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Oklahoma-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Claire's Disposable Distraction-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Doing the Trash-Fiction by Sean McElhiney
Kinks-Fiction by Don Stoll
Heads or Tails-Fiction by Ambrose McJunkin
Brother Smith-Fiction by Bruce Harris
Designated Driver-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
Dr. Flytrap's Home for Women-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Bhopal 2-Fiction by Doug Hawley
There He is Again-Fiction by Thomas Bailey
Genital Pulp-Fiction by Matthew Licht
There is Nothing-Fiction by Rick McQuiston
La Mere Mauvaise-Flash Fiction by Dini Armstrong
One Dark Quiet Night Disturbed-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Prankster-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Petal World-Flash Fiction by j. brooke
Reading Bukowski-Poem by Bob Kokan
Preparing the Children for Grandma's Visit-Poem by John Grey
Marble-Sized Raindrops-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Never Any Good at Magic-Poem by J. J. Campbell
Red-Poem by Meg Baird
Spigot-Poem by Otto Burnwell
Wrong-Poem by Ruth Ticktin
In the Backyard-Poem by Holly Day
Harry the Hippie-Poem by David Spicer
Michelangelo's Handshakes-Poem by David Spicer
Flaxen Hair-Poem by John Short
Once Every Four Years-Poem by John Short
A Recap of the Main Points-Poem by Mark Young
Morning Raga-Poem by Mark Young
Corona-Poem by Marc Carver
Pandemic-Poem by Marc Carver
The Secret-Poem by Maec Carver
Consideration-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
The Apartment-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
Holiday_Poem by Richard M. Prazych
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Henry Stanton 2020

There is Nothing

Rick McQuiston


          I'm writing this letter in the hope that someone will discover it before it is too late.

          As I gaze out through a small window I see that there is nothing. No trees; no birds in the sky; no people walking past. The building that I crouch in like a frightened child seems to be that the only thing left.

I am truly alone.

Although I would hesitate to call it being alone. A short while ago I could have sworn I heard something. It sounded like moans, but not human. They were raspy, guttural, feral. My blood froze in my veins when I heard them.

I immediately grabbed a piece of wood from the debris scattered on the floor, crept up to the window, and peered into the void.

A sense of great depth overwhelmed me. I could see no light, no boundaries whatsoever, only an inky black chasm that was as blank and depressing as a mineshaft.

Pressing my nose against the few remaining shards of glass left in the window's frame I listened for the sounds. I think I would have preferred to hear something, despite my fears. In a strange way that would've been preferable to the nothingness that stared back at me.     

"Hello?" I called out. "Is anyone there?"

Only silence answered me.

I continued to stare at the void, oblivious to my own sanity or safety, neither of which I was certain would remain intact for long given my current circumstances.

And then I heard it: the same moans as before, only, and I shudder to think about it, closer. Before, they were distant, like a voice diluted by distance. But not now. Now whatever was making them was quite near.

I recoiled from the sound. I've never been one for courage so it didn't take much effort on my part to let fear rule my actions.

I fell back into the room. My back crashed against the far wall and I readied myself for whatever might come through the window.

It only took a minute or so for the moans to start up again, this time increasing in both volume and frequency. They were closer than earlier, so close that I expected something to present itself in the room at any time.

In fact, I wanted it. Since this bizarre nightmare began and I found myself in this building, surrounded by nothingness, my fear has been matched only by my curiosity. Why did this happen? And who or what was behind it?

Then I saw something outside the window, although it wasn't a something. It was nothing, actually, a mass of nothing that had congealed outside the window frame. It

appeared to be nothing more than darkness, but as I stared at it I saw a vague shape take form, unclear and yet distinct, there and yet not there.

The piece of wood, my pathetic excuse for a weapon, fell from my hand.

The entity (for lack of a better word) slipped past the window frame and into the room. I watched its edges shimmer, blurring the surrounding darkness like heat escaping a fire. However, there was no warmth, nor was there cold. In fact, there was nothing, no sound, no sense of life, despite the unsettling movement of the thing. It was a patch of blackness, a blob of nothingness that had somehow coalesced into a sentient being.

I shivered when the moaning started again.

But this time the sounds began to take shape, gradually forming into gibberish, and then rudimentary words.

"I… amm…I am. I am nothing."

The words chilled me to the bone.

"What are you?" I asked.

"I am nothing," the creature repeated.

I felt secure that it wasn't going to attack me. It had after all kept me around while apparently erasing the rest of existence.

"What do you want?"

My question seemed to agitate it because it lunged toward me, coming to within inches of my sweat-slicked face.

"To be recognized," it said in a hoarse whisper.

It was then that I realized the magnitude of my predicament.

"I don't understand," I lied. I did understand though, much to my misfortune. I understood perfectly.

It was not of this planet, possibly not of this dimension. It was a being that was composed of nothing, and yet somehow existed. And to continue to exist, it needed to be known, it needed, as it had told me, to be recognized.

And I, not only the sole person left on Earth, but also the only person left in existence, was spared so it could have an audience.

The creature elongated, forming a vaguely recognizable biped shape. A head stretched out near its top; a pair of arms on its sides, and all composed of emptiness.

I watched in disbelief as a slit then appeared in the nothingness of its head and opened.

"You will remain alive. Your immediate surroundings will also remain intact."

I looked around the room in which I was trapped. Long-lost memories of my parents, my friends, a sunrise, flashed across my mind, each bringing with it an agonizing jolt of reality.

"Death will not come for you, ever." The creature then folded in on itself and disappeared back through the window.

That last word it spoke stuck in my gut like a machete. Ever? I was to remain alive forever, never finding the merciful release of death?

The notion chilled my blood.

I snatched the piece of wood from the floor, and without hesitating, slammed it into my chest. Burning pain washed over me, radiating from the entry wound down to my toes, and back up to my brain, crippling me in its fiery embrace.

I crashed to the ground, clutching my chest with blood-soaked hands.

But I didn't die. Instead, I quickly regained my breath, and within a few minutes felt perfectly normal.

I was immortal, a living god in a vast sea of oblivion, undeterred by death, unknown by all except an entity composed of nothing.

I pulled the piece of wood out of my chest and rolled onto my back, cursing the thing that had done this to me.

Rick McQuiston is a fifty-two-year old father of two who loves anything horror-related. He's had over 400 publications so far, and written five novels, thirteen anthologies, one book of novellas, and edited an anthology of Michigan authors. He's also a guest author each year at Memphis Junior High School. Currently, he's working on two new novels.

Henry Stanton's fiction, poetry and paintings appear in 2River, The A3 Review, Avatar, The Baltimore City Paper, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, High Shelf Press, Kestrel, North of Oxford, Outlaw Poetry, PCC Inscape, Pindeldyboz, Rusty Truck, Salt & Syntax, SmokeLong Quarterly, The William and Mary Review, Word Riot, The Write Launch, and Yellow Mama, among other publications. 

His poetry was selected for the A3 Review Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry.  His fiction received an Honorable Mention acceptance for the Salt & Syntax Fiction Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual Writing Contest.

A selection of Henry Stanton's paintings are currently on show at Atwater's Catonsville and can be viewed at the following website www.brightportfal.com.  A selection of Henry Stanton’s published fiction and poetry can be located for reading in the library at www.brightportfal.com.

Henry Stanton is the Founding & Managing Editor of The Raw Art Reviewwww.therawartreview.com.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020