banner art above by Charles Carter

Sunday, June 27, 2010


by John Claude Smith

photo and illustration by Shasta Fletcher and Shaun Lawton

When it happened, I remember not feeling anything, just disconnected from the world, or at least from being human.

I know a lot went into the process of even being able to do it—to leave the relationship as if it was the dead end situation I knew it to be. Yet, because children were involved, a certain level of guilt crested like a breaker and, eventually, after too long, the mind starts to come back, and the breaker crushes one’s soul.

But, that is not what is truly revealed—no! What is shown to those who sink under the guise of guilt is something...richer. The swirling undertow opens one to possibilities never conceived.

Why one would want to explore these possibilities is beyond me, but when the guilt has run its course and is heaving and out of breath, well, what is left afterwards?

Discarding with preconceived notions of reality, one opens one’s eyes for the first time. (And what is reality anyway? What is this mottled mirage that corrupts all of our lives, bending us under its deceptive force?)

Wallowing longer than necessary, well, that’s just pathetic. So many lost souls succumb to the ache and allow the malaise to rule the rest of their lives.

I knew what I needed, though. I just needed to feel tethered to something again; to feel human, again.

That’s where you came in. Meeting you—victim of many disintegrated relationships—we somehow connected. As odd as it sounds, it seems you have always been there for me.

Initially we slept in the back seats of broken down cars at the junk yard. We found a hub of hope within each other; warmth amidst a freezing winter.

What you gave me beyond the matching mindset (though your relationships were more transient, you felt similarly adrift), was the tether I needed to feel human again. I remember laying next to you, your naked flesh pressed against mine, and listening to you breathe; and finding within your breathing, the ability to copy it, to ride the inhaled and exhaled breath.

Through this simple practice, I acclimated myself to something I had thought I had lost, and felt in touch with being human again; to being in touch with somebody again.

Eventually we moved up to hotel rooms—a week’s stay here, a few days there—as we picked ourselves up, piecemeal work and begging on the streets and finally, a studio apartment more like a cardboard box, but it would be home for now.

But you brought something with us that ruined everything.

Because of the way we had tumbled together, I did not see the whole of you, just what was needed for me to get by. I was selfish, but my selfishness was a direct result of feeling like everything was spinning down a drain and there was nothing to grab on to, nothing to stop the descent.

There are times when one has to be selfish, to survive.

I saw the needles and your bruised arms, saw the glaze in your gaze, and knew something was amiss, but I did not take a stand because I figured, maybe, that you needed to hold on to something as well.

I just wished it was me...

We had conversations, talked about it. You knew you had to kick, I knew I had to be supportive through this.

But I allowed the gnawing guilt a place to roost in my head. I knew I had to go see my kids, to talk to them, say something, anything, desperation—the one vicious bastard that erodes true thought—forcing me to leave you on a night when I knew you really needed me.

Still, I had to go, had to try and see them, but was turned away before I made it to the door of the apartment, the ex-wife acting as if she does not even know me, seeming more scared than anything else—“I’ll call the police if you don’t leave us alone!”—me, shrugging my shoulders, skulking toward her, pleading, “But honey, I just want to see the kids,” and the worried look on her face, this time her response more firm: “I’m calling the police. You need to leave—now!” And the boy looking up at me, curiosity set in his blue eyes, me saying, “Son...” and him stepping back as his mother pushes him into the apartment, the girl in the background, playing with dolls, oblivious, but his look—his look—the bitch had obviously brainwashed him, corrupted him, done something to make him not remember his own father—my rage crested, “Let me see the kids!” and she slammed the door shut and I heard the confirmation from behind the green painted wood as the boy asked, “Who was that man, Mommy? Why does he keep bothering us?” and the ex's response: “I told you before, Tommy. There are those among us who are no longer human; they might look human, but they are not. We have to deal with them with a firm word or more. That thing has become fixated on us, ever since your father passed away, as if its soul can replace your father’s, but no...” and me feeling completely confused for more reasons than her deranged, inconceivable explanation—her lies!

Tommy? The name is not a part of my recollection.

I shudder, body buckling, vomiting in the hallway, but nothing pours out of me, whatever remains inside empty of substance.

I feel dead and know I have lost everything after the brutal verification the preceding scene has shown me, the aftermath of listless months trying to stay afloat with you; you being the only thing I really have anymore, but you having me and the addiction, and I’m not sure if I am first on that list.

The proof of where I stand is apparent when I get back to the studio apartment.

The door is unlocked and slightly ajar. The room smells bad, but I wonder if the mess is just the result of our lack of focus. I mean, most of the time we just embrace and hold each other, trying to keep breathing, when not drowning our existences in menial work and begging at the intersections and whatnot.

We are at least trying, and that is better than the pathetic par (the streets are crawling with the pathetic par), though slipping often as we try.

I strip off my clothes and snuggle next to you on the stained and torn mattress. Pulling bundled, filthy sheets over my feeble body—cockroaches scuttle away at my intrusion—I whisper “I love you” and “I’m sorry I was gone, I had to see my kids, but...”

The words die in my throat.

You don’t stir, don’t respond. I am not one to think much of it, but then I realize two powerfully blunt truths: You are cold in ways that make my skin hurt.

And you are not breathing.

My tether, my anchor to this world and the pain and fury of being human, of aching in ways that scrape out the hollow within and leave a vacancy where the soul should reside—you are not breathing!

I shake you a little, “c’mon,” but you don’t c’mon. You chill the emptiness with your barren presence.

I hold you because there is nothing else for me to do, there is nothing else for me to say—oh, a dashed off, “I’m sorry for leaving tonight”—but that is simply the punch-line to the joke that is my existence.

My eyes tear up, but it’s little more than dust. I have no tears to shed. I have nothing now, nothing forever. I have failed this relationship, too, and there is nothing left for me to do but hold you and wonder, yes wonder: why am I still breathing?

But then, the joke is completed as I realize my breath is nothing more than a memory of when I was more than a shadow...

And you turn to me and ask, “What’s up, babe?” in a voice like sandpaper and ashes and I cry out, “Why are you alive?” and you smile and I see in your stained yellow teeth something twitching and crunching and you say, “Because we have each other, to remind each other, of what it is to be human, even if you have not come around to what you are now, which is something less,” and I squeeze you with all my might and there’s nothing there, nothing of substance, just like what did not pass from my bowels in that distant hallway a few hours ago.

What you said sounds too much like what I think, and it’s time for me to come around.

The sheets are devoid of anything but stale smells and my quaking body and the needle that still protrudes from my scarred arm.

I force myself from their tangled grasp, slouch into the bathroom. The mirror is broken but I can still see my reflection—our reflection—skin draped sickly over a hunched skeleton splashed in the middle like a shattered ripple across a restless lake; restless because I convulse in disgust, scratching scabs off of bruised arms.

Off of dead arms: the bruises indicative of decay, of death.

I move closer, staring into the void that is my pupils, my eyes; eyes I used to know so well.

The mirror disavows my presence: the fog of breath is absent.

I hit the mirror with my bony fist; it is not the first time. My reflection splints even more, pieces raining to the sink, the floor.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men...

Each piece holds a sliver of my soul, of what used to be my soul. Of what was abandoned, but has never found a home after...

What remains is the body, the rotting flesh and abysmal vestiges of what once was human.

The silence of my scream, the bloodless stump that is my ragged hand, the soot collecting on my transfixed orbs, all is grim confirmation that the monkey riding my back is a weighty gorilla intent on breaking it.

Having opened my eyes to the possibilities, it is made excruciatingly clear that my reality has been shaped by the needle, ever since my death, the death of my soul, and the bewilderment that accompanies my being, my still being here, existing somehow, a zombie but not a zombie, a dream of being human again.

But the dead souls drift through the dead flesh, corroding my thoughts with their needs, and this one, with this wife and two children, this one crowds me but cannot take over this worn out flesh, because this one is more recent, as I once was (a jolt amidst the contemplation, an epiphany: this is not even my body!), a novice to this deathstyle, and all I have are the lies I believe as true, and the hallucinations that flash as memories, but not just my memories, many memories of many other lives. It is all a part of its insidious lure.

It. The human blood in the syringe.

I want to bleed again, to be human again...

I look at the torn fist, maggots squirming in the tattered wound, as if they have been there for a long time.

The body slumps to the floor. Its reflection stares at me from different perspectives, silently wishing for a death already experienced, but not finalized in this cruel limbo world between.

I would sigh but I am unable to as this body is lacking the one thing to instigate this sick confirmation within myself.

It is not breathing.

But its veins are hungry...again.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Archive of Stories
and Authors

Sean Padlo's

Sean Padlo's

Sean Padlo's exact whereabouts
are never able to be fully
pinned down, but what we
do know about him is laced
with the echoes of legend.
He's already been known
to haunt certain areas of
the landscape, a trick said
to only be possible by being
able to manipulate it from
the future. His presence
among the rest of us here
at the freezine sends shivers
of fear deep in our solar plexus.

Konstantine Paradias & Edward

Konstantine Paradias's

Konstantine Paradias is a writer by
choice. At the moment, he's published
over 100 stories in English, Japanese,
Romanian, German, Dutch and
Portuguese and has worked in a free-
lancing capacity for videogames, screen-
plays and anthologies. People tell him
he's got a writing problem but he can,
like, quit whenever he wants, man.
His work has been nominated
for a Pushcart Prize.

Edward Morris's

Edward Morris's

Edward Morris is a 2011 nominee for
the Pushcart Prize in literature, has
also been nominated for the 2009
Rhysling Award and the 2005 British
Science Fiction Association Award.
His short stories have been published
over a hundred and twenty times in
four languages, most recently at
PerhihelionSF, the Red Penny Papers'
SUPERPOW! anthology, and The
Magazine of Bizarro Fiction. He lives
and works in Portland as a writer,
editor, spoken word MC and bouncer,
and is also a regular guest author at
the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.

Tim Fezz's

Tim Fezz's

Tim Fezz hails out of the shattered
streets of Philly destroying the air-
waves and people's minds in the
underground with his band OLD
FEZZIWIG. He's been known to
dip his razor quill into his own
blood and pen a twisted tale
every now and again. We are
delighted to have him onboard
the FREEZINE and we hope
you are, too.

Daniel E. Lambert's

Daniel E. Lambert teaches English
at California State University, Los
Angeles and East Los Angeles College.
He also teaches online Literature
courses for Colorado Technical
University. His writing appears
in Silver Apples, Easy Reader,
Other Worlds, Wrapped in Plastic
and The Daily Breeze. His work
also appears in the anthologies
When Words Collide, Flash It,
Daily Flash 2012, Daily Frights
2012, An Island of Egrets and
Timeless Voices. His collection
of poetry and prose, Love and
Other Diversions, is available
through Amazon. He lives in
Southern California with his
wife, poet and author Anhthao Bui.


Phoenix has enjoyed writing since he
was a little kid. He finds much import-
ance and truth in creative expression.
Phoenix has written over sixty books,
and has published everything from
novels, to poetry and philosophy.
He hopes to inspire people with his
writing and to ask difficult questions
about our world and the universe.
Phoenix lives in Salt Lake City, Utah,
where he spends much of his time
reading books on science, philosophy,
and literature. He spends a good deal
of his free time writing and working
on new books. The Freezine of Fant-
asy and Science Fiction welcomes him
and his unique, intense vision.
Discover Phoenix's books at his author
page on Amazon. Also check out his blog.

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar is an expatriate Bostonian
who has lived in New Orleans and Berkeley,
and currently resides in Portland, Oregon
with his beloved wife and fluffy gray cat
Dahlia. Adam wears round, antique glasses
and has a fondness for hats. His greatest
inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft,
Jack tales and coffee. He has been
a Romantic poet for as long as any-
one can remember, specializing in
the composition of spectral balladry,
utilizing to great effect a traditional
poetic form that taps into the haunted
undercurrents of folklore seldom found
in other forms of writing.
His poetry has appeared on the pages
of such publications as SPECTRAL
CTHULHU, and a poem of his,
"The Rime of the Eldritch Mariner,"
won the Rhysling Award for long-form
poetry. His collection of weird balladry
and Jack tales, THE LAY OF OLD HEX,
was published by Hippocampus Press in 2017.

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff is the author of the
following books: Ring of Fire (Eraserhead
Press, 2018), Flesh Trade (co-written
w/Edward Morris; published by Create-
Space, 2017), Punk Rock Ghost Story
(Deadite Press, 2016), Amazing Punk
Stories (Eraserhead Press, 2016),
Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich (Eraserhead
Press, 2014), Hunting the Moon Tribe
(Eraserhead Press, 2011), The Vegan
Revolution...with Zombies (Eraserhead
Press, 2010), and Screams from a Dying
World (Afterbirth Books, 2009).
David is a hardcore vegan and tireless
environmentalist. His contributions to
the punk horror scene and the planet in
general have already established him
as a bright new writer and activist to
watch out for. The Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction welcomes him and
his defiant vision open-heartedly.

David is a busy man, usually at work
on several different novels or projects
at once. He is sure to leave his mark on
a world teetering over the edge of
ecological imbalance.

Sanford Meschkow's

Sanford Meschkow is a retired former
NYer who married a Philly suburban
Main Line girl. Sanford has been pub-
lished in a 1970s issue of AMAZING.
We welcome him here on the FREE-
ZINE of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking currently
resides in the high desert of Phoenix,
Arizona where he enjoys campy horror
movies within the comfort of an Insane
Asylum. Search for his science fiction
stories at The Intestinal Fortitude in
the Flesheater's World section.
The Memory Sector is his first
appearance in the Freezine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Owen R. Powell's

Little is known of the mysterious
Owen R. Powell (oftentimes referred
to as Orp online). That is because he
usually keeps moving. The story
Noetic Vacations marks his first
appearance in the Freezine.

Gene Stewart
(writing as Art Wester)

Gene Stewart's

Gene Stewart is a writer and artist.
He currently lives in the Midwest
American Wilderness where he is
researching tales of mystical realism,
writing ficta mystica, and exploring
the dark by casting a little light into
the shadows. Follow this link to his
website where there are many samples
of his writing and much else; come

Daniel José Older's

Daniel José Older's

Daniel José Older's spiritually driven,
urban storytelling takes root at the
crossroads of myth and history.
With sardonic, uplifting and often
hilarious prose, Older draws from
his work as an overnight 911 paramedic,
a teaching artist & an antiracist/antisexist
organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally
engaging plots that speak whispers and
shouts about power and privilege in
modern day New York City. His work
has appeared in the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, The ShadowCast
Audio Anthology, The Tide Pool, and
the collection Sunshine/Noir, and is
featured in Sheree Renee Thomas'
Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in Harlem.
When he's not writing, teaching or
riding around in an ambulance,
Daniel can be found performing with
his Brooklyn-based soul quartet
Ghost Star. His blog about the
ridiculous and disturbing world
of EMS can be found here.

Paul Stuart's

Paul Stuart is the author of numerous
biographical blurbs written in the third
person. His previously published fiction
appears in The Vault of Punk Horror and
His non-fiction financial pieces can be found
in a shiny, west-coast magazine that features
pictures of expensive homes, as well as images
of women in casual poses and their accessories.
Consider writing him at,
if you'd like some thing from his garage. In fall
2010, look for Grade 12 Trigonometry and
Pre-Calculus -With Zombies.

Rain Grave's

Rain Graves is an award winning
author of horror, science fiction and
poetry. She is best known for the 2002
Poetry Collection, The Gossamer Eye
(along with Mark McLaughlin and
David Niall Wilson). Her most
recent book, Barfodder: Poetry
Written in Dark Bars and Questionable
Cafes, has been hailed by Publisher's
Weekly as "Bukowski meets Lovecraft..."
in January of 2009. She lives and
writes in San Francisco, performing
spoken word at events around the
country. 877-DRK-POEM -

Icy Sedgwick's

Icy Sedgwick is part writer and part
trainee supervillain. She lives in the UK
but dreams of the Old West. Her current
works include a ghost story about a Cavalier
and a Western tale of retribution. Find her
ebooks, free weekly fiction and other
shenanigans at Icy’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

Blag Dahlia's
armed to the teeth

BLAG DAHLIA is a Rock Legend.
Singer, Songwriter, producer &
founder of the notorious DWARVES.
He has written two novels, ‘NINA’ and

G. Alden Davis's

G. Alden Davis wrote his first short story
in high school, and received a creative
writing scholarship for the effort. Soon
afterward he discovered that words were
not enough, and left for art school. He was
awarded the Emeritus Fellowship along
with his BFA from Memphis College of Art
in '94, and entered the videogame industry
as a team leader and 3D artist. He has over
25 published games to his credit. Mr. Davis
is a Burningman participant of 14 years,
and he swings a mean sword in the SCA.
He's also the best friend I ever had. He
was taken away from us last year on Jan
25 and I'll never be able to understand why.
Together we were a fantastic duo, the
legendary Grub Bros. Our secret base
exists on a cross-hatched nexus between
the Year of the Dragon and Dark City.
Somewhere along the tectonic fault
lines of our electromagnetic gathering,
shades of us peel off from the coruscating
pillars and are dropped back into the mix.
The phrase "rest in peace" just bugs me.
I'd rather think that Greg Grub's inimitable
spirit somehow continues evolving along
another manifestation of light itself, a
purple shift shall we say into another
phase of our expanding universe. I
ask myself, is it wishful thinking?
Will we really shed our human skin
like a discarded chrysalis and emerge
shimmering on another wavelength
altogether--or even manifest right
here among the rest without their
even beginning to suspect it? Well
people do believe in ghosts, but I
myself have long been suspicious
there can only be one single ghost
and that's all the stars in the universe
shrinking away into a withering heart
glittering and winking at us like
lost diamonds still echoing all their
sad and lonely songs fallen on deaf
eyes and ears blind to their colorful
emanations. My grub brother always
knew better than what the limits
of this old world taught him. We
explored past the outer peripheries
of our comfort zones to awaken
the terror in our minds and keep
us on our toes deep in the forest
in the middle of the night. The owls
led our way and the wilderness
transformed into a sanctuary.
The adventures we shared together
will always remain tattooed on
the pages of my skin. They tell a
story that we began together and
which continues being woven to
this very day. It's the same old
story about how we all were in
this together and how each and
every one of us is also going away
someday and though it will be the far-
thest we can manage to tell our own
tale we may rest assured it will be
continued like one of the old pulp
serials by all our friends which survive
us and manage to continue
the saga whispering in the wind.

Shae Sveniker's

Shae is a poet/artist/student and former
resident of the Salt Pit, UT, currently living
in Simi Valley, CA. His short stories are on
Blogger and his poetry is hosted on Livejournal.

Nigel Strange's

Nigel Strange lives with his wife and
daughter, cats, and tiny dog-like thing
in their home in California where he
occasionally experiments recreationally
with lucidity. PLASTIC CHILDREN
is his first publication.

J.R. Torina's

J.R. Torina was DJ for Sonic Slaughter-
house ('90-'97), runs Sutekh Productions
(an industrial-ambient music label) and
Slaughterhouse Records (metal record
label), and was proprietor of The Abyss
(a metal-gothic-industrial c.d. shop in
SLC, now closed). He is the dark force
behind Scapegoat (an ambient-tribal-
noise-experimental unit). THE HOUSE
IN THE PORT is his first publication.

K.B. Updike, Jr's

K.B. Updike, Jr. is a young virgin
Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free:
(We are not certain if K.B. Updike, Jr.
has lost his Virginian virginity yet.)