Monday, December 27, 2010

Pre-Dated January Remembering

Tarnished - 194 words
Sarah Van Name

It’s moments like those few seconds last night that make me really want to talk to you, when the air is so dry it cracks my lips like desert soil when I’m not paying attention. That in and of itself is strange enough because all the time we spent together was summertime, wet green harmonica time.

A few days ago, the girl who I now think of in tandem with you would have been twenty had she been still alive. Memories of her are tarnished in my mind now – a lamp touched too many times and drained of its magic – and soon the same thing will happen with you. It has started already.

But I miss you. I do. For reasons that are not specific or detailed and that no longer have anything to do with the softness of your breasts as I hugged you or the shape of your chin. I am not split open and gutted by the thought of concrete and glass, but perhaps because of the chord progression at the beginning of a certain song, or perhaps because of a birthday gone uncelebrated, I wish you were here this winter.

The '59 Sound - The Gaslight Anthem

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


127 - rejection

Sarah Van Name

I never knew rejection until one Saturday night when I was thirteen. I was sitting in front of the family PC and typing to a friend from camp, a boy with a taste for poetry and eyes the color of Mello-Yello. His name was Matthew and he was my first crush too big to be called a crush.

He made a confession. He told me he was in love with the girl I was rooming with next summer; admitted that he was optimistic about his chances. I could barely feel my fingers. That night I broke my ill-informed vow never to cry about a boy. Like wearing new shoes, it was the kind of pain that hurt until I grew accustomed to it and then faded away.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Sheets - 490

Sarah Van Name

Albert was my first love. As soon as I saw him in the containment facility, my breath caught in my chest and I got dizzy. Later, Yvonne would tell me that it was the lack of oxygen combined with the chemical fumes. But I remain convinced that it was love that struck my lungs and legs that evening.

I was put in charge of his feeding, which was difficult at first because we didn’t know what he ate. I would step into the outer room, put the food material into a drawer, and slide it into his cage. Each time, I hoped for some hint of a reaction: a swirling, perhaps a palpitation in that sultry orange core of his. But not once. Upon my approach, he withdrew to a corner and swirled into himself like a pouting child. Even after we figured out what he liked (dust and mashed bananas was concluded to be the favorite), he still wouldn’t come near me.

At first I thought it was just a general aversion to humans, and I began to resign myelf to the idea that no matter how much cardamom I put in his breakfast, he would never care about me the same way I cared about him. But then, one night, I saw him with Yvonne. He surrounded her body like a blanket. Through the mask of her Hazmat suit I could see her blushing.

Between my starched sheets that night I put on my headphones and did not sleep. All I could picture was the color of him, yellow and red like a sunset, the way he reduced when he was hungry. Everything I had done for him: I relived every time I selected the petri dish for his dinner so carefully, how I had chosen the ripest bananas. And still, the way he withdrew whenever I came near.

If you love somebody, set them free, the music told me as I listened to the same song over and over again. I woke up early that morning, when the lab was deserted. He didn’t want to get into the smaller box. I tried to soothe him the only way I knew how, with food, but I could tell he was unconvinced.

But I took him to the airlock and let him out. I placed the box back where I found it, went back to bed, and slept soundly.

The scientists were all aflutter – so much so that they didn’t even notice when I walked into the lab hours late. I had to pretend to be surprised. Yvonne, that traitorous whore, was crying. I took some satisfaction in seeing the stain of mascara on her cheeks.

“Alien Spirit Swallowed By the Universe,” the newspapers proclaimed. I cut out the clipping and taped it above my bed, so that every night, I could dream of Albert flitting in and out of star systems, my love happy and alone once again.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Teeth - 125 words

Your hands are storm water dripping from the gutter; they fall to rest on my hips, as if the curve of my waist was a puddle. This room is quiet but for the sound of heat bleeding from the radiator’s teeth.

While you sleep, your breath like a hunted rabbit, I pick out shapes in the shadows – things that used to scare me and don’t anymore.

When one walks down the hallway leading to the David, one sees Michaelangelo’s unfinished statues. They are blocks of marble, half-carved, bodies bursting out of them. An arm, the muscles of the thigh.

There’s a form inherent in the marble, Michaelangelo said. There’s a different creature inside my skin, I told you, but you don’t have an artist’s hands.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Railroad, pt. 2

Spike - 437 words
Sarah Van Name

It was the first day of Christmas break when they started to cut down the forest. The sounds of sawing and the soft pillowed thumps of falling trees flooded the air from nine to four, when dusk and cold started to drift in together. My parents had moved here in part, I knew, for the peace and quiet, and the way my mother’s wrists tensed as she made breakfast on those days told me how upset she was at what she must have considered an invasion. I had suggested to my dad that we wait until then to pick our tree – we could just grab one from the ground and you wouldn’t even have to deal with the cutting, I had told him – but he had refused, and the day after Thanksgiving we’d gone out together and chosen the best tree there was, broad and plump with needles.

When I looked out the window at the work, a quarter or maybe even half a mile away, all I could see was a cloud of dust and intermittent flashes of orange vests. I went out to survey the damage on weekends when it was quiet. They were doing a good job, not cutting down much more than they had to. By new year’s there was a broad, flat swath of dirt running as far as you could see in either direction, surrounding by military-straight lines of trees on each side.

I remember it was new year’s because on new year’s day they drove in the first spike. In my books I had read about inaugurating train tracks and was rather excited. I expected the mayor, maybe, a crowd of important people in nice shoes, a ribbon.

There was a tree still standing a little ways back from the dirt, and I sat in its branches all morning with a book waiting for it to happen. The men showed up one by one, late, hungover and yawning. Finally the foreman yelled, “Okay, come on, let’s get to work,” and they dispersed to get their tools. I peered through the pine needles. I saw the foreman say something to one man, who nodded, and then I watched him kneel and pound in the first spike.

No one else had looked. There had been no celebration – no ribbon, no mayor. I hopped down from the branch, my thighs sore and prickled from the bark, and walked back home, where I sat at the kitchen table with my dad and watched the cloud of dust in silence, the mystery and drama of the railroad filtered into the hard cool air for good.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Railroad, pt. 1

446 words - Railroad
Sarah Van Name

I grew up with the meadow, reaching for the tops of the grass. I don’t remember leaving for years and years except to go to the sparse farmer’s market a couple miles down the long dirt road that connected our house to another, more well-groomed dirt road that connected to a highway that was as mystical to me as the ocean. We grew our own tomatoes, and I remember eating barely anything else for most of my childhood. There was school, and homework in the basics of spelling and multiplication, and there was the pond and the soft sticky sweetness of the Southern atmopshere, April through September.

I didn’t know it then, but we were about fifty years behind the rest of the world and my parents must’ve liked it that way because they never tried to catch me up. I didn’t know what computers were until the school got a couple; there was no Internet access at our house. I didn’t know what cell phones were; there was no reception. I was never bothered by any of this until much later, when I realized that life had been a different thing – shinier, more metallic and sharp – for other girls.

One warm September aftenoon, when I was thirteen, I opened the door to find my mom and dad sitting at the kitchen table, hands folded and waiting. I thought quickly but I hadn’t done anything wrong.

“Sit down, Margaret,” my mom said. My dad was quiet and and his eyes were focused on not me but the treeline, beyond the pond, the thick deep green of the pines.

“What is it?” I asked. And I thought again. My grandparents were in good health; I could see the dog, droopy-eyed and sniffing at the couch, in the next room.

“We were informed today that the state is building a railroad track up to D.C., and it’s going to run right by us.” She paused. “Just past the pond over there. They’re going to be cutting down a path through the forest so it can pass.”

My dad’s expression hadn’t changed. He was still scrutinizing the tree line, as if imagining what it would be like to have a shrieking metal beast slide through it every hour. “Can they do that? When do they start?” I asked. I was more curious than troubled. I had never seen a train except in my history textbooks.

“It’s not our property, technically, so yes. It’ll be a couple months.”

I think she expected me to have more questions. But I was already daydreaming of leaping from the ground into an empty boxcar, like a dirty-faced urchin searching for a different sky.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


269 words – cowboy
Sarah Van Name

At eight years old, Sergei wanted nothing more than to be a cowboy. He didn’t like the Western-inspired movies that were the standard in the Soviet Union at the time, but preferred the American ones smuggled in by his father. This troubled his mother, who feared that he’d sneak his toy gun into school and pretend to be shooting Indians, who in Soviet-made films were the protagonists. But she needn’t have worried. Sergei was a quiet, well-behaved child who understood and accepted the rules of the society he had been born into.

After school let out he would come home and lie in front of the TV to let The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly flicker across his pale face, his chin propped in his hands. At 6:30 his father got home and looked in on him, at which point the movie would be almost over. The man would look at his son, give a greeting which was usually responded to with an absent wave, and sigh as he left the room, wondering if he had done the wrong thing by bringing the outside world into his country and house and always concluding yes. The movie was done by dinner, which was placed on the table at 6:45 precisely.

Before bed, while he played checkers with his parents, Sergei would try to recreate the stories in his head with himself as the main character. Above all he was excited to learn how to ride a horse. As he fell asleep, Sergei imagined himself growing up to be like Clint Eastwood: brave, square-jawed, and a little faded by dust.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Not Your Average House

360 words – average
Sarah Van Name

I was driving through a residential section before we hit the highway.

“You know what I’m most excited about for when I grow up? Owning a house.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I’m really, really excited about owning a house. I think about it a lot.”

“What’s your dream house?”

“It’s gonna be three floors plus an attic, Victorian-style, with the outside painted blue with dark purple shutters and white detailing. Or, like, white woodwork. I’m going to have a lot of guest rooms. My kitchen is going to be bright yellow, my bedroom is going to be brown, my living room is going to be red, and there’s going to be stairs in the living room. And under the stairs there’ll be a nook where I’m going to put a loveseat. I haven’t figured out the dining room yet. But it’ll be a really nice kitchen, because I’m going to do a lot of baking and cooking and stuff. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with all the other rooms, though.”

“I mean, if it’s not very big and you only have four rooms per floor – “

“Yeah, four rooms and a bathroom per floor. So that wouldn’t be too bad.”

There was a silence and the music drifted through the heat of the car like ribbon on wind.

“The weird thing about this is that when I picture this house I don’t ever imagine living in it with other people. I mean I’m going to have guests. Tons of guests. But I don’t think about having a family. I don’t think I’m the kind of person who’s just going to find someone, magically. I’m trying to get used to the idea of being alone.”

“Well. If I end up alone and unmarried in my thirties – “

“I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

“ – I’ll come and live with you.”

“I would like that. I would give you a big guest room with lots of colors and yarn everywhere and blankets.”

“Thank you.”

“Did I ever tell you that I plan on having you in my life for, like, ever? There are just some people I think that about.”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Stage - 127
Sarah Van Name

“The plate is a stage,” my brother tried to explain to me once.

“The plate is a plate,” I told him.

“Yes. But it’s more than that,” he insisted, and I leaned against the walk-in refrigerator to watch him work. It was three A.M. and we were alone in the restaurant, chairs upended on tables and velvet curtains closed against the outside world.

“What do actors do on a stage? They tell stories. And food tells stories on the plate.” He ladled chocolate mousse, mahogany-dark, into a small glass cup, placed a spring of fresh mint on top. “See how I’m putting this in the middle of the plate? It’s lonely, but proud. Aloof. It’s like a princess in a tower, and that’s how it tastes, too.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

La Villa Delle Arancia

Serene - 392 words
Sarah Van Name

The lower branches of the orange tree are stripped bare from the six- and eight-year-old neighborhood ruffians who gallop triumphant through the streets in the early evenings. I watch them pour like rivulets of water from their separate doors and flood past, blood orange juice dripping down their sharp tan chins. But the best thing about the Villa Delle Arancia is not the oranges. It’s the roof where one can eat them, if one is me.

The roof juts out in front of the window of the room I share. Too many times I’ve been out here as the sky is slipping into that dusky red and Barbara, the Italian housekeeper, has called up from the drive, “Scendi! Ti ucciderai!” But I don’t, and she turns away, muttering, “Ragazza sciocca, queste ragazze Americane…”

It is, maybe, during supper time that the place is most perfect. I can peer in through the windows of the slim long apartments and see the big Italian families eating their meat and bread and cheese, the black-haired mothers passing serving plates back and forth. And I sit serene, knees bent, my hands sticky and red with juice and staining my legs.

One such night, when the weather was getting cool, I heard the first door slamming and, like a choir of bells, the rest followed. The scrawny boys fled their dinner tables and raced down the alley, and I saw the tree branches shake and sway as they grabbed the oranges they could reach. Just as they disappeared around the corner, a last door opened and closed like a late entrance to a symphony.

A little girl, her hair braided down her back, ran forward and stopped under the tree. The branches were stripped. She looked at the tree, at the end of the alley where a cloud of dust was settling from the boys’ feet. Her eyes started to water.

“Adriano,” she wailed, “torni, torni, ho voluto un’arancia.” But no one came back around and the noise of their shouts faded.

“Gabriela,” I said, and until then I hadn’t even realized that I knew her name. She looked up at me, red-nosed and sniffing. I plucked an orange from the high branch; she held out her hands, and I dropped it into her open palms and watched her scurry like a windblown leaf down the street.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Storm (or, the last AYIP that I have to catch up on)

Table - 400 words
Sarah Van Name

You slept through the worst of it. Before I went to bed I clicked on the TV and saw the solemn, rumpled weatherman point at the white circle, rotating slowly like a dying merry-go-round as it drifted inland. “Looks like it’s gonna hit us,” I told you. As we fell asleep, my arm wrapped around your waist, my body curved around yours as if to protect you, I could already hear the rain starting to hum its primal lullaby.

You didn’t wake up when the thunder crashed and shook the frame of the bed; you didn’t wake up at the lightning that spasmed across the surface of the blanket so bright I could see every detail of the room. You didn’t wake up when I pulled back the covers, extracted my hand from yours, and got up.

The cat was cowering under a table in the corner and hissed when she saw me. The power had gone out. There was no slight buzz, no slip of water in the pipes, just the rain and thunder and silence. The air conditioning was trapped for now, but soon – tomorrow – the hot air would start to seep in and it would get muggy, eventually unbearable. But for now it was quiet and cool.

When I was a child, in the winter I would sit on the floor by the front door and look out the window to wait for my dad’s headlights to approach down the driveway. I’d stare out for minutes and minutes, looking at the shapes and lines of the trees, the bushes, the shadows cast by the guide-lights on the side of the pavement. When I was a child I was scared of storms. And I was scared now. So I sat on the wooden beams and looked out the window, not waiting for anything.

I had been there long enough that I found the cat slinking under my hand, when there came a crack of light that reached down from the sky as if it were cutting it in two with scissors, reached down to my neighbor’s tree. As if it were happening in a slow-motion movie, the tree split, and fell, intersecting with the power line that stretched between the houses. The line fell with it. When they hit the pavement, a seizure of light traveled down the street, following the water that poured and poured across it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Future Memories: We Take a Walk.

Walk - 358 words
Sarah Van Name

We take a walk. We hold hands. We watch sparrows land on the ice and fly away again. We talk about the sky. The cold leans into us, gnashes its teeth at the tender exposed skin above our coats.

We check into the hotel. We check into the hospital. We check into our respective returning flights, spaced months apart, with a slow-growing familiar frustration blooming in our stomachs. We check baggage. When we take walks, we hold hands, and we check the position of our fingers.

We paint the wall white. We sweep the floor carelessly. We make room for a piano, we try to tune the high F# and conclude that of all the things that must be sacrificed in a life, it is one of the least painful. We play a song which hits the note. We conclude that maybe it is one of the more painful. We make macaroni and cheese from a box, from scratch, in the microwave. The glass drips down, too slowly to be perceived, and gets thicker at the bottom.

We feel the salt of the ocean. We spill salt in the kitchen and milk. We had bad luck. We have good luck. We steal flowers from community plots. They stay bright in a glass of water.

We draw pictures on each other’s backs. We go to shows. We dance salsa and swing. Music rises, crests, and draws back over and over in the space between us. The levees break, the phone rings, the shuttle crashes. We sway. We mourn. We comfort each other. Against all intentions, we are sad at the same time.

We wake up together. We wake up alone. My necklace becomes tangled in your hair. We wait for the heat to cut on. We have good dreams and forget them. We have strange dreams and they linger deep into the morning. We lose things in the blankets. We light a bonfire. The snow comes while we’re still on the highway. We argue. We decide, after the anger has melted away, that the time has come to clear the Scotch tape from the wall and frame our pictures.

Picture Window - Ben Folds and Nick Hornby

Friday, October 8, 2010

No Exit

Left - 495

(Chapter 6)

Ben Azevedo

They left the ship in a docking station Jonesy had a membership to. Shielded from the wind, Jonesy and Miles stepped into the dark cavern. They were alone; most people stayed in the safety of their apartments during storms. A long row of exit signs marked the route to the next building.

All of the buildings in New Chicago’s downtown were connected underground by pedestrian walkways. Not many people were downtown in the storm, but the few that were would have been swept away by the winds aboveground. During the clear season, New Chicago had thriving aboveground marketplaces and shops, but currently it was quiet.

Miles pulled a small device from his pack. It beeped once, and flashed several figures across a small screen. He grunted, shouldered the pack, and headed off along the glowing path of exit signs.

“Where’re we going?” Jonesy asked.

“Roughly, 85th and Dawe street.” Miles’ voice echoed in the dark chamber.

“Did he give us any specifics on the mission?”

“No. But we’ll need these.”

Miles slung the pack around his shoulder, still walking, and pulled another device out. It resembled a pencil in length, but it was about three inches thick. One end tapered to a point, and it was a blackish gray color. He handed it to Jonesy.

Jonesy picked it up carefully. He studied both ends and nodded.

“So we’re going to be hunting the-“

“SHUT UP!” Miles clamped a hand over Jonesy’s mouth. “They can probably already hear us!”

His voice dropped to a whisper. “There should be a track we can pick up south of here.”

He pulled a second short staff out of his pack, transferring the tracking device to his left hand. They continued down the path of exit signs. After a few minutes the tracker blipped softly and Miles turned left. Jonesy followed closely behind him, casting wary glances back every few seconds.

The passage narrowed slightly and reached a staircase. Miles stopped at the top and looked down. They had left the exit signs behind, and were losing light. Miles frowned, flipped a few switches on his tracker, and opened his pack again. He produced a tiny case and turned to Jonesy.

“Ever used one of these?” he asked.

“Is that an eyelight?” Jonesy’s frightened eyes momentarily lit up with excitement.

“Yes. You know how to use it?” Miles was all business.

“Yeah. Gonna be dark down there eh?”

“They like the dark.”

Miles put on his eyelight and started down the stairs. The eyelight consisted of a contact lens with a small wire connected to an electrode that attached to Miles’ temple. It provided multi-spectrum imaging for the wearer, controlled by brainwaves picked up by the electrode.

Miles hadn’t lied to Jonesy earlier. The boss hadn’t given him any details. But he knew what they were hunting, and it wasn’t pretty. Humanity wasn’t the only race on Element. The planet had several other sentient or semi-sentient species.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Flannel - 51 words
Sarah Van Name

the morning after you left was the first
cold morning, radiator and flannel.

you woke alone
and I woke alone.

nature requires that the heat of you
be displaced, not disappear.
though loneliness fills you like water,
I still feel your touch
as best I can,
with everything you left behind.

Oh Adeline - Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers (live video)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fuck Bouncyballs, I want a...

Swimming - 360

Ben Azevedo

Chapter 6

The storm roared, and the tiny ship bounced wildly through the sky. The wind was deafening, yet through the terrible howling a voice could almost be heard.


Miles’ scream was certainly audible from inside the ship, the unfortunate place that Jonesy now found himself.

“Miles! Shut the fuck up, man! I’ve gotta focus on this shit if you want to live!”

“You mean I’m not dead yet?! I thought I was already in Hell!”

Jonesy wasn’t going to argue Miles’ point. This was one of the worst storms he had ever flown. Of course, he usually tried to avoid going out in storms.

The ship rocked and vibrated as the Geo Grounder did its best to remind them that the ground was down. Occasionally it would fail, and Jonesy could watch as Miles’ hair pointed up towards the ceiling. Jonesy still loved the feeling of riding the wind currents, but he also knew they could smash into an obstacle at any moment. With no windows or visuals in the thick rain of the storm, death would come without warning.

A green sensor blinked and chimed suddenly.

“What does that mean!” yelled Miles over the alarm.

“Calm down. We just absorbed a lightning strike.” Jonesy was flipping switches wildly.

“Why are you flipping all those?! Did something go wrong?” Miles’ eyes were wide, and his head was swimming as he tried to resist the sudden gravitational changes.

“Miles, listen to me. Relax. The seat will keep you from any whiplash; the more you resist it, the worse you’ll feel later. The lightning helps us, remember? It’s adding power to the ship, so we can afford to divert more to the Geo Grounder.”

“That means we won’t be upside down right?”

Jonesy nodded as he returned to the switchboard. There were no visual monitors, but Tracy had a digital map display that charted the approximate position of the ship in relation to downtown. They were nearly there.

“Assuming no more major current changes, and no disastrous accidents, we should be there in about ten minutes.” Jonesy announced.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Demon Days

Patience - 266 Words
Lindsey Thompson

I’m sitting outside the blanket, watching you breathe slowly and with much exhaustion hidden in the seams, and I smile despite myself. You sleep so peacefully, like there is no demand, no demon waiting to seize your time and mind when you wake. The bed creaks when I leave, but you continue to wander in dark slumber. I grab my things and begin the journey back to my town, my life, leaving ours behind with you in the bed. Two-year-old ghosts sing false melodies to me, promising me that I can escape, change course, turn this god-forsaken car around and…

…I don’t know. Continue pretending until it isn’t pretend anymore.

I’m still driving straight, frantically flipping through the radio stations, looking for something foreign and safe. Just something to get me to my life, my post, my job. Something until I can get busy and I get things done. Set my mind to motion and design and I’ll make it to the end of the day.

I just want to be home. I want to know where home is. I don’t want to be stuck sitting on a wooden bench in a concert hall listening to possibilities from pianos and your whispers over and over like the cries of a dog I’m leaving behind. I’m tired of maybes; I don’t have the patience to eat and drink and be merry acting like we’ll never see a day where we never see each other again, knowing that that day is bearing down on us with bared teeth and a menacing grin.

Why can’t you be home?

Back Broke - The Swell Season

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wednesday Night Schedule

Schedule - 401
Sarah Van Name

1:15: I lie awake.

1:17: My roommate is quiet. She rarely moves, stretched out long and thin under her sheets, and I can’t even hear her breath – just the smooth hum of the fan, the blinds clicking in rhythm with wind, and the rain outside.

1:18: Music plays out on dark walls, shadows shift and speak. At the end, it blurs, stutters, and begins again. It’s a record that I have played so many times it makes me physically sick to hear it. Acid cuts and recuts itself inside my stomach. The scene pauses, begins again.

1:30: I am shaking, saltwater threatening to overrun the sideways canyons of my eye sockets, but too tired to scratch or bite, to turn sadness, worry, to fury. I don’t have the drive to hate myself for this.

1:44: The rain talks to me in Morse code and click language. It tells me a riddle: there are three answers to a question. One is impossible, one unfathomable, and the last is perfect. This question will answer itself, but you have to wait. You can’t answer this question. So what will you do while you wait?

2:02: The linoleum of the bathroom is cold and wet in places, rain or overzealous sinks having spread water in continent-shaped swathes across the floor. Here, I can hear more clearly the way the rain is hitting the leaves outside, the stone, the pavement, the distinct sound and echo of each. I swear I can hear it as it exits the sky. The light is pale, and my bruises stand out stark and sickly on my skin. I go back to my room.

2:04: I tuck my knees up to my chest and stare at my computer.

2:20: I get back in bed. Take the needle off the record. It is magnetically attracted to the disaster it prophesizes, tries to reach down and make me cry again. But I don’t let it. I make a deal and say, if you stop now, you can start again later, hurt me, yes, but later.

2:25: I wait.

2:48: I sleep.

That night I dream of morning, the world still swathed in the dark winter blue of an approaching storm. When I wake up, I am surprised to find the sky a mild grey, and the girls with their rain boots still walking through puddles like the downpour of last night meant nothing.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Backdoor (it's always in the kitchen)

Hostage - 377

Ben Azevedo

With a deft flick of his wrist, Vito tossed the bag of coins in the air. At the same time, he flicked the knife on his wrist into his hand and underhanded it at the guard captain. Brakus ducked in time, but the guard behind him wasn’t so lucky. The coins slammed into the second guard, distracting him. Vito whipped around and dove towards the kitchen.

“DAMMIT!” Brakus roared. He raced towards the kitchen after Vito.

The two guards recovered and followed suit. Unfortunately, the guard who had taken the knife underestimated the poison Vito used. He became slightly less recovered.

Vito vaulted a cart and slid past a row of chefs. He nearly lost his footing in a puddle, rolled, and recovered. Finally he found what he was looking for; a small grate in the corner of the kitchen. He kicked aside an empty crate, pulled the grate up, and dove feet first into the black.

Brakus burst into the kitchen and barreled through the cart. He slid around the corner just in time to see Vito’s cloak slip through the black hole in the floor.

Brakus cursed and punched a cabinet hard enough to leave a sizeable dent.

“You and Tiron follow him and…” Brakus turned to finish his statement. The single guard stared back. He sighed. “I guess it’s just you and I then, Veriticus.”

“Sir…should we tend to Tiron?”

“No…Vito’s no fool. Tiron is long gone.” Brakus sighed again, then pulled a battered transmitter out of his cloak.

“Sir, we lost him again. Got another drain to mark on the map.” Brakus waited.

The crackling voice that returned over the transmitter was deep and commanding.

“Mark it Brakus. Then return to the hunt. Remember, I need Vito as a hostage. I don’t care what it takes. Bring him to me.” The transmitter fell silent.

Brakus shook his head.

“That fool’s going to waste the entire security force on this. And for what? A scrawny street punk who runs cash for the gangs?”

Veriticus looked around the devastated kitchen, and noticed the now empty bar. “Maybe there is more to this than we know, sir. I think we should get out of here and find more men.”

“Let’s take care of Tiron,” Brakus replied.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Help - 68 words
Lindsey Thompson

A year ago, I walked into a pub on a Sunday evening, ordered a whiskey sour, and sat down at the bar next to a man, simply dressed, nursing a glass of wine. I told him God wouldn’t forgive him drinking on Sunday, even wine. He shrugged, whispered, “What if I am God?” I laughed, asked why he was drinking alone. “No one wanted My help,” he said.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dancing Girl

Without - 92 words
Sarah Van Name

in the smoke of Friday night
you move with the motion of water from a backyard spigot.
your skin is lace, through which I note
the silk slip of your blood. red your lips.
flushed your cheeks.

you are rooted to the center of the earth,
smoke moves between the tall grass
of your eyelashes.

and the drums pound and sway,
hold out empty hands – empty, eager for you
to fill. but your secrets are your own,
the things without which, like fire
and oxygen, you would be unable
to draw breath.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dangerous Situations

Becomes - 100

Ben Azevedo

Chapter 5

Vito twirled with the rough hand and slid to the opposite end of his corner bench, his hands raised. He smiled his most winning grin.

“Brakus, so nice to see you,” he drawled, “I really thought we were past all this…” Vito made a pouch of gold materialize and dangled it enticingly at the guards. He stood.

Brakus scowled deeper and advanced towards Vito, moving his hand to his sword. Vito was displeased. This was becoming a dangerous situation.

“You think that little sack can make up for all the times you’ve caused me TROUBLE?!”

Vito shrugged, “I hope so.”

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Involved - 266 Words
Lindsey Thompson

She told me not to get involved. She warned me, pleaded with me, to just drop it. She could handle it, she said.

She should know that I never listen.

It’s in my nature to pursue leads, find secrets, uncover agendas, and bring the scum out of the shadows and into the limelight. I’m no hero for justice; don’t get me wrong there. I’m no do-gooder, no cop, no detective…well, not a legal one anyway. It’s about the challenge, about the game. I’m in it for the hunt, for the kill, for the thrill of the metaphoric blood on my hypothetical fangs. That these villains chose my girlfriend as a target is just icing on the cake, an unfortunate addition to my haste and the fury of my vengeance.

It starts with some basic internet searches, for vague outlines, scanning for screaming details of motive. They are easy enough to find; three clicks and I’m staring at the pixilated photograph of two of her former coworkers. Bingo. These two look just sleazy enough to frame her for larceny and grab the credit for her breakthrough discovery, and yet just professional enough that no one would question their ability to produce real results. I smile and crack my knuckles, then go to work.

In minutes I’ve secured connections to their personal email addresses. In a couple of hours, I have hacked into their personal computers (Windows, what a joke). The communications are there, the files, her data, even a couple of pictures pre-editing. They were stupid to keep those. I cannot wait to make their lives hell.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


chuckles - 94 words
Kevin Foster

In the second year of his collegiate career, he finally accepted and even embraced the uncomplimentary nickname that had haunted him since boyhood – Chuckles. Despite repeated assurance that the moniker was not, in fact, an insulting understatement of his excessively boisterous, who-the-fuck-is-that-guy laugh but a celebration of the pure joy it conveyed. Plus, something about Chuckles implies child-like fatness, and maybe a little bitty mustache. And he was obese and when he laughed his face undulated percussively, his cheeks increasingly flushed, altogether not unlike a double batch of strawberry jell-o freed of its bowl.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Punch - 310

Sarah Van Name

A woman sings in the renovated church. Her hands are folded in front of her, and her skinny chest is the bearer of a voice that made its premier just after the Great Depression – low, rich, and mournful.

The people she sings of are the orphaned children of fast-running rivers and soil, grown up in the tall grass having buried their love like dead birds in shoeboxes deep underground. They bear children who are themselves orphaned, cut open and educated by the greening expanse of the tornado sky. They understand the feel of both goose feathers and shattered beer bottles.

The day her song was written went something like this:

Edward woke up shirtless and sweating, his pillow crushed underneath him. The air was white and wavered with heat like a woman about to faint. He spent the morning playing marbles with the other boys in a cleared circle of dirt.

At noon, his mother was too busy to make him lunch and he too lazy, so when Anna Mae Richardson walked by, there was already something twisting in his stomach. She smoothed her dress and sat down on the porch steps.

She’d been watching for a while, chin resting in her hands, when Billy Tull got up from the circle and sat down next to her. She placed her head on his shoulder with the same careful precision with which one might move a chess piece for checkmate.

The evening drew on, and when the dinner bell rang Anna Mae kissed Billy on the cheek and walked away down the road. Billy turned to the group with a smile on his face loud as the bell itself, and Edward punched him.

And in this way, on this day, Edward learned about love, broken teeth, and the power of human hunger. This was the song I heard the woman sing.

The Cave - Mumford and Sons

Friday, September 10, 2010

Like a Pufferfish Bouncyball

Horses - 363
Ben Azevedo

The ship itself was a gleaming shard of metal in the hangar. Odd fins and wings stuck out all across the hull, giving the overall impression of a rather unbalanced puffer fish. There were no visible windows, exhaust, or breaks in the metal exterior, but as Miles approached, a door in the side slid open with a hiss.

Jonesy gave one last sigh and darted into the dark portal. Miles shrugged and followed suit. Inside, Jonesy was strapping himself into a heavily padded seat facing a large bank of displays. He gestured to a second seat.

“How does this thing fly anyway?” Miles asked.

“Well, the basic principle is…it doesn’t.” Miles shrugged.

“That’s reassuring. So how does it work?”

“The fins on the outside are completely mobile. The onboard computer uses them to sort of…steer. I modified them to absorb the electrical currents within the storms, and increase efficiency while reducing danger. The ship senses directional currents in the wind and manipulates the fins to increase the likelihood that we reach our destination.”

“Wait, ‘increase the likelihood?!’”

“Yeah well, nothing is certain in these conditions. A simple jet engine would waste too much fuel fighting the wind currents, so we have to use them. They’re obviously uncontrollable, so we basically float around like a seed on the wind until we get there.”

“A seed. On the wind. A seed…” Miles just stared at Jonesy.

“Well, more like a bouncy ball with a rocket strapped to it, but yeah.” Jonesy smiled at the look on Miles’ face. He continued, “That’s why you’re strapped in so tight, and why the inside of this ship is padded. The Geo Grounding system will keep us from crashing into anything, and will do its best to keep the ship oriented properly. I went ahead and overrode priority to destination though, since you’re in a hurry.”

“So…we may be upside down?” Miles’ face was pale.

“Almost certainly.” Jonesy was nearly giggling with glee.

“I’m moving back to the Plains after this,” groaned Miles, “at least they just ride damn horses there. I’d take a smelly old horse over this any day.”

Jonesy flipped a switch and started the ship.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cat-and-Hats Lady

Hats - 196 Words
Lindsey Thompson

Mrs. Everson had a strange habit, as most middle-aged-nearing-old-aged women do who live alone with three dogs and a kitten. And, as is the case with most habit-ridden older women, it was a collection. With each morning, she would feed her dogs, cuddle with her kitten, try to call her son and daughter-in-law (who would pretend to be too busy or not awake yet but who had one child in kindergarten so they really should answer the phone when grandma calls because she knows they are awake and both work from home), and then grab a hat and be out the door.

Now, none of this seems strange, until you watched her grab her hat. For Mrs. Everson owned no less than 137 hats. Her spare bedroom was a monument to her collection, with three hat stands filled and hangers on the wall for her prized pieces. Her hats were not cheap, either. One of them was Charlie Chaplain’s back-up hat (just as prestigious, she argues, but much less expensive), and another was the fifth fedora ever produced. Make fun of her hats, and you would never again receive a tasty, barely-legal gingerbread cookies.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Stroller - 42 words
Sarah Van Name

This summer, my neighbor, the one closest to me in age, got married. Soon she will be a beautiful and worried mother wheeling a double stroller. We used to make snowmen together, so this growing up seems too sudden, an unseasonable storm.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bucket o' Bolts

Discuss - 271
Ben Azevedo

Jonesy knew this was the end of the discussion. With a reluctant sigh he punched the button for the lift on the wall. It arrived a few moments later, and the pair began their descent.

Most of the buildings in New Chicago had large underground facilities, as very little could be built at ground level without risk to it being blown down. The parking garage was one such facility. It spanned a rough rectangle beneath the arch, and consisted of ten floors of vehicle storage. Jonesy’s ship, Tracy, was considered an airborne transport, so it was housed on the fifth subfloor.

They stepped out of the lift and began to walk. After a few minutes Jonesy came to a stop.

Miles whistled quietly. The sound reverberated through the massive chamber.

“Damn Jonesy, I though you said she was getting old.”

“Well I’ve been making…upgrades…along the way.” He smirked.

Miles raised an eyebrow and glanced at Jonesy, but decided he didn’t need to know about Tracy’s “upgrades”. They walked to the boarding ramp.

Tracy was an EMG craft, which meant that she operated primarily through electromagnetic power. The “G” stood for “Geo-Grounding”. This allowed the ship to maintain a relative position to the ground no matter how much it was thrown around. Miles suddenly realized Jonesy was talking.

“…which basically means she can take a hit from a lightning bolt, and…”

“Wait, what?” Miles interrupted.

“I was saying I modified the Electromagnetic pulse engine to absorb and convert the electricity from a lightning bolt. Tracy will actually attract bolts from the storm as we fly, and absorb them to power our flight.”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Interview Number 13

Lively - 210 Words
Lindsey Thompson

I don’t have a lot to say about Kathleen. I mean, yes, we went to the same school since kindergarten, and she seemed like a normal kid. She was…lively, that’s the word. She was full to bursting with perfect childlike wonder and energy. She was a magnet for the downtrodden people of elementary school. I was a fairly average kid, with my own group of friends and few hard times, so I was rarely around her.

There was this one moment, in the third grade, when I had just found out that my parents were getting a divorce. I was crying, and a couple other boys were making fun of me, and one of them punched me in the eye. Suddenly there was Kathleen, big as a mother bear and angrier than I’d ever seen her. Chided, the boys moved off to other victims, and she wiped the tears from my eyes. All the pain from the punch was gone, and there was never any swelling. I asked her how she did it, and she grinned mischievously and whispered, “I’m an angel. But don’t tell!” Then she skipped away. I didn’t really speak to her much after that. Still regret it.

Everyone at her funeral had a story like that.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Weight - 386 words
Kevin Foster



Oh god, what’s wrong now?

Do you just assume that every time I call, something’s wrong?

Yes, yes I do. Because every time you call, something is wrong.

Oh come on, no need to exaggerate.

Fine. What’s going on?

There’s something I needed to talk to you about.

Jesus Christ.

He got very tired of these phone calls. Though he prided himself on the quality of his friendships, his loyalty and sacrificial instincts, he became conditioned to cringe when she called, let her small problems lose steam against the formality of his voicemail, not necessarily with the intent to screen her phone call but just weed out the small stuff, and certainly not because he didn’t like to hear her voice as it still had the mystical effect of making him very hungry and slightly nauseous and for some reason he liked this feeling. Despite that, he still got very tired of these phone calls.

I don’t exactly remember how it all happened, honestly. God it sounds so stupid but we had just met and were dancing and he was charming – I, I think it was his teeth – and next thing I know the music was far away, just faint vibrations in the floor – it must have been his teeth, I’m a sucker for teeth, you know - God I know I shouldn’t make light like that but… Well, know that his teeth changed and he wasn’t smiling anymore, not charming at all, but I guess he didn’t need charm at that point. There was nothing I could do.


I’m sorry.

No. Don’t be sorry.

Well I am.

You can’t say anything. It happened at the end of last semester. It’s been too long.

He’s a really nice guy, otherwise, you know – I avoid him now, mostly, but he wasn’t like as malicious as you would think.


What can I do?

Well. I guess, nothing. I just needed to tell you.

Anyway, I’ve got to run. It’s Sara’s birthday, we’re going out, just the girls tonight. I’ll see you over the holidays, huh?

Yeah, sure. See ya.

And feeling a little more weight than he did when he answered the phone, not knowing exactly what else to do, he hung up the phone and got back to work.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Room

Trees - 72

As I turned the corner, pizza in one hand and my key in the other, Kim shouted, “Girl! Ooh, girl, what’s your numba,” and I looked up through the heat-parched trees to see her perched on the windowsill of my room. “Girl, you got an ass on you, mm, bring that up here, girl,” she called down to me in her Tuscaloosa drawl, scarred knees shrugged close, and I couldn’t help laughing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mission pt. 2

Moon - 143
Ben Azevedo

Chapter 4

In the hall of Building A, there was an argument. The argument was not over leaving, simply when. Miles was in favor of leaving immediately, but Jonesy wanted to wait for a break in the storm.

Miles knew he didn’t have that much time; the mission had to be started soon, before the moon had risen too far. Of course there was no moon with the cloud cover of the storm, but if it broke…

Miles shivered.

“Jonesy, look. He said two hours. If we don’t get going…”

“I know man, I know. But Tracy ain’t the newest model anymore!”

Tracy was Jonesy’s EMG ship. The only ship that could get Miles to downtown.

“Jonesy, if we don’t leave now, the storm could break. If the storm breaks, and the moon rises, our mission is going to be impossible. We need to MOVE!”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Pacific

Overjoyed - 199 Words
Lindsey Thompson

Darkness poured into the streets like water from a flood. I walked silently, soberly forward toward the lamppost up ahead, waiting for a swift breeze to sweep me home. A couple stumbled out of a bar, laughing and tumbling into a cab. She was far from overjoyed, but he didn’t seem to notice anything but her corkscrew smile. I turned my collar up and looked to the west, where the last rays were leaving Seattle and purging the depths of the Pacific. I could see you coming over that horizon, hands in pockets with a smirk to light the town on fire.

I lit a cigarette against my better judgment. Funny, that you quit just in time for me to begin. Balance even across oceans. I felt the nicotine slow my mind, caress my skin. The lights changed, and I crossed the street, heading south, heading back. You met me at the corner near the bar where the couple tumbled and where we met. I heard the yelping calls of drunken teens signaling to their kind, claiming the night as something new, something theirs. You saw my furrowed brow and kissed it, taking my hand and walking me home.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Memories from just after Christmas

Mist - 298 words
Sarah Van Name

One night in January, when you were driving me home, the mist was so thick that I felt like we were in the middle of one of those cloud tables at the science museum – like if I stretched my hand out the window, I would feel the night condense into dampness on my skin. You were going through the empty airport ten above the speed limit. I could see, in the few breaks in the fog, the smooth black mirror of the runoff lake. The streetlights filtered the air into a warm, sickly glow.

I would have been terrified. I couldn’t see more than a yard in front of the car, and it seemed like we were going so fast, road replacing identical road, alone together in the dark. A daydream cut into my head and dissipated as quickly: lying in the back of your van together, our coats covering us like woolen blankets, waiting out the fog and the winter night in sleep.

That was not the night when you tried to tell me what I was getting into, but it could have been. Most of them followed the same pattern. I was joyful, open and thoughtless, and I understood as best I was able.

The night you tried to tell me, the sky was clear and cold. You mentioned it only once and then fell silent, letting synth riffs and broken taillights cover whatever worries must have been tumbling inside you. That night, the moon was soft as candlelight upon us and bright, as if it was trying to give me something: blessing and curse in equal measure. But I was already lost. I took both of them, the love and the pain, and absorbed them into my bones, like asphalt soaking up heat and rain.

Daydreaming - Kid Sister

Friday, August 20, 2010

City in a City

Under - 434
Ben Azevedo

Vito sighed and slouched into a small chair in a corner of the Shelter. As his breathing returned to normal, he took stock of the crowd. A group of soldiers playing dice to his right. Some elderly men smoking at the bar. The usual scattering of traders. A few local youth. He relaxed slightly.

Most people only stayed in Pompeii II for a week or two. Vito had grown up here. He had watched as more government sponsored Shelters appeared, while residential areas were constantly buried under lava and rebuilt. His own home had been rebuilt 23 times in his life. This was a measure of some pride among his family. Most residents of Pompeii II slowly excavated their old homes as well, creating an underground maze of city beneath the current rendition of their dwellings.

Vito knew almost every passage within the limits of Pompeii II. As a young child he had started ranging the vast underground, as well as exploring the current city with his mother. His father had died when he was 10, but left to him a collection of maps, drawn over the years, that detailed each layer of Pompeii II’s development. As far as Vito knew, no one else had such an understanding of the city’s complexity.

It was primarily in this underground world that Vito worked as a courier, delivering messages and packages between the various businesses of Pompeii II. It sounded like a boring occupation, but this was a misconception. The government of the city didn’t exactly appreciate some of the “businesses”. Vito wasn’t affiliated with any of the mobs beneath Pompeii, but their jobs always paid better, and he could slip away from just about anything in the maze of the underground.

One of the soldiers yelled loudly as he won a round of dice, and Vito started. He reached up and scratched his head, casually verifying that his knife was still in place. It was. As he settled back into his corner of the bar, an alert came on the old holoscreen.


Vito smirked. Manageable levels. The pathetic shield-gens that slowed the lava flows were probably barely up and running again. This eruption was from Avchier, a northern peak, so the entire northern district was probably gearing up for a construction project that the government would take almost no part in.

Vito’s smirk vanished as a rough hand grabbed his shoulder.

“Vito!” snarled the guard captain, “Who would’ve thought we’d find you here!”

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Stood - 138 Words
Lindsey Thompson

The ancient cathedral stood stoic, somber, aware of the demolition crews amassing around its archaic metal fence. They, like insects, like termites, crawled forth from their vehicles stationed in parking lots, roping off sections and placing explosives into the stone their teeth could not cut.

Soon, the detonation would shatter the stained glass portraits of God’s Son born, betrayed, destroyed, reborn, these prism-windows’ revelation of hope. Gone would be the walls that survived world wars, empires, people, weather, time. Wood would splinter, the cross would crack like the Holy of Holies, rip like the curtain between man and Heaven.

And for what? Resources under the soil, access across the land the cathedral occupied. No one saw a need to keep another relic of an old religion long passed from memory. So the cathedral groaned as the ground exploded.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

fallen (?)

Fallen - 333 words
Kevin Foster

It had been years since he had stepped foot in the bars on the south side of Chicago, and longer still since he had frequented them, but he discovered on this particular July evening that his calloused feet led him through the streets automatically - he knew this was automatic because the first thing to go when he would drink always used to be his navigational abilities and he had bludgeoned his mind with an unremembered number of drinks before embarking on this tepid journey. In the streetlights that lined the road, sporadically spaced this far away from the city’s center, he could see the heat lingering miserably above the sidewalks, rising like steam from invisible grates. He could feel the heat infiltrating and eating away at the soles of his shoes, and he was glad to walk through the familiar alley entrance to Joe’s and slip up to the end of the bar, largely unnoticed by its patrons. Like all good bars, Joe’s was poorly lit - this allowed him to exist apart from his neighbors and they from the rest. Unfortunately, the inherent darkness, swollen with smoke, shrouded their faces; despite the intense familiarity of the scene, he could not pinpoint any one particularly familiar face. The heat and the smoke and the drone of the bar seemed to expand around him and he felt increasingly drunk. He ordered two well drinks and quickly gulped them down. The evening wore on and he remained alone at the bar’s end, seeing ghosts come, glistening and somnolent, vanishing drink after drink, volume ever louder, until they would leave, elated, perhaps linked with another, blissfully unaware of the heat and the collapsing things and all of the other things waiting outside. It would kill a few on the way home, but no one, including the dead, would know the difference. ‘It’s been too long,’ he thought, and then he realized he no longer remembered why he had stopped coming.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Blast - 326 words
Sarah Van Name

I was fourteen when the threat level was raised to triple-red. It was the middle of summer, and my mom called me in from the hammock. That’s how I’ve known my mother since that Saturday: head tilted up, scanning the sky for missiles or military planes, the tension visible in her taut white neck.

On Monday, our suburb was flooded with polite men in suits, who handed out pamphlets recommending the construction of personal bomb shelters and outlining the ways in which government funding could help. I don’t know if we would’ve done it if it hadn’t been for Mom, but she was insistent. “All the neighbors are doing it,” she said to my weary father, before she listed the dangers from the radio broadcast.

So the bomb shelter was built: a reinforced concrete basement, stocked with canned soup and books.

The threat level has teetered at triple-red for three years, in which time I completed most of high school, learned to drive, and started dating Lee. Two weeks ago it slid into quadruple-red. Every night since, Mom has sung me a lullaby of our plans before letting me up to bed.

Her timeline is precise. The radio reports that if a missile was fired, we would have fifteen minutes from detection to impact. She allows three minutes for us to collect our things, and seven more for my grandparents to arrive from the neighboring suburb. Her plan and the shelter locks up at ten minutes.

I haven’t told her yet that I’m planning to get Lee in. His house is twelve minutes away if you drive quickly. She will protest. But I plan to hold firm, because I know the truth: the bomb shelter isn’t going to save us. If it happens, no concrete or lock is going to hold back that force of light and death. And in the final blast at the end of the world, I want to be holding his hand.

The Temptation of Adam - Josh Ritter

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fire and Ice

Seconds - 335
Ben Azevedo

Chapter 3

Pompeii II.


Sweat ran down Vito’s face, arms, and legs. He was reasonably certain sweat was running down his sweat.


Vito knew he had seconds to find a Shelter, before the eruption caught him, or the ashy air choked him. He was bolting at breakneck speed down the streets of Pompeii II.


It was getting harder to see. Vito knew the city’s layout better than most, but even that wouldn’t save him if he were blind.


Just ahead, light. Through the roaring of the volcano, voices. Vito skidded past an abandoned market stand, vaulted a barrel, and dove into the flickering light.

Inside the Mk IV ForceShield, it was almost as noisy as outside. The roar of too many people packed too close together assaulted Vito’s senses as he made his way to the obligatory bar for a drink. That had been too close. The bartender barely glanced at Vito’s soot covered figure before turning to the next customer. Here, in Pompeii II, it was as common as not to be covered in ash.

Whoever had decided to name this city had a poor sense of humor. Sure, it was the safest location in the Viciano Mountains, but why even put a city here? And of course it would be named after a city that had drowned in a volcano in ancient Earth history. Pompeii II was a border city at best, pushing humanity’s ability to survive Element’s elements to the limits. It served as a trading post between Atlantis and the rest of the continent by giving traders a rest stop before they crossed the Vicianos.

It was a hell (literally) of a rest stop before a hell of a journey. Crossing the Viciano Mountains required a special kind of insanity reserved for traders. Of course, there were planes, but the mountains were so high they forced planes into the upper atmosphere of Element, which was a constantly raging superstorm. Flying to full orbit and back was deemed too expensive.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Love Is Watching Someone Die

Probable - 323 words
Lindsey Thompson

The sirens called, as they always did, around noon on Wednesday, undulating between tritoned noise and a beautiful low breeze. They called forth bays and screams and yaps from the neighborhood, but this day the family noticed that Kurt made no motion to join his kin. Where once he would tilt his nimble head and throw back his ears to bid the wailing whistles to stop, he now glanced at the sky despondently, with his head tucked between his paws, and sighed in the summer sun. The mother looked with concern upon the hound’s aging body, curled in the warmth he could barely generate himself. The father wondered if the vet could ease the passing—trouble was, he was not ill exactly.

The probable cause of his depression, though up for much speculation, was unknown. Perhaps it was loneliness, that he should see his final days without the company of his companion, a terrier who had been hit by a car on a runaway journey some two months ago. Perhaps it was merely exhaustion, with years stripping his once perfected figure of its sheen and its use.

But had Kurt the tongue and language to communicate to the family, he would pose only one question, “When is Lisa coming home?” His only love, his master, had moved to Seattle, a young woman just recently married. Though she had been away at college for four and a half years, something inside Kurt knew that this place—his yard, his building, his family—was still her home. She would visit and scratch his ears just the way he liked, rub the brim of his nose—she was the only one who knew to do that. Yet, the last time she came to see him, she smelled different. She felt different. She wore new metal, smelled of a new person, like a new person. And she felt far away.

He didn’t want to die away from her.

What Sarah Said - Death Cab For Cutie

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Sponge - 56 words
Kevin Foster

C-A-T. Cat. Can you say ‘cat’, Thomas?
Fuck you, teach.
Excuse me?
What part of ‘fuck you’ don’t you understand, you dumb old bastard?

The teachers in the lounge were all speechless.

“What are we even doing here, folks? What can we possibly do for these kids?”

They did not have an answer. There isn’t one.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On Waking Up Alone

Kettle – 394

Sarah Van Name

In the dream, I was in a house with a vase of yellow flowers. I was expecting you to walk in dripping at any moment – after every lightning flash, I thought you might be there as sudden as a thunderclap. But the noise came and you did not, and I put the kettle on. My throat was starting to feel sore, as if I had shouted too much and regretted it, and I was making myself tea with honey like my mother used to.

At a burst of thunder that shook the house, I half awakened. I dreamed, again and again, of turning over in the bed and reaching out to move closer to you. But I couldn’t make my body move, and I dreamed it, over and over, believing each time that it was real until the covers became mazes that I wandered through and forgot the house with yellow flowers where you were expected home.

For minutes, maybe hours, I dreamed of turning over. Like a well-loved record, the same chords and static wails, played every hour in a department store.

After minutes, maybe hours, I dragged my consciousness out of the quicksand and opened my eyes. The black of my room was distinct from the black of sleep, and I caught the light filtering from the alarm clock. Lightning, and thunder close after.

I turned over. You were not there.

I looked at my phone: 4:17, no new messages.

I thought maybe I could work my way back into dreams and find you, warm and whole, but red shapes coalesced behind my eyes and I could only understand the loneliness of the storm and the night and my bed. I slipped in and out, tangled up in my covers like fishing nets.

I swore I felt your leg brush my hip once, I swore I heard the blankets shifting. I turned over, fully awake. You were not there. Only the loneliness and the blue shriek of the lightning.

Then, out of nowhere, a fit of rage rose up unbidden, like the anger that used to grip me in tantrums as a small child. I thrashed in my bed, kicked the mattress in fury, bit down hard on my arm, dragged my nails fast up my thigh.

The moment passed, and, afraid of myself, I began to cry quietly in the dark.

Sorrow - the National

Friday, August 6, 2010


Mission - 195

Ben Azevedo

Miles resumed pacing his apartment. The TV resumed its silent display. The storm continued raging outside.

How am I supposed to get out of here? Miles thought, it’s over ten miles to the office, and God only knows how much further after that…

Miles had a vehicle, but driving out into a storm on Element was suicide. Only certain high-end EMG ships and governmental vehicles had the tech to maybe travel in the Windy City’s tempest. And no one had that kind of ship here except…

Miles froze in his tracks, pivoted, and ran to his room. He scooped up his gear, swung it onto a pack on his back and careened out the door. Down the hall, left, past the vending machine, and he arrived at room 1037. He knocked.

The door opened a crack and a young man looked out.

“Hey Miles,” he said.

“Jonesy! Lemme in.”

Jonesy didn’t have much of a choice as Miles barged in.

“What’s the deal Miles?” Jonesy noticed the pack. “Oh no…you’re not…”

“Jonesy,” Miles paused for dramatic effect (and to catch his breath) “I need to get downtown.”

“Fuck that shit, man. Why?”

“He called.”


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Recon at its Finest

Escape - 97 words
Lindsey Thompson

Glancing over the floor plan, he went through one final check: three security guards on the first floor, four on the second. He would have 37 seconds to make it to the secretary’s desk on the second floor before the shifts changed. In between guards, the video feeds' door was its most vulnerable. He’d then have 11 seconds to pick the lock before being spotted. If he succeeded, he’d quickly kill power to the feeds and move on. If he failed, he had one escape route—to feign mental instability and be thrown out the front door. Great.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I am a failure

Or at least I'm busy.

Cross - 438 words.

I got nothin' good to say about this shit.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Fences - 351
Sarah Van Name

My sister tumbles above the arms of her well-wishers like the foam at the front of a rollicking wave. Little girls in dresses toddle from place to place, sparks of light flitting around the ballroom, and klezmer music lays out a sheet for laughter to bounce on. Judith is married now.

Last night, she couldn’t sleep, so we sat outside on the front yard of our parents’ house. I asked her, after a period of quiet and cricket-song, if she really wanted to do this. “Yes,” she replied. I have never heard her sound so steady, though her face was turned to the stars.

I can only imagine her thoughts. But I was remembering all the games we played here when the fences of our neighbors’ yards were the limits of our world. One day Bobby Whitehouse – two years my senior, Judith’s age – ran up to where we were drawing a hopscotch on the driveway, plopped down without invitation, and started singing. “Hey Jude,” he sang, “don’t make it bad. Take a sad song, and make it better.” He reached out one chubby arm to her and folded his other hand over his heart like an Italian virtuoso.

He was the first kid we had ever met with parents smart enough to play the Beatles to their children, and for that, Judith permitted him to draw with us. That evening, we made our parents play us the song and didn’t stop playing it for six months.

“Hey, Jude,” I sang softly to myself as I sketched out the lines of the constellations in my head. My sister laughed a little.

“As we were drawing our hopscotch,” she said.


Somewhere between the aunts and babies and dancing, I step to the side. Bobby finds me and gives me a hug – probably his hundredth of the day, but it’s genuine. We watch my sister. When the band transitions to the last song, I recognize the Beatles.

“You didn’t,” I said to Bobby.

“I had to,” he replied, and with a smile as wide as a river, steps forward to dance with his bride.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What makes the water holy is that it's the closet thing to rain.

Nun - 30 Words.
Aaron Dethrage

The weak were brought into the chapel, but their chapped, bloody lips and frail, crying voices were nothing new to her. “Suffering,” she said, “is fast familiar to the saved.”

Song to come: Wings - Josh Ritter

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Mary Ann Loo
Decorated – 491 words

            “What’s that on your arm?” she asked.
            “Oh, this?” He laid his left forearm, palm upwards, on the stainless steel table.
            “Yeah,” she said. “It kinda looks like an R.”
            He reached across the table with his right hand, and placed her right index finger on a slightly darker spot half an inch beneath where his upper arm ended. He traced her fingertip over the gradually apparent letters: S-O-R-R-Y. He released her, sat back, and smiled.
            “Did you get a tattoo removed or something?” she asked.
            “Nope,” he said, leaning far back in his squeaky stainless steel chair, his hands clasped behind his head. “I cut myself.”
            “What? Why?”
            He laughed. “Because of a girl.”
            She leaned back, her eyes searching his expression. She reached for her iced coffee and stirred it with the straw, took a sip, and replaced the clear plastic cup on the tabletop. It was a warm summer evening; they’d discussed some politics, exchanged funny stories, and there’d been a little bit of mutual teasing. He’d known her two months now, but previous relationships had been unchartered conversational territory. Until now.
            “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked,” she said.
            He laughed again. “It’s alright. It was a long time ago.” He ran his fingers through his thick dark wavy hair, and sat upright, folding his forearms on the table. “Ask away. You know you want to.”
            “Nah, it’s fine.” She seemed flushed, and slightly looked away when his deep blue eyes met her grey ones.
            “Really, it’s cool,” he said. “Had a girlfriend junior year of high school. She was accepted into a London university, we did the long-distance thing and…”
            “How long were you dating?”
            “Almost four years. She wrote me a long letter, said she met someone. We broke up. The end.”
            “Why ‘sorry’?” she asked.
            He shrugged. “Just felt really guilty at the time. I don’t know.”
            “Did it hurt?”
            “Not really.”
            “How did you feel after?”
            “Better somewhat. But I had to cover it up for weeks.”
            “How long ago was this?”
            He leaned back, staring into space. “Um… Three years I think.”
            “Have you had other girlfriends since?”
            “I’ve dated. Nothing serious.”
            “Are you seeing anyone now?”
            He reached for his mug and downed his coffee. “Not really.”
            “Well, I’d like to chat some more, but I really gotta run,” he said, grabbing his backpack from the chair beside him.
            She said, “I’m sorry.”
            He grinned. “Nah, it’s all good. See you in class.”
            He stepped into his one-bedroom apartment, laid his backpack on the parquet floor, and headed straight into the bedroom. He yanked open a drawer, and sifted through its random contents to retrieve a dog-eared poetry book. Inside was a photo of a beautiful green-eyed girl, and a razor blade. His jeans around his knees, he sank to the floor and spread a thin red line over the pale brown ones that haphazardly decorated his inner left thigh.