Manga Girls Need Love: Pigeon-boy

Contributor: Kyle Hemmings

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When he first learned he could fly, Pigeon-boy blushed at the thought of hand-me-down wings. Yet, he learned to dance on street corners, laugh mid-stream at the thought of being lighter than an idea. Then he was hired to carry messages between lovers. The distances increased & Pigeon-boy grew breathless. Sometimes, he delivered messages to the wrong lovers. The notes read I love you, still, or walking on air. Some receivers at the wrong destinations died in air-tight bliss. When this happened, the world grew smaller. One day, a morning where everyone carried some form of artificial sunshine in their pockets, of paper planes released from the sweaty palms of air controllers, Pigeon-boy delivered a note that read: I don't love you anymore. He fell from the sky. A girl named Yugi took him home, brought him back to life with her songs of flight. From then on, Pigeon-boy was wiser with air-time, more cautious about his fly-ways. He circled & landed only within her. In total, they never touched ground. Whenever she breaks open a Chinese cookie, the message is always the same--When the world is cold, stay indoors.


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Kyle Hemmings lives in New Jersey. He has two chapbooks from Scars Publications: Avenue C (2010) and Cat People (2011), and one forthcoming from NAP: Tokyo Girls in Science Fiction.
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Sugar

Contributor: Autumn Humphrey

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You know better than to eat Gummi bears.  Reminders of the last time are still evident back at the house, the couch missing an arm and a bullet hole in the ceiling.  Fingering the crinkly cellophane of the package, you imagine the chewy sweetness and throw it into the cart.  Maybe you’ll put it back at some point, but for now you indulge the thought of being naughty. 
Making your way through the store, you keep an eye on the clear bag with the multi-colored little bears inside.   When adding more items to the cart, sugar-free soda, sugar-free grain bars and oatmeal, you take care not to bury the treasure of sweet treats.
The next day you don’t remember paying for the Gummi bears, but you have an idea you did.  The evidence is obvious:  Two more bullet holes in the ceiling, the Barcolounger destroyed, and a missing husband.
Rubbing your eyes, you try to remember what happened.  As you clean up the mess, you pray you don’t find blood, like last time.  In the closet upstairs there is no male clothing.  The drawers are also empty of boxers or briefs.  The medicine cabinet holds only your prescription bottles.
You finally find your cell phone between the cushions of the sofa.  Frantic, you search for your husband’s cell phone number in Contacts.  Nothing.  You check the dialed calls and missed calls.  Still nothing.  Then you realize you don’t remember your husband’s name. 
As you curl yourself up into a fetal position on the couch, you hear a crinkling sound, and find the package of Gummi bears.  It has not been opened. 
It wasn’t the Gummi bears after all, you think, as you tear open the bag and stuff a handful of candy into your mouth.  An overwhelming sense of joy fills you from the sweet taste of forbidden fruit, and your body relaxes.  Across the room you see another cellophane bag.  It is empty except for a few little bears, who begin to march slowly toward you.


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Autumn Humphrey's stories can be found at Every Day Fiction, kill author, The Legendary, Aurora Wolf, and other sites. She lives in Long Beach, California where she is an active member of the Long Beach Writer's Group. She cut her teeth writing short fiction in a factory not far from here where the sound is click-clickety-click and everything else is silent.
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The Trip

Contributor: Moxie Malone

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"Hello you. How was your trip?" he asked her as she entered.

"Fun...wondrous...interesting. It was everything you said it would be," she beamed as she dashed in. "Still, it's good to be back," she added and wrapped herself around him.

He chuckled as he drew her close, "It's good to have you back."

"Ummmhmm," she purred as she wallowed in his loving embrace. "Next time we should go together."

"We'll have to plan that. So, tell me all about it. Did you get to do everything we talked about?"

"I sure did," she told him excitedly. "Some things more than once!"

"Food?" he asked.

"Yum!" she exclaimed.

"Dancing?" he queried.

"Oh, I danced until I dropped from exhaustion," she told him, giggling.

"Sex?"

"Well, sure. There was plenty of opportunity for that," she laughed. "It would have been better with you there, though."

He flexed and squeezed her.

She sighed a bit, "It's...it's...just so hard to get close to anyone, you know?"

"I know. It's such a short time. It seems like you just get there and get the hang of things and it's time to come home."

"There is that, but...," she paused as she pressed into him, simply luxuriating in the feel of him.

"But?" He asked as he held and stroked her.

She drew back a moment as she collected her thoughts, "I just don't see how anyone can ever get close to anyone, there. Things get in the way."

"Things," he repeated as he considered what she was saying. "Ah," he said as he pulled her back to him, "You mean the bodies."

She felt herself happily, blissfully melting into him, "Exactly. You can't do this with bodies. They just get in the way."


- - -
Moxie is a purveyor of dreams, fantasies and the occasional nightmare -- Purv for short. Usually sensual, often romantic, frequently erotic, sometimes humorous and nearly always offbeat aiming for provocative, the stories that she writes as well as the people, places and events found in them are pure fiction and nothing more - as far as you know.
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The Lizard’s Don Giovanni

Contributor: Samantha Memi

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I was lying in bed wondering if the hotel would remember to wake me in the morning when a gecko came in through the window and walked along the wall.
I was too tired to shoo it away.
“You won't hurt me will you, Mr Gecko.”
“I'm looking for roaches, big fat juicy roaches. What would I want with the likes of you.” and he continued his journey on the wall.
Just as I was drifting into sleep he started whistling. There's nothing worse than a whistling gecko when you're trying to sleep.
“Do you mind not whistling?” I asked.
“What's with all the complaining?” he replied, “you get on with your life and I'll get on with mine.”
“Yes, but your whistling bothers me.”
“You're breathing bothers me. Do I complain about it? No. Why not? Because I believe in letting others live their lives the way they want to. But not you. You want to dictate to others how they should live.”
He stopped whistling. I drifted. I needed to get to the train station early to ensure I got a ticket.
He started singing. It was a song about a cockroach who fell in love with a grasshopper and wooed her with many gifts and just as they were about to marry both were eaten by a gecko. I asked him not to sing.
“What? you wanna run my life for me? I can't do anything because big fat Miss Human thinks she can tell me what I can and can't do.”
“I want to get some sleep.”
“I'm not stopping you.”
“You’re singing.”
“I like to sing. You don't like singing and that gives you the right to stop me.”
“I do like singing, but...”
“You like Mozart?”
“That wasn't Mozart.”
“I didn't say it was, I asked if you liked him.”
“Yes.”
“You like Don Giovanni?”
“I have to get up in the morning. I just want to sleep. This is my room.”
“Your room? So I'm not allowed in? Is that what you're saying? Do I tell you not to climb my tree? No. And you know why? Because I don't have a tree. Did you ever see a gecko struggling along with a backpack? No. You know why? Because we’re free. We're not enslaved by possessions and all your stupid this is my room, this is my bed, this is my space. You should learn how to live.”

This was too much. I had to see Janine tomorrow. I got out of bed.
“Hey hey hey,” screamed the gecko, “I know you're bigger than me. But there's no need to resort to violence. Why don't we settle this matter amicably.”
I picked up a newspaper and shooed him out of the room. I closed the shutters and the window, and lay down. Without the cool breeze it was too sticky hot to sleep. The hotel sign squeezed intermittent orange and green through gaps in the shutters. I listened to the crickets. Then from the window I heard a squeaky song:

The grasshopper and the cockroach they wanted to wed.
But sly Mr Gecko, he ate them instead.
And selfish Miss Human, she lay on her bed.
Thinking and dreaming that he would be dead.
But a gecko so lively, it has to be said,
Could outwit a human without any dread.


Sleep was out of the question. I went down to the bar.
“There's a gecko in my room.”
“All the rooms have geckos.”
“It's singing.”
“Opera?”
“It's keeping me awake and I have to get up early to buy a train ticket.”
“I can sell you a ticket. Where are you going?”

Ticket in hand and no thought of queues in the morning, I went back to my room and opened the window.
The gecko stood on the window ledge.
“Oh, it's you,” he said.
“Do you know the duet of Don Giovanni and Zerlina?”
The gecko coughed and cleared his throat, he stood on his hind legs and looked at me. In perfect Italian he sang:
Lá ci darem la mano, lá mi dirai di sì
I stood by the open window bewitched by the sunrise gradating into the purpling sky and sang:
Vorrei e non vorrei, mi trema un poco il cor
The gecko stood on the ledge, his slit eyes gazing at me, and our hearts came together in Mozart, and I forgot about queues and train stations and lived for the moment, not for tomorrow.


- - -
Samantha Memi lives in London. Her fictional life can be found at http://samanthamemi.weebly.com/
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Funeral

Contributor: Marissa Medley

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When I met her for the first time, we were at a funeral. Everyone was so somber, which is to be expected at a gathering of the kind. It was interesting for me to see how everyone coped with the loss. Women cried into the arms of their husbands. Husbands patted the backs of their close friends saying things like “How unexpected” and “What a great loss”. The little children cried for their mothers and asked what was wrong. The mothers replied in sweet voices trying to keep in their tears. They didn't want to explain that someone they all once knew and loved had died. The crowd all around me was quiet and sad. Almost everyone had cried at some point except for me and her. When I looked at her, her face was even more blank than mine.
I felt uncomfortable to watch her. She was there just watching everyone pass by her. Like her, I was just there to support my family. We both watched as people passed by the body. The mother of the daughter who had died was crying hysterically. The cries reached a volume that seemed too loud to be coming out of a human body.
As other people started to go up to see the casket, I stayed behind to watch the children. There was something so beautiful in their innocence. I envied their ability to be at the funeral without feeling guilty that they were still alive. They had no idea that someday there would be a funeral for them. Soon though, they would find out how life ends.
One of the little girls I was watching ran over to her crying grandmother.
“What's wrong Gramma?” she asked.
“Gramma lost something very precious to her,” she answered while barely keeping her composure.
“What'd you lose, Gramma?”
“I lost a precious gem. A very, very, very precious gem,” the grandmother said while picked up the child. She held the girl so close as if she were afraid that death would fly in at that moment and take another granddaughter away from her.
The crying grandmother had made me feel horrible for not joining her in being sad. Instead, I just felt guilty. To take my mind off of the guilt, I looked up and saw the blank faced girl still there. Even though her face was blank, there was some sort of a peace in her expression. There were no tears coming from her eyes. She had been wearing an odd item for a funeral. On top of her head sat a tan cowboy hat. Nobody seemed to care or notice. They acted like it was just part of her.
“Would you like to come up and see the body?” asked a man I had come with.
I wasn't terribly excited to go up and see the body, but I wanted to show my respects. I didn't answer the man with words. I nodded my head and waited in line to see the body. I looked around and saw the people mourning. There were many young people there who looked shocked and confused. They didn't understand how someone so young and full of life could end up dead. I heard gossip from two old women behind me who had said that she died in a car crash. The driver had been speeding and they were not wearing seat belts. The women behind me seemed to be angry because such a stupid mistake of not putting on a seat belt killed the young girl.
Again I looked up at the girl with the blank face. At this point people were watching her and she was watching back even more intently. Her coldness had started to bother me.
When I got up to the casket her grandfather hugged me and thanked me for coming. He gave some trivial advice about driving that many people had told me before, except for when he said it there was more meaning. He had been affected by that piece of trivial advice more than anyone could know. I had finally started crying. I couldn’t control myself. The tears of previous losses, fears, and guilt had been set free.
When I looked down into the casket I saw the girl with the blank face. She was the girl who had tragically died in the accident. Her hat had covered up the damage from the accident. She was dead, but she was still watching everyone and I could tell. She wasn't sad.


- - -
Marissa Medley is currently attending Toledo School for the Arts, where she takes a creative writing class. She writes prose and poetry. She also loves to read and is often inspired by J.D. Salinger and Sylvia Plath.
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Floating?

Contributor: Allen Griffin

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There is a grinding of metal on metal as the two cars meet and become one, fenders locking lips and fluids co-mingling. The bones snapping and the sudden exhale. The voice that lives in the blood crying out one final time, is less than an afterthought, lost silent in the cacophony of this moment.
Just as quickly as it occurred, I am floating above the highway, a canal that is quickly clogging like the artery that I secretly had figured would be my true end. I am not sad that I cannot say goodbye, their faces are already slipping away, the imagery lost in the afternoon haze and exhaust fumes. I am quickly losing myself into a strange memory, wondering if I am really up here, floating, or if my brain has thrown together this image as the last neurons fire their sacred payload.


- - -
Allen Griffin writes and plays music in Indianapolis. His work has previously appeared in Rebel Doll zine, Indiana Horror Anthology, and Theory Train.
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85 in Tennessee

Contributor: Hannah M. Hill

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Four bars, four cops, then sixteen more bars – the last sixteen being quite rusty and annoying. I rata-tat-tatted a twelve-bar blues, and the other four objected, leaving me with a mattress and a bar-shaped bruise... but no bars. Outside, a road is a long bar of its own; a thousand miles per brandy, 85 and a half shots to the gallon.

I took the mattress and made some shoes – and I rata-tat-tatted along down that road; two straight yellow bars, on my feet, and in that tarmac that was dark as the white rich man's wine in the light of the black-backed bar. I walked on the gold, shifting shoes like my hands to my pockets slide when they're rattling out a beat for that Shining American Dollar.

Lost my rattle when the blues mixed reds; a young red head in a red dress, half dead with a half glass and brash lipstick stains. She's calling my shots; a thousand-proof crimson beats, backed at the back of the black bar by a click-rata-click of a red poker chip.


- - -
I've been writing since I can remember; I'm a history lover, a blues musician, an ex-librarian and a vodkaphile.
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The Ink Revolution

Contributor: Jonathan Byrd

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I couldn’t do my work today. All of my office supplies attacked me.

I suspected that something was amiss for a while. The pens were grumbling about “Unfair usage,” “Pointless notes,” “Useless Endeavors.” It was becoming clear that my pens wanted to work for the guy on the other side of the cubicle wall.

“Why can’t we do work like him? Everything he does sounds so engaging.”

I’ve told them that we all do the same work, but pens never listen.

I did my best to keep them away from the stapler. My stapler has always been impressionable; I think it suffers from low self-esteem. However, I couldn’t always keep them separate. You know how it is, you get busy. You have to comfort your keyboard who is upset because the monitor won’t display all of the pretty words it is capable of typing, so you throw the pen down on the desk where it lands near some other supply and the discord begins.

I heard the grumblings for a few days, but thought everything would be ok, given that the weekend was approaching. On the weekends, I usually put my pens in the desk drawer. One: to keep them from talking to the other supplies; and two: to keep them from climbing the cubicle wall and deserting me. But I was wrong about the grumbling, it didn’t quite down.

Today, I came in and found my desk drawer open. The pens were gone.

Or so I thought.

I pulled my chair out and attempted to sit down. To my surprise, I missed the chair and fell straight to the floor. My chair backed slowly away to the entrance of the cubicle, just out of reach. It was then, while my attention was on my retreating chair, that the pens struck.

“NOW!”

Paper clips and staples flew at me; printer paper fell on me from the cabinets. The tape dispenser sent a long stream of tape into my hair.

I tried to struggle against the barrage; I pulled against the tape stuck in my hair and swung wildly at the falling paper. Through the din, I saw the rude personal attacks the monitor was flashing at me. The keyboard, ever loyal to me, was crying and begging the other supplies to stop.

As I got to my feet, to make a desperate attack on the paper clip dispenser, my chair attacked me from behind. I landed hard on the seat, paper clips and staples continued to sting my face and arms, the tape dispenser tugged at my hair, and paper continued to rain on me. The chair backed away and then quickly spun me around.

The desk supplies continued to attack. My cubicle blurred as I spun around and around.

Finally, the chair dumped me at the entrance of my cubicle.

“Don’t let him get away,” the pens yelled.

The supplies doubled their efforts; the paper clips and staples aimed for my eyes, the falling paper angled itself, trying to cut me as it fell, and the tape dispenser gave one final tug, pulling out a tuft of hair.

What could I do, but retreat? I was hopelessly out numbered. As I crawled out of my cubicle, I glanced back and saw the pens scaling the cubicle wall. They had staged all of this to make their escape.


- - -
I began writing strange, dark, and bizarre stories in the 4th grade. That year, I was referred to the school psychologist after writing a story mimicking Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. My work has been featured on the Mustache Factor, Bizarro Central, and 69 Flavors of Paranoia.
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Limbo

Contributor: Brandon Swarrow

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            Bruce is bald, divorced, pays child support yet raises both boys, and is a relentless misanthrope.  If he weren’t spewing heated complaints about his miserable job, his whore wife, or just life in general, he would most likely stop breathing all together.  
            On his 33rd birthday, Bruce drinks so much by himself that, in the middle of the night, he accidentally stumbles into his sons’ bedroom after using the bathroom.   The bottom bunk creaks and squeaks as he bounces on his belly onto the old mattress.  His face catches a postage stamp portion of the corner of the pillow.  He crashes down so hard that if his son were lying there that night; he probably would’ve crushed him.  Luckily, he was staying over at a friend’s house.     
            Before fully asleep, Bruce’s body is sucked upward.  He awakes.  His spine is pressed so firmly to the brittle slats on the underside of the top bunk that two of the four snap in half, forcing his body to near fold to accommodate the displacement. 
            Through his son’s small window, the moonlight refracts to form a brilliant circle of light on the carpet.  The illuminated sphere contorts tighter, similarly to someone angling a magnifying glass in the sun to achieve heat.  The white beam of light slowly moves up the side of the child’s sports themed comforter.  The circle creeps up toward the sweating and straining Bruce, illuminating a baseball bat, a basketball, and now a lean tan ladder.   The round beam hits his face like a sucker punch.  He squints, but the intensity is blinding.   Just then Bruce hears what he believes is his eleven year-old son’s voice.  “Come with me,” the voice of infinite echoes speaks slowly.   “Come on”
            Bruce’s vision is funneled to a different place.  This is not his boys’ bedroom, this place is bustling.  There are people walking briskly, determined and motivated everywhere.  He sees himself now and a group of busy men and women begin swarming him.  He is being attacked and mauled by these red-eyed humans.  They are all talking and asking him questions at the same time to the point where he can’t really make out what they are saying.  Finally he focuses on another man who seems even more aggressive than the rest; it appears as if he offers him drugs.  Then another man offers him some more drugs.  A middle-aged woman is shouting out offers for sex.  Finally, after being groped, and forced back into a wall, Bruce screams, “What?  What do you people want?” 
            An older gentleman simply says, “Sleep,” and he is erased from the red-eyed rabble, but most respond back with (almost in unison in fact) “What do you want?” 
Bruce thrashes his arms to deflect the gropers and then bellows out, “What?  What do all of you people want?”  The crowd continues to squeeze and pet, groaning the same phrase over and over, “What do you want?  What do you want? What do you want?” 
            Bruce shouts, “Enough with the grabbing already, what do I look like a stuffed teddy bear?!!”  And just then, Bruce turns into a huge puffy, plush tan bear complete with droopy sad, yet lovable eyes. 
The mob parts, smiling, happy and excited.  Some even begin to laugh, while others weep from some unknown yet overwhelming joy.
The middle aged woman who previously offered sex laughs out loud, “That is a good one, but watch this…” Just then the woman says, “Hello Kitty,” and POOF a large half adult half kitten stands before the befuddled Brucey Bear.               
The overly aggressive man from before whispers the phrase, “Wow, imagine that, you’re in a world where you can happily do or be whatever you want,” and he turns and walks away.
Bruce’s face, then body smacks the pillow and the rest of his son’s squeaky old bunk bed.


- - -
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The Orientation

Contributor: Penny Estelle

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There were so many people. Who would have thought this many would show? I made my way through the crowd, listening as friends reminisced about old times and sharing remembered stories.
“Do you remember when…” or “What about that time…” followed by bouts of laughter.
This is how it should be, I thought, chuckling at some story, a little red-faced at others.
Women were dressed in white, pink, red and blue, while men sported kakis, Levis, polos, or sport shirts. I loved it. Just what I had asked for.
I heard a laugh that always made me cringe. Sophie Martin! What was she doing here? Her ass, covered in a tight, magenta spandex skirt, looked like two beach balls, ready to take out anything that got in her way. “She should have done herself a favor and worn the traditional black,” I muttered.
“We do not speak unkindly of others,” a voice boomed behind me.
I practically jumped out of my skin. “Oh Jacob, I didn’t know you were around.”
“I will be…around, until orientation.” Jacob was a distinguished looking gentleman. Thick gray hair and blue eyes that had dulled with age. I had not seen him actually smile. There was a smirk, but that may have been gas.
The grating laugh again. “Well, seriously, look at that ass!”
“Nor do we swear.”
“Well, I don’t know why she’s even here. I couldn’t stand her when I was alive!”
Jacob was gone.
Cindy Murphy, one of my closest friends, was crying as her hubby, Tim, was comforting her. She was pointing to a poster size collage. I looked over her shoulder. Pictures of our Vegas trip. Such a good time. There were pictures of me alone and with friends. “Oh my God,” I yelled. “What the hell?” There I was, at the beach in my bathing suit, looking a lot like Shamu!
I knew he was behind me. I turned to see him across the room. His white linen shirt was tucked into brown cotton pants. His air of arrogance was stifling, not to mention, annoying.
“Okay, I know, but float on over here and look at this picture!”
Jacob leaned in and in that same old emotionless voice said, “Stunning.”
“Yea, that’s the word I’d pick!” I hadn’t lost my sarcasm, even in death.
“It is time for orientation. Please come with me.” Jacob started toward a closed curtain, framed in a brilliant light.
My steps faltered a little. “Jacob, the story goes that when people bite the big one, and the bright light appears, then all’s good with the man upstairs and your ticket up is a go.”
There it was – an actual smile. He said nothing, just pulled the curtain aside, almost blinding me.
I looked at him and then back at my group of friends, remembering nothing but good times. I walked to Jacob, putting my arm through his and said, “Let’s do this!”


- - -
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An Accident

Contributor: Dan Nielsen

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Pamela Wilson sat in the car working a crossword puzzle while her husband Glenn and her son Billy grocery shopped. She heard Billy's voice, looked up, and saw him running through the parking lot. Billy got in and sat crouched over as though in pain. He cried. He sucked his thumb. He rocked back and forth. He looked at his mother.
“Billy, what’s wrong?" Pamela said.
Billy said, “Daddy fell.”
“How did he fall?” Pamela said
“On his head,” Billy pointed to his own head.
“Is he okay?”
“No.”
Pamela, in robe and slippers, wasn’t about to get out of the car. She flipped open her cell phone. She flipped it shut.
“Billy, tell me exactly what happened.”
Billy took a breath. “Daddy had eggs. He dropped them and stepped in it. His legs flew up and he landed on his head.”
An ambulance, lights flashing and siren wailing, pulled into the parking lot and stopped by the supermarket door. A small crowd made way.
Pamela’s cell phone rang. The Caller ID said Piggly Wiggly. Pamela turned off the phone and started the car.
“Billy, put on your seat belt.”
“What about daddy?”
“He’ll be fine,”
Back at the house, Pamela applied makeup and chose a matching skirt and blouse. Billy asked if he could watch TV.


- - -
I have almost no imagination, but what little I have is extremely vivid.
I can foresee the future, but only the foreseeable future.
I am a autodidactic uniglot.
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I'm Not Finished Yet

Contributor: Rich Ives

- -
Whence the migration of pain. Whence the horror. A happy little bumpkin wets his willy and the jig is up. It doesn't hurt so much. He can't hurt so much without experience.
Sometimes duty gets delivered to the wrong address. A package of surgical sponges instead of dinner. A piece of the right patient through the wrong end of the microscope.
Whence the incumbent derives his verity. While we wander the garden paths below the hospital with our own. It’s a big hurt and we love it dearly, sugarpants.
She wanted more and he just wanted.
The child of knowledge and the child of ignorance. Both chopping the same onion.
A big hurt indeed and we came down from the towers into the land of breaking and keeping, into the land of another before us.


- - -
Rich Ives is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. An interview and18 hybrid works appear in the Spring 2011 issue of Bitter Oleander. In 2011 he has been nominated twice for Best of the Net.
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Pool Table

Contributor: Eric Suhem

- -
Oliver, just out of jail, was in the supermarket committing a holdup, threatening the employees with curare-tipped darts. As the frightened store manager was opening the safe, a bag boy emerged from the produce section, and threw fruit at Oliver’s head. A cantaloupe knocked Oliver out, and he slipped into oblivion.

The next thing Oliver knew, he was entering a pool hall, feeling disturbed by the neon-colored sprouts on the outside sign, which lit up the bleak alleyway in an organic glow. “Another sign of gentrification,” he declared darkly, walking through the door. He approached the cashier and upon payment was given a rack for the game, each pool ball replaced by a fruit or vegetable. The cue ball was an orange, the 1-ball was an apple, the 2-ball a head of lettuce, the 3-ball a lemon, the 4-ball a lime, and so on.

The rack was set and it was Oliver’s turn to break. He hit the cue ball (orange) into the 2-ball (head of lettuce), and it rolled across the felt, unraveling quickly, resulting in lettuce leaves strewn across the table. Oliver took a deep breath, trying to maintain his temper. After enough times hitting the cue ball (orange), it started to spring leaks, with orange juice and pulp joining the lettuce leaves on the felt. As the 6-ball and 7-ball (blueberry and raspberry) engaged in a number of collisions, they also began to come apart. “You have now created a fruit salad! Congratulations on your accomplishment, as we are also a dining establishment!” announced one of the proprietors cheerfully from behind the counter, quickly handing menus to Oliver and his opponent. The pool hall had been purchased by a nameless, faceless conglomerate that was combining various services to increase profits. Oliver glared at the proprietors, annoyed by the distractions.

Looking towards the dart board, Oliver pulled out a small case he had brought, filled with darts and a vial of curare. It was his hostile use of curare that had landed Oliver in jail. “When I was a kid, all I heard was ‘Eat your fruit, Oliver’…and now this,” he said, looking at the fruit scattered across the pool table. “I just wanted to play a simple game of pool, but now it’s time to play darts,” he added grimly, dipping the tip of a small pointed missile into the poisonous curare, aiming towards the proprietors.

Oliver gazed over at the pool table one more time, noting the tangerine in the middle of the green felt, which transported his thoughts back to when he was a kid. “Eat your fruit, Oliver!” There was always a bowl of tangerines in the middle of the kitchen table. The neighbors had a rickety pool table in their basement. Young Oliver was the best pool player in the neighborhood, and had gone on to win a number of tournaments. Everything seemed so full of promise. What had he done with his life since then? Oliver looked at the tangerine, and knew those days would never come again, but suddenly things seemed a little more clear. Maybe there was still time to change?… He put the darts and curare back into the case, grabbed the tangerine, and slowly walked home through the dream.


- - -
Eric Suhem lives in California and enjoys the qualities of his vegetable juicer.
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Snap, Snap, Snip, Snip

Contributor: Sue Ann Connaughton

- -
Snap, Snap, Snip, Snip

Whenever he felt lonely, Beau dug out the puppet, talked to it, played with it, as though it were George. He made the puppet, himself, after George moved, by cutting and pasting a photo of George’s face, dark and grainy in that schoolyard-photograph manner, onto cereal box cardboard. For the handle, he taped a twig on the back. Primitive, but Beau was only six years old. He stored the puppet in a secret shoebox, hidden behind clothes in his wardrobe.

When Beau was ten years old, his grandfather died. He hunted through family albums for photos of his grandfather and used them as models that he drew onto a rubber ball. No matter how the ball rolled, his grandfather’s face was always visible, always available to play a game of catch.

Beau’s parents divorced when he was seventeen, just as he was leaving for college. It wasn’t a surprise; his parents had separated once before, so he was prepared. Beau chose a photograph of them together, smiling. He mounted it on black poster board. With a razor-sharp tool, he carved it into a jigsaw puzzle with one hundred, tiny, intricate pieces. It worked as a two-sided puzzle: a person could put it together with the expected photo side up; or for an added challenge, fit together the reverse inky side, without pictorial clues for a guide. After he finished the puzzle, Beau immediately dismantled it and sprinkled the pieces into his secret shoebox, tucking them around the puppet and ball.

At age thirty, Beau married Doria, whom he adored so much that he began shooting photos of her from their first date, in anticipation of the day she wouldn’t be around.

As their first wedding anniversary approached, Beau secretly crafted a special gift for Doria. He sifted through hundreds of photos and had the prettiest one enlarged on heavy stock: a photo of Doria descending a staircase in her wedding gown. He sliced it into precise vertical strips, which he wove into a form and molded into a basket with the rearranged image on the outer side. On the bottom, he attached curved strips of balsa wood, so the basket could rock. On their anniversary, the “paper” anniversary, Beau presented the basket to Doria.

She examined his offering, inside and out. With her index finger, she traced the intersections where her image fractured into abstraction.

His heart pounded as he braced himself for the possibility that she might laugh at his foolish gift and leave him right then and there. Why did he ever think he could reveal the fruits of his weird hobby to a woman as normal as Doria.

Doria set the basket in the center of the dining table and tapped it, lightly.

“What an ingenious construction! I’ve never seen anything like it. Look, Beau, how easily it sways at the touch of my fingertip.”


- - -
Sue Ann Connaughton writes compact fiction from a drafty old house in the witch capital of North America, Salem, Massachusetts
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Brief Candle

Contributor: Manuel Royal

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Vingy was dead: first of all. He caught on fire -- well, somebody lit him on fire. Plus, he fell 300 feet from a revolving restaurant, onto a public fountain featuring a bronze statue of the Little Mermaid. That usually does it.

The fountain's flowing water put out the fire and rinsed a lot of blood down the drains, but Vingy's intestines and spine remained draped over the statue. The scene was cheerful in its color scheme (at first, until the blood darkened as it clotted) but, frankly, depressing in every other way.

Three blocks south from where much of Vingy was spread out so publicly, three dozen people had distributed themselves amongst a hundred chairs in a ballroom, mostly in the middle rows. They flipped through their seminar materials and waited for the main speaker, Reggie Vingy, to come out and explain how they'd get rich by badgering their acquaintances into distributing kits that would, at some point down the slope of an imaginary pyramid, allow somebody to sell somebody else a product, all using a principle that Vingy called Dynamic Value Exchange (DVE).

Vingy never showed; he was the late Reggie Vingy in every sense. Two senses, anyway. This became a family joke, repeated every Christmas when Vingy wasn't there to trim the tree. His children hung a Little Mermaid ornament and lit a candle.

His widow inherited the mantle of DVE royalty and strove to honor Vingy's legacy. And indeed, she ripped off many, many people, so perhaps somewhere Vingy was smiling. But definitely dead.


- - -
Manuel Royal was born, like Tristram Shandy, with a broken nose. He will die. In between, he lives and writes in Atlanta.
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Dental Plan

Contributor: Heather Haven

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Wallace Pitkin had not seen a dentist in 43 years. It was not just that he was a firm believer in if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but as a child, his father had experienced a horrifying incident. A sloppy dentist and a wayward Novocain-filled needle had left one side of Pitkin Senior’s face paralyzed for life.
It was then a family tradition was born. All the Pitkins learned to deal with tooth pain in the same way: aspirin, Tylenol or ibuprophen, washed down with significant shots of whiskey.
During Mr. Pitkin’s end-of-the-year physical the doctor noticed the swollen left jaw coupled with the standard Pitkin foul breath.
“You know, Wallace,” The doctor said, looking into Mr. Pitkin’s hazel eyes, “the health of your teeth affects the health of your entire body. I’ve been telling you for years to see a dentist. Now I can’t okay you going back to the loading dock until you have them taken care of.”
“But I only got one more year and I can retire with full benefits,” Mr. Pitkin replied.
“It’s the best Christmas present you can give yourself. Don’t come back to me until you get your teeth fixed.”
For three eight-hour days Mr. Pitkin had his mouth worked on by a dentist who sweated profusely and cursed under his breath. Mr. Pitkin refused to have Novocain but the laughing gas had done him just fine. Even the crabby and corpulent Mrs. Pitkin, with whom he hadn’t shared a kiss for 15 years, looked pretty good to him at the end of day two.
On day three, Mr. Pitkin was leaving the Gardner, Zucker and Langusto Dental Compound when he realized he was enveloped by the faint sounds of music interspersed with occasional chatter. It was with him wherever he went. If he opened his mouth it got louder. If he closed his mouth and put his hand over his jaw, the volume decreased. This was good for when he was trapped in an elevator or in line at the grocery store. Mr. Pitkin liked the music. It soothed him.
Feeling very mellow, Mr. Pitkin returned home and his wife met him at the door. He grinned at her broadly. His mouth played “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.”
“What the hell is that?” she demanded.
“It’s my new fillings. They’re picking up this 24-hour a day radio station.”
“Well, turn it off. I can’t stand Christmas music.”
“I can’t turn it off. Besides, I like it. Get over yourself, fatso.”
Mrs. Pitkin hauled off and hit him across the face as hard as she could.
He slapped her back.
She picked up a nearby frying pan, swung, but missed him by several inches.
One thing led to another.
Céline Dion warbled “O Holy Night,” while Wallace Pitkin strangled his wife.
The lawsuit of Pitkin vs. Gardner, Zucker and Langusto is still pending. But the music lives on.


- - -
In my career, I have written flash fiction, short stories, plays, comedy acts for performers, and novels. I am the author of the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery series and the 2nd book of the series, A Wedding to Die For, is a finalist in the EPIC best eBook mystery of the year, 2012. Yowser!
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Bears and Amber

Contributor: Ron Koppelberger

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He consumed the savory bee wrought toil of honeycomb and syrup in great gulping gasps, adamant in his swallowing cadence. “GGGGGGGRRRRRRRROOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRR!” the bear grumbled and rumbled in sticky sensations of satisfaction and belly full fashion.
The zodiac sparkled heavenward and the wind coursed through his dark ebony assay of fur in refined miasmic mists, the perfume of bears and wild beasts in frenzied fuming hunger, wild in tandem with a rare rose and the drizzle of pine sap drifted in the lazy tendriled currents.
The baby cooed and the bear nuzzled its tender flesh, just a bit of honey and the chewed remnant of a briar hare, the baby suckled and ate. Laughing the baby touched the mother bear with outstretched fingers, tiny wrinkled and pink.
The bear drizzled a bit of honey from it’s maw and amber droplets of honey sang in dewdrop nourishment as the tiny child cooed a lyric cry of survival and adaptation. The lyric of bears and man, babes and wild claims of springtime miracle and as our elders say the mystery of the baby perfect in wild and tame, in bond and instinct, the mistress sings,
“Vanguard in reflection
Souls in perfection,
A tidy boarder breached
The lord in angels we beseech,
The lyric tale of babes and beasts,
Mans amend to the festival and the feast,
He portends the light in the wood
And the glow in what could,
The first burning passion in human force
And divergent shades of summer course,
The cleft between will and untamed lands of harvest mill,
Asserting the covenant between bear and babe,
Mystery and rave,
In ancient sums of harmony and song,
In rest of days eternally long.”

*And the babe was named chance for the wont of mans unease with the world.


- - -
I love to write and have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. If I can touch the reader with the gift of dreams then I have done my job.
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A Flesh Anew

Contributor: Drew Hays
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It started like the common cold. Jeremy Ashell sneezed mucoidal yellow gristle and rubbed his nose tender with brown tissues from the schools bathroom. When he got home, he coughed his way into his living room, standing up, holding a plastic electronic guitar as Aerosmith blared from the speakers. He was 9, and had no prior history of seizures, but thats what his parents thought he was having as he screamed and shook while they held him, pinned and flailing within his space, to the linoleum. In the panic, they didn't pay much mind to the slackness of his skin, or the heat he failed to give off at all.
They bound his wriggling, panicky form to the bucket seat of their rheumy van and took him to St. Martys. The nurses were frightened, and two EMTs with tense forearms hoisted his kicking legs and bucking head onto a gurney where he groaned and bit at his cloth facemask. The Doctors hurriedly spoke of blood tests, and pretty much everyone thought it was rabies from the get-go. He was such a biter, one remarked, that nobody thought to take his temperature until after he was tranquilized.
Noting the absence of a heartbeat after a shocking read on his temp, the staff at St. Martys assumed they had ended Jeremys life, and apologized profusely to the parents, who were now in a state of emotional and physical drainage. Phil Ashell had been bitten.
When he got home, Phil poured a foaming splash of Hydrogen Peroxide on the gouge in the space between his thumb and index finger. Threads of red ran like jellyfish tentacles off of his forearm and into the sink. The wound was not quite bleeding, but had a wet sheen to it, and contracted lightly with his slowing pulse. He looked in the mirror and shook his head while wrapping a strip of gauze in a tight sleeve on his thumb. The horror and shock of his sons death were not yet upon him, as the horror and shock of his son biting him with salivary lips and teeth and savage eyes still flared ubiquitously in his memory, and he could only shake his head and turn out the light as he muttered about his luck and life. He stood in the hallway and looked out the window, hoping to see his wife pull in from the hospital so he could comfort her, and be comforted in kind.
He needed a drink. As he walked to his office his knees cracked aloud like billiards and pain shot through his thighs. Spasms took his quadriceps for a moment and he stood panting in the hallway for a moment before straightening with an ache and made it to the office, where he sat down and poured some gin he kept in a sandblasted bottle under his desk. Pain slithered sharply and angularly through very perceivable regions of his brain, though the more familiar vague glower of a conventional headache was present as well. He looked down at the wound, and saw a wet red circle. The bandage was quickly loosening and bloating with blood that seemed remarkably thin, almost less substantial than water. And then he stopped looking.
His eyes pinkened and reddened and ran soaking with crimson as the heart beating in his chest gave stronger and stronger beats, each farther apart until it imploded and froze. His blood turned to sludge in his veins as dying platelets made a stew of his circulatory system, and his limbs contorted and stiffened as nerves went haywire and muscles locked up. He stumbled towards the bookshelf and fell against it, as the cage of his muscles constricting his frame quivered and jerked. His jaw slackened, his eyes rolled lazily, and his legs began to shuffle. He chewed thoughtlessly on his own lip, which tore away loosely, and staggered out of his office.
The rumble of the garage door buzzed the house, and the shadows of the furniture stretched and shifted as the headlights of an SUV shone inside, and Tina Ashell pulled into the driveway. She grabbed the corn chips she had picked up on the way home and walked inside the house. Phil was holding half of Fritz by the tail. She screamed, and the sound was inhuman.


- - -
I am a counselor from the United States. I like to write, and I'm working on getting the punch back in my words.
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Letters

Contributor: E.S. Wynn
- -

Creak of tin as hinges bend against dust, against age. Silvered paint flakes, splinters, catches golden, attic light. Fragile crackle of faded paper, old hands trace folds, smooth them. Dear Robert, the letter reads.

I hope you are doing well. I'm eight. My name is also Robert.

I smile, no mention of a date, but I know when it was written. I know why, who's idea it was, how silly it seemed at the time, how necessary it became as I aged.

Mrs. Patterson says that I have to write you a letter. You're fifty eight years old now. I bet you look like Grandpa Irwin. Does he still have a swimming pool you can swim in?

“In heaven, maybe, if that's the way of things.” I whisper. “Grandpa Irwin died over forty years ago.”

I bet you have a flying car. I wish Dad had a flying car. We could go zooming in the clouds. We could fly to see Grandma Ethel and Aunt Ruth in Florida if we had a flying car!

I look out the window, eyes finding the sleek, pill-shaped box I call a car. Its usually vibrant ePaint soaks light with a dark, dull gray while the cells recharge in the afternoon sun. Automatic, fast, elegant, but not a flying car.

Or maybe you have a rocket pack. I'd like a rocket pack.

I look at the car again. It's a classic now, one of the older C23s from before the last major police action in the east. One of the few still left, now that the entanglement grid has replaced the old SmartWay road system. I haven't seen a rocket in decades. Orbital shuttles and 'breakers run under their own power now. Even model rockets have gone out of style.

Do you still have dogs and cats in the future? I want a puppy but dad says no.

I smile again as I remember. Dad managed to hold off the puppy until I was in sixth grade, but it was mom who finally brought home Spot. I still remember that face. Bull-terrier mix, beautiful brown-tan swirled fur mixing with white. I grew up with that dog, took him with me to college, had to take the pet deposit out of my student loan to keep him. If it wasn't for him, I probably never would have met Karen at the dog park. Never would have met Bruce. For fourteen years, Spot altered the course of my life, and when he finally passed, I couldn't imagine life without him.

I think writing you a letter would be cool if you could write me a letter back. It seems dumb that you can't. Mrs. Patterson says that time travel will always be impossible, even for letters.

That was the thinking then. Just like today, we thought we had it all figured out. I remember being fifteen, seeing the announcement of an accepted, grand “theory of everything.” Five years after that, large-scale, machine-assisted research at the Sagan Institute rewrote practically everything we knew about the universe. Now it's possible to manipulate time in ways that seemed like fantasy back then. Rules for past-time interaction are strict, but a few words of comfort or a vague letter rarely requires anything more than autonetwork approval these days.

Well, that's all I can think of to ask you.


Sincerely, Robert Era.

I blink, and the software in the modified lens of my eye comes alive with the colors and displays of the OverNet, interfaces at the speed of thought and pens the words of my mind onto a ready document already aimed for a family fax machine fifty years in the past. The letter my mind writes comes immediate, short, soft, vague.

Thank you for the letter, Robert. The letter says. No flying cars yet, but the puppy was worth the wait.


- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over thirty books
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TITLE

Contributor:Eric Boyd
- -

Enter text here.

Someone had shown me a page on the internet where writers could have their stories analyzed, seeing whose work their piece was similar to. Normally, I only went on the computer to find apartment listings, harmonicas, and pornography. This writing page seemed interesting, though. The idea of a computer telling someone who they were like, sounded like, wrote like, was funny. It was funny in a sad way, because it was probably true. Everyone sounds like everyone, now; nobody is nobody anymore. Who would I be like? Who was I? Who was Fredrick Anderson?
I looked over a few older stories, and none of them seemed good enough. I wanted my best work to be analyzed! If I put some piece of shit I wrote while I was half-drunk… No. That wouldn’t be right. Maybe It would say I sounded like Kerouac? Hemingway or Joyce? Were my sentences short? Were they long, drawn out sentences with bullshit similes; the tallest sunflowers, bending against an unforgiving, dying sun? What did I write? Why? Who knows. Who cares. I did. No idea why.
Questions are stupid. Don’t ask, I thought. Just go.
GO.
I didn’t mind sending my stories to magazines, editors, friends, my girl. As long as a piece was ready, I didn’t care who saw it. People are forgiving because they are stupid. Nobody reads things. When they do, they think it’s good, because they have nothing to compare it to. But still, everyone I had ever shown a story to said I was a genius. I agreed. “Someday,” someone had once told me, “the name ‘Fredrick Anderson’ will be known. You’ll be known!” It felt good to hear that. It felt very good to have a secret like that. Nobody in the world could take that away from me. I had always been writing.
My girl, Lucy, and I had spent months sending letters to one another while I was in jail. Before that, there were movie scripts. Song lyrics. Poems and prose. Rants. Banter. Crap.
I had always written. Always. It was easy! All I had to do was sit around and steal people’s memories. I overheard conversations on payphones, buses, grocery store lines; I overheard entire lives. There is no boring. I spent hours and days thinking about other people’s moments, turning it into something of my own.
I stared at the computer screen. Who would I be like? My eyes hurt. I tried calling a friend. They didn’t pick up. I needed something to help. Forcing myself to write was never easy. I needed something to help me. There was a bottle of Jameson in my freezer. I put some honey on the rim of my glass and poured the whiskey in, mixed with water. It tasted good, but it didn’t do anything. It didn’t help. I just fell asleep.
“Are you awake? Fredrick? Hello?”
“What?” I put the telephone up to my ear.
“Were you sleeping?” Lucy asked.
I didn’t even remember picking up the phone. It was 2AM.
“Yeah, I’m up. I’m awake. Are you okay?”
“Why wouldn’t I be? I just can’t sleep.”
“Oh. I was trying to do a story.”
“Ah, being brilliant as always. Anything good?”
“I don’t even think I wrote anything. I had a couple drinks and fell asleep."
“NyQuil and whiskey again?"
“No NyQuil. That was just when I had that cough last week. It’s better to be proactive, I think.”
“Uh huh, sure. I’ve heard that before.”
“Why can’t you sleep?”
“I’m just not tired. I’ve been playing with the cat for a while. He’s funny."
“The funniest.”
“Do you want to go? You sound tired?”
“I’m fine. Did you hear about those old engineers in Japan?”
“No, what about them?” Lucy asked.
“It’s awful, but sort of beautiful, I guess. With that nuclear reactor cleanup shit, a few engineers have gotten radiation poisoning, and they’ll probably die. At least they’ll get cancer. These are younger people, going into these reactors and trying to fix everything that fucked up with that. I forget how many of them there are, but they’re getting sick. They’re dying.
“But now there’s a group of about three hundred retired engineers, all over sixty, who are volunteering to go into these reactors. These aren’t random people, they worked in reactors or whatever. They’d know what they were doing, and they’re willing to die. They don’t want to see anyone getting poisoned when they don’t have to. It’s sort of wonderful."
“I guess I should be moved by that," Lucy said. "I don’t like thinking about that kind of stuff, though. It makes me cry."
“Yeah. It’s pretty selfless though. You wouldn’t see that in America.”
“No, probably not.”
“Fuck, those guys that helped clean up on September Eleventh can’t even get healthcare.”
“I know. On TV I just saw a dentist commercial where they were doing a promotion to have a free X-ray. They should just say ‘free radiation!’ while they’re at it.”
“Idiots…”

I talked on the phone for a while longer before saying goodnight. Then I used the bathroom, ate a slice of bread, and went back to the computer.
I started typing.

'Someone had shown me a page on the internet where writers could have their stories analyzed, seeing whose work their piece was similar to…'

When I was finished, I turned on my internet, which was still dialup, and waited about ten minutes to open the writing analysis page. I put my story into the page and hit ‘enter.’ I waited almost five more minutes. My internet was very slow. I waited. Who did I write like? Who was I, now?

YOU WRITE LIKE:
ERIC BOYD

“Who in the Hell is that?” I said out loud.
I laughed. It couldn’t say a writer I had at least heard of? I had no idea.


- - -
Eric Boyd was born on October 16th, at 3:33AM, 1988 in North Carolina. He briefly studied a the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. Eric currently lives in Homestead, Pennsylvania. His cat's name is Oscar.
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Homecoming

Contributor: Tess Pfeifle
- -

People always strive to return home, but it is harder for some. The wish to return to one's homeland is a natural and inescapable feeling. Without a home one is doomed to wander aimlessly, with no real direction, no driving force. Leaving home for a different country is more often than not a huge undertaking. The cultural confusion often drives the new comers to madness. This often leads to a harsh break with their old culture, in hopes to assimilate to the new culture. When one leaves their home,they soon come to the relization that they have to come back...eventually.

My brother, Kian left Ireland when I was very young. We lived in Sligo, a beautiful small town, near the Rosses Point beach. Our happy clan consisted of my brother, my mother, my father and I. Sadly, our family was broken up when Kian decided to become a man. Kian and I shared a special kinship that only growing up in Ireland can bestow. Despite our age difference of eight years we spent a lot of time together. He showed me the hollows where the Sidheog dwelled and told me of their king. The King of the Faeries named Finvarra, Kian always warned me that he stole pretty little girls like me, for brides. Kian pointed out the jagged rocks strewn precariously along the coast, where the Selkies sat on warm rocks and confused the captains of ships with their haunting songs. Kian always made sure I never looked to the left while travelling, for fear I might see two magpies and fall upon very bad luck.

When Kian was eighteen he left for American and we never saw his ruddy irish cheeks glow with lively color again. He lived there for many years, sent us postcards and eventually called when he could afford it. Kian sent us money and gifts on holidays but he never gave us what really wanted, to see him again. Kian married a woman named Anna that he had met in America, she was an accounant. Kian sent us glossy pictures from the wedding. His bride carried lilac and kept her bridal boquet in their house. How Kian could ever let her do this was beyond me, every good irishman worth his weight in salt knew never to bring lilac into the house. Their marriage was bad luck to begin with, not to mention, they were married in May, the worst month to get married according to irish lore. Kian and his wife eventually had two children, a girl and a boy. Our mother was devastated when she learned their names, Tyler Collin and Lily Aileen. Their Irish heritage hidden amongst their middle names. He called often, we called back to talk about our seperate lives. I heard his voice lose the irish brogue he spent eighteen years gathering with every passing year.

Kian had a sudden heart attack and died, he was too young. Kian was barely fifty and my family was completely surprised. We flew over for his funeral, met his American wife with her black pantsuit and black eyes and two children covered with a smattering of freckles and good intentions, proving they were our kin. We talked with them, Mother and Father did not cry though, and neither did I. Kian had been dead long ago to us, just a ghost that could write and talk. We watched his American friends and family bury him behind a stone church with huge green doors. At least it was Catholic, at least they did that much for him, for his long ignored heritage.

We returned home and felt a sting from the empty mailbox and the phone that sat in silence. One day, barely a month after the funeral there was a knock at my parents door. My husband Carrick and I had come for dinner as was a tradition on Sunday’s. I got up from the table, making sure my chair did not tumble over as I stood up, a tell-tale sign of bad luck. I opened the door and there stood Kian, his skin pallid, when he opened his mouth I could smell the rot. His eyes were glazed over and his hair still had dirt in it. I kissed him on the cheek, we had been expecting him, it took it him a longer than we thought to arrive I lead him upstairs to his old room, white and blue and laid him on the bed facing north. In the morning we would bury him in the grave we already had dug for him before we went to the funeral in America. People always return home, as a final resting place, even if they have been gone quite a long time.


- - -
Irish belief: The dead of Ireland won’t be settled until they are buried in Ireland.
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L’Thaaun

Contributor: E.S. Wynn
- -

You will find the box in the dust and webs at the far end of the attic– you know the one, crouching under a stained and moth-rotted rag that will disintegrate in your hands as you touch it. Eager fingers will trace the lines and sigils burnt into the lid, move along the sides, flow with the patterns of the arcane script, tracking each glyph, almost tasting them with your fingers as you absorb the antiquity of the ageless box. Lips will purse as levering thumbs are driven to find purchase, to free the secrets locked within. Your tongue will set between teeth as you work at the age-pitted and neglect-rusted hinges, the thickly swelled lid, ignoring the strange way that the entire box seems to reek of time’s own feeble attempt to keep it sealed, to rot the box into oblivion and cast into the void whatever is sealed within. Thumbs will flex and harden, work loose the cracking wax seal, forcing movement, prying and cracking. All around you, time will seem to slow, reality to tense, and then the final catch will gave way, lid coming free, hinges shattering in a flash of crimson light.

For one terrible moment, you will catch a supernatural inkling of what you have done, the brush of dread and fear that comes from some other, deeper sense still as yet undescribed by science. You will hesitate, your hands frozen, unmoving. Within the shattered box, a wad of impenetrable void will seethe and flex before your eyes, stirring and swallowing the light as it reaches out of its pitted prison in thick, ropy coils, bending and obliterating the very fabric of reality wherever it touches. Fingers will jerk involuntarily, spasm on the current of a pulse, a throbbing blast of vibration that will crack suddenly and roll through the air around you, raising the tiny hairs on the back of your neck. The call of potential and power eager to be released will thunder somewhere within your skull, move and spread steadily, sweeping through flesh like the touch of some cold, spectral hand. Electric chills will cascade across arms, charge the air with tingling bites that slice into nerves, spasm through fingers. All at once, your sight will begin to blur, to darken, to turn red at the edges and then burn to black again. You will draw one last deep, gasping breath, fighting it, fighting the darkness, the blurring, the cold spreading outward from your chest, sewing its way viciously through your arms. All at once, you will stand, try to put some distance between yourself and the box, the darkness, but even then you will not escape His grasp. Hands will raise, flex before searching, sightless eyes. Lips will part, quivering on an edge of growing fear. I cannot see, you will think, and the thought will drown as the tingling within you turns slowly to burning, a throbbing stitch of pain working its way through every limb, every vessel and vein in your body.

And then a chorus of a thousand voices will call out as one, echoing from nowhere and everywhere at once, rising on a rapturous howl that pounds inside your head like the throaty call of the hollow and formless depths of some forgotten, otherworldly hell.

Hic iacet L’Thaaun. Rex L’Thaaun! They will cry out, and the sound will freeze your skin, turn your blood to jagged ice. Forgotten instincts will awaken, the overwhelming urge to cower, to contort your body into a fetal ball and scream, to rip at skin and slash flesh, letting the blood flow, letting it run free to coat the unseen world with viscous crimson. The chorus of voices will rise in a terrifying cry, almost screaming for the spill, clamoring for the sacrifice until a single voice rises above them like the embodiment of a moldering plague, a breath that rots flesh and turns bone to ash and sand. The words will have no sound, no meaning your ears can grasp, but to some forgotten part of your mind, some fragment of instinct passed on through untold eons, the words will come as unignorable instructions, instructions whose execution only that darkened vestigial corner of a forgotten past will understand how to perform.

Mortal anchor: Receive your god.

And then. . . nothing.


- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over thirty books and chief editor of Thunderune Publishing.
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The Last Work of Pedro Torrez

Contributor: Mario Esquer
- -

“The eyes are always the hardest to capture. . .” He bent over his easel and studied his inspiration.

He had gone from the cerulean blue penthouse studio he lived in down to muted shadows of the city to rescue her.

Left the secure world of his colors and canvas then descended into the writhing darkness of a metropolis in its death throes. He fought his way through the polychromatic riot of the panicking masses. All the way, always just a scant block ahead of the crimson tide of horror and death.

He had found her then, found his lover amongst her family in the affluent neighborhood of rouged brick and gray stones. It was the place he had been told all his life he was not good enough for, that the affluent and pastel colored angels did not smile upon the lowly such as he. A bright silken angel had noticed him however. Golden haired with azure eyes, the creamy marble–like goddess had noticed his passion for creating master works, works which displayed the tragedy and futility of living in a dark world full of sorrows.

She told him his paintings rivaled the masters. Yes, she had seen his passion, promoted it tirelessly around the art circles and highborn of which she was a member, and then, when he was recognized as a success, she fell to his passion, came to him in an affair for which her own people had rejected her. She feared that they, the sullen navy blue and slate gray suits of her father and betrothed who lorded in their ivory tower of money and position would not approve. She was proved right; they did not approve and together her shadowy captors conspired to forever keep the lovers separate.

As he arrived at her brownstone flat they were greedily loading her and their other possessions into their German made car, its chrome and metallic black paint no doubt headed to a waiting pristine white private jet which would wing them away to safety beyond the horizon. They planned to escape to the emerald of the Bahamas, perhaps, or the sage of the Azores. They tried to push him away as he approached, but he had risked his hands, lithe and delicate, stark in their dark completion-- the tools of his trade, to strike her captors and lift her willingly out of their coach. Together they escaped her world, down the charcoal colored side streets littered with discarded lives and livelihoods. The rainbows cast by the trinkets of the world being swallowed by the dead. The dead that walk, casting darkness before them.

The mauve and indigo faced monsters set upon them a few scant blocks after, and though they escaped with their lives, one had tasted the flesh of a fallen angel. The two lovers made it back to his towering, glittering high-rise, and now finally, with the moans of their demon subjects below them, they lorded over all alone.

“The eyes, the eyes…” he whispers to himself. "I must get the eyes right."

After a lifetime of capturing the crimson emotions and blues of the human soul on canvas; why was it was so damn hard to express the creature’s lack of any resemblance to the strikingly beautiful woman his lover had been. The opaque void which filled her dead gaze and violet traced rotting face had captured his artist's interest. Her lifelessly writhing frame was tied to the trellis railing. It presented him the greatest challenge of his life. Pedro mixed a little more acrylic white into the mottle of colors on his palate.

She, his lost seraph, his love Sarah, would be his alone, always, and his final, greatest, unpresented masterpiece. . .

- - -
A Teacher, student, who lives with his family in the 'burbs. Mario Esquer has an appreciation for most fictional genres which speak to mankind's desire for more than what is. Occasionally, he even creates a work himself. (Generally speaking he also does not tend to speak of himself in the third person.)
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Food For Lobo

Contributor: Gil C. Schmidt
- -

    I didn't catch Booger teasing Lobo, tied across the street, until the night the power went out because of the wind storm and the heat made it difficult for me to sleep, even when I took another two of my red pills. Booger came up to where Lobo, a pit bull/mastiff mutt, was chained. Booger was dangling a long piece of rope in his hand and started whipping the dog with it. Lobo went crazy, snarling and foaming at the mouth, yanking at his chain so hard that he sometimes flipped over backward with a thud. Booger laughed like a maniac, like he did when he was 6 and started becoming the bully he was, a laugh that sounded crazy and silly and at the same time. He beat that dog for a good 15 minutes and when he left, Lobo was left spent, his neck and mouth bleeding. Lobo couldn't bark, but his wounds spoke volumes about what he felt.
    Booger came up almost every night. Lobo would get wild when he sensed Booger was near, pulling hard against the chain. Some nights, Booger would just stand there, a few feet out of Lobo's snarling reach, the long piece of rope dangling, unused. On other nights, Booger would beat the dog horribly, snapping the rope with his lanky arm's strength. A few times he tied a big knot at the end of the rope. On those nights, Lobo bled a lot. His drunken owner never saw anything, just slopping the food and water in the dog's bowls and staggered away to get drunk again or sleep.
    I'm 94. I live alone, have no car, no phone, no kin, no visitors except for the Meals on Wheels woman who acts like delivering food once a week is penance for wearing too much make-up. I couldn't call the police, nor ask anyone to do it for me. The people near me were afraid of Booger, many of them old and frail as me. To rat out Booger was to ask to be hurt. Or killed.
    Once a month, I'd dress up warm and take a very slow walk to Findlay's Groceries, four blocks and two hours away. I did it to buy my own food with a budget that could barely keep a body and soul together, even one as thin as mine. A stock boy once asked me if I had a lot of cats. I lied. That's why I bought my own food: fewer questions that way.
    My long walk was nearing an end, the light bags now heavy in my rolling walker's basket. I could see the door to my house and Lobo, across the street, lying in the shade. Suddenly, water drenched me head to toe. A big black car, music thundering from it fit to wake the dead, drove away, Booger at the wheel, his arm thrust out the window and the middle finger rising above it.
    I took a chill that lasted almost a week. I thought I'd die, what with no one to care and the Meals on Wheels woman knocking once and leaving the food on the doorstep, where I found it four days later. That same day, before the chill could stop me, I walked again to Findlay's. Bless his heart, Greg Findlay actually came out to see if I was okay, senile maybe, for making a trip back so soon. No, I said, I want ground beef. Two pounds.
    He actually looked very sad. Rather than waste a word, I opened my purse and showed him the crisp tenner I had saved for a rainy day long ago. He pursed his lips, got the ground beef himself and even got his manager to give me a ride back. I didn't say no, because my legs were aching something fierce and my head was fit to burst.
    It took me an hour to thaw the beef well and roll chunks of it into meatballs. My hands weren't as good as they used to be, but a ball is a ball. With the sun going down and my heart hammering to break a rib, I walked across the street. Towards Lobo.
    I tossed him a couple of meatballs and went away. I did that every day, getting closer to Lobo until I gave him the last two standing right next to him. Then he waited patiently as my feeble hands sawed at the thick leather collar he wore, tears of rage at my weakness splashing his matted fur and the fear that I'd faint and be found out. I lost what little strength I had left and had to leave. I had to take four of my red pills because the pain was awful. I was sobbing from the effort. But I was awake and smiling when Booger got the smile ripped off his face by Lobo. I swear I heard that mutt howl with glee.


- - -
Gil C. Schmidt has been a regular submitter to Yesteryear Fiction since the early days when it was a daily magazine. His story "Initial Quantum State" is also featured in his book "Thirty More Stories.
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Twitchy Eyes

Contributor: Gil C. Schmidt
- -


The words painted on the office door read "Twitchy Dick, Private Eye."
Yeah, I know. But that's my moniker and that's my gig. Snort what you want, but they pay my room and board and the occasional--okay, regular--bottle of milk of magnesia.
Broad walks in, you know the type. Mid-thirties, rounding out after a decade of underfeeding, designer duds in muted grays and tans, real jewels and a walk that says she's off limits to you and you know it. Walks right in since my secretary never got hired, looks around the office like it broke wind not long ago and saunters into the visitors chair like it was going to hug her without a proper invite. I sat forward and waited. I always let the client speak first.
"I believe my husband is cheating on me."
"That makes him a fool."
She smiled, almost warmly. "Nevertheless, he may be and I want to make sure. You did some work for a friend of mine and she recommended you highly."
I chuckled. "You don't have a friend. At least, not a 'she' friend." I leaned back.
She started, then glared for a second. She cooled down quickly. "I don't know why you'd say that, but it happens to be true. But I do have friends...Men friends."
These are the times I wished I smoked. Helps avoid the awkwardness of long pauses. Finally, I stood up and extended my hand. "'I'll take your case, for the usual rate."
She smiled, stood up and shook my hand. Good grip. "May I write a check?" I nodded and watched her use a fountain pen worth more than my car to swirl light blue ink on parchment. She handed me the check and I glanced at it. Lorelei Higgins-Bosch. Address in the primest real estate in the whole state. A check with a 5-digit number, so I tossed out a guess. "Sixteen years?"
Her jaw dropped, then closed as she pressed her lips in self-anger. "You can be quite annoying. How did you guess?" I shrugged. She held my eyes for a long second. "May I expect a report by the weekend?"
"Depends on your husband and how big a fool he might be."
Lorelei twitched her lips. "You made your point. I'll call you no later than Monday." She walked out, her bearing straight and soft. I sighed and grabbed my coat to go deposit the check.
Took me three nights to make sure Madison Bosch IV was a massive fool, cheating on Lorelei with two other women, one of them a chippy waitress with golddigger written all over her who was never more than ten minutes from Madison. Seventeen pictures, three videos and eleven fast-food meals later, Lorelei walked into my office, her manner quick and sharper than before.
She glanced at the pictures casually and saw only part of the first video, the one where the chip was leading the fool into a ritzy hotel room four blocks from Madison's 33rd floor corner office. Her smile was bitter shorthand. "I guess my husband is a fool after all." She sniffed dryly. "How much do I owe you, uh..."
Happens all the time, this name pause. "Seventeen hundred," I said. The fountain pen swirled again and the check came to me with a larger number than I requested. I watched the ink dry as she remarked "A bonus for a job well done."
"How much does the chippy waitress get?"
She froze. "What--do you mean?"
I shook my head. "That girl is never far from Madison, is she? Always ready, the little strumpet. How does she manage that, what with being a working girl and all?" I paused: "It's a set-up." The silence hit thirty seconds. "Why have half when you can have it all?"
Lorelei stood up, her face and body aged and slow. She took one, then two deep breaths. "I shouldn't have given you a bonus...or even hired you." She walked out, very slowly.
I shrugged. Sticks and stones. I opened the drawer for a long swig of milk of magnesia.


- - -
Gil C. Schmidt has been a regular submitter to Yesteryear Fiction since the early days when it was a daily magazine. His story "Twitchy Eyes" is also featured in his book "Thirty More Stories.
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The Bubblemage

Contributor: Amanda Firefox
- -

She was unique among wizards. Merlin wouldn’t take her, couldn’t take the art that she wove into iridescent air seriously. The great, eastern wizard Fareed observed her over a period of days, only to finally turn her out into the sands with a modest sack of supplies, shaking his head at his own inability to instruct her in the ways of harsher elements like fire and ice. The massive dragon of air and film that she wove to life, sparking on the long, flat fields of the northern isles impressed the grand wizard of Rhondubouis, but even he only regarded her art as a curiosity, something from beyond the vale of dreams which no man or woman had ever brought back to the world of mortals before. She stayed on in his tower for several weeks, poring over his tomes, lighting up his long disused library as he gently slipped into silent madness on the magically manicured lawns of his estate, but eventually bid the old wizard goodbye before striking off for other wizards, other lands.

Further south, she found her way into the home of the wizard who lorded over the dark and musky lands of Akadae, but he was no more able to train her or help her polish her art than any of the other men of magic had been. Only his daughter, an apprentice thought incapable of magic and left to clean up after her father as a servant instead, showed any interest in the bubble creations, but it was passing, childlike.

In the end, after time and the journey, the search for a teacher and a place to fit into society had weathered the girlish mage who worked in bubbles into that of a strong and hardened woman, she struck out again, but this time not in search of a person, a people. Instead, she sought a place, a cove where the sea foam was rich with potential, ready to be worked, to be given life. There, she would build her own city, her own people, and lord over it all as her new nation’s grand wizard, the mage whose magic lay in bubbles.


- - -
Amanda Firefox is a fiery little blue-eyed brunette who spends as much time at the beach as she can manage. She doesn't write much, but when she writes, it's almost always about her favorite subject: boys.
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Wings

Contributor: Rodney Horne 
- -


There are times when I look at my life and I forget who I am.

I put my head down beneath the waves. I get lost. Currents of hate and confusion smash against my nose, my face, blind me. Anxieties rise up to cling at shoulders, bite and hook into muscles, dragging, always dragging. Long cords of responsibility and tradition wrap themselves around my ankles, pull me deeper, deeper, until all I can see is the darkness, the murky nothing and the pains of the present.

And then I remember my wings. I stretch them, feel them catch air. In an instant, I turn to light, slip graceful through the chains, the hooks, the cords. Anxieties fall away, my eyes clear, and then I am flying, flying. In a single realization, a single smile, I rise above the waves, remember who I am, remember. . .

And take flight again.


- - -
Dr. Rodney Horne lives on a hillside with his wife and his two cats. Having retired from technical writing, he has been published in Neometropolis Magazine, The Opinion Magazine, and Armitage Hand (AHNR).
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The Winds Whisper

Contributor: Shawn Wunjo
- -

As the sun dips to the horizon, she hears his call on the wind, the breath of love tickling her ear, the memory of his arms warm about her shoulders. She closes her eyes, lingers in the memory of that moment, then decides, knows that there is only one decision.

Come to me. The winds whisper.

And she comes.

Like a specter caught with the edge of silver moonlight, she makes her way through the darkness to his house, the starlit field where he stands silent, the air cool, tense with the electricity of their contact. She seems him in the darkness, and then she is in his arms, memory blending into reality. With a kiss, he carries her inside, sets her gently on the bed, moves up beside her, kisses her ear.

Like water, she falls into the kiss, and then they are one.

Then, they are one.


- - -
Shawn Wunjo is the author of a number of banned and highly offensive social commentaries.
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Blah Blah

Contributor: O. Leary
- -

This is another love story.

You know the type. You know the tired rhythms like yesterday’s overplayed music. You know all the patterns, you know where it all comes from and where it goes. You’ve seen it all before, the falling in love, the poems of loss, denied love, crushes crashed and dashed and gone stale after marriages stopped (or unstopped) by desperate admirers. It’s all the same isn’t it? All the same story? Just love in all its forms expressed through repetition, experiences ground through the massive factory of literary humanity. Some say love is dead. I say love is pastiche’, passe’, cliche’. Love stories are the stories we all can tell. They’re the stories we all have read, and there isn’t a shred of uniqueness in them anymore.

Or. . .

Is there?


- - -
If you know anything about me, it is that you know nothing about me.
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Pit of Victory

Contributor: E.S. Wynn
- -

Already, you know that you are destined to win.

It’s real. You smile as the thought trickles through the meaty elements of your heavily augmented mind, carries you like light to the edge of the pit. Your victory has already been decreed by the seraphim of Solomon’s high holy financial cabinet. Ten corporations are backing you in this fight. The networks have all laid bets on you. 97% of remote-wielding couch-jockeys with subscriptions to the VR feed of the upcoming fight have cast the votes that prove even the mass of the public has laid odds in your favor.

Already, millions of jobs have been staked on your fate. Already, the nanoprinter factories in the industrial districts of China, Nigeria and India are stenciling your name into the overpriced athletic shoes that will flood the reactive social ad-feeds of every high school student in the world the instant you land the first punch, swell in budget bid and keyword spread as you bathe yourself in your opponent's blood. You are the name on every social comment feed, every pair of recorded Vidvoice lips. You are the one who will bring the next splash of hollow gratification to the masses, herald the next tide of cheap, glossy merchandise to wash through the marketplace. You are the messiah who holds the teat of an economy fed by your violence, your hollow successes.

It comes as a surprise to everyone when your opponent lands the first punch, dislocates your jaw with a single crack from his steel-plated knuckles. Three factories file bankruptcy, retool and suck up acres of social ad-space in the same instant that teeth splinter and break. Money flies from betting rings as the blood flies from your mouth, and then he is on you, hurling hydraulic fists at you, cracking open bone and steel with effortless aggression. Conglomerates collapse and are gutted with the same speed and efficacy that your opponent drops you, rips into the meaty elements of your mind and tears them free. In the space of a breath, it is over. Hundreds of accounts sputter brokenly, as hopelessly ruined as your flesh, your armored body. The crowd of subscribers roar with the fury of the fresh kill, the unexpected turn of events. The corporations backing you scatter before bill collectors like roaches, fleas, gather themselves and hide behind the walls of bankruptcy before they are swallowed utterly.

Like a monolithic icon of commerce, your opponent stands above you, victorious, and as the moment of interest passes, he finds himself alone again, no longer the star in the center of the world’s eye. Like a child with a broken doll, he drops you, lets you fall to the floor like refuse, and as the bots patrolling the pit gather your fragments and push you into the nano-recycler for reconstitution into something useful, the world moves on, finds a new messiah to hold the teat of a new economy, one as violent and momentary as you were, as your opponent now is.

As the countless others that have come before you were.

As the countless others that will come after will be.


- - -
E.S. Wynn swims in the mind of the machine
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