Paul couldn’t believe that she lived in a hotel. Better yet, or worse, he had known it, then forgotten. They talked about her on campus, rumours had preceded her, so much that her body already existed in whispers, but Paul didn’t care about gossip. He cared about girls, and women. Their mouths, their flesh. He was eighteen years old, and living multiple lives. By day he went to university, he stared at huge blackboards or whiteboards, he traded and compared notes with [...]
My mother never gave me her hand… She always helped me on and off pavements by pinching my frock or coat very lightly at the spot where the armhole provides a grip. It humiliated me. I felt I was inside the body of an old horse with my carter dragging me along by one ear… One afternoon, as a gleaming carriage sped past, splattering the leaden summer with its reflections, I pushed the hand away right in the middle of the road. She pinched the cloth [...]
My brother’s head sounded like a rabbit’s foot drumming against the baize-coloured carpeting of our room. I had been dreaming about Sarah Claire at our school. She had rabbits. Lots of 4-H stuff, which was why I was mulling signing up. The spittle at the edges of Maxwell’s mouth made him look rabid and he was contorting as if he didn’t have a backbone. I think I said ‘Go, Max, go!’ even though I knew something was well past wrong and death could be here [...]
I am writing this account, in another man’s book, by candlelight, inside the belly of a fish. I have been eaten. I have been eaten, yet I am living still. I have tried to get out. I have made many attempts. But I must conclude that it is not possible. I am trapped within an enormous creature and am slowly being digested. I have found a strange place to exist, a cave between life and death. It is an unhappy miracle. I am afraid of the dark. The dark is coming for me [...]
I was the pretty sister. I was the good one, too. Some people said Jackie was the good sister, but that was to compensate for her moving 7,450 miles away from home to save the world. ‘Next right?’ said Jackie, frowning at her phone in the passenger seat. You mean left, babe, I said in my head. Jackie has never had much of a sense of direction, geographically or in life. That’s why I’d come here in the first place—not to see hippos, like I’d told her, but to get her to [...]
We began the tunnel behind the bunk bed in the back bedroom. We chose the back bedroom because the guards went in there less often. They were lazy and also had to queue outside the supermarket for an hour or more, which made them lazier still. Some of them were eating cat food straight from the squeezy pouches. It dribbled down their chins and made their eyes go funny. I wonder sometimes if they even knew what they were guarding [...]
Yesterday ended in disaster. Very late at night, I decided to write down everything that had happened, the only way I could think of coping. So here goes. Yesterday I woke up at seven thirty in my white-painted wrought-iron bed, felt lazy, decided to have a lie-in. Almost immediately, above me, the neighbours’ bed began creaking. [...]
I set my bag down at my feet, and looked back at the way I’d come, sweating, breathing hard. The path was narrow and shaped by switchbacks that snaked up the hill. It disappeared behind a bend adorned with a clump of morning glories that made the climb look bucolic and gentle. This was a lie. They hadn’t told me about the hills, the uneven quality of the roads. They’d told me to hire a cart to bring me up to the house, but I wasn’t in the habit of ordering carts. [...]
I had been reading Foucault – and not understanding it properly; I was too distracted to concentrate. But I got the gist of it, at least what I thought was the important stuff, what he was saying about madness and how it has been civilised out of us, how back in the day it used to be that sane people and mad people all lived together and there wasn’t so much of a difference. And ‘mad’ people were often seen as visionaries with special access to God. It was only when people [...]
One Wednesday evening, on the stone steps outside an umbrella shop somewhere near Tottenham Court Road, Sam encountered Silvestra de Winter in person for the first, and last, time. Rain droplets spattered down the back of his neck. The umbrellas, lining the window like carcasses in a butcher’s shop, were striped in pinks, greens, and oranges. Some, in what was evidently thought a rather witty touch, had carved animal heads. One duck-headed umbrella looked like [...]
Things were not so free back then, but I was. Still a girl, living in my body. We’d been at the pictures, her dad and me, slurping pop, finding each other’s hands in the space for drinks. He waited until we got to the station to kiss me, which seemed so out of character. I’d seen no proof of happiness in marriage and dishwashers, so when he asked me back to his flat, I didn’t mind. It wasn’t 'beyond' I was after [...]
Gaby didn’t mean to do it. She wanted to, though — wanted to do something so bad that she might have something to write about — to make the words better than her own life, own breathing, Mark’s breathing. What else is there to it? They met a decade ago when she was halfway through a bland novel, an equally bland degree. They married and less than a year later, she began wanting. She thought that ten years was a decent run of things, a human sort of number [...]
‘Why not just burn everything?’ Sarah puts down her cup and reaches for the bottle. She pours herself more wine. On the table, all the glasses are full. ‘You know we can’t,’ I say. ‘Why not? Let’s just get rid of them, once and for all.’ She gestures at the plants making their way through our windows, through every crack in the walls. Around our kitchen and living room, short green stumps line the edges of the ceiling like sharp poking fingers, their flesh covered with a thin [...]
The sliding doors at Tesco are fastened open. A torn flyer that reads PAINTBA pokes out from under the felt. I roll one of the smaller trolleys through, forearms leaning on the handle, head stooped forward and turned right so I can see the cashiers, left ear to the ground, left thumb and forefinger dangling my phone in a small fanning motion over the cart. I see all the lines extend back into the aisles, I can hear a steady blip of scanners, feet shuffling forward, light and heavy ruffling: packets of crisps and [...]
We’d agreed to the terms and conditions. How to accept and decline an invitation of touch. What to do in case of accidental erection. We’d ticked the box that confirmed we were clean, contagion-free, sound of mind people. Pierre roamed the yoga studio with a disarming smile. He was there to enforce the rules: platonic touch. No funny business. Most people in the studio had paired off, their bodies locked together on those tired mandala cushions. Some lay hidden under white duvets like dead unmoving things [...]
When we were splattered with freckles and tied up in pigtails, we picked sharp rocks from the garden and pushed them into each other’s wrists, our flesh tender and white like peeled crabs. I remember the way our wounds looked, mushy and filled with pieces of grit. ‘Now we are blood brothers,’ I said. She looked at me from behind her nose. 'Blood sisters,’ she pouted. We got changed on the back seat of the car every Wednesday night as my mam drove us from school [...]
She enters. She is roused by anger and reproach. She bursts onto the right of the image as if it were a backdrop masked with curtains. One hand clutches a knife against her waist, which gleams obliquely across her belly. Her face is cold, her mouth thin, lips tight, eyebrows knit, her gaze is clear and hard, her hair is slicked into two little severely parted plaits. The knife, whose handle disappears into her balled fist, vibrates at the very center, nearly absent from it [...]
The following text is an extract from the story “Smack”, taken from Julia Armfield’s debut collection Salt Slow, published by Picador: 'The jellyfish come with the morning – a great beaching, bodies black on sand. The ocean empties, a thousand dead and dying invertebrates, jungled tentacles and fine, fragile membranes blanketing the shore two miles in each direction. They are translucent, almost spectral, as though the sea has exorcised its ghosts [...]'
It was ironic, she thought. Her first shift at the museum was understaffed, it was just the two of them in ceramics. He was dark-lashed, very slight – given more to edges than the centre of things [...]
There was a cluster of coats and hats careening over the railing, and when I got closer I could see what they were looking at. The basin, which had been full of water the last time I’d passed, was drained to the dregs and men in coveralls and tall rubber boots were crawling around in the sludge [...]
The London Magazine has long been a champion of emerging writers and independent publishers, stretching back to the 1950s and 60s, when young writers...
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