Happy Halloween from the Editors at A&A
October 31, 2017 Comments Off on Happy Halloween from the Editors at A&A
Happy New Year from Our Altered State to Yours.
December 31, 2016 Comments Off on Happy New Year from Our Altered State to Yours.
Old Man and Shoe By Tom Whalen
August 29, 2016 Comments Off on Old Man and Shoe By Tom Whalen
An old man was in love with a shoe but didn’t know what to do. Sex with a shoe, I mean, hey, even sex at my age with anything … but still …
The shoe, by the way, wasn’t his shoe — it’s not like he could make free with it — but the shoe of his neighbor. As to whom the foot the shoe belonged, he lusted after it, too, and with it he also didn’t know what to do for the same reason. Sex with a foot, I mean, hey, even sex with any part these days … but still …
One day at the bus stop, he blurted out his feelings to the shoe, which didn’t know what to do either until the head attached to the foot that lived in the shoe told the foot to tell the shoe what to do, i.e. ask the idiot to marry it.
They marry and move to the edge of town into a house shaped like an old woman’s high-top, which acts as an aphrodisiac to the newlyweds. The old man’s passion for the shoe and the foot and the body to which the foot is attached is insatiable, and soon they have so many children he doesn’t know what to do.
The mind manufactured from the electro-chemicals in the brain housed in the old man’s head reasons the only way to save the object of his affection and their progeny is to do away with himself — manner unspecified — which he does, leaving children scampering riotously in and out of the house’s eyelets, dangling from laces, scraping dirty feet on the underside of the tongue; and in the kitchen, its drawers and cabinets agape, their mother, distraught, exhausted, perhaps even demented.
© 2016 Tom Whalen
Tom Whalen lives in Stuttgart, Germany, where he, too, doesn’t know what to do. http://www.tomwhalen.com
Wolves By Kit Maude
August 22, 2016 Comments Off on Wolves By Kit Maude
No, I can’t speak.
Yes, of course.
Yes, it was.
Because of my tongue.
Sorry, I’ve got pretty used to the sight.
It was torn apart by wolves.
No, ‘wolves’ plural. Small ones.
About half an inch long. They snuck into my mouth when I was asleep.
Yes, half an inch.
Yes they do.
No: wolves. Not insects. Not rats, not mice. Canis lupus.
Yes, there is.
I remember it quite well, you know. What with it happening to me. I was seven years old. I woke up to the sound of tiny howls, and then came the pain. Do you know how much it hurts to have half a dozen little jaws clamping down on your tongue? I tried to shut my mouth, but that just enraged them further. I could feel them bulging in both cheeks, hopping around to get a better purchase. They tore and tore and tore, until, well, you saw what was left. There was so much blood in my mouth that a couple of members of the pack. . .
Yes, they do.
There was so much blood that a couple of members of the pack slipped down my throat. I swallowed them. The throbbing was incredible. It could have filled a dozen balloons.
No, that was what happened. When I opened my mouth again, four wolves came out, each with a chunk of my tongue. They left most of it behind in pieces. They leaped off my bed and slipped under the door. My parents didn’t find me until the next morning: they thought that my grunting was the plumbing. I never spoke again, and it was a very long while before I could sleep properly. Eventually, I discovered that wolves are afraid of fire, so I keep a lit candle on my headboard. That seems to work.
Yes, they do.
© 2016 Kit Maude
Kit Maude is a translator based in Buenos Aires.
A Hummingbird Trapped In an Hourglass By Jeremy Joseph Light
August 15, 2016 Comments Off on A Hummingbird Trapped In an Hourglass By Jeremy Joseph Light
Today, I will fall off of the diving board. I will make a deal-breaking typo, take two or three extra painkillers, slip in the shower, have a micro seizure during sex. I will put my laptop, tablet, and three outfits into my backpack, get dropped off at the train station and go back to California, visit my older and slightly creepy siblings, immediately complain about not being satiated.
It’s never enough.
Please sir, can I have some more? I’m twisting like Oliver, playing the pipe organ with hands full of raw liver and an ill-fitting cape. No one can be quite sure if it’s more of a Phantom cape or a super hero disguise.
I’ll return your look of disgust with a tiny porcelain potato. You can carry it up and down the Pacific Coastal Highway, chew on its industrial strength skin like you chew away at my confidence.
Sky Father hits rewind . . . I’m back on the diving board.
I sit down for fifteen minutes in complete silence. I’m scared and choose to climb back down the ladder into the twelve-dimensional lucid nightmare of shame that is visiting a public pool. The chlorine still burns my eyes. I plug my umbilical cord into the neighbor’s once stylish toaster, and the entire Holy Quran is uploaded to my consciousness.
I feel relieved. For once, I know the truth with a capital T. We dig in the sand. There are now one-hundred sacred names for each of us. A bird takes a single grain of sand from the palm of my hand, slowly flies to the moon, and gently drops it. It then returns to my hand to take another grain of sand, and it turns out that when each grain of sand is taken and a new beach is created that it only takes a blink of an eye when considering the length of eternity.
Eternity is maddeningly seamless.
© 2016 Jeremy Joseph Light
Jeremy Light is a flash fiction and short story writer as well as an editor at two well-known literary journals. His work has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine and is forthcoming in Hindered Souls. Jeremy lives in (haunted) Wisconsin.He can be found at www.horrorlit.org
Ax and Lilac By Kirsten Webb
August 8, 2016 Comments Off on Ax and Lilac By Kirsten Webb
Ax rides around on a rusty bicycle with an enormous cardboard box around her, full of everything she needs. “Like some kind of wheelie-snail,” the man who sets fire to the wicks in the streetlamps grumbles when he sees her. The box has a waist-sized hole cut out of the bottom so that Ax can stick her legs through it to pedal. Pasted to the inside of the box are hundreds of sheets of paper, thousands, bunched and torn and stacked like layers of skin. Sometimes Ax gets off her bicycle, tottering until the box steadies, then she sits down on the ground, where there, inside the box, she scribbles down the thought she’s just had. Catches and carves it hard into paper. Then she glues it up with the rest. Slaps it onto the wall. Gets to her feet. Balances her cardboard world around her. Pedals away.
Lilac’s memory is white sound, grey space, blurred images of equal quality and saturation. He had once moonlit as a sculptor who twisted wires and affixed them to dangling steel balls in a likeness of the universe, but now, that’s faded too, and his hair has grown long.
Every night while Ax is curled up asleep in her portable cardboard hovel, Lilac creeps up to it, takes a few scraps of paper, and then walks away quickly down the block. In a narrow shadowed alley with Ax’s words in his lap, he sits and reads them aloud. He tries to enter them, for if he could, they’d enter him too and fill his blood with the certainty it had forgotten it was missing. Lilac doesn’t tell Ax about this. He doesn’t tell her anything. He grows his hair and reads.
Soon the layers of papers in Ax’s box become thick, deep, giant scabs of memory. She has only a tiny portal to see through, and she tries not to crash into lampposts and stop signs. The bicycle creaks like old bones. The box sags.
Early one morning, the air barely breathing, Ax runs out of paper. Unable to burrow out of the tangle of words, she begins to write on herself. Lilac creeps up to the box, and quietly, so quietly, he begins to push papers aside until he can see the scrawling on her skin. He needs to see what’s past it, needs to dig beneath and speak Ax’s words straight into her without the interruption of skin and bones rattling against each other. He will bypass the machinery, the bureaucracy, so that he becomes indistinguishable from her subconscious. Lilac begins to slice into the box, slowly, his eyes wild, his mouth agape.
Ax’s eyes open. She looks straight at him.
© 2016 Kirsten Webb
Kirsten Webb is a writer, artist, sound-maker, adventurer, and Yale graduate based in northwest Oregon. Her writing has appeared in Ode/The Intelligent Optimist, Elephant Journal, and Short, Fast, and Deadly. http://innervisible.wordpress.com
Daybreak By Roberto Carcache Flores
August 1, 2016 Comments Off on Daybreak By Roberto Carcache Flores
It was only a few hours before dawn, before the public could admire his craft, and so the labyrinth maker stood before his masterpiece. Although he could not see the entirety of his work from this vantage point, the maker knew the precise age, size, and roughness of every slab he’d used. His design was just as painfully chiseled in his memory.
The labyrinth maker felt a soft breeze, imperceptible to anyone else, so he closed his eyes and followed this whisper deep into his creation. Each twist and bend pierced through his wordless reverie as the sun began to rise and the breeze became even fainter.
Turn, turn, turn.
All at once, the breeze came back and swept the labyrinth maker off his feet.
© 2016 Roberto Carcache Flores
Roberto Carcache Flores is a Salvadoran writer working on his first novel. He likes to express his silences through poetry and everything else in prose. Sometimes he believes he is not a real person, but this is nothing to get worked up about.
If You Want To Be A Trapeze Artist By Alina Stefanescu
July 28, 2016 Comments Off on If You Want To Be A Trapeze Artist By Alina Stefanescu
If you want to be a trapeze artist, you have to start carving out a niche early. Start with stilts at a neighborhood bbq when you are eight. Start referring to twine to as a tool and to your pinky fingers as reliable implements. Start steeling yourself against the sharp sting of shins scraping blacktop because there is more. Skinned knees are precursors. Your first orgasm behind the cherry oak dresser is only a fragment of things to come.
Your parents will likely cross their arms and say that you’re so good with numbers, why not be a math person, why not make a career of it. Your parents will use the word career like a chainsaw blurring too close to your exposed earlobe. You will have to say no thank you. You will have to say I’ll consider it. You may have to lie in earnest. Ultimately, you will be forced to hiss: Put that word away.
And: The way you swing that noun is dangerous.
And: Can I have ice-skating lessons as my birthday present this year?
Friends will make fun of you in the school parking lot. After a while, they will come to accept the things you say. At worst, they may blush and look away.
Friends will encourage you to down shots of Jägermeister and cultivate crushes.
Friends will say, isn’t so and so soooooooooooo cute, and I think he likes you.
Friends will say you’re lucky when a senior linebacker invites you to prom.
Friends will say you’re psycho when you turn down the senior for a circus-tent magic show.
But you will know better.
Aren’t you the one who wants to be a trapeze artist?
Aren’t you the one who wakes up with feathers stiff around your shoulder blades?
Yes, you are the one who ties herself to the headboard so that the girl with wings can’t do anything crazy. Like maybe fly the fuck away.
© 2016 Alina Stefanescu
Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania, raised in Alabama, and reared by the love-ghost of Tom Waits and Hannah Arendt. Among her pivotal accomplishments remains the moment when her second grade teacher at Holy Spirit Catholic School told Alina’s parents that she had “potential.” Despite her lack of Catholicism.
When Chicago Fell Over By Matthew C. Douglas
July 25, 2016 Comments Off on When Chicago Fell Over By Matthew C. Douglas
When Chicago fell over, there was a long stretch of silence. El trains with no tracks to grind, desolation muted cab horns and bus brakes. In Loop offices and eateries, conversations turned to stone or were smothered by it. The business of business stopped.
But then a thousand Gold Coast toy dogs squealed under the weight of Grecian marble shards, and things started moving again. Downtown, dazed survivors with stiff Midwest upper lips crawled from underneath piles of brick. Rats joined them. A street preacher climbed to the top of the ruins of a popular cathedral and insisted, through the shrill feedback of a cheap speaker, that he’d warned us this would happen. He scattered handfuls of pamphlets down below. Grateful, people used them to dab their missing limbs.
As the last of the debris settled, The Bean wobbled along the remnants of Michigan Avenue like a giant drunken cashew. It crushed a bewildered family of Iowans who, trying in vain to interpret a map with no landmarks to orient them, hadn’t been paying attention.
On nearby Dearborn Street, professional women hastily made up their scorched faces, sputtering blood bubbles through bouts of vocal fry. Twenty-something bankers, mostly dying, moaned about microbrews and Michigan football statistics. One of them struggled to Instagram a photo of the street sign jutting from his abdomen, but networks were down, and he couldn’t find his breath. A cyclist, with a badly singed beard, shouted at him to get out of the bike lane.
Meanwhile, the still-ambulatory shifted their focus to survivors stuck in the smoldering rubble. A large group of arts-school students roamed the oblivion, chanting energetically that Buried Lives Matter, while a cohort of responsibly concerned psychotherapists called down to survivors, wailing in agony under smoldering asphalt, to acknowledge that they must be having a very difficult time and to encourage them to keep sharing. Nearby, a vagrant pulled a woman to safety. She pressed a low-calorie dessert bar into his palm and swore that’s all she had.
Others weren’t so lucky. A lawyer near Daley Plaza was severed at the waist. When he looked down toward his feet, he strenuously objected, and pleaded with God to set his death over to a future date.
On State Street, itinerant junkies all started to kick at the same time. They squatted in foxhole prayer and shit themselves. The fetid goop oozed toward Wabash Avenue and drowned a trapped Lithuanian jeweler who’d been searching for a better life.
Near City Hall, a group of engineers with identical bald spots surveyed the damage. They crouched over a broken cinder block and debated how best to piece it back together. The damage on the South Side was unknown. They hadn’t thought to check.
I wandered, at once aimless and deliberate. I met an Asian monk who bowed and handed me a gold amulet. We prayed briefly and uncomfortably. He clasped my hand and implored me to donate ten dollars. I gave him two and swore that’s all I had.
© 2016 Matthew C. Douglas
Matthew C. Douglas graduated with a B.A. from Florida State University’s Creative Writing program. He lives in vibrant and/or disastrously inclement downtown Chicago, Illinois, where he practices criminal and civil litigation and teaches undergraduate courses in law. He can be found online at www.matthewcdouglas.com
The Swamp By Kristina England
July 18, 2016 § 1 Comment
My older sister holds up a banana peel, some of its threads dangling. “You shouldn’t throw these away immediately. You should let them sit.”
“Because you need to slip, fall feet first into the mouth of a bull, contemplate what that feels like. This mandarin will help you do that.”
I smell citrus, blink, and she’s gone. So are the remnants of my breakfast, except for the pulp. I flip through a large binder that only has one idea throughout, the same philosophy that gets me dressed in skirt-less suits on weekdays to claw my way through cubicles only to find every office occupied by lethargic bulls.
I decide to eat an invisible fruit. It is fleshy, not like my screwdriver arms. It’s better for the little man inside who pokes at the last waves of my waterbed belly. He used to be my mother, shaking her head at my dog-like appetite, but since, he’s morphed into every steer I know.
My older sister reappears, grinding an accordion, her dress made of buttons, her hands stuck to the box with stitched staples.
I cover my ears. “You should oil that.”
“It’s not meant to sound good. None of it is.”
“Go play your menstruating tune to someone else. It’s not my problem you can’t keep any fish.”
Her face streams into a pond, the rest of her body positioning itself in disappointment.
“Why already in your pajamas?” my younger sister asks. She is the shadow at the end of a lit room. She was eaten by wolves in my mother’s stomach. So was my younger brother, though he came out alive and permanently confused. He does not make his way into my head. He has nothing to prove.
I pull on a pink evening gown; cover my face in glitter. Then, I spill apple juice all over my feet, let it morph into a baby.
“Is that better?” I ask.
“Where is the steering wheel?” my sisters bellow.
“I am the wheel.”
The man in my stomach barks with anger. I rummage through the refrigerator, get to cracking, fizzing, stomp him out with a greasy egg sandwich.
“I don’t need a driver. I never needed the apple juice either. Why is the floor so gosh darn perfect?”
I take a shovel from my spine, start smashing at tiles. The baby cries in the sink. He is real. He is very, very real, so I hand him to a woman who looks like my older sister. She stops grinding, turns into a trumpet.
I go back to the kitchen, keep digging until I splinter my spine, hit jellied rock, and cave through, my own pond a swamp, murky, thick, polluted by the eyes of others. I let myself sink in, find no bananas, no mandarins, no over-compressed accordions, or bulls, but even in the bog, I can hear a baby crying my name.
© 2016 Kristina England
Kristina England resides in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her writing has been published in several magazines, including Gargoyle, Silver Birch Press, and Story Shack Magazine. https://kristinadengland.wordpress.com/