By Anthony Ward

“What are you trying to do?” She inquired of him.
Him who had his arms around his own throat, mimicking the very act he was doing.
“I’m trying to strangle myself!” He replied as if she had wanted him to state the obvious.
“Why are you strangling yourself?” She asked.
“Because I want to.”
“Why? Don’t you realise it’s impossible? You couldn’t even if you wanted to.”
“That’s the trouble isn’t it? I’m incapable of doing anything I want to do.”
“Perhaps because you don’t really want to do it?”
“But I do want to.”
“No you don’t. Besides why would you want to?”
“Because I’m incapable of doing anything else.”
“Well you’re certainly incapable of doing this.”
“Am I?”
“Because you don’t really want to do it. You have to really want to do something in order to be able to do it effectively. Anything that’s difficult anyway.”
“There’s so many things I’ve wanted to do that I’ve been incapable of.”
“But did you really want to do them?”
“Then why did you stop?”
He shrugged his shoulders, his hands still fastened around his neck.
“Maybe you didn’t really want to do them in the first place.”
“Then why did I think I wanted to do them. Answer me that?”
“Because you didn’t know what else to do?” She said with upturned palms, shrugging her shoulders, her eyes darting from side to side, as if searching for any objections.
“So you’re suggesting that I’m mimicking the act of strangulation because I actually feel as I’m suffocating?”
“Are you?”
“Feels like it.”
“Especially when you’ve got your hands round your throat.”
“Maybe I’m trying to take control of something I can’t control.”
“But it’s all in vain. You can’t strangle yourself.”
“Maybe I’d be the first.”
“And what good would that be if you were dead?”
“At least I’d be remembered for something.”
“As the man who strangled himself?” She said lifting her shoulders again. “Ok, let’s just imagine that you did manage to strange yourself, what if by proving it could be done, you convinced other people they could do it too?”
“Why would they want to try if I’ve already proved it can be done?”
“Because people generally won’t try to attempt anything they think is impossible, but if you prove to them that it is possible, then it may encourage them to try it as well.”
“I wouldn’t want anyone else to do it.”
“Of course you wouldn’t. They might do it better.”
“I dunno, quicker maybe.”
“You’re saying I’m not doing it fast enough?”
“Well, you’ve taken your time about it; you’ve been talking too much. Someone else would do it quicker, I reckon, if they weren’t talking about it.”
“I wouldn’t be talking about it if you hadn’t come into the room.”
“Let’s just suppose that I hadn’t come into the room, you’d be lying dead and no-one would believe that you strangled yourself, they’d think someone else had done it.”
“Then you’d have to be my witness.”
“Then they’d think I did it.”
He looked down at his feet, knowing once again his endeavours had amounted to nothing.
“This isn’t going to work is it?”
“Perhaps you make things too hard by not taking it easy. Maybe you should relax, breathe a little—just let go.”
And so he let go of his throat and allowed his arms to fall limply by his side.

- - -
Anthony Ward has been writing in his spare time for a number of years. He derives most of his inspiration from listening to mainly Classical Music and Jazz- since it is often the mood which invokes him to set his thoughts to rest. He has been published in a number of literary magazines including South, Word Gumbo, Perspectives, Message in a Bottle, and Blinking Cursor amongst others.


Yellow Dress
By Andrew F. Sullivan

The man left without paying. He left the swirling rainbow in his cup and a note for the waitress at the diner. The coffee tasted like industrial soap. The sky was closing up as he climbed into his car. The radio flicked out lottery numbers to litter the airwaves between crests of static.

The man rolled down his windshield to spit out the window. The spittle splattered back onto his face in the wind. The man did not wipe it off his cheek. He kept driving.

His eyes were on the ditches.

He found his brother’s car outside a Motel Six near Norwood. His tire iron popped the trunk. The man found a scrap of yellow cotton stuck to the latch. The clerk at the desk took the two bills the man offered without any questions and handed him a room key. Room 23B.

The man found his brother sitting on the end of one twin bed with a cigarette in his hand. The smoke alarm was unplugged and dangled above his head. On the television, they were spinning balls around in a basket. His brother’s eyes followed them in circles.

“You know how you flip the pillow over to enjoy the cool side after the first side gets to hot? I’m the same way about beds. Sometimes the first one gets too hot. So I got a spare.”

The man sat down beside his brother. The brother continued.

“You know it wasn’t even that much money.”

The man did not reply. The brother turned up the volume.

“She shouldn’t have gone around telling everyone. That was the problem. I mean, that’s just asking for it, you know? Alice shoulda just kept her numbers to herself. Kept it quiet.”

Static burst from television and then the brother was on the man’s back. Sharp, dirty fingers probed for purchase in the man’s face. The man stumbled away and then backward into a dresser, cracking his brother’s head against the varnished wood. The brother moaned and collapsed onto the thin orange carpet. A trail of blood snaked from his ear to the comforter.

The man stood up heaving. He fished a hand into his brother’s pocket and pulled out the crumpled ticket. It was stamped. His ex-wife’s name was signed across the bottom.

The man placed his foot over his brother’s throat and waited.

The man did not watch the sky open up as he drove back down the salt starched highway. His mouth still tasted like dish soap and black coffee. The lottery ticket sat on the dusty dashboard. Jackpot read ten thousand. It had been cashed. All gone now—all salt into water.

The man did not watch the road. He did not watch the sun begin to melt the snow. He did not see the birds sitting high up in the telephone wires. The man had his eyes on the ditches.

He was looking for a yellow dress.

- - -
Andrew F. Sullivan was born in Peterborough, Ontario. His fiction has recently been published on Joyland: a hub for short fiction and Dragnet Magazine. Sullivan's work will also appear in Riddle Fence and The Other Room later this year.


Millennium Locks
By David Macpherson

I was still drunk when the locksmith got to my apartment door. I said, “Thank God you’re here. Can’t get into my place. Key’s not working.”

The locksmith sniffed out the issue and said, “You sure you go the right key?”

“Fuck you,” I said all polite. “I’m lit, but check it, I got only one key on the chain. Can’t screw that up. I’m a one key guy, for just such an emergency. But today, no dice.”

The locksmith shrugged so high the tools in his box rattled. “Let me take a look.” He grabbed my key without asking and turned on his mag light to check out the lock. He stared for a bit and then whistled. “Well sir,” he said acting proper and contract correct, “this ain’t a problem I can fix. Actually this ain’t even a problem. This is a product doing what it’s supposed to do. You got yourself a Millennium Lock in there.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

The locksmith looked confused, “Sir. You got a Millennium Lock. You don’t get that product by mistake. You pay extra for it; its something you know about.”

“I wasn’t the first tenant. I kept the apartment after my girlfriend went to Portland to follow this bassist. It was her apartment, then it was ours, now it’s mine.”

“Not anymore, sir. It’s not anyone’s anymore. You have a Millennium Lock. Don’t you know them?” I just gazed at him. He waited, shrugged and went on. “They sell a specific product. It’s a hell of a lock, works perfectly, tight system, strong tumblers. Works like a dream for a thousand times. After a thousand times of locking and unlocking, it freezes up for good.”

“Freezes up for good? Is that a malfunction?”

The locksmith said, “No. It’s designed that way. It’s marketed that way. After a thousand times, you won’t get into your apartment. Nothing is going to open it. People who get this installed know this. After a thousand lockings and unlockings, you got to move.”

“Wait. I’m not getting in? That’s crazy. Can’t you do something?”

“No,” the locksmith said. “It’s done. You got to move.”

“What about my stuff? How can I get my stuff?”

The locksmith paused for a bit and then said, “From what I hear, it’s gone. In a week, the lock will be missing and the door open. Go into the place then and its empty.”

“Empty? Where’s the stuff? Where’d it go?”

“I don’t know, sir. It’s just gone. The place will be empty and pristine clean, like part of your stuff was your dirt and stains. Landlords don’t have to paint for the new tenant, its so clean, they love it.”

I said, “I need my stuff.”

“You just think you do. I’ve seen this before. You get to leave here with nothing. Start over. Do something new. Do the same shit again. Whatever. No matter what, you ain’t getting in here.” The locksmith straightened up to his full height. He pulled his jacket straight and gave me a bill for a hundred dollars.

“For what?” I said. “You did nothing here.”

“That’s right. And for that honor, you owe me a hundred bucks.”

I paid him and left the building before he did. I was still walking soft from the booze and I couldn’t think of anyone who could help me. Who could stretch out a hand to me? I was homeless and drunk.

I finished the night riding the subway, not sleeping it off. I thought of the new place I now needed. I thought of the things I would fill it with. I also allowed myself to think of the front door of the new place I didn’t have yet. The one thing I was sure of was the brand of lock I would insist for the door. That, at least, was something I could be certain of.

- - -


darkened side
By Jessica Sanfilippo

i would like to listen to pink floyd’s “wish you were here” with you in your mercury mystique with the golf clubs in the trunk and my The Help in the backseat and the cigarette butts stuck in the cigarette butt cup and my stray hairs in the carpet and your sweaty hair under the same hat you have worn for the past two and a half years. i would like to grab onto the curls near your neck and taste your mouth that always tastes like salt. i would like to see you healthy with your sharp red washington and jefferson lanyard hanging around your knees. i would like to see the shoes you have worn spring, summer, fall, winter. i would like to see the clothes drying in your basement, your beautiful slobbering dog. i would like to see your room just that one last time. the sheets still crumpled and the pillows strewn. you did everything right but you could never learn how to sleep.

you can still beat this. you are a family member. you are my lover, you will always be the 'you' reference in everything i say. i will think about your mother reserving bowls of raw onion during dinner. i will think about how you helped me pack for school by separating the metal and plastic clothes hangers. i will think about the day we swam until i had to go to work and i will think about the bad things too. i will think about going through your phone and how sure i seemed that everything was terrible but you kept to your word and promised not to speak to the only girl i cannot talk about with anyone anymore.

it takes me years and years to fully understand that these people have hurt me and it is better to stay away and for them to no longer exist in my social, emotional life. sometimes i feel like that all i have left are these new people that will never quite measure up to the old ones. i was brave enough to tell my mother that i don't make you wear condoms. i never really made you. and after a thousand days of paranoid pregnancy scares, i realized that if you and i made a new life, i would kill it and it would be our secret and we would still be okay. all of the things we have gone through have been much much worse.

i have never witnessed any of your suicide attempts but i always watched the way your arm scars crinkled when you flexed. i remember when you got home from rehab and we kissed and kissed and i felt like i met you for the first time. three months will be nothing compared to six months, to nine months, to a full year. you will look nothing like the boy i used to fuck. i will look nothing like the 18 year old from high school. the grass will forever grow in our graveyard spot. i will never visit your neighborhood in fear of my heart exploding right out of my body. i will never know how it is to love someone, to make love with someone, besides you. i know your last priority is to find a new girl to share your problems with. for split seconds, i do think that you have gotten sick of me. but you are just sick in general. you are sick in the head when you see the sick, scary things that no one should ever see. you are sick when your brain tells you that it's okay to steal and use. your parents want to give you electric shock therapy but i don't think you will ever smile again. i don't think you'll recognize me or any of the things we have ever done. i cannot handle another dying old man in my life forgetting my face and name and place in his heart.

my mother prays for you. if i prayed, which sometimes i tend to do when bad things like this happen, i'd pray for you too.

- - -
My name is Jessica Sanfilippo and I am currently going to college in PA. I keep a secret blog that I write in daily.


Tyranny of the Inanimate
By Charles Patrick Brownson

His conflict with the Thing-World had gotten out of hand. This morning, before leaving his hotel room in Atlanta, he'd stubbed his toe on a chair while staggering to the bathroom. Having just awoken and feeling grumpy from the effects of jetlag, he was certain the chair had deliberately, and inconspicuously, extended itself across his path.

Then the zipper broke in the pants he'd selected for the day. While preparing a cup of coffee using the complimentary packet of grounds, the single-cup, drip-style machine went berserk, pissing fresh brewed gourmet coffee all over itself. This was punctuated by another stub of his toe on the way to the bathroom for a towel. But the worst attack occurred when he tried opening the drapes of his hotel room window.

The moment he gripped the pull-cord he sensed its malicious intent as it wrapped around his arm like a snake. And nothing happened when he pulled to draw the curtains apart. He pulled again, swearing underneath his breath. He jerked it a third time and the curtain rod snapped, the drapes collapsing upon his head. Screws skittered here and there across the floor as the entire contraption ripped from its mounts, sending a cloud of plaster dust into the air.

Vexed with the notion that the entire universe had conspired against him, he exploded into a fit of rage. Cursing, he disentangled himself from the drapery cloth, grabbed the metal curtain rod and bent it over his knee. He might have carried on with his rampage, destroying every visible Thing in the hotel room if it weren’t for a knock at the door. The female voice announcing itself as housekeeping startled him. He lurched about the sunlit room like a vampire searching for slivers of shadow.

After boarding a plane back home to Seattle, his iPod stopped working. He'd charged it before leaving the hotel room specifically to avoid this kind of situation. He turned it off, then back on again, but all it did was rest in his palm with its light blinking. Eventually there wasn't even a blinking light. The device was dead. So much for finishing that audio book, he thought. It was going to be a long flight.

Now, more than ever, he was convinced of the malicious powers of the inanimate, as described by the philosophy of Resistentialism. He was no philosopher, but he liked to read a lot. Some time ago, he happened upon a magazine article from the 1940’s that first proposed the idea of hostile objects.

A parody of the French existentialist movement, the article's tongue-in-cheek nature wasn’t entirely lost on him. He knew the author never meant anyone to take Resistentialism seriously, yet he couldn’t help but acknowledge some feasibility to the author's claims. Despite the stark absurdity of espousing a theory fabricated solely for satirical purposes, he'd felt compelled to concede the assumptions as inarguable.

Angry about having no audio book to listen to, he pulled the ear buds from his ears, shoved the iPod into the pocket of his jacket, and tried calming his nerves by reassuring himself that the malfunctioning device was nothing more than the result of a random glitch. He tried convincing himself that there was no such thing as the Thing-World, but it wasn't easy. Moving from belief to unbelief, he realized, wasn't going to happen as simply as his next plane transfer.

All of a sudden, his drink tray unfolded. Falling from the recess in the back of the seat in front of him, it collapsed onto his knees. Abruptly, he slammed the drink tray back into its stowed position and swore at the top of his lungs.

Realizing his mistake, and not wanting anyone to perceive him as a threat, he muttered a sheepish apology to his seatmates before they had a chance to wave down a flight attendant. Except nobody was paying attention.

As it turned out, the collapsing drink tray had been the first sign that the plane was in trouble. Across the aisle, a woman's meal had spilled into her lap. Ahead of him, he saw oxygen masks dropping from the ceiling. A carry-on suitcase busted out of an overhead luggage compartment and pegged a guy in the side of the head. Then the engines screamed as the jetliner made a steep nosedive.

The conclusiveness of his approaching death, and that of his fellow passengers, seemed eerily fatalistic. Events had transpired beyond anyone's control, especially that of the pilots. The plane was now in control. This is it, he thought, the strength of his convictions returning. The Thing-World was about to win.

For whatever reasons, the gods of the inanimate world had maliciously seized control of the lives of more than two hundred people, plunging them headlong towards an irrevocable fate with the continent. He reached for the oxygen mask, inhaled, and uttered a silent prayer for mercy.

When he brought his head up from between his knees and braved a peek out the window, the ground loomed before him. Seated just behind the wing, he saw the jet engine's rear turbines. The entire engine pod shook violently beneath the wing as though it would drop from its mounts at any moment. Then the tapered round nozzle of the jet pipe lost its natural shape. At first, he thought the intense heat had melted the steel. But the opening of the cone drooped and then stretched wide, like a pair of lips. It grew wider as the corners turned upward, taunting him with a huge, unmistakable grin.

- - -
Charles Brownson is a writer of speculative fiction living in Seattle, Washington. He was educated at the State University of New York at Fredonia where he studied English Literature and philosophy. His stories have appeared in such magazines as Collective Fallout and the Triangulation: Last Contact anthology series.


By Susan Franceschina

I thrive as a spy above the plastic dogs circling below. I’m brilliant and alone on this balcony. The sidewalk traffic fluctuates depending on the time, but I see everything, even the multitude of frothing mouths.

They’d love a piece of my flesh.

I watch while sipping strong black coffee. It chases away last night’s sleeplessness. It makes me feel warmer, slightly opposite of dead. And this seclusion feeds my soul. I’m the Queen of the World for seeing through the cocky swaggers below. I’m a fucking genius.

Hours pass.

I can’t remain still, so I slip into the bathroom, crumbling. My reflection confirms my worst fears.

I wipe frantically at the white foam, but it pours from the corners of my mouth like a swollen river bursting through a dam. It’s unstoppable, and I hate myself for wanting what the circling dogs want.

I run outside, suddenly shameless. I tear a piece of flesh off a passing woman. God, it’s just the thing. And she doesn’t mind. In fact, she respectfully gorges herself on me. It’s better than sex.

Hours pass.

I slip between the cool sheets of my bed. Like a past-due reward, sleep comes quickly.

- - -
Biography: Susan loves to write. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction, Wanderings, WEIRDYEAR, Fringe, Yellow Mama, Yesteryear Fiction, and others. Unfrozen, her latest sci-fi short about a sexually frustrated girl trapped in a dystopian world, can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Unfrozen-ebook/dp/B005OCQRDI/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1


A Night Garden
By Laura Elizabeth Woollett

Hands. Whose hands are they? A lady’s hands, in peach lace gloves. No, not peach. White. White that has taken on a peachy hue under the gaseous orange glow of the street lamps. Gaseous, orange, as steaming organs. But what organ is orange? The spleen? The bladder? Oh, Bladder. What a pressing. Press the knees together, just so. That’s right. Knees move under fabric, rippling blue shadows with peach. No, not peach. White. A white skirt, remember. You are wearing a white skirt, therefore, you must be a lady. A lady, delicate as a lily, a gardenia, and with a delicate name: Delia. Delia, hear the rustle, hear the whispering of leaves…Look up, Delia! The trees are calling you. Textured as coral, swaying sensitive and bright, seemingly porous. Pitted by the night. The night, which gnaws through the leaves like a caterpillar, like a snail through letters left in a mailbox while the world pitter-patters outside, sodden and grey. But the world is bright. Don’t you see it, Delia? Colours so bright that they scare you, a bobbing, peachy moon so big you feel it might fall, shatter any moment. Watch the moon. Watch it widening. Your eyes will widen too, when you find the moon is constellated, pitted with tiny black stars. When you find that great peach moon is really your white, eyed lace parasol. From the garden party, remember? Can you remember the garden party? No, you cannot. Something is pressing you. Not just your bladder, but your ribs. Hard like a gun’s muzzle. What is it? Pressing against your ribs, the parasol’s wooden handle. You squirm, a sleep-deprived child, not caring that you might be under gunpoint, not caring that his eyes have been on you this whole time. Black eyes, set close in a thin, wily face. His pink mouth mocking, moving all the time, saying God knows what. What in God’s name has he been saying? He, whose name you cannot recall, but who you know from his top hat, his forked beard, his mouth, which moves in such a way as to make your skin crawl every time. His mouth moves. You strain to understand. You don’t trust this man. This man, who is he? Betherford. Betherford, of the forked beard and moving mouth. Your skin crawls to see it move, to see him looking at you in that way, the way he has been looking at you all along. At the garden party. Was he at the garden party? Lace and chilled champagne, grown warm as the afternoon wore on. And Betherford. Betherford watching you, leering at you, leaving the party at the same time. He has a cab. He will take you anywhere, through the gardens of night, where Bether-bats flitter around trees as textured and bright as coral. "Will you see the night flowers?" his mouth moves. He touches your hand. "Will you see the night flowers?"

- - -
Laura Elizabeth Woollett is a student and writer from Melbourne, Australia. Some of her favourite things include: books, sweets, transatlantic accents, verdigris, and Victoriana.


A Day of No Particular Importance
By Christian Chiakulas

The tree stood in its place, atop a small green hill overlooking an old, abandoned pasture. Beyond the pasture ran a dirtroad, which snaked to the side around another, hill, and then to the cozy Italian village called Carcino.

The tree was an old tree, even then, and had known many neighbors, many visitors, and even some friends. The man who lived in the house behind the tree on this day was no friend. The tree heard him coming now, heard the crunchy steps of boots over the path between the house and tree. His name was Giuseppe.

Giuseppe was underneath the tree now, looking out over the empty pasture and leaning against it by an outstretched arm. The tree did not mind, but wished that the man would deign to spare it at least a passing thought from time to time. The tree did not think that was too much to ask for, but this man Giuseppe had not given the tree so much as one good hard look since he had moved in. And now he was standing directly underneath the tree, leaning against it, standing in its shadow, maybe even enjoying the tree's presence. This was the first time Giuseppe had ever stood underneath the tree for more than a few minutes at a time, and the tree wondered what he was doing.

Before Giuseppe there had been a kindly old woman named Francesca, and she had been the one to plant the tulips and daffodils that once lived underneath the tree. They had been good friends, and so had Francesca; she had lived in the small house for decades after her husband had died. The tree was ashamed to admit that he did not remember the husband's name.

There was a car driving down the weathered path parallel to the pasture, heading in the direction of the small house. Giuseppe and the tree watched as the car, a sleek black thing, disappeared from their line of sight, knowing that it was coming up the hill, straight for them. The tree heard Giuseppe swear.

Giuseppe walked back towards his house, muttering curses under his breath, and the tree looked back over the pasture. Giuseppe had been waiting for some sort of unwanted visitor, not enjoying the tree's presence after all. Should have known, the tree thought.

The screen door on the house opened and shut with a hiss, and the tree looked again despite itself. Giuseppe was standing on his porch loading bullets into the back of a shotgun. The tree looked away again, not wanting any part of this foolishness.

A few seconds passed, and the tree could hear the car coming up the hill now, and knew that things might get loud soon. Nothing like this had happened in over half a century, the tree remembered, when a great World War had engulfed Italy and Francesca was a young woman, not yet a widow. The tree remembered sleeping through much of that time, not wanting to be bothered by the cacophony of the metal birds and tanks as they screamed by. The tree did not know what it had all been about, exactly, but it had been very glad to see the end of it.

The car was on Giuseppe's property now. The tree again felt an urge to look, but suppressed it. Nonsense, that's all this was, human nonsense. The tree wished that it had a friend to strike up a conversation with, another tree, perhaps, or at least some flowers or bushes.

The car had reached the point in the road that narrowed and became a driveway. Now it was tires crunching against the gravel, and without meaning to, the tree snuck another glance.

The car had stopped, the engine idling like some sort of animal, growling at Giuseppe and preparing to pounce. Giuseppe had raised the rifle, but even from its vantage point across the driveway the tree could see that the man was shaking badly.

The car spread its wings and two men emerged from either side, wearing dark suits and black glasses. Each of them also carried a gun.

The tree forced itself to look away. A voice spoke out to Giuseppe from behind it, a calm, almost bored voice speaking the deliberation of a planned speech.

A gunshot murdered the morning silence, and the tree heard the sound of a window shattering, not from the house, but the car. The tree wanted to look so badly now, but knew that it would not be proper. Best to let humans be humans, and trees be trees.

There were several more gunshots, slightly quieter yet more shrill than the first, and then the thud! of a man who had never been a friend sprawling onto a wooden porch. The tree waited, listening to the shuffling sounds of the two visitors as they cleaned up their mess, speaking to each other in the familiar, bored tones of men at work. One of them might have said something about the way Giuseppe had fallen, and the other perhaps complained about the car's windshield. But they made no fuss, and soon, they were gone, leaving the tree to its view and its peace and solitude. Nothing had changed.

The tree looked back at the house, and saw that it looked exactly as it always had, minus one or two innocuous details. Something may have happened here, but the tree that stood in its place on the hill overlooking Carcino would not notice, would not ever feel the repercussions of the day's events, would never be heartbroken, and in fact would stand in its place on that hill for decades and decades to come, never taking notice of the mad comedy its neighbors acted.

The tree enjoyed the rest of that day, wondering absentmindedly if its next neighbor would be a friend, like Francesca had been, or just a part of the scenery.

- - -
Christian Charles Chiakulas has been writing since the age of thirteen, drawing influence as much from popular fiction as from literary greats. He grew up outside of Chicago, IL in the suburbs of Oak Park and River Forest.


Teenage Angst
By Ella Kennen

Eddie’s mom’s jaw practically dropped to the floor.

“You are not going to school looking like that,” she spat out. “Now march back to your room and get dressed properly.”

Eddie scuffed the floor and turned around.

“And for goodness sakes, son,” Eddie’s father added, “can’t you at least pretend to groan when you’re upset?”

Eddie’s shoulders drooped.

“That’s the spirit,” Mr. Haskin said.

When Eddie was gone, Mrs. Haskin shook her head. “I don’t know, Howard,” she said. There was no polite way to put it: Eddie was a terrible zombie. “I can’t remember the last time he shuffled anywhere. And the way he insists on wearing clean clothes to school? It’s a disgrace!”

Mr. Haskin nodded, his head dangling precariously from the last remaining strip of skin. “The worst of it is his table manners.” He shuddered. “Who cooks their food, for crying out loud? It’s embarrassing.”

Mrs. Haskin leaned in, her teeth clearly visible through her tight-lipped expression. “You know, I saw him sneaking silverware up to his room the other day. Silverware! Where does he get these ideas?”

Mr. Haskin slammed a bloody fist on the table. “It’s those kids he hangs out with. It’s just not right, associating with living people. It’s..it’s… unnatural.”

Eddie came back, wearing a soiled shirt and bloody pants. “I can hear you, you know.”

“Of course you can,” his mother retorted. “The way you insist on taking care of your ears.” Eddie was the only zombie she’d ever seen who still had both lobes intact. She knew the neighbors talked about it.

Mr. Haskin decided to take another tack. “Son, if you only used your talents…”

Eddie looked down at his hands. He noted with disgust that flesh was peeling off one his knuckles. His parents would be so proud. Eddie looked back up. “Talents? What are you talking about?”

“Well, your speed, for one thing,” his father whispered.

“My speed,” Eddie spat out. “That’s just another thing you’re ashamed of.”

Mr. Haskin would have grimaced if he hadn’t been doing so already. “Well, yes, but you could use it to your advantage.”

“Yes, yes,” Mrs. Haskin agreed eagerly, her eyes growing big in her too-wide sockets. “The way those human boys let you get so close. Don’t you see? It’s the perfect trap.”

“Trap!” yelled Eddie. “But they’re my friends.”

“Son, be reasonable,” said Mr. Haskin. “They’re human. Nothing more than food.”

“No,” countered Eddie. “They’re good people.”

The Haskins gasped.

“Where did you learn that word?” Mrs. Haskins moaned.

The vein in Mr. Haskin’s neck throbbed a deep purple. “You will not use that kind of language while you are under my roof.”

“Fine,” said Eddie. “Then I’ll just leave.”

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know,” Eddie admitted. “And I don’t care.”

He opened the front door then turned back to his parents, staring stiffly at their willful son. “I do know one thing,” he said before slamming the door behind him. “I wish I’d never been unborn.”

- - -
Ella Kennen has lived here and there. When she's not busy dabbling, she might be working on her dissertation. Check out more of her writing at http://ellakennen.wordpress.com


Rough Night
By Scott Cole

I did not sleep well last night. Turned over this morning, and had shooting pains all around my left ear. I hate when that happens. Guess it got all folded up and twisted against the pillow. Really hurts.

Found my other ear underneath the pillow. I reattached it, but it’s still pretty sore.

My back is stiff too. Not sure what I did, but my midsection looks like a wad of stretched-out bubble gum that was left in the sun to dry, then tied into a knot. If I was able to stand up, I’d probably be about nine feet tall. But of course I can’t.

My right shoulder appears to be dislocated as well -- which explains why I’m unable to reach the remote and shut off the TV. Looks like I’ve got a flight of steps running from my neck to my elbow.

It might not be as bad as my left leg, though. Must have gotten wrapped up in the sheets or something. It’s bent the wrong way -- forward, that is -- and my foot is stuck, somehow tucked underneath my scrotum. It’s unpleasant, to say the least, mainly because I haven’t clipped my toenails in a while.

And the sheets are completely soaked. There has to be at least a gallon of blood here. At least.

Can’t imagine what happened last night. I don’t remember a thing -- not even my dreams. But I do know this: I’m already late for work, and that’s a problem.

- - -
Scott Cole is an artist, graphic designer, and writer, all at the same time. His words have appeared in places like Weirdyear, Flashes In The Dark, and MicroHorror, as well as a handful of print anthologies, while his images have been in magazines and on CD covers. He lives in Philadelphia, as well as online at www.13visions.com.


By Marc N. Kleinhenz

She came in, a grocery bag under each athletic arm.  It was hard to tell whether she was still mad or not.  Then again, it was always hard to know which way her temperament was blowing.  I suppose it’s one of the things I always loved about her.  I suppose.

Sale on granola, her voice carried from the kitchen.

Wow.  That’s great, honey.  Goddamn rabbit food.  God – she had better not have forgotten the Mountain Dew.

But no Mountain Dew.  Sorry.  Oh.

I was already on the next round of Black Ops when she stopped unpacking.  Did you manage to do that thing today?  Or are you still too hurt from your injury?

Ouch.  My one stab at basketball, and this was how she repaid me.

Have I ever told you, honey, I heard myself saying, how much I love you for taking care of me?  In sickness or in health?  Did my tone always sound so forced?  So sickly sweet?

Silence.  Anita?  Oh, well.  Zombies were piling up; the call of duty waits for no man.  Or granola bar.

That’s when I noticed she was doing her best impression of Death incarnate in the doorway – unmoving, unblinking, unnerving.  She knew staring contests were one of my weaknesses, although I gave her my best Han Solo over the mound of half-finished manuscript pages on the coffee table.  What?

Can’t you think of anything to say, for Chrissakes?  Or write?  Wow.  Did her voice always sound so sour?  I had always told her that we went together like peas and carrots, me and Anita, but a plate of stinky Chinese chicken might have been more like it these days.

She had already padded down the hallway and back again, a bottle of water clenched in hand, before I could even sit up.

For the love of God, she said, squinting her eyes closed.  You can’t say anything and you don’t do anything.

That was it, the last chip to unleash the torrent.  The words were a flood – how she (grocery shopping aside) hadn’t been too understanding of my current condition, how she could go from zero to bitchy in two seconds flat, how she constantly split infinitives.  Oh, and how she always left her fingernail clippings scattered on the carpet and the recyclables on the kitchen counter for me to take out to the garage.  There might have been two or three other well-placed zingers in there, but, in the end, all I could really do was sigh.

Goddamn wired jaw.

- - -
Marc N. Kleinhenz is a gaming journo who has written for Gamasutra and TotalPlayStation, where he was features editor. He co-hosts the Airship Travelogues podcast for Nintendojo and has had his creative writing published through Alterna Comics and Asylum Ink magazine, among others.


The Secret of the T-Rex’s Arms
By Anthony Francis

Illustration by Sandi Billingsley

The paleontologist recoiled from the fossil, dusty camel-hair brush falling from his hand.  There it lay, Tyrannosaurus Rex, king of the lizards, a complete skeleton — clutching in its bony claws the explanation of how it survived with arms too short to reach its mouth.

He looked to the sky helplessly: then stood, positioning himself in front of the evidence as the camera crew for Father Dan and Reverend Bob walked up.  The cassocked Jesuit evolutionist and the polyester Baptist creationist were both so confident they had it all figured out that they’d sponsored this dig, filming it every step of the way.

This would prove them both wrong.  There had been hints over the years — wire, bridges, even a pick — but never a complete specimen, and so his fellow paleontologists had kept it quiet. But it was too late to hide the secret now.

With a confidence he did not feel, the paleontologist turned directly into the camera and said, “At last, we know the secret of the T-Rex’s arms: they were tool users.  But this answer raises more questions than we could have possibly imagined.”

He stepped aside and the cameraman moved in, jaw dropping as his lens revealed the unmistakable artifact clutched in the T-Rex’s bony claws.

A banjo.

- - -
Author of the EPIC award winning Skindancer series (http://www.dakotafrost.com), by day Anthony Francis makes computers smarter; by night he writes science fiction and draws comic books. He lives in San Jose with his wife and cats but his heart will always belong in Atlanta.


By Colin James

I'm hired to drive. I don't advertise. Three people
are sitting with me in The Nondescript. I say nothing,
gaze straight ahead. One of the passengers in the
back seat may be covered by a synthetic cloth, or
affecting a look. My rear-view is tinted. I wait for directions.
The weather is hot. I leave the AC off.
" West on 95, 58 miles."
The voice is guttural or foreign. I didn't notice.
I have plenty of gas. I head west.
The night will cool us down. The land is just desert.
Some sounds are coming from the back seat.
Weird sounds, like a bird gasping for air. I have never
heard that sound. I can only imagine.
I roll my window down. It's easy not to talk.
The Nondescript sails through the cooling air.
"Left at the next tree!" I don't see any trees.
There is a dirt road so I take that.
The surface is remarkably smooth.
I'm still thinking about the tree.
I don't discuss fees. It's known I get a thousand, cash
soon as you sit in The Nondescript.
We come to a fence. A big fence.
This is not a cattle fence. Some acquaintances tell me
I'm lacking the sense of touch. I guess they're mistaken.
I feel fine. My front seat passenger hits some numbers
on his cell phone and a gate in the fence opens.
I am tempted to throw The Nondescript into reverse,
drive it sideways up some rocks, flipping it, fighting
these bastards off. But who am I kidding, I drive straight ahead.
We come to a cement bunker. There is a jeep parked at an angle.
I don't suppose that's significant.
"Wait here."
They all get out. I am content to stare into space.
The night isn't particularly loud. I don't hear coyotes,
just the beginnings of a hum.
There is a slight vibration in The Nondescript.
I get out and walk around the bunker. It is several feet above ground.
Steps lead down to an imposing door. I believe in dichotomy.
Nature works because there is order.
The hum is getting louder. My ears hurt.
I feel compelled to inform my passengers that I can't continue.
This will be the first. I walk down the bunker steps.
I lean on the door. It opens.
There are the men standing over an animal.
Eyes and limbs, torso vulgar.
They are trying to encourage it to assemble something.
The animal has the ability to move components without touch.
They are floating. I begin to feel stressed. I puke.
I stagger back up the steps to The nondescript.
There is something sitting in passenger seat.
I say nothing. I'm hired to drive. I don't advertise.

- - -


At the Bottom of Pandora’s Box
By Charley Daveler

Bring, leave, bring.

“Bring bring,” Number 151 said.

No one got it.

Bring, leave, bring.

He thought it was funny.

“You know, like a telephone?”

The woman next to him, short hair tied back into a clean pony tail, gave him a look as if to say, “That’s very nice. Now shut up.”

He turned his head with a flourish, then brought, left, brought.

The thousands of workers kept at their duties, their silvery white suits in a wave of motion as each brought, left, brought. They carried the heavy squares to the conveyer belt where the bricks would be shot off to Foreman Knows Where and then have hammers brought, lifted, brought right down on their brownish faces.

A newer number, 389, was staring at 151 from across the belt, watching him as the novice pretended to set the brick down just right.

Number 151 smiled at him.

“I don’t understand,” 389 said.

“Don’t understand what?” 151 asked as he brought, left, brought. “Why we work for nine hours just bringing, leaving, and bringing?”

“Why you’re a telephone.”

“Oh. Because all I do is bring and bring. Bring, bring.”

The man across the belt slowly closed his eyes, not expecting this. He shook his head and smiled, going back to bringing, leaving, and bringing.

“So you’re new here?” 151 wondered.

The newcomer turned around, surprised, before saying, “Yes, just got here a week ago.” He looked at their faces. “It’s nice that the position opened up. I’ve been assigned to work into factories since I was fourteen, but this was really an unexpected dream.”

“The suicide rates here are pretty high still,” the woman next to them muttered.

“Suicide is a thing we can’t avoid if we want to make a well-oiled society,” a man down the assembly line said.

All three gave him a look.

“It is the way I got this job,” 389 said politely. “Otherwise, we’d just have to wait for someone to get to the age they can’t work anymore, and that takes years.

“Let’s not talk about that,” 151 asked, bringing, leaving, and bringing.

Everyone continued with their work.

“I admire…” 389 thought suddenly, “How friendly you are. How you don’t focus entirely on your work.”

“There’s not a point to focus entirely on your work,” the woman said. “No matter how good of a job you do here, you can’t move up.”

“That’s not entirely true,” the newbie argued. “I mean, I moved up. I’ve been changing locations for many years now.”

The people looked at him.

“Why?” they all said.

“Well, some jobs are easier. Some jobs are more exciting.”

They stared at him. He shrugged. “Sometimes you just need a change.”

The workers frowned, each went on bringing, leaving, and bringing.

“Sometimes, I give myself challenges,” he said. “And if I beat enough of them, I allow myself to start trying to transfer from a job I hate.”

“It’s not easy to switch, I thought,” 151 replied.

“It isn’t. But that doesn’t mean it’s not impossible.”

“Isn’t it hard work?” the girl asked.

“Yes. Kind of. Usually.”

“So why would you bother?”

“It makes it more interesting. And one day I’ll find a job that I like doing long term.”

“Jobs are just meant to make society run,” she said. “It’s our service to them.”

Number 389 stared at her. “Well, then I guess your friend is right about the suicide thing.”

“He is not!” 151 insisted.

The newcomer looked down. “Sometimes,” he said, “Even with all of the horrors of the world around you, the pain and suffering, the boredom and apathy… sometimes it’s all people can take. It’s those of us who manage to have hope for a better future that can keep going. The people who can’t go on any longer are the ones who won’t see the misery ending. They only see bringing, leaving, and bringing. There becomes no point. But I see possibilities. I see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“That’s called death, honey,” the woman said.

The new man frowned, staring at the brick he was carrying. He dropped it on the belt and turned to bring the next one.

“That’s the opinion,” he said.

Then he brought, left, and brought.

- - -
Charley Daveler is an American author and playwright. She is a fan of the good and the bad in literature, but could do with a little more bad.


No One Told You
By Jack Rousseau

I took the car into the shop this weekend. The auto mechanic said “twenty-four hours” would be enough. I came back twenty-four hours later. It was enough. But the bill was steep.

I tried to pay with my Master Card.

Insufficient funds.

I tried to pay with my Club Sandwich Gold Card.

Insufficient funds.

I tried to pay with my Rolex watch.

Insufficient forgery. (It said “Rolet” instead of “Rolex” and it took me this long to notice.)

The shop refused to release my car, so I was without a drive on Monday. Luckily, Jaime works in the same office and agreed to drive me until I get my car back.

He was quiet in the morning, on the drive to work. But it’s the evening and he’s full of questions.

“What happened to the car?” he asks.

“They wouldn’t release it from the shop.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t have the money to pay for the repairs.”

“You have a job. Ask for a raise, or advance, or something...”

“A raise? I’m not getting a raise. My jobs a joke!”

“Get a new one.”

“It’s a job, not a t-shirt. Besides, I’m broke. I’ll take what I can get.”

“What was wrong with the car?”

“I don’t know... I don’t know cars. Something with the gear shift... like it’s always stuck in second gear.”

“Sorry I asked,” he says, eyes back on the road. “It’s not your day.”

“It’s not my month...”

“Or even your year!”

“That’s not funny.”

“Sorry,” he says, eyes on the road but I feel like he’s watching me from the corner of his eye, pitying me.

I don’t want your fucking pity! Goddam it! But I need the drive. I forgot what it was like to be without a reliable form of transportation. Carpooling doesn’t cut it.

I’m quiet for the rest of the drive. When Jaime pulls into my driveway, we both notice that the front door is open.

“You want me to...?” he asks.

“No, I’m sure it’s nothing,” I say, stepping out the passenger side. “Thanks for the drive.”

“See you tomorrow!”

I slam the door, cutting him off at “see you tom-” because I don’t want to hear it.

I watch him pull out of the driveway, wave with mock sincerity, and peel down the street. I check the front door. It appears to have been broken open. Inside, the house is in disarray. I step on shards of glass. I pass fist sized holes in the wall. My possessions, once carefully organized in drawers and shelves, now clutter the floor. But I ignore all of this, because I hear a faint sound, like static, coming from the living room.

The sound is coming from my wife. She is lying on the floor, fetal position, emitting the sound. I kneel beside her and listen. Through the static, I recognize The Rembrandts hit nineties song: I’ll Be There For You.

I put the rabbit ears on her head and wait for better reception.

- - -
Just as common people consume food and produce waste, Jack Rousseau consumes absurd details of everyday reality and produces irreal fiction. He lives and writes somewhere in Canada.


Beamers Anonymous
By Garrett Harriman

Dr. Anton parked the van outside a rippling Kansas cornfield. Fourteen people emerged: Gwen and Neil last, bundled in hoodies and mittens. Autumnal moonlight swamped the nameless dirt road. Salt-shaken starshine glimmered.

“This is it, gang!” said Anton. He moated their bodies, painting faces with a flashlight. “Marker’s maybe five minutes in.” He quickly consulted his GPS and safaried headlong into stalks.

His faithful followed, ensconced and jailstriped by acreage. Boots pulverized leaves--the only acoustics for miles.

“I don't like this, Gweny,” Neil grogged, head owling. “You sure this’ll help?”

Some eavesdropping groupies gave him the stink eye. Neil wasn’t a member. Wasn’t afflicted. Gwen’d probably begged the good doctor to let him hitch along. Some confidential concession that didn’t add up.

Gwen answered wide-awake. “Positive--it’s a breakthrough! None of us've beamed in weeks. Then Tuesday we all woke up marked.”

Neil caressed her handtop. Traced the engagement ring. “Meaning?”

“Meaning Roy thinks we can hail them now!”

The cowboy grunted. He’d refrained from detailing her his Jabba sex slave theories. To him the mark signified a pan-galactic peepshow branding. He’d shared her bed for seven months. Witnessed forced catatonia, dawn reconstitutions...that interspecies afterglow. Anything was possible.

Concerning Roy, however, skepticism was justified. Anton could prattle and charge without scruples. Implant false memories or precipitate guilt. His degree and outfit seemed...ulterior. You don’t lead maul victims to the cougar den.

Neil ducked, avoided leaf slaps. “Beard’s compensating. I don’t trust him.”

“You’re supposed to trust that I trust him, babe. Roy says fetishes are like phobias: everybody's got one.” Gwen raked her nutshell hair. “Just sometimes they’re one in the same.”

“You believe that? These maggots've violated you since you were fourteen, and here you are, silver platterin’!”

“It's our only chance, Neil. And it's consensual anymore.”

Disgusted, he flipped her around and ungloved her hand. “Was this consensual, Gwenneth?”

She reclaimed it, accosting him on tippy-toe: “It's not my fault I'm an addict!”

Neil clutched his belt. Heeled soil. “I know that, Gweny. I--I can't even imagine...”

She pleaded insomniacal eyes. “Allow me some hope then, Neil. We've tried everything, haven't we? Pills. Sutra. Vibrators and dildos.”

Neil checked his mirrors. “Gwen, please."

“They’re not ashamed, Neil,” she reassured, hugging him. “Neither am I. You’re sweet for trying so hard. But there’s no substitute. Everyone in the program accepts we have an unearthly itch. Xenonymphomania.” She kissed his cheek. “Now we can confront it together.”

Neil embraced her. Tight. “Don’t leave again, Gweny…”


They jogged, soon stepping from endless corn halls into a plank-flattened crop circle thirty feet wide. The design paralleled Gwen’s laceration. Anton waited off-center; abductees dotted the circumference.

Neil’s fiancée whooped. “Beautiful recreation, Roy!”

Anton bowed. “Much obliged. Kinda cockeyed, but its serves our purposes tonight.” Roy signaled his flashlight vertically, monkeyed his GPS too long. He heaved in heartland air. “We're a true encounter group now, aren't we?”

Laughter, nervous--

--before disembodied floodlights erupted overhead, sieving sea-deep foulness through corny partitions.

Prepared to fallback, Neil lunged for Gweneth’s hip.

Nothing reacted. A futile lash in the storm’s eye, he idled horribly, blood-choked.

Light belched and churned like summer heat wave snakes. Bass vibrato squalled. The hapless hopefuls paled and floated, ascending into formless incandescence.

Neil screamed impotently--Gwen levitated from his side. Her veteran face held serene, confident. “See you soon, baby! Our relationship’s on track!”

Gwen lofted into sky fire, itself fizzling into vegetable shadows. Neil’s tear ducts seized and stultified.

Anton saluted the departing vessel…rounded Neil’s immobile shoulders.

“So,” said the good doctor, maggoting up, “what's your phobia?”

- - -
Garrett Harriman was reared in southwest Colorado. He's determined to double-major in English and Psychology. He plays tenor sax, too. He's lived in Vermont. His stories have appeared in Collective Fallout and on 365 Tomorrows. He upholds that bios enumerating the author's domesticated animal friends are irrefutable wastes of the English language. He has two dogs and cats.


Walking Home
By Mike German

Was I seeing things? No. No I wasn’t. She was dressed as a Christmas tree. It’s that time of year; the last Sunday before Christmas and people are doing strange things. For me it’s the morning after a party and I’m just trying to get home. One foot in front of the other. Desperately trying not to fall over on the ice and snow. It’s cold and my hands hurt. I don’t mind. Frankly, I’m too drunk to care. I’ve got this bottle of Jim Beam in my hand and I’ve been swigging from it as I walk. It’s been a welcome change from the usual rot-gut whiskey I pour down my neck. I walk on. One foot in front of the other. Staring at my shoes. Daydreaming. Repeatedly telling myself not to fall or slip (I might be drunk, but I don’t want to embarrass myself). My hood is up and it’s keeping me warm. With my earphones in I am separated from the world. Tom Waits is singing to me with his wild take on jazz, beat poetry and his voice. “For I am a Rain Dog, too”. That voice! It is a voice made of gravel and nails and I cannot get enough of it. “You’ll never be going back home”. We’ll see about that, Tom. But I have always been out of my mind. I walk on. One foot in front of the other. I take another drink and let out a small, quiet growl. It tastes good but it burns. I don’t know if I am more drunk or hung-over. I can’t be sick though. It’ll freeze in the snow and never go away. I don’t want that on my conscience as well. My feet are consuming all my thoughts and I don’t want to take my eyes off them. I have to though. I look up just in time to realize I’m about to walk into someone. A guy with his beautiful child nestled in his arms. I feel bad and apologize profusely. He just smiles, places his hand on my shoulder and says “Don’t worry, it’s okay. It’s okay.” That makes me feel worse. I would’ve been happier if he shouted at me, told me to watch where I was going and try to make me feel bad. He tried to be understanding. Sympathetic. I reeled in his pity. I hated him for it. He couldn’t be nicer but I hated him for it. I guess I’m just a bad person, but then again, I don’t want to care about that and I’m not going to. I’ve just got to get home. It’s too cold to be out on the streets. I walk on. Take another drink. One foot in front of the other. I’ll get there eventually. I walk past a prospective employer and he looks at me in disgust. So much for that job then. Life is just one foot in front of the other and we’ve all got some place we need to be. I take another drink.

- - -
Mike German is a young writer living in London and trying to find his way in the world.


Craig Scott

I am walking in a hallway. I come to a room with a door blocked by a man in a folding chair. He’s texting on his BlackBerry. I ask him for directions. He asks if I have a camera or recording device. I don’t. He tells me to go through the door behind him, not to stop, to the far side and through another door. The door behind him takes me into a strip club. I leave through the door on the far side, a fire exit (no alarm sounds), as instructed. I am outside, in front of a row of clubs in an open air mall in Baltimore. I find this odd because Baltimore is not San Diego. Every other store is empty and dark with a “For Rent” sign in the window. I walk through the mall, moving around debating Jewish women and a ten-year-old buying a handgun from a man in a suit. I find the parking lot, find my car, drive home. Over dinner I tell you about my day. You want to know how I got from Maryland to New Jersey in less than thirty minutes. I blink.

- - -
Craig Scott is an unimaginative pseudonym. More work will be/has been published under this name in Drunken Absurdity, Horror Sleaze Trash and Rusty Truck. A free e-chapbook is available from Ten Pages Press.


The Story of Us
by Kami Finkel

         I want to tell you a story.  The story? It’s about me.  Well actually, it’s about us.  Yes, it is, so just sit and listen….
Long ago, I lived in the deserts of the southwest.  I loved the wind and the stars most of all, my family, as I had no other.  I never minded life.  This was all before the earth had become scarred from anger. When the sacred knowledges were still alive.  Even in the mundane world, my village was still a people who looked to the sky and earth, knowing a great many of this and the next world’s secrets.  There was always a consciousness of the shadow world in which our souls lay, outlining, shadowing, always overseeing the world of sunshine and water and fire. 
            I cannot say when I first saw him, just that I thought the sun had to be jealous.  But the stars, oh the stars, they knew we were meant to be.  I swear when he looked down at me, I could feel Kiro’s hands running over my shoulders and down my arms.  When he spoke, I could feel his lips on mine. 
His shadow world had crossed with mine.  It was Kiro’s shadow that passed like wisps of smoke over my flesh.  Mine did the same to his.  Our shades began to dance with one another and once that starts, it is difficult to stop.   It is a rare thing to have them recognize each other so clearly and work together so well in the world of sunshine.  It is one thing in their world, dark like the night and there guidance cannot be sought with sight.  Only with other senses, higher ones.  Maybe that is why they love the nightfall so much more.  But when the sun comes up the story can change, and two shadows that can survive in the sun still embracing is a rare, precious thing. They must draw strength from each other equally and without reservation.  Shadows may think with calculation, but they act with feeling.  Thus in the night when his lips brushed my neck and all melted together, I still relished it in the light. 
            For a time, we laughed and lived and loved together taking what pleasures our bodies offered which was never quite enough. We licked our lips in anticipation of again. 
            However, the day came when our men were to embark on a war campaign, and at sunrise Kiro came to me with hallow eyes.  I knew his shadow was trying to pull away; he had to go and the distance was too much.   It is better that we do not try.  There would just be heart break.  He said “you” in that sentence, but I suspected there was more of him in there than me.  So I let him walk away and try to wrench his shadow from mine.  Shadows once they dance do not like to be without a partner, so he took some of mine with him, ripping me apart.  With blood poured forth, I slid to the ground wounded.
That night I had my funeral.  There were tears and wailings, clawing at the ground and an anguish in the mind that all but suffocated.  It did not take any time to decide what to do.  The dead cannot possibly stay amongst the living.  They rot and smell horrid and bring all that has life down by a mere presence.  Nobody wants the deceased.  What is something without life good for, even if it has flesh?
The land of the world waited for me; and with nothing to call my home anymore, I was finally ready to see it.  Ahead there was possibility.  Behind, I left a trail of tears that would follow me for many seasons. 
So, I traveled.  I cannot say where as it had no shape.  I forgot all of my former life to the wilderness, and I was lucky to fall asleep and wake in its arms with every turn of the earth.  Water, food, and good company were not hard to come by as I swept across the plains all the way to the coasts and swam in waters of salt and pristine.  I spun tales as my fare at night around campfires and on beaches, mesmerizing babes and their grandparents.  My sweat seemed to washed any bitterness from my body in those places.  For much of the time I saw the world the way shadows must see it; not through separate eyes but as a part of the outline of every beautiful sight and boundless expansion of life. 
There is only so much land to see, though, before one must start crossing great waters. That was another adventure for another lifetime.  So, I returned to my birthplace, for I still missed my grandfather, the desert, who had born me and shared my blood.  Upon my return, it was no coincidence night had fallen.  Shadows always recognize each other better in the darkness.  For there was Kiro, against the city wall.  Words were beyond him, but his arms promised to never let me go again.  He had tried the life without me, tried to live and gather familial ties and forget what had been between us.  He could not.  His despair had eaten away at his insides turning them as rotten as a corpse.  The corpse I had been years before.  He had died many times over whereas I had died immediately and been reborn to start again.  No.  No more such thoughts I commanded. I never wanted to hear of that again.  It is always harder to let go of love than to be the one let go of. 
            Our shadows danced once more while I whispered into his ear the beauty I had experienced and places I had seen.  Between ecstasies, I murmured more magnificence into his being.  By dawn, he slept soundly dreaming of those places of mine.  And, I was thankful just to have his skin against my cheek for a second time in that life.    
I only left him once after that moment.  For a few hours, I had to speak to the stars alone.
“I understand now.  Shadows have no concept of distance or time, so to worry about such is useless.  Love is their thing, gorgeous and tricky and can disappear in an instance. No matter the number of lifetimes or distance of worlds, they will.  It is not magic; there is no magic.  Just, the way things are.  That is why shadows recognize so easily.  The time they have been apart is harsh, and they treasure coming together again.”
That is why I never agonize.  They will always come together again.  The wind provides the music, calling the shadows to dance and providing a hauntingly familiar tune.  Do not worry about me.  Do not worry about broken hearts.  Revel in what is now and if we have to part do not forget that we will meet again on a gusty night. We always do. 

- - -
Legend states that Kami Finkel’s birth is similar to that of the Buddha’s; however, her parents continue to insist it took place at a hospital in Duluth, Georgia. She now studies at Georgia Institute of Technology where she has developed a serious latte addiction and plans to go on to subtly take over the world.


Mellified Man
By E.S. Wynn

The bees have long since taken you as part of their hive, rarely sting you anymore. To them, you are wax, a sickly sweet fruit fattened with honey, succulent with dripping decay. To them, you are a thing to be winnowed through and hollowed. Each day the bees chew deeper, carve their latticework combs into muscle and tissue and stir winged and vibrating in rolling hordes beneath thinning skin. Tiny larvae stir within the marrow of sickening bone, roll slick and fat through meat as they gorge and grow.

The honey the workers of the hive gather and press against your organs sustains you somehow, prolongs your life into a tired, hazy darkness that haunts the edges of your eyes, teasing you, never taking you. Like a constant companion, the humming buzz of the bees permeates you, follows you as you drift into and out of hazy dreams of melting bodies and rotting, maggot-eaten minds. Like a constant companion, the buzz, the stirring of wings, of tiny bodies moving, slowly separating skin from muscle, crawling along layers of flesh like tiny, ravenous worms is eternal, never ceasing, never slowing.

For you, death may never come. For you, time may only pass as an eternal itching and buzzing, the slow, steady transformation into a living corpse of wax and honey, a mellified man, no longer human, no longer able to do more than draw slow, shallow breaths and stare murky into the darkness. For you, there will only be the loose and endless movements of the bees as they dance within the pale waxiness of a body that is no longer yours. For you, the taste of honey will linger forever at the edge of every sense, sickly sweet, the taste tainted with corruption, the rot of your own lost, mummified flesh.

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E.S. Wynn is the author of over thirty books.

Launching 8/16/11

Set to offer you new brain squeezings and other stories ripe with irreal strangeness every Tuesday, Smashed Cat Magazine is the latest of four in magazines edited and maintained by author E.S. Wynn. His vision was to create a place where writers who pen the weirdest of experimental writing could get the exposure they need to get noticed within the mainstream of society, all while providing a constant dose of something strange, dreamlike and bizarre for readers all over the globe.

Writers wanted! Check out our Submission Guidelines.

Smashed Cat Magazine/Thunderune Publishing


Smashed Cat Magazine publishes new flash fiction and hybrid experimental fiction every Tuesday, providing a platform for both new and established authors to reach readers based solely on the merit of each individual piece of writing and not on deadlines, reputation, age or any other factor. The market for offbeat and “weird” fiction has always been extremely limited, so authors of progressive and experimental fiction have largely gone unheard. Smashed Cat Magazine endeavors to give those unheard authors the voice they deserve.

Currently, Smashed Cat is edited by author E.S. Wynn

If you like the site and want to see more, consider buying a book (or a CD) from the store at Thunderune Publishing. Profits from all sales go toward funding Smashed Cat Magazine and other independently run sites. We couldn't do this without your support. :)

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Earl "E.S." Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. During the last decade, he has worked with hundreds of authors and edited thousands of manuscripts for nearly a dozen different magazines. His stories and articles have been published in dozens of journals, zines and anthologies. He has taught classes in literature, marketing, math, spirituality and guided meditation. Outside of writing, he has worked as a voice-over artist for several different horror and sci-fi podcasts, albums and ebooks.

Get Noticed!

As Editor-in-Chief of Smashed Cat Magazine and all the other publications of Thunderune Publishing, I believe in the power of the written word. As such, I make it my duty to provide services which give new and established writers a leg up on finding new readers and customers. I’m always looking for new ways to promote emerging writers, so check back here often and take advantage of these awesome promotional deals!

Grab a product-oriented interview by Author E.S. Wynn which will be featured not only on his official author blog, (www.eswynn.com) but also on a number of other high traffic sites. If you're looking to get your work out there where people can see it and buy it, this service is a must!

Check out other writers and authors I've interviewed (click here)

Get your book reviewed by Author E.S. Wynn and see it featured not only on his official author blog, but also on a number of other high traffic sites. I pride myself on my speed and my ability to provide a thorough review that is fair, honest and powerful. Is this a great deal? Heck yes! You'd be paying $150 or more for this same service anywhere else!

Check out other books I've reviewed (click here)

Your purchase guarantees you to up to 3,000 words of material (no more than ten individual pieces) transcribed to audio by a professional voice actor (me) and featured not only on my official author blog, (www.eswynn.com) but also on a number of other high traffic sites. Note: I don’t do pornography, bizarro or other forms of offensive material.

Check out other audio clips I've done (click here)

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Like what you see here?  

Smashed Cat Magazine needs you! Without your support, we wouldn't have come this far!

How can you help?

Easy! You can help the Smashed Cat by purchasing books from Thunderune Publishing, which is the publishing company of the guy who runs all of these awesome sites. Even visiting our google-ad sponsors is a huge help. Part of every book we sell goes toward keeping the Smashed Cat alive and kicking.

Help us spread the word! (This helps you too!) Even the best writing goes totally unnoticed unless people talk about it, so make sure to tell everyone you can about Smashed Cat Magazine, especially if we've published your work!

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Submission Guidelines

Smashed Cat Magazine is currently closed to submissions.

Fortunately, you can still send your stories and poetry to the following Thunderune Publishing fiction journals:

+ Farther Stars Than These

+ Leaves of Ink

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Help keep Smashed Cat alive! Visit our sponsors! :)

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Older Weirdness