UPDATED WITH WINNER: LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: June Edition

Flash fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity.

How This Works

We give you something. It could be a picture or an idea or a sentence. You write a flash fiction piece, using the thing we gave you as inspiration. Put your entry in the comments section. One winner will be picked, and awarded a prize.

The Rules

  • 250 words is the limit (you can write less, but you can't write more)
  • Any genre
  • Give it a title
  • We're not exactly shy, but stay away from senseless racism or violence
  • One entry per person
  • Editing your entry after you submit it is permitted (though don't go crazy)
  • LitReactor employees can enter, but they can't win

All stories submitted on or before June 28 will be considered. We'll run the winner on June 29. 

This Month's Prize

Invisible Monsters Remix by Chuck Palahniuk, featuring new material and special design elements. Oh, and it'll be a signed edition. 

Your Inspiration

And the winner is... Karl M Schirrmacher!

This was a really hard choice. There were some incredible stories here this month. But this is the one I kept coming back to, because it deviated so hard from the picture while still evoking the sense of it. Cheers, Karl.  

A Toast to Bridges Burned

The punch of smoke hit his palate first, followed by a briny earthiness as if the sea had burned and left only this essence in his glass. It eased the pain of the day and gave clarity to the moment. The glass pulled at his lip before he thoughtfully set his drink back on the bar. Raul stirred on the worn barstool and thought back on the bridges he burned today.

Management had been coercive about the signature, but Raul wouldn’t do it. Anger had gotten the better of him and hot words spat across the room, leaving burn marks on the remaining goodwill. Cleaning out his desk by flipping over furniture only served to cutoff any chance of returning. He really didn’t care—the corporate world scarred him months ago. Better to return to work he knew that gave him dirty fingernails and a father’s guidance. Back to a father that taught Raul what he loved, how to create, and when to follow God’s lanterns.

Sitting at the bar, he celebrated today’s course correction with a double pour, neat—no garnish, no regrets. And a toast that’s been passed from huddled, laughing men of the family to curious, young ears of brothers and cousins always hovering nearby. Para todo mal, mezcal.

Image of Invisible Monsters Remix
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Price: $7.05
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (2012)
Binding: Hardcover, 320 pages
Rob Hart

Column by Rob Hart

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor, as well as the publisher at MysteriousPress.com. He's the author of New Yorked, nominated for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, as well as City of Rose and South Village. Short stories have appeared in publications like Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Needle, Joyland, All Due Respect, and Helix Literary Magazine. Non-fiction has appeared at Salon, The Daily Beast, Birth.Movies.Death, The Literary Hub, Electric Literature, and Nailed. He lives in New York City. Find him online at www.robwhart.com

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Dan Robert Edwards's picture
Dan Robert Edwards from Geraldton, Western Australia, Australia. is reading God's War: A New History of the Crusades by Christopher Tyerman June 1, 2012 - 7:11am

No Reason
The fire bloweth where the fire listeth, climbing up hill faster than I could follow with mine eye. When I lit the lucifer and flung it towards the resinous spruce duff my sphincter contracted, and that feeling of…I can’t describe the feeling. It’s mine, the feeling, and I don’t understand feelings anyway. Here one picosecond, gone the next. Like the trees combusting and carbonising before me. Why? Why not? The trees were destined for logging and then the paper mill for the world to blow their nose and wipe their arse on anyways. I’m no eco warrior. There is neither political, social or ecological, rhyme nor reason to this. No statement is being made. I just did it. The feeling is a side effect. I don’t enjoy or dislike it. But I watch them burn. And, in a detached way, I’m glad they won’t be there tomorrow. Only charred poles. Like post apocalyptic light posts.

Rick Stilwell's picture
Rick Stilwell June 1, 2012 - 7:20am

Always A Reason

Max knew there was a reason for everything. He didn't always see it, didn't always believe it, but he knew there was a reason for every little thing in this world. There's a reason the sun comes up in the morning and blinds him through the hole in the third slat of his bedroom blinds. There's a reason he ran out of gas last week in the middle of nowhere while trying to get somewhere he'd rather not have had to go to anyway. There's a reason for the pain he felt in his knee back in March when he was helping Meg and Tony move from the downtown loft. There's a reason why sweet Mrs. McGill fell ill and died from cancer while anti-sweet Mrs. Thomas just kept right on living and breathing and knocking over his flowerpot with her knobby wooden cane every afternoon. There's a reason why coffee's bitterness is just as necessary to life as sweet tea's icy goodness.

And there's a reason you're not supposed to push the big red button on the weapons console. Max looked up into his Mini Cooper's rearview mirror, the fierce flickering hillside ripping through the night as a reminder of that, barely diminishing at 80mph. Yes, there's always a reason...

Keith's picture
Keith from Phoenix, AZ is reading Growing Up Dead in Texas by Stephen Graham Jones June 1, 2012 - 9:30am

Viking Funeral

I didn’t get why we just couldn’t have taken Jason to the hospital?

All we needed to do was dump it in front of the emergency room, done and done. And it’s not like we’d killed him—was it our fault Jason got dumped off his bike and somehow managed to run over his own head?

But when Robbie and Steve came whipping around the corner and saw Jase under the motorcycle, a puddle of blood spreading over the desert floor, they flipped. No so much about Jase bleeding out from his shredded skull, but because of the $500 worth of gak they’d been shoveling up their noses all weekend. No way were we taking him to a hospital—NO! FUCKING! WAY!

Instead, they bundled up the body, hauled it back to camp, and sat up all night thinking about what to do?

WHAT TO DO!

WHAT TO DO!

When I woke up the next morning, what they decided on was to haul the body out into the middle of the desert, (the middle of the desert being 5 miles away from our camp) douse him in lighter fluid, and give him a Viking funeral.

It took Robbie six matches to finally get the body smoldering; another three for it to actually catch fire. Of course, by then all the summer dry juniper surrounding us was crackling golden and chimney red, a high wind carrying ash from one bush to the next and to the next.

Adude93's picture
Adude93 June 1, 2012 - 10:05am

What Was Before and What Will Never Be

It was dark in the woods that night. Argos took a step back and threw the empty tub once filled with rich black gasoline to the ground. The smile on his face was a wash between pleasure and anxiety.
“Argos?” called a voice from behind. He didn’t stir. “Argos, is that you?”
“What is it Brother?” Argos returned.
“Mother says we shouldn’t be in the woods at night.”
“Mother’s said a lot of things.”
Brother waded through the thick leaves until he could bare the thick scent of gasoline no more.
“What are you going to do?” cried Brother.
“I’m going to do the best I can.”
Argos revealed a match from his pocket and struck it against the tough bark of a gray tree to his right. The two boys stared in silence as the small flame flickered in dark night. He looked into the fire. The same fire that took away his mother four years earlier. The same fire that destroyed the mountain town they lived. The same fire, abused and smattered across the houses of his friends. The same fire that would bring their certain death in the coming minute.
“Argos?” cried Brother again.
“Yes Brother?”
“I miss mother.”
“Me too Brother. Me too.”

luckystar_30's picture
luckystar_30 June 1, 2012 - 10:31am

12-21-2012

“It’s the end of days,” she says, leaning against the old cracked rake. 
“We knew it was a-comin’,” he answers, downing the end of his lemonade and wiping sweat from his brow.
The man and woman stand outside a slanted shack, the old door hanging off its hinges, the lawn overrun by weeds and June bugs. 
The woman drops her rake to the ground and walks towards the porch.  “I’m gonna get the bible.”
“Little late for that,” the man mutters. 
He doesn’t know if the tears running down his cheeks are from the thick black smoke or the fear that this is truly the end.  “God damned burning bush,” he mumbles.  He slips calloused hands into dirty overall pockets and leans back on his heels.
God, he can smell the fire.  It reminds him of Boy Scout summers and sticky marshmallow fingers.  But this, of course, is nothing like that.  “If a tree falls in the woods…” he thinks. 

“Fucker, put that down,” yells the boy in the backwards baseball cap.  He throws a cigarette to the ground and slips behind tall oaks. 
His friend laughs, calls him a pussy, and runs after him waving a burning tree branch. 

Hours later the woods are raging.  Days later two are missing. 

“It’s moving so fast,” says the woman, clutching her worn bible.
“Time to go” says the man.
She nods slightly as he takes her hand and they walk into the trees.

Ranulfo Sosa's picture
Ranulfo Sosa from México City is reading what happens to me in my mind June 1, 2012 - 10:33am

What is this I feel? is the heat that our ancestors prophesied. don´t  worry my love. you're next to me. we are together. exploit our seeds together and be reborn with new birds and new heaven.

CollRowe's picture
CollRowe June 1, 2012 - 11:44am

A Retouched Canvas

She wiped the crimson lipstick from her mouth, its puckered drawing upon the napkin a small picture upon amateur canvas. The lipstick leaving her lips, she felt like a painting having been retouched and redefined into what wasn’t exactly presentable. Outside her window, Degeneres Molloy heard a rustling from beneath the leaves which the sunlight poured down upon from between the filter of branches that hung from her weeping willow tree. She wondered who was rustling around in front of her house making the despicable noises that crept within the alcoves of her ears and screamed profanity through a hidden filter of phonetic rape. She peered through the blinds, her blue eyes screaming icy wonders as they placed themselves between the white strips of brightness. Degeneres could not understand who was making the noise that knocked upon her delicate skull. She exited her front door with a firm grip on the railing beside its wooden frame, a metal spatula in her grasp that whispered impolite nothings to the presumed visitor.
“I will find you!” She screamed as she tumbled down the steps, her face resting aggressively against the worn concrete below. Degeneres turned her head slightly to find a child with a box of uneaten cookies standing before her. With blood dripping from her lips, Degeneres reached out her hand and grasped the small oval treat, pressing it between her teeth, the chocolate and blood pouring fluidly upon her faithful spatula, the blood upon her lips resembling a finished canvas.

mikesotelo's picture
mikesotelo from Los Angeles, CA is reading Look Homeward, Angel June 1, 2012 - 12:04pm

Gift to Man

As Prometheus gazed upon the destruction his gift to humans caused, Zeus stood back and shook his head, “Mortals given too much power only end up causing more harm than good.” Prometheus put his face into his hands and began to cry. “I only wanted to have what you had. So much good will come from it” Zeus put his hand on Prometheus’ shoulder and said “Much like most mortals, you underestimated mankind’s ability to respect power. Once given an ounce of it, the thirst for more grows. As that grows, you will look for it in other places. Your hubris brought as much good as bad.”

“I cannot believe that. We will evolve and thrive. You are only scared that one day mortals will not need your kind anymore. We will become our own gods. We will control our own destinies. We will…”

“Enough! Like so many before you, you dared to defy the Gods. You may watch the world burn from Hades. Your punishment will be painful and eternal.”

“Eternal punishment will be worth a world where no person is a pawn in someone else’s game.”

Zeus waved his hand and Prometheus dropped dead.

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer June 1, 2012 - 12:17pm

A Moment Before Dying

Flame-soaked hills burst with brimstone, a 3 A.M. sunset horizon. I stretched out my hand, catching gray ash as it rained upon me, nuclear precipitation. The first bomb had arrived.


I would miss my son the most, his gleaming cobalt eyes cool in contrast to the smoldering distant landscape. The light upon his face reflected hope. Now, with the orange glow of Hell calling out to Heaven, hope was extinguished. I thanked God he was with my ex-wife on the other side of the country, if it bought them only an extra minute, I was thankful he would live that minute.


I would miss my job, the economic market value it had given me, but mostly just the promise of another day of ordinary life. Work was an unshakeable perpetual motion machine. Now, my office lay smothered by burnt offerings of war.  I would miss monotony, the morning coffee, the afternoon drive, the reading lamp on the nightstand before bed.


A manuscript still waited in my desk at home, the novel I never finished. The dream of being a writer escaped me, lost within a thousand procrastinating excuses. I would die as many things, but a writer wasn’t one of them.


Surrounding screams serenaded death, heralding its arrival. The next bomb would come, bringing our demise with it. No amount of running could save us.


I looked to Heaven, staring hard through radioactive smog, a moment before dying, praying for the sort of hope that could only come from cobalt eyes.

notgump's picture
notgump from Florida is reading Everything I can about writing June 29, 2012 - 4:31am

It"s All Right

The wind rushes up through the trees toward me and I know I won’t escape. Yellow, orange, red converge to blackish brown and surge skyward. Time slows to reveal the deepening roar as a series of steaming explosions. How could the wind be behind me? I realize the fire is sucking oxygen from uphill as well as down. I scrabble in the cool humus for purchase, but catch my nails in the tight web of tree roots. I am not going to find cover here.

There's a stream 200 yards down. I'm going there. Falling branches crash around me. An ember hits me in the back. Another tears my scalp and knocks me down, hair and flannel shirt now catching fire. I move through the blur and try not to hit a tree or take another fall.

I think, we’re all going to die, it’s just a question of timing.

Well, why not now? I’m not going to learn any more about what I’m here for. I don’t want the things that most people seem to want. Just give me sweet relief.

I see a shadow move.

Hey! Who are you? Can  you talk?

I made it to the stream but it’s too small, see?

I know, lie down anyway, face down, and don't breathe the water.

Just relax. It will be all right. It’s all right.

E.Robles's picture
E.Robles from Pennsylvania is reading Blood Meridian June 15, 2012 - 3:52pm

Traveling with Death

“Are you ready?”
“Not yet.” The old man said.
“I really think we should be going.”
“I’m not finished.”
“What else is there?”
“Just one more.”
“We can see it on the way.”
“That’s a lie.  You know that’s a lie.” The old man’s stare dropped to the ground.
“I know.  We really should be going.”
“One last thing.”
“Okay.”
They looked out on the place where the man lived as a boy.  A small house sat on a hill, next to the ridge.  Past the tree line, the mountains climbed along the sky.  The sun hit them and revealed empty sections where wildfires had burned away the forest. Trees covered the peaks like skin, the barren places were scars.
“We really should be going.”
“Please.”
“Okay.”
“When I was a boy, I killed my father in that house.”  The old man felt the swell of tears.  “The liquor took hold of him and he came after me.  I stabbed him with his own knife.”
“I know.”
“I never came back here after that night.  I was afraid of it, what it would do to me.  I was right to be frightened.”  The old man said as he turned away from his home.  He looked into the sky and took a breath.  His eyes closed and he felt the cool air as it entered his lungs.
“Are you ready?”
“I think so.”  The old man opened his eyes and the sky began to melt away.
“Okay.”

Maya Zimmerman's picture
Maya Zimmerman June 1, 2012 - 5:40pm

Every Ember

Every ember emphasized the fact:

My home is burning to the ground.

Now, it may seem strange for a hermit living in the woods, with no contact with friends or family, to consider this house a home.  This house, with sparse furnishing and no sense of style, only identifies its owner with the paintings that fill its rooms.  These paintings, these extensions of my soul, are what make this a home.

Mind you, these aren’t just my doodles.  In every possible scenario, I die penniless, misunderstood in my time.  The only variables are how many paintings I paint and where they are hung when I’m finally appreciated.

Yes, they’re that good.  I know because of the nature of my creative passion.  My heart, overwarmed, led me to burn bridges and eventually the fever took my mind.  People admire that; they long for it and celebrate it… once the fire is out.

So, why would I throw away my immortality?  Why would I destroy the legacy I would leave behind?

It’s the fire.

As long as the flames have fuel, the fire will burn.

They’ll consume the paintings and it will grow.

They’ll consume the furniture and it will grow.

They’ll consume me and it will grow.

They’ll consume the forest and it will grow.

The truth, however, is this:

Eventually, nobody will listen to Beethoven.  Eventually, nobody will gaze at Van Gogh.  Eventually, nobody will ponder Descartes.  Eventually, nobody will pine for Monroe.

Eventually, every ember burns out.

Kevin Lynn Helmick's picture
Kevin Lynn Helmick from Lake Villa IL is reading Train, Pete Dexter June 2, 2012 - 6:25am

THE COLLECTOR


The land was his by the way of a will. It was all that he had; the land, the trees, and the artifacts that had been collected by himself and descendants and thought of as a kind of pension. A menagerie of obsessions that decorated the acreage and cluttered the halls of the home where he was raised and now just fodder of ever lessening value.


He locked the doors of the car, coughed till his lungs restricted, choked and rolled the windows tight. He’d been offered great sums of money from the advancing population. Time and again they came with their check books, blue prints and plans for development.  He turned them away.


He felt the heat and heard the cracking of fallen timber in the smoke and flames outside. He’d been ordered to evacuate. He’d been given orders over the years on other things too and ignored them as well. It was his land and he’d do as he pleased.


He heard the sound of the tires on the car exploding, one by one and smelled the stench of burning rubber and wires. He had no wife or children to speak of, or would speak of him and he kept to himself, his junk and integrity.


He removed his fingers from the steering wheel and with it came strings of plastic and flesh. They said the fire was coming his way and he thought if it did, it would be his to own as well.
 

MaSmylie's picture
MaSmylie from London, England is reading Haunted June 2, 2012 - 5:54am

“Let it burn.”

Charlie wouldn’t stop laughing, as we ran. My legs already ached as the smoke reached higher, swirling around the spindly trees. The sound of fire raging filled my ears, as my breath quickened.

*

“I want to let it all burn. I want it to burn.”

Charlie stared at me, charming smile and piercing eyes fixated. His shaggy hair fell down upon his face, his front two teeth handsomely crooked, his stubble rugged and, yet, boyishly handsome. His chequered shirt, worn effortlessly cool over his vintage ‘Epic’ tee, coupled with his slim fitted Levis dark blue jeans and battered red converse.

“Come on, Joe. You love me. I know you love me. Let’s do it together. Let’s do something sexy, and exciting, and,”

He leaned in close to me, bottom lip extended, hand placed on my waist. I feel sick, I quiver, he scares me.

“Come on, Joe. Let’s do this together.”

He scares me but I need him. He presses me against him, lips and teeth colliding, hands gripping. My hand grabs at his hair as he pulls my head back and kisses my neck, biting.

*

“Stop! Stop running! Let’s,”

Charlie stops, falling down a little upon the ground. He beams at the rapidly enveloping flames, the oranges and reds reflected in his dilated pupils. I’m scared.

“Charlie, I think we should keep/”

“Shut..!”

He raises his finger to me.

“Just, just don’t, Joe. Don’t. Just watch it.”

The trees are alight.

“It’s beautiful.”
 

Karl M Schirrmacher's picture
Karl M Schirrmacher from California is reading The Sunlight Dialogues - John Gardner June 2, 2012 - 10:41am

A Toast to Bridges Burned

The punch of smoke hit his palate first, followed by a briny earthiness as if the sea had burned and left only this essence in his glass. It eased the pain of the day and gave clarity to the moment. The glass pulled at his lip before he thoughtfully set his drink back on the bar. Raul stirred on the worn barstool and thought back on the bridges he burned today.

Management had been coercive about the signature, but Raul wouldn’t do it. Anger had gotten the better of him and hot words spat across the room, leaving burn marks on the remaining goodwill. Cleaning out his desk by flipping over furniture only served to cutoff any chance of returning. He really didn’t care—the corporate world scarred him months ago. Better to return to work he knew that gave him dirty fingernails and a father’s guidance. Back to a father that taught Raul what he loved, how to create, and when to follow God’s lanterns.

Sitting at the bar, he celebrated today’s course correction with a double pour, neat—no garnish, no regrets. And a toast that’s been passed from huddled, laughing men of the family to curious, young ears of brothers and cousins always hovering nearby. Para todo mal, mezcal.

Domonkoz's picture
Domonkoz is reading Independence Day, Richard Ford June 2, 2012 - 6:26pm

All Yours

It’s  hers.  All of it.  And now, she had arranged for me to be sent off to the goddamn hoosegow—the final process in the complete peeling of my humanity.   Who knew such a little thing once so beautiful and kind had it in her to become so monstrous and cruel?    Why did I have to go and fuck Pandora?


It was the child support.  The payments had become astronomical and were figured at a time when I was flush and getting six figures a year to fire people.  And I cleared house for them all.  And then, in some cliché of poetic justice or irony, they consulted on me and I was undone by the same sword I had happily reaped so many livelihoods with.  Soon the payments began to resemble terrorist demands, and under their constant barrage on my savings, they stripped me bare.


On the hill behind the house I had built—our rustic yuppie-hideaway complete with bounding deer and a treated pine deck to watch them from—I wheezed and spat contemptuously on the steep hill.  My hands were wet with splashed gasoline from the can, with little burs splintering my palms.   


I had made this pathetic hike many times when we were together to have a smoke in peace without catastrophic repercussions.   She wanted the house, the yard, even the neighbors.  And now, with my time stolen before it even was mine to take, I would give her everything.  it’s all yours darling…

chokerantlullaby's picture
chokerantlullaby from the Midwest is reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath June 7, 2012 - 1:08pm

Skin-deep

Megan N.

Cost of my weave: $552.37. Temperature that melts human hair? 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Chance of me going after her? Zero. I mean, she might not even be in there. She’s probably not.

Either way, I’m not taking the chance of ruining my mascara.

My knees ache from squatting on this hill for so long. I toss my hair behind silver hoop earrings and watch waves of orange, getting hotter. It’s okay; she’s not there.  My stilettos stick in the dirt like her fingers stuck to my skin. Like her fingers stick to each other.

Temperature skin melts? 158 degrees Fahrenheit.

See, I wouldn’t have any reason for wanting her gone. None, officers. She was my friend. We wear miniskirts together and sometimes we go out. Sometimes I can feel her, burning hot under my hand, long after hours. We got our hair done, together, officers.

Temperature gasoline burns? 475 degrees.

Officer, her hair was tacky, but whatever. She was a little slutty, but no big deal.

This was more thinking than I’d had to do in a long time. More even than she made me do. Even if she was in there, it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t make her go in. I never told her to step back once the gas was lit. I never said to make sure she didn’t let the gasoline too cold…once it hit -49 degrees, it’d never burn again.

I just invested in waterproof makeup.

Temperature my heart will melt? Hotter than her fire.

Lou Pendergrast's picture
Lou Pendergrast from U.k is reading Sourland by Joyce Carol Oates and This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs June 3, 2012 - 5:35pm

The Vision

A man from Ohio had a recurring nightmare, a forest on fire he could never piece together the significance in his waking hours as he walked upon this earth. One day in the summer he was to find out or shall we say be part of that vision.

I must make an important trip by air to visit my family.

I used to be unable to go near a plane my vertigo problem has improved greatly.

I had this strange feeling today of a twist of fate that I was treading on a journey that was foretold written somewhere in a grand book of occurrences.

Mid-flight an hour into our journey the plane shook quite violently, we were told due to bad turbulence.

I pray to our creator to get me through i have an eerie sense of things not in order.

Suddenly then there is darkness then light.

Lights flicker on and off then off completely then a loud bang is audible.

There seems to be an explosion of some kind from the turbines. The plane dives forward.

In this darkness i have vision of a recurring dream I have had a nightmarish fire raging in a forest but why now?

Was this the foretold cause of the fire the plane plummeting to the ground in a forest and engulfing into flames?

The plane dives we are thrown out of our seats.

Passengers are everywhere, screams, cries, pleading for gods assistance can be heard and then boom nothing.

Blair's picture
Blair from Southern California is reading Needful Things June 4, 2012 - 4:39am

Photo Box

The air is dense with falling embers and everybody breathes in sparks, breathes out ashes. All down the street families load pet carriers into cars. A kid stands barefoot on his lawn with his hands cupped over his mouth. He calls out a dog’s name. A television in the kitchen says which neighborhoods need to vacate. Where to go. It gives a checklist of things to take. Bring blankets, the weatherman says. Bring water.

Star scatters through the house. She takes vinyl records and books. Picture frames. She bounces off my shoulder on her way out. Would you grab something? She asks.

Grab what?

I don’t know. Something.

And then she’s out. She piles our things into the hatchback. Room enough without pets. Or a kid.

I go to our closet and open it. Star’s collection of shoes. A rainbow of clothes and one black dress. A black suit I bought special and only wore the one time. I consider taking them, but don’t. Star comes back inside. She picks commemorative plates off the wall.

There is a box in the corner that’s covered with dust and fingerprints. My fingerprints. Star’s dust. I set the box on the bed and open it. Pictures of a girl up until she was nineteen, then nothing. I close the lid and tuck the box under my arm. Go to the hall.

Do we have to bring her? Star asks.

Yes I do, I say.

CStodd's picture
CStodd from NY is reading Annie Prouxl's Fine Just the Way It Is June 3, 2012 - 7:50pm

Off Peak

 

The boy watched the flame skim the surface of the clear, sour smelling liquid. From a tin can of paint thinner, too large for his small hands to control, the boy poured it sliding down the fake, plastic mountains covered in green turf, watched it pool around the train track and soak into the foam landscape. The flame traveled past the figure of a man with a newspaper tucked under his arm waiting on the platform. The yellow-blue burst consumed the checkered taxi sitting outside the station. One by one, the trees of the foam forest sparked orange embers into the dark, cold basement. The boy leaned over the table, resting on his elbows and sipped from a juice box.

A little red light indicated his remote control was on, the boy taking a nine volt battery from the fire alarm upstairs. He pulled on the small, black switches and the train lurched forward, sliding over the tracks and rolled through a standing pool of fire, the train igniting in black smoke and viper tongue, orange flames. The dark basement was hell bright as the fire grew high, touching the tangle of wires and twinkling lights the boy’s father rigged for stars and a moon over the miniature world.

Naomi Mesbur's picture
Naomi Mesbur from Toronto, Ontario, Canada is reading Burn Baby Burn Baby by Kevin T. Craig June 4, 2012 - 4:09am

Home

“Mommy, why does the forest have to die?”

The little rabbit held his mother’s paw as they watched their home burn from the safety of the valley below. They had been the only two to make it out of their hole in time. The little rabbit was heartbroken while his mother remained calm.

“Everything has to die,” she said, “Birds, foxes, rabbits, even forests. Otherwise there won’t be room for any more of us.”

“But why did the fire come now, Mommy?”

“For many, many rabbit lives,” she began, “the forest floor has been holding trees up to touch the sky, while we dug it up to make homes for our families. Everything from those wide-trunked older trees to those tiny blades of clover you find so delicious, from the aphids crawling on the clover flowers to the great brown bears shimmying up tree trunks to take honey from the bees, all take life from the forest floor. The ground was getting tired. But it still gave its last to keep all of us alive. So the sun stepped in and covered the land with its rays, to keep the forest floor warm while it goes to sleep.”

“But what about the trees? And what about our friends?”

“All of the life from the woods will grow into a new forest. It’s time for us to go, little one.”

The little rabbit took one last look, twitched his nose, and then followed his mother down the path.

losem's picture
losem from California is reading john green- a fault in our stars June 8, 2012 - 11:34am

     Gordon sits in the forest, trying to escape the memories and the realities of the death of his family.  This power feels more like a curse than ever before.  His emotions fuel the heat in his blood more than ever and it’s becoming more volatile as well.  Back in that bed, deep in his dreams, the hate for others, others  that at one time lifted him on their shoulders for his athletic prowess and mental superiority now tear him apart for the slightest comment or action that doesn’t make him look like a virtuous prick.

     How could he let them tear him apart?


The fever of hate overwhelms him again. 


     How is he the monster that is chased out of the village?
 

The air cackles from the rise in temperature.
 

     Why did I cause my home to burn from the Hate I couldn’t let go? Why did my family pay for my mistakes?


The pines around him burst into flames.


     The amber glow that encompasses him snaps him back to the vision from inside his burning living room.  The flames parting like curtains before the cracking windowpane, in slow motion it reveals dear poor Sandy grieving the loss of her unrequited love.
 

    Your rage destroys more than your own soul Gordon, he thought to himself, it destroys everything and everyone around you.

Poison_Apple's picture
Poison_Apple June 4, 2012 - 2:17pm

Friends

When I was a child I had a doll. Her name was Annabelle Lee and she had golden, corn coloured hair and eyes the colour of sunny skies, she was my friend. My best friend. Annabelle Lee went everywhere with me and I loved her more than life. I'd lie in bed at night and wish she was real and that she could tell me what she saw with those glassy blue eyes. On my sixth birthday as I blew out my candles I wished extra hard and it came true. That night when I went to bed I leant over to kiss Annabelle Lee and wish her goodnight and she spoke.

From then on Annabelle Lee and I couldn't be parted. She told me about the best places to pick flowers and about the best trees to climb. She told me what to say to make little John Smith at school cry for pulling my hair. She told me secrets about his mother and what she did with men in her bedroom when he was asleep and his father was away. How they would hush their moans so not to wake him. His eyes would never again meet mine.

When I was 13, people had begun to laugh about the fact I took Annabelle Lee everywhere but neither of us cared, we were happy. Less happy were my parents who told me that I was silly, a child, that people were talking about me and saying unkind things. They tried to take Annabelle Lee away from me so I ran. I ran out to the shed and sat there in the dark crying and heaving. Thats when Annabelle Lee told me what to do, she told me where they kept the gas can and where I could find matches. I didn't want to but she said it was the only way we'd be together. I couldn't bare to watch but Annabelle Lee watched everything, silently with the flames flickering in her cold blue eyes. They came and they took her from me and it was so sad but I understand now that it was for the best.

So now I need a new friend. Maybe it can be YOU. We could be best friends.

tomvac82's picture
tomvac82 June 4, 2012 - 6:28pm

“Mark? Present.”  -Thomas Vacchio

                   With every crease and crinkle of the plastic bed I’m reminded. I’m filthy, gross, disgusting, a bed wetter.  Like a clockwork nightmare, the sheets curl up over the lip of my mattress and a puddle spreads, warm at first, then stickily cold as the sheets soak. 
                The next morning, my mother screams and thrusts my neck over the soiled linen like a dog.  She screams some more before shoving me out of her house.  She doesn’t care where I go.
               From the woods, I watch her, my neighbor, my classmate.  She is tall; her swaying arms branch out into the sky as she dances freely.  I angrily pelt the trees, the trees that exist complacently indifferent to me. 
             I strike a match.  I want the fire I light to be a conflagration.  I want the blaze to rumble and broil angrily.  I want the branches to crisp and sizzle as the barks blacken, and curl.  I want the trunks to buckle, pop and crack as they lead to her door.  I want the fire to rage and smolder at my feet.  I want her blood to pool around her head, warm at first, then stickily cold as her hair soaks. 
          The fire that I light is a small, impotent flame that plumes just as soon as it is lit. It leaves no great mark, only a small, pitiful mound of ash.  
         She never sees me, even when the teacher takes attendance.  “Mark?”  “Present”. 

Katrina Muir's picture
Katrina Muir June 4, 2012 - 3:40pm

Knowing

Was it the acrid smell of burning or the loud symphony of crackling that first aroused him from his slumber?  Not that he really had time to ponder these things.  As Eric bolted upright he found he was sitting in a clearing in the woods.  Even bigger than the question of how he got there when he remembered going to sleep at home, was the reality that everything as far as the eye could see was ablaze.  There were many questions that needed answering if he could manage his way out of this one, including the others whom his gaze finally settled upon.  All of them appearing just as disoriented as he felt.  He wasn’t sure rather he should feel relieved to not be alone or if it would be more sensible to guard himself from these strangers.  Do things the way he was accustomed - alone!  Except there was one face that his eyes kept involuntarily roaming back to.  It was such a strange sensation, feeling like he knew this man like the back of his hand and yet couldn’t give you a name to save his life. 

Ah yes, back to the matter of saving his life.  He had no way of telling where he was at, never mind how to escape the wall of fire that surrounded him.  He almost wanted to laugh when he reached into his pocket and found it empty, feeling slightly foolish for expecting it to be there in the first place.          

Jacob Good's picture
Jacob Good from Idaho is reading Asimov on Chemistry June 4, 2012 - 3:53pm

Supermarket Sweep

The lights again disappeared, and from the ashes of the former Dennis Redmond arose the Phoenix, mythical bird of renewal. The supermarket patrons screamed and ran for the exits, dropping their staples of the American diet onto the floor. Snack cakes were smashed under heels and flip-flops, milk was spilt with nary a tear shed, and eggs exploded across the floor as if Jackson Pollock had breathed life into the linoleum. As panic set in a still, calming voice flooded the building.

“Relax, mortals. I’m here to save you from yourselves.”

Everybody stopped in their place, as frozen as the vacuum-sealed pizzas and as frightened as the dewy-eyed, teenaged bagger when he asked, “Credit or plastic?” to the elderly woman with the aching bunions.

“Fear not, fair citizens. I’m not here to harm you. I only want your loyal worship…and your wallets.”

The shoppers were confused, but did not move.

The voice grew impatient.

“You heard me! Empty your wallets into the paper bags and put them into a cart. Do it or I will destroy you!”

The terrified group started to do as the voice commanded, hurriedly placing all monetary items into a cart. Meanwhile, an assistant manager who had just returned from a particularly vexing excursion to the lavatory, where he spent half an hour staring at an out-of-place poster of a raging forest fire on the wall, noticed a door to the office was cracked open. He waddled to the room and peered inside.

“Dennis?”

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like June 4, 2012 - 8:49pm

TwoSeebee

How high, he asked. Don't ask, he said. 

Every time it was the same story: a cut, a switch, a laugh and an itch. TwoSeebee killed it every time. Thread-weaver. Resurrectioneer. Spider-censure. Gulfen flames. The past tense. 

The tent he bought was fire-proof, they told him. Too bad. He might've caught on sooner.

Nothing is fire-proof.

Mojo Lovebutter's picture
Mojo Lovebutter from Here and there is reading To Kill a Mockingbird June 7, 2012 - 7:02pm

Without Merit

       The silence was louder than anything Aidan had ever heard in his life.  All he could hear was the dampened sound of his rapid heartbeat.  The air was scouring the inside of his lungs like sandpaper.  His lumbering legs were drowning in acid.  Despite the pain, he couldn’t stop.  He could see the others running in front of him.  Like a small herd of gazelles being chased, they were weaving in and out of the trees while jumping over loose rocks and debris.  
       Aidan tripped over his own feet as soon as he heard a faint, “Keep going.  We’re almost there.”  His body skidded to a complete stop.  After picking himself up, he anxiously took a glance at what was behind him.  Aidan viewed the flames dancing around the rolling smoke as they casually consumed the forest from which he just escaped.  Overcome with disbelief, the pit in his stomach grew into an abyss. 
       Nervously, Aidan turned around and started running again.  He saw everyone at the bottom of the hill hastily piling into the van.  When he reached the vehicle, he was quickly pulled inside.  The group raced away from the pressing wildfire.  Once they reached a safe distance, the exasperated scoutmaster sardonically addressed Aidan, “Son, if I was you, I wouldn’t be expecting that fire safety merit badge ANYTIME soon.”

rian's picture
rian June 7, 2012 - 8:37pm

Slips

Reaching into the fridge, Marcus noticed the permission slip tacked to the front. Clearly his wife had forgotten to sign it. He picked up the slip and took it into his office. As he looked around for a pen he noticed another slip on his desk.

The next morning his wife woke to the sound of firm knocks against her door. As she approached it, she saw the silhouette of two forms out on the porch and she didn't want to answer. She knew why they were there.

Maria ran to the office in a panic. She prayed that he hadn't seen it; that she would find the document blank. As she approached the desk she heard her daughter open the front door.

She snatched up the folded piece of paper and hurried out. The policemen confirmed that her husband, the firefighter, had died. Maria slowly unfolded the divorce papers in her hands. Tears blurred her vision as she searched for the signature, to her relief it was blank. She was relieved to know that he did not witness her moment of weakness.

Maria walked down the hall toward her child to confirm their worst fears; they had lost Marcus to the blaze.

Jeremiah Murphy's picture
Jeremiah Murphy from Idaho is reading A Little Life June 8, 2012 - 2:45pm

Flame Deluge

Spring was ending and the fires were starting. We spent most of our afternoons listening to estimations oh how close it was to our town.

"How many miles out is it? They've already evacuated the folks down in Cannyon Creek. I'm not waiting until the end of the week to find out if this thing is gonna reach us!" We heard the same thing out of everyone's mouth.

Forrest fires became the Devil, the more you talked about him the closer he got. The closer he got the more he took over your life. Nothing mattered more than some fire no one had seen, some invisible devil constantly creeping through the woods.

The week before we evacuated my 7 year old sister was baptized. They plunged her into the freezing cold creek water behind the church. She walked on to the grass quiet and shivering. For the first few hours after her baptism she said nothing about it except that she was wet and wanted to go home.

Later that night she came into my room and woke me by touching my back with her still frozen hands. I let her climb under the blankets and for while she remained quiet.

"Don't you think it's a little less exciting," she finally spoke up, "knowing about heaven. I'm afraid it will forever be hanging over my head."

The next morning we woke to ash coming from the sky, covering our lawns and darkening our windows.

Christina Re's picture
Christina Re from the United States is reading Your Screenplay Sucks! June 22, 2012 - 7:08pm
 
The Scourge of New Capacia


January woke, panicked on the twelfth morning since their capture.  Another nightmare.  She looked at Rook and regained herself: Today is Friday, today we run.


They arrived early Monday and immediately went to the mines.  Everything was dusty, dark and coarse - foreign conditions overloaded her senses.  She was in shock.  The people of New Capacia were easily fooled.  This was no rehabilitative facility where criminals without birth licenses could work, gain dignity, become respectable members of society.  This was the end; they were slowly digging their way to hell.

 
Wednesdays were delivery days.  The hard labors of the prisoners were weighed, measured and shipped.  The first Wednesday they missed quota, were sent back to mine, and went without their daily bread and beans.


The next day Rook saved her life.  Exhausted, January tripped and fell directly in front of a moving loader.  Disobeying his team master he ran to pull her from the ground.  He took five lashes.  Later she cleaned his wounds; he insisted she eat his dinner.


Friday was unbearable.  The Warden paraded a guard through the yard; he’d helped seven children escape through a tunnel.  A cart of stones was emptied by the other guards.  They hurled them at his naked body until he was completely buried.  At breakfast Rook proposed the escape.


That was a week ago.  They planned, organized, waited.  Now they looked for the signal.  January beamed as she watched the forest on the horizon begin to glow with flames.  Today we run.
 

Luis Oliveira's picture
Luis Oliveira from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is reading Iliad by Homer June 8, 2012 - 6:26pm

THE CULPRIT

  "You, begin."
  "Her vagina was on fire, dude, I'm telling you. It is pretty obvious she wanted it as much as I did. I'm not a hundred percent guilty. Just so you know, she was the one who first took off the pants. Perhaps most of you here point the fingers at me because my penis shattered her inside. There should be some kind of acquittal to people like me, people who just do their job well done and end up prejudicing others. You know, it is not my fault if the girl was weak. What makes her the victim? I touched her body, she touched mine. I kissed her genitals, she kissed mine. I fingered her asshole, she... okay, on this anal thing, she was the only victim. You see, almost everything is equally fair. Dude, I once heard that the justice must be blind. Where is the lawyer to protect me? I need an intelectual guy with these technical terms and shit to help me out here, need somebody to explain to everybody how the girl died happy, although she was bleeding a lot. It should count something. I can't accept the fact she's now living in heaven while I burn alive in this hell, dude."
  "Just stop calling me dude, okay?" one of the demons interrupted.

Rosie's picture
Rosie from Warrnambool, Australia is reading Pulphead by Jon Jeremiah Sullivan June 9, 2012 - 6:03am

 A track from the B-side

The way I’d figured it – not so long after finding out what it was, mind you - was this: The human body is like a forest. We’ve a trunk of a spine with ribs, a skull and all the rest branching off. The skin, like a layer of top soil, hides nerves - a bit like the roots of a shrub or a pine - that jut out every which way in search of their endings. 

Okay, this is where it gets far out, so stick with me. Our forests all have a little guy in them. He’s nursing this match; lit and flaming the full spectrum of blues and orange. He could hold this match until our forest grows old of its own accord. Or he might drop it and our forest becomes ash – heaped high. Understand yet?

Soon I expire. Side A is over. See you on the flipside.

Okay so the metaphor is a bit haphazard. It stemmed in part from the way I found out about my cancer: crack a rib, get an x-ray and there’s that first plume of smoke, a shadow on the lung. The end begins. The other part – the bit that matters, the point of it all - is this: death is nothing to fear! Assume that your little guy has already fucked up and dropped the match, everyone makes mistakes, right? Accept that and tear through life aflame. The beauty is in the burning.

cshultz81's picture
cshultz81 from Oklahoma is reading Best Horror of the Year Volume 8 June 10, 2012 - 11:33am

PANDEMIC

I didn’t do it. It was the Mute.

You don’t know about the Mute?

Well, she isn’t really mute, though most of the time she doesn’t speak. No one knows if it’s a choice, or whether it’s part and parcel of her gift. And it is a gift, no matter the horror she spreads. 

Her hair has the same color and texture as straw. I imagine kids called her scarecrow-head on the playground. No-brains. Dummy.

Her eyes are perfectly cerulean and unnatural. Inhuman. More suited for an extinct bird or fish. I can’t recall ever seeing her blink.

She wears mostly grey clothing, and she carries a chalk-white human skull in the crook of her arm, like a child cradling a kitten. Never puts it down.

Never.

When she does talk, she leans in close and whispers into your ear. That’s how she gets you. Tickles your eardrum with her breath, and your lights go out.

Her movements fuse with the night. She is a living ghost.

So when she crept up behind Henry, I didn’t hear. I only heard his carcass crumple onto the ground, knocking our gas can into the campfire. I looked up in time to see her rescinding backwards into the woods, calm, her pet staring at me with hollow black eyes and a satisfied grin.

Then the forest exploded red-orange-yellow, and I ran.

It’s her, don’t you see? You want the Mute.

She’ll burn the whole world someday.

AnyDaveWillDo's picture
AnyDaveWillDo from England is reading Lots of books June 12, 2012 - 11:47am

Escape of a Sexbot

Was this Karma? is what Gregory should have been thinking, what does karma pay out for sex with a child, but all Gregory could think was; Oh crap, I really hope my wife doesn’t find out about this. The mechanical labia tightened around the shaft of his erect penis and with a smooth one hundred and eighty degree turn plucked it from his body like a ripe apple. It’s screen still showed the video of the fifteen year-old girl bucking and moaning as an effluent mess of blood, urine and seamen drained from fresh wound where Gregory’s penis used to be. He looked down at his blood sodden pubic hair and just before losing consciousness managed to curse himself for having his ass kicked by a cosmic force that is mainly believed by people named ‘Star’ and ‘Breeze’.

 

She heard someone shout ‘Stop!’ the word was alien to her. The man at the door tried to restrain her but she had planned for this; squatting down she skunk sprayed the man with a visceral cobweb of yellow-grey semen she had saved over months, Gregory’s penis ejected from her latex vagina slapping the man in the face with such force that it knocked him off his feet. She squatted over his head and drained the last of the semen directly onto his face, the last of the oxygen in his lungs blew bubbles that refused to burst. Stepping through the door, she was free and ready for revenge.   

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics June 13, 2012 - 3:04pm

Still I Sit

    If Uri hadn’t run outside, we’d not be sitting here watching each other. We are birds on a wire, not watching the skies, but one another for signs of impending disaster. That disaster has come, and still we sit. She fears we will end up like Uri if we leave. I fear as much if we stay. So we choose to sit, bound by her desire to live and mine to die.
    The bell in town is ringing. A smile crosses her face. Hope flickers beside the candle’s reflection in her eyes. She smiles wider but I refuse. Failing to see light in my eyes never lessens the luster of hers. This is why I loved her so long. This is why I hate her today.
    “Uri always said bells meant…” She knows I’ll break if she continues.
    She rises to look out the window, even as I grab for her sleeve. She’s too fast, fueled by dumb hope, and I’m too weak under the burden of that hope. First, the bird chirp of splintering glass and the wet slap of lead on rags and flesh, then the echo of the shot fills the cabin. Anya crumples to her knees. She turns to me, glowing with the same hope that ran to the window. The flicker in her eyes disolves into the candle’s reflection. As hopes’ embers cool, the candle she toppled in her haste births a new, larger flame on the cabin floor.
    Still I sit.

Jordan Bone's picture
Jordan Bone June 13, 2012 - 3:53pm

Hospice Nurse
   In the picture her hair was so black, the grey pain hadn’t taken her curls like a cancer yet. Her eyes were still bright and young. The wrinkled week Celtic stare of the ancient blood lines wasn’t there yet, back then they were just eyes. In love. Bright. Happy.
   
    When I look at her now I see shaking transparent hands, veins like failing blue rivers. Her open mouth and rolling eyes are kept alive by medicine. She needs to be let go of. All the money she saved for her children is wasted on sustaining the ghost she has become.
   
   Things are not meant to live forever. Nature sends fire to the forests. She kills off the timeworn trees that have lived so long they suck up the things needed for younger life to flourish. There is no evil in nature, nor is it cruel, it can only be thought of as righteous.
   
   I would give her something pleasant first, but she doesn’t recognize anything anyways. I will just bring her the pillow, like I have done with all the others.
   
   Her chest lowers and she starts to shake and smack at me. She is too weak, her blows land like the feathers in the pillow. She takes little time to succumb, her breath is wasted no more, and an inheritance remains for her young.
 
   What I’ve done is righteous, but I wish I were flame. Fire is without consciousness, it keeps no memories of its purging’s.

Robert Leverence's picture
Robert Leverence June 16, 2012 - 5:53pm

The forest beautiful in the day, sparkling with its flora’s vibrant greens and yellows. Its deep browns echoing in the oculars of those who’s visage happens to pass and catch a quick glimpse. The fauna chirp and scuttle about in their own glorious fashion, bringing forth new offspring, like the waters that gave them life.    

Yet like the flowing liquids that sprang up mortal life, the flames dash through the living plaguing them with death in the night. The colors now replaced with bright crimson, and ash speckled charred plant life.  Cracking and sizzling of the living boomed in the rampant fire. The beauty has been stripped from what was alive. The forest’s soul nothing more than fluttering smoke.   

How is something so lush that takes so long to create wiped out in an instant. A minute fraction of life, enveloped by a vibration of time. Life is so much more beautiful knowing that anytime a blaze can purge our existence. There would be nothing gorgeous, if it lasted forever. The fire is either envious, or sacrificing itself as a devil to ensure life is beyond a meaningless gallivant.

Our mortality is reflected in the bastion of flames that wreak in the dark. 

jimmymauthe's picture
jimmymauthe June 17, 2012 - 7:56am

IGNITION

Nick knelt down, squatting above the gasoline he’d poured onto the dry grass.  He took the cigarette out of his mouth and pushed the cherry into the earth, but it didn’t light like they always show in the movies.  Standing up he stamped out the butt with his foot and pulled his lighter out of his pocket.  After two flicks a tiny flame finally shot out and he lowered it to the ground. 


This time the grass ignited.  The flames grew and poured like a waterfall down the hill.  Without thinking, Nick dropped the lighter.  He turned around to run and heard it pop and explode behind him. 


By the time he sat down at the picnic table he had dragged out from a campsite the flames had crawled up the trees.  He felt microscopic against the magnificent light.  The caps spun effortlessly off the tubes of paint and he laid them down next to the canvas in front of him.  For weeks he had had an image of a beautiful fire burned into his mind, he dreamt about it, he saw it everywhere, but he couldn’t get it on paper. 


Sirens were beginning to echo throughout the mountains: the fire had been spotted.  Nick worked fast, in a trance.  There was no time to let the paint dry.  Reds and oranges, yellows and browns, blacks and whites mixed across the page.


Soon the canvas was indistinguishable from the fire.

Natale Anne's picture
Natale Anne from New York is reading The Morningstar Strain June 23, 2012 - 7:21am

Conflagration

When your first sweet smile whispered “I want to set the world on fire,” my heart quickened. I remember smiling then. Your eyes burned madness into mine. I told you that I wanted to watch the world burn.

You taught me the honesty of insanity.

We burned your past to ashes before we burned mine. I can still hear them screaming; or was that you? The trees of this forest reach fruitlessly for rescue through the smoke. Flames dance in your glassy, blank eyes. Now you can watch with me as the world burns.

This conflagration is endless, not unlike this sullen madness.

Liam Jones's picture
Liam Jones from Liverpool, United Kingdom is reading Neuromancer by William Gibson June 18, 2012 - 11:25pm

My very own Summer:

 

A wry smile crossed my face when I noticed the burning trees in the forest of inferno's as I rolled right back into my hometown.

It's been so long and yet I couldn't believe it, the place was exactly how I left it, right down to the smell of burning oak's and screaming babies. There was a little ways to go yet but I could already see her, feel her hair through my hands, smell it like morning hay and hear her laugh shy over the burning embers which made me close my eye's and think. You know that person that you can't live without yet life is so much harder because she's in it, that's her. Something like serendipity but not quite, a mistake for sure but a great one. It made me remember, remember everything and remember why.

As I turned back and started to drive away the flames began to die a little and the screams got less noticeable, I turned up Del Shannon and saw my favorite car pass by then somehow learned to forget, forget and concentrate more on the important things in life like summer and how we're only two weeks in and yet I'm already a little closer, a little closer to heaven...I think.

Kevin Maddox's picture
Kevin Maddox from Melstrand, Mi is reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut June 19, 2012 - 4:47pm

                                                    Revontulet


Lightning cut through the dark sky.
A bolt from the heavens struck the tip of a tail on young fox sleeping in the Kaleva forest. His heart stopped and restarted in an instant.
His soul now fused with Ilmatar, and his tail aflame. Setting all the trees on fire as he fled to find water. He ran so fast sparks jumped from his tail into the sky.
Finally he rushed up on a small lake and jumped in. When the young fox emerged from the depths the sight he faced brought tears to his eyes.
The trees of Kaleva forest jumping with flames, licking the sky.
The fox shouted to Ilmatar and begged her to save his beloved forest, even if he had to sacrifice himself.
The goddess spirit of the air adhered to his request. By way of his own spirit our young fox was brought to the other side from where he could extinguish the flames by absolving them into the sky, beautifully lighting up the northern forests with what people now call Aurora Borealis.

 

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On June 20, 2012 - 10:28am

 Vision Quest      

        Contrails slash the tiny pool of cobalt above as he lay broken in the snow. Despite his shattered legs from the tumble down the southern rim of Crater Lake, the pain is oddly transient, as if on loan for future dispensations.
        His mind folds, and presently he’s stalking along a cobbled riverside on hale legs. When his arms sweep into view he notices his skin, darker than his carpish, Portlandian complexion, pulled taut by the half-draw of an arrow nocked along sinew string. Dried salmon and overturned pots of pond-lily seeds litter the shoreline. On the opposite bank, the charred, splintered sweathouse smolders against a stand of spruce.
        Indians. Yurok. His people. Their bodies drift and bob in the water.
        The foliage stirs, followed by muzzle-fire spitting across the stream. Balls tear into his body and he falls. Fading rapidly, he watches his blood-stippled legs twitch, bare and chestnut like his arms.
        Folding again.
        His hands, feminine now and bronzed by firelight, pile stone upon a cairn. Someone she loved, felled on a bison hunt.
        Without warning the night erupts brighter than the hottest midday, and the ensuing crack blows her off her feet. Sprawled against boulders atop the butte’s edge, she watches beyond her laden belly and scorched legs as Mount Mazama, cloven in two, topples into the crimson horizon before a great geyser of fire.
        In their dying eyes, maelstroms of grey snow merge as archipelagos of burning trees rain upon a raging mudflow snaking across the valley.

twinkletoes3106's picture
twinkletoes3106 from Phoenix, AZ is reading The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall June 21, 2012 - 8:56am

Holding Close

When I lick my lips, I can almost taste the ash, little charred pieces of matter stationed between my teeth and my gums, splintering, bending, disintegrating, until there is nothing left. I smile, shift my weight into my left hip. It’s beautiful really, this blaze in particular. It reminds me of my childhood. Sidewalk chalk, grape Popsicles and the screams during the burning. Even at eight, I was amused by the firemen as they scuffled by unsure as to whether I needed more care than the house.  Such haste, such hurry. And yet it was decidedly too late. An hour later, the skeleton of the house grinned at me and an overwhelming sense of calm descended from my restless brain to my little feet.


It tasted good.
 

And so did this burn. It was too early to know how it would end, but already the satisfaction had crept beneath my ribcage and settled in for the night. I raise the cigarette to my lips and take a deep drag. As I exhale, I chuckle at the cliché, an artist smoking while observing their sacrifice. Not much has changed. There’s serenity in that.


I take a final drag of the cigarette and then lower the stub to my right thigh, lifting the hem of my skirt so that my handiwork is exposed. I think scarring is beautiful. It shows where you’ve been and what you’ve done. My skin sizzles and sighs with the heat and I feel whole somehow.

Daniel Brophy's picture
Daniel Brophy from Taunton, MA is reading The Power of One June 21, 2012 - 9:21am

Me and Mona

It wasn’t the fire that killed everything; it was everything else. The fire was a way to finish it all off. Me and Mona were on our porch, understanding of all the warnings to get out, town’s being evacuated, but to hell with all that. Owned this house damn near fifty years. Where are me and Mona supposed to do? Sit on two cots pushed together, fifty other families around us, crying for their lost homes, their lost earth?

She reached across the porch to take my hand in hers. Been the first time we’ve held hands since we were this big. It felt good, that warmth taking my hand in. Felt a damn slight better than the heat from the fire all around us. “What do you think the world will look like,” she asked.

“Don’t know. Don’t care. Won’t be for us anymore.”

She smiled in the dark light. The shadows and dull glow seemed to take all them wrinkles off her face. Probably off mine, too. That smile looked young, looked happy. It made me wanna return it. So I did.

“You’re such a bastard.”

That made me laugh. I pulled her close, closer than she’s been in damn near a decade. “You still love me.”

She snuggled into me, her eyes ignoring the burning all round us. “Someone has to.”

I wrapped my feeble arms around her, whispered some words only for her, and waited for that fire to reach the porch. “I love you, too.”

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books June 21, 2012 - 6:03pm

The Fire Inside Amelia

Her hot mouth found mine. She tasted of stale cigarettes and India Pale Ale. Her black dress was hiked up around her waist. She was unbuckling my belt.


“We’re going to die, Peter. Die fucking me.”


My breath was coming in hard and jagged. I could already taste the smoke coming in through the closed windows. Sweat poured down my face, soaked my chest. She pulled the collar of my t-shirt down and ran her tongue over my skin. She grinned.


“Come on,” she said, “Don’t be a pussy. We’re going to burn tonight and I don’t want to go out without having you inside me.”


“We should be trying to get out,” I said.


She laughed, yanked my pants down. “You’re a fucking idiot. We’re not getting out, Peter. No one is coming for us. No one knows we’re here.”


Her mouth found my dick. It was limp and her slick mouth on it felt uncomfortable. The taste of smoke was stronger now. The flames outside the window cast orange shadows against the walls. My heart was pounding in my chest, threatening to burst through. There had to be a way out. I remembered the four-wheel drive truck in the garage.


I grabbed her by her shoulders and tore her off my still limp dick, “I don’t love you, Amelia. I don’t even like you.”


Her face contorted and tears came instantly. She could accept burning to death but not rejection.

I had thought she was so strong.

Conor Mcvarnock's picture
Conor Mcvarnock from Belfast is reading The Spirit level June 21, 2012 - 2:12pm

Today after three-hundred and fifty million years, the earth said goodbye to the last forest.

It is not known whether The High King of the Ash Nomads, warlord of the wastes, knew he was destroying the final growing foliage on earth when he ordered the forests on the lake at the edge of his domain burned in a fit of pique after fruitless years of trying to subjugate the free tribes that lived there.  It is doubtful that he’d have cared much either way.  At the old age of forty four winters he was insane with power and the wasting effects of toxic chemicals and radiation.

Burn them all.  He said.  And so they did.

To the free tribes, the dozen or so families that lived in the shelter of the last trees, hunted the wild birds, cultivated fungus on the boughs and ran the last of the world’s stock of solar powered tech on the canopy, it was the apocalypse.  The tech had once given them the edge on the nomads, it was their hidden magic against the barbarian hordes.   If through the knowledge of their technology they knew that theirs was the last forest their sorrow could not have been greater.  Their tears streaked a trail for miles out into the cold wastes where they went, hopeless, to die.

Not long after the last tree burned the last of the tribe died, her long dead infant clasped to her breast as she marched onwards into oblivion.

Conor Mcvarnock's picture
Conor Mcvarnock from Belfast is reading The Spirit level June 21, 2012 - 2:13pm

Today after three-hundred and fifty million years, the earth said goodbye to the last forest.

It is not known whether The High King of the Ash Nomads, warlord of the wastes, knew he was destroying the final growing foliage on earth when he ordered the forests on the lake at the edge of his domain burned in a fit of pique after fruitless years of trying to subjugate the free tribes that lived there.  It is doubtful that he’d have cared much either way.  At the old age of forty four winters he was insane with power and the wasting effects of toxic chemicals and radiation.

Burn them all, he said.  And so they did.

To the free tribes, the dozen or so families that lived in the shelter of the last trees, hunted the wild birds, cultivated fungus on the boughs and ran the last of the world’s stock of solar powered tech on the canopy, it was the apocalypse.  The tech had once given them the edge on the nomads, it was their hidden magic against the barbarian hordes.   If through the knowledge of their technology they knew that theirs was the last forest their sorrow could not have been greater.  Their tears streaked a trail for miles out into the cold wastes where they went, hopeless, to die.

Not long after the last tree burned the last of the tribe died, her long dead infant clasped to her breast as she marched onwards into oblivion.

ldp5446's picture
ldp5446 from North Carolina is reading Storm of Swords June 21, 2012 - 2:35pm

ICE CHIPS
Patricia looked outside.  The same window each day since the cancer came back.  Her bones were too brittle to walk up her stairs.  There is no bucket list for Patricia, but she only has weeks, maybe a couple of months.  Can’t jump out of a plane.  Can’t fuck each married man who visits from her church.  Can’t keep down the dinner down; much less eat all the carbs in town. 
Patricia does smile.   She has planned her funeral.  Selected the music.  What her sister will read.  72 wasn’t supposed to be the end.  She kicked this twice already.  Why is this time so different?
Smile.  Talk to family about the past.  Seem interested in their bartending stories, grandchildren graduation stories.  Not her grandchild.  She won’t meet her.  No one knows about her mom.
She never really could cry.  Always had to hide because of “what people would say”.  Now, with days to go, her hospice nurse finds her high school year book.  His picture was missing.  The one that brought her to Crowder’s Trail and took everything from her.  And gave her a black eye.  Her mother said she was a tramp.  That was the 50s.  She burned that dress and buried the memories.  She came home worked every day of her life.  Now all she had were the sympathy cards and unearthed memories.  And that scent of the trail burning, that dress burning, and him, burning.  Smile.

Allison McFarland's picture
Allison McFarland from Calgary, Canada is reading On The Road, The Two Towers, In Visible Ink June 21, 2012 - 8:49pm

Ebbing

 

A sentry of this place. The tree with our names. He said no eyes could watch. So I cut his out. With a burning branch, while he lay in the dirt.

Goodbye is all that’s left, here, where we are. We were watching the stars, but the smoke’s gotten too thick. The sky is smoldering in orange. And yellow. And black. Everywhere is black. I whisper to his ear, but he can’t see my world. My creation. This is the beginning of everything losing color.

It is pungent in my nose, prickling and trailing inside. Stinging where it hurts most. The candle. Vanilla. And sickly sweet and sweat and sheets. And lies.

Breathing in the colours. Taking them all for me, I feel the leaving. Trees and leaves and him. Gone. Hands on and around and only a whisper. A memory that isn’t here. He used to be beautiful. And so did I.

And we will be again. Born of something glorious and painful. Reunited. We will be again.

I taste the flames and the embers under my tongue. Watch them as stars across your eyes, burrowing in the empty recesses. A kiss for goodbye. My promise of never, and of tomorrow and tonight. Remember, I gave this to you.

Because of love. Because you said it first. Because now, no one can take it.