:: Fiction archive ( 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

Extract: England’s Darkness published 22/10/2012

At that meeting, the rebels attempted to evoke the infinite myths of previous uprisings of the North, from the Dark Ages to the Jarrow March and the Thatcher-crushed Miners’ Strike, along with the moments in England’s history when all power had been held in the North, so that those events could be recorded in some way, to serve as an inspiration for the current uprising. But with the erasure of all history and knowledge, in its transferral from annulled paper-based media to digital data and that data’s obliteration during England’s economic, infrastructural and technological collapses, nothing remained, and all memory had gone. All of the tongues that could have seized the memory of past Northern uprisings had been cut out, and stamped into dirt.

Extracts from Stephen Barber‘s new novel, England’s Darkness.

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Amanda’s published 17/10/2012

The man sitting next to me has just sneezed. He is old and smells of urinals. I don’t like to sneeze, it scares me. I’m afraid I’ll lose something vital about myself. Pulling a handkerchief out of my pocket, I wipe my arm and down the front of my pencil skirt. The guy in the t-shirt is watching me. His face and shoulders are laughing. I don’t know why. In the window opposite, a girl with a blonde bob in a red beret, holding a white hankie. I take the top off my green pen and write the words sneeze, handkerchief, snot, brains, arm and skirt in my notebook. Then I turn to the back and with the black pen, put a tick in the column headed RIGHT – t-shirt guy is a right.

By Melissa Mann.

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Albunia published 11/10/2012

Card Number Seventeen, with its multi-coloured stars; seven small ones, plus the bigger one placed dead centre–is the card that brings it back most vividly–the moment of Nea’s first sighting of the tarot trumps. Not because it was the first card she saw, but on account of its brilliance which reflects the overall impact of the trumps as collective object. The colours scintillating amongst the workaday rubble of the father’s desk. Immediately she’d appropriated it; expecting he’d indulge her in this, as in most things. It contained a glimpse of something: the peacock’s tail, that flash of iridescence that offers a preview of the coming transformation.

By Karen Whiteson.

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Distraction published 10/10/2012

One night he came home from the Slow Man drunk, and hit me. He had to do this, to get it over with, and I was glad he was drunk when it happened because his blows were less sharp than they should have been, he was going through the motions. But I did hit back. Otherwise we’d have had to do this thing again and again. I caught him on the forehead and broke my finger. It sobered him up, and on me it had the opposite effect. This was in the kitchen, a place with so many knives and sharp edges it’s a wonder we didn’t kill each other, and at one point when we were on the floor, kicking against the baseboards, trying to both stay out of the reach of hurt and get closer, which came to the same thing, I started to feel happy, enjoyment, relief, because I knew this wasn’t about the money at all, it was about the girl he’d left behind in Portugal, and there was nothing I could do about that, nothing I could be held responsible for.

By Charles Boyle.

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The Revelation at the Rampart published 29/09/2012


Bronson, leaning over and striking Barnes in the face. “Your metaphysics don’t matter anymore. Your disappearing acts. There’s no place for theory now.” He strikes him again; blood oozes from the swollen eye. “There’s no longer much presence left, Barnes, it’s all absence now.”

“That’s what the instructions . . . I remember. The part about absence.” The blood from Barnes’s neck now pooling in the palm of his upturned hand, as if he could collect it and put it back in. “The rupture . . . the exchanging of center for center . . . the passage of one structure to another . . . and always anticipating the next event when in fact the event is the anticipation itself. The instructions . . . the diagram . . . said to correct the wall . . . to reshape it into a double helix, like we thought.”

The final instalment of a six part story by Nicholas Rombes.

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The Revelation at the Rampart published 10/09/2012


A dead world. Of course they had both fantasized about it, though not in a post-apocalyptic way. Their thoughts, when they ran together as in this moment with the shared cigarettes on the roof of Evelyn’s flat, conjured a world devoid of the objects that gave rise to artifacts and then to meaning. How to think without thinking, and would a dead planet make such a thing possible? Back then the Empire had just deployed the first generation of drones-as-birds, and they hadn’t figured out how to land them in trees yet, and the whole thing was comical, really, to watch them try to perch on a branch only to end up tangled and dying there, depowered, until one of the freelance retrieval units came to bag them and return them at the depot. It was Evelyn who first spoke about how the drones might very well be the first step in the direction of lifelessness.

The fifth instalment of a six part story by Nicholas Rombes.

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J Krissman in the Park published 06/09/2012

His outfit was absurd on an old man in midwinter: knitted ski cap, secondhand coat of good quality and bright white trainers. Privately, to conserve warmth, he was bandaged in a winding sheet of thermal underwear and tubular medical crepe. The frail knees were anointed with menthol. J Krissman, the name with which he signed his unpublishable writings, experienced his body as an immediate area of seepage and discomfort. His organs however persisted with their functions, such as the filtering of his urine; the skin shed its comet dust of dead cells. Also the skeleton, the specific diagram in bone laced with dainty capillaries, advanced him through the black, green and copper-tinted urban park.

By Laura Del-Rivo.

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Swallow published 05/09/2012

So different from the ugly squawking and unimaginably bright colours of the birds back in Africa, I feed them with scraps, seeds and stale chunks of bread like an infamous Sunday Mail rodent lady. Once the pigeons and scavenging seagulls have fought and shrieked and taken their pickings the smaller birds arrive onto my windowsill, poised and pretty, still-framed on the edge of time. I watch and wait for one more Spring when the first migrating swallow with its long tail feathers will arrive from the East and dart across the sky like a small boy’s perfect paper plane gliding on a gust of wind.

By Alan McCormick.

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The Revelation at the Rampart published 03/09/2012


Bronson knew the answer, had known it since he first received his instructions: he was being sent to the wall not to repair it, but to destroy it. The age of symbols was over. They weren’t real enough, and what wasn’t real no longer existed. Representation itself, of what use was it other than to obscure the real? The wall, at one time, had been a symbol of something, but what? This ambiguity was precisely what had saved the wall from destruction. As long as its meaning was unclear, the Empire could care less whether it existed or not. But once the wall again began to assume the shape of meaning and assert itself as something, it posed a threat. Reattached to a referent, the “wall” spiraled out of the tight, pressure-locked linguistic controls of the Empire. Meaning begat meaning.

The fourth instalment of a six part story by Nicholas Rombes.

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Dark Angel published 31/08/2012

In the sky it seemed that modern jazz riffed the location of American style jeans to youth wanting to be cool. Mr Angel was not permitted to hear the piano, wind instruments or hissing drums. He had bought the jeans because during the school half term his son had come with him to the wholesaler’s cigar smoke-filled cave under the arches of Liverpool Street station. The same reflective London sky had shone on the substantial aesthetic of pigeon-hued masonry and the new insubstantial aesthetic which used the elliptical parabola of a flying saucer and the structure of an atom. The boy was undistinguished except that the irises of his eyes resembled cut and polished stones of turquoise.

By Laura Del-Rivo.

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