directly under the shower head, 
water perfect temp. i imagine
dying is your brother in semi-dark

silhouetted, watching
deer from the dining room.
imagine dying: a mountain range 

of salt filling mouths all
wide & humble. if only
living things die then dying 

is part of life; wisdom neglecting
a sense of home, historic lodes
returned to (for context). wisdom

is absent in a body neglected 
but if survival is merely glimpsing
the summit then to say i am

not you, little thrush, is redundant. 
what do you know yourself 
by, during the secret hours? 

what white sky, what stones
make love to your windows only
to be thrown right back. morning

is silence in the house of women
-no-longer-women & anger 
perfected body realness 

for a species so totally
busted no gallon of pathos nor
gorgeous quality accrued (with interest) 

can save us. 


J. Freeborn is a teacher and the anthology books managing editor at the Poetry Society of New York. They have recent work in Dream Pop, Tiger Moth ReviewImpossible Task, and elsewhere.


Sacred Festival Drama 1

Every day I
greet my ex’s shrink
shocked to find me in human form

My own therapist
subsists on crumbs – I’ve let
him down so

The monster who clogs through
the neighbourhood
has turned from grey to blue

If only I could bump into 
a bar or symbol fresh enough
to feed any of them

To pull open the secret door
and let out a devil fruit
that’s switched sides

A ripe thing at least 
to come through or go off
as needed:

Stink bomb, fame salve,
gush logic triumph font, or
every rind-worthy thought


necessary joy check

already bitten the map host 
and chewed the root cure
she’s pressed out from lost hoist 
in failure to thrive lure 
all eau d’eviction notice and levis cut-off tears
behind chest plate heart wait/ and weighted 
the girl image called wordy gerty gets her due
industrial, she directed everything sturdy, on cue
literally steering the mother of all things around for donkey’s years

1:short kick for right  
2:palm over palm for hard left
3:this mother never missed as inside girl direct fist toward
4:unlucky completion valve and a lot of grass-eating wholeness
(Grass-fed would sound better years later and meat plant copy edits bankrolled her descendants for time at least)
5. decades


Estelle Anderson is a writer and teacher from Toronto,Canada.
twitter: @estellanderson


Lugging your body  
is my new talent

For dinner I order
a bowl of spaghetti for me 
ice for you
speak about work     war     politics
You don’t 
interrupt

When I take your body to the zoo
I prop it up
near the cheetah cage
hold your eyes open
I say     isn’t it sad
how she’ll pace for miles
but go no where 
You agree

At church 
you fall on the floor
They shout     Slain in the spirit!    
and it makes me wonder if you’ve changed 

They say a man dies 
the same way he lived
I say you’re better 
company now –
Me     taking you for ice cream
You    keeping your hands 
to yourself

If God is too busy 
to decide where you belong 
He’s welcome 
to consult with me


Cyndie Randall’s poems appear or are forthcoming in minnesota review, DIAGRAM, The Florida Review, Frontier Poetry, Crab Creek Review, and elsewhere. She works as a therapist and lives among the Great Lakes.. 


the night statics 
with the heat of your invite.
you shape soft rubies of lava 
in your throat, 
turn me to devour. 
my body now whistles
with the steam of no mercy. 
i sprawl on your veranda 
like summer’s first breath.
you linger, disturb my waters. 
these rivers dissect
only to be seamed together 
by sinew of moonlight, the air 
hollow of birdsong
until you exhale their bones.


Ami Patel (she/her) is a queer, diasporic South Asian poet and Young Adult fiction writer. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and Tin House alum. Ami’s poems are published in various places,including perhappened mag, The West Review, and Moss. You can find her online at amipatelwrites.com.


On a roof with no hands
my voice mistakes me for a hive of consents
a high pitch calling on the chants of the young.

The butcher’s sky drips blood.
My exaggeration paints the clouds.
I lay claim to a brooding ground of wishes.

Held tight, eyes pop out of my veins.
A man hung with tears 
arrives through a window, leaves by the door

I make for him a box of laughter,
as smooth as the teeth between his ears.
My temples beat. His echoes have echoes.

The world outside is multiplied by traffic.
Within, the angels boast faces and names.
Eyelashes approach from a closeted mirage.

So this is Babylon, alive and well 
and living in my kitchen.
It is two men with barely a bride between them.


Andrej Bivlovsky (he / him) is a poet and performance artist. Former editor of Masculine-Feminine and Kapesnik. His poetry can be found at the Quiver and Down in The Dirt.


As stories go, I took you for a fool, stagefright in the nuit blanche, come quick blame the fire, unless it be my old story, my distant father splotched by the effect of war, whose white lineless breasts were never beyond the arc of the ghost, I sink a hold upon your language so far up in the face of the sky that my eyes flush copper, my cup overflows like a self-love that has always been a dry pit, the taste of piss itself just like the birds that wash up on the livid sands, blame god, quick, get shittier watching the ocean evaporate my tears for tomorrow I hold on, the setting so complex & nimble from afar beyond focus yet here a star, hear the potential & idealitude blustering, look upon my design, show my morning

                    drowsing           nodules of 

mountain, 

        read   in   the floating             marbles         of my

                                    snarled 

sleep

our tearful witness of each other…

Oh! you

may feel I belong

    but would

    n’t you drop something for a flower? you said

    you would…

Strafing through heather and heath fields and placidities of

heathnesses away, like heathen sun goddesses clad in 

swimming clothing of llama colors, naked but barefoot

camelheather call-in nausea it creams flowers bright

tears for tender jessica blue, tears of japonicum, sister of

shadowy thyme,

soft violet septice and slate blue jessicite was that you

my sunshine? You shook my petals.

Wilt not that the folds of the great oval morning follow me down that sheeplike drop, one on which thousands of my dreams gather. Bride my tulip bathed in bitter tears of sass and ferocity in wild rage your lanky hand-drawn shields my fabric shield in deluge of holy blush to shoulder the fire flush your hot cheek in love that purple morning the purple aspens shiver.

Highboy he wakes up bruised in the salt gloaming if not yours call in graveyards it’s okay this time we’ll lay to rest this time we’ll say namaste, 

it’s My Bride through Tarantulas, shoulders wade bare in the sea your seaworthiness scattered on the lapping waves drawing comfort from the burning shape of the sun in my skull from deep inside then only then it’s 

my Tarantula Bride it’s byzantine waves taunting full of salty mercy, fire beneath my skin is still there and I am broken, young, and bruise-coloured.

Smearing walls in quiet crypts, the peacock takes my meat

with a frown

with a frown my lips should be there

what for the king of wounds, my bleeding heart

what for the king of wounds, why won’t you come and bite me

in that nurse’s hands who took my arm and said I can’t say it

if I could I would say it, I’d say it, why won’t you bite me, 

these mirrors flaunting me, through roofs of mascara to
salty-eyed dreams

                                             of slow shifts in
slow funerals, endless, a basic war varietal, cirrus me our underground, purpura-ciel, only an eyelash missing, deeper than the abysses you shall find me, resting, on embers of snow-flower lay below envalleyed the skin a gesture I gather for the fire, heed the broken shall I drift arrest my wound shall open the valley, in unspoken promises and speech shall I kneel in the mud, in spoken words the veil lifts that sunlight can read in its vast shadow must I go within that too, incisus flume, my brassiere smoking with incontinence I’m glad the sheeplike velvet has come full course, my my, my blushing beauty is void, my self there’s nothing to it, only the grail of tessellated perfection

My gown of the sun the fire will eat

a dance for divinity

as I wait to be loved to say we broke through, but never 

did we break.

I’m still awake you spread out in my audition field not a poet deeper who is humble without your hand in mine I would stumble, I had to stumble, & not a time dreaming there a sneeze of velvet in violet feather, my wings so delicate a boy becomes a man to fly with, echolalia only howling am I, howling for you

my nostrils and my lips a muffle of hay and saliva, dreaming there of cities cut to ribbons out there side-loomed vacuums until you’re holding me still, slowly wept tears and bitten

then now remember who you are, who the martyr I have always been: a bride scum boy, I stand up like a knight all tattooed erasure the future of the world is written on our bodies not the other way round and can you see it I know you can see it, the torment, the power, the resolve

Christ, this world has no love, no love, the bow is useless, standing here crying, Christ

slowly I undress.

My silence still mumbling quilted under the eyes

of the grey queen and the stars we fuck to revive our moths black as the calm of noon, long as the shadow of dawn.

I’m still awake. The theater’s in ruins. The gardens are on fire. Each arteriole is hot and burning with the capacitance of my disappointment. I am too shy, too excruciatingly shy, I would cry for a flower if you had one to give me, I would beg for a word if you had one to say, without saying a word I kiss the penis of a dead president and hope that no one notices. A crepuscular bird. 

I kiss. Frost on hogweed. Your breath and your light, ringed in dream punctures the skin of flaming heather, we already taste the tears that fall upon the wind of this revelation, aurora-green or champagne brushstrokes against your cheek might spell surrender if the world weren’t so numbly indifferent to the defenselessness of our oppression.

Beauty is only beauty if you possess the duty to recognize it. 

A vast, open rectangle of purple slowly rotates in my mind. Perhaps this is how some fish navigate the ocean’s surface, an archangel who is obliged to go into the sea to inspect the corpses of so many stars. Duty to recognize beauty is its own limit, I am too shy.

As matched in the bittern ‘s maternity and due to therese my cold, one must love. Gather, gather, exhale our usufruct in the excurrent breath, bury racemes sobbing after theresaic vu in the night-sea, take the eye to the bloom’s ground where the pearl whorl like a clown’s bead stanched our palm’s tear in the backstitch, in the milky flou, ulcers cool the joys of sweetness on wings the sessile stormstorm flight of petals out-to-sea, the crust of chrysanthemum seas my skull sang all the histories of the body invisible to the eye split your daily sacred dove tears run like candles dripping from the cottage door windows, even candles spatter no fire my eye the fire behind your sight for now my woman scum man, this constant flickering hunger, born of femininity and Sumerian night, my love is an ontogenetic pure fury, a bonjour from a sailor of whose drift I choke on the endless entendre of his snuffling hair. I like to present to you my philosophy, in a velvety bodice, buried by the froth of annatto.

You and I are consanguinamorous, O Ancora d’Europa, I know you understand! I’ll get the astrolabe from the Victorian scientist, I’ll build a compass to measure the degrees of my planet’s axial tilt, I’ll bring its tilt back to where it belonged in the days of your generation, I’ll place it on my belly and measure it from below the veil of the mother, O Bambino Deus, and from the top of my genitals. And then I’ll calculate the fault lines of the contour, and I’ll fit each fault to its livelihood, and show you a land created of ruined angles.

What I want to know is what is at the source of the source, would

n’t you? Silence

be thy primary settler, boom-boom, single possession buy my land there is nothing here for you can’t I just marry the locust body rent my acreage aspire backwards inwardly to restfulness obliterate boundaries hoard alone, deface, die blow till all within me is lost coldly behind my shield of fear, puritans sweating in the blue shade, fear puritanic our romance it’s been azurely planned, stop believing in the heteroglossia of stagnation, all that we have to do is shed the pink sward we have to say it’s not you, love it’s me stand among the fools then I must sail away without any of their money cry to the mast of this great emigrant, Oh variegato mare, wail into the foam, your tide is calling our message on a pale thunder wearing the wings of a butterfly, a hermaphrodite exile torn from its sisters now that there are so few of us left to bear witness to our creation, Oh bloom-bloom, Oh, c’est impossible—Ours is no age.

History can be made by listing things in sequence, by making straight lists of ordered combinations and combinatorial descriptions of discrete objects.

Make a rectangle. Use the scale of the ruler to draw a fixed proportion of its two sides. Keep going until you are making a square.

How many times does the square look like a square? Write down what you think the answer is, and then draw a straight line from one point of the square to another. Leave imperfect improvisations on the graph paper against specious color patterns set against the white with the white set against the black.

White is night but only its opposite.

The color of history, the beautiful disgust of guileless wrath, for its Face I gazeth upon

a moist spectra of golden tears in the crannies of sunlit mosses and leaves, the still of summer their bliss and the dark of winter their ethereal torpor, leaves in rippling gulps of autumn’s wind our waters defy gravity, golden veils of feathers in flight these cloud-like folds of the vivid banners our unbending comfort’s human endeavor, from here we watch in silent

disbelief,

prolonged infantile wonder.

Colours are weapons.

Colours in Leith, counterpoised English birds, colours in monasteries, feigning absence, the colors of our conception of love, we shall care little for each other there is no passion, the sky was emptied so we could walk upon its surface sail safely to Greece, our exile has begun back here is fear.

We put indigo in the blood of still water.

The sun is a very old weapon, the sun in

velvet Morocco

I imagine

that if you lit up this

manifesto

with

your

puberulent

fire

I would find

drawings of you

scratched across my black

tongue

with

a diamond drill

I imagine we’d look 

like a parody of fascism.

Colour is the object of cognition

cogitate until one thinks one sees color everywhere.

Have you noticed that the difference between the history of one person and the history of the world is that the history of one person is contained within the history of the world?

Et tu Pompeii,

you make me feel so small.

My apophantic love is like a function of simple worst-case absolutes, the thing is the thing is the thing is the thing is the thing, make a rectifier of what it is, make a diagram of it, make a new history, blow my mind.

Not a trace of a past that other men have not revealed in me. No trace of the water that peals forth from a black iris in the azure of a blue sea, of a colonized bay, of a virgin land with no trace of people, how I pray to be the face of your dreams, or better, to be the voice of your nightmares! In that ecstasy let us forget the inherited language of the pain that makes us objects to be moved and willed over; now you look at the sight of my act as it truly is: where the contours of action are hidden within the space of the moment. How is it? How do you feel?… My opposite, whose ilexes are patinated by the humidity of blood. I think of how one, like me, fashions the curtain in the image of this filth, this secret, from which I will one day emerge, 

radiantly.

I am eating a piece of corn. Fucking petrels dip their mouths in the garbage. A joke of Zeus throwing up clouds. The three beautiful words that decide our fate, the three wonderful questions that have brought us together, the three spoken syllables that formulate our identity! I love you. My ass is urinating.

I go to the latrine. 

I go to the Library of Congress. 

I go to the theater.

It’s the night of the donkey mouth the night of the cuckoo the night of the war

What am I

Receive me, accept me, will you not? You don’t know the way I love you, 

I listen to the accents of our city while simultaneously affixing to my face some kind of mask of identity that won’t reveal me. I participate in the general consensus and enjoy its seemingly mum cacology—becoming an almost invisible man.

Yet here I am. And this is what I’m doing: trying to make clear, here and there, the means of my communication. My language.

Gather the satin embroidery in the depths of my pelvis, to you I reveal the tissues that supply the ego and its pleasures, uniting them here I direct the least clear vision that you will not would never just couldn’t turn away from. I love you.

What good is a revolution if not for the incorrigible numbness that follows?

Or does the Revolution go on too long?

Maybe there’s no time

to feel by sawing the moon from night into midday, maybe

the sun’s not risen again to shine in its eyeteeth 

the apathy of gears

I hold it at a distance, in a chamber, there is no square, there is no city to be erased, there is no point to be acknowledged, and in the end I am compelled only to gaze at a child’s drawing of a tower

in this room of impossible beginnings there is a future without significance, or there is one without the other, et tu, manque de proxy as a panting sigh under the brownly milk blisters of a stillboy, feel my trembling hands on your throat, coquelicot is the loveliest of words, it comes in waves, I say out loud: coquelicot waves, I hear the rustling curtain.

As stories go, I took you for a fool, just blame our age, true & colorful, the kingdom of science runs too fast, O Ecce Homo you stopped running centuries past, what kind of clown does not know how to bury his own heart? I will be the void of the scene that makes you and not the scene that makes me. Where are you, voyeur, in these uncomprehending and unimaginative restorations of a history whose facts and fictions were destroyed so long ago? Where are you, frozen as a carousel whose sole 

rider is an automaton, knowing that at no time will you know the thing that I do, that your eyes will be unable to understand the action I show you, to say: The solace of thought dissolved by the influx of love is a fantasy not even you could sustain. Our love was already eternal. 

So I say I love you, say I re-extricated myself

from this coalescence of closed flowers

by the blackwater

rosecrest’s feathersheath growing into the sign of the human fish of death

violent lysis, pale canescent hoar, flag of rage, it is not love that is buried beneath the stage,

it’s a horse.

Godspeed. Art is the sun which never sets. History on the other hand, has become the god that never even horizoned.


Evan Isoline is a writer and artist living on the Oregon coast. He is the author of PHILOSOPHY OF THE SKY (forthcoming from 11:11 Press) and the founder/editor of a literary project called SELFFUCK. Recent writing has been published or is forthcoming at 3:AM Magazine, Full-Stop, Always Crashing, Witchcraft Mag, Territory and more. Find him @evan_isoline.


Pick at your ugly skin, curl your toes around the wire. Balance as a pulse of memory beats into your brain. The melody had crept upon the breeze and under steel mesh, a song just for you, music that wormed into your little red heart, and you had followed the song and found her, your fawn-feathered mate. What had happened? 

Cock your head. Work at the recollection. 

You remember dancing beak-to-beak on a rough branch, cracking seeds and tipping them down her throat late into cicada-buzzing dusk. But what—

Pain. In dim early morning, your veins strung taut from the smell of morning dew and song of mourning doves—a sudden, blinding sting. She had plucked a single feather from your skin.

And not just any feather: she ripped away the finest crimson plume arching from your crest. You covered a shriek with a nervous chirp. Her black eyes blinked slow. The red feather floated to the ground, forgotten.

It had happened again, the pluck. You both worked hard to find the right twigs and leaves, stuff of a good, stable nest. It wasn’t quite complete, but sniffing rain in the air, she plucked another of your feathers, again bright red, and wedged it in the nest. She closed her eyes and settled down to lay her eggs. 

Over the seasons, she never hesitated to pluck, righteous and unapologetic in this act to protect the chicks, and you watched, curious, as your feathers lining the nest faded, disintegrated . . . the nest, the nest . . . it festers, your skin, these raw patches. 

You balance and reflect. Warm, fleshy fingers jab through mesh to scatter seeds . . .  

Seeds. They had been scattered straight to you, always, the striking scarlet. Your mate, she of feathers all hues of olive and brown, faded into the walls of the nest, or branch, or the ground, more of earth than you would ever be, always sensing the next wind or rain, and her moods!—angry or content, nestled close in winter, bored in the summer sun . . . it was sunflower seeds you wanted, that bright day of bursting flowers, when a scream stopped the pat-pat of your heart, and you flew and found a bird of prey had seized her, broken and thrown her to the ground, her black eyes now unblinking, her belly bloated with last eggs.

You pick at your ugly skin. You twitch your head and stare side-eyed at the hole in the steel mesh. Then you hear it—a melody, skipping along the breeze, a song just for you, creeping into your little red heart. 


The End


Marilee is originally from the Midwest and currently lives in Washington, DC. Her other stories have appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Cleaver, decomp, Metaphorosis, Molotov Cocktail, Orca and elsewhere.


As I passively descend the levels of hell, a voice rings out. 

“Did you want a receipt?” 

No! Don’t tell me what I’ve spent or how much of that is wasted. I must go forth.

Time loops onward. I fall in love, I get black out drunk. I say things I regret. I feel fulfilled and it always falls apart. I move, I settle in but not down. 

I move again, a voice rings out. 

“Did you want a baby?” 

I love my job, but I miss my time. 

I quit my job, I miss my money. 

I get a job, I visit home but never stay. 

I want to die until I realize that death isn’t the saddest thing. 

Living is the saddest thing, other than having a baby. No, no, I can’t do that. 

I slow fade from people’s lives, I fade into others, a voice rings out.

“Did you want fries with that?” 

No, if I gave up on being skinny, I wouldn’t be able to misquote these lyrics. I wash my face, the dog barks. I eat pickles straight from the jar, I water dying plants. I try to live ethically, I give up and buy fast fashion, a voice rings out. 

“Did you really want to replay these moments for the rest of your life?”

No, not really. 

I just don’t know what else to do.


Carmen E Brady writes, draws, and teaches in the rural southwestern US. Her work has appeared in Hobart, Vagabond City Lit, JMWW, and elsewhere online and in print. Twitter: @therealcbrad


I woke up to another shitty day in the Kingdom of Magic. The first shitty thing that happened was that I was out of my favourite breakfast cereal, Enchanted Pebbles, and had to wait around for six whole minutes for a new box to be spit out by the Have Whatever You Want Shoot. And the note that came with it, telling me I deserve supreme happiness, was slightly less lovely than the note I got last week with my double order of Euphoria Swirls. I’m starting to think the Council is conspiring to have me kicked out or something. I mean, why else would I get such a shitty note?

The next terrible thing to happen was that while I was waiting for the bus to take me to work, one of the fluctuating balls of energy from down the street – I forget which number – came and sat beside me and started trying to have a conversation. About how beautiful the sky looked. Can you believe it? I couldn’t either. I’m just sitting there, minding my own business, looking out at a perfect landscape of trees and water and yes, an admittedly beautiful sky, but do I look like I want to discuss it?

When the bus came (three minutes late, by the way), I sat as far away from that annoying blip of energy as possible. Luckily I saw my best friend, fluctuating ball of energy no. 764, sitting on the back seat. We’ve been working together at the Bureau of Satisfaction for a while and usually I feel as if I can tell them anything, you know, really be myself. But something was different today.

For starters, when I sat down, no. 764 said: “How are you today?”

How are you today. What the heck, right?

Flummoxed, I replied: “I’m fine.”

And no. 764 said: “Are you sure?”

And then I said: “Well no, actually, I’m doing kind of shitty.”

Then no. 764 just looked at me, glowing all different colours like a rainbow, and I started to get really uncomfortable. I said: “What’s with you? Normally we totally get each other.”

“I’ve changed, no. 381,” they replied with a long exhalation of radiant air that almost made me vomit it was so pure and beautiful, “I’ve realised the truth. The Kingdom of Magic is divine, and I am grateful for all it has to offer.”

“Oh, shit,” I said, “you’ve been to see the Enrichment Officer, haven’t you?”

“So?”

“So, don’t you know what they say about those freaks?” I lowered my voice, “They brainwash fluctuating balls of energy like you and me into thinking all sorts of wild things.”

“Like what? Life here is good, and we should enjoy it?”

Exactly.”

“I don’t know, no. 381. Frank has some interesting theories.”

“Who the heck is Frank?”

“The Enrichment Officer. You should drop in some time; I could put in a good word?”

“Urgh – no, thank you.” We rode in silence for a bit, no. 764 undulating beside me as a procession of perfect landscapes passed by the window. Then I said: “so, what, you and Frank are like best friends now? What about me?”

The bus stopped, and no. 764 wafted away from me.

“Frank has just helped me to realise some stuff. We’re not best friends. Don’t worry so much!” No. 764 was almost off the bus, their voice dissolving into the surge. “Please get help, no. 381. I love you!”

So, yeah, that was like the fourth shitty thing to happen to me that day. I decided right then and there that I wouldn’t be meeting no. 764 for lunch anymore. Really the whole incident just proved my theory that you can’t trust anyone but yourself.

At work I spent the whole day checking in with clients to measure their levels of satisfaction with the Council’s service. Seven of them were 100% satisfied. One requested greener grass in the parks, for which I put in an immediate request. And another asked if they could book a tour of Enlightenment Palace. Fluctuating balls of energy are so predictable.

When I got home my housemate, fluctuating ball of energy no. 197, was waiting to present me with a message from the Bureau of Enrichment. I met them near the entrance portal to our living quarters, glowing all yellow with excitement. “Here,” they said, floating right into my energy field as if they’d never heard of the concept of personal space, “Open it! I’ve been dying to find out what it says.”

I couldn’t be bothered to tell no. 197 how stupid they were, so I just opened the thing and watched as a sparkling mass of pure joy erupted in front of me. After, like, an annoyingly long and colourful demonstration of joyousness the mass finally shifted to the point: an invitation to meet with an Enrichment Officer the next morning. I immediately suspected no. 764 as having something to do with this, and doubled down on my scorn.

“Wow!” said no. 197, wafting all around me, “usually you have to be referred by a friend to snag a meeting with an Enrichment Officer! You’re so lucky, no. 381!”

That was when I got really mad. Channelling all my strength into enveloping no. 197 in a hurricane of explicit rage, I shouted: “I! AM! NOT! LUCKY! BECAUSE! THEY! ARE! GOING! TO! BRAINWASH! ME! YOU! STUPID! IDIOT!”

Then before I could even see no. 197’s reaction (which was probably crying and whining) I entered the portal to our living quarters and went straight to my room.

As hard as I tried to think of a way to get out of this meeting, I knew it was futile. The Council would be all over me like a putrid rash if I didn’t show up. The next morning, I found myself in the lobby of the Bureau of Enrichment, and was directed to an office on the second floor. The office belonged to Frank, aka no. 764’s new best friend in the whole Kingdom.

“Please come in,” said Frank as the door to the office opened and I wafted reluctantly inside, “and help yourself to anything from the Have Whatever You Want Shoot. It’s premium-grade, so your order will arrive within seconds.”

Unbelievable.

I ordered some Celestial Chocolate Scratchings, though, because why not take advantage of the opportunity?

“So, shall we talk about why you’re here?” said Frank, whom I now noticed was shaped like a big star, pulsating with glowing gold specks.

“It’s OK,” Frank continued when I didn’t reply. “Just take your time.”

I tried to focus on a board on the wall, which had motivational sayings on it like “You can shine brighter than the brightest ball of Enlightened energy!” and “Anything is possible in the Kingdom of Magic – all you have to do is believe (in the statutes of the Council of the Enlightened)!”

I wanted to barf, but that might’ve been because I had just inhaled a whole package of Celestial Chocolate Scratchings.

“OK, I’ll start,” Frank said, “most of the fluctuating balls of energy that pass through this office are here because they require an attitudinal adjustment. Is this something you, no. 381, could perhaps benefit from?”

“No.”

“You don’t think your attitude has been somewhat…coarse since you arrived in the Kingdom of Magic?”

“No, I do not.”

A ripple of contemplation rolled through Frank’s energy field.

“If you would like, no. 381, I could tell you a story which might illustrate my point a little better.”

Might as well kill some time, I thought. “OK. Fine. Do what you need to do.”

“Thank you.” Frank took a pause, settling before a large window overlooking fields of lavender. His gold specks brightened. “Once, there was a young human being named Madeleine. Are you familiar with the concept of human beings, no. 381?”

“I think I remember reading something about them. They consist of physical matter?”

“In a sense, yes. They are made of energy, like us, yet their energy is contained within a vessel which roots them to the ground of their planet. Are you following me so far?”

“Yes, yes, I understand. I’m not stupid.”

“I know. You are an intelligent, brilliant being, no. 381. Never forget that.” Frank shuddered towards me as a sign of recognition. I resisted the urge to shudder back.

Frank continued: “Madeleine was a promising young human entering her prime. Her parents loved her very much and she had a group of close friends. She was two weeks away from graduating high school, receiving top grades in her final exams. To celebrate, Madeleine and her friends went for a drive to the beach. They were going to light a bonfire and dance beneath the stars.”

Frank’s energy darkened, and it was as if a raincloud had floated over the room. “Madeleine never made it to the beach. The driver of the car veered sharply when he saw something in the road, killing himself and his three passengers. The police report showed he had been drinking earlier in the night.”

I found myself growing angry at these dumb human beings, angry at Frank, angry for being forced to listen to this crap.

“I don’t like this story,” I shouted, ballooning to twice my normal size. “What does it have to do with me? Why are you telling me this?”

“Now, 381, settle down. It’s OK.” And although I was still angry, I did what Frank said, because something in his voice was strangely calming.

“I want you to forget yourself for a moment. Imagine that you are Madeleine. Can you do that?”

“I don’t see the point.”

“The point will reveal itself, but you have to want to see it. Do you want to find a deeper understanding of yourself, and your place in the Kingdom of Magic?”

“Fine. Yes. Whatever.”

“Brilliant. You are already making progress. Now I want you to put yourself inside Madeleine, really climb into her physicality, her mind. Become her.”

Something weird was happening. My energy began constricting, coiling itself into the fleshy form of a human being. An invisible force was pulling me to the ground and holding me there.

“Take your time. Tell me when you have merged with Madeleine’s being.”

“I think I’m there. I’m her.”

“Wonderful. Now I want you to imagine the moments following the ending of your chapter on Planet Earth; you are beginning to transition into the next realm. Your life energy is lifting out of its physical form. You are no longer burdened by matter, by mortality. You have been given another chance.”

“Another chance?”

“Yes. A new chapter is starting. You have been gifted with a second life in the Kingdom of Magic, a wondrous utopia where you can have anything you want… so long as you follow the guidelines set out by the Council of the Enlightened. How does it feel?”

“I… uh…amazing. It feels amazing, Frank.” Glittering spectres were dancing around the room, waves of harmonic energy rippling all around us.

“How would you express your appreciation for this second chance at life?”

“I would do anything. Anything the Council asked me. I would be happy, all the time. I would spread the message of joy and appreciation to my fellow fluctuating balls of energy.”

After some time, the waves subsided, and Frank floated before me. “Good. I want you to hold on to that feeling. Express gratitude and dedicate yourself to serving the Council, to showing your appreciation for all beatitude in the Kingdom of Magic. Can you do that, no. 381?”

As Frank spoke, I could feel the spiral of energy at the centre of my being turning in a new direction, the colours in my spectrum glowing brighter than I had ever seen them glow.

Frank was waiting. I exhaled a gasp of radiant air, which lit up the space between us like a flash of firelight.


Jade is a Bristol-based writer specializing in fiction, film criticism and screenwriting, and is currently working on her second novel. She believes in the transcendent power of writing to open us up to other worlds and experiences, exploring themes of love, trauma and authenticity.

https://linktr.ee/jade_green
@_verdoux