After our grandmother got married for the third time, she started taking us to Harry’s place, an unfinished building tucked behind some disintegrating tennis courts in the bad part of town.

The property itself was not much to look at, a skinny mid-century row house sat on a withered plot of piss yellow grass. Our grandmother planned to start her new life there. We were a part of it too, whether we liked Harry or not.

They had met at the minor league baseball stadium, where Harry worked as an usher. He was a thin man with taut skin, sporting a deep leathery tan and bristly salt and pepper mustache.

We never saw his eyes because he always wore a pair of aviators, even indoors. My brother and I often speculated what was beneath those silver lenses, but they were impenetrable.

Harry had purchased the “fixer-upper,” as he called it, even before he and our grandmother had met. He claimed to be constantly renovating the place, though we had marked zero progress over the span of many months.

The interior was all exposed plywood and naked beams, the floor, walls, and ceiling bare except for itchy pink swathes of insulation.

My brother and I would chase each other around the house, darting through the woodwork, hiding in the empty spaces between rooms.

Since the water had never been turned on, there was no working toilet. We went in the backyard otherwise we held it. Harry promised it would all be taken care of soon, that when it was finished we would hardly recognize the place. We had little trust in Harry, even though he sometimes let us try his cigarettes if we promised not to tell.

The house was sparsely furnished, a small table with some rickety mismatched chairs to eat takeout from, a secondhand coat rack by the entrance where Harry hung his sweat-stained cap. There was also a television set and a lumpy old couch, which suited us just fine.

We took the opportunity to watch the movies that our mother would never allow us to see, being naturally curious about mature themes. If it had an “R” rating, we were happy to indulge ourselves.

My fair skinned, blue-eyed brother, who was younger, preferred erotic scenes, while I was partial to violence and gore.

For hours we sat on that couch, glued to the carnage, maniacs gouging out eyeballs with dripping hypos, bashing in skulls with the claw end of rusty hammers, hacking open chest cavities with enormous meat cleavers, topless women screaming down dark corridors pursued relentlessly by madmen in masks.

Since they spent most of their time upstairs, both our grandmother and Harry remained oblivious to our viewing habits, just as we were ignorant of the goings on behind their unpainted bedroom door, always kept locked.

Our only company was the cat Harry brought over from the shelter one day. An orange tabby, he was a rescue that had lost his right eye during a fight. Thus he was christened “One-Eyed Jack” and we were warned not to aggravate him.

My brother tried to pet him once and got raked across the throat, three symmetrical red lines. One-Eyed Jack did not like people, but it seemed he especially hated us. If we happened to cross his path, he would hiss and arch his back, the lone yellow eye boring through us until we slowly backed away.

We lived in constant fear of Jack. He would often hide up in the rafters, ready to pounce on unsuspecting victims below. To top it off, my brother and I were both allergic to cats. When our eyes started to water and swell, we knew Jack was close.

Somehow our grandmother came to adore that cat. She was the only person he allowed to touch him. One-Eyed Jack purred as our grandmother tickled his chin and stroked his belly.

We were mystified by her ability to soothe the beast. Our inability to do so only made us more afraid of him.

Fear turned into resentment when Harry made us clean out the litter box, a never-ending chore that we were condemned to carry out as long as Jack ruled. He was King Cat, ourselves nothing but lowly chamber maids. Our grandmother said it was good to have responsibilities.

We took every opportunity to escape, like when the boy next door invited us over. He was only a few years older than us, but much taller. We never learned his name because he never spoke.

He would poke his head out a window and motion us inside with a wave of his hand. We played video games in his dark attic bedroom, bathed by the flickering lights of the virtual death matches playing out on the screen.

When the boy’s parents pulled into the gravel driveway, the sound alerted us to quickly sneak off, as the boy was forbidden to have company. One day a “For Sale” sign sprouted in their front yard and we never saw them again.

During one especially long day, as we waited for our mother to retrieve us, a despondent Harry shuffled in through the front door. After he hung up his cap, he turned to us, tears dripping from his aviators. My brother asked what was wrong.

He told us that Jack was dead.

It was sort of a let down when we heard the news. By account of our legends Jack was invincible. Harry had found him in the street all bent up and mangled from being run over. It looked like he had been left out there for a while.

Jack never saw what hit him, which we supposed was all anybody could ask for. Harry told us the cat was on the back porch in a burlap sack. He instructed us to bury it.

I took a shovel out of the toolshed then followed my brother down the block to an overgrown, litter-strewn lot.

I tried to dig a grave for Jack, but the ground was too hard, full of rocks and clay. The burlap sack emitted the semi-sweet, sickly smell of decay. We didn’t dare look inside.

My brother suggested simply throwing it in the garbage. We found a dumpster in a nearby alley. I held up the heavy lid. My brother tossed the sack inside. I let go and the lid slammed down.

The noise startled my brother. I laughed at his high-pitched scream, told him he sounded like a girl.

He shoved me against the dumpster, told me to take it back. Instead I lifted the lid again and forced my brother inside. I closed the lid and sat on it, feeling the reverberations of my brother pounding on the thick metal.

After a while the noise stopped. I hopped off the dumpster and cracked the lid, peered inside.

My brother was gone. So was Jack’s burial sack.

I ran back to the house. My grandmother was sitting next to Harry in the kitchen eating some Chinese food from Styrofoam boxes.

My grandmother asked why I was crying. I told her what had happened and she rolled her eyes, scolded me for making up stories.

I persisted. Harry smacked the back of my head, told me to shut up, to quit being cute, that I didn’t have a little brother.

An orange cat hopped onto the table. My grandmother tickled his chin. The cat stared at me, two eyes meeting mine, one blue, the other yellow, not blinking, mouth pulled back, grinning.



Matt Lee’s writing has been featured at Tragickal, The Blue Pages, SOFT CARTEL, and Philosophical Idiot. He has also written, produced, and performed in numerous works for the stage. He tweets @Gallows_Ticket. For more info visit






Maryan Nagy Captan is a Coptic Egyptian-American writer, educator, and performance poet. Maryan is a Poetry Fellow at The Michener Center for Writers in Austin, TX and serves as the Marketing Director for Bat City Review. She is the author of copy/body (Empty Set Press, 2017) and an alumni of the Disquiet International Literary Program. Her work has appeared in The Egyptian Writers Folio (Anomaly Press), AJAR Journal, APIARY Magazine, Mantra Review, Boneless/Skinless, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere.

what do you call

the only-so-many woundings

tht may befall

a single body?

River Phoenix is long dead,

& as young Keanu Reeves in the 1991

feature film My Own Private Idaho,

i live all proof no need,

a loose canvas filled w blood & such,

delighting in facsimile as a

grift-living, coat-slinging pageantry,

e’er ingress-ing, e’er a travesty,

the sequel to a blighted sore; & so,

abandoned by young Keanu Reeves

in the 1991 feature film My Own Private Idaho,

i am living to be murdered in Rome—

in two weeks, i will be holding you

for the first time in a year;

my love is a graceless, heaving thing,

a behind-the-scenes calamity—

& long dead River Phoenix

is now long-dead enough

to have lived & died again;

i ache w/o wordings for them—

a killing chasming far far wider than

our final shot of young Keanu Reeves

attending to his father’s funeral

in his newly-purchased skin



Faye Chevalier is a Philadelphia-based poet and essayist. She is the author of the chapbook, future.txt (Empty Set Press 2018), and her work has been featured in The Wanderer, Peach Mag, Witch Craft Magazinethe tiny, and elsewhere. Some of her awards and recognitions include being the first ever poet to have work published on a cyberpunk tabletop rpg podcast (Neoscum 2018) and also a Pushcart nomination. Find her on Twitter where she cries about cyborgs, vampires, and having a body at @bratcore.

Variously unreal, your body
weaves itself from rags, hemming
in what’s possible with
what is not.

And it isn’t this as angels
place eyes upon your spine,
every bit of back strung
with blood for turning
something new from the chaos
that they have never seen.

How heavenly can they be,
these cast-offs? It cannot
be correct – your body
bespoke and heavy stitched
limb-to-limb in fits.
And yet you find your feet
somehow separate from the floor,
the carpet fibres laced
with the smallest scraps of gravity
mere men have ever known.

And extras to you now,
your angels take their wings,
bending from you blood they sew
in strands of light and shade.

And Isaac in his madness
never saw so strange as this:
wombs opened out like rainbows
back-forming prism glass,
choirs of ugly angels singing
their struggles as they dress
their shaking mess of rag and bone
in the shape of human flesh.



// jennifer wilson lives in somerset, england, and has appeared in various online journals including mojave heart, barren magazine and molotov cocktail //
// // @_dead_swans //



the way border functions

we are inebriated the way
ambitions are, in the backyard—

mom and i. we grew and grew
outward like thickets

through the seasons we had spent
apart. my iris, all oilslick, tracks a raccoon that walks awkward

into the periphery, rabid and philosophical. we turn
since we are predators. we’re evenings;

all even. even now. never
say anything about that particular decade of red wine, never say

anything about red faces, anything about regretted adoptions. on
the east coast, soil hardens how personalities do. a tiny totem

sunk itself
beneath my spine when i was lifted, burdensome

and slop-soaked, into the new world. i try not
to lurch how domestication works, now.

mom mentions the length
of my hair as i stuff

an old hat rich like europe, turn
desperately to face her.



     The only collective house left in the city was sober. The kids living there were tired of roommates with rampant heroin addictions. They were clean with the kind of moral superiority that digs trenches within any community. They shied away from epidemics.

     The house was fine enough, the door had been kicked in by various swat teams during drug raids and probation violations relating to previous occupants, but now the place was quiet. The house leaned to the left, the bottom corners of the windows were loose and let the winter air into all the rooms.

     It was eight o’clock in the morning. The occupants moved as one. They move the sectional couches in the basement around in the shape of a pentagram. They play the floor like bagpipes with the chairs. They peel carrots in a swollen kitchen full of rain. Marcela had lived there for the last sixth months. She was an alcoholic, she would wake up shaking like a corroded muffler. Her roommates wondered why she was always so cold, why she never ate cereal, or paid in change. They move like drips of water, they trip over the dog and it plays dead bug.

     Around the house, Marcela only drank out of cups with lids. Once, she had spilled a mug of coffee onto the cigarette-burned couch cushions. The roommates looked up at her from their game of spades on the bedroom floor. They opened heaven. 

     Marcela walks to Kitty’s Bar and Packaged Goods down the street on Greenmount Avenue. Her pale skin clung to her bones like a noose to a neck. She was unsteady when she walked, her knees and ankles ready to collapse with the slightest vibration of the atmosphere. Her black hair was tattered, thin for someone in their twenties. Her nose had been broken multiple times from repeated sidewalk blackouts or shit-talkings. It was cocked so far to the left she could smell her ear. 

     Kitty’s was the only place in the city that served alcohol to-go on Sunday’s. The building was mashed in-between two taller ones on either side, both sold cheap, used suits. The sales associates were busy on Sunday mornings tending to the disingenuous catholics of east Baltimore. The neon sign was broken and the clear bulbs had been stained brown by decades of cigarette smoke from people standing underneath it day and night. The yellow paint of the exterior was pockmarked with bullet holes of various calibers. 

     Marcela walked up to the counter. There was a man in front arguing with Kamal, the cashier. Marcela recognized him as Dashawn from up the block. One of the older residents in the area. He drank all day, sometimes sold heroin. He lived up the block in a dilapidated rowhome where the formstone was constantly peeling off and falling into the sidewalk. Marcela remembered how she used to pick up the chunks and throw them at the lines of rats on her way to high school.

     The veins in Dashawn’s forehead were trying to tear themselves from his skin. When his mouth moved, the dandruff from his short, gray hair fell onto his slim shoulders. Marcela could see his collarbones protruding out when he arched his back, raising his hands above his head then bringing them down upon the scratched glass countertop. 

     Kamal had seen worse men than Dashawn. In the seventies, when the Shah was losing his grip on the country, Kamal fled Iran with the last of the doves. Dogs roamed the streets for years afterward, liberating the corpses of evil spirits. He watched the thick skin of Dashawn’s dark hands crack upon the counter in front of him. 

     Marcela put her forty-ounce of Olde English down on the counter next to Dashawn’s erratic body movements. Dashawn cocked his neck back and spit into Kamal’s open mouth. Kamal vaulted the counter like an inner-city olympian and grabbed Marcela’s bottle in one fluid motion. Before his feet touched the tile floor, slick with spilled beer and discarded gobs of chew, he brought the bottle hard down onto Dashawn’s face. The glass splintered off in all directions. Dashawn’s cheek opened like a border. Marcela could see inside of him. She could see his yellow teeth through the fissure. The edges were thick and vulnerable, smooth like cells forming. Blood was all over. On her lips, around the collar of her yellow sweatshirt, on the gloves of the police rushing the door, on Kamal’s gold wedding band. Dashawn was on his knees trying to hold his face together.        

      Marcela pushed through the crowd and put her hands on Dashawn’s shivering cheek. She peeled back the bloody flaps and wiped away the mess. She took off her shoes and stuck her foot through the wound. Then the other. Soon she had fit herself to the chest. She slid her way deeper down Dashawn’s throat. Soon she was standing on the floor of his stomach, she got on her toes and stretched up towards the wound. She reached out and pulled the flaps inward, closing the pinhole of light above her. She pushed deeper until her feet protruded into the bottom of Dashawn’s sagging pants. She kicked her way out of the colon and slid down his pant-leg onto the cold floor. She dried herself off with the bloody rag Kamal was cleaning his hands with. She stepped out onto the sidewalk and walked home.

     Her roommates were playing spades on the kitchen floor. There was a pot of tea on the counter. They had made the tea too dark. They walked into the bathroom and drowned the bathtub by filling its mouth. Later, they order food but never pick it up. Instead they drive to Assateague Island and get bit by the horses. They walk onto the sand where two eagles tear the flesh from a fox carcass. They are truant at work, they destabilize and mutate. They take bites of rain clouds. They spoil. 



ren hlao grew up outside of baltimore, maryland. their work has appeared in online and print publications including Homestead Review, White Stag Publishing, and Dangerous Constellations Journal. they live in san diego, california with their partner and four dogs.

(“little god; you open” has been printed in Glittermob Issue 13, “the way the border functions” in Spring/Winter ’19 of Sycamore Review, and “Chrysalis” in Fiction International‘s “Body”)

What thoughts might arrive so late
in these milligrams : you’ve nodded off
again, the dream of a less gentle treason
the only reason to even get out of bed.

Akin to pleasure, the whiff of something
wicked amid the caramel apples
& the cigarette butts. Headlights cut across
the tree line. This journey is precursor

for the rest of your life : up these hills,
down that embankment,
then three days spent blindfolded
& chewing Xanax like Tic Tacs

across the salt flats. Scorpio season
seems to mean cradling your porcelain horse
outside the conference center’s
VIP entrance. Around their table,

conversation dribbles
& nobody thought to bring towels
or even a mop. A fork stuck in you
doesn’t mean you’re done :

it’s just a blunder
once thought to butter you up. The knife slides.
An egg gags at its own texture. A grilled cheese
seeks to devour its own crust.



Chris McCreary is the author of four books of poems, the most recent of which is [ neüro / mäntic ] (Furniture Press 2014). He’s also the co-author, along with Mark Lamoureux, of Maris McLamoureary’s Dictionnaire Infernal (Empty Set Press 2017), a chapbook of collaborative poems based on a 19th century guidebook to various demons, devils, and other menaces. Follow him on Instagram at @chrisixnay.

This ache sits and asks for my attention –
I have wanted to die, but never like this.
I have counted out the seeds of starting
anew, have found them inadequate.
I have sought out an antidote for this
life poorly lived, have found it lacking.
I have grown tired of losing my mind
responsibly & there is rage in this husk
of a woman. There is a lovelessness that
sits stagnant in the pit of my stomach –
I have wanted to die, but never like this.
The sun slants in through the sheer slip
of curtain, stretches itself thin on this
hospital bed, kisses the stubble on my legs,
& it is beautiful in that it has nothing to do with you.



Emma Tulloch is a writer and student who was raised by the ocean, currently lives in the city, and can’t decide which existence is the lonelier one. This is her first published work. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @emmaelizabetht.