I waited for the fancy hotel restaurant to open their breakfast buffet. A dispute with the wait-staff became a tired old George Costanza routine, a scene of pedantic self-interest. Madcap Seinfeldian logic prevailed at first. This seemed appropriate since Seinfeld was so frequently referenced at the time. It must have been 1998. I had been given free tickets to a Bob Dylan concert in a small New York City club. It was a grand opportunity because I’d have never bought Bob Dylan tickets otherwise; I didn’t want to spoil my memories of 1960s Bob Dylan.But the buffet is all very hazy now, much like that awful decade.

I remember the people in the mall the best. Who could better symbolize the 1990s than mall patrons lining up at a Taco Bell? A thin wreck of a young guy was asking people in line for quarters so he could get a Chalupa. This was somewhat galling as the Chalupa was one of the more expensive menu items.

Later I saw him waiting to get into the concert. He was telling anyone who’d listen, “I lost my job. This is all I’ve got going for me now. Bob has always meant so much to me.” But when the doors opened they wouldn’t let him in because he had three huge plastic bags filled with his ratty belongings.

I don’t remember the setlist either, but I’ve since listened to enough bootlegs from the period to know that all those shows were fantastic, and that Larry Campbell was maybe the best sideman Dylan ever had. I sat beside my girlfriend and at times it felt more like a movie than a stage-show. At one point images from the D.W. Griffith film Intolerance were being projected onto Bob and his players.

At the end, for some reason, they let in a bunch of rowdy teens who were talking and shouting over the encore. It was Royal Albert Hall all over again, except that these people didn’t believe in anything. They were the Judases, all texting like fiends.

I spoke to the character I’d been playing. His film that I’d been watching had been his last chance at success, and the rowdy youth had ruined it, he said, just as they’d ruined the actual concert he’d gotten the tickets for back in 1998.

There was a lot of confusion about Bob Dylan really being the WWE wrestler Triple H. I tried telling my girlfriend about this but she could only point out the obvious physical differences. A long WWE storyline rife with troubling implications unfolded—President Jindal played a part as a faction of superstars demanded $2 billion dollars against the threat of detonating a nuclear bomb. This was before small-scale nuclear attacks became so commonplace.

But I was teeing up drives on the first hole by then. When I was young I’d worked at this country club, and after I was fired I would often sneak on and play for free. I never got caught but the tension was always building and building.

Some long-forgotten friends text me to come over and watch sports. One of them confides with his father on the telephone: “There’s this girl I like...I might even be in a hotel room with her right now,” I couldn’t figure why anyone would talk to their father like that, since I’ve never felt my own had much to offer in the way of advice.

Back on the golf course a high school football game takes place. People park their cars all over the pristine grass, tear up the terrain, and dirty up the doorstep. The pretty girls, swaddled up in sweaters and scarves, are lovely in the crisp fall air, with their feet in the cold dew of the old country club night.

It was 3 in the morning but I debated taking another hit of acid. The only thing that prevented me was the fact that I hadn’t eaten in a day as it was, and if I took another tab it might be another day before I ate, and that would start to manifest in unpleasant ways. I played a baseball video game, something I’d loved to do when I was young, but now only played out of stale habit.

I started humming the song, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” and it all seemed painfully true. I still yearned for what was retrievable only in the bastardized mashup to come. The early-Bob Dylan fan, the WWE conspiracy—it was all a part of me; something that had been before; something that finally proved a concept I had once jotted down in the middle of the night: “The very fact that we dream proves that the machine is working.”

But the machine was just getting started up. Soon it would be possible for Triple H and Bob Dylan to be one and the same, and it was going to become harder to get a good grip on anything, with or without drugs. In fact the serious drug people might have a small but necessary advantage. People would have ten years worth of dreams in one night and some wouldn’t be able to handle it. Some were going to wake up not knowing how to figure it all out.

I made some tea. I fed my two Dobermans. Their knowing eyes reinforced something in me, and a singular concept finally came to light, “There is no difference between past and present.” Linear time was the illusion. A

ny old dog knew that. Dogs have no concept of time. I threw up. The dogs were barking in a high tone that was more like a scream, and one started licking nervously at the vomit. I made them lie down. I turned on the radio, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.”

"Mike Sauve's 115th Stream"

Copyright: © 2010 Mike Sauve


A graduate of Ryerson Journalism, Mike Sauve has written non-fiction for The National Post, The Toronto International Film Festival Group, Exclaim Magazine and other publications. His fiction has appeared online in Rivets Literary Magazine, Forge Journal, Candlelight Stories, Straitjackets Magazine, Eastown Fiction, the humour journal Feathertale and elsewhere. Upcoming stories will appear in print in Palimpsest, Infinity’s Kitchen and Kitty Snacks.

Bags of teeth were all I had left of my last real relationship. She used to keep them under the sink next to the bleach. The bags still smelled like bleach. When I stuck my nose to them, my nostrils burned. 

We sharpened chess pieces, and used them to script our lives somewhere soft and fleshy. Black & White knives of peace and strategy. It’s better than couple’s counseling. 

I could very well go to a doctor or hospital, get myself fixed up or cured. My family was never one for doctors, though, not unless it was an emergency. This whole phase doesn’t seem like an emergency. I’m not pissing blood. I don’t have a fever. I do not think new thoughts should be considered a sickness. I am able to eat and sleep, to write this very sentence down, all in my right mind. This is my right mind.

"After the Masonic Downfall"

Copyright: © 2010 Jordan Krall

Jordan Krall is the author of Piecemeal June, Squid Pulp Blues, Fistful of Feet, King Scratch, Blow Up the Outside World (co-written with Ash Lomen), and Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys.  His books can be found on Amazon.com


Zombie Love for Moronsedited by Paul Williams Jr and Barney Bryant, Decade Publishing, 158 pages, $39.95.
reviewed by Sean Monaghan

Lately the "... for Morons" series has been tackling bigger issues and this has quite rightly led to a lot of criticism about their increasing level of complexity. The whole concept of the series is to take a difficult subject and make it clear and easy for even the most challenged. Recent additions have strayed from that formula - Daylight Vampiring for Morons stands out as one that really just proved too challenging (and deadly) for many of the readers.

Fortunately this newest book is a return to the roots of the series. Basic, simple, straightforward. The editors have selected comments and articles from numerous informed sources and then thoroughly dumbed them down so that anyone - zombies included - will understand the concepts. The volume is filled with illustrations and diagrams, step-by-step exercises, sidebars and pull-out charts (my favorite is the cheat card to take on a zombie date). Never have things been easier in the arena of zombie love.

The book begins with a clear introduction, which will reassure many zombies stuck for choice and feeling dejected by their plight (and truly, we all know that being a zombie is not a cheerful time anyway, let alone if you're single and searching). Encouraging facts abound. Did you know that at any one time between 80 and 90% of zombies are not in a relationship - "You are not alone!" the book proclaims, perhaps missing the possible double-meaning of the statement. Clearly, though, out there someone is available and this book is the way to find them.

The chapters progress logically, building from how to approach another zombie you're attracted to, right to the chapters on deeper longer-term relationships. Just like the living, zombies in long-term relationships do need to do work on maintaining their love. A two page set of bullet points on how to keep the pep present when you've been involved with a rotting corpse for more than a year is followed by similar spreads for five years, ten years and right on to the granite anniversary. Really it takes intentional action, rather than just cruising, and these pointers will tickle and inspire you.

Feeling stale? Try out the matrix array of combination ideas for livening up your crumbling relationship, such as (1) go to a "based on the book by Nicholas Sparks" movie, then (2) a moonlight walk near water, (3) finish up with home-cooked brains, then (4) off to bed.

My favorite chapter is number eighteen, specifically for lonely hearts who have tried again and again to establish a relationship without success. Remember the person you meet doesn't have to be a zombie already. If you find someone you think you might be attracted to, but they're still amongst the living, a couple of quick bites in the right spot and you might just have a new lover.

The book breaks everything down into a step-by-step process. The contents page is clear, the index abundant, and the price is just right. Recommended - ask your local bookstore now. Four and a half stars.

"Zombie Love for Morons"

Copyright: © 2010 Sean Monghan

Sean Monaghan's book reviews have appeared in various publications.  His stories have been published before in The New Flesh, as well as MicroHorror and Flashes in the Dark, amongst others.  More information at his website, www.venusvulture.com

I spent a night in New York City with some friends. We drank in a hotel room. Whiskey and soda. We joked around, insulted each other, and wrestled (latent homosexuality evident in piles of male flesh? I’d like to think not but I am not in the minds of my comrades so I do not know for sure).

We walked around the city. It was cold, very cold but the alcohol helped warm us. I smoked cigarettes and the occasional small cigar. At 3am we stopped at a peepshow. I was so far gone, the woman I followed (a young, plump black woman if I remember correctly) was just a fleshy blur with an aura that was slightly glittery. I didn’t get a hard-on even though she put her feet up against the fiberglass partition and fingered herself while looking at me seductively. She even turned around and showed me her darker nether regions but my memory is so hazy I sometimes wonder if there was even a woman there to begin with. Maybe I was looking at an empty booth. What the hell would be the difference?

Empty air might have been just as arousing.

"Peeping Bad Cops"

Copyright: © 2010 Jordan Krall

Jordan Krall is the author of Piecemeal June, Squid Pulp Blues, Fistful of Feet, King Scratch, Blow Up the Outside World (co-written with Ash Lomen), and Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys.  His books can be found on Amazon.com

The Colonel woke up and placed his feet on the floor. When he stood, he found himself plummeting through the floor, through the ground below, through the many layers of the planet. The Colonel went careening straight through to the center of the Earth, passed it, and kept falling.

As he approached the opposite side of the planet, which for cliché’s sake we’ll call ‘China’, the Colonel’s rate of descent dropped by the mile until he came to a brief complete stop. Then gravity kicked in and sent the Colonel falling back the way he came.

And this sort of thing continued for quite some time, hurtling toward ‘China’ then back toward home then back toward ‘China’ then back home and so on and so forth. With every reversal of gravity, the Colonel’s trip grew a little shorter until he was falling in twenty-foot increments to-and-from the center of the Earth.

After a good long while of flying back-and-forth from the core, the Colonel, nearly bored with the process, came to a stop. And there, sitting in an armchair at the center of the world, was the Major, who had spent all night digging a Colonel-sized hole through the planet.

“Gotcha motherfucker,” said the Major.

“What is this?” asked the Colonel.

The Major grinned and leaned in. “Take your fucking dog inside.”

The Colonel could do nothing more than gape at the Major, sitting like a smug demon in his leather armchair at the Earth’s core. It was enough to go through the whole ordeal of arriving there in the first place, not to mention the physical impossibility of the whole damn situation, but now this? This was why he fell through the fucking Earth? To be taught a lesson?

“”That’s it?” asked the Colonel. “That’s why I fell through the fucking Earth? To be taught a fucking lesson?”

“It barks all day,” said the Major, “and it howls all night. I. Get. No. Peace.”

“You’re nuts.”

“You’re inconsiderate!”

“I…” The Colonel stopped and considered this.

Shit, maybe the Major was right. It was true, he did leave his dog outside all day and all night. And it was also true that it did bark and howl quite a bit. He could see how that would grate on someone’s nerves. Maybe he was being a tad inconsiderate to his neighbors. The Major was right, once he got home, the Colonel would take his dog inside, and maybe send each neighbor a small card offering his sincere apologies for any stress caused by the dog’s barking, and -

Hang on. Hold the fuckin’ phone. The Major spent valuable time digging a perfectly Colonel-sized hole through the earth. The Major just sent the Colonel flying through the fucking planet, and was now sitting in an armchair at the center of the earth. With no apparent means of escape.

Something is not right.

“How do we get out of here?” asked the Colonel.

The Major’s grin dropped.

He had failed to think that part through.

"The Colonel & The Major"

Copyright: © 2010 Josh Myers


Josh Myers has spent the past three years selling hot sauce in New Hope, Pa. He lives in Lambertville, NJ where he spends his time alternately reading whatever he can and griping about the state of things.

Whenever I watch Night Court, I feel demonic.

I don’t know if it’s Judge Stone’s obsession with Harry Houdini or Dan Fielding’s oversexed antics, but I feel satanic during the whole viewing process. It’s as if I’m going to burst full blast into a black mass during the first commercial break. I might just desecrate a bible and sacrifice a virgin while someone tries to sell me a new deodorant or soft drink.

But I always resist the urges.

I was 26 when it started or maybe it started earlier and I never realized it. Who knows, right? Despite having a college education, I was living hand to mouth as a gas station attendant, barely scrapping by. It wasn’t the life I imagined myself having.

My days were spent inhaling the sweet aroma of gasoline while trying to catch glimpses of the high heels of women who stopped to fill their cars. I longed to see their shoes on the pedal. At times I believed I could smell their feet through the gasoline smell. Many days I had to stop my mouth from confessing my desire:

I imagined myself saying, “Can I help you?”

The woman would say, “Fill it, regular.”

I’d reply, “Sure. Can I smell your shoes?”

She’d say, “Fucking pervert.”

Oh, but I resisted the urges. I needed my job and didn’t have the slightest interest in going to jail. I wouldn’t last there as I’m too delicate and bladder shy.

So I spent my days at the station and my nights in my one room apartment, surrounded by paperback books and old magazines. It was cramped, but comfortable. I always liked wrapping myself in blankets and lounging on pillows while I watched television. In the winter it was a necessity because I had no heat. I ate soup out of the can and watched rerun after rerun of classic television. That’s where Night Court came in.

Some people my age would have found my life depressing. It was quite the contrary. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed every second of warmth in my comfortable chair (the only one I had in my apartment). I occasionally went to the bar down the street to have a few drinks and sometimes brought home a bottle or two. Then I’d get drunk and reread issues of True Detective. I’d end up watching an episode of Perfect Strangers. Larry pisses me off. Like when he took a sledgehammer to the wall, ruining the mural Balki had painted. I ended up throwing a bottle at the television but luckily I missed.

So okay, back to Night Court.

As I sat and watched Dan Fielding again try to get Christine into bed, I kept tracing pentagrams on my blanket. What now?

Ants crawled onto my chair, getting comfortable in the pentagram I was tracing. They worshipped Baphomet of Thee Unholy Church Ov Thee Old Blanket. Stupid little insects. They don’t know it’s all made up. They don’t realize it’s all because of that stupid, fucking Dan Fielding and the judge’s Houdini obsession. 

"Funtime, USA"

Copyright: © 2010 Jordan Krall

Jordan Krall is the author of Piecemeal June, Squid Pulp Blues, Fistful of Feet, King Scratch, Blow Up the Outside World (co-written with Ash Lomen), and Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys.  His books can be found on Amazon.com

‘A little harder, darling,’ Dr Frederick Gottschalk encouraged. ‘One more thrust and I should start to see the cranium.’ He was trying his hardest to remain composed, but he could hardly contain his excitement. ‘Oh, Margaret: our bundle of joy has black curls!’ Like the eye of a voyeur peeping through a key-hole, a tuft of slick fuzz peered at him from inside her.

Like his … father.’ His wife’s voice was soft, far-away, uneasy; her words punctuated by a sharp moan; then a fit of silly laughter; then childlike whimpering. 

The laughing gas he’d borrowed from the clinic was starting to wear off.  He had to be careful: not enough gas and she’d scream the walls down; too much and she’d be totally incapable of feeling the contractions. The former could be quelled with a stern word or two and—if necessary—a firm hand (not that it really mattered: their closest neighbours lived on the far side of the lake). The latter, however, would necessitate a caesarian section—something he desperately wished to avoid. Although a qualified surgeon, Gottschalk’s expertise was in nip ’n’ tucks, not obstetrics; he couldn’t risk botching it up. Plus, their summer home was old, unhygienic, contaminated with creepy-crawlies and festering with household bacteria.

‘Uuuuunggghhh!’ A slow, agonising groan. Somewhere by the lake a loon answered her distress call with a concerned fluting.
‘You’re doing exceptionally well, darling.’ Gottschalk made a slight adjustment to the gas feed, and placing his hands on the inside of her thighs, applied gentle, outward pressure. ‘Open wide; make as much room for junior as you can.’ 

They’d been trying for years: shortly after they were married Margaret had undergone an operation to remove several ovarian tumors, and while the procedure had saved her life, it had left her practically sterile. They tried to adopt, but were promptly turned down because of Margaret’s indiscretion during her adolescence (she had been young and stupid and very drunk, but some things are never swept away by the tide of time – least of all a conviction for dangerous driving).  IVF had also been a colossal waste of time and money. At least Margaret had gotten something positive out of the experience: she’d struck up a friendship of sorts with another patient. Jodi was a gritty, single white female who’d had enough of waiting for Mr Right, and was sick of being kept up all night by the ticking of her maternal clock; Jodi was someone Margaret could relate to, someone with whom she could share and lament the anguish of being childless.

Gottschalk had abandoned all hope of becoming a father. Then nine months ago, he was given the good news: he would finally have his bundle of joy! 

It was Margaret’s idea to have a home-birth; Gottschalk’s to deliver the baby at the lake. He had to take a crash course in obstetrics and neo-natal care of course, but that was the easy part. The hard part was sneaking the equipment out of the clinic without being noticed. Gone were the days of hot water and steamed towels. 
A knife-like scream tore through the stuffy room and she parted, giving the baby up to the swirling dust motes and slats of sepia-toned light. Gottschalk clamped the umbilical cord above the newborn’s naval—just as the midwives had done in the birthing DVD he’d watched a few hundred times—then hacked it off with surgical scissors. Ignoring the quivering placental sack between his feet, he held up his prize—still bloody and glistening wet—in the cradle of both palms. 

Thank God, he thought. No, thank Gott! For in the old tongue Gottschalk’s family name meant Servant of God. But in this day and age, he thought of himself more as a silent partner than a mere attendant. After all, he did heal the sick—or at least re-arranged their faces and enlarged their breasts.  Now, after years of doubt and despair, the Big Guy upstairs had finally recognised his worth with this reward. Nor did Gottschalk fail to notice the  significance of the gift: like God, he had been given a son.
He slapped the infant’s rosy cheeks once on each side, and the echo of a shrieking baby filled the musty corridors of the lake house. This was not in the DVD, but he did it for effect anyway. 

‘Look Margaret.’ Gottschalk swaddled the infant in a pastel-coloured towel and cradled it in the nook of his elbow. ‘Say hello to little Archie.’ Had it been a girl, they’d agreed to name her Isabella, after Gottschalk’s great-grandmother (a pleasant lady by most accounts, who’d served as a nurse during World War I, and had spent her final days eating roaches in a Dusseldorf lunatic asylum). 

Margaret gently took the baby from Gottschalk’s arms and tickled it under the chin. She smiled wanly at her husband. ‘He might have your hair,’ she boasted, ‘but his eyes are blue like mine.’

 ‘Oh stop it, Marge.’ Gottschalk waved a hand dismissively. ‘All babies have blue eyes when they’re born. They’ll change, you’ll see.'

A sorrowful moan drifted up from the double-bed behind them, which trailed off into a delirious giggle. A woman who looked like she could be in her mid-thirties lay spread-eagled on the bed, naked except for the blood-soaked sheets bunched about her waist. Her hands and feet were cuffed to the bedposts and a gas inhaler covered her face. In her drug-induced stupor, she mumbled something incoherent from behind the mask, her words sounding both amplified and muffled: ‘Wheeere aaam I?’

‘There, there, darling,’ Gottschalk soothed. ‘Don’t talk; you’ll only make yourself upset.’ He turned to Margaret and gestured with his thumb at Jodi. ‘What do we do with her?’ 

Margaret peered over at the woman on the bed, a distasteful snarl thinning her collagen-filled lips. ‘Dump her in the lake,’ she said, and resumed making exaggerated faces at Archie.

"Labour Pains"

Copyright: © 2010 Eugene Gramelis

Eugene Gramelis is a widely-published, award-winning author of suspense and dark fiction. When not writing he practises law as a barrister in Sydney, Australia, where he resides with his beautiful wife and three gorgeous children. He invites you to walk with him at http://gramelis.blogspot.com

Set in a dark, dark wood the tale was a spin on Little Red Riding Hood: girl goes to Granny's, toting stale muffins.

Aiming for less than 4,000 words, I selected my desired market (one of the lucky ones not yet marked temporarily closed or fledgling - because they're all fledgling these days).

On the journey through the wood, Red was to uncover a fur pile: masked men dolled up like Pooh Bear and Wolverine, a whore donning a swan head with feathers glued to her ass, and a man in a fish suit, perishing at sun-up because he’d fashioned his fucksuit out of an old waterbed and it caused him to suffocate – that part I stole from Spike’s 1000 Ways to Die.

I got carried away, laughing at the obscenity and my own idiocy.

In the end, Red gives birth to the wolf, Granny cuts the cord, and the wolf eats her, ending with a quote by Peter Ustinov, “Parents are the bones on which children cut their teeth.” I never did finish writing it, so I wrote this instead.

"On Writing 'In a Dark, Dark Wood'"

Copyright: © 2010 Shaylen Maxwell


“I’m sick of this crap,” Georg said. “I’d kill myself if I weren’t already dead.”

“And in Hell,” the walls whispered in completion. “Never forget that - you’re DEAD and IN HELL.”

Georg sighed; at random he picked a Block out of the ‘Plot’ box and read the words cut into its corpse-flesh: ‘Then the president had a burst of inspiration: what if she . . .’

He shook his head, dropped it, picked out another: ‘“It can’t be true,” she gasped, “she’s pregnant!!?”’

Georg nodded, this was better, more in fitting with the tale he was ‘making’ for David Heilberg.

He pulled the ‘composition’ box towards him, examining and tagging the bits he’d already got. So far Doctor Mary O’Blige had come home to find her father dead, had been chased down a dark alley by a werewolf, and had had her little brother kidnapped by the French terrorist underground. Now she’d just discovered her boyfriend Inspector Hardcop had gotten her best friend pregnant.

Feeling like he was being emotionally castrated, Georg resumed ‘making’ Dave Heilberg’s next bestseller.

One Hundred Years Earlier.

“Look,” Georg told Beetle-Pie, the UGLY-AS-HELL demon he’d just summoned, “I want the gift of originality. I’m a writer, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t think up anything that hasn’t been done before. My last four books were all panned for being derivative; worse - they sold worse than expired milk. So I want . . .”

“Originality? There’s no such thing, Georg.”

“There is . . .” Georg said defiantly, “I’ve often come up with . . .”

“Recycled versions of everyone else’s stories.” The demon laughed, picking his teeth with a bloodstained fingernail. “Let’s simplify things, okay? All you want is originality?”

“Georg recognized the trap. “They’ve also got to sell BIG TIME.”

Beetle-Pie pulled a briefcase out of his belly and rummaged in it a while. Finally, he extracted a paperback novel and handed it to Georg. “Your next book.”

“I said I want to create it dammit; are you deaf!?”

Beetle-Pie’s smile faded.” You will create it Georg; you will. You’ll NEVER once remember this conversation, this . . . contract . . . until it’s pay-up time.”

“Gimme that bullshi . . .” he snatched the book out of the demon’s hand and irritatedly flipped through, quickly growing more and more enamored with its contents. He finally stopped, stared at the demon in total stupefaction. “It’s fantastic,” he stuttered, “exactly what I’ve always wanted to write . . . the characters . . . the plot . . . the setting . . . Nobel Prize shit for real.” He smiled apologetically at Beetle-Pie. “Look dude, I’m sorry bout all that crap I spouted earlier. Let’s do the deal okay . . . Okay?”

Beetle-Pie smiled thinly. He’d been through this routine with so many writers through the ages.

“And now as regards payment . . .”

“Oh to Hell with that,” Georg said hastily, already living on Literary Olympus, “For a lifetime of this, I’ll sign anything . . . anything.”

“Fair enough,” Beetle-Pie snickered, with a flourish pulling a smoking contract out of his left nostril. “If you’d please append your signature here . . . and here . . . and oh yes here.”

*   *   *

It HAD been good. Georg had NO regrets. He’d won award after award, travelled the world, made MONEY. And died PEACEFULLY in bed at the age of ninety-three.

And immediately he’d closed his eyes that final time he’d found himself . . . in HELL.

*   *   *

“So what now?” he asked Beetle-Pie with trepidation, all memory of his lifetime successes already falling away like discarded clothes, “Am I in for an eternity of torment?”

“Something like that Georg,” the demon replied with an enigmatic smile, remembering he disliked Georg. “Something very like that."

He led Georg to a large room and pointed to a pile of packing crates and plastic cartons. “You’re just going to make up stories.”

“Oh that’s easy,” Georg breathed in relief, “that’s ea . . .” In shock he realized he couldn’t think up a single plot; not an idea came into his mind.

“It is easy,” Beetle-Pie said with relish. “The crates and cartons contain Writer’s Blocks; they’re all organized by plot character, scene . . . in some case even by writer, if they’ve a contract with us. Consider them a puzzle, you just put the pieces together, anyhow you like. Once you’ve made a complete book, we find an author it fits and . . .”

“Make books for other authors?” Georg’s dead face creased into a frown. “No way in Hell am I making stories for another’s glory. Let the uncreative hacks do their own legwork.”

Beetle-Pie smiled nastily. “Don’t be selfish George - How’d you think we got the bestsellers we gave you? Besides, if you don’t do it, we’ll chop you into Writer’s Blocks for other writers to assemble.”

He vanished in a puff of ochre smoke.

Defeated, Georg walked over to the ‘Plot’ box and pulled out a quivering cube. It seemed made of human flesh. He turned it over, read the script engraved into it.

‘Hard-as-nails C.I.A. operative Blake Hammer . . .’

Georg nodded, he liked the name Hammer. He picked out another Block - “then Jack and the rabbit . . .’ he dropped it back, picked out another - ‘The aliens landed and blew up New Moscow . . .’ That seemed good to Georg . . . but so far no women in the story; he began rooting amongst the ‘Female Love Interest’ Writer’s Blocks: ‘Melanie raised her gun and spat . . .’

*   *   *

Sitting in darkness much MUCH later, Georg wept: “I wish, just wish, I could create something original, anything - just not spend eternity as a hack . . .”

“Georg,” the walls whispered softly back, “there’s no such thing as true originality.”

"The Original"

Copyright: © 2010 Wol-vriey


Wol-vriey is Nigerian, and quite tall. He believes that there actually are things that go bump in the night.

In a time that was very near to the beginning, but not quite the beginning itself, there used to be life on all the planets in the solar system. And God looked down upon the abundance of life that He had created and saw that it was good.

For the most part.

He had, it seems, a bit of a problem with the third planet, the one He called Earth. For, unlike all the other planets that God had created, there was no laughter on Earth. No laughter at all.

And the absence of laughter on Earth so troubled God that He set about creating a committee by which He and representatives from all the other planets might discuss the matter.

"You need a clown, that's what you need," said the representative from Jupiter, thumping its margalon on the table for emphasis.

"A clown? What's a clown?" asked God.

"You know, something funny-looking," said the Martian. "Something that'll make you laugh just to look at it."

"Do you know of anything like that?" asked God.

The Martian leaned back in its chair and stroked its dilligaff thoughtfully. "Yes," it said after a moment, "I believe I do. In fact, I think we might have just what you're looking for right here on Mars."

"Really? Tell me, tell me, what does it look like? Does it have any fur?"

"Yes. Well, not all over. But in spots it does, though it calls it by a different name as I recall."

"And where exactly is this fur, or whatever it is?"

"Well, it's got some on the very top, of course. Oh yes, and then there's a patch of it right near its dingley-dangley thing, as well."

"It has a dingley-dangley thing?"

"Oh, heavens yes. Waggles it all over the place, it does. Not only that, but it appears to be quite proud of it." Then, for dramatic effect, the Martian leaned in close to God's ear and whispered loudly enough for everyone to hear, "even though it's really quite small and hard to see from anything more than just a few zickers away."

The room erupted in laughter.

God's face broke out into a huge smile. "Tell me more about this creature, this … this … what did you call it?"

"Clown, Sir. It's called a clown," said the representative from Jupiter, shaking its wunkle back and forth and sighing in exasperation.

"Yes, yes. A clown. Of course, of course. I should have remembered that. Tell me something else funny about this clown thing, if you can."

"Well, it's got four legs," said the Martian.

"Four legs has it? Well, I can't see the humor in that. I mean, I thought I made a lot of creatures with four legs. Didn't I?"

"Indeed you did, Sir, and I must say, the four-legged paradigm that You employed was pure inspiration. I can't begin to tell You what a delight it is to see so many creatures walking about on all fours the way they do. So stable, so balanced. But this creature, when it walks," and here the Martian paused again, "only uses two of them."

Once more the room erupted in fits of laughter.

"Well, if it only uses two of its legs, what on earth does it do with the other two?" God asked.

"It plays with its dingley-dangley thing!" screamed the Martian.

And all the representatives doubled or – in the case of the Neptunian – tripled over with laughter, slapping their gazotskies and laughing their asses off.

And, when He was done with the laughing and had finished sticking everybody's ass back on, God raised His hands high in the air and shouted, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! I believe we have found the answer to My prayers."

And so it came to pass that God seeded the firmament that was His Earth with clowns He had borrowed from Mars. And the other creatures of the Earth, upon seeing the new creature walking around with its funny looking little dingley-dangley thing, began to snicker. And the snickering begat giggling. And the giggling begat chuckling. And the chuckling begat laughter. And, lo and behold, soon the whole of the Earth was filled with merriment.

And God looked down upon what He had created and said that it was good.

Then Mrs. God walked into the room and took a peek at what was happening on Earth. As was her wont in such matters, she made some snide comments about how the new clown creature was messing up Her beautiful gardens by leaving its dirty underwear lying around all over the place. However, She knew just the creature that could teach it to pick up after itself – and to quit writing its name in the snow every time it peed.

But that's a story for another time.

"The Clowns of God"

Copyright: © 2010 Michael Pelc


"I'm sorry. What is your name again?" Mr. Rockwell asked into the cell phone.

"José. José Bordero."

"José," Addison Rockwell's voice said. "I have to tell you something: this is no joke. You can't go back on this. The last guy that flew in was from Sardinia. He said he wanted to do it--he said, in fact, he was sure he'd go through with it. But when his flight came in we had dinner together at a French restaurant across the street from the hotel. And when we returned to the hotel--I'd had it all ready to go too: the Hydrocodone pills, the cough syrup, the butcher knives, and the plastic carpet--he changed his mind at the last second."

Addison Rockwell heard a pause from the ear part of the receiver. Then shallow breathing.

"Which is understandable, José. I want you to know this: I will think no less of you if you decide not to go through with this. Because (1) it costs me money--for the hotel room and your airfare. And (2) the painkillers that I am to provide you with should indeed render the bulletwound painless. But if you peter out after having ingested the painkillers/fever reducers and you decide to live the Acetaminophen is not going to do your liver any good in the long run. Do you understand me?"

A deep exhalation came from the ear side of Addison Rockwell's cell phone. Then:

"Yes, Mr. Rockwell. Absolutely."

The man Mr. Rockwell was talking to on the other end was from Mexico, but his English was very fluent. So fluent, in fact, that Mr. Rockwell had hoped he wasn't really just another American voice making fun of him.

Addison Rockwell had received many prank calls since last month--the first time he posted the add on Craigslist. Man Searching Another Man to Eat. Then after clicking on it the description it said No joke. Serious questions/queries only please.

One caller with a Texan accent called and told Mr. Rockwell he was dying of lung cancer and that he wanted to die painlessly and effortlessly and if cannibalism floated Mr. Rockwell's boat...then so be it. But before Addison could ask the caller his weight and height he heard in the background what sounded like drunken fratboy laughter accompanied by a click.

Mr. Rockwell thought nobody on Earth would take him seriously until he met the Sardinian in an Internet chatroom. The Sardinian had told Mr. Rockwell all about how his wife had left him for his brother.

"This is why I drink. And then my liver goes to hell," he said.

"That is horrrible," Mr. Rockwell said.

"Do you think you could help me?"

The Sardinian's voice had pleaded with him.

Rockwell knew he could. He really wanted to help him. He'd spent years of his life working as a male-nurse in Brazil. He knew how to take care of people. He knew the sounds of pain.

The Sardinian flew out to Arizona a week later. When Rockwell had picked him up at the airport he was greeted with a "hello" accompanied by the rank stench of cheap vodka. After dinner they went to the hotel room and the Sardinian topped off the rest of the vodka, using it to chase down the Nyquil and Hydrocodone pills.

Mr. Rockwell was surprised to see that the suicidial mixture didn't kill the Sardinian.

Doesn't even knock him out, he thought.

He had hoped he wouldn't have to use the gun on him. Know he knew he had to.

Mr. Rockwell took the gun and the silencer from his small black leather satchel and assembled them into one whole then he pointed it at the Sardinian's sweat-soaked bald head.

The Sardinian sat there rigidly, his neck and his lower abdomen strapped tightly against the chair.

"Mr. Voglia. What I am about to do to you should not hurt at all. I am aiming for your brainstem. If done correctly it will kill you outright. If it fails to do so, I promise you I will finish you off as quicky and humanely as possible. Do you understand me? Are you sure you can already feel the painkillers working?"

Mr. Voglia nodded.

Mr. Rockwell smiled faintly and then he said: "Mr. Voglia. With me you are a free moral agent. If you decide that this is not for you, that you'd really like to live your life and give it a second chance now's the time for you to speak up. Do you understand me?"

Mr. Voglia said nothing.

"All right, Mr. Voglia. This is it. I am counting to three. If you decide to brave the storm, I would like to tell you now that it has been a pleasure getting to know and getting to work with you."

Mr. Rockwell trained the pistol on the Sard's head. Then counted.

"One. Two. Thre--"

Muffled cries escaped the ball-gagged mouth.

"You've changed your mind?"

"Yes, man! I am sorry. I can't. I can't go through with this. It would be an unpardonable sin against my creator. I cannot do it."

"That Sardinian business was in the past," Mr. Rockwell reminded himself today on the drive to the airport, to pick up the Mexican.

He wondered if the Mexican would change his mind too.

Not much was said on the drive to the hotel room. José was in pain. Addison Rockwell saw it. The man's face was yellow and sallow and solemn-looking. And when they got inside the hotel room Addison Rockwell knew by Jose's morbid dispostion he was going to have a meal.

He hadn't had one in a long time.

"Mr. Addison Rockwell"

Copyright: © 2010 Jack Bristow


Jack Bristow graduated Long Ridge Writer's Group in 2009. He lives in New Mexico. His next short story, "Our Bus Driver, Fred" can be read in the upcoming issue Thirteen of Cantaraville: An International PDF Literary Quarterly.

When Charlie left the bakery with a bag full of donuts, he was abducted by aliens. The next thing he knew, he was sitting in a chair in their spacecraft with the donuts in his lap. Facing him were a dozen green Martians. All were holding clipboards and taking notes.

“Welcome aboard,” said the tallest one. “My name is Glarp. We won’t keep you long. We just want to remove one of your eyes for analysis. Don’t worry, you won’t feel a thing. What’s that in your lap?”

“A bag of donuts.”

“What’s a donut?”

“Something good to eat.”

Glarp nudged the greenie next to him. “Take one and taste it. If it’s really good, we’ll reverse engineer it, duplicate it, and open donut shops back home.”

As the Martian approached, Charlie extended a glazed cinnamon twist. When the alien took a bite, he screamed, and fell to the floor convulsing. In seconds, he disintegrated into a pile of dust.

Charlie grabbed another cinnamon twist from the bag and pointed it at the Martians. “OK, you bums. Put your hands up. This bag’s full weapons of mass destruction. The one I’m holding is powerful enough to blow this spaceship to smithereens. If you don’t return me to Earth immediately, I’ll set it off.”

Trembling, the Martians did as Charlie commanded.

When he arrived home, his wife hollered, “Where the hell have you been for the last three hours? I’ve been dying for a donut.”

When he tried to explain, she called him an idiot.

“You don’t understand,” he said. “I’ve made a remarkable discovery. Donuts are more than what they seem. In fact, they can be used as very effective weapons against Martians. Do you realize with a cinnamon twist, we may be able to end alien abductions forever? I’m gonna call Homeland Security right now and tell them.”

The agent who answered the phone called Charlie an idiot and hung up.

Charlie wrote to the President, Congress, and heads of the armed forces. Nobody bothered to respond.

When he called radio talk shows, the hosts derided him and terminated his call before he could explain how donuts could be used to kill Martians and defend the country against invasion.

The only way I’ll be able to convince anybody is if I run for Congress, he mumbled. When I’m elected, I’ll have some clout. And when they interview me on CNN and Fox News, I’ll be able to tell everybody about the fantastic power of donuts.

Charlie got elected to Congress and managed to wrangle an appointment to the Armed Forces Committee. During a secret hearing about UFOs and what the Air Force was doing to defend the country against alien intrusions, he finally got a chance to tell a general how cinnamon twists affected Martians.

During a break in the hearings, he approached the general in charge of US Air Defense Forces and explained his ideas on defending the nation against Martians.

“You want me to remove one of the four air-to-air missiles on our UFO-chasing fighter planes and replace it with a donut?” asked the incredulous general.

“Right. I have reason to believe that all UFOs come from Mars. I have reliable information about a situation where an abductee killed a Martian with a glazed cinnamon twist. Not only that, the guy got away by threatening to blow up their spacecraft with a cinnamon twist. I’m sure by now the word got around Mars, and every UFO pilot and crew know about this. So, I figure if we shoot cinnamon twists at UFOs, instead of missiles, we’ll scare them off for good. I suggest we run a test.”

The general agreed. A month later, two Air Defense fighter planes were scrambled to intercept a UFO over Phoenix. Instead of shooting missiles to scare it away, each pilot fired an oversized cinnamon twist. The pilots were amazed when the UFO suddenly changed direction and hightailed it into outer space at warp speed. After that incident, no UFOs were ever seen again over Detroit.

The same thing happened when UFOs were spotted over Chicago and New York. Consequently, the President issued an executive order stating that all Air Force attack planes guarding against UFO intrusions were to be armed with four oversized, glazed, cinnamon twists.

Nevertheless, some UFO’s managed to get through the global radar shield undetected, and abducted dozens of Earthlings. When Congressman Charlie learned this, he spoke of his abduction experience during a congressional hearing. Afterward, he sponsored a bill to provide every citizen in the United States with a fresh cinnamon twist, every day for life. It passed unanimously.

Before long, all citizens wore cinnamon twists around their necks, 24/7. As a result, alien abductions ceased completely.

Earthlings can once again enjoy munching cinnamon twists, instead of wearing them in self defense.

"Weapons of Mass Destruction"

Copyright: © 2010 Michael A. Kechula


Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His stories have been published by 129 magazines and 36 anthologies. He’s won first place in 10 contests and placed in 8 others. He’s authored three books of flash fiction, micro-fiction, and short stories: The Area 51 Option and 70 More Speculative Fiction Tales; A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales; I Never Kissed Judy Garland and Other Tales of Romance. eBook versions available at www.BooksForABuck.com and www.fictionwise.com Paperbacks available at www.amazon.com.

Rick Rossi is a good-looking man. But not conventionally so. With dark eyes, hair so naturally jet-black it almost looks dark-blue and a light, olive complexion. At first glance most superficial men would have killed to be in his shoes--as well as how, at first glance, most superficial women would kill to be in his bed.

But the women who'd mustered the courage to approach him--at stores, in churches and bars--would invariably notice something strange.

That Rick has conversations with himself.

The first voice, always deep and authoritative-sounding.

Second voice. A weak falsetto. The only way a man can cheaply sound like a women. Or a child...

Adult's voice now speaking, Rick's own, natural voice:

"Today we have to go and visit Ma."

Then falsetto comes voice, sharply protesting "No. Please. I just can't bear seeing her like that--wasting away in a goddamn noisy iron lung.

"Arnie," the adult voice had counseled. "She's our mother. And she needs company. Also, watch your language--that's no way for a kid brother to speak."

Awkward silence. Then: "Oh. Have I told you yet?"

"What," the falsetto voice asks.

"Sue's finally getting married--to Cliff."

Sue is Rick's only daughter.

With the exception of talk of his daughter's maritial engagement, today's routine is no different than every other for Rick Rossi. At 8 o'clock, every day, Rick rises to Elvis's voice on the alarm clock. Showers. Has a bowl of oatmeal, toast, and walks for hours and hours, and miles and miles the streets of New York City.

Public reactions to Rick's self-conversing varies. Some men ignore him. Others, ones more insecure about their own masculinity sometimes try to provoke him to violence. "Aye, Fuck-O. You makin' fun of me? How's about I break your fuckin' nose?"

Women are generally nicer. Generally.

Psychiatrists are baffled by Rick--being unable to catergorize his disorder/affliction as any specific illness.

They could not get to the root of his illness because they never found out about Arnie.

Arnold Rossi: Rick Rossi's barely younger twin brother. Best friends to his last day--the day a hit-and-run rammed into Arnie and his scooter.

Arnie wasn't to blame. Blame, if it need be placed anywhere twenty-five years later, should be placed on the unknown driver's shoulders for running a stop sign.

His mother ran outside, screeching "Oh Jesus why?" her screaming this, again and again. Rick never forgave himself for being, in his eyes, even as a twelve-year-old boy, a "coward"--too afraid to even go outside and help his little brother when he really needed him.

He remembers: Sounds. The sounds of commotion outside. Shuffling footfalls, the blares of sirens, and blasphemous shrieks coming from his mother's mouth only.

A brother's horrific realization: Arnie was dying. But Rick couldn't lose Arnie if he could hear him. He reassured himself, in Arnie's voice, "I'm fine, big bro. Don't you worry about me. I'll be home--soon. Then we'll have fun like we always do."

Twenty-five years later, in his mind, Rick Rossi still believes he talks to Arnie. In Rick's warped mind, Arnie complements his entire personality, making Rick, as a person, more palatable.

"Before visiting Ma today we gotta go see and congratulate Sue. I'm so happy for her."

Falsetto voice speaking. "Yeah, big brother. No problem. But," he sighs, "for some reason today, my legs are tired. Could we hail a cab to Sue's--I know you don't usually like doing it."

"Not usually, you're right. But for you, little bro. I will make an exception."

Rick raises his right arm. And a taxi comes almost crashing into Rick. The driver up front is dark--middle eastern, maybe. He seems impatient.

"Yes, you want ride," he asks hurriedly, cigar dangling over the side of his mouth.

"Excuse us a second," Rick turns his back to the driver.

"'Us'? Ishab waits long for no one!" the cabby shouts.

"Little bro," Rick says. "I don't think we oughta go with this driver--his driving seems a bit careless to me."

Falsetto voice replying. "Ricky, my legs are killing me. I can't wait for the time it takes to hail another cab."

Onward the go. Rick in the backseat feeling nausea set in from the abrupt halts, turns and swerves. The cabby yelling, almost screaming obscenities out the window.

"You American sons of whores!--in my country you would not act in such a way!"

A mile from Sue's apartment complex the yellow-and-white taxi cab side-swipes an old Mack 18-wheeler. The taxi driver lay in the front, gurgling blood, his final utterance of verbal sarcasm. Rick in the backseat. Shards of broken glass stuck in his face and chest. Pain. Inordinate pain. Coughing blood. Blood everywhere. And--and--


And that same morbid intuition Rick had had twenty-five years before. The day Arnie was hit and killed.

"Oh God. I'm dying. Oh, God! If you're up there. If you exist. Why? Why...?"

"Don't worry about it," the falsetto voice said, panting and getting weaker. "You'll be just fine."
"The Man Who Couldn't Stop Talking to Himself"
Copyright: © 2010 Jack Bristow


Jack Bristow graduated Long Ridge Writer's Group in 2009. He lives in New Mexico. His next short story, "Our Bus Driver, Fred" can be read in the upcoming issue Thirteen of Cantaraville: An International PDF Literary Quarterly.