Alisa Rynay Haller
R o b e r t C r i s m a n
M i s s A l i s t e r
P a u l D. B r a z i l l
C K B l a c k
L e n a V a n e l s l a n d e r
The Blood Gods are hungry tonight.
My father’s planet is large in the sky, calling for War.
My mother’s earth is thirsty for an offering, something to nourish her chaos.
My daughter’s wind is pounding against the rooftops and windows, begging an entrance.
The fire that rages within me wants Red.
Red the color of Mars, Red the color of battlefields, Red the color of fire, Red the color of blood,
Red the color of the heart that still beats in my hand, waiting to be devoured.
—Alisa Rynay Haller
by Robert Crisman
Roanne banged the chiva, turned tricks, and ran out of road. She tried the geographical cure. But she took herself with her to Frisco. Same dope, same tricks, same cops down there.
One night she lay on her bunk and fell into dreams.
Sleep took her into a tunnel which broadened, or rather became some jerry-rigged downtown, with sky above lit by neon.
Night then became day, and now all around her street crowds, car traffic, construction. No sound.
The crowd thickened, heads bobbing, faces now cheek to jowl. So many of these people were bald! Both the men and the women wore gray.
Up ahead, a young girl, pretty in pink, dark-haired, a soft olive sheen to her skin like Roanne’s. She turned, and her eyes drank Roanne. A tall woman in gray held the young girl’s hand.
Roanne knew that she had to get to the girl and she started to shove through the crowd–and then she was running, up over the crowd, on their heads and their shoulders, straining and flailing, reaching out to stop the tall woman who picked up her pace and moved swiftly away. The girl looked back and her eyes held an infinite sadness.
Roanne chased them through streets in ten cities, through streets she’d made home and streets that had never existed. Always, the crowd underneath, the bald heads, the soft jostling. Roanne, desperate, sprinted to make up lost ground.
She’d lose sight of her quarry, then out of the crowd the girl would appear, eyes speaking from far, far away… Roanne tracked her through years.
Years, years, and years–and then in a blink the crowd became statues, seen through a bronze Aztec vista that stretched to the base of a mountain: Popoceteptl, ready to blow. The sun shivered; the sky was impossibly blue.
The noise of a sacrifice off to her left amped up and became the full-throated roar of a people–not the bald statues she stood on but blood-drinking warriors. Roanne turned to look–and the statues were gone! Now, just white desert that ate the horizon and climbed up into the sky.
The girl had never existed…
The old dream bled to new darkness.
Roanne stared up at the Sterling Hotel, Seattle, downtown, Third and Pike, three stories tall, a narrow brick building cowled there by midnight, in accord with some unknown demand.
The Sterling Hotel, where the past had congealed into shapes that she’d run from forever.
She’d shot speed in some second-floor room with 12 other streets, and now she went up the dark, narrow stairs to the second-floor landing. She stared out at the atrium circling around. Room after room punctuated the wall.
Dead silence tinctured by dying green light. The place was a sepulcher, really. A last resting place, perhaps for those children Roanne had fixed with.
She imagined those children inside these rooms, old, toothless, bald, mouths gaped wide open, eyes staring, their air a medicinal reek. Each room was lit with a 20-Watt bulb, some red, some blue, there to embellish the absence of light and perhaps coat the dead.
An old, enrobed figure pushed by her, and slipped into a room up ahead. Roanne followed that way.
At the far end of the hall, a door, cracked ajar. Blue light bled into the hallway. Roanne went down and into the room.
Inside, Joey, her dead lover, pawing debris on the dresser. He turned toward Roanne, as if he’d known all along that she’d come.
He shrugged, said hello, seemed to smile in the light. Joey, at home in this room for dead children, a hole in his temple plowed by a bullet that stopped his transgressions forever.
Tattooed on his chest–bullet holes, blood, diagonally lined right to left. “You like it?” Joey’s voice seemed to come from the light, swathed and defined as it was by the darkness.
Roanne wanted to ask him who’d done the tattoo–but then she saw that Joey was gagged, an old, dirty rag crammed right down his throat, spilling like vomit down past his chin.
His eyes were gone too and then so was the world…
They kicked Roanne loose from the jail two nights later.
Fear iced her then as she stood on the sidewalk outside the jail. With the fear her dreams’ echoes, and with them the sense of unutterable loss.
by Lynn Kinsey
Sometimes she would turn on the light, watch them for a moment, and then submerge them again in darkness without another thought. At other times, she would sit for hours—the greens, blues, pinks, and yellows darting around in a spastic dance, just waiting for her to take notice or do something other than just sit there. The worst of times, she forgot to look at all, and they danced lower and lower to the bottom, gasping for life as they searched. If she came out of the darkness, she would see that they needed her, and she would snap out of it just long enough to pour in the lifeblood they so desperately sought. She usually just lay there, watching. The gaunt, curved black one, spinning in spirals, bent like a twisted fingernail, swam in the bubbles, as she watched it; it could no longer be with the others, for it was too late.
(Excerpt from “The Salvation Skits,” to be featured in Special Issue #3)
by Miss Alister
Just before dawn, Ray and Val stepped over the lifeless bodies sprawled on soiled couches, chairs, floors, and left the dead party and its soggy stench. They got into Ray’s beat-up Chevy van and did a line to keep them awake on the drive to Denny’s. They’d spent most of the night apart from one another, caught up in a vortex of sick fucks and drugs. It’s not the way Ray wanted it, but Val had a desperate edge to her these days and he didn’t want to lose her. They ate their Grand Slams in silence, neither wanting to tell the other just how far into perversion they’d gone, but silence is the biggest tattle tale. So they shifted to small talk to shut it up and tried to enjoy the tail end of the coke high for what it was apart from the debauchery.
Back in the van, they did another line to get them to their shithole apartment on the south side. The more distance that got put between last night and them, the easier it was to fool each other back to the comfort of oblivion, until Val saw the church and the people queuing up. She put her hands on the dash and sucked in air so severely, Ray jerked the wheel to avoid imagined doom. “Fuck, Val!” But she didn’t give a shit if his heart blew up at 160 beats per minute, just demanded he pull into the church parking lot and either go in with her or wait for her or leave her there, she didn’t give a shit about that, either.
This happened a fair amount lately, the after-party Pavlovian remorse and desire for redemption on seeing a church. Val grew up conditioned to believe she could find something called God only within the walls of a steepled building. So Ray pulled in and parked on the far side of the lot. Everybody’s gotta do their thing, find what they’re looking for no matter how long or hard a way it is to go. Val would be out of there as soon as her high wore off and she realized she was sitting in a sea of flowered old lady dresses and suits, dressed like a tart. He’d wait for her as always, say a few prayers of his own out where they’re more likely to count for something, maybe catch a few winks if the timing’s right.
Ray watched Val shake her tight ass around to the front of the van and head toward the church, her high heels clicking and her tits jiggling, trying to spill out of her top. She’d pasted a smile on her face that Ray imagined felt to her like it was sweet, but it came off more Jezebel than Ruth. He laughed, slid his seat back and jacked off. One prayer answered, just like that.
The Ghost of Something Missing
With a pint of Tango
someone’s older brother
bought us 40 years ago
like the whoosh of a flamethrower
we climbed into the darkness
me and Neil and Steve and Andy
behind the school
and when drunk enough
walked into the dance in the gym
and unsteadily up to girls
named for months and flowers
their secret torn places
tomorrows we’d never know
Late Night Film
by Paul D. Brazill
It’s spring and, teetering precariously at the precipice of middle age, I become a self-imposed exile from London and get drunk between the moon and New York City. I know it’s crazy but it’s true. I set off with a half-arsed plan to hit the road, like Jack and Tom, and like so many half arsed plans it all goes pear-shaped as quick as spit disappears on hot pavement.
Spring soon segues into a forty-two degree summer in Madrid. Close up on me burning my hand on the side of a taxi; falling into a fountain in Sol, as drunk as fuck; a row of prostitutes lined up outside a shop called Easy Everything, one of them blind; waking up in a shop doorway in the midday heat as a policeman goes for his gun. Freeze frame.
And then summer stumbles into autumn which tumbles into a winter in Warsaw’s snow smothered streets. More close ups: beer breakfasts in a twenty four hour pub; the football stadiums’ Russian market selling Nazi memorabilia; a Ukrainian lap dancer on her knees, snorting cocaine in the middle of Old Town square.
And then cut to a sparse apartment, walls splattered with blood that looks shitty in the pissy light. Then …
A Bullet Named Sylvie
by Tom Leins
This week I’ve already had enough beatings to kill half a dozen dogs. My life is a dazed blur of bruised ribs and glib quips. I try to spit out serrated cop-show dialogue, but it really doesn’t suit me, and I end up getting hit twice as hard. By the time I climb out of the bath-tub the grey-black bathwater has gone cold. I towel myself down, careful not to rupture anything. In my bedroom music stains the air. It seeps through the floorboards like a bad smell.
Downstairs I order a shot and a beer. The shot burns all the way down. Sylvie flashes me a small, distracted smile as she scoops up my shot-glass and drifts further down the bar. She’s a standard-issue blonde – sexy enough to give a dead man a hard-on – but today her big brown eyes are only concerned with sadness. I can smell her bad dreams from here. She’s been chewed up by Ray Coody and his boys again. Not even heavy make-up can hide the bruise where Ray has hit her. Every day I look at the obituaries column and see the names of people my age. I don’t want Sylvie to be next.
Ray looks comfortable, surrounded by hood-rats and deviants. He’s nursing a scotch – more juice to feed his sick grin. He guzzles the booze like tap-water, but it’s the medical-strength cocaine that gives him his edge. We pulled a job last night, and he hasn’t been to bed yet. There are echoes of a wild sun-rise in his tired, red eyes. I ought to snap his skinny neck in two, but I know he’ll never let me get close enough.
The Fat Controller sits next to him, swollen like a huge, track-suited gargoyle. He unzips his ‘Johnny Half-lager’ leisurewear, and flesh literally oozes out. Last year I stabbed him over at the old, burned-out rooming-house in East Paignton . I jabbed him right in that fat gut – right where the evil grows – and he lived to tell the tale. I stuck him three of four times and all he did was laugh in my face. The town where I was born, raised and corrupted failed me once again.
Ray notices me and grins. His dishevelled good looks appear hollowed-out under the sick lighting. He spits on his hands and slicks his hair back with saliva. I raise my beer bottle in his direction and curse him under my breath. The suitcase full of loot feels heavy in my hand. The gun tucked in my waist-band feels cold against my freshly-scrubbed skin. One way or another, someone’s taking a motherfucking dirt nap tonight.
by CK Black
I slam the trunk shut
And listen to him struggle,
Legs and feet
Fists and arms
I listen to him scramble
I listen to him curse
Screaming that he didn’t
Want to die
I light my last Camel,
My head going shallow
Eyes fulla drifting
Yellow and blue stars.
I crumple the pack,
Toss it out into the desert,
Hear it roll, driving
Some small animal
From its hiding spot.
I gag on smoke
The trunk man screams,
About how he’s pissed himself.
By Richard Godwin
“Why don’t you then?”
He pressed his canine face close to mine and I smelt it on his breath.
Decay and hatred and years of it.
“I don’t even know why I come in here,” I said, taking the cold plate and staring down at the grey cheeseburger that lay under a glutinous mixture of his own sick concoction.
Every time I came in between sales he said the same thing to me and every time I ignored him.
But today was different.
I looked at my wrist.
Mr Zog told me that it was noon, which was sex wax hour and I was ready to party.
She stood there looking at me over his twisted shoulder, and I thought how his warped psyche was etching its buried hatred into his physique.
Violet winked one blue eye at me and I relaxed.
It only happened the once, I have to tell you that straight up, in case you think I make a habit out of this sort of thing. No. Not me.
But it was good. It was worth it. It was worth every damn bit of his jealousy and goading and today, today, Mr Zog was telling me I had to do it.
He came over and stood a few feet away wiping down a table and I could smell him and I knew what he was thinking. I’d had enough of his thoughts.
“I don’t know what she saw in you, I mean look at you,” he said, staring down at me as I dislodged a strand of gristle from between my teeth.
“Maybe I’ve got something you don’t,” I said.
He sneered and walked away.
The rain started then and it looked like drops of blood landing on the window and spattering the filthy glass and I knew I’d forgotten something except I didn’t know what it was.
I reached into my pocket and found it empty and the shiny surface of a blister pack broke into my mind like some grim warning I was far away from the home and needed to take charge of the situation because I wasn’t going to go back there.
I stood up to leave and as I turned his foul and sneering jackal face was watching me and I saw her, Violet, the agony of my dreams, and her silk smile pierced me again like a piece of barbed wire in my skin.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” I said. “You’ve got a beautiful wife and all you can do is walk around like you swallowed a frigging lemon.”
That was when he said it.
“Why don’t you then?”
“OK I will.”
She ran over and got between us and said “Don’t, it’s only his catchphrase, let him be, he’s cut up about what happened between us,” but it was too late, I’d already seen the glass behind him and its side lay open like a razor before she finished speaking, a small shard falling as I swung in a big beautiful blinding arc that ended in his face so familiar to me since childhood when he used to tie me to the swings and hit me but this time it was him bleeding and I hit him until he wasn’t moving and Violet was sobbing and saying “He’s your brother for Chrissake” and there were lights flashing outside the door.
Never did like catchphrases.
A Burning of the Savage Kind
I can hear the fire
in my mind
a burning of a savage kind
I can hear the waves
rolling in and out
a tranquillizer of the natural kind
I can hear the dust
for earth is holy
do not distrust the dust.
I can hear the wind
howling in my soul
urging the flames
into a quick and fatal explosion
I can hear the fire
in my mind
a burning of the savage kind.
Produced by Walter Conley and Paul Dutra.
Special thanks to the photographers who graciously permitted the use of their work. Click on the number of a photo to see the original. Selected prints are available through their websites, which are linked in Contributors Online, below.
Submissions and queries to Walter Conley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Open December 15 through December 22, 2009.
SPECIAL ISSUE #3: “The Salvation Skits,” by Miss Alister, is scheduled for January 1, 2010.
ISSUE #4 is scheduled for January 15, 2010.
All material copyright©2009 by respective creators.