Enjoy the full experience:
or just read…
Vignette Seven (Where We First Met)
Lee, Eun Sun
I sit alone where we first met.
My tripod does not hold my second viewpoint to the sun.
My friend is not beside me.
You did not come to see if you are in the frame.
Today the sun is wrestling with the clouds and does not appear as it once did.
You do not appear as you once did.
The only things in sight are:
cigarette butts lining the ground,
dried leaves, pigeon feathers,
someone’s spit, and the memory of your footprints.
In the place where my friend sat–
there is seagull shit.
The ghost wind
swirls a green plastic wrapper
on the bench where you sat.
A Place and a Time
Time is a peculiar place to be in.
There is Sometimes
And In Between Time.
Yet time waits for no one.
Time is wound up,
And often seems to stand still.
There are sixty seconds to a minute,
Sixty minutes to an hour,
Twenty four hours a day,
Seven days a week
Four weeks a month
And twelve months to a year.
Yet with all that time,
No time matters except this day,
Teeth: an intro of sorts
Riya Anne Polcastro
(Now) If she knew then what she knows now you would not have lived. If she knew then what she knows now she would have dug her thumbs into your eye sockets, through the congealed jelly of your corneas, into the gray matter of your frontal lobe. If she knew then what she knows now she would have ripped your eyelids from your face. If she knew then what she knows now she would have torn your lips from your skull with no more than her bare teeth. If she knew then what she knows now she would have shredded your skin and stripped your flesh from the bone. If she knew then what she knows now she would have twisted and pulled. If she knew then what she knows now she would have chased after you like a rabid dog. Snarling and clawing and biting thirsty for your blood.
But she knows better now.
She has Teeth.
And that is all she will ever need.
Now she does not fear she waits in anticipation. Salivating. Fantasizing. Hungry for vengeance. The monster inside of her grabs the bars of its cage and shakes her diaphragm with a knee quivering growl.
If she knew then what she knows now, she would have left its cage unlocked.
She twirls the key on her finger, at the ready. It is only a matter of time now. Its hunger quakes through her. She does not fight it. Nay she feeds it, fuels its appetite.
If she knew then what she knows now she would have woke the monster up a long time ago.
She clenches and it gnashes. Teeth. At first she was afraid. Not anymore. Now she is eager in her zealous quest. She would find him. And when she did… when they did…
(Later) These days he only left for supplies. Things like gasoline, candle wicks and powdered milk. He made do with as little as possible.
He had developed a taste for powdered milk. True, he did not like it right away; it took a while to grow on him. It was thin, with a papery consistency like baby food, almost as flavorful as cardboard. But it doesn’t go bad. It doesn’t curdle in the fridge. He only made as much as he would use in a day anyway. And he could buy enough for a year at the local cost club without the clerk so much as batting an eye.
(Now) She laughs. Above and below. The monster has a mind of its own. Once she lets it out will she be able to get it back in its cage? Will she be able to stop at just him?
She smirks. Does she even want to? There is so much vengeance due all over the world.
So many debts left unpaid. So much karma left to ripen for too many lifetimes. In a way it would be selfish not to give the monster its rampage.
(Later) I lied. He left to sell the garlic too. Once a year he went to a farmer’s market. The garlic was his cheddar. A little under the table income the SSI people didn’t know about. Organic. Lawn grown garlic. Fertilized by god knows how many neighborhood dogs. The owners always looked away. Pretended like they did not see.
What didn’t sell, he ate. Grilled. Fried. Straight, like an apple. It poured from his pores, covered his skin with a layer of allium. It was the sort of rancid stank that kept people away. Even concerned neighbors waived from the sidewalk. They would hardly come in to say hello, confront his earthy layers up close.
(Now) Teeth wants to maim first. If murder is a natural consequence then so be it. It is only fair. It is how They operate. It is what They do.
She stalks the night in search of him. Like an animal she sniffs at the air in hopes of catching his scent. She pretends not to look down dark alleys and behind dumpsters. She hides her intentions behind the façade of an easy victim, defenseless and out too late. She shutters in anticipation. The key is in the lock. All she has to do is turn it and the monster will be loose.
(Later) Of all of the victims, he was the only one to survive. It was what led him to live as a recluse, a hermit; the weird guy with the heavy beard that grew a lawn full of garlic.
by Melisa Wirfs
Growing, falling, learning, loving, hurting, dreaming. All at once, so much to take in, to open up to, to accept. Opening myself up like I never have. Success, family, change, responsibility, goals in life I should be reaching, so scared of failure. Heavy shoulders dragging me down so much I can’t help but hunch over. So confused yet not at all. Drained empty. Feeling cold. Feeling helpless, I look to God. I shall continue to fight this war, even with battles lost. I will only move forward, even though it would be so easy to fall back. Push, climb, stumble, pull, brush it off and keep going. My tears fall but they will dry. I hold my breath as I go under, I will not drown, I will kick my feet, I will float until I can swim. Positive thoughts take the negative ones away. Being reborn as a new me, one that can choose the path I take instead of following the one I first thought paved for me.
by Melisa Wirfs
Another day goes by, it gets better every day. I grow stronger, I care less, I rely more on me. I am proud of myself and where I’m going. I won’t let other people’s words or actions persuade me. And I won’t stop going even if it’s hard. I won’t quit. That has never been a strong point in my life. I don’t know when to give up, but it is also what I base my success on. I will have love, I will have a family, I will have a career, I will find me and love who I am.
by Melisa Wirfs
discovering who i am. searching for answers. finding the me that was lost. growing into a better self. relentlessly accepting others’ advice. opening up to necessary changes. no longer hiding in the corners of hopelessness. liking who i am and where i’m going. the shadows try to pull me back in. tempting as they seem i will turn the other way and move forward. the strength on the inside catching up with the brute on the outside. i can truly say i am stronger than ever and know that it is true. after all that has been tossed my way i have learned to catch and throw it back. i believe in me and the future is so much brighter than the dark clouds that have consumed my past.
The Necromancer Within
by Riya Anne Polcastro
You know the other side of the story. Most gen x and millennial women probably do. Getting drunk, snorting coke, popping pills. Dressing like a skank. Making out with other girls on the dance floor. It is a lot of work trying to get laid.
Ain’t that the sad truth.
It starts hours before the night is even born. Tweeze, shave, and wax away everything below your scalp. Exfoliate, tan, moisturize. Wash, dry, and fry your hair straight, curl your eyelashes and cover your face in war paint. Sometimes it is a group effort, a herd of girls plucking and primping and sucking in their guts between pre-game shots.
Shots! Shots! Shots!
You dress each other in skimpiness bought with maxed out plastic. You spend this month’s electric bill on heels and party favors. Who cares about tomorrow? You are alive right now!
So take another shot, have another martini, maybe a Percocet or some E, do a line in the ladies’ room. Flirt and dance, fall down, get back up and black out, wake up in a stranger’s bed. Live to do it all over again.
No one ever said all that hard work wasn’t fun. Young and dumb and full of cum, it’s a blast in more ways than one. What is that they say about working hard and playing harder? That is singledom sex in a nutshell.
Critics will call you a slut. Say you’re pathetic for using chemicals to enhance your personality. But you know all about them and you don’t give a fuck. Like I said, you already know that side of the story.
What I really want to know is do you know about this side too?
This side. Their side.
You know. The necromancers’ side. The Man’s side. I can see it on your face, in your eyes. You’ve seen it from their side. You’ve cast their spells, you’ve ravaged the dead.
What? Me? No. Never!
Oh so I suppose you just happened to be standing there when he fell off the bar stool and into your arms? And you just happened to be there when he needed help to the urinal? The better question is, of course, why didn’t you just hold it for him?
Maybe he was not ready. Maybe he needed another beer. And you were quick to get it for him, along with a shot of Jack to chase it all down. Don’t worry. Shoot, I am not judging. If anything I have a high five for you, a pat on the back. Still, why deny premeditation? There is no good reason to disavow the game. All’s fair in drugs and necrophilia as long as it’s consensual.
But that is where the line gets blurry, isn’t it? How do you tell between the guy that guzzles to calm his performance anxiety and the one that would have said no if he could have?
That’s rich. Now that the shoe is on the other foot…
Ok, true, you got me there. So you pick your poison and ply your mark. It is not like he resists much anyway. He is little and pretty, almost too pretty. The little part is vital; he cannot weigh much more than you, just in case you have to drag him back to your cave at the end of the night. And he is so pretty word around town is he bats for the other team, but you figure that just makes it a challenge. Even better, he can’t hold his liquor. But you can. So you slurp ‘em up, dare him to match you drink for drink.
Geez, not like I roofied him.
Sure hope not. Dead in the head drunk is one thing, fucking a corpse is whole other.
He was a VERY willing participant…
That he was. He may not have made the first move, but after you jumped on him it was on. He stuck his tongue in your mouth and his hands under your shirt. He stripped and tossed you down on the mattress. He climbed on your chest and shoved his dick down your throat.
See! I told you.
You told me and a lot of other people too. Just like you always run and tell about all of your latest conquests, the newest rungs carved above your bed. You always have a competition running. Neck and neck with your bestest girlfriend for this month’s prize. Not many girls think to take on the necromancer’s role; they are already so used to playing dead. This strategy, well it just might put you in the lead, it just might put you aHEAD.
And it might be better to keep your tactic a secret but you brag willy nilly instead. End of the workday, you join the boys trading battle stories. But your story? Your story is met with stony silence. They do not appreciate the tables being turned. They don’t see it your way. “So you raped him?” the fat kid says.
Not anymore than you raped me.
It is one of your dirtiest secrets, so you only think it. Yeah you messed around with him one desperate night. You do not want anyone to know. I am sure you are thankful to be reminded that he was your necromancer for a few drunken moments before you realized his tits were bigger than yours.
Not like I am one of those musty beasts that plants herself on random dicks while they are passed out.
I hear you. But still…
That pretty boy never called you.
Didn’t he ignore your texts? Didn’t he even… hide from you? After? Like a mouse keeps away from a cat…
Sounds like typical post-coital male behavior…
Ah touché, you have me again! But to duck into an alcove and literally quiver in his One Stars until you pass? Don’t you think…well… maybe it’s better to preserve some innocence? Once you adopt their ways, once you cross over, once you become one of them… a full-fledged necromancer… what is left of your human side?
by Juleen Johnson
The squishiness of the sponge
is gum like
texture to my sole.
Where is Your Heart
Where is your heart?
When mine is aching,
When the pain is pulling through my chest
You cannot feel it because it’s my heart
But where is yours?
It is not here filling mine up
As it drains empty from the hole you put there.
So where is it?
Is it someplace else?
Is it locked away?
I’m bruised and battered
You don’t see the tears, but they are there
My heart feels, unlike yours.
You cannot because it’s not there.
Where is your heart?
The Factory on 154th
Riya Anne Polcastro
The building where Rosario makes her meager wages is condemned, but then again so are most of the buildings she passes every day. It is a good five mile trek from Sector Five but she is lucky to have a job and the blisters on her feet are a small price to pay. The hordes of dilapidated structures blend together until they all look pretty much the same, one gray building in some state of collapse after another. Rosario passes them at a hurried clip from the middle of the cracked, abandoned road. She knows the danger of being grabbed and hauled inside any one of them and she tries not to think about the dungeons and brothels and harvest dens that lurk behind the broken doors and windows on either side of the street. She breathes a sigh of relief as her building comes into view, just as she does every time she arrives safe and without incident. She’d had close calls, before she knew to stay off the sidewalk, before she knew where to hide when one of the black town cars that belong to the mafia pass through.
Clouds role in just as Rosario reaches out for the door handle, black clouds pregnant with a litter of lightning and rain. She pauses and stares up at the sky until the torrent starts to fall. The first few drops assault her scalp as she yanks the heavy door open and disappears into the rundown foyer of an old apartment building. She prays the rain won’t reach Sector Five, where her family’s tin and cardboard house is built at the bottom of a hill and the floors are made of dirt. A flash flood took her baby brother last year and what is left of her siblings are home alone with no one but their invalid aunt to save them from the waters that rage down from the mountains without warning.
The foyer is dark; the only light comes from a window covered in a film of smoke and grime. There is no electricity or plumbing in this part of the building and the smell of urine and human rot hangs heavy in the air. There are lumps of existence huddled under blankets, spread out on what is left of the stained and threadbare carpet. These transients line the stairs that Rosario climbs; they stretch down the hallways she follows. One horrible smell or another germinates off each and every one of them. She rushes passed them as they reach out to grab her, touch her clothes, feel the smooth skin on her ankles with their filthy twisted fingers, with their fleas and open sores. Rosario may live in a shack with nothing more than a communal hole in the ground to shit in, but she still has it better than these people can imagine.
A mangy rat runs across her foot as she reaches the third floor. She catches her breath, trapping the yelp that begs to burst from her throat. Just around the corner skeletons with thin gray skin spill out of what used to be someone’s apartment. They suck on glass pipes and exhale a putrid synthetic smoke that stabs at Rosario’s chest as she hurries by. She wonders if this apartment, any of these infected apartments, might be the one she lived in when she was a little girl, before the economy imploded, before the government fell, before the thugs pushed families from their homes and took over the city. There are only splinters of memories left now: a private wash room with hot and cold water, a flushing toilet; a room full of stuffed animals and dolls; a kitchen where she helped Mommy slide a tray of chocolate chip cookies into the oven.
She shakes her head free from thought and continues on. Halfway down the hallway she closes the fire door behind her and stops in front of a broken mirror with brass light fixtures on either side. She holds her breath and pulls down on the one on the right. The wall slides away, mirror and all. A small room opens up and she steps inside. The wall slides back in place behind her and the room falls downward with squeaks and rattles, back passed the second floor, then the first, it doesn’t come to a stop until it reaches the sub-basement.
Rosario emerges into a cement chamber and shows the guard her ID badge before stopping off at the locker room, where she strips naked, exposing the pasty pale skin that stretches across her bones to the stale underground air. There are jagged welts across her back and a clean seam down her left cheek from when they almost got her. Roasrio steps into a closet and closes the door behind her. The disinfectant sprays from nozzles in the walls, the ceiling, even the floor. She squeezes her eyes shut. The mist smells like chemicals, pesticides, and poisons that have no business near the human body. She is bald now because of it, from the top of her head to the knuckles on her toes. Not even her eyelashes grow in anymore. She is marked, her hairlessness a symbol of her employment and the meager protection it offers. The spray dries into a sticky film in as much time as it takes to step out of the decontaminator and grab a fresh pair of scrubs.
Next, she proceeds to the assembly room, where her stomach still gets queasy every time she crosses the threshold. On one side of the room are the girls, smuggled in by their handlers. They are already numb and lifeless with anesthesia; ready to be taken apart and put back together again with upgraded components. On the other side are all those perfect parts, plucked from young women stolen off the street or put up for sale by parents desperate to feed their younger children. Sometimes she sees familiar limbs, with scars or birthmarks that belong to friends she hasn’t seen in a while; noses, lips, and eyes made familiar by the flyers for the disappeared that blanket her sector.
She knows this job is the only thing that keeps her from becoming the new gams on some mafia bosses’ daughter or the new lips for one of the city’s notorious madams and she swallows hard as she passes the inventory board. Legs 26458 Asian grade 7. Lips 74861 Caucasian grade 6. Eyes 52387 Blue grade 6. Face 172935 Mixed Race grade 8. They are rated on quality and age, anything lower than a six goes in the incinerator. Most of them are picked apart, their pieces tossed individually into the fire and the inventory pile. For one girl, her svelte legs may have been the reason she was taken, but the rest of her just gets burned up into nothing. Another girl might be selected for her pretty face and tight vagina while her limbs and brain get chucked. Rosario feels sick to her stomach every time and wonders if she knew any of them.
The rich girls come here to replace whatever they are not happy with, they are mannequins put together with as many parts as it takes to make them perfect. In this utopia, with its endless supply of desperation and greed, they can be beautiful forever. Every assembly is worth more than Rosario’s life. These women, they are worth more, millions more. They are so much more important than she can ever dream. They live in towers guarded by armies of mercenaries. They drink from mountain springs imported just for them. They sleep in silk and chiffon. Royalty like this; she cannot afford to fuck up.
She would rather be on intake.
No. No she wouldn’t. That was when she saw them raw. Whole. That was when she recognized them. She hated intake. Categorizing the perfect parts. Giving them numbers. Inventory. Tossing them in cold piles. Their tags are just numbers, serials. A life, a laugh, a sister, a daughter, a mother, lifted from the street, impounded by debt collectors; no more than a body part, a bar code, now. It’s a type of gender genocide. And you can participate. You can be the middle man or you can be the victim. It is not much of a choice.
The rich girls who come here to be beautiful, they do not care where their lips or noses or thighs or waists come from. They do not care how their new face ends up here. Origin does not matter. They do not care if the donor is Black or White, English speaking or rowed over on a boat from an even worse hellhole. They do not care if she was stolen from her family, taken away from her children. They only care about the babe ripped from its mother’s teet if the consequence is that their new breasts are still lactating when they are installed. What matters is beauty. What matters is perfection. The rest just goes in the fire.
The assembly room is organized like a factory and there is a workstation for each part of the body. Legs, breasts, shoulders, torsos and so on and so forth. The mannequins are wheeled to the stations on their work orders, oblivious to their arms being popped off and replaced, their feet swapped out. Rosario takes a card from the supervisor in the corner. His metal desk squeaks and sighs as he leans over it with her assignment. She doesn’t flip it over until she has turned away from him.
The room starts to spin as her heart races and her breath comes in heavy waves. She has to stop and steady herself before trundling to the front of the line, head down. She wants to throw up. She wants to run away. Eyes are hard. Not just technically, but on a whole other level. They peer into her soul. They beg they plead they implore. They shame. They make her feel selfish and wicked. But what else can she do? She has to work. She has to have income or she will be just another pile of parts to collect.
It is this or the brothels.
The eyes are stacked in cases next to a chair that whines and lists as she sits. When the first cot rolls up she will match the serial number on the work order to one of the cases. Then she will clamp the eyelids open and use a special spoon to scoop out a perfectly good set of eyes and replace them with whatever color is popular at the moment. Blue eyes are in one year, green the next, hazel the year after that. The same girls come back year after year to switch out their eyes, their previous pair tossed into the incinerator. Whatever color is popular, when their eyes are in demand; those girls in the sectors live in fear. Rosario remembers when dark chocolate was all the rage. That was when her back was torn up, her face sliced open as she struggled to get away from the men in the black town car.
Rosario has plucked out ten or fifteen or maybe even twenty of last year’s sea green and replaced them with the steely gray of today when she almost drops the next case. She fumbles and clasps it to her chest; her eyes are wide with fright and denial. She breathes, nothing more, until her hands are finally still enough to lay it down on her lap. Eye to eye, there is no question about it. Those mauve irises, they could not belong to anyone else. There was only one girl in town with purple eyes.
Rosario does not bother to strip; she gathers her regular clothes up and holds them against her chest instead of wearing them home. The guard does not even notice her as she scans her ID. He pushes the little black button that lets her out without looking up from his nudie magazine. In the elevator, door shut, Rosario presses the bundle of clothes to her chest and feels for the rigid plastic of the two by two by six inch case. It is still there.
She is numb. She did not even know that Maya was missing. Now she is caught up, trapped in those pastel eyes as she treks up, down and out of the rundown apartment building on 154th.
The front door slams behind her with a telling boom. The world outside is vacant; dirty, hungry, even insatiable. The roads are rutted, abandoned. Tumbleweeds blow down the streets, through the alleyways. The sky is dark and bright all at the same time. The world exists only in sepia… something between mourning and conquering.
There is no going back now. As soon as the mannequin, nestled in her fluffy princess bed, wakes, as soon as she opens her same old blue eyes, they will know what Rosario did and they will be after her.
She takes off down the middle of the street, her legs revolving, her arms hugging the clothes and the case hidden underneath. It is an off kilter gait, her shoulders fight forward without hands pumping to balance them out, but it fits with the tidal wave of tears that pour from her face. She stumbles over the cracks in the crumbling road, the weeds that grow out of them.
Maya’s house is made of tin and cardboard just like hers. Rosario bangs on the thin metal door between her sobs. Someone answers. She reaches out, extends the case without looking up. “I’m sorry,” she cries. There are wails and moans as Maya’s family gathers in the doorway, their faces pointed at the case, the five digit serial number, the shiny purple eyes that say it all.
Spiked Pt 1
flash fiction by Riya Anne Polcastro
Working in this sort of place, getting hit on is just part of the territory. You expect it from everyone because, eventually, even the most platonic customers will get shitfaced enough to confess their undying love for you. It doesn’t help being the only woman in the bar, but it isn’t just the men and they certainly are not the most aggressive!
Meet Celia, a quiet girl, she comes in with a few friends here and there, drinks a glass of cranberry juice and minds her own business. Then last Saturday, out of nowhere, she decided to match shots with her girls. Bad idea, she could not hang! Three Pink Pussies later and she was perched at the bar, tweeting my ears off until I went for a smoke break. But I still couldn’t get away, she followed me outside and that’s when she attacked me, pulled me onto her lap and tried to stick her tongue in my ear.
It was funny enough at the time, but now that she is back at the rail again, a couple of Washington Apples down the hatch, I am a little worried that she might make a thing of it. For now she is droning on, god knows about what: her purse dog, shoe collection, favorite musicians, favorite Kardashian, blah, blah, blah, I’m not really listening. I just want her to shut up. She orders another drink and saunters off to the wash room. I grab Charlie’s economy size Visine from next to the register and empty it into her next drink. I always chalked the bartenders’ revenge up to urban myth, but figure it will be worth a try to get this girl to stop talking without sucking on my face first.
A few people come in and sit down at the lottery machines and I forget about the Visine as I make White Russians and cash tickets for the guys at the machines. But when one o’clock rolls around and they leave for home and their impatient wives, she is still here. Talking at me, smiling like she already knows what my pussy tastes like, until all of a sudden her eyes roll back in her head, she slides off of the barstool and drops to the floor.
See what happens next at DiveBarBluesTales Spiked Pt 2