Colson says he believes in aliens. I’m not so sure. He says they are crawling around the beach. I don’t believe that, not even for a second, but he says it is obvious aliens are real because when they wear bikinis, they have hair on their tummies and under their arms, and even on their legs, like really gross and stuff

I wonder if Colson knows he has hair on his legs, too?  But I don’t say so because I don’t want to be, like, mean. It’s not much hair but I think it is growing.

In the garden I saw a daddy long-legs and watched it run away. I also saw a tarantula and thought it was a new-born kitten. My mummy says NEVER TOUCH A RED-BACK! But my big sister says her pimples are normal, they’re just hormones, and you can get them not just on your back, but on your face and chest, too. 

My big sister talks a lot about hormones. She says when I grow up into a lady there will be a big hairy beast in my panties. 

My mummy says that her past haunts her in her sleep. All the share houses and unpaid bills. I say but you still share a house with me and Gabby and she says that is not what she’s talking about. She’s talking about fungus and winter and leaking roofs. I tell her that one thing is for sure: a leaking roof would scare me, too, because Santa breaks into all the houses with holes in them. She says HO HO HO! I remind her that Santa has a red back and she shuts right up. 

Santa comes in fourteen days. I’m going to hunt down all the holes in our house and make sure they are sealed real tight. Mummy always says I have to protect my privacy. I don’t know why Mummy doesn’t properly barricade the house if she knows someone dressed as an ugly old man is going to break in.

Colson says his brother is an astronaut and that, apparently, there is a lot of curve appeal in space. He says especially on Uranus and he cracks up laughing like a pig. I tell my big sister about it and she says Colson is a slimy lying insect who wouldn’t even be able to stomach R18+ Blood and Gore. I tell Mummy about Uranus and she says that I must never get caught in a web of lies. Speak straight and speak true. Don’t swim in murky water, muchacha! 

Mummy talks a lot about the good old days, too. She talks about kayaking with the homies and dancing in the dark. She doesn’t even let us do any activities because they cost, like, an arm and a leg! But she says kayaking is different, it’s gliding across the big unknown, muchacha, and your arms burn like they’re on fire. Sounds like hell to me. 

Update on the beast in my panties: it will look less like a beast and more like the face of a cat.

Colson says we should go alien-hunting at the beach. He says he has a laser gun and binoculars that his daddy never uses. So what did he buy them for, anyway? Colson says spiders and stuff

Mummy says that if she kills three husbands she can be a black widow. I ask if she would ever kill me and she says NO! which is a relief. How many have you killed so far? She says none, because deep down, she is soft. Soft! Soft as my elbow.

Mummy says kayaking is cool because you have, like, two extra arms. 

Today at school there was a tarantula in the canteen. Everyone was screaming, but I had already seen one before! The teacher on canteen duty said don’t get too close to it, missy, or else its big fat poisonous hairs will shoot all over you and you will die. I picked the spider up and put it in my lunchbox and made it promise not to eat my sandwich. The teacher snatched my lunchbox from me and threw it against the canteen wall and it exploded. The tarantula crawled right past the teacher in a flash and she screamed so loud that her face caught fire. She needed to calm right down! I swear it just looked like a new-born kitty!

I found a trap-door at the back of the kitchen today after school. I unlocked the hatch real easy and crawled through. I felt like a secret agent. But it just led to the garden. My big sister says that the door was probably a booby-trap in the good old days. Gross! Anybody who traps boobies is a sicko. 

Today Colson says he once saw my mummy and he thinks she has a moustache. I told him that he is a slimy lying insect and his daddy has a moustache so there.

Mummy says that when she was in her youth, she was walking through the desert and tripped over a placenta buried in the sand. She says how dumb it was to bury it in the sand and not in the soil. But I thought that burying it in the sand was smart, so all the creepy crawlies can’t come along and infest it. Mummy says, no, muchacha, if you are in the desert and you have a placenta on hand, you may as well go ahead and eat it.


Yesterday at school we extracted the DNA from a strawberry. It was so gooey! Extract is a new word that I learned. Extract my tooth for the tooth fairy. Extract the secret agent. Extract a hair with the tweezers. 

Santa comes in twelve days. I hope he shaves his beard right off. Santa has short legs and probably couldn’t run away if I chased him with an axe or a laser gun so that is good news. 

Update on the beast in my panties: my big sister says that if anyone tries to knock me about, all I have to do is lift my skirt and BAM! The cat is out of the bag. But I still have a while to go before I am a lady and can use this secret weapon.

Mummy says kayaking is cool because a big rogue wave could come and wash you right out, itsy bitsy spider!

Today in school we had to write an acrostic poem. I chose the word CAT: C for Colson, A for Arachnophobia, T for Trap-door. 

Mummy takes me shopping and lets me buy a bikini. It has frills on the edges. In the changing rooms, she makes sure that my bottom isn’t totally hanging out and tests to see if the straps will fall off my shoulders if a big rogue wave comes crashing on top of me in the ocean. 

Mummy says that this counts as a Christmas present so I can only wear it after Santa gives it to me. But I’m worried he will have to check if my bottom hangs out before he puts it under the tree. I don’t want his big hairy face in my swimsuit. 

My big sister plaits my hair into two big braids. Que guapa! She’s even better at braiding than Mummy. All my friends are so jealous of how tight and neat and sexy my hair is. Other girls have braids but their wispy bits fly everywhere. 

At school today we learned about fangs. In big cats and in poisonous insects and in sharks. Sharks! I told Mummy about it and she said that she kayaked over sharks in her youth.

She also said that she once shared a house with two skinny girls who never paid rent on time. The house haunts her in her sleep. There were cobwebs in every corner and bed bugs in her mattress. And those bugs don’t pay rent, either! When she got enough money she fanged it out of there and rented her own place by herself where she could keep a watchful eye on the cobwebs and brush them off the ceiling with a broom.


Santa comes in four days and all my friends are baking cookies for him. Gross! 


Today my big sister told me something very scary. She said that when I become a lady, I have to pour burning hot wax all over my legs and then plaster strips of paper on top and then rip out all my hair. I said that’s impossible! No way, José. But she said she does it all the time. She made me touch her legs. They were so slimy! But she was very proud of them, and she said that when I am a lady, I will braid my hair all by myself and wear big hoops in my ears, just like her. I asked if I could just wear the hoops now. She said ask Mummy

Colson is dying to go to the beach but I say we have to wait till after Christmas so I can wear my new bikini. I tell him I’m a bit scared that Santa is a pervert. He says Santa isn’t even real. As if I didn’t already know! Everyone knows, but they still send him sugar-daddy letters and everyone puts his chubby face in their houses and everyone sits on his lap in the mall and sooner or later he’s gonna quickly check if my bottom is hanging out from my bikini or else he has to take it off my wish list like mean, chubby God. 

Colson says that he doesn’t care about that, because he knows Santa isn’t real, because nobody he has ever known in his entire life has ever received coal except for the kids with parents who work in the mines

He also says he knows aliens are real, so maybe I should text Santa so he can hurry up already with the delivery. I don’t even have a phone!

I asked my mummy if I can wear hoops with my braids and she said NUH-UH, NOT TODAY, MUCHACHA! I was actually a tiny bit relieved because I don’t even have my ears pierced yet.

Today my friends secretly told me that a female dog is a very bad thing. I said not to worry! Sooner or later we’re all gonna have cats.

I saw a daddy long-legs again and decided to trap it in a jar. 

Mummy says that when she was a little chica there were spider monkeys swinging around her backyard. She says they were lethal and that she had to constantly have a watchful eye like a secret agent. Mummy says she learned karate. Mummy says she learned jiu-jitsu. Mummy says she can swat at anything and kill it instantaneously. Mummy says she lived very far away from the ocean so there was no such thing as kayaking or bikinis or rogue waves. 

I really think she might kill three husbands if she has the chance.

Santa comes in two days and I think we should barricade the house. I beg my mummy to teach me karate in case Santa crawls into my bedroom but she takes me kayaking instead. 

While we paddle across the ocean Mummy talks non-stop about the good old days. She chats about trekking through the desert and fishing scorpions out of her socks and camping in the moonlight. I think about if a shark leaped out of the ocean and started kayaking with us. Probably Mummy would karate-chop its head off because of its fangs. 

Mummy checks to see if my arms are completely burning up! No, Mummy, because why would I even want that to happen, anyway? She says paddle harder, muchacha! So I paddle like my life depends on it. 


Santa came but he didn’t check to see if my bottom was hanging out. He was probably scared that I would swat his red back instantaneously. I wore my bikini for the whole day because I think it really suits me, even though I had to wear my clothes over it because my mummy didn’t want me walking around like some Barbie blonde. Barbie! Blonde! All the blonde girls at school have the thickest and ugliest eyelashes I have ever seen. They are like creepy legs crawling out of their eyes. My big sister says falsies are en vogue, but I don’t even speak French! 

Mummy says my eyelashes are the prettiest because they are natural, que guapa! so I better not go running around gluing them together with that sticky black poison.

I finally went to the beach with Colson. He screamed ALIEN! but when I looked around I didn’t see anything. Then I realised he was pointing at my tummy where there is a trail of brown hair that goes alllll the way from my belly button down into my bikini. I looked up. Colson wasn’t there.

Update on the beast in my panties: people get one peek at its web and fang it!

Bruna Gomes is the author of How to Disappear and Triple Citizenship. In 2022, she was a Writer in Residence at The Museum of Loss and Renewal, Italy, where she ate copious amounts of pastries and saw fireflies for the first time in her life. Bruna was long-listed for the 2022 Future Leaders Prize.

THE FACTORY FLOOR, Harley Kendrick

Francisco Goya
Saturn Devouring His Son

The dim glow of the lighter was the only thing guiding her through the darkness. Her bare feet with their hardened soles tread softly, the thrashing of heavy machinery deafening in the night. Hammers striking hard and fast, one after the other a line of echoes stretch far throughout the factory town, through its walls and out into the wilderness. The only thing that comforted her in their trek was knowing that each step was pushing the echoes further away. But still, she knew they had to be careful.

If the Workers were still firing the machines then that meant no one knew they’d escaped the cage yard yet. The Janitors would stick to the perimeters of the workforce as long as there was no word of an escape. It was only the Hunters, they needed to fear. They could be anywhere, their lanterns cutting through the darkness like a knife to a sheet. Traps were still laden everywhere, with the low light they had to watch their steps. The cold metal floors were scarred with deep reaching gashes, travelling for several metres in length.

Holding the lighter arm’s length ahead of her, Alex led her sister forward. Their cold hands clasped together tightly, interlocked with the intention of never letting go. They trod on gingerly, seeking a safe place to rest. For the moment, their world was the few feet of light in front of them. It’s in the maw of the darkness that you can get lost. But it’s in this darkness that you can also hide from them.

Moving past tall, jagged, columns and large pieces of fabric scattered along the way Alex and her sister came across an old workshop. Like a graveyard of huge anvils and dead furnaces, their hearts long since extinguished. Large pipes wobbled and groaned in great effort to stay together, pinned piece by piece with rusted bolts.

Water fell from the sky, but it wasn’t rain, there was no sky anymore, there was the space between the ground and the ceiling, a ceiling that dripped and leaked. Sometimes pouring gallons of water or only small drops. As though the head of a tap was spinning out of control.

The drips picked up as the metal floor became colder, wetter. Where footsteps soon turned into splashes and the water falling down would make distinct splashes on the floor and a particular thwack against their coats. Rising now to their knees the water kept growing higher as they walked further. They’d come to the edge of a huge lake, and there was no telling how deep or how far it reached into the darkness. Her feet stopped when the hand she was holding stopped moving with her.

‘Alex’ a short whisper reached out. She stopped to turn to her sister. A tired and pleading face was what she was met with. Watching her sister, her gaze cold and tired she nodded in agreement.

‘We’ll turn around. Set up where the floor isn’t flooded. We’ll try and cross tomorrow’ Alex’s eyes softened at the relieved smile of her sister. Taking the lead, they backtracked away from the lake.

Alex knelt down by a large piece of discarded cloth, almost large enough to be the sail of a ship, it must have belonged to a Janitor. Right beside it was a split piece of timber. Tugging the cloth as flat as they could the two picked a side, lifting it up together they squirmed underneath while carefully pulling the timber in after them. Once underneath they stood the timber up to form a makeshift tent.

Alex ignited the lighter. Seeing her sister’s face, she smiled.

Kaylie’s long blonde hair spilled out from her hood, the bright blue eyes stood against the dirt covering her face. Freckles were buried somewhere under the grime. The leather jacket clung to her snuggly, a bit too small for her now, but that was all they had. Standing it would hang down over her thighs, exposing the tears and cuts across her knees. Sitting cross-legged the scars on the base of her naked feet were plain to see.

‘What?’ Alex returned to her sister’s eyes. A small smile crept across her lips. She reached out with her hand,

‘Come here Kaylie.’ Kaylie accepted the invitation and lent towards the hand.

‘You’ve got something on your face.’ Alex softly wiped at her cheek with her thumb. This received a light snort from Kaylie as she smiled back. Pulling her hand away she had left behind an oddly out of place smudge among the filth burying her sister’s face. She kept watching her sister as she adjusted herself, her smile. Reminding her of how it could be, once they reach ‘The Grasslands.’

‘Alex, you ‘kay?’ Alex sighed as she realised a frown had crept across her lips. The girl laying down in front of her looked worried.

‘I’m fine,’ she said curtly.

‘Oh… Okay’ Alex reeled slightly at the disheartened voice of her sister.

‘Hey,’ leaning closer to grab her sister’s attention Alex added ‘we’ll be fine too’

‘Will we though?’ Kaylie‘s voice trembled,

‘We’re running out of food- rats keep getting caught in the traps made for us. And what if we end up like Mum, Dad and the others. Y’know, all it takes is one Hunter’ Kaylie glanced down, dodging her sister’s eyes. Alex sighed. She gently pet the back of her sister’s head, moving to the top as she looked back up.

‘No Hunter is going to find us. Being hungry doesn’t bother us. We’re going to get to The Grasslands.’

‘Were Mum and Dad telling the truth? About The Grasslands. Y’think it’s real?’ Kaylie didn’t have a chance to blink,

‘Yes, yes it is. And we’re going to make it there.’

Leaning further forward, ignoring the muck Alex lightly pecked her sister on the forehead. With a flick of her wrist the lighter snapped shut.


After waking they set back out into the lake. They had been walking deeper and deeper into it, up to their waist in water. It had been over an hour of dredging through the lake. Hands held together the lighter led them forward. Their chilled limbs were stiff and hard to move as they heaved each step forward. Alex felt a sudden jerk at her hand as Kaylie suddenly screamed. The scream shrill and piercing, Alex threw her palm over the parted lips. Seconds went by and Kaylie was holding her breath. The only noise to come next was a whimper of a whisper,


Alex followed with one word, ‘Breathe.’ Kaylie’s hand was over her mouth as tears cut lines into her dirt ridden face. Alex flicked the lighter shut with a quick, sharp, but quiet snap. The darkness enveloped them immediately. She knelt down. Feeling along her sister’s leg she found what it was, a spiked rat trap had clamped around her leg. She stood back up and gave a reassuring squeeze of Kaylie’s hand.

They sat still. Breathing. The water calmed. Their breathing slowed. The echoes slowed down. The hammers slowed. Creeping to a halt entirely. The echoes trailed off, the last one boding the finality of a bell ringing.

The quiet air was filled with the pitter patter of dripping water against their coats. Lungs constricted with fear rattled with each breath as they continued to listen. A sound. It rushed toward them violently. A roar far in the distance. Sounding like a strained breath it screamed out. It kept screaming for several seconds, its own echoes catching up to each other with every fresh breath of anger.

The moment they ceased there were huge, heavy reverberating thuds. Soon after these thuds the machines fired up again, their burning hum building a symphony with the hammers as they restarted their beatings. The thuds didn’t stop. They got louder, louder still. Alex and Kaylie dared not move, too afraid to do anything they stood perfectly still. Statues in the lake they waited, unanimously and wordlessly they decided not to move. Everything was so still, almost as if the air and water had agreed with them, as though fear was struck into every inch of the factory. They kept getting louder, and now a light shake of the scaffolding could be heard as it lightly rattled. Then, a new sound.


Crack, like a joint popping.


Cracks, like multiple joints popping. The cracks sent shivers down Alex’s spine as Kaylie’s grip tightened around her hand. The creaking bones were moving, they were doing something, as they shook the scaffolding. Ripples. Ripples. The girls could feel ripples. Without thinking Alex carefully ignited the lighter with one clean stroke. In unison they lowered their eyes to the water around their waists. Now they could see ripples. Whatever it was had carefully- and quietly, lowered itself into the lake from the scaffolding. It was in there with them, it was in the lake… looking for them.

Almost as quickly as she had opened it, Alex closed the lighter, pulling the two back into darkness. The shifting water bent and wrapped around the girls. Weak waves bouncing off of them in response. In spite of all her instincts screaming at her to hold still, in spite of everything she had learned and taught herself, in spite of what was best for survival, she tore herself away from her position. Uprooting her feet with all the strength she had. She tugged on Kaylie’s arm with the intensity she would rouse a baby from its sleep. With a shivering gasp Kaylie eased away. The refusal to move spoke volumes. Alex persisted.

She knew that if they stayed put they’d get caught, she could feel it deep down. No Hunter could climb down from scaffolding that high. There was no light either. A Hunter always had its lantern, even Janitor’s carried torches. But there was no light. This was something different.

She heard it, a small splash, the ripples were getting more intense as well. Crack. A slow deep breath made a horrible gargled whistle, as though the air it drew in was dragging along its throat, trying to claw its way out. She couldn’t see it, but she could feel it. Its hand was right there, fingers outstretched and feeling around.

For no other reason than intuition, she pulled out the lighter and flicked it on without a sound. This thing didn’t need light, why? What illuminated in front of her was a huge grey hand with wrinkled sagging skin, the purpled fingernails larger than her head. It leered over her.

Naturally she sank down into the water, creating as much space between her and the hand as she could without letting it know she was there. Kaylie followed suit. It moved forward. Hand going over them the length of its arm kept going with dark brown sleeves. It had crooked bends and points, as though it had multiple elbows. The sleeves met a heavy overcoat, it wasn’t as tall as a Hunter, closer to the average Worker, its arms were excessively long. Its face. Heavy grey skin drooping down and swaying with its movement. Its lips were hung open exposing the lower row of shark-like teeth. Its eye sockets empty spaces where extra skin sat, cradled by the gaping holes.

Suddenly it clicked, she had never seen one like this before, and it was also able to command the Workers, this must be the Foreman that her parents had told her about. The one who runs the Workers. Alex lightly tugged on her sister again, this time slightly to the side so that the Foreman could pass. They moved over ever so slightly. Kaylie stumbled. Ever so slightly. The trap. A tiny splash is all it made. And all it took. The Foreman grunted as it quickly lashed one of its hands at the noise. Perfectly slamming into Kaylie.

Her shout was muffled as she was driven underwater. For just a moment. Soon she was being lifted all the way out. Now she was screaming as much as her lungs would allow. Their grip only tightening as Alex was now being pulled out of the water too. She yelped at the realisation. She kept holding on tightly crying out,

‘Everything’s going to be okay! Don’t let go!’ their grip was slipping. Tighter still she tried to hold on, abandoning the lighter she grabbed on with her other hand. She still couldn’t hold on. The Foreman was using its other arm to pull itself back to the scaffolding. Her hands slipped and she fell back into the water.

Coming out of the water she gasped as she called out ‘Kaylie! Kaylie!’ There were no other sounds, Kaylie had stopped screaming. Alex froze in the moment. Tears began to roll down her face as she couldn’t control her sobbing. And that’s when she heard it. Crack. Leering just behind her. Fingers outstretched. She could feel it. Ready to grab her. She closed her eyes, Kaylie’s face came to mind.

Harley Kendrick is a writer based in Sydney Australia. The fantasy genre and its sub-categories are his favourite forms in terms of the stories he tells. Exploring unique and special worlds through the eyes of the characters he creates, readers are able to experience his creative visions.