New Issue!

June 15, 2009

 

v1n2 front copy

Collective Fallout Volume One, Number 2, July2009, is now available for purchase in both print and digital formats.

 IN THIS ISSUE

Zach Wong, “You Complete Me” (art)

Gabriel Malloy, “Mercy Following” (fiction)

Stephen S. Mills, “‘War of the Worlds’ as Fact, 1938” (poetry)

Colin James, “The Buttocks of Oblivion” (poetry)

Marie Stern, “Afferent Thursday” (fiction)

Peter G. Res, “Benediction or the Death of Light” (poetry)

Robert Samoraj, “Stoned” (fiction)

Tony Palmieri, “shrunk” (poetry)

Jeffrey A. Ricker, “The Visitor” (fiction)

Ashley Kreutter, “The Pope’s Vagina” (poetry)

Sergio Ortiz, “One and the same” (poetry)

Jim Nawrocki, “The Ballad of Tangleton” (fiction)

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from "Afferent Thursday" by Marie Stern

May 26, 2009

FULL STORY APPEARS IN THE JULY 2009 ISSUE!

Inside the photo booth, I sat precariously on Mr. Saturday’s lap, his bony thighs jutting into me painfully. I smiled anyway, and the flash went off in a blinding assault. Thin arms held me close, and we seemed a strange sort of couple.

With a squeeze, Mr. Saturday asked me, “How do you feel, Elijah?”

The tips of his hollow fingers rested on my stomach, at once selfish and questioning. I leaned back into him, felt his ribcage through his jacket, wondered about his spine. My head drooped forward, and I felt his cold breath stir the fleecy hairs on the back of my neck.

A horrible plaid curtain hung in the doorway at an odd angle, so I could see the feet of a young girl – tiny pointed mary-janes – waiting their turn, scuffing the dirt, making a pattern.

He shifted under me, and his scent flooded the little, artful tomb in which we sat. I wondered how many souls were trapped beneath my seat, inside that screen. My answer came truthfully, if not wholly, “I have no breath with which to convey this love and fear.”

I felt the rise and fall of his chest, the sharp support on my back. He offered no warmth of skin, no heat but that which colored my thoughts, even as I dredged to mind all those people I had known and loved, sinned against and lost; even as I filled my lungs with air, desperate to calm myself. The smell of cotton candy and funnel cake invaded us, wrapped around us like a blanket, in us like a gulp of bourbon. There was something about this carnival, this Thursday, that gathered up tiny evils and churned them together until they turned to dust and coated your tongue. It was freeing, somehow, in the way that accidents happen, or in the way that with enough apologies, anyone can become a great and militant lover.

Under Mr. Saturday’s gentle guidance, I shifted in my seat, to face him, to look him in his sunken eyes. His face was soft and cruel. He was my mother and my father, my third grade teacher, who died three nights after I wished she would. He told me it was not my fault, and reaffirmed that it was. Mr. Saturday was the owner of the corner store, the gas station attendant, the woman at the Laundromat with whom I thought I was in love for the longest time, and with whom I never exchanged a word. He was my second cousin, he was my first kiss.

I slid my arms over his neck and held sure. Well, as sure as I could. Mr. Saturday was chuckling a little, and the rhythm of it made my palms sweat.

He leaned forward and fed the slot dollar after dollar, the slips of paper disappearing like much needed sustenance into a greedy mouth. I looked at him, startled, and said in a voice much younger than I wanted it to sound: “Wait. All it’ll get is the back of my head.”

Mr. Saturday grinned his death’s head smile and asked, “Do you have something back there to hide?”

I didn’t, so I let my forehead rest against his collarbone.

“Let me come home with you, before we run out of money to feed this stupid machine,” he whispered to me in the shell of my ear. The camera went off: Flash. In his voice, I could hear the ocean. In his voice, I could hear the promise of things to come. Flash. “I can fool July into freezing, a pollen blizzard, a winter of stolen kisses. You’ll never suspect me.” Flash. I felt his tongue, dry and warm, follow his words. Flash. I chewed my lip and tasted copper. Mr. Saturday was in my head, and I never wanted him to leave.


from "Mercy Following" by Gabriel Malloy

April 28, 2009

FULL STORY APPEARS IN THE JULY 2009 ISSUE!

The edge of the bar pressed up hard against his elbows, and the glass was cool and slick and simple under Immer’s fingers – right and easy. Real. That was good, because he still felt skewed, like he’d gone sideways through some cheap funhouse ride. Upstairs, with that kid, earlier – that’d been fucked. Worse than usual.

It had stopped surprising him that people looking for the Bad found him; if they wanted it, it was there, running through him like dirty blood. When he took off his clothes he could almost see it moving under his skin; when he lay down, it lay down with him. When he drove, it talked to him between the cowboy songs on the radio, working its way through the sound of the engine and the commercials for beer and banks and auto-parts. It felt like blowback and it smelled of raw dirt and smoke.

Some nights it woke up hungry and stretching itself; it made him want to twist and beg, so it made some kind of sense that other people could feel it, too – even that they’d want some of it. Immer knew he wasn’t the only one with something sorry riding him – they all found each other, sooner or later.

“You think you know why you’re here – what you want?”

“Yeah.”

“Something so bad it’s going burn out what’s bad in you, right?”

A nod.

What does it look like? What are you seeing? Some mean badass fantasy with black hair and hunter’s eyes – some comic-book reaper come for you? Sure.

“I’ll do that for you…but first you’re going to do what I want, you know?”

When he shared it out, it lost a little of its hold on him, got quieter – it might even leave him alone for a few days – but not tonight. All it took was the deepening shadows and the blue neon sign outside the window of his room that bleached the kid’s hair to cold-blond, squared his jaw, emptied his eyesockets… and Parker was there. Not bidden, just there. Part of it. Because that’s what happened when you gave in.

It’d be harder to take but he’d been raised to it; brought up where the ground never acted like it should and the creeks looked like roads that disappeared while you watched, twisting themselves into black trees or fading out to sky. Water today where there was earth yesterday, and things pushing against the skin of the soft, wet air; things you could see- or almost see – if you looked right. If you knew how, whether you wanted to or not; if you’d been born for it and taught.

He remembered being sprawled across his grandfather’s chest in the porch hammock, sticky black hair falling in his face, skinny little arms and legs spidering out, breathing the old man’s smell of machine oil and bourbon and smoke, his fingers catching in the steel chain necklace with the captured saints dangling from it. Something big had flown overhead; he saw its shadow pass and heard its wings, the rattle of leaves in the live oaks as it landed somewhere nearby.

“What kinda bird was that, Papère?”

“How you know it was a bird, chèr?”

“Course it was a bird; what else would be flying in daylight? Come on.”

“Well, things aren’t always what you think they are, you know that.”

“Aw man. You sound like Mamère when I told her about the snake under the chicken coop.”

The old man’d laughed, patting Immer’s back with a shovel-sized hand and making the hammock rock like a Port Fourchon fishing-boat.

“Yeah? What she tell you he was?”

“I’m not supposed to say it. Mamère told me not to tell, and Dad don’t even like me thinking about that stuff.” He’d squirmed a little, sighed.

“Aw, it’s all right, chèr. I just wanted to know who all is under my henhouse so I can call him by name if I see him, give him good day or good night. And that Ti-Roy Joe? He may be mine, but he a’n’t so smart as he think he is.”

It’d always made him feel bigger and better, hearing that his dad wasn’t actually the Almighty. “OK, then. I guess…if you just wanna say hey to him or something…” he’d wiggled a little higher, bringing his mouth close up to the old man’s ear. It was only two words to say, anyhow – easily whispered.

“Well, now…I’ll remember that – seems I may have heard that name before, too. He’s an old one, chèr, an old friend. Strong and old. You just watch your step around that one, and you be all right.”

Like that. No amount of Vacation Bible School was going to fix that shit – even taking him away from the sweet green dark into the hard yellow dust hadn’t beat down what was in him. Roy Joe and big daddy God just had to suck that one up and swallow hard, though they’d given him a name for it. Bad. Just one word – easily whispered.


from "Stoned" by Robert Samoraj

March 24, 2009

FULL STORY APPEARS IN THE JULY 2009 ISSUE!

Little sister surprised my eyes when she took a mysterious round stone and summoned a needle. “The greatest junkie alive is coming to visit,” she said while preparing his fix. No idea who this was. “Who is this?” “Stone junkie!” No idea. The red liquid bubble in the spoon, floating around into a vial connected to the syringe. We sat on my bed, watching out the window, waiting for the visitor. Sister made a batch for both of us, and when I shook awake, something in Stone’s cold gray eyes attracted me. “Stay with us,” I said, wanting to know more.

“Only for a short time, but all right,” he said. It was an honor to host the great stone junkie for as long as he wished to stay. He even built his own needles to stick in those iron veins, transforming into a beautiful statue after each shot. His skin froze in the tidal action; the undulations turned to stone and he walked with the self-assured steps of a god with granite feathers. I took him for a ride too, down the sides of walls in my plastic hotel city, garden of flight and dilemma for the witch with the fake finger nails. I joined the junkie and the musician that played strings faster than anyone I knew. We spent time sharing stories and heroin delusions, until we started to become friends and I learned to love them both.

Maybe the false circumstances blew up the whole tangled mess.

“Man, I can’t handle this either,” Stone said when our highs started to push in their peaks. “See Bird. He’s falling apart too, playing his violin like that.” I witnessed the hallucination of this once great junkie while we nodded off in a bathtub with Bird flying on violin sounds.

The violin player stopped and smile, and he gave me a photo album of a beautiful place brought back to life. The books in the pictures would have made me cry, but we had just injected our orange-red solution and I was busy fighting with the monsters climbing from underneath the bridge on which we dozed.

“Stone,” I said, “you’re beautiful and graceful. Take a bath with me.” Coming down, so close. The moisture would soften his skin, melt him down. We could wash in that shed identity, and I would see his face.

But no. The tub stayed empty. They never brought flowers to my grave.

The musician and the stone junkie came and we danced, with great affair … there was a perfect love. The stone junkie was that which could not be touched. He violently refused to let me feel his cold hard skin, but he wouldn’t give anyone that sense. I understood, at least, why the layers cannot be penetrated. After all I had my own adamant shield to throw back attackers, friends, even lovers.

The musician strummed my guitar, clumsy but moving. He smiled, still, even after all of those images broke free from our minds. The sentinels and their plasma waves never stopped under the influence of the liquid we used. Our psyches broke down walls, and we shared the projections of our fantasies and fears.

A princess with a knife in her teeth stumbled forward, bloody and empty.

Dancing sea creatures on a lake of fire surrounded the rocky bridge where we stood.

Cars drove in three dimensions.

Dimensional barriers melted and the strangest sex was experienced, with a little death behind the skin.


"You Complete Me" by Zach Wong

March 7, 2009

Zach Wong’s “You Complete Me” has been chosen as the cover art for the July 2009 issue.

Zach Wong has been pushing pixels since 1991. He is a graduate Architect, published author, son, brother, friend and artist. His ongoing project in life is to continue to resonate with others through his art. His journey can be found at http://www.zachwong.com/


from "The Ballad of Tangleton" by Jim Nawrocki

March 7, 2009

FULL STORY APPEARS IN THE JULY 2009 ISSUE!

A few nights later, Park’s lover returned. Park saw him, made eye contact, and the young man followed him into the building carefully, at a distance, and even when sitting in one of the chairs in Park’s front room, he seemed uneasy. The street was quiet that night.

Park, somehow sensing that he had to make the first move, stood up from his own chair and walked across the room to the young man, standing over him, then reaching to caress his cheek.

“You owe me a story,” he said, kneeling on the floor next to the chair.

The boy looked at him. “I could tell you anything,” he said to Park. “And you wouldn’t know the difference.”

“I might,” he said. “After all, each one of us has heard versions of it before. You were born somewhere out in the settlements, or on your way there. They told you all about how the cities used to be, before it all happened. How it had been in Sydney, maybe. Or some of the others.”

“They’d lived in Paris,” said the young man. “And when things started to happen, they thought it might be safer here.”

“How soon did they see it all coming?” asked Park. “Most people didn’t.”

“You’re right,” he said. “They were privileged. My father was a high-level minister in the Polish government. He’d been serving as a diplomat, first in Korea. Then Egypt. He met my mother in Cairo. They’d been in Paris and had heard talk within the intelligence circles about the new weapons, about how the terrorist coalitions were starting to organize and target the financial centers. Then the plague started. They were able to get to Sydney about a year before things really started to turn.”

Park knew the rest. Sydney and other parts of the country had almost been overrun with plague refugees. The terrorists coordinated their strikes as soon as the plague started, figuring it was their last chance. They hit so many cities around the world that people really thought it was the end. In a sense, it was. Before the infrastructure broke down even more, Ring refugees had started to outnumber those fleeing the plague. Park remembered Stroessner’s phrase, the old life. The boy’s parents had had the means to get themselves out and to the relative safety of the outback settlements. Like most of the early ones, it had been a rough start.

“History is hard to come by, these days,” said Park. He was testing the young man. He sensed a keen intelligence, something beyond the surface charm of his articulateness. Somehow, somewhere along the line, the young man had had a very solid education. Probably in the same way that Park did, from the resources available through his formerly wealthy family, and then from one of the many groups of elders that ended up in the settlements, maybe someone like the one who had written the diary. At any rate, he was proving Park right. He tested Park as much as Park did him. The trust had grown between them slowly gradually.

“History is us, now,” said the young man. “We’re the ones who will have to make it.”
From his spot next to the chair Park moved round to the front, resting on his knees and he looked at him. “I still don’t know your name,” he said, waiting for the youth’s reaction.

Park heard him say, “Tah-dosh.”

“From your mother?” Park asked.

“My father, actually,” said Tadeusz. “It’s Polish.”

There was a hunger in his dark eyes that matched Park’s. Tadeusz bent down to kiss him and soon they lost themselves in each other.

from "The Visitor" by Jeffrey A. Ricker

March 3, 2009

FULL STORY APPEARS IN THE JULY 2009 ISSUE!

It’s the firsts with Dale that stand out in my mind. Like the first time he smiled at me; the first time our hands accidentally collided when we both reached for the sugar at the South City Diner, how Dale had withdrawn his hand and let me have the sugar, and how I’d wished I’d let go and taken Dale’s hand back instead. How we stood outside Dale’s front door while I hemmed and hawed until, after a silent, awkward moment, Dale asked me if I’d like to come inside.

And other firsts, I remember those too.

We were lying in bed; it was our fourth—date? I didn’t know what to call it. I was on vacation, visiting my friend Eleanor in St. Louis. Dale was her tenant. He lived in the upstairs unit of her two-family house on Arsenal across from Tower Grove Park. I hadn’t spent much time with Eleanor, and I would have felt guilty about that if I hadn’t been spending most of my time in Dale’s bed, which tended to keep my mind off of anything else.

It was Thursday afternoon. I had just finished telling Dale about my stable but boring upbringing in rural Maryland and asked him where his parents lived.

“Yeah, that.” Dale stretched his arms over his head, tucking his hands underneath the pillow. “It’s kind of complicated.”

My chin was resting on Dale’s abdomen and I stared up the line of his sternum to his face. Dale continued to stare at the ceiling. “What, were you born on an airplane or something?”

“No, not exactly.”

“Well then, how is it complicated? I mean, everyone’s born somewhere.”

Dale sat up, dislodging me from my resting spot. He drew himself up into a cross-legged sitting position, his back against the headboard. “It’s just that I don’t exactly know where I was born.”

“Oh.” I reached out and placed my hand on Dale’s forearm. The hairs were soft; they were so blond you almost couldn’t tell they were there except by touch. Touching him that way was arousing, but I tried to ignore it for the moment. “Were you adopted? It’s not like there’s anything wrong with that, you know.”

“No, it’s not that. Look, do we have to talk about this?”

What was this about? “Why shouldn’t we talk about this?”

Barely audible, Dale said, “Because you’ll think I’m crazy.”

“I don’t know about that.” I sat up too. “But you’re beginning to drive me a little crazy. What is it? You’re not in this country illegally, are you?”

Dale lifted his head, alarm painted in broad strokes across his face. “What makes you say that?”

“Well, what else is there? You’re not adopted, you weren’t born in transit. Either you’re not of woman born and this is some Shakespearean weirdness, or you’re an illegal alien. So which is it?”

Dale sighed. “I’m not illegal, but I’m an alien.”

I threw up my hands. “Well, why be so coy about it? Most people have a certain national pride, you know. Unless you’re from Canada. Every Canadian I’ve met has had an inferiority complex. Is that where you’re from?”

Dale shook his head. “You still don’t get it.”

“I know.” I was going to start yelling any minute, I knew it. Great, our first argument. Would there be make-up sex? “You’re being so evasive, for all I know you’re going to tell me you’re an alien from Mars or something.”

“Well, not Mars. More like ‘or something.’”

“Oh.” I looked down at my hands. “Oh.” I was sitting cross-legged too, the sheet tucked over my lap. I wasn’t feeling aroused anymore. What should I say next? Are you sure? Are you nuts? I couldn’t say that, though. It was what he was expecting, I could tell.

I’m sure I wasn’t quiet for long, but it was long enough that he looked at me in that way that wasn’t accusatory, but made me feel like I was accusing him with my silence.

“So,” I blurted; I had to say something. “You don’t remember anything about home?”

He shook his head and started talking about being brought up in the foster system, bouncing among a few families in California until he was a legal adult and on his own, as he had been ever since. I don’t remember many details of what we talked about after that —jobs, education, friends—and eventually we segued into the make-up sex that I’d wondered about earlier. Of course, we hadn’t really had an argument, but it was close enough, and he seemed so relieved that I didn’t think he was crazy that he really put his effort into it.

But I wasn’t relieved, and I wasn’t sure I didn’t think he was crazy. Afterwards, when I was lying in bed still exhausted and Dale was taking a shower, these things flipped over and over in my head. Of course he couldn’t be an alien; that was absurd.

Right?

Where was he really from, though? What happened to his parents? And what happened to make him believe in such an outlandish fabrication of his background?

The questions piled up as I lay there thinking. I wished I could go back to my happy ignorance of just a couple hours earlier, when I was high enough on lust that I didn’t need to know where this exciting new man in my life was from. And the longer I lay there, the more I realized how little I knew about him.