The Conium Review: Vol. 5 is slated for release on December 15th. Here’s a mock-up of the new issue’s cover. Like the last couple issues, the front is rather minimal while a larger image wraps around the back. Any guesses what those scraggly lines are? Answer: broken chain-link fence. Pre-orders for The Conium Review: Vol. 5 will go on sale this weekend!
The Conium Review‘s managing editor, James R. Gapinski, has a new piece up at Maudlin House. Check out “Office, Itemized,” here.
The ground is sinking quicker now, quicker than ever before, and all the people know it. Some leave, drive cars down river-roads, tires spinning without moving forward. Quickly, they abandon cars and steer boats, row or motor until the bow hits dry land somewhere else. But others stay, drink cheap beer, laugh as the water rises past their calves, knees, tickles their swamp-sweaty thighs. Their houses are set on stilts, but the water rises so high they must climb stairs to the second floor, to the attic. The water does not surprise them, but that doesn’t make it any more believable.
The water can’t hurt us, the parents say, as it fills their mouths.
Three girls stand on the roof of the house where their parents drink in the attic and watch the water rise, swallow fences, chicken coops, windows. Dogs try to keep their muzzles above water, but the girls do not try to save them—the fences, the dogs, the dollhouse in the first floor bedroom below—everyone has already drowned. The doll’s paper bodies disintegrate in the kitchen. Their paper molecules absorb into the water.
Do you think it’ll ever end, one girl asks. Probably not, the other two answer. Once the land begins to sink, it has nowhere to go but down. The water teases the shingles, cold on the toes of the girls, and like eels they slide in. They swim away from what was once their town, south toward the open ocean. They keep their heads above water, their eyes shut against the bodies buried below—the dogs, the dolls, the parents—it is enough to feel the molecules of them, dissolved, brush against their legs like seaweed.
In fairy tales, girls may undergo transformation. Here, they might become speckled trout or redfish or oysters. But in some stories, other stories, they do not.
Image Credit: © cherryka – stock.adobe.com
You call yourselves the most successful animal in the ocean. At the top of the food chain for millions of years, despite your small brain. You say, who needs intellect? Or empathy, compassion—your offspring learn young all that’s for weaklings and losers. You tell them, win at any cost. You’re under no illusion that it’s nice at the top; no it’s straight up competition for all you’ve got. But you get to cruise the oceans enjoying the view and never worry about what’s coming for you.
There’s no prey shape to our posture, no surface marking to signal our lower strata. Some of us are stupid, some of us are smart. We have beauty, color, and art. Some of our bodies are wildly bizarre, others are shaped much like yours, rounded and tapered at the ends to reduce drag in the water. But underneath all our flesh is bone, while you are constructed entirely of cartilage. So you swim faster, and turn more tightly. Your jaw holds many rows of teeth that freshly regenerate every few weeks. Some of us don’t even have teeth. Some of us can’t smell or hear while you can scent a single drop of our blood from hundreds of feet and hear us coming for miles. Over millions of years we’ve evolved through every possible social organization. You evolved into the perfect killing machine.
You tell yourselves you keep us in check. You say, without us their numbers would explode and then they’d all die of starvation anyway. You call it the law of nature. As if it’s the only one. But in fact it turns out that following a mathematical pattern called a power law, the speed of growth declines with size. That’s why a shrimp grows faster than a whale, and that’s why we naturally breed more slowly in places where there are a lot of us already. (Think about it, if you can, how you feel when we outnumber you. Hungry, aren’t you?) And that’s why you do so well when there are many of you and just enough of us—an inverted pyramid top heavy with you. It seems like a paradox how you could survive unless you understand (can you?) how fast in those places everything under you cycles through, growing and dying but before we do reproducing as much as we can to survive you. You tell yourselves it’s a super-productive system, you tell yourselves it’s better for us too—all that sex, plenty of food—but you wouldn’t change it even if you knew we didn’t feel the same way as you. Your skin is an interlocking web of ridged diamonds, a structure that by its very design resists drag or attachment.
Image Credit: © Morphart – stock.adobe.com
Alongside the ebook release of Souvenirs and Other Stories, we’re offering ebook versions of The Conium Review: Vol. 3 and The Conium Review: Vol. 4 for just 99 cents! That’s right, get the two most recent issues for less than a buck each. This sale is valid Saturday, July 16th through Sunday, July 17th. Get the instant discount through Amazon.com.