Category Archives: Fiction

“Mission Concept” – Fiction by Peter H.Z. Hsu

The Astronaut – Gandy Brodie, 1974

Our Summer 2017 issue, FLAPPERHOUSE #14, is sure to be a deep-flying, head-flipping odyssey. The issue launches next Wednesday, June 21, but in the meantime we’d like to offer a sneak peek of what to expect with Peter H.Z. Hsu’s trippy & unearthly flash fiction “Mission Concept.”

(Digital PDF copies of FLAPPERHOUSE #14 are currently available for pre-order; print copies available for order real soon…)

{ X }

THE ASTRONAUT’S JOB IS TO LEAVE THE EARTH.

The astronaut sometimes leaves the Earth to travel to the Moon. The Moon is very far away. Sometimes the astronaut travels further away than the Moon, much further. On these trips, the astronaut stays away for a very long time. The astronaut sometimes does not return.

The astronaut is sometimes a fighter pilot. The astronaut is sometimes a geologist. Sometimes an astronomer. Sometimes an electrical engineer. Sometimes the astronaut has a job specific to being an astronaut such as mission specialist or payload specialist or mission commander or administrative services manager. Sometimes the astronaut has a job that is not specific to being an astronaut. Sometimes the astronaut is a high school history teacher, an ordinary person making an extraordinary impact.

Sometimes the astronaut is an actor in a science fiction movie where he goes alone on a 40-year mission to a far-away solar system. When the astronaut returns, he walks a long, grey corridor to meet his lover. He is surprised at what he finds. The astronaut has grown old, but his lover has stayed young. This is scientifically inaccurate, yet this is what happens.

The astronaut touches his fingertips to his lover’s face. He stares. He recognizes her in her young face, her old eyes. He wants her. She is all he wants.

She says, “All is well. My lover has returned.”

He looks at his hand, still on her cheek. His hand is grey and dry like bone. His hand looks like a dead person’s hand, like a ghost hand.

He says, “No.”

His lover closes her eyes and turns her face. He takes his hand away. She backs away, head down. Then, without looking at him, she leaves. Continue reading “Mission Concept” – Fiction by Peter H.Z. Hsu

“Manifesto for Alata, Transcinematist; or Winged Imagination, by GLB Pym” – Fiction by Amanda Sarasien

The Miracle of Light While Flying – Gerardo Dottori, 1931

Esteemed art historian & cultural critic GLB Pym returns to FLAPPERHOUSE to praise an underappreciated genius in “Manifesto for Alata, Transcinematist; or Winged Imagination,” Amanda Sarasien‘s high-flying fiction from our Spring 2017 issue.

{ X }

THE BLOTTING OUT OF THE NAME ENNIO ALATA from the avant-garde is a glaring stain upon art itself. While my left hand, armed with its pen, charges in frenzied formation across the page, my right hand holds aloft its battle standard, a three-hundred-meter strip of film, Alata’s masterpiece. I march against immobile sentries, lay siege to concrete parapets that mire this ivory tower in the swamp of centuries. My just war has three simple aims:

  1. To emancipate the name Alata from the trenches of narrow minds who dismiss him as a minor Futurist; who, guided by their arbitrary geography of genre, confuse map lines with walls; who shed ink like blood dizzy with defeat weak with worry wondering where is his art? Where are the relics of his creative rituals? Sighs dissolving on passéist lips extol the mummified manuscript the cadaverous canvas, while I revere animate art, the silver-screen breath the radio hiss the zoetic flash across the stage.
  2. To lay at Immortality’s feet this celluloid garland spirited from the underworld of oblivion. Let breasts projecting the white light of curiosity, undimmed by petty doubt, convene. Together we will revive argentine idols frozen in webs of x-ray shadow, return them to the empyreal screen where they will take up once again the silent dance of deities.
  3. To sing the ballad of Alata’s electric exploits, lightning bolts rending complacent clouds. This high-voltage life is an aura hovering over Time and Space supercharging the twentieth century. Heretofore, critics averted their eyes from its ultraviolet brilliance, banished it to the upper reaches of the ionosphere to avoid the constant shock of its vibrations. With just a few anecdotes, I will harness this violent current, feed it to the ravenous power station to pulse through a radial network of static chatter, conducting new energy heart oxygen spirit into the bloodstream of art. My oratorio will bring the man—airplane down to earth for a momentary landing before launching him refueled into the firmament.

 

Although enfant terrible Ennio Alata never signed his name to a single Futurist manifesto, Marinetti’s founding credo must for him have represented a creative call to arms. Why else would he have kept his clipping from the February 20, 1909, edition of Le Figaro taped to the wall above his writing desk until the day of his death? To what extent Alata hitched his artistic ambitions to the racecar that was Futurism, as it hurtled down its collision course with history, remains a subject of disinterested debate. But no matter how the arguments vie, lapping round and round one another, the outcome is always the same: Absent material artifacts to attest to the value of his artistic production, Alata is discounted as a fickle dilettante, his early death a loss modernism suffers unmourned.

My appeals to the critical elites to reevaluate Alata’s legacy in light of the film fragment whose contents I will, in due course, unveil, have all gone unheeded. Dr. Bertram Beake of Wexford, Chair of the International Society for Modernism, defiled my panel proposal with a curt rejection which may as well have been a slap in the face, as that would have stung less. I cannot help but find such a rejection ironic, given the Futurists’ own abhorrence of academia, of so-called cognoscenti heaping -isms on top of one another like gravediggers filling a crowded cemetery. That a stodgy conference on Futurism would constitute a farce of colossal proportions clearly scurried right under Beake’s turned-up beak. With this manifesto, I mobilize the vanguard of avant-gardists, those wishing to revolt against institutes and societies who stick the corpses of Modernist movements under glass with pins. Together, we will declaim the genius of this brief film, in a forum not unlike those Futurist Evenings which, in their day, so upended correctness. Alata, of course, would have approved.

Continue reading “Manifesto for Alata, Transcinematist; or Winged Imagination, by GLB Pym” – Fiction by Amanda Sarasien

“Dead Squirrel Oh My Soul” – Fiction by Caroll Sun Yang

Squirrel Nutkin – Beatrix Potter, 1903

A vision of roadkill gives life to some wonderfully psychotropic short fiction in “Dead Squirrel Oh My Soul,” one of two pieces by Caroll Sun Yang in our Spring 2017 issue.

{ X }

Jesus, don’t want me for a sunbeam.
Sunbeams are never made like me.

Nirvana

{ Squirrel }

IS THERE NOTHING SO EXTRAORDINARY ABOUT ROADKILL? Today, I have taken the exact measure of java, carbs and psycho-tropics to be able to keenly observe that this squirrel does not look dead but rather in slumber. An earth-colored body unmarred, at rest with a bushy tail curled slightly in, sharp-tipped paws laid upon each other as if in lazy prayer, a round frog belly covered in a down of cocoa-cream fur, overgrown teeth in a surprised mouth, slit wet eyes and such bitty folded ears pasted against its head. If I scream, will it hear me?

Los Angeles’ sunlight is stark, with a pale topaz gleam that provokes a suicidal nerve. I felt it many Augusts. Sometimes you will come out into this luster, from within dank dream-infested apartments or sprawling pseudo-Mediterranean abodes or any of the ill-composed habitats between and blink many times in an effort to calibrate self to such exposure. Blink, red behind the lids, blink, white, blink sunset, red-orange, white, blood oranges, white, tracers and floaters, veins, pomegranate, blink, open blue, blink… Thick polluting dust and the molecules of deferred hopes might take you. Sometimes that dazzling light plus the babble of traffic, daytime neon, alarms, vendors, construction, birds, elevators, footsteps, chewing, whispers… mated with the smell of tar and industry and perfumes and decay will deliver you straight to panic.

A poisonous sun shines hard on our dead squirrel, stiff rays push through a.m. clouds and smog. A religious feeling light spills over the beast, like it is a Virgin Mary in a master painting. The squirrel has a mother, as all must. A juvenile death is incorrect, even in the case of a peanut-brained mammal; premature death steals opportunities for action. Actions like falling in love, breaking up, falling apart, giving seed, taking seed, trusting again and slowly not. Imagine this rodent, before the vehicle met him, doing what it knew instinctively to do. Forage, collect, store, mate. It had innate sense of beginnings and endings. Begin spring. End spring. Begin summer. Reproduce. End that. Start fall. Collect like mad. Store. Feed. Reproduce. Spring. An ancient rhythm.

Cycle. Wilderness. Go.

Continue reading “Dead Squirrel Oh My Soul” – Fiction by Caroll Sun Yang

“The Monster Study” – Fiction by Andrew Davie

“The Monster Study” is Andrew Davie‘s nightmarish short story from our Spring 2017 issue.

{ 2014 }

DURING HIS TRIAL AT THE EXTRAORDINARY CHAMBERS in the Courts of Cambodia, Number 2 was asked how he could perpetrate such vile actions against fellow human beings? Silence followed as he stared blankly, a former party leader turned pariah.

The ceiling fans did little to cool the room, which had now housed the attendees for almost seven hours. Pressed shirts, which still reeked of moth balls and chemicals, now shone like they had been rubbed down with ham.

When he failed to respond, his crimes were repeated by one of the co-prosecutors. It took fifteen minutes to go through each particular count and subset. Spectators in the audience often had to leave the proceedings; their wailing could be heard just outside the room, piercing lamentations. One person fainted, and another became sick.

Number 2, as he was referred to during his leadership, looked somewhat annoyed now, a frail elderly man whose accused crimes took place nearly forty years prior. The co-prosecutor wiped sweat from her brow, and continued, stating these crimes had been corroborated by Numbers 3 and 4, whose testimony had been heard mere days before this particular trial started. She appealed to his vanity. She made bold declarations, systematically destroying everything he supposedly held dear: his patriotism, his leadership. She stated how his admission of guilt might save him from a death sentence. When she finished her remarks, she looked drained, aged, like she’d recently been paroled and released from the grips of a fever.

Throughout it all, he did not betray his inscrutable countenance.

{ 1981 }

Wes Craven sits at his desk staring at his typewriter. He is forty-four years old, and already the director of two films, which will become cult classics, noted for their graphic and sexual violence. However, he’s still mulling over what he regards as a failure with his first studio picture, Swamp Thing.

What makes matters worse, his friend and occasional collaborator, Sean Cunningham, has borne a successful series with his Friday the 13th films. Originally dubbed a failure, the third movie, now boasting a hockey mask-wearing villain, recently displaced Poltergeist as the number one movie at the box office.

Craven continues to stare. The ideas are not coming, and the frustration builds.

An avid birder, he grabs his binoculars and walks the winding path near his house out into the sunshine. The woman jogging by has no concept, no idea; this man is responsible for some of the most deplorable cinematic scenes released in the last few years. Their ignorance always pleases him; how he resembles some corn-fed Midwesterner but lurking right beneath the surface the capability for such atrocity. Flaubert once wrote, “Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” This mantra epitomizes Wes Craven. Returning to his house, he goes out onto the porch with yesterday’s newspaper. He begins skipping around from byline to byline until something grabs his attention: Cambodian refugees who die in their sleep.

Craven’s heart beats a little faster.

He skims over technical jargon about cardiac arrhythmia, or Brugada Syndrome, as possible causes of death and reads an interview with an assistant medical examiner who had treated six who had died.

As Craven reads the examiner’s words, the idea begins to form in his mind.

There are no bullet wounds, no puncture or stab wounds, no signs of any trauma or foul play, the examiner says: “I’ve been searching through medical journals for the last few days, and the only thing I can tell you is those people were literally scared to death.”

Relatives of the deceased believe the deaths to be the work of Khmout Sukkhot, a demon of Asian folklore who kills you while you sleep. Continue reading “The Monster Study” – Fiction by Andrew Davie

“Believe Me” – Fiction by Jono Naito

Dreaming of the Astral Plane – Norval Morrisseau (Copper Thunderbird), 1995

A mysterious man reunites with an old friend in “Believe Me,” Jono Naito‘s eerie & alluring short story from our Spring 2017 issue.

{ X }

AN OLD ACURA PULLED INTO THE DRIVEWAY in early November, during the last of the cold rains. I had my hand down the drain of a hot tub. I was out at my late uncle’s place, which I rented to rich types from the city. The deck was broken, the wires frayed, the roof peeling back with each passing year, but I would still come up the mountain to fix it. I liked the long breaks though, when no one was there, where I could be by myself for a week or so. A water-proof headrest floated in the leftover tub water. Being there was my purpose, at the time; I thought it was all I had. I stepped around the rusted metal furniture to watch the unexpected visitor, dangling my dripping arm far from my body. The car pulled away, leaving a man with a black coat and two hard leather briefcases. Facing me, I could see it wasn’t a coat, but a robe. It took a moment, but I realized the person was somehow Nathaniel Sharp.

“I need a place to stay,” he said, at a distance.

“Do you have a reservation?”

“Rules are prisons.” He hadn’t outgrown his familiar tone. His face was thickened by age, though the eyebrows, twisted over like the touching of two bent river-reeds, those were his. In grade school Nathaniel had little, round spectacles and carried notebooks with him wherever he went. The former was still perched on the tip of his raven’s beak nose, and at least one journal dangled from his hand. My body shivered in the wind as he approached. We were both the same age, but what thinning hair I could see made me second-guess the time. It had been twenty-five years since the tenth grade, when he left school without saying a word. It couldn’t have been that long already, I thought, I was still fairly young. Nathaniel, standing quietly before me, removed his hood.

“LaFarge gave me your info. He said you had a place up here. I have money.” He pulled a clod of bills from his pocket, aligning his eyes with mine. LaFarge was the one guy I still knew from school.

I took and unfolded the cash. “Why do you need a place?”

“I just do. Just for a few days. I have news, quite the news, but I can’t share it with you. Not out here.”

He looked at the trees around us, holding the suitcases closer to himself. When we were young he thought himself a wizard, and, for some time, so did I. I became worried, quickly, that he still thought this.  “What’s in there?”

“My equipment,” he said. “The standard, everything I need to continue my work.” He looked at the cottage wall. “It is nice here. Isolated. You must like it very much.”

I nodded. It had been awhile since a friend had to lean on me for help, and I couldn’t, at that moment, think of a way to say no. “Front door’s unlocked,” I said. “Loft bedroom to the left. You can set up there.”

Nathaniel nodded and put a hand on my shoulder, the edge of his thumb resting on my clavicle. It was strange to be touched. He smiled that same, child-wonder smile.

“It’s good to see you, Ford. I have much to show you.”

He left me in the chilled air and went to the front door. I considered changing my mind, but as I unfolded the bills I saw they were hundreds, quite a few of them. Money was money. Moving about inside I heard the suitcases, percussive. I returned to the hot tub, dipped my arm deep, and pulled on the valve to drain it.

{ X }

I sat on my couch and stared up at the loft. Nathaniel had fallen asleep quite abruptly, one boot visible. The scent of incense settled on the room; lavender, a smell that I used to adore for its ability to cleanse a space of bad energy. My phone shook on the table; it was, perhaps, a new tenant, finally messaging me back. Or junk email. In both cases I didn’t get up, and instead I continued to watch the single boot like a television for the next half an hour, wondering how long he’d be like that. As if he heard me thinking, Nathaniel eventually grunted and got up.

He maneuvered himself down the steps, hood back, exposing the edges of tattoos extending from his ears, down under the collar of an undershirt. He sat in the armchair by the wall, and looked out the window, licking his lips in silence. His socks were not matching; I could see under the hem.

“I finally did it.”

“Did what?”

He untangled the robe at his feet, hiding his socks again. He looked out again.

“It’s incredible.” He ran his fingers through his hair, almost like he was removing a toupee. “We spent all those years, and now I can do it.” I began counting the rings on his left hand. “Are we alone?”

“Yes,” I said.

He leaned forward. “I can do it, Ford. I can get into dreams.”

Continue reading “Believe Me” – Fiction by Jono Naito

“Picnic” – Fiction by A.E. Weisgerber

Home Movies – Rosalyn Drexler, 1963

“Picnic” is A.E. Weisgerber‘s potent & evocative flash fiction from our killer & cinematic Spring 2017 issue. (Fun fact: “Picnic” was also selected by Michael Ray at Zoetrope: All-Story for inclusion in the super-cool Cafe Zoetrope Short Story Dispenser!)

{ X }

IT WAS DRIZZLY AND FRIDAY AND THEY WERE POOR, so Yves and his new wife Della decided to dig out the 8mm. The projector—Bell & Howell, heavy and gray with a square-handled top—was passed down from the coat closet, followed by the Thom McCan shoe box, holding its small library of little films, each in a yellow and black cardboard box marked with catchall names like Cabin 1960, Aunt Belle, St. Anne, and such.

“Don’t forget to get that pen,” Yves said. “You can mark the one with your cousin in it.”

Della’s cousin, Pat Farelly, was back in the newspapers as his verdict was due shortly.

“Oh. Gosh right. What if they let him go?” Della brought the box into the living room.

“I don’t think he’s got a chance. Did you see the newspaper? those shackles?” Yves set down the bulky projector, unhasped its pebbly gray clamshell, shucked it. “With his limp on top of that?” The threading wasn’t so tricky, but once that lamp kicked on, it had to keep running or acrid smoke would announce holes burning through the celluloid.

With a china crayon, Della added ‘killer’ to the little carton’s subject line, and set it aside. “Remember how he locked all the doors?”  Della always selected the same films, and it wouldn’t be an official movie night without watching Honeymoon, the time the old Falcon got stuck in the snow.

Continue reading “Picnic” – Fiction by A.E. Weisgerber

“Torture Game” – Fiction by Ryan Bradford

Clouds on Screen at a Drive-In Movie – Diane Arbus, 1960

The following SNEAK PREVIEW of our Spring 2017 issue, FLAPPERHOUSE #13, contains MOVIE MAGIC, SEXUAL SITUATIONS, and EXTREME HORROR, and is NOT INTENDED FOR IMMATURE OR UNCOOL AUDIENCES.

Now that y’all been warned, we present “Torture Game,” Ryan Bradford‘s fiendish fiction about a dark date-night at the drive-in.

(If you like what you read, you can pre-order a digital (PDF) copy of FLAPPERHOUSE #13 for $3US via PayPal and see it fly into your emailbox by the Vernal Equinox. Print copies will be available on Amazon & CreateSpace real soon…)

{ X }

THEY WERE IN EACH OTHER’S PANTS WHEN THE FIRST TWIST OCCURRED: the man wasn’t a protagonist. He was in cahoots with the killer. He, himself, was a killer. Perhaps worse than a killer, because he used likeability and charm to earn trust.

“Oh shit,” Lou said. “Oh shit oh shit.” He shivered as Nancy finished him. His fingers, crushed numb by her waistband, had stopped working. They breathed hard in the stale cab, listening to the film’s muted sound through Lou’s shitty speakers. Their arms crisscrossed into each other’s undone clothing.

Lou rested his head against the seat and let the blood return to his extremities. “Damn, girl,” he said. He hooked his finger, still inside her pants, and Nancy jumped. “Want me to finish you?”

“Nah,” she said.

They pulled away from each other. Nancy rolled down the window, put her arm out, and flicked his mess off her fingers. Pacific wind filled the car. The air felt electrified somehow—simultaneously comforting and buzzing.

Lou sniffed his fingers, still wet with Nancy. She laughed and slapped his hand away from his nostrils.

“Don’t be gross,” she said.

He wiped his hand across his jeans and then reached for the back of her head. They kissed again—sweetly, this time. The passion had run its course. He watched the movie out of the corner of his eye. On the screen, the killer slit a woman’s neck and she screamed, watery.

Nancy moved away from Lou’s lips and rested her chin on his shoulder. She had never liked horror movies, so she stared out the back window.

“You notice that car before?”

Lou turned and looked. The drive-in on the weeknights was their thing because it was usually dead. They could drink, smoke, fool around in the backseat, and not worry about the kids that usually dominated the lot on the weekends. Nothing killed a good buzz like the screams of wild children running between the cars. Tonight had been less populated than usual. The news had predicted rain. There were three other cars in the lot when they arrived. This old, brown Cadillac parked behind their car had not been one of them.

“No,” Lou said.

“I don’t like it.”

“How come?”

“I don’t know.” She paused. “It looks like it’s pretending to sleep.”

Continue reading “Torture Game” – Fiction by Ryan Bradford