New publication call to arms!

Submissions open now – get involved!!

a slice of imagination

Quimperfect Tense is a new online publication and literary development group run by myself, Rebecca Audra Smith and Jacky Hillary.

We’re women-focused (hence the name), but we really just want to feature writing that treats women well as characters. We’re open to submissions from anyone, no matter what gender you identify as.

  • Our first submission window is open from April 1st – April 30th, and the (suggested) theme is The Body.
  • Short fiction should be no more than 1000 words (if you have something a bit over, please contact us) and flash fiction (less than 500) is preferred.
  • Poetry should be 40 lines or less, and again, shorter pieces are ideal.
  • We are also interested in pitches for short articles, interviews, short form comics, and creative non-fiction.

Send submissions to quimperfecttense@gmail.com before April 30th for the chance to appear in the first issue!

At the moment we are unable to…

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On Snacking and Opportunism

Yesterday was the toughest yet. I’ve been suffering from some fairly appalling mood swings which I am unsure whether to put down to a blood sugar imbalance or just internal emotional rebellion against the diet itself. As appalling as it sounds, I am not sure that I have ever stayed so long on a diet which I really thought was actually going to work. This is day 7 and I am definitely in in chartered territory. Everyday I am confronted with the reality that this is for good (or at least for the long time) and my body simultaneously sings jubilantly and plunges further into a funk. I’m fairly sure the blood sugar option is bonus – a quick sensationalist google search tells me as much so I am fairly certain that it’s my own stupid body rebelling against me trying to do some good. Despite working somewhere I don’t normally, I managed to arrange for a lovely leek and potato soup at my desk for lunch but had forgotten the untold miseries of not having an afternoon snack to keep me between lunch and dinner.

After that it took a minor blip to my evening commute (no credit on my Oyster card as I try and get on the bus – no amount of sweet smiling could persuade the driver to let me on anyway) to drive me to what must surely be amongst the very dregs of commuter eateries – the Cornish Pasty Company. Many a time I’ve passed by one of their concessions and wondered when, if ever, they bake fresh produce. I continue to marvel and some of the things they’ll stuff between two bits of pastry. And yet…

I went to the nearest station to top up my card and found the accused waiting for me, steps from the ticketing machine. Before I knew what was going on, I found myself inching towards the glowing hot cabinets, my eyes going wide at the prospect of a hot greasy delicious meat based pastry moving around and around my mouth – pincers to molars and back again, sucking in cool air over it all so that I could eat more of it before I came to my se-

Thank Christ a flock of pigeons came from nowhere and scared me off again. But it was close.

Today I have learned my lesson and have armed myself with 3 different “healthy” snacks.

To my feathered friends – stand down, soldiers

Be kind, rewind

Wednesday Write-in #52.

 

Sometime later (indeterminate and indeterminable because, as rational as Robin is with things like the passing of time, every day spent with Marie has warped the linear progression of seconds, years, months, heartbeats), after she learns that Marie is dead, they get Robin into an interrogation room for a ‘full debrief’. This consists of a basic memory dump of everything that’s happened since she left the facility back in January.

The investigator is a sweet girl in her late twenties – probably chosen to coax out the learned tendency in Robin to respond to kindness over cruelty. She delicately wipes her brow as they come to the end of another tape. Robin is, of course, able to self regulate her body temperature but the investigator – she hasn’t introduced herself and is unlikely to ever do so – is struggling in the stuffy basement bunker room.

Robin’s been talking for almost four days straight – literally describing every waking moment she’s had from the beginning to the end. This is completely beyond her: her creator foresaw the need for a memory capture function for a number of different scenarios she was destined for and after that, it’s a matter of a few drops of this and that in an IV while she’s unconscious and she wakes up prepared to tell them everything – everything – even the excruciating first moments leading up to and following their first kiss. Three investigators rotate in and out, in and out, tape in, tape on, tape out. They need sleep, rest, sustenance. She is able to function for an entire week before her functions drop to 85% effectiveness. She had become so used to lying by Marie every night, just to make her feel like she wasn’t the only human in this.

Eventually she falls into the pleasant rhythm of it and is only mildly curious when she blinks and wakes up back in the hospital ward, the IV being fed back into her arm. “What is that?” she hears herself ask. The doctor only glances up at her before going back to his perusal of his chart which seems to be telling him something about the dials on the drip.

“It’ll help you to forget. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt. You’ll feel sleepy soon.”

Robin blinks up at the ceiling, every drop and lift of her eyelids over her eyes signifying the passing of another level of the last year that she is leaving behind as she descends deeper and deeper into sleep –

-the first weeks, hiding in plain sight and planting misleading clues so they could make a break for the border when they would least be expecting it.

-France and Spain and Italy – eating themselves silly and bouncing around between cash only hostels, paying cash for all of the things they needed for the next steps

– dark nights spent in poor lighting with a bottle of something sweet and intoxicating between them (Robin’s superior liver and kidney function prevented her from losing any motor control at all but Marie had been incredibly beautiful when doing shots of brandy in flickering bare-bulbed light.

– repeatedly and scarcely escaping all the people who had been sent after them, dropping everything and heading in the opposite direction

– fevered admissions, confessions and promises as they hid in the filthiest, grimiest of holes –

The doctor gentle covers her flickering eyes and she slips sweetly, slowly, ever lonely, gratefully and finally to sleep.

Then the hospital door is kicked open.

Ham & Eggs

Wednesday Write-in #51.

I’m going to go ahead and admit to serialising this story over the past few WWIs. I’ll do the appropriate linking later today and hopefully will remember how to write other things.

 

Somewhere between a tiny Greek island and Turkey, things go very, very wrong.

It’s early morning and they are boarding what they have been told is the safest and most reliable ferry transport between Greece and Turkey (but which, in reality, looks 20 nautical miles away from collapse) and Robin and Marie are about to have a fight. It’s been coming for a while. Robin is muttering all sorts of statistics about sinking ferries, careless crews and unthinkable sanitary conditions and Marie’s disregard for them thereof and Marie’s had enough.

“Have you ever heard of the fable of the Chicken and the Pig?”

Robin replies that she has not.

“A chicken and pig decide to make breakfast for their owner. The chicken lays the eggs and the pig provides the bacon. The chicken walks away without a mark because the chicken is only involved and not committed like the pig is. That’s just like us. I’m the pig and you’re the chicken. When I took you from the facility, I risked everything, I continue to risk everything. I don’t have a convenient control-Z function to use here – I can’t take backsteps. The second we walked out of there it has been my neck, my life on the line but you are the bloody prize hog – all they want is to get you back but they’ll crucify me on sight and it absolutely drives me up the wall the way you keep criticising everything I’m doing to keep us both away from there. Please don’t ever forget, it was you who asked me to get you out. If you’ve got a better plan, then speak up.”

They share long, furious seconds with eyes locked before Robin says. “Technically it would have to be a hen to lay eggs.”

A hen is a kind of chicken you stupid, selfish, ungrateful idiot,”  hisses Marie. She is so angry and feels so helpless and so panicked that this might have been completely the wrong thing to do – teaching a semi-Alien, semi-engineered sentient being how to be human? She must be out of her mind. It’s all she can do to stumble away to the other side of the boat so she doesn’t strangle her with hot shaking hands.

Five minutes later and they are speeding across the Mediterranean Sea when a speed boat pulls up along-side them and a dozen stocky, masked men forcibly climb on board. They’re yelling in a combination of Greek and Turkish and Marie is scrambling for her basic translation book when Robin turns up from nowhere.

“Put it away; put it back in your bag. Don’t speak,” she mouths hotly into Marie’s ear. “They’re here for us, they’re looking for me. Don’t do anything illogical or you’ll be killed. We can both be the chicken.” Marie slowly puts the guide back in her bag. The men produce fire arms and gesture for everybody to line up along the side of the boat. As everybody crowds and screams, Robin takes her hand, skin still so impossibly soft, so impossibly elastic and strong as well, so much so as to be able to stretch right over the Port side of the ferry and drop her into the warm water below.

“Wait,” she mouths, Catherine Wheel of hair flying around her face.

Share and share alike.

recycled  ::  hindsight  ::  manic  ::  pair  ::  button up

via Wednesday Write-in #50.

“I continue to be appalled,” begins Robin haughtily at the makeshift breakfast bar at the cash-only hostel, “by the levels of waste which humanity not only tolerates but perpetrates.” She calmly peels back the skin of her banana before consuming it in five crisp bites.

Marie elects to remain silent.

“Over 75% of household waste can be recycled but only 30% of it ever is. It’s illogical. This planet is living on — borrowed time?” She looks at Marie for reassurance. Marie nods. “Yes, on borrowed time.”

Marie continues to remain silent. Soon after the poetry, Robin had (disastrously) happened upon Critical Theory and in a desperate attempt to bring her back to the real world, Marie had naively introduced her to the concept of politics and national debate.

“It is wholly illogical, therefore, that the inhabitants of the planet would willfully destroy it without any meaningful contingency or regard for the future. And food waste, don’t even get me started.” Robin pops the stalk of a now demolished apple into her mouth and swallows easily. They’re standing side by side on the three foot deep balcony which opens straight out onto a filthy, noisy street. Robin’s arm brushes Marie’s as she drops her arm again.

“Really, waste is part of the overall internalised rhetoric of The West regarding their tolerance of shame and inactivity. If you buy something which is reusable, you should reuse it. If you see a kindness being committed, then repeat it. If you have something which can be shared, then share it. I am fully resistant to inactivity. If I see something which can be done which will bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, I must do it. If I don’t understand something, I must work to understand it. If I feel something, I have to express it. I am, fundamentally, an animal. If I have an urge, I must fulfill it, surely?”

For a moment, they share a look and it seems as though Robin is going to lean a little further in and do something. But then the moment stretches into 30 seconds, then 45 and then Marie looks away, smiling to herself and making a point to teach Robin how rife hypocrisy is in politics.

life runs

Wednesday Write-in #49.

Marie teaches Robin about poetry in July on the train as they cross the border from France to Germany on totally fake, totally illegal passports.

“I find it difficult to understand why you would choose to communicate your thoughts in any other way but the most direct,” says Robin. Marie privately agrees with her but says,

“It’s culture. It’s not about communicating the thought or idea quickly and clearly, it’s about the quality of communication, about being able to share the heart behind your thoughts and ideas.” The Beginner’s Guide to Poetry lies open on her lap as they pull hot air into their nostrils and spill it back out on their upper lips on the overnight train. The weather has been improbable and every time Marie fans her top in search of a lick of breeze, she is met with the moist, vinegary tang of the sweat collecting between her breasts.

Robin is still extremely skeptical and cooly suggests that if Marie really believes that communicating affection for another person needs to be done in more than 20 words at most, then perhaps Marie is in need of a neuro-examination. Marie says, “Remind me to have a chat with you about something called tact.”

Rather than respond, Robin rolls her eyes (still way too far back in her head – she looks as though she’s fitting) and elects to nap to conserve her energy levels for later. Despite herself, Marie ends up doing the same. When she wakes up, The Beginner’s Guide is closed over on her lap but peaking out of the top, next to her Princess Diaries bookmark is a scrap of immigration card. On the back is written:

 

I can do it in 17 syllables

I know the rules, so
I’ve let you sleep. Even then,
Your lips are lovely.

 

 

Bumper Sticker Bravado

toxic  ::  imprint  ::  fluorescent  ::  cream  ::  water pressure

via Wednesday Write-in #48.

The gas in the canister Marie uses to dispatch the virologists on the third floor isn’t what she would call toxic. She is very careful about this. Not toxic but probably, almost definitely noxious. All she needs is  a homicide case as well as aggravated burglary. But it is definitely strong enough to knock them out for the 12 minutes it’s going to take Marie to dress Robin, get her out past the others and, most crucially, past security. She palms the fake visitor’s pass in her pocket. Robin continues to smile blithely at her.

“Robin,” Marie begins, then stops.

“Yes, Marie?” Robin replies, angling slightly towards her, maintaining a suitable – but not quite creepy – amount of eye contact with her. Just like they practiced. 

“I would really appreciate an inspirational quotation or two if you can think of one.”

“Thinking,” reports Robin. Then, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.” 

“A little more positive, please,” Marie says as she taps Robin’s shins. “Up please.” She starts to pull the charity shop jeans up Robin’s legs.

“Our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“Mmm, not quite ,” says Marie, pulling on some socks now.

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Robin pauses then adds, with a slight curve of the mouth – “Supposedly.”

Despite herself, Marie is incredibly proud of Robin who is really picking up on the concept of humour. That lesson took forever. 

Robin beams down at her and then, surprisingly, takes her hand. Robin’s skin is impossibly soft with pearly smooth skin which stretches over thick sinewy ribbons – like arteries but more sophisticated. They carry, amongst other things, the mostly likely cure to the biggest killer in the world: age. Robin has never been out of the facility and Marie doesn’t know how this kind of skin will react  to a bitter January night in Dundee so she checks that she still has the second pair of gloves in her bag.

Robin says, “Whatever you believe in, Marie, I can achieve for us. Are you ready?” before grabbing her hand and opening the door of the sealed incubator space.