“Alone” – Give Me the Monsters – by Patrick W. Marsh

There is a stretch of highway near where I live called Highway 10. It’s a straight shot through the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. I’ve been driving it for years. I would take it to school, both high school and college, plus various times I’ve moved in with my folks and such. Now, I’m raising my children along the edge of this metaphorical concrete snake. I’ve traveled it a thousand times in my life, and I still ask, “where are all the people?”

When I watch cars move around me when I drive down Highway 10, I don’t count them as people for some reason. They’re shelled. Sealed away like Easter Eggs. The world seems like it needs to travel a special distance to drag people out of their aluminum and fiberglass walls. You can watch those videos on YouTube of road rage incidents where people get the tar beat out of them for running a stop sign, with a whole audience waiting in their automobile/theater seats. Are we really that distant when we turn the key? I’m guilty of it myself, driving by accidents, fights, civil disputes, and all that, like the world outside my moving window was comparable to a computer screen.

Highway 10 is full of every type of business. Fast food hubs, restaurants, malls, stores, retail outlets, small business, flower shops, Gastro Pubs, it’s a whole collection of capitalistic endeavors spanning over the previous decades. Nothing is tall along the strip, a characteristic that makes the sky seem like it could crush everything out of the road like a ketchup packet. Everyone has a destination they’re going to regardless of what takes place around them. What motivates them to leave their home at all if they don’t want to interact with the rest of humanity? Money? Food? Errands? Does anyone leave their house, jump in the car, and expect to communicate with other humans. There is that one window of life where you probably interact with a clerk or cashier to purchase your wares. Typically, this teenage sentry is guarding all of your communication. He or she must deal with a flood of emotions rusted over with angst and aloofness. Having worked in costumer service all my life, I’ve been able to tell what types of customer reacts with human beings on a regular basis, and which ones are wandering hermits powered by a sole spark of necessity, while simultaneously battling their own social awkwardness. The latter being the most dominant in our society.

There is no sidewalk along Highway 10, so people can’t even physically transverse it. There are patches of woods, grasslands, and even little nubs of parks peering out like green teeth onto the highway, but they seem absent and inconsequential to the concrete line driving past. Why would you bother with any of those places? They don’t have mortar laced with receipt paper and shrink-wrap. They don’t give you anything to hold, to keep, some material permanent to keep up with your life.

How far we’ve come at making the world small, yet, the sky looks like it could fall on us at any second. We can map the globe with our phone, but will you know where your car dies, or better yet, will someone stop to help?

“Golf Review” – Nostalgic Gamer – by Nick Vukelich

rory mcilroy

I couldn’t give two craps about actual golf. I’ve been to the driving range a few times which is decently fun but I haven’t ever played an actual round and watching it on tv is about as thrilling as watching paint dry but for some reason EA’s golf games are insanely fun. I have been playing since Tiger Woods 06 and every year I look forward to the next release. Last year was devoid of a golf game from EA, sadly, and by the time this came out I was rabid for some video game golf. Were my high expectations met? Yes and no. Let’s get into it.

Graphically this game is stunning. The frostbite 3 engine that EA now uses for all their games is a real powerhouse. Everything from the character models down to the grass look nearly lifelike. The frostbite engine also adds different forms of wildlife that sometimes traverse the courses and the bystanders also look more like people and less like cardboard cut outs. As far as the visual department is concerned this game knocks it right out of the park in every aspect. There is some slight pop in while the ball is in flight but it isn’t very noticeable and it doesn’t affect the way the game plays at all. The lack of loading time between holes is pretty rad also.

The sound design is also very close to real life. The whoosh of the club, the ping when you hit the ball, the roar of the crowd when you crush a tee shot. It’s all there and it all sounds just like it does on a real course. The whole experience of playing through a round in this game is very immersive with how real the graphics and sound blend. It’s a wonderful golf experience.

The story is really just your career that you progress through. If you want you don’t ever have to touch the pro mode but it gives you a great deal of content to play through and it lets you level up your character. The character creation is one of the black marks against this game. The past EA golf games all had very robust character creators so you could sculpt a guy to look almost exactly like you. This version only has a few predefined faces and hair to pick from so unless you look like one of the premade models you just have to pick the one that speaks to you and go from there. It’s a bit of a bummer but hopefully the next version will include some more robust features.

The issues I have with this game are pretty few and far between. The character creation is one thing, the lack of the Masters tournament is another, and the online is fun but also not as fully featured as the previous games. I have put in a great many hours so far and I will undoubtedly be putting in a great many more. The new EA Night Club mode is pretty neat, a lot of challenges spread over one real course and two fantasy courses. In the end I can do nothing but recommend that everyone pick this up, it is fun for fans of golf or people who don’t care at all.

Developer: EA

Graphics: 5/5

Sound: 5/5

Story: 2/5

Replay Factor: 5/5

“Empty Beds” – I Wandered and Listened – by Melinda Giordano

The ocean is filled with empty beds
When the salty harvest is over
After the grains of sand
The anchored irritants
Became round and lunar
Like moons that have drowned
Into the clockwork tides
Like chaste and unfinished baubles
They are nacreous debutantes
Torn from their broken homes

Once I read that Henry the Eighth
Had a marriage bed made of pearls
For his round bride
His rose without a thorn
It creaked and protested
Beneath their bodies
That heaved like the sea
But his blossom soured
And when she rested her head on the block
I wonder if she then thought
Of her broken and empty bed

“Corporate Pastoral” – Family Haunts – by PMF Johnson

Morning flickers on — fluorescent fixtures
shine on dusty cubicles in rows
Whose flimsy walls of pale grey, nubby textures
Just provide the space the studies show
Each worker needs; walls plastered with proud tons
Of wavy crayon drawings done by sons
And daughters in their preschools being trained

To take their parents’ burdens up, walls plain
With just a fading diagram, walls lush
With pothos, spider plants, non-floral strains
Of office vegetation. Hark, the hush
Is broken by first phone calls, dealings
In response to yesterday’s late wheedlings,
Voices smooth with early morning calm.

Yon harried interns, sporting sweaty palms,
start squawking through the aisles in hopes to show
How hard they work to him who at the helm
Of this great enterprise looks down and knows
The profit and the losses of their lives.
At least, most there pretend he does. Like hives
Of restless insects, lean departments hum

On every floor, and joust in daily scrum
Against the competition. 3 PM,
Our Denny Horne makes time with Lily from
Accounting. Teases. Her embroidered hem
Twirls sweetly for him as she walks away.
He’ll work no more, but dream of her today,
Though she won’t think of him again this week.

She’s been involved with Anthony, the sleek,
pomaded lawyer who may make V.P.
Next year. The biddies of both sexes peek
Into such lives and cluck — they’re sure to see
Their raw mistakes repeated by these kids —
but fine, it’s conversation, juice amid
The dry old grind of copier and fax.

This workplace gives them lives “lived to the max”
(They’ve memorized our ads). Some own RVs,
Some summer homes, some gain, some get the axe,
Some have autistic children, some will please
None but themselves. The day drains into night.
Machines are downed; the cleaners get the lights;
The water cooler thrums the final sound.

“Disco Diving” – Faceplant: 60 – by Jacob Steinbauer

In the interest of hot gymnasts, Brian and I took up diving and gymnastics partway through the fall semester. We did not participate, but showed up at meets to embarrass our school. I don’t remember how I met Gretchen, Sara, and Robyn, but they had killer floor routines—one being to The Phantom of the Opera—and watching them do flips in unitards became an enjoyable way to pass the time.

At one point they dared us to go to the meet in unitards, which we did, more than once I think. Hence the embarrass part. We were too old for it to be cute, too young to be creepily mistaken for pedophiles. These met in the middle to form a mixture of awkwardness, distaste, and comedy.

I think of this part of my life as the Mountain Dew, Snickers, and sleeplessnessphase. Brain and I caffeinated overselves regularly, staying up late plying Magic, video games, and doing homework, and then awoke around 5:00 AM to hit the high school swimming pool where Gretchen taught us to dive. I could do a one and a half and a reverse by the time we were done. I landed flat on my back more times than could ever have been worth it trying to reverse, and damn did it hurt!

Then we would catch breakfast and go to detention. We weren’t in detention, not usually. We used it as a study hall to finish our homework before school started. We averaged four to five hours a sleep per night, which is how, I think, I cultivated my super power of being able to sleep through anything, anywhere. I nap on command. Screaming babies can’t stop me. Airplanes too close to the ground can’t stop me. Train and bus seats have finally met their match.

I don’t know much about legal statutes of limitations, so, for their sake, I won’t mention their names. However, I will tell you a story about two friends of mine who were super late to their friend’s diving meet. Once they arrived, they had already missed their friend’s performance (or had time before it?). They wandered around the school and found their way into a secondary gymnasium. The equipment cage was unlocked, so they threw a few balls at each other, but thought it was too noisy. Up on the stage one of them found a magenta backpack concealed behind a box of curtains. Its owner had penned grunge band names onto it in Sharpie and left a notebook inside with copied lyrics from these bands. Also in the notebook? Terrible, terrible poetry. It was a high school gym after all.

A ladder on the side stage led up to a lighting booth. There, inside a cardboard box they found a mirrorball, disco style. A huge one, probably a 30” diameter or so. What an awesome party spectacle that would be! How they got it out without being seen is anyone’s guess. A giant ball that reflects light in every direction is not something any ninja would want to be lugging around.

But they did it. Months went by before the school wanted to use it for an upcoming dance. I remember the announcement over the intercom that morning saying that it was lost or stolen and to report any information regarding its whereabouts to the office. I was in Spanish class, and I remember the kid next to me saying something like, ‘What a bunch of idiots. I bet they just put it somewhere stupid, with other decorations somewhere. They’ll find it in a week.’ Another student doubted him, to which he replied, ‘I’ll bet twenty bucks.’

Oh, how I wanted to make money on that bet. How easy it would have been, but it was the setup was too much like an episode of Dawson’s Creek (I blame my wife) or literally any other show about teenagers. The bad kid gets greedy, toots his own horn, and then unravels himself with the spotlight he plugged in and aimed. Getting my friends caught was not worth $20. I suppose I have to ask myself, is it worth a free blog?

Along the Winter Rails: 43 – “Home Again” – by Fanni Sütő

winter rails_1 Copy

Nothing seemed to have changed since I left. The town of Firclog was the same drowsy place I had always known it with the old church tower standing guard above the slumbering cottages. My fears started to melt away; my home seemed so untouchable and untouched. No harm could reach it. It was like the world under a snow globe, Firclog had its own order and nothing from the outside could harm it. My mother used to have a snow globe; it had the ancient city of New York inside with a statue of a Lady who was freedom. She found it somewhere buried in the snow and brought it home for me to play with.

Then one day my father was angry and smashed the globe against the wall. It broke into hundreds of shiny pieces. The Lady Liberty lay abandoned on the floor. I cried for hours and tried to put the shards back together but I only ended up cutting my finger. My mother saw my bleeding hands and got really upset about it. She cleaned up the mess and shouted with my father who then didn’t come home for days. My heart throbbed in my stomach; I was only a few steps away from home. The rails felt cold and wet under my feet and patches of green peeked out from under the mud.

I was so close; I could see snow sliding off the roofs and children playing in the streets. One of them spotted me and called out in to the others. They started shouting and one of them ran off. He returned with a group of adults who looked quite puzzled but happy to see me.

“We have a new Rail Bride!” they shouted as they got to me. “We haven’t seen any of them for months. We were afraid something happened…”

“You have found a new home, darling,” a round-faced woman told me. I knew her, she was the first girl who arrived from beyond the rails when I was still small.

They were all very kind but they were acting so strangely as if they hadn’t recognised me. Had I changed that much? I looked into the muddy mirror of a puddle and saw a strange woman look back at me. My hair lost much of its colour, it seemed almost white. My face seemed older as well, it shed its girly softness and my eyes had a new determined look to them. But surely I wasn’t that much different?

I tried to talk to them, to explain what happened but they were just chattering, they didn’t listen to me.

I wanted to see my mother, so when the welcoming crowd was too busy with being excited I sneaked away. I ran to our house which was at the edge of the town, perching there like a lonely crow. I entered without knocking and started calling out my mother’s name. No answer came. Panic washed over me. It couldn’t be…

I arrived to the smallest and most remote room of the house, the one I used to call mine and found my mother sitting at the window staring outside. She held one of my ragged dolls in her hands.

“Mother, I have come home,” I said, my voice trembling. I longed her to look at me, to embrace me but she seemed like an empty shell.

She didn’t answer.

“Mother?” I asked again.

“Don’t call me that, girl. My daughter is dead.”

“I Fell” – I Wandered and Listened – by Melinda Giordano

I fell into the ocean
From the board of resin skin
Layers that pitched and rolled
Like a feverish ship
I fell through the whitecaps
Toothsome and hungry
For the struggling morsel
Black with neoprene
Doomed to a fierce ablution
I fell into the fishes’ world
Where silver globes of bait
Leaned on their fear
Their rotation of panic
I fell into the crawling world
Antediluvian
Straddling epochs
And the fossil landscapes
Furtive light that nudged at my clenched eyes
I fell  into the green and gold
Of spinning kelp fields
And bright ceilings that twisted
Above and below me
I spun like clothes
The cycle was endless
But I kept the memory
Of my fleeting evolution
When my neck become slashed with gills

“The Greenland Diaries: Backyard 10″ – by Patrick W. Marsh

Milo had pointed out the dark shape of the machine what seemed like hours earlier. Now, they’d sprinted through the narrow green breaks of the forest. They all knew time had passed between each charge. Melissa and Milo had slept between their runs, resting their dirt-pounding feet and slashed skin against the soft breezes of the endless forest. Ron continued chasing the oblong shape, which was sitting like a lost barge one green ocean away. He’d sprint until his feet didn’t feel like they were below his knees. He’d sprint until the forest looked like a cracked trail of broken twig and branch, but the woods would never stay wounded for long, and would revive itself in subtle glows of white fog. Sometimes, if the kids had cared about how the forest had worked, they’d see the thin lines of pearl faces in these healing clouds.

They weren’t that observant yet.

They knew the machine was there and in the forest. It would appear behind them, in front of, or even what seemed like above, attached to the high limbs of the sky-blocking trees. Ron even tried to climb a few trees with his bloody fingers, but they’d shake him loose like an angry water buffalo. Ron wouldn’t stop any of his physical movements no matter how much Melissa screamed at him, and how much Milo begged. Ron was completely slashed to pieces. His white skin was nearly non-existent. Only his eyes retained any hope in comparison to his frame. He eventually stopped chasing the monstrous block of a shadow. He didn’t stop out of exhaustion, but only because he sensed that the machine wanted him to chase it.

“It wants us to chase it. Look, I see it right there like it can hear me,” Ron said. They were all sitting close to the sealed entrance they’d come in through before being trapped. The island and ring of swamp water was to their right, and the plants glowed around the inky strips of the bog like little narrow flames. The brick like outline of the machine was just beyond them up the path where Milo had originally noticed it. Melissa was sleeping in the sunlight, and Milo was starting at the island.

“Yeah, we figured that out a long time ago Ron, that’s why we stopped,” Milo laughed. He was getting tired of his ignorant friend.

“Well, you guys never said anything to me,” Ron said.

“Yeah, yeah, we did. You don’t listen to anyone Ron. Now, you look terrible. You should go back in the water and wash yourself off,” Milo said, with a sneer.

“I’m not going back in there. I’m not going in the water ever again,” Ron said.

“Okay, well, we need to figure out food and water, and stop trying to get out,” Milo said.

“I’m not hungry,” Ron said.

“Well, you will be. Besides, I’ve got an idea on how to get out of here,” Milo said, pulling together a pile of broken branches on the path.

“Oh, how is that? You’ve finally got an idea?” Ron said.

Milo banged a couple of sticks together to get their weight.

 

“Yeah, we’ll build a fire.”

“Maslow’s Habit” – Elitism For All – by Ozgur K. Sahin

I’m back at my keyboard after a long month of conventions, book delivery, and a birthday. Having conventions for two consecutive weekends for a grand total of seven days would normally give me a lot of fuel for new topics, but this time around, it was a basic social issue which cropped up in one of the hotels that brought me to type this. The simple version starts with the fact that a lot of people tend to get drunk at the second of those two conventions every year—it is more of a party than anything else. Some young adults (just above drinking age) were in a room adjoined to some friends of mine who are my age, and at one point an acquaintance of one of these drunken tweens ended up in the adjoining room puking her guts out, apologizing, and passing out. Those who brought her there were rather less than responsible about dealing with it, leaving it to the adults. One of these adults, who has a habit of mothering everyone, struggled with being overly helpful and lenient about this situation, even though the end result would be bad for pretty much everyone else concerned. In the middle of this debate, words to the effect of “I can’t help it, I just feel like I should take care of them—it’s just how I am” were uttered.

Others of us convinced her to take a harder line and delegate responsibility to the hotel staff and convention volunteers (and the drunken individuals themselves) because it was exactly the sort of thing they were there to handle. However, it reminded me of how often I see situations in which people who know full well that their own approaches are lacking in some highly significant way nevertheless decide that spraying themselves all over the situation is the way to go. It’s not that “being yourself” is a bad idea, but as I said in a prior article, there is a difference between your identity and your behavior. Many times in my life, people have paid me compliments like, “You’re so insightful and attentive, and you always seem to see the best ways to handle situations,” yet they rarely seem to imagine they are capable of these things, preferring to believe that I’m just special that way, and they must continue to “be themselves.” People assume there is something amazing behind the curtain, but no one actually asks what it is or how it works. There is little or no curiosity about how I come up with ideas, how I draw boundaries or use my emotions as information rather than being swept along by them. “How does one learn to do that?” is a question I almost never hear, even when the people who could ask it are shouting to the world about how desperately they need to learn it—because these behaviors are not seen as skills, not seen as changeable. It is always just part of “who you are.”

So if I ask for your help, what I can expect is that you will help in exactly the way you always do, because that’s just “who you are.” I know some people who have been through critical illnesses and medical conditions, and they reach out for help from friends and loved ones. They need help getting to appointments, cleaning the house, cooking meals and whatnot, but the people they reach out to feel compelled to broadcast all kinds of personal details to anyone who will listen, do everything their own way, and generally make the whole experience a trial on a whole new level. When the inevitable confrontation arises, they state, “If you don’t want my help, don’t ask for it. I won’t help you anymore.” But the idea is to help, not to just liberally spray your habits and preferences all over the place. If you think part of the payment for you helping your grandma with her colostomy bag is to tell every gory detail to all your friends and her friends because you think gossip is who you are rather than what you choose to do, you’re not really doing the good deed you think you are.

For example, I dated someone once who felt entitled both to dislike talking much and to voice knee-jerk reactions to things before settling down and thinking out kinder responses more appropriate to the context of whatever was actually going on. I told her, “It’s interesting for someone who is so averse to communicating to demand the right to give voice to snap judgments.” But again, when we don’t view behavior as being about choice and skill, there is no hope of us ever being consistent or appropriate. If a problem calls for us to do something, we usually think the best thing is to solve the problem. But solving the problem cannot be the primary target; cannot be achieved by any sort of situational surgical strike, if the only way we know to address the situation is to carpet bomb it with our habits, for good or ill, and hope that the problem gets obliterated in the process.

When behaviors are seen as inherent, unchangeable qualities, or when the act of changing them feels like trying to change our nature and thus “be untrue to ourselves,” we struggle with the thought of changing identity rather than behavior. That adds a whole new level of fear. If I am not me, who will I be? If my identity vanishes, what will replace it? How will I be in control of myself if there is no more “me” to do the controlling? If my behavior is me, how can I change my behavior and yet retain that sense of “I am?” The confusion between behavior and identity turns every effort towards betterment into a struggle for survival of the ego. If we don’t see the continuity of the sidewalk, every step feels like it may lead to a steep fall into oblivion. But identity is always there if we know what to look for. We all have moments in our lives when we sense a potential change that we may choose. Too often we choose not to make it, because we don’t know who we will be at the end of it. To the person who sees the sidewalk, the next step will bring change, but the change is not scary. He may learn a new skill, she may experience a new place, but the change is just a step and the sidewalk is a gradual path towards a new outlook.

To those who sense only a broader, unfathomable awareness, trusting in the old, tried and tested habits is the only safe choice, and too many value safety above all else. New awareness and new wholeness reveals itself sometimes slowly, sometimes all at once (as with intuitive leaps), but the mind knows only chronology and plodding logic. It must process new things over time, however fast or slow that may be, and we invariably privilege the processing beyond all else. When people experience trauma and tragedy, developmental data shows that they tend to regress to the last stage they felt confident (and competent) at managing, which is why after the September 11th attacks (which damaged the fragile fledgling sense of international identity we were exploring), the United States took a generally more imperialistic, oppositional attitude to the entire rest of the world. We are far more likely to remain aboard the sinking ship we know than to plunge into the unknown depths below, and we meet the demands and needs of new problems with the comfortable solutions of yesterday, knowing full well they won’t work.

It is not that we fear progress. The problem is that we don’t know progress, and it is the unknown that we fear. That is the very reason why there was always a “sci-fi/horror” section back in the video rental days–they were always lumped together, as though the natural result of discovery was fear, danger, and worst of all, mistakes. When progress happens, it seems to come as if by revelation, outside force, dumb luck, or some agency beyond our understanding or control. I know I used to feel that way making friends—I could never tell you how to make friends, and it always seemed to just happen, but the agency that orchestrated it always seemed to lie outside myself until I learned how to trust my own guidance toward new skills. Even when we know that agency is within us, we don’t trust it, because it too is unknown (in terms of the mind). This pull forward, this voice, it does not argue with us, try to talk us into doing what we should, and it does not “show its work” like we were all taught to do in math class. We can trust it or not trust it, and when we learn to trust it, we find we still have work to do in adjusting to the new landscape it reveals. We may not know who we will be after each step forward, but we know that person will have a continuity that includes who we used to be and carries us toward who we need to be, and we know it will be a stronger identity, no matter what new potentials are opened up for making mistakes.

When we don’t trust this inner voice, we end up with, well, “sci-fi/horror” in our own psyche. We end up constantly fearing we will have to play out some version of “fighting against the sentient artificial intelligence” or some other monsters we created or allowed to roam free with a will of their own in the dystopia of our lost little minds, isolated from our own intuition. How much easier to just stay the same and continue to do what we’ve always done, stay in our seat in the well-lit room and avoid the unexplored shadows?

Perhaps our mothering friend at the convention simply feared potential guilt at letting people take responsibility for themselves and failing. Perhaps she feared that she would dislike being a person who delegated tasks to others. But even knowing that she should do it anyway, she definitely feared dealing with those unknown realities and feelings more than she feared taking on responsibilities that were not hers to take.

If there is one thing we can say about growth, however, it is that we know it will always take us in the direction of the unknown—and render it known. So when we think about whether to grow (and thus change), we have to answer the question, “Would I rather be better or be as safe as I am now?” And when we champion “being ourselves” and handling everything the same way we always have, are we really championing ourselves, or are we simply fleeing the dread of being someone else? The true change is not from one step to the next; it is the change from avoiding the unknown to seeking it, which is already present at every willing step.

When I teach meditation, I state that it is a practice of letting go, but that the reason to let go is that our mental existence is like being under water and our buoyancy carries us upward toward the surface. We can only let that pull do its work when we begin to understand our rigid identifications as anchors rather than the lifejackets we thought they were, and to let them go.

“Stony Point Station” – Part 12 – by Joseph Crowe

Neither Captain Giorgia Reuter or her first mate and pilot Anton Qboda had seen anything like this in all their collective years of freighter jockeying. Giorgia watched through Corundum’s viewports as the enemy vessels—who that enemy was they did not know, but obviously an enemy–flitted effortlessly among the big, lumbering ore haulers of the convoy, blasting away at the freighters as they did so. Miraculously, Corundum had not appeared to have taken a weapons hit yet, beyond the impact with the remains of their sister ship the Cuprite. But that condition could not last long. The enemy vessels were firing at, and scoring critical hits, on everything in their path.
Qboda reported something from the bridge consoles he labored at. “Cap, sounds like we got punctured aft, C deck cargo bay. Spilled a bit of our load—”
“Least of our problems right now,” Giorgia said, still staring dumbfounded out the viewport.
Qboda continued. “–nobody was in the compartment, and they’ve managed to close all space tight doors in the vicinity. But, that kinda damage may mess with helm control.”
Giorgia broke out of her reverie at the deadly spectacle outside the ship. “I don’t think we should hang around here to get blasted. ‘Boda, have you got any helm or nav left? Think you can plot a course outta here?”
Qboda was shaking his head. “Where ya’ wanna go, Cap. No way we can outrun these things, unless you wanna try a jump. We’ll be dusted just sitting here.”
“We can’t jump in the Pyramid,” Giorgia said.
They did!”
“Yeah, but look at those things go! Never seen nothin’ like ‘em. Wait! Look….” Giorgia pointed out the front viewport, and Qboda looked up to see what she pointed at. Aided by the light cast from constant explosions in their immediate vicinity, they both saw the Wisconsin plummeting their way at a ferocious speed. The battle frigate’s guns were blazing in every direction, and they could spy numerous fiery hot spots where the war ship had taken hits. Wisconsin was diving right into the fray. But she seemed sorely outnumbered.
And then, as they watched transfixed, several of the attacking ships gathered into a loose formation and concentrated their firepower on the area of Wisconsin’scommand bridge. For a moment, it looked like the entire frigate was consumed in the resulting explosion. But a moment later the battle frigate pushed through the giant fireball and kept on coming.
It was in that next moment that the two of them realized that Wisconsin was dying.

“Peonies” – Family Haunts – by PMF Johnson

While I was at work one day
our peonies lost their flowers,
a quick scissors job while no one watched.

Coming home, I stopped at the sight
of the bereft bushes, a few petals
scattered on the sidewalk.

We planted these peonies to
symbolize our love since
they live a hundred years.

I have a tricky time with rage.
The thought of strangers plundering
has led me to many acts of graceless theater.

Inside our house, the fuchsia blooms
were carefully arranged in a vase, tranquil
on our mantelpiece, before a mirror.