Wayne F. Burke

6 Lean Pork Chops

He knew his wife was cheating on him. Knew it. Knew it knew it knew it. Knew it like he knew the time of day (2:23 PM). Knew it like he knew his name: Raymond P. Peck, “Raymond” not “Ray.” Don’t call me Ray; it is Raymond to you. Pal.

Concerning his name, Raymond P. Peck had straightened out plenty of wise-asses down at the plant where he worked, and elsewhere. Told them to their faces: “Raymond” not “Ray.” Don’t like it? Then “Mister Peck” would do. For you. Punk.

He knew that because of the straightening the punks did not like him. Knew it like he knew his wife was stepping out. Knew it like he knew the punks at the plant called him “Peckerhead” and “Pecker.” He’d heard them use the names, the other machine operators, the ones whose lockers were in the first aisle, opposite his. The guys in his aisle did not use the names—not within his hearing. They would not dare, he knew, to use the names to his face. They knew, and he knew they knew, he kept a gun in his locker (Smith & Wesson .38 cal.), double locked by two stainless steel combination locks. They knew he’d use it, too. He knew they knew. Knew they knew they knew. Knew it for a fact. Knew it like he knew his daughter’s age. Eighteen. Sally Peck, a cute little package. As prettily packaged as his holstered revolver. So pretty, people gawked at her. Where did Sally get her looks, Raymond often wondered. The wife was no beauty, never had been, and though Sally has his brains—she was at the State University—she did not resemble him (some people thought so, but he knew different; he knew better). The mystery of Sally’s beauty led Raymond to occasionally ponder uncomfortable-type thoughts, thoughts that ate at his brain like his ulcer at his stomach.

He pitched his cigarette butt out the pickup truck window. The smoldering butt bounced once in the dirt and came to rest beside a pile-up of previously discarded butts. The butts made a little graveyard of tiny toppled gravestones. The dashboard clock read 2:33 PM. He knew he’d have to drive like a bat out of hell to make it to work on time. Knew he could do it. Knew it like he knew that sooner or later he’d catch the guy who was putting the boots to Irma. (Or guys—he would not put it past her to have more than one.)

A brown, box-shaped UPS truck rolled to a stop in front of the Knowlton residence, 13 Prospect Street. Raymond stared at the driver. Was the driver making it with Irma, Raymond wondered. Was Buck Knowlton? Raymond watched the driver walk to the Knowlton’s front door. A tall prick with a swagger to his walk, a slight strut like a wary rooster. Watching for the fox, Raymond thought.

The driver returned to the truck. Raymond ground his back teeth; the grinding like the sound a glacier makes moving forward. The truck lurched ahead, growling like a beast. As it approached 15 Prospect Street, home of Mr. & Mrs. Raymond P. Peck, the driver turned his head toward the facade of the squat, gray ranch-style house. The driver’s lingering glance was like a kiss bestowed upon the lips of Irma Peck. The duration of the glance, coupled with an obvious hint of possessive scrutiny the glance contained, confirmed all Raymond’s thoughts about the driver. No doubt Irma was signaling from the house, and that was why, on this occasion, the driver did not stop, go into the house, and put it to her. (She guessed, or knew, that Raymond was watching.) A curtain pulled or left open. A shade up or down. A light on or off. Easy. Easy and workable. Simple but expedient.

Raymond stared at the driver as the truck bucked past, heading north. The driver did not look at Raymond, parked alongside a billboard (which read: SLICK’S WORRY FREE CONDOMS. Buy ‘em by the box!)

Raymond trailed the truck up onto the plateau of Upper Prospect Street. Stopping beneath the overhanging branches of a roadside oak, Raymond slumped, eye-level with the steering wheel. The driver plodded across a lawn, moving through bright late afternoon sunshine, arms cradling a stack of packages. A sturdily-built youth, curly-haired with blunt features. The kind of guy, Raymond thought, women would go for. The macho-type. Plus the uniform thing. An image of the driver stuffing his membrum virile into Irma flashed through Raymond’s mind like an excised cut of a porno film. A gust of wind ripped through the oak, and tree branches creaked like rusty hinges of a swinging door. The uniformed whore-master jumped into the brown truck. The wind hissed through the leaves.

“Shut the fuck up,”Raymond said.

He slammed his truck into gear and swung the vehicle across the road in a screaming U-ey. 3:10 PM. He drove onto the exit ramp to I-69. To be late for work was unthinkable; he had not been late in twenty-two years on the job. He drove a hundred miles an hour, passing every prick and cunt on the road. He was a bat out of hell.

Ten minutes into the second shift at Combustible Techtonics Inc., Ball Bearing Manufacturer, the plant foreman joked to an operator that Raymond must be dead, or else in the nut house. The operator guessed nut house.

Raymond punched in thirteen minutes late. He ran from the time clock as if from a fire. His brown low-cut Hush Puppy’s slapped the cement floor of the long gray corridor. Like a halfback running downfield, he navigated through a maze of machinery. Sweat rings the size of softballs stained his button-down, short sleeve shirt at the arm pits. His scrawny chest heaved. He moved down his aisle in a controlled frenzy, putting his machines into motion. Sixteen machines, eight each side of the aisle, each shaped like an outboard motor, only motor’s upsidedown and capped by a spinning bicycle tire-sized wheel.

The machines wailed, screeched like gravelly-voiced babies adding their complaints to the roar of the shop, pungent with the odor of oil and carbon and warmed to a mephitic toastiness.

Raymond plucked a clip-boarded stat-sheet from a steel guard rail; glanced at the stat-sheet like a man looking at a parking ticket, let go of the clip-board, punched a button on the rail. He waited for the bicycle tire-sized wheel to stop. He unclamped the top half of the wheel. Peering down at the two dozen silver ball bearings lying in the runnel of the bottom half of the hollowed wheel, he picked up two balls. The warm, slickly oiled bearings were like a pair of nuts. Like his, he thought; like any mans. He imagined the nuts in a sack of soft material. Weighted the sack in his hand. Heard the sack whap whap whap into Mrs. Irma Peck’s crotch.

He flung the bearings to the floor; the ball’s bounced off the concrete and into a pan of oil beneath the machine. The black glossy pool of oil stirred like the rippling skin of a waking panther.

Who was banging her? Beside the UPS guy and the grocer? (He knew all about the grocer.) The butcher? The baker? The mailman? Salesman? TV-repairman?

Out of the gnashing steel mayhemic uproar a voice came into Raymond’s head. The voice of either God or the Devil. Raymond turned and gazed into the unhappy face of the shop foreman.

The foreman’s mouth opened and closed in paroxysms of speech. Raymond studied the face, viewing each feature separately, merging the features into a single image. Like focusing a camera lens. The foreman’s words flew like twittering birds past Raymond’s head. He did not catch even one. He wondered if the foreman, Roger Gizzum, was screwing Irma. He wondered how many of the guys in the plant she was putting out for. Raymond watched the foreman backing away, becoming smaller, becoming a blur. The ball-grinding machines grunted like animals rutting. Uncontrolled orgiastic yelping. Ecstatic moans. Feverish crescendo of climactic cries. Screwing their brains out. Irma spreadeagled in the center of the fuck-fest, squirming, moaning… Snickering gargoyle faces peered from heads raised above machines. Leering faces with mocking grins watching Irma…

Raymond came-to in the locker room, alone, standing upright before his locker. How he had arrived there he did not know. He opened his locker, reached and took his gun from its holster, plugged the gun into the waistband of his polyester pants.

Seventeen minutes later he was home.

Fading sunshine dappled the drive, front lawn, and house. He stepped from the truck, swung the door shut. Birds fed noiselessly at the feeder outside the kitchen window. Insects hovered silently in the humid air. He could not hear the sound of his footsteps on the walkway as he approached the front door. He felt as if he were moving underwater. Felt as if the act of walking was foreign to him, something he was repeating by rote. Everything suddenly seemed unreal, as if he were inside of a waking dream. Was he real, he wondered, or part of the dream? He felt the weight of the gun tugging at his waistband. The gun was real.

Holding onto the butt of the gun, Raymond pushed open the front door and entered the house. The living room was dark as a cave. Light from a small window lit a path for Raymond through the room. A path like a trail through woods.

The hallway leading to the back bedroom was tunnel-like in its darkness. The bedroom door at the end of the hall was illuminated in white light. The light hurt Raymond’s eyes; he stared at the carpet as he walked. A doorway on his right, the door to Sally’s bedroom, was filled with shadow. The shadow stepped into the hall across Raymond’s path and disappeared into the gloom ahead.

Raymond stood in the bedroom door: “So! Where is he?”

Irma Peck frowned at the sock in her left hand. “Where is who?” she said, distractedly, drawing a threaded-needle through the sock.

“The guy you have been fucking!”

Irma swiveled her head; her frozen beauty-parlor hairdo shivered. Her dark-rimmed eyes, accentuating her look of frazzled fatigue, opened wide.

“DON’T DENY IT.”

Irma’s hands dropped into her lap; the lap was covered by a white apron worn over a flower-printed house-dress.

“I have proof!”Raymond barked. He dug into his pocket, reached and slapped a scrap of paper down on Irma’s sewing desk.

Irma read her handwriting from the scrap. “Please send six lean pork chops and one pound ground beef.”

“It is a note,” Irma offered, looking up. “To the grocer… For pork chops,” she pleaded, voice rising. “For ground beef!” she insisted.

“PORK CHOPS!” Raymond crowed. “And what else? IT IS CODE!” he screamed, spit flying from his lips. “Code between you and the grocer! You and the truck driver! You and Buck Knowlton! Yes, Buck Knowlton! And you! And Roger Gizzum, and you! And everybody, and YOU!”

“Oh Raymond,” Irma cried, blanching. “Raymond, you are crazy!”

Raymond stabbed a finger to his chest. “I’m CRAZY? You were the one thought you could get away with it!”

Raymond pulled the gun from his waistband.

Irma’s mouth opened wide. Wide as a plate. Wide as a manhole cover. Wide as a cave entrance. Wide as a canyon. Wide as the sky on a night black as ink.

She fell backwards, flopping like a rag-doll onto the carpeted floor.

The birds outside the bedroom window peeped like a frenzied bird-orchestra.

Raymond tucked his gun away. He knew his wife would never cheat on him again. Knew it like he knew the time of day. 4:19 PM. Time to get cleaned up and go back to work, he thought. Start the day over.

James Hippie

Poetry Man (For T.C.)

One day in the late eighties I received a call from Jonathan. He had optioned a story he’d written to a well-known underground filmmaker. He was in California, hanging out with some friends in Los Angeles and partying with the money he’d made on the deal.

Jonathan was a poet, a vocation that as far as I could tell involved quoting Charles Bukowski, drinking, and seducing coeds that were predisposed to find this sort of behavior charming. I had met a handful of guys like this during my unsuccessful stint in community college, and I was generally turned off by the whole scene. I didn’t understand poetry, which was due more to my lack of education than anything else.

I was impressed by Jonathan’s film deal, though. The Filmmaker was very hot with the indie crowd, so it was definitely a coup to have something picked up by him. I remembered the story he sold. A year or so earlier he had let me read it in a different incarnation, when it was a one act play he had written for a local theatre group. I didn’t think much of it at the time; it seemed overwrought and preachy, full of angst and kind of obvious. Not wanting to be a complete asshole, I told him I liked it. I gave him what I hoped was some constructive feedback and wished him the best of luck with it.

The truth was I was jealous. I may not have liked Jonathan’s writing, but at least he was doing something and trying to make a go of it. I had no shortage of ideas, but I could never seem to get anything concrete down on paper.  I wrote just enough that I felt justified in thinking of myself as a “writer,” but I had very little to show for my efforts. I could talk a good game, but in reality I was still just drifting along through life, killing time while waiting for something to happen.

I met up with Jonathan at the motel he was staying at in L.A. He had driven out from his home in the Midwest with two women. I assumed he was fucking one or both of them. He seemed to do well with the women, which was another thing I was jealous of. Women responded to the tortured poet act, which I thought was a complete put-on. It was another short con to me. Life was full of them, I was discovering.

Jonathan wanted to do a reading while he was in town, so I found a coffeehouse in Pasadena that was having an open mic night and drove out there with him. There was a decent crowd, and he came prepared with a copy of his poetry chapbook to read from. When it was his turn he hunched over the mic and yelled and railed, gesticulating wildly and doing the angry poet thing. It was a little over the top for me, but Jonathan definitely had a stage presence. I had played music in front of people, but I wouldn’t have had the balls to get up in front of a roomful of people and just talk (not sober, at any rate). I thought he pulled it off well. After the reading we skipped the espresso and polite conversation and spent the evening drinking cheap beer on the train tracks that ran behind the coffee house. It turned out to be a pretty good night.

A couple nights later I drove up to L.A. with my friend Ryan to see Jonathan and his women. We hit a few bars, ending up at the Frolic Room on Hollywood Boulevard. Jonathan was a Bukowski fan, as we all were, so it seemed appropriate to knock back some drinks in one of his favorite dives. Bukowski was still alive at this time, but we weren’t going to catch him hanging out at places like the Frolic anymore. He had achieved enough fame that he was able to move on to a better zip code. Barfly, the Mickey Rourke movie about his early years, had recently come out. Now every college-age male that could string a few sentences together and stomach a six pack thought they were the next Bukowski. Jonathan was one of those guys. I suppose I was as well.

After the bar closed we ended up back at the motel on Sunset. The girls went up to the room and Jonathan, Ryan, and I stayed in the parking lot to continue drinking. At some point a hooker cut through the parking lot and started trying to chat the three of us up.

“Hey, baby. You datin’?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Ryan said. “What’s it cost to party?”

After a brief negotiation, Ryan disappeared down the alley with her. Jonathan looked appalled.

“I can’t believe he’s doing this.”

I just shrugged and took a hit off my beer. I had seen worse.

“I mean, I just can’t imagine paying for sex,” he said.

I guess when you have a smooth line and the poet shtick to fall back on you don’t have to pay for it.

“Yeah. Okay, Casanova.”

I thought it was pretty funny, the gutter poet getting out-guttered.  Welcome to Hollywood, baby.

When Ryan returned it was clear Jonathan had had enough for the night. Both Ryan and I were too wasted to drive back to Orange County, but we had to beg him to let us crash on the floor in his room. It seemed like a reasonable request, but I could tell he wasn’t happy about being stuck with us.

Jonathan took the king size bed with the two girls, Ryan pulled two chairs together for a makeshift bed, and I grabbed a spot on the floor. Jonathan turned the lights out. I folded up my leather jacket to use as a pillow and closed my eyes.

I don’t know how long I’d been out, but I awoke to the sound of one of the girls screaming. The lights came on and Ryan was standing naked in the middle of the bed, his feet astride the body of one of the terrified girls. I have no idea what he thought he was doing. He was probably in a blackout.

There was a lot of yelling and confusion. Jonathan, who was also naked, pushed Ryan and I outside, then stormed back in the room and slammed the door behind him. Ryan slowly got his clothes back on, and we yelled and pounded on the door to the room, laughing and loudly cursing Jonathan for throwing us out.

“Open the fucking door, poetry man! We’re not done with you yet! Poetry man! We want your women, poetry man!”

There was nothing but silence from the other side of the door. When it became obvious we weren’t going to get back in, we left.

Ryan and I walked west on Sunset until we found a Denny’s. I didn’t have enough money to eat, so I got a cup of coffee. Ryan ordered a grand slam, then promptly passed out with his head on the table. When the waitress brought the food Ryan was still out, so I slid the plate over to my side of the table and began eating. I was hungrier than I realized. It was delicious, the way food always is when you’re drunk.

As I ate I thought about Jonathan. I figured that would be the last I heard from him. My friends and I had a way of wearing out our welcome with people. We were an unrepentant group of fuckups, and we didn’t make it easy for people to like us. It was bound to happen sooner or later. At any rate, maybe Jonathan’s story would get turned into a slick black and white art film and his career would take off. That would be cool. Maybe he’d put us in one of his stories some day. Stranger things have happened.

I finished Ryan’s breakfast, then pushed the plate back to his side of the table. I shook him awake and told him he was done and that he should pay the check so we could leave. He looked at the empty plate, confused, then pulled out his wallet and started looking around for a waitress.

There were definite advantages to being the last man standing.

James Yesley

Lucy

Lucy was a barmaid, big in all the right places. I was a two-time loser, and down on my luck to boot.

We didn’t have much in common, but I really liked the way she screamed when I fucked her. It was like someone was taking a large kitchen knife to her, over and over again.

The police had been called on multiple occasions. Everyone thought I was killing her. (Yeah, killing her with this dick!)

All joking aside, the police got tired of coming out. Eventually they stopped coming at all.

Lucy continued to scream. This went on for months until the night that I did take a large kitchen knife to her.

It was perfect, she screamed and screamed, and no one seemed to notice.

I even saw the landlord in the hall the next morning. He just smiled at me, and said, “you lucky dog!”

Arlen Russell

Fuckpig

Aside from a broken, bloody nose, Constance Gibbons was a knockout. A lithe figure, with pretty, vacant green eyes and toenails the color of eggplant.

Her husband, Rick, had given her the broken nose. His eggs were runny. After he’d corrected her for this grievous infraction — breakfast being the most important meal of the day and all — he’d bent her over the formica countertop in their kitchen, threw down the sweats she was wearing, tore aside her panties, and got himself ready to mount her. As a courtesy, he spat on two of his fingers and primed her pussy before he slipped inside her.

To start, there was always the brief exhilarated shudder Rick gave as he gripped her hips, and the walls of Constance’s pussy gripped him. At this point, Rick would slap her ass — often multiple times — with real fury and agitation, as though he were shocked and angry that Constance was capable of doing this to him, making him shudder and quake just by hugging him with her pussy. Rick would then embed his fingernails into Constance’s hips till he saw red blotches on her skin, and once he was over the initial shock of her engulfing him, he’d gyrate himself towards orgasm with no particular rhythm or skill.

“How’s it feel, fuckpig?” he would ask her between gasping breaths. “Feel good, fuckpig?”

“Yes,” she said, robotic.

“Ahhhhhh,” he said, getting closer. “Fuckpigs don’t talk. Fuckpigs oink. Oink for me.”

“Oink,” she said.

“Squeal for me, fuckpig,” Rick said. “Squeal loud.”

“Squeal,” she said.

“I said fucking squeal!”

Constance licked her lips, tasted the all too familiar coppery flavor of her own blood.

Weeee,” she said.

Rick shut his eyes and cried out, “Fucking squuueeeal!”

WeeeEEE.”

Squuueee—”

“—eeeeEEEEEE!”

SQUUUEEEAAaallll!”

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-EEEEEELLLLLL!!”

“Aw fuck yes!”

He was getting close.

“I want you to snort, piggy, big ol’ fucking snort,” Rick said. “And look at me while you do it.”

She turned to face him and, without a trace of self-consciousness, opened her mouth and snorted. The lower half of her face was coated in blood and snot.

Rick shut his eyes and concentrated on his thrusting. He was so close now.

EEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!”

“Fuck yeah, piggy!”

The squealing continued. It grew whiney and hoarse. The grip on Rick’s dick grew steadily tighter, till it was holding him like a vice. The urge to come was momentarily stalled by panic. Constance had never felt this tight before. She was starting to hurt him.

He opened his eyes. Only Constance wasn’t there. He was fucking a boar. Unmistakably, a boar. Only a pair of pretty, vacant green eyes gave anything away.

Hell was an ammoniac slaughterhouse. Rick was up to his knees in pig-shit. Little white piglets nipped at his heels and curled themselves between his ankles, making it difficult to move without falling. Strangely, these piglets were without snouts. And Rick couldn’t see their eyes either.

He bent down to examine the little piggies more closely and saw they weren’t pigs at all but giant white maggots.

Suddenly, Rick couldn’t breathe. His throat was on fire. His nostrils flared and whatever was living in the air of this charnel house found its way onto his tongue. His senses of taste and smell were so befouled he yearned for a cup of burnt ash to imbibe. His skin was peeling. His eyes stung. His fingernails were shed as though being slowly torn out by invisible pliers.

He regained consciousness in the kitchen. It was dark now, but light enough for him to see the boar and what it had done to him. His knees began to buckle and he fell, hands clasped over the gaping wound where his cock and balls used to be. Blood poured through the slats between his fingers.

The boar turned to face Rick, its long, distended belly dragging across the kitchen floor.

Rieeeeeeck.”

Wayne F. Burke

Lethal Beauty

The gun Mai Ling held in her hand, a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver, had come packaged in a velvet-lined case, like a musical instrument.

She slid the gun barrel into her mouth. The taste of the metal was unpleasant. Would she die, she wondered, or only maim herself? Instead of casket, would she end in some institution, sitting in some horribly drab common room before a television that played 24/7?

She cocked the hammer. Squeezed the trigger. The hammer made a loud click, like a door being shut inside her head.

She set the gun aside, got up off her couch, and walked out of her apartment to her car in the lot. She drove to the Sporting Goods Store, bought a box of bullets from “Fred,” a short overweight salesman, so smitten by Mai Ling’s statuesque beauty and long silky raven-black hair that he had trouble speaking.

Back at her apartment, and on her couch, and holding the gun, Mai Ling’s China-doll face grew pensive. She wondered what would happen to the bullet. Would it go through the wall and kill Mrs. Dearborn in the next apartment? Would it go out a window and kill some passerby?

She got up off her couch and drove herself back to the Sporting Goods Store. She told Fred that she had decided to take-up ice hockey and was in need of a helmet. Fred showed her a line of helmets. She decided on a black and paisley blue number.

Back at her apartment, Mai Ling strapped the helmet on. It capped her head like a melon-half.

She put the gun barrel into her mouth. Curled her finger around the trigger…

She hoped everything would go smoothly; she hated watching television.

David Sprehe

Cretin

The walls, pinkish membrane walls, breathed, contracting closer and tighter. Inside the walls were birthing sacs filled with tiny eggs. The eggs hatched with cackling sound. Little bug creatures swarmed out the tiny sac holes. The little bug creatures ate at the walls. The walls bled. The frothy purple blood had a septic stench. I squeaked, but should have remained silent. The floor was minced organ meat mud. Thick and hot. I stood naked, sunken in the slop. The meat liquids inflamed my skin. The ceiling was an eyeball. The eye watched me, me sucked into the floor glop, glop sucking, clutching my limbs. The bug babies found me, crawled over me, stuck me with tiny pins. A million, billion pain points. Tiny friggin’ bugs. The eye was happy. The eye happy it seen me sad. I gabbed, toothless, clacked my gums, drool dripping, tear flow, pain a million, billion everywhere. The bugs tore me to shreds. The bug babies tied my flesh in strips and attached them up along the bleeding shit walls. The walls shuddered. I giggle-shiggled. A hurt tickle. Here I was, waist high in glop poop, stink to heavy heaven pressing hard upon boy soul hole, and I jerked, spasm thrusting my chest and lolling my head around and around, tongue lapping the thick air, tasted of cheap wine sick and spiders. My dance made the bug babies happy.

Eye. The ceiling folded, twisted in a cellular split. Made two eyes. Her eyes. Her head shaven. Dots tattooed along her brow and down her nose. Comets streamed a white light streak from her nostrils. Lips colored of raw meat. Cheeks sunken with proud bones. She said something.

“Vermin.”

Her swollen globes spurted milky dribble drops upon her stomach. Her stomach a smooth caress to snake scaled tail curled among the flowers. Flowers large as beds. Light glowed from the petals. I laid with her upon a fleshy flower. We kissed. Her tongue went down my throat into my guts, slithered out my butthole to tickle my testicles. The tongue surface grew tendrils, searched inside me, curled around my spine. Hurt bad, but secreted juices, her special spit, made me feel alright. She smiled, tongue in me, teeth white perfect fuck-paste. She bit off her tongue. Blood ran off her chin and dripped along my chest. The tongue flailed and convulsed. I wiggled with, wiggled a worm writhe. She grabbed at my wiener. Her fingernail caught the testicle sack. Scraped the skin like fucking goddammit. Jerked off in her hand, bouncing my ass on the flower, blood dripping on me, severed tongue end lashing about my mouth. Came. Was ok. Weren’t much more than old cold pizza. She rubbed some semen into her scales. Scales flaked off, revealing pubic hair. Thin, bony pink fingers poked out, like the backs of two hands pressed together, shaking and wiggling, strung with slime. The fingers stiffened. Her eyelids fluttered and she peed on me. Was stinky pee, warm and thick golden just flowed from between her pussy fingers and over my limp, leaky dick and stung the cut in my balls sack. I died happy. Which was somewhat unexpected.

 

SR Gorski

în céleste

Geoff holds a large pair of VR goggles gingerly up to his webcam for his sister to see.

“You’re going to br…” She coughs up some latte in quick moment of realization before regaining herself. “You’re going to break those, Geoffrey.”

Cass always chides him like this whenever they Skype, like a maternal judge raining criticism on his every decision.

“They’re solid, like way sturdier than they look,” he says, ignoring the passive aggressive jab and removing the goggles from his webcam’s view.

Geoff has no RL friends to share his purchase with, so he pathetically called his sister, although he can’t be 100% honest about the buy. The Heavenly Body™ VR headset cost over 2 months’ of his shitty temp salary, its package including a 3D panoramic visor plus a haptic feedback suit and a ton of other gear. It can be used to play games, meet people, or explore virtual landscapes.

Geoff plans to use it for one very important thing.

After their chat, Geoff looks at his open door and decides to quickly masturbate without closing it even though his roommate is probably home. He regrets showing off his rig—Cass only saw the goggles, so she doesn’t know about the rest of the gear. The collection of wires and tech are all splayed out over his bare mattress.

He’s going to use it to rid himself of his abhorrent virginity.

He realizes it’ll only be sensors reading pantomimed actions—electrical equipment and lubricated polycarbonate, not human flesh. But when girls cringe at the sight of you, like they have Geoff’s whole life, certain exceptions must be made. The guys on the image board will love hearing about how much he spent on what is essentially a souped-up, peer-to-peer fleshlight.

***

“He’s such a fucking idiot if he thinks I don’t know what that goes to,” Cass thinks aloud as she spins in her computer chair—he never calls unless he needs affirmation.

And since he doesn’t live with mommy anymore, he resorts to calling Cass, playing it off like he doesn’t need her approval. She knows what line of gear that VR headset is offered with. They don’t sell that series individually, it comes with a haptic response suit and a bunch of other expensive gear. Hers is a little older but works just the same. It can do stuff like transfer soft touching, hard pressure, and even wetness/airflow from one suit to another, once properly synced.

Cass knows exactly what her brother is up to because she dons a digital visage almost every night herself, playing out other high-end perverted fantasies. She’s an e-hooker, so she doesn’t judge. She really can’t, because at this point nothing surprises her. Cass has come to realize that people’s sordid tastes haven’t evolved much over time—they have just been consumerized, made more accessible by technology. She has gotten used to dissociating herself from her job’s inherent repulsiveness. Customers visiting the Cumquad often have faith-questioning demands. Her last John had her crushing the life out of digital puppies and kittens in 6-inch stilettos while in full latex, all legal of course because it wasn’t real, even though it often felt real enough.

She jokes with herself about putting acting credentials on her CV if she ever applies for a real job.

***

Earlier in the day, Geoff loaded a pic of his rig onto the forum for the guys to see. Alongside the pictures, its features were listed:

– microcomputer control unit
– mesh sensor vest exo-skin and arm units/gloves
– 120 self-adhesive haptic/tactile pads
– 
male/female genital transduction actuator with bottle of water-based lubricant
– panoramic visor/facemask with polymer gel

He posts: “This is it, fags. The only way for me to lose my fucking V before I end it lul. Gonna slay some e-thots, my way—what better way to spend my Friday night?”

Geoff quickly breezes through instructions, attaching pieces of equipment where they look like they should go. In a rush of adrenaline, he clears an area of space for his soon-to-be-virtual movements, kicking aside empty energy drink cans, unrefilled epilepsy script bottles, clothes that would never be washed.

***

It is Friday night, so Cass pushes her chair across her studio apartment’s wood-finished floor and breaks out her own VR gear. The cramped room essentially orbits around this one 10 x 10 area in front of her computer—no roommates, barely any furniture, no obstacles, no problem.

The weekends are usually busy at Cass’s club, the Cumquad. It’s membership only, so she never really has to worry about the quality of customers, just the requests. Roleplay spans from harmless stuff like pay-pig fantasies to pretty traumatizing demands… like childplay, violence, and other unpleasantries.

***

Geoff’s “best friend,” who he met back when Silk Road was still up, sent him a celebratory gift after Geoff posted his VR pictures. “Have fun” is all it said. Geoff opens it up:

>Indiscernible programming language

>Html garble, java script, trash

>Scrolling down, some words and information—a bio

>A guy’s credit card information and personal address

>Next is active login information for various websites

>One stands out: Cumquad, some high-end cyber brothel, and username: Daddy1029

>Finally, a picture of the guy’s obituary and a “=]”

Geoff probably has one night to use this.

***

After making dinner, Cass signs on Cumquad early with the intent of landing a big fish. Most of the girls at Cumquad have regulars just like any brothel, but if someone snags your John because you geared up late, then it’s tough shit. She can look like anyone or anything, whatever the guest requests. Nevertheless, she dons her favorite avatar, a relatively similar version of herself—give or take a bra size and nose hump—and joins a Special Request Server.

She checks in with a server moderator for the OK to go Live. She then double-checks biometrics… integrated feedback looking good—depending on who she gets, she can do different things or limit herself to the customer’s suit restrictions. She could also turn off or lower her suit’s responses if the John creeps her out. She leaves them on for now; tonight feels like a lucky night. Her system is in the green and she can feel her pussy swell in anticipation for her vaginal actuator… if it comes to that.

She hopes it does.

***

>Daddy1029 joins the Green Room

>Cass’s Cumquad username, Celeste, floats over her avatar

>She gives the OK to her Mod

>The John is approved and enters

>A man in his mid-50’s, aged but fit, grey hair—not unrealistically representative but obviously altered

>Geoff begins to speak: “…”

>Cass shushes off by running a heurism diagnostic, a.k.a. the touch-and-feel test

>She grabs his crotch, checking for a response, he sucks in air fast and holds his breath

>“OK Daddy, it looks like you are all rigged up for me—you can have whatever you want tonight…”

***

Cass feels for her actuator toggle and flips it on. She braces herself for the test insertion—the modestly sized dildo has been the only action she’s gotten in a while. E-girls don’t get out much; she lost her virginity to her first boyfriend and discovered the Cumquad not long after they broke up.

The lubed-up silicone phallus is ironically named after him.

***

The reality of Geoff’s situation sinks in as his suit responds to every brush, squeeze, and breath. She hasn’t even started anything serious, and he already feels the levy gates in his nuts begin to weaken. He wants to make a sick joke about Hurricane Katrina but cannot blow his cover. Geoff cannot shake the overwhelming urge to expose her, reveal his true identity, and make this dumb bitch admit she would never sleep with any decent guy who wasn’t some gym fuck-boy Chad or a cuck pay-pig.

He bears the jaw-clenching temptation. He at least has to do the deed, so the fags on his board will stop calling him Virgin Immobile.

***

Cass purrs seductively: “I’m so wet for you right now…”

She stripteases him, undressing down to her virtual bra and thong. Her suit, gloves, and haptic pads respond to where his virtual body is. They even give an indication of the kind of clothing his avatar is wearing. Cass rubs her ass against his bulge, noting that he hasn’t supersized his dick, like some assholes do to overcompensate.

***

Goeff finally musters the balls to blurt out: “Get on all fours for me”

An odd starter request, but Cass knows not to raise a fuss over a high roller’s lack of decorum. Their kind tips in quantities of monthly rent. And she knows he is ready.

***

Geoff knows not only what he wants to do, but what he has to do. He’s going to blow this stupid e-thot’s spot up and revel in her helplessness. He’s going to have his cake and eat it too. She had gotten him going for sure—but he could hold on a little longer—the sensation of his suit’s phallic actuator is as good as it will ever get for him. Celeste clearly knew how to tease him, but his mission was true and manifold. He wasn’t going to bust an early nut, like a chump, without giving this whore what she deserves.

***

Cass bends on all fours, removing her virtual thong—revealing to Geoff a juicy, engorged, and entirely convincing simulacrum; a reddened reminder of what he would never get to  experience IRL.

Geoff makes the motion to pull down his white boxer briefs—revealing a below-average penis, his “true” dick. He would never digitally alter his body for some e-thot; he’d make her deal with him as he truly was.

***

>Without a slap, tickle, or tease, he thrusts himself hard into her

>She had been ready for it, but “Damn, fuck baby, easy”

>“Yeah? You like that, you fuckin whore?”

>“Easy Daddy, let’s make this good for both of us”

>Geoff doesn’t let up, hammering himself into her ass as his suit simulates the savagery

>The pressure is overwhelming—Cass’s suit has safety measures, but she just can’t take the violence any longer

>She flips the suit off

>“What the fuck dude”

***

Just as Geoff’s about to come, he abruptly loses sensation. His cock withers within the suit’s genital actuator, sending him into paroxysms of impotent rage.

>Daddy1029 attempts to sign off

>Attempt failed

He was hasty in prepping his equipment and hadn’t looked up the instructions for this particular contingency.

He reaches for his visor to manually exit the simulated sex scene, but it is then that he notices something about Celeste he hadn’t seen before.

Her face is that of his sister’s.

***

“You fucking idiot!”

Disgust and rage fill Cass’s heart as she stares back at her brother’s state of disbelief. Yet, she feels no disbelief of her own. She’s known all about Geoff’s sad habits all along, but this pathetic attempt to humiliate a stranger—to exact some sort of anonymous power—made her sick.

She’d been through much worse than this at the hands of men she actually allowed herself to endure. Somehow the impotence of his anger and words made her feel something past resentment, past wanting to teach him a lesson. He had no clue how the benefits of this virtual environment could be turned against him.

Cass lived and breathed this world.

She could craft pain where there was meant to be pleasure.

And that’s just what she’d do.

***

“This can’t be real! How do you know her? How do you know me..?”

Before any more mental cogs can lick, the naked girl before Geoff begins to writhe, glow, then grow.

A tumescent mass of regolith-hued organs, tentacles, and muck envelopes him.

Overwhelmed by his senses, he fails to remove his gear in time. The overstimulation triggers an electrical storm in his cortex.

Geoff collapses into a wiry heap. His visor comes unplugged with his body’s violent convulsions. Staring into black, his half-conscious brain registers faraway emotions like disbelief, anger, and especially hate.

Pressure sensors still active, his body is enveloped by an overwhelming digital horror. Foam leaks from the corners of his mouth as his eyes roll back into his head, and then there is only numb.

Matthew Licht

Blue Smoke

She’d left her book face-down on the blanket while she tanned her back. I asked what she was reading. She looked up, turned the book and herself over, and said she was on her way to a post-graduate degree in Comparative Literature.

“Has anyone ever compared you to Marilyn Monroe?”

She said she heard it all the time.

The gloom in her apartment mysteriously added years to her face. She played it up with whispers and kisses blown into the air.

Marilyn Monroe said anyone who got her in bed was in for disappointment. This Marilyn pulled a sad face when I rolled on a rubber. She said she wanted to feel everything. But I went to college too, for a bit. You learn stuff.

New York Marilyn wanted music for the act. She stuffed a 45 in her plastic record player’s slot. Her favorite Italian single skipped.

Forty-Second Street was a few dozen blocks away. It felt like we’d have to joylessly pump away forever. A damaged loop conjured long-dead foreign summers, “Fumo blu, fumo blu…”

She yelled Joe when she came. Made-up names were like condoms, something I should’ve learned to use. She flopped around enough to eke one out of me, then slumped. The foxed mirror on the back of the door of her room reflected a couple in near-darkness.

James Babbs

Sometimes Broken Things

The deer were out there gathered in the field again. I told Emily about them but she didn’t seem interested. “Deer are always out there,” she said. “So what? Who fucking cares?”

“Oh,” I said. “Sorry.” I turned away from the window and went into the kitchen. I pulled another beer from the fridge and took a long drink.

“Did you hear anything from Sandra?” I asked as I came back into the living room.

Emily didn’t look up from her phone. “No,” she said. “I think she’s avoiding me.”

I sat down on the couch and took another drink from my beer. The beer was good and cold going down my throat. I heard Emily laughing about something on her phone but she didn’t say anything. I pulled out my phone and checked my emails. I didn’t have anything important so I deleted the new messages before finishing the rest of my beer. I went and got me another one and Emily kept playing on her phone. I was going to ask her something else but decided against it. Instead, I looked up the name of an actress I used to watch on an old TV show because I wanted to know what had happened to her and if she was still around.

“Hey,” Emily said, startling me after sitting for so long in the silence. “What was the name of that place we went to last week?”

“Hmm. You mean the place where we ate?”

“No. Shit. That antique place.”

“Oh,” I said. “Um, emporium something. Uh, Captain Bill’s Emporium.”

“Yes,” said Emily. “I got that lamp that doesn’t work.”

“Yeah,” I said. I took one more drink and emptied the bottle. “We could probably take it somewhere and get it fixed.”

“Maybe,” she said.

I got up and headed to the kitchen for another beer. I stopped next to Emily’s chair and looked at her.

“What are you doing?” She said.

I leaned toward her trying to keep my balance, holding the empty bottle in my hand. I kissed Emily and she laughed.

“You goofball,” she said.

I went into the kitchen and tossed the empty in the trash. The bottle hit against the other ones that were already in there and the sound it made seemed louder than it should have been. I opened the fridge and found one last beer sitting there on the shelf. I looked over at Emily and saw she was on her phone again. I reached for the bottle and slowly pulled it from the fridge before shutting the door and watching the light go out.