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Issue 9 – Fall 2005

FICTION

 

POETRY

 

NONFICTION

POEMS

The New City by Kristine Ong Muslim

Gazing at the ruins below,

He stands atop the tallest city tower

There is too much to see now.

The world suddenly becomes too big

Now that he is alone.

He breathes the air-—finally untainted,

And he watches the skies turn from scorching red

To dusty gray.

There is nothing left for him to do

Or recover from,

All he has is the damning space

Between his lies

And his forgotten history.

He wants to synthesize his guilt

Into something more palatable

More figurative

For he realizes he no longer wants to own

This city.

Night looms

And the city—

His city

Is silent as before.

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Stalling Wonderland by Kristine Ong Muslim

Alice snorts something white

From a sliver of foil,

Her eyes in a beautifully drunken stupor.

On the table beside her

There is a piece of red magic mushroom,

A bottle of tears,

And a stack of cards-—nothing much

To remind us it is truly she who has captivated

Our young hearts.

With a kitchen knife, Alice stabs the rabbit

That darts past her favorite spot on the violet couch.

The Cheshire cat grins in one corner,

Unaware that it is next.

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Roommate by Jonathan Brandt

“Mutant, fair smell, seeks

Thing/Other to share dark lair

No drugs/vampires”

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FICTION EXCERPTS

The Chiaroscurist by Hal Duncan

The First Day Of Creation

In the nook of the tavern, the old man’s face—or part of it—catches the fireglow slanting through the frame of oak door left ajar as he leans forward across the table, elbows on the wood, a glinting silver mechanism in one hand going clunk, chik with the flicking of a thumb, while, with his other hand, he holds a cigarette up to his mouth to draw a breath in—foosh. He holds it for a perfect moment of satiation, head raised now so that his bliss-closed eyes come out from under the shadow of his hat’s wide brim, as if basking in the warmth of sunlight blood-red through their lids; and even beneath the bush of drooping grey moustache that his fingers seem half-buried in, there is a hint of smile on the lips pursed round the roll-up. Let there be light, I think, and then he leans back, disappearing into the leather shadow of the nook to blow out billows of blue-grey that curl and unfurl in the air like offerings of incense rising. An invocation in volutions, the breath of smoke immediately conjures up, in my mind’s eye, an image that I seize—that old man’s face half-lit as now in sharp chiaroscuro, shrouded in the swirling nebulae of chaos, of the first day of creation.

I must have him for my God.

 


Another Day by Mark Rich

In this simulation of his life Frank drove down Hopkins Road and Barrington Street past the old folks’ home and jammed the heel of his hand into the horn; they hated that. A dog barked and ran toward the street. Laughing, Frank jerked the wheel to the left to try hitting the little bastard. Nearly did. The thing squealed—he could hear it as he regained his lane; but he couldn’t tell if he had succeeded. As usual Frank saw no sign of Boris. Boris stayed well in the background. Times like this, though, he knew exactly where Boris was. Boris was everywhere.

Boris had very handily constructed this scene directly from memory. The old folks, the dog, the mail-lady to whom he gave a jeer and the finger as he ripped past: none of them existed, or if they did, then they were living through simulations of their own. None of it mattered, anyway. None of it. That was the good part about Boris. Frank whistled to himself, cranked the radio, and spat out the window when he saw a shiny new car.

 


Hard Time by Mark W. Tiedemann

The cell is six by six. Somehow, on television, it looks smaller. There is a cot that folds down from the wall, a steel sink, and a steel toilet bowl. Unlike standard cells, there is no desk. All I do in the cell is lie on the cot, eat twice a day from the tray that slides through the door and hangs there, wash my hands and face, and eliminate bodily waste. I am without hope. I am serving hard time. People see me and know that prison life is dull, empty, merciless. Hard time, authentic scenes of prison life, brought to you by your tax dollars, four hours a day, except on Sunday.

There are five cameras in the cell, one in each corner and a fifth one maintained at eye-level in the wall opposite the cot, hidden in the sink fixture. I hardly notice them anymore. It’s been four years. The presence of the cameras is just another aspect of the cell, another part of the apparatus, like the sink, the toilet, the cot. What prisoner pays any attention to these things? I did once, for about six months. I examined every centimeter of every object in the cell, leaning close to them, running my hands over them, looking for flaws and imperfections, any detail that might give variation to the monotony of my enclosure. I was asked to stop. The ratings went up but it was feared that my performance would distort the whole purpose of the broadcast. People were turning me into a hero instead of seeing me for what I was supposed to be, a felon doing hard time.

 


A Taste for Flowers by Jay Caselberg

Pretty, pretty. So young. So sweet. Not at all like the face that waited for him at home. William shifted on the park bench, rocking gently from side to side, trying to restore a hint of circulation to his numbing buttocks. He’d been sitting for too long in the one position on this faux, Victorian wrought-iron bench, one among the many scattered throughout the Greenspace, but special. This one, dark green, fake metal and fake wooden planks lay close to the playground where he could maintain a good view.

Remembering, he ran a finger up one side of the old paper storybook he held nestled in his lap, and then slowly turned a page. It was a fine, fine day. Why shouldn’t he be out here taking in the sunshine that filtered down from the panels far above his head. Domeshine, sunshine, what was the difference anyway? It was a fine day. Why shouldn’t he be out here reading?

 


Braids of Glass by Jonathan Laden

Patches of grass still grow in the Mylan enclave.

The golden-domed buildings, with their solid diamond walls throwing sparkling rainbows, are a commonplace; the work of mundane nanites. In all my visits to the enclaves of Earth, this is the first nonhuman life larger than yeast I have seen.

“Ambassador Varin,” the bemused voice drawls into my cockpit. “Do you intend to grace us with your presence, or are you merely here to admire the architecture?” Governor Xerxes knows well it’s not his architecture that has drawn my attention.

 


Strange Incidents in Foreign Parts by Anna Tambour

It was the year that Roald Amundsen, “last of the Vikings,” successfully navigated the Northwest passage; the year that Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer were banned from the Brooklyn Public Library; that millions of hearts beat time to “Wait till the sun shines, Nellie” and “How’d you like to spoon with me.” The year that Greta Garbo was born and Jules Verne died. The year that Frank Branston, son of Violet and Cuthbert Branston, was a ten-year-old boy who lived at 87 Mulberry Street, Fentonville, Illinois, in the land of candy corn—and at that moment it was five minutes past six o’clock Halloween suppertime, and he had just laid down his fork. In his impatience to trick-or-treat, a part of him stuck out its lip and shut its mouth hard, refusing to let him eat the clod of rutabaga on his plate. And though he felt a satisfaction that made his earlobes glow, he also wanted to box that bad part of him’s ears. Why hadn’t it waited for tomorrow’s rutabaga clod?

“Franklin’s got bellyache if anyone asks,” Violet Branston (‘the flower of Fentonville’) declared. Cuthbert was in the doghouse for forgetting to fix the porch step till it broke. His son looked hopelessly to him for the indignation someone needed in this house, someone besides Frank’s mother, who ran on enough het-upness to run a riverboat to the moon. Frank’s father, the ex-sailor, now seller of sensible shoes, sat looking at nothing, like a dead catfish. Frank’s father avoided his son’s eyes, but couldn’t avoid his wife’s.

 


The Euonmyist by Neil Williamson

Calum knew there was a word for it. This sick feeling that had been accreting stealthily in his gut since the transport burned down from the orbital and lit in over the North Atlantic; that had formed a discernable kernel over Arran and bubbled up to his chest when they landed. When he set foot on Scottish tarmac again, he felt it tickle his heart in a most unwelcome way. It was like anticipation of something you knew you should be looking forward to but suspected might not turn out the way you wanted at all. Anticipation, yes, and there was an element of leaden fatigue to it, too. There was definitely a word. Calum pondered it as the government car shushed him southwards out of Prestwick on the rain-glittered expressway heading down the Ayrshire coast. If anyone should have been able to come up with the name of this feeling, it should have been him but, even with the implants off, his head was still mired in the Lexicon mindset. None of the words that came to him out of the residuals created in his flesh brain by the thousand-language database were quite right.

It was a human feeling. It needed a human word. He was sure it would come to him in time. Now that he was home.

 


Solipsister by Jason Erik Lundberg

“Solipsism is such an interesting concept,” Kelly said. “I can’t believe you’ve never heard of it before.”

“Yeah, well,” Raymond said. He drummed his fingers on his left leg. His stonewashed blue jeans screamed of wear: holes in both knees, color faded almost into white, cuffs frayed into little denim mustaches around his ankles. Kelly sat next to him on the courtyard bench in the bright afternoon, and wore the same things she always did: khakis, a button-up striped shirt, and a red vest. Raymond thought she wore the vest to bed.

“I mean, the whole idea that you’re the center of the universe and every single person, place or thing is there just for your benefit, all figments of your imagination . . . it’s fascinating, yeah?”

“I guess,” he mumbled.

“Say I was a solipsist. You would be nothing more than a phantom created for my amusement, not really there, just kind of floating in my mind like some vaporous ghost.”

“Sounds egotistical to me,” Raymond said.


ATTIC SPACE

The Sounds of Inevitability by Bill BraunI have a five-year-old son. He’s sitting near by as I write this article, enjoying the latest Scooby-Doo adventure on DVD. Some sort of Hawaiian mystery. I’m not sure. I was never really a big fan of the show even when I was a kid. They always seemed to end the same; a scary build-up to the obligatory unmasking of the villain-at-large.

He has a 2005 Spider-Man calendar that he has been diligently marking off each day to the arrival of the last in the Star Wars saga come May. And yes, I realize it would have been more appropriate for a Star Wars calendar, but over the Christmas holiday they were plum sold out.

He truly loves going to kindergarten every morning and can’t wait to describe for us in great detail the events that occurred during his “busy” day.

He’s a child that wants nothing more than to make friends, share his toys and play from sun up to sun down.

God, how I admire that!

How could any rational adult not admire the purity and innocence that surrounds your everyday, average 5 year old? Not a care in the world; with the most difficult position to be placed in is having to make the bed and clean up the room. Then again, ask any five-year-old to do something as simplistic as cleaning up his roomful of toys and you’d think it was the end of the world.

But that’s really what it comes down to. The life of a child simply does not project much farther than the immediate here and now. They don’t usually think in terms of cause and effect, action and reaction. Because they can, they live their lives without worry and, hopefully, without fear.
Aside from the occasional nightmare (there’s something under my bed or hiding in my closet) most five-year-olds do not have to deal with the concerns of adulthood. They are at that time in their lives when they are referred to as “big boys and girls,” yet not quite old enough where one would be caught dead with the other. God knows that modern science has yet to create a cure for the terrible, and quite deadly, girl germs. Once infected, life as a child can never be the same.

As a parent I realize the importance of helping my children remain in this state of wonderment as long as reasonably possible. Right now there is nothing more important to me that making sure that my kid can remain a kid. He shouldn’t have to concern himself with paying the bills, putting food on the table or making sure he has clothes on his back. He doesn’t need to know about the birds and the bees yet. Death is as much of an enigma as is the evolution of man.

Caring for a child truly places one’s own life into more perspective. Although I will be the first to admit that I am essentially clueless when it comes to raising my children (thankfully, my wife excels in that arena) I do know what makes them laugh and what puts a smile on their faces. For me, that’s the greatest gift a child can give; the gift of their happiness.

Again, the issue of perspective. Suddenly, things that once really tore me up inside no longer hold the same level of importance. It has become easier to accept certain facts of life that children need not worry about at such a young and tender age.

Bad things happen to good people. Nobody lives forever. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And yes, good movies continue to be remade.

Ok. Maybe that latter doesn’t necessarily fit at the same level with the former but I do believe that I have been able to face my demons from the last installment of Electric Velocipede, purge myself of the fever that held me like grim death and charge forth with this acceptance that sometimes bad things happen to good cinema.

Like the train that bore down on Neo, it is the “sound of inevitability.”

Hollywood is in the business to make movies that, believe it or not, in return can make Hollywood money. As we have discussed in the past, some of these remakes have been bearable, while others have been nothing short of disastrous. Regardless of the outcome, the Hollywood remake has proven itself financially sound enough to gain momentum over the years. Enough so that nothing short of a direct telegram from the Almighty would prevent those powers-that-be from continuing on in the same vein.

But, that’s just fine with me.

As I have said, I have faced those demons head on and accepted them for what they are. It just doesn’t seem to matter much anymore and nothing I could ever say, or do, would ever change that which has been occurring since before I was held upside down as a baby and slapped naked on the ass.

If nothing else, it has allowed me to appreciate the original so much more. To appreciate the talent of those filmmakers whose work has since been placed into the annals of the misunderstood remake. For good or for bad, it is what it is.

Of course, when I use the word “filmmaker” I don’t necessarily mean film director. I use the word filmmaker very loosely and as a generalization to all those wonderful men and women who have dedicated their lives to making the average filmgoer’s life that much more enjoyable.

Writers are filmmakers. Directors are filmmakers. Special effects artists are filmmakers.

Debra Hill was a filmmaker, and so much more.

Unfortunately, as many of you are by now aware, Debra Hill passed away on March 7, 2005 at the age of 54 from her struggle with cancer. She was most well known for her contribution to the 1970’s John Carpenter classic, Halloween. A film that made over $60 million dollars worldwide and, from my understanding, maintained control of an independent film, top-grossing record for a number of years to follow. She filled the shoes of both producer and co-writer for that momentous occasion, shoes that were more commonly filled by men at the time.

She has been quoted to say that she was typically assumed to have been associated with the make-up and hair stylists; never a writer or producer. Just a sign of what the times were like and how far we have really come.

Yet, at the time, she was directly involved with one of the most influential genre movies ever made. In my humble opinion it was nothing short of the infamous movie that “started it all.”

Although I’m not certain where, or when, that particular phrase made its first appearance. Nor do I fully understand what it was in reference to. But there is no better way to describe the effect a movie like Halloween had on its audiences or on the industry as a whole.

It started the concept of the slasher movie.

True, many of you may feel more comfortable with the statement that Hitchcock’s Psycho was really the one that started it all, but let’s be realistic. There’s Norman Bates, cross-dressing, peeping-tom extraordinaire. And then there’s Michael Meyers, knife-wielding, William-Shatner-mask-wearing, unstoppable force of pure evil (who also happens to be a peeping tom).

Don’t get me wrong. Psycho is without question one of the greatest movies ever created. But Halloween instilled in me a sense of total fear that has yet to be matched by any genre movie to follow. Some have come awfully close but most have fallen short of the finish line.

When one really thinks about it, the involvement and creative talent that Debra Hill put into the movie’s creation is irony at it’s thickest.

Here we have a young woman writer/producer of one of the most influential horror movies of all time, making a movie in the late 1970’s, who also happens to be a woman. The basic premise of Halloween revolves around the desperate stalking of a madman for his sister, killing anyone (primarily young teenage girls) that happens to get in the way, be in the wrong place at the wrong time, etc., etc. That is just absolutely phenomenal.

Either Debra Hill was a complete lunatic herself, or she was nothing short of brilliant.

Regardless, the fact remains that she was a woman who, through her own accounts, struggled to be recognized as a legitimate filmmaker during a time when this particular genre industry was saturated with mostly men.

In the end, her involvement with Halloween proved to be a wonderful decision. She was able to secure a relationship with the up and coming young director, John Carpenter, and work closely with him on several more films including The Fog, Escape from New York, and Halloween 2, just to name a few.

John Carpenter relates his experiences working with Debra Hill as “one of the greatest experiences of my life.” Coming from a man like John Carpenter, a man who has been known to be particularly stubborn, that is a true compliment, a true recognition of success and achievement.

Prior to her death Debra Hill went on to form her own production company, resulting in a number of hit films including the Oscar-nominated The Fisher King and the teen comedy Adventures in Babysitting.

Other films included Stephen King’s The Dead Zone (another favorite of mine which incorporated one of the most gruesome and chilling suicide scenes ever filmed) and the comedy Clue (most obviously based on the popular board game).

Of even more interest is the fact that she was also involved in the production of the remake of Mr. Carpenter’s The Fog. If nothing else, this helps me swallow what would otherwise have been just another remake in the ever growing list of “new releases,” like choking down cough syrup or, in the case of my wife, Pepto Bismol.

Because of her involvement in this upcoming release (scheduled for later this year) I feel confident that it will be a worthy addition to a genre that is slowly regaining recognition among the film community; perhaps not as campy or nostalgic as the original but maybe, just maybe, an enjoyable work of horror and fear.

Debra Hill, we all know that you have gone onto a better place. You will be missed, yet you will be remembered through your work . . . both new and old.

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