© 2023 by The Book Lover. Proudly created with Wix.com

  • Grey Twitter Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon

June 1st, 2019 Issue

Hello and welcome to the 8th Issue of PPM. In these selective works, you're in for a moving experience of loss, transformation, and hopefulness. Take a moment to reflect with Timothy Hudenburg's "Reveille and Foreboding", resist the urge to scratch in Gina Rose Davis' "Map of Africa", and stare into the face of mortality in Liza Bencheikh's "The Beautiful Corpse". As always, happy reading.

Table of Contents

Reveille and Foreboding
Poetry by Timothy Hudenburg


Map of Africa

Flash fiction by Gina Rose Davis

Polysenic Vagaries Number Three

Artwork by Christian Duran

Tomorrow into Oblivion
Poetry by Genevieve DiNatale

Jodie Filan 
Artwork by Jodie Filan

Rite Aide
Flash Fiction by Madeline Gressman



 

Tempest Took our Teapot
Poetry by Gerard Sarnat

J-ax
Artwork by Mario Loprete

The Beautiful Corpse
Non-fiction by Liza Bencheikh

Birdman
Artwork by Samy Sfoggia

Monarch of the Meadow

Flash Fiction by Rich Glinnen

Son
Poetry by Stacie Charbonneau Hess

Clearing

Flash Fiction by Gabriel Robinson

The Devil's Millhopper

Artwork by Christian Duran

Seasons
Poetry by Jordan Beamer


Two Ghosts
Flash Fiction by Beatrice Garza

Train Talk
Poetry by John McCarthy

One Percent
Fiction by Daniel Deisinger

 

Reveille and Foreboding

by Timothy Hudenburg

aroused from sleep

all in step our uneven cadences 

some furloughs cut way short

 

half about the graves

memorial day flag red white

pulsating blue old glory below us

 

taps into the genius of imperfect memory

remember what you will 

as the bugle fades

 
Timothy Hudenburg

T. M. Hudenburg a poet who works and resides in Northern Virginia

Map of Africa

by Gina Rose Davis

 
 

Polysemic Vagaries Number Three
Artwork by Christian Duran

He had returned from his stint in the wilderness, touched in several places by urushiol, the difficult-to-pronounce toxin found in the plant known as poison oak. Within a few days of his reappearance in their home, the effects of the urushiol on his right knee, feet, and left forearm had spawned a new kind of skin on his pale, pink body. The reptilian, red leather blister cobblestones now covered these parts of him and, on the third day, began to ooze a clear, sometimes light yellow material. 

            She asked him if it was contagious. She did not like the wilderness and stayed away. Her own skin – brown and soaked with melanin – had a troubled history of sensitivity, and would swell up at even the smallest of fleabites or surface scratches. He told her that a spreading of his own affliction to her body was impossible, and she believed him.

            But on the fourth day in their shared bed, she began to feel the beginnings of something on, and then inside of her. First, the feeling of some living thing crawling under her skin. Then, in the spaces the imaginary creature had just slithered through, an itch that began as a brief irritation, and soon transformed into an unbearable rawness, a burning. These sensations were not limited to the surface of her skin, but somewhere deep in a place inside her inner flesh, a place she could never hope to reach with her fingers, or the nails on them. After that, they were in her lungs and her stomach. She tried to cough to scratch it out, but this became tiresome to her. Her chest ached. 

            “I think something is happening,” she told him, terrified and exhausted. 

            “It’s impossible,” he insisted. 

            On the fifth day, she was covered in an entirely new skin. Blisters making way to new body parts and curves. Swollen ex-limbs that were warm to the touch. Her once slender forearm now twice its size. He woke that morning and, upon seeing her, recoiled.

            “You have to go to the doctor,” he said. 

            Upon his declaration, her body contorted further, all on its own. It was like a reflex, a release of something pent up for longer than anyone had dared to notice. He yelped and stood back while she let go and allowed it to happen, powerless over her physical self now, and knowing it. 

            Perhaps, she thought for a weak and hopeful moment, this will be my transformation into a butterfly. 

            He stared, breathless, as she writhed and choked and changed from a woman into a hot, seething mass of flesh that lay on the floor before him…unable to speak because she no longer had a mouth, and unable to grasp at him with terrified eyes, because she no longer had those either. Her face was gone and so, it seemed, were the majority of her bones.

And when it was all over, she was no longer a person, but a non-sentient being – like a mound of clay molded into something…a shape he couldn’t quite put his finger on. This question without a clear and immediate answer tortured him for several minutes, more than his own body had tortured him the entire past five days.

            “You look like a map of Africa,” he blurted, finally. Then he heaved a sigh of relief, grateful that he had figured it out without having to use his phone. 

Gina Rose Davis
Gina Rose Davis is an African American and Chinese American writer in Oakland, California. She attended Barnard College in New York City where she received the Howard M. Teichmann Writing Prize. Her work has been featured in Rigorous magazine. 
Christian Duran
Duran currently resides in Gainesville, Florida where he enjoys reflecting on nature and producing his work. Duran’s art focuses on themes related to nature, science, anatomy, and abstraction. His work has been collected by the Denver Art Museum; the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College in Winter Park, FL; the Snite Museum of Art in Notre Dame, IN; Royal Caribbean International; and by the Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, FL. Solo and two person exhibitions include: Lost in the Agar at Aimee Perez Art Space, Miami, FL, and many more.

Tomorrow into Oblivion
(the 6th Grade)

by Genevieve DiNatale

 
 

Jodie Filan Art
 

All that fell through the sky shined

 

Then it shriveled up and died

 

On tomorrow’s doorstep

 

Little beads of oblivion 

 

Puffed silver dust

 

And the tear of the sentient one

Fell in its place

 

And...

 

No one could tell the difference

 

But he cried 

And in his stained shirt

Raised his hand

 

And asked about tomorrow

 

Genevieve DiNatale

Genevieve ia a TV journalist by day and poet by night. She has been published in "The Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans" and she is about to have another poem titled, "Winter Psalm" published by "The Voices Project" at the beginning of June. She has two master's degrees, one in journalism from Emerson College and the other in survey research from UConn. She studied philosophy as an undergraduate at Brandeis University.

Jodie Filan

Jodie filan is 27 and from Saskatoon Saskatchewan. What influenced her art the most was a traumatic series of events leading to addiction. Losing her family and friends greatly impacted her style. You can find her art on her Facebook page, and she can be found on Instagram under Jodie Filan Artwork. She has been published twice by dark Ink Press and Raw Art Review

Rite Aide

by Madeline Gressman

 

Anderson had stopped grocery shopping. Not because he’d stopped eating, but because the simple act of walking the aisles made his palms sweat.

            Well, that was an understatement really. The carts, people aimlessly standing in his way, children shrieking at colorful cereal boxes, not knowing where the hell vanilla is … it all caused him intense anxiety. And every time, he’d be surprised.

            Huh, wonder why I can’t catch my breath, he’d think. Then he’d notice his heartbeat racing and his whole body shaking. 

            Usually he’d scramble as fast as he could to gather whatever food he saw on his way to the cashier (Pop Tarts, tea, Saltines), but it was never enough. He’d always end up starved by the end of the week. 

            Tired of the fiasco, Anderson decided to just stop grocery shopping altogether.

            He’d thought about Instacart, but couldn’t afford it. Nor could he any other grocery delivery service. Desperate, Anderson began stopping in at the Rite Aid on his lunch breaks to pick up enough food for lunch and dinner.

            Every day, Anderson entered the near-empty Rite Aid around the corner from his office, where the lone cashier would be filing her nails or reading a magazine. She never showed any signs of recognizing him, which Anderson appreciated. He didn’t want the pressure of a social interaction, a duty to make conversation, to spoil his oasis.

            Rite Aid didn’t have a particularly thrilling selection of food. It was mostly frozen dinners, canned ravioli, and other boxed meals. But Anderson didn’t mind. He wasn’t a good cook anyway.

            After a few weeks, Anderson was feeling pleased with his new routine and even looked forward to his lunch hour.  Until the woman appeared outside of Rite Aid. 

            She was small and yelling through the open automatic door. Anderson hadn’t seen her until he was much too close to turn around without her noticing. But she was inches from the door, and he felt increasingly uncomfortable with the thought of walking past her.

            Anderson stood there in a panic, hoping she’d leave, for so long that he’d begun to worry about going over his allotted break time. Eventually the cashier came outside, and the woman yelled again before finally stomping away.

            “What was that all about?” Anderson asked the cashier, once he got inside. He’d selected four cans of various vegetables today. 

            “She tried to steal something,” the cashier mumbled. “Damn lady always comes in here thinking I won’t notice.”

            Anderson wasn’t sure how to reply. He’d thought the same of the cashier. Had she noticed him this whole time, too? Was she annoyed with his incessant visits and purchases? 

            Anderson didn’t go to the Rite Aid the next day. Or the next. He walked past once and saw that the yelling woman was there once again, yelling. 

            It took about a week for Anderson to run out of food. Longing for the anonymity again, he returned to his local supermarket. 

Madeline Gressman

Madeline is a copywriter and fiction writer based in New England. Her stories have appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, The Write Launch and more. She is currently working as a copywriter for nonprofits and creating her first short story collection.

Tempest Took Our Teapot

by Gerard Sarnat

j-ax oil on concrete
Artwork by Mario Loprete

 
 

J-ax, oil on concrete 
Artwork by Mario Loprete

Just a cat’s-paw compared to

Black Rock Desert’s nor'wester

 

twenty-four mile an hour squall

drafts into Portola Valley bowl

 

where we live almost wafted

one puppy and two kittens away.

 

That reminds me of Burning Man

sandstorms during son Eli and my

 

first year there which gusts double

those now blew tent, food plus stove

 

to g-d knows leading us to depend

on the kindness of strangers come

 

from Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway

— this made all the difference for me.

Gerard Sarnat

Gerard Sarnat authored HOMELESS CHRONICLES (2010), Disputes, 17s, Melting Ice King (2016). Gerry’s published by Gargoyle, Oberlin, Harvard, Brown, Stanford, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, American Journal Of Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, Brooklyn Review, LA Review, San Francisco Magazine, New York Times. MountAnalogue selected KADDISH for distribution nationwide Inauguration Day.

Mario Loprete

Mario Loprete lives in a world that is shaped to his liking; refined from years of research and experimentation. His new series of work on concrete is a synonym of modernity, although his memories and DNA remain concreted inside as if they were urban artifacts. His work has appeared in many galleries including Dadada Beach Museum - Montauro, Italy. He has been published in many magazines including "We are Jersey" and "Sheba Magazine." You can find him on Facebook, or Instagram, or his website.

by Liza Bencheikh

The Beautiful Corpse

 
 

Birdman, 2019 Photography
Artwork by Samy Sfoggia

Probability suggests that we'll all see a corpse at least oncein our lives before we become one ourselves. Just as death itself, it was an inevitable fate for which I was no exception. My fate came as Rosa Poone, the sister of a family friend who had succumbed to pancreatic cancer on the evening of July 24th, 2018.

 

I had visited her in the hospital twice before her passing: once, when a ventilator violently jerked her seemingly hollow body back and forth, and again, when her ability utter a few shaky words gave doctors the slightest hope for recovery. I recalled these moments as I stood over her casket on the temperate summer day of her funeral. I suppose it was in the memories of her sufferance in which I found the courage to face my own inevitable fate. 

 

I looked down at her lifeless face, anticipating to be struck by the horrors of mortality, perhaps even driven to the precipice of sickness or insanity. Instead, found myself struck by the unnerving beauty of it. Like a mannequin she lay- rouge on cheeks which could not flush and mascara on eyes which could not see and lipstick on a mouth which could not speak. Her candle wax skin was painted in hues of yellow and orange to replicate the warmish glow of spirit. But there was no spirit inside of her, only embalming fluids trying desperately to combat decay. As they lowered her into a grave deep within in the heart of a forest, I couldn’t help but think about how those fluids in that beautiful corpse would seep into the soil and kill the trees. 

 

Perhaps there was more beauty in the gaunt eyes and hollow cheeks and grey skin of an unembalmed corpse which fertilizes the soil rather than poisoning it, more beauty in decomposition than there was in preservation.

 

Perhaps there was more beauty in allowing things to unfold in the way that they were meant to.

Liza Bencheikh
Liza Bencheikh is a 19 year-old university student in Rochester, New York currently studying French and Economics. Her passion for the literary arts started in early childhood, and by age 17, she finished her first manuscript. Liza has hopes of becoming a novelist.
Samy Sfoggia

Sfoggia shoots with film cameras and works primarily with 35mm black and white film. On Samy’s creative process, photography is used as work material, but her artwork is not limited to this medium. Her pictures are like frames of the unconscious, deliberately incoherent, and illogical. Samy has participated in group and solo exhibitions in Brazil and other countries. Her work has been published on several websites and international magazines (Lost At E Minor; International Times; Kaltblut Magazine, etc).

Monarch of the Meadow

 

by Rich Glinnen

                  Armond didn’t feel like he belonged in his army. Under the dappled shadow of a tattered leaf he observed his comrades partaking in the usual shenanigans. This afternoon they raced around the clearing. Such moxie, Armond thought, such pizzazz. Their dozens of legs rounded the summer-scorched leaves marking the track’s corners, jostling for the lead—and all of them doing this while donned in fur. 

                  How Armond wished he was born with such a velvety pelt, rather than this timid green wallflower wallowing in the shadows. He felt more like a snake than a caterpillar—a sinful snake, envious of his brethren and their marvelous coats. 

                  Armond’s envy waned as his fatigue flowed, and knowing they’d never ask him to join anyway, fell into a deep sleep in his vast pool of shade.

                  The wooly caterpillars were soon exhausted as well from parading all afternoon. They lazed about on the other side of the clearing, gossiping about Armond.

                  “That boy’s a snake.”

                  “I think he’s a bean.”

                  “Yeah, a bald bean!”

                  The fuzzy circle sniggered at their hypotheses and then began to compliment each other on their looks.

                  “I’m gagging!”

                  “Oh, thank you so much!” 

“Yes, I agree, I am having an exceptionally good hair day.”

                  “This humidity is doing wonders. Get a load of these curls!”

                  They gathered around, got a load of the curls, and were all simultaneously astounded in similarly uninspired ways. 

                  Armond felt flushed at the coldness directed towards him. Although they never said or did anything mean to him directly, he felt they all were talking about him. So, when it came time to weave his cocoon, Armond once again was compelled to do so a distance away from his furry critics.

                  It was grueling work, especially since it had to be done hanging upside down. They seem like they’re having a grand ole time, those dang cotton balls, Armond secretly sneered. And it did seem like they were enjoying themselves: mincing in their minks, beginning and ending each subphase with an exhilarating tidbit of gossip. And yet, even though they were always yapping, the others were nearly encased in their cocoons while his was a mere cap.

                  Don’t bother with them, baby. Stay on point, stay on track, don’t think about what you lack. Armond smiled at the image of his Grandma Irma coming to him; better days were to come—you’ll get them back.

                  Pupae festooned the leaves surrounding the clearing like Christmas ornaments; dangling shells promising life. Rains swept, winds rattled, birds and other animals of higher order feasted on a minority of the defenseless creatures.

                  Soon, they would emerge winged and reinvented.

                  Armond felt like the monarch of the meadow, dancing from bulb to bulb. It seemed like the swirls on his wings spattered radiance upon the flowers below, casting shade from their petals, providing pulse to a rainbow stream that bobbed giddily, swirled when he whirled, flickered when he fluttered—the sweetest dance partner he could ask for.

                  But nothing was sweeter than being the only butterfly in a pale eclipse of moths—a lone shard of stained-glass glimmering amongst the dunes of the moon. While Armond strutted the fields, his former acquaintances slept, only to awaken in the heart of night, or if there was gossip of delicious and accessible clothes nearby, “because they felt like it”—but Armond didn’t believe a word of it. And just as his mind began to wander fruitlessly and doubt their excuses, a dazzling kaleidoscope of monarchs appeared and engulfed Armond in their joyous silent disco.

Rich Glinnen

Rich Glinnen is a market researcher by day and a writer by night. He enjoys bowling, and eating gruyere with his cats at his home in Bayside, NY. He was nominated for the 2017 Best of the Net Anthology. His work can be read in Kenneth Warren’s Lakewood House Organ, and here, here, or here, and on Tumblr. His wife calls him Taco.

Son

by Stacie Charbonneau Hess

 

of all the bags
to throw across the room
you just happened to pick the one
with two dozen eggs and good strawberries

 

sent careening into space
cracking within their safe nest
they turned thick, yellow drops on the wall

 

and puddled on the floor amidst the strawberries
 

“You don’t listen!” you shouted.

I have to use the shock factor to make you listen, you confide later.
 

So I looked at you and listened and steered you back when you started to veer off course.
 

At the end I said, “Is there anything
else you need me to know?” And a sideways glance, full of fullness and reflection, answered that I had not asked that before.

 

You remind me that I must let you speak until you are finished. And hug me until you are ready to let go.
 

After that, with wet rags and sponges, you cleaned the wall, washing away your anger and bringing us back to each other.

This morning I could almost forget, except for the one lonely, heart-shaped strawberry hiding under the piano, unblemished by the storm.

Stacie Charbonneau Hess

Stacie is a teacher, mother, and yogi who lives in Massachusetts. Her favorite past-times are planning trips, traveling, writing, and spending time with her three dogs. Stacie has held an eclectic variety of jobs including a baker, a journalist, a Maitre D', and a jewelry salesperson. She is currently a member of Grub Street, a writers' group in Boston. 

Clearing

 
 

by Gabriel Robinson

The Devil's Millhopper
Artwork by Christian Duran

A vast, silent slab of smooth concrete bakes in the sun, marked by rubble, weeds and stagnant puddles. Overgrown gardens and oak trees watch the elements heat and cool and wash away the residue of this place, now laid bare to the sky after decades of artificial light. No one comes here anymore, but this place is full of memories.

 

Many spent their last days here. Others regained their strength enough to return home. Most were unable to move much without difficulty. Instead they imagined themselves elsewhere, living through their TV screens each day from hospital beds. TV screens blaring the same commercials, echoing down the hall, breakfast trays with pre-packaged cereal and fake maple syrup, generic shampoo bottles and brightly colored socks with rubber treads to prevent falls, call buttons on cords tangled with telephones fallen out of reach and off the hook, packages of XXL adult briefs. Nurse carts, medication schedules, vitals machines, walkers, bedside commodes. Shift changes, hand sanitizer, visitor guest books, back doors with alarms triggered by those still looking for a favorite truck sold long ago. Windows open to trees and sky. Window blinds closed. Worn handrails, floors polished with industrial cleaners, air fresheners barely covering other scents. Bodies of humans existing, recovering, slowing down, ceasing to be. Prayers offered aloud, in silence, on decorative cards in frames. Birthday cards, obituaries.

 

Outside, silence blankets the spaces between. Storm clouds, bird song, chirping insects, traffic. Vehicles come and go, some scheduled and some urgent with wailing sirens. Every day a man walks the perimeter with a cane, others are pushed in wheelchairs. All around the wall of oaks stands sheltering and witnessing the seasons pass.

 

One day, construction begins. Hulking machines tear open and repave ground. A new foundation, walls, interiors, water pipes, vents, cables all interconnected to form a new organism, a building to prolong life. Coats of paint are applied, roof tiles, new carpets and furniture, a bustle of inspections and deadlines extended. All observed with growing anticipation from the old building next door. Not all residents will see the building finished.

 

Finally, a symbolic ribbon is cut under an awning full of rented folding chairs. Important people wearing suits applaud and shake hands in front of cameras. Staff bustle to relocate equipment, rolling hospital beds and wheelchairs bearing patients across the fresh asphalt and brightly painted parking lanes into their new home. Sunlight touches thin and wrinkled skin.

 

The old building now sits empty but for equipment broken or deemed too old and irrelevant. Days pass with fluorescent lights left on at night. Once cleared, it is demolished by more thunderous shrieking machines. A home for many, dismantled while life carries on next door. An eerie, thoughtful silence to walk across open ground, laid bare to the sky. Many spent their last days here. All have gone. Only the buzzing insects and birds remain to tell new stories, upon the bare smooth concrete baking in the sun.

Gabriel Robinson

Gabriel Robinson left the West coast on an adventure with his wife to her hometown of Norfolk, VA. 10 years later he has become proficient in occupational therapy, jiu-jitsu and gathering friends around a table for roleplaying games. A longtime coffee cultist, the evergreens and rain still speak to him. Note: This story was written from experience working in a nursing home in Chesapeake, VA.

Christian Duran

Christian Duran, Cuban-American painter, and graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute. He currently resides in Gainesville, Florida where he enjoys reflecting on nature and producing his work. Duran’s art focuses on themes related to nature, science, anatomy, and abstraction. His work has been collected by the Denver Art Museum; the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College in Winter Park, FL; the Snite Museum of Art in Notre Dame, IN; Royal Caribbean International; and by the Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, FL. Solo and two person exhibitions include: Lost in the Agar at Aimee Perez Art Space, Miami, FL, and many more.

Seasons

by Jordan Beamer

 

Nothing good lasts:

Mortal seasons slumber:

Summer sweeps the grass

as flowers drip from her yellow eyelashes,

tears as she fades into Fall,

dropping leaves like fingernails bitten off.

 

Like the hairs on my head,

falling out as I age:

Earth spins seasons into years 

unraveled yarn, once constricted,

now loosened, fluffy coils

unfold to be remolded.

 

Sleep ends days of joy,

painful days pass in waiting:

I turn over in my bed

as the orbit resets all,

seasons waltzing to a hidden song,

switching partners with each spin.

 

Winter’s cold shovel carves ground so

Spring’s dusty children can lift their heads for

Summer’s arrival on golden chariots, till

Fall’s open eyes lull for Winter’s sweet sleep.

 

Nothing I want will ever last,

but good is not confined to past.

Jordan Beamer

Jordan Beamer is a senior at Christopher Newport University, working towards her B.A. in English Writing. She grew up in Newport News, and decided to stay local for undergrad, until she spent a semester abroad at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. If not found reading or writing, Jordan is probably spending time with her Corgi, playing guitar, or traveling. You can follow her on Instagram.

Two Ghosts

by Beatrice Garza

 

                We raced faster than the wind, up the mountain, through the trees and winding brush that filled the valleys and deep forests of the Pacific Northwest. Like a dream you have in the middle of the night, like a nightmare when you’re in deep. The rivers that crash and roar, where the bears hunt for their meals, teeth tearing flesh, claws ripping skin but we do not watch, we do not listen. The leaves and twigs break under our feet, the waters part, opening just for us as we make our way down the middle. The birds sing our song when they see us coming, they move their nests as we climb up their homes to reach the highest point to look out and see what is ours, what has always belonged to us. We are the rulers of this kingdom, we are the beating drum of the forest, thump-thump, thump-thump, thump. We are the birds soaring above, we are the night-crawlers creeping down below, we are the deer grazing in the meadow, we are the mountain lion in the bushes about to pounce. Leave us to get lost, leave us to live, leave us here to die.

Beatrice Garza

Beatrice Garza is a college senior from Texas. You can follow her on Instagram.

Train Talk

by John McCarthy

At night I forget

The chaos and mayhem

Of the day trains, noisy

Blocking crossings,

Lines of cars to the horizon.

In the deep night silence,

Caught on the edge

Of waking and sleeping,

I hear a distant locomotive

Signal at a crossing.

Some engineers have a heavy hand,

Others a quick tempo,

Changing the feel of the night,

Infusing longing, romance,

Sadness, mystery,

Mourning and melancholy,

Setting a tone—

Sometimes contentment and delight

Or loneliness and regret,

A different time, a different place.

On those nights

When sleep does not return quickly,

The horns, so grating in the day,

Fuel the imagination,

Feed stories of freedom,

Fresh beginnings, adventure,

Fortune and treasure.

The long wail grows closer, comforting,

Drowning out the chaos of the day

With the romance and mystery

Of the night.

On the stillest of still nights,

When the wind is just right,

I hear the steady sound

Of wheels on rails,

Calming, a gift

From an anonymous donor,

Leaving thoughts and memories,

And on some nights,

Like a good lullaby,

A guide back to the land of sleep.

 
John McCarthy 

The author lives in Norfolk, VA, with a long-suffering wife and two cats who believe jumping on his lap helps him write. It doesn’t. He writes poetry and fiction, and enjoys presenting his work at open mics in the area. This is one of his first attempts at getting his work published.  

One Percent

by Daniel Deisinger

 

                The first noiseless explosion had thrown an exterior hull panel past his helmet, and then the oxygen sprayed into space like a tiny white cloud in a storm.

                The next explosion shot him away before he could do little more than hold tight to his line. The third severed the line.

                His heart fired like a rocket as he gazed at the endless, star-speckled emptiness in front of him. He brought his slow, clumsy hand in front of his helmet, and his helmet's cold lamps illuminated the bulky white glove.

                He tried to spin around at the ship. The view in front of him didn't change—the distant stars didn't shift. Nothing came into view. Did the ship break up too much? Did the pieces come apart and become too small? Or am I so powerless I can't even twist my body around in this weightless hell?

                He twisted his neck, trying to spot something he could use to mark his progress. No planets, no moons, no asteroids. No local stars, no pockets of colorful gas, and nothing left of the ship. Black eddies pushed him along to nowhere.

                He lifted his left hand and looked at the digital readout on his wrist. One hundred percent oxygen remaining, no damage to the suit. Full battery. That's good. I'll have plenty of time to....

                His eyes widened. A breath escaped his trembling mouth. The lamps on either side of his head vomited blue-white light into a gaping nothing. No stars remained before him. His suit and his joints creaked—no wind whistled, no engines roared, no children laughed.

                He tried to spin around the other way. There were a hundred people on that ship. Someone else must have survived. That's just the odds. I survived because I was already outside, working on the ship, but someone else must have been able to get into a suit and leap out.

                But if anyone did make it...nothing on the communicator. Breath fogged the glass in front of him. And I was thrown. I'm flying through nothing. How far am I from the ship already? A kilometer? A hundred?

               He checked his oxygen meter. One hundred percent. What's out here—there must be something out here. Maybe I can power up my radio somehow. That station we left...a week ago. Maybe there are other ships. This is a common route.

                His eyes scanned everything in front of him. A starry blanket tightened over his helmet. His stomach lurched. He checked his oxygen meter again. One hundred percent.

                He took a slow breath. There's plenty of time. I just need to think. What can I do?

                Can I control my direction? No. Can I communicate to anyone? No.

                "Yes!"

                He clamped his mouth shut. Keep the talking inside. Yes, yes I can communicate. Every suit has an emergency beacon on the radio, I just have to activate it.

                He touched a box on his right hip, and brushed his fingers until he found the emergency button on the side, and pushed it. It didn't move.

                The button is jammed. He gazed at the radio with his mouth open. What kind of idiot designed this?

               The blast must have...I just need to ease it. Use something small. His chest hurt. He released the breath he'd been holding and checked his oxygen. One hundred percent. Okay. Something even smaller. What do I have?

                I have some tools. I have...a mallet. Too big. A surge tester. Too big. A screwdriver!

                With the thumb and forefinger of his left hand he pulled the thin tool out of his belt, by his left hip. He gripped it with his whole hand. The perfect size.

                His shaking hands floated together. With minute, trembling motions, hands bathed in blue-white light, he swapped the tool to his right hand. He lowered the hand to the radio until the tool found the switch, and he pressed. The switch moved.

                His breath released again, fogging the helmet. Okay. Screwdriver back where it belongs...good. Now I have to wait.

                A blur raced past his helmet. Something struck his suit, and the air tank on his back. No.

                The debris had sent him spinning. The stars drifted past. The ship's torn frame came into view, with debris floating in all directions. His heart beat in his throat as he checked the oxygen meter. One hundred percent. He put his hand to the radio on his hip.

                A piece of debris buried in it. He checked his oxygen. Ninety-nine percent.

Daniel Deisinger

Daniel lives in Minnesota, and writes for work and fun. His work has appeared in Defenestration Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Outposts of Beyond, Whiskey Island, the Consumnes River Journal, and more. You can follow him on twitter or checkout his website.

This 8th issue of PPM has us feeling #blessed. We're coming up on our second year for the magazine, and it's been an emotional journey. This last submission period has been filled with some really dark selections, we're looking at you dude who sent us a story about a sci-fi actress getting ripped open for a film. It's been a trying time for our readers, who we would like to take a moment to thank and also ask, "Are you ok? Can we get you anything?" But the darkness of the reading period just makes us appreciate the few bright lights of excellence in the selections we've chosen for this issue. Thank you writers, poets, and artists. You are the bright lights that keep us going and make this magazine a joy to work on, like a disco of monarch butterflies. Thanks again to everyone that's had a hand in making this happen. We love and appreciate you.

                                              Sincerely,
                                              The Editors of Penultimate Peanut Magazine