Welcome to Episode 5 of In Between Altered States where we have a bevy of writers from around the world who are prepared, no, who rise to the occasion of taking you on a twisted dream about self-reflections and revelations that twists the knife in their own side. As always, these stories are meant to be read together as a string of vignettes. I am pleased to bring you the work of these fine authors of flash fiction: Luis C. Berriozabal, Ray Fracalossy, Michael Mc Aloran, Mike Whitney, Bruce Harris, Bradly Mason Hamlin, Janet Yung and Sophia Argyis. Enjoy!!
Category: Episode 5
Stevie asked if he could have all his money all at once. He was tired of getting $5.00 a day from the board and care administrator. When asked what he would do with his money, he said, “I want to use it to go to a place where I could get away from it all.” Stevie said he knew a fellow in Los Angeles who was referred to as The Drug Tsar. Stevie said this fellow had the best shit. However, he was worse than the gas station companies. His prices were the highest in the entire county.
When asked why he was not taking his medications, Stevie said, “because it is poison.” He said that was not the only reason why he stopped taking them. Stevie said the medications affected his moods. He said the medications made him agitated. Stevie had milk stains on his jacket and jeans. He said he couldn’t help it. The medicine made his hands shake and he could not hold a glass of milk properly. He asked if it was okay to have a few dollars. He said he needed to catch a bus to go to see the Drug Tsar. When told it was not smart to mix street drugs with medications, he said, “Fuck that! I don’t need medications. I’m ain’ t that crazy.”
Stevie said, “I can’t take these pills. They will impair my ability to deal with my mother’s impending death.” When reminded that his mother had passed away several years ago, Stevie replied, “Bitch, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I just talked to her the other day.” Stevie believed the board and care administrator was his mother. He was African-American and the board and care administrator was from the Philippines. They were not related. Stevie said, “Poison runs in my veins. I’m contaminated. Until something is done about my money, I won’t take the medicine.”
Stevie began to shout obscenities. The voices in his head made him paranoid. He said, “The Drug Tsar and the Police in Los Angeles are to blame for my institutionalization.” He said, “My mind is clear. If it wasn’t for the poison, I would not be in this place.” When asked if he blamed the Drug Tsar for his troubles, why did he want to visit him? He said, “I want to beat his ass.” Stevie said the Drug Tsar got him hooked on magic drugs. He said he could not stop thinking of the way he felt when taking the Drug Tsar’s drugs. “I need that shit,” he said. Stevie would not listen to reason. He said he was going to kill the Drug Tsar for making him a junkie.
The waitress came and served us an order, not ours, maybe no ones. Looking into her eyes, I noticed her pupils danced mischievously about, much the way Punch slamdanced with Judy during the endless puppet shows of my youth. She undressed, laid atop our table, and called out to three chefs, each of different nationality, height, and culinary expertise.
Me and my dinner companions sat there stunned. One rubbed his belly in shock. The other patted his head in delight. Still the scene unfolded before us like a treasure map mixed in with the laundry.
“Rudolph, cover me with season salt,” she shouted. He appeared from the kitchen doors, did as he was told, then melted away before my eyes, like a toy soldier in a microwave oven, leaving only a sombrero seated in Rudolph’s soupy remains.
The waitress pitched and arched her body and limbs randomly. Season salt spilled off her, causing a cascade off her to the table, and from the table to the floor. I felt a small amount accumulate into the edges of my shoes.
“Now Alex,” she summoned, while crossing her eyes for no apparent reason, “cover me in angel hair pasta.” “Yes, my lady,” he answered, as he dumped a bucket of deer entrails upon her. For you see, Alex was quite insane. And hard of hearing. But mostly insane.
“Postman Jim, top it all off with a cherry scented letter sent between two long distance lovers.”
“Yeah, whatever,” slurred Joe, who was neither named Jim, nor a postman, and was really just there to see the naked chick who spread herself across someone’s table.
He threw a wadded up paper menu on top on the heap.
Then he threw up right on top of it.
For you see, Joe was quite intoxicated, and the waitress was really nothing more than a seafood platter sitting upon our table.
Joe, as I think back on the incident in question, turned out to be no one else but myself. The table little more than a park bench.
Needless to say, I won’t be dining there again any time soon.
The service was horrible.
…The wordless fingers, open upon like poisonous flowers to birth one million sequins of death, like a shattered pupil that knows no limit, yet perceives its own limits, in the meat of the sun, the fleshed fields are weaving their pulse through a striatae of empty sound, as if the sound had been erased, as the sky jack-knifes upon its own mutilations, (‘we see the scars in the overtures of night’), the terminal heart throws garlands to that same sky, an echo, no retort in the blindness feeding the absence of light, and in that absence of light, the absence of shadow, shut down, breath folding in upon itself, as if to mar the fatal discolouration of beauty, brutalized as the sky, its skin stripped bear and the body brutalized beyond recognition, neither sex nor identity are evident, as the winds gather the vague trace of acrid blood to the nostrils, as the walls snap-shutter down, like the walls of a grave into which nothing spills butt emptiness, light a cigarette, then, draw it in and toss the but into that finality, ocular-skull-roving-dead-eye, steel-drawn, the vapours of nothingness, an artefact, a fragrant shard of the abyss, close the eyes, there is no way from which and ever before there could have been, laughter has died in the alleyways where the mongrel children sleep, they sniff glue and are raped habitually, we were always this, there is nothing there, love drips like wax upon quivering flesh, the blade at the throat and the subtle kiss goodnight, death’s hammers wield their teeth with a certain hand, dying without colours, perhaps smiling, I would not lift up a child for fear that it would turn to dust in my hands, some say, these days, the hollow light is a womb of abstract voidal emptiness, where the appetite for death is found aptitude for burning away, never knowing, those poisonous flowers erupting like ejaculations of blood in the face of innocence, tooth or nail, the nails digging into the skin in rapture, or…something was lost yet was never retraced, ever to the irretraceable, like gestures, vapours of time arising like smoke from deathly fingers, in the dreaming after-worth, staggering headlong into the abyss, the bones also vapours, we cannot die enough in this, severed unto the other, wrenched apart from the absence of the other and the presence of the other object, hating what we love, loving in turn what is the object of hate, flesh against flesh, in conflict there its’ sense devours, the jack-knifing skull sees nothing, as do we, see nothing, the icy fingers, pass through the dark briefly illumined by death, nothing more…
Air France Flight 228 reappeared on the controller’s screen, having been missing two minutes. On board the jumbo jet, passengers headed from Paris to LaGuardia realized only that somehow something was different. An old lady finished a sentence that she had started and was puzzled to find her mouth dry from remaining open two minutes.
The controller debated reporting the anomaly but traffic was picking up; he decided to put the matter aside when Air France Flight 228 went off the screen again; this time two heavy jets coming in from Boston and LA were stacked and waiting to land. Unfortunately, they were close by 228 and their blips went black at the same time. As the screen began to empty, so did the seats around him in the tower. He started to cry out…and disappeared.
“Flaxis nur, Shasnit.”
“Deeeshemix. Grnoo, GRER, FLOY!”
Following the launch order, the first officer on the alien ship darkened the planet by blotting out the sun, and began the landing of the invasion pods. The oceans rose, volcanos spewed and rumbled, and oil rigs toppled were they stood. Fires ignited in forests and quickly spread. Humans around the planet not effected by the natural disasters were marked and vaporized. By nightfall, the invasion was complete. Signed this date by my hand, Frank Bowling, lighthouse keeper, Cape Cod. God have merc………
It fit nicely in his 1960’s decorated den. An antique rotary telephone, the same kind in which he had made prank phone calls as a kid. He placed it on a Nino Zoncada designed round cocktail table, stood back, and admired his handiwork. The shiny black phone was perfectly placed underneath an original John, George, Paul, and Ringo poster. He was a happy camper, until the phone calls began. There was never a voice, only the occasional barely audible muffled sounds, as if someone was speaking under water or from within a sealed can. He’d simply hang up and forget about it. Initially sporadic, the calls became more frequent and bothersome, waking him in the early mornings. Most times when he answered, he heard nothing. He thought about getting rid of the old phone, but just as soon as he’d stare into the den that thought dissipated. He found himself spending more and more time in his favorite room. He’d adjust the rabbit ears antenna on the television and fall asleep watching an old movie. He’d eat all of his meals in the den; smoke packs of cigarettes there, tapping out ashes into an orange colored rectangular Playboy bunny ashtray. But, the calls kept coming and he got fed up. He couldn’t part with his beloved phone, so he unplugged it. Simple solution. Almost immediately, however, the phone rang again. This time, a voice, “Hello. This Al.”
“Who?” He pulled the handset away from his head, staring ever so briefly at the ear- and mouthpieces then quickly returned it to the side of his face upon hearing the voice again.
“Al. Albert, Prince Albert. I’m finally out!”
Twelve dollar cab ride, dead grease and not so fast food on the way to LA-X. Waiting, buying tickets, unsmiling face, questions, waiting for the plane.
Rummaged through the bookstore that doesn’t carry Mickey Spillane. No book as she and waited in one of those lines where you feel too close to people you don’t want as bored men zombied up alive checking out her curves.
Jim Thompson was correct, the whole world a real life horror story; humans, the central mystery, all partners in the overall crime.
Kids ran forward, feeling freedom. Maybe they’ll enjoy the ride. Young enough not to know better, but some old sober guy yanked down hard on leashes. Kids snapped back like baby rubber-bands. Girl skidded across airport floor. Boy slammed down onto car seat.
Boy and girl cried. Old sober guy laughed.
“You ain’t hurt,” he said.
We all squashed into the flying machine, the great vehicle
Leonardo dreamed. Strapped in, the blonde and I, counting our change for a three-dollar beer.
Beer lady held a crooked smile. Asked her for a beer from Holland. Sky outside orange. Satan’s sunset.
Old sober guy, few rows up, said: “She’s
got a good ass.” Nudged guy next to him, pointed
at stewardess and said: “That’s a good ass.” Guy looked nervous but said: “Yeah, I know, I saw it on the way in.”
She came back with the bottle of beer. She was
nice. She had peanuts. Gave her nickels and dimes. She went away. Men watched her ass. Shared the beer with the blonde. I looked at her. She’s got it all, I thought. Better not let her know that. Nerves settled. Sun set and we flew somewhere past death.
Melanie’s gaze was fixed on the woman walking towards her in the casual clothing section of the department store. Searching for a dressing room to try on the short sleeve, marked down end of season top she was clutching, Melanie stopped in her tracks, as the woman neared, startled by the uncanny resemblance to her mother.
“Mom, what are you doing here?” Melanie was tempted to ask, thinking her mother hadn’t driven anywhere on her own for years.
Instead, Melanie stood there for a moment, the woman holding her gaze, wearing the same expression on her face, lips parted on the verge of speaking and gray hair, seriously in need of conditioner, flying in all directions. When they were almost nose to nose, Melanie realized the advancing woman wasn’t her mother.
Wanting to be certain this was no optical illusion, Melanie extended her hand till it met the glass, a tiny gasp with the revelation she was about to collide with herself, embarrassment by her appearance and overwhelmed at the discovery.
“I didn’t think I looked so old,” Melanie said in the car, catching a glimpse of the wrinkled skin of her right cheek in the rearview mirror. Anxious to be anywhere but here, she’d left the store empty handed, too dispirited to try on anything after what she’d seen in the reflective glass. The dressing room would be crueler.
Not until she was safely ensconced in the confines of her own home, the lights lowered to a more flattering glow, did Melanie dare to study her reflection in the bedroom mirror where the cream colored walls softened everything.
“We all become our mothers,” her mother’s voice echoed in the deepest region of Melanie’s brain. Pointless to ponder the impossibility of fending off the inevitable.
It was not because it was a Sunday, nor because it was one of those dreary end-of-the- year days when the world outside greets you sullenly, tinged old yellow like the pages of a book stained by passing years. It was not because of the argument the day before. No, it was none of these things.
She walked out of the house that she’d lived in for more than forty years at almost 8.30am, wearing her warm brown coat and comfortable shoes, empty handed and carrying no bag. In her pockets she had only her wallet and a compass that had belonged to her son.
She posted the keys back through the letterbox, listening to the jangle as they landed, then walked out of the garden. No one else was out on that sepia lit morning, curtains were still drawn across windows like closed eyelids.
As a child she had often run away from home, setting out with a few well loved items in a bag, always heading south because she believed that to go ‘down south’ meant she would be walking downhill. She had also carried a compass then, one that had belonged to her father. Now, leaving under very different circumstances, closer to the end of her life than the beginning, she felt it right that she should walk north.
Later it began to rain. Cars slid past throwing up sheets of water from the road in exuberant displays, the people looking out at her, taking in her dishevelled hair and sodden clothes, turning to their companions to remark or wonder at an elderly lady walking here in no man’s land without even an umbrella to keep off the rain.