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“The Greatest Hunters,” by Jefferson Navicky

Wolf Skull Sketch

On the island, the greatest hunters move together, as one mass. They are so great. They have killed many things such as eagles, trucks, trees, tigers and people. When the greatest hunters roam the island, people come out of their houses to yell, “Roam, roam!” This is tradition. No one knows if the cry is an admonishment to go away and roam far from here, or if it’s a banner of respect for the hunters’ peripatetic life.

This has all happened for centuries.

Don’t we all want to be the greatest? Haven’t we all been pushed too far?

The greatest hungers roll in on themselves. They don’t got no step that ain’t for themselves. They slide. Then, past a new cemetery, all dug up and mounded: “New Lots Available: 784-2948.”

Something cracks in them, then splits. Sounds inside like a nose clicking, some deep disruption sinus cavity click. Deep click that disturbs the inner throat and head peace.

They take protective and reactive measures, which include don’t look at the moon and be celibate, especially from creeps. But it’s no good, the cemetery split has seeded and gone to grown, like tapping the tiniest nail into a temple. Pain is good until it pulls asunder, and down they go, collectively. What good is a great hunter who’s scared of dying?

That’s the kind of rhetorical question that great hunters dread, because there’s only one answer. They are, in a word, fucked. Useless. Once such swelling handlers of the hunt, now staring blank into their own ever-present hanging graves.

And so, now what? Can a society survive without its great hunters? We didn’t think so. We thought we’d go hungry, as fucked as they were, but no, funny thing, we survived. On our own. We didn’t kill no elephants, but we made it by trapping song birds, whacking them and subsisting on their songs, which proved much more mentally enlivening than any strand of animal protein, if also a bit less sustaining. We went peace. And after we ate the great hunters, we decided nothing else would ever be designated as “great.” We certainly weren’t, and we knew it, even when the songbirds proved hard to trick, because they grew wary of our traps. Still, we were so far from great. Our songs were pretty, sure, but we were the only ones who heard them. They were only for ourselves.

Sometimes we think back to the days of the greatest hunters. Such thoughts are always red and fleshy. We often remember the anger inherent in meat and chase. Sometimes, we must admit, we miss the smell of it all. Such carnage smelled thick with industry. Now it’s all sound, and that sustains us. We sweat sound, now, and smile all as one song. We make our hand gestures that say, open up, and we sing it.

About the Author:

Jefferson Navicky’s work has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Crossborder, Quickfiction, Stolen Island and Hobart. He works as the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection, teaches English at Southern Maine Community College and lives in Freeport, Maine with his partner where they watch the bluejay boss the bird feeder.

Special Note:

This piece was selected as part of the “Dis/appearances” theme, guest edited by Matt Tompkins, author of Souvenirs and Other Stories and Studies in Hybrid Morphology.

Image Credit: © bekkersara – stock.adobe.com

“A Bird Before His Time,” by Phillip Sterling

Single Feather Sketch

When he arrived at the edge, it was nothing like anyone had predicted. The surface was ochre, sandstone-ish, worn to—as they say—“a dull sheen,” perhaps by eons of reluctant feet. Where the sheen leveled, a woman sat on one of two delicately scrolled iron chairs that flanked a small, round iron table. It was the type of furniture his mother had once called “ice cream” and repainted with Rustoleum in shades of Antique White.

The woman wore white as well. Chiffon, he’d have said, if he’d had any recollection of chiffon, which was before his time. She’d arrived before him, predictably. She was young and lovely, the grandmother he’d never met. She seemed to be waiting.

The sun behind him hung in the haze with the dull orange blur of a moth’s cocoon. Ahead of him, beyond the table (under which the woman’s shapely ankles crossed left over right), the sky appeared to be a soft gray hat—a felt hat, if he’d ever seen one—with a single white feather, reminiscent of a bird he could not recall the name of, a bird before his time. He took the seat opposite.

Have you brought the rain? she asked.

No, he said. I thought you were waiting for me.

For the rain, she said, her voice the sound of moisture.

I have brought no rain, he said. No rain is expected.

I have been waiting a long time, she said, without rain. I thought you would be rain.

I am not rain, he said. But I am tired from my journey, so I will rest and wait with you.

Thank you, she said, and turned to face the edge. His eyes followed, closed.

It is not what you expected, she said.

No, he would have said, it is not what I expected, but his voice made no sound, his mouth without wings.

About the Author:

Phillip Sterling is the author of In Which Brief Stories Are Told. His story “kidnappingtax.blogspot.gov” won the 2015 Monstrosities of the Midway contest.

Special Note:

This piece was selected as part of the “Dis/appearances” theme, guest edited by Matt Tompkins, author of Souvenirs and Other Stories and Studies in Hybrid Morphology.

Image Credit: © cat_arch_angel – stock.adobe.com

“Dis/appearances” stories chosen by Matt Tompkins

Guest editor Matt Tompkins has chosen four pieces for publication as part of the “Dis/appearances” theme. Congratulations to the selected authors: Joe Buamann, Emily McKayJefferson Navicky, and Phillip Sterling. Competition was stiff, but these four stood out above the crowd. We’ll be posting the accepted stories from these four authors throughout the weekend of July 15th. This date also coincides with the release of the ebook version of the guest editor’s latest book, Souvenirs and Other Stories (the print version of Souvenirs was released in mid-June).

Thanks to all those who submitted to this theme! We hope that you’ll consider our next themed call for submissions, “Fragmented,” considering pieces now through July 15th, guest edited by Melissa Reddish.

“Dis/appearances” guidelines are up!

The submission guidelines for our “Dis/appearances” theme are live! Submit up to 1,000 words between June 1st and June 15th. Guest edited by Matt Tompkins, author of Souvenirs and Other Stories (Conium Press, 2016) and Studies in Hybrid Morphology (tNY Press, 2016). If your work is accepted, it’s published on our website and you receive a complimentary copy of Matt’s latest book, Souvenirs. Mark your calendars, and read the full guidelines here.