weird fruit sells us at grocery store sale prices. winter outside. cold brings in unexpected want for sun brings in want for petalling bodies shooting straight from soil want for tangy for tropics. so, weird fruit. cornerstore marketplace vendor with big brown eyes & crimson cheeks flushed hot from the chilled snow says try says taste in winding words vectored with beauty absent from American dialect. she says pick it up please and taste it, just taste it, so with the fruit in our two mouths we chew and swallow another place teeming with ferns holding fan branches high above the palms the coconuts swaying swaying swaaayyyyying then clapping falling tumbling into our tender moist hands. we buy lots. we buy so much weird fruit from wondrous places we wonder if we truly belong here. so we leave the next day, one-way to madagascar where there are plenty of weird fruits fruiting weird seeds growing weird trees. we meet locals underneath a canopy of violet and near neon nile of chlorophyll countering crabbish crayon-brown bark. they wear the most gorgeous dresses of nothing, their skin glinting sunlight into our fresh baby eyes as they lead us through the jungles and translucent insects and endangered cryptids with locks of decagonal cranium sectors sectioned into rows like wheat or barley. the locals tells us they’re nonthreatening and lead our tender calloused fingers to the many tails of the creatures, lending us the softness of the languid feathers, thousands of them, hundreds of thousands stranding from the mewing presences, their heads topping the canopy. the locals tend to the parasites loathing in the cryptids’ skin. we move on. we move on. we move on for days and days and weeks until we are sure the locals have taken us off of madagascar to another place unmapped uncharted untouched. it is true. there are deserts with craigy bluffs, dunes sprinkled with camel spiders and quick lizards, jungle and more jungle, the outer layers of swampy wetlands teething marigold roots sunk into the algae seas. there are fountains of rushing stream water from chopping bricks of glass walls rising from the center of the dunes in thousand-foot exclamations. there are tribes that kiss us with green lips and embrace us with arms of maroon silk. garbed all in flash red robes the group, all of us, even the children, rise to the top of the tallest glass wall through a waterfall. the sun sinks as an orange half-circle resting on the sand. at the top of the glass wall is an edge six feet wide and miles and miles long with weeping willows lining the edges with grace and fluidity, the teary branches sinking to the glass with tiny fruits of baby blue that radiate a menthol coolness. the locals pick one for each of us. we eat them. we chew. swallow. we are swallowed.



the caves we splash into are all green with glowing radon bacteria that gasp with our presence, a sound that trembles the air wafting through the coliseum caverns. my goodness, they all say in one perfect candor, my goodness we have guests! they scramble to clean their gutters and sweep the rock floors but we tell them there is no need to go through such effort for only two hunters of weird fruit. the taste from the last weird fruit is still hanging on our tongues by a sweet string, something of mint of cherries of mango. the bacteria say my oh my, if you’re searching for weird fruit, we’ve got something for you for sure yes yes! they all stand on tiny legs and the green caves turn into dark caves as the creatures undulate like pacific heartbeat and lead us through tunnels and cracks to a lush garden with a pond of lilies and frogs hopping to and fro between them. the bacteria rush two frogs in midair and bring them to us, a mass shaped like two offering hands. the frogs sit still, chirping in their own tongue. weird fruit! the bacteria say. these are frogs, we tell them, confused. the bacteria giggle, bobbling the pond water. weird fruit! they say again, this time gently pressing the frogs into our lips. the taste…hearty apple mixed with a seedy lemon…a bubbling, a carbonation that fizzles upon our skin…we bite. bite. weird fruit. bite and the frog-fruit juices up red with black crunchy spots as seeds. juices up with the weird blood. dribbling down our chins. there is a horror in the spraying, dripping, gushing frog-fruit blood-juice that we have to laugh and laugh, laugh through the mastication, laugh through the pond, laugh into the pond, laugh below the pond, where there is total darkness, and the neon green radon bacteria wave goodbye with two hands making peace signs, giggling mischievously as we sink sank sunk.



in the pristine blackness we roll quickly and quietly along a damp carpet, a declining hallway. we stay silent. we stay hidden, curled up into fetal defenses, warm embraces of the selves. we cease movement and open our eyes to a single six-foot rod of thin blue light three inches from us bursting from the dark. it is a wavering glitch. it is lovely. we touch it together, our hands brushing each other brushing a something so soft it could only have come from within someone somewhere. there is no pain or fear in the rod. there is no happiness or apathy in the rod, either. the rod merely is. here, with us. it pulses with each brush of finger and releases us into memories shared together thick and thin and in between the brushes of time. it inserts itself into us. there on the playground the blue rod watchfully catches me falling from snapping swing chains. it pushes you to move out of the abuse of your childhood home and takes you, 17, to a man, 25, who looks after you, who loves largely, unstoppable in his drive to protect. the rod teaches each of us latin. french. mandarin. my favorite is hindi. your favorite is japanese. the rod ignites before our eyes into flames that reach farther than space, up to barely visible stars. its fire swirls across the galaxy, collecting into two condensed cubes that then plummet back down and tenderly float onto our outstretched tongues. we fuse together, you and I, limb into unto limb into unto head into unto mouth with the sensation of love bee sting love bee sting and flavor of everything, flavor of creation as we become one flesh one body one and rise as one body still fusing through the darkness through the caves and shoot out as a flesh tree through the surface dunes, our hair growing as branches, our eyes gone but we can still look and see the locals standing below the glass waterfall and smiling, they’re weeping, joyous as we extend the length of the desert and jungle and swamp, lifting our branches and drooping them down as one willow one one. the locals pick something from a branch. it is pink with thin skin. they take bites. their eyes grow big. every one of them gifts us a kiss with the sweetest lips.



Alec Ivan Fugate is an award-winning writer lurking in the wetlands of northeastern Indiana. His work has been published in Confluence and Bending Genres. His debut novel is nearly ready to release into the moon by circus cannon.

Judy stands in the produce section at Food Oasis. The store is sampling a new product: crabbedapples. Essentially, on the outside they look like crabapples, and on the inside they have the texture and flavor of shredded crab meat. Judy is third in line. He wants one so bad; he’s been waiting for almost an hour, craving that tart salty juice, that first crisp bite, that wet pop.


Judy is at the beach. He leaves his family to continue his search for sand dollar chunks and hermit crabs. An older kid in a polo and khaki shorts approaches him and asks if he wants to see a nest of baby ducks. He follows him underneath the pier. There are no ducklings.


Judy admires the packaging; the apples come in grey cartons like blushing eggs. Each customer is allotted one to taste and/or a half-dozen to purchase. How many calories are in these? a person asks over Judy’s shoulder.


Judy is sitting at the kitchen table, wearing Powerpuff Girls pajama pants and a Panthers jersey. His father sets a bowl of unseasoned scrambled egg whites before him on the placemat. Eggs’ll make your hair long and silky. But never eat the yolks—they make you fat.


Judy is finally first in line. The crabbedapple-hawking person wipes yellowy liquid onto their white apron and smiles. Hello! …sir? I mean, ma’am, I mean uhhh… Hello! I’m Carl, your local crabbedapple pharmer. Have you tried them yet? You can really taste the lack of pesticides. Carl gestures to an ice bucket, and Judy selects an apple. Holds it by the stem, twirls it between his fingers. Gently pinches, then bites.


Judy is between two men trying to retrieve an over-filled martini from the bar. A bearded whisper on his ear: I like your boots. Judy turns around. Marc. They talk. For awhile. You’re so funny, Marc says. Judy moves closer, anticipating a kiss. It’s too bad you’re… you know. He squeezes Judy’s tit and laughs. I am pretty drunk though… wanna suck me off in the bathroom? He does.


Judy wants more than his allotted share of apples. Something in his brain has switched, unlocked. He needs them. Grabs handfuls of apples and ice and fills his pockets. People in line try to restrain him, but he breaks free, toppling a pyramid of gallon jugs of Baja Blast margarita mix and a display of tequila-infused jelly lime wedges.


Judy is with his mother at the bank. He stares at a jar of candy fruit slices too high to reach. What color you want, shug? The teller gives Judy an orange one. Yeah you know how to suck on that. In the car, Judy’s mother lectures him about eating around grown men. It’s not that it’s you I don’t trust, it’s…


Judy slips in the melting ice from the spilled crabbedapple cooler. He lies there motionless, hoping to disintegrate or die, as the other customers scavenge the pilfered apples from his pants and the surrounding floor. By his head, someone pauses their shopping cart, smells like Lysol and clove oil.


Judy is lying in a dental chair. He closes his eyes and visualizes himself aerially, watching his body from the ceiling, as his cardigan is pushed down to his elbows. Then breasts exposed. One nitrile hand wipes cum off an iris on the strap of his dress. Another wrests into his mouth, rubbering against his gums. You be careful with that tongue ring, missy. I’ve seen ‘em chip teeth.


Judy rolls onto his side and pulls a pair pliers out of his jeans. He removes a couple of his most easily-accessible teeth and plinks them into his front pocket. Fuck he sprays, semi-relieved. He stuffs a crabbedapple in the socket to absorb the blood. Twists his head up. Carl and the display are gone. By his leg, a CAUTION WET FLOOR cone. Everyone shops as usual. But twinkling at him under a nearby bin of coke-cumbers: one last stray crabbedapple. He army crawls toward it, the stripe of blood connecting the corner of his mouth to his ear now dripping down his jaw, the crowd parting around him obediently.



sally burnette is originally from North Carolina but currently lives in Boston. They read flash fiction for Split Lip Magazine. Recent work has appeared in Pittsburgh Poetry ReviewSixth FinchYes, Poetry and more.

Twitter: @dunebuggy12.

In the damp disco, we dance to forget. To disremember the boy named Billy who charmed us with ballads on his banjo. We want to undo the indentations he left on the fragile filaments of our flesh. Margie flags down a waitress and orders another round of Tomahawk shooters. Jess’s eyes are lowered, her body moving in smooth circular sequences. KellyAnne flips her pink, angry hair and shakes bra-less boobs in the direction of two guys in tight t-shirts. Sophie stares at me through swirls of smoke, her face brooding on a serious subject. I glance away, uncomfortable under her gaze, and concentrate on the cheap crystals creeping down from the ceiling. When my head swivels back, Sophie’s expression is softer, forgiving. We’ll get through this, Lucy, she seems to be saying.

Margie holds up her shot glass. “To the bastard!” With red-rimmed eyes, we drink.

We’re in the East Village, somewhere we’ve never been with Billy. Earlier, we scouted available apartments in the neighborhood; we need to vacate our uptown digs as soon as possible.

KellyAnne takes Sophie’s arms and drapes them around her bare midriff, and they sway in a downy embrace, attempting to attract the attention of the t-shirt guys. It works, partially. One cuts in and takes Sophie’s hand. The other whiffs our desperation and beelines for the bar.

“Fucking Sophie.” KellyAnne’s lips form a curl. “Always the top pick.”

But that wasn’t the way it happened with Billy.

We thought he was gay. He was better at dancing than Jess, better at empathy than Margie, better at baking than KellyAnne, better at acting than Sophie, and better at poetry than me. We welcomed Billy as a younger brother into our circle, as if the fivesome forged in our childhood had always been a sixsome.

Another round of drinks leaves us dizzy.

Now we know he was playing us. Now we know he wasn’t gay.

Was he lonely? Bored? Perhaps he thought this would make a good college essay or newspaper headline: “17-year-old seduces five young women from neighboring apartment.”

With whispered verses and gentle caresses, he carried us away with his charisma, swore each of us to secrecy.

I confess: I believed him. I bear the burden of his betrayal on my wrists. KellyAnne’s been cutting herself again. And the others? Their scars sit somewhere on the inner valleys of their souls.

The beat blares on and in the crush of steam and sweat on the dance floor, we blot out his treachery. The messy consequences.

We locked ourselves in the apartment, hurling hateful words and Jess’ grandmother’s dinner plates at each other before our rage rocketed outward. I sent back his sonnets with seething stanzas. Sophie and Jess deposited chards of glass into the belly of his banjo. Margie and KellyAnne clobbered him with curses.

Billy’s pleas for understanding were met with our battle cry: Let the building combust.

For days, we wailed and railed, until the super banged on our door. Have some respect for the family, he said. The boy next door has bled out in his bathtub.

Now we dance in dazed denial. We’re dissolving, but no one’s ready to completely detach from our unit.

I’m nauseous from the swaying strobe lights and Margie wipes away my perspiration with a cocktail napkin. The fire in KellyAnne’s face has dimmed to a ghoulish yellowish-white. Jess’ moves are slower. Sophie hugs herself.

In the middle of this nightmare, I am the one who noticed: we’re two months late with our periods. “Are you fucking kidding me?” Sophie said.

We dance to camouflage our uncertainty over our collective culpability, our anguish at losing our brother-lover. We swear fealty to the gods of drink, praying our bodies will take preventative action.

But we can’t rely on black magic. Tomorrow, Sophie says, we go to the clinic.


— End —



Julie Zuckerman hails from Connecticut but moved to Israel 23 years ago, where she works in high tech marketing and lives with her husband and four children. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Ellipsis, Riggwelter Press, Crab Orchard Review, SFWP Quarterly, Salt Hill, Sick Lit Magazine, Sixfold, descant, 34thParallel, The MacGuffin, andThe Dalhousie Review,  among others. She is working on a collection of linked stories and a novel. Twitter: @jbzuckerman

     If you’re really looking, you’ll spot one today.

     Go to the fruit & veg section of a supermarket. You’re looking for a young person, about fourteen to seventeen years old. They’ll be alone. They’ll be having problems. First thing you’ll notice will be the problems.

     Problems with expectations.

     Problems with expectations and boxes – being put in boxes when the box they belong in is not a box at all; when the concept of belonging will never involve boxes; when the concept of belonging is itself a box in which they don’t belong. And so on.

     Problems with preoccupations. Preoccupations, perhaps, with famous serial killers. Preoccupations with wondering if that’s an OK preoccupation to have. Preoccupations with interspersing their serial killer documentary wormholes with cute kitten videos, just in case karma is a real thing. Preoccupations with karma. And so on.

     Problems, wafting off them like cartoon stink rays. Wafting from the tops of their hunched shoulders, off every strand of their wild, electric blue hair.

     You’ll spot them pacing up and down the fruit & veg section, shifty eyed, checking out the price of the blueberries. This is to expend nervous energy. This is to blend in as well as they can. Really – when did a teenager ever care about the price of blueberries?

     No, it’s another fruit they’re after. It’s the melons. It’s that big, spherical watermelon with those, flat, slimy seeds. Watch them work their way towards the melon section.

     Watch them, but don’t let them spot you watching them.

     If they spot you watching them – if anything resembling eye contact happens – you’ll rabbit-in-the-headlights them.

     When they get rabbit-in-the-headlighted, they might vomit. They might vomit because reasons. Reasons like panic attacks. Panics attacks caused by expectations. Expectations and boxes. Expectations, boxes and anything that is not watching serial killer and cute kitten videos and thinking about karma.

     Plus, they don’t want you or anyone to know about the melon thing. Nobody can know what they have planned for the melon. If you know what they have planned for the melon, it would ruin what they have planned for the melon.

     So yeah, avoid eye contact. Pay for your groceries. Forget about them. They are not your problem.

     Melon? What melon?


     You’re home. You’re unpacking your groceries.

     You hear a rumbling in the distance. Or is it a squishing sound? Whatever it is, it is getting closer.

     You go outside to look.

     A giant water melon is careering down the street and they are inside it. You know it is them inside it because you notice a wind-swept tuft of that unmistakable electric blue hair protruding out of it.

     It rolls and bounces in your direction.

     Another giant melon comes into your line of sight. And another.

     Within seconds, there is a stampede of giant melons. Out of each melon protrudes a different colour of wild hair.

     The melons knock and bend lampposts as they go past. Car alarms are being set off. Potholes are being created. There are dogs are barking excitedly. There are people hitting ‘record’ and holding up their phones. Social media is going mental.

     Moving alongside the melons, you spot more people – also with wild hair and hunched shoulders and problems. These people are surfing on giant melon seeds, criss-crossing and weaving at breakneck speeds, carving up the tarmac.

     It is a veritable street parade of melon misfits.

     Together, they gather great momentum, the seed people utilising the slipstreams of the giant melons. Together, they reach the summit of a hill and shoot upwards like pink, green and black comets – their wild hair the tails.

     They take off, up into the clouds. The sky appears filled with multiple solar eclipses alongside giant flocks of migrating birds.

     All of you are out in the street now, watching this impromptu parade disappear into the sky, into dots, into outer space.

     It is not for any of you to know what they are doing up there. But, up there they are. Up there for a few years. Up there for however long it takes. Up there for don’t you even worry about it.

     Just you worry about the price of blueberries. Just you go back inside and unpack those groceries.

     One day, they will return to earth. They will return to earth with a bang, and they will be able to look you right in the eye, and no panic attack will be had for no reasons.

     One day, they will return to earth, where no boxes will be waiting for them. No expectations. No problems. Just a ton of preoccupations. Loud, proud, preoccupations.

     One day, they will return to earth together. For now, just you let those melons go up into the sky.



Neil Clark is a writer from Edinburgh, Scotland. This year, he has work coming out in Memoir Mixtapes, Cabinet of Heed, Riggwelter Press and Formercactus. Before this year, he didn’t know what an acceptance looked like. He has no idea what happened.

Twitter: @NeilRClark

     And then came the miasma, the pheromonal smog, that swathed the girls’ noses as they entered the fort. It smelled like boy, the clapboard hovel, the hideout Ricky built in the woods. Down back where the development ceased, where firs resumed their earthly reign, where the arboreal shield deflected grownup gaze, there squatted the fort, sub rosa. Ground-bound and tarp-roofed, assembled from found scraps, was the juvie’s approximation of animal architecture: whereby cigarette butts, shoelaces, gum wrappers, do industrious avifauna weave into nests; so did the kingpin, Ricky of the 6th grade, construct a bastion from trash in which to view smut. A floor of hourglasses, centerfold walls. It was supposed to be a secret.

     It wasn’t.

     You guys hear about the fort?

     Cia at the bus stop, tossing her braid, Cia chomping Bubblicious at 7 a.m. Artificially grape, the wad dyed her lips, glowed her teeth blue. She looked cold. In her early morning hand, a cracked-open can of Coke, sipped between chews. Breakfast.

     What fort? said the girls: neon slap bracelets, Hello Kitty backpacks, gelled bangs and Keds, puff-paint festooned. Clearasil faces and Bonne Bell lips, benzoyl peroxide and wand-applied gloss. They attended Hamilton Junior. They split two ages: the girls were eleven, Cia was twelve.

     Tell you in a sec—and Cia made the girls wait.

     Cia teased the world. She laughed in its face.

     The bus pulled up. The girls got on it. Beelined to the back, closest the fumes. They sat opposite Cia, huddled over the aisle. Shoved their backpacks wherever. Cia began.

     Okay so yesterday, yesterday after school, this boy comes around with a crumpled piece of paper. I was sitting on my swing, just hanging out, and he floated right past, like he was a ghost. He held the paper out front, like a dowsing rod, you know—that stick witches use to find underground water?

     The girls nodded like they knew what a dowsing rod was.

     Cia was into that mystical type stuff: wizards and dragons and fairies and crystals. Her full name was Cynthia—Cia for short—named for a Greek goddess by Cia’s cool mom. Cia’s cool mom rocked tie-dyed overalls. Cia’s cool mom rainbowed gems up her ears. Cia’s cool mom ate nothing had a pulse, drank nothing squeezed out an udder, ever. For this reason, Cia ravaged lunch money: on monstrous hamburgers and pints of evil dairy.

     So this kid goes back into the woods, back behind my house, looking for something.

     Cia expectorated her gum—with bubble still inflated—found a good spot, stuck it under her seat. To add to her collection, her menagerie, of stalactites: mini hot air balloons, ossified, suspended. Gulped the last of her fuel, rolled away the empty, the metallic ricocheting—ping ping ping! Cia perched her Converse on the puke-green bench. They were marigold All-Stars. They left diamond scuffs. NO FEET ON THE SEATS—to Cia did not apply. Cia was Cia. She was her own rule.

     So I followed him.

     The girls, at this, leaned closer, leaned in. Gnawed ponytails, chewed hangnails, pogoed knees, picked scabs. Cavalcade of habits, nerve-wracks, tics, composed the overture, What Would Cia Say Next? The bus consumed town, metabolized streets. Its accordion maw ingested live children.  It belched and it burped. It rumbled dyspeptic. Stuffed itself full. Groaned.

     Yeah so turns out there’s a fort back there. Basically it looks like a pile of junk. Ricky was inside, he yelled out ENTER, that kid crawled in—and then came another! One after the other like dumb little ants. I watched them for like an hour. I hid behind a trunk.

     The bus farted to a stop.

     Its red octagon flipped.

     A kid got on.

     It was Wey.

     Wey’s father died when Wey was in kindergarten. When Wey moved there last year, on his first day at Hamilton, claimed he was from Mars. A saucer-crashed alien. Wey’s moon boots were duct-taped silver. His everyday sweatpants, worn-out diffused black, gaped at the knees, expelled joint bruises. Anarchy was his T-shirt, a scrawled letter A, silkscreened and circled dead center his chest. Wey didn’t eat lunch, Wey sat out at gym, Wey carried a coffin shaped just like a sax. He leaned it against a jammed-open window. The bus driver looked up, rooted Wey in her mirror. Mr. Wang please put that case on the floor. I can’t have instruments hanging out the bus. So Wey laid it across his lap. And the bus driver sighed. They went through this weekly. Wednesdays were Band.

     So want to go see it? Today after school? The fort?

     When Cia asked a question, she already knew the answer.

     That was the thing.

     The thing about Cia.


     3:30 was backpacks dumped by the swing, the time and the place that Cia said meet. A zippered ziggurat, a monument to forgotten homework: to readings not read, equations not solved. Assignments could wait. They would have to wait. There was a fort to invade—get priorities straight! For situations like these, why kids had excuses. When came tomorrow, blame the dog.

     Cia (being Cia) brandished a staff, twinkling orb at its top, runes carved down its barrel. A souvenir acquired at the Renaissance Faire, where Cia’s mom worked Julys (see: Maiden #10). For thrashing at brush or whacking a boy’s head, whatever obstructed their path, their course of action. Hands in! said Cia, and the girls took hold, fists stacked totemic, grips shish-kabobed. Cia bowed her head, offered a benediction: We ask thee Diana, goddess of the hunt, please be our protector. Booyah on three! Thrice pounded the staff, and the girls booyah’d, a yell could topple trees, could fell the sky.

     They released the staff.

     And Cia started off.

     Into the woods, they went.

     Attention first was paid to the hooptie, the rusty old car, vandalized and abandoned. Its windows were shattered, its doors spray-painted, its tires flat donutsit drove nowhere. Cia’s arm reached in. Well wouldja look at this. A white bra dangled from the hook of her finger. Makeout evidence, backseat artifact. Whose is it? said the girls, and Cia shrugged who knows. Slingshot it back in. Come on, let’s go.

     The retinue advanced, forewarned of likely traps, Keds cautioned to step where Converse preceded. With her sorcerer’s tool, Cia tested the earth, prodded at patches, confirmed them solid. Be on the lookout for snakes, they’re everywhere back here, and black widow spiders, their venom is deadly! As could be expected: Serpentine vines sounded false alarms plenty; daddy-long-legs, harmless, misidentified as killers.    

     At a point Cia stopped. Halted the troops. Directed their attention. Stabbed the air.

     Look, guys, look! There it is, see? There’s the fort—can you see it there?

     Yes, Cia, yes! Yes yes they could! The girls squealed mice-wise, commenced little jigs, kicked up leaves, whorled the dirt. Hugged each other like they’d been long apart. There it was, guys.

     The fort.

     Its tarp roof crinkled, plastic, synthetic; a gust of wind coughed and puckered the drape. The girls listened hard—listened for boy sounds—anything guys? Nothing. A squirrel zipped up a chaga-blackened birch. A hand slapped a vampire in a bright red splodge.

     Should we go in? implored the girls, countenances a card hand, fanned splayed arrayed. Cia shot a quick shhh with one vertical finger. You wait here, her mouthed syllables, silent. The girls got down. Squatted. Shushed.  

     Exited the interzone, did the braid, bold. Ready or not, boy world, here she came! Approached Ricky’s enclave, journeyed staff-first, froze in her tracks. Shoot. Cia surveyed the peril: a poison ivy moat surrounding the fort, a pernicion would fireball uncovered limbs (an Indian summer, Cia wore cut-offs). Knew well its mantra, leaves-of-three let it be, respected its potential. Shoot.

     What was it yesterday she saw the boys do? Something they crawled—the big babies—across? A board or a plank? Surely she’d seen it! Well where the heck was it, the gosh darn bridge!

     Cia searched and she searched, turned up bupkis. Searched and she searched, nada niet zilch. Yelled what the hell, because what the hell, damnit!—it’s not like anybody’s parents could hear.  

     Then spake a voice.

     It was the forest.

     And when the forest spake, it spake way loud.


     Cia spun round. Who goes there?! It sounded everywhere, the bellow, the boom. The girls cupped sprung mouths, startled in a jump. A compound reaction: four bodies, one flinch.

     Then it happened, the transformation.

     Cia became something not what she was.

     Her eyes blazed astral. Her braid whipped like a tail. She copped a Godzilla in stonewash shorts. She pounded her staff, drove it against shale. It clapped stentorian, split the atmos. Cia stood a Titaness, taller than an elm; the crown of her head grazed the empyrean.  

     Come out, you fiend, show yourself at once!

     Nothing at all, no answer, and then—

     A rustle, a crunch.

     A branch animated.

     Out stepped a moon boot.

     It was Wey.

     Wey? The girls stood up, brushed off their butts. Cia came over, her face like what? The five considered this odd, this most strange, creature. This jinn from the sylvan, this sentient anthropoid, this nerd incarnate slinking, poor postured, sweatpantsed. Pocked with the woods’ detritus, leaf bits and twig smidgens, a spider’s web halo caught about his tresses, his gnarly tangles ignorant of comb. What was Wey doing here? It didn’t make sense. It was Wednesday, wasn’t it—didn’t he have Band? This thing that was Wey said Band had been cancelled, Mrs. Sab threw up again, rumor is she’s pregnant. The girls said oh. Plus he’d heard them talking on the bus that morning. The girls said oh. Oh okay yeah.

     Check this out.

     Wey dropped a paw into the shaft of his boot. He pulled out a paper plane, sharp and neat. Wey perfected aircrafts serving time in detention. For objecting to dodgeball, or disrespecting the flag, arms limp at his sides, hand not over heart. Wey launched the winged ephemera. It landed on Cons. Cia picked it up. Undid the scamp’s skill.

     The loose leaf, unfurled, revealed dark symbols: dashed lines and squares, triangles and slashes. Crude manifestations, sketched approximations: of a swing, a car, a fort. A route. A trail of dots to a blood-orange decussation, in emphatic Crayola, X marks the spot.  In the fat margin, at the top, was writ: MAP TO RICKY’S FORT. TOP SECRET!

     Oh my God, Wey! Where did you get this?

     The map was legendary among the grade’s boys. Among the grade’s boys, the most coveted thing. To get a map from Ricky, a few things you could do:

  1. Be funny.
  2. Be cool.
  3. Be not Wey.
  4. Be all three.

     Wey said nevermind, there’s something else, too. He’d overheard Ricky, about how to get in. The poison ivy trick. Just follow him.

     The girls checked Cia. Cia shrugged okay. Guess he knows something. Let’s follow Wey.

     During the last big storm, the inconceivable happened: Centuries-old trees snapped halfsies like twigs, toppled like dominoes, unmoored the subterra. Eroded earth-caves, did the roots, gale-surrendered, cratered dark apertures, dug deep pits. Wey led the girls to such a specimen. He got on his knees, he plunged in an arm—Ew Wey don’t!—ignored their plea. He got a handhold on it, with both arms yanked, leaned back—gah! Can you guys help? Like a chain-gang, locomotive, they resurrected the stiff. It was long and pale. A body wide. Yardstick rigid. And just as wooden.

     It was the plank.

     The plank was the bridge.


     You guys! You guys! You have got to see this!—burst Cia’s decry from within Ricky’s fort. Wey guarded outside, with Cia’s staff stood watch, while the girls squeezed in, they scooched, they crouched. Over bodies like bodies they’d never-before seen. Women who were women but not-women too. Something the girls recognized but at the same time didn’t, in these page-torn figures, scattered, accreted. The girls giggled, they howled, they gasped, they screamed, they tried on reactions as if they were clothes: like mall-jeans strewn on a dressing room floor, none felt right. None fit.

     Wey tapped on the bridge—tap tap tap tap. Um hey you guys, he thinks he heard something! Cia went okay, let’s get out of here. But it was too late. Bad timing arrived.


     It was Ricky. Ricky of the fort. Ricky with a gang of his latest recruits. They were a snicker. They were a spit. They were a pimple, an oozy popped zit. Ricky crossed his arms, pressed his thumbs into flesh, a hack that enhanced his puny biceps. Ricky had a body he was still growing into: dirty-blonde mane and pitch-cracked roar, he was a kid lion. Still growing. Ricky wore a jersey had a devil on it, his favorite team, his avowed tribe. When the pond froze over, Ricky waged war. Bloodlusted on blades, ichor on ice. Any excuse to beat kids with sticks. A lost tooth or black eye, that was a win.

     Nice fort, Ricky. Where’d you get the Playboys? Your Daddy?

     Engaged in persiflage, Cia caught her staff, to her by Wey tossed, commanded the bridge. Wey leapt into the poison—what did he care?—his legs were covered. Off he ran. The girls emerged squinting, like they’d lost their contacts, reality a blur, a gross misunderstanding. Something squawked overhead. Wings beat raw. Thunder, aways. A storm.

     Excuse us, boys. We’ve got to go.

     Ricky shook his head.

     Don’t think so.

     How cats arch spines, pufferfish inflate, lizards frill scruffs to magnify size; so Ricky straddled his stalks, hulked wings of his arms, to hips cleaved his fists, five-jointed bludgeons. The boys formed a blockade, at the foot of the bridge, denied the girls’ egress. Hissed. Cia rapped her staff. She said move it Ricky. Ricky didn’t move. Budged not an inch.

     Raindrops fell like spitballs thrown. Tiny bullies, pelting their heads.

     Cia tested a step. Ricky poked at her chest. Held his finger there longer, much longer, than he should. It bored to something deep. Something girls know. Cia reared up, raised her staff with two fists.


     The boys went ooh. The kid lion laughed.

     Ricky said what. What’s a girl gonna do.

     And Cia landed her staff, in one quick move, cracked wood against bone—thwack! Fractured Ricky’s nose, blood gushing down the aquiline. Red rivulets streaming. A ruptured geology. The Sphinx of Giza wailing, the Sphinx of Giza lost his nose. The impasse dismantled—and the girls fled.

     Fled the maelstrom, tripping slipping panting, the sky flashing electric, coruscations incandescent. Rain tumbled in sheets, reamed their hair, sluiced skin. Their drenched shirts clung. Mud ate their shoes.

     They ran to Cia’s. They hid in the basement. They lit five candles, sat on the floor.

     They asked a Ouija board: Would Cia’s mom find out?

     The planchette jerked.

     It indicated: YES.



Jessica Bonder is an American fiction writer. She has published short stories in The Stockholm Review, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, Split Lip Magazine, The Lonely Crowd, STORGY Magazine, and The Writing Disorder, among others. Recent honors include: Longlisted for the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize 2017/18; Longlisted for the 2017 Berlin Writing Prize; and Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open March/April 2017.

Twitter: @jessbonder


     Reginald sat in a corner of the bustling cafe, reading from her diary. Her thick, sinewy arms pulsed with recognition as she recalled the most harrowing moments in her brief life. Tears streamed out from her four eyes, shaped with the upturned crescent tilt of forever frowning mouths, and shrill wails pierced the ears of all those around her.

     She sobbed loudly and without abandon, convinced that no one in this place had ever experienced a life as tumultuous as hers. A once-requited love, severed below the knee before it ever had the chance to stand forever on its own two feet. A family that didn’t understand, couldn’t understand, the intensity of this pain she so sincerely felt in the very depth of her brittle bones.

     “Care for a refill?” asked the six-armed serving centaur as he approached. If he’d noticed Reginald’s outburst, he was doing his very best to ignore it. Hoped to soothe the ogre without drawing attention to the show she was putting on for anyone who’d listen.

     “Does it look like I need a refill?” she spat, pointing to the untouched espresso going cold on the table in front of her.

     “Forgive me, I didn’t see that there,” he whispered, rushing away to hide his malice for her.

     Rudolfo, the lifeless marionette hanging off the side of the chair to her left, chimed in at this moment. “Excuse me, dear,” he said, clearing his fabric stuffed throat, “but would you mind telling me what’s wrong?”

     She sighed, deeply, for a moment relieved that someone, anyone, wanted to listen. “You see, Rudolfo, I was engaged to be married for many years, until my fiance ran off with my sister, surprising absolutely no one but me, it seems.”

     Without at all touching the cross that controlled his movements, Rudolfo bowed his head and spoke, “I am terribly sorry to hear that, Reg, but can you not see that for the blessing that it is?”

     “Blessing? What blessing could this ever be?” she asked, earnestly. Her wailing subsided, but the tears kept streaming down her wrinkled face, “My new brother-in-law was the only man to ever give me the time of day! He shattered my heart, and now I have to sit kitty-corner to him at Thanksgiving.”

     “But ma’am! You are not a monster,” he said, moving freely again to produce a mirror seemingly from nowhere and hold it up to Reginald’s face, “Won’t you please try, for a moment, to see what I see?”

     Reginald went quiet. The face looking back at her was the same one she’d spent the past several months hiding from. Somehow still, something was different. There was a confidence underneath the surface that she’d never before noticed. “Oh…,” she whispered.

     “See?” he asked, in the sincerest tone she could ask for, “You’ll come out the other side of this stronger than ever.”

     The tears, for the first time in what felt like an unending loop of days, stopped.

     She agreed, “Yes.”

     Reginald stood before Rudolfo and felt herself transforming in the middle of the cafe. She could do nothing about it, not that she would have wanted to. The changes to her visage were subtle, yet apparent. Gone were the downturned mouths that made up her once sunken eyeballs. Gone was the stringy mess she used to call her hair. Instead, she stared at the marionette with a fire in her cheeks and an unmistakable new luster in her grin.

     The serving centaur passed by again and stopped dead in his tracks, backpedaling to kneel beside her. He whispered, “I’m sorry if I was rude to you earlier, ma’am. You’re a regular here, I know that now, but for some reason, you just didn’t look anything like yourself.”

     “That’s fine,” she cooed, and the thunderous croak that had been her voice turned into a glass of warm milk.

     “Forgive me if this is forward to ask,” the centaur continued, “But could I take you out on a date?”

     Reginald looked to Rudolfo and smiled. He nodded at her, and the anticipatory balloon that had grown in the centaur’s fourth stomach was ready to burst.

     “No thank you,” she replied, “I’m doing just fine by myself.”



Bob Raymonda is the founding editor of Breadcrumbs Magazine. He graduated from Purchase College with a focus in creative nonfiction. Some of his other work can be found in Yes Poetry, Peach Mag, Luna Luna, & Potluck Mag. Learn more at: www.bobraymonda.co.

In transit stopping at a grocery for two large blacklabels, crackling foaminess is audible in the hermetic beercans, we are kneeling before the rising luminous white face—on the stairstepping plinth that in our knowledge is vacant by a permanent ordinance of the ADA, the vacant site of the Daemon Fount, the wellspring of Daemone, the ADA Basilica, yet—it—this heaping cathedral, this encrustation, this cenotaph of infinite barnacles—looming impenetrably in the middle of the island in the river with our beer aluminumous crackling from elliptical lips and cylindrical throat—is contrarily the site of this immaculate structure…

All vision is pareidolia, only the spongy encrustation of overly elaborate ornament—relentless in its reflexiveness and self bisection—has no ability for deception, it has no intention, but I am eager for sightings of the chasm, the ablutions of weeping it is unveiling, a sea for scalloping the thorny reflection of Cain’s lunar incarceration, a word—«encrustation»—is barely suitable for the immaculate and startling cathedral construction because it is lacking the geometric aspects that are formgiving for the blessing of visual perception—the circumspection of wordlessness—and it is lacking the sense of depth—the involution of shadowy pox and pleatings—, and simplicity is an archaism, this is not a stonecarving and is far in excess of the most hypnagogic stereotomic fantasies, this is not torchlight in a cave, exilation because of gathering sticks from an ADA median, banishment, exiling your essence to the lunar surface, or carving your crude likeness into a Martian massif, this is not a reality we are sharing, is this ether coalescing into ornament, how dead is ornament yet how translatable and monopolistic, the barnacles trabecular without the pier, overgrowing a kernel and in their fabulousness are transcending the proportions and morphology of the word—the visual identity encodingly in our construction of humanity from the morass of plurality—, in the configuration of markings upon this morass is only the potential of representation and in that potential is the ideogram of the visage collecting the compositional contraptions of rococco plenitude into the reduction of eyepoints and mouthpuckerpoint, the bizarre illogic of conflating lips and eyes into the disc of the moon…

— What are We Doing Here — · — Drinking — · — Perfection — · — And Looking Closely At This Structure And Discussing It — · — is This A Conversation — · — It is A Game — · — Ooooo — · — «The Joyous Boredom Of „La Cathedrale“» — · — Gawd — · — No No It is More Characteristically «Criticism», In That We are Understanding Something Visually Through The Dissection Of Geometric Clusterings — · — Oh Gawd — · — And What is More We are Attempting Through These Clusterings And Particularly That Overarching Perception Of Symmetry With Its Subdistinctions For Developing A Knowledgebase As To Why We are Seeing This Structure As Symmetrical When Clearly It is Not — · — How are You Saying It isn’t Symmetrical, There are Two Big Pillars — · — The Westwork — · — Two Big Pillars With Ornamentation And The Manner In Which They are Flowing Together, Where They are Meeting At Identical Heights And Blending Into One Another, Those Brocades All Tip To Tip, And The Nozzly Kind Of Elements Nozzling Each Other From Across The Chasm is An Impossibility For An Asymmetrical Strucutre — · — What are Your Beliefs About The Constraints Of Symmetry — · — Generally Mirrorimages — · — That is Rather General — · — With Equilibrium — · — Ah That is Quite Subjective Visually Without Some Other Metric — · — That And The Mirrorimaging — · — So If The Mirrorline is Very Far Away From The Subject And Its Resultant Daughter is Twice As Far As That, So Far That They Seem To Have No Apparent Relationship — · — Well That is Where The Constraint Of Equilibrium Is Pertinent — · — And If The Mirrorsurface is Not Planar, If It is A Hemisphere Or A Sinusoidal Extrusion — · — That is Obviously Not My Position — · — But I am Allowing It Into Consideration Because, Obviously, It is Useful To My Argument — · — Obviously — · — Because They are Forming A Daughter Image That is Embodying All Of The Traits Of The Subject, And Around An Axis, But Without Exact Dimensional Correspondence — · — is That Not Contingent On Relative Perspective To The Two Elements — · — Yes, Yes As is Everything, But, So The Interrogatory is This, is The Resultant Of Any Mirroring Of An Object In Possession Of A Symmetrical Relationship To Its Source — · — are You Drinking That — · — To Me This is A Matter Of Intention — · — Gawd I am Taking Your Can — · — Go Ahead, is It The Legibility of Intention That is The Establishment Of Symmetry, If You are Seeing Two Cliffs Or Two Trees, Or An Orchid, Or Even Me, Standing Here In Erection And Facing You Exactly With All Of My Bilaterality In Displayment, On The Outside Only Of Course, With No Intention Other Than Chance, is That Sufficient — · — Yes — · — So Perhaps It is The Amalgamation Of Detail, Or A Critical Mass Of Detail By Which We are Corroborating The Symmetry Of A Thing — · — So You are Not Symmetrical — · — I am, I am Allowing This Into Consideration Then, Two Cylinders, Or, Aha, More Effectively, Two Small Spheres Approximately The Dimension Of A Human Skull, And They are Simply Sitting Nearby One Another With Absolutely No External Prescription Or Intention To Their Relationship, They are Immaculate In Their Disposition, What Relationship Is Even Possible Between Them — · — Some Relationship — · — No, Not Even One is Possible, These are Spheres And Have No Orientation And are Lacking Even The Most Rudimentary Demarcation For The Allowance Of Correspondence Between Them Other Than Their Dimensions, Other Than Their Dimensions, And Their Proximity — · — Which is Equilibrium — · — Which is Irrelevant To Any Legibility Of Symmetry — · — So You are Saying — · — The Same Spheres With Distinguishing Markings, Unmistakeable, Clearly Not Accidental, A Bas Relief Septogram For Example, is The Unifying Aspect That is Bringing Symmetry To The Two Spheres Even With A Separation Of Hundreds Of Feet — · — Really, My Gawd, You Sponge — · — Cock Snowflake — · — Carpet — · — Or Perhaps Parsecs — · — «Parsecs», Really — · — Yes Absolutely, Well Yes, Within The Constraints of The Critical Definition We are Establishing — · — «We» Indeed — · — Of Course This Distance Postulate is Contingent On Memory, The Necessity That An Accurate Recollection Of The Marking Is Tenable Considering The Tremendous Distance Separating Them, Or It is Relying On The Entanglement Of Both Spheres, Which is An Issue Of Trusting, Because The Corroboration Of Their Symmetry Is Causing Their Decoherence — · — Oh For Piss Take — · — This Uncertainty is Measurable, There is Significant Documentation, The Mind In A Confrontation With Such A Vast Distance is Making The «Right Choice» Regarding The Correspondence Of The Spheres And The Debunking Of Their Symmetrical Entanglement is Impossible — · — Mmmmmmf — · — The Level Of Corroborating Detail is Enough For Outweighing Our Desirousness Of Intentionality — · — You aren’t Symmetrical — · — This is All Merely The Framework For Our Criticism, A Corpus Of Syntax For Assistance In Our Clustering — · — Yes But — · — So We are Casting Our Perceptions Back To The Object Of Scrutiny, This Heap Of Ornamentation, For The Application Of Our Critical Model — · — And Here We are, And In The Midst Of This Specious Holding Forth And With Alcohol Heightening My Perception I am In Possession Of Simple Laundrylist Of All The Shortfalls Of Symmetry Before Us On The Basis Of My Own Theory, And, You are Correct, It is Not Symmetrical — · — Ahem — · — I am Wondering Though Why It Doesn’t Simply Adhere To Classical Configurations Of Proportion — · — You, Gawd —

This is a mess, undrawable—but not illegible, interjection, not unreadable, truly—, locutus of marble flesh, this cancellous coalescence is recognizable as a thing only because it ends, but zooming in on its surface in low orbiting flyby is discovery of the heterogenous disorderliness of a planetoid with surfacearea broad enough for the suffering of a meteorstrike here or plate subduction there and magnetic anomaly here or land art there, but no clarity possible about the narrative sequencing of the events, which is fine, if you are putting on your «shoes and stockings» is the stocking outside the shoe then, you are making it functional with your execution and your performance, someone must be seeing it and the selectiveness of that «seeing» is the ordering system, not a predestination or contraption or even a recipe but a heap with edges…

— Even With All Of This, The Westwork is Bearing The Impression Of Symmetry, According To You, And Considering My Sinusoidal Mirroring Hypothesis, What is The Minimum Adherence To The Strict Critical Model Of Symmetrical Entanglement An Object Must be In Possession Of For Resonance With The Reptilian Stratum Of Our Geometric Consciousness — · — I am Of The Belief That It is Not Quantifiable — · — Generally — · — Generally It is My Assertion That The Symmetry Must Be General — · — Yes, It Must be A Construction With A Predicating Basis Of Symmetry, With An Honest And Optimistic Hope That Against All Contrariness Of The Detailing Inherent In Happenstance And In The Arising Of Uncontrollable Circumstances, That The Urging Toward Symmetry is The Pivotal Driver Of All Decisions —

An unseen force—a daemon—is feeding the genetic properties of an ellipse into an active geological system without any accompanying knowledge of human proportioning or knowledge about the misconception that human proportioning is predicating the ordering systems of antiquity—it is the physiognomy of the tree, the urtectonic, driving the slenderness ratio of the column and the fruiting aspiration of the capital—and the resultant is a grotesque of the cathedral of the cenotaph of the thing, seeing beyond the visual spectrum through a sinister occular implantation, assimilation across a fleshly surface of biomechanical detailing comprising a Borgesian cube without visible vertices or edges, folding flaking filigree across the visage of satan is rising in the smokeplumage of an exploding oilderrick, the obscure and inherent intelligence of paradisiacal acne—of the sebaceous and blossoming ilk, uncontrollable and rampant beneath hopeful white facepaint—, the triangular crosssection of the sword blade is creating a wound whose suturing is difficult but not an impossibility, a beadcurtain venting around the cavemouth, the visages of countless demons, highly vascular nodules and cells in descending scalar aggregations that are not decaying in organization or losing resolution even under the loupe—in fact acquiring strange resonance with prior expectations of form assuming the characteristic definition of a fractal, beautiful, damn hard, increasingly useful, or a figuration of components similar to the whole in some way—, the stellate crosssection of the sword blade, the abusive scattering of skulls into tumbledown heapsphalangeal defences, remarkably thick white whiskers growing chodewise in the follicle—with accompaniment of papules on the surface, nozzles or oscula, a mosquito’s foot at 500% magnification, the muscular hollowness of the strangler fig in the absence of its host tree is climbing beneath the bedazzling encrustation emerging and submerging with the appearance of stretching taffy haltingly marble while threatening failure at the level of its fibers into competing divagations of radial symmetry, luffa gourd skeletons, nanoprobes, icy phlox creeping, eyebrow dormers, raspy spicules and tetonic motherfigures, toothpaste cowlicks, basrelief mandalas, beadstrings, cruciform bevor perforations, bellowy ventails, basal lamina of crusty rustication loosely fanvaulting finely fibrous into squashen squinches of rotting away spongin into pale gray chaff, distending into ocularium ellipses distending into slashings, pulverization of bone, the knobby coxa and trochanter of slender poisonous spiders, the marble rendition of a scrotum with pilar papules and lacy capillary veiling in the fashion of Benzoni, braiding, navel scartissue, dentils on nodules on outcroppings on melty drapings from icecream corbels under vaulting, on this side the aperture is puckering and over there it is pursing, the restraint of swaths of absence—a formation of what is nominally moulding, although in this instance distinguishable from the mass by its lacking detail—in informal banding separating the attic storey from the piano nobile…

— For Awareness Of Lacunarity, Or Heterogeneity, We Must be Getting Closer To The Massif, Louping Our Fingers Around Areas Of High Ornamentation And Providing Dictation To The Other Who Is Comparing Each Loupe Inquiry To The Others For Discrepancy And Deviation And Translation Of Elements — · — Yes Let’s, I am Louper, Where are We Beginning, is It Hysteron Proteron In The Absence Of The Necessary Ordering Systems — · — In Medias Res — · — And Gawd The Way This Thing Is Collecting Dust, It is Uncleanable, It is Just Too Much, To Many Notes —

Peaky cakefrosting on the petrification of a strangler forest, synthetic sandstone in strata of 0.28 mm, 260,000,0000 distinct surfaces, 30,000,000,000 voxels of space, the toothless mouths of 5,000,000 lithophages, cakefrosting on a murmuration of viruses…

The key elements are high lacunarity or ᴧ and self avoidance and a general perception of solidity, and the clusterings of association are the two cancellous pilasters with their vulval inflection around two aediculae and a maximal concentration—in the manner of its luminous diffusion—of detailing through scalar subdivision…

— What Exactly is This Telling Us — · — Other Than We are Out Of Beer — · — It is The Tautology Of Ornament, It Necessarily is In The Case Of This Encrustation Or Polyptotonic Articulation — 
The artifacts of a visual rhetoric are disappearing with the passage of the eye onto adjacent territories, these artifacts are the discrete coalescence of meaning into the pareidolia of the other, the in lieu of, the understandable baggage we are replacing the inexplicable or the transitory with is a series of visages and bodyparts and iconographic encyclopedic detritus, it is not the thing itself, not ever…



John Trefry is an architect and the author of the novel Plats, the caprice Thy Decay Thou Seest By Thy Desire, and the forthcoming novel Apparitions of the Living. More diminutive writings have appeared in various other outlets. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.



               I drove in the dark to pick up strip-mall Chinese food while you stared through the rear window at a much-too-big moon. It hung low in the sky like horse testes. You joked that if you had to critique the landscape painter responsible for rendering that moon, you’d accuse him of making shit up. “Sentimental creep”, you’d sneer. A prayer forgot to form in my mouth.


The last time I had semi-lucid sex with a woman the woman in question asked me to slap her across the face as hard as I possibly could. Begged me, rather. Her eyes locked large like a child’s on my hands and bravery inverted completely into my back while I tried not to shake. Had she only asked, I would have said no. But the men who say no to me always look so shrunken afterwards, so finite, and I loathed the thought of appearing any more edgeful to her than I already felt. So I lifted a script I learned from you, back when you erased my need to introduce questions at all. I still think about that, just so you’re aware. Ours were diamond blades in smooth, pneumatic interchange. Expert submission never hinges on request, after all.

           I chuckled, re-arranged my hair over my tits, (it’s longer now, but sufficed at the time) took a swig of her drink, and cracked my neck. I straddled her lower stomach and switched the bedside table-lamp back on. My chest scalded red.

           “Repeat yourself, please”.

           I’m no good at domming for real, so I like to pretend some hidden third party is watching me work (you, I guess). The results are invariably theatrical, particularly if I’m expected to sustain any eye contact.

           “Repeat yourself, you silly little cunt.”

           My left hand rested firmly on her stomach, fingers splayed like Vitruvian healing, like an emaciated starfish marking science in sinew. The time had come to take something. You rarely looked at me, so I didn’t look at her. Not yet. Her voice had withered to the kind of naked whimper I’d never want recorded.

           “I…Fuck. J-just hit me. Honestly, honestly, I’ll do…I’ll do anything.”


           You once called me in the middle of the night to complain that a landscaper called you a pussy the time you stopped a mower to properly execute the frog their blades just ploughed through. You wanted to put the animal out of its misery, you said. You couldn’t watch it twitch in the grass like that. I leaned forward and traced her bottom lip with my thumb. Her breath burned.

           “Ask me again, but don’t stutter. If you really wanted it, you wouldn’t stutter, would you, sweetie?”

           You’ve got a mean penchant for back-hands, which I’ve always found superior to open slaps, anyway. A slap belies its own resentment. A back-hand puts a bitch in her place quick.

           “Hit me”.

           You had forced me to suck on your fingers, obviously, so I slid my thumb behind her bottom teeth and gripped her chin in a vice. She went doll-slack. Dancers are supposed to embody the character in movement above all else, but it was hard for me to picture her as anything other than sumless parts arranged for pilfer. She wasn’t a thing. She was a former ballerina I had shared pizza with, a date I had constructed new jokes for, a girl I wanted to touch so badly the moment we met it dumbed me down. We had chatted about One Direction over drinks. They featured heavily on the sex playlist I curated in anticipation of something different.

           The thing about desire is that it starts stinging long before any other hovering extension of the body, okay? So, right where life gets a little too snug in the shoulders, or dreams start feeling slimy between otherwise dry fingers, as if according to a countdown, desire (or restlessness able to navigate the dark, either-or), begins its crawl from pussy to throat, and the journey is wet with discharge and guts and liquor, and the host for that journey’s end should be available on these dates, or these, and I really shouldn’t.

           I gave her a nosebleed and left. I did not cry in the cab home.


I did not dream that we stood nose-to-nose in the Sagrada Familia’s undercroft as mortar dust gathered on our lash beds, but I told you I had in a 4 a.m. text I might regret if regret still rotated under my skin. You responded with compliments on my writing. That was a boring thing to do, but not as boring as the lie I told. Hardly my first. Night dreams might eschew accountability, but daydreams rarely shirk from implicating their editors, and I couldn’t figure out for what seemed like months why the act of inhaling your breath as a rocky residue bathed our shoulders never got me wet.

I’m dumb, as we’ve established.

Penetration fails to soak because gesture that stains remains stain, and I’m reminded of that gap ever time I cut the side of my mouth on a wine glass. The prick pouring Chianti over my tongue never offers to mop up the blood, if he can even tell it’s blood in the first place. That’s transubstantiation for you—the poorly sacred practice of painting meaning backwards into open pores. Maybe the only break distinguishing my fantasy from poetry is this creeping realization that Netflix was wrong. The cathedral couldn’t grow. Some asshole pre-recorded the screech of saws and scaffolding and masons forging stone from art and played it loud above the rafters where I couldn’t see. Nothing got built, then, do you understand? Our dust spoke disintegration, and I don’t own the hands to vote softness over speakers. So I will insist through overlaying walls of salt that your image wrought in rock razed the Gaudi I designed for us, and I will splinter my knuckles on the face I assumed was flesh until lonely forced my eyes in focus.



Torey Akers is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She received her MFA in Painting from Cranbrook Academy in Art in 2016, and writes criticism for various outlets, including This is Tomorrow, Two Coats of Paint, and Big, Red, and Shiny

I’m using your severed arm in lewd ways.
     Can you feel it?
     I’m sorry I am.
     It’s a pretty severed arm, I will tell you.
     If it makes you feel better, that is. Hopefully so.
     I feel sad we’re so far away. And that I have your severed arm that is pretty.
     What do you have of mine?
     I don’t remember.
     Sometimes I think your severed arm is very sad. I think it can tell me about you. From across the miles your arm is telling me you are very sad.
     But if you get too sad, just say my name five times in a mirror in the dark in your bathroom.
     I will be there. With your pretty severed arm.



Shane Kowalski was born outside of Philadelphia. He’s a lecturer at Cornell University. Previous work of his appears or is forthcoming in Puerto del Sol, New World Writing, Hobart, New Delta Review, and other places.