Story Excerpts


Lost, Studied Devised

by Joshua Farley


  As I wandered out my backdoor with a freshly-baked apple pie at my disposal I began to grow confused, weary of the world deforming around me, of the splashes of color spurred through the never-ending vortex of space and time. The haziness of the environment drew upon my inner forces, rendering my organs aware of the fragile and delicate nature of all things, tangible and intangible, stimulating the limits of my very mind. Upon the realization of my condition, as well as the consistent and dynamic alterations of the reality surrounding my being, I felt my eyes amplify for the first time. It was a novel experience, one that cannot properly be reproduced or recollected on paper, but I will attempt to recount it to the greatest detail as my mind permits. In spite of the perceptive feeling and endless flow of matter clouding my psyche at the time of my initial condition, I remained utterly and generously calm.

I consumed another puff of my smoldering cigarette, forcing the smoke into my empty lungs and breathing out the matter inadvertently manipulated by the symbiotic mechanisms of my body, leaving the particles forever divorced and wisped off into the wind to lead the life of loneliness and perplexity that ingrains each and every one of us. I inhaled the remaining crumbs of Grandma’s delicious, subtly-baked, apple pie, and proceeded to delve deeper into the wasteland of my vision.

I approached a lonely swingset bearing two poles, yet seemingly abandoned by the swings that once complemented its functions. To be honest, it was a desolating image. The swingset cried out to me, begging for any form of companionship to pull it from its state of misery. My mind was so disfigured. I offered aid to the saddened object, but it was to no avail. You see, we do not speak from the same tongue. We, two delicate creatures somehow fathomed by the unknown processes of the ever-expanding universe, lacked the capacities necessary to form an amiable bond. Nevertheless, seeing the once-in-a-lifetime situation as aprovechable, through some correspondence of functions devised in my psychological state, I threw out my hands to support the decaying state of the long-forgotten swingset, placing one hand firmly and steadily on each pole. To my shock, it reached back to me in a tranquil manner, and this tranquility lasted for what seemed a lifetime. Though the swingset could not effectively communicate with me on grounds of the linguistic barrier distancing our mutual interests, it succeeded in conveying to me that which it most desired. From that point on the swingset never again cried out, for it had discovered the humanistic path to everlasting companionship.

The ground I stood upon was firm, so I proceeded.

Upon departing from my casual encounter with the abandoned swingset, I carried onward in my quest to discover the meaning of my surroundings. Everything has an inherent purpose, be it trivial or intellectual, and some would even argue that nothing happens by chance while others on the other side of the discussion claim that everything is just random chaos and “happening by chance” is the foundation of the universe itself. My encounter and subsequent success in appeasing this delicate creature, which rendered a great sense of confidence and altruism in me, could not possibly have been based on chance alone given my condition at the time. In any other situation, perhaps it could be attributed to random, external factors, but not this one. The free will and independence I experienced in making such an altruistic decision was the greatest joy of all, for how can one derive pleasure or significance from an act if all things were already predestined to occur since the start of our universe? Predestination is a manmade construct aimed at solving one of the many riddles of the universe. This idea radiates from the all-knowing omniscient powers that, despite their massive support, have yet to make themselves visible to humanity and refuse to prove their existence. Could it be that their existence is random and occurred by chance over four billion years ago, or were these powers predestined to show humanity ignorance and a false sense of reality?

Nobody can justifiably find themselves in the position to dismiss the ideas of predestination so often proposed by the higher powers of our society. In contrast, the evidence attesting to these conceptual foundations is but a fleeting investigation into a grander, more expansive theory that may one day encompass the daily rituals in which we find ourselves repeating. The age-old problem with such concepts is that they are impossible to prove. Why should we be forced to lead a life of faith in a power that does not even attempt to make its authority visible to us? Are we all damned for eternity because of our lack of understanding in the trivial nature of this basic idea? I may argue that these eternal entities are no greater than myself, for I can make myself known to the masses and expand my authority as my will desires. There is so much to do, so much to fix in this decaying sphere, and yet this invisible force reckons that our worldly problems do not fancy its interests sufficiently. Deliver me to whatever path you please when my life comes to an end, but just know that I refuse to take part in your congregation on the basis of the ignorance, greed, and demanding hostility of your loyal subjects who continue to follow blindly in your footsteps.

No matter what one may decide for themselves or attempt to impose on others, human beings are driven not by reason, not by rationality or arithmetical approximations to their actions, but rather by the uninhibited impulse of free will and independence. Digressing on this, we can agree that actions range between the classifications of beneficial, neutral, and malignant. Nevertheless, the individual’s ultimate realization by means of free will may result in a better understanding of the universe as a whole, to which degree some may argue that mankind’s intentions should never be restricted as to prevent these potential realizations. From the petty crimes to the wars to the breakthrough discoveries that bombard our media on a daily basis, a sharper observation will reveal that these elements play a much larger role in the development and evolution of our society than previously fathomed, and will determine how the timeline of the world plays out. As such, one can conclude with absolute certainty that the state of humanity constantly finds itself in a sort of limbo, leveraging between pure rationality by means of infinite knowledge and chaotic irrationality by means of free will. There is no easy solution as to which is the preferable situation, that is up to you to decide for yourself as I am not here to change your views, but rather to amplify your eyes and stimulate your mind.




Two Soups for Table Eight

by Amanda Pampuro


  If you’ve ever flown through Detroit, you might have passed by the restaurant. Maybe you even ate there, at the steakhouse where Jean Démon mopped floors for a week under the alias John.

Beyond the plate glass windows, four lanes of moving sidewalk stretched like highway between plane gates and cell-phone charging stations. Under surgical lamps, poor people ate with their food on their knees and took turns falling asleep upright. In pajamas and in business suits, lone travelers wandered from the neck-pillow kiosk to the bookstore, where the latest pyramid-stacked bestseller slowly sold out.

Jean lined his pockets with the small coins experienced servers turned their noses on. This little drum beat against the burlap-topped table, as he wiped crumbs from the corners. He played the part, moving from table to table without a glance at any of the sunsets on the walls. Jean worked well in the air of artificial evening, but he never grew accustomed to the country tunes. He worried the music would remain with him throughout his days but singing along was part of the gig. The soundtrack of whiskey and women followed him into the kitchen where he scrapped congealed ketchup out of saucers.

“John, we need to talk,” Ronda’s full figure loomed over the wash station. Somewhere beneath the day manager’s mask of deep fry grease and foundation, her face was covered in freckles. Jean saw that Ronda was slowly being poisoned by place, like a daisy planted on the divide between highway lanes, but there was no way to breach the topic without risking his cover. According to his job application, John O’dom was just a high school dropout with two years experience in dishwashing and an eight-month stint in newspaper production.

Ronda didn’t know jack about Jean or any of his books and she had no way of knowing that two of the most dangerous criminals in the county were breaking bread at Table 8.

After all, who would suspect that the president of the world’s largest manufacturer of surveillance equipment would hold her meetings in the middle of the airport? No doubt, the only place the director of the TSA felt safe was inside the fortresses he had built, but still… The only thing Jean knew for sure, standing over a trash bin overflowing with half-chewed hamburger, was that nobody came here for the food.

“Listen, Rhonda…”

With billions of domestic flights made each year, the Travel Security Administration screened upwards of 1.2 million individuals each day. Awarded with an annual budget of $7.39 billion and laws loose enough to detain any one person for any number of reasons for an unspecified amount of time, the airport’s private army had virtually unchecked power over bodies in transit.

Not only was there little the average citizen could do about it, there was little the average citizen knew. The TSA brought the all-seeing panopticon into the digital age with the grace and beauty of Miss America herself. Every oily patch of skin and upper lip hair was concealed behind so much glitter and patriotism, only someone with something to hide would object to being screened.

“John,” the day manager waved her hand through the air. “Have you been memorizing the menu?”


“Have you been memorizing the menu?” she paused to allow the significance of the question to sink in. “When I hired you, I said we needed people who are willing to do a little bit of everything round here. And that if I tell you to do something, I don’t need you to tell me, ‘that’s not my job.’ Like I don’t know what your job is. Your job is my job too. We all pitch in around here, so you’re going to have to memorize the menu, even if you’re not taking orders just yet. Do you remember having this conversation?”



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