The One Where Jack Throws A Brick

Written by Leo Chiaet

Jack walked through the automatic doors with a hazy look and glazed eyes. It was 3 am, but due to his self-destructive habits and the copious amount of weed and alcohol in his system, Jack has somehow convinced himself that he needed choco-mint chip ice cream immediately.

He wandered the store in a drift, taking his sweet damn time. And then he saw his treasure. Choco-mint chip ice cream. Jack staggered and drunkenly opened the freezer, but as soon as he did, a sneaky, wretched gray hand twisted after the exact carton and snatched it out of Jack’s sight.

Jack turned his eyes as fast as he could, only in time to see a shadowy figure whisk off with his beloved choco-mint chip ice cream just around the corner. Never mind the fact that there were still several other cartons left.

Jack desperately hungry and infuriated, tried to yell loudly, yet only managed to grumble and mumble incoherently, much like a man hopped on weed, alcohol, and manhood might do. He ran, then fell, and puked just a little, then got up and ran again after the figure. Again, only seeing the abductor as he just managed to walk out of sight. This time through the automatic doors, with his beloved trapped in a plastic bag that said “Have a nice day.” Jack was certainly not having a nice day. But he would have a vengeful night.

“Have a nice night, sir,” the attendant said to him as he strode past.

“I won’t!” Jack yelled as he tripped himself against the automatic doors and onto the floor. You see, Jack was too eager to get through the doors, and his foot kicked the door as it opened making him lose balance and fall again.

But he got up, like the hero he was, and ran after the mysterious abductor.

Jack spotted the man. More like a skeleton, shrouded in darkness, in the middle of the parking lot. He was standing there triumphantly, as if waiting for Jack.

“Hello Jack,” the figure’s raspy voice broke through the silence of 3 am. “Looking for something?” The figure held up his hostage. “You see, I am Thomas Dank, dark overlord, and I have come to challenge you!”

Jack dislodged a chunk of brick from the Walmart and threw it at Thomas, shattering the skull of the dark overlord, ridding him of life and all his dark powers. But, the brick also crushed his carton of beloved Choco-mint, crushing and splattering the contents onto the pavement.

Jack had lost all purpose, and submitted himself, like any hero of old would, to licking the Choco-mint from the hard, unforgiving parking lot ground.

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Rainbow

Written By Greg Giovannini

A hallway, long and dark, stretches before me. Behind and ahead, there is only blackness, an inscrutable fog clouding the distant past and future. I walk forward simply because that’s the last way I remember walking, but I could just as well be walking backwards.

My steps are slow, careful, investigative, as though each movement spawns a clue to unravel the mystery of my destination. A small candle in my hand provides the only light, but it is enough. I am comfortably lost. I think of the future beyond the blackness, and it fills me with hope. I do not think of the blackness behind me; it reeks of despair, a despair that feeds on sadness and pain. As long as I have my light, I am safe – the darkness chases but cannot catch me.

Step after step, and there is still nothing. The corridor narrows ever so slightly. Shadows dance over the wooden floor from my flickering candlelight; there is no sound but that of my shoes rhythmically striking the smooth planks. I do not wonder and walk on.

Eventually the wax drips onto my hand. I wipe it off and shiver. Something tickles the back of my mind, like an unscratchable itch, but I ignore it as I press onward, a bit faster now. The light flickers more erratically, and I notice with a twinge of something else that my circle of light has waned. Still I continue my march.

The feeling deepens, but the word eludes me. An unsteady beat joins the sound of my steps – it is my heart. The candlelight dwindles further. I start jogging.

It strikes me that I don’t know why I’m moving forward. The darkness ahead seems more oppressive, more malicious, harboring the enigma of my destination. At least the darkness behind me holds no secrets. I suck in a breath, heart racing. There is a person somewhere, I think. But which way are they? Surely ahead. I feel that unknown word on the tip of my tongue.

I am running now, the shrinking light nursing my growing clarity; it is a thin barrier between the layers of dark I am sandwiched between, and the shadows kiss through the porous membrane. I feel on the verge of a massive revelation, of some truth left behind and forgotten.

Then the candle goes out. My lifeline vanishes. The darkness is absolute, petrifying. I freeze; the silence screams around my thundering heart. Fear. I feel it like two walls crushing the life out of me, and I collapse to the cold ground in a trembling pile. Someone is yelling in my ear. I curl up and cover them with my hands, but I still hear the voice. Another joins it. Words reach me, and I fight them off, but they wound my feeble defense. It is a chorus of voices now, and they storm my wall like a bellicose army and flood my soul in ruthless fury. Worthless. Pathetic. Weak. I beg them to stop. Useless, sniveling, crying, whining, baby. I scream and want to die. Sad trash depressed worthless burden die die die die die. I feel as though I am being ripped apart by a savage beast. Hopeless, I sink into it and let it take me, the cacophony drowning out every thought until only a white noise assaults me. I remain like that for some time – minutes? Days? – and then I am conscious of my heartbeat, and my shivering body hugging the floor. Terrified that the voices will return, I leap up, my darting eyes useless in the inky blackness. And then a fleeting image of the person pops into my mind like the wink of a lighthouse beacon.

I need to find her. She is somewhere back there, I am sure of it. I propel myself in what feels like the opposite direction at full speed. My body feels sluggish, as though the air itself is viscous. But I run on and on, blindly, searching for something in the nothing. The corridor seems to never end.

Until I smash head-first into something solid. I stagger back, stunned, but my desperation to find her clears my senses rapidly. As though my crash-landing had triggered some response, the tiniest sliver of light appears at the ground. It is enough to illuminate the outline of a door in front of me. I can hear a voice speaking energetically beyond. Hopeful, I search for a handle, some means of opening it. But it is just a slab of wood. I pound it, kick it, yell at it; the unyielding monolith crushes my spark of hope into the ashes of despair.

In defeat, I sink to the ground again with my back to the door, listening. I can hear her, just beyond the threshold, laughing. She says something, and I feel the love in the words, feel it but cannot have it, cannot have what is not for me. The light at the bottom of the door catches my wet eye. It is a spectrum of color, a pattern that reminds me of the promise she never got to fill, the rainbow butterflies that would never fly. Just like her, a flightless butterfly, the world unable to appreciate her beauty.

But I did. I saw that beauty every day, witnessed it on the good days and bad days, watched it suffer through four years of hell. That beauty was my mother, and so much more. She wasn’t a writer, but she wrote for me. I devoured every poem, never thinking, This will be the last, but tepidly understanding that it could be the last, until brutally forced to accept that it was the last. She wasn’t an artist, but she painted for me, each work a bundle of love. They say love is eternal; I say love is my mother. She wasn’t a goddess, but she was perfect.

It all amounts to nothing. She’s gone.

Tears stream down my face; I was wrong – there is no happiness here. Only painful memories muffled behind an eternally-locked door. I brought myself here as I always do when I am lost, expecting to hear her guiding voice, the strength of her commands to move forward, to crush the voices of my insecurities that paralyze me and send me hunting for her in the first place.

But I am alone. The only voice I have is my own.

That’s not true. I stand, slowly, as a light shines ahead in the distance. I walk towards it. My instinct is always to run backwards to find her. To pound on that locked door in desperation, to get nowhere trying to go back to her. But she lives in me. The light grows; a casket surrounded by hundreds of candles comes into focus. The gifts she left for me. An explosion of golds and cherry reds, a rainbow of warmth. I pick one up, and the flame grows brighter in my hand.

I glance at the casket and cry, but through the tears, I smile ever so slightly. The candle I hold burns into my mind the last birthday I spent with her.

Memories have a way of dragging me back to the past. Memories are what will light my way to the future.

I know I will get lost again. But I hang on to the hope that I will find my way back here, not to the locked door, but to the wealth of light she left for me to move on.

I turn and face forward.

A hallway, long and dark, stretches before me. For the first time, I notice the doors on either side. No rainbow of light, no voices, only bare possibilities. I walk forward and wonder which to open first.

The Desecration of the Jack (Or: A Pile of Allusions and Nonsensical Garbage)

Written by Greg Giovannini

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Have you ever been to Walmart? An affirmative answer to that question will quickly disprove this time-overhonored proverb. For there is no beauty, no sugar magnolia, no rippling touch of gray (insert other Grateful Dead song titles here), to be glimpsed among the ghastly corridors of that hell. Hell, indeed – what is a Walmart but a haven for the people you love to hate, the people that turn society upside-down and kick it in the butt by their continuing existence? You’ve been there. You’ve seen them. Mothers pushing their kids in shopping carts at five miles per hour – well above the speed limit, mind you – without a seatbelt. Fathers in Aisle 12 paying no attention to their kids in shopping carts in Aisle 3. Kids in shopping carts flying at you. Murder and death around every corner. Really, it’s nothing more than a hate fest, a place to go to hate the world when you hate the world. I love it.

You can tell a lot about someone by the retail stores he or she frequents. Take my old schoolmate Jack, for instance. Jack is a frequenter of Walmart, unsurprisingly, a token quality of our sustained friendship. Really, we couldn’t be closer. His favorite pastimes include dropping out of school, being unemployed, leeching money off of actual working-class people, and baseball. A really solid list, that. Up until 2004, Jack was so sure that the Boston Red Sox were cursed – the Curse of the Bambino, as he and his less-than-desirable Target-shopping ex-girlfriend Rose called it. (Fun fact: Rose is stupid, ugly, and also unemployed.) That year, Jack got a job at Target for a few months. “Few” is the operative word there – recall that unemployment is a hobby of his, and besides, Walmart has always been his true home. Did I mention Rose shops at Target? That’s where they met; Rose is really awful. Anyway, Jack was in charge of returning the carts, so clearly, someone valued his presence. Jack himself isn’t very big on the whole “value” thing, though; one day, he pushed a giant line of shopping carts directly in front of a speeding car. The driver, swerving to avoid Jack, nailed a stop sign and flew through the windshield like a child in a shopping cart not wearing a seatbelt (see how the first paragraph cleverly foreshadowed this unexpectedly expected turn of events? Wear your seatbelts, kids!). After the accident, Jack promptly lost his job and drank to forget. Rose made him feel like trash for inadvertently killing someone while simultaneously pushing him to become a serial killer for a living. (Allusion: Rose is Lady Macbeth). Eventually, being too small-minded to understand Rose’s plans for world domination, Jack returned to Walmart to spend his days wandering around the aisles searching for meaning in his life as an impoverished murderer.

It was the day of the 2004 World Series. In what will be remembered by no one but me as the Great Desecration of the Jack, Jack took Rose to Walmart. He had no idea what was going to happen until it was too late. After blindfolding her to bring her to the baseball party in the dessert section of the store that he planned on raiding, Jack walked Rose through the sliding door and into the bright fire of hell. Her true form was revealed; the Wicked Witch of the North-West-ish-Direction boiled as her skin was exposed to the harsh lights of Walmart. There was no time to care, though; a dead witch always meant a lifted curse! The TVs in the electronics section were showing the game on every screen. The Boston Red Sox had just won. The Curse of the Bambino was finally broken, and all because Jack had let Rose go.

For Laura

Written by Dana Sheehan

“You got the stuff?” John asked.

“Yeah, I got the stuff,” Alex said.

“And you know when he gets off work?”

“Eleven.”

“Good. And the car?”

“Already taken care of.”

“You sure?”

“Positive.”

“Good.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Alex asked.

“Fuck yeah I’m sure! He won’t get away with what he did! How can you even doubt me?” John shouted.

“Chill, I’m not doubting. I just want to make sure you’re completely sure.”

“Of course I’m completely sure!”

“I just want to make sure you have the guts, John.”

“You know what he did to her.”

“I do.”

“I have plenty of guts to make sure he faces the consequences!”

“…Okay. I believe you.”

“Good… We’re doing this then.”

“Yes, sir.”

“For Laura.”

“For Laura.”

Ultimate Doom

Written by Greg Giovannini

Everything was pressuring me to do it. I couldn’t just not. I mean, not doing it would obviously mean ultimate doom, and who was I to bring about that kind of horror on a grossly unsuspecting world? It’s not like it was all that difficult to do. In retrospect, I really had no excuse not to do it. My friends would tell me I’d be fine, that it wasn’t a big deal – well, that is, if I actually had friends. I never really jumped on the whole “friends” bandwagon. Maybe I should’ve, that way the weight of ultimate doom wouldn’t be resting on my shoulders alone. But it was. After all, I have a Master’s in Computer Science and Being Antisocial. It’s a dual degree program, a two-for-one package. The best part is, they make you do both regardless of your decision; it’s like a free little dose of feudalism, where people with more money than you make your decisions and shape your personality for you. That’s kind of what was happening now. I couldn’t just not do it.

So I did it. I hit the brake and stopped for the deer. I could hear God whispering words of gratitude in my ear. I swear I did. Either that, or the depths of my subconscious were imposing positive auditory hallucinations to satisfy the cravings spawned from years with no friends. Regardless, the little faun walked across the street very much not like a deer in headlights as my trusty Elentra glided to a stop (not moving was something my car was particularly good at – I’ve learned to make use of things’ natural abilities).

“Whew. Crisis averted; the world is safe.” I drove off into the distance. Then I hit a traffic light. Because one good deed must naturally be balanced out by a less tasteful act, I ran it as it turned yellow like a real rebel. None of my existent friends saw that one coming – but that statement was rather loaded, because it assumed that 1) I had friends, and 2) that such friends were still in existence. I’m on fire; and now I’m in present tense.

As I drive on in the aftermath of my heroic deed and heinous crime, I feel the ultimate doom receding back into the shadowy depths of Mordor, like Jack slipping off the edge of a piece of driftwood in Titanic.

Untitled

Written by Mark Koehr

The Dowager held the crystal goblet between her thin fingers, debating whether or not to take another sip. Sunlight penetrating through the stained glass windows filled her bedroom in an array of multi-colored blotches. The light had successfully phased through the side of the goblet nearest the window, but when it tried to pierce the other side, a thick, red liquid stopped it.

Eventually the Dowager gave in and allowed a single drop to slip down her long throat in one satisfying gulp.

The taste was exquisite. A sweet nectar that filled her stomach and satiated her appetite, even if only for a moment. The woman slammed the goblet back down onto the table. She could feel them. Sharp knives trying to dig their way up through her gums.

I can do this,” she whispered to herself, banishing the knives back to where they came from. “I can resist. I am stronger than him.” The dowager had lost count of how many times she had said that. She had the exact same new year’s resolution for the past two centuries: self-control.

Yet time after time, the Dowager gave in to her bloodlust, and countless villages had paid the price for it. If she thinks hard enough, she can still taste the blood of the children. Still remember the euphoria it brought. Still feel it slide down her throat.

No, she snapped herself back to reality. The Dowager got up from the table she sat at, and in three great strides, stormed over to the body-length mirror at the end of her quarters. In the looking glass, she saw a young woman She stood with her back straight, in a long gown, red as the blood she just drank. It hugged her body tighter than what would have been appropriate in her hometown. The dress was the oldest the Dowager had, even older than herself. A memory of a mother she never had the chance to meet.

The Dowager reached her hand out to the mirror. “You are Lucia Umbra,” the woman in the mirror repeated every word. “The dowager to this estate. You are strong, stronger than anyone else. If anyone can fight this, it is you.

When she gave the speech this time, Dowager Lucia Umbra finally believed it.

Happy

Written by Greg Giovannini

They say he’s sixteen and still collects toys.
They say his Transformers sit in neat little rows arranged by height,
From Bumblebee to Optimus Prime.

They say he believes in aliens and robots.
They say he’s not a child of God;
Moreover, that he disproved God’s existence in his seventh-grade history class.

They say he can solve a Rubix Cube in four seconds.
They say he studied Euler and Fermat while learning to read,
And cracked Einstein’s tensors before ten.

They say he smiles funny, that he broke half his teeth from smiling so much.
They say he’s chipper all the time,
And his smile’s so big, people think he’s Mormon.

They say he’s genetically enhanced, a freak government-experiment.
They say he’s an alien himself,
Green Martian-skin hiding under that human disguise.

They say he’s sick, that his head is going to explode one day.
They say he surely won’t live to twenty.
They say it’s alright, he doesn’t have feelings anyway;
Which is all a shame, because I saw him on the playground yesterday,
Alone in the metal-barred tower, happy.