‘Days Have Gone By’ by Samuel Huryn

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Frank was alone in the house, washing out his coffee mug over the sink. It was his morning routine, washing the mug before he left. Frank and Susan kept their kitchen spotless, everything it its orderly place. The couple’s youngest child had moved out a few years prior, and with his departure, the two of them had settled without notice into this regime of cleanliness. Even the soft summer morning light that drifted through the windows seemed to mingle only sparingly with what little dust hung in the air.

It was ten in the morning. Susan had already left for her job as a nurse. Most mornings, Frank would have left over two hours ago for the museum, where he served as Director of Research and Collections, despite it being a Saturday.

Today, however, he was scheduled to meet with an older woman some two hours south of town. This woman had contacted the museum a week prior, offering to donate what she claimed to be an antique shelf clock, an original of renowned early 19th century clock maker Aaron Williard, for the museum’s exhibition on early American technology. He dried out his mug and placed it in the cupboard and grabbed his suitcase.

Frank navigated out from the suburbs of his ranch and briefly through the downtown of the museum’s city before merging onto the interstate, driving in silence the entire time. An early Saturday morning in late July boded well for light traffic, and Frank found himself on nearly empty stretches of forgotten highway. The asphalt flowed off into the distance, never varying angle as it outlined massive farm fields full of corn and hay. After another hour, the highway slowly dipped and veered to the right, and Franked pulled off at his exit.

The town he was headed for was too small to make it onto printed maps, but Frank still found himself in the midst of the same fast food restaurants and gas stations, video rentals and convenience stores, as every town. He made his way past them onto a more rural road before finally locating the address of the lady who had contacted him. The house was a large colonial in a state of disrepair, with unkempt bushes shielding its aged white siding. Children’s toys and lawn ornaments were scattered at random throughout the dandelions that dotted the front yard. He parked his car at the front of the gravel driveway, made his way to the entrance, and rang the doorbell.

Frank could hear some sort of commotion inside, and when an older woman, cigarette hanging from her mouth, opened the door, he struggled not to trip over four or five children running through the living room.

“You must be Mrs. Adams,” Frank said after a moment, flustered by the children.

“Oh, Mr. Stewart, come in, come in; I’ve got the clock—” She turned and yelled at the children to be quiet. “They’re my daughter’s kids. She’s in the hospital right now,” she said, exaggerating her face as she whispered the last sentence. Frank nodded, mirroring her facial expression, unsure of what to say. Acquisitions were his least favorite part of the job, for this exact reason, and at that moment he wished he was instead back at the museum, tucked deep in the archives, alone.

“The clock; how did you acquire it?” He asked to change the subject, as another child ran past the entrance and started banging the keys on a dusty, out of tune piano.

“Oh, it’s right this way. A long time family heirloom, I think.” She led Frank up the staircase, his hands sticking to the dark resin of dirt that lined the handrail. “Over here”, she said at the top of the stairs, as she led him into a small bedroom.

“My late husband,” Mrs. Adams sighed as she passed a bedside table. She bent over and fondly cradled a faded sepia-toned picture. “This was his room. He passed away—what? eight or nine years ago? Before everything started to go crazy. I live here by myself now, except with the children sometimes. Anyway, it’s over here”. Frank quietly stood a couple of feet behind her as she shared these details. Mrs. Adams rested the picture back onto the table and made her way around the bed, placing her hand on it balance.

On the far side of the bed she opened a closet, revealing a long, mostly empty walk-in. “Over here.” She pulled a threadbare cord and an unprotected lightbulb sputtered for a few seconds before turning on.

At the end of the closet sat a small mahogany clock, about three feet high, its base sinking into the thick shag carpet. Frank walked over and squatted down, examining it. The floral painting that surrounded the clock’s face was still in good condition, as was the small golden eagle perched atop the clock. Directly under the face, in gold set in a red circle, was Aaron Williard’s autograph. The clock’s long spindly hands pointed to stark black roman numerals set against a white background.

“It actually still runs,” Mrs. Adams said, “but the time is incorrect. I don’t know how to change it.” One of the children dashed into the room and started tugging on her skirt, shouting “gra’mama! gra’mama!” before Mrs. Adams shooed her away. “Can’t you see I’m busy talking to the man?” She asked the child.

Frank was examining the back of the clock with a small pocket flashlight and a magnifying glass. In his hands, Frank could instinctively feel the history in the thing. Momentarily lost in thought, he gazed at the clock, admiring the rich color of its wood and the details of its painting. The inner mechanisms were, true to Mrs. Adam’s pronouncement, all in working order. “This is a remarkable clock, still in surprisingly good condition. And it is, in fact, a Williard original,” he said, standing up. “In fact, I think the museum would be interested in purchasing the clock outright, as opposed to simply renting it, if you would be so inclined. I am, of course, willing to offer an appropriate compensation.”

Mrs. Washington straightened up and thought about the offer for a moment, before quietly agreeing, speaking her words as if cut off in the middle of a sentence. “Yes, that is what I was hoping. Yes.”

“I do believe, judging by the condition, that I could offer perhaps three thousand dollars for the clock, if that is acceptable.” Frank said, standing up. He went out to his car and retrieved his suitcase, along with an oversized box which split open in the middle and was filled with custom-made foam to transport the clock.

Mrs. Adams was sitting at her kitchen table, and Frank could see the children running around in the back yard as he sat down across from her. He removed the papers from his suitcase and placed them onto the faded linoleum surface. Off to the side of the table sat an empty napkin holder, grown dirty and worn with age, and a small dish of off-brand hard candy.

“Where do you need me to sign?” Mrs. Adams asked. Frank pointed out the lines and asked who he should make the check out to. Later, when he came down the stairs, delicately carrying the clock in its custom case, he looked into the kitchen and said farewell to Mrs. Adams, who sitting across from the check.

“Thank you, sir,” she replied, looking up. “I’ll show you out to the door.”

“Thank you,” Frank replied. “The clock should be going on display in a couple weeks. Have a good afternoon,” he said, smiling.

*

Frank’s eyes blurred over miles of corn and exit ramp fast food signs during his drive back. For most of his trip, the highway remained almost completely empty. Frank drove in silence with the clock secured in the back of the car. His mind drifted, tracing a history for the clock, of the wealthy pioneer ancestors who first settled in the state, with a clock that would survive wars, wars, new houses, new generations. These things formed no trend or culture nor could they even be described as events, just chance movement, countless variables colliding each second. In the summer heat arose an air of inevitability in Frank, a laughable foolishness at people who had been unable to foresee all of history before it happened, unable to foresee the invention of the transistor or the assassination of John Kennedy or the growth of sprawling suburbs; all moments somehow connected, working together to put this exact clock in the backseat of this exact car as Frank drove.

Up a couple hundred feet ahead was some sort of trailer, attached to a pick-up truck. Besides it, the road was empty. As Frank gained on it, he saw that it was a trailer for transporting horses, with compact stables inside. He cruised a little distance behind it.

Suddenly, the truck pulling the horses swerved drastically off to the right, and Frank watched what looked like a raccoon dart across the road. The truck had veered too far, and it tumbled down into the ditch at the side of the highway. Next to the highway was a lumber yard, and the truck smashed head-on into a pile of logs, barely disturbing them before coming to a rest. The horse’s trailer swung around on its axel, which sent its rear door swinging open, the two colliding with the sound of metal striking metal.

Frank slowed his car and came to a stop alongside the wreck. He got out and walked over to the cab of the truck, where he found the windshield broken and the dashboard covered in blood. Frank opened the truck’s door and the body of an elderly man flopped out, his mangled head falling into Frank’s arms as he involuntarily caught it. In shock, he let it drop to the dirt at his feet, with the man’s head pulling the rest of his body down with him. On the ground, blood continued to pour from a wound somewhere on his head. It pooled at Frank’s feet, sawdust from the lumber yard floating lazily within it.

Frank stepped away from the man and raised his head, turning it back to the road. No cars were in sight. Past the north-bound lane, the divider strip, and the opposite side of the freeway, tall trees stood peacefully, the late sun making their leaves almost fluorescent.

A neigh from one of the horses brought Frank out from the shock of random death, and he stumbled to the back of the trailer. It was empty; its door hung open, limp. The horses, three of them, were sprinting blind around the lumber yard, leaping over stacked sections of tree. Without consciously registering his actions, Frank began running after them, pulling made-up names out of the sky and yelling them at the horses. “George! James! Andrew!” He shouted names at random, and then he stopped and pointed at the trailer, demanding the horses return to it. Instead, the horses continued their nervous prancing, impervious to Frank. Against the setting light, the horses appeared like moving sunspots, floaters in the eye, creations of the mind and not of reality. Then Frank, running in his agony, tripped over a stray log, landing face-down and sending a cloud of gentle sawdust cartwheeling into the air.

Samuel Huryn attends the Ohio State University. He would like to acknowledge John Fahey’s sixth album as the source of this story’s title.

Three Poems by DC Miller

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ANTIFA WHORE

Before the empty tomb stood Mary Magdalen the modern mystic FOR SALE

She asked a passerby

if you are the one who has carried him away tell me where

I don’t know where they put him

ANTIFA sent SCUMBAGS jesus SENT ANGELS

and they drifted through the checkpoints TRAILING LIES

until they hit the water where they stopped and cried

and fucked and screamed their lungs out WHY

AM I ALIVE? For what? Cuts down your arm

APPLY TO BROKEN cross-eyed girls shot down LIKE

ROSES INSIDE nothing 30 seconds over NOWHERE

How many times? NOT EVEN THIS ONE Fucked-up

on stepped-on coke in Tampa fighting through Texas

Waco roswell TUSCON all the way to portland

Trading rumors like this one about this guy

who came from NOWHERE and got

NOWHERE all he had was good looks

and desires like to be free of my own name

This situation seen through zooms

you burst into hysterics and

the universe exploded into bloom

TRANS AM

In 1917, or 2017, the Thing, the King, an entertainer took the center of the stage

In this square in a red silk dress the people howled With contempt Get lost Choked-up He said

I search for God I search Within myself for God FOR NOTHING

For my sins Your Work rehearsed An exit THERE IS NONE

My reason serves me as a path to which I’m drawn by intuition ANYONE

This one For Nothing NO REPLY

and the critics and the public sighed WE ARE IN A DESERT

And all the other guests are men and women like ourselves MACHINES WITH SPRINGS

who come and go and joke and laugh and you were COUGHING BLOOD

we went downtown

and talked until the morning

about mistakes in god’s creation

and the forces which have shaped the universe since the birth of time our fate

You said the universe was like a clock which wandered through the world like hell

don’t tell don’t

Wait You were my best friend close your eyes if not

now when I’ll never see your face again

NEW WORLD

From one circle to another Another sucker mutters I give up

I don’t remember 16 candles Don’t be cute Do you

Know what? The woman of my life NOT YOU

i saw your neck snap IS IT TRUE?

US COLLAPSED into the blue

Irradiated water SAYONARA you too

Salem’s reckless daughter saw

your wrists break in the lonely wash NOW I WANT IN

And now I’m saying funny things

like Something will survive

FOREVER Russian bombs

Are falling like a feather

From the top of tall building

Whistling surrender

AND all I want is you

‘A Daffodil on the Grave’ by Geon Pauly

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The dusk was well past. It was getting darker with each passing hour; out in the sky and in her heart. She had been waiting over an hour the most, but it felt like an eternity. She had tried calling out for help a few times, but all she heard was the trees rustling against the wind.

“Roger, please come back. I am…scared.” Darcy squeaked in desperation but soon realized, her outcry, it was vain after all.

A few moments later, to her much sought relief she heard footsteps in the distance. It was music to her ears. He emerged fidgeting with a radio in his hands, “There you are. I’ve been looking for you all over. Why aren’t you where I left you?”

“I…must have…lost…” she was half-trembling. He grabbed her cold hands that were desperately seeking his touch and kissed her forehead as he embraced her in his arms, “Look, what I found.” he said showing off the half-broken pocket radio which luckily had its antenna intact. “I think it’s working.” he ran his fingers over the output speakers desperately trying to turn it on by rotating the broken knobs endlessly.

“Not like that. You’ll break it.” she replied paying heed to the cracking sounds of his hands working on the radio, “Guess what? It’s already in bad shape.” as she got it in her palms and started examining.

“So, I got it to the expert. Now, let me know it if works.” he replied as he tried to slip-out his fingers from her palm.

“No! No!” she yelled landing an immediate reflex slap across his temple. She clutched onto his hands all the more tightly, “Where the hell are you going?”

“To find a phone or something.” he rubbed his head in pain, “Darcy! Look in my eyes. Listen to me when I say this. Don’t lose hope, there has to be a way. It’s just messing with us playing hide and seek. We need to find it.”

“It’s been an entire day, Roger. You’ve gone like a hundred times and come back empty handed and a bit more bruised each time,” she ran her hand over his temple feeling the fresh trickle of blood. She had just accidentally slapped a fresh wound right in its heart. She was submerged in guilt again, she felt putridly horrible, “Roger, there is no hope for us. Neither for this town, nor our country, nor this continent or I suppose the whole of mankind.” she began to sob, though Roger stood unfazed by it.

“Darcy,” he held her head between his palms, “Always remember. As long as there is life, there is hope.”

She smiled, “Roger that!” she signaled as she rested her head on his chest.

Just then they felt it again. The tremors! “Hold my hand, let’s head for the table.” he said as he dragged her and ran as fast as they could.

“Please, don’t stop this time. End it! Once and for all! I am tired. We are tired.” she screamed hoping, that for just once in her life, her yearning be answered.

Life had been too cruel to Darcy; born to a catholic couple in central Delhi, she had kick-started life itself on the wrong note. Her pre-mature birth had resulted in her mother’s demise during her delivery. Her alcoholic father who craved for a son, never treated her well, for he considered his innocent child as his wife’s murderer. Most nights after he was dead drunk, he cursed her, “You know why I named you Darcy? For you brought all this darkness into our lives. You…are ‘the dark force, the dark one’ …that has ruined my life. I hope you never see light in your life.” words a bit too harsh for a little girl to hear on a daily basis.

Continue reading “‘A Daffodil on the Grave’ by Geon Pauly”

Three Poems by Abby Richardson

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The Card Game

The game which is my mind
The joker and its tricks it has
My mind has all the cards
I can never know its hand
Even if i keep tabs on on those playing cards
I don’t know what is in store,
the stakes may be high
For those playing cards have two players
And I am not one of those

Ace

Ace a test, Ace at class
Pass at school
Ace at that job interview
Pass at a carrer
Ace at being the best wife
Pass at being a great mom and giver
Ace at letting go,
Pass on forgiveing and forgetting,
Ace at beauty,
Pass in society,
Ace at life?

Little Soldier

Be a good little soldier
Always do what I say, little solider
Never quesion me, little solider
Even if you think other wise, little solider
Even if you want to speak your mind, little solider
Always stay in lin line, little solider
Be a good little soldier

‘I <3 You' & 'A Second of Forever' by Christina Tang-Bernas

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I <3 You

Our imaginations create the world we inhabit.

Just as we see mathematical symbols shaped like a prone beating muscle and know it means love, perhaps the world you perceive is different from the world I perceive. But we will never know, we are so intent on agreeing about it.

That when I say I love you, I pretend when you repeat it, it means the exact same thing.

You do the same.

And it doesn’t matter if we’ll never truly know the difference. Not now anyways.

It’s not that we’re connected, in the way of idealistic teenagers. It’s more that we, our essentiality, are all separate quantum particles, shifting beside one another, surrounded by emptiness.

If I placed my hand against yours, our fingers twisted so our skin alternated between light and dark – like the blinds of our one-room apartment in late afternoon – and zoomed down to the quantum level. Could we trace the edge that defined me from you, where the electricity of my nerves shifted to the sparks of yours?

So, we are no different from anything else in the world. Which particles signify your life? Which denote your death?

We live. We eat. We grow. We love. We create new life. We die. We rot. We grow. We are eaten. We fuel new life. We are born. We live. Rinse and repeat.

Except at the quantum level, there is none of that. Only infinitesimal shifts here, there.

We imagine everything else.

Then what is love but that we made the choice to shape our world in such a way?

I chose you.

Somehow, you chose me.

And we agreed it was good.

A Second of Forever

zero [0]
point existing only in Time
one [1]
line, infinitely unfurling
two [2]
flat plane of actuality
three [3]
reality of Life as known
four [4]
Space woven through with Time

Space mapped
Time charted
in neat instruction sets
describing the movements
of every single bit that
has existed
does exist
will exist

an instant of me meeting
an instant of you
once, first
again and again
lives crisscrossing
until we form a snarled braid
of star-dusted points
imprinted in the Universe’s cloth
Forever

And when we learn to travel
not only Where but When
I’d hitch a ride on a ship
travelling through Time
through moments
scattered behind

the quirk of your lips
your forehead pressed to mine
fingers tangled together
as our lives have
So when I clutch close
each you-infused Second
beating furious against
my palm’s life lines
I remember each Second is Forever
and I let the moment
fly
Free

Christina Tang-Bernas lives in Southern California with her extroverted husband, introverted cat, and undecided daughter. Her work has appeared in Dark Matter, Tincture Journal, and Brevity Magazine. Find out more at http://www.christinatangbernas.com or follow her at @ctbideas.

‘The Hollow Boys’ by Spencer Oakes

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A subtidal mess of empty cans and tentacle-shaped bull kelp crowded the beach. The tourists and stalks and bulbs of dead algae were exactly why I came to this place, that, along with the silence and because it had been so long since I quit anything. Waves and eyeballs rolled my way as I walked into the Pacific thresh.

The eyeballs were inside heads attached to floating bodies sat upright with necks twisted like a plump of waterfowl scanning the plain. The bodies were rubberized and black-hole black and the boys’ heads were hollow inside their hoods.

I had eviscerated my social contract and left the city, left the work and the technology. It wanted to find an edge, to live alongside it and let its danger power me for some time.

As I paddled to their break, one hollow boy’s eyes locked with mine before the group moved away with the disturbing grace of a funeral procession. His eyes were like sunken ships. Life on the edge was written on the Welcome-to-Lethe sign. I had a problem with eyes. I’d never been to this place and somehow it was as though these people hadn’t either.

“Locals,” the old woman on the beach said from behind bright-red Céline sunglasses, nodding at the water.

She sat on a chair beside a portable radio, under a rainbow-striped umbrella that said Later Days. She’d been sitting there since the Reagan Administration, her skin the colour of paper bags.

Fog had turned the sky a foamy white, bleaching our surroundings. I squinted at the woman who was spinning the nub of the radio’s antenna between her thumb and finger as golden oldies wheezed through the speaker.

She pointed her spongy hand at me.

“Kook,” she smiled and dried saliva split where her lips met. A sour smell floated behind the goofy syllable. She nodded off or passed out. I took a can of beer, drank it in the car and drove to the hotel.

The road was gravel with shades of green on one side and a digital orchestra of waves on the other, reflecting the twilight. My cellphone vibrated tin with incoming messages as it sat with a half-dozen empty cans on the floor of the backseat. The TV had a channel showing live footage of the swell and as I drifted around consciousness and the city and the edge I watched the grainy image of the six hollow boys fade with the sun.

I left the hotel before sunup knowing the ocean would be all mine. I didn’t know what I would do with it all.

The headiness of the waves muted my hangover. I was wrong in thinking I could have an ocean to myself.

Because beyond the mayhem I saw them sitting amid the water’s push and pull like a bored congregation fixated on the earth’s curvy descent into oblivion. I almost reached them when a wave held me under. I came to in the shallows and watched as the boy with shipwreck eyes returned to his place.

I crawled out of the tide. Fog materialized above, as if there could be more fog. The brainless gaze of the hollow boys remained on the shimmering edge of what I needed.

I woke up coughing, the sound of backseat empties startling me. The car was humid. Treetops were silhouettes against the dim sky and I eyed them from below through the glass. Somewhere in the car the cellphone screamed at me, shaking violently to be touched. I put the keys in the ignition and left the door hanging open. Damp and hot in my wetsuit, I journeyed to the water.

My hollow boys sat in the half-light. I counted five this time. Their heads rotated toward me and the waves parted. I swam to them and when I looked back at the shore there was no fog and I saw the most beautiful, bleeding paradise of tropical supernovas and ultra-violet light.

I told myself I wouldn’t stay long among the hollow boys of Lethe.

Spencer is a Canadian writer. His work has appeared in Shirley Magazine, Occulum Journal, The Ginger Collect and Train Flash Fiction. Along with the Vancouver Whitecaps, he founded MAJOR Magazine. He is currently enrolled in Simon Fraser University’s 2018 Writer’s Studio. He also works as a copywriter. Read his mind and follow @cultofspencer on Twitter.