Sunday, May 22, 2011

Issue Thirteen, Volume One

From the Desk of the Editor,

     Hello and welcome survivors of world's end. This week at Larks Fiction we have works of contemporary post-modern. Or are they post-post-modern? Either way they are works of enthralling fiction! Be advised they contain some language.

     Starting this week @LarksMedia on will be a daily writing prompt project. Each day a new prompt will be given. See what you can do (and maybe submit it latter).

     Also we would like to thank Kelly at Steady Pen for reviewing us! You should check her blog out if you enjoy writing.

     Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Daniel J. Pool
LFM Editor

A Sacrament and A Glory
By—Robyn Ritchie

     Rory found him some God the other day. Gods, I guess I should say, cause he swears there was two of ‘em. He says twin Gods, right in the last stall of the boy’s john, the one that always smells like crap. No clue why he went in that one, but anyway.

     He says he was sittin there mindin his own business, not hurtin nobody. Then all of a sudden, there was like pink smoke poppin outta nowhere, and these twin Gods are there.

     “Wait a minute, pink smoke?”

     S’what he says.

     “Sounds like ol’ Rory been smokin him some pink smoke.”

Yeah, well. Anyway, they’re pretty. Like, movie star, kinda pretty. And Rory, man, he’s like freaked the hell out cause he don’t know whether these guys are there to beat em’ and steal his money or beat em’ and rape em’, you know? He’s hollerin and all, callin for help but no one’s answerin him cause of the pep rally and he can hear us in our scream-battle gainst the freshmen but we can’t hear him.

     “Pussy! Why don’t he beat their asses? That’s what I’d do.”

     You gonna beat a God’s ass? Yeah, okay. But, you know, they don’t do nothing to him. He says he pulled up his pants and crap’s just everywhere, you know, cause he didn’t have sense enough to wipe his damn self. Damn fool lookin bout a mess in front of Gods.


     But they say some God stuff then. He stops fumblin with himself cause they talkin.

    “Say what?”

     They say something he can’t even understand. He says it was like another language, like, uh, Swahili.


     Hell yeah. Must be some African Gods, he says.

    “Man, Rory needs to shut hisself up. Ain’t no African Gods round here.”

     I don’t know, I’m just tellin you what he told me. You gonna shut up so I can finish?

     “Yeah, yeah.”

Okay, so, anyway. He can’t understand what they sayin but that pink smoke still there so either they aliens or Gods and Rory thinks they Gods. He tries to listen but he can’t understand Swahili and he tells ‘em that and they can understand him. Then they take their nails and scratch a message on the wall.

     Rory’s like, Woah! This’s nuts! And one of the Gods, man, they lean over and kiss the fool’s cheek. He got a rash on his face now, done took up half his head.

     “Sounds more like aliens to me.”

     Well, maybe.

     “So what’d it say?”

     What’d what say?

     “The writin! What’d the writin on the wall say?”

     Oh, that the Gods done did?


     Some Swahili shit.

About the Author:
     The author is a college student who gets by on a lot of coffee and a little writing.

Manhattan Love Story: Dancin’ Across the U.S.A
By—Kyle Hemmings

     Zin and I are doing our version of The Bubblegum Strain before 17 million viewers around the world. It’s the show How Many Legs Have You Got? Slinking and slow-burning, we combine old hip-hop routines with improvised House four-to-the-floor. We do half-time and dubstep. Zin is kick drum; I am snare. Zin is synth-stroked climax; I am deep in spacey futurism.

     Zin is dressed as an eighties Madonna, long skirt with tie-up boots. I am a slender Hercules on diet of parallel worlds.

     The audience claps. The judges give irrelevant critiques and scores. Judge No.1 gives us a 7. He says I lack attitude. No. 2 gives us a 9. She admits it’s hard to adapt to dubstep. It’s like crashing gates. No. 3 gives us a 6, claiming that our grime was too complex and jerky. I can feel the sweat from Zin’s palm traveling through my lifeline.

     “Wait,” says Zin, “it’s not over. The second dance is always better.” She stares each judge in the face. I’m about to go Kode9. The cameramen are giving each other strange hand signals. Zin shuffles to the edge of the stage and flies. She floats over the audience, under hot colored lights. The people stand.

     The judges rise and guffaw. No. 1 says Is she Mary Poppins? No. 2 says The craziest shit always happens in front of the cameras and not behind. No. 3 asks if there are strings attached to her. Zin returns to the stage, perched before the judges.

     She looks at me with her big Barbie-Girl aqua eyes, the only thing about her that is not breathless. I’m walking on a mist. The audience can’t stop cheering. The judges stand and collectively fire themselves. In the backseat of a taxi, I hold Zin’s hand and look into her eyes.

     She smiles like a ballerina returning to her life on strings. In her eyes are miniature porcelain swans forever stuck in their orbits.

About the Author:
     Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey where he talks to disillusioned cab drivers and humble ex-nymphomaniacs. His work has been featured in Technicolor,, Spork Press, Nano Fiction, Pank, and elsewhere.

Thank you for reading this installment of Larks Fiction Magazine. Join us next June 12th for Issue Fourteen for works of quirky fiction about life, death, and sudoku!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Issue Nine Part II, Volume One

From the Editor's Desk
       Hello and welcome to another installment of Larks Fiction Magazine. In this issue we are reposting an issue that did not get published on the right day so here it is for its for run.
       Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the issue.

Daniel J. Pool
LFM Editor

Divine Scream
By Ron Koppelberger

       The trooper followed the fugitive into the warehouse; a quality of resonant power jolted the calm eddies of dust in the dark void of the empty warehouse. The trooper paused breathing in the sullied odor of rotting vegetables and lilac. 
       The fugitive stood in silent phantom shadow between the sliver of candent daylight surrounding the trooper in silhouette and the dusty trail leading to the sanctity of his extraction point. The trooper whispered, “Don’t move.” An exhausted tongue of solstice surrounded the trooper as the spring hinged door swung shut behind him.
       The fugitive tilted his head backward, opened his mouth and screamed shattering the silent commune. Legends of ancestral continuum filled the moment with the passage of a few seconds, a few moments of tinctured, piercing sound as the fugitive continued to scream.
       The trooper squinted in frozen fear as a brilliant fire surrounded the fugitive. Like the roar of a dragon he thought. The aluminum walls of the warehouse shook and the fugitive levitated to a horizontal position between the ceiling and the dirt floor.
       His scream echoed shrill and infinite. The trooper watched as the firelight vacillated and rolled in flame. A moment later it was finished, the fugitive spun in rhythm to the pulsing fire screaming, then silence. He vanished near the corrugated metal roof and the gentle rush of a gasping breeze shook the building. 
       The trooper sighed and shook his head in disbelief. His thoughts in secret labor as he forced himself to forget the vision of fire.

 The End
About the author:
       Ron Koppelberger has been published in The Storyteller, Ceremony, Write On, Freshly Baked Fiction and Necrology Shorts. He recently won the People’s Choice Award for poetry In The Storyteller for a poem titled Secret Sash. His works have been featured from England to Australia, Canada, Thailand and India. He aspires to establish himself as a writer and poet.

By Wes Prussing
      You don't know me. I've no credentials, no track record, no references. So I really wouldn't blame you if you don't believe what I'm about to tell you. I suppose I could show you proof. I've got the data right here--believe me. But to tell the truth, that's not my style. I'm much too subtle for that. Ask anyone who knows me--they'll tell you. Besides, that's more or less what got me into so much trouble in the first place. Tell you what. Let me introduce you to Eddie. Don't worry, it's not like you'll formally meet. No uncomfortable chitchat. A fly on the wall I believe is the expression. We'll be visiting what you know of as the past. It may seem like the present, like it's happening this very moment, but don't be fooled. Hey, I can do this. I don't make a habit out of it but as you'll see Eddie is very special to me.
      Relax. So are you.    
      Right now Eddie is in denial. He's not stupid, but--and it pains me to say this--he is so stubborn--thick, as I say. Eddie's got Aplastic Anemia. Ever heard of it? Well take my word for it you don't ever want to. Eddie's dying. Dying imminently according to the test results and what the doctors say. Sad part is he almost beat it, this disease. But the bone marrow transplant didn't take. See, it's an all or nothing deal. I won't go into all the medical terms but it has to do with a lot of blood stuff--red and white counts, cells, platelets. The only way out is a bone marrow transplant. If the transplant doesn't work, you die. Quickly. That's how it works. Eddie knew this going in, but like everyone he had to take a shot. He rolled the dice and it came up snake eyes.    
       No one knows anything about his condition; not his friends, not the people he works with, not even his ex-wife and kids. He did tell his lawyer and his lawyer told him what a real shame it was, you know, given his age and otherwise good health. He suggested Eddie tell someone, some family member, a friend. But he didn't. For one thing his ex still hates him and would probably throw a party if she found out. And his kids? The two boys are in the service; one in Germany the other somewhere out west, last he heard. His youngest, a daughter, he hasn't seen since she was twelve--more then ten years ago. He's not even sure where she's living, or if she's living for that matter. I won't go into Eddie's whole history or anything except to say that isn't it always the case that in the end you usually hurt ones you love the most, the worst. At least this is what I've observed.    
       Look, here's Eddie now. Poor schmuck ….
       The doctor has come and gone. Eddie nods off a little but cannot fall asleep. Doctors have this effect on him. They always leave him nervous, edgy and drained. Outside, the day is drawing to a close and goes from light to dark with silent, graceful urgency. A thin crease of light that comes from the doorway divides his narrow room. For some reason the door itself is never completely closed and he wonders if this is by design. His mind is feverish and cloudy and wanders desultorily. In truth, he is consumed with dread. He can taste the despair that lingers after each visit of white-clad attendant.
      Across the room in a vinyl-padded chair someone sits watching. Eddie, eyeing the shadowy shape, croaks, “Who's there?” He sees movement, a slight shifting of form.
He calls out, “Look, I don't remember inviting anyone in, so if your dispensing anything like hope, salvation or firmer abs in five days, do us both a favor and beat it.”     
      The chair slides forward and stops at the foot of his bed. Something moves again and he hears a far-away sound like the rustling of wind-bent treetops.    
       A voice: “I'm so sorry, I thought you were sleeping.”   
       “Who the hell can sleep,” he snaps back. “They're either jabbing you with something or making you to pee in a jar.” He swallows, and adds, “Who the hell are you, anyway? Who let you in here?”   
      “That's not a very nice greeting Eddie, not very nice at all. You haven't forgotten your manners, have you?”   
      He squints, trying to focus his aching eyes. “I can barely see you. Turn on the light, will ya--the one over by the bathroom door. This one here hurts my eyes.”    
      A dim light is switched on and the chair scratches along the floor as it is drawn up close to the bed.
       “There, is that better?” It is a girl's voice, high and pleasantly dulcet.    
       “I still can't see you.”
      The girl leans in close so that her face is caught in the yellow light. A beige veil covers her head. Beneath the broadly stitched seams are thick back curls that look damp and appear pasted flat against her forehead. She might be thirty or thirteen, it's hard to tell. There's not a line in her face, not even around her mouth or at the corners of her eyes. Her features are all smooth and elliptical like an ice sculpture that's beginning to melt. Her eyes, peeking out beneath the veil, are pale gray, wide set, and soft beyond words.   
       The steady drip of Stadol plays with Eddie's head. He wonders if he's hallucinating or maybe dreaming. He thinks of his ex-wife and his kids. He tries to picture his daughter, at least the way he remembers her. The drugs make even this difficult. He thinks he sees something, some resemblance, around the mouth maybe or the small nose.   
       “Is this better, Eddie?”     
      “Yeah,” he answers. “My eyes haven't been right since the transplant. The marrow I got from the donor pool--guy must have been nearsighted or something.”     
      “Should I move in closer?”    
      “No. No, you're fine.” He presses on the oxygen tube stretched across his upper lip. “I was just thinking. You remind me of someone.” The girl shifts self-consciously in the chair. He juts his chin in her direction. “What's with the veil?”    
      Smiling she let's it fall to her shoulders then reaches behind her neck and fluffs her curls. “Better?”    
      He nods. “Do I know you?” 
       “You don't recognize me, Eddie?”  
       “I don't know. Should I?”    
       “Perhaps not. I'm told I have one of those faces, you know, that look that is so familiar you look like everyone--and no one.”   
       “I didn't mean it that way. You look… beautiful.”   
       “Thank you Eddie, I can see beauty too--in you. The way you're fighting this. In your faith.”    
      “I don't know. I don't have much fight left. I sure can't see any beauty in being sick. I just see ugliness.”    
      She notices him wincing and allows some time to pass. “Tell me about the pain,” she says.    
      He rolls his head. “I'm okay, I've got enough drugs in me to drop a rhino.”   
       “And do they work, these drug?”    
      “I guess. They take the edge off.”    
      “But your pain is still great. You suffer terribly, don't you?”   
       “Yeah, you could say that.”  
       “But you have not surrendered. You haven't given up. I can tell.”    
        “It's getting worse--much worse. It's wearing me down.”    
       “You must not let that happen, Eddie. Not yet. Not while there is still time.”    
       “Time,” he mumbles, looking past her. “You still didn't say who you are.”    
       She ponders this question for a moment and says, “Who do you think I am?”
      He hesitates. He's afraid to say. He's afraid that what he suspects may be true. He hears himself blurt out: “June. You're June, right?”
      “June...” She lets the word slide off her tongue.     
      “You look so… Ah, I don't know. It's been what? Ten years…more? You should be what by now? Twenty-three?  Jeezzzz, this is awkward.”    
      Her face brightens but she doesn't speak.   
       “Hey look,” he continues with a limp wave of his hand. “It's no big deal, I know what a horrible father I've been. We don't have to pretend.”
      She says nothing.     
      “I'm dying,” he continues in a half-whisper, tucking the edge of the pillow under his cheek. “I'm dying, baby. I'll never leave this bed. You're here to say goodbye to me, aren't you? Say goodbye to your old man.”
      He waits for her to confirm his suspicion but girl remains silent. He tries a different tact: “Did Leo tell you I was here? He came by last week to go over some legal stuff and I specifically asked him not to notify--.”  
      “No one notified me, Eddie. I wanted to see you and here I am.”     
      “Sure. You just wanted to see me.”  
      “Yes. You don't believe me?”  
      “I don't want to argue,” he says, curtly.  
      “Eddie,” she says, settling back in the chair “Why don't we just talk. You and me--just talk.” 
      “You want to talk? Why? You want to analyze me. Help me work though my problems?”  
      “I just thought--.”  
      “Hey, I know, let's get Jerry Springer in here. Then, we can really go--.”    
      He stops. Her lips are moving and her eyes are fixed on a point just above his head. He glances up but sees nothing.  
      “Wha'cha doing? Wha'cha looking at?”    
      No response.   
      She lowers her gaze. “I'm sorry Eddie.”     
      “Sorry? Look, I'm the one pumped full of drugs here. What was that all about? You in some sort of trance or something?”    
      “Of course not. Tell me Eddie, do you know of Julian …of Norwich or thereabouts--no one's really sure. I wish you could spend some time with her. Let me think … I remember one of her earlier showings. It addresses precisely the dilemma you find yourself-- .”    
      “The what? What the hell are you talking about?”    
      “I didn't mean to upset you. If only I could …I …oh, Eddie, I am upsetting your aren't I? I'm not sure I should have come here.”      
      “No, please stay…” He is suddenly afraid she might decide to leave. “Stay here with me, okay. Just for a while, wait with me.”    
      She watches his chest rise and fall in a strange, disjointed tempo that mirrors his breathing. She places her hand on his. “It's all right, it's all right. I'm not leaving. Everything is okay.”    
      His breathing slows. She watches his eyes, which are darting about the room. She waits for him to speak but his mouth is locked in a kind of half-yawn.     
       “What's the matter, Eddie?” she asks. “Do you see something?”    
      He shakes his head.    
      “What are you looking for Eddie?  Is there someone else here?”    
      No answer.    
      “Eddie, tell me. Is he here?”    
      “I can't.”    
      “Yes you can.” She tries following his eyes but they are jumping about too rapidly.    
      “Forget it,” he says letting his head sink back into the pillow. “There's no one here.”     
      She keeps prodding. “But you are waiting for someone?”    
      “I thought you said no one is supposed to know you're here.”     
      “You found me, didn't you?”         
      He runs his fingers though his hair. He never bothers to comb it anymore and it sticks out from his scalp like wet feathers. “To tell you the truth I don't really know what I'm doing. I guess I'm just waiting to die.” He manages a throaty cackle. “We won't have long to wait, will we?”     
      “I don't know, Eddie. Who's to say?”    
      “Yeah,” he sighs, “who's to say.”  He waits for her to continue but there's only an awkward silence. “Look, if I tell you something, you won't think I'm crazy? I mean it's going to sound insane. I've never told anyone about this before, but maybe it's time.”        
      “Then tell me.”   
      “I don't know, maybe I really am crazy.”    
      “Tell me, Eddie.”    
      “I don't know.”      
      “Tell me.”    
      So he tells her.      
      When I was a kid my brother Joey and I took a short-cut through our neighbor's yard. I couldn't have been more then eight or nine. Joey was a year older. Anyway there were these two holes in the ground right next to each other. They were each about six feet wide and separated by a thin patch of ground about as wide as a doormat. Turns out they were actually septic tanks that were being pumped out and repaired. Only we didn't know it, they just looked like big holes some unknown entity had dug for fun.
       Joey gets this idea to walk between the holes so he spreads his arms wide and--no sweat--makes it easy. Right away he dares me to do it, knowing how uncoordinated I am. Guess what. Yeah, I fell right in. I must have dropped about twenty feet. As soon as I hit bottom I knew it was no ordinary hole. I knew it was what we all called a cesspool. So there I was floating in this pool of filth--shit, piss, probably even blood. At first I tried not to move too much--you know, like it was quicksand or something. I went under a couple of times anyway, swallowing mouthfuls of crud. I began to panic. I started screaming for Joey to get some help. I remember looking up and seeing this silver-dollar piece of sky, this wobbly blue disk high above me. Then I noticed all these tree roots sticking out of the wall like hundreds of crooked fingers pointing down at me. I lost it. I began to scream even louder, swallowing even more filth and crud. Then, the craziest thing happens--all of a sudden, the fingers are moving. But it's not just the roots themselves. I see real fingers and they're right above my head. I reached up to grab hold and all this slime goes sliding down my arm into my eyes. I wiped it away and looked up again. That's when I see this man. He's hanging upside down. I can't see his face because he's got this hat on--a derby. His fingertips keep touching mine but I can't quite grab hold of his hand. Finally I take a deep breath and go under. My foot touches something solid and I give one final push, my arms stretched to the limit. He catches hold of one of my wrists and then the other and I am being pulled up.    
       Next thing I know I'm kneeling in the grass puking my guts out. Someone's got a garden hose and is spraying me down. I see my mother running toward me with Joey beside her. She's half hysterical. She practically falls right on top of me. She keeps asking me if I'm all right but the whole time I'm looking around for the man with the hat. Only he's gone. Disappeared. Later I try to tell my mother what happened, how this upside-down man pulled me out of the hole. She just smiled the whole time and said that sometimes, under great stress, we're likely to imagine things. She says that from the way she's seen me climb that old elm in the back yard it's little wonder I was able to climb up all those roots.    
      He feels a sudden fullness in his chest. His throat is very dry. He cannot produce any saliva. He tries to moisten his lips but his tongue feels like 20-grit sandpaper. He pauses and says, “That was the first time.”     
      “First time?”    
      “Yeah. Crazy, huh? There's been more. Sometimes years would go by and I wouldn't think about it. Gradually I'd forget about the whole thing. Then: Wham!  Something would happen and it'd be even crazier then the time before.”    
      “Did you ever find the man?”    
      He shakes his head. “I'm not even certain there was a man.”    
            “But you said--.”
      “You haven't been listening, have you?” He peers out the window. “I can't be sure. I've never been sure. I only know I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I swear I must be losing my mind.”     
      “No you're not Eddie. You may be seeing things clearly now, maybe for the first time, like the world can be seen, should be seen.” She touches his hand. “Things are not always what they seem, Eddie. Look at me. What color is my hair?”
  Still gazing out the window he says, “You hair? Ah, a quiz, huh? Ok, your hair is blac--.”    
      He rolls his head and sees a sudden wash of strange hues. Her hair is a fiery copper --the color of new pennies. It flows down her shoulders in enormous waves and ends just inches from her waist.
      “Black?” she finishes for him.    
      “This is bullshit! Who are you?”    
      “Think you're loosing your mind? Let me ask you, Eddie. Ever heard of the Peter Principal? How people tend to rise to the level of their own incompetence?”      
      “The Peter Principal,” he groans. “You wanna talk about the Peter Principal? You're crazier then I am!” Using his elbows he raises his upper torso off the mattress. “Who are you!”
      She looks up at the monitor above his head. It is beeping erratically, the violet LED readout changes from moment to moment. Pulse rate, blood pressure, blood/ox; the numbers blink wildly and digitally rearrange themselves.   
       “Oh, Eddie, I'm so sorry,” she whispers.      
      The wave of pain seems to crest and slowly recede. “It's okay,” he gasps. “Just give me a second.” Suddenly his body goes rigid and his face twists in agony. A light next to his bed begins to flash and the rhythmic slapping of rubber-soled shoes can be heard in the hallway.    
      She touches his leg and fells it trembling. “Rest Eddie. Don't talk.”    
      A nurse enters the room. She goes to him and checks his pulse. She pulls his chart from the foot of the bed, scribbles something and shakes her head woefully. She loads a syringe and pushes it into his arm, then resets the monitor.     
      “There,” she says gathering up the equipment from his blanket. “You're tachycardia. The arrhythmia is growing more pronounced. This will help you relax. I'll ask the doctor to see you as soon as soon as he returns. Please try to rest.”  She glances back at him as she leaves and almost says something.     
      Just as before, they are alone.    
      Eddie looks at the girl who is again staring at a point somewhere above his head.    
      “You are so beautiful,” he tells her, his mind swimming in disjointed thoughts. “Just like your mother.”    
      She lowers her gaze. He looks so small and helpless. She leans over and blots some beads of sweat from his forehead with the side of her hand. Her touch is cool and dry.    
      “Eddie, would you like me to help you pray?”    
      “Pray?” he says tonelessly.    
      “Yes, you used to pray all the time. You were an altar boy--remember all those prayers? All that Latin you had to learn? You where how old? Eleven? Twelve? I can help pray now, you if you want. I can help you talk to God.”    
      His eyes begin to dart around the room again. “He's here!” he shouts. “I can sense it. I'm sure of it. He's here.”    
      She says softly, “Why Eddie, God is always here with--.”    
      “No, not God!”    
      “Who then? Is who here?”    
      He reaches for the control attached to the narcotic drip--his thumb twitches on the button. His mind is racing. He wants to drain the bag, all of it. He wants to feel that blessed relief flow through his body. Then …just sleep.    
      He lets the device slip from his fingers. Time, he knows, is short.     
      “See this?” he says, and hooks a finger behind his left ear. There is a blue cord of tissue that forms a crescent just below the hairline. “Know where I got this?” He doesn't wait for a reply. “I got this in Vietnam.” He waits for his breathing slow down. “That was the last time.”    
      “Last time?”
     “The last time he came. It stopped after that. I thought maybe I'd been saved for some reason, some purpose.” He laughs and a riff of shrill bleeps sounds from the monitor again. “Some purpose--huh? Look at me. Alive because of a bunch of tubes and drugs with names I can't even pronounce. For how long?”    
      “Listen to me, Eddie.”    
      “No, you don't know. I should have died in the jungle. I know that. There my death made some sense. This makes no sense.”    
      She sees that his eyes are a curious pink, owing to the tangle of blood-red veins that have erupted around his pupils like cracks on a vase. She goes to touch the ear but his head jerks sideways and he turns his face down into the damp pillow. Her hair, had he glanced back at that moment, is fanning out as if electrically charged. It is now the color of bleached bones.    
      “Tell me about him, Eddie. Tell me about the jungle.”      
      “I can't,” he sobs, refusing to look up at her.    
      “All right, Eddie. Think it then, just the way it happened.”    
      He nods and closing his eyes, tries to concentrate.
      Together, this is what they see:    
      The jungle. Nine men are walking through a broad valley. Knee- high grass ripples in the moist breeze. Eddie is behind a corporal who is tapping a knuckle against a metal cartridge on his belt. He's humming a song and Eddie is listening. The corporal stops and bends down. When he straightens up, he's holding a basket. In the basket are bottles of dark, red wine. The corporal lifts a bottle and begins to speak.
      In a heartbeat, he is gone.    
      There is smoke and bits of burning cloth floating just above the grass. All around him Eddie hears the report of small arms. He crawls into a ditch and begins to blindly fire his rifle. He hears men cry out. He hears: “I'm hit, goddamn it. Medic! I need a medic!” He hears wild screams and curses.     
      As the gunfire abates he tries calling out to his friends. No one responds. He hears movement all around him. Minutes creep by, then hours. He hears the enemy, the Viet Cong. He knows some words and phrases. They are saying something like: “Marbles--look, many marbles…how many? Three? Four? Look, all pink. Ha!”    
      Then more voices: "Marlboros, Lucky's … six. You very Lucky. Ha!”    
      He begins to retch. All the Vietnamese slang laced with the mocking euphemisms suddenly makes sense. They are not referring to marbles at all. They are talking about human testicles. They are trading them.    
       An explosion that comes from nowhere rains down grass, dirt and rock. Eddie's eyes burn and he cannot find his rifle. He sees something in the oily smoke: a soldier, a Viet Cong officer. He can see that the man's face and arms are badly burned. He can smell burning hair. The man's appearance is all wrong, though; wrong because his uniform is immaculately clean and looks freshly pressed. Even the insignias above his breast pockets are bright and spotless. As the officer approaches Eddie can see that he is holding a pistol. Hanging across his chest is a necklace that rattles like poker chips as he trudges closer. The necklace, Eddie sees, is made of dried ears.
      Eddie is shaking violently. He's afraid his bowels will let lose and he will die in his own waste. The man lowers the pistol. There is a flash of silver as a knife glides past his eyes. The man is so close Eddie can taste burnt flesh. He is speaking but Eddie hears nothing. He feels something cold, then hot. He feels great pain. Then he feels nothing.    
      He awakes in an army hospital in Saigon. A captain comes to see him. The captain tells him how he was found by an American patrol, very near death. There were no other survivors. All of the men in his squad had been brutally mutilated. He asks Eddie if he remembers loosing his ear. He tells Eddie that the Viet Cong must have seen the wound, assumed he was sufficiently butchered and left him for dead. He tells Eddie he was fortunate that they only removed an ear. He also tells Eddie that the ear was found in his shirt pocket, wrapped in gauze. The wound, he adds, had been expertly cleaned and cauterized, He asks Eddie to explain all this. Eddie cannot.    
      He opens his eyes and looks up at the girl. He sees her face swimming in the light. He thinks for a moment that this is a perfect face, the most perfect face he has ever seen.    
      “You are June, aren't you?”    
      “No, Eddie. I'm so sorry. I'm not.”    
      “Then who are you!”
      “Eddie, I can't.  I--. ”    
      “Please.” His lungs are so heavy with fluid it hurts to speak above a whisper. “Please tell me.”    
      “All right then.” She stands and all around her the air roils up like heat from a furnace. “You know me, Eddie.” She looks down at him. Her face is flushed and glistening. “Veronica. My name is Veronica.”    
      Deliberately she removes the veil that is draped across her shoulders. It is an ancient and holy garment. On it is a faint image, a specter only, with dark red blemishes along the edges. She lifts it by two corners and quickly lets go. It hangs high above the bed for a moment then floats down like an oak leaf. Eddie's eyes catch sight of the cloth. His pupils dilate then contract to the size of grape seeds. Heat rushes to the surface of his body. His lips tremble and the death rattle begins. Inside, deep in his gut, he is terribly cold. The cold expands. His lips turn blue, but continue to move. Syllables first, then words spill out.
      The girl kneels beside the bed and takes Eddie's hand. She joins him in the pray that he is struggling to remember. The cadence is that of a language learned phonetically, at a very young age.    
      “Confeedeor Dio... omni potenta....”

      I know what you're thinking: So what happened to Eddie? Right?
      I don't really have to spell it out for you, do I? He is where he needs to be--let's leave it at that. Not exactly where you might think but hey, it's not a lineal process anyway. I could explain it
I suppose--I'm actually quite good at that sort of thing. I didn't get where I got on my good looks. I'm an idea man. A mover. A shaker. A piece of advice, try--what's the expression?--thinking outside of the box.     
      Please understand. You cannot possibly imagine what awaits you: boundless joy, unimaginable happiness. Infinite love. These words are all sadly inadequate. You--and by you I mean all of you, everyone since time began--see through the glass darkly. It's true. It cannot be helped.   
      Not so with Eddie. What happened to him was an anomaly, a miracle you might say. It would definitely qualify--what with Eddie, you know, not being metaphysically dead at that particular moment. Can't you see? For a brief instance, for a split second in eternity, Eddie glimpsed The Essence of Absolute Goodness, Complete and Boundless Love. Total Truth. The perfect face of God.
      A gift, yes. But also a curse. The ensuing all-consuming yearning, you see, is more then anyone can bear. For a time it must be Eddie's cross.
      And mine.    
      Did you think this story is about Eddie?  Ha! Oh, I am good, I am so good. What's the expression? I could sell ice cubes to Eskimos.     
      Don't get me wrong. This is no ego trip. I do love the man. I was there with him from the beginning, from the very moment of sacred intervention--that singular point of nascent life. I'd give anything to help him. I'd give him my right arm, if I had a right arm. But I can't, of course.
      A philosopher once observed that reality is composed of only atoms and the void. Hummp ….  A prescient notion, perhaps. But alas, incorrect. Between atoms and the void, between the positive and the negative, between the weak and the strong force, there exists me--or rather us.    
      I've seen all your holy books. Michael. Uriel. Gabriel. Raphael. Sure, they get all the attention, all the press. I'm not complaining here but want to guess how many of us there are? Got a calculator handy? Don't bother. It won't help. There is no number in existence that can properly express our multitudes.      
      Forget what you've heard. Forget it all. Forget wings and halos and long, flowing white robes. I have to tell you, these images have always amused me. We have no mass, no weight, no gender. Vanities, all of it--nothing more.    
      A body?  Please. What is that? A crude and venal carapace. You, yourself will discard it with the same insouciance that you once removed a pair of earrings or a tie pin. You'll see. It'll be a relief.     
      Hold on. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: Why is he (you'll pardon the pronoun, here--what else can I use?) telling me all this?     
      It's simple, really. What this is about is sin.     
      No, not Eddie's sin.
      You see for a long, long time I had this really cushy job. A really great job. It had everything: excitement, violence, drama, pageantry. Everything! And the wonderful thing about it was it was all came so easy to me. I was made for the job--literally.     
      And what happens? How do I explain this? Okay … for lack of a better word, call it restructuring. Not a promotion, not a demotion--a lateral move. I've seen the classifications you've assigned to us. Not bad, actually. It's just that you've got the hierarchy a bit skewed. It's not important but I want to keep the record straight.    
      So there I was, new job, new responsibilities. Right away I decide to be the best I can be. I do all the research. I burn the midnight oil. I put in the overtime. I speak to the experts. I start with the prophets: Abraham, Moses, Elijah. Next I move on to the stoics: Heraclitus, Zeno, Seneca. Then the great early teachers of the church: Augustine, Aquinas (naturally), Boethius, the Venerable Bede …the list goes on.    
      Obviously I was prepared. I was no tyro. I knew the ropes. And what happens? Eddie happens, is what. Look, I tried everything; the hard sell, the soft sell. I got desperate. I departed from the playbook. In the end, I got sloppy.      
      All that stuff with Eddie? Pure desperation. His daughter, June? The woman--the saint--Veronica? I couldn't help myself. I improvised. I really hate to loose. The very thought of it sickens me. I'm naturally a very upbeat type--sanguine to a fault. So I went a little overboard. What's the harm, you might ask?   
      I say again: sin.
      Man, you see, tends to think of sin mostly in terms of corporal gratification: lust, gluttony, sloth, drunkenness, that sort of thing.    
      Kid's stuff.
      There is really only one truly fatal sin which is, coincidentally, the root of all sin and it is Pride. And it does indeed goeth before the fall. Count on it.     
      Now Aquinas (the show-off) said that I--we--are incapable of sin. It is simply not in our nature. Well I won't argue the point. Maybe it's not. But that does little to assuage my fears. Take a look at Lucifer and then tell me we cannot sin. And it doesn't help that deep down I know what an incredible creep I can sometimes be.
      But look, I want to make things right. I yearn to atone. I just hope that what I have to say does not come off like your typical company chest-pounding. It's not. See? No notes, no Teleprompter. Straight from the heart….    
      May I have your attention.    
      Through countless epochs I directed mighty armies of righteousness and vanquished great evil. I raised princes to kingly stations. I spread the Holy Glory of God to every corner of the cosmos. I fulfilled the Most Holy of Orders. I did all this and more. Yet nothing could prepare me for what I was to do next.     
      Eddie; this solitary soul. How can I explain the utter grandeur, the indefinable uniqueness of this one man? A lifetime of joy and sadness, selfishness and sacrifice. It was dizzying. It's funny sometimes how you can loose sight of your purpose. Deny your very nature. What can I say? I am as I was created; a messenger; a servant. I can be nothing more.     
      But enough about me. What is it Mother Julian says?  “All will be well … all will be well.” Let's talk about you for a moment. Why, you ask? Isn't it obvious … I mean, you must have suspected. Think hard. That time, remember, you were young, yes, but not too young to understand. Think. You were alone, frightened. Darkness everywhere. A hopelessness that ate at your soul. A moment of complete despair. A falling away… away from--.
      And yet…and yet….deep down you felt….
      Never mind, better you don't dwell on it. I am getting better though--learning to take things a little easier. Discovering ways to conquer my competitive impulses, calm my combative nature.
      Look… I've gotta run. One last thing, if I may. A simple piece of advice--a gift, actually.     
      Please listen.
      Put away your radio-telescopes, your super computers. Call back your peripatetic probes, your nomadic rockets and satellites. You search the vast eternities of space hoping to find others like you. You gaze up with wonder at far-flung galaxies, at nebulae blooming like coral in the coal-black depths of forever. You look and you wonder: Who else is out there?       
      Frustrated you turn inward to the microscopic. You study the atomic and subatomic; incredibly thin strings of dancing, osculating filaments, not seen but imagined. You are beguiled by the exquisite beauty of each new discovery. You seek the key to a unifying theme, a grand theory--a glimpse at the immortal. You think to yourself: Such Wonders! Such absolute perfection of function and design! Surely this has happened elsewhere. Surely there must be others like us out there somewhere in this vast, seamless universe. There must be!    
      But you are mistaken.     
      There is not.     
      Try this: imagine infinite branches on infinite tress in an infinite forest. Please understand: you are its singular fruit. Step back for a moment. See reality as if you were standing on the highest mountaintop gazing down into a valley more broad and limitless then any ocean. Now consider first the fruit; the branch which supports it is everything that has ever been in what you know if as your universe; the tree that supports the branch is all that has ever existed outside of your time and space, your reality--endless other universes more in number then bubbles of foam in all of your oceans; the forest that surrounds the tree is all of us who were created before you. Now, consider the light that nourishes all. This light has no beginning and no end. Its source extends beyond eternity. This light is God's love for you and what you see of it is but a pinpoint of His Complete Love. It is only a glimpse of what is to come. And it is all for you. Everything. For you.    
      If you only knew.      
      You cannot see this now ... I know.     
      But, you will.       
      We were created, you and I, to the same end.    
      First there was us. Then there was you.      
            Soon ...  soon, there will be only One.                                                   

About the author:
     Wes Prussing is a transplanted New Yorker, living in South Florida. He is married and has two wonderful daughters. He worked in the construction industry for the past 25 years primarily as a sales and marketing manager and holds bachelor degrees in liberal arts and business. His work has appeared in a number of small literary magazines and e-zines: Ken-Again, The Fairfield Review, Wild Violets and The Legendary to name a few. 

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this installment of Larks Fiction and remember to come back on  May 22nd for works of Post-Modernism. Cheers!