Issue #54

Spring 2015

Afterimages

by Sabrina Starnaman

Gated Community
Location FKA Suburbia, U.S.A.

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He comes across the broken doll while he is eating the parking lot. Crunch, crunch, crunch. There she lies. Face up, one eye staring at the empty black sky. The other is just an empty socket, dark as night. Behind him lays a trail of wreckage. Hunks of blacktop are thrown back along a scored dirt skin. It looks as though someone has been raking sharp fingernails across a smooth expanse of flesh, tearing smooth epidermis to leave bleeding furrows.

He sits back on his haunches. She speaks to him. There is no one else there to hear.

"I am already ruined."

He chews, and if there was someone there to watch him, they might posit that he is thinking. But it is unclear if such cogitations are available to him. He chews and runs his long tongue around the inside of his giant maw, directing stray bits of asphalt to his grinding teeth.

"I am already ruined. We should go." She wears a once-yellow dress with ribbons of nylon lace still hanging from the puff sleeves and gathered waist. Probably she wore matching bloomers, but they are gone now. The fingers of her right hand are curled. Her thumb is upraised, ready to be nestled in her hollow mouth. Her plastic feet have been crushed. Her remaining toes point to one side and she is missing bits from her heel.

He huffs. Bits of gravel and asphalt spray from his mouth. Hunching forward he closes his teeth around her body. A few fragments of her foot fall away. She gives him direction; he lopes onward through the night and into the florid band shell of morning. They arrive at her destination. Brick walls hug broken gates. Inside, she invites him to dine. He enjoys a faux Georgian two-story that is still rather intact. It tastes like an artificial past.

"Now let us find a place for me."

At the end of a cul-de-sac behind a three-story with Tudor detailing they find an elaborate swing set and playhouse miniature of the monstrosity that dominates the lot. Balancing on his large back legs he places her in the baby swing, nudging her upright with his snout. Both her feet fall out of one leg opening, but she stays put.

"Push me. From behind."

Carefully he bumps the back of the hard plastic seat.

Swinging slowly, she watches him bound off and devour a detached three-car garage. They have never been happier.

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Flotsam and Jetsam
Location FKA Pacific Ocean

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She sees the little beast arrive, paddling up to the floating mass.

"I am the augmentor and the re-stringer! Hard a-lee!" she declaims. Mostly, she calls herself "Empress Lolo."

Blistered and still smoking in places, the little beast edges up on the airplane seat side of the flotilla of dreck. It crawls into a yet unperforated seatback pocket.

Everything is suspended, bobbing an eternal lullaby.

Pulling herself up to her full glorious height, Empress Lolo bangs a hoof on a cracked brass bell. "Hard a-lee! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven." She flips the vacant-occupied sign back and forth seven times. "Immigrants and refugees alike are welcome on the floating isle of Catatonia!"

The little beast curls its tale over its shoulder, shudders, and goes still.

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Resurrection
Location FKA Natural History Museum, U.K.

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Specimen Orthophagus fracticornis (Preyssler, 1790) backs himself off his pin. Slides over broken panes of glass, down, down, down to the marble mountainscape. Tectonic destruction. Fissures and peaks. Fissures and peaks. He spent a deathtime in these labyrinthine halls. Now the scarab is alive and leaving no trail to follow back. When he finally skitters over a fallen placard reading: Paleoentomology, he chirrups "we shall realize kingdom come." Dirty light trickles in through high-set windows. The air glints lively with motes in the sullied rays.

An intra-tentorium sensation tickles the scarab—alarming sentience. Inside the taxonomic shrine all hell has broken loose. He perches upon the highest point of a cracked table. Illuminated by an idle beam the hard elytra that cover his wings shimmer black-flecked brown. Orthophagus fracticornis carries his mahogany protonum as stippled battle armor. He surveys the desecrated chapel.

Amber jeweldrops of suspended time are lined up in grids on shelves all about the walls. Each is in a square, except for the disorderlies scattered about the floor.

"I absolve you of your sins," he chitters as he rolls each errant specimen into line and row. On earth as it is in heaven.

Author Bio

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Sabrina Starnaman is a professor of literary studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. As an Americanist with an interest in bodies, she is particularly drawn to the deformed and rebellious human form. She teaches courses such as Literature of Science, Fantasy Literature, Literature of Science Fiction, Studies in Women's Literature, and Disability Studies. Her short stories and poetry have been published in the U.S. and in the Czech Republic in both English and Czech.