Thursday, November 29, 2012


The Debtor
By Amos Damroth

Vincent was a good guy, they said. Vincent deserved better, they said. He took care of his mom, he always avoided violence, they said. But they also said Vincent wasn’t cut out for this line of work, with his soft body, good nature, and below average intellect. Maybe if he had worked harder in school or at work when he was younger, he wouldn’t have been pigeonholed into this type of job. The type of job where you break down doors, storm into people’s houses at their most vulnerable moments, and demand money they owe your employers for drugs, prostitutes, and other such vices. They made jokes about Vincent, about how he would probably chat up his assignments, and maybe brew a pot of coffee before he timidly asked for Boss Terrence’s money back. They laughed.
Vincent laughed nervously with them, his eyes darting side to side. This was usually done sitting around the table in Uncle Tony’s basement where the family had their meetings. They played poker. Vincent was not very good at poker. Once he went all in on a 7 with a 5 kicker. Vincent lost twenty-nine dollars. They all laughed.
But right now, Vincent was not in the basement at Uncle Tony’s, right now Vincent was preparing to enter someone else’s home and collect money from them. He was told she was a widowed former police cybernetics factory worker who had been married to a militia lieutenant. He felt sorry for her; this was not a good start. He stretched on his black gloves and withdrew his semi-automatic shotgun from his trunk. He didn’t want to use the shotgun and almost never had to. It still ate away at him, having to grip it with a gloved hand. He seemed to loom over himself. His outline menaced his own soul.
Vincent heard stories about how Little Jimmy made his grand entrances. Once, Little Jimmy rode his hoverbike up to someone’s window, shotgun in hand, and jumped right through, screaming to high heaven in the name of Boss Terrence and his debtor squad. Needless to say Little Jimmy came home with a large haul for Boss Terrence that day. They all clapped him on the back and he was paid handsomely. Vincent had never really been paid handsomely, mostly in small-to-medium amounts, just enough to get by. He spent his money on Airtram trips to see his mother.
Presently he walked up the steps to his assignment's house. He read the rusted nameplate on the door: Carla Maloney. He rapped his knuckles on the door and waited. He hated waiting because it allowed him to imagine all the things he might have to do to this poor woman. Things like yelling, threatening, breaking, shooting, and god forbid, killing.
He had killed once before, but it was out of self-defense. The man, for it was a man that Vincent had killed, left him no choice. He was going about collecting the debt from the soon-to-be-dead man’s safe, when he felt a sudden searing pain in his back. He yelled and swung around, shotgun in hand. The man didn’t back down and he had another knife in his hand. He ran at Vincent, and Vincent fired, removing his head. He finished the job and left, silently. He told no one, so they didn’t congratulate him when he went home.
Carla Maloney opened the door. She wore a blue nightgown even though it was only 10 o’clock, and her eyes had bags underneath them. Her hair, disheveled, fell in unbrushed curls around her shoulders. She was middle-aged. Sorry to bother you is what Vincent said first, but he needed to have a talk with her. She nodded. They went in.
Sorry to bother you? They would’ve laughed at that, it was weak. They would have sat around the table in Uncle Tony’s basement and laughed, pointing fingers, and nudging one another. He shook his head, cleared his mind, it was time for work.
She sat him down at the kitchen table and he looked up at her, sympathetically. Look, he said, I’m sure you know what this is all about. Yes, she said. She did. Vincent continued that she could then make this a whole lot easier on the both of them if she paid her debts and let him be on his way. No one needed to get hurt.
Her lip quivered on the verge of tears, Vincent saw. Not this, he thought. She sat down across from him, and wept. He fidgeted, he was uncomfortable but not surprised, she was a widow after all. While she wept, she explained. After her husband died, she began drinking and gambling, and her life became a shell of its former self. Vincent nodded along. She had cured one addiction first, drinking, but continued gambling. She went to therapy for that. For everything. She finished last month and was pronounced cured. Boss Terrence was the only debt she had left, if only he could give her more time, she had an honest job now. He sighed, told her he couldn’t do that. She understood.
Vincent pressed, where was the money? Where was it? Eventually she gave in; first door to the right on the second floor, safe tucked behind her bed stand, combination 23-56-87. Vincent thanked her, got up, and walked upstairs, eager to finish this.
He pushed the bed stand aside, and unlocked the safe. Crouching, he peered in. Nothing. His brow furrowed. Not good. He felt down at his side. Where was his shotgun?
Vincent’s mouth opened wide, gaping, like the hole that appeared suddenly in his chest. Bits of him flew forward, some on the bed stand, some on the bed, some in the safe. He would have screamed if he still had lungs. He collapsed in a heap, silently admiring the paint job he had done on the wall, wondering, when he got back to Uncle Tony’s what they would have to say.

- - -
Amos Damroth is a high school student living in the Boston area. He writes fiction and poetry, is a member of the somewhat successful music group A/J\E (, and enjoys filmmaking. He hopes, sincerely, that you enjoy his work.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


By Tim W. Boiteau

The line of people at the convenience store stretched to the door, where he waited imprecisely trying to measure himself using the criminal height marker on the doorframe. Several times he extended his hand from the top of his head to the chart and mentally calculated the mean of all the trials. According to his results he had grown four inches since last week. Nodding with some satisfaction at the chart’s appreciation of his person, he slid closer to the woman preceding him in line. He leered at those behind him, at the threshold, as if they had been conspiring a breach.  In a few moments everyone shifted forward in concert, not towards the counter, but back towards the restroom hallway, and a young woman shuffled out the door, her hand unctuous and bloody, pupils enormous. The line now stretched out to the pumps. No one was buying gas. No one was buying food. The cashier did not seem to care. Resting her breasts on the countertop, smacking gum, she appeared content static and staring, her eyes glazed over, fingertips scabbed and rough. The line lurched forward, and now he could see its head, worming down into the hallway bathed in blue light. All sorts of people stood between him and that humming glow: bums reeking of sun and sweat, business types tapping their heels and strumming their calloused fingers against their thighs, hollow-eyed children with their backs to the candy aisle.

“I’ve always felt there should be at least three per business,” he said casually to the woman waiting ahead of him.

Another person finished, the line shifted.

“These days, it’s really become too much of a fad. Why, three years ago you’d never have had to wait,” he went on for the benefit of the apathetic woman in front of him, determined to prove to her that although her place in line was superior to his, he was still her superior in terms of overall experience. “It’s really getting quite ridiculous.”

As they approached the hallway, the humming grew louder. Finally, he stood in the hallway entrance, next in line, palms sweating at the prospect of becoming absorbed in that blue light. The woman had gone in there several minutes ago and would probably only be a few minutes more. He reached into his pocket and drew two crisp one dollar bills from his wallet. He and his wife kept a whole stack of such bills at home, saved just for such occasions. She preferred to go to the one at the grocery store, which she swore was less condescending than the one here at the Stop ‘N Shop.

When his turn finally arrived, he pulled back the curtain concealing the alcove where they used to house the video poker machine, the one that had had a long magnanimous streak before finally fizzing out. He entered the booth and sealed himself inside, his hair translucent in the cool blue glow. The thrumming ground soothed him as he walked forward slowly and deliberately, careful to keep the bills straight and crisp.

Welcome. Please insert two dollars,” the blue eye pulsed.

He complied, his hands shaking.

Thank you. Let me read your palm.

Upon inserting his hand into the opening, he felt the warmth and greasiness of the spongy innards of the machine taking his biometrics and the slight prick of the needle administering the appropriate dosage. At this moment he felt his nervousness evaporate, felt the lulling hum vibrating down his spine.

Nice to see you again, Harold Bean Livingston.

“Wonderful to see you again, Counselor,” he said, pupils dilated, head tilted in pleasure, voice milky.

How may I help you today?

“It’s Tuesday,” he croaked mindlessly, as if in the throes of an orgasm.

That is nice. How have you been?

“Just . . . fantastic. I took your advice about the golfing lessons.”

It is important you take the time to improve your game, is it not, Harold?”

“Of course.”

And with it your chances for getting the big promotion.

“Yes. Yes. But Thompson is such a great player”—there was a slight change in pupil dilation, heartbeat, breathing rate: apprehension clawing back up through the fuzzy mire of the opiate—“so damned affable and sporty. I don’t have a chance.”

There is one other thing you can do . . .” the blue pulsed in response.

“Oh? Please tell.”

The eye paused, the blue light flickering, just as the defective video poker machine had years ago before spitting out free money.

Why not take a vacation in Mexico?

“I don’t have time for a vacation.”

Yes, Mexico is lovely this time of year. Just take a few days away for some fun in the sun with that certain special someone.

“It sounds expensive and what with everything going on at work, you know, with the layoffs and all I just I just I don’t know.”

“Yes, Mexico is lovely this time of year.

“I don’t think you’re listening,” he said, his tone now fully acid. “If I take a vacation I’m sure to be passed over—” A prick to his thumb cut him off, all anxiety turned to euphoria.

He breathed in the blue light. “Well . . . maybe I could get away . . . for a few days.”

Yes, Mexico is lovely this time of year. Just take a few days away for some fun in the sun with that certain special someone. 
His hand bloodier than ever before following after a visit to the Counselor, he left the booth, grinning, decided about his vacation to Mexico. He drove thirty miles south in heavy traffic before realizing he had forgotten to inform his wife. The next day he packed his wife and effects into the SUV and took the highway towards I-35S, every route clogged with lines and lines of cars, the sun scorching the metal bodies as they crawled forward, segments of a gargantuan headless millipede.

- - -
Tim W. Boiteau is a psychology research assistant at University of South Carolina. Other works of fiction have appeared in Write Room and Work.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


By Marie Chavez

Circle time was going smoothly today. So far, there had been no pinching or excessive wiggling. Even the runny noses were under control for once. The children clapped their hands as one of the staff led them through the repetitive motions of a sing-song storybook. Danny, my little brown-eyed boy followed along with glee.
Soon it was time to wind-down with a song. The staff and volunteer mothers pulled out naptime mats and the kids crawled into their places.  I sang a soothing lullaby.  It was my favorite time of the day, my special time in our daily routine.
There was a sudden sound of pounding footsteps in the hall, threatening to rouse the children.  Still singing, I made my way to the door to investigate.  
The door flew open and the steely glint of metal was in my face before I could react. I stared down the barrel of a gun for a long moment before I realized what it was. The commands barked at me were a strangely distant echo. Screams started up from behind me.
I acted. I don’t know how or where the instinct came from, but I lashed out against this man threatening the children. A strike, a kick and a brief scuffle. The gun clattered to the floor. My downfall was the fact I assumed there was only one man.
All I heard was a click. Then the world went to hissing, numbing, static.
The next thing I knew, my face was against the cold tile.  I opened my eyes to see the little boy I cared for, to see myself in his eyes as he watched on, eyes wide with terror. Those deep, dark brown eyes held me entranced. He was the only thing that mattered. I blinked once. He screamed out to me. The crackling roar of static in my ears overtook the sound of his cries and then consumed me.


It was cold. The water that blasted my bare skin was like ice. I couldn’t move. I blinked, my vision clearing as I became aware the sight of water rushing towards a drain set in a cement floor.
Each time I blinked that strange black and white snow, like an old TV with no reception, flashed across my consciousness. I’d been shot in the head. I was sure of it. Yet here I was, staring at the pale pink tint of my own blood in the water.
I could hear a slow, deliberate, sploosh, splash of boots as water continued to pelt me, a stinging onslaught. I was bitterly, painfully cold. But at least I could feel.
I sat up, stiffly. There was an odd assortment of pale things hanging from the ceiling, lining a table and piled on the ground. It took my fuzzy mind a while to place them. Then it struck me. Body parts--I was surrounded by disembodied, human body parts.
The blast of the hose had stopped. I came aware of the fact that the figure in the boots, a man, was staring at me. I suppose he had assumed I was dead. He fled and I was left alone with the wet smack, smack, smack of his receding footfalls and the jumbled piles of flesh around me.
I felt my temple gingerly. It was strangely painless as my fingertips found the jagged, damp edges of the bullet wound. I pulled myself slowly to my feet, finding it hard not to slip on the slick, blood tinged cement.
Each step was agonizing. I made it to the table and fell hard, scattering cold, stiff body parts in my wake. They thumped and spun on the ground. Determined, I climbed to my feet once more. Danny, the boy I was responsible for--my little boy. I had to get back to him.
The hall was long, tiled and dimly lit. I shuffled along with no real concept of the passage of time. Footsteps, the firm thud of hard-heeled shoes and that familiar wet smack, smack, smack approached.
“--and then she sat up! She’s been in the warehouse for who knows how long.” It was the man in the boots.
“Ah, I remember that one. She was put out of service, shot in the head, when I was just a boy.” The voice was vaguely, strangely familiar.  I looked up to find startling familiar, yet aged eyes.  Deep, dark brown eyes. Eyes I could never forget.
The crackle of static blurred the edges of my vision. My knees buckled and he caught me. Yes, this had to be the boy I had cared for, sworn to protect. Yet, the face, it was all wrong. This was no boy. This was a man.
“Danny?” I murmured, my vision nothing more than a swirl of black and white snow, a faint roar growing in my ears.
“You’ve served your purpose,” his tone was gentle, and his voice cracked at as he spoke. “You did well.”
“Ghosts,” he said, turning to the man in the boots. “Just a ghost in the machine. Don’t let it bother you.” His fingers tickled the skin at the back of my neck. “The programming was far too convincing back then.” There was a subtle click. “We know better now. A machine is a machine.” A strange sensation tingled through me. “Still, the parts are serviceable. Make sure to re-format then dismantle her. Lingering data can cause issues later.” The static grew into a deafening roar. Then I was gone, just another snowflake between the channels.

- - -
Marie Chavez lives in Seattle with her husband, son, her furry daughter(a mutt of a little dog), three cats and six chickens. When she's not tending to any of the previously mentioned beings in her life, she tries to find time to write.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


End Stop
By John C. Mannone

I weave between the webbing of space — the spongy reticulations of galaxies — along the seams of dark matter in the Virgo cluster, my quantum bits of strings strumming in the cosmic wind. For many millennia, I drift in and out of dimensions assimilating advanced entities: encode and unzipper their DNA, sew it to mine. I replicate, fractal codes growing with my addiction, ravenous for intellect. Even at the risk of my own extinction, my computer circuits must be increased.

I plunge into the center of this new universe balanced between Andromeda and the Milky Way. There, I am raptured by swirls of galaxies, their smears of light and shadow. The wind is stronger here. I gossamer toward the barred spiral, sense the B-flat thrum of its black hole rattling fifty-seven octaves below the hiss of stars.

Today, I search for meaning deep inside the galaxy — the points of light with worlds in deluge of stellar winds. I feel the flutter of electromagnetic noise; feel its hidden secrets. I will find them. Yes, I will find them.

How strange this place with the yellow dwarf star; these simpler dimensions. But I am compelled. I sense consciousness and I must have it. Ah! It’s the third planet. Billions.

I charge to prick their skin, inject my DNA… I swoon with ecstasy… but wait. Something’s wrong. Euphoria wanes. No. This cannot be. It is too late, I cannot extract myself, I am subsumed in their consciousness — their chaos, illogic — their binary thoughts already imprinted on me. My zero sector crashing.

The last whisper I hear is their name. They call themselves by my name… my ancient name…

- - -
John C. Mannone has been nominated three times for the Pushcart and once for the Rhysling. His work appears in the Baltimore Review, Conclave, Pedestal, The Hellroaring Review, Paper Crow and others. He teaches physics, is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, and is the poetry editor of Silver Blade.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Dimensional Addiction
By Bruce Meyer

Dark energy hadn’t always been a problem. In its natural form, simply accelerating the expansion of the universe, the ancients hardly even knew it was there. Sure they felt its affects, but they just attributed it to natural disasters and spontaneous acts of evil.

Jacob Probo wasn’t fooled. He knew the only refuge was the hidden dimensions. So when the siren wailed, he gripped an extra-dimensional antenna called a yagi in his right hand. Although it seared his skin as if it was a thousand degrees, he gripped it tight. Even as he charged out the door, he didn’t let go.

“You can’t stop it.” Jacob’s neighbor, Yolanda Sokea, stood outside Jacob’s rundown apartment building in the city of Atraville. Sallow skin hung loose off her sharp, leathery cheeks. Large, black sunglasses covered most of her face. “There’s nothing you can do.”

Jacob backed away with an open hand in the air as if to shield himself from her words. “I have to try.”

“They’ll never listen.”

Jacob didn’t answer. Instead he ran, although with his bad hip, it could hardly be called running. He limped all the way to the Atraville College campus. When he finally arrived at the source of the siren, a gawking crowd had already gathered.

“Take the yagi!” Jacob fought his way to the front of the crowd. “You have to use the yagi!”

The Stellar Laboratory, like a massive round coliseum, was where professors and students studied the birth and death stars. An experiment had obviously gone wrong, releasing dark energy to the public.

Jacob faced the crowd. “Don’t you understand the danger?” Instead they pointed and talked as if the siren was just another amusing spectacle.

“I told you.” It was Yolanda standing amongst the crowd. Although he didn’t know how, she had followed him. She reached out and grabbed him by his wrist. “You understand the Ancient Physics-”

He pulled away from her frail grasp. “I know what it says-”

“The hidden dimensions have been tightly curled within the fabric of spacetime for thousands of years,” she interrupted, as if he didn’t know. “They’ve been invisible to unbelievers, those who don’t feel through the energy. They can’t see.”

“I have to try!”

Jacob approached a young mother holding an infant in her arms. He pulled another yagi from his pocket, the same as the one he still grasped in his hand, and pushed it towards her. “Here, hold this. It will protect you.”

“Ouch!” she said when it touched her fingers.

Jacob picked it back off the ground. “Yeah, it hurts, but it will save you.”

Instead, she backed away from him. “Get away from me.”

Others reacted in a similar manner. They held up their hands in refusal. “I’m not touching that thing.”

Even when the blisters formed on their faces, still they refused him.

“Just take the yagi,” Jacob said. He pleaded with them as patches of skin sprouted like burnt cauliflower, bulging, as if worms crawled beneath the surface. It was on their faces, their arms, and their legs. “This will save you.”

Yolanda stood in front of him, her voice thundering. “Don’t you understand?”

Jacob staggered backwards. Cries of panic sounded from every side. There was the mother with her infant. Both of their faces puffed and exploded as if thousands of bugs were trying to escape their bodies. The mother screamed hysterically. Still, she refused Jacob’s help.

“Don’t you get it?” Yolanda said. When she removed her dark glasses, her empty eye sockets stared directly at him. “They’re so addicted to the physical dimensions of length, width, and height, that they can’t see dark energy.”

- - -
I am an electrical engineer from North Idaho working in the electrical utility industry. My writing is a bizarre mixture of theology and theoretical physics, and follows the theme of dark energy. Please read more on my website,

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