hungry ghosts – chris moore

hungry ghosts

How to Woo a Married Woman:

• Converse on a wide variety of topics
• Share music she’s never heard before but likes
• Be physically close
• Challenge her, without conflict
• Have similar outdoor interests
• Love nature
• Notice rocks
• Be quick-witted
• Be offbeat
• Keep your mind open
• Be intelligent
• Care about things
• Give
• Have patience with her children
• Be the keeper of more than one talent
• Be thoughtful
• Be intuitive (to a fault)
• Be sensual
• Make her laugh
• Have bright eyes

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August 2010: They say that the brain doesn’t stop developing until mid-twenties, even early thirties. Guess that means I meet her at a crucial point. Twenty-four. I tell her twenty-five; my birthday just around the corner. She’s eleven years my senior and a lesson in forced autonomy. I have her and I don’t. She asks if I see my future full of options and I say yes: multiple paths yet unknown. To be settled down is her dream and I lose myself in it.

 

Lately everything is a little bit more than it seems.  Lost in a book of a back-mountain man who builds his stasis from the wood of trees much like the ones that are burning to the ground as I speak. Maybe it’s a little bit timely, maybe it’s a little bit telling: the winds that raged that Labor Day when we trailed behind a group in the woods, crossing paths with children hunkered down under backpacks, on our way to an inlet that led you and I to our private rocks of contemplation. And tonight, we can’t even talk over the winds so I hold her against me, against the porch pillar, letting passersby revel in our puzzle pieces.

 

hourglass

 

Dear T,

I know I gave birth to you. You wilted with your wife and said you revived my body, the way Maria did mine. But I have seen how when a body is resurrected, a war can begin inside. These disorienting dilemmas have a way of upending lives. Your former life was a carefully set table overturned in rage. I knew our life together might meet the same end. Nevertheless, I persisted.

 

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The thought just barely creeps in. It says, we can make it outside my dreams. Her eyes are reckless windows that lead directly to her soul without passing ‘go,’ without collecting two hundred dollars; precisely why I always look away. Our very separate bodies ached together, woman who oh-so-frankly called me out on the speed with which I fell. Tempted to say: told you so or oh, how the tables have turned.

 

Valentine’s Day, 2011: I rent us a room at a quaint bed and breakfast in a mountain town, fill it to overflowing with candles, lie my guitar across the bed like a naked woman. After we have dinner I bring her there. I am shy. I sing and play for her every song that has shaken us. We consume one another the rest of the night. Blood everywhere. It’s either love or death to the housekeep in the morning. Surprised they don’t call the police. The next day, she vanishes.

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Dear T,

Who are our first lovers if not our mothers? Your disappearing act was familiar to me. You were familiar to me. You were my home insofar as you were like my mother.

Baby Duck Syndrome:

  • Absence on loop.
  • A scratched compact disc.
  • Unable to advance.
  • Insane in love.
  • Insane in war.

 

Maybe the possibility that we could heal our respective mommy-traumas is what held us together for so long. In the meantime, we loved the outdoors and creating things with our four hands.

 

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December 21, 2011: We live together now. I promised her before I moved in that I wouldn’t drink.

She strands me at a billiards bar in a suburban strip mall. She rents herself a room, over an hour into the mountains and makes her angry getaway. Her disappearing act is familiar to me. I fill my bloodstream to overflowing with beer by midnight, take a taxi home, find her reservation in her email inbox. I decide to chase her down, guitar in my backseat, and serenade her back into my arms.

A couple close calls: my passenger door and the guardrail, my sideview mirror and the median. A couple of empties thrown through my open window into the dark. A couple hundred shards of glass on the snowy highway. A couple of good samaritans. A couple 911 calls. A couple of cop cars. A couple of blows: a couple tenths of a milligram per deciliter away from a coma. A couple of hands in handcuffs. A couple of mugshots. A couple hours sobbing. A couple hours sleeping. A couple hot showers in between the couple hours of sleeping. A couple of other women cry aloud in the beds around mine. A couple bus tokens the next morning. A couple miles to walk back to our home without my socks, short-sleeved in a couple feet of snow. A couple days until Christmas, a couple dissolving.

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Dear T,

Thank you, oh and fuck you, for letting me back in a few months later. I became the third or fourth mother to your children for a second time. You’ve really gotta work on your boundaries. We were a five year love affair. Drama all the time. Maybe we were caught up in the passion we had lost. We fought about something everysingleday for two years. A zucchini flower. A credit card. Any snide remark. Any crooked look. The childrens’ bedtime. What to have for dinner. Who will cook dinner. Who appreciates who less. That thing I did two years ago. Which therapist we should hire.

 

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January 1, 2015: She says get your shit and get the fuck out by 8pm or I will call the police. My blood turns to battery acid and my eye levees burst. I get out. Downtown, center of the city, my friend Chad helps me across his street, up the stairs, into and out from the elevator, down the hall, into his open-air spare bedroom, and back again about fifteen times. I am moving out, maybe moving on, but my identity is still T and the kids. They’re everything. People often ask why a battered wife won’t leave her abuser. I understand now. It becomes the only thing of everything you know. Probably of everything you’ve known since you were a child. Familiar may not be healthy but it’s expected. Ani Difranco sings privilege is a headache that you don’t know you don’t have. Read that again. Let it sink in. I guess in my case it’s: abuse is a headache you have always had and so you didn’t know you could exist without it. And I won’t know for another two years.

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Dear T,

Fuck you for begging me back nearly six months later. And what of the in-between? The only true thing you ever said of me: you didn’t want a lover, you wanted a mother. I think you knew my weakness. Maybe you didn’t want to disassemble another household. I almost said family, you didn’t want to disassemble another family, but you’d put me on a par with your children and when one sibling moves away, the family itself doesn’t dissolve. But the household changes. Your household changed, drastically, the third time in five years. I demanded couples therapy if I were to set foot back in your house. You told me you’d do anything to make this work. Why then, in our therapist’s office, did his nearly-gaping mouth betray his neutrality? I sat tight  against the armrest, swollen eyes staring off at some object in the room. He coached you through what it would sound like to validate another human’s feelings. You kept up the questions about whether or not my particular feeling really had validity. That’s not the point. It’s not about right or wrong, feelings aren’t right or wrong. All feelings are valid because they are just that: feelings.’


val·i·date /ˈvaləˌdāt/ (verb):

  1. check or prove the validity or accuracy of (something).
  2. demonstrate or support the truth or value of.
    • synonyms: prove, give proof of, show to be true, give substance to; uphold, support, back up, bear out, justify, vindicate, substantiate, corroborate, verify, demonstrate, authenticate, confirm, endorse, give credence to, lend weight to; vouch for, attest to, testify to, stand by, bear witness to

 

It’s as though you thought that to say I hear you, meant you’d convict yourself. Of what, though? It’s the only time I ever walked out of a therapy session in my life.

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My anger is so thick I can’t cry. I go through the house reclaiming all of my belongings, again – if it fits in my car, it’s going with me. I slam the hatchback so hard on this part of my life that it echoes through the cul-de-sacs. I slam my car door just as hard. The dead bird in the bush comes back to life, my hampered voice fills my mouth again, the first time since thirteen. This is it: the moment where I take up all of my pain and resentment. Like so many knick-knacks from my past, I hurl the abandonment and invisibility into my literal and metaphorical car and get the fuck out because dammit I deserve better.

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Chris Moore is an elementary school teacher and poet-turned-essayist, residing in the Denver Metro area. She is currently completing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction in the Mile High MFA Program at Regis University. Her work has been featured in the 2018 Punch Drunk Press Anthology, Naropa’s 2019 Vagina Monologues Zine, and Allegory Ridge Magazine.

acheron – robert boucheron

acheron.jpg

At five o’clock, Arthur Lothbury put on a gray felt fedora, inserted a fresh white handkerchief in the breast pocket of his jacket, and stepped out the front door for his daily stroll.

The town was a cluster of brick and frame dwellings of the 1800s. Located in a hollow, on a railroad line that was no longer active, it had three churches, a dozen shops, a post office, a school repurposed as a senior center, and a white-columned filling station with a porte cochère. At the center, where two main streets crossed, the town hall boasted a mansard roof and a clock tower. The tallest structure in town, with a face on all four sides, the clock tower rose above the trees like a sentinel.

Arthur kept the clock tower in view, though he was unlikely to get lost in the town where he was born. He generally walked for exercise, but this afternoon he dawdled. His gaze wandered left and right. It was early spring, still bleak but mild. Buds swelled on the trees. Cold weather had delayed them. Slanting rays of the sun lit the quiet streets. No one else was about, which was odd for the end of a weekday.

He stopped to examine a flowering shrub that overhung a picket fence, as though eager to escape. The yard was unkempt, in a town that was proud of its gardens. How could such a thing happen? Who lived in this house? He knew many neighbors, but not all. In retirement, he was losing track of changes in the population.

This house must have a tenant, someone who did not care for the place. A deflated ball and a broken toy lay on the weedy lawn. Rolled newspapers littered the porch, dusty and yellowed. Maybe no one lived here.

Arthur moved on. It was an effort to put one foot in front of the other. Yet the day had passed in idleness—light housekeeping, some reading, an hour at his desk paying bills, a letter to a relative. What had he done to be worn out?

A single man with many friends and few responsibilities, he ought to enjoy this stage of life, an endless stretch of leisure. But contentment was elusive. He urged himself to walk faster. Chin up and eyes peeled! At any moment, a friend or stranger was likely to cross his path. He would need to say something cheerful, a word of greeting. But the town was deserted, as if Arthur had missed an order to evacuate. He looked straight ahead and spurred his flank. But his feet dragged.

Coming to an alley, he stopped to peer down its length. He seldom walked in this part of town. He knew it like the back of his hand but not this alley. It bordered the railroad track—that was the trouble. The sun trembled on the horizon. The alley was already in shade. Lined by sheds and fences, it promised things of interest—an old wagon, a gnarled tree, a forgotten bicycle like a sketch of lines and circles.

Arthur strolled down the middle, over gravel and grass. The alley was long—he could not see the end—and growing dark. He tried not to scuff his shoes. He hoped he would not step in a puddle. Not a living creature met his eye, not so much as a sparrow. Then a small shape shifted. A cat crouched a few feet ahead.

Cats lurked all over town. Some allowed him to pet them, some rolled at his feet, and some fled. This one stared coldly. Whoever said that cats were curious? Another step, and the cat disappeared, perhaps through a hole in a fence.

Dusk came on. Was it so late? Arthur looked around and did not see the clock tower. How long had he been walking? He had left his watch at home. Was this a blind alley? To turn around would be an admission of defeat. Despite fatigue, he pressed on.

The alley ended at last in a building with a passage through its ground floor. It was now night. At the far end of the unlit passage was a gate, with open space visible through the bars. Should he enter? What if the gate was locked? He was too tired to retrace his steps. Go forward and hope for the best.

The passage was empty. Beyond the gate was a street. He grasped the gate and pulled. In the hollow space of the vaulted passage, the rusty hinges groaned. Arthur flinched at what sounded like a voice, the drawn-out syllable “woe.” Arthur stepped through the arch, and the gate clicked shut. On impulse, he tried it. Locked.

The street was built up on one side. The other was open to the railroad. Arthur had not been here for years. Shops were closed or boarded up. The pavement was cracked and littered. He wanted to sit, but where? A short distance away stood the old train station, abandoned. A light burned inside, the only light in this gloomy wasteland. He trudged toward it.

A low rumble made itself known. The earth shook. The rumble grew and grew to a roar, until it was unmistakable. A train! Arthur reached the platform as the train arrived. In a stupor of exhaustion, he watched it slow. It looked like an excursion train from the century before, an antique restored to service for a single run. It screeched to a stop, a door opened, and a stair dropped at his feet. Where was the conductor? The side of the coach bore a name: “Acheron.”

Was that the destination? Arthur grasped the metal railing and climbed aboard.

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Robert Boucheron grew up in Syracuse and Schenectady, New York. He worked as an architect in New York and Charlottesville, Virginia, where he has lived since 1987. His short stories and essays appear in Bellingham Review, Fiction International, London Journal of Fiction, Porridge Magazine, Saturday Evening Post, and other magazines.

Photo: Adam Bixby

you don’t knock on my door anymore – ghost #62

1400 cobwebs

You don’t knock on my door anymore.

I’m left to that resonance of your last knock that ping pongs around my apartment like an invisible pinball.

I’m left to the vibrations like our hands intertwined on the keys of a piano pressed down hard with our feet on two pedals, letting our love ring long and loud but slowly dying down like a sick old dog.

I’m left to wonder if I still hear anything and at what point does living in memory become a madness.

A necklace, a gift, left to sleep in the bottom of a box.

Who’s to say that I’d wear it as a noose and not as the physical amalgamation of that song that comes on and transports you through time?

When we set things down to not carry them any longer, is it to forget or because they are already always there?

I look in the mirror as I wrap your necklace around my neck and watch as it sinks into my skin.

I hear a knock on my door but I don’t know if I’m home or not to answer it.

 

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ghost #62 is.

Photo: Matthew T Rader

two poems – graham irvin

braindead angels

heaven is full of braindead angels

a stork family craned their neck
the plywood marsh was salt ringed
home never made me a man
we were pushing dirt in jumping run
a wasp was dissected by a law degree
T was in a fight with everyone he knew
the world needed mercy like a canteen of piss
G was possessed by a bobcat
and only a shotgun could end it
he made more money in county
chirping like a pigeon to melanoma frogs
the jungle was a mine of pvc glue
positive energy keeps bleeding out

 

the circle k in jacksonville has suboxone for cheap

G turned cigarettes into a cockroach
his father’s casket was made of clay
the holes in my jeans were leaking gasoline
my stomach was a power station
we lived in a dirt dobber’s footprint
each breath screamed i miss you mama
the kioti diesel is an adequate revenge
i wanted to drown the sun in birthday balloons
i wanted to be just like the biggest disease
the swamp sold discount cilantro
my baby stomach pulled a vanishing act
T could make anything potable
there is nothing good worth saying
a spider bite is a kind of art
landscape is the only necessity
i can’t wait to disappear

when the time period referred to has not finished – jesica carson davis

rory bjorkman

*
Remnants from the before

……………………………………what does this represent for you

object permanence                                       versus illusion

……………..we are all just visiting

*
This is how we let things go

……..by saying them and then waiting

……………..for their echoes                     for their ghosts

……………………….to fade until no longer recognizable

*
……………….Always coming home or going someplace

not an absolute decision

………………………………….two opposites simultaneously true

hold it close but with enough                            loose

………………………………….to slip away              if it needs to

……..if it               must

*
There are many names

…….a pool from which to choose

……………………………..the separation of bodies

…………..the difference of space between

this container we are all just                                borrowing

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Jesica Carson Davis is a poet and technical writer originally from Chicago, now living in Denver after several decades of travel. Her work has appeared in The Laurel Review, Zone 3, Columbia Poetry Review, Stoneboat, Storm Cellar, and other places. Jesica is an Associate Editor for Inverted Syntax literary journal, studied poetry at the University of Illinois (as well as The New School, NYU, and Poets House), was the final Alice Maxine Bowie Fellow at Lighthouse Writers Workshop (2016-2017), and won the Tarantula Prize for Poetry (Pilgrimage Press, 2018). Currently, she’s working on several poetry manuscripts and an ongoing project making poemboxes, which sculpturally interpret her words.

 

three poems – eric ranaan fischman

erase

Shelter

When I was a boy I learned
not to cry. I don’t know how.
I needed a wall, so I built one.
It was easy. Later I learned
that you can’t tell everyone
who you are. There are shapes
to fit in public places. Two walls
with a door. They told me
I shouldn’t sound so smart
if I wanted to make friends. You
have to drink, you have to have
fun. Four walls with a roof.

When I went out, I left myself
inside. I wore whatever costume
was expected of me. It was easy.
I learned to hide my anxiety, to
play parts. Bolts on the windows,
the shades drawn. What was
crying like again? I am a social
butterfly. I am a chameleon.
You will never see me bleed.
You will never feel the bruises
in my ribs. You will never even
make it to the front door.

 

Memory Rewritten According to the Way I Wish It Happened

Manhattan drives 18 hours through the night
from California to see me. I ask what’s wrong
and she tells me. She tells me everything.
We open to each other like doorways. We kiss
and the last two years melt away. It’s like
she never left. When we make love, our problems
don’t follow us into bed. There is no fear in
either of us, no hesitation. We wrap like vines
around each other’s trunks. We fall asleep.
The next day, we walk around the lake. She says
she never stopped loving me. She’s sorry and
so am I. If only we had been braver, if we hadn’t
run so far. That night we cook together and
the silence is so full of her eyes and lips that
I could die right now. “You don’t have to leave,”
I say. “Stay one more night.” She says, “Okay.”

 

Erasure of a Depressing Poem to Reverse Its Effects

Depression Poem

Every morning I wake up to an empty
bed, feeling rejected by the night before.
Every minute is a fresh heartbreak,
every sunrise an opportunity to burn.
It takes most of the day for me to
feel human again. My body whole,
my mind in its right boxes. But by then
it’s bedtime, and I lay down naked,
alone, in the darkest dark I can

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Eric Raanan Fischman is the incredible changing man. By the time you read this, he could be a bird, or an alligator. A faculty member at the Beyond Academia Free Skool, his work has appeared in the Boulder Weekly, Bombay Gin, and in the recent Punch Drunk Poetry Anthology. His first book, “Mordy Gets Enlightened,” was published through The Little Door at Lunamopolis in 2017. He is probably a chimney right now, but he might be a caterpillar, or a crane. He might be dust.

Photo: Zane Lee

lesser than less – rob plath

samuel zeller

i
want
to
feed
this
skin
to
the
wind
on
a
rooftop
&
sit
silently
kicking
my
bone
legs
over
the
ledge
in
the
moonlight

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Rob Plath is a writer from New York. He has published 21 books over the last 25 years. He’s most known for his monster collection A BELLYFUL OF ANARCHY (epic rites press). He lives alone w/ his cat & stays out of trouble. See more of his work at www.robplath.com

Photo: Samuel Zeller

because you can’t drink with your mouth closed – colin dodds

dodds.jpg

He pissed his cornflake juice
in the expensive of the hallway belonging
to the soap opera queen.

From the din of the kitchen,
people wearing last year’s orgasm
tossed glances like stones at his wet head.

Awful faces hanging on fangs—
pancake make-do and sideburns stitched
to a general sense of pointiness—in a place
where the winged quality-of-experience police
have no jurisdiction.

But he had to go and do it,
he opened his desert flower onto
the auctionyard of seized cars.
His friends said:

“We’re your friends
and we’re not your friends,
we can never leave
but we’ll see you later,
okay?”

Anyway, it was little miss
whoever’s whatever birthday
and she spent all day getting into those pants
and men appoint themselves
bouncers in stripclubs as we speak
so maybe you better lower your tone
in regard to the birthday girl and Ms. Nose.

But won’t shut up, he threw a moist box
at Toby the BMX-racer’s head,
the crowd is ready to open into him
with its toddler teeth, and Cody
and the boys’re goin to turn
that sky inside out
and make a closet of bruises.

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Colin Dodds is a writer with several novels and books of poetry to his name. He grew up in Massachusetts and lived in California briefly, before finishing his education in New York City. Since then, he’s made his living as a journalist, editor, copywriter and video producer. Over the last seven years, his writing has appeared in more than three hundred publications including Gothamist, Painted Bride Quarterly, and The Washington Post, and praised by luminaries including David Berman and Norman Mailer. His poetry collection Spokes of an Uneven Wheel was published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company in 2018. Colin also writes screenplays, has directed a short film, and built a twelve-foot-high pyramid out of PVC pipe, plywood and zip ties. One time, he rode his bicycle a hundred miles in a day. He lives in New York City, with his wife and daughter. You can find more of his work at thecolindodds.com.

Photo: Jamie Street

two poems – jessie janeshek

jessie janeshek

True Values

How to crack down      transgress empty space
………corn, so much storage or the flood plain
how to worship this quiet, this time.
………Something comes out of the comfort of trains
when you put all your poison into one place
……….and run to the river.

I wish it were colder                I wish musk hunker-downer
………for this tartan couch
red phone on the wall             transitional
……….for this special sequence.

Everyone says                she needs a retreat mostly just to touch
………mostly just to come in                 call it a den
so she fucks the taxidermist                    sterile as a dead dad
……………each extinct chicken                        stuffed, an achievement
when he gets tired enough                  he’ll rip his feeding tubes out
say this is my house                              but there’s a dumbwaiter
……………………….and my skin will hang off my skull.

Here’s where we put the eyes
………here’s where we put the cellophane    we make into the lake.
My sweater is jacquard        with your phone number
……….dive-bombing beetles            in the witch tense.
……………….The door is a guard
……….strappy shoes and someday        I’ll let the ghosts come to me
strappy shoes and someday             I’ll remember it gladly
……….no screens on the windows
and on the flood plain           how many trains
……….the language of flowers or the more profane language of stones.

 

Take Me Naked If It Makes Me Real Again

No frigate like a book unread and not the energy
…………..to open a bottle of pills. Everything’s triggering
lifting my hair for the vestige               of old-timey stardom
……………off with safety scissors            I chop my own bangs.

Heat makes waking hell and I dwell on eyesockets
………and every morning pay the pine trees.
……………………………….It all comes down to money and bloodstains.
A needle and a pearled shawl         took the children away.
……………….Drink the vodka. Fill the bottle with water.
.……We mythologize and he says the witch hunt
is most interesting          and the difference between
………us and the animals    is they can’t look for meaning.

………………………………..Little songs come fast and I find the letter
by not looking back     or it’s somewhere else
……….and it poisons my shade
……….or I empty out the pantry to rid myself of him
self-sabotage in heart-shaped sunglasses
……..or a more intimate god.

Take me naked. I just told the truth.
……….The brass heart in the bedroom turned my past over.
I got through bad moments                black bows
………changed my name.           I solved my own crime
with a made-up boyfriend        and a fake cock
………or I solved the crime            during my period
wearing your cast-offs
……………………….or I solved the crime as I heard a bell ring
……………………….and the truth is
……………………….your carnage            is general knowledge.

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Note: “No frigate like a book” is a phrase from poem #1286 by Emily Dickinson.

Jessie Janeshek’s third full-length book of poems MADCAP is forthcoming from Stalking Horse Press in 2019. Her first two books are The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press, 2017) and Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010). Her chapbooks include Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia (dancing girl press, 2016), Supernoir (Grey Book Press, 2017), Auto-Harlow (Shirt Pocket Press, 2018), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), and Channel U (Grey Book Press, forthcoming). Read more at jessiejaneshek.net.  

Photo: ål nik

over the flood – terence hannum

flood

Black water and a reaper over the flood. Emery’s drone glides above the shallow layer of floodwater, past the towering hulls of the collapsed harvesters rusting in the shallow mire and over the collapsed barns with their decrepit rusted silos. Flying over tens of thousands of acres of what would be soybean or durum along this new contaminated shallow. Over the submerged stele erected to mark the passing of generations. Flying adjacent to the electrical poles, whose bases gleam obsidian and silver in the encroaching formation of salt and bitumen.

Standing on the island she built, watching the machine vanish out over the brine in Emery’s daily routine of assessment she monitors the cracked LCD screen in her crusted white hands. On the screen the fields of black water over the hectares of fallow flooded fields, broken only by horizontal glitches, lead out to the lines of pipelines that carve the outer reaches of the ancestral land, where a crew of workers swarm over the busted lines. Bakken, Enbridge, Plains, all were lines she approved continuing her father’s initial infringement on the massive farm land.

She calls the drone back over the acres to her house, her father’s house, which sits marooned behind a sand bag fortification in the middle of a new noxious sea. The drone lands in the dry ditch between the rampart and her home. In the cracks of the sand bags the black salt water forms ashen crystals like hell shadow.

 

Resting the rusted barrel on the top of a sandbag, Emery places the scope of the rifle up to her eye and aims towards the declivity of the highway. A black Ford F350 rests by the side of the road, where men from VTB Bank tumble down from the highway with a johnboat.

The flat bottom aluminum craft glints in the grey sun as they paddle towards her, disturbing the coagulated surface of the black water. Guns aimed away, like a hunting party.

In her scope a bag of money sits on the transom.

A man waves. She doesn’t wave back.

A large drone flies overhead surveying the waste for one of the companies.

“Emery.” The man shouts as she crouches in the pit of the hardened bags, not hiding, aiming the Mossberg at them, “We have the payment.” He says holding up the bag.

She pushes a small black raft attached to a tether out towards the visitors. The man places the money bag on the raft, steadying it with his hands to keep it from capsizing. He goes to push it back to her.

“No,” she says, muffled in her strange voice, standing up, brushing off flakes. The man jumps back slightly in the boat while the other men behind him look away from her, their guns across their chests in the johnboat. She gently pulls the tether, encrusted with fine salt crystals, towards the sand bag fortification.

Watching the men leave in the wide bruise of the afternoon, the bag of cash feels like lead in Emery’s hand.

The darkness inside the home is further reflected on every surface. Emery steps over these growing formations, her reflection bouncing off of the flat facets. Towards the center of the home, yawning where the broken tiles give way through the floor, through the ground, is a pit. Deep inside the hole, encrusted with the sinister sheen of bromide deposits flecked with the fading white of salt octahedrons Emery lowers the bag on a long oil stained tether with her leprous hands. Letting the bag rest on top of another bag of money.

 

Standing outside the home before the crystal wall, Emery holds the remote for the harvesters that loom as gray shadows in the rising mist. With the remote she tries to restart them, they light up blue logos like halos in the fog, but the light sputters off. The useless behemoths fall deeper lowering their idle threshers further below the flood. She curses herself before her grandfather’s home, and his father’s home, she feels failure seep into her like poison.

Out in the fields there are no more pea shoots, no more red-rising wheat, just the harvest of black connate brine rising at its own pace clinging to electrical poles, harvesters, anything and building sinister lattices of calcium and lithium. The spillage will never stop, the wastewater from each pipeline surges and presses against the island she carved out of this dead black lake solidifying with glints of radium in the mineral crystals.

Another black drone glides overhead.

 

Up on the highway Greystone surveyors take test samples, their heads dotted bright red with construction helmets. Emery thinks back to her studies in Agricultural Science at North Dakota State, and how ill-prepared she was for these intrusions her father started with the first exploratory ventures to strike oil that failed but brought the companies to their door with their money to let their conduits cross the land. How, after her father’s funeral she saw the first discolored vegetation brown and dead. Greystone brought her a cistern, they always had a solution in the aftermath of destruction.

 

Back inside the home, she thinks of making a meal but stands before the corroded mirror by the door. The mirror is a marled silver that still displays the growing white lesions that contort her face. She runs her dry crusted palms over the hard growths and raised silver spikes that cover her face and encrust her hairline with white mutations. She does not cry at her own appearance. She can see its progress, enveloping her left eye in a dull prismatic vesicle that spawns new pieces across her spectral face.

She goes to her bed and lays amidst the salt powder and inching crystals on the sheets. She tries to sleep as the night crushes down around the house, envisioning a time when the tide will subside, absorbed into the ruined earth when she can dig her own grave next to those before her.

It is not a dream, because she does not sleep.

 

Later, Emery goes out in the darkness, no more teams haunt the dark highway, no drones streak the sky. There is just the lamentable silence of the black expanse, glinting soft green iridescence below the surface.

She watches over it all, a lonely watcher over the flood.

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Terence Hannum is a Baltimore, MD based artist, musician and writer. His novella Beneath the Remains was published by Anathemata Editions, his novella All Internal was published this year by Dynatox Ministries, and his novelette The Final Days will be published in 2019 by Unnerving. His short stories have appeared in Burrow Press, Terraform, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Lamplight, Turn to Ash, SickLit and the SciPhi Journal.  (www.terencehannum.com)

Photo: Danny G