NOVEMBER, 2018

MELT AWAY WITH WATER

BY J.D. CASEY IV

shaken and broken
in a filthy hotel

room
holding a double

barrel sawed-off
pile of cocaine

cheap wobbly table
empty bottles

dirty needles
piled

in the corner
like forgotten

trophies
living like this

can only drive you
insane

something you can’t
melt away

with water
to put in your

floppy celery
veins

but you feel
pure & free

CRUCIFIXION ROAD

BY HOWIE GOOD

My nap is interrupted by the bang-bang-bang of hammering. I’m like “Oh shit.” Over-muscled debt collectors must be nailing my neighbor to the floor. Now he won’t leave his apartment for days. Not even for 10 minutes to go to the store for cigarettes and lotto tickets. Well, that’s typical post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms there, buddy. We’ve been living in a very unusual world. When I look out the window, Jesus is a squeegee man squirting some crap from a bottle onto a car windshield. And if I really concentrate, I can just about see the location of the latest teen suicide cluster. City officials have vowed that next time they won’t be caught short of coffins.

&

All things are photographable. Two days ago it was a ruined farmer walking slowly over a country bridge, as if looking for a place to jump. Yesterday it was a man washing a car. Today it was a woman arranging a light-up plastic Jesus in a front yard. Meanwhile, the few children ever visible in this broken part of the world seemed even fewer than usual. Does that surprise you? The only explanation I heard I heard at the barbershop. It was that the Titanic sailed at dawn.

&

A girl was stuck in the rubble, only her head visible. She was staring straight at us, and I think that’s why every month is a kind of choking, a confused wind of travels. I have taken part for a while now in cultural appropriation, unconscious plagiarism, maybe even in a bit of banditry, walking around on my hands and knees and finding rocks and sticks. Stay far away from the area. The area is not safe. Stay away. People are crying, shoving, tripping, trying to leave, scrambling everywhere. It’s like they all know those diary locks don’t actually work.

KEEPING THE PEACE

BY J.B. TONER

I thank Thee, O Lord, that I am not like this tax collector Luke 18:11

A dark day on Kenoma IV: consummate redundancy. Two suns abided there, enough to keep the atmosphere alight; but slow-migrating clouds of asteroids had kept the planet dim for nineteen million years. In fifteen million more, the dawn would rise.

Rosemarie Hildegard stepped calmly through the sliding glastic doors. Like the soldiers and the secretaries, she had orange skin and dark thick hair, the product of Primera’s carotene-thick biosphere. And no one was thicker and oranger than Magnifico Javier, Governor of Kenoma.

“Hildegard!” he shouted as she entered. “The Southern Quarter’s tax payments are down by nine percent. Do they not fear us? Do they not dread The Peace’s military might?”

“Sir—”

“Do you want a second Internecine War? Is that it?”

“I didn’t really want the first one, sir, but I wasn’t consulted in the matter.”

“Because that’s what we’ll have if these damned greys catch a whiff of weakness from us now. We need revenue, Hildegard, revenue! Above all things, the pomp must be maintained. Put out more flags!”

Javier was a small man behind a gigantic desk. He had some manner of family connection which Rose hadn’t yet bothered to suss out, and it kept him in a chair of leather built on bones. As he spoke, he banged his tiny fist on the desk like a man used to having people pretend to be afraid of him. She smiled thinly and pretended to pretend.

“Sir, I’m doing what I can within the law. But just to clarify, it’s your contention that the greys are kept in line by the appearance of force?”

“Well of course, you buffoon, they’re barbarians. They can hardly comprehend imperial economics and intergalactic troop movements, can they? As long as we commit our funding to keeping the sabers keen for the annual parade, they won’t dare challenge us again.”

Her thin smile thinned. “I can’t quite guarantee a rise in revenue. But I give you my word, sir, the greys won’t challenge us this year.”

“You’d better be right, Hildegard.” He turned his back, muttering audibly, “These damnable imbecile tax collectors.”

She paced back through the doors and rode the elevator down. As she stepped out into the gloom-lit, ghost-lit street, the pupilluminators in her eyeballs came online. The install was a 90-second surgery that anybody’s wristpiece could perform; but when she had first come here, she’d waited over a month in hopes that her vision would naturally adjust. Ah, bright-eyed youth.

She returned to her office to find that Gor awaited her. A native of the benighted Kenoma system, he had grey skin and white hair, and huge glaring eyes. “Rosemarie Hildegard!” he thundered. “You dare increase the tax upon the Southern Quarter!”

She exhaled through her nose. “I carry out the mandates of The Peace, Lord Gor. I beg you to recall your vows of fealty.”

“Fealty commensurate with respect and stewardship, Rosemarie Hildegard. The People of the Dark are no pawns of the oranges to be bilked!”

“Nope,” she said, and caught herself, “no indeed, my lord. But you and I both know your faithful flock is not yet strong enough to push us.”

He smiled a crooked smile. “We are no dullards, my lady. We know your Magnifico Javier spends his money not on power but on trappings, epaulets over bullets, hoping to intimidate where a warrior would seek to fortify.”

“That may be. But you grow old, and beardless fighters sniff about your seat. If you move too boldly, we’ll have no choice but to summon legions from the Inner Galaxies. Javier and I will lose our jobs, but you’ll be slit from crown to crotch and the next generation will whet their daggers on your headstone.”

Silence.

“We cannot pay these higher rates.”

“You can at least meet last year’s rates, Gor. What inducement can I offer?”

“. . . These younger ones of whom you speak. They vex my rule.”

“Consider them removed.”

“Then consider your quotas met.” He turned on his heel and strode out, growling, “Honorless poltroon tax takers.”

An afternoon of paperwork. Then down the lift to catch a hovercab, and through the nightlike neighborhoods to Dill’s. Some bars still catered only to orange folk or grey; but after twenty years’ occupation, enough grorange children ran loose that official segregation was perfunctory at best. Dill’s tavern was a colorblind establishment, and there Rose went for her final meeting of the day.

“Well you’re nipple-deep in shit, aren’t you, Rosemarie?”

“Hello, Nala.”

Rose’s almost-friend was a tall grey woman with dark thick hair, the daughter of a tough indigenous barmaid and a good-hearted soldier of The Peace. She ordered a bourbon and slid into the booth across from Rose. “I hear the rates are up in the South. If Javier doesn’t start the fighting, Gor will.”

“Not quite yet. I need a favor.”

“Oh, this should be good.”

Casually, Rose pushed a napkin across the table. Several names were scrawled on it, barely legible. “These guys have to go away. Permanently.”

Nala’s eyebrows went up. “That’s a bit more than a favor, Rosemarie.”

“You want the cops off your organization’s back? The longer Javier stays in office, the weaker our forces here will get. You help Gor, it helps our idiot Governor, and in the long run, that helps you.”

“Gods of the Dark, woman, whose side are you on?”

“The Revenue Service.” She raised her glass and smiled. “Thanks for your contribution.”

LOVELETTER S

BY JAY CALHOUN

Must say how much I love the letter S
She brings excitement, class,
Sibilance
Slippery brightness.

Softly said,
She soothes
Shouted, she slices

When too-much repeated
Protracted,
Over-used,
She runs off.

She carries my meaning,
My intentions,
Away

Even the look of her!
So curvy!
S S SsssssssssssssssS!

Maybe she will become a Z
When she gets old.
Still,
I will love her.

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OCTOBER, 2018

LOSS, IN THREE HAIKU

BY NATHAN HARRELL

I.

perched high, shadow tree
sitting below, two lovers
surveying their death

II.

dragonflies buzz by
eyes meet, fingers touch, smiles fade
their hour is over

III.

breeze of sweet decay
hugs exchanged, embraced good-bye
blackbirds softly weep

JOURNEY OF THE SUN

BY ROBERT SIMPSON

Why does the sun rise every morning?
bbbbbbAlarm clock ringing in its ears

Why does it rise every morning?
bbbbbbGet up sun, you’re gonna be late

Why rise every morning?
bbbbbbAching from the night before

Why does it break the horizon?
bbbbbbDrinking the morning dew

Why make the shadows grow small?
bbbbbbThe journey is long and tiresome

Why warm the meadows and squirrels?
bbbbbbThe frost refuses to melt

Why dance across the sky?
bbbbbbLove, the moon, trapped in night

Why does it hide behind the mountains?
bbbbbbGoodnight sun, get some sleep

Why does the sun rise in mourning
When it must set all the same?

THE CROSS

BY JEREMY ROWE

We are the ones who shine bright in the dark
Who refuse to be extinguished and are doomed from the start.
We are the ones who die throughout life
The lambs chosen for the world’s sacrifice.
We are the bitter, the sweet, the hot, and the cold
We can’t escape the fiery coals.
And this is our role.

Give to us your pain and your hurt,
The thoughts that dwell beneath the dirt,
With the worms and the grubs that feed on waste,
We transfigure the scowl upon your face,
Accepting our place as we pay the toll
Branded from birth to carry the torch
And the heavy burden of our souls.

THOUGHTS ON A CAREER

BY VASA CLARKE

Come off it, then! What is your future plan?
You’re in good health— your future’s gleaming bright!
Do tell me, are you now a businessman
Who makes great piles and does cocaine at night?

No, sir. I aim to live beneath a bridge
And hike to Florida when it gets cold;
Beneath the arches, I will make my home
And pass my days alone, til I grow old.

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SEPTEMBER, 2018

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SO YOUNG

BY CLAIRE JENNINGS

“Hey, CJ! Have a good day in class. I love you.”

“Thanks, mommy…I love you too.”

Unbeknownst to her, I am not in class. I am not even on campus. I look down at the cracked phone screen. Tiny fractures distort the background photo— my friends and I at a fraternity party, Solo cups in our hands. I look happy. Drunk, but happy.

I never went back.

NO CELL PHONES OR ELECTRONIC DEVICES OF ANY KIND PERMITTED IN BUILDING.

I put my phone in my car console and head inside. A young woman in pink is at the front counter. “Hello, ma’am. How can I help you?”

“I— uh— I have an appointment.”

They take me to the waiting room. It’s filled with uncomfortable people in uncomfortable chairs— picking their nails, reading outdated magazines, staring blankly ahead. One woman is smacking her gum, which makes me want to smack her.

“Claire Jennings? Claire Jennings?” It takes me a second to process this. “Miss Jennings?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. That’s me.”

“Follow me.”

 

I am cramped awkwardly in a small back office. A nurse is taking my vitals. There is a clipboard with my paperwork on it. “Before I take you back there, I need to ask you a few questions.” She takes my blood pressure. I feel the squeeze of the cuff on my arm.

“Can you please confirm your date of birth?”

“April 18th, 1995.”

“Hmm…eighteen. You’re still so young. First of all, are you doing this at your own will? Is anyone pressuring you to do this?” She keeps asking questions, but I’m too embarrassed to think past the first one. So young.

She leads me further back into the building. My hands are sweaty and my voice is shaking. On the exam table, a white gown awaits. “So what I need you to do is take off all of your clothes from the waist down, then put this on and try to relax.”

I stare blankly. Relax. I lay on the crinkly paper that covers the table. Everything around me is harsh and foreign. Then a knock on the door.

“You can come in,” I call, timidly. A man in a lab coat opens the door. A man is the last thing I want to see right now.

“Okay, Claire. Just put your feet right up here, and scoot your bottom down to the end of the table. That’s right, just there.” I’m nervous. “What we are going to do first is dilate your cervix and give you a shot that will numb you up.”

Suddenly, it hits me. My chest tightens. I begin to sweat. Before I know it, I feel a burning sensation deep in my pelvis. “OUCH!”

“Try to relax. We can’t complete the procedure unless you lay as still as possible.”

I begin to sob. I’m more alone now than I ever have been before. I squeeze my legs together out of instinct, fighting the arms that pry open my knees. Staring up at the fluorescent lights, I slowly sink into the exam table, imagining myself anywhere else but here, until the whirring sound of the aspiration vacuum ceases.

So young….

 

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AUGUST, 2018

SHLUMP

BY COLIN ALEXANDER

Shlump is a verb.
I shlump
You slump
We all shlump.
And we all do, shlump, whether we know it or not.

It’s what you do when you get home after a long day.
You take your coat off
You take your shoes off
You let your breath out and
Underneath your coat and
Inside your shoes and
Behind the breath you’ve been holding
You find there isn’t much of anything.
And then you shlump.

Shlump is a noun.
A shlump is what’s right after
A long exhale accompanied by nothing but
The realization that once again
You must breath in and then out and then in and then out and then in and then out and then in and then out and then in and then out and then in and then out,
For the rest of all possible futures
Until you die.

A shlump is in between your last breath out
And your next breath in.
An expectation of something becoming
An expectation of nothing.
A flick of the switch
As you remember the lights don’t work.

THE VESTALS

BY MADISON DOBBS

she has been a fighter since birth

protested, pushed, persevered

she has been doused again and again
trampled by the ones she threatens the most

a small spark still remains—
rekindled and carried by her Sisters until she can ignite again, each time burning bigger and brighter

she has endured time and suffering; she has celebrated and grieved

now here she stands, a Woman far altered from her original, shaped by her experience and her society

she is what her Sisters require; she is what her enemies fear

if you listen, she is beckoning— come and join her, she is open to any and all

yet her fiery soul is too often misunderstood

“what is the point?”
“why is she here?”
“what can she do?”

misinterpreted, mistreated, misused

that is the ultimate weapon against her—
Ignorance.

if we do not defend her
her fire will turn to ash

she will be lost,

and so will we.

THE END

BY GORDON JEFFERSON

Shades fade into the night
What was green is black and white
The golden glow burns half as bright
The bees no longer buzz.

Blue is washed out from the rain
Drier than the blood of Cain
There isn’t anyone to blame
It happened just because.

The oranges are grey today
Raspberries are brown in May–
Don’t look hard, nor look away,
This is all there is and was.

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JULY, 2018

MORNING WALK TO CLASS

BY ROBERT SIMPSON

Traveling along the long-trodden path
Wind whispers the thoughts of yesterday
I pass a man, and do not raise my hand

Suddenly my backpack sinks into my shoulders
And I ache with the weight of the load.
bbbbbbFocused only on the destination—
bbbbbbI have forgotten the way.

TO ROSEMARY BLAINE, WITH LOVE

BY GORDON JEFFERSON

bbbbbbI’ve taken trips on mushroom ships
bbbbbbAcross the muddy River Styx
bbbbbbInto the marshmallow abyss,
But I’ve never done cocaine.

bbbbbbI’ve had a drop or three and died
bbbbbbOn lysergic diethlamyde
bbbbbbAnd stared into the chasm wide,
But I’ve never done cocaine.

bbbbbbThe purple owls beat their wings
bbbbbbUntil the serotonin stings
bbbbbbAnd Jesus cries while Buddha sings,
But I’ve never done cocaine.

bbbbbbA lone orgasm in the brain
bbbbbbShortly followed by the pain
bbbbbbOf dopamine circling the drain—
Who needs to do cocaine?

bbbbbbAfter all, of all the drugs
bbbbbbThere’s none more potent than the hugs
bbbbbbAnd kisses of my angel-bug
So keep the powder for your head
I’ll do Rosemary Blaine instead
bbbbbbShe’s better than the best cocaine
bbbbbbbbbbbbAnd meaner than the best cocaine
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbI don’t need any more cocaine
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbDid someone say “more cocaine?”

THE FIRST WOMAN

BY REGINALD BAKER

“Your name?”

“Guess,” she said.

“Does it start with E?”

“No.”

“S?”

“No.”

“Q?”

She laughed. “No.”

”I surrender.”

“L,” she said.

“Leah.”

“No.”

“Lydia.”

“Lily,” she said. “My name’s Lily.”

“Of course,” he said. “Lily.”

“And yours?”

“Guess.”

“With a J?”

“No.”

“With an A?”

“Yes.”

“Adam.”

“You’ve named me.”

“Now what?” she asked. “What’s left after the naming?”

“I believe that’s the end. There’s nothing left to know.”

“Hmm,” and she bit her lip. She lifted the frosted widebrimmed glass and sipped at the vodka tinted the slightest yellow. “And you do?”

“What I can. And you?”

“Guess.”

“If I guess too low I look like an ass. So I will say nuclear physicist.”

“Almost. Try again.”

She wore peach. Her hair was brown, curled naturally. Her eyes went to slits when she laughed, drank,

thought deeply. He thought they were blue, maybe a blue close to green. Her cheeks were prominent, fleshy, and he knew brushing her skin would send him into the full body shivers.

“Marketing,” he said.

“How’d you know?”

“A useless talent.”

“Now you. The truth.”

“The truth? I can’t tell you the truth.”

The bartender violently shook a tumbler full of ice and assorted liquids. He listened.

“Do you do anything?” she asked.

“I do lots of things.”

“But none of them are true.”

“They are all true in their own way.”

“So you lie. You are a liar.”

“Yes. I am a liar.”

She stared into her drink, sipped. He drank from his beer.

“I am a liar too,” she said.

“Are you now?”

“Of course.”

He brushed a strand of hair behind her ear.

“Not yet.”

“All right.”

The bartender spilled the contents of the tumbler into a glass. He had underpoured by a third.

There was an intrusion behind them. Adam and Lily both turned and they saw a man in a black shirt highlighted with the bright yellow reflective word POLICE attempting to handcuff a young man in a pastel shirt and jeans. He had the younger man’s face pressed against the wall.

“Why are you resting me?” the youth slurred. “What did I. I didn’t. Why you resting me?”

“Stop,” the officer said. “Keep your hands behind your back.”

“Public intoxication?” the bartender asked.

The officer did not respond.

“Must be public intoxication,” the bartender said.

The young man was eventually handcuffed and led toward the stairs. He tripped but the officer held him by the cuffs. His coupled arms overextended behind him, a vision of ancient tortures, and he yelped. The officer yanked him upright and then took him by the back of the neck, as if he were a cat. Captor and captive disappeared, the receding repeated thump of dragged feet.

Lily looked to Adam. And Adam said, “I’ve been arrested for public intoxication. In Wichita, Kansas.”

“Really?” and through the slits was a shine in her eyes, perhaps from the lowhanging bar lights. The bartender pretended to wipe the fridge where the beer was stored.

“Yes, I have. Would you like to hear the story?”

“Yes,” she said, “I would.”

Adam then told Lily the story of his arrest. He had been detained two nights. He lied and told her it had been four. She drank more and she drank more quickly. She touched her hair, stared with intensity at his lips and eyes.

“Were you raped?” she asked, serious.

“No,” he said, “but as I was leaving a large man with many tattoos joked that I should let him rape me so I could have the full experience.”

“Did he rape you? Be honest.”

Adam laughed. “No. He didn’t rape me.”

“Were you scared? I would have been terrified.”

“Dumb to say, but I enjoyed it. It’s not so bad if you know you’re leaving.”

“That’s wild,” Lily said, softly, slowly, as if to herself. “I’ve never had experiences like that.”

“Of course I did spend twelve hours in a small room with a man accused of murder. That was unpleasant.”

She had drunk to the dregs. She held the glass aloft, looked through the distortion. “My sorority sisters are so sheltered. They get uncomfortable when I talk about masturbation even. I love it. I masturbate every day.”

Adam drank his beer.

“I want to go out and really like experience life, you know?” she said, her voice rising, her cheeks flushed, the same hue of peach as her shirt. ‘I’m so tired of this, this little bubble. I’ve never really faced anything challenging. I want to travel. I want to live raw.”

“Did you grow up in the suburbs?”

“Outside Atlanta. I hate going back. I will never live like that again. It’s so—so—”

“Safe?”

“Dead. You have experienced life. Like, you have been out and done things.”

“My cellmate my first night was a kid named AJ who had been smoking meth since he was 12. I suppose he had some experiences.”

“How old are you?” she asked, intent.

“Too old.”

“No really.”

“Twenty eight.”

“That’s not too old,” she said. “Are you homeless?”

“Kind of.”

She swirled the sliced lemon rind in the bottom of her drink. “That’s all right. That’s okay that you’re homeless.”

He thought to touch her but he did not touch her. “And you are how old?” he asked.

“Twenty two.”

“That’s too old,” he said, and she smiled.

They were the last and the lights came on.

“I’m going to have to start last call,” the bartender said.

Lily pushed her drink away. She swatted at her hair, smoothed her blouse. “You have thirty seconds to finish that beer,” she said.

“Do I?” Adam said, smirking.

“Yes. Thirty seconds.”

He drank slower. He did not watch her face. He wasn’t sure if she was counting.

He sensed movement. By the time he swiveled she was gone.

“You think she left?” he asked the bartender.

“I think she left,” the bartender said.

Adam finished his beer. He got up and walked over to the top of the stairs. They were narrow and black and they seemed to descend and descend. At the end, far down, was the clear glass door showing the bodies and the cars and the hither and yon of the unenclosed world. The door glinted an unnatural orange, like an unholy fire. He clenched the handrail. He did not hurry.

Outside the night glowed with its artificial light, a collusion of lamps struggling to outshine the dark. The sidewalks were thick with the young. They huddled in fives and sevens and they wore their youth as badge and shield. Adam gave them way. He did not try to dissuade their progress. He looked over their heads, at the few spared trees, at the redbrick buildings, at the whitefaced clocktower with its two unceasing hands, at the distant suns brilliant enough to pierce this oppressive firmament, and he remembered. He thought to seek for her but he did not know where to begin his search. He wanted to call her by name but he knew she would not hear his call. He had never been so lost.

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER STRIKES MIDNIGHT

BY MEREDITH BOYD

Tic tock, tic tock, repetitive thoughts.
Brown hair, brown eyes, soft lips….
Tic tock, tic tock, repetitive thoughts.

Right swipe, right swipe, right swipe
But who is seeing that face?
Brown hair, brown eyes, soft lips.

Tic tock, tic tock, repetitive thoughts
Sip after sip—who is she with?
Where is she now? It never ends.

Do I even matter? How can I compare? I’m sick of the pain.
Brown hair, brown eyes, soft lips….
It never ends, unless— no.

The light flicks. I inhale. Can this cloud up my brain?
But it doesn’t. They are still there…hungry…
Now more than ever
They keep me alive
Brown hair, brown eyes, soft lips….
It never ends
Tic tock.

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JUNE, 2018

LIFE OF A LEAF

BY JOSHUA RHOADS

We
bbbgbare
bbbbbggggbbball
bbbbbbbbbbggggggb leaves
bbbbbbgggggggggggbbbbbvvvvvloitering
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbgggggggggggggggbbin
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbgggggggggggggggbthe
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbblungs
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbgggggggggggggggggbbbbvof
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbthe
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbearth
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbblaboriously                bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbblonging
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbfor
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbblba
llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllbbbbbbbbbbbblway
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbto
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbblengthen
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbour
bbbbbbbbbllllllllllllltime
afloat
bbbbbbut
bbbbbbbbbbit
is
bbbbbbbbest
tttbbbbbbbbttttthat
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbwe
b
b
b
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbfall –
b
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbhelplessly,
b
b
bbbbbbbbbbgbbbbbbbbbaimlessly,
b
b
b
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbggggggggggg almost beautifully

THE HOUSE IN THE VALLEY

BY COLIN ALEXANDER

The lights haven’t worked in a while now
But I guess I’ll keep paying the bills—
;;;;;;There’s no need to cause any trouble.

Water still comes through the tap
I’ve got a gas stove which still works, and
;;;;;;I’ve got enough food to eat.

I used to read in the light by the window
But I can’t find it anymore—
;;;;;;I can’t seem to find anything here.

That’s okay, because I still have candles
They’re burning low now so I use them carefully
;;;;;;But I’ll make it a while longer.

There’s a TV upstairs that still works
It comes on every once in a while
;;;;;;And now there’s nothing but static.

The lights haven’t worked in a while now
But I guess I’ll keep paying the bills—
There’s no need to cause any trouble
I don’t think anyone’s coming to fix them
I’d do it myself, but I don’t know how,
And besides,
;;;;;;It’s hard to see in the dark.

 

A BARD’S TALE

BY GREYSON HAMMOCK

For eight days, my party and I travelled across the jagged mountain passes of the Northern Highlands. I was serving as the bard, singing songs and telling tales to keep party morale from sinking. We were on a journey to find the hidden dungeon of Uther Ragnaron and kill the dragon that guarded the loot buried with him. It sounded like a Good Deal, just an easy quest for some Hardened Adventurers— then the blizzard hit on the third day. Trudging through the snowfall, against howling winds, with very few rations….

Just before our feet froze, we made it to a small mountain village and an inn called the Winking Wombat. We burst forth from the cold and into the warmth of the hearth and the smell of sweet powdered pastries. The old Inkeeper stood on a miniature stage next to the fire, surrounded by a clamoring crowd. She looked over at us, smiled, and beckoned for us to come closer.

We were just in time for the Bard’s Competition, she said— every group of travelers at the Winking Wombat would send a bard to compete. The most entertaining storyteller won a free stay at the Winking Wombat for his party, and all the mutton and tomato stew they could eat. My poor, hungry companions slung me onto the stage before I could tell them that I was all out of stories.

“This is all so soon,” I said, “I don’t have one at the ready….” I shrugged and thought back to the days of my youth. “Alright, there is one story from my days at Canterbury School— where I learned to be a man. But be warned, this is no Knight’s tale— no Pardoner’s Tale of Avarice. This is a Bard’s Tale.”

The crowd and the Inkeeper leaned in, crowding the stage.

“You see, towards the end of the semester, I caught pneumonia and missed a bunch of tests, one of which was for Mrs. Sherrie, notorious Assigner of Homework and Destroyer of GPAs. Making up tests for her class was weird. She would send you into the supply closet and leave you alone with the test and your calculator. Once you went in, you weren’t allowed out until you were done.

“So there I was, in the supply closet, making progress against my great foe. I was halfway done when my calculator died. This was a great blow to my offense, for I could not complete the quest without it.”

The crowd and the Inkeeper gasped.

“I reached into my pocket for my secondary weapon—the calculator on my cell phone. Soon my foe lay prostrate, nearly defeated. That’s when the door opened, and Mrs. Sherrie walked in. I could tell by the look on her face that she was furious.

“I was nervous. The use of a secondary weapon, you understand, was considered Cheating in this strange realm. She snatched my bag of tricks and demanded that I enter the code to release the shackles barring her entry. I tried to explain that I was using a calculator app—not looking up answers with help of wizards from the Web. She did not believe me for an instant. I saw her scrolling, looking for my Internet browser.

“That’s when I remembered the moon before— that night before my examination. Terror took the reigns of my soul. My skin turned white.”

Murmurs broke out among the crowd, and the Inkeeper shifted her weight.

“‘Mrs. Sherrie,’ I pleaded, ‘I know the secret scroll of which you seek. I caution thee—some things are not meant for mortal eyes!’ But she did not take heed— she found the browser and opened it.

“Like magic, the sounds of a brothel erupted into the air— moans of pleasure and ecstasy— tits were jumping— asses were bumping— nipples were being bitten and clawed. It was a horror show, and by the Divine, it was beautiful. Mrs. Sherrie looked at me, hatred burning deep in her eyes. I shrugged and told her that I had warned her, after all. She handed me back my phone and asked if I had anything to say for myself.

“I chuckled. ‘Well, this was exactly how the video started,’ I said. ‘It was about a teacher and a student who—’

“She grabbed my test and stormed out of the closet. ‘Zero!’ she screamed. All I could do was sit in the closet and laugh.”

The crowd burst into laughter, and the Inkeeper arose with the keys to a room for my party. We spent the night warm, filled to the brim with mutton and tomato soup, and a little confused as to why nobody had noticed that the story was clearly a science-fiction from some fantasy land.

Oh well. I guess you can still get away with some things in this world. Other than leaving your porn open on Safari— that will always bite you in the ass.

THE POET AND THE WORD

BY PEYTON THOMASSON

Our bones throb with the pulsing itch of boiling blood
Raging within every vein.
With restless hands and feet, our souls ache
To run— to hope— to love…
Relentlessly.

To paint the world into color.
Every brush an embrace
Of the eternal canvas.
A bit of love encapsulated—
Tied down, and then unfurled again…
On every note, in every stroke— set unto freedom
Immortalized.

Penned juxtaposition,
From Dark unto Light— Day into Night.
The impassioned fire of words transfixing
Into visions past, present, to come…
Beyond.

A never-ending story—we battle for glory.
Yet, with all transpiring days yet to come,
This war that we write
Has already been won.

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