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