Memoirs of a Dissociative Youth

By Dan Morey

Every week in group therapy we are encouraged to share what is generally referred to as life experience.  The idea is to diffuse individual psychoneurotic sufferings by creating an atmosphere of empathy—rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep, as it were.

Unfortunately, the notion of life experience has always been a bit tricky for me, owing to the permeability of certain mental boundaries that in normally functioning brains serve to keep separate reality (physical-world sensory phenomenon) from that fantastical alternate dimension where one is readily convinced that a simple Morris chair isn’t a simple Morris chair at all, but is, in fact, a grotesque dwarf who wants very badly to sodomize one in some diminutive fashion.

Consequently, as I share my experiences with the group, Dr. Boylan invariably interrupts me with: “The truth please, Mr. Moreau.  No one benefits from this absurd dissembling of yours.”  And I do my best to accommodate him, though on certain days, as I reflect on my past, I see nothing but dwarves (so to speak), and am utterly unable to judge them on the basis of their materiality.  It is only on the good days—days when my mind is ordered and capable of differentiating Morris chairs from dwarves—that I can confidently paint for the group an honest portrait of my turbulent youth.  On one such recent occasion I began my story with the following introduction:

“When I was seventeen my mother and father had their throats pawed open and partially digested by a dyspeptic Rottweiler.” Continue reading

They See Us

By Margaret Kramar

“What was that?”

Lydia bolted up in bed, hearing the music again: tinny, distant, like Big Band music from the 1920s played in a darkened theatre. A radio maybe, but now it completely faded out. She strained to hear it. Nothing.

“Did you hear it?” Her husband didn’t answer, just breathed in measured cadences. He always seemed to be asleep when she heard it. But she knew that if Steve weren’t asleep, it wouldn’t have played. She sighed and nestled down into the covers, relaxing into his warmth, snuggling into the bedroom of the old farmhouse encircled by tall pines that reached way up into the heavens. Even in the darkness, the enchantment of these old green wizards was palpable.

Before they moved in, Lydia and Steve had rounded the curve of the road many times, hardly noticing the farmstead. It was only when Steve accepted the caretaker job for the summer camp on the grounds that they penetrated the interior. Following the path of the gravel driveway, a vast panorama opened up to them: verdant meadows, shining ponds, and tall gnarled oaks leaning together, whispering and murmuring their arcane secrets of old.

One building stood out alone from the others, silent in the moaning wind. The chicken house.

“We’re not getting chickens,” Steve read her mind. Continue reading

Red-Liquid Sipping Ghost

By Mi West

“Damn Santa circus!” I roar, balancing on my toes on the icy veranda railing, and I continue, “Decorative chains are the worn-out ball and chain of dads in December.” I’d rather be balancing on my skis in the Scandinavian mountains instead. I hiss four-letter words toward a snowdrift in the garden.

Once forced into place, the lights don’t work. That turns me off even worse. Enlightened technology has taken astronauts way to the Moon, but geegaws lasting at least as long as a big pack of Christmas ginger cookies are still sci-fi.

Same procedure as last year: I fetch a spare bulb and try some swaps at random. Finally, light conquers darkness, and I consequently suppress the rest of my traditional, four-letter, juicy highlights.

I hear a teen voice behind me, the son of our neighbor Vatnberg, nicked Watson, “What’s up? Need some help?”

The teen has the gift of a detective and mystery solver. I reply while climbing down, “Thanks for asking, Watson. No, just got this monster up and running again, sweatshop junk, you know, a present from my grandma-in-law… What about you? Any cool mysteries around?”

“Our home is haunted.” Continue reading

Extraordinary Neighbors

By Dawn Wilson

Miriam yoo-hooed. I hate it when Miriam yoo-hoos. She sounds like a yahoo. And I’ve told her so. She never listens. She’s from a small town where all the women go around yoo-hooing each other all the live long day. It’s unpleasant. She does the flicking wave, too. One arm out straight, heil Hitler, and the wrist bending aw-shucks. These were women schooled on Liberace: real men twinkle.

The man who’d just moved in next door, the one Miriam was yoo-hooing while I tended her precious flower bed, did not twinkle. He was your basic everyday man’s man, I figured. A very brown man, often covered in dirt. He wore a baggy black sweatshirt. He had Italian hair, pepper black with gray salt, slicked back.

“Yoo-hoo!”

The man turned.

“Oh, hello.” As if she was surprised to see him, or surprised he was real. When he turned his gaze on you, you just sort of did that, forgot what you were doing. I stood up with the little trowel, in case she needed backup. “I never saw a moving van.”

“Didn’t need one.” Continue reading

Powerless

By Katherine Orozco

I hate when the power goes out. You see, when the power goes out where I live, it’s not just a normal dark, the one that your eyes get used to after a few minutes. It’s the kind of dark that presses on your eyes and keeps you blind. It’s the kind of dark that makes you imagine noises, imagine that your childhood fears are coming to life. It’s the kind of dark that makes people go crazy.

One night, close to Thanksgiving, the power went out in my house. I sat in my chair, my eyes as open as I could get them, and tried to stare around in the black for a flashlight. A futile endeavor, I might add. Slowly but surely, the temperature dropped lower, and I was soon shivering in my seat. However, I wasn’t inclined to move. For all I knew, there could be something on the floor, waiting for me to put my bare foot down on the freezing tile. But, eventually, I braved the floor and sprinted to my room, where I tripped over a step and leaped onto my bed. Quickly, I wrapped my down blanket around myself, trying to calm my tremors of irrational fear and cold. Eventually, my heart rate slowed to normal.

And that’s when I heard a noise.  Continue reading

Visit Home

By Robert Earle

A suburb that once was a few estates roofed with old hardwoods on a peninsula bordered by two rivers flowing into the Atlantic. The man knew the way (he’d been married there), but the woman directed him where to turn. They were looking for her childhood home, not his. Only she had memories of the woods that stood before these roads were built and of the barn being torn down when she was five and of the trees her father preserved to ensure their privacy as he sold off twenty acres, one after another, and kept just three for themselves.

They turned up a side street. There, set back a good eighty feet, stood the house with its shingles painted silver-gray and its trim in perfect condition, likewise the rain gutters, and the window in the second floor gable behind which she had lived from her birth until she was eighteen.

She said, “I’ve got to knock.”

“I’ll sit here. They’ll react better if it’s just you.”

Continue reading

Jade Staircase Lament – In a Station of the Metro

By Martin Porter

Just as the sun sets across the Tuileries, the spring moon rises above the Rue de Rivoli. The air is clear, the sky radiates colour with spectral translucence. I descend into the Metro, grasping the glossy brass handrail so as not to slip on the verdigris-stained brass-edged steps, illumined brilliant jade in the jewelled dusk.

The air is rank, dank with the sweet smell of cherry blossom mixed with the perspiration. I catch my breath and catch a glimpse of her waiting for him, dressed comme des garçons in oriental silk, smart, déshabillé, classic Parisienne chic.

Her face glows, transparent as a nimbus, yet real, more real than everybody else. A gust of hot air sweeps through the station as a train approaches. Hats are held to heads, unbuttoned jackets flap. Nothing about her is disturbed. Discarded tickets blow about her. Specks of dust sparkle through her.

She had already seen him in town dashing through spring showers, as if to a meeting. She was early, buffed and scented for their rendezvous, anticipatory. She was early. He was late.

He is late. Even now, she waits, uncomplaining. He is, to put it simply, never going to arrive. Against hope, she still waits.

Looking away, I push the turnstile and enter the desolate black dendritic roots of the metro. Waiting on the sooty platform, a discarded flier rises in the draught from the tunnels. I brush a pastel pink petal of cherry blossom from my collar.

Martin Porter was born in Jersey C.I., but now lives a retired life in Whangarei, New Zealand, writing poetry and flash fiction.  He has recently had flash fiction published in Flash Frontiers, Blue Note Review, Flash Flood, Flash Mob 2013, Bare Fiction magazine, was an invited reader at Auckland Library for the NZ National Flash Fiction Day Awards 2013, and won the Whangarei Library Flash Fiction prize in 2012 and 2014.  He can be found on the web at poetrynotesandjottings.wordpress.com.

Photo Credit: Metro Paris – Ligne 13 – Porte de Vanves by Greenski

If You Ask Me: The Ranting Sister

By Matt Galletta 

Question:

My sister likes to rant. A lot. What she rants about doesn’t really matter because we agree about most of the things she likes to rant about. (Though lately it’s been about how everyone is overreacting to threat of Ebola in the US and not concerned enough about what’s going on in Africa.) The problem is that I DO agree with her, and I feel like no matter what I say she goes off on me. It’s like she has this whole lecture planned out, and she needs someone to sit through it. There’s no room for me to talk at all. I’ve told her that if she just needs an audience she should get a blog, but she won’t. She won’t even say anything to our uncle who posts American Ebola stuff nonstop on Facebook. Lately, I’ve been finding myself avoiding her. I don’t like it, but I don’t know what else to do.

So you’ve been avoiding your sister…like the plague?

(Pause for hysterical laughter) Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Simone Caroti

Simone Caroti is Course Director for Science Fiction and Fantasy at Full Sail University and a senior research scientist at the Astrosociology Research Institute (ARI), a non-profit organization devoted to bringing the humanities and the social sciences into the debate on human colonization of outer space. He is the author of The Generation Starship in Science Fiction, a critical history of multi-generational interstellar travel in science fiction. His second book on the Culture series by the science fiction author Iain M. Banks is currently under contract from McFarland.

In this interview with Paper Tape editor Kristy Harding, Simone talks about Iain M. Banks, his forthcoming book on Banks’ Culture novels, and his work at the ARI.

PT: Thanks for agreeing to talk with me, Simone. Tell us about your new book?

SC: The book originates from a proposal I sent to my publisher, McFarland, in December of 2012. I’d been wanting to write about the Culture series for fifteen years by that point, so I was actually relieved when I decided to take the plunge. McFarland declared itself interested, and I started researching. I continued until April 3rd, 2013. Banks’ announcement of his terminal illness hit me hard, and I immediately stopped working on the book – I didn’t know how to go on.

PT: His death hit me quite hard, as well. I was reading A Song of Stone when it was announced.

SC: I own A Song of Stone, and I very much want to read it, but right now I just can’t. If I may ask, did the atmosphere of the book seep into your reaction to Banks’ announcement?

PT: That’s a good question. I think the atmosphere of the book did seep into my reaction to Banks’ announcement but in an unexpected way. The thing that impressed me the most about A Song of Stone was how Banks wrote about the worst of human behavior with such beautiful language. It was as if he took these characters wallowing in a trash heap, and he gave them dignity. So, when the announcement came out I was struck by the contrast between the beauty of his personal dignity and all the love he received from the community and the horror and tragedy of the cancer that took him away from us. I think sitting with that terrible beauty while reading A Song of Stone helped me to sit with the best and worst of the human experience when the announcement came out, the love and the pain surrounding his death, which is beautiful in itself, in a way: Iain Banks’ work helped me grieve his death. It’s the greatest gift I think I’ve ever received from an author as a reader.

SC: I love that. I think you capture the mood of most people who love his work – you certainly do so for me, and I’m thankful for that.

PT: Thank you. I know we’d all rather have him here still, writing books. Obviously, you did go on eventually. What happened? Continue reading

The Awakening

By Dave Dormer

It wasn’t until my early twenties had I realized just what I’d done.

We walked for what seemed like miles through overgrown and choked hiking trails. The odor of campfire smoke clung to everything we owned and my throat felt like it would collapse at any moment. There were little trails of blood on my shins from whipping branches that my brother, who walked ahead of me, would let loose when I wasn’t looking, ‘Sorry’ he’d reply with a grin. I can’t recall how many times I rolled my ankles on the rocky trail, but I had to keep up to my dad who’d always stride ten feet ahead of us hollering, ‘C’mon guys. Keep up!’

We finally reached the fen, my favorite part of the trail and a little easier to navigate. It was still early spring and not much moved other than whiskey jacks flitting about the trees. I kept my eyes trained on the tree line of the marsh’s border in hopes of seeing a moose on its way to drink or swim, but nothing moved.

As a chubby kid and not much for stamina, I eventually trailed behind the rest of my family and our dog. The rustle from the plastic bag in my short’s pocket was a reminder that I was on duty to clean up after him. When my gaze returned to the trail, that’s when I spotted it. A brown wooden box nestled among broken, decaying branches and roots of a dead-fall. I stopped. I looked at the box, and then to my family who were quickly disappearing around a crook in the trail.

‘What is it? Why is it here? I couldn’t take my eyes off it. My stomach twisted in knots at the sight of it. It was like looking at a Christmas present that I couldn’t have. I imagined my dad’s voice booming in my ear as if caught standing again, admiring his shotgun that hung on our wall, ‘Don’t you ever touch it!’ Continue reading