Tuesday 31 May 2022

Wanderlust by Kate Twitchin, Yorkshire Gold Tea, milk, no sugars.


The snake was barely ten feet from her dusty, sandalled feet. The sounds of the marketplace faded as Simiyu, her tall, ebony-skinned guide gestured to her with his forefinger to stop, be silent, don’t breathe.

            The creature reared up, its jaws wide and pink and monstrous; fangs as sharp as needles. Simiyu’s robe swirled; he kicked up sprays of fine dust as he strode towards the snake. Thrusting his stick at the reptile’s head, he trapped it in the cleft. One of the bearers swept a large basket from the stall beside him. With deft movements the snake was scooped up and tossed into the basket and the lid slammed down. It all happened so quickly, in a whirling blur of robes, limbs moving with the grace of ballerinas and the swiftness and expertise of magicians.

            She smiled her thanks, breathing deeply, heaving the hot dry air into her lungs. The clamour of the marketplace cranked back up to full volume, even more vibrant and alive than before, the sounds and smells and colours accentuated by the temporary sensory paralysis of terror.

            Her shirt clinging to her back and dark circles of sweat under her arms, she wondered aloud why she put herself through these challenges, these adventures. Why she constantly stepped outside her comfort zone.



In the shower, Alice’s mind wanders from the snake, the dust and the relentless heat of Morocco to a sparkling waterfall in a land of majestic mountains and crystal clear rivers. She turns the temperature control to cold and the spray head to its harshest setting to try to replicate that experience. Squealing and gasping, she splashes the water around, swooshing it down her body, relishing its invigorating sting.



The waterfall was a very welcome sight after trekking for hours through the humid terrain between the towering Andes Mountains and lush Amazon rainforest. She preferred far-reaching views to the claustrophobic intimacy of the forest, but soon they would reach the ancient ruined temple, only recently discovered thanks to new, ground-breaking technology. That is, if they didn’t get lost.

            ‘Not even the sun to guide us,’ she mused, squinting up through the thick canopy overhead.

            ‘Must be around noon, judging by the angle of the…aargh!’ she cried out as she fell full-length to the ground.

            Her ankle twisted under her and she winced in agony. Her guide, Hernando, ran back to where she lay. Grabbing the straps of her ruck-sack he hauled her upright, ignoring her yelps of pain.

            ‘You should watch where you’re going,’ he told her brusquely.

            She was blushing, hair dishevelled, eyes smarting. She laughed good-naturedly and agreed that she was indeed an idiot but there was no harm done, no bones broken, only her pride was bruised. Anxious not to delay their journey she insisted she was fine and fell into step, limping and grimacing, behind her taciturn companion. To her relief and delight they at last broke through a thicket of undergrowth to find the ground suddenly falling away and, a few hundred yards ahead, the waterfall, its raging torrents an assault on the ears after the forest’s muffled soundtrack. All that remained for that day was to scramble down through the trees to where they were to camp for the night beside the river and, she hoped, a swim in its revitalising waters.



Stepping out of the shower, Alice is careful to put her weight onto her left foot first, her right ankle still tender from her fall. Gently towelling herself dry she remembers the raw pain of that day and knows she should be grateful that it has at last subsided to a dull ache. She dresses slowly and deliberately, choosing a midnight-blue kaftan and a pair of dangling earrings bought at a church fete but looking just like a trinket from an Egyptian bazaar.



The traders in the souq at Luxor were beguiled by her long blonde hair and intensely blue eyes.

            ‘Where you from, pretty lady?’ asked a giant of a man in a stained khaki gallibaya. His eyes, like raisins in pomegranate juice, appraised her greedily.

            ‘United Kingdom…Bath,’ she answered him.

            ‘Near to Honiton? My cousin lives in Honiton.’ he proclaimed, arms outstretched, ready to welcome her into his family.

            ‘Really? That’s amazing!’

            ‘And if you believe that…’ Waleed, her Egyptian guide, snorted. ‘The last person he asked will have said they came from Honiton. Trust me, give him half an hour and his cousin will be living in Bath.’

            ‘You want new husband, beautiful lady?’ her suitor persisted.

            ‘Come on!’ Waleed urged, keeping a tight hold on her arm.

            They continued to push and shove their way through the souq, exchanging jokes and banter with the grinning stall holders.

            Glad to be back in her cool, peaceful hotel room, she had one last task before she could retire, exhausted, to bed. Sipping refreshing mint tea, she listened for a moment to the haunting call to prayer drifting across the Nile before summing up what she had seen and experienced that day.

            There is a timelessness here,’ she said. ‘The river with its graceful feluccas; the souq, forever colourful and chaotic; the people, hard-working and hospitable. It is a truly beautiful country.’


 Alice peers down into her cup at two soggy mint leaves which have escaped the tea strainer. Slipping on her reading glasses, she studies the TV Guide. University Challenge will start in fifteen minutes; just time to make a fresh pot of tea and choose a biscuit from the fancy selection she won in the U3A raffle.

            Hobbling through to her tidy little kitchenette she refills the kettle. Perhaps she will give the mint tea a miss this time; it’s very nice, but you can’t beat a proper brew, perfect with the quintessentially British University Challenge. She smiles; she’s had quite enough mint tea and travel documentaries for one day.

About the author  

Retired Administrator Kate is enjoying sitting around and making things up. She’s trying a bit of everything and is delighted with her success so far: poems published by The People’s Friend; Flash Fiction in Secret Attic, Early Works Press and Briefly Write; and short stories shortlisted in various competitions.

Monday 30 May 2022

The Toilet Renovations by Hannah Retallick, a chilly glass of whatever she was served

Violet rushed to the toilet after dropping the children at school; there was no time beforehand. Her trousers pooled on the floor. She leant back against the condensation-dripping cistern, its cold body joining hers, and examined the tatty walls and ceiling. Something had to be done.

The ensuing renovations took months. She stripped the green mould-speckled wallpaper in December, peeling it from the corners. Then Michael broke his wrist on New Year’s Eve and froze her progress.

When he returned to his work in March, she gouged off the remaining paper with an old palette knife, careful not to damage the drywall beneath. Then Kevin had a stomach bug; the toilet became depressingly functional.

She managed to paint the ceiling with Chantilly Lace before a late Wintery spell clutched them. Then she lost heart.

Spring reminded Violet of her mission. She prepared the walls and covered them with Lulworth Blue – watery, subtle, and appropriate. The two boys formed a coalition to obstruct her with calls of boredom and attention starvation. Gently pushing little Kai out of paint’s way, she studied the bright whiteness above, deciding that there was something missing; she knew what it was and would not rest until she had it.

Violet added the final touch, with no one else’s approval. The chandelier was entirely impractical. Its mass of twinkling icicles hung so low that you had to duck as you entered, then shuffle towards the toilet, twist, and place yourself on the seat. It couldn’t go unnoticed.

About the author


Hannah Retallick is a twenty-eight-year-old from Anglesey, North Wales. She was home educated and then studied with the Open University, passing her Creative Writing MA with a Distinction. She has been shortlisted/highly commended in many international competitions and won Second Place with Cranked Anvil Press in January 2022. https://www.hannahretallick.co.uk/about

Sunday 29 May 2022

Gordon and Margy by Judith Skilleter, milky tea


Gordon and Margy have been happily married for over 40 years. (I have to say here, or Margy would be very cross, that she is Margy with a hard G, the same as her beloved Gordon, and not as in giraffe.)

Gordon and Margy celebrated their Ruby Wedding anniversary last year with all their friends and relatives around them – brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews came to celebrate. Sadly there were no children of their own at the celebration; despite a lot of very pleasant trying no children came their way during their marriage and therefore all their spare love not meant for each other went to much loved brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews. And this love is reciprocated. Gordon and Margy are adored by all their family and friends.

Gordon worked for a building firm until a couple of years ago when he took retirement. He measured things and wore a hard hat from time to time. At least that was how Margy described his job. Margy worked for the same building firm until about 30 years ago when word processors and computers took over from typewriters. She hated these new ways of working, she hated losing the ping when she came to the end of a line and she absolutely hated finding that her hard won and well preserved shorthand skills were no longer of any use. So she resigned and got a job in a vet as receptionist where she reluctantly learned how to use a spread sheet on the resident computer. She loved her second career and somehow a lot of stray and unloved dogs ended up sharing the lives of Gordon and Margy. They became the children they had never had and shared their love. The animals more than made up for having to learn these horrible computer skills,

Life was good, very good, until a year ago. Gordon and Margy were so looking forward to Gordon’s retirement. They had plans. They had a motor home which had only been used for weekends away so far, and their new plan was that they and the dogs – they had three – would set off and see Great Britain. Margy especially fancied Scotland but not in the midge season. Gordon too wanted to travel north of the border; he was looking forward to visiting the Kingdom of Fife; it sounded so romantic. And anyway he could visit St Andrews and see the famous golf course there if they went to Fife.

But Margy started developing symptoms around about the time of Gordon’s retirement. She didn’t give these symptoms much though at first, after all she was getting older and things never worked as well when you were old as they did when you were young.

Her symptoms were not much at first: a bit of dizziness and visual problems which she put down to needing new glasses. And then she got pins and needles in her feet that wouldn’t go away and she felt very unsteady when she walked. Even getting her words out became a problem and she was one who could talk for England. “Bloody old age” she reckoned was the cause of all these changes.

Gordon too had been noticing these small changes that together were getting in the way of Margy enjoying life and he was worried. He suggested she see their GP but at first she refused - “Don’t be so daft, it’s just me getting older.”

But when she started peeing and couldn’t get to the loo in time she agreed to go to the GP. Margy was very proud and always looked and smelled good. Her favourite perfume was Rush by Gucci and she wore it every day.

After many investigations the GP had bad news for Gordon and Margy – she had multiple sclerosis and no, it would not go away but rather it would get worse and no, the GP could not say whether it would get worse quickly or slowly. They had to make changes in their life to accommodate this unwanted but permanent visitor.

The news was a horrible shock for Gordon and Margy; there were many tears and sleepless nights and questions to all sorts of health professionals. How on earth were they going to manage this awfulness?

All their family and friends came around and promised to help but Gordon and Margy knew that this was something they fundamentally had to manage themselves and they thanked them politely and said that if there was anything they needed they would be sure to get in touch. Gordon amd Margy were nevertheless very grateful for these kind offers

They tried the Scottish trip in the motorhome. It was Ok but very difficult. Margy, by this time, was having difficulty with stairs and the steps into the van were high and steep. And the toilet was very narrow and uncomfortable. Margy was needing more bathroom help by the time of the trip and there was no room for two people in the van’s toilet. She was less able with her hands as well so Gordon had taken over the cooking and cleaning at home and these would be his responsibilities on their travels in the motorhome. And then there was tiredness, total all-day fatigue. Margy would fall asleep in the chair in the middle of a conversation. She burned herself sometimes as cups of tea were spilled as she dropped off to sleep. Life was no longer good – life had become hard work. 

They took a wheelchair to Scotland, just as a precaution. It was needed more than they realised and the St Andrews’ cobbles were not welcoming to an elderly man pushing his elderly wife in a wheelchair. They came home early and the motor home was sold. Gordon and Margy’s travel dreams were put to one side.

At home, the intimacy and physical love that had always been an important part of their relationship became difficult. Their love making before had not included the words and phrases such as “Oh, I’m sorry” or “Does this hurt” or “Just wait a minute while I get more comfortable” or “Are you sure?” They made do with cuddles, warm, affectionate, as–close–as-possible cuddles.

Then there was guilt. Margy felt very bad that she had ruined the end of their life together. She felt that Gordon deserved more than this – a sick wife with increasing physical needs that really he should not have to think about. He should be planning trips and outings rather than daily visits to the chemist. Margy even suggested that she went to a care home for a week or so or they employed a carer to live so he could go on holiday. “But where would I go? How on earth would I enjoy myself without you? Don’t be daft. Just no. I don’t want to talk about this again” was his reply.

Gordon too felt guilty because although he adored Margy he wanted more from his retirement and his thoughts too did drift from time to a time to when he would have time to himself. And then he felt so bad for having these thoughts that he was extra attentive for days. Life without Margy was unthinkable.

With reluctance they accepted help from their family. A rota was organised and a niece or a nephew came and sat with Margy while Gordon went to the pub or played bowls – or just had free time. The family also took over their shopping – or at least they organised deliveries so that Gordon did not have to go to the supermarket where he worried all the time that Margy had fallen or burned herself with another dropped cup of tea.

As for the dogs, they were found new homes. It was just all too much for Gordon looking after the dogs as well as Margy. This was another huge loss for the two of them, another dream had disappeared.

They moved house. They moved from their dream bungalow, made just as they liked it over the years and where they hoped to end their days together, to a smaller bungalow with all sorts of aids and adaptation to help Gordon help Margy – to make multiple sclerosis less of a problem. They hated the bungalow that was more like a hospital ward than a comfy home. And it was only in this hateful place where everything was a reminder of how things had become that they occasionally bickered and got upset about the state of things. It was as if multiple sclerosis had taken over their lives, which, in many ways, it had.

Before too long Margy needed permanent nursing care. Gordon sold their home and bought a studio flat near to the care home where she was now living so he could visit daily. It was the only time they had lived apart in nearly 50 years and it broke his heart. He could have moved in with her, the home had facilities for couples to live together but Margy said no to this. There were a few tearful and even angry conversations about living separately as Margy told her well-loved husband that he had to get used to a life alone. He had to get used to a life without her – even a life with someone else one day and they might as well start now.

Margy wanted to prepare for the end of her life, something that she knew was coming sooner rather than later, without him with her all the time. Her next step was too important a step to take with onlookers, no matter how loved the onlookers might have been. And although it broke her heart to think about it, she wanted Gordon to get a bit more used to a life alone.

She even told him that after she had died she wanted him to be happy and if that meant with another woman then that was OK.  Permission was given for him to marry again. At this Gordon burst into floods of tears, no. way, he said, could Margy be replaced in his life

Margy was ready for her death when it eventually came. She was fed up with living, or at least she was fed up with existing with multiple sclerosis. She had no faith, she had no God, and she was not afraid of what might come next – or even if nothing came next. Anything would be better than being dependant on others for almost every aspect of a very limited life. Anything would be better than these feelings of being useless, of being unable to do much and this lack of dignity no matter how hard her carers tried. She knew Gordon would be very sad but the family would rally round and look after him and one day he would be an active citizen enjoying life again.

And that was what happened.

 About the author

 Judith Skilleter is new to writing fiction after a long career in social work and teaching and her first children's novel will be published shortly. She is a Geordie, who settled in East Yorkshire 45 years ago and is married with three grandchildren

Saturday 28 May 2022

Enhancing Belief by Kim Farleigh, craft beer


Yellow leaves coloured cobblestones behind a stone wall. The open shutters on a building facing the cobblestones resembled listening ears. The cobblestones glowed as parting celestial vapours revealed blue immensity.


“You must be petrified,” a joking woman asked Eugenio, “being with so many women?”


He was with nineteen, waiting to enter the building to see an exhibition.


“Men are less interested in culture,” another woman said.


“They prefer football,” another one added, heads rocking in agreement.




The black-and-white photographs of early-twentieth-century Paris revealed the city’s compositional delicacy, each photograph a harmonious unit in an exquisite whole.


The women chattered before the photographs, fighting to win the Battle of Insight, Paris before the twentieth century really arrived irrelevant in comparison to acknowledgement.


Morning mists softened the photographed facades. The infinite shades, Eugenio realised, between black and white yields dramatic depths.


Parisian shopwindows indicated the entrepreneurial skill behind the marketing of craft in a world made by men.


The fifty-three men Eugenio counted in the gallery admired those infinite shades between black and white. Some gay; but gay men don’t count. Some short; short men count even less. Some plump and bald. Can plump, bald men be men? 


Many of those men were carrying expensive cameras. Although “less interested in culture,” and maybe not being “men,” they faced the infinite shades. The women often faced each other.  


Later, under gold leaves and black branches, that intensified each other, this symbolising for Eugenio the gallery’s events, he watched the women’s gesticulations and their eyes’ whites whitening when believing they had hit some nail’s head with perspicacity’s hammer.


“Excuse me,” Eugenio said.


Sixteen went quiet. Someone insisted the three others stop talking, a passing car droning into silence.


“A question,” Eugenio said.


The silence emphasised the rustling of leaves from a gust of breeze that swept across the neocortex-convolution cobblestones. The women, with white-eyed wonderment, stared surprised, the quietude so vast it seemed to hit the whites, greys, blacks, and blues above, bouncing off them, reverberating, booming, hushing, swishing, silence, too, having infinite shades.


“How many people were inside when we entered?” Eugenio asked.


Two of the nineteen recalled uniform nodding in agreement. One worried: A rash generalisation?


The penetrating silence seemed to prise open their mouths, yielding striking ignorance.


That expression, Eugenio thought, precedes the trip towards empiricism. 


“No idea,” one said. “Why?”


“Fifty-three,” Eugenio replied. “How many were men?”


“Maybe half?” another asked.


“Why would half have been men if men prefer football?” Eugenio asked.


“Maybe they were with women?” another one asked.


Possibility murmurs wafted from their mouths. French-style palaces designed by men lined the street. The voluptuous wrought iron topping the wall beside them was also designed by men. 


“They were with each other,” Eugenio replied.


“You mean?” a twosome member began. “You sure?”


“Shall we wait and see who leaves?” Eugenio asked.


Two men left the gallery. Their black-framed glasses suggested intellect. They were deep in conversation. Camera bags hung from their shoulders.


“There were no women when we went in?” one of the women asked.


“None,” Eugenio replied. “All fifty-three were men.”


Eugenio had to be either a liar, a misogynist or stupid. So they didn’t wait to see who left the gallery.




But ridiculous belief isn’t the preserve of any group or sex. Inspired by unjustified superiority, it eases difficulties. Freedom means eliminating difficulties. We even create heaven–and illusions of clarity that create satisfying identities. Surely this can’t be reality? we cry. 




The tavern sold craft beers that ranged from yellow to dark brown to black, like, Eugenio thought, belief. Some people preferred soft yellows, others hard, dark brown. Black outlooks also existed. Froths decorated those colours that tasted nicely, like accuracy, our common hope.


“People are so stupid,” Rob said.


He was facing Eugenio.


“They’re oblivious,” Rob continued, “that immigration stimulates economies.”


“Is it intellect,” Eugenio proposed, “or emotional disturbance?”


“Stupidity,” Rob replied. “They believe the rubbish in the press.”


“Belief,” Eugenio replied, “helps them confuse their xenophobic narrow-mindedness with cultural superiority. You’re assuming reality interests them. Reality obstructs xenophobes from justifying their bitterness.”


“So Cameron underestimated that bitterness?” Brian asked.


He was beside Rob.


“Cameron and his cohorts,” Eugenio replied, “manipulated that bitterness.”


“So why did he offer a referendum?” Brian asked.


“Maybe,” Eugenio replied, “he wanted to lose it?”


“What?” Rob asked.


“Do you think,” Eugenio began, “he wanted to win?”


Cameron had declared himself a remainer.


“Why would someone who avoids tax want to win a referendum that would have kept Britain in an institution that wants to eliminate tax havens?” Eugenio asked. “Did he ever mention real problems, like Northern Ireland, before the referendum?”


“I can’t remember,” Rob said.


“Northern Ireland appeared as an issue after the referendum,” Eugenio said. “And there was no mention by the press of Brits being kicked out of Europe or the difficulties of exporting goods to the continent.”


Brian believed Cameron had been “naïve” in offering the referendum. Everyone else on the table, except Eugenio, had agreed. An ex-British Prime Minister from an elite family, with access to privileged information, had been “naïve.”


“What’s your point?” Rob asked.


“I’ve already said it,” Eugenio replied. “He wanted Britain out of the EU.”


“Why didn’t he just say that?” Rob asked.


“Because Merkel made him agree that financial transparency should take place across Europe,” Eugenio replied. “That is, eliminate tax havens. Where do you think he and his social class have got their money?”


Rob’s chin rose, struck by an uppercut of disbelief.


“You’re saying,” Rob said, “it was a conspiracy?”


Eugenio called Rob an “anti-conspiracy theorist.”     


“A cover up,” Eugenio replied. “That’s humanity’s story–one cover up after another.”


“How do you know Cameron has got his money in tax havens?” Brian asked.


He wanted to trap Eugenio into saying: “I don’t know for sure.”


“I know one of Cameron’s cousins,” Eugenio replied. “Guess what we spoke about when we met?”


“How did you meet this cousin?” Brian asked.


“During a wine tasting,” Eugenio replied. “So what do you think we spoke about?”


That silence Eugenio had “heard” so often thickened, giving sounds a cracking roundness.


“Tax havens,” Brian said, drolly.


“And what else?” Eugenio asked.


“Brexit?” Brian pondered, ruefully.


“She’s also got her money in the Isle of Man,” Eugenio said.


Rob was disbelieving because he suffered from a rare affliction called “too nice.” His psychology hid from him the magnitude of human corruption. He had excessive faith in humanity. His probity, he believed, had to be universal. It just had to be. How could members of a hallowed institution like The Commons be tax-evading criminals? People of Rob’s ilk couldn’t be so bad. Such tendencies weren’t British.


“Britain,” Eugenio said, “is the world’s most corrupt country.”


“What?!” Rob snorted. “What about Afghanistan or India–and hundreds of others.”


“Chickenfeed by comparison,” Eugenio replied. “Do you think every rich bastard on earth has got their money in Afghanistan?”


The silence whiplashed above the auditory spectrum.


“Why do you think that you didn’t know that every rich bastard on this planet has got money in British tax havens?” Eugenio asked.


“How do you know that?” Brian asked.


He still hoped to expose Eugenio’s “unfounded speculation.”


“I worked for twenty years in taxation in Britain,” Eugenio replied. “That’s how I know. I made the rich richer.”


Brian should have been grateful for receiving enlightenment. But virtue often sinks in the mud of dubious chance.


“So,” Eugenio asked, “what’s the answer to my question?”


“What’s the answer?” Brian asked.


Brian sought a chink in Eugenio’s argument. He had been so pleased with himself when saying that “Cameron was naïve,” people having nodded like puppets manipulated by their intellectual deity.


“Because the world’s media mongrels have got their money in British tax havens as well. They wanted Britain out of the EU.”


“They all wanted to destroy Britain?” Rob asked.


“That,” Eugenio replied, “is infinitely less important to them than people finding out the reality.”


“What reality?” Brian asked.


He needed that chink.


“British politicians receive piles of cash from companies to either change or not change legislation,” Eugenio explained. “The invoices are raised from tax havens where politicians have shelf companies; its legal because, of course, politicians make the rules. Shall I continue?”


Because this savagely compromised Rob’s vision of universal values, the so-called values of his clan, Eugenio’s ideas resembled personal attacks. Surely decent people were in power? There were–but not many.


A woman on Rob’s right said: “La Vanguardia claimed that there is enough money in The Isle of Man to pay for the salaries of thirty-four million nurses in Spain. That refers specifically to unpaid tax.”


“I read that too,” Eugenio said. “There’s enough money in tax havens to eliminate poverty. But the danger to the rich isn’t great enough for that to happen.”


“You mean social revolution?” she asked.


She wanted to learn, not save herself from having a belief exposed as absurd.


“That, too,” Eugenio replied. “But what I really mean is that people just don’t want to know. This saves the privileged from exposure. If people knew what I know–and especially if they had the psychological capability of knowing that–the rich wouldn’t be able to appear in public. But they can because the press protects them, so what I know will remain largely hidden. They know people believe what they read, like Cameron being naïve, without understanding why such lies are printed.”


Brian’s scornful silence magnified before the amusement rippling across the woman’s face. 




The church’s walls displayed angels, clouds, and cherubs and friars performing miracles: fish multiplying on a lake’s edge before a priest’s raised, fish-attracting palms; a man’s severed foot reuniting with his leg; a blind man receiving sight, his left hand reaching towards a sun that symbolised rebirth, the bandage once covering his eyes falling off. Men with long beards and open arms, and curvaceous women in loose dresses, were floating beside white clouds. Bearded kings, clutching staves, graced thrones under winged hominids. Supernaturalism abounded, eternal annihilation apparently impossible, the laws of physics dismissed.


The church was full. People Eugenio knew were seated here and there to guarantee seats for a free Bach concert after the service.


A little surrealism never hurts, Eugenio quipped to himself.       


A priest appeared from a side door. His satin, pink ensemble fell from his neck to his feet,  a white cross sewn into the pink from chest to stomach. The table before him supported candles in medieval candelabra. Candle flames flickered when the priest moved as if a spirit filled the nave. Everyone got up except Eugenio who rose as everyone else sat down. A friend of Eugenio’s–Olivia–on seeing Eugenio’s disorientation placed a hand over her mouth to hide her smile. Absurdity discomforted Eugenio. For the sake of listening to Bach in a beautiful church he had to endure “unbelievable belief.”


The priest raised his hands towards anti-gravity cherubs who floated in a stratosphere of flying hominids. Presumably, the priest could zing requests across fifteen billion light years of space to a server of unimaginable dimensions. Latin left his lips.


This beats the Cyclops, Eugenio thought, for unreality.


Hamlet claimed there were more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt in a rational man’s philosophy. Great, Eugenio thought, now prove it.


The priest seemed to be talking to ghosts. Is he, Eugenio thought, the only who sees ghosts? Are the rest of us are blind? Or is it the other way around?


Again Eugenio was the last to stand and sit. A person beside Olivia, suspecting that Olivia was non-flock, sneered with disdainful eyes as Olivia’s titillated stomach bounced. Repressing her hilarity, she lowered the hand that had hidden her giggling face.


The real churchgoers floated in facile goodness. Maybe, Eugenio thought, they’re so afraid of imperfection that religion must crush the evil spirits of self-knowledge? Church attendances halt self-analysis, while suggesting that death is dead.


Bach created relief from a gravity-free world of flying primates who mocked permanent obliteration. Why does truth frighten some people and others not?




Olivia’s dentures, seemingly connected to the electricity grid, flashed as Eugenio approached. 


“Have you seen the light?” she whispered.


Her eyes gleamed. We love seeing our friends suffer from things that won’t affect them for long.


“Somehow,” Eugenio replied, “the light avoids me. I lurk in dark scepticism.”


Olivia had a big laugh. Her throat and stomach put everything into it.


“Imagine,” Eugenio said, “wearing fancy dress and speaking to a ceiling of fantasy creatures. That only happens on earth. It’s too surreal for other places.”


Olivia spasmed with laughter. She wiped tears from her eyes.


“Too bad,” Eugenio added, “he wasn’t attached to ropes so they could pulley him up to the ceiling.”


Olivia’s head tilted up as she fired staccato guffaws into the cool, night air.


“The older I get,” Eugenio continued, “the more I see absurdity. Apparently I’m a cynic for recognising what is patently ridiculous or impossible to know.”


“But,” Olivia asked, “don’t you think there’s a force?”


He admired her sarcasm.


“Someone should tell them,” Eugenio replied, “that, yes, there is. That’s why we’re not floating in the stratosphere. Imagine giving an electromagnetism a beard and an ethical disposition.”


“My God,” Olivia said, sarcastically, “you’re such a cynic!”


“Isn’t it terrible,” Eugenio replied, “that cynics need that dreadful thing called evidence? Why can’t they just be stupid and believe anything? You won’t believe what happened to me yesterday.”


He told her about the exhibition.


“You mean,” Olivia said, “that there are hardly any memorable men?”


“It’s incredible,” Eugenio said, “because it’s just simple statistics. How can you arrive at a conclusion related to what is a statistical question without having the slightest interest in statistics or observation?”


“Or,” she replied, “in men? It’s beautiful being a superior victim.”


“Most men,” Eugenio said, “aren’t beautiful enough to be remembered.”


He appreciated that Olivia’s sarcasm came from justified anger. This, he thought, is the other reaction besides discomfort that the rational have towards fact crushing.


“Get this,” Eugenio remarked. “I was with Brian and Rob last Monday. Brian thinks Cameron was naïve in offering the Brexit referendum.”


Olivia stopped walking.


“Weottt?!” she said. “I can understand Rob believing that, but Brian?”


Eugenio was amazed by how gobsmacked she looked.


“Brian believes that?!” she asked.


“Yes,” Eugenio replied. “That shows you how bad the anti-truth problem is.”


“My God,” she said, not ironically.  


They entered a bar with people from their classical music group. Down-to-earth realism abounded: A TV showing football. Legs of ham hanging from the ceiling in unashamed demonstrations that people kill animals despite attempts to sanitise reality.


We want, Eugenio thought, to believe that only birth and regeneration exist without deterioration and death.


“Too bad,” someone called Adrian said, “that the church’s walls weren’t painted with abortion scenes.”


Olivia rocked with laughter. Adrian was another “cynic.”


“But,” Eugenio said, “that would upset the Lord.”


“I wonder,” Adrian said, “how they know that universe creators detest abortion.”


“Believing anything,” Eugenio replied, “saves time and money on research.”


Olivia’s eyes were awash with tears of joy.


“Olivia believes they can tell women what to do,” Eugenio said. “Isn’t that right, Olivia?”


“Of course,” Olivia replied. “Women need guidance from higher forces–like men. Why else are we here?”


Everyone laughed except a woman who said: “Please–I’m religious.”


She was young and white-faced with black hair. The black, emphasising the white, made her look innocently angelic.


“And?” Eugenio asked.


Everyone faced her. Did her “superior vision” allow the “uninformed” to speak?


The silence resembled a soundless tsunami, sweeping across the ocean of human mindlessness, to destroy obstacles to objectivity.


“And,” she said, “I don’t appreciate your comments.”


“Are you telling us what to say?” Olivia asked.


The woman became frightened. They had belittled her self-ordained moral superiority.


“Believe whatever you like,” Eugenio said, “but if you impose your ideas upon others through politics then that exposes those ideas to analysis.”


This had never occurred to her. She slunk into her seat like soapy water disappearing down a drain.




Later, Olivia said: “That stupid woman thought we were going to say: ‘Oh, so sorry, we shouldn’t express our opinions because you confuse mythology with reality. How inconsiderate of us. Why don’t we just let the church tell us what to think? It must be 1AD. I thought it was 2022. How silly of me!’”


Eugenio mortar-round chuckles struck the icy air. Vapour puffed like indignation from their mouths. Neon lights glowed in a darkness of dead leaves and bare branches. A wind wand made yellow pellets shower from twigs that resembled black wiring against a dark-grey sky.


“We could really advance,” Eugenio said, “if corruption didn’t exist and people could think.”


“We’d have to become a different species,” Olivia replied.


“Absolutely,” Eugenio said.




A different species, Eugenio thought. I feel like a visitor from elsewhere. My discomfort before absurdity suggests I arrived from outside the Solar System. I feel disquieted by what many people believe is sacred. Religion confirms for politicians that believing thrives. They manipulate people’s trust in institutions that provide a sense of cultural superiority–that generate pride in assumed superior affiliations. They enhance that pride by associating it with appealing visions of purported truth, for hope outweighs objectivity in human imagination. People confusing mythology with reality reduces standards of living, obstructing progress. We dislike empiricism. Consequently, I will continue to be pasted with puerile labels.

About the author

 Kim has worked for NGOs in Greece, Kosovo, Iraq, Palestine and Macedonia. He likes to take risks to get the experience required for writing. 188 of his stories have been accepted by 108 different magazines.