ZineWest 07

- Writing & Society Research Group

About NWG Inc:

We run gatherings, workshops and gigs. We publish two print zines, New Writers' Group Inc Anthology and ZineWest.

Third Place - ZineWest 2007 (1st in Prose)

Steven Cavanagh was first published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. His fiction has won competitions from the NSW Writers Centre and the Australian Horror Writers Association, and popped up in AntipodeanSF, Infinitas and Shadowed Realms. Anthology appearances include the year's best Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror 2007, Book of Shadows Volume 1, Shadow Box, Black Box (Brimstone Press) and Outcast: An Anthology of Strangers and Exiles (CSFG Publishing). His least boring accomplishments include shooting two rabbits with one bullet, and being photographed hiding in a pot plant outside the FBI building in Washington. He currently exists in Sydney with a long-suffering wife and three short-suffering children. Steven's full bibliography is online and can be reached from his Writing Blog.

Steve's flash fiction piece "World of Hurt" was the highest placed prose piece and came third overall in the inaugural ZineWest 07 competition for Western Sydney Writers, presented at Riverside Theatres, 10th June, 2007, by our judge, thriller writer Prof Jane Goodall of the Writing and Society Research Group (College of Arts, University of Western Sydney).The judge's comment was as follows: "It's a well structured narrative with some original humour and is sharply written, especially towards the end."

Steven Cavanagh

The whinger's ute jostles into my driveway. A couple of balloons drift sadly in the back, tethered to the helium bottles that farted them into life. Martin gets out, a frown draped across his bulbous chin.
I panic at the thought of him seeing my work on the floor, and drag the drop-cloths across it. I also toss a tarp over the statue before Martin walks in.
'Got a minute?'
'Sure, mate. My ear is always open.' Especially if it helps with my art.
'What's this?'
He swings a finger at Bin Laden's face peeking out from the drop-cloth.
'A giant weather balloon, painted like the world. Each country is an image of fear-- that's Afghanistan.'
I swallow. What if he wants to look at the whole piece?
'It can be blown up in minutes, just like the real thing. Heh.'
He doesn't react; I've never seen him smile. He likes art, though, it's how we first got talking. He thinks he is an artist, because he does craft and balloons with kids. Philistine.
'Can I see it?'
'I thought I was going to help you.'
Embarrassment washes his face, and my hopes rise. Perhaps he'll complain about something new. I still have a few countries to paint. If you use someone's fears to inspire a multifaceted work of art, you don't just need a manic depressive. You need a hypochondriac. I move closer, keeping myself between him and the tarp-covered statue in case he gets curious. He breaks eye contact.
'I don't mean to keep dumping on you like this--'
Oh yes you do. It's your drug.
'I've started cutting myself again. I can't stop thinking about Pam.'
I spot a red smear on his hand. What if a couple of spots of his blood fall on the globe? Now that would be cool.
'Martin, you can't do this to yourself. No chick is worth that. Just put her behind you, mate, and tell me what else is on your mind.'
Beer has loosened his tongue before. I step over to the little bar fridge, turning my back on him. When I turn back with a bottle I realise my mistake, too late. A curious hand lifts the tarp, then tears it off.
The statue kneels on one knee, arms bent upward as if it already crouches in the gallery and bears the painted globe. Martin, mister world-on-his-shoulders himself, studies the statue's bulbous chin. His own quivers.
'Is that all I am to you? A bloody muse?'
Martin sweeps the drop cloth from the floor and studies his world, painted on the deflated weather balloon. Indonesia looks like Pam's stiletto. Norway, his impotence problem. Africa, his abusive parents. Martin's shoulders sag. I make mental notes about how I should change the statue. He snatches up the utility knife next to my brushes.
'I... I came to you for...'
I run like hell out into the road. I don't look back.
Panic blurs time. I find myself at a coffee shop, order a latte and figure I should call the cops. My mobile is in my hand when I notice that everyone in the mall has stopped moving. They stare upward, reduced to statues. Martin's corpse, neck tethered to his helium world of worry, drifts over the city. His lifeless shoes scrape the top of an office block, and he spins slowly over the void like a dandelion seed. Nobody moves, they're held by the majesty of the image - as am I. It's death rising above life. It's Atlas meets Icarus. It resonates, it's frigging brilliant.
I stand among the crowd and hope the upstaging bastard rots in hell.

The Writing and Society Research Group, in the College of Arts at the University of Western Sydney co-sponsored the prizes in the ZineWest 07 competition. This group led by Ivor Indyk, brings together scholars in the humanities, writers, and members of the publishing industry, who have a common interest in exploring the social power of writing. The group has doubled the first prize of $200 to $400 and added a subscription of HEAT Magazine worth $60, to second prize.