Thursday, March 15, 2018


By Carl Perrin

I heard a strange noise in the kitchen. Mr. Fitz told me later that a human being would have gone to investigate. But I was not programmed to do that so I just stayed where I was, sitting on a chair in the bedroom.

I heard footsteps coming through the living room and a rough, gravelly voice said: “There ain’t nothin’ here worth takin’. That TV is a piece of junk.”

A high-pitched male voice answered, “We might as well check out the bedroom before we go.”

The two of them walked in. First a short, hunched-shouldered man with practically no neck. His hair was cut close to his skull. He looked like a gnome. The other man seemed tall at first, but I realized that he was so thin that he looked taller than he was. He had a scar down his right cheek.

Scarface looked at me and said, “This must be Old Man Fitzpatrick’s robot companion.”

“I don’t think that’s gonna do us no good,” the gnome said.

“That’s cause you don’t use your head, dummy. We can hold it for ransom.”

“We can’t get much ransom from Old Man Fitzpatrick, can we?”

“We can get some. These old guys love their robot companions.”

The gnome shrugged. “I don’t know, Francis.”

Scarface turned on him. “I told you not to call me that!” he snapped.

“Sorry, Frank. I slipped.”

“Well, grab his feet. I’ll take his shoulders. We better get out of here before Old Man Fitzpatrick gets back.”

So they picked me up and headed out the back door. Of course I could have stopped them, but I hadn’t been programmed to do that. And one of the first things a robot learns when he is registered is the golden rule: never hurt a human being.

I’m not that heavy, but they were moving awkwardly as they moved from the back yard to the alley. “You don’t have to carry me,” I said. “I can walk.”

The gnome went, “Yikes!” and dropped my feet. “The thing talked!”

Francis let go of my shoulders and I stood up. “Yes, I can walk and I can talk. So where are you taking me?”

“Oh, ah, we’re just taking you on a little vacation. It must be about time you had a vacation, isn’t it?” Francis tried to smile, but you could tell he didn’t mean it. “Don’t pay any attention to the dummy here.” He gestured at the gnome. “He’s afraid of his own shadow.”

In a few minutes we crossed a lawn littered with trash to enter a frame apartment building. On the second floor Francis unlocked the door to let us in. Francis invited me to sit with them at plastic table in the small kitchen. The gnome said, “I’ll find some paper to write a ransom note.”

Francis turned to the gnome and said, “Geeze, you’re even dumber than I thought you were. You don’t write a ransom note.”

“Well, how do you let them know about the ransom and stuff?” The gnome’s face twisted in despair.

“You cut the words out of a newspaper and paste them into the note. That way the cops can’t analyze your handwriting and prove that you wrote the note.”

For the next hour they toiled with the message, cutting words out of an old magazine and pasting them onto the paper. When they were finished, Francis said to me, “I’m going to have to chain you to something. I’m afraid you’d get lost if you went out by yourself.” We went into the bedroom, and he chained me by the ankle to a heavy chest. I didn’t tell him that I wouldn’t be likely to get lost because I had a built-in GPS. The two men left, and I sat on the floor by the chest.

About a half an hour later I heard a sharp knock on the door, and a loud voice called, “Open up! Police!”

“I’ll be right with you,” I yelled back. I lifted the chest so I could free my ankle. Before I could do anything else, the police crashed through the door with raised pistols. “Where are they?” one of the policemen asked.

“They’ve gone to deliver the ransom note,” I answered.

The other cop went back into the hallway. “It’s okay. You can come in.”

Mr. Fitz ran into the room and put his arms around me. “My dear friend, Rupert,” he said. “I’m so happy to see that you’re all right. They didn’t hurt you, did they?”

“No, I’m fine. It’s a good thing they didn’t know I could send you an email just by talking and give you the coordinates of this place for the police.”

A few minutes later Francis and the gnome came back to find the police waiting for them. They both seemed quite puzzled by the turn of events.

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Carl Perrin started writing when he was in high school. His short stories have appeared in The Mountain Laurel, Northern New England Review, Kennebec, Short-Story.Me, Mad Swirl, and CommuterLit among others.

Thursday, March 8, 2018


By Chila Woychik

The day was dead. I’d killed it—routinely and without flinching—like I did every day, every single day that thrust itself upon me like a gigolo set on draining off life. There it lay, the day, exhausted, behind me, a memory of pulses and feelings and at least one mistake, probably more. I jabbed at the fire, added a log.

Adago used to be home, but not any longer—I had left, and my landscape became volcanoes silhouetted against a yellow-grey horizon. Ash puffed under my feet with each forward step, and me scrounging for enough water to stay alive.

A fire was spreading through a forest not far from where I camped. The crackling alerted me while I slept; it was the combination of crackling and high-pitched screams. I watched the trees burn, spear in hand, ready for whatever ran toward me, away from the flames. I got three giant beetles out of it, and a centipede the size of a python. I took them to the drop-off point one at a time, and worked till dusk.

Whenever I got paid, I’d go back to Adago and buy ammunition. It wasn’t good to be without ammo there; the hunter quickly became the hunted—the predator, the prey. I’d outlived most hunters in that dag-forsaken land; made a few enemies. I know how to use a gun.

I really don’t care what they call me anymore: butcher, baker, bug-steak maker. Who’s to say the crunchy carapace I lanced and dragged for miles wasn’t worth it? They who ate its contents and lived? Used its remains to make shelter or medicine?

No, they looked at their fat little children and thanked me. Their fat little children with their spider-hair clothes. If only they knew…

“Tane, bring us more scorpions; higher prices paid.”

“Tane, some government official’s wife wants a caterpillar rug.” A caterpillar rug, for gosh sake.

“When can you get those fire ants, Tane? We hear they’re great marinated and batter-fried.”

And Tane, while you’re at it, will you lasso the Whale Star and drag it down to us too? We want a night light to comfort us while we sleep on our soft-pillowed beds.

Sure, I’ll lasso them a star, just as soon as justice has been done. And when all the idiots wise up and realize what’s happening there, the corruption of one group and the misplaced trust of another. But why worry about that when they can sit in their staterooms and circle their planet? Their staterooms with private bars and movies, games. Or sit in their protected cities under the sea, the children close by while their mama watches—while their beautiful mama watches, with her beautiful blue eyes and silken brown hair …

Why would they worry? We were the hunters; we found the good deals for them. They knew they could count on us to keep the food coming, the food for their healthy fat children, the food for their beautiful mama . . . in their staterooms . . .

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Chila Woychik has recent bylines in journals such as Portland Review, Stonecoast, and Tahoma Literary. She was awarded the 2017 Loren Eiseley Creative Nonfiction Award and the 2016 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. Currently, she edits the Eastern Iowa Review.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


By John Grey

Heat doesn't just happen,
it invades,
on this planet where
the sun summers year round
from burnt-grass plains
to steamy oceans.

It's like hell
and the cone of an active volcano
all in one,
feels like molten lava on a good day.
We're all cloistered here
in a dome of phony cool air
while outside
land bubbles and boils,
air whips welts into mountains.

We have windows
thick as the skin
of nuclear reactors
for an up close vista
of the local reality:
dust storms,
sunsets that just deliver more sun,
creatures mostly of the brawling kind.
Strange it is
what the folks safe back on Earth
just have to know.

It's a wonder these walls don't melt,
the ceiling liquefy,
we souls within
turn to molten crap.
For temperature's the enemy here.
It would like nothing more
than to get its devil's hands on us.

For the outside reckons it could use
our flesh, our bones, our blood
for its own searing purposes.
From its viewpoint,
every day we are not dead
is wasted on us.

- - -
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

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