LADY ANTANASIA, Nicholas Aravindhan

‘When did you become like this?’

‘Like this?’ her voice had a cold sting, ‘Meat, be careful with how you speak to me, lest I turn this conversation into a banquet.’

The glass chandeliers chimed as the autumn wind breezed through the dark hall. Dried maple leaves came fluttering in from the open balcony. The only source of illumination was the red glowing eyes of my interviewee. Dressed in a maroon evening gown, she sat on her leather couch holding a goblet filled with red. She stared at me with intense, scarlet, and glimmering eyes.

Her threat, in truth, was just a compulsion that her people couldn’t resist. Scaring anything at any chance they get. I played along, just to get the interview going.

‘Please forgive me, Lady Antanasia.’ I dipped my head. ‘When were you turned into a vampire, may I ask?’

Her shoulders slackened and her brows ceased to crease. ‘It was in the year 1416.’

I checked my recorder in my pocket and it was still running, at least we were getting somewhere.

‘The fifteenth century? How did it happen?’ I proceeded on to the next question.

The couch creaked as Antanasia leaned back into it, her fingers twirling her raven locks.

‘Let us turn this around, whatever your name is,’ she said.

‘It’s Jona-’

‘What do you hope to gain from this interview? Did you seek an audience with me, hoping I’d grant you the gift of immortality?’ there was a smirk at the corner of her lips.

‘No.’ I shook my head. ‘I’d rather not stay in the shadows and restrict myself to one type of drink for eternity.”

‘Hm.’ Antanasia’s eyes narrowed before taking a sip from her goblet. Her fangs were stained in thick red before she licked them clean. ‘Then what are you doing here? Why would a human come to my domain in the cold of night?’

‘Well for one, the secret’s out. Vampires exist in Romania. People, as far west as Hungary, are too afraid to go out at night. And since everyone sees you all as either animals or a cannibalistic cult, I think we’d all benefit if your side is heard.’ I paused, eyeing her cautiously. ‘But the real reason I am here is that my editor-in-chief from The Guardian thought that the story of Lady Antanasia would sell loads.’

The things I do for my career, I’m probably insane.

‘So you came here to satiate your curiosity?’ an elegant chuckle escaped her, ‘Knowing full well you could be drained to a husk or be enthralled? Why do you think I agreed to this interview little one?’

The constant threats were admittedly scary at first, but at that point it got tiresome. In fact, it was getting annoying.

‘You do realise that if I do not check back with my editor-in-chief, he’ll call the calvary over, and pretty much blow this whole place up, right?’ I told Antanasia.

‘How adorable,’ her chuckle resonated through the hall, ‘The humans are trying to show bravado.’

‘I’m just saying what will happen if you try-’

My feet dangled in the air, a cold vice grip tightened on my throat, and I choked out spittle. Antanasia lifted me up in a split second and her nails dug into my neck.

‘I warned you of how you speak to me, meat,’ she bore her fangs and hissed.

I felt blood pooling in my head, my senses were leaving me, but I managed to wheeze out. ‘Okay, prove it to the world then.’

It felt like forever as I ran through all the morbid endings in my head. Whether this vampire was going to bleed me dry, turn me into a thrall, or just crush my trachea. Through my blurry vision, I saw her scarlet eyes narrowing, and her fangs disappearing behind her lips.

‘Hmph,’ Antanasia huffed, before releasing her grip and I plopped onto the onyx marble floor.

‘Well played.’

I rubbed my neck to warm it up after that icy grip, painfully gasping for air. Thankfully, the recorder was still working in my pocket. I got back to my seat and Antanasia to hers. Sporting that same dismissive expression, she took another gulp from her goblet.

‘I’m just gonna forget that ever happened,’ I said to her.

‘Carry on with your interview, whatever your name is.’

‘It’s J-’

‘I suggest you be quick before I get irritated again,’ she cut me off once more.

I rolled my eyes. One would think that someone over six hundred years old would have acquired some semblance of patience.

‘How did it happen?’ I repeated my question.

‘What?’ she raised a brow.

‘How were you turned into a vampire?’

‘What kind of dull question is that? Don’t you have anything more exciting to ask?’ Antanasia groaned and ran her fingers through her locks. That was the second time she avoided the question.

She tapped her finger on the armrest of her couch and said, ‘This is getting boring, meat. You ought to remedy that, or I may get irritated again.’

‘Do you actually remember how you were turned into a vampire,’ I twisted my question, “Or have you forgotten?”

I had nothing to stop my heart from leaping to my mouth when she shot right up into my face. She peered over, forcing me to sink into my chair. Her hiss stung my ears and it rumbled around the hall.

‘Of course I remember! You miserable speck of feculent scum!’ Antanasia bellowed, ‘No amount of time on this God-forsaken Earth will ever make me forget!’

Drops of blood mixed with spittle pattered on my cheeks. Neither of us moved a muscle. Antanasia’s pale face was inches away from mine, her fringe brushed my forehead. She growled before pulling her head back. Antanasia stepped away and glared into the night sky.

‘I remember it was storming when this very coven came to my village in Wallachia,’ her voice was losing that angered tone.

‘A village? From Wallachia?’ I uttered, wiping off the blood and spit on my face. 

‘Before it all began, the pens were populated with cattle, the fields yielded bountiful harvests. Everything was plentiful.’

‘You were a farmer? For real?’

I was expecting a princess, or a noblewoman maybe. But a peasant? Lady Antanasia, the bloodthirsty vampire, raised cows? She eyeballed me for a second and I straightened up.


She edged towards the balcony, still having that frown on her face. ‘Indeed I was. My family supplied the village we lived in with barley and milk. It was a good life.’

‘You had a family?’ my eyes perked up.

Antanasia froze. I could see the melancholy and reminiscence in her.

‘I had a husband and a daughter. Adrian and Elena.’

Oh God.

‘Adrian was as strong as an ox from ploughing the fields, but he was also gentle and loving towards Elena and me. Our daughter was so pure and joyful, the child could sing like an angel.’ 

‘I suppose I don’t need to ask what happened to them.’ I tread cautiously with my words. Antanasia crossed her arms, she kept on staring into the night.

‘The vampires of the Din Ardelean Coven attacked my village in the stormy night with no warning. I remember fire across the fields and the cows disembowelled. The barn, the lumber mill, everything was destroyed. We heard the screaming, and we tried to hide in the house. But they found us, and dragged us out into the storm.’ Antanasia’s crossed arms tightened, and her shoulders trembled.

‘I was the only one, in the whole village, they didn’t kill.’

All the while, my mind tried painting the scene, but there was no way my imagination could recreate what truly happened to her.

‘I’m sorry to hear that, Lady Antanasia.’ I offered my sympathies, as if it was worth anything to her. But I had to ask, ‘Why didn’t they kill you?’

She went back to her seat and carried on with her story, ‘They spared me because the vampire master of this coven wanted me bound to him in his castle. I remember the fiery pain when he bit into me, no other pain could compare. The moment my heart stopped beating, I became one with his coven. He robbed me but gifted me with immortality, and he said he would give me the world.’

Her tone grew bitter, ‘That didn’t happen, as you can see. Centuries passed since he turned me, and he did nothing. He became old, mad, and useless.’

‘Where is he now?’ I asked.

‘I would not suffer his lies any longer, so I took his life and his coven for myself. His head is now on a pike down in the cellar.’

Pretty macabre. Though, well deserved I suppose. I snuck a quick peek at my watch, it wasn’t much longer till sunrise.

‘Okay…so after that, what did you do?’ I asked the next question on my list.

‘Do you need to ask?’ Antanasia snapped back at me, ‘We ruled here in seclusion for centuries. Then somehow the secret of our existence got out and now you’re here,’ she slurped on her goblet.

She started to look dishevelled. She leaned back, stared at the ceiling, and sighed, ‘Unbelievable. It took until now that I get to be truthful, and to a human of all things.’

Ignoring the comment, I asked, ‘What do you mean?’

‘No one has ever asked me what I was before I turned. No immortal undead cared to ask.’ She pointed at me. ‘Then this bastard comes here, asks these questions, and manages to get a rise out of me. So congratulations.’

Antanasia threw her goblet. Admittedly, I flinched when it shattered into the wall, painting it red. ‘That stupid old man. All he ever did was pace around the halls, whining about expanding his coven. But he did nothing!’

She shot up to her feet, her voice echoed through the darkness. ‘My farm! My village! My husband! My daughter! Adrian and Elena! Dead! Because of him! I got turned into a vampire just so I could watch a stupid old man become senile and useless! He took everything from me! So I took everything from him!’

Her ruffled hair and dress flowed with the breeze, bags were forming under her eyes.

‘And yet, there’s nothing. Here I am, hiding in the shadows with the rest of the vampires. Doing nothing but feast until my mind rots. Like that old man.’ Her body trembled. ‘I’m in limbo, going on forever in an abyss with only my memories to tear me apart.’

‘So what is it that you want?’ I calmly asked Antanasia.

She gazed out the balcony again for what felt like ages. She had a thousand-yard stare, and the quivering in her body slowed to a halt.

‘I want to see my family again.’

I stood up immediately, ‘What?’

There was a mix of despondency and resolve in her. ‘I know redemption is beyond me, and I cannot ask for forgiveness. For the lives that I have taken over the centuries, for the pain I’ve inflicted. Whatever happens to the Din Ardelean Coven, I’ll have no part of it. Do what you wish with my story, but I will not carry on like this anymore. I want to be with my Adrian and my dear Elena again.’

She sauntered to the balcony and dawn was almost upon us.

‘Jonathan?’ she turned back to me.

Well, I’ll be dammed. She actually paid attention.

‘Would you stay with me? Until the end?’

I needn’t reply. I turned off the recorder in my pocket and joined her on the balcony. We both stood by the parapet, I felt the air getting warmer.

‘I’d almost forgotten the warmth of the sun. I remember basking under it, with them in my arms.’ Soon after, light was breaking at the horizon, and she turned to me.

‘Thank you, Jonathan. Goodbye.’

‘Goodbye, Lady Antanasia.’

Nicholas Aravindhan grew up in Singapore and is currently studying for a BA in Creative Writing in Sydney. He served in the Singapore Armed Forces as an Ammunition Technician for two years. An enthusiast in palaeontology and Japanese culture, he is currently writing his own novel series, ‘Tokyo Juraki’ which encompasses both elements.


Biographical Memoir

There’s no future in the past.

My father coined this phrase. He didn’t invent it, he simply repurposed it for us. It entered the family lexicon, pulled out whenever regret crept into a conversation. His pithy take on life was very much like him: direct and to the point—For Pete’s sake, bloody well get on with it. He knew a bit about the subject.

He was born smack-bang in the middle of both rural Italy, and the Second World War. Post-war Italy faced social and economic challenge after two decades of fascism. The formation of the Italian Republic in 1946 saw the end of the monarchy, and nobility. The rate of change was great, with the gap widening between the impoverished, agrarian south and the increasingly industrialised north—a legacy of the nobility in which agricultural workers suffered oppressive conditions, and little agency, under titled landowners.

Many parts of Italy experienced grinding poverty; fortunately, my father’s family were able to be self-sufficient, and they did not go hungry. Still, the economic gloom and uncertain future forced many families, including his, to make tough decisions.

Australia pursued a ‘populate or perish’ agenda after 1945, accepting mass European immigration to help rebuild the nation. While the slogan was designed to sell sceptical Australians on the idea, Europeans—many of whom faced la fame—embraced the promise of a better life. At eleven years old, my father travelled alone from the mountains of Molise to the Western Australian wheatbelt, a journey that profoundly impacted the formation of his character, from young boy to man of courage and integrity.


La madre Italiana
Giovanni, torna subito a casa, altrimenti la strega ti prende.

My father grew up with the fear of the witch—la strega—drummed into him; children who dawdled home were easy prey. Post-war Italian mothers dispensed food and fear in equal measure—apron strings on constant double duty—with children inculcated into centuries-old folklore at birth. On the Epiphany eve, children were visited by La Befana, the nativity witch. Un bravo figli received sweets; un monella, a lump of coal. My father was at religious camp in an adjacent paese when he received news of his imminent departure to Australia—a gift of both sweets and coal.

Many families sent their sons at eleven because at twelve they paid full fare. My nonna was thirty-three when she sent my father to Australia. She had three sons and had lost two daughters; her husband had already been in Australia for three years. Although my father attended the village school and was a good student, education was not prioritised—an able body more use at work than school—and scant consideration, if any, was given to the disruption of his schooling. They did what they thought was best, and even though my nonna wouldn’t see her son for three years, her sorrow was tempered by the promise of prosperity. Luckily, eldest sons were crash-test dummies—pliable as putty—and he was enthralled by the prospect of adventure, mercifully unaware of its impending reality.


Finocchio (fennel) seeds were brought from my father’s village to Australia during the first diaspora in the 1920s. Seeds were sewn into the lining of suits to avoid customs detection.


Il figlio Italiano

My father’s two sisters died in infancy—one his twin—leaving him the eldest of three brothers, a fourth born in Australia. Intrigued by the otherness of his exotic childhood, my sisters and I peppered him about Italy; from an early age we were vaguely aware of our own otherness-by-proxy.

He told us how he nearly died at three and the priest gave him last rites—we weren’t quite sure what that meant, but it sounded momentous. He lived on pasta fagioli, polenta milled from corn and wild rabbit; salsiccia was made once a year when they killed the pig.

‘After daily chores and altar boy duty, I roamed the hillside in search of adventure—and castagna. It was a good, honest life,’ he said, looking wistful.

Those halcyon days ended abruptly, leaving childhood friends and younger brothers who idolised him; however, new adventures beckoned.

Italian children, coddled into middle age, were not strangers to attention; he was endlessly fussed over in anticipation of his journey. There were appointments: first suit fitting, new shoes, haircut.

He travelled to Napoli, the farthest he’d ever been. The Achille Lauro line Surriento loomed magnificently. Curious and impulsive, he let go his mother’s hand and ran the gangplank. He’d never seen a city! Never seen a ship! Scampering excitedly up each level, he grew conscious of his mother and brothers on the dock. Returning to them, he felt the ship moving. Distressed, he ran to the balcony—streamers were breaking, mother’s crying, hearts straining.

Dov’è mia madre? Where is my mother? They didn’t say goodbye. He swallowed the lump in his throat that wouldn’t dislodge for almost fifty years.

Who knew his mother’s apron strings could stretch so far?


Racconti di avventura

The Surriento docked in Fremantle on 10 December 1953. He never saw the chaperones paid to accompany him. Free to frolic in emergency boats strapped to the ship, had he fallen to his death nobody would have known. Once the initial shock subsided, his journey became a rollicking boys’ own adventure as he explored the ship, new friends in tow. One story achieved mythic status.

‘Dad, tell us about the matchbox and shoe!’ we pleaded, although we knew it by heart.

First impressions were important, his arrival laden with family pride. With relatives and a parish priest to impress, his appearance was choreographed: new suit pressed; new shoes, a size too big, buffed; hair Brylcreemed, combed. He had spied a matchbox on the top deck and kicked it like an Azzurri striker, sending it flying over the balcony—along with his new shoe. There was nothing to be done about it. He threw his other shoe into the ocean. What use was one shiny new shoe?

Wearing scuffed brown shoes, which had walked the land of his childhood village, he stepped off the boat; he was too excited to care how he looked. On a scorching Perth day, he went to an Italian restaurant to eat spaghetti with the parish priest, in his new suit and old shoes.


The foliage of Foeniculum vulgare can grow two metres high. Most Italians pick the fennel bulb before it reaches gargantuan heights and eat it fresh with olio d’oliva and sale.


Scuola di duro lavoro

My father was tallest in his class. He was not yet twelve years; his classmates were seven. English-as-a-second-language classes were not available to immigrant children in 1954.

A keen mind, he left school at thirteen, barely able to read or write English. While others measured trigonometry, he measured aggregate, making concrete bricks for his family’s new home. From his eight-shilling-per-week wage, ninepence was spent on comics; reading The Phantom helped improve his English.

My mother, a child of Croatian refugees, left school at fourteen. Repayments could not be made on her Malvern Star. Teachers protested, but it was not to be—Shakespeare did not pay the bills.

Achievement was never demanded of us; there was no subtle pressure to succeed or hovering over our homework. We tacitly acknowledged the arrested development writ large in our father’s determined integrity, our mother’s quiet dignity. We were leads in school plays, self-motivated to succeed—diligent, studious, achieved tertiary entry, did well, wasted nothing.

At forty-eight my father went back to school, a three-hour drive to an adult literacy teacher. His habit of dictating building quotes to my mother made retrospective sense. While I wrote essays on the significance of the rustics in The Mayor of Casterbridge, he practiced phonics.

We wore our achievements softly around his efforts.


Un bambino

The birth of a first grandchild is a joyous event that strengthens familial bonds. When my first niece was born, I toasted the newly minted father and nonno.

Saluti! To little miss Claire!

My father had just wet the baby’s head when the dam broke. Good whisky—twenty years’ at least—and his first grandchild did him in, finally dislodging that damn lump.

We were talking animatedly when he broke down, tears streaming his face. He spoke in gasps and fits, expunging the deep-buried trauma of being separated from his mother and brothers, and the realisation he was completely alone. He felt guilt at his mother’s distress and anger at his naïveté. I sobered quickly. It was clear I was privy to something precious, witness to an extraordinary act of unburdening. I listened closely. Dad never did this. There’s a reason I’m hearing it—I might write about it one day.

How did my father keep his trauma hidden for so many years?


Figlio mio!

First-born sons are revered in Italian culture. Money is offered to progeny who produce a first heir. Daughters are problematic—they have potential to become puttanas.

Mannaggia! Un’altra ragazza. Darnit! Another girl.

My father proudly produced four daughters. He lived the majority of his adult life with five females. How lucky we were.


Finocchio is a perennial with a short life span of three to four years. The bulb is harvested and eaten wholly, so it lives its life as an annual.


Mannaggia la miseria

My father was a passionate man, sometimes comically so; he once took an axe to a lawnmower that got the better of him. He could be unyielding, tough as old boots. We had a memorable stand-off; I developed a choking phobia and refused to eat stringy foods.

‘There are starving children. You’re not leaving the dinner table until you eat that cabbage!’

I felt my sisters’ woeful pity as they intermittently tiptoed past: for a glass of water, Milo, to brush teeth, say goodnight. Although he caved first—it was a school night—I wonder if he realised how much my resolve came from him.

Immigrants worked weekends to make ends meet. Wogs and dagos on overtime were ‘taking jobs from Australians’—despite said Australians not willing to forego footy and a piss-up at the club. Assimilation silenced culture, but hard work was not easily teased from the migrant psyche. It was their most valuable currency.

In his thirties, weekend work was replaced by golf, cycling, and cricket; he found balance between the ingrained Italian work-ethic and the laconic Australian approach.

I read once it takes three generations for families to exorcise the effects of war. We are three generations in. My mother tells me patience is a virtue.


La gioia di leggere

My parents were both voracious readers, my father’s intense curiosity finally sated. Over a good red we discussed books and life, particularly his outrage at Australia’s treatment of Indigenous people.

‘They’re second-hand citizens in their own country,’ he said. ‘Always behind the eight ball.’

One Sunday afternoon I found him with Archie Roach’s autobiography face down on his lap, his eyes closed. He had reached the part about the Stolen Generation. It was too raw. He wiped tears from his eyes, shaking his head in disbelief.

‘Those bloody bastards,’ he said. ‘No one has the right to take a child from its family.’

One of the great joys of my adult life is the time spent in discussion with my parents, particularly my father. I’m grateful for our investment in simple pursuits—enjoying coffee or wine, curing our own olives, watching Spaghetti Westerns, listening to Johnny Cash.


I stand in the market and hold close a bulb of fennel to inhale the aniseed smell. I am home, recalling my father’s crunch as the sweet licorice aroma lingers.


Morte ed eredità

‘It’ll be okay,’ he said. ‘I’m not afraid to die.’

Along with impatience, my father inherited two genetic conditions that struck at once. Unable to overcome the insidious hereditary beast, he went straight to stage four, top of the Oncology class. He agreed to treatment as a parting gift of time but had courage to call it.

He died like he lived—with strength and enormous integrity—slipping away just after Father’s Day. We slept in his hospital room that last night, like a scene from Dante’s Inferno, bodies strewn, cocooned tightly into a 4m x 6m room. We couldn’t bear to leave him. It was the six of us together, one last time.

An early memory was his mother and zia shaving his nonno’s face for burial. In peasant villages, death was part of everyday life. He had spoken tenderly of the dignified ritual, attuned to life’s precarity as a child.

As we tended him after death, caressing his waxy, paper-thin skin and combing his baby-soft hair, I was struck by his angelic likeness.


Buon viaggio!

This phrase always struck me as odd—travel is often bitter-sweet, tinged with the melancholia of beginnings and endings.

Two farewell journeys bookend his life; we plan his funeral like a military operation. This time, his send-off will be memorable, fitting, every nuance considered. It’s been sixty-eight years between drinks. He will not go quietly into that dark night—not on our watch.

Over time, he renounced Catholicism, unable to accept its hypocrisy—no mean feat for one indoctrinated since birth. True to his wishes, his funeral involved no religious symbolism; his cremation service included an Acknowledgement of Country. We could not have been prouder.    


We shake the finocchio fronds until seeds fall and we store them in a warm, dry place. When the anise-like seeds are planted, a new family of fennel is born—its future is also its past.


La vita agrodolce

Despite its many vicissitudes, my father’s life was well lived. In death, he guides our grief: There’s no future in the past, there’s no future in the past…

He was the man we measure all others against. He often felt he fell short. He didn’t know how much he exceeded the benchmark. To endure monstrous trauma and not become a monster yourself takes courage and integrity.

He passed with high honours.

Joanne Kennedy
Joanne Kennedy

Joanne Kennedy is a published Perth writer with a Kerouac and coffee obsession. She writes poetry and memoir to forensically mine her European cultural heritage for clues to her identity. She plays Scrabble seriously and reads the dictionary for fun—and cherishes her olive-green 1960s Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter.


A surgeon ought to be a young man, or a middle-aged man, with a strong hand, stable and never shaking, and as ready with his left hand as with his right, sharp, quick and clear sighted, not daunted by courage…let him cut as it no others paine could trouble him by their crying.

Dr Sennertus, 1658

On a glossy, flawless winter’s day, I travel into the city by ferry to the State Library of New South Wales. I am heading to the exhibition, Kill or Cure? A Taste of Medicine in search of monsters and inspiration. I hope to jolt myself from a state of passive procrastination to highspeed creativity, a state it achieves at inopportune moments, like at three in the morning. I visualise what I may find at the exhibition, then remind myself to enjoy the beauty of the moment. I scan the harbour as water glides under the hull, and the blank windows of harbour mansions reflect back slices of light.

            Hovering on the outskirts of my mind, the building grief of my Mum’s declining health threatens to unravel me. I am scrambling for focus, determined to make a start on a creative nonfiction piece for my university writing class. I need something solid, not just shredded images that fade to shadows when I try to trap them on paper.

            I leave the warmth and sheen of a perfect Sydney day and walk through the glass doors of the Mitchell Library. I hope to learn about the doctors and surgeons of the previous centuries who, with ignorance and ineptitude, more often maimed or killed their patients, while attempting to cure them. This exhibition asks, “How far would you go to feel better?” The curator, Elise Edmonds, has displayed rare books, medical instruments, photos and stories in a replica of a sterile 1950s hospital. The long silent corridors lined with plastic chairs and a colour scheme of institutional greens summon the smells and horrors of past institutions.

            At the entrance, a warning sign gives me hope that I will find my story. ‘This exhibition includes illustrations and descriptions of disease, the naked body, medical practice and patient experiences which may be distressing. Historical accounts of First Nations peoples including inaccurate and potentially offensive depictions produced for the purpose of imperial promotion and colonial expansion are on display. May not be suitable for children.’

            In the mock waiting room, I watch a short introductory film. An elderly couple sits watching; the man looks indifferent, like he has been dragged along on a retired couples outing, but can’t wait to get back to his paper. I am not the only person interested in the medical monsters of the past. People of varying ages wander in and out. What draws people here to this ghoulish and macabre sideshow? A stylish older woman is leaning in close and squinting over a display case. When I move closer, she pulls back quickly and moves on. I am curious to see what’s attracted her attention and look down on a French earthenware surgeon’s bowl from the 1830s. Is she wondering, like I am, how people could docilely hand their lives to these knife-wielding butchers? It is hard to imagine if these doctors cared for the lives of their patients. They look innocent enough as they stare out from the ink drawings and sketches of hefty tomes; photos show faces full of arrogance, privilege, and undisputable authority.

            Treatment rooms run off each side of the corridor, labelled Operating Theatre, Obstetrics, Infectious Disease, and Sexual Health; each room holds individual stories. The horrors unfold slowly; eerie yellow light glows from above as I wander through the rooms to the spine-chilling sounds of a medical past. The soundtrack of boat masts rings from the room, covering the hazards of sea travel and the misery of scurvy while the ghostly voices of doctors explain autopsies, all that is missing are the hospital smells, though my imagination can taste them. Words throw up unnerving imagery. Words like pox, wounds, plague, purging, and asylums give me a feeling of creeping ants over my skin. Instruments line a glass cabinet, waiting patiently to be used; their titles create images of horror: Bone Chisel, Small Thin Hook, and Amputation Saw.

            It becomes apparent that women, challenging, complicated, and hard to diagnose, were a problem for these medical men. In the Obstetrics room, the pamphlet subtitled “The problem with women” explains how the male physicians considered the male body superior to the female body. The exhibition explains the theory originating in the 17th Century of the wandering womb. They believed the womb wandered around the body and must be coaxed back to its proper place to restore health. Women’s wandering wombs and their mysterious reproductive organs caused no end of problems. By the 18th Century, it was believed that the womb led to hysteria and other nervous complaints.

            Childbirth was deadly due to complications and infection. Unbelievable, the basic idea of hand washing was not yet considered important in transferring germs. Often doctors came to the birthing room straight from the morgue or a patient with a disease without washing their hands. The mothers and babies did not have a chance.

            The displays and information in the room labelled sexual health are chilling and remind us to be grateful for the discovery of penicillin by Fleming in 1928. Syphilis, known as the ‘great pox’, spread from the 15th Century, with no social class being immune from its horrors. It was not until the 1940s that it was cured with antibiotics. It was not a disease that could be hidden, so fashion adapted to cover the worst with wigs, gloves and face powder. The disease caused facial disfiguration and, eventually, a total nose collapse. Mercury was used as a cure, but it caused unpleasant side effects to the point that it produced large amounts of saliva. The religious believed it was a disease of sin and a direct punishment from God.                  

            Phlebotomy or bloodletting was a popular procedure to cure many conditions, and patients often bled to death as the negative humours were sucked from the body to allow it to cool and mend. The doctors, called Barber surgeons, “were advised to be swift and project a cheerful, jovial personality” so as not to scar the patient. The instruments are gruesome and barbaric, as are the drawings of leeches used to suck out the bad blood.

            The exhibition demonstrates the progress made by the medical profession; they have come a long way from the misery-induced practices of the past. We would be naïve to believe they have all the answers; it is a continually moving playing field, fighting new and crafty bacteria and viruses. While my creative writing begins to form shapes and sharp edges, my Mum fades. She is dying. It is not Covid that will take her, but the long goodbye, dementia, a modern disease with no cure. For the past eight years, she has been slowly moving down a road I cannot follow. I have no map of where she is travelling. Her memory falters, her words dissolve, and her conversations are like the needle of a record stuck in the groove. Nothing is good about this exit from the world for my once energetic, swimming, hiking Mum. I receive daily phone calls from the nursing staff of her facility and visit, sitting with her silently when once we would have chatted. The disease has stolen her memories, her personality and her conversation; only rarely do I catch a receding outline of the vibrant laughing woman she once was. Medicine would have thought her mad if she had lived in past times, locking her away. I am thankful for the kindness, compassion, understanding, and care she receives today.

            I enter a city in reverse lockdown; normality is returning. We want to ignore, forget and move on. Crowds stroll down Martin Place; the vendors sell fruit, and the homeless, released from temporary accommodation, are back on the streets. Pitt Street is crammed full of shoppers; lunchtime workers dash and dart between the strolling crowds, required back at their desks, spooning food from plastic containers while juggling phones. Sipping from large takeaway coffee cups and not watching where they are walking. A few masks can be spotted, but mostly it is as if a pandemic has never happened. The ferry trip home does not wipe away the gory images of the exhibition. I am unclear if I have found my monsters, but I am ecstatic to live in this time, pandemic or not.

Joanne lives between the Northern Beaches in Sydney and the East Coast of Tasmania. After a career in the travel industry, she studies English Literature and Creative Writing at Macquarie. When not practising yoga, multi-day hiking, or travelling, she crams in as much reading as possible.


The crunch of pages and the scratch

of the pen against my brain.

A piece chips off, and is born:


Method and mode for her

and I to become us.

Made in my image,

under your watch.

I’m judge, jury,

executioner and accused.

Working by your captious light,

we fear to tread the unbeaten path.

One stone out of place,

the titan chews

and spits up his son

like gum that’s lost its flavour.

For my penance I lash the whip

on her back and feel

the sting in my writing hand.

The synchronal strikes spur me on.

Let me justify my means, I’m almost done

I promise.

She and I,

our ribbons tangle and blow away –

to be unseen and forgotten

(we pray), hand in hand,

pen to paper.

My fingers clutch the rim of the ship.

Charybdis, censorious,

swirls and spits and seethes.

Both hands full, Scylla before me.

She takes her place,

and offers the whip.

I’m contradictory,

and I have a stainless history.

The skeletons don’t clatter

when I have guests over –

we have an agreement, you see,

gravely written in secrecy.


To be limited to oneself

is a horror I’d wish on (n)one,

but in the shelter of fiction

I’ll shoulder the guilt,

until I’ve made something worthy

of the standards you’ve set.

Scylla stops in her scene,

frozen by a shiver that turns her head

to the chill, a pause.

My touch on her shoulder

she can’t feel the warmth

or her mirrored fingers at my neck.

I’m a wraith to these pages

and I’m the only one there.

Clamping my head in place

and boring holes in the paper,

trembling at the canyons between

each letter that spans the sea.

It’s a pretty reflection

of Claude’s world.

Don’t lean so close,

it’s bad for the eyes.

I’m under the microscope

and I’m looking in

but we’re both just strokes.

I step closer,

head to the canvas

and marvel at the atoms.

So three cheers to authors

who haunt their narrative

and four for those who’ve

left theirs behind.

I’m on my way

and I know the road.

Mia Koch is a Canadian-born Australian writer who definitely loves to put words on paper and doesn’t dread it all. They have been Long-listed for the Future Leaders Prize in 2022 for poetry.

a collection of somewhat related love letters and poems titled ‘stargazing in an earthquake’, Jacob Ditchfield


all that is well is splitting at the seams

i’m upside down and above the ground, can’t you see?

mother whisked away in pluto’s chariot

he left behind his sceptre and his keys

make pristine your peace with me

at her headstone, a ghostly garden buried

her name marked in black liquor

under sultry moonlight, warm and honeyed

‘‘tis all a part of the plan’

the worlds fall apart between my crooked teeth

heartstrings frayed and violent at the edges

from grapes and sourdough to pomegranate seeds

but how candescent her spirit was on a starless night!

an angel harpooned from the heavens

now all that is left for her daughter is

a passed mother’s perfume

the vial shattered on my bathroom floor

watch her final elixir bleed and bleed out

until all her scent has drifted away

and the dappled tiles stain sickly sweet

i am still a child  /  carry me to bed

in my wallet in my jeans

they say it’s very beautiful over there

your contrary heart will be safe with me


your eyes are hasty and wanting

upon the fiddle leaf fig in our bedroom

obsessed with its nurture and dress

its wiry frame has all but consumed you

‘come lay for a while’ in your heart

caress me, your comely festoon

i’m splayed out on the kitchen floor

you light a cigarette and sing a drunken tune

you are the summer shower

your kisses are tender, almost kind

you are a terrible storm

undying and tainted in my mind

i’ve been spinning all around you

like spiderwebs before the dawn

legs tangled between sullied sheets

your hands are too heavy to mourn

my eyes are cloudy like apple juice

swimming in the pool of your whiskey

yet you are not dignified nor refined

you were found out in a rusted flask (kiss me)

i am so adored by you

i’ve never been so in love

my makeup runs and these apples are bruised

my tears are almost always never sometimes enough


My dear, I couldn’t help but notice

how rather out of sorts you’ve been as of late

Tell me, how is an empty cocoon

so heavy and hulking amongst the poppies

aching in a sea of wildflowers so gentle they take your breath away

Now you’re falling asleep in the car,

warm fingertips on your neck,

soothed closer and closer to a long goodnight

Cinnamon sticks melted down into that faraway concoction

seeping softly through your veins

I must go now, but not before I tell you how

the vast plains of the universe,

with all its bloodied moons and anxious stars

couldn’t stretch far enough to contain

all my affections for you

Nor the deepest of blackholes

could swallow the violet sunrise

that awakens in my heart every day you come around

My dear, we are just stargazing in an earthquake

Watch how the comets fall for you

whilst I pray for the daffodils to spring between our fingertips


There’s a bee sitting on me

and a pocket in your corduroy jeans

Oh, wouldn’t you like to know

            just how deep the rabbit hole goes

I was spiralling, now I’m climbing

A picnic for an old friend

is helping this wilted heart to mend

I’m exhaling for the first time

in a long time

This is my excavation

and Vernon is thy minister

Ouch, i’m sitting on a bee!

Bees are shy and sweet

They cater the clovers evergreen

where the poppies used to sell to me

I’m wearing all corduroy

and it’s all perfect as far as i can see

Jacob Ditchfield is a Macquarie University student with a passion for creative writing. Growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Jacob enjoys playing guitar and reading young adult and romance fiction. His creative writing major work was long listed for the Macquarie Future Leaders Writing Prize.

GUTTER RATS, Charlie Adam

The second time that Marnie Stanvelt shows up at the (highly nondescript) Bureau of Malignant Phenomena, it’s ten pm on a Thursday, and pissing down buckets. She doesn’t bother removing her boots, leaving a snail-trail of muddy water across the yellowing linoleum. Thea, the omnipresent receptionist, lets her hammer the call bell for a good minute before bothering to look up. Her greying hair falls over her tortoiseshell glasses in neat curls.

‘We’re closed.’ She wraps her hands around a steaming coffee mug. It’s freshly brewed.

‘I hope you choke on that,’ Marnie informs Thea, scowling, though it’s not very effective with rain dripping into her eyes and squelching into her socks.


‘Is there anything I can help you with, tonight?’ The light of the computer reflects off Thea’s spectacles, faintly green as it limns the crags of her face. ‘Our typical business hours are listed as five-to-seven-pm.’

Marnie rummages in her pockets, producing a compact-camera and an envelope of photos. ‘There is something, actually,’ she says, ‘and I’m not leaving until you can look me in the eyes and tell me this isn’t the weirdest shit you’ve ever seen.’

‘Weirder than that cat run over by a car?’

‘I’m telling you, that’s not what—yes. Weirder than that.’

The photos, when removed from the envelope, are from a few days ago. They’re grainy and sepia-tinted, but Marnie doesn’t care when the subjects are clear enough. Thea waits for her to slap them down before she leans forward, sliding her desk lamp over for a better look.

Earlier this week, Marnie made the effort of climbing down to the sewers and braving their depths in a two am chill. The results lie on the peeling Formica-topped desk before them. She waits for Thea to sift through the detritus, hovering over the one of the mangled cat from below 27th and Rue Street. It goes unmentioned by both of them that she’s the reason it’s down there in the first place.

It went like this: a few days before The Sewer Trip, Marnie found a cat with its stomach ripped open down the street from her flat. The thing’s paws had been chewed off in hunks, with the legs splayed about its gutted belly. She’s ashamed of it now, but she shoved the cat in a plastic bag and threw it down the gutter. And sure, sue her. It was a beastly thing to do, but the sight of it had sent such a chill through the lining of her teeth, the kind that tugs at open nerve endings and splits them wide. The mangled cat felt like a threat. More so when she nearly walked right over its rotting cadaver in the tunnels. And so she turned it in to Thea, who’s been the receptionist of the Bureau since probably the 1800s.

Thea taps a plum-lacquered nail on one of the later photos. It resembles nothing so much as a monstrous warren of a sewer tunnel, the brick walls prised apart by roots the size of Marnie’s forearm. (She knows; she measured.) Even shot with an old Kodak and a torch-light, the image picks up glimmers of bloated corpses, their tails knotted together. Wheels of dead rodents floating in the shallow bilge-water. ‘These look like rat kings,’ she says.


‘Rat kings. It’s when a bunch of them get stuck together by their tails, usually with sap or something else sticky.’ Thea taps at her keyboard, then twists the computer monitor around. It’s archived material, Marnie guesses—a full-colour image of a specimen box and a tangle of rats inside.

‘Huh. Creepy.’ It takes a moment for Marnie to get her bearings again, the way she’s been doing more and more lately. Part of her feels like it’s still there in the sewers. Maybe coming here wasn’t the best idea. There’s a lingering, ever-present smell in the office building, something like potpourri and vinegar, and it’s pulsing a headache through her temples.

Thea makes a face that could almost be a smile. ‘Photos are plenty malleable, I want to make that clear. But when a woman sloshes into your office with something this interesting, you begin to entertain, just the tiniest bit, the notion that her statement’s worth looking into after all.’ She clicks around with her mouse, then jabs a finger at the ‘Enter’ key.

Something below her desk makes a death rattle as she plucks a sheaf of papers from the unseen printer. The half hour that follows instils vicious loathing for bureaucracy that Marnie will carry for the rest of her life, probably, as Thea drags her through a formal statement of paranormal esoterica.

Yes, she did first encounter signs while working on the subterranean storm drain expansion. Yes, she’s the main worker tasked with the deeper sewers that nobody else will even touch. Eventually, they work their way towards the Associated Phenomena section, during which Thea’s jaw works tighter and tighter as Marnie bleats about scores of red-tinged eyes while she worked in the tunnels.

The really nasty bit comes when she mentions the kid who asked her for a cigarette yesterday. She couldn’t be older than fifteen, but her eyes stared Marnie down as she shuffled towards the maintenance entrance and clocked in.

‘Got a smoke?’ the girl asks.

‘Definitely not,’ past-Marnie gawks. She notices, with her hindsight-sharp eyes, that the kid’s dark cheeks are hollowed from the inside out. Now-Marnie watches absently as Thea’s lips press into a thin line, writing it all down.

The girl laughs. It sounds like teeth hitting the ground and cracking apart. ‘They’re wrong about the walls having ears, you know.’ She looks around emphatically at the empty dawn streets, then takes a pack of Marlboro’s from her jeans and puts one in her mouth. ‘It’s the gutters you should be really worried about.’

It’s here that Marnie dips out of yesterday and back into the rickety seat she’s pulled up in front of the desk. Thea waits impatiently with a colour printout, full of faces. MISSING PERSONS, the heading shouts in 35-pt font. Marnie has a bad feeling about it.

(That feeling is correct: the girl grins up at her from the second row. She’s been missing for three days. Her name is there, but Marnie only vaguely registers it.)

Marnie doesn’t mention to Thea the other things. Those moments when she can’t sleep for the sounds of skittering right beneath her floor—persisting even after she’d ripped up the floorboards one night, hands shaking.

She doesn’t mention that this isn’t the first time she’s gone down there off-duty, either. Not even close. Or that she isn’t scared of it, not the way she used to be. That’s—that’s not even the reason she’s here, she thinks, as Thea carefully feeds the images into a banged-up fax machine. She’d been… excited, when the photos had developed. She wanted someone to admit that she was right.

And maybe that’s the nature of secrets. Some secrets can’t help but be dug up. Some rot in the ground for years, pitted with worms and crawlers. Others still burrow into heartflesh, grow fat on blood beneath the breastbones of the guilty who fed them.

There’s an odd sort of poetry in how the worst secrets of all come from underneath—carried in sewer pipes and loamy tunnels. Those ones don’t stay buried. They come looking for food.

But Marnie Stanvelt isn’t pondering the nature of secrets as she pushes out into the night, leaving Thea to sip at her long-cooled coffee. She’s counting down the minutes until the metro gets to the nearest station, until she can tuck herself into bed with a hot water bottle and enough blankets to build the bloody Taj Mahal of pillow forts.

She probably should’ve been thinking more about secrets.

First, it’s the kh-shnnk of a manhole cover sliding over the sound of a thousand scurrying feet—tk-tk-tk-tk-tk-tk-tk-tk. A creeping awareness of how her steps squelch against the pooling water on the pavement, her shoulders hunching further and further inwards. Steady dripping of rain into her cheap earbuds. Water-logged music filtering into her head.

‘Man, you’re bad at taking a hint.’  

It’s as if the girl has always been walking next to Marnie, her thin arm looped into hers. She’s wearing cheap sunglasses that don’t quite cover the ghoulish cast to her skin, stringy hair knotted up in clumps and braided with filth.  ‘I mean,’ she continues, ‘it’s not like we’ve been that subtle. You’re practically a guest.’ The girl looks up at her with a barbed-wire smile, teeth stained brown. ‘You wouldn’t happen to have a smoke this time, would you?’

Marnie’s earbuds sputter out with a weak crackle, rain trickling past the deadened plastic and into her ears proper. The girl has deteriorated a lot since the photo in the Missing Persons file, as if her skeleton’s begun eating itself down to the marrow. ‘God, tell me you’re not Ingrid Ashram,’ she says weakly. That had been her name on the file, hadn’t it? Her eyes were a bit panic-blurry at the time, but it sounds right. Definitely Ingrid-something. The letters had been squeezed together in an impersonal little lump under her picture, gripping the lower border between hers and the next missing persons’.

The girl starts to snicker. ‘I won’t, if that makes you more comfortable.’ Her fingers bite into Marnie’s elbow with a disquieting kind of over-familiarity. ‘Normally folks seem to like pretending that the people are still here. Adds a bit of humanity to the whole affair.’

Half of this, admittedly, is going over Marnie’s head. It’s the way she talks, all menacing and dancing around the actual point. What does stick the landing, though, is a thought. She looks down at Ingrid, something sickly flooding her stomach.

‘What do you mean, pretending people are still here?’    

Ingrid’s face beams as if she’s letting Marnie in on a private joke. It’s a profoundly unsettling thing, her features working in tandem to split open the mouth like a rotting grapefruit. ‘Well, that’s an interesting question,’ she says, reaching a thumb up to wipe some blood from her gums. ‘What is pretending, you know?’

It’s only when the clustered buildings fall into too-familiar shapes that Marnie realises they’re in her own neighbourhood, drifting unerringly closer to her flat on Rue Street. The girl’s—Ingrid’s—footsteps are nimble, skirting around the puddles of light shed by streetlamps as if leading them through a dance.

‘Oh, hold on,’ Ingrid chirps as they approach the side of the road, pulling Marnie to a stop by an open gutter. Marnie winces at the damning streaks of dried blood smeared across the drain lip. ‘A bit rude to dump one’s party favour, but that’s something we can put to rights.’ Her brittle fingers flex as she bends a knee, stirring through the air in a come-hither motion. Her sunglasses betraying nothing but her smiling mouth, Ingrid seems to make direct eye contact as the dead cat is spat from the drain. Even though Marnie can’t see her expression proper; it feels far too old, too self-satisfied to belong on the face of a fifteen-year-old. Behind Ingrid, the gutter flashes with knotted-up tails—rats, hundreds of them, a roiling sea of fur and night-red eyes.

With a one-handed flick, the dead cat soars into Marnie’s arms. A scream gutters and dies in her throat.

Ingrid sits down, right in the middle of the road. ‘But it’s getting late, isn’t it?’

The swarm of rats spills onto the street, a black rippling sheet sewn together with thick, glistening pink veins. They eat up the tarmac, the pavement. Cover every square inch of free space.

‘You’re welcome down there any time you like, of course.’ Ingrid flaps a wasted hand towards the hidden sewers. ‘Same as Ingrid was, the little asshole.’ She lets out a fond chuckle. ‘Oh, she was a fun one to have. I’m glad she stuck around—the others went much more quickly than her.’

The thing wearing Ingrid’s skin removes her sunglasses. The sockets are empty, the eyes rotted away. Worm larvae trail from gaping holes. That rotting-grapefruit mouth peels back again in a friendly grin.

‘Don’t be a stranger, Marnie,’ she says, then pauses thoughtfully. ‘But maybe don’t go tattling again to Thea and her ilk. They’re not ready to deal with the likes of me.

The street echoes with the sounds of rodents. Hundreds and hundreds of them, as the creature throws back her head and laughs. And Marnie starts to run.

Charlie Adams is a horror folklore enthusiast with a love of video games and things that go bump in the night. Currently a BA Creative Writing undergraduate, Charlie is drawn to fantasy and paranormal fiction with dreams of writing the next cult indie game. Her past works are lost to time (and several government cover-ups).


Once upon a time, there was a young boy called Joseph who lived in a village on the edge of the jungle. He wanted to prove to everyone that he wasn’t like the other kids. He wanted to prove that he was the man. Against his parent’s pleas and the fears of his friends, he marched deep into the jungle at midnight. He invaded her territory. Like a siren, a screech — the type that could shatter glass — echoed through the column of trees. The hairs on his little legs stood. But he kept exploring. He told himself again that he was the man. Then he stepped on something slimy. He opened it. Illuminated by the moon, a tiny face with empty sockets stared back. Joseph shivered as the screech returned. He looked at the full moon. The silhouette froze Joseph. She had two giant bat-like wings, scraggly hair, and a long tongue that slithered like a snake. She had no legs and like a million tiny tentacles, her guts dangled from her ripped torso. Wrapped around the tree, the street urchins — the children who didn’t listen — piled high. He should’ve listened.

Most Filipino children were told a story like that. They call her the manananggal. The manananggal was the woman across the street, the one so sweet and cute. The woman who, at the stroke of midnight, separates herself from her legs, grows wings and flies, hunting down pregnant women and other delicious things. Everyone has a story of a manananggal. Uncles boasted of being chased by them after skinny dipping in the lake, pregnant mothers were warned to shut their windows, and boys would throw salt at girls in the playground.

Well, that’s what they say anyway.


Once upon a time, there was a barangay — or small village — deep in the mountains of Cagayan named Conda. There were no high rises, no harbours, no concrete roads. Instead, shanties and shacks of scrap metal and planks lined the village. In the wet seasons, typhoons would flatten the barangay and the only structure left after the typhoon had passed was the white brick cottage on the hill, the envy of the village. It belonged to the town doctor, Maria del Rosario, the richest person in Conda who lived alone with her medicine and chemicals the witch doctors scoffed at. Everyone knew each other since birth. They woke up, worked on the farms then spent the evenings in the town square belting ballads beside the karaoke machine and the TV, the village’s only window to the outside world. In the dry season of ‘92, after the decades-long storm of dictatorship and rigged ballots, the people got their first taste of democracy. The villagers were hypnotised by the smiles of presidential hopefuls and found themselves, at the flick of a candidate’s finger, on the streets to fight in their name. It was the only way they knew how to debate. The barangay Kapitan, who governed over 100 men and women, almost lost both eyes breaking up brawls. One of these days, someone in Conda was going to get killed. One of these days, the barangay was going to melt under the heat of the election.

Jay Contrales and his wife, Elma, lived in one of those shanties when, one midnight, Jay woke up to an empty bed. He heard something faint from the bathroom, the sharp sucking of air through teeth. He lit a candle. ‘Oh god,’ murmured the woman behind the door. Jay’s hairs stood as the wind breezed through the cracks and he tasted metal in the air as he approached the door. He opened it. The candlelight fell upon Elma. Hunched over, her white dress was stained at the edges as she did her best to hold herself off the ground as a pool of blood congealed beneath her. In the centre of that pool sat a slimy sac. A face was trapped inside. The villagers rushed to the sound of Jay’s cry. The Kapitan vomited at the smell. Maria rushed to Elma’s aid. It was too late.

‘Our child,’ Jay sobbed, ‘why us?’ As Maria examined Elma, she asked questions about her diet and activity, searching for an answer as to why the miscarriage occurred. Elma stared blankly at the doctor.

‘I… can’t remember,’ said Elma, ‘but weirdly, I feel an angel answered my prayers.’

‘Prayers…’ Maria muttered, ‘I think I understand.’ She shrugged and then continued her examination.

Jay noticed the bathroom window ajar before he and the villagers heard a screech in the forest. Jay remembered the story he heard when he was a child. The story of Joseph. His stomach churned. He glanced at the shrivelled face in the sac and grabbed Maria’s elbow. ‘This was the work of an aswang. I think a manananggal attacked my wife.’ That’s when Maria saw, on the side of the fetus’ head, blood oozing from a thin puncture. The Kapitan and Jay inspected the wound when Elma shot up in her bloody dress and shouted, ‘I remember now! A manananggal… it killed my baby!’

While the aswang attack subdued the village for a week, the election soon returned to the villagers’ minds and the Kapitan struggled to maintain order. But soon, the villagers heard a shriek from the Kapitan’s house. When they arrived, the marital bed was soaked in the blood of the unborn. The Kapitan trembled as his wife sat motionless on the bed, a gaping wound in her side. The window was wide open. Families clutched each other tightly. A pregnant woman made the sign of the cross. Maria examined the wound. She’s seen something like this before; too many times actually. She was about to speak when the Kapitan wept, ‘Why God? Why me?’ Maria chose not to say anything. She offered her condolences and returned home with the rest of the villagers while Jay and a few men stayed with the Kapitan. Amidst his sobs, the Kapitan thrust a finger into the sky, eyes wide and shouted, ‘Aaswang!’ The villagers looked out the window. Nothing was there. The Kapitan said they just missed it. He then traced a line from the moon to the white brick house.

The spectre of the aswang paralysed Conda. No one talked about the election anymore. Seeing this, the Kapitan ordered a nightly curfew and educated the villagers on what the manananggal looked like, how it behaved and how to defend against it. Men sharpened sticks into stakes and the women prepared pouches of salt and spices. The Kapitan appointed himself, Jay, and three other men to a task force to investigate aswang sightings. Jay was particularly hellbent on capturing the manananggal. The Kapitan noticed this and told Jay a secret.

‘There’s one thing I couldn’t mention to the village,’ he told Jay, ‘the manananggal is just an ordinary-looking woman in the day.’ And so, the Kapitan and Jay surveilled every woman for anything remotely suspicious. They said they were doing this for their wives. They said they were doing this for the children.

Manananggal sightings were reported almost nightly. The task force would hear a cry across the barangay. ‘I saw something with batwings fly there!’ or, ‘I heard scratches against my door!’ Their testimonies were full of hysterics and hyperventilating. Frustrated, the Kapitan translated their chaotic cries. ‘So you said it flew from here. Is that correct?’ he’d ask. The witnesses perked up and pointed confidently to the place suggested by him. All the witnesses pointed to the same place. Jay remembered that on the night the Kapitan’s wife was killed, the Kapitan pointed to the same place too. Jay smirked. He told the task force his theory. The Kapitan, with a glint in his eyes, grinned.

Five men knocked on the door of the white brick house. Maria answered. They entered before she said anything. The Kapitan asked what she did the other day; she said she was working. Jay asked if she saw anything with batwings; she said bats usually visit her place for her fruit trees. Another asked if she saw anything resembling an aswang; Maria chuckled.

Aswang aren’t real!’ No one laughed back. The Kapitan asked her to put out her hands. ‘A test,’ he said. She obliged. The Kapitan poured the vial of salt and spices into her hands. Maria sprung up, swore and flailed her hands back and forth to get it off. Everyone flinched.

‘Sorry,’ said Maria as she showed them a laceration across her right palm, ‘I was clumsy with some glass yesterday and the salt stung.’ She forced a smile. The Kapitan frowned. He bashed his stick against her skull and Maria collapsed. Jay stuffed her inside a bag and the others bound her arms and legs with rope. They dragged her to a tree in the centre of the village and hung her upside down. At dusk, the Kapitan rang the bell for a town meeting. Darkness swallowed the village.

Maria woke up to the torchlit faces of a hundred villagers. The crowd murmured as she wriggled in place. The Kapitan boomed: ‘Don’t be fooled. During the day, a manananggal looks just like us. Here she is. For the charges of the murder of Jay and Elma’s child and the murder of my wife and our child, the people find you guilty.’ Maria squirmed and screamed. She protested it wasn’t her. She protested that aswang aren’t real. She protested that she could explain the wounds on the Kapitan’s wife and the hole in the fetus’ head. The Kapitan gagged her. Then, tears in his eyes, he turned to the crowd.

‘It’s not her fault,’ the Kapitan said, ‘she knows not what she’s done. In every manananggal lies a black chick trapped inside. That chick is the true monster, the one that possesses our women into monstrosities. The one that preys upon our children.’

Jay remembered all the times Maria brought fruit to him and his wife and Maria’s perfect renditions of ‘My Way’ on the karaoke. He couldn’t believe that the same sweet Doc was the host of a devilish parasite. The Kapitan wiped his tears and continued.

‘But I know that she is the same Doc we all know and love. And by God’s grace, she can still be cured! All we need to do,’ the Kapitan picked up a bat, ‘is force it out.’

Nobody spoke as Maria’s gag struggled to contain her cries. The Kapitan offered Jay the bat. ‘For your child,’ he said. Jay grasped the bat and stared into Maria’s beet-red face as tears streamed down her forehead and dripped onto the floor. Jay scanned the crowd. He couldn’t find his wife but he saw children cower behind their parents. Jay smashed the bat against Maria’s stomach. The face in the sac of flesh flashed in his mind. He set aside her muffled screams. He swung harder. Then harder. Then harder. Jay collapsed onto the floor out of breath as Maria swayed under the tree. The Kapitan took the bat. A grunt. A thump. A crack. A muted wail. He passed the bat to another. Then another. In this ungodly game of pinata, every strike leaked blood through Maria’s gag. ‘Take a good look,’ said a woman as she gave her daughter the bat, ‘aswang can take many forms, even those you least expect.’ The girl looked into the eyes of the woman who helped bring her into the world. She raised the bat. Another crack. The cries stopped. The Kapitan removed the gag. A stream of food and acid and blood flowed onto the floor. ‘Where’s the chick?’ a man shouted and ripped the bat from the girl’s hands. With every blow, he got more desperate.

After an hour, the only sounds were the panting of the villagers and the creaking of the rope. Jay stared at Maria: the corners of her mouth were crusted red and her forehead dried in tears. A villager tapped Jay’s shoulder. ‘That’s the chick right?’ He pointed at a black particle in the pool of vomit, blood and tears. A pit formed in Jay’s stomach but before he could answer, the Kapitan nodded. ‘We’re safe now.’ The villagers snuffed their torches and returned home. Jay and the Kapitan dumped Maria in the woods.

Soon after, the election passed over and the village returned to its habitual state of torpor and karaoke. The new government built roads and phone lines to connect isolated barangays like Conda with the wider world. They worked alongside barangay kapitans, who were now promoted to mayors. Because Maria had no family, the Mayor of Conda moved into her house and over the years, he would never leave office. No one fought on the streets again.

In contrast, shortly after the election, Jay spotted a coat hanger, glinting outside his house beside the bathroom window. Elma flinched when Jay showed it to her. When Elma reminded Jay of the mayor, the couple never spoke of it again. Deep into old age, the couple moved to an apartment, smaller than their shanty, in the bustling streets of Manila. Despite the ever-present beeping of car horns, Elma seemed to sleep just fine. But Jay, no matter how far from the mountains they now were, could never seem to escape the strained, creaking cry of the rope.


Some say that once upon a time, there stalked a black chick in the woods. She heard the weeping of a soul, imprisoned in the husk of a battered body. With pity, she forced herself into the body’s mouth. Then, at the stroke of midnight, the body’s torso tore itself from its legs, its arms transformed into wings and the wail of a thousand tears pierced the forest, alerting the birds to flock away. Luckily for her, a street urchin arrived just in time to witness her metamorphosis.

Well, that’s what they say anyway.

Bradley Cagauan is an academic coach and writer studying creative writing and law at Macquarie University. He has a keen interest in the law, justice and politics which underpins his feature articles and stories. ‘The Folk Tale of the Manananggal’ is his first published short story, a cosy tale drawing upon Filipino mythology and mob justice.

DAMINI, Priyasha Janhavi


Lightning stricken Damini. I 

Paint my lotus feet vermillion 

With demons’ blood. A crazed tandav.

Devi, the divine riverine!

Your daughters’ corpses float upstream.

Your sons pollute your high esteem.

The bhuvans tremble as demons 

Run unbridled, raise foreign hells.

They masquerade as gentle men. 

They scale my sparks and fleeting shocks

Electric ladder, heaven’s bowl

fissured above, chaos below.

I must return to my earthen

womb, or remain, exiled and burned. 

My chastity chortled away. 

I, the root of all desire

Will dance upon blazing pyres, 

til my flesh bubbles cosmic black. 

Let my body find comfort in 

the sky’s bed of swollen rain clouds. 

A stormy shelter, heaven’s brew.

Devour me in your darkness, 

Mahakali, silence my rain!

Mother, render me obsolete. 


Do hidden relics lie beneath my skin?

Crystal marrow, or diamond bones? 

Engulfed in puckered tissue

Sheets of lipids and sinew.

My soul is trapped in a lost tantrika   

Her face is puffy, marred and pitted.

Her hair reticulates, a knot of spitting snakes.

Limbs of cured leather, skin of boiled milk. 

What grotesque ogress

Have I grown into?

Who cursed my flesh 

To sag and dimple?


I turned my back on

the Enlightened One

for rouge, and crushed micah.

I drugged those serpents with golden oils,

Slick, entwined with jasmine pearls. 

A budding Buddha, defiled with material desire  

Send me off in milky waters

Let my ashes chase the floating lamps downstream 

A last resort for a sinner like me 

Barred by yantras of my own design 

Shameless, I still covet the divine 


My words sear as they leave my lips 

I swallowed their daggers and swords 

Blades hide behind a silver smile

The rivers of my patience thin,

Men quench their thirst at my dried banks

The crocodiles lay, jaws await.

My sitar strings no longer sing

My fingertips long for the cool, 

Of a trident, weapon and shrine.  

Wake me when the world is ready, 

My stars now droop, watching your wars

My waters have turned to venom. 

My thoughts retreat back to their source;

A mountainous tributary 

will now bear my eternal flame. 

Give me the strength to cut them down 

those who lust after my shadow,

sharp, like the moon’s vibrant laughter.

Just a spark from your flaming mouth, 

Mata Rani, would be enough 

to topple them to their knees 

Dark warrior, I send tremors 

with every step, shower the Earth

in sanguine offerings. Pralaya

A noose of my sooten tresses 

to strangle those lecherous heads,

A skullcap my new drinking bowl.

I will bathe my sisters’ graveyards

in their blood, til rivers flow red

once again, as they bled, infinite.     


Damini – lit. Lighting, though often used to describe a woman.

Tandav – A vigorous dance performed by the Hindu god Shiva. 

Devi – Goddess.

Bhuvans – Realms in Hindu cosmology.

Mahakali – lit. Great Kali, the Divine Mother and Goddess of Time.

Cintamani – A wish-granting jewel in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. It is said that a Cintamani can be found in the ashes of a Buddha. 

Tantrika – Someone who practices Tantrism, a taboo practice that preceded Hinduism and Buddhism. 

Yantra – A geometric design originating from Tantric practice that holds great significance in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions. There are many yantras associated with various deities for particular uses. 

Jwalamukhi – lit. Flame-faced Goddess, The Goddess of the Eternal Flame, associated with Goddess Durga and Shaktism. 

Mata Rani – lit. Mother Queen, an epithet for the Goddess Durga and her many forms, particularly Goddess Vaishnodevi or Sherawali. 

Pralaya – lit. Destruction. A period of apocalyptic dissolution in Hindu cosmology. 

Priyasha Janhavi is a Sydney-based poet and writer. An avid traveller, she traverses the world for artefacts of identity to preserve in her verse. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing at Macquarie University, and was long-listed for the 2022 Future Leaders Writing Prize. 

OUR MONSTERS, Sharon Cabasag

This story deals with themes of suicide

The air is rushing past my face, pushing my entire body forward like the entire world wants me to do it. Ants scatter the pavement below, walking to their workplace or grabbing coffee with some friends. And my creature mocks me from the lick of my ankles, a distorted recording of that video I replayed a thousand times in my head now coming from its drooping mouth.

‘Can you tell me how a perfect love goes wrong!’

My friends scream at the top of their lungs as they ‘sing’ for karaoke, their happy faces seemingly etched right into the core of my brain. The monster attaches itself to my back, cackling as it continues to play the memory of the video again.

‘Alone again! On your own, like always!’ It screeches something I don’t want to hear, cementing itself as my truth. Last night my friends had gone without me to a party I wasn’t invited to, my ex in the video along with them. “They chose him because they hate you. They hate you! They hate you! They hate you!”

‘Shut the fuck up!’ I scream at the top of my lungs and almost choke on those words as my right foot slides along the roof’s edge, half of it now above a twelve-story drop to the ground. Vertigo takes over, and my body feels like it’s rocking back and forth, the buildings around me tilting side to side. It feels like a nightmare and I can’t wake up – I’m not in control of my body even though I know what’s going on.

A scream echoes from the streets, and all the little critters there stop to look up where the lady is pointing at. ‘She’s gonna jump!’

Is that what I’m going to do? The stranger’s conclusion sends my head spinning even more and my left foot staggers until it matches my right. With one wrong move, I’ll fall. Everyone will see me, and I can see them take their phones out. The whole world will see me now and maybe my friends will see me for once too.

‘Be careful, haha!’ That same scratching imitation of a friend’s voice sparks the memory, of a video of them messing around in their backyard. I should have been there, they were my friends first. All of them chose my ex over me, to have that man fool around and have fun while I sat at home and cried the whole night. Would they still have done that if they knew what he had done to me?

‘What difference does that make?’ My creature hisses into my ear, its black sludge winding around my body. The simple question makes my heart beat in my ear and I find myself forcing air in and out of my lungs. He touched me without my permission, is that not a big thing? Wouldn’t my friends get rid of him if they knew? Wouldn’t they choose me instead? The lump in my throat forms and tears prick the edge of my eyes, blurring the entire city in front of me. I’m not a choice, I’m a friend and I know that, so why – Why didn’t they choose me?

‘They hate me. That’s why.’ Clarity sets in, and my heart slows down as I feel a wave of calmness sweeping my body.

‘She jumped!’ The woman screamed and all I thought as the pavement came closer was:

‘Shut up, shut up, shut up.’ My nightmare laughs into my ear.


Katherine sits on the top bunk bed with headphones plugged in and the volume up way too loud. Mae does not scold her for it, the older sister is frozen on the first step of the stairs. The blur of lights is flashing in front of their eyes but Mae’s brain isn’t processing anything. Instead, there’s a sinking feeling.

            A door slams outside, Mae flinches. The shared bedroom door is cracked open just a little and Mae hears her mother begin to yell.

            I need to close the door. She shuffles past the mess of toys on the carpet floor.

            ‘Why?! Why would you do this?’ It feels like she needs to throw up everything in her stomach but her stomach is empty all at once. Her mother’s anguished voice is enough to completely freeze Mae over that she’s not even shaking. ‘Did I do something wrong, huh?! Is that why you’re going out all the time?!’ She won’t stop yelling and it’s always followed by silence, not a peep from the other person her mother is addressing.

            The silence stretched on as if a reply was pending silently in the air, waiting for Mae to press play again when she was ready. It’s enough for Mae to pull the door open wider, her head sticking out in what children could not understand as a feeling of morbid curiosity.

            The kitchen and dining area are within view down the hall and in between those two spaces is her mother staring accusingly at someone behind the corner. Her tear-stricken face is contorted in so much rage and so much sadness at the same time, that Mae wanted to cry too. Who was she talking to? It could have only been her father but that didn’t make any sense, nothing bad happened today, he’d only been out this late because of work.

            ‘You spend all our money and you can’t even look at me!’ She swings the door until it’s back to just a crack in the wall, one eye looking through but it is now just a blur of her mother. Her figure leans over and it is followed by the crash of the plastic stool, the familiar sound of it being knocked down and Mae realises she’s thrown it at him. ‘You should have stayed out! Don’t come back next time.’

            That was the end of it, her mother storming towards the hall where Mae was hiding in the bedroom. She must have seen the door was a little open because the door slams shut, the doorknob hitting Mae near the eye and it took all of her to not cry out, whimpering in the pain.

            ‘I miss dad.’ Katherine says from the bed, her headphones now off. ‘When will he be home?’


The ship creaks, as she rocks gently from side to side. The scent of sea air is familiar but never fails to feel refreshing on the lungs as it whisks away the smell of dead fish. Kreol is hunched over the steering wheel, surveying the still waters. It’s too quiet, with not a single bird flying over or fish near the surface despite it being close to known heavily populated waters during migrating season. The sun is high above, obscuring a part of his view.

            A school of orange faintly appears on the left, a large body of god knows what swim under the ship at blinding speed and it knocks the ship with its weight. ‘Piranials!’ He shouts and the crew bursts from under, flooding the deck in their rags and spears, gunners rolling the canons into positions.

            ‘Captain, we can’t-’ A scream tears through the Quartermaster’s words, both of them spinning towards the sound as a piranial jumps out from the ocean, their mouths full of four rows of sharp teeth sinking into the side of their head. The ungodly three-eyed fish shrieks but doesn’t let go of the man who is trying to tear it from his flesh. Kreol covers his ears and the sound signals a whole hoard to jump from the ocean’s surface, the vicious display of teeth grabbing onto the rest of the man’s body, tearing at him until one side was a mess of blood and mangled organs.

            ‘It’s over.’ Kreol whispers, drawing his sword as a piranial from the dead body spots him, its blood-red eyes glow in daylight. The fish shrieks and he watches as the ship is surrounded on both sides. The predators biting into the ship and his men, their screams drowning out the sound of his own heart dying.

Sharon Cabasag is a young adult that mostly stays at home unless she is invited to go hang out with friends. She has only had enough time to read comics instead of novels because of university, although, she has taken to gaming late at night for some much needed isolation.

EPIPHANY, Jo Crocker

She is stitched to her destiny with golden thread, needles stabbed through her fingertips to tug her along. In a cottage choked by ivy and honeysuckle, she is clothed in pale pink and dark brown, sickening fairy floss and sturdy trees. She dreams in false memories: a mother and a father, a queen and a king, a cradle soft and safe, a spell ghostly and green.

She holds a candle close to her finger so she can see the shadow of the bone. She worries her skin will melt like spun sugar sucked into nothingness. She worries she will fall into the strange dreams and be stuck as a baby, shrouded in embroidered silk and the sharp curse of a disregarded witch.

 She learns how to stifle her waking scream. She treks into the woods to scream. She climbs trees. She falls out of trees. She learns to tie her shoes. She grows out of her shoes. She bakes cakes. She burns cakes. She learns to sew clothes. She grows out of her clothes. She rips her clothes. She learns how to mend clothes.

She is strictly supervised by her godmothers when she has a needle in her hand, fingers tightly wound with tape, jammed with thimbles. They perch next to her or hover in front of her, wringing their hands as if they’re struggling to stop themselves from reaching out and snatching the fabric and needle and thread away. She is not allowed to hold the knives when she helps them cook, instead measuring out shards of sugar and messy clouds of flour with smooth wooden spoons, tipping careful quantities into glass bowls and thick-bottomed pans, stirring and sifting and staring out the window at the forest.

She decides that her skin must be made of paper, although she has been out in the rain many times and she has not yet dissolved. If she were to be nicked or stabbed or sliced, the wound would not heal, and her own heart would pump her determinedly into death.

She walks through the woods, grass wet beneath her feet, leaves whirring overhead like shimmering beetle wings. Sunlight slides through the gaps in the branches like drops of honey. She is searching for something freshly mythical, like always. She’s so used to seeing the magical in the mundane that it’s lost its charm. She wants wonder again, and so she worms her way out of chores and worry, sprints through the trees, picks bright handfuls of wildflowers to display in a vase or press dry or twist into a crown.

Their saturated stems snarl around her fingers as she stumbles steadily deeper. The trees grow closer together here, tangled around each other, making her feel like an ant trotting through a maze of grass. The green grows deeper, dimmer, darker. Her body absorbs the shadowy shade, eyes adjusting, shivers stopping.

There is a crack of golden light in the distance. Her eyes spill open. The trees block her path, tripping her on their roots and bumping her to the ground with their trembling trunks. She makes a game of it, laughing as she dives and delves through the army of green and brown. The rough texture scrapes threateningly at her skin and she stops her laughter, pulling out of the claw-like clutches and struggling into a mad dash towards the flourish of phosphorescence. She squeezes through the splintering branches and finds herself in a clearing. The space is awash with the movement of spiralling colour, grass gleaming with remnants of dew, flickering butterflies, glinting beetles, swaying flowers.

A boy stands in sharp relief against the softness. He is perfectly still, staring at her. He looks too human for such a pretty place, except for the staggering sunlight making his skin glow gold and his hair gleam white-hot, like a melting candle.

‘Hello,’ she says. ‘Are you the magic?’

‘I am the monster,’ he says proudly.

‘You don’t look much like a monster,’ she says, chin high, as if she’s seen many monsters to compare him to.

He bares his teeth and she recoils, but then steps towards him, dropping her flowers to grab his chin to stare at them.

‘Wow,’ she says, because his teeth are monstrous. There are too many of them. They stick out at strange angles, sharp grey triangles, jagged slices of shattered slate shoved into his gums. She pokes the flat edge of one. He snaps at her finger, shrieking with laughter at her gasp of fear. She hits him once, misses twice, falls over her own laughter and ends up lying on the grass.

He flops down beside her.

‘If you bit me, I would die,’ she tells him, sitting up to face him.

‘No, you wouldn’t. I would save you. I would bandage you up.’

‘It wouldn’t work. If I bleed, I die.’ She says it with affected casualness.


‘My skin is made of paper.’

He pokes her.

‘No it’s not. Your skin is made of skin. Same as mine.’ He places a finger under her wrist to guide her hand into the air, pressing his palm against hers once she holds the position. His hand is warm, browned by the sun and radiating the absorbed heat. He curves the tops of his fingers over hers.

‘How did you become a monster?’ she asks. He drops his hand away from hers, busies himself with gathering up her scattered flowers, sorting them into piles of colour: daisies like folded paper, poppies like frozen fire, hyacinths like small blue stars, pale pink wild roses like blood that’s too set in to be properly washed out.

‘I was cursed.’


‘I stole an apple.’


‘I was hungry.’

‘And then what?’

‘And then I got caught and cursed and cast out. And now I live all alone, on the outskirts of the woods.’

‘Me too. I’m alone. I have my godmothers, but they’re more like birds than people, sometimes. They make noises for the sake of making noise. They’re colourful for the sake of being colourful.’

He laughs. ‘Maybe your paper skin is a curse as well. Maybe we match.’

His fingers nimbly knot the flowers into a crown. He sets it on her head. He smiles with all his teeth. Her hand still hangs in the air, wilting like a plucked flower. There is a storm gathering overhead, rustling thick grey skirts. She should go home. Her heart expands at the thought, pounding with fresh pain like new petals.

He presses the remaining flowers into her suspended hand and her fingers automatically curl around them. His skin brushes against hers. It burns, like touching a section snipped off the sun.

They sit in steady silence as she blows on her scorched fingers and begins making another looping crown. Hers is neater than his, but the precise pattern makes it less pretty. Two poppies droop down over her forehead, partially obscuring her vision with bright splashes of red. She closes the circle. He is lying on his back, eyes swallowing the colour from the sky. She nudges him to sit up. She sets the crown on his head.

‘We match,’ she tells him. He smiles with all his teeth. She bares her own in return, resenting their bright whiteness, their sleek neatness.

The sky tips over. The rain is warm at first, a soft summer shower, the sunlight peeking through the clouds to make it shimmer silver-gold.

‘Maybe this will be the time I dissolve,’ she says, swiping her damp hair out of her face.

He laughs, the sound made brighter by the downpour muffling the creaking forest. He tilts his head back to drink the droplets.

She reaches out again to hold his mouth open, examining the ragged roughness, the serrated edges leading up to precise points.

She presses her thumb against the point of his tooth. A slice of red pain blooms. Her hand shakes as she raises it up to examine it. The rain floods over the wound.

She falls, racing her spilling blood to hit the glossy ground.


It’s still raining when she wakes up. She is lying on her back. He is holding her hand, tongue poking out as he ties a bow in the bandage he’s wrapped around her finger.

‘Told you I’d save you,’ he says. The rain rushes down his face, dripping onto her hand. The flower crown is tangled with her hair, plastered across her face. Her pink dress is drenched to dark purple. ‘You were right, as well. You died a little death,’ he grins. ‘You’re alright now. I kissed it better. My mother always used to, when I would trip and fall.’

‘Where’s your mother now?’

‘She cast me out. I was always too difficult. It doesn’t matter. I am a monster. I don’t need anyone.’

‘I don’t think you’re a monster,’ she says. He finishes the bow with a flourish and she hastily tangles their fingers together, worried she’ll melt away into the mud if she doesn’t have something to cling to.

‘I’m not going anywhere,’ he says.

The sinking sun spins the rain into sparks of orange and purple, the writhing forest into grey browns and greens like a freshly watered garden bed.

‘I am,’ she says, regret taking root in her chest, tugging in two opposing ways — she needs to go home before her godmothers flurry up into worry; she doesn’t want to leave him, she wants to stay in this secluded sanctuary till the sun stops setting entirely, and the earth crumbles to moonlight beneath her.

‘Where are you going?’ he asks.

‘Home,’ she says, and an idea worms its way out of her head, cleverly burrowing down to her chest to twist her appeal towards it. ‘Would you like to come with me?’

The freshly spun stars sprinkle down, competing with and complementing the rain. The light shatters in silver sparks against his teeth as he smiles.

Her own lips curve in return, golden thread hooked through the corners of her mouth and tugged up towards the sky.

Jo Crocker lives by the sea with her pet rats, fish and a border collie. When she’s not scribbling ideas in notebooks or weaving those ideas into stories, she enjoys reading fantasy and horror and playing violin. Her short story ‘Epiphany’ has been long-listed for the Future Leaders Writers Prize.