Sunday 31 October 2021

The Bird Park Coven,


by Monique Holton

vodka hot toddy

In the rayless dark of night three sets of feet clumsily tread on the fallen drying leaves and crunchy decaying bark of the small nature reserve on the outskirts of the city. Whilst the dog-eared book, tucked safely under Tisha’s arm, had suggested a forest, the teenage trio were limited to the popular bird and wildlife sanctuary located on the city fringe, largely due to the lack of open green space in the busy capital city in which they lived. Fortunately, in the inky black of night, illuminated only by the new full moon, the nature reserve easily masqueraded as a forest, and the screech of the rescued birds kept in their secure mesh wire cages perfectly imitated a forests heavy atmosphere.

Stacey stumbled on the fallen branch of a gum tree and the vodka bottle she was nursing loudly tumbled out of her hands. In the distance, a caged Tawny Frogmouth squawks a low boom in disapproval.

“Shit!” she exclaimed, quickly levelling the bottle so the precious clear liquid could not escape. She giggled with all the evidence of an easily drunken teen, “my bad!”.

“Jesus, Stace, can you at least try and be discreet. I’m pretty sure the bird park is monitored by a ranger?” Cadence statement was more of a question than a certainty, highlighting her role in the group as the insecure and passive one.

“Relax Cady, you’re so friggin’ uptight. And besides, if there is a ranger, we can just put a curse on him too.” Stacey flips her long charcoal hair with her one free hand, her envied mane somehow managing to glisten in the dark of night. She offers Tisha the bottle. Tisha rolls her eyes at Stacey and takes a swig.

“They’re not called curses Stacey. The book calls them incantations. They are merely charms or simple spells. Charms, ok? Not curses.” Her repetition is directed at Stacey, trying once again to educate her flighty friend.

“Ugh, you make everything so boring Tisha, I feel like we are in school, can we just get started before I need to pee. This spot looks good enough to me.” Stacey settles cross legged on the dry grassed floor, her long tanned limbs intertwine, the pose reminiscent of one of her widely popular Instagram posts. Even in her messy drunken state Stacey still looks every bit the polished high school queen bee.

The other two girls join her in sitting cross legged, facing each other to form a haphazard triangle. The three friends had been close since primary school; however the cliquishness and politics of their upper years of schooling had highlighted their differences, creating small voids in their friendship they had all been trying to ignore. Tisha hands Stacey the book while she retrieves some crystals from her jacket pocket, ever the organised and reliable of the three.

“Ok, so we need to cleanse our crystals first, get rid of their old energy, and then we can each take turns reading our incantations.” The friend’s recent interest in witchcraft had been spurred on by a 90’s movie night when they streamed the cult classic “The Craft”. Perhaps in a bid to nurture a common connection, mixed with the normal amount of teen boredom, they mirrored the films plotline by filling the gaps between school, boyfriends and exam prep with crystal shopping and weak attempts at spell casting.

“Oh, hang on, can we try this instead?” Stacey points at a page at the back of the book. “It’s called shapeshifting.” The slur in her “s’s” indicated she was nearing the bottom of the vodka bottle and so Cadence takes this as her cue to retrieve it from her hands. Ignoring Cadence act of mothering, Stacey reads; “Shapeshifting is the ability to physically transform oneself. It is generally a change from human form to animal form or a change in appearance from one person to another. Oh, yes, let’s do this, I want to be a hot girl Eagle!” She topples on her side in drunken laughter.

“Seriously Stacey, like we have the skill set to do that. There’s the need for a north breeze, a particular focus of mood, like determination and wrath or something, anyway, let’s just all chant for straight As on our final exams, like we planned, and get out of here”. The wind had picked up and the mix of the chilly night breeze and her growing irritation with Stacey was causing her to shiver.

Stacey straightens up, fed up with being talked down to. “I know Tisha. You can morph into me, that’s what you really want isn’t it, to be me?” Stacey spits her insult with a snooty indignant tone, her own growing irritation at Tisha’s self-righteousness encouraging the show of defiance. “At least if you were me maybe you would stop playing teacher and have a little fun for once in your life.”

“Stacey!” Cadence says scoldingly, and then much quieter, her voice retreating as if to second guess her confidence says, “that’s not very nice.”

“What’s that Cadence? You have an opinion on something? That’s not like you to have an actual strong thought in your weak little brain.” Stacey was now fully committed to her honesty rampage; she was feeling a strange sense of self encouragement spurred on by the changing weather and the pull of the full moon.

“I know. You can shapeshift into Tisha, and then you might come out of your shitty little shell. At least Tisha doesn’t act like, like a, I don’t know, like a delicate little starling.” Her bird reference was a last resort, her insult getting lost in her drunken haze and the growing screeching of nearby birds prompting the reference.

A gush of strong north wind pulses against Cadence’s skin; her hair stands on end and she practically yells her response. “See, that’s your problem Stacey, you think you’re an Eagle but your nothing but a common Magpie. A loud, carbon-copied, suburban pest!"

Tisha gasps, shocked by the rage in Cadence voice, her newfound assertiveness completely out of the norm. “Ok, girls, that’s enough. Let’s just stop, something doesn’t feel right, something feels off," she says. Overhead an unexpected laugh is heard, the raucous growing chuckle of a Kookaburra echoes throughout the wildlife park. The laughter is purposeful and increases in intensity, the bird looks down onto the triangle of teens below. Tisha looks up and greets the bird’s reflective eyes; locked in a stare, transfixed by its glare and demanding laughter, she is hypnotised.

In the distance, in a darkened corner of the reserve, a wildlife ranger opens wide a bird cage door. He pushes his hand in to startle the occupants and scoops three birds towards the opening.

“Go, get out," he says. “Off you go. No room for you now”. He gently coaxes three birds to freedom, the hurried flutter of their wings forcing a gush of wind upon his face.

“That’s the way.” He encourages. them. “Time to go. We have to make room for three new friends tonight”. 

 About the author 

Monique Holton is a contributor to Stereo Stories and Poets Corner at In Review. She was a recent category winner of the Spineless Wonders “100 Words of Butterfly” Writing Competition and is currently working on her first young adult novel. Follow at


Saturday 30 October 2021

The Good Stuff


by Erica Pugh

iced coffee

He let a puff a smoke escape his lips as he had that toxic stick in between his lips. The smoke curled into the night sky, and he leaned against the chair. He pulled his coat closer to his body, as the night wind blew causing him to shiver. All he wanted to do was work things out with his wife but talking always turned into screaming. He was angry, and it showed on his face. She always pushed him too far and this has done it, he put the cigarette out and went back into the room. There he saw his wife, sitting on the bed hugging her knees. They shared a look, and she knew what he was thinking. She went to get up, as he grabbed his suitcase and began to pack his things.

“Wait, what are you doing? We can work this out.”

“Damn it, Alyssa. No, we can’t, this has to end. Now. I can’t do this anymore,” he said.

Alyssa went and grabbed her husband by the arm to stop him from packing his clothes but he pushed her off of him. She fell to the floor, in shock and felt the tears fall down her face.

“Sebastian, please don’t leave. I love you. So much.”

“I wish I could say the same to you, but I don’t. I am leaving, this is the end. Don’t call me or contact me.”

He began to leave but Alyssa ran to him crying as she back hugged him.

“I am sorry, I know it’s hard. Please, I am begging you. I love you.”

“I don’t love you. Not anymore,” those were the only words spoken before he left the hotel room. Sobs could be heard, but he didn’t look back, throwing everything in the car and driving off. He went to the bar and sighed softly. He had every intention of leaving this small town after he had something to calm his nerves. As he sat down, a old man came to get his order.

“What can I get you young man?”

“The good stuff, I am sure you know what I am talking about.”

“You can’t find that here, sorry,” the old man said. Sebastian was confused as he was staring at the whiskey and the old man followed his eyes.

“That’s not the good stuff,” he said pouring the guy whiskey on the rocks.

“It’s not?”

“Oh no, something tells me you are going through a rough time right now. Just broke up with your old lady?”

“How did you know?”

“Whiskey, is what most men, including myself get. Thinking it’s the good stuff, but it’s not.”

“What is then?”

“It’s the goodbye morning kisses, the laughing and dancing in the kitchen. The kids running around the house. Or the ‘I love you more’ arguments.”

Sebastian leaned closer to the counter as he began to sip his whiskey, he was intrigued by what the old man was saying.

“It seems you been in my position.”

“I have, thirty something years ago. Left my late wife, and the kids because of one bad argument. I came to this very spot, met an old man who told me the same thing I told you. I went back to her, and ever since that day we had a love that never wavered. She died a year ago, but I know she is waiting for me. She is the love of my life. Don’t let the woman you have now go if you are hesitating on leaving.”

Sebastian listened to the old man; he knew he loved Alyssa at least he thought he did. His hand quivered around the glass as he met the eyes of the old man.

“Listen young man, you have one life. You are here to make the best of it, do you have kids?”

“I don’t.”

“Do you want any?”

“I do, so does she.”

“Do you love her?”

Sebastian froze and thought for a moment, memories of the past flashed before his eyes. The ones he and Alyssa both treasured, the day she walked down the aisle. The day he proposed, when they first started dating. He didn’t want to let that go, no matter how many arguments he had. 

He quickly got up and placed the money down.

“Thank you so much, I have to make everything right.” He left the old man and rushed to his car, driving back to the hotel. The old man chuckled softly before fading into the shadows.

“Things will be alright; everything will work out in the end.” The old man said, disappearing completely.

Sebastian got to the hotel and rushed to the room, he knocked, and the door opened slowly. There he saw his beautiful wife, but she had been crying her eyes out. She looked at him and burst into tears again. Sebastian wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly to his chest.

“I am so sorry; I love you so much Alyssa.”

“Really? You aren’t leaving?”

“Never in a million years, you are the one I want to grow old with, have a family with.”

“Sebastian, I love you so much.”

“I love you too darling.”

He leaned down and kissed her sweetly, and she hugged his neck. Small hiccups escaped but neither one ended the kiss completely lost in the moment. 

About the author

Erica Pugh has been writing since she learned how to write. She started out with writing poems, but then progressed into writing stories. She is currently attending Full Sail University to get her degree in Creative Writing, so she can start her own company as a Freelancer.


Friday 29 October 2021



by Clive Gresswell

espresso to this as it is short, sharp and very, very dark


Billy Small turned his key in the lock and entered his flat. He was exhausted as it was a hard slog at work that day. He sighed sidled into the kitchen and boiled water in the kettle for a Cuppa Soup. All set up for an evening of being a couch potato and watching a load of mindless television quiz shows he took his meagre tea into the front room and collapsed wheezing onto the settee. ‘What a bore,’ he thought. He closed his eyes and heard a booming voice echo ‘Hey, watchit fatso, you’re quite heavy you know.’ Billy rubbed his eyes as if he’d been dreaming and leapt to his feet. Startled he looked around him but there was no other person to be seen. He hadn’t recognized the voice either and wondered for a moment where it had come from. Then he hit his head with his hand and whispered to himself ‘Of course, I remember now.’

But he was definitely under the impression that he, his landlord and the furniture had all come to an agreement that they wouldn’t trouble him anymore, and that was only a few days ago.

He remembered that first of all it was the settee which had piped up. He recalled distinctly that it happened on Tuesday of last week at about 6pm.

‘Ere mate, take a weight off,’ the settee had said and soon enough all the chairs and a table in the room were joining in hurling insults at him. If it wasn’t criticisms of his size it was rudeness about his fashion sense or his balding hair. This was all too much. Worse than when mother was alive!

He tried hitting back saying the frayed furniture was nothing to write home about either, so there. But the furniture just laughed at him and told him he was going mad.

‘Well, you lot are driving me to it,’ he countered.

Billy had tried reason last time and look where that had got him. There was nothing to do but eliminate the enemy. He went into the kitchen and taking the longest breadknife he could find marched back into the living room and swearing lunged at all the furniture, piercing the settee so the stuffing came out of it. The laughter of the furniture turned into loud screams. Afterwards Billy collapsed even more exhausted onto the floor. He heard a knock at the front door and then an urgent ringing of the doorbell. When he opened it his psychiatrist stood there flanked by two police officers. ‘So, it’s furnitureside now is it Billy,’ said Dr Maudsley in his broad Scottish accent. ‘I think you’d better come with us.’

Billy turned to get his coat but could still hear the furniture muttering in the background.

‘He hasn’t been right for years,’ said the table and the others shouted out their agreement.

About the author 

Clive enjoys writing metafictions and absurdist stories.



Thursday 28 October 2021

Pink Telephones on the Moon


by Jamie Wallace

mocha latte : sweet, creamy goodness, with a little sting of espresso

 He would miss the colors of Earth the most: the emerald waters of the river cutting through sandy banks, his wife’s favorite coral pink lipstick, the orange autumn leaves against a stormy sky. The moon would be toneless in comparison. On the patio, Steve sat with his back to the green Florida foliage but kept a sharp mental picture filed away for future use.

Steve cleared his throat. Waiting for the countdown of his launch was like suffering the last moment of a perfect first date: the moment of deciding whether to lean in for a kiss or quietly walk away. His watch ticked off the seconds.

            Sitting across from Steve was his wife, Clara. “Time’s almost up. What do you have left to do before you go?” she asked.

            Everything was packed, all words had been said, there was nothing left to do but wait for the jingle of the telephone. Steve’s skin crawled with bottled up energy like ants on a forgotten piece of food.

“I just want to take in the colors,” said Steve. The hotel room was on the other side of the open patio door. The color scheme of burnt orange and avocado green spun like a kaleidoscope.

A light pink telephone sat on the bedside table, mocking him with its silence. Ring, dammit, ring, he thought. His fingers drummed a staccato rhythm on his pant leg.

            Clara smiled and shifted in her seat. When her polyester pant suit slid across the vinyl of the chair, it was like a bow skimming across a violin string. A soft breeze blew a puff of her scent, and he stole a lungful: Chanel No. 5 and Aqua Net. The ticking of Clara’s fingers on the side of her glass vibrated through his brain, and as she hummed ‘Hey Jude’, he hummed along. The blue of her eyes swept him away like the ocean tide. With the blush of her cheek, bedroom memories rolled through his mind like a movie reel. An escaped piece of sunshine yellow hair swayed in the breeze. Time didn’t matter anymore. 

            Steve grasped Clara’s hands. A bit of dirt had wedged itself under her pinky nail. A half-smile played across his lips. “Didn’t like the gardening gloves I picked out?” he asked.

            “I love the feel of Earth in my hands.”

            The telephone rang with a shrill echo in the silent room.

Clara trembled. Letting go of her,  Steve rose and walked into the room. Clara followed.

            The telephone rang, again.

I don’t have to answer it, thought Steve. Wavering thoughts rushed through his mind. Walk away with Clara. Be together. Start a family. Stay.

 Another ring.

Rocket to the Moon. Make history. Give back to the human race. Leave.


            The hum in Steve’s mind calmed at the sound of Clara’s firm tone.

            Clara’s lips were pressed in a hard line. Her eyes, bright with tears, were large. Without hesitation, she walked to the bedside table.

            The telephone stopped mid ring.

“Hello? Yes, sir, understood.” Hanging up the telephone, Clara turned to Steve. “It’s time.” 

About the author

Jamie Wallace is new to writing. She is an avid reader, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. She lives in the United States with her husband, has an adoring Great Dane, and 5 children who are the reason she has to dye her hair.