“The Party” by Anthony AW

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Katie invited me— she lost her cowboy hat, but her friends found it, as some girl almost stole it & was caught. Katie rolled around while Kana & I did coke & afterwards we all danced to 1999 in 2019, while my black Chelsea fringe boots swayed with the mood. I was new to the group. Sydney sat on the couch & watched. Fernet left of the stove, Hanna welcomed me to the party. She’d be the shroomsgirl. In her room, four of them lounged on a full bed. Their limbs kept touching each other’s in that kind of close you only see in highschool friendships. It was there that Patrick corrected my pronunciation of ‘Franz Kline’ in an assholic fashion, but I found it sexy. Jacob mentioned that he was heading back to Indonesia sometime soon, & I didn’t care. He kept going on about ‘finding himself’ there. I lost my Kachina Doll ring at the party & suspect one of those mentioned above to have taken it— probably Katie.

 

Anthony AW (he/they) is an LA-based writer. Their work has been or will be published in Boston Accent Lit, Drunk Monkeys, FIVE:2:ONE, & Mojave He[art] Review. His micro-chapbook, Pantoum’d!, will be published by Ghost City Press for their 2019 Summer Series.

twitter: @an__o__

“The Dawn of Spectator Sports” by Thad DeVassie

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There are feeble-looking man-ferrets running in circles, many endless ovals. They are thin, emaciated and reeling; clearly unkempt. Onlookers get the sense they’ve been at this for an excruciatingly long period of time, marveling at this spectacle without definition. They are equally perplexed when a man who drops his arm next to a chalked line trampled many times over suddenly means victory.  

There are huskier fellows throwing weighty parts of a forgotten pulley system around the infield, in concert with more nimble ones who invert themselves on poles and become primitive catapults reminiscent of when humans were artillery in those ancient, epoch wars. Opportunities for carnage escalate with each jump, with every throw.

Then there is the man with the javelin whose activity will someday struggle to translate well to modern playgrounds. Unrefined, he calls it what it is – a spear. He looks the part: suspicious and bloodthirsty. A thrust of his weapon guarantees a win of different sorts, but he knows better. He is the penultimate gladiator, the lure and the bait, tempting a growing field of spectators whose collective interests mount with the potential of soon-to-be impaled running man-ferrets.

Make no mistake: this is what puts butts in the seats, what really gets a crowd roaring.

 

Thad DeVassie is the author of the forthcoming collection THIS SIDE OF UTOPIA (Cervena Barva Press). His work has appeared in numerous publications including Poetry East, New York Quarterly, North American Review, West Branch, NANO Fiction, and PANK. A lifelong Ohioan, he is the founder of a brand messaging + storytelling studio in Columbus, and the co-founder of JOY VENTURE, a podcast and platform for sharing stories of unlikely and risk-taking entrepreneurs.

2 Micros by Rickey Rivers Jr.

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Clean

This year’s company orgy was a disaster. The concept of hygiene seems lost on several employees. How are you cleaner at work? Why would you even allow your spouse to leave home in such states of stench? I’m not in the business of relations with the unkempt. Though orgies are naturally filthy there’s a certain organized chaos within. We are not animals. We are co-workers. Therefore we should behave as such. I won’t stand for this sort of unclean behavior for much longer. I hope to see improvement next year. Baths beforehand, everyone should smell like assorted soaps and lotions. No matter your size, you shouldn’t be sweating before disrobing. I don’t care how anxious you are. Be professional and above all else be clean.

 


Backroom

There’s a woman on stage. A man is next to me. He leans over and says “She’s hot.” I nod because having a conversation in this place would be difficult unless you’re in one of the backrooms. I’ve never been there but I’ve heard tales. At some point the woman comes from the stage and stands in front of me. She’s beautiful though it’s difficult to tell in this light. Her energy feels almost tangible. She says something to me. I can’t hear her properly. It sounds like gibberish. The guy next to me says “Lucky you.” The woman reaches for my hands and pulls me to my feet. Well, I allow her to pull me. I’m bigger than her though she does seem to have a sort of strength unmatched. In the same way ballerinas are strong. You know what I mean? Now I am walking along with this woman, who has strong legs, strong arms and flexible parts, she leads me to a backroom. The lights are colored here, looks like Christmas mixed with Halloween. “What’s going on?” I say as I am pushed onto a couch. She puts a finger to my lips and leans forward. I can now smell this woman. She smells fantastic. With pillow-like lips a whisper hits my ear. She says my name and then I am taken.

 

Rickey Rivers Jr was born and raised in Alabama. He is a writer and cancer survivor. His work has appeared in Three Drops from a Cauldron, A Twist in Time Magazine, Neon Mariposa Magazine (among other publications). Twitter.com/storiesyoumight / https://storiesyoumightlike.wordpress.com/ His mini-chap collection of 3×3 poems is available now.

“Institution” by David Mayoh

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Slammed into a cold hard surface, dribble and amniotic fluid spews across it.

Primordial ooze.

An entrance, from the void, in this dense, cold realm. Aliens attend to me. Cold, sterile, fluorescent beams warping my innocent flesh. I have arrived and the situation is grave. I squirmed, whaled, beat my delicate, unformed fists, on the confining structure.

Later on they will say I signed up for this. We needed to wipe your memory, your knowing, so you can grow and experience. You are here to arrive where you are meant to. Follow the promptings. Good luck.

Father, I have strayed so far

Help me get back.

You are voiceless and tired, but you established the template long ago. You have called me forth to carry it on, but can I? You needed to show me the old way so I could help build something new? Is that it?

Some of us struggle existing within this interstitial grid, a finely maintained balance between Heaven and Hell, girdled by wounds, dominated and dislocated, attended to by agents of doom – subdued, medicated, beaten and throttled, they stop at nothing to eliminate our purpose and potential. Others seem to integrate seamlessly: machines.

Align and Obey.

Our cuts and scars, scabbed over, caste into bone and debris, no opportunity to heal. We have suffered, the men, women, ancestors, the collective pain is surging forth now. It is beyond me but now my own, mine to attend to, to clean up and rectify.

I have always wanted to die, to kill myself, or to bring death about through wreckless living. Return to the ooze. Some unknown force inhibits my efforts, forcing me to go on.  

Your lessons, father were so mired in confusion and our depressed souls flailed and waned, begging for expression.

My head slams into the enamelled wooden surface. I have survived the first stage and am cognizant now. Injected in to this system, the numerical hierarchy of learning. I suffer and wane as the unwitting agents perforate my essence with instruction, as they condition on behalf of the master. Those who serve are compensated well, they lead a tidy and comfortable life. Their souls are doomed.

Fluorescent lighting beamed at me once again, my flesh has strengthened since the last bout. I am more clear, more lost. The boredom and subservience. It is wrong. Is that not obvious? I struggle and resist, powerless, unable to speak up or initiate anything at this point. The master cackles and gives me a C- .

Something did not take effect early on. I wish it had. If it had, this would be easier. Raise your hand to take a piss, eat now, k, listen to the buzzer, follow the commands of your approaching technotronic overlords, submit boy.

Stifled and subdued, we cried. Silently at first, but with ever-increasing volume and magnitude. I know you struggled father, I can see it now. I feel it and I am here with you now, no longer your combatant, but your ally. You were tasked to continue building and participating in the structure. It tore at you, but no other way was available. I am now tasked with augmenting it, rearranging it in to a new order of life, of nature and balance. I’ll take what I have learned, and will apply it. I’ll die doing so. You guide me. Many have condemned and faulted you. I will catch your tears and transform them into harmony and cohesion. I get now what I am here to do.

My first memory, metallic and dead, rises back now. I see it was the first step among a process designed to create a certain type of human.

Inoculated with fear.  

Because I was not right, something was not right. This birth process institutionalized and marauded over by specialists and clinicians, test, meters, tubes and anesthetics. Devoid humans.

We had been fooled I now see.

Those attempting to dominate nature were doing the same to us, they had to.

The struggle has been present all along. They say be happy, it is a choice, focus on what you want, they give you tasks, exercises, manuals and protocols. Marketing, it is all marketing. It dominates, disguised, detrimental. Truth, why do I seek you, why do you complicate my life and weave this cyclone of growth and decay, awareness and ignorance?

We’ve had a lot to process and heal father. Our ancestral line, our genetic conglomeration rooted in abuse, death, depravity and self-destruction, they cry and wallow. We needed to answer the call, so we do this work now, and it will be apparent to you father, one day, in a higher place, as you transcend the doom.

but wait,

Finally, my head smacks into a slightly-less enamelled surface, a richer, darker wood. I have value now, I have gone through the stages and can contribute and participate. Rewards lay beyond the door of service and subservience to an external agent and organization. After it all, how did I end up here? Fear and death, failure and poverty, despite my narrative the program wove in and here I am now.

I am angry, it grows with the day. Why in the fuck am I here?

That light is back, the false one, the fluorescent one, it vibrates into my depths, enlivens the scars and wounds, the knowing,  finally inspiring the purge, rage and release I have been seeking, slamming into me, an anvil of terror and bewilderment. The cloak removed, despite the tailored fit and comfort.

I thought everything was okay, I knew it wasn’t.  

A complete break

I was sent away. I left to search. I did not know this at the time father but I came here to piece it back together. 

I must now go. I finally see as you never have.  

It has been slow and arduous, layer by layer. Their prodding and machinations have lost all power, pain is no longer feared.  I have felt true torture on those dark nights, mournings and afternoons. The prolonged submersion in to a world of toil, hastily trying to escape at first, eventually realizing that I could not. 

Left to me was only the weak fragile capacity to sit still and feel. A slow alienation from all things worldly. I sought answers and found none. The mass, the complex bore no understanding for me, or I for it. All lead back to the last place any of us want to go or look. That region, or place, they tried to dissect and digest on that hard cold table. You were watching though father, you protected me, you preserved that dim light, that motivating impulse which would lead to our salvation.

Now, our hearts merge, we are one. This was the point. 

Rest soundly father.

 

David Mayoh is a person for whom all has burned down. All illusions and confusions rose and passed. He is now interested in creating and collaborating with those aware that something is up. His dysfunction, perspective, and ramblings have been laid out at www.retrievethysoul.com.

Attachments area

 

“Mind Decay” by J.T. Edwards

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Rage was wafting in my mind as the birds chirped gayly in the evening air. I popped an antihistamine and smoked a joint as I mourned the passing of my hamster. I lit a cigarette as the neighbor’s dogs were grating on my nerves, barking like possessed banshees.

I leaned forward. Swinging my head back and forth in a head-banging like fashion. Bashing my forehead into the patio table until my ears were ringing just how I like them. The neighbors across the street were watching me with binoculars. I know they were. They are always watching.

It was dark outside then. The crickets were chirping. I could smell violence in the air. I checked The Drudge Report on my phone because I hate myself.

17 DEAD; SHOOTING IN NY SUSHI BAR

I tossed the phone from my porch in disgust. I heard it land softly in some tall grass. I should have just stomped it. I sat in darkness seething, praying for a sudden impact event as the moon mounted the darkness like a necrophiliac on a fresh corpse.

A nearby street lamp turned my porch into a lighted stage. I disrobed and climbed atop the patio table. The night was a foul whore. The cool air nipped at my testicles. I cursed in unending blood curdling screams to drown out the wailing dogs next door. The neighbors were surely entertained.

Nothing is ever solved.

I can hear the feeble minded primates copulating in the bushes. We can only hope that the coming war blossoms into nuclear suicide.

Until then I’ll sit here under constant surveillance. As low as a man can be; invoking murder fantasies of disemboweling the earth with a sharpened piece of mammoth bone. Watching Mother Gaia bleed out from afar as I drift into the sun, chain-smoking cheap cigarettes the whole way.

 

J.T. Edwards is a misanthropic hilljack hailing from the Southern Appalachia. He’s had poetry published in Spectral Realms. You can find him on twitter @JT2688

“Today, I Was Someone Else” by Dale Brett

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Today, I didn’t go to work. Decided I didn’t want to couldn’t bear to.

My wife went to school. Our children went to childcare.

I drove to the mall and parked in the section labelled ‘pram parking’.

I have booster seats. Shhh – don’t be concerned for me. No one will ever know. 

There is twenty dollars in my wallet. I want to buy something artistic. Something ‘fulfilling’. Something tangible that I can hold devour and consume.

I am also hungry. But I will save the twenty dollar note for material goods. I can buy food later with the small amount of zeroes and ones remaining on the debit card of our joint bank account.

My wife says: Food is acceptable. Food is permitted. Food is good. 

She also says: Art, music, books… These things are not permitted. They are not okay. They do not help me raise a young family.

I don’t know why one is approved and the other is not.

People need both equally to survive.

But I decide to silently submit to her view and opt to purchase a compact disc with the legal tender I hold, without a digital trace.

That’s right. I have learned how to avoid questions.   

She is probably right, I don’t need to buy these things. Maybe. 

I decide to eat lunch at TGIF. Not because I like the food, not because it is cost-effective – just because I want to feel like someone else. Someone who likes to eat shit and spend their disposable income at a burger franchise from America in the middle of a one-in-a-million suburban wasteland in metropolitan Australia.

I also feel the aesthetic, the vibe, accompany the contents of the book I am reading best. And, at this moment, these are important factors when choosing a venue to eat.

Yes, there is something wrong with me. Maybe.

After I finish my meal, I pay my bill and walk to the elevator. A middle-aged man entering a gym nearby stops me.

 

—How’s the food here?

Um.

—Oh, sorry – do you work here?

No, I don’t work here.

—Oh, okay then. I never eat here. How’s the food?

Why? What do you mean?

—I mean, are the meals good or just okay?

Um. It’s okay.

Just a meal?

Just a meal.

 


The man turns and leaves through the sliding doors of the gymnasium. He will never know the truth during his workout.

It was not just a meal, it was a one-time experience necessary to avert personal crisis.

But how do you tell someone you went to lunch at a simulacrum of a diner from the other side of the world out of nostalgia, because of its shitty aesthetics, because you wanted to pretend you were someone else?

To tell someone you want to feel something alien, have an out-of-body experience, be sent back in time to an era when you had no responsibility – people don’t want to hear these words.

They want to hear that the food is okay.

They want to hear that life is more than just a meal.

They want to hear your recommendations on how to rid themselves of their hard-earned.  

I get back in the car. I drive to the doctor to get a medical certificate. Tell some lies. Spread some obligatory evils to remain employed. I forget to even take the CD out of the packaging and put it on the stereo in the car. The cellophane wrap still intact. Most likely neglected for weeks. Another trivial object destined for the scrap heap of my compulsion.

I guess my wife is right. I don’t need to buy these things. But maybe I do, those times when I try to be someone else.

 

Dale Brett is a writer and artist from Melbourne, Australia. 
He is interested in exploring the melancholic malaise and technological ennui of the 21st century. His work has been featured on Burning House Press, Surfaces.cx, Misery Tourism, Expat Press and Nu Lit Mag. Hypertextual artifacts found @_blackzodiac.

“Not going home” by Graham Irvin

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A man walked into the internet cafe. Inside the mall. Brown carpet. The walls were wood paneling. The man paid the cashier for an hour. He sat in front of a thick computer. He watched a video somewhere online. His niece blew out candles on a cake. She pushed yellow and brown handfuls into her mouth. It could have been his granddaughter. There were people talking in the video. He didn’t recognize the voices. He wore an unwashed felt hat. It smelled like a body. He had on tall leather boots that curled at the toes. He watched videos for songs he used to know. He felt soulless. Nothing made sense anymore. Sound was wrong. It felt like having a conversation. He opened a chat window and sent a message to a name. He asked the name what it was wearing. He told the name what to do. He told the name what he would do. His legs ached like a balloon. His time ran out. The man walked to the food court. He watched a boy sitting at a table. The boy moved like a glitch. He had a yellow crust around his mouth and nose. He made a sound like an engine starting. He smelled more like a body than anyone else. He smiled the way a baby laughed. The man wanted to take away the thing that made him happy. He wanted to wade in the boy’s body smell until he was sick. The man stood in line for food. There was sand in the tiles on the floor. A woman stood in front of him. She had a mushroom tattooed on her ankle. Her feet glowed like jewelry. Everyone stepped forward. The space around the woman smelled animal. Everyone needed a shower. Something had to wash off. He sat down with his plate. His insides hurt like a clock. Like his skin could bleed with a touch. He took the phone out of his pocket. There was a picture of the girl from the video when he opened it. He didn’t know the numbers to call anymore. Conversation was a sickness. A spoon scraped out the words in his head. The shapes in front of him looked all wrong. He wasn’t hungry anymore. Something sharp was wrapped in plastic on the table. He felt everyone dare him to use it. He was an exhibit in a zoo. The lights in the parking lot turned off. Someone with a mop said lift your feet. The man stared at the nothing of their face. He felt like the last human left. He walked outside. He moved toward home.

♦◊♦

Mom worked at the hospice behind main street. Everyone was dying. She was on second shift feeding the world pain medicine. It was almost dinner. I walked into her office and got on the computer. I opened a chat window. No one good was on. I tried anyway. TexasMac68 sent a message. I replied. I told him I just got home from school. I told him I’m wearing a white shirt and boxers. He told me ‘touch yourself’. He asked me are you wearing the cowboy boots? It felt like a joke. Like he wasn’t real. I thought he was making fun of me. I told him I’m wearing brown ones. I told him they smell like bodies in a locker room. I told him I’m taking everything off except the boots. He sent photos of a man standing in front of a red barn. He sent a link to a western website. He told me these are the ones I’m wearing now. It was starting to get good. He signed off without saying goodbye. I walked into my bedroom. I pulled a bag out of my desk. I packed a bowl and put it in my pocket. The neighbor mowed his grass. He wore clear glasses so rocks couldn’t blind him. He looked asleep. I couldn’t smoke with him outside. I wanted the mower blades to fire rocks into his memories. I drove to the park by the YMCA. Kids stood in the creek that cut through the park. The water was the color of pennies and eye glitter. Crawfish hid in the corners of the creek. Their claws made the kids scream. There was a group party at a picnic table. A woman cut a slice of cake. There were kids and other women around her. She gave the cake to a little girl. I walked into the bathroom. It smelled like shit and chlorine. Like a locker room. I put the lighter up to the bowl. I held in the smoke until it came out invisible. I walked back out fast. I did not look at the party. I wanted them to forget me. My car was surrounded by activity buses. I couldn’t unlock the door. The key didn’t fit and then it did. I felt like a thief. My brain was a warzone. I couldn’t go home. Music made it worse. Like scalpels cutting through my jaw. Like chewing a battery. It started to get dark. I drove to the thrift store downtown. The ceiling was too high. The lights made my eyes boil. Everything smelled like a hospital. Everyone died in their clothing. Every movie played blue over a cadaver’s face. The shoes were ancient and covered in dust. I thought about a locker room again. Opening the metal door and finding shoes without a body. There was a pair of black cowboy boots. With metal toe caps and twirls etched in. Roses embroidered up the ankles. I pushed my foot inside. My mood felt destroyed. It felt like punishment. I laughed hot tears down my face. I wanted to wear them and nothing else. I wanted to look so boring. Like I was in on the joke. The cashier didn’t look at me. He wouldn’t make me real. He put the boots in a bag. I drove back home. I through the bag on my bed. I took everything off. Mom was still at work. I stared at myself in her closet mirror. I felt tall and thin. I felt pretty. I got back on the computer. TexasMac68 wasn’t there. I sent him a message anyway. I told him I’m wearing the boots. I told him for real this time. They look so good. I can send a picture. He didn’t respond.

♦◊♦

The road was orange and black. The road was grey and blonde. Two orbs smaller than the night. Everything felt like a dream. Like she was just waking up. The woman’s head was heavier than the sun. She kept watching her hands on the steering wheel. Nothing else made sense. She had to get home. She was getting home. She was almost home. The car drove itself. Floating in a sea of confidence. The sidewalk split her front tire. Her neck pulled left then right. Something big came across the windshield. The car moved over it. It broke fast under the car. Everything stopped hard. Forked by a street light. There was a smell like ozone. Her ears kept ringing. Like muffled crying. Nothing worked. The engine didn’t turn over. Smoke like a blanket. There was red on the windshield. Someone stood outside across the street. Their body small from her window. They stared at something on the ground. A piece of the man. The woman crawled out of her car. There was more. Behind. His legs wrapped like a wire. One boot missing. She couldn’t see his face. It was somewhere in the grass. His hat still nearby. The person across the street held a phone. They described the car. The man. The woman said no. Her insides turned hot. She couldn’t move quick enough. There was something wrong in her legs. She couldn’t look at them. She wanted to go back to sleep. To be home again. She thought I can still make it. If I can just get away from the road. Hide until it’s over. Her palm was on a piece of the man. It felt like sponge cake. It was still warm. It felt like a kitten purring. She pulled the bag from her pocket. Tried to make it as small as possible. It tasted like pollen and sweat. Plastic stuck to the sides of her mouth. Tears moved down her face. The bag dropped into her stomach. The ground turned red and blue. She was pulled off the ground. Someone in black put handcuffs on the woman. She watched people take photos of the man across the road. People in white picked up his pieces. They put him into a bag. Then more people. Vans and cameras and microphones. Someone was standing by the woman’s window. Screaming. Her mouth moved without sound. Crying. The people with the cameras asked questions. She talked about the woman in the handcuffs. She said I hope she dies slow for what she did. He didn’t deserve this. He was good to our children. It’s all gone. She deserves to rot. Forever. No sunlight. She’s less than. Human. Everything I love. Gone. The cameras and microphones pulled away. The vans left. The car that the woman sat in pulled away. The person driving said that’s it for you. They’re going to tear you apart. The woman didn’t feel like crying. She started to cry. Deep down there was warmth. They’re going to tear you apart.

 

Graham Irvin lives in North Carolina. His prose has appeared in Apathy Press, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, and Philosophical Idiot. His poetry is forthcoming or has appeared in Punk Lit Press, Philosophical Idiot, Maudlin House, and Soft Cartel.  Follow him on twitter @grahamjirvin.