Posted on: December 19th, 2009 How Duane Came to Be In the Bathroom

by Jamie Grove

Duane sat on the bathroom floor, his feet braced against the vanity so that he could keep the door wedged shut. Fists hammered on the other side of the door. The reverberations made it difficult dial Petru’s number.

“I told you not to open the crate,” said Petru. Duane could hear booming house music, which meant Petru was still at the club.

“Right, you left me a note. That’s true. I’m an idiot,” said Duane. He tried not to grunt when his head bounced against the door.

Petru said nothing. His accent always made him sound bored and semi-pissed, but Duane figured his Romanian roommate was annoyed for real since he’d been chatting up a blond when Duane left the club.

After a moment, Petru sighed, “Look, I can’t get there for at least an hour.”

“An hour?” Duane screamed. “This door isn’t going to last five minutes! You’re right around the fucking corner!”

“Maybe one hour, maybe three,” said Petru. “You’ll just have to hold on.”

The line went dead, and Duane recalled that Petru didn’t deal well with confrontation.


Twenty minutes before, Duane stumbled into the apartment and discovered a large, wooden crate sitting in the middle of the living room floor. There was a note on top of the crate, and a crowbar lying beside it.

Dear Duane,
Do not open the crate.
- Petru

Petru was always ordering weird shit online and rummaging through people’s trash. When they’d first moved in together, Duane thought it was just a quirky hobby but the volume of crap soon overwhelmed Petru’s room and spilled out into the living room. Now, their apartment looked like a psychotic curio shop: stuffed monkeys (yes, plural), urns, bordello lamps, primitive weapons, more dead things in jars. Really, Duane had become a bit numb to it all and he’d recently taken to spending time on Craigslist looking for a new place to live.

So, was the crowbar an invitation or just Petru being Petru?

Duane spent about 30 seconds puzzling over this and then he decided he didn’t care. He cracked open the crate and dug through the packing peanuts, sweeping them onto the floor. Eventually, he had to get into the crate to reach the peanuts.

It was at this point that Duane uncovered a face. At first he thought it was a mannequin or a doll. As Duane cleared away more styrofoam, it became clear that he was looking at the corpse of an attractive woman.

The woman held a small, plastic bag against her rather ample bosom. Inside the bag there was a pamphlet, a thin stick, and a vial of violet, glittery goo. Duane pried the bag free and hopped out of the crate.

My Zombie Girlfriend(TM) – “She’s Necrotastic!”

“My Zombie Girlfriend is designed to provide decades of dedicated service to her master. Reanimating the undead is as simple. Just apply a small amount of the included Styx Lyx Serum (assorted flavors) to her lips using the included applicator (do not use your fingers). Apply additional Styx Lyx as needed to keep My Zombie Girlfriend lively and supple. Opened vials of Styx Lyx should be kept refrigerated to prevent spoilage. Additional vials are available online from our website. The living should not consume Styx Lyx. Please keep Styx Lyx out of the reach of children and pets.”

Duane wasn’t very good at reading instructions, but it seemed like even he couldn’t mess this up. He opened the vial and the smell of raspberry filled the room. He used the long thin stick to ease out some of the Styx Lyx and smeared it on the dead woman’s lips.

The effect was instantaneous. The woman’s eyes opened and locked onto Duane’s. She smiled and licked her lips. Duane smiled back. The woman was so attractive that it was difficult to keep in mind that she was also thoroughly dead.

“You have the amulet?” the woman purred.

“Amulet?” Duane replied.

The woman rose from the crate. Her smile disappeared.

“Page two of the manual,” she said.

Duane looked at page two.

“To protect your substantial investment, My Zombie Girlfriend is equipped with a security protocol which primarily involves feasting upon the flesh of unauthorized users. Do not attempt to reanimate the undead without the Amulet of Power in your possession. As an additional precaution, your Amulet of Power will be shipped separately.”

And this is how Duane came to be in the bathroom.

Posted on: December 6th, 2009 Mount Rainier Considers Its Mental Health

By Spencer Ellsworth

I am a volcano, and I forgot to take my antidepressants.
It started with my doctor. He climbed me with spiky shoes, snow thick in his beard. “You’re overdue,” he said. “By about a hundred years.”
“Is that bad?” I asked. Behind him, I could see the haze of buildings that was Seattle, Tacoma, and their connecting parts, square streets and square houses trying to live on round hills scooped up and ladled out of round valleys. I had watched it grow, from felled trees to skeletal frames to buildings that acted as though they had always been there.
“My wife was overdue for our first kid. I blame my kid’s weight on that. He’s a fatass. Won’t even climb a hill with me.”
“Am I going to have a baby?”
“You’re going to erupt.” He looked down at Seattle and Tacoma. “Half of that is going to be buried in thick soft ash and boiling rivers of mud. You, my friend, are an unquiet place in the earth.”
I wasn’t a place in the earth; mountains were on the earth. But given that this man seemed to have problems at home, I thought I would be gentle. “That’s interesting. I always thought I sat on an unquiet place in the earth.”
“Semantics. You’re the problem,” he said.
“People tell me I am beautiful,” I said.
“It’s a terrible beauty.”
I didn’t like that at all. “Can you help me?”
“No,” he said. “But a lot of things come with volcanism, you know. Anxiety flares you up, depression flares you down. You could go at any minute or you could wait forever. It’s driven some volcanoes crazy. By the time they erupt they don’t know who they are anymore.”
I opined that that sounded like a pretty good thing, given that I didn’t want to know that I was responsible for burying the people below in boiling mud.
“Semantics,” he said again. “You could be the only mountain in the Cascades to be awarded an honorary English degree.” He held up a big bottle of tiny pills. “Take one of these every year,” he said.
“And this will keep me from erupting.”
“The problem here is the inevitable crushing depression,” he said. “We all have bad days—we all, so to speak, erupt and drown Tukwila in fiery mud floods. But we can control how we face them.” He looked at his watch. “This time tomorrow I have to be home so I can spoon-feed chili-and-macaroni-and-cheese into my son’s disgusting mouth.”
I let him go, because it was obvious that his family needed him.
I took the pills. They helped me forget what he said, most of the time. I was determined to think of myself as sitting on an unquiet place in the earth, and that helped.
He climbed me again ten years later. “You’re still overdue,” he said.
“Maybe it was your imagination.”
“Nope.” He looked back down. “My son lost a lot of weight and is dating a vegan.”
“That’s good.”
“No it ain’t. Bastard still won’t exercise. You can take the fat out of the ass, but not the fatass out of the fatass.”
“Oh.” I didn’t feel qualified to comment on his problems with his son, so I said, “I’ve been taking the pills.”
“And are you able to function?”
“I guess so. What if—” I had wanted to ask him this for a while. “What if I just don’t erupt? I mean, I’ve got a choice in the matter, don’t I? Everyone has control over their own destiny.” This is one of the tenets I live by.
“The only thing you can control is your attitude,” he said. “Blind studies prove it.”
“Everyone,” I said, “has control over their own destiny.”
“Easy now,” he said. “You don’t want to start rumbling.”
“I don’t think I need these,” I said, and gave the antidepressants back to him. “I’ll do fine on my own.”
His snowy beard framed an angry frown. “I’m trying to help you.”
“Thank you, thank you, and I appreciate it, but… no.”
“Good God,” he said. “You’re just like my son. No idea of what’s good for you.”
After he climbed down, I felt a rumble. Rocks broke against each other, grinding to bright lava, boiling inside me. I watched the cities swell below, trying not to fidget.
I am fine.

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