The Bus
By Daniel Vlasaty

Chris rides the bus around the city for three days. He likes looking at the buildings but only from behind the safety of a bus window. The bus driver doesn’t mind. Chris doesn’t cause any trouble. Plus the bus driver thinks Chris is at least a little off.

The bus pulls up to a red light and Chris has to pee. He hasn’t peed in he doesn’t know how long. His bladder is full. The bus driver notices Chris doing a kind of pee-pee dance in the rear-view mirror. “You OK back there, buddy?” the driver asks like an older brother.

Chris smiles and tries to act cool. “Be cool,” he tells himself. The bus driver is probably the coolest, most popular person Chris has ever met. Chris waves the bus driver off with a cool-guy shrug.

It starts to rain suddenly. And the sound of water splashing against the side of the bus only makes Chris have to pee even more. He thinks he is able to feel the urine sloshing around in his body. He feels full to the brim.

He tells himself this is it. He has to get off the bus now. It’s now or never. “But what if the world has changed since I last ventured out into it,” he say to himself. He doesn’t pull the cord in time and the bus hydro-planes past the stop. A handful of people huddled under one very large umbrella scream out in frustration. One man throws a shoe at the bus. It gets caught in the bumper and the man never sees it again. He cries, but pretends his tears are just drops of rain.

Chris does it. He pulls the cord. He is very proud of himself. He’ll finally be able to pee and maybe call his wife. She must be worried about him by now.

“Sorry, buddy,” the bus driver calls back. “No stops for a while. It appears my brakes have taken the day off.” He pumps the brake pedal like he’s squashing bugs. Nothing happens.

The bus plows into a row of cars stopped at a red light. The bus jerks forward and keeps moving, pushing with it a small Smart Car trapped under its front wheel. The sudden jerk does it for Chris. He can no longer hold it. Urine explodes out of him like a giant water balloon. It begins to fill up the bus. It is up to the bus driver’s knees in a matter of seconds. He tries to open the front doors to let the urine run out into the street but the crash has wedged the doors shut.

Things swim around in the urine. Big see-through fish. Their bones show through their skin. They have human faces with just the right amount of beard stubble. They swim together in a small circle, creating a whirlpool. The whirlpool grows ever stronger and begins pulling things inward. Bus seats rip out of the floor and are swallowed by the whirlpool.

The urine level reaches the bus driver’s shoulders and he pulls on a scuba diving mask.

The bus continues to plow through anything and everything in its path. The bus driver swims away from the steering wheel. He paddles over to the doors and kicks at them to get them open. It is useless. His mask falls off with the force of his kicks and he drowns in the urine.

Chris is in back holding on for dear life. The whirlpool is still getting stronger. The sides of the bus are pulling in. The whirlpool is going to suck the bus in on itself. The urine whirlpool is a black hole.

The windows shatter and the see-through fish escape the confines of the bus. They jump through the windows and grow legs before they hit the ground. Their bodies begin to resemble that of something more or less human. Blood pumps in the clear skin. They look plastic.

Pedestrians scream at the fish-humans. The fish-humans shrug at this. They don’t care about these people. They are free to follow their dreams. They want to be movie stars and doctors and garbage men.

Their bodies are not used to breathing air. They were born and raised in the bitter warmth of urine. This new world is not as warm, and they miss that. They are sad and scared.

Chris is struggling against the pull of the whirlpool. He knows he will not be able to hold on much longer. This is almost the end. He thinks of his wife. Her beautiful blonde hair and long red fingernails. Then he remembers that he does not have a wife. He has been alone his whole life. This bus is his home. But it has been destroyed. It will be gone in no time. He stops fighting and gives in to the whirlpool. It swallows him whole and he falls through the bottom of the bus. He hits the street like a wet blanket and his jacket gets caught on something under the bus. He is dragged along with the bus for eleven miles.

The fish-humans have developed a heroin addiction. They were not ready for life in the real world. They were not ready for all the freedom.

The whirlpool swallows the bus and moves on to its next victim.

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Daniel Vlasaty lives in Chicago. He works at a methadone clinic and reads comic books. His stories have appeared online in The Mustache Factor.


Echo North
By Brian Barbeito

The way that led to there was sparse on the sides, and after the structures, as small and scattered about as they were, passed by, there was not much for a long time save for fields, and the sky met these fields far and far off, where there sometimes seemed to be a tree-line there in the horizon’s narrative. Eventually signs and earmarks of something crept up again, just when you got used to the endless spaces and were almost kind of resolved to it. A gas station, a billboard wooden but with steel legs, tall and loud, though faded now,- talking about marinas and eateries and listing kilometres. Then small statues of gargoyles and elves, of little women that looked like witches and little men that were stranger than any artist’s rendering of a forest sprite or guardian deva of the woods. These were spread out on a property, and down by there was a church, small, fifty pews, and the bell on top. The priest that had lived in back was spry enough, but then died like everybody dies in time- but hopefully he had eternity covered because he was fond of saying that when you meet God the words you want to hear are, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Beyond the church up that way, nobody went, because there wasn’t a reason. It was the other way that the asphalt turned and a street turned again into a little city with boats bobbing on the back shore walls, and luscious green lily pads were in still waters, and allowed little frogs to go and rest, or the fish to get some shade as they traveled past. The sun hit the little rural city and seemed to shine on it always, and in the far end of the area water vessels came in and out through an inlet that could be got to from the meandering waterways and passageways. The inlet led out, a series of large rocks on both sides where people gazed at birds, fished, or just watched it all, - to the larger lake, which was indeed vast. It was difficult to imagine how large the lake was, and infinitely more difficult to truly know in your mind and bones how big the world was. There, at that inlet, it felt as if one was at either the end or the beginning of a world- and though one couldn’t always be sure which, there was the certainty that it was somewhere significant. But to think that there were hundreds if not thousands of such inlets in places all over the world was another matter, and each town with a story, and each person with a tale and biography to relate, and each of these persons with a dream life, a work life, a romantic life, a health life, a culinary life, a psychic life, a karmic path, a dream world.

The streets out front eventually led to a large house. It had underground electrical wires that lit up fancy and smart black lamps that stood beside curt and confident retaining walls. There were vans and cars and trucks and even a boat in the driveway. The porch was a wraparound porch, and it held chairs and terra cotta pots that housed yellow and red flowers. Inside were a grandfather clock, and a room with portraits and pictures. The fireplace beyond that sat in the middle of models and statues. Sailing ships that the engineer had built, bought, or else had been gifted with. The kitchen was open and vast, and had a place where people talked in front of it on tall chairs. Beside all that, around the wall, a long dining room table and a sitting room. Chandeliers, china, paintings, mirrors, plants, carpets on hardwood, and crown moulding was there also that watched the whole environment.

Out back the boathouse could be seen from that window, and it was the largest in the area, housing a forty foot power boat that was moved in and out of the water by electrical cranes. The walls and levels had sub-sections and maps, calendars and tools, jars and fishing rods, towels and lifejackets, hooks and pencils, switches and pulleys, magnets and gloves, and these items faithfully surrounded the boathouse like a painted mural or mosaic representing order, surety, intricacy, but above all the importance of preparedness and ingenuity. Outside of there, on the side, were pepper plants and tomato plants, while across from those were two majestic Weeping Willow trees, their branches swaying in all seasons and winds, their root systems absorbing water and thus helping to protect the structure of the boathouse and the larger abode behind.

Inside the house, upstairs, the various rooms had balconies and decks, and the middle room was a library and common room. From those windows a person could look out and see the waterway and how it turned and crept, meandered, seemingly whistling its way along, scurrying a bit here, and then relaxing there, but all the while still going past the shore walls, the rope bridges and larger bridges, the manufactured and manicured lawns and the other wilder, vacant lots alike, trying to find its way out, a reservoir in itself, yes, but still connected to the vaster space beyond, and trying to make its way, by turn and sometimes by tussle, by trial and also by chance, by time and patience, out to the larger world and currents beyond.

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Brian Michael Barbeito writes impressionistic vignettes, flash fiction, short stories, prose poetry, experimental novels, book and film reviews. His work has appeared at Glossolalia, Subtle Fiction, Mudjob, Six Sentences, Thinking Ten, American Chronicle, Our Echo, Ezine Authors, Author Nation, A Million Stores, Crimson Highway, Paragraph Planet, Useless-Knowledge Magazine, Exclusive Conclave of Delights Magazine, Linguistic Erosion, Synchronized Chaos, and Lunatics Folly. His work is forthcoming in the Contemporary Literary Horizons Journal, Kurungabaa Magazine, Bare Root, Otis Nebula, and Crack the Spine. He is the author of ‘postprandial,’ an experimental prose poem novel, Vignettes, a compilation of short writings, and Windows Without Glass, fifteen flashes of fiction. Brian resides in Ontario, Canada


By Danica Green

Jessie has no skin. Jessie has no parents. Jessie has no television. We have all three and we dangle them in front of him with the sweetest of mockery. We like to watch him swat his feeble hands at the glaring screen, tattooed flesh, mother's breasts, feet, ample cheeks. Jessie has no time so we buy him clocks to surround himself with in the morning. Jessie has no voice and so we sing him to sleep and make silent bets on which sour tear will be the first to grace his chin. Jessie has no thought with which to hate us. Jessie has no soul, but neither do we.

Neither do we.

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I am a writer of words and thoughts that make no sense and cause people to want to smack me over the head and ask me what the hell I'm on about, then leave and do something else. That probably doesn't sound appealing but I always thought it was a pretty nifty way to be.


The Kiss
By Rico Craig

The eyes we have taken are looking at this body; the brain remembers another body, 17 years in the past; in the suburbs of Houston, at an elementary school. Fading winter light, boys yelling, the last few minutes of an intense game of stones. Two groups of boys on either side of a playground. Fear as he stands to throw. Across the playground a head is peeking out from behind wooden play equipment. A target. He feels the sharp-edged stone leaving his hand. His eyes follow the flawless arc. The perfect curve that is never going to deviate, never going to miss. His stone curving through the air, magically – better than Clemens, better than anyone, dipping around the treated wood like a textbook breaking ball. The head disappearing. Silence for a collection of instants, enough to know.

To see the image it is necessary to go to the scene. Possible, all the soldiers were wearing helmets equipped with digital sound and image recording devices. Images exist if one is willing to become the eyes, the brain behind the eyes.

Dust in air, swirling, setting. Concrete walls pocked with bullet holes. Beams of light caught in the eddy and twist of fine particles. For a moment no voices, only the heartbeat of helicopter blades. A groan, throaty and mortally terrified, as a gagged body is dragged from the room.

This was unsurprising, this was expected. In many ways war is predictable, even this war.

A beam of light swings. Others follow, six in all. Footsteps cross a worn rug.

Helmets, goggles, black flack torso, stepping toward a still body. A shape in darkness. Beams of light converge in the dust.

Words, muffled. “Confirming target.”

The image from one camera cuts through the stirring beams. This is us, our eyes. We kneel beside a prone body. Beams of light illuminate the face. A blood and brain halo on the floor. A face. Dirt and blood. Bearded. Still as ancient stone. Carved young. Eyes open, staring. Dust beginning to settle on the moisture. Entrance wound, right side of cranium. No signs of life.

Voices yelling, but his mind is calm. He doesn’t want to wish the stone back into his hand. A boy, Ken, steps from behind the play equipment, head tipped forward, staggering. A palm full of blood and what looks like a piece of gristle torn from bone.

He looks away from Ken down at his own empty hand and knows he wanted the rock to find a target. He stands and runs toward the injured boy. Blood is pulsing from what is left of Ken’s eye. Ken staggers away from the play-fortress and slumps to his knees in dirt and tufts of dry grass. Slowly, like a building, Ken topples to the side, rolls on his back in the dirt, blood coursing from his eye socket, his right leg thrashing. He arrives at Ken’s side, kneels, looks down, blood pools in the dirt.

Swirling grit continues to settle on skin. Droplets of blood are beginning to fester with dust particles. The standing figures breathe heavily. Our eyes drop forward, closer to the face, closer, until the face fills the entire frame. And closer, until skin must be touching skin. Our skin must be touching. So close facial features unravel into shapes and begin to dissolve into colours and shadows. This close our brain is lost in the haze of colours, and for a moment we are taken whole by the dusty face. Into the disappearing thoughts, our brains into the body we lean over, our brains beyond the dusty feel of his cheek against our lips, past the scent of blood that has pooled around his head. For moments we are deep in the shadows and shapes, past words.

Only moments. And the screen cuts to black.

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Stuff about me: I'm trying not to stray.

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