“Myrmecia Pyriformis” by Chris Milam

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In the backroom of an exotic pet shop, a gentleman from Australia handed the owner a sealed box. The man was excited, he had been waiting for this package for months. He peered into the box and smiled. “Welcome to America,” he whispered.

Two days later he took the box to a nearby wooded area in southern Ohio and set them free. Now, all he needed to do was wait. He was a dark-minded man with twisted thoughts who wanted to cause mayhem because he believed the town had persecuted him whether it was real or just in his head. Time will tell, he thought, as he walked away, climbed in his car, and drove away.

 

•·•·•

 

Fairfield, Ohio. 3 months later.

All was quiet at 924 Catalpa Drive on a boring Thursday night. Wayne Richards was dozing on the couch in the living room, Dateline playing on the TV. He was worn out from his shift at the steel factory and fell asleep after a dinner of meatloaf and green beans. 

Outside the front door a line was forming, a tiny buzzing coming from within the pack. The bulldog ants began to enter the home beneath the front door, over the threshold. There were thousands of them, maybe a million. A swarm of death. They crawled onto the couch and all over Wayne. The ants made their way to his nose and eyes and ears, rooting themselves inside and biting him, releasing their venom. He was eventually covered in bulldog ants like a live blanket. They bit into him at every part of his body, eventually reducing him to a red-stained corpse. 

Next, the giant line moved through the kitchen into his wife’s bedroom. Becky was sleeping, a book open on her lap. She was tired from her job on the assembly line at Metal Sales Manufacturing. After dinner, she had put the toddler to bed and went into her room to read for a while.

The bulldog ants found her. They climbed up the legs of the bed frame and violated her, biting her as they formed a massive ball around her head. They injected their deadly toxin from head to toe. She briefly woke up, but couldn’t yell because the ants filled her mouth. She died a fast death. The ants were not satiated.

 

•·•·•

 

Across town, the exotic pet store owner, Tim Rivest, read the local paper. He laughed out loud at the article about the invasion of deadly ants native to Australia. Seal your windows and doors, the article read. They can kill a human in a matter of minutes. Tim thought about everyone in Fairfield who snitched on him for having illegal animals at his store and house. This was his revenge. He drank his beer as he finished reading, a smile never leaving his face. 

What Tim didn’t know was that his front lawn at that precise moment was filled with hungry movement.

•·•·•

 

The swarm left the body of Becky Richards and marched to the next bedroom. They inched their way up the crib. Little Joshua was still awake. The ants moved in, their legs moving quickly across the boy.

The last sounds coming from inside 924 Catalapa Drive were the horrifying screams of “Mommy, Mommy.”

 

Chris Milam lives in Middletown, Ohio. His stories have appeared in JMWW, Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, Bending Genres, Molotov Cocktail, and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter: @Blukris.

“Conduit Was Two Couples Blathering” by Tyler Dempsey

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Person 1

“Judgements of “others,” of our minds when we consider what one would think? Animals do it—our dog reddens when she slipped and you saw it. The Network-of-Feeling-Looked-At death-gripped Earth’s nut sack. It’s evolution’s engine.”

 

Person 2

“Two winters Marla and I watched a house in Felton. Like you’d been left a film producer’s in-law suite; when Marla moved furniture from storage essentially that’s what it was. I’d frequent a concrete square out back—trying not to blow bong-sized smoke-clouds into the home’s ventilation system. Smile at larger-than-life-Redwoods, California sun suspended in shafts. Wonder aloud about circumstances bringing me here. So foreign to my dirt-farmer origins. My murmurings aimed at the lemon balm growing at concrete’s edge, little friends, who over two winters spilled over concrete and explored nether-regions of three-foot air. Attacked nostrils if you looked toward the back door. The only difference, from lemon balm one-foot away, is I talked to it. Payed attention. Asked questions. Stupid things you do with people, because I was a kid who was lonely lost and profoundly stoned. Maybe, the lemon balm asked these questions: “Am I lovable?” “What do I have to do?”

 

Person 3:

“The best way to communicate to the world and people on it I loved them the tiny time I was here.”

 

Person 4:

“. . . transcribed “Love Languages,” when we left Yosemite, or maybe driving into Yosemite—we saw the river otter?”

 

Person 1:

“Inadequate communicating you occupy the forefront of my heart. The throne. Give life meaning. (Among other things.)”

 

Person 3:

“Writing’s another language. More room to roll around by.”

 

Person 4: 

“Rabbit-hole—words, and phrases, in ever-shrinking “Common English” neglecting communication, intelligent humans facing shear inadequacy because our whale of emotion isn’t capturable with a butterfly net of language we’re . . .”

 

Person 3.

“Tendency to get watered-down. Lazied away.”

 

Person 2:

“Existing in this elevated room with you. We hover.”

 

Tyler Dempsey got a form rejection as a “tortilla” from Taco Bell. He ate it and his stories fell out. If you’d like the stories as a book, and possess that magic called “making books,” contact him @tylercdempsey. 

“Dig Harder” by Kevin Richard White

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After I crashed the car I went into Tom’s for a nightcap. I mulled over the thousand lies I was going to tell to my wife about it. I loved lying. I crashed the car just so I could lie.  There’d be angry sex afterwards, when I told her I lied.

“Why did you lie to me?” She would say between moans, on her back, hands digging into my neck.

“I’m going to come,” would be my response.

I took a seat at the bar and ordered a beer.  When the bartender passed it over, I turned, facing the inside of the room.  Funny, all those guys sitting at the bar staring up at some bullshit TV with some bullshit game on it when the real show’s inside. 

I sipped the shitty beer as I watched a young couple at a table playing cards. Looked like rummy. Hot girl, douchebag guy. They probably had bad sex. I walked up to them. 

“Whatcha playing?” I said.

The girl ignored me, the guy shot me a look because he had to.

“I used to be real good at rummy,” I said.

Neither one seemed to care. 

A wave passed through me. I was twenty one again. The broken jukebox, the shards of the pool cue in the guy’s eye, the handcuffs, the meat-whiskey vomit on the cop’s shiny shoes. It’s all coming back and all I have to do is tighten a fist, break glass, go for the balls.

“Hey buddy,” I snarled.

The guy slammed down his hand and the girl jerked back.  I put my watered down beer on the table.

“Wanna go?” He said. 

“Who talks like that?” I said.

“I said, you wanna go?”

My knuckles have worn over the years, the chiseled face has gained weight, but the void is still there, unfulfilled by anything else except this. 

“Yes,” I said.

The girl ran off to tell the bartender. I let the kid go first and we walked to the parking lot. He turned to me in the dark and I realized why I wanted to talk to him. He threw a punch.

“Stop,” I said, but it connected.

I fell and he said, “Fucker.”

“Wait.”

He held up another fist. I stumbled up to my feet, looked past him and pointed to the reason I wanted to talk to him. “Look.”

He didn’t.

I wiped my mouth. “I ain’t gonna hit ya, Christ, look.”
He turned.

I came up behind him, smiling with pride and blood. “That’s my car.”

There it was, the wrecked Elantra. Smoke streamed out, the color of a stout.

“That’s my wife’s,” I said.

He opened his mouth to say something, maybe ask me a question.  But then he closed it and we both stared at the car.

The bartender was about to come out.  I knew that. He’d have his baseball bat, threaten to call the cops.  The douchebag’s girl would cower near the door, maybe throw an insult or two my way.  I’d walk into the dark toward a home I’d get to much later. Dig around in the fridge for a beer.  Lie to my wife about the car and then try to fuck her. 

The future can be bright.

But he left me there and walked back into the bar. I guess he didn’t have a question after all.

I guess the fun was over. I wiped the blood off of my face with my shirt. I couldn’t find my keys. I walked into the road and waved at every car that blew past me.

“Help me find my keys!” I shouted.

 

Kevin Richard White’s fiction appears in The Hunger, The Molotov Cocktail, Barren Magazine, Hypertext, decomP, X-R-A-Y and Ghost Parachute among others. He is a Flash Fiction Contributing Editor for Barren Magazine and also reads fiction for Quarterly West and The Common. He lives in Philadelphia.

“Tourist Trap” by Kyla Houbolt

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He landed on the bank of a golden river. The turf there was golden under a weeping cherry tree. It was in bloom. The small person — a girl — had round eyeglasses and he wondered if she could see how the afternoon light and the reflection of the blossoms turned the river surface the color of claret. The girl was not looking there, she was taking her violin out of its case. It was badly out of tune. She tuned it skillfully, swiftly, and began to play a melody so hauntingly sweet he forgot himself and wept on his control panel which shorted out. He did not notice this at first, so mesmerized was he by the girl, her music, her large round eyeglasses which reflected the claret color of the water and its golden ripples.

Then it was time for him to leave, to return to his own era. Soon, he would need food; his body was not used to such long periods without nourishment. But the control panel was ruined and he had no way to repair it. He was trapped. This alternate timeline that seemed so charming was doomed to end, he knew, in the imminent explosion of the planet. Alas. Yet — he might just know a way to avert that catastrophe, if he acted fast. There was no time to waste, but first he needed to eat. He approached the girl and, before she could react, removed her eyeglasses. After all, he was an obligate carnivore.
They would have been
a bit too crunchy.

 

Kyla Houbolt’s first micro chap, Dawn’s Fool, is available from IceFloe Press. She is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. She has a bad habit of sticking poems up on trees and leaving them for any who walk by to read. Most of her published work is here: https://linktr.ee/luaz_poet.

Twitter: @luaz_poet.

3 Flash Pieces by Michael O’Brien

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sack of meat netflix special

The producer, the camera man and the sound guy start to shove the meat into a see through bag. The meat is unidentified; none of them know which animal or what part of the animal it came from. They don’t discuss this. The sound guy picks up his sound equipment. The camera man goes to his camera. The producer picks up the sack of meat and props it on a chair behind a desk in front of the camera. The producer makes sure he is out of shot and starts to prod the sack of meat with a stick. It squelches and other sack of meat noises leave the bag mass. They non-verbally decide to put a grey suit on the sack of meat. The producer starts the prodding routine again. Squelch. Sack of meat noises. Five minutes pass. Then fifteen. Another fifteen. And then words start to come out of the sack of meat. All three of them smile reassuringly. The prodding continues. And the words continues.

 

 

 

the earth IS flat, bro

So you are unemployed for six and a half years and then you finally get a job. The job is in advertising for some big burger chain. Anyway your first major task is to draw an earth. You ask about the concept behind it but you space out and don’t hear what they want. So you just draw the earth as if it was flat for the lols. Strangely everyone loves it and you get promoted to prince of the burger advertisers. WOw! But slowly you become mad with power and a flat earth fetish grows deep inside. Firstly you spend all your free time drawing flat earths. Then you spend your free time looking for the end of the earth. And as if by magic, one sunday while sunday driving, you find the end of the earth in Bolton, Lancashire. But you accidentally drive off the earth and fall into space and die. And now people still say the earth is round. Fucking losers. I think your ghost would be pissed at all these round earthers and their horizons but ghosts aren’t real. Bro.

 

 

feeling like shit in the happiest place on earth

I had scheduled an interview with the post office but I couldn’t make it due to the fact I’m finding it hard to breath. Likely story. Anyway, I’m at the doctors now – more accurately I’m in a queue to see a receptionist. My number comes up. She gives me a torturous time. I am sweating and dying. Wonderful. On one side of her cubicle are two pictures of cats. One is smiling in a photoshop kinda way. The other is a cat in a more natural pose. Seems like it might be her cat. Maybe her cat that died. I don’t really know.
She thumps away at her keyboard. She thumps away at me with questions. All I say is here is my European health-card. I am sick. Let me see a doctor, please. On the other cubicle wall is a picture of a woodpecker in a lovely pastoral setting feeding its young. I get the sense the receptionist is not into woodpeckers. I get through the questions and forms. I see a nurse first and she takes bloods and that kind of thing. Finally get to see the doctor. He is thorough, competent and polite. A good boy. He doesn’t waste words and tells me little. He sends me for more bloods and a throat swab. I head back to my flat. At the flat I take a nap. Wake up and drink coffee. I wait for blood results. I hear the woodpecker. I think he is smacking against the lampposts again. It’s also raining.

Michael O’Brien is the author of, most recently, Silent Age (Alien Buddha Press). His writing has been published widely in print and on the internet, and translated into other languages. An extensive list of these publications can be found here. He is also the curator of Weird Laburnum. You can follow him on twitter @michaelobrien22

“I Wanna Go Shooting” by Kyle Kirshbom

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Tom Levy ran out his house waving his dad’s .45 in the air. On top of the hill, I was in my driveway scratching my belly and looking for a quarter I dropped. I looked around embarrassed someone was watching the ridiculous scene. At school last week Tom bragged how he knew the combination to his dad’s safe. Tom never took a math test he never failed, so the thought of him being able to memorize even 3 numbers was cute, at best. Yet, towards me he ran with the piece in hand—his stupid crooked smile shined brighter than the gun. 

As he ran I thought about a couple weeks ago when I was talking to Samantha outside school when Tom yelled, “Just fuck her already,” in front of everyone. Samantha walked away with red on her face. Tom flashed his crooked teeth and ran off. 

A month earlier Tom came over and handed me a bottle of amyl nitrate. 

Anal nitrate?” 

“No, Amyl nitrate, not anal. But it does loosen your asshole.” 

“Why would I want that?” 

“It’s for buttfucking.” 

“I’m never doing that…it’s gay…”

“Yeah it’s pretty fucking gay. Wanna do some?”

“What do you do?”

“Sniff it. Take a big whiff and you’ll feel like you’re flying.”

I put the bottle under my nose and sniffed like he told me to, passed it back and laid down on my bed; feeling lifted. Tom strongly inhaled and released a big sigh before cracking his neck like an actor playing a deranged person. He looked around my room he’s been in a hundred times as if it were his first, and then at me with the same vaguely menacing look. He jumped on top of me and began grabbing at my hips and pinning my body with his weight with his mouth pressed against my face. I pushed him off and said, “What the fuck Tom,” but Tom got up and ran away without saying anything.

A few years ago Tom slept over. We’d met at camp and got along okay. We joked about girls and liked the same death metal bands. After my parents went to sleep I flipped the channel to find the late night soft-core porn. We watched, then I asked if he minded if I jerked off a bit. He said, “Yeah I don’t care, but could I do it too?” I told him sure and grabbed a pillow. 

“I’m going to create a barrier so we can do it without looking at each other.”

“Yeah, cool.”

Three women fondled each other in a bathtub. I couldn’t tell what Tom was seeing, if it was the same thing I saw.

A half hour later I limped up to use the bathroom. When I came back, Tom was asleep on the floor with his cock still out. I put a blanket over him, turned the tv off, and went to bed. I didn’t see Tom again until the end of summer when we both walked into the same middle school. We didn’t talk about what happened for the rest of our lives. 

Tom’s curly brown hair bounced as he ran up the grassy hill—his eyes barely open. I stood and watched as he got closer. Right before he reached the driveway he tripped on a rock, pulled the trigger and shot himself in the head. His skull landed on the pavement. Blood poured out from his curls, flowing down and around the quarter I thought I lost. I walked over and his eyes were already shut; I couldn’t reach him. 

An ambulance picked him up, the sky was black. Tom’s dad looked at me like I took his son and planted the gun. I wanted to yell what the fuck do you think is going on here? A game? Something passionate? Something psychotic? Like accidents don’t happen? That there’s a reason for this? He got into the ambulance with his son and I got in a police car with a couple cops.

I got questioned by police for a few hours. I told them what happened. They said I could be in trouble. They talked about cooperation, the truth. They asked if I was upset with Tom, or ever thought about hurting him. I knew by telling the truth they’d put pieces together that didn’t actually fit. So I told them he was my best friend. Told them he never mentioned the gun. Told them I never wanted to hurt him. I even cried a little bit out of self-preservation. They carefully studied me, and in my pocket I rubbed my fingers against the quarter with Tom’s blood while I lied through my teeth. 

After waiting in the room by myself they came back to say that judging by the placement of the bullet and the way he fell and where the gun in his hand fell that there was no way I could have planted the gun. A million in one chance. They let me go with my parents. We walked out of the police station, got in the car, and drove home—I never knew a night could be so silent.

I planned on skipping the shiva. Technically I wasn’t invited, but my mom said that Tom’s dad didn’t mind if I was there, which was a good enough message I immediately picked up on. But I still wanted to go to the burial. 

It was overcast, and a good sized crowd. I hadn’t realized all the people Tom knew. Family, friends of family, people from school and their families. So many people, an eventful mourning. I walked into the crowd from the back, making my way to the front. Tom’s dad was delivering his speech when he saw me, paused, and continued. I stared at him, then at the casket Tom was in. The rabbi said a few prayers, then Tom’s dad and the other pallbearers lowered Tom into the ground. The rabbi said a final prayer, and everyone threw bits of dry dirt into the grave. People left to sit shiva at Tom’s house and suddenly I was alone. It began to rain. I reached into my pocket and tossed the quarter to lay with Tom. I called heads, but couldn’t tell what it landed on. 

As I walked home in the rain, stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, I felt like a movie was being played in an order that didn’t make sense; I couldn’t shake it, but my life up to this point hadn’t felt the slightest bit linear (instantly I craved something to soothe me out, something that’ll focus everything on a fixed frame that has no backwards or forwards, just to exist without existing, be, but not continue) then my fucking phone started buzzing; it was mom, asking where I was. I told her I was going for a walk, that I didn’t know when I’d be back, she  said she put money in my bank if I got hungry, “ thanks,” I said and that I’d see her maybe later, and she told me she loved me and so I said it back, then all at once, after hanging up, I remembered Tom without a firm grasp on any single memory we may have shared together, and in the haze of this memory collapse I dropped my phone and felt the screen crack and shatter. I tried walking, but couldn’t lift my legs, I tried standing, just couldn’t, I tried bending over to reach for the broken phone, and couldn’t, so, and as the wind picked up and the acidic rain pelted my coat, blurred my vision, and all the street detritus carried off the ground, whipping itself in a gust away in the distance, finally, a sinking, I sunk to the ground, into the cracks of the sidewalk, my body melting and spreading itself into the seams of the broken concrete where everybody walked on or over, and suddenly felt everything I am and everything I’ve encountered becoming increasingly connected, and permanent. When the city paves me over with fresh crushed rock and sand mixed with water and cement I’ll drown into oblivion like every spider’s web that’s washed away by a storm that seems to never end. The end is a deletion, an edit. Cemented.

Kyle Kirshbom is an American writer. He recently broke down and published his entire manuscript onto its own instagram page @DogShitPoems. His writing has been featured in SCAB, Holler Presents, and Sybil Journal. 

“The Skylight” by Abigail Stewart

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Her new job was a quiet place, exactly what she wanted after five years in food service — the soft tapping of keyboards, muted music piped through ear buds, an occasional outburst of laughter, undertones of conversation. 

She answered email queries and took her shoes off under her desk. She ate turkey sandwiches on white bread in the break room. She drank the free coffee. 

At first, the office seemed too bright, sunlit where she expected shadows cast by fluorescent tubes. Until she noticed the skylight. A 3’x3’ cutout of outrageous blue against a cream ceiling, light beamed down onto her wood composite desk like a beacon. She felt beatific, a barefoot saint tending to the needs of the disembodied masses. 

Clack, clack, clack. 

Someone had left a jade plant, discarded, at an empty corner desk. She brought it with her into the light, watched it straighten and lift its arms up toward the sun. 

She dutifully checked her inbox.

“Are you a boot?” an emailer inquired. 

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand your question. Please refer to our FAQ here,” she responded, per company guidelines. 

“Are you a bot? Are you real? I’m not giving my information to some Russian hacker.” 

“Yes, I’m real. How can I help you today?” 

The contact went quiet, as they so often did, the invisible lines of cyberspace irrevocably severed. Perhaps she had given them the assurance they needed in order to sleep that night. 

Clack, clack, clack. 

Keyboards, as always, and an undertone of something new, more insistent. 

Her eyes trained upwards. Two pigeons were scrabbling against the plastic covering of her skylight – she thought of it was hers now. From underneath they were inflated rafts, bug eyed, overstuffed, and grappling on a clear ocean. One had a piece of twine wrapped around his tiny, orange foot, buried deep into the flesh, a functional part of him now. 

She watched. 

His other foot, the good one, shot out like a gasp, vengeful and quick. The smaller pigeon fell, his bug-eyes pressed against the glass, looking down at her. A small rivulet of blood trailed from his chest. The other pigeon, no stranger to pain, gave one last nip to the neck of his deceased enemy before disappearing. 

The lifeless bird cast a long shadow on her desk. 

Her email pinged, a response from the emailer: “Russian hackers interfered with the election, so I need a picture of you to prove you aren’t a bot. Hold up three fingers.

No one else noticed the dead pigeon until it began to smell, only then did maintenance remove it. 

Abigail Stewart is a writer from Berkeley, California. She lives in an apartment filled with plants and books and breakable things. Her poetry has appeared in literary magazines, but mostly on bathroom walls. She writes a blog about books and dungeons & dragons: http://www.ageektragedy.net. She tweets at @abby_writes.