By Robin J Nelson
A dark brooding sky is bloated with a thousand distended bellies. It is late afternoon and streetlamps, stark orange suns pulled and stretched into soulless luminescent strips, are reflected from the silent mirror that is a puddle on a cobbled street. Dull, characterless, red brick Victorian terraces look through sightless eyes, hidden behind co-op curtains.
A leaf, orange, brown and curling at the edges, ageing now, like a woman who was once a girl and full of life. She is caressed and titillated by the young beau, as he lifts and twirls and turns her in his playful breath before he releases her and she drifts down to rest on the mirror.
Now she is a galleon of old as ripples form and she drifts in the breeze. A single beam of liquid gold breaks low through the grey battlements above her. It is brief as it shines upon her, transforming her into a treasure ship of the Spanish Main, radiant and sparking. She is manned by the ghosts of old as she moves through azure Caribbean waters towards the far horizon.
Then the shaft of Odin’s spear is gone. Oil shimmers on the surface, swirling eddies of green, and mauve, and blue. I bend down, cup a handful and lift it to my face, the water leaking through my fingers. I smell it; rubber and gear oil comes back to me. I turn my hand over, letting the rest fall. It splashes back: some lands upon my boat, rocking it and slowing its progress.
I am tempted to stamp upon the puddle as might a child to watch the water splash up around my feet. A face appears on the surface, it is the face of she whom I have come to meet. My stomach is light and my heart misses a beat, she is beautiful. I catch a hint of perfume as I look at her reflection.
‘What are you doing?’ She asks.
I watch her lips move on the glassy surface.
‘Sailing a boat to far distant shores,’ say I. ‘Listen, can you hear the crew calling out their orders? Imagine the rigging taught in the breeze. Come down with me and we might stand on the forecastle, looking for dolphins.’
‘You are truly mad,’ she says, smiling.
She leans towards me and places a kiss upon my cheek. It feels cool and fresh like the breeze upon my skin. We turn as she takes my hand; I look back to say farewell to my crew as they continue their journey across life’s looking glass.
By Anne-marie Ferwerda-Endt
Sentient silence is now breaking
Slowly softly sliding past,
Revealing lightness in a twinkle
As it travels through the dark.
Gone are all the little twinkles
From the starlets in the vast,
Yellow light is slowly brightening,
Turning shadows into shapes.
Tree trunks splitting into branches
Green leaves fluttering from their tips,
Ready to feed the little budlets
As they burst when stroked by sun.
Bright light turning all the darkness
Into many shades of blue.
It’s an everlasting cycle
Dipping down again to dark
Slowly brightening into yellow
Awakening life in its bright glow.
Fading back to total darkness
Brightened only by the stars,
As the sentient silence
Once more rules the darkened skies.
Annemarie Endt-Ferwerda 9-4-2020
By Dick Smith
Lock down, lockdown, we’re all into lockdown,
Sitting in our houses and feeling very glum.
Lock down lock down, everyone’s in lock down,
Lying on their beds or sitting on their bum.
I want to go to golf, I want to have a swim,
Rugby, league or touch I want to go and view.
I’d like to ride my bike like dopey David Clark
But I’d end up feeling dumb and properly in the poo.
Lock down lockdown, we’re all into lockdown,
Drinking tea and coffee and feeling very sad.
Lock down lockdown, everyone’s in lockdown,
Fighting with their spouses and acting awful mad.
I like to find a bar with people by the score,
And music, girls and laughter, and wine and gin and beer.
I’d like to sing and eat and drink and then I’d drink some more
Then stagger home and fall asleep with not a single care.
Lock down lockdown, we’re all into lockdown,
Playing cards and cheating hard and quarrelling a lot,
Lock down lockdown, everyone’s in lockdown,
Tempers fly and fists do too and no one cares a jot.
If only I could drive my car and go off to the mall,
Buy a coffee, have some cake and gather with my friends.
Without a mask and all that shit and keeping well away
I’m waiting for the happy day when all this business ends.
Lock down, lockdown we’re all into lockdown,
On our phones and ‘puter games and reading books galore.
Lock down, lockdown, everyone’s in lockdown,
Dreading that our Cindy girl will call for four weeks more.
I want to quickly launch my boat and motor out to sea,
I’ll bait my hook and drop my line and fill my bin with fish,
And then I’ll sail so quickly back and bring my catch ashore
And clean it up and cook it well and serve it in a dish.
Lock down, lockdown, we’re all into lockdown
Doing crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku grids and all,
Lock down, lockdown, everyone’s in lockdown,
My six kids and my good wife they drive me up the wall.
I like to be like Simon and go off in my car
Pretend that I’m important and treat the rules with scorn,
To Wellington I’d bustle off and meet with other Nats
And eat and drink and talk and chat with others not forlorn.
Lock down lockdown, we’re all into lockdown
Waiting for our Cindy to take us down to three,
Lock down lockdown, everyone’s on lockdown
Waiting for that moment when at last we will be free.
Fifty words including infantry, callous, swelter, sentient.
The infantry had been floundering for hours in he sweltering heat. The captain was a man loathed by many; his callous nature being the very reason for his unpopularity. He had total disregard for the sentiment of his men, many of whom were struggling to put one foot in front of the other.
The infantry sergeant stood motionless on the parade ground. He was a hard, callous man, a legionnaire of fifteen years in the service of France. He did not consider the recruits to be sentient beings. The brutal sun beat down on them. Let them swelter a little longer, he thought.
It didn't take a sentient member of the group of infantry to know their commanding officer was a callous imbecile. Everyone in the group army knew they would be useless to fight the enemy if they had to stand at attention and swelter under the desert sun for much longer.
Despite not being sentient, blue-green algae produce vast swathes of the world’s oxygen. They thrive beneath the intensity of the sun, unlike the armies of humans that pollute their waters with callous disregard. The infantry swelter in the heat -- consume, destroy, consume, destroy -- mindlessly destructive in their blunders toward oblivion.
“The sergeant major was a callous pig.” snorted the colonel, “He made the infantry swelter in the hot burning desert sun.”
“Not an ounce of sentient decency in him,” added Mrs Cadwallader. “He drank a whole bottle of my gin one evening.”
“Not alone,” the colonel replied. “You helped him.”
One thing was for certain, the alien being was definitely sentient. Its bulbous eyes followed the infantry man's every move under the swelter of the mid-day sun. The callous body barely moved as it bided its time. Too late did the soldier realize the truth. The alien showed no mercy.
By then, the war was so unpopular, even the drill sergeants — the old school infantry types — had dropped their usual callous facade. They had all been there, to swelter and learn how to get through, and were, hoping now to make the new recruits sufficiently sentient to survive.
Topic: 'You stare at the mirror, it begins to talk'.
Miranda stood in front of the mirror smiling at her reflection.
‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the loveliest of them all?’ she said sweetly.
There was silence.
‘For God’s sake Gus, answer me!’
A face snapped into view in the mirror.
‘Okay, okay, hold your britches,’ said Gus. ‘You know, we really shouldn’t be doing this.’
‘And what is it that we shouldn't be doing?’
‘Me giving you the names of other contestants in the upcoming fairy-tale beauty pageant and you sending out a bunch of trolls to scare them off,’ frowned Gus.
‘Are you saying that I’m not playing fair?’ said Miranda leaning close to the mirror.
‘Well, yes,’ said Gus.
‘I’ll tell you what’s not fair,’ snarled Miranda, ‘What’s not fair is that so many others are considered more beautiful than I. All I want is to create a more level playing field!’
‘Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s because your worth it. Try using Botox instead of all that L’Oréal Paris muck.’
Miranda picked up a hammer and walked menacingly toward Gus.
‘You’ll not be the first heart that I broke!’
‘Okay, okay, lighten up sis,' said Gus flinching back.
‘Come on, come on, I haven't got all day. Give me the names of today's entrants,’ said Miranda. ‘I’ve got whole a bunch of trolls with knives out back and they are beginning to get impatient.’
Three names flashed up onto the mirror.
'I hate my job,' said Gus
'Suck it up,' replied Miranda
Joe stared blankly into the mirror, trying to ignore the remarks that reverberated through his skull. It was largely negative self-talk that surfaced from the dregs of his inadequate childhood.
It was 2am; he hadn’t slept in three days, and the anxiety was causing his brain to crumble away like a wet cake. Impulsively, he rummaged in a nearby drawer for his stash, hoping that he would achieve some kind of Hunter S. Thompson enlightenment if he just kept mindlessly partaking. He rolled the joint with expertise, filling it with freshly ground … what is this? It smelt vaguely like Nag Champa incense and he remembered with distaste the awkward conversation that had ensued upon its acquisition. The blunt sagged between his lips as he fumbled for his lighter.
“Easy there, Joey-boy,” said the mirror snarkily.
Joe stared even more blankly at his own reflection. It seemed to have taken on a life of its own.
“I haven’t even lit it yet,” he said.
“Don’t you know that stuff is bad for motivation? The ganja is the one thing keeping Lisa from coming back.”
His reflection smiled wryly back at him, but he wasn’t smiling.
“Eeeasy, boyo. Put the lighter down.”
Dumbfounded, Joe put the lighter down, and questioned his own sanity.
“I-I’m not even high yet. Why are you …”
“I needed to intervene. You’re clearly going through a quarter-life crisis. Look at yourself. Look at your room. Take a good, hard look.”
Joe squinted into the mirror. His hair was a dishevelled mess, there were crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes and frown lines that he hadn’t noticed before. Probably the smoking. He thought he could faintly smell vomit now that he was paying attention to his senses. Ah, yes … His bed was covered in stale emesis.
“You’re a mess, Joey-boy.”
Joe puffed up his chest indignantly. “I’m a superstar!”
“An amateur dance music producer with delusions of grandeur? You’re no more a superstar than I am an accurate reflection of you.”
“Look mate, there’s no need to be insulting.” Joe ruffled his fingers through his hair. His reflection danced back at him, grinning wildly.
“I can’t stand the sight of you, boyo. You’re no more a man than your father was.”
Joe could feel his blood boiling. He raised his fist.
“Go on. Punch me. You know you want to.”
There was an ear-splitting crash as the mirror shattered, raining glass upon the stained floor. As the adrenalin subsided, Joe cradled his bloodied fist and whimpered.
I put down the phone and the smile on my face was wider than the Gulf of Mexico. I’d just been selected for the team and I was walking on air. Now I could earn real money, the guys would all admire me and the chicks would tumble into my bed like coins from a lucky pokie machine. “WOW.”
I took off my shirt and sat down in front of the mirror.
“Gee you look great,” I said to myself. Great abs, great pecs, smooth skin, tight rounded muscles. What a man.!” I posed like Arnold Swatzeneggar and threw back my head. “Woohoo,” I shrieked to the empty room.
“You conceited bastard,” a voice seemed to come from nowhere. I swung around on my expensive swivel chair...no one. I swung back again. Still no one.
“In front of you, you moronic hulk.” I shot to my feet in anger. No one could speak to me like that. I put my fists up in my best Mike Tyson pose and looked around for the seemingly invisible foe.
“Sit down and put your fists away,” the voice seemed to come from the mirror. “No one’s going to hurt you but I’d like a word or two.”
I looked at the mirror in surprise. Mirrors don’t speak. I cuffed the side of my head gently to make sure I was awake.
“Sit down,” said the me in the mirror, and yes it was me and I even saw my mirrored lips move.
I slumped onto my chair.
“What do you want?” I asked, “and how did you get into my body like that?”
“I am your body,” replied the mirror, “and I’m sick of it.”
“Sick of what?” I asked, hardly believing what was happening. Talking to a bloody mirror for god’s sake.
“Sick of what you’re doing to me. You’re making my life hell.”
“Every morning when I all want to do is lie in bed and indulge in a little harmless flatulence you drag me up and make me pound around the streets till the sweat is pouring from me. I hate it.”
“Makes me fit,” I replied.
“Then you give me food a donkey wouldn’t eat at a green party convention. I want bacon and eggs for breakfast.” The me in the mirror was warming up.
“Healthy food,” I replied.
“And then you take me to the gym. Push ups , pull ups, weights and all sorts of other horrible tortuous things. Two hours of misery. And then when I’d really like a jug of beer and some chips its bloody vitamin drinks and muesli. Muesli for god’s sake, I’m not a rabbit or a pukeko.”
“More healthy food,” I said, But he took no notice.
“And what’s with the steroids you poison me with every evening. Bet you don’t tell the coach about them?”
“Mmmmm,” I said. “He doesn’t really need to know.”
I seemed to be losing the battle. I rallied my thoughts.
“But we’re so fit,” I suggested. “We’ll be able to play great footy. I’ll make lots of cash.”
“Bang, bloody crash, thump thump, push, heave, twist, punch, shove, swear. I’ve had it. Ten years of that and I’ll be totally stuffed with alzheimer’s or dementia on the horizon.” The me in the mirror looked so angry I wondered if the whole thing would shatter into a million pieces.
“Oh dear,” I said to myself. ”Think I’ll get rid of that mirror... It’s spooked.”
Max was in a small room, alone. It had a mirror mounted on the wall above the small table where she had been told to wait for the senior constable. There was also a camera mounted on the wall just above the mirror. It was the old red brick police station, the original city headquarters. The stone slab entrance was worn down by millions of booted feet. The table and two chairs were old. The walls were grey-green. It was warm. She took her coat off and inspected the damage. The jacket had a ripped left sleeve, bloody. She had been knocked down in the moments of mob panic when the protesters and counter-protesters charged into each other, before the riot squad started dragging people away. The damage was three hours old. The blood had dried up. The back of her head hurt as well. It felt a bit sticky. She stood up and turned her head side-on to the mirror, trying to see, but all she could see was her own profile. It looked okay. She felt okay then. She realized the clash had actually been exhilarating. She had been hurt worse playing basketball. Then she heard something, a muffled voice behind the mirror. She turned ninety degrees, put the tip of her nose against the glass and said: "You stare into the mirror and it begins to talk."