by: John Wayne Comunale
Jonathan Switz was loved and renowned by his people as much if not more than he was loathed and reviled by them. Such is the plight of every leader, but Switz remained unaffected. He couldn’t feel the love, hate, or indifference of his people because he lacked the capability. Something had turned that part of him off.
He thought he remembered what love and hate felt like, but couldn’t be sure if he was only convincing himself the memory existed. Switz had no idea how long he’d been in The Isolation, but he knew he was a leader and not much past that.
The who and the where escaped him, and while he felt constantly on the cusp of remembering, he never did. Most days he received a message he was to make a speech or declaration of some kind. The message wasn’t written or dictated but came in the form of a buzzing tingle at the base of his brain. A spotlight would appear. Jonathan would stand in it and begin to recite words as they scrolled through his mind like a psychic teleprompter.
Two holographic symbols appeared in front of him at least four or five times a day. The symbols, a red triangle and a yellow circle, represented a different difficult decision for Jonathan. To make this decision he simply had to reach out and touch one of the holograms. That was that. The shapes would disappear and return later with another decision for the great leader to make.
Switz never knew what the decisions were or how they affected his people. All he knew was the shapes would hover before him until he reached out and touched one.
Jonathan tried to glean some context as to what may be going on from the speeches he made, but they were mostly non-committal political rhetoric or vague, sweeping answers easily applicable to a myriad of problems. The words flew through his head so fast he didn’t have time to comprehend what he rattled off.
He made the shapes wait once. He wanted to see if after a certain amount of time the options changed or more information was given, but no such luck. The red triangle and yellow circle simply hung in the air and followed Switz around glowing dully, silently pressuring him to make a choice until he did.
He wondered if the amount of time he waited before choosing had any bearing on the outcome or if everything stopped frozen in time until Jonathan Switz touched a glowing shape.
When the shapes appeared again, Switz decided he just wasn’t going to touch them forever. Maybe if he waited long enough the outside world would be thrown off balance and free him from The Isolation, allow him to feel something again.
Jonathan vowed to himself if and when he ever got out he would step down as leader immediately. Even if through some twist of fate the blind choices he’d made created the perfect utopian existence and he was haled far and wide, he would still walk away.
Days and days went by, or what Switz was able to perceive as days, but the shapes remained present with no change.
Jonathan stared vacantly at the shapes floating silently in front of him and was struck with an idea. It seemed so simple, and he felt foolish for not thinking of it until just then. He would touch both of the shapes at the same time. It sounded easier than he knew it would be, but it was something he’d never tried before.
He stepped as close as he could to the shapes without touching and put his hands up in front of them. He did his best to put the same amount of space between each hand and its corresponding shape, but had to step back and try again several times before he could stop shaking.
Switz took several deep breaths, shook the trembling from his hands, and stepped back up to the shapes. He put his hands as close as he could to each shape without touching, and then quickly thrust them forward at the same time.
The triangle and the circle disappeared leaving the space noticeably dimmer with the absence of their dismal glow. Jonathan stood still; his hands out in front of him, and waited for something, for anything to happen. When it didn’t he lowered his hands and clenched them into fists.
He didn’t feel the tingle in his palms at first until the sensation intensified rapidly forcing him to recognize the burn. He unclenched, looked down at his palms, and saw his hands had turned the color of the shape they had touched. It was more than just color though, his hands had taken on the low-level luminescence of the shapes as well.
Jonathan turned his hands over a to see the strange phenomenon completely covered them, and a prickling sensation shot across his wrists as the glowing colors started to work their way down both arms. It moved slowly at first, like thickly applied paint dripping down the wall, but quickly gained momentum and was to his shoulder in a second.
Colored light exploded across his vision as if he’d looked directly into two suns. Light was all he could see for several seconds until it faded into an unsavory, inky, thick darkness. Jonathan shook with spasms as the foreign substance enveloped his body and plunged down his throat.
Through the darkness Switz saw bright spirals of light that reached out with an invisible force to pull him into them.
As he got closer, Switz began to feel something. It was hard for him to make sense of it at first because the ability to feel was a faculty he no longer possessed. His synapses latched onto the odd sensation and flung it back into his system, reactivating the long-atrophied sensors.
Something changed inside of Jonathan, and he was flooded with feelings to the point of being overwhelmed. He felt the pain of his people from all the decisions he’d made that hurt them, but he also felt the joy from when he’d done them right. Love overtook him so intensely, he was confused and unable to derive its origin, but he was comforted nonetheless.
The choking darkness of hate and envy fell upon Jonathan the heaviest and sank its fangs deep into his neck. Switz flailed against the foul emotion but found it impossible to break from the invisible force holding him in place.
Jonathan Switz had figured out a way to make himself feel again, but there was a side affect of his successful experiment. He felt everything at once. The intense love, hate, and all that comes in-between hit Switz in one single gigantic wave.
The intensity broke him and Jonathan’s his frazzled brain shut down, but not before he remembered why he’d come into The Isolation. Not before he remembered none of this mattered.
The swirling orange and yellow light pulled Jonathan into it, and he was gone. A crack ran down the black, wet sky of The Isolation like long, lazy lightning. When it struck the ground, the sky crumbled and fell to reveal the same sky right behind it.
John Wayne Comunale lives in the land of purple drank known as Houston, Texas. He is a writer for the comedic collective MicroSatan; the author of The Porn Star Retirement Plan, Charge Land, Aunt Poster, and Scummer; and the writer/illustrator of the comic-zine: The Afterlife Adventures of johnwayneisdead. If that’s not enough, he also tours with the punk rock disaster: johnwayneisdead. If you’re in Williamsburg, Virginia tonight, you can see him reading live at Scares That Care. If you miss that, you can still listen to his podcasts here and here.
Send your weird little stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A filthy barfly haunts the bar down the road. He lives off the leftover dregs of the patrons’ beers and spent cigarettes he finds on the ground. He may be living in the trunk of someone’s car. His name is Scummer. He’s mysterious and elusive. He’s unbound by inhibitions and you want to be just like him.
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Get a dose of weird with recent episodes of some of our favorite podcasts and vlogs, including…
REVIEW ME PLEASE: S02 E02A Ayalew Mesfin – Hasabe (My Worries) Unboxing
This week’s roundup of podcasts incluuuuuudddeeesss….
BIZZONG! Featuring the 2017 Recipient of the Wonderland Book of the Year Award, Danger Slater. Danger talks about his moment at BizarroCon when he won the award and how it affected him. More important, we talk about his newest book, which comes out February 14th, 2018. He Digs A Hole is chock full of symbolism and analogies. And just went you think you’ve got this clever little narrative all figure out, BOOM, in steps the world’s most explosive writer to lay down some fourth wall breaking commentary that somehow manages to weave its way into the plotline as well.
GET LIT WITH LEZA! Rios de la Luz is a queer xicana/chapina author of the short story collection, The Pulse Between Dimensions and The Desert and the novella, Itzá. She lives in El Paso with the love of her life and her beautiful dog. Rios and Leza talk about magic, dreams, Korean dramas, & dealing with trauma through art.
JOHN WAYNE LIED TO YOU! John Wayne Comunale says: I’m back fresh from Days of the Dead in Atlanta where I shared a table with two very delightful gentlemen: David W. Barbee and Mike Lombardo, and this week’s story is about that very trip. What a time was had in which I learned many things, gained new perspective on art and life, and turned into a big softy when it came to kids and reading. I hope you enjoy listening to these adventures as much as we did having them. In sadder new, we really miss our Uncle Charles . . .
AND REVIEW ME PLEASE! Technically not a podcast, but this is a special two-parter! Michael and PJ have genuine celebrity guests, cocktails, and the unboxing of Fiona Apple! See Part 1 and Part 2 on their YouTube channel.
by: John Wayne Comunale
“Maybe this isn’t the best time to mention this,” I said just before squeezing the trigger, “but I’m your brother.”
I know he heard me too. I could see the weight of my flippant confession smack his flat forehead and reverberate recognition through his eyes in the brief moment just before the bullet ripped his head apart. The wound opened the back of his head wide and exploded out with the sweetest tasting strawberry jam. It was the same strawberry jam our mother made for us, although separately since neither of us could know the other existed.
For quite some time, mother was successful in keeping up this charade, and while she was always able to keep my brother in the dark, I had figured it out quite some time ago. The thought of having to share mother with someone, especially someone I couldn’t see or interact with in any way, drove me insane with rage. I didn’t realize how intense my wrath could be until after the first incident. The fact that I didn’t even feel bad about it made me realize it wouldn’t stop until he was dead. I had to kill this unknown being bound to me by blood along with anyone who got in the way.
The first incident I had no memory of, but it was told back to me with vivid details via eyewitness accounts. Mother had just gone, and I knew she was going to him. She was going to feed him the strawberry jam. She was going to dote on him now. The last thing I remembered was a heightened feeling of anger that rose from my feet to quickly overtake me. That’s when I stopped remembering. That’s where I went blank.
Apparently I was inconsolable.
Apparently I swelled with strength.
Apparently I killed them all.
Mother came home and found us all like this, and she knew the jig was up. Like a boulder hanging by a thread, it was only a matter of time before I snapped and destroyed everything she’d worked so hard to build. She didn’t try to reason with me because I was far beyond the point of reason. I didn’t care about mother’s work or the importance thereof. I just cared about finding this secret brother of mine and destroying him.
I cared so much about killing him that when I killed her, when I killed mother, I didn’t even care. It wasn’t about her anymore. It was about him.
Finding him wasn’t hard since I was led by an unknown force desperately driving me to succeed. Hacking my way through those who surrounded him was just as easy and forgettable as the others. He was confused and cried out for mother with fear in his voice. I delighted in knowing his cries were in vain. He looked like a puny, extra-needy and helpless version of myself. He was despicable and I felt no remorse for what I did, and I still don’t.
John Wayne Comunale lives in the land of purple drank known as Houston, Texas. He is a writer for the comedic collective MicroSatan and contributes creative non-fiction for the theatrical art group, BooTown. When he’s not doing that, he tours with the punk rock disaster: johnwayneisdead. He is the author of The Porn Star Retirement Plan, Charge Land, and Aunt Poster as well as writer/illustrator of the comic-zine: The Afterlife Adventures of johnwayneisdead. You can listen to his podcasts here. John Wayne is an American actor who died in 1979.
Submit your bizarro flash fiction at FlashFictionFridaySubmissions@gmail.com.
Today’s installment of Podcastlandia presents another episode of JOHN WAYNE LIED TO YOU, where Old Man Comunale has a senior moment and accidentally deletes the episode. Not to worry, it was reposted and you can listen to a brand new story and John Wayne’s recap of BizarroCon 2017.
And as a bonus, a new podcast has been created by Lucas Mangum and his lovely wife Jean! The Mangum Show will review shows and movies, plus guests, readings, interviews and more! Check it out here. You know you want to. Just look at them adorable faces.
And finally, horror writers Brian Keene, Lesley Conner, Mary SanGiovanni, Damien Angelica Walters, J.P. Sloan, and our very own weirdo Eric Hendrixson all appeared on the latest episode of Eating the Fantastic.
John Wayne Comunale and Grindhouse Press have released another specimen of literary evil, Death Pacts and Left-Hand Paths. But you don’t have to take my word for it…