Browsing Category Wildgenus

A Seal’s Skin

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Fey stood looking out of the window. ‘How had what seemed so right gone so wrong?’ she thought—

She and Andrew had had a good life in London. They lived in a flat at first, tiny, but all they needed. She remembered—He had pulled her close, whispering—‘all we need is a bed to love in’, then adding, ‘and maybe a kettle.’ Then the good jobs, a bigger flat, friends, social life and holidays. (The holidays of their student days, it was hitchhiking across Europe and island hopping in the Mediterranean. In the first-years of their married life, it was staycations, friends and families. The mortgage, the bills, the jobs, ate into both time and finances.) But things eased, promotions and a move for him to a better job. Money was easier; the world expanded—now package holidays and then more expensive long-haul ones. Andrew was a snob, and so the holidays needed to be cultural and enlightening, or strenuous and adventurous. He liked to boast to their friends about the museums and galleries, the concerts attended, or the peaks scaled and hardships overcome. She loved him, so enjoyed culture and enlightening holidays, and endured the strenuous and adventurous, and said nothing. She let him decide where they went and when. After all, his career was far more important than hers. She would sometimes watch as her friends looked at her while he expounded some story about their latest holiday—the treks to high altitude, the wonderful tenor at the opera. She could almost hear their thoughts—wondering about her, about the two of them, wondering ‘what he was doing with her’.

They had met at university. She was the first member of her family to go to university. Her roots were ‘working class’, her background in Northern city. She came from a family of intelligent, hard-working people. She never went short as a child, but there was no money wasted, either. He was from a different background. It had all been so easy on campus. The new situation had levelled everything out. They were making new friends, new networks. She had somehow fallen into his group, simply by being second from last in a philosophy lecture. She had slipped into one of the few seats at the back. He was even later, so had done the same and sat next to her. A few whispered comments, and that was how it had all started. She had discovered the strange world of the back rows of a lecture.

School had always seen her at the front of class, ready to be seen, to ask and answer questions, to prove she was intelligent, hardworking, all the things that her teachers loved. She was now in a quandary. Andrew, that was his name, liked to sit at the back, where he could ignore most of the class. She had become infatuated with him, and so had sat at the back of the class, and at the front, when she was on her own. The day the degree results came, she had to come clean. A double first (he got a 2:1) caused him to be annoyed with her. They had stayed together, and moved to the city, and started on the career path, Andrew always climbing higher, while she took openings where she could balance her career and her conscience.

One evening, after a very expensive meal, Andrew had just been talking about his close encounter with a black mamba—one of his many stories about the latest holiday. He leaned back in his chair and sipped the very expensive wine he had ordered. Fey looked at the group. Esmerelda (was that really the woman’s name?) cooed at him. She knew he secretly fancied Esmerelda; she was thin and had long fine hair of the palest blonde. Petite, she wore designer clothes and worked as PA to some Russian magnate. She was all bones, heavily made-up eyes, draped silk dresses and very wide belts cinching in her tiny waist. The core remained constant, Andrew’s friends from school or university, and respective partners. But there were always some new members appearing, and tonight, one gang had bought a new friend along. Hamish MacSomething—she hadn’t caught his full name. Andrew, confident that Hamish couldn’t beat a two-metre black mamba on the holiday front, had asked—‘where did you holiday this year?’ Hamish looked at him and smiled. ‘Oh, I always just go home.’ Esmerelda turned her enormous eyes and simpered. ‘Home? Where is that?’ Fey watched. She could expect the snide jokes about ‘home’ and felt sorry for Hamish. Then Hamish smiled and said: ‘You won’t have heard of it, it’s a tiny island in the Outer Hebrides. My family has lived there for over a thousand years. My uncle is the clan chief.’

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The Baker And His Wife

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Under her hands, the dough felt like flesh. Smooth, pliant flesh. It made a wet sound—a thunk—as she slapped it against the worn wooden benchtop.

It was soothing, this rhythmic shaping, kneading, pulling, coaxing.

The way her frothy starter ate the flour, she fed it daily, asking so little of her yet delivering so much in return.

Cecily Sehar’s loaves had made her into a small-town celebrity since she’d started entering the annual Baking Contest. High on a kitchen shelf, seven shiny trophies sat. 1st Place, 1st Place, 1st Place—all bar one. The fourth one, slightly smaller than the rest, had taunted her for months, until she finally turned it around.

She remembered that year. It had been difficult to source her ingredients. For some strange reason, the townfolk had been unusually healthy. There were too few accidents, too few casualties. She didn’t dare risk too many trips for fear of attracting attention.

For Cecily, the key was taking just enough to keep her bread loaves dense and delicious. But not for people to notice what was missing.

As she pommeled today’s ball of dough, it occurred to her she was running low. She needed to make another trip, and soon. She couldn’t risk running out. Oh, no… The secret ingredient made her bread loaves so extraordinary.

Why bother? Said a voice inside her head. All this baking, so pointless.

Just like you.

Cecily’s hands slipped, mashing the dough sideways. She leaned forward, breathing hard, her heartbeat building to a crushing crescendo.

She didn’t understand! She never normally entertained such thoughts. Those words were reminiscent of her now-dead husband. Little barbs, designed to land, to sting, to fester in wounds so hidden they settled deep into her bones.

She couldn’t escape him. Even now.

Someone knocked at her door, and she jumped. Sighing, she brushed aside an errant curl of hair with a floury arm. Who could call this early? She knew the humidity of her baker’s kitchen would have drawn tiny dewdrops of sweat along her brow. The red cotton headscarf she’d knotted so carelessly barely contained her black hair. She hadn’t expected a visitor.

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The Shifting Face

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Perhaps, living the first twelve years of his life in a little home, in a little town, is the reason for his shrunken stature. Or maybe, his name is to blame, a manifestation of his mother’s poor choice during his premature time of birth. It feels like there’s a quota, and he never grows past what the town of Saddlewood allows. Despite all that, Little-One Knox has a sizeable nature of sorts that defies his very name.

His little nose is perfect to stick into unwelcome places, and despite the size of his ears, he can hear whispers from a mile away, if he really pays attention.

He makes up fifty percent of the residents in his home. His mother, the other fifty, is a woman with lithe fingers. They have a simple motherly feel when they run through his hair, but only when he’s done something good. Of course, Little-One has trouble doing said good things. Rather, he has a tendency to seek out the opposite. It’s the careless venturing that makes his mother pull at his hair instead of carding through it. Though even when she screeches his name, it sounds like a term of endearment.

Little seeks out excitement by crawling in dirt holes and jumping off the odd tool shack. How he manages to climb them is an irritating mystery to all. Especially Old-Man Dooley, who has an abnormal amount of little shoe dents atop his metal shack.

The route he takes home from school has the quality and charm of a small rural town. Though the sidewalks are cracked and damaged, the clover weeds that grow in between make for a pretty picture. There are lines of red maples on either side of a winding road that tower with age, and every autumn he walks home on a bed of brilliant ruby leaves. At the end of the road, just as he turns right, the tallest red maple droops over a rickety fence overlooking a farm. And on the very top, seven branches part ways and reach towards the sky, making a surprisingly comfortable spot in the middle.

Often, Little climbs all the way up, up, up, and enjoys his late lunch on a seat that nature fashioned just for him. He stays long after he finishes his food, watching little sheep roam the farm grounds, until his mother leaves work and meets him at the base of the tree. A simple call of “Little!” and he packs away his things and climbs on down. From there, they walk home together, swinging their linked hands between them, while Little gushes about his day. And his mother, knowing she’s a true confidant, listens diligently until they reach home.


“Little,” his mother whispers, shaking his shoulder gently. Little peeks out from under his blankets only to promptly shut his eyes at the sight of his mother. She’s dressed up in work clothes. “Little you gotta get up, quickly, I’m gonna be late,” she shakes him again, swiftly pulling his blanket off and towards the ground.

Grumbling, he rolls this way and that, wishing he can soak up all the warmth from his bed and bring it with him to school. A pair of cold hands reach under his arms and pull him up and off the bed too. His toes curl inwards, trying to avoid the onslaught of cold tiles that seem to leach his remaining warmth.

“Quickly, Little, I’m not joking, hurry up,” his mother pats him on the butt, shoving him towards the bathroom just outside the hall, “Brush your teeth quickly,” she pushes a tiny pill into his palm, “and take this,” Little puts it in his mouth, “Kay, you have five minutes.”

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The Outlet

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“I’ve had a revelation, Doc,” said Jacob Allan Gibbs, suspended in an empty white room, “I don’t trust my father.”

“That’s quite… that’s quite the revelation,” replied Dr. Natalie Dower-06, almost as if she was seated in the air, levitating across the room, adorned with minor but significant cybernetic enhancements, imprinting the words unto a projected digital page with her blue mechanical eye.

“I’ve always admired my father,” said Jacob, levitating an inch from the floor, pivoting in the air with the metal implants around his joints – unable to stay still.

The white walls around Jacob projected images of Raymond Allan Gibbs, a pioneer of Neural-engineering, “I admired his incredible intellect, his wit, charisma, and accomplishments, both as a family man and a scientist.”

The projected image lingered on an engram, a preserved narrative of Raymond opening presents with his family – the memory slowly began to play across every wall before gradually transitioning to Raymond’s crown achievement – The “engram” microchip.

“By every conceivable definition of the word,” Jacob placed his hand on the back of his head, caressing the glowing ports attached to his cerebellum, “he was the perfect human being.”

“Was? As in, the past?” asked Dr. Dower gently, attempting to establish eye contact with her patient, “what caused the distrust– this rift between you and your father?”

Jacob pauses for a second, carefully contemplating the intent behind his words as the white walls turn blank as he struggles to come up with an answer.


A rustling noise echoes through a dark room – an office decorated by a slew of medical diplomas and Avant-garde paintings. There are four security cameras in every top corner of the room with beeping red dots – save for one, which turns purple between every three blinks. The beeping stops as the cameras lower their head towards the floor. Jacob gently opens the door with the help of an implant – emerging from his finger like a swiss-army knife.

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Where The Owls Blossom

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She walks in flowers: a swirl of spring perfumes, the soft flutter of pale petals. A gentle season walks with her scattering broom, meadowsweet, and oak blossom in its wake. She is beauty. She is love. But pure beauty can be callous and love embraces shadow as well as light.


Alan grabbed his camera and ran out into the bright sunshine of an unnaturally mild spring morning. Every year he tried to photograph the cherry blossom, really tried to capture its fleeting and fragile beauty, the fresh air no-scent of the blooms, the pink cloud mass of blossoms that looked like it should feel like silk candyfloss. He loved it, adored it, was obsessed by it, but could never do it justice. Every year, however, he tried.

He was taking photographs of the trees in the park when he saw her: slim on the cusp of frail, a delicate heart-shaped face, apple blossom skin and angel blond hair – his dream girl. She didn’t look old enough to be labeled a woman. She was standing, head thrown back, arms raised, innocently immersing herself in the beauty of the blossom. She immediately became his new obsession.

He took photographs with her in them, surreptitiously took photographs of her, followed her discreetly and eventually worked out where she lived. Now he could watch and photograph her at will. For a while it was enough, but only for a while.


Her beauty is timeless, as is she. She has existed since Mother Nature births her in a flurry of flowers, feathers, and blood, as humankind first experiences something they will later know as emotion. She is ephemeral as cherry blossom and as lasting as death. Rumours of her stalk pre-history and more recent millennia, emerging as myth and legend and fireside tales told when the night is dark. She is love and passion. She is loss. She is betrayal and hate and vengeance. She is a frenzy of flowers and contradictory emotions, the softness of feathers, the terror of beak and claws and, because she is born of nature, her soul is veined red.


The photographs of the girl, Alan still did not know her name, were all over his flat. They were good, but they were not enough. She was like the cherry blossom. The pictures were pretty and, in the case of the girl, arousing, but they did not capture the truth of the subject. The photos of the girl did not do justice to her beauty, delicacy, and vitality. He needed something more.

Alan hung around outside her house, discreetly, of course. He didn’t want her noticing him. Not yet, anyway. He didn’t know how long he’d have to wait, but most mornings she went for a run, often just to the park and back, but sometimes she took a longer run in the direction of the downs. He hadn’t followed her on the longer run, but he’d watched her head off. This morning she came down the front steps of her house and headed towards the park. She was dressed in black lycra running shorts and a pale, tight-fitting pink vest top. He took it as a positive sign. Pink was his favourite colour.

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For many summers when I was a girl, my family visited a cabin. While triple-digit sunshine fried neighborhood lawns and sidewalks, it stayed green and cool in the woods. I felt safe there before I learned of the tiny invisible things that lurk in sunless crevices, waiting to rot their surroundings. This happens to neglected places. Neglected people, too.

I shake off a sweaty doze, rejoining time. The cabin’s a dozen years in my past. It’s after midnight in my apartment. My phone’s about to ring. I sense the psychic trash fire of my ex-husband Paul, who calls when he’s strung out and can borrow a friend’s phone. Somehow, he hasn’t killed the brain cell that stores my number. The digits are tattooed in his limbic system, next to the controls allowing blackout drunks to find home. I’ve blocked two of his phones and six belonging to his friends. I won’t change my number because fuck him. He’d wheedle it from another mutual acquaintance who’s not up to speed on our relationship. Huntsville’s not a big town, but big enough to lose touch. The day I get serious with someone new, I’ll take permanent steps to blot Paul from existence. For now, psycho-baffling technology lets me blacklist his avatars at will. Hateful chatter is all that remains of him. He’d never have the stones to confront me in person. If he can’t bully, he shrivels. I doubt he can hold down a job. He might scam some disability pay, but he’ll be dead soon.

Despite all self-assurances my breath falters. I drive a fist into my mattress. “Damn, damn, damn you!” I hiss, meaning the curses for Paul but grazing myself. I’ll outlast him, but meanwhile he wakes me up every other hour in the middle of the night. I’m losing my cool, pissed off but not afraid. Get it together, Claire! You can’t be afraid! Mopping my eyes, I tell myself with fading conviction that every abusive overture is a gratifying reminder of how Paul has unraveled. I summon memories of life before him, including the cabin, but when my eyes close, he lurks there too.

I mistake a buzz in my ear, just after dawn, for more bad tidings. I thrust a hand from under my sheets, but my cell isn’t ringing. The sound circling my ear is a housefly – one of those giant chrome-green bastards that smash open like nasty pimples.

I grab a hefty Ann Rule paperback. My vices are mini-mart powdered donuts and true crime. Sugar dust in my living space attracts bugs, but big blocky murder books are excellent for clubbing them to death. I swing the book backhand over my face, feeling it connect. Nailed it! No entrails on the spine – a clean blunt force kill.

Checking my phone as the coffee pot brews, I delete several chapters of pornographic mind-puke from Paul. There’s also a message I was hoping for, from Brian Adler. I thought he must have changed his number, but I got through. He says give him a shout in the afternoon.

Brian’s family owned the cabin that looms in my memory. They weren’t blood relatives, but close enough, until the Adlers and my folks had some falling out. I tried keeping up with Brian and losing touch with him is a concession I regret making for Paul’s sake. Brian never acted resentful, but it must have hurt his feelings for me to vanish down my black hole of a marriage, bound to a jealous prick who denied me any male friendships. Considering a reversed scenario with Brian as the husband, Paul the castoff playmate, Paul would have cursed me for a faithless bitch as he now does anyway.

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The Chronicles Of El Dorado

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After finalizing his divorce following the death of their 2yrs old daughter, nothing in life seems to make sense. He had shutout the world blaming everyone and everything. The only place he now found solace was in spending long hours driving around and exploring new places whenever he wasn’t working. He was angry with life, destiny, fate and anything that had an influence over his existence that he couldn’t control.

Today wasn’t suppose to be any different from the other days that he had spent driving for long hours at the outskirt of town and sometimes hiking except that for the first time in two years, he was lost without a map because the best part of his routine drive and hiking was the thrill of discovering new places with the element of surprise still intact. The presence of a map or a GPS only took away the thrilling part of his trips. Sometimes he spent the nights in a motel before heading back home. He had been so absorbed in his trance of daydreaming that he had not paid attention to the routes he had been travelling in the last few hours after grabbing his backpack and deciding to go for a hike in the forest. Currently his situation was further complicated because he had no juice on his mobile phone whose battery was already dead. He checked his wristwatch and to his disgust it wasn’t working. He was sure he had been walking for some few hours in the forest and his quartz wristwatch had stopped at 5:13pm but he knew it was not yet dusk because a chainsaw was still audible from a distance. He kept his eyes fixed on the two-lane road that snaked up into some trees as he deliberated on what to do next. It wasn’t long before he made his decision after hearing the howling of a wolf from a distance. He took the right lane and hurried through the forest circumventing trees as his heartbeat accelerated with the thought of having a run-in with a pack of wolves on his mind even though he had no idea where he was going. The irony was that today he had no one to blame but himself.

He lost track of time as he jogged without a destination but with hope of finding a route that could lead him out of the forest. The forest was slowly becoming dark as night gradually approached. He could no longer hear the sound of the chainsaw and the only sound audible to his ears was that of his heartbeats and the constant howling of the wolves.
The collision was sudden and unexpected and he fell to the ground. Without wasting a minute he picked himself up but froze when he saw the double barrel of a shotgun pointed at him. Earlier he thought he had run into a tree. Slowly he put his hands up in surrender. She asked him who he was in an authoritative tone. He told her he was a hiker who had lost his way in the forest and he meant her no harm. At first she seems reluctant to put down the weapon but she slowly lowered the shotgun. He asked her what she was doing alone in the forest but she ignored him as she dusted herself.

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Sands Of Ruin

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The sky was set ablaze as the sun set over the desert of Herah. Winds weighed heavy by the scent of jasmine and metal rummaged through the empty expanse and shadows shifted over the golden dunes cast in a sheen of crimson as birds of prey flocked to their nests, and creatures of the sand retreated to their shelters.

A torrid breeze brushed past Mena, the sand it carried scraping her cheek. Her scarf had offered little protection from the onslaught of the afternoon sun, so she had tied it across the mane of her qar’ga. The mare neighed as the sand caught in her inky fur, and Mena wondered whether the horse thought itself superior to her.

“Quiet, Hilsa,” the roaring winds carried her voice, “we don’t want the entire desert knowing of your unfortunate circumstances.” The mare neighed again – a loud, boisterous sound that set Mena’s aching head pounding.

She couldn’t leave the qar’ga by a stream without earning an earful from her king. “I lend you one of the finest mares of our legion,” she could hear his voice, “and you leave her to rot in the desert. Why do you and my sisters seem bent on robbing me of my cavalry?”

Mena was certain she would be sent to scrounge the desert by foot tomorrow, but she wouldn’t bother correcting him about how a soldier had happened to jump into the path of Sehr’s arrow and earned a bleeding arm.

The qar’ga’s shadows engulfed the ivory of Mena’s cloak as she mounted the mare, swinging her legs over the broad back of the animal and securing the reins. Before the animal could draw a nest of snakes to attention with her brays, Mena tapped her foot to Hilsa’s chest and coaxed her into a lope.

Shadows swarmed beneath the qar’ga’s feet, and the mare lurched into a run that sent her heart throbbing in her throat.

As the wind whipped through Mena’s hair and led her through the currents of the baad, Mena was reminded of why qar’gas were the Temer’s prized possession. The creature of shadows deemed every challenge too small and remained indifferent in the face of the surging night winds that originated from the deep ravines in the heart of the desert, thrust upwards and out by unknown forces.

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