The water drummed against the bow of the Gritty Tang as she tugged her way along the western shoals.
Captain Kona stood silently at the wheel, his calloused hands responding in twitches to the pitching and lurching of the spring swells. He glanced at the mirror, and frowned at the curtain of mist that was purling over the horizon. The rains were coming. They’d promised three fingers by evening fall. Continue reading Captain Kona
Finn spat into the lenses of his binoculars, wiped them dry, then look down into the harbour.
From the red haze on the southern horizon, the coast ran cramped and arched between the dust and sea like a green wire. There were headlands, the most extreme of which formed the southern end of the bay, a prism of forest and stone that stretched out into the sea like a chain of pyramids. The tip they called the Nail and there was a cabin and a fire they would tend to at night to warn ships away from the bluffs, or to give those who had been driven into the rocks by the relentless northern gusts, those who survived, a point of reference on the hazardous climb from the shoreline. The fire had had not burned in months.
From the sea the face of the Nail resembled the face of a man, old and unwashed, with hollow eyes. Fringes of scrub grew in thick clusters around the promontory, tumbling around deep fissures and rocky orifices, a slab of sandstone shot out parallel to the ocean’s surface and sniffed at the winds, and the roots of trees, dead and living, fed into the shallows, stirring with each flow of air and water. Finn, who had not often look upon it, fancied it to be the face of someone he’d once known, his father, or a priest, perhaps. The personalities changed with every season, each new tide of the weather lending its own character to the vegetation to the jagged coastline. Every storm and fire and flood a new wrinkle on the face of Bendethera. Continue reading Diving Bendethera
The sound is proximate and consequential, like the crack of bone.
He wakes up and curls into a ball. He waits for a pain to tell him he’s broken something, or a betraying silence that says he has finally crushed his wife to death.
When his eyes adjust to the moonlight he realizes he is not in bed, but in the desert, alone and naked, and half-buried in sand. He raises his knees and finds a bowl of felled and splintered trees. Continue reading Measuring Stars
Mr Masao Takeshi, vice president of the Ryou Corporation, squinted through the curtains of the Rialto Hotel’s breakfast room.
Outside, the brilliant May sun glittered off the water onto the buildings, filling the canal with a thousand colours. Tourists scampered over the bridge, pointing at boats, taking photos, and avoiding the Albanian scam artists at the foot of the stairs next to the stained glass boutiques. A bell rang from some distant square. Takeshi looked at his watch.
“Everyone away from the windows,” Takeshi said and straightened his Italian silk tie. “Mr Ryou’s gondola is arriving. I want everything tripled-checked, quadruple-checked… and whatever comes after that. Cutlery, the guestbook, newspapers, salami… you all know what happens now. Yukio, is the kitchen staff on standby?”
A small man with a goatee beard put a finger in his ear, then nodded.
“And the guests, Miss Minako?”
Miss Minako cocked her head. She also nodded.
“Good. Now I want you all out of sight when Mr Ryou arrives. Invisible. In this world you are from this minute on ghosts. We’ve worked too hard to fail now. I don’t need to remind you of what happened in Toledo.” Continue reading The Man Maketh the Journey
As Karen pushes through the revolving door the air begins to thicken with the tang of incense and soy sauce.
Sparkling neon lights flash blue and green and yellow messages against her white-shorts and t-shirt; in bold, red characters, a sign forbids a certain action, of which she is unsure—not to park, or spit, or linger too long in one place perhaps. She thrusts her ticket into her pocket and edges into the current of bodies. Continue reading A Breath of Fresh Tokyo
Writers of every genre will recognise the scourge of familiarity; the sense of intimacy with your own work which is so great that it renders your powers of objectivity impotent. Does this story work? Have I chosen the right phrasing? What should I cut? The questions keep coming but no one answers.
When I’m working on a piece, particularly a short story in which every paragraph must count for something, I often lose all perspective. And returning to the page every day only seems to make the condition more acute; proximity threatens to destroy creativity, like a magnifying glass burning ants as it concentrates the sun’s rays. The pressure to produce and finish stories leads to unsatisfactory conclusions or improbable characters, and I think that sometimes I’m writing simply because I feel I have to and not because I want to… or can, for that matter.
“Henrietta Saffron changed my life!” That was the one that really choked her goat. Who could have churned out something so deficient in irony than the straight-faced and loose-laced intellectuals of the seventies? Oh, but wait: “Required reading for the new age of the 80s.”
By the nineties they’d crucified the last of the scepticism and inquiry and named her the most important writer of the nineteenth century.
Talk about tossing a banana into a bus-load of monkeys.
Prue poked a strand of hair in her bun and watched her new husband’s shadow skulk around the rear of the car on his way to open the door.
His mood had worsened since they’d landed, and she regretted allowing him to become intimate with the spirits selection on the way over. Bloody Mary and Single Malt Whisky were terrible in-flight dancing partners. Somewhere over the Indian Ocean he had passed out while urinating in the toilets and it was only the swift action of the attendants in first class that had saved her from irrevocable embarrassment. Matthew wasn’t a loud drunk – he was too repressed even for that thankfully – but he was an unruly one, and if her plan was to work, she needed to keep him compliant (and sober) in the coming days. Continue reading What happened in Paris? (Part 2)
As soon as the new guy arrives, he gets the bed and I’m on the stool with my back to the wall, a lightening rod up my tail.
The warden’s jammed that book in my face again – the one about Mesopotamia, “land between rivers” – the only one in the whole damn library. And on account of my broken shoulder, my hand’s stuck in the air so it looks like I’m throwing the new guy a friendly wave, or waiting for an eventual high-five. As if I care. I don’t even get a chance to complain before it’s lights on.