Positively Squidlike

Positively Squidlike

Earl woke up one morning to find that he had become a squid. It was an unfortunate discovery.

Even so, it wasn’t nearly as unfortunate as the discovery he made shortly thereafter when writhing over to his bathroom mirror on his eight tentacles.

Not only was he a squid—his once well toned and carefully maintained body had regressed into something slimy and cyan colored—but he was a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before. Not wanting to guess at the evolutionary processes that had led to such a trait, Earl slithered over to his phone, trying his best to get the hang of his new tentacles.

He was surprised that he was able to breathe on dry land. He wondered if all creatures with gills actually were able to breath on land, but were too stupid to realize this and let themselves suffocate when out of the water. Perhaps they knew no existence other than a submerged one, so when taken from the water they simply gave up, assuming death was on the horizon.

He lifted the phone off his nightstand and with great difficulty managed to punch his passcode and scroll through his contacts until he found the number for his office.

“Hello and thank you for calling Don’t Be Bitter About Your Critter Pet Exchange Services. This is Jan speaking, how may I help you?”

“Hey Jan, it’s Earl. I’m calling sick today, I still have a few sick days left this quarter.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Earl. Feel better soon.”

“Thanks, Jan.”

“Is it alright if I ask what you’re sick with? There’s been a little cold going around the office.”

“Oh, it’s nothing like that. I’ve turned into a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before.”

“Hmm, sounds rough. I don’t think that’s covered by our health insurance, so I’d talk to a doctor if I were you to make sure it doesn’t get any worse.”

“Yeah that’s good advice, thanks. Hopefully I’ll be back in tomorrow. Bye,” he said and ended the call. Then he dialed his doctor.

“Hi, Dr. Grossman. It’s Earl White,” his doctor said after usual surly receptionist had redirected him to her office.

“Hi, Earl. How are you?” asked Dr. Grossman on the other end.

“Not great, doc. I’ve turned into a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before.”

“Oh, well that’s strange. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.” There was a pause while Dr. Grossman seemed to consider her recommendation. Eventually she asked, “Have you tried Ritalin?”


“Well I’d give it a shot, but figuring out how you contracted this condition will probably help me give you a more accurate diagnosis. You work with all sorts of animals for your job; did you possibly encounter a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before, recently?”

Now that he thought about it, Early realized that there was a man-sized squid with seven anuses at work yesterday. The creature had given him an odd, searching stare from inside its tank that Earl had not cared for at all.

Earl ended the call without another word, dropped his phone onto the bed and hurried out the door, moving as fast as he could on his tentacles. He got some strange looks from the other passengers on the bus, but he didn’t mind. He highly doubted that any of them has seen a man-sized squid with seven anuses before, so he let it go.

Earl got out at 26th Street, took the elevator up to the office and approached the reception desk.

“Hi Jan, it’s Earl. I told you it was bad.”

Jan examined him.

“Nice try. Learning how to talk was a clever touch, I’ve never seen a squid go that far before, but you’re not Earl White.”

“Yes I am! I called in sick this morning. I told you that I had transformed into a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before, remember?”

“Yes, I do and you almost fooled me too, but if you’ll look over there, you’ll see that Mr. White happily swimming around naked in that tank for abnormally large squids. You know identity theft is a serious crime, right?”

Earl’s gaze followed the painted tip of Jan’s pointed finger and yes, there he was. Earl’s old body, marked by a series of regrettable tattoos that documented a series of regrettable nights when he was younger, swam around in the tank naked as the day he was born.

“Well that’s odd,” said Earl, scratching the back of his head with a turquoise tentacle.

“Hey, Jeff? We’ve got another loose animal,” said Jan behind him, squeezing the talk button on a walkie-talkie. “This is one is a man-sized squid with seven anuses, each more puckered than the one before. And it can talk.”

Jeff, the on-staff animal wrangler of Don’t Be Bitter About Your Critter Pet Exchange Services, appeared beside Earl, carrying a very large butterfly net.

“Come on buddy, into the tank with you. I don’t care if you can talk, you’re going to wait in that tank patiently until someone comes in to trade an unloved puppy that isn’t cute anymore.”

The net was upon Earl. He was lifted up into the air, caught in its web and carried off towards the tank.

“I need you to climb out of that tank, Earl,” said Jeff. “I’ve gotta put this man-sized squid with seven anuses in there. And put some clothes on.”

Earl’s old body climbed out of the tank, and Earl was dunked in.

Earl’s naked and wet old body approached the glass. It grinned at him smugly with a smile that, in Earl’s opinion, was positively squidlike.

-Ben Fitts

Ben Fitts Photo

Ben Fitts is a musician, writer and zinester from New York. He is the author of over a dozen published short stories and the creator of the zines The Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine, A Beginner’s Guide To Bizarro Fiction and the upcoming zine Choose Your Own Death. His story “Master Of Meats” was featured on SMM after being named one of the runner-ups in their esoteric sausage flash fiction writing contest this past May.

Open Letter to My WooToob Subscribers

By Skyler Ballz

Social media influencer Skyler Ballz visits us today to offer an insincere apology to all that may be unsubscribing from his channel or rethinking a purchase from his merch store.

Wut up, dick lickers!

I need to chop it with y’all for a minute on the real tip (nah, it’s my mushroom tip. Ooooooh!!!) Nah, but seriously like. It’s with a heavy heart that I put this out into the world for y’all.

A lotta yous think I’m just some meatheaded fuckboi bro, but for real, yo… I’m a human bean. Nahm sayin? Skyler Ballz got the feels and shit. I needed a platform to share with y’alls how I’m really feeling because, let’s face it, this is all about me.

As y’all know, I posted up a very regrettable video last week that I’m fully aware I never should have put out into the world…even though, if you watch the intro, I make it abundantly clear that I think it’s on some next level shit and y’all are never gonna experience something so awesome ever again.

I have more remorse or whatever than you can even imagine. So much regret that y’all should be praying for me right now because if you could see me, I’m full on crying and shit. #TheStruggleIsReal.

If you been online, and I know you have (yo, shout out to the team at my Free Spirit Apparel brand! Woot! Woot!), then you know that on Friday, I posted footage of my handy capable cousin Jerry pretending to jerk off a dead body we found behind a In-N-Out Burger in Van Nuys.

Now, I know this was inappropriate and y’all should totes take me to task on that shit. Seriously, you should totally not Like this post or tell your bros about it and definitely don’t Subscribe to my channel for the chance to win a Free Spirit Apparel surfboard.

What I did was unforgivable…but I’m learning.

I think this is what y’all might call a teachable moment. After much reflection, and a visit to a Yogi in Venice Beach, I’ve decided to stay off WooToob until I’ve really searched my soul. Tomorrow I plan on hopping on a plane and heading to the home of the body…I mean the victim’s family’s house so that they can tell me his story…so that I can share it with you guys…so that maybe I’ll understand why it was so insensitive to have Jerry mime like dead dude was totally nutting in Jerry’s face and shit.

I hope that this trip will be a spiritual awakening and that I can pass some of that awakening on to y’all cuz life is short, bruh. I think I understand that now and probably dead dude understands that better than anyone. I gotta say, dead dude is brave. Probably the bravest guy I know.

This has been a journey of self-discovery for me. I mean, I’ve learned a lot already just from y’alls’s outpouring of support, but like totes don’t support my ass because my ass was in the wrong and so was Jerry’s mouth.

What I’ve learned thus far is that you shouldn’t contaminate a crime scene, even if you didn’t expect to stumble on one and that you maybe shouldn’t videotape murder victims or pretend to blow them or anything because death is effed up and In-N-Out Burger does motherfuckas wrong.

Yo, you should all boycott In-N-Out Burger, kid. I mean, why they lettin’ people kill dudes in they back alley, bro?

I also learned that even though Van Nuys might seem like a chill place to hang, it’s actually where dead dudes are laying around with their pants down and that’s sick. Get a room, dude.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m legit sorry and you shouldn’t buy my new song on iTunes because it’s a diss track and life’s too short for diss tracks. It’s even shorter than that half-pint bitch ass Foolio69 that I was straight up owning on that track (come at me, brah! #SkyBallzVsFoolio2018 #PayPerView).

Just to show y’all where I’m really coming from on all this, I’m refusing to accept AdSense from this apology note, and the video I posted of me and Jerry taunting Jerry’s guinea pig Douglas before subjecting it to the Ice Bucket Challenge earlier today will not be monetized outta respect, for you…and for the late Douglas. RIP, boi. #GuineaPigLife #Dougie4Eva

That’s about it for now, y’all. Just remember. If you see a dead body, don’t make your crippled brother pretend to jack it off because death is some heavy shit and crippleds don’t deserve to look gay on camera or some shit. ‘Specially not behind no In-N-Out Burger #bromophobia #NotSoSecretMenu

And that is a teachable moment. You’re welcome.

10 Weird Movies That Never Got Made

By Bob Freville


If you’re anything like me—a glorified freakshow with a propensity towards hunting through thrift stores for forgotten gems—you’ve likely unearthed a king’s ransom of bizarre and risque movies on VHS or DVD.

Many of us have marveled at flicks like Adam Rifkin’s The Dark Backward (1991) or the Mel Brooks-produced The Vagrant (1992) and wondered just how they ever got made. What’s more, we waited with bated breath for the director’s next gnarly movie to drop.

All too often in so-called independent cinema (C’mon, indies! You’re not fooling anyone. What’s truly independent about taking someone else’s money to make your strange vision a reality?), the next one just doesn’t materialize.

Take, for example, classic cult auteurs like Nick Zedd or Kenneth Anger.

Kenneth Anger was, quite possibly, the most daring avant-garde filmmaker to emerge from the Fifties, giving us the psychedelic madness of Invocation of my Demon Brother and the homosexual fever dream of Fireworks.

Anger had toiled for decades to edit, re-edit, restore and remaster his classic underground pictures and labored just as long to retain his dream of working with a Hollywood budget. He even carefully mapped out what that movie would be, but in the end, the film was never funded and, instead, he was relegated to writing the tabloid-style gossip book Hollywood Babylon for a pittance. The book was banned ten days after its initial publication.

Zedd has fared nearly as terribly; the godfather of the Cinema of Transgression spent years in poverty on the Lower East Side of NYC, pushing a shopping cart full of film prints across the Williamsburg Bridge. The whole time he was hoping that one day an H’wood benefactor would come to his rescue. Instead, he went years without making a motion picture and ended up moving to Mexico City out of sheer desperation.

Sadly, these are just two examples of visionary artists being denied the monies necessary to realize their stories. The following are 10 examples of weird flicks that I’d kill or, at least, maim to see.

1. BLUE MOVIE (Kubrick)

Stanley Kubrick left this world in March of 1999, but each time I throw on my hopelessly scratched copy of The Shining or revisit the deranged wonders of Eyes Wide Shut, I feel as though he is still with us…because he is, in his film prints.

It’s only too bad that Kubrick, who died long before realizing a number of his epic dreams (Napoleon immediately springs to mind), never got to direct Blue Movie. Readers of a certain age will remember that blue movie used to be a polite term for pornography or erotic cinema.

Blue Movie was going to be just that…with a twist. Kubrick’s intention was to cast his blue movie with celebrity actors from Tinseltown and film them fucking. Noted author Terry Southern had written Blue Movie as a novel dedicated to Kubrick and brought it to the legendary director with the intent to collaborate on the script.

Had it not been for Kubrick moving forward with 2001: A Space Odyssey, a formidably weird film in its own right, the world may have seen the first Hollywood-sanctioned sex film. Alas, we can only thumb through the pages of Southern’s film industry satire and imagine what could have been.


Easily one of the weirdest filmmakers in America (Calvin Lee Reeder is a close second), David Lynch has been giving us sublime narratives of mystery and grotesquerie since the Seventies. Regrettably, the decades since his arrival on the scene have been marred by abandoned and even impossible projects.

Nearly a year before Lynch and writing partner Mark Frost produced the pilot episode of the cult hit Twin Peaks—television’s weirdest soap opera both then and now—the two collaborated on a script for a feature film that would have focused on a secret government project gone haywire.

The plot would have seen the townsfolk of a small fictional Kansas town switching identities in some sort of bizarre twist on body swap pics like 1961’s The Parent Trap or 1988’s Judge Reinhold-Fred Savage vehicle Vice Versa.

As if the prospect of someone like Lynch directing a movie like The Change-Up isn’t absurd enough, the casting ideas of the time were equally bizarre. Lynch supposedly had his eye on Martin Short and Steve Martin for the male leads.

Sadly, we’ll never know what the flick would have actually looked likealthough reading the script online can offer some insightsand that sucks. But keen Lynch enthusiasts will recognize that  elements of the identity switch were recycled for the recent Twin Peaks reboot on Showtime. Here’s lookin’ at you, Dougie!

3. MAYHEM (Hartley)

Hal Hartley is not a name that is necessarily synonymous with the strange, even if his later films have been oddly formal in their choreography and framing choices.

More than anything, this New York-born independent is remembered for his trilogy of early-Nineties Long Island films (The Unbelievable Truth, Trust, Simple Men). But what most people don’t know is that Hartley almost started his career in the same fashion as Hollywood heavyweights Francis Ford Coppolla (Dementia 13) and Oliver Stone (The Hand).

In Kenneth Kaleta’s book True Fiction & Possible Films, the Henry Fool director talks about how his friend Ted Hope, then an aspiring producer, had met someone who thought they could raise $500,000 to make a cheap horror quickie.

While HH remains rather tight-lipped about the jettisoned project’s plot, he does expound on the process of having written it, saying, “I wrote a sort of horror exploitation movie called Mayhem in seven days.”

He goes onto say that the budget came with stipulations, telling Kaleta that they could raise the money “if we could get a script that took place on a farm and had six or seven definite attributes, including slaughter on page one and female nudity on page two.”

While it is a bit unfortunate that this one never saw the light of daythe thought of the man behind Flirt and Fay Grim directing a schlocky slasher with naked teens is hilarious, after allwe did get Hartley’s take on the monster movie with 2001’s woefully underrated No Such Thing.


Kevin Smith’s movie ideas have been getting stranger and stranger since 2011’s dark religion gone bad pic Red State. First, we got the late Michael Parks turning poor Justin Long into a human walrus in 2014’s Tusk, then along came Netflix to teach Americans what Yoga Hosers are.

The latter was a fun 80s throwback about two Canadian teenagers who must battle Bratzis (miniature Nazis made of bratwurst) before confronting a giant hockey-loving creature engineered by the Third Reich.

Over the years, Smith has had a lot of fun and off-the-wall ideas for projects, both for the big screen and TV. At one time, he was attached to helm a TV series spin-off of the cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai, but like so many of his projects, it didn’t come off.

At the top of the list of Smith’s most long-awaited films that will probably never see the light of day is Helena Handbag, a story that kind of sounds like the anti-Dogma. Had the project been produced, we would have bore witness to mankind teaming up with the minions of Hell in order to prevent humanity’s extinction at the hands of a massive, rapturing Jesus. If that don’t sound bizarro, I’m Charles Barkley.

5. FIGHT HARM (Korine)

Harmony Korine is one of the most unpredictable auteurs active in modern cinema. After penning the cultural landmark Kids (1995) Korine was given his chance to make pretty much whatever he wanted. The result was 1997’s Gummo, an impossible-to-describe blend of vibrant scripted material, grainy betacam improv and genuine weirdness.

Korine has explored some controversial subject matter over the years and always in the most unexpected and imaginative ways. Whether it’s hiring a glue-sniffing teenager to star in a lead role based solely on a daytime talk show segment about sniffing glue or convincing legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog to drink cough syrup from a bedroom slipper on camera, Korine has made a career of taking potentially career-killing chances.

After a five-year hiatus and a battle with drug addiction, Korine returned in 2012 with the day glo action comedy Spring Breakers, a flick that is as much a satire of rape culture and hip-hop as it is a vibrant, sex-dripping celebration of pop music and teen abandon.

While Gummo and Spring Breakers can arguably be called his crowning achievements, there is one unfinished film that might trump both of them in terms of sheer power of will. Throughout the 90s and early-2000s, Korine deliberately provoked strangers into beating the shit out of him and documented the whole thing on video.

At the time, Korine’s intention was to turn the whole thing into some sort of performance art piece or, perhaps, what he really intended was to provoke critics who had labeled him exploitative of his cast members (Gummo featured a girl with Down’s Syndrome playing a prostitute and julien donkey-boy had featured a man afflicted with albinism).

Korine ultimately abandoned the unfinished product because of the life-threatening consequences of, ya know, getting the fucking piss kicked out of him on a repeated basis.

Whether this was some warped riff on the vaudeville acts Korine loved as a kid or, simply, a commentary on a culture that produced things like Bum Wars we’ll never know. But just picturing it conjures some pretty gnarly images. For perspective, refer to the sequence in Gummo where Korine comes onto a male dwarf before sobbing and pouring a bottle of beer over his head.


Before Dimension Films poisoned the well with a bunch of convoluted and completely unnecessary direct-to-DVD sequels and reboots of Clive Barker’s fabled Priest series (serious fans will know that we don’t call him Pinhead, we call him Priest), Martyrs director Pascal Laugier was tapped to create a proper remake.

Although the French filmmaker behind the unsung Jessica Biel flick The Tall Man ended up walking away from the project due to creative differences, he left in his wake the groundwork for a genuinely exciting return to form.

As some of you may already know, Hellraiser was based on Barker’s 1986 novella, The Hellbound Heart. The book’s narrative is barely recognizable in the original Hellraiser film or most of its subsequent iterations.

What Laugier appeared to have been doing was returning the true heart of The Hellbound Heart to Hellraiser by including the homoerotic and BDSM elements of the book in his movie script. So faithful was his first draft that Barker himself gave the golden seal of approval to Laugier in an interview with Bloody Disgusting back in 2009.

So why, then, did Laugier’s re-imagining of the first film never make it to cinemas? In 2012, the director shed some light on the subject; speaking to Destroy the Brain, he said, “You know, what happened is I had this feeling that the producers behind the new HELLRAISER didn’t really want to do a solid serious movie, so for me a new HELLRAISER is all about S&M gay culture, because it comes from a homosexual desire and HELLRAISER is about dealing with these very questions and I don’t want to betray Clive’s vision.

“I’m a huge fan and I love HELLRAISER and maybe I was wrong, but I had the feeling I was wanted to do something much more for a teenage audience. One of the biggest problems in Hollywood when you love horror is that Hollywood doesn’t. You either do a slasher or you don’t do anything, you know?

“HELLRAISER is not a slasher. It’s not about killing a teenager and seeing random things between murders, it’s not that at all. It’s much more complex. It’s definitely adult oriented and they asked me to do something very commercial you know, which is fine, but it was a bummer that I didn’t want to do what they wanted. I’ve learned to just run away.”

7. CIGARETTE KEY (Hunter S. Thompson)

You read that right. The godfather of Gonzo journalism was once working on a screenplay for a major motion picture. The project was said to be a dark action film, but little else has been disclosed about the plot.

The story would have likely combined elements of Thompson’s experiences in the Florida Keys, experiences that were well-documented in his book, Songs of the Doomed. At the time, HST had also been talking a lot about Galveston and how that could work within the then-unfinished first draft.

It is possible that the crime film would have involved the Mariel boat lift of 1980 and the hundreds of Cuban refugees that swarmed Miami, although this is mostly speculation on my part. One thing is pretty certain: Like all of his best writing, Hunter would have surely cast himself in the role of the film’s adventurous journeyman.

For more about this and other unproduced HST projects, check out Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson.

8. CASH MONEY DOLLARS (Neveldine/Taylor)

Before the Crank team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor broke up, they wrote a spec script for a high-octane action movie that seemed like equal parts 70s blaxploitation movie and modern social commentary.

The story itself didn’t sound particularly weird; it focused on a shady private dick, a kick-ass female Secret Service agent and an African-American Texas ranger joining forces to fight terrorism—not exactly groundbreaking outside of the race and gender thing, but considering the duo responsible for it, we were bound to be in for a helluva ride.

As fate would have it, even with big-time H’wood producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura shopping it around to major studios, this one couldn’t pull a Chev Chelios and get off the ground. Fortunately for fans of Neveldine/Taylor’s frenetic style and deranged humor, there’s always the new FX series Happy! which captures the insane spirit of the Crank films and has Brian Taylor as showrunner. One’s better than none.


Werner Herzog is one of cinema’s most prolific filmmakers, effortlessly straddling the worlds of documentaries and narrative features. Whether it’s the heart-wrenching realism of Grizzly Man or the inexplicably batshit Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, this master craftsman never fails to entertain and enlighten. It is obvious that this would have held true for The Conquest of Mexico, a massive and decidedly brazen project that would cost hundreds of millions to make in the current climate and would have surely ruffled feathers with its subject matter.

Nobody knows for sure whether this one got very far along as there hasn’t been any testimony as to whether Herzog ever completed a draft of the script. However, the plot seems very clear that this would have been a sprawling and ambitious endeavor, one that would have taken the controversial path of presenting European colonialism in the New World through the eyes of the Aztecs whose land the conquistadors were encroaching upon.

Some believe that it was the prohibitive budget that doomed this one to the annals of the Black List, but it’s fair to assume that the political context didn’t exactly have money men seeing dollar signs. In any event, we can all dream of Herzog’s big dream and take solace in knowing that he’s already achieved the impossible on more than one occasion.

After all, how many directors can expect to move mountains more than once?

10. FRUITCAKE (Waters)

Throughout the 80s and 90s, the Pope of Trash struggled to get a number of deliciously twisted projects off the ground, from the potentially lucrative sequel to his midnight sensation Pink Flamingos to the ever-elusive film adaptation of A Confederacy of Dunces. But, oddly, it was his most marketable idea that evaded him the longest.

Fruitcake was first mentioned in 2008 with Parker Posey and Jackass star Johnny Knoxville set to star. The most shocking thing about it? Fruitcake was meant to be John Waters’ first true family film (if you don’t count Hairspray and, personally, I don’t) and a holiday movie yet!

The plot centered on a boy named Fruitcake who runs away from home on Christmas after his parents get busted for shoplifting food. Fruitcake then meets a young girl who is also a runaway. The daughter of a gay couple, she is on the hunt for her biological mother.

While all of this may seem rather quaint and Hallmark-ish, we know that John Shrimpin’ Ass Waters would have put his signature low brow humor to work on it. But like actual fruitcake, nobody wanted this one and Waters shopped it around for years to no avail.

In the last decade or so, Waters has left the director’s chair to become a successful multi-hyphenate, launching second and third careers as an essayist and visual artist as well as an always in-demand character actor.

It’s a dirty shame (like what I did there?), but John Waters is unlikely to return to directing. Luckily, his essays and memoirs are some of the most readable around and are readily available on Amazon.

Check back with us next time for 10 Weird Things That Shouldn’t Be On My Body. Visit our concession stand for more SMM goodness.

The Behavior of the Stars

The Behavior of the Stars

Mark stared up at the night sky, but there were no stars to be seen. They were probably hiding; they often scurried behind clouds and laughed at him, which was unbearable.

He had seen them move. Sometimes they skipped across so fast that he just caught a glimpse from the corner of his eye, but more often they winked across the sky, sending a series of messages that he couldn’t decipher.

“Please,” he would beg, knowing his voice to be ignored. “Please tell me!”

Sometimes he could not stand it and would cry, burying himself miserably in his filthy sleeping bag. Then, in the morning, when the stars had stopped teasing him, he walked on. Mark didn’t know where he was going, but his feet seemed to have some plan. The rest of him was reassured as he trod firmly along paths, across fields, over hills. He lived mainly on nuts, of which he had gathered an immense number in autumn, plus any wayside greens or fungi that he could eat raw. He was getting very thin, and had to tie a piece of cord round his trousers to keep them up.

Mark had a pack and a beard and just about knew his own first name, though it was edging slyly away from him. He even had something to live for, though it was a rarity for him to get it. Most of his time was spent in cold and bitterness and confusion.

“Why do they leave me?” he wondered, aching. “Every day they leave me. That’s if I see them at all.”

He wasn’t well, he supposed. He had a vague but persistent sense of a whole other life happening elsewhere, maybe to someone else. The questions, “Where am I? Why am I here?” fell into this category, and Mark could not see them; his mind blurred over all such things and left him with only an inarticulate feeling of existential unease. The words,

‘lover’, ‘friend’ and ‘home’ never entered his consciousness.

“Cold, cold, cold, alone,” said Mark over and over in a song-like manner as he walked through the hours of the day.

But every so often, on the most bitterly cold nights when he almost lost everything, the miracle would happen.

He could never be sure, at first.

One star would come out and take a look, and then another, and they would whisper together and giggle. Mark would try not to get his hopes up. After all, this could go on all night until he fell into dreaming, just this piecemeal giggling in ones and twos. But on the special nights they would all turn up, every man-jack of them, until the sky blazed down on Mark. Countless, they waited, and at the time of perfect light and fullness they would stop the gossip and laughter and there would be a moment of absolute stillness.

When that silence fell, Mark knew what was going to happen. His throat would constrict and his eyes would well with tears, which he would wipe away hastily, desperate not to miss anything.

The stars began to sing. One clear voice would start it, pitched somewhere between a bell and a choirboy (though Mark had neither word), a single note without end. The star that was singing would shine extra brightly with it. Then another would pick up and shine and sing in harmony, and then groups of two or three would add in more and more streams of heavenly music, until the whole sky sang and shone and throbbed with it, a canopy of exquisite sound. A thousand orchestras and the most sophisticated lightshow could not have come close to it.

Mark would watch and weep with joy. Once or twice a phrase would drift into his consciousness: ‘the restatement of the theme’, or ‘rapt, atmospheric coda’, but he shrugged away the ugly, clunky words that failed to connect with the grand euphony of the sky. He didn’t want the old words that sometimes nagged at the edges of his mind. The stars covered the sound of a woman crying somewhere in his memory.

Every element worked together; every element was in harmony, even the dissonances.
Sometimes, hours in, Mark would fall asleep. Then he would dream of the song, and wake to the diffident microscope of noon. But sometimes he would be so drawn in by the music – which wasn’t a performance but merely one of the stars’ modes of existence – that he would join in, a simple baritone note that carried on as long as he could hold it before drawing breath and starting again: “Baaaaaaaaa!”

For once, he fit in with them, and they sang together. It would go on and on until the dirty grey and pink of dawn came to mute the stars and their music. Mark would fall asleep then, deliriously happy.

This joy would last him for days, and he would be particularly active. He would wash in rivers and drink deeply, whistle to himself, keep an eye out for good or useful things, and walk with a skip in his step. But gradually the joy would seep away, only falling off more quickly if he tried to hang on to it, as each night the stars watched him distantly and made no further sign. Mark knew that they talked about him behind his back.

How could they be so magnificent and yet so petty?

Troubled, he walked on. One day it would all become clear. It didn’t make any sense at the moment, and he was mostly alone and afraid. But you have to keep going, to believe. He had to trust that one day the stars would explain everything, and invite him to join them. Everything lived life in this way, he thought, moments of beauty making the whole of life bearable.

The stars laughed at him. They had their own plan, and Mark didn’t stand a chance.

-Cathy Bryant


Cathy Bryant worked as a shoe shop assistant, life model, civil servant and childminder (among other jobs) before writing professionally. She has won 27 literary awards and writing contests, including the Wergle Flomp Humorous Poetry Contest, the Balticon SF Poetry Contest and the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Cathy’s work has been published all over the world in such publications as Eye to the Telescope, The Andromeda  Spaceways Inflight Magazine and Futuredaze. She co-edited the anthologies Best of Manchester Poets vols. 1, 2 and 3. She has published three books of poetry: Contains Strong Language and Scenes of a  Sexual Nature (Puppywolf, 2010), Look at All the Women (Mother’s Milk, 2014), and Erratics (Arachne, 2018).

Put It In Your Mouth—Basse Qualité Cuisine Column # 1

A Betrayal of the Spud…Dining at The Bell”

Basse Qualité Cuisine Column

By Bertram Tigot


Born on 21 March, 1962 in the same birthplace as the Apollo space program, Taco Bell is a restaurant that holds a peculiar place in the annals of gastronomy. Having consistently eluded both the Michelin Guide and the Zagat rating scale, it is nonetheless a so-called American treasure. This despite its chefs erring towards the Southwestern palate.

Having slummed it for several months on a Périgord truffle farm in the bowels of the Dordogne, my own bowels ached for a more austere dining experience. Returning to the States, my heart swelled at the sight of one of those humble purple shanties known colloquially as The Bell.

This crossroad cantina would serve as my solace after a sluggish sojourn through the gloriously mediocre chateaus of the Pyrenees mountains. Alas, my culinary ebullience was immediately quelled upon entering the hopelessly smudged front entrance.

The waitstaff was woefully absent, meaning that management had the sheer audacity to expect me to seat myself. After deigning to do so, I was dismayed to find that my perch was fashioned from what could only be described as low-grade aluminum as opposed to the galvanized brushed steel which is my wont.

It was with great effort that I bottled my ire like a fine chablis and settled in to look at the menu. I was aghast when I realized that the menus, like the waitstaff, were in absencia. No doubt, they were sharing a marijuana cigarette in the derrier of the kitchen.

Wringing my hands like one would a dish cloth, I made my way to the front of the kitchen and found an acne-blighted lad in a vulgar mauve visor, his face beaming at me as though I were bringing him news of his father’s whereabouts.

I asked to kindly see a list of their prix fixe menu, but I could see at once that he had no idea of what I spoke. His dull eyes betrayed a sense of mental entropy and I did not want to spend another moment explaining myself.

A cursory scan of their sloppily displayed menu pictures, an array of gaudy images of swollen burritos and spendthrift tortillas left me coming up short, but I was staunch in my intention to consume something distinctly American.

After ordering the Nacho Fries, an item that carried with it the allure of a limited edition, I retired to the rear of the dining room to dig into my sumptuous new treat. Unfortunately, there was nothing delectable about it.

Far from the decadent picture painted for me by the grandiose portrayal of these fries in the gaudy menu images, what I found on my plate was nothing so much as an existential rapier sharpened to nick at what was left of my decorum and aplomb.

The diminutive cardboard container and the contents thereof were hopelessly cold, more gelid even than the Seine in the clutches of late-Autumn. The appallingly sparse sprinkle of orange-red seasoning was a far cry from the generous dusting of pink himalayan salt I am accustomed to.

Unctuous in texture this was not; the coagulated molten yellow cheese sauce was less a ragu and more a melted mass of gelatinous plastic. All things considered, I must give this rather offensive dish a fraction of one star as it troubled me so.

These perfunctory fries have not earned their name as they fail to capture the pedestrian enticement of the nacho, nor do they deserve to wear the crown of French fries as French they most certainly are not. In short, they lack the earnestness of a true russet and fail to appeal to my crestfallen salivary glands.

I beseech The Bell to recall this positively dreadful limited edition straight away. It is time to reinstate bacon, for only the slaughtering of a fattened beast could cleanse the Etruscan plank of this most odious of comestibles.

Va te faire foutre.


Bob Freville is the co-editor of Silent Motorist Media. A writer and filmmaker from Long Island, NY, he is the author of the urban crime novella “Battering the Stem” (Bizarre Pulp Press), the short story collection “The Network People” (Psychedelic Horror Press) and the political satire “Celebrity Terrorist Sex Bomb” (Bizarro Pulp Press). Freville’s horror-art film “Hemo” is available from Troma Team Releasing. Send him dirty pictures or death threats at: intrepidaspirationsllc@gmail.com