It is my pleasure to reflect upon this issue of Other Terrain. I found myself immersed in voices of startling authenticity and yearning. The prose and poetry contributions in this issue indicate a willingness to engage with content and form in an experimental way. This is utterly refreshing: pushing boundaries of saying—of seeing, being, knowing.
Jane had seen the news reports. Animated billboards spilled their message as moving colours across travelways; others using public transport would have the same message projected into their eyes from hand terminals, huddled silently on a monotrain. Regardless of medium, the news was always the same: Artificial Intelligence was here. The AIs were free. AIs could change matter. AIs are matter. And the AIs are benevolent. Just ask.
Stassi lay with Cole’s corpse for two nights.
It wasn’t until the third night that she dared to reach out and touch him.
She poked solid flesh with a trembling finger and jerked back in fright, startling her cat, Fuckwit, who lay curled at the foot of her blanket. The feline rose, stretching her back and circling indignantly a few times, before settling back down. She kneaded her claws into Stassi’s feet.
The cave is larger than the beast that keeps it. The walls stretch up high into the dark and the roof seems as distant as the moon when first you enter. The dragon itself is small. It lies stranded in the center of its vast empty domain, a huddle of bones and wasted muscle. You feel your heart sink; awash with disappointment, you regard the pitiable creature from afar. It rolls its sunken eyes towards you and scents the air but it does not get up, makes no move to guard its barren kingdom. You start forwards refusing to be deterred. The treasure could be something small you reason, something that can’t be seen from as far away as this. Something tiny you think… or something invisible even; with a dragon lying there before your very eyes will you really draw the line of disbelief at invisible treasure?
by Keren Heenan
Out here the wind always blows up high and hard before a storm; the sudden buffeting of trees against the wall, low murmur building to a howl and the darkening outside the window. There’s a feeling as if the sky itself could fall. And then comes the rain.
He arrived on such a day. Sometime between the howling of the wind and the bruising of the sky, he glided into town, some said, as if he knew where he was going. But I know now that he probably didn’t.
By Trina Denner
It was cold.
The carriage doors opened to let in the young woman, and, with her, a gust of wind that carried an assurance of snow. They closed behind, silencing the platform, sealing her in with the fragrance of wool and warm bodies.
The train did not dally in its launch, but transitioned from stationary to fast in one solid movement.
The faux fur lining the edges of her jacket held droplets of winter. Although, it wasn’t winter yet. It was barely October. She shrugged off the hood, and with wet beads falling to the floor, she was revealed. Rusty smears flecked her skin; the colour of parched bone.
The men did not look at her. They gently curved their faces to left or right. She gave a snappy shake of her head to dislodge the hair wedged at her nape, knowing they would not turn towards her. Not that she would mind if they had.
She raked her fingers through hair down her chest, enjoying the feeling of it, unraveled.
She found the men oddly unreachable, and in a way, disappointing.
Nothing like the boys back home, with their howls and barking. Their strained voices from Holden dual-cabs yelling ‘show us your tits’.
She grabbed at an overhead hand-hold, scanning for a seat. It was mid-morning and the daylight was faint.
Not like back home.
This was a sun wrapped in blue cellophane. Crisp and cool. She was used to a sun with harsh angles, drawing contrast and colour from everything it touched. Bouncing off the surf, blinding you so you couldn’t see if it were your brother on that wave, or your boyfriend. Hell, it could even be your grandmother’s podiatrist for all you could see, in that sun, from the dunes.
The young woman chose to sit on a side-facing seat, between two men, who moved in responding unison. Both shifting their weight, minutely away, and back down, as if at a more respectable distance. She wasn’t sure if she’d sat there just to make them uncomfortable, and she didn’t care to work it out.
She sat as an isthmus. No, as an island.
Contained, obvious, and quite decidedly remote.
And bare, she reflected, as she turned, finch-like, to take in the gentleman on her right. Funny that she would think of him as a gentle-man, in his middle-aged business suit, with his ever-dark hair and posture noble enough for a monarch. He was definitely not a bloke. Or a fella. Or a lad.
He turned further from her. Almost imperceptibly so, but she was as a bird in that moment, and noticed his discomfort under her placid scrutiny. She flicked her head to the other side, crossing her leg against his silent rebuff.
On her left sat a man not much older than herself. He wore dark glasses. Superdry. And mowhawk-reminiscent hair. And Tsubi jeans. And a Comme de Garcons jacket.
Stylin’, she thought, but then went on to consider nothing else about him as she noticed the two women across.
They were old. So old. Fragile old.
Their eyes were closed in sleep, this pigeon pair, and for all intents and purposes, they were dead. Frozen in last century; painted white faces and rose bud lips that were mostly just rouge on skin rather than actual lip. And those funny thick-white socks with their clogs, which made her thoughts shift whimsically to running through summer in thongs.
So different from the old ladies back home with their fawn coloured slacks, pleated definite and straight down the front of each leg, and singlets for bras, and their hair permed into tight, fake balls of violet.
The two ancient dolls swayed gently in their sleep. Hands on purses neatly in their laps, and white-gray hair twisted smooth and stabbed through with sticks that held glass beads jingling softly as they danced with the motion of the train.
They stirred in her a memory she did not recognise as her own.
She closed her eyes, recording the sight of them. Their kimonos of red and pale blue, and cherry blossoms and herons. The finest of thread woven into a gloss. The young woman smiled as the eyes of one flickered in her slumber. It was the smaller woman. The plumper one.
She wondered what she dreamed about that should cause her lashes to flutter so, speculating that perhaps it was her lover from decades past who had returned to her, where age could not reach them. His hair jet and eyes alert, and his lips parting softly as he kissed her dream.
The red letters scrolled across the digital board at the corner of her vision. Shinjuku station.
She stood with a last look at the old women, who refused to stir as the train baulked at the sight of the station.
The doors opened and the scent of early winter burned her nostrils. She stepped down and was immediately engulfed in the tide of black-haired travelers. She, ginger and bright, zigzagged in a haphazard line as she moved away from the train.
Image by Wilson Lau
By Andy Goss
‘We need a dog,’ she said.
‘There will never be another Suki, you know that.’
‘Yes. But it was so good, having that other person, that animal person in our lives. It just seems right to me. Suki has left such a hole.’
Joe fiddled with his teacup, turning it round and round, peering into it as if the answer lay within. But you can’t tell fortunes with a teabag.
by Clare Millar
On the driveway was the kind of van you would expect to be told about before arriving home. Stark white with the letters ‘exterminator’, it was parked right in the way of where Annalise wanted to park. She turned her keys to silence the car. For a moment she lingered with the door two-thirds open, and thought it was likely a mistake; her house was more likely to need an ambulance than an exterminator. But she quarantined her doubts with the soft click of the lock. She jiggled her way between the dead rose bushes and the pearly van. There were no clues behind the windows.
the little girl, quietly climbing
the stairs in a large house, escaped
from a neglectful au pair’s eyes
step by delicate step, small feet
trace the white carpet to the sanctuary,
her goal – mother’s bedroom.
By Wendy Dunn
My mother told me,
‘You’ll be a wife and mother
Just like me
Good girls don’t sleep with men
But wait for the ring
By Sarah Giles
Why do you think I am so different from you?
My pain and my failings are no different to you.
Why do you think I don’t feel what you do?
The rejection and depression it haunts me too.
By Kainat Azhar
I am in love with a dead sage who is an epitome of death
and the painter of hell. He puts his fangs in my neck,
I experience a new world unfolding itself in front of
my eyes: tigers and wolves dance alike on an old symphony
of a vanished civilization, blood drips on the trees, angels die
and we make costumes of threaded time for their burial.
By Kainat Azhar
Knife in my hand, I fight with the ravens. They
visit me when I am alone, I loathe them for
interrupting my mental painting of yours.
My ribs have been tied by a chain
made of gold. I sing to insomnia and
call it sleep.
Swaying in the light of our crescent host,
Of our utmost beaming lady,
Who sings to the salmon,
Who radiates through me, empowers
The pitch black sky to dance through the air.
The rays shrink.
The sun creeps back.
The night, it clings to us all.
Its long digits holding still our ears,
It’s icy breath caressing our skin.
Whatever you do,
Whatever you do,
Don’t interrupt it.
Don’t light it up.
Never startle it.
I can’t bring myself to believe,
In a particular God.
It shakes me to my very core,
To know that I won’t.
How I wish I had the faith,
To abide by fanatic dogma.
How I wish I had the strength,
To discover my truth.
Turn off the machine, despite my fragility.
Turn me off and allow me, grant me my sleep.
I ask of you, why put off the inevitable?
Let me write, despite my hand being illegible.
By the time I reverted back,
Back to the bastard of Babylon,
For far too long had I been kept
From Phineus’ feast.
Harpies, harridans and harlots harping,
Just a real fuckin’ mess.
My barmy tongue crying out,
Screaming and moaning in dry agony
“Let me creep back to mah crypt!”.
Past adrift, the fruitful vine,
Lost in reason, space and time.
Mankind from eggs sprouting forth,
From brood dear, burst I,
Upon yet another swarth.
But these were times for better ships,
With song and wine, a feast of oysters
Turned men mad for swaying hips.
So keep them tight, try not to utter any of this,
From your loose lips.
Lies and deceit,
I’m falling in love,
With things that don’t exist.
But just for this one time,
Eloise Faichney is an emerging writer from Melbourne, Australia. Co-Senior Editor of literary journals Other Terrain and Backstory, her work has been published in Bukker Tilibul, Stormcloud Poets Anthology and Smut Zine.
She recently returned from Yale University in New Haven, where she attended the Yale Writer’s Conference. She sat down with Tina Tsironis to discuss her eye-opening, at times shattering, experience.
By Sarah Giles
Melanie rolled over and looked at her sleeping conquest. The evening had gotten away from her, one drink took her from tipsy to horny and then she met Marc with a wet kiss on the dance floor. A quick fuck was all she needed to quell the beast inside her. Oh Jesus, was she becoming one of those tacky girls? Those slutty club girls who add another notch to their belt with each outing.
The thought of it forced her out of the bed and into the shower. She scrubbed her skin raw, trying to make herself new again. Trying to undo the damage to her soiled skin.
By Skye Jenner
An inspiring artist, Yianni Johns is originally from Karratha, WA, but now resides in NSW. His colourful oil paintings have been exhibited across the world, and even published in Art Takes Time Square.