short story

Another Thinking Animal, a short story

by
Daulton Dickey.

26169523_533387417028677_3406170926569762977_n—So tell me why you’re here.

—I’m tired. Not exhausted, but … just, I don’t know, tired. Sarah’s wearing that gray face sad people wear, that mask with dead eyes looks like an unpainted statue.

—Can you describe it? “Tired” is so …

—Not clear?

—Mmm Hmm.

—I didn’t want no attention, she says. —Some people, I think, will think I did it for attention. But it wasn’t attention I wanted.

—What did you want? What did you hope to achieve?

—Shit. What you think?

—And that seemed like a solution?

—No, she says. —Not a solution. An escape.

—But an escape’s not a solution.

—Didn’t say I was looking for no solution. Escape sounded fine by me.

The doctor glances at his notes. He spins his pen between his fingers and clicks his tongue. Seems like there’s some place he’d rather be, like maybe drinking martinis on his yacht or whatever it is doctors do when they ain’t talking to suicides.

—It says here you’re on LexiPro and Wellbutrin, he says. —Were you taking them when you attempted …

—Hell yes I was, Sarah says. —They numbed things, but they didn’t stop the thoughts, the bad thoughts flying through my head. They didn’t make me feel full when all I feel is empty all the time. (more…)

Ten of Our Favorite Articles of the Year

#1

Andy Kaufman and the Physics of Human Response

andykaufmanoncreatingreality

#2

Andy Kaufman: Architect of Reality

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#3

Tyler Returned, a Story By Jessica McHugh

img_4448 (more…)

Shattered Glass, a Story

by
Daulton Dickey.

Empty and broken
It all falls down

25353850_524613371239415_2442695610338939099_nEmpty and broken, the city streets evacuated with a sense of calm. Everything shattered. Glass lay like snowflakes, in piles tall as people. The sky cracked. A bubble, dark as night, bloomed in the center of the crack. No good fucking reptiles swallowed everything. Traces blasted through the sky: clouds, maybe. Or veins. Blood spurted from them, rained down, and covered the city. Definitely veins. Where was the man who played the violin? He stood in the street in a minute earlier. Then he vanished. Did he vanish? Where had everyone gone? (more…)

Tyler Returned, a story by Jessica McHugh

by
Jessica McHugh.

img_4448“Janie, will you please eat something? Please? Maybe later, okay? Are you comfortable? Would you like a blanket? You look cold, Janie. Are you cold? Do you need a blanket?”

“No, thank you,” she replied softly, wrapping her arms around her legs.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, Adam, I’m sure.”

He kissed the top of her head, and although she smiled, she didn’t look up. She simply smoothed her hair and squeezed her legs tighter.

“I’m going to the store for some cigarettes. Need anything?”

“No, thank you.”

“Okay. I shouldn’t be gone long.”

Adam bent down to kiss her again, but when she preemptively started to fix her hair, he backed off with a sigh. He headed out the door without another word, and as he drove to the store, his thoughts throttled the backs of his eyes. There was so much pain in thinking about his dear, fragile wife. She was so distant, so tortured, and he felt absolutely powerless to help her. It wrenched his heart to pieces to watch her shrink away from his touch. He wanted so badly to hold her, to console her, to make her understand that these things just happen.

Children die all the time. (more…)

Jessica McHugh Interview

by
Daulton Dickey.

If you haven’t encountered Jessica McHugh online, then you’re missing out on a singular personality. Witty and offensive—to some—and brutally honest, she chronicles her daily life and her life as a writer constantly in search of inspirado.

She’s more than a horror writer: she’s written science fiction and YA series. A prolific short story writer, she spends her days and nights toiling away. Sometimes she writes at home, sometimes she writes in bars, she’s always producing something well worth reading. 

Can you remember the first time a book gripped you?

One of my favorite books since I was ten or so, “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” by Avi. It’s a historical fiction novel about thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle voyaging from England to America in the early 1800s. There are storms, mutinies, and some pretty harrowing incidents that require Charlotte to abandon her upper-class sensibilities and woman-up big time. I’d never read anything quite like it at the time. (more…)

Women of Horror: An Interview with Peggy Christie

by
Daulton Dickey.

Peggy Christie began writing horror in 1999. A member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers, she’s written novels and short stories, including The Vessel and Hell Hath No Fury.

Her stories have appeared in several publications, such as Sinister Tales, Black Ink Horror, Necrotic Tissue, Elements of Horror, and more.

The daughter of a printer, a man with a wicked sense of humor and a big heart, she says, Peggy embodies horror artistry by combining her passion for horror with the craft of a seasoned professional.

To celebrate the month of Halloween, I decided to interview her as the first in an installment of Women of Horror.

Tell us about yourself: when did you start writing?

I loved creative writing when it started in 6th grade. But as I wrote some pretty gruesome stuff back then, my teacher told me I couldn’t do it anymore. So, I stopped. But when I hit 30 and had a particularly bad day at work, I wrote a short story as a form of therapy and I’ve been hooked ever since!

What drew you to horror?
I’ve always loved horror, even as a little kid. I loved watching Creature Feature and Sir Graves Ghastly every Saturday afternoon. All those Roger Corman/Hammer films, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and of course, my first love, Vincent Price, kept me enraptured for those few hours they were on TV. I always wanted more. (more…)

The Psychology of Appearances

by
Daulton Dickey.

They say we grind our teeth as a show of affection. I’m so adept at grinding my teeth that I can do it while walking and contemplating the plaque in the clouds. Affection? Hardly. Curiosity, I’d say—at best. But then who isn’t, if not at least slightly, curious about the plaque dripping from the clouds? No one comes to mind.

When I was a child, my father pretended not to care, but it was a vaudeville routine: he’d say, “I don’t care about the goddamn plaque,” while gazing at the sky with shifty eyes. Such behavior taught me two things: 1), don’t take everything adults say at face value; and, 2), never directly confront the plaque. Always pay your respects furtively.

—Dad, I remember saying, when I was maybe three or four. —Why does the sky crack?

—The sky cracks to let in the juice from the sun.

—What does the juice do?

thehumanconditionrenemagritte1933

The Human Condition, Rene Magritte, 1933

—It allows us to see and live, breathe and scream.

—Can we scream without the sun’s juice?

—Yeah, but what’s the point?

What’s the point indeed? I didn’t know it then, but it’s clear to me now that the point of the sun’s juice is to illuminate our deficiencies, a sort of aesthetic truth serum. We wouldn’t know we were ugly or flawed, overweight or weak-chinned or buck-toothed or cross-eyed if the sun’s juice didn’t force honesty into our optic nerves. (more…)

Dead End

by
Daulton Dickey.

20160601-230511.jpgI sit and breathe and think about the sunset floating over waters. Dipping into the abyss, the sun melts and drips to the bottom of the planet, where it reforms and ignites and floats along the planet again. Sometimes I’m indoors when this happens, sometimes I’m outdoors, but the plunge in temperature never ceases to astound me. And when the bowl overhead darkens, and when the air in front of me freezes, and when the goal of the night is to survive in a dreamless state, I know I’ve made it another day. Another day. Where the wind shatters the frozen air and life reboots and I realize I’m a different person—similar in appearance, perhaps, and sharing certain idiosyncrasies—from the person I was yesterday. And whenever the new day forms, and the old me transmogrifies into the new me, I slip into the habit of living in the past and seldom realize the new me is different, and in some cases distinct, from the old me.

The waters ripple, spreading and scattering particles and waves. The bowl overhead signifies nothingness: a void, a vacuum, an entry into a state where our kind perishes. And by “our kind,” I mean “my kind”; and my “my kind,” I mean “bacteria.”

At core, we’re all bacteria, scurrying around and growing and evolving advantages over our competitors. That’s evolution in a nutshell: a competition to dominates the environment. Dominating an environment means controlling resources, making it easier to survive long enough to propagate genes.  (more…)

The Call of the Void

by
Justin Burnett.

It has been quite a while now since I first began dissociating from my work. I have finally succumbed to the universal somnambulism. It’s a well-known fact that we anesthetize the domination of our lives by our jobs with sleep. Not literal sleep, of course. I now fall asleep with the optimistic electronic chirp of the timecard reader like everyone else, even though I work, laugh, and chat throughout my nine-hour day like any functioning human. I remember a time when it was different. Once it was worse. Once I wasn’t permitted the cold solace of sleep. Once I had a job that forced me to face the spectre of mortality in all its grandiose contradictions. Like any one of the paradoxical lines in the poetry of John Donne, the job forced me to remain awake.

I was a hospital phlebotomist at the time. I drew samples from patients in their sardine-can cells and took the blood downstairs to the lab in a soul-deadening daily exchange of elevator ascents and descents. This repetitive aspect should’ve kept me sleeping since it was the same lullaby that you find evenly distributed in all the occupational quarters like powdered pesticide. Only one force was strong enough to counter the anesthesia.

I discovered it one morning at about a quarter to twelve. I was on the cardiac floor. It was just before lunch and I was getting impatient. Not that the hospital food was any good—au contraire, it was damn awful (the chicken-gristle sandwich sans-condiments was legendary around that time). And it wasn’t that I was particularly interested in seeing my coworkers—all the same sleeping faces circulated both the cafeteria and the floors with soul-deadening regularity. Lunch was, however, the only period in my twelve-hour workday during which I could read. Only one more patient lay between me and my book. Let’s just get it over with I told myself encouragingly as I opened the door to a heavily curtained room.

“Hello, I’m from the lab,” I said, with as much zest as the particular situation could reasonably call for. “Your doctor wants me to draw a blood sample.”

The man on the bed was in his late fifties. Gray, unwashed hair curled above his pale

egonschiele

Egon Schiele, Self Seer II (Death and Man), 1911

temples. Beads of sweat sparkled under the fluorescent lights across the waxy surface of his forehead. The room simmered in the faintly repulsive redolence of unwashed and unmoved biology, the nauseating sweetness of bodily crevices hoarding soured perspiration.

 

I noted the smell with passive disinterest. Smell, after extended exposure in a hospital setting, only gives rise to the accompanying biological reactions (retching, nose-pinching, actual vomiting, in rare cases) when it is particularly vile—as in, for instance, the unforgettable and infamous case of a particular legless prostitute’s infected colposcopy bag. What was more unusual about this patient was his stillness. (more…)

Another Thinking Animal

by
Daulton Dickey.

 

—So tell me why you’re here.

—I’m tired. Not exhausted, but … just, I don’t know, tired.

Sarah’s wearing that gray face sad people wear, that mask with dead eyes looks like an unpainted statue.

—Can you describe it? “Tired” is so …

—Not clear?

—Mmm Hmm.

—I didn’t want no attention, she says. —Some people, I think, will think I did it for attention. But it wasn’t attention I wanted. (more…)