Category Archives: NONFICTION

Several Indisputable Claims and Why I Fear Chainsaws Simulated; by Justin Kanzler

Simulated Reality Theory argues that the universe is actually a simulation created by a computer with powers far beyond our comprehension. That means everything–including the interdimensional loose change that lives in every couch simultaneously–is actually a few imperceptible lines of code for us to blithely accept and complain about. A foundational argument for the possible existence of this omniscient computer is that nobody can prove it doesn’t exist. Also Elon Musk believes in it and that guy made, like, a bunch of cool shit so obviously this is something worth considering. I worry about the logic behind believing something is possible just because it’s impossible to disprove. And my fear of accepting the logic of simulated reality theory is, quite naturally, rooted in my deep fear of chainsaws.

I saw a therapist. He was on a tv show, but that’s the kind of therapy I can afford, and this tele-therapist said it is important to define what your fear is to you, so instead of listening to advice from someone talking directly to me or someone that actually exists, I’m listening to Dr. Television. My fear is chainsaws. To me chainsaws are the unwholesome union of engineering and a profession defined by hitting trees while wearing flannel. They are the product of cleverness and violence just like all of our greatest inventions: unmanned aircrafts, mustard gas, the microwave. What other than a mechanized razor stick could have come from this incongruous matrimony of brilliance and muscles. Other than their obvious utility as tree-murderators, chainsaws have 2 things going for them that frighten me to my nougat core: they are silent until activated, and they can be purchased as most large home improvement stores. Silence and Home Depot create the frightening possibility that everyone around me is quietly hiding a chainsaw behind their backs or in their comically large trench coats or even a teeny tiny chainsaw tucked away in a purse next to 3 mismatched sticks of gum and someone else’s sock. There could be a chainsaw in every hand if that hand is out of my field of view, and nibbles at my piece of mind like a rabbit nibbling at a lost and sorely missed lumberjack thumb.

With the information available to me and with the rationale posed by Simulated Reality, I can make the following indisputable claims:

Claim 1
There is a man with a chainsaw outside my room. The door to my room is closed. The curtains are drawn. It’s that time of night where anybody outside is either a murderer or an astronomer. Outside my door there is a hulking man with a greasy burlap sack over his head, and he is holding a jagged collection of unsympathetic metal teeth powered by internal combustion. There is a silent chainsaw-toting beast-man outside my bedroom door, which I have only now realized is totally inadequate defense against chainsaws because it’s wood and wood is what they eat, and based on the information I have available to me, I cannot possibly prove he’s not there. I can see every corner of my room; I can understand everything I can perceive with however many senses I have. Based on the information my senses give me–limited as they are by damage from loud concerts, reading at night, and sneezing like I fucking mean it–I can’t prove that someone isn’t about to shred my door with an unsympathetic wood-ravager before doing the same thing to me.

Claim 2
I was seconds away from a buzzing evisceration yesterday at my bus stop because the woman by the trash can had the new Echo CS-370 Chainsaw strapped to her back and hidden beneath her coat. That warm smile wasn’t one of greeting when I walked by. It was a smile hiding a graphic secret, a smile that knew she was planning on loudly making my entrails into extrails using a tool that can turn a healthy vertical tree into a horizontal dead one in under a minute. My squishy body wouldn’t provide a third the resistance a tree could, and that smile showed me that maniac knew it. I can never prove that my bus stop companion was mere moments away from hauling 40.2 CCs of slaughter from the trash can before doing to me what she’s probably done to countless blocks of ice: carving me into something wet and misshapen. I can’t prove it, but I am certain she wanted to see what I looked like as a puree.

Claim 3
When I closed my eyes during Heads Up Seven Up as a kid, the other children actually stalked the room with chainsaws instead of creeping around touching thumbs. I haven’t been afraid of chainsaws for my whole life, but that just verifies what I always knew: I was a stupid child. Looking back, it’s laughably obvious that the only reason eye-closing was a part of Heads Up Seven Up (HUSU?) was so the other children would have a chance to whip out their child-sized chainsaws–which come in Hello Kitty print, Camo, or faux blood stain–and prowl around the room picking who they want to annihilate. The only comfort I have is that the teacher would have intervened if a child had actually tried to saw another child while they were defenseless–probably because the teacher was saving them all for later. I’m onto you Mrs. Piers; your therapist tone and poofy gray hair can’t hide your secret murderous intent. I can never prove that my seemingly placid and apparently loving 5th grade teacher had a chainsaw hidden under her dress the entire year I knew her, but my 10 year-old senses were less acute back then. I was an amateur to paranoia, but now I am seasoned like a good chicken. Even if there’s no way to prove it, I bet she was poised to attack every time I was distracted during mid-morning journal hour.

So what lesson can we draw from the potential of a simulated reality? Fear. We should be afraid. Absolute bowel-voiding terror should dominate every second of our lives because there is no possible way to prove you are safe from potential chainsaw vivisection or any of the other three thousand and six ways the warranty on our soft ham-bodies can be voided. It is impossible to dispute my chainsaw-inspired fears because the evidence against them just doesn’t exist. I live in fear because I cannot disprove the possibility that someone nearby is hiding a chainsaw and amping themselves up to tear through my supple flesh and transform my walls into a lumberjack-son Pollock painting. I cuddle my cat and weep my terror because we can’t commit to thinking something is ludicrous just because it is difficult to cite common sense to a philosopher. So I’m cowering under blankets–which may or may not be digitally generated–because that seems to be the only viable option.

Let Me Explain To You Why You Get No Extra-Credit; (a dispatch from your web-editor)

Let Me Explain To You Why You Get No Extra Credit
by Eric Dovigi

I.
A dead skunk is permitted to decompose on the side of a road until it dissolves like a putrid dandelion, yet I’m not allowed to sit on a public bench for more than a half-hour.

II.
On this Earth, to shoot, stab, blow up, push, stone, set on fire, toss in acid, banish, exile, ostracize, discourage, hate, and ridicule are the most ubiquitous methods of empowerment.

III.
In our culture, people are invited and encouraged to commoditize themselves on human-sharing websites that suggest they assign themselves a status, a profile, neat lists of friends, events, and take photos of themselves with squishy faces, let people know what sorts of boring things they will be doing that night and invite other people to share in the boredom; or by means of a carefully chosen quotation, express the intention to spend a lifetime in pursuit of artistic accomplishment of which they will never, ever, in a million years in a million possible universes, be even partly capable.

IV.
People jump on top of alligators for fun, eat spoonfuls of cinnamon, lick frozen aluminum poles, build paper mache wings and leap from the Eiffel Tower, all with more confidence than I have ever had, doing anything, in my entire life.

V.
This morning I walked to work with plastic bags tied around my shoes. My shoes were made for running in the summertime. The right shoe has a large hole in the side.

VI.
It is winter. Snow is everywhere. By the time I got halfway to work the plastic bags had torn mostly off. My right sock was drenched. I stumbled and fell cutting through the dry gully by the graveyard.

VII.
Every day I wake up tired, and I spend so much time during the day just being tired that by the time I go to bed, I’m not really that tired anymore, so I lie awake until it’s morning.

VIII.
You came into class twenty minutes late yesterday. Twenty minutes. Here is a list of pretty much the only people that are ever twenty minutes late on a regular basis: a) employees who are about to get fired, b) people having sex at near-absolute-zero temperatures, c) Gandalf, d) the New York Phil’ under Leonard Bernstein (I don’t expect you to get that joke), e) Kanye West when his watch is set forty minutes ahead, and f) the rabbit from Alice In Wonderland.

IX.
You have not been writing down the word-of-the-day since at least September. I watch you.

X.
I don’t like your Facebook profile picture. Yeah, I looked up your name on Facebook.

XI.
I make less money now, as an instructor at a university, than I did when I worked retail–by a long-shot. Lagavulin ain’t getting any cheaper.

XII.
I’m starting to go a little deaf in my left ear. What’s that? Extra what?

XIII.
I’m afraid of dying. I want those extra-credit points for myself. I want to horde them up. Maybe my inflammation will reduce. Maybe cell-senescence will slow–or reverse. Maybe my traumatic memories will disappear. Let the serotonin flow. Let wine rain from the sky. Give me those extra-credit points! They’re mine! num num num…

XIV.
No. I don’t want them. I don’t want those extra-credit points because they’ll only dull the pain for a moment, child. The elation won’t last. The sense of safety, of accomplishment, of pride, will pass quickly and leave no residue, and the weight of Earth will descend with swift eagerness and you will be utterly crushed, you tiny tiny human. Old people will fuck you over forever, until they die, and then you’ll be old, and the dead skunks will dot the roads and you won’t be allowed to sit on a bench, and cars will hit you, and people will laugh at you, and you’ll have spent your entire life as a teacher making less money than you did when you worked retail, and then you’ll die.

XV.
There is no such thing as extra-credit.

Night Noise

Night Noise by Emma Moser

The pattern of your breathing changes,
and that is how I know we both heard it, that we are both stirring from a different darkness than the one which embraced us, hours ago, as we embraced, fading into sleep, and that the velvet of conversing breaths has been violated by something harsher, rawer,
alien and unwelcome as it scrapes its way into our warm and sacred silence.

Now we are both listening, I know we
are, both on our backs pretending not to see your ceiling as we listen to the shrieks, to the sharpness of voices, unmuffled even beneath your shag-rugged floor, your first-floor Canadian housemate and his girlfriend, again, as his thunderous
youfuckingbitch
shatters like a wave against her rigid godforbidyouasshole,
as their tones of rage suffocate us soft and quiet creatures, we who squirm under lover speech turned hard.

Why do we just lie here, why don’t we
speak, why do we remain in our separate bed-corners, pretending the other must be sleeping through the war downstairs, pretending their noise doesn’t crumble us inside, we whose words to each other have always been silk, and smothered under this noise I can’t

help but wonder what your voice would be at that volume, if it would shake me, and what contortions your face would wear, if it would frighten me, or if I too would yell, hiding behind an unfamiliar voice to shield myself from yours, and where is your arm,
and why doesn’t it reach over to me now.

There is a shift, the single crash of
a slamming door, and though the house is no longer shuddering, though the weight of their shouts dissipates from your room, silence begins to crowd our ears, colder than the one into which we had breathed, hours ago, and it outlines our stillness all the more,
our upturned faces that look at ceilings, and letting go of a sigh I begin a shift in my body, a slow rolling away from your undiscovered arms, to embrace the stillness instead.

But I never find it, because all at once
you are turned over and your face is touching mine, your lips feeling the shape of my forehead in the dark, your hand cupping my shoulder, and the pattern of your breathing changes, perhaps to say
iloveyou,
perhaps to let the silence say it for you, and sinking into your warmth, that is how I know: we are safe again.

 

An MFA candidate for fiction writing at Southern Connecticut State University, Emma Moser‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming at several venues, including Prairie Margins, Cheat River Review, The Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, and Thoreau’s Rooster. As creator of the blog “Antiquarian Desiderium.” She is also a contributor at Writers Get Together.

BIRD BY DESERT-LIGHT

BY CHELSEA BIONDOLILLO

 

…It can’t store enough fuel to last the night

and hoist it from its well of dreams

to first light trembling on wet fuchsia,

nor break the hard promise life always keeps.

A lot of hummingbirds die in their sleep.

 

Diane Ackerman, Dark Night of the Hummingbird

 

 

Creeping home after midnight requires equal amounts of attention to detail and skill. After years of late nights, I know to take my shoes off before walking up to the door, so no heel sound will clatter on the steps. I secure my purse over my shoulder and tuck it under my arm to prevent it from jangling or bumping into door jambs. If I’ve been drinking, I take a couple of cleansing breaths to focus on the task at hand: getting the key into the lock with a minimum of fumbling. Stabbing blindly at the key plate is the sure sign of an amateur.

Tonight, however, I’m sober as a judge. My stealth is out of habit and courtesy rather than propriety: I don’t want to wake my parents. I’m every bit a guest in this house, and want to act it. Already I have figuratively slunk to their house in Phoenix after failing to beat the recession. Back in Texas, someone else is living in my house and someone else is doing the administrative tasks that I used to do, before my position was eliminated.

Continue reading BIRD BY DESERT-LIGHT

PRESENCE

BY BILL VERNON

 

I’m not even fishing, just standing on the bank of the Little Miami River, and the flowing seems to pour through me. It’s as if the future lies downstream and all I have to do is look there to see it. My eyes are like spools from which the lines of my being arc out, unwinding to catch on the surface, then slowly sink, gleaming like lasers cutting through the murk, spreading a light net over the deep. I’m so close the smell of the water seems to rise up from inside the earth.

Continue reading PRESENCE