South Jersey Underground Issue 6
South Jersey Underground Issue #6 November/December 2009 Art Jonathan Nelson Alison Charli Mary Ann Leitch Scrappyboy Fiction Denise Falcone Niels Hammer Joseph Patrick Pascale…
South Jersey Underground
Jonathan Nelson Alison Charli Mary Ann Leitch Scrappyboy
Denise Falcone Niels Hammer Joseph Patrick Pascale
Chris G. Vaillancourt Filomena Jack Katarina Boudreaux Jon Vishio Genevieve Goffman Valerie Tandoi
“Power to the People” by Jonathan Nelson
“Tough Times” by Jonathan Nelson
Jonathan Nelson runs a creative outlet called STOCKS AND BONDS in Maryland. His blog is http://stocksandthenbonds.blogspot.com/. He does graphic designs, album covers, artwork, custom t-shirt designs and style for artists.
“Naked Lunch” by Denise Falcone
Sometimes my mother and her boyfriend liked to escape from the humdrum formula of comatose suburbia to mill around Greenwich Village for a dose of beatnik fashion and avant-garde local color. It was 1962 and I had not yet crossed over the border of my dreams when they invited me to accompany them. All I knew was that the people who lived there wore black and walked around barefoot all the time. “Denizens of the demimonde” they were and maybe some witches lived there as well. We browsed in a monotonous dawdle, in and out of small shops hawking smelly hand crafted leather goods and sterling silver jewelry, until they decided to purchase matching wedding rings from a silversmith who offered to engrave the thick American Indian style bands while u-wait. I plopped down on a window seat next to something grey and furry, its face hidden in its body while sleeping all rolled up like a loaf of bread. Suddenly a tall girl with big bangs sauntered in. She had on a nubby red knitted poncho over a plaid madras skirt and when she kissed the silversmith on the mouth for an embarrassingly long stretch of time I had to catch my breath because SHE WASN’T WEARING ANY SHOES! Café Bizarre was located down a dark flight of stairs, unlike our local soda fountain where you could sip a cherry coke and gaze out the wide picture window at the peeling barks of the sycamore trees and across the street to the friendly neighborhood bakery. They thought that it might thrill me to visit a real live Greenwich Village coffee house, but the disconcerting brick walls, the narrow doorways hidden by velvet curtains, and the black painted ceiling appeared more like the funhouse at Palisades Amusement Park. I ordered a hot chocolate and stared down in tortured silence when the tan-
colored liquid was placed in front of me in its thick brown china mug. I pretended to be waiting for it to cool but minutes passed and I was bug-eyed by then. I suppose I was more frightened of getting hollered at for not drinking what I ordered than the nightmare I cooked up in my imagination of being doped and kidnapped by bongo-drum beating zombies in goatees and black turtlenecks, because I eventually brought the mug to my lips and thought so long everybody. It wasn’t bad. It was dusk when we safely and finally emerged. Our car was parked a million miles away. My mother wrapped her wonderful arm around me tight and as she went on talking about how it was beginning to be pot roast weather, I began to notice the signs, hung in shops and ground floor apartment windows and stenciled within the crosswalks and repeated in a pattern on the sidewalk and taped on lampposts and even pressed in the window of a pizza place and a deli. READ NAKED LUNCH. Asking a grown-up about anything that had the word naked in it was still acutely embarrassing for someone my age, so I sat in the back seat of the car with a box of Lorna Doones while the shadows of the city washed over me. When Teterboro Airport and the highway exit signs assured me that home was just a couple of more cookies away, I had it figured out that this was probably a novel about two people who liked to have sex on their lunch hour every day. After all and I could say this now with experience, this was an uncensored bunch.
William Burrough’s controversial novel Naked Lunch, a landmark publication in the history of American literature, recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first
publication in Paris by Olympia Press. The book was released in America in 1962 by Grove Press.
Denise Falcone is a writer who lives in New York City. Her work has appeared in Blood Orange Review, Fresh! An Online Literary Journal, Foundling Review, Why Vandalism, and others.
“In The Strangeness Of This Calm”
By Chris G. Vaillancourt
In the strangeness of this calm, bitter leaves tasted by mouth, grasping tears falling from eyes closed. Lifting hands to head, calling for God to bring peace. Growing. That is what this state of perspective is called. Mangled thoughts that run like dogs on a leash. Pulling until choked. Gasping, yet still struggling. Hide away the coloured lights. They sparkle for someone else. On and off until the power fades. Demanding feet that insist upon travelling. Walking like a man, sobbing like a boy. Internal bleeding not seen by anyone else. Calmly opening the backyard fence. Slipping like oil into the alley. Running. That's what this point of view can lead to. Escaping.
Cannot be found if the house is empty and the phone is off the hook.
Chris G. Vaillancourt has been involved in the art of writing as long as he can remember. Chris is a Canadian poet who has enjoyed publication in numerous small poetry magazines and newsletters,such as Pagan Lady Poetry Journal, The Inkling; The Lance; Opussum Review; Red Dragon; Poesia International; Plum Ruby Review; Windsor Star; Quills, Poetry Sharings, Poesy, Poetry Stop, Detour Memphis,and a host of other print and ezine publications.. He has enjoyed the publication of several chapbooks of his poetry, such titles as "Slow Burn" (4 Winds Press) and "teardrop of Coloured Soul" (PublishAmerica) He has a BA in Psychology from the University of Windsor and a Diploma in Sacerdotal Ministry from the Saint Andrew Theological Institute. Chris lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
“The Seed” By Filomena Jack
She felt the seed under the skin of her right palm Perhaps by ignoring it it would disappear and never be remembered Then, a few days later the seed reappeared under the couch cushion, making sitting unpleasant She assured herself that this wasn’t really a seed, not one that had the potential to grow and to contaminate everything in her universe Two days passed before she noticed the seed again. This time in the shower, this time with one baby leaf, barely uncurled, rising from it This is not trouble, she thought, this will go away, swept down the drain with the suds and debris from the day Should she mention to him that she had encountered the seed, even after their discussion about never again discussing it? He would become tight lipped He would hang his head and apologize and ask why She would explain that she was sorry and sad to have found the seed hiding and then not hiding She had wished the seed away, remember? She had vowed to not give the seed light or air or soil to make a home in But here it was, still, under her skin, hiding in the couch, drinking in the shower water Touching all the fabrics and all the furniture Winding through the bookcase Mingling with the dusty surfaces Waiting to break free
For more info about Filomena Jack please visit her at www.PinkVelvetBird.blogspot.com and www.FotoMenaGallery.blogspot.com
“Green” by Alison Charli Alison Charli lives and works in Jersey City. She is a multimedia artist with a concentration in fiber arts. See what’s going on inside her head here: http://alisoncharli.blogspot.com/
“Blue” by Alison Charli
“While Trying to Stay Aloof by” Niels Hammer She must have gone without making a sound - but the smell of her hair still clung faintly to the cold pillow. As he had not woken up it meant that she could silence her dressing steps across the floor or become imperceptible to his sixth senses at will. He must have been dead tired or engrossed by a dream - could not remember - for the crafty spirit of the female animal had superseded all his accumulated woodcraft. Shrugging his shoulders he rose and opened the door to the gusts of icy air. “I’m awake - ready for tea - when you come up.” With the faint kitchen sounds as an answer to stir his thirst he closed the door quickly and went out into the bathroom to wash and shave - being a vain man not too keen on hearing groans for no good reason. The water was eddying out of the bath as he rose to dry himself - but discerning the fine tingling of a teaspoon striking against China he threw the towel up on the rail with a quick twist of his wrist and rushed still dripping wet - like a Montain-reared Lion with flaming eyes - straight into the cloistered room to display his prowess. For a second he wanted to turn round and seeek shelter in the bathroom - but meeting Mrs Blair’s amused and inquisitive glance he felt bound not to be the one who withdrew and proceeded bravely forwards “Oh good morning, Mrs Blair. What a lovely crisp bright morning it seems to be to-day.” To hear his own gruff voice huff - and to demonstrate how utterly unconcerned about her presence he was even in spite of his penible condition. Trying to smile he told himself that he would have to act naturally just as if he had been all alone in a world far apart from Mrs Blair’s. “Could you please butter the toast for me while it’s warm. I’m still dripping with water.” That would show her his impeccable or rather imperturbable aloofness - but Mrs Blair’s glances seemed capable of stripping the leaves off any branch veronica he might have chosen to don. “Yes, of course.” A slow smile pulled her lips wider apart and her even slower deliberate movements echoed in the closed stillness of the room as she meticulously pressed the yellow rolls of dewy butter out on the light brown toast - so instead of becoming neutral and flaccid he felt ready to thrust through the ceiling. There was no way he could avoid asking her to spread out the honey as well. One wrong move only caused another. While feeling awkward and beside himself he wanted furiously to feel supple and full of ease in order to balk her leisurely demonstration of indulgence. “Oh, I quite forgot, the honey, please, would you?” “Indeed, right away.” Two viscid drops slipped out over the edge of the bread to hang in thin spidery above the table cloth. Keeping her balance and aim Mrs Blair squatted on her haunches to let the thick rum-coloured
solution of fructose cascade down from the blade of the knife to cover the pale-yellowed bread which she held at an oblique angle between her thumb and her middle finger so that the surplus could drip thickly back into the open jar below. And then he had no option but to feel how the flexed muscles in her thighs strove to burst the tight smooth cloth of her skirt - while she probed his vulnerability by exposing him to the full glare of her unmitigated interest. Being intimidated to such an extent was a disaster - and suddenly he staggered backwards as the premonition ironcally flashed a black and yellow warning out across his narrow field of vision. “Now is there anything else - in particular?” Oh yes yes - but he could not - for knowing it already she kept watching him like a Lynx. It was intolerable - her overbearing impertinence - her smiling onyx eyes. Why did she continue? Nevertheless - she did - and in such an off-handed way too. Though cursing himself as she made him feel like a fool he could not say anything - only sense her naked substantiality and suffer her advantage in silence. “No perhaps not - I don’t think so really.” Muttering incoherently he woke up from yet another dream. “This frosty weather is splendid, so I’ll go out skating for an hour or an hour and a half while the sun still shines.” “Yes, that would indeed be the best way to spend such a lovely morning.” Charged with intentions she turned round to go and he watched her walk away singing deeply in her hips. The shrill humming in his ears began to peak with longer intervals - but though having closed the door behind her with a soft thud she still confronted him squarely in the compressed atmosphere of the room. It went from bad to worse just as if preordained. Chewing the fragrant honey-buttered bread she had held between her fingers he could smell her in the wheat and wondered about what he could do to change his lot of always running away in search of peace. There were no realistic options so he put on his morning coat - picked up a book - read without reading and stared at the gap in nature she had left him. Feeling both frustrated and agitated to be still bursting with the self-same adamantine stretch he rose to seek relief in action. A continuous movement in the distance outside caught a corner of his attention. Breaking the monotony of the horizon a figure swept over the ice of the flooded fields like a water strider - and unable to disregard the impulse he rolled the Schmidt-Cassegrain across the floor to the window facing North and opened it a little to pick her up in the view-finder. Everything had its own momentum. A Brownian particle - nothing more or less. He focused and readjusted the focus - then turning round she came rolling South South-Eastwards to send slow shock waves up through his feet for occupying the entire field of vision she appeared to be so close that if he would he could - but - the slanting sunlight came in from the South at a low angle and her arms were
swinging loosely in long curves to match the strides of her legs. Leaning forward she breathed hard with open mouth - her tongue was clearly visible - the joyful concentration in her eyes curved space and the flow of endocrine opiates and dopamine boosted her delight in the strength of her body - and encouraged her to demand still more and more of life. There was no limit to what she might choose to do. The way she moved became an ample grace and her awareness of the shifting points of gravity from instant to instant a wonder. Whatever happened would happen by itself - with fumbling fingers he found her so supple and sleek in the smooth armour of her tight-fitting dress. There was only acceleration or deceleration. Watching her rhythmic movements he became dizzy and seemed to float out in the snowy meadow while she vanished in the galaxies or came out of focus - but when she turned round he was thrown back to look at the rolling of her shoulders as she moved from side to side with her large broad buttocks thrust out towards him. Though wanting to close his eyes he decided to postpone the disillusion till she changed direction but knew too late that it was beyond the power of his will and kept instead adjusting the focus. Then she came hidden behind dark glasses and the protuberance of her red aureole flared out beneath the rim of her cap. So once more he was swimming over the smooth cool ice with hurricane speed. His heels were splashing in her wake - she wrenched him from side to side till he trembled too much to see anything any longer and seemed to disintegrate or lose orientation - in aching and anguish. It was incomprehensible. Such a reaction. How could he do so without really being aware of his own disposition? At least not until it was too late. Exactly as in yet another dream. And worst of all - what would he not then be able to do in the future? He went over to the other window and put his brow up against the ice cold glass. The crisp ferns sparkled merrily in the Sun and bitter tears trickled slowly and silently down his cheeks like the cruel rain of Spring. The landscape turned into an indistinct blur and the dark blue Sky became more hazy with frost. A vulnerable moment without any opposing inhibition had triggered a sudden release of acetylcholine to spread upwards from the limbic system cold cold comfort though - so what could he do crawling between Earth and Heaven? Nothing - but keep shivering in the chilly air from the open window or close it. As a remedy he wanted to be soothed by Hildegard von Bingen’s clear hymns of devotion. “Nam hec superna infusio in te fuit quod supernum verbum in te carnem induit.” However - the spell had changed - for Mrs Blair seemed to add coloratura as she swept across the ice. So he was even beyond smiling now “O pulcherrima et dulcissima – ” But twisting around to match her onerous moves. “Venter enim tuus gaudium habuit cum omnis celestis symphonia de te sonuit – ”
Stretched out across the Sky from East to West - she came - in various forms - to fill the room with keen shadows of doubt and dreams. “Viscera tua gaudium habuerunt - sicut gramen super quod ros cadit o mater omnis gaudii – ” So tensed by her presence he ached with the sombre sonorous chant of serene joy - for each word was now laughing like an unexpected paronomasia. The alto used to be soft and clear but now he could only sense behind it a vast strange driving force. Shuddering to find the pattern repeated everywhere he wished the done undone - but realizations always dawned too late in the day and suddenly he felt afraid that Jane soon would be ready to leave him. There was no reason to wait - quite the contrary - so he dressed and went out to feed the Wolves. In the West Barn the last Goat stood munching on two long pale straws. His nostrils became packed with the smell. Feeling mean and shallow he fastened a piece of rope around his long-haired neck and a sack around his head and dragged him like a common butcher out across the lawn which cracked with frost beneath his nimble hooves. When the cold steel of the pawl clicked they pricked up their ears and one of the males turned round to watch. Pushing the Goat in he closed the door and opened the inner hatchway with the handle. Mortimer had been right - the responsibility was inescapable. As he pulled at the rope that was attached to the corner of the sack - which had darkened the smell of the Wolves - the Goat turned round and tossed the blind aside. Cold was the comfort of illuions but still colder the revelation of reality. Lifting his head shrewdly he looked up to sample the air but stood suddenly quite still - petrified - in an endeavour to become invisible. Two of the bitches were lying down and one of them was even looking the other way. He waited without moving just like the Goat on the other side of the fence - but left when the cold began biting him through the coat though the Goat would leave for ever when their teeth made his warm blood rush out to coagulate in the icy wind. He was going back to a cozy house to stand in front the hallowed hearth and warm his pious blood having given his gift of flesh to the Wolves - the flesh and blood of another living being - not his own not even his own for he lacked such a measure of compassion and did not even have the courage of his own convictions. Standing by the fire a little later he heard with misgivings and suppressed anticipation the determined knocking on the door. “Come in, Mrs Blair.” “I just came to fetch the teapot. Jane phoned. She will be back rather late.” “The logs seem to vanish as quickly as I can carry them up. I wish we could get some Oak - or Ash, that would be better.” “Shall I try?” “You could.”
Following her gaze he saw that she was looking at the Schmidt-Cassegrain which still was standing where he had left it and cursed himself for forgetting to put it back - and his situation for having to remember to put it back. “Oh would you mind if I just had a look?” “No, not at all, of course! But would it not be much more interesting to-night when the stars are out.” “Oh no! Not really. It’s just to satisfy my curiosity.” “Shall I not focus it on something for you.” “Oh no! Dont’t bother. I don’t mind so much actually.” Without waiting for an answer as he could not invent any reason for denying her such a favour she walked resolutely over to the telescope and opened the window. The range was given - that which would come was given. She looked through the eyepiece - just a glance lasting ten or fifteen seconds just to be sure - and when she turned round to face him he knew she was certain of what it was he had been looking at. “What a fantastic instrument. You can see all details so clearly as if you were standing just in front of them. The whole world is pulled right up in front of your feet. I could see the colours of the ice and the shimmering greenish shadow of the grass beneath.” “I’m sorry that that was all you wanted to see - when there are so many beautiful stars - Mrs Blair Castor and Pollux and - ” “Yes, I know, but this glimpse was quite adequate for me in order to form an opinion.” The tone of her voice suggested that it was a matter of fact without any consequences - yet he knew she was smiling at him or even exulting in her sagacity. But at least he was dressed in armour now. Shuddering as if with cold again he was not cold any longer - but alive with misery. When she had gone and the echoes of her steps had flattened out he banged his fist down on the leather of the back of the armchair. Again she had had the better of him. He wanted revenge and felt betrayed - because Jane had gone to town without telling him so that she had come in as a surprise instead. Then it was all her fault in the final analysis. Smiling grimly and shaking his head he went over to the window and pulled the telescope back. He ought definitely to pay more attention to what was happening around him or something he might not be able to handle would be bound to come his way if it had not come already.
Niels Hammer was born in Copenhagen and was educated in London and Copenhagen, and has lived in Paris, Tangier, New York, Peshawar, Delhi and Lund (Sweden). He has written articles in such journals as "Mind and Matter" and "Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society" and a book "The Art of Sanskrit Poetry" (analysis of poetics). Currently he is writing parts (1/2) of a monograph "The Jain Cave Paintings at Ellora" (9th century murals).
“Posting” by Katarina Boudreaux
The thinker – child young, little girl fuzzed hair in riot springing from a too still head for such a new, jump around frame -she sits atop a supposed to be elegant (now crumbling in neglect) entrance post, fleshed guard to her looming government subsidized housing, a watcher arrested in stone lion stillness. Head turned at a definitely uncomfortable angle to left, my head turns with her in a precarious left though I’m traveling right, and I scan for/with her, wonder what she seeks with such single minded intensity… I have no intensity left in my light bulbs… then watch in curious fascination as her balance teeters and she makes a quick weight shift correction, and know without asking that she climbed the black spiked gate solo. I was in for climbage once. Her eyes are blinkless, lidless maybe, and I think hard on what –or whom – is so important to this elf thing as to separate her so completely from the intensity of my
wonderment, from the passer-by stares and half cares. Some are only quarter cares. The wind rip-rustles the gold drapes hanging just so about her rough hewn face, and I imagine her summer striped T-shirt cement, her shorts a bolted thing and blink once beneath the cold worn soup of her eyes to make sure she is not a figment of myself somehow transformed to post duty in a strange yearless time mix-up. She is still there after the blinkers clear my sight -motionless girl watch statue – and I mutter quickly that I hope she can make it down in at least a few pieces when the disappointment of hopeless wait settles in. Humpty didn’t fare well. Neither did I.
Katarina Boudreaux is a private music teacher by day, musician and poetess by night -- www.katarinaboudreaux.com . Her work has most recently appeared in PANK, the Battered Suitcase, and the Oak Bend Review. Also her work can be found in Word Catalyst and Calliope this month. Originally from Louisiana, she holds a BA from TCU in Music and in English, but more importantly the present -- she reside in the vaguely hood of Connecticut with two cats and a cit y population of books.
“Eco-Animal Awareness” by Mary Ann Lietch
Since 1975 MAL's works have brought much attention to the art viewing public. Her paintings and works on paper are collected internationally. Emerging with the "Ladies" series, she sensuously depicted the "femme fatale" figure on large canvases with oils and on paper, pastels. These works are available today by Giclee reproduction. To satisfy a desire to paint visual legerdemain, she produces fantasy still lifes with objects d'art. This style surfaced recently in the "Falling Fruit thru Clouds" series of paintings and pastels and are available as Giclee prints thru her website www.artbymal.com In 1986, she broke her realist’s boundaries with a series of works mixing realism and abstract composition. Works on paper, "Legs” and "Luvs" evolved leading to the non-representational series "Exploration". Fields of sensual color, impasto lines of movement, glimmers of glitter and cut glass jewels come together for an opulent celestial voyage. Her tones of color are uplifting and the use of mineral stones is nu-age in spirit. She has come full circle to the "Resolution" series of abstract-realism works; combining acrylic with attachments and photo releases to include horses, riders, leaves, the sea, eco-animal awareness and figures on canvas and wood - on paper, using silk screen and collage. Currently, the painting series, “3 Beaches” are being produced with the use of multiple wood panels filled with colors of the sea, sand and sky and assorted attachments of shells, rocks, plastic fish and people things one sees at the
beach. The use of multiples, allows for assemblaging to larger works. She is also enlarging the “EcoAnimal Awareness” series as the ecological crimes are increasing. 2009 brought a few additions in the Eco-Animal Awareness, Falling Fruit, Horse & Rider groups and birthing of the mystical desert series. In celebration of my 3 decade journey as a fine art painter, the dvd: “Art by MAL – retrospectively” is available thru CreateSpace.com an Amazon company – also available 2 newly published art books “Elements” and “Ladies”.
“Leaf #4” By Mary Ann Lietch
“The Game” by Jon Vishio
You will see your first game on Friday. I hope you stay. The first time I saw the Phillies Play I was nine. An hour, we drove to the game, My father, sister, mother and I. In the park, our “homerun king” retires to applause, Parading the bases in a convertible. Huddled in the freezing rain my mother decides It’s time to go. The game Starts as we leave, program and baseball in hand, Just to say we were there, to watch. The ride home was quiet. I watched the trees in a blur of green Pass by the rain streaked car window. My dad and I watched the game on TV when we Got home. I don’t remember who the Phils played Or if they won or lost. Satisfied, My mother slept well that night. Friday, you and I will go to a game, your first. Please, stay until the end.
Jon Vishio is a rambling man, who may or may not have been conceived in the back seat of a greyhound bus. He is an ardent anti-fascist and selfproclaimed socialist, who will soon be reunited with the love of his life, Ezgi. He holds a BA in creative writing from the University of Memphis
“Grace” by Genevieve Goffman
I knew a little girl who liked to play with boa constrictors.
I think her name was Mary-Ann But it might have been Jane
Either way she’d rap them all the way around her, because suffocation was her favorite game
Welcome to the sun The world will now proceed to revolve around you poor thing
“She Stands” by Valerie Tandoi
She stands up for what she believes in She doesn't care about keeping quiet She stands tall when times are tough She works just as hard as she plays She stands proud when she has feelings She knows she's been hurt more than anyone should She stands smiling through all the pain She finds joy in making others happy She stands strong when most would settle and be defeated She knows that better is down the road And because of all this, she stands alone
Valerie Tandoi holds a bachelor’s degree from Caldwell College and is a local freelance writer. She runs a South Jersey happy hour & nightlife group and enjoys nights out on the town with friends.
“Drunks” by Scrappyboy
“Nina 72” by Scrappyboy
Visit www.scrappyboy.blogspot.com to see more of Scrappyboys work.
“The Curse of 140” by Joseph Patrick Pascale
February 2009 - The limit was 140 characters, so it was imperative that in one short sentence Joey No describe what he'd seen. A difficult task, as it was an inconceivable oddity he'd witnessed sloshing down the street behind the obligatory 7-Eleven in Red Bank, New Jersey. After taking the stairs down to the basement two at a time, he stumbled across the assortment of clothing, books, and empty soda bottles on the industrial carpet into the corner where his computer waited with a patient hum. He grabbed the mouse, which caused the screen to glow alive and the hard drive to click rapidly like a high-school artist stippling for the first time. Joey had already opened his Firefox browser and into the address bar he typed Twitter.com. It was a “microblogging” website that hadn't seemed particularly useful to him until fifteen minutes ago when he'd had the misfortune of investigating a wet grumbling noise that wasn't coming from his blue slushy. The username/password screen that didn't greet him with an autofill was suddenly the boss battle in his survivalhorror mission to get the truth out to the world. “Dammit, I could've sworn that was the password!” he yelled at the innocent Dell LCD monitor after a failed attempt to access his account. He'd entered the password that he generally used for everything, so what else could it be? “Okay, not zombibabi,” Joey No said with an uncomfortable edge to his urgent voice. “Babizombi?” The quick clacking of keys mirrored his urgency as asterisks filled in the little white rectangle and his pinky slammed the Enter key. “Crap!” he exclaimed when the password didn't work. Joey No shot a quick look over his shoulder toward the staircase he'd previously descended. Deep purple half-circles highlighted the bottom of his bloodshot eyes and the brown irises were revealing the onset of paranoia. His attention back on the monitor, he saw the “forgot password?” link mocking him like The Pirate Bay asking film execs to buy them pizza. Not willing to give in, Joey No began to release furious spasms of typing onto his archaic QWERTY keyboard.
“Zomibabi01? Crap! Zombibabi66? Crap! Zombibabi99? Crap! Zombibabi67? Crap! Zombibabi69?” There was a moment of silence as the page took a bit longer to load. “Yes!” Joey No shouted, pumping a fist into the air as a victorious fanfare played in his head. Now he was serious. He wasn't a man who liked to work with restrictions, but he could force himself when he had to. His brown eyes narrowed beneath prominent dark eyebrows; his left leg was bouncing up and down like a hummingbird's wing while he sat staring at the blank “What are you doing?” box. # A glazed expression painted Neil Gaiman's stubbled face as he gazed at the screen of his laptop while he lay on the firm mattress in Room 238 at the Clarence Hotel in Dublin. His sunken hazel eyes were beginning to lose the rush from the Red Bull and he'd just about finished his online duties for the night, which were quite numerous since he had a busy day to blog about--reporting on a festival showing of the film based on his story Coraline and interviews for The Graveyard Book he'd authored. The room around him was little more than a darkened shade of maroon illuminated by the bright bluish glow in front of him. A chill was creeping up on him, which made him pull the blankets closer and readjust himself as he glanced at the latest tweets running down the Twitter feed in his Tweetdeck program. A post from Joey No caught his eye and he grinned with amusement before typing RT@JoeyNO into his "What are you doing?" box and reposting Joey's message. He'd only met Joey once: at the New York Comic Con. While the booths were still being set up in the morning, Joey was yelling at someone about how a publisher at DC had already given the green light on his Swamp-ThingZombie-Apocalypse idea. Neil saw Joey's artwork sprawled out on a table in front of him and one page depicted a slimy green man surrounded by shambling undead and shouting, "Joey NOOOOOOOOOooooooo!" the latter word being in huge red lettering. As Neil had looked at the page more closely, he saw that in smaller letters above the speech bubble were the words, "Written and Illustrated by." "Are you Joey No?" Neil asked softly, interrupting Joey's shouts of protest. The young man turned, shaking in his black t-shirt and green flannel overshirt as he looked up with eyes wide as DVDs. "Umm, yes."
"Nice page," Neil said, indicating what he'd looked at before he continued on his way. Occasionally after that day, Neil would notice Joey No's tweets on his Twitter feed, which would send that image of a shouting Swamp Thing into his head, but generally, Joey's posts were lost amid the thousands of others jumping down the screen of Neil's laptop or G-Android smartphone. Tonight, however, Neil Gaiman found Joey No's post interesting enough to ReTweet, which meant that at least 22,000 other people also read it. # "Man, I must be crazy to be going back there," Joey muttered to himself as he pulled the zipper of his dark blue sweatshirt up to his neck and flipped on the hood. His hands were jammed deep into his pockets as he briskly walked down the desolate sidewalk; his breath trailing behind him like a wraith in the pre-dawn February glow. His destination was still several blocks away, all the way down near the waterfront of the Navesink River, which gave him plenty of time to consider changing his mind. Even at this forsaken hour, the headlights of a car whirring past blinded him about every thirty seconds. Yet amid the highway buzz of people going about their lives, he couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so alone in the world. As he eyed the frostcovered roofs he was passing, his gaze lingered on a clump of tree branches that looked like bare, stretching fingers. They were lit with a diffuse-glow against a sky that was the same pale blue as a drowning victim's lips. There was some oppressive feeling burrowed deep in his gut and clawing its way toward his chest that told him what he witnessed was something that should never come into the consciousness of a human being--but the way those people had handled it--so calmly, so rationally, as if this were a minor inconvenience that happened from time to time... Cutting across a parking lot to the corner of Water Street and Maple Ave., he took the former, which caused his heart to pump faster as if it wished to escape the thing that was clawing about in his chest. To think that so recently he'd been walking down this same path with nothing more than the idle wish for a frozen blueberry treat. He would have chuckled at the absurdity if only it didn't make him want to fall to his knees and start screaming. What was drawing him back to this place? Why was he summoned back to investigate that which he wished to unsee? He thought of a late night online viewing pornography, where the more you progress, the more you're compelled to click on links to the most depraved shit you can find. This knowledge of something
he'd witnessed made him want to know the truth and to expose it to the world. For some reason, that was pulling him forward. At last he passed by the 7-Eleven, a small building made mostly of glass windows which leaked florescent light into the tainted night. The building was surrounded on either side by tall bricked structures. Not what his imagination pictured as the backdrop to a night of unimaginable terror, but creepily fitting nonetheless. He glanced at the two cars in the parking lot which sat idling despite the foreboding air surrounding the place. From this spot, Joey could already see the red and blue lights shooting up into the air as if there was a rave going on behind the row of buildings. The bright colors were revealing the mists swirling in the air, creating glimpses of creatures and weapons unlike any to be seen in a passing cumulus during the day. Joey crept carefully, fearful of what he might see happening in the street, but instead he saw something rather ordinary. Two cop cars were barricading the road from traffic as a tow truck began backing up. The street contained a row of small, similar houses with tiny square front yards containing paths leading up to stairs and a front door. One house was different though, because it looked like a giant bite had been taken out of the left corner. There was a missing chunk of grass in the ground and the hole reached up to the second floor windows. The orange lights of the tow truck spun around as it attempted to dislodge a sideways minivan from inside of the house. "Nothing to see here. Move it along," a stern voice rang out. Joey practically jumped out of the atmosphere before he realized who had spoken to him. Taking the effort to keep his voice steady, Joey asked the cop, "Wait--what happened here?" It certainly wasn't a minivan that took out the corner of that house. "Car flipped over. Minor injuries. The driver was taken to Riverview," the cop said with a dearth of emotion. "Now get yourself home." "Yeah," Joey said ethereally as he turned to leave, giving one last look over his shoulder at confirmation of a government cover-up. As soon as he was back in front of the 7-Eleven, he took off running down the sidewalk, regretting that he hadn't endured the ludicrous monthly fees of a cell phone so that he could be updating his Twitter right this second. No, don't worry, it's okay. You already wrote the important part on Twitter before. If they killed you now, it'd look awfully suspicious.
# Since the first time he'd seen it online, Leo Laporte never trusted "Twitter." "Twitter" with all of its "tweets" was clearly infringing on his long-running "This Week in Tech" netcast, or "TWiT," which he'd been hosting for years before anyone even began the train of thought that stopped at the "microblogging" station. Despite this, he was poking at his Twitter feed on his Blackberry Storm this early Tuesday morning in California. The generally jovial man, with a flock of gray hair and a larger-than-life smile, was sipping at a mug of black coffee while adorned in a scarf resembling a slice of bacon. His teenage son and daughter were both buzzing around in the background as they readied themselves for school, and he could hear his wife returning back from upstairs. The wide bay windows and glass sliding doors of the open kitchen and family room were letting in the morning sun of the beautiful blue day outside. Leo scooched his chair over to reduce the glare on his Blackberry. Now he was back to poking at his screen to see what all of the people he was following were doing. Love 'em or hate 'em, it was his duty to follow up with these internet fads so that he'd remain a major authority in the blogosphere--also, he'd have material to talk about on his show. As he scrolled through tons of sentencelong messages, mostly filled with tinyurl links, he noticed at least seven people leaving messages @NeilGaiman like "Aliens only come to Jersey if they need to toss a body," "Zombies ate my neighbors!" or "NJ is the new Area 51." Leo let out a, "huh?" noise from between his lips and clicked over to Twitter.com/neilhimself to see just what all these people were referring to. Tongue-in-Cheek or not, Leo wasn't quite sure, but this could certainly be a topic on the next TWiT. Was Gaiman's struggle against manga censorship driving him into the liquidy netherworld of insanity? # Memes spread quickly on the internet, and while Joey No lay in bed back in New Jersey, people from around the world were reading and responding to what he'd started. His story had even made one of the top links on the social networking site Digg.com, although it was titled "Neil Gaiman Warns of Conspiracy Concerns in NJ" and it linked to the comedy site The Onion, which sarcastically examined the story, poking fun at the fact that
no one can see very well with buttons sewn over their eyes. Had the link actually gone to the detailed blog entry Joey typed out, it probably would have crashed the server because so many hits were flooding in, but instead, only a measly 97 people had looked at his entry. Still, that's about 89 people more than normally read one of the posts on his WordPress blog. Over on the /x/Paranormal section of the 4chan imageboards, anons were responding to the story in a variety of ways. Most people were demanding, "Alien tits or GTFO!!!!!111one," (Get The Fuck Out), and plenty of people were posting pictures to meet that demand--some hentai, some Photoshopped--the most disturbing to the casual viewer probably being the one with mouths where the womens' nipples should have been. There were a lot of pictures posted which had a thick black border and some kind of phrase in white lettering underneath the picture. A lot were strange pictures of creepy looking people and landscapes that said, "WHEN YOU SEE IT you'll shit bricks," such as one where a tree hanging over a lake created the outline of a fetus if you looked at it a certain way, or a seemingly normal picture of a girl with an ominous face hidden in the background behind her. Of course other such pictures had random things like Dr. Gregory House making an odd face with the subtitle, "DO WANT this thread is relevant to my interests," or a famous owl underscored by the words, "O RLY ?" However, there were a surprising number of people who posted that they had experienced dreams similar to what happened in Red Bank and asking to know what anon thought of this phenomenon or if they had been cursed. # A thick, acidic smog hung in the air like stagnant sewage as Joey No trudged in the sinking mud unable to see where he was going. Between the near-incessant buzzing of insects, he thought he could hear loud, guttural, human chanting in the distance. He attempted to make haste in the opposite direction, but that was difficult in these conditions, and he could barely move three feet without getting tangled in some purple and green brush or crashing into a tree that hadn't seemed to be there a moment ago. After a few more minutes journey, it seemed as if the distant voices were getting louder. A shiver crept down Joey's spine like a rat running down a pipe and he turned in the opposite direction and continued meticulously picking up one foot at a time to force movement in this brown, fulminating, sludge. The unmistakable scent of decay and death was entering his nostrils as he took each painstaking step, so he lifted a green-flannel tail of his overshirt to cover his nose and
lessen the pungent impact of the rotting-meat odor. Terror gripped his gut as he noticed that the loud, angry voices shouting in unison seemed to be only a few feet away from him now. He looked to the sky, perhaps hoping to see some open space outside of this awful swamp, but the dark clouds were so thick that he was clearly trapped on all sides. The voices continued, and while he'd guessed they were human, it didn't sound like they were making noises natural for people to make. They were sickening sounds, perhaps filled with burning bile from syllables drawn from deep within the stomach. Joey No fell against a tree and leaned there; the sounds closing in on all sides of him. He jammed his brown eyes shut and bit his lower lip hard to keep from screaming with the horror he felt inside. Unexpectedly, the world was quiet all about him, although this only made the crippling terror within him intensify. Against his will he slowly lifted his eyelids and what he saw he'd dare not describe to anyone, for he immediately tried to expel the fact that he'd seen such a creature--if that is an accurate word to describe it--from his mind. The horrifying thing was clearly beyond the comprehension of humans: A thing so great and frightening that to live in the same existence as it was to be forever damned. # In the florescent lights of a studio dressing room, a blond-haired woman was reviewing the notes for tonight's show. "What's the interest in this?" she asked, looking down her long, thin nose at the producer standing next to her. "This is like--Bigfoot stuff." "Well, it's been a pretty popular story online, Adrienne," the mustachioed man responded. "And I think we'll be the first to get a story on the air about it. You know we want to capture that net-centric audience." Adrienne shrugged and went back to reviewing the papers. "...we'll have more about the 44 cats rescued from a Toms River home, but now: a string of odd--some say, “paranormal”--occurrences continue in New Jersey. Desiree Palmer is in Red Bank bringing you the story first from NJN," Adrienne said in an overly perky voice around 5:45 pm on TVs across the “tri-state area” of the east coast of the U.S., although the story would soon bounce around Youtube before being picked up by other news stations across the nation.
The feature attempted to legitimize itself by connecting the buzz circulating online about Neil Gaiman's tweet with five earthquakes that had befallen the ordinarily earthquake-free state over the last couple of weeks. They were all centered in Morris County, with the largest magnitude being 2.4. In addition to the quakes, Palmer brought in the eyewitness reports about mysterious formations of red lights that had been seen in the sky over Morris County several times within the last month. Amateur video and 911 calls about the lights were played during the segment and witness Cindy Hurley said that she believed them to be U.F.O.s. Palmer concluded her feature with input from an expert she was able to find on this topic. "For New Jersey residents, the paranormal really isn't anything new," said Mark Moran, one of the publishers of the magazine Weird NJ. "Each issue of Weird New Jersey is filled with happenings unexplainable by science that were sent in from residents of the state. It's apparently only now that the rest of the country is realizing just how strange our state is!" While turning the piece back over to Adrienne, Palmer informed her that after completing their interviews, they'd learned that an unidentified 6" by 3" piece of hot metal had fallen from the sky and into a warehouse in Jersey City and that its origins were completely unknown. # And so the paranormal mystery remained in people's minds, hanging in the air like some sort of dirty joke-the crowd uncertain whether they should laugh or be appalled. Just after 9 pm a couple of days later, reporters and government workers crammed into a chandeliered room that looked a lot bigger on TV. Everyone's eyes were on a tall, thin man in a dark suit and red tie who stood at a podium on the stage in the front of the room. As he spoke in his deep, confident, matter-of-fact voice, reporters were rapidly scribbling down notes to themselves and then quickly looking back up at the man, worried they might miss something. It had come to the question and answer portion of the press conference, but none of the reporters were eager to jump up and raise a hand for a chance at their own question, because the reporters asking the questions were predetermined. "Once the economy stabilizes and people are less fearful," President Barack Obama was saying, his hands moving in front of him as if he was molding his words out of clay for all to see--his eyes focused directly on
Chuck Todd, the NBC reporter who'd asked the question, "then I do think that we're going to have to start thinking about how do we operate more prudently, because there's no such thing as a free lunch. So if you want to get--if you want to buy a house, then putting zero down and buying a house that is probably not affordable for you in case something goes wrong, that's something that has to be reconsidered." The President spoke as though he were talking to an equal on a matter of common sense, and his skill at speechcraft was apparent. "So we're going to have to change our bad habits. But right now, the key is making sure that we pull ourselves out of the economic slump that we're in." Clearly satisfied with his answer and ready to move onto the next matter of business, he continued, "All right. Umm..." he glanced down at the podium, "Jack Kae." "Thank you, sir," Jack said as he stood up from his seat and held a microphone up to his mouth. "What is your reaction to the alleged paranormal events taking place in New Jersey recently?" he said quickly and cordially before retaking his seat. "Well these are tough times we're facing, and it's unquestionable that there are some unusual things going on in our country, but I think the American people need to stand together in the face of uncertainty. A little mystery can be good for a person's mind, but I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about it," the President finished, flashing a wide, white smile across his long face before moving onto the next question.
Joseph Patrick Pascale is a fiction writer from New Jersey. His work has been published in Thaumatrope, 365 Tomorrows, Tweet the Meat, PicFic, and Prism literary journal. He is currently a contributing editorial assistant for Drunken Boat, an online literary journal of the arts. Pascale's short story "The Poetry Reading" is forthcoming in the 14th issue of Off The Rocks.
Content copyright 2009. South Jersey Underground. All rights reserved.