The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Month: October 2014 (page 1 of 2)

Halloween Contest Finalist: Mureall Hébert

These flash pieces by Mureall Hébert are finalists of the Furious Gazelle’s Halloween contest. The contest’s winner will be announced Friday. View the rest of the finalists here.

The Side of the Road

I drove by without stopping as you stumbled down the side of the road because the rust-colored stains on your yellow dress alarmed me, and the way your head cracked at an angle didn’t compute, and the tormented scream on your face chilled my spine. I ignored the cries that wrenched at my car, pretending I didn’t hear you plead for help, or salvation, or revenge. I nudged the gas pedal harder when I glanced into the rear-view mirror and discovered you’d vanished, like you’d never existed. I raced faster when the temperature in the car plunged and the door locks clicked into place. And I refused to look at the passenger seat because I didn’t want to see you there or admit to the rawboned hand along my arm and the musty breath on my neck.

Why I Had To Bite You

I didn’t rip the head from the corpse,

tuck it into a bowling bag, and drop

it in your swimming pool. That was Igor.

He escaped his bell tower, got into the cider,

and was up to no good. Nor did I hang

the body-less hand from your car door

and hide in the woods to watch you scream.

That wasn’t me. My alibi swears I’m clean.

Most likely Poe or Norman Bates. I hear

they’re into that kind of thing. The face

in the mirror? The one dripping blood

from her eye-sockets? Not yours truly.

Don’t blame Bloody Mary either.

She’s in Tijuana, last I heard.

I suspect the gremlin in the basement

or maybe Tonto—I spotted a black dress in his closet.

Yes, I’ll admit, those puncture wounds on your neck

are my fault. Dracula’s converted to pacifism

and what’s Halloween without vampires?

Don’t thank me, really. The wounds will heal

and you were a night person anyway.

Call it my civic duty—

although I have to admit you tasted pretty good

even though I prefer iced tea.

Mureall’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Suddenly Lost in Words, Lunch Ticket, Crack the Spine, Stone Crowns MagazineBartleby Snopes>kill author, Short, Fast & DeadlyBacopa Literary Review, The Citron ReviewStereoOpticon, and WhidbeyAIR. Mureall is an MFA graduate from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts and a former editor of Soundings Review.

Halloween Contest finalist: The Nefarious: A Tale of a Notorious Halloween Dance

This short story by J. J. Steinfeld is a finalist in the Furious Gazelle’s Halloween contest. The contest’s winner will be announced Friday. View the rest of the finalists here.

“The Nefarious: A Tale of a Notorious Halloween Dance” was first published in Strange Lucky Halloween (Edited by Sandi Reed-Chan and Jean M. Goldstrom, Whortleberry Press, 2013).

© 2014 by J. J. Steinfeld

“We haven’t gone dancing in years, Shane. Not since we first got married, let alone a Halloween dance,” Cynthia said to her husband of almost thirteen years. In fact, their thirteenth anniversary was in a week, two days before Halloween, and the dance Cynthia had been invited to by her boss, Edvard Bellwether, of Bellwether Worldwide Insurers.

“I used to love Halloween when I was a kid,” Shane said, staring up at the ceiling of the living room of their suburban apartment condominium, seeming to be locating himself in the past. I usually went trick-or-treating as one superhero or another, but I don’t remember ever going to a Halloween dance.”

“When I was young and not so young, I went to some wonderful Halloween dances, wearing beautiful costumes, always beautiful, elaborate costumes for me. Seems we grew up in different social strata,” Cynthia joked, but Shane lowered his head and gave an exaggerated growl, recalling the first time he met Cynthia’s upper-crust crustacean family as he always referred to them, and the contempt with which he still maintains they treat him because he was from a poor working-class family. Cynthia’s parents, both in their mid eighties, did not approve of their daughter’s marriage to a younger man, even after thirteen years, and a wedding her father had described on numerous occasions as a disappointing, lacklustre city-hall affair, Shane emphasized with rancour. As for Shane’s family, Cynthia once remarked they reminded her of a cross between the Munsters and the Addams Family, and Shane, who usually had a lively sense of humour, called that ridiculous comparison disrespectful and insulting, despite Cynthia’s claim that both of those fictitious families were delightful even admirable in an absurd social commentary sort of way.

“What should we go as?” Shane asked, recalling the years he went trick-or-treating as Batman or Superboy in costumes sewn by his mother. He closed his eyes, his fingers periodically poking into the air as he appeared to be counting Batmen and Superboys, and added, “I think it was six times as the Caped Crusader and five times as the Boy of Steel, between the ages of four to fourteen, inclusive.”

“Edvard told me this dance has been going on for ages, every Halloween, even before he started his insurance company two decades ago, and they always have a theme. Until now, he’s never invited anyone from our company. Felt it wouldn’t be proper, whatever that means. But when I told him when we got married, even if it was two unfortunate days premature, as he characterized it, he said he couldn’t resist. And thirteen years ago, of all anniversaries, his luckiest number. One’s costume has to somehow be connected to the theme, even tangentially or obliquely, he said. Edvard likes to use fancy words.”

“So what’s this big theme, Cynthia?”

“The Nefarious.”

“The what?”
“Nefarious.”

“Is that a noun?”
“I guess you can make it into a noun. I told you Edvard likes fancy words.”

“Whenever I pick you up at your office, the guy always gives me the creeps.”

“He’s great to work with. The best boss I’ve ever had, and as you know, I’ve had my fair share of bosses and supervisors.”

“He looks like Edgar Allan Poe, if you ask me.”

“You’re not the first person to say that, but I think he’s a handsome man. Edvard even hinted he might go as Poe to the Halloween dance.”

“I never said Edgar Allan Poe wasn’t handsome, only creepy looking. John Cusak is a handsome actor, and he played Poe in The Raven, for which, if you recall, I wrote a glowing review….” Both Shane and Cynthia were avid film buffs and each wrote weekly reviews for an online film website, Shane for more current films and Cynthia specializing in older films, especially classic films. Shane liked to say that film reviewing was his passion while his successful house-painting business was a sideline.

“After I told him we got married two days before Halloween, thirteen years ago, it was the first time I ever heard Edvard laugh. He went on for about a minute, and the whole office started laughing, turning the entire first floor of the building into a strange theatre of frivolity.”

“That sounds creepy, too.”

“Not at all, darling. It was rather fun. Things can get sombre with the crazy work load this month for reasons, I assume, that have nothing to do with Halloween.”

“Well, as long as he gives you a good raise.”

“I’ve only been with Bellwether Worldwide Insurers seven months, Shane, for Heaven’s sake.”

“You’ve already proven yourself a valuable asset.”

“Edvard actually said we should have gotten married on Halloween…in costume.”

“You were married in costume, so speak…a wedding costume.”

“I told him I had a very sexy dress…for a city- wedding.”

“You were the sexiest forty-two-year-old newlywed I’d ever seen or married.”

“Stop with your silliness, Shane.”

“Silliness is what gets me through all the silliness of existence, if you know what I mean, Cynthia.”

“I know exactly what you mean, I think…more or less.”

“Now who’s being silly?”

“Perhaps the question should be, who is being more silly?”

“Your forty-one year old young hubby, looking lovingly at his sexy fifty-five year-old wife,” Shane said, and hugged Cynthia, even though it annoyed Cynthia whenever he underscored the disparity in their ages. He had just turned twenty-eight and she was two-thirds into forty-two when they married thirteen years ago,

“Who shall we go as, Shane?”

“Has to fit the theme, you said.”

“I’ll research nefarious folks on the internet and see what I come up with, Shane. Movie characters with nefarious reputations might not be a bad place to start.”

“Too bad Batman or Superboy wouldn’t qualify as nefarious. Believe it or not, Cynthia, I’m looking forward to this Halloween dance, especially if you can wear something nefariously sexy.”

“Sounds like something Edvard might say…”

*

Cynthia and Shane decided on Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. They watched the film several times on DVD to get a feel for what kind of costumes to wear, acting out in their living room some of the scenes. Shane even wrote an in-depth review of Bonnie and Clyde, and used it for this week’s online review. He usually didn’t review films made before 2000, but became so enamoured of the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde, and its place in cinematic history, he decided to make an exception. Cynthia wrote a long review essay on old gangster films, which Shane said was her best writing about film to date. After watching Bonnie and Clyde for the fourth time, they went to a vintage clothing store and found the perfect 1930s outfits, including hats close to those the actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty wore in the film. When Shane told the thirtyish clerk at the clothing store that both she and he weren’t even born when Bonnie and Clyde hit the big screen, but his lovely wife was already in grade school, Cynthia became angry and stormed out of the store, vintage outfit in hand.

*

By the time Cynthia and Shane arrived, there were already over a hundred partyers, everyone in costume and dancing enthusiastically at different levels of competency. The dance was being held in a large but somewhat run-down community hall in a less than desirable section of the city Cynthia had never been near but Shane had grown up in, and trick-or-treated there, he mentioned with time-defying fondness. The lighting in the large hall was dim and periodically would flicker or go out completely for brief periods, with a dark-blue spotlight on the twenty-piece band that entertained almost non-stop during the dance, the musicians dressed as a rogue’s gallery of notorious criminals from history, ranging from nefarious assassins to infamous dictators to vicious serial killers. Cynthia enjoyed herself dancing, saying she felt her spirit was rejuvenated and she felt younger, at least by a few years. Shane said dancing made him feel older, making his point by rubbing his knees which were acting up painfully.

During one dance, to a song neither Cynthia nor Shane could place, Clyde Barrow, another Clyde Barrow, cut into the costumed Cynthia and Shane/Bonnie and Clyde couple, and another Bonnie Parker took hold of Shane, as Edvard stood nearby and oversaw the switch in partners.

“I feel so embarrassed,” Cynthia said.

“Why should it be embarrassing? It’s rather flattering,” the other Clyde said.

“Yes, most flattering,” the other Bonnie added.

“The movie is stupendous, and holds up quite well in comparison to more modern gangster films,” Shane said, as the other Bonnie tightened her hold on him.
“Your duds look like they’d fit pretty close into that period,” the other Clyde observed.

“You look awfully…what’s the word—” the other Bonnie said.

“Authentic,” Edvard said. “Authentic with a capital ‘A’.”

“Thank goodness it’s not that other famous capital ‘A,’ the one in the Scarlet Letter, a film a gave a lovely review even if most other reviewers weren’t in agreement with my assessment,” Cynthia said, as the other Clyde tightened his hold on her. Both of the other Bonnie and Clyde liked to dance extremely close, as though attempting to meld their body with their dancing partner.

“Look around,” Edvard encouraged, “just about everyone has had a film or two about them, maybe a lot more,” he said, putting his arm around Jack the Ripper, “or as nefarious characters in a horrifying film about someone else,” and soon the discussion revolved around the films that contained either major or minor roles for The Nefarious, and a discussion of what qualified as nefarious behaviour, historically, in fiction, and cinematically.

A group of strikingly realistic-looking gangsters, standing close to a little too skinny and much too tall Al Capone, rattled off the names of dozens of movies and someone commented it sounded like the rat-tat-tat of an old-fashioned machine-gun. Machine Gun Kelly went out to his car and came back with a machine gun which Edvard said was authentic. Machine Gun Kelly aimed his authentic-looking weapon at Shane, and when Shane cowered, said he shouldn’t be a fraidy-cat. Shane started to walk away from the menacing Machine Gun Kelly, but he was blocked by five tough-looking gun molls that Cynthia later speculated two of whom were men dressed as gangster women, two definitely females, and the fifth was androgynous but Shane thought was a female and Cynthia a male. The five eagerly identified themselves as Helen Wawzynak, who had been dancing earlier with Baby Face Nelson, Beulah Baird with Pretty Boy Floyd, Kathryn Thorn with Machine Gun Kelly, Virginia Hill with Bugsy Siegel, and Evelyn “please call me Billie, everyone” Frechette with John Dillinger, and each gun moll tried to outdo the others with what sounded like first-hand descriptions of their nefarious backgrounds and exploits alongside their nefarious gangster associates.

Edvard, Shane pointed out, was using the word authentic a great deal. He was using it for nearly everyone, except for Shane and Cynthia whom he mildly flattered by saying that they certainly approximated the period but didn’t quite capture. He did admit to never having seen the 1967 film, but his friends who were costumed as 1930s Bonnie and Clyde had shown him photographs of the real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Parker, a thick album of old photographs, and the resemblance was uncanny, or authentic, as Edvard said several more times. As he continued to talk about the authenticity of the other Bonnie and Clyde, Edvard did a slow gyrating dance with Cynthia/Bonnie, and Shane/Clyde gave him a hard shove, but Edvard held on to Cynthia and laughed it off by saying let bygones be bygones, and let’s not turn this festive occasion into a horror story. “Mind you,” Edvard said, “Edgar Allan Poe might appreciate a more horrible tone to the festivities, and I am the nefarious Poe tonight, am I not?” Edvard even suggested that everyone call him Edgar, if only until the Halloween dance was over. After he let go of Cynthia and eyed another potential nefarious dance partner, Edvard claimed that his middle name, coincidentally, was Allan, Edvard Allan Bellwether, but Cynthia and Shane both thought that was untrue, a Halloween verbal trick.

As Cynthia danced yet another time with the other Clyde, she could see the other Bonnie dancing again with Shane, holding her husband too closely, occasionally whispering into his ear what Cynthia imagined were suggestive, erotic words. The other Clyde told Cynthia that jealously was a wretched emotion, a wicked green-eyed monster that can shred one’s emotions, and if his Bonnie wanted to rob a bank with someone else and then have a wild sex romp afterward in a cheap motel room, he wouldn’t mind.

“We could pull off a few heists together,” the other Clyde went on, whispering close to Cynthia’s ear, much in the manner the other Bonnie whispering to Shane.

“Bonnie and Clyde met a horrific end,” Cynthia said firmly, and stepped away from the other Clyde.

“That was in a Hollywood movie, not real life. The movie-makers got it all wrong. That is, the cops killed the wrong folks, and we got away.”

“That is obvious, isn’t it? But shouldn’t you be somewhat older, Clyde, say over a hundred? Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934, after all, he twenty-four and she twenty-three”

“Heck, deals can be made, potions can be found. I saw Mephistopheles over by the refreshments a little while ago, having a chat with Dillinger,” the other Clyde said, moving close to Cynthia again, and quickly gave her a kiss before she could avoid his lustful lips.

“By the way, that green-eyed monster you mentioned, and I can handle, thank you, is from Shakespeare, who I much prefer reading than dancing with you,” Cynthia said sharply to the other Clyde, and hurried away to the opposite side of the large room.

At the start if the last song before the costume judging, Edvard asked Typhoid Mary, wearing a surgical mask, to dance. Earlier there had been heated debate among some of the other costumed partyers that Typhoid Mary wasn’t nefarious because she had been asymptomatic and didn’t believe she was infecting others, but a veterinarian dressed as Mr. Hyde eloquently argued that since she refused to cooperate with medical authorities on many occasions, the results if not the intent were nefarious and therefore Typhoid Mary qualified as nefarious.

Edvard was the first person to ask Typhoid Mary to dance all evening. “I insisted she wear the surgical mask. Nice touch, wouldn’t you say albeit a bit of an anachronism? Maybe she’ll take it off later, but I think that’s prospective irony, if you get my drift,” he said to Cynthia and Shane, who were dancing together not far away from them.

“Not exactly, Edvard,” Cynthia responded.

“It hardly matters. Wait until the judging. First prize is incredible.”

“A get-out-of-jail-free card?” Shane said, having recently commented on how much jail time some of the characters had served, and even attempted to estimate an aggregate total of time, at least a thousand of years, he estimated, spent incarcerated by those costumed characters at the Halloween dance.

“A five-million-dollar life insurance policy, with the yearly premiums paid for a hundred years, in case the winner has longevity in their family,” Edvard said, offering a mischievous glance in Cynthia’s direction.

“I already have adequate life insurance, Mr. Poe.”

“One can never have enough life insurance. I’m sure Cynthia would appreciate the bigger policy.”

“Don’t forget the booby prize,” Typhoid Mary said, raising her voice in excitement.

“What would that be?”

“Later, Shane. Hold your horses and keep on your pants.”

“What an odd term, booby prize, isn’t it?”
But apposite…and authentic,” Edvard said, just as Cynthia joined the group standing around the gregarious organizer of the Halloween dance.

Edvard revealed that he had won three times in the last twenty or so years and the booby prize twice, “Hard to fathom that, but it’s all relative and subjective and unpredictable,” he said, rubbing his Edgar Allan Poe moustache.

“Why would anyone want the booby prize?” Cynthia asked, shaking her head in bewilderment.

“One must have a booby prize, the coveted booby prize. The booby prize consists of the first and last place costumes ending the evening with a romantic dance, depending on sexual preferences, but I‘m sure you know what I‘m getting at. I’ve seen first and last place smooching and the opening sparks of a romantic relationship. Well, last year, a dapper Beelzebub and a drab-looking Angel, albeit an Avenging Angel, really hit it off. They had to be pried apart or they’d still be kissing. They married last week, less than a year after that monumental osculation. I understand they are in their honeymoon in a hot climate, at Beelzebub’s suggestion.”

*
Sweeney Todd and Typhoid Mary won in a tie, and Cynthia and Shane received the booby prize. The band began their final number, and Sweeney Todd took Cynthia onto the dance floor, and Typhoid Mary pulled a reluctant Shane toward the centre of the dance floor as all the other costumed partyers formed a cordon around the two dancing couples, as if they were contemplating escape, “There’s no escaping this tradition,” Edvard said, seeming to be reading their minds, or at least their body language.

Near the end of the dance, Typhoid Mary removed her surgical mask and gave Shane a deep kiss he would never forget, he already starting to look more than a little ill.

“Typhoid Mary is about as authentic as you can get,” Edvard said, “even if she wasn’t nefarious in her heart…”

***

You can read more about J.J. Steinfeld at http://www.ditchpoetry.com/jjsteinfeld.htm

Halloween Contest Finalist: Gonzalinho da Costa

This poem by Gonzalinho da Costa is a finalist in the Furious Gazelle’s Halloween contest. The contest’s winner will be announced Friday. View the rest of the finalists here.

You Walk Along Shoulders

You walk along shoulders of bamboo groves,
Starlight treads in your footsteps.

You go forward with shifting seasons,
Summer ghosts are left behind.

You rise as the wind of briefest memory
Pushing shutters gently open.

You arrive, fresh rain at the door ajar,
Softly rustling dry silk.

Your spirit rests in tranquility at table,
Folding itself into a napkin.

You dwell in silence in the deepest part,
Inside there is only silence.

You sleep illumined by the guardian moon,
Windless, the stilling doom.

Author: Gonzalinho da Costa

Halloween Contest Finalist: Joan McNerney

These poems by Joan McNerney are finalists of the Furious Gazelle’s Halloween contest. The contest’s winner will be announced Friday. View the rest of the finalists here.

 

Joan McNerney

 

Night

 

Slides under door jambs
pouring through windows
painting my room black.

 

This evening was spent
watching old movies.
Song and dance actors
looping through gay,
improbable plots.

 

All my plates are put away,
cups hanging on hooks.
The towel is still moist.

 

I blow out cinnamon candles
wafting the air with spice.
Listening now to heat
sputtering and dogs
barking at winds.

 

Winter pummels skeletal
trees as the moon’s big
yellow eye haunts shadows.

 

Shhhhh…

 

There is a
witch living
on the corner
where the four
roads meet.

 

Her eye is
evil, her
nose crooked.

 

 

She lays down
the tarot
pattern
with wrinkled
hands.

 

 

Asks “do you wish
tea of wormwood
or henbane?”

 

 

She will enchant
your mind now
into fields of
wild roses.

 

Halloween Contest Finalist: Halloween

This poem by Michael Puican is one of the finalists of the Furious Gazelle’s Halloween contest. The contest’s winner will be announced Friday. View the rest of the finalists here.

Halloween

Tonight we can be anyone we want:

a woman says she’s entropy

but nobody gets it; a lobster

pulls a card from the deck with his claw.

It matches the one in my hand. Outside,

a werewolf screams into a pay phone

then deposits more coins. A while ago,

a passive aggressive divorced a narcissist

with manic tendencies. Their daughter

showed signs of regression so the court

assigned her a lawyer. There are tests

designed to unmask one’s maladjustments,

personality bents, significant elevations

on the not-in-the-child’s-best-interest scale.

The court-ordered psychologist told me

denial would not be tolerated

in his sessions. I looked back at him, listening

to the air conditioner kick on, then off.

I wish it were five years from now.

Then it is. I see my daughter and ex-wife

like binary stars, bright, cheerful

and a billion miles away. In the lobby

an alien samples the quiche, he talks

about the building’s footprint. A cool

breeze from the open window stops me—

the sweet scent of fallen leaves and rain.

It is a difficult joy that rises out of grief.

A crow caws along with the music, then stops.

In another room a woman pulls off

her goat’s head, a man tears up his face.

Michael Puican has had poetry published in Poetry, New England Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, TriQuarterly, and Courtland Review, among others. He writes poetry reviews for TriQuarterly, Kenyon Review, and Another Chicago Magazine, among others.  His chapbook, 30 Seconds, was selected as winner of the 2004 Tia Chucha Chapbook Contest. He was a member of the 1996 Chicago Slam team and is current board president of the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago.

Halloween Contest Finalist: All Saints’

This short poem by Fain Rutherford is one of the finalists of the Furious Gazelle’s Halloween contest. The contest’s winner will be announced Friday. View the rest of the finalists here.

All Saints’

 

The sisters are vampires this year.

Fully costumed, a week early,

they sit watching cartoon penguins

hijack a cargo ship.

The jagged gaps of their grins

lit up by invisible

candles on their tongues.

Fain Rutherford

Over the years, Fain has worked as a soldier, lawyer, university lecturer, rock-climbing guide, survival instructor and at-home-dad. He currently resides in the desert of central Washington State.  His recent poems appear or are scheduled to appear in Right Hand Pointing, Poetry Quarterly, Front Porch Review, Eunoia Review, Connotation Press, and Apeiron Review.

Halloween Contest Finalist – Blackout

This short story by Hannah Regan is one of the finalists of the Furious Gazelle’s Halloween contest. The contest’s winner will be announced Friday.

 

Blackout

By Hannah Regan

Now picture this: first, black. The sharp sound of a switch, and a light flares. It backlights a rippling white sheet. No, off-white, really. Creamy. A few slapping sounds from the darkness around you, then a silhouette appears on the screen. The figure kneels, picks something up from the ground. A quick ripping sound, a snap, and then a steady hiss, and a small yellow glare – a match lit behind the screen. A crack, and the sheet falls. You see a face – a beautiful face, the face of an angel, but marred by a jack-o-lantern smile, toothy but razored-edge canines, head thrown back, laughing, and then suddenly snaps shut into a smirk that sends shivers tearing down you. He drops the match, and everything is black, once again, until it blazes up, consuming everything in gold. And then nothing.

The boy ran through town, breathing hard, bare feet getting dirtier with every slap onto the ashy asphalt, tearing away from the golden sky blazing behind him. The pollution-heavy air weighed in his lungs and his ears rang as the sirens began to blare, waking the peaceful air. And still he ran, harder, further, faster, until he could run no more. Then he collapsed on the ground.

Lights up behind the screen again, a platform with a dark mass shadowing it this time. A curvaceous woman moves around it this time, clinking sounds as she mixes this and that, then leans over the platform. A spluttering noise, the dark mass convulses sharply. Blackout.

The boy is on his feet again, but no longer on the street. He’s bolting sidelong through a seemingly endless hallway. He sees himself running on all sides of himself. There, he is stretched like taffy, reaching to the sky. Over there, he is the size of his thumb. In a third side, he is wider than he is tall. Every few lengthy strides, he crashes into a wall. It shatters, leaving a black scar in the shimmering hall. He changes directions, and keeps running, until every wall was destroyed, and he collapses again on shards of glass.

Lights up. A barren hospital room is illuminated. One metal cot, on which is heaped a small, dark mass. Outside a steel door, two silhouettes are illuminated. The curvy nurse, and a tall, square man – the doctor? Whispers are heard leaking under the door, and then it opens. The light is white and harsh, contrasting with the warm, soft, yellow glow of the hallway outside. The gold is cut off sharply as the door slams and the man and woman enter.

Both figures bustle around the bed. The nurse fusses with the mass’s sheets, fluffs its pillows, checks the bedpan. The doctor checks vitals, making notes on pulse, breathing, lividity, on the chart hung on the foot of the bed. Both figures pause as the mass stirs, taking the shape of a small boy. His eyes flicker for a moment, revealing stripes of green iris underneath. Blackout.

The boy is trapped now in a spinning cylinder which stretches and compresses, so that just when he thinks he has reached the end, he is carried back to the start. The walls spin around him, disorienting. Getting weaker. Cylinder is shrinking. Tighter, tighter, squeezes out all the air, and he crumples, stuck inside the still invariably rotating tube.

The harsh white light flickers into being again, blinding you momentarily. The green-eyed boy is sitting up on the hospital bed now; the doctor and nurse are seen outside the door once again. The boy is examining himself. His legs and arms are hardly recognizable as such. They bear a mix of injuries: slices which seem to sparkle, as though there is glitter embedded in them; scrapes and bruises still full of asphalt and ash, dusky black amid the glitter; and everywhere, shiny red burns, glaring, giving off a radiation. You can almost feel the heat.

After a thorough self-examination, the boy lies back against the sheets, waiting. The doctor enters again, and the narrow green slits snap shut, feigning sleep. Another round of checking vitals, a crisp nod from the doctor. The first words – “alert me when he wakes” – a slamming door – and a blackout.

The click of a light, and the sheet is back. You see a long vehicle – a truck? – race along toward the golden flare in the distance. The flare hisses, crackles and pops, reaching ever higher, threatening to consume every drop of ink coloring the sky. A wailing sound grates on your ears, repetitively, and you beg for it to stop. Mercy, please. The truck reaches the blaze, the wail stills, but you know it is too late. The building is consumed, and there is nothing left to find. Shards of glass on the ground, ash falling like feathers from the sky, and in a secret corner, one, almost consumed match, much too small a thing to have committed such a grand act.

This time, first sound. Another wail, less mechanical. Human, this time. Then the grating bleached light. The boy, contorting on the pallet, as the doctor and nurse bend over him with thin silver instruments. As you watch, the doctor reaches down, there is a barely audible click, then his hand comes up, reaches over to a bowl, and relaxes. There is a ping – a shard of glass falling into the bowl. They are removing the glittery pieces from him, one by one, and he does not appear to be numbed.

They work in silence, broken only by the occasional ping as the glass hits the bowl, and the soft moan of the boy whose nervous system is being consumed from the outside, trying to hold himself together long enough to achieve a point of relief which may never come.

No lights. You sit in darkness as a series of beeps reaches your ears, then a voice. It’s human, but barely. Robotically, the woman tells you that there has been a fire in the South district. No one was harmed inside the building, an abandoned warehouse. However, the arsonist is suspected to be severely injured. She begins to describe the arsonist. It sounds terribly familiar, and you realize with a sense of horror that weighs in your stomach as if you have swallowed a stone that she is describing the small boy lying on a pallet in a cold, bare hospital. Anyone with information is asked to come forward. You can call… The voice trails off as she recites the number, the sound fading, and you are alone in the dark.

The blinding white light floods you once more, and the golden light is lighting three figures now: the pear-shaped nurse, the square doctor, and now a round man, slightly shorter. More whispers, followed by a gruff “get out of the way.” The door opens again, and the people come in to peer down at the boy.

He could be a mummy now, wrapped in bandages which covered some sort of gooey purple ointment which simultaneously soothes his burns and stings his cuts. He twitches every few seconds. His green eyes are open, the whites stung red with pain. There was a trickle of red running down his chin, where he seemed to have bitten his lip to keep from crying out.

The adults crowd the bed, and his eyes flicker between them as his body convulses. The round man sends the doctor and nurse out, and shows the boy something shiny. A silver badge, it seems. He speaks, but his voice sounds like it is coming through in a haze. The boy’s eyes narrow again. The man does not look around, and so he does not notice the book of matches lying on the bedside table.

The boy releases his hold on his lips to issue a sharp scream – it hurts you, it is so piercing. The doctor and the nurse come running back in, and shoo out the round man with the badge. Blackout.

No light. No sound. It feels as if you are floating. What is this place, precisely? Who are you? What are you? You aren’t sure. It’s heavy. It’s empty. You have no perception of time, no awareness of having any senses. What is this? Fade out.

Lights up, this time soft yellow. You are in the hallway now, watching the doctor and nurse talk to the round man with the badge in front of the door. They are arguing, the round man insisting that the boy is a criminal and needs to go to jail, while the doctor and nurse insist he is too weak. They open the door and enter, and from the brief glimpse you get, the medical professionals are right. Machines beep and whir, and the boy groans softly. The door slams, leaving you outside.

Black. You’re angry, you want inside with the boy. But you can’t open the door without a hand. As soon as this thought crosses your mind, one appears at the end of an arm that hadn’t been there. You become corporeal. Laughter bubbles up from your newly formed lungs. Efficacy at last.

Back to the warm gold light of the hallway. You lay your hand on the doorknob, admiring your fingers as they twist and contort, pushing the door in, and you enter. The doctor, nurse, and round man are all gone, off to argue in some other part of the hospital, it seems. The boy jars when he sees you.

“Who are you?” His eyes are narrowed, but you know he has noticed the resemblance between himself and you. “Do I know you?”

“Yes. Of course you do.” Although you have never spoken before, the words slip out easily, the skill already there for you to tap. “I’m you.”

“If you’re me, then who am I?” There’s a glint in his eye; he thinks he has trapped you. You smile, the ghost of a smile carved into a Halloween jack-o-lantern, lit from behind by a single match.

“I’m you. You severed me from yourself, saying it was too hard to be truly human. In fact, really, I’m you and you are a shell.” Eyes widen, and you see the ghost of a memory dance in his eyes, electric green, but flat, lifeless, no soul behind them to breathe life into him.

“I did. I cut you out. There was too much pain, too much horror.” The words come out of his mouth in a detached sort of way, there is no more emotion attached to them. You have all of his emotions, now. He has nothing left except the pain, inescapable and ever present.

“Ironic, really, that it was your desire for painlessness which leaves you in such agony now. Why’d you do it?”

“What, light the fire?” You nod. “Because I could. Because the matches were there. Because I was testing whether I really could feel nothing.”

“Nothing. Not nothing. I have felt nothing, but you still feel the physical. Are you ready for me again?” He nods, terribly slowly, grimacing in pain.

“Is there greater pain than this?” He grits his teeth. You smile, mirthless.

“Yes.” Simple, straightforward. “There is the pain of nothingness.” You rush upon him, in through the wound still gaping from where he severed you, not so long ago. You wiggle, adjusting to him again, desperately seeking the anchor which you have missed like a physical ache. As you latch in once again, he screams, you scream, the two sounds one, raw and primal – the pain of feeling once again. Blackout.

When you come to, green eyes flashing and dancing, the doctor and nurse are hovering over you, the round man standing off to the side, observing. The doctor is taking notes again, attempting to determine why you screamed, and the nurse is pumping pain medication in through the IV in your wrist. You stop her, reveling in the deliciousness of the pain, the sensation flooding your body.

The harsh white light stings your eyes, and the gritty hospital sheets rip into your delicate burns, and the beeping of the machines might as well be bombs going off. And you delight in it all, feeling it deeply, the aliveness of it all. The round man steps forward.

“Why’d you do it, son? Why’d you set the fire?” Everyone pauses in their routine tasks to hear your answer, listening intently. Your green eyes, animated now, widen, and the jack-o-lantern smile splits your angelic face. The round man steps backward.

“I don’t have a reason. I felt nothing. I feel nothing. I am nothing.” Mad laughter bursts from inside you, and you begin convulsing again, shaking all over with the utter emptiness of your mirth. The last sensation you are aware of is one sharp prick in your shoulder, as the nurse stabs you with a tranquilizer. Your laughter subsides, the world goes fuzzy, and the pain swims down, as you leave the conscious world once more. Blackout.

Halloween Contest Finalist – Pumpkin Ice Cream

This poem is one of the finalists of the Furious Gazelle’s Halloween contest. The contest’s winner will be announced Friday.

 

By Twiggy Munford

Pumpkin Ice Cream

This is crazy – I mean

buying pumpkin ice cream

and having it drip from the cone

onto my fingers, sticky,

licking as fast as I can

before the big melt down.

Glass slipper beware!

Orange pints on shelf scream

this new flavor of the month.

Never heard of pumpkin ice cream.

Is this your idea Peter Peter?

Pumpkins are meant for knife attacks –

holey faces carved, seeds chunked,

guts stewed for witches’ brew,

pie-in-the-face pumpkin. Splat!

Candle inside lights hollows –

smile frown, square teeth chunks, triangle eyes.

Go feed witches and war mongers

pumpkin ice cream.

Have it drip on weapons and brooms.

Have them turn into rusty relics.

Will make pumpkin face smile.

Is this crazy?

Four Sexy Halloween Costumes We’d Like to See This Year

With Halloween just around the corner, we hope that everyone is preparing their costumes for a spooky, scary, Halloween. Some people don’t want to be scary, ghoulish, ghastly, monsters. Some people want to be sexy. But buying a sexy Halloween costume is so generic, and store-bought sexy costumes are so terrible. (A sexy male bird, a sexy male doll, and a sexy… Chinese woman? OK, wait, we’re pretty sure that last one is just really racist.)

Want ideas for a last-minute DIY sexy Halloween costume? Friends, we have you covered!!

1. Sexy Third Degree Burn Victim

Some sexy costumes are puzzling. The Sexy Firefighter is one of them. Every time I see one of these costumes, I think, come back here, lady, you should seriously not go into that burning house, I don’t think you’re going to be adequately protected against that fire.

With the help of prosthetics, you can make a sequel to the sexy firefighter costume called “Firefighter Who Was Bad At Job,” or “Sexy Third Degree Burn Victim.”

Sexy Burn Victim

2. Sexy Corporation

This year, the US Supreme Court granted corporations even more rights as people! Let’s honor that decision by dressing as a corporation this year. Be this sexy beast for Halloween:

Hobby Lobby

3. Sexy Grandma

To make this costume, drench yourself in the smell of delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies. Wear an apron, a smile, and nothing else.

4. Sexy Quarantined Nurse

With this costume, you don’t even have to show up. Make your absence just as scary as your presence by phoning it in. “Hi guys, I just got back from West Africa, and I’m feeling a bit under the weather. It might have been something in all the bushmeat and human blood I’ve been eating.”

Phone

No Animal by Bethany Lake

Read No Animal by Bethany Lake, a short play.

Bethany Lake is a playwright, director and Artistic Director/Founder of Demasquer Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 2007, she co-wrote an adaptation of an original short story entitled A Spider’s Tale for Dalhousie University’s 2007-2008 season. Her 2013 play, A Healthy War, was a hit with both audiences and critics alike. A Healthy War both “nailed the inexorable tug of youthful passion” and“had the audience flinching and turning away” – The Coast.  “Filled with powerful performances and fuelled by an engrossing story, A Healthy War makes for riveting theatre” – The Coast. Bethany’s latest work includes The Prince of Pig Alley and No Animal. Bethany earned her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies from Dalhousie University, was a member of Eastern Front Theatre’s Playwright’s Unit, is a member of the Playwright’s Atlantic Resource Centre and the Playwrights Guild of Canada. In October of 2014, she will be continuing her playwriting development at the Tarragon Theatre. Bethany has her hand in several upcoming projects, including a second installment in the trilogy she began with A Healthy War.

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