Flash fiction: “Circadian”



            [Kyoto, Japan. Mid-Fall, 2007. Leather jacket, jeans, black t-shirt. Dusk, that time of day when there’s enough sunset left to appreciate, but not so much as to dissuade folk from turning on their lanterns.]

            I’m lying by the river when somewhere, far off and faint, a violin begins to play. It takes me longer than it should to realize it’s an old Ella Fitzgerald tune, but my brain gets there when the progression gets to the D minor [the one right before the chorus]. It’s an odd thing, the chemical reaction that occurs when a well-arpeggiated minor chord rings out against the harshly crisp air that always seems to accompany autumn; something about minor thirds and fallen leaves, I suppose.

            I’ve been counting sheep and counting shots, tallying up missed hours of sleep and ingested cubic millilitres of saki. It’s little wonder why life feels more manageable from a horizontal position; Japanese businessmen can put them away, and jet lag is a bitch. Chords warble along the breeze, A-flat into F minor into G7.  Dream a Little Dream of Me, that’s the song. She sings it with Louis Armstrong, Ella does. The violinist has finished now, and he/she has either packed it up or wandered off, since there’s no more music to be had. In its place there’s only the gentle hum of the city and the delicate chatter of the two young travellers splayed out on a picnic blanket to my right, just within earshot. She’s talking about a band she likes; yeah, but they’re no Zeppelin, he says.

            The houses, set on stilts, glow brightly in the evening fog, and with so much texture to the air it’s as though you could reach out and touch the part of the universe where the neon lights rub up against the dark. The lanterns that hang from the eaves of the buildings are pleasantly old-fashioned, and something in their flickering helps with my sense of calm.

            The grass beneath me is wet between my fingers, and I try and think of the last time it rained. Kyoto is beautiful in the rain, on those days when the damp and the chill slow the normally mad city down just enough to remind you how ancient it really is. Some dream of history, others drink it in. Me, I just want to fall into the heartbeat of the place, let the old circadian cadence put to rest most all of the unsavory distractions that pester the soul on the daily.

            The violin begins again, but this time I don’t recognize the melody. 

words, “Circadian,” by Josh Elyea

colour, “Blue Sheep,” by Mi Ju

Magdalen Laundry

home (1)

The now empty halls
a Dublin asylum
on Lower Leeson Street
you did what they said
carry the “fallen”,
Keelia, birthing a daughter
treated as defiled.
1941, aged 16,
there was no time to say goodbye

behind monastic walls
a bedroom, a cell
iron-barred windows
in each dream walking along:
“Ma, where am I going?”
but always wake up crying
bear pages of thick ledgers:
“You disgraced us!”
Unpaid workhouse

shapeless, long brown dresses.
The sound of hand-scrubbed linens
if you listen you can hear
the abbess and the nuns

on cold winter mornings
face shrouded in black veils
girls marching to six o’clock Mass

beyond, the ordinary, everyday world.
Pruning of an old mulberry tree.
Shrews, and lizards,

the nameless.
I was known as number 26.


these words by Ilona Martonfi were inspired by the colour of Alison Gildersleeve

following the toy

badiu 7

As Anne watches the toy spin slowly in the microwave, she thinks about where she and Augie will go. We could go to Vancouver, she thinks. Walk in Stanley Park and sit by the water. She’d been to Vancouver once, before she got married. She watches the toy spin and thinks about the ocean.


Their first night at the shelter, Anne woke up wet, Augie pressed into her side. “It’s too dark,” he said. They got up and Anne changed the sheets. She took the toy out of the backpack—it was one of only a couple Augie had been able to bring—and he clutched it to his chest as he fell asleep. Steven had given him the toy, not for a birthday or for Christmas; he just came home with it one day. It had been a good day.

The next morning, she found the tracker in her purse, in one of the side pockets she never opens. It was small, a little bigger than a dollar coin. Steven has touched this, she thought. He bought this little thing and turned it over in his hands and slipped it into her purse when she wasn’t there. She dropped it on the ground and smashed it with the heel of her shoe. She heard it crack, felt it flatten beneath her. She experienced a moment of relief before the panic—if there’s one, there will be others, she thought.

She dreams about the toy, but it looks different than it does in real life. She wakes up wet, with sweat in all the places. Augie is fast asleep beside her, a baby bird in a nest. She sees the toy in his arms and tries to think of how it looked in the dream, but all she can remember is that it wasn’t the same. And that’s the terrifying thing.


The fire isn’t huge, but it’s a fire. She thinks about how upset Augie will be. She’ll come up with an excuse. We’ll have to leave again, she thinks. The microwave sits on a wooden table, which is turning black as the flames eat. The microwave door hangs loose on a hinge. We’ll always be leaving, she thinks.

these words by Leah Mol were inspired by the colour of Teodoru Badiu

Love, left

badiu 6

Missed connections. Failed romances. Lost loved ones.

I’ve known too many people who’ve left.

Too many people who have been reduced to nothing but incoherent memories.

I have loved—deeply, intensely, purely;

these loves are now strangers.

the many faces we wear

these words by Fiona Williams were inspired by the colour of Teodoru Badiu

The Accordionist


            This is the memory: the grandfather sits in a chair in the kitchen, accordion on knee. He shuts his eyes and squeezes the instrument. A foot makes a beat. A crescendo fills the room, reaching for a climax that is always somewhere else. The floors shutter, the foot beats wilder. It is a miracle the chair does not break, that pictures do not fall from their hooks. Around the kitchen people dance and sway and laugh drunken laughs as the old man’s fingers dance an automatic dance upon the keys.

But in the grandson’s memory there is no music. Only a wheezing of air: the accordion desperate for breath, a gasping animal in his grandfather’s hands. Because he can never remember the music, he wonders if his grandfather ever really played the instrument—but the details are clear: the way the floor shook, the way the old man raised his knee, and the way he squeezed his eyes so tight that the unheard music became a thing extracted from the instrument’s wood, leather, and metal. Like a splinter squeezed from a finger. It is the very lucidity of the image that makes him doubt his recollection.

            But that is the memory and this day is the present. And on this day the accordion rests next to the deep freeze, already aware of its ascent into that magical category of things-once-owned-by-people-now-dead. This day: two days after the grandfather’s death. The same house, located at the end of Vicky’s Close, named by the grandfather in memory of his mother. The dead remembering the dead.

            The grandmother sits in the kitchen and the shadows of people enter and depart, wishing her well, bringing her food, offering condolences like cheese on a platter. She clutches a cane with knobby hands. She is 92 and she will be dead in eight months. She is thinking about the price of bread at the Co-Op, the way shadows have their own moods, and how violent men seem to love their mothers so.

            And the grandson thinks about how violence expresses itself in the most mundane of actions. He thinks of how when he was young he sat in the chestnut tree outside and watched his grandfather close the curtains and turn all the taps on so that from outside the house rumbled with the gushing of water through pipes, concealing the echoing thud of belt against skin, a sound innocently mistaken for the swatting of flies. Later he will associate running faucets and the shadows of mid-afternoon with his grandmother’s bloodshot eyes and tension-stooped back. Blood and screams and broken bodies are banal compared to a tap left running, to an elongation of shadow on a kitchen floor.

            The grandmother stares at the accordion and at the grandson and they both wonder if any music ever came from that instrument or if it really was just a wheezing, gasping bag all along. She thinks about a previous self, one vaguely resembling her own, and a black pit of seven decades opens up between that self and this one. She gasps and her face crumples and this loss of control lasts for two and a half seconds, but it is long enough for the shadows to notice. They think she is missing him and they offer more embraces.

            ‘Open the curtains,’ she says, ‘It’s a shame to waste such light.’

these words by Michael Warford were inspired by the colour of Teodoru Badiu

On Running Away: “Jack-o’-lantern”

SW 4

        Big city at last. Buildings, cement, a few trees. Some birds tweeting the fall of dusk. I’d hitched in. Now what? I must have had a lost look on my face because a van pulled up and drove alongside me, matching my pace.

         “Hello there!” called the driver.

         “Hi,” I said.

          He stopped the car and got out. Introduced himself as Norbert.

         “What’s your take on the problems of this country?” he said.

         “I don’t know,” I said.

         “Feel like talking about it?” he said.


         “Feel like having a free dinner?” he said.

         “Alright,” I said. He opened the back of the van. There was a young woman in there.

         “That’s Sarah,” Norbert said. I got in. Norbert shut the doors and the van took off. 

        I talked with Sarah. Another runaway picked up off the street. Where the hell were we going? Can’t be any worse than where we came from, we both laughed. She took my hand in hers as we bumped along.

         The van came to a stop. Norbert opened the back. I heard cicadas.

        “Come on, you two,” said. Sarah pulled up her tights and we followed him onto some sprawling estate and into a red brick country home. The cooking aromas were scintillating. I had not eaten all day.

        “Help yourselves,” he said. “After that we’ll have a little presentation.”

        The food was laid out buffet style in the dining area. Stacks of clean plates, plastic cups, a pitcher of water with lemon slices in it. There were six or seven dishes to choose from. Some other young people joined us. They were all quiet and respectful. The food was vegetarian, cooked to perfection, completely satisfying.

      “We’ll begin the presentation whenever you’re ready,” said Norbert. There were about ten cheap plastic chairs unfolded in the salon, but only Sarah and I sat. It was a slideshow. Norbert used a pointer as he clicked from slide to slide. The world was in crisis, he said. It was up to us to fix it.

        I raised my hand. “Is this a cult?” I said. Not that I really minded if it was.

        Norbert laughed. “We are called a cult by the mainstream. But we think the mainstream is a cult.”

       In my mind’s eye I saw a generic house, some generic suburbs. The home I’d bolted from. The home my father came to at dusk, exhausted, complaining. Ugly mood. Hating his job, his colleagues, his family. Yet, judging the fools who did not live their lives as he did.

       Good Riddance, he’d have said Mom. The only way we let her back is if she cries and begs and apologizes. Otherwise she does not set foot in this house again. Is that clear? 

         Mom would nod, her head down, hands folded, like a statue.

       He’d sleep. She would not. The light would be on all night. The house like a Jack-o’-lantern. My mother at the kitchen table, begging me to call, to let her talk to me one last time, so she could beg me to grovel before the old man like she did.

these words by Alden Chorush were inspired by the colour of Sarah Williams

these words by Alden Chorush were inspired by the colour of Sarah Williams


Kidd & loish: “She had a horrible boss”


She had a horrible boss. He had, always, a harvest of spittle at the corners of his mouth, and it seemed to her that every particularly horrible man that she’d met in her life had coffee breath and this same sea foam at the edges of his lips. In addition to this chronic hygienic condition, this boss had ghost hands, which was worse even than the spittle. All day, she could feel his ghost hands on the back of her neck and the small of her back and, when she unthinkingly left them untucked from her desk, her kneecaps. As he caressed her invisibly, the boss would sit, legs spread, on the corner of her desk, instructing her condescendingly on how she could advance her career to reach the status that he had achieved, or else telling her about the many gifts he bought his wife. “Swarovski crystals,” he would say, as he ran his disembodied digits over her skin. “Tiffany bracelets. Trips to Hawaii, without the kids.”

She didn’t shudder and she didn’t say anything because she didn’t think HR would know how to deal with her boss projecting his phantom hands into her clothing.

On the day she quit her job, she got dressed and went to work as usual. The boss had fire in his eyes that day, because he’d heard a rumour that one of his rivals was going to be promoted. On her first fifteen minute break of the day, she went out and bought a scone with cream and strawberries on top, which she ate on the way back to her desk.

Going back to her daily tasks, she felt that one of the strawberries had fallen down her shirt and was sitting between her breasts, wet and heavy. She tried to look down her collar to see it, but her shirt was tightly buttoned and she couldn’t see anything at all. She continued to feel it, grainy and soft, as she went about her work. She plotted to go to the washroom as soon as she could. But when she got up to go, the boss blocked her way. He stood in her path, fat hands on wide hips, and started to say, “In business, keep your friends closer and your enemies closer,” and stopped, his spit spilling out, gurgling. She could see, in the soft cavity of his mouth, that his tongue was missing. She stopped and gasped as the strawberry in her bra worked its way down to her belly button.

“I think you have something of mine, sweetheart,” the boss said as he took a step closer, and she gagged as if it were her tongue that had gone wandering, and then the boss thundered, “my pen, where’s my pen,” and she ran out of the office, which she was never to see or hear from again save for a last cheque unceremoniously deposited in her account a week later. On the way home, she shook from relief at the feeling of having nothing but her own body in her shirt.

these words by Charlotte Joyce Kidd were inspired by the colour of loish

On the Environment: “Forest for the Trees”



It was a place of possibility.  Where anything could happen.  Secrets hidden behind every tree.  Discovery around every bend.  Adventure was everywhere.

I was always struck by the trees.  So much bigger than anything we had in the city.  And so many.  No matter where you looked, there they were, towering above and continuing on past the horizon.

Walking beneath them today, I’m reminded of the games of hide and seek we’d play in their shade.  The time I came upon the perfect spot.  When no one could find me, I cried my eyes out, waking hours later to Mom’s touch as she picked me up and carried me back to camp.  To the bonfire.

I craved the smoke’s heady scent in my nostrils while simultaneously doing everything in my power to avoid its brutal sting to my eyes.  Every night Liz and I would get one step closer to the perfect s’more recipe.  It’s a miracle our teeth didn’t fall out with all the scorched marshmallow and melted chocolate we ate amongst these trees.

In later years, we discovered the lake.  The forest stayed to its shore, watching on as we swam and played.  It became near impossible to get us to leave the water.  We’d spend full days splashing about, emerging only when our bodies became too tired to keep us afloat.

It’s still hard to believe this will be my last visit.  I wanted to protect this place.  To protect the memories it’s given me.  Now all I want is one last dip in the lake.

I never knew there were so many different machines for destroying trees.  I can only hope the water will drown out some of the noise.


word by Grant McLaughlin

colour by Julien Coquentin


On Heteronormativity: “Blue”


She recoiled from me; our breath left stagnant carbon dioxide in the air.

“What if—”

She bowed her head, interrupting me with piercing subtlety. I felt my body succumb to the numbness of rejection, some feigned self-defense in preparation for when she’d say the word that would make me crumble at her feet.

Her hollow cheeks were flushed, lips pursed- eyes, pensive now. I couldn’t bear the insurmountable shock of no.

Leave now, get out, I begged myself.

Go before she tilts her cheek at me the way she so-often does, ensconced in blue-violet, and says my name.

She was scorching and the thought of losing her felt unbearably electric as I reached for her arm, craving that magenta, tell me it’s okay.

She looked spooked.

“I’m sorry.”

She shook her head as if ridding herself of an awful dream.


Blinking, I withdrew. She ran a finger over her lower lip, as if to feel the words as they left her mouth, and then shifted her gaze to me. “I don’t…”

I felt a surge of disappointment. But she let her eyes linger on mine. I studied their magenta hues, wanting to learn her before the moment she would inevitably tell me say goodbye.

I stared at her expectantly, unsure of what I could say.

“Of course I still care for you,” she spoke softly.

I no longer felt like crumbling.

“I want children, you know? This was fun. You have to understand.”

Now it was she who awaited my reaction. I wanted the moment last as long as possible. Anything I said now would become inextricably linked to a new era of us and I wasn’t ready to let her go just yet.

word by Annie Rubin
“Bold colours, and the well-defined silhouette of a woman inspired this piece to focus on passionate intimacy. This is a critique of heteronormativity, emphasizing two conflicting views on the legitimacy of a relationship between two women. I want to bring attention to the ways in which societal standards shape individual choices at a basic personal level.”

colour by Andre Barnwell 

Andre Barnwell was born July 7th, 1984 and raised in Toronto but currently resides in Vancouver. Ever since moving out west in 2013, Andre has been inspired by the city’s art community and motivated by the accessibility to the tools he needs to pursue his artistic passion and desires. Graduated as an animator from Ontario’s Sheridan College he was exposed to various styles and media to create art even though he prefers to use digital as a means to an artistic end. Fascinated by the human face, most of work is portrait based ranging in different colour schemes, particularly his blue and red monochromatic digital studies.

Outside of portrait work and digital sketches, he enjoys music, film, travelling, and building his brand, Sex N Sandwiches. He looks forward to collaborating with artists such as sculptors, photographers and musicians for future projects. With the world getting smaller with the help of technology, he implores artists and art lovers to follow his growth via social networks and eventually to international stages.

Keep it growing!

Professional Contact: 
Email: andrebarnwell@gmail.com

Social Contact:
Twitter: @AndreBarnwell77
Instagram: AndreBarnwell77

The author’s words do not necessarily represent the views of the artist.