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short story

“An Ethereal Tethering” by Stephen Wack

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Art by Moriah M. Mylod

 

. . . something about a man and his dog (in the grand, non-linear scheme of reincarnation) as being one in the same. Soul, that is. Ethereal transient dweller, is another. Here now, there they are: Situated between two distinct, bloody meat husks, between two separate states of existent being — at once, under one roof, simultaneously — with one foot in man, the other, a dachshund-terrier mix. 

 

 

 

. . . is comprised of both end and endless, singular and infinite, of omniscient oblivion, bright-dark heavy-light, of both shape and void, each with their own distinct name. As a man: Brandon. In dog form, she is Mocha, among countless others (i.e., Mochi, Mookie, Monkey, Chunky, Chubbers, Chunkmonster. . . ). As mutual entity, root identity, as timeless core incarnate, a loose translation: Daielaareux. 

 

 

. . . will spend seven months at the shelter, gone unadopted longer than any other dog, before rejoining herself again. Meanwhile, she cries her jaw off. Starves herself down to a coffee-boned silhouette. Even draws blood from the hand of a guileless child, to make clear the message: I will never be yours. She waits patiently for what she already knows will eventually be.

 

. . . remembers what, on pure impulse, will drive him to the shelter in this manic grasping for purpose, going on six days without medication. He will come upon himself, caged separate. His ovaries scooped clean. Groggy with shots to keep him quiet, stagnant, alive. Not even finding himself to be particularly cute, or unique, or enthralling, yet feeling instantly connected, just the same. Might he’ve recognized then, in those muted eyes, himself? She knows the next years ahead of them together will be nothing so glorious — that they are in no way ready or responsible enough to take adequate care of themselves. They will ingest things that will make them violently ill. They will be too poor, too careless, to seek medical help. Will endure vast chunks of boredom, chewing holes through themselves, incapable to leave the house. Will watch themselves from the foot of the bed sulk and rot away for days on end, treading the grey wash of their skull, directionless, besides down. Will be the only life force to keep them afloat, strong enough to pull themselves upwards, and eventually, out.  

 

 

 

. . . yanks on their leash in unruly directions, and, out of sheer spite, he tugs them back the opposite way. Each will struggle to tell themselves what to do. He instructs her to obey: Sit. Heel. Eat. Fetch. Up on the couch. Now, off. But she refuses to listen. Years later, their heart crushed by a lasting love, lost — the one who used to (she now learns) smack them in private, but still loves her, despite the abuse — two months out, having still not washed the pillows or sheets, incubated with the tortuous scent of their ex’s shampoo, she has no other choice than to piss on the bed. She instructs him to: Be calm. Go for a walk. Know your self-worth. Move on. But he refuses to listen. He tells himself: No. He calls herself: Bad girl. They scream as themselves: Shut up shut up shut up. 

 

 

 

. . . Daielaareux, in countless other forms: A bridge in New Zealand. A strip mall in Detroit. An unbuttered croissant. A great big pile of leaves. A spanned lineage of prehistoric, neon-colored crabs. A comfortable silence. An impossible dream. The 37th Annual Miss America pageant. A one-hit wonder. An impotent king. A fortuitous accident, recognized only in hindsight. The Divine Mouth taking the earth like a vitamin. A newborn horse’s first step. Another one biting the dust. 

 

 

 

. . . forever amounts to, returns back to, self-love. 

 

 

 

. . . just seconds before the New Year, 2018. Time hibernates. Thoughts shuffle like a deck of cards. Head loud. Skull turned inside out on psychedelics. A blubbery, sunken, self-contained mess of fleshy slop packed inside a transient shell. A dark stain on the carpet, on a mother’s pelvic floor. He rushes to the bathroom, convinced an empty bladder will cure him. It does, then doesn’t. Grime sits in every wrinkle. Gravity’s tandem held hand lets go. The universe’s veil pulled down like a shower curtain, their many forms spilling out over the linoleum floor. On their knees, hands, back, she perches on his chest and he catches it — a quick glimpse, the uncanny resemblance, atoms stacked like dodged shoved in a cage. He holds herself behind the ears, kisses himself on their wet, hot stinking teeth. Noticing it fully, this tethering between them — an ethereal cord, conjoined. He she they them are all was once will have had we become continuous as one day slips seamlessly into the next without a clock, as the crackling bursts of fireworks resound from outside, at last. They have made it, for now. 

 

 

 

. . . in the same windowed timeline, will cease just as abruptly as its start: The man, at the tender age of fifty-six, from an untreated pulmonary obstruction; as a dog, age nine, a pack of stale Oreos left accessible at the top of the trash. And yet, both still remain incapable of saving each other, themselves, from what must be in order to happen again.

 

 

 

Stephen Wack is an Atlanta-based writer. He earned an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from the University of Georgia, where he briefly interned at the college’s literary magazine, The Georgia Review. His work has previously appeared in Five:2:One, Rougarou, and Cleaver Magazine, and is forthcoming in The Hunger and New Flash Fiction Review.

From where the birch takes the sun — A short story by Stephen Orr

From where the birch takes the sun

      Peter Maier waits in his back yard. He paces the patchy lawn, from where the birch takes the sun; from where he sits in summer to read. Or in the crook of the linden, further back, behind the vegetables. He follows the brick path, and remembers every time he’s helped his father turn the soil, plant the carrots, the potatoes. Just like this, wandering, unsure where to stand, where to go, what to think about what his mother calls the ending. He can hear the artillery a few kilometres away. They’ve been warned – later today, or tomorrow.

Continue reading “From where the birch takes the sun — A short story by Stephen Orr”

Watching The World Fly By by Melanie Davies

Watching the World Fly By

The clock chimed seven …ding…ding…ding… and so on, until it let out one final loud ding that woke Forbes with a start. He shuffled slightly and managed to stretch his front and back legs just enough to prevent the cramp from setting in. He meowed happily as he heard the familiar whirring sound. His morning feed came shooting through the food hatch and plopped into his dish in a brown lumpy mush.

Continue reading “Watching The World Fly By by Melanie Davies”

Blood Magic by Natasha C. Calder

Blood Magic

It was her first period for three months. Sitting on the lav with her knickers around her ankles and her knees falling apart, Mihaela saw the new slimness in her bare legs and grimaced. She thought of all the meals she’d missed since the promotion—the rushed breakfasts, the uneaten sandwiches, the insubstantial dinners—and how quickly it had become a matter of finding not the time but the inclination. Now she ate as irregularly and as little as she slept. No wonder her periods had stopped.

Continue reading “Blood Magic by Natasha C. Calder”

Dov Nelkin: 6 doors and One Slammed

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My brother’s childhood room and mine connect through paired doors, at three different points. Walk out my room and and ten paces would take you to my brother’s door, next to the AC control, across from the panic button. We also shared a bathroom, each room opening onto the sinks where we would brush our hair, or teeth, or forget to, side by side. With both doors open, you could have seen from pillow to pillow if you tried hard. Continue reading “Dov Nelkin: 6 doors and One Slammed”

Dustin Kennedy: Response Ability

When the dust mask is covered in soot I take it off and add it to the sack slung over my shoulder. The rubber straps have left imprints all across my face, sore to the touch. I take another one out of the box and put it on anyway, trying to change the angle enough so it doesn’t dig into the same grooves as the last one. The seal fits poorly over my beard but I already used my last razor and I haven’t made it to the store yet.

I’ve been making progress, though. For example, I’ve almost caught up to whoever is on the road in front of me. I haven’t actually seen them yet, just their sack. Judging from the size, I’m guessing whoever’s pulling it must be twenty, thirty years older than me. For every time I manage two or three steps, they’re lucky to move an inch.

Continue reading “Dustin Kennedy: Response Ability”

Maddison Stoff: Android Court Transcription

Official – Subject To Final Review

P R O C E E D I N G S

(9 :45 a.m.)

CHIEF JUSTICE GIBSON: We’ll hear argument f this morning in Case 84-2532, Android Rights Coalition verses The People’s Republic of America.

TX-38

ORAL ARGUMENT OF TX-38 Continue reading “Maddison Stoff: Android Court Transcription”

SPLIT – Elanacharan Gunasekaran

Continue reading “SPLIT – Elanacharan Gunasekaran”

Mayonnaise (at 3:00pm) by hiromi suzuki

An old man puts up a ladder on the face of the mountain of bedrock and cuts trees. To be precise, he is cutting ferns. Spring water is bleeding out through the gaps in the rocks. He throws away the leaves and vines entwining persistently to the roots of the trees. From 3:00pm until sunset. The mountain is small and flat, once a quarry. The rocks from which the leaves and vines of ferns were stripped became bare. Continue reading “Mayonnaise (at 3:00pm) by hiromi suzuki”

under there, somewhere by Andy Harrod

this is fragmenting.

He hears  the father’s voice first, a cracked whip across his senses, an involuntary flinch. He lifts the arm, the song begins again. It doesn’t stop the girl from appearing, flopping to the floor, crying. Pastel dust sticks. He remembers scurrying away from the aisle, he didn’t belong there. He’s not one of them, how could he intervene? Eyelids. Alone, alone. Five letters etched. Beat away these colours. Continue reading “under there, somewhere by Andy Harrod”

The House, Cogitatio Amphibolia by Matthew Turner

If shadows are the two-dimensional projections of three-dimensional objects, then does it mean that three-dimensional objects are shadows cast by things in the forth-dimension?     

My shoes made a tapping noise in the rain as I walked towards the house. Stepping inside the white noise of the downpour was unnaturally and quickly severed, along with the sound of my steps. At first, the house looked exactly the same as on my first visits, as a child, a long time ago. It was, however, dimmer than I remembered and it took my eyes some time to adjust to the darkness and find the light switch. Once they came slowly on they didn’t seem to make much difference, as all the lights had been diffused by various pieces of cloth shrouding them. Though it did allow me to begin seeing certain curious changes. At one time it had been immaculate, with every surface polished to a fine sheen, but now it looked tired and forgotten, a cover, as I later learnt, for a calculated and careful state of disrepair.    Continue reading “The House, Cogitatio Amphibolia by Matthew Turner”

The Watersteps by BR Williams

The Watersteps are ruins now, but you can still see what is left of them by walking through the dank forest on the edge of town, over the train lines and then down to the crease where two wave-like hills meet. The steps sit half-swallowed inside a wide clay gorge. A little further up the gorge, there’s a stream at least half as wide as the gorge itself. It drops down an accidental waterfall caused by the collapse of the Watersteps. A sheet of tarpaulin wafts, hit by the unravelling crystal carpet of water. For the most part, the stream disappears amongst the rubble and soft ground at the foot of the waterfall. Only further down does a meagre version of it reform, bypassing the steps entirely.

The Watersteps have haunted my imagination for a long time. The first poem I ever wrote was about the steps. I hated it, re-wrote it, destroyed it and started again. I have been repeating each step ever since.
Continue reading “The Watersteps by BR Williams”

The Green, Green Grass of Ceredigion by Laurence Mitchell

The final nine miles into Aberystwyth were a soothing amble through dappled green light – the disused railway track partially shaded by the overhanging branches of limes and oaks, the gravelly river close enough to be an audible murmur through the trees. Continue reading “The Green, Green Grass of Ceredigion by Laurence Mitchell”

By the Water’s Edge by Susanna Crossman

Henceforth, every line and every color of Picasso will exude the spirit of this rough land; will have the savor of dried figs or of cracked olives, the vigor of the olive shoot, the light of an almond tree in flower, the perfume of a sprig of lavender. And in St Petersburg and New York, in Barcelona, in Paris, in Berlin… they will collect and admire beautiful fragments of this enamored gaze.  —Angel Querol, son of the mayor of Horta Sant Joan
Continue reading “By the Water’s Edge by Susanna Crossman”

Spanish Moss by Eric Edwards

Despite the distance we crash into each other repeatedly.

We spend a lot of our time typing messages. Talking over poor quality internet calls, across time zones that leave me exhausted, both of us wanting. A yearning that brings us closer but at a cost. Long nights of feeling alone while being together.

We hit and smash and spin out of control; never enough days and nights to find the balance that is there, tantalizingly out of reach, never out of sight. The wheels run straight for a while, but veer. We make it to the swamp. Though not the cemetery or the convent. Not this time. What we want is to run away into the woods. Continue reading “Spanish Moss by Eric Edwards”

Learning French in Paris by Damian Kelleher

We were in Paris, there was never enough money, and everything was expensive. I didn’t have much French then, but it was enough to get by, or I thought it was. Dorothy didn’t have any French at all, and from the outset she said that she wasn’t going to learn how to say anything beyond ​Oui.​ She was American, and I loved her, or I thought I did, then. Continue reading “Learning French in Paris by Damian Kelleher”

To Return by Fernando Sdrigotti

My clothes smelled of fried food — a stench without a clear origin. And the lights of the boulevard stabbed my eyes, bouncing off the glass in Pig’s taxi — the windows, the mirrors. Lights and the stench of fried food.

“I missed that…” I said.
“I asked if you tried virtual sex,” repeated Diego. Continue reading “To Return by Fernando Sdrigotti”

Disjecta – Caesura – Membra, from ‘& The Little Light That Escaped (Vedute)’, by Alexander Booth

Disjecta

A face glimpsed as if framed through a space between the lattice-work of a bench, a day-drinking bar on a shade-lined street of turn-of-the-century buildings, Mediterranean maybe, looking for what, lower lip pinned to upper, unsure, a question: a face glimpsed as if framed through a space between the lattice-work of a bench upon which one word was seen: nostalgie.

But back at the beginning: the station was blue. His face a ruin. Rain.

Someone had disappeared. Continue reading “Disjecta – Caesura – Membra, from ‘& The Little Light That Escaped (Vedute)’, by Alexander Booth”

Pretty Secret by Derick Dupré

Before I met Esther I lived only in rooms and rarely did I go outside them. Primarily I occupied one, the square room with the fermented red walls. The rough white windowsill failed to enliven the red-walled room, but with an ashtray, a flashlight, the white paint dabbed on glass like a lost animal’s track, the place approximated the idea of home.

I had a hot plate and would turn it on just to watch it glow. Continue reading “Pretty Secret by Derick Dupré”

Wisconsin by Sam Lou Talbot

Violet laughter shot into the room via the two-and-a-half-inch gap generously yielded by the suicide prevention windows in the award-winning, architect-designed, university halls I rather reluctantly found myself in. (I’ve always had a thing about Wisconsin.)

Hen nights, pissheads, ravers, and druggies ensconced outside the Co-Op. “Can you spare any change, love?” (How often you’d use the word transcend.)
Continue reading “Wisconsin by Sam Lou Talbot”

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