Eurovision Songs You Need To Know (2006 – 2017)

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It is that month of the year again. The Eurovision season has begun. I remember that ever since 2006 I have been watching this big ol’ European glitter party. When I was younger I used to beg my parents to let me stay up late during this one week in May and they did. You see, to you 2006 sounds like an oddly specific year, but to me a lot happened in 2006. Eurovision-wise; I don’t really remember anything else from 2006. It was the year Armenia[1] first participated and Lordi won by singing “Hard Rock Hallelujah”. It was also the year I got my first crush. Remember Dima Bilan? Maybe not, but I do. You might also wonder: why up until 2017? I like to be surprised during the semi-finals instead of knowing every song by heart already prior to those semi-finals. I have no clue about what this year’s songs are going to be like.

Let me guide you through the past 11 years of Eurovision. Not all songs I’m going to mention are necessarily good songs, but I enjoy them and they are kind of iconic. I won’t be able to discuss all the songs I consider gems, so I’ve made a playlist with hopefully all amazing songs from the past years. There is no particular order to this compilation. The headings will be enough to understand. Buckle up, because you are in for a ride.

The winners

Each year obviously has a winner. I don’t like every song that has won[2], but some of them are actually pretty cool. The already mentioned winner from 2006, Lordi, is one of those cool songs. 2008 gave us the love of my life for a second time in a row. Dima Bilan won by singing “Believe”. Honestly, I prefer “Never Let You Go” from 2006 (which made Dima come in second, by the way), but “Believe” was a great song, too. After pretty boyo Dima came pretty boyo Alexander Rybak in 2009, who stole many hearts with his violin and dreamy eyes while singing “Fairytale”. Skipping ahead a couple years, we arrive in 2014: Queen Conchita Wurst. Controversies, as Conchita is a drag singer, but what a voice. “Rise Like a Phoenix” is such a powerful song. I can’t help but scream along when I hear it. In 2016, Jamala blessed us with “1944”. You can’t imagine how much I love that song. It is so emotionally loaded and Jamala sung it straight from the heart. Just thinking of the song makes me cry. I actually did cry when Salvador Sobral won last year with “Amar Pelos Dois”. True story. I was rooting for both Jamala and Salvador the past two years and let me tell you I regret nothing. Right there are two of my favorite Eurovision entries and I really want to thank both of them for blessing the continent (and Australia) with these masterpieces. Speaking of winners, we can’t forget about our friends from Lithuania, LT United. In 2006, they sang the song “We Are The Winners” and you know what? It was a joke of a song, but they came in 6th (!!!) with it. True winners, am I right?

Barbara Dex Awards

Can’t write about winners without mentioning these awards, can I? Ever since 1993, Eurovision fans vote for the worst stage outfit of the year. Barbara Dex was the first winner in 1993, hence the name of the award. That’s what I would call goals. Some Sona5winners of this award do deserve a mention, that’s why they get this special section here. Most importantly, Verka is on this list. I get it, ‘tinfoil’ isn’t really the best material to make stage outfits out of. But it’s fun. It’s different. It’s Eurovision. 2009 gave us Zoli Adok. Zoli had rip-off outfits during the performance. They didn’t look that great, if you ask me. Didn’t make a great impact either, because I had kind of forgotten about it. Milan Stankovic the following year wasn’t that bad, if you ask me. The song, “Ovo je Balkan”, is pretty cool, and Milan doesn’t look that weird. He just had bleached hair and long bangs. Rona Nishliu winning the award in 2012 is kind of odd, too. I guess people were weirded out by the hair and cape. You should give the song a listen, though. “Suus” is so emotional and beautiful and downright winner material. It’s a shame she came in 5th that year. But hey, we got “Euphoria”, right? Moje 3 deserved winning the award in 2013. All I could think while watching it that year was: Why? Just, why? Roos pointed out to me that they are kind of like Katy Perry meets Megan Trainor and I have to agree. I have another why regarding Slavko Kalezić winning the award last Sona6year. Why was he the worst dressed? Don’t tell me it was his long ass braid. His braid could have saved Eurovision last year. Triana Park, who came in second[3], looked far more hideous than Slavko. It was close, though, since Slavko won by getting 13 more votes. I’m salty anyways.

Everything else I’m salty about

Let me start with the ones who were left to die in the semi-finals. First off, I really want to scream at everybody who didn’t see the potential Uzari and Maimuna had in 2015 with “Time”. That gem didn’t make it into the finals and I am still so mad about it. Especially considering the fact that in 2015, the bottom four countries were the host country and 3 out of the 5 big-5 countries. Such a sad loss. Teapacks’s “Push The Button” from 2007 was such a creative and ingenious song, but alas, they didn’t make it to the finals either. Maybe because people thought it was too political. I mean, singing about launching bombs isn’t really the most child-friendly topic, but the performance was quite explosive. Explosively fun. Try to rap like that yourself. In 2016, Jüri Pootsmann’s masterpiece “Play” was didn’t get the recognition it deserves and Serhat’s “I Didn’t Know” didn’t make it either. Honestly, I get that some people might have been creeped out by this bald man with an eye patch singing, but why would this handsome young man who sang something that fits right into any other James Bond movie not sing during the finals? I loved both of them, but especially Serhat. Serhat had this old aura around him, while the song had such a great disco vibe. It was different. Speaking of different, 2008 gave us something very different. Dustin The Turkey-different. “Irelande Douze Pointewas a horrible song, honest to god, but damn it was different. A fun song. It was a singing turkey. Sadly enough, some people don’t like fun songs. Slavko Kalezić and his fun song “Space” failed to reach the finals last year. Trackshittaz’s “Woki Mit Deim Popo[4]”, an upbeat rap song sang by an Austrian duo filled with fun energy (and pole dancers) didn’t make it in 2012. I always get up and dance when this song comes on, because it has such a nice beat to go crazy on. Bless Youtube for making it possible for us to relive those beautiful, beautiful songs. Please do, you don’t want to miss out.

Now, where there is a winner, there is also a runner up. I’ve complained about Dima Bilan not winning in 2006 above, but he kind of redeemed himself two years later so I guess it’s fine. Besides, Lordi did deserve to win that year. 2007 blessed us with the best, truly best, song of the whole of Eurovision. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about Verka Serduchka’s “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”. Verka came in second in 2007. I am completely shaming you if you don’t know this song. Verka truly won Eurovision as a whole with this song. It’s beauty, it’s grace, it’s perfection. I’m not saying “Moltiva” wasn’t a good song, I’m just saying that I would’ve loved it if Verka had won. 2008 gave me some salt with the victory of Dima. Ani Lorak, representing Ukraine (just as Verka and Jamala), came in second with “Shady Lady”. You see, my boy Dima won, but Ani was so good that I almost hate Dima for winning. 2010 had maNga singing “We Could Be The Same” and coming in second place. They weren’t close or anything, somehow Lena had managed to conquer all the hearts of Europe, but I do believe that “We Could Be The Same” was a lot better than “Satellite”. Both, however, don’t come anything close to Safura’s “Drip Drop” from that same year.

The ones to sing along to

Let’s start this one right of the bat with “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”. If we are friends, I’ve probably sung this one multiple times in your presence. Whether it’s May or December, I’m always sieben sieben alulu sieben sieben eins zwei-ing. Another gem I’ve mentioned before is “Rise Like a Phoenix”. Screaming along with Queen Conchita is a real sport and I really recommend it. No list is complete without Koza Mostra and Agathon Iakovidis’s “Alcohol Is Free” from 2012 or Freaky Fortune and RiskyKidd’s “Rise Up” from 2014. Both songs are amazing to go crazy on. Just jump around, dance, scream, sing. They are perfect. And very Grecian, so don’t hesitate to drink along while listening. It’s free. Elaiza’s “Is It Right” from 2014 is a nice one to sing along to, too. It was Germany’s entry, by the way, so it’s kind of a big deal that it’s this nice to sing along to considering their prior acts. Another favorite of mine is Nadav Guedj’s “Golden Boy” from 2015. Speaking of 2015, “Golden Boy” was actually, if I’m being honest again, one of the only songs I like from 2015. 2015 was tragic. I blame Australia for that. I drove my friends mad the three weeks after Eurovision that year, because I just couldn’t stop singing it. Truly Israel’s Justin Timberlake. 2011: Jedward vs Eric Saade. I remember this fight that was going on on Twitter at the time between the fans and you know, I’m on team both. Jedward’s “Lipstick” and Eric Saade’s “Popular” are so energetic. Songs that wake you up. Songs that 2011 needed.

The Big 5

There they are, the five countries we[5] are all mad at because they usually end up at the bottom. Let me explain: each year, there are five countries who automatically enter the finals because they are the five biggest financial contributors that make this big ‘ol party happen. They basically pay for their fixed final spot. Their songs aren’t always that good, though. That’s fine, we don’t need pure gems to make it to the finals. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they don’t try, I just think that sometimes they are better off sending in nothing. Just sometimes.

Let’s start with Spain. Remember “The Ketchup Song[6]? Why am I asking, you probably do. It’s by Las Ketchup (haha, funny) and Las Ketchup actually participated in Eurovision. What. A. Surprise. Las Ketchup participated in 2006 and sang the song “Bloody Mary”. Yes, there is an ongoing theme here and it’s tomatoes. 2008 Spain gave us Rodolfo Chikilicuatre’s “Baila El Chiki Chiki”, which is kind of a satire. It’s a fun song, it’s one of the few songs I remember from 2008. I just remember this one in a very specific context. I was at a birthday party. Give it a listen, you will enjoy it. Maybe even sing along. Manel Navarro sang “Do It For Your Lover” in 2017. It’s more of a beachy song with Manel looking like a surfer boy. It’s adorable and you won’t be able to get it out of your head. Maybe that’s why he ended up in last place.

You see, this is where I wanted to recommend you something from Germany, but I only have one song that is worth listening to and I’ve already mentioned that one. I’m not a fan of Lena, but she won, so maybe you might be? She’s not on my playlist, though. Elaiza is. I just love singing along to “Is It Right”. Give it a try.

Let’s talk about the United Kingdom. Especially about their 2007 entry. Scooch sang “Flying The Flag” and for some reason they got 19 points that year, making them shared 22nd with France. They wouldn’t have ended up anywhere higher anyways, but Scooch did not deserve those 19 points. Their singing was off and their stage was hideous. It was so British that I just have to mention it. There are a couple innuendos in there. My ears hurt when I listen to “Flying The Flag”, but it’s just too funny not to watch. Luckily enough, Blue did get rightful recognition for “I Can”, the only other song from 2011 I really liked. Your typical boyband sound. Can’t wait for someone from One Direction to participate in a couple years. I bet it’s going to be Harry. Or Liam. Or both of them. Zayn wouldn’t do it, though. That I’m sure of.

Sweet Italy. I have nothing to say. Not one of their entries from the past 11 years is worth talking about. Maybe last year’s monkey, but that would really be it. I’m sorry.

I actually have a couple entries from France I want to talk about. Les Fatals Picards’s “L’amour à La Française” is one of them. This one is from 2007. I don’t really know where or how to start explaining this song. It’s like Les Fatals Picards were high during this performance. In a good way. There is a cat on stage. This is the song that came in 22nd together with Scooch, by the way. I guess that says enough. Jessy Matador hit us with a real summer hit in 2010 when he sang “Allez Ola Olé”. An easy breezy beautiful song. Very summery. Actually ended up 12th, which is quite high for a country from the big 5. TWIN TWIN’s “Moustache” from 2014 was a fresh song to hear. Got two points, but hey, that’s at least something, right. France itself is a big thing in Eurovision, as everyone should know. Douze points, am I right? Dustin The Turkey did a shout-out to this with “Irelande Douze Points”, but some countries even go as far as singing in French[7].

The try-hards

Eurovision knows two countries who do everything, but really everything, to get that win. Or almost win. Or top 5 spot. Two countries who take this whole party a little bit too seriously. I’m calling you out, Sweden and Russia. There is nothing wrong with trying your utter best to get a win, but it gets kind of really boring. I loved Dima 10 years ago. Serebro did great in 2007. “Song #1” is a good song, different, fun. Serebro looked kind of punk. Not as different and fun as “MiMiMi[8], but hey, Serebro was still young in 2007. Anything else from Russia after 2008 was so generic. Everything besides the grandmas from 2012, of course: Buranovskite Babushki’s “Party For Everybody” was fun and not boring. Everybody loves a group of grandma’s performing on stage without breaking a hip. That’s just sweet and endearing to see. Sweden, then, is like Russia’s annoying little sister who always wins the argument. Or the better twin. Or the favorite grandchild. In the past 11 years, Sweden has won twice. Twice!! And not once was the winning song one of my favorites for that year. I’m not hating on Sweden’s entries or anything, I’m just telling you my opinion. I am, however, hating on all entries with Swedish producers. That’s a thing. Sweden obviously knows the secret formula for a Eurovision win and everybody wants in on it. Stop doing that, please. Don’t kill originality and heritage and emotional ballads and shiny things. Make Eurovision fun again.

All the emotions

Some songs just make you feel so damn emotional that it just hurts. I cry like seven times when watching Eurovision because of this. Let me walk you through those emotions. 2017 gave us Joci Pápai’sOrigo”. You know, that weird Hungarian guy with that one dramatic female dancer singing in Hungarian. I love “Origo”. Artsvik’s “Fly With Me” is another one of those amazingly produced songs that just didn’t get the recognition it deserves. Her vocals are so damn strong it messes with me. Gabriela Gunčíková was robbed in 2016 when “I Stand” ranked 25th. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m shaming everyone for letting her down like this. Go listen to “I Stand”. In 2015, we had Elina Born and Stig Rästa sing “Goodbye To Yesterday”. I love this song. It’s simple and real. It’s not your typical love song. It screams emotion. Aminata’s “Love Injected” from the same year totally swept me off of my feet. I was rooting for her so bad. It’s an epic song and Aminata’s voice has such a grand range. It’s so versatile. If you ask me, she is the real winner of 2015. Aram MP3’s “Not Alone” from 2014 is another one of those emotionally loaded songs. You can hear so much pain in his voice (and see in his face, man he looked tired as hell), and he again proves that you don’t need a whole circus in order to put on an amazing performance. I’ve told you about Rona Nishliu, haven’t I? Let me tell you more. “Suus” was performed in 2012, in Albanian and it so beautiful you will see angels when listening to the song. I swear, you will. Rona has a special gift and she shared it with us and I am really happy she did. Let’s talk about 2010 for a bit. Boy did Europe fuck up in 2010. Safura came in 6th with “Drip Drop”, which is a shame. She should have won. Say it with me. Safura should have won Eurovision in 2010. Her voice sounds so genuine and her dress has lights. Actual working lights. She put down a real emotional performance. The same goes for Alyosha when she sang “Sweet People”. I get goosebumps every time I listen to this song. The message is so real. Her voice is so real. Give it a listen and you will understand. While you’re at it, also give a listen to Harel Skaat’s “Milim”. His voice is so powerful. It’s a shame his live performance wasn’t the best, but the studio version is just as sad. In a good way. I genuinely sob every time I hear this song. And most importantly: let’s not forget Sopho’s masterpiece “Visionary Dream” from 2007. This was Georgia’s first ever entry and every time I hear this, I just feel cleansed and proud and motivated and inspired. It makes me genuinely happy, which is rare when it comes to Eurovision songs.

Now, that’s quite a list, isn’t it? I have probably failed to mention a lot more songs that are worth mentioning, but you see, it’s hard to cover them all. From 2006 to 2017, 487 songs have been performed at the contest. This year, another whopping 43 countries are participating. Tune in on 8, 10 and 12 May to see who will be the winner of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, because the only way you can really appreciate Eurovision is by watching Eurovision. Until then, please enjoy this Eurovision entry by Father Ted.

Endnotes

[1] This again might seem as a really specific country, but I am Armenian so it is kind of not that specific for me.

[2] I like songs that have a unique charm, that’s why the more generic poppy songs are not among my favorites.

[3] As in the next worst dressed person, not second in the actual contest. Hell no.

[4] The title has nothing to do with the police but everything with shaking your ass.

[5] Maybe you didn’t know yet but you hate them too. I have decided.

[6] Not a Eurovision song, but that popular childhood song. Asereje.

[7] I’m ignoring Switzerland and Belgium here since a variety of French is spoken in both countries.

[8] This isn’t a Eurovision song, again, but that one annoying meme song from 2013 that drives everyone crazy. Serebro really made it after Eurovision, as you can see. Real memes.

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Hapax Legomenon! ‘University Challenge’ and the Nerd Cult

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Watch University Challenge on BBC 2 every Monday at 21.00 (CET).

On April 10th 2017 at 21.00 (CET) you may have missed the event of the year. After several months of weekly matches, people around Britain (and the world) sat down at home or in the pub to watch this match that was hyped with a Mayweather vs McGregor-level intensity. “I have never been this excited since Pacino and De Niro finally came face to face in Heat,” someone wrote on Twitter. It was the showdown of the century: Monkman vs Seagull.

Though their names may suggest that Monkman and Seagull walked straight out of a Japanese combat game, in reality their facedown was visually less spectacular. Rather than crushing each other with uppercuts and roundhouse kicks, the two flexed their brain muscles over German art historian Erwin Panofsky, the Galilean moons of Jupiter, and stained glass in North-West England. If there ever was any blood, it was only metaphorically.

Economics student Eric Monkman from Wolfson College – Cambridge and Bobby Seagull, an education masters student specializing in Maths from Emmanuel College – Cambridge, were contestants on the British quiz programme University Challenge. First aired in 1962, the iconic quiz programme is not your everyday game of Trivial Pursuit. With questions such as, “What is the only large satellite in the solar system to move in a retrograde orbit?” and “The ancient kingdom of Colchis and Kartli-Iberia are part of the territory of which present-day country?”, the average university graduate would count themselves lucky if they manage to answer as little as five questions correctly per episode. And so University Challenge only stars the crème de la crème of the British universities. On top of that, as of 1994, the questions are read out by none other than Jeremy Paxman, a journalist notorious for turning into an utter shark when interrogating politicians on Newsnight, and whose abrasive interviewing style makes the interrogation scene from LA Confidential look like small talk with a former classmate. So if the questions themselves won’t crash your confidence and self-worth, then Paxo’s occasional patronizing mockery and soul-crushing disappointment surely will.

Yet, with its impossible questions and ultra-brainy contestants, you cannot help but watch University Challenge with a mixture of complete perplexity and ironic bemusement. We will never be this clever so all we can do is be amazed by the contestants’ outlandish intellect and nudge fellow viewers on social media like two class pranksters; dude, we should totally make a meme out of this nerd. Indeed, University Challenge is the perfect environment for the birth of cult heroes like Monkman and Seagull. With his emphatic answering style and intense focus, the Canadian student Eric Monkman was quickly turned into #Monkmania – with memes, merchandise, and the lot. Bobby Seagull stole the hearts of the audience with his magnetic enthusiasm, while sporting colourful ties in every episode. So, rather than being the subject of everyone’s daily tauntings, the way these “nerds” were discussed on social media was like hearing high school kids talk about Regina George; “I love Monkman more than I love my children,” a fan told the BBC, and “we now know God walks among men,” someone wrote on Twitter.

Being Eric Monkman

Aside from Monkman and Seagul, University Challenge has seen many other noteworthy appearances. Apart from contestants who participated and became celebrities later, such as Stephen Fry[1] and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, it is now enough to simply be on the show in order to become famous. Corpus Christi captain Gail “the human Google” Trimble was probably the smartest person to ever take part in the show, correctly answering two-third of her team’s questions. Ralph Morley from Trinity College – Cambridge famously backchatted Paxman when he was baffled that Morley had answered the question correctly when Paxman hadn’t even got past the introduction. Morley replied with the savage comeback, “well what else was it going to be?”. Another star (and favourite of yours truly) is Ted Loveday, a law student from Gonville & Caius college – Cambridge. In 2015 Loveday became an utter legend by providing Paxman, who was only four words into his question, with the correct answer; Hapax Legomenon. The curly, cable sweater wearing student then celebrates his triumph with a cheeky grin while his teammates look at him as if he just dropped the sickest line ever. That same year, Loveday and his team walked away with the trophy, crushing Magdalen College Oxford with a relentless 255 against 105.

As for Monkman and Seagull, they both led their teams deeper and deeper into the competition. In the meantime – the episodes are filmed months in advance – Monkman and Seagul’s bromance had been burgeoning on social media and internet fora where they praised and commented on each other’s performance under the eyes of the entire world, which had become infatuated by the two’s personalities and awe-striking intellect. By the time the two met each other again in the semi-finals, they had become the show’s bromantic It Couple, the Seth Rogen and James Franco of University Challenge.

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Monkman defeated Seagull in the semi-finals but their friendship was so pure that I was convinced that he would do his mate proud by winning the finale, smashing his opponents John Wick-style. In my mind, the two would then walk off to the sunset together and spend weekends punting in Cambridge, discussing Heidegger or the Navier-Stokes equation. However, in the finale against Balliol College – Oxford, Monkman faltered: during the starter questions, eager to get the follow-up questions, he repeatedly leapt in before Paxman reached a full stop, causing his team to lose precious points for interrupting the question without giving the correct answer. Eventually, Monkman and his team lost with 140 to 190. Perhaps the pressure and his nerves got the better of him, or maybe Balliol was simply too clever for him. Either way, not even William Shakespeare or Game of Thrones could depict a hero’s fall from grace so tragically.

While at first University Challenge may not seem as the most exciting way to spend your Monday evening, it is probably the most remarkable quiz show there is. The best, and perhaps the most British thing about University Challenge happens right before the end credits. After 30 minutes of being targeted with the most complex questions, the contestants are, right before Paxman closes the show, expected to wave and say goodbye to the viewers. While some cocky contestants fully embrace the moment and salute the audience with the cool confidence that would make George Clooney feel inadequate, we see most contestants, who just outsmarted at least 98% of the population, sheepishly waving at the camera as though they were saying goodbye to their grandaunt. Maybe this is why some of the contestants have gained their cult status; it is not just their immense intellect that makes them cool, legendary even, but also the fact that these contestants have, at all times, retained their awkward nerdish charm.

[1] Who re-entered the competition in the 80s comedy classic The Young Ones.

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Short story competition 2017 – Second place: The Elf in the Machine

The Elf in the Machine

By Casper Rudolph

ONE

I’m sitting beside her on the couch in our living room, and we’re drinking our evening tea.

“In the dream,” I tell her, “I was a child. I plucked a rose on an open plain at sunset, and watched it wither as the sun went down. Watched how the petals, the thorns, crumbled to dust in my hand as the sun’s crimson hues, like blades, cut the life from the wild flower. Then I heard a distant voice calling out to me, and the humming of a bird.”

She smiles. “How odd,” she says. “It sounds beautiful, but it seems like imagery found in romantic poetry.”

“Yeah. You’re right. But it didn’t quite end there. I dreamed I slowly woke up, like a false awakening. The first thing I discovered was that I couldn’t move, as if a weight was pressing down on my chest, and I had trouble breathing. The next thing I noticed was that the colour of the wallpaper was off; it was a muddy sort of orange.”

“Is this when you realised it was a dream?” she asks, almost rhetorically.

“No, I didn’t. But the state of paralysis did diminish after a while, and I sat up in bed. Morning rays fell into our room through a crack between the curtains. Then I saw a little creature sitting on the windowsill.”

“What?” There’s a hint of a chuckle in her voice.

“Yeah. Imagine a koala with green fur and black dots. First it winked at me, then it leaped toward the edge of the bed. It started speaking to me, but all I remember is one strange question that it asked: ‘Can you still tell the difference between a dream and reality?’”

“Well,” she says with a serious look on her face, “if there’s anyone who can, it’s you, right?”

I shrug and lean back on the couch. “To be honest, sometimes I wonder if maybe dreams are just as real as waking life.”

The sudden noise of the doorbell cuts our conversation short. “I’ll go,” she says, and I watch her disappear into the hall.

TWO

I’m climbing the stairs, following a trace of a sound like a dog after a scent.

I reach forward, and swing open the door. On the bed, with his back turned to me, sits a man in a black hoodie, cross-legged, like a meditating monk. A rush of shock shoots up my spine when I see him. “Who the hell are you?” I demand as I step inside the bedroom.

“Hello, Andrew,” the stranger says.

“You know my name?” I anxiously look around for something I could use as a weapon. A heavy book. Anything.

“Don’t be afraid, Andrew,” he says.

The door closes behind me with a slight thud. I try to open it, but it won’t budge. I turn around again, and stand with my back against the door as I see him facing me.

“I’m not here to hurt you,” he says. “I’m here to talk. That’s all.”

“Show me your face,” I insist.

Without question, he reaches with gloved hands for the hood, and my eyes widen at the sight. Atop his shoulders I see the head of a black bear, and on his brow, above his dark eyes, there’s a third eye that glows indigo.

By reflex I glance at the alarm clock. It reads 75:83. Any feelings of fright subside now. I look to the bear and smile. “I’m dreaming,” I say.

“In a way, yes,” the bear says, and his third eye gazes at me. It feels like a needle is piercing into my forehead. “Your wife is downstairs, isn’t she? Don’t you wonder who’s at the door?”

I look at him with narrow eyes. “This is my dream,” I say. “There’s nobody at the door.”

His face remains emotionless. “Let’s have a look, then, shall we?”

He waves his hand and I hear the bedroom door behind me. I turn, and watch how it opens upon the hall. What I see puzzles me, as there she stands with slumped shoulders, crying. Beyond her I see a police officer with a grave face. Like spectres, hollow words come floating at me from across the hall. (Car crash…hospital…doctors…all they could. Sorry for your loss.) I bear witness, and a cloak of dread falls over me. My hands are shaking, even though I know that none of this is real.

“Do you understand?” the black bear says, standing beside me.

“Why am I dreaming this?” I ask.

I feel his gloved hand heavy on my shoulder. “Look at me, Andrew,” he says. “Look closely and clarity is yours.”

So I look into the glowing, gemlike eye, and let its brilliancy envelop me.

THREE

In this endless indigo I’m weightless. I can’t pinpoint the location, nor the direction. I’m inside an all-seeing eye, yet I see only a single colour. In the centre of my mind I hear a tone resonating at a high frequency, and other sounds come in, and I realise what I’m hearing is music.

I detect shapes and movement, and the music is getting louder. When I blink it is as if a blindfold is torn from my face, and I see:

I’m in a crowd in an enormous hall. They’re dancing to music produced by a man with a pink monkey mask behind the deejay booth on the stage. Standing still, I look up and behold countless of starlike lights glittering on the ceiling. Though surrounded by joy and beauty, I still feel darkness looming over me.

This brief moment of reflection under artificial stars is interrupted by a spotlight shining on me, and the music is killed abruptly. I realise that I’m standing here naked among hundreds of souls.

“Look who it is!” someone shouts. “The man of the hour!” It’s the deejay, only he no longer wears a mask. He has become a pink baboon, and he’s standing at the edge of the stage.

The spotlight dies, and the room is awash with blue and red and yellow at once. The people around me now have green skin and golden eyes. The pink baboon beckons me.

The crowd clears a path as I approach. The baboon grabs my hand and helps me onto the stage. “Hey, buddy,” he says, “you feelin’ okay? You look a little dazed.”

“Dazed?” I say. “I know I’m dreaming. You and this crowd are just thought-forms created by my subconscious.”

“And yet,” the baboon says, “you still can’t see the difference between dreams and reality.”

The sensation of dread reaches my throat, as though a fist is constricting me. “I…I can,” I manage to say. “Dreams…they’re just part of our imagination. Nothing but immaterial thoughts.”

The baboon grins from ear to ear. “But where do our thoughts come from? What is the mind?”

I open my mouth but lack any answers. Then I realise that the crowd and the hall have vanished. We’re standing in a beam of white light against a black backdrop. I look at the baboon and say softly, “I just wanna wake up.”

His smile fades, and makes way for a sad frown. Before I can ask what’s going on, he steps up to me and presses his finger to my forehead. Blinding light flares up behind my eyes, taking me away.

FOUR

I’m with my friend in his car; he’s driving us down a highway. I feel my forehead pulsating, and the outside lights and road signs shine like neon in the night.

“Do you fear death?” my friend asks casually.

“No,” I tell him. “I’m just afraid to leave behind loved ones without saying goodbye.”

“I get that,” he says. “What do you suppose is on the other side?”

Before us the highway ends at the edge of the world, and beyond I see a colourless emptiness, with not a single star, or planet, or moon, in sight. It’s black and cold, and eternal.

“There must be something out there,” I say.

“Heaven?” he suggests, driving onward.

“Maybe,” I say. “I hope so.”

We drive off the earth, and float into space, and drift awhile in silence until we stop, suspended in eternity.

“We’ve run out of gas,” he says.

I sigh, and look out the windshield. There’s a radiance in the distance. “Do you see that?” I ask.

“See what?” He sounds confused. “There’s nothing there. Only darkness.”

In the back of my mind a voice whispers: Come home to me, Andrew. I look at my friend, and know he couldn’t hear that. He’s just a thought-form.

“I think I have to go on alone,” I tell him.

“I understand,” he says. “Farewell, Andrew.”

“Goodbye,” I say, and I open the door before emotions get in the way.

I fly to the radiance, and its source turns out to be a rose of impossible proportions, blooming in vacuum. It bows to me, and a force pulls me into its vibrant heart. There’s brightness and warmth here, and deeper still I hear the humming of a bird. Moving into the centre, I close my eyes, and accept.

Short Story Competition 2017 – Third place: Armadillo

Armadillo

by Frumingo Diaterdag

The sky stretched long over the prairie in a cloudless blue. Heat hung shimmering over the asphalt, and the air was filled with the smell of molten rubber. Twenty-yard skid marks led up to the wheels of a tarnished brown Camino, smoke gushing from the hood. The front of the car was rumpled like an accordion against a large roadside boulder; possibly the only thing a car could total itself on in miles. Yet, there it was.

Two figures exited the vehicle, and trailed past the zigzag tire tracks. They slouched by the tangles of tumbleweed which were sunbathing next to the road. The plants would have rolled, as would have been befitting to the scene, but sadly there was not the shyest of a breeze. But this was not the biggest disappointment Jim had endured that day, him crashing into a rock and all.

“So much for my fishing trip,” Jim said. “You sure my body’s okay in there?”

The Grim Reaper walked beside him, and waved a hand at the question. “Naah, it’s fine. Near-death experience. Takes a lot of work off my shoulders, too. You’ll be back in your body once the coma wears off.”

Jim looked over the black-robed figure. The Reaper’s face was veiled by a darkness that Jim could only describe as abyssal; staring into it gave him the fairly accurate feeling that it was also staring back into him. It wasn’t quite as maddening as Nietzsche had made it out to be.

“Thanks,” said Jim. “You know, not letting me die and stuff.”

“Well, yeah, you were right. Maybe I should take a day off. Can’t remember the last time I did.”

In the car, Jim had been perplexed by the Reaper’s willingness to palaver. He had always imagined Death to be somewhat scary, and perhaps less chatty. Jim’s years as a used car salesman had served him well in the negotiations over his life after he had driven it into a boulder.

“You know, I always knew you weren’t no bad guy. All I heard was Oh, no! death this, death that, but then there I was, thinking, well, I don’t like to judge no book by its cover, you know what I’m saying?”

The Reaper nodded. “It’s the media. They like to feed off my reputation, you see. But no matter. Just see what they’d do without me.”

Jim laughed. “Right? We’re helping each other here. I don’t die, you have less work, and them medias can go suck it. We all win!”

“Yes,” the Reaper agreed. “Except for this little fellow.”

They stopped at the end of the tire tracks. They looked over the remains of the armadillo which hadn’t quite made it across the road. The creature’s back end was brazed to the asphalt, and bits and pieces were scattered every which way.

Jim repulsed, his hand raised over his mouth. “Oh my god!” he exclaimed. “I thought I’d swerved off the road ‘cus of a rock, but this… oh my—”

“Now, now,” the Reaper said in a monotone effort of compassion. “Don’t get your nuts twisted. Shit happens, man.” He patted Jim’s back.

“I-I had the sun in my face, and I was trying ta reach for my shades, but I couldn’t find ‘em, and—” He averted his squint back to the road. “…Oh, God,” he muttered. He pointed at the armadillo’s head. “Look, the poor thing’s still breathing!”

The splattered critter’s upper torso rose and fell at an alarming rate.

“Figures,” the Reaper said.

“What—you’re not just gonna leave him like this, right? He must be going through hell.”

The Reaper shifted his dark hood to face Jim. “What do you mean, Jim? We discussed this. I’m taking the day off.”

Jim’s mouth hung open, and he faintly pointed at the armadillo. “Err. It just don’t die, then?”

“Correct. You would’ve been dead too, need I remind you? I can’t go round making exceptions for everyone and their uncles. Either everything dies, or nothing does.”

“B-But! The armadillo just—”

The Reaper turned around and walked back to the car, murmuring a tune. “All our times have come (hum, hum)…”

Jim stood still, overwhelmed by a pervasive feeling of guilt. He looked over the undying armadillo, and gulped. With trembling legs he squatted near the critter’s head and whispered, “I’m so, so sorry, buddy. Please forgive me.”

“Gaaa,” the armadillo gargled.

Jim rose and looked at the Reaper, who was just getting back into the car. “We can’t just leave it here!” Jim yelled, his voice cracking with desperation.

“Watch me,” the Reaper answered drily. He shut the door.

Jim hurried back to the car, still moving uneasily as a ghost. He shuffled up to the door of the passenger seat and carefully tapped the window. “Mr. Reaper?” he tried.

The window rolled down under a squeaking protest, bursting into tiny fragments halfway down. Inside, the Reaper was rummaging through the glovebox. Seemingly unsurprised, his black hood turned to face Jim.

“Hey. Found your shades,” the Reaper said, holding up the glasses.

“I—eh, thank you. But—”

“You strike me as the type who smokes. Got any lying around?”

“…In my jacket, front pocket,” Jim admitted.

The Reaper looked to his left, where Jim’s unconscious body was buried in the airbag. Judging by the gash on his forehead, the airbag had decided to deploy sometime after the crash. He fumbled, and plucked a pack of Marlboros from the body.

“Score.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t go on with this—you need to let the poor animal die already!” Jim blurted out.

The Reaper looked up. “But then you die, as well. I thought I was clear on that.”

Jim clenched his fists. “I know, but this… it’s unnatural. I don’t wanna live if it means thousands of tortured souls, thousands of…of undead armadillo’s, on my behalf!” He slammed his fist on the car roof, and shot a painful glance at the near-roadkill that lay spread over the asphalt. “He’s just got to die.”

The Reaper took a drag from his cigarette. “Then you do it.”

“Me do what?” Jim asked with audible confusion.

The backdoor of the Camino flung open, and a scythe’s blade clattered to the road.

“You be the Grim Reaper today. I get a day off, and you get to keep a clean conscience,” the Reaper said coolly. “We all win.”

“…Me? The Grim Reaper? I don’t know if I could—”

“It’s easy. You swing the scythe, things die. A very rewarding occupation,” the Reaper urged. “Instant gratification.”

Jim stooped to pick up the scythe, but shot a cautious glance at the Reaper first. “Just for today?”

“One day only. Chance of a lifetime.”

Jim nodded, and picked up the scythe as if expecting a static shock, but there was no such thing. He held out the instrument with great reverence.

From the passenger seat a chalk-fingered hand held out a large, black robe. “Here,” the Reaper said. “Complete the look.”

Jim began to feel giddy, and exchanged clothes with the Reaper, feeling more at ease with his decision with every passing moment. “This is really happening, isn’t it?”

“Sure is, buddy. Now, go save that armadillo.”

Jim nodded resolutely, marched off, but quickly turned one last time. “Thank you—”

“Nah-ah. Don’t mention it. Time’s a-ticking,” the Reaper interrupted him, tapping an imaginary watch on his bony wrist.

Jim smiled, and set off toward the armadillo.

Halfway there, a crack of lightning tore through the sky over Jim’s head. A pure white light showered down, stunning him.

GRIM REAPER,” a divine voice rained from the sky. “SLACKING OFF, AGAIN, ARE WE?”

Jim attempted to process what was transpiring around him, and struggled for words. “O-Oh, you mean me? No, no! I’m not—”

AS SPRY AS EVER, I SEE. HOWEVER, YOU HAVE WORK TO DO. THE QUEEN OF BRITAIN JUST PASSED AWAY AND DOES NOT EXPECT TO BE PICKED UP BY AN UBER. IN OTHER RECENT EVENTS, THE RUSSIANS’ ATOM BOMB IS CURRENTLY TRAVERSING THE PACIFIC, WITH RETALIATIONS SURE TO FOLLOW, AND—”

“No! You’ve got it all wrong, it’s just the armadillo, see? And then—”

NONE OF THAT. GOING UNDER THE RADAR WITH WORLD WAR III AT HAND? YOUR OBSTREPEROSITY KNOWS NO BOUNDS, GRIM REAPER. THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY AFTER SHIFT’S DONE. AND THEN SOME. NOW OFF WITH YOU.”

Jim’s words went unheard as he was lifted off the ground and sucked into the vortex of brilliant light. He clawed at the air as he tumbled ever upward, and disappeared in a flash of white.

Jim’s body was kicked out of the driver seat, landing face-down in the dirt. The Camino’s ignition simmered, and sprung back to life. It drove back in reverse, stopping next to the armadillo’s mangled remains. The door on the passenger side flung open.

“Did it work?” the Reaper asked.

The bits and pieces of the armadillo slithered back together, regenerating the flattened back legs to a pristine condition. His armor shone like a knight’s, and he gleefully wiggled his tail.

“Gaaa.”

“As always—great work on that car crash, bud. Get in.”

The armadillo clambered into the passenger seat, and the door shut itself.

“Gaaa?”

The Reaper shrugged. “Not sure yet,” he answered. He put the shades on his skeletal face, and peered into the horizon. He adjusted his rear-view mirror, and spotted an angling rod lying in the back. “I think I feel like fishing today. How about you?”

They raced off.

Somewhere, the world plunged into turmoil.

Short story competition #32

UPDATE 8/2: POSTPONED DEADLINE

As we know that writers don’t like deadlines, we’ve decided to give you a little treat! You’re still able to enter our fantactic short story competition! You can send us your submission until February 19th.

So make the most of this second chance, and surprise us! We look forward to reading your work!

short-story-competition-2017-page-001

Writer’s Block is proud to announce a brand new short story competition! So wrap yourself in a blanket or two, make a nice cup of tea and put good use to all the inspiration provided by the joyous moments of a Christmas holiday! Just make sure you keep in mind the following aspects:

  • This year’s theme is Fantastic Tales. As this theme can be interpreted in various ways, we’re open for all your reinvented fairytales, contemporary fables, and magical legends, but also your urban epics, magic realist tales, and lyrical depictions of modern life. Make us marvel at the powers of your imagination!
  • The competition is open for all! We’d love to read stories by people of all ages and countries.
  • You’re allowed to send in one piece only, with a maximum word count of 1500 words.
  • Send your submission to submissions@writersblockmagazine.com; the submission deadline is set at February 5th.

The winning short story will be featured in Writer’s Block #32!

UPDATE 31/01: A little late, but we can finally reveal the prizes for this short story competition! For the first place, we’ll hand out a €20 Amazon coupon for you to go book shopping with, while second and third prize can come pick up a nice bottle of wine at the celebratory drinks when issue #32 comes out. In addition, we’ll of course still featuring our winning entry in Writer’s Block #32, and as in previous years we’ll show off the runner-ups on our website. So what are you waiting for: get writing!

We’re looking forward to reading your work!

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Short Story Competition – First Place: In Between Places

IN BETWEEN PLACES
By Charlotte Nijhuis

Hungaria

The bumping of the carriage on the railway could put me to sleep within minutes. Using my backpack as a pillow and the views flashing before my eyes as a lullaby, it was easy to drift off. Nights in hostel beds made out of little more than a card wood box helped, too. We’d been traveling little over three weeks when we figured out our rhythm: days were for coffee shops and museums; nights for hostel-cooked dinners and dancing; trains for sleeping.

Though we had long left August behind, the summer heat lingered in Hungaria, and even more so in Hungaria’s public transport. In each new place we visited we learned to say hello in the language and bought fruits at the market. This time it was Szia – easy to remember, sounds like ‘see ya!’ – and tangerines. She handed me the paper bag.
“Can you peel one for me? You’re so much better at peeling.”
I peeled while she took pictures. She bent down on the opposite side of the carriage to gain eye level with the seats, and playfully prompted me to look away. Outside, an endless formation of green hilltops unfolded, getting higher as we went on, while on the forefront small ranches alternated fields of cattle. Cows looked the same everywhere.

With her elbow resting on my leg she held up the camera.
“Look.”
I blinked my eyes open.
“What do you think?”
The image was skewed slightly to the left and a bit underexposed, but the composition wasn’t too bad. I showed her some settings – it was my camera she was using – and she got up to give it another try. To the sound of the camera clicking I finally drifted off, my cheek resting against the sunlit window, half a tangerine resting in my lap.

Bukarest, Romania

The small square in Romania’s capital was drenched in a faint morning light. The wind blew leaves up in a whirl; a miniature hurricane unfolding right in front of us. Minus the destruction. We were sitting in a café on the western side. Outside at first, until we had no tea left to warm our hands and decided to move to a spot by the window. We ordered another round – with milk and sugar, the lady decided for us. Personalized drinks are a Starbucks thing, not a Bukarest thing. We discussed bus timetables and laundry and how we should probably buy warmer jackets soon, carefully tiptoeing around the one thing neither one of us dared to address: this little bubble would pop sooner or later. The next stop was Bosnia.

Sajarevo, Bosnia

We first met in Prague. On the fourth floor, or maybe the third, of that club I didn’t want to go to in the first place. I asked her to dance – she was a ridiculous dancer, her head wouldn’t move in synchronicity with her body – and she told me she’d never seen a girl as pale as me. We exchanged formalities; where were we from? – Ireland, Mexico –, where were we headed? – Bratislava, anywhere –, what did we think of the Czech Republic?
“I love it here,” she yelled over a high-pitched Beyoncé song. “Don’t you?”
I left the next morning for Bratislava, slept my way through the six-hour journey. I hadn’t forgotten about the girl named Isabella with a uniquely high tolerance for tequila shots, but I convinced myself I would, soon. Two days later she walked into the kitchen at the hostel during breakfast time. A sign from the universe, she said. And: we should travel together.

Five countries later I still hadn’t asked her about jobs or plans or her idea of a future beyond backpacking. It didn’t seem to matter; the present kept us busy. Sarajevo was filled with history I had never found in my high-school textbooks, and architecture that called for elaborate photo shoots. It was here, in Bosnia, where I first realized how lucky I had been. How, maybe, us meeting again was a sign from the universe. Or maybe that was just her, and her almost childlike willingness to believe in miracles, rubbing off on me.

Hvala means thank you,” I read out loud, “and molim is please.”
I flipped through the Lonely Planet that we’d found lying around at the hostel. We were standing in line for the Jewish museum.
“How do you say ‘sorry’?”
“Let me see, I probably won’t pronounce this right … Sorry is oprostite.”
Oprostite.” She echoed.
We were silent for a while. I skimmed the history & religion chapter. Two more steps and we’d be standing in the sun again.
“I’m sorry.” It sounded like a question.
I flipped another page. “Do you think they list verbs in here or—”
“I am going home.”
It took me a few moments to understand she meant home home, Mexico home, not the hostel a couple of blocks down the road. The line moved forward.
Home home?” I thought I’d make sure.
She nodded. “I got this job, so I need to come in on Monday… I never thought I’d get it, to be honest.” She paused. “I am flying out to Brussels tomorrow, in the afternoon.”
I realized I was still holding up the Lonely Planet, open, with two hands. Closing it would mean I’d have to look up.
She placed her hand on my lower arm. “I really am sorry.”

I got on a train to Vienna that same night.

Vienna, Austria

It is a truth universally acknowledged that leaves change color before they fall. Autumn is a time embellished by warning signs: shades of red and orange where we first saw green. Winter may come sooner or later, and in the height of spring it may seem like it never will, but it does, and we always get a warning.

She is not a tree. She is quiet blue on one day and screaming pink the next. She turns from fiery red to sunflower yellow to the pale pastel hues that fill my mom’s closet. At night she’s dressed in silver; she wakes up in rusty crimson. She leaps from summer to spring to fall. And I never saw this coming.

Short Story Competition – Second Place: Old Devil Moon

OLD DEVIL MOON

By Luc de Vries

The spotlight is on us. The fallen night encircles the floor on which we sway, one foot to the other. Shadowed treetops crown my horizon. The stars are aligned in perfect structure: our diamond chandeliers laced with translucent clouds, drifting slowly. A tender step left, a hand on my side pulls me closer, and I abide. The moon shines down on us, and we are its children. Its light favors us, encapsulates us, follows us. We dance.

There is an audience, captivated by our every step. Every moment we almost kiss—don’t kiss. They sit at their tables, gowns stitched to the table cloths, caged like us in the moon’s iridescent gaze. Had the floor been coated to the point where we could see our own reflections once, it is now but rocks and dirt. We did not lose our footing, on the contrary. A finer waltz has not graced the earth.

My heels high, my lipstick a murderous red. His hands hard, his breath caressing my neck. The magic is lost on them. They, who sit around our hallowed grounds, our stage. Their thin hands jingling with jewelry as they point at us. The dangling glitter from their earlobes. All smiles and teeth. They don’t understand what is happening. But as the moon commands us, we sway. Again and again. Truth be told, I’ve yet to grasp the situation myself.

As our spirit wanes, the music appears. Each step adds a layer, each slide a touch. The earth is drizzled in the dew that reflects the faint glimmer of starshine, only to be broken and absorbed into the fabric of my dress, his legs. The perfect fourth sounds, there and back again. I lean in to him, and he leans in to me. The strings’ sweet lull harmonizes with his hums behind my ear. A chill shivers through my flesh like a nail on porcelain. A beat, a turn, back and forth. His gentle touch guides me.

At that moment, he throws me back; I let him. The music tumbles. The audience takes an empty breath. He catches me by the wrist, a grip of ice, and pulls me back towards his embrace. Dry, vacant sockets stare into my eyes. His lipless smile almost brushes my face. I return a smile of my own. From his fractured throat rattles a sweet nothing. I giggle, his skull turns to look sideways, we waltz on. The music returns, and nothing has happened. The bare toes of our feet touch, embracing each other. They won’t let go anymore.

*

My heart beats like a mellow drum, a melodrama. How I would wish for it to stop and leave me to live on. But it is a truth universally acknowledged that when the heart stops beating, life ends. It is a fact of life as troubling as the tide: it holds nothing until you give meaning to it. My reason is the person who holds me right now. He is mine, and I am his.

But this shared existence of a singular soul drifts uneasily on the tide. My heart hasn’t stopped beating, yet his has. Won’t someone tell me of my fate? What twisted pathway has been laid out for me that leads towards a free fall into nothingness? A pathway that intersected and intertwined with his, only to fade away like smoke from a gun. I can no longer see the outlines: they have shattered into countless fragments, and are spread among the sky like stars. My road ended along with his, yet I remain. Still, in his cold guidance. His chalk fingers intertwined with mine, our love undying.

*

The night is almost at an end. I see it, I can feel it. The moon slowly soars downward in galactic anticipation of the sun, and its pull lessens. Our graceful waltz devolves into a waggle, a slapstick struggle against gravity. Our toes have merged, and we cling to each other as we try to maintain balance. Where my knees buckle and touch his, the skin is graying. Cracking and popping, my shinbones splinter as they pierce into his. It doesn’t hurt, quite the opposite. The more I am absorbed into my love, the surer I am that we won’t be separated once the sun dispels our fateful reunion. I indulge in the bliss, lose concentration for a split second, and tumble to the ground in a sheltering embrace.

They laugh, how could they not? Beauty rots in front of their eyes, maggots gnawing through remnants of gray skin, their torn eyelids fluttering loosely in the bleak night air. They haven’t enough skin left to shape anything else but a ghastly grin. They try to rise for the applause; a rustle of hollow rattles and clinking rings and bracelets. They stumble; their clothes attached to their seating and their feet partway buried in cold ground. Some fall, some break, some laugh on. They’re heading towards us.

We scuffle to our coalesced feet, only to find that the bones in our fingers have vanished. His hand digs deep into my side, and my wrist now stops where his spine begins. The hand he guides me with is the same one I’m led by.

The music has long since stopped, and the skeletal fiends that surround us sing us a choir of malady as replacement. Their hands connected, yet not unified like me and my love: our bodies now share one pair of legs. Their screams are fearful, and they swell to the rise of the sun whose first rays color the sky. I no longer deem any part of me to belong to the sun. Its warmth has been replaced. Its light is unnecessary. I no longer need the illusion. I look up at my dearest. His faceless visage, that yet vessels our love, stares into me. The horror that fills me is at once invigorating. I dare not look down at our shambling, decomposing legs. Let this soon be over, my eyes beg him. There is no reply. A sweet, sweet nothing. I smile. Nothing is what I long for. Eternity lies within, hidden deep in those eyes.

Our ribcages connect through our clothes. Cackles drown out the ripping and tearing of my beautiful dress, now drifting downward. And it keeps falling: the ground below us has opened. The ground on which we dance sinks deeper, deeper, earthbound.

The audience leans over the rocky edges, their arms frantically waving towards us. Perhaps they are not yet satisfied with our performance. Me and my love only have eyes for each other. Always have. We’ve never been in it for the glory, all the glitter and the roar.

Our embrace deepens. The ground above us narrows. Our bodies are one, two necks upon a single shape. The cries are silenced.

The earth shuts.