Posted on: November 27th, 2011 The Expurgated Version

by KJ Kabza

It began with me and Lori, James, please. How could we not? We flirted for weeks beforehand, transmitting James, please hear me thoughts and mental images to each other with our cyberneurons whenever she stopped in at the gas station. We were 19 and in love, her Neo-Calvinist parents be why can’t you hear me?

But that’s the thing about Neo-Calvinists. They won’t be I can’t be trapped here. At least, they think they won’t be. They think they’ve a God-given right to decide who gets to join them in their bright, silent, stone-cold ever-after, and who gets to roar with the flames in the Lake of Fire. And they caught Lori and I one night in the back of her car, parked at the back of the weedy lot on Cedar, help me. She was letting me I can’t be like this with her skirt on, fabric raised up and I can explain pulled to the side. And, for the first time, she was letting me Dad said to me So you want to be together, then? without a and he knows the judge. I’d just gotten he said When you download Restraint into that little bastard, there’s something else I want you to put there, a really big mental program–don’t ask questions of her. I was ready to bring my mouth down to that soft hollow in her neck that smelled like flowers, when a gloved hand banged on the window, louder than the blast from a shotgun.

The Lake of Fire for me, then.

I don’t know what happened to Lori. I’ve sent queries out, transmitting Has anyone seen this woman? with a memory of her face to any and all cyberneurons within range, but this is the Arizona Protectorate, and the Neo-Calvinists can tell with one ping that I’ve been changed. They put that program in me, you know, after the Neo-Calvinist judge decided I’d raped her. I can’t remember being with Lori anymore. I mean being with her. Whenever I try, or whenever I think of anything James, please hear me, I’m suddenly gone, and after the blackout I’ve lost time–a hiccup of seconds if I’ve tried to say a dirty word; whole minutes if I stare at a woman’s please! and start to fantasize.

I’m afraid of what happens to me in those lost moments.

The judge said I’ll need to let it go. When they put that program in you, it’s for life.

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Posted on: November 13th, 2011 Shooting Stars

by Chris Stamp

Jeb and me, we cursed the world, goddamn it to hell! Atop two lonely, rusted trailers, full of ire and spite and iron will, we’d shoot our guns with scorn and zeal into the night.

Well that night was a night for shooting stars: Perseids or some such, I had heard. We fired into the void, Jack Daniels between our feet, hollered war cries as we brought each one down. Concussion and fire, far out in the desert. Trailers bucking like surfboards as they hit the ground. I swear, we ruled it all, and God had no complaint.

Now, I was thick with liquor but I could ever hold my wits; Jeb was always the one to lose them first. He shot one out of the sky from right above our heads–never can forget its eerie, mocking scream. A glare of bright light took my senses, threw me down, life crashed around me. I think I even seen a hasty devil’s smile.

But I spat out grit and grinned, though my hair was singed and my face was burned. Bottle jutted from the sand, not a precious drop spilled. Gun was hot to the touch but I wasn’t letting go. I grabbed the Jack by the neck and laughed, picked me up, clawed my way back up on top again.

There I saw it: Jeb’s trailer, smashed to Hell in a shining pool of glass. And Jeb himself: two upturned, smoking boots, cleated soles fending off an ebon, outraged sky.

I tipped my head back and I yelled my pain. Hollow echoes swirled and taunted, and the bastard moon glared its contempt. I stared back a moment, and had a thought. I took it in my sights and shot. A crater blossomed, and that pale rock span round once. Fired another, its fat face span faster and my head span faster still. Third shot stopped it, made a thumb hole, and I owned it; there it hung. Made to pitch it ‘cross the desert, cities: ninepins in my mind’s eye. Sweet rage in my veins made my soul sing.

Well my boot heel slipped off the edge, and I sat down, hard. Held the bottle up high, looked at the sky, an eye for Mars. Drew a bead and squeezed the trigger, but I couldn’t keep it steady and the shot went wild. Second did it: burst in red sparks, and the scorched air tasted good and bitter between my coughs.

A ping of cooling glass above the ringing in my ears–I looked down at Jeb, gone too soon, and shook my head. But no angel ever loved him, blight and ruin doted on him. Better this fate than a razor ‘gainst his wrist.

Raised my eyes to black hills crouched there, smug as judges, shade on darkness. They thought I’d spare them, but I showed them; knocked the tops off, broken teeth left; flint-edged hail rattled down around my ears.

Just three bullets more, less Jack than I liked, so I turned myself around and I eased myself back, faced the east, sipped my whisky, smoked cigars, held my gun ready. Waited for the damned sun to rise.

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