Brian Rosenberger

Dead Guy in the Basement

Mom willed the house to me. Unexpected.

Ours was a strained relationship. I’d runaway twice before I could legally drive.

My biological Dad was absent more days than Santa Claus and seldom discussed. My few male role models were the dudes Mom dated. Those relationships were short term at best.

Whatever family values I learned came from basic cable TV.

The dead guy, Harold, knew Mom. He never goes into detail.

Judging by the dent in his skull, I figure Harold wronged someone. Mom had a temper. One that I inherited.

How he came to be in the basement, Harold hesitates to discuss.

“Things happen,” he shrugs what is left of his decaying shoulders.

He tell me things – scratch-off lottery numbers, never a big pay-off, but enough to pay the utilities, days to stay home to avoid a traffic accident or being fired from work, dudes not to date again.

On that, he’s been spot on. Imagine that, dating advice from a corpse.

Sometimes I read to Harold. He likes those old detective magazines – stories with titles like “He Strangled Woman with their Panties” or “Nude Model was Too Sexy to Live.”

He likes story time. Me, not as much. I like that Harold enjoys my readings but can’t shake the feeling that maybe Harold’s skull could use another dent.

But then I think about the bills to pay.

The Sounds of Samsara, By John D Robinson

SoS

Born in 1963, John D Robinson is a UK poet. Hundreds of his poems have appeared online and in print. He has published several chapbooks of his poetry and 3 full collections. His work has appeared in such publications as Raw Art Review, Rusty Truck, Misfits Magazine, Poetic Diversity, Hobo Camp Review, Eunoia Review, Tuck Magazine, Poems-For-All, and The Sunflower Collective, to name a few. His latest collections include Hang In There (Uncollected Press), A Hash Smoking, Codeine Swallowing, Wine Drinking Son Of A Bitch (Alien Buddha Press), and The Sounds of Samsara.

Publishing February 15th

PREORDER HERE

Josef Desade

Corpus Dilecti

Shadows flickered across the walls, as the flames protested to the breeze, created by the violent disruption the towel had caused in the air. Teeth chattering, as the ice cold water spiraled slowly down the drain; a slow drip echoing around the small bathroom, as the damp fabric slightly relieved the chill, as she ran it along her backside. Moving closer to the two candles on either side of an ornamental full length mirror, she could see goosebumps along her flesh. They reminded her of an untold story, written in braille, indecipherable without the proper eyes, or lack thereof.

A rivulet of red wax slowly wound its way around the shafts of the candles, as her body blocked out her view of the one that rested behind her; its motion almost phallic in her mind, as she placed the towel onto the toilet, its pink velour in sharp contrast with the ivory porcelain. The scent of disinfectants drifted through the cracks around the wooden door behind her, interweaving with the scent of lilac and jasmine, that wafted from the tub, and for a moment she felt lightheaded as she stepped forward into the light to grip the edge of the sink. She lifted her head slowly, her auburn curls framing her face, so that in the dim light her features seemed to almost blend seamlessly in with the darkness, her eyes gemstones that reflected the fire.

What are you doing…you don’t even know who he is.

Her reflection stared back, a glimmer of doubt in her eyes, as she slowly scanned her body. Her eyes traced scars that ran along her skin, remembrances of the cause of each and every one flirting with her mind. She felt her nipples grow hard, and her gaze fell upon a snakelike design that crisscrossed from one breast to the other. She felt a thrill of pleasure as she ran her fingers across it’s length, the violated flesh glistening like fat on a steak. She closed her eyes, the voice of the author of that story, whispering in her memory.

Such a good girl…

The air around her felt electric, as she picked up a puff that had been dipped in loose powder and began to apply it to her skin. It felt strange on her, as if it were an armor that helped brace her for this, as she took on the pallor of death. She could hear him in the room behind her, preparing the chamber in which she would portray a corpse for his pleasure, as she lined her lips in a crimson shade. It was as if a different person looked back at her, as she analyzed herself in the mirror; exposed, yet hidden by the facade created by the makeup.

How did fate bring me to this moment…in the arms of such a strange vice, that I wonder if I look deathly enough to arouse the passions of a faceless man, who craves the comfort of the grave, over those of the living?

The room behind her had grown as quiet as a crypt, as she gave herself another glance, hoping that she had done a satisfactory job for him. She turned and looked towards the door anxiously, a tremor of fear running through her, as she waited in the oppressing silence that had fallen; broken only by the slow, steady drip of the faucet in the tub.

How did I ever talk myself into such a thing…what if he doesn’t intend me to leave here as anything but what I’m about to portray…

She could feel her nerves getting out of control, as doubts began to voice themselves. A million questions ran through her mind, as she chewed nervously on a fingernail, when the silence was broken by the sound of a fan turning on. She was taken aback by a burst of icy air from the ceiling, as the candles were extinguished, and she found herself in complete darkness, as a forlorn melody began to play in the room outside the door. Grasping at the air in front of her, she stumbled forward until she felt the cracked wood before her, and ran her fingertips carefully down until she found a brass doorknob, that felt frozen to the touch. With a deep breath, she found herself oddly aroused, and with a turn of her wrist, entered the chamber beyond.

The room she found herself in was as cold as a morgue, as she felt a cool breeze being pumped throughout, from ventilation on the ceiling. It was wholly unfurnished, except for a four poster bed, that took up the center of the room, and lay naked, but for a single white sheet. Two candelabras illuminated the bedchamber, and as she padded closer it dawned on her that the bed was composed of blocks of ice, that had taken the place of a mattress, beneath the thin shroud that adorned it.

Her initial response was to flee this scene; to run back to the bathroom and lock the door, she was in over her head. But how could she of come this far, just to retreat like a wounded animal. Rent was due, and without this she would be two months behind, and her landlord was not going to be as forgiving as he was last month. She closed her eyes, and conjured up the image of her past lovers; the beautiful pain of the lash, the exhilaration when she heard them praise her for her submission…the harsh words as they chastised her, that brought her euphoric joy. With a tentative exhalation, she opened her eyes, and slowly walked to the bed that awaited.

Heart racing, she ran her fingertips over the sheet, the ice underneath biting her skin. Heart racing, she lowered herself onto the pedestal, letting out a gasp as her skin came into contact with it. The sheet was hardly protection, and it took her a moment to adjust, before she could stop her chattering teeth. She leaned back, fear gripping her body, as she felt the ice beneath slowly molding to her form. Regaining control over her breathing, she turned her eyes to the ceiling, and was greeted by grotesque visions.

Safe word…safe word!

Her brain screamed at her to end this, as she traced the images painted above her. A devilish scene played out in the heavens, as demons tortured their hapless victims for unspoken crimes. Their blood forming a spiral that wrapped itself towards the edges of the molding, like a river draining out into hundreds of little tributaries. A wave of nausea rippled through her stomach, and she fought back the acidic flow that threatened to scald her throat, as she narrowed her vision to one image on the ceiling.

A pale white figure, bent over on bended knee, its back exposed to the creature that stood over it. The demon held a lash in one hand, and its victims hair in the other, as it looked down upon its handiwork. Four red stripes across the woman’s back, tiger stripes, as she took the punishment meted out, and exposed her frail body to her judge and jury. The demon had long black hair, as it dripped saliva, and more offensive fluids onto her lowered head.

Concentrating on the scene above her, she found her stomach at ease, her breath shallow. She traced the curves on each of the figures, and felt a warmth inside as she immersed her thoughts in the fantasy world inspired by the artist’s hand. The warmth spread throughout her body, and she felt her muscles relax as she sunk into a complacent state of mind, a rush of euphoria consuming her as she closed her eyes. A click echoed throughout the room, and the flames of the candles danced behind her closed lids, as an unseen door opened, and heavy footsteps broke the silence.

Panic overcame her thoughts as the footsteps fell closer, her mind telling her to call an end to this before it was too late. She pictured the fantasy on the ceiling, as she tried to maintain steady shallow breaths, and steeled herself for what was to come. His footsteps seemed massive in the frozen room, commanding. She fought the urge to crack her eyelids just a little bit to take an innocent peek, knowing that if she did it would break his fantasy.

This is just role play…just an act. There is nothing to be afraid of, we negotiated all the terms. The safe word is always there…calm down…it is just the room…just the ambiance of this scene getting to me…breathe…it is all in my head…

She heard his footfalls at the foot of the bed, the scent of hospital disinfectant, and aftershave flooding her senses. A wave of nausea threatened to overtake her, and she focused on her breathing to keep it back; the temptation to peek becoming an urgent need in her thoughts. He had stopped before the bed, his breathing growing heavier, and as she heard his breathing she found it harder to keep her breathing shallow. She felt as if drowning, as she fought the urge to break her role. She could feel her body rebelling, her mind panicking, as she found a pinprick of light on her eyelid and forced all her thoughts towards it.

A heavenly pinprick of light in the darkness, breaking the terror that was trying to force itself into her. For a moment she felt weightless; a free falling body that focused inwards, putting herself into a trance like state, as she felt her yearning to submit begin to take control. The sudden touch of his hand upon her foot, slowly sliding its way up her leg came as a shock to her body, and she twitched, as she heard a noise of disapproval come from the unseen face above her.

Shit, I blew it. Shit…shit…shit…I am such a fuckup…

She held her breath, not daring to move a muscle, as she could feel his eyes analyzing her body. His breathing like a great beast that lurked just beyond vision, prowling the darkness that huddled around her, as it looked for the smallest sign of life. He dropped her ankle against the ice with a hard smack, stars dancing behind her eyelids, as pain rippled throughout her body. She concentrated on the sound of his breathing, as she managed to stay calm. He was moving along the side of the bed, the sickening scent of soap threatening to drown her.

She heard him turn back towards her feet, and quickly took a silent gasp of air. She could feel her heart beating rapidly in her chest, and for a moment she feared that he would hear it. She felt the blood begin to rush to her head; when all of a sudden her body violently spasmed, as he roughly gripped her ankles and threw her legs apart. Her head hit the ice, and for a moment she felt an odd pleasure from the way he had manhandled her, and then she fell into an onyx ocean.

Pulsing..rhythmic waves…strobe light vision…where am I?

The pain felt like hundreds of shards of glass sliding through her face, her body in shock as the cold seeped into her bones; the ice forming a sarcophagus to entomb her in. She fought the urge to blink as she took in her surroundings. She felt a wetness along her skin, traveling from her calf up to the inside of her thigh, as an uneasy pleasure derived from the sensation. The loss of consciousness dawned on her, as she realized that her leg was lifted upon his bulk, and fear overtook her. She parted her lips, intending to yell out the safe word, when his tongue came to its goal. She felt her back slightly arch, as the warmth touched her frozen body; stifling a whimper as she played her part.

It was an accident…I can still move…I’m not really hurt…just a mistake…but…oh…but if it happens again…

The pleasure was overwhelming, as she felt his tongue delving into the depths of her. She involuntarily put her head back, a sleepy smile across her face as he devoured her. She could feel herself wet beneath him, as he forced her other leg onto his shoulder, and lifted her up to the heavens; his nails digging into her soft flesh. She wanted to scream out, but she regained her senses, and resisted the urge.

A corpse wouldn’t do that. Good corpses lay still…corpses don’t feel…corpses don’t feel…corpses don’t feel…

Without warning he dropped her legs, the abrupt impact on the ice causing her ankle to crack.

Corpses don’t feel…

A hand across her throat, the other forcing her leg to the side.

Corpses don’t feel…

A strange mixture of pleasure and agony as she feels him force himself deep inside her.

Corpses don’t…

She felt his fingers tighten around her throat, the world was swimming as she felt his thrusts begin to tear her.

Corpses…

The ice…the damn ice…her vision began to go bright.

Red! Red, red, red!

She gasped the safe word as she struggled to breathe, his hand pressed tightly around her throat. She felt him thrusting harder into her, and she cried out as his hand loosened it’s grip. Gasping, she sucked in as much air as she could, to have it struck right from her as his palm connected with her jaw.

Her vision sparked to life in brilliant hues, and then a rush of reality hit her, as her body contorted. She wished the blow had killed her, as she felt his hand grip her breast, squeezing until she let out a sudden moan of pleasure. Sheer terror, as she began to struggle against him, her icy limbs refusing to cooperate. His hand came down again, the impact causing her head to bounce off the ice, as he grabbed her by the waist, pulled back, and flipped her onto her stomach.

How did I get into this…he is going to kill me…red…red…please don’t kill me…

He knelt between her legs, his hand on her back. The shock of the ice against her breasts caused her to kick her legs wildly. She tried to struggle, but a sudden calmness began to overtake her, as he slid his hand up to her neck; lightly gripping it, as if a collar. She lay still as he forced himself back into her, her head falling limp to the ice, as a silent moan escaped her lips; the only sign a puff of breath. She closed her eyes, the weight of his fingers around her neck causing an unwanted reaction.

Good girls lay still…

The voice thundered out from behind her, as if guidance from the gods. She fought back the urge to moan with every motion of his body, and then opened her eyes. There was something in the shadows…something hidden behind a sinister veil. She tried to ignore the ripples going through her body, as she squinted to see into the gloom.

She began to make out shapes, strange outlines as her eyes adjusted. She could feel his hands grabbing her ass, as her body betrayed her; the spreading warmth melting the ice beneath her. She struggled to keep focus, and then the picture became clear. She let out a scream, her cries bringing him to a frenzy, as she realized what she was seeing. Against the wall, putrid flesh, bits of skeletal material, and decaying eyes that swam in a stew of rot. The girls were lined up, sitting against the wall; their legs spread apart, touching toes. Their necks were bent at unnatural angles, and their mouth, and eyes sewn shut with a thick twine, that was coated in congealed flesh. Their hands had been positioned to cover themselves between the legs, as if in a mock show of the modesty that would of prevented them falling to this fate.

Please..don’t kill me…please I will do anything…corpses don’t feel…corpses don’t feel…

She felt his seed filling her up, as her body spasmed, her mind empty except for the mantra that ran through her head. She heard him let out a cry of ecstasy, but it seemed as if it came from a far away land; as she looked at the ceiling, and the dark fantasies it hid. His weight lifted from her body, as she felt him slide to the edge of the bed, pushing himself to his feet.

Corpses don’t feel…

His hands slid beneath her, lifting her up like a child. She felt her head roll against him.

Corpses don’t feel…

She swam on distant shores, pleasure sweating out of her pores, as the candlelight faded into the darkness.

Corpses don’t feel…

Cold tiles…blood trickling from her nose…her eyes gazing towards another realm.

Corpses don’t feel…

The sound of running water…warmth…comfort.

Corpses don’t feel…

Footsteps fading away. The sharp sound of a bolt sliding into a lock.

Corpses don’t feel…

A smile crept onto her face…she was home…she had found her grave.

Mike Zone

Hunger: A Confession

We were looking for stolen cocaine
at the time
I was living out of my car
three months
eating once a day
I needed a job
we went to the dilapidated house
waving unloaded guns
the acquaintance who would soon be my friend
used his fists like hammers
the guy and his girl
kept pleading
kept denying
until something snapped
as the middle-class kid
in the hoodie and bling
pretending to be gangster
clean, well fed and smooth
bellowed and shrieked
tears streaming down his face
a swift kick from steel toes behind his knee
buckled and broken
I sat next to him
a sinister Buddha
removing my mask
he started talking
knowing what it meant
I ate well, that day

Alan Catlin

Leper’s Head

She asks if you’ve
got a light and you
say that you do as
she leans in close
almost touching your
hands with her face,
looks up at you
as you strike a match,
cup the flame protection
from sudden breezes
inside this three sided
bus shelter box, snow
outside impelled by
the wind on Central Avenue;
as she inhales her
eyes meet yours,
the smoke snaking
from her nose as she
whispers, “I like a man
who can light a girl’s
fire.” Leans closer still,
cigarette forgotten for
the moment, says,
“I can tell you’re a man
who likes lighting girl’s
fires. How would you
really like to light mine?”
opening the top buttons
of her coat revealing
a see-through blouse,
breasts, “How would
you like to come
inside with me?
All the way inside.”
She seems like some
thing left over from
a dream, a distant
memory so vivid
and distinct you almost
forget to notice the
arrival of your bus.

Vapor Vespers: One Act Sonix

VV

New York multi-instrumentalist Sal Cataldi (aka Spaghetti Eastern Music) partners with Alaskan playwright/poet Mark Muro for a triptastic slam of storytelling and genre-skipping sounds

New York/Anchorage, January 7, 2020 – It’s a sonic funhouse that draws upon everything from Fripp & Eno ambience and Krautrock space explorations to 70s Miles Davis funk-jazz-noise bromides, acoustic folk and baroque classicalism, all to season a world of surreal spoken word ruminations. These narratives explore scenes that are as varied as their musical backings – dramas, large and small, that take on “big think” spiritualism, romance, lust, obsession, death and the petty splendors of daily existence – with recitations that are part Eric Bogosian hyper-monologue, Bukowski/Henry Rollins poetry slam and, occasionally, a little un-PC Rudy Ray Moore party record bawdy.

Welcome to the world of Vapor Vespers, an edge- and button-pushing transcontinental collaboration between acclaimed NYC & Hudson Valley-based multi-instrumentalist Sal Cataldi (aka Spaghetti Eastern Music) and Alaskan playwright, actor and slam poet Mark Muro.

Drawing inspiration from music-powered spoken word icons like John Cooper Clarke, The Last Poets, Lord Buckley, Joe Frank, Henry Rollins and beat god Jack Kerouac, and the O.G. of monologues, Ruth Draper, the Vapor Vespers are unwrapping their ambient, industrial, funk, fuzz and jazz noise-flavored brew with One Act Sonix, a 13-track collection now available for digital download, streaming and in CD via CD Baby, Spotify, and other services. Sample via tracks below:

Cataldi and Muro’s partnership goes back to when they met in their teens in Queens, New York. Here, in the heart of blue-collar New York City, they formed a lifetime friendship and creative bond over a steady diet of Carvel Flying Saucers ice cream sandwiches, Sundew Jungle Juice, Sun Ra, Henry Miller, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa and the original spoken word recordings of the 50s and 60s from Caedmon Records.

A longtime denizen of the New York City and now Hudson Valley/Woodstock music scenes, guitarist/keyboardist Cataldi is most recently known for his solo project, Spaghetti Eastern Music. Here Cataldi fuses Eastern beats, Spaghetti Western film soundtrack ambience, Krautrock spaciness and psychedelic and funk/fusion flavored electric guitar instrumentals with gentle acoustic vocal songcraft, straight out of the John Martyn/Nick Drake songbook. Time Out New York writes: “Cataldi’s largely instrumental, Eastern-influenced jams are infused with some delicate guitar work and hauntingly moody atmosphere,” while The New York Times proclaims he has “a beat unmistakably his own.” Called “truly excellent” by The Village Voice, “a jazz virtuoso without the need to prove it” by Aquarian Weekly, “beautiful and unique” by WFUV’s Mixed Bag, “wonderfully melodic and off-center” by WFMU and “part Sergio Leone fever dream, part Ravi Shankar raga, a whirling dervish of musical creation” by Hudson Valley One, Cataldi keeps up a steady schedule of performances at leading venues in the Big Apple and the Hudson Valley.

Bronx-born Mark Muro has been a cultural force in Anchorage, Alaska since relocating in the mid-1980s. His short stories and poetry have been published in anthologies including North of Eden and The Anchorage Daily News and he has produced and performed in a series of one-man shows including The Bipolar Express, Indistinct Chatter and Not Marketable at theaters including Cyrano’s and Out North, and also at the annual Alaska One-Minute Play Festival. Muro has acted in numerous independent films and commercials, performed standup comedy, represented the state of Alaska in The National Poetry Slam. He also served as host of the PBS radio show, Stage Talk.  His newest one-man show, Bug Boy: Curse of the Ant Queen, premiered in November 2019 at Anchorage’s Cyrano’s Theater.

One Act Sonix was recorded and engineered by Sal Cataldi about the studio aboard his houseboat in Port Washington, Long Island, Houseboat Garlic Knot Studios, and Sonic Garden Studios in West Saugerties, New York (1/4 mile from the legendary Big Pink house made famous by The Band). All tracks were mastered, and several remixed, by Grammy-winning engineer Bob Stander at Parcheesi Studios.

For more information, please visit www.reverbnation.com/vaporvespers

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5HB9Yig2DS0G0ykw99OvMB

Contact: spaghettieasternmusic@cataldipr.com; tel/text 516.236.3817

J.J. Campbell

in slutty romance novels

she could barely
muster a whisper

her love was never
strong enough to
illicit the kind of
passion you read
about in slutty
romance novels

i always blamed
myself

in her final breaths,
she forgave me

i asked for what

everything

i chuckled

i guess that covers
most of it

J.J. Campbell

whatever resembles prayer anymore

she’s the last dream
i ever want to have

the answers to whatever
resembles prayer anymore

the woman with her neon
soul breaking down this
wall that’s been built
for years now

i doubt i ever get
to taste her

walk hand in hand on
some tropical beach

as the sun sets on the
latest tragedy

Kane Salzer

Ten

The house is an absolute shambles. Unwashed plates and cups lurking just below cold, oily dishwater in the kitchen. The trash needed to be taken out three days ago and I can’t even look at the dirty clothes in the laundry.

It’s so embarrassing, the place is totally unfit for guests and yet here one sits. Anxiety churns my stomach turning coffee and toast into a sour lump. I’m still in my dressing gown!

“This wasn’t as well planned as I had hoped, I’m sorry. You won’t count this against me will you?”

My house guest shakes their head vigorously and I can finally relax.

“Your arrival was a surprise to say the least. I genuinely wasn’t prepared for visitors today, but it’s always lovely when someone drops round so we’ll make do.”

I’m dithering, flustered. Need to pull myself together and focus. Whether I’m ready or not, today is the day.

“Can I tell you something? Something I’ve never told anyone else?”

A quick nod in the affirmative from my guest.

Leaning forward in a conspiratorial manner, my lips barely touching their ear, it’s warm, intimate, almost like a kiss. I whisper “I’ve never killed anyone before, you’re going to be my first.”

All things being equal, they took that revelation much better than expected.

“You’re going to help me work out my modus operandi. Apparently, all serial killers have one. But as yet nothing’s set in stone so I thought I’d put it out to the floor. What do you think it should be?”

As soon as the gag comes off my guest…no, my victim, starts to scream. It’s pretty tedious to be honest. I ‘gently’ remind them it’s a soundproof room. That seems to take the wind out of their sails a bit. Hammers have that affect on people.

“Look, I need be totally candid with you, bargaining’s probably not going to work today. You don’t have anything I want.”

Now come the tears and the bargaining. Why don’t people listen?

“Don’t cry, it makes me uncomfortable.” I have to put their gag back in, the sobbing and screaming are distracting.

My ‘tools’ take some time to lay out. Mostly gardening supplies bulked out with a selection of craft knives and stuff from the kitchen. The time had arrived, nothing would be gained from further delays. And yet I find myself anxious. What if it wasn’t everything I had hoped for? What if I couldn’t go through with it? Humans are very different to neighbourhood cats and dogs. My hands are clammy, stomach in knots.

I give my hands a quick shake and tighten my grip on a pair of secateurs.

“Right. Fine. Ok. Let’s begin.”

“I tell you what, I’ll start slow okay? We’ll start with fingers and count down to zero. Once we get there I’ll do the deed. Does that suit you?”

Laughing self consciously, I realise what I said “Oh, sorry! You’ve got the gag in. I’ll just assume you agree and get on with it.”

In the light, the secateurs gleam dangerously. They make a metallic slicing sound. They were only sharpened a couple of days ago.

Gently I take my victim’s little finger, laying it in the razor caress of the garden shears. I filter out the high pitched whining. There’s no going back now.

“Right then.” I take a deep breath.

“Ten,” snip.

“Nine,” snip.

“Eight,” snip.

“Seven,” snip.

“Six,” snip.

“Five,” snip.

“Four,” snip.

“Three,” snip.

“Two,” snip.

“One,” snip.

“Zero…”