In Illo Tempore
She was a woman who had two men. She kept them close to each other--two-legs-of-a-person-close, one at her right, and the other at her left thigh. One of them liked the porcelain penny bank in form of a thinking woman with her hand under her chin on the center table at her house, and the other liked the carvings of the highboy with her childhood albums in it. They had this balance of where one loved pistachios, so the other limited himself to peanuts. If considered without their differences, they would both leave a salty taste on her tongue. After both, she was usually left with sour sweat, back pain and squeaking doors. She loved them, to the point where the bite on her left shoulder and the teeth marks on her thigh intersected.
She was without a child. She was fourteen when she laid straight on a cold, metal table, weak as a chicken laying its eggs to get trampled. Below her navel, her organs were spread open with as cold metal handles and her tubes were ligated. Back then she didn’t mind, but only terrorized everyone in the house because of the flesh-cut pain that kept her from sitting freely on the toilet. Although she experienced brief mood swings when she held her friends’ babies and some hormonal kicks when she hit thirty, she never really sighed about having her own little human. Her reckless singularity, overly self-indulgence and the luxury of irresponsible breakdowns seemed safer than a young son to walk around in his arms one day.
She had a fit figure, wide shoulders and rectangle-like buttocks under her straight back. When she took a step, you could almost see her roots hugging the ground. When she entered a room, with all her weight, her body would fill every crack. While she worked to sell paintings, at some point people would stop looking at the item they intended to buy and start examining and scanning her with curiosity. What attracted these looks was the contrast of her shiny violet eyes under thick, dark eyelashes at the two sides of her bumpy, eagle-like nose. Lips so thick you couldn’t come across unless maybe in Africa, hiding under the protection of a majestic blond uni-brow. She always wore her white shirt that clenched her bosom, and her loose black pants that made her legs look even longer, camouflaging amongst the paintings she presented to buyers making use of her big hands and long arms.
Both of her men were wretched souls, captured by the claws of art. They had studios, rustic workstations and walls full of books. They displayed older volumes of rare and foreign books at shelves most visible from eye level. They adored how their hardwood floors crackled, drank coffee from delicate porcelain cups and addressed to their friends as mon cher. They were depressed during specific times of the year--fortunately the depression periods of the two had never coincided. At those times, they would refuse to see anyone and rot in their houses. Being aware of the work coming her way to pile up in the hall, or in her file, as a result of that period, the woman wouldn’t say a thing and just wait patiently with her other man. Hesitation held a huge part in her men’s lives. They wanted to publish all past correspondence with their friends who were poets, writers, painters, dancers into a book and take a proud look at the history they put out there, see the end of their unfinished businesses in the stinging nudity of disclosure. They would always talk about this, then give up, and hand the letters over to her, without realizing their parallel behavior.
She was insatiable. She tried to satisfy her hunger with things and beings either alive or capable of giving life when looked, touched or heard, and it had nothing to do with ambition. She could pull all the tricks in her book in order not to sell the paintings she loved. She ate a lot, she drank a lot. She drove fast and purchased every single colour of a foulard. She owned apartments in different areas of the city, with the fear of ending up homeless one day, and live on the streets smelling like piss. When she danced, she was either in the middle of the dance floor, or at the top of the longest table. In times when she got quiet, she lied a lot, as if her tongue was moving on its own.
She was a woman with two men. When she attached one to the other, she could see her tubes tied under her belly.
In illo tempore lived a blacksmith with five sons and a daughter. He was the most renowned after the town’s shaman, because blacksmiths and shamans were children of the same roof. The blacksmith was enormous, he had more flare than the shaman. He had this huge belly, as if it were him who gave birth to his children. His shoulders leaned across the two ends of the country. The power he possessed could melt iron without fire. A glance to his face almost mesmerized the looker with its beauty, but his distorted nose was made to confuse. Next to his household, in his mill, he forged utensils, horseshoes, swords, and maces for villagers. He could see anything the future held in the flames if he wanted to. Horsemen, neighbors, winters and raids ahead...Yet he wouldn’t look into the fire, as he abstained from abandoning his soul in there with the evil god K’daai Maksin. So he was committed to resist. People told him that foreseeing only the wars would suffice. You’d own a fortune taller than your height. The blacksmith would respond to them; he’d rather carve his eyes out. Then back to work, loud—shaking roofs, scaring off birds, frightening foxes. He would check the force of his fire with the tip of his tongue.
The blacksmith started sleeping less and less, the peace he once had stayed in the past. Fire called him in, by force. He did not go. Instead he sacrificed his pitch-black bull to K’daai Maksin, hoping he’d be left alone. That night, every single tool of the blacksmith got covered with the animal’s blood. Seven people came up from the village, lit a huge fire at the town square and threw the bull’s head into the flames. The shaman arrived. Midst of the small crowd, the blacksmith sang and moaned. Seven men pulled the burnt head out of the fire, placed it on the anvil and hit it with hammers. The shaman first rose from the ground, then submerged into the soil up to his knees. He went down to see K’daai Maksin underground and demanded healing for the only blacksmith in the village. The evil god refused, declaring death to the ones who didn’t face him in the fire. The shaman begged, and as he begged, he broke into pieces, swallowed his bones. He knelt before K’daai Maksin and repeated his wish.
The dark god roared, sent his fallens over the shaman and said, “Then he shall accept giving me his daughter, her daughter and every single soul to ever cross her womb, and look into the fire. All five of his sons shall be blacksmiths, and be spread to five corners of Yakutsk. The girl shall stay here, sleep by the fire, and may she resemble her father, grow apace from his nose. May her womb broil every time her father won’t look into the fire, and her name be erased of her house. In every life she lives may she get bigger, and resemble her father a bit more. May she be of no use to her men, incapable of holding any seed in her. Everything to ever grow in her may be mine. Now and forever.”
The shaman couldn’t say a word. He came out to the surface, and the flames he emitted from his fingertips out of grief fed the fire. He drank water with salt and pepper and lied onto the blacksmith. Then he took the tiny girl from her mother’s lap and put her in embers. The blacksmith stood up as if a massive lump exited his throat. A sizzle ran through his nose.
The girl was always there in the crowd at the steppes, riding horses, all around mammoths and chasing buffaloes. Scorching hot, she would burn men. Her arms swirled around them--whippers of postal cars, sword grinders behind arenas, cooks who can cook plucked geese in two minutes, behind sleds--hey ho hey,--tombs in cones and pyramids, councils, holy stones and manuscripts, towers, slaves, hunters, rulers, sealers and doctors, writers, composers, printers, seamen, and those who were born in paintings. Her body widened, breasts sagged, belly inflated, then deflated, inflated and deflated, her fingers danced in blood. She didn’t know what to do with the droplets of eyes, ears and intestines drizzling out of her perineum. She wished to stay unlovable, and decided to kneel before the lonely lack of love.
In illo tempore, she spread her butt cheeks, unaware of wedding all her souls to the fire. She assumed what she did to be good, good for herself. She thought it was love.
She introduced one man to the other, and made them friends. Together, they enjoyed the time spent eating at long tables. Chattered about Venus, museums, curators, and complained about politics. She kept sleeping with them, one after the other. Her shadow kept lingering over paintings, her curves kept being the subject matter of drawings. She had been and kept being the muse of one’s acrylic and the others’ charcoal, gratified by pearls, ivory phalluses and rare books when she sold a painting of either men for an exorbitant sum in the auction. Drinking coffee from fine porcelains with her name glazed on, taking long vacations. Laughing, changing, uniting, and separating.
One of the men asked her for a child. She gave him the silent treatment, stopped having sex with him awhile and frequented the other.
One night at the dinner table, they talked about embryos. About the births of school-aged children that both men had, from other women. Inflating bellies, concerns and the anticipation of a newborn. The woman sat still. Did not eat, did not drink. She spoke and spoke as if she’d been giving birth for ages. Men assumed she had plenty of children, and together wanted to touch her saggy breasts. She unbuttoned her shirt and portioned her breasts to the men. She held their heads and pushed them towards each other. The moment when their noses made contact a spark jumped onto the table, and set it on fire. She rushed to pour the water in the pitcher on the table. There, she wanted to paint a painting like the paintings she always watched and admired. They brought her a canvas, some paint and benzene, and stared at her standing up by the easel.
The woman drew legs, spread to two sides, looking directly at them. She carved out an area between the legs and filled in pinkish layers. She painted black in the eyes of the creature sliding its head out from the layers. Dipped her brush into red, and made flames eating up the legs, then made them bigger and twisted, turned their tips into gigantic cocks. She put a large torso behind the flames. On its face she drew an organ with distorted lines, like her own nose, and left the rest blank. Took a couple steps back and contemplated her work. The men stood behind her and held her as her body quaked.
“My tubes are tied,” she said and her weight collapsed on the two men.
They laid her on the ground. Undressed her and cooled her burning flesh with ice. Put a vinegar-infused cloth on her forehead and waited. She looked like coming to herself for a moment, sat up and stared at the men with glittering eyes. She thought she could survive if she just swallowed them whole, that it would untie her knot and open her canals, that the dual push would twist a valve…She spread her legs just like in the painting and pulled the two close. When she arched her neck backwards and looked at the painting behind her, she saw the flames approaching. She reached out with her hands over her head and took the hammer and skew back from her father. She snatched the two heads away from their bodies and laid them on the skew back. For two nights long she beat the men’s heads with her hammer. When bones and cartilages took the form of iron, she threw them into the fire, warmed them up nicely, and aligned under her navel. She assumed what she did to be good, good for herself. She thought it was love.
Previously published at Miracle Monocle
Nazli Karabiyikoglu is an author and activist from Turkey, now full-time resident in Germany awarded with Writers-in-Exile Scholarship by PEN Germany, who secluded herself from the political and gender oppression in Turkey. She is also a scholar of the Human Rights faculty at Friedrich Alexander University in Germany.
I do not need 60 light bulbs to light up a mansion; all I need is one bulb and 60 broken mirrors. ‘Cause even through my frugality I can still enlighten a whole society, creating shadows through shadows of light.
My childish imagination plays with a flashlight, making shadow puppets of enlightenment … ready to leave their mark, pasted upon tree bark, sipping the sap from the tree dripping glazed melted knowledge and wisdom as maple syrup upon my tongue.
I feel for scars that have never felt a wound; yet I warn you: do not let me fall asleep with a pen in my hand. I might stab my emotions to death for allowing me to see so clearly.
However, sometimes, light blinds what is already there, that is why I choose to write with my eyes closed, at times: to see the words I would have not been able to see originally, in my imagination, in the dark.
In the dark my pen leaks from both ends when I write, expressing its imagination through the hair extensions of poetic sketches.
However, sometimes, I wish I could highlight light itself with a permanent marker, so I do not only catch a glimpse of it, but so I can engrave its presence in the memory lapses of my mental images .... to see if such words are hallucinations, mere self-deceptions, taken from the bent rib of ignorance … to see if it is make-believe through my flight of fancy or wishful thinking.
Imagining: a punctured picture penetrated by light through cracks of shadows.
Questioning: if the images of my mind coincide with the metaphorically inclined rhymes of “Enlightenment.”
Sure similes of Monet might paint the portrait of my analogies more perfectly with a paintbrush and not a permanent marker, maybe. But all I am really trying to say is that I do not want a flash of light to zephyr by me unnoticed … but I want that flash to be highlighted within the parenthesis of permanence.
A shadow so great that only Hiroshima’s blast can burn a shadow on its own shadow’s presence. An explosion of words so vast that I do not want them to pass by me, but to penetrate my existence.
As voices … as voices are reporting concussions of conclusions … mere confusions, though, with such frailty of understanding that my back aches as if it were my Achilles heel receiving lashes on the pirate’s bounty.
I feel the sun burn my skin like acid dancing in complementary angles like angels praying to Satan and demons to Jesus.
Maybe I need more than just one light bulb to bring society toward such acceptance of all of our complimentary existence: Black light, brown light, red light, yellow light, white light, highlighting peace and understanding for maybe one moment in time.
Whether it be through my eyes closed or opened, I am still thinking. Whether it be through my conscious mind or under it, sunbathing in daydreams or nightswimming in disillusion … man, even children understand such prophecies, why can’t we?
Where is my mind's eye, imagination making shadow puppets of enlightenment with a flashlight now? Where is the pen leaking from both ends now? Where is the highlighter of permanence now?
Maybe I can keep that one light bulb, and just break the already broken pieces of mirrors again, even more, and pass them around, so we all may be able to see the light captured inside … so we might one day realize that our ignorance is not mere pop culture but it is also our own reflections.
I feel for scars that have never felt a wound, but mostly I feel for wounds that have yet to scar. And so, I keep my eyes closed and imagine peace through complementary angles of life and light.
I am waiting ...
And as I wait, I stumble. Stumble upon voices. Voices impending in the membranes of my thoughts and I cannot think clearly now.
Voices surrounding the mountainous valleys, touching the skies with their torches, burning the oxygen that is lacking yet not fading above where the wise owls roam.
I stand on my head because I cannot think clearly right-side up. I turn the map of the world upside down and watch the snowflakes of voices fall from the ground up to the heavens above because I am a thinker taking notes outside the box.
But, in all actuality, I do not even see it as a box. You see I see it as a circle, or zero, or maybe an eight because I can take that circle of life and pinch it to create infinity.
You see my mind is a Genome Project of its own. Not even Bobby Fischer is capable of mapping the blueprints of my intellect through one mere game of chess.
You see, the shortest distance between two points to me is not a line, nor a curve, but another dot. Folding the plane of time in half. Playing tricks with space and the linear. And even within that dot, in itself, it contains the elements of my existence.
I use the magnifying glass of my iris’ focus and realized that even within that dot there is another dot creating another distance.
I would be ignorant, to say the least, if I were to say that I was certain of certainty as a fact. I claim to obtain purity in my thoughts, yet my virginity seems tainted with questions …
Questions that turn to voices … that turn to confusion … that turn to answers, at times.
But sometimes those times are few to none and other times I have to find clarity within my confusion by residing inside the residence of acceptance because sometimes there are no answers, just more questions.
Nonetheless, I hear the voices, they are mine, inside my mind they recline. And then I speak and I hear one unified voice, incorporating co-constructional relational realities within the voices conversing within me.
And then I speak, and I imagine, and I have a dream where one day I will allow my mind to speak, not just with my breath but with the breath of those around me, as they stumble about in a daze, in my home, lost in the elaborate labyrinth I have constructed: my mind.
My mind: a room full of mirrors and windows … mirrors and windows … harvesting words … words written with the acid and sweat of my fingertips ...
Words upon the reflecting glasses. Rows and rows of mirrors and windows … mirrors and windows. Some two-way, and others mere one-sided. All in all, infinite, thinking outside the box.
Or, should I say outside the circle, or zero, or maybe eight, depending on which way one decides to pinch imagination’s box and look at it … and perceive it.
This is the way I discover.
This is the way I discover the exoskeleton of the internal, eternal extremities of my realities … boundless in my fancy. I think.
As I, myself, become the others stumbling about in hopscotch stutters in my own labyrinth: my mind.
Nonetheless, no answers. Mere confusion, mere questions.
An intellect finding peace within the gatherings of pieces of acceptance. Scattered around the room like balding petalled roses … mere voices upon breaths within labyrinths of confusion … like Socrates, the mere midwife, planting seeds of “Enlightenment” inside the minds of those around him with questions … not answers.
As I claim to obtain purity in my thoughts, yet my virginity seems tainted with questions ...
Questions that turn to voices, that turn to confusion, that turn to answers … at times. But sometimes those times are few to none, and other times (man, other times) those voices also see themselves breathing, upon infinite articulation, and they, too, find acceptance, yes, they, too, find acceptance … upon the reflections of their own confusions. Upon the reflections … of the reflections … of their voices.
Julián Esteban Torres López (he/him/él) is a bilingual, Colombia-born storyteller, public scholar, and culture architect with Afro-Euro-Indigenous roots. For two decades, Julián has worked toward humanizing those Othered by oppressive systems and dominant cultures. He is the creator of the social justice storytelling movement The Nasiona, where he also hosts and produces The Nasiona Podcast. He’s a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions nominee; a Trilogy Award in Short Fiction finalist; a McNair Fellow; and the author of Marx’s Humanism and Its Limits and Reporting On Colombia. His poetry collection, Ninety-Two Surgically Enhanced Mannequins, is available now. His work appears in PANK Magazine, Into the Void Magazine, The Acentos Review, Novus Literary and Arts Journal, Havik 2021: Inside Brilliance, among others. Julián holds a bachelor’s in philosophy and in communication and a master’s in justice studies from the University of New Hampshire and was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, where he focused on political science and Latin American studies.
“You’ve seen them, haven’t you?” It was not a question, though it was phrased as one for reasons that baffled him. Sitting there, in that hotel room, ornate to the point of being creepy, the ruffled curtains, the gilt edges of the table. He didn’t know who he was supposed to have seen and was about to say as much, when the words caught in his throat, threatening to cut it.
The old man sitting across from him had called him here, though for what purpose he could not begin to fathom. Was it simply to ask him if he’d seen “them,” whoever they were? Whatever the old boy was he was no fool, and he had the face of one unaccustomed to being wrong or dismissed. When he spoke again, perhaps sensing his companion’s confusion, it was with a sadness the younger man could not place.
“If I wanted to tell you a story, would you listen? Even if you didn’t understand what I was talking about?” The younger man said nothing. The older man continued.
“What if this were not happening here at all, but someplace else? Would you see them then? Oh, it doesn’t matter you understand,” leaning now towards the younger man, his breath a wisp of mint and loose tobacco, “that is clear to you, isn’t it? The fact that it is of no consequence at all, I mean?” He clapped his hands in his lap and stood. “We are here, after all. We are not in Mozambique, Granada or even Albuquerque! No,” now inches from the younger man’s face, “we are right here. In this room. And I would like the truth.”
The younger man could do nothing but frown, shaking his head. He had met the old man only once before, at Sam’s Place, a bar near the old trainline. He had never understood a single word the old man had spoken to him, did not even know his name, but he sensed that there was something buried deep in his elderly soul that needed airing, and by the look of him he was not long for this world. How he could afford a suite of this size, of this quality, in one of the few hotels left in this part of the country was beyond the younger man’s comprehension.
“You have called me here for this? Only this?” he asked, finally, hoping the older man would understand, but suspecting that he would not. The older man was silent, staring at him intently now. There was no light on in this room--it was daytime, there was no need of a light--and yet, as if someone had flicked a hidden switch, the room became as dark as pitch.
Far from earth, a female figure opened her eyes. She was not human, had never been human and would not want to be human. She found them vaguely distasteful, a barbarous species in so many ways. Yet, she loved them--all of them. She loved all of the myriad species she gave dreams to, in fact. She did not like dreams like the one she had just encountered, but she had no choice in what came to her from the place beyond the sky. The elderly man seemed too aggressive, the surroundings too gaudy, the younger man a half-drawn construct. Was the older man merely an aspect of his younger companion? Or vice versa? Such symbolism tired her, and yet her own sleep was not a consideration.
She had encountered neither of these men before that she could remember, though she had conducted this process many times--it was what her kind did. All they did. There were so many creatures in the galaxy, sentient and non-sentient alike, and all of them needed to dream. She wasn’t exactly sure why, but it didn’t matter. That was not the concern of her kind.
Her kind were conduits, nothing more. She herself had allowed dreams to flow to many species, some of them like the humans, some as different from them as a grain of sand is from a scream. She had access to the subconscious minds of uncountable trillions, and on the rare occasion she stopped to think of this she longed for what the older ones called The Last Dream or The Travelling. That dream was a gift for the conduits themselves, and they would never awaken from it. It scared her, but it was supposed to be beautiful.
She knew little of the species she gave dreams to, but she knew something of humans. Several of her encounters with their dreams stood out in her mind, for reasons she did not know. One she remembered was the teenaged boy who had the same dream for years, trapped in a building from a memory earlier in his childhood, desperately trying to save a girl that he loved from monsters. He never escaped and never found the girl, yet the monsters never killed them--the dream had simply ended, every time, for reasons she did not understand.
She rose from her dais, the utter blankness of her surroundings soothing. Let them go. She had to let them go. The dreams she gave to people were fleeting, it served no one to remember them, they were not hers. The child she remembered had grown into a man, yet it had seemed like a fairy tale to her--a story as made up as those she occasionally passed to others. Sometimes these stories would be written down, sometimes the ones writing them believing they were meaningful, sometimes believing that their dreams were not dreams at all, that they were messages from a deity.
She would think no more of this. She did not know where the dreams came from any more than those who dreamed them did. If there was a deity, a being that controlled the universe, perhaps even realms beyond the ones she knew, it was of no consequence. All she knew was that the dreams came through her, as they had those before her. She had companions in this place, but none of them would know what was beyond the sky, and it would do no good to ask them even if she could.
She looked to the rows of those like herself and wondered where the dreams came from.
“They stand in lines!” The old man was on his feet, shouting now. “Lines, do you hear me, boy? Where do you think Shakespeare found his Ophelia, his Romeo, his Banquo? Down the back of a sofa?!”
The younger man sat very still. He knew of Shakespeare of course, from his days at college.
“And then, they wake up and Hamlet goes crazy!” the old man shouted, laughing and sitting back down in his ornate chair, behind the ornate table that he shared with the younger man, in an ornate hotel room on the edge of nowhere, near a trainline to somewhere else.
“What do they look like?” the younger man asked. He wasn’t sure he should be encouraging this behaviour in his aged companion, but he wanted to know. Needed to know. The knowledge was important somehow, vital in a way nothing in his life had been up to that point, but he couldn’t so much as guess at why.
The old man was calmer now, sweating, his breathing heavy, his eyes half closed. He placed one ancient hand on the table before him and smiled. “They’re beautiful. They look as much like the stars as we do,” he said.
She felt the dream stop and turned in alarm. Something had changed. The light had not gone out this time, why was that? The light always went out when the dreams had finished, and how was she seeing one when not in her place? She looked to the nearest of her kin, a face she had known for longer than she knew, twitching as innumerable visions flowed through him. Were they nightmares? She wanted to reach out and touch his face, to comfort him, but knew that she could not. It was impossible. She should get back to her dais and yet…there was something else here. And someone else, too. Another was conscious, and if two of them were here then she felt it might be dangerous, though she knew not how. Had her own dream begun, perhaps? She hoped it had not, there was still so much to do, though at the same time she was curious--what would she see?
The young man was confused. “Like stars,” he began, faltering. “But we don’t look like stars...”
“No?!” said the old man, sharply. “And how would you know that?! Have you held one in your hand? Warmed yourself in its glow on frozen November nights, only to awaken and see it back in the sky where it belongs? No,” he said wearily, “I thought that you had not…” the old man’s voice trailed off and the lights in the room dimmed. “Ah!” he said, another smile on his lips. “I think they are awake!”
She started, a surge flowing through her body and mind like a wind made of light. Could it be, somehow, that the dream was about her? About this place? That had never happened before as far as she knew, but perhaps the older ones had just never told her. She held out her hand to explore the air in front of her. Yes, there was something there. It was cold and hard like a surface, but she could see nothing. She saw the other of her kind that was conscious, and he smiled at her with beauty enough to make tears spring unbidden to her eyes.
“Go,” he said. “I will remain here for a while, then someone else will come.” She understood these words and nodded, though she could not give words to her own thoughts--that was not what her kind did, after all. And yet this one was conscious, just as she was, and had spoken to her. Was this one special? Was she? Were there those that awoke intermittently, just as she had, the dreams of billions in full flow, to watch over those who worked? She did not know. Could not know--it was forbidden for her to know such things, she felt this instinctively. Returning to her place, she blinked then closed her eyes and, as she did so, uncountable parsecs away on a blue green world, a young boy awoke to meet the dawn.
Peter J. Kenvin is an English, philosophy, religious studies and computer science graduate, living with his mother and 7 cats in South East Wales in the UK. He has been published previously in The Pilgrim magazine, a literature and culture magazine run by Tomas Stanger in Newport, South East Wales, and has published reviews for Mythaxis magazine, run by Daniel White, an American living in Taiwan. Encounters is his first published work for Moonchild.
cold call killer
you are so sick of being super. you could have just been a rich man.
you can’t do a goddamn thing without being interrupted. the hero the city needs or whatever. dude, you can’t even finish a fucking novel in under a year. you’re reading Luster by Raven Leilani and waiting, begging to get to the part where she leaves that man, when the phone rings.
you want to indulge in the syrupy sweet tannins of prose but you never can. it really rains on your parade, bro. not to mention you will even be out saving someone and have to jump to save someone else. you wish the city would stop changing the bulbs in that goddamn light they shine in the sky for you.
so you’re reading a decadent sentence, and that phone rings. it shakes you to your skeleton because it’s that “old phone” ring that sounds like someone is strangling a bell to death. you hate the idea of that, you like bells. but you put down the excellent novel and you jump into your suit.
you’re grateful, truly, for the new grapnel boost. you can put detective mode on, see where this bitch is calling you, and boost the fuck over there. so you do.
why is he using payphones anyway? you’re pretty sure that he’s the only one keeping payphones in business. it’s really fucked up that he always rings one in your earshot; he always knows where you are.
you pick up this old ass phone, and there he is. victor razzmatazz. you tell him, as always, his name sounds like a shitty laffy taffy flavor. he tells you he has an innocent woman tied up above a field of spikes. you sigh and hang up. the map in your head points to where you need to rush to.
you hate time limits on things. when you were a kid and they had you take those stupid timed tests you would say, “this is so unrealistic! this will never happen in real life!” you didn’t know razzmatazz then.
you glide over the city. it’s grey and foggy tonight. you like this because you blend in. you’re frequently observed in both your super and your rich man life, so when you blend in, you revel in it. you find where razzmatazz has this chick and you break open the doors.
“ah there you are. i was just beginning to think you stood us up,” he says.
the woman tied above the spikes is screaming. you don’t really blame her, but you’re stressed enough already, and the screams pile on your nervous system like an overdue rent payment. you’ve never had any of those, but you’ve read about them. they sound so scary!
anyway, you manage to solve the puzzle and shut off the spikes. by the time you cut the woman down, razzmatazz is gone. you glide home.
there is one instance where it is convenient to constantly be called. you have never had to break up with anyone. you are called mid-conversation, mid-date, mid-whatever. eventually people give up trying to get what they need from you and seek therapy or the answers within themselves or something like that.
this is how it’s been with talia. you circle in and out of each other’s lives like tides. you wash into her.
so, you’re in the middle of fucking her when the next phone rings. you’re trying to hurry and finish up, but you just can’t cum to the thought of innocent people dying. you are lawful good after all. you put your suit on and leave after you take one more glance at her fantastic body.
this one is far. you rush through half of the city, your heart beating like a humming-bird's wings. you envision the man he says he has between two walls of lasers inching closer. you wonder who he has more trapped.
when you figure out how to stop the walls and unchain the man, razzmatazz is gone again. you think he triggers your fear of abandonment. you got this from your parents dying. razzmatazz is never there when you finish the puzzle, and you never get validation, or to finish your god forsaken novel.
there is nothing worse than the old phone ringtone. you are halfway through the novel and then he has a woman above a tank of water full of plugged in toasters. then a non-binary baddie on top of a pile of dynamite. a man inside a cage in a tank full of hungry sharks. where does he get all these ideas?
you’ve been talking to your therapist about changing your ways. you think part of the reason you let the bad guy get away is because of the cycle. you need them to need you. you need them for the city to need you. you need everyone to need you. but she always says, “how can you need yourself?” and it really fucking sticks with you, man.
you decide next time will be different.
next time the phone rings you notice how it impacts your body. you feel the stomach acid creeping up. you feel your hairs turning grey. you don’t mind that as much, you know you’ll make a sexy silver fox. but you hate the stomach acid, the jitters. you find this spot as quickly as you can.
razzmatazz has somebody standing on the track of a giant circular saw. jesus, he must have taken this from that stupid series of movies. ugh.
this time you turn on detective mode and find the heat of his body. you know the saw is heading to the person and it makes you sick but you keep swimming through the dark. razzmatazz is behind a control panel in the basement. you tip toe behind him and get your blade on his neck.
this whole time he’s had you focus on the person you need to save. all you needed to do was find him and put a stop to it, after all. you think about how stupid simple this is and feel a little disappointed in yourself. you hear your therapist’s voice again--“how can you need you?”--and you feel a little spark.
“you wouldn’t,” he says.
you think about what he means by that. you know a version of you wouldn’t, but you really want to change this time. you’ve been saying it for so long. you think of the novel you have at home.
you slice his throat. his face goes from a form of shock, to making a gurgling sound, to lifeless. you watch each step intently. you feel his blood run down your tactical gloves. even with a layer between you and his blood, you feel sticky. usually the blood on your suit is on the knuckles from a fight, or rubbed off in scattered spots. this time there is a consistent stream. your gloves are covered. you find strength from somewhere within you to move. he will never call you again.
you stop the circular saw. you let the person go home to whomever.
you know the city will be shocked when they find the body. you don’t care. you get home and you finish Luster. you take your melatonin and go to bed.
Sofia Fey is a Lesbian and Non-Binary writer living in LA. Currently, they are the founder of the Luminaries Poetry workshop, poetry editor at Hooligan Magazine, and a reader for Stone of Madness Press and Kissing Dynamite. Their poems have appeared in CP Quarterly, indigo literary, Rejection Letters, and others. They tweet @sofiafeycreates.
Uncovered logs from the distant past and the future beyond.