Every party is a free party at the end of the world, Cloud likes to say. He winks at me when he says it, roaring over the music in the warehouse, or standing outside on the fire escape, puncturing the foil on a blister pack of prescription meds with the tip of his pocketknife. Privately, I doubt the apocalypse has anything to do with his access to ear-splitting music or pill-delivered euphoria of dubious legality. I always say the end of the world is like a rainstorm, or a monsoon, something torrential—some people head to higher ground, and the rest of us get washed miscellaneously into the gutter, swirled down with the leaves and cigarette butts. Just because the rain swept us in, though, doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have found our way here on our own.
When I slept, those rare nights when I did sleep,
he carried me to fantastic cities
where the nights were carousels of wine
and colored light, and the cathedrals
had spires of red ice. He showed me ships
with masts of bone and sails of tattered skin
that sailed to countries unimaginable, where death
was an import and corruption a delicacy.
Six weeks before the end of the world, a new bar opens on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. The proprietors are a middle-aged West Coast couple, evacuees from Seattle or Portland, Beth can’t remember which. The bar is on the first floor of the building where Beth’s favorite bookstore used to be, but the familiar smells are gone—dust, vegetable glue and old, acidic paper, all drawn out by the pair of sleek Blueair filters that add their silvery humming to the murmur of the television and the small Wednesday night crowd.
"The Sons of Zeruiah" in King David and the Spiders from Mars, an anthology of Biblical horror.
Today is your fourteenth birthday, and your godfather is coming to visit. You know because your mother is wearing a dress, a frilly lime-colored affair that certain magazine editors would refer to as a “confection,” and attempting to bake a pie.
Well, mother? Is this the story you wanted to hear?
It begins with my brothers arguing—arguing like starving tigers - Asahel flat on his back at the edge of camp, dust in his glossy black curls. Abishai straddles him, white hands closing around his throat, blood from his split lip staining Abi’s lace cuffs. The old accusations cloud the air - the like gunpowder, like cannon smoke, like the din of carrion birds and the moist stench of rot.
“Ungrateful fledgling,” Abishai growls. “Your impatience will ruin us!”
After sunset, my reflection appears in the black depths of the kitchen window, thin and pale and drunk. The ruins of the gas station are burning in the hills, a sheet of wet gold floating on my chest. I can almost smell the smoke. My eyebrows are dark and straight with frowning, my lips black with the dry, expensive wine I've spent these last four hours sipping from a plastic cup. I can almost see Michael in the angles of my face, the tipping back of my heavy-legged chair, my nervous fingers crumpling the thin red plastic, fingernails black with grease.
Four of my poems are featured in the first issue of the resurrected Flytrap.