Without further preamble, here are some stories.
The light was strobing sweetly, painting strips of raspberry on the cavern walls. Forget-me-not was dazed. She moved gently amongst the beams, her face lit the colour of her heart. She held her hands above her. Her fingers were coated with caramelised cherry. She frequently had altercations with cherry pies. They were never clean. She dreamt of a messy kitchen with a sun bleached wheat field behind it, or a dream garden bursting with blackberry bushes. In this dream little robins would bob across twigs, pleasing themselves with blackberry treasure. Little bird princes.
She collected bird children in her dreams. Each dream was almost the same. She’d rest her head on her pillow, gently breathing, noting the faint smells of her bedding. Curling her bedcovers around her legs. Then she would think of the castle. Every night since she could remember she’d fantasised about a castle before drifting off to sleep. It was a milky coloured castle with tall, thin turrets and vast, curving windows. A forest sprawled out into the distance beyond. A tiny white dove with golden eyes perched at the topmost point and looked out across the forest. Inside the castle a translucent young man would make toast - sometimes crumpets - and coat his efforts with homemade jam. His fingertips were perpetually stained from his jam-making. He was like a ghost, carrying out one very delicious task over and over. Forget-me-not imagined this jam-maker falling asleep as she did, their bodies twinned in grooves, their eyelids flickering in synthesis.
Little Peter Pans
Two little boys sat under their bush, each around three inches tall with green blood lit flush against their white-yellow cheeks. Their names were Toma and Kish. Toma was just a little taller, a little older (precisely six minutes and twenty seven seconds older than Kish), and a little quieter. Kish was wide eyed and kept touching his light moss green nose against various discovered items. The boys both had messy white hair in little mushroomy curves on top of their heads. They lived inside a blackberry bush and in summer blood colours ran in streams across the dry dirt ground of their bedrooms.
Mr Carnaby was well known amongst all the old white people in the neighbourhood who were obsessed with bees and fruit tea. He was nice enough, his dentures glistening in the sunlight of the allotment and his liver spots and old man freckles painting a celestial wonder across his face and neck. He always bought an excessive amount of peppers at the supermarket, especially if they were on sale, and later on in the month he would find a collection of no longer edible peppers awaiting him in the kitchen. It was lucky, then, that Mr. Carnaby was a verifiable composting fiend.
Mr. Carnaby collected his sad, soiled vegetables and dumped them into a bucket to transport to the allotment. He looked down at them with mild regret, but in a few weeks the same fate would inevitably befall his next batch of unnecessarily purchased peppers. Once at his precious allotment, he dumped the vegetable waste into one of six generous compost bins. He chuckled to himself, pleased by the endless circle of growth and decay possessed by the natural world. It comforted him to know that the death of organic matter fed the blossoming of new life. Mr. Carnaby set about turning the soil around his lavender.
A week later, on a lazy Sunday, Mr Carnaby sat fiddling with an old camera, remembering taking a picture of his wife’s bum some thirty years earlier while she ate a croissant and farted. Those were the days. Mrs Carnaby would be out looking at dog figurines and pining for them, he imagined, as that was her latest desperate interest. Mr Carnaby pocketed his camera and packed his pile of old teabags into a vegetable waste bag before heading up to the allotment. Once there, he added his teabags to the compost and took his camera out to photograph his vegetable-growing progress from several angles.
When the film was developed, Mr Carnaby gleefully showed his wife the pictures. His marrow had grown big by now, but in the photos it was still a marrow toddler.
‘Isn’t it lovely?’ He said.
’Yes,’ his wife replied, ‘but what are those white splodges?’
Mr Carnaby examined the photo. There were faint white marks all over it. Checking the other prints, he noticed the marks on every photo.
‘Must be some sort of development issue.’ He said.
Back on the allotment a few weeks later, Mr Carnaby poured another bucket of sprouting potatoes and soft old peppers into a compost bin, enjoying the sound of the vegetables as they tumbled downwards. He lingered with the lid held up to inspect his compost, when a sudden chill hit him in the face, as if a little snowball had come at him. He spluttered and took a step back, and the lid made a plasticky clattering sound as it dropped back into place. The chill faded quickly, but it was a shock. Mr Carnaby breathed gently and looked around. There was nothing to be seen, just an empty allotment. Then he felt the chill again like an ice cube held against his ear. Suddenly a bright white appeared. A little sphere of white bobbed along in front of him, and then more of them came. About a dozen spheres of white closed in on Mr Carnaby, but he realised as they approached him that they weren’t spheres. They were shaped like peppers.
‘Hi mate.’ Said the floating white pepper heading the group as they came within inches of Mr Carnaby’s face.
‘Listen, you need to stop buying peppers you don’t need at the supermarket just because they’re on offer and then never eating them.’
‘Yeah!’ Chimed in a smaller, squeakier pepper.
Mr Carnaby stared at the peppers with a look of utter confusion. He heard someone clearing their throat to his right, and turned to see a mass of translucent, white vegetables of all kinds. They looked somehow very angry. Mr Carnaby fainted on seeing a floating, white version of a very memorable, phallic carrot he had thrown into the compost three months ago.
After that day, Mr Carnaby made sure that no vegetable ever went uneaten under his roof.
You gave me a Furby that day in 1997, and it spoke in long slow drawls like it was dying and inventing jazz at the same time. It was just like you, terrifying and plastic. When you touch my face I feel like I’m being put inside a bin bag. The rustling of the plastic on my skin is uncomfortable. You are like the last dregs of a once hot drink, congealing in a cold mug. You are disgusting and I want you inside my eyes and veins. Old milk in my throat and lungs. I will sear my skin on you, and turn everything into thick, viscous, mouldy slime.
A Small Child And A Strawberry
The little boy ran into the fields to have his usual thoughts about what sort of foreign policy he would go for if he was president of the United States, but then he noticed that there were some strawberries growing along the fence and got very distracted indeed! He thought red was quite a good colour and liked that post boxes were red. One time he had wanted to grow up to become a post box, but then he realised that would mean he'd have to carry a lot of things and he decided maybe it wasn't the best idea after all.
There were three very prominent strawberries he could see, so he went right up to all three of them and kissed them.
"That tickled!" said the third strawberry, giggling gently.
The boy grinned at the strawberry before picking her from the strawberry bush.
“Well that’s awfully rude!” exclaimed the strawberry, but quickly added that she didn’t mind as long as the boy took her down to Tesco and got her a copy of The Beano.
Later, after they had read The Beano together, they decided to make their own comic. The boy drew a boy character, and the strawberry said “you’ve got no imagination”, and then drew lots of strawberry characters. They were fast becoming good friends.
At school, the other children didn’t understand why the boy’s best friend was a strawberry, but he didn’t care. He was glad to have a different sort of friend to offer a different sort of perspective on life.
Snowflakes Are Boys Lying
Tears fall out of little boys quick and fast and they hide them in jars until they are tall with long legs like spiders when they can throw them in the tear well in the dead of night. Then no one ever knows they cried and they can sigh and mewl and be free, until the feeling creeps back and they have to cry and they are so confused because long legged spider boys were never supposed to cry in the books they read from when they were little babies and beyond. Then they have to go to the well again and if they bump into each other they freeze and they look like long legged spider snowflakes and the snowflakes leak and leak and leak because they tried to pretend for too long. That is why there are snowflakes around the well, even in summer when skin burns and eggs cook on the ground.
Got Your Nose
A baby boy challenged me to an intellectual duel in a dream. The winner would keep the loser’s nose, a strange trophy. The dream was shaky, as if it existed inside a fast-moving stream. It felt as if the air was flowing over me with added viscosity. Watery, gloopy air. The baby bested me with a strong showcase of literary semantics, and with rosy cheeks and a gleeful grin he took my nose. I slotted a small daisy into the smooth space left behind and watched the child quizzically as he ran away, clutching my nose tightly in his left hand.
It was a tough day for old Nige. He had had a whole pint of Guinness and had cried into it a little bit. His tears made little ripples in the liquid and disappeared. It’s tough when your wife won’t make you a pie. Nigel had told Maureen it was his special pie day almost four hours in advance, and yet she had still not made him a delicious warm pie. The absent pie was thick and langouring in the room. Maureen sighed gently as the Midsomer Murders theme tune played. It was her favourite show, but she knew she wasn’t going to get to watch much of it today.
Nigel’s sobbing had been absorbed by his pint, but once he had finished it, there was nothing to soak up the anguish. Nigel burst. Maureen was used to pie and meat based tantrums from her husband of sixteen years, but this was a bit different as he had not just burst with pastry-focused emotion, but literally burst apart like a poorly made rag doll stuffed with sun dried tomatoes. Maureen looked stiffly at the splattering on her cream couch. The Dyson probably wouldn’t be enough to handle this one.
A prince, in some worlds, is just a rich boy with bad hair, but a prince - like almost any kind of person - comes in many forms. Perhaps you’ve heard someone saying that anyone can be a princess? There’s royals and gold and swimming pools and foreign policy and nightclubs and bad costume ideas, but there’s also kingdoms of all sorts. There’s the animal kingdom and ever-changing ideas about kingdoms. The kingdom of minerals. Perhaps even the kingdom of tiny red threads. A prince can be an abstract notion or a prince can be a puddle of luminescent liquid. A prince can be the stars, or the feeling you get when you remember a great memory. Prince has a certain meaning to certain people in linguistic terms, but linguistics by nature, are malleable Words are much more than just words, and a prince can be more than it seems.
Every ant keeping the colony moving is some kind of prince. Every leg that every ant propels forward is its own kind of prince to the ants, shuffling and perpetually traversing. Each leaf a prince, crowned in dirt and the best dinner 64 ants could ever hope for. Princes are everywhere, flapping about and sitting still and tasting delicious.