Category: Episode 34

Episode 34

The time has come for another episode of In Between Altered States.  This time around we are looking into the depths of manipulation and what that means to each writer.  It is then my task to weave these 8 stories together into something more cohesive than when we started…into a series of dreams you wish you could wake up from.  Manipulation is a very personal idea and ones environment shapes the definition.

I would like to welcome to the fray new IBAS writer Father Luke and cheer on returning writers: Erin Cole, Leah Angstman, Josh Olsen, Michael D. Goscinski, Shawn Misener, Ed Go and David Tomaloff.

Episode 35 is “Sequacious” which means lacking individuality.  Get your pens ready. Do some damage.



Maybe it was because he walked like a robotic penguin, slopped up tangerine Jell-O daily, and coughed up a green glob of his lung every evening. Nobody like that could be dangerous, right?

But Robby and I knew. We’d been following Gramp’s keen path of littered bodies and unexplained disappearances for months. Evidence was stacking up: shiny shed tools, sketchy alibis, bulk orders of Clorox, and his new coffee table book, 50 Shades of Postmortem, wasn’t his own preparation for the inevitable.

Really, who knew? That George H. Buckland was a real murderer, a charming and calculating one at that.

We suspected his first victim was Mildred Denton. Those cotton-candy pink, puckered lips would never again try to tempt Mr. Buckland into the sack, then Lillian Galveston—bitchy little broad almost deserved it—Fran Pollock, William Moore, Betty Hanks, John Potter … the list was probably as long as his sentences.

Now it wasn’t to say that we wanted to see Old Pops fry in the chair, though we couldn’t help enact the scene with jawbreaker eyes and a limp, taffy tongue. If asked, we both would have said that we loved G. George more than anything. He taught us all that we knew, how to fish and gut it, hunt and skin it, even let us watch Sniper Diaries when we were just sticky obnoxious little shits.

It all made sense when you thought about it. So what were we supposed to do? Robby came over to my house one night, had Gramp’s old hunting rifle and a carving blade tucked into his belt. I knew what decision he had come to, always having looked up to the old man. So I thought to myself, as I’d done many times before, “What would Judge George H. Buckland do?”

“It isn’t as if you liked him. I hardly think you can feel sorry that he’s lying six feet under.”

“He’s not exactly six feet under,” Richard replied to the haughty woman, as he tugged on her husband’s limp arms and battled to keep the overcoat sleeves from slipping free. The battle lost, the dead man’s arms dropped from the sleeves, and a pocketwatch dropped simultaneously from the pocket, slamming against Richard’s polished wingtip, splattering mud droplets up his spats. Its tick-tock-tick-tock amplified in the darkness, the sound thudding against Richard’s chest like Elda’s heartbeats.

Elda. What a dame. Any man would die for her, and one did. What a dame; what a shame, Richard had always said. Yet, here he was, lifting Elda’s fourth husband into an early grave without the bravery of questions.

He watched her clench the shovel like she would a man’s heart, twisting its handle, jabbing it into the ground with repeated blows. His heart hurt from the careless repetitions, hurt like a heart would hurt if she squeezed it or drove a shovel through it.

Dawn creased the horizon by the time he’d kicked the last batch of dirt and leaves over the hidden grave.

“You didn’t like him,” Elda whispered again.

“No.” He wiped his brow. “No, I never liked the man.” There again, the tick-tock-tick-tock rose like a degüello, and Richard eyed the timepiece resting near the toe of his shoe. “Might I have this watch?”

“For memories, Rick?” she chuckled coldly. “Old times’ sake?”

“For payoff,” he returned just as coldly. “Lord knows I’m not getting what was promised from you. So you oughta think real hard about keeping me quiet.”

Elda raised a brow and her pretty lips curled, but void of thought, her hands clenched tighter on the shovel.

Isaac looked at his fingers in the mirror. Clean nails; wrinkles on his knuckles; a few freckles, and red hair below each knuckle.

He picked up a deck of cards in each hand. He held them…

Anything you can do with one hand, you can do with the other hand, or you ain’t worth shit, Sonny…

…Isaac shuffled each deck one handed.

A bead of sweat dropped from his eyelash into his eye. He put the decks of cards down, rubbed his eye, and pushed his chair away from the kitchen table and stood up, ducking his head from the bare bulb hanging on the cord.

Isaac went to the sink and moved some dishes, then he turned the faucet and waited for the water to flow free of rust. He put his head in the sink and let water fall over his head.

When he had finished he closed the faucet, and leaned up, looking at himself reflected in the dark from outside his kitchen window.

…they won’t care about you, kid. They won’t even care about the effects. They won’t care you’ve practiced for years, they won’t care you just broke up with your lover, they won’t give a damn about you. They want to be amazed, amused… Most of all they want to be lied to and know they are being lied to. People love the beautiful lie…

Isaac sat back down at the linoleum table. He picked up a roll of coins, making them perform calisthenics on the knuckles of both hands. He looked at placards on his walls held up with clear tape, now yellowed.

Isaac lit a cigarette with a wooden match. The match disappeared into a flash when he snapped his fingers…

Lie to them, Sonny Boy. Lie to the people and watch them smile…

Isaac blew smoke rings, each one smaller and fitting into the previous. He tapped the end of the cigarette and the ash fell three inches into an ashtray and became a small pile of sand. Isaac stood the cigarette upright into the sand and it bloomed into a rose.

I knew, for a fact, that it took me eighteen seconds to piss, and I knew this because the small boy standing next to me at the urinal, two slots to my left, was counting out loud, in Spanish.

Uno…dos…tres…he began, occasionally pausing to cough or fart – his father standing directly behind him, silent, arms crossed – and when he reached dieciocho, my bladder was dry.

“Hey Pops, check this out.”

“What is it this time Jesus?”

“See that fat dude down there in the mall food court. I’ma make his pants rip.”

“It just never gets old to you does it? You better hope your mother doesn’t find out. You know how upset she gets.”

Jesus smirked, made a quick gesture with his hand as the fat dude bent over to pick up a quarter from the floor. Sure enough the seam on the backside of his jeans ripped. God chuckled and snapped his fingers making an Emo tween drop her cellphone right behind the guy. She went down to grab the phone, and when her head was right by the guys ass Jesus coughed causing the guy to belt out a high pitched fart.

God shook his head. “Dirty one Jesus. What would your mother think?”

“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Wanna see me make purple dildos come from the clouds?”

“Sometimes you’re so childish. More and more I regret the influence those earth people had on you. Think you’re hot shit? Watch this. See the guy sitting on the park bench eating the tuna on rye?”

God gave a little nod as a seagull flew over the guy on the bench. Bird shit splattered on his arm. He jumped up, dropped his sandwich, and looked up at the sky.

“That’s nothin’ Pops. Birds shit all the time. I’m tellin’ ya, I can make purple dildos come from the clouds. Ready.”

God watched patiently as Jesus rubbed his hands together and smiled. Clouds multiplied and huddled up over Salt Lake City. There was a crackle of thunder as the clouds started spewing purple dildos, but before they made landfall there was a flash of light and they were gone. God and Jesus immediately looked behind them to find Mary standing there with her arms crossed, tapping her foot.

Jesus hung his head. “Sorry mom.”

“Sorry doesn’t cut it young man. Go to your room.”

Jesus quickly shuffled passed his mother while she focused her attention on God. “And you Mr. Know-it-all! You should know better!”

My TV is as big as a mansion. My other TV is as big as a blimp. My phone is installed in my hand. I speak into my pinky and dial by tapping my fingers together like I’m manipulating string or gesturing like some genius conductor.

Through my hand, I can know everything. Theoretically I do know everything. I’m as omniscient as I wanna be.

Ask me anything. The name of that dude from that movie about the suicidal kid who sleeps with the hippy old lady? Bud Cort. You knew that already? Ok- The extra to the left of the priest at the funeral where they meet. His name was James Presston. Yeah. Bet you didn’t know that. My fucking hand told me that.

You could worship me, because by default my hand makes me a god amongst men. Go ahead, build me some churches. Fill dem coffers, bitch!

See, my hand just told me what “coffers” are. Badass man, I can’t wait to build my coffers.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am from the future. Like, a hundred years ahead. We all have wandhands. Even my grandma, which is kinda cool. She even knows about Mack Haul A Call Kin.

Evening just about to even; women in song strewn about the linoleum. Dreams go like this but often fail, T_____ thinks to herself as notes from the skylight drift down featherly, notes from the chandelier drop like pancakes, notes from the signpost crash on the sofa. Sixteen summer squalls creep across the carpet. The light that dims is the lamp that lingers. Dresses she used to wear are wearing themselves now, no matter what we think and things thought they were through. Now she removes the bra-straps. Then princes start appearing, the good, the not, the other and yet another not so other but he is not even he or prince but wholly not. He hails from beyond our bane and something else besides. This is not my house, he says, This is not my tree. This is not my holiday, my pleasure nor my realm. I am thirsty, give me meat, give me forty years. T_____ is one to hold his him, she loves the way it smells. Catacombs would smell as sweet—the onions, the farm. Six years pass and still she sees it as the wax mould formed him. Six more years and nothing happens. Six more years and nothing happens. Then he tells her it wasn’t kismet it was just a fountain. Or maybe they were maybe them or maybe someone else. Then six more years and nothing happens then she bakes her sweetness, and all he promised oozes from the meat within her yeastfarm, where summer kept the broken bottles that reek of her elopement.


The mouths slipped from the faces of their scarecrow heads. In all, an unidentified man counted three, maybe four dozen, at least. The bodies stuffed into the quarry. The corpses kept in the basement of a brackish lake. These heads that had no hum left—these eyes of pitch dark and shallow.

[ii.] THE PARK

Some pretended there in the afternoon, mugging faces and shooting lines into the camera—said they had been listening to the trumpets. Some swore to how they had heard the wail and bawl of an old church bell auguring, just minutes before the confetti fell. One woman claimed she had seen a blind man reading a bus pass. Yet another described a liar, one who had just begun to speak.


Each of the figures seemed a miracle—saints in their own ways, but stagnant inside like the sound of a ship run aground for weeks, no one knowing for sure when the silence might finally heave and stall to its end.


Floorboards curled up around their feet, reaching up and around to constrict the bony waists of the young and the grizzled alike. One grandmother of four told reporters how it was as if an eraser were being dragged with a slow and blunting spit—pulled by [her] dead husband’s hand, across the lines our city might have once called its map.


this man on the radio / he said the trick was that there / was never a radio at all