Full Moon Mother
By Rachel Garcia
The gold fell from her eyes like the sun glimmering on the oceans waves. She sparkled when she danced and sang around the bonfires daddy would have on the beach with his friends. That’s the way he always talked about her to other people. She was the fuzzy Sunday morning haze and the amber leaves in the fall. Momma wasn’t around for very long though.
Momma stood in her long ivory robe, stirring a small pot that smelled like apples and cinnamon. Daddy was brushing his teeth, shaving his chin, and fixing his tie all at the same time.
“argh…where? Umm…Honey, where’s my keys?” his hands shuffled inside his pockets and coats.
“On the counter baby, jeeze baby relax a minute and have some coffee” her hands set down a hot mug just the way he liked it, black with two sugar cubes on the side. Their lips met and moved like silk. The corners of his mouth curled up into a smile along with hers. They let out a sigh as if they hadn’t kissed in ages even if they’d been trying for a baby for the last two years five times out of the week. They were hopeful people, very hopeful. He picked up the brown bag that mom packed fresh strawberries and a hummus and cucumber sandwich in, and shuffled his way to the door. He yelled I love you to Momma while he backed out of the drive way.
Five months’ later Momma’s belly shown bright like a full moon at midnight. Now when dad wanted to kiss her he would place his hands on the protruding roundness of my soon to be sibling. One morning she took me to the book store to pick out nursery rhymes and poems. The shelves were white with letter labels and in the center of the room there was a big fluffy couch with a gold table of chrysanthemums in a pink vase. I held onto her dress and sucked on my thumb while her swollen feet pattered across the wood floor.
“Morning lovely lady! Good to see ya around these parts, it’s been awhile. How’s that belly of yours doin’?”
“It’s good thanks Martha! Doc says the baby should be coming soon enough.” They hugged each other tightly, Martha’s hand rubbing Momma’s full moon belly.
“Thought of any names yet?”
“Well…” Momma shook her head and her long brown curls swayed along at her sides. “Maybe you can help me think of a few names?”
“I’d be delighted to honey.” Names. They’re pretty important things but Momma never rushed anything. She was always taking things slow, that’s who she was. She liked feeling comfortable and paced. They made three lists of names. The first was girl names, the second boy names, and the third names that could go for both boy and girl. We agreed to show Daddy when he got home from work.
We spent the afternoon with Martha talking about girl things and how mommies feel when they’re pregnant. Martha gave Momma tea and cookies on a fancy porcelain tower. Her tea pot was decorated with pink flowers around the bottom and gold lining on the top. She had so many cookies, all the cookies in the world! After tea, they said their goodbyes and headed home. It was starting to get chilly out since it was almost November. We watched leaves falling from the trees and our shoes got muddy but Momma said it was okay to get muddy every once in a while. She looked down the tunnel of warmly colored red, orange, and yellow leaves as if it were the tunnel to heaven. She held my hand and when we got to our house we wiped our boots on the door mat.
She laid herself up on our couch in front of the fire Daddy made after he’d gotten home. Her legs were on top of Daddy’s lap, his big tough hands rubbed her belly.
“How’s our little munchkin doin?”
“Moving around a lot, that’s for sure”
“I cannot wait to see this little drop of sunshine come out of this gorgeous woman of mine!” He leaned his head up to reach her lips and she laughed. She told him about the names, and how Martha has helped her think of them. She dozed off and he helped her get to bed. Everything felt right. He was happy, She was happy, I was happy. As you can tell by what I’ve told so far we never had too many problems besides when Daddy was running late for work. She did though, in her head I mean.
October 31st, 1969. A thunderous pound that sounded as if the Hoover Dam burst out. A blood curdling scream came from the upstairs bathroom. Daddy let his coffee mug hit the floor and it shattered into a million tiny pieces. His footsteps almost shook the stairs as he rushed up to see what was wrong.
“Oh my God,” his whole body trembled. I could hear Momma wailing like a cow that lost her calf. I heard him drag her into the hallway.
“HOW DO I MAKE IT STOP?” she yelled. “HOW DO I MAKE IT STOP?” she kept repeating it over and over. Her heaving was echoing through the house. Daddy came down the stairs dripping in tears and sweat. His white work shirt had wet red and pink splotches all over it like a strawberry milk cow. He didn’t look as nice though. He ran over to the phone and dialed three numbers, 911. After he hung up he went to help Momma again.
There was a long white car that pulled up in the front of our house, some men in white uniforms stepped out and rushed in. Rushed up the stairs, not as fast as daddy did. I couldn’t hear Momma crying anymore. I think she was tired though because when they brought her down her eyes were all red and she wasn’t moving much. She kept talking under her breath and they took her away in the white car. In those long 20 seconds, I was sad because she had ruined her favorite ivory robe. I felt wet drops falling from my eyes and I felt like I had a mountain sitting on my chest.
A couple days passed, I thought they’d never come back. The big red front door opened, Momma shuffled her way into the living room and up the stairs with Daddy’s help. She wore a big green sweater; her eyes were baggy and she had let her insides come out in the toilet. Daddy didn’t go to work for a while. She never got up from bed, and if she did it was only to go use the bathroom or when daddy forced her to take a bath. I’d go up to lay in bed with her when Daddy would watch T.V. downstairs. I’d lay with her for hours and stroke her hair and curl up into a ball by her belly. Her belly was empty now, it wasn’t like the moon anymore. It looked like a deflated balloon, but I still loved her very much.
“Yes baby?” she opened up her empty grey eyes.
“Where’s the baby?” she turned away. “Why isn’t the baby here?” still nothing came out of her pale lips. “Why can’t you ever have a baby? You know we all want one. Daddy does real bad. What if he leaves us Momma? What if-“
“ENOUGH” she yelled. “Enough.” She started scratching at her sides, leaving red streaks on her soft tender skin.
“You gotta try again Momma, maybe three will be your lucky number this time.” I got up and went to the window. The sun went to sleep below to horizon and Momma did too. I did that almost every day and Daddy started to worry cause Momma was starting to lose it. He came into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed.
“I can’t do this anymore,” whispered Momma.
“What do you mean baby? You just need some time is all. We can try again and if it doesn’t work we’ll keep trying and if it never happens I’ll still take care of you baby, I’ll still love you.”
“I’m not good enough for you, and you know it. If I can’t give you a baby, then what am I good for? You’ve wasted your time on me, you know it.”
“You have never been a waste of time. I don’t regret a single second spent with you. Not a single day where I don’t think you’re the woman I want to spend forever with, even if we don’t have kids.”
“Why are you lying…”
“Why are you lying?” Her eyes turned red again, her nails dragging across her sides.
“Baby why would I be lying to you? I want to make you better, I want to help you.” She started shaking and crying. “WHY ARE YOU LYING? YOU’RE LYING, YOU’RE LYING” her legs kicked around the bed. Daddy tried to hold her down.
“I’m not lying I want to help, you’ll get better,” He hugged her as she stopped kicking and sobbed on his shoulder. She sobbed all night, wailing for the baby she’d never have. Wailing for the family she needed to feel whole, to have a purpose, to fulfill her home and her womb with children. She sobbed and sobbed crying herself to sleep.
The next morning, she did what she always did. Laid in bed waiting for Daddy to bring up her breakfast. Daddy opened up the fridge, took out the box of eggs but this time the box was empty. The milk was empty, and so was everything else. He slowly went up to the bedroom and kissed Momma on the forehead.
“I’ll be back, we’re out of everything.” She nodded her head and kissed his cheek.
“I’ll miss you.” He paused and raised his eyebrow.
“Yeah, I’ll miss you too baby.” He took his coat and marched down the stairs. She was doing better today, or so he thought. He backed the car out of the driveway and headed towards the market.
“Momma, are you gonna do it now?” she glanced at the top shelf inside the closet. She started breathing heavy and took out a piece of paper.
“give me that pen over there.” I picked up a cold blue ink pen from the night stand and handed it to her. She wrote a few sentences and signed it with her name. “Why should I listen to you? You’re not even real.”
“Well, you’re the one who made me up in the first place. I’m just here to help. You’re the crazy one, not me. Nobody can see me. I don’t have to worry about being a failure to my husband.”
“Shut your mouth.”
“Why? You’re using me as a pathetic reason to leave. You’re pathetic. You didn’t even make one stinkin’ baby. Why are you even here? All you do is cry about how you’re not good enough. You shouldn’t even be here in the first place. If you can’t make a baby just leave. Don’t use me as an excuse for your dumb problems. I’m just telling you the truth.”
“I’m tired. I need rest.”
“You can rest when you’re dead. Here, I’ll help you.” I reached up to the top self and brought out a shoe box. I set it down in her lap right in front of her. “See? I’m so helpful. I’m good to you. I’m not a liar like he is. Here come on, take it out.” She got up. “There we go, see you’re doing great Momma.” Her cold hands lifted open the top of the box slowly. “Come on Momma, Daddy’s not coming home anyways. He just said he was going to the store so he could leave you here to starve. He doesn’t love you. I love you.” Her eyes started to water. She couldn’t hold in her heart ache. Daddy’s car pulled up, his footsteps entered the house as she loaded the bullet.
“I’m back!” His arms set down the heavy brown bags. “Honey I’m home now.” Momma let out more crying. He jogged up the stairs. “Baby are you okay?” The cold gun pressed up to her skull; tears running down her face. “I’m so sorry.”
By Jacqueline Sepulveda
Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t the torturous nightmare that had woken me up, but it was the God awful headache and the numbness in my limbs that frightened me out of my sleep.
Clips of my dream played in a loop over and over. Seeing my girlfriend, Jenna, wrapped in bloody steel.
“Jenna!” I looked around the room.
Her side of the bed was neat and cold. I rose from my bed, my legs wobbly and weak. “Jenna!”
I looked over at the clock. 3:49 Am. Where could she be? I looked around for my phone.
Jared, my brother.
I searched for her in my contacts but it came up blank. Did she leave me?
I kept searching the apartment for any sign from her. It looked as if every trace of her was wiped clean. “But we haven’t had an argument in months,” I thought.
I decided to call Miranda, Jared’s wife who introduced me to Jenna. If anyone knows where Jenna is, it’s Miranda.
“Nolan? What the hell? ” whined Miranda.
“Have you heard from Jenna?”
“Jenna! I woke up and she was gone. She even deleted herself from my contacts.”
“Nolan… is Jenna a one night stand?”
“What? We’ve been together for years.”
“I’m sorry, Nolan, but I’ve never even met a Jenna before.”
“Miranda, are you fucking kidding me? You introduced me to her.” I was irate. Chances are Jenna and Miranda were working together. “You know what? Fuck you.” Click.
I pitched my phone to the bed and watched it bounce off and hit the floor. “Damn it.”
The migraine was back. This time it knocked me out.
“He’s waking up; get the anesthesiologist back in here!”Commanded a man in a surgical mask. I could make out several other people in masks surrounding me. “Bosche is not going to be happy about this.”
They strapped an oxygen mask on me.
“You’ll be fine,” said a female voice. Her eyes were a bright green. Even after my vision began to vignette, I couldn’t stop staring at those eyes.
“Where’s Jenna?” I heard myself mutter.
I opened my eyes expecting to find myself on a surgical table again. Instead I was lying on the floor in my boxers and my face covered in drool.
I had lost my mind and Jenna but I needed her back.
A picture I took of Jenna last Christmas flashed in my head. I limped to my desk. I kept that picture of Jenna, her freckly skin, all wrapped in a red sweater, in one of my drawers. She was making an unflattering face, so she asked me to throw it out. But I kept it because I thought she looked so beautiful. She didn’t know I had kept it.
I tore open my drawer but found nothing.
“No, no… NO!” I cried. I looked around at the mess around me. All those pieces of paper filled with words. None of them with the image of a smiling freckled girl sticking her tongue out and wrinkling her nose. I knew I lost my grip on reality.
Did I dream everything?
“Nolan Benning?” someone whispered. I looked up to meet a pair of green eyes. “You recognize me, don’t you?”
“Who… who are you?” I had so many questions. Her presence puzzled me.
“Nolan, you have to listen carefully. I’m here to help you. You have to realize something.” I looked at her. He face seemed so anxious but her voice sounded distant. “You have to wake up!”
“Do you know where Jenna is?”
“You’ll see when you wake up! You can’t stay here!” She became apprehensive and gripped my shoulders and shook me violently. “WAKE UP, NOLAN! PLEASE, JUST WAKE UP!”
I felt the tingle start out again. This it time it rushed through my body quicker than before. I felt a sharp pain at the base of my skull. I felt my vision go blank and I left myself drop out of her arms and onto the floor once more.
Unable to open my eyes, I muttered the name I’ve been screaming out for so long. “Jenna.” I heard loud beeping noises in my ear. I couldn’t feel my arms and legs. “Jenna!”
“Dr. Cruce, Bennings is awake.”
“What do you mean he’s awake? Bosche gave us strict orders!”
“Cruce, if we can’t sedate him much longer!”
“Someone… please…” I howled. I was finally able to open my eyes. My vision was still out of focus but I could make out shapes in the room. I was definitely in a hospital.
“Tell Bosche Subject 1 has been compromised.” I heard Dr. Cruce say.
“Nolan?” It was Green Eyes. “Nolan, can you hear me?”
I nodded. I was still weak.
“Open your eyes for me.”
The bright fluorescent lights stung my eyes. “Can you see me, Nolan?” she quizzed.
My eyes began to clear up and I saw her green eyes next to me once again. “Who are you?”
“Dr. Criner. I’ve been assigned to you. Now, I need you to look down at yourself.”
Dazed, I did as I was told. I blinked and shook my head to get rid of the remaining blurriness. But I was truly seeing this.
I no longer had my arms or legs. I was a quadruple amputee.
“Nolan, you were in an accident March 7th, 2012. You and Jenna Scalise were driving down Falkner st. You were involved in a head-on collision. Ms. Scalise did not survive. You barely made it. Unfortunately, due to the severity of the accident—“
“Dr. Criner, your services are no longer needed.” A tall man in a suit walked in. He looked like the devil.
“Mr. Bosche, I was just explaining to Mr. Benning—“
“Ah… Mr. Benning,” Busche grinned at me, “Subject 1.”
“Why am I here?” I asked.
“Long story short: Your family didn’t want you to die. But they also didn’t want to have you live this way. That’s when Orphic Industries came in. They signed your rights away. If you look to your left, you’ll see that long blue wire connected to your brainstem, leads to that giant super-computer looking thing. It gives you an alternate reality, a dream state, if you will. You can live your life the way you were meant to.”
“Why wasn’t Jenna there?” I asked.
“Your family didn’t want you to suffer the loss. So we tried, and failed, to cleanse your mind of her. Unfortunately, because this didn’t work out, you will have to be released out of our care.” Smiled Bosche. “Have a good life, Bennings.”
Later that afternoon, they wheeled me down the long laboratory hallway, keeping my head low.
I heard loud beeping coming from an upcoming room. I looked in through the doorway and saw a horrific sight.
I wasn’t the only one.
I was only Subject 1.
Row after row of comatose bodies hooked up to machines. Blue wires hung on the walls like streamers at a party. Bosche was in the middle of the room, with his fancy clothes, and a sinister smile on his face.
Ascension and What Lies in Between
By Juan Melgoza
The callous on his rough hands could be felt around her throat as he grasped it like a child would grasp a twig in his hand – ready to snap it.
“Isaac I’m sorry I never meant to hurt you,” Janice screamed.
“You mother fucking bitch! I could fucking pull this trigger in me right now and just let loose,” Isaac said.
Isaac darted away from Janice; as if he was on his own place of existence. Every object in the world seemed to have a post-it attached to it.
Throw, break, crush, destroy, smash, kick, punch, elbow, knee, stomp, rip.
Isaac could not disobey, the rush was too much.
His feet made light imprints upon the snow, and sometimes he made deep imprints. Rhythm flowed from Isaac naturally.
“You know darling? That is always what I loved about you most. The child in you makes me chuckle every time,” Sophia said.
“The smell is so wonderful out here, it feels cold, and it’s a bit rough climbing this mountain, but I can’t shake this feeling that I’ve been here before,” Isaac said.
I’ve only been to the snow once as a child, he thought. I could not possibly have been here. “Time to take an inventory of my surroundings,” he whispered to himself.
The terrain was spotless, and the snow was falling as if timeless. There was no wildlife, or trees, and although a steep incline, there were small dips and deep holes in the snow. There were rocks, and little niches in the terrain to provide cover from the snow.
“Babe, do you think we should set up camp soon,” Sophia asked.
Isaac would hold her hand as he always did, and gently glide his thumb over the back of her hand.
“I’m getting hungry; let’s stop by that niche over there. I’ll race you,” Isaac said.
Isaac shot forth at full speed as if he had a pair of mufflers on his feet. Sophia followed with a sigh, but the taste of his spirit was too sweet not to taste she thought.
Isaac ran up the mountain, but chose to fall dramatically so Sophia could catch up. She giggled as she passed him, but he quickly got up and tackled her. He arched over her, as he always had, with his fists in the ground and eyes glued to hers. He slowly ran his hand from her shoulder to her hand, and then massaged her neck. A slow stream of water fled from his eyes; he could fill the pattern it made upon his face. It made the shape of a snake, sharp like a viper.
“Darling, let’s set up camp,” Sophia said.
“Okay,” Isaac managed to mutter.
As Isaac proceeded to remove the tent from his backpack, he had to take another inventory of his surroundings he thought. He made the tent quickly, as if possessed by a demon you see in those crazy films like The Exorcist. The tent was his favorite color – red. Sophia set up all the cookware, and began preparing a meal. Isaac scanned her like a computer would analyze a foreign object from outer space. “Where the fuck am I,” he asked himself. Isaac stood outside the tent and surveyed the surroundings. Snow was still falling, and he could not see far beyond the decline of the mountain. He wasn’t sure if he did want to see beyond it; he was imagining an endless abyss at the bottom of the mountain which reminded him of his therapist.
“You have to see the world for what it is Isaac, and not fear the possibility of a dead end at every journey. You can fight depression, but it stems from you and only you,” he remembered his therapist saying.
Isaac walked back inside the tent and sat down hastily.
“Do you remember now,” Sophia asked.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“Darling, I am your love and lover remember?”
“What is your name? Your name isn’t Janice.
“No honey, my name is Sophia. You named me Sophia remember?”
“What the fuck? Why would I give you a name?”
“I will show you darling, just eat your meal and calm down.”
Isaac took his fork and stabbed at his food. He then made figure eights around his food with the fork, and then stabbed at his food and swallowed it with some hot tea.
“Show me Sophia.”
“Okay Darling, follow me.”
Isaac walked at a distance from her and stood erect. The area she was seeking was not far away.
“Well, here it is love,” Sophia said.
What appeared in front of Isaac was a bridge connecting two mountains. The bridge was made of shattered glass, neither of the shards were connected, it was as if the glass was levitating, or pushed by some unknown force to stay afloat.
“It is fine dear; you are free to walk across it. It will not cut, or collapse on you,” Sophia said.
As Isaac took his first step, he can see images in each shard of glass. It was as if movies were being shown on each shard of glass, but no physical projector was behind it. In each of the shards he was in them. Sometimes he was a child, sometimes a teen, and sometimes as a young adult.
“You see honey; he knows you are always asking why. In each of these shards is a parallel dimension of a choice you could have made. Pick up a shard, and you will live it. I know Janice was an important part of your life, and you craved her. You always pick up the same shard too. She was just not the one for you honey.”
As Sophia was speaking to Isaac, he stood over the very same shard he had just lived with Janice, but did not recognize it. He picked up the shard and smiled, and saw happy moments, but the finality of the chapter was never played in the shard.
“So what happens here? It doesn’t show everything,” Isaac said.
“You chose that one last time babe. Your body and heart seems to remember but not your mind.” Sophia said.
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you remember when you cried? Did you not feel it,” Sophia asked.
Isaac’s body began to tweak and move, as if his nerve endings where being sawed off by a plastic butter knife.
“But I look so happy, Janice was my true love,” Isaac said.
“You mother fucking slut of a whore! I should have seen all the red flags. I’m gonna nick name you six flags whore when I’m done with you” Isaac said. Isaac stood over Janice with his foot on her chest in a room with broken windows and shattered furniture. With his finger on the trigger, saliva slipped out the corners of his lips along with tears streaming down his face.
By Maddie Ibarra
One pink and orange afternoon, Pleqtain was urgently called over by his across-the-street neighbors, the Jacuses*. He knew why they called him; it was only a matter of time. Yet he assumed with how often they tear after their children and blare the speakers of their television, they would hardly notice.
Wherever he goes, when all is quiet, and there is an invisible spot of cold in the air. Pleqtain hears voices. Far away, echoing, sad voices that begs for numerous requests. If he closes his lids and strains every muscle in his head. He can see misty figures barely resembling regular people with their limbs blowing in a whistling wind. It hurt his ears, but he tolerated it just to find out what the figures want. They want what everyone else wants. Money, love, family, fairness, revenge, security, and justice.
He navigated through the Jacuses tall grassed, toy strewn yard up to their door. He knocked in three sets of four before Mr. Jacuse answered. The muffin-topped, Worlds Greatest Dad t-shirted man led him into the dining room. Circling the center in a ritualistic fashion were lumpy candles, illuminating the face of the darkly dressed, shawl-wrapped Mrs. Jacuse.
“Um,” Pleqtain did not know what to make of that effort, “if you planned on performing a séance, that won’t be necessary, Mrs. Jacuse.”
“See, Mary? Told you we don’t need this Wiccan, hippy crud pissing off whatever’s in the house.”
The disappointed Mrs. Jacuse sighed, pulling off a few layers of black from her person, “I’ve seen them do this on TLC once, and it seemed to work.”
“All that paranormal hunting stuff is edited dramatizations of stuff that just so happened to Middle American families who have nothing better to do than make up stories to justify their spontaneous bouts of insanity. This is the real deal.”
“Now now, babe. That’s being unfair. That’s like saying only drunken southerners get abducted by aliens.”
“If we can get back to the issue,” Pleqtain interrupted, timidly. He repeated himself slightly louder.
“Babe, let Pleqtain handle this,” said Mrs. Jacuse told her husband, she faced Pleqtain, “How long do you think it will take to get rid of it?”
It was an entity that Pleqtain found when he and his parents watched a boxing match one night at the Jacuses’. He was returning from the bathroom when he felt a cold presence. He was too afraid to specify, but when he told the Jacuses something unseen was living in their house, it was not well received. It earned Pleqtain permanent scowls from them. Until now that they have discovered it too.
“I can’t get rid of it,” he said, “I can only talk to it and see what it wants.”
Mr. Jacuse was outraged, “What?! So we have to let it squat in our home until we die or a plane crashes into our roof?!”
“Please, Mr. Jacuse. If we see what it wants, perhaps something can be worked out where you all can coexist. It was once a person too…”
“I don’t feel comfortable with that thing in our house with our children,” Mrs. Jacuse whined.
“Soft bellied crap,” huffed Mr. Jacuse.
“You must have me confused with a priest or Bill Murray,” Pleqtain explained, “I’m only an interpreter. To be frank, I don’t even know how I got this ability.”
“Can’t you talk to it and…?oh I don’t know, make it go be dead somewhere else like a graveyard or a sunken ship?” asked Mrs. Jacuse.
“I can try,” Pleqtain lied. “Where did you last discover it?”
“Every damn night for the past week when I wake the boys up for school,” Mr. Jacuse began, “I’d find their closet light on. We always turn it off when we’re not using it. Then last night when I got up to pee around twelve, I see something shining under the boy’s door. I go in and the damn closet light’s on again. But then…” Mr. Jacuse’s voice got softer. “Then I reach for the switch and I hear something that sounded like I’m scared.”
Mrs. Jacuse held her husband sympathetically.
“If I may, I’m going to go into the room alone. Please don’t check on me,” Pleqtain made his way to the children’s’ room. Closing the door, he sat cross-legged on a pile of dirty laundry. He closed his eyes and strained his head muscles; it was his way at improving his hearing.
Soon a painful whistling noise filled his head. He found himself in a gray, stinging mist as a breathy, young voice inhaled, but never sounded like it exhaled. A withered frame of a little girl in lace and ribbons made herself clearer through the mist. Her arms blew like sashes in the wind.
Hello, said Pleqtain, what’s your name?
The little girl’s head limped to one side, her lower jaw dropped, her lips made no movements but she managed one word.
The word rot morbidly reminded Pleqtain of death and decomposition.
Were you turning on closet lights?
Rot rolled her head in a weak nod.
Why? Are you scared of the dark?
Another nod. I don’t like being scared.
No one does. Look, if the family keeps a light on for you, do you think you’ll be all right? They seemed to be bothered by you.
I didn’t do anything bad.
I understand. I just want things to be comfortable for everyone here. If they comply with your requests then you don’t have to scare them. I know this used to be your house but it’s theirs now and you both have to share.
“Pleqtain, what’s going on?! You’ve been in there for twenty minutes!” Mr. Jacuse banged on the door of his children’s’ room. The knock broke Pleqtains concentration, he noticed as Rot’s figure began to distance itself without moving a leg.
I will, she said without using one mouth muscle.
Pleqtain opened his eyes, aching with strain. Mr. Jacuse finally let himself and his wife in, “What happened? Did you find anything?”
“There’s a little girl in there. She’s called Rot. She’d be willing to keep peace with you if perhaps you left a small night light in the closet and boys room.”
“I thought you were going to get it out of here? What’s the problem?” said Mr. Jacuse impatiently.
“I never said I’d get rid of her. I can’t do that, this is her resting area. I assume since I was interrupted. But she’ll accept a night light in exchange for leaving you alone.”
“I’m not going to be bossed around by some poltergeist reject in my own home! I’m not spending three fifty nine every week on light bulbs just so it won’t throw dishes and break our TV.”
“Babe, stop,” said Mrs. Jacuse.
“I’ve done all I can here, if you won’t comply then you and Rot will both be fearful of your own home,” Pleqtain walked himself out of the house, feeling unaccomplished.
Mr. Jacuse huffed, “God, what’s the point of talking to dead people if you can’t do anything useful with it?”
The rain started again. Large drops falling from the sky like tiny missiles being launched from the heavens above. They found their targets and exploded in tiny fury upon pedestrian’s heads, evening traffic, and the window from which Mellissa sat behind, in the small café. She sniffed, retrieved a white paper napkin from the table and wiped the raindrops from her soaked face. The napkin, over whelmed with the task, absorbed the water and began to dissolve into a useless piece of soggy paper. The waitress brought over her soup and sandwich that she had ordered fifteen minutes ago. She beamed at Mellissa adoringly and asked in a pleasant voice if there was anything else she could get for her. Mellissa declined and thanked the waitress before she sauntered off to take someone else’s order.
She had heard that their sandwiches were the best in town. Piled high with steaming slices of roast beef, horseradish and pepper jack cheese, in-between to thick sprouted wheat slices of bread it looked almost too perfect to eat, thought Mellissa. It was cut diagonal, the way she liked, with pickle wedges garnishing the sides. The attentive waitress had even brought an extra saucer with three or four jalapeño peppers, extra pickles and some plumb green olives! Boy, did that waitress know here stuff! She absolutely loved to eat pickles and green olives with her food. She shifted here eyes towards the proficient waitress who was taking the order of an elderly woman with snow white hair and bright eyes that danced from beneath slightly hooded lids. The waitress, seeming to feel Mellissa’s gaze, turned her head to look at Mellissa and her slight grin widen to show slightly imperfect, white teeth. Mellissa returned the smile, and turned her attention to the hot meal.
She started in on the soup first. It was hot with large chunks of celery, potatoes, carrots and peppers. Sipped it carefully from a large soup spoon, she relished the feel of the hot soup sliding down her throat to warm the chilly feeling she had inside. Outside the window Mellissa observed the pedestrians scurrying like wet worker bees, as car horns blared out angry demands of impatience and yellow taxi cabs spotted the lanes of traffic with the warmth of their color. Glancing around the small café, she admired its bright and clean atmosphere. Each table held a small glass vase with bright yellow, blue and pink flowers. The walls were painted a soft blue and adorned proudly with old photos of patrons of the café many decades ago. She took another large spoonful of broth and drank it down. Soon, her momentum build and see was shoveling great big heaps of the delicious broth into her mouth without hardly stopping to breath.
She was slurping and sighing, swallowing and humming softly, feeling better by the minute. She set down the spoon and gathered one half of the delicious hot sandwich into her twenty-two year old hands. Taking a great big bite of the sandwich, a faint moan of ecstasy escaped her mouth as the tender, savory pieces of beef and cheese made her taste buds dance the jitterbug inside her mouth. A long strand of hair fell into her face; listlessly she tucked it behind her ear as she chewed indolently.
Looking up from her meal, she glanced outside the cafe window, glimpsing a figure crossing the street. A figure was crossing the street. Wet tattered cloths clung to an old worn body, thin and fragile. It looked like it would break, that frame, into a thousand tiny shards if it toppled over. She observed the way it walked, as if its feet were too unstable to carry the body. The legs buckled out, bowing unnatural and rickety.
She raked her red painted finger nails through her warm chestnut, waist length hair, leaving the spicy smell of the soup in it. These people, Mellissa thought, have nothing better to do than gossip and gab. The people in the diner chatted with their companions in a ritualistic primitive tongue. The man etched closer towards the diner window, staring at the woman behind the glass. Watching her pouty red lips devour her meal greedily. He stared at her, transfixed. Hesitating at the door for only a moment, he entered the diner.
Dripping and wet from the rain, she observed the man suspiciously. He pretended to be looking for a table to sit at. His dark eyes darted through the café once or twice than finally; he sat down at a vacant table across from Mellissa. He was staring at her; they always did. It was her beauty; she contemplated to herself, and her hair, that was no doubt. She had been born this way, and so, people admired her beauty everywhere she ventured. The waitress shot glances at her every chance she got, grinning as if the sun rose and set on her. Her beauty attracted men and women alike. This waitress just grinned a little too much. Maybe, she was one of those…lesbians, she pondered earnestly.
The rain had stopped and hopeful beams of sun rays parted the clouds in the sky. The storm had passed and the sun began to dry the metropolis city with its cold gray skyscrapers. She laughed as she gathered her designer bag and her sporty trench coat and with fine delicate fingers she plucked from her wallet, three bills. She walked past the man, feeling his eyes watching her slender waist, and swaying hips. When she passed close by his table on the way to the door he moved back in order to get a better look at her curvaceous body. She paid him no mind now. Sauntering out the door and back into the rain, she went on her merry way.
From behind the diner counter the waitress watch her go out into the bustling city of Manhattan. The tattered dirty long wig she wore swinging behind her. She had seen the way the clean cut business man cringed when she passed by. People displayed judgmental eyes full of contempt at having to share the café with someone like her. But, that was too bad because that old woman came in to eat at this here diner ever Friday at noon. Carrying her old weathered plastic bag like a purse, ordering the same meal, she came. Her red lipstick smeared across her face and chipped red painted fingernails she would leave walking with her head held high, in her filthy tattered clothes. Always leaving that huge tip of never ending monopoly money, or dried leaves, but; there were always three. She was her mother but, she didn’t know it. The waitress will serve her patiently and wait year after year, if only to see her mother, once again.
There he was—sitting in the very back of the class with his big, black headphones hanging around his neck and his salmon-colored corduroys flooding over his loosely-tied moccasins.
“Pablo Kundi” the professor shouted, sweeping through the first day’s roll.
“Here,” he answered, with a voice as soft as the hues of the Sistine Chapel.
And there he was, just sitting there—sitting as though he had been there for hours— his glistening green eyes glued to the chalkboard.
I couldn’t stop staring; I was perplexed. The chubby kid sitting next to me with the huge coffee stain on his two-sizes-too-small polo could have ripped out a fierce wet one and I wouldn’t have noticed.
Kundi? Was that some kind of an Arab name? But he looked so Latin-looking.
Strange, I thought.
“Ellen Von Bergman,” the professor grunted.
I wondered if he had an accent. But what kind of accent would he have? Spanish? Or Arabic? The simple angelic, “here,” he spoke was not clear enough for me to deduce such a question. Strange, I thought.
“Ellen Von Bergman!” the professor yelled this time.
“Shit. umm…here!” I replied, anxiously.
The boy’s eyes suddenly moved from their fixed glare on the blackboard to my embarrassingly manic contortion.
“Such an elegant word coming from such an elegant young lady,” my in-his-late-sixties, 5’2, unpleasantly plump professor retorted.
And then, from Pablo’s face: a faint smile.
“Sorry about that, sir,’” I said.
Class was dismissed and I walked home to my dorm in the most remarkable daze. Who was this Pablo Kundi and what was he doing in my “Roles of the Lesbian Female in Modern Film” class? Was he gay? I mean, the only two other guys in the class were pretty flaming, but not him. He couldn’t be.
I opened the door to my common room and found two of my on-athletic-scholarship dorm-mates wrestling on the floor.
“What would you think if one of your friends was taking a film class focused on female gender identity?” I asked.
“That depends. Is she hot?” 250 pound Bradley replied, his arm clutching Seth’s practically purple neck.
“Yeah…ughh. Aren’t you in that class Elle?” Seth squirmed, barely able to breathe.
“Yes, but I’m asking about the quiet, handsome kid that sits in the back.”
“Wait,” Bradley said, instantly releasing Seth. “They’re actually guys in that class?”
“Yes, Brad, there actually are. But that’s the weird thing. Normally, you know I’d be hardcore pushing my progressive stance that any guy should be able to take a women’s studies class without it making a statement about his sexuality, but, now that I’m actually in a class with one who doesn’t scream out homosexual, I don’t know what to think!”
“Why don’t you just ask him?” Seth said, trying to rub the pain out of his flesh.
“Ask him what?”
“If he’s gay.”
“What the hell? Are you crazy? I haven’t even talked to him yet!”
“Then ask him why he’s taking the class,” Bradley said, helping Seth massage his neck.
“Or that…” Seth asked.
I went to my room and fell asleep for what was supposed to be a 30-minute nap that turned into 4 well-deserved hours of recuperation. It was now 11:50 P.M. and my hypoglycemia was majorly acting up, so I rushed to the dining commons to grab a chimichanga before it closed. Then it happened.
“Where am I?” I whispered, lying on the ground, a few yards from the entrance to the dining common, a stranger’s arm cradling the back of my neck.
“You fainted. I happened to be looking outside my window and saw you from across the way. I rushed here as fast as I could,” spoke a gentle, familiar voice.
When I finally retrieved my full awareness, I looked up and let out a sharp gasp.
“What is it?” the voice shrieked.
It was him—Pablo Kundi from Gender Studies 152. I sat up abruptly.
“Are you all right? What happened?”
Of all the people who could have possibly came to my rescue, it had to be him to see me with my make-up-free blemished skin, my furious bed hair, and my Sailor Moon pajamas.
“Can you hear me?” he asked, his supple hand still cupped behind my neck.
“Well, can you speak?” And there it was again—that alluring smile—the kind you know in your heart to be genuine. No accent, though, I noticed.
“Yes, sorry. Thank you so much. I didn’t eat for a while, so I ran here quick to grab a late dinner, but apparently I didn’t make it all the way,” I said, sounding like a complete moron.
“Oh, don’t even worry about it. I’ve fainted before for the same reason. Young people like us have this mentality that we’re invincible or something, so we go on through the days forgetting we actually need to eat and sleep to survive,” he laughed.
“Too bad we’re not really invincible,” I responded, nervously.
He reached out his right hand; his wrist covered in that Ninja Turtle sweatband, and pulled me up. Then, once we were standing shoulder to shoulder, he wrapped his arm behind my tense lower back, pulled me in close to his slow-beating chest, and kissed me. And there we were—two strangers in the same Gender Identity course, standing outside the college cafeteria—exploring the nature of our genders.
It was by far the most absurd, unexpected thing I had ever done, yet, in the midst of it all; it was one of the few things in my life that made complete sense. I had never spoken to this boy until the single rare occasion in which I stormed out of my dorm disheveled, in a dizzy, glucose-impaired frenzy, yet this was the day that God had chosen for me to experience my first kiss. I had always felt a little insecure for not having kissed a boy by the age of 18, but, after this day, I knew that I had no reason to be ashamed, for in my future held the most epic first kiss you could imagine—the kind we all thought only existed in the imaginary world.
The ending to my story with Pablo Kundi is not the most imaginative, however. We of course saw each other for what were the two most incredible, movie-like weeks—exactly like you would perceive them to be—but everything came to a rapid end when he confessed that he was not allowed to date a non-Muslim girl. Turns out I was right about his name after all.
No, Pablo Kundi did not turn out to be my soul mate or my one true love. In fact, I cannot honestly say that he was even a close friend. And, to this day—at the age of 33—I have still not found that one special person to call my own, but Pablo Kundi was my first kiss and my knight in shining armor my freshman year of college. He taught me that some of the best experiences in life are the ones for which we do not necessarily have any explanations. He taught me to see life for what it is—a bewildering reality of our own imaginations. I still do not know how he happened to find me that late night or what he was doing in Gender Studies 152—ironically, I ended up changing my major to philosophy—but I’ve come to accept that it doesn’t really matter. As Pablo once said, “Once the meaning is extracted, so is the beauty of the foreign.”
By Julio Marcial
“Hello, thank you for calling California Lunchroom! This is James, how may I help you?” James waited for a response; there was no answer.
“…musta’ dialed the wrong number.” He muttered to himself as he hung up the phone. Next to the phone there was a photograph of him and a group of customers standing in front of his home, also known as the California Lunchroom; a self-permitted vendor restaurant. The sign itself was literally painted onto the front of the house, in bold snow-white flaking letters, outlined in black. James stared into the photo deeply; falling into nostalgia, vividly remembering the smell of fresh paint dripping from the wood panels that his bristled brush touched.
One of the men in the photo; Fred, James’ longtime friend was eating lunch with him in the dining room before the phone rang. James sat back down to join him.
“So Fred how was England? How did Karen like it?” James eagerly said as he poured himself a cup of coffee. Fred leaned back in his chair, twirling his glass of wine.
“Well, Nottingham has that vibe of New York City, you know? Tons of people jammed up in the middle of everything, really crowed, it had that fast pace motion, not like here in Cali, nice and slow, but it was beautiful… and Karen, she loved it. She’s actually still there…”
“…still there, really?!” James intervened.
“Really…” Fred put his wine glass down on the table.
“She kept talking about this place, almost redundantly. Every night before she’d go to bed, she’d look out the window tentatively, as if all her dreams where there, there in that city, not the home we were going to come back to. And, when she asked me if she could stay for a few months more or so, I said yes.” James had a hard time buying what Fred was saying, he knew that Karen was his wife and to just leave her there, made him worried.
“When are you going to go back for her?” He asked.
“This winter, and you know what James? You should come with me.”
Before James could respond to the offer, he realized that the wine in Fred’s glass appeared to be at a slant, unparallel with the table. Confused, he looked at his own cup of coffee, and it was fine, absolutely nothing abnormal about it. His eyes began to show his bewilderment.
“You okay?” Fred asked.
“You don’t have to go if you don’t have want too.” He said as he picked up his wine glass.
“Your wine!” James shouted.
“What? It’s delicious.” Fred exclaimed as he took a huge swig of what was left of the wine. James wanted to tell him, but suddenly the phone began to ring, again.
“Ex-Excuse me.” James stuttered over his perplexed thoughts, as he went into the kitchen to answer the phone.
“Hello, this is James…”
A disoriented voice diluted by static; interrupted him.
“…Hello?! Who is this?! Stop calling here!”
Then shortly after, dial-tone echoed through his ear. He put the phone on the counter.
“Who was it?” Fred asked.
“I don’t know, probably some kids tryna’ prank me.” James said uneasily as he looked down at his watch to see what time it was, and then he noticed the minute hand moved counter-clockwise instead of forward. He took off his watch, and placed it on the counter, and tried to put the phone back on the hanger, but spotted in the photograph of his customers that Fred had completely vanished from it. In disbelief, his thoughts on the peculiar subtle events were now collectively racing together, turning his confusion into a deepening scare.
“F-f-fred…” James whispered fearfully.
“I’m right here!” Fred was no longer in the dining room, but directly behind James. Freighted, James turned around quickly, and tried to speak to him.
“How did…you…” But that same familiar disturbing voice began to call his name;
“James…” whispering a thousand times, reverberating across the walls of the kitchen, into the dining room, down and out of the hallways, and back again, over and over and over.
“Do you hear that?!” James shouted. Fred leaned in closer;
“England is a beautiful place in the winter James, and Karen, made the right choice. And you should come back with us… I insist. ” He said with a grave tone. Walking backward away from Fred, James kept hearing his name repeat to a constant.
“Stop! Make it stop!” He cried.
Then almost as if his cries had been granted, there was absolute silence. Not a sound could be heard. James accidentally dropped the phone, and knocked over some pans that were on the counter, as he stumbled backward, but still there was silence. Fred began to speak, however there was no volume escaping from his lips. James lost balance and fell onto the floor, and lied there, as his vision became a grainy, pixilated white blur. The tiles on the kitchen floor, stretched into an infinite horizon, the cabinets drifted away, all that was, became nothing. James tried to see into the distance, and he couldn’t, his sight had become just as disoriented as the voices that called him. In the further places of this white nothingness, the only shadow visible, was that of Fred’s, gesturing James to take his hand.
An erupting calling came from the whitening sky, it was the ringing of the phone, it grew louder and louder.
“No…” James cried to himself.
The ringing became a painful screeching sting in his ears,
“No! I will not answer!” He shouted in agony.
“This isn’t real, this isn’t real! It can’t… be…”
A faint object appeared in his hand, it was the phone, now ringing gently. He gripped it tightly, as warm tears trailed down his cheekbones.
James closed his eyes;
“Hello…” he whispered.
“James? Can you hear me?” Answered the same mysterious voice, except there was no distortion.
“Yes, I can.” He opened his eyes; he was no longer at his home, but in a hospital.
“I’m Doctor Thomas, you’ve just awaken from a five year coma.”
“No… your name’s Fred.”
James was so certain, but the familiar man shook his head no.
By Robin Habil
The clock strikes midnight. Alan Rockwell is only at his fourth beer, which is not acceptable for the man sitting across from him, Bill Holland. They order another round. As they wait for their drinks, Bill stares outside the window and admires the non-scenery. Nothing but impenetrable darkness that surrounds all corners of the dinky twenty-four hour truck stop diner they’re lodging in. It’s existentialism personified, as the night sky is decorated with glimmers of shinning light but so far away that not even they can break the blackness. Even the indifferent barren wasteland of nowhere cries out silence when faced with terrifying horror, but what Bill admires most about the thousand acre of empty space was the accessibility for an unmarked grave.
“Here are your guy’s drinks,” blunted out the waitress, breaking Bill’s gaze. “Thanks toots,” smiled Alan, flirting with the worn out blonde. She crunches her face for a smile and winks with her already half-opened eye. “No problem big guy,” expecting a nice tip at the end of the night. Alan watches her walk away with his trademark chip tooth grin on his face.
“I’ll tell you Bill,” his grin slowly disappears “sometimes, when all said is done like work, bills, cars, sports, politics—it just goes back to our love ones. They are what makes it worth while.” He pauses and takes a swig from his bottle. Bill smirks. “You see, I can’t stand this young generation—who—especially the young guys who go from girl to girl. It doesn’t make sense to me. They’re so ungrateful, they have someone who cares for them, loves them and they just fuck it all up.”
Bill watches his co-worker finish his beer. He was still not convinced, not of the amount of alcohol in his bloodstream and not of his hypocritical speech. In return, he manufactures a counterfeit smile and sympathetic nod while his leather-gloved hand grips the cold piece of metal in his coat pocket. The leather caressing the rough steel patch that was once the serial number that he filed the night before. Picking up his second beer, Bill drinks it slowly and methodically. “That’s a crying shame. I’m guessing you don’t have anyone special in your life?” asked Bill, after drinking only a teaspoon of his beer.
“No, not really,” slurred a buzzed Alan. Opening another bottle, “you see, I had a wife once—Casey. I met her in high school and she was practically the only girl who would talk to me. She was no cheerleader or anything but she gave me a chance y’know.” While Alan rambles on about his ex-wife Casey, Bill tunes out and contemplates about his own harlot.
Her name was Sonia Hesher before they married after graduating from the same university. He studied architecture while she studied drama and like all young professions who came fresh out of college in the middle of an economic downturn, they fell on hard times. Bill was layoff from the company he worked for and couldn’t find another, while Sonia learned the harsh realities of becoming an actress. Both crushed and desperate, Bill took up a job as a truck-driver while Sonia worked as a department store clerk. As the trucker grew weary of driving cross-country, he despised working long hours and like a chain gang prisoner, carried the burden of a large haul. Since the last time he saw Sonia was a week ago and during those caffeine-filled days and nights, his wife grew tired of the asshole costumers and perverted superiors who owned her. But her worst catharsis was that she had none, nothing to confine her but a cold empty room.
The blonde waitress who served them their drinks goes outside for a cigarette break. Bill’s eyes follow her jaded but elegant steps. She smokes under the neon lights of the diner; the low-key lighting reminded him of an old black-and-white film he saw as a kid. He only remembers one thing about the film, the femme fatale. His hand clenches the loaded piece of metal. He squeezes it so hard; he imagines it going off like a hand grenade, taking out both him and his wasted adversary. There is only one thing on his mind, a burning question he keeps asking himself over and over. Why? Looking at Alan’s worn-out clothes that he had been wearing three days straight, his oily slick hair and chipped tooth. Why him? He notices Alan starting to tear up.
“I’m sorry Bill,” slurs out Alan, snot dripping from his left nostril. “I’m really—really—really sorry. Will you ever forgive me?”
“Forgive you for what,” asked Bill, raising an eyebrow.
“I fucked her…I fucked your wife.” Alan sobs louder drawing attention from the diner staff. Bill takes a deep breath and sits back. It feels like he took a left hook to the gut, the revealed truth hurt him as much as the secret truth.
Alan grabs him by the collar and begs. “Please forgive me Bill! She called me a week ago and asked me to come over—she was upset.” Still in his coat pocket, Bill points the concealed firearm at his wife’s dirty secret’s stomach. He removes the safety and cocks it as Alan continues—
“I went over, she needed company—she needed someone to talk to. She got in trouble at work when she snapped at her supervisor who keeps taking pictures of her while she’s not looking. She tried reporting him but she couldn’t prove anything. So she told me this and wanted you so bad but she had to resort to me. You see—we’re both lonely Bill! Just lonely and desperate! She still loves you and she feels like shit for doing it—I feel like shit for doing it. Just forgive me Bill please!” Bill pushes the cold steel deeper into his belly. Alan’s eyes is so dead set on his judge’s mercy that he doesn’t feel his executioner’s wrath.
Bill’s finger shakes on the trigger. He takes heavy breaths; the alcohol of adrenaline starts to kick in. His lower lip shivers and eyes become watery. Gritting his teeth, he glares at Alan like a defenseless fetus and he the abortionist. A clothesline away and he will no longer exist. No one in the diner tried to stop the two, enjoying the dramatic scene, which gave them a temporary ticket of escape from their mundane routine. Alan bows his head to him like a king, “please Bill, I’ll do anything to make it up to you.”
Bill gives him a hard look. He studies his face when he looks up at him. What he saw were puffy blood-shot eyes, tears and mucus running down his cheek. The smell of alcohol in his breath and that was when Bill knew it was time. He searches for that condescending tooth grin smile as signal to pull the trigger but all that came out was a scowl of bulletproof humanity.
“You’re gonna make it up to me?” asked the abortionist to the fetus. “How?”
“I don’t know…whatever fits the crime,” the fetus mutters.
Bill takes a moment and finally steadies his shaking trigger finger.
“All right, fair enough,” proclaimed the surgeon of death.
His hands so sure and precise, he takes the loaded firearm and retracts it.
“You can pay for these drinks”, he ordered.
While driving Alan to his place, he sees him passed out in the passenger’s seat. Gripping the wheel even tighter, he examines his surroundings. It was perfectly dark and ironically dead, his 14-wheeler was the only vehicle on the road. The piece of metal has never been heavier still waiting in his coat pocket. The driver shakes his head franticly and pulls over to the side of the road. He turns off the engine, his passenger still asleep. An intense glare is plastered on the emotionless stare of the driver. He slowly puts his hand into his coat pocket. They were alone surrounded by nothingness; it was a surreal dream turn into a nightmare. Suddenly, Bill’s peripherals catches something on the dashboard, he turns and spots the picture of his wife. He looks into the picture: her hazel-brown eyes, her shiny brown hair that flows down her shoulders and small dimples attached to a chastise smile. He smiles back. Without a blink he takes his hand out of his coat pocket and turns on the engine.
Bill drops the deadweight he called Alan at his place. He gives him one last look, how his body was laid out on the doorstep resembled a human outline of a crime scene. He chuckles at the idea and drives off.
He quietly sneaks into the bedroom of his small apartment home where Sonia slumbers under white sheets. She doesn’t hear him come in. She doesn’t feel his presence on the opposite side of the bed. Bill watches her sleep, pondering the content look on her face as he waits for her to awake.