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“I write for the still fragmented parts in me, trying to
bring them together. Whoever can read and use any
of this, I write for them as well.”

Adrienne Rich


Andrew Crow
More Than Security 7&

Jason McVicker
The Man in the Attic 89

Amy Vo
Beyond the Veil 3:

Amy Linthicum
Extremes 3?

Andrew Zimmerman
Six Sketches 9?

Jamie Pierson
The Four Go Out @A
Davis Light
Truly, A Grand Adventure ?9

Micah Watt
There Are No Rules In… ?7
Ashley Emory
Saying Goodbye 7@

Michelle Davis
The Unburied G8

Brian Britt
Deflate G9

JonMarke Wohlwend
The Perfect Cup of Coffee I7

Whitney Beltrán


Red is the color of fire and blood, so it is associated with energy, war, danger, strength,
power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love.

Within the scope of the anthology red represents action and death.

The beginning short story of the anthology, “More Than Security”, by Andrew Crow,
involves a baby blanket with magical powers used by a little girl to fight a monster of the
dark. The baby’s blanket and stuffed animals transform into protectors of the child and
lash out against a “man” of the night who tries to attack her. The child endures battles
with the “man” every night, each more elevated and viscous than the one previous. The
“man’s” lips are the color of blood and the red corduroy patch of the blanket gave off a
powerful red beam of light.
Jason McVicker’s story, “The Man in the Attic” is a suspenseful tale involving love,
adultery, murder, chases and a huge explosion that ultimately incinerates three bodies.
Amy Vo’s story, “Beyond the Veil” begins with pale tones but ends with the brutal
slaying of a newborn child.
Each story within the red classification involves a fight and fatality. Passion, strength and
determination bind the three together.
Brown suggests stability and a raw natural feel.

Within the scope of the anthology brown represents relationships and the raw/earthly
emotions that thrive between people.

“Extremes”, by yours truly, represents human emotion in its most raw and chaotic form
when viewed through the façade of love. Andrew Zimmerman’s love story, “Six
Sketches” deals with love lost and desperation encompassed within a man that longs for a
woman who can not give of herself fully to him. Jamie Pierson’s story, “The Four Go
Out” takes on human relationships in a different medium than the two that precede it.
Instead of twisted love the reader is invited into a group of four young women and taken
along for one of their nights out that ends in tragedy.
All stories rely on the intimacy and power of human emotion and relationships to drive
their plots.

Yellow is the color of sunshine. It's associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy.
Within the scope of the anthology yellow represents hope and fulfillment.

Davis Light’s short story, “Truly, A Grand Adventure” symbolizes man’s desire for fame
and money. It is an old archeologists hope to find Atlantis and the reader is left
questioning whether he entered into a dream come true or disaster. Pride comes before
fall when the doctor begins seeing dollar signs.
Micah Watt’s story, “There Are No Rules In…” uses hope as the strings that keep the
plots held together. The duality in the life of a man comes crashing into one as a near
fatal accident brings him to full circle. Both stories have a man pursuing fulfillment of
hopes and dreams.

Green is the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility.
Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety.
Within the scope of the anthology green represents renewal and balance.
Ashley Emory’s story, “Saying Goodbye” encompasses the core of harmony. A girl
comes to terms with her past and reconciles with the ghost of a childhood friend. After an
old promise is made good a friendship is restored and a haunting is put to rest.

Black is associated with power, elegance, formality, death, evil, the unknown and mystery.
Within the scope of the anthology black represents dying and death along with mystery
and the unknown.

The woman in Michelle Davis’s story, “The Unburied” is a hallmark for both death and
the unknown as she struggles to be released into either an eternity of damnation or an
escape within her purgatory. In “Deflate” Brian Britt presents a corpse that holds the key
to a murder case that brings the worlds of six people into one. Death, in all forms present
finality while what awaits us on the other side is laced held as the great unknown.

Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It
symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven.
Within the scope of the anthology blue represents enlightenment and self discovery.

In JonMarke Wohlwend’s “The Perfect Cup of Coffee” enlightenment and self reflection
are only a sip away. While the enlightenment in Whitney Beltran’s story, “Dreams”
comes via a medium with a quirky rat. Whether it’s the gift of seeing yourself in a new
way or someone seeing it for you, both stories are magical and full of unexplained insight.

Andrew Crow
More Than Security

She was a beautiful little girl. Dark brown hair, just long enough to pull back in a
tiny ponytail. Her eyes were a beautiful light blue and since she was almost two, it
seemed like they were going to stay that way. She had teeth now, not all of them by any
means, but enough to add an adorable quirk to her already quirky smile. She was
adorable, but the screaming had to stop.
“Are you ready for bed-time?” her father said sternly.
The little girl stopped her screaming instantly put on a conciliatory smile, and
with her cheeks still red from her tantrum she walked over and began patting her father's
knee affectionately.
“Oh no! You're not getting out of it that easily. You are a cranky little girl and it
is your bed-time.”
With that, he scooped her up into his arms and took her to her bedroom, her
tantrum renewed in full fury with this new change of events. He laid her down in her crib
and pulled the sheet around her.
“Night night.” he said.
Instantly she was back on her feet, reaching over the railing, tears streaming down
her face.
“Bank! Bank!” she shrieked.
“Alright, I'll find your blanket. Now lay down.”
She sat down, still sniffling, but somewhat consoled as her father went back to the
living room to track down her blanket. It was her baby blanket, the first one she had ever
gotten. Her grandmother had made it for her, a patchwork monstrosity about three foot
square. It looked to have been made with every single piece of scrap cloth that was in the
house, with no rhyme or reason in their order. The patches were made of other old
blankets, scraps of clothing, bits of denim, and what the father swore was a piece of an
old rug, though his mother insisted she did not use a rug in making it. He was pretty
certain he remembered the rug sitting in the hallway when he was a kid, but he didn't
press the issue. As much of an eyesore as it was, the baby loved it and refused to go to
bed without it. She would throw the biggest tantrums and make as much noise as
humanly possible if she was laid down without it. She had much the same reaction with
her favorite bear. It had to be in the crib at all times. She carried other dolls around all
day long, played with blocks and anything that she wasn't supposed to have was a fair toy
in her eyes, but when she went to bed that bear had better be there.
The father took the blanket into the child's bedroom and wrapped it around her.
As soon as he had done so, she curled up in it and closed her eyes, her sniffling forgotten
as exhaustion took over. The man smiled and kissed her on the forehead. He watched
her for a moment before turning out the light and leaving the room. Returning to the
living room, he turned off the DVD running repeat episodes of Sesame Street and
switched over to the evening news to watch the weather report and wait for his wife to
get home from work. She was working long hours now, often times not making it home
until the news was over. The man grabbed a Coke from the fridge and settled in to wait.
The baby had only been asleep for a few minutes when she awoke with a start.
The noise was not loud, but she was attuned to it, having heard it many times within the
last several months. It was just audible as she rolled over, pulling the blanket closer to
her, an airy sound like an exhalation of breath. She knew he was coming, but she had her
blanket and her bear so she was not too worried. She could hear him by the window
where the breathy sound was shifting into consistent raspy breaths. He was like smoke,
but was now taking a corporeal form after hissing himself through the window. She new
he was building like a thundercloud, reforming himself into his true form. She didn't dare
turn to look, couldn't afford to lose the advantage. Dada was in the other room and if the
man got past her, Dada might be in danger. She certainly did not want that, so she waited,
patiently, taking in the sounds.
There it was the first step. He was trying to be quiet, but she had heard it just the
same, one slow methodical step. She had left out all of her toys, strewn all across the
room to make it as difficult for him as possible, but he was being cautious. She was also
pretty sure that Dada had put some of the toys away earlier while she was playing in the
living room, but there were still the blocks and a rubber ducky strategically placed next to
the crib where he might step on it, giving away his location.
She turned and looked at her bear that was propped up against the side of the crib
next to her. He sat perfectly still, not daring to move a muscle, but one bright yellow eye
drew down in a slow wink. She felt better knowing that he was there and ready as well.
She could hear the man getting closer, his ragged breathing telling her that he had
almost crossed the room and was approaching the crib. Just then she heard it, an almost
inaudible squeak from the rubber ducky. He was good, he had caught himself and kept
from putting all his weight on it, but still she had heard that little bit of air escape and
knew now that he would be approaching from the right side of the crib.
She tensed up as the face came slowly into view, startled as always though she
had seen it many times. It was hideous. The man's face was perfectly white and very
long. It was narrower than a man's face should be, ending in a sharp protruding chin.
The eyes were like bottomless voids, entirely devoid of life or humanity, shining an eerie
red as they caught the light from the Big Bird night light. There was no nose to speak of;
the creature just seemed to take deep raspy breaths through its open mouth. The mouth
seemed too wide for the narrow face and the lips, the color of fresh blood, contrasted
sharply with the white face. The creature smiled, showing rows of small needle like teeth
behind those unnaturally red lips.
He reached for her quickly, but she was ready for him. Her blanket began to glow
brightly, exuding a myriad of colors from the many patches. She pulled it up over her
head, blocking the grasping hands, smiling to herself as she felt them recoil from the
burning blaze of her blanket. She pulled the blanket down, still smiling as though she
were only playing peek-a-boo, watching for the next strike so she could focus the power
of the blanket.
He reached again, this time to take her around the middle, but Mr. Bear was ready
for him and lashed out with claws and fangs. She loved Mr. Bear, he was her protector
and friend, and though he was small he was quite ferocious. The evil man had forgotten
about Mr. Bear and was caught off-guard as the miniature beast bit deeply into one bony
hand. The man jerked back, clearly injured but not bleeding.
She rolled to the side as the evil man took a quick stab at her with his long bony
fingers which ended in long sharp nails. He missed her and took another swipe which
she deftly blocked with the glowing blanket. She grabbed the corner of her blanket and
pulled it back revealing a red corduroy patch which suddenly shone forth with a beam of
red light. She aimed it at the mobile hanging above the crib and it began to spin, playing
Fur Elise as it did so. Bright lights shone forth from each of the dangling stars, making a
spinning trap above the crib. Her attacker ducked down out of sight so as to not get
caught in the spinning beams of light. It would last for long she knew, but it would buy
her some time to regroup. She rolled up against the side of the crib closest to the man
and stretched the blanket out to reveal a few more patched squares. Mr. Bear moved to
the far corner, ready to pounce at a moments notice. The power faded from the mobile
and with it the dangerous spinning lights and the man jumped back up, leaning far over
the bed to grab her. The little girl was ready for him, however, and whipped the blanket
up at his exposed face, the patches searing his right cheek and marring the perfect white
with a dark black burn. At the same time Mr. Bear slashed deeply into his exposed arms
causing him to jerk back violently.
The man made another attack, this time managing to knock Mr. Bear away with
one hand, and reach for her with the other. She concentrated on the blanket, focusing its
energy into two of the plaid panels closest to her head and reach up from underneath
them, wrapping the burning panels around the grasping hand. Searing pain shot through
her attackers arm. He screamed, but being a creature of the night, the sound came out as
only a low hiss, by far the loudest sound she had ever heard him make. He desperately
snatched with his other hand to pull the blanket away, but Mr. Bear was there to bite into
the free hand, rendering it momentarily useless. The man was horrified, his depth less
eyes swirling with red fire and pain, and with a last wrench he managed to free his now
scorched hand. He reeled back from the crib, slowly melting away as he did so. Soon he
was nothing but billowing smoke, exiting through the cracks around the window out into
the night.
The girl breathed a sigh of relieve. The man had been clearly injured, even if
there was no bleeding to prove it. The little girl didn't think he could bleed, and Mr. Bear
said he didn't think so either. They had both concluded that instead of being filled with
blood like people, or stuffing like bears, he must be filled with nothing. And all of that
nothing leaked out when he was injured, and if enough of the nothing leaked out, he
would go away to try to find someone else to take something from and turn it into
nothing. These were the kinds of conversations that her and Mr. Bear had when she was
playing alone in her room. When she was having these conversations, her parents would
often listen in, but for some reason they never understood her. They seemed to think she
was singing to herself, which was a silly notion, and she concluded that they just didn't
know how to speak bear. That was alright with her, because she really didn't want to
worry them with information about the man at night.
She was quite satisfied with the performance tonight and knew that she had struck
a vital blow. She also knew that next time would not be so easy. He would be ready for
her next time, perhaps not being so clumsy in his attacks. She sat up in bed to check on
Mr. Bear. He sat propped up against the side of the crib where he had been initially. He
said nothing, but gave her a brief smile before closing his eyes and drifting off to a much
deserved sleep. She wondered briefly if she would need to bring in reinforcements.
Elmo was a little crazy, but he might be able to hold his own in a fight. If he could just
keep from starting that incessant laughter in the middle of the ordeal. Still thinking about
her plans for next time, she rolled over, curled up in her blanket and went to sleep.

The next night, bed-time came much the same as before. The girls father scooped
her up in his arms and carried her into the bedroom. He laid her down in the crib and
before he had even stood up straight, she started in,
“Bank! Bank!”
“I know,” he said. “I'm going to get your blanket now.”
He went back to the living room and found the blanket sitting on the couch and
brought it back. Tonight, she was not laying down when he came back, but instead
starting calling out,
“Melmo! Melmo!”
The father sighed. Yet another toy that she has to sleep with? Aren't the bear and
the blanket enough? This was getting ridiculous.
“Just lie down and go to sleep. We'll find Elmo for you tomorrow.”
“No! Melmo!” she said forcefully, a note of finality in her voice.
He started to object, but decided he didn't want to fight this tonight and went into
the kitchen where he had last seen the Elmo doll. He found it under the kitchen table and
took it back, laying it next to the tired baby.
“There you go. Now go to sleep. It's night night time.”
He wrapped the blanket around her and kissed her on the forehead, before
shutting off the light and closing the door, oblivious to the soft breathy whisper and the
black smoke coming through the child's bedroom window.

Jason McVicker
The Man in the Attic

Simon finished unscrewing the hinge from the wall. He let the wooden door
thump against the floor and collapse out into the hall. It left a deep gash in the sheetrock
it hit, irritating his eyes with dust. The noise startled him, but the Man in the attic did not
appear to be aware of what he was doing. He pulled the string on the bulb to turn the
closet light on, but it remained stubbornly dark. A scribbled note was added to a long list
in Simon’s pocket.
After he finished the bathroom across the hallway, his preparations would be
complete, save for the last minute matters on the list. The second floor of the house was
dominated by the single hallway, perhaps ten foot long, leading into a guest bedroom of
medium size and flanked by doors into a large closet and bathroom. He had little use for
the second floor. The bathroom didn’t have hot water in the winter months. The
bedroom housed books from college he couldn’t bear to part with and couldn’t bother to
read. His bed wore hand-me-down linens from his first apartment.
That apartment had been Simon’s favorite home. It had a power outlet in every
wall, more than he had ever needed, and a painting of a duck he had stolen from his
doctor’s waiting room on a dare. His friends had come there often to drink beer and be
teenagers again. When they would leave, Simon would walk naked through the rooms
while cleaning and read novels on the toilet for hours without moving. It was a space
defined entirely by himself.
This house in contrast held only Isabel. Her original decoration was mostly intact.
Simon thought of the afternoon they spent painting the hallway blue together and
suddenly regretted bashing the gash in, as though scoring the wall was slapping his lover.
He felt stupid immediately. Isa was dead, and the mark on the wall might be the only
grave marker she ever got. Need can silence sentiment, and Simon needed to prepare for
this last night in the house.
He glanced out the bare window to check his time. The Man in the attic never
came out until dark. The sun hung high and encouraging in the sky; Simon had several
hours left. He liked sunlight and it showed- he was perpetually tan, and the contrast of
blonde hair, dark skin, and white teeth made him undeniably handsome. But the
obsession with light ran deeper. He collected unusual lamps and candles, filled his
homes with them. He had a suite of mirrors he used to distribute the light all around.
Trent once commented, “It’s amazing all of these ‘lighting mirrors’ are at face
height.” His friends were assembled at Simon’s apartment for dinner. Girlfriends and
wives were in attendance, so the quantity of beer was subtly limited, but Simon
remembered the high spirits. Trent’s fey demeanor and exuberance lent him a sort of
artificial cheer, like he had walked offstage from a play without ending the performance.
He was brilliant and spoke to Isabel of poetry. He was a consummate womanizer, but his
girlfriend of the moment never knew it.
“Oh?” Simon was past tipsy and didn’t see what Trent was up to.
“And I wonder why there are so many grooming supplies lying beneath them…”
Trent screwed his face up in mock contemplation. “How many mirrors do you really
need, anyway?” He looked into a mirror and powdered his nose with imaginary
accoutrements. “Most of us get by with one.”
“Shut up!” Simon laughed along with everyone else, but it had been a revelation.
He was vain. He wondered how long everyone else had known.
His labors continued while he reminisced. Simon crossed into the bathroom and
unscrewed the sliding shower door from its frame, laying it out on the floor. He gathered
all of the shaving supplies and Isabel’s feminine products into a trash bag, which he
threw down the stairs. He unscrewed the hinges of the wooden door and placed it out
into the hallway. The light in here came on easily. He took a moment to stare at his face
in the mirror, at its lines and bones and a single blemish.
Simon had already removed the large furniture from the guest bedroom a week
ago, when he realized the Man in the attic had some hidden means of traveling unseen
through the house. He had done so in absolute terror, half expecting the Man in the attic
to leap out of a secret passage at any moment. When the Man made no appearance and
Simon could find no hidden lair or shrouded tunnels, he felt much worse.
From a practical standpoint removing all of the furniture had been useful; in case
of a struggle the man in the attic couldn’t push a heavy armoire on top of Simon, nor
could he hide behind or inside it. He’d given a lot of thought to being killed in his own
home. He considered the angles of his doorframes, the merits of improvised weapons. In
the night when he would not sleep he watched slasher flicks. Simon slowly ate his terror,
consuming every dark fantasy of his own murder until it was in his flesh. The man in the
attic might overpower him, but he would not surprise him.
When Isabel first asked him to move in with her Simon had refused out of hand.
They had known each other barely six months. Simon had been attracted to her
uniqueness, white but indelibly European, soft-spoken yet intellectually overbearing. He
told her that he wanted to preserve her foreignness; that he might fall out of love with her
if he really knew her. She called him a pretentious jackass.
The first floor was dominated by the living room, a large hall with a massive
television on one end and two enormous mirrors on the other. Between them once sat a
mahogany table for dining, a pine table for books, assorted antique chairs, and a number
of small urns. Little of the furniture matched, but Simon had never cared about that. The
carpet was torn a bit where Simon had moved all of the furniture into a corner.
Two doors on opposite ends of the room lead into the kitchen. You could run in a
great circle through the kitchen and living room, around and around until you slipped and
fell and the Man in the attic got you.
Simon had first become aware of the Man in the attic a week after he moved in, in
the bathroom upstairs. There was a single floating log in the toilet, brown and unmarred.
There was no toilet paper, and Simon thought that perhaps Isa had a disgusting habit he
was unaware of. She denied even using the toilet upstairs; at the time he had assumed it
was backwash or something.
Yet little things around the house seemed a little wrong all the time. Cereal
vanished out of the box, appliances were unplugged, and a growing sense of unease
spread each time Simon acknowledged that someone was altering his space.
He looked at the list in his pocket. ‘Fuel’ was the first word on it, but he had to
wait until later for that. ‘Trash’ was easy to take care of. The bags of goods he had
collected from each room went outside into bins. ‘Barricade’ wasn’t the right word for
what he was doing, but he had felt clever for remembering the word from his SATs. He
went to the kitchen and locked the heavy door leading to the back of the house. As he
shut it he noticed bare footprints in dark soot stepping out of the closet. He didn’t
shudder; he had become accustomed to the increasingly obvious intrusions of the man in
the attic. The lock made a satisfyingly deep click as it turned. He jammed a chair under
the door knob, to be safe.
The hallways were narrow in the back of the house, the bathrooms small, the
guest bedroom a veritable deathtrap full of old paintings and Isa’s sewing mannequin.
Simon couldn’t think of a single thing besides lurking in his peripheral vision it could be
used for. The back of the house also had the master bedroom, but Simon hadn’t slept
there since Isabel went missing.
He supposed he could have made the rooms safe, as he had upstairs, but the
hallways couldn’t be widened, nor could the twisting corners be straightened out to
improve visibility. Going into the back of the house was a bad idea, he knew, but he
didn’t need to go there. His plan was to make the Man in the attic come to him.
With the furniture out of the way and the intruder lured into the living room,
Simon intended to have it out, man to Man in the attic. In case Simon died, he had
arranged a nuclear option of sorts.
Simon looked at the list again, and carried a tall lamp in each hand up the stairs.
He stepped over the doors and into the closet, turning each lamp on. Their light was
cheerful and undeniable, and the only shadow in the room was Simon’s. He returned to
the living room to deal with fuel. He emptied gas cans, lined up side by side, around the
edge of the room. Simon doused the stairwell too, and ascended, spraying the doors and
the floors of the second story. Factoring in the propane tank he had left under the master
bed, he was certain the house would completely immolate.
In happier times the tank had fueled the barbecue in the back yard. His friends
still came to drink beer, though no longer to recapture their teenage years. They had
teenaged offspring of their own. Isabel had loved these parties more even than Simon.
They mingled as a couple with people, commiserating about workaday reality, eating
greasy burgers and thinking about the good life they had. Simon suspected that one of
these barbecues was when Trent and Isa began seeing each other. Perhaps it started as a
flirtatious glance, laughing at a joke only they shared. Perhaps it started bent over the
kitchen sink while Simon flipped burgers in the yard.
Simon sat in the floor of the living room, tracing the carpet fibers with a finger
and rocking himself back and forth. The room was red with sunset. By throwing out all
the food in the house last week, he intended to provoke a confrontation with the Man in
the attic. The bastard had been stealing from his kitchen for years, and now with no food
supply he would surely come for Simon, having no need to keep him alive. Simon
wondered what the Man in the attic would look like. He imagined dark liquid eyes, deep
as though the end of the world swam inside them. Yet he couldn’t create a cohesive
image of lines and bones and shape.
Night fell. Simon knew tonight was the night when hunger would force the Man
in the attic out. The field was prepared; there was no furniture to trip over, no corner to
jump out of in ambush. Simon merely had to wait.
Simon felt the air pressure change. He thought he heard something upstairs. It
could have been the pipes. He knew that if he ran upstairs to confront the Man in the
attic he would sacrifice the advantage of his preparation. Footsteps scuttled upstairs. He
forced himself to remain completely still. A muffled crash echoed down the stairs. His
breathing slowed. A whisper taunted him. He waited.
It occurred to him that the Man in the Attic probably slept during daylight, and
could therefore stay awake far longer than Simon. He started to go to the kitchen to make
some coffee, realizing halfway there that he had thrown it all away with the food. A
noise between a laugh and a sob left his lips.
There was a new noise upstairs, like marbles running across the hardwood floor.
Did the Man in the attic have childish hobbies? Simon wondered what he did all day up
there. Did he eat bugs or read Kierkegaard? Did he hide Isa’s body in the walls or did
she keep him company up there? Did he speak to her?
The noise stopped. There was a pause, then a loud bang from the locked door in
the kitchen. Simon didn’t shudder. He didn’t breath.
Over the course of the next several minutes he heard more bangs, running
footfalls over his head, scratching motion under the floorboards. Then there was the
strange sound upstairs again, something metallic sliding. It went on and on. When it
stopped, Simon sat in the silence.
Somehow the silence was much worse. It was a pregnant pause, a dare. Should
he make the first move? Head to the second floor, that much closer to the attic, that much
closer to hell? Simon considered it. It would bring an end to things, and Simon could
rest one way or another.
Going upstairs would probably result in his murder, he knew. Simon decided this
was acceptable, and lit the match he carried in his right pocket. He stepped with the balls
of his feet to stay as quiet as possible. At the top of the stairs he threw the match down
into a slick of gas; the heat was overwhelming and instantaneous. If Simon didn’t
survive he certainly wouldn’t allow his prey to. He went gingerly over the doors in the
hallway and stopped. The light in the closet was darkened, but not out. Pulling a mirror
out of his pocket and holding it around the corner, he silently observed the interior. His
two lamps were alone inside. He nearly relaxed, and stepped inside the closet. Taking a
closer look, he realized that one of the lamps had a burned-out bulb. He leaned over to
remove it and heard the creak of boards behind him too late. There was pain as he was
struck in the head.
Whether memory or dream or head trauma, Simon had a vision. Laundry sat in
piles before him, waiting to be folded. Isabel clattered around in the kitchen, cursing
lightly about the disruptions. Simon’s wallet had gone missing, along with all of the
forks and two of Isabel’s dresses. There was no evidence of intrusion; the police told
them to buy a dog and stop being paranoid. Simon glanced at his cell phone; Trent had
sent him an apology via text. Bastard.
“And the scissors are gone! Fuck! Simon, would-” She entered the room, aghast.
“Are you texting while I’m talking to you?”
Simon paused typing mid-slur, unashamed. “It’s your boyfriend; would you
rather talk to him?” He had secretly forgiven them both, but hatred felt soothing on his
bruised ego.
“He’s not my boyfriend, damn it,” she spat. She clearly wanted to say something
but let it pass. “I want the locks changed tomorrow. My intimates drawer was disturbed.”
At this Simon snickered. “Disturbed? Your furniture felt emotionally violated?”
“I was emotionally violated.” Her voice caught, and for a moment he could look
at her without resentment and just feel sad. The next day she was gone.
Simon awoke in an unfamiliar space. Beams soared around him, and his hand
was in something soft, itchy, and pink. The attic, he thought. It was unpleasantly warm,
and smoke was seeping in from somewhere. He surmised that the Man in the attic had
taken him from behind and dragged him up to his lair. He glanced around without
moving his head too much; the pain was excruciating. A mass lay a few feet away across
two beams. It wheezed hideously; though he could only see broad shoulders and rags,
Simon knew it was the Man. He had probably breathed in too much smoke dragging
Simon up to his hole; the ragged gasps coming from his chest suggested death was near.
Simon didn’t shudder.
He twisted his head to the left, moaning at the pain. There she was, in the corner,
decomposing but still Isa. Her eyes and mouth were all closed; he was grateful for that.
He wished then that he could tell her that it wasn’t her foreignness he was attached to, but
his own normality. She crystallized it, contrasted it, threatened it. Perhaps she would
have fallen out of love with him in time; perhaps it was lucky that they could die together,
before time tore them apart.
Isa could not share her opinion on the matter because she was dead, and neither
could the Man in the attic because the propane tank exploded a moment later.

Amy Vo
Beyond the Veil

Over the sloping knoll, a vast, black lake looked like a corroded pit in the earth.
The burning white face in the sky shone full and violent upon the lake, whilst feather-pale
tendrils of its light wove between swaying leaves of a weeping willow on the shore and
fell softly on blue-green grass and white sand. Hidden within the folds of the branches,
knelt a cloaked woman, murmuring softly, her head bowed. Her hands were clasped
rigidly over her swelling belly, in conflicting hope and desperation.
“I have been faithful, my Lordship...”
A dispassionate wind brushed by the crown of the tree, rustling the curtains of
branches that dipped lightly and vanished beneath the surface of the black lake. Though
ripples made to venture out from the shore, the surface was consciously still. It smoothed
itself and became impenetrable once more, the vault of heaven darkly reflected in its
“I have returned at every full moon, as instructed.” The air was still, and pressed
heavy on her shoulders.
“The village grows suspicious of me, my Lord. The lake is deemed cursed, and
the white sand on my shoes is telling...” She pauses, anxious.
She bows her head further. “I do not mean to merely bring my complaints to you,
my Lord.”
A warm wind brushes her face, though does not rustle the leaves. She smiles
gently, touching her blushing cheek. She looks up through the swaying leaves of the
willow and continued, “As always, I bring flowers. These I have finally managed to
grow in my mother’s garden.” Twisting the cloth of her dress, she added, “Though I am
not to tend to them any longer.”
Lowering her voice, she said, “The children of the village hear rumors and try to
catch glimpses of me working in the garden.”
The young woman gently held a stem of orchids in her palms. The petals glittered
under the light of the moon, royal purple melting into chaste white. She quivered as she
thought of him.
“Why have you yet to return?” Her voice faded to a whisper. “Why have you not
come to take me?” Her hands lay open and limp on her lap, the orchids ever shining.
Inside gaping mouths, their insides were stippled and subdued. She stroked the thick
petals and felt a stirring in her abdomen.
She sat still a moment, on her toes, remembering the glossy terror in her mother’s
eyes when she had come home in a waking dream so many months ago, her skin and hair
sullied white by the water of the lake.
“My Lord, I am ever grateful that you have chosen me,” she uttered. She bit her
lip, as she pictured his upright form rising out of the lake as it had that night the cosmos
had sung her to the lake.
An impossible ripple captured her attention the moment the thing inside of her
began to quicken and murmur. Listening intently, her hand hovered hesitantly over her
stomach. “Oh,” she breathed quietly. Her heart caught in her throat as she imagined
seeing him again beyond the lake’s onyx surface.
She stood with difficulty. Eight other blossoms lay withered and frayed on the
ground by her feet, trembling atop a smooth white stone. Picking up the stone and
brushing away the dead flowers, she placed it in the shallow water. The white stone
gouged out a blistering hole in the black lake, and she dropped the fresh orchids into the
deepening white chasm, sending a prayer with each one down to her lover.
Staring down into the void, thick shapes began to coil lithely in her mind,
sporadic intervals of light revealing muted memories which she had relived countless
times, but never so powerfully; there she was, her fingers buried in wet sand, back arched
tall, wan glistening skin lit intimately by the stars and planets that hung loosely from the
heavens – and there he was: olive-skinned and beautiful, fierce eyes ablaze with control
and demand for obedience; and though his lips issued no sound, they called her Corinna,
sweet Corinna, whose soul must be his.
Her anxieties and fears fell away in a final tremor, and she slipped one of her bare
feet into the gelid water. The lake shuddered when she dipped her other foot in after the
first. The life inside of her began to thrash as the water suddenly convulsed upwards, and
as she clutched her belly in panic, a deluge of membranous golden wings glinted and
spun in wind and light. The humidity which had fused to her every movement dissipated.
The insect wings moved as she did, and breathing deep the sweet scent of blooming
orchids, she held her breath in pain and wonderment.
The glassy surface of the lake danced electric on her skin as the gusting wind and
wings rocked her downwards. The cold stiffened her insides – the water had parted for
her, and the icy wind that carried her wrapped and froze itself around her core, numbing
her to the sharp pains of life fighting within her. And though she could hear a frantic
clawing at her bone and flesh, she was at the threshold now, and felt none of it, thinking
only of him; for she knew he was near, that he was only heartbeats away.
Continuing her descent, her arms around her belly, the wind whipped her skirts
and cloak. The insect wings began to fall less vigorously and lazily flitted away from her,
disappearing into intermittent twinkling below her. As time passed and weariness
overcame her, she closed her eyes.
Drifting down farther, she was brutally met by oppressive waves of sounds
crashing over her: weeping, shrieking and whispering all vied for her attention, for her
aid and mercy. They moaned in their eternal agony, and she heard their anguish as they
called out her name and their crackling skin writhe and snap. Each time they cried out
for her, she felt their pain shoot through her breast. They called her their queen, and she
was moved by her earthly compassion.
It was only when she had touched the stony ground could she open her eyes. Her
surroundings were darker than pitch, and as she uttered a hoarse “my Lord?”, she heard
the tinkling of glass breaking with each golden burst of light that fell around her.
Looking above her, the moon still burned, but its light could not reach the hands that she
held outstretched.
She saw him behind a fogged shroud, sitting resplendently upon his bone-carven
throne. His skin shone of its own radiance in his dark dominion, giving light to the
craggy walls of his fortress. Scarcely able to walk, she stumbled to the shroud between
them, and pressed her palms close against the solid mist that separated him from her.
Stifling her joy, she felt with her hands for a way past the translucent wall between them.
Her engorged belly brushed against the veil, and she heard new cries amidst the
increasingly frenetic clawing.
He smiled at her, and when he spoke, her thoughts were assailed by the music of
his voice. Harmonious brushstrokes tipped with spilled venom drenched her mind as he
spoke of his delight for her safe arrival. Clouds of blood emanated from his fingertips in
graceful pirouettes as he touched the empty throne beside him. The gleam of silver on
his tongue stung and captivated her, as he reached his hand out to her. She could only
stretch her one arm through the barrier, and as she did, she could smell the hint of
metallic sin from under his fingernails, and looking into his unfathomable eyes, see the
movements of galaxies millennia away.
Still sitting upon his throne, he watched as she groped the air for his hand. “My
Lordship,” she groaned from the strain, “please, could you help me through...?” Her
breath faltered. The clawing which had so quietly persisted, intensified, and she felt it
and the contractions break through her.
She fell, genuflecting before the lustrous thrones and sharply inhaled as she
finally felt herself ripped away from beneath the weeping branches of the willow, and the
pain of giving life.
Still on the ground, but now beyond the veil, she felt her body empty and her skin
glow. Turning around, she saw the newborn squirming on the other side. She leant
forward to press through barrier once more and met with no resistance, and was on the
other side. She picked up the infant from the floor, and attempted to go through the mist
once again, but was unable to.
Rising from his throne, he strode regally towards her. He knelt before her, his
face level with her own, and effortlessly offered her a crystal dagger through the fog.
She looked down into her arms. Poppy-flowered eyes stared at her, gaze blank
but for shock. They blinked once, twice, and at thrice, they widened in alarm, as did her
Above them, dead, thorny brambles began to arch upwards and frame the full
moon, as orchids falling through the portal wilted and died. Tornados of plum and snow
hued petals twisted in eddies throughout her new domain. She gasped, her arms slippery,
fearfully holding the bundle in her arms. Violet veins traced the clouds beyond the
opening, pulsating as the earth contracted to close itself. The moon darkened as the
midnight ink of the sky silently flooded the chasm shut.
The infant begins to raise its first cry, but is cut off by the shattering of crystal on
cold obsidian.

Amy Linthicum

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rec1procated ìove/ìust/need/want/dependence/ensìavement.
Jt 1s au1te a thr1ìì r1de, but 1t takes one w1ìì1na passenaer. Rot1ce J sa1d
one, not two, you do not both need to be on the same paae, you know what you
want and how to aet 1t. 0ranted, not |ust any partner w1ìì do. Ihey have to
take your breath away when you ìay eyes on them. Ihe1r eyes must be both
empty and beaut1tuì. Kouth, smaìì and unabìe to spew terms ot endearment
or abuse. üands that want to know every 1nch ot your body. A smeìì that
w1ìì haunt you unt1ì you 1nhaìe your ìast breath.

0ur1ous? Rot aood enouah. Laaer? 0ett1na cìose. 3acr1t1c1aì? Row
you re ready.

.ou have to know the t1rst t1me the notes ot the1r vo1ce penetrate your
ears. Ihen, reìy on your eyes. «hen you see them your stomach w1ìì drop down
heavy 1nto your d1aphraam, em1tt1na a weak aasp that w1ìì escape your
ì1ps. Row, do they ìook at you? «atch the1r eyes. u1d they sm1ìe when they
cauaht you ìook1na? 0ood. I1me. Iaìk to them. 3pend t1me aìone w1th them, do
you teeì 1t? Ro, not buttertì1es, but the warmth between your ìeas, the
saì1va bu1ìd1na 1n your mouth and the puìì 1n your chest. Kake sure 1ts
reaì. Iake your t1me.
Ihe power you want can not be torced.
0kay, you tound someone. .ou sure? Row, months and years w1ìì cont1rm or
deny. «a1t tor 1t to come, ìet 1t take you over. Ro thouaht w1ìì be yours,
they w1ìì revoìve around them and the 1dea ot an us. .ou w1ìì taìk ot the
tuture ìate at n1aht, amona sweat drenched sheets, throuah aasps ot a1r--
the tuture.
Ihat 1s what you want, r1aht?
A tuture, or at ìeast the sedat1ve 1dea ot a tuture, one sate 1n the arms ot
the person that det1nes your worìd. Be caretuì, you are taìì1na, are you
ready tor th1s? 0an you reaììy aììow yourseìt to become ìost? Lmpty? Ihey
w1ìì be your sm1ìe, your tears, your purpose, and your reason to r1se 1n the
morn1na. Ihey w1ìì take on a aod torm, you worsh1p them w1th your eyes,
your body and your ì1te. Kmmmm. Ihere 1t 1s.
Ihey must be more than mereìy your enterta1nment, more than |ust company
on a 7r1day n1aht, more than your sweetheart and more than your souì mate.
Ihey are your everyday. Row, en|oy them. uo tor them and tor your us.
3utter 1n pìeasure. «aììow 1n the deì1aht ot true devot1on and secur1ty.
Lvery moment 1n ìove-- cher1sh 1t, trust me.
«hat? üey, dont bìame me, you wanted 1t. J tr1ed to heìp. u1d you take your
t1me? u1d you a1ve your aìì? Ah, you ì1ttìe tooì. Jt 1s aìì a part ot the
process. .ou have not taììen. .ou have not ìet ao. Let them 1n. 7eed them
your past and make them a part ot you. Ro waììs, no boundar1es, onìy
1nt1macy to 1ts tuììest, most obscene extent. Ihat 1s when the power w1ìì
devour you. .ou are no ìonaer the predator-- ìet them eat you. «hoìe. ünt1ì
there 1s noth1na ìett.

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Andrew Zimmerman
Six Sketches

1. April 24, 2005
Are you listening?
I'll open these blinds for you. The sunset looks pretty tonight.
I know you can't say anything, but I miss you.
The doctors say you can't hear anything I say.
They say I might as well leave.
I'm – well – I'm sorry.

2. April 27, 2005
It was getting late. Outside the church it was raining and the people were carrying
umbrellas and wearing long coats. Each turned his glance downward. The people were
unhappy and drugged-dumb and they avoided speaking, wouldn't even look at the other
people teeming around them. The people were strangers and they hated each other. The
people were distrusting and vengeful and they resented even the cab drivers who tried in
vain to make small talk. They were bitter and angry but mostly the people were just sad,
and maybe a little lonely; they filled the streets and in the rain they seemed to merge into
one, a single creature made of vacant stares and body odor and foul language. I pushed
open the heavy double doors of the church and stepped out in it.
Once outside I pulled my hood over my head and lit a cigarette. I took a right out
of the church and headed down the street toward the bus stop. The people buttoned up
against the cold and their faces were blank. I did not meet their gazes. The city is my
home, brakes squealing and jackhammers all the time; as far as I'm concerned there's no
need to ever leave it. Nature has its points I suppose but I prefer to know there's a bus
station and a library handy. The stores are open into the night and the people stay up
terribly late . . .
The first night I met you, you told me you wanted to join the Peace Corps. I said I
was going to become a writer. But I was no writer and you in truth were no altruist, and
two years later I was coming to visit you in the hospital, you in a coma and near death
and you never joined the Peace Corps or went to Africa. Neither of us even ended up
getting our degrees for that matter. I was still young – I guess I still could have become a
writer but there didn't seem to be much point and besides I had nothing at all to write
anymore and certainly nothing interesting: only vapid memories of an awful past and you
had to go and die and leave me alone with the awful present. After you left it was a year
until I heard from you again: a year of lonely nights, jobs, the panic of finances, the
slowness and stupidity of survival. I never did stop thinking about you and finally I
decided to send you a letter – asking how things were and telling you how I was and you
know how it goes and will you drop me a line when you can? I felt a little embarrassed
even mailing it but I was still dying to know what you were up to. In the letter you wrote
me back, you wrote that you felt a little trapped and a little sad and you never joined the
Peace Corps but mostly it was just indifference, and maybe that was worse, the ennui.
Our correspondence continued for a few months but I wasn't really too surprised when
you stopped writing back. By then I realized that you had been mortally wounded from
your past and your feelings for things had been damaged along the way, or perhaps
discarded. You were mired in your regrets, and from the first I had been as temporary to
you as anything else. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I heard about your
suicide attempt, either, the morphine overdose that just landed you comatose in the
hospital instead – but somehow it was the last thing I expected when I thought about the
girl picking hyacinths in the park.
I made another right turn, took a shortcut between two buildings to separate
myself a little bit from the fray because the crowds made me anxious. There were broken
bottles in the alley, and two cats perched on a rusted fire escape bolted to old blackened
brick – a few dumpsters and above that, ghosts of graffiti that haunted the ancient wall.
The alley came out to a street on the other side. I turned left and walked down half a
block to the bus stop, then sat on the bench and waited. I got bored waiting and decided I
might as well light another cigarette. I didn't look at anyone and no one looked at me,
either. I inhaled deeply and tried to gather my thoughts. The wake had been a quiet
affair, some family members and few close friends. One evening only – she'd be buried
tomorrow morning. The bus pulled up and I stepped on.
The man recognized me and gave me the senior discount although I'm twenty-
four. “Hey, Brian. It'll be 95 cents, and will you be needing a transfer?”
I didn't really, but sometimes plans change – and a transfer was good for two
hours. “Yeah, sure.” And before I even had a chance to sit down the bus started moving.

3. August 4, 1991
The morning sun bathed the oak trees in light and draped their long shadows
across the wet grass and the battered picnic tables and between the shadows and the
spaces I could see them playing. There was a swing set and a seesaw in the sand and past
that there was a small creek with a bridge over it even though in August the creek was
dry anyway. And past the creek there was a garden and in the garden hyacinths grew.
And past the garden I saw the children laugh and play and they looked healthy, on a
beautiful warm Saturday morning in August and I'd just turned twelve years old.
But I was sick, too sick to go outside according to my mother, who would scold
me and tell me a lot of things like it's for your own good and my temperature was too
high. Or else it was too low – I get sick a lot but mother thought this one might be
serious. But my bedroom window overlooked the neighborhood park, which was really
just a wide grassy space between several surrounding houses, and when I saw the six or
seven kids playing in the park and thought about my mother downstairs, resignation
began to set in. They looked about the same age as I was or maybe a little younger, and
on top of everything else, though, they were just so beautiful, and nice and well-dressed
and probably had a lot of friends, too.
But out of all of them she was the one who stood out. Not the tallest, nor the best-
dressed, maybe not even the prettiest but there was something that drew my gaze toward
her. The other kids busied themselves with games but always her interest was
somewhere else, seemingly flitting fast amongst the trees and birds and wet wet grass but
in fact involved in something deeper than I could imagine. She wore slippers and a
simple blue dress with white sleeves, the blue slightly faded from too many washings: it
had a homemade look and a wonderfully reassuring quality to it, but somehow it didn’t
suit her. It wasn’t anything specific she did but my imagination that made her seem out
of place, like she should be walking down a wide sidewalk in a thriving metropolis
teeming with a million strangers, and noticing her golden reflection in the shiny tinted
window of an office building, she slows down, slows a moment and strikes a pose there.
In the park she separated herself from the other children, walked as if she was
walking straight toward me but she stopped at a flower garden. She bent down and when
I saw her come up I noticed she had plucked a small hyacinth. She straightened and put
the flower in her hair, nestled in right behind her ear.
A little before noon my mother called me downstairs for lunch. We made small
talk while I slowly took bites from my sandwich and she smoked a cigarette, the smoke a
chapel of dark rising vines. By the time I got back upstairs to my bedroom and looked
out the window again, the children were gone and the park was silent like winter and no
water ran in the creek under the bridge.

4. April 23, 2005
In the neighborhood park my grandfather taught me how to ride a bike – Rachel,
he'd say, hold on tight – wait, don't forget your helmet. And I was frightened so he
walked alongside me and kept me straight and said I'm here so don't be scared but still I
held on tight. He let go but I pedaled and kept going right along the sidewalk between
the oak trees. When my grandfather died two years later, my parents, who had no idea
how to deal with children, told me he just moved. It took me nine years or so to figure
out the truth and I never rode the bike again. I thought he'd just picked up and left me
and who was going to hold me up straight and remind me your helmet Rachel don't forget
your helmet.
My father told me, the world will end on the twenty-first day of the twelfth month
in the year of our Lord 2012, and everyone knows that. Really I never bought it, but dad
loved that sort of thing, and he believed it with a conviction that, at times, bordered on
terrifying. He'd say, you see Rachel it's just they can't agree how it's going to happen –
there are “people,” whatever sort of people study those things I guess, who have
discovered certain algorithms of the “Bible Code” that predict the collision of some sort
of asteroid on this date. Then he'd tell me, you see Rachel it's right there, the Something
Something of the Mayan calendar indicates December twelfth 2012 as the completion of
the thirteenth cycle of Something, coinciding with the apocalypse, in keeping with the
predictions of Nostradamus, who also put the re-arrival of the Antichrist around 2012.
When I die I'm going to heaven. We got fifteen more years or so, and that's it, he'd say.
The gig's up. Rachel, hold on tight
And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy
wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy
people. The Book of Daniel. But still so many ends untied.
Why should I have to share you? he asked me – why should it be me? – why don't
you get rid of someone else for once? I showed up at Brian's house late late that night
and I thought he would already be asleep but he had stayed up was waiting for me and it
looked like he had been drinking. I told him what we both already knew. we both knew
this had to end sometime the only thing more terrifying than the apocalypse is
permanence in fact maybe permanence is the only reason the apocalypse terrifies us at
all but he wanted the house the realty good jobs and a white fence – to make me into a
wife or something that, Christ Brian, I'm not, and that was when he told me to leave and
he said, I hope I never see you again . . .
Two weeks in a hospital bed, in a coma, not seeing hearing feeling, somehow I
remember all that. I remember my father's Mayan calendar nonsense even though I can't
recall his name or bring his face to mind. And somehow my memory of my mother,
although more recent, has become even dimmer: no scent even, not even the color of her
hair or the way her voice sounded. I know I must have had a mother, but there's nothing
there. My mind is vacant, like an old bedroom everything in boxes and the frame and
mattress and dresser all already moved out . . . there are times I think I was born in this
hospital bed and I wonder
because there are some days when it seems like everything, even time itself, stops
like a car at a red light, and it waits . . . am I asleep? has time stopped? or does the
world go on even without my believing in it, without my believing in anything?
I wonder if this is what it's going to be like December 22 2012, after the world
ends and there's nothing and I'm blind and deaf and everywhere dark but somewhere as if
very far away I sense pale sunlight and a taste in my mouth like ash. an end is a hard
thing to imagine for anyone but I guess we're going to get what's coming to us whether
it's a comet nuclear war fire and brimstone or the antichrist himself and only the
cockroaches left amongst dilapidated homes and abandoned convenience stores and who
knows, maybe there is a heaven and maybe after we die we'll all be up there together,
forever and there is no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it
light, and its lamp is the Lamb but still we'll look back toward earth a little sad and we'll
think, it would have been nice if we could have gotten it right, even just once.

5. April 27, 2005
I met you when I was twenty-two and you twenty, and it was at a college party, of
all places, in an unattractive house not far from campus. You did not go to the same
school as I but were in town with some of your friends over the weekend. The house was
hot and crammed and uncomfortable and I didn't really fit in, I never really do, so I
stepped outside for some air. On the other side of the porch I saw you, smoking a
cigarette and looking bored. So I walked over to you and asked if I could borrow a
lighter. Naturally I had one in my pocket the entire time, but I've never been good at this
and that's the only opener I've ever had, and you . . . oh god you made my knees weak,
but I was a little drunk and in the mood to try to strike up a conversation. I told you I
liked your shoes. You asked me my name.
“Brian,” I said, “and who are you?”
“My name's Rachel. Do you, like, go to school here?” I said I did. “What do you
study?” English, I said, and I wanted to be a writer. You said you wanted to join the
Peace Corps and go to Africa. As we talked a little more about ourselves it wasn’t long
before we realized we had lived for a time on the same street. You had moved out of the
area around the same time I had and, probably since I was kept inside the house so often,
we never met. We marveled and laughed at this, at the clumsiness of destiny and I could
only think about hyacinths in a green neighborhood park.
“Do you want to leave?” I asked.
Your expression was nonplussed. “What do you mean?”
“I'm sorry. I'm bad at this kind of thing. What I meant was, I've got a place a
block or two away. You want to come over for a little while before you have to take off
with your friends?”
You said yes. I hadn't expected you to say yes and to be honest it was a
circumstance I wasn't prepared for, but we went to my place, drank cheap whiskey and
talked about life –– frenzied, futile, messy life . . . and although you were never a good
student you had an intense interest and curiosity in things, and a crazy energy that was
contagious and fascinating. We went to bed and by the time I woke up you were gone. I
hadn’t ever gotten your number and wasn’t even sure who you had originally come to the
party with. I looked through directories, tried a couple numbers but they never called
back. In despair I thought, oh well, I didn’t even know that much about her, it was one
night and nothing’s really changed except there’s that feeling again, like I’m still just a
spectator watching through a bedroom window with blinds partly drawn and it's kind of
strange . . . but four days later I got a phone call from you, and I guess that's how the next
three years began.

6. April 24, 2005
It was a small room with walls the soft calming blue of an insane asylum and just
one window with blinds down and the setting sun coming dimly in Van Gogh yellow and
Monet orange. The door was closed and no one had disturbed us since I had come in
and closed it at 4:00 or so. Now it was 7:30.
“Are you listening?”
It'd been almost two years since the last time I saw that face but I could still see
the little girl in the park, and that haunted me, the memory of a girl in a sunny park in a
blue dress and slippers picking a hyacinth, ha! and sometimes it's as if she was looking
up at my bedroom window and our eyes meeting for just an instant and then from the
kitchen my mother calls my name . . .
“I'll open these blinds for you,” I said. “The sunset looks pretty tonight.”
and the sorrow becomes so great I hear it in the clock in the steady sounds of
hospital equipment
“I know you can't say anything, but I miss you.”
Time and nostalgia have a way of distorting things, and memory fades fails turns
into nothing but a vague feeling of having been somewhere and somewhere else and
presumably somewhere before that and at various points there were a few different
houses, apartments, there were schools and neighborhood parks, some friends, parties,
but nothing in retrospect that seems remarkable enough to justify having done it in the
first place, just faint images and those could have been anyone's life eating drinking
smoking fucking and when that's all done, you wonder if anything was actually like you
remember it.
“The doctors say you can't hear anything I say. They say I might as well leave.
I'm . . . God, I'm sorry.”
I sat there talking to her for four hours and I'll admit a few times I imagined her
opening her eyes, looking at me dazed and taking a minute to adjust to the light before
she says
Brian. It's you.
Who'd you think it was?
No one. You . . . I knew you would come.
but she didn't wake up, her eyes stayed closed and at 9:35 p.m. she was
pronounced dead. It was getting late. Outside the hospital night had settled down and I
pushed open the heavy double doors of the hospital and stepped out in it.
Looking back it's a little embarrassing to think about how badly you treated me.
You lied and stole, drank too much and when you drank you swore and once or twice
even swung at me. You didn't like me to know what you were doing – were often out
late and when we went to bed together you were always gone early in the morning,
before I stumbled out of bed to smoke any longer cigarette-ends that got left in the
ashtray the previous night. There were other men, too; this was why one night I finally
threw you out and I said I never wanted to see you again, which was a lie.
After that I didn't hear from you for a whole year, and for a time I assumed our
soap opera had finally ended. And hell’s the difference anyway, I told myself then, and
tried not to be bitter about it. Still, nothing I did seemed to be turning out right and it was
hard to say why. I had just gotten another job, this time with a catering company, but I
liked it no better than the last several jobs and I couldn’t muster any interest, no matter
how I tried. Maybe I wasn’t really trying, maybe had never really tried –– it was hard to
say. I fell sick and so stopped drinking for a time to see if that helped; felt no better so I
started drinking again. It wasn’t the drinking or the cigarettes; it was life that I was ill
with, these constant fluctuations and at the same time, fundamentally, nothing ever
changing . . . .
But whether it was really you in that park that sunny September morning is
something that no amount of reminiscing can prove or disprove. Aside from an offhand
resemblance, no actual evidence is there to confirm what I always regarded as a certainty
from the moment at the party when your eyes lit up and you said “Really? I used to live
on that street too!” For whatever reason I guess I just never doubted it. And so I write
one last letter, expecting of course no reply . . . although I hope some fragment, some
notion of it maybe reaches you, rotting in your grave while I’m drowning in my cups and
wishing you wouldn’t always have left so early in the morning without giving me a
chance to say anything, anything although it wouldn’t have been enough to make you

Jamie Pierson
The Four Go Out

"She who makes a beast of herself gets rid of the pain of being a woman!"
Four glasses go bottoms up, four glasses hit the counter top. Four fists punch four
arms to expel the kick of the whiskey that pours down four throats.
"Whew!" Jasmine fans herself. "That'll do me for a while!" She's a lightweight,
the smallest and youngest. Four shots is her limit. She never drinks beer. Too many
"Not me!" Harriet grabs the bottle of Evan Williams, "Evil Bill", and takes a swig.
"Wahoo. Alright! What's the plan, ladies?"
"The show starts at nine," says Louisa, she pours some whiskey in a glass of iced
tea and stirs it with her finger. "And Daisy's slot is scheduled for 10:30. So what time do
you wanna get there, Daze?"
Daisy takes the bottle and pours a generous measure over the ice in her glass,
swirls it around, and takes a sip before she answers. "I don't want to wait around a while,
but I want some time to get used to my surroundings before I play . . . " She trails off. It's
open mic night at The Olympus, and this is the third time Daisy had signed up to play.
"So we'll get there by ten," Louisa says decisively. "Good stuff, ya'll?"
"Yes'm. It's not quite nine now, that's plenty of time to pre-party and get ready,"
Jasmine says, and hurries off to her bedroom to get dressed.
"Sounds good to me." Harriet takes the bottle from Daisy, and walking with it
into the living room, crouches in front of the stereo. She changes the song and turns it up.
Something catchy, something with a beat. Maybe a band they saw last week. Maybe with
guitars, maybe keyboards. Something they all know the words to but you've never heard
of. Their favorite song. This week's theme music. Tonight's anthem. Harriet shoots a
glance at the girls in the kitchen. They nod eagerly and slowly like she just suggested
something delightful and slightly sinful. Yes. Good pick
They all sing the words at the top of their lungs, the whiskey inflating their voices.
Jasmine's voice comes over the roar of the blow dryer from the bathroom. They stomp
their feet. They dip their shoulders and shake their hips. They take another drink and go
about their business, the music's sonic tendrils connecting The Four, making it a party
even as they drift to different corners of the apartment.
This is Jasmine and Harriet's place. The neighbors can probably hear every note
of the music, but they're used to it by now. Jas and Harry have lived together a long time,
since they were eighteen. They're just twenty one now. Jasmine wants to be famous. She's
a triple threat. She's in great demand for avant garde community theater, sings with a
band, and has taken ballet lessons since she was six. Once she finishes her associate's
degree, she wants to go to New York or LA and try her hand at being a small fish. But for
now, she is queen of the pond.
Tonight, she's on the prowl. In her room, she tries on halter tops and mini skirts,
stiletto heels and knee high boots. She settles on a clingy dress in a small, dark pattern,
something to make her look older, to show off her curves and hide her flaws. She makes
her eyes smoky with eyeliner, her lips russet against almost olive skin. She carefully pins
up her wavy light brown hair that falls past her shoulders, in a way that suggests none of
the effort she's putting into it. Finally, she slips on a well worn pair of black leather ballet
flats. She lowers the lights in her room to the level they'll be at the bar and looks at the
effect in her full length mirror. She's a vision. The girl knows how to work it. She does
not plan to go home alone tonight.
"Look at that hot bitch!" Harriet pokes her head into Jasmine's room.
"You like it?" Jas tilts her head girlishly, picking up her skirts and twirling
"Yeah, girl." Harriet saunters into the room and stands with Jasmine in front of the
mirror. "You know you got it," she says, speaking to their reflections.
"We do indeed." The music still plays, beat beat, as they stand, admiring.
"So can I borrow some lipstick? Mine's all gunky and melted," Harriet says as she
walks to Jasmine's well appointed dressing table and begins rummaging.
"Course," says Jasmine, throwing one last flirtatious glance over her shoulder at
her reflection and following her roommate into the next bedroom.
Harriet's room is a riot. Paintings and furniture sprout from an undergrowth of
clothes and CDs. Drawings and magazine cut-outs are pasted on the walls as if the wind
blew them there. She leans over her desk and looks into the mirror she keeps there for
drawing expressions. "Thanks," she says as Jasmine enters behind her. Harriet uncaps the
lipstick and carefully and liberally applies it's bright red color to her lips. She tosses it to
the desk, forever to be lost among the detritus scattered there.
"It ain't no," says Jasmine, quickly plucking back her property from the mess.
"What are you wearing tonight?" Harriet still has on a grease-smudged t-shirt that smells
of pizza. She only got off work half an hour ago.
"Dunno yet." Harriet puckers her brassy rouged lips in the mirror and then turns
her attention to the pencil sketch she'd been working on before her shift began that
morning. "Pick something out," she says as she selects a Prismacolor pencil from a
chaotic tackle box on the floor. She sharpens one, letting shavings fall where they may,
and then touches the pigmented tip to her tongue.
Jasmine makes a thoughtful noise as she turns Harriet's closet. "Skirt or pants?"
"Skirt," Harriet replies, touching the moistened point to the surface of the
drawing. Bold color streaks out behind it as she painstakingly drags it across the lines
she'd hastily scrawled.
"So how was work?" Jasmine asks. She pulls out a lacy black dress that resembled
a negligee and holds it up questioningly.
Harriet shakes her head. "Lame."
"Was Jenine working?" Jenine is Harriet's nemesis, the baleful manager who
believes pizza joints are no place for hi-jinks or employee input of any kind.
"No." She selects another color, rolls it against her tongue and draws.
"Bad tippers?" Jasmine picks up a rumpled item from the floor, shakes it out to
reveal a brown skirt with a kick pleat and dangles it in front of the drawing.
"No. And no." She reaches for the bottle of whiskey she brought from the kitchen
and takes a swig, leaving red lipstick smears on the mouth of the bottle.
"I think that's Lou's, anyway," Jasmine says and tosses the skirt towards the door.
"Then why was work lame?" Harriet has waited tables at a local pizza place since high
school. It isn't great money, and she often gets in trouble for being late or klutzy, but they
give her time off when she wants it, and she's friends with everyone (except Jenine) on
"I dunno." She sticks her pencil behind her ear and turns to face Jasmine,
propping her head on one hand as she considers the question. "I just didn’t want to be
there. I’m so tired,” she sighs unaffectedly, an issuance of breath from the very bones of
her soul. “Just tired."
“Of course you are, baby,” Jasmine reaches over and tousles her already well
tousled short brown curls. "You worked all day today, on top of 18 hours of school. Are
you sure you wanna go out tonight?"
"Definitely,” she says stoutly. “Not that kind of tired." Harriet reabsorbs herself to
her drawing.
"Ok, Harry. I know.” Jasmine stands beside her roommate for a moment longer,
hand still in the loopy nest of Harriet’s hair, looking down at the unfocused but elegant
jumble of graphite smudges and streaks on her page. She watches the color gives the
sketch form, lines and shapes emerge. Jasmine can pick out particular images, a bottle, an
airplane, the graceful curve that she recognizes as the distinctive shape of the highway
interchange outside their apartment. Harriet’s work was never a clear scene, always
collaged and surreal. Jasmine bows her head and quickly and tenderly kisses the top of
Harry’s head, then resumes the search for an outfit.
The friends inhabit the room in easy silence for time, the only sounds the muffled
melody from the living room and the jangle of hangers as Jasmine rattles through the
closet, allowing Harriet the rare moment of release and tranquility that she craves. The
girl hasn’t had it easy. She spent the night in both a jail cell and beneath a bridge before
she could drive. Though she doesn’t like to talk about it, The Four understand. Her family
is a wreck, connected to her by the thin threads of blood, insurance and taxes. But she’s
walked the line, and knew no prouder a day than when The Four had stood cheering as
she gave commencement speech at her high school graduation. And now she trudges on,
shilling pizzas as she carries the fight into college and adulthood.
Finally, Harriet says, thoughtfully, “Remember the time on our way back from
Austin . . .
“Oh my god, when you insisted that we stop for lunch at Luby’s and we all got the
They laugh as Jasmine turns with a flourish, holding up a sleeveless red cowl neck
sweater and a yellow plaid pencil skirt. She raises an eyebrow.
Harriet rises. “Perfect!"
In the kitchen, Daisy and Louisa lean against the counter tops, trading crass jokes
in goofy voices, spilling their booze as they laugh. Boys would never suspect the levels
of raunch that girls' humor can reach, rivaling the smuttiest minded males, and cleverer
too. Though girls will seldom reveal this in front of them. Why? Because they're afraid.
Afraid of being called slutty. Afraid of looking unfeminine. Afraid that if she hazards a
penis joke, the boys, threatened by her wit, will pretend it's not funny and put her down,
saying Isn't it cute, she thinks she can keep up with us? Boys'll watch Sarah Silverman on
HBO, but they don't want her across the dinner table. They'll thank the little woman very
much to stay out of the bathroom, and leave the ribald humor to the fellas.
"Ha ha! Poop! Fart! Cunt!" They laugh like fourth graders at the litany of dirty
words, wiping their eyes and sighing.
Daisy pulls a pack of Camel's from her back pocket, still giggling. She hasn't
dressed to the nines like the others, wearing comfortable jeans and a hoodie, so as to
assuage her nerves. "Smokerette?" She nods her dainty blonde head towards the back
door of the apartment.
"Yes'm," replies Louisa, capering to her bag and withdrawing her own pack. The
drink, the jokes and the music are in them now. They are in high spirits as they throw
their weight against the creaky old door that leads from the kitchen to the rotting wooden
back staircase of the apartment building. Flower patterned paper lanterns hang over the
landing and the wooden boards are covered with spray paint and beer cans. Lou and
Daisy lean against the railing, share a lighter, flick flick. The music still pounds through
the open door into the night air, carried on the smoke they exhale through glossed lips as
they chatter.
"Tonight. Tonight you're gonna do it," Louisa says, both a statement and a
"Yes. Yes, I am." Daisy plays guitar, and please keep your Lilith Fair/Fiona
Apple bullshit comparisons to yourself, thank you. She's played professionally in other
people's bands, she's sold and fixed guitars since she was old enough to hold a soldering
iron. But only recently has she begun to toy with the idea of performing her original
music. Such a frightening thing, when you've plied your trade for years, when you know
you're good at the mechanics. Now, if her listeners reject her, she can't pretend it's her
skill they find fault with.
"Are you going to play my favorite song?" Louisa and the others had been
Daisy's primary audience so far. They knew all the words, all the stories behind them.
"No, probably not. It's too . . . honest? Angry?"
"I know. And that's why I love it." These two girls shared things in their past the
others couldn't quite understand. They'd known it the first time they'd laid eyes on each
other. Through mutual acquaintances, in the usual way, but once Daisy ended up snowed
in for the weekend with The Three and a gallon of Peppermint Schnapps, they'd become
The Four. Gradually, though, through hints and signs---a CD no one else had, an aversion
to certain personality types---Lou and Daze discovered they'd fought in the same war.
Both girls had grown up in, and fled from, the controlling, all consuming arms of the
American Protestant Church.
Don't scoff. Unless you've been the daughter of a Senior Pastor or an Army
Chaplain, with improper dreams and impertinent questions, don't deride their struggle.
Unless you've been ordered to pass out tracts to your fellow junior high school
classmates, unless the judging gaze of the congregation monitored your adolescence,
unless you've been groomed to be a good Christian wife, unless you've knelt between
weeping peers during See You At The Pole and fervently prayed that no one would
notice you weren't fervently praying, unless you've been told that when the Savior (whom
you do love, how can you not? He was with you in your cradle, beside you when those
junior high classmates threw your tracts, along with your entire backpack that you'd
painstakingly decorated with Christian band patches and Bible verses and slogans
scrawled in white out, into the toilet) returns, he will turn his face from you and say he
knows you not, for you have questioned the origins of The Word, unless you've
experienced Bible camp, praise and worship, Acquire The Fire, DC Talk, Joshua Harris,
Mexico mission trips, Wednesday night Bible study, mega churches, holy rolling,
spiritual healing, unless you’ve recommitted your life to Christ about nine times, and
come out blinking into the light of the world beyond the cave, don't scoff when those
girls claim they lived through a war. They still have the scars.
"Maybe someday I'll play that one," Daisy says, smiling. "Next time I feel the
call to lead worship, maybe."
"Next time you feel the call to shoot yourself in the head."
"Same thing." They grimace, silently drawing smoke into their lungs, draining
their glasses, befouling their organs, asserting control. "I'm really glad ya'll are coming
out tonight," says Daisy, trying to sound flippant but her voice is quiet and earnest.
"It ain't no, Daisy girl," says Louisa, bumping rumps affectionately. "We're gonna
keep it in the family."
"Even when we're on the run." It's a line from a song.

A bit later, Louisa is down on the street, cleaning out the backseat of her car so
everyone can fit. She practically lives out of this gray Volvo station wagon. She works
for a local charitable foundation, one of the classy ones that sponsor National Public
Radio and have fund raising dinners for $200 a plate. She's basically a glorified gopher,
running promotional materials around and giving canned speeches to Rotarians about the
good works her employers do. She hates it. She only just graduated, got her degree in
Management, so really, what does she expect? But she wants to help people, wants to
reduce poverty and pain and guilt and ignorance. She pulls a box of pamphlets from the
backseat and shoves them roughly into her trunk, a few fall on the street to remind
people, The Lorkins Foundation . . . enhancing our community since 1899. "Enhancing
the interests of the donors, more like," Louisa grunts to herself as she throws them back
in the car.
The light of a passing car catches the look of disgust on Lou's face like a camera's
flash, her tall, lanky form silhouetted against the sidewalk, her sensible "grown-up" hair
splaying wildly about her face. For the other girls, dressing up is an occasion, but she has
to be shined and polished every day. When she goes out, she wears her scruffiest, sexiest
clothes. Knee high boots, tight, paint spattered jeans, threadbare, too small t-shirt, and the
old leather jacket she used to wear when she wanted to fluster her father's flock. She
lights another cigarette and blows smoke rings towards the street lights. She does not
look like someone to be fucked with.
"Hey! Girls!" She yells towards the open third floor windows, "Let's hit it!"
"Down in a second," Harriet's head pokes out. "Catch!" Lou puts her hands up
and a flask lands at her feet. "She who makes a beast of herself!" yells Harriet.
"Gets rid of the pain of being a woman!" Louisa returns, raising the flask and
taking a swig.
Moments later, the other three clatter down the back stairs. Louisa tosses the car
keys to Jasmine, the only one not three fourths wasted. "Here you go, Jizz Jar Jas."
"Fuck you," she replies, unlocking the driver's side. "Like you've never gone on
booty safari."
"No one bags the big game like you, though," Harriet says, piling into the back
"Especially in that dress," Louisa adds, rifling through CDs in the passenger's
seat. "Pretty smokin'."
"Distract the boys from my playing," says Daisy, wedging her guitar case into the
backseat between her skinny butt and Harriet's ample curves.
"You hush," Harriet commands, embracing her awkwardly over the guitar,
"You're brilliant!"
"Yeah!" say the others in unison. Then the engine roars, the music starts, and
they're off into the night.

Arrival. 10pm. The Olympus. It's the only bar worth going to in their small,
mid-western, black hole of a town. It's not quite a dive, not quite a hip club, but the
owners give ASCAP the finger and play good music. There's a good selection of imports
for payday, and PBR for a dollar a pint for the rest of the time. All of their friends go
there, the bartenders remember everyone's name, and Open Mic Night every other Friday
is simply not to be missed. By the time they pull up, young people in their weekend
finery are decorating the sidewalk in front of the bar, and smokers create welcoming
ghosts to hover over the doorway.
They walk in, and yes, it is just like those scenes in teen movies when the popular
girls walk into high school. They strut, heads turn, time slows down. Jas throws a
lascivious kiss, Daisy swings her case with confidence, Harriet's hips sway brazenly,
Louisa flicks a butt expertly over her shoulder. Yes, all four think, we've arrived. The
party may officially begin.
Daisy heads immediately towards the small stage at the back where a heavy set
man is either reading poetry or telling jokes, it's hard to tell. The other three hit the bar,
using their feminine charms to catch the bartender's eye despite all the boys in front of
them, fruitlessly waving their cash. "What can I get my favorite vixens tonight?" he says,
gallantly wrenching his eyes from Jasmine's cleavage. Harriet and Louisa roll their eyes
and order, then leave Jas to begin the hunt. She coyly stirs her amaretto sour and makes
eye contact with a handsome specimen down the bar. It's the only drink she'll buy tonight.
"Well, Harry," Louisa says, as they claim a table near the front, "Shall we join the
conquistadora in her pursuits?"
"The rewards of observation and reflection are much greater," quoth Harriet.
"So they are," returned Louisa. Once bitten, twice shy, in Lou's case. She'd had
her share of conquests, and a close call engagement to an abusive fuck. As for Harriet,
why she didn't make use of her substantial womanly assets, even she wasn't sure the
reason. She knew which way she swung, where her predilections lay. But she felt no
inclination to indulge them, at least not lately. Like she’d told Jasmine in her bedroom,
she’s just too tired. Who needs that run around? She wonders, thoughts rising with the
bubbles in her beer. Who has the time and the resources for that sort of thing? Girls in
Jane Austen novels, or Fitzgerald, books Jasmine reads. Securing a man in possession of
a large fortune might pay of her student loans, but the struggle of initiating intimacy
would cost her more in the long run.
"Hey, Lou?"
“Does it get any easier? I mean, after you graduate. Is it all just as hard?”
“Harder, baby.” She flicks the end of her cigarette, dropping ash into her already
empty beer glass, thinking bitterly of stunted aspirations.
“Well, fuck.” She watches the poet/comedian fumble with the mic for a moment,
then drains half her beer, pouring alcohol on the despair that threatened to hatch within
her, hoping to drown it before it reached full term. “But it’s worth it, right? Like, you
hate your job now, but you’re gonna get somewhere someday, Lou. You’ll be able to help
people the way you want to.” She pleads with her dissatisfied friend to agree.
Louisa looks away from the stage as the poet/comedian slinks off to nobody's
regret. Her scowl turns to determination at the younger girl’s thresholding desperation.
“Yes, I will. I am going to get there, eventually. It is worth it. It’s hard for you now, and
it will get harder. But you’re right,” she lifts Harriet’s beer to her lips, looking at her from
the corner of her eye, and drinks till there’s nothing but the foam coating the sides of the
glass, “It. Is. Worth it.”
Harriet raises her voice above the accordion player warming up. "Lou, you
"I promise!" Louisa yells, noisily setting the glass on the table. “Harriet,” She
looks her in the eye and grabs her shoulders with both hands. “Harr-i-ET!” Louisa sees
the seed of hopelessness that is sprouting in her bright friend, so beat down by a life
without a break. She will shake it from her. “You are OK! You are SO ok! You are more
ok than anyone I know! You have come so fuckin’ far, and don’t you dare let my grumpy
disenchantment get to you. You got more talent and guts in your little . . . little, in your
boogers! Than I could ever muster. So go get ‘em, Harry!”
Harriet’s begging eyes are laughing now, loving her friend for the drunken
speech. “Lou baby, your boogers got tons of talent and guts, don’t sell yourself short.”
“That’s right,” Louisa snorts loudly, and leaps away to get a couple more beers
and a shot of whiskey. When she returns, however, her face is stony again, eyes fixed on
a man talking to Daisy. He's older, maybe early thirties. He sports swanky hair and
clothes straight out of Banana Republic. He hands her a beer and fiddles with her long
blond hair, hands brushing her skin. Daisy nervously shifts her guitar and draws away.
"Who's that guy?" asks Harriet, taking her beer.
"That's Max Kirkpatrick."
"No way!"
"Way." Louisa takes a swig of her beer, sets it down, and takes off her jacket.
"Back in a minute."
Max Kirkpatrick. If you've ever watched public access TV on Sunday mornings,
or late on weekday nights, you might know the name. He's the young, charismatic
associate minister of Family Values Church, one of the biggest fundamentalist churches
in this part of the country. They'd rapidly outgrown the old Wal-Mart they'd started
meeting in---a few families and their home schooled children, shining a light into the
wicked world---and now had a fucking compound on the outskirts of town, complete with
coffee shop, flat screen TVs in every Sunday School room, and a fleet of Chevy
Suburbans with Family Values Church . . . In The World, Not Of The World stamped on
the side, exclusively for the clergy's use. And what had fueled this meteoric rise? The
Spirit of the Lord? Maybe. Or maybe it had something to do with the "private
counseling" the associate minister gave to the female members of his flock. Back in the
day, our girl Daisy helped lead praise and worship at FVC, singing "Ancient of Days"
with everything in her little sixteen year old heart. Her fervor drew the eye of Reverend
Kirkpatrick, and his attentions played no small part in her flight from the bosom of The
Church. And now here he is, boozing it up with the heathens and trying to get into his lost
sheep's folds.
"You!" Louisa bellows, her boots pounding a path towards Kirkpatrick more
inexorable than Judgment Day. He looks up from his libidinous attentions to see a face of
righteous anger, covered in a corona of cigarette smoke, and for a moment, he fears for
his immortal soul. He quickly dismisses the drunken buffoon, however, and turns back to
the lovely Miss Daisy, who'd grown up into quite a woman indeed. Then he feels a strong
hand whirl him around to face her.
Lou knows what he’s up to, the license he gives himself to indulge in small sins
beyond the gaze of the righteous, because he’s Called, he’s The Lord’s Servant, he
deserves these little entrées into carnal pleasure. But Louisa will tear out his heart, it
belongs to Christ anyway, before she lets him take communion with the body of the
angelic Daisy. She quietly demands, "What the mother fuck do you think you're doing
"Hmm?" Kirkpatrick's head swims at the spin. He is very drunk. "Excuse me," he
says, and uses his free arm to push Louisa away, turning again on poor Daisy. Louisa
stumbles over the edge of the stage and falls to the ground.
"Lou!" Daisy sets down her guitar and kneels to help her.
"That's right, Reverend. Dear Reverend! Come to our bar, push us around. The
meek shall inherit the earth, but the arrogant cocksuckers like you will rule it till then,
yeah?" She rises, shaking Daisy off. They're right in front of the stage, the accordion
player has stopped playing and the entire bar is watching the scene unfold. "Who gave
you the right? Who gave you the fucking right to tell us what to do? To give us all this
guilt, these insupportable roles to fill? All the moral imperatives you've laid on your
followers, and now you come in here, drinking and trying to fuck like you own the whole
goddamn earth. Like you, like you . . . above it! You ain't above it, you never have been.
You've always been right down here with the rest of us, sweating and bleeding and dying
like all the rest."
"Dear Daisy," he slurs, not seeing the very immediate danger he is in. "Do you
know this hussy?”
“Max, you should go,” she says softly, holding tightly to the struggling Louisa.
“To hell!” Louisa screams, spraying his face with spittle.
“Ah, young lady,” Kirkpatrick says, sitting down and reaching for a cocktail
napkin to wipe his face with, “You clearly need the Lord to cleanse you of your anger
and belligerent ways. If you came to my women’s Bible study, I’d teach you some
respect for a Man of God.”
"I bet you would." And before anyone could stop her, Louisa's right leg is up, and
Kirkpatrick is down, a boot heel to the chest. Bar goers leap between them, restraining
her as he lies gasping on the floor. Daisy stands stunned but Harriet appears and drags
Louisa, still struggling and screaming "Cocksucker!" out the back door.
"Well," Harriet laughs, pounding Louisa on the back, "You've probably gotten us
kicked out of The Olympus for good."
"Yeah, but it was fucking worth it."

Minutes later, oblivious to the commotion, Jasmine emerges from the stockroom,
where things with the bartender were looking pretty good until his boss had hollered for
him to bring up another case of Schlitz and be quick about it. Oh well, she thinks,
straightening her dress and patting her hair, it's early. She heads towards the bathroom to
check her makeup and look for the others.
But turning the corner into the dark hallway that leads to the toilets, she sees him
stepping out of the men's room, slicking back his hair and adjusting his Banana Republic
collar. Now that's a specimen worthy of her attention. She thinks she's seen him on
television. What a catch! In a nanosecond, she's back in the game. In character. She walks
towards him. Lets her skirts brush against him as she passes, and catches the toe of her
ballet flat on his stylish leather shoes. She trips, and his arms are there.
"Excuse me," he says, his hands and eyes already getting to know her geography.
"Oh," she says, her small hand resting on his bicep, "My fault." She steps away,
but not too far.
"That was close." His voice adopts the same soft concern he uses when the young
wives of the congregation confess their lustful thoughts to him. "I'll bet your heart is
"It is." Oh, Jasmine. She looks into his face and sees only the chiseled jaw, sexy
stubble, the lines around his eyes making him look distinguished. She doesn't see his
absolute belief in his entitlement to own her, the need to possess a lesser creature and
soothe the teach-them-their-place anger that smolders behind those cool blue eyes. All
she sees is desire, and the power she can steal from it, the self esteem she can gain from
the successful playing of roles in this dangerous game. She takes his hand and places it
on the skin between her breasts, "Don't you feel it?" Looking alluringly into his eyes, she
sees the domination he intends flash behind his charm and briefly wonders if this might
go too far. But its too late. She can’t stop it.
Soon enough, it's all over. And he walks away, zipping his fly, straight out of the
bar without paying his tab, confident that the order of things has been righted. He got
what he wanted, after all.
And there's Jasmine. Slumped in the corner, under the disused pay phones. No
one saw, no one comes by. She is stunned, cannot react, cannot cry. She cannot believe
what just happened. She looks down at her body, feeling alien and distant now, no longer
her own. He took it from her. She looks down at her scuffed black ballet flats, one strap
broken now. She remembers the day she bought them, with her mother, when she was
fourteen. She remembers the thrill of owning something of quality, something she would
wear into adulthood. Her mother had said, "Your father and I want you to have nice
things. We want you too look like the princess you are," and kissed her forehead. She
remembers the way they made her feel when she wore them to school, like her every step
was a dance, like she moved through her day on stage. "No more," she says to herself.
Jasmine reaches down and removes the broken shoe. She looks at it for a moment, then
screams, and throws it as hard as she can. She then gets up, weeping, and runs out the
back door.
"Jas!" Harriet and Louisa are still outside, smoking by the car. They run to her,
wrap arms around her, listen as the horrible tale pours out. Louisa cries with her, furious
with herself that she protected the wrong friend. But Harriet, she stands frightfully
unmoved. She rubs Jasmine's back and cooes comforting words, but finds, to her horror,
she is unhorrified. She feels nothing. Her best friend, her sister, has been defiled and
stands sobbing before her, and yet she cannot muster the outrage, the sympathy that the
occasion demands. She does not blame Jasmine, that's not the reason. She just . . . doesn't
care. She's empty. Drained. Twenty one years old and too exhausted by life’s rigors to
react to tragedy when it comes. The despair she’s carried, that she’s tried to abort, is
coming to life. The struggle is inescapable, there will be no rest. The weight of it crushes
her, the bones of her soul break. Tears squeeze from her eyes, and she mourns with her
sisters in a barren, littered parking lot.
"Hey, do you guys hear that?" Louisa looks up from consoling Jasmine.
"Daisy." A familiar set of chords comes thrumming out the back door, notes they
know as well as each other's faces. Her cooling voice begins to sing.
"Day by day. Shadows dance on the bedroom wall, sock-feet sliding in the hall.
You'll play . . . for a little while . . ."
The three of them move towards the door, softly open it, and stand with their
backs to the night, their faces to the warmth of their sister's music. "She's doing it," says
Harriet. And she is. Daisy's eyes are shut tight, her hood is pulled up over her head, but
she's strumming and swaying, her face tranquil, her hands steady.
"Close the door. Drag these things across your skin, maybe you can feel again.
You'll breathe . . . for a little while . . ."
The bar is silent but for Daisy's mellow, earnest song. Every face is fixated on
this tiny, incredible person on the stage, sharing her very core with this room of drunken
"Fold your hands. Believe in something you don't know, father, son, the holy
ghost. You'll pray . . . for a little while . . ."
Jasmine's still crying. Louisa is still mad. Harriet is still cold. Next time Daisy
takes the stage, she'll still be terrified.
"When we pass, where will we go? Time is death, that's all we know. Can't I be a,
a little naive for a little while?"
But for now, all things considered, the night's purpose is achieved.
"Can't I be a little naive for a little while?"
And the room erupts in applause.

Note: lyrics to "Day By Day" copyright Mandii Larsen, 2004

Davis Light
Truly, A Grand Adventure

Dr. Rexford stood up slowly. He was so shocked by what he was reading that he
didn’t even notice his knees creak. This alcove, unlike the rest of the great palace, was
untouched by looters of. His team had only found it because one of the laborers had
tripped over a loose stone. That stone hid a switch. That switch opened up a small
opening in the wall, leading to what Rexford hoped would make him famous beyond all
imagining. Inside, Rexford and his current partner, a graduate student, Wes Reyer, had
found a cache of scrolls and ancient books. The majority of the books, almost priceless in
their own right, were still copies of books that already existed, nothing that was
especially ground-shaking, and nothing that Rexford was interested in. They’d gain him
some notoriety in intellectual circles, but nothing more. No, he wanted the information
these few scrolls held. After choosing several, he came upon this one, marked with a
black circle and some sort of cross. A curious symbol for this civilization. It immediately
piqued his interest, and the time he spent opening it ever so carefully looked to be well
spent, as it was in terrible shape. It told of a world beneath the ocean, a living breathing
place where people worked and lived. On the one hand, the scroll was hundreds of years
old, so the place probably did not exist anymore, but could it be an honest-to-god Atlantis?
If he could prove that it even once existed he’d be famous beyond all measure! He
salivated, imagining the money he could make. Wes poked his head into the small room,
startling the professor out of his reverie.
“Dr. Rexford, are you alright? What are you looking at?”
Always so condescending, Rexford thought. He collected himself, taking a deep breath,
and adjusting his monocle.
“Wes, I have discovered a scroll with information so powerful as to change our world
The skepticism on Wes’ face was enough to make him second guess his
translation of the scroll. He furrowed his brow. No, he was right, that’s exactly what this
was, just let him see it, and he’ll understand. As he went to hand the map to Wes, a
thought occurred to him. Should I really show anyone this? Or should I take the credit for
myself, and claim it as my own discovery? What will the scientific world think, if I
simply show up telling them I have found Atlantis? His dreams seemed to crumble in
front of him, as he imagined the ridicule he could face. He would have to find this place
before he could tell anyone about it.
“Professor? Do you have anything to show me?”
Wes couldn’t know, Rexford realized. He was far too straight edged. They’d
disagreed in the past over Rexford’s hands-on approach to archaeology, but Wes
generally ended up going along with it, providing a counterpoint to the professor’s
unprofessional enthusiasm. If he told Wes, the excursion wouldn’t go like he wanted it to,
it would become some monstrosity, sponsored by some ghastly number of companies and
institutions. That was simply unacceptable to Rexford. If he was to find it, it was going to
be by himself. Wes thought he was senile anyway, at this point, so it would do him quite
nicely to spite him.
“Oh no, my boy, I was simply testing you to see if you even listened to me
anymore” He gave him a big smile. “No, but these books were worth the entire trip here,
if you look, you’ll see a few collected copies of Alhrazed’s work, something we’ve never
seen before. Our department will absolutely love this. But…nothing too exciting, I think.
Nothing that hasn’t been seen before.”
Wes thought Rexford missed him rolling his eyes as he turned, but when the local
guide, Ashiyyam, came to ask what they’d found, Wes acted overjoyed by the discovery
of the books. Well, good for him, Rexford thought, he’d give most of the credit of this
find to him. Atlantis was to be his and his alone. He tucked the scroll deep within his bag
and made a note to himself not to mention it again until he was beyond the reach of
anyone who might stop him.
The sun streamed in through the miniscule porthole. Of course, it landed right on
his eyes, waking him well before he had intended. He stretched and yawned in the
confined cabin. Lucky for him he was short; anyone much taller than him would have had
trouble with the tiny room. Rexford could barely stand the anticipation. Today he would
arrive on the island the scroll had labeled “The Gate”. He could only guess at its purpose!
He walked onto the deck to find the crew already hard at work. He should have
guessed that; he’d been on enough sea voyages to know that sailors rose early. So much
for his thoughts of solitude, he mused. Solitude in such a stuffy cabin wasn’t any better
than being out in the cool sea air, even with so many people around him. He packed his
pipe against the railing and lit it. The smoke always helped him think, especially when he
was so apprehensive. Why was he so apprehensive? He’d been on hundreds of
expeditions alone, to more remote places than this. Was it the allure of Atlantis? Or was it
something else entirely? Something more sinister? He couldn’t put his finger on it, but
something was bothering him subconsciously.
As he neared the island, the feeling grew until it was a tangible fear. What was
bothering him so much? He kept the scroll close to him; it seemed to radiate calm. When
he put it down, the feeling of dread returned, but when holding it, he felt much better.
The fear was still there, but it was muted somewhat. He shrugged it off as nerves.
They reached the island around six, just when the sun was setting. He strapped on
his pack and waded in from the dinghy. The sailors refused to get him any farther in,
citing the dangerous rocks that encircled the beach. Aggravating, but understandable, he
supposed. He shook out his boots when he stepped onto the sand. The trees stood bright
green against the sky, making the island look like a paradise. Rexford grinned; he loved it
when his projects turned out so well. The scroll had a map affixed to the back of it, part
of it showed the island. His copy showed that this beach led to a small cave where he
apparently could find the entrance to Atlantis. If he could find even proof that an entrance
once existed, he’d be famous enough to show up all the hot shots back home.
He trekked over to the forest edge, only to see the trail he was supposed to follow
was long overgrown. Typical; he’d have to find the edge of it. After a long hour or so of
searching, he found a statue, marked with the same circle and cross pattern as seen on the
scroll. As he suspected, it hid the trail and once he saw it, he could follow it easily. As he
cut through the thick underbrush using his machete, birds sang all around him and leaves
rustled where animals ran. He stopped to examine a piece of rock that looked interesting.
How fortuitous! He thought. A statue! As he looked around, he realized that the forest
floor was almost littered with similar objects and refuse of all kinds. What had happened
here that all of these items, pots, sculpture and many more had simply been left, lying
where they were dropped? He added this to his list of things to discover. He would be the
most famous archaeologist in history! Atlantis!
The cave entrance was as overgrown as the trail, but in Greek, on the cave mouth,
was written Here Lies the Gate. He licked his lips in anticipation; all this work to get to
this point. He’d been called a treasure hunter more times than he could count. That might
be true, but he’d show them, he’d show all of them. He strode to the entrance of the cave
as fast as he could. His flashlight lit up the inside exposing exquisite paintings and
mosaics covering the inside. Since his camera couldn’t quite show his detractors just how
beautiful this was, he resolved to show them himself. He’d bring them all here! He’d
show them this cave and then they’d believe it! He allowed himself a grin. There was
something here alright, something incredible.
Upon entering the cave, the light from the flashlight glinted off of the thousands
of tiles that covered the ceilings and walls. Hundreds of colors flashed in his eyes,
beautiful, but painful. The radiance from his torch seemed to increase a hundredfold as it
was reflected back onto him. He looked down to see his body covered in colored spots of
light, as if he were wearing some sort of scintillating, psychedelic, polka dot. Why were
they so bright? He stared at his flashlight. It was completely normal. “How strange,” he
said out loud to no one in particular. The sound of his own voice startled him. It was then
that he noticed the deathly quiet that surrounded him. There was nothing. Nothing he
could hear outside the mouth of the cave, nothing he could hear further down inside, only
the pounding of his heart and his raspy breathing.
A chill crept over him now. Where were the animals? He had heard plenty when
walking outside the cave, and had almost tripped over some sort of possum out in the
jungle. The dread he felt seemed to radiate from the mouth of the cave, to where the
outside still existed. He endeavored go as far as he could inside, and return before his
boat came to pick him up, in a few hours. He set his watch accordingly and began the trek
into the darkness, lit up by the whirling colors of the reflected light. The ground sloped
downward dangerously; he’d have to go very slowly if he didn’t want to hurt himself. He
took the first step onto the slope and prayed, hoping his footing would hold on the slick
ground. He took a second step and fell, sliding down into the darkness of the cave.

Micah Watt
There Are No Rules In…

In the darkness of the night, in the midst of a small town’s business street, the
silence made the street feel as if it was abandoned years ago instead of just for the night.
A man slowly walks, looking toward the end of the street. He breaths in the night air, the
clean scent of a fresh rain covering over the smell of the one time busy street. His steps,
though quiet, have such a purpose that any of the senses would register it. He changes a
toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other, while he calmly looks for something or
someone. A smile comes to his lips as she strides into his view, her curly brown hair
framing her face and tumbling down her shoulders that are hunched against the cold. She
is walking alone. With a simple flick his toothpick falls to the ground. His shoulders roll
and his moves become that of a predator as he moves into a shadow, waiting for her to
pass, then he begins to prowl behind the poor woman. His movements are silent, but the
woman’s sixth sense picks up. A tingle runs down her spine and her breath quickens.
The small woman can’t see who is chasing after her but she knows that she is prey.
Her bright green eyes become frantic, the man all the while slinks slowly closer and
closer to her, constantly moving unseen behind trees and walls of the empty streets.
Frightened, the woman turns to run down an alley, trying to get away from her unknown
predator. From behind her a hand flashes out and grabs her around the mouth, while
another grabs her by the waist, muffling her scream of panic and holding her to her
predator. She starts shaking in his grasp like a frightened animal.
“Tag, you’re it,” the man lovingly whispers as he kisses the frightened woman on
the cheek. Recognizing his voice, the woman’s shoulders sag a bit in relief before she
rises up again, spinning out of his grasp to smack the man right across the face.
“Steve, you bastard! You scared the life out of me!” yells Jessica, venting the fear
that had been building in her, now using anger as the channel of escape. “Do you know
how scary that was?!”
Hearing her anger and terror, Steven breaks out in good-natured laughter at
Jessica’s plight while rubbing his face.
After breathing a bit and allowing herself to regain control of her emotions, she
also starts to laugh. “Steve, it’s not that funny. Really, it’s not that funny, stop laughing.”
After a few seconds she is back in control of her poor torn emotions. “What are you
doing out here anyways?”
Steven straightens himself up, all that's left of the laughter being a large smile and
a hand-shaped red mark appearing on his face. He calmly drags his steady hand through
his black hair and gives Jessica a familiar hug. “Well I’m not the one getting mugged
here, Jessica.”
“Steve, spill it.” mutters Jessica, in no mood to be mincing words just after he
made her run through every scenario she had never wanted to think about in her life.
“I’ve known your brother since grade school. How in the hell would you think I
wouldn’t know you were coming home today? And with the only bus station being down
Memorial, it was easy to know where you were coming from. Then when I saw you
coming and well… it all kind of fell into place.”
Quietly Jessica shakes her head, and then she looks back into Steve’s face. “I’m
ready to go home now,” she whispers with an exhausted tone, which gathers a small
laugh from Steve as he starts to walk her home.
=== Steven Blinks ===
In the darkness of the night, in the midst of the sweltering jungle, a man slowly
walks, looking. His steps seem ghost-like as he strolls through the undergrowth, but his
steps have such a purpose that any of the senses would register it. With a calm breath he
takes in the night air, it’s damp, and the jungles smells cover the acrid scent of
gunpowder. He changes a toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other, while he
calmly looks for something or someone. A smile comes to his lips as he steps to the
clearing to see a building and its guard, one guard, alone. With a simple flick his
toothpick falls to the ground. His shoulders roll and his moves become that of a predator
as he moves behind the unsuspecting guard. His movements are silent, but the guard is
standing alert; his training has given him some warning, he doesn’t know when or what,
but he does know something is going to happen.
His eyes dash around frantically, the man all the while slinks slowly closer and
closer to him, constantly moving unseen behind trees and walls of the building.
Frightened, the guard turns around to see where this terror was coming from, hoping to
face his unknown predator. But before he could react a hand flashes out and spins him
back around, the blade of a combat knife coming to his throat. “Tag, you’re it,” viciously
whispers the assailant as he finishes off his enemy, feeling the body sag against him.
After dropping his first target the man quickly moves into the shoddy shack of a
building to see one of his men sitting there, beaten and tied up. Steve silently cuts the
ropes, which causes the man to look up with relief.
“Sir! What are you doing here?” mutters the man, his smile filling his face.
Steven straightens himself up, all that's left of the predator and assailant gone,
except for the blood stained knife, now being sheathed into his belt. He calmly drags his
steady hand through his hair and allows Jason to stand up. “Well I’m not the one getting
tortured here, Jason,” remarks Steven in a joking tone.
“Steven,” retorts Jason in a tone to tell his leader that he wanted an answer to the
question, and that he wasn’t nearly as funny as he thought he was.
“We were supposed to have regained contact a few hours ago. When you didn’t
report we checked where you were supposed to be and saw signs of a struggle but no
body. With this being the only building in the area, how was I not going to find you?”
after saying this Steven starts to head for the door, knowing that Jason would follow.
Jason grabs Steven’s arm to draw back his attention. “I’m ready to go home now.”
And upon hearing that Steve nodded, and slowly lead his man back to camp.
=== Steven Blinks ===
Quietly Steven sits to stare out at the rising sun, the sky seeming to glow with the
thought of life and happiness. The silence was perfect and then he hears a movement to
the side of him, which causes him to turn to see what would disturb the morning. Jessica
is sprinting down the yard holding his tie and laughing at her clever ploy. A look of
amused annoyance comes over Steven’s face as he ponders what would be the best move.
A split second later Steven is off, sprinting as fast as his legs can take him,
Jessica’s laughter spurring him on all the faster. Steven sees Jessica stumble and takes
that moment to dive at her, grabbing her in the middle of his flight before he impacts
against the ground, Jessica lying on top of him. He can feel her heart beating and hear the
gasps for air coming from her as she tries to regain control. She then turns slightly to be
able to look at his face. “How long can it be like this Steve?” she asks with a smile that
shows him all of her love.
“Always,” responded Steven as he watches her hand, now with adorned with an
engagement ring, come up and stroke his chin. “Always.”
=== Steven blinks ===
Quietly Steven crouches as he stares out at the rising sun, the sky seeming to be
darkened with what was going on in this war. The silence is terrible, and then he hears a
movement to the side of him, which causes him to turn to see what disturbs the morning.
He sees Russell standing up, probably surprised by something, only to draw attention to
himself. Gunfire echoes, slamming into Russell, and causing Steven to flinch in surprise.
A split second later Steven is off, sprinting as fast as his legs can take him, the
gunshots spurring him all the faster. Steven sees Russell’s legs start to buckle and he
takes that moment to dive at him, grabbing Russell in the middle of his flight before he
impacts against the ground, Russell lying on top of him. He can feel his heart beating and
his struggling gasps for air as he fights the pain for control. Russell then turns slightly to
be able to look at Steven’s face. “You’re always there for us, aren’t you sir?” asks Russell.
“Always,” responded Steven, as he watched Russell’s hand come up and with the
last beat of the heart, stop, and then fall to the ground. “Always.”
=== Steven blinks===
Her scream was terrible, and Steven didn’t know what to do, so he told her
exactly what he knew she didn’t want to hear but, at the same time, was all he could think
of saying. “It’ll be ok, honey, it will be ok.”
Huff Huff Puff, Huff Huff Puff. “Steve, you bastard! You can tell me that it’s ok
when you’re sitting here shoving something the size of a bowling ball outside of your
lower body!” screamed Jessica as the doctors moved around trying to make sure that
everything was okay. Steven wasn’t deeply hurt by this, he knew it was coming, his
parents and her parents both warned him about it. But he had to admit he really didn’t
like her being this mad at him.
“I love you, Jessica, you’re the light of my life,” was all that he could think of in
order to respond as her death grip on his hand tightened.
“Push, Ma’am,” commented a doctor, which was then followed by a howl of pain
from Jessica and a new increase of pressure on Steven’s hand. If his hand was any sign of
her pain he wished he could increase her drugs and was about to say so when she
interrupted his thoughts by continuing the conversation.
“Well, if you love me so much why don’t you just shoot me and put me out of my
misery!” Jessica screamed.
“You know I won’t do that Jess; if you were gone, who would be there to steal my
tie, or take all the blankets at night?”
“Ma’am, its time to push again,” stated the doctor.
“OH GOD!” screamed Jessica again, pushing with all her might, in order to end
this ordeal. Huff Huff Puff. “You’re a selfish bastard, you know that!?” gasped Jessica.
“That’s why you love me, or at least so you tell me.”
“One last time ma’am,” interjected the doctor.
“I HATE YOU SO MUCH!!! AUURAG!” screamed Jessica as she pushed as
hard as she could.
There was a light smack, quickly followed by a scream for breath and a baby’s
cry. “Congratulations, it’s a girl.”
“You hear that honey? We have a baby girl, and she’s beautiful.”
“I love you Steve.”
“I love you Jess.”
=== he gasps in pain ==
His screams roar through the hospital. Steven writhes on the gurney as he strains
against the restraints.
“Is he ok? Will he be ok? Someone tell me he’s ok!” cries out Jessica walking
along with the gurney, looking over the doctors shoulders as they try to keep Steven
under control. “Don’t you die on me Steve!”
“Will someone get her back?!” calls out a doctor as he guides the gurney into an
examination room. Jessica is held back by Jason, who had been following behind
virtually unnoticed. He is still in his dirty fatigues. “Let go of me you bastard!”
“Jessica, it’s me, Jason.”
“What happened” asks Jessica as she stares at the shut doors, her face etched with
worry. “Why is he so torn up?”
“We were on a mission, basic recon. We found something out, and radioed it in.
Then it all went to hell.”
Jason looks at Jessica, her long brown hair had a few touches of gray in it, and her
eyes were red with tears. Jason takes another deep breath.
“Go on.” States Jessica, in a voice filled with an undeniable will.
“The area got swarmed, we lost Russell,” with that Jessica’s hand goes to her
mouth. “hell we nearly lost me. Steve did what he could. He even got everyone to the
chopper. He got hit by the edge of a grenade. We dragged him on the chopper and got
him here.”
Jessica nods at Jason then walks over to a chair, her movements are jerky, almost
as if a puppeteer was playing with her, as she reaches the chair she collapses, the strings
Jason paces. Finally Jason turns to Jessica. “Does Lizzy know?”
“Jessica just shakes her head. “She’s at a friend’s house for a sleepover. She wont
be coming home until tomorrow.”
Jason nods, time passes. Other soldiers come and relieve Jason of his position. All
of them had been there with Steve. All were worried.
A doctor walks out, breaking the silence. His relieved smile seems to brighten the
room. “He’s vitals are weak but stable. He’ll pull through.”


Ashley Emory
Saying Goodbye

Tearing through the agitated crowd she desperately made her way over to the toy
aisle. Down the row on the left that is where she spotted it and dashed to the last one. As
she tip-toed to reach the top shelf, she knocked the box over and it smacked down on the
tile floor. While reaching down to grab it, she felt a presence next to her. Quickly she
stood, sensing someone standing there. She turned. Oddly enough, there was no one. She
shrugged it off and held the box tight to her chest as she returned on her way to pay for
the item.
The line snaked around all the way from the cashier to the clothes aisle and she
stood there, happy. The line moved up as did she. The intercom overhead announced that
another line had been opened and a portion of the crowd scrambled to get a good spot.
She stayed. Too bad that this was really the time of year she hated. It was so full of
rambunctious and snotty people who woke up at the crack of dawn to buy their spoiled
rotten children all the damn toys of their dreams. Or at least the toys they would enjoy for
the time being. Although she did love the weather, she disliked the traffic terribly.
Bumper to bumper traffic was not something to look forward to. But she figured it was
her own fault for waiting this long anyway. And it was pertinent that she obtain what she
held in her hands.
It was finally her turn and she went up to the counter to purchase the box. It rang
up to $24.44. She swiped her credit card.

“Ma’am, did you find your daughter yet? She was looking for you and she was quite
frantic. I told her to sit and wait for you in Customer Service.”

“I’m sorry what did you say? I..umm..don’t have a daughter.”

“Are you sure? You’re name is Emery right? She pointed you out of the crowd. She said
her mommy was the one in the black and gray cardigan sweater.”
“I...uh...have to go. Thanks.”

She took her receipt and bag and quickly walked toward the exit. Approaching her
car, she pressed the key pad on her key ring to unlock the doors.


She quickly turned around; the hairs on her back stood up followed by
goosebumps. There wasn’t any children within her sight. She paused. Then she got in her
car and drove. She drove for a long while.
Back at her house the snow began to fall ever so gently. She slipped out of the car
and walked her way over to the front door. After opening the lock she immediately felt
the heat from the inside which was comforting compared to the immense cold outside.
She knew it was time for some coffee. After putting the coffee pot on she switched on the
radio. Static. While searching for a good station, she decided to bake some cookies.
Comfort food. The cookie dough was frozen so she left it on the counter to thaw out for
awhile. It was starting to get really toasty in the room and since she still had on her
overcoat and boots the need to change into more comfortable clothing was a must.
Walking down the hallway to her bedroom she felt compelled to stop at the guest
bedroom and peer in. After flipping on the switch something peculiar caught her eye. On
the frosted-over window was a set of hand prints. They were those of a small child. She
felt a little uneasy yet stayed there for a moment more. She closed her eyes. Memories
began to rush through her mind.
“Bubblegum, bubblegum in a dish. How many pieces do you wish?”
“One, two, three, four.”
“Oh, your not very nice. You got me! Now I’m out.”

The little girls giggled and got up from the spot on the ground where they had
been sitting. They held hands as they skipped through the brush and foliage that
surrounded them. This little area behind Emery’s house is where they had always played.
It was a nice little area that resembled a mini-forest with a huge tree-house in the
backyard. A little pebble pathway led from where they playing to the back door of the
house. They stopped and begin to play again.
“I want to play house.”

“Ok, I’ll play but I have to be the mama and you have to do what I tell you to. That’s my
only rule.”

“You always get to be the mama, though. It’s not fair!”

“Ok, well if you let me, I’ll give you one of my toys.”

“Really? Ok, can I pick which one?”


The oven alarm went off signifying that it was done pre-heating. Emery jumped at
the sound. She turned around and headed out the bedroom door. In the kitchen, after
staring at the coffee that was made, she decided that she did not want any after all. At
least not right now. Standing back from the heat of the oven, she placed the cookie sheet
inside and put the timer on.
Back in the room for a second time, she decided to look inside the huge trunk that
was in the closet. It was filled with childhood scrapbooks, old collectible items, her old
blanket, and an array of other stuff she kept around. She opened one of the shoe boxes
that held old letters, pictures, and some ticket stubs. And of course the infamous Santa
Claus letters that her and her friends always wrote around the holidays. It also held one
important laminated strip of newspaper. She scanned it over and her eyes welled up with
Harlingen, TX.- Ginger M. Husink
8, of Harlingen, Texas entered into the Lord’s Kingdom on Thursday, December 24, 1982.
Ginger’s angelic-like and courteous nature will never be forgotten. She was loved by all
those who knew her and could not help but make anyone who laid eyes upon her smile.
She was born on April 4, 1974 and.........
Tears streamed down her face as she remembered that horrible evening. The last
bit of snow had just fallen down. It blanketed the front of the lawn and sparkled with the
last bits of sunlight there was left. The two girls were chasing each other around the trees.
It was Christmas Eve and Ginger’s parents were having a party at their house. Emery’s
mom had already called for them to go inside since it was cold and it was getting dark out.
They begged for 10 more minutes and were granted to play outside for that much longer.
The crunching of the snow beneath them could be heard and they giggled and chased one
another. Ginger mentioned that she had finally decided which toy she had wanted. It was
the Barbie doll that Emery completely disregarded and did not in the least care for.
“You never play with that poor dolly. I want it. I’ll be its mama, just like you always like
to be mine.” She smiled.
“Ok I’ll go in and get it.”
“Alright. I’ll wait here.”
Emery turned in the direction of her house and began to scamper off. In the
meanwhile Ginger thought she would play hide-and-seek and wait for Emery to come
outside and find her. Actually, she thought it would be funnier to scare her when she
came out. Ginger spotted the tiny car at the very end of the driveway. She got down on
her hands and knees and attempted to go underneath. It was somewhat difficult since the
car was really low to the ground. She sucked in her stomach and squeezed underneath.
Once under there was just a little more room and she was able to breath a little better. She
laid there and waited.
Since the winding sidewalk leading to the door of the house was shoveled free of
snow, the man’s footsteps were virtually noiseless. He opened the car door and got in.
Ginger’s eyes opened wide as she heard the noise from above her. She knew she had to
get out from underneath the car. The engine started and she started to slide out from the
side. It was difficult and she was mustering all her strength not to struggle so hard. She
was half way out when head was yanked back. The underside of the car had her long red
hair caught on something. She tugged. The car was put in reverse. Her eyes widened with
horror. He pressed the gas.
From inside the house, Emery had just laid hands upon the doll when she heard
the loud screeching noise from outside. She went over to the window. One of the cars at
Ginger’s house had backed out in a fury and then had abruptly stopped. She shrugged it
off not knowing any better. And that is just about the time when the horrid screams were
heard followed by a large group of neighbors and people gathering around the car.
Emery ran outside with the doll in her hand to see what all the commotion was
about. On the pavement, were large bloody streaks that ran parallel with the car on the
street. The man inside the car had his hands over his mouth and the color of his face was
pale. Before viewing anymore and getting to see what happened, Emery’s mother
swooped her up and took her inside the house. The sound of an ambulance was heard
approaching. The screams of “Don’t move her” were heard. Everyone was in a panic.
Emery walked inside her neighbors house and asked her mom where Ginger was. Her
mom held her tight. She couldn’t tell her. How can she tell her eight year old daughter
that her little friend had just been pinned, dragged, and essentially run over by a reversing
vehicle? How can she tell her that there is blood everywhere outside? How can she tell
her that her face is so smashed in and so undistinguishable right now that bits of her skull
are embedded in her brain? No, a mother could never tell her child something like that.
However Emery’s mother had a difficult time telling her that she no longer had a best
She never was able to give Ginger that doll and had always felt guilty about it.
Her time growing up after that had become very confusing. Somehow in the mix of
everything the doll was lost. Emery had meant several times to search for it, but all in
vain. Ironically enough, the stores had stopped selling that model of Barbie the same year
that Ginger had passed away. Yet, while she was standing in the store the other day she
spotted it. It was a replica of the old Barbie that she owned as a child. In fact, it was the
Collector’s Edition. She knew this was the only way that Ginger would finally rest in
It was almost as if it had only taken seconds for her to get there. She had been in
such a daze that she didn’t even know how she had gotten to her destination so quickly.
The next thing she knew she was parked in front of the cemetery gate. It must have been
like her body was on automatic pilot or something. She glanced at the display of
tombstones in front of her. She got out of the car, buttoned up her coat, and put her
gloves back on.
The cold stung her face as she entered the gate of the cemetery. The snow
crunched underneath her feet as she walked up the little pebble path that led to the
tombstone. She took a second and just stood there. This had become a tradition every
year to come to Ginger’s grave and talk. It must of been the reason why sometimes odd
things happened to her. She knelt down and placed the Barbie doll on top of her grave.
She began to sob. That doll was what Ginger had always wanted. She sat there for awhile
and just let herself cry.
After wiping her eyes and getting herself back together, she decided it was time to
go. She stood up and took one last look at the tombstone. Something had appeared that
had never been there before. Inscribed in child-like writing were the words “Good bye

Michelle Davis
The Unburied

The light was a muted, nondescript color between the shadows of bars on the
window of my cell. Two specters had come. One was mauve colored and had an
extensive cordlike body. Some sections of the cord were as thin as hair, others as thick as
a rolled carpet, leading to a curved tunnel with animal legs protruding like spokes from
the outer surface. Its head looked like a shriveled insect with a pole in its mouth. As it
weaved through the walls, it turned itself inside out like a long, sentient mass of
transparent skin. The second specter was a triad of intricately cyclonic ribcages built into
a claylike figure. Its pale grayish gold form rotated in midair as the ribcages constantly
changed their configuration. The specters encircled me as I lay on the floor, overlapping
each other. I watched the mauve body become curled latticework as it wove itself
through the golden, flowing mechanical boneyard. It was beautiful, but not as beautiful as
it once had been.
The specters had appeared to me ever since I set foot in this lower world. Their
mere presence had kept me from death for a long time. I cannot explain this
phenomenon—only that the specters must have imbued me with some kind of power. I
was completely cognizant, although my heart had stopped. My chest lay open with that
organ entangled with maggots. I saw my rotten, atrophied legs. Putrid gray. Lethal
chemicals swam through me, no sustenance, but I could not be extinguished. My finger
slid a piece of sludge-flesh off my fetid skeleton; raised in eternal worship of those who
sustained me against my will.
Soon enough I saw a frightened set of eyes above me; a human face tinted
strangely by the mauve and yellow forms, as if it were staring through several filters of
glass. It was a guard, gripping his weapon with his arm in the most rigid bend that I had
seen in a living person. I wanted him to leave me here, forever—wallowing in death until
it nullified the shame that I wore as my own skin—but he bent down, his lean, olive face
bisected by shadows, and reached out tentatively for my leg.
He started to drag me from the room, not realizing that I only had the appearance
of a corpse. When I started to move, he gasped and dropped my foot. He took out his
weapon and beat my legs until I crawled back into the cell.
I desperately grabbed the edge of the door before he could shut it. “How long
have I been here?”
Tension suspended the door, which cried out in tiny creaks as we put opposing
forces upon it. I soon had to use both hands to match his strength. Pain radiated through
my arms. He averted his eyes. A violet vein on the crown of his head deepened as he
tried to close the door as I tried to open it.
The guard let out a sigh of dread.
“Tell me!” I roared, “How many years?”
My hands, which had grown clammy against the door’s wood surface, slipped
from the edge of the door, which slammed shut immediately and with such force that it
knocked down an old light fixture above the door. I heard the lock slide into place. The
light fixture was broken, but its surface was shiny enough, and there was enough light in
the room that it became a mirror.
I wondered if I should peer into my loathsomeness; I expected my visage to be
suitable to mummify. But instead my face was unblemished, framed in black hair with
not one streak of silver. My features had become more severe and angular, but the
specters had done well in preserving me; I did not look old. I curled up with the light
fixture held tightly against my body and stared into my light gray eyes, which were like
crystallized smoke, as piercing and as frightening as ever.
Brian Britt

Another day, another body.
"The time is 10:41 p.m., November 12, 2007. Dr. Siegfried Milton beginning the
autopsy of Mr. Jon Lucas. Preliminary tox screen showed a variety of narcotics including
heroin, cocaine, and morphine."
Siegfried carefully avoided pressing Stop as he set down the tape recorder. "Don't
know why Bruce wanted an autopsy," he mumbled. "Guy's just a common druggie.
Really don't get the cops sometimes."
A sigh. She was probably in bed right now with some other guy. As much as he
wanted to be furious, Siegfried simply couldn't bring himself to do anything more than
sulk now. How could he blame her? He never seemed to be home, so what was she
supposed to do? At any rate, the initial shock had worn off by now. He was a rational
human being, he could forgive such minor indiscretions.
"Slight bruising on the fingertips. Puncture marks on both arms from elbow to
wrist. Likely from narcotic use."
Still, she should have told him. The least she could do was admit it. But no. Every
other night it was someone new, and every day she acted like nothing had happened.
How dare she! The woman jumped from one boy toy to the next like it was the most
natural thing in the world. As if she didn't even realize it was wrong. Not to mention the
time she went into the hotel with two guys. Now that was a scary thought.
"Shit!" he yelped as the scalpel clattered to the floor right next to his feet. Needed
to just forget about her for the moment. Dwelling on it now wouldn't do anything but
distract him from his job, after all.
"Finished opening the sternum and abdomen. Splotches on the liver and
pancreas... probably drug-induced. Gall bladder is swollen as well. Lungs, diaphragm and
heart appear normal, as does the bladder and intestines."
Of course, he really shouldn't have reacted the way he did. It was immature and
irresponsible of him. No, he needed to be the rational human being that his training
taught him to be. Even during moments of stress, Siegfried couldn't afford to lose his
cool, and he knew it.
"Now opening the stomach. Will examine its contents and look for possible tissue
But he needed to say something to her now. Avoiding the issue and remaining
silent for too long would only invite disaster. With one of his kids getting close to
college, he certainly didn't need any big marital problems. Maybe tonight would be a
good opportunity to talk about it. Just as long as she wasn't on another one of her
Siegfried shook his head, grabbed the forceps and slowly pried apart the cadaver's
stomach wall. And then he prayed that his mask provided enough protection.
"W-wow. There's a lot of white powder in here. Some of it's caked around the
inside of the stomach wall... amazing that so much was undigested. Outward appearance
is similar to flour." There was no need to state a probable conclusion. It was blatantly
obvious that the man hadn't made a meal of pure flour.
And then Siegfried paused. With a quick adjustment of the forceps and a
narrowing of his eyes, he pulled one from the stomach.
"You sure about this, man?"
The idea sounded pretty insane. Jon had to admit, they'd be in the money if it
worked. But was it even possible?
"Hey, look," Bruce spat. "You don't want to do it, I'll just cut you off. I've got no
problem with doing that. But go through with it, and we'll both be living easy. Besides,
it's not like this is gonna go wrong. We'll make sure we tie the knots tight so nothing
comes out. It's foolproof!"
"Yeah, but I mean, swallowing coke-filled condoms? I mean, something about
that just doesn't sound right, dude. Like one of those Darwin Award things."
"Darwin what?"
Jon rolled his eyes, swinging his foot at a discarded Pepsi can. He missed.
"Y'know, Darwin Awards. Those things they give to people who die in really stupid
ways. Like swallowing a bunch of coke balloons and ODin' when they melt."
"Damn it, Jon!" Bruce growled. "For the millionth time, condoms don't dissolve
in your stomach! I know you watch those cop shows, so you should know all about this
stuff. Jesus, look at the big picture. You've got alimony and the habit, and I've got a kid to
feed. We do this one thing, and all our problems go away. Think about it!"
Jon looked at the ground. Sure, he was still a little high from his last kick. Some
might say he wasn't in any condition to make sound judgments; he said he was just all the
more focused. Either way, something didn't feel right. He couldn't put his finger on it, but
this ruse was awry somehow. It was both too easy and too precarious.
"So here's the plan," Bruce continued, holding back a sigh. "This Saturday we
both cross the border. You do your thing, I do mine. We'll meet back up in the evening,
you pull your little disappearing act, and we're back in civilization by nightfall. A solid
crap Sunday or Monday, and we're in the money. That's all there is to it. So are you in or
are you out?"
"I... I dunno." Somehow Jon couldn't bring himself to make eye contact, and it
wasn't just because of the tingling in his skin. "I mean, you're sure these things won't melt
or break or anything?"
"Positive, Jon. It's gonna work. Come next week, we'll both be set."
The addict had quickly lost the will to fight back. With a bloodshot glance
upward, he mumbled one last word of meager resistance: "Sure?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm sure," Bruce muttered, rolling his eyes. "And hey, even if I
wasn't, what a way to go, huh?"
"What the hell is this!" Bruce roared.
His son raised an eyebrow. "I believe they call it a condom."
Bruce's hands twitched. Every fiber of his being wanted to toss the boy out the
window and onto the pavement five stories below. "Andrew Allen Peterson, do not talk
back to me! You know what I'm asking. What the hell were all of these doing in your
backpack? Where did you get them? Why did you have them?"
Andrew merely turned away from his father and shook his head, his bleached hair
flopping against his shoulders. "Dad, Dad, Dad. You don't get it, do you? I'm 17 now.
What do you expect? I know you weren't so innocent when you were my age."
"That's not the point!" Had this been anyone else, Bruce would have slammed him
against the wall and started pounding him for such insolence. But he really didn't want to
risk something stupid like a child abuse rap. "It's a goddamn box full of condoms, for
Christ's sake! Jesus, I don't expect you to be perfect, but are you trying to have a fucking
orgy or something?"
"What do you care?" Andrew muttered, not really wanting an answer. Instead he
pulled out a small flask from his pocket while his father stood flabbergasted.
"The... that... and what the hell is that?" Bruce hastily grabbed it from Andrew's
mouth, coming dangerously close to smashing him across the face. "Andrew, where did
you get this?"
"None of your business," Andrew grunted. "And you can keep the damn
condoms. I don't need them anyway."
"What did I say about giving me lip? Damn, boy! First the hair, then the tattoos,
and now this! What's wrong with you?"
Andrew turned to face his father. "Go to hell. You don't know anything about me,
old man. I'm outta here." He flung open the apartment door, slamming it against the wall.
A nearby picture frame shook as if about to clatter to the ground.
"Andrew! You get over here this instant!"
"Later." And with that, the teen marched out of the apartment.
Bruce stared after him, his eyes dark and squinted. "Andrew... what other secrets
are you keeping from me?"
"Hey, twerp. What'cha got there?"
Thomas froze. He knew that voice all too well, and this was one guy he didn't
want to mess with. Doing his best to pretend he hadn't heard anything despite his audible
heartbeat, Thomas grabbed the zipper on his backpack.
"Hey! I'm talking to you!" Andrew quickly spun him around and slammed him
backwards into a locker. Thomas winced as his head struck the combination lock. "What
do you have in the backpack?"
"N-nothing! It's, it's nothing, Andrew." Thomas frantically tried to close his
backpack, which was made all the more difficult by the jammed zipper.
Andrew moved his face within a few inches of Thomas'. "Nothin', huh? Then you
won't mind if I take a look...."
Before Thomas could utter a word, his backpack and schoolbooks were strewn
across the floor, and the conspicuously unmarked cardboard box was in Andrew's hands.
"Oh? What do we have here?" he chuckled, opening it. "This... are you shitting
Thomas barely breathed the words "Please no." It didn't really matter whether
Andrew heard him or not.
"Shit! It's a box full of fucking condoms! Damn, there's gotta be, like, 50 in here!
What, are you trying to pull a Ron Jeremy or something? Who are you trying to yank?"
"P-please... not so loud...."
"Oh!" Andrew shouted. "Not so loud? What's wrong? You don't want people
hearing about your condom case? Think you're gonna bone every girl in the little chess
club? Or maybe you're going after the boys, huh? Yeah, that seems more like you, you
little, pimply freak! Fuckin' all the dudes with your box of dick slips. Nice!"
You know you're having a bad day when you wish the school bully would just
stuff you in a locker. Thomas was tempted to climb into one himself.
"Heh. Well, I know you can't make any good use of these, so I'll just be taking
them from you. Consider it a gift for not beating the shit out of you, little man!"
Thomas didn't have the strength to protest. Not against that guy. All he could do
was try to be as invisible as possible.
Bruce slammed his mug on the wooden table and graced his intoxicated neighbors
with an unceremonious belch.
"C'maa, dude," he slurred, eyes half-focusing on his usual drinking buddy. "Have
a lil'!"
Siegfried grimaced. "I really don't feel like it tonight. You know I haven't had
time for this anyway. Just... what did you find out?"
"C'maa! Have a lil'." He laughed. "Wouldn' want someone in the lab to find out
where all those needles went, wouldja?"
A pair of very sober eyes widened. As if this conversation wasn't painful enough!
The last thing Siegfried needed was to be blackmailed by an inebriated cop. "Damn it,
The man shrugged with a little too much flair. But with no further protest (aside
from a slightly annoyed grunt), Bruce pulled a brown envelope from his trench coat.
His acquaintance slowly, reverently took it. "This is...?"
"Yah. Got everythin' there. Pics, dates, names, the works. Everythin' you wanted
to know, man, it's there."
For several moments, Siegfried's eyes didn't leave the seal. It was all he could do
to not rip the thing open right there and pore over the evidence. But while he disagreed
with Bruce about "wanting to know" all about his wife's infidelities, the prospect of these
drunks seeing them as well was even less appealing.
He glanced at an unshaven, probably unwashed hooligan who was howling after
lodging a dart in the ceiling. Case in point.
Bruce gave him an awkward look. "So? Fuck, what is this? I coulda' charged you
fer this stuff, but no. I was nice. Mr. Detegtive helped you fer nothin'. And you don't even
have a 'thank you,' or shit? Fuck, man."
With a slow gulp, Siegfried stood. "I really... I mean... yeah. You're a real, you
know. I appreciate it."
A cockeyed, half-joking, half-pissed glare. "Okay, now say it like you mean it!"
But Siegfried was already trudging toward the door. Bruce shook his head lazily
and ordered another beer.

"I don't understand, Thomas," said Rachael. She leaned back in her armchair, a
furrowed brow plastered on her face.
Crap. This was not good.
"It just doesn't make sense. Your grades have been dropping, you always seem
like you're not getting any sleep... what's going on?"
"It's... it's nothing, Mom," Thomas protested. She could not find out about the
drugs. If she did, he'd be a dead man. Or a dead boy. Not that it made any difference.
"Honey, please tell me. What's going on?"
Damn it. He needed an excuse, and he needed one fast. If she found out, he'd
never hear the end of it.
"Is there something going on at school? Someone causing you trouble? Because if
there is, we can take care of it, Thomas."
For a moment, he thought about telling her there was. It wouldn't even be a total
lie; someone was always messing with him, after all. That was how it worked when you
were the short, geeky, freckle-faced four-eyes of high school. But asking for his parents'
help would do more harm than good. He'd be a walking target! Being identified as a
snitch was practically a death sentence. No, that wouldn't work at all. So he kept his
downward gaze steady, yet not quite forced.
"Then what is it?" Rachael pleaded. "I certainly hope you're not... no, I know you
wouldn't do anything like that." She shook her head vigorously as Thomas wondered just
how close her instincts were. "But what's the matter? Do you have a girlfriend or
That, on the other hand, wasn't a bad idea. A girlfriend was not entirely
problematic. One might even say it was a positive thing. It would explain him not
focusing in school, and in an indirect sense, it would also explain why he didn't sleep at
night. She could assume his mind was on other things, so to speak.
In any case, Thomas definitely couldn't count on a better lie presenting itself. So
with that in mind, he willfully averted his eyes and tried his best to fake a sheepish blush.
"Oh, so that's it." Rachael smiled at her son.
"Thomas, there's nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to all of us. In fact, it's
really cute. You've got yourself a sweetheart!"
She leaned in closer, suddenly extremely curious about this new development.
"So, how far have you gone? Second base? Third? Or maybe...."
"M-Mom!" As if the conversation wasn't chilling enough before. His mom had a
knack for jumping to conclusions, but really....
"Ohh! So you've actually... wow. I never would've guessed it!"
Yeah right!
"Well, if that's the case, maybe I can help you out." Rachael stood up and strode
into her bedroom. After a moment she returned, her outstretched arms holding a small
cardboard box.
Thomas hesitantly took it. "Um, what is it?" he asked, opening the top. And then
his jaw dropped.
"Don't worry, you don't have to say anything. I understand. Just make sure you
stay safe, okay?"
Thomas had to resist shaking his head. Oh well. At least it worked.
"Oh! Oh! Yes, yes, yes!"
Rachael had to admit, she wasn't fond of doing it in a grungy hotel room like this.
And with the lights off, no less! How creepy.
"Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!"
But what choice did she have? She had to be secretive about it. This wasn't the
sort of thing she needed anyone to know.
It was amazing that she'd kept it up for so long without getting caught. But there
had been so many close calls. And now, people who she had to pray kept her secret. If
only she could resist the urge... why couldn't she just stop?
"Hah, hah, hah...."
She collapsed onto the sheets next to her partner. Rachael didn't know anything
about him, and he knew nothing of her. She just found him on the street, hand-wrapped
cigarette in hand, and dragged him to a room. And that was the way it had to be. She
couldn't afford to take any more chances than she already was.
"Damn, lady. You are one freaky broad! I mean, hell, do you just go looking for
dudes to screw? Just whip out a condom and ask some random guy to lay you?"
Rachael held in her gasps. "Why do you ask? It's not like you need to know. Isn't
it enough to have a woman, willing and ready?"
"Well, yeah, but it's not like I usually just sleep with chicks right after meeting
them. We've done it like four times, and I don't even know your name!"
She gave him a sultry gaze through the darkness. "So let's make it five."
Without another word, she climbed back on top of him, oblivious to the figure
peering through the window.
"Damn, this is hot," Bruce muttered from his vantage point. "Glad I finally got
her. Sucks to be Sieg, but hey, what're you gonna do?"
"Hey, kid," Bruce said. "Come over here."
Thomas raised an eyebrow. This road wasn't exactly familiar territory for him;
usually he walked home through the park after school. And he certainly didn't recognize
this man. But still, something about his tone seemed... friendly. Honorable. Even safe.
He glanced around for a moment. Bums leaning against torn-up wire fences.
Cokeheads jabbing needles in their arms. And a group of thugs flashing gang signs and
guns. Compared to them, this guy looked like the messiah. Hell, that overcoat probably
could've passed for a sports jacket.
In any event, what harm could it do to talk for a moment?
"Hey," Thomas mumbled. "How's it going?"
"Doing good, man. Doing good. How 'bout yourself?"
"Okay. Just heading home."
Bruce smiled. Maybe it was a warm expression, or maybe it was a fake I'm-only-
being-nice-to-you-because-I-have-to smile. Sometimes Thomas found it hard to tell.
"That's cool, that's cool, kid. Hey, check this out." He reached into his overcoat
and pulled out a cigarette. Thomas eyed it closely. He'd seen discarded cigarettes on the
street before, but this one looked a little odd. As if it was wrapped differently, like one of
those weird Indian brands.
Thomas doubted it was filled with tobacco. But there wasn't much time to ponder,
as Bruce quickly lit it and took a puff.
"This is good stuff, kiddo. Makes you feel freaky. Want to try it?" He extended
his cigarette toward the boy.
Thomas' mind immediately flashed to the "Winners Don't Do Drugs"
commercials that constantly flooded the TV. "Uh, n-no, that's okay. I should really be
heading home."
"Aw, c'mon man!" Bruce protested. "Just once won't kill you. Besides, I won't tell
if you won't."
Thomas gave the cigarette a long look. It wasn't as if he was thinking "What harm
could it do?" or "This guy seems trustworthy," or anything like that. He just couldn't pull
his gaze away from the object before him.
"Well, maybe just once...."
He took the cigarette, placed it in his mouth, and hesitantly inhaled.
And then he blinked.
Bruce raised his eyebrows, an amused look on his face. This kid had to be a
moron to think drugs worked that fast.... The placebo effect made marketing so much
"So, what'd I tell you? There's more where that came from, if you want it."
"So, you're a friend of Thomas?" Rachael asked, handing a glass of lemonade to
her guest.
Andrew covertly leered at her as she turned and strode toward her chair. "You
could say that, ma'am. I'm a grade ahead of him, but we see each other around. He's a...
nice guy."
It almost sickened him to be complimenting such a sucker. But there was no other
"Well, that's good to hear," said Rachael, looking away. "He's had a hard time
making friends, so I'm glad he's found someone. I know he can be a little... distant
sometimes. So thanks for being a friend to him."
Andrew fought back the gag reflex. At least the charade was almost over.
"Oh, you're welcome, ma'am. It's my pleasure, really. But that's actually not what
I'm here to talk about."
Rachael raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"No, I'm here to talk about something entirely different." Andrew looked directly
into her eyes. "You see, I saw something recently. Something secret. Something private.
Something involving you."
She blanched. It didn't matter that Andrew was lying through his teeth. Sure, he
hadn't seen anything - at least, not in person. But the notes he found on his dad's desk
were apparently very accurate.
Sometimes, it wasn't so bad living with a cop.
"Yes, it was just a couple of days ago. You and that other man... what was his
name, again? Richard? Ricky?"
"Ricardo," she mumbled without thinking.
"Ah, yes, Ricardo. And that was quite impressive. You two were at it for over
four hours! To think, he was just some guy off the street. You really do have some
unusual hobbies, ma'am."
And now for the fun part. Andrew fought back a grin. "I wonder what your family
would think if they knew?"
Rachael's head jerked up, her eyes frantically pleading. "No, please! You can't tell
them! If they ever found out, I-I...."
"Tell them? Me? Never!" He motioned with his hands for emphasis. "I'd never tell
them. At least, not unless it slipped out by accident. You know how these things are,
Freudian slips and all. When something's on your mind, you just can't be sure when it'll
come out."
A chill went up Rachael's spine as she gritted her teeth. "What do you want?"
"What do you think?" he said with a sly smile.
She sat up. "You can't be serious! I mean, you're only... I couldn't possibly!"
Andrew stared at her unblinkingly.
Her lower lip quivered in hesitation. What was she to do? If she did this, in her
own home, she could get into even bigger trouble. And yet, if she didn't comply, he was
bound to tell someone. Now that she'd taken a closer look at him, he seemed just cruel
enough to do that. She didn't want to think about what would happen then. If he knew her
secret, then she had to keep him quiet.
Besides, it had been a few days. It wasn't like she had a choice, so why fight it?
Rachael looked up with a changed face. "In that case, young man," she purred,
"come with me."
"Fucking hell!"
Siegfried threw down the envelope, which missed the dresser completely and slid
across the floor. "Damn it, I knew it. I knew she was up to something. No way she was
just going out with her friends all the time. All those nights she got back after me.... How
could I have been so blind?"
He kicked the grandfather clock, which responded with an annoyed donnng.
"I don't get it. I mean, she's married to me, for Christ's sake! To me! And I've
been getting as little action as she has. It's not like I'm working late to get with the
corpses. Doesn't she have any sense of loyalty? Of respect? Doesn't she care?"
He punched the wall. It didn't hurt quite as much as he'd hoped. But rather than
throw a second fist, Siegfried flopped onto the bed and put his head in his hands.
"I just don't understand."
A creak. Siegfried's head jerked up as the door opened.
His intruder yawned, rubbing his eyes wearily. "Dad?" Thomas mumbled. "It's
almost midnight. What's going on?"
Siegfried sighed. That was better than the alternative, at least. He didn't know
what he'd do if his wife walked in right now. "It's nothing, son. Dad's just having a bit of
trouble with work. Go back to sleep."
"Alright," he mumbled, trudging back out. The click of the door echoed behind
him, along with a low-pitched "It's three in the morning."
With a grunt, Siegfried went back to scowling and shaking his head. "Bruce was
right. He was right all along. Damn. Just picking up some guy off the street! Where the
hell does she get this stuff? The little bitch."
He stood up again. Somehow the deluxe bed provided little comfort right now.
"What's her problem, anyway? Am I not good enough for her? Is that it? She's gotta go
after other guys just to be satisfied? That's it, isn't it? She's gotta be satisfied with
someone else, because I'm not good enough! I don't have the balls for her!"
Wild-eyed, Siegfried stormed over to his medical kit and snapped it open. "Just
fuck it. Fuck her. Fuck everything. Fuck it all. I'll just... I'll just...."
He stared intently at the scalpel tucked inside. In one motion, he grabbed the
blade and pointed it at his chest.
"I don't care. They don't care. This is it. I'll show them. I'll show them. I'll... I'll...."
He stopped. His mouth sagged, and the hand dropped from his chest.
Then he smirked, letting the scalpel fall through his fingers and flop onto the
burgundy carpet. "No... I've got a much better idea." His body glided back to the kit, and
trembling fingers popped out a small syringe.
Siegfried sidled over to the dresser and threw open the underwear drawer. There it
was. A box. Just large enough to hold the precious items.
He opened it. In one shaking hand he gripped the syringe while the other plunged
inside, tipping it and spilling its contents all across the dresser. No matter. The more, the
Logic was gone. Reason was gone. Sanity was gone. For all the brilliance and
restraint he otherwise possessed, all that Siegfried could find inside him now was fury.
"Yes... yes! If that whore wants it so much... I'll give her more than she can
handle! Enjoy the gift!"
And with as much care as he could manage, Siegfried poked a hole in the

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I didn`t digniív that with a response. preíerring to drink. Not quicklv. but
thoughtíullv. It required thought. to íullv appreciate the íla·or. the aroma. I íelt like I was
in a coííee commercial. one oí those old-íashioned. homev things: some sort oí placard to
one side oí me with a too-polished slogan. Mv breathing slowed. mv hearing dimmed. 1he
warmth coupled with the concentration required to siít through the complex íla·ors brought
with it a sense oí selí-reílection. I began to notice things about mvselí. about mv thought
process. the wav I looked at things. the wav thev aííected me. I realized then íor the íirst
time that I had been deeplv scarred bv mv íather`s death. traumatized íurther bv mv íirst vear
oí junior high school. I had an a·ersion to crowds and to close phvsical contact. I was a
chronic loner. I had crawled out oí mv shell onlv ·erv recentlv. reconciling with long
íorgotten íriends. careíullv etching out the boundaries oí a íew tentati·e romances.
Mv thoughts turned awav írom recent memorv then. dri·en deeper into the place
dreams come írom. Less selí-conscious. less analvtical. but still aware oí mv own thoughts
in the wa·e oí introspection. I íound mvselí thinking about a dog. I would ha·e been
voung then. a child. I had seen a dog. mostlv Irish Setter. outside a cold. cringing little
house. through the window oí mv mother`s backseat. It had been chained to a dving tree
and there was clearlv no one at home. 1he dog wasn`t being tortured or anvthing. It was
just alone. (ompletelv alone. with a vellowing plastic bowl oí water and the íorlorn remains
oí a tov. It looked desperatelv sad. I had begun crving. then. as a child. íor the dog. lor the
!"#$%$%&& oí it. And I had looked awav. a·erted mv eves because it had made me íeel bad.
1hat was what I remembered. I had seen that dog. and it had made me sad. and so I looked
at anvthing else. mv hands or mv shoes or the buttons on mv coat.
I íelt tears íorm at the edges oí mv eves: remembering where I was. I quicklv rubbed
them back into mv eves. Ben began to sip írom his cup. I noticed a thoughtíul look in his
eves as well. not as ií he were looking at something íar awav. but as ií something had been
pulled írom inside himselí and held up íor his pri·ate consideration. le glanced at me.
perhaps noticing the íaint redness I íelt in mv eves. low do vou íeel·`
I experienced a moment oí realization so intense that I íorgot mvselí. I blurted out
what I was actuallv thinking. I hate mvselí!` 1hen. more quietlv: And I ha·e íor a long
le looked at me with those wide-open eves. On the ·erge oí tears. I didn`t sav
anvthing else. so he continued. It was rough on me the íirst time. I coníronted. \ell. I
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Whitney Beltrán

Daniel walked towards the subway entrance with cheap coffee to-go in hand,
his hair awry and hasty lecture notes stuffed in his broad coat pockets. He pushed through
the fray to get to the platform. He sipped his coffee. It tasted a bit like acid, a bit like
asphalt. He wondered when things were ever going to change.
He found himself in the back of the herd when the mad scramble for the train
doors began. Someone knocked his elbow, making him spill his coffee. He cursed and
tried to get a handle on it, concentrating hard on not letting it drop. That is why he was
taken so off guard when he was very firmly grabbed by the scruff of his collared shirt and
yanked backwards. The coffee dropped from his hand. It hit the ground and made a
hollow clattering sound that nobody heard over the roar of trains and shuffling feet and
city bickering.
“Hey!” he yelped, looking up at the doors as they slid shut in front of his face. He
caught a reflection of his assailant through the smudged Plexiglas. Wide brown eyes
looked back at him. It was a girl. He whirled to face her, mouth agape, but she was
already backing away from him, clutching at the sleeve of her blue sweater. “What was
that for?” Daniel snapped. She turned heel and ran for the exit. “Hey! Wait!” he said. He
ran after her. Why the hell had she done that?
Blundering his way through ruffled looking protesters and colorful curses, Daniel
shoved his way through the crowd. In the back of his mind a little voice was telling him
that he was going to be late. That his students were going to wonder where he was. That
the Dean was going to get on his ass again. Not to mention the fact that he was being
entirely silly. What was he going to do once he caught her? Say excuse me, but could you
please not haul people away from trains that get them to work on time, thank you, have a
nice day? His curiosity got the best of him though, and he told the little voice to shove it.
He was trying to keep track of the blue sweater, but the girl seemed to be making her way
through the masses more easily than he. Daniel struggled to keep up.
She disappeared up the exit stairs, and by the time he made it out into the open air,
he had lost her. There were people everywhere lumbering by in their Monday morning
droves in the usual writhing, confusing biomass. He looked around and didn’t see her
anywhere. “Fuck,” he said simply and ran his hands through his hair in exasperation. He
turned a frustrated circle, hands atop his head, eyes searching frantically.
An airy shade of blue caught his eye as it flicked behind a corner across the
intersection. Daniel gave chase a second time, but quickly found that there wasn’t quite
as much oomph in him as there was the first go round. Academia was making him soft, it
seemed. A laugh escaped Daniel in spite of himself as he ran, his coat billowing and
flopping like a distressed kite caught in the wind. Strangers stopped briefly on the
sidewalk to gawk at him with mild interest.
He rounded the corner into an ally, but the girl was nowhere in sight. He trotted to
a halt and rested his hands on his knees, gasping for breath. He threw his back against a
brick building and rested against it a long while, closing his eyes and gulping sharp, cold
morning air. Then, when he felt a little more able, he turned around and kicked it. A
middle aged woman in a business suit stopped and looked down the ally at him. “What?
It was looking at me funny,” Daniel said. The woman hurried on her way, muttering
primly. Daniel grimaced. He threw up his hands, and to nobody in particular said, “Fine.
I’m done. I don’t care. I’m going to work now. Thanks for making me miss my train.”
He trudged back to the subway in a sulky fog. He took his time. He was already
going to be too late for his first class. It didn’t matter much now. He stopped and bought
a morning paper. As he was paying the stall vendor, his phone began to ring and that
surprised him a bit. He thought he had let the batteries die last night. He dug it out of his
coat pocket. The caller I.D. said it wasn’t somebody he particularly wanted to talk to. He
should have never given her his personal number that night at the Christmas party. He
answered anyway. “Hello?”
“Oh my goodness, Professor Steel, you’re okay!” squeaked an overly feminine
“Delores, for the last time, call me Daniel. Please.”
“Yes, like that romance novel writer.” Professor Delores Montgomery giggled
like a school girl. She wasn’t very good at it.
“When is that going to stop being funny to you?” he asked dryly.
“Oh, positively never! I’m just so relieved to hear your voice. And wait. That’s
the reason I was calling you. I just now remembered I had your number,” she said, her
tone sliding suddenly from neurotic cheerleader to distressed soap opera actress, “There’s
a few of us here watching the news in Linda’s office. She’s got one of those little TVs
than run on batteries. We all thought for sure you were dead. I mean, Dean Thompson
has already cancelled your classes for today and everything.”
“Well, you ride the eight every morning to get to campus, right?”
“Yes,” Daniel replied, his throat becoming abruptly very dry.
“Well, uh, Daniel, I don’t really know how to say this, but the eight is in about a
hundred pieces. The news says it derailed. It’s a real mess. It’s too soon to tell, but
they’re saying…they’re saying that there’s probably no survivors.” Then her tone picked
up again, “And where are you anyway? They called your home phone and nobody
answered. There was an off chance that you were home sick or something, but when you
didn’t answer, that’s when Thompson called off your classes. You know, you really
should have registered your cell number with personnel. Then maybe we could have
gotten a hold of you before this. Linda is positively in pieces. You’re lucky that I have it,
or we would have gone all day thinking you were dead as a doornail.” She paused,
waiting for an answer, but Daniel had already dropped the phone from his ear. “Hello.
Hello?” she said, but Daniel numbly pressed the red END button and all she got in
response was a dial tone.
Daniel suddenly didn’t feel very much like going to work, not even to dispel the
myth of his own untimely demise. In fact, he decided he was going to take the day off. In
a daze he walked away from the subway station, thinking maybe he would buy himself a
decent cup of coffee, maybe even something fancy, with a little bit of froth. What did
they call those? Mochas?
He wandered aimlessly for a long time. Eventually he spotted a quaint looking
coffee house called Karma’s Corner. He had never heard of it before, but it looked decent
enough. He walked inside and was assailed by the smell of Chai and baked goods and
roasted coffee beans. It was also fairly deserted. He liked the place immediately. A wild
looking woman walked out from the back room. She had tattoos and piercings and
dreadlocks and was very much what someone a little more hip than him would have
called shway. She was slightly intimidating. The woman made eye contact. She smiled at
him as she wiped her hands on her apron. The smile lit up her whole face, and Daniel
thought to himself that she was actually pretty attractive. Her status immediately changed
from Scary Girl intimidating to Pretty Girl intimidating; however the effect remained the
same. All Daniel could do was stand there feeling small.
“Hi. I’ll be with you in a second,” she said. Her named tag read “Karma”, and it
had a little smiley face penned next to it in sharpie. He attempted a sheepish smile and
continued to stand there idly looking at the menu. “Sorry about that. My help seems to
have run off on me again,” she said, approaching the counter. “What can I get you?”
“Coffee,” he said automatically. The woman laughed.
“Well, that we have, but what kind would you like?” she said.
“Right. House blend. Black. Anything else?”
“No. I don’t think so,” Daniel said. “But you’re Karma. This is your coffee
“Yep, that’s me. You like it? I’ve been in business for about three years now.”
“Yes, it’s very nice,” he said as she rang him up. “I’ve never noticed this place
“Well, sometimes you don’t find a place till you need to.”
Daniel sat down with his mug near the broad windows. He looked out at the world
and tried to absorb something from it. Anything. He felt like a ghost. Everything was
gray and far away. What if he had lost his life today? Would it have meant anything? In
his dreary reverie he did not notice the man in the black suit staring intently at the coffee
shop from across the street.
“It can be a bit overwhelming sometimes, huh? City life and all that,” Karma said,
interrupting his hollow daydream. Daniel chuckled. “Yes,” he said, “yes it can.”
Karma walked over to his table “Sorry if this seems like prying or abrupt or
anything,” she replied, “but you look a little frazzled.”
“Yes, well underpaid community college professors usually do,” Daniel cracked.
“It’s practically expected.”
Karma laughed, her face lighting up again. This set Daniel at ease. “True,” she
mused, “What do you teach, anyway?”
“Classical Mythology.”
“Oh, I’m sure that’s very rewarding.”
“You have no idea.”
“Why do you keep with it then?”
“Well, it pays the rent, among other things. Really I think this little modern society of
ours doesn’t quite understand how important myth is. Mostly the kids that take my
classes are the liberal arts, pot smoking, bohemian types anyway. Not that I’m
judging them, mind you. Been there, done that. Not too long ago, actually,” he added,
chuckling. Then he sighed. “You’d think they’d get it. But they don’t. They just don’t
ever seem very interested. I guess I keep at it in the hopes that somebody will.” He
paused. “Man, that sounds like a bunch of highbrow wash, doesn’t it?”
“Not at all. I think it’s very noble of you. And I can certainly understand your
feeling a bit frazzled, but I’m gonna take a stab here and guess that it’s something a bit
more than unresponsive college snots getting your goat. At least today.” Daniel raised an
eyebrow at Karma. She winked. “Mama Karma sees all,” she added, grinning. “People
don’t get that kind of thousand-yard-stare unless there’s something really up.” Daniel
grunted noncommittally and gazed out into the street.
“You can tell me,” Karma said, sitting down across the table. “Coffee may be two
fifty, but around here a little empathy is still free.” Daniel was oddly somewhat touched
by these words, though he didn’t think he could picture himself ever calling this woman
Mama Karma. Something about the gauged earrings just threw that image off. But there
was something warm and bright about her, something that reminded Daniel of sunlight.
“Well,” he said finally. “I think I was supposed to die today. But there was this girl at the
subway station….”

Daniel shuffled into his apartment late that night. He had decided that it would be
nice to go do the tourist thing, because—he had realized—he had never actually gone to
see any of the landmarks the city was famous for. What he learned was that the city was
home to an innumerable amount of pigeons, more pigeons than he had thought possible,
and he secretly suspected that they took great pride in crapping all over the most
distinguished people in recent history.
He made a rule for himself that night when he sat down to a steaming microwave
dinner that he was not going to get on another subway train until he damn well felt
like it, which was not any time soon. He instead resolved to take a cab. So the next
day when he went to work he took a cab. Other than that, it was business as usual. It
was so predictable and normal that he thought maybe he had hallucinated the
previous day in its entirety. Until, of course, Delores. It seemed that she had made it
her mission to pry every single inconsequential detail out of him regarding his near
death experience. He found that he did not want to tell her what had actually
transpired. It seemed to personal a thing to share with this brash, overbearing woman.
Instead he hurriedly made something up and spent the whole rest of the day hiding
anywhere but his office, feeling weary and browbeaten.
Class seemed surreal. He was even more harebrained and distracted than usual,
and several of his lectures derailed themselves unexpectedly. He ended up letting several
of his classes go early. A single young man with an elfin face lingered after one of these
sessions, watching him, and then left quietly. Daniel couldn’t say why, but that bothered
him deeply. He couldn’t remember ever having seen the young man before.
Time crawled forward. Day after day the monotony ground itself into him, and
soon it was quite easy to forget the train and the girl and his brush with death. Still, every
once in a while, his thoughts would drift back to the reflection he had seen in the
Plexiglas. Those eyes. There had been something about those eyes.
Daniel visited Karma’s Corner every once in a while. When he was there
Karma always seemed to be short handed. Daniel also began to notice that Karma’s
patrons tended to be very colorful folk. Once when he had dropped by the whole
establishment had become hushed as he walked in, wary eyes all turned on him. That had
sort of given Daniel the creeps. He stopped frequenting Karma’s Corner after that.
After a while the memory of the little coffee house began to fade too, and for a
long time he didn’t visit at all. It was only after a particularly frustrating lecture in which
there was a very circular class discussion of the differences between the Greek Moerae
and the Norse legend of the Norns, that a thought emerged from a dusty crevice of
Daniel’s mind to go visit Karma’s Corner again
He hummed as he walked down the sidewalk and entered the coffee house, not noticing a
man in a black suit standing placidly across the street. The hum died in Daniel’s throat as
the door closed behind him, the little chimes hanging from the frame jingling and
clinking. He had spied the person standing behind the counter. “You,” he said, shocked.

Nina panicked. She dropped the mug she had been toweling off and it shattered in
an explosion of porcelain. Surprised customers looked over to see what was amiss. She
stood frozen for only a moment, her eyes locked with the stranger’s, and then she bolted.
She burst into the break room where Karma was sitting and reading something by Kafka,
her feet up on the table. Karma peered over the book at her, “You’re not throwing my
mugs around again, are you?” she said wryly.
“Karma. Shit. It’s him. It’s the subway guy. He saw me! I have to go!”
“Huh,” Karma clucked. “I told you I thought we picked up a permanent stray.
Awfully big coincidence, you know. Him coming in here the very day you intervened.
Seems like a nice guy, too. You sure you don’t want to sit and chat?”
“Funny, Karma.”
“Yeah, yeah, get out of here then. Use the back door though. I don’t want any
scenes. Besides, I think we have a Boogie watching the front anyway.”
“Thanks, Karma, I owe you one,” Nina said, already sprinting towards the back
“You sure do, kiddo, and don’t think I’m gonna let you forget it.” Karma yelled
after her.

He stood motionless in front of the counter, a little confused, but mostly just
stunned. Karma strolled out of the back room looking rather pleased with herself. For the
first time he looked at her and thought maybe she was a little bit dangerous. “That was-
that was,” he stammered.
“That was Nina,” Karma said smoothly.
“Nina…I-she…” Daniel spluttered on.
“You’ve met?” Karma said, arching an eyebrow.
“I-the subway. She’s the one that-oh man, what is going on? She’s worked here
the entire time? I told you what she looked like! How come you didn’t tell me?”
The smoothness melted from Karma’s brow, and she looked at him sternly. He
could feel himself being measured, and it was extremely uncomfortable.
“I can’t give you the answers, but I can tell you how to find out. I must warn you,
though. You were never supposed to get this deep in the first place, but I think things are
changing now.” Daniel glanced around the room in a “Is This Really Happening?” sort of
way. The other patrons seemed to be studying their newspapers and coffee mugs
“Do you really want to know the truth of why you are alive instead of dead?”
“Think carefully. This is your chance to walk away.” Karma said this with a
chilling finality that made Daniel pause. A creeping feeling began to climb up his neck,
and Daniel knew that the decision he was about to make was somehow important. He
knew that he could walk out the door and away from all of whatever this was and not
ever have to deal with it again. He was silent for a long time. He thought of his job and
his friends and his empty apartment. He thought of the dull monotonous march that was
his life. In a moment of excruciating reflection he realized that there was really nothing to
“Yes,” he said quietly, “I want to know.” Karma smiled, light and warmth
returning to her face. “Well you’ll want to catch the six then, and catch it fast.” She
winked. Daniel did not move. “Well, go on then. Shoo! Off with you,” she chided. It was
only then that he turned and broke into a run. This time as he exited the coffee shop he
noticed a man in a black suit standing across the street. The man was grinning broadly.
To Daniel it looked like the man was bearing fangs.
Daniel took the subway stairs two at a time, barely noticing his descent into the
cavernous shadows or the sickly yellow glow of the sodium lights. He paused to search
the departure list, frantically trying to find the six. Once he found it he sprinted across the
platform and squeezed onto the train just as the doors were closing. They caught his coat
and he had to yank it away from the greedy rubber bumpers. Daniel hoped against hope
that this was the right car. He paused and looked around but did not immediately see the
girl. He carefully traversed the car as it swayed, trying his hardest to not appear to be
looking for somebody and failing miserably. People eyed him and edged away almost
imperceptibly, as is the custom on such trepid, subterranean journeys as these. He finally
saw her, wedged near the door of the opposite side of the car, hanging onto a handrail and
striving desperately not to be noticed. He approached cautiously. As he got closer Daniel
could finally see more than a fleeting image of the girl, and to his surprise the girl wasn’t
really that much of a girl at all, possibly only a bit younger than himself. As he wedged in
beside her he caught the scent of some sort of delicious flower, sweet and heady. His
stomach fluttered a little.
“It was you, wasn’t it?”
Nina looked away from him. “If I say yes then what is that going to accomplish? I
can’t help you.”
“Look, I’m just trying to understand this. There were a hundred people standing
on that platform, waiting for that train. I’m supposed to be dead. Was I the only one
yanked off?”
“Why did you run away from me?”
“Because you were never supposed to see me in the first place. Some jerk had lit
up a cigarette and the ash burned my hand as I was hauling you back. It hurt bad enough
to surprise me for a second. I guess that’s all it took.”
“Did you know there was going to be an accident?”
“You should drop it,” she hissed, eyes darting around the car.
Daniel ran his fingers through his hair, frustrated.
“You are putting us both in serious danger,” she said, locking her dark brown eyes
onto him.
“We’re being watched.”
“Watched? By who?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“The hell it doesn’t. I’m getting pretty fed up with getting the run-around here.”
She sighed. “Okay. Look. Yes, I intervened, and I’m sorry you’re confused, but
what happened is what needed to happen. It was necessary.”
“What, you mean it’s not simply because of my dashing good looks?” Daniel
Nina snorted. “Sorry, that wasn’t really a factor,” she said coldly. They stood in
silence for a long time, not looking at each other. Daniel didn’t really know what to do.
He ground his teeth. Nina took out a piece of scratch paper and began to scribble
something on it. Then she folded it up. Daniel could feel the train slowing. The doors
opened. “How is any of this possible? I mean, how did you know?” he asked. Nina bit her
lower lip as she considered Daniel. She hesitated with the piece of paper in her hand, but
finally curled her fingers around his own and deposited it in his palm. As she did so she
leaned in, putting her mouth near to his ear. The closeness of her lips to his skin sent a
small involuntary shiver down his spine. “I’m a Dreamer,” she whispered. Then she
stepped off the train.

Daniel was left bewildered, clinging to the handrail as the train pitched forward.
A thousand thoughts spun and lurched and bumped into each other in his head like
drowsy bees. He tried to do the math, but the only answers he kept coming up with were
No, or Impossible, or simply Does Not Compute. His brain just refused to budge.
Eventually he came back to himself enough to realize he was still clutching the small
piece of paper she had given him. He uncrumpled it, smoothed it out. The script was tiny
and cramped. It read:

If it’s any condolence, I think you’re pretty cute. You
mustn't tell anyone what I’ve told you. Ever. Stay
away from men in black suits!

Daniel quickly glanced around the car. There didn’t seem to be anybody watching
him, and there were no men in black suits either. He had a sudden idea that maybe Nina
was part of some sort of terrorist organization, maybe the people after her were
government agents, and just maybe she just needed to slow down with all the
hallucinogens. And also, maybe it was time to call it quits. This was all just a little bit too
strange for him. Daniel was not getting on this bandwagon that seemed to swiftly be
departing from reality. No, sir. He crumpled the paper back up and stuffed it in his coat
pocket. He decided to go home.
Since he had already unthinkingly broken his resolve to stay away from the
subway system, Daniel thought to hell with it, and was soon on his way home safely upon
the (new and shiny) Eight. Not many people were on this train. Daniel had a morbid
notion that maybe this was because the accident had wiped out all the normal commuters.
He then felt intensely guilty for this thought and slumped lower in his seat. He
concentrated on the handle of vodka that he knew was waiting for him in his freezer for
just such an occasion as this. A night of binge drinking and an Indiana Jones marathon
loomed in his future. The idea was appealing. In the morning this would all go away. Or
He shuffled out of the subway station just as dusk was settling over the city. He
kept his head down and did not really pay attention to what was going on around him,
which, of course, was a mistake. Many an unfortunate city dweller had been mugged
because they had forgotten to keep constant vigilance. Daniel was not so lucky as these
victims of petty crime.
“Excuse me. Do you have the time?” A man’s voice, sleek and oily, roused
Daniel from his fog.
“No, man,” Daniel mumbled, not making eye contact as he kept walking. “Just on
my way to meet some friends.”
“I think,” said the man crisply, “that you are lying to me.” Daniel stopped then,
and turned back around to face the man. The blood drained from his face. It was the same
guy he had seen across the street from the coffee house, the guy in the black suit.
“You. I’ve seen you. What do you want?”
“Just a bit of information, Mr. Steel, that’s all.”
“I’m not going to even bother to ask how you know my name, but you can fuck
A snake-like grin crawled across the man’s face. “Come now. We can act like
civilized men, surely.”
“The answer is no, asshole.”
“Oh, but you see that is going to be a problem, Mr. Steel. Because you are going
to make me be unpleasant, and I do so enjoy that.”
Before Daniel could even open his mouth to protest the man closed the distance
between them. He grabbed Daniel by the front of his shirt with lightening quickness and
lifted him into the air. Daniel began to choke. The man carried Daniel into a nearby
alleyway and shoved him against the wall of an aging brick building, leaving his feet to
dangle several inches above the asphalt.
“My name is Mr. Rapsaul,” the man said, punctuating the sentence by balling up
his free hand and driving it into Daniel’s solar plexus.
“I am a dangerous man,” he said, again driving his fist into Daniel’s soft middle.
Daniel thought that possibly he heard one of his ribs crack.
“You are going to give me the information I want.” This time the hissing
statement was delivered with a vicious upper cut to Daniel’s jaw. It sent his vision
swimming. Mr. Rapsaul’s faced hovered menacingly in front of Daniel’s own. Daniel
thought hazily that Mr. Rapsaul ought to have pupils, but he couldn’t see any pupils. Just
dark, angry orbs. Curious.
“You tell that little witch that the time of the myth is past. Tell her she is going to
burn for eternity, forgotten. And you, boy. You are going to give the testimony to the
Council yourself.” Mr. Rapsaul released Daniel, who promptly crumpled to the ground.
“We will talk more later. I can only hope our future exchanges will be
as…pleasant as this.” Mr. Rapsaul kicked Daniel squarely in the soft spot of his head.
Twilight melted into blackness. There was no more.

In a dark, lonely, park the wind rolled across the trees and made them sway
fitfully. Mr. Rapsaul was making a phone call. He looked down at the passersby, far
below. He could see them, judge them, creep and scheme while they never even knew he
was there, wrapped in leaves and branches. They never even thought to look up. It was
somehow very erotic—the power. Mr. Rapsaul liked his job.
Someone on the other line picked up. A hissing static filled his ear.
“Rapsaul, reporting in. Things are going swimmingly. There won’t be much problem
getting testimony out of him. Once we use it to convict her, he can be easily disposed
of. In the meantime, I’m going to pay our little darling a visit. Things should wrap up
quite nicely. Mundus vult decipi.” The line went dead.

Karma and Sophie staggered merrily down the sidewalk arm in arm. While it
might have been true that they had been drinking a little too much, Karma would have
insisted exactly the opposite, and would have offered to box anyone that implied
otherwise. It was a fine night, and Karma and Sophie had devious plans indeed for when
they arrived back at the apartment. Their merriment was cut short, however, by the voice
of someone calling weakly for help. It was the moaning, pleading sound of someone
gravely injured, and though her city instincts told Karma to keep walking, she couldn’t
make herself ignore a human being in plight.
“What is it, Love?” Sophie asked.
“I donno, but I think someone’s hurt,” Karma replied. They followed the sounds
until they came across a form that had partially dragged itself out of an alleyway.
“Please,” it said. “Help.” Karma approached the wretched creature cautiously.
“Oh my fucking shit,” she said. “It’s Daniel.”
The apartment was only two blocks away, so they resolved to take him there. The
two women carefully hoisted Daniel up and slung his arms around their shoulders. He
was mostly incoherent. The most sensible thing he said was, “Sorry. Blood. On your
clothes.” Karma told him to hush and to concentrate on walking. Once they got him
inside they sat him down and did the best they could to clean him up.
“I think he has a concussion,” Sophie said, concerned. “Who is this guy,
“Good question. I’m starting to wonder that myself. He just keeps popping up
where he shouldn’t. Do you think you could whip up some of your special tea?”
“Ah, I see. He’s in the club then?”
“I guess he is now.”
Sophie made herself busy in the kitchen. Karma sat down next to Daniel on the
couch. She tried to peel off his bloody coat, but he groaned so gut-wrenchingly that she
backed off. She thought maybe a couple of his ribs were broken or possibly that his
shoulder was dislocated. Or both.
“You’re in bad shape, kiddo. Whadya do, get yourself run over by a dump truck?”
Daniel mumbled something unintelligible.
“Well, Sophie is making some tea for you. It’s going to make you feel a lot better,
but you gotta stay awake, okay? Can you do that for me?”
Sure, Daniel nodded. Anything.
Sophie walked in carrying a steaming mug of some sort of dark, pungent liquid.
Had he been more coherent, Daniel would not have deigned to call it tea. It tasted awful,
and he tried to spit it up on reflex, but Karma and Sophie were there, coaxing him to
drink it, swallow by swallow. They made him drain the whole cup, and by the time he
was done, he was grimacing and gasping and really not enjoying himself. However, his
thoughts seemed to clear considerably, and all the fiery pain in his body turned itself
down into a dull ache. “Wow,” was all he could say.
“Feel better?” Karma asked.
“So what happened to you?”
“Well, I tried to go to work one day and everything got fucked up. Some girl
saved my life, and then I just happened to stumble across the coffee shop she works at,
and all the patrons seem to be in on the same joke. Then I met the girl, whose name is
Nina. And by met, I mean I had to attempt to chase her down at least twice because she
fled at the very sight of me like I was some sort of googly-eyed monster. I’m not entirely
sure she’s all there because I think she believes she has prophetic dreams. But she did
save me, and I have no clue what that means. Some spook in a black suit came after me.
Called himself Mr. Rapsaul. Beat the shit out of me. Threatened me. Left me for dead.
Then, coincidently, Nina’s friend/terrorist co-conspirator/boss found me on the street.
And now I’ve apparently been cured by some sort of miracle tea that you can brew in
your kitchen. I have no idea what’s going on and I feel like I’ve be abducted into the
Twilight Zone. I want to go home and forget any of this ever happened. Does that about
sum it up?”
“Well, that’s the rather long version, and we are certainly not terrorists, but that
sounds about right,” Karma sighed. “Hey Soph, will you give us a few minutes?”
“Sure thing, Love,” she said, getting up from the couch. She came over to Karma
and kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll be in the other room.”
“Er…” Daniel said after Sophie left the room, “you and her are, um—”
“Oh. I see. Nina isn’t—I mean she’s not…?”
“Nina is quite straight. At least as far as I can tell. Why? Are you interested?”
“Well, no. I mean, of course not. That is, I—”
Karma raised a hand to silence him. “Alright. Enough squirming. Sheesh. Look, I
think it’s cute you’re all frustrated by her, but you’ve got to cut Nina some slack. The girl
doesn’t have things easy right now. Just give her some time to warm up to you. Now, I
bet you have some questions for me, don’t you?”
“About a thousand.”
“Well I’ll do the best I can, but I can’t make any promises.”
“Ok. First. Why was she so freaked out by me the first two times I saw her? Why
didn’t she just stop and explain it to me the first time?”
“She broke the code by letting you see her. It’s a severely punishable crime. She
was trying to save you both a lot of grief.”
“What code?”
“The Code of Intervention. It’s the code that governs Dreamers.”
“She said something about being a dreamer. What does that mean?”
“That’s complicated, but basically it means that she has sleeping visions. She sees
things and they happen. Unless someone intervenes.”
“Ok. So she intervened to save me. What did that accomplish?”
“Not exactly sure. I was kind of hoping you could shed some light on that.”
“Great. Well, as soon as I figure it out I’ll let you know. Who is Mr. Rapsaul?”
“I’m assuming you’re talking about the man in the black suit, in which case it’s
not so much a who as a what. He’s a Boogie, an enforcer daemon, and my feeling is he’s
working for the other team.”
“Yeah, I got the distinct feeling that he didn’t like me very much. What is a
“Well you’re the professor. You tell me.”
Daniel sat quietly for a long time. He ran his fingers through his hair, opened his
mouth and then snapped it shut it again. Finally, he said, “You’re telling me that there are
creatures running around that are really real daemons?” Karma nodded. “Beings that are
neither gods nor mortals?” Karma nodded again. “This is kind of lot to absorb,” Daniel
said weakly.
“It is for most people.”
“How does the rest of the world not notice this?”
“It’s relatively easy for humans to ignore things that don’t make sense to them.
They don’t see most of what goes on in the underside of things. Most of the time these
stuff hides in plain view. Mundus vult decipi, Daniel. The world wants to be deceived.”
“Oh yes, well that makes perfect sense then. Evil men with fangs and demonic
eyeballs hang around major city streets and nobody notices because they don’t feel like
“Did you notice him the first seven times you came into my shop? No? Well he
was there.”
Daniel was becoming very frustrated. “Ok. So there are daemons. Why is there
one coming after me? What could I possibly have done to piss this guy off?”
“Again, complicated. Some of the newer daemons are trying to push the old ones
out of power. They’ve been much more successful than anyone would like to admit. The
one after you, that’s probably not personal. My guess is that they’re trying to use you for
“All right, I’m not going to even pretend like I understand that. I only have one
more question for now. How do you fit into all of this? You’re not a dreamer too, are you?
Like, the head dreamer or something?”
She laughed. “Now that one I thought would be obvious to you. I’m Karma.”

“Now,” said Karma, “Normally it is unheard of to ask a Dreamer to reveal the
details of a Dream, but in this case I think we are going to have to break the rules. We
need to find out what in the seven hells is going on. I’m gonna call Nina and get her over
here so we can work this out.”
Karma pulled out her cell phone and called Nina. Nobody answered. “Huh,”
Karma clucked. She called again. Still no answer. “That is very unlike her,” she said,
brows furrowing. “I think we better go over there. No telling what kind of trouble that
girl’s got herself up to.” Sophie waved them goodbye, and Daniel thanked her profusely
for the tea. They caught a cab and were at Nina’s place within fifteen minutes. The little
complex she lived in was in a very artsy part of town, and overlooked a small park. It was
run down, but in its own way it was charming.
They ascended several flights of stairs and reached her door only to find that it
had already been kicked in. A bad sign. A tingling sensation ran down Daniel’s spine.
Perhaps it was fear. They entered cautiously, calling Nina’s name. The place was trashed,
but empty. Daniel could detect the sweet botanical scent once more.
“Hey Karma, what kind of plant is that I smell?”
“Oh, I think that’s probably Nina’s night blooming jasmine. Check by the
window,” she said as she nosed through the kitchen.
Daniel spied an overturned pot that was, in fact, nowhere near the window, but
looked to have been thrown clearly across the room. Dirt was splayed everywhere, and
the delicate plant lay broken and trampled. It looked beyond saving.
He went to check the bedroom and was severely startled when the sheets on the
bed began to rustle. He grabbed the nearest thing to him—a lamp—and held it over his
head. A black rat the size of a small cat poked its head out of the covers.
“Oh holy Jesus!” Daniel yelled in a particularly unmanly fashion.
“What? What is it?” Karma said as she came rushing in, brandishing a steak knife
from the kitchen.
“Big. Fucking. Rat.”
“Oh man, did you scare me,” she said, lowering her weapon. “That’s only Nyx.”
“Yeah. Nina’s pet rat.”
Karma clicked her tongue and coaxed Nyx to come towards her. The rat sniffed
the air, unsure. Then it trundled off the bed and scurried over to Karma. It climbed up her
pant leg and she helped it the rest of the way up to her shoulder.
“Nyx, meet Daniel”
“Pleasure,” Daniel said, awkwardly. The rat made a sort of sneezing, squeaking
sound. He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to take that.
“It looks like there’s something tied around its neck,” Daniel said. Karma reached
around the rat’s neck and untied a note. She read it aloud; “It’s too late. I’ve got a Boogie
coming after me. Did some research on our friend, the professor. He graduated from Yale!
Doesn’t add up. He’s the answer to this, I just know it. Not sure if I’m going to make it
out. You know what to do if I don’t. Sorry if this is not enough to pay my debt. He’s
almost here. I have to go.”
“Yale, Daniel?”
“Debt, Karma?”
They looked at each other tensely. Karma finally broke the silence, “Fair enough.
We can leave those questions for later. Let’s go help our girl.”
“How are we even going to find her?” Daniel asked as they walked back out and
towards the street.
“I’m gonna have to call in a favor,” Karma replied, and flicked out her cell phone
again. She stared at it intently for several seconds until it began to ring. She flipped it
open and held the receiver to her ear. She listened intently for several long moments, then
closed it again and slipped it back into her pocket. “Let’s catch a cab,” she said.

Nina stood alone under the flickering glow of a lamppost, head bowed. Her long
brown hair danced in the night breeze. Mr. Rapsaul stepped out of the shadows.
“There you are, my little lamb. You’ve given me quite the run around, you know.
If you just come with me quietly, we can get this whole messy thing over with.”
“You want me to just lie down and die then?” she replied through gritted teeth.
‘Well, I should think they do, but for myself I wouldn’t mind a little wiggling,” he
said wolfishly.
“They can’t do this. My kind have been around since Delphi, since before then.
They need us.”
“I’m afraid, my dear, that they don’t. It’s a new age, and all. Downsizing.”
“And you’re the suit.”
‘And I’m the suit.”
Nina grinned, her head still low. Mr. Rapsaul could not see her eyes, just her teeth
glittering under the lamplight. Mr. Rapsaul’s smile faltered, if just for a moment.
“It’s not going to be that easy,” Nina said.
“I was hoping you would say that,” he said, and began striding towards her.
Daniel came in at a sprint, Karma not far behind. He saw Nina, and then he saw
the man in black stalking towards her like an avalanche in slow motion, deadly and
purposeful. Mr. Rapsaul paused.
“Why hello, Mr. Steel. Didn’t expect to see you up and about for quite some time.
Curious.” He cast a sidelong glare at Karma. Karma flipped him off. “Now if you excuse
me, I have some business with your friend here at the moment. I’ll be getting to you
later,” he said as he began to walk again towards Nina. Daniel stepped into his path.
“That,” Mr. Rapsaul hissed, “was a mistake.” He batted Daniel aside as if he were
a paper doll and strode on towards Nina without missing a step, not even a heartbeat, if
he had one. Nina raised her head resolutely. Suddenly two small gleaming things found
their way into her hands. She said not a word. Only a thin line of determination
permeated her brow.
Mr. Rapsaul charged. She spun aside to avoid his attack, graceful as a cat. She
swept back around with both daggers to find his back, but he was too quick. He jumped
to the side and she feinted to the left. It didn’t work. His fist connected with her left hip
and she rocked back, white-hot pain licking at her vision. She recovered, pivoting on her
heel, and tried to sink the daggers into his thigh. He backhanded her hard across the face,
laughing. She jumped away and tried to put some distance between them. It was enough.
She flicked her wrist. Now she only held one dagger. The other was lodged in Mr.
Rapsaul’s chest.
Black tar-like stuff began to ooze out of the wound in his chest. He dug at the
wound, trying to pull out the silvery thing that was lodged there. It wouldn’t come out.
“Cheap trick,” he said conversationally, then he fell in a heap to the ground. His whole
body began to dissolve into the black stuff that was leaking out of him. It bubbled and
hissed and dissipated into the air. In moments, the only thing that was left was the suit
and the faint scent of something rotten.
Nina fell to her knees, and the dagger in her hand winked out of existence. She
breathed heavily, trying to catch her breath.
“Quickly. He’ll be back,” she said, squeezing her eyes shut. She seemed to be
fighting off a bout of nausea.
“But. He. Black stuff. Dead,” Daniel tried to articulate as best he could.
“No. Not dead. Please, help me up.” Daniel rushed over to Nina and began to help
her stand up. Karma only watched, a sly glint in her eye. Nina looked up at Daniel.
“You look like hell,” she said, touching a bruise on the side of his face. Daniel
“Seen a mirror lately?” This time Nina laughed, if weakly.
“That was very brave of you, Daniel, but very stupid. Please don’t do that again.”
“And how was I to know you were going to go all Teenage Vampire Slayer like
“You’re going to have to teach me that dagger trick, by the way.”
“It is not something that can be taught, but ask Sophie about it some time.”
They walked out of the park, Daniel supporting Nina, and Karma walking behind
with Nyx on her shoulder. Daniel and Nina were passing glances at each other when one
thought the other wasn’t looking. Karma inclined her head towards Nyx, and whispered,
“Will you look at that? Nina is actually leaning on him. She must have gotten hit on the
head or something. Like, hard.” Nyx sneezed her assent.
They made it out of the park and onto a city sidewalk. A few frosty stars glittered
down at them. Daniel looked up at them, actually thankful to see them for the first time in
a long time. He realized in a very strange way that he was happy. He was running for his
life from a monster out of a story book. His present company was mysterious, sometimes
even frightening. He seemed to have his nose caught in a battle that had nothing to do
with him, and at this point there was certainly no turning back. And yet.
Daniel felt alive. That’s all there was to it. He simply felt alive.
“So, uh, what next?” he asked tentatively as they waited for a cab.
“We go to see the wizard,” Nina replied.
“As long as I get to be the cowardly lion,” he said, grinning. Both women raised
an eyebrow at him. “Oh, you weren’t kidding then, were you?”