Tag Archives: Brendan Byrne

“a Stone and a Cloud” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne

The Familiar World - Rene Magritte, 1958
The Familiar World – Rene Magritte, 1958

The grand finale of our Winter 2016 issue is Brendan Byrne‘s “a Stone and a Cloud,” an unforgettable short story of modern alienation & techno-anxiety. But not only is this story your last look at FLAPPERHOUSE #8– it’s also your first look at the forthcoming anthology by the esteemed Dark Mountain Project, in which “a Stone & a Cloud” will be reprinted later this Spring.

{ X }

THE FIRST TIME I MET CLARE SHE TOLD ME SHE DIDN’T WANT TO BE HUMAN ANYMORE. She didn’t tell me verbally or via backchat, but from the way she tilted her head when I introduced myself, her lips pressing together, her eyes vacating, as if she was trying to imagine herself inside me, somewhere past the skin, the skull, and the meat. And then there is the fact that Artur introduced us.

 

An Open Field. You stand in it, and the background blurs. A thick sheen of rain obscures the horizon, or maybe your eyesight fails to serve the level of detail around you. Like a ’70s film on an HD screen, you can see more than you’re capable of being comfortable with. You sit; the grass underneath you supports you unquestioningly. Your hands hover in front of you: they want to do nothing, cracked and aching as they are. You lay back; you are supported perfectly, the mound of your lower back fitting with the slope of the land. You ever so faintly arch. Are you on an incline? It is such a gradual gradient that you would never notice. The sky above you is woven with soft gray clouds and their manatee offspring. They truck slowly across. There is no threat, though you know it must rain often enough; the land is too green. The field reminds you of somewhere you have never been but have read about online, someplace authentic, someplace where you can be yourself, a place free of politics and anxiety. You twitch, sleeping with your eyes open, but you don’t need to dream: the clouds pass above.

 

“You don’t look like a videogame designer.”

“What does one look like?”

This conversation, she’d say later, had been repeated endlessly. The guy shrugged, his ice cubes trying to crawl out of his cocktail. He wasn’t embarrassed, but he didn’t have an answer. I could have answered: not so blank, not so restful.

Instead I asked her which games she’d designed. When she told me, I was surprised to find that I’d played one, and told her so. “It has decent market penetration among your population.” She said it cold and slow enough that she could have been reading it off a spreadsheet. She didn’t give me any body language.

Not knowing what else to say, I introduced myself. The guy with the ice cubes looked at me indolent and aggressive as a medium-sized cat, and she said to me, “Artur was telling me I should talk to you.”

“About what?”

She didn’t respond immediately; she was still looking at my face. The guy with the ice cubes began saying something, so I nodded once, raised my glass of cheap white wine and walked away. I drifted to the edge of the roof; the scrum of people got thicker. They surrounded the bar, though nobody was getting drinks, just admiring the rough, dark wood, the brass scalloping, rough and warped; it had just been salvaged from the captain’s stateroom on a recently decommissioned destroyer and bolted into the roof. Someone in engineering tried to explain the process to me but eventually gave up, lacking reassurance. I wondered if any of Artur’s people self-styled as a woodsmith; Artur certainly didn’t. They were probably going to hire some artisanal Brooklyn guy with a superior website and beard to come in and spend several weeks imaginatively restoring it.

I walked to the opposite side of the roof. There was no one there, just the skyline. I could be impressed by it, if I let myself. I turned and looked back to where Clare was standing, next to a kind of plant I’d never seen before. Artur was there, wide and short and game in his perversion of business casual. They both looked at me. He grinned and waved me over. I mimed a grin, drained my glass and left the party.

 

She stood almost six foot. Her hair was short cut, yellow as a digital rendering of straw. Her avi was a collapse of autumnal humus, undergrowth that looked like it had been churned in some herbivore’s stomach sacs and exuded. She wore no jewelry. Her social was protected; I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t send a follower request. She’d been wearing a tortoise-shell shirt, shellacked like the animal’s skin. Her fingers were thin.

 

NYU MFA ’10, she’d done a game as her thesis. Assemblyline Worker #5697 @ Apple Plant #72, Guangdong Province! was released right before Steam launched its OS X platform, leaving it just underexposed enough to become culty. “There was a vogue toward boring the player,” she said in an interview two years later.  “This was, I think, partially lifted from the Contemporary Contemplative Cinema movement, which was at high tide then. Indie gamers wanted to suffer for their play. I was happy to help them. And the Foxconn suicides were in the news. Apple backlash was kicking up. Jobs wasn’t dead yet. It seemed obvious. I could do it, so I did it, and then it was just this thing, outside of me. I let it stay there.”

Continue reading “a Stone and a Cloud” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne

“The Glassblower” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne

St. George - Hans Acker, 1440 "Ulm-Muenster-NeithartKapelleFenster-061209" by Joachim Köhler - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
St. George – Hans Acker, 1440. From the Lutheran Cathedral “Ulm-Muenster.” Photo by Joachim KöhlerOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

From our Winter 2015 issue, Brendan Byrne‘s “The Glassblower” is an anti-serial killer story with industrial post-punk undertones.

{ X }

THE SLOW, WET, GAPING PULSE of Chew Stum Valley morning.  I place the cup of crap hotel coffee, cold, on the front porch and lift the crime scene tape, blue and white on this side of the ocean. The door is unlocked behind it.

The hallway is boring; the siderooms are boring. They look kitted out by some mid-century landlady, keen on boiled breakfasts and bachelor boys, all of life justified by air raids. This, despite the fact that Thorne lived alone and unaided for the past several decades. I skip rooms, ignoring the outdated TV, the slack bookshelves with Protestant classics bound in imitation leather, dull watercolors of sheep and boulders and sheep. True Arcadia kitsch.

I treat the home like a canal, cut through it straight. Out the bookdoor, down the pseudo-quaint little cobble-stone steps and through the dead, knee-high garden (how is it that I’m sweating?), straight to the door of the old small chapel, which sits at the edge of the property. No caution tape here which, if I pause and force myself to smirk, I can see the irony of. This is where Thorne really lived. This is where the Glassblower, whoever he was, was born.

I open the door.

 

Earlier, Nailsea

 

Hanging in the air of the small club is a special kind of exhaustion. Post-synth drainage and slow throb the color of headaches. The patient mold of the interior of an orgasm on the screen behind the stage. Two white-suited henchmen disassemble the two hundred-odd pounds of equipment, exchanging quiet, sick little stories. A squat and beautiful young woman with deliberate scaration decorating her shoulders picks crushed plastic cups and discarded drug delivery systems off the floor.  Edward sits on the small, high stool propping open the emergency exit, smoking Silk Cut. A heavy, though not fat man, he has shed his own straightjacket and now wears a gray hunter’s flannel above leather pants. His beard is russet and dirty snow, but he does not sit like a mage, more like a Catholic schoolboy, tilted as if to avoid notice and suggest other perpetrators. He exhales a plume of gray, which then leaks out the door where hot scummy rain pounds the twist of a convoluted alleyway. The resultant battering on concrete is almost a nothing sound. It is distinct, but as if you are always hearing it and have only just caught on.

“Where do you live?”

“Me?” I adjust the glowing iPhone on my right thigh, the digital read of the recording time running what seems impossibly fast.

“You.”

His voice isn’t the soft, unstrained tone it is on the more lunar tracks, nor does it approach his dead bandmate’s abrasive, churning yowl, once over-described very well in the NME as the final screams of a fetus about to be eaten by its twin. It is moderate, a cast-off discursive tone, flowing and clipped simultaneously. I don’t know enough about England to place it, if its origin is in fact geographic.

“I live a bunch of places.”

Edward tightens his posture, legs crossed, knees snug together. Back straight, barely inches away from touching that metal door. He watches as I light my own cigarette, eyes following my movements. I find myself secreting from some kind of self-conscious gland.

“Berlin. Sometimes. I lived in New York longer than anywhere else. My parents live in Roanoke. Thought you’d like that,” I say, even though he’s given no sign he recognizes the name. “CROATOAN and all that. It’s a one-story beach house. They have most of my library, but it’s wilting. Salt air.” I drink some of the Powers he prefers. His is still untouched. “I have an ex in Austin.”

“But you never lived there.”

“No, not really.”

“We lived,” he inclines his chin out the door into the alley, as if Silence was out there, spectral and soaked, leaking fetid ectoplasm from his wounds. “In the same place for nearly 19 years. A few miles west of here, actually.” He accentuates the directionality with the inverse of a hiss, taps ash onto the floor with absent deliberation. “But you knew that.”

“Yes.”

“You work with Hélène?”

“Sometimes.”

“I like her.”

“She speaks of you highly. We got extremely drunk once, and she said how much she enjoyed visiting your… chalet.”

His laughter is an immediate, reserved thing, not trailing off but ending with extreme deliberation. “Is that the word she used?”

“Yes, not without some irony.”

“She wanted to talk about sex, so we talked about sex, though I don’t think she got quite what she wanted. But you don’t want to talk about sex.”

“No. I don’t think so at least.”

“You don’t want to talk about music either. You want to talk about James.”

“Never made a secret of it. It was in the email.”

“I never read the email.”

“It was in the subject line of the email.”

He smiles once, the muscles’ contraction and relaxation forming feral movements. He is still heavily avuncular, without the attendant smarm.

“You don’t want to talk about it. Fine. Let’s talk about The Quartered Man’s commitment to spontaneity.”

“There was no commitment to anything.” And then, before I could figure out exactly what the fuck to say to that: “At times, we could have been spontaneous.”

“‘Could have been?’”

“We were capable of it.”

“Your choice of recording spaces seemed to have been fluid.”

“Choice?” Someone else’s laugh runs wild in the alley. “I cannot remember, dear boy, the number of places we recorded. I believe I slept, shat, ate, and fucked in all of them though. If that helps you.” His cigarette has not gone out yet. I find this difficult to believe. Perhaps I simply did not notice him light a new one. Shafts of remembered cinema history: Cigarettes, despite their prevalence, were always a bitch for editors to keep track of. Whether they were lit, how far they had burned down. It makes me light another of my own, for continuity.

“Do you know much about the Vietnamese culture?”

“I read a bit, knowing I’d be talking to you.”

Co bac?”

I shake my head, sip my whiskey. His is almost gone. Another continuity problem.

“It’s not a test. Ong bac are spirits of the ancestor. Co bac are spirits of strangers. But neither is given preferential treatment. They are obvious, in a way nothing is obvious to the Occidental mind, which needs proof.” He says the word as if shitting with his mouth. “They are equal. Even if the particular co bac was, in life, an aggressor. Such as an American service-man. Each is acknowledged and granted a social existence.” His spent cigarette arcs into the alley; it is struck down by droplets.  “That is why I am going to Vietnam.” Soft, dignified smile. “They will know how to look after my spirit.”

So, I manage not to say, it’s not just the boys then. Instead: “You mean the English are incapable of tending to it?” Continue reading “The Glassblower” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne

FLAPPERHOUSE : Year One

Coming soon in soft, pulpy paperback.
Stay tuned…FY1F&BCs

 

“Human Child” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne

By SJNikon - Sam Roberts [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Worship – Sam Roberts, 2010

There’s a vague but undeniable dread stalking the reader from the margins of “Human Child,” Brendan Byrne‘s story from our Fall 2014 Issue.

{ X }

IT HAS BEEN AN ACHING DAY. The sky heals like a scab, but nothing has split it, and it has never bled an ounce of fluid. Light the first of the evening. My hands ache. Fluxing bone pain which doesn’t dissipate. Rest my elbows on the black metal railing adjacent to the basement stairs. A Japanese guy with coiffed hair and a model’s blank face brushes by, street-level. I think I hear him say, sotto voce, into a phone curled against the side of his skull,  “…other territories… how does it feel there?”

The door jerks towards me: I catch it.  The last of the maggots file out, pawing at coats, extracting packs of cigarettes, demanding lights off each other, howling about the stupidity of associates and lovers. I wait till they’re halfway down the block, then go back inside. Clear the scrap-wood tables of barely begun drinks, kick the chairs and jerk the tables back into some kind of order. I have my head down, starting the wash, when the door heaves and wheezes.

Kid. Small and thin. White-stained hoodie draped, obscuring features. He’s looking at my face in the way people who know you look at you. I straighten up and move down the bar towards him. Just from the way he’s standing, I know I don’t know him.

“Gonna have to see ID, man.”

As I approach, the candle throws up yellow globe light, and I can see the shorn sides of his head. Scraped unclean with cheap razors. I tighten, keep a good deal of the bar between the two of us. I think of the metal bar under the wash.

“Not looking for a drink.” His voice is a slurry of broken things. His hands jammed into the hoodie’s pockets. He hasn’t looked anywhere except right at me. There’s a bunch of things I could say. None of them would ease the situation in the necessary direction.

His eyes are somewhere I’ve never been. “Knowa girl named Kimmie?”

“Don’t know anyone named that, no.”

“Kimmie.”

“No idea.”

The kid leans slightly over the bar. I can see the beginning of lazy slashes of tribal tattooing on his wrists. There is what looks like at first a severe case of eczema on his neck, but as he comes closer, I can see it’s scar-art, created through glass laceration. Thought it was out of style.

And I can smell him. Old puke and new trash. Like one of the gutter punks who camps out in Tompkins Square Park and adjoining streets, but they don’t come in here, they know better than that.

“Said she knew you.”

“No idea, man. Sorry.”

“You’re Aaron.”

“No, that’s not my name.”

His single, simple grin. “Kimmie said.”

“Not me.”

“Aaron.”

“No.”

“Aaron.” It’s a statement. He places both his hands on the bar like they’re dead birds he’s been carrying around too long in his pockets. “She said you knew how to get back.”

“Get back where?”

He thinks this is funny: his face begins to convulse around the slit of a smile. His body is impossibly still, like a caryatid of an unseen palace. Then his neck begins to spasm, and something happens to his eyes. His shoulder twitches, and his head drops as if he’s mid-seizure. I step back, place the base of my spine against the counter behind me. A middle age couple comes through the door bubbling and laughing, talking about the never-removed Christmas lights, calling for two Stella. In the second I look away from the kid, he was out the door, quick-lurching up the stairs. The couple brightly ignores his transit, settling. I pour the beer, take money, give change. Stymie attempted dialogue, “How long has this place been here…” Curve around the bar. Outside. Up the concrete stairs.

There is nothing on the sidewalk except for dog shit, menthols smoked down to the nub, and chip bags, inside-out, gleaming. The sky is wet and swirled with grays, refusing to rain.

 

Continue reading “Human Child” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne

FLAPPERHOUSE #3 Now On Sale!

Our Fall 2014 issue is so wonderfully bizarre & freakishly beautiful it’ll make your cheeks quiver & explode. It begins with an Alternate Reality Game, ends with a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, and in between there’s pink slime, raving gods, naked alligator rides, regurgitated Raymond Carver, a bunch more fiction that’s too bizarre to summarize here, and some phenomenal poetry. 

FLAPPERHOUSE #3 is no longer available for sale in digital (PDF) format
because it’s NOW AVAILABLE FOR FREE right here!

Just click the cover to enjoy…

FLAPPERHOUSE#3Cover

including

“Human Child” – Brendan Byrne
“Blood Ties”Diana Clarke
“Map of the Twentieth Century”Samantha Duncan
“We Dream of Our Dead Pets”Carl Fuerst
“Friday Night, Saturday Morning”M.N. Hanson
“I Climb Down the Tree One-Handed and in Another Life,”
“Piney and Buoyant We Wave, Consecrate,”
“Ode to Joy,”
“Painstaking,” and
“This is the Shaky Phase”–  Jessie Janeshek
“Chicken Sandwich”Rebecca Ann Jordan
“Meeting”Jeff Laughlin
“Buried Treasure”Ashley Lister
“ARG”Anthony Michael Morena
“reflect / refract,”
“Pentacost,”
“them bones,”
“Year of the Horse,”
and “Street Music”Emily O’Neill
“Laundromat”Smith Smith
“The Hole”Samantha Eliot Stier
“We Call Her Mama”Natalia Theodoridou
“Cold Duck” – Joseph Tomaras
“Just Another Evening”Dusty Wallace

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #1, In Pictures

We wish to offer our warm, feathery gratitude to everyone who joined us for our first reading last night, as well as to those who couldn’t make it but were there in spirit, not to mention the extremely kind staff at Pacific Standard, to the amazing Alibi Jones for all her assistance and photography, and of course to our esteemed readers (Mila, Brendan, J.E., & T.). Maybe let’s do this again a few months down the road?

The editor & the amazing Alibi Jones welcome the crowd. Photo by Trisha Siegelstein
The editor & the amazing Alibi Jones welcome the crowd. Photo by Trisha Siegelstein.
Mila Jaroniec reads from her novel-in-progress. Photo by Alibi Jones.
Mila Jaroniec reads from her novel-in-progress. Photo by Alibi Jones.
Brendan Byrne reads from
Brendan Byrne reads from “Human Child,” from our forthcoming Fall issue. Photo by Alibi Jones.
Joseph P. O'Brien reads his short story,
Joseph P. O’Brien reads his short story, “Reaper Taps.” Photo by Alibi Jones.
J.E. Reich reads her short story
J.E. Reich reads her short story “I Will Be There But I Will Not.” Photo by Alibi Jones.
T. Mazzara reads
T. Mazzara reads “Rebel, Rebel” from FLAPPERHOUSE #1. Photo by Alibi Jones.