© Sherisse Alvarez
Ascent by Sherisse
The glass door had a neon yellow sign above it that lit up the sidewalk. It read: FOOT & BACK RUB. There was a framed poster hanging of a young woman wearing a bikini and an orchid in her hair. A video was playing in the second floor window: two hands pressing firmly into skin as if it were dough. This massage spot was near the subway right above Palermo Fish, between the shoe repair and the post office. All the shops were closed now but the street smelled smoky and stale from the meat and onions piled up in food carts. You could still hear the train rattling overhead. Some guys at work had told me about this place; they said for twenty bucks you could get a “happy ending.” I was sore from all those hours at the nursing home bathing men twice my size. I wanted something extra before going home to my roommate and his silence. I didn’t want beer and chips and porn. I was sick of the hangovers and shitty headaches in the morning. I was tired of the pills and the doctor’s visits and the leg cramps. I’d never gotten a massage and my palms were sweaty. What if I farted in the damn middle of it? I decided to call the number on the door. A man answered and when I asked if someone was free, he said with a heavy accent, “Okay, okay, come now, yes, we see you soon, okay, okay” and hung up. I checked my wallet to make sure I had cash. I pushed open the glass door and stepped inside. I could hear something like music coming from the massage parlor upstairs, the sound of water and bells and birds. When I got to the top of the stairs I saw a fish tank and some tiny frogs in a bowl. Two women scurried off and the man said, “Hello, friend” and pointed with his hand to a small, dark room. I went inside and he closed the curtain behind me, leaving me alone. I felt too tall and scrawny and pale. Too bald. I took off my shoes and placed my socks inside, then I set my jeans and underwear and t-shirt on the metal chair. I got on the table and put my face in the doughnut shaped pillow. My stomach growled because I hadn’t had lunch. My dick was hard. I thought about Vili, one of the nurses at the home, and how she liked to play Solitaire in the lunchroom on her break. And Chase, my roommate, eating microwaveable meals in his room in front of the TV every night. I felt a chill from the curtain opening and closing and then I heard the beeping of a timer being set. The girl covered me with a towel then coughed before she ran her hands down my back. I could feel her long hair brushing against the side of my neck. Through the doughnut hole I could see her feet, her short white socks and plastic slippers. They squeaked as she moved. I tried to close my eyes but felt like I was falling.
Can't be sure by Lyle
We weren't sure at first if he was dead. Or that we understood anything about it.
There must have been precedence, but not any of which we were aware. Someone brought out Robert's Rules of Order; it was, unusually, unhelpful. Debate-VII 43 was pretty close, but...
After the meeting -- unresolved -- I went home. The next day I went to my mother's husband's service (funny possessive, that). We chatted with his daughters about the weather. So much snow -- it doesn't matter.
But later, as I descended the stairs from the x street stop, the black slushy snow piled up next to the street -- it had frozen and unfrozen time and again and I un-understood.
A Close Accumulation by Bill
Lord Vairochana comes to escort you between the straits. He whispers in your ear the sound of wings. The words are without meaning, shapeless as thought. But the air around you is filled with feathers.
Many birds can be heard because the words did not form in the mind but in space and the intangible walls take form and draw between them a door. The light is unbroken, the shadows full because this in-between has no time for separations.
Colors cannot exist. The wind is full roaring outside and the stillness oppressive inside such that the table in the corner explodes from the pressure. It is here and now that you stare.
The Architect by Alan
Inside the head, the architect spins a web, takes on the shape of a fear, and a few other unnamed provinces. For what is this life if not directions from angels meant for entrances via staircases. The young get younger as we never age at the top staring down. The light is our flattened halo.
Before any bottom is the drop. Before any swallow is the mouth. Gentle, swallow...he is new to this taking. Patience, swallow...there is no true hungry mother waiting to steal away your kill to feed her cub.
The final draft may go like this: he may turn one way or the other, but he must never be afraid of the dark or the edge of a crop. For the time being, he will sit at no desk while investigating the middles. One is a path he sees (through dim light) from time to time. The other is that very room in which he both drew and lost his heart.
Architecture by Johanna
Before this, the mountains called her down and drew her into their belly where she found a small house made of bricks. Each year, for one hundred years, a brick came loose from the architecture and she used the clay from earth to replace its mortar. Inside the house, she built a fire. She threw in every bit of paper she could find. Photos from childhood, books of poetry and her passport were the first to incinerate. Later, she burned the toilet paper. There was nothing left to burn.
She rubbed her face in the cold embers. She ran in the yard and splashed in the mud puddles She turned cinder grey and adobe brown. She called to the coyotes to join her. The coyotes mistook her for one of their own, until the moonlight revealed that she was only human.
She returned to the house and took a brick from the wall. She ate it crumble by crumble until it filled her belly with its weight. She felt full and grounded. She ate another. She ate the whole house, which rebuilt itself inside her gut, the fire rekindled. She was still hungry. She took a bite from the mountain. She ate and ate, but the mountain did not change. She climbed to the top and reached to the sky. She pulled down the stars. One by one she ate the stars, but there were never any fewer. She walked to the ocean and drank and drank until she was finally full.
On the shore, she fell asleep. In the moonlight, her skin glowed iridescent. The moon called to her, mistaking her for a star. The tide pulled her out into the belly of the sea. When she awoke, she was cold and wet. She turned herself inside out and sat by her hearth. She blew great puffs of stardust at the fire until it exploded, and the cosmos consumed her completely. A single speck of ash floated down to the mountains and fell through an ancient fissure. The last known particle of her breath settled.