Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Lucien Cooper: “Dedicated to the dark lord Burl Ives.”
Scott McClellan: “So how many words do I get for this blurb thing?”
E.V. Mullenhour: “I’m not autistic enough for this ebook.”
Joseph Pietropaolo: “This machine doesn’t kill fascists. This machine kills normies.”
Nick Souza: “Mom, can I have True Moo?”
Franz Tomino: “M E C H A E S T H E T I C”
Cover by Daniel Cesar-Sainz
By Nick Souza
Our story begins wherever you please. It can be in a pleasant 3-bedroom house in the country, a small inner city apartment, or a grandiose mansion with all the pretty niceties that we like to think and pretend we can attain. Come to think of it, it doesn’t need to be a house at all. Why don’t we make it a factory or a park? I’ll just let you, the readers, choose. You guys like doing that, right?
Our hero is a person of no importance so you can call her whatever you like. Perhaps you may want to try Clara, or Delia, maybe even Jill or Maria. Her age is unimportant too so you get to pick that as well. Make sure you choose though because it makes all the difference I assure you. [I don’t want to offend anybody so the character can also be male if the reader prefers it that way.]
Now that you have read the instructions and agreed to the terms above we can start the story.
Our hero awakens from a dream with mixed feelings and forgotten memories. He/She is near a . He/She has never seen this object before. They gaze at it with worried eyes and a crooked smile in a futile attempt to remember where they are and what they are doing. [It has been brought to my attention that the main character could also be transgendered. I certainly don’t want to exclude any individuals.] Our hero picks up the [reader suggested object] (if the object can be picked up) and decides to take it with them, for an unknown reason.
Our hero decides that he or she should get up now and try to find some clues as to their whereabouts. [Note: The protagonist ONLY decides to get up if and when the reader decides they should.] It is only when our hero gets up that they realize there are no doors in the room/cave/building/whatever else the reader decides to use. [Note: Reader can choose to have a door in the room if they wish.] Our hero decides to take another look around and see what is in this dwelling. He/She sees the following items… . One of the objects our hero sees looks peculiar. As he/she picks it up they become infatuated by it. Our hero shakes it around and accidently drops it. The reader determined object smashes on to the ground and breaks into countless tiny pieces. In the wreckage our hero sees a [reader determines what protagonist sees] as soon as they pick up the item they are transported out of the .
Our hero now finds himself (or herself depending on the choice of the reader) in a desert. [It could also be an abandoned city or anything else the reader would prefer.] There is nothing in sight but sand. Our hero begins walking and searching for anything in sight. So far he/she sees nothing. .] Our hero deduces that he/she is very far from civilization and there is a long trek ahead of him/her. [Note: One of my female fans has brought a very good point up: Why does him have to come before her? This probably helps add to our modern patriarchal society and I certainly don’t want to contribute to that. So from now on I will use her before him. However, since the reader makes the final decision as to the protagonist’s gender this doesn’t matter in the slightest.]*] Our hero heads west [unless the reader would prefer our hero to go east]. After traveling for what feels like decades, our hero collapses onto the soft hot ground and is reminded of a book she/he read when she/he was young before she/he loses consciousness.
When our hero awakes, she/he [Note: It has recently come to my attention that so far I have forced my poor readers to have a human protagonist exclusively. This is absolutely nothing short of xenophobic. The main character of this story can be anything you readers want (this is more your story than it is mine) so please, I encourage you all to think up any alien race and insert it into the story. My sincerest apologies for my immature assumption that the character’s race was my decision.] is back in the room (or cave, dwelling, etc.) that she/he started in.
This really distresses our hero who falls onto her/his knees in defeat. She/He raises her/his hands up and screams “fuck,” very loudly. [Note: By using an expletive here, I assure my readers that this is in fact a mature work of art and not a juvenile story for youngsters.] After our hero calms down she/he attempts to get some more rest. It has been a long and hard day.
While sleeping, our hero dreams she/he is in an exotic forest. She/He is attempting to run away from a lion, but every time she/he gets close to escaping they are pushed closer to the lion by a large blue hand. Only when our hero reluctantly throws the baby at the lion does she/he get away. After hearing the horrible cries from the dying baby our hero awakens. [Note: By having a dark and gritty dream sequence I can potentially confuse my readers into believing that this is a deep and cerebral work of art.]
Once our hero opens her/his eyes. [Note: Another issue has been once again brought to my attention (my editor is amazing). So far I have only given my readers the option to have one protagonist. This is extremely insulting to them; they should have the option of a group of protagonists instead of just one. To my very patient readers I offer my most sincere of apologies (however if you prefer to only have one protagonist that is also acceptable).] She/He/They see a mysterious figure leaning over them. He is extremely tall, [unless the reader wants him short or average height] nothing is obscuring his face but our hero/heroes is/are unable to make out his features. He picks our hero/heroes up by her/his/their head/heads and throws them against the wall. The mysterious stranger continues to toss her/him/them into the wall. They let out screams however they do not feel any pain. After they are tossed at the wall a third time they go straight through it.
Our hero/heroes is/are transported into another room completely identical to the one she/he/they were just in. However, after a quick look around she/he/they realize that there is a door in this one. She/He/They quickly lunge at the door. [By using lunge instead of jump or sprint my readers will know that I am a mature and astute writer with a large vocabulary.] On the other side of the door our hero/heroes see a man dressed very formally in a dark gray suit, he has long white hair and has an aged face. [This will provide my readers with an intriguing mystery to ponder.]
The stranger in the gray suit has a devilish grin on his face. The stranger greets our hero/heroes with a warm hello. He introduces himself as Lex. [By having an unusual name this will help to establish my character as mysterious. I certainly don’t want my readers to have to think for themselves.] As he speaks in a deep resounding baritone, Lex congratulates our hero/heroes on making it this far and asks our hero/heroes to “take a seat”. He looks our hero/heroes straight in the eye/eyes and tells her/him/them that he has an offer to make.
[By ending the story here this will leave my readers in suspense and they just might confuse it for an open ended conclusion and not just a waste of time and an intellectual insult.]
By Joseph Pietropaolo
The Sun had gone down by seven o’clock today, and you stumbled back into your apartment. To be clear, you were not drunk. The new lights turned on a step too early, and your pitch black hallway inverted into an unbelievably opaque white. Those lights did too good of a job, but at least the rent money was going back into the house. Once you moved through this blinding threshold and into your apartment, you felt your pupils finally dilate back to a natural size. Those excited nerves were able to give up their jolt. But with a flick of your living room’s light switch, it began all over again.
To your discovery, the familiar old-fashioned white, with its strong hint of yellow, had not helped your eyes regain focus. Everything was defined by a soft gaze. And although your nerves did not fall for this kind of surprise a second time, your ears joined in the dilemma, as a buzzing-whirring-whistle sound gently blanketed over your ears. Thankfully, your vision recovered after a couple of seconds, and the whistle faded away all the same. The buzzing and whirring stuck around, but that was certainly from the light fixture. Leaning against your door, and after a full sixty seconds, you deliberated that the whirring was actually kind of pleasant and the buzzing was anything but. With a quick stride and an easy yank of the hanging cable, you solved the last of your senses’ problems. Sure, it was dark again, but your eyes were now adjusted to their surroundings.
The breeze from your ceiling fan received the slightest registration from your skin. Had you been busy with some other activity, it would have been completely missed. Sitting on your couch, legs propped up on the coffee table, it was all you were paying attention to.
After you had finally reached the peak of your calmness, the next matter you addressed was with your television. You had picked up your remote and put it back onto your coffee table in the same motion. There was no news that you wanted to hear about right now, nor were there any shows you felt a need to keep up with or see reruns of. And besides that, the plants on either side of the television had started to obscure the lower corners of the screen. It didn’t bother you. You watered the plants as instructed and kept them in the appropriate amount of sunlight. In a way, this should have been expected, but it was a surprise nonetheless.
You now felt a growing disinterest with your television. The set was unremarkable; it was less than 27 or 28 inches, to make an estimate. And it was old. You were sure it was coming close to a decade old, but that was also an estimate. Removing it was a breeze after a quick unplugging, and with the companionate antenna still connected, the television set was whisked away into your room. Maneuvering your hand, to turn on the lamp on your nightstand, you saw that a spot at the foot of your bed in between your hamper and the wall fit the television precisely.
Another plant could take the space of your now relocated television. It could be robust and make your living room a more pleasurable space. What was your television but a frame for sound and movement to come out of anyway? Both of your windows were free now, and the view you had was going to suit your needs fine. A car rolling by and a couple walking pedestrians would break any monotony. A gently rustling wind would even suffice. And if you needed to turn your new screens off, the blinds or the curtains were ready whenever.
By Franz Tomino
You are supposed to be my friend, but I want you dead
And I don’t mean in a funny, endearing kind of way.
You have a habit of putting me down.
I hate that more than anything.
Nothing you can do can make up for that.
I have never hated anything so much in my whole life.
I wish we never met, a good amount of the time.
Every time you make a snarky little comment at me, I want to slug you across the face.
Every time you open your mouth and yell at me, I want you to tackle you to the ground, make you eat dirt.
You have made me angry all the time, you have made me into a schoolyard bully.
I hate you.
I want you to feel like I do for once.
I want you to feel like everyone hates you.
I want you to feel put down by everyone around you.
I want you to feel worthless.
I want you to feel hated.
I want your ego to go away.
I want you to feel like how you make me feel.
I don’t know why I’m still your friend.
We don’t even talk anymore.
You act nice now, you come up to me and you smile and you’ll say “Hi,” and you’ll give me a high five or one of those “Bro” hugs.
But I know the pattern.
We’ll start talking again.
You’ll make fun of me behind my back.
You’ll yell at me when I call you, for no reason.
You’ll insult me constantly.
And then, when I stop, you’ll get mad that I don’t talk to you anymore.
So I’m not going to talk to you.
I want to say “I Don’t see why I don’t get rid of you.”
But I know why.
I’ve known you for years.
You’re an old friend.
You have a grandfather clause.
I wish, really, I wasn’t as much as a pussy,
But that’s not the only reason.
Deep down, I want you to get vulnerable one day.
I want you to get really sad
I want the confidence you project to everyone to fade
I want you to have no choice, but to come to me.
I want to act like I don’t care.
I want to act like you are nothing to me.
I want you to be the only thing I have, like you used to be the only thing I had.
I want you to come to me for help
I want to act like what I’m going to do,
Like how you used to act,
Was help in a tough way
To make you better
Because you’re shit, now. And I’ll tell you that. And I can say that with truth.
But the lie will be that I can make you better.
I’ll spin it around, to appease you, make it sound nice.
I won’t ever be nice to you, though.
And day by day, I’ll make you feel how I felt.
I’ll make you think you are nothing but a joke.
This is funny, really.
Because this is pathetic.
You should be nothing to me.
You should be a moron to me.
And you are,
But I want you to feel like it.
By E.V. Mullenhour
Shards of shattered glass were scattered along the concrete steps. They were illuminated by the flickering blue lights built into the tiled walls. The sound of heavy boots made their way around a dark corner and stopped at the stairs.
“Fuck,” Finn muttered, rummaging through his jean pockets. He grabbed his cellphone and checked the time. 9:41 PM. He let out a sigh and began to text as he continued up the stairs.
Finn: At metro now. Be there soon.
Glass crunched beneath his boots. As he scraped them along the ground, he saw streaks of crimson. His dark brown eyes widened and he felt his heart drop to the pit of his stomach. “What the fuck?”
His eyes scanned the ground for more blood and he noticed drops which formed a trail up ahead. Looking around frantically, he saw no one, heard no one, and an eerie chill shot up his spine. He had never seen this place so empty. Unsure if he should call the police, he dialed 911, but let his thumb hover over the call button.
Swallowing hard, he slowly moved beside the trail, which wrapped around another dark hallway toward the restrooms. “Hello,” he called out nervously. Sweat began collecting on his forehead and palms. He gripped his phone tightly and it began to vibrate.
It was an incoming call from Liv. Her caller ID photo was one he had taken at their favorite sushi restaurant. She was sipping straight from a scorpion bowl and trying not to laugh with one of the straws stuck in her curly black hair. Every time Finn saw it, he couldn’t help but smile—until now.
Finn rejected the call.
By Franz Tomino
There’s something about Giant robots.
Fighting Robots, Warring Robots, Police Robots, Super Robots,
Piloted or controlled by a teen or an early 20-year-old
Fighting for justice, protecting a city, killing monsters or machine beasts
Fighting to stay alive, fighting against fascism in a war they did not choose to be in
The size and the presence always get to me
They turn the tide of battle, save civilizations, launch nukes, change the course of history.
Humanoid mechanical titans, piloted by small squishy humans
When I see them, I feel like I’m 8 again
When I see Amuro Ray piloting the Gundam, slicing up Zakus with the beam saber, I get chills.
When I see Koji in Mazinger, shooting out his robot arm into the head of another robot, I get butterflies.
When I see them floating in space, the elaborate designs of the fleets of ships, gigantic warships, mecha armed to the teeth, all the detail pouring out onto the cell,
Proving the work of a Japanese artist with a passion for machines
Proving that beauty can be mechanized
Seeing our future, seeing warring nations in space
Where things are gritty, desperate, and hopeless
Or a completely different, cartoon universe
When it’s right and wrong, fun, adventure
I feel like I’m a kid, 8, playing PS2 Gundam games with my brother, telling him that the Earth Federation is really the good guys, telling him that I wish I looked like Domon, telling him that I wish I was Japanese.
I’m suddenly no longer a sullen adult,
I’m in my past, when I was sad but things were okay. When I had dreams I would pilot a Gundam or a Zaku and I would be in a platoon with my friends, and I would be friends with all the colorful pilots, basking in the melodrama.
I am simultaneously an excited 8-year-old, sitting excitedly in front of a big screen TV, watching the action,
And a war-sullen pilot, just hoping I can survive with my comrades.
And I know, I’m still the same autistic weeb I was back then,
But, for once, it all just feels okay.
By Nick Souza
I saw her again last night. I don’t know her name and I don’t know anything about her. All I know is that she is my life now. She is everything. I’ve had girls before but she is something different. She doesn’t yell at me, she doesn’t hit me, I can’t fail her, she listens to me. She doesn’t say it but I can tell that she cares. She is perfect and she is everything. All day I’ve thought about her hardly able to focus on my job. Luckily I’m so used to this place I don’t even need to think. I am a large format printer which is probably the least exciting job a person could have. All I do is take images clients send us and convert them into a format our printer can comprehend. This would be a fine job for a teenager but I am almost 25 and now it just feels like an embarrassment. She doesn’t know about my job and I don’t wanna tell her. I don’t want to disappoint her. I think I’ll go see her tonight. I hope she wants me to.
Once work is over, I go back to my place to get ready. The only thing more shameful than my job is my apartment. Yes, I still live with my mother. It isn’t that strange, a lot of people my age still do. Besides, my mother needs me. She hasn’t had a real job in almost a decade so I am pretty much the breadwinner. But I also don’t make much money so not a lot gets done around here. It’s a good thing she won’t have to see this place. At least not anytime soon.
After staying here for a few more minutes I begin to get a gross feeling in my stomach (it happens if I stay here too long). It’s a bit early but I think I’ll go see her now. Hopefully she won’t be upset.
I head to my car, a 1989 Ford Taurus (having a car that’s almost 20 years old would be cool if it wasn’t so unreliable). I have enough gas to make it there without stopping. It is a long drive but for the most part I enjoy it. I don’t have a working radio but I do have “ABBA Greatest Hits Volume 2” which has “Dancing Queen” on it (but not Mamma Mia), and “Nevermind” by Nirvana which was left in the trunk of the car. Truth be told I listen to the Abba tape more. Most often I drive in silence but the tapes help me avoid the sirens call.
Who are the Sirens?
You know who they are. You see them everywhere. Sometime they advertise beer, sometimes a message from God or Jesus. They try to divert me from her. They try to poison my mind. But I see through their lies. They will not have me. Only she will have me. They are false. She is the only real one.
I should be seeing the first one soon. I toss in the Abba cassette to prepare. As expected it doesn’t take very long for the first siren to appear. Luckily it is only a lesser one. Advertising toothpaste or something. I see nothing in her and she is easily ignored. A couple minutes later I hear the calls again. There are a group of them in a beer advertisement, which I hate the most. They are absolutely demeaning and I can’t stand them. Luckily she would never appear in something like this.
It takes a bit of effort, but with a bit of determination and Abba I manage to make it through. The next 20 minutes pass by without incident. Before I know it I am face to face with her again. It may sound cliché but her beauty is truly beyond compare. Girls nowadays are so material it sickens me. All they care about are looks, and perceived personality. They say they like music but they don’t play instruments, they don’t buy records. They say they like films but I know they haven’t seen “Bicycle Thieves”. I know they wouldn’t be able to sit through a Kubrick movie. They just want to talk about the latest Marvel film and how it should have more girls in it. Their opinions are uninteresting to say the very least. I could go on but I am in the presence of a true woman.
She promotes some sort of energy drink but I know it’s a cover up. I know she’s an angel. I don’t think she knows I know. She has long black hair (I hate blondes). Her skin is like nothing else. It’s not pale nor is it tan, it’s so exotic. I wonder if she knows I’m here yet?
I call out to her and I can tell she hears me. She doesn’t move but she does not have to. I know her. I think I may be the only one who can hear her voice. It’s sweet and strong and perfect. She tells me she loves me. She asks my name, I tell her it’s Adrian, I ask for hers, she says she doesn’t have one.
“Can I give you one?”
“Yes. Can I give you a name m’lady?”
“You may try. “
I try to think of one but nothing comes to mind. Nothing is good enough for her. She doesn’t say another word to me for the rest of the night. This is usually what happens. After staring at her calmly and feeling the nice night air for a few more hours I decide it is time to go home. The ride home is always the worst part. The sirens are much more aggressive after hours. I listen to “Nevermind” at the highest volume my pathetic car speakers can muster and rush home at 80 miles per hour.
It will be a few days before I can visit her again. I wish I could bring her a gift but what do you get a woman like her? I don’t think she would want anything that I could give her. At least I have come up with a name though, hopefully that can please her.
Today I was quite adept at avoiding sirens so the drive there is uneventful. Except while passing a few of them I can’t help but feel a throbbing in a place I’d rather not think about. I’ll punish myself later for that.
Upon arrival she is my first sight. She seems to get more and more beautiful each time I lay my eyes on her.
“Hello Adrian. I have been waiting for you. “
Oh my god. This is the fifth time I have come to see her and she has never greeted me like this before.
“M’lady your words humble me. It is a privilege to be in your presence. “
“Do you have a name for me? “
“I do m’lady. How does Elizabeth suit you?”
“It is acceptable. Tell me Adrian does the name have any significance to you?”
“It does not but I have never met a woman by that name, which is why you deserve it because you are like nobody else. “
“You are too kind Adrian. I would very much like to touch you. “
“I would very much like to be touched Elizabeth. “
“There is a way to make that possible. “
“Yes but it is a… grotesque procedure. “
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t tell you like this. You’ll know when the time comes. “
The rest of the evening passes quickly. Elizabeth didn’t say anything more but she didn’t need to.
I drive home in a cold sweat. “Territorial Pissings” is on my stereo (it is the only song on the album I am not sick off). I need to buy more cassettes. For some reason there are no sirens out tonight. It gives me more time to think about what I need to do for Elizabeth.
The next day is Sunday, my day off. I have always hated Sundays. I sleep past 12 (which is my own fault) so by the time I’m up and moving everything is about to close (not that I have any money anyway) and I don’t have any real friends to do stuff with so I end up sitting at home all day playing bad GameCube games. But thanks to Elizabeth I sleep better than I ever have. These last few weeks I’ve been waking up early and seem to have money. Even the weather seems better. I hop in my car, grab some gas, and head to my local Salvation Army to find 59 cent cassettes.
Coming here always brings back memories (granted I suppose going anywhere does). I used to come here with my mother when I was a kid looking for vinyl and books. In a fucked up way I think this was one of the few places I was ever happy. This was my escapism. Jesus Christ, my life was fucking awful. At least I am in a better place now. Elizabeth changed everything.
I go over to the shelf with cassettes and look through the piles. It’s mostly garbage but I landed on “Face Value” by Phil Collins and “Moving Pictures” by Rush. “Face Value” is worth it for “In the Air Tonight” (or is it Tonite?) but almost everything else is garbage. “Moving Pictures” is excellent.
After paying for my tapes, I leave the store but as I soon as I walk out I see a woman. Normally I wouldn’t care but something is different about her.
By E.V. Mullenhour
A shuffling sound, followed by a loud thud, came from the women’s bathroom. He moved closer to the door, his phone still vibrating. Tilting his screen forward to brighten his path, he saw a smeared bloody handprint glistening across the yellow door.
“Is someone in there?” His voice shook.
“Please,” a soft female voice struggled to speak, “Help me.”
As he approached the door, he heard men shouting in the distant darkness. A series of gunshots followed. With a boost of adrenaline, he shoved his phone into his pocket and rushed to the restroom. He began frantically pushing open each stall door and scanning the floor for a trail.
There she was, sitting on the floor, in the corner beyond the last stall. One hand was holding her stomach, and the other was bruised, resting along the floor. Her long blonde hair was painted with blood and fell in front of her face as she struggled to hold her head straight.
“Oh my god! Are you alright?” Finn knew the instant the panicked words escaped his mouth that he had asked a stupid question. He rushed to her side, allowing her weakened neck to rest upon his arm.
“What happened? Who did this to you?” He demanded, pressing his free hand against hers to stop the bleeding. She erupted with violent coughs, blood splattering on the floor beside her and coating her lips.
“Quick,” she said, gasping for air, “my purse.”
“You’re going to be fine, okay? I’m going to call the police!” Finn released his hand from her and fished through his pockets.
“No, please, the…” Her eyes rolled back and her body went limp.
“Come on, stay with me! Wake up!”
He held the phone to his ear, his hand shaking and smearing blood along his cheek. The ringing felt like it had gone on for minutes.
“911, what is your location?”
“I’m inside the commuter rail station, uh, on Union street. I’m inside the women’s restroom. There’s a woman here bleeding out and um, she isn’t waking up!” Tears began forming in his eyes. “I’ve heard gun shots! Please hurry!”
He hung up the phone and slid it across the floor.
“Please wake up! Please!”
Her eyes opened and she began to cough again. She slowly raised her arm, pointing to her purse, which had been emptied on the floor by one of the sinks.
“What is it? What do you need?” Finn’s eyes scanned her face. He couldn’t process the situation at all. What happened to her? Who did this? What did they want?
“My… My wallet,” she whispered. Her arms had goosebumps and her teeth began chattering. “Hide it.”
Suddenly there were sounds outside the door. Men talking. Angry men. Perhaps the men who had attacked her.
“Hide,” she whispered, her eyes struggling to stay open.
Finn grabbed her wallet and slipped into a stall. He locked the door behind him and stepped up onto the toilet seat.
By Lucien Cooper
Rain falls on a quiet northeast England town. Any of them. All the same. Market towns. Living in them brings with it a certain kind of numb, wearying ache.
I’m not much of an impressive specimen of a man, I know. Perhaps this is why it chose me.
“I am a lonely man, my solitude is true” Words from a song I hear many times. Even when I’m surrounded by my best friends I am alone, an isolated freak. Though there is nothing freakish in my appearance, at least when I ask the opinions of others. The true freakishness is in my head. I’ve learnt to keep it there under mental lock and key, because I know no one desires to listen to the ramblings of a deranged, deluded autistic. One incapable of even basic human functions like finding employment.
I have to find my own means of filling the vast expanses of time. Reading, when I am able, can be a balm for a time. But eventually the restlessness compels me to move. Music moves with me, when I can help it.
I am fond of walking alone in the woods, no matter the conditions. Often I find myself confused by the seemingly senseless felling of trees, making the place more open. But I know I don’t govern any aspect of that. I’m just there to walk.
Well I was. My walks were for a time, an escape, my own private world to retreat into, a natural fortress by virtue of size and the numerous hiding places.
However, this serenity slowly began to break. I noticed a feeling of being observed. Weak and flickering at first, a mere prickling on the back of my neck. When I was a child and birdwatching with my father, I’d often wonder if the birds could sense us, with binoculars and scope trained on them.
It grew from there. I’d feel it closer. Hear the snapping of twigs and slapping of mud, with nothing and no one there to have done it. Then this began to abate for a while, only to be replaced by a new kind of watching. As if all directions, all trees were staring at me.
It was some weeks before I returned to the woods and the hazy warmth of summer began to be replaced by the wet lick of winter and the temporary death of the woods. It gave me even greater privacy. Before there was the occasional intrusion on my world by families somehow enjoying a day out or some group of youths, off to make some fire and get drunk. It annoyed me but I could not begrudge this. But now the most I’d see might be a single walker with a dog.
But now it seemed that I was definitely being followed.
A man of normal mind, of sound mind and who is possessed of friends who would go to such lengths for a prank would dismiss it as such. But I know I have friends who I can barely count on to see me more than two days in a month and I am not of sound mind.
Still, I would take care to avoid rousing the anger of this follower. Maybe a vagrant taken to the woodland. So I began to smoke less whilst walking there and doing less to disturb the flora and fauna, even less than I had before. Still it wouldn’t cease.
An argument one night had led me to enter the woods, a long route home to let me stop being so high strung, to send my friend a message apologising. All thoughts of that message being sent came abruptly to a halt when I remembered where I was. I hadn’t been here at night since I came aware of my being observed. And I was too far down the path to turn back. I had nothing but the squelching of my boots in the mud of the path to keep rhythm. I listened to it intently, out of resignation.
That’s when I noticed the squelching steps from behind me, almost in time with me but just out of it. I knew I couldn’t break and run, because those steps behind me would change to a run and inevitably I’d slip on a stone or the mud or a branch would trip me. I couldn’t stop and let it catch up with me either. The woodland scents so familiar now seemed so very menacing. Moss, leaf litter, the trees themselves. I pushed on, letting the thing behind me keep its poor copy of the beat of my heels. All the way to reaching a bridge, the bridge, the first sign of coming back into town proper.
My feet made the proper, familiar thunk thunk sound on the wood of it. The thing’s feet made a splut splut. The dawning realisation of my follower’s inhumanity was a snapping point. I felt my flight response kick in, hard. I managed to prevent myself from running. The floor turned to an aggregate of mud and rocks, my boots making the hard clacking sounds on them, the thing squelching on. Finally reaching paved road, concrete, my footsteps gained a definite clatter now. Those behind me became gradually weaker, eventually stopping around halfway up the hill. Something inside me stirred, a bravery. I made my way back down the incline. I saw the shape of a man, made up of wood, leaves, mud, ferns, moss. My height. My build. In my shape. A crude mockery.
I only then ran. I don’t go back to the woods at night. Because I guess at their intentions. I know they’d be better at living my life than I am anyway.
By Franz Tomino
I have conditions. A lot of them.
And of course, tic disorder, the one I can’t hide.
I was used to it for a while.
My head would go back and forth and my hair would go crazy,
My hands would flap, a few vocalizations,
I would pace around a room,
Until someone called my name, and everything’s okay.
Not a big deal. Never was to me.
But then when I was working one day,
I couldn’t control my hands,
I couldn’t use my body
I didn’t feel like I was in control,
I’d try to pick things up but my hand would spazz out,
It would go everywhere but where I wanted it to.
My legs could only be moved as if I was walking on stilts,
My eyes would roll up into the back of my head, and I would freeze
I had to quit.
My last day is coming up.
I’m unemployed again. A full time college student, thank god, I couldn’t handle unemployment otherwise.
I’d be too ashamed.
And now I sit in my room,
Too scared to leave my house sometimes.
Too scared to go out and collapse and scream at the top of my lungs in public
Too scared to scream while I throw myself against a wall.
Too scared to fall to the ground and convulse where everyone can see me
Too scared that a car will come by and take me out while I fall down in the middle of the street
It’s not always that bad, sometimes I have a feeling that I can go outside, but that’s all it is: A feeling.
I don’t know if I’ll have one, I can only make an educated guess.
And it’s horrifying.
I could die if I leave here.
And my mother, god bless her heart, my mother tells me I should exercise more. That I need to go out more.
And maybe I do,
But I’m risking my life when I step outside these doors now.
Of course, the answer is that everyone is, but with me it weighs more heavily.
I need to be with someone I trust.
It’s hit me recently, after all of this,
I’m actually disabled.
By Franz Tomino
He did not know where he was, but he knew that he was supposed to know where he was.
He knew that it was familiar. He recognized the voices that were buzzing all around him and the softness of the couch he was sitting on, and the TV show they had put on for him to watch. He recognized some of the faces that would pass him by and they would sometimes smile or come to hug him and hand him an envelope or give him a kiss on the cheek, and then they’d go where everyone else was and just chatter away. But nevertheless, he did not have the entire picture, and he was scared that his wife would find out.
He sat shaking a little, staring at the TV. It was very comforting. They were considerate enough to put on The Three Stooges. He did not have to pretend to understand humor that everyone else seemed to get, all it was and all it ever would be was just those three wacko characters hitting each other, over and over again. And he would smile and gaze with his mouth open sometimes. He knew he looked stupid but he did not care. They all thought he was gone anyway, this way they wouldn’t lean over and talk to him like a child and make sure to go through everything he can’t remember.
Even though he did not know whose house he was in, it was always like this. Even when he was alone with his wife. She’d go read her bible, count her rosary, watch TV, and he’d wait for his son to come by and drop off some scratch tickets. He’d go into the bathroom, lock the door, and begin to scratch as slowly as he could. It hurt his arthritis-ridden fingers to go at a normal speed, but that was not the only reason to drag the coin across so methodically. He wanted to savor it. He had dreams and these were his last chance. One day he would win something big and that day he would stuff it in his pocket and wait until his wife was asleep. Then he would mail it away without his wife’s discretion. He would wait by the mailbox until the brittle bones in his legs gave out and when the money came in he would take a cab out of town, away from his wife, live in a hotel, and then buy a new house so no one would know where he was. He could be alone for his last years. There’d be none of these people with their condescending smiles or the danger of rotting away in a nursing home if he forgot too much.
The only thing he found satisfying about days like these were the envelopes; they would always have some gaudy card that his wife would take into her purse and save for later, but they came with tickets too. All kinds of tickets with different colors and themes and feedback from the way they hid their numbers. Some were hard and crusty and some were soft, piling on the coin like a goo. Some made him feel like he was erasing pencil shavings. It filled up his days and nights with as much adventure as he could handle. Sometimes, he would even say it was better than the war. Everyone else seemed to agree, since whenever he brought up the war, no one replied.
For a while he was left alone, just him and the three idiots he loved so much as a boy. And he was the closest to happy he had ever been in a while. Then his daughter came in. She was not content with just handing him an envelope and joining everyone else, she stayed to kiss and hug him and smiled. The old man said, “Oh, hi!” and forced himself to smile even though he had no teeth. That made her giggle at him. He wanted to be left alone but she kept talking to him very slowly and asking questions that even he knows he should remember, but then she’d say some offhand comment about how he smells or looks or how he acted to someone near him. This time it was his wife, forgetting that his hearing has not gone and could still understand most of what people would say. He hoped one day that she would say this to his face. He would be able to take it and defend himself. But she never handled any conflict thrown her way, so it’d never happen.
But, thankfully, she left and began talking to someone else. Her two kids came along with her, but his favorite one looked him in the eye before walking away. They used to be friends. But now he can’t tell him stories or give him rides or buy him food or get him a new toy or read to him or anything else. The boy was the only escape from his wife and now he’s almost grown up. And now the old man couldn’t be fun anymore, so the boy wanted nothing to do with him. He would be fine with this if only he didn’t have to see him, if the boy’s mother did not drag him along to every event they had, to remind him of the fun they had and the impact he had on the boy’s life. And now the boy’s mom is going to finish the tail end of raising him.
That was one thing he never forgot and it was the only thing he wanted to forget.
“Wanna,” he tried to speak aloud, looking at the boy as he passed him by. “Wanna hear a story about the war?” there was a bit of silence since the boy smiled awkwardly, just like his mother would. “Just humor me.” the old man said.
The boy who was almost a man now sat down next to him and he looked him in the eyes. The old man started talking about how they lied to everyone that the guns were self-cleaning. He went on about how jeeps where such a new experience. Sure, the rest of his time there was hell, but he was glad he enlisted all because the jeeps were so fun to handle. The boy laughed at that. And now that the boy was older he was able to tell him about the horrors. Even with villages that were torched and the mindless killing he had to do, he would still go through it again. Just to be with his buddies, to be that person he was instead of what he was now. He talked about his brittle bones, how awful it was to lug them around, and how his mind was essentially garbage. But he felt good, because he was speaking the truth again.
But his daughter interfered with a forced smile and snatched the boy away to help her with a task that probably did not exist. The old man could only wave goodbye, saying he hoped to see his grandson again and he said that he knew he would because of all of the time he still had left. His daughter smiled and at him and patted his shoulder. “Oh, don’t worry daddy!”
He tried his best to smile back as she whisked her son away, babbling on about Buddhism or Gnosticism; whatever she was into this week.
Now he turned back to his Three Stooges. But it wasn’t enough anymore. He had talked to his buddy, opening up the floodgate of feelings and thoughts that he would too soon forget. The only person who would care to listen was gone. There was no chance to bond with the younger child, not this late into his condition. And he could say something to his daughter, but then she would get stressed at the mention of negativity that she could not fix and interrupt him yoga that she, with any sort of working brain, could tell that someone his age could not do. But if he said this, she would freak out and have a temper tantrum because the universe did not accept her self-image as an all seeing guru. Not to mention that it was his fault. His wife was around, but she would go on to berate him or hit him or just ask him to shut up and watch the television. Then she’d get back to calling him stupid every day after every mistake, and when he had been quiet for a long time she would get back to talking to him like a child and looking at him like a child, and of course, hitting him like a child when he had forgotten anything that she wanted him to remember and then he’d be threatened to be put in a nursing home. Anyone else who came around would just listen for a few seconds before doing something else. Nobody was his buddy but the boy. Reluctantly. He was a man now and he had his own things to deal with.
He asked his wife if he could scratch off his tickets. “Well, okay.” she said, smiling and talking very slowly. “But just one roll!” He wanted to punch her for making fun of him like that, but like always, he let it go and she handed him a set.
He began doing his duty. He loved it, the unveiling of what could be his future, his escape from all of this. But it wasn’t just that he loved it. It was the motion of it all, back and forth with such a small coin. Sometimes he would pretend that he was cleaning old dust off a souvenir from the war or his trips to Africa or Germany or Florida, just to make it more fun. But he hated that it was fun. He hated that he was getting more enjoyment out of a piece of plastic that would get him twenty bucks at best rather than any conversation he’s had in the past ten years.
By Joseph Pietropaolo
I had just woken up at noon time that day. Thank God it wasn’t any later, I wanted to actually be up to enjoy my day. But everything was so strange, waking up. Everything outside my window was so bright, almost unnaturally. It was hard for my eyes to properly focus on anything. And on top of that I was experiencing some sort of double-vision, maybe triple. My arm turned into three arms, each one a little transparent; the trees were getting blurred, leaves were almost collaged on top of one another. It wore off in a couple of minutes. I was so glad I could still stand and walk.
After a shower, I slipped on my old sneakers and made my way to this coffee shop a few blocks away. Coffee works wonders for me. A cup or two has saved me from having a lousy mood and a lousier day. As I made my way there, in between traffic noises and some natural ambience, all I could hear were my footsteps, and I swear they were going as fast as my heartbeat. Normally, I don’t walk so fast, but I was gunning it today. The walk was five minutes, but I didn’t know five minutes could feel so long and so fast.
When I made it there, the place was packed! There were as many people right outside the store as there were people sitting and enjoying their lunch inside. Out of nowhere this all black helicopter moves across the sky, and it was low enough to actually see the soldiers’ faces inside. It was very wide, who was to say ten people weren’t crammed inside of it? Wherever it was going, it was certainly going with urgency. Now my heart began to lower and finally quiet down. But I was left with was the blurred vision of people endlessly walking towards and away from me. They were all around me, the epicenter. And everyone was making hard eye-contact with me for at least two seconds as they passed by. I swear, they were looking at me any time I wasn’t looking at them. It was the kind of thing to aggravate your paranoia, if you have it. I stopped underneath an awning outside the shop entrance to stop any potential sweating. That stink wouldn’t get out of my nose and I did not want to make myself sick in front of all these people.
Once I was inside, my situation with everyone got worse. I noticed bulky objects at everyone’s hips. It couldn’t have been cell phones, almost no one had a case clipped onto their belt anymore. They were holsters! Every person in this store had one! Male or female, young or old. Some people had shoulder holsters; there was one guy with a hunting rifle!
I walked toward the counter, trying to play everything off. The weapons were all put away and it didn’t feel like I was being watched anymore. But as I got closer to the counter, I noticed a couple of red dots on my shirt. As I was facing forward again, it became worse: guns were being drawn and cocked back, one after another. People inside and outside had weapons of all varieties aimed at me. The cacophony of the guns being readied was deafening. Why I didn’t shut down completely or die from the anxiety of it all is something I will never figure out. With how I am, you don’t need bullets. The store staff were aiming guns of all kinds at me too. That broke my heart, I really wanted to trust them.
I heard the helicopter come back around and hover over the store entrance. Over a loudspeaker I heard a distorted voice telling me to walk towards the counter. My legs were shaking too much to comply at first. It took so much for me to physically get one foot in front of the other, each step making me feel like I would fall over. Maybe I was taking too long, because gradually people started shooting at me. Each patron took their turn firing round after round. And yet, nothing hit me. The bullets inside of their guns weren’t bullets. Were they shooting blanks?
Finally, at the counter, the helicopter sounded off again saying “What can we get you?” A medium coffee, extra cream. The helicopter reported back with a question about extra sugar as well. “No, the regular sugar is okay,” struggled to come out of my mouth, in choked syllables. My whole body had to be shaking at this point. When the barista finished preparing the coffee, the helicopter told me to hand off the money that matched the register. I had exact change. I didn’t want to go through the motions of accepting change and being there any longer.
So now that I had my coffee, I hurriedly thanked the barista. Outside, the men I saw in the helicopter rappelled down. Guns drawn, they began firing everything they had at me. They even switched to their pistols when the machine guns ran out. I walked by each of them as fast as I possibly could, only looking each agent in their goggles, eyes wide, and maybe taking a desperate sip of my coffee. The minute I made it off the store’s property I made a break for my house. Despite being home, despite the blank shells, and even despite getting my coffee, I crawled onto my bed, knees bent up to my chin, and rocked back and forth until the next morning.
By Franz Tomino
I’m happy to be away from it
But I’m sad at the same time too
It’s stressful, I know
I don’t even wanna pick up a book
But I do
I got all these nice free audio books
And I’m scared to put on one
But when I do I fall in love and I want to write again and I want to work hard, why am I scared?
I love it, don’t I?
I’m not sure
I don’t want to
Because it’s hard to love something, even if it’s art.
I’ll read and I’ll really like it and I want to read more, but I’ll close the book
My friends who read my writing say I don’t, and I want to believe them now, and most of the time I do,
And then I stop and I relax and life is good
Nothing really matters
I just do whatever
It’s all fine
But then some urge comes back
I hear some college kid talk about how stressful an art major is and how hard they are working
I hear some musician talk about working their ass off in practice
Or, worse yet, one of my Facebook friends talks about a book they are writing.
I find courage to write
I find courage to read a book again
I flip through The Metamorphosis and I remember why it’s great
I read Bradbury and I remember why I wanted to write in high school, I remember why I would sit in the library and why I stole those neglected books on the shelf that no one ever took back to my home where they are to be admired and loved before I become frightened again
I remember why I was a writer
And I write again, and for a while, it feels good
But then I stop and it becomes stressful
But then I stop for a day and I get afraid and I can’t write again and I hate it and then I haven’t read again and I hate it and I feel like a fraud
But there’s this voice that fights against it when I read or I write
It’s this voice that lives inside of my head that will use evidence that I’m not a fraud
That I enjoy reading, such a simple thing, but it can reaffirm it
That I enjoy writing
That I’m honest
But It takes so much effort to build up
It takes so much effort to fight the feeling
I stop, and I accept it.
I just accept everything they say
If I can’t enjoy it like candy, it shouldn’t be my life goal.
If I can’t read and write all the time, it shouldn’t be my profession.
I tell myself I don’t enjoy it again and it hurts
But then, I believe it.
And then, life is simple.
I am no longer a writer and I am no longer an artist. I am just a college student. I am just a part time worker at McDonald’s. I do not have to prove anything.
But the voice will start up again
And that it will prove that literature can be fun, that it can be relaxing
But I’ll manage to stress over it
I’m not getting it or I’m not doing enough
I’ll want to do it but I want to run away
And the cycle will start up once more
Over and over and over.
I wonder what side will win?
To be honest, I’m not sure what side I want to win.
By Lucien Cooper
Trudging through the landscape of dirt, ashes and rot, the figure stopped at a ridge overlooking the next abandoned town. The roiling mists buffeted at his robes, hood, gloves and gasmask like a violent swarm of hornets. The only thing thriving here were flies, rising in great balls above the town. After a while to catch breath, the man walked on. The winds were concentrating on this point of the valley. Once it had been a bustling town, full of life, noise and colour. Now there was nothing left that didn’t have a sickly grey green patina contaminating the outer layer of it, buildings were crumbling, former homes torn apart. Businesses looted. Drawing a short bow, this mysterious stranger walked in.
It had been less than a year since it happened. The final war. As the oligarchy had pushed the rest of the world deeper into poverty and squalor, they had been stoking the flames of conflict that had started to emerge. In their short sighted avarice, they chose to create new enemies as they always had done. In the end, there were so many, no one truly knew or even cared now which of them had thrown the proverbial first stone.
Unlike the fears many envisioned, the end did not come from simply one kind of weapon. The attacks had been nuclear, bacterial, and chemical in varying measures. After the bombs had fallen many bio labs had begun to emit their contents. Various plague weapons, combined with the onset of nuclear winter and leaks of deadly chemicals into the land air and sea. The disruptions to the climate that came with it caused violent storms which allowed these elements to spread into the air.
Finding the town deserted, the figure was fortunate to find one of the sporadic safe rooms that had been built. After decontamination, the mask was removed. A young man, no more than 17 was underneath. His hairless face and scalp shone with sweat. He set down his backpack and began to remove his clothes, down to the shorts and long johns at his lowest level. Sliding the NBC suit and mask filter into the incinerator, he waited for it to heat up the water recyclers tank. He was grateful for the start of the heat it provided, since night was about to fall outside and the world was so very cold these days. Eventually he was able to take a shower, empty his catheter and bladder. Deciding to let the heat maintain for a while, he reasoned it would be better to refill his canteen in the morning. He caught sight of himself in the mirror and grimaced at the tattoo with his identity.
Robert Lodge had been approaching 16 when the plague wind came. He remembered the fractured window he’d had on the events of the time. He’d been in the cadets. At first he had been asked to provide extra logistical support to the National Guard deployed in his town. Helped keep people feeling safe when martial law was introduced. Then it progressed rapidly. Helping to remove corpses from riot scenes soon became cleaning up after the executions. Eventually he’d had enough. Killed one of the serious soldiers, grabbed his survival kit and stole one of the special GPS units.
He thought back on all this whilst eating canned potato curry cooked on a hot plate. He had learned to depersonalise himself from what he had seen since.
People who had been wracked by the nightmarish diseases. The retirement home where they had drowned in their own mucus. The maternity ward which has been hit by an abortifacient bearing cloud pouring itself through the cracks in the ceiling, violently killing mothers and children, nurses overdosing patients and themselves in mercy kills. The town where their skins had been flayed by an acidic mist and he had to euthanize them himself. When he finally made it back to his hometown his grandfather, his only remaining family even then was dead. His body bloated and bubbling into a mass of tumours, now rotting and crawling with beetles and maggots, blowflies marching over deflated eyeballs.
Shuddering back, he thought to the present.
There were two new NBC suits in the shelter and a week’s supply of gas mask filters. A couple cases of 9mm pistol ammo. Some dried food powder.
He took the handful of pills he needed to sleep this night. The pain. It was almost constant. He slept one eye open, always aware that there could be a scratching outside at any time. The swarms of mutated bugs which ruled this dying earth were nothing if not persistent, not to mention other humans.
He had a mangled hand and missing toes from his near death run in with a mad old scavenger dying of radiation sickness. He was thankful for his gloves, socks and boots when he was outside. The cold might kill where the plagues did not.
When he roused, he pissed again, then filled two canteens, swallowed his day’s doses of supplements and painkiller and began homing in on the location of the next shelter to the west. He hoped he would make it.
He trudged out in the new suit, slowly, silently. He hadn’t spoken since it happened. No one had.
By E.V. Mullenhour
The restroom door swung open. One of the men spit his chewing tobacco onto the floor and walked over towards the woman. The other footsteps stopped just beyond the entrance.
“Where is it?” A deep, raspy voice asked. He sounded middle-aged, with an accent Finn couldn’t decipher. “I know you’re hiding it somewhere, bitch. And not in those damn vents. Did you think someone would come to your rescue while we searched them?” He laughed, and then struck her.
She refused to make a sound.
Finn closed his eyes and prayed that he wouldn’t accidentally make noise. He worried one of his feet might slip, or that he’d shake too hard and rattle the charms dangling from the wallet. “You’re going to tell me where it is, or I’ll make your last moments unbearable,” the man exclaimed, dragging a metal object along the floor. “You have no use for it now, and Selene wants her property back.” The woman stayed silent.
Finn kept his head down and his eyes shut tight in fear. He could feel sweat rolling down his hairline and onto the curve of his jaw. He wondered what was so special about the contents of this little black wallet. This wasn’t about money. Surely whatever it was couldn’t be worth this woman’s life, or his own for that matter.
The man began pacing with one of his hands over his mouth, muffling his sounds of frustration. Within an instant the sounds evolved into yelling and he threw his weapon onto the floor. His fists slammed into the walls repeatedly and he began kicking in stall doors.
With each door Finn could feel his heart sink deeper. He was going to be found and killed and all for whatever was in this stupid wallet. His only chance was to give it up.
The man outside the restroom stepped in.
“Martin, we gotta go,” he pleaded, his voice shaking from fear. He sounded young—younger than Finn, who was only twenty-four. “Someone called the cops!”
Martin yelled through his teeth and began viciously kicking the woman. It was clear to Finn at that moment that she was already dead. The two men fled the room and Finn slowly opened the stall door.
There she was, hunched over on the floor, her eyes still open. Finn immediately turned away and began dry heaving. His watering eyes searched the floor for his cellphone, and once he grabbed hold of it, he bolted from the room. Figures were approaching quickly from the distance, waving flashlights, and calling out to anyone who could hear them. Finn had never run so fast in his life.
By Lucien Cooper
VHS tapes. Once such a common part of our life, a revolution in film in our own homes. Yet now they fill me with dread. Those decayed, warped, stretched documents of cinema and sometimes our lives. It’s always felt so odd to me to watch those fleeting glimpses, moments of other people’s family, intimate moments. Odd, but not totally terrifying. And yet now, now I can’t even look at one of those old cassettes without shuddering a tremor of revulsion
I suppose now that I’ve mentioned this, it is only fair, if I explain to you, whoever you are, reading this, the root of my terror.
It was not until relatively recently that it emerged. The first sign of what to come came one day. I cannot give a first-hand recollection of this, only a discussion of what I know happened, and hope you can take my word. A friend of mine, employed in removals and house clearances was working one day at an isolated house outside of the small town I live in. It was in one of the small hamlets that dot the valley around my home. He said the house was thick with a sickening odour, a pile of trash of all kinds in the front garden. Long obsolete software discs, soft furnishings covered in dust and apparently the occasional tremor, as if something, or things were living in it. Rats, most likely. And yet the house was still full, as if the owner was comfortable in a state of decay, patina of dust and damp on every surface. The owner not long departed, both the house and this world. Suicide. It happens.
What is odd is what happens next. Halfway through the day, the police arrived. Not any officers recognisable from the area either, though they were in the livery of the county. They were told to leave, or else be arrested for disturbing government property. When I heard this, it interested me. I had no idea the government had any sort of ownerships like that. I’d have thought they’d prefer grander properties, as well as refusing to let things become so squalid.
My curiosity piqued, I convinced my friend to guide me out there. Since we both felt so brave then, it was no issue. We biked out there, stopping every so often for a joint or a piss or any number of small distractions. It was a bright evening, a warm summer. When we arrived, there was no sign of the government ownership so proclaimed. Not even any taping off, nothing to suggest the police watching. Nevertheless, we walked around the back door, though no neighbours seemed to care. Finding the rear of the house unlocked, we walked in, putting on dust masks to avoid any risks. We made our way to the previously unexplored upstairs, finding it sparse in comparison to the mess downstairs. A mould covered but otherwise intact bath and a surprisingly clean toilet and sink. A single room with anything in. A mattress and bed on the floor, fetid sheets gone half yellow where you could see the man had slept. An overflowing ashtray, a few empty bottles of gin and white cider. A TV, a VHS player, and a box of tapes. Seeing no point to investigating the rest of the house, we rummaged through the box of tapes, finding only one still reasonably intact. Labelled as “home video #192843244 (christmas 89)” we resolved to leave, riding home slowly. The adventure done, we had no idea what we were getting into. Bloody fools we were.
Arriving back in town, we went to see the one person we knew who still had a VHS player. Arriving at his house, we found him willing to let us watch, but not wanting to join us. Settling down out in the garage, we decided not to waste time.
I see now why that house was off limits, that the government was trying to protect both the public and itself from great trauma. Old shames brought up, and new terrors emerged. What I saw on that tape, at least what I remember still now is as follows.
A corporate hospitality Christmas party it seems at first, a mass of men in grey suits. Though I cannot say for sure, the faces of the men were those of many senior government figures of the time. They were speaking lowly, the voices hard to make out properly, the tape warping and decaying with time, as they all may have done.
It seemed as if they were waiting for someone, the camera weaving around, through the crowd as the operator tried to speak to the odd person, gaining only a few words of laughter. This went on for twenty minutes, a slow, dull process. Grey suits, grey people. Though obvious in its way that they were important and this video was meant only for narrowest circulation. Not a home movie in the truest sense, but still an intimate portrait of a world most people would never know.
What followed though was a call from the front of house. “Gentlemen, the entertainment has arrived!” A sleazy, leering voice cried out this proclamation. The camera went off, and the time skip was hard to judge when it returned to life, the scene now drastically different. The tape, worn as it was still showed well enough for us to see what was happening. These government figures, businessmen, old money nobility or whatever they were, for those are the groups that to my mind, produce grey men in grey suits who have power and their life handed to them on a plate were now much more active. And worse. They were consorting with terrifying figures. I cannot say what they were for sure, perhaps some experimental special effect the men had consented to, if I rationalise it, but they had the characteristics one minute of reptiles, the next a decaying corpse. Their movements were odd, jerky and blasphemously suggestive. Some of them were gnawing balefully on some kind of flesh, some dancing or grinding up against the men. It progressed, with the men gradually being moved to undress, pairing or grouping off with the entities, with the action moving to a circle on the dancefloor, a mix of laughter, shouting and other, inhuman voices. The figures seemed surprised by the camera, but not afraid. Instead, and slightly horrifically the waved and approximated a sickening blowing of kisses.
By this point my friend had turned white and I myself was shaking. But we could not move ourselves to stop the viewing.
It seemed a clothed man, perhaps the one who had announced the arrival of the figures and acted as master of ceremonies, ushered a small figure, wrapped in a sheet, the man smiling.
“And, now, distinguished gentlemen and our guests, I present the centrepiece of our evening. Without further ado.” He said, the voice crackly now. His hands pulled the sheet off. Underneath, a young girl. I couldn’t place the age, and indeed, couldn’t bear to watch. I know she was naked, though my hands finally covered my eyes in time to prevent sight. It didn’t help. I could hear screams. Tearing. A pulpy squishing and finally, a chorus of monstrous, alien laughter and orgasms. It was done, thankfully. I turned to apologise to my friend, but no words would come to either of us.
The last thing we did that night was to set a fire in the woods and melt the tape. Destroy what we had seen, though it was burned into our minds. All we said, as we smelt the melting plastic and the burning smokiness of the young, green wood that was mixed in with the other firewood was the word “fuck” over and over again.
There is a price that comes with forbidden knowledge such as this. I have lost my friend along with the fading of my youth. What I gained was a searing memory, an associate fear of VHS tapes and a need to sedate myself regularly.
The unfortunate and troubled legacy of Hole and Courtney Love
By Nick Souza
Courtney Love has a fascinating relationship with fame. In the 90s she was married to one of the most famous musicians of all time, she fronted a commercially and critically successful rock band, and began to carve out a solid acting career. In the 2000s she was mostly famous for being drunk at talk shows and showing her bare chest at any opportunity she could find. In the 2010s she put out a glorified solo album under the Hole brand and pissed off what was left of her 90s fanbase, and then she quickly faded into obscurity. Ms. Love has become almost a bit of a hero to me this past year, so I’m gonna attempt to shed some light on what Courtney means to me and to her legions of fans and haters.
I got into Nirvana at a really young age (which is true for a lot of people). Every member of my immediate family were fans. One of the first CDs I owned was “Unplugged in New York” which I would constantly listen to on my portable CD player during long drives to either a campground or some New Hampshire fuckery. It was during one of these trips that my sister informed me that Courtney (whom I only knew as Kurt’s wife) was the real reason for his death. This conspiracy was my first exposure to Courtney and unfortunately it is the first thing a lot of people hear about her. It would be years until I heard about her band and even longer before I properly heard one of her songs.
The “Courtney killed Kurt” camp may not be as large as they seem but they are very loud. The majority of them are just teenagers that like to have a conspiracy theory to believe, but there are some that have what could be considered logical reasons for this theory. I personally don’t believe that Courtney had anything at all to do with Kurt’s death so I won’t go into it here. If you are interested feel free to check out the film “Soaked in Bleach” and cobaincase.com. I don’t think either of these sources fair or intelligent but they are miles ahead of what else is available.
I loved Nirvana throughout my middle and high school years but didn’t really dig deeper into the other 90s bands of the time until about two years ago, and Hole was one of those bands. When I was a sophomore in high school I started reading about Nirvana’s history which of course involves Love. That got me curious about Hole so I listened to a few of their songs. The three I listened to are, “Violet”, “Doll Parts” (both from “Live Through This”) and their cover of the Nirvana song “You Know You’re Right” (which was titled “You’ve Got No Right” for god knows what reason).
“Violet” didn’t really strike a chord with me. I thought the vocals were too all over the place and at the time I “wasn’t into chick singers”. “Doll Parts” was a little more interesting to me but again the vocals were so unpolished that I couldn’t really listen to it. The “You Know You’re Right” cover however did get a few replays out of me and remained on my LimeWire account until I grew up and learned how to properly download music.
It was another few years before I listened to Hole again. This time it was due to my girlfriend who was a big fan of them. During drives she used to put Hole songs on and eventually they started to grow on me. This led me to eventually listen to their music by choice and start reading about their history.
Hole formed in Los Angeles during the summer of 1989. The band has had only one consistent member, Courtney Love, although composer and guitarist Eric Erlandson is featured on their first three releases. In 1991 the band which was augmented by bassist Jill Emery and drummer Caroline Rue on September 17th of that year released their debut album “Pretty on the Inside” which was produced by Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon. “Pretty on the Inside” is a very dirty record. The vocals are angry and hard to discern, the guitar abrasive and distorted, and the rhythms have a punk influence. Of the three 90s albums this one is definitely my least favorite but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. The album is representative of its time. It sounds like four angry young people expressing themselves. The lyrics may be a bit too angry, or the guitars too noisy but at the end of the day “Pretty on the Inside” is an honest record more than anything else and for me that earns it a lot of respect.
After “Pretty” was released the band regularly toured with bands like The Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth, although the touring with Sonic Youth didn’t last long due to friction between Kim Gordon and Love. It was during this time that she began dating Kurt, and a few months later became pregnant.
This brings us to the beginning of 1992. The band has returned to the studio and begin writing for what will become their second album. Emery and Rue are not pleased with the more melodic direction Love wants to go towards so they depart. Finding a drummer was easy and the band was soon augmented by Patty Schemel (whom I consider to be one of the best drummers of the 90s). Love doesn’t even remember hiring her saying “I was completely high on dope, I cannot remember much about it.” Finding a replacement for Emery proved to be a daunting task. An advertisement was made describing what Courtney was looking for in a bass player it said “someone who can play ok, and stand in front of 30,000 people, take off her shirt and have ‘fuck you’ written on her tits. If you’re not afraid of me and you’re not afraid to fucking say it, send a letter. No more pussies, no more fake girls, I want a whore from hell.”
The band would spend the rest of the year without a bass player using producer Jack Endino (a man far from being a “whore from hell”) and Love as fill ins for recording. Finally, the band found a bass player in the form of Kristen Pfaff (also far from a “whore from hell”) from the band Janitor Joe (a pretty awesome hardcore band). She proved to be just what the band needed and in the words of Erlandson, “That’s when we took off, all of a sudden we became a real band.” Recording was soon finished for what became “Live Through This”.
Thing were looking up for Hole but the same could not be said for Courtney’s personal life. During this time her relationship with Kurt was on the decline, they had been fighting constantly and his drug use was becoming even more alarming. Love hosted an intervention for Kurt with ten of his closest friends. Kurt supposedly understood and agreed to undergo a detox program. However not much came of it as Kurt would commit suicide (yes he killed himself) on April 8th.
Four days after his death “Live Through This” was officially released. The two hits from it are “Doll Parts” and “Violet”. Both songs describe Love’s struggle with being both a celebrity and a woman (though Violet is also about being angry at Billy Corgan) and are musically very aggressive and dirty sounding. I liked these two tracks but it was the songs “Plump” (a song about Love’s eating disorder and featuring some beautiful guitar work from Eric Erlandson), and “Jennifer’s Body” (a no holds-barred rock song about a multiple rape-murder-incestuous crime, which could potentially have Love’s best vocals).
“Pretty on the Inside” made some waves but it was with this album that they shot into the proverbial limelight. Long story short it went platinum and was adored by the critics. Of course god forbid the general public accept that Courtney was part of something good and rumors began to circulate that Kurt had written all these songs before his death and Love was cashing in on them. Like most rumors about Courtney, these have no basis in fact and I would prefer not to even mention them but they are part of the history so their inclusion here is just as important as anything else.
Everybody remembers Kurt’s death (and it should be remembered) but there was another drug casualty in Courtney’s life. Just one month after Kurt’s body was found Hole bass player Kristen Pfaff overdosed on heroin and died. Unfortunately, very little has been said about Pfaff’s death but as a makeshift Hole historian (and a bass player) reading about her tragic death is depressing. From what I’ve read about her and seen of her in photographs she was a beautiful, charming, and extremely talented young lady and I’m confident that even without Hole she would still have made an indelible mark upon 90s alt rock.
After spending the summer of 1994 in mourning Hole returned with bass player Melissa Auf der Maur being added to the lineup. Maur was reluctant at first to join but in her words she felt “a flash of destiny” and decided to do it. Melissa proved to be just what the band needed. She is a talented songwriter, singer, and bass player. But more than anything she brought (in the words of Eric Erlandson) “sunshine to the band”.
At this point the band was performing the most critically acclaimed concerts of their career thus far. They turned out successful sets at Reading festival, Lollapalooza, and the Australian Big Day Out. Their videos were getting regular airplay on MTV and they were even featured at the Music Video Awards (one of their most infamous moments). After their tour ended we wouldn’t hear from Hole again for two years.
Hole as a band wasn’t very active in 1996 and 1997 but the members themselves found projects to keep them busy. Love co-starred in the Milos Forman movie “The People vs Larry Flynt” (a pretty decent film). Her performance won her several awards, including the Boston Society of Film Critics award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and the Chicago Film Critics Association award for Most Promising Actress. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama”. In the film Courtney portrays Althea Flynt (wife of Larry Flynt) a stripper, drug addict, and co-publisher of “Hustler”. While working on the film, Courtney and actor Edward Norton began dating.
While Courtney was working on her acting career Eric put together Hole’s only (as of 2016) compilation album entitled “My Body, the Hand Grenade”, which was released on October 28th, 1997. The main draw of the album is that it includes the majority of their first recording session. Other highlights of the album include a demo version of “Miss World” and selections from Hole’s “MTV Unplugged” performance.
This wasn’t Eric’s sole musical endeavor at the time though. He also formed Rodney and the Tube Tops with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and members of LA punk band White Flag. The band recorded only one single, “I Hate the 90s” and then disbanded.
Patty Schemel found some ways to keep busy as well, she played drums on the EP “Goofyfoot” by Phranc (the stage name of Susan Gottlieb). She also formed the band Constant Comment with Melissa Auf der Maur but they only played a few shows before disbanding and no recordings of them have surfaced. Auf der Maur was also featured on Cars singer Ric Ocasek’s album “Troublizing” (which is definitely worth hearing) which lead to Ric Ocasek producing Hole’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman”, and was Auf der Maur’s first time working with Billy Corgan whom we will be talking about very soon.
Finally, in April of 1997 the band returned to the studio to begin work on their third album. The writing process proved to be difficult for everybody involved. Love claimed that the early versions of the songs “weren’t very good”. Upon realization that the band was going nowhere Courtney sent recordings to friend Billy Corgan (I told you we would be talking about him very soon) and he came down to the studio to help the band progress.
This brings us to Hole’s next obligatory controversy: what exactly did Billy do for “Celebrity Skin”? He’s credited for co-writing five tracks (Celebrity Skin, Hit So Hard, Malibu, Dying, and Petals). The title track and “Malibu” ended up being the most popular tracks but how much of them are written by Courtney and Eric and how much is written by Billy?
Love likened working with Billy to “a math teacher who wouldn’t give you the answers but was making you solve the problems yourself”. Eric (who didn’t seem to really want Billy involved at first) said of the writing process “We were working on all the stuff that Courtney and I had already written. Billy really facilitated things, in a way… I would bring in the music, Courtney would start coming up with lyrics right away, and Billy would help map it all out.” Billy claims that he should be credited with co-writing the whole album.
Whatever he did or didn’t do as a listener, I’m grateful for Billy’s presence as “Celebrity Skin” is my favorite Hole album. The songs are very polished, (something I’m sure was a huge surprise at the time) very poppy and all put melody first and foremost. Lyrically, the album contains Love’s tried and true themes of celebrity, femininity, anger, sorrow, and sarcasm.
The album was produced by Michael Beinhorn who wanted to replace (on the recordings) Patty Schemel with session drummer Deen J. Castronovo (known for his work with Journey, Bad English, Social Distortion, Ozzy Osbourne, and more). After some pushing, Eric and Courtney agreed and this caused Patty to leave the band. Deen does a decent job but Patty would have made this album even better. Deen has a more meathead approach to drumming and it makes you miss the artful and organic style of Patty. For the tour the band recruited drummer Samantha Maloney.
Upon release the album was a huge success The title track was a #1 single and topped the modern rock charts. The album itself managed to reach #9 on the Billboard 200. Hole made appearances on “Later… With Jools Holland”, “Top of the Pops”, and other such programs. The band then embarked on their most ambitious tour to date, the “Beautiful Monsters Tour”, which had them sharing a bill with Marilyn Manson. The tour proved to be a disaster and only lasted nine out of the planned thirty-seven shows.
After dropping off the “Monsters” tour the band toured on their own. They played seventeen dates in the United States, and then select dates and festivals for the rest of 1999. The majority of the shows were very well received and helped to keep Celebrity Skin a success. On July 14th, 1999 the band played their final show (as of 2016) at the Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver.
A few months later in October Auf der Maur got an offer to Join Smashing Pumpkins and promptly quit Hole. It didn’t take much longer for Samantha Maloney to throw down her sticks and leave as well. This left just Eric and Courtney so they both pretty much agreed to call it quits and Hole officially disbanded in 2002.
After leaving Hole, Courtney began writing a solo album with Linda Perry (known for that He-Man what’s going on song, and a bunch of others). The album featured the return of Patty Schemel who co-wrote and performed on almost every track. Critically the album didn’t do very well. It has a metacritic score of 59/100 which I guess isn’t terrible but compared to the acclaim “Live” and “Celebrity” got I think it says a lot. Allmusic had this to say about it, “since her solo debut is so sloppy and predictable […] it suggests her music is more bluster than meaning” and that “[Love is] trying to snarl like it’s 1994, yet wrapping herself in a glossy production from 1998 while relying on songs that are an amalgam of bad L.A. punk and bad L.A. metal.”.
Love herself doesn’t hold the album in high regard and has mentioned multiple times how she did not have enough creative control over the final product. The album cover (a pinup drawing of Love done by artist Olivia De Berardinis) was not okayed by her, and she had this to say about it: “At least make it look cool, and instead there’s me as a Playboy pinup. I love Olivia’s art but that was personal for me – not art for a record.” Of the production she said “they made it suck beyond words”. Linda Perry wasn’t much happier with it either stating ““A lot of heart went into it and it got ruined because her and her friend were coked out. And that is the truth, that is a fact.” Commercially the album didn’t do very well at all and only sold around 86,000 copies (compared to Celebrity Skin and Live Through This both selling over a million). Courtney made the smart decision of not touring the album and on an episode of TRL said “I cannot exist as a solo artist. It’s a joke.” Instead of touring she co-created a manga called “Princess Ai” for Tokyopop. The manga is a retelling of her life story. It isn’t very good and reads as one of the most generic graphic novels I’ve read in my life as weeb.
As a fan and for the purposes of this work a Hole historian I like Love’s solo album. It definitely isn’t as good as “Live Through This’ or “Celebrity Skin” but it has some charm. The production is over polished and makes the songs sound a little lifeless, and Courtney retreads similar territory both vocally and lyrically, but the songs are still there. The majority of the tracks (especially opening track Mono) are catchy as fuck and make me wanna move a little bit. Not to mention that Schemel’s drumming is a very welcome return (some drumming was done by Samantha Maloney though). Is it a great album? No, but it’s listenable and better than a lot of the garbage that came out in 2004.
This is where Courtney’s reputation begins to completely crumble. Courtney has always been known for her drug problems, her lack of modesty, her attention seeking, and her massive ego but she was also known for great music. However, in 2005 the general public hadn’t really heard any quality work from her in seven years and talent is very quickly forgotten when it isn’t always producing. Most of what the public saw from her during these years were arguments with the surviving members of Nirvana and drugged out appearances on talk shows and the infamous Comedy Central Roast of Pamela Anderson.
In late 2009 Courtney again surprised and confused the world by reforming Hole. It was surprising because like I said the world had kind of forgotten about Courtney the musician. It was confusing because this new version of Hole did not include Eric. When Courtney announced the “reunion”, Eric responded in the magazine “Spin” stating “The band’s a business. We have a contract. She signed a contract with me when we decided to break up the band, which was like 2002 or something, so I really don’t have comment on it except that I know my part in that band. The way I look at it, there is no Hole without me. [Laughs] To put it blunt. Just on a business level.” Courtney responded to Eric on Twitter saying “he’s out of his mind, Hole is my band, my name, and my Trademark”. It turns out Courtney was right.
“Nobody’s Daughter” was released on April 27th, 2010. It featured Courtney’s new all male band made up of guitarist Michael Larkin (from the band Larrikin Love), bass player Shawn Dailey (a music manager, and former member of Rock Kills Kid), and drummer Stuart Fisher (a former member of some band called Ozric Tentacles). The album features collaborations with familiars Billy Corgan and Linda Perry. Most of the songs on the album began as pieces Courtney had written between the years 2005 and 2007, with additional music being composed by Larkin. Critically and commercially the album was a massive flop, it sold even less copies than “America’s Sweetheart”, and most critics didn’t take well to it. While writing this I’ve given the album a few listens and I do quite like a lot of the songs on it, the three singles “Skinny Little Bitch”, “Pacific Coast Highway” (which might be the best song Courtney wrote since the 90s), and “Letter to God” are all great and just as good as anything on “Celebrity Skin” but Eric’s absence is definitely noticeable, the songs don’t have the subtle beauty and the sonic energy that Eric brought to the band. To be frank this isn’t a Hole album, it’s the result of Courtney Love being simultaneously an ego-maniac and being too afraid to use her own name. I’m not saying that “Nobody’s Daughter” isn’t the work of a band, it is, that band just isn’t Hole. The band that called themselves Hole took to the road and toured the UK and US. I’ve watched some shows from this tour (watched on the internet I did not attend any concerts) and personally I found it a depressing experience. Most of the time Courtney looked sick, excessively thin, and way too out of it. The concert that really left me with a nasty feeling was their 2011 SWU festival performance. I’ll start with what was actually good about the show (this won’t take long). The setlist was very well picked, you get classics from “Live” and “Celebrity” (Miss World, Reasons to Be Beautiful, Plump, etc.). You also get an amusing cover of “Bad Romance” and an additional verse added to “Miss World”. Courtney’s backing band also does a good job. Okay now let’s talk about the bad. Courtney’s vocals are god awful. She’s never been a good singer in the traditional sense but this is too much even for me. Her voice is hoarse and lacking any of the care or emotion that used to characterize her work. She frequently forgot the lyrics to her own songs and during the chorus of “Violet” she forgets the chords (the song uses the same 3 chord pattern throughout). As a listener it was bad but as somebody who looks up to Courtney it was sad. This version of Hole did some more on and off touring in 2011 and 2012 and it didn’t really get much better. On Friday April 13th, 2012 at a showing of Patty Schemel’s documentary “Hit So Hard” Courtney Love, Eric Erlandson, Melissa Auf der Maur, and Patty Schemel performed together for the first time since the mid-90s. They played “Miss World” and a cover of a ‘Wipers’ song. The “Miss World” performance isn’t amazing but it’s definitely the most genuine performance Courtney had done in over a decade. She fucks up the lyrics a few times but that doesn’t matter; her voice is hoarse but confident and filled with emotion. Patty’s drums are a tour de force, and Eric and Melissa play with a joy that feels electric to watch. I would love to end the article here (on a good note) but there’s still a little bit left for us to discuss.
It’s been awhile since we actually talked about Courtney’s reputation so let’s take a second and go back to that. Courtney (and Hole) seem to be getting a well-earned reevaluation. People are starting to see Courtney Love as a brilliant songwriter, a feminist icon (though she would reject that label), and an artist as good as anybody else from the 90s. Hole reunion rumors are more abound than ever before. I’m very confident that a Hole reunion is imminent, and a lot of that hope comes from the following quote from Courtney “We all get along great. There are bands who reunite and hate each other’s guts.”
On December 28th, 2013 Courtney posted a photo of herself with Eric that said “And this just happened… 2014 [is] going to be a very interesting year.” As far as the world of Hole is concerned nothing of particular interest occurred in 2014. However, on May 4th, 2014 Courtney released the double A side single “You Know My Name/Wedding Day”. The songs were written by Love and members of her current backing band (which is the same people that were in the 2010/11 lineup of Hole). Both tracks were also produced by Michael Beinhorn (whom we remember from “Celebrity Skin). The songs are pretty good, lyrically they have her usual themes of fame and relationship issues. Musically they sound like a more raw version of the tracks on “Celebrity Skin”. Also Tommy Lee (from Motley Crue) plays drums on both songs which is just weird to me, but he does okay.
Outside of the music world Courtney also reignited her acting career getting parts in TV shows “Revenge”, “Empire”, and “Sons of Anarchy”. I’ve never watched any of these shows, and most likely never will, but I’ve read that her performances were well received and she is likely to get more roles in future projects.
In the last two years, Courtney has kept relatively busy (especially compared to the previous decade). She has toured with Lana Del Rey, collaborated on a clothing line with a company called Nasty Gal (I think that’s how they spell it), and released another single “Miss Narcissist” which is probably the best song she has written in almost twenty years. I also watched audience shot footage of a solo concert she did recently and she sounded and looked great. Maybe, just maybe, Courtney will stop being a moron and be able to build the legacy an artist of her calibre deserves.
While writing Miss World I used several sources to get my information. Instead of listing them during the piece and in my opinion damaging the flow of it I decided to list and explain them here.
First off are the interviews: I called upon several interviews both recent and some from decades ago. I’ll list a few of them here:
Bass Player For Hole Found Dead -- Rock Musician Kristen Pfaff's Case May Be Drug-Related by Dave Birkland and Linda Keene for The Seattle Times June 17, 1994
Hole is a Band by Jason Cohen for Rolling Stone Magazine August 24, 1995
Review: Hole flaunts survival with polished ‘Celebrity Skin’ by Wendy Brandes for CNN September 4 1998
Love Adds Glow to ‘Skin’ by Robert Hilburn for Los Angeles Times September 6, 1998
Hole’s Eric Erlandson Sheds His Celebrity Skin by Jennifer Schwartz for Rolling Stone Magazine October 8, 1998
MARILYN MANSON, HOLE SCHEDULE ‘BEAUTIFUL MONSTERS’ TOUR by Gil Kaufman for MTV News January 27, 1999
HOLE WALKS OUT ON TOUR, MANSON INJURY POSTPONES SEVERAL DATES by MTV News Staff for MTV News, March 15, 1999
Courtney Love: Did Virgin Records Use Her? By Roger Friedman for Fox News May 20, 2004
Love Wants Her Throne Back On New Album by Billboard October 20, 2006
COURTNEY LOVE OPENS UP ABOUT KURT COBAIN’S DEATH IN 1994, IN THE LODER FILES by Kurt Loder for MTV News April 21, 2008
Melissa Auf der Maur calls Hole an “intense” experience by Joe Bosso for Musicradar February 5, 2010.
Billy Corgan Accused Courtney Love Of Stealing His Songs by Ultimate Guitar April 28, 2010
Former Hole bassist goes out of her mind by Jennifer Hunter for The Star June 12, 2010
Courtney Love is Not Gonna Be Happy About New Cobain Book by David Shapiro for Fuse March 8 2012
Courtney Love is back and still wants the world by Allison Stewart for The Chicago Tribune July 11, 2013
Courtney Love May Call Next Hole-less Album ‘Died Blonde’ by Chris Martins for Spin Magazine May 30, 2013
Courtney Love: Fixing A Hole by Cortney Harding for Billboard Magazine Oct 21, 2013
Courtney Love Drops Hints That A Hole Reunion Might Be Coming In 2014 by Melissa Locker for Time Magazine December 30, 2013
Interview with Courtney Love by Jenn Pelly for Pitchfork May 1 2014
Alternative nation’s last stand: Lollapalooza 1995, an oral history by Allison Stewart for The Washington Post August 11, 2015
In Memoriam: Kristen Pfaff by the New Puritan Review Year Unknown
In addition to interviews I also spent hours on a couple fansites including:
cobaincase.com (about the suicide of Kurt Cobain)
holelive.com (which documents Hole’s live career)
Here are some reviews I read as well:
Allmusic review of Pretty on the Inside by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Allmusic review of Live Through This by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Allmusic review of Troublizing by Ric Ocasek by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Allmusic review of My Body, The Hand Grenade by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Allmusic review of Celebrity Skin by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Larry Flynt, His Epiphanies Showing Movie Review by Janet Maslin October 12, 1996
Review of Americas Sweetheart by Charles Aaron for Spin Magazine March 9, 2004
Hole: Celebrity Skin Review by NME September 12, 2005
By Joseph Pietropaolo
Your disdain of the television had waned. You didn’t intend on putting it back in the living room though. That move to replace the television with a new plant and a view was golden. Not to mention that the unintentionally perfect fit the set had at the foot of your bed deserved some acknowledgement. These thoughts cycled through your mind during a bike ride through a nearby park. The park was not crowded like you expected, so you felt no guilt in going through the grass. The tire treads left virtually no trace of their presence in the ground and you felt little worry over colliding into someone. Hours had gone by of this. And for the length of time spent bicycling around, you hardly felt fatigued.
Truth be told, you did very little pedaling. You exerted enough to move the bike until momentum took over. When the momentum began wearing off, you continued pedaling, or sometimes, you decided to wait before starting up again. At spontaneous periods of time, the bicycle was at a complete stop, kickstand down, while you surveyed your field of view. Each time, your eyes began to dart around, focusing on anything important or active. After a final cumulative gaze, you carried out the same process on the left and right sides of your view, with your neck completely turned, to become were aware of any details past your shoulder.
When you were satisfied with your day of bicycling and people-watching, it was time to go home, secure the bike, and carry on with something else. As you walked your bike back home, mindful of the now crowded streets and sidewalks, one regret you had was not wearing sandals. Feeling the grass grazing the soles of your feet or getting in between your toes would have been satisfying. The earthiness you still desired at home should have followed you outside. It felt like you cheated yourself, but you didn’t dwell on this so much as you walked on. Change was coming one step at a time.
With the bike stored safely away, the new goal was reinstalling the television in your room. Despite being low to the ground with your twin-sized bed, your set had to come up higher in order to be viewed. A metal folding chair left in your closet met your requirements for an acceptable surface. Following a creak from the now opened chair, you accomplished this goal.
Retrieving the remote you left back in the living room, you sat down Indian-style on your bed and turned on your television. The signal was dismal. The show you were tuned into appeared as a thin layer of colors over static, and they were muted colors at best. Occasionally, a thick stripe of more visible and obstructive static would move upward through the picture, distorting the content around it. As for the sound, the only audible moments came from laugh tracks. Everything else was coming through muffled, since it was being overpowered by a sustained beep. Adjusting the antenna in every possible direction was a vain effort. When you were younger, a few hard raps to the top or sides proved to be a clutch move whenever fighting with the antenna brought you nowhere. Today, the hard raps offered no reward either.
Even in the living room, a few channels never came in perfect. You accepted that this channel was going to be like one of those, so you changed it to find a better show. Click after click of your remote only brought you complete static, with no signal coming in. Although you were familiar with what television static was (who wasn’t?), it was something you never really paid attention to. With your troubleshooting finished, albeit unsuccessful, this would be the day you decided to pay attention.
You laid back, arms crossed over the back of your head, and stared at your screen. The static moved at an unceasing rate, with what could have been millions of black and white dots colliding and scattering about each other. There was so much vibration inside this tiny box, but it never moved. Still as can be, the television continued to deliver more and more of the randomized little dots.
The Sun was starting to set and you had still been watching and listening to the static. The light of midday, graying your house whenever you had the blinds in place, transitioned to more of an orange tone. You closed your eyes shortly thereafter, to bask in your environment. Over time, the static began to sound less harsh. Rather than feeling the scratching or tearing sensations from such a noise, you felt reminded of other things. Thoughts of dry granular sand, constantly being kicked above the feet of beachgoers began to creep in. Another thought from the static, still beach related, was the crashing of an incoming tide, or people plunging into the meandering water. In those moments, you were in between land and ocean, with a setting sun loomed over you.
Visions of the beach were fixed into your mind. You only went less than a handful of times the season before. Many of your friends were not beach-going people. One friend was happy to go but they frequently received sunburns, often confined to one specific area. The jury was still out between you and your friends on whether it was lucky or unlucky for someone to only receive a sunburn on one forearm, or only on their feet. Everyone could agree it was uncanny. What they couldn’t agree on were days to go. And contact was not constant, so everyone was at the whim of everyone else’s surprise events. You didn’t mind too much. No one was flaky, and you weren’t always available, so there were no grounds to judge. Still, it would have pleased you to have someone around who was easy to reach. A long time had passed since you had met new people, but you were optimistic, and believed it wouldn’t be for much longer.
By Scott McClellan
The clean room around you, no real decorations, the quiet hum of various devices… The voices muted and muffled as alarms and bells suddenly ring. Realization overcomes your ability; your time is up.
Sweat is gathering around your hands, neck, and armpits. Your legs seize up. In an instant, your life seems to stall; everything is in slow motion. Your perception stalls. Why would this happen to you? What had you done wrong? In an instant, you find yourself cursing whatever higher power you believe in: God, Allah, Luck… Christopher McDonald…
Your hearing suddenly floods with ringing. The motion of events suddenly becoming far beyond your control. Why is this happening? Why now? Why you? Questions burn in your mind, and you mash the buttons by your sides, calling for whatever help you could summon, as if they’d stop what was transpiring. You become retrospective; You were a fool. A damned fool. All your efforts leading up to this were useless. What did it matter now, here at the end? You thought it would go well. Peacefully, those you cared about gathered around, congratulating you on a job well done, and what a shame it had to end.
As the end approaches, you close your eyes. You figure it best to make your final thoughts be of something peaceful as you prepare for what’s next.
The sound ceases. It’s quiet. You slowly open your eyes…
A few thousand points short of the record as the final silver ball clunks back into the machine’s internals, your paddles clacking helplessly, mere inches of the doomed ball. Bust out a few more quarters, champ. You’ll get it next time.
We're all very thankful that you decided to check out our collection of short stories, poetry, and essays. This ebook began as a small writer's workshop, started by Franz in the late summer of 2016. Many of us take up writing as an important hobby and have been doing it for many years. After a couple of months of sharing stories with one another, giving feedback either in person or in "e-sessions", Nick proposed the idea of publishing our stories, which all of us agreed to right away. Ken Abru, who would be like our "agent" gave everyone in our group the insight we needed to go about publishing online, and his help is one of the most invaluable parts of this ebook. After 3 months of vetting our writing, editing, revising, proofreading, and Joe being a nag, the stories, their arrangement, and our distribution was ready. 50% of the book can be previewed, so you get a chance to see work from almost all of us (except for Scott's story, so make sure to download this). If you're wondering about the title, Lucien mulled over a title to publish work under back in 2014. The name comes from the "Detective Stories" pulp magazines, and was honestly the best name we all could come up with years later. It has been genuinely satisfying to release this after a demanding college semester, and we hope you find satisfaction in this new project too.