Active Ingredients

you left your fingerprints
all over my trachea
they’re blue and yellow
purple and green
i said taste my arsenic
laced lady parts
i trickled cyanide over
my bare navel
i said poison apple
i am a death treat
lick this popsicle of hemlock
toxic shock and venom
body you tried to own
to frighten into submission
didn’t you know it would be
your ruination
i dipped myself in chlorotoxin
active ingredient in scorpion reaction
i have botulism blood
and mercury infused hair
rape my bones and stab my eyes
you won’t last long after i’m gone
i always wanted to be an atom bomb
atomic cherry popper you turned into
now you’re melting in my carpet
and your reign is at an end
let another man try to eat me again
By Emily Smith-Miller

Cold Coffee

Some people say they cannot drink cold coffee, as for him, he actually preferred it that way now…

Masturbating in the corner booth, she held her left leg high as she wriggled and squirmed in front of two dirty old truckers. Ice cubes were shaking inside the tea glasses as she finished. He asked the man running the counter if she was a regular at the diner to which he spit on a glass and rubbed it with a cloth.
As most diners he had been in don’t encourage indecent behavior, this one had to have been the exception. And as far as he was concerned there need not be another.
He probably would not have stopped, but his balls were sticking to his thighs prompting him to get out somewhere and dry them out. Besides, no one was the wiser to the heist he had just bagged.
And with all professions, a cat burglar usually has a mighty few friends.
Among thieves, the word on the street is that traveling through Texas is the worst place to get caught. Personally, he just didn’t give a damn.
“What will it be sugar?”
Candy was the name stamped on the crooked pin that hung lopsided just about nipple down on her otherwise uneventful grout. And wouldn’t it be Candy that every louse would want?
Thinking he was cute, “So which will it be–sugar or candy, babe?” He turned his head to watch as the masturbating temptress went for the gold with her ankle crooked with an angle providing a wide crotch shot.
“You can catch a handful of crabs,” she paused to point at the ejaculation booth, “or take your chances with the menu. Either way, I couldn’t give a fuck less.”
There have been a few times in my career that I have been taken by surprise and once was my own fault. But it seemed just and right to let this one go. “Whatever you say babe but can I have a coffee to start.”
As she shifted and tilted her head a bit soon, I realized there was craziness there in her reaction. It was something just downright odd. The only way he could describe it now is just supernatural or space quid queer. It wasn’t anything that he could see, smell, taste or hear. It was the manner in which his guts gave way on him a deafening fear.
“Drink up, we close at one.”
Dragging his cup from the edge, he placed both hands on it as if to blow on it. But the cup was cold. He started to call after Candy, but he noticed the clock showed a quarter ‘til one. No point in asking he figured. He got what he got.
A troublesome group of bikers were sitting in a far booth to his right. They had been eyeing him and cutting the padding on the booth since he had arrived. The diner floor had fluffs of cotton reamed out. And it did not occur to him that there wasn’t any decent folk about.
At the end of the bar, where he firmly sat, two scrawny chicks ate greedily at what looked like canned dog food with eggs and smelled a little worse. He figured they were junkies and anyway who really gives a crap.
There was a smiling man sitting in a chair behind the register. The proprietor, as it were, had been there since he came in. Above his head there was a plaque on the smokey-yellow wall that read: Get what you came for and get the Hell out!
“Not much for business, are you?”
When the proprietor stood up from his chair, he could see how big he really was. “You got five minutes, before we close do you want anything else?”
The proprietor was staring down at his coffee which he had barely touched. “Nope, nope, this here coffee is about as good as it gets. I think I will just finish up here and be on down the road.”
The strain of his laughter was deep and disturbingly crass. “Bet your ass you wish you could.”
Now, he had taken an ass beatin’ in his day, but he was about to try and stiff the guy on a cup of coffee that had given swamp resin a good name.
“How much do I owe you pal?” I tried to be real cool.
“That depends on what you got to trade?”
“Well, I have a nice Jackson in my pocket that should do the trick.”
The jugular in his throat bulged out with each deep-chested laugh. “Perhaps, you didn’t hear me…” he saw Candy laughing it up too, “I asked you what you have to Trade?”
His particular interest in payment struck me odd. Was this a scam or was he damn sleep deprived and going half mad?
“Not sure what you want me to offer.”
The bikers were jumping up and down in the corner booth howling at him like some sick dog that just got run over by a Mack Truck.
There taunts were louder and crazier. “What ya got? What ya got? What can you trade for what you got?”
He slammed his coffee cup on the counter. The hoots and howls slowed to a stop.
“Here’s a damn twenty keep the fucking change.” He had meant it too.
But the proprietor’s big arm grabbed him under the cuff, and he had never been one to have another man lay hands on him without there being some bad scuff. “Look fellar, I am done.” But his hand did not release at first. “Let me go on my way, here take the money and we are square.”
He gritted his teeth and his jaw drew gravel. “WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO TRADE?”
No one in the joint let out even a whisper. Everyone was waiting to see what he would offer.
“I am not sure really. If money isn’t what you want, then what else can I offer?”
Hysterical laughter filled the otherwise quiet diner.
“What can he offer, he says?” The big man’s mocking tone made him mad, and he wanted to hit him in his glass jaw or kick him in his square ass.
“Look fucker, there is no need for this. Just tell me what you want to trade, and I will tell you if I got it?” At this point, it did not matter how ridiculous this whole scene was becoming because he was ready to go.
“What do I want?”
The bikers in the corner had been twisting and curling their way towards the counter, and now two of them were sitting on top of it.
“Oh, no son, you have it all wrong. It is not what I want but it is more of what you must trade.”
The singing chorus of bikers began, “what you must trade!”
“There ain’t gonna be no dick blowin’ or ass smashing if you know what I mean?” I flicked out my little pocket blade.
Oooohhh! Hahhahahah. Laughter broke out at the end of the bar.
“Now, now. Let’s keep this civil.” The smiling man kept smiling as he pointed at the coffee pot. “Someone had to make your coffee, now someone has to make the hamburger for tomorrow that’s all.”
Now at this point, he was watching the bikers looming over the junkie chicks still sitting at the end of the bar. It was obvious that the two were stoned beyond the stars.
“Why don’t you do it then, I mean this is your diner?” I figured it was the most logical thing I could say given the circumstances.
The smiling man stopped smiling.
The bikers stopped the wolf howling and all stared at him. Even the masturbating chick in the corner booth with the two dirty truckers stopped mid cum.
“Because I am the owner, and that is just how it has been done.”
Looking around, there weren’t that many options. He could fight his way out of the diner, or he could make the hamburger. The way he had it figured was that the hamburger would hurt less.
“Ok. Pal how much hamburger are we talking about?”
The smiling man started to laugh looking down the bar. “Oh, I would say there is about a hundred fifty pounds of it without the bones more or less.”
The bikers began a chorus, “a hundred fifty pounds…more or less!” Their shrieking laughter was at a decibel reaching his ear drums that ached.
“You heard him boys, we’ll have hamburger meat tonight!”
Amidst the merriment, the bikers, the smiling man, and the masturbation station all began to dance and sing crazily about the diner floor. He thought once to make a run for the door, but he knew it would be a battle or worse if he didn’t make it out.
So, he watched, along with the junkie chicks staring wide-eyed and unblinking, as they all slapped each other and gaggled to bit.
“Enough, already!” He was an impatient man. “Let’s get to this making of hamburgers so I can be on my way.”
“You heard him boys, let’s make some hamburger!” The bikers grabbed up both of the junkie chicks dragging them stoned and screaming by the hair of their heads towards the steel swinging doors.
“Hold on a minute, you want me to make them into hamburger meat? That is just insane, not to mention illegal!” He was about to commit a crime that he had no stomach, excuse the pun, to make.
The smiling man sat down at the counter next to him and spoke, “You said you wanted to leave right?”
“Well, here is your way out. Make our hamburger meat for tomorrow and your trade will be complete.”
“But…” He knew there was nothing logical he could argue that would possibly make sense, “I can’t just kill them and chop them up. Someone will miss them or worse I will be convicted of killing two innocent women no less. And for what? A cup of coffee costs at most a buck thirty-five.”
“Listen, I have seen your type before,” the smiling man paused, “you waltz in the diner here and order something that costs.” His face was still smiling but the creases around his eyes pinched tight. “It never occurs to anyone that someone has to make the stuff!”
“Why can’t you make it or one of your goons?”
“Because our job is to serve it to you,” he smiled a wide toothy grin, “it is the lonely stragglers job to make the food in one given respect. You see, your actually pretty lucky, I mean given the time you arrived. Had you gotten here earlier, then you would have been the one served.”
From the back he could hear the two junkies crying and begging for their very lives.
“Well, I guess you have a point there pal, I am a lucky dude.”
The smiling man led him back to the kitchen where a blood stained mess was about to occur. He held out a butcher knife to him saying, “Cut their throat first.”

By LaVa Payne

The Disquiet of Dorian and The Grey

I looked down at the tattered and blood-soaked cuffs of my shirt, realizing that fortune and happiness aren’t off the rack ready-to-wear. You need designer style and a want to do desperate things. She was a wreck — all snarled hair and thin skin rubbing against bone — sipping gin from a teacup, and it had been over two hours, and my canvas was scrawled with rage not paint. “The rain washed my makeup off,” she’d said when she arrived, shaking her umbrella as she walked in from the cold. Her feet were bare, and she giggled as the sleet slicked from her toenails to the creaking floorboards. I’d been waiting. For what, I do not know. Maybe her, when I think about it now. She was an unexpected talent, and the bugs in my stomach squirmed against the whiskey and bacon I had eaten earlier for breakfast. The hunger shone in her. Her teeth looked like miniature marble pillars when she smiled, and she had a distance in her eyes — livid — like sex dipped in gunmetal and chocolate. She was a collision with cutlery, and I just had to paint her. Had to. Her filthy flesh was a feast awash in the fell light of the moon. I felt a velvet hollowing in the center of all things, felt the paint as it congealed around the flattering silhouette that was she, who graced the dark corners of my mind. She was a secret … 
And when she giggled again and lifted her scars into the moonlight for me, I knew I would have to keep her that way — for ever, and ever, forever.

By Cheryl Anne Gardner

Interior Sloth

His first show was the live mutilation and desecration of a dead fish. Contact microphones inserted into gill slits, the diamond sheen like tin foil jelly. He mashed mics into guts, into black eyes, minced meat until his own screams of splendor matched the applause of the Chinese audience.

He released a seven inch record. Instead of artwork printed by traditional means, he used strands of black woven hair, glued in thick clumps by an unknown grey substance. The record is “Formaldehyde Drip, Charred: for Manami.” The limited run record, all fifty copies, sold quickly to his European fans. He still lives in town, has a few private copies not for sale. I’ve heard it. He shared.

For the second performance, he dumped a bucket of leeches into a sliced open severed arm. It was not his own arm, but a larger arm, muscular and pink, veins highlighted by black marker. Steel strings had been attached to the leeches, strings that, with every movement and slurp of leech to flesh, produced a different tone. The strings were routed to a box of effects pedals, distortion and delay, fed into a small mixer and manipulated by hand to the delight of the audience. Someone lit one of the club’s sofas on fire, the crowd let it burn.

We sat in his studio and listened to his newest piece, “The Broken Anatomy of  Man’s Interior Sloth.” He turned off the lights, passed me a lit cigarette. We smoked in silence.

The piece begins with what sounds like a chair being scraped over wood complimented by a muffled moan (female, I presume). Then, an abrupt crack of skin or leather striking flesh. He keeps a black rod by the stereo, woven horse hair. The crack is followed by a series of tape loops, pitch-shifted growls like groaning wolves underwater. The cracks escalate. I can feel him smile through the black. A voice, his own, is chanting through a low-pass filter, but not in his native language. The growls, the cracks, and the chant pan to the left. A wall of static, more brown than pink, and certainly not white, fills the right speaker. The two sides rise, meet in the middle of the room. He moves, cigarette in mouth, and asks me to stand in the center of the room, says the album demands willing participation. My help would be invaluable.

His third show was a private venue. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance. His assistants, three foreign women in black gowns, stood hidden and unmoving behind strung up carcasses, affixed to the ceiling by meat hooks, blood dripping into wooden buckets. A shrill tone, the smell of vinegar. There were waterproof microphones inside the buckets. The drips were amplified, fed into a sampler, where he proceeded to edit the drips in real time, chopping them up, delay, filter, layer, and loop. With the snap of his fingers, the women raised right hands, brandished cleavers, and tore into the meat, jab upon jab, the sound of ripping flesh. No one noticed the wireless microphones glued to the women’s teeth. Every chop, a distorted and breathy grunt. The spattered blood dried on the floor, some on my shirt. The wooden buckets were in the studio, near the black rod.

I stood in the center of the room. He told me to wait, came back with a plank of wood, sharpened at the tip. A stake. The scraping and chanting, moans melded into shrieks. The static, deep like cars crashing in slow majesty.

The snapping sharpness of the plank slamming into my stomach, the noise felt from inside, and his fists to my teeth, the pliers and the glass shards he used to poke holes in my thighs to make fountains of red. I was leaking. Liquid in my ear and his boot stepping down cracking finger bones—each crack a compliment of aural perfection. “The plank, “he said, “when inserted into the prostrate, bursts the sac, an exploding squish, shattering any preconceptions of the real meaning of intimacy.” It will not be recorded.

Blood gushed from my ears in that moment of contact, the startling revelation of pure artistic genius.

By Jamie Grefe

Jamie Grefe currently lives and works in Beijing, China. His work appears or is forthcoming in Emprise Review, Bartleby Snopes, Untoward Magazine, Mud Luscious Press and elsewhere. Please, give him black coffee or read more at:

Scorch Marks

Rick backed the car up into the garage. He pulled the key and the machine shuddered, falling still. He reached into the back seat to pull out his blazer and briefcase, settling the latter on his lap. He ran his fingers across the smooth top, along the crevice where the halves met. He waited for a moment, rubbing the tips of his fingers together and staring at them.
The sound of the porch door closing on the other side of the house. A dog barks. Breathe, swallow, spit.
Rick checked the handle, the spinning lock still set to 1-2-3-4. He spun the tumblers, up and then down, running his thumbs across them left to right and bringing his fingers up his face again and inspecting them.
Opening the briefcase, he brought it up to his nose and inhaled deeply. He pressed the jacket out across his lap and ran his hands down each sleeve, into the pockets, behind the lapels, rubbing his palms into the fabric. He folded the jacket back up and placed it inside the briefcase, set both carefully down in the backseat.
He left the garage and opened up the side door in the fence, walking around the back of the house to the screened porch. As he walked, he watched the long, arrogant patches of yellow grasses growing around the foundations.
Rick opened the screen door and walked inside, the cool shadows inside the house touching the skin of his face, his palms. He ran his hands along his hips and walked into the living room, where he approached his wife from behind, the iron-tinted highlights in her blonde hair looking prickly, abusive.
“Oh, I didn’t hear you come in,” Teresa turned on the couch and looked at him. “I was waiting for you.”
“I know. How was your day?”
She sighed, crossing and then uncrossing her legs, fighting with what to say. He watched the pale, purple-spotted skin of her ankles. I hate those damn short pants, Rick watched her dangle her flip-flops off of her toes. I fucking hate them.
“The office burnt down.”
“What?” She rose from the couch and came towards him. He couldn’t help but flinch. “What happened? Oh my God, is everyone okay?”
“I guess so. I wouldn’t know. I just… left.”
Teresa walked out of the room, where he knew she was dialing the phone to talk to Jack and his wife, to pool all the salacious details into one “made-for-TV” script to chew over. Rick felt his teeth crawl.
The office, all the large, airy rooms and cramped cubicles with the felt walls and the spreadsheets and the smiling picture of kids pinned up in those gaudy plastic frames with the balloons or worse: those haphazard, scrawled drawings with “I love you, Mommy,” and some mutilated figure drawn in purple and the sun in a corner with a shit-eating grin on its face…
She came back into the living room, “Oh my God, honey, they say the fire started in the basement and somebody set it with gasoline and could you imagine?”
“Did anyone die?”
“I forgot to ask.”
“Why don’t you call her back?”
She didn’t say anything, but got up and left. Rick grinned, pleased with himself. She yelled from the kitchen, “Oh my… Rick, there were three people in there!”
Rick shrugged, craning his neck around to watch as the front door opened, “Hey, Dad.”
Ben peered around the living room sheepishly, “Is she in the kitchen?”
“Good, I don’t really want to hear about fighting the crab grass or what is it now?”
“Sciatica? Or is it eczema?”
“Alicia will be home in a minute. They cancelled practice. I saw your work burned down. I passed it on my way back.”
“It did.”
“What happened?”
“I don’t know. Something in the walls. The fire got in walls? In the insulation?”
Ben shrugged and dropped his backpack and leapt up the stairs, “Will you be here for dinner?” Rick asked.
“I’ll let your mom know.”
At around 2:00 A.M., Rick padded softly down the stairs into the living room. He parted the drapes with a few fingers and sat staring out into the deserted road: the cracked asphalt, the sidewalk planks, listened for suspicious sounds and heard thousands, though none of them made a direct threat.
He went out to the garage. As he unlocked the car, he felt a wave of horror; that this day and all the days before it must’ve belonged to someone else. Someone who had agreed to this: the solid, ranch-style house, the green shutters nailed in place, the holes in the storm windows.
Rick twisted the cap off one jug and began to soak the foundation of his house with the gasoline.
He soaked the front hallway, the floor of the living room, the kitchen with the porch door. He tore a match from the book, wrenching it free from the root, and held it in between his ring and little fingers.
In his hand, he held a tough stem with a bright red bloom that would hiss and tickle his ears like an insect’s dull hum. The seed, the firey bush waiting to be born, a vast red plain that would feed, spread outward and reach up into the sky with its long, spindly arms, killing everything it touched, curling and charring all those hard edges, all the lies and half-truths and lonelinesses; a vengeful, blood-red demon consuming his entire life, a million eyes of fire staring straight up into the moon.
That’s the best part about fire. It can save you from anything that’s flammable. And you know what’s flammable?
“Five,” he laughed, giddy, moving the match in between his ring and middle finger.
“Four.” Rick whispered to himself, “Three.”
In between his middle and first finger, “Two.”
In between his pointer finger and thumb…
“One.” A shower of fireflies into the darkness; released now, go forth, go forth and multiply.

By Samantha Ducas


















Breathing Black

your heart is blacker than the night;

it cuts in the waves of a knife, it’s

oceans splattering the world in ruby

droplets of cardinal feathers; every

place I look has your stain, your fangs

have torn holes into every fissure to

be seen with the naked eye; you tear

a world of apathy to her very core —

your lips hold the lies everyone dies

to hear and you know how to spread

them on the wings of your ravens —

I wonder if one day, you’ll come back

to haunt even more painfully than you

did whilst you were still breathing black.

By Linda M. Crate