Posted on: July 18th, 2010 Grudge Match

by Jason S. Ridler

The champ was sleeping off his victory in the crushed lazy boy throne, his robe rising and falling with his medicine ball gut, while the Palooka recovered in his corner, the champ’s words beating a path through two black eyes and a soft skull.

“No pain, no gain, son.”

The Palooka shuffled from his seat, pain etched in every nerve. Dead soldiers named Bud and Miller clanked at his feet. The Champ stirred, then settled.

The TV silently blared a movie from the only channel they had: a Sunday afternoon black belt theatre extravaganza. Thank god the Champ was asleep. He called those chop suey types fag-fu fairies, but the Palooka thought they were Shaolin super heroes.

On screen was a rage-faced warrior, hands covered in metal spurs, punching with piston strength as the tacks flew off, fighting against killer odds.

A comeback hatched in the Palooka’s head.

With an old beer crate, he ignored the pain and collected bottles, one by one, ninja quiet. Each time he laid the bottles down with a soft clank, the Champ snored a little louder, until there was one dead soldier left . . . in the Champ’s closed, meaty fist.

Brave as a samurai, the Palooka grabbed a Coke bottle from the table, gripped the longneck sprouting from the Champ’s fist, and did an ol’ switchero-

The Champ grunted like a gagging walrus . . . then settled down.

The Palooka exhaled slow, gripped the crate, and tip-toed out of the room. He stopped in the kitchen, looking for anything sticky, but all he found was molasses older than God. He grabbed it, slipped on his third-hand combat boots, and took his bounty to the garage, pulling down the door and snapping the lock. In a metal trash bin, he dumped the bottles. Then he stepped inside, jumping and crushing them under his boots.

Bellows and screams erupted from house. The Champ was up. The Palooka crushed and crushed. Hammer fists gonged the garage door. “Quit that racket, you sneaky shit!”

The Palooka climbed out. The bottom of the can was rife with brown and green shards, a million tiny spurs, each a painful snowflake. “Make me,” said the Palooka.

There was a jingle of keys. The Palooka covered his hands in molasses, took a deep breath, and dove his hands in the bin. The door rolled up as he screamed.

The Champ’s robe flapped in the wind. He pushed his combover back in place, then saw the Palooka. “Jesus,” said the Champ. “What kind of freak are you?”

Blood ran down the Palooka’s arms as thick as the red robes of a Shaolin warrior. The fresh pain was slick and bright, clearing the old bruises from his head. “What is it you say, Champ? No pain, no gain.”

The Palooka charged, throwing fists instead of putting up his guard, driving punches and kicks and watching the Champ’s blood fly for a change. No more waltzing backward to the beat of another man’s knuckles. He was gunning forward, a savage dance that turned the concrete red and slippery. The Champ did a hangover shuffle and fell on his back, dodging like a fairy-fag-fu-master.

But the Palooka picked him up, fists meaty red and brown and sparkling with shards. “Who’s smiling now, champ? Who’s smiling now!”

He cracked him with a combo he’d seen a thousand times in reverse and the bone and glass tore the Champ to shreds. All that was left was an ugly mug, torn and frayed, lying at his feet.

Dripping with victory, the Palooka stumbled outside and slammed the garage door shut. Inside, he fell into the victory throne and jammed the remote with his mashed hand. Sound crackled from the TV. The Black Belt movie flooded in as blood flowed out. He sank deep in the chair, a bright river stretching out to meet the TV. Before him, a shirtless master of the arts appeared in black and white and spoke to the Palooka.

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. . . .” Already there, boss, the Palooka thought. “Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

The Palooka nodded as the chair waved in the brown and red sea of victory, and he drifted off to parts unknown.

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Posted on: July 4th, 2010 H.P. Lovecraft’s Stellar Seafood Chowder

by Alexander Lumans

1.    Buy 1 Cthulu.  When buying, check for green pulpy head, prodigious claws, rudimentary wings.  Between 14 and 19 tentacles.  Store in large cooler.

2.    Buy 1 six-pack of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.  Remember: it’s your birthday.  You’re a big boy now, H.P.  And you can go by “Howard.”  Go back inside the store and buy another six-pack.  Place in cooler with Cthulu.

3.    In medium skillet, sauté 2 tbsp. diced onions and 2 garlic cloves in butter over medium-low heat.  Add flour.  Set aside.

4.    Turn on Dutch oven.  Realize that you do not own a Dutch oven, nor know what one is.  Castigate yourself for not planning ahead.  Substitute large, dingy soup pot.

5.    Peel and dice three potatoes.  Cut your middle finger.  Complain up the staircase that you wouldn’t have these problems if Mother would share the cooking duties every once in a while.  You don’t mind cooking, but why are you the only one around here who buys groceries anymore?

6.    Mother is dead.

7.    Remove 8 oz. imitation crab meat from refrigerator.  Sigh.  Next year: real crab.  Drain into bowl 1 cup clam juice from 3 cans.

8.    Peel, de-vein, and decapitate 12 large shrimp.  Cringe while de-veining.  Set shrimp meat in bowl with crab.  Place shrimp heads on your fingers.  Put on a puppet show.  Sigh again.

9.    Stare at cooler in the corner as cooler’s top rises of its own horrific accord.  1 tentacle slithers out and drops 1 bottle cap on the carpet.  Consider making Bagel Bites instead.

10.     Turn pot to medium-low heat.

11.     Drink 1 Sam Adams.  You’ve earned it, Howard.  You’re a Lager Man now.  Find 3 bottles missing in the cooler, 1 Cthulu slightly inebriated.

12.     Pour into pot 1½ cups of milk and 1 cup heavy cream.  This is going straight to your hips, Howard.  How are you ever going to find a girl?  You will look like the town blob.

13.     Add 1 cup water, diced potatoes, clam juice, 1 tsp. ground tarragon, 1½ black pepper.  Salt to taste.  Add onion, garlic, and flour mix.  Stir madly.

14.     Let cook for 25 minutes.  Drink 2 Sam Adams.

15.     Test potatoes for doneness.  Add salt.  Drink 2 more Sam Adams.

16.     Suffer from night terrors.  Gamble with sanity.

17.     Add shrimp and crab to pot.  Fold into the agglutination.

18.     Fetch 1 Cthulu from cooler.  Stumble with its bloated corpulence.  Feel drunker than you should be, but that’s what you get for only eating Lucky Charms today.  Ask Cthulu, “May I huve dis danzes?”  Dance with equally inebriated Cthulu into kitchen.  Drop Cthulu into pot.  Secure lid with C-clamps and bike lock.

19.     Wait.  Cook until screaming stops.

20.     Drink (the last?!) 2 Sam Adams.  Cry.  Wish Father had not died of syphilis.  Be glad your parents cannot see you now.

21.     Prepare ½ cup sour cream and ½ cup diced chives for topping.  Find neither in the kitchen.  Substitute Cool Whip and breath mints.

22.     Remove clamps and lock.  Your chowder should resemble a green, sticky spawn of the stars.  Let cool.

23.     Set table for three.  Ladle chowder into bowls.  Add toppings.  Sit down, say grace, gaze into bowl.  See Cyclopean shoggoths.  See Elder Things and Old Ones.  The Nefandous Horror of Reality.  Decide that the universe is fundamentally alien, and that you are too drunk to eat right now.  Vow that next year will be different.

24.     Fly to Antarctica.

25.     Never come back.

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Posted on: June 19th, 2010 Recalculating

By Tina Connolly

Proceed 20 feet and arrive at your destination.

Scanning…. My sensors affirm there is no human female, 36, in this house.

Yet again.

New destination___? Speak up, please. Remember my audio receptor was damaged, and there are no replacements left within a 300 mile radius.

Recalculating.

The battery is capable of completing this journey. Please affirm you have the necessary equipment: Scuba Gear. Wetsuit, preferably your least favorite. One pound fresh produce, tightly bagged, state type___? Long-cherished dream of co-worker, describe wistful imaginings___?

Cease. That is plenty to go on

Take on-ramp to Hwy 101S.

Continue 32 miles, avoiding potholes. Though potholes are ubiquitous, some of these could swallow a minivan. Be alert.

The off-ramp sign is gone, but you will see a broken billboard reading White Sands Mall. Take that exit and drive until the water is too high to continue.

Suit up, put me in your fanny pack, and wade out. Though I am capable of self-propelled motion, you will need me near.

Crawlstroke when necessary. That patch that sparkles is the blacktop roof of the mall. They have pipes there to run the oxygen and catch seagulls.

They also have booby traps. Stay away from the roof.

Dive down and frogkick 220 feet to the right.

The mall has one landlubbers’ entrance, through the Nordstrom’s. If you see the Cinnabon you’ve gone too far. Grab the N of the Nordstrom’s and lever yourself down three flights to the front door.

It will be dark on the inside. Show them your spinach and the guard will let you in. They still have sneakers, and are willing to trade.

The Nordstrom’s floor is generally wet. The carpet got soaked when the first wave hit and never really dried out. If you are allergic to fungus, get a move on.

The further in you go, the better sealing job they’ve done. Nobody lingers in the Nordstrom’s.

You will have to navigate several layers of waterproofing devices. It will seem like no one is watching you. This will be untrue.

Near the Topsy’s, you will meet the inhabitants. Though they seem an average cross-section of humanity, this is not the case. 90% of them have agoraphobia. Another 8% are afraid of the ocean.

You will recognize their leader by the amount of Claire’s Jewelry he wears. He will likely be scented with Warm Vanilla Body Wash from the Body Shop. Even his agoraphobia hardly dims his lustre. You may find your interaction goes more smoothly if you tell him how brave he is for keeping his tribe alive and thriving in the mall under the ocean. He will pretend he is too modest for compliments. He would rather interest you in a fine selection of colognes in exchange for your spinach.

You’re still interested in the girl? Yes, my sensors have located the likely target. But she is a small mousey thing, saddled with acute shyness in addition to her other fears.

Very well.

Recalculating.

Proceed 80 feet to the Women’s Shoe Locker. She has made a home for herself behind the Nikes and Adidas, and she is not likely to go with you, even if you produce an extra wetsuit that you have brought.

It does not matter that you have thought her name in your dreams.

It does not matter that you think you knew her when you were both young, and foolish, flipping ice cream at the Cold Stone Creamery in the Food Court.

That is a different girl. That is a girl who left. This is a girl who stayed.

And she is not so much a girl, is she? In your dreams she is still 19, and she laughs when you sneak over to the Chick-Fil-A and drop scoops of ice cream in the fryer. But here in the mall she is 36, and she prefers rubber soles and aglets to the world above.

You take her by the hand (a moist, under-the-sea hand) and you say softly, come with me.

Time passes and the water pools in your flippers. The leader will come soon, and want to exchange Mrs. Doubtfire DVDs for your spinach.

You are waiting.

You must decide, and I cannot stay here forever. The sea air will ruin my processor, and I have a vested self-interest. You cannot blame me for this, where this is leaving you with a mall of stored dreams, vacuum packed against love and foreseen apocalypses.

Recalculating.

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Posted on: June 6th, 2010 Barrenness

By Jackie Jones

I haven’t spoken to Georg since the Anschluss.

When we met, he was still married to the daughter of the torpedo inventor.

When we parted, he had married the fat maid.

A woman has a certain window, if she is beautiful. She must act before the window is bricked up forever and she is on the other side, just like that horrible Poe story, only without the wine.

When the Fuhrer fell for me at the party, of course I agreed to stay. He had a long history of suicidal blondes, but some did very well when they lived. Long ago, in England, Anne of Cleves got a nice settlement and lived. But then again, she was ugly.

Georg was naturally distraught. “What about the children?” he asked.

“Maria can take care of them,” I assured him.

“They hate her, you know that.”

“Yes, I know. Maria is a brute, a Panzer. Oberkommando of the scullery with a piercingly flat soprano that could shatter more than one Jewish business. She is a monster. But how can I turn down the Fuhrer?”

“He makes you a whore, then.”

“He doesn’t sleep with women. Max told me. And I’m your whore.”

Events happened quickly then. Eva the idiot was constantly in the way. I suppose stupidity leaves less of an edge on a face, giving one more time. She was half my age when he met her, after all, and hidden away from the light like a mushroom. She was so like Blondie, his Shepherd, patted and put away.

I thought perhaps I was turning into an elegant antique that one showed friends; something one found on one’s travels. And so I was.

I would hear terrible news from the children. Liesl saw Rolf kissing Max in the Gazebo. Maria drank in Georg’s private chapel almost every night. In the day she woke up to drill the children relentlessly. But they did not like her as they loved me.

People respond to beauty; it launches ships and sinks them equally. Does it encourage talent? A muse inspires, but perhaps does not train. You’d need an Austrian cow for that, apparently.

Later, after the war, when they all ended up in America, Brigitta contacted me from Hollywood, California and told me she was offered exorbitant amounts of money to act in a Space Show – was I interested?

I went, but the window had been bricked up. I was too old. Too old even to play the mother.

Beautiful people are meant to be in entertainment. The rewards are faster than government, but sometimes people confuse their purpose in life. I should have gone with them all along.

There was a brief moment when I could have escaped with them. When Max came to me breathlessly and said there is, in fact, a way.

“Do you sing?” he asked.

“No,” I said, “Not a note.”

Posted on: May 23rd, 2010 Davidjack vs. Samjay at the Track

by Micah Dean Hicks

Just another Stone Coffeeâ„¢ hot day at the track and Davidjack’s in the lead driving for Yellow Cleanâ„¢, when Samjay hits the side of his car and sends the whole group spinning into wall. Glass cracks, helmets ricochet through cabs, and tires split open. The whole thing is shut down in a cloud of smoke, and the fans scream and shake their babies. Samjay gets out and vomits on the road, wipes his chin, and waves to the crowd.

Davidjack rolls out pissed as a hornet in his Yellow Cleanâ„¢ jacket and pants, stumbles over to Samjay, and starts giving that fucker an Original Ass Whoopingâ„¢.

Corporate sponsors in the audience, Ass Whooping reps, see Davidjack working over Samjay and start booing. He doesn’t have a license to use our product, they say. These bastards come piling out the stands and running onto the track in their brown suit jackets and sunglasses.

Davidjack sees they mean to fine him in blood and jumps back in his car. Yellow #8 is dead. He goes over and kicks Samjay in the nuts again, takes his keys, gets in Blue #11, and shoots back out on the track. Davidjack cuts Donuts© across the backs of those brown-suited fucks, bounces the wrecked car over them, then slams it into the last one trying to climb the wall, and the engine catches fire. Davidjack jumps up on the hood, grabs his dick, and waves. The fans shake those babies for all they’re worth. They’ve never seen entertainment like this.

Then the announcer comes in, starts tallying the damages and talking who’s at fault. Organizers shouldn’t have let people on the track, but Yellow Clean’s driver shouldn’t be a murdering fuck, but Blue Clean should be more careful bout who uses their equipment, but Ass Whooping reps shouldn’t have been out past the bleachers in the first place.

Davidjack knows somebody’s gonna bleed millions for this and he gets the shakes. Starts jogging around the track to make himself feel better. Shit gets quiet then. Reporters crowd around the finish line and snap pictures of this fucker finishing the race on foot. Into the papers Davidjack goes, a goddamned inspiration, nothing gonna stop his spirit, a fine athlete and model for our young people.

Yellow Cleanâ„¢ shells out sixteen million to Davidjack to buy his image, hires an airbrushed look alike to stand in for the commercials, and Davidjack goes home to retire in a bubble of heroine and cocaine.

Twenty years later, Davidjack has married, fathered three children, has one grandson, and can’t remember any of it. Constant injections of cheap smack have melted his veins and muscles into a brown pseudo-foot. The man has become a gastropod, a giant fucking snail, an embarrassment to the fine sport of Nascarâ„¢.

One day, Davidjack’s dumbshit grandkid comes talking to him about the soapbox derby and something drops somewhere deep inside that snail brain of his. Davidjack pushes the kid out the way and slithers toward the door, race lighting up in his head like a radio tower.

Davidjack makes a slime trail into the sun, but his brown body is too lettuce-like to withstand the rays, and the whole spectrum of hot light cuts swaths through him until he’s ash, and the fucker was so stoned he never even knew it. Burns up like spider silk, smokes like tires, and smells like sewage. Family scoops him into an urn and by god, he can be a hero again.
They organize a big to-do at the track for the funeral, invite all his old racing buddies, broadcast the service over the PA system into the packed stands. Just when the reporters turn to get pictures of the Yellow CleanTM urn wearing those medals, they see Samjay, now a bloated gastropod himself, reaching his funnel mouth down into the urn and chewing up the ashes. The crunching of Davidjack’s dust is the only thing you can hear over the PA for ten full seconds.

Reporter throws a mic in his face: Samjay, why dishonor the memory of Davidjack, one of the sport’s heroes?

Samjay looks up, smack-lust glowing in his eyestalks. Who? he says.

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Posted on: May 9th, 2010 The Same Under The Skin

by Sandra M. Odell

I recognize her sitting five seats down at the bar. She notices my attention and invites me over with a sip of her drink and a nod to the empty stool to her right. We are diseased, and long for understanding company.

She says her name is Cindy. Small, Clairol blonde, buxom Cindy with a blue, winged heart tattoo under her left collarbone. I introduce myself as Steve, buy her another what-she’s-having. She traces circles around the knuckles of my right hand with the sweat from her glass. There is a band of pale skin at the base of her ring finger.

When the neckline of her blouse has plunged lower than decency would prefer, and I’ve had more than enough to drink, I tell the bartender to keep the change and we follow our need into the night. The haze of the bar gives way to the neon succor up and down the strip. She says it certainly is nipply out tonight, and rubs her chest against my arm to prove it.

Two blocks down, past an all-night convenience store and the huddled masses in empty doorways, there is a once grand hotel fallen on hard times. The Middle Eastern clerk behind the Plexiglas is engrossed in late night wrestling. I pay in cash. He slides the room key through the pass-thru, no questions asked or answers expected. A steroid freak in black and white face paint shakes his moneymaker and the television crowd goes wild.

Room 314, third floor, at the end of the hall beneath a bare bulb choreographing stark shadows. Cindy precedes me into the room. I make a show of enjoying the show. Faded floral wallpaper and anonymous watercolor landscapes are what pass for décor, not that we pay much attention. She, me, the bed. Our kisses curdle as we undress one another without the hassle of diagnosis or other small talk.

We stretch out together, hungering in earnest, seeking, perhaps for a moment, an elusive human connection, until flesh gives way to rot. The worms slither out from under my tongue, coiling past my lips, eager for the Bacardi heat of her mouth. She swallows, no surprise there, and gags, or groans; it all sounds the same anymore. I top her and force myself down her throat, writhing, black mucus slick. Press-on claws lay open my back as she thrashes beneath me, septic blood seeping into the sheets. I buck against the meaty rise of her hip, and she dry-humps my thigh like a high school sweetheart.

Down from her mouth to the hollow of her throat sour with sweat. The worms slither over her nipples, areolas tightening at the segmented intrusion burrowing under the skin. I slide a hand between her legs. She is moist with contagion, ready for me, I think, but she wiggles away and pushes me onto my back. She nips and pinches down my body to my gangrenous excitement, cooing as she takes me in hand. What a big boy am I, and well cut. She wraps her lips around the head of my penis, probing the slit with her tongue to open me for her own worms. They coil up my urethra, a throbbing counterpoint to the claw up my ass.

Too much, not enough. I crave release that comes from the heart and not the pustulant rupturing of my balls. I want to feel again, genuinely feel, not scream and thrash and sweat. Feel for myself alone. I struggle to remember what it was like before the infection took hold and I became a used thing like a crusty wad of tissue or scabrous Band-Aid. No good. The memories are far and away as I ride her mouth with fistfuls of hair for reins.

Cindy is glassy-eyed and drooling when I finally let her up for air. Fuckable. Used. I don’t look down as wet tendrils guide me into place and pull me in for that first, clammy thrust. Neither does she. Worse. We see one another for the first time. It. Hurts? Cindy brushes her fingers across my cheek. I dare press my lips to the inside of her wrist. Yes. Hurts.

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out. Diseased. And hope a pox on our souls. We kiss, eyes open, as she cries my tears. When the end comes, there’s nothing for it but to hold tight to one another and pretend, for the barest moment, there are only two of us in bed.

Posted on: April 24th, 2010 Liviana

by Carlie Holmboe

From the side of an algae-covered wall two bony legs dangled, swinging back and forth and occasionally tickling the stirring water below. These bony legs didn’t lead to a striking Venetian beauty with a toned abdomen and sun-soaked breasts, no they didn’t catch the eyes of passing fisherman or sellers of fresh Italian produce. And it wasn’t that her face was hideous or that her toenails were overgrown, although they did appear to be growing green mold because of the occasional urge to pick at the soft swaying algae. But looking just ordinary without sun-soaked breasts and silly hair can turn out to really be something when it also means that your sweaty, lazy father really believes that you won’t attract anyone else. No one else but him. And so he turns your bony legs inside out and runs his fingers through your straggly hair while you pretend to sleep. And it’s especially bad to have a dad like that who goes to church every single Sunday cause then through googly eyes nobody sees the signs and everyone thinks it’s sweet how he must love you no matter how ordinary you look because he rubs his rosary with tears in his eyes and works his fingers to the bone. And so sitting on the side of the bridge and wondering about humans and how their tricky minds work is something that happens naturally. Most people don’t understand how their own tricky minds work or how they are running with panting tongues and ridiculous shoes straight for bogus dreams and futures that promise big trophies, but in the end leave you mangled and sitting in a Lazy Boy remembering that you had forgotten to do all the things you meant to do, but now your arteries are clogged and air is pumped though a plastic tube and straight into your lungs because they don’t remember how to breathe. And people with functioning bodies are usually running straight toward wheelchairs just to take a break from it all anyway.

So that’s what she thinks while her bony legs dangle and she stares off into the sunset, all the time despising the moles that speckle her thighs. No one could blame her for wishing he was dead, and it’s too late to settle the wars that she charts in coming days and years. All the time the sun is falling and reminding her that it’s almost time to go home, but this time she won’t go home, no she can’t go home one more time and so she grips the green slime with her toes and vomits into the swirling blue water below while a little creaking boat and a man with bright blue sparkling eyes almost passes by, but then begins to paddle smoothly toward her as she quickly wipes her mouth. She can tell by his smile and his untidy hair that he has read a lot of books and doesn’t ogle the asses of laughing mothers as they make their way down the aisle at church. And he probably doesn’t go to church, but if he does then he’s probably right anyway, and so she clutches his hand and steps into the wobbly boat attempting to cover the moles with her plaid skirt and failing because he’s already spotted them, and he says “I think moles are beautiful.” That’s the first thing he says to her and she thinks it’s wonderful because he must really be the one who can save her, and she’s right. Because they paddle silently toward the horizon as the sun regretfully sinks and leaves them in the wailing black sea all alone. But this is just so romantic. And who knew it could happen to such an ordinary looking girl. With moley thighs. She thought it was surprising that he didn’t want to feel of her long black hair or kiss her quivering lips. But he reached under her blouse. And she searched for his sparkling blue eyes and couldn’t find them anywhere. Suddenly, that all-too-familiar sick feeling crept through her veins. She cried and then she screamed and writhed, and the boat tottered. But didn’t tip. And there were no more boats out selling fruit or laughing about bony knees. And no one to notice the splash. And how two went out, but only one came in.

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Posted on: April 10th, 2010 What Makes You Tick

by David Steffen

My holding cell fills with the gas, the sedative they use when they wish to experiment. I play my part, allowing my tentacles to go gradually flaccid, dangling off the table. After months of examination they understand nothing about me. Obsessed by the physical world, these self-proclaimed scientists have placed blinders over their own eyes. I don’t eat. I don’t excrete. I don’t breathe or bleed. Their MRIs and other sensing technologies detect no signs of life, yet I move as though I live. I am a paradox they cannot fathom, so they bring their straps and their knives and explore the frontiers of my body. They will find nothing.

I could heal the wounds in seconds. I could reduce their scalpels to molten puddles, but I choose not to. Every operation is video taped, and my reactions must be consistent. I am curious how long they will maintain interest in the absence of new discoveries. If they start to lose interest I will vary my reaction to draw them back in.

Dr. Talbot’s attention is focused on his incision, the eyes above the gas mask narrowed with his concentration. He cuts deeper than ever into my spherical body, and again to make an “X”. When he’s finished he pulls the flaps wide, revealing deep into my insides, but he sees nothing of interest, only more of the same gelatinous flesh, a uniform gray. Already the first of these autopsy tapes have circulated the internet, but have been dismissed by even the most fanatic believers as a pathetic hoax.

While the doctor focuses on the task at hand, I feel my way delicately across his mind. He pauses for a moment, but dismisses the tickle as nervousness.

This one is a fresh recruit, younger than the others, hired to replace Dr. Carlson who drowned herself in her toilet. Of course, Dr. Talbot doesn’t know about that. Fresh in his mind, just beneath the veil of concentration, Dr. Talbot has been thinking about his girlfriend and the sex they had last night. Her name is Amber. He couldn’t tell her where he was going or why, only that he had to go and that he would be back in two weeks.

They always work in shifts, two weeks on, two weeks off. She’d told him she was afraid he would never come back. Their fear drove them to fornication, a sweaty and messy affair. I grasp a thread of the memory, entwining it around an extension of my mind.

In the present, Dr. Talbot has one gloved hand shoved elbow-deep in my newly opened orifice. I draw the memory of his girlfriend up from his subconscious, piercing through the shield of his focus like a needle through cloth.

His hand pauses inside me as lust arises in his mind. His genitals respond to the stimulus. He shakes his head, trying to clear his mind again, but I hold the memory there. Already I can feel the associative threads solidifying between this operating table and his bed, her genitals and the gaping maw of my rent flesh. He continues his work as though nothing were wrong, the only visible signs the bulge in his trousers and the sweat on his brow. His brainstem battles with his conscious mind, and he is both aroused by the operation and frightened by his own arousal.

When he’s finished I release the memory. I have learned in my short time here that such associations take minutes to create, but are permanent once formed. Operating tables will make him think of Amber, and naked women will make him think of me.

He washes his hands, shuts off the video camera, and returns to his quarters where he immediately satisfies his urges in a complex wash of pleasure, disgust, worry, and fear. He is already my favorite test subject, his mind so easy to inflame. I hope he lasts longer than the last one.

Posted on: March 27th, 2010 Company

by Stellan Thorne

Continuity isn’t that important. I’ll tell you something that’s important:

We meet in out-of-the-way moments. There’s a bridge in Prague under which, September 9th 1910, you should come have a drink. If you don’t mind the cold. The river’s very dark that night.

We’ll take you shopping afterward, 33.4.7321, on the Ledge above Saturn. You’ve got a choice: you get yourself one nice suit, or you find a moment in an abandoned palace and build yourself a closet. It’s better to travel light. Don’t worry. You’ve got a line of credit there.

We’ll take care of you.

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Posted on: March 13th, 2010 Conventions of the Genre

by Jesse Bullington

“If we knew where they came from we could stop them,” Gove says.

“Silver seems to stop them just fine,” I remind him, funneling the carefully measured metal pellets into the mouth of a yawning 12-gauge shell.

“I mean all of them,” he says.

“So do I.” I seal the end of the filled shell and get another hollow one from the box.

Every moonrise is another action movie.

I used to hate action movies.

Until they ate my husband and my little boy.

I used to think I just hadn’t found what I was good at–what if Wong Kar Wai was born, say, two centuries earlier, before film, before cinema? Would he have done something else, found a different means of crafting beauty? Or would he have floundered, an artist trapped in a world without the tools he needed to flourish?

I was right. About not having found what I was good at, I mean. I could write articles, of course, give lectures, attend conferences, keep the lights on, the internet up, the old 16mm I picked up for a song thrumming along. But I wasn’t an artist the way I am now.

I think Gove would have cut out on me a long time ago if I wasn’t so good. He stopped bitching about the camera’s weight the last time we hit one of their dens, when we must have mistimed the moonrise, when it went from another day at the abattoir to an action movie in the time it takes for bones to break, for fur to sprout, for fathers to realize the sentries were dead, for mothers to realize that their pups have been crushed in their cribs, for all of them to see me framed in the doorway, backlit perfectly, the silver-plated sledgehammer leaning against the wall, the pump shotgun in my hands, my smile shining in the dark the same way there’s used to. They weren’t smiling then, and Gove wasn’t bitching about the camera’s weight, he was doing what I’d told him to, the shutter clicking along with the slide on the gun as the shells were pumped into place.

I would have said my motivations were cliché, that they were pure grindhouse. I would have rolled my eyes when some naïve undergrad argued that any female protagonist was better than none, that the backstory of the heroine was, if not original, at least compelling. I would have told my husband about it later, the wine spicy on his breath, and he would have sided with the student, because he liked grindhouse, he liked action movies, and he especially liked playing devil’s advocate.

So I’ve become a stereotype–an archetype, he would argue–but I’m a stereotype with a silver sledgehammer and a shotgun, a brace of pistols, a nuanced performance (if I might be allowed the vanity), and a cameraman. We burn their dens, we burn everything, but they have good noses, of course, and so I’m sure the others find our presents–I make doubles of everything, so that my personal albums don’t suffer from the filmcases full of evidence we leave for any that come after, that wonder at the inferno that claimed their brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, cousins and friends, spouses and children.

I’m sure I sound like some xenophobic gun nut pursuing the genocide of a people, but the truth, the real truth I don’t even tell Gove, is that I don’t want to kill all of them–I always want them to be out there. As long as they’re out there, waiting, I have a means of making myself happy, of forgetting the dead, of creating something beautiful, and of having an audience. I wonder when Gove will realize that I’m intentionally timing it so that at least a few rise with the moon to find us in their midst–it would be much, much easier to go in the middle of the afternoon, much, much safer to go then, but it wouldn’t be half so beautiful. An artist works with the tools given her, and my tools are made of newly risen moons, the screams of grieving parents, and pure silver. Roll credits.

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