Daddy, Can We Build a Snowman?
He knows he should say no, but he can’t. So he bundles his four-year-old in her winter coat and carries her to the center of the road, where together they begin rolling snow into three orbs of differing sizes. After the orbs have been placed in a snowman configuration, he makes his way to their gravely stuck car where they have no cell service, where his wife breastfeeds their newborn, where they only have enough snacks for a day trip and only a half tank of gas, to rummage through their belongings for something that will make a good nose.
Upstairs, Carl logs on and searches for forbidden fantasies: classics removed from schools and libraries because the district now calls them “unbalanced” and “inappropriate”.
“Ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to read. I hear worse language in class every day”, he thinks, skimming another ‘offensive’ story. “I know people like this, they’re cool. What are these idiots trying to prove? It’s all online anyhow.”
He loses himself in books the censors don’t want him to see; they’re tinder to the spark inside him. Another file copied, another friend messaged, and he spreads the brushfire further.
by G.J. Williams
Music as Terror: Discuss. The wiping out of villages to Shostakovich. The snow-muffled strains of Schubert as played by the Angel of Death, circa 1943. Or those funkier numbers favoured by the Mad Sams of the underworld who drill through flesh in derelict basements. Music to kill by. The soaring guitars against the Vietcong. The songs in Manson. The headphones of Nilsen. Not forgetting Stalin’s perfect pitch. For Stalin, every sound had its key. A building might crumble in E-flat, a tram go by in A-minor, a fly buzz in F-sharp. Every human had a special scream. Discuss.
by David M Wallace
Lena’s teacup performed a little jig in its saucer as the vibrations grew closer. The tiny cry of porcelain chiming over the rumble of tanks grinding in the street below her window. Soldiers trudged behind, clad in khakis and impunity.
by Gage Banks
Decades of growth led to a beautiful forest blossoming along the clouds. Shrubbery, so vibrant yet calm. Footsteps among the wood are not heard but felt under the ground through thousands of sap-filled veins.
Elder trees speaking through the roots, telling tales of fallen friends. Some speak of men with spinning maws. Maws biting and ripping the flesh and bone of wooded kin, leaving a spray of arboreal viscera. Limbs split in twain, burnt to ash like old garbage
Minutes of pain, thrown to the ever-hungry flame. No stories to tell, only crackles of charred limbs torn from elder trees.
Sleek, cold bar under her right hand. Legs bent at an odd angle. The tips of her toes pointed to the floor. One breath of air, then two. The mirror reflected her face. Her tired smile. Thin, rosy cheeks. Hair in a tight bun, her fly-aways slicked back.
One breath, two. Her tutu felt soft on her hand. Her arm lifted over her head, her legs went down in a plie position. Her ankles cracked. She fell down the rabbit hole. Dust, that’s the only thing left of her now.
by Yash Seyedbagheri
I carry the eggs home.
When I open, rows of white ovals stare up at me. Except for two cracked open.
So much for a dozen.
There are ten eggs. I have to make them last a week. Along with the remnants of an onion, some sardines.
I pick up the fragments of shell as if I can put it all together again. Sweep away the temper, the reduced salaries, the subtraction. Fridges rife with expensive booze.
Now, the yolks glimmer, naked, unabashed.
I get a spoon. Take my first bite.
It’s a little cold. Raw. A beginning.
by Tim Boiteau
After he doused her with the pot of boiling water, he fled from the screams, drove for hours, mind a white haze. Pulled over at a grocery store several states over and wandered the aisles. Filled up his cart with Vienna sausage tins. The sound of them clattering together soothed his nerves.
“I didn’t really.”
He paid, loaded all those cans into his car. Headed back home, picturing the broth sloshing over those pink tubes of boiled meat.
His wife was gone.
Must’ve imagined it.
Except for the cold puddle on the floor.
The Owls Go Round
by LM Zaerr
Antibiotic ointment glistens on his bald head, but the gash won’t heal. “Mary? Did you feed the chickens?”
“I’m not Mary.”
He scritches a fingernail on the kitchen table and chips off another piece of varnish. The patch of raw wood grows. He rotates his coffee mug, gritting the remaining varnish. Ceramic owls glide round and round, winging me back, from granddaughter to sister. “Neighbor’s windmill squeals like a stuck pig. He won’t fix it. I’ll climb up in the night with a bucket of oil.”
The crack in his mind sends his past flooding over me, an unexpected blessing.
Waking to the nothingness, there is void outside the viewport and a deep space emptiness within us.
“Take me away from it all,” you said, desperate, and so here we are, on a one-way trip to the research station on Titan. Now you’re bored already, blame me for losing the social life you didn’t want, and dread the routine of the work to come.
We’re both carefully avoiding saying that we can’t see an endless future together, even as we head relentlessly towards it.
Desolate, I’m trying to decide which of us, if either, will survive the trip.