Saturday, April 18, 2015

Flash Fiction by Alan Catlin

TV Junkies

A plaster cast drawn over the tightened skin forming a mask.  A hollow place inside the head, images of death are reflected on.  The end of what was known flashing by on radar screening.  A patterned scream, horrific yelling.  Inside the trapezoid night, waxed faces of the fetishist:  limbless wax dummies cast on iron racks, toys for iron maidens, hard rock cafes on the edge of the mind, the edge of dreaming here, plugged into this visceral space.  A spliced heart wired to convex mirrors, diamond pointed scrolls upon which a tabula rasa is erased.  A clean slate made delirious by its lack of vision, clarity barred by text of off-centered light, of off-putting lecturing voices, each equal in inanity, in intensity:  insanity a delirium tremens of the senses withdrawing into the ovoid, the electronic night.

Plugged in is a reason for living.  Heaven helps those who tune in.  Drop out, withdraw, or are withdrawn, out here in sub-context land, where all the wax figures are the enlivened, emboldened, with a slimiy substance like flesh, cool to the touch as a cavern wall.

Inside, a hecatomb of buzzing symbols, electric like neon birds, insects from an awakening into a world of pure sensation; cloned to death and mindless ministrations, wired your whole brain like a cathode tube ligation substituting image for the word, the text, the spinal drip of a prolegomena of pure unreason filtered directly through a drawn screen to the brain.  Everything reduced to images on waxed paper, a thing that adheres to fly paper, a thing that sticks and holds but cannot retain.

Inside the image is of the clipped wings of flightless birds, leaning into nothing, an utterance, obscene as a chorale of the damned, a new year's eve of banshees wailing their greatest hits coming right at you baby:  "Carpe diem, carpe diem, sing children sing well it's an old cliche but you'd better make your love today . . ."

"This way to the monkey house of hell, come see the exeunt, one way only no exit, no return, there's one born every minute baby, that's what cable TV is for get hooked up today . . ."

"Monday nothing, Tuesday nothing, Wednesday lots more nothing, Thursday for a change a little more nothing Friday once more nothing . . ."

Brains waved here, waved into another millennium, a factory for the foolhardy on the burning boats up and down the lazy rivers of hell.  Loss of sensation the price you pay for going through all these things twice . . . 

johnny walker wisdom from the red waters of oblivion . . . 

TV junkies plugged into remote wires, cable ready, accessible as another hookup another line, sensaround inside a human head as the last unconquered space, a black hole, an event horizon of the pupil, the dying light of eyes crushed into marble, a supernova sun going out, a test pattern for the final apocalyptic glow, the test patterned end . . . "do not adjust your set, this is not a test . . ." this is reality baby, the outer  limits is happneing here, in your head, and for an extra fifteen dollar a cellular minute, you too can have it all, every one of those lost horizon dreams, a mona lisaed overdrive, straight down into the old blood stream, that old glory yeah! let it wave, "at half mast for the ones who died, for the matadors who turn to the crowd, but all cheers were for the bull . . ." armchair length, extended as magic fingers reaching out into the carbolic night, the new Valhalla hall for the indentured heroes, indebted for life and afterlife, no glory in that, is there muchacho?  It's too late baby, no looking back now, "forget the dead they will not follow you, the carpet too is moving under you oh it's all over now baby blue . . ." you're plugged in the world as an unstable isotope, a hallelujah, happy birthday of death hit parade, a flashman flicker of final image just before the end of broadcasting, the darkness at the end of the tunnel, the burning glitch in the programming no one has learned yet to correct, yes language really is a virus, Virginia and it's coming to a brain near you, that's what death really is here plugged in, unplugged---------------------------

Alan Catlin has published in many forms and many genres.  His last collection of short stories is Death Angels (Four-Sep Press).

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Flash Fiction by James G. Piatt

An Erroneous Conclusion

He noticed a cigar stub in an ashtray when he entered the living room.  His anger flared, and he threw the ashtray against the wall.

His wife ran into the room.  "What happened, Dan?"

"I saw the cigar stub, damn it, who is he?"

"Who is who?  That was a stupid question.  There is no he, I . . . "

She never had the chance to explain anything; a knife went deep into her breast.

The telephone rang.  He grabbed it.

"Is Mrs. Long there?"

"No, why?  Who the hell are you?"

"I'm Harvey at the tobacco store.  Her favorite Cuban cigars just arrived.  She asked me to call her when they arrived.  It's funny how many women love cigars now, don't you think?"

James G. Piatt earned his BS and MA from California State Polytechnic University, and his doctorate from BYU.  His Science Fiction novel, "The Ideal Society," was published in 2012.  His dark thriller, "The Monk," was published in May of 2013.  His third novel, "The Nostradamus Conspiracy," will be released in 2015.  He has also had 34 short stories, and 7 essays published.  His books can be found on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Flash Fiction by Joan McNerney

Celestial Garden

Winds rocked the sycamore tree.  Had the same God who formed this sycamore created that cancer her mother died of?  It had been one year . . . a year to this date when Gloria became trapped within the sharp jaws of grief.  Mother died her swollen eyes closed forever.  Just a memory now memories touching her face her hair.  So good, kind . . . what was the use of being wise and tender when all die?

Gloria lived alone in the desolate apartment.  "Pearl Court" incised in capital letters over the buildings front door.  She had been there for so long listening to cries and laughter.  Intimate murmurs, sighs of dejection sounding through hallways.  Her neighbors bound together by bricks but living separate lives.  Their days chains of orderly minutes as night follows noon seasons grow from each other.

They lived without distinction having no hand to record their strong feelings.  Only Pearl Court on Benson Avenue made record of them.  Its stained walls held their marks.  Some would say they needed little attention for playing such a miniature role in the greater theater of life.  In a trance they rushed back and forth with laundry newspapers food.  And the children kept singing . . . songs taught from one child to another.  Handballs pounding against court yard walls skipping and jumping up down stairs hop scotch hide and go seek.

Everybody agreed Gloria had done everything for her.  Perhaps too much especially towards the end . . . always working helping her mother.  She hurried home with medicine, carrying heavy bags of groceries, rushing to cook some nourishing food.  Endless cleaning tidying piles of laundry to wash.  She arranged medical appointments wrote checks handled mail balanced accounts.  Then there were all the little things.  Turn up the radio.  Turn it down.  Run out for candy.  See what would be on television.  Pick up newspapers.  Find something cool to drink.  Make something hot.  Finally there was nothing to do but light candles of remembrance.

Long branches crisscrossed skies.  Newspapers scrapped along sidewalks.  Cats howled in the cold night.  Small pools of light shining from street lamps while raindrops fell like black ink.  Cars barely paused at stop signs.  A few passersby straggled along bending their separate ways against the cold.  Heads dropped in collars, hands clutching coats close . . . all were intent on ending this day.

She couldn't stop thinking of him.  No way no matter how hard she tried.  Gloria kept retracing that afternoon.  Was it so long ago?  Wandering the bay together passing streets trimmed with trees.  Surrendering to his strong arms listening to waves splash against rocks.  It was not so long ago.  Sunset colored water . . . pink red violet.  They watched gulls fly in circles as light caught their wing tips.  Around around in circles over clouds . . . sea gulls flying . . . white sprays in an ocean of blue.

They kissed fervently.  The train took them to his place, to a room without time.  She recalled every second.  How he caressed her face while touching her breasts.  Him so hungry devouring every crease of her body.  So thirsty drinking from her breasts and vulva.  Her covering him with kisses tasting his semen.  The thumbing and the gathering of them again and again.  He watched her climb a staircase back to the station.  Like a butterfly hidden within a soft flower, she waved goodbye.  With her scent all over his clothes, he saw her board the next train.  Gone.

Gloria had little experience with romance.  Not fast like some girls, her quiet manner left neighborhood boys perplexed.  They expected to show her off and find their way to her bed.  Why should she share intimacy with someone she hardly knew and barely liked?  Let this be a lesson to her what must have been a one night stand for him.

Now she was alone struggling within herself.  Time and memory of their time filtered through her mind.  Spellbound she was awake alive in love for a few minutes and then once again submerged . . . eyes veiled head lowered as if in a fog.  An unrelieved landscape of cement stretching before her.

Stretching now both arms finding the comforter, big yawns collapsing her body curled up like a question mark.  Adjusting her pillow and blanket she relaxed in bed . . . gathered calmness around her, holding a few kind memories to press within her.  Entering ebony night, she came upon a dreamscape of hills full of heather fragrant pink heather.  Who was that standing waiting on the top peak?  Whose arms were tossing star seeds into heaven . . . planting empty fields of night with rows of light?

Joan McNerney's poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Camel Saloon, Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Blueline, Spectrum, and included in Bright Hills Press, Kind of a Hurricane Press and Poppy Road Anthologies.  She has been nominated three times for Best of the Net, Poet and Geek Recognized her work as their best poem of 2013.  Four of her books have been published by fine small literary presses and she has four ebook titles.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Flash Fiction by George Welling

The Killing Fields

The view from the cockpit of the Messerschmitt BF-109 had to be amazing, not because the view of Belgium is particularly nice in the winter or something that you would want to write home about, but his view would almost certainly be more appealing than mine.  At least he has the small villages and patterns of the countryside to break up his thoughts.  He was probably thinking how he would have a cot to flop onto for a couple of hours when his patrol ended, and if luck remained at his side, maybe, just maybe, if luck is still on his side, a cup of coffee as well.  What I would do for a cup of warm coffee right now, even if it was horrible.  Thinking about what the Luftwaffe airman's future would or wouldn't hold as he flew overhead, kept me distracted for what seemed like hours, but I know in reality it is only for a few minutes.  I find it easier, if I daydream a little here, a little there.  It beats the alternative, staring at the back of the head of one of the other 83 poor souls marching with me.  Staring at the helmet made me wonder what its owner is thinking.  I wonder what he thought war would be like when he signed his enlistment papers.  I am sure he too was drunk on the romance of war, the battles, and the brotherhood.  It really doesn't matter because, like me, he too thought he would be fighting the German's rather than being their prisoner of war.

It seems like days have passed since we were caught off guard, but it had only been a few hours.  Looking back on it, we all thought the war was going to be over soon.  Caught off guard, the constant falling snow, and Christmas a little over a week away had taken its toll on our unit's morale.  The orders we had been given were simple.  Join up with the 7th Armored Division to reinforce the town of St. Vith from the German advance.  Simple.

Our convoy consisted of close to 30 trucks.  Troops were in about half of the trucks and the rest were carrying supplies.  Fuel, food, and some ammunition.  I sat in the back of the second truck next to Duck.  Duck grew up on a farm from Illinois and he got his name, not because he was always crouching down with his head down low, but because of how the top of his jawline stuck out from his face due to his buckteet.  You couldn't look at him without immediately thinking of a duck's bill.  He enlisted because he didn't want to die on a farm his family had owned for the past several generations.  Instead, he wanted to see the world, and he had hopes of one day going to college to learn about business and open a small feed store back home.  

There is a saying we all know:  you don't really get to know someone until you have shared a foxhole.  If I wanted to or not, I got to know Duck over the two years we spent digging foxholes all over Europe.

Most of the guys will tell you in the theater of operation no one is looking for friends.  You have the guys you went through basic training with, but as they get picked off one by one, you aren't really looking for replacement buddies.  Sometimes in small talk or mail call you might find someone from the same state you came from.  Even if it is on the other side of the state, an instant bond is formed.  Almost as if they were your neighbor, but that's about it.  That was the case with Hershel.  Hershel came from the same state as me.  Montana.  Think about it, what are the chances that someone else from Montana of all places would be assigned to the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion in Europe in 1944?  Chances are not very high.  Hershel was a few inches taller than me, clocking it at just over 6 feet, skinny as a rail, but strong as an ox.  He never said much, but was always someone you could count on in a firefight and that said a lot.  One time in southern France, our unit was sent in to sweep a nameless village on the map for German troops.

I drew point.  Point, the unlucky bastard who gets to lead the patrol.  He has one job, to try and find out where the enemy is, by quietly sneaking around, or more times than not, becoming a human target for snipers.  I had a bad feeling about being on point, but there is nothing you can do.  I drew the shortest straw.  As I rounded a cobbler shop, I heard a loud crack, only to turn my head around to see Hershel grinning from ear to ear as he had just picked off a sniper who had me in his sights from the top of a bell tower.  I don't know what scared me more, the sound of the lone shot echoing off the walls of the shops, or the sound of the dead kraut made when he hit the ground.  It was a sound that I will never shake.  I knew from that moment on, that Hershel was someone who had my back, literally.  I remember that night after we settled in at what was left of an inn in the center of town.  Hershel and I talked.  As darkness took over and the shadows came out to play, Hershel told me tales about when he was a boy and going hunting with his dad for rabbits at dusk on their farm.  He talked about how the rabbits would pop up their heads along the tree line, and you could pick them off one by one.  The sound of the rifle's recoil didn't scare them off, like you would think.  Hershel told me his father said, "It's as if the rabbits knew they couldn't outrun the speed of the bullets."  I wonder if that was true for the German that Hershel killed earlier.

After a long march our German captors gave us a signal we could take a break.  We came to a stop by a massive farm field.  Almost immediately we started to walk a few yards from the road as we broke formation.  Guys from our unit started to gather in small groups in the empty farmer's field.  Some who had dry Lucky Strike cigarettes lit them.  You know the saying "Smoke 'em if you got them."  Others sat on cold, dry patches of dead vegetation.  Hershel, Duck, and I started to make small talk about our dreams and plans we had for when we returned home after the war was over.  As we began to relax, the SS started to line up along the road.  Within seconds, a military vehicle approached.  The driver got out and opened the back door.  Out came a man dressed in black, almost like a widow attending a funeral except the dress and veil had been replaced with a leather trench coat and an officer's hat with the silver skull and cross bones known as the "death head" pin.  As his coat danced in the breeze as if it were a child at play, the last breaths of a dying sun reflected off the skull emblem.  Another German officer ran up and they started to talk.  Their conversation sounded to me like two men barking orders.

It was then I turned around as the sun was getting close to setting.  I was just about to drift off into another daydream to pass the time when in the distance I saw a couple of rabbits pop their heads up along the tree line.  I continued to watch them when I was suddenly interrupted by a rustling of weaponry.

Then the German officer yelled, "Feuen."