from “Living Dead” by Michael G. Cornelius

October 7, 2010


As Jamey Faulkener’s mother used to always say: It was such a shame, really, about her son. A damned shame.

Such a shame that a boy as scrawny and ugly and painfully awkward as her son didn’t have the brains God gives a horse. Mrs. Faulkener figured that any kid that gangly, with those thick glasses, that badly pock-marked skin, and that over enlarged Adam’s apple should at least be as brainy as he looked. Mrs. Faulkener believed—quite reasonably so, in her mind—that if a boy was going to look just like a nerd, then he ought to have the smarts that’s supposed to go along with it. That way he could grow up and become a doctor or a lawyer or a computer repairman or something, something more than what he was, which, by Mrs. Faulkener’s reckoning, was a big pile of nothing. But her son didn’t have any real brains. He was bad at figures and couldn’t spell worth a fig. He couldn’t identify the parts of a cell or remember any dates from history class, not even 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue (and Mrs. Faulkener had lost count of how many times she had tried to get Jamey to remember that little rhyme, but nope—even that was beyond her son.) Jamey couldn’t draw, or sing, or play an instrument. He only passed his classes because his teachers felt sympathy for Mrs. Faulkener’s big useless lump of a son. Every year come June they’d look down at their final grade reports and sigh before placing a requisite “D” next to Jamey’s name. They felt bad for him, felt bad for his mom, and since he wasn’t any trouble—he barely registered as even present, to be honest—they figured it did no harm to just send him on down the line, to the next teacher, who would probably take four months just to remember Jamey’s name, same as with them.

It was no surprise to Jamey that his mother thought these things about him—after all, it was her number one topic of conversation with practically everyone she met. She’d talked about it to their pastor, talked about it to her hairdresser, to Jamey’s pediatrician, to his dentist, and to his Cub Scout master, at least for the five weeks Jamey had managed to show up for Scout meetings. Mrs. Faulkener talked about it to everyone, not in any hopes of finding a solution, but just so people knew the terrible cross she had to bear, the burden God had placed upon her. Pity her, who had only one child before her husband Leland had died in that mining accident; pity her to be saddled with a boy who didn’t show any hint of ambition and who didn’t even seem to be up to working the mines that had claimed the life of his father, grandfather, and one cousin on his mother’s side.

Poor Mrs. Faulkener.

It didn’t really bother Jamey that she talked like that; he was used to it, and besides, she was right. Right about him, right about his grades, right about all of it. It’s not like he hadn’t tried—he had, early on anyway, tried to show his mother something, some ambition, some attempt to make something useful of himself. One time, he’d gotten a math tutor through an after-hours program at the school. But everything the tutor said just seemed to contradict what Mrs. Pugano said in Algebra class, and Jamey’s grades actually went down. Another time he tried out for the basketball team, but only got laughed off the court. His mother told him to make sure he took his glasses off before he played, so he wouldn’t break them, but without his glasses he could barely see the ball, let alone the net. All during his try-outs the other kids thought it was fun to make rush passes at Jamey, so the ball always caught him square in the face and knocked him to the court. Down he’d go, flat on his back, the sniggers and snickers of all the other guys resonating in his ears. He’d get up again, and again, only to get knocked down again, and again. Finally, the coach told him to hit the showers.

And Jamey didn’t mind, really, that they all laughed at him. He figured if he was one of them, he would have laughed, too. But Jamey would never be one of them; he knew that, and perhaps worst of all, he didn’t mind about that, either. He really didn’t. Sometimes Jamey figured that might be his problem. For some reason, he just didn’t care. He didn’t see the point to any of it. He didn’t see any reason to get good grades in math. He didn’t see any reason to be a star basketball player. Why bother? He wasn’t going to college, he wasn’t going to the NBA, so what good would any of it do him anyway? It was the same logic he followed for almost every aspect of his life. What good would playing the piano or being able to paint a picture or eating with friends at lunchtime really do? How would that help him? Jamey had gotten this far without any of that. Whether he got good grades or not he was still just a few weeks shy of graduating school. Whether he ate his lunch with friends or alone didn’t make the Salisbury steak go down any easier. It was all the same. So why did he mind if people laughed at him or pushed him in the hallway? Why should he care if his teachers knew his name or not?

Really: what was the point?

from “Bulletproof Faces” by Michael C. Thompson

September 30, 2010


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.

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

September 16, 2010


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?”

Volume Three = Three Themes

June 22, 2010

Why settle for two issues of Collective Fallout per year when you can have three?  Volume Three will do just that with a triumvirate of themed issues!

Number 1 will be released in November 2010 (well, closer to late October) with a Gothic theme—focused on horror, mystery, and related genres.  The submission period for this issue will be July 1 – September 15, 2010.

Number 2 will be released in March 2011 with a Fantastic theme—focused on fantasy, magical realism, and related genres.  The submission period for this issue will be November 1, 2010 – January 15, 2011.

Number 3 will be released in July 2011 with a Futuristic theme—focused on science fiction, alternate history, and related genres.  The submission period for this issue will be March 1 – May 15, 2011.

Our requirements for submissions otherwise remain the same—and each issue will continue to include surrealist and metaphysical works as appropriate to the themes.  Above all, Collective Fallout remains a Queer publication—all literature and art submitted must contain strong queer elements in addition to the theme requirements.

from “Rabbits” by Matthew Jordan Schmidt

June 8, 2010


When Nevil came back from the lake that day I waited for him. I waited for three hours, not knowing that he had already disappeared in the darkness somewhere between the water’s edge and the wooden cabin we’d been living in for ten years. The night had been a still one, unbroken by word or rustle, and I’d sat by the window and watched, waited, tried to remember his face as I always did when we were apart, having no idea that this idle game of mine was to become a permanent way of life, this game of imagining him as he had been, as we had been. Even now, were I still able to, I would go to that mirror and search out his face inside of it, or place my hand upon the railing leading up to the bedroom—our bedroom—to feel the vanished warmth of his hand.

But I, too, am gone, and now someone else will feel the fading warmth of Nevil’s hand. Someone else will stare in the mirror and catch a glimpse of his face. What they will see will be confusing, probably nothing more than that blurred haze that memory engenders when it is at its most feverish and fluid. It flickers like a candle and then vanishes. But there are cinders. Always ashes that we crunch through as we come back down the stairs and see where he left his sneakers, in the nook by the door; or when we open an umbrella to step out into the rain and see the stains where his own black umbrella once dripped, pellet by pellet, into the sandy wood that we varnished ourselves in the back shed.

I combed the entire property for five days before calling the police. And then another five after the police had left. I took the dogs and tried to sniff him out. I took a flashlight and shone my beam on the places where we had laughed together. I cried in the bough of the tree where he’d come to tell me his mother had died. I sat on the swing and remembered Carrie’s visit all those years ago. Carrie with the pigtails and the ideals. Carrie with the dreams. I had never wanted Nevil’s children to be a part of our lives. I wish now that I had thought differently.

The water was still after Nevil disappeared. It refused to give me what it had given before. When I put my feet into it, I shivered with discomfort. When I took the boat out, I seemed to get nowhere; the far shore was an ocean away. Even when the leaves twirled down and got snuggled up in my swirling strokes, their crimson spirals offered me no solace. They only bled into the sediments below and lay still.

I have done the same.

I wonder if Nevil ever understood my eyes: the way they carried fog in them like an hourglass does coloured sand. I wonder if he knew about my pills, or the violence I executed in secret. That summer when we found the rabbit strung up in the tree, our eyes met in silence and the last grains tumbled down through the bauble’s glass neck. I blinked and flipped the hourglass over. Nevil did too. We buried the rabbit and stuck a cross made of poplar stems into the earth above its eyeless head. One of the dogs barked and tried to dig up the sad little victim. We ignored her, lit a fire and got drunk.

from “The Badge” by Jeremy Garrett

June 1, 2010


Scouts in rain slicked ponchos lined up on the hill.  As the bugle played the stars and stripes were folded into a tight triangle.  The chaplain spoke, and a few of the boys wrung their hands through his prayer.

Inside the mess hall a troop of scouts claimed the table in the shadows of stuffed deer heads.  Untouched food steamed on their trays as they regaled each other with hunting stories earned with their fathers.  Sam was the head boy at the table, and as a Life Scout going on Eagle he was full of the experience the younger scouts admired.  At one scout’s request he unfolded a photo from his wallet to show off his trophy kill of an elk’s head and antlers mounted above his bed.  His grin lessened with every telling of the story.  “Dad had taken his shot and missed,” Sam said.  “The elk came straight at me.  I stood and I faced him and I shot a bullet through his neck.”

After dinner the boys waited out the rain on the porch of the lodge.  Relaxed in his rocking chair, Sam was surrounded by scouts with stories less bloody than his.  A scrawny kid boasted of a wrestling win over a Goliath outside of his weight class, and another boy claimed to have survived for weeks alone in the woods.  There was one scout, however, who told stories that were not his own.

Andy McClure sat in the rocker to Sam’s right, and each day after dinner he would read the scouts passages from the horror novels he’d brought with him to camp.  Pale, precocious, and respected for his intimidating silences, Andy McClure lured all the boys in with his monotone drawl.  Today’s reading was of a Louisiana swamp cult’s deadly bacchanal.  The boys cringed at Andy’s depictions of breasts and blood, and in the time it took to read the passage the bookish kid was the most popular of the scouts.

Sam welcomed those moments when the spotlight was off him, when he was saved from retelling the story of the time he’d shot the deer.  Last night Andy had paced around the campfire recounting the tale of an escaped gorilla stalking a woman through a dark city alley.  At the climax of the story Andy had startled them all by taking hold of a younger scout and shaking the boy by his shoulders.  Sam was almost jealous of the contact.  He didn’t really know what it was to be scared.

Andy’s tale of swamp cannibals went unheard by the group of scoutmasters smoking in the corner of the porch.  Sam listened beyond Andy’s reading to catch pieces of their conversation.  “There’s nothing we can do about it,” said one scoutmaster, taking a languid drag from his cigarette.  “The land’s their property and they can do what they want.  But I dare one of them to step into this camp.”

The breeze sent tendrils of smoke spiraling towards the boys.  Though cigarettes were forbidden to them, the adults’ example placed the unhealthy practice in high esteem.  Scouts smuggled cigarettes into the camp, and each summer more and more boys were initiated into the cult of tobacco.  Sam had a pack of American Spirits in his tent.  He craved their feel in his lungs, and the contentment of holding one in his fingers.  He stood

from the rocker and pulled on his poncho.  “I’m braving the rain,” he told the boys.

Andy marked his place in his book.  “If you’re going back to camp I’ll join you.”

Camp Crooked Creak was shaped like a horseshoe around the dead end tributary of a river.  The rain lessened as the boys walked, and the camp spread out before them in all of its rain soaked glory.  On the three-mile trail to Campsite 12 they passed the craft hut, canteen, sports field, and archery range.  They stripped away their ponchos when the sun poked out from the clouds.  Closer to camp there were boys fishing from a peer, where the lake gave off the steam of a quenched inferno.

The campground was empty.  Inside Sam’s tent they sat cross-legged on opposite cots.  Rainwater dripped from the trees onto the tent, and the vibrations sent daddy long-legs scurrying across the canvas ceiling.  Sam stretched out his legs and lit them both a cigarette.  “There’s something the adults aren’t telling us,” he said.

“I know what it is,” said Andy, choking on his first drag.  “I can show you.”

Cold Iron RPG Begins Playtesting

April 29, 2010

On Saturday, April 24, a group of prospective players gathered to explore the setting and test the character creation process of Collective Fallout’s upcoming Cold Iron RPG. The setting was well received, and should be available for prospective writers and artists this summer. The rules, however, came against a stumbling block. After another month of revision, Collective Fallout hopes to gather its testers again for another afternoon of mayhem and sexual innuendo.

To learn more about the Cold Iron RPG, take a look here.