from “Bulletproof Faces” by Michael C. Thompson

September 30, 2010

FULL STORY TO APPEAR IN THE GOTHIC (November 2010) ISSUE!

I’m sitting at a glass table in the middle of Fountain Square. Jets of water burst in the center of the tiny man-made lake in the middle of the cross-section, and water splashes lightly to the brick red cobblestones that the glass table that I’m sitting at rests upon.

There is a ragged copy of a novel to my left, an odd little piece entitled The Picture of Dorian Gray. The government claims to have written it. Maybe they did. I’ve never heard of a citizen ever creating anything aside from an outfit to wear. All entertainment is provided to us by the government, even the nightclubs are run by them on some level.

It is a good day. The heat has been too much for me lately. It’s been so intense that it has warped all of the city’s dandies into cartoon-ish wooden puppets, no longer standing straight when they walk but bending into indeterminable angles.

Even in the heat, they won’t stop wearing eight layers of velvet clothing or multiple scarves and top hats. Their plastic eyes gaze out, almost melting, their pupils dilated from obviously the strongest of drugs. The dandies consume absinthe and marrow like water and bread, making homage to their dark god Bacchus, the absinthe his milky green blood and the marrow his own red flesh.

They wear feather boas and fur coats, holding their canes out and slapping the peddlers they pass by. Their hair is dyed black, purple, burgundy, or whichever color they happen to fancy on whichever day it happens to be, and they paint on the darkest of eye make-up, smearing it on their faces like charcoal and smudging it without notice. It runs down their faces in thick rivulets of sweat in this horrible humidity.

I know the government turns up the heat somehow. They must be behind it. They claim it is an unexplained phenomenon, but I’m not as dumb as most of the “citizens” of this prison. They’re behind everything that ever goes on here. I even suspect they are behind my drug dealing. I can’t be sure.

I don’t know Dr. Venison well enough to know anything as an absolute regarding his motivation. But I do know the government is behind this heat. They’re behind the cold when that comes too. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I should care, either.

I have heard that the dandies can be rather violent. Once I saw one beat a young boy of about sixteen bloody and senseless with a cane in a back alley. The boy lay bleeding for ten minutes before crawling under a bench and waiting to die.

I am not a dandy myself, nor could I be. I am decadent, yes, excessive, yes, but I could not fit in with these people because, for the most part, they are my customers. It is not good business to fall in league with your customers. And aside from that, though I do many drugs, I do not find myself reaching the level of pivotal madness that these men do – they are haunted with ghosts from the past, ghosts who visit and torment in the form of syphilis, amongst other things.

I don’t have syphilis because I know who I’m fucking (usually). They really don’t care who they’re fucking. And that, you see, is the essential difference between myself and a dandy. I give a shit.

The city’s government tried to crack down on the dandies nearly two decades ago. At this time I was a young man of twenty-six (and I do rather look like a twenty-six year old to this day, as a result of my constant face erasing and other plastic procedures which I have undertaken at great pains to myself). I remember it as if it were yesterday.

The government was not successful in capturing all of the dandies, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the whole thing was a sham crack down anyway. Those who were not imprisoned or killed were let go for a reason.

They controlled many things that happened in the city back then – maybe starting to rival the Bit City government for power. Now they don’t, of course. Now they are simply mechanical creatures, re-fueling with drugs and unloading all of that un-necessary semen in the closest vessel at hand. Something happened after the crackdown. Maybe they had gained too much power, climbed too high up a tree, and our fearless leader had to shake it to get them to come back down.

Dandies are great lovers because they always fight back. They hate being out of control. Naturally, the older the dandy, the harder it is to capture him (or her) for such a means, but of course, the older the dandy, the less you want to capture him (or her) anyway. The older they are, the more decayed they are, the more dangerous, the more risky.

Get them while they still think they have the city in their hands, ready for a fucking. Hold them down and listen to them protest before the heroin takes effect and collapses their veins, softens their eyes, drains their vitality and hardens their flesh with age. Take it before the marrow powder fills up their eyes with blood and their souls with filth.

I sit at the table with my ragged copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray, imagining.

 I look into a back alley from my safe vantage point in the gray daylight. I see a teenage boy trying to fight off an attacker. He’s got green make-up on his face.

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from “The New Boy’s Kiss” by Cody L. Stanford

September 16, 2010

FULL STORY TO APPEAR IN THE GOTHIC (November 2010) ISSUE!

The oak and elm trees were starting to turn colors.  Summer is fun, but it gets way too hot in Kansas City round about August.  I like seeing fall come so I can skate without getting all slimy and sweaty.

I had to walk Ranger home from school every day, which meant no hanging out with friends until later, after Mom got home.  That’s how Gileon and I became friends.  After walking our little sibs home, we were all that was left.

I sent Ranger inside when I got home that afternoon, and I went around to the back of the house.  There was no trellis under Gileon’s window or anywhere else on the house.  I’d just made up my crack at Fr. Shealey, but really; what the hell?  The house was built of limestone quarried out of the Missouri hills.  A strong man might be able to work his way up the sheer rock wall, but not an old geezer like Fr. Shealey.

I went inside and dumped my backpack at the bottom of the stairs so Frau Steffensmeier would holler at me later.  You gotta keep things interesting for these old people or else they’ll get Alzheimer’s, right?  I went upstairs to Gileon’s room.

I heard Gileon’s sisters Evonne and Janelle playing behind the closed door of their room, under my mom’s bedroom in the same spot by the stairs.  The girls were hiding from Ranger, who loved terrorizing them.  Whichever Hess parent walked the girls home today, I bet they swore up a shitstorm about doing it.

I heard Mrs. Hess’s television loud behind the closed door of her bedroom.  Gileon’s door was right across the hall.  I opened it and went inside.

From under the bedsheets in the darkened room, Gileon moaned.  “Close the door!”

I did, and said, “Did Fr. Shag-me fly up here last night or what?”

Gileon, totally hidden in his bed, said nothing.  A board was nailed over the broken window, so I turned on the overhead light.

Gileon, in the same hurt and angry voice as before: “Turn it off!”

“Okay, okay.”  I turned out the light and sat down on the bed next to Gileon.  “How you feel?”

“Like shit,” Gileon said.  “Leave me alone.”

I found Gileon’s shoulders under all those blankets, and I rubbed his back.  “Bet I can find a way to make you feel better, huh?”

“Not today, Tucker.  Leave me alone.”

“Ya wanna do PlayStation?”

No, Tucker; go away.”

I laughed softly.  “You really are sick, huh?”  I reached up and yanked down the covers from Gileon’s face.  “Oh my god…”

Gileon looked up at me, or at least I think it was Gileon.  His face was grey and thinner than usual, and the edges of his eyes…well, you think they’d be red because he looked like he’d been crying, but they were bluish-grey instead, like Fr. Shealey’s hands.  Gileon’s skin was hot and dry, but his long blond hair lay pasted in dark, damp strands on his skin like he’d been sweating all day.

“Shit, Gileon,” I said.  “Let me get…look, I know you can’t…I mean, I know your folks can’t pay for a — ”

“There’s no doctor can help me,” Gileon said.  He hid his face in the pillow.

“Seriously, Gileon.  Maybe I can get my mom to — ”

“Shut the hell up, Tucker!”

Goddamn it, I felt like I was about to cry.  He never talked like that to me, and we’d never had a real fight.  I stroked Gileon’s damp hair for a moment and said, “Can I get you anything?”  It’s what my mom would have said.

Gileon shook his head.  “Just let me sleep.”

I leaned over and gave Gileon a kiss on his cheek, and stood up.  I stopped at the door.  “I’ll check in later,” I said.

“Yeah, whatever,” Gileon said.  Then he raised his eyes and looked at me.  He was crying; I knew it.

“You and your mom and Ranger,” Gileon said.  “Lock your bedroom doors tonight, ’kay?”


from “Radiance” by Jonathan Mack

September 7, 2010

FULL STORY APPEARS IN THE JULY 2010 ISSUE!

I should not have looked.

If only!

I should never have looked, not peeked.  It was too much for me.  Not that I am such a weak man.  (Well, only in this way.)  I should have covered it up soon as I saw it, the crack in the wall, the crack I found in the back of the closet while I was in there rearranging my collections.  I could have filled it up with quick drying cement, a few coats of paint.  I could have simply ignored it.  Most people would.  Many people must live, day after day, with cracks in the walls of the rooms where they live and never once yield to this magnetic itch: the urge to turn off all the lights, crouch down, put an eye to the crack in the wall and peep.

I am, overall, a reasonable, respectable man.  You’d like me if we met, I think.  Well.  To be likeable requires charm and also force, a visibility I don’t possess.

Some people make themselves seen; they shine their shoes and rush up to shake your hand.  Some of us do not.  I’m too dim, too drab, but I am confident nonetheless that if you met me at work (credit authorizations) or on the street you would find me, at very least, inoffensive.  I’m a restrained man.  I have never once struck anyone, never kicked anyone in the crotch, kneecaps or elsewhere.  My voice in public is courteous and subdued.  I am, overall, a very reasonable and sane person except for my eyes which are two mad dogs always straining forward, pulling me ahead, two big dogs jumping up, snuffing about.  Crotch dogs.

The rest of my organs are very subdued, very sane.  All except for my eyes.  My eyes and, I suppose, my mind.

On the other side of the wall is a man.  Alone, as I am, but seeming not to mind.  He lives, as I do, in a bachelor’s studio with a sliver of a kitchen and a splinter of a bath.  His door opens into another hall, another staircase in this labyrinthine ramshackle low-rent complex, so that I have never met him while struggling with the groceries or going out for the mail.  He looks like a friendly sort of person, the kind who’d give you a nod, at least, even in a city like this one.  He might even volunteer to carry a bag if he noticed you struggling.  He has very sturdy arms; all his limbs, in fact, look very amiable.

The crack in the wall is, I estimate, slightly above and to the right of the man’s television.  So that I often saw him sitting turned toward me, gazing off to the side.  He was very fond of television, content to sprawl his long arms and legs over a chair and abide there for hours.  Personally I loathe television.  It is dull to watch.  Nonetheless, I admire the feckless courage of TV viewers.  How can they imagine they have time to waste?

As for me, I am a theorist.  A collector.  I was rearranging my collections when I found the crack in the wall.  I’m someone who has big ideas.  (More about this later.)  The man on the other side of the wall is only my latest, and most compelling, object of study.  In my closet I have gathered a number of popular astronomy texts, a life of Edison and the Pocket Upanishads, as well as a number of photos culled from newspapers and magazines in which the subject appears strangely illuminated, pictures that might prove something or might not, like photographs of ghosts.

The man liked to talk to his television–always in a very sensible and amiable manner.  He said, ‘Good Morning’ to the morning show, yawned at comedians, and did not seem to take anything personally, no matter how awful the nightly news became, as if everything he saw were happening in a country not his own, which he was only visiting.  At no point, of course, was he aware that he was, himself, a thousand times more interesting than anything he was watching.

I saw–and I knew.  Crouched in the dark, my nose tickled by the crumbling plaster, I watched him hour after hour.  The empyrean mysteries are introduced with simple questions: will he rub his taut belly now?  Will he stretch?  Will he yawn?  Is it time for dinner yet?  Is the world a concern?  Do his balls itch?

I watched him for hours, night after night, because–because I am a lonely pervert?  No.  Because it is my work.  My duty on earth.  I am a theorist, you understand, of the order most rarefied.  I am the student of a theory and I’ve spent all my life in its tracking and pursuit.  It’s a very tricky theory, a theory of consummate delicacy.  As soon as you look at it, it vanishes.

Yet it is there.  I’m sure of it.


Congratulations to Sandra Gail Lambert

September 1, 2010

Collective Fallout would like to congratulate Sandra Gail Lambert for the inclusion of her story “The Swamp Goddess” in Year’s Best Lesbian Fiction 2009.   This story was originally published in the very first issue of Collective Fallout.