Royce with the Rose Gold Hair (excerpt)

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Nighttime for Hamady

Hamady: Red Oak County Seat

Hill Gates

 

There’s something discomforting about a steady creaking of taut rope rubbing against the bark of a sturdy tree branch—say the rope of a tire swing in use. When the ceaseless sound springs through nighttime breezes at twelve in the morning, it’s downright unnerving.

It’s only Jess, snuck out again to meet her boyfriend.

Millie was quite fond of her young neighbor, Jessica May Simon; she’d often caught the girl with Kyle Lubbock under the big oak in the center of the grove. Jess’s father was awful mean, and Millie was a nosy-body who did whatever she could to keep Mr. Simon’s belt far away from his only daughter’s backside.

Such a stupid girl. Stupid in love, I guess.

Millie abandoned the bed she shared with her husband, and slipped her feet into a pair of moccasins.

Robert rolled over, and yawned. “Really, sweetheart, maybe that girl deserves for her daddy to find out. Just sayin!”

“Please, Robby. You know what would happen to Jess.”

Awww, hell, Mills.” He flung off the bed covers. “Want me to go with you?”

“You go on to sleep, Love. I’ll take Shamrock. She likes the late night air, I think.” Then she let out a whistle. “C’mon, old girl. We’re going for a walk.”

Millie Hamady-Williams and the Doberman-Shepherd marched out onto the lamp-lit street; they crossed the cul-de-sac, and then quick-stepped through Hill Grove, guided by a pocket-sized flashlight. The creaking grew louder and sharper as they neared the center, but Shamrock wasn’t bothered by the sound; she remained focused on the voices that escaped Millie’s ears. Poor Millie—she was slipping.

“I knew it, Shammy,” Millie breathed, relieved. “Wait.” She stopped a moment and watched Jessica Simon swing on the tire, alone. “She’s crying. Something’s happened.”

Shamrock spoke low, but Millie didn’t understand.

“C’mon, Shammy.” She took one step forward, but the dog wouldn’t obey. “Do I need to start leashing you? Come.”

Shamrock stood her ground, and peeled back her lips. She’d not once shown aggressive teeth to Millie in all the years they’d shared. Millie misinterpreted the warning, and as she opened her scolding mouth wider, something blunt landed hard upon her head. The last voice she heard before entering blackness, was a wrathful howl.


Millie could feel the layers of tape wrapped around the base of her neck and covering her mouth, as well as the zip-ties fastened around her wrists and ankles, all before she’d even opened her eyes. Her head lay heavy in Jessica’s lap.

Where’s Shammy? Maybe she’s gone for Robby!

“I’m sorry, Millie,” Jessica wept. “My daddy made me do it. He made me get you to come out here.”

Millie heaved, and rolled herself free from the quaking lap. She kept on rolling as the sweet girl pleaded.

“Please forgive me. Please, Millie.” Yes, Jessica kept on begging as her awful mean daddy stalked her friend, chiding, with a ready pillowcase.

“No law greater than the Lord’s. I’m only tryin to uphold that law, Millie Hamady. Never mind that I’m an earth-bound lawman, this is my duty as a God fearing man. We’ve been tryin and tryin to get rid of your lot, and by God, we will.”


There’s something sinister about the sound of taut rope rubbing against the bark of a sturdy tree branch—say the rope of a hangman. When the ceaseless sound springs through nighttime breezes at twelve-something in the morning, it’s a threat of things to come.

© 2019 Kindra M. Austin

THE MANY-FACED GOD AND THE SISYPHEAN.

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Christmas Day I’ll eat mangled offal. The disembowelled harp strings of a once effulgent heart, thrumming with noble intent. Now but a shoddy dishevelled instrument to be played upon by my dinner guest. Any verve long since beaten into submission, withered and died, in the face of insurmountable odds.

Unfeeling.

Unhearing.

My soundtrack: not Bing Crosby or Michael Bublé but blowflies, humming en-masse: elated from laying eggs in the bloated corpse of my previous version. I water myself with acidic poison. ‘What is this?’ I ask my visitor, as he has yet to step from the shadows. ‘Oh that,’ he refers to the wine set before me. ‘Distilled from tears you’ve cried for unworthy cunts,’ he whispers matter-of-factly, while I chew another mouthful of faked orgasms.

Rhythmic panting of wolves, with copper on their breath, sounds like a fitting accompaniment. The wretched iron tiller of my life weighs heavy. Sisyphean by virtue of aching bones, keeping my jaundiced meat fresh a little longer…

The Many-Faced God taps me gently on the shoulder, holding his hour glass; speaking at inaudible decibels. He tells me how long I have, but he knows I can’t hear. He’s sadistic like that. Then he takes a seat as we watch the ash fall, cloaking us in altered carbon confetti. Off-white flakes from a distance look almost beautiful.

Unlike his plus-one. Staring blankly at me from petechial haemorrhages that used to be his eyes. He points at me with a lime rotting hand, laughing silently from an oily maw with brown teeth.

The flies swarm and hover, awaiting me.

 

© Steve Naisbitt

image: Death Comes to Dinner

Brakes-Jimmi Campkin

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When I look into her eyes I see the violence of a life disappointed – the crush of society and the comedown of feeble Men. I see those pupils glowing amber in the sunset and red for the rest of the time. I know about the Bowie knife inside her jeans and I know about the expulsion from school as a teenager for trying to hang a boy who lifted up her skirt.

In arguments, I see her sometimes reach for the blade, but she toys with the hilt as a stress relief. She tells me I’m fucking other women, I tell her she’s destroying other men, and neither of these things are true. She only kills boys – those not worth losing sleep over – and the rest of us have to keep our guard up.

She told me; I have this weird dream where I wake up paralysed, and I feel my flesh melting into the bed, and then through the floor, and then I somehow become… I dunno….at ‘one’ with the world. I can hear plants growing and the soil turning and the plates of the Earth floating and bumping. And then I wake up, and I realise I can move, and I feel sad. She looks at me with an invisible question hanging between us. I wish I knew the answer she needed. I wish I knew the question.

One day I will confess the big ‘L’ I feel about her….

I want her always, so I can ‘Live’.

©️ Jimmi Campkin

Original photograph by Jimmi Campkin

Stalker-Jimmi Campkin

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I lay in bed, setting fire to pieces of books. The smoke dances around my fingertips as the words dissolve and are set free into the fresh air.  Maybe humanity will change, or maybe this is futile destruction.  I feel the air waltzing around the hairs on my legs and arms as I dream of stockinged legs, like broken pillars either side of my hips, and the wet, vibrant warmth of her embrace on a humid summer evening.

When we last embraced, her dry lips scraped against mine in the fetid atmosphere of a subway, surrounded by the desperate, depressed, and drunk.  In that artificial neon miasma, her curls caught the light like scythes in an autumn sunset.

Taunted and haunted by memory, I feel too depressed to go downstairs and face the world with its textures, shadows and reminders.  Instead I stay upstairs in the glow of unattached memory, looking out my window and into the infinity of the sky and the clouds; I listen to crackling old vinyl that smells of time capsules. I wish I knew where I could find purpose.  Even the thrill of the chase would be better than stagnation and regret.

When I sleep, I dream about walking in black and white on the middle rail of a five wide railroad with steep concrete walls on either side.  An old Diesel train clanks up to me, pulling six coal trucks and a guard van, seemingly empty but filling the air with the stench of dry charcoal and oil.  Inside I can hear children playing games, although I can’t see them.  The cab is black as a moonless night, and tar oozes from the steps leading in.  I don’t see the driver, but I feel eyes staring down at me with disdain and suspicion.

Someone emerges from the van to the rear and stumbles on the ballast towards me as I stand, breathing in the fumes.  Dressed in a muddy blue uniform and with no arms, the sleeves sewn up to the shoulders, the Guard waits in front of me and tilts his head as though trying to see under my jaw.  I can see soot and dust in the creases of his face, and his jet black eyes reflect back the faces of people I once knew, cramming for attention as though scrambling for the only window in an airtight box.

He shakes and trembles, and as I try to reach out and hold his arm he jerks me away violently, breaking my forearm in the process with a shock I feel down my spine and into my ankles.  I stumble and collapse to one side, resting my good arm on the rail of the next line.  The guard shambles back into his van; and the train begins to grind away from me, the children’s voices growing in terror and intensity, as I feel the rail under my elbow vibrate.  I know something is coming, and I realise that I don’t want to move.