Hither & Yon
We met in the space the mundane shops go, in those unscheduled moments when others take their place and old Uncle Joe popping by for a snack finds the 7-Eleven replaced by Maerlyn's Magick Shoppe.
When the 7-Eleven went, I went with it. The air grew rich and heady with magic. Chocolate bars and packaged nuts jostled each other on the shelves. The Slurpee machine twirled out sigils behind its glass. The spare change on the counter took flight in dance, gleaming in the golden light flooding through the windows. When Suriak was given her first watercolors she painted the garden she saw every night when she slept. In the first week she worked through the pad of paper that came with the set, and in the week after she covered the walls of her room with embankments of flowers. Her parents made sure she was never out of paper after that.
"What's that?" her mother asked as Suriak filled a sheet with splotches of yellow. Keith touches a hand to his nose, and I'm not sure what surprises him more: the blood my left hook drew, or the fact that his boxing gloves have suddenly disappeared.
"How did you--" When her little sister Mary died, Clarissa stopped eating up chunks of her time.
At first no one noticed. She went on pretending to be the happy-go-lucky eighteen-year-old we all used to know. She was really good at masking her grief as something else. Filled with ink that spirals onto the page in a cursive race of unscripted extrapolation, the Surreal Fountain Pen is the finest creative writing instrument in the rudimentary history of the human species. Deep in its abounded journey, throughout hidden chambers arranged in a golden spiral that extends beyond its three-dimensional incarnation, dreams are unveiled and language reconstituted with poetic abandon.
The adjective "surreal" does not describe the function of the Surreal Fountain Pen, but its mercurial nature, which is cerebral and spiritual, transcendental and transformative. The primary function of the Surreal Fountain Pen, deeply bedded in the flow of time and the dimensions of space, is to create without restraint. This bead marks the moment you told Tom Merchant (high on your first-ever vodka shots and the teeth-jittering adrenaline of being out--even just as part of a group--with Tom Merchant, the most brilliant, amazing guy you'd ever met) that you couldn't care less about your practical engineering major, that thing that your parents were both so proud of. No, you declared (slamming down your fourth shot), you were going to be an artist instead!
Tom looked at you with real interest in his eyes for the first time ever, and you changed your major the next day, hung-over and scared but bone-deep determined to follow through and be the girl who could impress him. Still, your hands shook as you signed the forms, and you couldn't bring yourself to tell your parents for over four months. Elaine began her search at sunrise. She started with her apartment because lost things turned up most often at home on Found Day. National surveys each year proved that. She poked under her bed and in the closets, under couch cushions and inside cabinets and drawers.
By the time the sun rose above the winter-bare trees, she had been over the entire apartment twice. No luck. On Wednesday Dan found an octopus stretched across the Honda's windshield, basking in the morning dew. Dan set his computer bag down and returned to the house, where he assembled a makeshift cephalopod-removal kit: a spatula to pry suckers off glass, a cookie sheet to scoop up the cat-sized animal and fling it into the hedge. At the spatula's prodding the 'puss turned an angry red. Its arms thrashed, recoiled, and re-attached to the car, deftly avoiding Dan's attempts to slip the aluminum sheet underneath it.
"Daddy, don't hurt it!" Piper called from the doorway. She ran to Dan's side, startling a roosting school of sardines out of the mulberry tree. You are reading a book, and within that book you now walk through the iron gates of the junior high school of your youth.
You don't understand how you are reading of a real place within this old fantasy book of adventures you found in the closet of your childhood bedroom. These particular pages didn't exist before, here in this volume that you read until its white spine was bowed, swaybacked, broken. "Ulder," said the man in the hat, leaning in, lips barely moving. His eyes darted, as if anyone else on the train would hear him through their prophylactic earplugs. We were the only two with ears open.
"What?" I said, too loud. The man in the hat leaned away, mouth tight, beard bristling. He didn't look at me again. The woman behind me unfurled her wings and settled down into the seat. Once she was seated, the wings carefully closed around her wizened frame, almost like a shield. Black crow wings. I averted my eyes from them.
Two schoolgirls brushed past me, giggling as the tips of their wings brushed my shoulder. White wings, like most children, though one was already turning brown at the tips. Does my family name matter? I gave it up when I joined Ceres Edelman's house to become her willing slave, one of many men in her service.
I was sworn to testify in my own words, and my deposition only recounts what I witnessed. Forgive my awkward ways. I was never videotaped before. They made up their minds and started packing.
"Should we bring our medicine?" Helen asked. It took Penelope a week after moving into her apartment to realize that the man who was always sitting on the leather couch in the living room was her roommate. At first she took him for an overly devoted evangelist. He wore a white, collared shirt, black slacks, and a blank nametag, and had an enormous, bushy beard. When he did not leave or try to win her over to whatever jumbled philosophy he believed, she began to see him as a fixture. There was a roommate-shaped indentation in the couch. He smoked as if the air was poison and his voice was a quiet bass. Whenever she walked by the couch he murmured incoherencies or, Penelope chose to believe, advice.
On the third day after she moved in he said, "There are no entrances. Only exits." "So they did take it down," I said. Tanisha could see perfectly well for herself, but I said it again anyway: "The mural's finally gone."
First the spot on the corner had been a bodega. Then for a while it was a promising construction site; then it was The Hole. You came up out of the subway, and saw a rotten fence of ugly wooden boards, and knew you were in Crown Heights. Then the mural had shown up--probably not overnight, but it had seemed that way at the time. My favorite was the panel with the octopus, but I also liked the pigeon and squirrel wearing crowns. If there ever was a king of Crown Heights, it was probably a pigeon. Tanisha liked the Spay And Neuter Your Pets panel, with the gray and orange cats on it. She said it was practical. Neither of us understood the significance of the panel with tree-sprouting eyeballs, but we both agreed it had a certain creepy panache. Little Him scooted around Danni's heart, tying his strings so tight that she thought the organ would burst. Watching his dizzying journey made her thankful for the transparency of her skin. It didn't matter that she'd flirted with the waiter and allowed him to touch her knee. It was of no consequence that she'd kissed that guy in the bar when out with her girlfriends, that Holly had told Glenn. Glenn would see how much she loved him.
"I am so full of you, there is almost no room for anyone else," Danni said to Glenn at breakfast. The book had first been captured by my great-great-grandmother, back when ink life was common in the forests behind our estate. It had been kept in a large silver cage and passed down through the generations, a magnificent specimen for all children and guests to behold. As the forests were cut down and drained of their ink to draw more useful things like new factories and apartments, the wild books slowly died out, poached by literary hunters and purchased by ink collectors. Our family's book became the last of its kind, at least that anyone knew of.
As a young child I would lay on the carpet of our mansion's empty library, watching the book for hours as it flapped its dog-eared pages, or sometimes banged against the bars of the cage over and over again. She is too small, Kitkun thinks, the first time she enters his tiny workshop tucked between the market's stalls. Too young to have left the nest alone. Yet, despite the years of waiting, he still feels a prick of hope as she steps out of the city's unrelenting smog and over the threshold, thinking, perhaps she will be the one. Perhaps she will ask. She was broken when he met her, shattered into a thousand tiny shapes, all with jagged edges. He gathered up her pieces and carried them home.
He spread them out on his dining room table, an eye here, a fingertip there, and smiled. The damage was not irreparable. The Empty Lot on Annie's block was hot and dusty-dry in the summer, luminous with possibilities. Spiky shrubs caught bits of litter, strange jars and cans nestled among pebbles and behind rocks, and they rarely saw grownups when they played there. Magic happened all the time. She unearthed a real fossil when scraping out one of the crawling paths between shrubs that they called "war tunnels." Another time her friend Grace found a skinny old snakeskin. And when Annie punched Tommy Canallee in the stomach for picking on her brother, his nose bled.
Magic. Clara got her first clue in preschool, just before naptime one day, as Ms. Weston read aloud from a massive gleaming book of fairy tales. Clara knew most of them already, though the versions were different, and this Snow White was stabbed with a poison comb before she ever touched an apple. Others, though, were entirely new to her, stories of huts with chicken legs and beautiful forest women with hollow backs.
And then there was the giant who hid his heart so he could live forever. The tale was all about the prince, about his perilous quest to find and destroy the heart, but Clara couldn't help feeling that it was bad enough to kill a person--anyone knew that was murder--and much worse after they'd gone to all that trouble. She didn't cry, because even at four she never cried, couldn't remember ever caring enough to cry, but she felt a strange solemnity come over her at the words like a shadow passing overhead. She could imagine the giant staring with awful, pitiful eyes as his heart was crushed, and she shuddered. It took a long time for Lucy Morgan to die.
It was an unremarkable death, a slow unraveling of skin and synapses and self that inconvenienced no one and left nothing behind but dust and the lingering memory of lavender in the air. And then, after men in white suits had come and vacuumed away all the traces, sealed them in little clear bags and thrown them away with the evening garbage, nobody seemed to remember that there had once been a person there at all. Isabelle fell back and kicked forward as hard as she could, looking down the length of her body to where her Spiderman shoes pointed to the setting sun.
The swing chains wriggled like pond frogs in her hands. Her tummy lurched just like it did when the plane took off on their trip to see Grandma. He comes to life in aisle six, nestled between a Play and Go Captain Calamari and a crib/floor mirror. Remember me? the toy-boy says to Alice, his eyes glistening wistful blue, the rest of him in lead alloy cast, perhaps the arms and legs made from sawdust and glue. I'm the toy you once tossed away.
Alice fidgets and feigns dumbness, recalls the feeling of having a dream surfacing to water while she is crouching at the edge of the pond, throwing worms at her reflections, dropping breadcrumbs in her father's cereal. Sounds of war awoke the farmer.
He listened as roars of bravery collapsed beneath cries of agony. Swords clashed with swords, armor with armor, flesh with flesh. The farmer sprang from bed, ran for the door of his shack, flung it wide, and froze. Chaos had taken shape. Soldiers in silver poured from the eastern woods to greet the hordes of loping creatures emerging from the high grasses to the west. Flame-tipped arrows hung high above their heads, a thousand lanterns briefly turning night to day before reverting to missile form and completing their deadly arc. All of this--men, creature, fire--came together upon the farmer's field. Where flowering flax had grown was now a crimson tangle of death, a dumping ground for the young, the strong, the valiant. Like all children, Ava drew stick figures. She rendered eyes and noses as black circles and clothes as vague outlines draped over coat hanger shoulders and ribbed barrel chests. Her teacher said she had an eye for form. She had trouble with facial expressions, but she completed her day-glo Construct-A-Skel first go without any mistakes.
Still, no one guessed what the problem was until her older brother broke his arm on the swings and had to go for x-rays. Her father explained to her that an x-ray was a photograph of bones, and she explained back in her four year-old way that she didn't see any difference. The eye doctor made her read a chart, and she read it just fine, and the one behind it, and the one in the next room, even though the door was shut. When the truth dawned, her father felt his scalp tighten. I joined the temple as a very young girl. By the time I was eight, I'd mastered writing. I joined the ranks of the novice priestesses, vowing to never speak again.
Words have power. With words, the gods created the universe. Ordinary people tossed syllables and sentences around like they were copper pennies. But priestesses understood the power in speech. Our utterances could crush mountains or make the rivers run dry. In our history, the few priestesses who tried speaking invariably destroyed themselves. The truth is, try as we might to fight it, some little girls will grow up to be dinosaurs. Denying it doesn't make it any easier, but still. It's hard. They'll shoot up like sauropods. Their skin will segment into mosaic scales, or if they're of a scientific mind, feather plumes. They'll give their friends tyrannosaurus-back rides around the park, faster and faster until they all collapse giggling into a dizzy heap, the child-voices like flutes, the dino-voices like guitars. They'll pin their big brothers for a bout of revenge-tickling, and only go on a little bit after the boys gasp and yell Stop.
At first we'll write it off as normal, just another phase on the way to adulthood. We won't believe Lydia could be anything other than an ordinary little girl. When she springs up like a beanpole almost overnight, we'll say, "She's tall for her age," and "It's just a growth spurt." We'll say she's got short arms like her dad at that age. We'll say she's a picky eater, and that she has ADHD, and a thousand other things to explain it away. But when she outgrows the ballet flats, we'll quietly buy her some dinosaur shoes that fit perfectly--in hot pink, of course, because after all, she's still Lydia. A good crowd today. Not the suffocating masses of a holiday, nor the unnerving quiet of a Tuesday morning in February. An art student is earnestly sketching. A group of Japanese tourists take turns posing with me, fingers forked in an incomprehensible gesture that sometimes even hides me from the lens. An elderly couple stands quietly, arms entwined, contemplating me with identical mournful gazes. Behind them, the south hallway of the Denon wing stretches. As always, I am pleased to note that no one walks by without making the turn into my room. Perhaps as many as three dozen pairs of eyes stare at me, mesmerized.
And none of them know who I am. Saturday afternoon crashed, leaving each brick of the asylum stuck like a frozen pixel. Likely the rain, Eben figured. Rendering the complex ripples, the splashing drops--not to mention the fraying edges of the mist--were too demanding for his obsolete brain. During the rainy season, such malfunctions were common, especially in the early afternoon when, as Eben imagined it, the day's onslaught of data finally overran the buffer limits and the whole system tipped into the bucket. During such down times, when his motor functions seized, Eben used to stare at the blank walls and bide his time waiting for reality to reboot. Recently however, Eben was far less patient with these immobilizing crashes. Eben had acquired a tool and now had a new purpose in life.
I can't take my eyes off the customer's back as he approaches my gallery. My emotions are strong and mixed: satisfaction, a sense of completion, a little sadness. I hope he is happy with the painting he is bringing me.
The bell over the door jingles as he enters, and we shake hands with big smiles. He hands me the painting, wrapped in brown paper, and with care and attention I unwrap it. It is one of mine: an abstract suggesting a bowl of fruit, pear and banana shapes in teal and turquoise. I regard it with pride and, again, a little sadness before I hang it in a blank spot on the wall. Uncle Tang repeats the same proverb when he beats me: "Hitting you is loving you." He's not my uncle by blood, though he's done more for me than any blood relative has. My mother could not have had a brother anyway, due to China's One Child Policy when she was growing up in the early 2020s.
Ignoring the tingling bruises on my back, I walk to the kitchen. A few dirty plates sit in the soapy hot water on one side of the sink, not enough to prompt a Bot to begin washing. Uncle and I are the only humans running the restaurant. He was sullen when they returned from the party.
"What's wrong?" she asked, more out of obligation than interest. On Proclamation Day, all of us got a command from on high: "Stop using that symbol. You know which symbol I am talking about: it is fifth in our organization of writing symbols. This symbol is awful and usurps too much room."
Many did push back. Writing is only a form of talking, and many said that symbol did not apply to sound, only ink, but our king was stubborn. Should a guard scrawl your communication and find that symbol within, our king would swiftly punish that violating individual. Still, our king had his whims; all of us did not trust that our king would actually follow through with his word. But to show his point, our king had his guards imprison arguing individuals. No individual could watch what was transpiring; it was too horrific. The prisoner had literally written in circles--well, thought Myra, literally in squares--pacing around and around to fill the stark white walls of the room. The place was barely the size of a good shoe closet, with no windows and no bed. A camera, disconnected now, perched in one corner. The drop ceiling hung low, close, and the two doors--reinforced outer, inner with its dog flap for food and waste--finished the oppressive atmosphere. The man's looping handwriting looked tiny, cramped as he must have been.
"How are you supposed to lie down in here?" Myra said. We were in college and in love and it was magical. You know how it goes.
Beneath the deep midnight sky, Sara and I walked hand in hand, and one of the college guards followed. We led him around the prayer area, where a medical student I didn't know prostrated before a blank wall. The finals were tomorrow and the anguish on his face was palpable, contagious. Four days before it happened, she came into class wearing one of those fish-bowl helmets they had on diver suits. The glass globe crushed her shoulders, and if she craned her head too far in any direction, there would have been a wobble, then a fall, a shatter. Her teachers knelt down to her level, asked her questions in a soft, reproachful voice. She wouldn't talk about it.
That girl, who we took to calling "Scuba Girl" for lack of a better name, was an absolute field day. We'd take the water bottles at lunch and balance them on top of our heads, faking her signature hunch, or stick our arms out really far, stomping around like we were in an old diving suit. It brought us together as a community, really, and, by the end of that day, every one of us stood up individually and believed that we had become as hilarious and ingenious as we were ever going to be. The cannery above waist level was spotless. Stainless steel countertops shone under the fluorescents and machines hummed with an oiled speed. Jolene was lucky to work at such a fine cannery. She told herself that, when she arrived each evening and again each morning when she left.
One two three, she flicked a rubber-gloved hand across the open cans, one two three, and counted the cherries as they dropped. Before her on the line was the pineapple girl, and before her the melon girl, and before her the girl who scooped shrunken orange slices. Jolene didn't know anyone but the pineapple girl, who sometimes sat with her on breaks. They were all given complimentary cans of fruit cocktail, although most of them went outside to smoke instead of eating. Yesterday afternoon, in the middle of a sunny day, it began raining.
"The devil is beating his wife today," said my landlady as she swept. Do you believe in the Flock?
It's not hard. No harder than believing in Santa Claus, who manages to be in every mall, and every chimney of every home, while at the same time being so unique, so individual, that children know him on sight. I find you under my bed one night when I am looking for a lost suitcase, curled up and desolate as if you were just a dead tree. You shrink from my reach. I have no idea how long you have been there. I wonder if you can tell.
I stopped dreading you when I was ten. Ten years it took me to get over the unseen monster under the bed who kept me from getting out after lights-off. I wonder what you wanted then; what you want now. I wonder what you eat. I wonder if you will eat me. I don't watch the cars rushing past us on the highway, and I don't look at my brother in the backseat. Instead, I count the sparse hairs on my arm and tell myself that it's not turning into fur.
I check all the time, since my brother started turning into a dog. The teachers at school call it a tic, like they call a lot of things I do. They tell me to sit still and be quiet. They look at me like my voice is only barking--like I'm the one who's an animal. Once upon a time in a far kingdom, there lived a man who fell in love with a river, and so he married it.
One day, as he sat happily in the river, he glimpsed something. It moved swiftly beneath the surface, dark and strong. As it swam by, he grabbed it by the tail and it pulled him pleasantly through the water. The landscape was beautiful, the water refreshing, the day warm. But eventually, he grew tired. My son the shapeshifter starts the school day as a honey badger--thirty pounds of coiled muscle and a quarter-inch of thick skin. The predators will stay away today, and even the serpents with their venom will do him no harm.
"Let them stare. You're small but fierce," I say. "And I love you just the same." "Choose your name," the guy outside the bus says. He has a clipboard and a pen, and he is blocking her path.
She stops, confused. "I have a name." She sits in the same tree every day at lunch, feet dangling from the edge of her wooden defense tower behind the kickball courts.
I stay off the blacktop as I make my way around, away from the big kids, not wanting to draw enemy attention as I approach her. This mission requires my uninterrupted attention and expert knowledge in treaty tactics. The bleeding boy and the girl made of shards met in the Broken Lands, where no solid ground was flat, the earth was laced with crevices, and marshes glowed green even at noon. They were surprised to see each other, for ordinarily, people did not travel into the Broken Lands alone, but went in groups, led by experienced guides and accompanied by guards to protect them from lurking predators. People hurried through the Broken Lands as quickly as possible.
But that was normal people. Some of my earliest memories are of books. They were everywhere in our apartment back in the Soviet Union; shelves stacked as high as the ceiling in the corridor and the living room, piles of them encroaching upon every nook and available surface like some benign infestation.
Strangers came by often, sometimes several times a day, and browsed the shelves. They spoke to my father, always quietly, as though they were in a library. Cash and books exchanged hands in either direction but there was little haggling, both parties reluctant to insult the books by arguing over their price like they might with a sack of potatoes. The poet-kings of Sharabarai had reigned for millennia; a succession of benevolent rulers, each filling the vellum pages of sacred books with wisdom and beauty. It is said that Caium the Second labored for three straight days with no sleep, sustained only by sips of cardamom tea, as he feverishly wrote a hundred-page saga of creation and the early gods so potent that reality itself had altered to oblige his vision. Uthar the Clement spent thirty years composing the perfect haiku. Kira the Compassionate wrote powerful odes which made other poets weep knowing they could never match the elegance of her words.
By royal decree all children were schooled in the art of poetry, and all officeholders were expected to contribute compositions to the best of their ability. As the library shelves across Sharabarai grew more voluminous so did the prosperity and contentment of its citizens. The golden age lasted until the advent of the word plague. The pigeons moan when the blind girl calls, for she is hungry and will be wanting pigeon pie. Eugene settles into his big yellow chair to polish his spike. I watch as he brushes the chamois over the walnut pole until his fingers are stained darker than his skin.
We try to please her with small things, whatever we can manage. I am embroidering a pillow for her with lilies that she can touch on the surface of the rough cloth, perhaps even feel their color. Was the monster created or discovered? There's no easy answer to that. We dragged it screaming from The Stew, that unknowable portal that the eggheads at Oak Ridge cobbled together from quantum physics and sheer hubris.
For the first few years it spent every waking hour wailing from its thousand throats, but nowadays it just weeps quietly in the containment field, tears oozing from those hypnotic, light-sensitive fins. Some say it's lonely; others say it's homesick. The scientists say we shouldn't project human emotions onto it, that it's probably just purging its body of unfamiliar earthly toxins. Walter Stanwick grabbed his usual newspaper and cup of coffee from the P&D Market on the corner of 53rd and Industrial. It was his routine. In Walter's world, consistency was the secret to a long life.
"I'm sorry, sir, but you'll overdraw your account." The balloon children dance down the sidewalk outside our house to music my husband and I cannot hear. They come with the carnival. It frightens us to see them, their balloon heads red and round, strings falling from their necks like ropes they might have used to hang themselves, though of course none of them did this. Too young. But back when the world ended, this was most everyone else's fate. Every oak in town a freshly minted hanging tree.
I shut the curtains and turn back to the room still littered with dusty children's toys. We don't speak when the carnival's here. As long as you're silent, the balloon children won't come for you. It's the noise that draws them, greedy for more music. When the sun goes down and the carnival lights go up, the round colored bulbs flickering through our sky like UFOs, the balloon children will go back, until dawn, until it is once more time to hunt. At night, we're safe. It isn't like most nightmares. When the carnival's in town, we are afraid of the sun. After extracting the sphinx moth from the mother's deepest fear, tucked away carefully within the smallest chamber of her heart, the lepidopterist held it in the light, trapped between a pair of forceps. It fought, kicking its legs, its wings fluttering, almost transparent, tinted gold.
"Paonias Excaecata," the lepidopterist said. "Very rare. It nests in the most tender corners of the human psyche and hides from sight the ones you love." She put the insect in the open killing jar that lay on the table before her and sealed the lid. "There. That should do it." She turned to the mother. "What's his name?" she asked. It's a pretty painless procedure, sir. Our highly qualified specialists have been doing it for decades now, right from the inception of the idea. You won't feel a thing.
To put it as simply as I can, we will unshackle your old one, gather it in a vial, scrape out any residue and then add a brand new shadow to your feet. Dr. Vulpine took the lectern behind a screen of radio microphones as press cameras flashed and newsreel cameras whirred.
"After careful investigation, I must announce that the recent popularity of mandrakes rests on no scientific evidence. All claims to "terroir" and focusing of local mystic energies are false. In contradiction to the labeling, every type and grade of mandrakes, from "good" to "excellent" and even the recently introduced "elite" and "premium elite," is in fact grown on large industrial farms on the outer prairies. I have seen these farms with my own eyes. The entire mandrake industry is fraudulent." He was born with a heart of gold. The doctors stared at X-rays, slack-jawed, not knowing how it could beat, let alone pump blood, so they scribbled notes and prescribed unnecessary medicine, just to seem important, and sent the boy home.
Soon the child fell ill. He recovered, but he remained fragile all his life. Papa was always losing things, from his car keys to the car he'd just put them in, so when he ended up losing himself, Ansa and I figured we had more important things to do than find out where he went. If he came back, he'd bring dinner. If he didn't, we could turn his office into a TV room.
Ansa and I hatched these plans in the dark underneath our bedclothes, and spent too much money on chocolate bars. We were only two years apart, but born opposites. Ansa was much lighter than I was, born during the winter when Mam said the sun couldn't burn her brown. I used to think we had one mind, and that everything we thought was a shared thought. Callie kept her heart in the front yard, as people often do. Here, her father's oak, solid and stoic and unchanging. There her sister's rhododendron, which bloomed with pale pink flowers. One root from each plant grew into her heart, which nourished everything in the yard.
She stepped over the delicate vines of her college roommate's ivy to get to her mother's willow tree. The leaves were dry and brown, and the once supple branches were brittle and fragile. Callie turned on the soaker hose that wound around the base of the tree, knowing it wouldn't help, but wanting to do something, anything, to save her relationship with her mother. As water dripped from the hose, Callie went to the one bough that still bore green leaves on its branches, but even here she spotted leaves with a slight tinge of yellow at the edges.
by Davian Aw
Published on Jun 25, 2015
by James Bambury
Published on Aug 30, 2012
by Barbara A. Barnett
Published on Dec 8, 2014
by Roberto Bommarito
Published on Jul 7, 2015
by Bruce Boston
Published on May 15, 2015
by Stephanie Burgis
Published on Feb 20, 2015
by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks
Published on Sep 10, 2015
by VG Campen
Published on Nov 26, 2014
by Beth Cato
Published on Aug 20, 2015
by Vajra Chandrasekera
Published on Jul 31, 2014
by Runa Chatterjee
Published on Jan 13, 2016
by Gio Clairval
Published on Dec 5, 2014
by Liz Colter
"Where were you?" Darien regrets the shape of the question as it forms, tries to negate the unintended implication. "Did that spring squall affect traffic?" Accusation seems to dance at the corner of his words, no matter his intention. Men lack a talent for backtracking, he thinks.
Published on Nov 18, 2016
by Frank Dutkiewicz
Published on Mar 5, 2012
by Sam Ferree
Published on Sep 21, 2012
by Rebecca Fraimow
Published on Jan 12, 2015
by Arielle Friedman
Published on Apr 6, 2016
by Cate Gardner
Published on Jul 18, 2012
by Guanani Gomez
Published on Oct 20, 2015
by A. T. Greenblatt
Published on Jul 9, 2013
by Damien Walters Grintalis
Published on Feb 16, 2012
by Lee Hallison
Published on Jun 26, 2013
by Rachel Halpern
Published on Aug 23, 2013
by Antonia Harvey
Published on Oct 16, 2013
by Kate Heartfield
Published on Mar 3, 2015
by Kyle Hemmings
Published on Jan 26, 2015
by JC Hemphill
Published on Apr 15, 2015
by Nicholas B Hoins
"Why are you always so hard on your son? And you speak of your daughter like she's an ex-girlfriend that keeps disappointing you. 'Don't try to pull one over on me' and such things. Pathetic." The clay-face ornament on the wall had not gone off like that in over a week. "The spirit of the tchotchke strikes again," said the shaven-faced waiter with the gel in his hair.
Published on Jun 24, 2015
by Alexis A. Hunter
He had a driftwood heart; he had sleepy-ocean eyes. I lifted my bloodied head from the sand and there he was, standing on spindly branching legs. Battered wreckage that had long since been washed thin and worn by the waves. I felt the pound of the surf in my temple, in my throat, in my groin.
Published on Sep 28, 2015
by Robin Husen
Published on Dec 2, 2015
by M.K. Hutchins
Published on Nov 7, 2016
by Jose Pablo Iriarte
The curse of giants is to never fit in. At school the other kids try to make me lose control, because they know I'll put on a show for them. They call me Dumbass Danny. They laugh when I lose my breath and can't keep up at phys ed. They kick me when nobody's looking. They don't let me sit with them at lunch.
Published on Mar 7, 2016
by Rachael K. Jones
Published on Apr 5, 2016
by Floris M. Kleijne
Published on Jun 20, 2016
by Andrew Kozma
The judges would not leave him alone. They followed him from home to work, watched him while he walked his dog, spied on his first dates, and checked him out while he was checking himself out in the mirror. Even while he was using the bathroom, they watched his every move.
Published on Sep 14, 2015
by James Frederick Leach
Published on Feb 13, 2015
by Nathaniel Lee
The strongest man in the world is trapped inside the closet. The doorknob rattles and shakes, but I have placed a chair beneath it, angled like so, and the rug has kinked beneath it and it will not move. That is how you do trapping people in closets. I know the trick, and I have used it against him. In the bathroom, the clown is still sobbing into the toilet bowl, into which I flushed his bright red rubber nose, the one that goes honk-honk when you squeeze it, and into which I further flushed his electric handshake joy-buzzer and squirting flower, which is visible peeping out from the dark shadows of the U-bend and emitting periodic bubbles. Strings and other such items--for example plastic flower stems--are tremendously bad for toilet pipes, and I should have remembered better. Still, it is enough to trap a clown. It is possible his nose would have been enough, but a thing worth doing is worth doing well, as someone once said to me. I believe he had a sweater, the man who said it.
Published on May 13, 2014
by Rose Lemberg
"If pains are representations, then what do they represent?" (Maund, "Tye on Pain and Representational Content," Pain, 2006:145)
Published on Jul 15, 2013
by David D. Levine
Published on Sep 18, 2013
by Shelly Li
Published on Jan 31, 2011
by Ken Liu
Published on Aug 13, 2013
by Ken Liu
Published on Nov 21, 2011
by S. Qiouyi Lu
Published on Sep 12, 2016
by Brynn MacNab
***Editor's Note: Adult language, sparingly used***
A story is a little tiny piece. A brick, a section of straight pipe, half a radiator. It should be an important piece; if it's not important, pick a different bit. If you can still tell what's important. A table leg. A trash can lid. The hose on the fire extinguisher. The left side of your lover's broken face. Or choose a moment: an epiphany of love or despair, a shift in loyalties, a bend in the world.
Published on May 21, 2013
by Brynn MacNab
Published on Jan 6, 2015
by Usman T Malik
Published on Jun 25, 2013
by Allison Marbry
Published on Dec 27, 2016
by Kailyn McCord
Published on Dec 3, 2013
by Sandra McDonald
Published on Oct 23, 2015
by Melissa Mead
Published on Aug 24, 2016
by Mimi Mondal
Published on Jul 30, 2015
by Sunny Moraine
***Editor's Note: Thoroughly adult story***
You were screaming when I pulled you from the boat.
Published on Nov 29, 2013
by Mari Ness
Published on Sep 26, 2013
by Shannon Peavey
Published on Aug 28, 2014
by Therese Pieczynski
Published on Mar 20, 2013
by Shane D. Rhinewald
Published on Aug 16, 2016
by Marcia Richards
Published on Jul 2, 2014
by Drew Rogers
Published on Aug 18, 2015
by Jamie Todd Rubin
Monday the Ninth The mailman delivered the unusual package as the young man who visited me on occasion was leaving. Charley sat in the living room while I tore into the repurposed Amazon shipping box. "Unbelievable," I whispered, clawing my way past squeaking popcorn and crackling bubble wrap to the chewy center, where I pulled out my carefully wrapped virginity, which I'd lost in an all-night Laundromat in the summer of 1966.
Published on Oct 10, 2012
by Patricia Russo
***Editor's Note: Adult language, used judiciously***
The boy throwing rocks at the No Parking sign on Tide Street at around eight p.m. (she'd had to work late, and afterwards had made a detour to a convenience store, and then decided to take this way home--pure chance, nothing but pure chance--if such a thing truly existed) was the first coiler Dahyana had ever seen in the flesh, other than Mrs. Millar. And herself. But then, you never really saw yourself. When she was a child, that boy's age or a little older, Dahyana had spent a stupid amount of time staring into a mirror. Mrs. Millar never stopped her, just nodded and said it was hard, wasn't it? "But where is it?" Dahyana would ask. "You said you saw it."
Published on Jun 14, 2013
by Patricia Russo
Published on Nov 20, 2015
by Alex Shvartsman
Published on May 3, 2013
by Alex Shvartsman
Published on Oct 3, 2016
by Marge Simon
Published on Sep 15, 2016
by Julian Mortimer Smith
Published on Oct 27, 2016
by John D. Sperry
Published on Aug 20, 2014
by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
Published on Oct 6, 2014
by Natalia Theodoridou
Published on Mar 11, 2015
by Paresh Tiwari
Published on Aug 4, 2016
by David Twiddy
Published on Aug 3, 2015
by James Valvis
Published on Jul 14, 2011
by Sophie Wereley
Published on Nov 2, 2012
by Caroline M. Yoachim
Published on Aug 12, 2014