The London Plane – Fiction in Monomyth Magazine

The London Plane 

Leilanie Stewart © 2017


Gladys put both hands on the tree and pulled herself up from the ground. She could see the waning moon through the bare branches. The sky was indigo blue, her favourite colour. The great artist had painted it all for her. She felt it. 

“I was here before. I touched this tree once.”

Once, under a tranquil sky. 

Her knees were still bleeding. She could see grit and fragments of leaves stuck to the grazed flesh. There was nothing she could do for now. More important things mattered. Like finding out how to get home.

She could feel the bark cracked and dry beneath her splayed fingers. As she stepped back, she let go of the trunk and looked at the medley of colours; brown, red, yellow like flax. There was a tree exactly like it outside her apartment back in England. A London Plane. A beautiful tree. Her favourite. She loved how they shed their outer bark in layers to reveal a multitude of colours beneath. A divine way to rid themselves of pollution. 

Impulse overcame her. Her fingers worked like pale crabs, scuttling across the woody surface, peeling flakes from the tree. Fresh bark showed underneath the dead dregs of autumn. Around the trunk she walked, tearing at the tree. As the last flake of old fell, impulse gave way to addiction. Slivers of new green growth fell atop the pile of dead bark.

The trunk became thinner as she worked and Gladys noticed too that it was changing shape. As she peeled, the branches fell around her, exposing the nakedness of the moon. The tree was now a stump of its former self, standing barely five inches above her height. She pulled from the top, ripping lignin strands like threads of celery, until a dome appeared. Running her hands over the smooth surface following the line of the wood, she saw two distinct broad mounds, like shoulders. Yes, the shape she had carved was definitely human. Male.

Carved? Or revealed?

Her nimble fingers set to work again. The fresh bark was still wet. Digging her fingers into the dome, she opened a hole. Forcing more fingers in, she grabbed enough to fold back the wood. Underneath, she saw skin. A cheek. An eye, closed. Black hair, short and curly.

A man’s head came into view. His head fell limp against his chest, lolling on his collarbone.

“Hello? Are you alive?”

Gladys touched his face with her green-stained fingertips. The man didn’t respond. She felt his neck. There was a faint pulse. Placing a finger under his nose, she felt warm air rush over her hand. 

I have to get him out, she thought. She tore at the bark, ripping chunks off from his chest, down his torso until finally his legs and feet were free. The man slumped to the ground and lay over the tree shavings, his arms outstretched.

“Wake up. Mister?”

She shook his shoulders gently and his head flopped back, making his mouth open. Tapping his cheek with her palm didn’t work either.

Could he be diabetic? She fumbled inside his shirt pocket and her hand closed around a small bottle. Reading the front, she saw the words ‘Temazepam’ written on the front.

Instinct. She felt his chest. No heartbeat.

“Oh God. Warren, wake up.”

Warren? Gladys felt a jolt in her chest. How could she possibly have known his name? She had never met him before.

Tilting his head back, she saw his Adam’s apple protrude. She pinched his nose with her thumb and forefinger and blew two breaths into his open mouth. Making a fist with her right hand on his chest, she pushed on it with the left. Twenty seven. Twenty eight. Twenty nine. Thirty.

Again, two breaths. She sensed him move and sat up.

“Gladys. My angel.”

His blue eyes were bright indigo, reflecting the sky above. A tear rolled down Gladys’ cheek and fell onto his.

But why was she crying? Over a total stranger?

“You saved my life,” said Warren, pushing himself up. He propped himself up on both elbows.

“You took an overdose,” she said, wiping her wet face.

“Thank you. I’d be dead if you weren’t here.”

She helped him to his feet and he dusted off fragments of wood.

“Do you know where we are?” said Gladys.

“I’m not sure, but I know this place from the back of my mind somewhere,” Warren said. He scratched his ear. “I can’t think when I was here before though.”

“Do you know me?” she said.

“Yeah, I think so. But again, I don’t know how.”

“I know you too. I’m sure I met you in another place once.”

He smiled. “A dream?”

She shook her head. “No. Another place. Back in London, I think. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to go back there. I’m trying to find my way home.”

“Me too. I think I know where to go.”

He took her hand. They climbed down off the pile of wood and walked across the dry earth under the watch of the moon. The sky hadn’t changed at all. It wasn’t any darker. Although the moon was brighter. Gladys stared up at it. She knew time had passed.

They were on a flat plane, the ground veined with cracks. The desert was vast. Gladys could see distant mountains, purple under the evening sky. Warren was taking her towards them. She looked back. The remains of the only tree that had graced the arid land lay like the mound of a fresh burial.

“Why were you in that tree?” she asked.

Warren looked at her, his eyes darting between hers as he searched her face.

“I don’t know. But it was something to do with you, I think.”

“With me?”

He shrugged. “Maybe I was there for you to find me.”

They continued, bare soil passing under their feet as miles came and went. The mountains drew closer. Gladys could see a fissure in the rock forming a passageway, and knew he was taking her towards it.

“Warren, I’m scared. Do you think it’s a good idea to go in there? Can’t we go around?”

“It’s safe. Do you trust me?”

She nodded and squeezed his hand.

Shadow fell over them. The sky above was obliterated. Darkness crowded them, like a cloak. All Gladys could feel was the touch of his hand. Where was the moon when she needed it? No moon, no sky. No air.

Her throat felt constricted. Was she holding her breath in the tenseness of the black passage? She tried to call out to Warren, but had lost her voice.

The pain in her throat was growing in the darkness. Without air, she was suffocating.

Help. Help, she thought but knew he couldn’t hear. No one could.

She was going to die if they didn’t get out of the passage soon. Could they turn back? If she ran, she would make it. She could go around the mountains as she had suggested.

And then a pulse in her forehead, carrying with it a thought. A memory. Of a past life.

Warren please. Don’t do this. Stop.

Her tongue was protruding now, scouring the dark space for air. But there was nothing in the void apart from his hand and her.

You made me do it. It’s all your fault. You make me get angry, you bitch!

Her eyeballs were pounding. Her head felt like a pustule, ready to burst. The pressure was too much. She needed release.

Ahead, she saw a slice of blue. The sky. The beautiful sky. Her feet carried her forwards and the moon was waiting to welcome her, like a mother with open arms to her child.

Gladys inhaled, drinking in a rush of cool, soothing air. Warren turned and smiled at her.

“Everything is going to be alright now.”

Gladys clutched at her throat and felt rough skin around her jugular. She felt a loose piece hanging and picked it off. The flake of dried blood was burnt umber like the bark on the London Plane. Nails had done it, hands that had intended her harm.

But it couldn’t have been Warren. He had been holding her hand the whole time, leading her through the blackness. Only a memory. But it had been so real.

“We’re nearly there now,” he said, squeezing her hand.

Wasn’t he alarmed by her injuries? Had he not noticed? Again she looked to the moon for advice, but it hung above her like an innocent bystander.

Gladys didn’t turn back again. She wanted to forget the mountains falling behind her. One thought alone filled her mind. Home.

As they walked, a towering rock came into sight, like a dark pillar silhouetted against the twilight sky. Warren pointed ahead at it.

“That’s where we have to go.”

Gladys looked at it and her hand fell away from her throat. She lifted her chin and walked forth.

But as she looked closer at Warren, she could see blood.

Yes, there was definitely blood on the back of his head. The drops were falling behind him like a trail. She could see an open cut, an inch long laceration.

“Warren, stop. You’re bleeding. The bottle cut you badly.”

As before, she felt a jolt in her chest. How did she know?

She just did. The details were trickling back to her, clearer on this side of the mountain. Green glass shattering over cranium, the pieces falling through depth and mist as she lay amidst a magnesium stearate rain. 

He stopped and walked back to her.

“It’s okay.” He held her face in both hands and wiped across her cheeks with both thumbs. “We’ve both made mistakes.”

“What?” she said, pushing off his hands. “What do you mean?”

Looking down, she saw blood on his fingers.

Her eyes were pouring red tears. Like radioactive fallout, they dripped over her clothes. 

“Let’s keep going. There’s still time. We’ll make it home,” said Warren.

The rock pillar was looming ever closer and on it, Gladys could make out a white spot. Closer still, a circle. Closer. A clock.

Thirty feet. A distant siren.

Twenty feet. A wailing war cry.

Ten feet. The banshees were knocking.

They were there. Warren smiled as he placed his hand on the hour hand of the clock and turned it back. And Gladys smiled with him.

The London Plane – First published in Monomyth Magazine Volume 10.1 (Atlantean Publishing, 2010)



Literary hiatus

Joseph Robert and I will be taking a writing – and online – hiatus for a short while as we contend with other exciting life events. Nevertheless, do keep stopping by to check our recent literary endeavours to date and we hope to be back with you again soon! 

Second novel finished! Why Lulu is great for printing a proof copy

This post is technically a month overdue (no pun intended, considering I am on maternity leave), but between being busy with two author interviews for Too Full to Write and Lagan Online, as well as publishing Issue 6 of Bindweed Magazine and promoting my recently published novelette in Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine Summer 2017, updates on my novel pursuits have taken rather a backseat. So here goes:

Why Lulu is great for printing proof copies:

I finished my final draft on 30 June. Since I was so immersed in the story and knew it would be hard to read objectively for typos and inconsistencies, etc, I decided to print a proof copy on My thinking behind this was that if it looks like a finished novel, it would be easier to read as a book rather than a manuscript draft, and less tempting to write all over with pen. I’ll admit, I did end up doing the latter when I decided to tweak the ending after all that, but the reading part still stands. Lulu is great for printing for several reasons:

1) It’s simple to use. Keep reading below for more info on this.

2) The books are of professional quality with a solid binding for a low price.

3) You can choose to print without publishing the book.

4) You have a lovely keepsake of your book whether it goes on to be published or not.

Here I am enjoying my proof copy in the park: Continue reading

Leilanie Stewart interviewed on Too Full to Write

This month has been a busy one for interviews: my second appearance is on website, Too Full to Write, hosted by author and entrepreneur, David Ellis. Rather than wearing my editor and publishing hat as I did earlier in the month, when Joseph Robert and I were jointly interviewed for Bindweed Magazine by Lagan Online, this one focuses on my own writing career and creative inspirations. I also add a few aspiring author tips for anyone thinking of getting into the business side of poetry or fiction. Enjoy!

New novelette published in Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine Summer 2017

This month my novelette, Til Death do us Boneapart, is published in Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine Summer 2017. I’m excited to see this story in print for a couple of reasons:

1. It’s my first novelette publication (my prose publications to date have been flash fiction and short stories in magazines worldwide and my satirical novella, Zombie Reflux from Meandi Books in 2014).

2. It’s a literary hybrid, mixing elements of horror, humour and romance into the tale (or tail if you like, since the protagonist is an ancient Egyptian mummified cat!), which is great for my writing CV, since I’ve just finished my urban fantasy novel that also combines a few of those elements.

My story appears on page 68 of the issue, which you can buy at the Amazon link above for the magazine. It’s told from the point of view of a mummified cat who is possessed by the spirit of the Ancient Egyptian cat deity, Bastet. She’s on a quest to be reunited with her long lost owner of two millennia, Nephthys.

Hope you enjoy it!

Joseph Robert and Leilanie Stewart joint publication on Google Books

In May this year, I wrote a post announcing that my writer hubby, Joseph Robert, and I were jointly published in the ‘Inane Pure Slush Volume 14’ anthology published by Australia based, Pure Slush books. The anthology is now available as an Ebook on Google Books. Here are the links to read our individual stories:

Fear of the Mould by Leilanie Stewart – Page 120: Inane Pure Slush Volume 14

This Really Happened by Joseph Robert – Page 51: Inane Pure Slush Volume 14

Of course, if you want to buy a print copy, it’s available too from Pure Slush Books at Lulu.

Joseph Robert and Leilanie Stewart interviewed on Lagan Online 

This month, Joseph Robert and I were interviewed for Bindweed Magazine at Lagan Online. We answered 7 questions related to our editorial decisions and process focusing on our family-run magazine and sub-strand, Heavenly Flower Publishing. 

Do check out the interview for more insight into our work as co-editors of Bindweed Magazine. You can also find other great literary resources including links to Literary Journals and Publications within Ireland via the Lagan Online website, so it’s well worth a good browse.


Bindweed Magazine seeking submissions for Issue 7

A year and 3 months later and the labour-of-love publication, Bindweed Magazine, that I’m co-running with Joseph Robert, is going strong. We have published writers from all over the world and currently have a huge backlog of poetry and fiction to get through; or maybe a hedge-load of convolvulus is more apt!

The latest print anthology (Issue 5) came in the post this morning. It’s always a satisfying feeling to hold those glossy paperback copies in my hands; a product of not only all the authors’ work, but of the many hours that I spent in editing, formatting and designing the manuscript for the final print version of each issue.

The Ezine for Issue 6 is currently running for July, August and September: the print anthology for all work appearing over the summer should be available in the print anthology due in October 2017. Minor delays in the publication schedule might happen, since of course a baby Bindweed is joining the ever blooming family-run business in the near future! But, for any budding writers out there looking for a home for their finished poetry and fiction, check out the submission guidelines for Issue 7 and send along your work. There’s still room for work appearing in Bindweed Magazine in October, November and December 2017.

Of course, if you want to check out back issues, feel free to have a peruse:

Issue 1: Morning Glory
Issue 2: Bellbine
Issue 3: Creeping Jenny
Issue 4: Waywind
Issue 5: Wild Lily

Writing goals and wrapping up the day job

Today marked the end of term at the secondary school where I work for the start of the summer holidays. It also means the start of my maternity leave. This week I’ve been busy wrapping up loose ends with my admin at work and getting stuck in to a few writing deadlines, before baby pursuits take up my time!

1. Author interview 

I’ve been drafting an author interview, which will be forthcoming on a website hosted by author and business person, David Ellis. The interview will focus on my published poetry collections and novella. More on this soon.

2. Finishing my novel

Another brain challenge as I completed my final chapter, cleaned up plot difficulties from the previous (5th) draft and – hopefully – formatted the manuscript for the last time in preparation for submission. More on this shortly too!

3. Editing the Bindweed Magazine Issue 5 print anthology

Designing the front cover, writing the summer editorial, organising the typescript, uploading the manuscript to Lulu, writing the blurb, and setting the price for worldwide distribution – all before the end of June has been a tough, but worthwhile hurdle on the literary field. Whew!

4. Receiving my writer contract for Dark Gothic Resurrected magazine 

My novelette, Til Death do us Boneapart, will be published in the summer issue of Dark Gothic Resurrected magazine. The editor sent along my writing contract to read through and sign, which was another goal ticked on my literary list.

Woohoo! If you’re anything like me as a writer, you can relate to the feeling of accomplishment I’ve had this week at meeting my writing goals, especially in the face off growing fatigue. Ah… It feels good to finally get one’s feet up for a well-deserved break, at last.

The Libertarian’s Prison – creative take on politics by Joseph Robert 

The Libertarian’s Prison

Joseph Robert © 2017
Brietbart Bots Barf Consensus: Change the Conversation:

Shocker: Silent Majority Revealed as an Oppressed Minority:

RE: The Trotskyist Trots: No, Not Here!: Not On My Watch:

Righteous Victimhood Beckons:

Click Here: The Sick Here: The Sick Hear:

Dirty Immigrant Takes Doctor’s Dime:

Robert Mercer’s Mercenary Machines: Lock Her Up!:

Putting Putin in Pride of Place: Get Behind our President:

Vladimir Hoovers up FBI Attention: Crimea No Big Deal:

Smokescreen: Now Syria’s The Place: Pity the Right, Folks:

Cambridge Analytica are Good Guys: Libya Was an Evil Error:

Blackwater Was Cool Though, Says XE: Academi Agrees:

Obama Was Yesterday’s News: He Plots in the Bushes:

A Bird in Hand, But Not The Oval Office:

Breakthrough in Chakra Massage: Place Palm on Face:

Discount Palm Oil Now Available Direct: Belly Fat:

Six Simple Tricks:  Myth Exposed: Do You Need to Know?:  Continue reading