Delirious as a blowtorch and begotten in the luminosity of love — This is the infamous out-of-orbit literary journal that delivers storytelling fit for a gathering around fire. Home to unpredictable fiction, revealing personal essays, bitter social assessments, subversive hymns, underwater obscenities, uplifting bad news, veiled confessions, hints of the erotic… And maybe even some dicey advice.
My wife and I love watching House Hunters, especially the international version of the show. It’s been a thing for us for a long, long time. We love to yell at the people for making stupid choices.
Now, we know a lot of the show is fake and from what I read the people have already made the choice of what house they want even before they are filmed “house hunting.” I also read that sometimes the show utilizes younger actors to play the buyers who in reality may be old, ugly, and boring. Something like that. But even with all that in mind, it really grinds my gears when I see people who make a living as “social media trendsetters” or “lifestyle enthusiasts” or “product ambassadors for an international marketing start up” or “nomadic online fashion consultants” and they have a budget of like 2 million dollars and I’m just like “WTF!”
Just once, I’d like to see a guy who vacuums for a living and makes 13 bucks an hour trying to buy a house. Now that’s putting reality in Reality TV.
My wife understandably gets frustrated with my House Hunters frustration. I just can’t help it, though. I’m an edgy individual. Take last night for example. The buyers were two guys — 23 and 24 years old, respectively, who were friends and business partners — who earn a living by making YouTube videos about video games or something like that. It was never made totally clear. But nonetheless, they supposedly have 2 million subscribers to whatever they do and in turn must make a shitload of money because they were looking at houses priced around $1.3 million. I just sit there and shake my head and I truly don’t understand it. How!?
Am I envious? Yes! Am I bitter? Yes! Why? Because (with the exception of the last two years of my semi-retirement and “working” as a struggling writer) I have worked my ass off my entire life at jobs that were killing me emotionally… And for what? I never got ahead. I never got noticed. I barely squeaked by. And in the end, I got kicked to the curb like a bag of trash because of some corporate algorithm. I bang my head against the wall and holler to the heavens, “What am I doing wrong! I just want to live, not suffer to live!”
It seems so damn easy for so many others and some days I struggle just to get up, make coffee, and do the laundry. Sigh.
But then I look over at the corner of my desk and I see a pile of notes from my wife. She leaves me a love note on my desk every morning before she leaves for work. Even if I have been an ass. I’m usually still sleeping. But reading her note is pretty much the first thing I do in the morning. They are a daily reminder of all that we have, together, in this life. She’s my Reality TV.
I know I bitch and moan about life plenty, but she is always reminding me of what truly matters. And when I stop and really think about it, instead of getting caught up in the charade of societal guidelines, it doesn’t matter I don’t have 2 million followers or a million-dollar house. I have our simple sweet life together, and though it’s not always easy and often fraught with worry, fear, problems, and so on. The love we have is the richest in the world.
Well, that ended completely different than I thought it would. But she’s good at getting me to turn things around when I need it most.
Aaron Aldous Cinder
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You invented love like dragons spit fire the longing when you are gone, is an immediate reaction I’m drawn to your eyes I’m drawn to the night the full vibrato of darkness the stars splashed so randomly across the universe we can touch them if we try
Candles melt away so quickly here this otherworld, this neverwhere We are a collision of chemistry wrapped in coils of electricity The ache of our day becomes the joy of our night empty wine glasses and ghosts the bluest tears, the reddest blood
The valve has been wrestled loose the drips drop incessantly throughout the house Impenetrable venom impenetrable malaise Someone broke the switch on the furnace and it’s coughing up hot laughing gas and I choke on my own experiences Am I sad? Am I happy? Am I a supernova, Or just merely a simple star, blinking randomly from within this skull of space?
Am I a colored moon peacefully napping with a nightcap perched upon my point Or am I a black hole, sucking on everything that exists? Or am I merely a chemical byproduct that sits in an empty room, waiting for night to pass and day to begin, when I can talk to you and feel my heart thunder against the world
But sometimes, I just want to be a rocking chair, swaying gently amidst the dust of a long-gone grandparent’s den, listening to the easy tick of the clock on the mantle, watching the footsteps fade deeper into the carpet, waiting for the sounds and smells of a childhood lost forever lost in the woods of autumn, across the icy bridge of winter, into the wet grass of spring and along the thick dreams of summer on some Midwestern small-town porch
And so, when do dreams end and reality begin? When is night’s finale and day’s birth? One fluid sweep of time and the Earth still tilts and I still stare at the ceiling, catching glimpses of you in my mind’s eye the baby’s breath in my fist falls, landing in a blanket of fresh snow, you pull up into the white gravel and I can see your smile through the windshield my heart still rattles as the sun breaks through the clouds, and your hand clutches me in dreams.
Mature Content Warning: The following contains language that may be offensive to some readers. You’ve been advised.
Feldon felt like crawling into the eye of God and setting the world on fire as he climbed the stairs to his apartment. When he reached his floor, the hall was empty. He could hear a television blaring and some people arguing behind a few of the closed doors. There was always too much noise, he complained inside his own mind. Too much noise. Too much rattling around.
He put the key inside his lock and turned it, pushed the door open, and clicked on a light. Carl was still asleep on the couch, but his eyes were wide and there was that ever-present grin —like a crooked car salesman. He went into the bedroom and turned on a lamp there. Eve was still sitting in the chair beside his bed. He went over to her and kissed her gently on the cheek.
“Hello dear,” he said. “How are you? You and Carl haven’t been up to any nastiness, have you?”
He glanced at his rumpled bed, and it looked the same as when he left, yet he still wondered.
“I suppose you haven’t made any dinner, have you?” Feldon asked her. “No, I didn’t think so. Don’t you realize I’m hungry?”
It was then that the phone in the other room began to ring, and it startled him.
“Who on earth could be calling me?” he wondered, and then he went to answer.
“Hello. May I speak with Feldon Fairtz please?”
“This is Feldon.”
“Hi Feldon. It’s Shirley, Shirley Humpsley from the Fifth Avenue Doll Salon.”
Feldon grew excited. “Oh yes. Hello! How are you?”
“I’m well, thank you. I was just calling as a courtesy to let you know that we have gone ahead and hired another candidate for the position here.”
“What?” Feldon said, suddenly deflated.
“We’ve hired someone else for the position, Feldon. Like I said, as a courtesy, we reach out to our other candidates to let them know. We feel it’s the right thing to do so you can carry on with your job search without wondering if you’ll ever hear from us. It’s standard practice.”
“So, I didn’t get the job?”
“No. I’m sorry.”
“But, why? What did I do wrong?”
“Nothing, Feldon. We just feel the person we hired had the strongest set of skills that matched our needs. Please don’t take it personally.”
Feldon grew angry over the phone. “But I have a very specific set of skills, Mrs. Humpsley! And strong skills they are! I am very talented, and I think this is absolute bullshit that you have decided not to hire me. It’s because I’m a man, isn’t it?”
“Please Mr. Fairtz, there’s no need to get nasty with me and use foul language. And our decision in no way reflects on your gender… Or anyone else’s.”
“Of course not, of course not, of course not!” Feldon repeated in anger. “It’s all straight talk and legit, isn’t it Shirley. It’s all politically so damn correct and sterilized corporate wise and all nauseating too. Well, I’m not buying it. This is a crock of crap, and I demand to speak to your supervisor!”
“Look here, Mr. Fartz!”
“I don’t care what it is!” Mrs. Humpsley snapped back in snappy black girl style. “I will not be talked to in this way, and if you ask me, Fartz fits you perfectly because you’re one hell of an asshole! Our decision is final, and I have nothing else to say to you. Goodnight, sir!”
She hung up.
Feldon held the cordless receiver away from his face and glared at it.
“I’ll get my lawyer you fucking bitch!” he screamed. “You violated my rights as a person! You assaulted me with words! Cruel words!”
He was breathing hard. His heart was racing. The phone was empty, and he suddenly flung it across the room, and it struck a picture of his dead parents that was hanging on the wall and it fell and broke. He turned to look at Carl. He was grinning chiseled mad, mocking him in mime.
“What the fuck are you looking at!?” Feldon screamed. “I just had a bit of trouble with a prospective employer. Nothing serious, Carl. Just look away. Please. Just look away from me!”
Feldon shuffled to the kitchen, reached into a cabinet for a glass and filled it with water at the sink. His hand shook violently as he brought the glass to his mouth and drank. It slipped from his hand, fell to the floor, and shattered.
“God damn it!” Feldon screamed. “Everything I touch turns into a disaster!”
He shuffled to the couch and collapsed into it. He leaned forward and put his face in his hands and started crying.
His face was wet with tears and his nose was stuffed when he reached for the box of facial tissues, yanked a couple out, and blew.
“God damn it,” he mumbled. “God damn it all to hell. It’s falling apart, Carl.” He turned to the mannequin, still half reclined on the couch beside him. “Do you hear me? I’m falling apart you son of a bitch. Don’t you care?”
There was no answer of course, just a wide, plastic grin and factory fresh eyes millions of miles away.
Feldon stood up quickly.
“Fine! Be that way, you prick! You may not give a damn about me and my life, but I’m sure Eve does. Oh, I know she does. See, she loves me. That’s right, Carl. We’re in love. And you better stop trying to fuck her or I swear I’ll kill you!”
Feldon stormed off to his bedroom and slammed the door.
He clicked on a lamp near his bed and the room was illuminated in a stormy, dreary kind of way. He knelt on the floor before Eve in her chair, touched her smooth, plastic hand and then looked up to her painted eyes of crystalline green.
“Eve, my darling. Gosh I’ve had a rough night. I was hoping that, just maybe, you’d be willing to lie in my bed with me tonight.”
He paused to study her reaction, holding the fabric of her dress to his face to smell it and wipe his damp skin.
“No, no, no,” Feldon reassured her as he patted her hand. “Nothing sexual. I just want to be close to you in my darkest time of need.”
He used his fingertips to move his hair back and craned his ear toward her.
“Of course I won’t be naked,” Feldon shyly answered. “I’ll wear my favorite pajamas. You know, the ones with the monkeys riding the trains. They must be circus monkeys, yes, circus monkeys, don’t you think?”
Then he giggled oddly.
“But of course, if you want to be naked, I won’t complain — not one bit.”
Feldon grinned, stood up and took Eve by the waist. He lifted her and took her to the bed, laid her down, and covered her with a sheet and blanket. Feldon stared down at her. Eve’s eyes were staring straight up at him.
“You look lovely,” he said to her.
Feldon quickly went to the other side of the room, stripped down and changed into the pajamas. He went into the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and swished mouthwash. He clicked off the bathroom light. Then he clicked off the little lamp by his bed and crawled in beneath the covers beside her. His heart was slightly pounding. He turned his head and tried to see her in the darkness, hoping his eyes would quickly adjust.
“Eve?” he whispered.
He reached to grasp her hand.
“I love you,” he softly said. “Eve? Did you hear me? I love you.”
It was silent except for the sound of a slow drip in the bathroom sink and the humming of traffic outside the windows. He propped himself up on his elbow at her side and reached out in the darkness. He held his hand just slightly above her nose and mouth. He felt nothing and then suddenly felt very alone and empty.
“Are you holding your breath?” he whispered to her. “Eve?”
He moved his face close to hers and gently rubbed his cheek against hers. “Oh Eve, why are you so cold to me? Is it Carl? Do you love Carl?”
He closed his eyes and fumbled in the darkness to find her mouth with his own. He awkwardly pressed his lips against hers and there was no reciprocation. He pulled back, ashamed and hurt.
He threw the covers off himself in frustration and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. He pawed at his face and ran his fingers through his mussed hair of pale cherry. Then there was a light tapping at the bedroom door and he snapped his neck in that direction. His heart began to pound uncontrollably. The light tapping came again.
“Who’s there?” Feldon called out through the darkness. “Carl? Is that you? Can’t you just leave us alone? Ever!”
The tapping turned to a harder knock, then a pounding. The door began to rattle in its frame. Feldon hurled himself out of the bed and yanked the door open. Carl was standing there with his high eyes and wide grin and his fist held up in the air, fixed to pound. He was illuminated from behind by the glow of the television from the other room. There was loud talking and then gunfire rattling from the speakers.
Feldon squinted. “Damn it all, Carl! I told you to leave us alone! And turn the television down!”
The mannequin’s fist suddenly shot forward and clubbed Feldon right in the face. He stumbled backward and clumsily fell to the floor. He suddenly felt dizzy and nauseous and then everything went dark and silent.
At the end of gravity, only the heartless still eat and smile and roll around in the dirty motel cities of the West…
The dystopian nature of her guts made Linnifrid’s mouth taste like the moon. She looked up at it now as she sat on a grassy knob in some wayward rolling meadow of what used to be western Missouri. She was alone but smart, and the world was wired and dumb. She figured there just had to be a way back to her own time — maybe somewhere sweet and sunny and tame where she could really live the life she had always wanted — somewhere where she didn’t feel as if she had to erase her own birth.
She drank from a small milk pitcher and watched the stars hurl themselves against the great ghostly apron light of the moon. Linnifrid heard her horse dig in the grass behind her and then he breathed out hard with a great rush and she knew he was somewhat scared. She was scared too — for in the distance the great metallic glows from the bombs dropping across the land lurched upward like grain silos on fire and the ribbons of sparkles casually fell back down to Earth to burn the walking and send them to wake.
The horse’s name was Bucky and he was a big milky brown horse without a saddle. Linnifrid stood and went over to him. She ran a backward hand across the long face and she thought the horse’s chocolate eyes looked sad beneath the blazing sky. “What’s the matter, boy? Those damn bombs scaring you again?”
Bucky nodded his head in agreement. “They sure are,” he said in perfect English speak.
Linnifrid stumbled backward, startled by the oh so human voice emanating from Bucky’s horse mouth. “Did you just talk?” she asked in a crystalline dazed wonder.
Bucky shook his head no and looked away as if he were trying to hide some deep embarrassing secret.
“Look at me when I talk to you,” Linnifrid demanded, and she touched his head and pulled his eyes to face her. “Is this some kind of nasty trick?” she wanted to know.
Shyly, the horse looked at her. “No. I’ve always been able to talk. I just didn’t want you to know about it.”
“Why not? It’s an amazing talent.”
“I was afraid you would sell me out for your own selfish gain.”
“Bucky. I would never ever do that. We’re best friends for life.”
“But …” Bucky struggled to find the right words. “What if you were riding me and you fell off and hit your head against a rock and died?”
“Bucky! That’s a terrible thing to say. Why would you say something like that?”
“I suppose because I’m just a paranoid realist,” the horse answered, his head down and his horse heart feeling a tad melancholy.
Linnifrid softly smiled and then wrapped her arms around the horse’s strong neck. “Don’t be silly, Bucky. You’re just a deep thinker. That’s all. I always knew you were a very smart horse.”
Bucky looked up and smiled at her as any animal would if they could. “Thank you. I always thought you were a very smart girl.”
There was a sudden deep shattering blast in the near distance and Bucky reared and hollered. Linnifrid tried to calm him but the horse was too frightened and he bolted away into the deepening darkness.
“Bucky!” Linnifrid cried out. “Bucky, don’t leave me here all alone!”
Linnifrid started walking toward the small farm village where she lived when she could. When the raids came they had to leave and hide in the forests beyond. Tonight it was safe. They were all busy with the bombing. The air Linnifrid walked through was still warm even though it was January, and the ground was soft from the snow that so quickly melts. She walked tenderly through the crushed meadows, one after another, a patchwork quilt of starving green. She would stop once in a while and listen to see if she could hear Bucky chomping in the fields. Then she would walk again – toward the small huddle of dim twinkles cradled nicely where the land sloped down and spread out a bit. When she reached the last crest, she scanned the moonlit moors of America for any shadowy signs of her beloved Bucky. There was nothing.
The house was meager and Linnifrid went straight to her room of red ambiance and opened up the window. It made the room cool but Linnifrid didn’t mind the chill. She was a thick-skinned girl of healthy farm girth, nearly 17, and her hair was long and straight and the color of writing ink. She sat on the sill of the window and gently scratched at her pale face. “Where are you, Bucky? Please come home,” she whispered to the night air. A spooky rush of wind lapped at the house. She shivered, closed the window, and crawled into her bed. The door slowly creaked open and in stepped Linnifrid’s father. He went to the edge of the bed and looked down at her, his face worn much too weak for a man of 51. He shook her leg. “Linnifrid,” he whispered. “Are you asleep?”
She widened her eyes and looked at him. “No Papa, I’m finding it difficult to rest.”
“Is something wrong?”
“Bucky ran away. There was a blast in the far meadow and he spooked.”
The man ran his fingers through the roughed up head of hair the color of bleeding rust. “I’m sorry to hear that, darling. There’s nothing we can do about it tonight, though. It’s late and the patrols are out. You’ll have to wait till morning.”
“Will you help me look?” Linnifrid urged her papa.
He scratched at his head and thought about it, but in a way that she could tell he was actually thinking about something far deeper. “I tell you what. We’ll help each other out with our chores and then we can go look for Bucky. Will that be all right?”
“Yes, Papa. Thank you.”
He struggled to smile and turned toward the door. “I’ll meet you downstairs promptly at six for breakfast,” he said on his way out of the room. “Goodnight. I love you.”
“Goodnight, Papa. I love you too… Wait, Papa?”
He turned back to her. “Yes?”
“Why is the world such a messed up place?”
He paused and thought. “Because love isn’t the most important thing anymore.”
Linnifrid stood at the stove and fried him eggs and bacon while he sat at the table sipping coffee. “I sure do hope Bucky is okay,” Linnifrid said over her shoulder. “Just look at that frightful weather out there.”
“He’ll be fine… It’s just supposed to rain some.”
She put out his food on a white plate and brought it to him at the table.
“Thank you, dear. You’ve always been able to make a wonderful eggs and bacon breakfast… But aren’t you having any?”
“No, Papa. I’m too upset to eat anything… I could make you some griddle cakes if you think you’ll still be hungry.”
“No. That’s all right.” Papa grunted and looked around the room, annoyed by something that was maybe or maybe not really there. “I miss the damn newspaper,” he said. “Nothing is the same anymore.”
“Do you miss mother?”
Papa wiped a napkin across his scratchy face and looked right into her eyes. “Of course I do. My heart hasn’t been the same since…”
“I know, Papa. I miss her too.”
“Did you hear the owls last night?” he randomly asked her.
“I love the sound of owls.”
“Owls are peaceful creatures,” Papa said. “The world needs more peaceful creatures.”
“Yes Papa,” she slowly replied, for now her head was twisting toward the window and the through the glass she saw one of the manufactured tornadoes ripping across the landscape on a direct path to the village. “Papa!” she screamed. “It’s a twister!”
Papa leapt from his place at the table and dashed to the window. “God damn! It’s a big one! We need to get to the cellar right now.”
“But Papa” the girl pleaded. “What about Bucky!? He’ll die out there.”
“Girl, this isn’t the time to be chasing down a wayward horse. We got to get to the cellar… Now!” He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her outside. The tornado was spewing dust and debris all around them as they made their way to the safe haven below ground. Papa pulled the doors open and ordered Linnifrid down the stone steps. He followed behind her and latched the doors tight from the inside but they still furiously rattled as the storm bore down. The girl had found the lamp and turned it on — the light casting a pale blue hue against the gray of the cellar. Papa squatted down on the stairs and listened to the havoc now stirring right above. “They’re trying to kill us again… Those bastards!” he cried out in fear and panic.
Linnifrid looked at the riled man and was sad about that. He hadn’t always been so frustrated, she thought. He was once a very calm man; a man content with his pastoral life. “Come down from there, Papa,” the girl said. “It’s not safe so close to the doors.” He turned to her without a smile or a frown. “I think I may have some serious psychological problems,” he said, and he looked at her with troubled eyes. Linnifrid stepped forward and held the blue lamp in front of her so that she could see his long face. “Are you still taking your medication like the man at the medication store said to?” she wondered.
Shakily he swallowed and said “Yes.”
“Then maybe you need more.”
“More pills? But I already take so many.”
“The pills help cure all your problems. Don’t you listen to all the advertisements? Your druggist is your best friend.”
Something fell across the cellar doors and the noise startled them both.
“It’s coming good now,” Papa said, trembling and sweating in the dank of the insane moment.
“Don’t try to change the subject, Papa. I think we need to take another trip to the medicine store.”
“No! I don’t want any more medicine. It’s making things worse.”
“Nonsense, Papa. They wouldn’t purposely give you something to make your condition worse. It’s a very proper industry. You just need to give it a chance to work.”
“What is it girl? Why are you turning on me like this?”
Another loud thump outside pricked at their nerves.
“I’m not turning on you, Papa. I’m trying to help you but you’re being awful odd and stubborn about it.”
He turned away from her and said nothing. He stood up and placed an ear close to the cellar doors to listen for the storm. “It’s quieted down out there. I’m going to go take a look. You stay here until I come get you.”
Linnifrid stepped back and watched as her father pushed the doors open. A sudden burst of yellowish-brown light flooded the cellar. Softly she said, “Be careful, Papa.”
TO BE CONTINUED
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Some say they only fall, but I say they walk among us. She walks among me even now. She would never admit to being an angel – I don’t think she believes in them. I would call her a guardian of the heart, if nothing else. She’s taught me to cast out the enemy love once was and replace it with the real spirit of it. And like angels usually do, she came out of nowhere one night when I was alone. She fell from the sky like a derailed comet and exploded everything that was already blown to bits – and what I mean by everything is everything in a good way. I’ve often wondered if I died and she was just helping me along down Heaven or Hell Boulevard – she has carved a soulscape of wonder, my wonder, her wonder, our wonder, two wondering wanderers standing still and cracking until they run into each other, from out of the air just like that – there was Gwenhwyfar.
She came down from the sky on a glowing escalator and I waited for her in the parking lot. But sometimes I think she was maybe there all along, maybe my entire life and I just didn’t see her because they can be invisible. She looks human. She has all the right parts in the right places. A great ass. There is a glow about her though, like sun coming up out of her guts at times. I would call her a beautiful angel. What else could I call her? She helps me when I have problems with life. She’s a pretty decent angel.
I asked her about Jesus, and she said he was a pretty nice guy – just a bit upset about what we do in his name. Gwenhwyfar told me she was an angel of words – the one who corrected the language of the universe. She’s beautiful like that. I’m surprised she eats actual food because I didn’t think angels needed it. She makes me a lot of frozen pizzas because she doesn’t like to cook much. She’s afraid she’ll burn the tips of her wings on the stovetop and that’s not something easily fixed. She watches over me like they say they do – a love never wavering. She can make it not so bad of a day when I am in mental Hades, roasting and getting stabbed, mentally and emotionally. She lifts me up and out of the ashes and shows me the true meaning of love. She is love. She is real faith.
And when the duties of our earthly days are done, she sits with me in the lamplit room of red, and I hold her in the stillness, an episode of House Hunters humming in the distance. I hold her face and tilt her head to kiss her lips… And in that last taste of her before she sleeps, I am fed love, and bow to the mending of a broken heart.