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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 Steve Cartwright © 2019

What a Mess


Miles Ryan Fisher



We walked from the falls to our apartment, though I can’t remember the reason why—we being myself, Scooter, Shitbag, and Ricky. It was a long way off, really. And by that time Fritz had disappeared. But nobody brought him up anyway.

We hiked it across town, stopping a few times because Ricky had to throw up. And when he did, he’d find the closest wooded area and go and do so. We just waited until he was done. After he walked out and wiped his mouth with the bottom of his shirt, we continued walking without much to say and without considering that there was something inside of him trying to find a way out.

The apartment Scooter and I lived in wasn’t tidy, but it wasn’t a shithole either, even though you might think so because we referred to it as The Deucehole. All it was, was Apartment #2 on the second floor. That’s all.

We took up the living room. Shitbag and Ricky plopped down on the wood-framed couch, and Scooter and I both pulled some old wood chairs around a coffee table that swayed because its joints were loose. Shitbag took a bag of weed and flopped it on the table.

“Anyone up for a hit?” he asked and held up his little bowl.

“I’m good,” I said. I didn’t much care for weed. I pulled a box of Camels from my pocket, took one out, and lit it.

“Let me get one,” Shitbag said. So I tossed him a cig and he tucked it behind his ear and went back to packing his bowl.

“Hey,” Scooter said and nodded. I flung him the box and he took one out for himself and offered one to Ricky who didn’t respond. The box was already half gone, and I knew it wouldn’t last into the night. That’s what shrooms would do to you, keep you fiending for cigs. They’d give you iron lungs so you didn’t even need a lighter after the first one was lit. You’d just use the one you were finishing to light your next. We didn’t smoke in the apartment on a regular basis, but nobody felt like going all the way to the back deck.

Ricky was staring at the Play Station and the stack of games beside it. I thought about how taxing it would be to hammer on a bunch of controller buttons. But Ricky didn’t suggest playing a game or anything.

“Do you guys ever think that maybe there are infinite versions of you?” Scooter asked.  “Each one living at a different moment in your life as their present moment?” He was always up for some sort of deep discussion.

Ricky sat there, silent.

“So, like, time wouldn’t exist then,” Shitbag said, his lips toking on the bowl.

Ricky sat there, silent.

“Cause every moment is always happening?” I asked.

Ricky sat there, silent.

“Everything’s already happened and yet it hasn’t,” Shitbag added. “No such thing as time then.”

Our conversation continued on, though I can’t tell you all of what was said. It was interesting though. At least, I seem to remember being interested in it. I’m not so sure whether or not it would’ve been interesting to someone else.

Then at some point Ricky’s right leg drove right into the coffee table.

“What the fuck was that?” Shitbag said to Ricky. Ricky didn’t respond. He just sat there, his hands cupped in his lap. Another jolt and his leg drove right into the table again.

“Whoa, friend,” Scooter said. “Easy.”

But Ricky didn’t respond. He just sat there, numb to Scooter’s words. Suddenly his arms flailed and his feet kicked the ground in one full-body spasm. It lasted for a couple seconds. Then stillness.

“Is he having a seizure?”

I can’t remember who asked this, it could’ve been me. Either way, nobody answered.

Ricky’s arms flailed again, shooting higher into the air. His feet kicked harder than before, and this time it lasted for a couple seconds longer. Then stillness. “You need to cool it, man,” I said.

My words did about as much as Scooter’s, and Ricky’s whole body responded by contorting. His arms and his legs, his neck and his torso, twisted in unpredictable directions. It was as if something inside him were trying harder and harder to get out. I didn’t know if he’d been harboring a demon the couple years I’d known him, and I really didn’t care. I just wanted his fits to stop. He started shrieking like he was giving birth. He kicked the coffee table so hard its joints broke and it collapsed into the Play Station and stacks of video games. His arm swung through the lamp beside him, sending it grazing against Scooter’s head until it smacked across the television set and the light bulb popped into little pieces.

None of us tried to hold Ricky down. I mean, what were we to do? Scooter was the only one who moved, and that was to get up from his chair and sit in another one on my side of the room. It’s a good thing he did, too, because moments after he moved, another of Ricky’s spasms sent his foot into Scooter’s chair so hard that one of its legs broke and it toppled over.

I don’t want to live, Ricky said. He clawed at his face so you could see the red membrane below his eyeballs. I just want to die.

I didn’t know if he was serious about that, and it kind of irritated me that he’d even say something of the sort.

I don’t want to live, he repeated. I just want to die.

I looked at the one window in our living room. It was at least a three-story drop since our two-story building sat on a steep hillside. I wondered if whatever was trying to get out of Ricky would take him through that window and plant him into the cement sidewalk below. Then I wondered if there was a point at which we should call someone for help. Like the police or something. But I just wondered these things. I didn’t say anything, so I don’t really know if anyone else wondered about them, too. I looked around at Shitbag and Scooter, but they just sat there. None of us blocked the window. Maybe he would jump through it, and maybe he wouldn’t. You just never really know about these things.

You know how things just melt sometimes? Sometimes …

No, I didn’t know if they did or if they didn’t, but Ricky kept posing the possibility amidst his spasms.

You know how things just melt sometimes? Sometimes …

What I did know is how much of an inconvenience it would be if he took himself through that window and melted all over the sidewalk. We’d have to call an ambulance, which would be such a drain especially because we’d have to handle the authorities and their unanswerable questions like why Ricky would do such a thing. How the hell would I know why he’d do such a thing? Why don’t you ask him?

You know how things just … sometimes …

Ricky’s fits began to weaken, giving my thoughts some space as I tried my best to concentrate on other things. I thought about my girlfriend and how she’d called me earlier to see if I wanted to go to dinner with her parents. I couldn’t think of anything that would’ve been more taxing at that moment. But maybe I’d call her after her parents left and Ricky got out of our apartment. I’d wanted him to leave for quite some time now. 

Ricky’s phone rang. His hand climbed into his jeans pocket and drew it out. I was surprised to see his motor skills intact. He picked it up. “Hello?”

We didn’t find out until afterward that the other person on the line was his twin sister. Whoever she was and whatever she said, it caused something in Ricky to click.

“It’s good,” Ricky said to his sister. We didn’t ever ask him her name. “Just hanging out … yeah, the whole eighth … nah, I was the only one … kinda strong I guess … nope, nothing bad really, you should try it sometime … yeah … okay … mom and dad … next weekend … okay, talk to you later.”

He put his phone back in his pocket and scanned the living room. The busted coffee table. The video game system and its games lying all over the floor. The lamp across the television and the chair on the ground. “What happened here?” he asked. “This place is a mess.”

 “Seriously?” Scooter asked.

“What do you mean?” Ricky asked. “This place is a mess.”

“Yo,” I said to Shitbag, “you wanna have a smoke out back?” There were only two cigarettes left, and they were my ticket outta that fucking room.

“What the hell was all of that?” I asked him once we were outside on the deck. 

He shrugged.

“I thought he was going to kill himself.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Me, too.”

        We stood there smoking the last cigarettes in silence. The sun was setting. Each time I exhaled it felt like the weight of the world lifted off my chest one ounce at a time. All I could think about was how lucky we were that Ricky hadn’t leapt through the window. What a mess that would’ve been.

Miles Ryan Fisher works full-time as Editor-in-Chief of Italian America® magazine, a national publication that goes out quarterly, and has a print circulation of 30,000. His essays have appeared in Washingtonian MagazineWashington PostPhiladelphia Inquirer, and Go World Travel. His  fiction has appeared in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, The Scarlet Leaf Review, The Flash Fiction Press, and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine.

It's well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying, so our pal Steve Cartwright is typing his bio with one hand while pummeling his head with a frozen mackerel with the other. Stop, Steve! Death by mackerel is no way to go! He (Steve, not the mackerel) has a collection of spooky toons, Suddenly Halloween!, available at Amazon.com.    He's done art for several magazines, newspapers, websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling - but mostly drooling - on tavern napkins. He also creates art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. He was awarded the 2004 James Award for his cover art for Champagne Shivers. He recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright . And please hurry with your response - that mackerel's killin' your pal, Steve Cartwright.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications © 2019