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  • Like a Fly to an Open Door

    i. So this is me, now: Prisoner of my dismal room. Only company: Streaming movies, frozen pizza. My mind tries to leave this place. Travels too far forward. Sees nothing but the same, the same, the same. The panic returns. It throttles my breathing. The morning will be better I knowingly lie, then rage. My heart chugs fast, a machine kicking at the bars of its cage. I swipe at the lunar calendar next to the couch, Hand cursed by papercut, Mouth cursing at the pain. ii. My eyes ache to trace the lines of a face. All my joys are purloined. Selfish, borderline lethal. My existence, an unanswered question: How long can I hide from everything I love? I pace. I cry. Bite my fist. I try so hard to stay. But the keys are in my hand. Blink once. I’m at the door. Twice, and I’m on the road. I turn down that familiar street. The moon presents, in full. Round, like my eyes. Its light, an aged yellow. iii. Its glow flickers, dancing in my eyes. God… it hurts. It hurts, and I can’t turn away. My stomach clenches as I pull up the drive. I hear a groan (mine) as the feeling meets me; the violent hunger-lust I suppress between feedings surfaces, bursting to breathe. My blood swirls thick, then mixes. like chocolate syrup twisting into milk. The want: it wrenches the expanse of my ruined heart, to its hilt. Ventricles carry it swiftly, like blood chasing down the line of a blade. Long before, and after I knew to hide myself away. Again, I know I live to feel my claws press down and in... Tonight, I will make red ribbons out of you. I grip the wheel. I brace myself. I tell myself I shouldn't have come. I’ll bring myself to light like a fly to an open door. iv. Always bleary after, though I do remember: Shouting, scrambling. Gargling, chewing. A tingling effervescence. Like my skull just made s e l t z e r. The flavor lingers. Fragrant, like garlic. Metallic. I crawl back in to my human skin as the moon dips itself in darkness once more. Lauren Bolger is a horror and poetry writer. Her work can be found in horror anthology Beyond the Levee and other Ghostly Tales, and has poetry forthcoming in The Tiger Moth Review. Shortly, she'll be querying her debut horror novel. She resides in a suburb near Chicago with her spouse and two young children. george l stein is a photographer living in the greater NYC area focused on the art, street, urban decay, surreal, and alt/portrait photography genres. He is very fond of interesting juxtapositions and strong contrasts.

  • Man in the Woods

    The night sky peppered with salty stars—its moon bulb lights field and root and moss laced with mist so that the man with the briefcase cannot see his feet where he’s been where he’ll go if he enters these woods of heavily-robed trees. He sees limbs a flutter of spiky hands or feathered hair in love with wind but nothing absolute. Ivory-pink flowers softly glowing— they shed teeth and curved claws like dragon fledglings at the edges the beginnings of these barely-lit woods and O how they grin jaggedly. Three of t.m. thomson’s poems have been nominated for Pushcart Awards. She is co-author of Frame and Mount the Sky (2017) and author of Strum and Lull (2019), which placed in Golden Walkman’s 2017 chapbook competition, and The Profusion (2019). Her passions include kickboxing, playing in mud, and savoring art. Cynthia Yatchman is a Seattle based artist and art instructor. With an M.A. in child development and a B. A. in education, she has a strong interest in art education and teaches art to adults, children and families in Seattle. A former ceramicist, she studied with J.T. Abernathy in Ann Arbor, MI., though after receiving her B.F.A. in painting from the University of Washington she switched from 3D art to 2D and has stayed there since, working primarily on paintings, prints and collages. Her art is housed in numerous public and private collections and has been shown nationally in California, Connecticut, New York, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon and Wyoming. She has exhibited extensively in the Northwest, including shows at Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Shoreline Community College, the Tacoma and Seattle Convention Centers and the Pacific Science Center. She is an affiliate member of Gallery 110 and is a member of the Seattle Print Art Association and COCA (Center of Contemporary Art).

  • Icicle Woman

    The woman freezes. The woman is me. I freeze. A storm sweeps the mountain. Snow falls too thick, I lose my way for a season. It's frostbite, I tell myself, nipping the color from toes and fingertips. Trails lead me back and forth across the mountainside. Paw prints at first, and then, footprints. I spy at cabin windows, waiting to be seen. With cold gusts, with spires of ice in the chest, snow that never leaves my lungs, with frostwhite hair, I bend to pull a traveler from the deep drifts. But my touch brings ice. My help is deadly. My remorse can't substitute for a life. In the spring sunshine, I confess myself dead. Goodbye to the deadwomb caves cool oblivious interiors that sheltered whatever it is I am. I go downhill, slow at first, then tumbling head over heels with avalanche speed. The bright sunrays find what's been hidden so long away I indulge in the melting heat that flies into me bearing a dissolution. My last sense a dampness a steady rising towards rain-gathering clouds. Nicole Beck has an educational background in art history and media arts. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, 'the god of naught' (dancing girl press, 2018) and 'angel tiger sleeper dante' (red bird chapbooks, 2018). Her flash fiction has appeared in Rue Scribe and Coffin Bell. She also writes SFF book reviews for Strange Horizons. Cynthia Yatchman is a Seattle based artist and art instructor. With an M.A. in child development and a B. A. in education, she has a strong interest in art education and teaches art to adults, children and families in Seattle. A former ceramicist, she studied with J.T. Abernathy in Ann Arbor, MI. though after receiving her B.F.A. in painting from the University of Washington she switched from 3D art to 2D and has stayed there since, working primarily on paintings, prints and collages. Her art is housed in numerous public and private collections and has been shown nationally in California, Connecticut, New York, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon and Wyoming. She has exhibited extensively in the Northwest, including shows at Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Shoreline Community College, the Tacoma and Seattle Convention Centers and the Pacific Science Center. She is an affiliate member of Gallery 110 and is a member of the Seattle Print Art Association and COCA (Center of Contemporary Art) and an affiliate member of Gallery 110 in Seattle.

  • The Girl Who Tends to the Paper Forest

    He finds her on the side of the road, and it is raining. This is how it begins for them. This is how it always begins. With the heavens splitting open their tear ducts. With the atmosphere mourning. Here is a story that is like many stories: A man finds a deep hole that leads to another world; a world of ogres and dragons and castles ripe with treasure. He lets himself fall through the hole and there, in one of those ripe castles, is a ripe girl waiting for something she doesn’t know the shape of. And he tells her that he wants; he wants the castle, he wants the treasure, and he wants her, and she tells him well, sure, but it all belongs to her brother, the ogre Ivan. But the man doesn’t care, and cuts Ivan’s head off the instant he comes home. Then he takes it all for himself, the castle and the treasure, and because she has no where else to go and no one else in the world and she knows no better, she lets herself be taken, too. She is in a copse of trees, a small snatch of them left standing back aways from the new highway. It is the rain that drives them together, even as the rain is the sky’s weeping over their inevitable meeting. The sky, dribbling tears, knowing before they know all that will happen from having to have watched it all, again and again, from its great distance. So the rain pours, and it pulls her out from under the canopy of leaves into the open, because she so greatly needs the feeling of touch, even if the touch is something damp and cold and stinging. And he sees her, there in the downpour with her arms open towards the sky and soaking wet, and misinterpreting her need, he slows to a stop to offer her refuge. But she doesn’t need shelter. She doesn’t need the metal roof and the electric heat and the fogged glass of his car. She has her own roof. She has her own warmth. Her own glass, and it is clear enough to see all paths ahead. Paths she has never shared; had never needed to share; had never known the need, being alone and being at peace. But then he was there, waking, stirring, disturbing. And there was a need. Here, another story, another girl. Alone in the woods. Wait, no. No, not alone. She is with the Dwarves. Or that girl, there, she is with the roses and thorns that are cradling her castle. This girl, and that girl, they are at peace. Their eyes are closed. Their guardians, watching. The Dwarves, the buds, the thorns. The sky is a great blanket of clouds they lay beneath. And, you know this story. A man, he comes, and he misinterprets her peace as need. He wakes her. He carries her away. And does she ever see the Dwarves again? Does she ever miss the budding thorn bushes? Does he ever stop to ask? She leads him away from the car and towards the copse, and he, as weightless and easy as a man falling down a deep hole, allows himself to be lead. They make it, wet and sopping, into the small shelter of the trees, and it isn’t until he is under their broad leaves that block the stinging rain from his eyes that he sees the woods for what they are. All the tree’s bark is smooth. When he looks closely he sees that they only have the illusion of roughness. When he brings his face nearer, he sees the illusion is cast by the trailing lines of words that spiral down from the top-most boughs all the way around the trunk to seep out of sight beneath the earth. The bark isn’t bark at all; it is smooth and sanded sheets of paper layered one on top of the other. He is just then putting his hands on the trees, the ink smudging under his palm and staining his skin, when she reaches over his head to pluck from a low hanging bough, an apple, made all of glass. Look in here, at this story; a girl in a tower, content. She has a mother of a sort; she has shelter; she has sustenance; peace. And then, outside her window, beneath the clouding sky; What comes calling, and with who? He puts his hands under her hands as she holds the apple before his eyes, and beyond the glass, in the core of it, he sees clouds forming. They color themselves and swirl, dizzying until they settle into shapes and become clear; there in the apple is a beautiful forest. There in the apple is a girl dressed all in red walking down the path, breadbasket on her arm. There, in the trees ahead, something is waiting on the path. As he watches the story unfold, he stops feeling the hands of the girl against his. Stops hearing the hiss of the rain beyond the grove. Stops feeling the weight of his wet clothes dripping from his body; he is inside the apple. He’s no longer within those trees made of paper, but standing in the shadows of new ones, solid as him, watching the girl approach and grinning. Here is an old woman, offering an apple to a girl. The girl eats it, and her eyes flutter. The girl eats it and is gifted sleep. The girl eats it, and is content and beautiful in peace. Here, there is a girl in a garden, another apple, a snake slithering down from the topmost boroughs. Another offer; another bite. Something unknown is waking up. It is stirring in the grass. Here; a mother who died, who was buried under a juniper tree. And as that tree, she tried to grant her daughter’s every wish. But a tree is never enough, is it? There are always more wishes. Always wants a mother can not satisfy; always dangers she can not keep at bay. When the apple has told its tale, the clouds disperse and she sets it in a cradle of roots at the foot of a tree. She plucks him another, and they watch together, hands against hands, clouds swirling and taking shape, and the girl and the boy are pulled into the core, where they live and they breath and become the story. After he has found her opening the door she ought not; opening it to the secrets she should not know; and the knife is in his hand; and her brothers’ trumpeting their battle call beyond the castle walls, they come out, and she is laughing and holding herself where there had just been a wound, but now there is nothing. A fat drop of rain manages to worm its way through the leaves and it lands on her cheek, trails itself down to her lip, and he reaches up and wipes it away. Her laughter dies in a gasp, and there is something blossoming, a deep bruise within her unfurling. If you look here, there is a girl who can run; a girl left on the side of the mountain by a father who did not need nor want her; a girl who learned peace through speed, and lived with solid needs, practical needs, needs that could be filled. She knows no need for love. She wouldn’t accept it if it came calling, even if it offered up its life in return. It would have to beat her into submission, to catch her before she could flee. In comes a man, three apples in his arms, and a challenge to a race yet won. He’ll wager his life if she wagers her love. Run they do, but the girl cannot keep her mind off of the apples. The way they shine and how they are as golden as the sun. Before she can outstrip him too much, he throws them, one after the glittering other, to land before her like comets. And she, numb-minded from need, leaves off their race to scoop them from the ground, to hold them up to the light, and see her own face reflected back at her, and behind her, him drawing closer, close enough to catch her up. Love was won, yes, but was it his, or the apples’ for claiming? After their fill of apples, and after he had touched her lips, and she had gasped, there were more touches and more gasps, and each bordered sweetly between a blossom and a wound. Then came words; sweet. Words; hesitant. Words; probing and curious. He laid beneath her head, her ear pressed to his chest and he held an apple, turning it this way and that between the shafts of moonlight filtered by the leaves. But no matter how he shifted it, it revealed nothing but the clouds stirring to take shape and dissipating with each turn, and no matter what he asked, she could tell him no more about the apples than they had always been there, with her; that she had always been there, with them, tending the trees, scrawling words on their surface to feed them, and harvesting the fruit, alone. But he was there now. This story is about a young daughter whose family bartered her away to a bear. He took her away from everything she knew, and gave her a new life, with new rules. The most important being that she must never see who it was coming to share her bed with her at night. Of course it was hard, being alone in that castle with only a silhouette she was never allowed to see coming to lay beside her; of course, she had to look, to see, who was coming into her bed. Many would say that was only fair. So she did what she ought not, and lit the candle, and in seeing the shape of that which she didn’t know, the tallow dripped, and something awoke; something beautiful and hurtful; and it all was ruined. The bear who was sometimes a beautiful man left. And she went through many hardships, she walked far enough to callous her feet, and rode battling winds, to come to a strange place where she was just a stranger, impoverished. Only to find out he’d already been engaged. She does not know much but she knows her trees, she knows her fruit. She knows, when she wakes up the next morning and finds him gone, how many apples have gone along with him. All the ones she plucked, plus an armload more. Beyond the circle of her trees she can see the indents of his footsteps trailing away back to where he left his car, unbending themselves in the grass. She sits, and she watches those stalks right themselves, and she holds an apple in her lap. In it, a story is swirling. A story it wants to tell her. A story she will not see. Instead, she waits, and probes, the way one will a sore tooth, the blossoming need inside of her and her wonder over what she had done, what rule she had broken, that he had left her like this, alone again. A girl is given to a King, who will make her his wife if she can prove herself useful by spinning straw into gold. She never asked for this test, of course. She never wanted to be his wife. But now, it is wifedom or beheading, and she has no choice in the matter. The King will love her, but only if she can make him a profit. Which she can’t. She had never thought that love and profit went hand in hand, and never thought that gold could be straw, and so she had never developed the skill. She is locked in, and powerless, until a small, strange little imp comes, and promises her deliverance. After she’s delivered, and the King receives her as a wife, she has a child, a sweet little baby girl who one day will be bartered off for love and profit. But the imp comes back. He comes back to take the baby girl away from all of that. What’s so wrong about that? That he should be hated so much for giving the child a third option? He does come back. A week later. He pulls his car off of the highway and rolls it up to her copse of trees, and she goes out to meet him. He acts like nothing ever happened; like the week between the lack of a farewell and his returning was nothing; like she should feel nothing at all about it, and so, because she doesn’t want to do what she ought not, she pretends that this is the case as well. The new watch on his wrist, the fine quality of his clothes; the silver lighter he flicks open to ignite the tip of a fat cigar he smokes as he waits leaning against his car for her to come to him, these, too, are nothing. Nothing at all to her, among the trees made out of their own corpse-stuff. And so she welcomes him. They pluck apples, they become stories. They become less than they pick. They touch less, but they touch. And he lets her fall asleep on his chest, and her need is stoked and fed, and when she wakes again the next morning and he is gone, and she has less apples than before, she tries very hard not feel the soreness in her, to ignore its throb, until he comes again, the next week, and it all happens exactly as it happened before. Here there is a King offering all of his possessions, his kingdom, his gold, and his daughter, for whoever is clever enough to build a ship that can travel both over land and water. There is a boy who wants this, though he doesn’t have the skill. But he, too, has a strange friend who will help him. An old man who gives him the boat on the condition he receives half of everything the boy wins. So the boy goes, and he wins the King’s land, the King’s gold, and the daughter as his wife. And true to his word, he returns to the old man and he gives him half the land to rule and half the gold to have and then the old man looks through his filmed eyes at the girl and asks the boy what about her? And the boy, he takes his sword out and he goes to cut the girl in half. The old man stops him, and together they laugh, and laugh and the old man admires the boy for how true he stuck to his word. But how must she feel? Knowing now what her freshly made husband was willing to do to her? Knowing know what kind of thing she is to him? The apples have tales they want to tell her but she waits for him to come to pluck any. They will only last so long off their boughs before the glass fogs and they become dead and blackened things. And so the apples can only show their tales to them both, and when he is there, she only has eyes for him. She does not see the knife in the boy’s hand, she does not see the blood on the walls in the one locked room down the long, long hall. She doesn’t see his wallet thick with bills or the designer labels on his clothes. These are symbols without meaning to her and all she can understand is her own need. When he leaves, he takes so much of hers along with him, but never her. Never, even when she asks if she might see his world, his trees, his stories. He wears a waning smile in those moments and strokes her hair and nothing much is said on the matter. The apples have tales they want to tell her, and each time there are less apples; each time he is taking more before they have the chance to regrown, and she is feeding the bark less and less words; and when she does feed it, she writes upon their surface one word, plaintive and begging. She writes love. As she is writing, listless and lacking all the appetite save for her appetite for him, an apple falls from a withering branch, and lands itself in her lap. Here is a girl promised to a man she does not know. She knows him so little, she doesn’t even know where he lives. And rather than take her there himself, he leaves her a trail of ash for her to follow on their wedding day. And so she decides to follow the ashes early, wanting to see and know him, needing to see and know him, and it takes her through a forest, where all the leaves and the grass stalks and the birds in the branches are trying to warn her. They are singing to her; He’s a cannibal who means to eat you up, up, up; You are the sweetmeat on which he and his friends will sup; Every bit of yourself, thought you think, and thing you do, In their great maws they will gather and they’ll chew chew chew, See, my girl, to him you were never anything dear, But a meal, same as the chicken, fattened pig, or steer. Still, the girl follows the ashes, and looking in the small hut, she see’s a group of men gathered around another young girl, sees them cut her up into small chunks, and baste and roast her, and glut themselves on her girl-meat as above her the sky opens up and begins to dribble its tears, washing the path of ash away. After she has looked into the apple and seen all the secrets she ought not, he comes again. Again, he smiles his waning smile at her questions; where does he live, who does he know, where are her apples going, it is smile after smaller smile, and shifting answers that amount to no more than silence would. He gathers what little there is to gather from withering branches, and asks her what words she has been feeding the bark, which looks more naked and smooth than he’s ever seen it before, and she smiles her own waning smile, and she shrugs it off. When they settle and he lights his cigar, and she lays there watching the plume of smoke gather against the tight ceiling of thinning leaves before finding nooks and crannies to wiggle out of, she thinks about how little rain there has been, she thinks about all the years she spent with the trees as her shelter, her mother, her friend. She thinks of all the girls she’s seen in the apples. She slips the lighter from his pocket into the palm of her hand, and it is cold and stinging to touch, but she holds it tight until it is warm from the pulse of her own blood. Here is a young girl who loves more than anything in the world her golden ball. She plays with it constantly; it’s her most constant companion, and she sits it by herself at the dinner table, and in the bed while she sleeps, and whenever she looks at it she sees herself smiling back, and to her, that is love. One day, a toad gets a hold of it in a place she can not reach. An ugly, spiteful little thing, he will not let her have it back unless she gives him half of everything she owns; unless her life becomes his for the choosing and taking. And so, she has to agree. And the toad now is sitting at her side while she eats, and eating from her plate, and the toad now is sleeping in her bed between her and the golden ball, the toad is all she sees, and it eats away at the girl until something must be done. She waits until he has gone again and soon to return to do it. She takes up the lighter, and she says her goodbyes, writing in their bark one last word, over and over, as a farewell. She writes love and she means it, but she knows now that love sometimes is a burning thing, a consuming thing, a hurtful thing, and so she is sorry when she writes it, too. The trees are so dry, their paper flakes as she writes, and she knows it will not take long, and so she tries to find comfort in that. When they are all covered and the ink is sinking into their flesh and weaving new stories for fresh apples, she gathers old leaves together at their trunks. She holds the lighter up for a brief moment to look at her face reflected back, a vague smear less clear then it had been in the apple, but hers all the same. She flicks it open. She lets the flame have its feast. The girl with the dwarves, the girl with her cradle of buds and thorns, they never get to return to their caretakers. You know this. The girl leaves her tower, and in her leaving, its forever impenetrable. The girl who bites the snake’s apple can never unknow what is now known, and that knowing means the garden is no longer hers. The girl throws the toad against the wall, meaning to kill him, and after, she never looks at herself in the golden ball again; how can she? Somethings we must do change forever the places we call home, the ways and things we love, our vision of ourselves. There comes a time when all girls must leave the peace of sleep under white-clouded skies, the protective arch of their mother’s sturdy arms. There comes a time when all girls must follow a trail of ash and know what they ought not know. A time when the clouds must gather to mourn their departure, even as in doing so, they wash away the girl’s path home for forever. She had stood close enough to feel the heat of the flames on her skin, and for it to blister and sting, as the fire ate her copse of trees. When it was all done, and the last bits of hot coals quit their burning, she went to the pile of ash. She shifted through it and found among the ruin one last apple, scuffed and burnt but whole. She sat in the middle of what had once been her home for as long as she could remember and held the apple in her lap. He will return and find her there, alone among the ashes. She will see him see what she has done. She will see the look on his face again, his smile fully waned. She will learn what she ought not. What was loved and what wasn’t. The ash of her forest will coat his tires and leave her a path to follow. She will walk it, as many girls have walked it. She will not be left alone with ruin. She holds her last apple up, and its flittering clouds are struggling to gather despite the damage. To show, to tell, to warn. In it she watches the highway take shape. She watches the clouds gather, the rain fall, and his car puttering its way towards her as she steps into the rain and holds her arms wide open, asking come. She sees him get out and offer his hand. She sees herself reaching to take it. She puts the apple to her lips, and she bites, and she feels the glass shards cut into the roof of her mouth, needle into her gums, slice into her tongue. She feels wet hot blood dribbling down her chin and ash under her fingertips, the sting of cold rain like knives in her back, and his hand meeting hers. Couri Johnson is a graduate of the North Eastern Ohio Master of Fine Arts currently attending the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her short story collection, I'll Tell You a Love Story, is available through Bridge Eight Press. For more of her work, visit www.courijohnson.com. East Tennessee native and mixed media artist Sara Barrett lives blissfully at the foothills of the Smokies with her husband of 12 years, their 11-year-old daughter and two cats. A full-time creative thinker, Barrett repurposes used and discarded materials of all types in her artwork. Scrap paper usually hogs the spotlight. Although she admires most all art forms, she is deeply inspired by music and the talent behind it. Artists including Billie Holiday, U2, Ray LaMontagne, Volbeat and dozens of others can be heard spinning on the turn table in her art room on any given evening. When not creating, Sara enjoys traveling to obscure locations with her family and documenting the experience with amateur photos. Enjoying chocolate, laughing loud and listening to classic rock are also priorities for her. Sara’s artwork has been seen locally at The Emporium in Knoxville and The District Gallery in Bearden. You can see more of her work on Instagram @freelance.muse.

  • Imprint

    When I turn on the light I find you mouth wide, lying outstretched in my closet, eating skin that squalls from my past-their-prime shirts and neck-stretched cardigans. I try to speak to you but I’m swallowing white moths, or maybe your ashes-- I notice the green urn I bought to house you at your feet. My rose carpet has become a slab of wet concrete and I wonder whose bones are in this new mix. I remember freezing my footprints into a neighbor’s sidewalk when I was ten. I think I still have my third grade handprints you saved for me in the containers stacked in the basement. I haven’t opened any of them-- I wonder if they still smell like you. I am weathering this winter wearing your powder blue nightgown and the memory of the last time I saw your hands when they held blood. I am still holding on to your voicemails, even though I can’t bring myself to listen, and I can’t find my legs, or your favorite sweater that pilled last year, or the words you say in this blizzard to comfort me-- they must be somewhere in these drifts. Victoria Nordlund is the English department chair at Rockville High School in Vernon, CT, an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut, and lead master teaching artist of the Write To The Point Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Neighborhood Studios program at The Mark Twain House & Museum. Her poetry collections Wine-Dark Sea and Binge Watching Winter on Mute are published by Main Street Rag. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize Nominee, whose work has appeared in PANK Magazine, Rust+Moth, Chestnut Review, Pidgeonholes, Maudlin House, and other journals. Visit her at VictoriaNordlund.com. East Tennessee native and mixed media artist Sara Barrett lives blissfully at the foothills of the Smokies with her husband of 12 years, their 11-year-old daughter and two cats. A full-time creative thinker, Barrett repurposes used and discarded materials of all types in her artwork. Scrap paper usually hogs the spotlight. Although she admires most all art forms, she is deeply inspired by music and the talent behind it. Artists including Billie Holiday, U2, Ray LaMontagne, Volbeat and dozens of others can be heard spinning on the turn table in her art room on any given evening. When not creating, Sara enjoys traveling to obscure locations with her family and documenting the experience with amateur photos. Enjoying chocolate, laughing loud and listening to classic rock are also priorities for her. Sara’s artwork has been seen locally at The Emporium in Knoxville and The District Gallery in Bearden. You can see more of her work on Instagram @freelance.muse.

  • "Coming To Bury Myself," "Numbers Man" and "Midnight of Bears"

    Coming to bury myself --his dream, after diagnosis… Not yet winter, but soon. High desert’s sun, even at twenty-two degrees, scorches snow on the roof, sending a cascade of diamonds pouring from the canales. Five hours ago, an hour before sunrise, I lay on the mat, arms spread-eagled, ankles crossed, wondering what the position feels like, shoulders broken, hands and ankles spiked to a wall in one of New Mexico’s centuries-old santuarios. Five hours forward into the present, looking west to sacred mountains of the Jemez. I mean to bury myself, when I visit there later today. A shaded site near a precipice, looking over the Pueblo-thrumming Rio Grande valley, out to the Sangre de Cristo peaks. I’ll dig my grave here, at seven-thousand feet, amid pine needles and elk scat, a lone piece of sharply-faceted obsidian for a headstone. Lots of poems, a dog that loves me. Why wait for the agonistic mess? Dog and I will share a double-dose of morphine. I’ll take shots of the site for Facebook and invite you all to cover us over. These lines, they constitute my and dog’s DNR. Please, friends, respect it. We’ll keep our footprint small. No ambulances. No hearse. No flesh going up in smoke. Car pool, if you can. The Visitor’s visited. It’s time. Numbers Man Life’s like a ledger, he’d say. Could tell you how many goose eggs over easy he ate in five years (1,545). How many rail ties humped (279), to build retaining walls around his house. Pounds of butter consumed (423). Number of downhill miles nailed in bumps of Utah and Colorado (1,726). Likely why a swelling no bigger than a hummer’s egg escapes his eye. More like an insect bite he feels on the neck shaving. Ties grow smaller. He quits after two or three runs, begins to miss work, stops counting. Looks, not ten years younger, which he is, but like my father, then my father’s father. Geese that follow him everywhere, I shoo back to the lake. Four days in a row they return to lay eggs in the hutch. His last morning, as if they knew, hutch and lake read empty. Muscular frame down ninety pounds, hair white, pulse faint, eyes closed, speechless. A hundred- year-old at fifty. Data’s life, he’d say. When he tries to compute cells escaping from his kidneys like an octopus, nothing adds up. Midnight of Bears Moonless sky over Eagle Crag Lake. Nearest light starlight rippling on water. All human light flaming out hours ago. All human sound. Turn off bed lamp, exhausted from day of planting boulders, re-rooting ferns. Scrabbling noises, ten inches from my head, freeze me to the pillow. Outside wood-paneled wall, baseball-mitt claws of a bear— maybe more than one— scratch for grubs in earth around cabin’s pilings. Maybe bear that punched holes in kitchen wall to steal bag of sugar. Or tore door off outdoor fridge. Three hundred pounds of ravenous muscle. Ten inches away. Not one bear, a sow and two cubs, ten inches from my face. I hear them snuffling. Sounds of joy. To me, of terror. No out-running three hundred pounds of mother bear, hungry, bent on saving cubs from even lean meat like me. Mauling the likes of me. Chuffing, chuffing, outside the wall. Tasting scent of cold sweat’s salt, ten inches from tooth, tongue and claw. Grab beer can of stones. Shake without stop. Body shaking without stop. Desperate to run without stop. Dick Altman writes in the high, thin, magical air of Santa Fe, NM, where, at 7,000 feet, reality and imagination often blur. He is published in Santa Fe Literary Review, American Journal of Poetry, riverSedge, Fredericksburg Literary Review, Foliate Oak, Blue Line, THE Magazine, Humana obscura, The Offbeat, Haunted Waters Press, Split Rock Review, Almagre Review, The RavensPerch, Beyond Words, Sky Island Journal and others here and abroad. He is a poetry winner of Santa Fe New Mexican’s annual literary competition. His first collection of poems, Voices in the Heart of Stones, is being considered for publication. Hudson Cooke is a writer and artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York, where he is originally from. He graduated in 2019 with a degree in philosophy. His artwork and writing has appeared online in Dovetail Magazine, and Redivider (upcoming) and he currently works in fabrication. You can check out more of his work at his website, HudsonCookeArt.com

  • The Maiden and the Serpent Girls

    The girls’ words were daggers penetrating the maiden’s heart. Her mother advised her not to worry; For the cruel women were nothing but serpents: the most cunning of creatures. But no matter her mother’s words, the anguish welled up inside her; like rainstorms gushing into deep dales drowning the lushest of plants. “Stand up to them,” her mother would say, “for a serpent has no claws; it cannot dig or break.” Then the maiden saw them standing; the three tormenting crones. They uttered words of hatred; spewed dins of disgust. And she tried to focus on what her mother had said. With every word they uttered, a strange thing then began. Their arms webbed to their sides; and their legs began to coil as their feet crocheted together. Scales scabbed over their porcelain skin; rough and green like mossy shingles. And when they tried to scream, their words were hisses. But before they could slither quickly away, the maiden proudly stood upon their scalding and scaling skin. Olivia Loccisano is a Dramatic Arts, English and Photography teacher from Toronto, Ontario. She is inspired by how young women and children navigate the absurd through their own rituals. george l stein is a photographer living in the greater NYC area focused on the art, street, urban decay, surreal, and alt/portrait photography genres. He is very fond of interesting juxtapositions and strong contrasts.

  • Astral

    in an alien ship made from the chrome of the mind see how the stars are sprinkled over colliding clouds made of emeralds and sapphires that dance before a red ruby sun in the center of a far-off galaxy you can only find beyond the realms and dreams of everything you ever knew Oliver C. Seneca was born and raised in the suburbs of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His first foray into storytelling came in high school when he was accepted to the Capital Area School for the Arts where he focused on filmmaking. Oliver is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and, in addition to writing, he works in his family’s law practice. Roger Camp is the author of three photography books including the award winning Butterflies in Flight, Thames & Hudson, 2002 and Heat, Charta, Milano, 2008. His work has appeared on the covers of numerous journals including The New England Review and Southwest Review. His photographs are represented by the Robin Rice Gallery, NYC. More of his work may be viewed on Luminous-Lint.com.

  • At the Cyber Shop

    I want the rose colored optics Arms stronger alloy Replace the hair With a few live wires And no more finger tips What they want is making me sick Spray paint? Chrome? Play in my head a little too I'm holding her shoes at the beach Nurovirus Where's the mod that lets you see God? I don't care if he's ugly What do you mean out of stock? And no chrome? Just make me metal No place for skin out there Or in here where I'm making your day Coleman Bomar is a writer who currently resides in Middle Tennessee. His works have been featured by and/or are forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Ethel Zine, SOFTBLOW, Eunoia Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Moonpark Review, Blink-Ink, Maudlin House, Star 82 Review, Cathexis Northwest, and many more. george l stein is a photographer living in the greater NYC area focused on the art, street, urban decay, surreal, and alt/portrait photography genres. He is very fond of interesting juxtapositions and strong contrasts.

  • The Palm Reader

    She remembers it as clear as a scar in her skin. It was late in the afternoon and dinner was already on the stove. Her Barbie dolls are sitting in the corner of the room—an interrupted tea party. One of them has hair matted down like a bird’s nest. She tried to blow dry it once but melted it instead. She’d had no idea Barbie’s hair was plastic. She remembers the Barbies because not only had she been playing with them when Mom came in, but she spent the rest of the lecture wishing nothing more than to still be playing with them. So preoccupied she was that the gravity of what Mom was saying to her did not sink in until years later. “They call it plausible deniability,” said Mom. “Do you understand me?” “Um hm.” Mom tutted. “I don’t think you do. If you understand, explain it to me. Now, what did I just tell you?” The palm reader thinks of this memory often, whenever she looks down at a pair of hands and sees a soft, barely defined mount of Jupiter. A parent who cares little, she reads. Her own hands—if palmistry did, in fact, work this way—would surely show such a feature. Perhaps that’s not fair, she thinks, as she stares intently at the palm of a paying customer. Perhaps Mom tried. She looks back up. The woman is older than she is, with kind, desperate eyes and dark roots in her hair. Her eyes flit back to the palm and she sees it all there, much more than the mount of Jupiter—a thin, white scar across the base of the thumb from when this customer once tried to peel carrots with a paring knife. She moves her thumb over the customer’s hand, brushing briefly the scar. As she does, she can feel it, just as the customer did all those years ago. The moment of shock, of pain, of guilt. The smell of blood. The rush to the sink. The way the red swirled down the drain. The endless thoughts. Why, oh, why did I not just take the time to find the peeler? The trip to the hospital. The pain and tugging of the sutures. The feeling of guilt for a wasted dinner. Dad will be upset with me. The stray, idle thoughts that come at times like this. Did I get blood on the carpet? Will it stain? She pulls her hands away and lets her eyes meet the woman’s. “You have a complicated relationship with a parent. Don’t you?” Tears well in the women’s eyes and she sighs. It’s the one thing she can say to virtually anyone and have it be true. The aisles of the supermarket are clean and empty, like starched linen. Her handbasket fills up with alarming routine. Coffee, bread, cigarettes. The high school kids who all but run the place share the same judgmental look. Funny, she thinks, how people and places—like time—march on, but few ever actually move. Every few months, for instance, the grocery store boasts a new round of young faces, but she cannot help but think it’s simply an exchange of masks. The same hearts beat beneath—some calloused, some soft—as when she herself was that age. Teenagers never really change. It calls to mind the most difficult years. Thirteen, fourteen years old. How strange everything felt to the touch. She narrowed the cause down to one of two things. Grief or puberty. Grandma, and the open-ended questions she left behind or the byzantine looks on the faces of other kids her age. No one really knows what to make of anything at that age. Once, at this same store, her hand brushed against the kid bagging her groceries. It couldn’t have been any more than half a heartbeat that the grooves of her index finger ran along the inside of the girl’s wrist, but it was long enough. It doesn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. It pinches more than anything. Something clatters against the tiled floor. Did I go deep enough? Everything is so clean. Where is the blood? Time moves like oil paint drying on a canvas. There’s the blood. There’s a lot of it. It’s a mess now. Hands gripping against porcelain. Mom can’t find me like this. Her eyes lost focus for a moment and she had no idea if this was happening now or if it is some faint echo of the kid’s memory. They focused again slowly and she blinked furiously to help it along. Everything clicked into place. She was staring up at rafters of cast iron painted red. The paint was old and chipping. The lone adult, a man in a white, short-sleeved button-up and red tie, hovered over her. His moustache needed a trim. He looked quite worried. “Are you okay, Ma’am?” She decided that afternoon to start wearing gloves. The heat bakes the concrete on days like this and rises again in a milky fog. She hurries across the road, through a gap in traffic, and continues through a parking lot. If one were to cast their eyes to the horizon on a day like this, she thinks, Fata Morganas are bound to appear. Grey roads are little more than tepid seas. At the edge of the parking lot, she cuts down a narrow alley, holding her breath like always. Outdated produce from the grocery store rots inside the dumpsters. The alley opens up to the backlot of a low-rise strip mall. On the end is the legion, where tired men in wrinkled golf shirts smoke on the curb at all hours of the day. There are three of them out there now and she recognizes them as regulars. They hardly take notice of her on most days, yet today they do. Her brow furrows at this and she wonders why the interest. A moment later, she has an answer. Someone has put a rock through the neon sign that hung off her balcony. It struck the space between the M in Palm and the R in Reader and shattered both. The entire neon tube was destroyed. “A bunch of kids,” says one of the men. His nose is red with alcohol. Her eyes don’t leave the sign. How many times did they throw that rock, she wondered, before they hit it? How long did the men stand there and watch? The gloves she wears are black spandex, a touch shinier than she would have liked, but they fit snugly. By now, they feel like a second skin. Sometimes small children on the street give strange looks, especially in the summer. Grandma owned many pairs of gloves. When she was very young, she once slipped into Grandma’s closet, wading through the dresses that hung like trunkless willow trees until she reached the back. Slim boxes from defunct department stores were stacked neatly across a wire shelf. No single box was more than two inches high and they were arranged in a prim manner and efficiently labelled with the wisps of a fountain pen. Black satin, formal, elbow. Autumn-toned houndstooth, wool, three-quarter. Brown sheepskin, button clasp, wrist. Grandma never minded that she pulled the boxes from the closet and sat cross-legged in the middle of them all, gloves layered up over her hands, satin mixing with wool mixing with cashmere. But Mom did. It prompted the lecture. “Grandma had it too,” Mom said, that day of the interrupted tea party. “And Auntie Josie.” "And Uncle Darrell?” she asked. “Nope,” Mom curtly shook her head, “Not Uncle Darrell.” She ordered a new sign from someone on Etsy. An artist somewhere in New Mexico is all she remembers. The rest of their store had been full of high-grade Halloween decorations, but they—like the sign—were hand-painted on solid pine. Difficult to put a rock through. It arrives on a Sunday morning. That night, a knock comes at the door. Despite the unseasonal rain and the lateness of the hour, someone made their way here, seeking her and her alone. Warily, she approaches the door and peers into the peephole, unsure what exactly to expect. What she sees is a young man, perhaps thirty. Her skin pricks. His hair lies slick to his forehead, wet with the rain. He wears no jacket, carries no umbrella. She ensures the chain is in place and cracks open the door. “Can I help you?” “I sure think you can, Ma’am, er, Miss,” the man replies with a crooked smile. “But will you?” “My name is Virgil Greer,” he says, but she doubts this at first, odd enough name that it is. He sits awkwardly, dripping on her armchair, with his hands on his knees. Standing, she surveys him. His fingers wind and unwind across his kneecaps like a cat kneading and he looks to the tablecloth between them. It is a thin stretch of purple velvet she found at the fabric store. She never bothered to hem it and it just drapes right down to the floor. “Well,” she says with a sigh as she settles into the armchair across from him. “A standard reading is fifty dollars.” “Okay.” Virgil Greer shifts in the chair. His eyes dart like a hummingbird across the various paraphernalia she has scattered across the room. Too small to technically be called a bedroom, the landlord once called it. “But perfect for when you finally decide to have a baby.” After carefully removing her gloves, she sets her hands atop the velvet and reaches out as she always does. But Virgil Greer stares at her hands as if he’s never held one before. “I don’t bite,” she says to encourage him, although she’s pressing her teeth into her lip. He inhales sharply, wiping the palms of his hands on his trousers before lifting them up onto the table. The way his fingers curl, tensed, as he lowers his hands tentatively into hers reminds her of a marionette she saw once in a toy chest, its strings all tangled, limbs pulled taut. Just before his hands reach hers, he turns them over in submission, palms upwards. There is nothing too unusual about the palms of his hands. His palmar crease is deep and defined, a bit more so than most. The same is true of almost all the lines on his hand. She closes her fingers slightly and his hand curls inside hers, skin wrinkling. Her eyes flit up to his. He has been watching her intently, brow furrowed. She makes the easy assertion. “You feel things deeply, don’t you?” “What do you mean?” “The events of your life, they affect you more than they would most people.” She shrugs. It’s a safe reading. “You’re more sensitive to subtle changes. You tend to worry and fret.” Everyone worries; everyone frets. Virgil Greer nods almost imperceptibly. Her index finger reaches out towards his right hand and she lets her skin brush against his, so gently it sends a shiver through him. As he writhes she waits, her finger trailing. She smells the searing of flesh against a hot pan. She sees a cat cornered and swiping. She feels a pin left in a dress shirt. She feels the pinch of a knife blade and hears the promise of a blood brother. Nothing is out of the ordinary—just the minute details that make up a life. “You never said why you’re here,” she murmurs. His hair has still not quite dried from the rain. “Most people have something they want knowing.” He shrugs. Her eyes remain on his hand and his eyes remain on her. “I saw your sign and thought why not?” “Were you at the legion?” “Yeah.” She presses her lips together at the lie. Her finger keeps gently trailing. The sharp ceramic of a chipped plate. The scalding heat of a steaming kettle. The nagging splinter from a log of firewood. After another minute or two, she has what she would normally need. But instead, she carefully extricates her hands from his and leaves them on the velvet. His palms curl feebly towards the ceiling like overturned pillbugs. “Is that it?” “Well.” She leans back in her armchair. “The night’s too dark to see my sign unless the light from the open door of the legion catches it. But you have no smell of alcohol on you.” “Oh.” His hands slither from the velvet and drop back to his knees. “A friend told me about you.” She stands. The armchair skids back, bumping against the wall of the small room. “Fifty dollars, please.” Mrs. Lee’s cat has taken to mewling in the corridors late at night. From time to time, the noise is like a finger nudging her awake. She hears it in the hall, interspersed with scratching at the baseboards. The building has mice again. If she cannot fall easily back asleep she kicks away the covers and slides from the bed. Her feet find their slippers—the floor is thin linoleum and too cold without them—and trudges into the kitchen. She then sits with a cup of peppermint tea and waits for the day to arrive. Sparsely furnished though the living room is, it’s hardly spartan. Trinkets have collected over the years, some from Grandma, some from Mom, some from thrift stores and garage sales. Twenty-five cents for a glass dolphin. Ten cents for a painted pig, cast in resin. It has a chip on one ear. Only a dollar for a basket, woven from banana leaves. It sits now full of balls of leftover wool. These things are significant details to her, no less than a pale strip of scar tissue across a thumb. She uses them to a build a story. These are my things; this is who I am. Her thoughts turn again to Virgil Greer. Whenever this happens, she reaches for a cigarette and lights it methodically. Intently, she watches as the flame sparks up and the tobacco begins to blacken. As the embers smoulder, she remembers what such heat feels like against the skin. Once—years ago—she wanted to know—she was compelled to know. And so she did it. She pressed it into her skin, the pain sharp and winsome—shocking, even though she’d been expecting it. Ten minutes later, the wound began to throb. Uncared for, it ran wet for days. It became a scab she would not stop picking. Eventually, despite her best efforts, the wound healed but the scar remained. One night, not long before senior prom, she’d argued with her mother over something inconsequential and insurmountable. “Hold out your hands,” Mom had demanded, after a familiar, certain point. All their fights ended on this way. With pride, she presented her hands to her mother and waited. “The worst thing about this?” Mom said at the end, “You felt that pain knowing I would too. That was why you did it.” It is on her way out one afternoon, empty shopping bags slung over her arm, when she sees Virgil Greer again. At first she is startled to find that her memory had glossed over the cracks. He is less handsome than she recalled. Perhaps she’d unfairly forgiven him the slick of rain. He appears just as forlorn dry as he had wet, and he stands on the far side of the parking lot, some ways from the legion. He is waiting for her and he does little to hide it. His eyes latch onto hers. His head lifts with eagerness. When she stops and stands still he steps towards her. As he nears, she says, “It’s you,” and he can hear the accusation in her voice. Both of them wonder if she will demand from him the fifty dollars he owes her, but, in the end, she never brings it up. “I need your help.” He is not pleading; he is polite. “Perhaps we can go inside?” She shakes her head. Inside, her floors are unswept, the dim light beckons, and neither of them are to be trusted. “I need another reading.” “I doubt the reading will be any different the second time.” She hitches the empty bags up over her shoulder. “I saw what I saw.” “I know that. But maybe you can try. Please?” “Not in my apartment.” He tilts his head towards the back door of the legion. “In there?” Her mind had conjured the inside of the legion so many times—an exercise in curiosity—but it is not as she expected. Duller, perhaps. Neither slovenly enough nor glamorous enough to match her imagination. Virgil slips into the booth across from her and stares expectantly. She’s not quite ready to look at him again. Instead, she looks around at a place that makes her uneasy. The ceiling is a touch too high for her to feel comfortable. Everything is wood. Maybe it reminds her too much of a tinderbox. The other patrons survey them with a workmanlike gaze before deciding, through some unknown calculation, that they are not worth the worry. After a waitress with a sallow expression visits twice, leaving two lukewarm Budweisers, Virgil places his hands on the table. After removing her gloves, she takes his hands in hers and yanks up his sleeves. It’s almost the impatience that drives her. Just as before, his creases are deep. She remembers well what she said then. He worries too much. As her fingertips slide with precision over his skin, he twitches. The same ghosts are evoked as before—a cornered cat, a hot pan, a forgotten pin, a blood brother. She revisits his ghosts again and again. Cat, pan, pin, brother. Her finger traces slowly. Plate, kettle, splinter. When confident she has felt every ridge, line, and scar in his hands, she pulls back her own. “It’s the same as before.” She shrugs. “I don’t know why you thought I’d feel anything different.” Virgil Greer won’t believe her. She can read that in his face easy enough. Now that she’s felt his hands, his face is an easy thing to look at. It’s just the varnish on the vase. He leaves his hands on the table and looks up at her with an unhinged jaw. “But, I thought that you could tell… the truth.” “The truth?” She picks up her beer. “What sort of truth do you expect to hear from a fortune teller? We’re all scam artists, you know.” “No. You’re not.” He hasn’t touched his drink. “You’re the real deal. That’s what I heard.” “Then you’re real gullible, aren’t you?” It feels impossible to keep looking at him, but he looks like his heart might break if she stops. He has no response for her, just a silent, pleading look. How does he know? Who told him? She sets down her glass. Who even is there to tell? “Look,” she murmurs at last. “It’s not hands. It’s scars.” Two strides past the threshold of her apartment, Virgil Greer moves in the direction of the reading room but she stops him with a sigh. “Don’t bother.” So he begins to unbutton his shirt and she can tell he is nervous. He swallows with the anxiety of a man who doubts the grip he has on the cliff he’s dangling from. What would it be to let go? When he reaches the bottom, he peels back the lapels. Running lengthwise down his chest is the glossy, red scar of a thick, horrific suture. His eyes peer up at her with his head still bowed, like a restless child in church. “Heart transplant.” She stares at it and wonders with dread what it will feel like beneath her fingertips. “They found a defect when I was a kid. Been on the list for years, and then finally…. I shouldn’t have been so happy, ‘cause someone died. But…. You know. I just… I don’t know.” His shoulders stiffen as she lifts a hand towards him. As her fingers stretch into the air they tremble like bulrushes in a breeze. Maybe it’s not even him that I’ll feel. Her fingertips begin on the soft, unbroken skin above the suture. Maybe that’s what he’s hoping for. She slides her fingers down slowly. His skin is warm although he’s shivering. His heart beats quickly and his pulse so far is the only thing she can feel. But she’s holding her breath. They both are. Another inch down and the puckered flesh begins. So many hands, but she has never felt a heart. She stops to catch her breath. It worries her now what she might feel. A rush of fear? A shot of adrenalin? A bolt of inconceivable pain? What does it feel like to die? “Stop.” Virgil puts his hand on top of hers. “You don’t have to. I shouldn’t have asked—” “No.” She looks up at him. She knows why now. She knows. “I want to.” But his hand does not lift off of hers as she slides her fingertips down over the sutures. His touch like this, it helps. As she inhales slowly, along with the rush of air, a swell of light pours in. She feels no pain, no fear, no worries. She feels neither the slice of a scalpel nor the pinch of a suture. No thoughts fill her mind—not idle thoughts, not concrete thoughts. No panic, no regret. What she feels is a heart beating as if for the first time. A heart beating once more when it never expected to never beat again. Ashleigh Rajala is an award-winning writer whose work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including Room, Redwing, Quarter Castle, and Crab Fat. She lives and works in the Vancouver area with her husband and an extraordinarily fluffy cat.

  • The Fae

    Once, long ago I saw faeries dancing. Their wings flickered upon mushroom dew, Like coiling tentacles turning pages of the sea. They were singing their song: soft voices embracing the highest cloud, kissing the lowest valley. Now they come to me: not as fae, but as foul. They cry my name like a gurgle under water. I listen as I try to make out their suspicious cries. Their wings now clinging, to fire in lieu of the breeze. From a gentle peck, to a vicious eidolon, they dance their sad song. I try and remember how it once was: Their fluttering tenderness upon the vast sea; their cries so light, their temperament so bright— once, long ago. Olivia Loccisano is a storyteller from Toronto, Canada. She teaches English, Dramatic Arts, and Photography to high school students. She is inspired by the magic of the absurd and how young women and children navigate within the world through their own rituals.

  • MCO (Airport Series #6)

    You could just NOT go to Orlando, mom. As Maura crouched behind a wide white wicker chair in the B-Side Arrivals area, Jake’s words thrummed in her ears. Otherwise, she heard nothing but the deserted semi-silence: the low hum of the escalator, the rattle of an abandoned baggage carousel. Not like the chaos in up in Departures, which she ultimately needed to brave to get home. For now, Maura forced herself to stay still. The Happy Birthday song twice, she remembered, took 20 seconds. At the second “Dear Jakey” -- his 20th birthday just a week ago, Maura could still see his grin across the pizza-cake she’d improvised, the first smile he’d managed since news of the virus had begun filtering out of Brazil -- she heard a loud bang against the plate glass 10 yards from where she hid. Maura craned her head with its Fanta-orange bob around the arm of the chair. She’d chosen this hair color to stand out, a juxtapose for uber-organized persona she’d cultivated for her life both professional and personal. Now she hoped it might camouflage her against the faux-tropical bright accents of formica and industrial shag here at MCO. Another bang. Maura watched as a stout man in a Hawaiian shirt slammed his palms against the glass from the outside. His face was bright red, like Day 2 of a bad theme park sunburn. The spittle spray from his mouth made a cloud on the glass. But it was the yellow-green aura around his head that confirmed it. An infected. The man pressed full-frontal against the glass now, a distorted mass of color and shape. Then he slid down onto the pavement, leaving behind a golfer-grandfather-salesguy size streak on the window. He didn’t move after that. It’s true then, Maura thought. Infecteds will die if they don’t pass the virus on. Or maybe the poor guy just wanted a cool and quiet place to pass his last minutes. It was hard to know what to believe anymore. It hadn’t all seemed so terrifyingly fuzzy just three days ago, when Maura was packing her suitcase in her suburban Maryland bedroom. It was a beautiful Sunday, that kind that sneaks into early March in the Mid-Atlantic to tease of deck barbecues and shore days to come. Out her townhouse window she could see the cartoon-yellow forsythia festooning the tiny backyard, daffodils nodding around the wheels of Jake’s bike leaning against the fence. Hard to imagine anything bad happening at such a gentle time of year. When they’d first moved into this development post-divorce five years ago, Maura had found its regulated grace suddenly dispiriting: alternating teal and sage shutters, clapboard painted precisely linen white, light cherry faux-wooden rear fencing with alternating slats that let through light but preserved privacy. From her second floor master bedroom Maura could see into every neighbor’s yard and they differed only in binary: basketball hoop or trampoline, Weber grill or firepit, dog or cat. Though she was a woman who liked order, this felt like deadly compression. She’d dyed her hair fuschia that first season, using a home kit that made the en suite bathroom look like she’d splashed Jake’s Amp Juiced all over the walls. He’d looked up from his cereal the first morning of her new hair and momentarily dropped his adolescent mask of disdain. “Does this mean I can get my eyebrow pierced now?” he asked. “Absolutely not.” Maura turned to set up the coffee filter over her new “Bitch, Please” mug, and caught a glimpse of herself in the glass of the kitchen cabinet. Embrace the jagged, she reminded herself. That’s the only way to get through this. She turned back and looked Jake full in the face. “Actually, yes it does, if you still want it when you turn 16, and you’ve saved up enough to pay for it.” Jake pumped his fist in the air the way he used to when he was 10 and his dad was stuck at the university again and she said they’d just order in pizza for dinner. Now it was all Maura could do to keep from throwing both arms around him. She missed grade school Jake. Teenage Jake actually turned out to be a serious sort. He didn’t get the eyebrow piercing but did become a vegan punker -- which involved other kinds of body art and his own shelf in the kitchen. His junior year, a school shooting two towns over had him taking the MARC train down to DC to protest in front of the White House. On one of his weekends with his father and new stepmother in Towson, he learned that the Uncle Steven he’d never met hadn’t just died in the Iraq war, he’d been a medic taken out by a sniper while tending to a kid, a civilian, at a roadside bomb site. Jake decided then he wanted to be a doctor, stopped staying up all night playing videogames, and doubled up on math and science his senior year. Now he was finishing up at Howard County Community College and thinking EMT instead. And apparently doing a lot of reading on the Internet. “I’m really disappointed with our government,” Jake had pronounced at dinner Sunday night. Maura stopped reviewing her mental pre-travel checklist, somewhere between “Get boarding pass” and “Remember sunscreen just in case.” “I’m not surprised, Jakey,” she said. “What did they do this time?” “It’s what they’re NOT doing, mom.” He shook his head, not looking up from his plate. “No testing, no masks, not even considering lockdown. It’s like they want us all to die.” Maura clamped her lips together to keep from articulating counter-evidence or prescribing next steps or any of the other half dozen ways she unintentionally shut Jake down in times of anxiety. Her therapist had to remind her every week: Just listen. “This is about the virus, then?” she asked. Jake stabbed his greens. “Yes, the virus. It’s already here, mom, and they’re not doing anything to protect anyone.” Maura rewound the latest CNN reports in her head, the red line graphs rising over maps of Brazil, the scenes of the dying jammed together on the sidewalks of Rio, the mobile hospital going up in the former Olympic Stadium. Plus early, disputed reports of isolated cases in New York City and Miami. “But I haven’t really heard about anything here --” she started. Jake pointed his fork directly at her. “That’s because you’re focusing on the wrong things.” It was his elemental complaint about her, sharpened through years of jabbing at the fixations that took her attention away from him. They locked eyes while Maura counted to 10, and counted again. Then she stood up and started clearing the dishes. “It’s kind of up to each of us to take care of ourselves, isn’t it? Like I’m bringing a mask and wipes along with me on this trip tomorrow…” “I can’t believe you’re actually considering getting on an airplane.” “Of course I am.” Maura kept her back to Jake. “It’s my biggest training job of the year. They’re counting on me. What am I supposed to do?” She heard Jake get up from the table, and then his head was resting between her shoulder blades. “You could just NOT go to Orlando, mom,” he said. But Maura had gone. It was all new and awkward in transit that Monday morning, everyone murmuring about the virus like a storm gathering somewhere far away. She’d noted equal numbers of cleaners and National Guard troops deployed at BWI airport. She’d joked with the Southwest Airlines flight attendants about mutual cooties as she wiped down her tray table and they adjusted their rubber gloves. She’d flipped the seatback TV screen between news networks for evidence that Jake was wrong -- or right? -- and watched them bullet the symptoms on screen: sudden fever spike, unusual coloration of skin, spraying of saliva, and aggressive behavior likely brought on by inability to breathe. When she landed in Orlando, she saw airport workers erecting signs encouraging face masks and frequent hand cleaning; she stopped to squeeze out a dot of hand sanitizer from the tiny bottle attached to the handle of her tote bag. Once in the cab to her hotel, she started to ask the driver to roll up the windows as he sped along the highway, but then she met his eyes in the rearview mirror and saw his were terrified above the white surgical mask he wore. “We haven’t had any sign of the virus up in Maryland where I’m from,” Maura said, in part to break the tense silence and in part to signal, I am safe. “What are you hearing about it here in Orlando?” “It is here, miss,” the driver said. “They don’t like us to say so.” He looked around as if checking for other listeners, then reached back with a business card in his latex-gloved hand. “Every customer I pick up today, I tell if you need to get back to airport right away, you call me and say ‘I need to go to MCO.’ You take this card, miss.” Maura held the card up: Just a phone number, nothing else. “Thank you,” she said. “I will call or text you if I --” “No text!” The driver’s eyes in the mirror looked panicked. “Call only. Infected speak funny. I can tell by voice if okay to pick up.” Maura gave him an extra large tip but dropped the card into the bottom of her tote bag. Stress certainly brings out the strange, she thought. At the kickoff dinner that night, Janis and Judith, the two women leading the corporate group she was there to train -- in communications techniques and negotiation strategies, it still made her chuckle to think anyone would hire her to learn either one -- noted that several of their members had chosen at the last minute not to attend. “Some people are scared to travel now,” Janis said, then shrugged. “To each his own.” “Emphasis on the ‘his,’” Judith chimed in. Yet the training session in the hotel conference room the next day was more muted than usual. Maura’s standard icebreaker -- What would you bring to a desert island? -- fell flat. All morning, news alerts pinged in so frequently that Maura finally emptied out her Easter basket of spring colored Post It notes and Sharpies and asked everyone to put their cell phones in it. She stashed the basket in a coat closet. “Now, let’s try to concentrate.” At the lunch break, everyone grabbed for their phones, and no one could talk about anything else. “They just locked down New York City,” one young man said. “They’re putting tourists on buses and taking them en masse to the airports.” “Did you see the video of infecteds swarming into Times Square?” his buddy asked. “They say you could see their aréola glow from the top of the Empire State Building.” Maura held up her hand. “Come on, the glowing halo thing is an urban myth,” she said. “How is that even possible?” “Check it.” The first young man held up his phone for all to see, and the second hit the video play button. A frantic-looking red-faced woman lunged toward the camera, spittle spraying from her mouth. Her head was ringed in faint chartreuse. The video shook and abruptly stopped. The lunch table fell silent. “That must be a deep-fake,” Maura said. “But what if it’s not?” Judith whispered. “I live in New York, my husband and kids are there.” Janis pulled her into a hug. “Let’s go call them now,” she said. “Should we even be thinking about doing that teambuilding thing at Epcot tonight?” another one of the trainees piped up. She’d been silent all morning, eyebrows knit tight. “I’m not sure I feel safe…” Just then Maura’s phone buzzed twice: A text from Jake, and another from an unknown local number. She checked the second one first to get it out of the way, then stood up. “Oh shit,” she said, “sorry for the language, but this is from Epcot. They just cancelled us! There’s been an outbreak...” Twenty pairs of eyes were now focused on her. Then suddenly Janis was by her side, waving her own phone. “Official word from Orlando Visitors Bureau,” Janis boomed. “Major outbreaks now confirmed at several theme parks. They’re saying, ‘Tourists are most likely to carry the virus and also most likely to be infected...’” Judith stepped forward, her eyes red from crying. “The City of Orlando and County of Orange hereby request all visitors from out of town to leave the area immediately,” she read out in official tones. “Oh, wait.” She checked her phone again. “They just changed ‘request’ to ‘order.’” Trainees had already begun to scatter, running for the stairwell and elevators to be the first to get to their rooms and then out into the hotel’s airport shuttle. Judith and Janis hovered at the door for Maura but she waved them out, gathering up her training supplies. Really, she wanted time alone to read Jake’s text. “Mom Orlando now hotspot” the text read. “Pls come home asap” She tapped the phone against her forehead, willing herself to think calmly. A revised travel checklist floated to mind. “Changing my flight now,” she typed back. “Heading to airport.” She hit send, then typed again. “It will all be okay.” She was almost sure that was true. In her hotel room, Maura pulled clothes off of hangers and stuffed them into her suitcase while listening to the Southwest Airlines hold message. She’d already tried to change her flight in the mobile app but it just spun and spun. Now a perky-snarky voice said, “You know the drill: We really are sorry to keep you waiting, but our agents are tied up helping other folks just like you.” Another more serious recorded voice then came on. “Due to unprecedented call volume, your hold time is estimated to be...55 minutes.” On the muted TV screen, the president was speaking in front of a black backdrop with white numbers: 10,000. 100,000. 1,000,000. All Americans must take these precautions now, the subtitles read. Maura put her phone in her jacket pocket, closed the suitcase and headed out the door. While she waited for the elevator, she tapped Uber to summon a ride to the airport. The nearest driver, it said, was an hour away. She hit Cancel. Down at reception, the counter was abandoned while the house phones rang and rang. Maura scanned the lobby for some sign of official help but there was no one around other than a housekeeping worker barricaded behind her cart of towels, weeping. Stepping out through the front doors into the hot Florida air, Maura saw the hotel shuttle racing away down the access road, about to turn right onto Sand Lake. She waved her arms but knew it would neither see her or return for her. She slumped down onto a limestone block that in normal times likely seemed like an elegant bench but now felt like the remains of a rampart. The automatic doors opened and shut, opened and shut behind her. That’s when she remembered her taxi driver from -- was that only yesterday? She dug deep in her tote bag to retrieve the card he’d given her. She considered the number printed there for a moment, then hung up on Southwest and dialed it. “Yes?” Maura recognized the driver’s voice, tense and lightly accented. “Hi, hello, you dropped me off yesterday at the Hampton Inn on Sand Hill and --” “Yes, what is it?” “I want --” Maura searched her memory. “I need to go to MCO.” She paused, then said it again with what she hoped was more calm authority. “I need to go to MCO. Now.” “Five minutes,” the driver said. “One hundred dollars cash.” “Are you kidding?” Maura said. “It’s a $30 trip!” “You need to go to MCO, it is one hundred dollars.” Maura thought of the stash of bills she kept with her for tips and such on trips like this. There was probably a little over 100 tucked in that special pocket of her wallet. “Okay, yes. I need to go to MCO.” “Five minutes,” the driver said, and disconnected. While Maura waited, a family of three slipped out the front door and passed behind her, the father with his right arm tight around the mother, holding her still while cradling her red face against his chest. A teenage son ambled behind them, dragging a duffle bag, his expression somewhere between terror and boredom. Approaching a minivan, the father dug rental car keys out of his left pocket with his free hand. “You drive, son,” he said. “I need to be with your mom in the back.” The orange colored cab pulled to fast stop right in front of her, and the driver waved her in. “We go quickly,” he said, accelerating out of the parking lot before Maura had a chance to fasten her seatbelt. He was still wearing his mask but the windows were up now. He’d duct-taped clear plastic sheeting across the opening between front and back seat, with a small slit that Maura presumed was for taking payment. Soon they were speeding east along Sand Lake, one car in a river of them rushing out of the city, away from the theme parks, toward the airport. There were no pedestrians on the sidewalks, but there never were: Orlando was a town on wheels. The passing shopping centers and destination restaurants, the churches and shooting ranges, all looked just like they had yesterday, slightly sunstruck with half-empty parking lots at this odd hour. Just as they were about to make the slight veer onto the airport access road, traffic slowed to a near halt. Maura could see that the snarl was caused by a vehicle angled half off the road with its front end wedged into a utility pole. Drawing closer, she made out that it was a commercial passenger van, and its half a dozen occupants were now spilling out, shouting and gesturing like characters in a silent newsreel. Then she recognized Janis, her tall angular figure reaching back into the hotel van, pulling out Judith, her mouth open in a scream. “Wait, I know those people!” Maura exclaimed as the cab drew adjacent to the wreck. She could see that Janis’s forehead was bleeding. “We have to stop.” “No stopping,” the driver said, accelerating and cutting away into the middle lane. “They’re infecteds.” “But they’re my colleagues,” Maura said, swiveling to look out the back window. It was hard to tell now whether the red on Janis’s face was blood or something else, and soon they were too far away to see. The cab was pulling into the airport proper now. “I’m on Southwest,” Maura said, but the driver didn’t seem to notice. He was hunched forward over the wheel, aiming for B-Side Departures as if both of their lives depended on it. But the snarl of cabs and trams and busses was epic, stretching back down the access road. Travelers were jumping out onto the pavement, dragging their rollaboards and souvenir ears across lanes of traffic to get into the building. Everyone looked urgent, and some patently terrified. Where the flow of incoming pedestrians crossed the wide sidewalk toward the glass entryway, they met a swaying army of infecteds. Everyone wore the same khakis and summer prints, the same sneakers and espadrilles. The only way Maura could differentiate the ill was by their jerky movements and how the healthy-for-nows froze in their presence before screaming and darting away. “Oh my god, how am I going to get through,” Maura whimpered. The taxi driver jerked left and cut over to the through lane. “We go down to Arrivals. It’s quieter there.” “Please hurry,” Maura said. Within minutes the cab had pulled up to the B-Side Arrivals center island. It was deserted. No one was coming to Orlando today. “You go through there and up stairs,” the driver said. He stared straight ahead. Maura thought he was breathing heavily, but then so was she. She’d already pulled her $100 - five crisp 20s -- out of her wallet and folded it into a tight bundle. She reached it through the slit in the plastic sheeting now. “Thank you so much,” she said. “Please be careful --” The driver had grabbed her wrist and was pulling her forward, his reddening face turned toward her while he tugged his mask down with his free hand. Maura screamed. She jerked her hand back, tearing away the plastic sheeting in the process, and threw all of her weight against the door handle. Spilling out onto the sidewalk, she crouched-scrambled away from the car and darted across the access road, narrowly missing an oncoming shuttle. Between her and the entry door was a trio of young women, dressed for a girls weekend but darting and spinning in a yellow-green cloud, the spray from their mouths creating enough of a fog that Maura scooted past them apparently unseen, into the Arrivals seating area, and behind the wide white wicker chair. As she caught her breath, Maura realized she’d dragged her tote bag along with her but not her suitcase. It was still in the backseat of the cab which she’d seen swerving away as she made her escape. Oh well, she thought. Hope you enjoy that dirty laundry, mister. She opened her tote now to make visual contact with her wallet, her laptop, her cord case, and of course her phone -- which began squirming and jangling like a live thing. A video call was coming in. Jake. Maura swiped down to kill the call, then put the phone on silent. “Can’t talk!” she texted her son. “Crazy scene here at the airport. I need to figure out next steps.” “When flight? Flight #?”” Jake replied. The three dots showed he was still typing, so she scrolled over to her eticket. A red CANCELLED showed across the top of the royal blue and orange e-ticket. “No!” Maura moaned, and the sound echoed across the empty Arrivals space. She clapped her hand over her mouth and huddled down further. Forcing herself to breathe in and out twice, she looked down at her phone again. Jake’s text waited, a silent shout. “MOM YOU OK?” As calmly as she could, Maura forwarded Jake her e-ticket and typed her update. “I need to rebook. I am heading up to the ticket counter now.” The more anxious she got, the more complete and well punctuated her text sentences became, something Jake usually teased her about that. Now he wrote, “Put in earbuds, pick up and just listen.” Her hands were shaking as she inserted the earphones, crouching down to scan the visible floor for any evidence she was not still alone. The call screen came up and she folded herself over the phone. “Mom, my EMT friends say it is really dangerous there right now.” Jake’s voice was ragged. “I am going to stay on the phone with you until you are on a plane taking off.” “Honey, don’t be silly, I’ll --” Maura started, but then heard footsteps off to her left. At the far end of the seating area but jerkily heading her way was a flight attendant in a Southwest uniform, face scarlet above her white polo shirt, blonde bob ringed in acid green. Maura shouldered her tote bag and sprinted to the stairway up to Ticketing. “Okay, I’m on the move,” she whispered. At first the crowds around the ticket counters and in the corridors leading to the food court atrium struck Maura as Orlando-typical: family clusters with strollers and fairy wands, packs of business travelers with their unintentionally matching luggage, Chinese tour groups following uniformed guides. But then someone would shriek or break into a run, and Maura could see the crowd cleave: Infected and lurching on one side, uninfected and frantic on the other. Between Maura and the Southwest ticket counter was a swath of infected. “I can’t even see when the next flight is,” Maura said. “Southwest 134 at 3pm,” Jake said in her ear. “Rebooking done and done. Gate 100. Go now.” Maura flashed back to the one-sided conversations she used to overhear when Jake was videogaming with friends around the world, giant headset making him look like a mythical creature in his dimly lit bedroom lair. The EMT thing suddenly made sense: Urgent discourse while navigating chaos. He was an expert at it. “I’m not sure I can even get through to security,” Maura said. Taking a deep breath and dodging an oncoming toddler, she tried to focus on the fountain burbling halfway across the atrium, marking the entrance to security screening for Gates 70-129. Between here and there, a roiling mass of the well and unwell. “Power-walk it, Mom,” Jake said. “Lean forward, pump your arms, move fast. They’ll get out of your way.” Maura plunged forward and saw that he was correct -- the crowd parted to avoid being run over. She picked up speed. “You’re almost there,” Jake said. “TSA Pre Check line is the one to your left.” “Wait.” Maura stopped. “How do you know where I am?” “Find Friends,” Jake said. “You put it on our phones to track me, I think. But it works both ways.” His laugh was short. “Better keep moving. Time is not on your side.” Maura looked around and saw that, indeed, a surge of infecteds was washing across the atrium, She darted into the expedited security line, just two deep from the screener, and was relieved when a well-dressed elderly couple with skin like wrinkled alabaster tucked in behind her. Was this pandemic making her racist? Maura wondered. A double disease. Just as she got to the front of the line, the TSA agent held up his hand. He turned around toward the luggage screening belt and stood there, with his hands on his hips. The shirt stretching across his shoulders suddenly turned dark with sweat, and when he swiveled back toward Maura, his face was the color of a bloody mary. “Run!” screamed the older woman behind Maura, as she and her husband shoved forward and to the right, around the now-spitting TSA guy. They propelled Maura with them as they plowed through the X-ray frame, through the wailing alarms and past the agents on the other side brandishing their screening wands like light sabers. "Did you just crash security?” Jake whistled in Maura’s ear. “That’s pretty bad-ass, mom.” Maura suddenly felt dizzy. “I don’t know…” she whispered, turning back toward the chaos of flashing lights and shouting faces. “Come along, miss, the train’s about to go,” the older man said. His wife pulled at his hand as she charged ahead of him toward the flashing sign indicating boarding for the Automated People Mover, but he held out his other hand toward Maura. He had a slight British accent. Maura grasped his wrist and left herself be whisked into the overlit people mover just as the doors beeped closed. Outside the window the red-faced TSA screener screamed silently after them until his face disappeared in the rush of movement. “Well, that was a close shave,” the man said. He’d pulled his wife close, and now gave Maura a half smile, tilting his head toward where her hand was still clamped around his wrist. She let go and leaned back against the grab bar against the train’s smooth cool wall. The car was empty save for the three of them. Outside the plexiglass windows, the Florida sky was baked blue. Maura spotted a heron in the landscaped lagoon below the elevated tracks, palm trees perfectly spaced around the curve. What did all of this look like before humans sculpted it into a tidy version of itself, she wondered. What will it look like afterwards? “You’re almost there,” Jake breathed in her ear. “Thanks, honey,” Maura murmured. The older woman looked up sharply, and Maura pointed to her earbuds. “My son,” she said. “The other half of my lifesaving team. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve any of you.” “We’re all in this together, dear,” the woman said. Her smile was warm now. “We’re Henry and Emma, by the by.” “I’m Maura.” She pointed to her ear again. “And Jake.” She started to reach out her hand to shake and gave a little wave instead. Henry glanced at the wrist she’d been holding. They all smiled again, less warmly now, and backed away to put a body length between them. “If they’ve been infected, it won’t show til after you get to the gate area,” Jake said. “Part company right after you get off the train.” “I’ll tell them you said thanks too, sweetheart,” Maura said aloud. “My son’s very grateful,” she enunciated in the couple’s direction. The Automated People Mover docked to a stop. The doors whooshed open. Maura tilted her head to indicate Henry and Emma should proceed. “Thank you both again for the rescue,” she called after them. As the couple strode out of the car and away toward the gates, Henry turned back to give her a little salute. It’s every comrade for himself now, Maura thought. Maura emerged into the arrowhead-shaped gates area and saw that 100 was to the left, the first gate in the sequence. She took a deep breath for the first time in what seemed like hours. She had also worked up a serious sweat. What a mess, she thought, plucking at the front of her blouse with one hand and fanning her face with the other. She looked up to see she was right below the overhead information board. Flight 134 to BWI at 3:00 showed On Time. “Current time 2:17,” Jake said, just as Maura read it on the board. “You made it.” “And I even have a minute to stop in the restroom,” she said, spotting the Women’s sign just across from Gate 100. “Uh, TMI, mom.” Jake giggled. He’s still just a kid, Maura thought. After all the accidental intimacy of being the only son of a single mom, the tampon box on the bathroom counter and the bras mixed in with the briefs in the laundry hamper. “Better get used to it, buddy,” Maura said. “You have ambulance-loads of middle-aged ladies in your future.” She’d reached the restroom entrance and was about to step inside. “Wait!” Jake said, his gamer-EMT voice back now. “Scan the area first.” “What?” Maura looked around the restroom, seeing only a dripping faucet in the water-splashed sink area and four stall doors reflected in the mirror. “Anyone else in there with you? See any feet?” Maura bent slightly and saw only tile. “All clear.” “We’ve been hearing about infecteds crouching up on the seat in public toilets and attacking when you walk in the stall,” Jake said. “I know it sounds --” “Absolutely ridiculous,” Maura said. But she stopped short of pushing open any of the stall doors. “Is there a light switch?” Jake asked. “If you can shut off the lights, the glow will give it away if any infected are in there. The aréola never lies.” Maura spotted the old-fashioned light toggle just inside the entranceway. “They need to step up their security game in this airport,” Maura said. “Anyone could cut the lights in here.” She flipped the switch down and the bathroom went dark. “That’s actually current best practice, mom” Jake said. “Active shooter protection. Fucked up world we live in.” They were silent for a moment in the darkness. “So do you see any glow from the stalls?” Jake asked. Maura crept forward to the area between the sinks and the doors. “No, but there’s some light coming from somewhere,” she whispered. She turned toward the mirror. “Then get out of there now, mom,” Jake commanded. “It’s not safe!” Maura regarded herself in the mirror. Her face was a lovely shade of rose, eyeliner smears and Mac Ruby Woo lipstick fading back against the growing blush. Above, her Fanta orange hair was framed by the faintest chartreuse. “Please don’t worry, Jake,” Maura said. Her voice was slow and languorous as the mist from her words speckled the mirror. “I’m fine. It will all be okay. I promise.” Mickey Revenaugh is a fiction and nonfiction writer whose projects include a collection of short stories set in and around airports. Mickey began developing the Airport Series while completing her dual-genre Creative Writing MFA at Bennington College. Her work has since appeared in Vice, Cleaning Up Glitter, Cagibi, Cleaver, The Tishman Review, Chautauqua, Catapult, Louisiana Literature, Lunch Ticket, and the LA Review of Books, among other publications. Mickey has been a semi-finalist for the American Short Fiction Prize and a finalist for both the Diana Woods Memorial Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Penelope Niven Award at the Center for Women Writers. In addition to the MFA, she holds a BA in American Studies from Yale University and an MBA from New York University. Mickey lives and work in Brooklyn, New York. Michelle Brooks has published a three collections of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press), Pretty in A Hard Way (Finishing Line Press), and The Pretend Life (Atmosphere Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit.

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