Friday, May 23, 2014

A Big Blue Dick: A Review of Clown Tear Junkies by Douglas Hackle

This is that painting by Munch, The Scream

Do you know that painting The Scream by Edvard Munch? Okay, now imagine that that character there in the foreground is real, and he’s called The Scream, and he doesn’t talk or make any noise at all, and he usually keeps his wavy hands next to his gaunt face unless he’s doing something else with them. And he hangs out with an immature, blue-collar jerk who takes him clubbing all the time, trying to pick up chicks. And the chicks all think the Scream’s friend is a loser, but that’s okay, because he’s got a pat response that puts them all in their place: he tells them they are 7s. Then goth chicks start to dig The Scream and he becomes a horror movie star, so the two part ways….

That’s pretty much what it’s like inside Douglas Hackle’s mind all the time.

And that’s pretty much the story The Scream, My Dog, part of Hackle’s collection Clown Tear Junkies. I spoilered the crap out of it, but you should still read it because it’s still good.

Camera zooming out for a moment, Clown Tear Junkies (WARNING: Contains zero clowns and/or circuspunk elements) is a collection of 27 very short stories. People like to use the term “absurd” to refer to this style of prose, and while some of it is absurd, Hackle’s style is much more nuanced. He draws equally from the wells of the existentially absurd turf mined by Kafka (see: Struggle of a Description); the playful, list-loving postmodernism of Barthelme; and obscure pop cultural references—Stiles from Teen Wolf makes an appearance alongside the chain-smoking Indonesian toddler of YouTube fame. What makes Hackle’s writing so much fun is his unpredictable wordplay and his juxtaposition of low brow fare and academic trivia. You’ll find quite a bit of recursive humor tying the stories together, not the least of which will be the intoxicating and addictive nature of clown tears (esp. when mixed with mime tears and mainlined—what a rush!). You’ll find yourself looking up words to see if they are in the real dictionary or at (yes, both chyme and chyle are for real). You’ll find yourself expecting the stories to be going in one direction; you’ll be surprised where they end up taking you.  

Now, there are a few moments when the stories just get downright silly, and there’s probably a story or two that doesn’t stack up to the rest of the collection. But 27 is a nice round number, and who are you to tell Hax to the Max to drop a story from his baby? I mean, these stories are like his children, and just because some of them are born with beards or flippers or lobster faces doesn’t mean you love them any less, right? Are you asking the man to pick his favorite child? What kind of a monster are you? Quit Sofie-ing his choice! When you do see one of these freak babies, do not make direct eye contact. Just keep your head down and push through to the next paragraph, which is bound to be creepily brilliant, like Crispin Glover playing Sherlock Holmes.

And there are a few moments where you think to yourself, “Is Douggie Hacksaw trying to tell me something?” It’s possible some of the stories actually have a meaning. Racism, homosexuality, intimacy, education, cosmology, music, art, life and death, puppets/poppets, chyme and chyle are all examined in varying degrees of insanity. At the end of the book, I learned that Strange House advertises within Rooster Republic books, and this seemed like a sort of conflict of interests, but nowadays networks advertise their shows on other networks, so whatever. It just makes it harder to remember which station the shows come on, but I have a TiVo, which doesn’t seem to get confused and can always figure out how to record the shows I tell it to.

I’d point out the highlights, but that’s almost the entire book. If I can only recommend three of these stories to strangers, I’d say that you, stranger, should start with The Perfect Popcorn: A Recipe, Fishing with Higginsworth Fig VII: A Tale of Denial, and Give Courtney Cute Anything She Wants.

The Scream, My Dog could really act as a sort of synecdoche here. Meaning, I could say, “You read The Scream, My Dog yet?” and you would understand that I meant, “Have you read Clown Tear Junkies by Dig Doug Hackensplatz yet?” We just have that kind of understanding of each other, don’t we, stranger?

Wait, forget it. Just read the whole damn book. We’re done here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Past's Body by Guy Anthony De Marco (Random Title 30)

 The minor wave of nausea passed quickly this time. My vision was slightly blurred, so I immediately scanned for a pair of glasses. They were on the bathroom sink, perched near the pink toothbrush.

I donned the glasses and looked into the mirror to see what today's psychotic killer looked like.

It was a she this time, and she just came out of the shower. Blonde, cute with a slightly upturned nose, and an impressive rack. I couldn't help playing with them in the mirror, pinching the nipples and licking my lips. Somewhere across space and time, I'm sure my physical body sprung a boner. It's a good thing the feelings generated by masturbation didn't get coded and transmitted, otherwise we'd lose agents far more often. As it was, when this chick woke up, all of the sensations would flood through her from the memory buffer, giving her an intense, instant orgasm. I explored her clitoris for a bit before I got back to business.

I left the bathroom, still rubbing my new-found cleavage, and found her closet. She was a pink freak, but there was a basic black, ultra-tight A-line dress tucked in the back. Her drawers were well stocked with the latest from Victoria's Secret, and I put on a thong and a push-up bra to accentuate her natural charms. As I adjusted the tits in the bra cups, I couldn't help but feel I'd seen her before. Probably in some porn vid, but that didn't seem right. Shrugging it off, I went to the box from Amazon on her kitchen table.

She was well organized, and I found a nice sharp knife to cut the tape. She was expecting a new iPad Air, but this box contained a gas-propelled pistol with five shots in the magazine. My new victim had dainty hands, so it took both of hers to hold the gun steady. Back to the closet, I dug out a black purse big enough to fit the pistol and a pair of black strappy stiletto Vera Wangs.

I knew the area and the time period well. The Ryndic Syndicate was particularly interested in the goings-on of scientists and politicians from this particular parallel universe. I snagged her wristwatch and keys from the table near the door and headed out towards Lexington Avenue.

Every step of the journey attracted every eyeball within a block on purpose. Even some women looked me up and down. I stopped at a newsstand to bend over, revealing my Yoga-sculpted ass to the world, so I could catch the date on the newspaper. I'd arrived at the right day, so my mission was on.

As I neared the Federal building, I saw my target coming out of the heavily guarded doors. I marched right up to him, and he was taken aback at the intrusive nature of a hot blonde in a tight dress. I pulled my pistol, and something happened that I did not expect.

As my finger tightened on the trigger, the target said, "Marcus! It's me, Marcus!"

My name.

In a previous jump point, in a body from the past.

I've been looped. The data connection to my real body was severed, and I had the most amazing orgasm. She was a real, make that I am a real squirter. I felt her flood running down my legs. The gun in my hands began to molecularly deconstruct, so I tossed it aside as the guards ran down the stairs and slapped some cuffs on.

Damn. It could've been worse. At least I can enjoy my new body in prison, unless I can get some poor schmuck of a public defender to get me off on a technicality, such as there being no real bullet in the dead man. I hope the top public defender is a woman, since I do have talent in oral sex with chicks. I hate sucking dick, but if I have to do it to get the best lawyer...well...a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Guy Anthony De Marco is a speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® finalist; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.

A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia,, and

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thunder of the Second Mars by Ben McInnis (Random Title 29)

“He’s here, Murdoch”, Sam said, “I know he is.”
“Those canals are empty, kid”, Murdoch said, “This is stupidity.”
“His beacon is out there, can’t you see that. He’s got to be out there.”

The rover bounded over the red Martian landscape. Sam was frantic. Murdoch had told him Charlie was missing. The tracker in Charlie’s ID chip had led them out here.

“Kid, you’re making a mistake”, Murdoch said, “it’s got to be a mistake.”
“Those chips are implanted, old man. You know that as well as I do.”
“Look, Sammy, I know what you are feeling right now.  Believe me, I’m just as scared for Charlie as you are, but we’re SecForce. You know the drill. We have to keep our heads about this.”

Sam engaged the rover’s hover-foil. They rocketed over the side of a canal into the inky darkness. They hit bottom with a soft thump. Sam clicked on the running lights and panned a hand search light around the canal bottom.

“The beacon signal is strongest up ahead”, Sam said.
“Whatever you say, boss.”, Murdoch returned.
“Did you see that?”
“See what?”, Murdoch said, looking into the darkness.
“I thought I saw something flapping.”, Sam said.
“Kid, there’s no wind down here” ,Murdoch said, “not even any static readings.”
“Look…right there.”, Sam said.

Sam and Murdoch got out of the rover. Their breath rasped through the respirators in their helmets. Sam pulled out a pair of electro-binoculars and scanned the area where he had seen the flapping. At first he missed it, but them a faint movement attracted his attention. Sam drew his sidearm and walked over to investigate.

“What did you see, kid?”, Murdoch asked.

 Sam grabbed the corner of a piece of camo-cloth. He pulled it aside revealing a cave entrance. Sam heard a tumble of small rocks from above. Murdoch lunged forward and caught a larger rock that Sam was leaning against and steadied it.

“Good thing I caught that, kid”, Murdoch said, “If that rock had fallen we would have been buried.”
“Thanks, old man.”

Sam continued forward. After a few feet the passage opened onto a vast antechamber. Sam’s searchlight could not see the any ceiling and barely reached the opposite wall. He looked down and saw a shape huddled in the center of the chamber.

“Charlie?!”, he said and rushed forward.

Sam slid to the ground on his knees and grabbed the end of the tarp. He pulled and pain exploded in the back of his head. Blackness consumed him.

Sam awoke. His head hurt. He tried to move and discovered his hands were tied behind him.  He was lying on his side. He took in a breath and realized his helmet was gone.

Damn, Sam thought to himself, I have about five minutes before I suffocate.

“Why, Sammy…why?!”

Sam saw Murdoch across the chamber from him. Tears poured down the older man’s face.

“Why couldn’t you just leave it alone, kid”, Murdoch moaned, “ I told you the canals were empty. I told you, but you couldn’t leave it alone. Now, I’ve got to give you to them or we’re all dead.”

Sam kept his breathing shallow and pretended to be unconscious.

“They told me a long time ago that if I gave them a sacrifice when the thunder roars, they wouldn’t come out of the canals. They would leave us humans alone in our ‘Second Mars’. I didn’t want to do it, kid. The first time I killed for them I couldn’t stand it, but after that, it started to feel good. I’m sorry, Sam, now you know their secret. They told me if I gave you to them everything would go back to normal.”

Sam started working his hands back and forth. He had his hands free in no time. He waited.
Thunder shook the antechamber.

“It’s time, Sammy”, Murdoch sobbed, “I’m sorry.”

Murdoch lurched over to Sam. His knife was clenched in his hands. Sam waited until Murdoch was almost on top of him. He kicked out with his foot and swept Murdoch’s legs out from under him. Murdoch crashed to the cavern floor. Sam wrenched the knife from Murdoch’s hands and drove it into his chest. Murdoch gasped once and died. Sam struggled to his feet, his lungs burning.

Something rasped across stone. It rose from the chamber floor and loomed above Sam. It looked like stone at first, but the rust-red surface of its flesh flowed like water. Shapes resembling eyes and mouths formed and dissolved at impossible angles. Sam tried to scream, but the lack of air constricted his lungs. Gasping for air, he stumbled toward the cave entrance. He could hear the thing behind him, gliding across the stone. With every step, Sam got weaker. The thing was right on his heels.

With his last burst of strength, Sam drove his shoulder into the loose stone in the entryway and rolled to the side. The rocks fell and crushed the horror just before it emerged from the chamber. Sam dragged himself along the ground to the rover. He opened the storage compartment and pulled a spare helmet over his head.. Sam fell to the ground sucking in cold, dry air. After a moment, he pulled himself to his feet. He glanced at the sensor array. His brother’s beacon was still pinging. It looked like it was right on top of him.

Sam whipped around. Cold steel tore into his chest. Sam gasped.  Charlie stood before him twisting the knife in his chest.

“I’m sorry, big brother”, Charlie said, with a twisted grin, “but it’s the only way.”


Ben McInnis  has been writing for over 20 years. His published works include "The Oracle of Enheduana" (co-authored with Warlock Asylum), poetry published by, articles, and flash fiction published in a number of different venues. Ben is a married father of four living and working in the New England area.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Pets of the Missing Beast by S.T. Cartledge (Random Title 28)

Detective Snyder pulled his coat tight across his chest and cursed the bastard farmer who called him out to work so early in the morning. Actually, it was his boss who did the calling, passing on the farmer's message. The message was to be at this address within the hour or else he would be fucking fired. He had never been fucking fired before. He had come close a few times at this job. It sounded painful, and Snyder would rather not risk it. He trudged out into the frosted field, the grey snow crunching beneath his feet and forming a trail of slush puddles from his car. The farmer was waiting for him in the middle of the field, standing beside a fucking big hole.

“Wow,” Snyder said. “That's a fucking big hole.”

The dirt was scattered around the field and the hole disappeared, twisting and tunnelling into the earth. There was only a little snow inside the hole, like it had only been freshly dug.

“There's not a lot of snow down there,” he said. “It looks like a freshly dug hole. What are you doing, digging holes in your field at this hour of the morning?”

“That's the thing, man,” the farmer said. He spat tobacco on the ground. “I weren't the one what dug that hole.”

“Where does it go?” Snyder asked.

The farmer shrugged. “Don't think I know that much.” He blew his nose into a crumpled handkerchief. “What you reckon?”

“Beats me,” Snyder said. “I just thought I was going to have to check out some crop circles, or some shit.”

“Heh,” the farmer said. “Shiiiiit.”

Snyder pulled his torch out. He had one of those big heavy ones security guards carry so they can beat people with them. He jumped into the hole and sunk a few inches where he landed. There was more snow than he thought. Snow and mud, and blood and fur. Shining his torch through the hole, he saw it tunnelling down and around, the blood trailing like the beginnings of an underground river.

“There's blood down here,” Snyder called back up to the farmer.

The farmer responded with a daft “wha?”

“There's blood down here.”

“Wha?” the farmer repeated.

“Never mind,” Snyder replied.

“Oh, blood, yeah. There'll be a lot of that down there.”

Snyder froze in his steps. Not so much from the cold, but more from what the farmer said. There was most likely a monster down here killing things, and the farmer didn't seem fazed. He didn't seem remotely unsettled when Snyder arrived, now that he thought about it.

“See anything?” the farmer called out.

“Nothing yet,” Snyder said.

He followed the tunnel, the blood trail growing thicker the deeper he disappeared.

The splat-splat sound of his footsteps in the thin layer of blood coating the ground echoed through the tunnel. He paused. He could no longer hear the farmer. He could hear the deep-raspy breaths of some asthmatic creature further down.

He progressed slower, thinking of how he would need to soak his shoes in the sink when he got home. He could feel the blood seeping in and around the soles of his feet. In between his toes. The earth and blood had a pungent manure smell to them, or perhaps other smells were wafting from further down the tunnel.

The torch light strained his eyes, and he yawned wide, yearning for the coffee in his kitchen that had gone undrunk. That's when he saw the tie on the ground. And then a jacket. Shirt. Belt. Pants. Underpants. Two more ties and three shirts. Four pants and a belt. Seven shoes. A hat. A severed hand. An arm. Three feet and a full leg. Lying on the ground like a trail of breadcrumbs soaking in blood. A trail of breadcrumbs leading the opposite direction of safety.

Snyder wanted to turn back but he didn't want to return to the farmer empty-handed. He was a terrible liar, so it's not like he could make something up to keep the creep satisfied. If he turned back now he would make up some terrible story and he would tell his boss and his boss would see through his shit and Snyder would be fucking fired.

The wheezing was a lot louder now, and the blood flood was up to his ankles. He turned a corner in the tunnel and shined his light on a hulking great humanoid mole-creature. Black fur and pink eyes, squinting in the dim torchlight. It lifted its finger and made a noise through its clenched mole-teeth, “shhh.”

Snyder saw where the clothes and the limbs came from. Dragging themselves through the tunnel with the mole monster were about a dozen naked and semi-naked detectives with glazed eyes and filthy skin covered in dirt and dried blood. The mole monster gestured for the detective to follow.

Seeing the state these other men were in, Snyder had no option but to follow the beast. It grunted and grabbed his torch and smashed it broken on the wall. In the darkness the beast made sounds which could only be more digging, more tunnelling through the earth.

Snyder followed the beast in the soggy, pitch-black gloom and thought about how, when he failed to report back on the job, on top of being blind, naked, amputated, and crawling through filth, he would finally be fucking fired.


S.T. Cartledge wrote a book called House Hunter. He's also written some other stuff too. There are some short stories and poetry in magazines, some flash fiction and fan fiction online somewhere too. He also has some pretty killer unpublished stuff too. Like that story with the big guy and the dead things. And that other thing with the wicked cool aliens and the weird creatures. He hopes you liked this story and that you will consider being my *ahem* HIS friend.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

RECKLESS DRAG PATROL By Brandon Cracraft (Random Title 27)

My father served honorably in the Riot Defense Patrol, nineteen hour shifts without food, water, or piss breaks.  Dad used to joke that RDP actually stood for “Rotten Diaper Patrol” because a lot of them wore diapers under their armor.  Since they wore them all day without a change, he said that the locker room was pretty ripe.
            “I know this one giant who still hasn’t washed his uniform,” Dad said, holding his nose.  “I wish the kid would wear a diaper.  He let his pride get in the way of hygiene. I’m sick of smelling his piss and shit every time I go out on patrol.”
            Dad was small for a member of the RDP, barely over eight feet tall and two hundred and ninety pounds of hardened muscle reinforced with plates beneath his skin, making him a grand total of four hundred pounds. 
            “How was Rotten Diaper Patrol?” I said when I caught Dad watching me as I slept.  He took a drag off a cigarette laced with nutrition capsules and caffeine.  It took him a long time to respond.  He hugged his knees, his body shaking.  It was the closest he could physically come to crying.
            Dad shook his head.  “It’s not Rotten Diaper Patrol anymore.”  I expected him to make a joke, but he sounded serious.  Dad actually sounded scared.  My entire body went cold.  I nervously played with the frayed edge of my blankets.  “They have a new name.” He stood up.  Dad was wearing his uniform.  He never wore his uniform at home.  “They are now the Reckless Drag Patrol.”
            I gave him a confused look.  He sat next to me, and my bed creaked under his weight.  “What’s going on?”
            Dad’s eyes trailed to the shoebox I hid under my old blankets and toys.  “As of last night,” he said, his grey eyes scanning my bedroom nervously, “homosexuality is illegal.”  He shuddered, and I felt my body shake.  I never felt so terrified.  “We went to a gay bar and locked the doors.”  His voice cracked.  He sounded like a little boy.  “We put a chain and lock on the door and put bars on the window.  When everything was secure, we set the bar on fire.”
            “They burned to death. . .”  I said, barely able to speak.
            Dad shook his head.  “Most of them died from the smoke before they had a chance to burn to death.”  He stood up, peeling off his armor and dropping them on the floor.  “You need to be careful, Jono.”  He went from sounding like a little boy to sounding ancient.  “If someone finds out, they’ll make me kill you.”
            “I’ll burn them, Dad,” I said.  “They won’t know.”
            Dad tried to smile.  “Maybe this will all blow over,” he said.  “You know how The Country is.  They get a bug up their ass for the stupidest things.”
            The Reckless Drag Patrol continued to cleanse The Country.  I watched newscast after newscast that happily showed the image of men dressed like women being beaten, shot, and burned.  My friend, Abbie-Lee Marsh, did a presentation about the scourge of homosexuality and the importance of the RDP.  She got another A that she didn’t deserve.
            Dad looked worse every day.  He started wearing his uniform full time, even the armor and weapons.  He hardly even ate.  I hated the smell of those damn cigarettes.  The Reckless Drag Patrol didn’t just kill homos.  They killed something inside my dad as well.
            I stopped calling it the Reckless Drag Patrol yesterday.  They stopped going after gay people.  There was no explanation from The Country.  The Country just decided to stop.  They had a new target: traitors.  Anyone who spoke against the RDP could be labelled a traitor.  The Country encouraged us to snitch on anyone who criticized the RDP.
            Abbie-Lee Marsh actually snitched on her parents.  She announced that she was going to a youth education program.
            RDP now stands for Ruining Dad Patrol, even though I will never say that out loud.  Some waiter heard my dad call them “Reckless Drag Patrol.”  He kicked us out and called my dad a traitor.
            Dad told me not to worry, even though he was obviously terrified.  He tried to assure me that the RDP would never kill one of their own.  Loyalty was the second highest virtue after obedience.
Some giant who didn’t even bother to take off his helmet callously told me that my father was a traitor and nothing else.  The RDP officer didn’t stay long enough to let me answer questions.
            I haven’t eaten in days.  No one will sell food to me.  My teacher told me that she would shoot me if she saw me on the street.  I guess I’ll be going to a youth education program.  No one will tell me anything.
            There’s only one thing I know for certain: The RDP killed my dad. 
            At least, I hope that the RDP killed my father.  Dad once told me that The Country was capable of doing horrible things to people.  When I asked what they were, he just shook his head and looked like he was going to puke.
            I really hope that the RDP killed my dad. 

Brandon Cracraft lives with his boyfriend in the historic district of Tucson, Arizona.  His short stories have appeared in several anthologies and his novel, FAMILY VALUES, is available in electronic and paperback format.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Into a Mirror with a Toad by Rie Sheridan Rose (Random Title 26)

Padaragh Filopott was dirt poor. Literally. In a society footed in how much land you owned, how many fields you plowed, how high the piles of sand and dirt that ranged around your home, Padaragh had so negligible an amount that he might as well be landless. His father had been a speculator and gambler, and all that was left of what once was a healthy holding was a fifty foot square of land under a ramshackle building that housed Padaragh and his seven children. His wife had died six months earlier, leaving a new babe to feed.
            Padaragh was at his wits end. He had hoped to receive some settlement from Katoran's family on her death, but they had made it clear that all ties were broken. They had never approved of Padaragh, and considered the children mongrels.
            As he trudged wearily home from yet another attempt to persuade his former in-laws that they owed something to their grandchildren, Padaragh kept his eyes on the dusty road. It belonged to his father-in-law, and he was only allowed to walk it because he paid a tithe every month.
            "Watch where you are going, you lout!" A voice at his feet startled Padaragh to a stop.
            He looked down to see a huge green toad sitting in the dust. It blinked up at him. "Did you say something?" he blurted out.
            "Your ears work, if nothing else does," scoffed the toad.
            Padaragh felt his ears heating up, and knew they must be red. "Sure and I do all I can. Six wee mouths to feed and no dirt to sell. I scrape and scrounge and scrabble every day of my life."
            "What if you could do better?"
            Padaragh stamped his foot in frustration, barely missing the toad. "Don't you think I want to? No man wants to see his children starve."
            "I can help. Take me home with you."
            Padaragh stared at the little creature. "Are you daft?"
            "What harm would there be?"
            "Little Tadagh might put you in a jar and keep you for a pet, for one."
            "He can try." The toad made a move that, in a human, would be a shrug.
            Padaragh laughed for the first time he could remember. At least since Katoran's death, for sure. "Why not?" He bent and lifted the toad into his hand.
            He carried the toad home to his shack, opening the door with a flourish. "I've brought home a friend," he called. "Come and see."
            The children gathered round—Lysant, Katorana, Parvan, Tadagh, Mysha. Only baby Terasan in her cradle and the eldest, Padarac, out at work, were absent.
            When Padaragh held out the toad, Katorana frowned. "You said a friend, Da. That's naught but an old toad."
            "Sure and you are no prize yourself," croaked the toad.
            The girl started. Her brothers and sister giggled at her discomfiture.
            "Now, get on about your chores," Padaragh ordered the children. "You can talk to..."
            "Shaymus," offered the toad.
            "...To Shaymus later. We have something to discuss."
            He carried Shaymus to the dining table and set the toad in a bowl. "You said you could help...I could use some, I know."
            "Have you a mirror?" asked the toad.
            "I might do," Padaragh said. "Why?"
            "Go and fetch it."
            Curious, Padaragh went to Katoran's old chest in the corner and found her silver-backed mirror. It was one of the few treasures left from her childhood. Running a hand over the etched back with a wistful sigh, he brought it back to the table where Shaymus waited.
            "Here it be," he said, placing the mirror before the toad.
            "Set it up where it reflects the table," Shaymus told him.
            Padaragh did as he was told.
            "Now, reach through the glass and pick up the cup you see within."
            "Are you daft?" Padaragh asked again.
            "You are talking to a toad, is this any dafter?"
            Padaragh nodded thoughtfully. "You have a point." He took a deep breath and reached out. His fingertips touched the glass, and then—with a cold tingle—they passed through. He curled his hand around the cup within and pulled it back. He looked down at the cup in wonder.
            "Anything within the mirror can be brought back, if you believe in the magic."
            Padaragh's eyes widened. "Anything?" he whispered.
            Padaragh scooped up the toad and the mirror and ran from the house. He set the glass against the wall, reflecting the small pile of dirt that he had managed to scrape from the yard. With shaking fingers, he reached through and pulled a handful of dirt through the mirror.
            It was true!
            He raked the remainder of the small pile through the mirror, doubling his wealth in seconds. "Lord save us!" he whispered.
            "And so much more can be yours."
            "I need a bigger mirror."
            He got one. As large a glass as the pile of dirt would buy. He and Shaymus took it into the forest, to a clearing where no one was likely to spy them. Padaragh carried a garden spade and barrow with them, and reached through the glass to dig as much dirt as it took to fill the barrow. The clearing on their side of the glass remained inviolate.
            He trotted the barrow home and back six times by nightfall. The pile of dirt beside the house grew higher and higher.
            People began to whisper. He knew it a matter of time before someone found him out.
            Padaragh took every grain of dirt he could assemble and bought a large sitting room mirror—the sort that would grace a rich man's house. He set it against the rear wall of the house, reflecting the lands beyond their little square of earth.
            He had kept Padarac home from work that day. Setting Katorana to work bundling the younger children into all the clothes they owned, he packed up the few items worth carting away into the barrow. He placed Shaymus in his coat pocket and gathered the children close.
            Katorana bounced the baby on her hip. "What are we doing Da?" she asked.
            "We're going on a grand adventure, darlin'. A grand adventure."
            Taking a deep breath, he led his children into a new world. Into a mirror with a toad.


Rie Sheridan Rose has been writing professionally for over ten years. She has published 6 novels, 1 short story collection, 2 chapbooks of collected stories, and 5 poetry collections as well as contributing to numerous anthologies. She also wrote lyrics for Marc Gunn's “Don’t Go Drinking With Hobbits” CD.
Her stories have also been published in Reloaded: Both Barrels, Shifters, and A Bubba in Time Saves None and Abandoned Towers. Her poetry appeared in print magazines Mythic Circle, Dreams of Decadence, and Abandoned Towers as well as Penumbra, The Voices Project, and the Metastasis, Boundless, and Di-Verse-City anthologies.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Beyond the Rabbits by Jeremy Maddux (Random Title 25)

The rabbits of Sage Hollow were a fickle bunch, falling in and out of love with each other as well as whatever fads and sensations they brought back from their travails on the outside.  Ian Arbutus had tapped into the secret of his species by ingesting timothy-grass and pulque which he’d brewed from the maguey plant’s sap.  With the body temperature driven to dangerous levels, the rabbit collective of Aztec mythology, Centzon Totochtin, shared their secrets with him.  As the fever broke, Ian waited for a sign of Two Father’s arrival.  He clenched his lucky rabbit’s foot (his own, which he’d lost the previous summer to a tractor blade) and meditated on it, intoning the vibrations that permeated his body.  He thumped his tail with urgency as he awaited the next communication.

    Ian thought he saw movement from the furthest burrow, but it was just his shadow which loomed large to swallow up every sunbeam that reached into the leparidae’s earth.  It hadn’t been his imagination.  Something was approaching through the warren in digitigrade form like most rabbits did mid-run.  Two Rabbit greeted him with detached reverence.  Ian gave the slightest dip of obeisance in order to receive the newest sacred communication.  As many times as Ian had summoned his cryptic visitor, he didn’t get the impression that Two Rabbit was physically incorporated into the environment.  Instead, he seemed to move like fog or condensation against the glass of the humans’ automobiles.  Something else which he frequently noted:  Two Rabbit’s faces, married by inches so that everything to one side was the mirror image of the other.  Despite this, Two Rabbit’s multiple visages never moved in absolute harmony.  One set of eyes would flinch or squint as he used the other set to peer into the nature of the communer.  Two Rabbit unraveled a human fist and furtively dabbed out the latest secret into Ian Arbutus’ waiting paw.  The rabbit god walked backward as shadows pooled over him.  When the rolling blackness lifted, Ian observed only weeds.

    The secrets always came in the form of walnuts which he cracked open with his teeth, then he would let the information coalesce over him as a season of genetic memory.  As he broke the nutshell, a stick figure with the resemblance of a bipedal humanoid performed a lethargic dance in the center of his paw.  He stared for so long at the vertigo swaying that he’d lost the need to blink.  He had to will himself to breathe again.  The stick figure bent itself backward and tumbled as if trying to pass under a limbo pole on the lowest rung.  Then it collapsed.  For a split second, he was sure he saw the gloss of tiny wires compelling the movement of the tulpa.  He waved his hand above it and found no such wires.  That’s when they became separated.  The stick figure tulpa waved goodbye as it slid down his arm into another reality.

    Ian was beyond the rabbits of Sage Hollow.  He savored the transcendence, moving through stages of enlightenment and ennui, then moving beyond that as well.  It was like having his own genus.  That was the only way he could describe it to the others later.  He baffled himself as he realized he’d already codified his current situation to the rabbits in the past tense.  He already had the words stored away in his mind for what he was now experiencing.

    After he became human, he found himself busking on a street corner.  There was a new walnut in his hand.  Failing to break it with his human teeth, he dropped it to the ground and crushed it under his Doc Martens.

    At his feet, there were two stick figures like the one he’d seen earlier only these were made from folded paper like little origami men.  He could definitely see wires controlling their movements.  He gazed up from the lively origami to find a sea of people transfixed on his spectacle of Siguijor.  Somewhere in that crowd, Ian could see Two Rabbit trying to reach him though he was visually absent.  He squinted until he could see his way back to Sage Hollow.  Closing that pair of eyes once again, Ian used the other pair to cajole the paper puppets into the nutshell.  The wires resisted his pull at first but the tulpas eventually settled in for transportation.  They did finally release their tenuous hold after a short struggle.  He thought he saw more wires glistening over his head, hanging there like ominous floss, but he waved his hand overhead and found no such wires.  A disturbing thought occurred to him then that made him stall in his transition back to lagomorph.  That thought was this:  What if we’re the stick figures, and there are enough wires for all of us?


Jeremy Maddux is Co-Editor of Surreal Grotesque magazine and hosts the podcast of the same name where he interviews authors on the cutting edge of underground fiction (Horror, Bizarro, Slipstream).  He served two years as Vice President of a local writer’s group and has a story forthcoming in the Fireside Popsicles anthology this spring via Fireside Press. He may or may not look like Blanka.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Trade in the Monster by Dustin Reade (Random Title 24)

At dusk, the ocean of bile churned and burbled. The pallbearers milled about in the thousands, waiting to carry the carcasses to the bile’s edge. Whipping tentacles with purple tops and pinkish-white suckered bottoms thrashed a little ways from the shoreline, waiting to drag the corpses to the pit of the stomach to be digested, the beast’s first official meal this quarter. Ahmed leaned over his gyro stall and whispered conspiratorially in my ear, “one day we will be the unlucky ones, eh?”

    I turned and caught his eye. His face was lean and tough, with smooth lips like the lips of a penis stretched from the base of one cheek to the other. I never liked him. Something about him always made me feel dirty, diseased, as though he carried a virus in his eyes that could pass from person to person with nothing more than a wink. I shrugged, tossed the bag of dead rats on the counter, and said in a plaintive voice, “not today, Ahmed. Can we hurry this along? I have to be back at The Colon in a few minutes.”

    “Good work in The Colon?”

    “Fine,” I said. “Seriously, how long does it take to cut a hunk of lamb and put it in a pita?”

    Ahmed handed me the gyro and gathered up the rats. With one look inside the bag, he nodded his head and clucked his tongue.

    “Amazing,” he said. “How these little creatures manage to survive without being digested…it is truly remarkable.”

    “They’re too small,” I told him, taking a big bite of the gyro. “The monster doesn’t even know they’re in here, I bet. When it swallowed the world, I doubt it realized there were this many creatures on it. You read the paper the other day? Some scientist near The Spleen discovered the remains of three or four other planets, near the outer anus. There were all of these half-digested alien corpses, crumbled buildings, all kinds of things. The Monster has been at this a while, and I doubt it even realizes the magnitude of what it destroys.”

    I took a deep breath, just kind of staring off into space, and said, “It just kind of eats, you know?”

    “Like you, no?” Ahmed said, chuckling under his breath as he tucked the rats into the safe beneath the register.

    I threw the empty gyro wrapper in the trash and walked back to work.

    Near the bile’s edge, I watched a young boy drag a deer into the churning ocean. I wondered who in his family he was protecting. The tentacles had been creeping further inland, taking the elderly from their beds. The Monster is always getting hungrier. For the most part we can keep it placated with the dead, or with rats and animals, but The Monster must forever eat, forever be digesting something. They figured it out a while ago. The Monster is biologically immortal, like a hydra. It is an alien, a planet-eating demon of unimaginable size. Apparently, it just roams about in space, eating whatever it comes across, including planets, and the tentacle-bacteria in its stomach pick the planet clean of life forms, then pushes the detritus out The Colon.

    One hundred years ago, it swallowed the Earth. Terra. Home. It took some time, but we eventually figured out a way to keep The Monster fed without having tentacles randomly pluck us from our beds. Animals, old people, and most of all the dead became its food. Money soon became useless; as did anything you couldn’t toss to the tentacles should they come for you in the night. They seemed to know the difference between organic and non-organic matter. Scientists thought it might have something to do with sensors in their suckers, but know one really knows for sure. So, we began trading in little lives for our own. That is why I fought so hard to get a job in The Colon. All of the bio-runoff, all of the human waste and leftover body parts meant one thing: rats. You can get almost anything with a bag of rats.

    I clocked in and got to work. My desk faced a wide picture window overlooking the river of digested elements. There were no tentacles in The Colon, another perk of the job. There was a knock at the door and a moment later, Jeb, my coworker, walked in. He was chewing furiously on his bottom lip, rubbing his hands together.

    “I did it,” he said. “It’s done.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Yes,” he nodded furiously. “Completely sure, I managed to secure two pressurized suits from a half-digested NASA vessel that came through the other day. I guess that means Cape Canaveral is gone, along with most of the east coast.”

    “I guess so,” I said.

    “Anyway, that is it, finished. The bulk of the boat has been finished for a while, and I managed to scrounge up a few more oxygen tanks. With the suits, we should be set.”

    “When do you we leave?” I asked.

    “Whenever,” Jeb said. “Tomorrow morning, tonight, it doesn’t matter.”

    “How about now?”

    Jeb looked at me. I could see the terror in his eyes, and the thin layer of excitement just beneath.

    “Are you serious?”

    “Dead serious,” I nodded.

    “Right,” Jeb said quickly. “But what do we give in our place? The ship weighs about two-thousand pounds, and that is all accounted for, but with the two of us inside, that’s what, three hundred pounds of unaccounted weight? The workers in The Outer Anus will notice. We’ll have to trade something, make a swap.”

    “I’ll figure it out,” I said. “Give me a little time. We’ll meet at the docks in two hours.”

    Ahmed was still at the gyro stall when I reached it. He was just closing up, humming some ancient song to himself. I tapped him on the back, and he spun around, surprised. He smiled when he saw me.

    “My friend!” he said happily. “Back for more gyros? You have that many rats? Well, I am sorry, but I am all closed up for the day.”

    “I’m not hungry,” I said. “I need your help. The Colon Police discovered my rats. They want to have me arrested for hoarding.”

    “That is terrible!” Ahmed said. “But what could you want from me? How can I help you?”

    “They haven’t found all the rats. I think if I could get rid of the rest, they might lessen the charges. I was hoping you could take them?”

    Ahmed’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. “Yes!” he said. “Yes, of course! Where are they?”

    “Follow me,” I told him, heading for the abandoned shoreline.

    Two hours later, I made it to the docks. Jeb stood under a burnt out lamp post, twisting his hat in his hands. I could see the makeshift boat bobbing up and down in the water.

    “Did you do it?” he asked when he saw me. “Did you find a way to account for our weight?”

    “Most of it,” I said, climbing into the boat and fighting my way into the pressure suit.

    “It has to be precise,” Jeb said, climbing into the seat beside me and strapping himself in.

    “I have a plan,” I told him.

    The boat moved, silent and slow, down the digested river, occasionally bumping into a rotten corpse, or scraping along the tripe-like bile floor.

    “How did you fix the weight problem?” Jeb asked when we were approaching The Interior Anal Exit.

    “I can’t tell you,” I said. “Not yet. Here, we are almost there. I think we are dragging something behind us. A corpse, most likely. Get out there and dislodge it, we can’t have anything weighing us down. I only freed up enough for the two of us.”

    “Okay,” Jeb said, climbing out the manhole door.

    I quickly slammed it shut behind him and activated the lock. I could hear him pounding on it as I accelerated the boat. I could hear him screaming for me to let him in, but I couldn’t. Ahmed had been about my size, and would cover my own weight. If Jeb had really wanted to escape, he would have found some way to trade his weight, to swap, to make room for himself. I was thankful of his work on the boat, but now it was too late.

    I rounded a sharp curve and heard him roll over the boat into the bile just as I pushed through The Asshole and traded in my old life for a new, lonely life among the stars.


Dustin Reade lives in a trailer behind a BBQ restaurant in Port Angeles, Washington. His book Grambo was published as part of the 2013-14 New Bizarro Author Series. He is also the head editor of the online bizarro fiction magazine, The Mustache Factor. He once won one of those “Eat-A-Giant-Steak-And-Win-A-T-Shirt” things in Hollywood, California.