February 2012


Anthony's Haunted Teeth

Anthony had utterly failed to fall asleep when his rearmost molar on the left crawled out of his mouth, down his beautiful comforter, and through the bedroom door. While the departure itself was troubling, Anthony found himself most concerned by the thin, broken trail of blood and saliva befouling his comforter. The trail continued onto the carpet, but that stain didn't concern him. He thought he must get up right then and cleanse his comforter, but it was his only one and the night was cold. He resolved to suffer the stain for the night and erase it in the morning.
Again when he tried to sleep, the tooth beside the recently departed one in his mouth wriggled free and followed the first. Though this one followed much the same path, it gently diverged and left a new trail that crossed the first near the foot of the bed.
Anthony could not suffer this second stain, but when he tried to rise he found his lovely comforter weighed far too much to easily move.
As Anthony struggled to extricate himself from his warm, beautiful comforter, his next tooth wriggled free and left its own line and then the next and the next. With each broken, red trail, Anthony's lovely comforter grew heavier and heavier until he found his mouth empty and his body pressed tightly to the mattress, his arms and legs and feet and hands all immobile and secured.
He grew optimistic about his chances for sleep. -Matthew Antonio

Matthew Antonio lives in Fort Collins, CO. He has recently been published in L'Allure des Mots, Stanley the Whale, Dogzplot, and has a piece forthcoming in Gone Lawn. Matthew attends Colorado State University's MFA program in Fiction. He is the Assistant Fiction Editor for em: A Review of Text and Image, and just finished his first novel. He also operates www.littlemachines.net.

A Date For Dinner

It wasn’t really fair of me to invite him to the Strip House without any sort of explanation. Chuck was insecure anyway; confusion about our plans only added to his anxiety.
But I couldn’t help it. It’s fun to watch a man squirm. In fact, it’s downright delicious!
Chuck kept his gaze to the floor when we walked through the dark interior, tinged red by the lighting and the velvet walls and the rich leather booths. I don’t think he realized it was only a restaurant until we had been sitting and studying our menus for quite a few minutes. I caught him peaking around the edges of his menu, looking for a stage, I presumed. Then carefully, he lowered the leather tome.
“So, there’s no show?” he asked, sounding somewhat relieved.
I played dumb. “Show? No, no. Why would there be a show here?” I stared directly into his eyes until he had to look away. “Wait, you didn’t think this was a …”
“No! Of course not! I, um, think a friend, well, a co-worker, mentioned a place, like, in the neighborhood, that had a sort of, what do you call it, a revue.”  He was clearly making that up; I could tell by the way his eyes darted everywhere but toward mine.
“It’s strip as in strip steak!” I giggled, giving him a toothy grin. “There won’t be any naked ladies here, Chuckie darling. Don’t worry.”
He tried to sound sophisticated, like he’d been in New York for more than a couple of uneventful months. “I know that, I mean I knew it all along. Don’t be silly,” he tried to giggle too, but I could see the blush creeping out from beneath his collar.
Of course most men wouldn’t be so embarrassed about such an easy mistake—I mean the name of the place, the red tones, and the risqué 1920s prints ringing the room confused a lot of people. But I chose the ones I brought here for their complete awkwardness; they’re much more endearing and tender. Especially when the blood rushes to the surface of their skin. I could practically smell this fellow’s embarrassment. It was time for me to shake him up some more.
“It’s just that I like how dark it is here. Anything could happen in the dark,” I purred.
Chuck squirmed in his velvet chair. Ahh, delightful! He was awkward and inexperienced—a combination that would soon have him quivering. But he’d have to make it through dinner first, so I brought us back to the menus. Noting the way his shirt buttons pulled a bit, I knew food was something he could focus on. And I, too, for I was awfully hungry. Nearly starving, really.
“I’m having the ribeye—it’s so tender and plump, with that delicate ring of fat around the middle,” I stole a glance at the ring around his middle, and sighed dreamily. “And you must try the strip. It comes with a length of roasted thighbone and one of those tiny spoons to scoop out the marrow. Mmm.” I let my eyes roll in my head for an instant, for effect as much as with true desire.
Chuck looked uncomfortable, but that was fine. At worst I’d get to eat my ribeye and the marrow. At best? I had better leave room for dessert. So when he wondered if we should order some truffled fries, I let him know I wouldn’t be sharing. “I always stay away from carbs, dear. How do you think I keep this figure?” I leaned back and gave my shoulders a provocative twist, revealing my curves. “You don’t get a tiny waist from eating potatoes!”
I took the liberty of ordering the steaks—bloody, of course. When our meals arrived, Chuck seemed to relax—he was in his element now. I couldn’t quite take my eyes off him—his rosy cheeks, the red-stained plate, and the way he smacked his pink lips with each juicy bite. I was chewing languidly, enjoying the ooze of the fat and the fight of the muscle, not knowing whether to make each bite last or to hurry up so I could get to the … second course. I was so involved in the textures and tastes I hadn’t realized that I was—yes, it is most embarrassing for a lady—I was drooling!
But Chuck saw. He handled it like a gentleman. Took his red cloth napkin and brought it to the corner of my mouth and delicately patted my lips. He had no idea how delicious his fingertips smelled. Was it the scent of the bone he had placed on my dish a moment ago? Had he inadvertently dipped a pinky into the juices that pooled on his plate?  Or was it just … Chuck?
I had no time to determine the answer, for in an instant of frenzy, I grabbed his wrist and—oh, such indiscretion!—clamped my teeth down on one, or all, I’m not sure, of his digits. I dare say a completely uncharacteristic lack of control on my part! For his part, Chuck jerked his hand away. He looked down at his fingers, those plump, delectable morsels, and stared at them in a combination of shock, and of pain, and of … something else. 
A drop of blood bloomed crimson upon one smooth knuckle. He held it higher so he could take a better look. (I needed a napkin again, at this point. My goodness, a lady shouldn’t be dribbling at dinner!) Then he brought his hand toward the center of the table and let the candlelight brighten the droplet, grown larger now and joined by two more beads of red. Chuck looked at the blood, and then into my eyes. He seemed to be searching, or rather, deciding. He glanced around the room—busy, dark—and at his hand, and then lifted it slowly, enticingly, toward my lips.

Lisa Kristel is a composition teacher, decorative painter, triathlete, omnivore, and graphic designer. During beach season, she runs a restaurant with her husband and three children, serving a variety of delicious dishes—none of which contains a trace of human DNA.

The Stockholm Syndrome

Once upon a time a Heart committed a grave crime. Heart didn’t follow the diet rules and suffered from a stroke endangering the life of other members of family, the Body. Somehow the danger was averted; Heart pumped though scantily. Brain explained the scenario to Heart; Heart didn’t listen. So, Brain had to arrest Heart. “Love of eating can’t be a crime,” Heart yelled. “It’s not about eating; it’s about eating right,” Brain answered in anger. But Heart insisted for freedom cream-pie. Every vessel in Heart was narrow. Heart suffocated. This problem can only be treated by cream-pie, Heart was sure. Brain was well aware of Heart’s self-hurting behavior. Instead of being angry at Heart, Brain knew future of family lies in welfare of Heart; Brain took great care of Heart.
Brain fed Heart very well. For breakfast, Brain fed him Stockholm bagels and Syndrome marmalade jelly.  Heart’s lunch consisted of empowerment green salad with an uplifting rice-pudding as a desert. During the snack time, Heart was given a make-sense organic tea and a big sympathy cookie with smiley chocolate chunks. The dinner menu included +1 spiced exotic dish and happiness fat-free ice cream. Such was the effect of this genial reaction that Heart almost forgot about the freedom cream-pie. In addition to good care, Brain told Heart many stories from salt-less mythology where hero who doesn’t eat salt saves the population from addiction of Salt demon, Mocha monster, Cheese cruel etc. Other members of family (Others) suspected some kind of moral in these stories. How could Others be so impressionable and stupid? These are just absurd stories to put kids to sleep. Heart thought and laughed. Heart didn’t want to be influenced with anything Brain said because Brain had arrested Heart. Brain was happy that at least these stories made Heart laugh. Brain still kept on feeding Heart with such stories. Also Brain was sure that stories will work with proper diet and proper environment. Brain instructed Others to make Heart cheerful. Heart’s condition constantly improved. One day, Heart couldn’t see deteriorating condition of family members and pumped good amount of blood to others. Brain knew the stories did their subconscious magic. With time Heart’s condition improved but Heart was still far from complete recovery. Brain started engaging Heart with ‘hello-how-are-you’ type conversations.
On one odd day, Heart dreamed. The imprisoned Heart saw another Heart outside and was instantly hypnotized. In the other Heart, the imprisoned Heart saw all those flavors found at yoghurt shops: the vanilla affection, cookie care, tart knowledge, and strawberry concern. The other Heart who sat on the driving seat of a truck filled with the freedom cream-pies waved at imprisoned Heart. The imprisoned Heart wanted to go out and say to the other Heart, “You pulsate beautifully.” The imprisoned Heart looked for Brain; Brain was busy decoding some unconscious messages from dreams. No one else was there to hold the imprisoned Heart back. Still imprisoned Heart couldn’t get out. After waiting for long time in expectation, the other Heart drove away. Suddenly Heart woke up, feeling alone in whole world. Heart yelled and sobbed. When Others asked, Heart said nothing.
Brain knew the reason of Heart’s sadness-Heart’s feeling for another Heart. For a moment, Brain thought of letting Heart go and follow the other Heart carrying the freedom cream-pies. But Brain knew that in the absence of Heart, family won’t be alive anymore. Also, Heart can’t handle a single bite of cream pie. Heart was still recovering from atherosclerosis, the worst disease to affect a Heart and the disease could spread to whole family. The name of disease brought memories of Heart’s turbulent past.
In the past, Heart devoured a lot of young cheeseburgers, relished pulpy ice-creams and enjoyed heavy corn diet. Heart smoked mentholated cigarettes with supermodels. Also, Heart enjoyed the company of ex.- the love-liquor. Heart drank so much that Liver, Heart’s friend, who previously had metabolized all the liquor and excess of fat, died from emotionless cirrhosis as a result of Heart’s irresponsibility. Sad and weary Heart lay down on a couch for a month. Heart grew fat. Though the life of family was saved by liver transplantation but Heart was imprisoned for not following the diet rules and putting the entire family at risk. The fat, angry and diseased Heart could only pump scantily leading to further deterioration of family’s health. Brain who supervised the imprisoned Heart started a different therapy the basis of Brain’s reading of The Stockholm syndrome. Brain took good care of Heart and fed him well.
As Brain reminisced about the past, Brain realized that freedom cream-pie will not bring freedom to Heart but instead demise to whole family. Thus Brain directed all of his attention to sad Heart. Sad Heart throbbed with a complex feeling of isolation, fear, loneliness and lack of freedom. Confused with dream, Heart asked to Brain, “Why I couldn’t get out?” It was Heart’s misfortune that this question turned out to be a multiple choice type. As per Brain, Heart’s choices were:

  1. Heart wasn’t young anymore.
  2. Heart was a responsible member of family.
  3. Heart was suffering from atherosclerosis.
  4. None of the above.

Anand Prakash is a Graduate student at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. His fiction has appeared or forthcoming in Tiny Happy Journal, Perceptions Reflected Quarterly, and Crack the Spine. His writings can be found at http://gradstudentwriter.blogspot.com/

The Disinterested, Bored, and Lonely

And when I came home that night, hearing the creaks of my Conversed feet on the worn wooden stairs, the dull click of my key in the deadbolt, the thud of my wallet being tossed unceremoniously on the kitchen table; when I got to the fridge and tugged the handle, letting it open slowly and without interest, peering inside before pushing the door shut because food was what I’m supposed to eat, though nothing seemed appetizing; when I knew I should get to work on the stacks of ungraded papers but instead picked up the X-Box controller, sipped the tinny room temperature remains from a can of last night’s beer, refusing myself the walk I knew I should take for exercise, the friends I knew I should call, the novel on the coffee table I should have continued reading––I realized, realized that it had started, that it’d started long ago. The change. I had become one of them.
And though sometimes, now, I long for release, I know it won’t come from others, the living. The undead, we’re killing ourselves. Popular culture portrays us as these ambling creatures on the constant hunt for flesh, aimless reactionary creatures in a state of moaning craves, our lives an endless search and wander for brains because ours have rotted. Some of that is true, though it’s not the actual brains we desire but what they represent. Brains were only ever a metaphor. What we crave is stimulation, real thoughts and intellectual discourse, the warmth of others’ company, companionship, and family, fulfillment in work, and the wonder of new experiences and places. Ironically, and as few really realize, however, it is our very condition that keeps us from the search for what might sustain or cure us. We suffer from a total lack of awareness, actually, an apathy for which there seems to be no cure. We turned because it was easier than living.
Yes, we, these living dead, we may be killing ourselves, and yet if someone should put a bullet through my brain, should lop off my head on my way to get more beer and cigarettes or before I can answer the door tonight to receive yet another delivery pizza, I wouldn’t complain. Only the survivors aren’t out tonight. No one’s hunting us. They’re all too busy living: reading, going to cinema, working meaningful jobs, screwing, and laughing beyond reinforced windows as they dine on appetizers and lift cocktails to the stories of friends. We have free reign of this city now––of this world––unfettered, and have for some while. I said earlier we turned because it was easier than living, but dying, being dead inside? That isn’t any easier either. The apocalypse happened, just as Eliot predicted, all whimper and no bang. It happened quietly while a lot of us cast eyes down and amused ourselves to oblivion. No, the survivors, smug few as they are, aren’t out, not because there aren’t any, but because for them the end hasn’t happened, at least not yet. Like I care.

Bryan Miller is an English teacher from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry’s been published in Raleigh’s Independent Weekly, and he co-edited Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s and William Wordsworth’s Selected Letters at the University of Kentucky while earning his MA in 2002.

The Eternal Sunshine of a Zombie Mind

My name is Annie. I am one of the intact. There aren’t many of us left. I live with twenty others crammed in a penthouse apartment on the Isle of Dogs. But live isn’t quite the right word. Survive seems more fitting.  There is no running water, no electricity, no gas. We scavenge and we hide. We make it through each day and that is enough.
It’s strange what you miss when the world goes all to hell.  I miss the music. There is no music anymore and no one wants to sing. Sometimes I try but my voice sounds so sad I have to stop. I like to steal books. They are stacked around the small space in which I sleep. They are my refuge.
We can’t be the only survivors, can we? Surely London isn’t the last place on the mainland where people still exist? I say people because those things out there aren’t people anymore. They still look human, but that’s it. You just have to look in their eyes to know that there is nothing human left.
It happened about a year ago. It was hard to keep time especially at the beginning but I felt the seasons change. Now it is autumn. The leaves fall but there is no one to brush them away. They are orange, gold and brown and they crunch underfoot. I used to love running through them and kicking great sprays of rust into the air. Now I avoid the leaves, they make unnecessary noise that might bring them to me.  
It was a dirty bomb, filled with chemicals stolen from the MOD lab in Porton Down, designed to destabilize enemy populations. It did that alright. It affected the memory. Once you’re infected you lose every memory you’ve ever had. You lose your humanity. Worse than that it leaves you with a hunger, and not your typical zombie-lusting-for-brains-hunger either. They steal your memories and leave you like one of them: Incapable of feeling, the living dead, spectres.
Some nights I dream of my own death, of escape from this wasteland. Then at dawn I stand in front of the grimy glass doors which lead to the balcony and wish I had the courage to hurl myself over. I wouldn’t be the first. What do I have to live for any more? Everyone I cared about is dead, or worse. But I don’t have the strength. Instead I force myself to go outside to look for him.
I had been waiting for some time. I don’t how long. Time is meaningless. Sometimes it’s dark, other times the light hurts my eyes. I don’t feel heat or cold. I don’t feel anything. Except when I feed on them, then I feel alive. Then I feel everything just for a few seconds, then it fades and I am so hungry again.
It is light now. The street I wait on is deserted. The occasional gust of wind stirs the detritus around me. There is a reflection in the glass that sticks jaggedly out from the remains of a window. I don’t know who it is. The face I see in the faint reflection could be anyone’s.
There are some symbols scratched into my left arm. The wounds have barely healed and they are smeared with dirt. They mean nothing to me. I cannot read them though sometimes I stare at them for hours. Is it my name?
In the glass I notice again that I’m wearing a stupid hat. It’s filthy. I haven’t taken it off. I won’t. I must have put it on for a reason when I was still alive. Technically I am alive. I breathe. I walk. Sometimes I sleep. But I subsist on memories that are not my own.
I know I wasn’t always like this. I was one of them, one of the afraid. That’s how we all started. But they are less whilst we are many, others like me. We are all looking for the same thing. I cannot describe the hunger. It pervades everything. It drives me to kill. I do not want to hurt them, only take from them what I have lost, but they struggle so much. They kick and scream and fight me. I wonder did I cry and beg for mercy or did I welcome the end when it finally came? I don’t know. Is it better to feel everything, or only the hunger?
It’s one of them that I wait for now. She often walks this way but she is careful and I have never been able to catch her. I think she is beautiful even though she is always sad. Today she is distracted. She does not see me watching her. She thinks the street is deserted. She forces open the door to an old shop and lets herself inside. I wait until she is out of sight and cross the road some distance further down. I retrace her steps and wait outside until I can hear her returning. My heart beats faster. I am so hungry, so empty.
I am on her before she knows what is happening. She screams and shouts just like all the others before her. I want her to stop. I don’t want to hurt her. I want to comfort her and tell her it will be better when she is one of us, but I don’t have the words. She claws at my arms scratching away the message that I cannot decipher. Blood runs down my arm thick and red but I feel nothing. I close my lips around hers and am lost in an ecstasy of memory. There is a rush of colour, the smell of baking bread fills my head, I am kicking leaves, I can hear music, I am on a swing, I am dancing, and I am in love. There is one face over and over. I have seen him before. He wears a stupid hat.

Laura A. Hamilton studied History at the University of St. Andrews and is currently teaching and writing in London, England. In her spare time she makes zombie toys out of socks.