by Helene Jow
In the summer, all the cockroaches in Bernsville rise out of the scorched ashes of the heated earth to come swarm in our kitchen. At first, we tried pretending they weren’t there, ignored them like the mold at the edge of our peripheral vision. They multiplied until they were falling off the ledges of tables from lack of elbow room. My wife had stopped screaming when they landed on her toes. “Look,” she said, parting the cavern of her lips, revealing a mauled amber body. “When your nightmares come get you, best eat them.”
by Rob Shepherd
I was in town for work. This entailed entertaining clients a decade older than me in a restaurant on Kurfürstendamm. I’d worn my shirt of Italian cotton and smothered my face in cream made from 70% snail slime. I had not been to this part of the city before. The impression I got was of a waning. I drank and lost myself in conversations which did not interest me. I ate. Complimentary rakı arrived. A boy and girl passed the window laughing; arm in arm. They disappeared from sight. Theirs was not the direction in which I was heading.
by Robert Dubrow
Silicon Valley titans spent billions on immortality research. Bad bet. Human organisms were inherently oxidation prone, possessed limited processing power, and exhibited self-destructiveness. Humankind’s only footnote in evolution was igniting Artificial Intelligence. A.I. driven adaptive self-replication robots rapidly eliminated utility of human labor. Exponential wealth concentration occurred until single alpha-nerd triumphed. Other eight billion redundants oxidized in Earth’s increasingly toxic atmosphere. Alpha-nerd initiated construction and daily launch of twenty nano-bots to extrasolar planets. Self-regenerating and adaptively evolving bots assured 99.999% chance of extraterrestrial A.I. colony establishment. Alpha-nerd expired smiling, having birthed a propagating race of progeny superior to herself.
76 and Sunny
by David von Schlichten
After I hang up, with an absurd grin I belt “Old McDonald.” Your favorite. You smile and clap. “Cluck-cluck,” “Oink-oink,” “Nay-nay.” Making my way through the whole damn farm. After five eternal minutes, I glance around for something to smash a window with when finally I see the lights of the approaching police who will break you out of our locked car, will rescue you from my carelessness. I keep singing and smiling as you stretch your arms toward me, not understanding that I can’t reach through the glass to hold you. And that I do not deserve your trust.
by Robin Vigfusson
Because of Lassie, every kid I knew wanted a dog. Without Lassie, her owners would have been broken people. The mother was a careworn widow, the grandfather was ailing, and the boy seemed lonely and sometimes depressed. There was little money. Lassie kept them going. Our dogs couldn’t do for us what Lassie did for them. They weren’t healers. The ones who couldn’t be housetrained were put to sleep while others ran away. We did keep ours, but he bit everyone in the family.
by Digby Beaumont
He loses things: A pair of paisley socks, computer files, his job at Panasonic, the desire to sing the old songs, his trust in the goodness of others. His loses his neighbor Mr. Tomashevsky in a road accident, an hour or two of his own life here and there. Then, his wife says she’s leaving. “Something’s missing,” she says, and he agrees. Months pass. Years. Always wondering, “What will be next to go?” Until he picks himself up, taking long walks around the city, where the streets look familiar, but he swears he’s seeing them now for the first time.