Black & White

Words

Edward Alan Bartholomew

Words

Hand

Edward Alan Bartholomew

Hand

Reach

Edward Alan Bartholomew

Reach

Self

Edward Alan Bartholomew

Self

Melaka

Brie Hero

Melaka

We’re All Here Because We’re Not All There

Brie Hero

Elisa was not worried about being alone, but she was about the possibility of others seeing her alone. Knowing she was alone. Having to tell them that she was alone.

Outside the windows of her small, clean Southeast Asian hotel room, the neon spaceship spires of Kuala Lumpur were just beginning to etch themselves onto the twilight—great bulbs of white and purple and orange sizzling into contrast—but Elisa was in for the night, hunched over the imitation wood desk, scribbling into her notebook. Tomorrow she was going home.

Here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, she was currently on the other side of the planet from everyone she knew. They are so far away, she wrote, I may as well have ceased to exist. Elisa would go back and tell them she had great time on vacation. She was worried that she should be worried that is would be true. She was worried that she should be worried that she had enjoyed her existence-cessation vacation.

Below her windows, below the rim of skyscrapers, the Jalan Alor surged, tucked into a canyon between two larger buildings. An alleyway of street food: Indian, Chinese, Thai, everything—hustlers yelling for you to try their deer burgers and frog porridge; their litchi milkshakes, pots brewing with firey spiced green leaf stews, and old men selling bark-covered durang, an evil green fruit that reeked of marsh gas.

Three days ago she had been waiting for a riverboat in Melaka with Evamarie, a stout blond hippy from Rotterdam she had met on the bus. Melaka, her Lonely Planet guidebook had told her, has a reputation for being haunted. An old pirate town, with Dutch windmills and canals. Melaka was hallucinatory with crimson-colored brick colonial buildings from the English, Portuguese, the Dutch—layers of conquest going back to the fifteen hundreds. The equatorial sun beat down on cruising rickshaws shellacked with layers of hysterical artificial flowers. Evamarie and Elisa were going to tour the canals.

Evamarie asked Elisa if she had a boyfriend, and Elisa said she did. Evamarie turned to her in surprise. They both were traveling through the wilderness solo. If Elisa had a boyfriend, Evamarie seemed to be wondering, what was she doing out here alone? Transposed onto the concrete banks of this outpost, a million miles away, alone? Elisa stretched her legs out in front of her, shaded her eyes against the slap of the sunlight, and thought about the boy she had left behind, Max, and struggled to answer why. She told Evamarie he hadn’t come with her because he didn’t have any money, and she hadn’t wanted to loan it to him.

A few days before Elisa left Brooklyn for Malaysia the cops brought Max to her door. She had gone after work to a bar in Greenpoint called the Black Rabbit with her friend Kevin, and they had drank there for almost five hours. Elisa kept expecting Max to get in touch, because they had plans to meet later on that night. She got mad. Finally, on the bus ride home, she got mad enough to drunkenly phone him, confronting him about how flakey he is, and how much it sucks. He did his song and dance, and finally snapped at Elisa: “I’ll come over there right now! I do crazy stuff all the time, shit, I’ll come over there right now!” She hung up and promptly ran home, got in bed with all her clothes on, and passed out, tears of anger drying on her cheeks.

She was awakened some time later by Michael, her shy Craigslist-located roommate. “Elisa? Are you asleep?” Michael asked timidly from her doorway. “The cops are here to see you…” The cops had brought Max to her door because he had been standing in the lobby of Elisa’s building, her old shitbox building on Beverley Road in Flatbush, where fat dudes wearing red dealt crack. He had been standing there for 45 minutes, calling her over and over again, while her phone lit up vainly, on silent, and she slumbered, aggrieved.

So the cops assumed he was some white boy up to no good, and were going to take him away unless someone vouched for him, agreed that she was his girlfriend and that he was there to see her. Once Elisa said it was true and they let him go, he came into her room, angry and shaken. He had about a half pound of weed on him. He deals weed. He is an on-and-off heroin addict. He’s been to jail before, and he didn’t want to go back, especially carrying that kind of weight.

The cops were right, Elisa thought with a shiver. He’s exactly what they thought he was—some white boy up to no good. I just also happen to be his girlfriend.

Max sat on Elisa’s rumpled, unmade bed and rubbed the salty sweat from his face with his palms. “I don’t want to get too fortuneteller on you,” he said, finally. “But you’re constantly in some amount of pain, aren’t you?”

Elisa started crying, and said that she was.

After Melaka she saw the Batu Caves. She climbed 272 steps on cut into a mountain, speckled with white Macaque monkeys, one of which ripped a little girl’s souvenirs out of her hands and hopped to the top of a post, cackling and tearing pink plastic apart. Hindu holy men, scowling, tiger-striped and shirtless, glowered behind gaudy god-covered pillars. Fires burned in gold dishes, surrounded by browning flowers. Wild jungle fowl squawked in the cave. Holes in the ceiling, hundreds of feet from the cave floor, shone spotlights down at her and the other pilgrims. A cathedral made by the wear of water, tiny drops of water that ceaselessly had molded the vast space into existence with nothing but gravity and patience.

Looking at the landscape from the mouth of the cave, scanning the endless jungle scarred by otherworldly formations of menacing gray limestone, she thought how strange it was that the Hindus felt the need to make their gods in gilt, in electric green, with spinning bouquets of arms and blood-colored tongues. Elisa didn’t know anything about religion, but she wondered what significance electricity and neon held within it.

She wrote in her notebook: is the brightness a way to show that what the people who made the neon lack in permanence, in patience, they make up for in vitality, in imagination, in immolation?

Elisa felt ignorant making guesses like these, and bought a honey and ivory-colored god draped in fake gold chains to take home with her.

On the bus back from Melaka, only pop music was okay to listen to on her iPod. Watching the jungle along the highway grow darker out the window, listening to the other riders chat in Malay, and seeing the moment the rice paddies finally disappeared into a sea of rural blackness, songs with depth only scared her. Beyoncé, or whatever else was newest, was all that could make it feel safe. She imagined her cessation taking hold slowly, edging nearer and nearer to blackness, with a numbing song in her ears.

Elisa had been with Max for a long time, nearly a year, but he never let her meet his friends. He always talked about one friend, his best friend, Joe. Once, when Elisa was worried she might be pregnant with Max’s baby, he joked that if it was a boy they would name it Joe, after this friend. If it was a girl, Max said, they would name her Beverley MasterCard.

“And… Quintus. If it’s a hermaphrodite.”

Max loved Joe. Joe was a super hipster. Joe worked for the guerilla concert promoter Todd P., and was profiled in New York Magazine. Joe’s mom was an artist, and she employed Elisa’s best friend’s performance art collective’s leader as her assistant. This has nothing to do with how Elisa and Max knew each other. They met randomly, in a bar that had a sign on the ceiling written in backwards script: We’re all here because we’re not all there.

Joe asked Elisa’s friend’s performance art collective to perform at his new pop-up gallery space, old delis on 42nd Street that had been gutted and abandoned. Elisa went to the performance with her friend Ryan, after calling Max, trying to entice him to his own best friend’s party, and receiving no answer. When she got there, Joe had hung posters for Max’s band on the wall, and she recognized Joe instantly, from Internet stalking. But he didn’t know her, and she worried he thought she was insane to stare.

She was staring. She was hungry, staring at him. Hungry for an extra helping of Max. The sickest thing about their relationship—and designating any part of their relationship “the sickest thing” was like trying to determine the sickest thing about someone’s fatal cancer—was that she craved his world. His city, his friends: anything he touched had the possibility of still retaining some spilled grains of his essence, some lingering after-kick of him she might be able to suck up. Her heroin, her crack.

Late in the night she finally approached Joe, wasted by then on too many little cups of vodka and orange juice. “Hey, are you Joe?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Hey, I’m Elisa. I go out with Max?”

“Oh, that’s hard.”

As she remembered it later, after sobering up, he didn’t miss a beat: “Oh, that’s hard.” First she laughed when he said it, feeling validation for her suffering at Max’s hands, felt good hearing that others, his friends, had suffered too from his chaos, his lies, his addiction. Then, in the hangover morning, she thought… who am I in this guy’s eyes? Joe’s? Is this why Max doesn’t want me to meet his friends? So I can’t see the harsh reality of how he really treats me, refracted through an outside observer? And also, she thought… they had been together almost a year, and he had never mentioned her to his best friend? No glimmer of recognition had flicked across Joe’s unfairly handsome face when she said her name.

She thought for hours about what Joe said. Then, sick and disgusted with herself, she scrawled in her diary: “All the worst of what you’re reading into the tealeaves of Joe’s offhand, random comment, whether or not it is tinged on his part with some of the same hurt I feel at Max’s lies, should be assumed. It’s all true. True as hell. Max is the worst, and I don’t know anything about him, to the extent I think I do, anyway. But he says it all the time: we see the world in the same way. Any time I think I’m fully normal, like I’ll fit in: a part of my soul is Max.”

It’s so hot in Malaysia. Elisa thought walking in the air was like walking in water. The Malay word for “water” is “air.” Before Elisa learned that she wondered why the city was full of signs with arrows, saying “air.” The sweat pours off her constantly, like condensation. Like dew.

To get to Melaka, she had caught a bus at the Puduraya bus station in Kuala Lumpur. She felt like she was taking her life in her hands in that swarm of grime and hordes. People rushed by, hustling, pickpocketing, and catching buses for the short drive to Singapore or Penang or Georgetown, or steeling themselves for the longer haul to Bangkok or cities in Cambodia or Vietnam.

Elisa read an English language newspaper while she waited. A story buried in the back pages was about a Chinese woman, a prizewinning scientist who was about to be executed for having drugs found in her luggage. The story dared to suggest that the drugs might have been slipped in her bag without her knowledge. It didn’t matter—her execution date was set. Another story said a little Muslim child bride had run away from her abusive older husband, and had been found at one of the temples near the Batu Caves.

Then a few days later Elisa waited in a smaller, rural bus station in Melaka, waiting for the 2:20 back to Puduraya. While she waited there, she ate a fish paste cake, a local delicacy. It came in a plastic wrapper like a Twinkie. Then she bought a fake Gucci watch and sunglasses, which didn’t break so much as quickly disintegrated, like a plant decomposing in time-lapse footage, as soon as she turned away from the stand.

Flagellum

Rebeca Olguin

Flagellum

Blinking at the Sky

Scott Schuer

“Is the sun getting hotter?” seems a
reasonable question, subject to debate.

Science says, “stars contain a finite amount of
fuel. Once used, gone forever, transmuting its
form.”

Some artists burn brightest,
before they cease to be.
Everything in extremis blinks off
then on.

Zeros and ones say, “Finish the poem
before ink runs dry!”

Because,

“an eighth of an inch in
plastic cylinder could
expire any
time.”

Jackson Heights 1

Diana Bejarano

Jackson Heights 1

Jackson Heights 2

Diana Bejarano

Jackson Heights 2

Jackson Heights 3

Diana Bejarano

Jackson Heights 3

Wroclaw, PL

Ania Pietraszek

Wroclaw, PL

Rumblings of Black and White

Marshall Anderson

The town square lights were not black and white, but beamed a radiant shade of lonely.

It seemed the best of days had passed and at last the thought of moving so fast had fainted like an under-fed field hand.

 So then the time stood like a rhyme, like the buildings full of people. For a friend there was the wind blowing soft beneath the steeple.

Off in the distance the simmer of persistence was cooking on the stove. Its a sadder tale than the whine and wail of engines being drove

Late into a vast of emptiness, a gate swung wide but its the howling hiss that will never kiss or hold till the dawn, its a wander lust that’s always gone.

Never close, never real, like a rose the seasons heal. Its red, or yellow, never black and white, never here nor there, not worth the fight.

Never wrong or right, besides, who hides their face in a far off place just to say they got the last word?

Not a man alive could merely survive and be able to fly like a bird.

But to long for more than really exists is the same as Judas and why he kissed Jesus.

So come down from there and please us. Won’t you my sweet love? Noah waited on his little white dove.

So when you see that sign come down and hear that whistle blow in an old train town, then you can live in a spectrum of light, that far surpasses what the tired masses measure in black and white.

Hilando

Rebeca Olguin

Hilando

Hola Gatita

Rebeca Olguin

Hola Gatita

Look Carefully

Scott Schuer

Searching for fire wood in a
neatly clipped pile requires
patience.

Some wood is green,
some is rotten, some is
ready to burn.

Upon closer inspection, a
mantis lives and thrives –

among the green, among the
rotten, among the
ready.

No Sabemos

Rebeca Olguin

No Sabemos

Don’t Take Lifts from Strangers

Annamarie Willett

An Adult Fairy Tale

Norma Gains was a monster. Most of the children that lived in her town suspected as much but as they grew-up they decided she was just creepy old lady. This suited Norma perfectly; she loved the way the children looked at her. Their fear was delicious.

Norma had lived in Guildfern for as long as anyone could remember. Its inland location was ideal for Norma as the seaside did not agree with her. The town was set in a leafy green valley surrounded by numerous orchards and vineyards. And this meant plenty of seasonal fruit pickers. Most of them were young backpackers travelling the world on a meagre budget. Some were just drifters looking for a way of making ends meet. Either way there was plenty of opportunities for Norma’s kind.

There was always plenty to keep Norma busy in Guildfern; she attended the local Catholic Church and was involved in the yearly fete and the church’s monthly bingo games. She also ran a little second hand shop on the main street. Nothing fancy just some clothes, books and knick-knacks but enough to get by.

It was Thursday afternoon and Norma was stacking some mismatched plates on the crockery shelves. She felt tired, her joints were stiff. It had been a long winter and as always, the cold months spent going without, took their toll on Norma’s body. She had always looked old but today she felt old.

Moving slowly, she made her way to the front of the shop and stood in the front window. She pretended to be adjusting the window dressing but what she was really doing was watching the street. Across the road was the police station a place she liked to keep an eye on. As she watched, a police car pulled slowly up to the station. The car door swung open and Sergeant Gibson climbed out.
The police officer was about forty, tall and athletic looking. Norma’s nose twitched, she didn’t care for the town’s newest Sergeant. He was sharp, too sharp. Norma wasn’t completely sure that her harmless old lady routine would work on him. She decided that she would need to be very careful this year.

Adjusting the dress on the mannequin, Norma’s dark eyes scanned the street. A smile spread over her chubby old face as something interesting caught her eye. Further up the street was the town’s only pub and in front of it was a small open truck. A group of about twelve young people, mostly men, were climbing out of the back of the vehicle. The truck belonged to Ed Hurst the owner of a large orchard. The young people were obviously fruit pickers.

Norma licked her lips and watched the group chatting happily as they crowded around front of the building. As the youngsters entered the pub one figure stood out. He was beautiful in a rough sort of way. The young man was short, tanned and a little thin probably about twenty years old with longish brown hair.
“Very nice”. Norma said appreciatively.
The bell over the door tinkled and two young women entered the shop.
The girls were both locals and Norma recognised them from church. The older of the girls name was Mandy and she worked at the little supermarket. The other girl, a pretty little blonde named Cilla, worked at her parent’s vineyard.
“Hello, girls”. She made her voice cheerful and welcoming.
“Hi Mrs. Gains”. The girls were still young enough to be a little bit afraid of the old woman. This made Norma chuckle.

The girls headed for the books and magazines where they whispered to each other about how creepy the shopkeeper looked. Norma ignored the girls and continued to watch the street. She looked over at the pub but no one went in or came out.
Turning her attention back to the shop, Norma went and sat behind the counter. There was a pile of clothes to price and some little statues to polish. As she worked on her stock, she made meticulous plans in her head. Everything had to be perfect this time. Sergeant Gibson’s suspicions could not be aroused so careful planning was needed.

The older girl, Mandy, approached the counter with a stack of magazines while her friend hung back and fiddled with her phone.
“That will be $3.50 please, Mandy”.
As the girl pulled out her purse, Norma asked. “How’s your mother dear?”
“Oh she’s fine. Dad’s taking her into Freeport for a weekend away and she’s very excited about it”
“I bet you’re planning a party while they’re gone aren’t you?” Norma asked with a wink.
“Well I hadn’t really planned anything” The girl seemed genuinely innocent on the matter.
“That’s a great idea Mandy. We have to have a party”. Cilla gushed excited at the prospect.
“Now girls you two be careful of those fruit pickers. I’ve heard those boys are a wild bunch and I would hate to see you get mixed up in anything naughty”. Norma warned using her most grandmotherly tone.
Both girls giggled and Cilla nudged Mandy.
“When did you say they were going away, dear?” she asked casually.
“This Friday. I mean tomorrow, Mrs. Gains”.

After the girls had left the shop, Norma took up her position near the front window. She watched the girls cross the road and head towards the pub. They were having a very animated discussion with lots of nodding and laughing. As they passed the pub the doors swung open two of the young men from the fruit picking group came out. The girls stopped and spoke to the men. One of the men put his arm around Cilla and she laughed enjoying the attention.
Norma was very pleased. She did enjoy causing mischief of all kinds but in addition to her immediate pleasure, she wanted the police to be kept very busy this week.

At five o’clock Norma turned out the lights and locked the shop. She walked up the main street with her handbag over her arm. When she reached her old Ford Falcon, she unlocked the car and sat behind the wheel. She pulled the car out of its usual parking spot and turned the corner slowly driving past the pub.

“Well well well!” She spotted the young man with the longish brown hair that had caught her attention earlier. He was walking around the back of the pub heading out of town. Norma looked around and checked her rear and side view mirror to make sure no one was watching. She pulled-up alongside the young man. This was unplanned but much too good an opportunity to waste.

“Excuse me, young man”. Norman leaned over and called out of the passenger side window.
“Yeah?” He said surprised.
“I need some furniture moved and I wondered if you would like to earn some extra money?” Norma kept her voice light and tried to look as helpless as possible.
“Yeah I guess so” He answered looking in the window and seeming to decide she posed no threat.
“Oh wonderful! Hop in”.
“What now?” He seemed confused.
“Yes it won’t take long.” Norma was finding it difficult to keep the impatience out of her voice. The young man shrugged and got in the car.

Matt couldn’t believe his luck when the old lady offered him some work. He hated fruit picking and was trying to get enough money together for a bus ticket to Queensland where he had a mate that owned a bar. He was sick of this small town and he didn’t like being outside in the heat all day.
He sat back in the seat and looked around the car. It was a classic and it had to be at least forty years old. The old lady certainly kept it in good condition. He wondered how long this would take and how he would get back to the pickers quarters.

“How long do you think this will take?” He asked.
“Oh not too long. What’s your name dear?’ The old lady asked.
“My name’s Matt”. He answered. “I like your car,” he added.
“Well thank you dear. Call me Norma”.

The old lady seemed pleased and began talking about her late husband. The poor old thing was probably lonely he thought. He wished he didn’t need the money so he could offer to help her for free but right now money was very tight. Driving along with the old lady made him think about his mother and he made a mental note to ring her that night.

After driving or about fifteen minutes they pulled down a gravel road and came to a stop in front of an old weather board house with a big verandah around the front of the building. The roof was grey and the house was white. Roses and hydrangeas grew in front of the porch and along the pathway that lead to the front steps. The house looked like something you might see on a postcard.

“Your house is amazing, Norma. Who does all the work in the garden?”
“There’s not that much to do. When I’m feeling good I’m quite strong”. Norma said with a chuckle.

When Norma unlocked the front door, Matt wasn’t surprised that the house was just as quaint and perfect inside as it was outside. There was a great deal of floral furniture and doillie covered surfaces. As he walked into the house, Matt was suddenly struck by the smell. It was sort of like rotting potatoes and ash. The smell was not overpowering but it was oppressive, making Matt decide to finish whatever work Norma had for him and get out.

“Take a seat dear”. Norma motioned to the little floral sofa next to a table with a silver framed photo.
Not wanting to disappoint the old lady, Matt sat down and tried to breathe through his mouth.
“I’ll just go and fix us some tea”. Norma gave another one of her little chuckles and started heading towards the back of the house.
“No. I mean no thank you Norma. I can’t stay out too long or I’ll get locked out of the picker barracks”. This was a lie but he didn’t think Norma would know what went on at the picker’s barracks.
“Nonsense! It’s only six o’clock, you have plenty of time and I insist”. Something about the way Norma said this sounded more like an order than an invitation. Matt felt unnerved and he wanted to get up and leave the foul smelling house. Not knowing how to do this without causing a scene, he simply smiled and said.
“Okay”.

While Norma was in the kitchen, Matt looked around the room. It was spotless. There was a series of black and white photos in silver frames lining the mantle, but the one on the coffee table next to the sofa seemed to be the most recent. A grandfather clock near the front door ticked loudly. The loud tick tock together with the smell was really making Matt nervous. He was just considering bolting out the front door when Norma came bustling back into the room carrying a tea tray.

“Here we are. You are in for a treat Matt. I’ve made you my famous peach tea”.
She placed the tray on the coffee table and for a second, Matt could have sworn she was trying to sniff him.

“Look, Norma I’m feeling a bit sick. I think I should go”. This wasn’t a lie. The smell; the clock and Norma’s strange behaviour was getting too much for him and he just wanted to get out of the creepy old house as quickly as possible.
“Oh you poor dear. It’s a good thing I made peach tea; it settles the stomach. Drink it down and I will drive you straight home”. Again it sounded like an order even though the she was smiling.

Matt gave a sigh and gulped down the tea. It tasted very sweet but there was an underlying chalkiness that was quite unpleasant. He put the cup down and smiled at the old lady. She was sitting opposite him on a little floral armchair watching his every move. When he put the cup down she leaned forward eagerly. Matt thought she probably wanted a compliment on her tea.
“Very nice”. He managed.
“I’m glad you enjoyed it. Now just relax and let it take effect and you will be feeling wonderful in no time”. Her voice sounded very hollow and far away.

Matt looked at the old lady but his eyes felt blurry so he began blinking rapidly to clear them. He could hear Norma’s voice; she was still talking but he could only make out the odd word. He felt very strange but sort of calm. He leaned back on the sofa and closed his eyes. The last thing he heard was the clock ticking as he drifted off to sleep.

There was a “Bang!” Matt’s eyes shot open. He looked around in a panic. He was tied to a metal trolley in a very brightly lit room. There were no windows just rows of shelves and stacks of boxes. In one corner there was a stove and a butcher’s block with a large meat cleaver imbedded in the wood. The ceiling was low with three lines of florescent lights along the middle and near Matt’s trolley was a set of steps leading up to a little platform and a wooden door.

Matt tried to sit up but both his feet and ankles were tied down with what looked like leather straps. He strained against the leather but this only seemed to make it tighter. He made himself stop and take three deep breaths. He remembered taking the tea from Norma and then nothing. The old woman must have put something in it but why? Why would she do this to him? The woman was obviously very old but every instinct in Matt’s body was telling him he was in terrible danger.

There was another “Bang!” Matt turned his head towards the door. The knob rattled and the door opened.
“How are you feeling dear?” Norma asked as if everything was normal.
“Untie me”. He demanded. “Are you crazy? Why are you doing this?”
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to get into a stranger’s car?” She asked looking very concerned.

Norma chuckled and walked down the stairs. As she approached the trolley, she reached out and caressed Matt’s cheek. He flinched away from her touch. She looked different. She seemed to be standing up straighter and moving faster than she had before. Even her voice sounded different; sort of deeper.

Taking a step closer, Norma leaned over and sniffed Matt’s face. The smell of rotting potatoes and ash was overpowering and he started to gag.
Norma seemed pleased and started to laugh and as she did her mouth suddenly looked impossibly wide. Her pupils seemed to spread like ink until her eyes were completely black. Matt panicked and began bucking against the straps. He could see now that she wasn’t human. Whatever this creature was, it was no old lady.
“Please don’t hurt me”. He begged.
“It will only hurt for a moment”. Norma answered in a deep throaty voice.
Matt began to whimper as the old lady licked his face. He had given up struggling and now felt helpless to stop whatever was about to happen to him.

There was a sudden shrill ringing. Matt was so startled that he let out a loud shriek. Norma’s hand clamped down over his mouth and she hissed at him to shut-up.

For the first time she looked worried and Matt realised that the ringing was a door bell. He bit down on her hand so hard he tore through the skin and something foul filled his mouth. Still the hand remained in place.
With her free hand Norma pulled what looked like a filthy hanky out of her pocket and quickly shoved it in Matt’s mouth. She reached under the table and produced another leather strap which she tied around Matt’s mouth to keep the hanky in place. With Matt silenced she turned and dashed up the stairs and out of the door with the speed and agility of a twenty-year-old.

Norma cursed under her breath as she rushed up stairs. She was outraged that someone would dare interrupt her when she in the middle of something so important. As she walked through the kitchen she grabbed a tea towel and wrapped it around her injured had. The boy had done some damage but if everything went according to plan, it would soon mend itself.

When she reached the front door, she took a second to collect herself and make sure she had the appropriate friendly old lady expression on her face. She opened the door and was more than a little surprised to see Sergeant Gibson standing on her front porch.

“Oh what a surprise”. Norma tried to keep the anger out of her voice.
“Good evening Mrs Gains. I’m sorry to intrude on you but I’m here on official business. Can I come in?” The Sergeant’s tone was extremely polite but firm.
“Well I was just about to have something to eat but I’m always happy to help in any way I can. Please come in”. Norma stepped aside and allowed the man to enter the house.

Norma motioned for the man to sit on the sofa as she took up her spot in armchair. She felt a little nervous with Matt downstairs but she decided to see where this was going before she did anything rash.

“I need to ask you a few questions about a young French backpacker that went missing in this area last spring”. As he spoke, the Sergeant took a note book and pen out of his top pocket.
“It has been confirmed that Guildfern was the last place that the young man was seen before he disappeared”. He held Norma’s gaze as he related this last part and then he waited.
Resisting the urge to stare at his gun, Norma asked “Would you like some tea?”
“No”. He replied flatly. “The young man’s name was Marcus Rein. Did you know him Mrs Gains?”
“Why would I know the boy?” She answered with an amused chuckle.
“Do you know a girl named Mandy Sims?” He asked changing the subject.
“Yes I know her from church but I don’t see”. He cut her off
“Mandy remembers Marcus talking about earning extra money working for the woman who owns the junk shop”. His tone had changed and his use of the term “junk shop” made Norma feel very uneasy.
“I don’t really remember. There are so many transient people through this town it’s hard to keep track”. Norma replied fiddling with the tea towel on her injured hand.
“Do you often hire young men to work for you Mrs Gains?” Again his tone grated on Norma’s nerves.
“No!.. I really can’t be of any help in this Sergeant and my supper is getting cold so if you don’t mind”. She stood and waited for the policeman to get up.
From the kitchen there was a rattling and the sound of a chair being moved. Gibson stood up.

“What was that?” He asked sharply.
“That’s just my cat. No if you wouldn’t mind?” Norma tried to usher him towards the door when another noise came from the kitchen. This time it sounded like the door opening.
“Is there someone else in this house?” He demanded. As he spoke the kitchen door swung open and a terrified young man with leather straps hanging from his wrists stood there.

“Help me”. The boy begged reaching out both his hands to the policeman.
Norma didn’t waste any time. As the Sergeant reached for his gun, she grabbed him by the front of his shirt and lifted him off the floor. With surprising strength she swung him around and threw him against a cabinet decorated with porcelain chickens. The Sergeant’s large frame smashed the cabinet sending wood and porcelain everywhere.

With the police officer on the floor dazed and hurt, Norma turned to look at Matt. Her pupils had completely taken over her eyes making them two huge black orbs. Her mouth was impossibly large displaying what looked like two rows of hundreds of small sharp teeth and her nose had flattened into two long slits. The effect was horrific and Matt stumbled backwards shrieking as he turned and ran for the back door.

Norma looked from the dazed police man to the young man escaping through her back door and made her decision. She leapt onto Sergeant Gibson and straddled him. Gibson blinked his eyes and seeing Norma’s grotesque face; he began bucking and trying to push her off him.

“What the hell are you”? He screamed as Norma’s huge mouth closed over his.
Sergeant Gibson was a large man and he bucked and wreathed for a good forty seconds before his struggling gave way to twitching and then he went completely limp. Norma closed her black eyes and sucked enjoying the delicious taste. She continued to suck until the man was little more that a dry husk. Norma had devoured every liquid part of the policeman.

When she was finally satisfied, she stood-up and straightened her skirt over her surprisingly strong hairy thighs. Her face rippled and returned to normal. She felt wonderful. All the stiffness in her joints had vanished; her hair had lost most of its grey and she looked at least ten years younger. She unwrapped her hand and all trace of injury had vanished.

Norma looked down at the dry shell that had once been Sergeant Gibson. She prodded the remains with the toe of her shoe.
“You don’t look at all well. You really should have taken the tea”. She laughed.

Matt ran as fast as he could through the scrub along the side of the gravel road. He kept looking back over his shoulder expecting that awful creature to jump out of the bushes and grab him. If he could just make it to the main road, he might be able to stop a car and get help.

As he ran he couldn’t help think about the police officer. He had wanted to help him but instinct had taken over and sent Matt running like a child and now he was still running. His chest was burning with the effort but fear drove him on. When he reached the main road he fell to his knees and sobbed with relief.

It was almost completely dark now and Matt had been stumbling along the main road for what felt like hours. He was sure he had turned towards town when he left the gravel road but now he was doubting himself. His teeth were chattering and his hands were numb he couldn’t get the old woman’s monstrous face out of his mind and was afraid he never would.

He heard a car behind him and turned to see headlights approaching. Terrified that it was her, he hid behind a bush on the side of the road. When the car passed Matt was able to see that is was a small truck and not the Ford Falcon. He ran out into the road screaming for the truck to stop. The truck kept going and just when it looked like it wasn’t going to stop, the brake lights came on and a man and woman got out of the truck.

As the couple approached Matt started to cry. He sank to the ground and needed help to stand and walk the short distance to the truck. All the way he kept repeating the same words.
“Hurry up or she’ll get us. Hurry up or she’ll get us”.

The next afternoon three junior police officers approached Norma Gain’s house. The front door was open and the place seemed to be deserted. When they entered the first thing they noticed was the smell and the second thing was the shrivelled up corpse of their commanding officer.

The house was searched and no trace of Norma was found. In the basement the police found the trolley just as Matt had described it and twenty jars marked “French Chutney”. The jars were sent to the city for analysis. Norma’s car was still parked in front of the house but the garage around the side was open. It seemed that Norma had an escape vehicle stashed away ready for her escape.

Over the next few days officers from the city arrived to help with the investigation but it was as if Norma had vanished off the face of the earth.

Matt was questioned extensively, but whenever he got to the part where Norma’s face changed, the various police officers would give each other knowing looks. Matt knew that they thought he had snapped and gone a little crazy. Maybe he had because he couldn’t stop thinking about Norma Gains and the monster he had seen her turn into.

Matt didn’t go to Queensland. In fact, he returned home very quickly and moved back in with his mother. He didn’t go out much; he slept with a nightlight and he never ever took a lift from a stranger again.

Sin Título

Rebeca Olguin

Sin Título

Un Jardín

Rebeca Olguin

Un Jardín

Darkroom Negatives

Kathleen Deliege

An answered telephone call overheard. A coloring of anger. Only “Hi. Yes. Okay. Okay.” And boxed within, an entire undercurrent of unhappy marriage: like, say, a fight over the holidays, things have been bad for days now or maybe years, and that heavy exhaustion with another person’s way of existing, coupled with personal shortcomings like impatience, creating this palpable intolerance–the voice communicating its personal burden of injustice, like it’s speaking to the studio audience, and the resulting image is that both people’s flaws form a toxic combination, and it’s a bubbling vat of acid in a watched pot waiting for a blink, this relationship is, or it’s chemical compounds waiting for the oops that will blow up the lab, but then there are the pictures: of the son just after he was born, then a few years later, plus the drawings tacked to the cubicle walls, words like “to” and “daddy” and “from” in blocky letters, at tremor to their lines, certain of their limbs broken backward, and there’s the sense of maybe having judged too harshly and maybe all is fine; after all, nothing has really ever been said to indicate otherwise.

———–

The maze at Hampton Court Palace. The secret to getting out. And was it a certain relative who suggested it? Which means he was actually right about something pragmatic or practical, which rarely happened–why would a person who disregarded all directions and road maps and signs and pointed fingers, relying instead on an internal sense of direction based on nothing tangible but instead a mistaken perception that one’s own gut feelings about the universe were messages delivered by that universe, somehow know enough to care about finding his way out of a maze? (except maybe that was it: his need for self-preservation, to avoid being trapped in a dark corner with shadow-agents lurking in ominous twists or turns just as likely as a path to escape and to sunshine enough to imprint the tiny factoid in his mind: right hand against the wall, the kind of thing someone who’s scared of flying will remember, and he is: scared of flying). And it turns out he was right, right hand against the wall. But hadn’t you known that before? That thing they say about mazes, hadn’t you always known that, and so maybe you were the one who suggested it, and maybe what was surprising, what painted this memory a shade of unexpected, was that he went along with it?

———–

A slow drip from a faucet in a house that’s a house you never want to change, because if it does, that means you have changed too, which means a part of you is dead, which means that one day, all of you will be. You want to fix the leak, because it wasn’t there in the beginning, but you don’t know how to fix leaks. You think of the sitcoms or dramas where someone tries, sprawled on the floor with a wrench, garments bunched or stretched, screwing or unscrewing a pipe or its parts, the situation always a metaphor, about control or lack of it, and how here it is the same with you, just standing in the room, with your eyes closed and your ears open, hearing the soft infrequent plash, thinking, how much is that small sound really hurting anyway.