Friday, September 23, 2016


Five black helicopters chopper away overhead, searchlights crawling across the human slums lining the edge of the city. Sid and I are hunkered down in a drainage pipe just beyond the ghetto, hunched on our toes and trying to keep everything important out of the watery shit spewing past.

“I think they’re following us,” I say, carefully looking up at the search team.

As if on cue, the helicopters turn and drop, sweeping closer to the sewage treatment plant, the downdraft churning up pulpy liquid from the spillway in front of us. We push backward into the pipe.

“Why are they following us?” I whisper. I wipe sludge from my wrist, check my watch. “It’s not past curfew is it?”

“No, we’re good,” Sid says quietly. “With the time anyway.”

“‘With the time?’ What aren’t you telling me, Sid?”

“You’re not going to like it …”


“Fine,” he says. He takes a deep breath, regrets it immediately. Then: “I, uh, I didn’t pay for the waffles.”

I deflate. “Really, man? That’s what you think this is about?”

“They were REALLY expensive.”

“So, what? Fifteen bucks?”

“More like five hundred ...” he mumbles.


“Five hundred and one, technically. Before taxes.”

“God damn it, Sid!” I shout. “That’s a Class D felony!”

“I didn’t know that when I took them!”


“Jesus, man,” he hisses. “Be quiet!”

“Asshole,” I mumble. “Let’s just lie low for a few and get home.”

“Hey, I’ve always wondered: What’s the D stand for?”


“The D, in Class D, what’s it stand for?”

“DOOM,” screeches a voice that isn’t either of ours. We turn to look and find a massive robot blocking our exit. 

“Look what you did!” hisses Sid.

The robot’s an Android Coalition Security Droid – a Mark I cyborg, the first in a line of human/robot experiments. The thing looks like a Ken doll and an electronics store dumpster smashed together by a troubled five-year-old. Exhaust blades where limbs should be, flesh used like twine. It’s a walking cyberpunk nightmare.

We try to disappear into the sewage pipe but there’s a metal grate no more than twenty feet back. We’re trapped, and worse, all the runny poop is starting to seep into our socks.

“Uh … Here!” shouts Sid, hoisting the take-out box and stepping toward the cyborg. “Take the waffles!”

“Code 42C, Statute iii of the Coalition Codes of Conduct,” drones the droid. “Returning stolen property does not subvert the initial offense.”

“OK, sure,” says Sid, “but, like, they’re … for you? As a gift.”

“Code 822R, Statute xi of the Coalition Codes of Conduct: Bribery is punishable –”

“What? No,” he stammers. “Who said bribe? I didn’t say bribe. I just figured you could … use a break?”

“I have no need for sustenance.”

“Waffles aren’t for sustenance, dummy. They just taste good.”

The red eyes of the robot’s Hunt Mode blink blue. The entire meat-and-circuit monstrosity seems to relax.

“The sustenance paste they feed us IS pretty disgusting,” says the cyborg. “Robots should NOT be in charge of food.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” replies Sid, shoving the box into the security droid’s hands. “Here. Eat.”

The android’s eyes flash purple for a moment – Computing Mode – before returning to blue. The cyborg slowly opens the take-out box and then crams an entire waffle into its Food Deglutition Cavity.

“Oh my God,” says the cyborg. “These waffles are incredible! AMAZING! I can … I can FEEL again!”

“So … You’re not going to bring us in then, right?”

The robot’s eyes flick red. “Tell me where you got these waffles.”

“The Tick Tock Diner,” Sid answers immediately.

“On Old Route 3,” I add.

“I need to obtain more of these,” the cyborg monotones, before hopping into the spillway and heading west, entirely ignoring his idling helicopter.

“What the hell is in those waffles?” I whisper, watching the android skip away.

“Pre-war Canadian maple sugar.”


“And military-grade hallucinogens.”

“Damn it, Sid! We have been over this!” I bark. “You can’t – Wait. What do military-grade hallucinogens do to a human/robot hybrid?”

“I don’t –”

There’s a tremendous sound, then a number of even more tremendous explosions. We scurry to the end of the tunnel. The cyborg is down the spillway in full-on Kill Mode, weapons extended from all its orifices.


We watch as Mother Murphy’s Home for Wayward Bastards erupts in a tiny mushroom cloud of nuclear fire. Firefighting drones spring up from the sidewalk surrounding the flaming wreckage. The security droid starts picking up burning orphans and throwing them at the drones.

“That’s just mean,” says Sid.

“This is absolutely going to end the truce,” I add.

The Trouble with UPCs by Dale L. Sproule

Some people complain about them, but Sophie was happy using the self-scanner at the supermarket, at least until last Tuesday. The codes had been scanning accurately, when she came to the dry roasted peanuts, which the scanner read as "Elephant – $11,280,875.45."

Even if she had wanted an elephant, her credit card limit couldn't stretch that far. And none of the plastic bags available at the self-check-out were big enough to fit one. Besides, the only elephant

Sophie had seen in any of the aisles at the store had been a shopper rather than a product. 

So, she attempted to bring the error to the attention of the clerk helping the self-scan customers. 

Holding up the jar of peanuts she declared, "Excuse me, this is not an elephant."

But the clerk was paying no attention, having gone off to sweep the floor around the empty cash registers. Sophie had, however, garnered the attention of customers at the other self-serve terminals, who gaped at her, as though she were from Mars. She looked them in the eye, one after another, turning each to ash with her laser vision. "Does anyone else think I'm from Mars?" she demanded.

The one customer remaining in the line-up backed away slowly, swinging her enormous trunk and flapping her huge ears. 

Harrumphing self righteously, Sophie didn't ask a second time. Replacing the peanuts in the basket, she stuck her flashing green nose in the air and walked out – as a further demonstration that this sort of lackadaisical service was simply bound to lose them customers.

Conflicting Reports by Jasper Oliver

They all saw Jesus come out of the post office, they agreed on that much. “Jesus!” they cried and looked at one another and nodded. One guy said Jesus was a woman and another that Jesus was an old man. A third insisted that Jesus was a horse escaped from the Piccadilly circus. He said he’d read about it in the paper, that the circus ringleader was a large cruel man who beat the horse and refused it gruel and that the horse had escaped and was the son of God. He described its resplendent red conductor’s jacket, its teeth gnashing at the bit, its sorry shiny eyes. The fourth guy saw regular Jesus.

“Crown of thorns and everything,” the fourth guy said and smoked his cigarette cruelly.

They wondered about this, how they all could see the same thing and yet give such varying accounts.  The police reporter nodded and jotted it all down. He didn’t wonder. He’d been on the force a long time.

“I think maybe we all see what we’re supposed to,” the 1st guy said- the lady Jesus guy- “we all find what we need in Christ.”

The third guy looked out over his shoulders at the new buildings being erected. It was true, he had owned a horse as a child and loved it fiercely.

“I saw a ghost once,” the second guy offered. “It was long and pale and had red coals for eyes. It burbled and lived in our sink drain for an entire summer and would come out at night to steal milk and use the restroom. We’d always hear things shuffling about and the toilet flushing and in the morning the milk cartons would be empty save for a quarter inch of sludgy pink backwash. I guess my Mom felt she owed it the milk because we were always well stocked by nightfall. One time I saw it. I couldn’t sleep and had wandered into the kitchen and the fridge door was open and it was inside, crouched and squeezed on the 3rd shelf behind the eggs. It was wispy and opalescent with thousands of tiny silicate hairs, no face but those burning eyes. That was the weirdest thing I ever saw until today. Do you think Jesus is like that? Like a ghost?”

“He seemed pretty solid to me,” the fourth guy said and the rest of them agreed. “And anyway you didn’t see him have burning eyes like that right?”

The second guy admitted he had not but thought privately that proved nothing. Surely every ghost was different. He wondered if he’d see Jesus again that night, gazing up from the depths of the drain with geriatric eyes. He shuddered and squeezed out a few tiny terror tears.

“Thank you very much for your reports,” the policeman said and closed his notebook, “this will help us a lot with our investigation believe me. The varying descriptions don’t matter much.”  He took them by the hand, each in turn and got into his cop car and drove away. In his mind he’d always pictured Jesus as a portly Jackie Gleason type. He was raised in the church but hadn’t been to service for years. He wondered if Jesus got his mail there often or what?  He thanked God he’d been on patrol that day.

Lamps by Joseph J. Patchen

I am having difficulty sleeping.

It’s not because I murdered my wife. It’s not because I killed my mistress.

Oh I suppose one can make a case for feeling some guilt out the dismemberment of my three children and the watching of their blood, partially my blood, pouring down the bathtub drain.

I suppose, but honestly I didn’t feel any pit in my stomach or burning sensation tearing my insides apart. I didn’t feel anything, not a thing.

Oh wait, that’s not entirely true; my apologies.

I did feel relief. I felt a massive wave of relief and even calm with each axe blow and saw cut. I am smiling now as I recall how easily I dissected the women…

I can only describe it as a cleansing, a purging of emotion and thought. As I chronicle this confession of action a great weight has lifted from my chest and escaped my conscience.

Hell, this alone should allow me to float into the never land of rapid eye movement and drool.
I should be feeling a great weight force my eyelids snap shut but it’s been three days and three nights and I just can’t sleep. Not even now.

It’s not because my mind is racing. I’m not very deep. I’m impulsive and not an intellectual.
Police? Am I worried about the police you ask?

No, I’m not concerned. This is a medium size coastal town masquerading as a city with a department more interested in donuts, muscle flexing and young beach bunnies.
We have a saying here; ‘If the crime doesn’t happen at the mall, it doesn’t happen at all’.
Our State crime lab is a mess. Union political hacks, you know the drill. So I’m not losing sleep on this point.
Besides the newspaper and local television says I’m dead. That little red herring I devised of inserting a male corpse into the mayhem; a homeless man of similar build for mine seems to have done the trick.
Like everyone else, he is in pieces and with all the deceased I’ve kept the hands and heads.
Dread, confusion, excitement, emptiness, sadness, want, desire….no but I think pondering and writing about this dilemma of mine has helped. I think I’m getting warmer or maybe my space heater is a too little close...
No, it’s off.
Anger, annoyed, bored, in denial, depressed, distracted, envious, jealous, and guilty – we covered that. Grief, optimistic, resentful, regretful, shame, stressed, unhappy --- yeah that’s more the ticket.
Unhappy, frustrated, agitated, displeased; my shrink was right. She’s a genius. ‘Chronicle your thoughts and re-trace your steps and the meaning will be revealed’. Wow that chick has it right.
Well all I know I’m not killing her after my Thursday appointment.
I will have to go down the list and pick another name. No problem the list is long enough, but Hallelujah she is really helping me.
Yeah, ‘unhappy, frustrated, agitated, displeased’; all of them and they all relate to these damn lamps.
I didn’t want to admit it because I have trouble with criticism even if it is self criticism. I made these lamps by hollowing out their heads but they suck.
I can’t get enough light out of the eye sockets to make it matter and if I want to let more light out of the mouth, I have to be careful with how far I open the jaw because if it is opened too far the head falls over. What a rip.
Even with all six together ---they suck.
What a crappy idea on my part. I just wanted some lamps. They are very expensive and I am tired of living by flashlight. I couldn’t find any at the flea market or any yard sales. There are none at the dollar store.
I’m just trying to show improve my lifestyle with initiative and achievement and I’m screwed. What a failure I am and boy does that hurt my narcissism and self-esteem.
God I’m disappointed and tired. Still, does anybody want to come over tonight and play Canasta?

No Smith is a Jones More Than Once by D.C. Lozar

I chew off the fingers of my left hand with the mouth in the palm of my right. It's a nasty habit, one I'm trying to quit, but that's the thing about habits: if they were easy to stop, we would.  

Unconsciously, the lidless eyeball in my wrist searches the knuckle nubs for rough edges in need of gnawing. The thick copper warmth of my blood, glass-smooth as it slides up my throat, nourishes me with guilty panic.

My future won't say anything in public.  

Later, they will crawl into my ear and burn my heart wings. They will make me feel ashamed and weak. They'll use their needle claws to strangle the empty spaces in my self-control.

"Rejoice," I'll scream with fluted tongues, "for this is the last of future days when clocks lie with straight faces upon bent tables of ethics. No hand may taste the blood of another without first seeing the bones."

"Rejoice," they'll whisper with ears that have been burnt to putrid orbs, "for this is the future of last beginnings and no soul may clean itself upon the blood meant to stain the living world."

They say this because they never listen. They are righteous in age, forgetting I have yet to be born. I could argue, could regurgitate each with beams of light, but my friends have corded boneless fingers trailing from their skulls, and I have none.

"Authenticity is a disturbing dream." Or, as I learned the day after I died, "No Smith is a Jones more than once."

I lift my nose and feel the rainbow, the knife-edges of color, as it slices off bits of my thought.  
They flutter to the sky, tittering sideways before regaining consciousness and screaming that I
should have done more, something - anything. It hurts to breathe, so I inhale the fluffy clouds of sin and wonder why we have to relearn things we know at birth.

Things would be simpler if we grew skin; borders of flesh to contain us, to organize our eyes so we can find them without looking. Even crocodiles have skin, and they don't cry half as much.  

I burp, tasting the last of my future, the knotted tendon strings that are so hard to dissolve, and clench my liquid fist - hoping no one smells.

Like I said, it's a nasty habit.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Garry lit a cigarette.

The man standing next to Garry wrinkled his nose and gave him a sideways glance.

Garry lit another cigarette. Now holding two in one hand, he took a slow drag from the cancerous twins. The smoke executed a tactical/surgical/preemptive strike deep within the nasal passage of the stranger, engorging his ire. This was war.

The stranger's hand ascended, as if in slow motion or some inebriated gypsy's wild premonition. The hand shook, nearly vibrating with the telltale sign of incipient alcoholism. Withdrawal tremors masquerading as adrenaline shakes.

Garry lit two cigarettes and added them to the party. The four coffin nails dangled from his moistened lips, taunting the stranger.

Spider-like, the hand climbed until it reached the razor-burned jowls of the stranger's horrifyingly mundane face. The face attached itself to the head, that in turn attached itself to the neck, that attached to the body, that attached to the arm, that attached to that quaking fucking hand, that attached to five dainty little digits. Fat digits. Like a big baby.

The baby digits cup the mouth, and so began the great spiral of hand to mouth to hand again. Forever into infinity. One could become lost in that spiral. One could go mad.

Then came the cough. That annoyingly rude "I don't really need to cough, but I'm going to anyways to teach you that smoking is bad for you, because you obviously must not be in on this ubiquitous little factoid, are you? Are you, Billy? Huh? Well are you??" -kind of cough.

You know the one. That fucking judgmental non-smoker cough. Garry lit up three more cigarettes. Now seven little cherries burned brightly from between long piano fingers. Bluish smoke hung in the air between the two men, thick enough to cut with a knife. Thick like marmalade.

The stranger turned a frowning, pinkish face to stare directly at Garry. Garry and his seven repugnant cigarettes.

Garry lit up another five cigarettes. Now he had to use both hands to smoke them all, like some kind of burning pan flute out of a meth-induced feverdream.

The stranger quirked a caterpillar eyebrow at Garry. He was flabbergasted.


Garry watched the stranger take a picture and post it to instagram without even looking at his iPhone. It was an action of habit. A rote gesture of the self delusion that people actually gave a shit. It was a lie.

Garry zealously supported artistic expression, so he struck an interpretive pose just in time for the flash. The stranger didn't seem to notice, too busy aggressively hash-tagging his disapproval all over the interweb.

Garry lit up another eight cigarettes. His manly fists looked like birthday cakes made of meat and knuckles.

Understanding dawned on the stranger's face. Epiphany made flesh.

"Are you.." The stranger hesitated.

"Are you smoking the Fibonacci sequence?" The stranger asked.

Garry turned once more to the stranger and their eyes met. Tears of joy shimmered in the stranger's eyes. Tears of love.

The stranger reached slowly into his trendy 90's messenger bag and pulled a worn copy of the latest Fibonacci Quarterly, a mathematical journal of some prestige. The stranger's face stared back at Garry from the cover art.

The resemblance was uncanny. It was too good to be true. It was the ghost of the great Leonardo of Pisa!

Before either of them had a chance to consider the repercussions to the space/time continuum, they were wrapped tightly in each other's arms. Cigarettes tumbled to the ground beneath their feet, like smoldering confetti. It was an embrace written in the spiraling cosmos above and below.

Garry awoke in a cold sweat. The uncomfortable erection-tent in his lap would have been embarrassing if he hadn't been alone. Always alone.

Garry cried himself back to sleep, the plushie Funko Pop Fibonacci doll clutched tightly between his muscular thighs.

Garry dreamt of spirals.

WATCH WATCH by Jordan Moffatt

urtis had a watch that he liked to look at from time to time. In the daytime, while he was awake, Curtis wore the watch on his wrist. At night time, while he was asleep, Curtis put the watch on his nightstand. When awake, Curtis checked his watch every fifteen minutes, whether fifteen minutes had actually passed or not. As long as fifteen minutes had passed on his watch, Curtis would check it and conclude that fifteen minutes had indeed passed. To Curtis, the watch was time.

Curtis woke up from an unpleasant dream and put on his watch. The time on the watch said 3:34. Curtis thought this was too early to wake up, so he took the watch off, placed the watch on his nightstand, and then went back to sleep.

When Curtis woke up again, he repeated the routine of watch putting-on and looking-at. The time on the watch again said 3:34. Curtis thought this was too early to wake up, so he took the watch off, placed the watch on his nightstand, and then went back to sleep. He figured that he must have been dreaming earlier when the exact same thing happened.

This process happened over and over and over and over again until Curtis had a thick beard on his face. He didn’t have a beard before he went to bed, let alone a thick one, and so he stroked it in the same manner as a man would pick up an object with a recently discovered third arm. While stroking his beard, Curtis realized that he was very, very hungry. He had never been hungrier. He was so hungry that he was light-headed. Curtis also had a weird feeling that he had lost weight since he went to bed. Curtis put on his watch. The time still read 3:34. Curtis felt that something was wrong, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on the problem. Time, after all, had not passed. The phone rang, and Curtis answered it.

“Hello,” Curtis whispered. He didn’t have the strength for anything more than a whisper.

“Hello Curtis. This is God.”

“God?” said Curtis.

“Yes,” said God.

“I’m confused,” said Curtis.

“Everyone is confused, Curtis. That’s part of the plan.”

“Oh,” said Curtis. He was still confused though. “What time is it, God?”

“Don’t you remember the time?” God asked.

Curtis remembered the time when he went fishing with his father and they caught a large sturgeon, 4:22. Curtis remembered the time when he first kissed a girl – Becky Johnson outside the video rental store, 8:40. Curtis remembered the time when he showed up late for a job interview and got yelled at by the receptionist, 11:17. Curtis remembered the time he won third place in the science fair with his hydraulic dog poop scooper, 2:35.

“Do you remember the time?” God asked.

“Which one?” said Curtis.

“Remember the time,” God said. “Remember the time. Remember the time. Remember the time. Remember the time. Remember the time. Remember the time. Remember the time. Remember the time. Remember the time. Remember the time. Remember the time. Remember the time.”

Curtis didn’t speak.

“What time is it?” God asked.

Curtis looked at his watch. It read 3:34.

“It’s 3:34,” Curtis said.

God hung up the phone.

Curtis got out of bed. His legs were weak, and he could barely hold up his body. He pulled himself along the walls to the window facing the street. He looked out. The view had changed since he went to bed. Buildings that were previously sturdy were now crumbling. The air, formerly clear, was now a dead grey. Cars that weren’t on fire before were now on fire. The friendly people that walked down the street were now packs of savage, bloodthirsty wolves.

Things were different.

The wolves took notice of Curtis and set off in his direction. They were frightening beasts.

Their eyes were hot, their mouths foamed, and their teeth were sharp and well-suited to ripping apart human flesh. Curtis watched the wolves run closer to his death, and then he checked his watch.

The time on the watch said 3:34. Curtis thought this was too early to wake up, so he took the watch off, placed the watch on his nightstand, and then went back to sleep.

AFRAID OF RAIN by Chris Wight

Now that you've accepted the fact that I'm a big, black English-speaking crow living in Japan, please allow me to tell you a fascinating story about a woman named Hiroko who struggled to stay dry on a rainy day. Hiroko had once left me half a sandwich on a park bench, perhaps unwittingly, and from then on the sight of her reminded me of delicious ham-and-cheese.

Yesterday at around dawn I had the misfortune of being perched high atop a utility pole with electric megaphones mounted on it, just as they crackled to life and broadcasted a public service announcement to the neighborhood - something about the possibility of heavy rain throughout the morning. I flew away, annoyed over having lost the perfect vantage point to my favorite trash bin.

Later I spied ham-and-cheese, I mean Hiroko, running across the road to the bus stop for no clear reason. Her body was stiff and her arms were stuck to her hips. She got in line behind the others and immediately opened her umbrella, which I thought strange, as it wasn't raining. Sure, the pavement was damp and a morning fog hung in the air, but I perceived no precipitation on my tightly-folded feathers.

I remembered the public service announcement from earlier in the morning, and concluded Hiroko must've been quite shaken by it. Indeed she wore an expression of anguish on her face.

The bus arrived and the people shuffled on board. Hiroko planted one foot in the bus before she dared to fold up her umbrella, even in the absence of falling moisture.

The station wasn't so far away as the crow flies, so I flew there, hoping Hiroko might drop some food.

A few minutes later the bus parked in a place not so close to the station entrance, and now the skies produced a light drizzle. Hiroko burst from the bus with her umbrella open and sprinted for cover. My superior eyes detected no signs of food dropped, nor any water on her legs or feet. My loss, her good fortune.

Later the clouds dispersed and it became a beautiful, sunny afternoon. From my spot atop a utility pole I spotted Hiroko getting off the bus and walking with another neighbor friend in my direction. They both had food in their hands!

As they approached, something happened which I am quite ashamed of; but I am an animal after all, and at times it's impossible to control my bodily functions. In all the excitement I excreted a stream of liquid guano as Hiroko passed beneath me, sprinkling her face and hair.

At first Hiroko reacted with the same pained expression I had seen at the bus stop that morning. Then she peered up and saw me. She and her friend looked at each other. Hiroko showed a look of relief, and both women laughed.

Then I understood: Hiroko wasn't afraid of getting wet. She was afraid of rain.


It moved through the crowd like some thuggish juggernaut of testosterone, all bulging muscles, and overpriced man-child clothing.

It didn't weave amongst the flow of pedestrians but rather marched straight through, bumping the shoulder of anyone within shoulder-bumping range. You could hear the thing grunting in homophobic satisfaction with every body it sent sprawling.

Its internal WiFi connection continuously scouring social media feeds of the surrounding humans, zeroing in on any potential target for it's rudimentary auto-troll subroutine.

All that auto-trolling had worked up a single voracious hunger within its tummy tum unit.

It stopped at a hotdog stand, barking oversexualized innuendo at patrons as they paused to take each bite; yet refusing to eat any itself, so as not to ruin it's diet of muscle shakes mixed with the tears of ex-girlfriends recently scorned.

It chugged the thermos man-shake. It belched to the tune of Nickelback. It continued its mission.

The ultimate goal of all the Misogynator BroBot-5000 units is to secretly suck up all the oxygen in its vicinity, and filter it through it's testostero-neutrino engine, thus poisoning the surrounding air with mind numbing BR-0 pathogens that cloud the cognition of any unfortunate enough to be exposed.

Just then, a spark. A twitch of the right ocular camera. Too much testosterone, OVERLOAD!

A rupture of the femoral artery caused the constricting crotch of its designer jeans to soak through with crimson motor oil. The entire hulking frame of the beast began to quake, and a pathetic gibbering escaped its oil stained lips. Sparks shot violently from between sculpted buttocks, turning the gore soaked jeans into a smoldering blaze that reeked of burning tires.

Suddenly an explosion blossomed to life amongst the surrounding patrons, sending bits of meat and bone in every direction. As the pink mist cleared, all that remained of the BroBot-5000 was two muscular calves sticking out of a mysteriously pristine pair of white Vans.

The survivors are left to pick up their shattered lives, and wonder why.