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Things have been pretty busy at Clinicality Press lately. What with promoting the January sale and ensuring that our next book, Christopher Nosnibor’s From Destinations Set is set to go, as well as writing press releases that we’ll be starting to circulate soon, we’ve had precious little time for much else. For this reason, our Clinical, Brutal blogzine, launched in September, has been taking something of a back seat lately, and we haven’t posted any new fiction in a while. That’s all set to change in a few weeks, however, and we’ve got some killer new fiction lined up to get things going again.

We’re also on the lookout for more stories – or poems, if they’re suitably kick-ass – for our blogzine. It’s hoped that the best of these will provide the basis of our next anthology, which we’re hoping to assemble some time in 2012.

If you have a piece you think we might dig, get in touch via the contact page of the website… and watch this space for more news and cutting-edge fiction!

http://clinicalitypress.co.uk/Contact.aspx

Song

I pried the wooden boards away from the door, fumbling with my old set of keys to the pub. Wiping liquor sweat from my brow, I checked the dark streets. Empty. I picked up the two cans of gasoline and marched in.
As soon as I was through the door I could hear them, their many voices whispering in the shadows. I had almost missed them. My hands shook as I took a swig from the whiskey bottle in my pocket.
I slid past the stacked tables and chairs and stopped at the dust coated bar. I traced my hand in the surface dirt and remembered the many times I’d be pulling a pint at the bar and frozen, trying to hear the words, straining to decipher their song.
Once I was captured by their song, only my wife and daughter could break me out of my trance, with their screaming and fists. I would come to, and see the beer pouring over my hand onto the floor and a room full of eyes staring at me.
I unscrewed the stoppers from the gasoline cans. Their voices were rising, trying to snare me. I could feel their panic distorting their singing and I smiled. They knew I had come to silence them, for taking everything I loved away from me. To make them pay.
I poured the petrol around my feet. Their voices harmonised, growing louder. Their song was attacking me now, creating waves of hurt and nausea to stop me. The gasoline cans clattered to the floor.
My body began to shake with pain as I struck a match. Their shrieks cut through me with a terrible beauty. My hands automatically moved up to my ears to block out the song, which was useless, as the glorious noise was inside my head. Even now, as the taste of blood stung my mouth, I still wanted to know what they were singing.
I cried out as their din overpowered me, forcing me to my knees. I prayed that it would end, that their sublime screams would finally tear me apart.
Then, it became clear.
As the match fell from my hand, my mind was filled not with words, but images. Birth, love, pain, family, war, sex, grief, murder, end, joy.
I felt nothing as the flames engulfed my body. I was lost in their song.

 

About the Author

Michael Hann recently published a zine called I’m Afraid of Everyone, an edgy and dark collection of short stories. He regularly writes gig and album reviews and interviews for NARC, and one of his short stories will be featured in the literary magazine Kerouac’s Dog in January 2011. He is currently working on my first novel, whilst gathering and producing the content for vol. 2 of I’m Afraid…

http://www.facebook.com/?sk=2361831622#!/group.php?gid=114517125268779
http://www.imafraidofeveryonemh.blogspot.com

   “So you think you’re quite the man, do you?”
    James winced. He’d only known Debbie a few weeks having met her through a friend at a night out with some of his course companions. Studying chemistry, he didn’t get to see many girls in the lab or in the lectures, but he always tried to address this when out socially. And he had quickly learned that Debbie was a bugger after a few drinks. What’s more, he’d got to recognise that tone of voice she had taken, and her mannerisms. They said something was afoot and it was likely to be trouble. He was keen to avoid trouble, and so he played it safe.
    “Well, I am a man…” he began cautiously.
    This was met with snorts of derision from his mates Andy and Joe, and a tuneless rendition of the line ‘I’m a man not a boy’ as performed by the long-forgotten teen band North and South who had featured in the BBC television series ‘No Sweat’ in an attempt to replicate the success of S Club 7, from Stu. The fool.
    “Prove it,” Debbie taunted flirtatiously.
    “What?” James couldn’t hide his surprise.
    “A drinking contest, silly!” she laughed.
    James flushed, especially when he noticed that Sarah and Jenny were laughing too. He knew he’d sounded excessively indignant and defensive.
    “Oh!” he exclaimed, relieved. He had reasons to be wary after some of the stories he’d heard of Debbie, and that she had herself recounted.
    “What did you expect?” cackled Sarah.
    Jim shrugged, and before he could speak, found himself being presented with a shot of tequila that seemed to come from nowhere and his thoughts buried beneath a chant of “Drink! Drink! Drink!” from all of his companions.
    He picked up the little glass and put it to his lips, keeping one eye on Debbie all the while. Then… Bam! He sank it. Debbie did the same, in unison. More followed in rapid succession and James soon began to feel woozy.
    “Think I need some fresh air,” he said as his vision began to blur.
    He made a sharp exit, and the cool night air hit him like an adrenaline shock. He still felt disorientated – tequila always ruined him, and fast – and sweat was beading on his brow, but he no longer felt like he would die and simply felt drunk enough for more antics. And more antics he would get.
    The rest of the gang quickly gathered around him. It was time to move on. Another bar, and en route Debbie insisted she make a brief call at her house – she’d left some cash there, and made a quick-change of her top while she was making the collection. Before long, they were on their way. Debbie lived in the heart of town, and so the next bar – a horrible, loud place that played pulsating dance music but did two-for-one student offers on certain nights – was only a couple of minutes away. James was glad he was utterly trashed: it was the only way he could ever find places like this remotely tolerable.
    Despite her enormous capacity for booze, even Debbie was beginning to show the signs of her consumption, and everyone else was utterly legless – as gashed as James, or so he assumed: it was hard for him to judge. But she hadn’t forgotten her evening’s objective, to challenge James to prove himself at every opportunity. And he was drunk enough to go along with whatever she put his way. So chatting up some alcopop-guzzling teenage floozy in an impossibly short skirt might have resulted in a truly humiliating rejection, but won the approval of his peers, not least of all the truly fearsome Debbie. Dancing shirtless on a table? No problem. It might’ve got them kicked out of that particular bar, but that was half the fun.
    Once ejected, they regrouped outside. Debbie guided them all into an alleyway and broke out her wallet, removing a piece of paper, the likes of which James had never seen before.
    “Acid,” she explained, an evil conspiratory leer on her face.
    “Oh no,” James said. He meant it.
    But a little coercion goes a long way, and before long, he and Debbie and three or four others had dropped tabs and the rest of the group – minus Stuart, who claimed he had to work the following morning – made their way to the next venue. After that, the acid was beginning to kick in, but despite the onset of some mildly disconcerting hallucinations, James accepted the challenge of skinnydipping in the river that ran through the town centre. He scraped his leg on a submerged shopping trolley, but it was worth it: after all, it was a laugh, he got to maintain his credibility in the eyes of the great arbiter, Debbie, and he got to see her without any clothes. She was a good sport, and would never set a challenge she wouldn’t perform herself.
    The evening began to blur, perhaps there were more bars, even a club. The group was reducing in size now: only James, Debbie, Jenny and Andy remained. Jen and Andy were flagging and starting to weird out, but James was on fire and managing to keep up with Debbie. More drinks purchased from an off-license or somewhere topped up those already imbibed and blended with the LSD. It was quite a trip.
    Somehow, they ended up on a building site. James wasn’t sure about this. He was being coerced to climb the crane tower. It was a good hundred feet tall, and was fuzzy and bending out of shape. He was scared of heights, and right now his balance and co-ordination were fucked. However mashed he was, he knew it was impossible. He didn’t want to die. But Debbie wasn’t taking no for an answer. Then, from nowhere, she pulled a pistol from her bag. She pointed at her friend. She cocked the mechanism with terrifying steadiness and certainty.
    “Climb,” she ordered
    James knew he had no choice.

‘Drinking Games’ appears in The Gimp, out on Clinicality Press on 11th October 2010.

Clinicality Press publish and promote new works of fiction and beyond. We’re just starting out in putting out new works on-line in a blog/zine. This is the third posting, and there are lots more exiting pieces on the way. In time, there may be a second anthology, but these things take time and money, and we’re short on both. For now, we’re doing the digital thing.

 

The Persistence of Memory

Pete Miller

Ever wish you’d done something different? Ever wish you’d done some things differently? Obviously it’s too late for regret, as it won’t change anything and is simply a needless expenditure of energy and there’s less to spare as each year passes but do you? Do you have regrets? A yearning to go back and change things? Or would you play out the mistakes the same anyway: after all, we learn from our mistakes and know not to make them again. Even so, there’s always that small wish to go back, retrace the steps taken in blindness and rectify some of those darker moments those moments, however fleeting, of the most acute embarrassment…  isn’t there? Or is it just me?

I don’t wish to change who I am, or what I’ve ‘become’ – I probably couldn’t anyway, there seems to be an inevitability about the path we tread, and fight circumstance as hard as me might, it feels like a losing battle. People do us over, finance and situations of employment, family, all unwittingly contrive to bring us to the present whatever we do. But don’t you sometimes think ‘what if?’

What if you’d gone what that guy or that girl what if you’d been less spineless in relenting to that push or that, what if you’d not given in so easily when told ‘no’ to that, what if you had applied for this job, that job and the other job? If you’d not given up after the fifteenth knock-back on one career or another, had held on to and fought harder to cling to one dream or another?

Or when you discover that you’re finally able to make progress of sorts? Don’t you wish that you’d been the person you are now a decade ago? Or even fifteen years ago? What would you change? What would you have done differently? What were your dreams? Do you still have any of them now?

And how about the way you look? What would you change? Anything? Nothing? How do you feel about the ageing process? How do you feel now about your childhood? How much of it can you actually remember?

I find that I feel that while my memory is still as good as ever, some recollections are becoming somehow distorted. Or perhaps it’s that I struggle to reconcile them with my adult self.

I don’t miss the lack of responsibility of childhood. I was as repressed as a teenager as I am now. I wish I had evolved differently.  I wish I’d been the person I am now or feel I’m becoming then, ten, fifteen years ago. Don’t you ever wish that? How would you be with the people you knew then if you were how you are now? Were there missed opportunities? Did you not speak when you should have done? Did you say things when you’d have been better not doing? Or simply say the wrong thing? How would you replay it?

I’d replay it all in slow motion and consider my moved for a start. And do it from my perspective now. But there’s no going back… is there?