Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Paper Village

It was 1951, and the Soviet Union was attempting to improve the face it presented to the world. One PR-boosting move enacted that year was the construction of a model Ukrainian town—not only to demonstrate how well life in the Soviet Union was going, but how well they treated their assimilated peoples. The irony that this tactic had been tried before, the “model ghetto” of Theresienstadt, by Nazis presumably fell on deaf ears.

The government began surreptitiously rounding up citizens from various corners of the Ukraine, unified only by a nebulous concept of “looking right.”  People were kidnapped from cities and remote villages alike. Children were grabbed on the way home from school, men were forced to board government cars at gunpoint. All detainees were shipped to a remote region in the Opillia Uplands. There, they were forced to live together in rough barracks as military forces had not yet finished construction on the model village. A censured memo coming from within the government called it a “city of paper bricks.” Indeed, not much effort was put into construction, and the houses were built of untreated lumber and lacked any insulation or modern facilities.

Construction finished by late September of 1952, by which time most detainees had been homeless for a year. Once construction was completed, the town was decorated for a festival and the residents turned loose upon it. After starving in undecorated barracks for so long, the detainees were able to provide many joyous photo-ops for photographers. The photo shoot lasted for approximately 3 days, after which it is generally assumed the government agents executed the entire village as they were never returned to their homes. No physical evidence of their demise has been recovered, and most documents referring to this project have been expurgated. The village façade still stands, uninhabited.


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7 Bites of Lovecraft


The first thing that hits him is the smell. The stench of shit that somebody tried to cover up with a sugary-sweet votive candle. It makes his eyes sweat. He gags, “Jesus,” into his sleeve. Their quarry is, ironically, nowhere near the toilet. Poor bastard swelled ten times his size, and weighs as much as a basketball. The petroglyph’s cord punctures skin, lets out a swell of gas like an exclamation. He does throw up then.


Bodies kink and judder before him. Even without the lasers it would be surreal. His contact is fishing mushrooms from a plastic baggie, dealing to a bunch of suburb kids disguised as ravers. He lowers his balaclava and yells –side hall, men’s room—as if he could be heard over the beat. The contact has more than ears, though. Even when their deal is done, he’s not sure what he saw. The kids stand still as he leaves, mouths open like turkeys in the rain, breathing spores like smoke.


The antiquarian smiles and slops tea over the sides of a Wedgewood cup. It’s a good brew, smells of stiff poison. He’s almost sad he won’t get to drink it. There, the man’s finger points, there and there. There are books, yes, but then anything can be a book. He eyes the paperweight as Latin texts are thrust beneath his nose and fingers his watch. Sigils older than Rome creep under glass. Sometimes meaning transcends language.


Some thoughts spread like wildfire. Others like pox. He catches a little tune on the train to Providence and nearly loses himself to it. It’s everywhere right now. Such a catchy beat nobody notices the tribal rhythm beneath it, the hungry harmonies. He takes a pill to drown it out, but others aren’t so lucky. He disembarks to the news of a rash of sleeping sickness.


The worm that walks is a friendly fellow if you catch him in the right mood. He’s got a smooth pitch and a firm yet yielding handshake. He’s got a healthy following, a good portion of the middle United States leaves their homes to camp hungry and destitute on the road with him. His poison is the unadulterated truth, and leaches into everything.


Light glints from cases of Jasper and Calcite while the sign before him proclaims this limestone block to be the largest Crinoid specimen found in the basin. The odd eye-shaped marks along the stern apparently hadn’t disturbed the man who unearthed them, though presumably they hadn’t blinked as they do now. He walks out with a heavier coat and the theft is never solved.


The word apocalypse means “rending of the veil,” not the end of all things, he tells her, but she is in no mood to bandy semantics. Something immeasurably huge parts the distance and she screams with her whole body, a primal scream that recalls ancestors just beginning to walk upright. He finds her lovelier than anything then, and would give much to preserve this moment just like it is. The sky vomits a blind sun and his wish is granted.

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riding the bus

I used to ride the bus to school.

my mom would wake me up at 6:45 and give me a little coffee, because i was just big enough to need it. i had to make my own lunch and make sure all my homework was in my backpack. my mom would give me one egg and one piece of toast and then she had to get ready for work.

i used to ride the bus to school because no one else could take me.

the bus smells different. it’s not something you could describe, not something you’d even know about if you’ve never rode a bus. all buses smell a little different. city buses, prison buses, tour buses. but the one i remember most was that bus. it smelled old and sweet, like mouldy hay. it smelled like kids from a long time ago.

i used to ride the bus all the way to school.

i guess my house was the last stop, because we always drove straight to school from that. no stops. just long, winding hills and forests. the journey made me sleepy, so i remember the trip as a feeling more than a memory. i always forgot what i’d learned at school once the day was over, too. it was like all that stuff would drain out of my head the second i saw our house. mom would ask what i learned that day and i’d stare at my plate.

i used to ride a bus.

one day mom got a call from the Sanitaw Unified School District declaring me truant. they said i had been absent the whole semester and they were ready to send a social services worker to the house. mom said it was crazy, i hadn’t missed a day. the school said records don’t lie and hung up. my mom quizzed me and got real frustrated when i couldn’t answer. you’ve been to school every day, she’d say, surely you know what you did?

i rode a bus.

the next morning my mom waited with me for the bus. no one came. my mom got on the phone and tore the school secretary’s ear off, saying just because their records were wrong they had no right to cut her child off from bus service. The secretary apologized, but ma’am, the school had never had a bus service. while she argued, i saw the bus wait at the driveway for me. it drove away the second my mom got off the phone.

i used to ride the bus to school. sometimes i still see it.

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Your Turn in the Barrel

Perkins straightened his body into the triangular formation favored by the army for pushups and took a long, deep breath.


As he spoke, his words exhaled as steam. That could not be helped. The lower half of his body was threatening to go numb. That also couldn’t be helped.

“Okay,” he said again, “all right, then. Um…yes. Could you angle yourself just a little—” a sudden, cruel hilarity struck him. Angle. Ha. Perkins pulled another breath deep into his lungs, practically choking on salt spray.

“Courage, brothers!” that queer duck, Marsh, paced the rock above them. He shouted inspirational slogans to the men, promise of riches for duties fulfilled. Easy for him to say, his tryst had been with a tropical tart with hips like a betel nut, nevermind the gills.

“I’m sorry, miss…” his courage failed at the thought of pronouncing one of Their names, “could you raise your hips a bit more?”

Golden, slit-pupiled, inscrutable eyes stared unblinking at his awkward body. Whatever it was was shaped just enough like a woman that he couldn’t pretend he was just fucking a flounder like McGee two rocks over. Lucky bastid.

A mouth gaped and choking syllables escaped while it…she ran a webbed hand down his face. It was cold and slick. He realized she was inquiring after his health. He found himself blushing.

“No, no,” he said, “there’s no problem, I’m…it’s just…there’s never been an audience.”

He wondered if those godless heathens had this problem. Performance anxiety, came to the best of us. His upper half, oddly, began to sweat.

Marsh was suddenly in view, bastard snug up in an oilskin and sou’wester hat.

“Is there a problem, Daniel?”

Perkins thought about thanking him not to use his Christian name. Instead he said, “Look, there ain’t any other way to do this?”

“You know very well, Daniel, her kind live in conditions totally, ah, unfathomable to you. You would not survive the coupling.”

“Then can’t she go on land? She’s built like a crooked longshoreman.”

There was a weezing burble from his date, though he couldn’t tell if it was offense or merely air escaping. Right on cue, a freezing tide deluged them, wetting Perkins to the armpits. He let out a gasp like he’d been kicked in the balls.

“It must be done here Perkins, it must be done now. They were very specific.” Marsh’ voice had the insistent edge of a Methodist minister. “If you want to share in the wealth, you must share in the work.” And with that, the Cap’n was off.

“Sorry about that,” he said to his date. Her eyes had gone filmy, now they wiped clear—vertically. He was suddenly fascinated.

“Um…” he said, “yes.”

Across the rocky shore, others had finished up and sat huddled into themselves or, in McGee’s case, enjoyed a triumphant smoke. There was tomato soup waiting for him on the stove at home. Soup and dry trousers.

“Not that you’re not a lovely…” he decided he couldn’t finish that sentiment. “I just don’t seem to be able to—”

With a gesture resembling a shrug, the fish-thing reached down a slippery paw and did something complicated that made him shout and hew against her, emptying himself in the course of a minute.

“Jesus…” he gasped, “God.” He caught her staring at him and smiled sheepishly. “I mean…”

She dove, seeming to dissolve like oil.  Perkins was left standing with his dingle hanging out of his waders, feeling slightly empty.

A month later, Marsh was up and pacing on the rocks again, pontificating on how the deep ones needed their “superior puritan blood.” Perkins thought they probably just wanted to laugh themselves sick at the sight of so many sheep-white bollocks shriveling in the North Atlantic.

He’d picked kelp floaters and arranged them into a crude bouquet. When his lady surfaced he tried the only French phrase he knew.

“Bonjour demoiselle,” he said, “pouvez-vous lécher…”

The fish-woman had surfaced holding an antiquated bottle of thick amber glass. He tasted it and found it to be bourbon.

“That’s a lass,” he said with a grin.

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