The cat came out of nowhere, jumping out of the bushes, hissing at the pit bull. “Poor Rocky,” Carol said, stroking his trembling ears. Dumped on the side of the road, battered, bruised, and left for dead. That’s how the dog rescue people found him. He was a bait dog that had outlived his usefulness. When the vet discovered rocks in his stomach, the rescue agency named him Rocky. A starving dog will eat anything. Even rocks. When he was ready for adoption, Carol applied. She’d never had a dog before. But she couldn’t resist his sad face. Pampering Rocky became her new hobby. She fed him premium dog food, dressed him in stylish sweaters, and walked him every evening after work. There was only one problem. The neighborhood cat. It loved to come out of nowhere and terrify Rocky. A timid giant, he never defended himself. His past had beaten the fight out of him. Carol could relate. She’d also escaped an abusive relationship. Therapy had healed her wounded soul. Maybe it could heal Rocky too? She decided to try. Every night before she went to sleep Carol would read empowering books to Rocky, his head resting on her shoulder. “We become what we’re attached to,” Carol read, turning the page. “You’re a survivor, Rocky. Attach yourself to courage, not fear.” Winter arrived, and Carol slipped Rocky into a warm red hoodie for their walk. On the street, the man came out of nowhere, hurrying toward Carol. “Why haven’t you answered my calls?” he demanded. Carol stepped in front of Rocky. “Our relationship ended six months ago,” she said. The man grabbed her arm, pressing his fingers into her flesh, bruising. “That’s unacceptable,” he threatened. The growl came out of nowhere. In a flash of red, Rocky moved between them. The man jumped back and ran away. Carol looked down at the leash in her hand. She was the only one trembling. “Let’s get a snack,” she said, stroking Rocky’s soft ears. “My treat.”
‘Attachments’ was first published in The Rye Whiskey Review.
Laura Stamps loves to play with words and create experimental forms for her fiction. Author of several novels and short story collections, including IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RIDE: CAT MANIA (Alien Buddha Press). Muses Prize. Pulitzer Prize nomination. 7 Pushcart Prize nominations. Mom of 4 cats. Laura’s Twitter.
The sky loses all its colour- In the leisure of your eyes. My palm loses track to- Answer your phone call. The melody stops when- Your kisses appear. The broken tree collects- And shares the love. Love clings to the fallen leaves. Our love drops to the ground. Only the fingers remain untouched. The blackspots stain the diary. The waves of the metamorphoses- Floats in your blue eyes. The crisscross of the destruction- Spreads over the strings- Of the guitar, out of the blue. The memories stick to the thorns. The voice cracks to the last pitch. The lane drenches- In the damp of the dark. This earth is a daredevil, Galib.. I failed to be a part of it. So is with the innocent lives. I am longing for you. Millennium. I’m in my last move of this battle. Waiting for you under this dull sky.
Tiyasha Khanra is a poet and author, who lives in Kolkata, India. Previously published on Internation Times, Indian Periodical, Spillwords, Storymirror, The Lakeview Journals and elsewhere.
I don’t want you here. The void is a void. Sun a bright November forty seven ride. When I was last depressed I drowned myself in Tito’s. This was a gift from you. You won’t be there, but I want you there.
Endless Twine, so to Speak
every sentence can rebirth a hundred times correction fluid applied to my tongue I gag paint thinner thinker emotions, I’d say what a wondrous gift, a paperclip glinting in fluorescent sun, how endless sky turns fake the longer I stay inside
Hard to Think Around the Thing
I don’t want details. To paint the scene is the scene. I am trying hard to think around the thing. To forget the figure and face. But it was late October, your phone was booming This is Halloween– and my bed was on the floor then. And the baby blue walls before the High Street crowd, everyone in masks– with the scissors. You cut the hole in my pants. Because I was in silky green. I was alien alive in the wrong place, wrong time. There was the gold stage behind us. By garbage can makeouts. Groping hands reached into the city’s cheap costume. And there was chill in the wind except when everyone was bunched into each other. If we couldn’t stay warm we’d have to go inside. No one wanted the street. But we didn’t want inside.
is a drill I am filling holes in the days my worn-out jeans piled on plaids & flannels in a bag of old saliva
& I didn’t listen when you asked– no, pleaded– take care
the whir of the overhead light looms over every scrape
Skinny Love isn’t your strongest (red guitar grass blades, guzzles of beer)
the world doesn’t know your name still I walk infinity eights through
your friend’s backyard evading dormant dog droppings while the strumming lands
soft & sweet, butterflies on my cheek. I’ll find a blanket somewhere to sit on
under the awning, a shade for when it rains
James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet working in film production. He has two chapbooks, Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, 2021) and The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
As you grow older, you feel the rain before the first drop plops upon your skyward face because aches in wrists & knees are the raging storm clouds unseen.
O, how it was to be young & without a care or worry, running through the rain because it was fun instead of trying to seek shelter.
Each drop a baptism to bring your spirit a sense of renewal you didn’t know you’d need before the pain.
I used to sit on the porch with my dad during storms; he’d tell me ghost stories that always seemed to fall on the current day’s date.
When you’re just a child, you don’t think of all that can be lost in a tornado while sitting in a bathtub with your bub, having the time of your life.
Tim Heerdink is the author of Somniloquy & Trauma in the Knottseau Well, The Human Remains,Red Flag and Other Poems, Razed Monuments, Checking Tickets on Oumaumua, Sailing the Edge of Time, I Hear a Siren’s Call, Ghost Map, A Cacophony of Birds in the House of Dread, Tabletop Anxieties & Sweet Decay (with Tony Brewer) and short stories ‘The Tithing of Man’ and ‘HEA-VEN2’. His poems appear in various journals and anthologies. He is the President of Midwest Writers Guild of Evansville, Indiana.
General Blue Azure bloom Ghost Candle burning in the wind still a wonder Sword of her mouth a harlot blunder Fibers of Tobacco Smoking Room Verge of the cliff sliding down the flume Near window brief gestures during the thunder They are grave yard dead Six feet under In Lady’s Chapel at Olive Breeze Tomb Slice of luck being here seeing that bird Open chalk scaled back door to see the clerk Gruff Squire on Camel back took Third Have some spark in your manifested work Eating Sea-Green Pothole bowl of Curd Eyes of the sympathetic personage smirk
Short sighted eyes admonition able Spiritual in its ivory like purity abolish Pronounced beautiful veined alabaster polish A deliberate lie whit as the cable Lady of the land her self-setting the table Innate refinement unmistakably evidenced demolished Her softly feathered face polished Gentle wrong a high degree of fable A charmed woman such eyes abortive Lovers quarrel between two doves Dignity told her to stay sportier A neat blouse of electric blue and black gloves Silent sad down cast eyes supportive Haunting expressions girlish shyness love
Wise precaution unobtrusively chopping Firewood Brutes of the field ship of the streets map The art of man barring the Bee’s Lap She and you argute passionately stood Whale with a Harpoon Hair Pin Hood Looked sideways towards friendly fashion trap Had her large dark lidded Eye’s zap Irish industries exquisite variations of wood Fashionable beautiful parenthesize burst Distilling grapes into puttee mirth Which she did phenomenally first Clear seas brings voices of Sirens dearth Tenor voice good graces by all means thirst Without a second care birth
On the day but one preceding yawn Reminded herself twice not to forget Beer Hand in corresponding pocket cheer Inadvertently premeditatedly resting brawn Lower union rails and stiles of the lawn The impact of the fall so shear Avoirdupois measure periodical self-regulated veneer Weight of Eleven Stones Octagon Crouching in preparation bellow Pharmaceutical chemist feast of the Kelp Sunset over Ashland Bay’s foggy Yellow Note found in the car only said help Compressed his hat on his head and fell over Knock or not to knock enter or not to enter reply
Walk With Jack
Set off to walk with Jack Terrible rat mires her skin turning blue Life on the farm dirty Dublin dinner My Editor can kiss my tootle-do Elderly and pious vestal spinner Night reeking hungry for dough and brew Copper Tin Letter Box boy’s winter
Terry Brinkman has been painting for over forty five years. He started creating poems. He has five Amazon E- Books, also poems in Rue Scribe, Tiny Seed. Winamop, Snapdragon Journal, Poets Choice, Adelaide Magazine, Variant, the Writing Disorder, Ink Pantry, In Parentheses, Ariel Chat, New Ulster, Glove, and in Pamp-le-mousse, North Dakota Quarterly, Barzakh, Urban Arts, Wingless Dreamer, LKMNDS and Milk Carton Press.
What’s there to transmit? I was dropped off by ship by St Branden exploring islands in the sea of fire. His curragh was smoking. The leather boat hides stretched over the frame of the boat smoked in the heat. The monk dips his blade in the sea. What does he say? “I am pleased with the smooth gentle motion of my curragh over the waves.”
Another image of the man alone, eternal before creation, made to feel the motion of the curragh. He floats before earth is made, in companies, ranks of fifty, the way the Lord sat them down on the hill to feed the loaves and fishes. Christopher Smart says, “the Lord Jesus made him a nosegay and blessed it and he blessed the inhabitants of flowers.” He called them herbs. As an herb on the hill the eternal waits birth, distilling with sun, blind for the Sun, rest surveying space, time and none, until he hears his name. So down into flesh.
You cannot prepare ahead for life. With no memory he goes in faith past the deities and sinks to a womb to enter the world where surfaces rule with no certainty what you are guessing. Everybody knows the nature of this voyage. To read about it you are on it. Not to tell, the thing is forgetfulness, waking up, falling asleep, thin on the ground. Just thinking about the sea causes air to disappear. The monk thinks that thinking about the flesh inundates spirit.
Wind, water. So in transmission there is nothing at all. You’re here, then you’re gone. You might be remembered great or small. The people I speak of are small. Peasants, still talking. A mashed potato baby, burlesque of the eternal. That’s the danger of the voyage, the details are everything. The red wheelbarrow in the rain. Do your word. When the eternal subsumes in the working and immolates pleasure for the satisfaction of creation, the details are everything. The eternal is a hat in a closet. We think of it when the plane takes off, but it is in the closet.
Some feel they have lost the hat. Where did it go? Who took it? The youngest says he can argue either way that the man who fell relived his life in the moments of descent or at the exact moment of impact. But put the hat on before the event. Be there before arrival, greet the eternal again. With that same blindness return as when you came. Know nothing at all. Knowing is equivocation here. Faith is the only knowledge. Sense details mean nothing before and after earth. What matters is what you do with the spirit. It is no gnostic trip. No matter what Branden finds on the isles. It fills the time. You have your cake and eat it too. You can go to earth and remember the hat but not see it till after.
So who do I write for but my subject to celebrate, pure and simple. It’s about the memory of innocence. I remember being innocent. I say, I remember. I do not remember being eternal. Memory and faith must have relation. Philosophy in her blue night dress, her fragrance, her touch, her bed, I remember feeling it compounded over years, but always I start with that first moment of peace or love. It’s better than that. It doesn’t stop. So it is like the hat. I carry that hat made of a thousand touches, more. I talk of eternal, but you are bored, to quote again my youngest in the car: “Carry your sorrow, bear your grief to one pierced breast of love, the Lord’s, and there we lie.” So I guess in addition to writing this for her I write it for him. That’s a good audience. He reads everything! What more can you ask? I want to make him smile. Whether this submission… no, he’s not an editor, nor a librarian, but a grandfather. Whatever I sent to my father during his life he kept. He didn’t always get it but he kept it. I think he was mostly amazed. The Lord I praise is smarter. Can you imagine actually being understood! Unalloyed tongue. Impossible. So I write to praise God.
What do we see of the spiritual world? The foreordained! Moments of predestination. Not to speak it, but you can’t avoid it. That’s the way it seems later. Before, we knew nothing. Just like the voyage out and back. Afterward, compare notes. Before? Forgetfulness. What voyage? Moments of ordination are like this. They present choice. Choice conditioned with grace. Good thing the mind prepared unknowing. Does the field know it will bear wheat? The mind prepared, the body is along for the ride. So float emotion out of stone. Sparks shower no matter what we do, but when remembered, fireworks begin. Creating heaven with a touch, his fingers, the moment is ordained. The hearts of the sons turn to the fathers. The sparks don’t stop.
I don’t know where that leaves those odd moments of Google search. Irrelevancies are possible. Snippets get picked up. Somebody’s search excerpted the St. Branden website for sure. What about the nieces and nephews? Before light dawned and I realized it went to all the world, inflicting one copy each would be enough to hide in the closet near the hat, in case somebody got bored. JAS III wanted it online. Aey will look someday at 40 and say…. I only care in the doing. A month, a year, a decade. It relives if someone discovers Homer again or meditates the past. For a guy on shore the moment lasts, then is gone. He puts out to sea. There are more isles.
The improbability of an unwritten ten generations capable of surviving, that someone could find evidence of with all that suggests of serendipity, we have to accept. We don’t ask why, only what. What is the case.? I set it out here, but not transmit. I set it out because it’s a puzzle unearthed driving blindly. Unearthed is a good word. It is a miracle not to understand the earth, incarnation, expression, image and all details. I consume with lightning and the sunlight falling, mystified with earth. That’s why we have wives, right?
Getting to ground, the endless conversations of my aunts and grandmother, remembered. Lib says I would come into the kitchen and say, “let’s talk.” The child is good, but the man is real. After I found all that out they told me, “oh, I knew that.” They knew but didn’t say. That resistance was a motivation to find out, just because it seemed, as coming in a Journey, all fresh. It is ineffable to me that all those linens exist after hearing all my life nobody knew anything of their maker because she and her sister were orphan girls. Little ones lost have been found ere this, now again. All the while the deeds, the artifacts, the linens were in that trunk.
I like to sail these seas but arrival is everything.
I arrived that day after Christmas with Aey at 6 AM to snow covered streets and cold, went to the diner and had oatmeal before going to pack the remains of two hundred years. The greatest treasures were in the meanest places, signed German books in a case against the eaves of one window. I might have left them, but Aey insisted they go. Later I find all those signatures! Unbelievable. Talk about hiding the past, still feel like much was missed, but don’t know what. Sure the watercolour of Jesse was snatched and lost.
The day before we left I contracted a serious cold, the airport there was said to be closed. Temptation was great not to go. Overcoming by a hair we went. Entropies were strong, determination strengthened by knowing what happens to estates after decease, what happened to my grandfather’s furniture made with his hand, copper kettles, carvings, hand forged fireplace tools. That auction was held over that Christmas before in his house on a rainy night. Few came. What a steal. I was poor then, no transport, no storage, no nothing would be reserved. You can try to save the body. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. If the body is rejected, what of the manuscript? After every proper noun and name is searched strangers will come in the night and read, amazing from every country of the world. In the end it is like the beginning, the disposition of events, the purpose that preceded them before. Before life, after life, in between. The doing is in the doing. What is the being? Keep moving. Believe everything and nothing. The bards are going in that direction.
Attic and Basement
The attic is like the hat, temporal to eternal. What I assume you shall. All visits to that attic are nothing to the time I stayed there as a boy, cot at one end, my brother’s at the other near the books. I was over by the paintings. The impressions layer each other into one large experience to enter whenever I want. The attic has many pretensions, leads onward, oils stacked, surrounded like providence created by the generations before and passed down to inhabit. They were not then revealed. This is not just metaphor. The linens and blankets, the doll clothes and the dresses. I wish I had the dress she put on at moments at the end. It is only a metaphor now.
The body, the body. Things mean the most on earth. I go in and stroke the walnut chest. These many days I take out the pewter coffee pot used on the wood stove in old Philadelphia, turn of the century, brought along in 1944. Some cookware remained, stored in the attic. The stove itself was in the basement, but we have not got there yet. A large pot of boiling water with a swivel top and wood handle, this coffee pot with a mesh insert holds coffee. Its lines get me, the black painted handles. I don’t know what it means, it’s just there as a habitation, the hundred details together mix on top of every surface, pots of the present and past, statues and sculptures, bowls and plates, for all three of my mates are potters, but in the case rests the old pot from early on, too beautiful to behold. So the attic was filled and the boy drank from that well.
Should we have spent more time in the basement, not counting the floors between? I like the basement, but never lived there, thought about saving the old claw foot table, but didn’t. The rush was too great. Really the basement is an exile from the attic. It just works like Jake’s old wood cabinet that he made “just to prove he could,” now on my porch housing pots. Household cleansers were down there, washing machines, prose stuff, except for Marvin’s rocks and jars and fossils. He got nothing into the attic, but of course Aey and Andrew spent their visitations down there with him and the rocks for hours. He had his tools there too, the old wood handled planes and clamps. The basement? I don’t figure to spend much time when all is said and done. There is more dancing to be done. Planets are waiting. Earth reviving. Who shall deliver me? Start looking in worlds without eyes, houses, hills, flame. I build a name out of none of this, but wear it and put it over them, without which I am none. With it, well you see what it brings. It is as said, believe in the name of the son of God and believing have life in his name.
Amanda was holding Brad’s hand when he breathed his last. For almost an hour before he died, he kept saying, ‘I don’t want to die,’ and sobbed uncontrollably. Each time, she coaxed him, saying, ‘It’s for your own good, it’s the best way to end your pain and suffering. If you carry it through, you’ll make me proud.’ On a couple of occasions, when he refused to take any more pills, because he was afraid of death, she showed irritation. ‘You promised me you’d do this. If you back out now, I’ll never speak to you.’
Brad was 18 and Amanda was 21 at the time of his death. Abandoned by his dad, abused by his grandfather, Brad had grown up a depressed kid in a dysfunctional family in desperate straits. Amanda came from a wealthy family that had made its fortune in real-estate. He was an ice-cream scooper in a creamery in the tony town where her ivy-league school was located. She was attracted to his shy smile and vulnerability and had made all the moves in their slow-developing relationship. Once he started having feelings for her, he attached to her like a leech. Once he fell for her, she became a mean girl. She was alternately kind and cruel. She openly kissed other boys in front of him. When he cried about the hurt she was causing him, she became solicitous and comforted him.
After Brad had stopped breathing, the reality hit her. She called her dad who called the family attorney who, in turn, called the cops and the nation’s top defense attorney. The public prosecutor charged her with involuntary manslaughter. The defense attorney put Brad’s grandfather on the stand who testified how suicidal Brad had always been and even expressed satisfaction that his pain and suffering had finally ended. There were reports that Amanda’s family had handsomely rewarded him for his testimony. The attorney also brought in psychologists, psychiatrists, euthanasia experts, forensic toxicologists, addiction experts and had the jury so confused that it failed to reach a decision.
A year later, Amanda met Hugo in the library. She immediately fell for his shy smile and vulnerability. Hugo was actually Hernando, dubbed “timido asesino (timid killer)” in his native town in Jalisco, Mexico. He was a sicario (hitman) in the Nueva Familia cartel until one early morning – a day after his seventeenth birthday – he walked into the drug lord’s mansion, killed his boss and everyone else in his family. He fought his way out killing several sleepy guards and surrendered to the local police chief, his uncle “sin miedo (fearless)” Salvador. In the court, Hernando sat with a shy smile on his face and hence the sobriquet, “timido asesino.” When security for the timid killer became practically impossible, his uncle arranged for him to be smuggled into the United States where Hernando became Hugo and the timid killer became a bookish dweeb. Following his uncle’s advice, he stayed away from the Hispanic community where ever he went in the US which forced him to learn English in a hurry. In a remote area close to the Canadian border, he had found work as a farm hand in the local pastor’s ranch. He lived in a shack on the farm that had a bed and a stove and nothing else. Hugo wanted a TV by his bed but the pastor told him TV was forbidden on his property and there were none in his house either. Instead, the pastor gave him a bunch of religious books to read. The books helped Hugo build a good enough vocabulary, but no TV meant he was cut off from the happenings in the outside world during his stay on the farm. Since the books were religious, his vocabulary included words like catechism and armageddon and messianic and salvation. He sprinkled these words in odd places in odd sentences he wrote in a notebook in an effort to self-educate. Impressed, the pastor’s wife home-schooled him along with the town’s other kids that were half his age. Once he felt Anglo enough, Hugo left the ranch and found work in warehouses, bars, retail stores and restaurants. He signed up for online courses offered free by top universities, including ivy-league schools. That’s how he ended up in the library in the college Amanda went to.
Hugo couldn’t believe his luck. This was his American dream come true. La nina fresa, this preppy strawberry girl, was head over heels in love with him. All she wanted to do was have sex – between the book stacks in the library, under the stairwell, in the copier room, and, of course, in her bed in the high-ceilinged brownstone house on a leafy boulevard in a swanky neighbourhood. When they were not having sex, she was by his side as he walked to his work, as soon as he got off work, when he went grocery shopping, and when he made his meals. She even insisted on being with him when he wanted to pee or take a dump. At work, the only time when he was not with her, he wondered if it was really him – was Hernando a different person? His memories of gang life were starting to fade really fast. He was amazed at the speed at which he was turning into a guero (whitey) not just in looks but in thoughts as well. He had nothing but disdain for immigrant-looking Hispanics. Latin pop that he used to enjoy now sounded jarring coming from cheap speakers at construction sites. “Hello” took the place of “Hola” and “motherfucker” replaced all the madre insults.
That gringo world came crashing down when Amanda ghosted him not even six months into the relationship. She was with him when he went to work that morning, but when he left work she wasn’t out there waiting for him. He texted, then called and then showed up at her door. There was no answer. Radio silence. Was there a family emergency, he wondered. Or was she abducted? She hadn’t introduced him to any of her friends which didn’t seem odd to him since he did not have any friends himself. He didn’t want anyone to get to know him or his past. Of course, he couldn’t go to the police; so he suffered in silence.
A week went by. He couldn’t stand the sadness, the slow descent into madness. He quit his job and camped outside her house. Past midnight, a sports car stopped in front of the house and he saw her step out of the car. He started towards her and froze when he saw the driver, a tall, blonde guy emerge from the car and embrace her. Blood rushed into Hugo’s head as he saw the two lock lips. When they disengaged, she saw Hugo from the corner of her eye. She grabbed the blonde guy and tongued him harder all the while looking at Hugo. She then disappeared into the house dragging the blond guy with her.
The next day, she answered his text and agreed to see him at her house that evening. Dishevelled, distraught and defeated, he showed up at her door. Teary-eyed, he begged her not to dump him. She led him to the bedroom, laid his head on her bosom and tried to comfort him. She gave him a pill and told him, “Take this. It’ll calm you down. You are too agitated.” He said, “I don’t need a pill. I need you.” She said, “Take the pill, then we can talk.” He lifted his head up to take the pill and his spine stiffened. Her eyes had a killer’s intensity! He had been a sicario since he was 12, so he knew a killer when he saw one. He sat straight up and noticed an open purse next to her. He grabbed the bag and dumped the contents on the bed. A number of pills spilled out. He grabbed her by the throat and said, “why don’t you take the pill?” Frightened, she said, “No.” He pulled a knife out of his pocket and stuck it at her throat and said, “Take the pill, bitch!” He forced several pills down her throat. Soon her body went limp.
He made an illegal crossing into Canada and checked into the first motel he could find. He turned on the TV and, sure enough, Amanda was one of the top stories. After Hugo had left, she had regained consciousness and had mustered enough strength to keep banging on the wall. An alert neighbour had called 911 and she had been rushed to the hospital in a comatose state. News reports were calling it a suicide attempt – an unfortunate act to make amends for assisting in a young man’s suicide several years ago.
Lucky break, he thought. Looked like nobody had noticed him enter or leave the house. But he knew, pretty soon, there would be another breaking news about an “Hispanic male”. Now he had a decision to make. Either sneak back into Mexico and face certain death or get arrested in Canada and tried in the US where Amanda’s family money would ensure that he got the maximum sentence possible. He decided to wait for the Canadian police to show up. He felt good about his decision.
Balu Swami lives in the US. His works have appeared in Ink Pantry, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Flash Fiction North, Short Kid Stories, Twist and Twain, and Literary Veganism.
You can find more of Balu’s work here on Ink Pantry.
Sunspot on her chin lost in desire Cupid torturing a lover “theft from thyself?” “who are thou?” “thou art that?” an advocate of civil war internal “you will find no quiet” transplant me somewhere safe within nocturnal wayward delirium the essence of memory with but a touch stray soulful portraits of us
They’ve made us the type of animals where screams of banal entertainment and the uselessness of bullshit jobs have burnt out our corneas by the grave of existence you shall eat the world’s due of emptiness of the final rot with the scent of musty lust and faintly perfumed laced love unlettered you’ll dig deep trenches in beauty’s field toiling through 40 winter snows looking back through a looking glass there’ll be bones piled on high invisible sunken eyes gazing into empty sockets
Give away yourself
I saw Artemis in the shower flaming palm tress I wasn’t sure what she was with a lack of hunter-prey sacred white fawn drinking from a crystalline brook funny the things we witness outside gas station bathroom nights where the divine and mystical meet at the hazardous crossroads with beings ground in time and dirty space of course I didn’t approach too many dogs scratching and bleeding sensory overload from the central aired chaos
Howl for me
The wolf is dead a line inspired by some Detroit badass graffiti the line is more fitting this time, no? not so rogue any more, or are you? tried putting me through the grinder with your wildflower hell goddess venomous mouths lack of wits drowning in cheap booze I tried to make amends you made a joke about my dead child nothing but a wild stray dog staring in dirty urine filled puddle man bites dog is nothing new crawl into a flaming dumpster where you won’t rise a phoenix multidimensional or not
Mike Zone is the Editor in Chief of Dumpster Fire Press, the author of Shedding Dark Places (almost), One Hell of a Muse, A Farewell to Big Ideas and Void Beneath the Skin, as well as co-author of The Grind. Frequent contributor to Alien Buddha Press and Mad Swirl. His work has been featured in: Horror Sleaze Trash, Better Than Starbucks, Piker Press, Punk Noir Magazine, Synchronized Chaos, Outlaw Poetry and Cult Culture magazine.
The greatest regret of my life is to have accepted that stupid, devastating, and chaotic bet. But who could have ever thought, in their right minds, that something so bizarre could actually ever happen? We were a group of six buddies ever since school. We went to the same high school and even college, hanging out at bars, each other’s dorm rooms, and university cafeterias. College was ending; we were going to be mature adults soon, with proper jobs and responsibilities. Some of us were even engaged. Instead of easing into this new way of life, we thought that carefree, goofy, and leisurely days would soon be behind us. Something began to stir in our group, an aching desire to do reckless things, perhaps one most small adventure in stupidity, just to feel alive. It was in this spirit that the fateful bet came into existence, one evening.
We had a whole crate of beers with us at night as we went to our usual ‘adventure meeting’ spot in the city’s outskirts. It was a clearing in the woods, where we lit a bonfire and drank beer cans while sitting on our car hoods. Laughter hung in the air…but then haunting demons were soon summoned with the conversation that followed. There was a graveyard nearby, whose cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Hudson, would often join our festivities. That night was no different; he must have seen the firelight from a distance. He was a nice old man, friendly and convivial. We all liked him and were respectful towards him. However, that night he came with a different expression than usual. He looked gaunt, and his face had a grim look. We asked him what was wrong, and he said that some wretched spirit had come to haunt his graveyard.
We secretly sniggered behind our hands. Mr. Hudson was deeply steeped in the macabre, which never surprised us, considering his job’s nature. On many an occasion, he would tell us stories about ghosts and spirits. He told us stories about how the human soul’s imprints were often left behind, usually because of deaths under unhappy circumstances. Ghosts of those murdered would weep on graves, silently murmuring their plights into the night.
You get used to it after some time. This job requires an acceptance of the afterlife. He often said.
Obviously, we never took him too seriously. We thought that living in such an eerie place and knowing so many death stories had produced in him a strong imagination for the paranormal.
That night, he told us about the new grave.
It belonged to a very evil man, he said. Ever since he had been buried, a thick mist had permanently settled over the cemetery. All kinds of nasty worms and insects were being attracted to the area, and once or twice, Mr. Hudson had come into contact with the evil spirit itself.
For the first time in twenty years, I am actually scared.
We asked him who was the deceased person.
A soul viler than any demon in hell was all he said, with an edge to his soft voice we had never heard before.
He said that he had come over to warn us to stay away from the woods at this time.
It’s no longer safe in these here parts, boys. So please, leave for your own sake! Come visit during the day; I will have the missus brew a lovely tea for you all.
We really respected him, so we agreed to go away and bid him a good night. I wonder how different things would have turned out, how much psychological suffering and trauma could have been avoided if we had done just as Mr. Hudson had said.
As soon as we were at the periphery of the woods, the old argument broke out. At the time, only Jimmy believed in the paranormal and things like ghosts. We were all skeptics, especially Zack, who was particularly dismissive of such a supernatural phenomenon. He and Jimmy got into a pretty intense argument, which ended with the offering of the bet.
Jimmy said that he would pay for the entire group’s dinner if Zack would climb the cemetery wall, go inside and plant three tent pegs close to the new grave (Mr. Hudson had talked enough to let us know crucial details about the grave).
Zack’s eyes had flickered with uncertainty. His instinct was not in favor of doing this. But, as so often happens, our egos take control of our gut feelings and reason. And so, Zack accepted the challenge. The group was thrilled; they wanted someone to make a video of his journey into the cemetery. Unfortunately, no one volunteered, so Zack decided to do it himself.
We waited outside as he climbed the wall and went in. The graveyard was engulfed in thick fog blankets, and the whole place had an eerie feel to it. Several minutes passed as we loitered around a large birch tree, talking and chuckling. Then…a scream rent the air asunder. We all thought that it was Zack who was playing some sort of a prank. The second scream, however, took away all our doubts. Someone was hurt and in great pain.
We dashed off to the cemetery door, peering through the grills. The haze was simply too dense to allow us a peek. Then, something happened that will haunt me for the rest of my days. A figure materialized from the fog, making a segment of it swirl. But, we only saw the silhouette of something inhuman. A burst of laughter, most cold and raspy, reverberated in the air. My blood ran cold, many of the guys backed off. Then…a rectangular object was tossed in our direction; it sailed over the arched gate, softly landing on the muddy ground. My hands violently shaking, I bent down to pick it up. The screen showed a picture of Zack…his temple lodged with…a tent peg. They told me I was still screaming in the ambulance until they gave me an injection to neutralize me.
Police investigated and never found the body. After several questions and inquiries, the case was closed. All of us lost touch with each other…it has been many years since we talked to each other. Heaven knows if we ever will.
A very literary individual, Ahmad Hassan Nadeem is a 14-year-old Pakistani published author—with several publications in renowned newspapers and magazines, such as Dawn, The News International, and TRT, to name a couple. Especially apt in storytelling, he is based in Islamabad.