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Darker Than Dark-Fiction by Mark Joseph Kevlock
What a Mess-Fiction by Miles Ryan Fisher
Flippimg the Frozen Finger Farewell-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
A Gift of Death-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Maggot-Fiction by Max Watt
Redemption for a Lowlife-Fiction by Angelo Gentile
A Night Out at Wrath's-Fiction by Jason Butkowski
The Pact-Fiction by Edward Francisco
Joey Brick-Fiction by Henry Simpson
Violators-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Trauma-Fiction by Robert Petyo
Fire-Fiction by Tom Barlow
The Bank Robbin' Deacon-Flash Fiction by Walter Giersbach
The Matrix of Love-Flash Fiction by J. Brooke
Huddled and Crying-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
The Mere Four-Flash Fiction by Henry G. Stanton
The Big Hunt-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Family Tree-Poem by Neil Ellman
A Line from Lynynrd Skynyrd-Poem by Mark Young
The End of the End-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Bones-Poem by Christopher Hivner
The Berserker Train-Poem by Christopher Hivner
Contemplating an Unknown-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Lifeless Space Rock-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Our Armored Oxygen Suits-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Like Broken Glass-Poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Walk at Night-Poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Terrible Animal-Poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
I Am Borges-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
I Am Hesse-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
I Am Camus-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
The House of Four Senses-Poem by John Grey
At the Complaint Department-Poem by John Grey
My Mighty Pen-Poem by John Grey
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Sean O'Keefe © 2019

A Night Out at Wrath’s


By Jason Butkowski


The bass pounded a railroad stake deeper and deeper into his ear, and the strobes fired like machine guns from the stage, filling the fog-filled club air with staccato lightning bolts.

Simon was disoriented as fuck even before he accepted the little blue pill from his friend Dave. Dave was shouting something about being too rigid, or being too hard on the world – it was hard to hear the exact words over the THUMP-THUMP’ing of the electronica music, but Simon figured that he got the gist.

He popped the pill in his mouth without looking, and chased it down his throat with some concoction consisting of pineapple juice, maraschino cherry syrup, wine, vodka, and schnapps. The drink was cloyingly sweet — typical for the kitchen sink abominations served here — and Simon had to swallow twice to counter his gag reflex.

Across the bar, the guy was staring at him again.

The man in question had no business being in a place like Wrath’s. Most of the male clientele could be comfortably separated into groups: Guys who wore stupid hats. Guys who looked like Jesus, but with too much eye-liner. Guys with bad facial hair and no eyebrows. Guys who wore tank tops and dog collars. Guys who looked like Edward Scissorhands. Guys with fingerless gloves and mesh shirts. Guys who looked like what would happen if Jesus and Edward Scissorhands had a love child.

This asshole was wearing a shirt and tie. And Goddamned khakis. In fucking Wrath’s.

What the fuck was he doing there?!

It could have been the drugs talking — God knows that Simon was no stranger to chemically enhanced paranoia — but he was definitely vibing some kind of ill intent coming from across the bar. When the aged-out College Republican realized that he was found out and that Simon was staring back at him, the prick quickly looked elsewhere to try desperately to maintain his blown cover.

“Fuck this,” Simon muttered to himself. He left the main bar area and went downstairs to the dance floor, where he figured he could lose the fucker in the sea of gyrations taking place below street level.

Simon wondered what King of the Yuppies wanted with him. His imagination went wild — one minute, he thought the guy must be some elite hit man sent to kill him for an unknown offense against a Russian mob czar, and the next, shirt-and-tie guy was just a lonely, lost fucker looking to get a handjob from one of the rainbow-dreaded denizens that frequented the club.

Simon absently started grinding on a woman who looked like a middle-aged Deb from Empire Records, complete with grey shaved head. Her slender arms were raised towards the low ceiling, baggy cardigan sleeves pooled in navy blue lagoons past her elbows, her bony wrists bent as if the product of bad taxidermy.

Did the asshole follow him downstairs?

Simon excused himself and went to hide deeper into the crowd. He caught a glimpse of khaki in his periphery.

He pushed past a woman in a sheer skirt and thigh-high leather boots, and an older guy with a handlebar moustache, wearing a studded denim cutoff — the studs on his back spelled the word “Daddy.” Shirt-and-Tie seemed like he was right on his heels.

Simon ducked behind the neon drink sign at the end of the Basement Bar. He could swear he felt breath on the back of his neck. He double-backed on his path. He looked around and didn’t see any sign of his pursuer.

The chase had momentarily ended, and the hunter had disappeared into thin air.

And then, the sudden urge to piss hit Simon like a wrecking ball to the groin.

He momentarily forgot about the suburban ghost of Christmas Future, and Simon made a bee-line for the men’s room. He unzipped his jeans and stood in front of the urinal.

And that’s when the khakis walked in.

“What the fuck do you want from me?!” shouted Simon, turning to face his nemesis.

“Are you the Simon Roberts, who lives at 317 Chestnut Street?”

Simon was stunned. “... how do you know where I live?” he asked, frightened.

“You were involved in a fender bender with a Mazda last week, and you left the scene. Cameras outside the building caught you on video...”

“You’ve been served,” said the button-down menace, a piece of court documentation dangling from outstretched fingers as he extended his hand forward.

And while Simon was being served, that’s when Dave’s little blue pill kicked in. Blood flowed involuntarily. Tissues subconsciously stiffened.

Simon had unknowingly taken Viagra.

Standing in the men’s room, engorged member in hand, Simon had no idea what to say, but “sorry” as he awkwardly tried to stuff the trouser snake back in its cage.

The process server’s jaw dropped. He flung the papers and fled, Simon’s continued fumbled apologies trailing after him out the door.

The next day, Rob Smith quit his uncle’s law firm of Smith, Collins, Friedberg, LLC. Months later, he would tearfully come out to his mother, who always kind of suspected it and told her son that the family would love him, no matter what.

Today, Rob the process server lives in Vermont with his husband. They sell beeswax candles and other assorted tchotchkes from a roadside gift shop. He has mostly moved past the trauma of that fateful night in the nightclub, when, as he tells it, he was “almost violated by an over-sexed Goth Satanist with a raging hard-on and fire in his eyes.”  When he tells the story, he emphasizes that he barely escaped with his life and virginity intact, but that the fear of being found out for his secret desires led him to have the courage to live a more authentic life.

As for Simon, he stopped taking the little blue pills offered up by his friend Dave — or at the very least; Simon now remembers to inspect them before he chases them with the Franken-drinks they serve at Wrath’s.

Jay Butkowski is a writer of crime fiction and an eater of tacos who lives in Central New Jersey.  His short fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama and Story and Grit magazines.  He’s a co-host of the Asbury Park Noir at the Bar reading series, and has self-published two short story anthologies through his neo-pulp imprint, Episodes from the Zero Hour!.  He’s also an editor at Rock and a Hard Place magazine, a multi-genre journal of dark fiction. You can find his work online at http://rexrockwell.wordpress.com, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Jason.Butkowski.Author/.

Sean O’Keefe is an artist and writer living in Roselle Park, NJ. Sean attended Syracuse University where he earned his BFA in Illustration. After graduation, Sean moved to New York City where he spent time working in restaurants and galleries while pursuing various artistic opportunities. After the birth of his children, Sean and family move to Roselle Park in 2015. He actively participates in exhibitions and art fairs around  New Jersey, and is continuing to develop his voice as a writer. His work can be found online at www.justseanart.com and @justseanart on Instagram.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications © 2019