In desperate times desperate people head here – an online journal of Apocalyptic-themed fiction and commentary.

Pithy Fiction:

Jessica Wineteer / The Sharpest Tool in the Shed
They wore small computer screens like Halloween masks. On these screens they played earnest faces of humans, some of them in 3D. Their real faces made her vomit. Too many eyes. It gave her vertigo. She couldn’t figure which ones she should make eye contact with, so she tried to be polite and look into all of them. This made her dizzy and she retched. In order to communicate with her, they wore these masks.
Claire knew she was in a coma. She could tell because the dream never changed much and it was kind of boring. She also figured out she was in a coma dream because the sun rose on the wrong side. She wasn’t sure which direction that was, but it was opposite from where she lived near the border in Southern California.

Posted: January, 2012

Harold Jaffe / Revolution Post-Mill
Youth is the fortunate lack of enforced complicity.
The Sixties Zeitgeist was on their side, validated their dreamspace, intuition, polymorphous perversity.
If dream were permitted to interface with the anti-dream of our post-millennium “waking” lives, as in the Sixties was drawn from Native American and other “primitive” cultures, the globe would be inhabitable.
We wake after seven or eight hours of sleep punctuated by graphic, concentrated, timeless passion and perception and are encouraged to repress all of it; proceed with our stressful, programmed, mostly passionless wake-a-day lives as if dream-narrative never existed.

Posted: October, 2011

m benedict / the fountain On the day that baby Amerigo was to be baptized, all of the water in the baptismal font evaporated. The collection of aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends gathered around the pedestal and, as they pitied the sickly child and listened while the priest coughed himself into the beginning of the ceremony, not one of them noticed the absence of water.
The priest’s coughs were dry and unproductive. They gave way to an equally raspy voice that struggled to initiate the prayers. Amerigo’s parents were the only present not looking at their baby as he complained in a knot of wiggles in his godmother’s arms. Their eyes sought the solace of the church floor.

Posted: September, 2011

Shane Jesse Christmass / Case Report into Clairaudience It is of those sheep that we see them. Wives and sealed cities. The authors of today are in this cycle. They’ve showed their age. Being the age of 22, I answered ‘yes’ to their questions.
As in their environment, I didn’t much care for them; they expressed a will to live in the future, a future that had not been seen since the hand came down and made two hours of damage.

Posted: June, 2011

Tantra Bensko / Clock The cliff dangled itself off the edge of itself, tufted and mossy topped. On it a mouse turned quickly to see the beginning of an auric breeze that carried the residue of the goings-on of the inhabitants of the house a half mile away. As the inhabitants sloughed off the build-up of subtly colored emotions and concepts, the colors wafted by the mouse, who was used to perceiving such things very viscerally.
A beautifully silken red umbrella angled itself towards the edge of the cliff, mimicking the cliff’s shape, as the tangible wind itself blustered its way around it. Behind it, mist softened the organic forms of trees, moistening your lips, don’t you remember? You are the one who brought the demons there in the first place. You are the one who needs to hide out here, hanging yourself off the edge of the cliff so the inhabitants don’t see you. Learning to live a life with the arm socket stretched with your weight at all times.
But you really and truly had no bad intentions when you did the ritual on the vortex you had made in the little mossy clearing near the cliff, where the inhabitants rarely go. You had made the vortex so beautiful, so shining and powerful on other realms, often seen by the priests of your Order, made to your own design and heart, your own connections to the Divine. Which we all have, but which you were able to consciously focus and follow up so high above your head, feeling the bliss of it, the purity; you find it hard to reconcile with being “wrong,” having brought in the demons.

Posted: May, 2011

Jessica Hayes / Notification The oven timer sounded its short high-pitched summons at regular intervals and never shut itself off because it was for a regular oven and not a microwave or any other kind of oven with a timer that turned themselves off automatically. This timer was required to be shut-off manually which meant it would buzz until human hands released it. It was solar powered with a tiny titanium-epoxy polymer line that snaked up from the double oven array, into the ceiling and out to the roof where it terminated at a tiny solar collector, just strong enough to power that one little signal. The sound and power mechanism of this timer was made by the New American Kitchen Corporation at the beginning of the New American Manufacturing Renaissance and, like nearly all of the New American-made items of the time, their guarantee was quality materials and quality workmanship. Materials developed in research labs to be durable and impervious. Materials tested and re-tested on the space lab. In New America the goal was to rebuild the country by producing minor, but ultra high quality parts. The New American manufacturing motto was“buy once, buy every 100 years.”
These high quality small drop-mount parts gave manufacturers who purchased timers such as these a significant advantage in the marketplace. For the price of a very expensive buzzer the cost of a standard oven set was raised by as much as 200% in some markets. And they could legally advertise 100 year warranties made with materials tested in space. Of course these companies couldn’t have known when they were advertising “buy once, buy every 100 years” warranties that the warranties themselves would become qui ne sert rien — that which serves no one — within only a few months time. The owner of the double ovens had just removed her brownies and was reaching to turn off the timer when she and the rest of the population dropped dead. So the little timer made of high density, high performance, light and weather resistant materials, materials that had been tested and re-tested on the space lab still sounded out at regular intervals.

Posted: March, 2011

Shane Jesse Christmass / The Modern of Tongues Oswald Kersey was suspicious of speaking in tongues, that glossolalia, which was quackness for the believers; he had no need for a debate between himself and the conservatives, those evangelical Christians whose approach to the Christian Scriptures required addressing the unknown in a contamination that had all the frugality of a modern street revival.
He was bored. He knew he had the most modern of tongues, but being a janitor in a high school didn’t allow him to bring forth the ghost and fire too often.

Posted: February, 2011

Daniel King / The Interpretation of Life Gord sat up with a start, scrabbled to turn on the light switch. But he had forgotten how close he was to the bed lamp. Dazzled, he quickly shielded his eyes, in the process knocking from the bedside table the copy of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams that he had left there before going to sleep. He began to grope on the floor for the book with one hand, patting the eiderdown with the other, absently seeking the comforting form of Boodie. But then he remembered that because of their row she was sleeping in the spare room tonight. He felt a massive disappointment. Lately the violence of his dreams not only had been startling Boodie but also had been causing her to question his sanity; and he took an extreme masochistic pleasure in her spirited grilling, her intense questioning of his behaviour. He wished that she had always been so spirited; perhaps they would never have gone through with their separation then.

Posted: January, 2011

Juventino Manzano / Back on the Home Front Who am I kidding? I mean the sound the scene is all this played-out beaten ol’ mad witch broom zooming out and everywhere and nowhere and so what? And this music is taking me to the other side all right I mean I am flying at a nice pace with the notes of this Spacemen 3 record that Mike lent me and I wonder what drug he was on the first time he heard it… could have been the LSD or the crystal meth or the cocaine or the mushrooms or the weed — what could it have been? — and here I sit watching this shit and dissolving into the actual vinyl record that Mike had lent me… and I mean these guys were doing drugs and all that is so obvious and what the fuck are we doing anyway when we are not doing drugs? Yeah, so this shit, this infinite shit, same reaction every time no matter what high or time it is… tapping into that primitive brain baby and rocking that shit the fuck out warped and wounded wandering around in alliteration… so I was thinking that this is really good — the sound of confusion — that was the sound as I entered the third world pet shop named after a magical monkey.

Posted: December, 2010

Ashok Rajamani / White Men Can’t Jump, Er, Tie a Sari
So if there didn’t exist an India
with saris and curries and masala and bollywood

Posted: October, 2010

Harold Jaffe / Excerpts from Paris 60
3.27 Furious Goya

unblocked me.
Jet-lagged in the City of Lights.
Unseasonably cold.
Having rented a flat in the premier quartier, not far from the Tuileries Gardens.
Travel-blitzed, can’t write a line.
After five bleak nights the old deaf furious witness unblocked me.
On the walls at the Petit Palais in one of the chic quartiers: Goya’s engravings: Disasters of War.
The exhibition is crowded as the métro at rush-hour.
Kultur still cuts it in Paris.
Why are those two Japanese female tourists giggling at the grotesquely tortured innocents in Disasters of War?
Maybe I know why.

Posted: August, 2010

John Darling / There Must Be Cowboys     “Runners on the right, son!” warned Carl.
James glanced to his right even as his hand pulled the scattergun from its cross-bar mounted holster.
A shot from his dad at the feet of the middle Runner caused him to stutter step, which made the three of them momentarily separate from their columnar attack formation. In that instant, James fired. He heard a scream as one Runner fell. The others fled back towards the thicket of bushes that had come from; both limped badly. Before they could make it all the way, though, another shot caught the rear Runner between the shoulder blades, causing him to pitch forward into a heap.

Posted: July, 2010

Edwin Decker / Armageddon of Queer In our first-ever YouTube selection, we examine the really bad awful things that will happen if gay marriage is allowed.

Posted: June, 2010

John-Patrick Ayson / atrophy in the heart of defunct financial districts are mile length lines, comprised of men & women with grumbling stomachs, penniless pockets & zero confidence, making their way thru decagon shaped buildings, into storage rooms padded with five layers of styrofoam — where three foot tall stacks of manila envelopes, piled on top of third grade plastic tables, are attended to by persons wearing matching snake skin suits & berets, handing one envelope to each man & woman — who will find a document inside, which reads:
we are an all for profit organization whose objective is to protect our land from perpetrators & their intrinsic quests to disrupt our way of life.
these perpetrators are, but not limited to:
º ravens (& other creatures resembling them)

Posted: March, 2010

Stephen W. Potts / Zone of Silence     Allison was in the middle of a message to Ryan when her phone stopped working. She had just thumbed in “b/c don’t u just h8 it” when the tiny screen went completely black.
She tried to remember if she had heard the beeping that meant the battery was low on charge. Maybe she had been so engrossed in her texting that she had missed it. It was the reason she had missed her bus as she messaged Courtney from the girls’ room about getting together that evening for homework and Beverly Hills 90210. You would think that Courtney, who had been on the bus in front of their high school, would have texted something about its leaving.
Allison looked up from her phone and discovered a suburban street in a neighborhood that was much like hers but not hers. She recalled dreams like this in which she turned a corner near home, only to find herself somewhere she had never seen before. She had not wanted to phone her mother for a ride and get chewed out for missing the bus; she had figured the walk home would take less than an hour. Now, however, calling her mother seemed like the next best thing to do. She held her phone up and pressed the power button once, twice, then more firmly a third time. Nothing happened.

Posted: December, 2009

Harold Jaffe / Warr Games Night after night throughout the wrecked city contingents of US troops in cartoon new-age uniforms hunt for hidden roadside bombs.
On a recent night, a unit from Company B of the Fifth Engineering Battalion, out of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., met in a darkened tent to prepare for their road-clearing mission in a 27-foot armored vehicle called the Cowpoke.
At the end of their meeting, Staff Sgt. Jessie McGah, 31, of Greenville Arkansas, led his team in prayer . . .

     Out on what passes for a road, crawling along at five miles per hour, the unit peer through blast-resistant glass windows, using giant floodlights and a remotely operated steel arm to help detect any telltale disturbance in the pavement or median below that would reveal a buried bomb. To accomplish their mission, the engineers, or sappers, try to get into the enemy’s mind.

Posted: September, 2009

William Terry / Affection Interchange Program Just the strange blue gray color of the affection interchange building is enough to make you feel alone…. The outline of the building is so unfriendly that sometimes I’m amazed that I don’t get cut into organic ribbons just walking through the doorway. It’s like a blender with a doorknob. This is my third time to apply for the love stamps program. If by some miracle they accept me I will be able to receive a federally funded amount of government approved affection from a person matching my demographic profile. Fluorescent shadow boxes hug every corner of a linoleum hallway as I escape a near death entrance though the slice of the revolving door.
Two bright red signs illuminate from opposite ends of the hallway. The hallway splits into two long lines. The longest line belongs invariably to the sex interchange program applicants. Mostly males, 25-35, middle class, blue collar, lonely, distraught, and divorced perhaps. Alimony blues and child payment stories of the single life beat. On the other end are the applicants for the affection interchange. Scanning the line I see that it is mostly women. Shy, tragic looking, occasionally Goth, clutching band-labeled purses, with rectangular outlines of iPods in the back pockets of the tight fitting designer jeans. A few guys too. Mostly emo types. The occasional obviously married white picket SUV-driving man trying to find a pathway out of his marriage that won’t look too bad on divorce forms.

Posted: August, 2009

Juventino Manzano / Vestige to Visage The first time I saw Her I was 15 and it was at a deal my papa took me to in southern Nuevo Leon in order to introduce me officially to the mechanics of the family business. This wasn’t just some “deal,” this was a big deal; my papa was buying tons of marijuana and we were going to inspect and approve the transaction which his regional patron had set up. My papa always carried a nickel plated Colt Combat Commander in .38 super, shiny as the moon seen through a hand lens. It had, until before this deal, silver cachas or grips, but now was decked out in ivory grips with Her carved in bas relief, wielding scythe and wearing Her cassock get up — a gift from a connection in Michoacán. Everything was normal — just another day hanging with my papa even if it seemed unusual to be taken to a major deal. It was life. The sun was high, the mountain woods closed in around us, and the air smelled of dried cannabis.
Suddenly I could see us, the men with us, and the men from the other cartel all appearing as Her, but in different vestments — cowboy boots and hats, Levi’s and shirts with fancy embroidery. My handsome papa, neatly trimmed black goatee, his brown eyes hiding layers he’d saved only for himself, his shirt with the marijuana leaves embroidered around the buttons open throated, anchor Christ necklace on his curly haired chest; Colt tucked into his belt — only the grips with Her visible. As we toured the tonnage, I felt Her gaze on me from all the eyes around me — all the macho narcos fingering AK-47s and Colts, their gold marijuana leaf necklaces, customized trucks parked idling, dual exhaust grumbling behind the shipment. It was a moment of revelation being able to see through Her eyes — understanding we were all as able as Her to wield the scythe without a second thought, reduced to reflex-ruthless. I remember it stronger than my first orgasm given to me by Angel in his pick-up truck — him on the floor between my legs, tongue tapping a door I had not known existed — crying out “Epiphany” and “Angel” — a pleasant, perfect, continuous memory.

Posted: May, 2009

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky / A Beetle in an Anthill Lots of rats around. I have no idea what they eat in this stone desert. Snakes, maybe? Lots of snakes around, too, especially close to manholes, where they bunch together into tangled wriggling lumps. I have no idea what snakes eat here, either. Rats, maybe?
The city, clearly, has been abandoned a long time ago. The man we saw at the outskirts was obviously mentally unsound and wandered in by chance.

Posted: April, 2009

Harold Jaffe / Bela Lugosi Found dead in bed in his Los Angeles house in August 1956; the official diagnosis: myocardial infarction. Lugosi had a morphine, Demerol and methadone habit since he injured his back in World War 1, and it was assumed that his drug intake contributed to his death. He was buried in his Dracula cape, with his hair dyed black, in Culver City, California. Because Lugosi was virtually destitute, Frank Sinatra, whom Lugosi never met, reportedly paid for the funeral. Bela Lugosi was 74-years-old.

Posted: June-July, 2008

Tyrone Nagai / Lola and Jean It is a little-known fact that the 1998 film Lola rennt (Run Lola Run) is actually based on an event that occurred on July 22nd (2005) in London, England. In the movie version, a narrator iterates the musings of the late soccer coach Josef (Sepp) Herberger — the Yogi Berra of Germany: “After the game is before the game. The ball is round. The game lasts 90 minutes.”

Posted: April-May, 2008

Jefferson P. Swycaffer / In Search of The Fuehrer Winter’s furies had abated, and Adolf Hitler had decided to take a bit of a walk. Therefore, the rest of his entourage had decided likewise. Heinrich Himmler was managing to keep up the pace, while Josef Goebbels, showing the sort of canny wisdom that had kept him alive during periodic party re-organizations, managed to go slowly, so as not to show up the less athletic of the junta. Hermann Goering, of course, plodded along in the rear, red-faced and huffing. A platoon of mountain troops had fanned out over the ridges and cuts, and a special section of SS officers maintained a minute-by-minute census of the population of Kandersfeld, taking no chances against any lack of patriotism or loyalty on the part of the good citizenry.

Posted: February-March, 2008

Don Traverso / Dysecdysis As the latest images of war show on the TV screen, Kuhn hears someone exclaim, “What kind of world is this? It’s like God has abandoned us.”
Kuhn smiles sadly at the woman who’d said these words. He wishes he could do something to take away her despair. He sees so much of it around these days. He wipes the moisture from the chapped skin around his eyes.

Posted: January, 2008

Thomas Logan / Ghost Dance Soliloquies Trash, is it necessary to our modern life? That sounds like a documentary you’d see in grade school, huh? Like the answer will have to be ‘yes’, unless I asked it with a more serious tone, maybe an angrier voice, ‘Trash, is it necessary to our modern life?’ and then somehow you’d know to shout out, No! and maybe pound or raise your fist. Trash, yeah, there’s too much of it. It seems to be our gross national product. Everything’s expendable, meant to be on its way to becoming trash.

Posted: October-November-December, 2007

B. F. Price / Animals Were Harmed The Head Scientist made her way through the empty corridors and entered the laboratory unit at her usual early hour. She was the first to arrive in the labs but not the first to arrive in the building, as evidenced by the list of last night’s dead animals posted on the job board by Paul, the animal caretaker, who liked to arrive early to haul off the dead carcasses and feed and hose down the still-living animals before the researchers arrived. She was relieved to note that none of her animals had died that night, and chose to interpret this as a sign that the research she was doing would achieve the results she wanted.

Posted: August-September, 2007

Jefferson P. Swycaffer / The Gift that Keeps On Giving In the deeps, in the lowest fastnesses, in the caverns of red, buttery rock and black pools, the Devil languishes. Here there are crags and precipices, rising up and over-arching, closing in again above this moral encystment.
But, were one to scale the rugged cliffs, edging up the gore-slick crevices and inching up coarse chimneys, one may find a niche, a nook, an encircling standpipe.
An exit.

Posted: June-July, 2007

Harold Jaffe / Cho Taking no chances, Texarkana, Texas, police Thursday spent hours combing through every crack and crevice of Bowie County High School after a cafeteria worker said she saw two young “Oriental males” wearing camouflage — one in a ski mask — “trotting” through the hallways before the school was scheduled to open, officials confirmed.
The alert prompted school authorities to cancel classes for the day.
The cafeteria worker said she did not “think” she saw any weapons on the young Orientals, and no one has seen them since, Texarkana Chief Duane Louie said.
“We don’t know if this is a prank, we don’t know if this is a copycat deal, we don’t know if this is a figment of someone’s imagination, but we’re going to take every precaution we can.”

Posted: April-May, 2007

Jefferson P. Swycaffer / Leviathan of the Blades I’ve been there, and I never grow tired of it. There’s a beauty to it, a calmness, a glorious isolation. I filled in the blanks in my mind, envying him the chance to go out and down, even with students. In clear water, it was more like flying than flying itself is. The giant kelp stalks grow up from the depths, an ugly greenish-yellow in color, and the sunlight shines down from the surface, growing weaker and weaker the farther down you go. The kelp fronds had a way of casting shadows and sunbeams, so distinct they sometimes seemed solid. So far, everything checked: Eric, Dave, nine students. Their names were on cards in my file cabinet, their money in the bank, probably already spent and gone owing.

Posted: February-March, 2007

Devin Walsh / Felix Culpa When the invaders came they mostly blacked out the sky, and they pilfered everyone’s watches and clocks and hoarded batteries and surgically canceled electricity throughout the City and took people’s generators, so basically nobody ever knew what time it was. The invaders probably thought this would put a real curb on the ability of the occupied to coordinate a resistance movement, and for the most part they were right. But it would happen sometimes, in the chill of early evening, when the air smelled unmistakably of twilight, when people’s stomachs growled for dinner, that cells would gather in someone’s candlelit living room.

Posted: January, 2007

Tony Zurlo / What Did You Do During the War, Daddy-O? Earlier in the day, my class had grilled me about the sixties. Did I fight in Vietnam? Had I smoked pot? Tripped on LSD? Tried group sex? Hitched across country? Worn my hair down to my knees? Seen Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock?

Posted: December, 2006

Stephen W. Potts / One Thousand and One Nights “Tariq and Sikander finally joined the battle when the enemy came into the skies on flying things — looking like the greatsimurghs out of ancient stories, except that instead of being wise these things were evil. They were feathered with shiny metal like blue steel and red gold, and studded with great jewels that shone like the flames of Hell, which was in fact where they came from. Soaring on these birds of burning metal, the enemy dropped exploding fires, blasting entire towns to ashes — houses, marketplaces, and mosques alike. People were consumed in flames, and every family lost someone to death.”

Posted: November, 2006

Juventino Manzano / Epiphany in Hell and in the halls o’ hell Jesus said unto me ‘fear not fear except when filled, for then the fear is truly fruitful and ye shall be free as the bloody sheep I sacrificed as a boy.’
(wow, what fuckin’ great wise guru shit is that?)

Posted: October, 2006

Don Traverso / Tuesday 10:30 AM The sky’s gone out. We stumble through the field, six of us, our knees and shins hitting and scraping the jagged chunks of air lying on the ground. Days pass quickly, though we cannot tell by clocks, sun or stars anymore. Of the six of us, only I remember the moon, but only vaguely. I can no longer describe it to the other five.

Posted: September 22, 2006

Frank Norris / Comida “Comida!” shouted the crowd in answer. “Comida! Comida!” deaf to everything but the clamor of empty stomachs. But somehow at last they understood; somehow at last wood was found, three huge fires were built, and camp kettles (borrowed from Mr. Ramsden, the British consul) filled with corn-meal mush set a-cooking. It was six o’clock when we began. The terrace was just high enough to shut out the view of the plaza, but at every fresh suggestion that the distribution was to begin, a waving forest of hands topped the terrace wall, and the lamentable wail broke out afresh, “Comida! Comida!”

Posted: May 29, 2006

Don Traverso / Mist I walk to the open window of my small apartment. The ceiling, walls, floors, cabinets and fixtures are all immaculately white and sterile, as is the windowsill. I look through it, down at the backyard next door. There are six children there, three boys, three girls, dressed in bathing suits of various colors. Their laughter dazzles the air, rippling with the sunlight in the swaying trees. One of them sprays the others with a garden hose. A band of colors shimmers around the cone of mist emitted from the spray gun. My hands grip the peeling white paint of the windowsill. I lean out, studying the dancing multicolored band, the darting mist, the leaping laughing children….

Posted: April 28, 2006

Juventino Manzano / Suburban Passion In Three Acts He picks up the Nixon biography; turns to a page. Eyes look at the words, but only see the scene in his head wishing he was there cause he’d pick her up by her little waist and give it to her good — the way he’d given it to her mother when he was a young-on-top-of-the-world-entrepreneur-living-out-the-Dream. She was an Audrey Hepburn look-alike, and who could know she’d go to hell and fat after her 20s. Still got the Vanagon and unfulfilled desires — twisted like him — but can still get within two rooms of them…

Posted: March 27, 2006

Stephen MacKinnon / Selling George “That your magic potion?” It was an older, raspy male voice. I looked up. “This it?” he asked the skinny guy, who nodded. The older man said, “Give Mrs. White her money back.” He put a big hand on my right shoulder like he was going to bounce me. I shrugged it off. He pulled out a gun, a .22 pistol — a squirrel gun, which in hindsight shouldn’t have intimidated me the way it did, but it made everything around me, including my voice, freeze instantly.

Posted: February 27, 2006

Juventino Manzano / Requited Ecstasy Had to check my AK in at the door. Besides checking in our long arms, we had to pay the steep admittance fee of a box of shotgun shells and a hunting knife we had found scavenging. She wanted to drop something she’d scored for us. I was ready as well; forget the gunshots, the violence — just drop and veg in the chill room, watch the wall melt. Not her, she was anxious to forget herself by diving into the dance floor manumit — a savage band dancin’ hard to post-mil electro music — a beating rasping or rhyme — music of a sort, got a groove somewhere.

Posted: January 27, 2006

Stephen W. Potts / Loose Ends He stood before the medicine cabinet mirror in the upstairs bathroom, surveying his pasty, parched complexion. Might as well head for the office, he thought, and get away from the unpleasantness at home. Leaning over the sink, he stroked his cheeks under the white light; it was obvious he hadn’t shaved for days. He remembered having heard that hair continued to grow long after a person died. He would have to be careful not to let his appearance slide.

Posted: December 20, 2005

Kirsten Noelle Hubbard / An Elegy for the Uninvited My own palms begin to burn, and discreetly I clasp my hands together under the table. I look down. I need to fix my nails; they’re acrylic, and two of them are already coming off. I raise my eyes and allow them to drift from painted woman to painted woman. I analyze their nails and wonder if anyone else has seen the little boy.

Posted: November 23, 2005

Conor Murphy / Think Nothing of It Leaning over the body of the condemned to find a usable vein, she notices that whatever he had for lunch reeks all the way from his throat, and he didn’t brush his teeth. A slight break of skin, some Versed with its date-rape effects, and she passes her lethargy down to him. When she leaves the room the stink of his next-to-last meal sticks in her nose.

Posted: October 17, 2005

Jefferson P. Swycaffer / The Lifeboat Game It was only a game. The students would discuss it, going through their usual inanities. Didi would insist on saving the four-year-old and the cancer-stricken art student. Hal and some of the other guys would defend the policeman, not because of his profession, but because of his gun. The priest was sacrosanct from the start. The politician and the salesman were in some danger, and a minority would argue against the retarded child. In the end, over the edge would go the old woman, and everyone would feel that justice had been done.

Posted: September 12, 2005

H. G. Wells / A Dream of Armageddon No one living, you know, knew what war was; no one could imagine, with all these new inventions, what horror war might bring. I believe most people still believed it would be a matter of bright uniforms and shouting charges and triumphs and flags and bands — in a time when half the world drew its food supply from regions ten thousand miles away —

Posted: July 25, 2005

Chris Tannhauser / See-Through It was unlike any interrogation he’d endured; no clusters of tools from the hardware store bargain bin, no trays of needles and flame, no neural depolarizers. There were flickering lights — at least he thought of them as flickering lights — and there was pain, the kind that came from within. He lifted his head and pawed feebly at his spittle-soaked chin. The sensation of pins and needles in his right hand — one of his shoulder straps was too tight. Whenever the thing buckled him back into his transit couch, it got it wrong. At least it stopped putting him in upside down. That was — how long ago?

Posted: July 5, 2005

Stephen W. Potts / Apocalypso He was a block away when a female shriek froze him midstep. The woman a few paces ahead of him had left the sidewalk and was slowly floating upward. Still screaming, she swung arms and legs in a blind, wild search for purchase. She revolved almost gracefully, as though dangling on a plumbline, until her horrified eyes fell on Warren. She was in her forties, he guessed, and slightly plump, with a nimbus of dark hair around her head. She vainly tugged her loose skirt down over her pantyhose as her mouth stretched open again.

Posted: June 13, 2005

Mark Twain / Letter to the Earth Your increasing donation, every two or three years, has kept your name on all lips, and warm in all hearts. All heaven watches you Sundays, as you drive to church in your handsome carriage; and when your hand retires from the contribution plate, the glad shout is heard even to the ruddy walls of remote Sheol, “Another nickel from Abner!”

Posted: May 23, 2005

Morgan Lockhart / Coyote and the Faceless Cowboy I’d long since given up on catching Coyote. His meddling had been gradually accepted and then, finally, appreciated in a bitter sort of way. The day-to-day monotony of life on a chicken farm can wear a man down. Especially the one chicken farm in all of His existence where the eggs disappeared from the collection pails when the sun set, and the rooster, however cock-sure he might carry himself around the yard, hadn’t successfully fertilized an egg in a hundred years–new generations becoming unnecessary when I ran out of new ways to cook chicken and came to terms with the fact that I didn’t need to eat, and I hadn’t needed to in nigh fifty years.

Posted: April 25, 2005

Brad Lyke / Murder Takes Your Wings I sat in the roach-infested hotel that looked as though a colony of rats from the New World thought this was their manifest destiny. I fingered the hammer on the gun, cocking it back and releasing it slowly, my tension ebbing and flowing. I had been in Cairo for three days now–three damp, sweltering, interminable days…. The principal assignment didn’t bother me; it was a simple matter. If murder is ever really that simple.

Posted: April 4, 2005

Stephen W. Potts / The Lord’s Work Elmer experienced a passing thrill of joy at the sight of all those true Christian men just like himself, with all their wives and children and aging parents at the other tables around him. At this precious moment they were all full of food and the spirit of the Lord, all content and comfortable in each other’s presence.

Posted: March 14, 2005

Conor Murphy / Two Poems: After the Smoke Sermon and Inundation of a Rat.

Posted: February 21, 2005

Stephen W. Potts / A Sad Story Josie had the ike on the other side of the bar tuned to one of the midday news shows. I watched a story about last night’s fight in Madison Square Garden and wished I had been there.

Posted: January 31, 2005

Jessica Hayes / Above the Ed Sullivan I scratch at the lock in a fury to yank it open to get to her. Still hearing the screams, I race into my front yard; the wet grass on the bottoms of my feet ground me into consciousness. A frenzy drives me forward; I have to get to her.

Posted: January 17, 2005

Chris Tannhauser / Zoroaster’s Conundrum I fell to my knees, sending up little showers of dust in the hard vacuum, and gazed stupidly into the wreckage of Anabel’s face. Her ghost had taken flight, leaving nothing but this, just shit on bones.

Posted: January 3, 2005

Jessica Wineteer / Fashion Statement She corrected me. “Toned down does not mean not having flair or style. Stylish is one thing darling.” Her sibilant voice tickled my ear over the phone. “Tacky is another.”

Posted: December 13, 2004

Stephen W. Potts / The Commuter His face scrunched automatically; the coffee was cool. He thought of spitting it out the window, but did not want to compromise the air conditioning and swallowed instead. He stabbed a finger at the Kopaid® dispenser in the dash.

Posted: November 29, 2004

B. F. Price / Levels of Comfort Entering Nordstrom, I paused at the cosmetics counter to test a new perfume sample, then tried a new shade of lipstick. Afterward I rode the escalator upstairs to ask the counter girl which chocolates were best for after dinner and which best for tea.

Posted: November 15, 2004

Stephen W. Potts / United We Stand He spot-checks his flag decals–the one on the rear driver’s side window, the larger one on the back window, the red-white-and-blue license plate holder, and the stars-and-stripes motif of his own bumper sticker, which reads “Proud to Be American” under a scowling bald eagle with its claws outspread.

Posted: November 1, 2004

Jefferson P. Swycaffer / The God Monologues Ghost stuff doesn’t have mass; we never captured any in any of our bottle-traps. You could go tearing at a ghost with your fists and never feel a thing. It didn’t take us long to work out that it was, ultimately, immaterial. Not in the sense that it was not made of matter–atoms–but in the sense that we didn’t give a damn.

Posted: October 18, 2004

Alan Wade / Wonder Woman, Hungry She would feel better if she could just hide out inside her invisible plane, but since she herself is not invisible, everyone could see her rummaging around inside it anyway. Steve Trevor hasn’t called her back for years, and from two doors down, the sticky sounds of sex are overwhelming her senses.

Posted: October 4, 2004

Chris Tannhauser / Sadhus in Trouble The tank treads broke the cobblestones like the barking of Hell; the stones gave up their liberated spirits with sounds of gunfire or snapping bones. As dust and the shrieking moans of hot metal filled his small beehive of mud, Dharmendra remained as he was, as he had always been, folded closed against the illusion of the universe.


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