Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Eyes We Dare Not Meet

by Trent Walters

This is the second in the four-part Hollow Men series. Although this could be appreciated alone, three others have appeared (now revised):  part I, part III and part IV.

We could not buy the hollow men ascendant over us the aware, yet clearly we had a blind spot to scrub. We sawed drinking straws to different lengths, and I drew, reluctantly, the short one.  We hypnotized me into a deep and dreamless sleep.  They heaved me off the cliff.

I did not wake until sometime after I hit. Chills crawled through me–an icy wind that strips heat from your body, yet the air had not stirred.  I tilted my head back enough to spy a bleak beacon on a distant hill casting a pair of black beams across the drought-scarred countryside.

I closed my eyes, willing myself back on warm, grassy slopes, soaking in sunlight and considering existence.  My eyelids flicked open.  Far from the familiar, I had already learned more by leaving.

I dusted myself off and removed shards of clay from my back. Amid the scattered straw and pilled cotton stuffing, the shadowed ground was covered with the baked crockery, crunching under my every step.  How many of these former men had I trod upon?  Each footfall made my skin feel like the disinclined shifting of continents colliding and tearing apart.  A strange dream or notion popped into my head:  Assemble these broken crockery into one giant man, healing and annealing the pieces–imagine what one could do.  The dream wilted as I pondered its improbability.

The air was dank and full of mildew digging roots into my clay shell.  Under the grassy spire, shapes flitted among the darker shadows; tiny claws scratched glass.  An iridescently reflective yet empty pair of eyes stopped to gaze at me, sniffed the air, then moved on.  The beacon’s bone-cold beams swept through me again and passed on.

A dead man–cracked but not broken–stared sightlessly into the abyss of night sky, clutching a scrap of paper torn from a missing notebook.  I fingered my own fissures and winced in sympathy.  I bent, pried loose the scrap and read, “I’m dreaming.  I dare not meet those eyes.”

Was I dreaming?  Were there eyes I dared not meet?  I glanced at the bleak beacon on the horizon, lying dead ahead in a fourth direction–a heretofore unseen cardinal point.  I cast a longing look at the beckoning grassy spire, then turned in search of eyes.

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