Friday, May 18, 2012

When I Died by Jeffrey Park

when I died
there was a great wind
blowing ashes
high into
the air
and the clang of dark
bells and any
of gnashing of teeth
shredding of garments
a veritable sea
of mourners
lining the avenue
until the breathless man
on TV
told the world
about this brave and
noble fighter
in the end
lost his long battle
with life.

Traps by Jeffrey Park

Like a fox caught in
a trap
we sometimes
have to chew off
the best parts of ourselves
leaving a trail
of roughly
severed bits

See there
that’s my left forelimb
sacrificed back
in ’94, left it twitching
in the jaws
of something
or other
couldn’t let it slow
me down.

Sly like the old
fox we keep
on moving forward,
no pointless
might-have-beens, no
sentiment spared
for the parts
that are
no longer there.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Just Toying by Harry F. Kane

“I am evil, I am the devil, I am the ultimate darkness,” Hugh chanted to himself inaudibly as he walked the city streets. No one noticed his moving lips.
No one noticed him at all.
He was of unimposing build. Eyes behind ‘spaceman’ shades; face below the shadow of his ‘love terrorist’ baseball cap; the plumpness of his gut disguised by the folds of his jacket… He was slouching his shoulders, and rarely did his eyes meet the gaze of another passerby; even with the defense offered by the shades, still he would only dart quick scanning glances left and right, left and right, as he walked.
Although just thirty four, he didn’t feel as a competing male at his prime, looking at the world as his oyster to be forced open, as his ripe fruit to be plucked. To the contrary - Hugh knew himself to be an outsider, an onlooker - completely divorced from the complicated webs of relations, obligations, and the various common bonds that held the other atoms inhabiting this city in one big molecule. Hugh was not part of this molecule, no sir. Hugh was a single atom.
An evil single atom.
Look at their complacency, he thought, as he watched the girls and their boys, the middle aged and their spouses, the young couples with their babies in their prams.
They imagine that their world is all there is to it. Puny humans. You are nothing for me, nothing...
Hugh passed a group of dangerous looking youths and sucked in his neck even further, keeping his gaze fixed straight ahead. He couldn’t afford to get involved in some messy situation with young morons who just want to prove to themselves how important and tough they are. He had other things to do. Things of the highest importance.   
Inside the pocket of the jacket his sweaty hand clutched the handle of an illegal knife, which he always had with him. I can kill you all if I want to, he thought, as he passed the youths, I could cut open your throats and your blood would flow on the pavement for the glory of your master. The master, of course, was Hugh.
A bunch of kids on ‘4-whizzers’ whizzed past him and other bemused pedestrians. What used to be a simple skateboard (or perhaps the ole roller-skate was the ancestor) just decades ago, had mutated year by year into a number of alien contraptions, each generation using a modification virtually unrecognizable in comparison to the previous one.
Today ‘4-whizzing’ meant kids using one wheel per foot and three small wheels per knee, which afforded a variety of fantastic positions in which to swish through the pavements and park alleys. Most of the ‘4-whizzers’ also wore latex tuxedos and nylon carnations above the left ear.
Above the right ear if they were gay.
Hugh watched the children, who crouched, kneeled, and swayed at incredible angles, speeding by and away, annoying and scaring the slow moving grownups.
He smiled.
Watch it, kids, you could get in trouble like that, you could get in trouble…
He passed by a brown skinned fella, who was selling good energy Martian stones: ordinary looking pebbles laid out on a piece of cloth with Indian designs. Even in this day and age there were enough fools who not only believed that Martian stones held a special power, but also that so many of the stones really found their way to the street dealers.
Of course Hugh himself never stooped to such lows of superstition, indeed, the only time he felt like believing in the supernatural was in connection with a salvation cult, during the asteroid scare eight years ago. But when the space platform defense really had worked and blasted the asteroid out of existence, his faith in science had been reinstated with a vengeance.
The sight of the asteroid exploding in the sky was something his generation would never forget.
Funny how selling asteroid stones never caught on.


When Hugh entered his home, he checked his e-mails, updates and newsletters, read some gossip about the genetic changes a pop-star devised for the embryo she was carrying, read the statements from both sides denying that there is any cause for conflict after the small misunderstanding on the North Pole between the American Alliance and the Union of Sovereign Nations.
And then he undressed.
He studied his face in the mirror. His mustache was rather mousy, but his cheekbones were those of an aristocrat. A dark aristocrat! These cruel lips… He made a cruel face. These piercing eyes… He squinted. But who deserves to see these cheekbones? No one.
Hugh put on his mask.
He looked at himself in the mirror, completely naked, with a ski mask on his head. “Evil, the evil incarnate”, he muttered to himself, but didn’t yet feel quite the way he wanted to. He flexed his muscles, sucked in his stomach, tucked in his chin, and bent and twisted his body, until he got the best reflection possible.
Now that’s one mighty evil fella… Nope, nope, not mighty enough.
Something was missing.
He opened the cupboard and put on his special shiny red boots. The smell of rubber and plastic combined perfectly with the glitter lining the soles. His heart started thundering out of sync and he had to put the boots down and take a breather on the floor for a minute. Then picked himself up, in control again, and pulled on the magic boots.
He posed in front of the mirror again. The devil, the red devil, the black devil, the slow death, the master of masters, he thought as he pranced in front of the mirror and felt his desire stirring.
The bulge. The bulge!!!
He strode over to his desk, the drawer rattled unhappily as he yanked it open firmly, mercilessly, like a master. Then he took from inside the tiny packet with greenish powder and snorted up a few grains from the moist tip of his forefinger.
“Ahhhhhh... oooooh”, these were the sounds escaping Hugh’s lips as the effects of the ‘Green Monster’ kicked in almost instantaneously. He felt his chest expand like a barrel; his body grow until it was eight feet tall; his muscles fill up with sizzling, crackling superhuman energy. I can now bend steel with my bare hands, he thought and licked his upper incisors. I am the ultimate master!
With an elegantly coordinated movement of both manly arms, he pulled his purple cape from the back of the swivel chair, posed again for a second with his shoulder squared, and took out the key from his desk’s drawer, that was still gaping open, defenseless.
There was no sound from the room as the key entered the keyhole, and as the tiny mechanisms inside the lock clicked and snapped. Hugh opened slowly the door to the unlit room; a beam of light fell upon the dark bed and the girl opened her eyes.
“Get up, little girl, the big bad wolf is here again!” Hugh’s voice boomed, overpowering the whimpers of the girl. He grabbed her shoulders and lifted her into the air. “You will obey me and call me master you understand that?!”
The girl cried and did not reply.
“Master! I am your Master, say it!” shouted Hugh, trembling, wrinkling his nose and biting his upper lip without realizing it. He slapped the girl’s face correctly and that did the trick.
“You are my Master, my Master” cried the girl, and Hugh lovingly bit her chin.
“Hit me again, Master, again...” after these words were uttered, the usual dark cloud descended, dimming Hugh’s consciousness and with an animal growl he threw the girl face down on the bed and climbed on top of her.
As she writhed and struggled beneath him, he felt the rush of total power. In moments like this, his awareness of his special destiny, of his special status, of his unique role in this world, was completely validated. He had plucked this child from a forest... she was walking there with her backpack...
No, what would she be doing in a forest alone?
He had met her in a park, she had been walking her pooch, and he’d hypnotized her with his animal magnetism...
Yes much better...
…His animal magnetism had made her follow him to his lair, to obey his every command, to put her life entirely in his hands... And she liked it...
“Do you like it?” he shouted hoarsely and grabbed the girl by her hair, “say you like it!” he repeated and touched her right nipple.
“I like it, Master,” cried the girl on cue, “I never want to stop being your slave!”
As Hugh neared his climax, the fantasy narrative inside his head splintered into spinning fragments: he had met her in a park - he had abducted her from her school yard - he had broken into her home and stolen her - he had become an overseeing in a Nazi camp and she was a filthy little Jew who wanted to be used by a superior man...
And suddenly a convulsion went through the little body, a strange sound like the screech of a guitar feedback swept aside Hugh’s fantasies, the girl’s limbs began flailing left and right.
Hugh jumped back, away from the little body, sweating, breathing erratically.
Acrid smoke was exiting the open mouth of the little figure.
No, no, what happened? he thought, unable to make up his mind what to do next. I shouldn’t have hit her head so hard, I shouldn’t have, now I’ve broken something. Maybe her processor is busted. What now? What now?
Again, Hugh stepped closer to the smoking, convulsing body. The sight was very disquieting, and the strange thin whirring made things even worse.
He clenched his teeth and lunged forward, grappling with the toy. Finally he found the button beneath her left ear, and the top of her head opened up, bringing her Saint Vitus dance to an immediate halt. 
He unhooked the main battery from its nesting place within her skull, and the body went limp. The battery was hot; he put it on the bed cloth, counted to twenty, returned it back into the girl’s head, and pressed the scalp shut with a click.
Nothing happened! It wasn’t working! He shook the limp body, but it refused to become animated again.
Damn, damn, double damn. Hugh bit his fist. Now what?
He left the inanimate body and retreated to the living room. As he paced back and forth he even stubbed a toe on a chair, which made him grab it with a howl of rage and hurl it at a wall.
It didn’t even break, it just bounced off and fell on the floor, toppling a pile of comic books.
Why was life so unfair?


After he calmed down and collected his thoughts, Hugh sat down in front of the computer and went to the ‘Safe Sanity Program’ website. He punched in his ID number, and was redirected to the ‘latent sex crime behavioral sublimation’ section. He chose the ‘replacement of sublimation toy’ option.
There was a window for additional comments, and after a few false starts, he finally started writing: “Dear sir/madam. I realize that the time for replacement of products is up to two weeks, but allow me to remind you, that your program is the only thing, which... which...”
Hugh thought for a moment, and started again from 'your program', “your program is all that stands between social order and utter chaos. I trust I will receive my replacement as soon as possible. Thank you in advance, Hubert B.” 
He pressed the ‘send’ button.
The ‘Green Monster’ was letting him down hard, he lurched over to the kitchen nook, made himself an instant coffee, gulped down half of it immediately, and pressed the lever that transformed his chair into a couch.
He popped two ‘White Silk’ pills and immediately became pale and weak, but utterly calm. He sprawled powerlessly on the couch, and lazily accessed a few gossip newssheet.
A Nevada senator has been found out to have a black underage girl imitation sex doll in his office. He was currently not returning any calls, while his wife has taken the children to their provincial home in Northern California.
Hugh wrote a comment beneath the article, “Stop picking on d guy his life just a toy anyway for H’s sake, libtards!”
No, that sounded wrong. It was not just a toy. It was a way of life, a locus of existence. It was the one thing which kept alive the magic, the defensive magic, which protected good folks like him from the bad, strange world.    
Hugh deleted his comment, exited all news and gossip sites, and decided to download the newest zombie slasher film instead. As he pressed the download link, he looked with scorn at a banner on which a pale youth was kissing the neck of a mousy schoolgirl.
Hugh grinned and snapped his fingers at the thought of the losers who would watch such crud. But not him, no. Not for him the lame laze-haze romantic vamp comedies, only hacked off zombie limbs would satisfy his esthetic desires! He knew quality from second-best films.
He was, after all, the master!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Vladimir Hustlings' Day Off by Anneka Shannon

Vladimir Hustlings hasn’t seen a woman without her shirt on in 8 years. He’s forgotten what it feels like to stare at someone so honestly. He is forty-six, he is balding, and there is a very large, potbelly sticking out of his middle. It peeks from under his small, red polo in an egg-like manner, with the same roundness as that baldhead of his. His mother enjoys blaming it on too many muffins.
He isn’t sure if the breasts look more like soft roses to him, blooming and reaching outward in the warmest of ways, or like eyes that won’t stop watching him in a manner that makes him feel rather awkward, rather uncomfortable.
Vladimir Hustlings once had a friend that told him that women’s breasts were what inspired Pierre-Auguste Renoir to be a painter. That friend said that if those round bulbs had never existed, that the French-y, impressionistic, prostitute-lover wouldn’t have made it into the museums. Vladimir thinks that this seems strange to him, that he might like her shoulders better right now, that they are round too, and that, why did Renoir not see those gadgets as a thing to fixate on, rather than these ones, with the two little pink targets in the middle of their pale-skinned, globular shape, which seem to follow him around the room in such a manner that makes him so sweaty and uncomfortable?
But it doesn’t matter, he decides. They aren’t really watching him and his friend said that while they were at a bar, drinking and young. The bar has probably been shut down by now and the friend is probably dead by this time.
He should stop thinking about these things and remember to better enjoy his freedom and the woman’s breasts, as he once used to enjoy them. He reminds himself that he will see a lot of things today that will seem strange to him, but that that’s okay. Facing the outside world is all right; it’s possible.
Deep breathing. He didn’t used to have to remind himself to do deep breathing. He used to be restless. That’s okay, he tells himself again, because things change. And he breathes deeply.
Vladimir Hustlings works at a plant. He shuffles papers all day after he wakes up at 8 o’ clock, sharp. He likes to think that he wakes up sharp. That by saying he wakes up sharp, he is also waking up to a day in which he will spend his time sharply, even if not necessarily more smartly. So, he sharply makes it to work after eating breakfast, than he sharply signs in and takes his pills and begins to shuffle those papers until lunch break, sharply.
Lunch break is nice. He tries to sit with Lenny whenever he can, because Lenny is his favorite human. He likes the sharp things Lenny says about him, and even though these are often sharp insults that draw sharp laughter out of the mouths of others, he thinks Lenny is special. Lenny is good at really seeing people, even if it’s in a bad way, and saying things about them that are actually true even if they’re mean things. He thinks this sort of thing takes some kind of bravery.
Vladimir knows they watch Lenny extra carefully, even more carefully than they watch him. The correction officers, that is.
After lunch break (which includes a green apple, a stick of cheese, two slices of wheat bread and a slice of cake, always), Vladimir goes to the Albert Hurthington Health room and registers with the blood nurses. They take all those measurements and then he can go back to sorting and shuffling papers. He really doesn’t know what the measurements are for, or the pills, or the papers, but he thinks they might have something to do with something he said to someone, long ago, when he was young.
            Vladimir continues to stare at the woman. Now he sighs: he must decide what to do next. He has sat for long enough. That’s the problem with freedom. One must decide how to bid ones time.
Should he touch the woman’s breasts? Perhaps he should. They are probably squishy and it would be interesting to find out if they are indeed as he imagines them, because they look a little like they might be soft like water balloons, fun to play with. Then again, he’s not sure if he really wants to make the effort. If he touches them, then he will make a ruckus. He looks at the art students around him. They are all very concentrated, sitting up straight and tall like soldiers, their backs made to posts of absorption, and many of them even bite their bottom lips. They are trying very hard to get her curves just right with their little black, smudgy chunks of charcoal. Vladimir thinks they look kind of like him and the rest of the workers at the plant, when they are shuffling their papers and trying to look important.
He remembers when he was an art student. That was a while ago, when he was sixteen, and he thought a lot differently. That was before the trouble.
So if he wants to touch those breasts, then he will have to make a dash for them. That means scrambling his large, pot-belly through their easels, probably knocking things over in the process, and then dashing out of the studio after maybe getting in one good nipple-pinch.
He sighs again. Should he create some chaos? Or should he just go on observing, waiting for someone else to make something interesting happen… He certainly doesn’t feel as strongly about those soft globes as Renoir did. His sixteen-year-old-self would have said, “Fucking do it.” He doesn’t think he will. Chaos is a hard thing to live with. Creating it is okay, but living with it sort of sucks sometimes.
When he was young, he used to create chaos, and he used to think a lot more about things. He used to apply metaphysical terms to his relationship with ideas and he sounded a lot more intelligent back then. But that got him into trouble. All that thinking: that’s why they called him crazy, and prescribed him a cure for his craziness. And that’s why he got assigned to work at the plant, and that’s why he isn’t allowed to do art anymore, or say bad words, and that’s why he has to check in at the Health room everyday now, instead of just once a week, and that’s why he must take an extra strong dose of the yellow pills.
Saying too much after thinking too much gets you in trouble. It makes you end up at a plant, he is thinking now. He can feel it. The thoughts are coming back. Yes, now he remembers why he wanted to spend the day free, without pills. Not as much for the woman’s breasts (though they’re looking less and less like something watching him and more like hooters he’d very much like to touch) or even the art studio. Most of all, he wants his thoughts back.
Though the pills’ chemicals are still in his system, working from the day before, he can feel the effects wearing off, slowly. He has little time. He must touch the tits, then he must hurry and leave, quickly.

When he calms down again, when his pulse lowers and he isn’t shaking as much, Vladimir notices that the dulling effect those pills have on his brain are diminishing again, significantly. He checks the time and quickly calculates how much longer he has. It’s three o’ clock in the afternoon and it’s raining. They’ll be looking for him by now. He usually signs in with the Health room at around one. That means another five hours, probably. He’s feeling better now, more energetic, more alive, kind of scared, but very excited. He looks at his hand.
He looks at its veins and the thick brown hairs across his lower arms. He looks at the purple, the scrapes that turned to scares, all as if he’s never seen any of it before. He flexes. God, you’ve gotten fat, he thinks to himself. But then again, of course he’s not the same. Sixteen was a bright time. Now is a duller time, not so sharp, even though he wakes up at eight o’ clock, sharp.
It took him an hour to get home. He hasn’t gone to the inner city since he was a teen so finding his way back from the old art school to his little cell-like, government-given (or maybe he should just face up and say assigned since he’s not taking the pills right now anyway) apartment on the East-side took a while. But that whole thing—the long walk, the adrenaline, the embarrassment—it was all worth it. Wonderful female breasts! They’d jolted him awake, as they had when he’d been a boy. He joyously notices the tingling between his legs as he thinks of it. He hasn’t felt that feeling in years, since the last time he managed to skip his pills. God, he thinks, it’s sure good not be jacked up on a pacifying prescription, to be living again, really living. Though he’s not completely sure if this counts as really living either. After all, he still hasn’t decided on what he wants to do next.
Going for the nipple pinch certainly did cause a ruckus in the classroom though. He’d felt bad at first, knocking over some of the art students’ easels like that, but not too bad. Besides, they just weren’t as good as he’d been. His talent had always made the teacher uncomfortable enough to send his name into the office every day, which is a real compliment when you think about it. If your teacher thinks you’re good enough to be jotted down, that means you stand out because you might have a bit of a brain, a little too much of a brain, and that brain has a talent that could say something. You know, like spread a message or something. Recalling some of the paintings he did when he was young… Well, damn. No wonder he ended up at the plant. He’d had balls back then.
Vladimir relaxes into the side of his couch and crosses his arms, smiling. So he has a few hours before they come to get him. What does he want to do? Make use of his sex drive, slowly making its way back to his groin? Or maybe get out the old pads of paper and pens he’s hidden under one of the floorboards?
Sadly, none of this sounds exactly right to Vladimir. He can still recognize the drowsy drugs in his system and he wants them to completely wear off. But at the same time, the more they wear off, the more he feels the come down. That’s the comfort that comes with pills. There’s never anything bad that happens. Those tablets turn you into a fucking passive-as-Hell lamb, he thinks sadly: a happy fucking idiot.
Vladimir slams his fist into the side of his couch. He stands up and sighs, and makes note of the fact that he really is fat now, and bald too, and he recalls his slender, muscular build from before with sadness. Tomorrow, he’ll be prescribed more pills and a less populated paper-shuffling room to work in. He’ll get fatter. He knows that when they find him, they’ll take him directly to the Health room where the blood nurses will take his blood proteins and send it to the government to try to find out what the hell went wrong with mother nature, what part of him is what those government officials love to call, “an anti-social insurrectionist.”
Yep, he knows that two more yellow pills will be added to his dose in the morning. Two more yellow pills. He’ll be made into even more of a smiling, ignorant, child-like and peace-absorbed do-nothing-er, even more of what he thought his name had always sounded like: imbecile.
He still likes his last name though. As a boy, he’d dreamed of it fitting a rebel-fighter, hero-type archetype. His last name… No, Hustlings is not the last name of a balding man with an egg-pot-belly, drowned into the submission of color-tab drugs. No, he tells himself, putting his arms behind his head and leaning back again. Hustlings doesn’t fit, but that’s all right, because the pills are artificial too. He’s not sure what part of him exists anymore. Is he all chemicals now? Where did Hustlings go?
His head is throbbing. Withdrawal. That’s what he is right now, he decides. Sometimes thinking hurts, he decides.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Cure by David Frazier

On top of this building
Thinking of things I've done
Spinning thoughts
Mind distraught

Approach the edge
Of the ledge
Looking down
At all the clowns

Who put me here
On the precipice
Of life
Lit a cigarette

Took a puff
Flicked it away
Just a thought before I go
This is one way to quit