To Be Young: A Collection of Short Stories

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

To Be Young is a collection of short stories ranging in length from just over 1 500 words to just over 7 000 words. The stories are mainly focussing on teenagers usually around fifteen to seventeen years old. Each of the main characters stories vary widely, from deafness to living in a completely different society to having some kind of odd brain thing that enables them to understand English but not be able to write or speak it, and be able to remember what happened three days ago in great clarity but not one's name.

Original Minds


Before I begin, I am going to tell you with the most upfront and honest vocal expression and face on my features that I can muster that: my life is ordinary. I have a mum, a dad, two brothers and a little sister on the way, an Aunt and an Uncle, two sets of sane grandparents and a few friends. 

‘Why would I want to read what you have to say then?’ Is what you may or may not ask yourself as you finish reading that little note up there ^. 

I will tell you why:

Because on the day I turned seventeen, everything changed. 

So, I woke up, as one would expect a seventeen year old boy to on his birthday to the sound of my family eating breakfast in the kitchen below my bedroom, with no absolute recognition that it is my birthday and I am supposed to be going out for drinks with my mates later in the day and my family cannot find out so I will have to sneak out of my window with a rope ladder which should be under my bed in the compartment under the loose floor board. I get up, put on my pants and trousers and a black T-shirt and don’t bother with socks and go down the stairs to see my family not noticing that I’m up yet and my mum scarfing down bacon and eggs and beans and sausages like she hasn’t eaten in years (because she’s pregnant). I walk in and dad notices me and he gets up and goes on a ramble about all of the wonderful things he’s got planned for us to do today when I look up from my cheese-tomato-mushroom omelette and say, ‘Ah, Dad, ah, look, would it be—be okay if I didn’t go mini golfing and to the dojo and to the archery unit today?’ And he looks hurt for a second but he regains his composure and says with a wide grin, ‘Yeah. Yeah, of course. It’s your birthday. You can do whatever you want, today. Right, Linda?’ And mum looks up and nods and grunts through her rapid wolfing down of miles of food. I’m relieved so I start cutting my omelette and proceed to eat it in three minutes and I get back up and go upstairs to my room and sit down on my bed and sigh and lean back. 

My cell phone rings. I answer it, ‘Hello?’ Not many people call me. 

‘You still comin round the pub later?’ Says the unmistakeable voice of my supposed best friend, Marty Shakes. Don’t ask me about his name because even if I knew, he’d kill me if I told anyone, probably. 

‘Ah, yeah, yeah. Who else is coming? Jopey, right? And Carver?’ 

‘Yeah, yeah, Jopey had to go do something at the shop [auto shop] for his dad and his brother but Carver and Miranda and Helen are coming in his place. Eh, eh, eh.’ He says that last part in a teasing voice because he knows that I’ve got a thing for Miranda and Helen has a thing for me and Miranda has a thing for Carver and Carver has a thing for Helen. Is that not entirely reminiscent of A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Yeah, it is. Anyway. 

‘Oh, shut up. She likes Carver, anyway. I’ve got no chance. She’s way too stubborn.’ I say back to Marty. 

‘Ah, you’ve gotta try, though, right?’ 


‘But you’re still comin round the pub? I’ve made arrangements for us to be able to get into a new punk club down the road from the pub.’ 

‘Er, okay. Who’s playing?’ I say warily. 

‘Ah, some wicked girl group from Belfast, I think. Baby whatever something.’ 

‘Right. Okay. Yeah, I’ll be there.’ 

‘Right. See ya, weasel!’ Marty said and hung up and I tossed my phone onto my night stand and got up and took out my iPod to listen to my newest dig, Jump the Rabbit Hole. They’re from somewhere in Australia and they all went to New York and now they live in Italy and Wales and they tour at least twice every three years. They’ve got this amazing new wave/punk/alternative/hard rock feel to them that makes them extremely fun to listen to. 

So, I plug my headphones into my iPod, turn the volume down completely then to full blast and play JTRH’s song, Alice Baby. 

It was really, really loud, with about a million crashing cymbals and heavy bass and more and more odd steel drum-y things being thrown about and I listened and listened to the whole thing which was eight minutes long and I took my headphones off and I heard this intense high-pitched whining. I remembered something that I read this one time in health class at primary school about how a symptom of hearing loss, so I snapped my fingers right next to my ear. Nothing. I said, really loudly, ‘Go fuck a cow.’ Which I said because it was the very first thing that popped into my mind. Nothing. So, I put on socks and got the keys to my motorcycle and rode to the doctor a few streets away from my house. I parked the bike in front of the office and went in and waited for Dr. Maloney to come and greet me. Luckily for me, I was the only person in the waiting room. Dr. Maloney was a fairly old guy, with thinning white hair and kind eyes and who never bullshitted anyone about anything, ever. Even if it was like, ‘Your kid has brain cancer and he’s going to die in six months.’ He’d take a deep breath and make a sorrowful expression, but he wouldn’t beat around the bush, which I respected him greatly for. He came out of the corridor and saw me and motioned for me to follow him. 

I sat up on the table-thing and he looked at me and I saw his lips moving but I couldn’t hear anything, so I said, ‘I can’t actually hear you.’ And he grabbed a note pad and a ballpoint pen off the little table beside him and he wrote on it and showed me and it said, You can’t hear me? Anything? I shook my head no. He wrote again, Let me examine you. And I nodded and he stood on a step-stool and shone a light into my ears and then took a cotton swab from a jar and poked around in my ear and then did the same to the other ear and then he wrote on the notepad, You’ve gone deaf. So I shook my head but said, ‘Well?’ And he wrote, Just wait, now. And I said, ‘For what?’ And he wrote, To see if it comes back. And that was that. 

And I went to the great big heavily forested park near my house and I climbed a huge tree whose branches were thick and sturdy almost all the way up and I climbed it to almost the top and I found a girl with long blonde hair and a green tank top and pink leggings with black stars on them and shiny green Doc Martens and huge yellow headphones on right at the very top. She didn’t notice me until I sat down on a branch that was opposite her. I think that I startled her because she kinda jumped a little bit and then she took off her ginormous yellow headphones and I think that she said something but, of course, I couldn’t hear her so I said, ‘I’ve … I’m deaf. I can’t hear you.’ And she was looking at my lips the whole time I was talking, so I was thinking, ‘You wanna make out? I’m totally up for it and you’re quite fit.’ But she just looked down at the rectangular bag that she had hanging off her shoulder that I hadn’t seen before and she took out a note pad and a black pen and a blue pen and she wrote on it, I’m Moana. I’m Deaf, too. What’s your name? And I wrote with the blue pen that she gave me, I’m Ash. And she held the notepad in her left hand and outstretched her other hand for me to shake and I took it gladly and we shook hands. And she wrote, You’ve just recently gone deaf, right? And I wrote back, Yeah, how’d you know? 

Moana: The way your mouth moves. If you’d always been deaf, your mouth would move differently. 

Me: So, I take it you’ve always been deaf?

Moana: Yes. Well, not always-always, but since I can remember. Since I was two years old. I got some kind of infection thing in my inner ear and from then on, I couldn’t hear a thing. Hey, isn’t it funny that ear and hear sound the same and look the same, too? 

Me: :) Yeah, that’s weird. 

Moana: Are you from around here?

Me: Yeah, just up the road. You?

Moana: New Zealand.

Me: Hmm. Far. 

Moana: Yup. 

Me: Just a question, but, why did you decide to start talking to me in the first place? 

Moana: You seemed like you needed a friend, and, seeing as you weren’t with one, I thought I might be a good person to talk to. 

Me: Hm. Ta.

Moana: Yeah, no problem.

Me: Wait, so, if you’re deaf, then why were you listening to music?

Moana: It was death and thrash metal, which has real heavy beats and stuff right, so I can feel the vibrations of the sound throughout my ears, which is kind of like hearing it, I guess.

Me: Yeah. Cool. 

Moana: Did — er — ah — do you listen to music?

Me: Yeah. I don’t think I will be anymore, though. 

Moana: What genre?

Me: Mostly alternative and punk and sometimes hard rock.

Moana: Cool. 

She checked the rose gold watch on her left wrist and then wrote hastily:

Oh, shit, I’ve gotta go. Here’s my phone number: 0117 8926679. 

And I took the note off the paper as she bustled off down the tree and jumped down from the third-closest branch to the ground. I put the note into my trouser pocket after I folded it into a very small square so that it wouldn’t come out somehow. I sat up in that tree for a very long time. It was getting dark when I finally went home on my bike and just completely bypassed my family to get to my room and grabbed my phone and four twenty pound notes and a few 50pence pieces off my dresser and sped down the stairs only to be cornered by my older brother, Into. He was taller than me by a few inches, so that plus the way he was standing made me want to shrink back into my room and hide. But I didn’t. I just stood there and waited for him to move. He said something but, of course, I couldn’t hear it, so I just looked around and pretended to ignore him entirely. He poked my shoulder and I looked at him again. I said, ‘What?’ And then he said something and then he took a step to my left, not actually realising what he was doing, so I ran out the door and started my bike up without a second glance. I rode out to the pub, which was about twenty minutes on my bike, and I saw Carver and Marty and Helen and Miranda waiting for me outside the front entrance as I went up behind them, and, for a second, I considered not going at all, but I thought better of it because Marty was my friend and so was Carver and so were Helen and Miranda (although that was weird). 

I revved the bike as I got closer and they all turned at the noise and they saw me and walked up to me as I parked my bike on the walk outside of the pub. Marty clapped me on the back and I could see him and Carver and Miranda saying something, but I just looked down at my bike as I put the safety lock on and put my helmet into the seat compartment. Marty tapped me on my face and I looked up and said, ‘I’ve gone deaf.’ And then Marty and everyone were still and silent for a second before Carver cracked a smile and I could see him laughing and then everyone else laughed too. And then I shouted, ‘I’M NOT FUCKING JOKING, YOU TOSSERS!’ And then they all shut up and I took out a little note pad I’d found in my jacket and a stubby pencil from my trouser pocket and I handed it to Carver. He looked at me incredulously for a second then he wrote, Sorry, mate. You still wanna come to this gig, though? And I wrote, Yeah. Yeah, of course. Can we just go, now, then? And Marty nodded and they got on their bicycles and I followed them. 

We wound through a few alleyways and then they all stopped outside of a tall, black-painted building that had single-line graffiti tags on it. I parked my bike and put the lock on it and put my helmet away and I looked at my friends and they were all staring at me and I could see in their faces that they didn’t know what to feel right then. I knew that they would eventually feel pity for me, but I didn’t expect it to show up on Marty’s face first. I gestured to the club and they they all startled and we sauntered into a packed building where I could feel the guitars and the beat of the drums making the walls and the floors vibrating recklessly. I walked up to the balcony after my friends and stood and looked down at the band and the crowd as they jumped and thrashed and zip-zoo-ed wildly to the music. I took out my phone and plugged in Moana’s number to the new text and I wrote:

‘Hey, I’m at this new punk band’s gig and I can’t hear it and I want to so bad, so you wanna hang out?’ 

And I tucked my phone back into my pocket and I waited for her to text me back but I then remembered that I couldn’t hear it go off and I didn’t have vibrate on my phone so I took it out of my pocket and held it in my hands as I peered over the railing at the crowd. The LCD display lit up and I opened the phone and it was her and she said, 

‘Meet me at Rocotillo’s’

And that was that. I looked around for Marty on the balcony but he’d already found some slag to dance with on the floor, and I couldn’t find Carver or Miranda or Helen so I just slipped off down the stairs and through the crowd and outside and it was dark. I wondered how long I’d been in there for? An hour, two? Certainly not more than two and three quarters. I got on my bike and didn’t bother with the helmet and I turned my headlights on and I sped off in the direction of Rocotillo’s. 

It took me a solid thirty minutes to get to the place and she wasn’t there yet so I went in and ordered a chocolate milkshake and a cola and chips with vinegar. I got my cola and my shake and my chips but she didn’t bring the vinegar, but I didn’t mind that much so I just had the chips and the cola and the shake. Moana came into the place and I noticed how short she was, like 4’10 or something like that. I hadn’t noticed that before. She came to the bar and sat beside me and had some of my chips and she finished off my cola and we just sat there for a while, just, enjoying each other’s company without words or papers or anything. And it was nice. Just sitting there and looking at each other absently but still paying all of the attention that we could manage to to the other one’s face. And I noticed that she had really pretty, flawless, pale skin and her eyes were green and I wondered if she dyed her hair but I couldn’t see any darker roots or tips or strands or anything so I ruled that out. And her cheekbones were high and mighty and nice. And I realised  just how beautiful she was. And then I realised that I’d been staring at her and I cleared my throat and looked back down at my plate whose chips now said, ‘Hi.’ And I looked back up at her and she smiled and looked down and I noticed that she was wearing this loose, flow-y green tank top dress and some cool kind of shoes that I’d never seen before that had laces and an inside zipper and were really scuffed, but appealingly so, on the toes. They weren’t quite Docs, but they resembled Docs, kind of. And she got out a thick red notebook and a red pencil crayon and a black pen and she gave me the pencil crayon and we had another written conversation:

Moana: It’s your birthday, isn’t it?

Me: Yeah. How’d you know this time?

Moana: If it hadn’t have been your birthday then I wouldn’t have talked to you earlier. 

And I laughed and continued our conversation:

Me: Is that right?

Moana: Yep. 

Me: So, where’d you go earlier? A secret drug-obtainment mission? Spy work?

Moana: Hah hah, no. I had to get some spray paint. 

Me: You’re a graffiti artist, then? What’s your tag?

Moana: I couldn’t tell you that! But, yes, I do graffiti sometimes with a few friends of mine down in Broadmead.

Me: Broadmead?

Moana: Yes, yes, I know, it’s a dangerous neighbourhood. My parents have already given me the speech, I don’t need it from you, too.

Me: Speech? What speech? I wouldn’t give you a speech, I’m not your mother. 

Moana: Right, yeah. Thank you. What club were you at?

Me: I don’t know the name of it, some big black building in an alleyway about thirty minutes from here. Probably more if you walked.

Moana: Hmm. D’you know who was playing?

Me: No. Some all girl punk group, I think. I dunno. My friend told me but, I’ve forgotten now. 

Moana: Right. So, how old are you now?

Me: What?

Moana: It is your birthday, isn’t it? 

Me: Yeah, right. I’m 17, now. 

Moana: Cool. Here’s a question that I’ve always wanted to ask. You ready for it?

Me: :) Yep.

Moana: If you’re seventeen, how often do you get boners from actual, like, reasons?

Me: You actually expect me to answer that?

Moana: Yes, I do. 

Me: Like… Every time there is an actual reason, I suppose. I don’t keep track. 

Moana: Good answer.

Me: Why? Are you some kind of sexologist, or something?

Moana: No, but my mum says that when I meet a new person of the male affliction, I should ask them because the more hard-ons they get, the more likely it is that they’ll try and get into my pants. 

Me: Right. Well, I’m not going to try and get into your pants, I can assure you.

Moana: And, why is that?

Me: Because you’re like, way out of my league.

Moana: Oh, I don’t think so. 

Here’s a good time for me to mention what I look like when I am seventeen: I have really long, usually at least somewhat greasy, fairly wavy  black hair; brown eyes; I’m fairly short, only about 5’11, which may not be short for all, but it was short compared to my friends; my jawline was only a little bit sharp; but my face was lean, as well as my torso, so that could have been taken as a plus, I suppose. And Moana, despite her height, WAS way out of my league.

Me: Are you sure?

Moana: Yes. You’re quite attractive, really. My mates from junior school would have begged you to shag them. 

Me: Oh, really?

Moana: You’ll never know. 

Me: Yeah, I probably won’t. But, are they as pretty as you are?

Moana: No. No.

Me: Didn’t think so. 

Moana: Thank you, Ash. You wanna get out of here?

Me: Sure. 

And I paid and we left and she got on the back of my motorcycle and she indicated with her hands and her arms where to go and we ended up going around in a huge circle a couple of times then I turned round and gave her a look and she laughed and then she directed me up a hill, into a valley, then down a really bumpy, long road and then we were at this huge brick fort like thing that looked like it came straight out of The Tales of King Arthur. And we got off the bike and she led me into the fort and up a tall winding staircase and into this little room that had a  cherry red shag rug and cool bubble lanterns and brilliantly painted canvasses all standing against the walls and there was a little dais at the far end of the room (which was huge by itself anyway) and had a tapestry covering the wall behind it and there was a cool and weird chair that was hanging from the ceiling by a metal chain and had straw for the little… Shield, I suppose I’ll call it - shield that was attached to the chain and a white furry cushion on the seat of it and she went in before me as I beheld this great sight, and she laid down on the rug and took out a silver cigarette case and lit a spliff that smelled like sage and I walked to the middle of the room and I looked up and closed my eyes and spun around and around and around and then stopped and fell down beside Moana who was blowing smoke rings and we both looked at each other and laughed until we cried. 


The River of Nowhere


March 17, 1853 AD

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


My name is Gladys Euphegenia Tobey. I was born on 1 January, 1837, in London, England. I got to Canada when I was fourteen: my father arranged me in a marriage to a moderately-handsome, older man. My father, MacArthur Tobey, known in common circles as ‘Mackie’ or ‘Arc’, was an awfully old-fashioned old stooge who had his first kid when he was 30. So, by the time he had me, he was 54 years old and had already gone through four wives, all of whom had died or had been arrested for adultery. I’m pretty sure he’s dead now. I’m not entirely sure though. Any who, old Mackie didn’t feel up to taking care of five young girls anymore, so, as soon as we were old enough, he’d set up courtships and arrange marriages for us in foreign countries and all. My oldest sister, Gertrude, was married off to some shipyard manager in Spain when she was fifteen; one of my other sisters, Mary-Elizabeth, was married off to some musician in Germany when she was thirteen. It all depended upon how old we were when we were pretty enough for a man to fancy us, is what my maid, Sally, told me when Mackie wasn’t listening. 

Naturally, I never actually got to ‘meet’ my sisters, per say. My oldest sister, Gertrude, left when she was fifteen, so in 1828. My next oldest sister, Lisbet, left when she was 14, in 1831. My next oldest sister, Nettie, left when she was 16, in 1837, a few months after I was born. Oh, and in case you hadn’t figured it out, I’m listing my sisters’ times and ages of departure in order from oldest to youngest. And then my last oldest sister, Mary-Elizabeth, left when she was 13, in 1837 again, six months after I was born. My father hired maids to look after us all until we got married off and then it was our husbands’ duty to find a maid or a servant or whoever to help us with our things, if they were of particularly high status and wealth. 

My husband was Mordecai Kovalsky. He was 16 when I got married to him in a Jewish ceremony. It took months of conversion for me to even be considered eligible to be married to him, a revered Jewish young man born in Italy, but of Dutch, Swedish and German descent. He was tall. He was really, really tall. I was about 139 centimetres last I was measured, and he was exactly 200 centimetres. He dwarfed me terribly. My father wasn’t much taller than me, and my mother died in childbirth and my father barely spared me a glance, let alone a conversation about my dead mother.

 I asked the people who worked in the house about her and usually they would just shake their head and walk away quickly or they’d just look down until I shooed them away. But, one day, I asked a fairly older maid, maybe twenty, what my mother was like, what her name was, even where she was born, and this maid, Hattie Tremblay, looked around then beckoned me follow her into the little maids’ quarters in the attic and she put down her basket of washing and bid me sit on the stool. 

‘Miss Gladys, before I tell you anything, you promise me you not breathe word of what I tell you to anyone who your father knows. He forbidden the servants talk of any his wives, or we be chopped. Yes?’ I nodded. Hattie Tremblay talked with the slightest of a Slavic accent, and she looked it too. But she was so pretty, and when I’d watch her walk through the courtyard of the house gardens where the gardeners were, who were all male, the gardeners would stop their work until she’d passed and all look up and stare after her. She was pretty. ‘Your mother’s name was Noam Zeliger. She was born in Germany in 1815. She was twenty-two years old when she had you. Her and you father been married five years. She was one of the prettiest women to ever walk these halls.’ Hattie had the air of a supreme, majestic old storyteller who had the whits of the Bible and the Torah and the Book of Nature in her wordsmith’s crafts. She was Slavic, Russian, but her name was not Russian in any way at all, which made me want to interrupt her marvellous words, but I didn’t, which was slightly impressive for me at the time; I was only thirteen. ‘Miss Gladys, your mother was extraordinary woman. She had most thick, dark hair, a sweet nose. Her eyes were colour of caramel-chocolate. Her lips were beautiful cherry-red and were sweet and small and bow. She went around towns with the boys stare.’ I started to form a picture of my mother, Noam Zeliger, in my mind, with dark hair and dark caramel eyes and cherry-red bow-shaped lips and the boys of the town staring after her. ‘Not just she was beautiful, she kind, too. She was no just kind and beautiful, but she headstrong and irreverent, which gives her the kind of humour that everyone respected for her. She not care about wearing the proper clothes, the proper makeup, the proper hair. Mr Mackie likes her so good from this. He lets her be headstrong and irreverent for her own styles; she wears pants, and riding boots and lets her hair down loose. She wears no corsets or skirts, she wears mens’ tailcoats and feather-hats and bunds and shirts. And for this, she was excluded from the social circle Mr Mackie had been involved in up to their marriage. Mr Mackie not cares about that, and she loves him so good back for that. She and me were good friends for while. We would hang out and we’d take walks in the garden when I’m not busy. We good friends. She tells me about her life in Germany, with the Torah and her good Jewish people and the community she involved in. Her town all Jewish, all the time. Good. So, no one was being bad to her people because they Jews, good.’ Hattie stopped and started to rummage around under the cot she’d been sitting on, and she made a little grunting-sigh noise and came back up with a photograph in her hand. ‘This the only photograph I have to her. I think you need it more than me. Here.’ She handed me a yellowing, slightly cracked photograph of a smiling, dark-haired woman with dark, almond-shaped eyes and a full belly in a pair of mens’ breeches and a dark-coloured tailcoat and riding boots and a mens’ shirt. She was beaming into the camera, with a hand on her belly. Hattie was standing beside and slightly behind her, her face screwed up in an odd, silly expression. I rubbed my index finger over my mother’s smiling face and protruding stomach and riding boots. 

‘Noam Zeliger.’ I whispered as I put the photograph into my little pocket of my pinafore. 

‘You look to her.’ Hattie said. Her Russian accent had dissipated over the years since her arrival, but her actual English skills were lacking, despite her majestic, amazing air of grandiose, read wisdom. By that Hattie’d meant that I look like her. ‘You have her eyes and her hair and her lips. You have Mr Mackie’s cheeks and brow and chin and nose. Beautiful girl, you are.’ Hattie said as she moved her hand on my cheek and stroked my hair. ‘You will go very far now.’ Hattie said, and glanced at her hands, closed her eyes. After a moment or two, she opened her eyes and stood up. ‘You must go back with your lessons, dear girl. I must go my washing and errands. But I see you again, Miss Gladys.’ And, I did end up asking Mordecai for Hattie to visit me at the his house in Toronto, and he sent for her right away.

Mordecai was a very good man. He wasn’t like most of the other men in the community: rough, assertive, unfeeling. He was gentle and sensitive and perceptive. And he was looking forward to showing his new wife, who was two years younger than he, the ways of the New World. His father had had some kind of deal with people in England and other parts of Europe, so, when his only son, and what he hoped to be his pride, had turned sixteen, he’d brought the deal about with the others involved and they’d contacted Mackie and, me being his last daughter, he’d sent me packing to Canada. I’d been fourteen, and Mordecai was sixteen. I’d not gotten the bleed yet, but I was curious about things of that nature. The following year after I was married, I’d gotten my bleed, and my … *odd noises* … Urges had started. Mordecai’d been so nice about it all. He liked to talk, so when I’d not made any advances on him, and not reacted to his, he either asked me if I’d like to talk about it or he’d ask me to talk about it with him later. Like I said, he was a very good man. 

On the night of my sixteenth birthday, when Mordecai was eighteen, and I wasn’t on the bleed, I went into his room. We’d been sleeping in separate rooms up until then because I’d not really wanted to or felt comfortable enough to. I didn’t knock on the door, I just walked right in. He’d fallen asleep with the lamp still lit, just barely, but I could tell that he was only floating meekly on the highest surface of sleep. I climbed onto his higher bed and laid down on my stomach beside him. He stirred awake, and smiled at me. 

‘Hello.’ He said softly. ‘How are you, Gladdie?’ He’d taken up that name for me, Gladdie, in the time we’d been married and I didn’t mind it. It made me feel happier. 

‘Oh, I’m good.’ I was only wearing my nightgown and stockings. He extended his arm out and I turned onto my back and nestled myself against his bare chest. 

And I just stayed like that for the rest of the night and I fell asleep, light sleep, nervous, alert sleep, but sleep. And I could hear Mordecai’s soft breathing snores in my dreams and all was okay. 


April 10, 1853 AD

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


In twelve days, it will be Pesach. Pesach is in English Passover. It celebrates the time when the ancient Israelis were freed from slavery in Egypt. Mordecai’s mother and father, Ronit and Merariy, and his three sisters and one brother, Basmat, Deganit, Nitza, and Shem, will be coming to our house for dinner and kiddush. 

I couldn’t find out how to reach my sisters, and inviting my father was not an option

And one day, Mordecai slipped into my room in the wee hours of the morning and slickly dropped under the blankets and kissed my cheek to wake me up. 

‘Hi,’ I said sleepily. He smiled, and kissed me on the mouth again. 

‘I have to go away.’ He said, his expression solemn; his voice soft. 

‘Where?’ We were whispering. 

‘To South America.’ He said, not looking at me.

‘How long?’ 

‘Only six months.’ 

‘Oh. Okay.’ I wasn’t sure how to react to this, but I decided to be indifferent. It wasn’t like I was in love with the man. At best, we were friends. I think that he felt like he had to be in love with me, but I wasn’t in love with him. I thought he was nice, kind, fair man, who happened to be quite handsome, and who I also happened to be married to. But I didn’t love him. 

I turned onto my other side and went back to sleep. 



June 22, 1853

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


He had left that same day. But I didn’t mind. It made no difference to me except that I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I wasn’t, at all, for him and the people we saw. 

So, I’m sitting in my sitting room upstairs, and I hear a long bell ring out. It was like, ‘DRRROOOOOOONGG DROOOOOOOOOONG DROOOOOOOONG’. Not exactly, I mean, but I think that that gets my point across decently. It sounded like that for ten minutes, three ‘drong’s every few seconds. A maid came into my room, looking frightened, and she looked at me and she said, ‘My lady, Gladys, that is the warning bell! It means that there’s an attack coming! We must hide!’ The maid was young and sweet-looking. Her hair was golden and half-in/half-out of a bow-bun. I looked blankly at the ground a moment, then I realised what what she’d said meant: ‘It means there’s an attack coming! We must hide!’ Her words echoed in my mind as I got up and followed the maid quickly into the corridor and down the stairs, stair door, cellar door, more stairs, lantern, chweet! Went the match, into a long, dark corridor, down a ladder, into a small room with four straw cots, a chair, a bucket, and a large trunk that looked heavy. The maid put the lantern down on the chair and shut the door and bolted its twenty locks and deadbolts. 

‘What is this place?’ I asked, keeping my voice low, not wanting to disturb the quiet.

‘This is a safety room. Every house should have one or two.’ The maid said at regular volume. ‘It’s here in case of emergency; attack or bombing or those types of things. We have to wait forty-eight hours until we can open the door or leave the room. The bucket’s for the faeces and urine.’ 

‘How will we know when it’s been forty-eight hours?’

‘I have a pocket-watch that my brother gave me  before he died. It still works.’ The maid took out a beautiful golden pocket-watch with embellishments on its cover out of her pouch and showed its moving hands to me. 


And I sat down on one of the cots and the maid sat down on the one opposite mine. And I lay down and I closed my eyes and I fell asleep. 

I dreamt of Mordecai. He was standing on a land-orange hill, naked. His hair was down to his shoulders, and messy and matted. And a man on a horse rode up to Mordecai and tapped him on the shoulder and got out a gun and shot him in the head. 

I dreamt of a beautiful little blond baby boy, nestled in a white-silk lined mahogany coffin. With hundreds of thousands of people in the room, at the funeral, and all of my sisters were there, and I walked up behind the coffin in a cloud grey silk dress, with my hair flowing around me and a braid of silk fabric around my head. And the boy sat up and grew and grew and grew until he was Mordecai. And the little boy-Mordecai said to me, ‘Wake up! It’s time to go.’ And I woke up to the maid’s screams from the bed beside me and the sound of a massive explosion. 

The room was shaking violently. The walls were falling down. I woke with a start to see the maid beside me, still and blue and her eyes open and glazed over; lifeless. I crawled out of the cot, amongst the still shaking structure and the falling rubbish. And I made my way slowly through the fallen door and frame and crumbling bricks. The house continued to fall around me as I struggled to my feet and I could see the light of day. The rubbish fell like a flood. Water came from the pipes. It lifted me up, the water from the pipes, until I was on the street outside of the house. I looked up: the clouds were grey and sparse, but the sky was still blue and gave me hope. 

I saw no-one else that day. So I walked along the abandoned, destroyed streets, where fires raged and puddles of urine and faeces and brown water surrounded the dead bodies. It didn’t make sense to call them people, because they weren’t anymore. 

Eventually, after two days of walking, I got to a small, fairly intact house. I knocked on the door and a little girl with blood and mud and plaster dust all over came to the door. She didn’t say anything. She just took my hand and led me into her kitchen and pointed to a pile of rubbish and wood and metal and brick, where I could hear ragged breaths from the depths of the pile. And a hand poked out of the rubbish, and the breathing stopped. 


July 5, 1853

Somewhere Outside of Toronto


I walked for three days after the dead mother. The little girl didn’t say anything. She just looked up at me, with her big, innocent eyes and looked down at the pile and her mother’s hand and she nodded and she said, ‘Mam.’ And I walked away and down the black road and I walked and walked and walked for days. And then, finally, I just fell down. 

I must have been in some type of shock right then. I don’t know how I went for three days without, food, water, rest. I stopped to relieve myself, of course, but other than that, I didn’t stop walking. 

I’m a medical mystery. 

I woke up to the sound of crickets and water running and distant, distant shouting. I sat up slowly and looked around me. Someone had changed my clothes from my tattered day dress into the same cloud-grey silk slip that I’d been wearing in my dream. I reached up to my forehead and I didn’t feel the silk braid that I’d had in that dream. I muttered a quick prayer of thanks. I looked around again: I was lying in dewy grass. there were loads of trees all around me, their leaves whispering daintily in the mild wind. I heard a stream, gurgling pleasantly, comfortingly, not too far. Not too far. I heard the shouting: ‘Why did you bring her here, you idiot? What are you trying to accomplish?’ *smack* Footfalls, closer. Closer. I lied back down in the grass, and closed my eyes, and tried to establish the same breathing I sometimes heard myself having when I was asleep. I felt eyes looking at me. A hand grabbed my silk-clad shoulder, and shook it gently. 

‘Wake up, lady.’ A man said. He sounded queer. I tried to keep myself still and ‘asleep’; dead weight. The man called in the other direction, ‘Mikel! She’s not awake you moron!’ More footfalls, to the man. Moron… ? A different voice, but similar, probably Mikel: ‘Oi. Lady, what are you doing here?’ He had the hint of an accent I recognised - London. I remained in my sleep. The Possible Londoner poked at my arm with an odd-textured object. I heard clothing rustle. ‘Wake up.’ I felt stubble against my jaw; ‘You’re safe here. We will protect you.’ I was scared, but I opened my eyes. ‘See, Jovi? You’ve just gotta be nice.’ 

‘Ah, fuck you.’ Said the man, Jovi, the first one. ‘So, what are you doing here, lady?’ It was blurry; my eyes stung. I shook my head. 

‘Jovi.’ Mikel said in a cautioning, weary tone to Jovi. 

‘Fine, you talk to her. I’m gonna go look for the light out post.’ And Jovi stood up from his crouch and walked away into the trees. 

‘Sorry about him. He’s had a rough few years. I’m Mikel. What’s your name?’ Mikel said as he crouched. He was handsome; tan skin, dark, pretty eyes, strong jaw. His hair was short and cut in a very queer way. He was dressed even more oddly. I won’t even begin to describe it; I can hardly even remember it. 

I shook my head again, blinked my eyes, hard. Mikel took something out of his many pockets and took my hand and dropped it. 

‘It’s eye drops. I’ve got some fabric here somewhere.’ Clothing rustling; metallic clanks. ‘Aha! Here you go.’ He dropped it into my still outstretched hand. It was stiff, but soft. 

I opened my mouth to speak and the back of my throat stung. I said, ‘Eye drops?’ Mikel looked up and said, ‘Here do you want me to do it?’ He took the objects from my hand and lightly touched my chin, a gesture for my to lean my head back. I turned my face away from him. I shook my head again, closed my eyes tightly. ‘Stop, I do not know you.’ 

‘Well, that may be true, but, trust me, I’m better than Jovi. He was objecting to me bringing you up here at all.’ Mikel said. Clothing rustling. 

‘I do not know you.’ I said quietly. 

‘Ah, it’s okay. Mind telling me your name so I’m not calling you Silk?’ Mikel was trying to be humorous, I could hear it in his voice. I didn’t get the joke. I looked at him again and squinted. He was sitting now, his arms behind him, he reclined. 

‘Gladys. Gladys Kovalsky. Where is Mordecai? Has he sent for me?’ I said, my voice weak and quivering. 

‘Hey, your accent: you from England?’ Mikel seemed not to hear me.

‘Where is Mordecai!’ My voice was gravelly and rough and it hurt to speak. 

‘I don’t know. Who’s Mordecai?’ 

‘My husband. He went away. He went away. He hasn’t come back yet. Where is he?’ My voice was weak and sounded like I hadn’t spoken for decades. 

‘Husband? You look… Young, to be married.’ Mikel said. He was so calm; my words and distressed state did not affect him. 

‘I’m eighteen. Where’re my sisters? What’s happened?’ I said, laying my head on grass again. 

‘Eighteen? That’s against the law. Were you handfasted?’ Mikel said. 

‘Against the law? What? What are you talking about? My sister was married when she was thirteen what are you talking about?’ I said, my eyes closed. 

‘Gladys. Wait a minute. Before you were married, what was your surname?’ 

’T-Tobey.’ I whispered. 


‘Tobey.’ I said, louder. 

‘Whoa. Man. Are you sure?’ 

‘Of course I’m s-sure!’ I exclaimed at him. 

‘Right. ‘Course. Gladys Euphegenia Tobey?’ 

‘Yes. Why?’ 

‘You’re the woman who went missing a hundred and sixty years ago and was found in a coffin with a baby. In a—In a cave. How’s this possible.’ Mikel seemed confounded. 

‘What?’ I scoffed and chuckled disbelievingly. ‘What? I was—What?’ 

‘Mm. It’s probably not you. But… You do look remarkably… The same… As the woman in the photographs… Maybe it is… Jovi! Come here!’ Mikel shouted over his shoulder. 

I heard running footfalls. 

‘What the fuck are you doing, man? You want everyone to know we’re here, do you? Get your lady blown up?’ Jovi’s insulting voice said. I opened my eyes. They still stung. 

‘Does she look like Gladys Tobey? From the archives?’ 


‘Fuck me. She does. What’s her name? What’s your name, lady?’

‘I already told you.’

‘He won’t believe it if it comes from me, man.’ Mikel said to me. 

‘What’s not to believe? I am Gladys Euphegenia Tobey. Kovalsky. Kovalsky.’ I said. 

‘Fuck!’ Jovi shouted and I heard him jump back in shock and amazement. I still didn’t believe that I’d been dead. ‘Were you named after your ancestor?’ 

‘What? What are you talking about? I have no ancestors. What are you talking about?’ I said. 

‘Jovi, bring me the kip kit and some water.’ Mikel said. Jovi ambled to a pile of stuff to my left and came back with a small black case and a canteen. He gave it to Mikel. ‘Sit up, Gladys. We’re gonna give you some food, okay?’

I sat up weakly and almost flopped back down but Mikel put a hand on my back and steadied me. 

‘Jovi, get me two blankets.’ Mikel said. Jovi stood about four feet away from where my feet were. 

‘What am I, your personal servant?’ Jovi grumbled as he walked to the pile and came back with big pieces of cloth. Mikel put one blanket against the end of my back to keep my up and he wrapped the other around my shoulders. Mikel opened up the black case and took out a small glass container and a tiny fork and spoon. 

‘Here.’ Mikel said as he held out a bit of yellow food on the fork. I shied away from it as much as I could; I don’t know why. ‘It’s only mashed potatoes with leek and rice powder. It’s good. It’s good.’ Mikel said reassuringly. I inched my face forward and took the potatoes off the fork. It was good. Mikel took my gentle sigh of agreement the right way and continued feeding me the food from the black case. He gave me water from the canteen and then put the eyedrops in my eyes. I remember falling into light sleep, and being carried by strong arms onto a small little sheltered cot with blankets but no pillow and then I remember people talking, and I remember only male voices, no females, no females. 




July 18, 2016



Mikel was a very nice guy for those few weeks. 

When I woke up the second time after I met Jovi and Mikel, it was the dead of night. I could see nothing, although my eyes no longer stung. I sat up in the cot. I was afraid. I was afraid. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t move. I only barely dared to breathe. I felt myself hyperventilating. I closed my lips and could feel the bile rising in my throat. I didn’t want to throw up: I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t understand what was happening. People thought I was dead. Was I? Did I come back from the dead? Where did I fall asleep? What happened? I didn’t understand what had been happening. What had been happening? I didn’t know. I ended up falling back asleep. Mikel woke me up in the morning and we went for a walk. 

He’d had a chair with odd looking wheels with him, in case any of his mates needed it; lost their legs or something, and were still alive, that is. He pushed me in the chair down the dirt path from the shelter. We found a river. 

‘Jovi found this place before me.’ Mikel said as he stopped the chair a good bit away from the river bed. ‘He was wandering around, lookin’ for… I don’t know. Lookin’ for… Peace.’ Mikel laughed then. ‘He told me that, and I said to him, “Peace? Here? Are you fucking mental?” And he shoved me then we swam in the river. One day, when everybody went somewhere, I walked along the side of this river for the whole day. It stops like ten miles down. I walked for over an hour. It doesn’t lead anywhere. I walked up it, too. Six miles up. Doesn’t start anywhere, either. I said this to Jovi, and he goes, “The River of Nowhere.” So that’s what it’s called: The River of Nowhere. Which is really quite fitting, if you think about it. We’re nowhere. We’re nowhere. Nowhere. It’s such an odd concept, really. Don’t you think? I mean, where’s nowhere? But, it’s nowhere, so it’s not. Right?’ I looked over at him from the chair with a queer smile on my face. ‘Anyway, that’s not why I brought you here. I brought you here to explain. As best I can that is.’ I didn’t say anything. ‘Right. Erm, I found you lying in a ditch about twenty-five miles down; South. Jovi’d gone to the pisser like six hours before, so I wasn’t concerned about him. You were wearing the dress, the silk dress. And you were holding something. I don’t know what. It looked like a book. When I lifted you up, the book fell out of your hands and crumbled to ash.’ He looked out at the horizon across the river. 

‘Mikel?’ I said. 

‘What year is it?’ He smiled solemnly and looked at me when I said that. 

‘It’s two-thousand and sixteen.’ He said. 

‘Right.’ I laughed. 

‘How is that possible? You were born in 1837, and you’re alive in 2016.’ 

‘I don’t know. I suppose it just… Is.’ 

‘What was it like? Here, in 1853?’ 

‘It was better…  and it was worse. The men were annoying and most were very ugly. Not on the surface, though. On their insides. I secretly wished for my father, Mackie’s ugliness to seep into his outside so that nobody could ever look at him again. I made a dandelion wish, once. An eyelash wish, too. It didn’t work. Once, in a very, very old book, I read about a man who was so utterly heinous, that he burst into flame, starting from his heart. And when they found him, they only knew it was him because there was a little piece of diamond, and a couple glass buttons in the ashes.’ 

‘Hmmm.’ He murmured softly. ‘I’m sorry.’ 

‘I know.’ I replied. ‘So, what’s happened? The last thing that I remember is falling down in a pit of dirt and ash and debris and the little girl whose mother was crushed in a pile of rubbish.’ 

‘Nuclear war. You know.’ 


‘Yes. Mass devastation. Toronto got hit with a bomb of the same mega-tons as the Tsar Bomba. I came from England. Deportation or something. They found out that I was an illegal immigrant from Canada who somehow managed to find my way to England when I was six, when my parents died here.’

‘Oh. Sorry.’

‘It’s fine. I can’t remember much of them. Sometimes, I’ll have these dreams, where someone who looks like my mum or my older sister, will come and take me away, and then they’ll shoot me, then themselves. I don’t know why.’ 

‘Well, that’s that then.’ 

‘Hey, you wanna swim?’ 

‘Yes, please. I’d love to.’ Mikel helped me out of the chair and first we ate some food from the black cases (‘Kip kits, we call them.’) And then he helped me undress and we swam down the river. 


48 Martello, 00900



I had a heart attack. Now, I live with Mordecai and the baby boy from the dreams in Bagla. And we’re all happy. And my father’s fine. And it’s so, so good. And Mikel lives with a girl and a boy in India and Germany. And Jovi went to Switzerland, where he was killed by a terrorist attack six years ago. Mikel doesn’t know. But it’s okay. 

As a parting note:


Don’t let life pass you by. If you let life pass you by, not being who you need to be, not doing what you need to do, what fulfils you to your core being, then you’ll only end up living a very similar version of that same life, unhappy, unhappy. Don’t. Live your life. Do what you need to do to get by. But do it, whatever it is, with pride and happiness. 




I was born in Bristol, but I went to Canada just after I turned twelve, because my parents divorced and my mum had just decided to up and move us across an ocean because my dad said he wouldn’t have us in the same damn country as him. Why couldn’t we have just gone to fucking Ireland or something? It was all bollocks. 

I’d decided to begin secondary school with a semi-new persona. In grade seven and grade eight, I was secretly a complete slag. At that school, I had to wear a stupid uniform. But now, I didn’t have to wear a uniform, so I intended on going the full monty, Effy Stonem style: short Top Shop dresses dyed purple-y grey, fishnets, smokey eyes, the whole shebang. And that’s exactly what I did. My mum ended up getting really knackered and she lost the plot, entirely. She just stayed in the house all day and got guttered and monged and legless and she never ended up noticing my attire. 

So, on my first day at secondary school, I wore a greyish purple mini-dress and fishnets and faux combat boots and I had dark eyeliner on and my hair was in a curly ponytail. And I walked onto the green and there were a bunch of boys sitting round smoking splits and one had whiskey and another had beer and I walked straight past them and I could feel their eyes on me, but I didn’t look back and I was well chuffed. And I went into the office and got my timetable. And I had a large black bag and I put my timetable into the bag and made my way down the hall to my Technical Philosophy class. And right outside the class there was this totally metal guy and this well tall, fit guy who had an individually-spiked black-blue mohawk and two rings in bottom lip, right beside the other, and he was wearing a black leather jacket and dark green cargo pants and authentic combat boots. And he was just standing outside the class, and I just thought, ‘You’re really damn fit.’ So I wrapped my arm around him and kissed him, and he reciprocated after a second or two, and I snaked my tongue round his, and then I broke off and sauntered into the classroom, followed by the spike-haired guy and his decently fit metal friend. I took a seat at the middle of the room’s U-shape desk set-up and Mohawk and Metalhead both sat to the left of me. An older woman with brown hair and a navy blazer walked in with a briefcase and turned to us all and said, ‘Welcome back to another year of fuck-all fuckery and bollocks bullcrap. I’m Samantha Griffin, but you may call me Sam. I am your English teacher for this semester and I will be teaching you how not to reprimand yourself with your extremely mediocre knowledge of the English language. If you do not listen, I will know and I will dismiss it, but if you do listen and you don’t take note of what I say, then I will reprimand you, do I make myself clear?’ Silence. ‘Good. Today, we are all going to stand up, say our name, our age and where we were born. Any problems with this?’ Silence. ‘Good. You, punk, you start.’ She gestured at Mohawk. He smirked mischievously and stood up. 

‘My name’s Eoghan, and my age is unknown.’  Said Mohawk. Eoghan. 

‘What the fuck do you mean, you don’t know your age?’ Sam said. 

‘Well, I don’t actually have a birth certificate, so I have no way of knowing if I’m actually eleven or if I’m actually twenty-five. So, right, then, I suppose I don’t know my age.’

‘Well, what about your parents, you insipid prat?’ Said a brown-haired girl on the other side of the U. 

‘What? Parents? What is this unheard of concept of which you speak?’ Eoghan said.

‘Right, kid, sit down.’ Sam said, gesturing dismissively to Eoghan, who chuckled lightly and sat down. ‘You, pink hair.’ Sam gestured to a pretty girl with hot pink hair and brown eyeliner. 

‘My name’s Filander and I’m fifteen and I was born in Montréal.’ She said and sat back down. 

‘Right. You, prat.’ Sam gestured to the brown-haired girl who’d called Eoghan a prat. 

‘Right. My name’s Isetaari, I’m fifteen and I was born in Egypt.’ She had an accent that would have been called the accent of a chav by some, which I couldn’t actually understand if she was born in Egypt, but alright.

‘Right then. You, metal.’ Sam pointed to Eoghan’s friend.

‘Name’s Harley, I’m sixteen and I was born in Three Specks’ garage during a Gertrude’s Feet concert.’ 

‘Gertrude’s Feet?’ said Filander.

‘Right, yup. Broken-up death metal band.’ Harley replied.

‘And, Three Specks?’ Said Sam.

‘Lead singer of Bangers.’ Harley answered.

‘Right. So, you, Mr Green.’ Sam pointed to a dark-skinned boy wearing all green. 

‘Babatunde. Fifteen. Somewhere in West Africa.’ The boy said and sat back down. 

‘Very nice, very nice.’ Sam continued with that until all twenty-four kids in the class had answered the prompts. I didn’t really pay attention to them after Babatunde. However, I did notice that Eoghan had been staring at me almost the whole time through. I only looked at him and smirked a bit and then looked away. Then the bell rang and we all filed out into the hall with the rest of the school. I walked down the hall and I saw out of the corners of my eyes all the boys and some girls staring at me, and, again, I was well chuffed. 

The day, besides Eoghan, and Harley, was pretty mediocre; I went about my classes accompanied by plentiful stares (and continuous chuffed-ness) and mainly it was just a rerun of what happened in Sam’s class. 

So, I was walking home, right, and, then I heard footsteps behind me and I decided not to turn around, and it was Eoghan and Harley. 

‘So, Miss Legs.’ Harley said to me. ‘You fancy a spliff down the park?’ 

‘Hmm?’ I said, turning my head to Harley slowly. 

‘You fancy a spliff?’ Harley said again. 

‘Mmm… Only if Eoghan’s there.’ I said.

‘Eoghan? You coming?’ Harley said to Eoghan.

‘Naw. I’ve got to get to the store.’ Eoghan said back. 

‘Well, then, looks like I’m not coming. See you later then.’ I said and they stopped walking and I kept going. 

I decided to call my friend, Lisbet, that night and see how her first day of college was going back home, in Bristol. 

‘Hello?’ She said. 

‘Lisbet?’ I said.

‘Krasava?’ And then we both screamed in excitement. I hadn’t talked to her on the phone for a long time. We laughed and sighed and I said, ‘So, how was college?’ 

‘Oh, it was fine. I’m doing three A-levels: English, Spanish and Philosophy, and the instructors are fine. I saw Mary-Lee and Joanna in philosophy, so that’s good.’ 

‘Any male interests?’ 

‘Yeah, there’s this boy named Colin, and another called Bat.’ 

‘Bat? Wait, that kid who would always hang upside down from the trees with a black cape in primary?’ 

Lisbet giggled and said, ‘Yeah, him.’ 

‘Well, does he still hang upside down?’ 

‘I don’t know. I’ll bet it wouldn’t take much to find out.’ Lisbet said and we both laughed. 

‘Has his face slimmed down?’ 

‘Yeah, his cheekbones are really nice and pretty now, and he’s got just the hint of a moustache, and his jaw juts now.’ 

‘Mmh.’ I murmured my approval. ‘And Colin?’ 

‘Oh, he’s Charlotte Browning’s older brother.’ 

‘Charlotte Browning? Are you kidding me? She’s still around?’ 

‘Oh, yeah. She’s in some posh rehab clinic in Scotland now and Colin lives with their Aunt Jeanine in Filwood Park.’ 

‘Hmm. Isn’t that close to Janie B’s house?’ 

‘Oh, yeah. Wow, I never thought of that. Yeah, it is. I wonder if they know each other. I’ll have to ask.’ 

‘Hey, what time is it there? Like, eleven-thirty, right?’ 

‘Oh? Yeah, yeah.’ 

‘Shouldn’t you go to sleep soon?’

‘What? Oh, no, I’m not tired at all.’ 

‘What, have you done acid?’

‘Oh? No. Not lately, at least.’ 

‘Right. Gotta go, now. Bye, Lisbet!’ 

‘Bye, Krasava.’ 


That night I had really strange dreams. I don’t usually remember my dreams, but I did the next day:

I dreamt that there was this guy with a page-boy cap and white hair and a big ol’ white moustache. And he was sitting by a gurgling stream in a pretty, golden forest with about a million trees, and he was sitting there and he was wielding an old-looking pencil that barely had any pen left in it on a piece of loose parchment and then the dream showed me what he was drawing: a dragon! It was big, about fifty-odd feet long and some 16 feet tall at its shoulder, and it was gold-coloured with weird white egg-shaped spots on its wings, and the dragon suddenly shifted its head to me, or whatever I was in the dream, wherever, and the guy turned around and he smiled, he beamed, rather, at me and he said, ‘At last. You’re finally here.’ He sounded English and his voice sounded the same way that they sound on TV shows from the sixties or how Queen Elizabeth sounds on tapes from the fifties and that. And he turned to the dragon and the dragon said, ‘Krasava. It is time to come back to us.’ And the dragon turned back to the man who turned back to me and said, ‘You are one of  the last Dragonkeepers. You are destined to be the next Dragonmaster. I cannot help you. But there is someone who can. I would say, if you choose to pursue this path, but you haven’t a choice. It is now. The person who can help you is right in front of you. You have no choice, Krasava. Good luck.’ 

I dreamt that there was a humongous cliff ledge, though it was more like a softy mountain edge, and there were fifty-seven dragons standing on it, three of each kind, all stood together. And they all were looking down at me, presumably about twenty feet below them. And then they all opened their mouths all at the same time, and they all let out their roar, or call, or squawk, or soundless screech all at once, and it sounded amazing, like heaven, and then it went from indistinguishable beautiful noise, to words, saying, ‘Krasava! You’re home!’ 

I dreamt that Eoghan was standing on a pedestal, with a big glass dome surrounding him, and he looked at me and he said, ‘I’m here.’ And then he turned into a humongous green-brown dragon that had gargantuan wings about it and big legs and no arms and big jowl-y thingies off of its jaw and then I was flying beside him, and I looked down at myself and I was a big white dragon, too. 

I dreamt of a small village that had no houses, just forest and forest, and about a million dragons living in it and I zoomed out of the village, like it was on Google Earth or something, and then a little red pin-thing popped up with an address that said, ‘home, drakon khranitel’. Which means ‘dragon keeper’ in Russian. 

And then I woke up. 


I woke up early to a text message sound and I checked my phone and it Eoghan and he texted Hey, come meet me at Jolly Pearl Park. And I replied Yeah. Give me fifteen minutes. 

And I got out of bed and I put on black sheer tights and knee-high socks and my faux combats and a light grey cardigan and a pair of black denim shorts and a black tank top that had a slit up the middle of the back and I grabbed my phone and my spliff case and some loose change (six dollars, all in loonies and quarters, by the way) and I slipped out of the house without a sound. 

Jolly Pearl Park was this remote little park on the very, very Eastern side of Toronto, and I was surprised that he’d known about it. The most people I’d ever seen at that park in a span of three days was three: an old man and his wife and their dog (who I’m counting because dogs have feelings, too). I had been there for three days because my friend had told us all a story that his great-great-grandpa had written down in a book of legends that said that if anyone enters into Jolly Pearl Park with an older hand-mirror, a bottle of red ink and a dove’s feather, then they would get to see the dragons. On the second night, I had heard some real loud roaring and rumbling, but I was too scared to go outside and see, and, obviously, I came out of it unscathed and in my right mind, so I had no proof that anything happened. 

It took me a good fifteen minutes to electric-scooter to the park, but it took about seven minutes shorter because it was still too early for anyone sane to be out of their house and I went on the street. I saw Eoghan sitting on the field part of the park, bathed in the dim blue-grey light of dawn, and clothed in a black leather jacket, black jeans, and hunter-green Doc Martens. He lit up a spliff about three seconds before I entered the park, and I took his distraction in dragging on his spliff as an opportunity to sneak up behind him and scare the living snot out of him. I gently put my scooter down on the ground a few yards away from him and sneaked up to him, slowly and quietly, but, without turning around, he said, ‘I know you’re there, Krasava.’ I snapped my fingers and said, ‘Shit.’ Under my breath but I walked up at a regular pace and sat beside him and then laid back into the grass and closed my eyes and when I opened them again the clouds were slightly pink with the early morning sun and Eoghan’s spliff had gone out and he was laying with his head beside mine. 

‘So.’ He said, his voice barely above a husky whisper. He cleared his throat gently and continued. ‘Do you know what happened?’

‘With what?’ I whispered.

‘Last night.’

‘What happened last night?’

‘I know that you remember, Krasava, so don’t try and lie.’ I turned to him and gave him a smirk and closed my eyes and said, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about. May as well tell me.’ And he sighed and sat up and he stood up and paced back and forth in front of me a couple of times before he sat back down and he said, ‘The dream.’ 

‘What? What dream?’

‘Krasava. I’m not going to play this game with you.’ 

‘What… game?’ 

‘The one that we’re playin’ now.’ 

‘Eoghan. What are you talking about?’

‘I’m talking about the round-about game that we’re playing: where you pretend you have no idea what I’m talking about, because it’s too… Weird… For you to believe, and I only manage to get you to stop playing the game by detailing exactly what the winner gets.’ 

‘Right. That game. It was just a dream, though, wasn’t it?’

‘No! It was not … Just a dream. It was message. It was a sign. It was a sign, Krasava.’ 

‘Oh. A sign of what, exactly?’ 

‘A sign of what is meant to happen.’ 

‘Oh. And, what, exactly, is meant to happen, Eoghan? I’m meant to … To believe that I’m a-a white dragon and you’re a green one and I’m some… Mystical, long-lost fabrication of ancient myth? Is that what’s meant to happen? Because that’s all I’m seeing.’

‘Stop. Think. What else happened in your dreams last night?’ 

‘Uhm… There was the old guy with the white moustache and the dragon keeper village and the whole bunch of dragons on the cliff and that. Am I getting anywhere?’ 

‘The village.’ 

‘Okay. What about it?’ 

‘Where did it look it was, when you … Ah… Zoomed out?’ 

‘It looked like it was in … er… Germany.’ 

‘Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.’ 

‘Eoghan? How did you know all of that?’ 

‘You’ll soon see, I promise.’ He bit his bottom lip slightly, and sighed and said, ‘Come back to my place.’ 


‘Just—Just do it, okay? Please? It’s important.’

‘Uh… Fine.’ I said and I got up and I walked back to my scooter with Eoghan trailing behind me and I got on and he got on behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist, which didn’t actually feel like he was making a move at all. He directed me over the hum of the scooter and early morning traffic through many wide alleys and up a long hill and through a ravine and then to a great big mansion that was painted green and pink and light blue and black and neon green. 

‘This is your place?’ I said incredulously. 

‘Yeah. Forget about it. Bring the scooter inside and I’ll show you why we’re here, ‘kay?’ I nodded and he led me into the grandiose front foyer and then he brought me a grand staircase, through a long corridor, up three flights of stairs, into a little attic apartment that had a cork board with pictures and sheets of paper with words written on them in different colour, disastrous but legible handwriting and a bed in one corner that had a plain dark-blue bedspread and there was a desk with various pens and paper and shit spread over it, and then there was a big armoire on the right of the bed that had elaborate carvings on it and there was a little padlock on a chain wrapped around the handles in some kind of odd knot on the armoire. 

‘So. You gonna show me why we’re here?’ 

‘Yes. Erm, come here.’ He said and held his hand out to me as I was still standing on the last step down from the top of the stairs. I walked to him and he gestured at the cork board he was standing in front of, and facing, and I faced it and looked at it, too, and I saw a map of the world, a small one, at that, but still, a map of the world. There were three intense red circles around a small area of SouthWest Germany (I think), a part of Scotland, and a Northern area of Australia. ‘So. Do you have any idea what this is?’ Eoghan said almost gleefully with a smile on his face. I shook my head no. ‘Of course you don’t. So, this is the part of Australia that is mostly forest. This is a part of Scotland close to where Loch Ness is. And this, this is the Black Forest of Germany. These are all places, where, in ancient myths, dragons have been said to inhabit. And not just any dragons, no. But supreme, old, wise, incomprehensibly intelligent dragons. For centuries, geographers and naturalists have tried to find the dragons, and only one ever did: Ernest Drake. He found a village in … In some part of Europe, but rumoured Australia, and in this village, there was nothing but dragons. Just dragons. And he found the Guardian dragon, who’s supposedly the wisest and oldest and smartest dragon of their time. Drake, see, he was a small, guy. He was English, and he lived during the Victorian Era, which made it kinda hard for him to find any real credit for his research, but he did it all, all of it, nonetheless. He went and did it and made it through to the making of his compendium. Anyway, over the years since he found the village, geographers have sought out the place, they’ve spent years, no, more like decades upon decades searching for the village, but they could never find it. My great-grandmother, Pearl Smith, she was an amazing traveller. She would go from London, England to Italy, and then wind up taking a ship back from China. And all of that in only, like, six months. Anyway, she’d heard of this village, and she made it her mission to find the place before she died, or die trying. So, she went all over the world, through the tropical rainforests of South America, to Hawaii, and through England, and Scotland, and Wales, and Ireland, and Africa, even, Africa!, and she eventually found it. She was about seventy-five when she did, but she did it, nonetheless, and you know where it was? Germany. It was in Germany. Land of Nazis and weird food and beer. Why the dragons chose Germany, of all places, everywhere, for their village, I have no idea. But they did. So, my whole family has been puzzling over whether Pearl’s claims were real, but everyone was too chicken to go and find out for their themselves, so the actual place of it got skewed over time and through the telephone. But your dream, your dream confirmed it.’ 

I nodded a bit and looked at him. 

‘Uhm. Right. So, what, exactly, do you want me to do about this?’ I said carefully. 

‘Right. In your dream, the old guy with the white moustache? He was Ernest Drake. If his soul is coming to you in your dreams and telling you that you’re a fucking Dragonkeeper, and you’re destined to be a Dragonmaster, it’s something. A big fucking something.’ 

‘Okay. I don’t even know what a fucking Dragonkeeper or a Dragonmaster is or anything. So, how am I supposed to do anything with that?’ 

‘You’re supposed to go to the village with me and seek out the Guardian and figure out what your life is meant to be.’ I walked over to his bed and sat down with a sigh. He followed me and sat on my right. He sat there for a couple of minutes then he got up and started rummaging around under the bed. I heard a lock click and then a slight thunk and then he came up with his hand closed and outstretched. He sat back down beside me. ‘This is a soul gem. If I hold it in my hand and ask it a question and then look back into it, then it will show me the answer. Here.’ He took my hand and placed a precisely cut diamond with a purple velvet rim around its edges in my palm. I looked at it and then a vision of dragons and the guy with the white moustache, Drake, showed up and one of the dragons, a big white one, flew down off of a cliff and then it soared into the sky and then I looked at its eyes and I saw myself in them. The big white dragon was me. It’s me. But is it? 

{Sorry about this, but I think that it’s important to note all of what happened.}

I startled myself out of the gem’s trance and put it back in Eoghan’s lap. He took it and put it back in the under-the-bed. He sat back on the bed and I turned to him and he looked at me and I moved a while closer to him and he moved a while closer to me and then he leaned in and I leaned in and I wrapped my hand around his neck and my other hand got tangled in his hair, which wasn’t styled and gelled in his usual mohawk, and he put his hand just slightly on my waist and then on my hip and his other hand on my back and we kissed roughly, but nicely. And I leaned out and then I looked at his eyes and they were sparkling and his irises were precisely yellow, but it looked awesome and I didn’t care and I leaned in again and we kissed again, barely taking ourselves out of each other for breath and he gently pushed his tongue onto mine and I pushed mine against his again and then I leaned out a bit and put my face down in his shoulder for a minute and then he put his arms around me fully and I wrapped my arms around his neck and I breathed in his scent of spliff and sage and boy and trees. I moved my face up to his and I kissed him again, with my tongue a little bit only for a moment and then I moved away and he looked at me in my eyes and I avoided his gaze and then he moved his head so I had to look at his eyes and they were wide and slanted in on his face and they had a pupil and iris like a cat’s and the irises were green. Like, solid hunter-green, not the normal, human-eye-green. He kissed my lips once more and I could feel his smile through his kiss and he moved his hand down my back to my arse and I didn’t mind and he kept on kissing me, smilingly. I moved my tongue into his mouth and we tongue-wrestled for a few moments before I broke away and he grabbed my hand and he pulled me up off his bed and we walked down the million stairs and through the corridors and out the door and he led me to a path and said, without actually saying anything, ‘Are you sure you can do this?’ And I looked down and nodded and he led me through the path which turned into undergrowth and then a brown forest path without grass and about a million trees surrounding us and we got to a clearing where there were probably five tall Aboriginal men, three of the five with elaborate headdresses and beaded clothes and bare feet. And they all looked at Eoghan and the man farthest from us said, ‘Ready?’ And Eoghan looked at me then back at the man and nodded. The other men gently nudged us into their circle and we stood and then they all started dancing and hopping on alternating singular feet and they chanted something that sounded vaguely like ‘Ba - Ba - Ya - Ga - Ba - Ba - Ya - Ga- Na - Na - No - No - No - No - Now!’ And then I fell onto nothing, I just floated in the air and I closed my eyes because there was a big wind whipping my hair all over the place and I didn’t want to get dirt in my eyes. And then we were standing at a humongous black iron gate that had a large padlock built into it, but it was several feet above our heads and it had a curly cursive ‘D’ hammered into it and there was a clear gem in the empty space of the D. 

I was lying on the ground before the gate and I looked around and I couldn’t see Eoghan anywhere and then I heard a rumbling and a huge SNAP … SNAP … SNAP and there was suddenly a great fifteen foot tall black Chinese-looking dragon standing on the other side of the gate and it looked down at me with its huge, hypnotic eyes and it suddenly turned around and walked away and then it returned with four more dragons: a really, really, really huge bright green dragon, like the one that I saw in my dream who Eoghan had turned into; a fairly large and long Asian-looking red dragon; a tallish (compared to the other dragons) pink-tinged white, majestic looking dragon with a cool tail that ended in something that looked a bit like leaves; and one that looked kind of like how Quetzalcoatl was depicted. And they all looked down at me as I supported my self on my elbows and I suddenly realised that I was really, really cold, so I stood up shakily and wrapped my light cardigan around my body more tightly but it didn’t make a difference. I looked around for Eoghan and I heard rustling in the forest, and then I saw Eoghan, hair and clothes set askew and slightly tattered, running to me and then he stopped when he saw me and set his hands on his knees and panted before walking over to me and then stopping when he noticed what was stood behind the gate. He looked at each of the dragons and bowed deeply before them, as a sign of respect, I suppose and then he walked to my side and grabbed my hand and kissed my cheek lightly and then he turned to the dragons, took a deep breath, and said:

‘Hello, dragons. My name is Eoghan, but you may know me as Hearkenjolle. My companion was sent a message by Drake himself that she is the next Dragonmaster and is one of the last Dragonkeepers. We have come here by light of the AB-Transporters, to seek guidance from you and see ourselves and our destinies in our special circumstances clearly and fully. I even have a soul gem that showed yourselves to my companion, Krasava. I—‘ 

‘STOOOOOOOOOOP!!!’ The Chinese one roared and reared back on its hind legs and then brought its forelegs down and made the ground rumble violently, and I wondered if it hadn’t caused an earthquake. Eoghan stopped and looked up expectantly at the dragon who moved its eyes slightly to peer at me over the gate. ‘Girl. Step forward.’ I stepped forward slightly as I tried to keep from glancing back at Eoghan. ‘You know of your destiny?’ I shook my head no. ‘Yes, I didn’t think so. Hearkenjolle!’ The dragon looked at Eoghan again. ‘Lead her through the gate and show her her proper dwellings. We will be along soon with the Guardian.’ The dragons all turned and walked away from us then and I walked back to Eoghan and gave him a look that said, ‘What the fuck?’ He gave me a squirmy uncomfortable look that seemed to say, ‘I want to explain, but there’s no time right now.’ He turned away from me and bent down to the ground. Crouching, he picked up a handful of dirt and roared a magnificent roar that sounded reminiscent of one of the roars I had heard in my dream. And then, in a black and grey and light, light purple mist he turned and twisted into a great hunter-green-y-brown dragon that towered over some of the trees. He looked down at me, and I realised that I was gaping slightly so I closed my mouth and just looked at him. 

‘Hearkenjolle.’ He said in a rumbling, roaring voice. He walked on his hind legs, with his chest and head rearing up, to the gate and roared something in a different and ancient-sounding language and the gate just disappeared. He nudged me forward with a nod of his head and I walked forward through the gate, into the same village I had seen in my dream. There were many, many dragons all over everywhere around us and they all saw Eoghan and bowed and said the same phrase, which sounded like, ‘Bonum gestu.’ But Eoghan didn’t stop walking clumsily through the tree-lined road. When we got to a four-path-fork in the road, he led me down the far-right one and we walked as the path got narrower and narrower and then there was a magnificent golden marble palace with a huge moat and a drawbridge over it that lead to a huge, probably 75-foot tall archway. The drawbridge opened to reveal a magnificent brick foyer that had a tall white podium with ancient script carved into it on all spaces. Eoghan looked at me and said, ‘Go on.’ And I went on and we walked over the drawbridge and we went into the foyer and I walked over to the podium and touched it and I heard a magnificent howling roar that sounded like a wolf and I felt incredibly cold and then I was growing, growing, growing. I stood sixteen-feet tall and I was a pure white dragon and I looked around and I saw about a million tapestries depicting long-lost prophecies and Eoghan stood there on his hind legs with his chest down to the floor and his head reclined back to look at me, and, through his dragon-ness, he smiled at me and then he laughed an odd, booming laugh. I chuckled, too and then I heard rumbling again and then there was a very tall, very long, very old-looking gold, slender-neck and bodied dragon standing on the drawbridge and I knew that this dragon was a force to be reckoned with. She (don’t ask me how I knew that this dragon was a she, I don’t know how either) walked over the drawbridge to me, and she looked up at me and she said, ‘Krasava! At long last, you have come home. We have much to discuss, young one.’ And I nodded my head solemnly and she led me into a big room that had a whole bunch of gold tokens and silver and brass and gold jewellery and about a million books and then she laid down in the coins and stretched out and then she stood back up and looked up at me and she said, ‘You are a Frost Dragon. Your Dragon name is Frigidum, which means cold in Latin. My name is Akane, I was born in Japan, several hundred years ago. I am the Guardian dragon. I am the protector of all the dragons and I am the Chief-Dragon of the Society of Dragons. You are the Dragonmaster. You have been chosen, destined from birth, to rule and govern the Society of Dragons for all eternity. I understand that this is a lot to take in, but it will sink in. I am going to die soon; after which you will take my place as the Guardian. For now, we need to educate you on the history of dragon-kind, and what may happen when you become the Guardian. But right now I am too tired. Leave me, Frigidum. Come back later.’ And I walked out of the hoard with a million questions bouncing around in my head, such as: Why was I chosen for this? Why were you chosen for this? How do the humans not know you—we exist? Why don’t they? Can I tell them? And about three billion more. 

I went into the foyer and Eoghan was sitting in a chair as his human self and I turned myself back into a human and I went up to him and I sat on his lap and draped myself across his chest and he put his arms around me as I cried tears of confusion and exhaustion and frustration. 


I don’t know how we got back from The Village. I just remember waking up in Eoghan’s bed with him sleeping on the floor in black boxer shorts and no shirt (which did make me quite happy, I admit) and I was in just a dark grey too big T-shirt, presumably Eoghan’s, and it smelled like sage and vanilla when I woke up. I didn’t want to wake Eoghan, so I tried to make my way out of his bed to wherever his kitchen was without sound but the floor creaked when I got out of the bed and Eoghan mumbled something that sounded like ‘chicken feet gobble gobble’ and then turned onto his stomach, but he didn’t wake up. I walked down three stairs when I realised I hadn’t put my hair into a ponytail and it would inevitably get in my way seeing as it was down to my knees now. I usually put my hair into a very large bun or I braided it but I suppose it must have come down and long when I turned back into my human self back in The Village. Anyway, I snuck back up the stairs to see Eoghan sitting up with his hair standing up every which way and a very odd look on his face, but when he saw me his expression softened and he said, ‘Hey. Sleep okay?’ And I nodded and sat back on his bed and he sat on his bed too and looked at me with a face that said, ‘Are you okay?’ so very plainly that I just nodded and leaned back with a groan. 

‘Why did you sleep on the floor?’ I asked him.

‘I didn’t want to wake you.’ 

I nodded and closed my eyes and then opened them and said, ‘You could have slept in the bed. It is your house and your bed, after all.’ He nodded without looking at me and I said, ‘Wait, why didn’t you take me back to my house?’ 

‘I didn’t know where you lived. And, even if I did, I wouldn’t have been able to get in without a bobby pin and a rectangle of metal. Or your key.’ 

‘Well, why wouldn’t you have just looked it up in my phone or something? Or online, and then used my key?’

‘You didn’t notice?’

‘Er, no. What?’ 

‘When you went into your dragon form, your clothes… Er… Went. So… Er… Yeah.’ 

‘What do you mean went?’ 

‘Why do you think you’re wearing my T-shirt?’ I looked down and I realised what he meant. 

‘Fuck. Really? Really?’ He nodded. ‘Shit.’ I chuckled as I said, ‘Well. Sorry.’ And we both laughed for a few minutes before sighing and quieting down. ‘Wait. So… I was … I was sat on your lap with no clothes on and I didn’t even notice?’ 

‘Right-o.’ He said while he blushed a deep crimson. 

‘Sorry. Sorry.’ I laughed a bit more and then I said, ‘Did that…’ He picked up my hint immediately and simply nodded and we both laughed a little more. 

‘You know… I wonder… Could it all have just been a dream? And we’re  just too idealistic to realise it?’ He said.

‘I… Yeah. It could have been. But I think, just for the sake of my sanity, let’s just go on and say that it was all real.’ 

‘Yeah. Yeah.’ 

And that was that. 

So, we ended up just lounging around his gigantic palace of a house for the rest of the day and every little while we’d start to make out again and then we’d drift off in separate directions and then we’d drift back together and that was that. 


Eventually, I found some decent clothes in a closet of an empty room way far from Eoghan’s attic (a purple tank-top, a pair of light-wash blue jeans, red and white striped converse and a humongous silver ski jacket). Eoghan said the room used to be his sister’s, but he said nothing more on the subject, which indicated that either she died or she killed herself, she murdered somebody or she hasn’t been in contact with his family for several years. I made a point of it to ask him, very casually, about it later. 

Eoghan said he could drive home in one of his dad’s cars and I thought about it for a moment and then I said, ‘Yeah. Sure.’ So he walked me down around a very twisty little corridor to a garage that seemed to go on forever. I’d brushed up on my car type history back when I was eleven for a school project on ‘Cool Things That Didn’t Exist Five-Hundred Years Ago’, so I can be trusted to be able to recognise the cars in someone’s garage by sight. Eoghan’s garage had a bright pink Cadillac, a Dodge Viper, a Mercedes-Benz540K in light brown, a silver Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, a shiny green Chevrolet Corvette, a mint green Hudson Hornet, an Austin Healey 3000 (among about fifteen others), and, for the cake, a Bugatti Type 57 in military green, which is where we stopped and Eoghan opened the door for me. I slid into the seat and noticed there wasn’t a seat belt, but I didn’t mind. He got in the driver’s side and looked at me before starting the engine and revving it a couple times. I looked over at him and I said, ‘Wait. Aren’t you like only seventeen?’ And he smiled devilishly at me and we backed out of the enormous garage to the drive and to the road. 

We’d been driving smoothly for about fifteen minutes when I said, ‘Won’t your parents mind?’ 

‘If they notice. That is, if they ever come out of their offices to take a look. We have a maid and stuff to do the shopping, so they never come out. Besides to piss and sometimes eat.’ 

‘Oh. Whoa. Hardcore.’

‘Tell me about it.’ 

‘What do they do?’

‘Mom’s a fashion designer, an animator, and a film score composer and Dad’s a… I actually don’t know what he does. Maybe he sells guns or coke or something.’ Eoghan said as he shrugged his shoulders dismissively. 


‘Hm.’ And we kept on driving along various roads and side streets at my discretion until we came to my shabby yellow, orange and faded pink duplex with weeds and silver grass overgrown in the tiny garden. I got out of the car after I kissed Eoghan a bit on the mouth and then I went in and I remembered that I didn’t have my key. I rang the bell and waited for about ten minutes before my mum came to the door and said, ‘What are you doin’ here?’ With an odd look on her face. I thought nothing of it and went past her  and up to my room with just a scoff and an otherwise silent eye roll. I shut my door and laid on my bed and looked up at the ceiling and then I woke up. 




I do admit it:

I had not lived before that fateful Spring day on holiday at my grandparents’ private beach. 

My parents had decided to send me away to my grandparents’ all-year round cottage in Rhode Island because, as they said, they were ‘Having some issues’ and they needed ‘time to reflect’. Which basically means that they were going to be going through a divorce when I came home in eight months. I didn’t really mind it. My grandparents were very old and weary and they slept about 75% of the time, but their property, which was about ten acres (or at least that’s what they told me), was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been. But, considering that I’d only been to three (London, England; Toronto, Ontario; and of course their place), it didn’t have very much competition. 

Anyway, back to that Spring day in Weekapaug, Rhode Island. 

So, in the particular part of Rhode Island that dear old Gramma Lissi and Pops lived in, the weather in April tended to fancy the warmer side. So, an average Weekapaug-Near-End-of-April day, it’d probably be closer to 11 degrees, sometimes getting close to 20, but not usually exceeding that. So, as I said before, my grandparents owned a part of a beach, but, this beach had no fence and no property boundary markers (such as in invisible laser that set off a screeching alarm every time it was breached), and their property was the last on that particular part of that land, so it was really nobody’s fault that this girl with strawberry coloured hair and a pierced lip and a bikini top and trunks wandered over the property line to retrieve her frisbee while I was sunbathing in just bikini bottoms and no top. Of course, they were asleep at this time in the afternoon, but I (stupid me!) told them about the whole thing later. 

Now would probably be as good a time as any to tell you what I look like: I have straight brown hair that’s pretty thick but not that thick; I have big brown eyes; lips with a Cupid’s bow; quite tan skin; and I’m not too tall but I’m taller than average. 


So, I was sunbathing on a lawn chair in hot pink bikini bottoms by the beach, lathering suntan lotion all over me every hour and a half. I was wearing sunglasses (not the smartest for suntanning) and I’d had my eyes closed and I had Lady Gaga and Katy Perry blasting on my ear buds, so I couldn’t have been aware that there were a bunch of teenaged boys sitting a small while away from me at a picnic table with binoculars, or, more relevantly, a group of older guys and gals playing frisbee only a few kilometres away from me. So, they were playing frisbee, those others were ogling, and I was happily listening to meaningless pop music while enhancing my risk of skin cancer, when this girl with strawberry coloured hair that was not quite pink and not quite red and not quite orange and a pierced lip and comes up to my lawn chair and at first I ignore it because I think it’s the neighbour’s dog when she yanks my earbuds from my head that I turn and squint at her. She looked at me and she just said You do know that those boys over there are staring at your tits, right? And I spotted the boys and the picnic table and they simply waved sheepishly and then ran away and then I said Oh. Thanks. 

I put my earbuds back in but she didn’t go away, so I took my earbuds out again and looked at her and she said Could you hand me that frisbee, there, please? And I picked it up and handed it to her and then she went back to her game and I went back to my music and skin cancer preparation. But, then, after about a half hour of me, myself, and I, she came back over again and said, My name is Circe. And she held out her hand and I pushed my sunglasses onto the top of my head and shook her hand. And then she sat down in the warm but not scorching sand beside me and said, My friends dared me to come and see if you’d like to come play frisbee with us, mainly because they could all see your tits and they know I’m gay, so… Yeah. Would you? And I looked down at her and I said, You’re gay and your friends have all been admiring my rack? Am I interpreting this correctly? And she laughed and she said, No! Well, yes, I am gay, but no, my friends have not been admiring your rack, I can assure you. They’re all gay males. They couldn’t care less about what you do or do not keep hidden from their sight. So, will you come play? And I thought about it for a minute and then I said, Yeah, but I’m shit at frisbee. Anything that involves or throwing, really. And she laughed again and it was like an angel’s song, her laugh, and then she  said, Come swim, then? 

She stood up without waiting for my answer and I left my earbuds and my cell phone on the lawn chair and followed her into the cool water. We ended up wading really far in so that only the tips of our toes could touch the bottom and the waves (this was the ocean, after all) made it hard to stay still or move around without getting splashed in the face a bit. 

Then Circe said, So, are you from here? I wouldn’t guess so because me and my friends have been coming here once a week, rain or shine, for frisbee practice since we were all in the sixth grade, which would make that… I think, seven years ago, now. I looked at her through the sun and the waves and said, You’re all eighteen? And she said, No, they’re all eighteen, but I skipped two years so I’m sixteen. And I said, Thank God. A fifteen year old going swimming with an eighteen-year-old? My mum would kill me. And we both laughed and she said, Good thing I’m sixteen, then. And I said, So, you’re in college? Or university? And she said, No, I’m an artist, and I finished art school I think a year ago. I only went for one year, but I crammed a shitload of courses into it, and I graduated with Honours. And I said, That’s so cool. What kind of art do you do? And she said, Mostly abstract and impressionist painting and occasionally I’ll sculpt something totally life-like and then I’ll paint it a bunch of weird colours. Like, I once did this humongous, eight foot tall, fifty feet wide bald eagle and I spray painted its wings gold and I did its head orange. And then I laughed and smiled in awe of this unheard of world of finishing school at fifteen and doing humongous bald eagle sculptures and being self-sufficient. 

And then it started getting dark so we waded back out of the sea and Circe’s friends had ended up going back to their dormitory in Kingston and she didn’t have a car so I offered my grandparents’ guest bedroom for the night, along with food and clothes, of course. And she looked reluctant at first but then she punched my arm lightly and said, I’m only joking! Thank you. 

We gathered up her little pouch of water and dietary supplements (which, I would learn later, were about as far from dietary supplements as you could get) and her cell phone and some weird battery thing for her music player and the lawn chair and my things and we went into the house, which was almost completely dark by then and I could hear the hushed, ragged voices of my grandparents coming from their bedroom and I turned around and mimed for Circe to stay quiet and she nodded and we proceeded to my bedroom and then I went into my bathroom and towelled off and I saw her in the doorway watching me and I made a shooing gesture with my hand and she laughed quietly and went and sat on my bed. I put my hair in a loose top knot and went to my dresser and grabbed a pair of short shorts and a dark grey tank top and a pair of panties for me and then left the T-shirt drawer open for Circe. 

She saw me as I was ducking back into the bathroom to get dressed, and I did quickly and quietly and then I went back out and Circe was sitting on my wine-coloured bedspread in one of my dad’s old university T-shirts that said in a horrid acid_green campus font, GO, Hedgehogs! Fight, fight, fight! And she motioned to the shirt and raised her eyebrows at me and smirked a bit and I laughed and whispered, It’s my dad’s. And she nodded and said, You know, you still haven’t told me your name. And I looked up at her and I stuck out my hand and I said, Mignonette. Pleased to meet you. And she laughed at my formality and took my hand and then we both laughed and then she said, So, am I to sleep in here? Because if it’s too big of a hassle for you to get me upstairs or downstairs or wherever, it’s okay. I mean, it is a big bed. And I thought about it a minute before saying, Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Um, I can sleep on the little sofa, here. It pulls out into a bed. Not a problem. And she said, No, no, it’s okay. I don’t mind. Unless… Do you mind? And I looked down at me feet and then said, Er, a… Kinda, maybe? I don’t really know. She said, Well, you’ve had sleepovers before, right? It’s just a sleep over, isn’t it? 

I nodded and then I gestured to the bed and she got in and I got in and I turned out the lamp and I could hear the sea crashing on the shore outside and I turned onto my side and took three deep breaths. And then Circe turned over and put her hand on my hip. And I got the feeling like my friends were always talking about in elementary school. Butterflies in the stomach. They usually used that phrase when they were referring to seeing a boy that they had a crush on or something, and I’d never had that feeling for boys, but there was this one girl in junior high that I got butterflies for. And I thought, All of the evidence points towards it. Why not?

I took some deep breaths and counted backwards from one hundred and I fell asleep and before I knew it, it was the morning and I could smell oranges and pancakes and bacon from the kitchen so I rubbed my eyes and Circe wasn’t in the bed. I got up and checked the bathroom but she wasn’t there either. I suddenly remembered that my grandparents hardly ever got out of bed before 11am and I checked my clock and it was 10.30. I wandered out into the kitchen, and, sure enough, Circe was there in my dad’s T-shirt and nothing else at the stove cooking pancakes and bacon and there were orange peels all over the counter but I didn’t mind and she was humming this song that went like, doo. Doo-doo-doo-doodoodoo, over and over and over again and it sounded amazing, even in its simplicity and repetition and I cleared my throat and she jumped a bit and turned around. She said, Oh, it’s you. I hope that it’s okay I’ve made such a mess. The only orange juice I’ve ever drank is fresh-squeezed and it almost always tastes awesome and there were about a million oranges in your fridge and— But I cut her off and said, Yes, it’s fine. It’s totally fine. My grandparents never get out of bed before eleven anyway, so it’s no big deal at all. The mess is fine. I’ve made bigger making a sandwich with tomatoes and ketchup. Don’t worry about it. And she sighed with relief and I sat down at the little island thing and she set down a plate with four strips of bacon and a pancake that was cut into the shape of a smiley-face. I got up and rummaged around in the fridge for the last of the maple syrup that my parents had sent me with and I found it and I held it up and said Ta-da. And she laughed and then she sat down next to me and we ate the bacon and pancakes and drank the orange juice (which did taste awesome, by the way) in silence. I cleared our plates and she stood up and then I heard light footsteps and I looked up and Pops was standing in the kitchen doorway fully dressed in an argyle sweater and khakis held up above his navel with a cool leather belt and he was holding his cane in a death grip which he only did when he was either supremely confused or extremely pissed off, but I’m going to say that he was a bit of a mixture between both. He was squinting in the sun and I looked at Circe and then jerked my head at Pops and she turned around and gasped and went and hid behind me. 

Pops simply said, Good morning, Mignonette. Sleep well? In his cute little old man raspy, raspy voice that made me feel really bad for having a basically naked, weird hair, pierced lip, older (than me) girl in his kitchen. I stepped away from Circe and said, Pops, this is Circe. Circe, this is Pops, my grandfather. Circe simply looked back and forth from me to him and me to him with a deer in the headlights expression on her face and Pops said, Pleasure to meet you, Circe. And he shuffled over to Circe and smiled at her warmly and then shook her hand and then gave me a hug and then he said, Mignonette, all that you had to do was introduce us to her. And I laughed at his simplicity and my nervousness at what he was going to do. And I looked at Circe and realised what what Pops had just said actually meant. I helped Pops sit down in his chair at the table and then put a cloth napkin in his collar and then I took out some frozen oatmeal and heated it and put it into a bowl for him and just when I was about to take Circe’s hand and make my escape, Pops said, Sit down, girls. And Circe looked at me and I looked at her apologetically and then we sat down on Pops’s right. And he chewed his oatmeal slowly, as he always did. That took about ten minutes for him to have chewed enough oatmeal to be ready to talk and be able to listen to the answers. So he said, Circe. That’s a Greek name. Are you Greek? He said, pointing his fork at Circe. And she said, No, I don’t think so. And he said, Oh. Shame. I’ve always wanted to meet a Greek. And I said, Well, then why didn’t you go to Greece, Pops? And he said, I’m too old now and I didn’t have the money when I was able to go. And he looked back down at his bowl of oatmeal and he was about to start chewing again when I said, Circe is an artist, Pops. And he looked up at me and her and his eyes widened so that we both could actually see his eyes and he said, Really? What disciplines? How long have you been doing it? How old are you? And I laughed and Circe looked at me and I put my hand on her forearm and I had that same elementary boy feeling but with a girl and then she seemed calmer and she looked back at Pops and said, Yes, er, clay, and spray paint, occasionally charcoal, acrylic and water colour paint, since I was five, and I’m sixteen. 

Pops looked pretty impressed at all that she'd said and then he asked her, Have you gone to art school? Because if you haven't then you shouldn't call yourself an artist. Circe looked at me then with an expression that said, That's not true. But I shook my head ever so slightly no and she looked back at Pops and she said, I graduated with Honours from The National Academy School of Fine Arts a little over a year ago now. And his eyes widened again so that we could see all of his eyes, which was more than a little intimidating, but I thought nothing of it. So, you finished your entire education when you were fifteen? Pops said. Circe said back, Yes, just before my sixteenth birthday. I started when I was fourteen, just before my fifteenth birthday. I was only in it for a year, but I crammed about a million courses into the year. And Pops's eyes went back to normal and he resumed chewing his oatmeal and then he stopped suddenly, swallowed, and said, Mignonette? And I said, Yes? And Pops said, Why didn't you tell us outright? And I knew what he was talking about and I looked down and then I said back, I didn't know. Very, very quietly. And then Pops went back to chewing and then I noticed Circe mouthing something frantically at me that looked vaguely like, What are you talking about? And I just looked down at the yellowing lace placemat and didn't say anything. Pops looked up at me and he reache his hand forward and touched Circe's arm and he said, I'm glad that you know who you are so well, Circe. Please teach my granddaughter all that you can about herself. And then I got up as Pops took his hand away and then Circe got up and we went back to my room and Circe sat on my bed and looked at me with an expression that said plainly, What was that all about? And I looked at her and looked at my feet and looked at her and looked at my feet and then she got up off the bed and she just kissed me. And it was Fireworks. FIREWORKS. And I tangled my hands in her hair and it was only us two and everything around us was alive and just… Fireworks. And then she pulled away and I went in first and it WAS Fireworks. And then I pulled away and she looked at me and I said, That's what that was all about. I don't know how he knew. I'd never brought home a girl, that way, before, and I didn't actually know until I met you. I mean, I had my suspicions, but I never thought anything of them, and… Yeah. And she shook her head and said, Did you try dating boys? And I said back, Yeah. My friends were bugging me about it so I went out with this one older boy, Jake, and he kissed me but I just stood there, limp, like a noodle, because I didn't actually feel anything, but that was-- and she cut me off by saying, Fireworks. And I smiled and kissed her again, just briefly and from then on, I was gay. I was as gay as a window. I was. And I still am. Just not in the same way that I was then. 


After that whole thing with Pops was over and the kissing and all of that, Circe laid down on the bed and she said, I don’t think that I’ve ever had a kiss like that before. I said, Certainly not I. And we both laughed at that. Circe sat up as I dug around in my dresser for this one black dress that I thought would look great on her and she said, I really should be getting back to my place. And I stopped digging and looked at her and then she smiled and laughed and said, You’re so gullible! And I hit her lightly on the arm and she just laughed even more. I found the dress and handed it to her and said, Here. You can’t go around in my dad’s ugly old T-shirt all day. And then she said, I completely agree. But it’s a dress and I didn’t bring any spare undergarments. And I laughed and shook my head and said, You are going to be get the crap kicked out of you one day, being so high maintenance. And she just laughed as I grabbed her a pair of my underwear from the drawer and she went into the bathroom and put them on and the dress. She came out and she did look great. The dress was charcoal black and it was basically a mullet dress with the top of a tank top and weird wrinkle pleats on the sides and the back and she spun around and the dress lifted up as she spun but not too much that I could see her anything or anything and then she stopped and collapsed on the bed laughing. When she’d finally stopped laughing, she said to me, You wanna come back to my pad? And I looked at her like she had three heads and then I said, Pops and Gramma would worry if I went away without telling them. I mean, if it’s like really close, then it’d be fine, but… And she said, Yeah, it’s just in Charlestown. And I said, Um, yeah, I’ll just go ask them. 

I went into the hallway and knocked on my grandparents’ door gently. I opened the door and Pops was lying on their bed reading some book in French or something and he turned his head to me and I said, Circe wants me to go back to her place for a bit and it’s just in Charlestown and_ But Pops cut me off by saying, Where in Charlestown is it? I said, I’ll go ask her. I went back to my room and she was lying on my bed with her eyes closed and so I said, Pops wants to know where in Charlestown it is. And Circe sat up and said, By Old Post Road. Not too far from the library. So I went back and said to Pops, She says it’s by Old Post Road, near to the library. And Pops just nodded his head and then said, Yes, you can go. But answer your phone if we call, okay? I just nodded and then walked back out and to my room and said to Circe, He said I can go. Just let me get dressed. And she nodded her head against the bedspread and I rummaged around in my dresser (again) for this plain old ratty red T-shirt and this pair of denim shorts. I found them and went into the bathroom and got changed and then I went back out and said to Circe, Bikes? And she nodded and sat up and then I lent her a pair of my mom’s old flip-flops and grabbed a pair of mine. 

I remembered about my phone and said to Circe, Crap, I forgot my phone, give me one second. I went back into the house and grabbed my phone and a little pouch bag and my keys and grabbed Circe’s little pouch bag and carried them out into the garage and got out the old black mountain bike that Pops had got for my dad as an engagement present but he (my dad) had decided that he couldn’t mountain bike anymore because he was too old (or something) and my crappy but functional mint green bike and Circe took the black one and I took mine and we walked them out of the garage and then I closed the door and we rode out and onto the big road and she directed me and I followed her in mostly silence, except for the occasional car. We rode for forty-five minutes and it was so nice. We turned in at a little place that had a red mailbox that said, 4380 Boarding House on it and then Circe stopped and got off her bike and I stopped and got off my bike and then we walked to the house and Circe dropped her bike on the lawn and I did the same and she smiled and said, It’s not actually a boarding house, I just have that there to scare away the neighbours. And I laughed and she smiled and then we went into the house and it was a cute little three storey cottage type thing with a living room and a dining room and a bedroom on the first floor and a bathroom, too and there were three other bedrooms on the second floor, which Circe said she’d Turned into a massive art studio, which I thought was so cool, and then two bedrooms in the attic. Circe looked at me and I just said, It’s so nice. How’d you manage to live here? And she said back, My parents told me that if I managed to get into the New York art school then, after I graduated, they’d find me a place and buy it and I could live there without them. And this is what I chose. My parents live in New York and my aunt and uncle live in California and my grandparents have a place in Texas. And then my sister and her family live in Virginia and my brother lives in Seattle. And I said, Wow, you’ve got someone everywhere, don’t you? And she laughed and nodded and said, Yeah. And then we were both silent but she said, Hey, I wonder where the name for Virginia came from. Like, maybe there were just so many virgins in that area that they just had to make its name VIRGIN-ia. But they didn’t want it to be so forward so they added the I-A to it. I was laughing while she was saying that, by the way.

I said, Show me your studio. And she nodded and we went up the stairs to her studio and it was massive and there was a plastic sheet over the whole floor and there were about seventy-five eagles all around the whole place and about a million different canvasses and three-hundred trillion different colours of paint bottles everywhere. Circe walked in front of me and held out her arms and said, Welcome to my sanctuary. Feel free to look around while I go and change. She said and as she was walking past me I grabbed her arm and then kissed her again and it was just like the first time: Fireworks. And then I let her go and I heard her footsteps going down the stairs and I walked around and I found this huge painting tucked away behind an even huger one and the smaller-huger painting was depicting a girl  from the bottom of her shoulder blades up with nothing on, and she had reddish-orange hair that was over one shoulder and she was turning her head around to look demurely at the painter and there was pop art graphics surrounding the girl - it was only in the top left corner of it, but it made an impression nonetheless: it was white and reddish-pink, hot pink, I guess, retreating into the girl’s face and hair and it was an amazing painting and I thought that it could have been Circe. She came back up in a pair of blue jeans and a plain black muscle shirt and no shoes or socks on and she put her hand on my shoulder and I looked at her and back at the painting and said, Is that you? And she said, Yeah, I’m surprised you recognised me in it, most people don’t. And I just turned around and kissed her and she kissed me and we ended up chasing each other around her house while whipping our T-shirts at each other’s butts and then pulling each other close and kissing and then chasing each other again while laughing our faces off. 

I don’t know how it all happened so that we were in a relationship, but we were and it just happened and it was weird and amazing and jumbled up in loads of talking and painting and laughing and funny bullshit that made no sense. But, we were in a relationship, and that was that and it was amazing and Fireworks. 


I ended up basically living at Circe’s house over the next two months before Pops came into my room on one of the rare occasions that I was at home and he sat on my bed and I sat up and put my book away and I looked at him and he looked at me and he said, Mignonette. And I said, Pops. And he this look on his face that meant that he was preparing for a lot of talking all at once which rarely ever happened. He said, Mignonette. I’m so incredibly happy that you’ve found someone to love you and who you love. So is your gramma. But… Your dad called me and told me that it’s time for you to go home. 

I just sat there for a few minutes in the semi-darkness with Pops sitting on my bed and finally I’d made up my mind to say that I wouldn’t go, so I said, But… And Pops just said, I’m sorry, Mignonette. It’s his call, dear girl. I don’t have custody, so there’s nothing that I can do about it, I’m sorry. I could try and talk him into letting you stay here for a few more days but… His mind is made up. 

And then we both just sat there and I looked down at my hands and I realised that there were tears on my face. Pops saw them and he wrapped me in his arms and I sobbed silently into his comforting, incense-scented shoulder until he held me at a distance and he stood up and kissed my forehead and then he went back to his room and I laid back down and I turned off my lamp and I shoved my head under my pillow and I cried some more until I fell asleep. 


After two days of holing up in my room, I’d decided to run away to Circe’s house and never leave ever again. 

I packed my suitcase and a couple of backpacks and a hockey bag I found in my closet that wasn’t actually mine with all of my stuff - my clothes, my books, everything and I took my bike and I found two great big bike baskets and I put all of my stuff in them and I biked carefully and slowly to Circe’s house. I suppose that I should point out that this was in the very wee hours of the morning and nobody was out except the occasional bird or squirrel or crazy person. I knocked on Circe’s door and then when she didn’t answer as she was either asleep or swimming at the lake or the nearest pond or something or she was painting or something with her headphones on so I went around to the other side of the house where the window to her bedroom was and I gathered a few pebbles from the driveway and threw them at her window. After a few minutes, and quite a few pebbles, she came to the window with a dazed and groggy expression on her face and then she saw it was me and she said, Go to the door, I’ll be right there. And I went around to the door and she came around, too. She opened the door and she saw all of my stuff and then she gave me a look that was asking why I had all of my stuff. 

I walked to her and I kissed her once and then I just hugged her and she hugged me and I cried on her shoulder and that was the extent of my explanation for the time being. 


Later that day, after Circe and I lugged all of my bags into the living room and I collapsed into her bed and slept till noon when Circe rung this huge fire bell that she keeps in one of the attic bedrooms and she ran downstairs to her room and she jumped on top of me then rolled over me and onto the bed beside me and I turned over to look at her and I sighed and said, My dad told Pops that I had to go back to Toronto, so I decided to run away to you because none of my family knows where you live and I left my phone there so they can’t track me at all. 

And she smiled at me and then she said, I have an even better scheme. I raised my eyebrows and she continued, I sell my art right, so I make quite a lot of money off of it, which makes it so that I can do a whole bunch of things that other people who don’t have money can’t do. For example, get two plane tickets from here to England and get a fancy car to bring us to the airport. 


I sat up then and looked at her and she sat up, too and then I said, What, really? And she said, Do you really think I’d joke? And then I laughed and we both smiled from ear-to-ear and then we just randomly stood up and started jumping on the bed and laughing. 


At the End of the Street


There is a tiny little house that has sixteen doors at its front at the end of the street that I live on. 

I live there with my grandmother. My grandmother’s name is Elise. Elise Durand. She was born in Paris in 1932. She came to Canada when she was seventeen, because her mother disowned her and made her come. He'd be my great grandfather, I don't know his name. Elise's first daughter, Catherine, left when she (Catherine) was twenty-three. Now she lives in Texas. Elise's second daughter, Emilia, went to be a fashion designer in London, England. Elise's third child and only son, Laudine, left for a new construction job opportunity when he was nineteen, and he never came back. Elise and I don't have a television: we can't afford one, so we really have no idea what happened to him. And Elise doesn't believe in the newspaper so. 

I work at the grocery store down the street from our house from 5.30pm to 8pm on Thursdays to Sundays. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, I work at the local pub; just a busboy, but it was something and it paid the bills. 

Every day, from nine-thirty in the morning until  four-fifteen in the afternoon, I go to school. I go to the local secondary that has sixth form. I don't talk to anyone, I mind my business, but I get good grades so that I might be able to get into a university for law. I didn't really want to be a lawyer or anything like that, but I would get paid quite a lot, and I would probably still be helping Elise out with the bills and food and all of that. 

My grandfather, Norman Beaumont, lived in Spain before moving to London and meeting Elise. She'd decided to keep her maiden name, and he wanted to take her last name because it was so pretty or something. But Elise wouldn't let him. Now, she refers to Norman as 'The Sperm Donor' or simply 'The Donor', because he turned out to be a such a magnificent prick. 

One day, Elise's sister was over at their house and then she went out to get something (I think that it was tea and cigarettes) and then when she got back she found Norman almost shagging her sister (Manon) in the shed at the side of the house. I'm pretty sure that Elise still hasn't talked to Manon since that afternoon, but there have been letters from her in the post every once in a while for Elise. I only gave her one but then she just told me not to do that again because it was pointless for her eyes to grace it. 

One day, I came home from college to find an envelope under a magnet on the fridge with my name on it in Elise's delicate script:

'Dear Jamyang, 

'If you're reading this, then it means that I've left for Italy with Johnson already. I've left the cookie jar full and there's all of my savings enclosed. 

'I love you with all of my heart, 


I looked in the envelope, sure enough, there was a whole bunch of hundred pound notes in it. I took them out and sat down at the kitchen table and put them on the table and sighed and then counted them:

'An hundred pounds, two hundred pounds, three hundred pounds, four hundred, five hundred, six hundred, seven hundred, eight hundred, nine hundred, a thousand…' A thousand? A thousand. 'A thousand one hundred, a thousand two hundred…' And so on and so forth until it got to be about a milliard British pounds. 

At first, I couldn't actually believe that Elise, my own grandmother, was harbouring a fortune in her savings bank account and hiding it from me, so I counted it six more times. When I got the same amount every time, I knew it was real. And so: I was rich as fudge! 

I'd been taught by Elise never to blow money, especially when you're not too sure when you may need a significant sum of it next, so, like a good little boy, I put three fourths of the milliard pounds under my mattress in a secret pocket that I'd made of my old baseball glove. I still had about five hundred pounds that I'd decided to put in my wallet for safekeeping. 

The first thing that I did in my newfound wealthiness, is that I went to the art store down the road, and I bought fifteen cans of spray paint. 

I may or may not have mentioned this already, but I dabble in graffiti. I had a couple of friends who taught me some basic skills of the art, and I'd go out bombing with them when I had a day off or something. 

When I was leaving late at night, Elise would walk up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder and say, 'Where are you going, Jamyang?' In this really, really sweet voice that was impossible to lie to so I just turned my head back a bit and said, 'Bombing.' Somehow, she knew slang, and she just nodded and smiled at me and went back to her bed in her little old white nightie. 

Every time that I went bombing, I'd have a different tag ready to use so that it'd be less likely for me to get caught. 

The first one that I'd ever used had been: 'Love me not this' with a hand pointing to a rack of clothes with money scattered throughout the picture. I'd made a stencil of that a while ago for some project that I'd been doing for school and I'd just used a whole bunch of different colours. 

One of the more recent tags I'd used was: 'If you don't look like it, you're probably not' with a picture of a frog in a hand mirror. 

The very most recent one that I used was: 'Break through the chains to what doesn't remain' with a picture of the love locks on that bridge in France. 


I went for years on the savings that Elise gave me. About ten, I think. And, my graffiti and artworks that accompanied my graffiti had become famous five years before the ten that I just mentioned. I saw on the news  at a diner some of my stuff getting taken off of a wall with like jackhammers and saws and all of that and be transported to an art gallery. An art gallery! 

To be completely honest, I was not expecting my art to get noticed, let alone famous and on television, for goodness sakes! I ended up calling the gallery and telling the guy that I was the artist whose piece they'd just lifted off a brick wall and were selling for thirty three million pounds and the guy just started stuttering incomprehensibly, and then he finally said, 'One moment please.' And I could hear the guy's startled, star-struck voice calling out in the background, 'Oi! Mike! I've got some guy on the phone who says he's Jimmy Yang!' I heard a deeper voice say, 'Oh, give it to me, Jeremy.' And then the guy with the deeper voice said in a very posh accent, 'Hello, sir, My name is Michael Spencer and I'm the content advisor for Spencer Contemporary Art Galleries. Is my assistant right to tell me that you are claiming to be Jimmy Yang?' 

'Yes, he certainly is, Mike.' I said. 

I could hear the annoyance in the guy's voice when he said, 'Am I right to assume that you are calling us to collect some of your profit from the sale of your piece?' 

'Which piece?' 

'The one called Love-locked in Chains from St Thomas Street, sir.' 

'Right, right… Okay, Mike, here's the deal: I don't do graffiti so prats like you and your bollocky construction crew of tossers can tear it down and sell it to some bullshit over-paid selfish moron just so he can show it off to all of his friends who don't care about him at all. So, either, you're going to put my piece back in that fucking wall, or I'm gonna have to buy it off you. Which do you choose?'

'I--Er--A-Am,' The guy stuttered.

'Well? What is it?' 

'Ahm--er-- We'll --We'll put it back, sir.' He finally said. 

'Fucking right you will. And, by the way, you never got this call, right?' 

'Right, right. Of course.' 

'Good day.' I said and I hung up. 

Here's the real reason I did my artwork on the streets of Bristol: to open up people's eyes to what they need to see. To show people that there is so much more to this world than just … Clothes, and money, and success. There's happiness, and--and deep thoughts, and passion, and art. And without any of these things, we wouldn't be as… As able to survive as we are with them. 


And it was at the end of the street, right in front of the house with sixteen doors, where Elise came home after ten years in Italy with her boyfriend, Johnson. It was when she came home that I was setting up a little stop to sell some of my art that I'd airbrushed onto canvas for profits ranging from 75 pounds to seven hundred pounds. She came home and she was shocked, gobsmacked, even, I'd go so far to say, and just looked at me and she said, 'I'm proud of you, Jamyang.' And she went inside to take a nap and then unpack and probably make apple pie and lemonade for the customers. 


What Is MY Name?


In a perfect world, nothing that happened to me would have happened. 

I would have been born to a moderately worldly family, with intact grandparents, and a brother and a sister. I would have my own room, that I did not have to share with thirteen other girls. I would have all the books I could read, and a special temperature-regulated room to store them in. I would not have ended up here. I would not have ended up here. 

I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Here's what happened:


I was walking to school, when a big black van pulled up slowly beside me. 

That is the fabled nightmare that haunts all good parents. I didn't have parents, gladly, so I didn't actually know what to do. The car stopped, and, based on a heavy gut feeling, I continued to walk. 

I wasn't quite as tall then as I am now, but I was strong. I don't how that happened. But the guys that got out of the car were stronger. 

The one biggest guy, tan and smelling like rotting food, he stood in front of me and his two slightly smaller back-up guys stood behind him. I stopped walking and stared into the sunglassed, stone face. He looked down at me for a moment, nodded, and jerked his head at the two guys behind him, and, before I knew it, I was sitting in the empty space of a black-tinted van with my hands zip-tied and my feet tied with a rope. 

They hadn't gagged me, thankfully, so I could still talk. But I didn't. I never talked. I can't remember a time when I said more than, 'Hello. How are you?' For knowledge rather than pleasantry to someone who I didn't have to talk to. 

I almost spoke, but I held myself back and looked down at my hands, the zip-tie stinging my skin. I ducked my head and then I heard a siren. I tried to turn around to see out of the window, but it was impossible. And they were blacked out, anway. The van swerved right, and I was thrown into the side of the interior. 

I still didn't make a sound. 

The van lurched forward and then it flipped. It spun in the air once, or maybe twice, and the next thing that I remember is being in a sanitary white hospital room, the smell of antiseptics enveloping my nostrils, so that I found it hard to breathe. I looked down at my body. I was under a knitted blanket. My right wrist was handcuffed to the bedrail. I started to freak out. I didn't know what to do. I did the only thing that came to my mind.

I screamed. I screamed at the top of my lungs, at the highest pitch I could muster without breaking my voice. I screamed bloody murder at the highest pitch, at the top of my lungs. And nobody came in. I looked out the window, but the blinds were closed. I stopped screaming to catch my breath. Then I resumed. Nobody came in. Nobody came in. I kicked my feet against the footboard to try to move the bed to the door, but it didn't budge. I didn't know what to do. I screamed again, and finally, a kindly, squat little old man with square brown spectacles and brown scrubs on under a lab coat rushed into the room with a calm smile on his face, and I felt safe. He looked down at me in the stupid hospital bed and he said, 'Hello. Do you know what your name is?' And I looked up at him and I realised that I didn't know what my name was. I shook my head and I started to cry. I hadn't cried in a long time. The guy put his hand on my handcuffed hand and he said, 'It's okay. You will know again, in time. I promise you.' And I nodded and wiped my tears from my cheeks with my hand that wasn't handcuffed. The man said, 'My name is Doctor Thoreau. I am a neurosurgeon. You've been in a car accident. Can you remember anything?' And he said this all very slowly. Not patronisingly slowly, but in a kind way. 

I nodded my head slightly and whispered, as quiet as could be, 'Yes.' And Dr. Thoreau nodded and said, 'Can you tell me what you remember?' 

I didn't want to talk. I didn't want to talk. The screaming was enough. I shook my head no. Doctor Thoreau nodded his head and said, 'That's okay. In time, with therapy, you will be able to. Can you tell me how old you are?' I nodded. When I didn't say anything else, Doctor Thoreau said, 'Will you?' I shook my head no. 

He looked down and nodded. He said, 'The police need to question you. Is that okay? Will you be able to answer their questions?' I half nodded and half shook my head. Doctor Thoreau understood. He said, 'Okay. Well, I don't think you're going to be a danger to anyone, so I'm going to try to get the police to take this rubbish bracelet off, okay?' I nodded my head. He exited the room, but, as he was leaving, he turned his head at me and smiled a comforting smile. I smiled back and he left the room again. 

I was alone. I was completely alone.

I was alone to stew in my thoughts about what exactly had happened. 

Why don't I know who I am? Where am I? Why do the police want to question me? What have I done wrong? 

I stewed on those painful questions for awhile, I don't know how long. 

A woman and a man in police officer uniforms came in with a friendly-looking red-haired nurse in flowery scrubs. The nurse stood on my left, the side away from the door, and the female police officer sat down and got out a notepad and a pen and poised herself to start taking notes. The male police officer got out a teeny, tiny key and took off the handcuffs. I smiled at him gratefully and he smiled back, but it was more of a grimace, as though he'd never smiled a return smile. The nurse looked at me and said, 'My name is Arabelle. I'm just going to change your dressing, okay?' I tried to express my confusion at this sentence, but she didn't notice. 

The male police officer, whose name tag said, 'Colin', stepped forward and looked at me hard. 

After about five minutes of our staring contest, he said, 'Hello. My name is Officer Paul Colin. I'm here with the police of London. Your doctor, Thoreau, I think it was, mentioned that you can remember what happened, but you don't know your name, am I correct?' I nodded. I felt fingers on my head, and it hurt. It really hurt, but I didn't say anything. I just closed my eyes and bit my tongue and then opened them again to listen to Officer Colin. 'Can you tell us what happened, please? We're aware that you were in an automobile accident, and there were three men in the same car as you. Would you be able to tell us what they looked like?' I nodded. Then Colin said, 'Would you like to tell us now, please?' I shook my head slightly. I heard a sound like clothing or fabric or something rustling about my ears and my head and I realised then what the nurse had meant about my 'dressing'. 'Er, okay. Erm, well. Here's my card.' He held up a rectangular business card with the London Police Service emblem on it. 'I'm just going to put that right there.' He said as he bent and set the card on the night table to my right. 'Give me a call if you If you're able to tell us anything, okay?' I nodded, very, very slightly. Officer Colin turned round at the female police officer and I could see him mouthing something at her and she nodded and she got up and gave him the notepad and the pen and then came up to me and said, 'Get well soon, dear.' And then they left. The nurse had finished changing my dressing by then and so I was alone again. 


By the fifth day of my hospital stay, I was more or less mobile. I could use a wheelchair, and I was going to private therapy sessions every other day up in psych. I was on the children's floor, so there was always something going on. I learned how to use a wheelchair, because something was wrong with my legs, so I wasn't supposed to walk. I would chase the younger kids who were well enough to run around all over the floor, and sometimes I would race them. I had become quite adept at using the wheelchair. I couldn't do complicated dances or anything but 

After a week, I said my first word in therapy: No. 

The therapist, Dr. Marlene Tapia Velasco, had asked me, 'Are you listening?' And I had been, only just barely, but I said no. And she said to me, 'I'm glad that you've talked.' All calm and nonchalant like she was just going for a tea or something. And then she simply said, 'Is there anything else you'd like to say?' I would have tried to say more, but I didn't. Just that clear, loud 'no' was too much for me, especially after seventeen-odd years of complete silence. We sat there in silence for a half hour more, her writing things down on her little yellow notepad even though I hadn't said anything and me biting my nails and loosely braiding the very small amount of hair that I'd had left growing on my head. Finally, she said, 'You can go now.' And I wheeled myself out of there like there was a king cobra chasing after me. 


Fast-forward six months:

I'm sitting in a physical therapy room with two humongous black guys pointing guns at my head and my therapist's head. 

This was the second time that I had been ambushed by Big Men With Guns in less than a year. What had I done that I couldn't remember that would make so many Guys With Guns want to hunt me down? 


I never did end up finding out the answer to that question. The hospital security staff came in and rescued me. The two guys with guns did end up dying instantly, though. Half surprisingly, they didn't have ID on them so nobody could call their families or employers (although I'm not entirely sure that that would be the right word for it.) to tell them they were killed as they tried to kill a crippled girl and her physical therapist. I'm not too sure if they would have killed us had they had the chance, but I get the feeling that that's what the legal department would say to their family. They weren't the most tactful when they were dealing with criminals. Or partners to criminals. Or whatever the hell they were. 


I'd been in hospital for several months before I was confronted by the police again. I'd been talking more in therapy, and Dr. Tapia Velasco had been telling me that the police had been calling the hospital to see if I'd talk to them yet. Doctor Tapia Velasco had told me that she'd told them that I might talk to them, but that I probably wouldn't, not yet, anyway. So I wasn't expecting them to come to the hospital about a week after their last call. 

I'd been sitting in the kids' playroom and then Officer Colin and a shorter, squatter, blonde, Polish looking guy came in together. I stood up and Officer Colin looked at me and nodded at me and then the lady at the desk who was 'supervising' the kids in the room. Officer Colin and the Pole led me out of the room where a nurse and a guy with a bad toupé and a horrible ash-grey tweed suit on were waiting for us. Tweed and the nurse led us to a room with a little switch on it that you could move for it to either say 'do not disturb' or 'vacant'. Officer Colin, Tweed, the Pole and the nurse all went in before me and we sat down around a table. The Pole fot out a note pad and pen and Officer Colin looked at Tweed and the Pole and he cleared his throat and then he said, 'Hello, again. I know that you are probably wondering what we're doing here again. We've been in communication with your therapist, Doctor Marlene Tapia Velasco, and she's said that you may be ready to talk to us about the car accident. Do you think that you might be able to?' I waited for a moment, looking away from all of their faces, and I just shrugged silently. Officer Colin nodded and I looked back up at him. He continued, 'So, you were walking somewhere, right?' I nodded. 'Where?' I said, quieter than a mouse, 'School.' And the nurse said, 'School, she says.' The Pole started writing on his notepad and I could hear his pen scratching on the paper. 'Alright, school. Which school did you go to?' I shrugged. 'Okay, ahm.. So, you were.. You were walking to school, and then.. The car pulled up beside you? What happened as you were walking to school?' I looked around for a second and then I tapped the table with my knuckles, twice, and gestured to the Pole. The Pole looked up and looked confused but neutral at my vague gesturing then the nurse got what I was trying to do and she said, 'I think that she wants the notepad. Is that right, dear?'  I nodded. The Pole passed his notepad and pen forward to Officer Colin and he passed it to me and I wrote: 

'I was walking to school and then the black van pulled up slowly beside me then the Big Guys With Guns came out and the next thing I knew I was tied up in the back of the van and then I was here.' 

I passed the notepad back to Officer Colin and he looked at the notepad for a second and then turned to Tweed and leaned close to him and, although he was whispering, I could hear him saying, 'I think that she's written in another language. What does it look like to you?' Tweed took the notepad from Officer Colin and looked at it and whispered back, 'It looks like Russian, Paul.' And Officer Colin took the notepad back and then said, 'We're going to come back with a translator, okay?' And then they all left and me and the nurse were still in the room and I looked at her with a puzzled expression on my face and she just shrugged and then she said, 'Let's go get you some lunch, okay, dear?' And then we went down to the cafeteria where there was Subway and pizza and this nice little Russian take-out restaurant. 


At therapy later that day, I only said one word:


And then Doctor Tapia Velasco looked at me, bewildered, and then she said, 'You do know that you've been speaking in Russian the whole time you've been here, right?' And I just looked up at her and stared hard at her face until the session was over. 


The fuzz came back two weeks later with a pretty, dark-haired lady with red lipstick and a burgundy dress and black ankle boots. She came up to me and started talking to me:

'Hello. My name is Amma. I was born in Moscow and I'm thirty-two years old. I know that I'm a perfect stranger and you've been through an ordeal, but it's okay for you to talk to me. I will represent your words to the best of my abilities, okay?' And I smiled and hugged her and she didn't hug me back for a second and then she did. She'd been the only one in this whole time besides the younger kids to talk to me like I was a real person. Not a patient, or an informant, but a real person, and I felt like I was about to cry, but I didn't and so we went into the room and me and Anna sat down on one side of the table and Officer Colin, the Pole and Tweed on the other side. 

Officer Colin began with, 'So, now that we've got you a translator, do you think that you could tell us what happened that day?' I nodded and looked at him and began, 'I was walking to school, and I don't know which one it was and then the black van pulled up beside me slowly and these three huge guys got out and then the next thing that I knew my wrists were zip-tied in the back of the van and my feet were tied together.' Anna translated me and I could understand her, despite, supposedly, not being actually able to SPEAK English and I was satisfied with her work.

'Do you think that you could describe the guys? Their faces, their clothes? Mr. Greyford here is a police sketch artisit that will draw what you describe, okay?' I nodded, and was kind of surprised when Anna didn't begin to translate what Officer Colin had said for me. I later came to the conclusion that Officer Colin had already filled her in on what was going on. Or something to that extent. 

I nodded and said, 'The biggest guy had a bald head, like a square kind of, but not completely, and he was super muscular and he was wearing khaki cargo pamts and a white tank top. He was wearing weird sunglasses that were small and were so dark that I couldn't actually see his eyes and they had a bit of a point at the outside edges, and he had a tattoo on his right arm of something like a snake or something that was coiling around his arm. His skin was onyl a bit tanned, like a Mexican's.' I stopped as Anna translated and then Officer Colin said, 'What about his chin? Nose? Lips? Cheeks? Jaw?' I nodded and continued, 'His chin was a little bit sharp, and had just the hint of a dimple. His nose was kind of protruding but flat, if that makes sense. His upper lip was pretty thin, but his mouth was wide.' I showed them with my fingers on my face how wide his mouth was. 'His cheek bones were flat in his face and were in the front of his face, I guess, you would say. His jaw was pretty strong, and sharp, and his chin kind of jutted out a bit.' Anna finished translating and Tweed, er, Greyford, continued sketching and alternating his pencils every twenty seconds and then sketching and shading and switch, switch, switch. Then, after about fifteen more minutes of switch, sketch, shade, shade, shade, sketch, switch, switch, he held up his notepad to me and I nodded and grimaced, and then I said, 'Where'd you learn that?' And Anna translated and then he looked at the drawing, looked at me and said, 'I suppose.. it just called to me.' With this really proud voice that sounded like he was talking about his true love. But, really, his art, his profession, should be his true love. I wondered what my true love was and promised myself to find it. 


Six weeks later, I was in a small art studio for poor artists in Clifton. 

The social worker who had started coming to see me once a week a week after the police came to see me had recommended that I go to that place because there were quite a lot of Russians who congregated there and I should find someone to talk to who speaks my language. The social worker, AK, was Russian herself, but I knew that she wanted me to find some friends my own age now that I was more or less back on my feet. 

This girl who basically lives at the studio, Yana Voroshilova. She was born in Letnyaya Zolititsa in Russia, just off of the White Sea. She immigrated to England when she was twenty-two and now she was twenty-eight and she still barely spoke a word of English, and she seemed exceedingly proud of the fact that she couldn’t actually speak with people who weren’t Russian. I think that it was some home country integrity thing of her’s. I couldn’t actually remember where I was from, so whenever anybody asked I’d give them a look and then they remembered who they were talking to. 

I still didn’t know my name, though, and I refused to accept that I probably never would and just choose a different name like everyone was always telling me to. I knew that if I didn’t remember my name by April, then I probably never would. The strangest thing about me forgetting my name, only speaking Russian, yet understanding both Russian and English, and remembering most of what happened since the accident, was that nobody could figure it out. I’d had countless CT, PET, PT, CAT scans and MRIs and, still, with the foremost experts in the field of memory and neurosurgery and paediatric neurosurgery and neuroscience, nobody could figure it out. It was a little bit depressing at first, when they told me that they couldn’t find anything wrong with me and they didn’t know how to bring my full memory back, but I got used to it. I set down my principles and my unbreakable vows, and they seemed to get me through most of the time. The only thing that I wondered about when I had nothing to do or couldn’t fall asleep was if I just wandered off to school, not remembering my parents, if I had any, and my family was still out there and there were millions of posters around the parts of the city that I didn’t go to with my face on them and the caption, ‘Have you seen this girl?’ and a number to call. 

At Clifton, the people who nobody knew outside were the people that everybody worshipped inside. Yana could be moody and unpredictable sometimes, but, for the most part, she was kind and loved to chat to anyone who didn’t mind her endless chatter. Yana usually painted landscapes (with the occasional person in the background) of places she’d been to in Russia. She painted the White Sea, she painted St. Petersburg, she painted Moscow, she painted Belaya Gora, Kodino, Pole, the border of Russia and Finland. She painted endlessly. Once, I walked in to the studio early in the morning, around seven, and Yana was in the back room with six canvasses around her of landscapes of Russia. The one that she’d been working on had a mountain and there was a man who looked like Pushkin quite a bit standing at the top in flowy white breeches and a tan shirt and tall boots with his hair flying about his face. 

On this day in late February in a fairly large art studio for poor and unfortunate artists in Clifton, Bristol, England, there were five people gathered around a painting on an easel in one of the farther back rooms. I walked in with my big reusable bag of brushes and some paints that a girl at the hospital gave me and all of the people turned around and looked at me and then they applauded me. And I smiled and tried to grab a glance at the painting that they were looking at. It was the one that I’d just recently done that had the word ‘name’ spelled out with N in the top left corner, A in the top right, M in the bottom left, and E in the bottom right. There was a yellowish dotted question mark in the middle with black zig zagged lines connecting the white bubble the question mark rested in to NAME in the four corners. In between the connecting lines, there was hot pink-almost red paint with numbers in the places closer to NAME. I continued back to the very back room with my bag to get started on a sculpture that I’d had in my head for a while. 

It was to be a massive crocodile with a baby in a basket being carried by a Navajo woman, all painted pure white. I hadn’t been sure how to do it at first, but then one of the women who works at the studio, Elena, had told me that there was clay in a storage room in the basement and that she could help me with the actual clay part if I needed it. She also said that there was a kiln in the basement, too that was thirty feet into the ground by sixty feet wide and sixty feet long, and that she had a friend who could help me get the sculpture into the kiln when I needed it. I was off to the races. 

I’d just gotten started on the basket for the baby when this girl who’d just started coming to the shelter, Lyuba Solvyova, came in and looked at me and said, ‘There’s a guy at the front who’s asking for you.’ 

‘What do you mean, he’s asking for me? I don’t have a name.’ I said, puzzled. 

‘He literally said, “The Russian girl with no name.” And we all knew who he was talking about, of course.’ Lyuba smiled at me and I put the clay down in a bin and walked out to the front after her. 

There was a guy in a black suit and tie with black sunglasses who seemed to have the aura of some kind of ?????, which I don’t know how to say in English, to this day. I walked up to him and tapped his shoulder and said, ‘I’m the Russian girl with no name.’ And he nodded and smiled and he made a gesture to follow him outside and we went outside. He sat down on the curb, despite his fancy suit, and I did the same. He took off his sunglasses to reveal beautiful Russian eyes and he said, ‘??????.’ Which surprised me quite a lot because I was almost certain that I’d never met this man in my entire life. I said, ‘???????????.’ Despite his informal greeting and he just looked at me and said, ‘I understand that you do not remember me.’ And I just sat and looked at him. ‘My name is Petr Iltchenkov. I was a friend of your father’s.’ 

‘My father? What are you talking about? I have a father?’ 

‘You did. He died…’ He started to stutter but regained his vocality and said, ‘Ten years ago. I know that you don’t remember him. And I’m so sorry for that, because… Amongst all of his… Rambunctiousness… He was a good man.’ 

‘What was his name? Please, what was his name?’

‘I can’t tell you. It would only make things worse, I’m so sorry.’ 

I sighed and shook my head. ‘It’s okay. I… You made promises, didn’t you?’

‘How did you know?’ 

‘The look on your face.’ I said. ‘That face is only worn by people who have made a promise that they cannot break.’ 

‘Of course.’

‘Do you… Do you know what my name is?’

‘No. I wasn’t aware that your father even had a child until I read his last words. He didn’t mention a name. I’m sorry.’ 

‘I understand.’ 

We just sat there in the mostly silence of the street except for the occasional tram from the larger street to our left or a car or bike in the alleyway in front of us. 

‘So, what have you come for?’ I asked.

‘I’ve come to tell you about the promise.’ He said and I raised my eyebrows. ‘Before…’ He sighed heavily. ‘Before your father left Russia, he made me promise, swear on my mother’s grave, that, if he ever had a child, then I would protect them when he died. I have not upheld this promise, and it brings me great sorrow. You are his child. And I have not been able to protect you.’ He paused again. ‘I was great friends with your father before he left, and when he left, and still now, in my heart. And, when I made him this promise, I was not expecting to have to … To have to… Keep it up. I thought that… Once he left, that we would lose touch, and that I would never hear from him again. But… That was not the case. He sent me three letters every week. I got them at random intervals, but he sent them… He wrote them and he sent them and we never lost touch until he died.’ 

I looked at him and noticed that his eyes were looking watery and his face was screwed up in that way that people have when they’re trying not to cry. 

‘I am here… To uphold my promise. I have a house, a small house, in Inverness, in Scotland. I am staying at a hotel at Bath Road. I know that it’s a far way, but I can get a cabby and… I’m here to protect you. I’m here to do my duty for your father.’

‘A-Are y-you… Are you pro-proposing to be my guardian? My… My father? Is that what you’re proposing?’ I said in disbelief.

He chuckled. ‘Yes. I know that you don’t know me. For all you know, I could be a rapist, a murderer… I’m not, but… You don’t know me. Just… Just give me a chance, okay? Come and stay at the hotel at Bath Road with me for a week. You can ask me any question, and I will give you the best answer I possibly can. Please?’ He said. I sighed.

‘It’s okay. I trust you. Despite your ?????-like aura, I trust you. You do not have the heart or the face of a liar. I will gather my things from the hospital and then we can go to the hotel at Bath Road.’ We both got up and I dusted off my skirt and apron and then I said, ‘But… What’s your patronymic?’ 

‘Oh. Kenyav.’ Kenyav said and smiled at me and I went to gather my things from the back studio. The other artists were giving me odd stares and I just smiled because a) I didn’t actually know what else to do, and b) I was so happy that, finally, a piece of the puzzle was falling into place. 


At the hotel at Bath Road, the A4 Hotel, there were two beds in a fairly small room but it was clean and didn’t smell like antiseptics, vomit and crap all the time, so it was enough for me. Kenyav took the bed closest the door and I took the other one, which was directly beside the window. 

I slept very well that night, and I dreamt of Kenyav and a little girl and boy in parkas way up North. I wondered if they were his children, and where they were now, if he left them behind, what happened. 


I woke up to the smell of porridge and orange juice. I looked around and there was a tray with two bowls of porridge and orange juice. I sat down at the little table beside Kenyav and looked at him as he looked at me and we smiled at each other with familiarity. I ate my porridge and orange juice quickly and neatly. 

Kenyav looked at me, sprawled out on my bed. He said, ‘Do you want to come back to Inverness with me today?’ 


I looked at him and I said, ‘Yes. That would be nice.’ 


Spotted in the Shitter


‘I’ve been waiting for these results for ages!’ Said my best friend, Jess Lilly. Lilly was her surname, by the way. I’d been sleeping over at her house after we’d sent in our uni applications, which was about a week ago. We’d been best friends since we were six years old. 

I’d walked up to her in our year one classroom on the very first day, and, she was using a black crayon to write her name over and over and over again on a piece of purple construction paper and, and I took her crayon from her and then ran out into the hall. She started crying and ran to follow me, but I was standing in the closet with the door open just the slightest bit and and she walked the other way and then pulled open the door and I held the crayon aloft so she couldn’t reach it and then she stood in the closet and grabbed it and then she went back into the classroom and told on me and the teacher didn’t actually do anything just gave me a look so I went to Jess and said, ‘You wanna be friends?’ And then we hugged and that was that. We’ve been best friends ever since. 

Jess ripped open the orange envelope and hesitated before taking the white University of Greenwich letterhead out of the envelope. She passed the envelope to me and said, ‘I can’t look. You do it.’ I sighed and reluctantly opened the folded paper and read aloud, 

Dear Miss Lilly, 

We are pleased to inform you that 

And I was cut off as Jess started jumping up and down and screaming and I laughed and we hugged. Jess had short, curly blonde hair that she usually curled or pinned back or something pretty and cute like that. Jess had always been quite an academic type of person who would stop at nothing to be perfect in her track record. I was one-quarter academic, one-quarter waster, one-quarter adventurer, and two-sevenths groupie. 

Most of my days of sixth form not at school were spent at the library with my headphones blasting The Pixies, Dead Kennedys, and Greenie and the Zoozoos. And then my nights were spent at concerts and at elite groupie events, as me and my groupie friends (Natalia, Cola, Maryanne, and Jodie) called the weird places that the players in the band invited us to every so often. Weren’t quite at the level of Miss Pamela or the fabled Penny Lane just yet, but we were on that path. Jess and I had recently half-fallen out about my groupie-dom. I’d told her that was going to a Hellgood concert and I might not be at our lunch tomorrow and she got really mad. She went off on me all about how I’m never going to get into uni with the grades I have and that the only year they really look at is sixth form and how I need to get my average up and get really good grades on my A-levels, and I stayed calm and I just said, ‘I’m not going to uni, Jess.’ And she said, ‘Well, what are you going to do, then? Live at home with your parents and go to concerts and get stoned?’ And I said, ‘No. I’m going to art school.’ And she just stood there, gaping at me with her mouth on the floor. Until I rolled my eyes and said, ‘Jess, I didn’t want to tell you that I was applying because I wasn’t sure if I was going to get in. I didn’t want to get your hopes up. I’m sorry.’ Jess took a breath and her face was really red and then she just grabbed her bag and sweater and stormed off back to her house (which was only about a fifteen minute walk, by the way.). I understood why Jess was upset at me for not telling her, seeing as how, up til then, we’d told each other basically everything. But, I still couldn’t help feeling upset back at her for expecting me to tell her that I was applying to art school when I knew how she would react. Jess believed that everything that anybody did should be in accordance with what society and adults and teachers thought oughta happen. But, to me, what they thought oughta happen wasn't right. It wasn't and that's why I didn't tell her. She'd been bugging me until that day for months to apply to unis and I didn't and I didn't tell her and she got mad. But it was okay. I mean, she was going to London, and I was going to Edinburgh, which were quite far away if you thought about it, seven and a half hours by transit or car. I doubted that we were going to remain friends after we both left, and, really, I didn't want to be her friend anymore. She was always telling me what to do, and not in a nice, respectful, I Care About You kind of way, but in a You're Beneath Me Because We're Not Exactly Alike So I Must Fix You kind of way. She'd been that way since we'd started secondary, and I was finally taking a stand to her. I really had just wanted to put up with her bullshit until we went our separate ways (and then change my cell phone number and block her number, just in case), but that day had changed it all. 

I'd been putting up with it for a while since then, and so:



'I'm leaving now.' 

'What, why?'

I sat up.

'You can't just treat me like your doormat all the time.' 

She sat up, too. 

'What are you talking about, Wenda? I don't treat you like a doormat…' Pause. 'Do I?' 

'Yes! Fuck, Jess! You boss me around all the fucking time!' 

'What? No, I don't! What are you talking about?'

'Not like I'm your servant, no, but that I have to be like you, that I have to measure up to you, and to do that, I have to be you, and I'm fucking sick of taking your bullshit all the time! Get a grip!' 

I grabbed my overnight bag and stormed out of her house, leaving the door open, which she found to be quite an insult. I knew that because when my friends would go over to her house, most of the time when they went outside for a smoke or something they just left the door open, and Jess hated the smell of dope. 

I went back to my house and sat in my bed all night with my computer reading some bollocks novel from a bollocks author that had sent me a copy of their novel to review 'because I was famous'. Yeah, sorry, aspiring author, fame does not count for shit. Jeffrey Dahmer was famous but you wouldn't have sent your novel to him to review, would you? I mean, obviously, you wouldn't, but I have my case in point. 

I'd been publishing my novels on some website whose name escapes me right now for just under a year. I'd written about 345 pages of a mystery/thriller/ya novel as my first book, and I'd produced two more that related to that one as a prequel and a sequel, but don't ask me to explain them. I also put out a 127 page anthology of my poetry last month. 


So, I went home that night and the next day my mum, Elana, woke me up with the cymbals she keeps in the 'secret compartment' of her closet (it's a huge safe with a padlock on it) for emergencies. Although, I'm not entirely sure how they would be all that useful in an emergency. Oh, yeah:

'Come on, Wenda-Wendy, wakey-wakey, time to get up and greet the day!' My mum was a huge hippie in the sixties and she still hadn't gotten out of her hippy-dippy phase, so every day, she'd either come in and play The Doors in my face on a speaker amplified with a bullhorn or she'd crash her cymbals and shout, or she'd just shout. Which wasn't exactly hippy-dippy, but she said that that was how her mom woke her in the sixties, so… 

I pulled the covers over my head as she opened my curtain and shouted, 'NO!' as loud as I could. She tried to pull the covers down but I just held them really tight, and then she managed to get them down and she said as I turned onto my other side, 'What's the matter, love-bug?' I just looked at her with the devil in my eye and said, 'Go away.' 

I really hadn't been expecting me to react like that to me and Jess's break-up. I suppose that that was because I'd been hoping that I'd be able to bypass the whole break-up itself. But I wasn't. So that was that and there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it now. 

My mum eventually left the room and I lied under the covers and wallowed for a while until my cell phone rang. 

It wasn't Jess. It was this super weird girl from year 12 that me and Jess had only barely talked to, Batayoko Naoki. She'd been sweet, really, but most of the girls had chosen to shun her because she dressed like she was still in Japan, where she was born and lived until she was 14. I kind of admired her style, not like I could do it myself, but simply because it looked kind of really cool and awesome on her. I answered it before it had occured to me to wonder how the hell she'd been able to get my number. 




'I need you help.' 

'O-okay. What's wrong?' 

'My dad gone. He not leave note or nothing, and he is gone thirty-nine hour now. What shoo I do, Wenda?'

'I--I'm--I'm sorry, Naoki. You should probably call the police.' 

'No! Wenda, no!'

'You're illegals?'


'Oh. Okay. What about your mom? Does your dad have a cell phone? Does he have a night job? Do you know where he might have gone? Has this ever happened before?' 

'Mum in Japan. No, he not afford it. No. Maybe to pub.'

'Naoki, has this ever happened before?'

She was silent for a few moments before she said, very quietly, 'Yes. He went killing my uncle when I was ten year old.' 

'Oh.' I didn't want to ask her if there was any chance that he could be doing something like that again, but she didn't say anything else, so I felt I had to ask, despite my feelings. 'Is there any… Any chance-'

'No. He swears me he not do anything that like again in here, in England.' 

'Right. Okay….' I paused and thought for a moment about what to do. 'I'm not sure that there's anything I can do, Naoki.' 

'Yes. Yes you do something, Wenda. Meet me Jolly Pearl Park in half hour. We get sushi, and I tell you what happen now. Okay, Wenda? Half hour?'

I didn't know what else to say so I nodded and said, 'Yes. Yes, Naoki, I'll meet you at Jolly Pearl Park in a half hour.' And the line went dead. 


I walked to the park in the rain with a yellow plastic raincoat and the only shoes I could find which were trainers, which became mostly soaked within fifteen minutes outside. 

Naoki was sitting on the old tree stump in a white and pink bunny sweater, a baby pink pleated skirt, and lemon yellow high-top sneakers. I walked up behind her and she stood up and she smiled a weary smile and we walked through the park to a very narrow street with run-down triplexes with rusty tin roofs that creaked loudly every so often. There was a very clean, white, fabric-covered building that looked kind of like a temple at the end of the street with a bald guy standing outside dressed in Buddhist monk robes and sandals. Naoki turned round to me and smiled a mild smile and we kept walking, alternating between shielding our eyes with our hands from the rain and squinting so that we could barely see and bending our heads to the ground and just looking every few seconds. Naoki led me to the man and said something in Japanese (or Tibetan or some Asian language) to the guy and he bowed and smiled widely and he led us inside. I looked around at the mostly silent hall, except for the radiating chants of the monks meditating in large halls. The man led us down a long hallway and into a little red brick room with beautiful tapestries with Japanese calligraphy embroidered on top of the pictures. He sat down on a mat in front of a low table that had beautifully severe china laying on the table and I could smell tea and something that smelled like sake or some other alcoholic thing. The man said something in Japanese to Naoki and she said something back to him while gesturing to me and he smiled and took my hand with both of his wrapped around mine and then he smiled a huge smile and me and Naoki sat down on mats around the table. A woman in a kimono and with her hair and face done up like a geisha came to the table and asked me, ‘Tea? Sake?’ And I said, ‘Tea, please.’ And she took the tea pot and poured boiling hot green tea into my little china cup and then did the same for the man and Naoki. 

Naoki looked at the man after the geisha-like woman had left the room and she said, in English, ‘We should probably speaking English for Wenda, no?’ The man nodded and sipped his tea. He turned to me and said, ‘Wenda. I know that you’re probably wondering what exactly you’re doing here, yes?’ I nodded demurely. ‘Naoki’s father is fine. She just needed something to lure you here. You’re here because she saw something good in you. Like Uzume.’ 

‘I’m sorry?’ I said. 

‘Uzume is the Japanese Goddess of joy and happiness. You resemble her in your traits and who you are.’ 

‘Oh. O-okay. Thank you?’ I said smilingly. The man smiled his huge smile again and nodded and kept sipping his tea. 


‘You are here because the temple needs you.’ 


The Town on the Border


For as long as I could remember, there were no towns on the border between what me and my sisters called, ‘Jungle Town and Uncharted Territory’. 

We, of course, were Jungle Town, and whatever was on the other side of the border was Uncharted Territory that not even the guardians had been able to see. 

My grandmother, who I simply called Babushka, as a testament to our old world Russian heritage, spoke sometimes of a time when there were no guardians, and the people could roam freely between the territories of the world, without legalisation and authorisation and Specific Security and Secrecy Clearance that took months to go through, sometimes even over a year or two. 

Babushka and my grandfather, who I simply called Dyedushka, had been together for ninety-seven years. They were both in their hundred and tens, which was possible because of the new cell telomerization that made it so that they could live for a very long time. My oldest sister, Janie, was in line to get her first bout of telomerization on her eighteenth birthday, which was 101010-04-019. That was in three weeks. She hadn’t exactly been complaining about having to get it, but we all could see that she wasn’t exactly thrilled about being deemed an official ‘adult’. 

The older people, specifically the ones who were old enough to tell the history collectors and journalists and textbook writers, were only as old as they were because they only started having telomerization when they were in their seventies and eighties. 

In six weeks, I would be sixteen, on 222-39-04179. 

To make the dates and everything easier for you to understand, I’m going to tell you as best I can how the dates work:

The first three digits of a date must all be the same, unless they’re before the First Societal Revolution. The first three digits symbolise the name of the person’s date. For example, if my name started with H then the first three digits of my date would be 888. 

The second two digits symbolise the status of the person’s date in two components. The first digit of the second two digits is for the class of the person (e.g. If their father was of particularly high class, then that first digit would be in between 3 and 0. -00 000 is the highest class digit.) The second digit of the second two digits is for the priority of the date. For example, if my sister was born on the solution day of the First Societal Revolution, then her second digit would be -001, which is the highest date class digit. By the way, every male born in The City must not father more than one child with the same woman. So, basically, nobody who was born after the First Societal Revolution had any full-blood siblings. But, if someone and someone else were both born to the same mother, then they were considered siblings. 

The last digits of a person’s date had to be at least three digits, and couldn’t exceed ten. The first three digits of a person’s date symbolises the year that they were born. The years work differently, also, but I’ll try and sum it up quickly for you: after the First Societal Revolution, the years started over again. Here anyway. So, if I’d been born sixteen years after the First Societal Revolution, then my year digits would be 016. After every societal revolution, the years started over again, and the Third Societal Revolution had ended forty-one years before I was born. But, if I’d been born two-hundred years after the Third Societal Revolution (and there hadn’t been another one yet) then my year digits would 200. The last digits of a person’s date, however many there were, symbolised how long that person would be alive for before they were euthanised. So, my last digits were 179, so I would live for 179 years before I would be euthanised by the Government Population Control Agency. Sometimes, there was only someone’s year digits, so that meant that they were going to choose when they were euthanised. That was Janie’s case. My mom and dad and my oldest brother were kind of jealous of her, but they knew that they couldn’t do anything about it so they just ignored it and left her alone. 

When someone was born, their parents were issued a release warrant, which gave the government permission to take the child away at any time for any reason. By the way, the biological father of the child was never involved. Each person, after their first telomerization, was assigned a marriage number which would allow them to marry their assigned partner. Usually, the partners were assigned at random, which I just didn’t get, but that’s what it was. Only six times since the Second Societal Revolution had someone been allowed to choose their marriage partner. 

When someone was telomerized for the first time, they had to fill out a whole bunch of forms, and get six brain scans to see if they were not heterosexual. The forms were there just to make the citizens think that they got some kind of a say in who they married, but they never did. Except for those six times, of course. 

When a person was born, their physicality and personality were assessed by special machines that nobody but the government and their operators knew about, and then, based on the results of their assessment, they were assigned their date number. 

Almost always, the government assigned a new baby a name, and, usually, it was something that was popular in the old world. For example, my oldest sister’s name, Janie, was something called a ‘nickname’ which was basically a pet form of a name, something that derives from a proper name. Her’s came from the name ‘Jane’, which our Specific History teacher said was a very popular name in the nineteen-fifties of the old world. 

I think that now would be as good a time as any to tell you about the actual new Society in which I lived:

In this Society, which was very different from the one that I inhabit now, everything was regulated by the Official Parliamentary Government of the New Society of the Americas and Europe Under the Rule of The Leaders of The United Nations Organisation. 

There were one-hundred and twenty-seven total nations in the whole of the Society, all put together. In our Specific History class at Educator Hole, the instructor, Mrs Elina, said that sixty-four of the nations that were West of the one in what she called ‘Europe’, used to be divided into two separate nations, with fifty-one in the lower half, and thirteen in the upper half. After the First Societal Revolution, the independent nations of ‘Canada’, and ‘The United States of America’, or simply, ‘America’, were united with the ‘countries’ of Europe that were under the rule and government of the United Nations and the European Union and the Commonwealth. 

In each separate city, there was an Office Of The Official Government Representation. That office was where you had to go to to get their date  number repossessed so that they can’t be tracked or so that they can move out of the Society or something like that. That was also where you went to for telomerization, child application, partner application, career referral, and out of nation relocation. 

I hadn’t actually heard of anyone who’d ever went off the Society and come back. I’d heard of Nilinna Brandy, who went to ‘Africa’ sixteen years ago, the year that I was born, and never come back. I’d heard of Albert Jumper, who’d gone to ‘Asia’ twenty-seven years ago, but had never come back. I’d heard of Jonson Cramer, who’d gone to ‘Australasia’ fifty-nine years ago but had never come back. There were legends surrounding every single person who left the Society and never came back. There were over a hundred scrolls of legend in the City Archives, all surrounding what was outside of the Society, and the people who left and didn’t come back. 

There was a famous poet, Johnny Sal, who had written over 1 000 000 words, all on the Society and what was happening in it and outside of it, even near to it, but still outside. In Literature Studies at Educator Hole we’d done a whole unit on poets who had the assignment as poet, and poets who wrote poems of their own accord, and poets from outside of the Society in modern times and in history. One of the poets was named Al Purdy, which was interesting, because one of the pupils of the lower study’s surname was Purdy, and after that we all wondered if he was a descendant of an historical famous poet. Anyway, one of the three poems by Purdy that we studied and analysed and dissected was called Married Man’s Song. As me and my partners (there were four of us including myself) took it apart word-for-word, we realised that it was quite inappropriate for us, as pupils in an Educator’s Hole, to be studying. There were implications among the words of sex — illegal and underaged sex — infidelity amongst marriage, and inappropriate status clashes. One of the males in the group, Cranmer, was going on and on about how we should bring it to the instructor’s attention that there were supreme implications hidden amongst the words, but we all protested, and he didn’t end up destroying us all. The reason that we protested so viciously is because that particular instructor was really strict and mean and if anyone tried to challenge her or (God forbid) her authority, then she sent them to the cow shed for the rest of the day. And she gave them mountains of extra assignments. The male who had suggested that had been really new in the class, so he didn’t know, but after a different new female brought it up and she was sent to the cowshed, he knew. 

One of Johnny Sal’s poems was all about how corrupted the new Society was. He’d published it in a poetry scroll magazine in a nation that was part of the European sector of the Society (called Germany). Three weeks later, he died of heart failure. A lot of my companions suspected that the government had summoned him to their office and shot him with a poison dart, because they were afraid that he was going cause an uprising or something, which, if it was true, demonstrated with crystal clarity just how corrupted the Society actually was. 

Most people didn’t actually try or hope or beg for the position of Poet, but, although it could be dull at certain times, was thought to be a position of great honour and esteem, especially among the older citizens. One had to apply for a position at least a year after their first telomerization. The Official Offices of the Positional Occupation Officer (OOPOF), after you’d applied, and they’d verified your status, age, date number and name, they brought you in for a positional interview to help better determine what position they’d be best at. 

A friend of mine at Educator’s Hole who actually resided a half kilometre away from my dwelling had started an underground magazine that no proper adults were allowed to know about, only people who hadn’t gotten their fifth telomerization (which usually happened at or around age twenty-seven or twenty-eight) were allowed have a copy of any issue of the magazine. There was an underground place, literally underground, I think that my friend calls it Basement, which served as the offices of the magazine. If you wanted to get into it, you had to have the latest password, which changed every two weeks, just to make sure to deter unauthorised purchasers. You also had to have your date number certificate, and proof of identity, which most people just called POID. You couldn’t get your date number certificate unless you were eight years old and of at least a class 5 family. You could get your date number certificate when you were fifteen if you weren’t of a class 5 family, but some people needed it sooner, so they snuck into the offices and stole their certificate. They usually weren’t caught, by the way. You got your POID from the government when you were born, but you weren’t allowed to actually carry any until you were ten years old. The magazine was basically about fifteen unemployed, untelomerized, teenaged shut-ins ranging in age from twelve to twenty-two. They slept, ate, and lived in that basement, and they all had their own separate apartment, half a floor each. The basement reached down into the ground for about twenty-one levels, getting higher in number the deeper into the Earth they got. There were the editor-in-chiefs’, editors’, formatters’, and writers’ offices on the first three levels, with a lounge and a stage-room on the very top floor. The lounge was where the purchasers went to read the magazine if they wanted to read it right when they got it, and they obviously couldn’t read it in public. The stage-room was where there was a distributor (of the ‘zine) and a stage for the open night, where people went, if they had the proper documents of course, once a week to read poetry, or sing or play instruments or a combination of those. The magazine was a weekly, with articles and comic strips of conspiracy theories, underground opinion pieces, and things of that sort, with the occasional pure art piece or poem or song. 


[I think that six pages is enough background on where I am for me to start with the actual story.]

‘Mother?’ I called as I exited my bed chamber. ‘Father? Janie? Cayla? Intonne?’ I went into the sitting room and nobody was there. I went to the kitchens - no-one. The dining room - no-one. I went into my parents’ bed chamber, but they weren’t there and the bed was made. I went into my brother’s room - same thing. My two older sisters’ room - ditto. I went back into the kitchen, and found a note typed on the old typewriter my father kept as a testament to his great-grandfather:

Dear Missy,

We’ve been summoned for a new positional assignment. 

Mayor Fits said that he’d have us back home before supper. 

Have a good day!


Mother Amy, Father Pete, Sister Janie, Sister Cayla, Brother Intonne

I went back into my room and sat down. I dug around under my mattress for the book physical anatomy of the Society that I’d stolen from the Archives that time our Specific History troupe had gone on a trip there. 

I found it after a few minutes of digging around.

It was about a thousand pages thick, and not on a scroll, for some reason. Every page was about three millimetres thick and with around three-thousand words on every page, amongst maps and graphs.

I looked in the contents for The Border: page 203. 

I flipped through the thoroughly yellowed pages and found the map of The Border that ran around the European boundary, separating The Society from the other parts of The New World. 

I looked at it for a minute, saw a flash, and, suddenly, there was a little dot on the map that looked white and said, Yingo Town. 


I was amazed and I blinked a few times before I actually believed what I was seeing: there was a town on the border. 

Submitted: April 09, 2017

© Copyright 2021 Drile Carey. All rights reserved.

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