Issue #88

Fall Issue | November 2023

In this Issue:

Theories of Oz by Rachel Rodman


Scarecrows can be disassembled. They can also be converted to other forms.

But they cannot be constructed ex nihilo.

And they cannot be destroyed.


At the center of the atom stand the tinmen: mostly immobile, and perhaps a bit rusted. But positive. Cerebral, neutral scarecrows intersperse them. Attached to poles, the scarecrows' motions are similarly subdued. Read more...

Step-by-Step by Nicola Lombardi


Augusto still has his good legs and good lungs, or so it seems; and this simple assessment offers him a bit of satisfaction. The trick is not to think of that climb as a concrete, unitary undertaking, because, very simply, it isn't. Deal with it one stage at a time, step-by-step, experiencing it like a chain of small, very simple acts, knowing that sooner or later the summit will be reached and that the view from the top will be worth the effort.

For him, climbing the Asinelli Tower always remains a discovery, even though he is one of its most regular visitors. He must have been about twelve years old when he went up there for the first time, accompanied by his father. Read more...

The Train Station That Knows What You Need by Dawn Vogel


In a rural part of Japan, known for ski resorts and hot springs, sits a small train station where people don't often embark or disembark. It's called Tsuchitaru, roughly 14 kilometers from the station most people traveling through the area want, Echigo-Yuzawa.

Tsuchitaru knows what you want.

If you're not sure, hop on the train--any train that goes through Tsuchitaru will do--and disembark at this, the unlikeliest of stations. Then wait .

When you see the train marked with neon yellow-green paint on the northbound side of the station, raise a hand. It will take you to what you want. Read more...

Line by Nicole Brogdon


Gravity and the sun are pulling our bodies forward round this mountain. There's no stepping out of line—though I don't want to advance. Money won't buy anyone a deferral. That's Elon Musk, four places ahead! Some wait with a partner, chatting like they're waiting for salt rations, or milk. A swaddled infant rests nearby on the ground—too soon, in line with the rest of us. Sometimes we forget where we are, we wander off to pick flowers, we run errands. But we end up back here.

Hooded sergeants working for the General keep us straight. These soldiers cradle rifles under their arms, explaining nothing, poking us forward. Prodding our line up along the peak. Don't look at them. Read more...

Three Stories by Viki Shock


The Curious Case of Mr. Hart

My name is Ford Hart and I am the owner of a large company. Recently, I visited my friend Professor N. in what used to be called an insane asylum. There is a room in that institution full of strange beings. These extraordinary creatures are about two meters tall, their bodies are similar to a human's, but their heads are more like those of Australian koalas with the exception that they do not have eyes. They move very slowly and can be said to resemble soft toys. When I seduced the professor's assistant in that room, one of them came up to me and lightly tapped my forehead four times. I don't know what meaning this action might have had. Read more...

At the Midnight Museum by Nikolaj Volgushev


A house made of crows

Tonight at the Midnight Museum, the main exhibit is a house made of crows. Visitors can enter through the front door or backdoor or climb in through the windows and explore the six rooms. There is also a seventh room, which is hidden. Visitors are encouraged to look for it. The interior of the house made of crows is more comfortable than one might expect, despite the claws. After several hours of careful search, you find the secret passage (inside one of the crow's beaks) to the hidden room. Inside is a bed made of ill omens, yet when you lie down and close your eyes, it feels just like feathery clouds. Read more...

Self-Improvement by Scott Pomfret


You decide to do it yourself. Drill down to the studs. Uncover the layers. The hidden flaws. The unacceptable conditions people find ways to endure day to day, that they say they're going to fix, now that it's spring.

Some people tell you how lucky you are. Others accuse you of being a glutton for punishment. Still others sit astride their gleaming piles and tell you how you can't possibly anticipate what's coming.

But it was worth it, they say. Hard work, but absolutely worth it. Here's my number. Don't hesitate to call. 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.