Matt opens the greasy containers of Chinese food we just bought from the food court; his blue eyes instantly turn red as the pungent smell of chilli wafts into his nose and eyes. I look towards Rachel as she pushes her red hair behind her ears, her cheek and lip piercings glistening. She cheekily grins at me. Matt can’t handle spicy food. 

We are sitting in the Myer car park with views of Goulbourn Road and Forest Oval in front of us. The black and white logo sits above my head, alongside other stores’ advertisements and colourful graffiti kindly left behind by local teenagers. I lean my head against the grey wall and watch as Matt rolls the sleeves of his black hoodie up to his elbows, accentuating his scrawny arms. The trees along the oval thrash against one another as the wind picks up, but I don’t care too much as I rush to lift the lid on my favourite chicken noodle dish and smell the spice and soy.

It’s school holidays.

I squint my eyes as I notice other students from my high school playing with a soccer ball on the other side of the oval. I scoff, as Amanda screams for apparently no reason, probably just wanting attention. Rachel snorts loudly as Matt spits out a mouth full of food and attempts to skull an entire bottle of water.

‘Hey you little shits. Time to clear out.’ A security guard snaps. The large round man stands with his tattooed arms crossed in front of his chest. There is a small Security badge written over his left chest next to a brown stain. I groan, not again.

‘Leave now or I’ll call the cops.’ He runs his hand through his greasy blonde hair, purposefully showing off a scar that runs from his pinkie finger to his elbow. Tough guy.

‘What? Why should we leave?’ Rachel’s voice booms, mimicking the security guard’s attitude and stance. ‘We are sitting eating lunch, what is wrong with that!’

‘Show some respect.’ He snaps as spit drools at his lips, ‘You have been using monstrous language, not to mention you draping yourself over this guy.’ He points to Matt, ‘How am I meant to know if there is actually water in that bottle? Leave. Now.’

‘Are you fucking serious?’ I look at Matt, worried, but he’s mad and there is no stopping him. ‘You can come here and swear at us, but we can’t swear amongst each other? That is so hypocritical.’

I stare at the security guard in disbelief. Yeah, sure. Pick on this kids in hoodies. I wonder where he would like us to go? Maybe down a hole until we come out as adults? Yes, we had been laughing loudly in the mall and probably swore a handful of times, but hey, so does every other teenager and adult in our town – how else do they expect us to act?

The security guard’s eyes are black and soulless as he stares at the three of us. He’s at his limit and so are we. Neither Rachel, Matt nor I make an attempt to move from our spot. I almost feel sorry for the security guard. He’s only doing his job, but his random hatred of us has left me with little empathy.

‘Leave. I’m done asking you.’ He smiles as a woman and her toddler walks past, as if he is doing them a favour.

The three of us look away from the man and sigh, realising that this is a fight that we are not going to win. Plus, who wants their holidays ruined by having the cops called on you? I’d be grounded for life. I reach for my tote bag and help Matt pick up our food containers. I laugh quietly as Rachel mutters dirty insults to the security guard. I’m not sure if he hears or is purposefully ignoring the comments. 

‘We aren’t leaving because you told us to, but because it will probably rain soon.’ Rachel is putting the lid back on the container in the slowest most deliberate way ever. The security guard snickers in response.

‘I can’t believe he said that to us!’ Matt exclaims, ‘That guy is worse than Mr A. If you’re not at home, you’re in trouble at school, if you’re not there then you’re in trouble at the mall!’ His eyebrows are lowered and close together in anger. Rachel and I have similar expressions. I have so many thoughts racing through my head that I can’t put a complete sentence together.

I speed ahead of Matt and Rachel and walk to the other side of the oval; kicking my white shoes into the freshly cut grass. I am aware that the families who witnessed the conversation with the security guard probably think that I am having a tantrum, but I really don’t care what they think. I chuckle to myself remembering that he thought Matt had alcohol in the water bottle. If only he knew about the things Rachel has stuck in her pocket that she hadn’t brought out. I can feel the eyes of the security guard watching us like a hawk, I turn around to see if I am correct just as he brightly beams at a family beside him as if he just slayed the bad guys in a villain movie.

I make eye contact with the mother of someone I go to school with, her striking blue eyes and neat blonde hair pulled back in a tight bun. She looks me up-and-down, taking in the oversized grey jumper and blue tights I am wearing. She clears her throat and raises her perfectly shaped eyebrows at me. She must be happy that her daughter and I stopped being friends in primary school. To her I am just another teenager that comes to public areas to create havoc by swearing and yelling at anyone who looks in my general direction.

Thunder booms and I catch the final glimpse of blue sky before the entire oval is concealed by grey clouds. I feel a sprinkle of rain onto my forehead as the clouds begin circling in a distressed manner, ready to release at any moment.

‘Hey, Elena!’ I hear a small voice call behind me, ‘Did that security guard just ask you guys to leave?’

‘Oh hi Skye,’ I recognise the black-haired girl from a year below us at school, ‘Yes he did.’

‘He said the exact same thing to us yesterday! Apparently we looked like we were going to cause trouble because we were wearing hoodies and trackies! It’s literally winter, what does he expect us to wear?’ Her response holds the same sassiness as Rachel, I laugh. It’s a good question.

‘Did he actually?!’ I know that talking to Skye will only fuel our anger and I suspect that’s Rachel’s intention.

‘He only heard us swear once, I mean, how else were we expected to describe the Principal when he suspended Jade for having her skirt one centimetre shorter than school rules. It was so stupid!’ Skye rolls her eyes. I remember that story coming out, I didn’t know that it was true.

‘You’re joking?’ Matt suspects to Skye, ‘You swore once and that is what pushed the security guard off the edge?’ They propel each other’s anger.   

I turn my attention away from the three to look over to where we were just sitting. Most families and groups of kids playing around have since left, probably from the fear of being wet from the dooming rain, leaving only us on the field and the power-hungry security guard. If looks could kill, we would be goners. The annoying thing is that I understand why the security guard assumes us for the worst. I get annoyed when students back chat our teachers and when people bring unnecessary attention to themselves. But we were just sitting down eating, not close to any other families, and enjoying each other’s company. I can think of a lot of inappropriate things teenagers inside the mall are actually doing. So, why are we the ones being punished?

Distracted by my own thoughts I don’t see Matt, Rachel and Skye walking with intention in their step towards the security guard. He stands leaning against the same wall we were once sat at, with his arms crossed and a smug smile inching over his face. From afar, his eyes don’t look human, but almost demonic circles of black. I widen my eyes as I realise that my friends look like small zebras marching into a lion’s den. From this distance I can see the word Protection written down the leg of his pants, more like Devil I think to myself.

His deep and patronising voice rings through the empty oval one last time, ‘Keep walking you shits and don’t come back! I’ll be waiting!’ He has courage to speak loudly as most families have left. My friends immediately stop walking. I sneer at his vulgar language.

My blood boils as I start to lose all sight of what surrounds me. I can’t feel the cold breeze sending goosebumps across my neck and face. Rather, the trees scream in agony, coercing me to change. My jaw begins to involuntarily twitch at his insulting words, how he made my friends feel like we were committing a crime. My eyes darken, I am the predator now. I can hear the faint shouts of Matt in front of me growing closer and closer.

Is this the monstrous behaviour he refers to?

Zara McElroy is an Australian writer residing in Sydney. She is interested in writing Young Adult fiction focusing on the passionate emotions and struggles of the everyday youth. You’ll find her reading romance novels and questioning the meaning of life. Zara enjoys spending time with her dog and dancing.


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.

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.

SHARDS OF GLASS, Lauren Grzina

The sinking sun casts golden light across the porch and front door. It makes the door seem haunted or spectral like it’s some gateway to another world. But it’s not; it’s just an old wooden door splintering at the hinges that creaks when it’s opened.

Without pausing I toss my bag into the living room and make my way into the kitchen. I open the fridge to find it almost empty. There’s three cups of my mum’s low-fat yogurt and two bottles of my dad’s expensive wine half-drunk that I’m not supposed to touch. I grab a yogurt cup.

Leaning against the fruit bowl on the kitchen island I find a small envelope with my name in my mother’s neat handwriting across the front. I untuck the note from the envelope:

We’ve gone to Melbourne. Back in 3 days.

No ‘love you’. No ‘sorry’. No warning. Just gone.

Rage heats my body and makes my head hurt. 

I open the fridge and without reading the label choose a wine bottle. I bring the bottle to my lips and down half its contents in three big swigs.

Something snakes its way up my leg. Long fingers that feel as thin as flower stems but as strong as chains. I look down and almost miss the shadow holding my leg. I try to tug my leg away from the shadows. It doesn’t budge. I grip the counter and with the violent intensity that could bring down a grown man, I kick my leg. The fingers around my ankle never slip, just tighten.

With just a swift tug it has me on the ground. The bottle shatters, scattering shards of glass across the kitchen floor around me.

It takes the opportunity to rapidly ascend my leg and wrap itself around my torso, like a boa constrictor. It drags me so quickly through the house that everything—the walls, the floors, the furniture—blends and folds together. I feel the kitchen tiles, the wooden flooring of the dining room, the shaggy rug in the living room. Above me the white ceiling blurs with the yellow hue of the lights, making a murky, streaky mess.

My thrashing only makes it tighten its grip around my waist and legs until I can’t breathe. My hands try to find a purchase on the shadow, but I can’t grasp it. My fingers fall through it like it’s not even there. But it is. It’s all around me, smothering me, crushing me.

It’s black and translucent and it’s pulling me towards an inky black hole in the middle of the living room, the depth of which I cannot tell. As it pulls me closer, I resist more, and it tightens more. My heart is galloping. The harder the shadow squeezes my waist, the more I feel like my heart is going to be squeezed out of me like a sauce packet.

Then I’m going down the inky black hole. Down. Down.






I enter my house; the door opens with a long creak. The door closes behind me shutting out the noise from the streets, leaving me in silence.

Sometimes I think my house is haunted. I always feel like I’m being watched even when I’m alone. Like there is something tucked deep into the blackness of the shadows cast in the corners. The shadows seem to breathe, slightly expanding and contracting in intervals. Something was there, I was sure, coiled in the shadows waiting for a moment to spring.

I toss my school bag in the living room and go to the kitchen.

My parents’ note from the previous day is still sitting on the kitchen island. Shards of the broken wine bottle were scattered across the floor, but I fail to remember why.

I grab a yogurt from the fridge and sink to the floor, my back resting against the cabinets. Loneliness is a heavy feeling. A seed as heavy as a stone in the pit of my stomach.

I place my empty yogurt cup on the ground beside me, accidentally cutting my palm on the shards of glass littering the floor. I press my thumb against the wound which throbs against it. 

I rummage through my dad’s liquor cabinet filled with gifted spirits and expensive wines for a suitable disinfectant. Using one of my dad’s unopened bottles of alcohol as disinfectant would definitely piss him off when he gets home. 

I grab a vodka bottle from the depths of the cabinet, and I pour only a couple of drops of vodka on the wound, but the skin still burns and screams.

I examine the bottle, toying with the idea of trying some. I’ve tried sips of my dad’s wine or beer when I was younger, but I’d never had vodka.

Quickly I grab a shot glass from the cabinet’s top shelf and pour myself a little vodka like I’m expecting him home soon. Tentatively, I taste it. I savour the taste on my tongue.

I polish off the glass like it’s water. I like the way it burns. I pour my second. Third. Fourth.

Something nudges my heel, creeping up the side of my foot, rubbing against it and grasping my ankle. It is nothing but the shadow of a vine but has the strength of steel.

The thing from the shadows had finally made its move. Its eyes were on me, but now it is ready to attack.

It races up my leg. I try to kick it away, but it never budges, it just coils around tighter and tighter.

With its iron grip, it pulls me to the ground, wrapping a second arm around my other leg as it pulls me quickly down the hallway. The house goes by in a blur, I feel the terrain beneath my back change from tile to wood to rug. 

My phone slips from my dress pocket, I manage to grab it before I’m pulled away. I squeeze my phone in my hand as the shadow squeezes me harder. It moves further up my body and wraps itself around my chest, so I can’t breathe. I panic as I see a large hole opening up in the living room floor. The hole is so inky black I cannot tell its depth. I try to thrash against the shadow, but it doesn’t matter it still tightens and tightens and tightens.

My vision starts to spot, colourful explosions in front of my eyes and then the spots get bigger, and the house turns black and white.

With the palm of my hand, I accidentally activate the flashlight on my phone. Despite my failing vision, it burns my eyes, I turn it away and—

The creature recoils, just enough that I can breathe. I suck the air in like it’s water, and I’ve just journeyed the desert. The creature is still pulling me, but slower, almost cautious. 

I flash the light on the shadow again and it recoils again. So, I hold the light closer to the shadow and it jolts, detangling itself from my leg.

I get up off the floor, waving the flashlight towards the shadow like I’m wielding a sword. The shadow curls up on itself and slowly shrinks in size, as does the inky hole behind it.

I don’t wait to see them disappear. I run upstairs to my bedroom, slamming the door behind me.

Sometimes I think I’m haunting this house. Haunting my parents

I could stomp down the stairs, loud enough to shake the photo frames on the walls and they’d barely even take notice. It’s like any frequency of noise I make they’re not tuned into. When I come into the room my father will flick his eyes over me with the same disdain he regards the politics page in the newspaper with, but nothing else will move. When my mother has guests over, she doesn’t even look at me. If I make a noise and her friends look at me instead of her, she says, ‘Oh, just ignore her’, and laughs, high and shrill like silver bells. Like I’m just some poltergeist living in her walls.

So, I decided today I’m not going to go to school. My parents’ note was still in the kitchen, along with the glass shards. I saw them every time I went to the kitchen hungry only to remember there is no yogurt left. I ate it this morning, while I mulled over whether I should go to school.

The hunger pangs are sharp now though, so I wander into the kitchen and open the fridge just to be reminded there is still nothing.

I slam the fridge door closed and pull open every door and cabinet in the kitchen, pulling out glasses, bowls, plates, and cutlery to the floor on the hunt for any bit of food my parents’ might have hidden.

I eventually reach the bar cabinet and sift through all the labels in my father’s alcohol collection. I pick the Melbourne-themed souvenir shot glass—a toast to my parents perhaps—and the vodka bottle from the back of the cabinet.

But by the time I slug my fifth shot, I can feel something crawling up my leg and pulling at my ankle. I jolt backwards and the vodka bottle falls from the top of the cabinet and smashes around my feet.

The thing pulls me again, I look down, and see only a thick strap of shadow wound up my leg. I try to shake it off, but that only encourages it, as it wraps tighter and tighter and up and up my leg.

My heart thar-rumps. My face is flushed. I reach down to shove the shadowy creature, but my hands just can’t connect. With every kick and flail the shadow creature fights back harder and faster.

It gives one swift, hard tug and I fall on my back, my dress pockets emptying on the floor beside me.

I wildly search for something at my side to help me and my hand grasps at the little lighter. I flick the trigger and put the flame against the shadow. It jerks back. I go at it again, dragging the lighter across as much as I can reach. It rapidly detaches itself from my leg.

We stay apart for a just a breath. I close the lighter flame. It jumps at me and before I can react it wraps itself around my face. I can see and hear nothing except darkness. I try to scratch it off my face, but my hands can’t grasp it. I can’t breathe, the shadow covers my mouth and nose. I struggle to ignite the lighter flame.

I try once, nothing.


Thrice and the flame ignites. I assume it touches the shadow, because it jumps back, so the spilt alcohol is pooled between us.

I touch the lighter to the puddle and it erupts into flames. I turn and run.


Ash falls like rain around me, speckling the street. The emergency vehicles cast red and blue hues over the neighbours’ houses. But nothing reflects off the blacken, razed mess of my former house.

Even with the air polluted with smoke, it was the first time in a long while I could breathe. The heavy smoke-filled air couldn’t hold me down. I felt light, my heart was soaring. I could barely feel my feet against the ground.

A taxi containing my parent’s perfectly manicured figures in the back pulls into the street. They jump out of the taxi before the taxi could come to a complete stop. From their frantic gestures, I can tell my mom was crying and my dad was angry. They only looked at the house though, they didn’t search the crowd for me. With the mess of people, vehicles, and equipment, it’s easy for me to slip away. I bet nobody will even realise I’m gone.

Lauren Grzina is a Sydney based writer. She was published in the 2018 KSP Ghost Stories Competition Anthology, Night Works, for her story The Midnight Creature. Lauren has also been highly commended for the Future Leaders Writers Prize. Lauren is often inspired by fantastical stories and otherworldly creatures and has a soft spot for morally grey characters.


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.