Halloween Special Edition 2012

October 29, 2012 Comments Off

Alewives by Guy Yasko

There wasn’t anything on TV, at least nothing we wanted to see. The big people told us not to go past the park. But we did. It was too cool not to. Bricks, burnt up cars, burnt up buildings …

We threw bricks. Like the big people did. At Joey. He ran past the park. But so what? No one was watching. He hid in a building. We went in, too. Pretty soon, we forgot about Joey. In one building, out another. The buildings smelled like alewives and ashes.

We went around a corner where the dead fish smell was stronger. There were dead people hanging from streetlights. Birds sat on their shoulders. Their clothes were all white. Bird shit. The birds flew away when they saw us. The dead people jiggled on their ropes.

More dead people were on the ground. Alex poked one with a stick. The stick went right through. There was nothing inside. Skin over bone. Alex started running. We ran, too.

I never told anyone.

© 2012 Guy Yasko

Photo Credit: Flicker.com ky_olsen  Attribution 2.0 Generic  (CC BY 2.0)

Guy Yasko was born in Chicago and has arrived in Milwaukee via academia, Japan and Montreal. He makes a living at the intersection of Japan and the anglophone world, often as a translator.

MASK by Kenneth Pobo

James learned to breathe with his mouth rather than his nose because his hometown smelled bad. He spent much of his time in his mom’s curio shop. He felt more at ease there than most anywhere else—except the attic of his family’s home. His mom sold many odd items, but his favorites were the masks. Some made him laugh, and some resembled famous people. Many were hideous, death masks or faces contorted by anger, and he liked those best. He didn’t find them scary, and didn’t find it strange when one of them would talk to him.

“Are you paying attention in school, James?” a skeletal mask wanted to know.

“I daydream,” James replied. “I doodle all over my papers and get in trouble.”

“I’d do badly in school, too,” said the mask. “They want obedience, and I eat obedience.”

All James wanted to do was paint.

He told his parents that the masks talked to him, but they knew James had a strong imagination and humored him. James hated that, but he respected his parents and usually escaped to the street. Most of the people he saw in town looked like buffoons or sillies, driven mad by a desire to impress. He hated that too.

Tommy was the only boy James knew who believed that the masks actually spoke. He wouldn’t go in the curio shop, and the others laughed at him. James wished that he could make Tommy see that the masks didn’t hate kids, but he didn’t want to upset Tommy because he’d cry or run off.

Eventually James became a famous painter. He often painted masks or people with mask-like faces.

“Why not paint happy faces?” a lady in an ostrich-feathered hat asked him.

“They scare me,” James said.

While he was painting, he often dreamed of the curio shop. Some artists search for a muse if one doesn’t come to them. Not James. He didn’t have to. The masks had become his muse, talking to him in memory, guiding him, sliding letters written by Death under his door, letters that would terrify most of us. James found them humorous, even a comfort, full of eager advice and encouragement. He’d read the letters, set up his easel, and paint as if his life depended on it.

It did.

© 2012 Kenneth Pobo

Photo Credit: Gunawan Kartapranata Wikimedia Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported  (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Kenneth Pobo has a new chapbook of micro-fiction out from Deadly Chaps called Tiny Torn Maps. His chapbook of poetry, Ice And Gaywings, won Qarrtsiluni’s 2011 chapbook contest and came out in November 2011

Isaiah 57:15 by Jon Beight

I was billed as “The Geek,” but I knew better. I was a murderer. I murdered for money. I murdered to put food on my table, shoes on my feet, and a roof over my head. Nothing more. Nothing less. Never was I proud of this, but never did I suspect I would wind up in this wretched place in atonement for what I had done.

Ten times a day. Every day. My performances slaked a curious and exuberant crowd’s thirst for unnatural and horrific death.

My victims share a common experience: frightened anticipation boiling over into the mad rustle of wings as they struggle to escape, talons flailing in reflex to my tightening grip. Through feathers and skin, I split their bones, spray their blood, and inevitably they surrender. How I got here is not important. I was alive. I died. I am here. All that matters is I am here, amid the heads and bodies of my victims. Their blood has stained my skin. A stain that carries with it the unholy stench of violent death. It’s etched so deep that no amount of washing, of scouring, of praying, can remove it.

But I am not condemned to dwell here for eternity. Instead, I must preside over endless marriages that will make two parts as one. I must oversee the reunion of bodies, to make whole their spirits. I have but one sewing needle. I guard it with care, for if the needle is lost, then I am lost.

When the work is done, when the haunting echoes of anguish can no longer be heard, this stain will be gone, and I will be free.

© 2012 John Beight

Photo Credit: Photographer Unknown circa 1930 Free Historical Stock Photos

Jon Beight lives and works in Western New York. He is doing his best to figure out this writing thing.

Through Disarticulations by Peter Baltensperger 

Worlds explode. Mountains crash into valleys. Oceans seethe. A high-speed cross-country train rushes across a broken viaduct into nothingness. Lakes and rivers churn with imploding stars, primordial storms. Damian walks into a river of blood, looking for direction in a world without signposts, answers in a questionless panorama. He reaches into the thick darkness, groping for solutions to equations he has yet to encounter without recognizing the implications, the inherent significance of the landscape speeding by.

A solitary tree grows out of the river, its massive crown silhouetted against the black sky, long branches dangling into the blood. He grabs hold of a limb, pulls himself into the thicket of branches, grasps at stability in the insecurities of the night. A woman sits in the crook of a branch at the top of the tree, her hands balanced against the thick wood, staring up into sky. She knows about the importance of balance, the maintenance of a calculated equilibrium. Above her, constellations are shifting, crackling into unrecognizable fragments, eliminating further probabilities. She watches in silence, unperturbed.

Damian climbs up to the top of the tree, sits on the branch next to her, immerses himself in her security. She wraps him into her balance, points to the confusion in the sky until he begins to recognize the connotations, even though his eyes are blurred from the river and he can only comprehend fragments of her interpretation. She takes his mind into hers and rocks him through the equilibrium to show him the meaning of rivers, the consequences of mountains. The tree sways dangerously in a sudden blast of wind, a reminder of who they are.

The woman takes hold of his hand and they jump back into the rushing blood, fight their way across the current, climb out of the river into a field of flaming grass. She doesn’t have an answer, only cryptic messages she gathered from the top of the tree. They skirt the inferno in silence, find their way into a town without eyes. The world begins to make some sense again, even though he still can’t decipher the ultimate implication of darkness, can’t understand the impact of her balance. The woman refuses to reveal any information. She has already achieved her completion with her waiting, her attention to the voices in the wind.

A concerto for violin and flute echoes faintly through the town, bounces off the black sky. Damian reaches into the trembling air to gather insecurities for his collection, touch the equilibrium he knows exists somewhere in the void, but he can only do so much with his hands. The woman has fulfilled her purpose and dissolves into the tremolo of the first violin. Only the conductor knows of the crescendo, the final resolutions of the eddying notes.

© 2012 Peter Baltensperger

Photo Credit:  Nikolai Astrup Circa 1917  Wikimedia Commons {{PD-1923}}

Peter Baltensperger is a Canadian writer of Swiss origin and the author of ten books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His work has appeared in print and on-line in several hundred publications around the world over the past several decades. He writes, and has been writing all his life, because he has to and loves to do it, and because it constitutes an integral aspect of his personal quest. He makes his home in London, Canada with his wife Viki and their three cats.

Trick or Treat by Simon Kewin

He hated Hallowe’en.

Any other time of the year he was safe. People hurried past his decaying clapperboard house, his graveyard jungle of weeds, and pulled their children along with them. Not stopping.

Everyone knew the stories. The mad old recluse in his crumbling house. Noises at night. Chewed up bodies buried in the basement. Let them talk. He saw no one, spoke to no one, and that suited him fine. That was best for everyone. Everything under control.

Until Hallowe’en.

On Hallowe’en, they lost all fear of him; thought their ridiculous costumes protected them. Up they came in giggling, laughing flocks to rap on his door. Most of them just children. Why did it have to be children? He would ignore them, of course, dowse the candles and cower in an upstairs corner where they couldn’t see him. Still, he’d hear them. They’d shout at him through his door, hurl stones against his windows. They knew he was in there. They’d vie with each other to terrify him the most, promising to set fire to his house to flush him out. The monsters. He’d crouch in the darkness, arms wrapped around his knees, shaking from fear and self-loathing.

They’d come in groups but sometimes alone. Like now. A solitary knock on his door. Perhaps their friends hadn’t turned up. Perhaps they had no friends.

He’d made a vow many years ago, swore it by his own long life. But this was too much. They were to blame. They wandered up to his house and ruined everything.

Why couldn’t they leave him alone? Every other night of the year he could control it, but not at Hallowe’en.

He threw open the door and hauled the child inside.

© 2012 Simon Kewin

Photo Credit: © Joyner Library Permission to reuse this work is granted for all non-commercial purposes.

Simon writes fiction and poetry. Some is fantasy, some SF and some can’t make its mind up. His work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies. He lives in the UK with Alison and their two daughters Eleanor and Rose. He is currently learning to play the electric guitar.

Simon writes fiction and poetry. Some is fantasy, some SF and some can’t make its mind up. His work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies. He lives in the UK with Alison and their two daughters Eleanor and Rose. He is currently learning to play the electric guitar.

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