Spring 2021

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Auckland Shorts II

By Jack Remiel Cottrell

Poster, 'If you must travel', Early 1940s, London, by Henry Hildesley Ltd., H.M. Stationery Office. Gift of Mr C H Andrews, 1967. Te Papa (GH015847)
© Poster, 'If you must travel', Early 1940s, London, by Henry Hildesley Ltd., H.M. Stationery Office. Gift of Mr C H Andrews, 1967. Te Papa (GH015847)

They probably play the viola

 

Kia Ora Students,

University administration has noticed higher-than-normal numbers of time travellers appearing this semester.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Office would like to take this opportunity to reassure students that Everything is Fine.

The Head of Department for Physics, Dr Amanda Wu, is keeping us informed about the implications of time travel. She warns that students should not approach any time-travel device that appears on campus. Disrupting these could maroon our visitors from the future or cause a universe-ending paradox. We want to assure students that a universe-ending time paradox is very unlikely, but in the interest of openness and transparency, you should note the possibility.

Some students have asked time travellers for information about their upcoming exams. This is a breach of your Academic Integrity Policy, and anyone using information gleaned from the future to gain an unfair advantage may be subject to disciplinary processes.

We are not being complacent about the possible consequences of rogue time travellers. Sanitiser stations are available around campus, and we encourage you to use them if you feel anxious about super-bacteria from the future to which your immune system has no defence.

Sadly, it has also come to my attention that a small number of individuals have spread rumours that the time travellers visit the Music Department because one or more music students will commit horrific acts of genocide in the future. These rumours are hurtful and go against our university’s commitment to fostering an inclusive community. He waka eke noa. #BeKind

If you are worried about paradoxes, super-bacteria, deadly futuristic weaponry, or the possibility you will be subjugated by a brutal dictatorship originating from a cabal of musicians at this university, the student counselling service is always available to you.

 

Yours sincerely,

Professor R. Serling

Vice-Chancellor

 

Promise to meet me at the seventh stream where the waters run away to the sea

 

‘Stop picking.’

My nails, cut so short that the tips of my fingers are red-raw, cease trying to lift away the scabbing on the inside of my elbow. I know Mother is waiting for me to say it itches, so I keep quiet.

It doesn’t itch, not really. Instead, it is a tightness; my skin feels as if there is something underneath, trying to get out.

The lake is cold at this time of year. It is deep, but very clear — in the right light I can see glimmers of silver, just at the point where the water becomes too dark to clearly make out a sinking stone.

I keep trying to touch the bottom, but I haven’t been able to yet. I think I am getting closer, though it is hard to tell, with nothing other than a watch on the jetty to tell me how long I can hold my breath.

Mother wishes I would stop swimming, because afterwards my skin gets even worse. Huge flakes slough away, revealing flesh that is smooth and firm. The cracks disclose a skin which is not really skin — too grey and too cold and too sleek.

After I come back from the lake she slathers on moisturiser, but it doesn’t do anything other than prolong the process. Then she tells me to stop picking while the top layer of my skin gets tighter and tighter. It falls off anyway, whether I pick or don’t.

I love the water. And I don’t care about my skin. I’m certain I will reach the bottom of the lake soon, and no one has skin down there.

 

Is it still just a bromance if you daydream about seeing him naked?

 

You’ve tucked your daughter in, kissed the baby, and promised your wife you won’t be out past midnight. You text your brother a second time before you leave, to apologise for being late — although you don’t say what’s taken you so long.

But your brother already knows you spent half an hour trying to get your hair right, and the tiny shake of his head when he hands you a beer makes you feel more pathetic than ever.

‘You have to stop trailing around after him,’ your brother tells you, though you barely hear it because you keep craning your head around to look at the door.

You want to argue that you’ve never trailed around after anyone, but you can’t bring yourself to tell a lie that obvious.

So, when you don’t tell him to fuck off, your brother leaves you to your silence — forces you to look away from the humiliating pity that shows in his eyes.

And it is a crushing, infinite five minutes while you drink a handle of Speights far too fast and wait for the arrival of the man you will never admit you love. In that infinity you run through all the reasons it is impossible and twice through the reasons that impossibility must be, has to be, a good thing.

Then he walks through the door, and in an instant you’ve fallen again.

About Jack Remiel Cottrell

Jack Remiel Cottrell is a cryptid lurking in the hills of east Auckland who emerges only for rugby games. He is an alumni of the 2019/20 MCW class, and winner of the Sir James Wallace Prize.