Issue #81

Winter Issue | February 2022

In this Issue:

The Wise Emperor by Zhu Yue; translated from Chinese by Jianan Qian and Alyssa Asquith

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The royal palace sits at the center of the world. When measured from the earth, it sits at the point where the two diagonals of an infinitely large square would meet; when measured from the sky, it sits at the center of an infinitely large circle. The Emperor's dragon seat is at the center of the palace. The baihui acupoint on top of His Majesty's head must connect with both the sky and the earth. The eunuchs must adjust the Emperor's position from time to time.

The Emperor sits in his dragon chair, head in position, eyes closed for a rest. Around him are four despicable eunuchs, whose eyes dart about swiftly. Every so often, they stop to wipe the sweat from their heads. Read more...

Three Flash Plays by D. Harlan Wilson

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Arctic sunshine. Tundra.

Stage left, a giant iceberg.

Sound of electricity. Lights flicker.

Stage right, a man runs as fast as he can into the iceberg. He bounces off, falls on his back, slides across the floor.

Silence. Stillness.

Sound of electricity. Lights flicker.

Meetings at Museums by Katy Wimhurst

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I first encountered Leonora Carrington on a bench outside the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. It was the late 1990s, she must have been in her 70s, and I recognised her from photos. A large Siamese cat rested on her lap and she wore a headdress adorned with white cow horns. I stopped walking and nodded hello.

'My mother is a cow,' she said, her fierce dark eyes on something in the distance.

Was that addressed to me or had it spilled from her mouth accidentally? 'Is that why you're wearing those horns?' I asked. Read more...

Three Stories by Jeff Friedman and Meg Pokrass

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The Salesman Gets Stoned

The salesman wore pants that billowed in the wind. Without a single sale for the day, he carried his briefcase up the block determined to get to the next neighborhood. On the way, he saluted a crow sitting on the stone post that led to a small graveyard, and the crow saluted him back. As he walked beside the graveyard, ghosts were waving their bony arms as they sat in front of the headstones and passed a joint. One held it up as a signal for him to come over. The salesman smiled and approached the ghosts. Read more...

The New Guest and Closed Indefinitely by Peter Cherches

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The New Guest

My mail-order android arrived this afternoon. I bought one of the new energy-efficient models to replace my old legacy golem. I like its clean Scandinavian lines, so I decided to call it Lars. I plugged Lars in to charge, and within an hour its pupils had changed from red to green. I've sat Lars down in the guest chair, formerly inhabited by the golem, Zalman. Read more...

That Which Does Not Kill Us by Peter Grandbois

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I'm fifty-six. I've seen death. I've seen betrayal. I once held a mother as she cried, begging God to kill her child and spare him from the torment he suffered due to OCD. But in all my life, I've never seen someone as sad as the ten-year-old girl I met when I was not much older, the girl whose cat had just hung itself by its leash on the picket fence edging our park. A Calico. She'd taken it for a walk before dinner. She told me she'd used the leash because she didn't want it to get away. But of course it did. By the time she'd found it, the cat was already dead. It must have climbed the fence, and when it jumped down, the leash got caught. I wandered by five minutes later and found her there, on her knees, before the cat. Read more...

Foraging, Father-in-law, and Deleted by Simon Collings

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The path in the wood bore little resemblance to anything on the map Tom was holding. He had thought they were walking east but the afternoon sun was now in their eyes. Sylvia tried her phone. 'No service,' she said. Up ahead they noticed a blue arrow on a tree and they decided to follow it. More waymarks appeared along the trail and they began to hope that they might reach a road. But at a fork in the path the arrows petered out, leaving them unsure what direction to take. Read more...

About Our Coffee and Other Fare

Please Note: All of the coffee served at The Irreal Cafe is fair trade, organic, shade-grown and not real. All of the food served at The Irreal Cafe is organic, vegan, locally sourced and not real. See "At Our Cafe" for more about what we would serve at The Irreal Cafe and how we would serve it if there were an Irreal Cafe.