The Flying Man Trapped in the Mobile Siege Tower

John Riley

The Flying Man lives in a wooden cage built on top of a mobile siege tower, and is rolled from battle to battle. His job is to watch the suffering inside the walls of surrounded villages and report on the misery’s progress to the king’s men that gather each night around the siege tower’s staked wheels. The king thinks the trapped Flying Man brings his army good fortune and seldom does a day go by that he does not stop his horse and offer the Flying Man his best wishes.

In the midst of a siege, when attacks are mounted during the day, the Flying Man lies coiled inches above the cage floor. At night, he listens to the men around the campfires sing songs of home, lonely songs that make the Flying Man happy he has his own place.

When the burning arrows that sing overhead bury themselves in the cage walls he quenches the flames with buckets of water lifted with strong ropes through a small hole in the cage floor. At night he eats freshly killed meat scorched over camp fires. The soldier who fills his supper basket, a boy too young to shave, includes a slice of hard bread with his meal and sometimes a skein of sharp wine.

The end of a siege is always the same. The villagers behind the surrounded walls begin to keen and to sob and a few days later he hears the gravediggers’ shovels scrape earth and rock hour after hour. After the sieged walls come down, or the village’s gates are forced open and the massacre has ended, the army and the siege tower moves on. The Flying Man loves these days of travel, when he can squint between the cage walls and watch swallows and crows and sometimes an eagle float and dip over the treetops while the men and horses steady the tower as it rolls along the dusty roads.

There is always a new battle waiting and new innocents to die but the Flying Man’s heart is never divided. Once he flew wherever he wanted but now the Flying Man knows freedom is living in his cage atop the mobile siege tower. He loves his captors, the king and his soldiers that make sure he is fed and offer him gratitude for the good luck he brings. The Flying Man has long forgotten the days he lived outside his cage. Today he lives only for the sweet smell of burning flesh, the exquisite snick of a slicing blade, the taste of boiling siege oil that clings to his tongue.

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John Riley lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he works in educational publishing. His fiction and poetry has appeared in Fiction Daily, Smokelong Quarterly, Connotation Press, Blue Five Notebook, Willows Wept Review, The Dead Mule, and other places online and in print.

The Hand

Christopher Woods

Everything had been perfect and sunny, for always. But then the dark hand appeared over their house one bright morning, and suddenly they were cast into the blackest, cruelest night they could remember. Gone was the happy little family. Father began gambling online and soon the money was gone, only enough left for a new shiny gun that he used on himself. Mother drank herself to death and was found at the bottom of the basement stairs. Little Amy jumped out her bedroom window and fell into the arms of a horny street gang plied with meth and singing with STDs. Johnny took to the occult and offered himself up, pants around his ankles, to the deity that ate him alive.
But then, just as suddenly, the dark hand moved away. The sky turned bright. Life was wonderful again, but sadly, no one was left at home to notice.

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Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Houston and Chappell Hill, Texas. He has published a novel, THE DREAM PATCH, a prose collection, UNDER A RIVERBED SKY, and a book of stage monologues for actors, HEART SPEAK. His work has appeared in THE SOUTHERN REVIEW, NEW ENGLAND REVIEW, NEW ORLEANS REVIEW, COLUMBIA and GLIMMER TRAIN, among others. His photographs can be seen in his gallery -http://christopherwoods.zenfolio.com/

Souvenir

Katrina Trepsa

Hours later, when I was on the phone trying to explain in broken Greek that I didn’t have the money to pay damages, I started to retrace my steps from that souvenir shop I reduced to dust. I got there late in the afternoon, after a day spent walking through labyrinthine ruins under the hot Cretan sun. Maybe it was the guide, a balding, middle aged man who emitted a powerful odor of overripe grapes, or the elderly ladies who kept staring up at me like some sort of beast, or the low ceilings that forced me to crouch, but I soon split from the tour group. I wandered up and down stone steps and raised platforms cut off by piles of stones before going underground to escape the heat. There, it seemed that the priest-king flaunted his triple-plumed diadem, the ladies whispered while twisting their maze-like curls, the bull-leapers taunted me with their acrobatic skills, and even the cup-bearers and slaves took pleasure in watching me struggle to find an end to those dark passageways.

By the time I got out, it was almost twilight and the air-conditioned mini bus that was supposed to drop me off at the hotel was already gone. I paced around the edge of the parking lot, nose in the fold-out map I picked up at the kiosk, until I heard something crash behind me.

I looked back to find that a rack of postcards had fallen over sideways and stacks of Mediterranean bays lay scattered along the sidewalk. I had hoped to escape unnoticed, but as I was trying to put them back without a crease, a head poked out among a row of fake marble philosophers.

“Can I help you find something, sir?”

“No, just browsing,” I said.

Under an awning that advertised authentic museum copies and disposable cameras, the souvenir shop was crammed with mugs, plaques, and miniature statues I was now obligated to admire. I tried to be delicate, I really did. But the gold-rimmed busts were lined up so closely together that I couldn’t help chip off a piece of Seneca as I picked him up. I continued to move through the tight isles, squeezing past a man watching his wife pick out a pair of sandals.

“Babe, let’s get out of here,” he said, smacking his gum so loud the sound reverberated across the vinegar bottles. I was leaving, too, now under the clerk’s watchful eye.

Maybe it was his stare that made me nervous, or the decorative plates that forced me to remember the bull-leapers and twisted curls that taunted me earlier, but before I reached the entrance I felt my elbow brush one of the countless urns. I looked at terra cotta fragments and dust particles illuminated by the twilight and knocked over another urn, then another. I kept going, running my fists through shelves, throwing a Minoan snake goddess against a tower of mugs, pulverizing Seneca’s face until his features became indistinguishable among the rubble. I didn’t stop until every last bottle bled and all the postcards were soaked in golden, oily fluid. Later, the clerk told me that the only thing I left intact was a bull’s head mounted on the wall.

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Katrina Trepsa lives in New York City. Her work has been published in The Molotov Cocktail and can be found on her blog: http://www.moodsandappetites.com.

HOW WE DEFEAT THE DAY WITH THE NIGHT, OR CANINES GOING TO RUN IN THE FERAL EVENING WORLDS

Brian Michael Barbeito

We can defeat the day. What does it mean? It means the day is lurid and too bright. The morning sun burns the eyes and the afternoon highlights hard angles, difficult motifs, wayward and untoward in industrial grade things- walls, buildings, crates, grates, brick. And the day has other problems also. It is full acrimony that won’t actually come out and show itself. Ya, even in the bright light of the life giving star. What acrimony? I don’t know. Something is there, waiting to cause a problem- in the everyday world brick a brac, in the kitsch of the houses and smiles, in the guy in the BMW and button up shirt, or the way everyone walks. Who is to know? But, we can defeat the day. It’s been done before. I tell you. It’s a ‘sort of secret,’ but kind of an open secret. People don’t believe. It sounds too ordinary to be true. But the truly extraordinary hides in the ordinary. Here is how it’s done:

We drive far and far, past where the rain deposits itself in good hard shards upon the loam and the field, on the mockingbird and sandcastle lonesome and forgotten now. We drive fast, but deliberately paced and with curt surety. I know where I have been. I know where I am going. And if the sun and the haughty ones, the judgements and all the rest have become too much, we won’t worry- we especially won’t worry. In lieu of caution, we are going with the wild and unencumbered. We are taking the dogs and going to where the wild raspberries grow like stories without ends. Almost there, the sun is not so bad- its going away- ready to slumber, going down to as if into a secret pocket sewn into the earth far and far off…

Pathways. Meandering labyrinthine pathways. The glen and thicket. The good handsome garter snakes. Wildflowers bragging hues of yellow and blue, of mauve and the world fades to a darker thing from pastels to something like sepia to black and white to cool easy greyness. We are in the dusk, but the latter part. And the dogs are running. Back and forth above the summits and down again. Into valleys, preternaturally fast, like horses, and what did the guy there call horses?- he referred to them as Ponies, like a horse player would, like a real old-time gambler at Woodbine or Greenwood would on a Saturday afternoon in 1991 or 1989 or 1975. Ponies. Words. Nomenclature. Zeitgeist! And what is ours? It is that of the dogs. Dogs better than persons, better than the routine, better than the societal stalwart day.

Wild. Joyous. Intrepid. Full somehow of Providence. Valorous for the loyalty and honesty they show. And they think the dogs don’t think- that it is projection or anthropomorphization- that is what the non-dualists say. No! – Of course the dogs think. Running at sticks and wood, graceful, benign- sometimes vexatious or saddened at something. And we go there for a long time while they run and meander, while they rest and seek berries or water or others or something that evokes curiosity. Muscles, hair, gait, and prowess. Speed, agility, -even something Gnostic in the dance they play out whilst racing and chasing through the Pines, over the fallen Bur Oaks, and along then in the bog.

They and we. Walking at the night over tumbled river stones and fine grain sand, over the terrene earth taken over by the thick textured darkness. That is how we defeat the day. And there they go to race again and the sound pronounces itself like a pair of horses running across the feral shrubs and over a thousand crescive things and they and we have succeeded by being and exploring and going into the good dark.

Such is the way the day is defeated.

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Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian writer. He is a two time Pushcart nominee with work that has appeared in various print and electronic publications. He is the author of the book Chalk Lines, [FOWLPOX PRESS, cover art by Virgil Kay (2013).

https://twitter.com/BrianMBarbeito

Hyde

Sheldon Lee Compton

For a full year I wrote stories about booze while I was drinking the heaviest. I wrote this story called “Somebody Take Care of Little Walter” that was published in a journal called Monkeybicycle and then I posted it at a website called Fictionaut. Thirty-six people gave that story a “fav” and a lot of people said nice things about it, then I deleted it. I stopped drinking for three weeks and met my wife.

So I was sober for about three months because I didn’t want to tell her I drank every day. But I craved vodka and so finally told her I drank some through the week. I told her I was a happy drunk, which was mostly true. It went fine like that for some time. She even brought me a fifth of top shelf vodka back from Lexington after visiting her sister. She called on her way and said she had a surprise for me and I wanted to hold her so tight for accepting who I was and loving me anyway.

I drank it that night and we laughed and she helped me get undressed for bed. I remember saying to her, “Don’t take off my underlords.” I remember how she laughed when she realized I meant to say underwear. Every now and then I still call my underwear underlords and remember when it was funny.

Around that time I had this opportunity to stay home and write full-time. It was still good then. I’d put coffee on and have a cigarette and then get to work. My wife’s workday ended around 3 p.m., so I’d write until she got home and then we’d watch old Twilight Zone episodes and it was fine and good. That’s when I still poured my vodka into a glass and chased it with Coke or Mountain Dew.

I insulted her last night. I drank a pint and a half and then told her the house wasn’t clean enough. I told her she’d been sick for three weeks and that she was weak for letting it keep her down so long. She was throwing up from a stomach virus, and nothing I said was funny.

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Sheldon Lee Compton is the author of The Same Terrible Storm. His work has been nominated for numerous awards and prizes and has won none. He survives in Kentucky.

Solstice

Gary V. Powell

So convinced were our neighbors that the world, as we knew it, was about to end that on the morning of the summer solstice they donated their personal property to charity, abandoned their comfortable, four bedroom, two-and-a-half bath-with-family-room home, and relocated to the backyard tree house I’d helped Drew build earlier in the spring.

There they maintained vigil.

This evening, while enjoying a bottle of wine on our screen porch, my wife and I scented hickory smoke from their campfire. I’d accompanied Drew’s wife Hillary when she’d purchased the wood that fueled that fire from an old blind man in Mooresville who also believed, in his own way, that the End Times were upon us.

“They’ll freeze come winter,” she said.

“If they last that long, or the world doesn’t end.”

“The world’s not ending.”

“It’s as likely as not.”

“If it ends, it ends. So what?”

“They believe there will be a new world order,” I told her. “They believe they’ll have more say the next go-around.”

“More say,” my wife repeated the words and finished her wine.

That morning, on my way to the office, I’d heard on the radio that 35,000 people gathered at Stonehenge last year to celebrate the solstice. They watched the sunrise and stayed awake throughout the longest day of the year to better attune themselves to the rhythms of the natural world, to embrace the season’s waxing and waning, and to reconnect with the cycle of birth, growth, death.

I poured more wine and shared this information with my wife.

“Hippie shit,” she said. “A few months, we’ll go to work in dark and come home in dark”

“I’m just saying, thirty-five thousand souls.”

She cocked an eyebrow. “Souls?”

Twilight faded to darkness. Candles placed in the unscreened windows of Drew’s two-story tree structure flickered across the way. Later on, as stars filled the sky, we heard chanting and music. Shadowy forms danced on Drew and Hillary’s lawn. Jacob, the seven-year old, and his sister Molly held hands.

The music swelled to a tantric rumble.

“They’re naked,” my wife whispered. “I hope they’ve got bug spray.”

A squad car turned onto our street, rollers flashing.

My wife rose from her chair. “I’m done. I’ve got an early meeting. Are you coming?”

“Not yet.”

I felt an obligation to see this through. I was no Believer, but I wouldn’t have minded a little dew between my toes, a little starlight on my bare ass.

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Gary V. Powell is a former lawyer and stay-at-home dad to a thirteen year-old son. His stories and flash fiction have appeared most recently at Bartleby Snopes, Literary Orphans, Thrice Fiction, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, and Camroc Press Review. In addition to winning the 2015 Gover Prize for short-short fiction, his work has placed in other national contests including The Press 53 Prize (2012), Glimmer Train Short-Short Contest (2013), and The Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize (2014). His first novel, Lucky Bastard, is available through Main Street Rag Press. A self-published novella in three stories, Speedos, Tattoos, and Felons, is a prequel to Lucky Bastard.

Party on Loon

Bud Smith

Strangest thing, from the back deck, Shannon actually sees the squad cars as they’re on the way through the development. Lights flashing.

I stick my head in the house through the sliding glass door and yell, “COPS!”

And then, look at me and Shannon bounding down the back steps! Look at us scrambling through the yard. Look at us squeezing through the crack in the fence, beers now slipping from hand, and watch us run along the neighbor’s yard to the far side. Look at us scale the fence by the road and hop into my waiting getaway car. “Go! Go! Go!”

I stomp the gas. We’re laughing. We’re zooming up Mallard Ave. And we’re seventeen.

In front of the house, other kids we go to school with, are getting busted. We see them in the glow of flash lights. We see them in the disco lights of the squad cars. My window is down and I hear the chirp and drone of police radios. I turn left on Pigeon and then right on Bittern. And Shannon is cracking up.

So am I. Everything’s great.

But the road is curving. And I can barely see, because I’m too drunk. Instead of curving with the road, I drive my car onto someone’s front lawn. “Fuck!”

Bird bath explodes. A plaster garden gnome crushed. I dig the brakes in. Soft grass. Illuminated eyes of a cat leaping off concrete steps getting closer and closer.

The car stops, somehow, a foot before impact.

And again, we laugh. And laugh. Swirling dust in the headlights.

An orange light comes on in the house. A window begins to open. A man screaming about something, I’m not sure what.

“I think I should drive,” Shannon says.

We switch sides. Chinese fire drill. Slammed door. Seat belts. Reverse. Peeling off. She’ll do fine on her driver’s exam next Friday.

Got home safe.

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Bud Smith works heavy construction, and writes in a little apartment in Manhattan that overlooks the George Washington Bridge. His books are the novels Tollbooth, and F-250; the poetry collection Everything Neon, and the short story collection Or Something Like That. http://www.budsmithwrites.com