Thursday, September 13, 2012


Bob first saw him on the subway, on his way home from work. He was looking out the window, not at anything in particular, when his reflection turned its head and looked at him. Then he realized, quite relieved, that it wasn't his reflection but someone standing behind him and he turned.

And stopped. Bob's eyes widened in disbelief as he looked at this person - they looked like him. Almost exactly. They had a slightly different suit on, a different color tie, little lighter hair color, but other than that, they could have been twins.

Bob had heard of the concept of an "identical stranger" before, but he never believed it until now. He got up to talk to the stranger, but the man left the subway before he could.

Over the next few weeks, Bob kept seeing his double in various places, out of the corner of his eye. He was sitting in the corner of a bar that Bob frequented; at the restaurant Bob took his wife to; even at his office, Bob thought he caught a glimpse of the stranger.

"Great job on that report," his boss told him one morning.

"What report?" Bob asked. He had never done any report or received any request. His boss laughed it off, as if it was a joke.

People kept telling him things he had done, but he never remembered doing them. His wife thanked him for sending the flowers, saying that it was so unlike him to remember their anniversary.

One day, he didn't go to work. He just wandered around the city, wondering what was happening. His boss never called. After a while he called his wife, but something strange happened. His own voice came on the line. "Hello," Bob said. "Hello," his voice echoed.

He heard his wife's voice in the background saying, "Bob, who's on the phone?"

"Nobody, dear," the echo said. "Just a sales call." He hung up the phone.

Bob rushed home, but on the subway there, he caught his reflection in the glass. He looked gaunt and tired. In fact, he didn't look like himself at all. At his house, he looked inside and caught a glimpse of the stranger. The stranger looked more like him than he did.

Suddenly, a crushing realization hit him. Was he actually Bob? Perhaps he was the stranger. Perhaps he had got it all wrong and this house didn't belong to him at all.

As he looked into the window, the man inside looked out. They could have been mirror images a week before, twins. Now the stranger who was Bob looked out the window and smiled at the man who was nobody.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Stone Cold Grip"

Where the hell am I? It looks like it's some kind of... field... except everything is made of stone. Even the grass is crunching into rubble beneath my feet. This is a very strange place. I'm holding my jacket tighter to my person and walk on. There seems to be a large circle of trees... all made of granite, of course. I head towards it, eager to find someone in this lifeless hole.

When I break off the stone branches in order to make it to the center, I spot a circle of people... I try walking up to one of them and prod him gingerly with my hand. He topples over and shatters into many pieces on the ground. It was a statue. Nothing but a stone statue. Fuck. I need to find a way out.

Then I spot him. He was seated in his throne, in the center of the ring of statues. Another statue, this one of an old, corpsey-looking type, with sunken sockets and a stone, grey crown perched upon his head. He stares at me. I try walking a few paces to the right. His eyes were not on me now. I heard a crunch underneath my foot. I look down and see I have accidentally crushed one of the statues' feet with my boot. I look up again.

He's staring at me again.

What the hell? Walk a few paces in the other direction. I can't see his pupils anymore. I hear a noise behind me and I turn around. Nothing. I turn back again.

He's staring at me again.

This time I run completely around. Now I can't see his eyes behind his stone slab of a throne. I hear a noise behind me again. I look towards it and back again.

His head peers at me from behind his throne, his fingers clutching the top like some derranged peeping tom.

I'm running now. I can't deny the fact that I saw him move. I just keep running. I look behind me. He's standing now, an arm weakly outstretched towards me. His mouth is open in a silent scream. I look at him while I run. But I have to blink. He didn't go far, but he was getting closer every time I blink.

I couldn't bear it anymore; I collapse on the stone ground, dazed and eyes closed.

I hear the dull thud of his feet, but I can't do anything. I feel him lift me up, but in a caring gesture. I look at him. His mouth is in a wide smile. He just wanted to befriend me. I try to free myself from his grip, but I can't break free... I can't even move my arm. I look at my left arm. It was slowly becoming stone, the fingers are locked in their position. I can't feel anything. I feel the stone reach to my chest. I try to scream but my jaw is already becoming stone. My eyes gaze upwards at him. His mouth is now contorted in a very open frown, his eyes seemingly welling up with tears. I notice a mark on his forehead that I didn't notice before.

And then my eyes were stone.

"A Feast For Crows"

They came in flocks.

It started with doves, lightning-white, swarming across the sky like stratus clouds. They skidded across the rooftops, raking long cuts through them, creating the most horrible shrieking sound as they did so. Below, people stared, gawked.

Their eyes were beady and black, calculating, nothing even remotely natural in them. They only had one goal: to nest.

More birds came. Parrots, repeating back the screams of the people below; crows, bringing warnings of death; vultures, there to pick the bones of those that did not survive.

Their cries sounded more like thunder, and, indeed, lightning cracked, volts shooting through their feathers and connecting bird to bird. The electricity struck the ground over and over, shearing off entire patches of earth, ravaging it. Roofs caved in and fires started, burning brightly.

They gathered in a cluster, almost as if guarding something - or, as it was in this case, someone. In the center of the flock, the eye of the storm, were a group of monstrous-looking hawks, their skin blistered, throbbing with red, bulbous pustules. They carried a woman, dressed in a cloak of black feathers. She grinned madly, her teeth looking more like fangs.

The vultures carried her downwards and the woman landed on the ground in front of a tall, stone tower. Her smile didn't even falter as she was approached by several heavily-armored guards. Of course the place was guarded - she'd been expecting that.

"Halt," one of them cried, approaching her with an air of authority. "We know who you are. You are not permitted to come any closer."

The woman reacted with mock surprise. "Oh, I'm not? Why is that?"

"We know about you," the guard repeated, his comrades shifting impatiently on their feat behind him. "You're her - the Witch."

The woman's voice suddenly dropped into a deadly whisper as she moved closer. "You do not understand. My... friends, my children, they need to feed. The crop has been... ah, poor this year. They need to grow, and they can't do that without anything to feed on."

"You may not move any closer to the Observatory," the guard said, unyielding. "Do not make me use lethal force."

"Before my babies eat?" the woman crooned. "Oh, but that would would be rather cruel, wouldn't it? No, I think they should have a meal first. A feast."

She drew an old-looking stone dagger from her cloak's pocket, and traced the blade along her skin, drawing blood, and the heads of several birds emerged from the wound.

"Open wide."


Stepping in motion, keeping within the time. We move as one, a synchronised display. All around us, the people watch us, not daring to come closer. We want to cry out, ask for their help, but she will not let us. Our bodies are no longer our own, for all we are now is her property. When she grows bored with us, her little pets, she simply snares another and the chaos begins anew.

They say our blood is hot. They say that we must not stop, that the act of dancing will cure us. They say that God is merciful and that through this mercy, we shall be saved. But I know God has abandoned us. We know, for there is no self. We are not people, we are worthless, mere puppets on her strings. She giggles as we begin to sweat. Every time one of us falls to the ground, clutching their heart, she simply laughs and infects two more. The citizens and the councils cannot see her pulling our strings from the balcony, but we can feel them deep beneath our skin. They are all too busy building stages, buying musicians, herding us indoors like we are naught but cattle. As we continue our dance, caged like animals, manipulated by this marionette, Her strings slowly seep into their skin, the musicians, the council. The innocents.

Within a fraction of a second, the music dies. She makes a minuscule motion, a slight movement of her hand, and yet that is all she needs. Her strings are suddenly flailing wildly. People run, but where one foot takes off at a run, it comes back down dancing erratically. We dance ever more quickly, those who have been snared. Everyone runs as we cascade down the streets, but I can see our mistress finally losing her enthusiasm. One more wave, and I can feel my heart start to beat faster. And faster. The quick beat floods my ears like a steel drum. As I fall to the ground, I see the others are just the same. My ears are drowning in noise, the ground hard beneath me. As my vision slips away and darkness clouds my vision, I see the Wooden Girl wander the streets of Strasbourg.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"The Suicide Note of an Anonymous Mother"

It is with a heavy heart and shaking hand that I pen this, now. Ten years ago, when my daughter was born, I could have sworn that I knew such joy that I would never again feel sorrow. Had I known what I do now, I might have taken a blade to the babe's neck. My own daughter. My flesh and blood.

My husband, her father, was so enamored with her. I do not believe any child was so well doted upon, growing up – she was his sun, moon, and stars. Her pains, my husband felt tenfold. For each tear, he would shed three more. She occupied his every thought, and there was scarcely a sentence out of his mouth that did not mention her name.

It was inevitable, perhaps, that I would grow envious. Sickened each time I heard her mentioned, until there was no love left in my heart for her. A child so beloved, not even loved by her own mother!

I see now, I was monstrous. There is no abuse harsher than indifference.

As she grew older, her pull grew stronger. I hadn’t thought it possible, but her father’s love deepened by the day. Somehow, my heart was untouched. I could see in her face how it pained her, and often heard her gently crying herself to sleep.

Perhaps spite kept me from adoring her, as was proper – it seemed all who laid eyes on her cared about her, as though she were their own daughter. How could I not be resentful? What was wrong with me?

The trend continued, and I thought things would never change. Oh, how I pray now that I could go back and call attention to my own foolishness. My husband still felt my daughter’s hurts, and it seemed that this needed proving.

Early this morning, we both saw her run and take a tumble. She scraped her knee.

Not an hour ago, I walked in to find my husband, mutilating his leg with a kitchen knife, slicing the skin apart. I could see the white of his bone, his kneecap hanging loosely and blood all over the floor – I screamed. Screamed myself hoarse. He was so intent that he scarcely lifted his eyes.

I simply cannot cope.

I write this letter now with a noose laying across my lap, with one simple request to all who may read this:

Love her.

Love her, as I could not. Love her so dearly that she forgets all the years I gave her no affection.

Love my daughter, as a mother should.