Short Fiction

 
 

You Resurrect From the Inside Out

I grew the new me beneath the old, my skin plump and taut like that of an overripe peach. Soon a phoenix will blet out of me. I press my fingertips against the tightness and feel my new self press back warmly.

I don’t remember when it started. Some time after the program. A lot of people who never had a problem are leery of the program but it works. I’m almost one years sober. You resurrect from the inside out. It starts small and grows. You have to let the dream inside, you have to let the hope inside of you, like a seed. It grows into the future.

A Black House Rots North of Town

What you do is: you take the 295 up through Portland until you reach US-1 and you follow US-1 up through all the empty woods of Maine until you’re sure there’s nothing around you but the trees and whatever lives in the trees; you take it up through places where everyone lives in trailer parks and the bones of dead towns, up through the veins of shoreline poverty, where the route curves east toward Bar Harbor; you take it up until you’re riding along the seaside and only abandonment and nature exist west of you and only the endless Atlantic exists east of you, and you coast along the asphalt until a pocket-city appears on the far southeast of a peninsula and you take that exit and you pray…

Who Sees Is Also Seen

She sees them on the fringes of the wilderness, where derelict neighborhoods blur into the trees. Where vines pull at wrecked facades like lover’s limbs, murmuring come back to the earth with us, come back to the earth and sleep, where branches breach broken windows seeking sunbeam alms, where new life sprouts out of old. She sees them there, right on the edges, at the places where civilization falls, where nature rises.


They adorn themselves in bone. They hood themselves in buck’s skulls, cow’s skulls, bull’s skulls, wolf’s skulls. They wear necklaces of teeth, phalanges, tarsals. Their fingers gleam in ivory rings, claw-tipped, leather-skinned. They might be human. They might not be human.

 

Diary of a Dead Woman

I have been dead, now, for longer than I ever lived.


I can’t recall the exact year it happened. I remember my husband’s scream, my daughter’s footsteps sprinting the hall. I remember my son’s face blood-speckled, the stab of hot betrayal opening my innards. I remember lying on the kitchen floor, a cutstring puppet in crimson slick, going cold.


I awakened days or weeks or months later into an empty house…

A Game of Cards

The woman across from me wears a plague mask. Except she’s not really wearing a plague mask, she’s making me think she’s wearing a plague mask. She thinks I’m one of them–someone like her. But I’m not one of them. I’m not one of anybody. If I was somebody, I’d have a real job, a real life. I’d have a home.

“Are you paying attention?” she asks.

“Sure.” I lie.

She shows me a card. The back is absence-white, color of nothing and everything at once. “I need you to focus on the card,” she says. “I’ll know if you don’t.”

Radio Man II; or: The Axeman Cometh

He woke up itchy and hot on the floor of the flophouse, insects fleeing his body.  He raked his fingers against his ribs to kill off the slower vermin; panted for air.  The room’s other occupants shifted on lice-ridden burlap and ignored him.  The nightmare burned the last of its hellfire fuse through him and left him cold and pointless.  His cot, so much as it was his, was damp with his sweat.

The floor felt smooth and warm on his footsoles.  Pots and pans clattered from the kitchen.  The proprietor did his tenants the charity of a free breakfast, watery soup and hardened bread that had been most of Sam’s diet since the hurricane of ‘15.

 

A Note Recovered from an Abandoned House

[she found the papers in a ruffled pile half water-rotten, moldering in something that had maybe once been a bedroom]

[there was no explanation for them: what they were about, how they got there, how long they'd been sitting in undated excrement and fungus and debris]

[she has to read them. The breadcrumbs led her this far, and she isn't about to turn back, now.]

[she picks a sheet from the middle of the pile, like a child taking a card from a magician]

DATE UNKNOWN

Radio Man I, or: A Man Wakes Up Every Morning

He woke up, again, to the same alarm as always: static hiss of radio underscoring the accentless newsman as he said, “…he went to the gun locker, opened it, and took out the rifle.” He slapped the radio off before he heard the rest of the story and pushed himself up out of bed. Sarah shifted on the mattress next to him, an airy sigh slipping from her lips as she curled up in the covers. She never heard the newsman, no matter how many times he said the exact same thing. They’d had a fight about it, once. She always heard a rock song, from Oceanrest Rock & Blues Radio. The same song, every time…something by Nine Inch Nails, but he couldn’t remember the title. He only ever heard the news report…

What the Sea Wants