‘The Meeting Place’ by Robert William Wilson

sc june 18

A thick bank of cloud rolled slowly across the purple evening sky. It extended well past the horizon, moving forward like a giant grey continent gliding over the earth. The savage ice storm of the past winter had left traces of itself everywhere. The tallest trees had suffered most. Branches that had snapped beneath the weight of the ice still dangled dead and leafless. Dark silhouettes of broken treetops stood out sharply against the sky and made the forest seem like the ravaged wasteland of a corrupt forgotten place.

Martin pushed his way through the thick underbrush into a wide clearing. He stopped for a moment, surveying the countryside and taking his bearings. Most of it looked unfamiliar now. As a boy he had felt at home in the woods. He had loved the outdoors almost intensely. Now he wondered what it was he ever saw in it. There was only a strange aversion now. It was something he had moved on from, like an old relationship; something he didn’t want to go back to. Being outside anywhere made him anxious. He didn’t like the disorder, the randomness, the chaos. He preferred a roof over his head and walls around him; a separation from the world as much as possible where he didn’t have to be reminded he was part of it.

The thorn bushes scraped across his pant-legs as he brushed past them. He moved through the giant hogweed and wild parsnip and spotted water hemlock, – all the poisonous varieties he had once learned to identify stood out more prominently from the other plants. Up ahead he noticed a dense mob of bullrushes that had sprouted from the shallow water of a tiny pond. He walked around its muddy banks, vaguely aware of how its waters had greatly receded since he had last seen them. He went on through the abandoned apple orchard. Some of the trees still managed to survive in spite of the smothering weeds that circled their stout trunks and twined their branches. The inevitable fate of the living was illustrated in the hollow black husks of their neighbours. Scores of wasted fruit covered in bruises and apple scab cluttered the ground and gave off a sweet, putrid smell.

He picked his way carefully down an incline strewn with dead twigs and green moss-covered stones. Dry, brittle stems cracked beneath his feet as he stepped over them. In the distance he could see the enormous twin Maple trees that stood side by side in the centre of a clearing. Their long twisting branches floating and swaying and reaching for each other and appearing always on the verge of some dramatic embrace. He stood observing them from a distance; remembering the last time his eyes beheld them, the fleeting glance he had given them then, yet how they stayed in his imagination. A definable landmark in the ever-changing scenery. He walked between them, finding a kind of solemn majesty in their size and beauty. The sound of the furious wind howling through the branches gave them voices. It felt like they were trying to warn him away.

He strode into the wide field where the remnants of an ancient stone barricade made a border along one side. A long, thick furrow of stones scooped out of the field a century earlier to make the ground more suitable for planting. When the land was abandoned the forest honoured no such jurisdiction and swallowed most of it, shedding leaves and branches over top and leaving only a small portion still protruding out into the open.

A rustling sound across the field caught his attention. Martin slowed to a stop and watched as the branches of the cedar trees parted and a tall figure dressed in a long black overcoat pushed his way free, brushing the fragments of leaves and twigs from his clothing. Martin felt a vibrating fear rise up. He watched as the man’s movements halted abruptly and he stared out across the field in a way that told Martin he’d been made. They stood frozen for several seconds, both of them poised on the brink of an encounter that was something complicated and profound, feeling the weight of it; consciously giving the moment its due. Almost simultaneously both began to move forward, closing the gap that separated them, impatient to proceed. Martin heard himself being addressed across the open space, over the rustling grass, a deep voice, familiar, imposing, – spoke his name like a question. “Martin?” The man walked with a confident stride and his long black coat looked expensive and immaculate.

“Martin! It really is you,” he said as he drew closer. “You startled me.”

“Hello Bill.”

“You alone?”

“Yeah.”

“Me too. Christ! It’s been a long time.”  He slapped him on the shoulder and smiled.

Continue reading “‘The Meeting Place’ by Robert William Wilson”

‘Hemingway’ by Craig Rodgers

sc june 18

The Hemingway I met was in 1959 on the southern beaches of some foreign locale.  He would sit in the window of a house that didn’t belong to him and all day long he would drink from a cheap glass and smile at pretty girls in frilly bathing suits.  Sometimes they would mouth something sarcastic and he would laugh like he didn’t understand and somehow the joke was always on them.

I knew nothing of the man’s works and I knew nothing of his life.  He was a name I had heard and a personality I enjoyed. He took me to parties and he laughed and he drank and he was the most interesting man I had ever met.  People looked at him even as he was doing nothing and the town was always at the table.

It’s days or more later and I’m alone at a cafe when a face I’ve seen around several times but still the face of a stranger takes me aside and speaks to me in hushed tones.  I shrug off his words and I shrug off those of the next man to say them, but it isn’t long before I can’t shrug them off anymore.

People would say to me he’s a liar.

“Hemingway is a liar?”

They would say he’s a cheat and a thief.

“Hemingway is a cheat?  Hemingway is a thief?”

No.  You’re not getting it.  

“He is not Ernest Hemingway.  That man is a bad man.”

It’s a party like any of the dozen others, the hundred others I’ve found myself in on this island of turmoil and beauty.  Hemingway is laughing and he is telling stories that don’t belong to him. He is looking at me and he is raising a glass.

“To life.”

I put my hand on his shoulder and I squeeze like an old friend.  I smile into the bearded face of a man I don’t know. I put my knife in his ribs.  I push and I feel cloth tear and flesh tear and something else underneath. His eyes grow wide and they grow distant.  

And I wonder, will the real Hemingway’s eyes grow wide when I stab him?  Will they grow distant?

Craig Rodgers is the author of stories that have appeared in Juked, Heart of Farkness, Chicago Literati, Not One of Us, and others. He has an extensive collection of literary rejections folded into the shape of cranes and spends most of his time writing in North Texas.

‘Armageddon Rhapsody’ by Adriaan van Garde

sc june 18

And they gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew Har-magedon (Book of Revelation).

 

“Have you ever seen a smiling robot?”

With that question my grandmother opened a gate to a world I had not been aware of, a world in which she had played an important role. It all began during my last visit. When I arrived nothing indicated that my opinion about my gran needed a total re-evaluation. As usual she greeted me with enthusiasm and asked me for a big granny hug. As usual I did what she asked, with loving feelings, because I liked my grandmother very much.

It was my gran who had taken me in when my parents died. She was already living on the island then, where most things happened a lot later than on the mainland. Thanks to the help from her excellent robot she still lived in the old house, despite the ongoing deterioration of her muscular functions. If she had been younger the process could have been stopped, but because of her age she was beyond repair as her robot said. She didn’t complain, she had seen enough, she told me.

“Gran, robots can’t smile, you know that,” I answered. “Now tell me who this woman is and what she is doing with all these soldiers.”

I was looking intensely at the picture that was on her side-table for the first time. I had never seen it before, of that I was sure.

My grandmother sighed. “I guess it’s better to tell you the truth. After all, it’s a long time ago and all people involved are dead now.”

Her words set off a chain of deductions that led me to the only possible conclusion.

“That woman was you?” I exclaimed. “What were you doing there?”

“See that extremely handsome guy to the right of me? That was David Buffet, our president at that time, surrounded by his generals.”

I was stunned. David Buffet surrounded by his generals? Was this picture taken at the most important event in the human history, the day the earth stood still? And had my gran been there? With the Antichrist of all people. How was that possible? Why had she never mentioned it before? I asked her.

“Well, as if Armageddon is something the world likes to talk about.”

She was right. Even in the school history books you couldn’t find much about it. There were some spectacular books with wild theories circulating, but everybody knew that they were another conspiracy theory at best. It was as if humanity as a whole had decided not to talk about it, as if the whole world was ashamed. If my gran hadn’t taught me about Armageddon, I would never have heard any detailed information about it.

“You don’t know much about that period in our history, do you?”

Continue reading “‘Armageddon Rhapsody’ by Adriaan van Garde”

‘The Last Will and Testament of Albertus M. Sigil’ by Andrew Piontkovsky

sc june 18

My name is Dr. Albertus M . Sigil.

I understand that in all probability this will never be read. At least not by human eyes.

But, I will record these thoughts in the hope that, although unlikely, it is at least possible that living eyes may yet gaze upon them.

For so long I have hunted it. I chased it across the world, but always it escaped my grasp.

And now that I shall indeed come face to face with it, oh the horrible irony, I want only to be home, home in my bed, never having known of its terrible existence.

I hunted it across the world. The chase led me to stand, trembling, before the burrowing terrors of  the Mongolian wastelands.

In its pursuit, I have looked upon the black iron walls of , forbidden demon haunted Tarth, and yet still, I walk with a straight back and a sound mind

.

On its path, I have ventured in awe through the pleasure houses and domed gardens of Kush.

In preparation for this task, I practised the esoteric  mysteries of mind and body mastered by saffron robed monks  abiding in the cliff side temples that exist only in the deepest reaches of the world.

I  wandered half dead from thirst, through places  whose names were ancient and decadent, before Western Men first raised their eyes to the sky,  and in hubris declared themselves “Masters.

I have looked upon these things and more and returned.  I tried to tell the tale, only to endure the scoffing of fools who called me a madman, and worse.

Having done all these things, yet still, I heard the insatiable call, and God forgive me, I followed it. I deserted my wife, abandoned my very children, just to return to the test.

I left the warmth and security of my own home, in full knowledge that in all probability, at the end of my journey I would find myself standing alone, in some distant portal, only to find that that I have been met by the grim shade of Death, who has been standing, just there, waiting for me to arrive.

Now my time is nearing and I know that I am  not mourned.

Oh, the irony, that I have chased It across the world, but always It escaped my grasp. And now that I shall indeed finally come face to face with It, I want only to be home. Home in my bed, never having heard of Its terrible existence.

As I write this, it is late in the afternoon of the 17th day of August. The year is 1825 Anno Domini.

I will  now say my final words. Although I have faithfully maintained this journal for many years, I fear I shall not write in these pages again.

Father, my time is near and I commit my soul to your care. I am alone at the end. I have failed and my long quest will soon be over. Have mercy on my soul.

Now I have taken the bait, have been lured here, to this remote fastness.

I half expected that Death would be waiting, just here, for me to arrive. But I shall not have that gift. It seems that although I do fervently pray it shall not be the case, I too am destined to suffer the ignominious fate of the wretch Mr. Renfield. I too shall exist, half alive, under Its sway, a conscious shadow with no substance, and no hope. Never to know the quieting embrace of death.

It is too late and too far to flee now. The swiftest horse could not evade what is coming to claim me. I no longer have any weapon to suffice to the task I came here to perform.

The surrounding hills tower above me. The first shades of evening are already creeping into the valley. Fleeing to the brilliant sun remaining on the snowy mountain peaks surrounding me will only briefly delay the inevitable.

The shadows are growing longer and my courage is growing shorter. It is better that I should wait where I am.

I feel a dampness now, there is a bone freezing chill in the air. This is the damp of a crypt. It is a thing that should not exist, that should not be allowed to exist.

It is mocking me. I hear the music of Beethoven, The Moonlight  Sonata shrieking through the valley, as though a galaxy of orchestras were hidden in the trees of these darkening hills.

Alas! The sun has set.

IT IS  COMING

Archivists notes:

  • Catalogue no. 754, item no. 778-A
  • Item was donated by a man who claims to have found it atop the trunk of a fallen tree while hunting in a remote valley, deep in the Carpathian mountains.
  • The donor reported that a small pebble had been placed on it to keep the breeze from blowing the pages away and that there was a small stain of what appeared to be blood still drying on the second page.
  • The edges of the sheet have been examined and appear to have been neatly torn from the binding of a larger book.
  • Origin and whereabouts of the original book are unknown.
  • The small brown stain on the corner of the second page has been chemically analysed and is confirmed to be blood.
  • Beyond this point, provenance is unclear.
  • No further evidence or information is available for this item.

Contact Andrew Piontkovsky: piontkovsky1@gmail.com

‘Waking’ by Andrew Piontkovsky

sc june 18

Waking can be wonderful.

The way your pillow  has quietly scrunched itself up to match the shape of your face, the curve of your nose. The quiet rustling of sheets, clean and fresh. Early light creeping in through your windows smuggling a perfume of cherry blossoms.

That wonderful smell. They smell like the dawn. Like spring time. Like life.

But then, The Remembering comes to you. Whispering of tragedy.

 

Like a burning plane, full of shrieking, dying people.  It is a crashing, a screaming rush of every fear you have ever had. And yet, by some horrible miracle, the memory, the terrible unstoppable knowing,  slowly, gently, unfurls its flat dead petals in your mind, like a grave flower.  Quietly revealing the full grey horror of its inevitable, implacable, arrival.

When did happiness die? A month ago? A day? An hour?

Was happiness ever really a real thing? Can that have ever really existed in a world like this one?

Then the last petal uncurls and reveals the final extent of its dull despair.

Yes. there was happiness here once. But then it went away.

Memories come flooding in. Breakfast at Joe’s on 4th. We Got breakfast there every Sunday. Always the same. Eggs over easy, bacon, sourdough toast, and inevitably, those hash browns. He always hated them.  Called them “Shredded, potato like, food substance wafers”. Tom would always laugh and you would say that he was “mental” and  then he would stare in mock horror, showing his beautiful lopsided grin, trying not to laugh as you tucked in to them.

And you had loved him for that.

But that was before. Before happiness fled from you. Over a plate of scrambled eggs and lovely, crisp bacon nestled  alongside a slab of those weird shredded potatoes they insisted on putting on every plate,

“I’m sorry that it came to this, Peach, but I know you understand. We both know this has been coming a long time.  This hasn’t been working for a long time now. I know you understand.”

He paused looking like a man who wants to get this over with.

Continue reading “‘Waking’ by Andrew Piontkovsky”

‘Werewolf’ by Alan Swyer

sc june 18

This morning, cold and hungry, I approached a woman in carefully torn jeans who was stepping out of her Bentley near the Gucci store in Beverly Hills.

“Madam,” I said, trying my best not to appear frightening in any way, “I haven’t eaten in three days.”

“I wish I had your will power,” she replied jauntily.

For a moment I was sorely tempted to gnaw on her well-toned arm or take a bite of her Botoxed cheek.  But having resolved not to give in to my bestial side, even as my skin started to turn to fur and my teeth began to jut out, I did my best to shrug as the woman headed off towards Pilates, or Botox, or perhaps to fight for world peace.

 

I am what’s known as a lycanthrope, which is a fancy way of saying werewolf.  Lore about my problem — or species — or whatever appellation one chooses to describe beings like me —  has it that we can only be killed by silver bullets or some such nonsense.  For me, a far worse fate than having some yo-yo search from gun shop to gun shop for silver bullets is being ignored.  Or ostracized.  Or shunned.

Is it my fault that at times my skin becomes furry?  Or that my teeth start to protrude?  Or that my breath becomes, for want of a better term, animalistic?

I suppose I should blame Lon Chaney Jr, or Universal Pictures, or whoever it was who started making the films that have demonized my breed.

Even the medieval legends about creatures such as me, though farfetched and ludicrous, are nowhere near as vile or condescending as those willfully haunting but heinously incorrect movies.

That’s why I have resolved to be a fully sentient creature — humane in my own way — always as human as possible.

It’s not my intention to do harm, instill fear, or incite panic.

All I want is gainful employment.  Plus some friends to talk to.  And three square meals a day, especially if they’re accompanied by some good music.  What kind of music?  The truth is that my taste runs mainly to New Orleans R&B:  Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Huey “Piano” Smith & the Clowns, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, and the great Benny Spellman.  That owes to the time I stowed away on a ship that landed in the Big Easy.  At the Mardi Gras I attended, thanks to the costumes that abounded, plus the amount of alcohol that was consumed, even when I was in what some call my altered state, no one batted an eye.  But as to music, I also have a fondness for people as diverse as Erik Satie, Solomon Burke, Django Reinhardt, and early Cyndi Lauper.  No one-note or limited being am I.

Continue reading “‘Werewolf’ by Alan Swyer”

‘Lightening The Way’ by Wanda Wright

sc june 18

The weather is coming up and it’s cold out. But inside, I am happy as can be. Spent a long time trying to figure out what to do out here, how to make my way. But nothing quite worked out. So I decided banks and robbing them was the way to go.

Hit a bank just two days ago, and ran like the devil out of that town. It was a big score and I got away. I plan on moving further west, buy some land and try ranching. But I might want to rob one more bank before I settle down to ranching life, just to make sure I have enough to never suffer again.

I tipped my hat down after looking up at what looks like a hellatious storm coming up. Not sure where that came from. Out here in the open, weather is constant enough that I am not that surprised about it. My leather hat and coat do a pretty good job keeping a cowboy covered up. The ranching jobs I did along my way out west made me a pretty savvy cowboy. I fit right in out here, blend in like another husk in the field.

Opening my saddlebag I touched the money. I already counted it earlier and it feels really good to my touch. I just wanted to touch it again, feel its paper. Nothing else feels the same as money. I feel kind of bad taking it, but those banks have plenty of it. I am sure they won’t suffer like I was before I got this money. I have spent enough time suffering and having this money is a great relief.

My horse Rusty is sleeping, he is a good horse, no, he’s better than that, he’s a great horse. That boy can run, and he’s the reason we got away. I plan to buy a lot more good horses when I get my ranch. I wish I had some whiskey right now, help warm me up, the storm is pouring down rain now. Lightning has started up, but I am in a safe place to avoid it.

Lightning is crashing all around me now, Rusty ran off. I’m not sure I shouldn’t run too, but I am fixated on it. I have never seen lightning crashing all around me like this before. Before I knew it, the whole lightning show ended. It wasn’t even raining anymore. The whole place became instantly as bright as if it was the middle of the day.

I look for Rusty, but I don’t see him anywhere. I can see a long way. There is nothing that hides much from view, just some tumbleweeds growing all over. I looked again and I realize these aren’t tumbleweeds. Examining it closer I know I have never seen a plant out here like this, and they are everywhere. I looked up to see the sun, just to make sure it was there, and it was nowhere.

Continue reading “‘Lightening The Way’ by Wanda Wright”