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He sat alone in his dark and dreary office, just like the man sitting in the chair. He sat in an ancient leather chair, maybe from the late 80s. Paperwork, boxes of evidence, and empty bottles of scotch lay in heaps around him. The entire office was a picture of uncontrolled chaos, caught at a single moment of extreme turmoil. The room was almost as disorganized as the man sitting in the dusty chair. 

His face had gone unshaved for at least two days; his clothes were squalid, as if they hadn't been washed in weeks. His breath reeked of alcohol. His eyes were glazed over, and red streaks ran across them.He had a beat up look about him and he seemed isolated. Yet, the room seemed to engulf him and fill him with a shadowy upheaval.

Ancient tattered newspapers lay about him, blending dully into the curling charcoal linoleum. In a corner near the only door, blank colorless wallpaper, the only wallpaper in the room, half covered they'll revealing a drab ashen sheet metal. Chipped broken bolts lined the patchwork metal walls, and from one of these a black frame holding a half ripped black and white photo of two young men sitting, drinking in a bar. Across from the photograph was a small window, bars across the thick smoke tinged shattered glass, black blinds crookedly blocking the meager sun penetrating the layers darkness.

His brow was furrowed, and his lips curled towards the floor in distaste. One hand clutched a bottle of contraband scotch, the other looked loosely grasped the data pad in his lap. His fingers explored the rim of the screen, but froze as his entire body tensed in shock.

The hum of the special circuitry, which he personally installed into the walls, reassured him of his safety. He was barely aware of the chief's briefing that was rambling on the screen before him. He hardly noticed as a lieutenant volunteered another meaningless tidbit. He was too worried about the strange transmission he had just received off the net.

John Berrets sat at his usual seat, three rows back and two in. Mr. Simeon was off on another irrelevant tangent. Someone, Audrey, raised their hand to ask a question. John didn't care; he was too busy staring at the wrinkled sheet of paper in his hands. The handwriting was barely legible, but its intent was clear. He wondered curiously as to whom had scribbled this message, with clearly intimidating pictures.

His eyes wandered around the room. He looked at the green blackboard,the white chalk covering it, but could not see the writing on the wall.His eyes darted to the cramped rows of filled desks, then to the enormous desk at the front of the room, it's breadth spreading from wall to wall. Three-foot stacks of papers and notebooks created a stark contrast against the green behind them, which coupled with the decrepit wooden podium, formed a sort of skyline in front of the columns of bored, apathetic children.

John's head dropped and he sighed. Without lifting his head he crumpled the note and stuffed it into his backpack, next a hundred other crumpled, wrinkled pieces of gray. He opened his eyes and looked at the speckled tile next to his feet.

The tile was green and hundreds of speckles, dots, and marks covering each tile. Blue dots, red dashes, yellow specks, turquoise bits, brown flecks. As John scanned the floor he saw hundreds of tiles, a myriad of speckles; he looked at a single yellow dot by his toe and realized it was just one among millions.

Suddenly the entire classroom was filled with the shuffling of papers and zipping of backpacks. There were only three minutes left in the period. Damn. No time to copy the notes he'd missed. The bell rang and everyone began scrambling out the door.

John crumpled the paper and ran out the door. "Jesus, what period is it?" John thought aloud. Checking his watch he began down the hall to his next class. Noticing someone peering suspiciously at him, he started running. Christ, this was no time to be frolicking in the hall.

Will loaded his gun, turned, and fired at his pursuer. He was going to be late for the doctor if he didn't motor. Noticing an ascending hoverbus he jumped on, hoping it would head to South-Ridge. For the moment he didn't care, as long as he got away. As he landed he fired a couple of parting shot at the trench coat fleeing into the shadows.

"Lord that was close!" he puffed.

Gathering his composure he looked around and discovered he was headed in completely the wrong direction. His jaw clenched as he waited for the bus to descend again.

"God damn!" He launched into a whirlwind of foul language then sighed to no one, "Why me? Huh? I never do anything! Jesus! Does it ever end? God damn!"

He hopped off the bus at the next stop and headed southeast, all the while cursing his luck. He stopped cursing and began to go over the recent events. He made a mental list.

"First I get assigned to this bizarre MR/S up in Brookston, then I receive a death threat telling me to skip town or die. Now someone tries to kill me. Sloppily, but tries to kill me. It's a wonder I'm not a nut-job by now." He checked his watch then picked up the pace.His gun jiggled in the holster around his shoulder.

"Wonder if this 'mentality specialist' crap was for real or just another two bit scam. Either way it could help."

"Uh, Mz. Tiggard?" John Berrets ducked his head into the guidance office soiled with paperwork and photos of students. An overly eyelined secretary sat at a desk typing and conversing over the phone.

"Is Mz. Tiggard in?"

"Do you have an appointment?" commented the secretary through her smeared lipstick. John waved his pass in the air. "Well, she'll be with you in a moment." John promptly took a seat on one of the plush yellow chairs. He felt awkwardly nervous about being in the guidance office, even though he had arranged the appointment.

A door opened and in stepped a blue-eyed, brown-haired, slightly portly woman appearing to be in her late forties. She looked at him and grinned. John felt a queer feeling run through him. One of admiration and betrayal at the same time, and also he felt suddenly aged. He shook the thoughts from his mind.

"Mr. Berrets I presume?" she giggled, her entire body trembled from the laughter. Funny. Really god damn funny. "I hear you've been having problems with, err..." she checked the clipboard she was holding,"daydreams."

"Yeah doc, I just can't handle it." Will was lying on a relax-gel couch. "I mean it's not easy to concentrate when someone wants you dead. It's very hard ya' know."

"Hmm, I see," replied the monotonous voice of the balding,silver-haired 'mentality specialist'. What a load of crap. Why am I even here? Let's see, so far I've told him all my crap and all he's said is "I see". Damnit.

"Excuse me, but when exactly were you gonna' get off your fat ass and help me?"

The aging man was startled. Obviously not a regular question.

"Err... well, uhh"

"Well what? You're a goddamn 'mentality specialist' its your fucking job to handle this! Isn't it? Or is it just a scam? Huh?"

Shocked 'em. Definitely a scam. Fuck it I'm gone.

"I'm outta' here asshole." Will Robbs headed for the door. The 'specialist' went pale. "And don't expect any 'financial benefaction' for the 'cerebral prosperity correction,' Mr. 'Mentality Specialist'.What a crock." He made a move for the door.


"What now, dipshit?"

"I see your problem." The "doctor" was calmer now, more relaxed. The red returned to his cheeks, and then some.

"Well, are you having any problems at home?" Mz. Tiggard suggested.Problems, I've got more problems than bricks in the Great Wall of China,lady. My family life's gone to hell. My mom's depressed, my dad's a deadbeat, I'm the definition of fucked up.

"No, everything's fine."

"Are you a doodler?" Another birdbrain question.

"No, I don't think so."

"Well then, it seems that you just have hard time concentrating. Could it be you suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder?" Aren't the chances of that very slim? Oh, well.

"Isn't that really your department?"

"Why yes it is." She giggled again, and again the plump body trembled. I hate that. I hate her. This woman's an idiot. And I'm a bigger idiot for seeing her. Damn.

"You can go back to class now, Billy." She went back to her paperwork.

What an idiot! Is she a graduate of Midvale School for the Gifted or something? Jesus. What a loser. "It's John, and you need to sign my pass."

"Oh silly me!" She giggled again. God I hate that. She signed the pass and John was on his way out the door. On his trip out the door the sickeningly sweet smelling perfume of the secretary caught his attention, she noticed him and stopped typing and grinned at John.Another putz.

John turned left at the door and began his journey through the desolate hallways to his class. Physical Education, a.k.a. Gym Class, a.k.a.Hell 101.

Field Training, great. Exactly what I need so that an assassin can kill me while I'm in VR stasis. Why me, huh?

"Attention class! Field training will begin in 3.098 minutes. Find your VR partner and suit up!" The cold, monotone of the computer echoed through the large metallic room.

Robbs checked his data pad and began searching for Alsimer, Juno A.While he was pushing through the crowd, he uplinked the remaining info:

Alsimer, Juno A.
Exp:  7yrs     SAPD
Gen:  F 4yrs   HPD
Ht:   5'6"     Grad- PCS
Wt:   147lbs   Grad- Anom
Eyes: Br
Age:  39
Hair: Br
"An Anom grad 'huh?" Robbs was now standing beside Alsimer in line for a VR pod. He scanned her with his peripheral vision.

"Yep." Alsimer was chewing gum. Robbs was staring at the viewport attached to the bulkhead above him. The gum was irritating at best and Robbs was nervous and chatty.

"I went there myself, class 465.907, class list of MCL 105."

"Not bad I got MCL 27." Damn. She was good, very good. It was almost impossible to achieve a MCL 105 average, let alone MCL 27. She was either a bookworm, a prodigy, or a suckup with connections. From the looks of her she was no bookworm, her compact, muscular body told him that. She was too old to be a prodigy. Definitely a suck up. Must have the greatest connections of all time with that score.

"How did you fix your grades?"

"I didn't." Her face was stern and unchanging. Shut up now before you get yourself in trouble, shithead.

"Really, then how the hell did you get MCL 27, you don't look like a bookworm and your too old to be a child prodigy." There was a sudden,intense downward pressure on his right foot, resulting in pain. "I'll shut up now." She grinned.

"I hate dodge ball." Another ball whizzed past John's head, which was supposed to be off limits. He regarded it as a minor attempt to embarrass him.

"Stay below the shoulders!" shouted Mr. Lynn from his corner of the wood gym. At least he was paying attention. John saw two more balls soaring in his general direction. He quickly adjusted his course to avoid them. He noticed several Tetches hoarding balls in the far corner.

"Shit!" muttered the terrified Berrets. He let his primitive instincts go into overdrive. He stopped thinking and started to simply react. He no longer saw. He no longer heard. He no longer felt. His body spun and twisted in a bizarre manner. All to avoid, to win. Pain left him there was only the sensation of being prey, and winning the primitive game of survival.

He cared not of fun or sportsmanship. His only thought was victory.He could smell the sweet perfume of success. He could taste the delicious pulp from the fruits of his labor. He was running along the edge between life and death. Yet, he didn't care. Only victory.

Huge boulders flew past his head. The frequency of their arrival was increasing and their accuracy was amazing. John felt his energy slipping away. He noticed that he was almost alone on the basketball court save some Teaches. Their numbers were dwindling.

The bell rang. Mr. Lynn jumped up. "That's it head to the locker room." The boys began to pass through the door to their right, the girls their left. John cursed all the while to his gym locker.

"Freak me!" Juno eyed him curiously. Will shut up before he said too much. At least he didn't curse. Will concentrated way too much on competition, even VR simulators got him worked up. It drove him crazy.Whenever he started competing he lost all sense of reality. Worse still is when he daydreams into other worlds where he's an animal running through say a jungle. He muttered under his breath something approximate to "... mother-fucking paranoid twerp..."

"Eh?" Juno's head turned in his direction, eyebrows raised and an inquisitive expression upon her face.


"Said I hate field training. That's all." Will's voice was unusually high pitched and his stomach was rolling over in knots.

"Oh, okay." She returned to fastening the strap on her boots. The boots caught Will's eye they were... different. They looked like standard issue yet...

Julie began shifting uncomfortably. "What the hell do you want?"

"Nothin." John pulled his head away from the water fountain and ran towards his locker. Crap! Gotta learn to stop that. He reached his locker and entered his combo. He sustained a chuckle as he opened the lock. He still pictured the combo 6-15-18-13-5.F-O-R-M-E. For me, wasn't that what it's all about? He emptied his backpack, only to refill it with books necessary to complete tonight's homework.

Walking down the hall he went over the day's events in a list in his head.

Fight with mom

Lost lunch money

Owe Jesse Sowet $1.50

Death threat

Missed history notes

Saw guidance counselor Played dodge ball

Freaked out Julie Nuemen

Failed science test

Not bad for one day. John was often sarcastic with himself. He rushed down the stairs and out the back door.

John felt suddenly compelled to turn around. He did so just in time to see three pissed off Tetches jump him. Fun. No better way to end a day then with a random beating.

The three boys tackled him, sending his backpack flying across the schoolyard. The four youths rolled across the grass in mass of flailing limbs. John was pinned by one Tetche and was kicked and beaten by the other two.John managed to wrestle himself free enough to grab a fallen branch.Still pinned he beat one of them over the head with it. The kid kept kicking for about three whacks before grabbing his bleeding head.

"Jesus Christ! My fuckin' head!"He then turned his attention to another punk. He now clutched the stick with two hands and attempted to beat this one's head in as well. After seeing the blood gushing from his companion, John's antagonist wisely blocked his head. However he exposed the abs, a prime target for John,one that he connected with, sending the boy sprawling across the lawn.

Realizing it was one on one his third assailant fled, leaving the others doubled-over in pain.

Will rose from the pavement and brushed the dust off his jacket. He looked around for potential witnesses, finding none he advanced towards his car. He paused briefly before entering, he could feel something...something wrong...

Robbs looked up not knowing what to be looking for and immediately noticed a half-dozen suspicious characters lounging about the streets.Cautiously, he opened the door, stepped in, and punched in his access code: 6-15-18-13-5.

Shaking off the thoughts he pressed the hover button, and set the accelerator lever at 1/4. Relaxing he set the air car to auto-drive.Will checked the N.E.T. for messages and dozed off, only to be awakenless than a minute later by an incoming video relay.

"Robbs! You lazy son of a bitch!" It was the chief. He seemed to be in a good mood.

"Yeh? Whasup?" Will still wasn't completely awake yet.

"You haven't done shit on the fucking Timms case!"

"Yeah, well I've been busy." Shit! Should not 'ave let that slip.

"Doing fucking what!"

"Stuff. Anyway it's too late start today."

"Listen you fucking-"

"Bye chief." And with that he shut down the video screen. "Now where was I?"

"Home." The car had reached its destination. Will activated the landing sequence, and then stepped out and headed up the steps.

"I'm home," called out the sunken-hearted, slightly bruised, straight D-minus student.

"How was your day dear?" his mother replied halfheartedly. She was sitting, watching TV and doing her nails. She looked at him through depressing, half-closed eyes.

"Just fine Mom." he returned in a dismal tone, scampering up the stairs into his room. He opened the door as if he was using the last of his strength, and lurched inside. He searched through the pile of cluttered paper and crud that was his desk for his walkman. When he found it he grabbed a magazine, flopped down on his bed and listened to the music emitted from within. The song like all others on the tape was frighteningly depressing, the melody seemed to call out "pull-up-a-chair, slit-open-a-wrist-music."

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She was the good one, the kind one,
the beautiful one
whose body had the benefit of hard work and plain food
while we smothered in ill-fitting elegance
and slowly drowned in society and our mother's wake.
She made us call her that,
just as she made the other child call her
stepmama -- a kind of inside joke
as her daughter grew more like her every day,
another iron wand of a woman
with tiny feet
clever enough to realize what will win a prince.

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Laughing Spinoza

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Alison Thomas

for Ashley


She sits up reading, nights.
Getting older now, but she hates
bifocals, preferring instead

the practiced flick of wrist,
like a pitcher curving the ball
towards home: switching off

reading glasses, distance glasses,
prescription sunglasses, close-up
glasses, vanity frames.

Bedsheet awash in spectacles,
she rolls over in her sleep, wakes
to discover another pair bent.


She lost her husband to the D.C. summer,
heat smothering his heart until it swam,
a child in a sweater too woolen and large,
choked by the swelter, swamped in sweat

and pain. Dorothy had chicken pox that week,
it was summer, thick and humid air wrapped
itself around them like a third person
in the room. No one slept. The television

glowed blue and they lay together, mother
and daughter, collapsed limp-limbed on the bed.
She tried half-heartedly to keep the child's hands
from picking at the sores: pastes of baking soda,

patches of calamine as pink as cotton candy,
oatmeal baths. She rubbed the remedies on,
knowing they were useless, and Dorothy,

restless, feverish, picked them off again.
Blinds drawn, television on, lights off, supine.
It was summer. No one slept. Cried instead.


She sits up reading, nights, squinting
through the latest pair of replacement
frames. Peripheral vision does not apply:

she can avert her eyes from the other side
of the bed, the empty space defined
by what was there. A temporary

tunnel vision. Her daughter is tall now, no small
white scars from pox burst open
fifteen years ago. She rubs her eyes,

clicks off the light, rolls over. Grief
sharp and tight is catching her again:
a filmy cataract, the blind side of her life.

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Untitled (Eyes in the Dark)


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Untitled (Seasons)


Cold fingers give way to cranial musing,
tapping the keys on a snow-encased night.
The mind succumbs to the need to analyze, to wonder;

...to define the space between life and death,
the bridges existing to complete gaps in the cycle of seasons...

(images swirling and dipping, infused within a mental whirlwind)

-the mind begins its backtrack by recalling the swish and crackle and
flameburst of fall-

In the space of a few sudden months,
the intrepid fire color leaf stippling turns to
timid, fearful earth brown.
The shells drained of chloraphyll plummet like lemmings from the
bare limbs of trees (exposed, nervous, naked) that scratch desperately at
the sky.

They beg for one more day of dream and belief, of sun and laughter, of the
sanctuary of personal raiment.

Then the relentless swirling winds of fate come
to capture shrivelled shells and create their magnetic attraction to the
Their listless rustling and tumbling sounds form
the final plea, the cry of consternation before
the sharp white chill of winter that
(it comes)
(it always comes)
...with its razor-sharp commands of cold, ringing as quietus-true as a
death camp 'zieg heil' to stifle into submission the last desperate life
cries of fall.

A thick white blanket of moonglow muffles the feverish pleading
with a tao quiteude that mirrors homicide by soft pillow strangulation.

Red leaves that survive peer through, remaining like blood upon the white
hand of stolen innocence;
a hand that reaches for the truth of the sun
to succeed winter with the (re)birth that is spring.

It is a newborn full of
(screaming blooming trickling bursting laughing breathing glimmering)
fearlessness that reaches through the quietude with a promise of life.

Mother Earth dotes upon it
(this prodigy of revitalization)
(the sweet wisdom of this innocent child).
She richly swaddles it in a cloak of vine, leaf, and bloom.

In this cloak shall the globe find solace -
a form of retribution whose appearance will justify quiet death
with the promise, the hope, the wonder of rebirth.

The bridge/the gap;
the life/the death
are paradoxes with full justification;
for all is
(and has been)
(and will continue to be)
in the hand
of Gaia.

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