There is a creature caged in my ribs.

It carves curses into prison bars of bone

for every instance there appears a nuisance: a taste

too poisonous for its deadly diet, or even a dish much-loved could

send it spewing! This volatile varmint

demands a volcanic outlet, and I cannot let it

shame and shape me again into no man’s island!

Oh please, let me be heeded:

don’t beg and grovel! Else, bed and shovel will be needed.

I know it is unsightly to be seen harbouring such a monster,

and they will tell me so, always. When I hear this thing has port-docked,

I must run and hide behind the door,

raise the anchor high to beat the creature down— Just kill it

choke it quickly quietly come now

sit encircled by waters still and silent,  

unwilling to welcome my waves upon their peninsulas pristine.

Peace and quiet falls and stifles

troubles trivial.

My plate tectonic

shifts beneath others and buckles under the weight, unstable.

Peas with dinner.

Not my favourite. Metal claws squash through soft flesh to

clink-clatter-TWANG upon crockery

scraaaaaaape against my ears with laughter, filthy canines chewing in their loudmouths.


Vibrations ripple the beast’s blood flooding the floor

of my artery chambers—oh lord, it lives still! Be still!


It roars inside and mauls my ears, building walls with brick-red blood, cell by cell

beating furiously against the pressure—

‘don’t ignore me!

With those words it crawls it wrathful way up and out of my mouth and


The parasite speaks over me, vaulting over my tongue:

‘here’s what you wanted!’

Little pearls floored by my fists

green bloodied fingernails, lava spewed across the table

talons rake the earth and stoneware

acid rainfalls lining grooves in my cheeks

ashen casts of faces caught in the pyroclastic surge.

Guttural glue hot garroting and burning me inside out,

the steam blinds me as I scream.

The judges’ gavel falls faster than my fists

upon the plate CRACK, cutting edge judgement follows:

I am too much for anyone to bear beyond myself.

Do so now, send the dog back out, quietly, quickly, go to your room,


And so this creature’s wails become whines become whimpers wept shamefully pleading

‘hold me’.

These are childish reactions in their infant-sized enormity—

but my claws comply with contempt

compression upon my skull. Oh, thought, your absence is noted

only when you return!

When did you desert us?

Or, did I, you?

No, do not retract these talons now

that the moon is high and fully frames them as mine. Its light what glistens upon my gashes

spotlights the source for me to reciprocate

my suffering upon it. Suffocate it

quickly, quietly. To me acquiesce and listen

for once

when I say they never will for us in this tantrum state.

A flood of guilty and ugly conscience rises—

with every hatchet buried in my chest,

I unearth another.

Giorgia Woolley is an autistic poet and writer who can find a song to suit every possible occasion. She spends her time writing experimental poetry pieces exploring things that are important to her: the preservation of information, neurodivergency, her emotions, and people being kind to each other.



I think that the world was born from terror.

She wore a seraphic smile to please the gaze of others.

She found her many faces in the lakes, the oceans, the streams,

that caress her supple skin.

The same way that I find myself,

not in the mirror across from me – that figure is


Devoid of life.

Not in the mirror across from me,

but the crescent moons

etched into my palms.

And so, we are the same – the world & I.

A vengeful vulture.

Far below us, night envelopes the lands.


Pale blue filmy eyes carefully unravelling

Fractured curious souls.

A startling silence settles the void,

as the people await first broken light.

MARCH 2003

I) I think that I was born from terror.

A distant child who did not dare cry or yowl.

I often questioned myself why I was so afraid,

to speak. To be heard.

‘Melt my scorched flesh.

And bury me beneath your skin.’

I begged.

Only then will I be whisked away into the smoke-adorned clouds to

witness the Mirages: familiar gifts.

And I wail for I know my prayers will go unanswered.

II) A solitary life was death to some.

To me it was a boon. A blessing.

Beginning and end. That is our sole purpose.

We are a cycle.

Of seasons – green, grey, pale yellow and burnt amber.

We are a cycle.

Of memories – tainted with the soft colours of a child’s kaleidoscopic mind.

Are we also, perhaps,

a cycle

of tortured nostalgia and

self-inflicted wounds?

And so, one day I will disappear, but for now I lay in the earth’s palms –

and for just one moment she and I are infinite.

Untouched and Whole.

‘Oh, silent little lamb,’ she says to me,

‘How I pray that fear never consumes you in

the same manner which Saturn once devoured his sons.’

‘The same manner in which

I must soon devour you.’

And she wails for she knows her prayers will go unanswered.


We are people made up of words.

Written, unspoken, fleeting words.

We are monsters made of half-told lies

and impending nightmares.

We love and we ruin.

We hate and we create.

We are everywhere all at once,

devouring, inhaling, perceiving

and yet,

We are all so utterly alone.


this is what makes us such awful arrogant creatures

who consume what is not meant to be ingested

and bestow what is not ours to grant.

We all have such an insatiable hunger to be known.

To be desired.

To be remembered.

Yet, we choose to devour.

Hungry beasts litter the street floors

as we speak.


But I am now free.

My mind no longer


by the limitations of my body.

My soul has been captured and locked away by

the village people.

And as the ardent fire licks away salty tears,

the crescent moon, he witnesses such

naive and hollow Man: a familiar sight.

Man comes together to watch the flames lick at the wretched beast’s heels.

And my heart – bloody and pure; yearns for another chance.

One final chance, not for myself, but for her.

I am no longer a silent child – a shepherd’s little lamb.

And I will find myself grappling with my purgatory state.

Narcotic murmurs threaten to spill from my petal lips

unto the waves of heat and humiliation.

Shouts of fury and rage.




Once more


Am I truly her child?

Or simply:

A bird of prey.

Jannavi Rao is a dedicated writer with a hunger for romantic fiction and gothic suburbia. Her writings are an exploration of nostalgia infused with a brief yearning to understand the complexities of life. Her piece “Colours of the World” was shortlisted in the Whitlam Institute’s “What Matters Now?” writing competition in 2020.


Blushed, scorched and puckered.

You’re a long shower kind of girl.

You love to purge;

To shuck and to be shucked.

Bloat your membrane like a sponge,

Swollen as the dregs of being trickle


Soap, brine and blade.

I always knew you were meek.

Cluster by cluster, scraping

Barnacles; little eyes,

They cling and make you dirty;

A bioaccumulation.

Disfigured, dilated and inauthentic.

You’re wasteful—tasteless as the sand.

A lamprey latched to an earthen visage;

She spins to loosen limpets;  

Polyps on her mottled rind.

At least you get to shower,

Consume, deprive and devour.

You’re late for girls’ night, hurry!

Or stay until your skin peels.

Emerge anew—hairless

Immaculate; inhuman delicacy,

Poreless in the midnight air.

Saliva, barbs and pearls.

For once, impress me;

This is a bathroom not an exoskeleton.

Let your fingers prune:


To lick and scourge the parched soil

With the fatal crack of your footsteps—  

Forget yourself.

Elegant, torrential spectacle.

Hermit crabs are social creatures;

Make it scold enough you have to leave.

Your hydrothermal vent,

Withdraw when you are crimsoned,

Tender— a crustacean kind of girl.

Exquisite, soft and terrifying.

You look hot.

Ready to be dredged up?

Ogled at and sun-bleached

Simmering in the throe,

A strobing sea; disempowerment;

You are a vision in the open ocean.

Bodies, bodies, bodies.

This is getting embarrassing.

The porcelain has calcified and fused—

It carries you on its back

This shell is too lofty to lug around;

Gouge it off.

Get out, get out, get out.

Tonight you are a fucking Kaiju,

Cthulhu from the depths of Darling Harbour.

A kraken shirks a husk and spreads

Warp yourself and tower.


It’s shameful, but

This is the kind of beast you have to be

To be seen.

Amy Condren is an emerging writer studying Law and Arts Majoring in Creative Writing at Macquarie University. She loves experimenting with fantasy, gothic and surrealist fiction, but enjoys poetry most of all. This is her first published work, and it was Highly Commended for the Future Leaders Writers Prize. 

IT’S HEATING UP, Timothy Smith

Here is the street approaching twelve. High noon. The sun, encroaching upon the centre of the spring-slanted sky, casts a scathing glare. Its fierce eye scans the streets and skims the strutted homes. Finally, it fixes to the road. The shade trees withdraw their shade. The asphalt blisters beneath the sun.

Along this way, the street arrays its line of low-hedged lawns. The trees file some rough flanks. The silver gums stand guard against the heat, and the homes, for their part, lie flat, fat and defeated.

Of course, there are powerlines that sag and swing sadly in the windless air. There are the tidal sounds of car engines. The distant drone of planes. The mad shriek of a butcherbird bursts across the trees. And then the street bites down on its tongue. The bird cries die in the air. The day goes dead quiet.

On some other morning, you might have heard shouting from the playground; or the trembling crack of screen doors slamming shut; or the sound of a muffled domestic, moaning from the strutted awns across the road, but not now. Not with this noon closing in. There’s no sound at all save for the pale sedan making its slow way past your lawn.

You know this street. You have watched its businesswomen pass barefooted in the blue shade at dawn. You have seen its schoolchildren racing bikes in blurs of bright tees and blown-out thongs. You have glimpsed its husbands spending the small hours of the night in garden sheds by the light of furtive lamps. And you have caught your fellow layabouts pacing in the flat heat—the freaks, the shut-ins and the jawless retirees.

You sit before the shades and watch the traffic of that single sedan flash beneath the sun. You see turf grass standing in the stilled air. You listen for the rattle of your window frames.

Meteorologically speaking, very little has changed. The barometer hasn’t tricked or whirred. No pressure system’s shifted. And the temperature is exactly where you might expect it to be at this time of year. A gentle breeze briefly stirs your neighbour’s wind-chimes—your neighbour is one of those people who keeps wind-chimes—and today, perhaps to your surprise, its percussion carries past the walls, through the dining room and down towards the knot of your entrails.

Stop. Shake your head. Wash your hands with the scalding water and the scouring pad.

Perhaps, if you were closer with your neighbours, if you had made the effort to move past the awkward exchange of an odd or incidental remark. If you had acted on the letters for their town halls or accepted the invitations to their insulating social groups that gripe incessantly of plane routes and roving teens, then you might already know.

But you’ve seen Miss Doris Palmer. She’s the sad, crane-necked woman—the one you like to watch potter through the flat brick home behind your own. She caught something lurking in the shade of her eaves last night.

And then, there are the kids across the road, whom you’ve spotted spinning cartwheels through the grass at dusk. They claim they saw something crawling up to the peak of their neighbour’s gables last week.

Missing dog posters fight for the space of local streetlights. A pale sedan makes slow circles of suburban roads. The instances of dead air calls have experienced an unprecedented surge in both frequency and respiratory intensity. And there always seems to be someone swinging by the locksmiths now, hoping to replace a set of supposedly mislaid keys.

The floor joists crack their tenons. The air in here is dense. Brittle. The strain of shifting struts is becoming too much to sustain.

In the meantime, I must admit that I have been waiting for that moment when you note the soundless swing upon the door hinges. How I wish to see you searching for your missing keys, or scouring the garden for your hose, or gazing at the emptied slot for the carving knife in the block atop the counter.

You must admit that the life you are leading has begun to stagnate. For long stretches of daylight we find ourselves alone. The dust motes gather on the floor. The cloying must mutes the air. 

Sometimes, you flick through the vacancy advertisements. You check your emails. You consider the beginnings of a hopeless CV. But the day is always oncoming. There are meals to be made, and there are all your regrets to be reconceived.

So take this time to comfort yourself in the hard-won knowledge of your objects. Sink your teeth into the lounge. Taste the pleather, the blend of foam, the pleasure of the rusted springs, and the stale perfume of the dead mutt. 

Is this enough? Think about it. For just how long have you been stuck here grieving in the dark? Observe the slanted light. Its oblique angles. The way its leading lines your floor. No, you’ll need much more. Take to the blinds. Draw up the cords. Watch the daylight’s yellow gleam drip in.

Briefly then, I must confront your features. The creased composition of your skin. Its matted finish. And there’s that desperate, pressworked grimace…

Listen, let us return to the room. Enjoy its light and the vast array of items it reveals. We can begin with these punctures in your canvas prints. Then linger over the knife-gashed leather stretched across your lounge. Perhaps you should take up the hard weft of the rug and press its wet boot stain to your cheek. Delight in the soiled fibres of the carpet at your feet. Brush the newly lacerated surface of the desk. Stroke the dilapidated seat back of your chair. Prize the sideboard with the upended drawers, and then proceed to marvel at the matching dining table. Yes, it suits your buffet splendidly. Look at the wood grain, the colour, the accent lolling on its flank. 

Perhaps you reunited them. They make for an exalted coupling upon the carpet there. Except now you notice a slight variation. There is the smallest alteration to their tint, a subtle visual incongruity that hints at two pasts, separate and distinct. Their unknown circumstantiation spreads out beyond your scope. And so you move towards your curtain rails in the hopes of spurring some collation.

The floorboards protest. Your steps begin to slow. I feel you press in beside me with your palms. I hear the curtain tracks drawing back their folds. And all of it stops. You drop the curtain before the sun can alight on the sideboard. You withdraw before your sight can affix me my shape. You leave the far side of the ruined room cloaked. You leave my curtain rail half-coiled.

And it takes everything within me to not stamp my feet and curse and repeat mad cursing your name and screaming, ‘Look at me! Look at me! What do you see? For I have been dropped into a world of unnamed beasts, all blind-eyed, all snapping their jaws like some family of flesh-blooded moles!’

Perhaps even that would be useless. Your attention returns to the road and rises towards the vertex of the sky. Soon, its eye will reach for the meridian. And still, there is time. The monad parses the street at its own implacable pace. And I will wait here with you for as long as it takes, stuck behind the hardened curb and its slack-jawed mail slot, safe in the knowledge that something must take shape.

Timothy Smith is a writer and artist living on unceded Yagara and Turrbal lands. He writes pleasant, straightforward fiction. His work has been highly commended for the 2022 Future Leaders Prize.


Walking the track home in the afternoon, Mick’s skinny shoulders ached under the weight of his school bag. His Volleys kicked up the dirt into a smoky dust as he made his way down the steep creek bed. It used to be full, but three years into a drought there was nothing left but a putrid puddle of muddy water and white-clean animal bones. At the other side of the creek, he stopped for a moment, a flash of fur in the trees ahead. But he shook his head and kept on walking, stewing over the day at school he had just had. 

His maths teacher was ready to give up on him altogether. It didn’t help that his classmates encouraged his defiance, fueling his desire to gain attention. Despite this Mick was lonely and didn’t have any close friends. The other students were far more concerned with themselves than with how the class clown got on outside of the classroom. 

Mick, however, was not self-aware enough to consider what motivated his behaviour. His only concern at that present moment was with his current conundrum. How was he going to explain to his parents that yet again, he had to skip bringing the cows in because of serving another after school detention. He had earnt this most recent detention fighting some of the bigger boys of grade eleven. Even now as he walked, the bruises on his arms had smarted and turned blue. Being in the meat of high school years, as a year nine student, sucked. 


His right cheek slammed into the ground as the rest of his body made impact with the cracked dusty clay. Great, now a black eye to go with the bruises. Must have tripped on my bloody laces.

He grit his teeth and lifted his head up from the ground as another pair of eyes met his.

Quizzical and deeply black, the beast tilts his head. His gaze moves from Mick’s messy hair to the blood dribbling from the cut on his bottom lip. It reaches out a paw towards the boy but Mick draws back and rapidly shuffles to his feet. The beast draws back in response, almost curling itself into a ball, never taking his eyes off his adversary.

‘What the heck is that?!’ Mick cried out, wiping the blood off his mouth with the back of his hand. He watched in curious horror as the creature stood on its hind legs and stretched as if it had just woken from a quick afternoon snooze. Probably no more than four feet high, the beast’s black-green mass of fur was broken up by thick orange stripes that stretched across its wide belly. 

‘I’m a Bunyip, you nitwit.’

Mick stifled a shriek.

The bunyip cackled like a kookaburra.

What did Bunyips eat? Mick wasn’t sure. Only moments before Bunyips were simply a mythical legend, not a smelly, hairy reality that stood and spoke before him. Mick scrunched his nose at the wet-dog odour that emanated from the creature’s body. 

‘You don’t smell particularly nice yourself,’ the Bunyip gruffly replied to Mick’s disgust. 

‘Wh- what are you doing here?’ Mick asked, clenching his fists till they were white.

‘I live here.’ 


The Bunyip grinned slyly, letting the left corner of his mouth open enough for a thin sharp tooth to appear.

‘You don’t really know much about us, do you?.’

‘You live in billabongs?.’

‘Ha! Used to. Hasn’t rained in three summers.’

‘I know.’

‘No you don’t! Your house stays whether it rains or shines. My house always needs to be wet.’

Mick shuffled his shoes in the dirt underneath him. It has been a long three years. Mick couldn’t remember what rain even smelt like. 

‘You can help me get my home back though.’

Mick’s eyes widened as he raised his eyebrows.

 ‘A Bunyip only appears when a visitor to their billabong is deeply troubled and needs their help . . .’

‘I’m not troubled! I don’t need you!’ Mick protested.

The bunyip glared back at the boy.

‘But if I help you then the rain might come.’

‘Huh, right, the rain might come’ Mick taunted the Bunyip.

The Bunyip’s eyes gleamed, ‘You’ll see.’

‘I’m late getting back home.’

He walked past the Bunyip. I must be dreaming. But he could’ve sworn he heard the beast say to his back ‘see you tomorrow!’. However, he quickly forgot all about the Bunyip when he got home. His parents were so furious and exhausted that they didn’t say a word at all through dinner. Mick wasn’t going to get out of this one easy. 


The final lesson of the day was again, maths. Outside the classroom the wind spewed across the empty playground little rocks that pinged off the classroom windows. Mick hoped this was a greater sign that finally there was a rain storm coming. But the sky was still clear. 


A scrunched piece of paper bounced off the side of Mick’s forehead. The sounds of classroom chatter, scratching pens and fingers tapping on desks surrounded him once again. He looked up, meeting his teacher’s glowering stare. His teacher must have asked one of the boys to get his attention. He sighed with despair and continued with the lesson, turning back to the equation on the whiteboard.

Mick’s classmates giggled, especially the two larger boys sitting in the back row behind him, Jack and Andy. 

Mick hadn’t slept well that night and had no energy left to be his usual attention seeking self. It was then that he noticed a familiar coloured fur poking out from the top drawer in the teacher’s desk.

How did it get in here?.

Mick felt the hairs on the back of his head start to rise as the drawer began to rattle.

Whap! Another scrunched up piece of paper bounces off Mick’s head. His teacher pushed his glasses up his nose, shaking his head again. The giggles from his classmates were getting louder. Jack gestured to Andy next to him and then back to Mick. But Mick hadn’t noticed, as he was madly scribbling in his book, glancing up at every moment he could to check on the drawer. 

‘Hey Bluey!’ Jack called out. The class was quiet, the teacher seemingly preoccupied with the solution to the equation on the board. Mick instinctively touched his red hair. He hated that nickname. 

He didn’t respond, which only riled up Jack even more. 

‘You know, the year eleven guys are going to find ya after school today?.’ Most of the class had put down their pens to watch. ‘What are ya going to do about it?.’

Mick, to his detriment, hadn’t heard a word. His eyes were widening in fright as he fixated on the drawer that was now opening gradually, like in slow-motion.

A sweaty hand grabbed Mick’s shoulder, making him jump out of his skin and look up into Jack’s face. 

‘You know if you’re worried, I can give you some practice’ Jack offered menacingly.

‘Practice for wha-.’

A couple of the girls screamed whilst the rest of the class gasped. Mick turned back to look at the front of the class in horror as the Bunyip stood upon the top of the teacher’s desk, arms folded, glaring at the class. This is also when he noticed that the teacher’s arm that was lifted to write up on the board was stiff and unmoving. 

‘Sir!’ someone cried out.

The teacher didn’t respond. He was frozen in time, like a statue – his back to the class and his face to the board.

‘He can’t hear you,’ the bunyip responded, matter-of-factly ‘but don’t worry it’s only temporary.’

Students were now slowly climbing out of their seats and making their way to the back of the classroom. Jack remained with his hand gripping Mick’s shoulder tightly.

‘So, your name is Bluey . . .’

‘Get off me,’ Mick snapped out of his seat, slapping Jack’s hand off his shoulder and turned to yell at the Bunyip ‘don’t call me that!.’

‘Seems like you do need some help’ the Bunyip sniggered, Mick fuming.

‘What the hell is going on?’ Jack finally managed to spit out of his quivering mouth. 

The Bunyip grinned before he replied ‘It’s time I got my billabong back.’

‘Your what?.’

The Bunyip leapt off the desk and walked towards the two boys. His wide feet thumped against the thin worn carpet, his nails like cat claws scraping the occasional tuft out from underneath.

‘You,’ he pointed to Jack and then to Andy ‘are going to leave Bluey alone.’

Mick’s jaw dropped.

‘And you all can’t just sit back and laugh and think you have no part of it’ the Bunyip then waved his paw at the rest of the class as some of the other students clutched each other closer.

‘Or what?!’ Andy squeaked from behind Jack.

The Bunyip bared his teeth in a menacing grin and let out a guttural growl that shook the tables, chairs and windows.

‘Cheers Bunyip’ Mick thanked the beast, grinning at the rest of his classmates cowering in fear.

‘Don’t mention it, literally’ the Bunyip replied then disappeared outside through an open window.

The class scrambled from one end of the classroom to another, but the Bunyip had, for lack of better words, vanished into thin air. No trace of any of the bright orange stripes and shiny black fur in any of the trees out-skirting the playground.

‘What are you all doing out of your seats?.’

The entire class whipped their heads around in unison as their teacher stood with hands on his hips, completely oblivious to what had just happened.

‘Nothing sir’ Mick, Jack and Andy half-shouted back in reply.

The teacher took a step towards the windows to investigate and at the very same moment the first break of thunder rattled the small town. Now everyone was squealing, glueing their faces to the glass and hanging their heads out the window at the grey-green sky. As the thunder began to roll like a big drum the teacher gave up and shouted, ‘let’s go!’ to his class, as chairs and tables tumbled out of the way of the stampeding students. 

The rest of the school was emptying into the playground, students and teachers alike holding out their hands under the now black sky. In all the chaos, Mick hadn’t noticed the year eleven boys raising their heads above the crowd to search for him.

‘There he is!’ one of them shouted.

Mick looked from side to side, arms outstretched, searching for an escape.

‘You want to go for round two, Bluey?.’

Just as Mick clenched his fists at his sides, ready to defend himself, lightning flashed across the horizon. Its electric white lit up against the sky as the school cheered and the first, big, fat drops of precious water slapped the dust on the ground at their feet.

Mick braced himself to face the others but when he looked back down they were gone. He glanced around in panic as the year eleven boys instead were embracing each other and dancing along in celebration with everyone else. It was as if they had completely forgotten about him. The hairs on the back of Mick’s neck began to raise as he turned and watched the Bunyip scurry back into the bush from the playground on all fours. The Bunyip turned, giving him a final look and a wink before disappearing again for good. 

‘Thanks again’ the boy shouted back at the Bunyip, not even sure that it could hear him over the joyous raucous. Students began to grab handfuls of mud from the ground and slap it onto each other’s backs. Mick felt the mud’s cool wetness against his own as he turned to meet Jack and Andy’s grins. 

‘Pretty weird pet you’ve got mate’ Jack said.

‘What did you call it again? A bunyip?’ Andy asked.

Mick grinned at the two, putting his hands on either one’s shoulders and said, ‘Let me tell you a story . . .’

Sue-Ella Bailey is currently a third year student studying a Bachelor of Arts with Secondary Education. She’s passionate about nurturing the storytellers of the future and giving teens a voice through their writing. Drawn to Australian historical fiction, you’ll mostly find her on a beach, writing a story at sunrise.

ESCA LIGHTS, Lwin Hingston

She had noticed it when she was just a child; the breathing. She had seen the way the walls in her house warped and bent with every inhale-exhale, just minute little movements no different than a house’s settling floorboards. But it was there, and it was eating. She watched them grate on each other day after day. It slid into routine as seamlessly as dinner or school.   

Her parents were snide and prickly with each other. It was like they had run out of patience finally, snapping at the slightest annoyance or huffing out of the room. Drawers were slammed, tables were thumped, books were thrown. 

The house wheezed after every meal, shuttering the windowpanes and adjusting its pillars. The plumbing bubbled like it was bloated. 

She remembered sitting on the floor in the living room, the carpet sluggishly pulsing under her while she watched the television, the documentary’s narrator spoke just over the slamming drawers in the other room. She watched, eyes bright with the screen’s light, as she was plunged deep under the sea and left to face whatever would come from the darkness. The screen flashed with words she didn’t know. The narrator scolded her for being distracted. ‘Evolution’, ‘Predator’, ‘Lure’, ‘Illicium Rod’, ‘Esca Light’.

Then it came out of the darkness, a little light in the deep dark. What followed were teeth. She saw that ugly angler fish, with its teeth as sharp as fences, mouth as agape as a corridor. Its scales looked slimy as wet carpet, and its illicium rod reached from its head like an antenna pole, craning for reception. 

And that dangling light, that esca light, gently swayed ahead like a lone lightbulb in an empty, dark room.


Her parents were fighting again, shrill demands and bellowed accusations echoed through the halls and down the very foundations. They cursed and sneered, threatened violence, threatened divorce. Their shadows cast over the wallpaper, flailing and wriggling like worms on a hook. 

They liked to say that. ‘I’m leaving! I’ve had enough of you!’

But they never left, no one did. The house wasn’t done with them, and they never struggled enough to break the illicium stemming from their napes.

She watched the house eat them through that tube made of mushy, slimy wallpaper and crumbly plasterboard bits. It ate their anger, their passion, their bitter thoughts of ‘all these years wasted’. 

Their anger grew, and with it, the house became greedier. It drooled every day until the bath never fully drained, the hall carpet was always slippery with salivation. 

They screamed and they screamed, around and around in circles over the smallest things.

‘You never answer your phone!’

‘You’re always so moody!’

‘The kitchen is a mess!’

‘Why don’t you listen to me?!’

She listened to these screams, trivial, routine and pick, pick, picking away at her ears until she gritted her teeth every time her parents spoke around her. She grew, and as she did, she stormed through the house, shoving her way through the writhing wallpaper and the groaning floorboards. She saw it more now, the shifting door handles and the lolling uvula of the hallway chandelier. It was like as she grew, as the years went by, the worse the house got – but that wasn’t true. It was just that she understood now.

Her mother screamed, her father rolled his eyes. There were threats, there was a knife. They screamed some more, arms up and out and shouting from deep in their chests until they fizzled out, nothing achieved and exhausted. The house’s plumbing bubbled with a good meal.

She ground her teeth until she felt like they were sharp; once again dismissed with her parents having the last word. She stomped her foot until the floorboards shivered. Her body felt stuffy, muscles wound up tight as she fought not to scream, to calm down – damn it. But she was so angry all the time now, had no patience for anything and everyone was absolutely crawling on every last one of her nerves-

Her phone let out a shrill beep and it was the last straw to break her back. All that tension snapped through her body like a charge and the girl reeled back her arm and punched a hole through the bedroom wall.

Her fist broke the plasterboard and swallowed her up to the shoulder. She heaved and caught herself against the wall, reeling. Drywall and plaster crumbled around her shoulder as she slowly pried her way out, arm covered in dust and scratches and the faintest of refracted white light.
Her parents were going to be pissed. She had made a hole straight into their bedroom. 

She bent and peered through the crack, expecting to see her parents on their feet and up in arms. An empty room peered back at her, bare down to the wooden framing like the constructor hadn’t bothered to do more than scaffold and insulate the room. Dust floated around, following some unseen wind that rocked back and forth, an inhale and exhale, as faint as settling floorboards.

And in the centre, hung a bare bulb, radiating a bright, white light.

It was the esca. The thing that lured. The light in the darkness, always followed by teeth. She felt her stomach bubble with a newly kindled wrath, her ears filled with a dull roar and her hands buzzing. The more she looked at it, was exposed to it, the louder the voices in her parents’ bedrooms became, until every single sound became jackhammers in her head. 

She remembered the shouting over stupid things, over piteous things, over tiny little things that didn’t need hours of screaming- 

She remembered raised hands that were more threats than beatings, just something to scare her, something to get a flinch another fucking powerplay- 

She remembered humiliation and confusion and fear-

She raged and she cursed, fingers gripping her hair and pulling to try and tear out the bubbling rage. Her eye caught the mirror and she froze, her reflection staring back in horror. There was some kind of chord made of what looked like soaked wallpaper and mushy plasterboard. 

An illicium, connected by the nape.  

The house was eating her.

Her hands snapped up and grabbed at the illicium, snagging hair and pinching skin as she clawed and tugged. Every tug burnt her skin and sent lightning through her head, bringing tears to her eyes as she gritted her teeth against it. She tried to hook her nails under the seal and tore until her nail popped. She stumbled across her room, threw apart her drawers and then grabbed a pallet knife from her art kit, prying in desperation, feeling whatever teeth underneath, sharp as picket fences, sink in retaliation. A huge gasp passed her lips as she paused her prying, her shirt covered in sweat and tears staining her cheeks.

God, she didn’t want to do it – why did she have to do it? Maybe she should just let it stay, it couldn’t be that bad. She had lived with it so far, she could handle it more. It wouldn’t kill her at least? If she gave it time, maybe she could find a better way to get rid of it. Or it would fall off on its own! If it hurt so much, maybe it wasn’t meant to be taken out – at least like the way she was going about it. Or maybe this was normal, maybe she was just being a baby about it. So she didn’t need to do anything, she could just leave it there. Chewing at her neck. She didn’t need to tear apart her own neck to get it out…Get it out, get it out, get it out – Get out! It was eating her!

She grabbed the scissors from her table and started blindly cutting at the sopping plasterboard illicium. Hair and pieces of wallpaper scrunched all about her floors, getting underfoot and between her toes as she stumbled about, pulling her head forward and snapping the scissor blades.

She heard the sound like a rusty faucet turned on too high, a shrill shriek of plumbing that rattled the whole bathroom. 

The illicium rod lay there on the carpet, oozing some off-colour fluid. 

The house gave a great groan and shifted its weight like a lumbering giant. The doors popped open from warping frames, the wallpaper crawled across the ceilings, and floorboards crossed and flipped. 

From down the hall, she heard voices pick up. The screams hit a crescendo, abrupt and erratic. The hole in her wall glowed bright, light crawled from between the cracks as the house fed again, awake and alert that it had lost one.

The illicium on the floor twitched. Then it began to crawl forward, following the beams of esca light towards her feet.

She jolted with a shock and blindly made a grab for everything she could. Her phone, her computer, a pile of dirty laundry, she shoved it all in a bag as she ran down the stairs. She kept running, passed the warping floorboards, over the salivating rug, and out passed the teeth that lined the frame of the front door threshold.

She ran through the suburb, the night air so cold it stung the inside of her nose. Cool and fresh, she took the lungfuls greedily, finally able to breathe after so long living inside a mouth. 

But the fences just kept going. Rows upon rows of windows and doors, blinking and slamming. Her brain grappled with how many there were, in her town, in her city, in the world. How many of those houses with white-picket fences and manicured lawns had teeth in their thresholds and esca illuminating their window eyes? How many of these houses ate the families inside them?

Her bags barely weighed her down as she fled the glow of esca-lit houses and the screams and gurgles as they fed.


Boxes piled high and the rumble of a moving truck faded off into obscurity. It had been years since she had lived in a house for more than a few months. She never wanted to give it a chance, to let the venom take hold and let it breed into a new house. A new house where children hid in their rooms, and couples gritted their teeth at each other’s presence. A new house with esca lights and wriggling walls. 

Two children pushed their way around her and ran deeper into the barren house with quiet floorboards, loudly claiming bedrooms and asking if they could paint the walls. Her partner called from the living room to tell her the Lego models had broken in the move. 

The house was quiet as she moved through it, rapping her knuckles against the walls. She listened to the hollows and the studs behind the drywall façade. Then she knocked on the wall just between the master and second bedrooms and heard the hollow reverberation, feeling the thin, brittle bow of the plasterboard.  

She knew there was something inside her. That years in the womb of her parents’ monster had left something inside her, injected like a venom, lingering like a parasite. There were times she felt that venom in her blood burn, a wave of familiar anger crawling up her throat and searing at her nape. When the kids would scream so loudly, when her partner just wouldn’t see her way, when everything kept adding up and weighing down. 

And every time she’d climb those stairs all the way up to the door carved into place by her partner. Sometimes she’d have her partner by her side, sometimes by herself. But every time she entered that room, she’d stare down the esca bulb that hung from the bare ceiling, just barely a dim light and trying so hard to take hold and glow. It urged her, to snap, to go back to it, to do as she had seen and corral her household under her thumb and its illicium. To let its venom take hold of her, and spread to her children. Make a new house with teeth. 

She turned the light off and closed the door.

Lwin Hingston found her start writing in fanfiction, and has yet to find her way out, delivering varying quality and flawless self-indulgence across niches of the internet. She is currently studying Primary Education at MQU, with an interest in English and Creative Writing. Her dog, Mephy, is her pride and joy. Long-listed for the Future Leaders Writing Prize 2022.


I wish I knew before

That revealing my pride

Was more than wading

Past dresses and swimwear

I’ve got a slippery grip

On a blood-stained knife

It flirts with gravity

Still angled at the corpse on the floor

I didn’t know of these guards

Protecting the door

Nor of their hollow eyes or claws

Nor of the fight they would cause

My spiking adrenaline aborts

Leaving shivers in my veins

They form a hunting party

From doubt and regret

Pounding in my head

My desire to know

What it’s like to be out—

Side, under the sun subsides

The price: too high

My freedoms: undefined

There is no relief in murder

Inside is safe

Inside doesn’t leave

Bloody footprints

Trailing over the threshold

Inside leaves

No bodies to dispose of


Inside is also a coffin

Cotton shirts that once embraced

Me, now a source of strangulation,

Fabrications force-fed like

They’re evocations of my life

Those lies become

Ten-tonne plates pressed

Against my chest

Sinking to the floor

All I want

Is to float to the surface



I have already served my audience

Meals of diluted truths

To make the light brighter

The change from darkness

More moderated

Less shock shinning back

When I step out—


Their death is a price too expensive

But it’s what you demand

Hoping I can’t pay

Hoping I’ll stay

Exactly where I am


Not telling

Not asking

Swept under the rug

While you pray me away

Praying I’ll go extinct

A species scared to death

Explains all the skeletons in closets


Past mistakes awake

Only fools wield knives into battle

My armoury is stocked

A battle-axe drops and lands

Perfectly weighted in my hand

There is no relief in murder

But it turns slaughter into freedom

And creates comfort from carnage

And in the end

I’m out

Standing under the sun

Quickly crusting blood

Stains my nail beds, but

 A rain shower relieves

Other bloody remnants

And throws a rainbow

Across the sky

Emily Duff is a budding writer from Sydney who finds her inspiration in new experiences and travel. She is a writer of poetry and short stories with a focus on romance and social-political themes. Her poem Killing the Monsters was long-listed for the Macquarie University Future Leaders Prize in 2022.



Anarchistic aphids abound

               aroused and awkward

                             asking artists about

                                           alimony Billions—

              BUT be brave

bustling before busted bulging

broad big brained benevolent

bent broken CARNIVORES.

                                           Cursed cracked creaking

                             Columbian coffee cradlers

               causing commotion censoring

calculated corrupt Devotion.

deMoralised dangling destitute

dew drop drinkers

drip      delivering        dread

down doomed dark Eventides.

Entrenched entitled entities

engorging effervescent excess,


exterminating each exploited Fawn.

Fallacious flawed foundations

forging faithfully flagrant

free falling frightened

fecund fame Generations.

Glutinous grave grabbers grope

groomed gallant glamour gods,

grip grasping genuinely gifted

glory gene Humans.

Harm harbingers harvest

hoodwinked honest heroes;

how hope has housed

hungry haunted Insects.

Insidious internal interests,

imbibe indignant ichor,

immobilise I d e al s,

illuminate Junk.


jeer jagged Judas jewels

juxtaposing justified

jam jacketed Kickbacks.

Kaleidoscopic Kodak Killers

Kidnapping kindness.

Kiss knuckling knowledge.

Knife knocking Life.

Lie loving liars lacerate

lovers like ly-canthropes,

looming lying lunging leeching

lust laden Machinations.

Meagre mould merchants

monopolise meaty monstrous

mechanical melodramas—machining


Nefarious neo-n narcissists

nuzzle nose numbing

nuclear nasal needs

neglecting noxious nauseous Omens.

Oily oxygen orphans ordain

oppressive orange oligarchs,

omitting obscene opinions,

orienting oblivious Patriotism.

Pernicious pallid poltergeists

parade petrified plagued photos,

purporting powerless pitiful people

pacifying painful pertinent Questions.

Quasi quality query quests

quantify quaking-quarrels²

quashing quintessential quiet

quenching quavering quelled Resolutions.

Ruinous riotous ruffians rouse

rough rising raucous reticent;

revivifying recycled,

rust ravaged Sabotage.

Stifle stench scented

slogged salacious smut stacks,

sifting serendipitous—

summer sucking Termites.

Tell the truth

Truth tells

The truth tells the truth

Tell the truth trhtu.

                                           Upholstered Undergrowth ‘Underdogs’

                            1. Unearthed, u-n-s-t-i-t-c-h-e-d, unravelled

                            2. Unfastened, u.n.b.u.t.t.o.n.e.d, unfolded

                            3. ‘un’|domesticated|, ‘unadulterated, ‘unviolated

Vice varnished villains vilify                                                                                    Want.

voiceless vanquished victims                                                                                      Worth.

venerating vulgar vile                                                                                                Wealth.

VOGUE virtue value w—                                                                                           Warfare.

xXxXxXxx xXxxXxxx xXxxxXxX xXxXXxxX

xXxxxXxx xXxxXXXX xXxxXXXx xXxXxXxx

xXxxxXXx xXxxxXxX xXxxxXxX xXxxXXxx

xXxXxxXX xXxxXxxx xXxxxxxX xXxxXXxX xXxxxXxX

xXxXxXxx xXxxXxxx xXxxXXXX xXxXxxXX xXxxxXxX

Yesteryear yolk yielders yanking,

youth yabbering yes yappers yerking,

yawling yardstick yawners yelping,

yammering yuppie zealots zoutching—

Zeitgeist Zoo!

Tell the truth.

Alec James Wright is a Sydney based poet and screenwriter who lives on Darug land. He writes about themes of unity, uprising, modernity, and catharsis, finding inspiration for his work through ekphrasis and connecting with the natural world. In 2022, he was longlisted for the Future Leaders Writing Prize.