by TL Holmes
Doctor Kline says it is chronic not fatal, that it is possible to live a full life with bent stems and wilting leaves, that there is a rose bush he cares for that’s been living with it for sixteen years. She is bald and thornless but still beautiful, he says. I’m not a rose bush, I want to scream, I cannot live without my leaves. My husband tells me he will love me no matter what but late in the night when he thinks I am asleep, I hear him in the garden with the daisies, just bloomed.
by Nathaniel Darbonne
I swallowed a needle while trying to make something beautiful. While holding it between my teeth I realized I would never be happy, a revelation that made me gasp and suck it in. With the needle in the back of my throat, I raced to the hospital and ran around, trying to convince the doctors there was something wrong with me, unable to speak. The needle traveled further down whenever I swallowed, scraping the soft tissue, gathering more flesh, creating scars, unseen.
An Arrival to Aimlessness
by Calvin Yorick
White walls glow cool with rainbow circuitry; razor lines thin like spider’s silk, threaded, tangled unbroken for what could be forever, pulsing methodically, all healthy-like. Fun to look at. Strange to contemplate—like most of the phenomena in this odd, underground vista. She wants to be perplexed, to be genuinely curious before this mystery, but the anxiety gnaws her open. The stretching pit in her stomach swallows any interest, atomizes whatever wonder. She’s not here to daydream theories about the labyrinth’s origins or nature. She’s here to stay lost, and she knows this, but she carries on regardless. Aimlessly.
by Calvin Yorick
The foul flesh of the white beast ripples like milk. It groans, ill with lacerations, thousands of newborn wounds. And then it deflates. Dies gasping. En masse the tortured souls of its victims pull themselves up through its shredded hide, and they’re all mottled and ugly and wretched with the weight of a timeless imprisonment. They do not linger. Or show gratitude. The ruined warrior, a premonition of offal, watches with weary pleasure the senseless dead rising like plumes of smoke into the sky, off to rediscover their options.
The Great Pretender
by Alessia Pietraroia
I’m allergic to cotton candy. Rides make me nauseous. I’m afraid of clowns. Yet every weekend in July, I go to the fair. I hop into my prettiest shorts, the ones that mask bruises and salted wounds, and drive. I smile for pictures I don’t want to take, eat a candy apple, despite its poisonous center, play mundane games that bore me to exhaustion, ride the ferris wheel, in contempt of its rusted seats and loose screws. I ignore the stomach-churning scent of laughter and euphoria. And when I get home, I tell my family how much fun I had.
Family Road Trip
by Jody Perejda
“I spy, with my little eye, something starting with the letter ‘H.’” I feel like we’ve been in the car for six months. My brother smells like rancid roadkill.
“Whore!” I shout out. We’re on a highway in Kansas. No hookers in sight.
“That doesn’t start with an ‘H,’” is my dad’s reply. My flesh melts against the crap upholstery.
“I spy, with my little eye, something starting with the letter ‘D.’” I announce, snatching my victory despite flaunting all the rules of the game. My mom looks around pitifully.
“Diner?” Always optimistic.
“Dirt,” I tell them. Nothing but.