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it’s an old dream that eats me slowly

every night at this time it begins
and there’s nothing anyone without love can do

—Franz Douskey, REVENGE

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Fracture
by Bruce Brown

By 2am, the diner at exit 22 on the curve of I-77 West is a lighthouse of grease and neon. Before and after are spaces of absolute pitch, unmarked by the illumination of billboards or the peek of homeglow through the parallel blur of pine and scrub. The diner shares a strip mall with an abandoned Laundromat and a pool hall. I sit in a corner booth, because it’s the best view of the diner and the parking lot. On this morning I have raisin toast and oily coffee. As I butter my toast, I notice my waitress sitting at my table.

She is young, and I’ve never seen her before. Her skin is almost cinnamon with a streak of freckles dusting her nose that I always find disarming. Her hair is frayed and braided and her uniform new, angular and crisp, unbattered by dryer time. The last surge has passed for the graveyard shift, but the diner is more than half-filled. The empty booths are piled with the clutter of dishes and food scrap.

I pause with my toast and knife. My waitress is looking at me. Her lips move, but she isn’t speaking that I can tell. Then she collapses, slowly, head falling forward until it rests on the table with her face to the side. She is shaking softly, her left hand spread palm out, crabbing at the tabletop. She’s thin with long hands. Hands with thick veins and recessed nails. I move to speak but she’s still looking at me, and her tears stop me. They pool in her socket, rising over her open eye, waiting at the crease of her brow before disappearing into the shadow of her face.

She cries, silent. Movement in the diner continues unaware of our table. Couples eat. The cook works the grill. Another waitress works the register. Our table is a separate world, disconnected. A moment of vulnerability and its spectator pulled out of time.

Then the moment breaks. She sits up, cheek wet and pressed red, to sample my toast.

“Come on baby, it’s time to go,” she says. She says this over and over, looking at me. Then she stands up and leaves.

I watch her to the door and out into the parking lot. She watches me. Through the glass, she is repeating the same phrase. Suddenly I want to follow her. I feel an ache of concern and loneliness and a terrible pull of helplessness, of watching someone becoming lost. She moves under the sodium lights, becoming indistinct and then disappears into the morning.

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burn

you are not the sun
though your light
burns my face
    like rays
         looked upon for too long

you are not the sun
warming me
    helping me to grow

you only mock him,
    creating shadows
        before me

you are not the sun
that i wish to dream,
            sing with
                on days when i am alone
            and happy

—Amy Kelly

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Moon’s Up/Nights Up (Part 2)
by Quin Browne

For Eloise McDaniels, the Land of Nod was a country she didn’t plan on visiting anytime soon.

Her mother, Peggy, took her to doctor after doctor, seeking out the reason for a child who wouldn’t sleep more than 3.6 hours in a 24 hour period. Eloise slept no more and no less than that exact amount. Her mother knew this because she had kept a chart for the first two years of Eloise’s life. Although she had finally ceased calling her mother in the night, Peggy was aware (thanks to the SweetDreams Baby monitor next to her bed) of the time Eloise lay there…thinking God knows what….watching the shadows on her walls, playing with her fingers, smiling to herself and finally drifting off. Peggy noticed the subtle change in quiet on quiet and she wrote: Eloise asleep,1:14 AM. Peggy learned to drop off quickly as soon as that magical sentence was written, knowing in 3.6 hours, Eloise would stir, her breathing pattern alter, a barely perceptible signal for Peggy to wake up. She’d then write: Eloise awake, 5:50 AM.

No doctor–GP or specialist–could give her an answer about this sunny child who thrived in the night. They all patted Peggy on her shoulder and told her Eloise would outgrow this odd behaviour. By the tenth doctor’s same advice, she broke down, sobbing loud enough to upset patients in the reception room. The specialist offered her Valium and a sleep aid.

Neither helped.

Once Eloise graduated to a real bed, out of her crib, away from needing a monitor, the McDaniels family changed how they lived. They never spoke of it openly to each other; they simply re-invented how they spent their night.

There was no suspicion of what was to come that first night Eloise slept in her big girl bed. The house quieted, everyone in their respective rooms, sliding into soft sheets and pleasant dreams. It was in the deepest part of that time when Eloise awoke, with her usual move from slumber to full wakefulness taking place between breaths. She blinked, looking around the room that was lit by the night light, huge shadows in the corners….places where dark scary things could hide. Eloise had no fear of the dark, of those shadowy corners. She sought to explore them, leaving her bed silently, pulling the dark in with each breath.

She roamed the hallways in her Dora the Explorer pajamas, testing floorboards for creaks, walking into rooms and feeling the rugs, remembering their colours by touch. She glided from room to room, picking up, sniffing….at times licking the surface of something, taking all the components into her mind, claiming the object as part of herself.

Upon entering a bedroom, she’d drift across the floor, stand by the bed and stare at whomever was there. She’d reach out, with soft fingertips, and touch an eyelid, trace a lip, lean over to inhale the scent of hair. When the bed’s occupant snapped into wakefulness in the suddenly conscious understanding they were not alone, only the hint of her presence was left behind. The sleeper lay there, adrenaline pumping in their veins–not able to prove it was Eloise, knowing in their hearts it was, the peace of sleep altered by the knowledge.

It had started simply enough. Seven year old Maddie woke one morning to find her ceramic angel, the treasured one given to her by her grandmother, was broken. One of the small gilded wings snapped off cleanly at its base rested in the outstretched hands of the statue. A few nights later, nine year old Tyler found his battered Elmo with one ear ripped off and stuffed in the open mouth. Finally, Peggy and her husband Joel awoke to find an empty salt shaker set on the floor beside the fish tank, all the fish floating.

Each time, Peggy questioned Eloise, stooping down to be on eye level, asking her if she knew anything about the damage, the breaking, the deaths. Each time, Eloise would listen quietly, blonde curls glinting in the sun, green eyes glinting with secrets, a slight smile in place. Stare for stare, mother and daughter….Peggy always turned away first–she was never sure why.

Maddie asked for a lock on her door, an odd request from a child who seldom stopped to shut any door in the house behind her. Joel didn’t question it when she whispered in his ear after dinner. He installed the lock and never mentioned it again. Tyler added a second lock to his door, even though it took him longer to get out of his room. Peggy and Joel would have preferred locks, but, had to rely on raising their door handle. Somehow, locking a door because of a child just wasn’t….normal. A handle high enough so that a small child couldn’t reach it seemed an acceptable compromise. And, it gave Peggy and Joel breathing space.

Time slipped by, measured by Eloise’s wanderings, Peggy’s addiction to Valium and the rest of the family’s increasing wariness around the youngest member. The same Eloise who sparkled around strangers was the Eloise that tested door knobs in the night. The Eloise they knew stood outside bedroom doors–waiting. Everyone slept with a lamp lit in their room ; it was better to learn to sleep with one on than to risk reaching out in the night, feeling the air move, fearing she would be right….there. They avoided going to the bathroom at night; it was much easier to live with a full bladder than a chance encounter with Eloise.

The family turned in on itself, each coping in their own way. Maddie slept with a teddy bear. Tyler slept with a baseball bat. Peggy slept reeking of cigarettes and exhaustion. Joel started working the night shift when Eloise was three. This way, he avoided the drama of the night, and could sleep in the perceived safety of the day.

When she turned five, Eloise learned to unlock doors. No one knew how she gained the knowledge, all that was known was suddenly, she was back in their rooms; standing, staring, smiling.

No, Eloise McDaniels was not a visitor to the Land of Nod; she was its tiny Dark Queen.

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Death in Summer

heat, the mangoes
tasting

like sewage,
all the

faces
sightless &

dank I
see you

there
with your

pills
the sheet

pulled up
around

your neck
do you

think I am
blind

I see
everything

you are
in death

—Jeffrey S. Callico

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Black Box
by Len Kuntz

Someone crafty has rearranged our furniture and stripped the walls but not the bedding because she’s lying like a lovely larva in the sheets and I stand there begging her to hatch, to wake, and when she does her eyes are dice, double deuces, and she tells me I’m the one, I’ve been sleepwalking again, but if that were the case why wouldn’t I have different news?

Next morning same thing, nothing’s shaken or stirred in the place that needs it most. The air there is thick and pasty, a slice of hoarfrost toast a stiff cum-dried athletic sock a loaf of molding memories, but what we have is today, unaffected by stagnation or incrimination awaiting something that feels loose like liberty or salvation.

I find the gas can and swing it, sprits the air and the amoeba-patterned love seat, dribble and shake it off like the end of a desperate piss.

Taylor was a just a girl, no different than the others, he said, but he was a drunken drifter, a fraud and fortune liar, surfer songwriter, charmer, life thief. In his wake there’s a soup, a stew with bloody bits and clumps and bones to be picked out lest anyone choke to death. There’s a stain that can’t be cured or cleaned.

So I go sleepwalking.

“What’s that smell?” my wife asks. I hold out my hand. My fingers don’t shake, not any more. She collects them and pulls herself up, naked, skin puckering pale in the draft.

“What?” she asks. She’s a mind reader a microscope a compass and a black box holding the secrets of an airplane’s destruction.

“It’s too late for all that,” is my answer.

We walk out the front door and do not look back. The heat from the flames threatens to singe our hair. Plumes of tarry smoke curl and unfurl around our bare bodies, shrouding us in smoldering scarves. We clasp each other. We walk, don’t run, our work done here.

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Finding Myself

The garden called to me
having been neglected
these past few years

come back to me
dig into my womb and
plant the seeds
that will bring me new life

I was drawn to one corner
that was so familiar
yet felt so lonely

burrowing into the earth
still soft from spring rain
I came to a cold, silky stop
Like touching myself
Yet not

garden what secrets do you hold
in your deep, dark belly
whose hand have I scratched with my nails

why it’s yours
said the garden
how mine?

the last time you came
I decided to keep you
Forever
Together

It was then the morning mist
spirited me away
tomorrow we’ll do it again

—Allie Dresser

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Painted Black
by Jodi MacArthur

Shane dragged the black bag through the forest. The trees’ arms wavered to and fro. Long strips of moss hung like golden hair, highlighted by a bit of moon glow. It was a perfect night, the same as his first with Cassie Grovers. Delicate Cassie with her suave body and golden hair, he wondered, if given the chance, she’d remember that first kiss under the stars, the tenderness that followed. He remembered. That night he knew he always would.

Up ahead, Shane could see the road. He maneuvered around a dead tree guarding the trail and welcomed the hard blacktop. It would take awhile, but he would make it home.

A 4×4 would have been more efficient, but that was not how matters such as these are done. There was a standard of respect to maintain. In every walk of life there was a standard of respect. Shane lifted the bag across his shoulders; it hung like a thick scarf only larger – a lot larger.

By the time the cat eye moon hung large and orange above the horizon, Shane was at his door.

Inside, he rushed by the bleeping red light on his phone in the living room, through the kitchen with age-old pizza and lurking roaches. He grasped the basement door, pulled the light string at the top of the stairs, and descended into darkness.

# # #

He pinned the choicest of pieces to the wall. Perfect. The paleness of the objects stood out against the blackness. Shane grabbed his favorite paintbrush, dipped it into obsidian fluid and painted.

When finished, he stood back and smiled. The wall morphed into haunting images, shadows of forgotten shapes and ragged hair. He turned to leave, then noticed a bit of white reflecting from an inner crevice. Shane dipped the paintbrush once more and dabbed the tooth.

Black was the only color that would do. There was a standard of respect to maintain. Death deserved to be painted in darkness.

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E N C O R E

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disenthralled is produced by Walter Conley and Paul Dutra.

All photography in this issue by Paul Dutra and Pamela Smith; featuring KEN ATKINS & THE HONKY TONK KIND. Grateful to the band for the use of their images. You’ll find a link to their website in Contributors Online.

Submissions are now open for winter 2009/2010 issues and specials. Read what has been published. Follow the guidelines. Contact Walter Conley at disenthralled2009@yahoo.com, if you have any questions.

Read SPECIAL ISSUE #1: Kristen Michelle Håvet HERE.

SPECIAL ISSUE #2, a straight poetry edition, is scheduled for Dec 1, 2009.

ISSUE #3 is scheduled for Dec 15, 2009.

SPECIAL #3, featuring a story by Miss Alister, is scheduled for Jan 1, 2010.

We appreciate everyone who has supported disenthralled by contributing, spreading the word, commenting or otherwise offering feedback. There are links to our facebook group and Walter’s twitter account in Satellites at the bottom of the page.

Thank you and good night.

33 Comments

  1. This is a wonderful look with the black and white and shades of grey. I feel that I’m back in Texas ready to jump up and join the two-step.
    I especially love the photo with the little girl and her movement above “Burn.”
    Amy Kelly’s “Burn” is very engaging, drawing me into the mirror image that I didn’t really expect. My astrological sign is Leo and I think she may be speaking about me and my Leo mates and are insatiable urge for control and attention. ;-)
    My younger daughter walked in her sleep and had night terrors so I empathize with the scary scenario of Quin Browne’s piece. A particularly spookily haunting story of what can happen to harmony in a family in an unexpected way.
    Thanks, love this issue.

    • The work I’ve been fortunate enough to publish here is even more powerful and involving when read aloud. I highly recommend doing so with Amy’s poem. (And who’s to say you can’t do it while turning circles in cowgirl boots?)

  2. Nice site. I am impressed by Quin Browne’s story. The imagery came easy and when I thought I’d figured it out, she changed her pattern.

  3. Great work all. Just looks lush and feels so right.

  4. Much as too many folks abuse the epithet ‘Noir,’ -disenthralled- both embraces & does honor to Noir’s spirit in this visually arresting literary degustation. And what fabulous, glorious monochrome!

  5. Layout and content both great.
    Congratulations!

  6. What a classy publication! I read it all and loved every bit of it, especially the stories of Jodi and Quin.

  7. The work here in is spectacular. I feel inspired after reading each peace. The Authors have each in turn done their pieces well. Congratulations all on your spectacular pieces and for making it into this issue.

  8. amazing writers and sensational photos. excellent job, walter and paul. i sincerely look forward to each issue! thank you.

  9. once again, i’ve the huge pleasure of being included in this amazing place that walter (and the brilliant paul) have created.

    once again, i have to pinch myself…it doesn’t seem real.

    as always, the photography is lush, and the stories this time.. the poetry…all of it blends together to make a ‘zine well worth reading.

    thank you for all the kind comments, and thank you walter and paul for including me in this place. it makes me believe.

  10. Each selected piece sings in harmony and you’ve managed to include some of my favorite active writers: Jodi, Allie, Jeffrey and Quin. Really brilliant!

  11. This e-zine is so intriguing! I love that it doesn’t waver from its theme.

    The images are amazing. All the stories elicited disturbing images and emotions.

    I enjoyed all the stories, but seeing two writing friends included makes my heart burst with pride; for knowing them, and for seeing their continued success. Congrat’s, quin & Jodi.

    Bruce, WOW! the imagery and the eloquence of language and enough sensory details that I was inside your story. Fantastic. On the other hand, I think a little more is needed to complete the story. I have many ‘why’ questions, but not all of them are ones that make me want to fill in the blanks. If walter will be accomodating, this needs a part 2 to help us understand what exactly happened to the server, and why our hero was so disinvolved with the intimate scene.

    quin.. PART 3, can’t wait. Jodi… welcome to the dark side (maybe you’ve been here all along, but this is the first I’ve noticed.) You somehow made me empathetic with the protagonist and sympathetic to the victim. Amazing.

    Len: powerful last paragraph. that’s an image that can be burnt into a memory.

    Poets: sorry. I’m not qualified or worthy.

    • I’ll pass along your request–any excuse to get more writing from Mr Brown….

      Jodi is as careful and precise as she is scary. Re-reading her work always seems to increase its effect upon me.

      As for the poetry. If it moves you, you’re qualified to say so.

  12. Every piece included is a gem. I especially enjoyed Jeffrey S. Callico’s Death in Summer. Lean & fluid.

  13. Very nice look and feel. The writers were all excellent. The combination of poetry, photography, and flash fiction all came together perfectly with the black background. I’ll be a regular visitor. Let me give a shout to my friends before I run away. Hey Quin, Hi Jodie, you guys look great!

  14. Quin’s story Moon’s Up/Nights Up (Part 2) is outstanding. A wonderfful writer and one who is as good as anyone writing today. Wonderful beginning (Part 1) and follow through until the end. (Part 2)Great ending. Did not disappoint one bit.

  15. The story, Painted Black, by Jodi MacArthur is also a wonderful if short and creepy tale of which I wanted more. Another great writer!

  16. Paul, I dig the live music, and you and Walter interspersing it throughout the other work here. All the genius darkness going on while these dudes are playing their gig, and all the lighthearted folks are enjoying it unaware. Like real life.

    Holy shit, Bruce. This piece has It. It, meaning no question/no need to debate, it’s got the thing that seizes the collective human gut. To-die-for detail.

    Amy, however you meant it, it meant to me what I would like to say to one, you are not the one, the perfect words to say it, “on days when i am alone; and happy.”

    Quin, I was grinning like a fool throughout. Our Quin rocking the Casbah. To me, the child is the devil, has torn asunder the family she was planted in; even so, you had me so expecting something even more ghastly-horrific to happen as if that wasn’t enough!

    Ewww in the most delightfully dark way, Jeffrey! So nasty-hot, the setting of the scene and the playing it out to as good as dead, in a few, perfect words.

    Another Holy shit, another It piece in my book. Genius. A thrilling, dark delight, Len. Writing so hot it shakes my confidence as one who attempts the craft, the art, whatever writing is…

    My kind of thing, again, Allie: “…a cold silky stop…whose hand have I scratched with my nails…the last time you came; I decided to keep you forever…” You’ve got the way.

    Supremely creepy, Jodi. He goes back to paint the tooth… Yeah, death deserves to be painted in darkness. So very good.

    Walter, this issue is packed full of sizzling hot. I love the hell out of it.

    • Thanks, Miss A, for taking the time to give feedback to the contributors.

  17. I love the dark look and the photographs. I’ve only read some of the shorter pieces so far but really enjoyed them.

    • No hurry. Issue #2 will remain at this URL. And thanks for the kind words.

  18. This is a first class production with some excellent images and writing. A nice mixture of prose, poetry, and photography. Congratulations to all involved.

  19. The juxtaposition of light and dark of this publication never ceases to amaze me…why, it’s the perfect grey area. Quin has taken the beauty of a restless child and quickly turned her into a sociopath – brilliant. The photos initially suggest happy music, and yet when I reached the “Encore”, I was left wondering what the hell the harp player is really contemplating…

  20. I am amazed at Q Brownn’s piece..only someone brilliant could turn a crying baby in issue 1 to a spawn of the devil in issue 2. I am constantly amazed

  21. Really lovely. Darkly beautiful. Everything superb! Cheers to everyone involved.

  22. I just realized there is a comment spot here! I want to thank Walter for the opportunity to be in this enigmatic ezine along with some authors and poets I truly admire.

    Every piece speaks on its own, yet flows smoothly into the next.I think we all had a kind of collective energy going on as we wrote and submitted them.

    The photography and layout is just excellent, Walter.

    Thank you so much to the shout outs, everyone. They mean a lot to me.

  23. Beautiful work. Beautiful layout. Big congratulations to all.

  24. Another wonderful,well, beautiful issue. Great work all round but a big shout out to Jodi for a classic.

  25. I didn’t think I could be more impressed with the photography than the last issue, but these themed b/w photos are just the best. So different than what you had up before and so in the theme of what you printed here. Nice find.

  26. Thanks to everyone who contributed or stopped by to read.

    Subs closed.

    Special Issue #2: Poetry is scheduled for Dec 1, 2009. Hope to see you all back again (and gone).

  27. Great Writing and Photos. Enjoyed reading each submit. Looking forward to seeing more postings.

  28. Walter, thank you for your wit, generosity, and for providing a place for me to learn from incredible writers!

    Can’t wait for more!


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Read ISSUE #2 Here. […]

  2. By SPECIAL #2: POETRY « disenthralled on 30 Nov 2009 at 11:22 am

    […] ISSUE #2 […]

  3. By Hey…. « disenthralled on 12 Jan 2010 at 10:30 am

    […] ISSUE #2 (Bruce Brown, Amy Kelly, Quin Browne, Jeffrey S. Callico, Len Kuntz, Allie Dresser, Jodi MacArthur/Photography by Paul Dutra/Produced by Walter Conley and Paul Dutra) […]

  4. […] Talk, Spindled Souls, Weeping Stones (scroll down), Rabid, WILDCARD, Painted Black (scroll to last story), and there be me beloved thievin’ piratical series, The Wicked Woman’s […]

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