That Beautiful World By Stephen V. Ramey

September 24, 2015 Comments Off on That Beautiful World By Stephen V. Ramey

In the beautiful world we knew as children, there was no brimstone, only introspection, a chance to gather ourselves from the glorious treachery of a day lived full. We sank onto knees scuffed and scraped from play and asked for love in a voice that moved inside us like fabric turning inside out. We glimpsed the quilting of our lives in those slow minutes, the way things work, the benevolence of a God only imaginary before. He was real. We were matchsticks and He the flame that lit us.

When it was over, we would stand, and, for a few seconds more, silence would cloak us from each other. Then, with the sharp persistence of the inevitable, noise would return, the noise of the city, the noise of our troublesome flesh, the noise of each other.

Love pounded by ticking seconds cannot endure. Glittering dust settles into shadow, and we are left to deal with ourselves. Your heaven is not my heaven and my heaven is not yours.

Predatory shadow, sharp-toothed mantra, gnawing until only blood is real and violence our means of communication.

Do you wonder what might have changed had we not turned from each other? Imagine God touching your face — warm as the sun — me falling to my knees beside you, and as the dirt sprinkles from my fist, imagine it clinging to our skin until we are once again cocooned in that beautiful world.

© 2015 Stephen V. Ramey

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in many places, and he has edited three volumes of the respected Triangulation anthology from Parsec Ink. His first collection of (very) short fictions, Glass Animals (Pure Slush Books) is available wherever fine books are e-sold. Find him at http://www.stephenvramey.com

A Ceremony of Innocence By Stephen V. Ramey

November 3, 2014 Comments Off on A Ceremony of Innocence By Stephen V. Ramey

A yard covered in the purist white, a snowman of perfect proportion, a tree, a fence, the field beyond glazed with snow, and I breathe. The air is not cold in my lungs, but warm and moist. My gaze lifts to the sun, light too fluid for the tree’s arthritic fingers to hold.

These farms are not like Nebraska. Borders bend with the landmarks; roads turn through one curve after another, a widening gyre. Nothing stays still, nothing makes sense.

I gaze at Jenny. She likes pancakes with whipped butter and maple syrup. She likes to sleep in, tucked down into the blankets. I wait as long as I can, but there are cows to milk, hay to pitch, water troughs to fill.

“Come on, lazy bones.”

An eye peeks out. A toe emerges. I imagine it pressed to my lips; foot arched like a ballerina’s, the tension in her calf easing as I work my way up.

“Come back to bed,” she says. The window brightens her foot and suddenly it’s Sarah, reclining on a spread of hay. The barn smells of the manure pile just outside.

She raises her bare foot. All manner of filth clings to that sole. I think of the chickens in their coops, the cows in their stalls, the horse’s tail swatting. She watches expectantly as I touch her to my lips, take her onto my tongue. Her mocking laughter fills my head.

This is where it comes apart. Jenny is not in bed, not in the house, the shed, or anywhere I will let myself see. I raise my hands, red against the sun.

The snowman stares accusingly.

“The world will melt you,” I yell. Ice hangs in the air.

© Stephen V. Ramey

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in various places, most recently Gone Lawn, Cactus Heart, and Pure Slush. His first collection of (very) short fiction, Glass Animals, is available from Pure Slush Books. http://www.stephenvramey.com

The Beast They Do Not See by Stephen V. Ramey

May 26, 2014 Comments Off on The Beast They Do Not See by Stephen V. Ramey

They run in circles, faster and faster, each chasing the other, chasing themselves. “Slow down!” the Centermaster screams. “You’re straining the rods, you’re twisting the chain.” They move too rapidly for warnings to catch them, too energetically for childish brains to understand.

A crack, a snap, and the center post topples. Gone is the restraint that applies purpose to their power. The runners fly off at angles, pinballs unleashed upon the city of man.

Splat! goes one, Splash! another, as flesh intersects brick as plate-glass cuts them clean. Blood drenches desiccated gutters ill-designed to handle such sludge. Mounds of flesh and shattered bone. Children, they were children, are they children still? Is innocence forever?

“We don’t understand,” the Inventors lament. “We designed it to harness entropic energy. This device should have saved us from the desert consequence of our prior inventions.”

“You did this!” the Parents shout. “You sacrificed our progeny to fuel your evil intent. All we wanted was tomorrow today.”

A thunderous thud, a skirling wind. There, on the horizon, the beast, the lion, the inevitable force. No compassion in that gaze, no sympathy in that soul.

Concrete cracks. The broken center post spins around.

“A sign!” the Centermaster screams. “We must strive to comprehend.”

“No.” Inventors, on their knees, ears pressed to the ground: “The water is coming, if you will only hear.”

“No.” Parents stand tall, eyes lifted to the haze: “Our children are there, if you will only look.”

A piston step shakes bedrock. A swishing tail throws sandstorms. And, still, they do not see.

© 2014 Stephen V. Ramey

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in various places, most recently Gone Lawn, Cactus Heart, and Pure Slush. His first collection of (very) short fiction, Glass Animals, is available from Pure Slush Books. http://www.stephenvramey.com

The Sea as a Sickness by Stephen V. Ramey

September 12, 2013 Comments Off on The Sea as a Sickness by Stephen V. Ramey

The beach was the texture of beef tongue. Harper rested on his feet, eyes seeking the unblinking sky. That is the realm of angels was his single thought. His heart thudded once, twice, a pause, a thud. He stared at the empty bottle cradled in his palms and wanted more.

A few strides away, Margie watched the ocean curl. Gulls dove into its spray. She thought of the long slow contentment of her life with Rick, the quick-slurp withdrawal of his death. At dawn, she had scattered his ashes on the ocean. It was almost noon. Was he still with her, or had he gone?

Ronnie in the lifeguard chair thought of CPR, his weight leaning in and out above a body with riotous red lips. The cadence was important, the pressure too. Too much of him, and the victim’s ribs would cave. He thought of a cage bending inward, point-punctured flesh, the stain of blood on water. For an instant, it was real, not the body, not the blood, but the feeling of implosion and imminent death.

Margie hugged her knees. “The sea is a sickness,” she said, and glimpsed Rick’s body churned and smashed within the foam. His eyes opened, his arms reached.

“The sea is a sickness,” came to Harper as if from an angel’s throat. The ridges of his forehead folded. His stomach heaved. He dropped to his knees, and the world curled around him.

Ronnie didn’t see the landscape wad into God’s invisible fist, or smell the vomit from Poseidon’s lips, but he did note a subtle change of perception, an alteration in the way the sun’s rays slanted, a shift of wind that carried sound differently. Someone needed saving. Someone needed him. He cupped his hand above sweat-stung eyes. No one was in the water. No one was on the beach.

© Stephen V. Ramey

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in various places, most recently Gone Lawn, Cactus Heart, and Pure Slush. His first collection of (very) short fiction, Glass Animals, is available from Pure Slush Books. Find him at http://www.stephenvramey.com

Virgin Christmas by Stephen V. Ramey

February 14, 2013 § 1 Comment

Harold’s hand on my thigh, cold and hard and insistent. I think of the Virgin Mary, who gave birth without the necessity of carnal relations, who so deftly avoided unwrapping her soul upon the altar of mortal love.

“The tree is beautiful,” Harold says. “You’ve done a wonderful job.”

My eyes lock onto the Nativity, the goat kneeling in prayer, baby Jesus, Mother Mary. I pray for her to save me. Show me your secret, I beg in my head. Show me the way to Christ without Harold . . . well not without Harold, whom I love so dearly, but without Harold’s hand creeping up my thigh.

A flash of light. The blinker strand activates. A capacitor reached its threshold of resistance and has discharged. I recall the unwavering glow of Mary’s head in the stained glass window at church. Was she once dark? Did God’s touch light her up?

Harold squeezing beneath my skirt. His hand is hot, not cold. His hand is hot.

© Stephen V. Ramey

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in Microliterature, Literary Orphans, Pure Slush, and Connotation Press, among others. He edits the annual Triangulation anthology from Parsec Ink, and the twitterzine, trapeze. Find him at http://www.stephenvramey.com

No Umbrella by Stephen V. Ramey

September 6, 2012 Comments Off on No Umbrella by Stephen V. Ramey

A moment of sunshine erupts on a rainy day, leaving no time to defragment my drive, my life, my frantic impulse. I dash for the cafe, laptop clutched beneath one arm. I have no umbrella.

The café features pastries made up from scratch and a counter clerk I fancy. My philanthropist father would say to stand firm against temptation. The world is rife with cataclysms more pressing than my cock. I think of him booking a flight to The Congo, Ethiopia, Darfur. I think of his direct stride and gaze; the immaculate slacks, shirt … no tie. He enters turmoil like the calm at the center of a storm. Oh, to walk in his shoes, to experience his wealth of ambition.

Enough! What matters now is that this mad dash culminates in reward: Amy the counter clerk and a Napoleon, dripping crème. Twin hungers on the cusp of explosion.

The curb trips me. The laptop skitters, collides with brick façade. Crack! comes the shame, dark like a womb, a cloud begging release. I glimpse flashes of Father, mending the fencepost I had crashed the dirt bike into, and flashes of him gripping the U-Haul steering wheel as we drove back from the college I’d flunked out of. What’s behind that placid face? those industrious hands? and why must his life so often be postponed to repair what I have broken?

© 2012 Stephen V. Ramey

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania, home to not one, but two pyrotechnics manufacturers. His work has appeared in various places, including The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Bartleby Snopes, and Caper Literary Journal. http://www.stephenvramey.wordpress.com

Murder at Your Door by Stephen V. Ramey

February 23, 2012 Comments Off on Murder at Your Door by Stephen V. Ramey

Imagine a man outside your apartment door. Imagine his tentative knock.

“Sally? Open up, Sally. I want to see your face.”

Your first impulse is to look through the peephole. You don’t. Curiosity kills the cat. You’ve seen that movie where the killer drives a 40 penny nail through the portal bridging him to you.

“Sally? Come on, Sally. We have to talk.”

You wonder about his voice. You’ve heard it many times. Yet, it could be a recording. Digital. Is that static along its edge?

“Come on, Sally!”

Emotion boils through you, a volcano of the stuff. Your hand clenches. Knuckles and tendons and blood. It is made of these materials. You are made of these materials.

Is he?

“All right, Sally, have it your way.” An envelope slides under the door. You hop back. Your panicked gaze fixes on the intruder, so slick, so innocent on its surface, deadly within. One touch of Ricen and you will die.

Footsteps in the hall. A pause. They return.

“I didn’t mean for this to happen, Sally.” The door rattles, then a sigh. “Sally!”

Footsteps recede. He’s gone. You imagine him emerging from the building, a swat team waiting atop the roofline opposite yours. You imagine bullets descending, the subsonics and angles they create. A red hole penetrates his forehead. You recall a rose, cologne, the touch of someone’s hand on yours.

2011 Stephen V. Ramey

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania, home to not one, but two pyrotechnics manufacturers. His work has appeared in various places, including The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Bartleby Snopes, and Caper Literary Journal. http://www.stephenvramey.wordpress.com

Blemished by Stephen V. Ramey

December 15, 2011 Comments Off on Blemished by Stephen V. Ramey

There is no blemish on Carla’s cheek, no purple hand print, no red smear, not even a mottled bruise to mar her otherwise perfect skin. Still, she cannot stop herself. She looks twice into every reflection she passes, as if the first look has suppressed its reflective nature in order to shield her from herself. Out of empathy, she supposes.

In the morning, she moisturizes her face, applies a concealer, then one blush dusting after another until her husband bangs the door. It never fully works, but at least it lets her feel as if she has done her best.

This morning, Karl’s knock comes early. “Carla, I’m going to be late. I have to stop at the Post Office, remember?”

“Just a moment.” Carla dips the brush, scrapes, applies. The next stroke is to the opposite cheek to even her out.

“I’m serious, Carla. I have a big day ahead of me.”

“Just a moment,” Carla says. She turns her face. A reddish blotch glares. More concealer, she thinks, but that means stripping her skin bare and starting again.

“Carla!” The doorknob rattles.

Air leaks out of her. It will have to do. She unlocks the door.

“It’s about time,” Karl mutters as he slips past.

At breakfast, she eats with one palm pressed to her cheek, delicately placing her fork down in order to grasp her coffee mug and sip.

Karl looks up from his paper. Carla can’t take her eyes from the distorted index finger angling from his joint. Shrapnel from an IED nearly tore that finger off in the process of killing his friend. He still wakes at night, sweat dripping down his face, a scream frozen in his throat.

“Why don’t you eat like a normal human being?” Karl says.

“Okay,” she mouths. She pulls her hand away a millimeter at a time.

“There,” he says. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

“No,” she lies. She feels exposed.

“Carla?”

She meets Karl’s hard eyes. Usually she looks away, but today she does not.

There’s a melting between them, a softening. An image comes into her, a muffled silence, the muddy, bloody body of a best friend twisted at her feet, a bubble pushing up from her stomach through her chest, emerging as a scream, the scream morphing into consuming light, a flame of agony up and down her skin, toes curling inside her boots, fists clenching into balls. Then it’s gone, replaced by her vanilla childhood.

Karl sets his coffee cup down. The mangled finger is red with ceramic heat.

“You’ll be late,” Carla says into her lap.

Paper rustles. The chair scuts. She feels Karl walk around the table. She glances up long enough to receive his morning kiss. Then he is gone and Carla’s palm returns to her cheek.

© 2011 Stephen V. Ramey

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania, home to not one, but two pyrotechnics manufacturers. His work has appeared in various places, including The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Bartleby Snopes, and Caper Literary Journal. http://www.stephenvramey.wordpress.com

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