Dreaming of Sleep by Jane Berkowitz

July 16, 2011

If you stay up for two nights straight studying or partying or listening to your cats meowing, the next day, during school or your fraternity meeting or your knitting circle, you will fall asleep and not even know it. Microsleeping. When you microsleep, you are asleep for five seconds, maybe half a minute at most, and then you jerk yourself awake. You don’t realize you were asleep. You are just five seconds older, with a gap in your schedule between 08:31:22 and 08:31:27. Sometimes people microsleep while they are driving. One moment they are looking for exit 67 and the next they’re in a ditch.

Gerald has been bobbing his head since this meeting started. He’s microsleeping. Michael just thinks he’s nodding ‘yes’ to everything. In 20 minutes, Gerald is going to walk out of Conference Room B and not remember a single thing. He will go back to his desk and think, wow I must have been spacing out the whole time. It won’t even screw him over when he can’t recall the updated format for the 2011 financial reports—they send out email reminders for these things.

Every second in this meeting is a second closer to the end of our lives. When I was a kid I thought the odometers on cars counted down instead of up. You would start with around 100,000 miles, and as you drove that number would click down until it reached 0 and you got a new car. Even when Gerald wakes up he is not watching his odometer—he’s just in transition between his last microsleep and his next one.

Michael says something but the words disappear before I hear them. I don’t think we have carbon monoxide alarms in here. If there was a gas leak Michael would die first because he’s breathing more. Gerald wouldn’t know what was going on, his head is too busy nodding up and down.

I look around the table. My coworkers live in and out of microsleeps. Every day is this meeting, and it doesn’t bother them. I want to shake them into consciousness. I want to throw my coffee in their faces. “This is it,” I want to tell them. “Pay attention, this is important.”


Dr. Mosquito by Olivia Dunne

July 16, 2011

I am sitting. I am sitting where they told me to sit, on this slab of metal that seems like it was carved out of ice. Sit here and wait, they told me. Brown eyes, mine, dart around the room, searching for something of comfort.

Little cartoon monkeys scream to wash my hands every day, leering at me from their paper taped to the wall.

Alright sweetie, a nurse says, wiping the alcohol on my inner elbow. The scent makes my nose sting.

When I was little, I could cry and scream and writhe, but now I have to be stoic and pretend that I don’t want to melt into a puddle of what used to be Olivia. There, let the doctors take those fluids.

I swallow, forming a rock in my throat. The nurse is talking, my arm is quivering like I’ve been tasered, and there is a bite on my inner arm, drawing out the red liquid that fills my veins.

My eyes are squeezed shut and my arm goes limp, and then it’s out. My blood says goodbye, captured in that little tube.

I wave back.


Choosing the Choos by Amanda Halprin

July 16, 2011

Shelia thrust a box of Cheerios on to the shelf, picked up another from the pile beside her and thrust it next to the first box. She had been restocking this isle for what seemed like hours. At least I’m not on register, she thought.

Feeling a light tap on her shoulder, Shelia spun around. In front of her was a petite woman with a determined look in her eye.

“May I help you miss?”

“Yes. Where is the milk?”

“Aisle thirteen,” Sheila said, pointing to her left while thinking, Can’t this woman read? Each aisle had a sign above it, listing the products contained there.

“Thank you.” The woman walked towards the milk, the click-clacks of her Jimmy Choos fading away. Why does she need Choos? Shelia thought, staring at the woman’s feet. It was two o’clock, a time reserved for stay-at-home moms and dads to gather their week’s worth of groceries. With her polo, jeans and ponytail it was obvious that the woman was one of them. Shelia just couldn’t understand what a stay-at-home mom would do with Choos. Shelia had been eyeing the same pair online and was planning on wearing them out to a club or a party or a date–anywhere but a grocery store.

Shelia turned her attention back to the Cheerios, now slamming them into place. The woman, in her opinion, had no right to own the Choos if she disrespected them so. Shelia would be happy to take them off of the woman’s hands (or feet, for that matter). The navy was richer in person and the beading more elegant. With shoes that beautiful, any pain they caused the wearer could easily be ignored. Shelia stared down at her own shoes. The sneakers she had purchased back in high school for track were wearing and coated in a fine layer of dirt.

“Excuse me?” Shelia again turned to the woman, who had returned. “I need a cereal that’s high in fiber but not fiber-tasting and has refined grains, but not too refined.” The woman waited a beat. “Well, where can I find it?” Shelia bit the inside of her cheek.

“I’m not very informed on the topic.”

“But you work in a grocery store!” Shelia bit down harder and looked the woman in the eyes, as she was always being told to do in customer service training. She was determined to ignore the Choos.

“I’m not a big cereal eater.”

“You are a grocery store employee; surely you must know something.” In her attempt to avoid shouting ‘I don’t know’ and upsetting the customer, Shelia stared at the Choos. God, how she wanted those Choos. She had been picking up extra shifts and pinching every penny, but after her recent evaluation there was no chance of Shelia getting a raise. The Choos were months away.

The woman noticed Shelia’s gaze. “Oh, you like the shoes? My husband bought them spur-of-the-moment in London.” Shelia sucked in a breath. She didn’t have a rich husband to buy her nice things; she had to earn them!

Shelia was tempted to direct the woman to the sugar-packed cereal her roommate ate every morning. She decided against it, however; Shelia had the feeling that this was the type of woman who would complain to the manager when she found out about the true content of the cereal. Shelia couldn’t risk getting fired.

“I honestly know nothing about cereal, but I’ll find someone who does, okay?” Shelia said, plastering on a smile.

“Thank you.” Shelia turned on her heel and walked towards the registers in search of Ronnie, who was always eating cereal in the break room. As her shoes hit the linoleum they did not click-clack. Rather, they squeaked.


Flight by Anya Konecki

July 16, 2011

Flight

Clark sat down in his booth when Jenny called from the register, “Do you want the usual today?”

“Sure Jenny, don’t forget about the raisins in the oatmeal.”

“Okay, coming right up.”

“No hurry, Jenny,” Clark said. His base voice resounded in the small room.

Giggles erupted from the other side of the wall. Clark popped his head over the divider and was met by a strong scent of flowers from a nearby table of girls.

“Can I help you ladies with anything?” Clark said. His dark hair fell into his face and he looked out at them from under it

“No, sorry.” One girl said. All the girls blushed.

Jenny came with breakfast and sat down with Clark. “Whatchya thinking about?”

“Flying.”

“Oh yeah? Where to? You going on a vacation?”

“No, nowhere, I was just thinking of how it used to be,” Clark said. He picked up his newspaper and hide behind it.

“I brought your breakfast, Clark.”

“Oh. Thank you.”

“No problem sweetie,” she said. Jenny patted the man’s hand where it lay on the table, clutching an unused napkin in his crooked fingers.

Clark began eating in small carefully measured bites. When he finished the oatmeal and pushed the bowl away. He looked up at his waitress, then at the door to the diner.

“Jenny, I gotta go.”

“Okay, Mr. Kent.” Jenny said with a faint smile on her face.

“I’ll be back.”

“I know.”

Clark heaved himself up onto his walker and forced his legs to shuffle to the door. The wind outside the diner was strong. Clark steadied his legs, closed his eyes, and stretched his arms out straight ahead; his hair blew behind him. Years ago his cape would have been flying out behind him, too.


Step by Step by Rebecca Edelman

July 16, 2011

Mary-Sue hid the knife in her purse. She called upstairs to her father. “Hey dad! I’m going out for a while. I’ll be back soon!” Her father just grunted in response from his place in front of the TV, a beer can falling off his stomach. She stepped out of her house and grabbed her keys from her pocket to lock the door. With a final ‘click’ she knew she was now in open territory. She stepped down to her stoop and looked around as if expecting something. As if she was crossing the street, she looked both ways down the sidewalk before beginning her walk into the city. Her short hair bobbed as she glanced from side to side. She gripped her purse with one hand, the other sitting ready at her side in case anything happened. She stopped in front of a building. Glancing at the address, she breathed in heavily.
A sudden voice startled her. “Are you alright dear?” asked an elderly woman.

“Who wants to know?” Not waiting for an answer, she strode into the building. A small group of four people were waiting for the elevator. The elevator arrived and the people flooded in. “Are you comin’ ma’am?” One of the men asked, his arm shielding the door so it wouldn’t close.

“No.” She watched the doors close and pushed the button to call a different elevator. It arrived and she got on. She pressed the button for her floor just as a man began running towards the elevator.

“Hold the elevator!” he yelled.

Immediately she pushed the ‘close doors’ button. The doors began to close and she caught a glimpse of the man’s face. The fury in his eyes didn’t faze her. She reached her floor and got out. She walked into an office and a receptionist greeted her. “Hello. You’re just on time.” She held out a box and Mary-Sue took out the knife and dropped it in. Mary-Sue walked into a separate room and sat down in a leather chair. Also in the room was a woman, who was sitting on an identical chair. The woman was also holding a clipboard. On the top of the paper it said ‘Mary-Sue.’
The woman smiled warmly at Mary-sue. “How was your walk over here? Stressful? You made it here alive,” she said, attempting a small joke.

Mary-Sue didn’t smile. “It was difficult of course. Very dangerous. It could happen again any day. But I’m more prepared this time, unlike how my mom was.”


I Miss You by Haley Crissman

July 16, 2011

I heard her before I could see her and sure enough, there she was, holding court with her friends and even some of mine. I shuffled to my seat, hoping she wouldn’t notice me. “Hey, Seth!” she said. Everyone stopped talking to look at me.

I winced at the sound of her voice that brought back so many good memories. “Hey, Annabeth,” I said. I forced a smile and dropped into my seat. Everyone turned around as the bell rang and my teacher rapped a pencil on her desk to get their attention. I glanced at Annabeth. She was every bit as beautiful as when I first asked her out—and when she broke up with me.
I just don’t feel the spark anymore, she had told me. I guess I dulled her senses or something. Whatever. She lifted a hand to brush her hair from her eyes and I saw a glint of silver. Looking closer I saw that she was wearing the charm bracelet I gave her to celebrate our one year anniversary a few months ago. Why was she wearing it today? She hadn’t worn it any other day for the last month since we broke up. I wondered what her new boyfriend thought of her wearing it. I saw the happy couple just this morning, but he didn’t seem to be too happy. I didn’t let myself hope that maybe she had finally broken up with that tool. I stopped myself from thinking about all our old memories, the way we could laugh at anything, the way we sang along to every song that came on the radio, the way—wait, no, stop! I have got to stop thinking about her.

I did my best to look anywhere but her for the rest of class. The bell rang and I ran out hoping to get away before having to see her again. I heard her footsteps behind me and hoped I was imagining it.

“Seth, wait!” she said.

I turned on my heel, hoping to shake her off with some stupid line, but the desperation in her expression startled me. “What?” I said.

“I, um, just wondered how you were doing…?” she said. I didn’t answer. She started twisting her bracelet around her wrist and I caught sight of the charms I had given her. She could at least take those off. She caught me looking and said, “Oh, yeah, well I found it the other day and I, um… Look, Seth what I really wanted to tell you was that after spending all this time with Bryan, I realized that I missed all our fun times together, all our laughs, our dates, even some of our fights, but the biggest thing I realized was, I miss you.”


Punished Soul by Bertha Hernandez

July 16, 2011

I can see the shadow reaching for my soul. Its twisted limbs crying–no, begging— to take my soul and leave me bare. It is the punishment I have to pay for playing with the devil. I try to outsmart him by cheating my way out of the bargain, but he has more experience in the arts of trickery then I. I only have my street smarts I learned during my childhood after my entire family was killed by a fire. I am constantly moving from place to place. I find myself under a bridge, sharing heat with other people like me. Dirty and in rags that barely cover our bodies. Every face has been worn down by the years of living in the street.

I remember one day wanting gummy bears so bad that I had gotten to a pay phone and dialed 666. The devil and I had made a deal about me getting the gummy bears and he could ask me anything he sought after. He had asked me to do his homework but I didn’t do it because I did not know the answers. That was our pact and my greatest mistake.

I now hear heavy foot-steps behind me and look over my left shoulder to see one of the faceless businessmen that kept chasing me after I made the pact with the devil. The people around the barrel of fire scream out and start running for their lives. I, too, run. I bolt away from the barrel to run into the city. The faceless men carry weapons with them like knives and swords. I hear them chase me, and I keep dodging their knives that they toss at me, but one pierces my thigh. I scream from the pain and hide behind a building. I grab the knife and yank harshly, covering my shriek with my hand. I cover the wound with my hand but still the blood escapes through my fingers without pause. I drag my leg while looking at my surroundings and spy three of the devil minions in front of me.

I take cover behind another building but it’s too late. One of the faceless men yells out, “there,” and gives chase. I try to run but my wound prevents me from escaping. One of the faceless men reaches me and grabs my waist, making both of us stumble to the ground. I cry out when I feel a searing sensation go throughout my leg, and I push the men off me.

“Gotcha,” the beast on top of me says.

“Uh, get the hell off me!” I say.

“Shut up, time to pay your debt, li’l girl,” the faceless men say.

“Go to hell, demon.” I know I need to escape because if they catch me I would become faceless too and the devil’s personal assistant. I try to get up but the other two beasts grab onto my arms and hold me to the floor. I grab my handgun and open fire but they only laugh at me and kick me in my stomach and ribs. I then realize that this is the end for me. I am going to die at the hands of these revolting demons and revive as the devil’s lap-dog. I cannot escape from them but I can scream. I yell out when every kick and punch meet my skin, hoping for relief but no one comes to my aid. No one answers or tries to help. I feel my life force and consciousness leave while my soul is sucked out of my body forever.