Evening's Empire

Written by Etienne Domingue
I will not tell you what it was I did Before, but will only assure you, insofar as such assurance is needed, that it was not a life of obvious discontentment. I had no sordid vice, no great misfortune – neither indigence nor sickness, least of all any unrequited love – that I might have sought escape from in nepenthe. My education had been neither too liberal nor too practical, and therefore I had no cause, whether from want or excess of fancy, to seek sustenance or solace in dreams.

Thus my transition began not tragically or precipitously, as is the case with the wretched wraiths you have undoubtedly encountered in nightmares, but gradually, over the course of years. The regular business of living irritated me in a way as to make sleep hard to find: I had taken to imbibing a bitter concoction which a reputable apothecary made for me from the essences of agrimony and poppy. The soporific provided such release from my worries that I was soon addicted, not for the benefits to my waking life, but for the clarity it afforded to my sleeping mind. The fog of the Valleys of Mist was lifted: their ancient, empty streets made such an impression upon my memory that I was able, over the course of many nights, to explore every part of Olam ha Tiqvah1 accessible to the nocturnal visitor. Had I a more prosaic disposition, I would have been content with this increased breadth of experience; more poetically minded, I might have craved new sights so as to overdose and drift into the dark, deep dream of Death without the lore to keep the soul from aimless wandering. Instead I was only inquisitive enough to seek a glimpse of certain private places: of the halls where young gods dwell, the capitals of evening’s empire, the gardens of respite where the souls of the Dead wait to be called back to the living realms.

There were not many in Olam ha Tiqvah who could tell me how to open the gates of the gods. The legions of the Phantasms are mute save for their generals; the latter are not amicably disposed and the former delight in confusion. (It is they whom you encounter most frequently in your sleep, taking the guise of all manner of things inanimate or animate.) From other dreamers I could learn but little. Olam ha Tiqvah is so vast that one seldom encounters another living soul; moreover, sojourners can rarely keep their wits about them without the help of some elixir. As for the Dead – who sleep soundly, and therefore have more of a mind with which to discuss – they all abide in the gilded halls to which I was denied access; all, that is, save the suicides, who are condemned to roam until they have forgotten their sorrows. Ghosts such as these give no help.

In my wandering I acquired new senses. My mind grappled with things it never could before; my sight did not merely dart from object to object, but also wrapped around them so that a glance could follow the moonbeam up to its source. My range of hearing expanded to include the vague tinkling of cogitation. Such powers did not vanish with the coming of dawn and I was continually shocked by the vile stray thoughts of acquaintances.

In the night I continued my explorations. I was fortunate enough, having spied on one occasion a concourse of nymphs, to hear rumours of a rare and dangerous Bough with which I might pass the borders into the regions of the Dead. I offered myself on the altar of Sleep as wholly and as frequently as possible, doing as little work as I could get away with, and neglecting all other pursuits of waking life in favour of the quest for the Bough. I sought my prize in high and low places. On the beaches of the Ocean of Oblivion I met a wailing ghost, or rather more of a wail than a ghost: a shade so pressed down by nameless sorrow that she was stranded in the silver sand, screaming out of reach of the waters that would save her. With my newfound talents I took the scream from her – I listened it out her throat, out of her pale gaunt frame. Freed from her burden of grief, she plunged into the still, black sea at the edge of Olam ha Tiqvah. In like manner I have rescued many souls, and so the sleeping and the Dead have sometimes called me Racham, which means Mercy, and is one of the names that most pleases me.

Atop the bleak Peaks of Sekel an errant glass giant confided the Bough is called the Finger of Bahalath, which is to say that it was named after the dead god who created the Phantasms before the cosmos was put to order. The ancient giant – Mutu was his name – did not willingly give away lore, and would only let the wind whistle through his lips (for this is the only way for such creatures to speak) so as to sing in a trite and irritating fashion while shaking a rusted tambourine. I knew from having travelled widely that the giants possess all manners of secrets. Wishing to learn more concerning the Bough, I threatened Mutu with the strident scream of the shade by the ocean; when he came near to breaking on account of the sound, the giant pleaded for mercy and answered my questions.

It would be unfair and inaccurate to pretend that I found the Bough – for one might just as easily say that it found me. Bahalath’s Finger is aptly named: the tree on which it grows is the black hand of the dead god, still possessed of some primordial power. On the barren barrows of Midnight it beckoned to me; fearing that I might wake at any moment from the excitement, I answered its summons without regard for my safety. I cannot tell you how it is that Bahalath’s hand spoke, nor the exact terms of the compact into which I entered then. I suppose such things are too horrible for the minds of most sleepers to conceive. Needless to say, I had to offer a sacrifice in exchange for the flesh of the god, and the stipulations made it certain that my soul would never again inhabit my mortal body.

Grim prophets now deplore that dead Bahalath, wearing my skin, clandestinely roves the living world, spreading blasphemous lore. As for myself, I have parted the waters of the moats of the palaces of the High Ones – I have penetrated their barriers of blue flame – using only the finger of the god. No place in Olam ha Tiqvah is barred to me, the most powerful of the Dream Lords. Though I only come to observe, every soul fears me, like an evil omen. I have escaped Hazavel and Hagiael.2 I am free and contented: even the greatest marvels of the impermanent world pale in comparison to the commonplace occurrences of the Dream from which I shall never wake.

1Literally, the Age of Hope; the Afterworld.
2Death & Rebirth, respectively.

The Nightmare

Written by Simon Smart
The nightmare is a clever thing with all kinds of tricks and traps. Your demons always close enough to touch, salvation forever just out of reach, vines to tangle your feet, water to drown and endless expanses of falling.

The nightmare knows your memories. It hones a blade from the moment you knew the car wouldn’t stop. It wears the face of the man with the knife. It weaves a body of spiders, snakes, blood and bones. The nightmare knows you. Is you. You cannot escape it any more than you can escape from yourself.

You believe that when you wake the nightmare sleeps, and that is the nightmare’s greatest trick. The nightmare is awake, here and now, waiting to catch you one more time.

Dry and cracked underbelly

Written by Chris Brandon
Dry and cracked underbelly,
finish torn and laid waste by cold sunlight.
Many months pass leaving collective damage and sorrow.
A warm breeze?
An awakening.
Once again a use has been found. Rolled over
in delight I sit.

Livia Dreams

Written by Eleanor Gang
You are walking down a hallway, both sides of which are lined with closed doors. It is unlit, but you can see your immediate surroundings as though you provide your own illumination; yet you carry none.The hallway seems to go on forever. Despairing of ever reaching the end, you stop and consider the closed doors. They are indistinguishable one from another. There are no identifying marks, no numbers; even the doorknobs are identical. You remember the story of Ali Baba and the chalking of the houses by the blindfolded tailor and the resourceful servant. None of these doors is set apart, neither with chalk nor scratches or spots of wear and tear. You risk a glance behind you, but the way back is as dark as the path ahead. You no longer remember your place of departure any more than your destination. It seems as though you have always been walking down this corridor. On impulse, you grasp the knob of the door nearest you and turn it. The door opens easily and you are surprised, having expected it to be locked. You are momentarily blinded by sudden dazzling light and you see that the room is as big as the whole wide world. You cross a marble floor only to be stopped by a railing at the edge of a parapet overlooking a grand vista: mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, grassy plains, verdant forests, rolling oceans. Far off in the blue, blue sky you see an eagle soaring on a thermal. You lean over the edge of the railing in an attempt to catch sight of what lies directly below when it suddenly disintegrates and you are falling, falling through the blue sky, through cold wet clouds, pine trees, a ploughed field, into the very ground, past rock strata, secret aquifers, through the Earth’s crust, its mantle, and right down to the fiery core of the planet itself, the heat oppressive, the pressure unbearable. Just as you fear you will be crushed or consumed by fire, you find yourself in the hallway, your hand still on the cool knob of the door.

You continue walking, wondering at your recent experience.You stop and try another door. This one opens onto a meadow filled with wild flowers under a blue summer sky. There are children playing everywhere, laughing, running, throwing and catching balls, gathering daisies and making them into chains. When they see you, they drop what they are doing and run to you, calling, “Mamma!” and give you a quick hug before running off and joining the others to continue their games. You are overwhelmed with emotion. Clouds move in and the sun starts to set. The blue sky is replaced by a pink overcast and three children come out of the gloom to face you. All the others have disappeared. You do not know these children; then you do. They are truly yours, the ones you aborted when you were in no position to have them, whose father was married to a woman he would not leave. You burn with shame and tears roll down your hot cheeks. They reach out to you and take your hands, pulling them so that you encircle the three with your arms. You draw them to your breast and they melt into your aching womb. The sun plunges into the meadow and you are plunged with it into darkness to find that you are back in the hallway, your fingers still on the knob of the door you just opened. You try it again, but this time it is locked and does not yield to your insistent twisting.

Once more you walk down the corridor, bringing your small illumination with you, cheeks damp with tears. You grasp a handle and pull open another door, stepping into the room beyond. Inside there is an ancient woman stirring a pot on a fire. The log walls are chinked with moss, the roof above you is thatch. There is a black cat on a rocker who opens one green eye to gaze at you incuriously before rising, stretching, then settling down to the serious business of washing its fur.The old woman at the fire stops her stirring and turns to greet you. On the table is a teapot, two cups, cream, sugar, a plate of biscuits. Everything is glowing with a soft golden light, the polished wood of the table, the copper pot on the fire, the mantle piece above. The old woman smiles and you are reminded of someone, but of whom? She does not speak, but motions you to a seat and pours tea. You are wary. You remember Persephone ate pomegranate seeds and was obliged to stay in the underworld, and for a brief moment you wonder if you have died. You raise the cup to your lips. The old woman opposite raises her cup to her lips. You reach for a biscuit. She does the same. You see a ring on the gnarled hand, identical to the one on your own, your mother’s engagement ring, one large diamond with two smaller ones on either side. Your mother is dead, has been for decades. She was still a young woman when you last saw her, younger than you are now. Is this her, aged a hundred years, living in a log cabin with a cat for company? Or is it you? The cat finishes its toilet and leaps onto the scarred, wooden tabletop. Your impulse is to shoo it off, but the old woman merely continues smiling and sipping her tea. The cat jumps onto you and you drop your cup to the floor where it shatters. The cat lands on your face. You cannot see and you cannot breathe. You feel as though you are drowning, suffocating, clawing at what smothers you and come suddenly awake in a darkened room.

For a moment Livia thinks she is back in the hallway, then realizes that it is her own bed, her own room. The faint illumination comes from the window where the false dawn is breaking. The dream clings heavily about her head and shoulders and she looks at her hands, her aging ringless fingers, and decides then and there that she will find a way to marry Arthur McGruder.

Sleep: A Haiku Collection

Only in our dreams
Can we fly to brightest light
And fall to darkness.

- Simon Smart
A foetus in the womb
Dreams about sucking its thumb
While it floats in space.

Whimpering, whining,
Running after dream squirrels,
An old dog slumbers.

I dreamt last night that
You and I became lovers.
It was just a dream.

- Eleanor Gang
Eyes are shut firmly
Sights are odd, irrational
Now I am falling

- Sam Zen

Nightmares : A Haiku Collection

There was this squid, right –
whose tentacles touched and
rubbed the parts it shouldn't.

- Chris Brandon
Always shopping malls,
miles and miles of dingy stores...
Horror: no way out!

- Etienne Domingue
Monster under bed
Saliva drips to the floor
Feeding time begins

- Nick Wilson
Six-fifteen a.m.
Before the alarm goes off
The machines are back.

- Eleanor Gang
Palms remain sweaty
Breathing comes hoarse and ragged
End is not the end

- Nick Wilson
Alien drives car
Like Fred Flinstone with his feet.
River of acid.

(Based off of a real nightmare my friend had when we were kids.)

- Chris Brandon
The dark is inside
where we cannot murder it.
We become victims.

- Mathew Stiffel
I wish that it were
But the horrible truth is
This is not a dream.

- Simon Smart
I open my eyes
Only to discover that
I’m back in grade nine.

We cannot get out
Bridge and Second Hall; taken
Drums, Drums in the Deep.

- Gordon Lambie

Waking: A Haiku Collection

Why now, oh why now?!
On the verge of finding her
I woke, despairing.

- Etienne Domingue

Awaken to find
Someone has replaced your head
With a bowling ball.

(My sick day haiku.)

- Gordon Lambie

Smothered in my hole
Tons of black earth crushing me
I hunger for brains.

- Mathew Stiffel

Awakened quickly
Cold sweats, pounding heart and fear
Alone in my bed

(Autobiographical from 2:20am today.)

Opening my eyes
I greet the day as always
With the words "Oh, Fuck"

- Nick Wilson

Why dost thou leave me
Sleep? For Oblivion would
I forsake the world.

- Eleanor Gang
Cryo sleep over
A fierce itching in my chest
Oh no, not again ...

- Jeremy Low

Escape never lasts
The jealous sun is too proud
To cede to night, dream.

- Bill Moody

The Man in my Dreams

I hadn’t dreamt in what felt like ages. At least, I hadn’t remembered my dreams. Apparently everyone dreams, but some of us just don’t remember. The last dreams I do remember where from when I was a kid. They were always nightmares, always of me dying somehow. It made me afraid of everything: stairs, trees, even oranges once. Except for the last nightmare. I don’t remember much from it, I was maybe eight at the time, but therewas a bright flash of white light and this … voice. It was saying something. I couldn’t hear it clearly, but it sounded familiar, like my father’s voice only… different somehow.

Since then, I haven’t remembered a thing from my dreams. I’d still wake up in the morning with a feeling of dread every other week, but apart from that, nothing. I figured I’d blocked it all out. Who wants to dream about dying every night?

Last week was the first time I dreamt –or remembered dreaming – in maybe 13 years. Anyway, it felt … real.

I was next to a small lake in the middle of an urban area. There was a man in a business suit sitting on a bench. When I noticed him, he started talking. He said, “So here you are again. You know I’ll just keep bringing you here until you remember, right? I tell you every night, and I still have to see you again the next day.” I was struck by the voice: it was the same as in my last childhood dream. “Actually, that’s not entirely true. This is the last time I’ll be able to bring you here, so I hope to God you’re going to wake up and remember.”

He was staring out at the lake. I didn’t understand what he meant, so I asked him, “What is it you want me to remember?”

I don’t know why I didn’t ask a more obvious question. It was the first thing that popped into my mind. He perked up when I said that. He sank back down and continued, “So you’re finally talking back. That’s good. Maybe it means you’ll remember. If not … well, it’s still nice to have some hope after so long.” He sounded happy, but his voice was bugging me, like I knew exactly who he was but couldn’t place him.

“Either way… you just need to remember this place. This lake. This city. Look around.”

It didn’t look at all familiar: just an average small town, with some bigger buildings in what I guessed was downtown.

“Why do I need to remember this place?”Again, I don’t know why I asked that. It’s like I was following a script.

He turned around to face me. His features were like mine, only older. His eyes, his voice, his build, everything was like I imagine I’d be in a decade or two.

And that’s when he told me, “You need to remember this place, because this is where you will die, and the last thing you’ll see is the world dying with you.” He turned back to the lake. I wanted to ask him what he meant, but then there was a bright flash of white light, like the sunrise times a million. Then there came the rumbling … And the heat. My God, the heat …

I woke up screaming, the picture of an atomic mushroom cloud stuck in my mind. Isn’t it funny how only a handful of A-bombs has ever been used, yet everybody in the West knows exactly what they should look like? I know what you’re thinking: It was just a dream. I’m panicking for no reason. It doesn’t mean anything.

Except, I moved to a new town this week. I recognized the lake. It’s right in front of my house.

I don’t know what I should do now.

Written by François-René Montpetit

The Beginning is the End

Written by Nick Wilson
The old – no, that wasn’t accurate – the decrepit man shuffled into the room and, with help from the nurse, stripped his clothes off and lay down on the bed. He looked up at the young woman, smiled, and said, “If I were the man I once was, I’d pinch your ass.” She smiled back, with just a hint of pity in her eyes, and replied, “Well, if you ever become that man again, you go right ahead.”

He barked out a laugh. “We both know that won’t happen, girl.” She just smiled at him again as she set up the IV. He did not even flinch as she missed the vein the first time and it occurred to her that his body was probably in so much pain, he hadn’t even noticed. It hardened her resolve and she started the drip just as the doctor came in.

“Good morning Mr. Flournay. How are you today?”

“I’m ready, Doc.”

“Are you sure? As you know, once we flip the switch, so to speak, there’s no stopping it and I can’t promise that there will be no pain.”

The old man looked at him. “When your body starts falling apart like mine has, you’ll understand.”

The doctor smiled at him. “I hope I do. I really hope I do.”

He started explaining the final paperwork and gathering the signatures – so many signatures! – for the legal documents as some technicians fiddled around Flournay, who just lay there as the good doctor droned on. Finally, the signatures and legalities fully explained, the doctor went to the control panel, flipped the safety cap off a large button and, turning to the patient, said, “This is your last chance to change your mind, Mr. Flournay.”

There was a pause, a long pause, silence save for Flournay's raspy breathing as the old man lay staring at the ceiling for what felt like minutes. Then he whispered,“Do it!”

The doctor pushed the button. The first chemicals entered Flournay’s bloodstream fighting the pain. Even so, the controlled substances coursing through his veins could not defeat it. Or was that just part of death, and there was no avoiding it? Flournay pondered briefly about pain and death, then wondered if his life would flash before his eyes. He thought of his childhood, skinned knees, the broken leg when he fell out of his tree fort, the teenage crushes, that first time with his first love fumbling in the cramped confines of her mom’s car, the anguish when that same car crashed a week later and took her from him, the ongoing pain of high-school after that, the parties in college, the drugs, the sex, the booze, the graduation, the degree, the job, the marriage, the children, her affair, then his, the divorce, the alcoholism, the sobering up, the second marriage, the uneventful but happy years, her cancer, her treatment, her death, his slide back into alcoholism, the regret, the anger, the growing pain; everything that had led him to this day, to this place and was followed by the thought, “Would my life have flashed before my eyes if I hadn’t wondered if it would flash before my eyes?”

The pain began to recede. It started at his feet, slowly working its way up his legs. Pins and needles, followed by a numbness, followed by... nothing. It traveled up to his pelvis, up his chest, his lungs and heart (thank god!), his shoulders, up his neck.

The nothingness reached his chin, jaw, and cheeks. He started to panic. His eyes darted around franticly, his neck muscles refusing to respond. They weren’t there anymore as far as he could tell. His eyes found those of the doctor, looking at him with a look of pity, concern, and... admiration? The nothingness continued, his eyes stopped moving, dimmed to black, and then...

Nothing. Not even nothing. Less than nothing.

I’m dead? I can’t be dead. I’m still thinking. I think therefore I am. Unless this is Heaven. Or Hell. Maybe it’s Hell. Nothing for eternity, except a thought in the darkness. Just my thought in the darkness, all alone. All alone. Maybe that’s the meaning of l-

Pain exploded around Flournay and through him as every bit of his body simultaneously went from nothingness to full-on feeling, the nerves overloading his brain as though they had never carried any signals before. He gasped for breath, lungs clamouring to inhale, to fill to capacity, and his scream echoed off the walls at the terrible pain of their first exhalation. Eyes snapped open, staring with brutal clarity at the ceiling, tears running down his cheeks as the brightness of the room overloaded his optic nerves, the doctor running into the room, the technicians madly pressing buttons and whipping tubes and monitoring sensors from his – his – body, the nurse holding his hand and brushing the hair back from his sweat-stained face, the EEG monitor showing his pegged heart rate...

“Well, Mr. Flournay, it looks like you’re feeling better.”

The doctor was scribbling a few notes on his clipboard.

“I have to say that you were a bit more... dramatic than usual shall we say? But your test results are fine, and you can go home immediately.”

“Thank you, doctor.”

“Just remember, you have a good 70 years or so of experience to forget. Remember, your body is capable, but it won’t be if you don’t use it.”

Five minutes later, Flournay was looking out over the clinic’s parking lot from the wheelchair the nurse had used to push him to the door. Flournay sat in silence, taking in the air, the trees, when her voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Did it... did it hurt? When you died?”

“Yes. Just about the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I don’t recommend it. Unless of course, you find you have to.” She laughed and he joined in, his laughter growing louder and stronger, finally trailing off moments before the taxi arrived. He quickly stood up, picked up his suitcase from next to the wheelchair and started to the cab.

“Mr. Flournay?” He turned back to the nurse. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” He looked at her, puzzled, as she turned away from him. She stood there for a second, then a smile broke out on her face as she felt the gentle pinch. She turned back to him. “Have a great life, Mr. Flournay.”

He smiled back. “Thank you. You too.”

“I plan to. And I’m still on my first one.”

He smiled wider. “So am I.

Morpheus Rejected or We’ll Sleep When We’re Dead

Written by Sheila Quinn
Lolling through tea-time, alight with the perks of sundown……

A long-standing routine,
the self-imposed nightly binding of my Isaac.
Only a loving deity rarely intervenes, and alas my sweet Isaac perishes,
and I don’t miss him until it’s too late, at my own hands demised.

Twilight, midnight, late night,
I offer him up.
To industrious nothingness, to the frantic results of procrastination.
To motherhood.
To satisfaction. To seduction.
To satisfaction again.

I give up,and night after night he is sacrificed.
I care, but not enough to cease and desist.
Ease and insist.
Please don’t resist.
I don’t need you anyway.
We’ll be together in death, because,

with you I’m restless.

But I miss you most
at new-found oh-six-hundred internal alarm,
eyes open and craving you.
I only want you when I can’t have you.
Even though I know….
How good you are for me.
How right you are for me.
You’ll only find me falling into your arms
by accident or because
I was out of options.


Etienne Domingue speaks with an accent of nowhere and never; he has two second languages and no mother tongue.

Chris Brandon wants to remind you that your grandparents have had more sex than you.  Try not to picture it. I said try not to. Jeez.

Sam Zen is a musician and wordsmith currently  working in the forms of Haiku Thursdays and television comedy. He enjoys cookery, kookery, bass guitars, craft ales, and fine beards.

Nick Wilson has been known to ride down mountains on a unicycle, and once read Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon for fun (well, 3/4 of it). He hates cancer and veggies.

Jeremy Low is a skeptic, anti-theist, and gentlemanscholar. His interests include science, anime, and British comedy. He lives in Southern Ontario.

A Titan undercover as a Bishop’s student, François-René  “Little Mountain” Montpetit enjoys smiting the wicked, nefarious plotting, and playing video games – mostly the last one.

Simon Smart is a distant islander who doesn't belong in this strange land. He has just written a book and is hoping people will buy it.

If Eleanor Gang could be granted one wish, it would be to be tall enough to reach the top shelf at Provigo without standing on the bottom one.

Mathew Stiffel is as old as the universe and never wants to grow up. He cares a lot about not caring about very much, and has a forbidden romance with the Oxford Comma.

Gordon Lambie teaches High School English and enjoys writing on the side. He writes a weekly column for The Sherbrooke Record and self-published a poetry collection, New Bright Idea, in 2010.

Bill Moody is just this guy, you know?

A 30-something, pop-culture-mad mother of two, Sheila Quinn is also a Townshipper, deejay, journalist, and thrifter with a thing for lemon meringue and rockabilly.

Chief editor:  Eleanor Gang
Graphic editor, logo & web designer: Zoe Nadeau Boucher
Cover illustration: Chris Brandon
Additional editing & event coordination: Etienne Domingue 

Issue 2 Launch

Iris invites you to a live story-telling and poetry-reading event at the Foreman Art Gallery on Saturday, October 15th, 3PM.

Paper copies of the magazine will be available by donation; proceeds from this issue will benefit the graduating art show.

Happy 70th birthday, Anne Rice!

Sure, vampires are all the rage these days. But before Stephenie Meyer extended the audience of unspeakable blood rites to include the tween demographic, there was The Vampire Chronicles.

Love or hate sexually-ambivalent, photophobic antiheroes, The Vampire Chronicles have indubitably left a mark on the neo-gothic imagination. Anne Rice’s fiction is at least interesting in that it sometimes features narration done in the epistolary style, in keeping with the great tradition of Victorian horror.