We’ve made some changes to our formatting, and will now be posting our newest prompts under our “Current Prompt” page, which we will be updating shortly with our next issue’s prompt, which will be “Inspired by the Artist.”
Our Speculative Issue was a blast to read submissions for, and we hope you enjoy what we’ve selected, which ranges from the more traditional science fiction to the more silly and absurd. Please feel free to leave comments for our cahoodaloodaliers to read.
Lastly, we wish to apologize for the delay. Word press wouldn’t allow us to insert photos on the 31st, and we just didn’t want to publish our issue without them, but two days later and we still haven’t managed to get them to work. So this go around, we’ll be sans photos, which is really a shame. Just take our word for it: this issue is full of lovely people.
-Raquel and Kate
Guest Editor’s Spotlight – Najia’s Favorite
The Loneliest Road
Another planet grows and shrinks away,
the heliosphere an ebbing memory,
you streaking like a wayward gamma ray.
Around your vessel blooms a potpourri
of comet, nebula, dark energy
rushing you through the void, accelerating,
all you’ve ever cared for quickly fading.
What road is lonelier than the universe?
For decades one could sail and never stumble
across another soul. Things could be worse.
Distracted, you could accidentally bumble
too close to a cosmic gullet and wildly tumble,
yet really no more lost than where you coast
past eagle, spider, witch-head, horsehead, ghost.
Though wandering through space entails great risk,
you have no choice — the sun’s begun to swell.
While moving at velocities as brisk
as jets of interstellar wind, you smell
the rabbitbrush, the desert breezes, dwell
on sounds of soughing yucca palms and creeks,
glimpse bighorn bounding boulders, rusty streaks
of sunsets. As you near the edge of space,
you think of the stone tools your forebears used
while breathing mayfly lives, a vanished race
in tune with wilderness; and, though you’ve cruised
for torrents of time now down this road suffused
with radiation, your single mutant eye
still sees, not stars, but fireflies in July.
Note: The title alludes to Highway 50, The Loneliest Road in America.
Martin Elster lives in West Hartford, CT. His poems have appeared in journals including The Centrifugal Eye, The Flea, Mindflights, The Speculative Edge, Thema, Victorian Violet Press, and in the anthologies Taking Turns: Sonnets from Eratosphere and New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan. His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Poetry Award.
Police shout through the door
“Is anybody chrome?”
The last bio Denny E. Marshall did the editor said if she had to grade it; she would give it a “D”. History will show both Denny and his bio were bio D-grade able. Denny does not have a Facebook page or Twitter account but does have a website with previously published works.
Richard King Perkins II
You have read all the stories about Captain Dagger
and his trusty sidekick, Switchblade.
Except for the sharpened carapace
he is more like you than most would believe.
When the sinister Mr. Machete
gets the drop on our heroes with his flying guillotine,
you know two pages in advance
that the only thing needed is a temporary
reversal of gravity to save the day.
A localized distortion of common physics causes
your water clock to be off by exactly twenty-four hours.
In the early stories, The Captain is a roguish sort,
who gets all the girls you want him to get
while many subtle references
regarding his ample endowment are made.
You’ve done the math, and sadly admit you could never
come close to measuring up to that degree of manliness.
To become a true hero in his own right,
the later stories send Switchblade off to Mongolia
to train with The Desert Ghost Warriors and become
an initiate of a mysterious fighting style
that has no defense in the western world.
Surprisingly, his newly acquired Fēng de Quántóu method
is met with resistance on more than one occasion.
Switchblade’s minor failings help you to cope
after you’ve flooded your apartment with bathwater.
Meanwhile, The Captain has a couple of undertakings
of his own which go poorly.
In The Adventure of the Hermit’s Cave, our hero
is hypnotized and nearly made to walk into a bottomless pit.
You were hardly surprised to learn that The Captain
was only pretending to be under the control
of the Dark Hermit of Abyssinia.
It seems that chrome-plated armor
is a natural insulator against suggestion and mind control.
You take measures to ensure a lifetime of independent thought.
It was also a little disappointing to discover that the Captain
was to find his one true love
held captive in a small alcove of the hermit’s cave.
The Captain swore off his indiscreet ways
and would stay true to his girl Ruby until his final days.
Even when Switchblade returned to The Captain’s side,
things would never be the same.
You got the autographs of Ward West and Burt Adams,
the original Captain Dagger and Switchblade,
at a comic convention. Strangely, not many people
seemed interested in their golden-age booth.
The saga of our heroes comes to an end when
Ruby gives birth to a son named Dirk,
and the Captain, now calling himself Douglass Dodgson,
retires his indestructible body armor to become a family man.
You know that Dirk Dodgson grows up to become the chronicler
of the stories you so dearly cherish. This ending was inevitable,
but it still seems heartbreaking and unfair.
Switchblade could never give up the old life.
You imagine him sometimes, atop buildings at night,
blending with shadows, striking dynamic poses,
hoping someone will remember him as the hero
he once was, or at least had hoped to be.
Your own story has ended as well.
When the landlord’s crew comes to clean out your apartment,
there is no context for understanding.
They briefly try on the strangely insulated helmet and suit
you constructed and wore for most of each day.
Without you, your treasure has become garbage
to be buried in the earth forever
and the pulp lives of Captain Dagger and Switchblade
are enshrined in the same casket as their last devoted fan.
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He has a wife, Vickie, and a daughter, Sage. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications including Prime Mincer, Sheepshead Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Fox Cry, Two Thirds North and The Red Cedar Review. He has work forthcoming in Bluestem, Poetry Salzburg Review and The William and Mary Review.
John J. Brugaletta
A Different Beginning
instead of us poor primates
learning how to speak,
the squids already could,
rippling their chromatic sentences
while scooting like hovercrafts
across the California beaches,
setting up tilapia farms
among the bush lupine,
raising more articulate offspring
and discussing amid dinner
the reddening expense of colleges.
The youths would leave
the blood-soaked sand
of scales and tails of fish
to be with their friends,
occasionally causing an argument
between two Humboldt types,
and one entire family would be
wiped out just because it could be done.
I guess it doesn’t make much difference
what assumptions you begin with.
John J. Brugaletta lives on the redwood coast of Northern California, where he feels free to indulge his addiction to writing and walking his dog among the cougars and assorted dealers. He is retired from Cal State Fullerton, where he edited and published South Coast Poetry Journal while see two of his poetry collections reach print. A third collection, Mountaineering by Candlelight, is currently a finalist in a major contest.
Man in the Moon
The summer heat shimmies off the roof of the squat grey building. A small placard on the door reads “Mary Lamb Employment Agency.” Inside, I’m intercepted by a big blonde in a denim dress and cowboy boots.
“Sit down. I’m Mary,” she says. “You know, the broad with the sheep.”
I laugh. She doesn’t. I sit. She flips her dry curls from one shoulder to the other.
“Says here you’re Felix. That right?”
I nod. The job posting read: “Wanted: Caretaker. Nightshift. Animal husbandry. Travel required.” I’m 35. There’s no one to make dinner for, even if I could afford dinner. Which I can’t. Which is why Rufus left months ago, saying he couldn’t ‘do this anymore.’ Now I can’t do it either: sit at home dreaming about the kids we’ll never adopt, trips we’ll never take, and goals we’ll never realize. I barely care what the job is, as long as it keeps this insistent ache at bay.
“So, Felix, what are your qualifications for this position?”
“I did my undergrad in biology and my masters in sociology. Not exactly a caretaker, but I’m pretty sure I’m up for it.” I wink at her.
“You think so, do you? Tell me about your previous job.” Her office smells a little like manure, though her boots look clean.
“I’ve been out of work for awhile, but before that research.”
“Hmph,” she says. I smile, hoping the freckled hide around her eyes will ease a bit. It doesn’t. “Got any experience with cats?”
“I do have a cat.” I can’t see what this has to do with anything, but I’ll play ball. “His name is Buster. He’s orange and he likes catnip and La-Z-Boys.” Buster dislikes the cheap food I’ve been giving him. He probably wishes he’d gone with Rufus. I leave that part out.
Mary sits upright. “Can he fiddle?”
“Um, not that I know of.” I chortle.
“You think this is funny?” she asks. I shake my head. Bizarre, but not funny. “What about dogs?”
“I have a bulldog. Winston. He sleeps a lot.”
“Does he laugh?”
“What do you mean, ‘Does he laugh?’ He’s a dog. He does dog things.”
Mary’s mouth morphs from a thin line to a series of accordion creases. She breaks her pencil scribbling something in my file. “Any experience with cows? Plates? Silverware?”
“I’ve eaten quite a few cows on plates with silverware.” I imagine telling Rufus what a big mistake I’ve made. I imagine my empty apartment. The ache rolls up my chest into my throat.
“You humans,” she says. “Everything is a joke to you.”
Mary sidles to the window behind her desk, pulling the miniblind cord with a flourish. Outside, a chartreuse hill is dotted with black and white sheep. This is not possible, though, because this window should face the Sawyer Cafe — a place I no longer visit because the way the waitress looks at me when I say “table for one” and pay in quarters.
“Make sense now?” she asks. “I’m hiring the Man In the Moon.”
“That’s not a real thing.”
“Who helps the cows jump over the moon?”
“The cows don’t jump over the moon. It’s just a story.”
“I suppose you’re gonna tell me that I’m just a story too.”
This isn’t getting us anywhere. I stand, offer my hand. “Thanks,” I say. “This has been … entertaining.”
“What about my sheep?” Her face is equal parts anguished and disgusted.
“Fine.” I sit back down. Either Mary is telling the truth or she has an admirable commitment to her prank. “What happened to my predecessor?”
“He quit. Moved to Norwich.”
“He missed the food.”
Maybe crazy was exactly what I needed. What did I have to lose? I took a breath. “I’ll take it.”
That afternoon, Mary and I load Buster, Winston, and my cutlery into a silver airstream attached to an ancient, matching Cadillac. Like the Men In the Moon before me, I supply my own cat and dog and tablewares. Without Rufus around, I have an excess of dishes.
We roll through the city, humid and humming, to the outskirts of town. The first fireflies are blinking on the edges of the cornfields, celebrating the setting sun. The chewing Holsteins watch us gather speed. I wonder if they know we’ll meet again sometime, somewhere else, on a night they decide to take a chance, just like me. I’ll intercept them on their way past, give them some dinner, and correct their trajectory home.
I’m lulled to sleep by the scent of green fields and cooler air. When I wake up, I am still in the passenger seat of the Cadillac. The ebony sky and colorless sand is perfect and still. The airstream has morphed into a silvery palace erupting from a moon crater. On the steps, Winston laughs as Buster accompanies a group of dancing spoons.
“Good morning, Sleeping Beauty,” says Mary.
“Is she here?” I yawn.
“Seriously? Sleeping Beauty isn’t real. Let’s get you unloaded. I’m interviewing a new Humpty Dumpty tomorrow morning.”
“You’re leaving? You can’t leave.”
“You’ve got old friends and new friends.” She sounds incredulous. “Same as before.”
A festive tableau surrounds us. There’s a dog in a space suit trotting up from over the rise and music from several directions. A group of people beckon, raising glasses of champagne at me from the gazebo of my new home. Instinctively, I grab for Rufus’ hand as I look at the earth, distant and silent. I didn’t say goodbye. I brace for the ache again, but it doesn’t come. I start to bound toward the party when I remember I haven’t said goodbye to Mary.
“Why did you pick me?” My eyes hurt — I can’t tell if it’s the contrast of the light or because I’m feeling every emotion at once.
She smiles to herself as she returns the key to the ignition. “Felix, honey, lonely is a choice. All you had to do is look up.”
Camille Griep lives and writes north of Seattle, Washington. Her work has been featured in online and print journals such as The Lascaux Review, The First Line, and Treehouse, among others, and is forthcoming in the genre anthologies Blaze of Glory (Song Story Press) and Witches, Stitches, & Bitches (Evil Girlfriend Media). When she’s not hard at work on her obligatory first novel, she can be found feeding neighborhood cats masquerading as strays, conquering her fear of car washes, and customizing perfectly good recipes.
About Our Guest Editor
Najia Khaled is a poetess who enjoys reading, playing ukulele, and drinking more tea than is probably strictly good for you. She attends University of Rochester and is working on a double major in English literature and astrophysics, the latter of which finds ways to sneak into her poetry rather often.
She can be found devouring the poetry of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Sandra Cisneros, and Edna St. Vincent Millay at all hours of the night in all manner of strange and indecent clothing. Her hair is rarely the same colour two weeks in a row, which she claims is due to her identity as a Metamorphmagus, but her closest friends swear that they have found empty bottles of Manic Panic in her rubbish bin. She rejects the strict and oppressive beauty standards of the modern day in favour of the strict and oppressive beauty standards of 200 years ago, which is exactly as pretentious as it sounds.
She has been published by Creative Communication, Anthology of Poetry, Inc., and Word Smiths, among others, but the best place to find her is at http://toxic-nebulae.deviantart.com/. Some say that she can be invoked by sprinkling glitter over a field of wildflowers at dawn, but these rumours have yet to be confirmed.