about a pair of jeans and I will threaten to spill my wine on them. Your firm, pale arm will snatch my glass and I will giggle and glare at you and say, ‘Spill it on me, this top was two dollars.’ We will kiss fast and the first time we have sex you will be on top and you will push angrily. We will revel in our differences with the wonderment of babies. When people ask about us I will shrug, ‘Oh well, you know what they say: opposites attract.’ We will share knowing smiles, because I enjoy being purposefully daggy and you enjoy telling me that it’s all an act. We will leave parties knowing our friends are talking about us and we will have arrogant sex; over and over we will say, ‘Not like that, like this.’ But we will spoon afterward, always. Our only likeness will be the way we lie in bed, hunched back and bent knees, a pair of question marks.

Because we’re working, I’ll become more like me and you will become more like you and we’ll be caricatures of ourselves. When the adrenaline of disagreement wears off I will find it harder to laugh at your teasing and harder to laugh while I tease you.

On the last day of our relationship I will be in your shower staring at the different sized bottles lined up like a gang of bullies. When I leave your house we will both know we’re broken up, even though we don’t discuss it and will never discuss it. I’ll tell people that I dumped you because you use more expensive cleanser than I do (‘he was just too materialistic’). I will feel impotent and odd like a naked stem after a child stole the petals—you love me, you love me not.

You’re ready with a tailored cigarette and a silver lighter as you step off the tram at Swanston and Bourke. You walk away with subtle and choreographed swagger, oblivious to what you’ve done to me. I call you a pretentious fuck, but I guess I’m one too.