from “Foreign Parts” by Colin Meldrum

August 31, 2010

FULL STORY APPEARS IN THE JULY 2010 ISSUE!

The next day, playing swimsuit one-sided tennis against the backside of the house, I realized all of a sudden that I was alone.

I kicked off my last article of clothing. I even tiptoed to the kiwifruit orchard and found a fresh hen-egg-sized kiwi. I cupped it in my hands like a delicate hamster, not yet plucking it from its nest. It was no more than a silhouette thanks to the glare of the sun. With warmth parading in my eyes and baking my nude skin, I was in paradise and favorably blind to the impending adventure in my palms. I plucked it from its branch and bit into it like a forbidden apple, tore a morsel before I could get away.

Once I got past the fur and realized it wouldn’t wriggle, the experience was near thrilling, and I indulged.

It was then, upon opening my eyes, that I spotted the golden garden cage: opened. It was gaping at the middle with the whole cylinder bottom hanging like a hysterical jaw. I had never seen it opened before and the new shape of it was disruptively asymmetrical. Suddenly, I was not so alone. I was naked.

Before I could think, I leapt into the tree

Though tree never seems to be the best word for a kiwi plant. The orchard was more of a vineyard: the first level was a confusion of poles and twisted wooden lightning bolt trunks, and the top level was an unbroken cloud of brush at head-height.

And I was wearing it. Sitting with my legs tangled and dangled among the vines, the leaves were my loin cloth and bubble bath, and I was Zeus looking down from above the world—or perhaps I was Odysseus and only rented my time among the gods.

My heart had begun a rapid cello-strum. I sensed the invading eyes upon me but scanning the yard, I found no trespasser. From my seat, however temporary—or precarious, as the wind and whining vines suggested, I saw many things and the last few minutes of my life flashed before my eyes: the lone tennis racket, my clothes heap, the mocking cage. I’d chuck the tennis ball into its teeth if I could find it.

Bonk! There it was against my head and into my hands, and I dropped the kiwi.

I looked to see who had thrown it and was surprised to find a creature perched atop my jungle cloud, not five yards from where I sat. It slouched tightly cross-kneed, raising and bobbing her chin like a pretty monkey fishing for a sweetie, chewing with an occasional underbite on something from an hour ago. She—I was sure it was a she—acted as though she hadn’t noticed me, but I knew she was the culprit launcher of my own tennis ball.

There’s a queer feeling you get when you realize there’s an animate being in your presence where you expected none. That’s when my heart and lungs mixed up and I became an amateur at breathing, but in the end, it was my heart that won out and I decided: I would fall in love with her. I wondered if she was kiwi-green beneath her brown hair. The more I watched, the more difficult seemed the task. I lolled back in my throne and attempted a few head bobs of my own. She glanced my way and offered an oxygen mask. I wasn’t sure where to go from there.

The vine gave at that moment anyway, and I rolled head over heels through the cloud into the dust.

On the way down, I saw that someone had stirred my clothes heap. I pushed my head up quickly and caught sight of him at last: white and bulky in astronaut garb and making a zero-gravity dash across the lawn at one-bound-per-three-seconds. With my shorts dangling from his boot ankle, he stabbed the planet with a flagpole. He made to salute—but saw me coming.

He stumbled slowly over swim trunks, but nothing serviced his escape. I caught up in less than a sprint and wrestled his floating body to the ground, taking full advantage of his otherworldly gravity. I loomed over him like a god, raised my fists, and bashed in his tinted visor ape-style. His eyes squinted under the unshielded sunlight—his face was green—green was envy—his mouth gasping like the cage. I crammed the tennis ball into his jaws. I cast him blinded and silenced into the sky, and he was lost.

I turned to pick up the flag, but the pretty creature was gone.

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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 “Ursa Major Swims” by Garrett Harriman

May 24, 2010

FULL STORY TO APPEAR IN THE JULY 2010 ISSUE!

The hill was steep and she was swimming.  Swimming with B and laughing.

“Ursa!”

Swim…

What?

“Ursa, keep up!”

Adno…arctos…

Where?

Above…look…

“Ursa?”

Swim!

The other tone died off.  Fallen to her knees thirty steps down, Ursa broke from the surge.  A hillside replaced her foggy drifting with the old itch infecting her veins.  Only it was worse than that now.  Ursa gasped in dust and nettles, called back, “I can’t make it!”

“You have to, Ur!  We can’t miss this!”

“I don’t feel so great, B…”

“Ursa you whiner, come on!

“I can’t, B!  It hurts!

B rolled her eyes, but Ursa couldn’t discern that in the dark.  She was hunched on the path under a nocturnal tarp of stars, breathing hard, listening to another girl’s sandals kick pebbles down toward her.  Just gargoyled there, hating and pouting.  What sort of teacher forced his students to wake up at three in the morning?  And then tells them to reach a peak an hour away?  And then expects them to report for actual class later that morning?  B stopped at Ursa’s side, patted her shoulder.

“It’s just a little more, Ursa.”

“I don’t care.  I’m itching everywhere.”

B sighed.  “It’s not that dry up here, Ur.  No bugs on your clothes, either.  I don’t believe you.”

But Ursa meant it.  This was worse than all of last month, a staunch intuition of Not Right.  When it had started it was a minor annoyance: just an odd prod, ants in her pants and nibbling her blood.  Now its undertones made her feel not just freakish, but vulnerable.  It was flash evolving into a raw sensation so inverted that she could only describe it as a deep, fiery gumming.  And she thought it wasn’t fair–wasn’t her swimming enough?  The limit of “different?”  The ants had only tickled before–they hadn’t dared bite.  And now that Ursa wasn’t sure she could endure them much longer, stifle their portending surf, she waited for consumption.  It made her abundantly tense.

 “This feels bad, B.”

“Ursa, we can’t miss this.  I don’t even care about the grade.  I just wanna see it happen.  Don’t you?”

An easy enough thing to say.  The whole world wanted to see it.  Which meant she could read about it later.  Ursa righted herself with an effort.  When she stood straight, the itch seemed to migrate up from her diaphragm to a Purgatory of Pain.   “I did.  But now I don’t.”

“It won’t happen again, Ur!” rebuked B.  “How can you not wanna see it?”

“They don’t know that.  It could come back.”

Ursa wanted to force her itch into B, then.  Have her share its urchin-bristled feet.  She wanted to grab B by her ponytail and make her give her a piggyback ride back down to the waiting car.  “And I do wanna see it.  Happy?  This is just–”  Ursa stopped to close her eyes, to wade through her vocabulary and lightly land on a shoal.  “It’s insatiable!”

B’s hand left Ursa’s shoulder to click at her wrist.  Even at three in the morning, in the dull glow of a Velcro wristwatch, B looked how B looked.  No makeup either, Ursa noticed.  B was for beautiful–that’s the ABCs.  Ursa massaged her marching gut.  Nothing nullified.

“Ursa, we need to see this.  We just have to.”

Ursa blinked at the glitter above, letting the night distract her.  It wasn’t working.

“Do I have to carry you?”

Ursa needed to say yes, the idea flaring through her head like a Navy Seals floodlight.  Until she looked back at B, hands on her hips, a silver Nikon camera wrapping her neck.  No–no, not now.

“No.  I guess I’ll try walking, though.  If it means so much to you.”

B beamed a lighthouse.  “There ya go.  We don’t have to watch all of it.  Just enough.”


from “Mary’s Waltz” by Dayna Ingram

December 18, 2009

FULL STORY TO APPEAR IN THE JANUARY 2010 ISSUE!

The dry wind whips into a brief fury, and when it settles I hear a voice from my neighbor’s backyard.  I leave the ants and press my ear up to the rotting wooden fence.

“Little heart a-beating

Little life so fleeting

Will you take it with you

Or die try-ing?”

The child-like voice sings a nursery rhyme I’ve never heard, almost whispers it, really.  I straighten up and put my hands on the top of the boards, and lift myself up until I can just peek out over the top.  There is the girl from the window, wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt, kneeling in the dirt near some sort of small circle made of stone.  She looks a little more real out here in the daylight, a little less tragic.  Something moves inside the circle, but I can’t make it out, and my arms are getting tired.

“Hey,” I call as my grip begins to slip.  “What are you doing?”

Her song cuts off mid-verse and she grabs something up from the circle, but she doesn’t turn her head to look at me.  “Come and see,” she says.

I drop to the ground and all but run around the fence, through her gate, which hangs open.

“Sit down,” she says when I reach her.

I plop my butt on the ground and cross my legs.  Now I see the sunglasses she wears, overly large plastic ones, the kind you get at drugstores and highway gas stations.  Her head is still inclined to the circle, and I look down.  I’m back on my feet in less than the time it takes to shout, “Jesus!”

Inside the circle, a sleek blue-black scorpion, about the size of a box of woodstove matches, stands as still as the stones surrounding it, pincers and deadly tail poised in the air.

The girl laughs, low and musical, the kind of laugh that is able to distract me from the strangeness of what I’m seeing.

“It’s okay, he won’t hurt you,” she says, and beckons me back to her with a closed fist. I step a little closer to the circle but I don’t sit down.          

“It’s an Emperor Scorpion,” the girl goes on to explain.  “Their sting will hurt you, but it can’t kill you. My dad imports them from Africa, on request. He owns a pet shop. Sit down.”

“That’s okay,” I say.  “What are you doing with it?”

“Watch,” she says, and opens her fist.

On her palm sits a tiny brown mouse, at least two times smaller than the scorpion.  She tilts her hand and the mouse tumbles over her fingers and into the pit formed by the stone circle.  The scorpion jerks back from this new arrival, and the mouse pumps its puny forepaws along a rock, furiously trying to climb it.

The girl starts up her song again, humming at first, then repeating the first verse, slowly, as the mouse begins to explore its surroundings.  The scorpion’s pincers widen, and my stomach clenches, knowing what must happen.  I think about telling her to stop, or maybe snatching the mouse back up myself, but I’m frozen with cruel curiosity.  The mouse runs in frantic circles around the stone perimeter; the scorpion twists slowly to follow it.  The girl sings another verse in her low, upbeat whisper:

“Molded out of black glass

Turn too slow but think fast

One more bite it’s over

No cry-ing.”

Before I can blink, the mouse has scuttled its way onto the top of the scorpion’s tail, and now it is feverishly chewing away near its tip.  The scorpion continues to turn in slow, tight circles, trying to bend its pincers backward to knock off the mouse.  Almost independently from my brain, my body bends closer to the battle.  I can hear the mouse’s teeth work their way through the scorpion’s armor-like hide and into the meat of the thing.

Finally, the business end of the stinger is gnawed off and falls away, and the mouse wastes no time.  It jumps onto the scorpion’s back, well out of reach of the flailing pincers, and digs into the scorpion’s neck.

“No cry-ing,” the girl sings again.

“Wow,” I breathe.  “Shit.”

There’s only the sound of the mouse’s chewing for a while, and the wind picking up, and my heart beating.  I realize I’m sweating, and wipe my arm against my forehead.  Sticky skin against sticky skin, does nothing.

A door creaks open behind me and the girl moves camera-flash-quick, kicking out as she stands up so that the stones fall into the circle, covering both scorpion and mouse in some sort of awkward tomb.