Posted on: November 21st, 2010 Don’t Look
by H.L. Fullerton
Felk glided along the fourth ring of hell, making good time. He’d retrieve his family’s honor and return home before the dead could smell him.
The Anghelescus–acrobats all–prepared their sons well. Felk trained from birth for this moment: uncles tossing him blindfolded from platforms to land on fence posts; cousins trying to distract him with shrieks or thrown sneakers as he balanced atop wires, hung from rafters, skated circles on thin ice. He succeeded when other Anghelescus failed by always following the family motto: never look down. That was how you fell and abandoned honor.
Felk hand-walked the rim of five, rappelled six, easily ignoring the insidious lies. The damned had nothing on his cousins. He should thank them for their creativity, right after he handed grandfather the family honor. A chorus of fallen Anghelescus shouted, â€œDon’t look!â€ as he passed. He didn’t, but smiled at their applause.
Seven, slicked with blood, required a controlled skid. So close now, one ring left. Honor swelled towards him, almost in reach. Shining brightly, begging him for rescue.
And, prideful, fell.
Posted on: November 7th, 2010 Rough Night
By Kate Marshall
The angel sat down next to Moira at the bar and touched a single finger to the sticky tabletop. “I’ve been out of the world too long,” he said. “I do not understand his jest.”
Tommy strangled the mic on stage, lurching in and out of his jokes with half-brayed laughter. He was the only one scraping up so much as a chuckle.
“You’re not missing anything,” Moira said. “He’s just not very good.”
The angel relaxed, nodded. He wore a black t-shirt with a logo too faded to read and a fake leather jacket with Frankenstein stitching mending one shoulder. Scars knotted the skin on the backs of his hands.
“He’s yours?” he asked.
“Guess so.” She’d been debating that very question. “You’re here for the open mic?”
He dug into his pocket and produced a crumpled half-sheet flier. TELL THE WORLD, it said, the block lettering cramped and off-center.
“What do you have to tell?” she asked.
“You’ll have to listen.”
He had a glum look about him. Too pretty for her taste, not like Tommy with his constant stubble and knobby nose. She could have stood handsome, but Tommy didn’t manage that either. The angel, though, had a Clark Kent jaw and blue eyes. Granted, those eyes were glowing like LEDs, but they had a charm to them.
“Where’d you get those scars?” she asked.
He lifted his hand as if examining them for the first time. “You’ll have to listen,” he said again, and then Tommy was stumbling through his last joke. She remembered to clap and cheer, and the angel slapped his palms together a couple times.
Tommy jogged through the audience, cheeks bright red and a shiny glaze of sweat on his brow. He mashed his lips against her and swept his tongue around her mouth a couple times. He tasted of rum. She was a tequila girl, herself. He’d have a couple more drinks before the night was out, here or at home. He always did, when it hadn’t gone well, and it never went well.
“Thanks for stickin’ around, babe,” he said. He flung his arm over her shoulder and squeezed her against his side. Her ear scraped a button. “I know you’ve got an early day. We can head out now.”
“I want to hear this guy,” she said. The angel was up on the stage. He lifted the mic from its stand and held it cupped in both hands. His head bowed over it. Silence set its nails against Moira’s skin and scratched at the nape of her neck.
“Why? Who is he?” Tommy asked. She hushed him, and the angel spoke.
His first word flayed the skin from a woman’s bones, and the second sent crackling sheets of salt across the floor, like spreading frost. His voice rose, and a lily burst from the bartender’s mouth. Moira’s blood turned to resin, then boiled away, and a hornet’s nest built itself inside her skull. The stars plunged through the ceiling and drifted down to settle on shoulders and tangle on hair. Moira caught one on her tongue.
Tommy reached into her wrist and took out one of the small bones. He presented it to her; she took it like a morsel of food, then hooked her fingers behind his jaw and reshaped it. Clark Kent now. She swiped the stubble from him and planted briar seeds in its place. A thicket curled from his cheeks, and he laughed.
Then the angel stopped speaking, and they were sitting in a dingy bar with their hands white-knuckled, gripping each other. The angel stood, head still bowed, and the quiet piled up in drifts.
Then they roared. They leaped to their feet, they beat their hands raw against one another, screamed wordless adulation from hoarse throats. The angel slid the mic back in its cradle and stepped off the stage.
He sat on the stool beside Moira, not bothering to cross the distance between.
“That was amazing,” Moira said. “But I didn’t understand it.”
The angel sagged. “You’re not missing anything. I’m just not very good.” His voice thrummed with whale-song melancholy.
Moira covered his scar-crossed palm. “You like tequila?”
“On me,” Tommy said, with all the solemnity of a soldier. The angel blinked, nodded.
The three of them hunched their shoulders and hefted dusty glasses in well-worn ritual, and hardly noticed the film of salt still clinging to their fingertips.