Halloween looms somewhere on the horizon and the skies are darkening all around us. This issue, we asked our creative writers to think on the question ‘what’s out there?’ in their pieces, and the responses were anything but dull; from the Wizard of Oz to a series of neglected text messages floating around in cyberspace.

Green & Gold
Green and gold, cut and stuck
horizontal with space lights fanning a
spread
of filters into the speckled reach
until the surface flinches the great rocky
gears crouch
a lethargic arthritic revolve.

I am home but home keeps turning
it’s hard to pretend that nothing changes
at all
friends get closer and i’m not as tall.

My letters can’t share to you
the pain and the chill of home’s lost
thrill
Only the iced bowling ball of a planet
and the mother’s final try
shift the telegrammer’s set panic

And while the harvester jitters across the silver
plain
among the planted towers and hung
sent from the sky
He thinks to himself
why – home’s changed a lot since I left
the air is different, there’s no dust.

Dearest Ma, ha! yes you have won
You have yourself a happy son.
But the pen ink runs out
and he cannot carry on.
A slow setting in of panic, and running doubt.

Hugo Douglas-Deane

No Place Like Home Dorothy clicked her shoes: once, twice,
thrice,
wishing to return home.
A thousand ages descended upon her,
returning her to dusty Kansas.
Where was her sepia dreamland?
She was greeted by an indifferent city.
Foreign faces with copper brown tans,
chatter in twisted tongues.
Air-heated like the expressions of the people.
The moon appears, the orchestra begins.
Ten hundred thousand insects
rub their wings together,
for an endless night of noise.
Dorothy stood lost in the land she knew so
well.
How long had she been gone? Oz made
Kansas seem lost,
a dustbowl desert, yielding loneliness.
The Witch of the North
sprawled across Hooters billboards.
Where was her lion-hearted friend,
her man in tin armour to save her from this
world?
Ruby red slippers now myth,
replaced with thrift-shop jelly shoes.
Somewhere over the rainbow, lies lost 1939.
This state had long been left to the story books.
To be born here is to die here;
isolation is the real killer.
Not a friend in all three million,
as stray as cats and dogs that roam the street.
The derelict American Dream
that stands haunted
in the dusty window pane.
Auntie Em long since gone,
vanished in the twister.
The scarecrow hung in the corn field
is not your friend.
You can turn to Wendy, Papa John, Ronald
McDonald. They’ll see you don’t lose your way.
Drown your sorrows in Blue Ribbon
that once held up your hair so beautifully.
Send Munchkins through metal detectors,
hope they get something out of today
because today is the same as tomorrow.
This isn’t Kansas, Dorothy.
Not as you know it.
Now try and look for yesterday in tomorrow.

Amber Donovan

Hope You’re Having Fun
14/09/15 18.26 – Hi! It’s me, sorry about calling you the other night, was so weird of me, hahaha. How are you anyway? How is Sheffield? X
16/09/15 12.10 – Yo bud! How are you doing?! Hope it’s all going well with the new job, missing you loads x
17/09/15 08.07 – I just tripped over running for the bus. Hit the ground hard. Mud stain on jeans. Knee and pride both wounded. Am texting you so I don’t have to look at anyone.
19.10 – I missssssssssss you! Talk to me…
19/09/15 23.22 – Talk to me bud!
20/09/15 16.47 – Where are you?!
16.49 – Is this still your number?
21/09/15 18.20 – I have checked with Izzy, she says this is still your number…?
24/09/15 20.39 – Rob brought in pictures of his new motorcycle today –motorcycle. Rob. From Accounts Payable. Cannot belieeeeeve you weren’t there to take the piss with me. I hope you’re having fun up there!
25/09/15 00.56 – Ok so you don’t want to talk to me, I guess? Which is fine! Like, bit weird because I’m kind of really good at conversations and you know that obviously because we used to have them all the time-remember that one about the cats? That was a good one. So I’m just a bit confused, I guess..? About why you don’t want to talk. To me.
26/09/15 11.15 – Like you’re probably sooooooo busy though! And meeting new people can be really overwhelming. It’s ok if you are struggling. That is it, isn’t it? It’s a bit shit up there. Maybe you’re having a really terrible time there and you’re really embarrassed that you went because what’s there isn’t any better than what’s here and maybe it’s not as good even because like maybe there’s nothing that good anywhere and all the fun stuff to do has been done by other people already and actually all there is anywhere is just talk and words and clocks and that cat conversation was actually really good. And I think that maybe when you left you accidentally packed a bell jar in your suitcase and all the air up there tastes so sour you can’t breathe and so you’ve had to get an inhaler and that only leaves one hand free to text and then you run the risk of accidentally sending a sticker or something so best not take that risk, I can understand that. You could always call me though? Just put me on speaker or something? Because I just feel like clearly you’re going through something right now and you’re looking for something and that’s why you left, to look for it there, in Sheffield but like just hear me out because what if it’s me, like maybe, and I know that sounds stupid because I’m not what you look for in a girl or a woman or whatever but MAYBE that’s why you haven’t found it?!!! That would make sense, wouldn’t it? In a funny way, it would. Like, how funny would that be, if I was it? So funny. So so funny, haha. So, I’m just saying like if you’re not texting me back because you got there and stuff was different but you weren’t, you were just you but there instead of here, it’s ok because I’m still me here, like a bit less maybe, like when you write something in pencil and rub it out but you can still see it even if you don’t want to, it’s still there and I’m still here so just talk to me, please.
11.25 – Also you’re probably snowed under with work, I know what that’s like, haha!
11.27 – (It’s Maggie by the way! In case you lost your contacts.)
12.18 – Anyway I won’t text you again until you want to talk. Hope you’re having fun!
29/09/15 12.33 – OMG, ROB GOT HIS EAR PIERCED!!

Tatum O’Leary

A Ben Sat On By Nobody
a bench sat on by nobody
but the mist

Evening is neither leaving
nor becoming, believing day neither
seeing nor night dreaming of deceiving.

You seem to only grasp at wrung halves
when shone fat on by the aloe moon,
you run to find stone meaning

less than what could be imagined
behind your senseless eyes’ surprise feeling:
reasoning, is not what brings season to pass,

it’s an euthanising clasp, an idea glanced
to stone. not breath anymore but word shards

behind the lives of a glass-blower’s cast,
imagination’s sand seer of silent sirens
left like accents clung to the moods in dunes

of existence. In this and in that in this, flits
a patient painter who feels the centre soul as
its porous ceiling. He says release

perceiving outward what is not within

our umbilical convex, and let us in ourselves
be
red less dust undressed by the addressee-irre
ality,

a bee hung weightless in wing beating
thought.

let us forget doors and their habit of running
away, and summon of ourselves our own
opening to shadeless effluence

it is not what’s out there but what is here
within
what you touch, and never know to be there,

to hear in the flit of blind air, the stare

of the century asleep
to the unanswerable conundrum of its heart

Carlo Saio

The Trip
He fell back, balancing his upper-body weight against the chair. His face was masked with a stretching smile, without teeth, marking a set of lines near his eyes and at the corners of his mouth. They traced across his expression like a topographic map. From my view across from him, he seemed in a trance, a great pleasure land from which the rest of us were banned. Then, in one great hit, he crashed forward in-between his knees, his hands crunched about his neck, the fingers lovingly stroking his collar bone. He laughed over and over, loudly, but not rudely. It was like a great sexual laugh. Slight, sleek and it made me shiver, almost just as longingly. Though this state lasted for a while longer, it was not to be for the entire night. Soon, his gaze became disturbed, from side to side, as he shook his head in distress. Lost, he looked up, stretched out his legs and began kicking outward into the space that seperated us. He appeared saddened, very suddenly, and angry like he couldn’t understand the state he was in.

This supposition revealed itself true. He whispered, with heavy breath: “I can’t remember anything… what is it… am I inside?”

We sat around him, as we had for the last couple of hours of his ride. This was the moment we had feared would arrive. The girl touched his hand, hoping to calm the torment, but was rejected. He didn’t even look at her, or anyone. His eyes were glued to the ceiling, staring at the lamp that hovered above.

He whispered, this time to himself : “I am young, I, I … am …”

He began to stutter and the sweat made him seem feverish. The couple were too busy playing with each other to remark anything. The older man was leaning against the kitchen door, judging our congregation. Only the little boy and I remained in front of the sickman as the girl was sobbing softly, her hand resting on his leg. I turned to the boy below me, in his wheelchair. He smiled, like a friend would, a little unsure, a little frightened, a little critical. I stood up, walked to the man and set my knees heavily on the floor in front of him. I felt the eyes around me, I sensed the gazes deep in my back. I dove in and embraced him and held him firmly, hugging a body that felt like an animal: wet, startled and fuming.

The battle began. He kicked my legs away, as a child would in a fit, and tried forcing his arms out of my embrace. I held tight. Kept him close. I would not break this salvation. It lasted another five minutes until he screached with such intensity that I felt his chest shake. He reminded me of those sick soldiers before they died. That one last pull before they knew they must finish. It made me think of the height of a symphony, the rising of many instruments together into a great, vast peak. He extended his body out and then let go of his stress. It had ended.

He breathed stiffly and slouched about his chair again, just as he had done after the first hit. I slumped onto the floor and exhaled. The others encircled us. I almost expected applause. What had I just tamed?

Muse Giacolone