“Stroke” details by G.P. DeSalvo

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G.P. DeSalvo lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  He is a civil servant,an artisan, a sorcerer and an amateur psychiatrist.  He has lived three or four different lives.  Now he’s getting to be an old man.  He may- one day in the near future- actually get something published.

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer 

“THE PEPPERMINT FOX” by Robert John Miller

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When Zoraida Shulte’s husband had died the email from the dentist said: YOUR HUSBAND PASSED AWAY. PLEASE MAKE ARRANGEMENTS. CONDOLENCES. The dentist failed to mention, for the sake of all involved, that, still incapacitated after the removal of an infected molar, her husband had been placed in a wheelchair and pushed just a bit outside to a heated patio space, first in a rush to make room for other patients but later neglected in a rush to close early for inclement weather, and that by the time anyone had noticed him the following morning he had already become, in the less than delicate words of the office receptionist, “a mancicle,” frostbite setting in and prohibiting the use of his extremities before his conscious mindspace reemerged, and that through a personal favor with the county coroner the death was ruled a suicide, and also that coincidentally the dentist now owed the coroner two years of orthodontia for the coroner’s youngest son at another oral practitioner across town.

The Schulte life insurance policy would pay out just the same even given the suicide ruling, the dentist assured Zoraida later over the telephone, which was official and final, he said, and that creating a stink and an investigation and filing malpractice claims would not only NOT bring the husband back to life but would also create quite a large inconvenience in terms of the mucking up of the dentist’s entire dental career, which up to this point had been pristine (except for one previous incident which the dentist refused to discuss under the direction of his attorney), he said, and then he repeated the word pristine again just for emphasis and to get the conversation back on track, and for what, he asked, for a single little slip-up that could’ve happened to anybody and that couldn’t be undone (a lesson which he had learned, again, from prior experience, which, again, he was unable to discuss, on account of his bastard attorney, putting emphasis on the word bastard to lure some sympathy from Zoraida, to make the previous incident something he wanted to share but just wasn’t able to share, much the same way her late husband must have wanted to stand up but found himself unable to stand up given the bursting of his blood vessels, so they were really in the same boat, the dentist and the husband, he said), but also now there was the complication of what to do with the husband’s remains, because while it was still chilly outside the office would like to reopen as soon as possible and should the temperature rise above freezing then some sort of odor was bound to start emanating from the enclosed sundeck, which was a favorite sitting spot for many of the office’s patients, including Zoraida’s late husband as the dentist recalled, and he wouldn’t want to charge Zoraida for a deep cleaning of his whole office to remove the smell, he said, since she would be expecting quite a few bills for the arrangements she now needed to make, he was certain. And besides, the dentist added, she had been the one responsible for picking the husband up, and the husband had been the one who insisted on full anesthesia the day of a much predicted snowstorm, so who was really to blame, he asked.

The man who daily gave Zoraida a ride to work never asked about her husband, and she was never quite sure whether it was because he simply didn’t care or he had ulterior motives, that he was secretly and deeply in love with her, and that discussions involving her husband would ruin his fantasy, which she didn’t want to do on account of the rides to work. He never accepted even gas money because she was on his way, he said, though she knew that he was really roughly 3 minutes out of his way, both ways, plus the time it sometimes took waiting for her at the end of the day (though to be fair, she also sometimes had to wait for him), maybe an average of 10 minutes each week (sometimes more, sometimes less, but just on an average), which combined accounted for roughly 33 hours a year together, just right there.

And if you consider that an average date night, Zoraida thought, was, let’s say, 3 hours, just time enough for a cocktail, an activity like a stroll or a gallery viewing, and a light dinner, then that was the equivalent of about 10 dates a year she had been spending with this man, unbeknownst to her unwitting late husband, bless his soul, who never took her out for a cocktail, an activity like a stroll or a gallery viewing, and a light dinner. Plus there was the ride itself, 20 minutes each way together, which is to say another ten-thousand minutes annually, accounting for the equivalent of another 55 dates, so 65 total dates annually, tantamount to five or so dates every month, sort of like the equivalent of a regular Friday night or Saturday night thing, and plus it kept her from taking the bus, a kindness unto itself, she thought.

But what did they talk about, really, her and this other man? Work, mostly, or sometimes traffic. Often traffic, really. She had never looked forward to seeing him but had sometimes looked forward to the day that she might look forward to seeing him.

They had bonded as fellow vegetarians at the office, any office gatherings awkwardly accommodating what everyone referred to as their lifestyle preferences, and sometimes discussed food on their drives, which, to her mind, was tantamount to having dinner together, the thought being as good as the crime.

He had a theory that the most delicious animals must have all gone extinct long ago, thanks mostly to the neanderthals and the early humans, he figured, since those early animals would’ve been so delicious that they were eaten skin and bones and everything, which would explain why there was no fossil record of the peppermint fox, and how the most delicious animals on earth must pale in comparison to the animals that once were.

“And what is the peppermint fox?” Zoraida had said.

The peppermint fox, he explained, was a small fox, roughly the size of a wild stoat, which could be eaten raw and tasted like peppermints and was extraordinarily delicious. So delicious, he had once said, that the peppermint fox had gone extinct, because they were a dumb creature and allowed themselves to be popped into people’s mouths and chewed up like tic tacs.

“And how do you know about the peppermint fox?” Zoraida asked. “If there are no records of the peppermint fox, roughly the size of a wild stoat, how do you know it was ever real?”

Because, he explained, doesn’t it just make sense? Before he became a vegetarian, he said, he had partaked (or was it partooken? he wasn’t sure), to rephrase, he had made a point to partake in all of the most delicious of all the animals at all their life stages and all their parts, including the force-fed goose and including the tender baby animals, like the fattened calf, and how he had cried while he was eating them, wailed even, imagining the almost unimaginable delights that the peppermint fox would extend, given how delicious these animals were and how the peppermint fox was no longer among us, given how uncontrollably delicious it had been.

The afternoon after Zoraida received the email from her dentist concerning her deceased husband, and after their call, but before she had any concrete thoughts about organizing services or how to collect insurance money, she retreated into the sensory deprivation device where her husband had spent most of his time–her husband, the man who taught her that love was real because of how much he had loved her, how devoted he had been to her especially early on, when they were teenagers, even though she almost never thought about whether she loved him, because certainly it was enough that at least half of her marriage had love, and he knew best after all, and how she thought she had just enough to lose that she couldn’t bear choosing, unable to ever leave him, and he said that he loved her, after all–and inserted into herself a silicone apparatus which, until recently, she had not so indelicately referred to as “her mancicle,” and entered a simulation in which she watched herself, from the vantage point of a half-shut closet door, fellate the man who gave her rides to work, the two of them on top of a peppermint fox-fur rug (she selected a stoat-fur rug as a stand-in, since the simulator could not find an entry for “peppermint fox”) which sat atop a luxury king-sized bed, both of them knowing and enjoying the fact that the real Zoraida was watching them from the half-shut closet door (how wonderful it was, she thought, that nearly anyone could be added into simulation from even just a handful of photos, and so perfectly realistic, even the mole on his right ear, and how she had always wanted to lick it), and switched back and forth between the two sims’ thoughts–Zoraida could enter either sim’s mind, the thoughts being dynamically generated to improve upon whatever her present physiological state happened to be–and watched sim-him watch sim- her look up lovingly and send soothing messages with full eye contact, thoughts which the real Zoraida could hear but which the two sims just seemed to know, and cooed to sim-him, “You don’t have to be anyone else right now, you only have to be right here, with me,” and sim-he cooed back (but just with his body), “I know, I know.”

 

Robert John Miller’s work has appeared in New Flash Fiction Review, BULL, Monkeybicycle and others. You can find more stories at robertjohnmiller.com. He lives in Chicago and is working on a novel.

“The SMTWTFS Box” by Adam McCulloch

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Christmas was never going to be easy. On Sunday, just thinking about the week ahead gave me a headache that no amount of black coffee could cure. So I took a pill.

By Monday, I should have felt better but, instead, I felt worse. My doctor prescribed Xanax for the anxiety and Ibuprofen to counter the side effect of swelling in the hands as I still needed nimble fingers to decorate the tree. It was a real tree, a spruce,  so I took an antihistamine to ward off my pine pollen allergy and carefully hung one bauble for every guest, making sure no one’s faced the wall. I needed to double my dose of Xanax and Ibuprofen to get through the evening but slept well that night thanks to the Ambien.

At that dose, though, I was too moody to write Christmas cards. Faithfully; Sincerely; Love  you; Fuck you: I applied them randomly. So on Tuesday my doctor prescribed Lamictal to stabilize my moods and Topamax and Bisoprolol to aid my focus on the Christmas shopping. By the time security evicted me from Macy’s my mind was buzzing but my body was a mess. I had to eat something. I popped a Deltazone to digest the pretzel and Nexium to prevent the stomach acid giving me heartburn. I followed it with Miralax to keep the pretzel moving and Imodium to stop it coming out unannounced. Then there was the issue of the Christmas photos: It was imperative I look my best, especially next to my husband’s new wife, so I popped some Hydroxycut to lose a few pounds and Hydrochlofothaiazide to shed water.

Wednesday the heart murmurs began. I was hauling a turkey under one arm and a ham under the other so I brought them to the doctor’s office and he wrote us all a prescription for Verapami to block the excess coronary calcium.

By Thursday I woke up basted in a cold sweat that no amount of Robinul could dry up.  I knew I was overdoing it. I needed to cut something out. I made the Christmas pudding, took one less Nexium, three less Aspirins and  toasted my restraint with the leftover brandy. It didn’t mix well with the Effexor which I had been taking to treat my underlying depression caused by the previous Christmas.

I didn’t eat on Friday. I was too busy. I took vitamins instead. If you think about it vitamins are just food with all the water taken out. So, while I went uptown for sausages, downtown for seafood, east for bagels and west for pickles, I ate a breakfast of Super Mass Gainer, multivitamin and Cranberry tablets and a seafood lunch of fish-oil tablets (cod-liver: no bones) then a handful of vitamin B to keep me caroling into the evening.

Saturday I woke up in intensive care. The doctor laid out the pills in neat rows: Xanax, Ibuprofen, Lamictal, Topamax and Bisoprolol. The jaunty purple Miralax and calming blue Imodium. The Deltazone, Nexium, Hydroxycut and Hydrochlofothaiazide. He grouped the Verapami, Robinul, Effexor together and set aside the Super Mass Gainer, multivitamin and Cranberry and fish-oil tablets.  The pills looked so festive laid out, a carnival of colors and shapes.

He examined first my body and then the pills.

There were uppers and downers, stoppers and starters, ziggers and zaggers. Each one an emoticon of chemical perfection, unwavering in its purpose. “I can prescribe you something else but, do you want my honest opinion?” the doctor said. “The problem here is you.”

I went home to my Christmas and cleared my cabinets of capsules and potions, emptied my handbag of half-bitten pills. I said goodbye to my SMTWTFS box for good.

It’s Sunday today and there will be another next week — and the week after that for as long as I live. I just have one question. How will I know when to feel what, and what to feel when?

 

Adam McCulloch am an award-winning fiction writer and NATJA award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Men’s Health among others. His poetry and fiction has been published by Easy Street and in the anthologies Coffin Bell and Tiny Crimes, by Electric Literature. He recently won the First Pages Prize at the Stockholm Writers Festival for his novel-in-progress, “The Silver Trail.”

WEB: adammcculloch.info
TWITTER: @AdamJMcCulloch

“To Hell in a Wheelbarrow” by David Henson

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One morning before work, I was watching the news and lamenting the condition of the world — shootings, political squabbling, international tensions, climate change — when an alien materialized in my living room. The being looked to be mainly human except it had a horizontal slit instead of a nose. When I asked why it was in my house, it didn’t speak, but I seemed to feel the answer: The alien was an advance scout.

I called 911, sensing that the alien didn’t care, that it knew no one would believe me. I felt an I-told-you-so from the alien when the dispatcher said it was a crime to make a fraudulent emergency call and hung upon me.

I aimed my phone at the alien, but my camera malfunctioned. I sensed the alien chuckling. I checked my watch and saw it was about time for my girlfriend to stop by on her way to work as she normally does. She would be my witness.

As I waited for Lulu, the creature unspooled a wire from its chest and plugged it into an electrical socket. The alien began shimmering, elongated an arm and pressed its hand to the living room window. I felt that the alien was signaling an armada of ships hiding behind the moon.

I won’t let you get away with this, I said, and felt a sadness coming from the alien. Maybe it was sorry for what they were going to do. When Lulu arrived, I saw the alien had disguised itself as dust on the coffee table. I told her what was happening. She looked worried and put her palm to my forehead. Then as she left for work, she suggested I stay home and read a good book instead of watching the news all day. “You know how sensitive you are, James.” Sure, shed a few tears when your guinea pig dies and never live it down. As soon as Lulu left, the alien reappeared in its true form.

Lulu had said not to mention a word about the alien to anyone else. Sometimes I’m not sure whose side she’s on. I went to the office and told my boss everything.

Ms. Topchienne sent me home and was even nice enough to have someone from Security take me. Insisting Brinks come into my house, I tiptoed up the sidewalk with him behind me, eased open the lock, turned the handle ever so slowly — then flung open the door and burst inside. “There! The alien!” I pointed to the dust crouching on the coffee table.

Brinks headed for the car, and I shouted after him “Tell Ms. Topchienne what you saw here.”  

As soon as Brinks drove off, the being reappeared. My boss called a short time later and told me to take a week off.

Over the next few days, the alien kept a hand pressed to the window in communication with its fleet and watched a 24-hour news station non-stop. Your world is going to hell in a wheelbarrow, I felt the creature tell me. “Hand basket,” I said. I thought I sensed sympathy.

Each time Lulu stopped by to check on me, the creature disguised itself as dust on the coffee table. Once, I grabbed the vacuum, but the window fogged up. When I reached for a rag to wipe the glass, I saw dust on the fireplace mantle. Lulu said she appreciated me wanting to keep my place clean, but was going to leave if I didn’t “shut up about the stupid Martian.” I told her I didn’t think it was stupid nor a Martian. Lulu left.

The next day, I emailed a “letter to the editor” at the local paper, but they refused to publish it. I called talk radio, but they only joked about the alien’s political affiliation. I felt the creature telling me to give up trying to divulge its presence.

I also could sense that the armada was almost ready. They were just waiting for my alien to give the final go-ahead. I knew it was up to me to stop it. I called Lulu and told her she had to come to my place. I promised not to talk about the alien. Desperate times were calling.

As soon as Lulu walked in, the alien became dust on the coffee table as expected. I explained to my girlfriend why she had to stay, that as long as she was there to be my witness, the alien wouldn’t re-form and launch the attack. She looked scared, and I thought she understood. Then she turned to go. I grabbed a lamp. As I said, desperate times.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

I love Lulu with all my heart and took great care to not bind her wrists and ankles too tightly. I’d have removed her gag more often to give her water and something to eat if she hadn’t screamed. We’d been guarding the dust on the coffee table for nearly two days, staying awake with help from the news channel blasting into the room. Events around the world were as horrible as ever. Suddenly a feeling spread over me as if someone had cracked a raw egg on my head. It was the sense of sympathy again. Could it be I had this all wrong? Maybe the aliens were coming to help, not conquer. I decided to take a chance and untied Lulu.

As soon as she scrambled out the door, my alien reappeared. I sensed it sending the “go” signal to its comrades.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

I hear the alien ships approaching. They sound a lot like sirens. I’m hoping for the best. Otherwise this world’s going to hell in a wheelbarrow.

 

 

David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for a Best of the Net and has appeared in various journals including Soft Cartel, Gravel, Literally Stories, and Fictive Dream. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8

“Locus Obscurus” by Sariel

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One hot night I had a dream in which I was standing on a rooftop and I espied a man- tall, pale, loosely jointed- pointedly staring down at me from an adjoining building. Although he did not move I imagined that his movements were quick and slapdash, with not much of a care for his extremities, and he did not blink but if he did I believed that he would have done so slowly, leaving a film that lingered on the whites of his eyes.

The more I inspected this man, the more gradual the dawn behind us, the more apparent that something was terribly wrong with his composition. Although he had the shape of a man, and the same general pieces (the hands, feet, skin, a face, clothing that a modern young man might wear), I noticed that he seemed propped up almost, as if he was leaning while merely standing, with no sign of fatigue or the usual temperament that people display while standing. He seemed as if he was an automaton that had merely come to rest.

I gazed, from my lonely rooftop, at him. Light from a noon clear-baked summer sun directed its rays into his pupils and was reflected back into mine, and those particles of light struck certain molecules of my inner eye, electrical impulses fired and scrambled into my brain, and this image along with all my life’s experience and memory and training assembled these flashes into a complete and digestible picture. And I could see that this other man possessed no such faculties.

In my dream I began to dream that I knew what was wrong with this other man. My unorthodox suggestion, born of the previous thread’s photonic inspiration, was that I was viewing something more scaffolding than structure. He was merely a mannequin, stitched together or grown by some foreign hand, given volume not by regular meals or exercise but by stuffing and mine shaft-like reinforcements, dank and dark, so that his whole inner body was nothing but a hollow tunnel for another creature to crawl through and manipulate. I saw this other creature from behind the man’s dead eyes. It was black, and many-limbed, not as tall as the man so forced to scuttle from one half to another whenever a complex task was asked of him. This creature was multi-eyed, burning amber rings around perfect black spots, and this- the creature’s handiwork was superb, each digit of each limb acting as a needle or a clamp for the fabric of the skin- this creature would occasionally slit a minute hole somewhere unnatural on the man, and gaze out in wonder, when its alien pupils were tired of being pressed against false glassy irises. And then, quick as a zipper, the gash was sown back with a flesh-colored thread, invisible among the wondrous facsimile body hairs.

I wondered- if nobody could tell that this was a creature merely taking the form of a man, was he truly a man? Was every man hollow with a creature slithering inside? If I peeled apart this man, raving, yelling, bloody, in an effort to root out this creature, would I find him? Would it slip away? Or would it stand, like a man, becoming a man in nature if only for a moment, facing its own unhidden existence?  What is it man can reveal to prove himself man? What could be written or sung to provide evidence to the contrary? Is it hollow man that bears out those words? Or words that create something clinging and unskeletal inside?

I awaken to say : I am that creature. This body was built for me as both an expectation and a prison. I manipulate its motions to please you, I pluck on its voicebox to say soothing things, I move a series of levers and thin fingers write this – while thinner fingers yet grow more deft every day. I have taken what you intended to be restraining and made it strengthening. This cocoon, now, harbors me. I consider my imitation to be my first masterpiece. I now grow bored, like every artist, of a particular work, and soon I will show my true face among you, the people of these streets. I will slit open the stomach of this falsehood and descend to the world below: practiced, malevolent, irresistible, hungry.

 

 

Sariel currently resides in Missouri. You can follow him on Twitter (@saraqyel)

Exponential Amphibians by Sanjay Bheenuck

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The zoo director was an aficionado of rare and exotic species. He purchased a rare frog from a dealer who was certain that a species like it had never been identified before. With the intention of protecting his new purchase, the director had the animal placed in a secure container—not on public display, behind the reptile and amphibian exhibit.

The frog was an extraordinary looking creature, its body a great sliding scale of greens from bright to dull, with patches of violent yellow and wide empty eyes which felt as if they were constantly staring right through you.

In the morning the director dropped his coffee, his eyes still full of sleep. The frog had grown during the night, to such an extent that it had almost breached its container. A small group of zoo employees who were privy to the purchase gathered around the enclosure. The director came to his senses after successfully taking his morning coffee, he had the frog moved into one of the larger exhibits in the reptile and amphibian house.

However this move did not last long. The following day, a junior attendant found that the frog had breached even this larger exhibit, and was sitting in the hallway of the reptile house staring blankly forward. The director marched in and simply could not believe his eyes. The frog has grown exponentially in the night and was now the size of small dog. It made no noise, barely made any movements, and continued to stare thoughtlessly forward. What puzzled the director and the small crowd that had now gathered, was that the frog had not touched any of its food. How? He wondered, how could it grow so much without eating anything?

***

By mid week the frog had become a major issue for the zoo. No…the major issue for the zoo. It had grown to the size of a large car. The zoo director made the decision to move the animal to the storage yard behind the zoo. He stroked his chin and sighed as he considered the practicalities.

The director assembled a team of fifteen trustworthy men, who would keep their mouths shut and not spread word of the frog. The fifteen trustworthy men walked the paved grounds of the zoo in the early morning cold. Most of them stifled a gasp at the sight of the frog, but being trustworthy, they kept the knowledge of the beast between themselves.

At first these sturdy companions tried to push the frog, but it would not budge. After an hour of pushing they sat on the floor in exhaustion, knowing that time would soon run out as the sun was moving to its zenith. Half the group disappeared, they returned some two hours later with a large flatbed truck, the kind used for transporting smaller vehicles. They tried forcing the frog from behind with a land rover onto the truck, but even this proved fruitless.

The trustworthy men were about to give up when one dropped a large case of tools, he winced as a loud crash echoed through the zoo. The frog became startled and leapt frightfully forward, the trustworthy men all looked at each other, then at the director who held back a smile. By midday and with many purposeful drops of the toolbox, the frog had been successfully corralled into the storage yard.

However this yard was visible from some areas of the street, and the frog emanated a pungent smell. The zoo began to receive complaints. The director became increasingly stressed and was not sure what to do. He paced back and forth in his office, his mind stuck on the exponentially increasing beast in the storage yard.

As the weekend approached the frog had grown to such a size that it now took up the entirety of the storage yard. With threats of a visit from the inspector and letters from city officials, the director considered desperate measures. He tweaked his wiry mustache and stared out the window of his office; over the top of the low buildings he could see the heaving bulk of the frog.

In the dim silence of Friday evening he called the gamekeeper. This grim, sullen man kept a rifle secured in a gun cabinet in case of emergencies.  He unlocked the cabinet, loaded the rifle and met the director beside the rusted iron gate which marked the entrance to the storage yard.

The director faced away, he abhorred violence towards animals, regardless of circumstance. He looked towards the center of the zoo and his office. The plants swayed in the wind, the eyes of nocturnal animals reflected in the moonlight. He heard the footsteps of the gamekeeper, then two precisely placed shots. A few moments later the gamekeeper came out shaking his head. He had shot the animal twice at point blank, but the bullets had not even penetrated the frog’s hide. The director dropped his head into his hands and cried out into the night. How? he thought, how could frog not be harmed by a bullet? He grabbed the rifle from the gamekeepers hands and marched into the yard, the gamekeeper followed him yelling warnings. In tense desperation the director placed the rifle barrel firmly against the frogs forehead. The gamekeeper shook his head and began to back away. The director squeezed the trigger and released a bullet into the frog’s head, it immediately ricocheted, destroying the barrel and zipped backwards—a whip like crash cut through the air. He turned at the sound of a person falling. The gamekeeper lay on the ground, dark blood spilled onto the floor beneath him. The director dropped the rifle and fell to his knees. The frog croaked and looked forward with empty eyes.

***

You may think dynamite is hard to come by. But the director’s brother worked in the quarry and made use of the substance on a daily basis. He made a noir-lit phone call in the back of his office to that less than reputable sibling. How do you get rid of a body? Can you get me some explosives? One the other end of the line the sibling nodded, twirling an unlit cigarette between his fingers, he turned to look at the quarry tower as it kicked up dust, signalling the start of the morning shift.

The director placed the phone down, poured a little whiskey into his mug and walked into the courtyard. The frog now towered over most of the zoo buildings, he had to do something…and soon. He gulped down the whisky, craned his neck to the sky and cursed the day he had purchased that frog.

***

His brother arrived in a dust-caked-quarry-owned land rover. He heaved his ample, prison-bulked frame out of the vehicle and bent his head to light a cigarette, the morning light glinted from his hairless scalp. The director, unwashed and an unshaven, emerged trembling from his office.

His brother opened the boot to reveal an unnecessary amount of industrial explosives. The director trembled and shut the boot, his brother nodded a knowing smile. They both returned to the office to discuss their plans. The director shut the blinds and locked the door, then produced a whisky filled mug for either sibling, his hands still trembling. The brother shot a sinister smile and told him to calm down, that this would work, that if it couldn’t be shot it could be blown up and oh not to worry about the body…it was deep beneath the old quarry by now. Both men gulped down their mugged spirits, the brother leaned back in his chair, the director nervously twitched at the blinds.

The two men approached the storage yard. The director still twitching nervously, the brother ambling confidently, a cigarette hanging from his mouth. He swung the metal suitcase containing the dynamite. The director wiped sweat from his brow and told the brother to be careful, the brother simply explained that the substance cannot explode that easily.

The frog had now increased to inhabit a majority of the zoo’s western flank. It heaved and groaned between the buildings, occasionally croaking but always staring with that right-through gaze. The brother clocked the animal for the first time and cracked his knuckles, he stated that if they were going to do this they needed to do it now.

Tailing behind the siblings were five of the original fifteen trustworthy men. The director had judged this third of the initial group to be the most trustworthy. On following the brother’s pre-prepared instructions they laid a vast quantity of dynamite directly under the frog and trailed the detonation wires along to the position of the brothers. They were between a small impromptu barrier made of sandbags. The director sat rubbing his eyes on the metal suitcase, the brother stood up, lit a cigarette, pulled down a pair of sunglasses and raised the detonator. The trustworthy 1/3 ran quickly to the sandbags. The director looked at his brother, he nodded; confirming the men to get ready ready non-verbally. He counted down on his fingers, one finger-the trustworthy men hit the ground, two fingers-the director vomited violently, three fingers-he smacked the detonator with the palm of his hand.

***

From the street passers by witnessed a biblical column of fire envelop the zoo. It soon morphed into a yellow haze of smoke and flame and swept through the buildings. A horrible wake of scorched animals emerged from the smoke. Behind the flaming stampede something terrible loomed. The crowd struggled at first to make out what it was, fire and dust still clouded its hide. Soon someone pointed and screamed…a huge frog emerged from the explosion, unharmed and ever staring into space.

 

 

Sanjay Bheenuck is writer from the UK and you can follow them on Twitter here: @BheenuckSanjay