Synchronized Chaos August 2020: In All Of Our Humanity

Sometimes some of us feel like this

Welcome, readers, to August’s issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine.

First off, we have an announcement from regular contributor and nature poet Rui Carvalho, about the annual international nature writing contest we co-host with him.

Also, another regular contributor, poet and novelist Christopher Bernard, has established a podcast.

This issue reveals and explores different dimensions of our humanity: our bodies and looks, our emotions, our intellect and creativity, our life transitions and hopes for our futures, our personal relationships, and our broader societies, our quests for justice and how we treat each other and the natural world.

Norman J. Olson narrates the first professional gallery exhibition of some of his paintings, artistic nudes.

Judge Santiago Burdon paints a portrait of the looks and personality of a captivating woman, while Bangladeshi poet Mahbub’s work probes the mysteries of the human heart.

J.J. Campbell offers up moments of happiness and acceptance rendered through his trademark cynicism.

Shruti Iyer conveys and explores the panoply of human emotions through her variety of poetic female narrators.

Michael Steffen depicts the strength of the human personality in response to circumstances: humor, sauciness, existential curiosity, fury, and resolve.

Other days like this

J.D. DeHart’s pieces reflect the power of words and ideas. In Mark Young’s poems, the ideas as well as the words seem to hang together, even when they don’t make sense in a linear way.

Henry Bladon presents gently humorous creative frustration, where losing one’s ideas and work-in-progress becomes a kind of ‘little death.’ In a similar vein, Rachel Grosvenor contributes a sestina about the struggle of creativity over sorrow and despair.

Mike Zone writes of our epidemic of loneliness, how sometimes we try to possess each other rather than truly connecting. Syrian author Raghda Mouazen crafts pieces about isolation and enclosure, and her speakers retain the desire to comfort others.

Or even like this, with too much Zoom

J.K. Durick offers up a humorous lament on growing old.

Ghanaian performance poet Ike Boat’s pieces depict coming of age, figuring out what to do in life, and overcoming obstacles such as bedbugs. He also contributes notes from his travels, ‘On the Road with Ike Boat.’

In her monthly Book Periscope column, Elizabeth Hughes reviews Gini Grossenbacher’s Madam in Silk, a historical fiction tale of a woman immigrant from China during California’s 1850s gold rush.

James Thurgood’s poetry also expresses personal growth: the need to let go and not hoard items from the past, the inevitability of loss in life, and how, like the writer or the bird out of his comfort zone, we can make room for new ventures.

Federico Wardal extends himself creatively by allowing the development of a virtual rendering of himself who can act in films and plays, some of whom he’s written himself.

But we can aspire to this

Spanish writer Daniel De Culla renders in verse a medieval Spanish tragic tale of two timeless human concerns: love and death.

U.K. author Mark Murphy presents a set of poems about love, fascination and the inexorable force of history.

Michael Robinson opines on religion, how greed and selfishness among both the leadership and the congregation do as much as the coronavirus to drive people away from church.

Mickey Corrigan satirically criticizes those who prize their own aggrandizement over compassion for other people and the natural world.

Michael Robinson’s poetry honors the legacies of Christian faith and American Black culture as a way to survive the past and present violence Black Americans endure.

Egyptian writer Jaylan Salah writes of the gradually expanding portrayal of Black manhood in cinema, how Black men are now being shown as more complex and fully human.

Dave Douglas’ heady thoughtful poems urge us towards love for one another, while Chinese poet Hongri Yuan creates a vision of order, wisdom and beauty in his fantastical Golden City.

Nigerian author Chimezie Ihekuna’s poem expresses hope that we will overcome coronavirus.

Joan Beebe shares her waking dream of a ship, of traveling through life’s losses with an inner sense of peace.

We hope that this issue leaves you with peace, resolve, and creative inspiration.

And treasure moments such as these.

Poems from J.J. Campbell

Middle aged white guy with glasses and a face mask with facial hair and a tee shirt standing in a bedroom with posters on the wall and a dresser behind him.
at any given moment
 
she had the look
of a woman that
would shatter
you into pieces
and you had
nothing but
time
 
she liked her
whiskey neat
and to be
showered
with love
at any given
moment
 
thankfully,
all that time
came in handy
----------------------------------------------------------------------
twenty-seven years
 
a little rain on a
tuesday afternoon
 
twenty-seven years
after a woman got
famous for cutting
her husband's penis
off
 
life was much simpler

back then
--------------------------------------------------------------------
in the nude
 
purple sunshine
as the horizon
fades
 
you once knew
a woman who
used to smoke
cigarettes in the
nude on her front
porch
 
you always thought
she would be an
amazing lover
 
turns out she was
just lazy and wanted
a lover that also
did her laundry
 
needless to say
 
we didn't last long

together
--------------------------------------------------------------------
to die in a war
 
i never have asked
for forgiveness
 
and i quit asking for
permission as soon
as i was old enough
to die in a war
 
i've been socially
distant for the
majority of
my life
 
so, staying away
isn't that big
of a deal to me
 
and the mask reminds
me of every bad guy
i cheered for in the
westerns i watched

as a child
--------------------------------------------------------------------
finding a twenty on the ground
 
happiness is a bet
on the winning
horse
 
a woman sleeping
in your arms after
a night of ecstasy
 
finding a twenty
on the ground
 
watching it rain
after the grass
has been mowed
 
listening to coltrane
after the spoon has

been emptied

Poetry from Raghda Mouazen

The Silence

Raghda Mouazen, Syria                   

A gentle beat of emptiness is heard

Among the hush that dominates all

But my ears are full of echoes,

A sharp arrow would fall

Over the heart that’s full of scars.

Arrows of hollowness they are,

Of the everlasting silence they are,

Of the hopeful heart and hopeless scar,

Of the soulless dumpness they are

And I weep, weep, weep

Till I see only blur.

A breath weighs a ton over my chest

Packed with trivial harsh memories

With senseless words of senseless beings

Aiming their arrows well for braggings

And they ache, ache, ache

With every breath and they are many!

Blood is dried and it turned snow white

No soul to break this silence, silence, silence

And replace those worthless arrows

With roses red and echoes of fluffy words.

Oh the noisy silence is the loudest, I say

But still, with hope it lulls

And I sleep on the lulls of an idle heart.

Dark Ocean    

Raghda Mouazen, Syria                         

Diving down into the deep

To lay some of the ocean’s weight,

I pick up poisounous, pale clouds

From the moonless, starless

Night like darkness.

Breathless with heaviness,

The surface I reach.

Similar souls I offer a cloud each

For I wish them not to decay.

They leave with relief

Unaware of my grief.

Heaviness still lays

Upon my deep.

Sore Jewels

Raghda Mouazen, Syria               

Wearing her man’s gifts,
The red, blue and yellow jewels,
She walks among the wondering eyes,
Hiding them all except the gray diamond ring
But the pearls he adores
And for him preserved
For the fatal reunion
When his gifts are fearfully received
From his merciless ‎monstrous hands.

A Woman’s Reflection

Raghda Mouazen, Syria            

In a mirror she looked
Frozen locks on her head
With a colorless crown
Dark brown eyes filled
With utter hollowness.

No wrinkles were visible
They only dominated the unseen part
Of her thin body
And most of her heart.

Pure white lilies she held
Watered nearly everyday.
Withered trumpet vines
Grew heavy all over her body.

Closed her eyes to flee
But pain conquered
And seized her dreams,
Leaving her bewildered.

Her voice may save her
But the sobs took over
And it would only tremble.
Again, there was no anchor.

A veil over what was left
Of her colorful hair
Cruelly stripped their color
Still, they think it is completely fair.

She had to accept it with palor
For in the end it was a gift
From her trustful amor.
It was a curse no one could lift.

Misty existence

Raghda Mouazen, Syria                

Cold white walls

Could hear a thought of vengence,

Conquering me.

A warm breath,

Various expressions,

Colour, I need.

I have waited decades

For them to decay.

On ruins I behold

Greenless, soundless, sunless being,

Poetry from Mahbub

Middle aged South Asian man with glasses and a white striped collared shirt.
Poet Mahbub

Fermentation

You and I, being one and ever

Want to be a myth

An existence in the heart of every lovers and beloveds

Not longing for high rank and all the amenities of the modern world

By twisting one we can spread from every ocean to the starry sky

The glittering hearts as you and I, a kingly world

With the touch of green leaves and hills

Being in touch so tight

Can spend all day and night full of passion and joy

Years after years the juice of the fruits

Is going to be fermented in the safe underground

You and I the same points of the drugs taken by

Fully addicted

Though living so far from the bars

We ourselves have turned into this addition

Let’s cheer.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
20/09/2019

The Touching Murders

Nazmin along with her two daughters murdered

By her elder sister’s husband, Abbus

It was just from his arrogance

Abbus took this step of killing them

The innocent faces of eight-year-old girl Nusrat

And two-year-old girl Khadiza

With her mother lying on the fifth floor

In throat-cut condition

And his sixteen-year-old daughter was wounded very severely

Man can hurt to others

But this killing mission

Beyond imagination overcomes the myth

How it fails to rule the conscience?

The world becomes too hot around us

The innocent killed without any thought

Oh! What a nonsense poor killer, Abbus.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
20/09/2019

In You

I want to live in you

I want to die for you

You are my soul-mate

I’m your whole hearted

I can say it in full faith

You see me in the mirror

I can say in bold

You always endure

While taking steps

I was standing before the glass

Without any break I just enter into.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
06/10/2019

Every Moment of the Day

Nothing was able to kill Hercules

It was only Hera’s magic errand

Supernatural power acted on the air, water or land

Nothing could harm you without hers

One jealous of can do what it can’t be done by

Everyday every moment hundreds and thousands die and live

Bodily or mentally fall flat on the ground

Eye tightly bound to the blue sky

The hands at the back head

What they see?

Everyday every moment we only touch and lie

Moreover we again move to fight for joy.

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
06/10/2019

Hunger

The hunger spirit is burning for what?

Burning the eyes, the heart, the chest

Burning the stomach and what not!

An iron rod

Red in the fire

All fires and creates smoke

Where I step I feel like

Fire burning on the mud or sand

In this vague and smoky world I can’t have

A slash of watery land

I get lost in your love

O dear, can’t you hear?

Burning the whole body and soul

How should I keep pace in this vast world night? 

Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
07/10/2019

Poetry from Hongri Yuan, translated by Manu Mangattu

Older Asian man standing in a green field with flowers with large apartment buildings in the background
Poet Hongri Yuan
Young middle aged South Asian man with a blue collared shirt, professional headshot
Translator Manu Mangattu
The City of Gold
By Chinese Poet Yuan Hongri
Translated by Manu Mangattu
Assistant Professor, Department of English
St George’s College Aruvithura, India
manumangattu@gmail.com
www.mutemelodist.com
 
Ah! Into a pleasant hallway of gold
Thou did the crystal of the sky mould.
A shining City of Gold
Chanting unto me from far afield.
Into the golden gate I strode
A palace colossal to behold.
Without, a soaring Tower did dazzle
A towering wondrous Grand Castle.
It seemed to the past a billion years I travelled.
Perchance, a primal giant my eyes beheld;
In the breeze his sleeves fluttered.
A transparent golden Robe uncluttered;
The appearance was holy, hallowed.
With a sweet smile they bellowed
As tall as a mountain they loomed
But as light as birds they seemed.
 
Into a golden palace I sauntered
To regard the sacred giant
His body was like the Sun
Enveloped by a golden flame.
 
In the hall at the centre he sat
Where bloomed many a huge lotus
Some golden giants too were there
Sitting on the lotus flaunting a smile.
 
In that Grand Palace studded with gems
Hung an enormous mould of gold;
A mellifluous song lulled all along
Rumbling like thunder, causing concussion.
 
On the front wall I saw engraved
In a noble script, an impressive word;
Resplendent and magnificent, the whole palace
Was filled with fragrance – wonderful, intoxicating.
 
Clouds with golden wings
Were flying over: all a mirage
A blossoming thrice wonderful
Blooming in the garden outside the temple.
 
I saw a towering Castle
Like a mountain, upright in the sky
Brilliant design, gorgeous styling
As if God had built it Himself
 
Colourful gems shine like a mosaic,
A medley of all kinds of strange drawing;
A round gold tower
Like a forest stands in space.
 
A broad circular Gallery then I saw
Surrounded by the golden castle
Each column was as high as ten thousand meters
Carving out numerous exquisite images.
 
I walked into a great hall,
I saw some huge statues
Like a group of golden giants
Smiling unto me.
 
I crossed a huge arch
Into a golden hall
To see a huge picture
Hung on the hall wall.
 
Each portrait of a transparent flash
Could draw a Golden Paradise
As if a three-dimensional space
Magically unfolded before thine eyes
 
I heard a mysterious music
Which made my heart take wings
A huge picture of the holy girl
On a plucked instrument was manifest.
 
She sat in a huge palace
A giant circle around the ring seat
Every giant smiled and smiled
Curling around a golden flame
 
This girl's elegant posture
Wearing a golden dress
Body shining like a huge halo
Resembling the head of a golden sun.
 
A huge palace like a fortress
Outside the temple was the endless Garden
Flying golden feather bird
The garden with its pavilions, terraces and open halls
 
A blossoming of the wondrous exotic
Giving out an intoxicating fragrance
Like a sweet girl
With her model of elegant charm
 
A sparkling waterfall
Circling along from the hill
As a crystal emerald
Haunting this amazing Garden.
 
A group of boys and girls:
Dressed in bright and colourful clothes
Some would sit and rest in the Pavilion
Some would walk in the flowers, in the game.
 
I saw a huge old man
Sitting in a red cloud.
Only a crane flew around
And there was a huge Phoenix.
 
Another city in the sky
Far from the golden light
At a grand chic
The sky stood in layers
 
I seemed to hear the call of the divine
The old man came leisurely.
He lifted a huge golden book
And a kind of novel language I heard spoken
 
I saw a great line of words
Like a row of golden giants
They turned into a ray of light, and,
Suddenly flew into my chest.
 
My body was sweet and happy
The moment turned momentous
The sacred old man stood beside me
His smile filled the air of the city.
 
I became a golden giant
Beckoned back to the golden castle
Then came a giant
Who smiled and called out my name
 
Our bodies were just as big
We were like twin brothers
And Lo! This huge golden castle
Seemed to belong to us.
 
All on a sudden I saw a vision
I too was a holy giant
In every palace in the city of gold
I too had left my glad imprints.
3.18 .1998
 
Bio:
Hongri Yuan (b. 1962) is a Chinese mystic poet and philosopher. His works has been published in journals and magazines internationally in UK, USA, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada and Nigeria. He has authored a number long poems including Platinum City, The City of Gold, Golden Paradise and Golden Giant. The theme of his works is the exploration of human prehistoric and future civilization.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
黄金城市
 
远红日
 
天空的水晶啊
你化成金色的长廊
一座黄金的城市
在远方向我歌唱
我跨进了那座黄金的城门
看到了一座座巨大的宫殿
一座座高耸天外的巨塔
一座座巍峨宏大的城堡
我仿佛来到了亿万年前
看到了一个个远古的巨人
他们的衣袖啊随风飘飘
仿佛是金色透明的袈裟
他们的容颜神圣庄严
又含着甜蜜动人的微笑
他们的身体高大如山岳
却像鸟儿一般轻巧
 
我走进一座黄金的宫殿
见到一位神圣的巨人
他的身体像一轮太阳
环绕一层层金色的火焰
 
他端坐在这座大殿的中央
周围盛开巨大的金莲
一些金光闪耀的巨人
微笑地坐在莲花之上
 
宏大的金殿嵌满宝石
悬挂一幅幅巨大的金像
一种甜蜜悦耳的歌声
像雷鸣一般轰轰震荡
 
我看到一行行巨大的词语
刻满了大殿正面的金壁
整座大殿宏伟辉煌
弥漫着奇妙醉人的芳香
 
一只只翅翼如云的金鸟
飞满了这座金殿的上空
一朵朵巨大绚丽的奇葩
盛开在这座殿外的花园
 
我看到一座巍峨的城堡
像一座山岳挺立云霄
绝妙的设计华丽的造型
仿佛是上帝亲手建成
 
五彩的宝石熠熠闪耀
镶嵌出种种奇异的画图
一座座圆形的黄金巨塔
像一座座森林矗立太空
 
一条宽广的圆形长廊
环抱着这座黄金城堡
每一根圆柱都高达万米
雕刻出无数精美的图像
 
我走进了一座圆形巨厅
看到一些巨大的雕像
仿佛一群黄金的巨人
正在向我迷人地微笑
 
我跨过一座巨大的拱门
走进一座金色的大厅
看到一幅幅巨大的画像
挂满了这座大厅的金壁
 
每一副画像透明闪光
画出一座座黄金乐园
仿佛一个个立体空间
神奇地展现在你的眼前
 
我听到一阵玄妙的音乐
令我的心儿怦然而动
一副巨画中的圣洁少女
正在弹拨着一种乐器
 
她坐在一座巨大的金殿
周围环座着一圈圈巨人
每一个巨人都欢喜微笑
周围缭绕着金色的火焰
 
这少女的身姿端庄优雅
穿着一件金色的裙裳
身体闪放巨大的光环
头顶一轮金色的太阳
 
巨大的金殿像一座皇宫
殿外是一望无际的花园
空中飞翔金羽毛的大鸟
园里是一座座楼阁亭台
 
一朵朵巨大闪光的奇葩
悠悠飘出醉人的芳香
仿佛一个个芬芳的少女
现出各种优雅的风姿
 
一条光芒闪闪的瀑布
从一座金山上飘然洒落
化成一条晶莹的玉带
萦绕着这座神奇的花园
 
一群群欢笑的少男少女
穿着绚丽多彩的衣裳
有的在亭台上静坐休憩
有的在花丛中漫步游戏
 
我看到一位巨大的老人
端坐在一朵红云之上
周围飞翔着一只只白鹤
还有一只只巨大的凤凰
 
天空闪耀另一座城市
远远发出金色的光芒
一座座宏大别致的金殿
层层叠叠矗立在天上
 
我仿佛听到神圣的召唤
悠然来到了老者的身边
他托起一部巨大的金书
念诵着一种新奇的语言
 
我看到一行行巨大的词语
仿佛一排排金色的巨人
他们化成一道道光芒
倏然飞入了我的胸膛
 
我的身体甜美欢喜
一瞬间变得异常巨大
我身边那位神圣的老人
微笑着飘入空中的城市
 
我变成了一个金色的巨人
回到了那座黄金的城堡
这时走过来一位巨人
微笑着呼喊我的名字
 
我们的身体同样巨大
仿佛是一对孪生兄弟
这座巨大的黄金城堡
仿佛本属于我们自己
 
我恍然看到了一幅幅画面
我原本是一位神圣的巨人
这黄金之城的每一座宫殿
都曾留下过我快乐的足迹
 1998.3.18 北京
Stylized image of a shining golden city with clouds and mountains and a rainbow.
City of Gold

Poetry from Chimezie Ihekuna

Chimezie Ihekuna (Mr. Ben)
Young black man in a polo shirt and jeans standing in front of a building
Chimezie Ihekuna

Corona Virus: Where are thou sting?


2020 came with great promises
The people planned the year on great premises
Suddenly, out of the blue, an emergence disrupted several priorities
It was a Dis-Ease that has caused untold anomalies
The disease was the projected Corona Virus

Its presence has engineered a global population minus
The disease has made the graveyard of death filled with countless bodies
Corona Virus seems to have left the living with few goodies
Though, 2019 was when the personality of the Corona Virus was announced,
 In 2020, The world never imagined its magnitude of negative havoc would be pronounced
But ‘when there is life, there’s is hope’, as the saying goes
The coming to life of humanity is what the world knows
Corona Virus, you thought
shortness of breathFeverLoss of weightWeakness and
Incessant sneezing
  are your body-impairment weapons
But you fail to realize The solution of hope;The remedy of good health;The potency of a last solution;are at the doorstep of humanity’s consciousness
Now, the question is:Corona Virus: Where Are Thou Sting?

Short story from Mike Zone

Husk

By Mike Zone

“Now you talk yourself up. You’re a twenty-nine-year-old college professor, tell me what you have to offer. Sell yourself.”

He swiveled on the stool slapping his hand on the counter with all the confidence of being the prime slice of alpha male pie there was on the societal market, but he wasn’t. French fry crumbs in the corner of his mouth and he knew it , royal blue shirt untucked to show he didn’t care wearing dark denim jeans to accentuate his participation in casual Fridays yet still a black blazer to demonstrate his solemn oath to the world of business in which he made his living primarily through talking and nepotism.

It was supposed to be a typical Tinder date, Christine was horny and not looking to be ridiculed  but perhaps that’s the price you were supposed to pay when seeking organic carnal gratification when you were to afraid to attempt something called love or even just going out. Christine justified her misery quite frequently it was the only way to cope when and thousands of others felt absolutely ravaged by what passed for society.

MEET. DRINK. GO HOME. FUCK. 

 She would need an extra drink tonight. Perhaps two.  Another ritual with a set of steps now with even more steps as things were increasingly becoming more intolerable. All you had to do was swipe left if you found your prospective sexual partner appealing, it wasn’t that complicated, maybe you met for drinks or skipped straight to the bedroom or a love motel, or you swiped right and nothing happened and if you were lucky you never saw that person in the grocery store crying alone while fondling produce…only it was, loneliness and despair seemed to be making itself more apparent and devouring superficial accomplishments and anyone who tried to appear otherwise was so fucking theatrical about it you just wanted to vomit right there or throw yourself into traffic but it was better to be anyone than yourself and project an ideal image, not yours, god no that would be absurd and self-destructive it had to be the selfie sellable self with an added secret value no could quite place their finger on, even if just one hour was needed. You had to get your time’s worth.

“I…well, I.”

He snapped his fingers and chuckled “I knew it Blake this girl needs an upgrade, a big ol’ life improvement. Look, regardless of what happens tonight, I’m here to help you become the best YOU, you want to be.”

“That’s a lot of “yous”

“Only three… which rhymes with “ME” willing to help you three times more than you can or really want to help yourself. I’ve been selling plastic products and services for about seven years all over the United States and other far off places and I’ve met all kinds of different people: shapes, colors, sizes, genders, flavors…the different minded.”

Flavors? How blatant could this guy be?

“Do you know who you are Christine?”

There was a cold shiver of discontent and something that wasn’t her being pulled down internally into another realm starting to make her aware how empty she believed she was. Nothing but a husk, that’s what felt like, a self-aware husk.

“I’m going to tell you who you are girl and we’re going to get out here and explore the real you and how we can improve it. Cause that’s what I do, you wouldn’t believe all the lives I’ve touched. Life isn’t about selling plastic and it’s many beneficial services, it’s about selling people for a better world.”

            “Get your masked face out of here, freak!”

Christine whipped around to see a shaggy haired, scarecrow of man land against the host stand. He wore a disposable medical mask. A hulking figure in a pastel green polo shirt stood over him, fists clenched, his spray on tan accentuating his closely cropped dark hair with a moderately short and thin blonde girl in a denim skirt draped proudly around his arm.

            “I  just wanted to pick up my order.”

            “No one wants your sickness. Just go out in the street and die!”

He took a massive step toward the masked shabbily clothed man who lunged and landed on top of his assailant and pinned him down. He tried to wriggle free and flailed wildly.

            “Let me go, you son of a bitch!”

            “ENOUGH! All my life, people like you before I even got sick bullied me, wanted me out of sight and now you think you have a reason as if now there’s enough difference to blatantly treat us as subhuman, even openly ridicule us, wish us death, well I got news for you…we’re not so different.”

The man tore off his mask revealing his discolored lips, raw yet hardened bruised tumor irritated skin which seemed to have additional eyes sockets forming and teeth growing.

            “For some it appears on the outside as things begins to change and for others on the inside, sometimes both but I think we’ve all got it inside us, in some way or another.”

Everyone was frozen in fear as the deformed figured held his attacker down with one hand and pried open his mouth with the other. He brought something up in his throat and spat into the helpless guy’s mouth making sure he swallowed what was released.

            “Now you for sure have what I have.” He calmly stood up, someone shakily brought the man’s order as he pulled his mask back on.

            “Ryan!” The blonde screamed and fell to her knees crying. The sick man turned to the young woman with his collected order.

            “Go to him. He loves you. You love him. Don’t you?”

Both boyfriend and girlfriend, were shocked and uncomfortably befuddled. Ryan got up  to reach for his girlfriend who shirked away and shook her head, her entire body quivering with fright. Ryan was aghast , he tried taking a step toward his girl who hid behind two other well built polo pastel wearing men, he made way for the infected man who was just opening the door to leave. They faced each other.

            “Now that you’re one of us, you’ll know how we’ve felt even before the sickness.”

The chime of the bell hanging on the door signified his leaving. Everyone stared at Ryan who was on the floor sobbing, who suddenly stopped for the stares were not sympathetic but accusatory, even repulsive. He gradually rose, in a slumped posture, eyes to the ground hopefully never to be seen again by the patrons or even those who served them as no one wanted to be reminded of who and how anyone could be infected and left outside it even if they were in the first place, they all needed  illusion to live.

            Christine thoughtfully watched  unrepelled a defeated and exiled Ryan walk to the end of the block. She even wondered what would happen to him. She looked out the window and could see the man who infected him eating his take-out on a bus stop bench observing Ryan. She wanted to smile but knew it was inappropriate. She shifted back to Blake who seemingly had not broken his stare at her, unaware even of just what happened,  wide eyed, he took her hand, she was about to say something until he cut her off.

            “Some people say we have a pandemic  but I say it’s really a pandemic of loneliness.”

Something broke inside her. Christine tried to put a hand over her eyes as she felt a few tears fall and nodded. She was sold for the evening, Blake was going to be it.

They were just a couple of  husks.

Back at her place. Skin bags holding together meat and bone, grinding, going at it, secreting various liquids no one wanted to talk about with lack of genuine personalities or rather the façade of the person they were trying to be in order not to be who they really were afraid to be.

            “Moisten up, girl.” Blake pumped away not completely getting inside, clenching his teeth in pain. He refused to use lubricant, and Christine flat on her back not the least bit turned on closed her eyes pretending it was just the darkness on top of her as she mechanically answered each thrust, picturing flowers blooming.

            “Blake’s about to go baby, and I want to go inside you…you’re so special.” He whimpered and lied.

Christine sweated profusely and not from physical exertion, something was inside her upsetting her nerves causing them to catch fire. She pictured the flowers, remembered what her grandmother said to do when confronted with unwanted or stomaching churning situations. “Just picture flowers blooming dear. It’s what made my forty three year old marriage with your grandfather work.” The advice she gave Christine when she lost her virginity in the back seat of a car to someone she really wasn’t attracted to but wanted to know why she did what she did and how she could help it. Her grandmother shrugged and did the best she could.

Blake was a continuation of this no matter how many books Christine read, how much she excelled in her career, something was missing and none it felt right at all even though she was hitting all the marks for a woman at her age with a degree she wanted in the career she dreamed of yet none of it felt real. She remembered Georgia O’Keefe paintings as Blake was finally entering her, panting manically and spouting all sorts of romantic nonsense he got from cheesy rom-coms. She didn’t have to listen, she knew, pictured those tortured yet fully blooming desert flowers.

Desert flowers. Was she a desert flower? Was the world she lived in a desert and was she struggling to bloom? Something clicked, there was a wet snap and a splash inside the bed, two husks slumped flat on the mattress. Blake clutched a skin-sack of bone and held it close, stroking it’s flat, disheveled blonde hair. He whispered in its ear, looking into the dark at the wet pillow with a proud smirk on his face.

            “Baby girl, thank you for letting me share that with you.” He took his index finger and began to run it down her spinal column. Chicks like that, he remembered to tell himself that in his mind as he worked his way down to a moist slit which wasn’t quite right. He stopped and dropped the body which wasn’t a body but a an empty husk. Devoid of eyes, guts and tongue. Even the bones were shells, powder among the queer transparent liquid saturating the bed. Something gold, more blonde than blonde appeared in his peripheral vision followed by the tiny click the thought he heard during climax, followed by a raspy gurgle.

            “Baby girl?”  Blake took in the vision of something almost plant-like and insectoid, her mandibles silently opening and closing with piercing shining gold eyes matching her hair. Sprinkled in a distorted spiral design on her hard exoskeleton primarily shaped cylinder body with  certain human curves were a series of buds beating like a score of miniature hearts akin to vibrational thunderous song of storms to be brought upon the realm.

Christine clung to the ceiling, not really sure what was happening as she seemed to be moving instinctually, like watching a movie through a golden sheathed screen with a spectrum of colors running up and down all around her eyes as if she was seeing for the first time. She saw her old skin,  soiled by Blake’s cum, losing form around crumbling bone, anguished mouth hole agape and eyeball sockets enlarged.

 It was her husk.

It illustrated pain. A withered flower in the suburban digitally enhanced landscape veiling the desert of the real. A barely living creature leaned over it,  huffing and puffing, staring dumbly at it’s limp sex and the husk it had ruined. Was it a man or just another husk of something that had to be removed from this world? She dropped down from the ceiling landing on her feet, mandible’s clamped around the ape-thing’s neck, her web hands across its paunch, her talons sunk, the creatures limp sex suddenly erected as it winced and moaned. Was it pain? She did not care, it had soiled her husk. Disrespected its perceived persona. She would consume this creature, use its purposeless energy to sustain her own growth.  

A branch sprouted from her forearm and entered the beast, it shook and climaxed a second time. Christine took a single talon from her free hand, jabbed it in the base of the creature’s neck and started it running it down the length of its body, to see what resided inside such a base existence. Her mandible let go of his neck unleashing a song of chirps and clicking, a soothing electric sensation around her body to ease the discomfort of skin ripping similar to the memory of a blue sequined dress being unzipped in the back after too much drink at an after prom party but flowers bloomed to dissipate the memory no more and she knew that what she was now, what had happened before was never her fault nor would it ever be again. The buds unfurled, erupting into yellowed and blue brightness as lightning bugs of blue and green were released illuminating the room in a soothing combination of light dancing in a variety of swirling angles to the tune of Christine’s song.

This is what it was to truly bloom.

Suddenly there was a splash and another wet snapping noise. Christine felt warm liquid seep underneath her. The creature in her hand had gone limp, sagging like it’s pathetic sex. Her mandibles shut putting an end to her cooing scraping song as the lightning bugs swirled around Christine’s prey and exploded into an acidic toxin, nearly disintegrating the husk except for a few scraps of skin-sack and bone powder. A hole had been hastily torn and burrowed through the memory foam mattress and the bamboo panels of the bed broken. Something slid and rolled out from under the bed, the creature from its trauma had evolved into its true form.

            Blake shook all over. He felt himself shudder and slip out of what he was and operated on pure instinct, uncertain of what was going to happen, he had to get out from underneath the bed, back up against the wall to get his bearings together, head to the bathroom he spied , shut the door, possibly call the police or at least find a razor blade or plunger to kill this bitch that so violated him. Why was he thinking this way? Couldn’t he just be positive, isn’t that who he was? He felt new and improved yet something old lingered about him like eggs and musk. He got up and stumbled not used his new stumpy legs, trying to adjust far flung eyes on tendrils going this way and that way. He tried to steady himself on the wall with his fingers but couldn’t, he didn’t have any, he had these God damn useless penguin wing things with scales and looked down at where his pecker used to be and brushed his scaled wing against feeling his favorite instrument reduced to a single ball and flabby curved muscle hidden under ruffled speckled feathers. He was unnaturally hot used to have naked skin feeling an extra thick set of white feathers around his neck, he tried to scream but croaked a wretched bleep attempting a squeak.

            Christine saw the creature once called “Blake” put it’s scaled wings in front of itself , in a defensive position more suited to digging and burrowing than assisting in a fight. The creature’s unprotected absurdly large eyes dangled haphazardly, unable to gain a stable position. She had the advantage in form and thought as the creature now half the size than it used to be tried forming humans words with its beak. It jumped up and down squawking and flapping in a desperate last stand meant to illicit sympathy and mercy rather induce fright and project an unparalleled savagery as intended. She grasped the creature which would have fertilized her original form regardless of consequence and discarded her, cracking it’s beak while doing so. Her mandibles spread open as something new formed there from her original self, a remnant of the husk but a fine new characteristic of who she was now. A smile spread across her lips as she opened wide.

            Pick a color, Christine, any color. Her brain seemed to say. Her golden moment to shine with her chosen hue. Red and purple with gold colored the room but before she consumed the convulsing, spasming creature, she found the blinds open…perhaps Christine had hoped someone through an act of voyeurism would learn a lesson she should have learned long ago or perhaps some stranger would rescue her but they didn’t, sickness and trauma had evolved her to natural form and she wondered being safe in this room of hers would she ever be able to exist outside of it among the realm of the remaining husks?

Christine optics nerves tingled to view on a bench, munching on a corndog and looking up in the window the infected man from earlier in the evening in a hooded sweat shirt. He wasn’t sick but in chrysalis form, he’ll get there eventually maybe that’s just his point…Christine thought as he finished his dog and she took her first bite.  He got up, waved and threw his hood up as it started to rain.

Christine knew there was no sickness after all.