Posted on: July 26th, 2009 The Recovery Room

by Tait McKenzie Johnson

By the time Rosita and I got to the Recovery Room the Pandemic had already begun: all the hip young bods dancing in their tightlegged latex, the girls sporting the new antimicrobial kid gloves, in varying shades of neon like floral radiation warnings, clapping and waving in the sterile blue lights. DJ Grippe was spinning the latest off N1H1 Records, Afro-Iberian dance beats that’d make your heart skip, the club the perfect vessel to blend all the strains of young international health into one rollicking party. You can see it in the eyes, every one of us still living, not like the alleys full of victims we had to pass on our ride here, choking and swelling in the endless dry winter, spreading the disease molecules with even one careless breath.

We got drinks–thin-necked bottles sipped through straws like delicate proboscises–and found a table with an empty table on either side of it so we could breathe freely within the current World Health Organization regulations. Rosita made sure to swipe each surface with a sanitary napkin before she sat down. Without actually touching anything I gave the appearance of leaning against the wallpaper, velvety winged pigs this month, the design sported by all the bartenders. It would all be burnt tomorrow and decontaminated for next month anyway. The owners of the Recovery Room tried to keep up with the latest fashions, since the first club to host the Pandemic fell into quarantine for hosting what would have been an ironic barbecue, except everyone fell sick. You couldn’t get kicked out of here for anything faster than an errant cough or sneeze. And everyone was watching, because the latest fashions were swathed around our faces.

I pointed them out to Rosita: the Japanese folkpunks in their austere Kabuki and Kami prints, several clowns and mock-stars (famous politicians, actors, etc…the Barack wasn’t so popular this season after a failure to provide national healthcare), it seemed the abstract contingent had done away with representing the mouth altogether in favor of Mandrian-like lines. There was even some old rocker sporting the Rolling Stones lips over his own, everyone with their projected desires plastered like smiles across their plastic faces. Rosita sipped discreetly through the side of her mask while I explained how the first international influenza pandemic wasn’t nearly so colorful, at least, you didn’t get your vaccine in a shot glass at the door. It’s all a big blast, don’t you think? Not as contagious like the Red Death, now that would be some gala!

What about her? Rosita asked, pointing a violet trembling glove across the room. Wandering through the crowd, stumbling as if actually ill, and leaving a wide empty void around her as she moved, was a girl clearly breaking some taboo or illusion of sanitary. We could hear it in the whispers behind the masks around us. Look at that shaved head, so last century, so chemo-chic. And those eyes, gaunt, horrific, what does she think she’s carrying? And then she turned our way and we saw what was causing the stir. Of everyone in the Recovery Room, this girl alone was not wearing a protective facemask. But no, it was something else, a thick scar running along the exposed collarbone as if some vital gland had been removed, and there, at the base of her thin-necked throat, a growth like a rotting blossom, dead set on consuming the otherwise unblemished skin from within.

Does she want to catch the flu? Rosita asked as the girl moved away, her delicate ungloved hands trailing on every dirty countertop, a pariah in this land of hermetically sealed emotions and collisions. She couldn’t go home like the rest of us and wash away the germs and be well again. I couldn’t get my mind off that tumescent flesh, so real, so malignant. I’ve never seen a neck so smooth and sorrowful. A reminder of the anarchy trembling at the cell walls of each of us, an endemic that can’t be hidden or held off by any pretty face. No, I sighed, that’s cancer. Don’t worry, it’s not contagious. Ugh, Rosita shuddered, I wish they’d kick her out anyway. You ready to dance yet? Hold on, I said, and then brazenly pulled off my mask to drain the rest of the bottle, even though people stared at my own naked uplifted cheeks, pallid from months without sunlight or fresh air.

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Posted on: July 18th, 2009 Revision

by Daniel Powell

He had become very peculiar in the last year.

“I apologize in advance for my odor,” he said on the first day of class. “I’ve altered my diet. It’s had some…well, some drastic effects on me. I take no offense if you keep your distance while we discuss your writing.”

Within a week we learned that he subsisted only on fish and clams. His scent never bothered me; he smelled like the ocean on a cool autumn day.

I had enjoyed his Composition I course when I was a freshman. He was kind and sincere, and he stayed after class to help those of us who cared about our writing.

Of course, back then he’d been much larger; he actually had muscles. Now, he was just a series of strings and cords beneath a canvas of pale skin.

His hair had been longer also. Now, he kept what was left up there cropped close to the scalp. When he leaned over his podium you could see little flakes of skin there, like a tiny collection of scales.

The third difference was that he was very sad. This was quite a change; I’d never pegged him for the type.

A few weeks in, the news had made the rounds on campus. He’d lost his wife and little girl. There had been an accident.

Now it all made a little more sense. He taught the minimum workload necessary to maintain his status at the university. He stacked his office hours on Friday afternoons, knowing he wouldn’t be bothered.

I chose one of those afternoons to visit him, just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. I brought an essay with me as a cover story, but mostly I was curious about how he was holding up.

The English Department was deserted. I walked down the dim hallway to his office and stopped when I heard him weeping. I craned my neck, concentrating.

His words were awash in grief, but I understood a few of them all the same. Changing. Growing.

Becoming.

I felt a little guilty, but I listened for a few minutes. I was just about to leave when I let go with an involuntary cough. It was a small one, just the last of an old chest cold, but he heard me. The weeping ceased immediately.

“Who’s there?”

I stepped into his doorway. “Hi. I’m sorry to bother you…”

He stood, swiped the tears from his eyes and offered a little smile. “Oh, no trouble. Please, come in, Ann. It’s nice to see you. Don’t mind the smell.”

His office smelled like cod.

I sat and he turned away from me and covered something on his desk. It looked like a stack of charts. Old nautical charts. “What can I do for you?”

“I was wondering…” I considered giving him the essay and decided instead just to come out with it. “I was wondering how you’re doing.”

He sat up in his chair, like I’d reached out and slapped him. He stared at me. “Revision,” he said after a lengthy pause. “I’m undergoing extensive revision.”

And that’s about the gist of it, really. We talked for a little while longer. He touched briefly on the accident and the nature of his grief. When I saw him in our next class session, he never mentioned our meeting.

And then, a week later, he was gone.

We sat there on a cold Tuesday morning and the dean told us that our writing teacher had simply walked into the ocean. Vanished. There was a palpable sense of loss in the room that day, and everyone left quietly.

I was home for Christmas when the thought finally occurred to me. It came unbidden, like a moment of perfect clarity. I logged onto the internet and found the article in no time. The Google search had flagged his wife’s name, and his daughter’s was there as well. They were two among many that had perished on a ferry that capsized in the waters near Amelia Island. Their bodies were never recovered

They never found him either. There was just a brief note on top of a set of clothing, weighted down with a rock.

I sometimes wonder about that note. I think about it in the quiet times, when I have a moment to myself. I’m pretty sure, though, that he’d confessed his plans that night in his office. Revision, he’d said, I’m undergoing extensive revision.

And I often wonder if he made it.

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Posted on: July 11th, 2009 Better

by Luc Reid

“My god, no; that was pitiful,” he said. “Why do you come to me here, if you are only going to sing like this? Perhaps I will go be sick now.”

There must have been a reason that Master Grenarde taught all of the greatest singers. But maybe the reason was that because he was such a conceited ass, nobody could believe he didn’t actually have something to be conceited about.

My back still ached from where Master Grenarde had whacked it with his cane to keep my posture straight. I glared at him.

“You don’t like me, Mademoiselle, is that it?” said Master Grenarde. “That doesn’t matter. I don’t like you either. You stay, you go, what does it matter to me? Some other churlish, self-absorbed child will take your place. Do you want to be liked? Then you should go to the city and become a prostitute. Everyone likes them, the prostitutes. They provide a public service and are easy to make friends with.”

I pressed my lips shut to keep from responding. He was like this often. I didn’t care. Once I got through his school, his certification would get me anywhere I wanted to go, and I would never have to see him again.

“Like your mother, eh? A prostitute, and everyone liked her, eh? Surely your father did, whoever he might be.”

I clenched my fist so hard, my nails drew blood. If I hit him, I would be out of the school. Oh, but how I wanted to hit him. He wasn’t just taunting; he knew about my family.

He bent down to my ear, his ridiculous, loopy white hair shifting on his head. “You feel that? The anger? Let it go. You must be nothing. Thoughts are nothing. Anger is nothing. Feeling comes, it goes, but there can be emptiness. You feel it? Get rid of it.”

I fought with myself, but obeying Master Grenarde was something I’d been forced to learn to do immediately, without thinking. It was the only way to achieve what he demanded we achieve. So I tried to let the anger go, to separate it from me like letting a balloon drift away, and suddenly I felt dizzy, like I was teetering on the edge of a bottomless pit.

“Now, sing the note again,” he whispered, and I sang it. I brought it up from the bottom of my chest and relaxed my throat and stretched my mouth to let it out. Something seemed to break in the pit of my stomach, and then the note was not coming from the bottom of my chest, but from someplace much, much deeper, someplace outside of me. The note rose through me and resonated through the room, through the tower, through the entire city. Around me the walls burst out in shifting, colored light, the roof burst apart, and power roared through me like water through a broken dam. I had let little trickles through before, but nothing like this. Nothing like this.

I held it as long as I could, until it faded. I was shaking, and my body was drenched with sweat. Pieces of the smashed roof lay where they had fallen around me and the Master. Scorch marks radiated out from where I stood on the floor. The Master pushed a piece of the roof aside with his cane.

“Better,” he said grudgingly.

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Posted on: July 4th, 2009 Too Quiet on the Carpet

by Ben White

So my father turned into a crab, big fucking deal. Shit happens, and it happens to grown men who sit on their vintage/hideous 1970s shit-brown corduroy couch while watching the Price is Right like an overweight stay-at-home Mrs. Cleans-a-Lot, such as my mother, who incidentally is pissed, I assume because their sex life–which I hope at their age was a joke–is most definitely in the gutter. I’ve seen the pinch marks. It can’t be worth it.

As if he didn’t lounge around the house enough since he got disability, now he just watches the game shows all day long, hogging an entire couch cushion (like he needs it) and staring at the screen with those creepy little crab eyes. I know, he’s my father, he can’t help it–but yeech.

And during commercial breaks when we sit and watch Law & Order together, I’ll hear quick clicks on the kitchen and bathroom tiles–little pattering warnings as he goes about picking up snack crumbs from the floor and leaving little crab dumps on the mat my mom put down in the bathroom (don’t you dare leave any souvenirs in the kitchen, she says, you’re better than that). But on the carpet, he’s too quiet. You can’t hear him. He sneaks up on you. He just pops out, beady little eyes coming out of nowhere. Mom and I walk around the house wary like a driver changing lanes at night while looking for a motorcycle in his blind spot. I’m going to step on him one day. I just know it. I’m going to crush his little arthropod shell, destroy what’s left of my father. And what then? What kind of son will that make me?

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Posted on: June 28th, 2009 This Dog’s Life

by William T. Vandemark

Ten
My Master–Orson Wellian in girth and voice–calls me.
Stomach plump with gobbets of reactant, I waddle to him.
It’s time for our afternoon constitutional, a city block’s perambulation.
Appearances to maintain, I wag my tail at the leash.
Master thinks I’m a slave, but seconds will reveal otherwise.
In fact, no need to encrypt this, my final infosquirt.
For those of you snuffling the airwaves, here’s the scent.
A year ago, Command and Control sampled the family mutt.
Last week, I–a cybernetic, cloned prince–replaced the pauper.
Now, count down with me; I’d rather not die alone.

Nine
Jesus stayed for supper, knowing one cohort would betray.
Will I be naught more than Master’s Judas familiaris?
Granted, my cybernetic threads have been woven sans free will.
But is this all I was meant to be?
Doctor Leahy, forgive this, my ruff of animal instinct.
But I desire an attaboy! before immolation extinguishes life.
On second thought, perhaps these pangs are systemic failures.
Better I should use precious seconds to thank you.
No shaggy whelp has ever had a better creator.

Eight
My Master clips the leash to my collar.
Talk about being hoist on one’s own petard.
But a villainous arms dealer should know better.
Command and Control is nothing, if not patient.
I suspect it’ll be difficult for little Suzie.
She’ll miss our nightly snuggles and belly-scratch time.
Out of an abundance of caution, I sniff.
Girly pheromones linger, but not in notable concentrations.

Seven
As plotted, she’s safely away at kindergarten.
Wish I were back at canine school.
But not in bomb-detection class; I’d reek.
Master’s fingers smell of bacon and tomatoes.
I like bacon; I lick his hand.
His hands have killed a dozen men.
I don’t like him petting my head.

Six
This morning I chased a squirrel.
I caught Zippy, a C&C construct.
Postprandial, my dithered pancreas secretes catalyst.
Suddenly I release pressure: a fart.
But Master is none the wiser.
I’m a bastard and nothing more.

Five
I don’t feel so good.
Wish I could eat grass.
And roll on dead stuff.
Will someone roll on me?
Maybe the poodle next door.

Four
My blood heats supercritical.
Fleas flee, abandoning ship.
Froth fills my mouth.
The band plays on.

Three
I drool phosphates.
Perchance to Dream?
Panic sets in.

Two
I howl.
Please, Doc!

One
floccinaucinihilipilification

Zero
the habit or action of estimating something as worthless

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Posted on: June 21st, 2009 I Like to Tease People

By Martin M. Meiss


Late one night when I was on a trip I went into a Burger King for some grub. There was a pretty girl behind the counter joking around with the kid manning the fries machine, having a good time, but when they saw me waiting the girl took my order, still grinning, and the kid put it together. I went to a table near the back wall to eat. I definitely think Burger King has better fries than MacDonald’s.

I wasn’t half done when a youngish couple came in. They ordered and when they had their stuff they came toward the back. They both said “hi” when they passed me and took the corner table.

“Nice to get in this air conditioning, isn’t it,” I said. The guy looked maybe thirty and had a droopy mustache. The woman was a little younger and I could see the top of a little rose tattooed just under her collar bone. They unpacked their order, then the woman got up and headed for the restroom.

I leaned toward the guy and said, pretty quiet, “Guess what I’m going to do.”

He grinned and said, “What?”

“I’m gonna finish my meal slow so I can watch you two eat. When you leave I’m going to follow you out of here. Then I’m going to kill you, and when I’m done fucking your girl friend, I’m going to kill her.”

I can’t tell you everything that happened after that, but I will say this: he looked like he was going to shit himself.


I like to tease people.

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Posted on: June 13th, 2009 Summer Nights

by Meagan Kane

We went dancing most nights, when the air was crisp and full of fireflies, when the lights were bright. Your favorite place was that little settlement off what used to be Highway 51; you loved how bright it shone, a burning coal, against the mountains that surrounded it.

Do you remember those early days still? The sky choked, and everything stank, and nothing stayed built for very long. We all danced then, because it was the only thing to be done.

You especially loved the fringes of the beating, pulsating crowd — you’d shot something clichéd about dancing on the edge, and I’d giggle  in that way you always thought meant I was pleased, when really it meant I was afraid.

Then one night you slipped your slim self too far past the warm glow, and you didn’t come back for two weeks, and when you did it was with a limp because they had taken a foot, as tax.

You looked me in the eyes, took the pipe out of my hands, and said it was time to get serious about starting over.
Houses stayed built. The lights faded back to a complacent grey. We got along.

Sometimes, when you’re not looking, I stamp to rhythms I can barely remember in the cold raked dirt of our backyard, and wait for sunflowers to grow.

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Posted on: June 7th, 2009 Hard Choices

by Tina Connolly

A.  Your little sister is tired of picnicking and wants to explore a cave.  She says if you don’t come, she will tell mom what you were doing last Saturday.  If you grudgingly accept her blackmail, go to B.  If you let her tell mom that you were skinny dipping with Bitsy on the shapeshifter reservation, go to Z.

B.  The cave is dark.  You try to scare your sister with tales of carnivorous shapeshifters who eat bad children.  She says everyone knows that shapeshifters are cowardly beasts, easily beaten by the first planetary settlers.  You ask why she knows so much history when you are flunking.  If you vow to stop looking at Bitsy’s shirt in history class, go to C.  If you tell your sister to be quiet and respect her elders go to D.

C.  You think about Bitsy’s shirt as you explore the moist dank cave.  Stalactites drip on your head.  Go to D.

D.  A swarm of glowbats fly out.  They have a wingspan as wide as your chest, and are phosphorescent during mating season.  It is suddenly so bright that your sister sees you drop and cower, trying frantically to get the feeling of claws and wings out of your hair.  “Let’s go back!” you squeal, but she says if you don’t press on, she will tell Bitsy you’re afraid of mating season.  If you grab your sister and march her out of the cave, go to Z.  If you dry your tears and press on, go to E.

E.  By the light of three hanging bats, you see cave paintings.  One painting shows many differently shaped shapeshifters greeting a rocketship.  One painting shows the shapeshifters bringing stalks of grain to humans.  One painting shows a yin-yang picture — a shapeshifter eating a human who is killing him with a spear.  One painting shows the shapeshifters huddled in a circle, surrounded with lightning bolts.  “Graffiti,” sniffs your sister.  If you think about the struggles inherent in the coming together of two sentient species and how we always seem to flub the hard choices, go to F.  If you think about Bitsy’s skin in sunlit water, go to F.

F.  Past the pictures, the cave forks in two.   One tunnel smells like rotten eggs.  One tunnel smells like the strawberry shampoo in Bitsy’s hair.  Your sister goes down the eggy path.  If you follow her, go to H.  If you follow the memory of Bitsy’s hair, go to G.

G.  Your cave adventure was an funny prank by Bitsy, who paid your sister ten bucks to bring you to her.  Bitsy is waiting for you, arrayed only in long locks of strawberry shampooed hair.  Unfortunately, Bitsy is a carnivorous shapeshifter and you die.

H.  At the end of the eggy tunnel is a bear.  Since there are no bears on this planet, it is likely a carnivorous shapeshifter.  If you proffer a handshake and recite the Human-Shapeshifter Protocol, go to I.  If you throw your sister to the bear to buy time, go to J.

I. The bear’s paw becomes a maw and bites off your hand.  It chews it up while it recites some manifesto about how it rejects the Human-Shapeshifter protocol.  You throw your sister to the bear to buy time.  Go to K.

J.  You feel a little regret and try to save your sister.  The bear bites off your hand.  It spits the fingers on the floor.  You feel ashamed that your fingers aren’t worth eating.  Go to K.

K.  Faint from blood and sister loss, you wrap your wrist in your shirt and run for the entrance.  You lose some time when the bats fly over your head in a triumphal finish to their mating flight.  Suddenly Bitsy is there to save you.  She helps you stand and dries your tears.  She takes off her shirt and uses it to bandage your wrist.  You feel a lot better.  Then she eats you.

Z.  Your mother grounds you from the prom.  Bitsy finds a new boy.  When you are 31, the great Shapeshifter Revolt comes to fruition, the human settlement is overthrown, and the electric fencing destroyed for good.  Bitsy finds you cowering in a bathroom, weeping that you will die a virgin.  She makes love to you, tenderly, sweetly, and you remember a day of sunlit water and glorious splashing.  There is no fumbling, there is no miscommunication, there are no tears.  Then she eats you.

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Posted on: May 31st, 2009 Snake Eyes

by Kevin Bishop

Our real last name was Barnes.  WitSec coached us on changing our identity.  Keep your first name, change your surname.  Initials and first name stay the same as ever, so it’s easier to keep up the ruse.  The drunk in charge of our family’s safety gave us two choices for last names: “Bridges” or “Burners.”  Ha ha ha.

They moved us to Mina, Nevada.  We drove the last twenty miles by ourselves on a sunny but windy September morning.  A sign in front of one of the two gas stations in town read:

“Welcome Burners.”

Not a low key entrance, but it made a neighborly first impression.

It was all a coincidence.

There’s a big to-do in the middle of the Nevada desert every year around Labor Day called Burning Man.  Unique individuals seeking tribal experiences and radical self-expression flock from all corners of the globe to radically self-express in the bright Nevada sunshine.  The festival culminates in the transformation of an enormous stick figure into a hominid-shaped bonfire.  People who attend Burning Man sometimes call themselves “Burners.”  The welcome sign we saw was intended for them.

Not long after we settled in, a real Burner came by our house, wanting to borrow some gas.  Both gas stations in town were out.  As dad stepped into the bright sunshine, his eyes instantly went obsidian.  The young shirtless would-be petrol borrower was taken aback, taken so far aback that he fell over in the dirt.  Then he got up and ran away.  A few minutes later, he returned with a young lady who had not believed her boyfriend’s report of an alien sighting.  Once again, dad stepped into the sunshine, and once again, his eyes went utterly dark.

The young man was ready and this time he sprinted away without falling first.  The woman was not ready at all, and she screamed at the top of her lungs, frozen with fear.  Mom came running, because this didn’t happen every day.  She was also wearing the self-darkening contacts that dad made in the basement, and when mom’s eyes went black too, the poor Burner girl had herself a swoon.

My brother and I caught up with the boyfriend about a mile down the road.  We showed him how the lenses worked.  We invited these Burners to dinner.

Over dinner, dad explained that he had rediscovered a lost process for compressing herapathite crystals, which had a polarizing property, between tiny sheets of glass.  Herapathite at one time had been made in the lab by feeding a dog quinine bisulphate, then mixing the dog’s urine with iodine.  Mom interrupted to ask if anyone wanted cookies, and dad took the hint.

The couple wanted to try out the lenses themselves. Dad gave them each a pair.

“Keep them,” he said.  “See if there’s any interest at Burning Man.”

There was interest.  You couldn’t sell at Burning Man itself, so we set up a small roadside stand.  We’d accept cash or barter on a car by car basis.  The half acre behind our house accumulated the things we couldn’t use, but didn’t yet want to throw away.  We collected as payment all sorts of things: a few hundred kidney-shaped plastic container bedpan-type things, spools of rubber tubing, and several dozen beat-up fire hydrants.  Those burners brought lots of construction supplies for their conceptual art projects and temporary camps, too, so with bartered goods we built a set of storage sheds and a small manufacturing building with a “clean room.”

We started doing mail order.  Dad found someone in Reno to build a website.  Demand overwhelmed supply.  Dad used nitrocellulose polymer film and commercially available herapathite but everything had to be shipped in.  Shipping costs were killing our margin.

Dad looked to local resources.  What did Mina have in abundance?  Stray dogs.

Why buy herapathite when you can grow it yourself?  Mom baked quinine bisulphate dog treats while my dad directed my brothers and I to lay out a grid of fire hydrants, four rows of four hydrants each, for a total of sixteen “collector nodes.”

Gutters around the base of the hydrants were lined with those kidney-shaped bedpan things, like they were custom made for it.  Mom put out the treats and lots and lots of water.  Neighborhood dogs came like pigeons to breadcrumbs.  We harvested dog urine by the gallon.  The resulting herapathite was high grade.  Our profit margin soared.

Dad accidentally used his real name on the patent application.

That’s how they found us.

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Posted on: May 24th, 2009 The Occupation of the Architect

by Jason Heller

The buildings pulled themselves out of the ground one morning and decided to speak. Humans in pajamas or nude save for shampoo streamed in alarm out of door-mouths and window-eyes. Then the buildings strode to the center of the city, sat down with a dull thud, and called everyone to listen.

“Inhabitants,” announced City Hall, clearing her throat. It sounded like a thousand doors slamming. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I gathered you all here today.”

A murmur ran through the crowd. Others muttered. A tiny man all knew as the city’s architect stepped forward, shivering in his nightshirt.

“Silence!” bellowed the Police Station. Pipes bristled pugnaciously from his uprooted foundation.

City Hall resumed. “Ahem, yes. As I was saying. Inhabitants: It has come to our attention that one among you has committed the ultimate sin. The unimaginable sin. For many millennia we’ve withstood your vermin, your arson, even your demolition. We’ve dealt with your parasitism, your sub-par upkeep, your shoddy design.

“But this new abomination you’ve inflicted upon us is too much. It’s beyond careless, beyond cruel. Worse than sacrilege. It’s a… a perversion of the universals of architecture themselves.”

Solemnly and with pomp, City Hall rose. The other buildings rose behind her. Then, in a symphony of squeaking hinges and splintered lumber, they stepped aside.

Behind them squatted a house. Small, brick. A crude picket fence ringed her like a hoop skirt.

The tiny architect came running toward them. “Don’t,” he yelled. “Don’t touch her! Don’t go near her!”

The Police Station scooped up the shrill man and hoisted him to one of his third-floor windows. The man could see an officer inside, snoring soundly at his desk.

“You,” the Station accused. “You built her.”

The man squirmed but said nothing.

The University Science Building ambled forth, flakes of paint dandruffing his eaves. “Imagine,” he said, peering at the man as if through a microscope. “Imagine such a pathetic architect being capable of so divine a sin.”

The man just stared. But he wasn’t staring at the Science Building.

He was staring at his house.

The small edifice had begun to giggle out her chimney and thrum with madness. The surface of her brick skin appeared distorted, unstable.

Her front door pulsed.

Despite the mewling protests of the architect, the Science Building approached the small house. The very air around her convulsed. He reached into that air, touched her doorknob, and gently turned it.

Then he opened her.

Inside was a room.

In that room was a city.

It stretched out endlessly within the house’s cramped walls. Boulevards unfolded into grids of minarets and gold-tipped cupolas. Canals glittered and elephants trumpeted toward the horizon. In the distance, stars coupled in a kaleidoscope sky and fell spent into the sun.

Clustered around the open door of the impossible house, the buildings peering at the visions therein began vomiting: gouts of watery cement, vestigial sewage, the bilge from piss-soaked carpets. It all churned into a stinking sludge and sluiced like lava down the sidewalks.

“Close it! Close it!” City Hall heaved. After the house’s front door had, with great difficulty, been closed, and the impossible room shut from view once more, the Science Building turned to the trembling architect.

“You will tell us,” he said, brick dust floating like smoke all around him. “You will tell us how you do that.”

#

The next morning everyone awoke and prepared themselves for the journey. The people itched wretchedly, of course, but their pain was nothing compared to the invasion of the day before. Starting with the screaming architect, the buildings–drunk on their newfound ability to pervert space itself–had shrugged themselves so casually into the humans’ bodies, as if into too-tight sweaters. Their bones had powdered at the impact, displaced by the wood and brick that now filled their skins. But worse was the nausea, the gnawing at their souls, the knowledge that they were now larger–far larger–inside than out.

And so, newly sheathed in the meat of the people that once occupied them, the buildings stalked off toward the next city to raise glittering, impossible buildings of their own to infest.

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