Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Ara's Treasure hunt in Tikkurila (StoryMOOC)

StoryMOOC chapter 6 - task of the week - creating a location based story.

Aunt Renie was a rich woman, at least that what Ara had heard. It is said that Aunt Renie ran off with the bears, at least, that's how they told the story to spare the children all the gore. But even as an adult, Ara had never heard the story told otherwise. Ara, wondered about the treasure, and thought about bears.

Chapter 1: Seeking out the bears.

Ara is certain that the bears can tell her their secrets, and show her to Aunt Renie's legendary treasures.
The bears are found in the stretch among the trees, with cubs around their feet.

Find Tikkuraitti

Found the bears yet?

Chapter 2: Within the hippo's mouth

Alas, the bears had nothing to share, nothing to say to Ara. They suggest that Ara seek out the Hippo, and that she leans close - for the Hippo only whispers secrets.
Can you find the Hippo?

Can you hear the Hippo whisper?

Chapter 3: The Hippo Tells

Ara finds the Hippo who tells her yet another riddle. The treasure is in the flood, which Margaret Atwood controls. Which flood is this? And where would this flood be found? The Hippo says, in the home of words.

BONUS ROUND: The home of words offers two outcomes.

A. The book Year of the Flood is in the shelf and available. Congratulations - Ara has found that the treasure is in the Year of the Flood. A successful journey!

B. The book Year of the Flood is not in the shelf. The treasure has gone with the Flood! Ara must find the river, to find the Flood. But where to?

Scenario A.
The Year of the Flood
Scenario B

Scenario B: Ara must leave the lost flood for the river. Which river do you think it is?

To the River

Chapter 4: By the River

 Congratulations! The lost flood brought the treasure to the river. Ara has found the treasure and you may sit and contemplate what the treasure is worth, by the scenic river.

The bridge of the river

The river of the flood

Monday, 18 November 2013

Hutch (2013)

An illustration from the poetry collection Taking the Long Way Home by Steve Nash, published by Stairwell Books (2013).

Buy the book from!
More from Steve at

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Survival (2006)

And old story, one of my first short stories written as an adult. Never been published.

He held her close and tight. Outside the bombs were destructively booming, and the ground shook of buildings collapsing. Just earlier she had held a gun to his head, threatened to take his life.
“I won’t let you go, I won’t let you go,” he said. Not even in the end of the world. They didn’t know what to do. Should they run, or stay hidden? The gun burned in her hand. She was hungry, starving actually.
The bombing bore the city down. They sat near the subway, away from falling skyscrapers, and prepared to run back up the stairs in case the tunnels should cave in. She missed her cigarettes. Once the bombing would stop, they would try and loot the shops for food. And possibly locate her family.
He only stared into space. He thought about war. He thought about her. He thought about how angry he had been when she had terminated their baby. He thought now that it was good, well done! Because were she pregnant now, then… he didn’t even know. Only that it wouldn’t be good.
They saw people running about, like ants. But there was no shooting, yet. That was a source of hope, there in the midst of the danger. Because that meant there were no soldiers. If they were to survive the bombing, then they would not have to worry about getting shot by soldiers. Not yet anyway. The roof was crumbling, the last lights burst out. She held her gun nervously.
They needed the gun for protection. People went crazy in times like these. She heard noises from behind them; there were others in the tunnels. In these situations everyone looked homeless. Probably because now they were homeless. The only possessions they had was what they could carry. And nobody bothered carrying much, it would only result in robbery, it would provoke others. It could even result in murder. The rules of society had changed. Newcastle had changed. England had changed. She heard people talking about moving towards the countryside. She thought it ridiculous. What they really needed to do was leave the country. Scotland was still neutral ground. If they could get into Scotland, they could get a boat somewhere else. The Netherlands were nice and obscure. Norway and Denmark were too political, afraid of provoking the raging states. They would not accept refugees, and were refugees found they would be executed.
He listened intensely for guns. He was scared as the bombing had started but now, much calmer. Just a little earlier she had held that gun to his head and he had not cared if she’d pulled the trigger. It’s incredible how these things change so quickly. Because now he burned to live.
France, she thought of France. There was not much left of France. Neither of Germany. Would they provide shelter? Or would they simply not care? What was beyond those countries? Europe was bits and pieces now. How stupid of England to think they’ve escaped the war, that this could not affect them.
“We’re not going to survive, are we?” she said, but he couldn’t hear her. His eyes were blank, focused. She thought maybe Russia, but then again no. Dangerous. Too fucking dangerous.

When they met as children they used to play ‘zoo’ in her backyard. They used to place stuffed animals amongst her mother’s plants. Never in cages. He smiled at their humanity, and shuddered. There was no humanity left. They were the frightened animals, not in cages, but still locked up. Captured. He guessed they had it coming. And for a brief second, he thought of his stuffed toy, a dog, he remembered. He threw it out when he turned thirteen. The boys at school used to call him names, and those names had nothing to do with that toy. Yet he thought himself coming to manhood by throwing it out. Like waste.

She was so hungry. The smell of burning reminded her of barbeques and she stopped herself sad, because she would not attend anymore barbeques. And she felt her stomach twist, because the meat that she smelled was human.
They had to be practical, the metro tunnels would not hold much longer. She squeezed the gun, and opposite of what she had always thought, she felt nothing like a character from ‘The Sopranos’ or ‘Goodfellas’ or these blasting gang films. The gun was heavy and uncomfortable, and so cold her hands started to hurt. She always thought that a gun would make her feel empowered, and she was somewhat disappointed that it didn’t. Especially not with the blasting of bombs taking her thunder. She felt really fucking obsolete and tiny, tiny, small.
He worried about his record collection. She had smashed some of them, when they had argued. He guessed he deserved it. He was the one to let that slut go down on him. And he was too ashamed to tell her. So when she found out he deserved to have his limited Rammstein LP broken in half. She had hated them anyway, though he secretly thought that she actually did like them, but was being racist. He realized now how stupid and immature that thought had been, and could not believe it had driven him so. It was as if he had been fooled, by himself. Like a part of him had turned into one of those brats that had ridiculed him in school. And funny, he thought. He always imagined himself smarter than so.
She looked about, and the ground was shaking. The booming was deafening. The smell of burning, devastating. The smoke got into her eyes, made them water. She thought about how many of her family were still alive. She would have liked to think that her parents did get away. She knew that her grandparents probably didn’t. Her brother, well he might have been strong, but he wasn’t very smart. He was probably dead. Or soon to be, at least. Her heart strained at the thought of this. Her pets, all doomed, because her house had caught on fire, and eventually collapsed, as if the bricks were made dominoes. Collapsing into this skeleton of possessions, all ruined, all gone.

He pushed her on the shoulder. They were hungry. And the planes had gone. The thunder too was silent. Would they come back? Would the soldiers appear to erase the last of the survivors? They were hungry. People around them started to move, carefully, towards the surface. Everyone was hungry, and all knew, that food would now be limited. It was time stack up.
People burst into stores and newsagents. People smashed the windows of the few still standing shops. Gather clothes, money, anything!
She thought the clothing shops stupid. Because clothes today were stupid, they didn’t hold a day before the first seams would come undone. What use would they be in the long run?
She even saw people running with television sets, stereos. What was the point of that? Were they planning to live in the ruins of Newcastle, watching telly? The truth was people took what they could get, useful or not.
He dragged her into the nearest bakery fighting through the crowds. She pulled him out, it was too packed. They smashed the window of an obscure newsagent, and opened the door. They were alone. There was food, mostly sandwiches and crisps. He emptied his rugsack on the floor, cd players and cds dumped right on the floor. His precious notebook, now to be left behind, and soon trampled. All those words he had held so dear. Now no one would ever read them. He considered sparing it, but she refused. The stories were gone, she told him. Gone, he mumbled.
He filled the sack with sweets, bread, cheese, yoghurt, crisps, painkillers, cigarettes, and alcohol. Loads of alcohol. The strong stuff. Vodka, whiskey and rum. Quickly, very quickly.
She smashed the cash register. More people were coming, running towards the unseen shop. She grabbed the change and they ran out the back door.
“Scotland!” she said.
“Eh?” he replied.
“We have to head for Scotland!”
“Nah, they won’t let us in!”
She stopped. Then what else?
So Scotland it was.
The city was awfully quiet, dead bodies covering the streets like knocked down bins, burning black, trashy. They wandered in the shadows, and if they met someone, they didn’t talk. People were gathering by the fires, but most of them knew they had to get out. Because soon the soldiers would come.
They followed the rail, carefully, towards north. At day they stayed low, hidden were they could. The roads were silent, abandoned.
She believed any survivors of her family would have come to the same conclusion. Scotland.
At night they smoked and drank carefully to keep warm. The sweets gave them a sugar high to keep walking.
One evening cars came, driving towards Newcastle. Soldiers. They shot at them as if they were pawns in a carnival stand. He was hit in the thigh, the bullet passed his flesh, ripping it open like ham. She muffled his scream and dragged him down in a ditch. In the mud and amongst the waste of snacks, wrapping papers and bottles, they were safe. The water reflected leaked petrol in the setting sun.
She drenched the wound in vodka while he was biting into a piece of wood. The rough stone ground was cold, and she bound the wound with her scarf. He ate the painkillers, downing them with rum, leaning onto her. They pain was muffled, only a bit. He would lean onto her in agonizing steps, breathing heavily, straining her patience with moans.
The pain was unbearable, and he was slowing them both down. It grew worse as they spent all the painkillers, and all of the alcohol. Food ran out, though both ate sparingly. Soon he could no longer walk. The wound turned green, spreading an awful stench. She had realized long ago that he would not make it to the borders. But she didn’t dare to leave him.
They caught birds, and ate them lightly cooked or raw, depending on how they safe they felt. He was sweating, and she came to terms that they were lost. And then he asked her to go on.
“I can’t leave you,” she said, knowing that she wanted to.
But he insisted. Before she would, he asked her to help him. He would not survive this wound, but death lay far ahead. And remorsefully she lifted the gun to his head, again. He told her he loved her, and she told him to shut up. She didn’t want to do this, least of all with him talking. Least of all with him talking about love. She closed her eyes. And pressed the trigger.

Monday, 28 October 2013

The River Runs Deep (illustration, 2012 - Lunar Path: Memento Mori album)

Drawing from the Lunar Path album Memento Mori (Inverse Records, 2012)

The drawing in the album booklet (finished and coloured by Jonas Eriksson)

Monday, 21 October 2013

Somebody To Shove (chapter from The Truth About Pubs in York) (2006)

Many years ago, I was working with a partner on a book called The Truth About Pubs in York, which ended up not working out. But I recently found my chapters from the project, and I still love the theme and the chapters, and I want to share them. It's always been there, in the back of my mind, to finish the project because there were so many things in it that works for me.
Also, reading this, you may find some familiar names. The idea was to kind of play with roles and fantasy and take an honest approach to oneself as one is as well as an approach to one's own fantasy, perhaps stepping into a self-indulgent area. I'm not naming my partner here, but if there is a wish for name changes, I am happy to do some re-editing.

My hand trembles. There is a pain in my ankle, but I cannot recall the reason for it. Marion is low, depressed and it means that I am too sad and in despair. The weeping warrior is with us, searching for the lost Amy, who apparently has vanished from the world. So much for helping those two. Where the hell would that girl go, if she is so in danger? The girl I never laid.
There is a song back home, which entwines with my thoughts. I always hear it sung by children, for some odd reason. They sing of the prosperous future that awaits us all, but they sing from the human view, which is perhaps not so joyous.
‘You will never be yourself again.’
I don’t know why I mention it, it is hardly important. I only know that stalking the slick streets at night searching for Amy is eating at my conscious. We find the drunks and homeless camouflaged with the shadows, like the monster in the ending of the film ‘Alien’. The city, it sleeps.
My breath filters air into smoke, and I think about the humans, whom I hate so much adrenaline pumps in every limb, and I feel sorry for what they are and for what they are to become. I’m sure this is mirrored from Marion’s mind. These thoughts cannot be rooted in my own.
We saw Amy’s flat empty, and the streets are so equally vast and heart drenching. I gave that bitch Malin a good telling-off for losing trace of her. It was an argument which gave that sensation of victory even in loss, though without settlement on who’s to blame I came out glowing.
She’s wearing heels, hooker heels, spiky, evil and dangerous. Her feet are small and delicate, perfected with slender toes and withering nail varnish. I guess it feels like my soul, that black varnish, first applied so carefully with layer upon layer and then simply left; to break and chip and die.
-We can hardly move quietly with you along, weeping warrior.
-Believe me, with those humps under your cloaks we are more invisible with my shoes. People only look at me. And I am used to dirty looks.
Marion shifts uncomfortably. We turn toward Micklegate and I wonder to myself how Malin is supposed to climb down the hill in those shoes. And true enough she struggles, but remains poised and dignified. It only confirms her true age. I can see her as a magnificent man, working in fields oozing smoke. It makes me think of that Finnish painting by Eero Järnefelt, only judging from her clothing it must have taken place long before Järnefelt touched a paint brush. I can see her in Victorian dressing, on a ship in storm, clutching to the rail. Water spraying across her clothes (and I picture her stiff nipples shining through the white fabric), poisonous dagger by her side. Is this how Marion remembers her? I must take an opportunity to ask.
I reckon that the warrior is not as useless as I presumed. She knew healing methods for my jaw and nose. They’re now corrected if still so swollen and tender.
And then as if she had heard my thoughts she asks:
-Why did you provoke Digger like that? Is it a masculinity thing?
I shrug.
-I don’t like the man.
-You impregnated his wife?
-She has a thing for me. It was no challenge to lay her and even less in charming her.
-But why?
Why the fuck am I talking to the warrior?
-Because I could.
-You do realize you hurt him. That betrayal will always be with him.
-The betrayals, Marion adds. Malin looks at me, but there is very little in her eyes. My misery instantly grows. I can’t see why it should, but it does. Nothing bothers me, I am an honoured assassin, and forever connected with my companion. There is not a much higher rank to achieve.
-I don’t know how many times I fucked the bitch, okay! It doesn’t matter. Digger is a prick, he deserves a little bit of betrayal every now and again. Wouldn’t want the boy to get soft!
I laugh, and a woman in front of us startles. She stares back with glassy eyes. Her stripy shirt is a little torn, and I expect she paid a lot of money for that detail. She quickly ushers away, the mini skirt gliding up her wobbly thighs. I feel an instant hatred toward the human race again.
-Poor man, Malin says. She stops in the street and inhales.
-There is someone by The Cock and Bottle. Her breath steams, obscuring her face.
-It is probably Digger. We don’t want to meet him, Marion says. Malin shuts her eyes. She looks peculiar in the street light. I can suddenly see all of her freckles. That Scandinavian kitten knows the wind. I bet she knows the humidity. Water seems important to her. The elves of Russia were strange in their time. Perhaps it is a kind of culture shock.
-It is not Digger.

A girl sits in front of the door to The Cock and Bottle. She rocks back and forth, comforting herself. There is vomit next to her. Her hair is an exquisite red, her leather jacket smells of cigars and weed. She’s missing a shoe, and I find that she has carved ‘Dimmu’ in the flesh of her leg. The wound is fairly fresh. Marion kneels down to her.
-She’s only fourteen. Wonder what she’s doing out this late, the poor reject?
I join him. Malin keeps a distance. I lift the girl’s head gently by the jaw. Her eyes are tightly closed shut.
-What’s wrong with you?
She’s keeps quiet. But I demand an answer. I slap her across the cheek, so hard that she falls over. I rip her up and shake her, and she bends awkwardly and spews bile by her side. She’s shaking now.
-What do you want, she mumbles, drying her lips with her sleeve. Though she is tired and fantastically wasted, she’s enraged. I don’t sense a fear of any kind.
-I know who you are. You fucking demons!
Marion chuckles.
-The popular misconception.
-My brother’s gonna kill you! He’s seen you, and he knows how to destroy you! I’m not scared of you.
-That’s another usual misconception. You should be scared.
I’m not sure what to think. Plastering her blubbering words together equals the assumption that she might actually be involved in this mess. But then again she might be bluffing.
-Who’s your brother then?
-The Green Warlock!
Now both Marion and I start laughing. We mock her, she responds by scowling and insisting that her brother’s powerful.
-She’s quite genuine, if somewhat exaggerating, Malin says, appearing from the dark, her arms crossed over her chest. Her sluttish dress (short and black) slips up an inch as she does, but her thighs are far from wobbly. The girl freaks out. I mean, she’s screaming and crawling away, chattering nonsense.
-My God, it’s you! It can’t be, it can’t fucking be, I want off this trip now, take me to ’ospital! For fuck’s sake, help me God, help me! She screams, whimpering in our grip. We look at the warrior.
-Shush, Serena, Malin says. She settles as if Malin’s voice was a tranquilizer. I can’t stop thinking if the warrior’s actually suggesting that we should worry over a green warlock. Now that’s ridiculous.
It’s her turn to kneel in front of the girl. She takes her face between her palms.
-I’m real. I’m here, and you’re no longer lost. Now tell me, what has your brother done?
-He calls himself ‘The Green Warlock’. He brought the moon to wake the old ghosts.
Her voice is thin but clear. She sounds like a machine.
-The moon does not bend for a man. Malin’s voice is steady.
-That’s what he said he did. I don’t know how, but he has set ghosts over the city. He says the demons are to take over the world and he won’t allow it.
-Oh, so he sets out ghouls to save the world, I state. Not a very smart move.
Serena looks at me, her eyes empty and I fall into despair again. Why are people looking at me as if I don’t exist? I look at my trembling hand again, to confirm it’s still there.
-Ghouls? The child asks weakly.
-Ghosts, sweetheart.
-Marda, silence from you.
I glare at Malin, but I can see that she has a point. And for some reason at that moment I love her intensely, dubious of my previous feelings. But the feeling vanishes as quickly as it appeared. I think I’m fucked in the head. It’s throbbing now.
-Serena, she says. You know me, and I know you. You’re brother is lost in his doings, it will end him.
-If he dies, I die with him.
-I know you will. Now you will be my eyes and ears, you will betray your brother.
-I will not.
-You will.
Her voice is fading into sleep, not knowing what she’s saying.
-So what news do you have for me?
-The barmaid Amy sleeps in her flat.
Marion startles. I too am shocked that the girl knows of this quest.
-But how can she, we were there earlier? Marion asks.
-She sleeps protected, using a veil to keep you from seeing her.
-How do we break this veil?
Serena starts laughing, a hollow sound.
-You knock and draw it aside!
-I know how to do it, Malin claims. I summon power from the mist. I should have figured this out on my own. Now sleep, Serenity. I will return to your mind. I will be your parasite.
Serena falls back, and she snores. Marion and I stare at Malin, demanding answers. What of the warlock, is he dangerous? What of the veil? And how the hell did she know this teenage wreck?
But all I can say is:
-How come she knew you?
Malin blushes, turns away ashamed.
-I have messed around in her head and dreams. I’ve spent time with her, I’ve fucked her, I’ve talked with her. Silly kid. Don’t know her own good.
I grab Malin’s arm. I’m angry because I realize that she has been manipulating me too, and who knows what comes from manipulation? Am I her zombie? But I simply ask:
-Do you mean that this warlock character comes because of you?
-No! she says, ripping herself lose. It must have been through him that I have been able to connect with her!
-What do you know of this magician? Marion asks, calmly.
-Not much. He is one of the few resurrected witch-men, but does not know how to handle the power, nor where it comes from. He must have had visions. I wonder which witch has been resurrected in him?
-What do you mean? Marion ties his hair back. His face is beaded with perspiration, steaming in the cold.
-It is an unfamiliar magic, not northern, that much I know. In fact I know very little of it, but I intend to find out. I doubt there will be much worry from him, or anyone else. They are mortals, and mortals are… limited.
I smile at her remark. The warrior’s cool, I must admit I’m taken by her cruelty and wisdom.

Amy’s lodgings.
It is all very strange. Amy’s flat smells of fire and fresh incense but there’s no one there. Malin seems determined outside her bedroom door, shuts it (as we examined the room one more time) and stretches her arms out. She lets out a low tune, a note which grows and suddenly turns into a murmur. We’re quite vexed, not knowing what to think of it all. She starts banging on the door, in rhythm, harder, harder, until I begin to suspect the wood will break. Then, by an unknown force, the door swings open, slamming into the wall. Smoke pours out like lava.
-How could you do that? Marion asks, and it feels as if our eyes are about to fall out of our skulls.
Malin smiles. She calls Amy’s name, and there’s a shape stirring on the bed.
-I sleep behind veils too. No physical form can erupt there. You’re quite safe behind the veil, like a bride on the wedding day. Once removed the power fades, and you’re on your own.
She calls for Amy again.
-Anyone can hide behind the veil. Even an angel.
Marion and I take a step back as Amy rises, naked, from her bed. But it isn’t her nudity that perplexes us. It is her wings.

Monday, 14 October 2013

See ya Lycidas/Lycidas3 (2013)

From the poet Steve Nash's collection Taking the Long Way Home (Stairwell books, 2013)
For more on Steve, check out his blog
To buy the book - and do buy it folkes, it's fantabulous

PS. This is the version of the drawing, pre-touch ups. So enjoy an original with all of its misguided lines.

Below, the image post-touch up. (In case you're interested)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Chrysalis (2007)

(not previously published)

The loss of self-control is the loss of personality. The mirror reflects the truth but mine only shows lies. I am twenty-eight years old and I have moved seventy-three times during these years.
It all began when I was four, and my first placement was an institution for mentally unbalanced children. The time before that first move is white, but I insist that I never was insane. No, my solution for this particular placement was in the mentality of my parents. They, they must have been crazy.
The institution gave me little in the ways of teaching but it enhanced a sense of detachment. I remember occupying pale-coloured corners, observing the general nurse, whose focus was not on the other lost children but on the soap in her little telly box by her desk. And then I remember calm voices, which I can still sometimes hear in the state between sleep and awake. They have carved their sounds deep into my mind, scratched the surfaces of my eardrums.
Moving from institution to a home with a new set of parents I can recall the smell of baking on a Sunday. My following move was from kindergarten to school, and then reaching further levels and changing parts of the building, each time settling in only to soon move out again. I became the target for local kids which resulted in moving schools all together.

When I was sixteen I left my foster parents to study in a town two hours away. I visited at first, of course, and kept contact with my old friends. But aging acquaintances took their toll on me and as the friendship and parental dramas expanded I found other friends closer to my new home, and they came to replace the old ones. I found new mother and father figures, so I left the previous behind with my old life. I came to metamorphose into a new me, the change developing in my cocoon of observation reaching for conversation. It was exciting and fresh, my new companions smelling of flowers, my lovers pouring life juice which I sucked like a vampire, becoming their lives and adapting a personality I had not known was in me.
But then I came to the comfortable state where my metamorphosis reached its completion and I looked into the mirror where I only saw lies. My cocoon lay in pieces around me and I found myself bored with these people I had come to call parents and friends. And soon enough the drama took root and my attention drew to the map, where I had drawn lines across the country.

I moved again, using my old personality to grow a new one and enter the safety of my butterfly chrysalis again. But it was burst open when I found these new friends immediately cheating and that the drama, instead of breaking between them, targeted me. I left within months of moving to the place.
I stayed in my next location for over three years, but even here moved eight times between houses. The people remained the same, and this repeating metamorphosis created a weakness in me. I came to solve dramas between friends the best I could, I came to let myself cry when I was hurt, I came to recognize the pain and take myself through it. This was the strongest and certainly the strangest period of my life. It even took me to write a postcard to my foster parents, not leaving a return address. On a specific New Years Eve I rang my oldest friend, only to find that she didn’t recognize my voice. She remembered me after a while of convincing and said that everybody thought I had been murdered or abducted. ‘By aliens you mean?’ I asked, but she didn’t appreciate the joke.
I found that rooting for so long in the same tarmac dirt caused my latest personality to become predictable and I felt the need to fly. I signed up for another school, bored with the degree I had already achieved and bored with the whole place all together. I kissed my friends goodbye, remembering everything we had been through so that I could casually forget them. I promised to keep in touch and visit which was another well-worn lie, and one that I had told often before and had no plans to stop telling.

My new cocoon was rotten but moving around buildings I found a place to settle and observe, and yes, soon enough the cattle came and my new ‘me’ developed, re-incarnating my lies and thoughts and lives. It was here my first sense of despair whispered in that damned mirror, that first devastation of not having a true self and only being matter, putty clay to be formed by my mind’s fists that were rough from years of experience. The mirror had always told me lies but this time I didn’t know which one was lying, the mirror or me. I had to move again.

Getting emotionally attached was not something any of my previous personalities recommended but I thought it would be worth a try. I then was engaged to a gentleman of fine social status and a considerable amount of money. Financial stability was unknown to me, I had been used to sleeping on the floors of the people I had pestered long enough to be my friends and living off scraps until any meaningless job had popped up with a ‘Welcome to the Business’ note.
I attended important festivities and met with important people, behaving properly where required and most improperly where receptive. It was all very exciting, the most interesting role that I had played so far. In fact, it was so interesting I found myself planning means of destroying it.
Breaking someone else’s heart was easy considering how used I was to crushing my own, leaving bloody streaks on my hands and my mirror image shouting: Lies! Lies! Lies!
The only thing I left behind in that place was mirror shards on the floorboards.

My bag was dragging on the bus station floor leaving a trail of scum and pieces of my soul. I found that I was already over twenty years old and I could not remember my foster parents’ names. The baggage was stored in the compartment underneath the bus, on top of the wheel, vibrating into pus of recollection while the shell of me was sat inside the warm vehicle staring at the rain dragging over the windows. It was here another sense of desperation enclosed me, and I missed my old friends, from each place I had lived. With an aching heart and deprived presence I suddenly realized that I was crying like child and that the cold would not go away.
I took myself to a hospital as my lungs had appeared to have stopped filling with air when I inhaled, and there were black spots covering my eyes. I was forced to give them my original identity, the identity of a girl (and not a woman) I no longer knew and I no longer remembered but for a name. The doctor looked at my records and I knew she considered another mental institution, which I personally would not have minded. I could create life everywhere and when I was done I could leave. An institution was where this ability was born and that could be where it would die, as I would die by my last damnation of the mirror. Lies, Lies, Lies.
But the doctor said nothing of the place, and mentioned only anxiety and stress reducing methods. Her voice was calm but not like from my childhood. When a child grows up, the calm voices fade. So heaven had to wait.

I walked out the disinfected building feeling immensely dirty and lost and couldn’t recognize where I was. I usually took this as a good sign as I had no wishes to return to any past places or any past lives. But now it took a hold of me and I saw only mirrors everywhere, reflecting my lies telling me that I had lied so much that there never shall be a truth again. That I, on my own, had managed to ruin the course of the universe and I had to punish myself for it.
I paid a lot of money to leave that location as quickly as possible.

I settled into another cocoon with another gentleman and left after he had rejected me. Drama and human relationships had turned fierce now and I left with a black eye.
Next place was good.
Next was not.
And thus I lived my life, until now when I halt at yet another city. This bus station seems familiar though I am… pretty sure I have not visited it before. After travelling the connecting stations become hazy and fade, like the voices of my childhood. It is only in that state between sleep and real that I find excitement within these places again.
But awake it offers me little satisfaction and colossal paranoia. It seems like the travelling and resetting cocoon has become dramatized and I feel I need to be alone but cannot proceed with solitude.
I have forgotten my name and previous purposes but I know that now I have no purpose. I lie and lie and counterfeit personalities. I could write a million stories. Yet on these journeys I have never maintained a journal, no means of proof to confirm that these lives took place outside of my head. And I have forgotten cities, names, lives. I look at the timetables and it seems that I have visited every single location it displays. I can’t remember so I can’t decide where to connect and set up another cocoon. My wings are withered and I must be reborn but the final shell of what is me might not survive another metamorphosis. I observe parted lovers reuniting, there are flowers wrapped in shiny paper and great embraces.
My cheeks heat up, and my throat is ensnared. The journey is over, the travelling complete and what have I learned – only to forget?
I rush to the ladies’ and vomit heavily into the sink. Nobody gives me second glance; I must look like such a mess they would consider this behaviour frequent in my life. Perhaps it is, I no longer know.
I look into the mirror I don’t see lies or a shell. I can’t see myself. The person staring back at me has the wrong hair colour, surely? But she mimics my gestures and facial expressions. She is not me. So is the truth restored then, now when the lies are gone and been replaced by another canvas? But this is not an empty canvas for me to paint and create on. This one has already been finished and not by me.
I see myself shoving my clenched fists into the mirror and it breaks making the most awful sound and the shards cut into my wrists, searching for my veins where they would sink in and devour me whole, our deadly sexual act would be complete and the lie would be absolute.

But I look again and the mirror is whole; my arm immobile by my side. I’m not even bleeding where my teeth had sunk into my lips. There is no wound in me. But I feel like a black hole. And then I collapse.
My head throbs but I don’t think I’m seriously hurt. I keep my eyes shut, they feel swollen from crying. I must look like such a mess.
The voice is slightly familiar and I recognize that name from somewhere. It echoes far away, but doesn’t settle anywhere in my memory. It jumps from place to place bouncing off possible links to the verge of confusion.
I force my eyes to open and I see a woman of my age. There are a thousand names in my mind, shouting together but none of them are right.
‘Marianne?’ the woman repeats.
I sit up and look around and realize that I am where they call home, the first city that I left when I was sixteen.
‘I don’t know,” I tell this familiar stranger. ‘I could have been Marianne at some point. The loss of self-control is the loss of personality. And I don’t believe I ever had self-control. No, I don’t think so.’
‘Perhaps the aliens kept it?’
The woman smiles at me. I’m sure that I know her; I recognize her scent.
‘Perhaps,’ I say, and the throbbing in my head subsides.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Angel (2012)

Drawing for Daiana Jansson. Pencil.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The New War (2010)

A short story which is after quite a few years still looking for a home. Thought it was time to give it one.

She leaned back in the ditch, a trench of soaking mud, entrails and blood. The monster leaned forwards, next to her, his teeth dripping of saliva. He was hungry, lips extracted from gums and snout excited by smells. The bombing drummed on but further from them now, metal creaking from rain showers during the night with water tip-tapping onto rusted joints. The industrial revolution of the digital age cried its pain for life with weaker brass horns loud and then humming into the night. Here now was the interval, the silences between the battles as each side gathered strength for the next one.
The monster, a hound, wolf and man, shifted in his skin, gun in his hand, and dared to peak above the surface.
“Gone for now,” he growled. “Should one seek safety with the Angel[unit]? Do we proceed in attack?”
“The two of us?” she laughed, peering over her dead companions. Her ears hurt in ominous tinnitus, head pounding like the bombs. It would have been unbearable, had she not been so scared.
“The Angel[unit] has fled now. Demon[legion] won’t be of help.”
“We must follow them. Implant the virus. How’s the machine?” Drool slipped off the monster’s jaw as he spoke. The full moon hung pregnant and menacing above them, but there were no stars. Only heavy clouds of desolation.
She looked at the shattered and out-dated computer. It was gone but not dead. The white plastic was cracked with tiny little lightning veins across the front. It was surprisingly sturdy for something that cracked so easily. The fruit on the cover was gone. As was all fruit, and had been for a long time. She had re-wired this computer many times before. And they weren’t the only ones carrying the virus. Every section had a computer, kept like treasure, in case they were allowed close enough to the KONEISTO-XYi to infect the Revolution. But The Mhaskina Revolution denied all access and destroyed the earth in its raping pilgrimage.

A new age, a new time, humanity chewed and spat away.

The monster sniffed the air, petrol and iron, burnt rubber. So some wires had been damaged in the battle after all. He could hear pounding, thumping alongside his heart. It was hypnotising and regular, like machines manufacturing machines by a conveyer belt. He’d heard it so many times before. Menacing.
“Come on!” he growled and the girl followed, crawling in the mud in quickly, hiding behind each pile of bodies, behind scattered pieces of broken vehicles. But their army was gone now. The monster knew where the KONEISTO-XYi and the HD were hidden, underneath the ground and always near the centre of the fight. It was as if desperation and pain fed the heart of The Mhaskina Revolution energy. And perhaps there was electricity to be found inside human emotions, perhaps that’s was why there were so many humans that loved the HD and the ID, the two connecting cables keeping the heart beating. A connection, a trail.

The girl was surprised to find herself, apart from the agonising pain in her ears, completely unharmed. Everyone in her unit had died as soon as the harka-bomb penetrated their cover shield. The pressure had been immense, ripping most of her soldiers in half, splitting their skins. She had been forced to execute a suffering companion soon after, but it was not the first time she had mercifully murdered one of her own.

HD and ID, cables and wires, bright salvation.

“Move, quickly!” the monster yelled in front of her, paws sinking into mud and suddenly crashing through a familiar ribcage. He ripped himself away, shocked as if he had delivered that fatal blow. Another monster was under him, glazed stare into dirt. A companion and lover, a victim of the New War. The monster knew how to grieve, but could not bear to be discovered because of his blazing feelings. Feelings of hurt, rejection and loss. That was what the HD and ID ate. He was certain of it.
She halted behind him. Her impatience was revealed in a frustrated frown, she knew as well that there was little time to lose. She would not give in to despair. The army of The Mhaskina Revolution would soon recover and then there would be even a smaller chance of success in infecting the heart. The KONEISTO-XYi was near somewhere, and the hardware would self-destruct if they didn’t speed up.
She didn’t believe the cables lived off emotions, not one bit. The monster believed that was why the heart had difficulties locating her in the battlefield. She followed orders promptly and wasted no time on superstition. That was what kept her alive.
The sun begun to rise, shining through the smog in a suffering struggle, suffocating all noise. There was not much time before they would burn along with it.

Words and debris. (Segern är din)

In desperation the monster began to dig. He threw his companion aside without more thought. His fur was fizzing. It was morning and rain clouds lost their weight, disappearing in the sun’s furious rays. It rose too quickly and it rose in anger. She covered herself in mud, but it heated and caked and fell off her skin. Dipping her head in a pool of water and blood she hoped to keep the fire away from her hair. But there was not much hope. Her uniform caught fire. Panicking, she began to roll in anything she found cooling. She screamed out, blinded and wasn’t able to feel the large hand that got hold of her sleeve, and pulled her into a deep darkness.
Safety here was an illusion. Unless they’d reach the KONEISTO-XYi beneath them within minutes? Seconds? it would self-destruct.
She recovered her eyesight with blurring sensations, it was her eyelids that now hurt more than anything else. They had found the HD cable. But it was useless for the virus. There had to have been a malfunction in the destruction process. Because they were still alive.
“I thought I could smell burning wires,” the monster added, examining the dead surface.
“Impossible. The heart would not allow mistakes. It is perfect. It created itself.”
The monster shook her disbelief off. “Even so, perfection is always flawed. It may not understand mistakes. It might attempt suicide.”
“ The heart, self-destruct?” she said. “Impossible.”
“HD and ID always allow obliteration after the battle. Perhaps the heart is considering re-creating itself.”
The walls of the KONEISTO-XYi were smooth and perfect. Best welders, machines. She could not help to admire the faultless structure. That the heart would allow mistakes was not possible, not with creations such as KONEISTO-XYi. Why there was always one located underneath the centre of the battles, she could not tell. The monsters always spoke of emotions feeding it energy, but that was nonsense.
They had the virus near a useless HD cable. To infect the system now they would have to reach the heart itself. HD would connect to the heart, and they had an unharmed HD to lead them to it. The information panels, with little green notes travelling across the screens like a language of its own, revealed that the HD had registered itself as destroyed. It showed no progress in reporting the destruction to the heart. She didn’t know how the heart would react when realising that HD/1957235659 was intact. The heart might conclude that no one survived the battle to discover it. Would the heart itself be guarded? She thought so. But this HD cable could not carry the virus when it thought that it was dead.
Her chance to save the world had actually become possible now. She kneeled underneath flashing alarms, and cursed when she cut her finger on the wires to her computer. It needed fixing. She didn’t want to find herself with a broken arrow at the time of the strike.
The monster knew fuck all about machines. He was an organic engine, with senses stronger than the average human. He was muscle and instinct while they were intellect and strategy. But he knew that when she repaired that old machine it meant that they were not done fighting. It pleased him.

Finding the road to salvation, catch the train from the high platform and dive into a non-existent sea.

“How are we to proceed,” he asked when the computer gave its familiar beep of life.
“We need to dig,” she replied. “Follow the cable. It will lead us to the heart.”
“Will that not be dangerous?”
She had to laugh. “When was the last time any of us were safe?”
“It will take a long time. A tunnel might collapse. It could take weeks, and they’d find us before then. We have no food to keep us alive if they’re delayed. It is not a viable option.” He couldn’t believe that she’d come with such a ridiculous solution. She must have been desperate, but he didn’t think to ask. “And the HD will be guarded when the heart discovers it’s faulty. The defence-mechanism might already have registered the malfunction.”
She shrugged, and didn’t care for his doubts. It was the only way. But he shook his head.
“The heart feeds off emotions. The cable will forward empty information. The KONEISTO-XYi is clearly still functioning to that extent. It simply hasn’t self destructed properly.” He gestured to the information panels.
“What are you talking about?”
“It feeds off the soul, it’s what I have been told.”
“Superstition,” she exclaimed.
“Both you and I know the heart must be destroyed and here we have a chance to do it. This mistake may show that the heart has grown weak. It will have to face the music. Your route is the impossible one. We go through the cable. Don’t you want to conduct the orchestra?”
“Fuck you,” she said, losing patience. “Cables are compounded of wires, electricity running as a current.”
But he shook his head again. He could smell them. Giant nostrils expanding, spirits and souls. That was energy. Emotions harvested and stored. That was power. Following his snout, he sniffed the surface on the cable. Then switching the programming on his weapon, he burned through the cable surface with the laser. She peeked inside, and backed up stunned. It was empty.
“What the fuck is going on here?” she shook her head, mistrusting her damaged eyes.
“One must believe,” the monster said, grinning. He was happy that he was right.
“Fuck you,” was all that she could manage.
“There is a force running through here, a current. I can feel it. So can you. But it’s not electricity, as we know electricity.  We have struck a nerve, and now we can travel with the nerve into the heart. Imagine yourself a message to the heart.”
“You’re thinking of the brain. The brain registers pain through nerve endings.”
“It’s the heart that keeps the brain alive.”
She looked into the HD again.
 “It might kill us,” she said.
“We die for our cause. At least we won’t be wasted on digging.”
She had to agree, though she still was not entirely convinced. But it did seem like the only way. He cut a larger hole, viewing it carefully. He then cradled her in his mighty arms and she was surprised how comforting he felt. He dived inside the colossal tube, holding her as close as possible.

The force was incredible. The noise passed comprehendible levels. Sounded like a wail, complaining as they shot down the abyss. It manifested from the lower notes of a cello, and escaladed to the highest screeches of the violin. It hurt her and the pressure ate into her. Her ears began to bleed again, her heart thumping and drumming inside her head alongside the alarm that pushed through her eardrums. She couldn’t grasp time and gravity. Her mind was thundering, but there were no thoughts.

Eternal life, damnation is blessed.

Then she felt the monster’s spine crack violently as he crashed into a solid surface. The first thing that she did, acting quickly and refusing the confusion of the physical impossibilities of such a journey to take over her thoughts, was to check the computer she had hugged on to so firmly. She was relieved to find it intact. Next she surveyed the area. She couldn’t see anything in the darkness. It took her a moment to realise that she was deaf. She was certain however, that they were in a dark place, rather than her being blind. She told herself that it wasn’t because of pressure damage to her brain. ‘If there was light, I would be able to see it’, she told herself, mouthing the mantra without making a sound.
The floor shared no vibrations, nothing to indicate that they had set off alarms. And if they had, an attack would have already taken place. She then felt for the monster’s pulse and found nothing. Her mind told her that she should grieve, however, she couldn’t see the point. She would die soon too, that was inevitable.
If it was the heart, then it was nothing like she thought it would be. The dark showed no signs of life. Perhaps it had already been infected by another battle. Her quest here could have been in vain, yet she felt indifferent and set on her mission. She had to finish what she came for, it didn’t matter if the heart had already been destroyed. Her hands searched the floor, hoping to find a wall, an outlet. She crawled away from her dead companion.

Success. The wall was like a gigantic central for plug-ins. She was certainly in the heart. But where were the machines? Her fingers dug for tools in her scorched pockets to open the portal. She could connect her computer here through one of the outlets. The physical damages the journey had cost her wouldn’t stand in her way either. She could do it in the silent dark. But she couldn’t understand why there had been no resistance from The Mhaskina Revolution yet. She became desperate, and was messier in her work than usual, in fear of running out of time. Cutting the wires and connecting it to her computer she switched the computer on. The war would be over now.

Suddenly a force went through her, eons of screams and tears. Fear shone into her and love ripped her muscles in spasms that flourished across her body. The last fragments of her uniform turned to dust.
It was music. It was words. It was the slashes across the strings that were wires. It was the sparks from welding copper and metal. The shower of emotions came like a tidal wave, and she was drowning in it over and over again. Feeling more than she ever had before, all at once in orgasmic punches, returning in a rhythm, she found the physical sensation of it receding and relapsing into violent blows. Her skin was stretched across the frame of the drum that was her body. Each punch echoed in her as loudly as the last. She lost all sense of self and couldn’t tell if she enjoyed this or not. She was merely a function. There was no sympathy in her symphony. The codes flashed before her eyes, ticking by, telling of battles nearby and the success of her creations.
She barely noticed when the HD and ID cables connected wires into her veins through the wrists, when her blood was replaced with electricity achieved from human emotion, harvested in death. Her body became one with the machine, and the machine kept her alive, invited by her virus. The heart had now a host to beat that drum with more force.

A new age, a new time, humanity chewed and spat away.
HD and ID, cables and wires, bright salvation.
Words and debris. (Segern är din)
Finding the road to salvation, catch the train from the high platform and dive into a non-existent sea.
Eternal life, damnation is blessed.
Her words. Her report. Her song. The heart beat again.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Eletriptan or Why We Can't Own A Gun

Illustration for Steve Nash's poem with the same title, published in his collection Taking the Long Way Home (Stairwell Books, 2013)

Buy the book from!
More from Steve at

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Where the journey is the destination

Kaisa & Christoffer Leka: Tour d’Europe

Book Review, written and later updated in 2011

It’s no secret that Tour d’Europe is a thriving product from the long journey in the self-publishing sector. Within a year of its publication it has gained excellent commercial success, winning such prestigious awards as the Finland Prize, and voted one of Finland’s most beautiful books in 2010. Sold worldwide, like many other of Kaisa Leka’s previous successes, it is an important milestone in the couple’s creative career.

The book itself is cross-pollinating various genres, it’s a graphic novel and a meditative tome pondering the philosophy of the road, a contemporary travel guide celebrated in each section of the bookcase. But it contains so much more than a bicycle tour. It follows the thought process that develops during such a journey, during the monotonous pedalling against wind, rain or under a burning sun dragging the protagonists down, and the luscious landscapes with the variety of bright characters they meet, feeding their passion to keep going. Their goal is Nice, France but that is not the focal point. Like the mouse-Kaisa reflects: it is the journey that is the destination (p. 643) and that is what this novel represents.
The two aspiring bhaktas named the book ‘Tour d’Europe – The Yoga of Road Cycling’ which describes the journey between Porvoo, Finland and Nice. However, it is not an attempt to invent a new form of yoga. Instead it adapts the yogi frame of mind to digest experiences in a calm and reflective manner, accepting mistakes and wrong turns as necessary for the lesson to be learnt, for the journey to be the destination. At the beginning of each chapter there’s an introductory summary on the experiences that follows. It also contains a lovely small detail: the general pronoun considering the sexless yogi is in the ‘she’ format rather than the traditional and patriarchal ‘he’, something Christoffer suggested during the writing process to keep the text contemporary and with a strong feminist undertone.

Visually, it is stunning. Kaisa Leka is known for illustrations with a naïve edge, not restricting her imagery with much detail but rather giving the reader a chance to grasp her words in large white spaces. In Tour d’Europe she plays with space and detail in each spread, mapping out entire landscapes of forests or architecture, but equally may have the following spread free of anything but large wind farms growing up the page. Or then a sudden abruption presenting the story from a completely different angle – in letter form written to Kaisa’s friend, on various different motel/hostel stationary.
Her drawing style has matured but maintained her trademark simple outlines, and influenced by Christoffer’s use of perspective and detail they have achieved a book that is curious to read. In a detailed spread of a leafy residential area the road becomes like a labyrinth which is not restricted with traditional comic book narration frames (of which there are none present in this novel) yet very little is coloured space which makes it easy to locate where the protagonists are on the spread. It is a clever way to emphasise the density of the surroundings without constricting the flow of the narrative. And it certainly flows.
The colour scheme is light, Leka’s choice of the outline colour is not black but a dark brown, which is not only a method she uses frequently in her previous books to soften the colour contrasts, but here is also a supporting factor in maintaining the physical appearance of an aged and well-travelled book. Even the cover is a sepia infused grey photograph, the book creased at the spine, image slightly ripped and stained. The product is finished with a rubber-band, enclosing a large map between the pages. If ordered directly from Absolute Truth Press it arrives wrapped in brown paper and parcel string, decorated with stamps, and is so delightful and elegant it seems a shame to open it.

Tour d’Europe is not a book preaching about the achievements of such a journey, it’s not a competitive sports journal or a philosophical guide. Christoffer and Kaisa aren’t athletes, quite the opposite - Christoffer is tall and gangly and Kaisa a double leg amputee. It follows their journey as people, with some setbacks certainly, but the focal point is not on disabilities and phantom impossibilities. It is their report of experiencing Europe from the saddle of a bicycle. And it has fuelled further cycling journeys – they recently travelled around Iceland, followed by a cycling trip to Russia and are currently planning a tour to Odessa in Ukraine.
Where the journey is the destination a story has emerged, one they wish to share with anyone who has thought about seeing the world, revealing that there’s more to the road than the road and it is there for anyone explore. They present this journey, this report, this philosophy in a contemporary and beautiful package, inviting everyone to take part in the travels. And with such a fantastic adventure ahead, who could resist?

Friday, 23 August 2013

Cheshire Cat (2012)

Detail from a larger tattoo design (pencil).

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Horses (2012)

Published by Snapping Turtle Press 2012

My role as slave
in your story
leaves me no words
to swallow.
I gave my losses a chance
and stayed on my horse
called Fatigue.

When the earth parched
this wretched heat spell
it bleached my hair
curled my tongue
until I bled your song.

I carry my damage,
inside every blue vein.
I’ve inherited poisons
of the finest flavours
and I don’t mind the shame.
The foam of the river
shapes into horses
that spew salt in frustration
corroding the mountains,
grinding the world into pebbles.
And in this sand
the women wander in circles
smelling the pheromones.

The cracks in the ground
they call me by the same name
that echoes and marks me
a brand for an eternity.
Loyally standing by my mare
called Failure
I’ve not a whisper to drink.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Alien Body (2006)

Acrylic on black paper.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Metamorphosis

(2011) Published in Pressed by Unseen Feet (ed. R. Drew, A. Gillott), Stairwell Books 2012

For T.F.

She whispers the keywords to
the locked cat ears
accusing, hexing the shallow cackle
that bounces off the September moon.
And perhaps within that curly haired head of hers
all the songs finally begin to make

Heels that mark the floor varnish
with Braille words that come
from her colourful march.
Rashes the insides of her thighs
when the shattered night closes in
vegetating her to the floorboards
she slowly recalls
how to breathe.

The woman is not:
Complete Damaged Form
reshaped and mutilated.
She can play any role but is
inclined to escape
her plan to self-destruct or destroy,
or simply staying on the floor.
Attempting to voice without sound.
Attempting to purr.