The Adventures of Vernon Q. Public by Eric Suhem
Be on the lookout for Subtopian Press’ upcoming release of
Collaborating with Angels Rob Lee’s photo-memoir
Coming Soon from SUBTOPIAN PRESS
Dearest Readers, It is my unfortunate duty to report that this will be our final issue. That’s all, folks. We’re cashing in our chips. It’s been a great ride, but for reasons that are too complicated and boring, The Subtopian Magazine is closing its doors. This is the end. We want to say thank you to all of the writers that have supported us by sharing their work, and all the readers that have held us up with their rapt attention, interest, and Facebook Likes. Regrettably, we didn’t get nearly as far along as we had hoped. We had so many dreams, so many ambitions, and perhaps that was what was our undoing. I myself wanted to see this become a free newspaper on the streets of Portland and beyond. I had this vision of publishing literary news, taking on the truth of current events and what it meant for Utopia vs. Dystopia. Others were so taken with the idea of creating a small press with a unique mission statement: self-publisher co-op, writers maintain creative control, but pool resources to promote, produce, and develop their literary works. Maybe, in the end, we were pulled in too many directions, especially between these two very strong directions, to maintain the most basic of our functions – creating a monthly magazine. I guess, in the long run, the real issue is just saturation. There are so many thousands of literary journals out there it’s just about impossible to stand out. I may have deluded myself into thinking we were unique by trying to be more conscious of the needs of the writer and how to break down the barriers between author and editor. But, alas, it just wasn’t enough. I hope you all can forgive us and will fondly remember the work we all did here. Until we meet again, I can only say, this is The Subtopian Magazine bidding you a fond farewell. Signing off, Trevor D. Richardson Editor-in-Chief, The Subtopian
We Aren’t Going Anywhere... I’m afraid you’re stuck with us. But you should have seen your face!
We’re actually becoming a religious magazine. We’ve realized the truth of Jehovah. The Almighty has shown us the error of our ways and we have discovered the true path. Many take that wide, well-traveled road, but we special few have decided to follow the narrow way. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. God is truth. We will now only accept submissions about Christ, doctrine, the resurrection of the dead, or the coming Rapture and Tribulation Period where the son of the devil will rise and usher in a day of God’s wrath on Earth. Amen. Okay, not really... April Fool’s again. I just needed to fill another page to keep the layout square. Religion is funny. No, the real thing we’re doing with the magazine is going conservative. We will only be covering stories sanctioned by the GOP.
Road Notes Punishment Society Jeff Costello Page One
Dystopia Too Many Crooks in Blue Trip Markham Page Twenty-Seven
Stuck on Repeat April Fool’s Day & Recycling Civilization Arthur Brand Page Three
Utopia How About Voting the “Kindergarten” Ticket Next Year? Trevor Richardson Page Twenty-Nine
Lost in Furniture Land Ryan Shoemaker Page Seven Petition to Remove the Letter “D” from the English Language Devi Acharya Page Nineteen Dystopia Your Search for THE END Left You Neglecting THE PRESENT David Renton Page Twenty-Three
Pearls for Swine Disjoint Kirby Light Page Thirty-Three Poetry /b/ and Hell Michael Frazer Page Thirty-Seven Write for Us AKA Everyone’s A Critic Tyler Fisk Page Forty-Three
A friend used to have a poster up in the kitchen: A photo of two rhinoceroses fucking, with the caption “You Are Me.” In the mid-late 60’s, we didn’t quite have the term “environmentalism” yet. But the issue was gaining some attention, using the word “ecology.” So a friend of mine, not particularly an activist but nonetheless concerned, wandered about Kenmore Square in Boston with a pad and pencil, and asked random people on the street this question: “What do you think about the problem of ecology?” A middle-aged, middle-class woman answered: “I think all those student troublemakers should be arrested.” The greater Boston area, full of colleges and universities, was having its share of anti-war demonstrations in those days. Aside from her ignorance of the word “ecology,” she had demonstrated her solution to problems of behavior outside the accepted norm: punishment. I’ve mentioned previously, going into a country diner with long hair and having an obese woman declare for all to hear, “People who are different should be put in jail.”
Osama bin Laden was punished with a death sentence for allegedly engineering the 9/11 event. What percentage of U.S. citizens cheered this, waved the flag and so on? And was that about justice being done or about revelling in a perceived bad person’s ultimate punishment? People go to executions in prisons, for entertainment. In the 50’s, on a newscast of civil rights upheaval in the south, I saw and heard a man with a deep Alabama accent say, “I think all the niggers should all go back to Africa.” Punished. What makes us, as a nation, so eager to punish? I knew a man in Willits who did six years hard time for two marijuana plants. When he got out, he became a real estate agent. Which is worse? What are we doing with drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Punishing people for what? Being muslims? Or for just plain not being Americans? What is the mechanism that drives American Exceptionalism? Is it really jingoistic pride, or a deep identity crisis? If one reads or studies Eastern philosophy and religions, which generally say that we are “all one” and little more than mirror images of each other (perish the thought!), what could be driving the national urge to punish, if not a profound self-loathing. If I am really you and you are really me, what else would make us want to kill each other?
April Fools Day & R I t ’s o u r A p r i l F o o l ’s E d i t i o n , folks.
going slow or gets overrun with
Which means this document
pop-ups – there we’ll be.
will now be uploading a virus into
O k a y,
w h a t e v e r. . . A p r i l F o o l ’s .
y o u r p h o n e , i P a d o r c o m p u t e r. S o r r y, b u t y o u g o t t a d o w h a t y o u gotta do.
B u t w h a t i s t h i s h o l i d a y, r e a l l y ?
But don’t worry too
I wanted to know where it came
much, I mean, it won’t be like a
from and that has become the basis
really terrible virus.
f o r t h i s i s s u e ’s S t u c k o n R e p e a t .
be really subtle.
I t ’s g o i n g t o
your phone drops a call – there we’ll be.
Guess what I found out?
If your computer starts
k n o w s f o r s u r e w h e r e A p r i l F o o l ’s 33
Rachael Johnson, the founder and writer of this particular regular feature in Subtopian, has moved on to new challenges and has, to use a familiar comic book expression, hung up the cowl. But the mission continues and the search for a replacement will likely be long, difficult, and bittersweet. Her insight was as keen as her journalistic sense for story and it seems to me that if she were here writing today she would have something important to say about the recent shootings. I guess, like so many heroes hanging up the cape, the responsibility falls to the next in line, the one nearest by, someone fighting the fight beside them. The cowl goes to me until we can find a suitable replacement.
ecycling Civilization Day comes from. cool?
Isn’t that kind of
Kind of exciting?
changed from April 1st to January
I t ’s l i k e
People who celebrated on
a t o t a l m y s t e r y, t h e r e a r e v a r y i n g
the wrong day were called “April
theories, all based in equally
quantifiable evidence, but each t h e o r y c o n t r a d i c t s a n o t h e r.
Others speculate that pranking on April 1st has to do with
One theory is that in the 1500s,
the beginning of spring, when,
when the Gregorian calendar took
according to The Encyclopedia of
over for the Julian calendar, the
Religion and The Encyclopedia
d a y w e c e l e b r a t e d N e w Ye a r ’ s E v e
Britannica, nature “fools” us with 44
regulars the unpredictability of temperate
B u t h e r e ’s t h e r e a l p o i n t .
w e a t h e r v e r s u s w i n t e r y w e a t h e r.
understanding of God, the self, art, politics, freedom, all of it
It could also have something to
is a recycled version of Greece
do with the Spring equinox or the
which was co-opted by Rome and
Roman celebration of the end of
co-opted by England and finally
winter or the Celtic people or the
taken over by us.
Greeks or pretty much any other
generation Greek Empire and we
number of ideas.
don’t even know it or care.
B u t h e r e ’s m y
t h e o r y : i t ’s a l l o f t h e a b o v e .
We ’ r e l i k e f o u r t h
that for stuck on repeat? crappy movie reboots.
Whenever it began, going back
H o w ’s
We ’ v e b e e n
rebooting an entire civilization
as far as the Greeks, maybe even
for thousands of years and then we
farther than that, each culture has
wonder why the same mistakes keep
made it their own.
Along the way
it has picked up its own quirks and characteristics unique to the
We ’ v e h a d d i f f e r e n t i n s t i t u t i o n s
society celebrating it and making
take the gods of previous cultures
it their own.
and put new faces and names to
The reason why so
many different theories abound is
Not just Rome calling Zeus
because they are all partially true.
“Jupiter” but the Catholic church
If you look at the big picture, this
calling everything in the world
h o l i d a y, a l o n g w i t h s o m a n y o f o u r
“Jesus” and wondering why shit got
other traditions – ranging from
confusing, or America calling itself
E a s t e r , C h r i s t m a s , N e w Ye a r ’ s E v e ,
the first Democracy like it was an
H a l l o w e e n , a n d Va l e n t i n e ’ s D a y –
o r i g i n a l i d e a o r, h e l l , N o a h ’s A r k
has been recycled throughout time,
being an original Hebrew myth even
changed by the conquerors, rulers,
though a similar Sumerian myth
and religions of the time, and
predated it by a few centuries.
ultimately so covered in the dusts
What I’m trying to say is, the
of war, politics, and translation
origins of most holidays and rituals
t h a t i t ’s b e c o m e a m y s t e r y.
are confusing if you start digging because people have been pulling 5
regulars the same gag for eons.
One group H e r e ’s m y l e s s o n f o r t h i s A p r i l
has an idea, the other group wants it, so they change a few key words
Fools Day issue.
and say it was their idea first.
to stop repeating history is to do s o m e t h i n g n e w.
The only way And the only way
to do something new is to be honest
If our culture is just recycling the Roman Empire the way past
with yourself and admit when you
cultures have already done, then is
aren’t being original, you’re just
it really so surprising that we are
putting your own stamp on someone
going the way of the Romans?
e l s e ’s i d e a .
What America needs is
mighty beginning backslides into
some new material.
If we don’t get
a hedonistic, decadent culture
it soon we’ll fall like the fools of
crushing under its own weight and
t h e p a s t . pp
languishing from corrupt, moneydriven “democratic” leadership.
T h a t ’s p r e t t y m u c h R o m e i n a nutshell.
Then some dudes from
the North came in and conquered
t h e m a n d t h e n . . . h i s t o r y.
a l w a y s , a n d d u m b f o u n d e d re g u l a r l y.
He dreams of a free America and
someone knocks them down a peg
h a s n ’t
a n d , a s t h e y s a y, “ t o t h e v i c t o r g o The victor becomes England did it,
n o w i t ’s o u r t u r n , a n d I g u e s s w h e n Canada invades us we’ll become a dim memory and they’ll be the new w o r l d p o w e r.
groups. He is suspicious often, angry
forever, then the people either get
the next Rome.
faith in the power of people in large
great, they seem like they’ll last
people as individuals and has zero
greedy or get lazy or both.
d o e s n ’t
believes strongly in the power of
somebody recreates this empire the same thing happens.
Wo u l d n ’ t t h a t b e a
For B. S. follows blue signs through wide, luminous aisles. Shortcut to Home Organization. To Bookcases, Media & Storage. Each it seems leads him deeper into this sprawling furniture labyrinth. Hours pass. A tepid wetness on the small of his back soaks his shirt. A sour odor wafts from under his arms. North, south, east, west—S. is clueless. He’s never had that finelycalibrated inner compass some brag about. He wonders how long ago he pulled into that immense parking with vague intentions of buying a few things for his austere apartment: a side table, a reading lamp, a shower mat. Four hours, eight hours, twelve? An unpleasant realization solidifies in S.’s fatigued mind: he’s lost in Furniture Land. # “Excuse me,” S. calls out to a Furniture Land employee, a tall, blond girl in khakis and a blue collared shirt. Hedda, her nametag says. She’s opening a large glass case with a padded wooden chair inside. Every few seconds a metal piston elongates in a great hiss of air and bends the chair. “You’re not supposed to see this,” the girl says, pushing a red button that stops the piston. “With all this poking, these chairs don’t last more than a day. My manager Gustav’s always telling me to get this goddamn chair the hell out of here by ten or everyone will see they’re junk.” Hedda smiles, and for a moment S. forgets the searing pain on the tip of his big toe, the annoying stitch in his upper back, and his overwhelming need to escape Furniture Land. “You mind giving me a hand?” she asks, and S., appraising her Nordic beauty, the sharp nose and soft jaw line, platinum hair and skin like honey, is happy to oblige. “Hedda,” he says, “that’s an unusual name. Swedish, right?” Together they carry the chair. “Oh, it’s not my real name,” she says. “Everyone gets a Swedish name when they’re hired. I’m lucky. A couple months ago they ran out and started giving the new-hires names from the furniture catalog. I know a Skruvsta and Linnarp in Decoration. There’s a Tongan guy in the kitchen named Strib.” “What’s your real name?” S. asks, stepping over a powder-blue footstool. His pant cuff catches on one of the stool’s sharp corners and rips. Incredulously, S. looks down at the gaping tear. Hedda doesn’t notice. She stops, cocks her head to the side and stares up at the recessed lighting. “My real name? I have a childhood memory of my mother calling me Elizabeth. Or was it Katherine? I don’t remember. I work a lot. Gustav says I’m on track to win Employee 8
of the Year. He says he’ll personally write the recommendation and then sing my praises to the head honchos in the front office. Winners fly to Stockholm to meet The Founder, Viggo Kamprad. I’ll have to buy a new dress. I’ve heard he likes medieval peasant garb.” S. watches moisture pool in Hedda’s magnificent blue eyes. A single tear trickles down her cheek and splashes onto her collar. “I want to tell him how his Furniture Manifesto changed my life” she says. “I’d tell him he should have seen me two years ago, in a hairnet and frosted pink lipstick at the 5 and Diner. I smelled like cooked hamburger. I had bangs and wore pantyhose. I had no purpose. I didn’t realize the enormity of my carbon footprint. I only wrote on one side of a piece of paper. I only shopped pre-Christmas sales. That’s what I’d say.” Hedda opens a metal hatch on the wall. Incinerator, it says. Instantly, S. feels heat on his cheeks, smells the odor of burning garbage. There’s a distant orange glow at the end of a dark metal tube. The chair slides into the darkness and for a moment the orange glow flares and then subsides. S. wants to ask where the tube goes, but the walkie-talkie on Hedda’s hip crackles to life, hisses with a histrionic male voice. “Hedda,” the voice screams through a burst of static. “Hedda, break room in two shakes. You gotta work this knot out of my back. And while you’re at it, bring me a Coke.” “ Gustav,” Hedda says as she closes the incinerator hatch. She pulls back a curtain on the wall and pushes open a door that says Employees Only. “Thanks,” she says. S. steps forward, raises his hand. “Hey, I’m S.” He clears his throat, straightens his spine. “I… Maybe tomorrow we could go for a coffee. Maybe you know some place. I’m new in town, don’t know a soul.” The smile vanishes from Hedda’s face. Her mouth hangs open. S.’s hands nervously beat the air. Has he offended her? Has she misunderstood his intentions? “S.,” she says, her face pained and contorted, “you mean abandon my post? What would Gustav say? Who would bring his Cokes? He’d be thirsty and irritable. It’d be the end of Employee of the Year. Hilmar over in Rugs will win. I’d never meet Viggo Kamprad. It’d be back to the 5 and Diner, back in a poodle skirt and roller skates. I couldn’t do it again. I’d kill myself first. Really, I would.” Hedda stops suddenly and stares at S. Her face softens. She takes his hand. S. feels a thrill in her warm touch that ripples through his groin. “Oh,” she says, “you’re attracted to me. You think I’m beautiful. You’re asking me out. That’s sweet.” She runs her hand across S.’s cheek. He’s intoxicated with her scent. Peppermint, chamomile, wood glue. “I want you to know,” she says, “that you’re my favorite customer. I mean that.” And then the walkie-talkie buzzes again. “Hedda,” the voice screams. “My back. 9
Killing me. Coke…so thirsty.” Hedda turns quickly to go into the employee door. “Wait,” S. says. “Can I call you? What’s your number?” “Call me here,” she says. “Tell the operator to transfer you to Couches and Chairs.” “I will,” S. says. “I’ll call tomorrow.” He looks around, smiling dumbly. “Hey, how do I get out of here?” “You’re silly,” Hedda says. “No,” S. says. “Really. Where’s the exit?” “Easy,” Hedda says. “Go over to Cooking and Eating. Take the shortcut to Lighting. Don’t go right or you’ll end up in the warehouse. Youth Rooms, Kitchen, shortcut to Decoration and then the left staircase down to Bathrooms. Goodnight, S.” # A little bounce in his step, S. plods on toward Cooking and Eating. He can’t stop thinking about Hedda. What a smile! What professional commitment and work ethic! And didn’t she call S. her favorite? Maybe she can plug him into the social scene, get him out of his drab apartment and into one of those Scottsdale nightclubs he’s seen on late-night TV. The thought cheers S. But where’s that shortcut to Lighting? Why is he in Shoe Racks and Drawer Organization? Has he missed Lighting? S. walks on. More appliances and couch displays. More blue signs. Hours pass. S. looks down at the tear in his pant leg. It’s wide enough to put his hand through, wide enough to see the blotchy white psoriasis on his knobby knee cap. And where the hell is everyone? The lights are still on, the muzak still looping through the speakers. But no customers. Not a soul for miles. S. happens on a blue phone in a dimly lit corner of Textiles. Information, a sign above it reads. We’re here to serve you. S. hesitates, looks around, rubs his moist palms on his pants before putting the receiver to his ear. “Hello,” he says. “Hello. Hello.” “Good evening,” a woman says. “My name is Julia. May I interest you in a lingonberry frappacino from our café or how about a plate of our famous meatballs? Vegan? Try the nut loaf with parsnip dressing.” The voice is foreign, a strange turning of the vowels, a rising intonation at the end of each sentence, maybe Indian, maybe Pakistani. “No,” S. says. He feels courtesy and patience slipping from him. “No, no. I’m lost. Do you understand me? I want out of your store. Can you send somebody? I’m in Textiles, I think.” “Sir,” the woman says, “people do not get lost in our stores. Yes, they are big. Yes, you can see them from space. But you must only follow the blue signs. The blue signs do not lie. Now, could I interest you in some batteries? Or how about a bag of our award-winning Colombian coffee, made with care for people and the environment?” “I don’t want batteries or coffee,” S. says, “I want out. Maybe someone misplaced a sign or something. Maybe somebody’s playing a joke. I want to go home. I’m tired. I have fish to feed.” The woman clicks her tongue. “Sir, I suggest filing a ZL-340 form with Consumer 10
Relations. You’ll hear back in three to four months. They take your complaints and suggestions very seriously. But I can assure you our Founder would not condone jokes with signs. Do you understand? For generations my people worshipped the great Shiva. We lived in mud huts. All day a water buffalo pulled my father through a stinking field. The fierce sun beat down on his naked shoulders. In those days, we drank our diet Cokes warm. Warm! We died in droves. Our bodies clogged the Ganges. And then one day a man comes to us: tall, tan, hair like corn silk, Swedish, Viggo Kamprad. He cleared the wild jungle, built this call center. He taught us your silly accents. He brought us civilization. Bottled water, frozen pizzas, Greek yogurt. Sir, with all due respect, we do not make jokes by misplacing blue signs. Good day.” S. stares at the smooth plastic receiver in his hand, slams it down into the cradle, and continues to walk. The impertinence! The rudeness and lecturing! S. will write a letter. No, he’ll write two and he’ll keep writing letters until he gets a formal apology. It’s the first thing he’ll do when he gets home, the very first thing…. And suddenly, not looking where he’s going, S. practically falls over the extended leg rest of an over-stuffed maroon recliner. A black man sits in it, broad shoulders, thighs like tree trunks. “Hälningar, kamarat,” the man says, regarding S. through a pair of pink plastic reading glasses. He wears tapered jeans and a faded gray sweatshirt, both too small for his large frame. A striped red and white scarf is knotted around his neck. A thick book is open on his lap. “Vackra natten en promenade?” “I don’t understand,” S. says. “Oh.” The man looks S. up and down. “You must be new,” he says in English, extending his hand. “Kwame Jackson. What’s your name?” S. tells him. “You look exactly like a guy who lives in Home Organization,” Kwame says. “Don Cooley. Nice enough, but he cheats at cards. I’ll tell you that right now. “You work here?” S. asks. Kwame throws his head back and laughs, a deep baritone his enormous chest amplifies. “Work here?” He runs a finger under his dripping eyes. “I bet you think I’m the big black guy who moves the furniture at night. Right? Lazing on my ass while the boss is out. Me’s sorry, Master Sir. Me’s was taking a break. Hell no. I don’t work here. I live here.” “You live here?” S. says, hearing panic and incredulity in his voice. This man is insane, a lunatic, perhaps even dangerous, S. assumes. Someone needs to call security to cart him off in a straightjacket and return him to the nuthouse he escaped from. S. takes a step back. “I’m just looking for the exit.” “Can’t help you there,” Kwame says. “Couldn’t help, even if I wanted to. I’m horrible with directions, and I bet you are too.” He closes the book on his lap, removes his reading glasses and taps them on his chin. “Oh, I get it, man, your first day. Cooley whimpered for a week when he got here, kept saying he had bills to pay, that there was no one to feed his Weimaraners. He got over it. He tells me he’s never been happier.” “This is ludicrous,” S. says. He’s so exhausted that nothing makes sense. His head aches, his eyes burn. “What about your job? Don’t you have a family?” Kwame makes a sweeping motion with his enormous hand. “Good riddance. My wife sent me here to pick up a wardrobe, and trust me, I was in no hurry to get home, 11
back to her bitching and our pissy kids and a job that followed me home every night. No, sir, I just plopped myself down in one of these massage recliners, picked up a book and thought I’d stay a while. Of course the book was in Swedish, they’re all in Swedish, but there was something about puzzling through it that interested me. Sure, I tried to get out, walked the aisles, followed those shortcuts, but I knew it was all half-hearted. Why leave? I worked for Raytheon. I designed bombs. Try sleeping with that on your conscience. Try watching the news every night, the flattened ancestral village and the charred little girl, try stomaching that when you designed the bomb. No way.” Kwame lifts the book from his lap and delicately balances it on his palm. “Vilhelm Moberg’s History of Sweden. I just started the second volume. Wars and wars and suffering peasants. Kings and bigwigs treading on the masses. Henpecked husbands. I’m checking out of that history. I’m done with it.” “But what about your obligations?” S. is incensed by this man’s selfishness. “What about your wife? And your children? Who’ll take care of them?” “I had a million-and-a-half life insurance policy I have no doubt Constance has cashed in by now,” Kwame says. “With that and my retirement, she’s set, probably living a better life than the one I gave her. I can’t imagine she wept much. I’m sure she couldn’t get her mind off the Gucci handbag she planned to buy after the service. And my kids, probably glued to those phones while the preacher sang my praises. Good riddance.” Kwame opens his book and eases back in the chair. “I’ve chosen a simple life, reading sixteen hours a day. Politics, sports, cooking, history, all Swedish of course, but they’re a fascinating people. And what else? Bathrooms everywhere. If I need to shower, I duck into the employee locker room. When my clothes wear out, I go to the Lost and Found.” Kwame wags a beefy finger at S.’s torn pants. “You in the market for some new threads, my man? Just yesterday I saw some nice Eddie Bauer slacks in the Lost and Found, about your size. You interested?” S. doesn’t answer. He scans the panels of fluorescent lights above his head, follows the dizzying network of metal tubes hanging from the concrete ceiling. Where are the cameras? Behind the air vents? In those little wooden knickknacks on the end tables? S. fully expects the host of So We Got You to emerge from a secret door, bad suit and bad hair, grinning ear to ear as he points to the hidden cameras. S. waits. No host. No cameras. Only this insane black man and an endless loop of sultry saxophone and jazz guitar over the speakers. Kwame squints down at his watch. “Dinner time,” he says. “Every night at eleven the cooks throw out the leftovers. I recommend the meatballs with lingonberry sauce. The vegetarian lasagna’s not bad. But I wouldn’t touch the lox. Fishy as hell.” S. runs his fingers through his hair. “This is crazy. You’re crazy. I’m not living here. I start a new job tomorrow. I have obligations.” He thinks of the aquarium he bought only yesterday, or was it the day before, of the glass catfish and blue gourami sliding through the bubbling water. Who will feed them? They’d devour each other if he didn’t get home soon. And what about his geriatric neighbor? Ms. Patterson, wasn’t it? Or Peterson. Didn’t she mention something about dinner on Monday and a furnace filter that needed changing? S. turns. “I’m getting out of here,” he calls over his shoulder.
# S.’s brown loafers slap against the laminate flooring. Sweat pours down his neck. A dark spot widens around his crotch and inches toward his waistline. His smell? Ripe, fecund, like a pair of forgotten socks moldering on the bottom of a gym locker. S. runs all night, into the morning and afternoon, into the evening. What day is it? He doesn’t know. Customers regard S. curiously and move to let him pass. “Is something on sale?” they call out. Breathless, S. stops in front of a long row of tall windows dark with night and stares at himself, hardly recognizing the slovenly figure with the crazed, bewildered expression staring back at him. He moves closer to the thick glass and peers down at the spattering of cars in the parking lot. Beyond it, a line of red taillights trace the serpentine highway that twists and turns through the moonlit desert toward the city’s umber haze. S. cups his hand against the glass and squints into the farthest corners of the parking lot, and there it is, his red, forlorn Cavalier attached to the backend of a tow truck. The towman, in shades and mechanic’s coveralls, talks on a phone, bends over double and slaps his knee as he works the hydraulics that lift the small car ’s backend. “No,” S. shouts, pounding his palms against the glass. He looks around, lifts a metal swivel chair above his head and hurls it at the window. It bounces off the glass and shatters into a hundred pieces around his feet. And then the tow truck is gone, a pair of taillights speeding toward the city. S. turns from the window. His head snaps to the right, to the left. He takes in the last of the day’s earnest customers strolling down the aisles, oblivious to anything but the furniture they’re poking, prodding, squeezing, and fondling. “Be calm,” S. tells himself. His hands tremble. His mind grasps for solutions. What had he learned in cub scouts? Don’t panic when lost. Direct yourself by locating the moss on a tree, which always grows on the north side. Follow a stream to a river, the river to the ocean. Look to the heavens. Follow the North Star. S. sees no stars, no moss, no stream. But there is a stream of customers, a trickle at this late hour, meandering through the wide aisles toward checkout and the exit beyond. S. has a plan. Across the aisle, S. sees a young couple entering the Dining Room Wing. He tails them closely, turning away and taking a feigned interest in the grain of the table tops or the structural integrity of the chairs if they happen to look his way. The fierce fluorescent lighting reflects in the man’s oily black hair and off his pointed leather loafers. The woman, her long golden hair in a ponytail, wears a pair of black stretch-pants and high brown leather boots. She looks as if she’s just competed in some equestrian event. The woman glances at S. and her smile vanishes. She whispers something to the man, who looks back before taking the woman by the elbow and leading her toward the next row of tables. S. follows. Suddenly, the man turns. “Hey, buddy,” he says, pressing his knuckle into S.’s sternum, 13
“we already told your friend outside we wouldn’t sign his petition. To tell you the truth, we’re a little tired of you tree huggers and your ripe smell polluting our air. I could care less about your sacred red squirrel, your jaguar and spotted owl. I’d eat them for breakfast if somebody served them up. Wouldn’t I, honey?” “He would,” the woman says, peeking around the man. “In Liberia, he once ate an entire pygmy hippo, shot it and ate it right down to the bones.” “That’s right,” the man says. “I’m the hunter. None of this passive aggressive shit like annoying people for a signature or tossing cream pies at CEOs. What’s that gotten you? If I were you, I’d be jabbing my thumb into some Senator ’s eyeball or breaking his kid’s kneecaps with an axe handle. The only thing in this world that gives orders is balls. You understand what I’m saying, hippy-boy? You ever seen Scarface? That’s what I live by.” S. raises his hands in the air. “I’m just trying to get out. That’s all I want.” “Do you hear that, honey?” the man says to the woman. “He wants out.” He rests his hand on S.’s shoulder. “So you’ve reached the end, seen the light at the end of the tunnel? You’re tired of the ashrams and the communes, lentil soups and chicks with hairy legs. I bet you want to tear into a big Porterhouse without someone calling you a monster. You want to be rich. You want power. You want to be like me. But look at you! Those pants, that shirt! You smell like a taco. You remind me of this homeless guy my fraternity brothers and I used to beat with baseball bats. Doesn’t he look like Old Rufus Redbeard?” he asks the woman. “Spitting image,” the woman says. “Yeah, birds of a feather.” The man glares at S. “You think Rufus was moving up in the world? You think a lunatic veteran in a smelly army coat and crotchless jeans commanded our respect? Look at me. Look at this shirt I’m wearing. Egyptian cotton. Right now there’s some guy in Paris making a dozen for me.” He hands S. a card. “Call me when you’re through with your hippy life. I’ll put you in my downline selling spray-on contraceptives. The Latinos are buying them up like hot cakes right now. But until then”—the man waves a fist in S.’s face—“until then, stop cramping us with your hippy stench and hand-me-down clothes or I’ll call security. Or better yet, maybe I’ll just pop you in the mouth. Won’t I, honey?” “That’s right,” the woman says. “He’s popped a lot of hippies in the mouth.” A cog turns in S.’s dulled brain. A tumbler locks into place. “Security,” he says. “Yes, call security. Have them take me away. Tell them I’m mentally ill. Tell them I’m a pervert.” S. considers spending an hour in Furniture Land jail, making up some lame excuse about forgetting his medication at home, and then being escorted out into that beautiful heat and desert air. “Always looking for a platform, aren’t you?” the man says. He turns to the woman. “I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction, would I, honey?” “He wouldn’t,” the woman says. “He never gives satisfaction.” “No,” the man says. He jerks his head to the side. His neck vertebrae crackle. “But there is one thing that would give me some satisfaction right now.” “Baby, you’re so bad,” the woman says. She licks her lips. “Such a bad baby.” And suddenly the man and woman are on S., their fists hammering at his face and stomach. And then S. is down on the laminate flooring, hands shielding his face, 14
knees pulled up to his chest The woman shrieks and repeatedly drives the heel of her brown riding boot into the soft flesh covering S.’s tailbone. The man, breathing heavily, rams a clear plastic cylinder meant to hold pasta into the back of S.’s head. “So you want to dance?” the man says. “Say goodnight to the bad guy. Say goodnight.” S. screams, short effeminate bursts that tear at the back of his throat. His limbs jerk and jump. There’s an undulating blackness around the edges of things and then darkness and silence.
# There’s a restless churning under S.’s eyelids. His dreams have claws: His father ’s drowned, bloated body rising from the oak casket half-way through the funeral service. “It was a foggy night. I couldn’t see a thing. I didn’t know the plane was going down. Son, I should have never taken off. Forgive me.” His mother, paper-thin skin wrapped around bones, twining bits of colored yarn around Popsicle sticks at Shriber State Hospital. “I once had a son who looked just like you. An idiot like his father. Couldn’t find his way anywhere.” S.’s nightmare: the drive west. A tangle of blue and yellow lines on a map. Wrong exits. Detours. Backtracking. Directions mumbled or spoken too quickly. And now: endless, glimmering aisles. And then unexpectedly Hedda, enveloped in a bright haze, is standing over him, puffy red eyes and tear-streaked cheeks. Her lower lip trembles. S. is touched by this emotional display. She turns and rests her head on a brawny bicep. And suddenly that black man’s there, huge and imposing. What’s his name again? Kwanza? Kezana? Kwame? Yes, that’s it. His giant hand pets Hedda’s golden hair. S. feels a sudden pressure in his chest, hears a dry grinding sound. “Poor bastard,” Kwame says, sadly looking down at S. He wraps his arm around Hedda’s shoulder, pulls her closer. “Why you want to leave, my man?” he asks S. “This is easy street. Paradise. Not a care in the world. One happy family.” S. wants to scream. He wants to rise up and tear Kwame’s meaty arm from Hedda’s delicate shoulder. What had Hedda said? That he was her favorite. She’d touched his face. They’d talked about getting coffee. But S. can’t move. A rushing sound fills his ears. He feels heat on the back of his neck. Kwame and Hedda slowly dissolve into the haze. Their voices come to S. from a great distance—and then they’re gone, and again darkness. # S. awakens in bed, every muscle and joint aching. A beautiful incandescent light surrounds him. What a nightmare, he thinks, burrowing deeper into a goose-down comforter. 15
And then somewhere above him, he hears the scratch of a pen moving over paper. S.’s eyes snap open. A man—white lab coat, stethoscope tucked into his breast pocket—stands at the foot of the bed, scribbling on a clipboard. S. feverishly takes in his new surroundings. White floors, white ceilings, white fluorescent lights, beds with white sheets as far as the eyes can see, row after row of them, all occupied by sleeping, supine bodies. The woman in the bed next to S.’s mumbles in her sleep. Her legs twitch. S. catches the words dust ruffle. “I’m Doctor Kröken,” the man says, clicking the top of his pen and sliding it into his breast pocket. “We had a betting pool on when you’d wake up,” he says. “It seems Doctors Framtid and Luftig owe me a Coke.” He looks down at the clipboard. “A Mr. Jackson brought you in. You’re lucky he found you, Mr…” Kröken covers his mouth and snorts a dry little laugh. “We’ve been calling you Mr. Scruffy-Pants. It’s just a little game we sometimes play. No harm. But anyway, someone assaulted you and stuffed you under a futon, left you for dead. Nasty business. Unfortunately, there’s been a bit of a criminal element in Dining, a lot of shopping-related stress. We’re cracking down on it.” S. raises himself on his elbow. “What do you mean? Where am I? Is this Good Samaritan? Saint Joseph’s?” Kröken smiles. “Heavens no. Those places are so third-world. Filthy. Medieval. You’re a patient in the Furniture Land Clinic. Last year the Swedish Medical Association awarded us the Golden Herring Award for our optimal care. Our physical rehabilitation center is one of the best in the world, our psychiatric facilities top-notch. You can imagine all those shopping-related injuries, the strained muscles and alignment issues, the mental fatigue and frustration.” S.’s jaw drops. He’s beyond words. “Oh, don’t worry about the cost,” Kröken says. “It’s all taken care of. You’re very important to us. We need color in your cheeks, a pleasant grin on your face. We need you out on that sales floor projecting an air of satisfaction and comfort. Think of the profits. Marvelous. Marvelous, Mr. Scruffy….” “What the hell are you talking about?” S. says. “Satisfaction and comfort?” He gazes at the acres of sleeping bodies tucked between white sheets, hears the barely audible susurrus of inhaling and exhaling. “I’m not staying here,” he says. “You’re crazy.” Kröken appears offended. “Don’t want to stay,” he says. “Do you feel that goose-down comforter, that Hagavik active response coil mattress? Think of your life here, not a care in the world. A life of ease and comfort. Have you experienced the massage recliners? Have you tried the meatballs? The coffee? Delicious!” “I’ll be on my way,” S. says, pulling back the comforter. He stands, swaying slightly. And what is he wearing? Some kind of hospital gown. “If you’ll be kind enough to show me to the exit,” S. says, suddenly winded. “No. Don’t a say a word. I’ll find it myself.” The hospital gown gapes in back. A cold draft slides across S.’s left buttock. “Wait,” Kröken says. “You’re in no condition to walk. Look at your vitals”—he waves the clipboard in S.’s face—“blood pressure, heart rate. And your mangled face. You’ll scare customers away.” “Thank you,” S. says, “but no thank you. Goodbye.” He totters on the balls of his naked 16
feet, takes an uncertain step forward, blinks quickly. Brilliant bursts of white light dance in the air. “You leave me no choice,” Kröken says. He snaps his fingers and two hulking men in white uniforms appear from behind a curtain, thick jaws with barely a trace of blond stubble on their dimpled chins, deep-set expressionless eyes. “Back off,” S. says. He shuffles toward a set of white double doors. Kröken holds a syringe in his left hand. “Mr. Scruffy-Pants,” he says, “why don’t you lie down? We’ll talk about this.” S. looks back as he runs for the doors. “Get away from me and call off your goons.” S. reaches the doors, pushes the handle. No give. Nothing. S. turns. The goons approach. “Locked,” Kröken says. “Now how about something to help you sleep?” S.’s looks up to the ceiling, then down at the floor. He leans against the wall. His hand grazes something smooth and metallic. A handle? A square blue hatch marked Incinerator? “Not wise,” Kröken says. He pinches the syringe between his fingers, turning it in small circles. “A conflagration. You’ll be incinerated. Your ashes will fall from the sky.” S. pulls the hatch open and stares down into the black tube. No trace of heat, no faint fiery glow. And before S. can process his actions, he’s sliding down the tube, faster and faster through the darkness. His screams reverberate around him. And then he’s on the ground, somersaulting through pillowy mounds of gray ash. It coats his skin. Great tears roll down his cheeks. And what is this place? A room? A furnace? Four cinderblock walls, an iron door with a square glass window, piles of ash and the metallic skeletons of recliners, couches, and love seats. Coughing, S. limps toward the door, looking back once at the great metal tube, expecting the goons to slide out. The heavy door creeks open. S. moves down a narrow cement hallway toward a faint emerald glow. His tailbone’s sore. His left eye throbs. After a few minutes of walking, he stops, rubs his eyes. What does he see? A mirage? A hallucination? Can it be real, this illuminated exit sign above a metal door? S. is giddy. He’s never felt such joy. He runs for the door, pushes it open and enters the night. The air, heavy with desert scents, is like a furnace. The concrete burns under his feet. But S. doesn’t care. He’s free. The black macadam of the empty parking lot stretches out before him. S. blinks, stares down at the crumpled hospital gown streaked with ash, dances on his heels. Out there beyond the empty parking lot is the city’s dim glow. His apartment is there, his fish, maybe. Thirty miles of asphalt to home. It will take an iron will to walk that distance, but S. is up for the challenge. He steps off the curb. Suddenly the door opens. Hedda stands there, as fresh as the first time S. saw her, not a stain on her khakis, not a blond hair out of place. She tips her head up and stares at the enormous Furniture Land sign fixed to the building. Her face is bathed in a pale yellow light. “I’ve always loved that color,” she says, fingering the walkie-talkie on her hip. “It reminds me of summer. It comforts me.” S. doesn’t look up. “You said I was your favorite.” The walk-talkie crackles and then a voice squawks, “Hedda. Ibuprofen. Spasm.” Hedda 17
looks down at the walk-talkie a moment, then turns a knob that kills the voice. “S.,” she says, moving forward to touch his arm, “sweet S. You are my favorite. You’ll always be my favorite.” She looks over his shoulder at the winding road beyond the parking lot. The full moon reflects in her eyes. “You sure you want to travel that long road?” she asks. “And what’s at the end? You ever think about that? Those used to be the dark thoughts that kept me up at night.” “What’s at the end?” S. stares at the distant city. “What’s at the end is life. The real world. This”—S. points to the enormous buzzing sign above— “this isn’t real.” Hedda considers this. She nods. “That’s right, S.” Her voice brims with concession. “You’re right. None of this is real. But what about that real world out there, S.? How’s that worked out for you?” She smiles and reaches for him. Her open hand reflects the electric yellow light, and S. knows all he has to do is take that hand and follow. “It’s easy to forget,” Hedda says. “A nice recliner. A good book. Meatballs. Satisfaction and comfort.” “So it’s that easy, huh?” S. says. He scans the horizon. His gloomy apartment is out there, his fish, expired, he’s sure, his elderly neighbor, whatever her name is, a new job, maybe. And then S. looks at that hand, Hedda’s hand, so soft and beautiful he can never imagine it growing old. And then he feels himself turning, a new kind of turning. A new feeling. No tangle of lines on a map. No bewildering succession of detour signs. Nothing like that. pp
This story was recently published in Prime Mincer, a literary journal that isn’t ours but we were still graciously allowed to share it because we thought it was cool. The author, Ryan Shoemaker, has been published in Santa Monica Review, Grist: A Journal for Writers, Hawai’i Review, and Weber: The Contemporary West. Ryan lives in Burbank, California with his wife, Jennifer, and two children, Kieran and Haven. He once shared a plate of bacon with George Saunders in an Athens, Ohio café.
Petition to Remove the Letter “D” from English Vocabulary DEVI ACHARYA
These are desperate times in which we live. Some say that drastic measures will have to be taken
before the imminent demise of society, culture, human rights, liberties, or even civilization itself. In reality, though, there is a simple, effective way to eliminate the dark preoccupations of the 21st-century, its depressed denizens keen on divining their own destruction rather than marveling at the bright future that waits just over the horizon. Even death itself will cease to exist when this one minute change comes about. It is actually astonishing that this attempt has never been brought to light before—though one may say the same about many of the Earth’s greatest innovations.
The following petition henceforth argues to completely remove the letter “D” from the English
language. The marvel that such a simple manipulation of vocabulary will bring is unquantifiable. People will no longer sink into despair, depression being a sheer impossibility. There will be no more terrorism; certainly no detonations will be able to cause such destruction. The drug problem will be gone altogether.
Elimination of the letter “D” will also have marvelous effects on human interaction. One benefit
is that divorce will become an impossibility—for how can divorce exist when no dissonance occurs between the couple? How shall they hate each other if they never disagree or debate about who shall take out the trash?
Some of the more lenient, more conservative members of this group of thought are fine with only
removing “D” from the beginning of combinations of letters. They quibble about how the whole concept of God comes into question if “D” is completely gone—as though the suggestion of a one true Go is completely unfathomable. If you believe the same, please abstain from signing this petition. The simplest argument for the complete obliteration of the deathly letter is the fact that if “D” were to be completely gone, no one will be sad about it. Although this is a completely logical argument, it has not 19
been enough to some out there.
To those dissenters, I wish to note that this argument has always been about more than the arbitrary
elimination of one letter from the English language. This is about a revolution in linguistics—a revolution in thought following this drastic change. For instance, with the removal of “D,” subjective concepts such as good vs. bad will be gone, to be overtaken by far more accurate terms—right vs. wrong—which trace their roots back to morality rather than opinion. In the same way all of language will evolve; as such the thoughts & actions of humans will become even stronger. As changes begin to sweep across the English language, other languages will begin to change their own to suit. Enacting this petition is the singular most important action that will happen in this century. After all, why live in a dominion of doubt & discontentment when a utopia –a realm without death, without despair—awaits you?
H a v e y o u g uys been listening to
lay there and die, slowly cooking w i t h o u t
S u b t o p i a n ’s p o dcast, “The Subtopian
r e ga r d or inte r e st. W ha t I ’ m tr yin g to s a y
N e w s ? ” I t ’s c o ol, Trevor and his brother
is, we’re so busy looking for the p o t o f
K e v i n t a l k a b o ut all kinds of random stuff
hot water I sometimes wonder if w e ’ r e j u s t
i n a w a y t h a t ’s fun, maybe a little geeky,
slowly cooking. Do you know ho w m a n y
and r e a l l y e a sy to follow. O ne com mon
crazy things have become a part o f e v e r y
t h e m e t h a t h a s come up in a lot of their
day life? Stop and track all the te r r o r s
c o n v e r s a t i o n s h as been this singular
that you’ve just acclimated to in o r d e r t o
q u es t i o n : W h y is everyone so obsesse d with
go on living. The c ost of living is h ig h e r
A r m a g e d d o n ? No, not the movie. That
than ever, but your wages haven’t g o n e u p
m o v i e su c k s.
to match. Taxes are increasing, b u t n e v e r mind that, what about the fact tha t t h e
It w o u l d s e em that at every turn we a r e al w a y s o n t he look out for the next d o o m s d a y. W h en one passes us by, proving t o b e y e t a n o t h er nonevent, we just start our s e a r c h f o r w h a t ’s next. Y2K didn’t even p u t o u t a l i g h t bulb so we started looking fo r t h e r i se o f t h e machines or the zombie s. 2 0 1 2 p r o v e d t o be just the final stage of a M ay a n Ca l e n d a r that has recycled from the b e g i n n i n g , n o earthquakes, no Horsemen of t h e A p o c a l y p s e , and so we start looking for what’s n e x t . . .
income tax was illegally pushed th r o u g h Congress all the way back in the t w e n t i e s ? The r e wa s ne ve r a le ga l r a tif ic a tio n o f th e government seizing your income, b u t y o u go along with it, day in and day o u t , a n d file your tax return at the top of e v e r y year. Or how about nuclear prolif e r a t i o n or the fact that America dropped a n u c l e a r bomb on a country, killing large a m o u n t s of regular civilians, women, child r e n , a n d little ba by a nima ls? But wha te ve r, s u c h is life, but then there’s that whole Vi e t n a m thing, or Iraq, Afghanistan, or the f a c t that this country has been at war, a l m o s t
T h e i n t e r e s ting thing is, our search for
nonstop since its inception. And t h a t ’s
Th e E n d h a s l e f t us neglecting the pr e se nt.
not even touching on the slowly ti g h t e n i n g
We ’ re s o b u s y looking for the explosive
grip of our own government, you’ v e h e a r d
f i n a l e t h a t w e never stop to ask ourselves
it all before, but let’s just run a sh o r t l i s t
h o w t h i n g s m i g ht happen in little steps,
of what’s changed in our post-Pat r i o t A c t
b arel y n o t i c e a b le, over years, even d e c a de s.
Ame r ic a :
W h a t K e v i n r e f erred to in a recent podcast e p i s o d e a s “ t h e old frog in boiling water
The Constitution grants us t h e
a d a g e . ” I f y o u drop a frog into hot water
h e’l l j u m p r i g h t out. B ut if you put h im in
unreason a b l e
se a r c he s, me a ning no one h a s
c o l d w a t e r a n d slow set it to boil he’ll just
the right to take your stuff a n d 23
g o t h r o u gh it without showing good
r e ason.
Fe e ling like the f r og in hot wa te r y e t?
t o d a y ’s America the government c a n “ s e a r ch and seize” anyone’s sh i t w i t h out probable cause if it r e l a t e s t o a terror investigation.
H o w e v e r,
or othe r wise ya mme r on a b o u t whatever they want or bel i e v e in... unless interferes wi t h a
s t o r i e s b efore, I’m sure, rumors o f i l l e g a l prisons, stories abou t someone
or some thing.
isn’t a reason to. Furthermo r e , I wa nt you to look ba c k thr oug h th e
P r e s i d e n t Obama has signed into
history of peaceful assembly a n d
l a w a n a mendment allowing for
notice all the times that pe o p l e
the arrest and detainment, without
rallying for change have b e e n
t r i a l , o f s uspected terrorists even
scattered or arrested by poli c e i n
i f t h e y a r e U S citizens living o n
In other words,
the sixties, Alabama, the C i v i l
t h e B u s h years is now outright
Rights Movement, the Kent S t a t e
l a w. A n d what happened? Who
Massacre... the list is endle s s .
What fanfare an d Nil.
Not just since B u s h ,
but going all the way bac k t o
w h a t w a s rumor and suspicion in
r e t a l i a t i o n resulted?
I don’t k n o w.
they’ll watch you, even if t h e r e
c o n t i n u i n g right up to this year,
sp o k e o ut?
crim i n a l
I t’s we ir d. I f you’ r e in a g r o u p
N a t i o n a l Defense Authorization
A m e r i c a n soil.
some kind of terrorist move m e n t
Toda y the gove r n me n t
of c ivilia ns might gr ow in to
m a k e m a tters worse, under the in
tho u g h ,
activity simply because gr o u p s
This stuff happens, and
b e ginning
h a s b e e n happening right under
inve stiga tion
religious or political institut i o n s
n o t s e e n or heard from again for
y o u r n o s e for a decade.
te r r or
c a n monitor, r e c or d, or tr a c k a n y
w a s t a k e n from an airport and years.
Associa t i o n ,
peacefully, to discuss, prom o t e ,
w i t h o u t a trial. You’ve heard the
of the people to come toge t h e r,
m a y j a i l Americans indefinitely
G u a n t a n a mo
incl u d e s
Assembly, protects the ri g h t s
t o a sp e edy and public trial t he
a lso known a s the Fr e e dom o f
C i t i z e n s are granted the right under
The r ight to le ga l r e pr e se ntatio n
o n e n o t i c ed or cared.
is just that, you have a r i g h t 24
t o a n a t torney and that right
prevented access to a client, i f a n
A m e n d m e nt E X C E PT... in case s
email is hacked, and the pe o p l e
o f s u s p e cted terrorist activity
involved tell on the govern m e n t
the n the y go to ja il.
p r o t e cted
g o v ernment
c o n v e r s a tions between attorneys a n d c l i e n ts that would typically be
c o n sidered
of the accused are protected a n d
f a r a s p reventing lawyer from access
Amendment, in which the ri g h t s
p r i v a t e , and they can even go so gaining
under the Fourth Amendme n t i n
which you are granted a t r i a l
a c c u s e d of terrorism.
by jury, the right to liber t y, a fair trial, and due proces s o f
Freedom of speech. This is the big
la w a r e c le a r ly outline d a n d
o n e , f o l k s.
This is Amendment
defended by our Constitu t i o n .
O n e , t h e one we should be a ll
But an American can be ja i l e d
But, as pointed out by
wit h o u t
o u r b o y s at Subtopian’s podcast,
the opportunity to confront t h e
o n e p r o o f that you don’t really
witnesses against them if t h e y
h a v e f r e edom of speech is this
are accused of terrorism.
s p e a k o u t on certain topics.
y o u c a n ’t say something because y o u ’ r e a f raid of w hat w ill happen t h e n i t d oesn’t really matter if a d o c u m ent says you can say w h a t e v e r you want. If you don’t f e e l s a f e exercising your rights t h e n y o u don’t really have them. P e r i o d . To add to this argum ent, today’s government can prosecute librarians
k e e p e r s i f they leak information r e g a r d i n g government seizure of i n f o r m a t i on relating to a terror i n v e s t i g a tion. In other words, i f t h e g o vernm ent subpoenaes
It all comes down to one simp l e f a c t : if you a r e de c la r e d a te r r or ist or u n la w f u l combatant than the government ha s t h e powe r to de ny you a ny r ights a t a ll b e c a u s e , under law, you are no longer a US c i t i z e n . However, much like the days of th e Salem Witch Trials or Joseph McC a r t h y ’s persecution of communists in the 1 9 5 0 s , no real evidence is required. You c a n b e damned by a single word and all o f y o u r rights go out the door. Period. T h i s h a s happened, and continues to happen , i n o u r nation right now and we are doing n o t h i n g because we are all looking fr the a s t e r o i d or the Mayan curse or the volcano o r t h e 25
z o m b i e u p r i s i n g that will destroy us. We’re boiling alive and don’t even know i t b e c a u s e i t ’s h a p p e n i n g by degrees, little bits at a time, every year. Obama just put pen t o p a p e r t h i s J a n u a r y o n the 2013 NDAA which legalizes the indefinite detention of Ame r i c a n s . L a s t y e a r t h e l a w was passed legalizing the assassination of suspected terrorists o v e r s e a s , e v e n i f t h e y a r e US citizens. What’s coming up for next year? The law that allo w s t h e g o v e r n m e n t t o assassinate US citizens on American soil? And, let’s not forget, i n 2 0 11 t h e l a w w a s p a ssed implementing the use of unmanned aerial drones over US soi l b y 2 0 1 5 .
I g u e ss w h at I’m trying to say is the e nd a lr e a dy ha ppe ne d. You misse d it b e c a u s e y o u w e r e l o o k i ng for the big explosive finale, the death knell of American Demo c r a c y, b u t i t d i d n ’t g o d o wn like that. America isn’t dying, it’s dead, we’re something else e n t i r e l y, I d o n ’t k n o w w hat, but we aren’t a democracy, we’re just living in the illusion o f o n e . It ’s l i k e , w h a t did T.S . E liot say?
T h i s i s t h e way the w orld ends, not with a bang but a whimpe r. pp
David Renton is a church brat by heritage only. As a man he firmly believes in the importance of skepticism, mental and spiritual education without indoctrination, and is a conspiracy theorist only where the Catholic church is concerned. David is a struggling novelist and works a day job where he watches people treat retail workers like second class citizens and loses more faith in humanity by the day.
Too Many Crooks in Blue Enough is enough. How many deaths and abuses and endless trains of corrupt institutions are we going to witness in our nation’s law enforcement officials before we demand a change? You can remember a half dozen examples right now without even trying. Go ahead. List. I can wait. I mean, Rodney King, or that famous video of the kids all cuffed and sitting on the curb while a cop walks down the row spraying them with mace, or how about Fallujah, remember that one? Recently martial law was declared in Brooklyn, New York, when citizens rioted in response to a child criminal being gunned down by police – which sucks. But even worse, and even more recently a man with Downs Syndrome was left to asphyxiate by police in late March. The story goes that the man, 26-year-old Robert Ethan Saylor, was at a movie theater in New Market, Maryland, with a companion where he watched Zero Dark Thirty. When the movie was over he insisted on watching it again and things quickly became heated. It’s unclear where the companion was, but rather than wait for the proper caregivers to arrive the theater management called the police. Three officers were sent, that’s right, three, not one or two, freaking three dudes to deal with one dude with Downs Syndrome. How does that add up? Anyway, they cuffed him and, according to the coroner ’s report, the position he was left in combined with a heart condition led to his suffocation. He was unable to change his position himself because of the handcuffs and was, essentially, just left to die. There are some mixed details involving time of death. The autopsy used the word “asphyxiation” however it was also reported that he died later on at the hospital. Which seems weird to me and has caused a number of people in the public to cry “cover up.” The answer to this tragedy has been even more infuriating. The response of the Frederick County Police Department is that the man had a history of anger issues and health problems. No, duh, he has freaking Downs Syndrome. Everybody knows that people with special needs can be unpredictable. When you bump into a blind guy on the street do you blame him for not being able to see? It’s your job to serve and protect, especially those who need special service and protection, it’s not your job as police officers to berate, neglect, and abuse because someone is difficult. The label on the coroner ’s report was “homicide,” but there will be no criminal charges against the officers involved. What I want to know is, why not? I feel like if you 27
kill a retard (pardon my French) you should be held responsible, no matter the circumstances. But they just get away with it, they always freaking get away with it. So here’s my thing. There needs to be more civilian oversight where police are involved. They have too much leeway, too much authority over us, and it’s wrong. Their power has led to a national corruption and we are, essentially, weaponless against them. If I stand up to an officer of the law, no matter how wrong he is, I am the one who gets punished for “resisting arrest” or some other bull shit charge. What do you do when you see a law man beating a civilian? What can you do? What can you do if you are pulled over and ticketed for something you didn’t do? You can’t fight it, the courts, the judges, the entire system is on their side. It is just all messed up and it needs to change. I mean, the grip of this country’s authority figures is tightening around the national throat every day and we do nothing. We need more power, we need authority in ourselves to stand up against injustice... we need the ability to say no to the law when it is wrong. But more than that, we need to send out a clear reminder that the law is there to serve us, we are not here to serve the law. pp ----Source: Associated Press, “Autopsy report says man with Down syndrome who died in custody had anger and health issues.”
March 2013. Web. 26 March 2013.
Trip Markham believes that art will sav e the world faste r than sc ience. A rt is the true he ritage of any c iv ilization and outlasts t h e scientific achievm ents of any anc ie nt c ulture . He is a stude nt of art and litera ture at the Univ e rsity of Te x as.
How About Voting the “Kindergarten” Party Next Election? by Trevor D. Richardson 3014
We’ve seen what can happen to a nation
of our national financial system has
led by lawyers. What this country really needs,
grown to the point of that bratty little
the next time around, is a freaking kindergarten
kindergartner hoarding all the blocks
teacher for president. Let’s take a look, one by
and trying to get his hands on the
one, at the lessons you learn in kindergarten and
LEGOS while he’s at it.
how we could all use a little national refresher: We don’t know how to share
1) Sharing: This country hates sharing.
philosophies either. We’re looking for the one right answer, the one truth, and everyone else be damned. A war
Look at the way we drive. We’re
between Christian and Muslim, right
pissed at the sight of a cyclist in the road
and left, old and young, Democrat and
causing us to brake. We’re pissed when
Republican, man and woman... all of
someone has to merge into our lane.
these come down to one basic issue.
We’re pissed when there’s construction,
They can’t share “truth.” They want
when there’s traffic, when someone
it all to themselves. Their way or the
cuts us off. And! Within the “cutting
off” topic, isn’t that just someone who doesn’t know how to share the road as
If we knew how to share
well? Isn’t that guy also being a little
physically in terms of space, resources, and behaviors... if we did even one
If the roadways aren’t enough
of these things we would see big
there are tons of other examples. Our
change in our country. But wait, that’s
behavior in the supermarket, our
SOCIALISM! That is forbidden. But
behavior in our own homes, with our
isn’t socialism kind of the voice of the
friends, at the bar when everyone
teacher coming into the room saying,
crowds around, huddled, blocking each
“Hey, kids, let’s all share now, it’s polite
other from ordering... we’re pissed at
restaurants when there’s a wait. We don’t know how to share. To bring
The rage against socialist philosophies
this to a higher level, we don’t know
is coming from the brattiest, most
how to share economically. It’s every
spoiled, most stubborn little assholes in
man for himself out there. The avarice
the class room. It’s a childish rebellion 31
utopia against the voice of reason, peace,
dross of every person’s tiny little
and proper social structure within an
remarks being analyzed and reworked
environment that would otherwise be
to the point of petty white noise. It has
chaos. Isn’t it ironic? The lessons
to stop. Everybody just needs to learn
we’re teaching our children in order
to mind their own stupid business. To
to get along are promptly rejected in
take care of their own homes, their own
order to become upstanding members
drama, their own souls and their own
of society. Doesn’t that say something
flaws. Everyone, I mean everyone,
about the system? The free market says
needs to shut up. It shouldn’t matter if
“every man for himself” and “survival
the president had a cigarette or if some
of the fittest,” but the basic rules of
athlete cheated on his wife. It doesn’t
cooperation say otherwise. More than
even matter if these things are dramatic
that, you could say that there is a strange
or tragic or anything like that because,
dichotomy in our social structure. That
in the end, they’re freakin’ personal and
we are taught to behave one way on
have no business in the news. Period.
the micro level (interacting with one
Mind your business.
another) but in a completely different
3) Don’t be a tattle-tale:
level on the macro (national business, economic dealings, corporate trading).
This one is directed most specifically We just need to learn how to freakin’
at our media and is, in a sense, a post-
script to “Mind Your Own Business.” Media, when you learn a little tidbit
2) Mind your own business:
of personal information that seems interesting or even outright “juicy gossip,” don’t be an effing tattle-tale
We are so into everybody’s business in
and keep it to yourself. If this crap
our culture it is disgusting. I don’t just
wasn’t being reported ad nauseum
find it offensive or annoying. I find it
every single stupid day then America
outright repugnant. Jennifer Anniston’s
wouldn’t be able to hear about it and
haircut, Angelina Jolie’s babies, Britney
our petty celebrity gossip culture would
Spears’ cooch and/or subsequent rehab,
go the way of the dodo. If it weren’t
extra-marital affairs, family scandals of
for the tattle-tales and rats of celebrity
celebrities and leaders, and the goddamn
private lives we would be a much more 32
substantial culture than our current state.
creative thinking even when it doesn’t
On a broader scale, if it weren’t for
apply directly to the arts. A movement
the paparazzi mongrels and tattlers in
in business schools toward teaching
society than the tragic pages of history
philosophy, ethics, and art has begun
like the death of Princess Diana or the
within the past ten years and the results
abhorrent mobbing of Britney Spears as
have been significant.
she checked herself out of rehab wouldn’t
Art time is important.
have happened and future occurrences
5) Pick up your toys:
would be a thing of the past. Think about that. It’s simple: no tattling means no pettiness.
After play time you had to clean up in kindergarten. You couldn’t move on to
the next thing until you finished picking up after the first. However, in grown up
Remember how in kindergarten you
land our toys are things like computers,
got to do arts and crafts? Time was
cell phones, televisions, video game
taken out of every day to be creative,
consoles... you get the idea. And what do
importance was placed on art every bit
we do with those when we’re done? We
as much as there was on learning letters
toss them aside, they end up in monstrous
or rules or whatever else you learned in
piles in land fills, breaking down into
poisonous and often even radioactive
Now let’s look at the state of our
puddles that can damage ground water or
country. In higher education the arts are
even result in birth defects. You know
under attack. High schools are losing
how when you were a kid and didn’t feel
their funding for the arts left and right as
like cleaning up you would just push
resources are allocated toward athletics
everything into a pile in the closet or
and standardized testing. As students
under the bed? That’s us. That’s what
graduate from an educational institution
we’re doing and we need to stop. We
that downplays the importance of art
need to properly clean up our shit. Did
they become adults with no appreciation
you know that even proper “recycling”
or time for creativity. You might say
of appliances through organizations
“What’s the big deal?” But studies have
or businesses has been shown to be an
shown that people with a background
illusion? These businesses send old tech
in art and philosophy are better at
overseas to countries like Vietnam or 33
the Philippines where they heap up and
and just be still. Other cultures even go
degrade. People go to the graveyards of
so far as taking a break in the middle of
our old toys and pick through them for
the day like certain villages in Italy or the
scrap metal, chemicals, or salvageable
famed Mexican siesta. I’d settle for just
component parts. That lifestyle often
a little less drama and a little more quiet
results in cancer, emphyzema, skin
before our whole world dies of karoshi.
irritation, acid burns and more. Suffice to say, “Out of sight, out of mind,” isn’t
The point of all this? When you were in
kindergarten, if you couldn’t follow the rules, you got taken away from the group and put in
a corner or in time out. Today, the people that can’t follow the rules are leading. We’re looking
And finally, remember that glorious
at the result of a classroom coup in which the
nap time in kindergarten? As business
defiant brats have banded together and risen up
culture expands across the globe and
against the teacher and her calm, but stern voice
an increasing amount of importance is
placed on work, productivity, and earning there is a kind of phenomenon moving
I guess I’m saying we need a kindergarten
through the civilized world. We used
teacher to remind us all that we’re being bad and
to work to sustain life, but now, today,
just need a good time out. pp
we live to sustain work. We are so enslaved and enthralled by our system
that we can’t even see how bad things have gotten. A recent development
Trevor D. Richardson is the author of American
in Japan known as “karoshi” literally
Bastards and the upcoming novel Dystopia Boy.
translates as “death from work” has had
He is the founder and editor of The Subtopian
an increase in recent years. Workers in
Magazine and a firm believer in the possibility
all fields succumb to heart attack and
of Utopia and the power of human invention.
stroke as a result of work-related stress.
Creativity is the answer and Trevor wants to
The point of that radical example is we
find more creative people to fill the community
could all use a little rest, take some time
that is Subtopian.
to quiet down, cut out the white noise and the drama of trying to earn a living in increasingly troubled economic times 34
Disjoint my head, either way I don’t b o t h e r with it too much. I climb back i n t o C a n ’t sl e e p tonight. T here’s
bed and lay for several hours, j u s t
s o m e t h i n g scratching at the wall. I
looking a t the da r k in the c e il in g .
g e t u p f r o m the bed and check the b a s e b o a r d s , and behind my desk but n o t h i n g i s there. I think perhaps I grew up in Alaska and used t o f a l l
t h e r e a r e r a ts in the walls, or in
asleep looking out at a mount a i n 35 33 33
a n d f a l l a s l eep to the sound of the
pressed my ear against the wa l l a n d
w i n d o r t h e rain or just the stilln e ss
tried to find the exact spot of t h e
t h a t c o m e s from being far from the
tapping but it seemed that as s o o n
b u l k o f t h e regions populace. For
a s I c a me c lose to it the ta ppin g
t h e l a s t t e n years I’ve fallen asleep
moved to another spot entirely. S o
t o t h e s o u n d of traffic running
after several tries I again beca m e
a l o n g M i l - plain at night.
e xa spe r a te d a nd c limbe d ba c k in to be d.
F o r a s h o r t time I lived on the east e n d o f Va n couver and although t h e r e h a d b een traffic it wasn’t l i k e t h e w a y it is here. Once, while
When I lived in Alaska, gro w i n g
h i g h o n a c i d, this guy and I walk ed
up as a child, I had pure freed o m .
t h r o u g h a p ark near that house,
Living in a small town on the e d g e
t h r o u g h a mesh fence we looked out
of the world is something eve r y o n e
o n t h e Wa l - mart there and he said,
should experience at some poi n t . A s
“ t h e u r b a n jungle is quiet.” And he
a child my parents didn’t wor r y t o o
h a d b e e n r i ght. Sometimes on the
much about us. I could go any w h e r e
e a s t e n d o f Vancouver I could hear
a nd do a nything, wa lk a mile f r o m
o w l s i n t h e little patch of forest
my house and be in a forest w i t h n o
n e x t t o t h e house.
one around, completely alone. I n summer we would swim in a p o n d ( c a lle d be a ve r pound, de spite th e fact that I never once saw a be a v e r the r e or e ve n a be a ve r da mn) . T h e pond was just a short walk int o t h e
T h e s c r a t ching on the wall turned
woods from my house. In win t e r
i n t o a c l u c k and a tapping. I got
we would go sle dding in the s n o w,
u p a n d l o o ked around the base
build snow men, or simply wa t c h
b o a r d a g a i n. I still found nothing. I
the snow fall and enjoy the sti l l n e s s 34 36
o f t h e w i n t er. Living there, you live
but in the shine of remembran c e
i n se v e r a l d ifferent w orlds.
I see the trees to be more vibr a n t and alive than they are here. H e r e ,
F a l l w a s t h e season of H allow een,
in Portland, it’s nothing. We u s e d
o f t h a n k s g iving and early morning
to build forts in the trees, or g o
fr o st s a n d early m orning sun that
swimming in the rivers, alway s t o l d
se e m e d t o make everything shim me r
to wa tc h out f or be a r s.
a n d g l o w. Fall also brought great c o l o r s . K o d iak (the place in Alas ka w h e r e I a c t u ally lived) is called A l a s k a ’s e merald isle, because o f a l l t h e many different types
And summer, well, some sec r e t s
o f g r e e n s. I n the fall w hen those
we should ke e p to our se lve s.
g r e e n s f a d e a sea of other colors c o m e o u t o f the trees, reds and o r a n g e s a n d yellows and browns a n d t h e y w i ll spin around you in the
We had freedom to go anyw h e r e
sh a p e s o f l e aves.
and do anything, climb up int o t h e hills, walk along trails, go fis h i n g ,
Wi n t e r w a s the time of ice and
ride our bike to the beach. Co u l d g o
s n o w. T h e sun rose maybe at eleven
mile s a wa y a t a time .
i n t h e m o r ning and set at maybe t h r e e i n t h e after noon. It was the w o r l d o f s n ow and darkness and
The r e a r e no se a sons in Por tla n d .
s t i l l n e s s . I remember the crunch of
It’s either sunny and hot, or c o l d
s n o w u n d e r my boots as I’d walk
and wet. And when we moved h e r e ,
h o m e f r o m a friend’s house in the
I moved from being able to wa l k
e v e n i n g , n o noise but that sound the
miles from my house to not be i n g
w h o l e w a y a cross m y neighborho od.
a ble to le a ve the f r ont ya r d.
S p r i n g b r o ught a cool breeze and t h e t r e e s b l oomed, like all trees, 35 37 35
A s I l a y i n bed the scratching g e t s t o a l e vel I can’t stand. I get u p a n d t h r o w on my robe and walk t h r o u g h t h e house, exiting through t h e g a r a g e and into the back yard. I t u r n o n t h e porch light and search a r o u n d t h e grass and wall of where m y b e d r o o m is, but I turn up n o t h i n g . G rowing more tired and y e t n o t q u i t e able to sleep I smoke a c i g a r e t t e , the ideas for some bad
Despite popular misconception, Kirby
w r i t i n g r o l l ing around in my head.
Light isn’t real. He’s an illusion. He’s
M y a r t i c l e s for subtopian have been
been published in various online and offline magazines and you can find
g e t t i n g r u shed and bad, I haven’t
his ebooks “Cheap Thrills and Night
w r i t t e n t o o much in the last few
Terrors” and “No Solace for the
m o n t h s, I h a ve to go back to w or k
Innocent” on the Kindle store
s o o n , t w e l v e hour shifts are no w a y t o l i v e . I’ve gained weight and w i l l n e e d t o start looking for a new p l a c e t o l i v e com e summer. Schoo l st a r t s i n t h e fall. It’s going to send m e i n t o d e b t like I’ve never felt before. I s m o k e d my cigarette slowly a n d r e m e m bered stillness and snow fa l l i n g i n a quiet forest. pp
36 38 37
“The horror! The horror!” Kurtz cried; he knew nothing of it. He hadn’t the opportunity to see: Allegations of laughable criminal activity Coding errors Masturbatory co-dependence G-rated snuff films Simulated gore in the streets Children consuming their offspring –
39 37 13
The general became a specific fear, An amalgamated monstrosity composed of perverts, comics, children, rapists, and neighbors. Once seen cannot be unseen â€“ The monster is (in) your mind The Anonymous collective. Legion cries We are a lost cause, the mass pornographic. We feed on puns and perversion intercommunications of smut. We excrete the same then feed again. We are flesh and HTML. We are the viral infection that penetrates the web, the zombie massive. We are Kurtz. We are Marlow. We are 404
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I believe in other worlds, the occasional peak of light in the darkness. I know the crushing weight of other bodies in motion, the pain of sound, and the smell of sweat. I’ve heard the desperation, the music of the masses, the cries of the damned. I’ve seen the brimstone fire burn their tongues and purge their bodies. Above the screams and pulses of noise: “Too bad the ecstasy is wearing off.
The Critic’s Critic
Write for Us AKA Everyone’s A Critic by Tyler Fisk I just want to be clear about something
Critic’s Critic should send their reviews to our
this month. Anybody can write for The Critic’s
Submittable account under The Critic’s Critic
Critic. When it was created we had envisioned
it becoming a feature of the site that people posted to regularly. From that monthly stock we would select a handful of the best, funniest,
Reviews can be long or short. Professionally written or sarcastic. We don’t care.
most articulate critiques and publish them in the official magazine. But we want lots of reviews.
The point of this part of our magazine is
We’d like to see them coming in daily. Anyone
to say that the professionals don’t know it all.
can write for us. That’s what makes us special.
They’re not always right. And more than that,
However, things haven’t really been going that
experience dictates that people are often of a
way and some of us here at Subtopian are starting
totally different mind than The New York Times
to run out of ideas. We need some diversity,
or the Academy. We want to express what real
some fresh blood, you know? Send us your
people thought about those snobby movies that
reviews of the critics. Stick it to the man and get
win all the awards. We want to present real
it published to our website and maybe even our
people’s thoughts on how it felt to see a movie
they thought was fun and cool get reamed by the critics. Get the picture?
That said, we’re also going in a new direction at Subtopian. We’re about to launch a
Start writing. pp
newspaper that will include literary news, fiction,
poetry, and the Critic’s Critic (among many other fun new features). When that happens we’re
Tyler Fisk is an art student at PSU and an amateur juggler. He likes his dog and wishes he could carry on Gonzo Journalism but also knows it probably died with Thompson. He likes art but doesn’t like talking about it. He hasn’t done much as a writer yet, so this will be short.
hoping to work our way up to becoming a weekly paper which means we would need a lot more material from just about anyone willing to share. We need you guys and we’re not afraid to admit it. Anybody that’s interested in writing for The 43