E{M}MA+/the ghost orchids (review)

E{M}MA+/the ghost orchids

Review by Mbeke Totti

In 1998 I was seriously thinking about becoming a farmer.  I searched for a nice plot of land I thought I could grow beans on.  I studied the art of bean growing.  I even bought a pair of rugged yet stylish farming boots.  I had visions of embarking on a farming adventure that so many others had embarked upon before.  Alas, it wasn’t meant to be and I gave up on my dream.  Instead I went to college and studied the art of the review: reviewing furniture and movies and food and whatever else is reviewable.  I was a general expert on all reviewable subjects and objects.   My specialty is furniture, especially outdoor furniture (e.g., lawn chairs, patio tables, bird’s baths, etc.) but I will occasionally, if asked, review the books.  Over my reviewing career I’ve had occasion to review three books.  I can’t remember two of the books I reviewed because I reviewed them a long time ago.  I remember the third book I reviewed because I’m reviewing it right now, right here.

E{M}MA+/the ghost orchids is a book that you could read as you smoke your corncob pipe and while away the afternoon in a sumptuous deck chair curved to perfectly support your supine figure.  The book is crafted with American paper (as far as one can tell) and has modern yet classic contours.  At less than 120 pages it even gives you enough time post-perusal for the delicious afternoon nap.  As you slumber you may dream about the images conjured up by this well-proportioned book.

She turns to me and I worry she’s not looking at where she’s going.  I think that she must be careful.  It’s getting dark and she’s pedaling super-fast.  Hey beautiful girl.  Slow down.  I’m just gazing at her and don’t see the curb-side which I hit with the front wheel of my bicycle.

Surprisingly, there is only one reference to outdoor furniture in this book, making this one of those rare books in which outdoor furniture is referenced only once.

At night we’ll see a lighthouse from the garden but we’ll sit in chairs and not on the grass because there are insects.

I contend that the “chairs” in question are patio chairs, although not specified by the author, because they are sitting in a garden outdoors.  The most profound parts of the book, unfortunately, are connected to indoor furniture.

In the morning I will think about leaving and then leave but only to go from the bed to the love-seat in our room.

Unless the room is an outdoor room, which given the context of that sentence is unimaginable, then we outdoor furniture lovers will have to once again read a book where outdoor furniture plays second fiddle to indoor furniture.  But we’re used to it right?

However, this book beckons us to use our imagination and so for the sake of this review I will imagine that the furniture is outdoor furniture because I imagine the room to be an outdoor room.  E{M}MA+/the ghost orchids encourages us to make the imaginable unimaginable, after all.  And that is one of its ordinary super powers (an inside joke you’ll get if you read the book).  There are also pictures in it.

So imagine the scene: you’re relaxing on a deck chair of your choice.  There is a pitcher of cold lemonade on the outdoor patio table next to you and the book E{M}MA+/the ghost orchids is resting on your chest as a light breeze moves across your face when you least expect it.  The birds flit in and out of the birdbath, the sun is shining, and all is right with the world even though everything is temporarily out of place in your head.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon enjoying your outdoor furniture.

–Mbeke Totti


from e

excerpts from e{m}ma+ the ghost orchids

by sean brijbasi

 from part 3 – THE GO BEGINNING


 freedom waves

People by the sea look free.  They sit in their sand freedom and play in their splashing water freedom. They lean back and give themselves to the sun freedom.  They bask in the wind freedom.  They run in the air freedom and fall onto the grass freedom.  They exult in the outwardness of their bodies freedom.

But the waves will have their way and the people will want them more—the collision of temperatures, body vs. anti-body, the dopamine release of becoming free that is missing from being free.

The shoelace on one of my shoes is untied but I don’t have a moment to stop.  I drift above the pavement that is stained by the blood of the unconvinced and the castaway chocolate sweets. The shoelace drags along the concrete and pops up and down as it collides with the pebbles on the thoroughfare and the detritus of unmindful pockets.

I think about the empty flower vase that is so empty but filled with so much power.

E. and I cuddle our life with our minds and our hearts. But we are like the detritus of unmindful pockets and the pebbles on the thoroughfare. We land where we are dropped and we go where we are kicked.



 I open the translucent envelope and look to its contents.  But in those contents I see only the common renderings of a life that I know is complex and fraught with uncommon renderings.  Too late did I realize that the envelope now drifting away from me in that eager wind that takes everything with it to sometimes unknown places, where sometimes I venture and sometimes not, were the real contents of your life, and that my chase of the envelope which will, according to the customs of the wind, become wet and afterwards too fragile to my touch to recover undamaged, will take me further away from you, during which time another reader, who understands the delicate nature and nuance of such envelopes, will read all that I should have read and seen all that I should have seen.

In the other life I am chasing and finding unknown places that capture my curiosity for brief moments and from which I must escape the disappointment of stumbling upon the meaningless.

In this life I think I’ve seen love as the following of a light that at night (alone) one fears.  To near sleep and to think or dream that I have walked the streets at last light and mixed happily among all of the people of humanity fills me with a feeling I can only describe as dread.




 Consider standing,

Of the trees I remember and will remember that in this life as in all other lives how I started my search (in the place and during the time in which I lived)—for another place and another time—at the bottom of some particular tree in the distance and then slowly looking up along its mighty (even if small) trunk until the land disappeared from my view and only the leaves and the sky behind them occupied the camera obscura of my plural oculus.

My gaze would linger there at the top of the tree where I would see the branches sway in the breeze until the feeling of freedom those branches conveyed became unbearable and my eyes moved slowly, as if falling in a more considerate gravity, down along the tree’s mighty (even if small) trunk until the land reappeared but a different land.

I wondered on my way up where I would find myself when my eyes made their way back down but it was always the same place and the same time from where my journey began.  Perhaps I fooled myself into being disappointed on my return but in spite of my quiet lament I knew that part of me was secretly relieved when I heard those familiar voices calling me back to where I belonged.

Standing still is gliding,




the note-like letter

 Dear Panther Lily,

I want the Ghost Orchid music in my chest. I want it to replace my heart and other organs. Each note, each beat pushing through my skin here on this alien body. Sometimes softly so as not to appear violent and sometimes with great violence. As we, the great Ghost Orchids, greater even than our violence, march with our blood into the future.

But we can’t keep the music from out there where everything we do is trapped in its vibrations and can only exist in between those always pulsating strings. All our words and gestures, even our most gentle, become transformed, and appear as performance in the spectacle of this new world.

We need a secret song—a secret piece of music—that we can keep to ourselves and take with us into the darkness and the silence, away from the spectacle, and let it do to us what it will and perhaps allow us to be our best selves for a moment that might seem longer than a moment but long enough to make us want to go on. You and I will always find a way. I wish you well as I have always wished you well. I love you as I have always loved you. I will not forget you.

For always,

Captain Tenderhooks

p.s. (wink)



he lives

Jess Mize – 3 Poems


this morning i was
planting some
belladonnas outside

while i was
digging in
the earth

all the horrors
he used to
say to me

only to remind
me that
beneath every
beautiful thing
lies pain.


Octavia’s Lyre

Fine Egyptian papyrus. Lyrics and music composed by Nero. All that has been written and read is a myth. Why else does the legend still propagate its fancy, not pretentious of who may be the listener? If light requires energy why not irresolute Christians as the most suitable fuel? I for one am in love with death, and the glamour thereof. Posterity may pass us off as prescient scientists. Of course if one believes in only one thing all else will linger in oblivion. Patiently waiting. No hurry; no violence. It is as simple as a new beat of the drums, or drawing of the bow; with this thought the unheard of symphony begins. The ego is the most proficient natural drug, remind yourself, remind yourself that you exist and that you have learned a language. Oh ecstacy, oh love that the poet’s rhyme about.  The star wept rose-coloured in the heart of your ears. What does that mean? One is at a loss to know but it sounds symphonic. Man bled black. Consequences of melancholia; disfigurement of white blood cells. Whoever will read these lines once scribbled on a scrap of page before dawn and as the night is tamed by the grey witch that withers? Somewhere, anywhere out of this world.



my life is a play with
bad reviews.
no one came to the show.
all the chairs were empty.
no standing ovation here.
The end was greeted with silence.
let me burn this theatre down.

Jess Mize is a blonde-haired surfer girl from South Carolin. Her favourite author is Stephen King. Vampire Weekend three albums in stores now.

Sarah Lilius – Poem

When Larry Couldn’t Climb the Tree

His breath, car exhaust and grey onion,
a solid gait, he’s part pickup truck,
slow on the interstate.
In his world, tented, everything hides
like guns far too large for any hand.

He buries ancestors under a rug.
Hearts no longer beat, the bones
never leave, he checks
them everyday
except Mondays.

His need for women dwindles,
they are noise and flower,
ache and soft places to cut.
He explains to no one,
heaviness is a father

guiding him, it’s singular,
smells like blood,
iron and chance.
He gets back in time,
the apple starting to rot.


Sarah Lilius is the author of the chapbooks What Becomes Within (ELJ Editions, 2014) and The Heart Factory (Black Cat Moon Press, 2016). She has a chapbook forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. Some of her journal publications include the Denver Quarterly, Tinderbox, Hermeneutic Chaos, Stirring, Luna Luna Magazine, Entropy, and Flapperhouse. In 2016, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Black Cat Moon Press. She lives in Arlington, VA with her husband and two sons. Her website is sarahlilius.com.

Barb Vireneckt – Fiction


Even in a place one has never left, a person may witness that particular something which brings her to the realization that she has never been more than a stranger in town, with little more than a tourist knowledge of the language she has used all of her life. Communion is not easy to come by. People talk about what they can find words for, most often in the form of questions or requests…tea, coffee, eggs, beautiful girls, beautiful boys, thank you, love, distance, foreigner, memory, mercy, please. And when the body or spirit, or both, are exiled, they may talk in the subjunctive and the conditional. They may talk of what if life on earth was easy enough for mothers to easily love their children; and what if soldiers didn’t take the lives of civilians absolutely unknown to them, as casually as my baby offers me the scent of French lavender against which her tiny fingers have brushed.

This morning as I am making my way to the library I have a poem in mind but it twists and turns, and runs ahead and shouts over its shoulder that I should keep up. It has something to do with the Japanese tourists I see from the top of the number 13 bus. They are having their photograph taken with the man dressed as a Victorian policeman outside 221b Baker Street. The poem wants to have something to do with how these tourists may explain the photograph to friends and family back in small towns a hundred miles from Tokyo or Yokohama or deep in Shizuoka Prefecture;  friends who would surely know little of English literature, or Victorian London, or elementary deductions.

In a second group of lines I may have wanted to mention that perhaps something of a comparable situation might be for me, who knows little of bushido or Japanese literature, to have my photograph taken outside the one-time home of Yukio Mishima and to show it on my return to my great-aunt in her nursing home in Wellingborough Northants, or to my sister in a rural village in Essex, both of whom know little or nothing of seppuku or sailors falling from grace with the sea.

But the poem, like most poems, doesn’t get written. It runs off ahead, turns a corner, becomes lost in a sea of faces there.  Instead I have ended up writing this to myself, at the back of the bus, this about words getting lost between the unfolding scene and the paper; and this about you who I haven’t set eyes on in five years except in my dreams, and who I have loved, and who I think I see twice in five minutes from the top of this bus as it crawls along Oxford Street. And twice in five minutes I have seconds to decide whether to leave the bus and pursue that figure who may or may not be you. But I know that whether it is you or not that I don’t have the words, and I continue to the poetry library by the river, and exchange the books of three Israeli poets for a book of the lamentations of an exiled Palestinian.

Afterwards, crossing Hungerford Bridge, the Roma woman carrying her swaddled baby stretches her open palm towards me.  I wonder briefly whether she may have a store of pound coins, or crowns, or golden teeth, or resources beyond my dreams. I think of my baby daughter and drop change into her hand and stroke her baby’s head. I want the baby to feel love through my fingertips.  For small change I have bought a fleeting communion. I get back on the bus and now, look, I am writing this.


Barb Vireneckt thinks the number 13 bus from Golders Green to Aldwych is worth saving. Do you?

Richard Atkinson – Poems


the gates of hell and the blue balloon

two dogs
as fierce as a
tunundra waterfall

stood guard by
the gates,
going down.

someone came with pram,
the push chair not the overlooked group
with a blue balloon tied on to it, floating above.

one of the dogs
tried to smell
the blue balloon.

as their
snout touched
and nudged

both the balloon
and hound darted back.

the hound jumped up
pulling at the lead,
causing everyone to be alarmed,
then laugh about it.

it made me feel
easier about things.
at least I wasn’t
afraid of a
blue balloon.

I knew
we were all going

why do they need security here!
if they don’t let in drinkers

who will they let in,
even with a blue balloon.

I’d figured it out,
all I needed was a blue balloon!

or it was all a con
and I was really going up
instead of down.


the poet

there’s a man, lives in my street
who lowers the tone of the neighborhood.
me dad says so.

he lives on his own and wears fifties suits
without a tie, which is a bit odd

always looks like his mind is elsewhere
on holiday, somewhere raining, maybe.
which is bit odd.

and does not work and does not even own a car
just a cheap tatty bike
which is bit odd.

he even plays classical music and sings to himself
sometimes, which is very very odd.

I know he lowers the tone because I’ve seen him
going out, furtively, in a big black coat
and black woolly hat in the small hours

cycling to the neighborhood tone volume dial
at the end of our street.

he turns it right down, the blighter!
when everyone’s asleep and not looking.

see sparks fizzing from diodes
hear a distant crackle and hum
and crazy man laughter.

me dad says, they should keep it padlocked
or house prices will plummet,

which is not very odd,
but understandable, really.


the seagull

a seagull was at the window
looking into the hospital,
as my mother lay dying.

it moved from the left to right,
closer and closer to my mother.

seemed to be looking in on how humans die,
love and grieve.

had a Prozac dream last night,
a seagull was outside,

I pressed my hand up against the pane,
as though I could feel its feathers, through it.

the seagull as if knowing this
pressed its body up against the glass

as if it wanting me to touch it, feel it,
feel its living feathers.

maybe it was seeing the seagull
as my mother lay dying

that lodged in my mind, as an image of death waiting, watching.

my mother is now someplace else
where I can not touch her

or see her flying as free as a sleepless bird,
as free as the last death.

toward the end of the dream the seagull put its wing
through a crack in the window, a small gap
and I touched its long wings.

it was like touching death
and feeling its flapping wings
trying to escape, trying to come home.

as if my mind could finally
feel the reality of the situation.

the reality of death along with its beauty.
it was as though the glass that separated us
was not just physical but mental

as I have not cried yet, the funeral is still to come.
I pray and hope that I will cry then,
even with my Prozac mind.

feel very alone, because she was always there,
no matter what the hell
I was going through, always there.

if I could put my mothers love into a box
it would be Tardis like

there would be some winning betting slips,
red wine included

along with lots of love, hope, empathy and humour
and a strong desire
for a better world,
still to come.


black lace

we sat opposite each other
do you believe in god she says

well there must be one
but only shows herself when drunk
and at end of tether like most of the time
and has a sense of humour and pain

how long have you been afflicted she says
hell, I don’t know I say, it’s always happening to me
like something stuck in the head
that needs to come out

do you think you can be cured
she says

well hell yes, there must be some way I say
but you always seem to drink
when the affliction hits she says

yes I say
the drink seems to help it come out

like a waterfall in the spring
sided by stiff moss
but soft to touch like a woman’s skin
smelling like a brand new sepia sandalwood
newspaper you have not read
but know already what it says inside

ok ok she says I get the picture
do phrases come to you upon sleeping
she says

yeh that’s the worst time
I say

do you ever get images
in your mind she says
yeh, all the time I say

is it to do with authority she says
hell, everything’s to do with authority I say

you don’t like authority she says
hell, I just ignore authority I say

how did you feel as a kid she says
little I say

do you think your affliction comes from pain
she says

yeh drunk pain, love pain, grief pain
maybe they’re the same pain I say

I mean we are the only animal that knows
it will die, apart from elephants I say

has it to do with conforming she says
yeh conforming stinks I say

are you worried about love she says
hell yes I say love is suffering
love is pain

love is dreaming about the same
person every night

even though you have been apart
for 24 years

always dreaming the same type of dream
like she was dead and you want her back

but the dream keeps on saying the same thing
that no matter how much you dream
the love is a spent force
between the two of us
while also screaming

you miss her
like you will miss breathing

so the two of you were close she says
for eight years we were like Bonnie and Clyde
on a crime free love spree, inseparable
like fish and chips with
salt and vinegar I say

apart from when she
went over to Russia I say

so what happened she says
she wasn’t happy with my affliction I say
so she realized she says

yeh, but it had not gone fully blown
by that time I say
fully blown she says

fully blown I say
so I let her go I say

you let her go she says
she used to wear these gloves
these black lacy gloves I say

black lacy gloves she says
yeh I say


Richard Atkinson is the writer of Two full stops from gravity (Pretend Genius). He can be seen in and around Newcastle performing at different open mics, taking pictures of pigeons and humans as well as picking timely fights with the police. 

Wou-Wou & The Wormling – A Colour Journal

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15

Day 16


“A ‘Wou-Wou’ is a type of gibbon and a ‘Wormling’ a small worm” it says on Wou-Wou & The Wormling’s tumblr page. Check out his various spaces for a mix of sound and art (SC,  FB). His alternative sound-recycle project The Audio Bin has a brand new album out now, The Audio Bin II, on bandcamp.

Les Pantalons – the double and coke ep & Interview


An interview with Les Pantalons

After listening to Les Pantalons’ “the double and coke ep” we decided we wanted to ask them some questions. After a series of mishaps and almosts and misplaced rain checks we finally managed to get most of them (and us) all together in Rita’s Kite Shop in the small town of X for a brief conversation. Rita is a large woman who loves her kites.

RF: Ok. Hi. Who is Les Pantalons and where are you guys from?

IM: four guys from Belfast who like to musique

RF: How would you describe your sound?

VZ: Pretty dirty yet somewhat melodic. I think there’s a mix of genres really – a bit of everything really. We haven’t written a rap song yet, but I do believe we will get one going in the nearest future. Very much so.

IM: The sound of a tool chest falling down the stairs

SE: A lonely taxidermist’s lunch break music.

Rita: My brother Raymond used to drive a taxi…

RF: We really like your new EP “the double and coke EP”. Double of what?

VZ: Iain should be able to answer this one. He is the man behind the title ; )

IM: black bush

SE: Balvenie. Hold the coke.

Rita: But he had to give that  up. What with those new fancy Nietzsche rides. Couldn’t make ends meet…

RF: Your sound sounds like it would sound really good live. Do you play live?

IM: We put on our own gig last month with Dani and hunkpapa and hope to put on another one this month. We’re keen to get gigging more and hopefully get playing some local festivals in the summer!

VZ: Thanks. Well, so far we have played only one gig. We would love to play more, but turns out it is not that easy to play live gigs when you’re a brand new band in the town. The first gig that we have played was actually organized by Iain and I must say that it did go down well. We were the main act of the night and we played for about an hour with support from Dani and Hunkpapa (big thanks to these guys). So yeah, a great night to remember really. I think our next step would be something similar – getting our own gig arranged once again. So fingers crossed.

Rita: Why you all looking at me?

RF: What obscure musician or band should we know about that we don’t know about?

VZ: I guess everyone knows of Michael Shannon (actor), but not many know of his band Corporal. I highly recommend their one and only record: corporal.bandcamp.com/releases

IM: The fast emperors. Rip.

SE: Jackson C Frank

RF: What is the last thing you read?

IM: Willie John mcbrides autobiography

VZ: Haruki Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

SE: The Art of War – Sun Tzu

Rita: The Baltimore Years – J Tyler Blue.

RF: If Les Pantalons could make the soundtrack for any already existing movie which one would be most fitting?

IM: We’d love to get on peaky blinders. That’s the dream!

VZ: Brother (Brat) 1997 film directed by Aleksei Balabanov. Russian film. As Kristina puts it– you should have called the band “from Russia with love”. The original soundtrack to this picture is very similar in sound to what we do, at least to what we did on our last ep.

SE: I’m not sure how fitting it would be but I’d like see what would happen if we had a song in The Birds.

Rita: He could sing too. Poor Ray… what was the name of that movie, with that guy, and the ocean…

RF: Why Pants?

VZ: Why not? An important thing to have. But truly – for no specific reason. We thought it sounded good. I still do. But I know there are people that think otherwise and I respect that too.

SE: Good question

IM: Why the fuck not

Rita: Anyway, he loved that one.

RF: What is the absolute best song to riot to?

VZ: modest mouse – this plane is definitely crashing

SE: Hell Broke Luce – Tom Waits.

IM: Rage against the machine – killing in the name of

Rita: Not in my kite shop.

RF: If you could resurrect any dead musician and hang out and jam with them which one would you resurrect?

VZ: Elliott Smith. Wanted to say Lou Reed first, but he would probably be really pissed off to start with. So Elliott it is.

SE: For a drink and a jam? 100% John Martyn.

JB: Phil Lynott

IM: I know his not dead yet but I’d love to go on the lash with Keith Richards

Rita: Ray.

RF: What are your plans for Les Pantalons, if any?

VZ: I would love for us to gig more. That’s the main thing at least for me now. I need.

IM: Now that we’re getting the ball rolling it’d be a great time to go on hiatus

RF: What do you think happened to Felice?

IM: She ate too many burgers

VZ: Reincarnation

Rita: What do you mean? I just faceti

end of recording 


Les Pantalons is from Belfast. Stay in touch/sound with them on soundcloud and f-book.

Stephen Moran – Fiction


Mr Lyons was on his way out to buy the paper, at precisely 9.05 am, just like any other day, when he saw it. Someone had stubbed out a cigarette right on his doorstep. It hadn’t blown in, it was there with shreds of tobacco squashed out of it. Mr Lyons knew every inch of his front garden, every pebble, every crack in the mortar between slabs, every tiny weed that had the temerity to poke its head out. He was very sure there hadn’t been a cigarette butt there when he took in the mat the night before.

“Good morning,” he said to the postman, who was just heaving round the gate with some letters for him.

“Do you want them in your hand?”

“No, I’m going out. You don’t smoke do you?”

“No, I try not to.”

“Somebody has been smoking on my doorstep. Look.”

“Oh yes. Delivery?”


That’s when it came back to him. He thought he had smelled cigarette smoke last night, when he went to bed. He always slept with the window open and his bedroom was at the front of the house. He made a mental note to sweep the step when he got back from the newsagent’s.

Mr Lyons made a living repairing sewing machines from home. His routine was unchanging, up at 7:30, wash and dress, breakfast and Radio 4, then out to the newsagents to pick up the Observer to read at lunchtime. When he got back he would work through to nearly one o’clock and seldom think about anything but sewing machines. But today he was distracted, couldn’t concentrate. The stubbed-out cigarette was bothering him.

Who would do that? Why were they at his door? There had been no note. Ah, perhaps it was a mistake and whoever it was realised they had the wrong house. They were just so rude and thoughtless to put out a cigarette on his doorstep. It would have been bad enough if they had done it on the path but the step: it was aggressive. That was it. Maybe the smoker had in mind to do him some harm.

Living alone, Mr Lyons occasionally felt a bit vulnerable. He wasn’t all that old and he swam twice a week. He kept a lumpy great cudgel of a stick in the corner of a wardrobe and that was what he planned to defend himself with if it came to that. Of course it was useless against a gun but short of that, he reckoned he could hold his own in a fight. After lunch he went upstairs and took the cudgel out and lay it beside his bed.

He managed to put it all out of his mind, or rather his mind grew tired and bored with the puzzle and he completed servicing and reassembling a classic old machine. The anxiety he felt earlier had abated and he was fairly sure it must have been someone who had to approach to read the door number in the dark. Someone rude, and anti-social but nevertheless, not worth fretting over.

My Lyons bought himself fish and chips for dinner, though it always made him ill. He wanted cheering up. He had it with tea with Scotch in it and watched The One Show and Eastenders and the latest drama serial. After the ten o’clock news, he prepared to go to bed. This time he had an extra task, to check the doorstep for cigarette butts. He had swept it earlier and it was still clean. So he locked up and retired to try to read another bit of Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples. He had tried every night for several years but was still on the first chapter. At precisely 11 pm, he gave up trying to make his eyes focus, turned out the bedside lamp and rolled onto his side.

In front of him the curtains made artistic lines in monochrome, lit by the streetlight outside next door. He usually thought the same thought about painting the scene and all night scenes, shortly before his thoughts started to drift. But there it was again. The smell of cigarette smoke. Just like last night. He put his hand on the cudgel beside the bed and grasped it, then not without a degree of fear, eased himself up, trying not to make a sound. The blasted cudgel fell with a clank.

He had been planning to peep out the curtains, and told himself he still had to, but with the noise, someone might look up. Why was it worse if they looked up and saw him peeping? Never mind, it just was so much, much worse. To be seen. Seen to be afraid. But man up, he thought to himself. Mr Lyons, are you a man or a mouse? And to himself he answered, a mouse. But the mouse that he was still peeped out through the curtains.

Nothing. There was nobody there. He pulled the curtains open more and peered up and down the street in case someone had scarpered, ludicrous as it would seem. Nothing. Just the ghostly monochrome scene of empty cars parked under streetlamps. A car came by and turned at the next junction.

My Lyons didn’t sleep well after that. He dreamt he was in an exam but couldn’t even answer one question, so he left early but then got lost in a maze of empty corridors. A door led to a dark street and someone he couldn’t see in a doorway raised a lighted cigarette to his face. Only it wasn’t Harry Lime. He woke. He couldn’t remember who it was he’d seen.

In the morning there was no cigarette butt on the doorstep. He raised his eyebrows a little and turned to go back in. That’s when he noticed there was a spent match stuck in the letterbox.


Steve Moran lives in London, just about. He has published short stories and poems, and tried his hand a bit of light editing. He is married and has reproduced once. So he claims anyway, and you can fact-check this news at www.sjmoran.com.