:: Fiction

Low (Extract) published 22/01/2020

When the priests told him to push the button that would slide her into the electric furnace, he had worried that the absurd sari would burst into flame. He’d taken a last look at her slight figure dwarfed by piles of flowers and sundry low-priced objects, her face obscured by the sari’s pallu, artfully obscured so no viewer would remark at the blood vessels that had burst on her cheeks and forehead and neck like scarlet-brown buds that would never bloom. “Kar do,” the priest had said. Obediently Ullis slid her in, and some time later his mother-in-law divided his wife’s ashes into two boxes: “One for you and one for me.”

An extract from the opening chapter of Jeet Thayil‘s Low, out today!

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The Jungle Banshee published 16/12/2019

I don’t get depressed at home, I get depressed when I have to leave; when I have to go and sign on at the Job Centre or when I have to go and visit people. I mean, I don’t visit people that often but I do have to go to the Job Centre a bit and it’s a ball ache. It’s a waste of time, me going all the way up there for them to keep me waiting. If I’m ever late, that’s it: SANCTIONED. If they’re late then that’s fine; I have to wait.

A short story by Jim Gibson.

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Antarctica published 14/12/2019

After a few centuries of no emissions and a large reforestation programme, the ice returned and Antarctica was once again a freezing southern wasteland, which was bad news for most of the animals it had picked up on its unauthorised journey. Astonishingly, some of them adapted to deal with the conditions, and to scientists’ delight, several herds of elephants which had climbed aboard during the African leg of the trip eventually evolved into a modern strain of bad-tempered woolly mammoths. Enormous white giraffes and powerful ice-dwelling gorillas which fed on penguins and seals also emerged.

By Harry Cockburn.

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Exposition published 12/12/2019

The session begins, and Woman makes her great appearance. She will try to put together a scattering of gestures and sentiments, turning them into one single image — telling a story in one single moment. She makes herself present, she turns, turns around, applies herself, then moves away. Look out, look out! Go! During those same years, the illustrious magician Robert-Houdin wrote a manual on conjuring whose eighth recommendation was: ‘Although everything said during a session may be, in a word, nothing but a web of lies, one must immerse oneself deeply enough into the spirit of one’s role in order to believe oneself in the reality of the fables being uttered.’

An extract from Nathalie Léger‘s Exposition (Les Fugitives), out now.

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sculptureparkjobs.org published 03/12/2019

The patient spent the entire day ‘rolling apples to and fro.’ Only in this way, could he ‘know himself.’ ‘Everyone,’ he said, ‘is their floor, the floor where they live.’ I agreed with him to an extent, thinking of my floor, long and flat, quietly expressive in the manner of all wooden things, but I said nothing, maintaining as always my professional distance (‘only ever nudge,’ my line manager says, ‘the armoury of the psychiatrist consists entirely of nudges… never disturb the patient’s lineal intuition, salvation is an entirely lineal phenomenon.’).

A short story by Hugh Smith.

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Sloot (Extract) published 20/11/2019

‘I’m afraid we don’t have a Professor Stern in situ at this particular facility. Emeritus or otherwise. And bicycles are not permitted on the premises.’

Pithy, I’ll give her that. She was about to return to her work, but I was ahead of her.

‘Perhaps you could double-check,’ I said. ‘Professor Emeritus Larry Stern. Department of Comedic Arts. City of Dublin University. It says so on his website.’

‘I’m sure it does,’ said Ms Ní Cheannáin. ‘I think you’ll find, however, that this is University of Dublin City, not City of Dublin ditto. UDC, if you will, not CDU. I haven’t heard of a CDU myself.’ She removed her glasses, still imaginary, and gave me the full Ní Cheannáin go thither stare.

An extract from Ian Macpherson‘s Sloot, the Republic of Consciousness book for November.

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The Total Restage published 19/11/2019

Death had come to us as a brand that was in a leading position already, with high market penetration and consumer awareness. Any piece of business that isn’t growing is dying, as we would say to clients when we were trying to get them to act on our advice, but here we might have found a brand that operated on principles beyond our standard branding playbook. Could our work really move the needle on the bottom line, by compelling consumers to invite the brand even further into their lives, by finding new territories in which we could prove Death had a right to win?

A story by Kai Ming McKenzie.

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Sea Women published 12/11/2019

Everyone in the city had begun stockpiling the same blue masks since the curfew began; just last week the government ordered that one truck be sent to every street in Tokyo as a precaution. I caught the new receptionist stuffing great handfuls of those masks into her handbag one morning. I wondered if there was a black market somewhere in the subway where one could sell them, some place underground to repurpose all those concealed thin wires. Even if the fog would last one hundred years the masks would still outnumber and outlive us all; those boxes would just continue to accumulate in the receptions, in our hallways, spilling over and replicating like bacteria growing on the skin of our evacuated apartments. Eventually we would run out of mouths for them to cover.

A story by Jay G Ying.

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Untranslated: An excerpt from Apnea by Lorenzo Amurri published 31/10/2019

I’m in a London airport, I have to go back home, to Rome. I’m on the plane and I’m looking at myself from outside; I see myself talking with the hostess, but I’m sitting a few rows away. I’m in Fiumicino, I’m coming out of the airport. It’s pouring down and no-one has come to pick me up. I don’t have any money and I don’t know how to get home. I see a blue Italian Army bus; it looks empty. I get on and on the driver’s seat I find a carabiniere’s hat: I put it on my head as disguise and I try to turn on the vehicle, certain I’m not being seen. The bus is full of carabinieri, the windows steamed up with humidity had deceived me. At once, two arrive to stop and handcuff me. I start to negotiate for my immediate release:

“How much do you want to let me go? Shall I sign two cheques right away?”

An excerpt from Apnea by Lorenzo Amurri, original translation by Anna Giulia Novero.

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Nicole published 29/10/2019

It is no coincidence I saw Nicole. While I concede Norwich is small and it is difficult to avoid acquaintances, I have seen Nicole almost every day for the last two weeks. Pushing open the front door of the pub where I was already waiting at the bar for someone else; buying a flapjack in the queue in front of me at the café in Eaton Park. On Tuesday, I watched her carry two brown pints smugly back to her new boyfriend who was waiting at a table by the river. He was sitting under a red fairy light, bewildered and moony. I rubbed pocketed coins; looked wildly for anything else to watch.

A story by Jacinta Mulders.

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