Issue #84

Fall Issue | November 2022

In this Issue:

The Imposter by Dafydd McKimm


The man must have recognised me when I got on the bus, because as soon as I sat down, he almost leapt over to sit beside me, asking me directly if the damp I had rising in my house had been successfully treated by the specialist he had recommended.

Clearly he had mistaken me for someone else, for there was no damp in my house, nor had I received any recommendation from him; indeed, though I racked my memory for several moments, by the time he had finished speaking, I was sure that I had never seen the man before. He seemed, however, so certain in his recognition of me that I felt somehow reluctant to put him straight, and so, when the silence between us was in danger of becoming unbearably awkward, I replied that yes, the specialist had done an excellent job, all was concluded, and thanked him sincerely for his help. Read more...

Midnight at the Sunrise Hotel by Mark S Bailen


12:00 AM: The pendulum clock chimes.

12:10 AM: The concierge rises from sleep, yawns, and rubs his head. He wanders into the lobby, nudging tables and couches. Using a key that is attached to his belt, he winds the gears of the antique clock. He inspects the thermostat and gravimeter. Then he verifies that the clock is level. The concierge is responsible for the sunrise. He must make certain that it happens on time.

1:25 AM: On the beach, the groundskeeper trudges across the artificial sand. He wears a green uniform and has a stooped posture. He turns on flood lights, places umbrellas, and distributes fold-out chairs. The chairs face the sea, which really isn't a sea. It's a pool that extends a hundred feet before hitting a retaining wall. Beyond the wall is the lip of the dome. And beyond that, cold desolation. Read more...

Guests, Dr Feelgood, and Career by Ian Seed



In the packed hotel foyer, there's a Japanese family looking lost, but everyone is too busy to notice them. I am about to pass by when I spot the Japanese lady in a wheelchair fluttering a fan close to her wizened face. She must be almost a hundred years old.

They can hardly speak English, but they show me the card with their room number on. The lady in the wheelchair tilts her head to one side and smiles at me. I lead them to the lift, pushing the wheelchair myself through the crowd. I even get into the lift with them, press the button for their floor, and wheel her out of the lift when we arrive. She smiles again, but in a forced way, and presses her hand to her chest as if she's having trouble breathing. She points at the low ceiling of the corridor. Read more...

Owl Eyes by Myrth Killingsworth


I told them it was a UFO. Then a train. Then a fire. I've conjured so many versions of the memory—memories and screen memories—I've lost the truth. The truth burned in their spacecraft engines. The truth burned in the firebox of the old steam engine, cracked in the coals, blasted out the whistle in a scream. The truth burned in the forest fire, writhed into black worms of crisping tree trunks, sizzled into the ash of old leaves, flared into balls of gold fire. Now, I pick through the ash of my memories for the bones of the truth. Memories and screen memories. I sift my hands through the burnt duff.

The truth: it was night in the forest.

But the silent hovering spacecraft, the feathered UFOs, were owls, the beams of their saucer eyes. Moon-faced barn owl. Twin disks of great-horned. A masked man summoned them to the trees. Spruce branches fingered the clearing, and the Milky Way swirled between the owls' silhouettes. He called to them in their own language, the language of owls, so many species surrounded us, screech and spotted and saw-whet. Read more...

Eight Drabbles by Ken Poyner



The new clippings begin to move. Being cut from a now improved hedge, they are not unattractive. I take, in their motion, that they want to be fed. After all, they are now separate from the support system of the unburdened hedge. Nothing from the mother plant. Perhaps with sustenance, they can latch on in the neighbor's barren yard. I would not feel abandoned. I go inside to make eggs. The clippings try to follow. They skirt along the grass, scratch across the patio. I leave the door open, wondering how they might approach the steps. Gravity is no fool.



The smallest boy anyone has ever seen rides a cassowary around in its opulent cage.Read more...

Not All There by Ken Hueler


I've been pressing the call button for almost thirty minutes: I'm angry, the painkiller's worn off, I have to pee, and I'm lonely. Steven would have fetched a nurse, but visiting hours are over. Finally, I get up and reach for the IV stand; I miss it, and miss again. Idiot! That hand is gone. I grab the pole with the other and drag the stand to the bathroom. As I stand over the toilet getting used to holding with my right, my missing left hand claws and beats against something. I've heard that people feel their limbs after amputation—phantom pain—but the vibrations rippling from my gauzed elbow are so real it's terrifying.

When I come out, my room is still empty. In the hallway, I spot the nurses' station, distant and lit only by computer screens. My IV stand rattles on the linoleum and echos off the walls—the only sound. Where are the monitor beeps? The chatter? Read more...

(Mary)'s Testimony by David M. Rubin


At a bookstall on the lower level of Edinburgh's labyrinth, Borges described to me the complete map of the city, and how Land Surveyors walk the map looking for the Castle's hidden causeway. He muttered that attainment was parabolic, especially with notions of city (Edinburgh, Heidelberg, Prague, the Great Khan's), castle, and map in doubt.

Borges and I meet in libraries snaking across Europe and the Americas. We discuss Georg (Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp) Cantor's many faces of infinity. He pierces the veil, guessing that I represent an order that is stalking him; though he suggests that he has spent a lifetime looking for me. Two almost-intersecting beings, dancing. I chide him and Kafka for missing the access to the castle using Leibniz differentiation and Banach spaces. He elides the point, "You mean Newton and Frechet?"

"Our lineage learned long ago to extract the names from our maps, and a web of defined measurements and juxtapositions remain." 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.