This Love Will Destroy You | by Cathy Ulrich

     You are going to fall in love. After the world ends, the cities fall, you are going to meet someone. You are going to fall in love.

     Maybe he will have thick eyebrows and two missing teeth. So many people will be missing teeth then, hollow mouths. Maybe he’ll have an inadvertent whistle whenever he says south, sky, sea, turn his head, redden.

     It doesn’t matter, you’ll say. You’ll still have most of your teeth, wiggle them gingerly at night, lying on your back in the dark. Look up at the sky, remember flossing, remember braces.

     Do you remember dentists? you’ll say to the man you love.

     Yes, he’ll say. I remember dentists.

     Maybe he’ll have a scar on his forehead, the back of his right hand, the left side of his torso. Maybe he’ll carry a sharpened stick in his hand. That’s all that will be left then, sharpened sticks and butter knives, lighters that flick and flick and never catch. Cans of onion cream soup, more water than flavor. You will have mastered the art of opening a can of onion cream soup with a butter knife, the sharp edge of a rock.

     Maybe he’ll smile when he sees you. People will still smile then, more out of habit than anything. Smile, hiding their missing teeth behind their lips. Maybe he will smile; maybe he will call out to you.

     Or you will call out to him.

     When you were young, you used to fall in love. Teenage kisses in movie theater, clammy hands clasped together. Whispered endearments: darlings, honeys, dears. Whispered I will always love yous. Even if the world ends. Except you didn’t think it would end, really. Not the world, or the love either. Everything felt so permanent, felt so solid.

     We’ll always be in love, you said, right? and traced your shaking hand over their collarbones.

     Look, you said. I’m trembling.

     After the world ends, you are going to fall in love again.

     Maybe he will have a disease that is killing him, something quiet and devastating. Maybe you will, a devouring from the inside. Maybe you will both be healthy, as healthy as any people at the end of the world can be. Maybe you will just be hungry, hands catching on a can of onion cream soup in an otherwise empty convenience store.

     We’ll share? he’ll say. We’ll share?

     Maybe there won’t be enough onion cream soup for sharing. Maybe in this withered, dying world, it will be dog eat dog, every man for himself. Your hands will brush as you both reach for the last can of onion cream soup on the dusty shelf. Your butter knives will clatter as they hang on your waist.

     When your hands meet, you will feel it: a coming apart, a spasming of atoms. He’ll reach for his sharpened stick. You’ll clutch a butter knife in your hand.

     Look, you’ll say. I’m trembling.

 

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Cathy Ulrich makes a creamy onion soup that is really yummy. Her work has been published in a variety of journals, including Whiskey Paper, Wigleaf and jmww.

Two Flash Fictions | by Elizabeth Moura

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Old World Vignette

     July was sweltering the year I turned six. One stifling afternoon the old Portuguese women in my neighborhood sat on their front steps to catch a breeze. Hiking up their printed cotton house dresses they arranged themselves on the concrete and flapped their aprons towards their faces or wiped their faces on them. A couple of them sat with their stockings rolled down below their knees so their calves bulged. Two women three houses down from each other carried on a loud simultaneous conversation over their perturbed next door neighbors.

     All the women were so distracted they didn’t see two crows fly in and land on the wires over their heads.

     When there was a lull in the loud conversation the two birds cawed. All the women looked up. Two screamed, three crossed themselves, and all stumbled up the steps into their houses slamming the doors behind them. The crows cawed again and flew away.

 

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Elizabeth Moura lives in a converted factory in a small city and works with elders in a small town. She has had poetry, flash fiction or photographs published in several publications including The Heron’s Nest, Chrysanthemum, Ardea, Presence, Shamrock, Paragraph Planet and Flash Fiction Magazine.

The World is Full of Burning Dogs | by Nicholas Grider

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NARRATOR
America.

The United States of America.

Ladies and gentlemen, the United States of America.

A great place from which to begin to get lost.

A scam, a sham, a floorshow, a full-time funtime wonderland. A full-body scan, an “in the out door.” Whereupon things, being such as they are, a desert night with desert floor. Will get you nowhere. With a flare of rockets. With a shady past and four or five second chances, it sounds good to say this, ladies and gentlemen…

ladies and gentlemen….

this is your last chance. The great white hope, the linoleum calluses on your hands, your feet, your face. The mouth, the teeth, the tip of the tongue. All lit up and nowhere to go. A floorshow for the boys, the end of the world as local color, the end of the world as we know it. Out in the desert a succession of nights, a secession of night, a badass climax to a plain and tall fairytale. Out from under your skirts a Kalashnikov, maybe, or a supply line and I don’t want this to sound like I’m making this up I’m not making this up I’m making this up.

You go along to get along. Freely moving around within the borders of, is this where you actually live and where do you live and who are you anyway, tied to a chair in an otherwise empty room on party night, a nice face and a nightlight to call home.

A desert full of accusations. The hills have eyes; if those guys were real they’d already be dead. Beyond all comparison. The green of night-vision having a life of its own, a place to call its own, a pink mist. Ladies and gentlemen,

as if after a long silence

as if after a long silence

forget everything you thought you knew and pedal-metal it. Four to the floor because that’s the way the bodies pile up, stay where you are and nobody gets hurt. Instead of a lifesize action figure, instead of a monster truck with slit windows for bows and arrows, instead of the slings and arrows an otherwise empty room.

A glimmer of promise. The desert floor is mostly continuous. The war is always somewhere else, and where are you, and who invited you, and how much time do you have to react, and what are you hiding, and what are you.

A loose association. A loosened tooth. Loosely defined intentions; consult a physician. Or you’re golden and powernapped and here again the premise of the sun goes down, which sets the stage. It’s not about a 50 meter drop from a helicopter. It’s not about boxers vs. briefs, late nights with hired help, party nights, late to the party, ladies and gentlemen, you say, ladies and gentlemen

but this is not permitted

But you’re getting ahead of yourself again. Back to the beginning, dehydration and HUMINT and PSYOPS you could be someone somewhere right now, a first person field test, an otherwise empty place to call home.

Casings as big as fat fingers. As big as severed thumbs. You know the history of violence, you don’t need to get into it, that old glow. This is your floorshow, you say, ladies and gentlemen

plus all the waiting

a cloud produced at noon by a stream of piss hitting the desert floor. And you could call yourself a witness of a certain kind, a certain attenuated way, you hold still and wait patiently for what comes next, between the bursts of artillery there’ a lot of silence to archive and deal with.

If those guys were real, you’d say, they’d already be dead.

Late night into a field search for altered scrub brush and what’s a better nightcap than a few fired rounds. A few odds and ends and evidence. A contental drift. There’s fire at eight o’clock and you’re in the back seat decluttering your head for the floor show, a lot of directionless noise

the shots at night, no fire from the muzzles or somewhere you lost it, a million new strategies for dealing with the populace, a million eligible bachelors in a million well-worn rooms, pacing. A kind of war room of the mind. Ladies and gentlemen, you would say, allow me a few moments of your time.

Allow me to say something on your behalf.

Allow me to bury you.

Forty minutes of nonsense noise and then it’s lights and sirens and a pot to piss in. A series of internal crests and valleys. You were out there you would say with kneepads on and face twisted and hands burnt and an endangered species of specimens and if you hold your breath, a brushfire. Written out of the history books. Lost menace and the gunmount above your head thuds hollow, or the gun is placed against your arm, pressed close enough for safety. This is you welcome wagon; this is what your world is like. This is your best guess, wolves in a wolfpack. Calculating the odds.

The world is full of burning dogs.

Go back where you came from and massage the details, the M-4, the M-15. You don’t accidentally get your face twisted off in a clean flash and you’re the witness, all you can do is white tent it with a pot to piss in. Even the taste of the water is subject to change, you get your chipped ice from the PX because who knows what’s still buried in the desert floor.

And there’s still a lot of space to cover but it’s way over there, a lateral slide, now you know where you are exactly and it’s not a high desert, it’s not a sandbox in Central Europe, it’s not a lost cause, it’s a host of afflictions. Like a rash or pest. This is your best guess, fifty-cal or gun it, sand in every crevice and the bad guy hotel blown down by the wind. And that’s just the past.

The past is what, you might have said, you might have witnessed. In sum or in part, a few jerking bodies and some professional blood. A few internal puffs of smoke, ladies and gentlemen, you would say,

where are you now

where were you when

what can we do but pack light and practice hand-to-hand. You get yourself down on the desert floor you get your big ideas organized you get your boot heel in his open mouth and step down hard.

You get yourself lost. The United States of America, a place where you can get yourself lost. A few disciple-ready face men by the roadside. A place where you can learn how to tote a gun.

Believe me, ladies and gentlemen, you would say, these memories are not yours, and never were, and what’s more the tape runs out before the story ends. What’s more the false witness, the collateral damage, the line in the sand. If only,

you would say, if only.

False starts and pressed flesh and flashed grins. You suit-and-tie it to the office block if you’re a lucky stiff. A few years off your life from staring at a meaningful flicker. The chairs knocked over in the war room, the class dismissed, this history is not yours and never was. Maps and legends for afterhours. Alone in a room with nothing to do other than wait, you would say, and no history, no circumstance.

Whatever you have to do to save yourself.

Whatever it was you did that set the rockets off. Your vocabulary stripped down because it’s May it’s night it’s in the past or you never were actually shot or it was all collateral noise. A promise or premise from which to start. With or without a bleeding heart.

Whatever you have said, you’d say, is yours alone and said and done. A sad clown and the setting sun.

You’d say, lest we forget. You’d say lets shake on it. If your past were real it would already be dead.

The wheels roll and the civilians get out of their cars in the desert in order to scream and what’s of note is it’s wordless. Call of the wild.

Ladies and gentlemen, you’d say, a few sad songs burning down the house. A last chance. A civil war from which to go forth,

ladies and gentlemen,

ladies and gentlemen. You’d say,

all of this is in the past now and you can come home with a dent in your head and an internal sea of glass.

Ladies and gentlemen this is contemporary history, you would say, this is the story of your life, the past is boots on ground and if you were real you’d already be dead and this is how you say goodnight—all you do is say….

                                        Fast lights out.

 

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Nicholas Grider is the author of the story collection Misadventure (A Strange Object, 2014) and a chapbook under the name Owen Merth (Imipolex, 2015). He lives in Milwaukee and you can find him on Twitter but he’s not sure that’s a good idea.

 

 

Fresh as the Day | by Zack Peercy

Characters: Maggie, 24, could be anyone.
Setting: Maggie’s bedroom, dark with a spill of moonlight.

The door to the bedroom opens, the hallway light momentarily illuminates the room before the door is closed by MAGGIE, who goes to her bed. She sits on her bed, almost dazed, then falls back onto it. She digs in her pocket. She throws something small to the ground of her bedroom. The object is the size and shape of a small action figure. Maggie is silent. Breathing.

MAGGIE: Every year, you do this to me…

Maggie rises from the bed and paces near the object.

MAGGIE: I didn’t know, okay? How could I know? I get it now!

Maggie kneels down and picks up the object.

MAGGIE: Do you hear me? I get it now. And I’m sorry! Just tell me what I need to do!

She shakes the object, but as always, there’s no response. She places it down gently. She sits on the ground next to it.

MAGGIE: For awhile, I thought I’d get used to it. I thought it would be something I could handle, you know? I’d set aside the day, make sure I’d be ready for whenever you’d pop up, but it was always a surprise. Always the one moment when I’d feel relief; like you weren’t coming this year. On my sixteenth, my friends threw me that surprise party, and when they jumped out, I screamed. But it wasn’t because they had scared me. It was because I could feel you in my pocket. In that exact moment. Just got a little heavier.

Maggie puts her head in her hands, remembering.

MAGGIE: I tried to put you back.

Maggie lays herself down on the ground, next to the object. Looking down on it.

MAGGIE: Did you know that? Were you aware? I tried to put you back two years ago. My parents sold the house, but the new owners let me into the backyard. I had told them it was for “sentimental purposes”. They probably thought someone had died. Little did they know…

Maggie lightly touches the object.

MAGGIE: But it didn’t work. Obviously. Because here you are again, right? You know what I can’t get used to? I can’t get used to the hair. Sixteen years, I’ve pulled you out of my pocket and every time, when my thumb touches the hair on your head, a chill goes up my spine. I know it’s coming, I always know it’s coming, but it’s like my brain refuses to believe it’s possible.

Maggie lays down on the ground next to the small body.

MAGGIE: Your wings were so beautiful. I think that’s how I even noticed you. It was like a flash of a rainbow. I was always good at swatting flies, or catching frogs… This was just one more thing. I snatched you so quick and stuffed you in my pocket, I didn’t even hear the snap. Mom was lighting the candles on the cake… When I felt for you later, you were gone. I thought I had imagined it.

Maggie sits up and picks up the small body.

MAGGIE: I was just a kid… It was instinct more than anything…

Maggie feels the small body.

MAGGIE: Fresh as the day I snatched you…

Maggie begins to cry. She clutches the small body close to her own.

MAGGIE: Please… please… I can’t do it anymore… I’m sorry, I don’t… please…

Maggie pulls her hands away from her body. They’re empty. She lets out a broken scream. She collapses onto the floor. She cries. The moonlight in her room fades until…

Blackout.

 

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Zack Peercy is a young playwright and screenwriter currently based out of Chicago. His work has been published by Every Day Fiction, Toasted Cheese Magazine, Eunoia Review, The Sandy River Review, and a few others. He is personally offended when people don’t respond to emails in a timely manner. Please send him compliments. He’s always sad.

Eugene Needs Fruit! | by Brandon Stadnicki

     “I need fruit!” screams Eugene, punching a hole through his bedroom wall. “I need it so I can get strong. I absolutely must get strong.”

     He sticks his face into the hole.

     “But I’m naked and I can’t go to the store naked. I’m exposed. Vulnerable. They’ll kill me in there. I need to prepare myself. Anything could happen.”

     He dresses himself and opens his wallet.

     “Seven dollars. The exact amount of dollars I need for fruit. Almost ready for my adventure. So close. Just need one more item.”

     He goes into the kitchen and takes a pair of pliers from the junk drawer.

     “Never know when you’ll need to ply.”

     He puts the pliers in his pocket and steps out of his apartment. The landlord is waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. He hands Eugene some papers. Eugene doesn’t look at them. He points to the sun.

     “Hey, goofball,” he says, “the sun is shining, which means no werewolfs. Pretty good news for you, scaredy cat.”

     “I’m going to evict you, Eugene. Because I don’t like you and your hair is ugly.”

     “I don’t care. I don’t care about that and I don’t care about you. You’re not my close friend. You’re nothing. My apartment is nothing. My hair is nice. I’m going to get fruit.”

     Eugene pushes the landlord down and throws the papers in his face. The landlord starts crying. Eugene gathers the papers and hands them to the landlord. He kisses the landlord’s cheek and wipes away his tears. He jogs toward the store.

     A disheveled man approaches Eugene on the sidewalk.

     “Hi, beautiful,” says the man. “Can I please have some of your money? I’m disheveled.”

     “How dare you,” says Eugene. “Fruit costs precisely seven dollars so that’s how many I brought with me: precisely seven. What, you don’t want me to get fruit?”

     He pushes the man down.

     “You don’t want me to get strong, assboy?”

     He pulls the pliers from his pocket and holds the man down by the throat. He plies the teeth from the disheveled man’s mouth and collects them in his pocket. He stabs the man in the temple with his pliers. Blood gets on him. He tosses the pliers at a nearby bush and leaves.

     Eugene enters the store. The cashiers all turn and smile at him.

     “Eugene’s here,” they say. “Welcome, Eugene. We love you.”

     “Thanks, idiots. Here, I got something for you.”

     He holds out a handful of bloody teeth. The cashiers walk over to him crouch to eat the teeth out of his hand. He strokes their heads.

     “Yeah, that’s good, huh? Good, good, good. Now you’ll get strong.”

     Eugene walks to the produce section.

     “The Fruit Kingdom!” he shouts. “Everyone come over here, to the Fruit Kingdom!”

     Customers and cashiers gather round. One of the customers has a baby in a baby carriage.

     “I have a baby. Do you like it?”

     Eugene stoops to look at the sleeping baby.

     “Oof. Oof. No, I really, really don’t like it. It’s pretty awful. But watch this.”

     He picks the baby up and walks over to a mound of cabbages. He buries the sleeping baby underneath the cabbages.

     “Cabbage patch.”

     He picks up the baby carriage and throws it a few feet. Then he rubs his chin.

     “Hmm… I wonder who wants me to play the saxophone now…”

     “We all do, of course,” says a customer, handing Eugene a saxophone. “Here, use mine.”

     “Thanks, moron,” says Eugene. He pushes the owner of the saxophone down. “This is a song about how I need fruit.”

     Eugene plays a heartbreaking solo. Customers and cashiers weep.

     Eugene stops playing.

     “Stop crying. Stop it. I’m trying to be serious. But since you eggheads can’t act mature, I’ll play something else. This is a song about getting strong.”

     Eugene plays a jaunty tune. Customers and cashiers dance.

     Eugene stops playing.

     “Okay now we all need to settle down. We’re too rambunctious right now. Too much razzle dazzle. We need to cool our jets, okay? We need to just sit and be quiet for a while.”

     Everyone sits. Everyone is quiet for a while.

     Eugene stands.

     “Okay, everyone. Business as usual.”

     Customers shop. Cashiers use the cash registers. Eugene selects some strawberries and a cantaloupe. He waits in the checkout line. When it’s his turn he stands on the conveyor belt and looks down at the cashier.

     “Hey, lady. I have an idea: when you and the other cashiers said ‘We love you’ to me did you mean it? Does your face burn for my kisses? My tender kissie wissies? Because if you’re in true love with me I’ll share my fruit with you. And I’ll even play you a pretty song on the saxophone. It’ll be a song about us getting married over and over forever.”

     “I don’t know,” she says. “I don’t know if my heart is ready to be in true love with you.”

     “Well okay, because hand me a bottle of water.”

     She gets him a bottle of water from the cooler and returns to the cash register.

     “Look at my shirt,” says Eugene. “It’s red so that makes me like a fire truck.”

     He opens the bottle of water.

     “And you’re dumb so that makes you a fire.”

     He pours the water on her head.

     “I don’t appreciate what you did to me,” she says. “Now I know that my heart will never be in true love with you.”

     “That makes me feel extremely gloomy. The only thing I wanted in my life was your goofy little hand in marriage. Now being married will never happen to me.”

     “That’s fine. I’ll probably have a boyfriend soon.”

     He gives her seven dollars and she puts his berries and melon into a bag. He takes the bag and hops off of the conveyor belt. He grabs a fistful of candy bars.

     “I’m not going to pay for these.”

     Eugene walks to the doors. He turns around.

     “Hey, everyone, listen up. Tomorrow I’m gonna come here with a lot of bombs. Like probably a hundred. Really big ones. I’m gonna put the bombs all over the store and then as soon as I leave the bombs will explode. If you wanna die, please be here at two o’clock tomorrow afternoon. Oh and don’t forget to take that baby out from under the lettuce or whatever and put it back. Bye.”

     Eugene leaves. He looks at the full moon shining high in the sky.

     “The moon is a dork.”

     He throws candy bars at parked cars. He throws one at a lizard. He gets on his hands and knees and starts crawling home. When he gets to the disheveled corpse two police officers stop him.

     “Hey, can you help us?” says one, looking down at Eugene.

     “Probably not. I’m down in the dumps.”

     “What’s the matter, buddy?” says the other officer.

     Eugene stands.

     “Well, I wanted true love and marriage with the lady at the store. But she ripped my heart out and put it in the trash, even though I’m really good at saxophone, all because I poured water on her dumb head. I don’t think I’ll ever feel smiley again, even though I got fruit and I’m gonna get strong when I get home.”

     “I know just the ticket,” says one of the police officers. “Helping us solve this mystery will help you feel better about yourself.”

     “Okay, let’s give it a shot. What’s the boneheaded mystery you two crackerjack numbskulls need help with?”

     “We’re trying to figure out who killed this man here,” says the other police officer, pointing at the corpse, “but the full moon makes us too afraid of werewolfs to concentrate on the mystery.”

     “I’m too afraid of werewolfs to concentrate, too,” says the first police officer.

     “Werewolfs are not scary to me, a very brave kind of guy,” says Eugene. “If a whole bunch of werewolfs came up to me and tried to challenge me, I wouldn’t care. I’d just be like, oh hey, bogus punks! You want some of this biz?”

     He punches and kicks the air around him. The bag of fruit swings and hits one of the police officers in the face. Eugene stops punching and kicking.

     “I feel much safer with you here,” says the police officer who was hit with the fruit.

     “Please help us solve the mystery of the dead person, brave boy,” says the other.

     “I don’t think I can help you with that. I’m not good at mysteries. But watch this.”

     Eugene gets the bloody pliers from the bush. One of the officers gasps.

     “How did you know the murder weapon was in the bush?”

     “Sometimes murder weapons are in bushes,” says Eugene, kneeling beside the corpse. “You just have to check. Can we please focus here? For once?”

     “Hey, look! Dried blood is on you,” says the other officer. “We’re getting just a teensy bit suspicious, brave boy.”

     “I already know about the blood. I work at a hospital and also I’m a butcher. My jobs make blood get on me. And it’s not even real blood, so stop it. Knock it off. I’m down in the dumps, remember?”

     “I’m not suspicious anymore,” says a police officer. “I’m sorry.”

     “Me too. You had really good reasons, about the murder weapon and the blood.”

     “I don’t forgive you and I never will. Now pay attention.”

     Eugene plies the fingernails from the corpse’s hands. He stands.

     “Okay now watch what I do. Do like this.”

     He eats a fingernail and offers the rest to the police officers. They squat to eat the fingernails out of his hand. He strokes their heads.

     “Good, huh? This’ll help you solve the mystery. This’ll help you get strong.”

     “I feel it,” says one police officer, swallowing. “I feel like I’m getting strong now.”

     “I definitely feel like I’m also getting strong,” says the other. “And I’m not lying.”

     “Whoa! Hey! Gimme that fucking thing,” says Eugene, tapping a police officer’s gun.

     “That’s too dangerous for you, silly baby. C’mon now. Safety first.”

     The police officer gives Eugene the gun.

     “The other police can have a gun. The other police is mature. I can tell.” He puts the gun in the bag with the fruit. “I’m keeping these pliers because I lost mine today and I have a lot of things I need to ply. And don’t tell me I can’t have them because remember, I am very heartbroken.” He puts the pliers in his pocket. “If someone calls the police tomorrow and says someone put bombs all over the store, just ignore it. They’re lying. And the clue to your mystery is that a werewolf probably did it. And you’re probably next. Bye.”

     Eugene lies on the ground and rolls along the sidewalk to his apartment. He drops the pliers on the floor. He walks into the bedroom. The landlord is in his bed with the covers pulled up to his chin. He’s wearing a nightcap.

     “I’m too sleepy to evict you today. But I still don’t like you and your hair is still ugly.”

     “Cry me a river, candy ass. I got a girlfriend today. Her heart is in true love with me. And I solved a murder mystery. And obviously, I got fruit, just like I promised you I would. Look.”

     He shows the landlord the gun.

     “That’s not fruit. It’s a gun.”

     Eugene puts the gun back in the bag.

     “I told you a lie about my girlfriend. She will never love me and she wants me to die. And I tricked the police into thinking a werewolf killed the guy that I killed earlier.”

     “That does not interest me. Nothing about your life interests me. I don’t like you.”

     Eugene snatches the landlord’s nightcap and throws it on the floor. The landlord starts crying. Eugene gives him back his nightcap and kisses his forehead. The landlord stops crying. Eugene shows him the fruit.

     “Okay, you got fruit. So what? I’m going to evict you tomorrow when I’m not sleepy.”

     “Please don’t. Anyway do you have bombs? I promised my friends down at the store that I’d bring some bombs tomorrow. They’re really looking forward to it. I can’t let them down.”

     “I don’t have bombs. You know this about me, Eugene.”

     “You shut your ditzy little mouth and go to sleep.”

     The landlord yawns and rolls over. Eugene goes into the bathroom and drops the strawberries into the toilet one by one. “Oops,” he says as each strawberry hits the water. He slams the cantaloupe on the counter and slowly drops clumps of melon gut into the toilet. “Oops, oops, oops.” He fires all of the bullets into the toilet. “Oops.” The strawberries and cantaloupe guts swim with shards of porcelain in the pool of water on the floor. He kneels and picks up a strawberry. He puts it in his mouth. He spits it out. He returns to the bedroom and drops the gun into the hole in the wall. He takes off his clothes and puts his face into the hole.

     He sighs.

 

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Brandon Stadnicki is frequently polite.

twitter: @dentiphage

Let it Be Our Secret | by Lesley C Weston

My lover and I do not like conflict. We have worked very hard, sometimes denied ourselves and each other of everything, in order to deflect discovery by real trouble.
But secrets are the trouble-seeds of virulent petri-dishes,, the greater the secret the more potent the bug and faster its replication.

Go ahead. Imagine a laboratory.

Imagine the doctor-man between my love and me as Frankenstein’s monster-maker and imagine his creation not as the dancing with top hat Mel Brook’s version played by Peter Boyle- imagine Shelly’s original monster, and hear his berserker cracked voice demanding a mate from his creator.

When denied, imagine the collage gone wrong’s multiplied wrath and feel those hammer and tong hands go to work disassembling his maker’s brother, and then snuffing the light from his creator’s newly-wed bride.

Think of me as Dr. Frankenstein’s second terrible creation. Think of me as the intended, the promised inamorata of his first, catastrophic experiment. Think of me as the product of the monster’s rib, a newly minted Eve.

Think now of the monster happily ransacking the laboratory for his favorite after-pulling-the-wings-off his bride snack. But instead of rice crackers and low-cal-jam, he finds (hidden behind the bottles of Monster-Viagra, and the Jumbo Monster Tooth Whitener) the petri-dishes of our fermenting big and the small secrets. There in the wisps of sub-zero vapor, scraping ice off the hand-written labels, my keeper, the monster, discovers on the frigid shelf: the virus of true, a culture of love, a speckle of hope, and glowing green agar of Monster Bane.

 

Yes, you see now, don’t you? My lover is an innocent. But I am made of the monster’s own bone, animated by the same hot-white fire that created him. The Monster-bane is my very own secret. Created from my own spilled blood, it is
a deadly virus.

Together, my lover and I did not like conflict, but now- separated by my fear of discovery, abandoned-in my unexplained terror of a monstrous vengeance snuffing out her precious life- my lover, who was way smarter than even I gave credit, denies herself everything to keep real trouble from discovering me. And alone with the monster, I weary of this half-life. My lover’s loneliness is also a constant torment.

Now, imagine the Monster-Groom has discovered my lover’s whereabouts and he has carried her up the face of a snow-crusted mountain with the intention of crushing her and, with her, forever destroying my beating heart.

Imagine her struggling to see if I too am found, if I too am in trouble.

Imagine her fear.

Imagine her relief when she does not see me.

Imagine me following.

 

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Lesley C Weston lives on a Sweet meadow surrounded by surly trees. She writes fiction, and reads to her large and overly anxious genius dog. Her stories may be found in Narrative Magazine, Smokelong Quarterly, The MacGuffin, Ars Medica, Caketrain, Opium Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, and Per Contra, among others.

My Friend America | by Nick Soluri

Albany rainy days
open the doors and greet me
with a smile.
Tea with the Deep South,
my grandmother,
on the back porch,
listening to Conway Twitty,
smoking Carolina leaves,
filling my lungs with love.

She’s got problems, man.
She cries on my shoulder,
for years, generations, with
regret and sadness.
There is no coming back
from what she’s done.
I say to only love now,
though she won’t listen.

It’s a shame,
my friend America,
you’re beautiful,
and you know it.
The world is dying
to see you come
alive again.

 

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Nicholas Soluri is a sophomore at Union College in New York, studying English. He has been previously published in The Slag Review, and The Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine. He currently lives in North Carolina.

Twitter: @nerkcelery