• “Fire Burns” by Monica Carvajal-Beben

    This industry is the balance between hot and cold, fear and beauty. On one hand we revel in extreme temperatures, our hair and skin regularly singed by open flame, and we all share an affinity and respect for sharp blades. We wear our cuts and burns as badges of honor. We compare notes on the pain a particularly long, grueling shift can take on our bodies. On the other, we exalt the beauty and preciousness of the delicate flesh of a perfect tomato. Hardened hands that barely flinch at the splatter of hot grease can so lovingly plate with such pristine perfection: a fragile leaf of herb or dainty garnish…

  • “Jones” by Sydnee Smith

    My stepmom told me it sparkled like the moon in the winter, her favorite season. I never understood why she wanted to adorn something that looked like the night. The night was when demons came to play, but I guess she was used to that. I untangled the headphones she got me for the plane ride home. She was always thoughtful like that. We had frantically walked the aisles to find them, a shadow cast behind both of us. A shadow we both could never seem to shake. She said it tasted the way moonshine burns down your throat. She said she liked that kind of pain. I never understood…

  • “Indigo” by D.L. Fowler

    Let’s get something straight right off the top. Indigo isn’t a color – and if you have to ask the question that’s nibbling at your mind, you’ll never understand. Indigo isn’t a snowflake—white. White is blind to color, erasing perceptions of depth, shades, and outlines that give definition to individuality, causing you to stumble over obstacles you cannot know are underfoot. Neither is it sympathy, understanding, nor any other voluntary act. It’s the unconscious absorption of another’s colors – crying their tears, shrieking their cries for help, bearing their terror, anguish, emptiness, despair, loneliness, horror, trepidation, hopelessness, helplessness, all forms of darkness as if each emotion were your own. It’s…

  • “How to Rock Out with Strangers” by Tori Kaufman

    I have only ever camped with total strangers once, so I boast only cursory observations in this instructional piece on exactly how to go about camping with strangers.   First, you will need some strangers. For this, I recommend leaving the apartment, house, or even looking up from this screen. I had to do all three (and many other things), on several separate occasions (my entire life up to this point), until such an event as will be depicted here could be achieved (I had no idea what I was doing regarding any element of this adventure).   Next, you will need to interact with the stranger(s). Walking up to someone…

  • “Port Angeles” by Jordan Hartt

    Was a couple used to live here in PA name’a Bud n’ Lorraine Gillis, maybe you know ‘em or heard tell of ‘em. He was a machinist n’ coached football n’ she worked at th’Oyster Café n’ run the bowlin’ league. They had two sons: th’oldest one was killed in a car crash, n’ th’youngest, Tod, shot himself three weeks later. Tod was a short-order cook in th’same place Lorraine work at. No one saw him react after th’phone call about his brother, but his breaks started getting’ longer n’ longer, which no one blamed him for. We’d see him go outside th’restaurant even during th’busiest times at th’dinner rush,…

  • “Chill” by Tyler Appleby

    The fog is heavy tonight. The early chilling of Winter’s breath has coaxed the clouds out of their hiding places, giving them a short, albeit delightful freedom.  Their sheets of white drape over my shoulders, and they shroud me in a blanket of mystery.  I can feel the water soaking into the sleeves of my thick, cotton overcoat.  A shudder worms its way through my body, and I shove my hands into my pockets. I dance lightly on my toes, peering down the empty road.  The pale, yellow streetlight flickers uneasily.  It casts a heavenly halo into the fog like a fool.  It wants me to believe in happiness, to…

  • “All I Learned” by Sydnee Smith

    We only met once in the California Desert. We were sweaty and naive with newfound freedoms, as we cursed each others names, running around the house, panting like dogs in the heat. Stealing each others phones to look at secrets. You taught me California held evil, in the forms of us. As you dragged me to my knees, forced me to repent for the sins of my upbringing, how it was so much different than yours.

  • The Coyote Ate My Baby by Heather Ayers

    What a fat, behemoth of a baby. What kind of plump mutant did they bring home? It looks like a flesh-tone sack of tuna purée, cream-heavy milk rolling around with a little black toupee clinging on to the top of its tiny block head. I am less than unimpressed. A new low even for these two metalheads somehow charged with my well-being. I’m trapped in some bizarro version of Little House on the Prairie, where the farmhouse has been transported to the human’s poop plant, their only neighbor a mountain lion inhabiting the crawl space underneath. They’re all too happy to let us drift off into oblivion on our very…

  • Duke by Erik Carlsen

    Whenever he talks I hope he knows I’m listening, But I only respond when he is gone.   I dream that I can ask him questions. Why is there thunder? How long were you alive before me?   When he takes me for a walk I know he is thinking of his regrets. That is what silence has always done to him, I bet.   He looks at me every day and says the fur on my tail Is growing back. I take his word for it. I don’t think   He would lie to me, especially about something like that. But when I dream, I dream I walk upright…

  • Frederik Sandwich and the Earthquake that Couldn’t Possibly Be by Kevin John Scott

    The old man’s coat was worn and matted with what looked and smelled like animal dung. He was clearly some kind of tramp. There were holes in his gloves and stains on his pants and his shoes were quite unspeakable. Frederik quietly took a very tight grip on his backpack. “I’m sorry,” he said, as he had been taught to do in such circumstances. “Not today, thank you.” He averted his eyes and stepped aside and waited for the old man to shuffle off and worry someone else. “Sorry?” the man growled, leaning close with his terrible breath. It was all Frederik could do not to gag. “You’ll be sorry…