“Special Attention” by Ryle Lagonsin

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At one point, I had resolved that it was something to do with my face. Perhaps I looked as if I beckoned, it seemed, like I was pleading for attention.

The first time I noticed someone staring it frightened me. I was four. Maybe three and a half. I was in a dress shop for children with my mother and it frightened me. The way his eyes bore into me, pierced through me with an invisible red light like laser beams. My mother didn’t notice. Whenever I brought it up here and there, she’d say I was probably imagining it. 

“Yes, Hannah, you were probably simply imagining it. Wouldn’t I have noticed if there was a man glaring at you that time? Wouldn’t I have— and, anyway, I remember it differently from how you tell it. Yes, differently because from what I remember, you were screaming and kicking and crying your eyes out.”

Then, she’d laugh and say ‘it’s fine,’ as if a screaming toddler anywhere was cute and acceptable and nothing at all like what it actually is, which is annoying. Then, she’d plant her palm on my cheek and she’d look close to crying and I’d both love and hate her because of that sudden change in her face with her hand on mine.

Besides, I remembered neither screaming nor kicking. I didn’t remember ever doing that. I only remembered the man staring at me when I was four or three in the dress shop. He wasn’t staring maliciously, no. Not menacingly, sinisterly, or treacherously, really. No. His stare was merely intent, I would say. As though he was digging, searching for something inside me for no particular reason that I could think of, and that frightened me.

Over time I suppose, I learned not to mind it. I wasn’t friends with anyone in school. None of the other children thought me worthy of company but the teachers loved me. I knew they did. They adored me. I wasn’t the smartest or the prettiest or the most useful in class but the teachers stamped stars on the back of my hands, never called on me if I didn’t know the answer. Gave me candy whenever I failed a test. They loved me. Many adults seemed to.

One time this girl sat in front of me out of nowhere. I was fourteen then and she looked fourteen. My Dad and I went out for burgers and he had gone to the restroom, so I was sitting alone in the booth and this girl just appeared in front of me. She started talking in this foreign language – foreign, well, because I couldn’t understand it – and contorting, pulling her face in different directions and I heard snickers and muffled laughs behind me. She left before Dad returned. She carried the snickers and laughs out the door with her. The old waitress smiled at me afterwards. Said our meal was on the house and several times, while we ate, I could feel her eyes on me. I was uncomfortable. Dad ordered another milkshake.

From time to time, I saw them, adults, wince once or twice from afar before they approached me. Before they smiled. And the look in their eyes would suddenly changed as they approached. Even my grandparents used to do that. My Aunts and Uncles would do that before they dragged my cousins over to say hello. It happened at every family reunion, and I guess it felt good that I was always given the third best place to sit, after my grandparents. I guess it felt good that my Aunts and Uncles doted on me while they hissed at their children to get their own food. I never became close to any of my cousins.

Anyway, I just turned eighteen tonight. I’m meeting this guy I met online. He’s 21 so he can drink and go to casinos and do whatever. He asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said ‘to never ask for permission again.’ 

“no rly wut do u wnt? ill get u smthn.”

I asked for a lighter and a bottle of cheap wine. He texted back: weirdo :))

His car pulls up and it’s half two AM. I’m five streets away from my house.

“I’m coming back tomorrow, okay? Family’s coming over,” I tell him.

“No problem,” he replies. Sniggers. Tilts the rearview mirror down a bit. “Here’s to adulthood then.”

I catch my reflection. I see my face. I find nothing special.

 

Ryle Lagonsin is a writer from Laguna, Philippines. Currently, she is working on a novella-in-flash, although she thinks it might morph into something else. She still finds social media “quite creepy,” but has learned to tolerate it “to a certain extent.”

3 Poems by Mike Andrelczyk

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motion sensors 

I like the lights that light up
Just a step ahead of me
Like they are
Following me from the future
And reminding me I am
Alive
And I am
Parked here in the cool lime green
Of Level 3 West

 

Jim Atkins

the sun comes through the automatic doors
like a dead star and stops
to watch a news report
on the opioid crisis
while Jim Atkins sings
you took the twinkle out of my eyes
and I am less and less
integrated with anything
even though that is everything

 

snakes can’t chase you on deserts made of silk

three vultures waiting in the teeth of a plow
two suns fast-forwarding up and down
one bar of soap dissolving into bubbles in the stream

tall grass whispering a story about a pie-eyed drunk
in the hallway of an apartment building he doesn’t live in
apologizing about all the dirt

and the pale corpse on the moon
and the tarantula crossing the linoleum floor
and the lurid gem in your cereal milk

sorry, I know, this should have been funnier
or at least came to a point

but one morning still in bed
you said that thing about the snakes
and that was good
remember that?

 

Mike Andrelczyk lives in Strasburg, PA. He is the author of the chapbook “The Iguana Green City & Other Poems” (Ghost City Press, 2018). Find more work at neutral spaces.co/mikeandrelczyk.

twitter: @MikeAndrelczyk

“Wounded” by Mileva Anastasiadou

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The wounded bird appeared out of the blue. I take it in my hands and carry it onto the operation table. I hold the scalpel tightly and clear the wound, pouring water over it. I’m the best of surgeons, but not a veterinary. I call the nurse but she doesn’t answer back. We have a life or death situation here, I yell. She ignores me again.

The bird stops making sounds, or movements. Cold sweat runs down my spine. I push up and down its chest and yell at the little creature, as if it was its own choice to pass out, as if it fell asleep and I only need to wake it up. The poor bird stands still, enduring my efforts, its eyes wide open, staring at me, as if blaming me for my incompetence. 

The nurse finally rushes in. 

What are you doing, she asks. Stop the nonsense, I tell her. She rolls her eyes like I’m stupid. She urges me to swallow the pill she’s put in my mouth. That’s my job I say, to repair reality, to step in and fix things, when the end seems inevitable. That bird is dying, I yell at her. She seems perplexed at my words. That stupid nurse is so incompetent, she hasn’t noticed the bird yet. I show it to her. It’s still on the table. 

She holds the bird in her hands, squeezing all life that was left out of it, and I cry and yell but she doesn’t seem impressed. That useless nurse is killing the bird. Until there is no bird anymore. She’s now holding a piece of cloth in her hands. And she’s my daughter, her eyes blue like her mother’s, her brown hair cut short, the pixie haircut her mother likes. How did I end up in here? My brain is slowly penetrated by oblivion or illusion. Where’s the bird? Where’s my wife? I ask. 

She turns around and I see her tears. I wipe her cheek with the back of my hand, and she smiles, but it’s a forced smile, like she’s still sad but wants to hide it. I can’t stand seeing tears on her face. When did I see them again? When she broke up with that boy from school.  I’m sure that was the last time. Or was it later? I was standing above her mother’s dead body, a wounded creature who wished to live, a last attempt at resuscitation, but it all happened so fast. I’m a good doctor who’s saved many lives. How did I fail this time? It’s a complex thing, when your loved ones suffer; you suffer along, you may even ache more watching them suffer, yet from a safe place, where you’re safe and sound and slightly relieved you’re not in their shoes. And that complex emotion includes guilt which can’t be easily erased. I’m holding my head between my hands and close my eyes, as if memories will be obliterated if I shut down my senses. My legs are trembling, my heartbeat rises, while this painful reality fades away, like bad dreams fade and I won’t open my eyes before I wake up to a more tolerable version of the world. 

It wasn’t your fault, the nurse tells me.

I’ll never forgive myself, I say. But then I see the bird move, then stumble, then spread its wings and fly high in the room and out of the open window, and I feel like a hero, for that’s what heroes do; they repair reality, despite all hardships, defying all rules.

 


Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist from Athens, Greece. Her work can be found in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, the Sunlight Press (Best Small Fictions 2019 nominee), Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Bending Genres, Litro and others.

“This Certain Angle of Light” by Tyler Dempsey

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You stood
an
angle of light.

Four hundred feet
I choked uncontrollably
fear I’d missed
the personality

Fault or fracture
draws
us longing

To be a ray of light

Once seen
multiplies
a shape recognized.

Tyler Dempsey won the 2nd Annual Tulsa Voice/Nimrod International Journal Flash Fiction Competition. Other flash received honorable mention in Glimmer Train and New Millennium Writings competitions, and appeared in SOFT CARTEL, X-Ray Literary Magazine, and Gone Lawn, amongst others. He’s constantly learning to be Tyler Dempsey, with slight variations. Find him @tylercdempsey or http://tylerdempseywriting.com.

“Declaration” by Stephen Ground

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I used to see my whole family – Mom, Dad, little sister, a couple cats – hanging by their throats from rafters in the garage. Twice-weekly, sometimes more. Always after pounding the door code two, three times; first-try success hampered by warm Colt 45 and shake rips off pop can pipes, testing the limits of my Bambi-legged tolerance before curfew at eleven. Buzzed, sausage-fingered, I’d eventually crack it – the door half-up when I’d see them, mind’s eye but crystalline, tangible, dangling stiffly. I’d watch the door creep higher, awaiting toes pointed at the floor; shins, knees, ribs, necks wrung like dish rags. 

It’d nudged the end of the track; the roar paling. Mucousy light from the bare bulb coating the empty garage. I’d rush inside, lock up, and kill every light; trot upstairs to distance myself from a bad feeling, knuckles rapping wood railing in frantic beats, all three sides of my doorframe – inside, out – then each side of my dresser, the posts of my bed. Only then I’d feel safe, the last tendrils of dread releasing.

It felt normal – tricks of a tired mind, triggered by what I’d ingested recently in friends’ damp, half-finished basements: Silence of the Lambs. A Clockwork Orange. The Matrix. Imagination was easily blamed – it brought sleep, surrender to neon hypnagogia. I’d slip under the surface but didn’t need air, and sink, deeper but unknowingly closer to the beast leaving corpses strung in a declaration of war.


Stephen Ground is freshly-freed. His work has appeared in The River, Soft Cartel, antilang, and others which can be found at stephenground.com.

“sanctuary of my childhood church” by Cortney Collins

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a red velvet curtain hangs
in front of the chancel,
girded by a pale cross.

dad tells me this is
where the Ark of the Covenant
lives.

i imagine the bow
of a great vessel
behind this crimson threshold,
ready to be freed,
to slice that veil in half
and topple the white cross,
the way a cargo ship
cuts a delta
through floating ice
in Nordic waters.

i see that ship charge
out into the pews,
pushing aside bibles &
offering plates &
candlesticks
as it careens
toward the stained glass
window of Jesus
with a banner that says
suffer the little children
and shatters it into
a million fragments
of colored light.

all that’s left are
bits of flame and
shards of glass
as we watch the stern
of the ship
sail out of the church and
off into the Sandhills.

stupefied churchgoers
let hymnals drop
from their limp hands,
perplexity on their faces
as their children chase
the maiden voyager
out onto the plains,
laughing,
satin ribbons on Easter dresses
trailing in the Nebraska wind
like telltales on a mainsail.

 


Cortney Collins’ poetry has been published by South Broadway Ghost Society, 24hr Neon Mag, Amethyst Review, Devil’s Party Press, and others. She enjoys co-facilitating weekly poetry workshops for women in the corrections system in conjunction with SpeakOut! at Colorado State University. Cortney lives on the Eastern Plains of Colorado with her feline companion, Pablo. 

“A Thoughtless Name” by Kerry Lloyd

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We used to call it the construction site. A thoughtless name. Very simple. To the point. It was what it was. We climbed fences to get in at night. We watched for lights in the neatly arranged homes nearby to make sure that nobody would see us enter. I helped Ell over the fence. They had a harder time climbing than the rest of us. They lost their balance easily. I did too. I could always catch myself when I did. They couldn’t.

It was dark. We could see the shapes of the machinery. They were bigger than us. Fun to climb on. But we couldn’t ever quite see where we were going. We had to use flashlights. I stepped into one of the vehicles. It had a steel claw hanging from a long, bent arm. It was both sharp and blunt somehow. The door was unlocked. I tried to start it. I couldn’t start it. I looked for a key. There was no key. That was for the best. We kept walking.

We came to a hill. It was made of dirt and rocks piled up very tall. All displaced from other corners of the construction site. All of these machines, all moving around dirt and rocks. Like little ants. Ants in the construction site. Just clearing space before they build a colony. The construction site. At least, that’s what we called it. I was sure that it had a name. We didn’t need it. We climbed the hill.

Climbing was easy. Even easier than the fence. It was more like walking with longer strides. I was tall. My body was mostly legs. It was easy for me. It was harder for Reese. I helped him climb too. The moon had come out now. We could see without the flashlights. That helped.

We sat at the top of the hill. There was grass here, somehow. There wasn’t much. But enough. Any was enough. We looked at the moon. The sky was black, but illuminated. We could see stars behind the clouds. We could see the clouds. I thought one looked like a bird. Not an eagle. Something smaller, like a finch. I thought it was flying. Ell saw a shooting star. They swore they did. Reese didn’t believe them. That was fine. I believed them. 

There was a big tire at the top of the hill. We pushed it down. It bounced off the rocks and knocked dirt free into the air. I don’t know why we did this. It was satisfying. We didn’t get caught. 

We climbed down the hill. We kept walking. We played with more construction equipment. We kept walking. We hopped back over the fence. We kept walking. We didn’t get caught. We didn’t get caught. We didn’t get caught.

Kerry Lloyd is a nonbinary creative writing student lurking in the hidden and elaborate cave system under Manchester, New Hampshire. You can find them mumbling to themselves over at @razzkerry