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Flash Fiction Friday

Flash Fiction Friday: Bushland

by: Avichai Brautigam

We mined the planet dead. Not in the sense that we burrowed, like dwarves, carving Morias and Morias into the crust till it all came apart; it was Bitcoin that did us in. Somewhere, in the moldy basement of some half-forgotten Department of the Bureau of the Ministry of the So On, someone received a report about energy usage, marked up in red ink–absolutely bloodied by red ink–that said, more or less, that the total amount of energy spent mining Bitcoin was equal to the yearly energy usage of the country of Denmark. No one must have thought anything of it, for no one since Shakespeare has thought anything of Denmark. In some corner of an unprinted advertisement in a forgotten sheet of the Times, a breathless junior reporter and/or unpaid intern set to writing the story up, trying to fit it into the three lines given to him so graciously by Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists. No one read it, and it didn’t even make the news.

The next year, our basement schlub of So On got another report, this one dripping red ink onto the floor like globules of blood in the aftermath of a murder. It said, more or less, that the total energy expended on Bitcoin mining was now equal to the yearly energy usage of the US. Now that made the news! People actually think about the US–albeit rarely in a kind way–and they knew that the US used a metric shit-ton of energy, even if the US couldn’t measure shit-tons metrically. In the panic, some brave Pulitzer Prize winning journalist broke the story, like a modern day Woodward and Bernstein (the intern from the year before had gotten the boot from the Times and de Sales both). For this he was awarded the Nobel for Literature, since they give that out to anyone nowadays, even folk singers.

It was apparent to everyone that this state of affairs couldn’t last, but some meeting must have been held at the highest levels, possibly involving Elder Gods, and it was decided that this state of affairs could, in fact, last. There was money in it, and the price of Bitcoin could more than keep pace with the build-up of greenhouse gases. There was a positive correlation, and Americans adore positivity and affirmation, so we affirmed that the earth would henceforth be a sauna and everyone set to mining.

As the Warm-Up (that was the new, approved, and improved name for it) sauntered on, the outside world got unbearable. Underground, massive supercomputers chugged violently on, solving inhuman equations, and belching fumes. In the sealed glass domes of Wall Street, value accumulated like the rancorous ghost of Marx; in the brick-paved towns of Bumfuck, melting slowly away in the heat, preachers took to every corner, braving the fires of earth to warn of the fires of Hell. No one needed to do any imaginative work as Jonathan Edwards was dug out of the sealed vaults of Calvinist heritage and spewed to new crowds of the predestined.

In between the rutting of CO2 and methane, going at it like barnyard pigs, multiplying on and ever on, shutters were heard the world over. All of civilization (and America too) was being rocked by violent quakes. The scientists, done up in their lab coats and sweating cannonballs, stood in front of the cameras to warn that overuse of the supercomputers was causing the earth to rupture. Being good, sensible defenders of the status quo, they simply asked that the ceaseless mining be limited by 30%; to ask anything more would have been utopian. No one paid any attention, and the only people that paid were already mining Bitcoin, so the computers chugged on.

In any case, they were wrong about the causes of the quakes, as we later learned when an army of Kate Bushs–all completely identical and fresh off their 1979 performance of “James and the Cold Gun” in London–poured out of every cave, crag, valley, and depth to march on the cities of man. Mother Earth had dispelled, from all orifices in her pained crust, an unstoppable horde. Soon, we were getting reports by the day of cities lying in ruins, supercomputers flaming in the evening light, pale armies of identically-costumed Art Rock superstars, rivers of blood flowing in vast streams through suburban streets–the works.

London down.

Paris down.

DC down.

Now I wait, on the porch of my little ranch house in Central PA, gun in hand, boyfriend by my side, and the wan buzz of a bug-zapper above us. I wait for the army of Rock goddesses, bearing rifles and intoning lines from Joyce, to enter my swamp of a suburb. In no way do I believe that this rifle will do me any good; I simply wish to be able to die with dignity alongside my boyfriend. For a long time, the night is as silent as that one in Bethlehem millenia ago. Then I hear them.

Running up that hill.


Avichai Brautigam is a philosophy major and a local of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In his free time he writes fiction and talks Marx with friends. You can find him on Twitter and WordPress.


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by: Christopher Lesko

Mom: C’mon we need to get you some new slacks. They’ve got good deals going on at Sears right now.

Boy: You’re hurting my arm.

Mom: I need you to hold my hand when we cross. Could be a weed maniac zipping around the corner. People never go the speed limit in mall parking lots.

Boy hobbles behind Mom while she tugs him along. He’s fourteen years old and can probably make it on his own, but she insists on overprotecting him from weed maniacs.

Man in car sees Boy and Mom ahead. The man is a weed maniac. He puts the pedal to the metal. As he plows right into them, they pop like a lighter to a balloon. And that’s the end of the mom and boy’s story. No going to Sears for them. Ever again.


Christopher Lesko is the author of The Grlz Like Vodka, Long Live Crazy, That’s My Ghoul, The Electric Lunatic, Fukced Up, Roxy, and Don’t Thowe Away Please.  You can follow him on Facebook and buy his books on Amazon.


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Flash Fiction Friday: Dollar Pizza

by: Ben Fitts

I was excited to be back in New York City. I had grown up there and always thought I would end up living my whole life in the city, but the four years I planned to spend in New England for college had into stretched nine and there was no end in sight.

But my and girlfriend Michelle I were spending the day in the city. We were going to see the stoner metal bands Canabyss and Capra Coven play at Saint Vitus that night, and I was stoked to show her all of my favorite spots.

“I promise Italianame’s Dollar Pizza is the best you’ll ever have,” I told her as we bustled down a crowded street. “And it’s only a dollar! I really hope it’s still there.”

Michelle and I paused outside when we reached the place. There was a big handwritten sign taped to the glass.

Now no longer accepting dollars.

“What does that mean?” asked Michelle.

I had no idea. She shrugged and we headed inside.

A sweaty middle-aged man mulled behind the counter. My jaw dropped when I saw him. He was Italianame himself.

It’d been over ten years and he clearly didn’t recognize me, so I didn’t say anything.

“Excuse me,” asked Michelle, “We saw your sign out front. What does it mean that you’re not accepting dollars anymore?”

Italianame shrugged.

“I’ve got too many dollars,” he said. “I don’t need no more, so I don’t take ‘em.”

“What do you mean you have too many dollars?” I asked.

“I’ve been running this dollar pizza place since I was a young man, and I’ve sold more slices now than there are rats in this city. Over time, you just get too many dollars. More than you can do anything with.”

“I still don’t get what you mean though. How can you have too many dollars?”

Italianame snorted. “I’ll show you too many dollars,” he said and swung open a door to a back room behind the counter.

The room was filled from floor to ceiling with stacks and stacks of single dollar bills. There would scarcely have been room for an ant to crawl in there.

“Now do you see what I mean?” he demanded.

“For twenty-seven years I’ve run this pizza place and the deal has always been the same. You give me a dollar, I give you a slice of pizza. Eventually, you get too many dollars! What am I supposed to do with all these dollars? You can only make a fort out of them so many times before it just gets old. So now I no longer take dollars in exchange for pizza.”

“Sure,” Michelle said. “I’ve got a debit card.”

“I don’t take debit.”

“So how do we pay for the pizza?” I asked.

“Pay with something that I have less of. Like toes.”


“Yeah, toes. I’ve only have ten toes. I could still use more of those.”

“Could it just be one of my pinky toes?” I proposed.

“I only have two of those! I could definitely use a third. You give me one of your pinky toes, and I’ll give you any slice on you see on display there,” he said, gesturing to rows of pizzas with various toppings behind a sneeze guard.

“Just chop one off with this thing,” he said, handing me a long kitchen knife.

The toppings were eclectic. The pizza with I ♡ NY keychains salvaged from the corpses of murdered tourists didn’t look particularly tasty, but to be fair it did look better than the pizza whose topping was dogshit that never got picked up.

“I think I’ll have a slice of the Strawberry Fields pizza.”

“Sure, I just need that toe.”

I nodded, unlaced my boot, and sliced off my pinky toe with the knife. I handed him the bloody stump of severed flesh.

“And what do you have to pay for your pizza?” he asked Michelle.

Michelle examined the pockets of her denim jacket. “How much pizza would you give me for a quarter gram of weed?”

Once we had sat down at a table, I felt a little jealous nibbling on my slice with my toe bleeding in my combat boot while I watched Michelle devour the two entire pies that Italianame had given her. Michelle had already started pregaming for the Canabyss/Capra Coven show that night and had the munchies pretty bad, so I didn’t ask her to share. I knew her well enough to know she’d eat it all herself when she was this high and enjoy every bite of it more than I ever would.

I enjoyed my Strawberry Fields slice though.

The slice was a New York classic, a reference to the Central Park landmark of the same name honoring John Lennon. Each slice’s toppings consisted of four beatles scavenged from the very field itself.

I wasn’t expecting them to still be alive though. Their legs pumped madly and they flapped their little insect wings, but they couldn’t get away. They were trapped to the pizza by its sticky cheese and sauce.

“Are you going to finish that?” she asked, pointing to my half eaten slice.

“Yeah, I’m going to finish my only slice,” I said as sweetly as I could.

“That’s good,” said one of the beatles on my slice in a British accent, its wings flapping. “I thought you were full already.”

“Shhh, Ringo,” scolded another one of the beatles on my pizza. “I don’t want to get eaten!”

“Oh, come off it, Paul,” said a third beatle. “We’re beatles! What are we if not consumed? Turtles? Bay City Rollers?”

I had had enough of their yammering then, and stuffed the slice into my mouth. The beatle’s spiky thoraxes crunched between my teeth. As I chewed, I could still hear one of them singing to itself “Da da da, da da da da dum dum da”. The catchy melody echoed in my skull as I swallowed the bugs in my cheese.


Ben Fitts is a writer and musician from New York City. His stories have been featured in Bushwhacker Zine, Silent Motorist Media, and The Truth Is Out There.


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Flash Fiction Friday: A Fresh Perspective

by: James Burr

The Artist woke up face down on the wall, his favourite Braque print digging uncomfortably into his ribs. It seemed that gravity must have shifted 90° as he slept as he was now lying on the far wall of his bedroom looking up at his bed, which seemed to be hanging from what was now the ceiling. Yet it couldn’t be that gravity had shifted 90°, as his bed was where it always was, albeit at an utterly unfamiliar angle, and the rumpled covers still lay on it. Similarly his desk and chair were still in the corner of the room, although from his perspective, now wedged into the far corner of the ceiling. He stood up. Aside from his own position in the room, everything was much as it had always been.

He yawned and then made his way to the bedroom door, now embedded in the floor at his feet. He pulled it up and looked down. There was a drop of around 6 feet to the hall wall but then he would have to navigate a 20 foot drop to get to the far wall of his open-plan living room. He was already behind on several commissioned canvases and this damn gravity-thing was the last thing he needed. Still, he was an artist and it was the nature of the artist to explore experience. So he flipped over the door frame and dropped to the hall wall, his feet punching through the plasterboard. “Damn it!”

Prying his feet free, he then walked down the wall to the living room door, shaking the dust from his feet as he did so, before getting to his knees so he could peer over the edge of the doorframe, into the room below. The sheer drop was somewhat broken by the cupboards and units of his kitchen area below the wall he was currently kneeling on. But did this phenomenon extend to the entirety of his apartment? He could see his sofa and telephone twenty feet below on the floor/wall opposite.

I suspect that I have transcended the limits of ordinary reality and now perceive the world with the agility of a mind freed from entrenched perspectives, thought the Artist, and he grew eager to explore further.

If he could somehow swing from the doorframe across the room, it was only a drop of ten feet or so to his tall cupboard which, if he could reach it he could then land on before dropping down to the rest of the living room. Gingerly, he edged his way over the doorframe and then carefully lowered himself until he hung over the opposite wall. He then started to swing forwards and backwards as he tried to build momentum, before with one final kip, he flung himself across the room, landing on the side of the tall cupboard. However, as he landed he smashed his face into the wall and he could feel himself dropping backwards into the living room below. Desperately he reached out and managed to grab the side of the sink, and he pulled himself forwards. Above him were his other kitchen units, herbs and spices, yesterday’s Chinese wrappers, coffee jars and kettle all still resting, perpendicular on the worktop, in defiance of the phenomenon that seemed to be afflicting him. Damn it. He could do nothing in the morning without a morning coffee, but making one would involve climbing up the wall, perhaps using the side of the window frame as a foothold and then somehow monkey barring his way across the kitchen units, if they could even take his weight of course. So the Artist shifted position and sat on the edge of the unit; it was just a ten foot drop to the far wall of his living room.

The only logical explanation for this situation is that it is the manifestation of my will to transcend boundaries yet my apartment’s continuing existence continues to prove that humans may attempt to defy gravity but never wholly escape, thought the Artist. This could in fact be a manifestation of the human impulse to reach beyond our present reality.

He sat on the edge of the unit and again, dropped down until he was hanging from its side. And then, the distance minimised as much as he could, he let go, landing in a heap on the far wall. Grumbling, he got to his feet and looked above him, at the walls, paintings hanging horizontally, his dining table and chairs now suspended on a wooden wall, fifteen feet above him.

The Artist grew excited at this fresh development in his creative life. This physical experience could provide a radical shift of perspective so I can look at the world through a completely different lens. This phenomenon provides an opportunity to reimagine the physical and psychological reality I previously thought of as fixed as something more flexible, mutable, and light. Feverishly, he considered the artistic possibilities his new perspective afforded. He considered the colours, the shapes the conceptual possibilities that he could now exploit. He looked around these familiar yet strange surroundings for his easel and paints before remembering with a shudder that they were in his bedroom.

And so he jumped and jumped and jumped. But as he leaped, arms outstretched for the kitchen units out of reach above him, he realised there was no way back out of his living room.

And it was then that he finally saw the true gravity of his situation.


An English writer of dark, humorous, paranoiac fiction, James Burr is the author of Ugly Stories for Beautiful People and is working on a novel titled Razor Moccasins. You can follow him on Twitter and find more of his stories here. 


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Flash Fiction Friday: Cogito Ergo Sum

by: Zé Burns

He was a lamp. A China ball lantern wrapped in a bamboo lattice.

No, he wasn’t. He was a plant: a delicate ornamental fern, stretching out its fronds over the terra cotta pot in which he sat.

No, that couldn’t be right either. Was he a pillow? A wooden lounge beneath a red umbrella? None of that sounded right. It couldn’t be right.

Then what was he? He searched his mind for some memory that would reveal his true identity. But the memories remained elusive. His past consisted of the last few minutes, beginning when he thought he was the lamp.

Who am I? I know what a “lamp” is, what “ferns” and “umbrellas” are. To know these things, to place their names, I must have known them beforehand. That I can conceive of a past further proves that there must have been one. But who am I? What is my name? Do I have a name?

Harry. That was his name. No, that wasn’t right. His arms were hairy. It was just a homonym. But wait. He had arms! He looked at them now. Pink tubes, tapered at one end and thicker at the other, covered in fine, black hairs. He had arms. He looked downward: covered in a white shirt, his torso connected with a pair of brown pants that spread out into two legs. I have arms and a torso and legs. What has arms and a torso and legs? Was he…was he a man?

The arms and legs looked alien, dangling before him like the limbs of a marionette. The chest heaved up and down, but he could not feel himself breathing. He tried to move his fingers, but they remained motionless, lacking any sensation that suggested they were his own. Moments before, he had tilted his head downward to look at his legs, but now his neck refused any command he gave it, his field of vision no longer under his control.

These alien eyes stared down at a magazine, resting on a table before him. The letters meant nothing to him; he could not understand them even though he knew he should.

A noise—he heard it—came from behind him. The eyes he did not control looked up and then over toward the direction of the sound. Another human being was there: a woman, if that’s what it was called, wearing a colorful dress, her tan arms exposed. She embodied a concept new to him: the concept of beauty. For a moment, he dwelt with it, basking in its rays emanating from her. He did not recognize her. Yet she smiled in a most familiar way when his eyes met hers. She scared him, but the body in which he inhabited smiled back.

She spoke, her voice soft and comforting, “You will die here.”

Before he could register what she had said, he left the body he was in. Everything around him vanished, and once more, he no longer knew what he was. He saw only colors. They moved before him in slow undulation, a dance of the utmost beauty, beauty like the woman. It calmed him, and the fear from her words evaporated. Blues and greens now shifted to yellows and onto reds and oranges. He felt uncomfortable, agitated. The slow ballet of color now exploded in a flashing frenzy.

Then there was only white.

He heard a strange huffing. It came again and again at regular intervals. A few minutes (if such things existed) passed before he realized these noises were his own breathing. He did not feel that he was in a body or anything that could “breathe.” Yet he was sure that air was coming into him and being expelled.

He monitored these breaths, searching for any evidence of the body from which they came, but he found none. His concentration broke when a black line formed, bisecting the white that surrounded him. It started out thin, barely noticeable, but its width grew, slow at first, then accelerating more and more until the black nothingness overwhelmed him. His breaths sharpened and then stopped. He could no longer breathe.

I’m drowning! I’m drowning! The blackness like water filled his nonexistent lungs. He struggled to breathe. He begged some chimerical being to save him, hoping that something could hear his thoughts and come to his rescue. But then the black ended as well. Only a fragment of his consciousness remained. His perception faded; sight—and the colors that came with it—simply did not exist. Neither did smell, taste, sound, or touch. His train of thought came to an end. He could perceive that he was. But that was it. The concept of time disappeared.

How long he stayed in this state was impossible to know. Seconds meant as much as millennia.

Then he felt something. After lacking it, the use of the sense jarred him. But soon he relaxed and welcomed it. His train of thought revived and he wondered where he was and what he was feeling. The concept of “soft” came to him and he realized the thing he felt was soft. He liked this feeling. It brought comfort and safety with it.

Then it was gone.

And he was gone.

And it was over.


A Seattle native and bizarro fiction obsessive, Zé Burns is working on a long series of bizarre novels set in his hometown. You can (in descending order of difficulty) deduce him from first principles, seek him through the forests of Washington, learn about him on his blog, or follow him on Twitter.


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Flash Fiction Friday: Sign Here, and Here, and Here

by: Andrew Wayne Adams

“I need to eat to be happy. I need to eat souls like yours. I also like cold cuts and ice cubes. I am remorseless.”

That was what the garbage disposal said to Ian on his third night in his new apartment. Two nights before, when he turned on the shower for the first time (he had neglected to check it before signing the lease), ground beef came out.

The tub drained into the apartment below, where a hungry man lived, but Ian ignored that. He called his landlord on a rotary phone, and when he put the receiver to his ear, ground beef came out.

“The cracks in the walls are a map. Have you any porridge to pour down here? Imitation grits?” Fingers reached up through the garbage disposal. Ian turned on the hot water, blistering hot, and hammered at the fingers with a giant spoon. He flicked the switch that worked the garbage disposal, but this only lowered a disco ball in the closet.

The fingers retreated back down the drain, and a mouth took their place. It had two rows of teeth. Ian remembered his landlord, the sole time they met. The man had been chewing bubblegum, the pink rubber strung between two rows of teeth. Ian had signed the lease.

The hungry man was his landlord.

“I must have comfort food,” said the garbage disposal. “My food the comfort of others.” Ian thought you could interpret that in two ways.

Maybe three.

He put a dirty plate over top of the drain.

Going for a beer, he remembered that the refrigerator was full of cake, every cubic inch of space, so that when he opened the door, it was just a wall of cake facing him. A wedding cake, to judge by its frosting.

The dirty plate on top of the drain was dirty with ketchup and soap suds.

Pissed at not having a beer, Ian went to his “office” and dug through his papers on the floor until he found his lease. He combed through it, trying to find some loophole out of this shit.

The lease said: “I agree to live in this shit for one (1) year and not complain. I agree to marry one (1) of your daughters and not complain. I, the undersigned, agree to live the Good Life and never, ever complain.”

He had signed it.

She came up behind him, put the cold beer on his neck playfully. He winced at the chill, and she slid her arm around his shoulders. He took the beer from her and opened it with his teeth, of which he had two rows.

The bottle was full of ground beef.

She said, “How are you?”

He said, “I can’t complain.”

She suggested they shower. In the shower, he soaped her breasts, and the showerhead bled ketchup and cold cuts.

The hungry man in the apartment below screwed his mouth to the ceiling, sucking down what drained from their shower. He ate well—grew huge—filled his apartment, so that when you opened the door, it was just a wall of him facing you. A Lonely man, to judge by his moaning.


Andrew Wayne Adams is an Amerikan-Kanadian writer and artist. His first book, Janitor of Planet Analingus, came out in 2012. The above is an excerpt from his new collection I Have No Idea What I’m Doing, which you should buy, and was previously published in Strange Edge Magazine.


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Flash Fiction Friday: Snuff Theatre

by: S.T. Cartledge

Leonard is up all night rehearsing his one-man play. The script in hand is only one page and has only three words on it. The first is big and bold:


which is promptly followed by

ad lib.

This is his magnum opus. He had put out a press release the day before, calling it a tour-de-force, a truly avant garde theatrical experience.

“Establishing shot, actor’s apartment building, exterior, day. Birds on power lines, singing,” he says. “Cut to actor’s bedroom, filthy, interior, day. Curtains drawn, lights off. Can’t tell if it’s day or night. Close-up of actor’s face, actor is a handsome, straight white male, twenty-four years old. Single. He hasn’t shaved in a few days. His bank account is overdrawn. He is the every man. Downtrodden, underappreciated, frequently misunderstood. He represents the underclass. He really…understands people. And they understand him. He’s been kicked down too many times to count. Here he stands, no friends, no job, no family, at the end of his rope. He has a note prepared,” Leonard pulls an envelope from his coat pocket, “for the authorities to find upon discovering his body. The world will lament the day that Leonard slipped through their fingers.” He sighs heavily.

Audience laughter floods the apartment. “What a crack-up,” an audience member wheezes out through fits of laughter.

“What? No,” he says. “This is not a comedy. This is drama. Theatre. I’ve got my heart on my sleeve here.”

More laughter. He turns in circles, looking for the audience. Someone calls out, “you’re shit!”

“Be quiet, damn you! Have some respect!” He paces the apartment as the laughter rolls on. “I’m producing the world’s first theatrical snuff production. I’ve been planning this for months. Don’t ruin this!”

The laughter builds up to a crescendo and stops immediately with a bang. Leonard stands in the middle of his room with gun drawn, smoke whisping out of the barrel. “Silence!” he roars. He fires into the wall several times more.

“Oooooh,” the audience whispers.

Leonard paces the room in search of the audience. They make shh noises to try to hide their location from him. He points his gun and roams around.

“Warmer,” a single audience member calls out. “Warmer,” he repeats. “Brr…cold. Ice cold.”

Leonard stops and moves back to the warm area.

“Getting warmer.”

Leonard approaches a blank part of the wall to exclamations of “hot, hot!” He taps the wall with the barrel of the gun and hears scurrying within the wall. He fires into the wall.

“Missed us,” the audience chants in unison.

He fires into a different part of the wall, and another and another. Each time the audience calls out that he missed. He screams and throws the gun at the opposite wall, bouncing off it and landing on the bed. It fires the last bullet which passes through his left hand, leaving it somehow completely intact, ricochets off a lamp, bed post, and doorknob, before passing through the window, no shatter, no hole, vanishing into the cool night air without a trace, leaving Leonard wondering if the bullet even existed at all. He touches the spot on his hand where he felt the bullet pass through. He wipes sweat off his brow, and somewhere near the ground, an audience member coughs.

Leonard crouches down on hands and knees and sees the eyes of audience members peering out at him through the electrical socket. He reaches his hand out and the socket shocks him.

“Ow!” he pulls back his hand. “Why did you do that?!” he yells.

“You were shooting at us,” they reply in unison.

“You were ruining my performance,” he says. “I’m not continuing until you agree to behave.”

He stares through the holes in the electrical socket. The audience is silent. A humming sound starts building up from the electrical socket. Lightning cracks, striking from the socket to Leonard’s head.

“Ow, motherf—why did you shock me again?” He leaps up and throws his arms up in frustration. “I wasn’t going to shoot you again.”

Electricity arcs from the socket onto the carpet.

“You are the absolute worst audience I’ve ever had!” He jumps up onto the bed, watching the electricity dancing on the carpet.

The audience laughs. “Dance, monkey,” they say in unison.

“You know what? Fuck this. Show’s over.” He leaps from the bed through the window out into the open air, with twenty stories of nothing beneath him.

Except the twenty stories come up way too fast and feel more like a studio floor just outside the set. He lays on a bed of fake glass, sore from the ache of concrete slapping his body hard. The audience roars with raucous laughter.

“Cut!” the director yells. “Take fifteen while we reset the window and go again from the top. Audience, you were fantastic.” The director is a seven-foot-tall android wearing a black turtleneck and beret. No pants covering its chrome legs and genderless crotch. “Leonard, Leonard, Leonard,” the director walks over to the actor and lifts him effortlessly with one hand. “This is your big scene, the one that’s going to really take you places. Cut the actor-vs-audience schlock and embrace them. Remember the script, Leonard.” The director flicks his hand against a single piece of paper that matches Leonard’s. “This is all about the actor-vs-self. You can do it, I believe in you.”

Leonard brushes broken glass from his clothes then walks off to the prop room. When he comes back, the stage has been reset, the director waiting for him, as is the audience.

“And…action!” the director calls.

Instead of taking the door into the set, Leonard leaps through the newly mended stage window, axe in hand. He roars loud and mighty and the audience screams.

“Cut!” the director calls. “Leonard, what the fuck are you doing?”

Leonard ignores the director and swings his axe at the wall. The audience is freaking out. Electricity sparks wild and erratic from the socket. So much that the carpet catches fire.

“No, Leonard, stop!” the director yells, getting up from his chair to intervene.

Leonard hacks a massive hole in the wall and rips the plaster away with his bare hands. He reaches in. He can hear the audience scurrying through the wall to avoid him. He clutches on to something and rips it out.

A baby turtle.

“Put me down!” it screams.

He tosses it out the window and cuts a bigger hole in the wall, rips giant chunks of it away, exposing hundreds of baby turtles scurrying away from him.

“No!” they scream.

He grabs a handful of turtles and shovels them into his mouth, crunching down on their softened shells. His mouth fills with their blood and guts and screams.

He reaches in for more, but a cold steel arm wraps around his neck, blocking off oxygen to his brain, causing him to choke and spit masticated turtle out onto the set. He loses consciousness at the director’s hand, going limp and sliding to the floor, the room going up in flames around them.

The fire sprinklers come on, and in the smoke and fire and rain, Leonard’s body on the floor begins to move.

He comes to on a completely different set, the skylights burning into his eyes as he lays on his back, moving against his will, as the hundreds of remaining audience turtles carry him away. He turns his head from side to side and sees that this stage is huge. The biggest he’s ever seen. He is in a massive field, with trees that stretch hundreds of meters towards the ceiling, and the horizon is a distant wall he can hardly even see. He tries to get up but can’t. He is entirely at his audience’s mercy.

He can hear birds and crickets and the breeze rustling through trees and flowers and rushing water growing louder. The rustling sound of little turtle feet dragging through grass, and then little turtle feet sliding on stone. An incline. A bridge. They stop in the middle of the bridge, the sound of rushing water at its loudest. And a new sound to the scene.

*snap snap*

He feels sweat rolling down his forehead to his neck. The audience turtles drop him onto the hard stone ground and bustle away.

*snap snap*

He stands up and stares at a full-grown adult snapping audience turtle, as tall as he is and wide and round like a spaceship, surrounded by her darling audience turtle babies. She shuffles forward and snaps at his genitals. He falls over backwards, blood fountaining from his crotch, the hero of this tour-de-force bleeding out and spitting profanities at the mother turtle while the audience laughs the hardest they ever have. The mother chews her meal, blood dribbling down her chin to dry a maroon-brown, darkening the stains that were already there.

Leonard rolls into the river, landing on decomposed flesh, and the mother turtle ambles back across the bridge and starts walking downstream, where the water tastes the most delicious.


S.T. Cartledge is a weird fiction author, poet, and book blogger. His books include The Orphanarium, Girl in the Glass Planet, Kaiju Canyon, and Beautiful Madness, amongst others. You can follow him on his blog, facebook, twitter, Instagram, and patreon.


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