Sneak peeks

 

Here you can enjoy a sneak peek into Monster. All the work on this page is from our wonderful team of MA Creative Writing students. Read on to see who tickles your literary pickle…

 

Twenty-four hour battery lifestyle – Jazmin Hill 

Frantic commuters spill coffee over their briefcases as they rush towards the platform. They queue like cattle at the enquiries desk because the ticket machine is broken once again. The clocks that litter the walls reveal that it’s almost eight-thirty.

‘The eight-forty to Chesterfield will be delayed,’ a voice crackles over the speaker.

In the café, sugar is hastily spooned in an attempt to gain a fix of energy. A liquid breakfast that allows the individual to function like the human being they believe they should be. The newspaper headlines on the stand claim that more and more people are getting less than the recommended eight hours of sleep each night and that more and more are working over fifty hours a week in order to survive. No headline links the correlation between ever reducing pay packets and increasing working hours. Market and production, profit and wage reduction.

You look at your phone only to see a blank screen and an empty battery. You feel lost with nothing to check during your delay. You tell yourself that you aren’t missing anything, that it’s only pictures of people’s breakfast and edited images that make you feel bad, but still you feel out of touch.

Footsteps are heavy on the platform as the train to Chesterfield finally arrives. People rush with their laptops, coffees, and over ambition. A woman’s scarf gets tangled in the escalator and she almost chokes pulling herself free in fear of missing her train.

 

Quiet – Liv Auckland

The roads here wake early, red-eyed-risers in the new mornings. Slippers on hoods up, they appear from doorways, light cigarettes, check the time. Passing silently go the beautiful mothers, with slender jewelled hands, pushing prams, and just a slip of face. Taxi drivers come home, welcomed in by the legs of children, dancing in the dark of the hallways. The grunt and the growl of the engines and the calls of the bi-lingual children are the gentle whisper of the waking city. She glides into the sleep of the restaurant owners, and the bar workers, and the paper-filers. The rusty light begins to lift.
A leathery woman smokes and watches her thirty-something son. Barefoot on the concrete, he puts black sacks into bins, and pulls weeds from cracks, and a triangle of glass from his toe. His mother coughs a dying sound, her pot dealer’s Nissan parked across the street. She flicks her stub onto the road and slams the door shut. A Japanese girl in a robe kisses her lover, fleetingly on the doorstep. He grins, hops into an 86 Nissan, turns on the radio and drives away. She bends to pick a penny from the floor, her breast dipping out into the cold air. An overweight teenager hovers on the pavement. He watches the sweet brown nipple wink at him. His father calls from an open window.
He still slept. And his sleep was still. She stands for a moment, loving the dreamer, loving his crop of dark hair, his long eyelashes, his olive skin, loving him wrapped in her sunshine yellow sheets. She touches the rough hair of his cheek, smells his scent and his sweat, and kisses him awake.

The roads here never sleep, red-eyed-workers in the cold nights, selling a journey, or food, drink, drugs, sex. The beautiful mothers put their babes to sleep, and unmask. The leathery woman is drinking again, and beats her son to calm her nerves. The Japanese girl bends over for her new lover. The overweight teenager thinks of her nipple and erupts into his bedding. His father, downstairs in a sweaty leather chair, shouts at the television.

“It’s quiet tonight,” she says. He agrees, and rests his head between her breasts.
“This was not how it was supposed to be,” she says.
“How was it supposed to be?” He asks.
She says she wants to be consumed and inspired, to hang lifeless from electricity wires. She wanted to give birth to the child. She wants to give birth to something. She wants anything, something. She wants him.

 

The Call – Marriam Yahya

‘Hello?’ he muttered. ‘Is there anyone there?’

‘Yes,’ Paige breathed.

‘Are you alone?’

She straightened, her back against the solid safety of the wall. She shot a glance around the room, at the yawning darkness. Her voice shook when she said, ‘That’s none of your business.’

Silence.

His voice was soft when he finally spoke. ‘No, I suppose it isn’t.’ He paused. ‘But are you though?’

‘Am I…?’

‘Alone.’

Her hand, which clutched the phone, trembled. She should end the call. Instead, Paige stilled her shaking fingers and pressed the phone  closer to her ear.

‘Who is this?’ she demanded. ‘How did you get this number?’

‘I am.’

‘What?’

‘I am,’ he repeated quietly, ‘alone.’

The silence stretched across the phone line, filling the landing, deafening her. Paige itched to flick on a light, to fill the room with warmth, to chase away the monstrous shadows which suffocated her. Yet fear had locked her limbs in place.

Paige eyed the window. She half-expected to see a face pressed there. Only darkness glared back at her. She gave a fleeting look up the stairs.

‘I’m not in your house.’

Paige caught her breath. ‘How did you…’ She bit her lip, peering at the window again. Nothing.

‘I just wanted to tell someone.’

She waited.

‘My body, it’s in the lane behind your house.’

‘What?’ Her gasp was a whip in the quiet.

Paige waited for more. She heard only silence, not even the sound of breathing.

‘Hello?’ she whispered. ‘Is there anybody there?’

 

Shadow Tree – Fran Hajat

‘Hello?’ Noma called, but the sobs increased to wails. ‘Can I help you?’ It made Noma felt sad to hear the weeping. Every time her sisters cried, she would dance and pull funny faces until they stopped. The sobs grew even louder. They sounded as if they came from within the tree. Noma looked up.

The cries echoed around her and then stopped. Above her, in the branches of the tree, a Shadow emerged. She held her breath and shrank back, merging into the dark. The Shadow scuttled on all fours down the tree. Its vermillion tongue flickered along the trunk until it reached the foot of the tree. The Shadow convulsed: jet-like threads flowed from of its body faster and faster in an inky whirlwind settling into a large, funnel-shaped mouth that sucked and slurped the offerings off the tree.

Noma’s heart beat frantically. She wished she was safe asleep on her reed mat. A sob of fear escaped her. The Shadow-Mouth ceased its slurping and flowed towards the frightened child. Noma felt the warmth of her fright trickle down her legs as she hid her face in her hands. A tendril stretched out from the Shadow-Mouth towards Noma and hovered just in front of her for a moment, before it reached out and touched her on her forehead.

 

The Stud – Alicia Donovan

Kim sat at the table. Her arms crossed, her expression sour. A single candle sat in the centre of the table, smoke rising lazily as if the candle was as irritated to be here as her. In the corner of the room sat her guard, his face blank. As per fucking usual.

Across from her sat her “date”. He was tall, his hair dark and his frame thin. His file said he was immune to symptoms of chickenpox. So that was why he was chosen.

Glancing at the clock, Kim wondered how much longer this was going to take. She drummed her nails on the table. If this guy didn’t hurry up, she’d miss her FTL-Train. Another look at the clock. Five minutes. She looked back at her date.

She had five minutes.

Time to destroy him.

‘So, why do you think you can fuck me?’ she asked abruptly, interrupting his explanation on his family history or something.

She heard her guard groan. She ignored it.

‘What?’ her date blanched.

She flicked her red hair over her shoulder. ‘If I’m supposed to sleep with you, I need to know why.’

‘Why?’

‘You don’t know?’

‘I-I was told that we–’

‘I know exactly what we were told.’ Her eyes were like nitrogen. ‘I want to know why I should.’

‘For the betterment of humanity.’

‘Is it?’

‘We’re supposed to be a genetic match. Offspring cannot be–’

‘Offspring has nothing to do with this stage of the process. You’re supposed to be charming me. To sweep me off my feet like a prince. You’re supposed to keep me complacent. So where’s your white stallion, then? Or did you leave him outside?’

At least he had the decency to blush at her tirade. ‘I don’t think this is–’

‘I don’t think this is working either; thank you for being so brave to say it first!’ She grinned.

He gaped at her then to her bodyguard, who shrugged.

Kim picked up her bag and stood from her chair. She tossed down a contact card carelessly onto the table. ‘Tell your employers that they’ll need better studs next time. This bitch ain’t opening for just anyone anytime soon.’

Make that anyone, period, she thought.

And with that, she turned on her high heel, and stormed out of that dingy, horrible room. Her bodyguard sighed wearily to himself, but followed her. Kim checked her watch. She still had two minutes to spare. She smiled to herself.

She’d managed to save her uterus for one more day.

 

Gluttony – Judith Yeoh

A young girl, black hair, short and with an appetite of a horse, peeks around the corner of a brick wall. Her heart is racing, her chubby cheeks the colour of the strawberry-flavoured lollipop in her mouth. She wipes her sweaty free hand down her blue, plaid skirt. There, she sees the object of her fancy: Liam. Oh, Liam, she thinks to herself. If only you would look at me. She watches shyly as Liam throws his head back and laughs. Her heart flutters.

Oh, Liam. If only.

She sucks on the lollipop and puckers her lips. She closes her eyes and leans her back leans against the wall as she breathes slower to calm her heart. She imagines him pinning her to the wall, his smouldering hazel-coloured eyes searching hers like the heroes in movies. Their breaths dance between their slightly gaping mouths. Liam pushes his thigh between her legs. He leans in, lips just inches away, teasing. Tantalizing. He licks his lips, his intense gaze never once leaving hers. She grabs his head in a moment of overwhelming lust and kisses him furiously like a lion lunging its prey. He moans and pulls at her hair. His wandering hands run up and down her exposed thigh and slips a finger around her waistband. Her swollen lips move to his neck, sucking and biting hungrily. And like a lion, she sinks her teeth into his neck and rips apart the skin and muscles. Blood sprays all over her face and clothes like a red chocolate fountain as he struggles to pull away but her strong jaw latches on tightly to his neck. His body convulses and falls limp on her, and she feasts on his tender flesh.

If only, she thinks.

 

Skin – Kate Hamer

They weren’t human bodies, they were fleshless. Rowan stepped closer and studied one. Where its veins should be, ran cables. In place of joints were gears and cogs. She had expected to find her mentor, McCormack, chained to a wall in this prison. But instead she’d found hundreds of these strange creatures.

Footsteps approached. Rowan tensed and moved deeper into the room. She slipped through a second door and hoped it was an exit. For a moment, she was in total darkness, then the lights switched on. Hanging from the low ceiling was row upon row of hooks. A sheet of artificial flesh dangled from each. It looked real. She brushed her fingers against one. It felt real too.

‘They might even look human in this,’ Rowan murmured, assuming the skin was for the creatures in the previous room.

She squeezed down the narrow aisle created by the hanging flesh. It skimmed her shoulders as she searched the room for another door. She shivered. There was no sign of McCormack. Her intel must have made a mistake. She needed to leave. The longer she stayed, the more likely she was to get caught.  Rowan turned to go back, but a spot of colour on a skin caught her attention. Her whole body went rigid. Though faded, a tattoo of a sun was visible. Bile rose violently up her throat. She grabbed the skin and desperately tried to tug it free, but it wouldn’t budge.

‘No… No… No…’ she pleaded. Her knees gave way. She had found McCormack.

 

Thoughts on Thoughts – Hayley Tivey

Jenna wondered, sitting on the school bus and staring at the back of a sixth form boy’s head, if it would be good to be able to read minds. How many times had she heard someone say, or even said herself, ‘I wish I knew what he/she/they were thinking’? Too many to count. But, when it really came down to it – noticing the dandruff on his shoulders – was mind-reading really all that? You might not be able to pick and choose what you heard. The boy in front of her was staring out of the bus window and Jenna wanted to know what he was thinking. But the girl to her left was just grinning at her mobile phone – probably Facebook – and Jenna didn’t care about her thoughts at all. Could she have one without the other? And if not, if it was all or nothing, would the “all” send her mad? Or – and this was crucial – would her head explode? That was a scary thought. Yes, it was a scary thought. And if someone else could read minds, did she want to be responsible for them hearing her scary thought and then worrying about their head exploding (which they might not have thought about until then)? No, she didn’t want that responsibility. It seemed to Jenna that people were too flippant about the glorification of telepathy. But then, she thought, it really would be nice.

 

Red Hair – Natalya Kahmann 

The woman raised a finger, but retracted it.  After few moments of tapping and mumbling, she answered, “My dear, I like to infuse my work with a variety of materials.  Sometimes its human hair.”

“How do you infuse hair into a crystal or wood?” Vevilia asked.

“It is a difficult process and a family secret.  Now, do we have a deal or do I have to shut you out?”

Vevilia pondered what harm it would be to give the woman her red hair.  She was promising good luck, and Vevilia needed some good luck in her life.  Her father’s betrayal to the family, her current rank in society, nothing else could make it worse.  “How much of my hair do you need?”

“Only a trim from the ends.”  The woman pulled out some scissors with a peculiar grin.

“What do you think, Amnes?”

He looked at the woman wearily, before asking, “Can I see the necklace?”

The woman hesitated, but agreed.  “Don’t go running off with it.”

Amnes took the item from her and examined it.  After a few moments, he gave it back and said, “In exchange for some of your hair, I don’t see why you wouldn’t.  A good luck charm is always good to have around.”

Vevilia thought about it and then agreed.  “All right.”

The woman grinned and handed Amnes her scissors and a small bowl.  “Trim her hair for me please.  Keep as much as you can in the bowl.”

Giving the woman a strange look, Amnes took the items and trimmed Vevilia’s hair.  The woman exchanged the items for the necklace.  “Take care, you two.  Grag loch gro nimba.”

“What was that?” Vevilia asked, but the wagon’s window shut fast.

 

Untitled – Chris Bonnello

There were no screams. Even young Jason had not screamed.

All he had heard were the aggressive squeals of the passenger door scratching the tarmac next to his head, and the silence as the ground spun away. His dad was trying to turn the steering wheel, perhaps not knowing the tyres were already airborne. That useless action was the last thing he ever did.

Then came the crash. The tree trunk launched itself into the driver’s side, smashed the windows to shards, and caved in Mum and Dad’s side of the car with a violent crunch.

The car rocked backwards and came to rest. Jason breathed, just to make sure he still could, then looked to his right.

Or is this my left? I’m upside down…

“Dad…”

Dad gave no answer, and his chest was neither rising nor falling.

The physical shock of the crash gave way to panic. Ever since Jason had seen that programme about heart attacks, whenever Dad had fallen asleep on the sofa he had watched the ups and downs of his chest, just to be certain he was still alive.

He might still be ok. I don’t know, maybe.

I won’t cry. I’m eleven now.

“Dad…”

 

Still no answer.

 

a record – Joe Ross
no more stories
he’s scrunched on the tiles
his tight lips wet and salty
elbows kissing knees
his jumper crumpled
bands of rust and umber
an unravelling
stripy knitted snail
here it is
you made us a record
your dry felt-tips squeaking
like wounded little mice
scratched onto paper
the moment your father
was stolen replaced by
a red-faced baby bird
a tangled scribble of orange tape escapes
your head wheels screech tiny teeth
chew up my pencils
I’ll never draw us better than you did
our mouth a scarlet O
our eyes bird prints in the snow

Six kittens, six bricks and two brothers – Alleyn Kane
The kittens were still there.
Ernie flung his shovel against the shed’s corrugated shell.
“That lazy bastard,” he fumed, and ripped a tattered sack from beneath a pile of rusted farm tools. He took six loose bricks and lobbed them into the sack.
“Right,” he said, and stomped into the yard.
“Damian!” he guldered up at his brother’s window.
Damian didn’t respond.
Ernie held up the sack, pointed back at the kittens then in the direction of the river.
Damian opened his window and leant against the frame smirking. He didn’t speak.
“Selfish bastard,” hissed Ernie, “You were to find them a home.”
Ernie shook the sack so Damian could hear the bricks.
Damian snorted.
“I’ll do it,” said Ernie.
The brothers eyed one another until a cat’s call broke the silence. Sasha came prowling through the long grass carrying a dead rat in her mouth. She laid it at Ernie’s feet and rubbed herself against his boots, slinking figures of eight between his legs. She mewed and purred which brought her kittens scampering from the shed. They clambered and scrapped for a teat and Sasha stretched out on the ground to let them feed. The kittens settled, and suckled contentedly.
“Awwwwww,” said Damian sneering, and closed his window.
“Bastard,” Ernie bellowed, and tipped the bricks out from the sack.
One by one he picked them up and threw them at Damian’s window. The first cracked the glass, the second went through it, and the third shattered the largest piece in-tact. Four and five picked off the remaining glass and the last brought a scream.
Damian appeared in the window-frame, blood streaking from his head onto his face.
“Awwwwww,” said Ernie, then lay down amongst the grass and stroked each of the kittens.

Cultist – Will Moss
One day, we’ll worship rust
and marvel how it claimed
the world of industrious metal,
leaving nothing but slowly
reddening struts, half-hearted
angles reaching outward.

We’ll dive into the wrecks
looking for half-sparking wonders
that, when properly restored, gleam
into sputtering song or splitting
pictures of different worlds
and the faces of old Gods.

Warning Signs – Laura Pocock

Emma Smith screamed herself awake. For the second time that night, she lay trembling in the cool of her own sweat. Elements of the nightmare lurked in her mind. A man – a shadowed man – had stolen into her caravan at the promenade and grasped her throat with calloused hands.

It was the hands she remembered most.

Grams would say it was an omen. So would Ma, and perhaps during working hours, so would Emma. The tourists loved that stuff.

The promenade was already crowded with people when she arrived the next morning. Emma climbed four iron steps up to the rounded, wooden caravan and unlocked the door.

Inside, she looked around her and sighed. Ma had died, leaving Emma nothing but worthless, superstitious trinkets in a wooden box on wheels. Ma, or ‘Serena The Seer’, always said the gift of clairvoyance had passed from mother to daughter without exception for hundreds of years. Although Emma knew it was all mumbo jumbo, she promised to try to carry on the tradition.

Emma had kept the promise. She spent the day reciting expressions she’d heard her mother say. She told a bride-to-be that the tarot spread indicated her relationship would last. She used a clouded amethyst crystal suspended from a string to dowse over the calf-heavy belly of a pregnant lady, and said the baby would prosper.

At five o’clock, Emma had made one hundred and two pounds. She imagined what she would spend it on and had just decided to increase the price to fifteen pounds a session, when someone rapped the little wooden door.

She turned to the door. A man ducked into the caravan from the step and slung off a rucksack. A shadow fell across his face.

‘I’ve just finished for the day,’ she said.

‘Can’t you do one more crystal ball reading for me? I’ll pay double.’

‘Alright,’ Emma waved him to the seat at the reading table. She sat down and searched her mind for what to say.

The man picked up the ten inch, rose quartz ball with two hands.

‘Hey! What’re you-‘ She stood up.

‘You have no idea how what this is worth, do you?’ the man sneered. He placed the ball into his rucksack. Emma moved toward the door. He was too quick. He forced a calloused hand over her mouth.

When Emma’s strangled body was found, the police questioned other promenade workers. Some had seen the caravan shake on its four wheels, but it hadn’t struck them as odd. Who knew what showy tricks ‘Emelda The Prophet’ would use to fool her customers?

 

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