Saturday, August 1, 2020

Full Length Review: Astral Winter "Perdition II" (Immortal Frost Productions) by Dave Wolff

Band: Astral Winter
Location: Launceston, Tasmania
Country: Australia
Genre: Epic melodic black metal
Full Length: Perdition II
Format: Jewel case CD, digital album
Label: Immortal Frost Productions
Release date: July 31, 2020
Astral Winter’s fourth full length, in a way, is like a continuation of the concepts of their previous full lengths, “Winter Enthroned” (2011), “Perdition” (2013) and “Forest of Silence” (2016). As with those albums, “Perdition II” reiterates that there are no rules when it comes to subgenres of metal, that metal and poetics can and do exist hand in hand. “Perdition II” achieves it without the benefit of lyrics, as founding member Josh Young (also of Atra Vetosus, Hammerstorm and Lost In Desolation) seems to do more than set moods, he tells a story and makes it feel real to the listener. This album has a tranquil effect if you like black metal with Celtic and classical themes, acoustic guitars and keyboard instruments and/or lasting impressions of nature in the season when everything is in slumber. The coldness around you, the grayness above, the distant mountains and even the snow falling everywhere you look… Young has a way of convincing you it’s all genuine enough to touch and feel. He wrote these instrumental tracks as a means of accompanying a personal journey through the afterlife, while leaving it open for interpretation. My own impressions of this album were of something darker and more despondent underneath all this. One perception I had was that the album leads you to mourn the long forgotten time often celebrated by black and death metal bands, and to feel all-encompassing solitude bearing down on you. It feels like you are searching for a way in or a way to reawaken that age, and it eternally eludes you. The feeling is all the more mournful because that world you yearn to reach is far preferable to the present day, and it grows more intense with each passing track. It personifies the feeling of growing old, not only growing old in our physical world but knowing you’ll continue to age in the world beyond. Most albums introduce you to such otherworldly characters; while listening to “Perdition II” you become this despondent spirit. All the instruments by Young as well as the background vocals are mixed to properly put this concept across, with enough in the foreground to present emptiness and enough in the background to present the unreachable paradise that ceases to be ages ago. The sounds of nature mixed in enhance this desolate barrenness, this emptiness, making it all the more tangible. However it speaks to you, “Perdition II” is beautifully written and arranged, allowing you to share in the journey he paves the way for. –Dave Wolff

Lineup
Josh Young: Vocals, all instruments, composition

Track list:
1. Corridors Of Time
2. Light Of The Cosmos
3. Ethereal Light
4. Fading From The Skies
5. Dreams Of The Stars
6. Crystal Tears
7. The Celestial Age
8. At The Gates Of Creation
9. Withering Illusion

Friday, July 24, 2020

Full Length Review: Abysmal Domination "Criptica Manipulacion Omnipresente" (Independent, Tribulacion Productions/Sevared Records) by Dave Wolff

Band: Abysmal Domination
Location: Pasto, Nariño
Country: Colombia
Genre: Brutal death metal
Full Length: Criptica Manipulacion Omnipresente
Format: Digital album (Independent), CD (Tribulacion Productions), T-shirt/CD (Tribulacion Productions/Sevared Records)
Label: Independent, Tribulacion Productions/Sevared Records
Release date: Released independently July 4, 2020
Released on Tribulacion Productions July 16, 2020
Colombian death metal strikes again, and this time there is no chance of survival. With its growing legion of brutal and extreme bands, Colombia is poised to become recognized on a global scale. For four musicians who just released their debut, Abysmal Domination are likely to break into the U.S. label industry. The Lovecraftian cover art of “Criptica Manipulacion Omnipresente” promises nothing short of flawless brutal pandemonium. Abysmal Domination’s debut displays enough stringent, maniacal caliber and schizophrenic musicianship to instantly convert to their sacred mission of dominating extreme music in Colombia and beyond. I am floored by their influential range, especially guitarist Alexander Olaya who handles lead and rhythm duties. His work establishes Abysmal Domination’s sound as exclusively theirs, and extremely difficult to compare to that of other bands. Through “Sistema Putrefacto y Esclavo” and the following songs, Abysmal Domination careen through long successions of progressions and time changes, successions more liberally written and arranged in each track than you’ve heard from death metal bands. In many instances the guitars display such complexity and orchestration that they reek of classical training. The guitars and drums (Cesar Lopez) are mixed to really push the band’s agility and nimbleness. The only drawback to this is the bass tracks (Harold Gomez) generally tend to be buried under the cacophony this creates. There are exceptions such as “Infierno Interno” but I can imagine how much heavier and more brutal this album would have sounded if the bass was given more attention in the mixing and mastering. It almost would have sounded too heavy and brutal. I can always count on brutal vocals from a Colombian band and AD deliver in this department as much as in the others I described. Andres Pabon’s guttural roar is deep and throaty enough to contend with the likes of Barney Greenway, Glen Benton and David Vincent, and it never wavers no matter how much energy he puts into it. If you are looking for death metal with its intricacy and brutality taken to the next level you’d do well to check this out. –Dave Wolff

Lineup:
Andres Pabon: Vocals
Alexander Olaya: Guitars
Harold Gomez: Bass
Cesar Lopez: Drums

Track list:
1. Sistema Putrefacto Y Esclavo
2. Grotesca Programación Monarca
3. Infierno Interno
4. Implacable Genocida Beligerante Y Perpetuo
5. Siniestro Sacerdote Pedófilo
6. Homosapiens Origen Del Horror
7. Abysmal Domination
8. Saciándome Del Nefasto Placer
9. Portal Del Engendro Séptico

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Full Length Review: Cryfemal "Eterna Oscuridad" (Immortal Frost Productions) by Dave Wolff

Band: Cryfemal
Location: Madrid
Country: Spain
Genre: Black metal
Full Length: Eterna Oscuridad
Format: Digital Album, Jewel Case CD, Standard Black Vinyl, Transparent Piss Yellow Vinyl,Half Transparent Blue / Half Clear with Transparent Blue Splatter Vinyl
Label: Immortal Frost Productions
Release date: June 26, 2020
As I write this review the sun is setting, the wind is blowing, and the rain is coming down accompanied by lightning and thunder. There couldn’t be a more suitable scenario for checking out Cryfemal’s latest full length “Eterna Oscuridad”. Cryfemal’s discography including eight full lengths stretches all the way back to 1998; this would take a lot of catching up so will have to be my first impression. A fan of the band described this album as being “pure evil from start to finish”. A pretty accurate description if you ask me. What first struck me about Cryfemal is how closely they resemble early Norge black metal bands such as Mayhem, Burzum, Emperor, Satyricon and Ancient (on “Svartalvheim”), especially in the low-ish tuned guitars and biting riffs. Maybe not be the most original album I’ve heard, but Cryfemal makes up for it with an unadulterated, brutal (dare I say brutal when describing black metal? In many ways it fits here) sound, a chilling climate and the most unnaturally ghastly vocals I’ve heard from a vocalist lately. Plus a healthy dose of the band’s own creative thoughts. Cryfemal wear it all well and “Eterna Oscuridad” is infused with sheer, apprehensive malignity that didn’t take much time to draw me into their insanity. An insanity that’s characterized by a feeling of old pagan spirits roaming in far-reaching snow covered timberlands. Keyboard sounds deliberately placed in the background suggests someone living somewhere in these timberlands, whose mind was long bedeviled to the point of brainsickness and psychopathy. Someone so crazy the Jersey Devil would make a point of steering clear of him. Think of “The Blair Witch Project” crossed with George Romero’s “Season of the Witch” (1972) and you’ll have a clearer picture of what I mean. This eerie effect is completed by chaotic solos and a vocal style that remind me of Mika Luttinen (Impaled Nazarene) on bath salts. Ebola couldn’t have done a better job personifying the insane freak I perceived on this album. To stand out more the band should work more on developing those aspects of their sound. –Dave Wolff

Lineup:
Ebola; Vocals, all instruments
Bornyhake Ormenos: Drums 

Track list:
1. Capilla ardiente
2. Necra exequia
3. Insepulto
4. El retorno
5. Reencarnación
6. Lápida condenada
7. Culto a la muerte
8. Crematorio
9. Eternidad

EP Revew: LÏXØ "Pos" (Independent) by Devin Joseph Meaney

Band: LÏXØ
Location: Rio de Janeiro
Country: Brazil
Genre: Gore dance music/goregrind
EP: Pos
Fornat: Digital
Label: Independent
Release date: May 2020
While perusing the vast wasteland that is free Youtube goregrind, I came upon the 2020 EP ''POS'' by LÏXØ. I reviewed a LÏXØ demo in 2018 for Asphyxium Zine (Autoeroticasphyxium at the time) so I figured the right thing to do would be to check out this EP and see where LÏXØ is in 2020.
I enjoyed the project's offering in 2018, but this new set is recorded much better. The vocals are absolutely putrid, and after my second listen, I dare say that LÏXØ has improved quite a bit since the beginning of its music spree. Even some of the guitar riffs have improved in tightness and overall riffage!
This is not Earache Records style grind. This is pure underground gory grind stuff... exactly how it should be. One man grind carnage from Rio de Janeiro / Brasil. This might not be for everyone, but if anyone asks about this EP I will tell them to give it a go. Why the fuck not, right? LISTEN TO THE GOREGRIND! –Devin Joseph Meaney

Lineup:
Rovane Rodriguez: All instruments

Tracklist:
01. Lsd jack
02. Gilteco gil
03. Humbeco Gessinger
04. Slaughterhouse (Mortician cover)

Fiction: "I Remember Chocolate" by M Teresa Clayton

I Remember Chocolate
Fiction by M Teresa Clayton

It's midnight, the last of the chimes on the old clock has rung out its final count and here I am. Here. In this place of all places to be, I am here, where there is no sound but for the last resonating remnants of the old clocks final chime. 
I counted them, one by one, twelve even and beautiful taps upon the chime. Each chime resounding E major to perfection and the echo of each strike limited to a mere second before becoming lost in the silence of the room. The room is alive; breathing out with each chime and then inhaling the sound, or perhaps consuming each as one would consume a morsel of chocolate. 
I remember chocolate.
I take a deep breath and watch the candle's flame move towards me. I breathe out and observe it reaching out to the other side. Why? Why is the flame so curious about my inhalations and yet so fearful of the exhale? 
If I look away, it begins its dance upon the wick setting everything in the room alive with movement. The shadows partner up with the other elements in the room and they tango across the floor like two passionate lovers, while the other shadows dip and rise and contort in a morbid minuet.
Morbid. How can a shadows dance become something so morbid?
It reminds me of the shadows behind the shade that was drawn behind the window in the apartment directly across from ours.
From my bedroom window I could watch the two lovers caress and undress, fall onto their bed and engage in some activity that looked as if he were killing her, one thrust at a time; her back arched in agony and her head thrown back, mouth open in mute screams... 
Then it was over. He would arise and walk out of the room while she would wrap herself in something not unlike a long shirt with a tie at the waist. Her hair looked frightful; I thought of Medusa and her head full of snakes. 
He returned and she would move further away so that I could no longer see her. He sat on the bed with his head in his hands.
Suddenly he looked up. My eyes followed him as he went to the far wall and opened the door to the outer hall. I knew because the light from the hall made the shadows seem more lifelike. Another woman entered the room and I could make out their angry exchange. She swept her hand across the top of a table sending everything reeling to the floor. 
For a moment each item remained suspended in air. I could make out the bristles on the brush, the red color within an opened lipstick tube, the reflection in the mirror... The reflection in the mirror!
The man stood up and reached out to her. There was a snapping sound; a clapping sound, yet, his hands were waving in front of him as if he were trying to shield himself from some awful blow.
The color red was no longer contained in the tube of lipstick. It was sprayed onto the shade where the light highlighted the density of each splatter. Something drew my attention away from the shade itself and to the man who was falling toward it. One hand higher than the other in some mock finger-painting on the window canvas, the swirls and trails beneath his fingers leaving a surreal image upon the shade before his form fell below the window and I could no longer see him.
The woman in the nightshirt stood very still. Both women stood very still; their images not unlike store manikins. Neither moved and I waited and I waited, careful not to move.
The clock in the hall let out one lone belch of a ring. It was noticeably lower in register than the normal E major. I don't remember ever hearing it bong this low.
Immediately, my attention is directed to the window across the way once more as the two women leave the room and close the door behind them.
I instantly dropped to the floor and crawled to the door, cracked it opened enough to slither through into the barely lit hallway. I heard them giggling. Who was I hearing? One was the familiar laugh of my mother, the other was strange to my ears.
I leaned tight against the wall and moved slowly, making sure not to create a creak upon the floor beneath my footsteps. I turned toward the staircase and looked down to the foyer, but I saw nothing.
I turned my attention back towards my parents bedroom and carefully made my way to the door. On the knob of the door was something wet. I could not focus in the darkness there to see what it was. I tapped on the door before gripping the knob again and hearing the click that told me it would now freely swing open. And, open it did! There in the dim light I could make out the heap of a man, unmoving, lying upon the half hanging shade that was finger-painted a bloody brownish red that smelled of musk and something... metal.
The floor of their bedroom was strewn with sheets from the bed, lamps turned over, make-up, her brush and hand mirror... her hand mirror that once reflected something just as sickening was now reflecting the pale fear that was my own face. 
The confusion did not have time to truly register before I felt the blinding blow to the back of my head and then, darkness. As I slowly began to regain consciousness, I looked up at two women who were in an embrace one would expect to see a man and women engaged in. The kisses were deep, passionate, filled with sexual excitement. It was unequivocal, unambiguous, absolute.
"Mom?"
The strange woman looked at my mother. "You know what needs to be done."
"I can't." My mother answered ashamed. Ashamed.
"I'll take care of it, then."
My body limp, she lifted me high and then out over the rail from the second floor balcony and let go.
I felt myself falling in slow motion. Falling. The chandelier was lifting higher up into the ceiling. I had never seen the chandelier from this perspective before. I could count the vertical spindles on the descending staircase and I think I saw a mark still visible from an accident I had on those very steps several years ago. I wondered for a moment if I could stop the fall. The face of the woman with her demonic smile next to the white face of mother, frozen in horror but without any indication of remorse.
I hit hard. I could no longer feel my body. My vision was blurred but I could make out a steel gray pistol being wiped clean and placed in my own hand. 
The pistol was now in my own hand. But why? I just wanted to understand. I wanted to know why? 
I made the word out with my lips with no voice to accompany them. Why?
My mother turned her head, "Go ahead." 
With that I heard the combustion of bullet meeting brain, my brain. There would be no why. 
It's midnight, the last of the chimes on the old clock has rung out its final count and here I am. Here. In this place of all places to be, I am here where there is no sound but for the last resonating remnants of the old clocks final chime. 
I counted them, one by one, twelve even and beautiful taps upon the chime. Each chime resounding E major to perfection and the echo of each strike limited to a mere second before becoming lost in the silence of the room. The room is alive; breathing out with each chime and then inhaling the sound, or perhaps consuming each as one would consume a morsel of chocolate. 
I remember chocolate.

Fiction: "Anarchy Man" by Jeremy Void

Anarchy Man
Fiction by Jeremy Void

I remember when I wanted to be a super hero named Anarchy Man. I even made a cape with a big anarchy sign on it and wore it to school. This really freaked people out.
My friend Ben told me about the movie A Clockwork Orange. Surprised I’d never seen it myself, he demanded that I watch it with him. He assured me that I’ll really be able to relate to Alex’s character in the movie.
I remember when I acquired white painter pants, a white button-down shirt, thick white braces, a pair of black steel-toed Doc Martins, a black bowler hat, and a single black fake eyelash to attach to my right eye—the only things I was missing were a white cog piece and a cane with a dagger inside and a fake, bloody eyeball to attach to my right cuff link——
School gave me an in-house suspension, and then an actual suspension, for dressing as such. They said I was promoting violence, when really I was making a statement about growing up and being controlled manipulated persuaded & directed by the evil forces that adults nominate to dictate the lives of us children at their schools———I Am Not a Machine || I Am Not a Machine || I Am Not a Machine ||
At this time I had yet to learn that there was a whole subsect of Punk called Clockwork Punk, where the kids emulate A Clockwork Orange.
The movie left a strong impression on us….
During the presidential election everyone in my school wore index cards, taped to their lapels, that said VOTE. I remember when I wrote DON’T VOTE on an index card and taped it to my lapel. We were 14 or 15 or 16. Don’t you think the Right to Vote is a bit of a moot point at that age: we were 14 or 15 or 16…. The teachers pulled me aside and said kids are getting offended by my radical defiance. The other kids’ index cards which said VOTE, were apparently telling you to Exercise Your Right to Vote, whereas mine was just telling you Not to Vote. I said but no, I’m telling you to Exercise Your Right Not to Vote; but this didn’t go over so well. My peers were offended; they couldn’t see through the veil of aberrations : : : they’ve been conditioned to think This Way and not That Way; they drank the Koolaid at a very young age; they’ve been mechanized || they wanted to make me tick tick tick like clockwork too….
I remember standing outside the school in a snow storm all day long manning the picket signs I had made the night before///all alone…. It was only a peaceful protest, until that one cunt stole my favorite sign and I yanked another one out of the bank of snow in which it stood, and reeled it back and sent it railing into her back…. I was suspended for that///
I remember when I was at the party in Boston and I was stoned and drunk and I took some pills and I was sneaking off at frequent, random intervals to huff the Axe Body Spray I had stolen earlier in the night and Samantha grabbed me and said: WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING to yourself? I’m too smart, I told her. I’m Too Fucking Smart and I don’t fit in anywhere and I need to dumb myself down slow myself down wind myself down like a fuckin clock tick tick tock….
I remember when I wanted to be a super hero named Anarchy Man. I even made a cape with a big anarchy sign on it and wore it to school. Nobody got the joke….
It went over everybody’s heads,,,, and yet I was the one feeling so baffled & confused\\\
I remember when I wanted to be a super hero named Anarchy Man….

Fiction: "My Personal Dream" by James Ward Kirk

My Personal Dream
Fiction by James Ward Kirk

Dan Teagarden suffered the candlelight, knowing the flickering shadows of flame reflecting on the walls destabilized his thoughts, intensifying the dread and horror biting at the boundaries of his remaining sanity, increasing the vibrations of his growing insanity. Yet the shadows also encouraged him to tell his story, even though the quill on the table before him opened like a sword prepared to stab his gloom trepidation, and his yearning to tell his story, the and inkbottle opened wide to accept his head.
I burn myrrh for purification, the haze mixing with cannabis and tobacco smoke, but I find no relief. My desires are ordinary, I think, but my story is not. Insanity progresses slowly, like a funeral march. Dan’s story began and finished in Indianapolis, he the son of a rich man making his fortune in Indiana Limestone. 
My father, a harsh man, as inflexible as the material he stole from the earth.
One late afternoon not many days surpassing Dan’s sixteenth birthday as he argued in a rather frenzied fashion with his tutor, Mrs. Beatrice Wills, regarding the philosophy of life and death, a secret in the building blocks of Dan’s psyche revealed itself.
Dan argued the position of existential nihilism, as the depression so deep as to darken his complexion offered no other possibility, rejecting the existence of God and therefore morality.
Beatrice quoted First Corinthians, Chapter 13, versus 11 and 13, supporting her conviction, that death is but a bridge to the afterlife and the veil shall soon be lifted.
Dan, with all the arrogance and cruelty inherent to youth his age, reasoned so bitterly as to bring Beatrice to her knees where she began praying for his eternal soul.
Dan laughed at her but only momentarily as a blow to the back of his head sent him reeling from his chair and across the room where he hit his head on the wall so hard as to bring about disassociation.
My father, Lionel Teagarden, an expert at beating me, having silently entered the room, and certainly overhearing the entire conversation, stood just within the doorway in one of his finest suits, covered from hat to shoe in white limestone dust, quite the apparition, and appearing as surely as any spirit Beatrice so sweetly spoke in favor of, said, “How dare you protest the existence of God! Do not argue youthful arrogance and ignorance even to thyself!”
“My dear Father,” I cried, “how can I argue the existence of God when His proof, so sturdily bestowed within you, stands before me in condemnation? I simply played the role of devil’s advocate!”
Lionel Teagarden walked away, not another word for Dan, or even a nod toward Beatrice as if she did not exist, because she did not, the only proof of his appearance were dusty footprints and the stink of disgust clinging to the furniture and walls. Dan withdrew within himself, and another blow to his head would happen without acknowledgment so deep was his extraction.
Upon awakening the next morning, I found a very large copy of the King James Version of the Holy Bible. I take the text everywhere with me, lest I forget my father.
Like most wealthy men, Lionel hoarded and guarded his resources. Second to his wealth, he valued his young wife, Dan’s sweet mother. Dan did not weep at his father’s funeral, the man crushed to death by the same material he so coveted, rather, he coveted and was captivated by his mother’s green eyes.
Unlike his father, Dan’s most precious resource was Angela. In her eyes, she made him a man and worthy of her attentions.
Unlike my father, I valued his wife even above the God that compressed him. I held my mother closely at Father’s funeral, not for modesty of tears, rather, to conceal the smile tugging at her mouth and the heat in her eyes.
For Dan a childhood filled with leaning—from books and beatings—grew into an adulthood of indulgence. Picnics with Mother, and fine dining, theatre, opera and symphony, conversations late into the night; no pleasure did they deny. When she died, Dan thought an important part of him died with her. Not quite; yes, a part of Dan died, but a birth took place too, like an earthquake delivering new earth. 
At first, Dan hated his Angela for leaving him alone to mourn the new earth within him. Slumber became impossible, then inevitable, then, joyously, Angela began coming to him in his dreams, blond and brimming with goodness, taking him to her breast. Within Angela’s bosom, Dan wept away his anguish, his freshly remembered hatred for life.
Without fail, he awakened to damp sheets and shudders, hating Angela again for leaving him a dreadful and unbearable life, a life burning him like candle-flame flashed to existence by her own hand. But the night always came without fail, and sleep like a magic carpet carried him back to her sweet embrace.
To visit Angela, in their mausoleum, and share life with her while she lay in a marble casket next to him, was a feat Dan could not accomplish. 
Sometimes I feel as if I do visit my dear Angela’s resting place, she drifting above my habitus as if in a dream, awaiting, and falling into my embrace upon my smile and open arms.
Dan commissioned a house of his own for construction, one sprawling floor and a cellar, and an attic for a full library, nearer the cemetery, but in quite the upscale neighborhood. Unable to tolerate life in his father’s home, he built with brick, not limestone, and furnished the mansion for a man of his rank and privilege, decorated with the finest of European art and sculpture. A portrait of sweet Angela adorned every important room.
Dan, a recluse, pondered his situation from time to time. A singular part of him, the thoughts he retained a modicum of control over, led him to consider medical attention.
I am not normal.
Dan’s first attempts at replacing the affections of Angela failed. He assumed such an endeavor doomed from the beginning. His romantic and sexual adventures moved him through the wealthiest families in Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville, from grand parties, to taverns, and brothels to women of the street.
Finally he found a certain woman intriguing, meeting her one blue day in May, a Sunday in Church—a habit his dear Angela insisted upon. Quickly he fell under her spell.
Her name was Ida Sidney Whitley, educated at The Women’s College of North Carolina, heiress to a textile manufacturing fortune, raven-haired and full-bodied, and haughty beyond compare; rightly so, and Dan loved her rapturously.
Sid’s sexuality knew no boundaries, do debauchery deprived. No entrance denied, no number of other women to lie with denied, together or separately; rather, she encouraged, even begged, for the most craven of sexual acts and encounters, together or separately. Yet she swore allegiance only to Dan, and he believed her.
Dan and Sid conversed early mornings, limp from existence, of heaven and hell, evil and good, of life and death. Absinthe, opium, cocaine and uncounted intoxicants bridged their dreams of sex and love. For three years, they rode the dragon of thick dreams and sticky intercourse.
In the end, alas, Dan’s dear Sidney grew weary of him and set out for the South in search of new adventures.
Again, Dan lived life without human company, a singularity, but pondering the number one led him to consider the number two. A writer named Poe, now dead, his stories newly favored by some critics, introduced him to the notion of duality. He considered this: the human body has two eyes, two ears, two nostrils; the brain contains two hemispheres, the liver two lobes, two ovaries and two testicles. Reproduction requires two. Much of the human anatomy is divisible by two: the chambers of the heart, the number of teeth, eight fingers and two opposing thumbs. There is the earth and the moon, the earth and the sun, God and Satan, heaven and hell, angels and demons. 
So he wondered, then, how could there be only one soul? Human nature includes love and hate, good and evil: but only one soul? His thoughts wondered toward Angela. 
Angela calls out for me, come my beloved son, for together we equal one.
Sid’s breaking away left Dan hollow, a mere apparition, as emotionless as the new breed of doctors naming themselves pathologists, their faith professing the secrets of life and death may be uncovered and discovered simply by cutting away the skin and muscle—looking deeper, for the secret of life.
Perhaps there is truth in this new religion. 
Religion!
In need of comfort, lovelorn, humanity depleted, Dan discovered God. In discovering God, he met Virgil Overman. Dan allowed Virgil residence in his house, but when not arguing theology with Dan he spent his time in the attic’s library. His heavy pacing often nagged at Dan, but Dan was lonely.
Virgil, tall, thin, like the rule of thumb, red-haired, offered an imposing presentation; his black eyes people found mesmerizing and, at times, when engorged with righteousness, frightening. Dan, a sinner, and again playing devil’s advocate, argued against Virgil’s firmly held belief that those born before the Passion of the Christ, and his rebirth, are denied heaven. Virgil argued these souls born before Christ’s death are spared the agonies of hell, but Dan posited the mere knowledge of some superior form of being but forbidden its delight must surely be a more hideous form of hell than hell itself. 
This existence of the non-damned describes our subsistence on earth.
Virgil, a man of few words, emoted his condemnation of Dan’s opinions in the fashion of a hammer striking iron stakes. Virgil, Standing firm in his belief God loves both the Godly and sinners, parted ways with Dan for a place he called “the heart of darkness” to assist in spreading the word of God. Absent Virgil’s presence, Dan regressed.
Dan became unnerved at the notion of living off the fortune of a man he so detested, and so desiring to make his own fortune he traveled to the territories called the Black Hills in search of gold.
It seems I was not so unlike my father after all, as I too sought to exploit the earth.
Dan’s journey began by train and ended by stagecoach, migraines his only companion. For Dan, Deadwood might best be escribed as parallel to the first cantos of Dante’s Inferno. The leopard, lion and wolf walked the thoroughfare shaped like men and women, but their spirits, surely an affront to God, existed without shame. The town for Dan was surreal, lacking in depth of reality; inhabitants seemed one dimensional, as if upon turning sideways they disappeared. Color appeared dull, and the sun shone dimly even as he noticed fellow strollers squinting with intolerance. Shadows seemed solid, and he walked as if in a nightmare’s dreamscape. Scent often did not match origin; for example, the customary bouquet of wine offered the ambiance of soft mink.
Without difficulty, Dan purchased several parcels of land and, by design, connected to one another, from men that found they actually had no stomach, or patience, for working their acquisitions. Within a month, Dan struck a rich vein, and within six months purchased and placed needed machinery for heavy industry from a company in San Francisco. Dan became a millionaire, twice over, in addition to his father’s fortune.
Inevitably, a man named Garrison Hearst, known for his wealth and power, and ruthlessness, learned of the rich finds in the Black Hills. Without second thought, Dan sold his mining interests to one of Mr. Hearst’s agents even before the great man’s physical appearance in Deadwood.
Dan began his retreat to Indianapolis, suffering migraines, reclusive because of sudden outbursts of sudden and unsupported anger.
My mother traveled to and from Deadwood with me, a communion of sorts.
His only relief came in the form of a telegraph received at one of the many train stops, informing him his new home was complete and ready to live in.
Renting a coach at Union Station, visions of his new home clouding his surroundings, he rounded the corner, turning onto Meridian Street. His heart beat as if it held every intention of bursting from his chest, breathing ragged and not easily drawn, sweat on his brow—time stopped for Dan.
Over tipping the driver, Dan stepped down from the carriage and beheld Succession des Anges, named for his mother. Dan’s eye immediately discovered the structure’s only flaw, a slight crack in the right corner of the house, but remembered even the greatest works of art must contain some insignificant flaw.
Throwing open the doors to his mansion, Dan moved to his knees, reverent, a great portrait of his beautiful mother overwhelming both him and the entrance to his great house. He cried out, Mother, wracked with sobs.
Sidney and Virgil return, proclaiming within my mind the exquisite countenance and nature of Mother as if truly kneeling beside me.
After a full six days and evenings of ecstasy, leaving neither nook nor cranny unexplored, Dan grew despondent. He missed Virgil and Sidney.
On Monday, he carried from his front porch back issues of the Indianapolis News. After breakfasting upon two boiled eggs, he placed the newspapers in order and began reading.
I was immediately appalled. 
Six women murdered—and all upon the same dates and route traveled to Deadwood. He remembered no news of such events in the Deadwood Telegraph. And six more murdered upon the date and time of his return to Indianapolis!
How could such a madman have escaped his attention? True, he had traveled in a private car, and took his meals there alone but he had walked the train from engine to caboose twice a day for exercise, encountering many different sorts of folks, and always spoke pleasantly to them no matter their rank in society.
The News reported the murdered women shared no common linkage in wealth, education, or destination but each traveled in solitude; they were, however, “stocky” in size, but “crushed of bone.”
Dan decided to take upon the task of retracing his route to and from the Black Hills, prepared to solve the mystery and take into custody the fiend that perpetrated the murders, and the mission undertaken as a triad of adventurers.
I contacted Virgil Overman and Ida Sidney Whitley, after discharging my serving staff. 
Twelve days passed before Ida joined Dan. She too knelt in awe of Angela’s portrait, tearful, loving Dan, swearing her love to the woman he called Mother as such a woman so dear to Dan deserved the love of all that loved him.
For two days, we joined in intercourse, pausing only for fresh fruit and sleep. On the third day, she shared a secret. Over the course of her time in Kansas, and having sponsored many lavish parties, and taken many lovers, she encountered a type of Kansan as to draw out her violent nature. She declared these men, twelve in all, large and imposing in nature but small in genital endowment, took upon her a beating. 
Knowing my dear Sidney as I do, she might have encouraged some masochism in the throws of erotic passion but only had they requested such two-party amusements. But they did not, so she murdered them by bashing in the back of their skulls with a granite statue of Bacchus she kept near her bed. She disposed of the bodies in a deep pond at the edge of her property. As those men were married, political in disposition, and industrial businessmen with many enemies, Sidney reported receiving only the mildest of police inquiries. 
I am as familiar with Sidney’s spirit as mine. She holds no murder in her heart. Sidney is a survivor, a warrior, and my lover. All she really needs is I, and she finds contentment in assisting me with fulfillment of my desires.
Virgil Overman, as thin and fiery as ever, arrived twenty-one days after Sidney. He enthralled Dan and Sidney with tales of wild Africa and the efforts to conquer the savage beasts of that far continent, both animal and human. Efforts at bringing Christ, he testified, brought both hope and despair. These black men and women understood the power of the sun, the moon and the lion—things they live and are affected by. At times, disillusionment filling the creases of his face as he recounted his experiences, he came to believe it better to murder them than to preach of God and His son Jesus Christ because, if God is denied, then they are doomed to hell. Having never heard of God, then simple purgatory awaits them upon death rather than the fires of hell.
Dan did not contest Virgil’s discourse as to do so chanced rancorous retort. Sidney wisely, although unexpectedly, followed Dan’s lead.
Over breakfast the next morning, Dan approached his friends with his plan to hunt down the brute that murdered those poor women. 
Rather excitedly, they agreed, although for different reasons. Virgil said it was the right thing to do, and Sidney said she’d enjoy the adventure.
Dan left home soon after lunch, first visiting his attorney and then arranging travel. He arrived home in the early evening.
Dan found Sidney in the cellar, examining relics from the Sioux, native to the Black Hills, and rare stones brought home from my mining adventures including actual gold encased with quartz. She found fascination in the small hand tools required for shaving minerals from gold recovered in streams, and in the axes and picks, and photographs of the huge machine used for crushing and opening the earth.
Returning to the main house’s main floor, leaving Sidney to her imaginations, he heard Virgil stomping around the second floor library. Virgil, an avid reader, especially enjoyed books on law and justice, and methods to apply such to the human condition. Dan took a chair in the parlor, wishing to relax for a few moments before calling Sidney and Virgil down for dinner. He saw the Bible, the one given him by his father, lying on the table before his chair.
The Bible, hollowed into twelve parts, each part containing ground bone, ruined me. I demanded Sidney and Virgil abandon me, here, in this mausoleum.
His first psychiatric appointment turned disappointing. Dr. Richard Longstaff, an improbable name, Dan recognized, and could not understand the thought process leading to such a decision, told Dan that Dan frightened him and refused any further service.
Dan made a second appointment with a doctor named William Wilson, a doctor whose credentials included studying under an Austrian psychiatrist by the name of Sigmund Freud. Dr. Freud, a man gaining quite a reputation in Europe, appealed to Dan’s sense of propriety.
I arrived a bit early at Dr. Wilson’s office. His secretary, an attractively plump redhead, poured me a cup of tea while I waited.
After a few minutes Doris ushered me into Dr. Wilson’s office. Dr. Wilson, also plump and of small physical stature, busily lit a pipe, cleared his throat, and then by given name invited me to sit.
Feeling somewhat offended at his lack of manners, but saying nothing, I accepted the chair in front of his mahogany desk. The room was crowded with books, something I accepted as a positive sign.
“Tell me, William” I said, “where shall I begin?”
“Please refer to me as Dr. Wilson.”
“Please refer to me as Mr. Teagarden.”
To his credit, Dr. Wilson appeared unruffled by our introductory remarks.
“Today, Mr. Teagarden, I ask you to simply listen to a theory I’ve taken to heart.”
I am rather relieved, as I will not be frightening this doctor away—at least not today.
Dr. Wilson continued. “I support the notion that the human mind is made up of three layers. There is the superego. The superego acts primarily as a comptroller over what is named the id. The id is where our most basic instincts lurk—the desire to do physical harm to others, sexual licentiousness, gluttony in all things. The id is subconscious; that is, we have no intellectual experience of the id as it flows like an underground river through the channels of our brain. The superego, more or less, operates like the id but is to some degree attainable.”
Dr. Wilson, perhaps to catch his breath, or to allow his words to sink in, relit his pipe. He smoked cherry flavored tobacco. My god.
He continued. “The ego is the conscious mind. The ego is working as we sit here, our conscious thoughts, and perhaps what even let you here to my office. Allow me to add this: there are times when the superego and the id directly affect our ego. This can be both good and bad.
For example, as one walks down a city street and sees a beggar. One may offer the beggar a few coins—the superego—or one may kick the beggar and tell him to move elsewhere—the id.”
Dr. Wilson paused to relight his pipe. “Do you follow me?” he asked, through a cloud of blue smoke.
“Yes,” I replied, expecting to vomit upon his floor at any moment.
“Good!” The man seemed quite pleased with himself. I wanted to kick him in the head.
“One more thing, Mr. Teagarden, for your consideration until again we meet. I am quite the observant man.” Dr. Wilson paused, a reflective expression upon his face. He committed an obvious mental shrug. “I have read scientific papers in the field of uman psychology and an interesting posit I’ve come across is that of multiple personalities. Some symptoms of multiple personality disorder include headache, amnesia, time loss, trances, and ‘out of body’ experiences.’ Perhaps we might discuss this theory someday.” 
Dr. Wilson coughed. “That will be all for today, then, Mr. Teagarden. Please do not forget to pay Doris my fee on your way out, and to make another appointment. In the meantime, consider what I’ve explained to you today.”
Dan understood Dr. Wilson’s theories. He spent countless sleepless hours considering what could be done to save him. As the clock struck midnight, on the third starless eve, the only possible outcome occurred to him, overwhelming him in its natural brilliance.
Gathering what strength remained in me, I left my house, never to return, the cemetery my destination. Entering my parent’s mausoleum, I began to weep for now I understood my true desire, my final destiny. Moving the granite lid to my mother’s coffin, I climbed in, and then moved the slab closed once again. Finding my sweet Angela’s hand, I moved it to my cheek, her touch warm and wonderful. She stirred, taking me into her embrace, cradling my head, and in only in a moment did I find her breast and suckled.

Fiction: "On The Back Of An Octopus" by Ben Fitts

On The Back Of An Octopus
Fiction by Ben Fitts

There is a city called Octopolis on the back of an octopus. You might think that it is a very small city, but you would be wrong. 
It is just a very big octopus.
The back of the octopus is paved with roads and the tallest buildings of Octopolis stretch hundreds of feet into the ocean. The buildings are insulated so tightly that they keep even the finest drop of saltwater from leaking in, and are filled with ordinary bustling humans just like me and most likely like you too. The citizens of Octopolis stay nice and dry inside their buildings and squeeze into wetsuits and slip on scuba masks when they go outside onto the octopus’s paved back. 
They don’t have to worry about falling off the back of the octopus, because the octopus is large that it has its own gravitational pull and people can only swim so far off its back before being yanked back down. However the octopus’ gravitational pull was significantly less than that of an actual planet, and the inhabitants of Octopolis could swim a good twenty-five feet away from the octopus in any direction before having to return back to its paved surface like a yo-yo.
As the very large octopus swims across its even larger ocean, it brings the city of Octopolis with it wherever it goes. The people of Octopolis are aware that they on top of a very large octopus, but it seldom affects their day to day activities and they tend not to dwell too much on the fact. 
This all changed one day when the inhabitants of Octopolis saw something approaching them in the vast ocean that covered their entire planet’s surface. 
From a distance the object looked like a dark, blurry lump in the water, but it grew bigger and nearer every hour. The people grew worried, because the sort of thing had never happened in living memory and no one knew what it might mean. 
Several of Octopolis’ top scientists and politicians gathered in a room with a glass ceiling. The room was on the top floor of the tallest tower in the entire city, located on the very top of the octopus’ scalp. In the room was a high-powered telescope that had not been used in centuries, but was a major fixture of Octopolis’ local lore. Very few had ever actually seen the telescope in person. 
The scientists and politicians all took turns looking through the telescope, scratching their heads at what they saw and double-checking that everyone else had seen the same thing. They all had.
What they all saw was an enormous shark. 
The shark was easily the size of the octopus, perhaps even bigger. Another animal as large as the octopus was unheard of in its own right, but that was not even the strangest thing about what they were seeing. There was an entire thriving metropolis on the back of the shark. 
Through the lens of the telescope, they could see tall buildings and aquatic vehicles and bustling pedestrians littering the back of the shark.
The scientist and politicians all took turns gaping in dumb awe at what they were seeing. A city on the back of a giant octopus was a normal, understandable thing, but a city on the back of a giant shark was just ridiculous. 
Where would those people have gotten the materials to build their buildings on the back of a shark? And how would air-breathing mammals have gotten on top of the shark in the first place? These questions baffled the scientists and politicians, but both groups had more immediate problems to worry about. 
The shark appeared to be on a collision course with the octopus, and it was growing closer every minute. 
The scientists and the politicians argued fiercely over to explain their findings to the populace. The politicians worried that telling the citizens of Octopolis about the shark would incite a mass panic, but the scientists insisted that people had a right to know. They spent hours debating the topic in the room with a glass ceiling on the top floor of the tallest tower on the octopus’s scalp. 
They argued until the point became moot anyway, because now the shark was near enough that what it was clearly visible to anyone looking out into the water, even without a telescope. The shark flapped its pectoral fins vigorously, its beady black eyes locked on the octopus. 
The shark opened its vicious jaws as it neared Octopolis, revealing an intricate network of subterranean tunnels and sewers, and its intention became horribly apparent to all onlookers. 
Still in the glass room, one of the politicians declared that there must be a way to communicate with the leaders of the city on the back of the shark and try and convince them to alter the shark’s course. One of the scientists reminded the politician the residents of Octopolis had no control what so ever over the octopus they lived upon, so it stood to reason those who lived on the back of shark would be no different. 
The politicians insisted that now was not the time for pessimism, and the scientists clucked knowingly. They all argued some more as the shark grew nearer still. They argued until the topic of their discussion again became a moot point. 
The shark had reached the octopus. 
The tips of the tallest buildings poking out of the shark fenced with the tips of the tallest buildings poking out of the octopus, fighting a duel that both sides would lose as the buildings on top of both animals shattered. The shark kept swimming towards the octopus, oblivious of the destruction it was creating. 
The shark sunk its rows of jagged teeth into the octopus’ side. The teeth descended into the streets of Octopolis, destroying buildings and slicing through paved roads and basements and people. The shark’s bite broke through the layer of civilization that was Octopolis and penetrated the squishy flesh below. 
The octopus began to leak blue blood out of the spots where its flesh was punctured. The blood swelled out of its wounds and around the shark teeth that remained fastened to its side. Some of the blood dissolved into the water around it, but globs of it trickled down the octopus’ side and through what remained of the streets of Octopolis like blueberry molasses, causing even more damage to the city and smothering many an unlucky citizen. 
The people of Octopolis thought that their world was ending. To many, it already had. However some others found themselves regaining hope as the octopus began to fight back. 
The octopus wrapped several of its suction-cup-covered orange tentacles around the shark’s trunk, hopelessly crushing the buildings and people in its wake. The octopus began to squeeze. 
The shark released its clenched jaw as the octopus began to wring the life out of it. The teeth no longer there the stifle the travel of fluids, more blood poured out of the octopus’ bite wounds and into Octopolis. 
The octopus continued to squeeze and, slowly, the shark began to die. The shark’s eyes started to glaze over and it struggled less and less to break free of the octopus’ grasp. The people of Octopolis began to rejoice. Those nearest to the encroaching city on the shark’s back broadcasted jeers through the city’s underwater loudspeaker system and flashed them middle fingers from behind windows and beneath gloved hands. 
In the brief time that the creatures their respective cities were built upon fought, the residents of the city on the back of shark had all become vicious villains to the citizens of Octopolis. It was hard to shake the idea that this was somehow all their fault. As Octopolis was even further damaged and even more Octopolians lost their lives, at least the citizens were united by this feeling. 
With a final burst of vitality, the shark lunged forward and sank its teeth into the octopus’ face. Even though the shark was still tangled and dying in the octopus’ tentacles, its bite managed to annihilate the capital building perched on the octopus’ brow, pierce both the octopus’ eyeballs and its skull, and dig into the soft tissue of its brain. 
The octopus’ tentacles remained wrapped around the shark’s body. The shark’s jaw remained locked into the octopus’ face. 
Their wounded bodies were intertwined together. The two humongous sea creatures spasmed and died together. Their corpses drifted through the even larger sea together. 
The citizens of Octopolis eyed the inhabitants of the now connected city on the back of the now dead shark. The inhabitants of the city on the back of the now dead shark eyed them back.
The citizens of Octopolis wondered whether their city could continue to sustain itself on the back of a dead creature, and what would happen to their city as it began to decay and rot away. The inhabitants of the city on the back of the now dead shark wondered the same thing. 
The citizens of Octopolis wondered whether they would be able to co-exist with those who had lived on the back of the terrible shark that had taken so much away from them. The inhabitants of the city on the back of the now dead shark wondered the same thing about the citizens of Octopolis. 
The citizens of Octopolis figured that they might just have to try anyway. The inhabitants of the city on the back of the now dead shark figured the same thing. 
The surviving inhabitants of both damaged cities nervously donned their wetsuits and left their apartments. They traversed the paved tentacles of the octopus and the paved snout of the shark, meeting in the middle. 
It did not go well. 

THE END

Poem: "flight of the fox" by Jeremy Void

"flight of the fox"
by Jeremy Void

what am i so afraid of?
why am i so afraid?
no one’s coming to get me
i am not in danger
vulnerability
fuck!
i cant let anybody know
but if i let everybody know
then you might think i’m brave
you might not see me so afraid
but i am horrified
i am dying
i think i’m dying
life is misery
i suffer every day i wake up
why bother going to sleep
if i’m only going to repeat this suffering
again & again
like i’m stuck in a monstrous black hole
i’m alone
i know i’m alone
we are born alone
we die alone
love is lonely
sex is lonely
drugs make me feel special
communication is lonely
vulnerability
fuck!
why do i even bother pretending
when i am intent
on digging my feet deeper
into dirt and gravel
i am scared of everything
i wake up alone
i go to sleep alone
she tells me she luvs me
every night she holds me tight
i fall asleep in waves
delving deeper thru caves
forever afraid
of what??
getting out of this cold
and scary
grave
that i have been digging
every since the day i learned
how to breathe
vulnerability
fuck!
i am the most honest liar
you will ever have the dishonor
to watch
die
vulnerability
fuck!
why do i feel like such a monster
when all i ever wanted was to be held
and all i ever got
was a hug
i’m not worth your luv
sorry if this depresses you
see what i mean?
i shud be grateful
but i’m not
i’m just tired

Poem: "Great Meaning of All" by Sky Claudette Soto

Great Meaning of All


Oh Blessed for me I am as I gazeth upon this moonlight shining like magnetite it fosters an ever so majestic and magnetic pull of sandy, stars trickling down..onto the grounded ground covered in apple blossom wine, I visualize great meaning of all ,as I prayeth, to a sweet novena candle,a brilliancy of words are heard evoking forth as night turns to day and when thousands of angels came from heaven a bright light descended upon them opening up great and brilliant portals unto a world like no other ,a Necromantic cave if you will.as i watcheth clouds passing me by every second of my endearing moments in life.

Written by and copyright: Sky Claudette Soto.
First American Publishing Rights only. 2020.