Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kenneth P. Gurney

First November Tuesday
its offspring for a handful of silver coins

and a substance that blotted out the moon
so dreamers would have to face
their auctioned reality

and a cube of the masses’ hunger
that fit easily in a box for next day shipping

and the rejection of an amazing woman
who chose not to have her face
added to Mount Rushmore

and a small breach in the universe
that let the finches fly
to a happier place
before the back room seamstress
sewed it up.

We Took a Slow Walk to Paris
Your statement
The ocean is a field of Daffodils.
allowed us to cross the Atlantic.

We entered the train station
moments after the Orient Express
departed for Istanbul.

I always wanted to interrupt
at Thirty-nine rue Descartes

or tip a cauldron of hot wax
for Robert the Strong
during the Viking siege.

You simply wanted to sip coffee
at several unnamed bistros
located on a leisurely tour

of cobble streets
while in search of a colored pastel
active in the hand of Degas

or settle for the magic
of a steady rain shower
in a movie by Woody Allen.

Sometimes, I find myself wondering
about cantaloupe moods
and how their moods change
from green to ripe to rotten.

And whether they like
being set on the counter
adjacent to oranges or apples
or honeydew or a buttered piece of toast.

And if in any way they say farewell
or shalom or aloha or ciao
with the first incision of a knife
that penetrates to their hollow core

or if they simply fear for their seeds
going out into the world
and how birds and ants
might end their vine.

Usually, I grab the vanilla ice cream
and fill the natural bowl
of the half cantaloupe
with two or three scoops.

© Kenneth P. Gurney 2012

Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM, USA with his beloved Dianne. His latest book is This is not Black & White. To learn more visit

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bill Floyd

ANTI-MADONNA (or Even Rough Beasts Have Mothers)

Jade lived east of Eden, but the walls of Bethlehem were ever visible on the horizon. The gyre widened, the center loosed, and Jade’s own mother downloaded lots of trendy books onto her Kindle, but never finished reading any of them. Hell, if they were any good someone would make a movie anyway, right? The ladies in her book club agreed, and after all there was always Jade’s brother’s soccer league to think about and school and the doctors and the dentists (even rough beasts’ mothers have cavities) and the bills, you simply wouldn’t believe the bills. Her husband kept saying there was no way they could afford an Ivy League slot without a scholarship of some kind, so Jade spent most of her junior year studying or running around the track outside the Academy or staring at screens or shopping, but she knew something was missing, something dimly remembered that would no longer reappear when she tried to summon it, like a falcon that had flown.

Some would later wonder aloud, as they staggered irradiated and dying across the scorched landscape, how the nominal Father gained entry into their gated community, but of course the security guards manning the gates were subcontractors, you couldn’t trust them not to be dozing or getting high on the job most of the time. Jade was over-worked and under-appreciated and just kind of fed up; hell, she was practically wearing a target on her skinny jeans. It wasn’t that the horn-mantled slickster really took advantage of her, so to speak—he just promised her something it wasn’t technically in his power to give, hardly an original crime where aroused males are concerned. In this case the seduction was sealed when the interloping Omega promised young Jade a slot on a televised talent competition, and it’s every young American’s responsibility to try and become famous for something, right? If anyone had ever bothered to teach the girl how to sing, or dance, or tell a story, the future might’ve been different for all of us.

© Bill Floyd 2012

Bill lives in central North Carolina. His first published novel was called The Killer's Wife and came out in 2008. He's been doing more experimental work since then, but is currently trying for a commercial follow-up so he won't have to go back to a day job.

Thursday, June 21, 2012



One Monday morning when James woke up, water dripped from an unseen faucet. The low howl of the wind traveled along the plumbing of his building. Outside, down in the street a dog barked and a car door slammed.
Stiffly he rose from his bed. As he crossed the room, he saw something that stopped him in his tracks.
His chifforobe had grown soft white bunny fur in the night. It pulsed gently in the corner of the room cooing and moving within itself. It beckoned to him, seemingly yearning to feel his competent fingers assessing its tactile merits. Who was James to refuse? He knelt and began to caress the chifforobe. It shuttered all over with delight.

The phone rang. Reluctantly, James answered it.
On the other end of the line a mechanical voice warned him of a vicious fur outbreak. It cautioned him not to pet any predatory fur. In the event he was exposed to an outbreak he was instructed to saw his own hands off. James did not own a saw.
He ended the call.
No machine could understand how soft the fur was.
He had to protect the fur. If it was discovered there was a fur outbreak in his tenth floor apartment, they would tent the building. They would advance with chemicals and spray against the poor defenseless fur!
He rushed into his bedroom and fell on his knees before the chifforobe, plunging his rough calloused hand into the soft white fur.
Oh the sensation! The pulsing appreciation of the clean white fur!
It fed off his adoration.

In response to his solicitous petting, it spread. It leapt from the surface of one piece of furniture to another then to another, and then to another.
In a matter of hours it had begun to climb the walls.
In another few hours it covered the floors, the window, the ceiling.
That night a soft and cuddly death patiently began to steal over James, so soothing, he did not suspect that he had become the disease.
He only wanted to be caressed, to respond to the feel, the pressure of warm hands, to spread infinitely outward, always growing, always changing.
James was the virus and the virus was James.
Soft downy fur pushed its way through his follicles, evicting the coarse black human hair.
The white fur spread quickly and within a quarter of an hour he was covered from head to toe. His eyes were changing shape. His vision was both narrowing and expanding.
When he leaned against the wall, he disappeared completely. His pink eyes blinking were the only distinction between him and the soft, white, pulsing fur that covered the walls.
His fingers twisted in their sockets. They were changing shape, merging into one.
He could not keep his hands off himself.
His senses heightened, he could hear the tumblers in the lock of the neighbors’ apartment turning as the door swung open.
He crept out into the hall where a light had burned out providing a theatrical twilight.
He crept on his newly furry feet to stand directly behind Jose, a sweaty Latino he had never cared for.
He snaked his furry hands along his arms and biceps. He flinched and struggled. Then, inside the glory of acceptance, he gave in to the fur.
They cuddled for nearly fifteen minutes, and when James strolled away from Jose soft white fur was rapidly spreading along his skin.
James made his way down the stairs, trailing his rapidly mutating paws along the hand rail, cozy white fur sprouting where his fingers had been.
He burst through the lobby doors and hit the street. He was all impulse—one-hundred percent sensation. Only the sensory experience existed for him. There was only the current moment, nothing before this exact moment and nothing after. No consequences, only movement, only sound.

© Callan 2012

Callan, who left Orange County, Ca. in 2007 and moved to the country to focus full time on her writing, advises she is now living in Avalon on Santa Catalina Island in L.A. county. Her work is featured at Six Sentences and her blog: theworksofjanecallan, where a version of this story appeared in April.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rusty Kjarvik

Another worldview
at dawn's sacrificial wading

a groove sweetly prized
as the relative truth of our frantic, overgrown hallucination

in sickening respite
from the earliest lame vanity

before the show appears
as human death

powerless to the mold
resounding to an inner frequency

deranged sad laughter
groaned thick in a sumptuous tumult

under the prying talons
a delectable fire answers in blues-swing hoodlum homes

temporary as the submissive
upbringing of one purifying lash

rending the nerve-wracked fingers
of torturous warring
within the Nile’s tantrum phase

skinny, lingering smoke fix
and we eye the 99 names

to the moment's reaching up
to the negative female symbol

comrade against these forbidden culturati
timed to the arrival of the outdoor preacher

worshipping the lost dead
world of stone and writing.

Northern mind
lip sweet
and unfettered thought
swung music
intensified in the intimate romantic environment

ideal collection of the two-bodied
trailing waves in the ocean
of serene all-encompassed feeling

silently bringing the visions of the blessed to realized heights
in amnesic bliss
hearing only the fizzing of a tongue
sifting through the hydrated glory of a deep violet sight
darkly fixed inside the arborescent wilderness

to the foreign drum of an impenetrable toxicity
left unconsumed and needed by feet
lit under concrete sustained magic
of the urban disillusioned

northern mind
bringing in the steady rings of a consciousness
prepared as the instrument of a government culture
performing the theatrical stronghold

of minority no-release
a fish-burdened town of extracted marrow
through procedural temperaments
that go un-led and steam up
with chaotic strictures
that demean the meaning
of man and woman
or masculine-feminine time

Lonesome day of movement
grown thin with distance
as another hairy, greased band shines
reckless before the arrow spy
and his envisioned grave

who hails cabs
in the Siberian gruel of angry change
as we ransack the factories of uproarious disrepair
and the mechanistic bored train crashes
killing the meagre European glance
into the frantic rush of civilized absence

lonesome day of movement
through spider web sands
and drunken coasts
of blood red remorse
filing in by the pulp fiction pages
breeding scummy eyes that talk in kisses
and swoon on the porch of another early breakfast

groom who wails curiously at night for the pub dreary life
that awaits
after the cut string of golden dreams seethes and falls
to the ash of the smoky avalanche noon

in Canada’s hibernation mind
of the un-bloomed
and unborn

wenches who lament
the dry phantom queen and her uncaring cool sleeping high
with simple touches of the grave beyond
landing in sun croaked alien poverty

my first wishes grow callous
at the knock of a burnt vegetable gum
that sneaks into the cracks of layered skin
beaming with the color of a white night
turning in late with the last nest of wild being

unloved rhythms, fuming with uninspired dread
as we caress the lung wired cane
of bone sweat
carved merciless into the roaming wood
that answers in black hills
and a flat womb of earth

I’ve been taken, not today.
For so long now, I’ve been taken
But not today.

The spell of my urban hermitage has now broken
In a place where all prayers are spells
There is only one way out of this dream

I need helpers
A conscious community
To lead freely, without bickering for followers

My hermitage walls have given way to a translucent realization
Beholden with rage
I am disquiet and feed strength with tears

Tied in a knot
The way to get untangled is to create
Consumption has been a frequent spell in this broken palace of towers and rain

I hear the engines of folly
As they drain the black earth of all color and frighten the terrorized youth

Greed is suckling the thirsty mother’s teat
Her eyes are wet with separation
For your love has aged beyond the fruits of her chest

You are getting old now
Taste the milk from the divine
There is none sweeter

Cuddle close under the embrace of the absent one
She is inside
Your mind need not work to produce the fruits of her labor within you

Confront your pain
A ghost waits
At the top of the universe, hang on while it lowers you to grace

Death is not hate
Do not be short-changed by the living hell of the crackling incinerator
The hearse Earth vibrates to weak leisure and silly goals

Your tongue is the pith of all ground
Walk lightly upon its unchanging core
Spill your inborn need without ransomed poverty

Scale the cliffs beyond inhumane judgment
Your is one name

Though you retain mystery
From the recoiling lore of intuition
Full as the harvest moon in your empty belly

Fast for the power torn from you
That it should bear more likely hands
To shape the instruments of friendship and respect with equal humanity

If I could speak...
If I had a voice...

What would I say to a stranger passing by?

To hold them fast in that moment
Against the confident pressure of my heart

What would I say to a new acquaintance?

To ensure they hear my voice
Balancing delicately over the thrifty ledge
Of a shy and battered mind

What would I say to a causal friend?

That they may lift their self to know me
To meet each other anew
At a higher and closer level than ever before
Recognizing our presence

What would I say to an old friend?

That I may say again at their funeral
With love in my heart

What would I say to each individual in my family?

To all, I will say:

And I will listen.”

© Rusty Kjarvik 2012

Rusty Kjarvik is an emerging writer, world music percussionist and artist. His poetry has been accepted in various online and print publications including 3:AM Magazine, The Body Electric Anthology (and/or), Steel Bananas, ditch, and Marco Polo Arts Magazine. He has also published short fiction in Haggard & Halloo and visual art in Maad Sheep. He performs music regularly with Vi An Diep and lives in Calgary, Alberta where he blogs at

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Travis Smith

Price to Be Paid

"Have you been there or not?" Truv asked the old man sitting across from him. He glanced towards Rinda, frustration beginning to show in his eyes.
Rinda gave Truv a half-smile hoping her presence would help him maintain some semblance of patience. They had followed rumors of a sunken city to this planet and the old man across from them was the only person who seemed to have any information. He looked up from his drink at Truv and Rinda sitting across the table. After a moment he took a deep breath and for a moment his eyes brightened, lit by memories only he could recall.
"You really want to go out there?" the old man asked, then drained his glass and ordered another.
"Damn right," Truv replied. "If the stories are even halfway true there could be a fortune worth of artifacts and who knows what else."
The old man stared at Truv for a moment longer, then reached into his pocket and pulled out a small datapad.
"Here are the coordinates," the old man said picking up his refilled glass.
“You’re just giving them to me?” Truv asked, reaching out to take the datapad.
“I can see it in your eyes. I had the same look once. You are going no matter what I tell you. Take ‘em. They’re not worth the effort.”
Sensing the conversation was over Truv tossed some money for the drinks on the table and stood to leave, “Thank you.”
Rinda hesitated watching the old man as he took a long drink. "What did you see?"
The old man closed his eyes for a moment, then looked back at Rinda, "Mostly death."

The old man’s coordinates led them to a rocky island and a cave that was two hundred meters underwater. They had rented a boat that was equipped for sub-surface travel and were able to find the cave after only a short search. The cave led horizontally into the rock for several hundred meters, then opened upwards into a large chamber. The top of the chamber was air-filled and as they rose to the surface they could see a stone landing along the side of the chamber. Uniformly placed glowing lights lined the walls and they could see the walls were covered with intricate patterns. The landing led to an archway, which was also marked with swirling lines and patterns that neither had seen before.
“The old man was right,” Truv said as they brought the boat alongside the landing.
Rinda climbed onto the landing and looked more closely at the designs carved into the wall while Truv tossed their packs onto the landing.
“Have you ever seen any markings like these before?” Rinda said as Truv climbed out of the boat to stand next to her.
“I don’t think so,” he replied, holding her pack out. “We’ll get some images of them on the way out. Let’s get going for now.”
Rinda shouldered her pack and followed Truv through the archway, glancing back briefly, an uneasy feeling creeping into her mind. The tunnel was carved out of the dark volcanic rock, the polished walls lit by the same lights they saw in the larger chamber. After several hundred meters they came to a section that was partially collapsed.
“This doesn’t look like it collapsed on its own,” Rinda said. “Look, those are blast marks.”
“Maybe someone is trying to keep people out,” Truv shrugged. “Which means they don’t want us to find whatever is in here.”
Rinda wasn’t convinced, but took the lead crawling forward through what remained of the passage. She loved Truv and normally didn’t mind following him on these treasure-hunting trips, but the feeling that this adventure was a mistake was growing stronger.
"Can you see anything yet?" Truv’s voice echoed up the passage after she had been crawling for a few minutes.
"Not yet, but I think it is opening up in front of me."
The tunnel opened into a large room and Rinda stood, looking around. The room was lit with the same glowing lights. The walls were embossed with carved figures that stood out from the polished walls; the rougher texture of the statues made them appear as if they were leaping out of the rock itself. They were creatures she had never seen before, savage looking, with teeth protruding at odd angles from elongated mouths and narrow, slanted eyes glaring out of the stone, but strangely beautiful in their own way.
She started to call back to Truv but a statue on the far side of the room caught her eye. It was free standing, not carved into the wall like the others, and it looked human. His outstretched hand was holding a large gem. She watched for a moment then stood mesmerized as the statue began swaying, as if in rhythm to music beyond her hearing. The statues eyes opened and Rinda stared, still unable to tear her eyes away from the image in front of her, as he walked to the nearest statue. He spoke to it with words Rinda could not understand, before continuing around the room, stopping at each statue, before turning once again to look at her.
The air swirled around Rinda and she saw the man’s eyes narrow in anger. The damp smell of the ruins was replaced by the clean air of farm lands that now surrounded her. She watched as the man led his creatures into a small village. They resisted, but the outcome was never in doubt. The carnage was horrifying as the savage creatures tore into the villagers with teeth and claws. Last to fall was a tall, dark-haired woman. She held out the gem in front of her, as if to ward off death. Her eyes locked onto Rinda. There was no fear in them, only a grim determination highlighted by a faint glow that emanated from her.
Rinda watched the man kill her, then pry the gem from her hand. The smell of death faded and Rinda was back in the ruins. The man stood motionless, a grim smile on his face, and the creatures began circling with eyes focused on her. The largest stepped toward her, baring its jagged teeth.
"Are you alright?" Truv's voice broke into her thoughts.
"I...I think so," her voice was shaky as her mind cleared. She looked around at the lifeless statues and then at Truv, who was now staring at the gem in the statue’s outstretched hand.
Rinda remembered the dark-haired woman who had held that gem. She shuddered from the memory of her vision and the look in the woman’s eyes and she understood. “We need to leave the gem Truv. Leave everything. Just leave.”
"Are you kidding, that gem is worth a fortune."
"No!" Rinda grabbed his arm. "The old man was right. There is nothing here but death." He resisted, staring at the gem, but the determination in her voice made him turn to look at her.
“That gem has a price,” she said, “One that I can’t let you pay.” Her eyes were wide, reflecting her fear and Truv relented, allowing her to pull him into the tunnel with only a brief glance back.

The man’s smile faded into stone as the two disappeared into the tunnel. Almost, he thought, almost. Even in death that raven-haired witch had defeated him, just as she had all those years ago. She had known that he would kill her, known that he would take the gem, but now the seed was planted. These two were not the first to come and the rumors would grow with each who followed. If not this young man, then another, but he knew the lure was too strong. Someone would come and take it, and then they could pay the price for this cursed gem.

© J. Travis Smith 2012

Travis lives in North Carolina with his wife and three children where his day job supports his addiction to writing. He writes fantasy and science fiction stories for children and adults, sometimes with a humorous twist, sometimes horror, always for fun. More of his work can be found at Artifacts: Of This and Other Worlds.

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