Monday, January 23, 2017

THROAT BABY by Edward Morris

My girlfriend says I snore, and stop breathing sometimes. She keeps recommending I go do this Sleep Study, and I keep rescheduling. Sucks dating a paramedic. Can't hide nothin'.
She says it sounds like I was drowning. Or there's something trying to swim up out of me. I am hard to sleep with. The whole right side of my pillow is usually covered in drool when I wake up. Part of life, I thought, but that changes when someone else starts to live with you.

I spit in a spiderweb this morning, by accident, in the hedge out front. It wound around the web, down and through, glittering. It stayed. The spider moved. I saw later. But that part stayed.

I'm trying to quit smoking cigarettes. Too many other things fucking with me, and I know it's never going to get any easier. It's just time. It's time. I'll go do that study. I will. I'll see what is putting the a in my apnea. But not this week. I'm free next week.

Always next week.Each time I spit, I feel like it wants to go back down. Like it wants to swim back home. There'll be a string of it hanging out, when I just spit on the street, and I have to pull and pull and pull.It comes off. Nothing weird. It eventually comes off.

My Grandpa smoked cigars when he was middle-aged and had allergies all his life. And that otolarynologyst (so funny to hear the word in Papa's North Georgia accent,)why, “He done took so many of those polyps out of my sinuses, he said he could have made me a little brother.”

They weren't cancerous. That doc, and others, said our family was 'chromosomal,' which was a fancy way of saying, 'Probably inbred way back, and just all kinds of neurofibrowhatsis brewing in the wings.'

I have an ecig. I love it. Tastes like ice cream and Otter Pops. I'm almost used to it as the go-to habit, because I feel suffused with nicotine when I'm done smoking it proper,which is different than the way you smoke a regular cigarette. Just a matter of switching habits. Of learning to embrace new mutations. Learning to learn to.

More strings. More strings this afternoon. The last one was hell, and when it split,there was a little blood. Not painful hell, just awkward hell walking around looking like a dork trying to get it off. Like I was puking on the sidewalk. Some old Grandma gave me a wide berth and goes, “Shoo. He still feelin' it.”

It is painful to live in cities, now. Painful to look at everything you can never have, to choke and choke and nothing comes up. The whole way home, I couldn't look at myself in any shop-window glass. Not even the mirrored front of Nike. I hung my head. I didn't know why. I didn't need to see.

My boots had a new crack in each one, I saw when I got up on the doorstep. There was no more money. I gagged, like you do when you brush your tongue. Down in my throat, something gagged back. That part seemed natural. Like it was just time.

The house drowsed on into the quiet. It was a safe place, or it used to be. Nowhere felt safe now. I was sorry, to the house. Sorry for what might happen.

Rushing into the bathroom, I selected my instrument tray at random. A Popsicle stick. Two fingers. An ear-syringe left over from a baby cousin's visit. A sense of the random. Timing. Something--


Something makes sense, for the first time. The world is about to change. I open up and say Aah.

Ah. AHHHHHH. Everything, maelstrom, suction, the whirlwind. My jaw cracking farther, wider.The walls begin to crackle, bloop and bend. I... fall. I am...Pulled. Upward. Thrust. Toward the ceiling. Dreaming---

Dreaming free. Free. I follow the push, and swim. And swim to---




“Jesus Christ, what the hell is it?”

“I dunno, man. It was just floating there in the sink. What's your roommate's name...Charlie...Charlie sick?”

“Dunno.” A long pause. “Haven't seen him around.”


Why would you fancy partners, when seeking is challenging and there are no guarantees you will actually land on one? There’s no reason to bother with mating - tricky, teasing, tiring, sometimes even painful - when you can manage to breed without. And all that mess! These were more or less Threlena’s thoughts, in that sunny September morning when she finally delivered six perfect babies, very much copies of herself. A sparkling example of parthenogenesis, which in turns made the Outside World interested indeed.

She looked at them with her eyes full of pride, admiring their healthy scales and their minuscule tails, while gobbling up with enthusiasm void shells and unopened eggs. A girl has to eat, after all that hard job. The hatchlings were quiet, their eyes closed; one, more adventurous, had just started opening her jaws. A tiny greenish tongue darted fast in the air, ready to pick up her first nourishment.

Threlena was going to take good precautions, keeping the babies coiled up in her tail. No predators she could see around that pristine glassy cage of hers, but hey, you never know. And guess what, motherly care never fails. Yet another surprise in store for her Keepers. They hadn’t ever seen one of her kind so attentive with the brood, she was ready to bet. She couldn’t wait to look at their amazed faces – and that was just the beginning. Threlena could only imagine all the photos, TV sets, and social networks – her popularity was going to be unrivalled – but that was only the beginning. Because she was going to use her celebrity to achieve something meaningful: make her species join the space exploration, the real one. If only those lusty space geckos in the Russian sex satellite had thought better before going out…She didn’t know if there had been others in the past, but she was sure they was not going to remain the only ones in the future: after all, you can’t trust lizards to be reasonable. What had they believed to achieve by luring their own Keepers into sending them on orbit, achieving immortality? Morons. It had been short-lived fame, and now they were resting dry, frozen and very dead somewhere in a science museum. If that were going to be the end game, she would still prefer her very worldly but comfy box.

Looking at her little ones, at those tiny slick bodies now eagerly swarming around in discovery, she could deem herself satisfied for the moment. But, as there’s no perfect happiness, there were a few other items on her to-do-list. For a start, manage to make hatchlings grow up safe, fit, and ready to strike. There was a dramatic scarcity of suitable live preys in the area, and it promised to be challenging to teach babies how to hunt. Note to self: make Keepers aware of the issue. Have Them fetch the necessary.

Second, get some satellite attention as well. News channels to be preferred. Just to show the brazen-faced, four-legged cousins they were not the only ones with initiative and prime time.

And then, the most important thing: beat the rest of the reptile world – mammals had never been real competitors; without that convenient Cretaceous meteorite, they would be still hiding up in the trees – and get first in line for the space race.
Going where it really mattered: Mars. Not on the surface, for sure – that, she would rather leave that to those crazy bipeds, thank you very much, and any suicide-inclined lizard – but in orbit, safely snuggled against a
scientist’s shoulder. Sure it existed some kindred spirit willing to take her and her little ones on board for the future glory of Planet Earth.

In exchange, she should do for them what no reptile had ever done before: educate the Outside World about the arcane details of snake breeding. That was a task that required time and efforts (lots, lots). They were powerful, her Keepers, and tech-savvy, yet lacking any observation spirit. Oddly believing that nature had to mirror their energy-consuming and inefficient replication process. Otherwise, They would have realised how things were for her long before. Well, no longer.

Threlena the space traveller was going to reward the fortunate ones on her path and make up for that shameful ignorance. After all, looking with your own eyes at another planet’s surface is the dream of all species, and they were entitled to her gratitude.

Coiling up in elation, Threlena let out a satisfied sigh. That was definitively not bad a thing for a six-year old captive green anaconda from Essequibo, Guyana. She slithered through the dew-brimmed foliage and devoured a solitary cricket, thankful for such a good start of the week.

KEENO AND THE CUBISTS by Russ Bickerstaff

Keeno didn’t have any problem with the Cubists moving into the neighborhood. He just wanted everyone to know that. He’d grown up in the area years ago when it was more . . . traditional . . . and he knew that it wasn’t going to stay that way forever. He went off to college and started a job that became a career and when he met a girl and married, the only place he could think of to raise their kids was the place where he grew-up. So he moved back into the neighborhood and everything was fine. There were babies that they took to see fireworks who toddled along into preschool and then grade school. And everything was fine. And then the Cubists started moving into the neighborhood.

It was perfectly normal at first. Walk your kids out to the park and you see a couple of Cubists their moving along on their straight lines in those weird jerky motions and you know your kids are going to ask questions later. But it’s a weird, little novelty and they learn to forget about it just like everything else. But then a couple days later you see them at the park again. And then the day after that, you see one of them walking down the street with her little cubist dog and you feel kind of weird about the whole thing. That’s when you start to notice the moving vans. Weird angular people unloading their weird angular furniture and all those goddamned boxes. It’s enough to make you lose your lunch.

Keeno didn’t have anything against the Cubists. At least, he didn’t like to think that he had anything specific against the Cubists. They were probably quite nice people. They were so colorful. You knew where they were right away. The Cubist houses were clearly visible from down the block. It’s not like they were trying to hide what they were or anything. In a way, that really was the problem ultimately.

They almost seemed to be flaunting their Cubism everywhere. They almost seemed to express a disdain for the rest of the world and all its curves and fixed perspectives and things. When pressed to explain exactly what he meant by this, Keeno had difficulty with specifics. The Cubists largely kept to themselves and seemed to be unwilling to interact with other people in the neighborhood due to how often they were stared at.

Maybe this was Keeno’s big problem with the Cubists: the fact that they didn’t seem to be willing to interact with the rest of the neighborhood. They were all secluded in their own cubical spaces when they weren’t flaunting all their straight lines in your face and they seemed to totally disregard the world around them.

Clearly something needed to be done, but it was unclear as to what exactly that might be. There was no way to make the roads or sidewalks curvier. The paths through the park were already quite curves. Nary a right angle anywhere in the entire park. There was nothing specific about the neighborhood that should have drawn any attention to them to bring them in. What was causing them to flock to the neighborhood in the first place?

Keeno wanted to investigate further, but his work had kept him far too busy to do so. This was a problem as thoughts of the Cubists kept distracting him from being able to focus on his work. He just kept thinking about their weird heads and their jerky movements and getting disgusted with all the straight lines and right angles in the world around him. Something had to be done. It was somewhere around the third time he had left work early in a week that things began to fall out of focus for
Keeno. He collapsed into bed and fell asleep, gradually coming into a dream of curve-less space that he was quite incapable of escaping until his own horror had finally pulled him into the cold embrace of full consciousness.

The rest was more than a little predictable. Keeno would have to get used to seeing things differently. It would be awhile before he could openly accept his own angularity and mutation of perspective. In time he would come to accept other Cubists. In time perhaps he would be able to even accept himself.


The swarm first appeared above the dozing village in the silvered light of a fat moon, which, though no one had noticed, looked remarkably like a well-fed oyster. An unusual beginning, not least, because all the bees were white: a hovering cloud of albino snow.

Then there was the incident of the rabbit. Old Willum had been sleeping under his customary bench, his elderly white head cushioned less than softly on yesterday’s newspaper. He claimed he was woken up by a white rabbit, which kissed him soundly on the mouth before lolloping over to the middle of the village green and disintegrating into the air as a swarm of white bees.

‘‘But Owd Will’m likes a drop of the heavy stuff,’’ said Gabe.

‘‘That he does, but the bees are real enough,’’ retorted John.

The two beekeepers were suiting up in order to deal with the swarm which, twelve hours on, was preventing the villagers living around the green from leaving their homes.

‘‘Real, but not right, if you know what I mean. Who’s ever heard of nocturnal, albino bees?’’

‘‘Granted, but it’s daylight now and the bees are still here. We’ve seen ‘em, same as Old Willum. He just got a bit confused as to what he was seeing. A bit like the time he woke up thinking he was a giant blue caterpillar.’’

‘‘Ah, but that was because the vicar had wrapped him up in an owd sleepin’ bag while he was catching zzzs. Confused him mightily until he sobered up, that did,’’ Gabe sniggered and carried on sniggering for longer than was truly necessary. John ignored him, treating him to a consciously dignified silence whilst continuing to don the necessary protective clothing.

Veiled, gloved and booted, the two men walked towards the swarm which, at their approach, sailed sedately across the green and into Mrs Dodgson’s award winning rose garden. Gabe and John followed in steady, if not exactly speedy, pursuit, too focussed on the bees to pay attention to Mrs Dodgson’s prize red and white blooms or the snow white cat crouched above them on the clematis arch.

As they passed under the arch, a cloud of white smoke from Mrs Dodgson’s garden bonfire wafted in front of their veils and by the time the smoke had thinned they had lost sight of the swarm. Though they searched the entire garden and those of all the neighbouring black and white cottages, they failed to find the bees’ new location. It was as if they had faded into the breeze.

The men were bemused and not a little frustrated, they had been banking on the unlikely swarm being worth a bit, but the villagers, now pouring like molasses out from their homes, were not unduly concerned. They were just grateful to be free of the constraint and able to be getting on with their business, whatever that might be. The village buzzed with renewed activity.

Mrs Dodgson remained indoors longer than most of her neighbours, but then her giant cannabis plants were going through a tricky stage in their growth cycle and needed her full attention. An earlier crop that hadn’t had enough of it, and had suffered as a consequence, was burning away discreetly on the bonfire in her back garden.

Out in the garden, the white cat, who had grown tired of the clematis and bored with waiting, stretched and grinned. He grew a pair of long ears and shortened his tail to a fluffy white scrap, then hopped off towards the rabbit hole at the foot of a nearby oak, disappearing in a puff of white fur and a fading smoke trail of silvery white bees.