by Meredith Chiwenkpe Asuru
As the crowd scurried tomatoes from the fallen truck, raining abuses at the government, you scanned the scene from the park’s dwarf fence. Once you saw the driver’s bloody hand, you started screaming for help. But nobody helped. Nobody. Not even your kind mum.
You are sitting in a rickety bus, hoping to alight before it breaks when the radio announces that Ekwena has won the presidential election. A man screams “yes”, and other passengers curse him and his generation. You hiss, stare out the window, at hummingbirds gliding in the bright sky, and wish we were birds.
by DJ Tantillo
My entanglement increases as I travel the path. As a scientist, I do not fear death. That conclusion is too far off. That distance is the horror. I will think sharply for a time, but I cannot convert those thoughts, via aging nerves and muscles, to intelligible messages to share with my children. They suffer my blank stares. I elucidated the chemistry and biology, but I couldn’t change it. That discovery was my greatest accomplishment. Living through the transition is the punishment for my enlightenment. Refusing to share my knowledge may or may not redeem me.
Select all. Delete.
Creating a Stink
I sat on a barstool cloaking my farts with subtle postural adjustments, eavesdropping on conversations right next to me.
“Do you know why you can’t kiss a prostitute?” A man was asking his passive girlfriend.
It looked like he was talking to cause an effect rather than from the heart.
“No,” his girlfriend replied.
“Because,” I interrupted, loudly enough for them both to hear, “a kiss is more intimate than intercourse.”
The pub went quiet, like in a scene in a western film where a stranger enters a saloon, as I left. I created a stink after all.
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.
This week’s artwork is “Piety and Supplication, With Fishes, Sharks and Letting Agents” by Julian Cloran.
Katie Anne Dour’s, Tiny Family Snow Globe
by Dan A. Cardoza
She’s conflicted. If she insists the lights off, will that be seen as a compromise? Katie won’t be punished for sleeping in layers of sweat-soaked bedclothes and blankets. Mother is aware she’s not a sweet Vidalia onion. Sure she’s upset about school grades and fighting. They call her Sour Lemon Dour. But, that’s not the reason. Katie will be punished for making it snow all night. Mother says, “How dare you expect a perfect summer with all that white noise?” There’s not a vengeful bone in her body. There are none. Katie Dour is a delicate, porcelain dolly.
by Calvin Yorick
The gray beast is gnarled all over like dead bark. It sits in the sky over moonlit ruins and the tattered masts of shipwrecks. It sings. Branchlike limbs swings concentrically in a silent dance, and a great, tangled head quivers in a gentle orbit away from the rising moon, humming softly. Electrically. We fall to fatigue; this ghastly birdsong bids us to sleep. And in dreams overgrown with sunflowers we wake to the firelit shores of an empty city, waiting eternally for morning and the inevitable nightmare which follows.
by David Henson
A tattoo battleship plowed the gray on his chest. He hoisted an anchor on each arm. An eagle stretched from wing to wing of his shoulders.
One day we found a blacksnake. He grabbed a hoe, and we chose between watching the body flop in the grass or his cat eating the head in his lap.
After his wife died, he spent every evening in an old caned chair, told us he let the stars fly out of his eyes to their places.
That last night he surprised us when he laid back his head and flew out with them.
by Abigail Skinner
I stood there, feeling the crisp breeze prick against my open and exposed heart. And she laughed.
“Right,” I said. I snapped my ribs back into place and tugged at the muscle. Slipped back into my skin. “Heh, you’re right.” Covered now, but not enough. The wind still cut through. I threw on a shirt.
She chuckled. I kept adding layer after layer. A sweater. A flannel. A hoodie. A coat. Finally, a windbreaker. Too late. The wind was already inside me, the chill deep to my bones.
She sobered. “Wait, were you serious?”
Gone for a Song
by Simon Barron
From his lofty banyan perch, a honey-creeper struck up in joy and expectation, for the time was ripe. Notes fell like diamonds sprinkled on the air. Swelling, he pushed the gallant question further.
The island, bounded by sullen seas, gave no like return. Yet there was life enough, with furtive cats and sportive rats and braying goats in pens.
Another interloper – a solitary ecologist – sat on a log-pile near the banyan and wept to hear the exquisite song fall about her. She knew what the honey-creeper couldn’t.
He sang all day, and never so well.
by Roger Haydon
From the other side of the ornate doorway, I thought I saw a house with open shutters, lights on and smoke curling from chimneys. I heard voices, saw figures talking and laughing, saw a manicured garden, neat lawns and bright flowers and children playing. And then, eagerly, I stepped through.
Now, standing in a shell of scarred walls pierced by empty windows and vacant corridors, the fine rain turns the rubble to mud and tears sting my cheeks. I can see sunlight on the other side but don’t know if I can go back or if I should even try.
This week’s artwork is “Hourglass Figures” by Julian Cloran.
Once Upon an Apocalypse
by GB Burgess
Grimm Forest had suffered its share of wolves, curses and wicked witches, but we weren’t prepared for a monster invasion. The creatures were small but many.
We fled up beanstalks, but the monsters were master climbers.
We hid in gingerbread cottages. The monsters’ gap-filled grins chewed expertly though sugary walls.
Our best weapons failed. The monsters gagged and recoiled from our poisoned apples.
In the end, there was no escaping. Monsters rushed at us from every direction, giggling madly, their sticky hands groping.
Defeated we little pigs, gingerbread men, orphans, princes and damsels succumbed to the hugs of the children.
A Future Scientist or Psychopath—Not That They Are Mutually Exclusive
by Zebulon Huset
She insisted we bake her mud pies. “They have a secret ingredient.” Ingredients, I’d learn. Each clay cupcake had a secret center of worms or centipede, three stink beetles or a tiny frog. She’d probably smushed it when forming the cake—enough to squeeze the consciousness from its tiny little head, to squish the function from its organs. Too tightly packed to still be alive when the steaming began, I tell myself as I wash my face before bed—desperate to avoid a vicarious nightmare of being baked alive in a wet sarcophagus. A sleeping bag sauna getting hotter and hotter.
by Charles Duffie
Come home late from night school, drop my backpack on the kitchen table, microwave the dinner dad always leaves for me. I sit on my bed with the warm plate in my lap and stare across the narrow hallway. He works early so he should be asleep but light flashes under his door and voices thrum with a machine rhythm like there’s a factory in there, an assembly line where ideas are welded onto his imagination, words blow-torched under his skin. I eat my vegetables, watching my father be remade, then go downstairs and pack his lunch for tomorrow.
The Bell Curve
by Tommy Mack
The bell curve glows on my collar. Like the ones carved on the town hall or above the altar in church. A fair deal: sporting odds. Attached on my retirement by the company. Everyone agreed the population was too old but no one liked the countdown to death. There were protests, suicides. So they made the collars. A trigger designed to execute, not on a prescribed date but with a fixed probability each day, like Russian roulette. At 84, I am an outlier, an object of curiosity to the local children and I can’t decide whether I’m lucky or not.
This week’s artwork is by Julian Cloran
by Sue Powers
Listless, languid, eyelids heavy in empathy, food called out to her, insistent, nagging, moving her to pull out lemon bars, Häagen Dazs, mozzarella cheese, sourdough bread, a leftover vegetable curry and rice entrée now five days old and her secret stash of brownies, and wash it down with a diet cola and her bottle of save-for-an-occasion Riesling. Wiping the last crumb from her chin, she laid her head onto the table, belly painfully extended, bile rising to her throat, and still, had there been any thing left, her emptiness would have devoured it.
If Turkeys Could Talk
by C. F. Carter
When you approach her house and I try to warn you, you hear only warbles and honks.
You ignore me when I bend my wing towards the barn, where cars rust in the darkness.
When I try to lead you to the well where badges soak in its cold depths, you push me aside with a shiny jackboot.
Like a strutting tom, you ring the bell, and a heartbeat later she shoos you off the porch.
She scatters cracked corn in the yard, while you beat your wings and kick up dust, erasing what I’d scratched in the ground: witch.
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
She asked her son to take her to the liquor store. Again. She hated the look in his eyes, eager to please. As if this could patch everything together. She always lost her temper, passed out. Her career as a pianist had fallen flat. She felt a mélange of anxiety and rage, the sense of something valuable taken. “I’ll take you,” he said. She felt gratitude. Anger. She wanted him to resist and oblige. She wanted him to take her, she wanted him to hide the keys. She wanted him to leave. Run fast. “Let’s go,” was all she said.
by Daryl Scroggins
Don’t go, she thought, her face pressed to the door she had closed against him. She imagined him walking down toward the road, his new car by the mailbox. She saw herself opening the door—saw him turning to her, unable to go on, starting back.
But she didn’t open the door. She went to the kitchen and got ice for her eye. Poured herself a glass of water. She saw, then, the brown bag of tomatoes she had selected for him from her garden. But when she glanced through the peephole again, everything just looked round, like a road.
What is Death Like?
by Xavier Barzey
A German cockroach lay stiff on its back as its mesothoracic legs flickered in slow motion on the front porch. “What is death like?” she asks intently with an innocent gleam in her little eye. I looked at her, uncertain of what to say. I reflected for a moment, “uh… well, I suppose it may hurt at first, but then you begin to transcend beyond the present and soon you’ll feel nothing.” Perplexed, she cupped her hands around the roach and stroked it softly on its back. It lay rigid. “There,” she says. “He’s okay now.”