All posts by Aaron Echoes August

Independent content creator, author, former print and digital journalist, and trying really hard to be a diligent husband. I am the publisher and editor of Cereal After Sex, an eccentric online journal/magazine focused on social commentary and fiction with an unpredictable edge. I reside in Tennessee, US.

The Boy With The Spanish Bayonet

Her cactus bed smelled like butter nectar. She swears that lying down on the thorns helps her back, yet all the red marks there on her skin, looks like she was nearly eaten alive by fire ants.

Fire ants. She remembers the hot summer day when she was maybe 12 and she was playing in a field in Colorado with the boy who lived next door. He was a year or two older and she liked him, so she didn’t mind playing in a hot, thorny field in Colorado.

The fire ants build great volcano looking mounds and they were streaming in and out of the top of them like an army. The boy thought it would be fine and fun to destroy their mounds. He gripped big stones and hurled them at the ants. The sand and dirt splattered like a bomb hit. The ants grew angry, and their movements sped up as if someone pressed a button… And then the bites came, all over her legs, his legs. The pain made her cry, and she was embarrassed, and she ran home.

Her mother was upset that she had gotten bit by the ants while playing with the cute boy next door. She made her stay inside and so she sat near the window and watched him play football with her brothers in the long yard between their houses. When she knew he saw her there, she smiled and made kissy faces at him.

Then her mother came up behind her with a thin stick cut from a lilac bush and in a threatening way she tapped the stick against her motherly palm, and she said, “I don’t want you around that boy. He has problems and will be nothing but trouble for you.”

The girl looked up at her mother. “What problems? He doesn’t have problems. He’s just a boy.”

“He’s not just a boy,” the mother sternly answered. “He’s a dweller in the darkness.”

And perhaps he was, for just the other day he had been out in his front yard wrestling with one of the neighbor boys who lived around the corner and up the hill that led to the foothills. It was supposed to just be a fun thing, but the troubled boy took it too personally and started punching the other in the ribs as hard as he could. When the meeker boy was breathless and writhing on the ground, the troubled boy cut a green spear from a Spanish bayonet plant growing at the edge of the yard and proceeded to stab him in the stomach with the sharp point.

The boy started crying out in pain and that’s when the troubled boy’s mother came bounding out of the house yelling at him to stop. She yanked him aside and berated him in front of the other kids gathered there in the yard. She shook him as she screamed at him, “What are you doing!? You’re hurting him! Stop it! Stop it you crazy child!”

He pulled away from her and grinned. He couldn’t help it. “We were just playing,” he said.

“Stabbing is not playing,” the mother corrected him. “Get in the house!”

As he walked away, he turned and saw that his mother had knelt near the boy he stabbed with the Spanish bayonet, and she was caring for him. She was caring for him, this weak boy, this new boy, this stranger boy. She was caring for him more than she had ever cared for him. Maybe that’s why he was crazy and reckless and dangerous and unstable.

The girl’s name was Linda, and she was Middle Eastern in a way and so her parents were strict. The boy’s name was Coal, but not the normal Cole, Coal like the earthly material. They decided to meet one day in the Netherlands, not the country but a place beyond the new neighborhood that was pressed up against the foothills of the green Rocky Mountains, a place undeveloped and open. There was a strip of forest that was dissected by a cold mountain creek, and there was a trail that ran along the creek and the trail meandered far and deep until it ran up against the very base of the mountains.

It was in these Netherlands that the outsiders would escape to. It was in these Netherlands that Linda and Coal decided to go to together. They walked side-by-side. She reached out to hold his hand. He held it loosely. She stopped and turned to look at him. “Do you want to kiss me?”

He moved quickly and did it. The he turned his attention back to the exploration. “That’s the reason for all life in the world, human life, I mean.”

“What is?” she asked.

“That kiss… A kiss like that is the start of everything for humanity and beyond. Just look around at the world and everyone you see walking or talking or falling down. It’s all because of a kiss.” He picked up a rock and tossed it. They heard it smack against the trunk of a tall pine.

Her heart smiled at the sound of his words. She thought he was everything. “But it takes more than a kiss,” she said.

He stopped and looked at her. “But not today. I want to remember that kiss just the way it happened. Nothing more and nothing less. So, leave it at that.”

“Okay,” she smiled. “I’ll leave it at that.”

“Until I say different… But let’s make a fire. I like to look into the flames. I like to look through the little Russian black doors.”

“What do you see on the other side of those doors?”

“Most of the time I see nothing but more flames. I think that it means that life means nothing to me.”

“How can life mean nothing to you?” she asked as she followed his lead and picked up twigs and set them in a pile. Then she helped him gather stones to make a fire ring.

Coal looked down at the gathering of stones once it was a complete circle. He assembled the sticks inside, laid out the kindling below, set fire to it with a yellow cigarette lighter. The flames attacked the dry wood. There was crackling and smoke and the smell of a campfire.

They sat down on the ground around it. Coal seemed mesmerized. Linda watched him. “What do you see now?”

“I see a future fraught with upheaval… You may want to do yourself a favor and step away from me.”

“My mom says you’re a ‘dweller in the darkness.’”

“She’s not wrong.” Coal turned away from looking at the flames and fixed his eyes on her. “That’s why my name is Coal,” and he spelled it out loud, “C-O-A-L. But that was my doing, not my mother or father’s. I mean, the name and the darkness… Is it true that your family are terrorists?”


“Because everyone at school says your family is from Iran and that you are all terrorists. Your brother, at least, seems like a terrorist to me.”

“He’s not a terrorist. None of us are. People are so stupid. We lived over there because of my dad’s job. That’s where he met my mom. So yeah, I’m part Iranian but I’m not a terrorist. Small minds…”

“Do you want to get high and go listen to Rush in my bedroom?”

“I’ve never gotten high. What’s it like?”

“It’s weird. Hard to explain. But everything changes. Perception changes, sound changes, time changes. I want to see what it’s like to kiss you when I’m high.”

She was intrigued by that idea. “Are you sure I won’t go crazy?”

“I can’t promise you that.”

“Are we ever going to be more than this?”

He ignored her question as he worked to douse the fire with dirt.

“Are we?”

Years later, Linda sat on the edge of her cactus bed and blinked her eyes and took a breath. “What am I doing with my life? What are any of us doing with our lives?”


The Cloud City of Nashville

Photo by Mont Photographs on

And there I was, raspy as a ghost lost in time, so drunk on the night that I tried to put a pair of glasses on over another pair I was already wearing.

Earlier I had been in the bookstore in the cloud city of Nashville. I saw the metal and glass buildings—squares, oblongs, towers, spires, spheres, all golden blue and silver and the clouds hung heavy in the heat because it was in the June of the year and all was warm and sticky in the world and there was this girl in a pink shirt and sea-blue capris and she was wandering around with her glasses and her cocked head reading titles on the shelves at an angle and she had a fantastic ass and I tried to bump into her but she was rebuff in her intellectually stimulating breasts.

I was too coy and couldn’t do it as she melted into the aisles of made up things by made up beings and all around was the roar of human traffic as they found joy in the pickings there, like air it was for me, to breathe, in that sea of paper and ink and pictures and descriptions and all those heads like I say, cocked at an angle to decipher the spines, and there that girl again making eyes and saying she wanted to be my wife for one thousand years and then some and I couldn’t help but splay forth my guts and heart and say YES! YES! I’ll do it because I love you madly like no other love there ever was and she took my hand, and she took my books, and she took me to the front, and she paid for everything I wanted and then boom we were off through the glass doors and out into the steam heat of the cloud city of Nashville.

And we went forth along the wide lanes and the wild rush of the engines and the people sailing like maniacs because everyone, dear everyone, was rushing mad like wild old time western folk trying to get somewhere that wasn’t even all that important in the end and boom we go, and boom we row, this maiden of love and cornflower eyes, the perfect lips, the perfect kiss, and we went back to the town on the outer edge of this cloud city of Nashville and it was still hot and the engines still roared and we went into a store , a small grocery store and I wandered around like a weirdo looking at meat like someone may look at art and I picked up a spiraled ham and I threw it across the store and it hit the floor somewhere and I just hear someone hollerin’ about loitering and all the world comes rushing in to accuse my abuse and say I am nothing but King Kong wrong and I slam that golden gong like a monk in search of just some god damn peace and quiet! Paradise…

I was just released from the cell of Sith meditation in the Red City called Hell Street, the place of magic cauldrons and bellows and mattress motion from the fornication fry house, spy house, back to it we go…

Earlier still we had been driving on the mad freeways, life and death all churning and burning in a soup of rapidity, insanity, the leopard engines roared like mad, and all signs pointed to my nerves, my hyped-up hypomania, a clockwork chicken fried steak plops onto a plate, and this is life, life like the movies, life like liquid, all the goings on behind steamy windows… The window cleaners dangled above the cloud city of Nashville, their canopy tilted, their boards wilted, and then it was just restless space and reflections, blue glass reflections of life in all directions.

Ravioli River

Photo by Bethany Hicks on

He had a wandering image that followed him, something about ravioli in a lonely café somewhere on the other side of the world. Light rays harken down thin alleyways, the sun an orange ball in the sky, the clouds clotted with heat, melting like a sorcerer’s tongue on acid, leopards and leprechauns leaping over the moon, shirt tails caught on the quarter point that hangs down, a broken piece of cheese, a nightlight. “Right, right,” Alex says.

Fright night. The nerves are ticking like wax paper snuffing terminal electrical anxiety lamps. The rain patters against the window, a crazy man in gloves comes for a visit at midnight. The rotten guts of a warlock wreak havoc on a Long Beach bungalow. Crystal quartz hearts conduct energy like a psychotic maestro.

Daybreak den wake. He slithers out of a chair like a pale snake, a voided king at the precipice of gigantic sin. He puts two quarters into the coffee machine and waits for the dark brown dribble to come out of the hole and flow into a red cup. He preps his mind for complicated mathematics, genital schematics. He sits down at his worktable, clicks on a lamp, readies his chisel and hammer, and goes to work carving a notorious-bound puppet.

Once fully formed, the man fills the puppet with fear and anxiety. He stuffs it in like seasoned ricotta into a pasta shell until overflowing. He zippers up his flesh, sets him on the ground and winds him up like a pure machine. He watches as the young and inexperienced toy soldier marches off to war, the battle with life, the battle with God. Explosions abound in his wake.

The man breathes a sigh relief as his new creation disappears beyond the horizon. Now, it is time to rest, to eat some ravioli on the banks of Ravioli River, to drink some wine, to dream of more fiendish things about love and life, to look out upon the street and simply watch the ripple of time pass by.

The Salaman

Photo by Mikou0142aj Kou0142odziejczyk on

The Salaman stood inside a half-circle shower stall made of smooth zoo stone and let the water spray upon him. Cliff was in a rubber suit and wearing high rubber boots and he stood outside the stall, his hands gripping a thick green hose that shot out a forceful stream of water. “Raise your arms and let me wash out those pits,” the zookeeper barked at him. He looked down between the Salaman’s legs and nodded with his head. “And make sure to wash that rotten crotch of yours, too. No woman is going to want to go down on that if you’re dirty.”

“How about a fresh bar of soap, comrade?” the Salaman asked in his deep voice.

Cliff scowled. “I gave you a fresh bar last week. How can you possibly use so much god damn soap?”

“Zip it. I like to be clean, you bastard.”

The zookeeper sighed, twisted a valve on the hose and walked off for a moment. When he returned, he unwrapped a fresh bar of soap and tossed it to him. “Here.”

The Salaman snatched it out of the air with one chimp-like hand. “Thanks.” He proceeded to lather up his lean, hairy body to the point he looked like a five-foot, nine-inch pillar of suds. “Have you seen her yet?” he asked through the foam. “Am I going to be glad she was on the menu?”

The zookeeper relaxed his stance some. “She’s a good-looking woman in a tight package if that’s what you mean. But remember, no romance.”

“I know. I’m glad you were able to secure some prey for me. And she is also aware of the stipulations?”

“Of course. We went over all of it with her.”

“No cuddling. No follow-up calls. No relationships whatsoever. And especially down the road when the little rug rats pop out. I don’t like kids; I just like making them.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Cliff repeated with a certain degree of frustration. “It’s all in the contract.”

“Because you know, I’m not one for love,” the Salaman explained once again. “There can never be love. If it ever turns into love, my life here at the zoo will be over, and I can’t have that. I’d never survive in the world out there. This is my home.”

“Yes, yes, we are all aware,” Cliff said. “The world is no place for an animal such as yourself.”

“Spray me off now,” the Salaman ordered, and Cliff reignited the hose and white suds flowed off the Salaman’s body like lava down the side of a volcanic mountain. Once he was completely free of the suds, he motioned to Cliff to shut off the water. He stood there naked and dripping, waiting for the zookeeper to hand him a large, fluffy, white towel. He dried himself and then wrapped the towel around his waist and stepped into a pair of leather sandals.

“Would you like to go out into your enclosure and look at the sunrise before you hump her?”

“I would like that, Cliff. And I like that you know me so well, all my quirks and my keen interest in things like nature and astronomy.”

“And your films.”

“That reminds me. I think after mating I’d like to watch ‘Taxi Driver’ again.”

“That’s a good one.”

“One of the best.”

“That DeNiro is one hell of an actor.”

The Salaman nodded his head in agreement as they made their way through a heavy metal door to the outside enclosure. “I really do like how much you understand me, Cliff old boy. It’s fulfilling. Like I always say, you’re a good egg.”

“It’s my job. I do my best.”

The metal door closed with a heavy clang behind them. The Salaman looked up and sucked a deep breath from the morning air as they stepped out into it. “You know what my favorite planet is, Cliff?”

He sighed because he knew the joke but played along. “No. What’s your favorite planet?”


“Oh really?”

“What I meant to say is, well, not your anus, her anus,” he clumsily tried to explain. “Oh bother, what the hell am I even talking about?”

“Ass, I think. I’m not certain. Perhaps you’re just a bit worked up as you ready yourself for mounting.”

“Perhaps. I hope I’m not coming down with something. Germs. What horrible things. How about some hand sanitizer?”

Cliff the zookeeper patted himself down in search of the small bottle he always kept with him as the Salaman held out a hand.

“You know, during my days back in the real world, people used to make fun of me for using so much hand sanitizer, but mark my word, Cliff old boy, some day in the future, maybe 20 years or so from now, hand sanitizer is going to be one hot item. I have a sense about such things. I can feel it.”

“Found it. Here you go,” and he squirted a glob of the liquid into the Salaman’s waiting hand. “Now rub vigorously,” Cliff instructed.

“That’s what I plan on telling this hot babe today,” the Salaman said with a devilish grin, his perfect teeth glistening under the dimmed park lights of yellowish morning glory blue and pink.

 “I don’t doubt it,” Cliff said.

“You can leave me now and check to see if she’s ready.”

“Do you think you’ll ever let me warm one of them up? I could really use the practice, and the exercise. Because, you know how it’s been between my wife and I.”

The Salaman clamped a sympathetic hand on the little gray man’s shoulder. “I’m sorry you don’t get any action, Cliff old boy. I truly am. But you must face reality. Look at yourself. You look like Arnold Horshack in the future. The women would run off screaming and where would that leave me?” he asked rhetorically. “With big, aching balls, that’s where.”

In the interior part of the Salaman’s zoo enclosure, there was a separate area off to one side with a luxurious four-poster bed draped with sheer curtains and Cliff had instructed her to wait there for him.

When the Salaman arrived, he moved aside a red drape and entered. He still had the towel wrapped around his waist, but he quickly undid it and it dropped to the floor before her revealing the legendary tool of animalistic penetration. The woman moved to the edge of the bed to get a closer look at him. Her eyes widened.

“Why don’t you take a picture, it will last longer,” he said to her.

The woman was taken back and looked up at him. “I’m not going to end up on that Internet thing, am I?”

“It’s a figure of speech, lady. What bus did you come in on? The one from Ding-A-Ling Town?”

“I was out for my morning run when that man approached me.”

The Salaman stepped over to a video camera perched on a tripod and turned it on. He peered through the lens, aimed it toward the bed, angled it just right, and made a couple of adjustments. “You left us an address to send your souvenir videotape to, right?” he asked.

She crinkled her brow and sighed. “Yes. In discreet packaging?”

“I run a reputable operation. If I say discreet, I mean discreet.”

“Because, god, if my husband ever gets a hold of this.”

“Don’t be dumb and leave it in the VCR, or, for an extra charge, we can provide you with a DVD. Do you have a DVD player?”

“Not yet. We’re thinking about it.”

“You should. Nearly flawless playback. Crisp, clean. I like that.”

“Can we please just get on with the sex? I heard you really know how to bury the seed.”

“You’re not wrong.”

“I hope I’m not. My biological clock is ticking.”

“Do I look like Father Time?”

“I mean, you guarantee it right? That’s what I was told.”

“If you’re not satisfied, come back again until you are. That’s my policy. It’s in the contract. Don’t you know how to read?”

“Yes, I know how to read.”

“Then put down the book and unzip it.”


“Get naked,” he ordered. She shed her remaining clothes and waited.

He walked around the edge of the bed, looking her over. “Did you wash yourself?”


“Because you’re required to wash yourself.”

“I know. I did.”

“Soap and water?”


“Spread yourself and let me see.”


“Do I stutter? I said spread yourself.”

She did as he ordered, and the Salaman closely inspected her. He grunted an approval, cracked his knuckles, and loosened his neck. “Now,” he commanded. “Make like a dog and I’ll give you a bone,” and he quickly moved on her like a jungle beast attacking its prey.

“Well, Cliff, I must say, that was refreshing,” the Salaman said to him as they lounged on lawn chairs inside the enclosure and looked up at the blue sky and a train of clouds. “I really gave it to her… And she took it like a real pro.”

“Congratulations on all your sexual success,” Cliff said halfheartedly.

“O, come on, Cliff. What’s the matter.”

He pointed up to the sky. “Time’s ticking down for me my friend. Just look at it. You can see the world just moving on and moving on and me along with it. My time is almost up. I can feel it in my bones.”

“Ah, knock it off, Cliff. You still got plenty left in you.”

“Do I now?”

“Sure, you do. Just because you’re not banging fresh meat every day… Don’t you have any hobbies?”

“Hobbies? Not really. I come to work. I go home. I watch television with the misses. I eat, drink, sleep. And church on Sundays.”

“Hmm… Say, you seem to have some interest in film. How about the next time I have a breeding session I let you operate the camera?”

Cliff excitedly sat forward. “You would really let me do that!?”

“Sure… You wouldn’t be uncomfortable, would you?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Just don’t try and play with yourself. I don’t need these hot babes running off screaming.”

Cliff scoffed. “Oh, brother. I wouldn’t do that. I’d do a good job. I’d take real pride in it.”

“I’m sure you would, Cliff. I’m sure you would… Hey, it’s a glorious day. Why don’t you go get us two boxes of animal crackers and let’s celebrate… You know, the ones that look like a train and have the white string attached.”

Cliff groaned. “Oh, boy. This is what my life has come to… Fetching animal crackers.”

The Salaman glanced over at him and smiled victoriously. “Yes, Cliff. It is.”

A Mail Slot Groveet

Photo by Phil Ledwith on

Shards of grass, comatose glass, liquified emotions in a cage of all the rage baked and sliced and handed by. Replicants rest by water drip. Sleeping with window veils pulled wide, the city outside, aglow in its ambers and blues, the steaming hues, the pink bruises, the cottonmouth blooms, the glistening tombs.

Azio turns his head to see. The sleepers are holding him down. A witch arrives in a gong gown, right through the wall she comes, like a whisper in satin. She numbs the air with her voice: “The dreams you’ll need, the dreams you’ll feed…”

There’s leftover coconut cake in the refrigerator. Azio looks at it as it sits on a plate in the overbearing light. He grabs a carton of melk, pours a glass, thinks about shapely ass. He grinds on the coconut with his teeth. It feels good to him. A plate and glass clink. The refrigerator blinks, then says goodnight.

He lies back down, the symphonic band plays in his head. The bed sucks him in like quicksand, the sand man has a noose, “Sleep, forever sleep,” he too whispers with sinister intent. It’s during the night the beings really crawl out from inside his oversized mind to take a bite.

And he remembers riding the snake through High Dallas. The things man has made, he wonders. Or was it men at all? He likes to think not. The machine swayed as it moved on its elliptical course around the city. The people there swayed with it. He recalls the frightened eyes, the dead eyes, the dumb eyes. All the eyes full of lies. He remembers the moving mouths, the lazy legs, the twitching hands, the Easter eggs from outer space.

See, the egg is a symbol of life, Azio thinks in his cyberpunk bed suit. He turns to look at the invisible her. “Why don’t you ever want me?” he confesses. She’s 100 billion miles away, running through a green meadow together, hand-in-hand, with a perfect robot. The insomnia devils stab at him with red pitchforks now. They torture him with these scenarios of lust on a ship. A buttered orgy ensues.



There stands a window of gray, impenetrable. Clocks sway like soldiers’ hooves. The popping of the bombs as they hit the ground wails on and on outside. A flagship mothership spins like a top in the sky. Beams of fire rain down. The extraterrestrials have finally decided enough was enough. Earth had to be eliminated. The humans were tainting the universe with their bric-a-brac ways.

Years before, inside an auto parts store in Morlockowoc, Wisconsin, a new employee named Finnian Lake stood behind the counter. He was so nervous he was shaking. He didn’t know anything about auto parts, yet there he was. How? Why? Societal pressure to earn money. Familial pushing. A jackass father-in-law who thought he was George Jones. He had entrenched in Finnian that it was in his best interest to get in on the ground floor of an up and coming auto parts chain store. The company eventually went under due to poor management.

“But I know nothing about auto parts,” Finnian tried to tell him.

The father-in-law looked at him with disgust. “Then learn.”

On his very first day, someone called the store wanting to know if they had a certain engine in stock. “An entire engine?” Finnian asked. “Don’t you maybe just need some windshield washer fluid?”

The tool on the other end of the line rattled off some numbers, some dimensions, some code. Finnian scrambled through a thick catalog to try and find what he was talking about. He waited a few minutes. “Nope. Sorry. We don’t have it.”  But maybe they did. Finnian had no clue. He didn’t ask anyone else. He just simply gave up because to him it was all utter bullshit.

Years later, it was a blustery Sunday in Morlockowoc, Wisconsin, and Finnian Lake was inside a Piplee’s fast-food restaurant eating a spicy chicken sandwich and fries with an orange soda. He was suddenly bamboozled by a loud commotion up at the front registers. A woman was arguing with one of the managers about how her order was all messed up. She was being real nasty about it, but the manager was being nasty back.

He was a big black guy who barely fit into his uniform and Finnian thought to himself how much he resembled a professional wrestler—The Fast-Food Force of Evil they would call him—and then the customer came on with a barrage of racial slurs and that’s when things really went up a notch or 13.

This was when Finnian retrieved his Canon EOS R10 mirrorless camera and began filming. He was shocked as the manager dragged the screaming woman outside to the parking lot. He smacked her around with his big hands a few times until she fell to the ground. He kicked her in the gut. He then picked her up, lifted her high over his head, and body slammed her onto the pavement. One could almost hear the crunching of bones. She barely moved after that.

Finnian went out to the parking lot and joined the gathering crowd looking down at her. He pushed in and stood right above her; the camera zoomed in on her aching emotions. She was all whacked up and battered and moaning like a bitch. “Seems like you got what you deserved, misses,” Finnian said to her, and he dropped his drained paper soft drink cup down on her. Some of the other people clapped and cheered and Finnian smiled to them before getting into his car and driving off.

When he got back to his small abode of yellow brick that rested in a nice neighborhood near the shore of one of the Great Lakes, he set up his Canon EOS R10 mirrorless camera and other vlogging equipment in the front room. His latest episode on Tik Tok would be about the woman being body slammed in a fast-food restaurant parking lot. Great stuff, he thought. Really great stuff. There’s nothing like witnessing the pain of others. Especially when it is perfect strangers in agony, he oddly thought.

He edited the footage he had shot earlier and then went to work recording his introduction. He took his stance and smiled at the camera. “Hi guys, welcome back, Fabulous Finnian here. I’ve got some crazy ass footage for you today. That’s right. Seems one of the manager’s down at Piplee’s doesn’t take too kindly to unruly customers who complain about chicken and berate him with bigoted slurs. Check this out… Whoa. Slam. Damn! But if you ask me, she had it coming to her. She was being a complete racist bitch! Just goes to show, it doesn’t pay to be a whiny asshole. Thanks again for watching, guys. Make sure to share, subscribe, and have a great day.”  

“Now this,” he said to himself proudly. “This is what I was meant to do… Not struggle to sell god damn auto parts!” he said that last part with gusto and then flipped up his middle finger in the direction of bad memories.

He packed up his video blogging gear and stowed it away in the proper places because he was an organized person. He sat down in a chair in the front room and looked out the window. It started to rain and so he decided to take a walk. He filled his backpack with imported IPAs and a ham sandwich.

He went out the front door and across the street to the nearby park. The rain was overly wet and slightly cold. He went down a hill and across an open field of neatly cut grass. At the other end was a clump of forest. He wandered through the trees, paused beneath a wide bough to get out of the rain for a moment. He went down a steep hill and came out to the shoreline of one of the Great Lakes. The rain was filling the basin even higher. Waves wrapped around themselves, dropped, spilled their energy.

He found a large, white rock that resembled a table and sat down on it. He reached into his pack for a beer and cracked it open. He took one long drink until the can was completely drained. The rain lessened and felt warmer. The sun was trying to force its way through the gray clouds. Birds were chirping. Ambient cyberpunk meditation music dripped from the air. It reminded him of Blade Runner. He wondered if he was merely a Replicant.

“A replica of what?” he asked the gods of the mountain. He reached for another beer and drained that as well. He unwrapped his ham sandwich and ate it. Sea birds tried to make a dive for it. They were white angels with horizontal wings, squawking, demanding, chittering like loaded dice.

Someone suddenly appeared on the surface of the water. They were walking toward him. It was a large man with a scowl. He glowed. He stepped onto the shore. His feet were bare and wet. “You!” he said to Finnian, and he pointed. “You bamboozled me years ago when I was trying to find an engine for my truck. Why did you lie to me!?”

“What!? What!? What is this!?”

“You once worked in an auto parts store here, did you not?”

“I did, but only for four days.”

The engine ghost man laughed. “Figures! You sucked at it!”

“I’m sorry I deceived you… I was so far out of my element that I barely existed.”

The engine ghost man came over and sat upon the rock with him. He sighed, looked at the empty beer cans on the ground. “You litter, too?”

“I was going to pick them up and pack them out. I would never do such a thing to this glorious place.”

They both looked out at the churning, wet water. “Where did you come from? How did you do that… Walk on the water,” Finnian wanted to know.

“There’s no special trick to it. You’ll be able to do it once you’re dead.”

“You mean I can walk wherever I want, and I won’t drown?”

“As long as you don’t want to, you will not drown.” The engine ghost man looked at him. “You know that truck ended up rotting away in my driveway because of you.”

“I’m sorry. I really am,” Finnian said. “I was pushed into it by oppressive forces. I should have never been there. Believe me, I suffered greatly for it.”

“I’m sure you did. But none of that matters now… Hey, do you have any more beers?”

Finnian reached into his pack and pulled one out for him. “Here you go.”

The engine ghost man studied the shiny can. “Hmm, high gravity. Excellent.”

Finnian thought for a moment, and then asked him. “Do you want to come back to my house and watch a bitch get body slammed?”

The engine ghost man chuckled through a tilt of the beer. “You bet I do.”


The Zodiac Salamander

Photo by RDNE Stock project on

Alabaster eggplants frolic in a purple haze. Munchkins drop acid and watch Wizard of Oz repeatedly until one jumps out a window. Wood gnomes with shotguns play patriots on the streets of D.C. The world looks at them and laughs. Sharpie abusers make cardboard signs declaring freedom and love. Love? Love runs rampantly abused. There is no such thing as a pair of dice. Las Vegas doldrums, sadness in a sea of glitter and gold. The tin man walks against the tide, his metal hide, the mental ride, rising, like Calypso. He feels sick to his stomach and vomits nails. He’s so visual yet so invisible. All those magnetic eyes stuck to the rides, plowing the sleigh bells, the conch shells, halls of injustice carpeted in velvet and blood. The soul ship arrives, to take us on a ride, to the other side.

His heart is dwindling, his skin is splitting, magic means nothing. He has a heroin sandwich for lunch on the 32nd floor. The room is quiet except for the soft whirr of an invisible A/C unit. He steps out onto the veranda, looks over the edge, the city roars, there’s wild boars, mandible monsters pound the pavement, the invisible man falls… No one even sees the crash. It’s all madness walking over and clockwork cuckoo skins. The fountains spray jest, the endless hallways cradle the wild, the wind, the sin, the ever-flowing gin. There’s sonic bathhouses and orbital areolas, Italian soda kisses that send some to Kingdom Come.

Flight patterns are all nonsense now, like sauerkraut rainbows, mint gravy, acidic donuts, laundry detergent made by skunks. The wires are so loose, obtuse, full of fruit juice. Here we go. The whore canals swell in their suits of lies, another tried and died, another tear-filled sky, standing on the deck of the wet city, the rain finally flies to wash away all the deliberate unlove.  

And now there are men who think they are animals, and they pay to live in a glass cube at the zoo…

When one gazed into the room, his eyes were like little red lights… Little traffic lights they were, in that bloom of darkness. But when he stepped out of that darkness some, his eyes then turned green, as if fireflies were bouncing around inside his head and peering out the eye holes. And when he finally came full into the light, he would blink madly, and his eyes took on a golden glow. It’s because he’s an animal. It’s because he’s a human animal, a man who lives in a cage at the zoo. The sign outside his enclosure reads: The Zodiac Salamander. He’s an amphibious being with fire for feelings.

Cat food chaos envelops the world, the morning, the night, the knights of the trapezoid table. Maximum fluoride, ambient chloride, synthetic metropolis, a glimpse from the cage. He sees the eyes stare back at him, the monkey grins, the Karen chagrins, the popcorn tossers and word salad snipers. The girl cracks the skin of a banana, takes one lonely bite, throws what remains at him to see if he’ll play chimp. Gimp. Shrimp. A wholly cocktail to turn him different colors. The sky is a blue sheet of frosting, the clouds twisted puffs of cream, he lives in a dream, a chocolate fountain by his bed, a loaded gun to take off his head.

The purple bus steams as it waits, passengers fidget in the queue, he watches as it pulls away toward a desert moon, a wandering bride swallows a monsoon. He’s satiated where he stays, the curtains of his command center are frayed…

“Why can’t I be just like everyone else?” he asked himself as he stood before a circular mirror inside the Gilligan hut that stood inside the larger enclosure. “Because I don’t want to be like everyone else,” he answered his own question. “I’m not merely a man, I’m a man who’s an animal… I’m animalistic. I am extreme. See how my eyes glow?”

The Zodiac Salamander got on a black telephone attached to one wall of the hut and pressed some square numbers. “Hello, central operations? It’s the human animal again. Say, when am I going to get some hot prey to mount? Isn’t it mating season yet? Can someone bring me the menu?”

He paused as someone on the other end of the line spoke.

“Uh huh. Right. I understand. Not too many willing participants? Now I don’t understand… Uh, huh. Right. Society frowns upon human breeding experiments at a zoo facility?”

Again, he paused as someone on the other end of the line spoke.

“Well, surely you can find some wandering aimless babe looking for a good time. My hanging fruit is ripe and full and I’m about to blow a packet of seed. So, when you do, let me know. Thanks.” He set the receiver back upon its cradle. “Damn society and all its correctness despite all its ill repute. This societal schism is giving me mental illness.”

The zoo wasn’t a big city zoo in a well-known place. It was a small zoo out on the edge of a brutal southwestern town on the fringes of the mad desert. The animal animals were limited to the usual small-town zoo fare plus various creatures that were native to the region. The Zodiac Salamander was neighbor to foxes, coyotes, a black bear, bison, devil snakes, lizards, icky spiders, evil goats, a long-horn steer, brooding vultures, and a passionate mountain lion.

After watching the movie Taxi Driver—his favorite—for the 919th time, the Zodiac Salamander stepped out from his hut and into the open air of the enclosure. He liked taking time to look up at space before he went down for the night. The jagged universe tossed back its grand array of colors and shapes and the milk of the Milky Way spilled and ran down across the faces of all the stars and other celestial objects.

It was just then that a small, gray man came into view beneath the light of the moon. The Zodiac Salamander sniffed the air. “Cliff? Is that you, Cliff? Cliff old boy?”

The man stepped forward to reveal his true self. “It’s me. How are you tonight?”

He sighed a painful sigh. “I’m lonely, Cliff. They’re not bringing me any women to mount. I have needs, Cliff. I have animalistic urges.”

“I suppose they haven’t found a proper mate yet,” Cliff answered. He scratched at his head. “These things take time, but I’ll see what I can do.”

“You’re a good egg, Cliff, and my favorite zookeeper.”

Cliff looked up at the stars. “Do you ever consider the sheer vastness of space?” he asked.

The Zodiac Salamander followed his track up to the heavens. “All the time.”

“Yet we toil with such meaningless wonders here on Earth. For instance,” Cliff pointed out to him. “My greatest worry is not being left alone or the fate of my everlasting soul… It’s will I be able to afford the rent or be able to buy enough food or keep the lights on. Isn’t that just such a terrible way for a man to have to be?”

The Zodiac Salamander nodded his head in agreement. “That’s why I’ve chosen to live how I live. My only true concerns are of a deep and primitive nature. I let the world out there worry itself to death. I mean, what can I do it about it. My hands are tied.”

Cliff tapped at his fuzzy gray head. “It can make a man go insane. We weren’t meant to live like this, yet here we are, living like this.”

“Sounds like you need to mount some female prey, Cliff. You’re wound tighter than a toy top.”

Cliff laughed at that suggestion. “I’m afraid my mounting days are over.”

The Zodiac Salamander frowned at the thought of the same thing happening to himself one day.

“Well,” Cliff said. “I need to finish my rounds. Unless I do myself in, I’ll be back at the crack of dawn’s early light to hose you down.”