“Behind the Laughter” by Emma Power

The bittersweet applause,

rattles in the comedian’s ears, 

as he steps from the stage. 

For he knows,

as the afterglow of the adulation fades,

insidious intent lurks in it’s shadows.

Whispers and murmurs begin a drip…

drip of poison that filters into his fragile heart,

clawing at his vulnerability until he’s intoxicated,

reveling in the dark magic flowing through his veins.

In his heart though,

despair spins in chaos as the inevitable storm rolls in,

and loneliness announces its return… 

IMMERSION by Amanda Bergloff

“Immersion” by Amanda Bergloff.

*

Emma Power loves reading and writing poetry from her home in Manchester, England. She has many poems published online under E Power, on Footballpoets.org, scriggler.com, and poetrypulse.com. She also has work forthcoming on lightenup-online.co.uk. She also has a little obsession with writing little ‘Tweetlits‘ on Twitter, which can be found on @epower05.

“Sky King” by Joseph S. Pete

The fireworks got marked down drastically every year after the Fourth of July, and even more precipitously after New Year’s Eve, which is when Doug stocked up, carting an empty cardboard beer case full of enough pyrotechnics to burst a dam, to rip a solid block of concrete asunder.

But it was still winter, and the windswept cold was so merciless his fingers burned like broiling meat in that chill air. He had to wait until winter’s onslaught abated, until the ice melted and the lake opened up.

Then one day, long after the snow receded, a freak miracle made it feel like a relatively balmy spring day. It was time.

Doug hopped on his uncle’s purloined dirt bike double-fisted with handfuls of Beast Mode mortars he picked up from Sky King Fireworks on Route 6 and that were sure to scintillate and amaze. The scraggly, paunchy guy in the faded T-shirt behind the counter claimed these bad boys were reserved for the most grandiloquent of grand finales, that they were military grade and still illegal in most states, and that they would have been impossible to obtain without the owner’s connections. He knew people, man.

The bike roared with anticipation. Doug revved the rumbling engine over and over, clutching between his teeth a plastic candle lighter he scored from an altar boy in a trade for a gram of pot.

“History,” he mumbled, barely comprehensibly. “About to make history.”
“Whatever dear,” Gillian said, staring down at her phone.
“Make sure you’re getting this,” he called out muffledly over the engine.

Doug took a deep breath. A glorious destiny awaited. He accelerated toward the lake.
Todd trained his phone shakily on Doug as the motorcycle ripped toward the ramp they jacked from the derelict skate park on the rundown side of town. Gillian glanced up, for just a second.

“Idiot.”

Execution was key. It would, of course, be tricky. Doug had to light the buy-one-get-six-free explosives so they’d detonate just as he arced over the ramp into the lake, so immersion in the cold water would save him if he got burned while airborne. Failure could cost him fingers, dispatch him to the emergency room with third-degree burns, or reduce the whole stunt to a lame wormhole-like timesuck. Plus, his uncle might figure out who jacked his bike, so this had to work. It absolutely had to. The stakes were too high.
He aced the jump.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Coruscating blasts spread bright streaks of light across the sky as Doug flew toward the expectant lake. The sky was aflame. He was soaring, as though on a zip line, between columns of incandescent fire. Sunburst after fiery sunburst splashed across the bright blue azure.

“Damn. I mean, goddamn,” Todd marveled, though Doug had told him to keep absolutely quiet while filming.

As hoped, the uploaded video went viral, garnering millions of views and spreading across social media networks like kudzu. Doug’s phone chirped ceaselessly with non-stop notifications. Likes, favs and hearts flooded in. He amassed a million new followers overnight.

Screenshots of his aerial exploits got the meme treatment, making him even more ubiquitous online. He was featured on Twitter Moments, spotlighted on Snapchat Discover and trended on Facebook for days.

Soon he was on Good Morning America, The Late Late Show, and some show on Viceland that was canceled the next week, recounting the self-aggrandizing anecdotes he rehearsed in his head whenever he was terminally bored, like when he was waiting to clock out at the cell phone accessories store or in the drive-through waiting on a No. 2 combo. He got invited to visit Facebook corporate headquarters, where they gave him a tour and had him address a lobby full of bored-looking programmers. They even started screen printing him on T-shirts. Those didn’t sell particularly well, but still.

It wasn’t long before he was in a glistening skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles, wondering how he even got there. As the suits presented a check, Doug happened to remember Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” a story he hadn’t given any thought to since middle school. Stale lake water suddenly filled his lungs. More and more water glugged down his throat. It was a rush, a rampage, a shock of ice water in his scalded esophagus. His head felt light as blood streamed out of his temple. His entire body burned.

The pain was agonizing. The fireworks had flayed him, and now he was drowning. Charred flesh started to slough off. He looked up and around, but could only see murky water everywhere. Even if he made it to the top, he might not be able to escape the shelf of ice, which was likely impenetrable and unavoidable if you came up at the wrong angle. He was too weakened and too agonized to even try. His whole body tingled with shock.
His lips parted.
“Legends never die. Legends… ”

Todd posted the video online as a tribute to his friend, even though he swore he had heard as a kid snuff films were illegal and the “Faces of Death” filmmakers got locked up for a very, very long time. But it was what Doug would have wanted and it was all just so tragic, especially when they never found the body after three days of dredging the lake. He had to do it, for his friend.

The video got seven views and one comment about how it was an epic fail and another about how much vertical video sucks.

IMG_0281

If only the snow hadn’t receded.

*

Joseph S. Pete (@nwi_jsp) is an Iraq War veteran, an award-winning journalist, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio in Merrillville. He was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest 2016, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His work has appeared in The Five-Two, Chicago Literati, Dogzplot, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Blue Collar Review, Lumpen, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Pulp Modern, Zero Dark Thirty and elsewhere. He once Googled the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. True story, believe it or not.

“When To Report A Co-worker” by Maria L. Berg

So yesterday Amanda said she was reptilian, but doesn’t remember what planet she’s from. Amanda is my friend at work. We get along really well. She makes me laugh. I’m not sure I believe her though. I’ve decided to make a list of things I know about her to see if she’s really a reptilian.

What I Know About Amanda

1. She says her skin is always dry and flaky – She puts coconut oil on herself all the time. She told me to touch her hair once. It felt dry and greasy at the same time, but it smelled good and my hand did too.

2. She has an affinity for snakes especially cobras. She also bought a pin that was an alligator with lady legs – I wanted one, but I’m not reptilian.

3. She has tattoos covering all the skin on her arms – I wonder if she covered her arms with tattoos to hide defects in her fake human skin.

4. She gets bad headaches because one of her eyes sees long distances, but the other eye doesn’t – Maybe she lost one of her fake human eyes.

5. She rides a motorcycle in dire need of a new seat – Why not get a new seat? Reptilians might not feel anything in their butts.

6. Her dog never barks – Maybe it knows. Maybe its afraid she’ll eat it.

I think that proves it. I work with a reptilian. I ask her if she has remembered what planet she’s from yet, but she says she doesn’t because those memories got lost during the flight to Earth.

A lady told my friend, Andy, that the president is reptilian. I ask Amanda if that’s true and she says she doesn’t know. She says they have a tell, a way they can identify each other, she just doesn’t remember what it is.

So Amanda is reptilian, that doesn’t change our friendship, but I think something might be wrong with her. Like, the other day, she really smelled. I mean, yeah, there are times when I forget my deodorant and mid-day I’m like, “I hope I’m the only one that smells me,” but there’s funk and then there’s: I just ate a raw fish that I found in the dumpster, FUNK. I gave her a little gift of CK One, baby powder and every flavor of Altoids, but if she’s using them, it’s not helping.

I also think she might be molting. I keep finding large flakes of skin on the table, the floor, in the coffee pot, like all over the place. I know they’re hers because I recognize her tattoos. She’s starting to have a bit of a green tint under certain lighting, like sunlight.

I’m worried she’s trying to avoid me. We don’t chat and laugh like we used to, before she told me she’s reptilian. But I hear her mumbling under her breath all the time when she’s not talking to me. I think she’s remembering why she came to earth. I think I heard her say something about taking over this region for the reptilian overlords before she left for lunch.

I’m feeling kinda torn. On the one hand, Amanda’s my only friend at work. Sure she’s acting weird and might be a leader in a hostile alien take-over, but she keeps me entertained and helps me get through the day. On the other hand, that smell and she has grown very sharp teeth and claws, which are not “conducive to a healthy work environment”–I’ve been studying the Employee Manual. I mean, a lot of people just stopped showing up for work. The lunch room is practically empty. Everyone probably got grossed out watching her eat. That blood running down her chin and staining her shirt is making me lose my appetite.

At what point do you report a co-worker as being reptilian without sounding racist?

Titan

Looks like the reptilian home world to me.

*

Maria L. Berg (@authormariaberg) enjoys brisk swims in the Pacific Northwest. Her flash fiction has been published in Five on the Fifth and Waking Writer. When not writing adult fiction, she writes and photo-illustrates Gator McBumpypants adventure stories. 

Her work can be readily found online here and here.

“The Accountant and the Polygraph” by Ryan Sonneville

Uniontown3

You’re going downtown.

Marcus perspired as the gravity of his situation began to set in. He was warned to avoid traveling from his designated district but found the siren call of the north ensnaring.  Having been crafted in Boston to carry out accounting minutia, Marcus assumed few clones of his make would be wandering about in Northern California. 

Now he faced a hardnosed detective, alone in a brightly lit interrogation room. Scattered about the worn table he was handcuffed to was a catalog of evidence amassed by the Santa Rosa Police Department; fingerprints, DNA samples, and eye-witness accounts all putting him at the scene of the murder.

“We don’t even need your confession,” confidently stated the detective as he ran his hands over the security camera printouts. “There is more than enough here that goes beyond circumstantial evidence pinning you to this crime.”

Marcus wished he had come to town with a friend. He had no alibi that could be substantiated, no good reason for being in a residential area at 3 AM. The picture procured by the detective showed a man identical to himself right down to the tightly trimmed haircut.

“I am telling you…I was tipsy and just wandered into the neighborhood. I swear… that isn’t me in the picture. The agency that designed me built nearly two-dozen copies. The person who killed that woman, it must be one of them.”

The detective smirked in disapproval. Marcus knew his story seemed unlikely; although cloning had become commonplace in the last decade due to a diminishing workforce, happenstances like this were rare.  Clones were designed to be workhorses and seldom strayed from their designated tasks and assigned locales. The itch Marcus had to drive north and visit wine country was not in keeping with his model’s design.

“I want to take a polygraph,” stammered Marcus as he kneaded his temples.

The detective sighed and left the room to get the apparatus out of storage. With the litany of evidence putting him at the crime scene and no credible alibi at hand, his only chance was to demonstrate his innocence via the outmoded device. Knowing that this may be his only shot at proving his innocence, Marcus began to shudder.

He was promptly strapped into the polygraph and the detective fired off a serious of baseline questions to calibrate the device.

 “What’s your name?”

 “Marcus Armstrong.” He stated confidently.

 “What’s your place of origin?”

Marcus paused for a moment. “…Glastonbury, MA.” This was the location of his first memory: being educated in accounting at his manufacturer’s lab. The needles of the polygraph shifted faintly.

“How old are you?”

Again Marcus paused. He was created at his present visible age; he was unsure of an exact date of birth.

“…I was fashioned six years ago.” Again the machine sputtered in response to his hesitant proclamation.

“Why were you in Santa Rosa last night?”

“I wanted to see wine country.”

This was the response Marcus had repeated in private dozens of times leading up to his trip. He muttered it so many times that he almost believed it to be true. The polygraph saw through his polished, studied declaration. Marcus could see the distance between the marked lines grow on the paper expelled from the machine like blood leaking from a split artery.

Marcus did not know what compelled him to do so, but he had determined to escape the life designed for him. With just a change of clothes and the money in his pocket, he intended to leave his prescribed life for an unknown future. He hoped to hide his motivations from the detective; he was technically property of his manufacturer rented out to his employer. The polygraph began to note the change in Marcus’ heart rate.

The detective stared at the hapless clone. He didn’t need the antiquated machine to see something did not match up with the accused’s story.

“Who did you plan to…” began the detective but was abruptly interrupted.

“I need a lawyer…”

Marcus pulled the cords connecting him to the machine and began to weep. The detective smirked, slowly shuffled the papers on the table into a neat stack and filled them into the weathered evidence dossier. 

*

Ryan Sonneville (@r_sonneville) is a writer and teacher in Sonoma County, California. His work can be found online.

“Lone Space Traveller Logs” by Analogue Robot

Universe.jpgLog #6561

Same dream again, emotions overwhelming,

Rich with sensory perceptions of touch, of taste and smell,

Felt my skin brush off another’s,

I warmed to smiles of younger others,

I feel I’ve been here once before,

I wish to sleep and sense this more…

 

Log #7448

Wander as I do, no other way to know,

With goals, ambition, self-fuelled determination,

Moments enlighten, bring darkness aglow,

I survive, aim to thrive, marking sessions of progression,

Wonder as I do, of aeons past,

Those challenges and missions of those gone by,

Of human minds and journey tasks,

A thousand questions, the ifs and the why,

Where does the voyage cease,

To what end will all entail,

Does a land exist of peace?

To which direction I must sail,

Is the quest that I behest, to some place of me I send,

Merely a trip, of me to grip, till I reach my own life’s end…

 

Log #8401

Panic ensued, should be used to it now,

Imminent death invokes brains defensive vow,

For embedded code I survive once more,

I know I have purpose, though I know not what for.

“The Awards” by Emma Power

A star studded evening, 
Glamorous and bold.
Behind the glow white smiles,
The real drama unfolds.
Rivalry sits with envy and hatred,
over statues of gold.
But the beaming award winners,
Bare a burden untold.
A secret price they have paid,
With the devil for their souls. 
damned.jpg

“The Damned Soul” by Michelangelo Buonarroti

*
Emma Power loves reading and writing poetry from her home in Manchester, England. She has many poems published online under E Power, on Footballpoets.org, scriggler.com, and poetrypulse.com. She also has work forthcoming on lightenup-online.co.uk. She also has a little obsession with writing little ‘Tweetlits‘ on Twitter, which can be found on @epower05.

March Debut: Introduction

Without further delay (there were more cobwebs to remove than anticipated), The Evening Theatre proudly introduces this debut performance! We have a wondrously superb – and gruesome – double bill slated for your enjoyment. Our contributors to this performance span two continents and multiple countries. Our lineup is bookended with poetry by Emma Power (@epower05) and includes a tremendously misdirecting comedic piece by Maria L. Berg (@authormariaberg). Analogue Robot (@contechnics) has gifted us with a marvelous exploration of automation, mind, and space in “Lone Space Traveller Logs”.

Our double bill features wonderfully crafted short stories by Ryan Sonneville (@r_sonneville) and Joseph S. Pete (@nwi_jsp). The twist of each tale will certainly encourage at least one reread. Our editors very much enjoyed both of these pieces.

Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff) was kind enough to provide samples of her inspired photography to lend a certain chilly quality to this collection. These images represent the stark contrasts between our individual selections for this performance.

Of course, there is one great truth found within our debut: The Evening Theatre desires to take you on the most unexpected journey possible.

The performance will begin promptly at 10:00pm (EST) this evening, according to the following lineup:

Opening Act – The Awards by Emma Power

First ActLone Space Traveller Logs by Analogue Robot

First Feature“The Accountant and the Polygraph” by Ryan Sonneville

The Jester – “When To Report A Co-Worker” by Maria L. Berg

Second Feature – “Sky King” by Joseph S. Pete

The Encore “Behind the Laughter” by Emma Power

DIMENSION OF SIGHT by Amanda Bergloff

“Dimension of Sight” by Amanda Bergloff  

Amanda Bergloff is a surrealist artist whose work has been published in the e-zines, New Myths, The Horror Zine, 200CCs, Firefly Magazine, Enchanted Conversation, and Shotgun! Strange Stories.