9:27 a.m by Alex Z. Salinas

Alex z Salinas, Flash Fiction, Torch Songs

9:27 a.m.

By Alex Z. Salinas

It’s 9:27 a.m. and Larry Rios decides with a scorned lover’s swiftness that 9:27 a.m. is the most perilous of timestamps—because ten minutes after 9:27 a.m. it’s 9:37 a.m., which means it’s three minutes from 9:40 a.m. and 9:40 a.m. is only twenty minutes (or one-third of an hour) away from 10 a.m., and by 10 a.m. it’s one hour until 11 a.m.—so-called late morning, subsisting only for one hour, sixty minutes, 3,600 seconds—and then bam! Morning’s donezo, baby. See ya mañana. The birds’ll keep chirping, sure, but the chirping’ll hit differently. Larry consults his watch: 9:30 a.m.

Bio: Alex Z. Salinas lives in San Antonio, Texas. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections from Hekate Publishing: WARBLES (2019) and DREAMT, or The Lingering Phantoms of Equinox (2020). His poems, short fiction and essays have appeared in various print and electronic publications. He holds an M.A. in English Literature and Language from St. Mary’s University.

Out NOW! Death by Punk

Anthology, Art, Flash Fiction, Indie, Poetry, punk

Dumpster Fire Press unleashes its first anthology…DEATH BY PUNK a tribute to the spirit of punk rock, DIY and counter culture, intermingled with good old fashioned writing about death with a bit of existential dread thrown in (ah, poets)Featuring poets, writers and artists from around the globe! Whether you want to relive glory days, looking to explore or even seeking ways to unfetter yourself from past lives to the here and now DEATH BY PUNK is a hell of a read! OI , OI, OI!

GRAB DEATH BY PUNK HERE!

First Snow by Marko Antic

Flash Fiction, Marko Antić, Short Stories

FIRST SNOW

The beginning is November. November 3rd, actually. Already? We are both warmly dressed, and yet I took that ridiculously larger blanket again, as if we were going on a September picnic. You know, one of those especially magical trips of ours, with sandwiches, chocolate, wine, and Indian chopsticks whose fumes supposedly repel mosquitoes.

I hug you and kiss you, hug you until they “crunch”, sniff your wavy hair that spills over the black coat you got for your birthday and wear it for years, until it gets its place of honor in the closet dedicated to the Holy Things of Youth.

It’s dusk. We walk towards the forest. I can feel the smog. Yes, the first sign of winter.

“It is a grove where a dog with different eyes lives. Remember, we petted him back then. It’s magical. ”

“I remember. Anyway, is the Mp3 player still kidding you? I brought it to you

walkman. ”

“Great, I found my sister’s dictaphone too. I also have some audio cassettes and batteries. Hehe, my special compilations… ”

We play the tape, open a bottle of rum, stick cheek to cheek, share headphones and sips of rum. Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd, Haustor, Azra, Leonard Cohen…

The first snowflakes soon fluttered towards your curls. We found shelter under a small pine tree. Then I took a blanket, we spread it out and improvised a standing tent for two.

A tent of love, good music, curly hair, the first November snow and eternal kisses. A tent that I will remember forever.

Marko Antić was born on October 11th 1980 in Paraćin, Serbia. He is an underground poet and writer.  His work is published in the fanzine “Green Horse” and Serbian and regional poetry and short stories anthologies. Formal education: Bachelor of Law

The Deadlands by Tom Leins

All Due Respect, Brit Grit, Close To The Bone, Flash Fiction, Indie, Short Stories, Tom Leins

THE DEADLANDS

By Tom Leins

The burn is horrendous and I struggle to look him in his good eye.

His only eye.

His face hasn’t healed, and he smells charred – like he has crawled out of the belly of hell itself.

Virgil is a tall man in a rust-brown suit. The severed nub of his thumb protrudes from the soiled looking plaster-cast on his right arm. He scratches his ruined face. 

“Will you be able to get her back?”

I nod, and he wheezes with relief. He removes a creased photograph from his wallet.

The girl has hair the colour of melted caramel. She flashes the camera a tight smile, which never quite reaches her eyes. Her collarbone seems to be tattooed. I pick up the photo and squint. It looks like a flatlining heartbeat, with the words ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ tattooed underneath.

“Can I keep it?”

He grunts.

“I don’t need the photo back, Mr Rey. Just my daughter.”

***

I survey the hellscape in front of me. The horizon is a jagged blur of burned-out, skeletal-looking houses and abandoned office blocks.

The Underworld looms large in the middle: a labyrinthine subterranean nightclub presided over by an elderly tycoon named Harry Hades. It’s only a year old – built on the site a notorious crime scene. Ten boys were found in the vacant lot – their bodies entirely drained of blood. People said that the Bone Daddy did it, but I don’t believe in ghosts.

‘The Underworld’ is spelled out in lurid, neon lights. Underneath, in smaller lights, are the words ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’.

I step past the expressionless, gargoyle-esque doormen and into the vestibule – my boots crunching on a bloody mixture of maggots, lice and dried pus. The grinding bass is so low it makes my guts churn.

There are nine doors, evenly spaced out. A word has been carved onto each door: Limbo. Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Wrath. Heresy. Violence. Fraud. Treachery. The Nine Circles of Hell.

I pause next to Lust. The door opens a crack and sultry laughter oozes through the gap.

I turn abruptly as Gluttony swings open. The room disgorges a tide of putrid slush into the lobby.

I choose Violence. One way or another, I always choose Violence.

***

The door opens with an infernal creak. A wave of evil, reeking heat takes my breath away. It’s as hot as hell and twice as ugly. The men drinking themselves into damnation are the worst of the worst. Child murderers. Spree killers. Degenerates. The violently unhinged. Sickness comes off them in waves. They rub shoulders, careful not to look one another in the eye – or spill each other’s pints. Their names are tattooed on their foreheads, their crimes inked on their knuckles.

My armpits feel rancid with sweat. Perspiration stings my bloodshot eyeballs. As I pass through the crowd, hushed voices rasp like flame. Yellow eyes glare at me from the gloom.  Pale, naked girls drift around the room, drinks trays in hand. I grab a drink to try and alleviate the blast-furnace heat, but it tastes hellish, so I spit the fiery liquid back in the glass and place it on the next tray that passes my way.

At the back of the room, Harry Hades slouches in an obscene gold-plated wheelchair. A girl – Beatrice – performs a private dance for him. There’s a choke-chain wrapped around her throat – fastened to his wheelchair. Her movements are weary, her feet are calloused. She has been condemned to perform a relentless slow grind by a bored sadist.

***

Harry Hades is old. Not frail, but old enough to have lost his fear of death. He jerks the chain and the girl falls at his feet. He removes his tinted sunglasses. His eyes look dead.

“How can I help you, young man?”

His dentures are so big that he can’t close his mouth when he grins at me.

I hold the photograph up for his inspection.

He shrugs.

“If you think she was here, she probably was.”

“I’m going to need her back.”

Another shrug.

“I care little about what happens outside The Underworld, young man. I have everything I need down here. But no one steals a soul from my realm.”

I don’t have the energy to talk to this rotten old motherfucker – especially in this heat – so I throw a brutal right hook at his elderly face – crumpling his bone-structure like a scrapyard hatchback.

Streaky blood leaks from his broken mouth. He spits a mouthful at my feet and speaks in a nasal whine.

“How about I let my hell-hound off his leash?”

It’s an idle threat, and I let it hang in the air – like the stale smoke from his high-tar cigarettes.

“Do your worst, Hades.”

“Cerberus.”

Crouched behind the wheelchair, attached to a second choke-chain, is a lean, tattooed guy with a flick-knife sneer and a mangled ear. Hades yanks his leash. He scampers across the floor on his hands and knees, before springing to his feet.

I forget his real name, but he’s a Scottish ex-bareknuckle fighter who was banned for life after killing two men in the cage. His torso is layered in clumsy prison ink: skulls, daggers, obscenities. In the middle of his chest is a brand-new tattoo of a three-headed dog with a serpent for a tail. It’s so new, the tattoo is still wrapped in clingfilm.

Hades unclips the chain, and I see the man’s muscles bunch and harden.

I don’t give him the time to make a move – I grab his leash and wrench his pale face towards my fist. Once. Twice. Three times. On the floor, he whimpers like a kicked hell-hound.

Hades attempts to scramble away from me, but his slip-on shoes look skittish – like hooves on a blood-slick abattoir floor – and his withered legs give way immediately. His forehead hits the concrete and blood as thick as mould oozes from his ruptured skull.

I place Beatrice on the vacant wheelchair and move towards the exit.

Cretinous faces leer at me, but no one makes a move to stop me.

I retrieve a complementary matchbook from the table next to the exit, strike a match and drop it in the pocket of one of the nylon bomber jackets hanging on the coat-rack.

Kick up the fire, and let the flames break loose.

I doubt these rotten bastards will even notice.

The End

Bio: Tom Leins is a crime writer from Paignton, UK. His books include Boneyard DogsTen Pints of BloodMeat Bubbles & Other Stories (all published by Close to the Bone) and Repetition Kills You and The Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard Men (both available from All Due Respect). For more details, please visit:

https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/

Todor Flew by Damjan Pejović

Damjan Pejović, Flash Fiction, International Noir, Marija Stanojević, Poetry, Short Stories

TODOR FLEW

    Black patent shoes covered in mud looked shabby as well as, moreover, whole appearance of the clerk Todor. That very night as always… After he took them off and left them in a narrow vestibule, in woollen socks he went to the shed table in the dining room, while farina porridge was steaming on its top. Skinny sonny boy named Toma already slurped it big time.

  • Me flying!…. Me? – scatterbrained, he told his wife Milena, who was spreading jam on thin slices of bread in a little kitchen.
  • What did he say, why in hell? – his wife Milena asked him, just to say something in return.
  • Why! Why! You ask why?! – Todor was amazed, while the difference between his higher and lower blood pressure begun to perish. – At first, he didn’t say a thing, but he said that after I withheld my support for reformation of five-year acquisition plan in the cooperative.

    Blood pressures met each other halfway. While they exchanged impulses, Todor was levitating a bit tilted, even upside down over the table, touching a light bulb of 45 candles with his socks.   

  • Not in a hell! Me flying, well not in a hell! – shouted Todor.

    Wife Milena dropped a jar of jam, that smashed on tiles. She shouted in panic: – Ouch, ouch!… ho-ho… – pulling her messy, grayish hair and running around in circle.

    Skinny Toma bewilderedly smiled.

    A clerk Todor started swimming in frog style and flew out the window, lured by evening air filled with bluish vapors. When blood pressures again parted, he was already about fifty meters away from the building… so claim those who run into his smashed corpse.

                                                                                                        Timisoara

                                                                                         December 12th,, 1999

Translated by

Marija Stanojević

BIOGRAPHY

Born 01.05.1977 in Belgrade.

Founder of literary nonprofit organization “Dimitrije Tirol” 1995 godine, for young Serbian writers from Romania, Timisoara. Main and responsible editor, editor for prose in literary zine “Zeleni konj” (Green Horse), which is been published every 3 months, now we have published 32th issue.

Publish in Romania:

  • Poems in anthology “Ni nuli ne bih ćutnju oprostio” with other writers from “Dimitrije Tirol” which was published in year 1999;
  • Stories and poems in anthology “Zeleni konj 6 godina – izbor priča i pesama“, in year 2019 where were also editor for stories.
  • Short stories and poems in Timisoara newspapers on Serbian: “Naša reč”, “Književni život”.

Publish in Serbia:

  • Story’s in anthology “Najkraće priče 2005”, publisher Alma;
  • Story’s in anthology “357”, publisher “Književne vertikale”
  • Publishing short stories and poems in following newspapers: “Književna reč”, “Zeleni konj”, ”Književne vertikale” and on internet portals (“Balkanski književni glasnik”, “Rastko”, “Poeziranje”…).

Publish in Europe:

  • Poem in artistic magazine ”Nekazano” from Montenegro;
  • Graphic story in magazine ”Gold Dust” from United Kingdom;
  • Short story in magazine ”Between These Shores Literary & Arts Annual”. Annual

Founder of artistic center in Belgrade named “Zemoon” in year 2017, where was responsible for literature.

Founder of nonprofit organization ”Zeleni konj” in Belgrade in year 2019, which is publishing literary zine, books, organize literary events and international exhibitions of various arts

As was for many year in scrap metals business have become passionate collector of figures and sculptures which are sorted from metal scrap.  

Living in two countries, Serbia and Romania, am divided between Belgrade and Timisoara.

John Wisniewski interviews Bill Baber

Bill Baber, Flash Fiction, Indie, Interviews, John Wisniewski, Poetry, Shotgun Honey, T Fox Dunham

When did you begin writing, Bill?

I took writing classes in high school as well as Journalism. Wrote for the school paper and continued that in college. I wrote for small newspapers for many years before switching to fiction, which is much more enjoyable! The deadlines are much more manageable!

Any favorite crime authors?

How much space do you have? JamesCrumley is the reason I write crime fiction. To me, “The Last Good Kiss” is the best crime novel ever written. James Lee Burke is a close second and I really enjoy Don Winslow and Dennis Lehane.

Then there are all the writers who are part of the online community and that is a long list- Joe Clifford, Tom Pitts, Rob Pierce, S. A Cosby, Brian Panowich, Chris De Wildt, Greg Barth, Bruce Harris, Chris McGinley, Jim Shaffer, and Johnny Shaw (Love the Jimmy Veeder Series.) Lately I have read a couple of books by Andrew Rausch-not for the faint of heart. Then there are the chaps from across the pond, Paul Brazil, Tom Leins, Ken Bruen and on and on-I hope they all know who they are!

Lastly, T. Fox Dunham wrote a book a few years ago called The Street Martyr. It is damn near perfect.

This is a partial list as there are a number of other great writers that deserve mention!

What makes a good crime novel?                                                                                     

Tough question. The reason I like Crumley and James Lee Burke is because they bring a literary side to the genre. Dialogue is important, it has to be believable. And a little humor helps. Lately, I have been drawn to stories featuring characters that are hard core criminals. Tommy Shakes by Rob Pearce and American Trash by Andrew Rausch are great examples. Pearce’s book should come with a warning- “Do Not Read With A Full Stomach!” It is disturbing- and about as real as crime fiction gets. When I wrote a review of American Trash I said I didn’t know if I should be outraged or entertained. I felt a little guilty that I liked it. Both were like reading Edward Bunker- dark and disturbing but real crime fiction.

You write poems as well as crime fiction. Could you tell us what interested you about poetry?

Back in the 70’s I was enamored with the writing of Richard Brautigan. I read all his novels and short stories. All that was left was two volumes of poetry. I was not a fan of poetry-until then. His was very easy to understand as was stuff written by Gary Snyder. I thought I could do similar stuff. I was in my twenties, living in a cabin in the redwoods of northern California. I still have those poems floating around. They weren’t very good. It was thirty years before I started writing poetry again.

The poetry I write is mostly spontaneous prose. Something pops into my head and I write it down. It requires very little in the way of editing. When I was first published, I was living in Central Oregon which is big, wild country. It was “nature” poetry because I was surrounded by raw beauty every day. I just wrote what I saw. Had a book of poems published in 2011.

A few years ago, I discovered a crime poetry site, The Five-Two. I was fortunate enough to have a number of poems appear there, two of which were nominated for “Best of the Net” consideration.

Could you tell us writing “Betrayed “? What inspired you?

 “Betrayed” was an anthology about domestic violence that was put together by Pam Stack, the woman behind “Authors on the Air.” My contribution, “No One Heard” is a story about multi-generational abuse. It might be the darkest thing I have written but it was what the subject called for. The title is still out there, and proceeds go to survivors of domestic violence.

How do you create such gritty characters?

 I am an observer of people. And it helped that I spent fifteen years working as a bartender in a small town. I got to know some real characters who had criminal tendencies. Many of my characters are based on them or guys I knew growing up in San Francisco. Now, I look at people and see if I could imagine them a s a criminal, you know, do they have larceny in their heart? And if you walk around Tucson or Phoenix there seems to be no shortage of people you could imagine as characters in a crime story.

How have you managed to be so prolific a writer, Bill, publishing nearly fifty stories? 

I need to update that; it is well past fifty now. My first crime story was published at “Out of the Gutter” back in 2010. Writing is a hobby for me- and a release. I work long hours for corporate America, so it is difficult to stick to any kind of a schedule. Most of those stories have been flash fiction at sites like OOTG, Shotgun Honey, Close to the Bone and Yellow Mama. Maybe a dozen stories that have been published have been longer, I’m trying to force myself to go more in that direction.

What will your next story be about?

I have a story in the just released “Coming Through in Waves” Crime Fiction based on the songs of Pink Floyd. It is titled Arnold Layne and is named for the bands first single. The story is about a million-dollar jewel heist that is interrupted by Arnold’s strange hobby.  This collection was edited by T. Fox Dunham and has some incredible stories by a bunch of great writers. It was an honor to be included!

I am currently working on a story that starts with an armed robbery and a bunch of meth in Tucson and ends with a triple cross and lots of bodies in Albuquerque.

Could you tell us about writing “Sleepwalk “, an award-winning short story?

For the record, it was nominated for a Derringer award by John Thompson, the editor at Dead Guns Press where it appeared. It was set in Tucson. I walked around the barrio where the late Isaac Kirkman, who was well known and loved in the writing community lived. It was during the monsoon season. A thunderstorm was brewing, and it was easy to picture the city fifty years earlier. Tucson has that timeless feel about it. It’s an easy place for a noir tale to take hold.

A son kills the man who murdered the father he never knew. And the fathers best friend lives with guilt and regret for not doing it himself. It was different than anything I had written before. If I had to pick a favorite story of mine, “Sleepwalk” might be it

Six Sentences is BACK!

Flash Fiction, Paul D. Brazill, Robert McEvily, Six Sentences

The Six Sentences ezine was set up by Robert McEvily is 2006. It was super popular and it even spawned a few anthologies. Contributors have included Cormac Brown, Jeanette, Cheezum, Paul D. Brazill and Etan Hawk!

And it’s BACK!

This is the SP:

‘It’s simple. Just write six sentences. Say anything you like. Send your work (including its title) along with your name (or pseudonym), your bio, and any links you’d like to include to robmcevily@gmail.com. All submissions receive a response when you least expect it. Please see Formatting for further details.’

So CHECK OUT SIX SENTENCES !

Palace of Swords Reversed by K A Laity

Flash Fiction, K A Laity, Short Stories, The Fall

Palace of Swords Reversed

‘Look, this is the Five of Swords. That means conflict or strife. Which seems appropriate, right?’ Joy looked up with bright eyes but Will only grunted. ‘Strife it is, indeed. Oh, but look! It’s reversed. Now let me remember. Oh, no I can’t. I have to peek.’

Joy picked up the well-thumbed Rainbows and Unicorns spiral notebook she had bought at WS Smith at the beginning of this new enthusiasm. She had taken notes more carefully  than ever she had in school. Perhaps she had only needed the right subject to awaken the avid scholar within. ‘Ah reversed: here it is. An ongoing conflict, one you can never win so you just need to walk away. Avoid it. Well, that’s a new path to walk as Mother Shipton would say.’

Will offered no reply to this. Perhaps he had grown tired of Mother Shipton says this, Mother Shipton advises that. Perhaps he realised that she had drawn her name from a slightly more famous, somewhat earlier, vaguely notorious psychic of some sort who had a cave now doing a bustling business as a tourist destination in Yorkshire. Perhaps he wasn’t listening.

‘Now this one seems obvious, but it’s not. We had many discussions about this trump. They’re called trumps, you know,’ Joy said, the excitement evident in her voice and the way she bounced on her chair. When they met back in the local primary school, he had found that endearing and told her so. So much energy in such a small bundle was what he always said.

‘The Death card is much feared, and it looks rather daunting, but it doesn’t necessarily doom you,’ she added with a giggle. ‘It means a big change. Things cannot go back to the way they were. An old life is ending—not always literally, mind you!—and a new one begins. That’s encouraging, don’t you think? I think so!’

Will sighed and coughed a little. He was having some trouble breathing. It may have been the knife in his throat.

‘But the last card: that’s the way forward. Look, Will. Knight of Swords. Two swords in this spread. Past and future both the same suit.’ Joy looked over at Will. The spill of red blood down the front of his vest looked rather like a bib, which struck her as funny.

‘The Knight cards area always about energy and motion. Mother Shipton says that real knights were seldom better than mercenaries! Nothing like the stories at all. You know, King Arthur and all that. Maybe Guy Ritchie was right, they were thugs. You liked that film, didn’t you?’

Will did not respond.

‘Motivation. Oh who was that, Will? Comedian fellah, doing the football manager. You know! The three Ms: motivation, motivation, motivation. How we laughed. It was on the YouTube. You remember, I know you do. Motivation, determination, overcoming challenges. Don’t let anything faze you. Brazen it out.’

Joy pulled the knife from his neck and Will fell forward onto the table. Fortunately the vinyl tablecloth would keep the blood from staining the veneer. Incoherent babble emanated from his shape and his hands clawed uselessly at his sides. It had been a good idea to tie him up. Serves him right for nodding off right in the middle of his tea. Four cans of Boddingtons before he sat down! No wonder.

‘I was wondering what I would tell the polis when they came,’ Joy said, more serious now, ‘but as I turn the matter over in my head, I think I may just wait for a nice dark night and slip you into the compost.’

Will did not offer an opinion on the matter.

‘Listen, I’ll call Alice in a few days. Oh Alice, Will left me for a woman Ayrshire! Or should it be France?’ Joy pursed her lips, thinking. Inspiration hit and she turned over another card.

‘Queen of Wands. Ooh, I like that. Independent woman. Wands…hmmm…Poles! I know, you’ve run off with Polish woman to France. Ha! So much for your Brexit, take back control nonsense, Will. You must admit you were wrong about that.’

Will admitted nothing.

Joy wet her thumb and cleaned the drop of blood off the Death card. ‘Can’t have that, now can we?’

Punk Rock Reaper by Mike Zone

Flash Fiction, Mike Zone, Poetry, punk

Mike Zone is the Editor in Chief of Dumpster Fire Press, the author of One Hell of a Muse, A Farewell to Big Ideas and Void Beneath the Skin, as well as coauthor of The Grind.  A managing editor at Concrete Mist Press, a frequent contributor to Alien Buddha Press and Mad Swirl. His work has been featured in: Horror Sleaze Trash, Better Than Starbucks, Piker Press, Punk Noir Magazine, Synchronized Chaos, Outlaw Poetry and Cult Culture magazine.

Punk Rock Reaper

            ….and you wake up without a sense of makeup. What is my DNA? How much of it is determined by brain patterned and external stimuli as eyeliner washes through tears of bitter salt and sawdust sweat from the venue the night before, throat still hoarse from howling at the show, why do I got this bike chain and heart-shaped lock necklace around my neck and was I weeping again in bed not alone looking at someone who may not be a girl in my mohawk skull Molotov cocktailed eyes t-shirt…flaming, stumble back looking down at phantom pants.

A ghost stands before me in the outline of me, pants around ankles. Snicker almost laughing induced to vomit, the bathroom awaits but the body quivers.

Down back on back. A sense of vertigo, we do not die of death, but we die of spinning collisions star dust constructs underneath stars drinking poison, smoking poison, copulating sometimes in back alleys or the grounds of cracked up erupting parking lot.

Missing my pal, Shambles, mourning over a good year straight…they call me Rummy ‘cause I don’t drink or didn’t drink but used to talk like a pirate to the one-legged guy in the bar who never got the joke…was Shambles part of my makeup, is he part of makeup? Is that what the void is, the ghostly hole in my chest where my heart should be draining the color the world away…not really, just numb everything feels like it’s gone television static.

Straight edged ashen haired angels of the moonlit night looking to snuff out the sun, tattooed black magic marker-esque “x” to mark the spot of what doesn’t go through protruding veins: NO DRUGS, NO BOOZE, NO SEX, dangerously blowing away in the windblown world dancing like a Zen leaf propelled by the rapture of life, talking mystic shit, Jesus being Wizard, preaching on corners until one day the notion of a collective came in our minds, Shambles; shaggy haired blue in plaid pants and leather jacket

“We can be like spinning dervishes but punk as fuck with real anarchy in the USA. Get in touch with my old boy from Santa Cruz, we’ll head down there Rummy, make life what it is, spit in the face of this neo-fascist conformity. None of this vigilante sidekick shit for the man anymore, working office supply stores, like shaving legs and wearing chainmail underwear for the caped crusader but not truly making a dent in crime. Get me?”

We raised hell at Knockers, telling people how and where they went wrong and just as the sunrise gracelessness of a brand new day heralded itself as I fell before a porcupine pink haired girl looking all wholesome as a girl scout touched her hair earlier that day, something felt like a loss as I entered her something downcast from chest like an anchor weighing me to the planet as I blasted away prematurely while at that precise moment in time half way across town, Shambles whose life was anything but had his brains blown out on the sidewalk three steps from our door, face down…

NOBODY saw anything, turns out NOBODY happened to be EVERYBODY.

And in the moment when sex and death became interlocked on this mortal plane all sense that made sense of this world stopped making sense and the nonsensical absurdity of it all fell upon me like darkness, nothing star lit with a black canvas backdrop with Hollywood basement lights but an utterly cold onyx thing…invisible yet breathing inside me.

Looking around the apartment we both shared; nails and staples hanging out the walls where old flyers, posters and flags hung…it’s a mausoleum crucifying my mindscape with survivor’s guilt…I creep into the bathroom feeling a razor along my loins and open down below, the cabinet where I keep a jar of dirt intermingled with Shamble’s brains the pigs forgot to clean up, placed next to it is an old school rotary dial telephone-

            “In case you ever need to talk.” She says from behind, probing a grating memory as I sit Indian style with a receiver to my ear.

Something causes me to bristle, artic sweat bourbon scented…it’s a toxic flush without vomit or excretion. The subzero blood coursing through my body all of a sudden warms me comfort wise provoking the imagery of a hot chocolate being slide over to me in a bone chipped mug and a hug from behind by unseen hands from the lover never to be and I wonder if death has come for me ‘cause I haven’t exactly been living life…

If this is what you can call “life.”

            “But in that great wasteland of desolation slow-death as we grind to a halt growing with cancer the infinite materialistic bullshit stops killing us through blackout where you can see the universe being born.”

Shambles under a streetlamp, on top of me, grinding in an experimental way after a homophobic slur was made.

            “It sucks when shambles of memories are the only remains of someone who was anything but.”

She’s trying to get me to look at her and that’s when I remember The Doll House several blocks away and The Doll House looking at me in a series of dreams. I close my eyes and rise, starting to turn around knowing when my lids life, I’m going to be finding something just as depraved.

And I do…it’s what I’ve always suspected the eye-teeth of brain chomping at my soul-essence to be and I can read her mind almost, only it’s like seeing a movie…translated into audio neon light letters exploding psychedelically in a pocket of consciousness as sensory receptors adapt to reality; what happens when he fucks Death to create life in order to slay everyone in the nuclear cold war winter holocaust meant to be?

Maybe Death just can’t take it or doesn’t know what lies beyond those gates.

            “Of course I know what happens after you die Henry, I’m Death, not the wholesome girl you saw several years ago during your straight edge celibacy who was killed in that hit and run.”

I remember she looked at me and smiled until the yellow cab jumped the curb and she flipped up in the air landing on her back on the concrete, spike haired snapping at the point of impact like her spine and neck, looking at me with profound loss but devoid of feeling. Black leather coat and skirt with fishnet stockings like a funeral shroud.

Shambles taking me to a show that night, spinning and spinning telling me to focus on that loss and her eyes looking at the house lights coming down on us and even though I hated the world there was a moment of joy celebrating a stranger’s life and the sacred never to fully explored romance we probably would never have shared. Catching moonlight on my tongue as the cold snow descended, Shambles and Rummy arm in arm talking about taking solace in infinite loss where one can find infinite love.

“It may not be hardcore my friend at first glance, but these are the most brutal and sharpest words and experiences that refine our immortal engines into an equilibrium none of us can truly fathom until we die and don’t come back anymore.”

“You’re never going to be hear from him, Rummy. It’s over I suggest you quit trying to call him.”

Her face is the void. It’s a white-hot void, shining like a comet crashed and lodged into someone’s skull, her hair is strands of strands of shadow but shiny and fine. Is the entity Death evidence we came from stars? I know she won’t say as he places two slender ivory hands upon her naked hips making my t-shirt sexier than it ever was even after belonging to Shambles and not ever washing it after he died.

Is this death? Death as an entity talking to me. We all mostly cry when we’re born because we’re on the way toward end and that’s the sweet tragedy of it all as we pretend to live and I realized that despite what Shambles said, everything was wrong turning my black magic marker “X” tattoos into symbols of self-eradication rather than blockading those unholy influences…Give me all the sex. All the drugs. All the booze? Don’t give me no cares or false meanings, we’re all going down the same path…animals in the human in fake cages rendering us savages, savage is the root word for brave so it’s brave to be a savage and-

“Boring Henry, you’ve been given what everyone’s been given, a lifetime and here you go wasting it away.  Why? Due to a series of unfortunate events meant to challenge rather than deflate? I know the answer, but I ask you.”

“None of it’s real, why I should pay mind? Punks, posers, and Nazis in the street. I see them all despite all this existential cosmic reckoning Shambles told me about and it’s all a huge zero-sum loss devoid of anything real.”

“So, what do you want, despite having an entire lifetime to craft anything but even though to your mind it’s all meaningless?”

“Something real. Purpose. Meaning. Something where I know, I’m not dying all the time.”

“I’d like to smell flowers Henry, eat a piece of blueberry pie with some black coffee and be able to fall in love, bring life rather than take and when I shut the door to my own existence, leave into an eternity with a smile on the face that I don’t have.”

Something looming over me, picturing myself as a kid in the suburbs crewcut running across the grass, playing basketball in high school, sitting in an economics class in college and one day just getting up to say Fuck it. Was a virgin until Shambles got killed, didn’t become Rummy until I decided to drink and really become a Rummy without the pirate talk and about to say Fuck it again and jump out the fucking window.

“You’re too much of a coward to jump out the window Rummy. Don’t look at me like that, I’m Death as much I despise it and can no longer remain indifferent to it all, I see and know the end of everything which isn’t as pleasant as you’d think it to be even if my existence is saturated with purpose.”

“Do you know about my dream?”

“At The Doll House? Yes.”

“It happens tonight, doesn’t it?”

            Goosebumps along my neck as Death seems to be bristle and turn around with either fear or a heavy sense of shame and guilt and I have to wonder why she is paying me a visit, when in fact I have an idea and something like a smile of sickness spreads across the face that I wish I didn’t have and perhaps this is sense coming back and the entire point of things not mattering has brought me to this sensible sense of being right her and now.

Kismet. Death and I at the crossroads. Robert Johnson to the Devil for a guitar on the road to somewhere. Death and me in this bathroom in some sort of just as equally mythic exchange.

“For a man who doesn’t see the meaning of living, you sure have an ego, Henry.”

“I’m not Henry.”

She faces me and there’s a blue nebulous swirling in the glowing white-hot void.

“You’re not Rummy, either.”

“Did you prevent that fire?”

“It wasn’t time.”

“What?”

“It wasn’t my place to set that fire.”

Punk bastards. They all needed to die.

“Death transcends time, perhaps you’ll get your chance. If you can accept the responsibility, however I have to ask, why you’d take me away and bring me home if you didn’t want to die? Was it the thrill of dispatching various lives and the off chance of creating life amidst it all erotically charging for you or was it just flight or fight…live to procreate another day like another savage animal, a final act of bravery? See, I’d like your take on before moving on.”

“Moving on, where?”

“There are two scenarios Henry. One of them was where you lived to a ripe old age with the young woman you mistook me for last night but that won’t happen, obviously…no Henry, one is where you get the purpose you deserve for wasting a lifetime.”

“The other?”

“You jump out that fucking window, like you were contemplating. Some people can fight so hard, they can change what was planned all the way to their natural end.”

This isn’t real. I start pounding both sides of my head with each fist, feeling nothing. Eyes shut. Teeth clenched. I know my sins all too well and the reward for everything is all too great.

“Or so you believe, and you have to ask yourself, if its’ worth it.”

She’s not really speaking, her speech is invading my brain, I look over and Death crosses her arms.

“On my end, it’s totally worth it” She actually says.

Fuck her. Fuck them. Fuck everyone. Fuck Shambles. Fuck myself and most importantly fuck Death.

            I push Death out of the way and fall through someone that isn’t there crashing into the doorway, feeling a rib crack puncture something inside, a wet snapping noise, fluid where it shouldn’t be along the walls of my lungs, there’s no leap of faith but a jump from a fourth story window and it’s like I’m moving and it’s heading toward me like a freight train, numb to impact as glass shatters taking cracking blinds with me as the sidewalk launches upward toward my magnetically animated meet structure…head first melon explosion, there’s an eyeball near the gutter, I’m pretty sure is mine.

 There’s shrieking and another yellow cab hits a fire hydrant as I rise teetering back and forth, still able to see out of my remaining eye, I’m not dead yet, somehow walking all crooked like. The cab driver looks at me, and at first it isn’t who I called to pick me up on the morning I saw the girl, knowing the driver would be drunk and what he might do, it’s HER…then it isn’t and there’s the squeal of a tire and of course try to brace myself for impact seeing it my mind as I’m pinned to a shop wall with pink intestines on the hood and some yellow pus green oozed substances from chest, black bile out my mouth.

 He gets out the car but isn’t he…Death pulls out a transparent umbrella as I projectile vomit more bile.

            “Is this really what you desire?”

Something black like a lung slithers out my mouth, smelling of shit and gasoline.

            “You are a wicked creature, aren’t you? Self-proclaimed martyr. Manufacturer of sorrow. Deny yourself pleasure in hedonism, deny yourself pain in the shirking of responsibility but the universe doesn’t exactly work that way, things aren’t as random as you’d like to believe.”

She tosses the bile soiled umbrella and jumps on the hood of the cab, pulling me up by shaggy blue hair, plaid pants ripping, ankles shattering, lays me flat on my back, severed feet underneath the car’s muffler and straddles me.

            “Can you believe what was inside you? Does it even matter? No, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t, things that were supposed to happen didn’t happen but something else happened cosmically to sort of balance it out and here we are right now. You’re dying not like you were supposed to because you found a way to sabotage destiny with enough fateful disturbances and while I shudder to offer you an exit for which I know you deeply yearn for, I decided to make you work for it, even give you a way out because it’s more of a mercy than what you actually seek.”

Death begins grinding our pelvic regions against each other. My optic nerves catch on fire as light transforms to darkness and lightness into dark, space into void, void into space. She’s going to give me what I’ve always wanted.

It disgusts her and I love it.

Don’t have to fake nothing for no one anymore. No more lying to myself. An end to bourbon and gin drownings, heroin hazes and sexual distraction from self-deceit…yeah, I guess by chance I killed that girl with the intention of hopefully doing so, I vandalized various members of Nazi homes and punk’s hangouts blaming rival groups to meet up at The Doll House to instigate a brutal brawl to start an electrical fire and cook every last one of them with the chance of tasting a bit of crisped human flesh and lastly, yes I leaked Shambles plan to the local drug-lord because I started to believe there could be meaning and fuck him for attempting to relay it to me as I wanted none of that.

            She enters me with something I should have, organs bubbling and skeleton shattering as my blood dries up and prism lightning from eyes and mouth set the landscape aflame feeling like a tidal wave rather than the flames burning away this timeline of what is never to be.

The Doll House is a club for punks: some of the greatest ska and hardcore bands have played here but not tonight. It’s open MIC night but no one cares about your shitty poetry or your pretend skinhead band Reserve Garbagemen.

This is the end.

Death behind me, looking all human and cute with arms around my waist. I can’t see her, but my skull is a glowing white supernova, somehow, I can be outside of myself looking at myself in a leather spiked shouldered jacket, plaid pants, and car part mohawk, comet lodged in face, holding a bouquet of bad wires frayed at the edges and ready to go off.

The pandemonium is brutal: broken bottles shoved into Nazi skulls, Nazis shooting punks, posers hiding under tables being sodomized by Nazis who in turn are being raped for raping others, a green mohawked woman lights a bottle of whisky on fire throws at a bearded leather vested cretin with a blowtorch prying a rude-boy’s mouth open with a pair of pliers. There’s no music but the sound of carnage with skin breaking, veins twisted, furniture cracking and wet crashing.

            “This is what you’ve always wanted” She whispers.

I nod and plug the wires into my white-hot face and there’s a flash.

Dazed, curled up fetal on the sidewalk, I see Shambles. He shakes his head and turns away with the rest of them.

There’s some blackened meat hanging on a twisted melted pipe, but I can’t pick it up to taste it.

            “That’s because you’re dead.”

I know the voice, I never got a chance to hear but can’t feel myself shudder nor bring myself to weep as this is not the nature of my existence, though still crooked and bloody from memory in only plaid pajama pants, the corpse below with meat I tried to taste is mine, face blown out by frayed, sparked electrical wiring.

            She circles around me in her zany spiked universal void hair and white-hot supernova face in fishnets and short leather black shirt with the same combat boots.

            “Maybe we could have had something, but you decided to waste what we all got, and you wasted what little of mine I never got to have.”

I want to turn away and go where the others are going as I try to keep my eyes downcast.

            “You’re not going anywhere.”

I gaze up and past her to see a beautiful young woman with raven hair and emerald eyes wearing my t-shirt and a pair of black jeans. She buys some sunflowers from a homeless man and enters Clockwork’s Diner, a twenty-four-hour pie and coffee place located kitty corner from The Doll House.

            “She took what you wasted and gave me what you didn’t deserve.”

Something whips through me…I feel myself disperse like air and see two shabbily dressed kids on bicycles who apparently rode through me. The homeless man makes his way over, pulls his dick out and urinates through my mid-section.

She’s gone.

I’m nothing.

Fancy That by ACF Wilson

ACF Wilson, Flash Fiction

He’s been trying to ignore the news bulletins and especially the press conferences.
Sometimes it leaked through though.
Various politicians with their porcine snouts wedged in many many troughs.
He’d heard that ” we’re all in the same boat” mantra quite a lot these past few months.
Sinking possibly, a canoe being tossed about looking for calmer waters.
The Titanic sprang to mind. Or something with pirates in it. Plenty of bloody bandits about that’s
for sure.
He’d misguidedly thought that this pandemic would maybe, just maybe, bring about a change in
people.
For the better you know?! Ha!
Time to put away that hopeless optimism at least for now anyway.
Well into the second phase of Lockdown and that hope has been doused down well and truly.
People this time round seemed tense, on edge. Less polite, fractious.
Faded rainbow signs in front windows remained but anti- vaxxers and mask refuseniks stalked
the streets and social media alike.

John tried to put this stuff out of his mind.
He had his bubble- his wife, children, the dog.
In that order most of the time.
Still had work to go to. Supermarket.
The Asda. Big One.
Worked out the back though so thankfully no confrontations with customers refusing to mask up.
Another day another wide eyed loon shouting the odds about ” civil liberties” and ” freedom”.
Not sure about the social distancing back there in the warehouse but that’s another matter.
He’s away to work now. Early doors, earphones in for the 30 minute walk, his relaxing ritual.
Cuts through by the church onto ‘ Fancy Row’, a lovely terrace of houses, bigger than most
around here, very grand, ornate fencing, Edwardian he thought.
A big guy on the step of the third house down.
Dressing gown, beard, roll up. Lockdown hair possibly, John could empathise with that.
There he is on the steps of his nice house enjoying the morning air. Maybe back inside in a
moment for some breakfast.
Just then he spits.
John can’t believe his eyes. A great arc of gob from the doorway lands on the pavement in front
of him.
Not really John’s style but he takes the buds from his ears and turns towards him,
” You think that’s okay do you? Spitting like that? Bad enough at any time but with all that’s
going on?!”
Nothing but a smirk from Spitty, not remotely arsed.
” You disgusting bastard”.
John knew how these things went.
Call someone a bastard and it escalated things. Verbals often led to physical contact.
The guy straightened as if to come down the steps raising a lone finger as further insult as John
walked away seething.


Home from work later. Didn’t always pass by ”Fancy Row’ but did today.
No sign of him though, he scowled at the blue door.
All day he has entertained thoughts of dragging the miscreant down those steps and teaching
him a lesson.
Fantastic fighter in his head, an array of punches and headbutt deployed with great ferocity and
technique.
Reality of course was different.
He would walk on by and once home regale his wife with the tale and that would be that.


Just gone 8pm. No work tomorrow, of course the pubs are shut so he’s heading to the off
licence.
He cuts across a car park just near ‘ Fancy Row’.
A cluster of youth congregated in the corner by the back of the pizza place.
Two of the gang were attempting wheelies to general sounds of derision, a bottle smashed in
the distance.
Semi-feral bored teens, worse in Lockdown somehow.
Emptier streets made their presence more visible.
John spots the Spitting Guy come rolling around the corner almost slap bang into the group and
making the mistake of barging into one of them.
Shouts of ” Watch It!” and more follow him as do the two bikes flanking either side.
Words exchanged.
He’s gesturing at them to get out of his space and attempts to lash out at one of them.
This is the cue for the rest of them to launch their attack. Pack law.
It was swift. A crack from behind and he was down. They launched at him on the ground with a
flurry of kicks.
All over in a moment , they fled.
Silence now.
John approached him.
He was conscious, bloodied and he’d be sore but nothing too serious. Blood on that beard.
Understandably shook up though, didn’t recognise John from this morning.
” Call me an ambulance please” he muttered.
” Okay. You’re an ambulance ” replied John, deadpan, continuing on his way to the off-licence.
Good luck getting an ambulance within an hour thought John, after all we are in the middle of a
pandemic.
Nice bottle of red took his mind off it all.