Category Archives: Shories

The Story Hoarder

Robert Aïdan Kessler had been living on his own out in the wilderness for the last fifteen years. He didn’t move there right after the publication of his final masterpiece, The End of Time, but it wasn’t that long. What prompted his self-imposed exile was a question at a panel at the Gryphon Egg comic con in Seattle. A young boy named Darryl Madsen asked a question about the mechanism of time travel as featured in the book and the way that he phrased it unintentionally made Kessler realize he had made a mistake in the writing. He had left a plot-hole in his time-travel extravaganza nobody else had picked up on, but once it was pointed out, the entire rest of the story unraveled because of it. He started to become the object of ridicule and derision in the online forums—a joke, a punchline. Never mind that no one else had caught the flaw—even Darryl himself hadn’t meant any harm in asking his question. but the damage was done. Disgraced and in fear of his own fans, R.A. Kessler retreated from society and decided to live alone out in the wilderness, in a cabin with nothing but books and a computer for activity. And walking, of course. There is always nature, and the dangers that come with it.

Marian Innis had called herself Kessler’s friend since they were in college together. In truth, she was one of his first fans, commenting extensively on his early drafts of Angels on the Psychic Weave and The Gift of Hades. When she graduated two years after him, the latter novel was on the fast-track to publication and he offered to pull some strings to get her on the payroll to edit the former, but she, nervous at her abilities in a professional setting, opted to continue her education. By the time of the Incident, she was teaching her first class as an ABD Professor and already finding ways to incorporate her old friend into the curriculum despite or perhaps even because of his status as a popular sci-fi writer.

No one—not even Professor Innis herself—suspected which of Kessler’s characters had been inspired by her; that she was the reason the sensual and juvenally alluring Ariella Cabral didn’t quite ring true in The Gift of Hades; or the detail and depth she leant to Irma Wang in Angels on the Psychic Weave; no one even knew that both Arianna Batterton and Salomé Jackson from Agents Demanding Freedom were based on her in different ways. She had no clue of this until his publishers conspired to wrest his final manuscript—a YA novel taking place at a high school that had nothing to do with any of his previous works—from his iron grip in order to profit from one last Kesslerian bestseller. She had known the conspiracy was happening and refused to cooperate, but they got their hands on it anyway and bullied him into letting them go ahead with it, further “sullying his name” as he put it, although really The Geometry of Love was quite a good effort, inventive in many ways, if not particularly innovative formally. She liked it, but she found herself suspicious of certain details about the character of Lisa Martin. On the surface, she was much more overtly smart (a Hermione-type, critics often called her) but now and then, Marian felt like the things Lisa said sounded awfully familiar.

But even so, it didn’t really occur to Marian to think that, well…

She’d just never thought of Aïdan that way. He wasn’t her, well… He just wasn’t for her.

It was a student of hers, a young woman by the name of Amber Weaver, a first-year Masters candidate at the time, who first suggested “He isn’t finished, you know.”

Marian was taken aback, confused, but when young Amber gave her explication, she found she couldn’t entirely discount it. There was a pattern in Kessler’s work, leading from the early novels through his masterpiece trilogy to The End of Time, and it included not only the relative failure Ransom’s F.O.R.G.E. but his handful of plays and screenplays, which Marian had copies of but knew Amber couldn’t. It even included The Geometry of Love. But it was incomplete. There was a piece, a very pivotal piece, missing from it, and that was when Marian remembered a series of conversations she’d had with Aïdan, conversations about the AfterLife.

Of course. Why set it up so clearly in The Gift of Hades and then not explore? There had to be one last project—one at least—that remained unfinished. Unpublished.

It was this belief, this conviction, that led Marian to finally seek out Kessler’s cabin in the back of beyond. But when she got there… well… things were worse than she had been led to believe.

For fifteen years, the only people who had been granted access to Aïdan’s cabin and property were delivery makers, garbage disposal workers and the occasional maintenance professional. Some of these people were fans of Kessler’s work, but before they were offered a contract, they were required to sign waivers promising that they would not speak to Kessler about any of his works—past, present or future. Still, with so few people to talk to about it, Kessler sometimes muttered about his affairs absent-mindedly, dropping hints, uttering phrases. For this reason, it was known that he was, in fact, working on a new project. It was thought this project concerned the AfterLife, which, if it were true, would confirm the theory set forth by Weaver via Innis.

It was also suggested that Kessler himself might in fact be the main character of the new story. But this was harder to confirm.

Getting her old friend to let her back in was not as easy as she’d hoped, but it also wasn’t as difficult as she’d feared. She knew where the compound was. It was fortified heavily enough to discourage most casual fans from invading—although there had, of course, been some mouth-foamers over the years. That’s why there was a guard at the gate. Rumor had it that the man had been chosen specially because he had never heard of Kessler or any of his works. But when Marian arrived, she caught him reading SubCultures, the second volume of the cyberpunk epic Agents Demanding Freedom, often considered his magnum opus. Curiosity must have gotten the better of him after all, Marian mused.

“Ma’am, I’m gonna have to ask you to leave,” he told her. She’d expected as much. “I’m a friend of his,” she explained.

“Pssh,” the guard hissed. “Mr. K. don’t have no friends.”

“From college.”

“Oh, you knew him before?” The guard drew himself up.

“What’s the password?”

It took her a few minutes and just enough tries, but she eventually figured it out, after which she wondered how many other people he had told that story to…

After the driveway ran out, there was a path and a steep flight of stairs that reminded Marian that he made delivery people walk up and down this way—of course, he paid them for the effort, but still.

By the time she actually arrived at the cabin up top, that was the first time she actually had the thought. Well, crap, what am I doing here? What am I actually hoping to accomplish? Did she really think she was going to get him to open up about his plans, now, after so many years? To her?

What made her so special?

But then he opened the door. He looked different. Of course he did, it had been more than fifteen years. Anyone would. Most people, though, didn’t look so wild and haggard. Or maybe they did—she checked her privilege, and then checked his. Most men who made fortunes the size of his off franchising their creative works and lived on and maintained freaking compounds, didn’t look quite so homeless. What had happened to her friend?

“It’s good to see you,” she told him. Even if the “seeing” part was hard.

His hospitality was rusty, though that wasn’t any great loss. He’d never been much of a host. Not much of a guest, either, but not as bad at that. He didn’t have any coffee or tea—never liked them, and didn’t keep any to share. But the worst part, of course, was the state of the place.

Food, from what she could tell, was confined to the kitchen area, just as waste was confined to where it belonged. This was not to say that either of those locations were kept tidy, but at least they didn’t have to intrude on the main event.

The main problem was the papers.

There were so, so many papers. There was a computer, too, of course: fifteen years old and never saw the broad side of a modem. But the papers were the more important. Paper and fountainpen paraphernalia accounted for fifty percent of the delivery costs assigned to this place, and from the look of it, Robert Aïdan Kessler never ever threw away any of the papers. Instead, the stacks and stations had a tendency to migrate from one room to another, depending on which surface the graphomaniac felt like clearing for himself to sit. The bed was fine, except that it wasn’t so much a bed anymore as it was a mattress thrown on top of a solid surface of stacks of scratch-paper notes. Right now, the main factory for new ruined pages was located in what seemed to have once been the dining room.

“I love what you’ve done with the place,” Marian lied.

“What are you doing here?” asked Aïdan.

“I wanted to see you.”

“Why? Why now?”

She thought about it, scanned his face.

“You have questions for me.” He sounded disappointed.

“I’ve been worried about you—“

“Don’t!” he commanded.

He seemed actually angry.

“Did they send you?”

“Nobody sent me.”

“You came on your own, then?”

“Your guard let me in.”

“My guard!” He snorted.

“He made me give him the password.”

That gave him pause. Had he forgotten he’d set a password? How had the guard got it?

“Well, you’re here now anyway.”

In the absence of coffee or tea, he made her a hot chocolate.

“You’ll have to use my mug, though,” he warned. He’d smashed all the others a decade ago in a fit of pique. When he’d finally cleared an extra chair for himself (Still enough of a gentleman to grant her the comfy one) they sat down.

“I have something to ask you—“

“Here it comes!” he lamented.

“I’m sorry?”

“I knew there had to be motive. I knew you wouldn’t come here on your own because you cared!”

“Of course I care—“

“Twelve years, Marian! Twelve!”

“It’s been fifteen, actually.”

“Fift—“ He counted on his fingers. “What year is it?”

She told him.

“Fifteen goddamn years.”

“Did you want me to come?”

“I don’t know what I wanted.”

She looked around at the stacks upon stacks. “Why are you here?” she asked.

He gave the official version of the story.

“Right,” she said. “But why are you really here?”

He took a deep breath. “I never want to make that kind of mistake again.”

“You can still fix it—“

“No. No, I can’t. Not now. Not so they’ll believe.”

“The longer you stay here—“

“What? What, Marian? The longer I stay here, what?”

“You know what, this was a mistake, maybe I should just—“

“No,” he bade her. “No. Please.”

So she stayed in her seat. But then she asked him again, “Why are you really here, Aïdan?”

It was the first time he’d heard his preferred name spoken out properly in fifteen years, the first two letters divorced into separate syllabary households. Maybe that was why he finally told her.

She didn’t believe it.

“Oh, come on. You had to have known.”

Could she have really been that naïve?

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You didn’t want me to—“

“Oh, come on—“

“You were always… And besides, that’s not…”

As he drifted off again into awkward silence, she looked again at the papers scattered across the room. She wondered. This time, she was really looking at them. What was in those papers?

“Please tell me you’ve at least been writing,” she begged.

“I have to get it right!”

Her heart sank again. “Tell me it’s not just one thing you’ve sat here writing for fifteen years…”

He looked at her. He put his hands on the table as though showing his cards. He flexed his fingers. “It’s not,” he confessed.

That was when, like a wallowing dragon, he showed her his hoard…

“The Kids Are Alright”

It’s the weirdest, most random thing and if it weren’t happening to them in real life, they would probably change the channel in disgust.

No one even went to that diner. None of them, anyway. They were all there that night for random reasons. Jasper and Raven were working on their applications, getting re-enrolled; Jasper was out late with Lucy after a party. Trevor was actually trying to get work done, a last-minute presentation. He didn’t recognize Declan or Raven until Lucy came in.

Kyle was there because he got a text. He wasn’t sure who the text was from, but there were a handful of students who had his number and it seemed urgent. Or it could have been Tommy. Maybe.

Tommy got a text, too. Wasn’t sure who it was from. When he got there, though, boy, he was glad to see an old friendly face—and his brother there, too?

The real trip, though, was Blake. Remember Blake? He was a truck driver by then, had been for a while, he had lots to say.

It wasn’t till he got there and everything else was in place and Kyle and Tommy were freaking out about their respective texts that I showed up.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” I said to my brother and all of his friends, hiding my new redheaded boytoy at the entrance. “You’re probably wondering why I called you all here today.”

Michael Caulfield, Inventor of the Internet, ca. 1887

Rodrigo Valdez couldn’t believe his luck when he got the call about the interview. For him, a lowlife Dreamer from Southside Chicago, to get a chance to meet and maybe even to work for the great Michael Caulfield? It was something off the silver screen, from a superhero movie.

In case you’re the kind of person who doesn’t know about important people like Michael Caulfield, this is the guy who basically designed the Internet. People had been trying to figure out how to work and manage the interface between different mainframes and when this guy got into the game, he not only figured out how to do that, he anticipated a lot of the difficulties of navigating a mainframe with multiple users, troubleshooting a lot of the problems before anyone else even knew they were there.

Rodrigo? He was just a low-level hacker by comparison. Not that he hadn’t pulled off some cool shit in his day—he managed to break into the Alchemyne mainframe and expose some wrongdoings on the local level, what his friends liked to call “real hero shit” (even it came at a great personal cost). It’s probably what brought him to the illustrious attention of this august figure in whose office he now stood. But to actually he here? Even heroes had to bow down in the face of gods, right?

“Mr. Caulfield will be with you in a moment,” said the pretty young secretary, or assistant, who had introduced herself as Claudia. You could really tell the generational divide just by looking around here at the furniture, at the feel of the place. It felt like an actual office, you know? Official. The receptionist was wearing a dress, had her hair done up real pretty. The guys here wearing suits. But what drew Rodrigo’s eye was the portrait in the corner. There weren’t a lot of pictures of Michael Caulfield out there for public consumption, but there were a couple. He had a face. Not much of one: white guy, nondescript. Not ugly, but like, you know, accountant. It was the same face that was on the portrait, but the portrait was in sepia, showed him sitting at a desk, not smiling. Look like it was taken in…

1887? That was the date at the bottom.

That must explain why the look on his face was so weird. It wasn’t actually him. Must be a great-great-grandfather or something. Or maybe closer—he reminded himself of the generation gap between Caulfield and himself. “Is this real?” Rodrigo asked Claudia.

She smiled. “Mr. Caulfield likes to keep things that aren’t real where they belong: on the Internet.”

“So the Internet’s fake, then?”

She raised an eyebrow. “That’s not exactly what I said.” A moment later, there was a beep. “Mr. Caulfield will see you now,” said Claudia. As Rodrigo passed into the other room, she added “Good luck,” with a smile that looked entirely too mischievous.

Before Rodrigo really had time to register what was going on, his idol was shaking his hand. They were exchanging pleasantries, he told brief jokes that Rodrigo forgot as soon as he’d chuckled at them indulgingly.

He didn’t seem as old as Rodrigo had figured he must be, but he soon forgot all about that.

Then they were sitting. “Well,” said the inventor of the internet, “I’m sure you know why I called you in today.”

“Is this about the Alchemyne hack?”

“There’s not a lot of people who could’ve done that. You’ve impressed a lot of people with your skills, your ability to navigate complex cyberspatial labyrinths. I was wondering if you’d be interested in taking the next step.”

“With my career, you mean?”

“Sure. Call it that.”

“Are you offering me a job?”

Caulfied took a short breath. “It might be better to think of it,” he said, “as an apprenticeship.”

Rodrigo wanted to like the sound of that, but… “This isn’t like an unpaid internship, is it?”

“Payment… is that important to you?”

“Well, I mean, yeah.”


“Why is money important?”

That did seem to be the question.

“I mean… I got bills to pay, you know? Gotta put food on the table.”

“Food?” Caulfield said the word like it was something he’d known as a child and hadn’t though much of since. So he said, “What if I told you, if you accept this position, you will never need to eat ever again?”

To be perfectly honest, that sounded to Rodrigo Valdez like some rich white-guy bullshit. But what he replied was, “I’d be… skeptical.”

“What you do on the Internet,” Caulfield explained, “is really just a matter of manipulating the rules of the systems that are in place. The need, the human need, to eat food on a daily basis—that, too, is a rule.”

“Yeah, but like… you can’t hack the world. You can’t hack the human body.”

At that, Caulfield raised an eyebrow.

That was when the world went a little bit wonky. At first, Rodrigo thought it was something in his drink, but then he remembered he hadn’t been holding a drink. Or had he? He was no longer sure.

And that was when Michael Caulfied, the Inventor of the Internet, took over the narrative myself. Now, Rodrigo, you will experience only what I allow you to. Because this is what can happen when you control a resource as vast and omniscient as the Internet. This is the kind of thing you can do with it: you can literally crawl inside a person’s mind and alter the information received by their senses.

So now, my dear Mr. Valdez, are you interested in my offer? Or should I just plug you into my systems here and put your impressive yet still malleable mind to work for me?


I don’t want to talk about my love life. I mean, you’ve already heard it, right? You know about Trevor. I know you probably think we never talked again after that and you’re wrong but not really wrong. It was never really the same again. I knew Angus was getting out of juvie. I’d known he’d be getting out years before he even went in. I didn’t see much of what happened to him on the inside. I try not to conclude from that that not much did because it usually does, I just don’t want to make any assumptions or bring it up.

I wonder what he’d do if he knew that I’d slept with my gay best friend, gotten pregnant and had the abortion. Would he still sleep wiht me himself? I think about not doing it. I think about staying away, not making contact, avoiding him. But he’s, like, my soulmate, right? Even if he is proven guilty, it’s not like there are any other candidates.

Maybe I do have a choice, though. Does it really have to be this way? Maybe I don’t need anyone. Maybe I’m fine just like this. I weigh it all up in my head. Following my visions of being with him versus being alone.

I just stop picking up when he calls me at night. He doesn’t call back.

Will I spend my life alone?

But then one day, I find myself in an old-school used record store and I feel a tap on my shoulder. I hear a voice say “Kassandra?” It’s warm and familiar, I guess? And I turn around…

Sometimes dreams do come true in the way that you least expect them.

The Screen Door


Jeffrey didn’t really grow up with screen doors. They’re just not really a thing in Europe. “What are they for?” he asked his grandparents while visiting their cabin in Trinity’s Field when he was ten.

“They’re to keep the bugs out,” said his grandmother.

This wasn’t enough for young Jeffrey. “Why don’t youj just keep the door closed?” he asked.

“Gets awful hot here in the summer,” she said. Then she was back to her cooking and her puttering.

It was his grandfather who leaned into him then and whispered “Bugs aren’t the only thing they keep out.” He didn’t say anything else, just winked conspiratorially. But then, Robert MacGregor always was an odd duck.

Later that summer, Jeffrey’s father yelled at him in their native German for leaving the screen door open. An insect the size of Jeffrey’s thumb—the largest he’d ever seen up close—had gotten into the house, into the very kitchen, after Jeffrey had failed to close the screen. Most houses, the screen door swings on a spring, but the MacGregor cottage in Trinity’s Field had sliding doors you actually had to pay attention to.

<<You did this!>> Wolfgang yelled at his son, who was grateful his American relatives didn’t do languages. <<What if it had gotten in the lasagna? What if it had laid eggs?>>

Years later, after he graduated high school in Brussels, Jeffrey decided to take a year off before going to school in the U.S. The simplest way to facilitate this gap-year was to take his mother’s parents up on their offer to house him while he worked to save up some money and played a few gigs on his guitar and violin in town.

It was that year his grandfather finally started to lose his mind completely.

One day, as Jeffrey was headed out the door to his job cleaning rooms at the conference center in town, he was surprised to hear a voice in the house he didn’t recognize. When he turned around, though, it was only his grandfather sitting in his favorite chair, but the voice he was using, younger but also rasping, uttered words in a language Jeffrey didn’t recognize—but it was definitely a language.

“Grampa?” Jeffrey said, loud enough to wake him.

Robert made a snorting sound and jolted, then acted like nothing was the matter.

Jeffrey didn’t think much of the incident while he was at work, but a few days later, he came downstairs in the middle of the night for a bite to eat and noticed that the screen door was open. The regular door was closed, so it wasn’t a German-yelling disaster, but it was odd and unsettling and made Jeffrey think of his grandfather’s cryptic warning half a lifetime ago.

“You know something, don’t you?”

This time, Jeffrey recognized his grandfather’s voice, but there was something off about his inflection, like he was an actor—a good actor—playing a different part.

Robert MacGregor was sitting in that chair again. It seemed almost like he was rocking in it, but it wasn’t a rocking-chair. Was it just his imagination?

“Grampa?” Jeffrey said. “What are you doing up?”

Robert opened his mouth like he was yawning or popping his ears, but instead he shifted his jaw in a way that was painful to look at.

“Sleep is for…” he hesitated. “Other people.”

“Guess you don’t gotta be up in the morning.” Jeffrey still struggled with Southern Dialect, but liked to practice. He opened the fridge, took out a can of Mountain Dew. When he closed the door, his grandfather was right next to him. “Well, hey, there.”

“I like it when you sing,” said Robert MacGregor. “I like it when you play the guitar and the violin. I like that you write songs. I like… I like you, Jeffrey.”

His grandfather reached out his arms. Physical affection had always been a priority for their family, but this “hug” was something else entirely. Jeffrey backed away.

“What do you know?” his grandfather asked.

Jeffrey darted his eyes in the direction of the front door, but didn’t get all the way there. He didn’t want to take his eyes off his grandfather.

“You remember what I told you,” his grandfather said. “You’re concerned about the door being opened, about what it might have let in. That’s what I love most about you, Jeffrey: your mind is open. You accept that there’s more out there than most people believe.”

He came in very close to his grandson, unnaturally close, forehead to forehead. “And what,” Jeffrey finally asked, “exactly, had gotten in?”

His grandfather chuckled. “Nothing.” He chuckled some more. “Nothing at all! At least…” He stopped chuckling. “Nothing that wasn’t here before. Years ago. Decades. You have no idea, my dear, dear grandchild. You have no idea how… how liberating it feels to finally…

“You’re not coming out of the closet, are you?” Jeffrey found himself quickly weighing his homosympathy against the pain he knew it would probably cause his grandmother.

But Robert MacGregor just laughed. He laughed higher and more maniacally than Jeffrey had ever heard him (or anyone else his age) laugh before in real life. “No, no, no, no, no, no,” he kept saying for entirely too long. “No, my dear boy. Not exactly that.”

“Not exactly.”

“There’s more than just the one closet.”

That was the most answer Jeffrey got out of his grandfather that night. Seconds after he said it, his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he collapsed. When Jeffrey and his grandmother managed to revive the old man, he laughed it off, but Jeffrey was always uneasy with him after that, wondering between the closet and the screen door if his grandfather had lost his mind or if something even stranger had invaded it.

“Parisienne Moonlight”

Raven has been having dreams of Declan. I know this because I’ve been having dreams about Declan and because in those dreams, I have been Raven.

In the dreams, they have seen each other across rain-swept alleyways. They have met in moonlit closets that turned out to be crowded dance-floors and they’ve hugged and they’ve kissed and they’ve fucked and she’s woken up not remembering if she was herself or if she was him pretending to be her.

The Acid Monsoon song “Exit Sandman” is about this, if you hadn’t guessed already.

“Come to one of my shows,” he hears from her by text.

“I can’t,” she finds out, “I’ll be clear ‘cross the country.”

She finds that she misses him. It’s a feeling she doesn’t recognize, so it takes her a long time to unpack it. Why do I feel bad? doesn’t work as a question until she tries What will make me feel better?

“I miss you.” It’s a text he doesn’t get to read because she keeps not sending it. She knows she’s acted horribly, treated him with… like… She just has a lot of regrets.

“I still love you.” That one, she doesn’t even type out. She knows better.

“I don’t think I can do this,” she confesses to Caspar June. She’s been sleeping with him casually, off and on, but that’s not what makes it a confession.

“How can I make this easier on you?” For him, it isn’t just the fact that she’s a wonderful singer, it’s the fact that even after a year and a half of modest fame and personal glory, she still hasn’t turned into a diva, which is promising. He does not want to lose that.

They come up with the idea together to try to lure Declan’s Gorgasm band into touring with them.

“And then what?” Caspar June asks her. “You are gonna stay with us?”

“I don’t see why I shouldn’t.”

It takes far too long for him to give in. They try money, they try gigs. They send presents.

“I don’t get it,” he tells his bandmates, because he’s stupid. Because he knows it can’t be true and doesn’t want to give his hopes up.

“Why are you doing this?” he finally asks her.

She has finally managed to lure him to dinner and the question is… well, the question is everything. “I just wanted to know…”


“I wanted to know if there was still a chance for us.”

At the dinner, he sighed.

“You know you’re being a shithead, right?” Declan had been casually sleeping with Rachel for a while, but that wasn’t why she said it. “I know you’re still in love with her and you know she’s still in love with you, so for fuck’s sake, Declan!”

“Also,” said Tally, “I kinda want to chase the Monsoon. Those guys are tight as, like, an obscene thing I don’t want to mention in mixed company.”

“A virgin’s asshole?” Rachel suggested.

“Sure, let’s go with that.”

Meanwhile, Raven waits by the phone, at least proverbially.

“Why do I do this to myself?” She hears the voice behind her and at first she thinks it might be her own. “If I could have you, if you would have me back… Why would I keep punishing you?”

She looks at him and shakes her head.

“I don’t want to punish you,” she says.

She rushes into his arms.

Manic Girl, the Dream Pixie

She was that girl. The one you called cute. The one who was in that story as the weird, inhuman anima leading the hero to discover himself.

She was what your Southern gramma woulda called a character, a “real kick in the head”. She had character, all right… but did she have a personality?

Did you even bother to check?

What was she even doing there, to begin with? I know it seems like she was only there for you. But come on. Are you really that guy? The guy who acts like it’s all about him? If you are, I’m not even sure I should be watching this movie, reading this book, taking the time out of my day.

What does she want? What does she care about? I want to know what’s wrong with her, that she would put so much faith in you. That she would so blindly, blithely follow you around. I mean, you’re obviously such a fuck-up yourself—otherwise, why would you need her?

What if she did something unexpected? I know she’s quirky, but by now quirky is what we want from her, it’s what we’ve grown to expect, for her to be off the wall, off the cuff, dragging you off the cliff into a leap of faith that will lead to your salvation. But what if she said something you didn’t want to hear? What if she drew the attention away from you? Or worse, what if she used you the way you’ve been using her, and changed?

I have met the Manic Girl, that Pixie of your Dreams. I have stood at her threshold. I’ve been waiting, but her time is almost come. Soon you will know what it is that she wants. Soon you will be made to care. And chances are, you will not like what you see once it’s not about you anymore.

Sappho and Phaon

She is the reason we have the word “Lesbian”.

Sappho of Lesbos is one of the most notorious poets who ever lived and it is not unreasonable to say that she invented the language of love.

But much as we might like to tout her as a same-sex icon and prop her on the rainbow throne, the only actual cohesive love stories we have about Sappho are about her relationships with men. Her most famous lover is Phaon.

If I were a storyteller from antiquity or a cheap Hollywood screen-guru, the next thing I would say is that I am about to tell you how it really happened, the true story of Sappho and Phaon. As it is, I am unfortunately too much of an academic for that. So instead, I will simply say that this is my version.

Sappho got into some trouble in her youth. She got wrapped up in a rebellion against Pittacus, who was tyrant of Lesbos, probably because she was taken with fellow-poet Alcaius, who was one of the ringleaders. When the rebellion failed, they all fled to Lydia, on the West Coast of Asia Minor, which is now Turkey. There, Sappho was eventually found by her parents (one of them, anyway—sources seem to agree that one parent died, but don’t agree which one) who forced her into a marriage with a man named Cercylas of Andros. It seems quite certain this name was a fabrication of later times, as it literally translates to “Prick from the Isle of Man”.

On the crossing back from Lydia, though, Sappho met a man named Phaon. He was not of noble birth like she was, in fact he was the lowly ferryman driving her boat, and he was old, much older than she, but the kindest man she had ever met. When her husband took her away with him to Syracuse across the Mediterranean and made her bear him a daughter (named Cleïs after Sappho’s own mother), Sappho never forgot the kindness that Phaon had showed her. Then one day, when her marriage was in its tarnished middle years, a young man—a very young man—came to her town and started to flirt with her. He introduced himself as Phaon.

“But how could that be?”

Well, he explained that he had ferried Aphrodite herself across the strait while she was disguised as an old woman and she had rewarded his legendary kindness by granting him a second youth. So now, as a young man again, he had decided to use this gift to the fullest and seek out that young woman who had stolen his heart all those years ago.

At first, Sappho thought having Aphrodite’s gift bestowed on him might have washed away all of Phaon’s kindness, but upon contrasting his behavior with that of her husband, she decided to allow herself to be seduced—though the seduction was not without its surprises.

Finally, Cercylas did catch his wife in the act with this other man, this significantly younger man. Enraged, Cercylas drew his sword and ran the boy through—only to discover that it wasn’t a boy. As it turns out, Phaon had actually died and his granddaughter Cydro had assumed his identity in order to seek out the beautiful lady from that day.

So in the end, it turns out that wasn’t a man at all for the love of whom Sappho flung herself from the white cliffs. So now, let them both rest in rainbows at last.

“Deer Dance”

Have I ever really been able to tell the future? It’s something that’s always kind of bothered me. I keep thinking, inside each moment as it’s happening in time, as it’s breaking apart, I keep thinking… What if I’m wrong? What if I’m making it all up? What if I’m just rewriting my memories after I see something and thinking “Oh my God, I had a vision of that!” and then convincing myself that it’s real? What if I’m crazy?

As a senior in high school, I have lived with this condition for almost seven years. Most people know by now that I’m weird. A couple know why and how. No one actually knows what it feels like. Then one day, a shooter comes to school.

I’ve known for twelve days that it was going to happen. I wonder if twelve days ago was when he made the decision. I guess I could consult some kind of record, maybe track down the guns, but honestly, at this point, I’d rather wonder.

I never actually see the shooter’s face in my visions. I see what’s happening in the world through his eyes, and there are no mirrors. I see him with the guns, I feel his determination. I catch glimpses of fantasies he has, of who exactly it is he’s going to target. But I’m good enough by now to distinguish these fantasies from actual vision and the only person who’s in the vision, the only person he actually points a gun at, is me.

I should be terrified. I know from this vision that twelve days thence there will be a gun pointed at me. Why am I not freaking out?

Because I can see myself in this vision and in this vision, I am not afraid. In this vision, by the time it happens, I will know exactly what to do.

The details come in pieces. What’s happened to the boy, poor thing, how ladies jilt him, how his parents just don’t understand.

Is he bullied? Everyone is bullied. And if he knew how hard his own bullies had it, maybe they would be friends.

By the time I meet him in the hallway, I know everything that’s happened to the boy and I know everything I’m going to do to him.

I am a bit surprised by his face. When he kicks the door open, no doubt imagining himself some action hero from the latest videogame franchise, an automatic weapon in each hand, I see a boy I’ve always thought of as one of the kindest in the school. Too kind to talk to. Perhaps too… breakable.

No wonder he’s broken.

He wasn’t expecting to find the hallway so empty. He doesn’t know, of course, about the bomb threat I placed from the pay-phone. The entrance he used is out of the way, not part of their procedure. He doesn’t know there is no one here but me. He points one of his guns at me.

He’s confused that I’m not afraid. He’s upset.

“If you shoot me with that,” I say, “one-handed, are you sure you won’t break your arm?”

By the time he pulls the trigger, I’m already out of the way. He had one arm up, so I’m on the other hand with the gun. I’ve had twelve days to practice this one move with the confidence of a psychic, so I break his wrist with my palm using mostly the weight of the gun for balast and then slam my elbow up into his jaw.

“Guns are not the way to solve problems,” I tell him. “You solve them with your own two hands.”

We leave the guns in the hallway. The police will find them when they sweep the school. There will have been reports of gunfire. They’ll check, find prints. They’ll track Linus Phelps to the facility I checked him into. He isn’t violent right now. (More than anything, that’s the part that scares me.) They’ll ask and find out who checked him in. And then they’ll come for me.

“What can I say, officers? I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time and I made the most of it.”

No one was hurt. No one was killed, at least. There was some destruction of school property, but we straightened all that out. Linus is getting the care that he needs.

And I’m getting attention.

Celebrity doesn’t look good on me, so I avoid the rumors from the press, their requests for interviews. I don’t need the world to know. It’s enough for me just to have validation, just to be able to say “Mom, Jasper, I was telling the truth. I really can see the future sometimes and now I’m a superhero,” and have them not be able to not believe me anymore.

But I don’t do that. Because for all I know, maybe I really was at the right place at the right time to be a hero. Maybe I just justified all that by telling myself it was visions that did it. That’d be okay, I guess. It would qualify me as crazy. But at least I’d be the right kind of crazy.

Misplaced Vagina Monologue

This is a little hard for me. I wasn’t certain–I wasn’t prepared to do this tonight, but… perhaps tonight is the right night to do it after all, unprepared, or at least not as prepared as I would like to be.

I hope you don’t mind if I read off a sheet. This is not stand-up comedy. It’s not even comedy. Not by far. But I’ll get to that.

Given the title of this piece, it might seem odd that I would be the one up here and not… well…

Let me just say that in my country, there are no homosexuals.

I know that may seem odd considering where we are, but there you have it.

I was born.

My parents were thrilled to have a son after so many daughters. My father was somewhat important and having five girls seemed it would prove both disgraceful and expensive. They were excited to have a boy.

But that boy was me.

And there were other boys…

I didn’t know what it was that I felt when I met him. I didn’t even know that boys could… well… with each other… But I wanted to. I wanted to with him.

I quickly found that I loved every part of him. I liked the look of his legs as he walked towards me. I liked the sound of his voice at my ear. I liked the feel of my hand between his shoulder-blades. I liked the feel of his hand against my face. And I liked his eyes. The way they followed me wherever I went, not… not threatening, but… protective. I loved every part of him.

Especially the parts that I wasn’t supposed to love.

My father was what they call a dignitary. I had a duty and there are no homosexuals in my country. It’s not allowed. It’s not acceptable. It’s against God and when we go against God, things must be set straight.

And so when they inevitably found us, they took him and they set him straight on God’s path.

And they made me watch.

They made me watch as they took from him all those things that I loved.

I watched his spine scream when they shattered the shins that would never again support his weight.

I watched the light in his eyes die when they stole the hands that would never again touch me.

I watched as my lover–as I finally knew him to be–was burned and ripped open and fed to the dogs. By dogs.

They made me watch as they tore him apart, one sacred piece at a time, peeling back all of my desires to render them rancid, stale and bitter. Hoping to turn my longing to disgust with the sight of sundered flesh.

But, of course, it didn’t work. And they knew it.

So then they turned to me. God’s path had to be righted, and in a country where no one is gay, we know how to fix this.

So they “fixed” me.

I was born a boy, yet now I bleed. Not very much, not all the time, but once a month, for a couple of days, I bleed where they cut me.

Because no one can stay gay in Iran.