All posts by Joseph P. O'Brien

About Joseph P. O'Brien

Based on a true story, and numerous big fat lies.

FLAPPERHOUSE #17 Now on Sale!

Sisterhood, Mysterious Treasure, Fallen Angels, Deviant Afterlives, Slasher Barbies, Poetic Viruses, Baboon Warfare: FLAPPERHOUSE #17.

print copies available for $6US via Amazon
digital (PDF) copies now available for $3US via PayPal

Unfortunately we are currently unable to email PDFs immediately upon order. Delivery of your PDF may take anywhere from several seconds to several hours, but rest assured, we will complete your purchase as soon as humanly possible.
We apologize profusely for any inconvenience or delayed gratification.


“The Golden Key” – Fiction by Carlea Holl-Jensen

illustration by Aubrey Beardsley, circa 1895

For a hint of all the fantastic treasures you can find in our Spring 2018 issue (coming March 20), here’s Carlea Holl-Jensen‘s mysterious & alluring flash fiction “The Golden Key.”

{ X }

IT’S LATE WINTER WHEN HE FINDS THE BOX, winter right on the cusp of spring, that restless stretch when the woods are no longer dark by midday but the frost hasn’t given up its grip on the air.

Of course, it isn’t the box he sees first. That’s still buried under a foot or more of snow.

What he sees, instead, is a crop of new crocuses growing in amongst the trees. He isn’t looking for flowers, doesn’t much care for them. He isn’t sentimental; in fact, he’s about as unsentimental as they come. He once fought in a war and refuses to remember the last time he cried, but it was certainly not while remembering the death of an animal in a movie he watched often as a child. In short, he’s not the type to notice flowers, and he wouldn’t have noticed these flowers at all if the snow weren’t so deep. He’s surprised to see them, these flowers—after all, even late winter isn’t quite spring. The buds haven’t opened yet, and they look to him like the bulbous nipples of tiny baby bottles.

He crouches down to look at the flowers more closely and wonders how they aren’t frozen. He’s pretty cold himself, even though he has on an expensive jacket designed for extreme weather conditions. The flowers don’t seem to feel the cold at all.

Something must be warming them from below, he reasons. He’s extremely logical, this man. He appreciates marching orders and ranks and maps with little pins stuck in them. He keeps schedules, wears a watch set by a satellite, leaves no room for uncertainty or doubt. Faced with this improbable inflorescence, he thinks of hot springs and geothermal vents.

He brushes aside the snow that surrounds these little yellow nubs, and then brushes away some more. Not too deeply buried is a key, the kind that opens coin op lockers in bus stations and public swimming pools.

The flowers have grown up to mark the spot, he thinks, and his having had this thought surprises him even more than the flowers growing there. He feels queasy at the mere idea. He’s not, as I’ve said, a man over given to fancy.

More likely, he tells himself, this key fell from someone’s pocket as they walked along the trail. He feels better once he’s explained this to himself in plain terms.

But the man’s mind, now that it’s started rationalizing, has no intention of stopping. If there is a key, the man finds himself thinking, quite against his will, there must also be a lock.

Continue reading “The Golden Key” – Fiction by Carlea Holl-Jensen


Now available in soft pulpy paperback via Amazon for $18US: FLAPPERHOUSE – YEAR FOUR, the print anthology of all the surreal, shadowy, sensual, and satirical lit we published in 2017 (including numerous pieces never posted here on our site)…

Including: Killer cinema, mystical soothlayers, manic manifestos, mythical masks, squirrel funerals, wayward wizards, Freddy Krueger, Astronauts, Chrononauts, Bird Bones, Reincarnated Warhol, Clairvoyant Love Triangles, Loony Lighthouse-Keepers, Inescapable Body Horror, Drunken Gods, Chatty Animals, Killer Candymen, Tyrannical Trumps, Jeff Goldblum’s Sick Abs, Radio waves, headless mules, forbidden books, lost cities, dark moon missions, lousy philosophers, Sycorax, Selena, Lizzie Borden, and much much more…

“The Forbidden Book of Uziah Greiss” – Fiction by Abhishek Sengupta

Saraswati – Nandalal Bose, 1941

The grand finale of our Winter 2018 issue is Abhishek Sengupta‘s brilliantly Byzantine and Borgesian short story “The Forbidden Book of Uziah Greiss.”

{ X }


HAVING WORKED AS A LIBRARIAN in the Egyptian National Library and Archives (ENLA) for forty long years, visiting it for ten years as an ex-librarian subsequent to his retirement, and concentrating on reading each book housed there thrice, Uziah Greiss discovered that the 13013th word in each book is a number. Always. Without exception.

He also noted that although they appeared in different formats, each one of them was a different number (or a sign denoting a number, or terms we could map numerically). For example, in a book named A History of Martyrdom, the 13013th word is “gross”. It appears in the sentence ‘A gross misconduct on the part of the king announced the beginning of war.’ Numerically, the word “gross” stands for one dozen of dozens, or more simply, the number 144.

After years of studying, Greiss came to another startling conclusion: each number appearing as the 13013th word in a book was unique and appeared only once throughout all books ever written. Never repeated.

This synopsis attempts to uncover, as well as understand, the only (and yet, incomplete) text ever written by Uziah Greiss, which is as much of an enigma as it is a catalogue of his finding.

{ X }


Let it be known that this is my final attempt at publishing the short synopsis of The Forbidden Book of Uziah Greiss (that is not the real name of his book, but then, his manuscript had no name – real or otherwise, and it remained incomplete for someone killed him before he could complete it). All my earlier attempts at writing and publishing the synopsis have met with failure in some mysterious circumstances, but I promise to stay true to the history of writing this synopsis by recording my failures as well. So, let me start by quoting the circumstances leading to each of those failures.

{ X }

Attempt # 1: I completed the synopsis in my first attempt. A publisher in town showed interest in it. I had been traveling on a bus with my completed manuscript when I suddenly started feeling drowsy. Although not in the habit of falling asleep on a bus, that day I did. On waking up, I found my bag, which sat on my lap and contained the manuscript, had been stolen.

{ X }

Attempt # 2: I stumbled half-way through the synopsis when the news broadcast confirmed reports of war breaking out. My wife claimed the city we stayed in was not safe anymore, which happened to be true. So, we moved to a different city, one supposed to be safer. When I unpacked my belongings, however, I could no longer find my half-finished synopsis.

{ X }

Attempt # 3: A letter arrived when I was about to complete the synopsis. My wife opened it. A clear warning surfaced, attempting to prevent me from trying to publish my synopsis. It told grave consequences awaited my family and me if I tried. The sender’s name didn’t figure anywhere. I didn’t want to pay much heed to an anonymous warning, but my wife was reluctant. She said she was afraid for our son’s life. She tore up the pages on which I had been writing the synopsis.

{ X }

Attempt # 4: I started writing the synopsis in extreme secrecy this time. I didn’t mention it to anyone, not even my wife. One day, when my wife and son went to the market, I received a phone call. The voice on the other end claimed my wife and son had been in an accident and were admitted to the nearest hospital. By the time I reached the hospital, it was too late. Both were declared dead. When I returned home a broken man, I found someone had broken into my home. The synopsis I was working on was gone.

Continue reading “The Forbidden Book of Uziah Greiss” – Fiction by Abhishek Sengupta

“Disclaimer” – Poetry by Hussain Ahmed

Whispers of Desert – Nicholas Roerich, 1925

“Disclaimer” is Hussain Ahmed‘s shadowy, whispery, profoundly meta poem from our Winter 2018 issue.

{ X }


it should be read in whispers

this poem is black and not dying

it is not meant to nurse a bullet wound

this poem is not brown

it did not scale through barbwire fences

only to be reminded of how burnt pasta smells

this poem has no voice

it’s the wind blowing over the face of desert

don’t look it in the eyes when it tries to speak

this poem is a collection of pixels

not enough to light up a grieving heart

this poem sings in many unknown voices

it has hacked through your system

this poem should not have an end

this poem follows no rule, you become aware of its meters

when it stings like anopheles

this poem was born amongst the click of empty bottles

it survived avowal sobriety of savvy imageries

this poem needs home; it’s been fed but it wants to stay out cold

this poem wants to live on bread and alcohol alone

but it does not mean it is yellow, this poem is colorless

this poem wants to be written on a rocket going to space

this poem needs space to grow

this poem should have no sexual preference; it has nothing to do  with God.

{ X }

Continue reading “Disclaimer” – Poetry by Hussain Ahmed

excerpts from “in her own words” – Poetry by Valerie Hsiung

Fate, Life, Truth, Beauty – Georg Pauli, 1905

From our Winter 2018 issue, here are four tantalizingly poetic excerpts from Valerie Hsiung‘s in her own words.

{ X }

TAKE THOSE HANDCUFFS OFF OF ME. All I hear. I am a penniless billionaire. I am the granddaughter to a squandered fortune. What would she say? She would say to not be so lazy today, tomorrow you can be lazy. She would say to walk clear into the burning fields.

{ X }

AND THEN. IT CHANGED… Became too quiet between us, what was left for us to trace went unfulfilled. The need to not speak too soon is the need to survive as prey. Cursed us all but not on purpose. Those are nice shoes! Oh no make no mistake, I was definitely flirting with you. So we’re both too old for this. At least me. All purpose flower. Black tea on an empty stomach kind of seasick.

Make believe. And later,       ropes them in.

{ X }

may still stand… And…sometimes, it’s good to let yourself be bad… She smiles.
Paper sails mean paper moon.
Can you picture it? She sits at a desk, and then
she gets up from it, the desk, smiling, identifying the source
inside her, both old and violent or nostalgic and haunting inside as a river or jukebox or when pharmacies still sold ice cream, yet on the outside, all you see
is something timeless. She cannot see this. She feels she is vanishing
before them, before herself.

{ X }

WHEN I LIE, EVERYONE BELIEVES ME. Because that’s what they want to hear,that’s what they’ve always. wanted. to hear.

But when I tell the truth?

everyone begins to call me a liar. Their liar.

That’s when the poison begins to take hold.

{ X } Continue reading excerpts from “in her own words” – Poetry by Valerie Hsiung

“The Louse” – Fiction by Ian Kappos

Portrait of a Philosopher – Lyubov Popova, 1915

A philosopher encounters a metaphysical parasite in “The Louse,” Ian Kappos‘ bitingly bizarre flash fiction from our Winter 2018 issue.

{ X }


He discovered it during an attempt to see into the future. He had been sitting on the edge of his mattress, looking into his scrying mirror, when something caught his eye that quite literally made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. In the light spilling through his window, it was unmistakable: tracing a wild path through his thinning hair, like a confused grain of brown rice, was a louse. A godforsaken louse.

In a burst of panic, the philosopher jumped up and looked around his studio apartment for something with which to deport the louse: a spear, a hammer, a solvent of some sort. A sealant or maybe helmet that he could affix to his head in order to suffocate the thing. But he found nothing. As luck would have it, he had traded most of his belongings at the pawn shop in exchange for the scrying mirror. He admonished himself for his lack of foresight. He leaned out the window, curled his fingers into a fist, and thrust the fist up at the sky.

He stared directly into the sun, as if trying to burn the memory of the louse from his retinas.

Wait, the philosopher thought. That’s it.

He grabbed the scrying mirror, poked his head again out the window, looked up at the sun with suspicion, then drew his head back inside and inspected the scrying mirror.

He would not have long.

Due to nonpayment, the electricity had been turned off, leaving the philosopher no choice but to make do with the resources at his disposal. But he would do it, he vowed, and fell quickly into work.

The philosopher reviewed what he knew about classical electrodynamics. He studied the scrying mirror, turning it over in his hand, examining it from all angles.

f = pE + J x B

He racked his brain. He racked his scalp. After several minutes of fervent racking, the philosopher concluded that if he used the Poynting vector as his basis for directional flow of energy, the surface area of the mirror (“B”) should concentrate and redirect a sufficient enough charge distribution (“p” being the density of the charge and “E” being the speed of light) for his purposes.

In other words: it should concentrate and redirect a sufficient enough charge distribution to blow the little bastard to smithereens.

He scrutinized his reflection in the mirror, sifted a hand through the sweaty tassel of hair on his head until finally, with a tiny yelp of victory, he located the louse, and, feeling his way over to the windowsill, lined it up in the crosshairs of the mirror.

Almost immediately he felt the handle of the mirror grow hot with the concentration of electrical energy transmitted from the sun. But just as he was beginning to feel triumphant, the heat of the handle rose to an uncomfortable level. When it got so hot that it started to burn his fingers, he bit his lip and blinked through his tears, determined to keep the louse in his sights.

The philosopher’s head erupted in fire. He ran screaming around his apartment, overturning everything in his path, running to the faucet and finding that the water had been turned off, too. He dove headlong into his mattress, driving his skull beneath a pillow, and rolled around there until the fire was out.

He rose from the blackened sheets, venturing to feel, hesitantly, that he had won.

When he turned around, there was the louse, standing over him. It was now at least twice his own size. The philosopher sank back into the mattress.

“Please don’t eat me,” said the philosopher.

The louse stared. Continue reading “The Louse” – Fiction by Ian Kappos