Category Archives: Wk #21 – Unseen

Week #21 – Unseen

Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.

The theme is Unseen.


sand mandala by Dorothee Lang
. .
They Can’t See It . by Michael Webb

I said it to myself, hoping that the words would become real if I said them, instead of thinking them hard inside my brain’s tangled nest.

“They can’t see it.”

I pulled my top down hard, willing it to extend, to stretch, to somehow lengthen, as if there was some fold or wrinkle I had missed that was going to make it 2 inches longer. When I stood perfectly still, it extended exactly to my waist, exactly the way I wanted. The fabric ended right at the perfect point, denoting the border between one half and the other half.

But if I bent, or stretched, or turned one way or the other, it gapped, and suddenly an oval of my pale, wrinkly, flabby belly was visible to the world.

“They can’t see it,” I told myself again.

I could, of course, just explain what it was- what I needed, and what had happened and what was going to happen. I even knew the answers to some of those queries. I could answer some of them with absolute certainty. I just didn’t know the answers to all of them.

I heard my name, distantly echoing through the house, the sounds indistinct. I could still follow the shadows of the words, knowing the intonations that meant the yeller was seeking me.

“Coming!,” I bellowed back.

I tugged the top down one last time and left, the door shutting with a solid thump behind me.

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First . by Matt Potter

“I grew tired of waiting,” she said.

White-knuckled, she gripped the clacking needles so ferociously she could have knitted the booties in gale force winds and they still would have turned out ankle-stranglers.

“You were always too busy building your train set.”

She smoothed her new pink-and-white-vertically-striped way-too-roomy smock over her stomach. Then counting stitches under her breath, she cast off.

She was right. Building the train took over a year. I gutted the second bedroom, turning the bay window into storage for spare rolling stock. Then I built a mezzanine for a replica of the Berlin U-Bahn, the grungy flower kiosks and bored commuters painstakingly realistic.

Now the thought of pulling it all down to make room for a baby zapped my strength.

“I can’t believe you went ahead and got pregnant without me,” I said.

“Well, you have a whole six months to get used to the idea,” she answered, knotting baby-blue yarn on the end of the row. She resumed her clacking, loudly. My lack of energy was fuelling hers.

“Don’t worry,” she added. “You’ll get a crack at the next one.”

“I could have downed tools for – what, two minutes? – to impregnate you myself.”

She threw her knitting in her lap. “Stop it, Brian! Just be thankful it’ll have red hair like you and no one will notice.”

That was true too. My identical twin brother had stepped into the breach and defended the family honour. Born five minutes before me he was still coming first.

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Black Mariah . by Stephen Hastings-King

The Black Mariah pulls into the driveway. The next constellation of awareness finds me against the wall beneath the window.

The war they wage seeps beyond informality. The war they wage happens behind stories that say there is no war. The war they wage fills everything with holes.

They say the Black Mariah is an eraser descending. By the time you see it they have eliminated all your traces. You are vanished from amongst your neighbors. All documents have disappeared. The Black Mariah comes for those who were never born.

I imagine myself a spent reactor core in an anonymous railway car shuttled siding to siding. I imagine myself less than nothing blindfolded and handcuffed in a back seat. I imagine myself a character in countless movies and TV shows.

From outside comes the crunching of gravel and a vehicle pulling away. I exhale.

The Black Mariah pulls back into the driveway. The next constellation of awareness finds me against the wall beneath the window.

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Unseen . by Lola Elvy

Highlight the box below for Unseen by Lola Elvy

The octopus lives in an undersea cave
and squirts out black ink to blind the brave.

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Ferns . by Susan Tepper

So many ferns in bright porcelain pots and woven baskets. They seem to take the air out of the room. A narrow room with double doors— what people used to call a parlor. It seems to have lost its function in modern times, aloof and lonely in this house of other rooms, where people probably watch TV and listen to music and have snacks. Or maybe even read a book sometimes. This room is like an old Grandma left behind in a house full of screaming toddlers. You’d like to sit down on the wicker settee near the windows. It seems to be calling you, a voice unseen, a body not heard from, gone, not from you, yet gone all the same since no one can see or remember. You touch the fern leaves. Lacy, fan-like; recalling how he loved you back then.

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Masonry . by J. Bradley

After the condom, my heart broke to the Smashing Pumpkins, I vowed to never let another girl ruin good music. With girlfriend #2, I shoved The Cure like a sock in her mouth so my little brother wouldn’t hear our carpet burn. After awhile, I dated girls with apartments and roommates, telling each of them their sighs were the only soundtrack I needed.

Our first song was The Darkness’s “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”; we were giddy like falsetto and power chords. Eventually the only thing that was cranked up to eleven was her mood swings. I tried explaining that a woman should not have hands as lecherous as Geppetto’s but she never listened, boxing me into the windowless van of her arms. I believed in loving all of someone, even the duct tape and chloroform.

Six years later on a couch in a strange house in Chicago, I drank beer, watched the weather, my marriage sour as Iron & Wine told me we would live like our ghosts will live. I listen to that set sometimes when clouds metastasize to build a callus in my gut note by note. Eventually, I’ll be ready for someone else to tear me down like a wall.

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Missing Pieces . by Susan Gibb

So yes, I murdered my husband. Chopped him into little pieces, froze and disposed of them all but no, I didn’t eat him! What in God’s name do you think I am?

It’s taken me two years. After he’d retired he was always home. It was nerve-wracking, you know? I’d had him on a high cholesterol diet but, well, got impatient, so I finished him off with a lamp. I just got rid of the last of him this week. It was much harder than I’d thought it would be.

A few bits into the garbage each week was taking forever. I started leaving a finger or toe, a nipple (yes, I did cut off his nipples but that really wasn’t the worst) in someone else’s trash. Double-wrapped in toweling and baggies, unrecognizable and uninviting to scavengers, human or otherwise. Oh, that’s another funny thing–

I discovered that Bosco, our boxer, enjoyed these tidbits as treats! I had dropped a piece of liver and before I could pick it up he’d wolfed it right down! I started adding pieces to his dinners or as a reward, but he threw up in the yard once and the neighbor was standing right there when an obviously human ear was center stage in the mess!

Oh, no, I don’t think you’ll find enough of him left around. Really, if he hadn’t taken an early retirement, or I had been blessed with more patience…he wasn’t a bad man…

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Water Heart . by Matthew A. Hamilton

The wind whispers to the
Tigris River.

I talk to the water
because I am shy to God.

Birds gather seed.
Tigers devour prey.
Hyenas lick up
the scraps of God.

I sit in the dark and worry.
I watch death rise like heated sand—
Iraq is a shit hole of dusty blood.

Faces of children
tremble in peacemaking corners.

It is the children that force me to
remember those who have died foolishly.

Everything is foolish in war.

I remember my dead friend,

My mind is a liquid oblivion.

I grip my weapon.

I live in a world of shadows.

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Lost Kites . by Christian Bell

Unseen, he slides through cracks, unbound, liquid fear of mothers.

The camera arcs a left-right panorama but could not see below or above. Jones, the station operator, tells his visitors, here I see the world, not mentioning what’s missing.

She stands on the building’s roof, God’s view of an empty city. Flags rustle in wind. No cars. No people. Clouds scatter overhead, lost kites eastward to barren places. She awoke and someone had taken an eraser to the world. Except her. Why? She screams, echoless, chases the descending sun.

Unseen, L and N sneak into a dark alleyway, kiss. Both were married to others; infidelity, here, was criminal. There are cameras everywhere, she said, her back pressing brick wall, fingers feverish unbuttoning his shirt. Yes, that war was lost long ago, he said, his hands sliding up her legs, reaching bare hips. Here they have free space, unbound from pious spouses, as whirring cameras search for those who dare.

He draws shades so no one will see. He disconnects the phone, turns off the computer, destroys each television with bullets. All pictures frames go face down. The outside world, still present as he can hear airplanes flying overhead, thumping bass of passing cars. He inserts earplugs. Sun goes down and he refuses to turn on lights. At night he cries as he recalls the time his father made him sit in a dark closet as punishment. Now, unseen, he deletes future years, longs for the comfort of broken childhood.

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Isolation . by Nicolette Wong

In isolation you speak into the microphone and I watch the frequency of your soul darting on a screen. You are growing fainter—even your overt British accent starts to trail off into an indistinguishable flatness.

I have forgotten: your concentration rarely translates into strength.

Your lip noise tells me you need to drink some water.

You brought a bottle of tea. In that dryness lives the memory of us choking underneath a black umbrella, unable to escape from the gloom you had perfectly carved out for us. I hear you swallow and it makes me feel pretty flat myself.

‘Ready?’ I ask.

You give an imaginary nod. When the rustle of the paper ceases you speak again. I am in the control room, flipping switches against the volume of you. Where I am now is a place of absorption and diffusion. I am padded and safeguarded.

‘Sorry I made a mistake. Can we go back to the last line?’ you ask.

‘We’re good to go when you are.’

You breathe and sniff. Someone brought you in here so you could stretch yourself and chase your dream. Your voice births a strangeness that you have just come to discover: a new seed to sprout. You and I are divided in an enclosed room, imagining each other in disrupted silence.

‘I quite liked it,’ you say when we finish the recording.

It is just work for me.

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Imprints . by Dorothee Lang

The first snow came early that year, overnight, in October. The roads were closed for two days, electricity gone.

The houses, the gardens, the people, they all were hibernating in white, underneath thick blankets. The only sign that someone had roamed the night: paw prints, leading to doors, circling the houses, yet leaving no other trace –
no message, no hint – then returning to the wilderness.

Does, the kids guessed, or forest fairies, curious for our life.

The old women shook their heads.

They knew more. But they wouldn’t tell, not that day, and not later, when the snow was gone again, and all were still alive.

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Rules for Surviving Eighth Grade . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

Rule #1) Never hurry home. After soccer, hang out at the library. Try to get invited to Marcy’s house for dinner. Just don’t act too desperate.

Rule #2) Don’t have friends over. If they ask why, say, “My mom works nights and sleeps in the afternoon.”

Rule #3) When you do come home, don’t change the TV channel or mute the volume, even if she’s sleeping on the couch. It’s not worth the fight.

Rule #4) If anyone asks, she works nights.

Rule #5) Never talk about it, even with Nana on the phone. Never, ever with teachers or the counselor. Better here than with your dad.

Rule #6) Never water down the bottle. Then you’ll have to explain the bruises.

Rule #7) Keep the babysitting money in your locker for lunch and tampons.

Rule #8) Don’t sign up for band because you’ll need a ride to the concerts and she’s always losing her license.

Rule #9) Always listen when she says she loves you, even when she’s too drunk to remember the next day. Tell her you love her too, even if it’s a lie, and hope Jesus understands.

Rule #10) Hide your journal in the cellar behind the dryer – she never washes clothes and besides, she’s afraid of spiders and falling down the stairs. But don’t stash it under the same loose tile as the Stoli, in case she gets desperate.

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The Secret Life . by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

When we were very young, we didn’t tell because we didn’t know any better.

Now we are six, and we don’t tell because no one has believed us since we told the story about the vampire upstairs.

Now we’re twelve, and we don’t tell because our family’s weird enough, living in an apartment instead of a house.

Now we’re sixteen, and we don’t tell because if it happens at home, why wouldn’t it happen in our boyfriend’s car?

Now we’re twenty, and we don’t tell because we’ve held too many friends’ hands in the ER. We know how the cops treat rape.

Now we’re thirty, and we don’t tell because it’s easier to write.

Now we’re forty, and we don’t tell because no one wants to hear about it anymore.

Now we’re fifty, and we don’t tell because we’d rather climb to the top of Mt. St. Helens, or what remains of it.

Now we’re sixty, and the sunset is neither russet nor gold, but the shadows of dead trees are lovely tonight.

Now we’re seventy, waiting for the stars to appear.

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Unseen (a Five-Pointed Star with Four Streaming Lights)
by Darryl Price

What you see us doing is not
all we are being. Our kissing mouths
not singing but praying. Don’t worry. We
don’t believe in a god who hates
gay people or believes in slavery or

thinks of women as cattle. We only
play to hum into the ears of
the universe a new difference, a peace
offering. One that proposes a love supreme.
What we are actually doing is dancing

with everything. To dance is to mean
what you say, to feel what you
are as it connects from body to
body throughout time, even bodies of water,
even bodies of stars, even bodies of

dreamers dreaming in infinite space, even bodies
of texts. We do this on purpose.
You must know this. Because it is
done for you but not only you.
Because it is in harmony with the

ancient trees on the arms and legs
of mother earth sending and receiving the
wisdom to care. Because it is an
act that can be carried out at
any time from any place by anyone.

It is not a religion. It is
not a joke. It is not anything
but people. I like to think of
it as poetry but that’s just me.

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The woman is in bed, looking at the subtle bars outside the screen. Her hands jerk intermittently, as they have for months. They aren’t working properly, yet she didn’t tell the shrink about that, or that her voice wouldn’t work right, either.

She wants to hide from him, the way he hides from everyone behind his clipboard; clasped to his chest like it would stop a bullet, a speeding train, a patient’s touch.

Deep inside her brain, I am busy attacking her central nervous system’s vascular network, causing constant little seizures, making her hands jerk, making her paranoid, making her psychotic.

The shrink behind the clipboard does not order any testing to look for my handiwork so I continue, alongside thousands of my kind, undiscovered and unsuspected; while everyone (even the woman) thinks she has gone crazy, which is ironic.

Burrowing into the vessels of her brain, we are an army that grows like kudzu on a hot day. A doctor finally tells her about us and she begins to fight back; when the woman has a fit in the check-out line at the grocery, when she discovers wrapped Christmas presents and doesn’t remember wrapping them, she decides it’s time to fight me with heavy artillery, and she starts chemotherapy. She uses an anti-biotic, (which she’s never before realized means anti-life), called Cytoxin® (literally cell-killer) working unseen in the dark recesses of her brain against the terroristic threat that is her immune system gone mad.

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Before I Forget (Notes from the Oubliette) . by Frank Rasky

Are you there? It’s been so long since I had someone to talk to. Besides Oscar and Wilde, I mean. I feed them crumbs of bread. They’re my pet rats, my only friends. Besides you, of course. How kind of you to remember me! How shall I begin?

I haven’t always been here, you know. Not in this dark place, like being locked in a closet. Once I was like you. I lived in a world of sunshine, flowers, fresh baguettes, morning coffee, unlocked doors, places to go to, people who saw me, smiles, and I smiled, too.

Then the black bulldog grabbed me. That’s how my misery began. It got me in its grip, pulling me down to where I couldn’t find myself, and the more I struggled to get free, the more it locked onto me tighter, until I couldn’t breathe. Now I don’t fight it anymore. It’s easier that way.

I don’t remember how long I’ve been here. I’m just so glad you visited! I apologize for the mess. Please, eat these crumbs of bread! Somewhere in the darkness is a key. I misplaced it, has that ever happened to you? If you find it on your way out, give it to Oscar and Wilde. They’ll know what to do.

Closet doors frighten me. That’s why I’m in the far corner of this forgotten place. But it’d be nice to know the key is with my two dear friends, before I forget.

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Wicked Water . by Len Kuntz

I wanted a way to kill water.

The river ran like a gray scar, screaming in certain sections where it got caught up by boulders. Birds fluttered in the tree tops. A deer poked through a clearing on the other side and cocked its head at me.

It should have beautiful, but it took my breath away for all the wrong reason.

Ironic, I thought, that Ann had been a swimming sensation in college. Before we’d married, I loved watching her in the pool, so fluid and controlled, each stroke like glass. The last time I’d seen her she was surrounded by water, too. I thought she’d fallen asleep in the tub. The jets were on, the water churning what must have been gallons of her blood.

Our son never learned to swim. He came to this river with Jared, who turned out to be his lover. Jared said they liked to raft to the other side. It was safe, he assured me, so long as two people paddled. But then they’d gotten into a fight, my son angry because Jared wouldn’t come out publicly, wouldn’t let them be like any other couple.

When he dove in, Jared told my son to stop screwing around, to grab the oar, but the current had already caught him.

It would have happened right there, where I’m headed now.

The water bites my skin. Its liquid limbs tug hard.

I don’t resist at all. I let rage do the work.

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The Laughing Shade . by Al McDermid

The tattered dress proved more resilient than flesh, shrouding her bones, lying in a ditch. In the ditch where they’d left her.

Where they’d left her? Who’d left her?

She looked at the bones, at the summer dress. The tree she stood next to was a riot of color, red and gold. She screamed and screamed, blowing the leaves from the tree. When she stopped screaming, it was winter. When she stopped, she remembered.

They had some beers they’d stolen, asked her along. Why not, she knew them from school. She knew them . . .

Moving though the moonlight, though the snow-swept stubble of last summer’s corn, she came to their farm. The animals stirred as she passed, the dogs barked, then whimpered, turning tail. The ghostly light of the television flickered in the window. She hurled herself against it, smearing her image against the frost.

One jumped, but the other just laughed. It’s the wind, you fool, just the wind.

No, it’s her. I know it’s her. Look, in the window. See? It’s her! Why’d you do it? Why?!

Shut up, shut up! It was an accident. You were there. It’s what we agreed. The windows rattled as she howled again.

No. I’m calling. Someone has to know. She’ll never rest, never leave us.

You’ll call no one.

The phone clattered to the floor. She laughed and laughed. Her laughter still echoes through the empty house, tormenting their struggling shades.

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Unseen . by Catherine Russell

The thief crept quietly through the house, like a cat stalking its prey, until he spotted the object of his desire. Sneaking out hadn’t been easy, getting past the guardians more difficult still, but with his objective in sight his goal would almost certainly be accomplished.

How long had he lusted for this? Time had become a blur as he’d planned and schemed his way toward this moment. The item beckoned him. He reached for his prize.

His fingers barely grazed the outside of the container when he was blinded by a dazzling light. While his eyes adjusted, he cast a sharp, guilty look at his captor. “All right, young man,” commanded his mother. “I’ve had just about enough of this. You’ve earned yourself TWO nights without dessert.”

The pilferer hung his head in mock shame. Little did she realize, he knew where she’d hidden the Halloween candy.

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Polymynhia Smiled . by Kim Hutchinson

No one called the night you died.

I dreamt of you. You were but a shadow, yet the whisper of you gave me peace.

You called on Polymynhia. She sat in a paneled room, near the grate. She plucked at her lyre, composing, her countenance too earnest.

The fire crackled. Light spilled from a high window. Her crisp satin gown was bedecked with egg-sized rubies and sapphires.

She was so alone.

I stood behind you, so close as to be tacked to your frock coat, peering over your shoulder, the same way you used to look over mine to show me something.

Look, was all you used to say. I looked. I never knew what you wanted me to see.

Now I saw she was your muse. You were her hero, her captain.

As sure of yourself as ever, you stepped forward, bowed with heart-stirring grace. She looked up into your eyes. She rose and pulled off her veil, a happy bride shaking back her blond curls.

She was yours. You were hers. Apart, you were both incomplete.

She didn’t see me.

Closing her eyes, she stretched up on tiptoe, touched her lips to the center of your ghostly forehead.

Her kiss ignited. I felt it, too. Attached to your shadow, I was a part of you. A flare of blue-white starlight enveloped us all.

This time, I saw.

The starlight faded. The flames glowed. The sun shone.

You laughed. Polymynhia smiled.

The ruby above her heart sparkled.

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Unseen . by Beate Sigriddaughter

What will you do, Lord, when I die?

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Halfway up the mountain a grown man sits, solemn, in a patch of daisies. A moment later a preoccupied black bear lumbers in the distance, first toward a clutch of trees, then out of sight. At the top I can see Mt. Baker to the east and twelve ships out in English Bay to the west. And far beyond.

On the way down, the sunset pierces me exactly where my longing lives. I ache for Venezuela waterfalls that I will likely never see, for a polished amage in Buenos Aires, for this year’s crop of yellow-centered forget-me-nots in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, for this year’s horned lizards zipping through the Gila Wilderness.

I am ashamed of days when sunsets came and went and I stood stapling minutes into board meeting packets till dark. And I am not ashamed, too. It was expected and I had agreed to it. Now my job is to see what I can do to help out God whom I have sometimes blamed for being blind.

In my dreams, my mother sings to me: “Das gibts nur einmal…” I shall wear red to honor the unseen.

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Go Hide! . by Doug Bond

She’s found a perfect spot this time. I really can’t find her. Not in any of the places she’s been before, none of the usual suspects. I’m impressed.

There’s one spot in the hall where the floorboard is squeaky. It always makes her laugh, so I put my foot on it and lean my weight back and forth. The hee-hawing of the creaky floor is the only sound in our small row house, until finally I hear her laughing.

Front closet, under shelf. She’d covered herself with her mother’s trench coat. I’d forgotten it was still there, the spring weight one, egg shell blue, the one I couldn’t get rid of, so pretty with her eyes.

“So there you are!”

My daughter squeals, “No fair!”

But she’s giggling and I rush to throw my arms around her, pull her out from under. Her foot snags on the coat disrupting the shelf. A small box of books topples to the floor. Paperbacks spread out at our feet.

One catches her eye, the title, Diary of a Young Girl. The therapist has been showing her how to keep one. “Look Daddy, there’s a diary like the one I’m writing for Mommy.”

She mispronounces, says “Anne,” like it rhymes with “Rain.” I don’t correct her. I say it too, the same way, and repack the books back into the small box. Set them up on the shelf. I tell her to go hide again. By the time I’ve closed the door, she’s gone.

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Tomcat . by Maggie Sokolik

Lord Jesus, will you look at that picture. There’s little bitty Johnny in his great big old cowboy boots, sitting on Santa’s lap. That must have been at Penney’s. I had a job there selling shoes for a short while. Anyway, Little Johnny loved clomping up and down the stairs in those boots, and kicked our tomcat a time or two with them, even though Big John hollered at him not to. Big John could holler, that’s for sure.

Johnny’s got on that blue denim vest I made him, back when I had a Singer of my own. And, if you look real close, you see there’s a bullet hole next to his left ear. A stray one went past his head and straight through Santa’s heart. I tried fixing it with scotch tape and red construction paper from an old shoebox of Johnny’s school supplies, but you can still see the ragged edges where the .22 went through. I suppose it might look a lot better if I put in some new glass.

But of course they won’t let me replace the glass. Who knows what I might do? I’m on suicide watch, you know, which is ridiculous with a capital R. I’d only be suicidal if I’d have missed a second time.

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Unseen . by Tom Allman

“Oh, and the leader of the Shadow People talked to me today,” he added.

“I didn’t know they have a leader,” she laughed. “And what the hell are Shadow People?”

“You know, you see them out of the corner of your eye, but when you turn your head they disappear.”

Not wishing to cause an argument, she decided to play along.

“I was sitting in the big chair watching Matlock when he came up to me.”

She took a breath and was going to question his sanity but was distracted by a rat trying to pull an apple core to it’s lair.

“I’m serious, he said they live in the dark places in our homes pretty much like you and me but made out of shadow stuff.”

“What did he want?”

“Oh, they want me to clean the god-damned apartment!”

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Choose Your Own Adventure . by Marty Brick

You and your husband are invited to a masquerade ball, but that night you suffer a migraine. You insist your husband go alone, while you take some medicine and fall asleep. A few hours later you awake, much relived. Do you:

~ Stay home and relax?
~ Go to the party?

You decide to go. Arriving, you find your husband having too good of a time. He’s on the dance floor, flirting with, kissing, and fondling every woman in sight. Do you:

~ Charge out and put him in his place?
~ Considering he never saw your costume, put him to the test?

Test it is. You move out and dance suggestively. He abandons the others and directs all attention toward you. There’s some dancing, some stray hands. Soon he nods his head toward a hallway, showing you to a storage room. Do you:

~ Reveal yourself and berate him?
~ Let him have his fun now, so you can really berate him later?

You go for the lesson with more sting. In the dark he has his way with you. Then you slip off, to beat him home. You change into your pj’s and wait patiently. “How was your night?” you ask nonchalantly.

“Pretty boring,” he says.

“No? No dancing?”

“Nah. I saw some of the guys. We went into a side room to play cards. But I’ll tell you, this guy I loaned my costume to sure had a great time.”

Do you:

~ You’re on your own…

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Synecdoche . by Guy Yasko

They follow the wolf’s tracks over the dune, past the point’s wind-bent
tree. In the fog, the forest’s edge is a wall which hides something
larger, some unseen threat. The trees themselves are haunted by mist
threading between their branches. And beyond the fog, beneath the
waters, lurking in the kelp, under the cover of surf’s roar? Who put the
sticks in the sand?

“Let’s go.” says the girl as she takes her brother’s hand.

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Unseen Phenomena . by Randal Houle

Prologue: Phenomenon

Phenomenon means real. Many people use the word to describe something unreal, such as, “That weekend was phenomenal.” In other words, the weekend was so real, it was unreal, and by unreal, I mean totally real.

Chapter 1: A Blank Page

I have never seen a blank page. Every time a blinding ivory rectangle is set in front of me, my mind puts words on the page. Whether my hand follows to pen something, or my fingers move over keys, is another matter; but the page is never blank. You might describe my having never witnessed a blank page as being phenomenal.

Chapter 2: A Typewriter Make a Mistake

I have never seen a typewriter make an error. Not to say that it has never happened, just that I have never witnessed the phenomenon. If I ever did, I would describe the matter as being “phenomenal.” Typos are almost exclusively the fault of the user. When I was a child, I used to press as many of the keys as possible, so that the metal bars would stick together. Typewriters will say whatever you make them say.

Chapter 3: Blameless Politicians

I have never seen a blameless politician. The amount of money that is thrown around, as if anyone knows what they are doing, is quite phenomenal. By phenomenal, of course, I mean all too real, and by all too real, I mean completely unreal.

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Wisps . by Walter Bjorkman

You spin in that downward vortex of your dreams towards the darkness of the edges. Sometimes it is too dark to see anything, other times too bright. Lichen stains on a South Dakota rock and multi-colored algae in a Death Valley mudpot converge as tannic stained waters yellow-diamond fall in the Upper Peninsula. The kid wouldn’t give you your sneaker back when you got fired from the group home, so you go home on the bus and ferry one shoed. The vest she was wearing at the airport when she picked you up, she found as she rode the Andes alone in her young womanhood while you cried in the Pacific ocean. “People’s Park”, the charlatan Berkeley rebel proclaims as he shows off the blood on his collar and the power hunger he so despises, yet wants, needs, in his eyes. A can of fresh-picked walnuts and figs sent wrapped in a painted coffee can across the country.

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Cost . by John Wentworth Chapin

I dropped my infant brother on his head, and although he screamed for two
hours, I didn’t tell anyone; the lump went away before anyone came home.

I rifled through the bedside table until I found dirty magazines; I
masturbated furiously and put them back exactly as they were.

I watched from the darkness of the landing as he told my mother he didn’t
want to be a father or a husband or a goddamn cash cow anymore.

I read his email when he left his laptop on while he went to the store.

I saw the cat’s collar glint in the headlights before it thudded under my
tires; I left the body to be discovered by the owners rather than risk a DUI.

I sobbed alone in the elevator on the way back to my hotel room; we were both flying home the next day, me to my empty house and him to his husband.

I fished his cell phone out of the toilet and put it on the bedside table and didn’t tell him.

I slipped the photographs under the front door of my ex’s parents’ house
at two a.m. after their porch went dark.

The accumulated weight of what has gone unseen is more than I can bear.

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Close your eyes . by Michelle Elvy

Close your eyes and you can see it all, she said.

She took my hand in hers: warm, dry, sure. She led my fingers up her arm, around her elbow. My body’s a landscape, she said.

Landscape indeed. She laid out a map of her life that night. That vein there: a long road down the back of her sun-freckled knee, slightly bumpy since the birth of her child. My fingers skipped up one smooth arm as she told of an easy childhood and laughed at the memories of tree-forts and tea-parties and the time she flew at seven, all alone, to visit her grandma in Tennessee. I navigated a gravel road up the other arm: teen years, cruel and rough, hard to describe but easy to imagine. A scar through the right eyebrow: daddy’s mark. Butterfly kisses on my palm from long lashes she got from her gentle mum. Further down the road, valleys gave way to mountains, and mountains proved worth climbing. I nestled into the pond scent of her belly, mossy and cool.

Close your eyes and you can see it all, she said. And I did.

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We thank Dorothee Lang for her art for this week “sand mandala”:

“There were some Tibetan monks near here and they did a sand mandala, so fascinating. I thought of this for unseen, as the mandala symbols all represent the mystical, the invisible world beyond our conscious grasp.”

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