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Volume 1, Issue 3 I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit. P. G. Wodehouse
Art & Photography Interrupted Birthday Party Martin Jacobson
Take Off Kilian Eng
Departure Martin Jacobson
Poetry Winding River Andrew Hamilton
The Happy English Home Marissa Sayatori
Guilt Andrew Hamilton
Prose HEARTBREAK IN SPACE Steve Gronert Ellerhoff
A Demonic Contraption Sean Walsh
Throwback Dumb Aleister Crowley
Call for Submissions
Interrupted Birthday Party Martin Jacobson
Winding River Andrew Hamilton Tree branches are wooden rivers bending like bridges through sky. They stretch to connect planets, to dig in extraterrestrial soil, spindling a twisted web of bark that will bloom a universal forest, but gravity reins them to earth as if tree limbs were wild horses tamed to gallop a circuit of seasons, barred beneath an atmospheric stable where race horns sound in spring, dormant buds burst from gates, derby dust billows like pollen, and leaves sprout in stampedes— spurred by equestrians of the sun, their joints crunch at wicked turns as hoofs stomp on dirt tracks, grand steeds fall from packs— trees undressing for autumn’s air, their amber coats tossed to floors and raked away with the winner, where bones decompose to dust, buried beneath winter snow— white lilacs decorating graves, black night a widow’s shawl whose tears shatter a levee of soil.
The Happy English Home Marissa Sayatori
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way. -Pink Floyd
Content, ending in a terse stop, sounds so thin— like a threadbare blanket that no longer keeps warm. What has become of its sumptuous French original— content —whose nasal vowel so aptly captures the richness, the fullness of their content? Perhaps that has been the trouble all along; every time we told ourselves we had life right the word just sounded hollow.
HEARTBREAK IN SPACE Steve Gronert Ellerhoff Lieutenant Alderyard, selected for his impeccable self-discipline as one of “The West's Thirty-Three,” was seven-years trained and prepped for the long cold slog across space. Five years to Europa; six months on the surface; five years back to Earth. Not once in the lead-up did he ever consider that the mission, which required each of its members sacrifice all earthly ties for more than a decade of life, would be a joy from the very first night in space. Sure, he had paused for moments of awe throughout his career. Scintillations upon atmospheric reentry once thrilled him, as had witnessing the auroras from the observation deck of the Western Alliance Space Platform, and of course the first time he stood sole-deep in Moon dust, he couldn't resist lifting his gloved hand to hold the Earth between forefinger and thumb. That became the first and last gesture he made on his seventeen assignments to the Moon. But up to this mission, the first of its kind and the farthest human beings had yet realistically conceived of traveling, work always came first. Perhaps this glee was a byproduct of the honor to be one of the first to head to Jupiter, or even just a response to looking down the barrel of five years of relative relaxation before making moonfall. But no, of course he knew it wasn't either of those factors. What had constellated the Lieutenant's heart was Dr. Úna O'Donoghue. Asterion 1's marine biologist was a delight from her first appearance at the launch complex in Kourou. As the mission's Human Resources Manager, Alderyard led trustbuilding workshops for the crewmates in the weeks leading up to liftoff, and it was in the first held for the Science Officers that she came to his attention and innocently inspired aesthetic arrest. Her brogue was girlish, and her eyes the hazel of a sunlit creek bed seen through rippling water. He carried the effects all very quietly on his end until that first night in space when, while Asterion 1 loafed into the void like a sultry white bull into deep waters, he found her in his compartment floating nude and eager, wavy fair hair fanning on either side of her shameless face. They went all night long as the rocket's G-Ferris moved into rotation and gradually pressed them into his foam mattress at a comfortable two-thirds Earth's gravity. It broke no protocol, expected as it was that interpersonal relationships would develop on this, the longest term mission of its kind ever. The thirty-three crew members, screened fifty-four times, had all met one mandatory qualification: intrinsic emotional stability. And really, he figured, who better than the rocket's HR Manager to set the tenor on how a deep space relationship could work? It was no secret. Their time together, their fondness for each other's company and three or four overnights a week were known by all. They walked the decks regularly for exercise, both finding the sweatingbouncing-panting pageantry of the gym facility ridiculous. Each Tuesday and Friday they downloaded and watched their favorite shows together, keeping abreast of the latest happenings in cable melodrama and reality courtship controversies. But it was the nights when they would sneak off to the caudal cupola that he loved her best, stargazing, so dark there with the lights off that he could not see her but knew she was there beside him with the cosmos stretching out before them. There she always answered all the questions he had, questions he had thought up for her, about what she would be looking for when they arrived on Jupiter's sixth-closest moon and the arctic 8
geologists drilled through the dirty snow to its subsurface ocean, what she hoped to find, what she expected to find, what could possibly be alive down there in the dark and cold? “Psychrophiles,” she would tell him. “Microorganisms that can live at minus fifteen.” “So it was silly of me to bring my fishing pole?” he would ask. And she would smirk and say in her gentle Irish way, “What are ya like?” Alderyard was careful not to overwhelm Úna. Seven weeks in, when he noticed she wasn’t as quick to answer his workaday texts, he stopped sending them so frequently. Their evenings were still passionate. There was no road ahead, not for them or the rocket they flew out on. It would just have to be taken as it came, every day new, with an awareness of how circumstances could make it all too easy to smother anybody with too much attention. A week later, gleaming in the comforts of an unfolding relationship, he was in his office setting up the crew’s fantasy football league when he received a text from her: <I’ve got to go off the radar indefinitely. I've been thinking a lot about my life at the moment and how I really need to get my priorities straight. I am trying to juggle too much. I really just need to focus on the important stuff, like radiation tests on our current batch of extremophiles. I didn't mean to text you out of the blue like this, I feel terrible about it. I don't wanna string you along. I'm really sorry, but I just can't see you anymore. I don't have it in me at the moment. I hope you can understand where I'm coming from. You're a great guy, and I wish you all the very best in everything.> The Lieutenant had expected something more along the lines of whether he was thinking egg foo yung or chicken cacciatore for their midweek dinner together. He set his handset down on his desk. He sat on his hands and bent forward and read the message again. He stood. He started to sit but stood again. He grabbed the handset, walked into the corridor, and buzzed the next door, the commander’s cabin. “C’mon in,” Commander Brzezynski called over the com. The commander’s quarters, decorated in dark navy blue and white, stood a testament to his schooling. A Nittany Lion through and through, everything that could possibly represent Penn State did: a pennant on the wall, the background on his console screen, the meticulously folded throw blanket on his couch, and the coffee bottle in his hand. “How’s our fantasy league coming?” he asked, scratching his beard. “Commander. Your permission, sir, to show you a message I just received from Dr. O’Donoghue?” “Sure, whatever.” The Lieutenant forwarded her text to the commander’s handset. Commander Brzezynski looked it over. “Ah, bummer.” “Commander,” Alderyard said again. “Did I just get—I mean, did she just dump me?” “Looks like it.” His lips moved as he read it once more. “Yeah. Man. Via 9
handset.” “Commander,” he said a third time, backing against the couch and sitting. “What the hell am I supposed to do about this?” The commander leaned on his desk and shrugged. “You’re the Human Resources Manager here...” “Where is she?” Lieutenant Alderyard cried, throwing himself off the couch and tumbling into the corridor. “’Nauts before ’nettes, Alderyard,” the commander called after him. Delirious, he bounded to C Deck, careened into the lab. The arctic geologists looked at him over the crown of their holorama of Europa, smooth and streaked like a yellowhammer egg. “I’m,” he panted, “looking for...” “She took off a while ago,” the one said. “Didn’t say where to,” said the other. “Thanks, guys. You’re...doing a bang up job there.” Alderyard fled. He walked briskly, heart choking him, up to B Deck, avoiding the eyes of crew members he passed. He stood before Úna’s compartment, number 26, and buzzed the door. He buzzed again, careful not to press the button overly long. He knocked. He tried whispering her name into the door seal and listening for rustling inside. Deciding she wasn’t there to open up, he took to the corridors, covering every one on all seven decks. He checked the sick bay, the sun deck, the canteen, the theater, both the dorsal and caudal cupolas, even the gym. He refrained from asking anybody else if she had been seen. This would be handled discreetly and face to face. Clearly they just needed to have a talk. A conversation. Things needed to be laid out with some clarity so they both knew where they stood. That it should end just as it was hinting at root formation was preposterous. They were still getting to know each other. There was so much more awaiting them in this relationship. So he told himself, over and over, while his eyes dismantled the rocket for places she might possibly be. He wound up back at her compartment. Still no answer at the door. So he decided to wait. While he waited, he wrote and rewrote and revised and tweaked a reply to her text. He struggled to get it right, to express something that sounded mature, that hid his fears. What he finally came up with and sent was simple: <Let’s maybe just have a chat about all this.> When he tired of standing he sat, his legs stretching across the corridor to the other wall. Crew members coming and going stepped over him, giving him a curious look, his forced-casual repose imbuing B Deck with the ambiance of a college dorm hallway. He held onto his handset in case she sent another text. She didn’t. An hour later, the big Belgian lad and his English friend made their presence known, approaching him the way one comes up on a basset hound that’s been hit by a car. “Howdy-hey, Lieutenant Alderyard,” said the Belgian. “At ease, Mission Specialist Domen and Flight Engineer Priyesh,” he said from the floor. “My surname’s Dave actually,” the Englishman said. “Priyesh is my given name. People see Priyesh Dave and assume I must be Dave Priyesh. It’s the other way 10
around.” “Oh.” “No worries.” “The commander sent us to fetch you,” Domen said. “S’funny.” Alderyard shook his handset at them. “He hasn’t rung me up or anything.” “Yes, well, Ground Control is reporting that the public have taken an interest in you sitting here. The DS-Cam in this hallway currently has a half million people watching back home.” “I’m a star,” Alderyard sniveled. He looked up at the little blue eye at the end of the hall and waved at all the people, twice as many as lived in his hometown, Des Moines. He’d downplayed the cams placed throughout the ship up to now, ignoring that folks on Earth could see the goings on in common spaces. He wondered if they had been watching his relationship with Dr. O’Donoghue blossom. “Sooo,” the Belgian sank his shoulders. “Are you gonna get up or are we carrying you?” Alderyard thought about it. He pocketed his handset. “Yeah. I’ll get up.” They didn’t say it but they were thankful. He stood, looked at her door, looked at the Belgian and the Brit, and followed them back to the commander’s quarters. Commander Brzezynski very quietly and, thankfully, privately told him to steer clear of the marine biologist for a while. “Has she talked to you?” he asked, hope lighting him. “No.” “I just need to know what happened, what went wrong, where the thing tripped up. It was going so well, Commander. It was going so well.” “What’d I say when you went tearing outta here earlier?” Lieutenant Alderyard shrugged. “’Nauts before ’nettes, Lieutenant. ’Nauts before ’nettes.” Alderyard’s orders were to A) go back to his compartment and take the next day off, B) get the fantasy football league up and running, and C) leave Dr. O’Donoghue be. When he emerged from the commander’s quarters MS Domen and Flight Engineer Dave escorted him to his own compartment, where he remained quite on his own through the next day, skipping all meals, sleeping all wrong. Grief struck as soon as he set back to work in his office. Staring at the rosters to be filled with the crew’s draft picks, the names of sixteen other men on board, he went there: had someone else won her over? Had he been replaced? Had she lied? Once that crackled through his synapses, that’s when rationality flipped its burger. He texted her handset: <You lied to me! Oh my god> Lo and behold, she texted back. <? Not that I’m aware of.> Through teary, bit lips he tried accessing Asterion 1’s DS-Cams everybody was watching from Earth. If he could find her, he could ask all those things he needed to ask. But of course, those cams were only accessible to people not on the ship. The Lieutenant Commander probably had access, the Commander, too, but neither would let him look. He couldn’t ask around as to her whereabouts, lest word go up the chain – and then what? Just knowing that everyday folks back home were tuning in, would see the 11
consequences, deterred him from making a scene, so to speak. He could feel the eyes. Their gaze draped a pall of shame across his shoulders for feeling so terrible. Of all the people in the world, he was one of thirty-three experiencing this paramount privilege of being part of the greatest journey into the unknown humankind ever attempted. He was to be grateful. He was to be chipper. He was to hide that this really hurt. They were all already on antidepressants, of course, a precautionary measure, but after a week of avoiding everybody, of moving only from compartment to office to compartment, of living on chicken nuggets and popcorn heated up in his personal microwave, of suddenly finding himself riven with the messiness of crying a couple times a day, of missing her, he waited until 1 AM GMT and went for a walk. Not many crew members were out and about at this hour. When he came across an ensign in the corridor he didn’t ignore him, just gave a clipped nod and kept going. On E Deck he checked the canteen. A few heads around a table in the corner. Of course it wasn’t going to be so straightforward, his heist. Just walking in through the kitchen would have been too easy. So he walked down to F Deck, home of general food stores. Having spent the afternoon briefing himself on emergency procedures should something befall the ship’s steward, Lieutenant Alderyard, aware one of the blue-eyed cams was on him, punched the poached code into the keypad next to the reinforced door. It opened. He walked in and shut the door behind him. This is what enough breakfast, lunch, and dinner for thirty-three people for more than a decade looked like: plastic boxes the size of twin beds stacked twenty feet high and who knew how deep. By the end of the mission this would stand a near-empty warehouse. But as early on as it was, the food vault stood ninety-eight percent full. He walked to TetrisBot’s console and typed in another code lifted from the emergency file, that of a specific container he had scoured inventory to find. TetrisBot went to work, unseen belts and lifts reshuffling the plastic containers, whirring and clunking. A few minutes later a claw hanging from the ceiling slid out on a rail, lowered the box to the floor, released grip, and retracted upward. Alderyard unsnapped the seals on the lid and lifted it free. This specific container was meant for celebration once they made moonfall on Europa. Luxury items. The first packet was salmon fillets. The second, tiramisu. It was the third he tried that he was hoping to find. Pulling out a green bottle he inspected the label:
Marlborough SAUVIGNON BLANC 2081 It’d do. He repacked everything but the one bottle, tucking the salmon and tiramisu back to bed, and sat on the lid to reseal the container. On second thought, he opened it all up, snagged one more bottle, and then got it closed again. TetrisBot put it back, what a 12
hand, and when he cleared the log on the console he slipped into the corridors, a foiled bottleneck gripped in each hand. The caudal cupola, dark as black as night, welcomed the distressed HR Manager with appreciated silence. He banged his shin on one of the chairs and, scooting it by a leg with his shoe, repositioned it before the great seven-paned window. He sat and set one bottle down beside him and the other he opened easily, thanking whoever back home had thought to send wine with a screw top. Before taking a drink, he looked out the hexagonal portal on the cosmos and let his eyes adjust. Clouds dark and light, faint and fainter, arced across the void in a band speckled with stars. The Milky Way. Earth, the Moon, the Sun, all out of sight, probably visible from some other part of the rocket. No looking back. Oh, but Mars stood out. And Jupiter dimmer beyond it. They were only going that far, to that one point there in this field that transcended comprehension. He thought of all the sad bastards out there, grief-stricken suitors he could never know, rejected lovers with noble hearts, this universe surely teeming with them. Out there among the gaseous smudges and points of light, spurned paramours and the hearts who spurned them beyond count. Of all of those hearts, none, not a one, was his Irish marine biologist with eyes the hazel of a sunlit creek bed seen through rippling water. “To Úna,” he faltered, lifting the bottle to the stars. “The only Úna out there, anywhere.” He drank, eyes welling as the wine sent warm breath all through his nerves. “Did I make her think I think she’s perfect? Is that where I went wrong?” he asked, taking another swig. “Úna isn’t perfect. She’s got clubbed thumbs. And she works too hard, just far too hard. And she’s thrown me out like this, right when I might stand a chance to give her a rest from some of the stress of this damn mission. This thing isn’t easy. She’s not cruel—I’ve seen her heart. I’ve felt what’s there. And even though it hurts I love her.” He wiped his eyes and drank. “You hear that, universe? All of everything? I love her.” “Sweet, silly man,” a soft voice said beside him, “we didn’t come here to fall in love.” He jolted. Though he couldn’t see her, she was there. She was sitting in the other chair. He sat there in his chair in stilled sufferance until her corneas appeared, faintly reflecting light from the stars. “We came to explore Europa, like.” “Is that what we’re here for?” he stammered. “To work?” She sighed as if he’d just fallen off the turnip cart. “Well, yes.” “Oh, so now you’re telling me this whole thing, this mission, this is just a job and that trumps all, everything else we could be doing? What, so, we leave low Earth orbit and life stops? What happens then when we finish the mission, when we return and go back home, does that mean life starts again? Is that when we can fall in love? On a nice little penciled-in schedule?” “The state of you,” she dismissed, standing. “To be honest with you, I never cared about you the way you cared about me. Sorry. You took things way more seriously than I ever did. Way more.” She left. He forgot how to lift the bottle to his lips for some minutes but when it came to him he drained the rest of the wine into his belly in one go. 13
He dropped the bottle. He opened the second and drank it, too, not so fast, losing track of time, no rush, no place to be. When it, too, was empty in his hand, he stumbled all the way up to A Deck and buzzed the commander’s quarters. “Jesus Christ, Alderyard,” Commander Brzezynski said, answering the door in Penn State flannel pajamas. “It’s four in the morning.” “Commander, request to abort the misshun.” “How the hell did you get drunk?” The commander ushered him inside and sat him down. “Broke inna the moonfall luxuries, sir.” Brzezynski blinked hard and took a deep breath. “Brilliant...” “Send me home. Send me. Incapable’f performing my duties, sir.” “What, you can’t organize this week’s Bingo because of all this?” “I cannot.” Commander Brzezynski put his hand on his shoulder and gripped. “Well how do you think you’ll get home? This bus only makes one stop.” “Permisshun to turn Asterion 1 round, Commander. I’ll jeopardize the entire misshun in this state I’m in.” “Just relax, Lieutenant,” he said, yawning and scratching his beard. “It’s only just begun, the quest, the journey. We’ll be home again. Only three thousand seven-hundred and twenty-six days to go.” The Lieutenant dissolved. “Chin up, Alderyard. Like Laika, Gagarin, Armstrong, and York, you’re a pioneer.” “Pioneer of what?” Alderyard sobbed from his wet face. Commander Brzezynski tried not to laugh. “First man to have his heart broken in space.”
Guilt Andrew Hamilton Tried living without regrets today, but my conscience hammered thick nails into my skull, covering my head with tiny chrome dots that hold my face up like a door on loose hinges.
Take Off Kilian Eng
A Demonic Contraption Sean Walsh The four of them are in the van, going to visit the UFO amusement park. On Monday, Eugene is probably going to get fired. When he told his boss that he couldn't work this weekend, he had shaken his head and made a note of it. Eugene's boss, a selfimportant man who is always armed with a clipboard, hates Eugene already. But fuck his boss. This trip is more important. They have escaped the mid-March mid-Atlantic drizzle of Virginia. Florida is sunny and warm. Eugene has on aviator sunglasses and his parrot-patterned Hawaiian shirt. Tonight they are going to play a show at the college nearby. This is a big deal, because a girl from the college is a fan of their band, and has converted all her friends on the student activities committee into fans of their band, and they have been specifically asked to play this show. They are even supposed to get paid for it. Eugene has faith that this is actually going to happen, even though they have been told they are getting paid before and not seen a cent. They are so close to something close to success that Eugene can taste it, and it tastes like the gummy worms he used to get in his stocking every Christmas morning. The amusement park is run by a UFO cult called the Church of the Cosmic Unifiers. Trevor explains to them as they drive, these people think that humans are descended from aliens and that soon these aliens will return and cure diseases and stop wars and all that shit. “And they have a roller coaster?” Eugene asks eagerly as green highway signs zoom past. “Yes, there is a roller coaster,” Trevor says. “So they're like a religion?” Andy asks. “They're a religion with an amusement park? Do they expect people to take them seriously?” Nick is in the backseat changing his t-shirt. Last night they slept in the van while they took turns driving down here because they don't have any money for a hotel room. “Do you take other religions seriously?” he asks. Eugene swallows the last of the bag of Funyuns he had for breakfast. “I don't. Religion is useless.” His family occasionally went to church when he was a kid. Mostly he remembers sweating in his dress shirt and kicking his sisters to entertain himself. The parking lot is a quarter full, even though it is late in the morning on a Saturday, what Eugene imagines would be prime time for UFO amusement park visitation. The cars have license plates from all over the country. There's even one from Alaska. “Listen,” Trevor says, while they walk across the parking lot. When Trevor says the word listen, Eugene's interest in what he's about to say drops. “I know you think its funny, like 'ha ha, they believe in UFOs', but don't be rude, okay?” He looks at Eugene for a long moment. “Yeah, Andy,” Eugene says, punching him in the arm. “Don't be an asshole like usual.” Andy shrugs. “I'm serious, you guys,” Trevor says. As they approach the front entrance, Eugene's cell phone rings. He digs it out of his pocket and answers. He doesn't recognize the number. 17
“Eugene? This is Brittany.” “Brittany?” It takes his brain a couple of seconds to remember who she is. Brittany is friends with his little sister, Sara. A few years ago, when Brittany and Sara were freshman in high school, they had been inseparable. Are they still friends? Eugene guesses so, though they’re not as inseparable now. He doesn't keep track of Sara's friends, but last month he ran into Brittany in the cereal aisle at Kroger's and they talked about nothing important. She had been with her boyfriend whose name and face he doesn't remember. “What's up?” “You know my boyfriend, Rusty?” she asks. “The one you met?” “Not really.” Eugene can picture the shoes the boyfriend was wearing. Chunky high-top Nike basketball sneakers. Eugene doesn't think anyone should be wearing basketball shoes unless they are actively playing basketball. It's obnoxious. “Kind of, I guess.” “Well we broke up,” she says. “And he was staying with me and got pissed off and took all my money. It was like three hundred dollars.” Brittany pauses like she wants Eugene to respond. “Ouch,” he says. “Did you call the cops?” “Not yet, I'm going to,” she says. “But the cops aren't going to get it back. And I was going to help my mom pay the rent with that money because we're behind by two months.” “Uh huh.” Eugene senses where this is going. The guys are waiting for him by the entrance. Nick looks at his watch like he expects the aliens to descend from the sky at any second to save humanity and prevent them from riding the roller coaster. “Do you think you could lend me some money?” Brittany asks. “The landlord is probably going to kick us out if we don't pay.” Eugene sighs. “I don't have any money.” “You have a job, right?” “Yeah,” he says. “And I'm broke.” He thinks of all the things he has to pay for. Rent. Car insurance. Cell phone. Credit card payment. Gas. Food. And he needs to get the ship tattoo on his arm colored in. Not to mention that he might not have a job soon. If Eugene were the type to have anxiety attacks, he would probably have one about all that. “Even if I did, we're not even friends really.” She makes a little noise like she's disgusted. “You know, I used to think Sara was like my family,” she says. “Thanks for nothing.” “You're welcome,” Eugene says, but she has already hung up. “Who was that?” Andy asks. Eugene shakes his head as they go up to the gate to pay. “No one important.” The teenage girl working the ticket booth wears a green t-shirt with a logo of a flying saucer on the chest. She asks them if they want a guided tour of the museum. “There's one starting in a couple of minutes.” She points to a building just inside the entrance that is decorated with colorful paintings of flying saucers like the one on her shirt. “That sounds great,” Trevor says. The tour guide is a woman in her forties with long brown hair. She wears the same green t-shirt as the girl in the ticket booth, and Eugene is disappointed. He was hoping they'd be wearing something crazy like glittery orange robes and jeweled 18
headdresses that they used to psychically communicate with the aliens, but this woman looks like she could be the mom of one of his friends. She leads them through the air conditioned museum walking backwards to face them as she talks. She shows them photographs of Stonehenge and crop circles, and explains that all of these are alien creations. The aliens came and visited Earth millions of years ago, and mated with early humans. But then there was a war on their home planet and they had to leave. It was a long journey back to their home planet, but they were planning on returning to the earth. Sometimes they sent scouts to Earth, which is what people called UFOs. “Do you know when they're coming back?” Trevor asks. The woman nods. “July twelfth of next year.” Something moves in Eugene's stomach. “That's my birthday,” he says. “July twelfth.” Everyone looks at him, and the woman nods enthusiastically. “How exciting.” There are blurry photographs of UFOs and artwork made by people who have had encounters with them. On one wall there are written testimonials of people who are members of the church, describing how their encounters with the aliens have changed their lives for the better. One man's chronic arthritis was cured after aliens abducted him. The aliens helped another woman get over the death of her best friend. Eugene hopes that whatever kind of fucked up shit happens to him in life, he will never be desperate enough to join a UFO cult. The founder of the church is a man named Curtis Owen Molyneux, who is originally from Idaho. In his photograph he looks like a dorky high school math teacher. Twenty years ago he was psychically contacted by the aliens who explained everything to him. Some of his journal entries are protected in a glass case like they are the Declaration of Independence, but his handwriting is so sloppy that Eugene can't make out much of it. It could be a story about dolphins and unicorns for all he knows. He feels the same way he used to feel at church on Sunday mornings: this is a cute story, but has nothing to do with him. “So why did the aliens pick him?” Andy asks politely. The tour guide begins to explain, but Eugene's attention drifts. In his head, he replays the conversation with Brittany. He wonders if she and her mom really are behind on their rent. On the phone, he hadn't detected desperation in her voice. But maybe he's being too critical, maybe she was holding back or has numbed herself to the fear of being evicted. Or maybe she was lying and Rusty was sitting next to her on the couch hoping they would get money to score some drugs. Even when Brittany and Sara had been best friends, Eugene didn't know her that well. She was a teenage girl, four years younger than Eugene. What else of interest was there to know? At the time Eugene was in a band with his two friends, and sometimes Sara and Brittany would watch them practice in the garage. Then they would go into Sara's bedroom and spend hours giggling behind the closed door. Eugene took them to their first concert. It was a Four Alarm Emergency show before they got famous and turned lame. Sara and Brittany screamed and jumped up and down through every song. On the ride home Sara had sat in the backseat because she wanted to sleep. Brittany sat up front next to Eugene and talked to him non-stop for forty-five minutes about the bands she liked. Some of them were crappy, but Eugene liked to hear about it. 19
There was a big hill right by Eugene's house and just as they came to the top Brittany screamed in his ear. Eugene's heart stopped beating for a few seconds, and he jumped in his seat, clenching his fingers around the steering wheel. There was a man riding a bike in front of them, pedaling over to the shoulder of the road. “Jesus Christ,” Eugene yelled. He hated it when girls screamed, and he'd had enough of it that night. “What was that for?” “I didn't know what it was,” Brittany said. “It was a dude on a bike.” “I'm sorry. Don't yell at me,” Brittany said. She sounded like she was going to cry. “I just saw this shape. I didn't know what it was.” “It's a bicycle. How do you not know what a bicycle is?” “I don't know.” Then she giggled. “Bicycles are weird. What do you think people thought when they were first invented? Like a long time ago? When they first saw them, do you think it scared them and they were like 'oh my god, what is that demonic contraption'?” Eugene laughed. “A demonic contraption. That's great.” He was still laughing as they pulled into the driveway. Anybody who used a phrase like demonic contraption was alright with him. The tour guide asks if anyone has anymore questions. Trevor bites his lip like he's trying to think of something. “So you guys aren't like a doomsday cult, are you?” Nick asks. “Like those people who killed themselves because they thought a space ship was in the tail of that comet?” The tour guide shakes her head and smiles. “No, not at all. We believe in welcoming the aliens when they come. They're our relatives after all. In the meantime we spread a message of hope and happiness.” Eugene almost groans out loud. Nothing is more depressing than people who are happy all of the time. “We encourage our members to participate in volunteer organizations and to give to charity. That's one of the most important parts of our beliefs.” She makes eye contact with Eugene. He can feel the Funyuns sitting in his stomach like a rock. No one else has any more questions, and the tour is over. “Roller coaster time,” Nick says as they walk out the exit. Eugene needs to get a second opinion on the Brittany situation. Maybe he's being a selfish asshole, not lending this girl money. That doesn't mean he will give Brittany money, but he'd like to know if he's being an asshole. As they walk through the park towards twisting tracks of the roller coaster, he considers bringing it up to the whole group. He doesn't want eight million opinions though, he just wants one. He looks at the other guys. Andy is probably his best friend, but he's also a wimp. Trevor is weird. Nick seems like a sensible person, one who understands that the world is a pile of shit. The Funyuns still feel like they're stuck in Eugene's stomach. “I'm dehydrated or something,” he says, poking his stomach. “I gotta get a drink. Somebody come with me.” Nick is nearest to him and Eugene punches him in the arm. “You, come on.” “Wait, aren't you going to get on the roller coaster?” Trevor asks. 20
“You guys go ahead,” Eugene says. “You're going to get on five times anyway.” Nick shrugs. “Yeah, we'll catch up with you. It'll only take two minutes.” They go to a stand selling pretzels and ice cream. It is in front of a ride for kids— bright colored flying saucers that move up and down as they go around in a circle. A mom standing nearby waves at her kids on the ride and takes their picture. Eugene buys a can of Citrus Blast. He's glad to see that his favorite soda has sided with the Church of the Cosmic Unifiers. Maybe when the aliens come there will be free Citrus Blast for everyone. “So this girl called me,” he says. He tells Nick the basic story about Brittany, leaving out the part about demonic contraptions. “We're not even friends, you know?” He takes a long sip of soda. “Her story sounds kind of suspect,” Nick says. “I know,” Eugene says. “My thoughts exactly. And even if it wasn't, I barely know her. I've got my own bills and stuff.” Nick shakes his head. “There's lots of people in the world who are needy. You can't help them all. You shouldn't feel guilty about that.” Eugene nods. “Right. Exactly. And it's not my fault she trusted a guy named Rusty.” “Yeah,” Nick says. He glances at the roller coaster. “So do you feel guilty about it?” He shrugs. “I don't know.” His stomach itches. Is that what this feeling is called? Guilt? Sure, he has felt guilt before. Shouldn't have drank so many beers last night, shouldn't have made out with that girl, shouldn't have spent money on clothes because now his bank account is almost empty. Or maybe that is regret—personal and singular. Guilt involves other people, I should have thrown myself in front of that bullet for you. But there was no bullet here. He thinks again of that night in the car, the one time when he felt like he had a personal, intimate connection with Brittany. What was he supposed to have said to her? That life sucked? Probably she knew that already. Brittany had been a girl who giggled behind closed bedroom doors and screamed at unknown objects. When did she turn into someone who called people they barely knew in fake desperation for money? But maybe she had been that person all along and Eugene hadn't been paying attention. At the show that night, the band sounds better than ever . Eugene is in the zone behind the drum kit. Theses kids don't deserve to be hearing them. They are not aware of the greatness they are witnessing. Afterward they go to a party, and he smokes a joint with a girl in a zebra print dress. She gives him a little blue pill which he swallows, and things get fuzzy. At some point, he's standing outside with Trevor. He knows that the air is cold but it doesn't bother him. In the sky, a blinking white light moves across the blackness. “Look,” he says, pointing. “It's the aliens. They came back early.” “That's probably an airplane,” Trevor says. “Shut up, Trevor. Do you think the aliens can travel through time too? Like they can just drive to the past like it's a highway?” “Time travel is a complicated issue.” Trevor stops to think. “We always feel like we're moving forward in time. But some physicists don't believe that time exists at all, 21
not in the way we perceive it. There's no past or future. Moments just exist. Like we're having this conversation right now, we perceive it as the present and then it'll be the past for us. But it's always existed. We'll always be here.” “Wait, what?” Eugene is getting angry and would like to lie down, but the grass is wet. “That doesn't make any sense. You never make any sense.” “It doesn't make any sense because we're humans and that's how our brains perceive time. But the universe wasn't made for us. If we could go outside of ourselves, then maybe we could see it, we could see time in a different way.” Eugene tries to find the light again in the sky, but all he sees are stars and the spaces in between them, a dark blanket covered with millions of points of light. For a dizzy moment, he feels like he's outside of his body, and the whole universe is in front of him to be understood and read like sheet music. Then, like a dying spark, the moment is over, and he's back on earth shivering.
Departure Martin Jacobson
Dumb Aleister Crowley Gabriel whispered in mine ear His archangelic poesie. How can I write? I only hear The sobbing murmur of the sea Raphael breathed and bade me pass His rapt evangel to mankind; I cannot even match, alas! The ululation of the wind. The gross grey gods like gargoyles spit On every poetâ€™s holy head; No mustard-seed of truth or wit In those curst furrows, quick or dead! A tithe of what I know would cleanse The leprosy of the earth; and I My limits are like other menâ€™s. I must live dumb, and dumb must die!
Steve Gronert Ellerhoff is an Iowan. For five years and one day he worked as Director of Wind-Ups at Finnegan's Toys & Gifts in Portland, Oregon. He is currently studying the short stories of Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut in Ireland. Kilian Eng is an illustrator from Sweden who also works under the name DW Design. His work is often connected to sci-fi themes with a surrealistic and colorful approach. His greatest influences can perhaps be found in French and Belgian comic artists like Jean Giraud AKA Moebius and HergĂŠ with their LignĂŠ Claire technique. This is a style that becomes visible in his lighter and brighter work while a style that draws more influence from Matte Painting and airbrush can be found in the heavier darker pieces. Kilian works both with personal projects and as a freelance illustrator where his main focus so far has been to create album artwork for bands around the world. 25
Andrew Hamilton graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2012 with outstanding honors in the Creative Writing Program. He won the university's Margaret Artley Woodruff Award, and the English Department's endowed Bain-Swiggett and Knickerbocker poetry awards. His work has been accepted for publication by BlazeVOX, Yes, Poetry, Emerge Literary Journal, Crack The Spine, Golden Sparrow Review, and New Plains Review. Martin Jacobson (born 1978) lives in Stockholm and works primarily with painting. His work has been shown internationally(for example at the Nordic pavillion at the Venice biennalle in 2007 and the Sydney Biennale in 2009. He is currently working on a large solo show at the Nordic Aquarelle museum in Sweden. Marissa Sayatori is an aspiring writer from Yokohama, Japan who cherishes fond memories of visiting relatives in Portland, Oregon as a child. This is her first publication in English. Sean Walsh has had fiction published in Avery Anthology, Bluestem, and The Citron Review. He lives in Maryland.
R. Joseph Capet is a poet and seminarian whose creative and academic work, in both English and Esperanto, has appeared everywhere from decomP to the Montreal Review to the American Journal of Biblical Theology. A former editorial assistant for the Alaska Quarterly Review and guest editor for KannenBright, he currently serves as a poetry editor for P.Q. Leer when he isn't being beaten at computer games by his wife. More of his work may be found at www.rjosephcapet.com. S. D. Capet is a poet and writer originally from Anchorage, Alaska whose poems have appeared in publications such as River Poets Journal, Midwest Literary Magazine, and Negative Suck. She began writing songs and poems in elementary school, and has never stopped since. She also has an awesomely useless degree in philosophy, enjoys debating feminist philosophy and metaphysics, and hates writing bios. Miranda Davie is a barista, writer, and freelance costume designer in Seattle, Washington. When sheâ€™s not peddling coffee on Capitol Hill, she spends her time daydreaming about Honolulu, running, and looking for a wealthy benefactor to trick into marrying her. An avid procrastinator, she is very pleased to have finished writing this bio, and now plans to go back to talking about working on her novel. Skye Gombert is a writer and an artist who lives in Seattle with a madman and a cat. She made the mistake of letting her editor compose her bio. Ivan Kuletz: Combine equal parts naturalist soul, scientific mind, and excess body hair in a shaker. Agitate for 26 years, adding sense of humor once the shaker gets a dent or two. Pour over rocks (granite works best) in an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a turn of phrase and serve with a grain of salt. Food pairing suggestions: sushi, lamb, ribs, pie, pizza, corn dogs, fruit, seafood, land food . . . really any sort of food. Elayne V. Kuletz is an artist, editor, and instructional designer from semi-rural Oregon. An avid reader and a self-professed technology addict, she hopes to see paper books and modern communication technology complement one another (rather than grudgingly coexist) to create a beautiful reading experience. She also teaches education and technology courses at her local university.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS We accept submissions year-round. The deadline for our next issue is March 1, 2013.
Submishmash! It may sound like a kitchen gadget designed for flattening potatoes, but itâ€™s actually our submission management system. We are currently accepting work in all categories for our next issue. Please visit pqleer.submishmash.com/submit to review submission requirements, login, and upload your work. We welcome submissions (in English, Spanish, French, German, and Esperanto) from around the world. We DO accept dramatic works, musical compositions, and rhyming verse. We also accept simultaneous submissions at this time.
Color Images Artwork and Photography Submissions We are now accepting full color images (i.e. photography, collage, pen and ink drawings, computer generated graphics, and other two dimensional art forms) as standalone submissions. We do not accept pornographic images or images containing logos or trademarks unless you own the rights to the logo or trademark or the logo or trademark is included as a form of social or political commentary. Please refer to our submissions page for more information: pqleer.submishmash.com/submit
P. Q. Leer Winter 2013, Volume 1, Issue 3