Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

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

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

Archive for the ‘Hollow Men’ Category

Sunlight on Broken Columns

Monday, November 29th, 2010

This is the final piece in the Hollow Men series.  Three others have appeared (now revised):  part I, part II and part III.

The way to the land leviathan, half-submerged in sand, was dry and empty.  At dawn I dug a shallow trench and draped a cloth over the top to bury myself under.  At dusk I cut succulents for their amassed water, gathered my gear, and marched on.  Ahead the glowing eyes of the leviathan winked sleepily beneath the lamplight of the moon.

My heart felt a pang as the memory of a breeze rustled distant poppies and the glorious waxing-moon colloquies on the probability of existence, the purpose of purpose, and the electability of those electing to use nonexistent words.  Yet I could no longer lay with my hands pillowing my head and chew the stems of bittersweet clover, much as I longed to sense the heat of a companion’s elbow seeping into mine.  The world swelled with too much.

As the hours waned into morning, details of the leviathan’s general features spread apart: no longer a lounging leviathan but a ramble of crumbling buildings left to ruin.  When light pooled at the horizon, what had been eyebrows raised into an archway of tiny wedding bells weakly, brokenly tinkling their march.  The leviathan’s eyes became nothing more than mundane dimension portals.  The images that the portals cast drew me closer.

The scenes were vaguely familiar, changing each time as the eyelid of one screen slid over another:  me as a child I’d dreamed of was laughing and log-rolling all the way down to the bottom of the screw, the giant man my imagined self had assembled crossed deserts and mountains in a few strides, and me again as a man attaching pipes to construct a bridge spanning the screws.  One corner of my mouth drew up.  I touched the portal screen to visit these alternate realities, but a tough if thin, milky film separated me from penetrating this eye.  It further hardened and clouded over under my palm while I pondered the dwarf’s warning, the silliness of dreams, and the water leaking from my eyes.

They closed, and I dreamed of piecing together a giant to help me build bridges.  The screen softened, my hand slid through, and I toppled.

Form Prayers to Broken Stone

Friday, November 19th, 2010

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

I trudged for a day in a direction that had not existed the day before.  Tramping to the bleak beacon was like plowing through mounds of slushy snow seeping through your boots.  When the pair of shining black beams smote me, the going slowed to a crawl.

I’d passed beneath the beacon’s lower angle of the lantern room’s reach before the sensation in my goose-pimpled flesh returned.

A white-bearded dwarf exited the base of the beacon waving a replica of the lantern squatting above.  “Turn back!  Look not into eyes!”  His voice was the grinding of gears.

The journey had worn my patience, so I toppled him.  He fell back flinging his lantern behind.  He hit with a clang; the lantern’s hinged glass door swung open and cracked against the rocky soil, and the cold, coal-black flame soared, guttered, and winked out in the indifferent wind.  The man groaned as I carried on.

Years of severe weathering had pocked the formerly sleek obsidian surface of the beacon.  I ran my hand along its rough flank and steered myself up the inner winding.  The rotting wooden planks protested my weight.  I pushed wide the trapdoor.

Inside the lantern room, I swung open the glass lens and slid shut the iron vent to suffocate the coal-black flame.  Ice crystals formed in the cracks and spread across the vents.

The giant lens separated into smaller, distorting glass blocks–each chanced to point at the spire that had been my home since my days as unformed crockery.  From this vantage, it looked little more than a mossy screw, but each lens block also pulled it in some direction that made my attachment to it laughable–fat, skinny, hour-glassed, warped.  Watching, I noticed the screw turned when the hollow men climbed its slope.  In fact, hundreds of screws turned just beyond this one.  I daydreamed of erecting a bridge to cross the gaps so that no one had to fall off.  Vertigo filled my skull and numbed my fingertips.

Pivoting to the opposite direction, I gazed across a broad desert, into a land leviathan’s slow blinking gaze.

“You fool!”  The dwarf was hoisting himself up on the floor.  “You’ve opened the misery gate!”  The dwarf lisped the words, so it was hard to tell if the gate were a “misery” or “mystery.”  He brandished a dagger, slashed and thrust.

I dodged.  “Wait.”  Again, the dodge.  “I see your point.  Please.  Let me open the door, so the flame can breathe, and men won’t look in this direction.”  With an elbow, I cracked the ice and slid the door open, careful not to let the chill black light fall on me.

The dwarf tilted his head back, basking in the light.

Yanking him off his feet, I tossed the dwarf’s heavy metal frame into the flame and slammed the door shut.

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