Pen To Print

Click "Enter" to submit the form.

Showcase: Summer Garden Dreams + Short Story + Willingness

Edited by Lucy Kaufman

Welcome to my fifth and final Showcase for May on the theme of Transcendence. In previous weeks, I’ve shared writing looking at ‘Transcendence’ through ‘Memory, Dream, Imagination and the Supernatural.’ Today, I’m pushing the boundaries of transcendence further, in thinking about how humans may transcend our boundaries and limitations in future, in our evolution as a species through time.

The future is always uncertain, of course and, as yet, not fixed, although at some point in the past balls have probably already been set in motion that will shape our future. The past can be comforting to retreat into, because we know what happened there and we can do nothing to change it. The present can be uncomfortable and the future terrifying, not only because of the uncertainty but because much of what could happen feels beyond our control. Change is inevitable, sometimes unstoppable, although often preventable. One of our roles as writers is to imagine possible futures and warn our readers about where we might be headed, if we don’t have the awareness, simply sleepwalk into potential danger, or don’t act now.


In today’s first piece, Summer Garden Dreams by Jason Duck, the future is far from anybody’s minds; time crawls by almost to a lazy standstill, it seems, as we are given a snapshot of a single moment in a single place in the present: The Victoria Embankment Gardens in London.

Summer Garden Dreams

The Victoria Embankment Gardens – an oasis in the heart of the capital.

The River Thames snakes along the gardens like a long pearl necklace, sunlight reflecting off deep waters.

A gentleman of the road sleeps soundly on a park bench under the shade of an old sycamore. Tatty trainers sit by blackened bare feet like silent sentinels. Tanned face, lines etched by years on the road, less deep now as he sleeps. Shaggy head lying on ruck sack, a thread bare pillow. His grimy beard flecked with London dirt clings to bony face as he dreams of a past life, now lost.

A carefree group of hens sit on the grass nearby laughing loudly as they slurp Prosecco from plastic glasses. The bride to be, her head adorned with veil and body with sash, declaring her status in the pack, cackles at some unheard joke.

A young lady sits, slim legs tucked under her. Studious eyes behind large glasses reads a well-thumbed book as she’s lost in its magic, her mind taken to far-flung countries, or even other worlds.

The smell of flowers hangs heavily in the air like perfume, as dogs eagerly walk among and sniff these colourful and gay surroundings, while bored owners pull gently on their leads to hurry them along.

A lone fountain sprinkles water into its pond as fish of gold, shine within its clear waters and carefree children dance about it like villagers around a maypole.

Statues of past men of greatness, their likeness lives on in blacken bronze long after their white bones have turned to dust, stand proudly on plinths of stone among the lush surroundings.

People lounging in deck chairs by the band stand listening to gentle music, lost in sunny day dreams, as time crawls by in the gardens of Victoria Embankment.

© Jason Duck, 2024

I love the mood Jason creates here: the haziness of this slow summer day in the park gardens, where people dream of past lives, are lost in sunny daydreams, lost in the magic of a book. Yet, amid this suspension in time are the presence of bronze statues of past men of greatness, whose white bones have turned to dust, reminding us of the transience of this moment, the impermanence of everybody and everything in these gardens, making this moment, in this time and place, all the more special and worth capturing in writing.


In this final short piece, Sally Siner’s powerful Short Story imagines a possible future where something we take for granted as a fundamental given in our present becomes called into question, leading to a dark, dystopian future for humankind.

Short Story

It started with the sex.

From desirable to icky, uncool, redneck.

Other bodily functions followed suit: menstruation, defecation, perspiration.
A.I. upgrades were hastily designed and installed to deal with these problems.

Humans had always had a cognitive dissonance when it came to belonging to the animal kingdom. It was awkward: eating, subjugating, turning them into bags and shoes. But we were so much more.

All that was OK now that we’d evolved by our own hand, not at the crazy slow pace of Mother Nature – whoever she was.

Initially, the Red Whores were still up for sex and procreation and then, when even they got the ick and the former fell out of fashion, they were happy to lend a womb for the latter – until they weren’t.

Scientists threw themselves into artificial uteri with aplomb; everyone who was anyone was doing it. To be fair, many times they came so close. Beautiful cherubs plumped and ripened, ready for exit (or entrance, depending on which way you looked at it), but every time they failed at the last. At the point of taking them from that safe and sanitised space out into the world – the magical gasp – their lungs shut down. Those goddamned babies just kept on dying.

Panic began to ensue. Mild at first, limited to the scientific community. But then the media got hold of it and, anyway, people began to notice first hand: nursery workers, retailers, greys without grandkids.

Climate change rumbled on, yet there was plenty of room on the high ground for the dwindling population, moral and otherwise.

Who could have predicted that the greatest threat to the human species, eventually wiping us out without making anything like the mark of the dinosaurs or bees, was our own self-disgust?

What a sad little story.

© Sally Siner, 2024

Sally’s story is disturbing and profoundly poignant, shining her customary wry light so truthfully on what could happen, if we allow it, or can do nothing to prevent it. It raises questions about class and exploitation: who will be expected to serve who in the future? Who will fulfil biological functions many won’t want to? How will AI replace those basic human functions, and what will the consequence of this be? Her story illuminates a problem that has been churning away in our collective past and that, in Sally’s future scenario, can only come back to bite us: the fact we have distanced ourselves from the animals we are, and cast ourselves as superior to our fellow creatures. I love the power in her wonderful line It was awkward: eating, subjugating, turning them into bags and shoes.


Sometimes it takes courage to face the future and, in order to do so, we need to confront and heal from, or let go of, the events and troubles of our past. Or, as Lucy Brown reminds us here, if we truly want to transcend our past selves and live more fulfilling lives, it can take willingness. But this isn’t always easy to find.


How can I unlock the murky past
Full of denial and black despair
Of days when the dye was always cast
Though life went on with little care.

For friends around might suffer more
The pain of emotional defeat
Of society’s principles such a bore
And actions we must repeat

Day in Day out without relief
Drowning in both mind and soul
Our destiny may be very brief
The end of life our final goal

The key to willingness we must find
But it is tightly locked inside
Then we must search our heart and mind
To end this mindless mystery ride.

© Lucy Brown, 2024


 That’s it from me and my Showcases this month. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the pieces as much as I’ve enjoyed curating and editing them. I think you’ll agree, writing is such an important part of our human experience and the connection forged between writer and reader is a truly valuable one, helping us to understand ourselves and making us more comfortable with being ourselves.    

Lucy Kaufman is a playwright, author and screenwriter, as well as lecturer in Playwriting and Screenwriting for Pen to Print. You can connect with Lucy on X: @lucykaufman_ or on Instagram: @kaufmanlucy 


If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! Showcase, please submit your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to:

Read Issue 20 online here or find it in libraries and other outlets. You can see previous editions of our magazines here

Hear extracts from Showcase in our podcast. Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo or find us on Spotify for Pocasters.


If you or someone you know has been affected by issues covered in our pages, please see the relevant link below for ​information, advice and support​:

Advice & Support