Keivs x Jhedz are on the Mexican label Finite.
Jose Decant is a visual artist from San Jose, CA.
I was driving home from work. Another overtime. Another night I need to make up to my wife. I imagined her turning up the television volume just to drown out the silence in our small flat that I could already barely afford. I felt like there was a noose around my neck – tightening with each snide remark from my boss and tightening more with each dissatisfied comment from my wife.
She couldn’t work. Not with her belly getting larger every term. I told her she could work from home but she didn’t want to. Her qualifications would be wasted, she said. Your life is already wasting, I wanted to say.
Then I saw her. I’ve been seeing her for a long time already but the sight of her never failed to make my heart beat faster. She was standing by the road, signaling for a ride. I didn’t know what I was really thinking. I could have ignored her but instead, I slowed down my Nissan amidst the irritated honking of the cars behind me. I lowered my window.
“Seriously? I never thought I’d see you looking for a ride,” I said and I saw my breath form a small fog as if I’d been smoking again. It was cold outside.
She gave me the crooked smile I had been trying not to think of when I made love to my wife. “Well, here you are. Didn’t think you’d be the one to give me a ride either. You are going to give me a ride, aren’t you?”
I grunted and unlocked the other door. She got in beside me and I began driving again.
“Where you going?” I asked, trying not to look at her hypnotizing long white legs from the short black dress she was wearing.
“Wherever you’re going,” she said and I didn’t have to look to hear the smile in her voice.
“I’m going home,” I said, trying to summon up my old anger for her but failing.
“Really now? But you still picked me up. I’m beginning to think you’ve become confused, darling,” she laughed. Her laugh was so beautiful, so unlike the mocking laugh of my wife whenever she’d look at my salary – or what’s left of it.
“I don’t know why I picked you up, okay? I’ve been having a hard day and I’m tired. You looked like you needed a ride so I gave you one,” I said.
“You’ve been avoiding me for years. What changed?” She rested her hand on my shoulder and I fought the urge to turn my head to her and see her beautiful face up close. Damn her.
“I’m just tired,” I told her.
“I’m here. I’ve been giving you space because I like you and I don’t like to be hated by the only person who really sees me for who I am,” she said softly.
“I . . . like you too,” I said. Despite for what she was, I couldn’t fight the feeling of liking her. She was like a drug. Dangerous and addicting.
“I was starting to think you hate me,” she said, her hand like a burning furnace on my shoulder. I wanted to touch her.
“Are you really telling the truth? About liking me? No one likes me. My co-workers talk shit about me. My wife hates me. Hell, my own mother doesn’t even want to talk to me. Do you really like me or are you just buttering me up?” I asked her, breathing heavily.
“I really like you. You try to be a decent person but the world just keeps giving you a hard time. I like your honesty. I like how you talk to me like I’m just anyone else. It’s rare to find someone like you. So, yes, I really like you,” she said.
My vision blurred. My cheeks were wet. “You shouldn’t be allowed to say things like that. It’s not fair,” I sobbed.
“There, there. Darling, you know I’m here for you. Anyway, I can get off at the next gas station. I understand that you have a wife. You still have someone to get back home to,” she said.
I shook my head. “You’re being nice. You’re doing this reverse psychology thing to me and it’s working. Damn you.”
I took her hand from my shoulder and firmly held it. “I’m not letting you go this time.”
“Really?” She was surprised.
“I’m tired. We’ve been circling each other for years and I think it’s time,” I said.
“Are you absolutely sure?” She was being nice again. I tightened my grip on her.
“Damn hell, I am. Don’t make me change my mind,” I said and I felt myself smile a little. It had been so long. When was the last time I felt proud about my decision? When was the last time I smiled about it?
“Darling, I’m touched that you’ve finally chosen me,” she said.
I turned my head to look at her, taking in her kind face and eyes that seemed to see only me. I leaned in.
Death’s kiss was wickedly good.
Mary Claire is taking up B.S. Development Communication at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. She likes watching anime, reading mangas, and painting in her spare time.
Sundays & Cybele is a band from Tokyo, Japan.
By. Roland Dodds
The tiny machine pushed the tank of pesticide slowly up the mound, scanning the horizon for possible rodents and thieves that would stop its accent. The droid was badly damaged from the unstoppable sun peering through exposed sections of ozone. The solar panel that once kept the machine running well into the night was cracked, thus accumulating energy inefficiently. The serial number that once distinguished the robot from others like it was scratched and indiscernible. This number meant little; as far as the machine knew, it was the last of its kind.
Much like the days that preceded it, the droid pushed the pesticide drum up the hill to spray on the human crops that were scattered along the ridge. Its visual sensors had failed to pick up any living plants for some time; it was unclear when the last crop died out. Yet, the machine continued its task faithfully, executing its programmed orders as efficiently as its tattered frame would allow.
The robot was equipped to fend off individuals that intended to steal its poisonous cargo, but they too had disappeared in recent years. Or was it decades? The mechanical worker continued to probe its surroundings nonetheless.
When it reached the top of the hill, it sprayed the pesticides on the barren ground until it had dispensed with the entire tank. It sluggishly turned to descend the hill only to see a small creature peering from a circular wrought hole. As it was getting dark, the small creature exposed its head to get a better view of the mechanical beast standing before it. The droid could see that the creature was a common field mouse; the machine had seen many during its years of operation. Running through its functioning memory database, the machine could not recall the last time it encountered a living specimen of this kind.
The robot was an unknown entity to the mouse. Understandably, it quickly ducked back into its burrow, allowing the rodent to inspect the machine from the comfort of its shadowy home. The mouse intrigued the droid; as it had no contact with a living rodent in some time, it edged closer to the animal’s hole in the hopes of investigating it further.
This class of farming machinery was programmed to dispel with any rodent present in its designated area, but it did not attempt to destroy the mouse. Perhaps the operating code had deteriorated like its physical body; maybe it no longer had the corporeal ability to chase down varmints. It simply stood with its sensor stuck down the mouse’s burrow, looking at the frightened creature intensely.
Thirty minutes passed while the droid examined the mouse. The machine failed to realize that its designated working period had come to an end and the night sky had blanketed its solar panel in darkness. It hastily retracted its sensor but found that its wheels would no longer turn: the machine had depleted its battery. The farming droid would need to stay on the exposed ridge overnight, something it had never done before.
A cold, furious wind blew in from the south, pelting the metal exterior of the machine with sand and dust. The debris pushed itself into every crack and hole of the droid causing its basic functions to stutter. It could see that the mouse was still locked on the foreign invader standing above its home, its eyes like two stars cutting through the night sky.
Inaudibly, the two beings watched the other unsure what would come next.
When the sun crested the following morning, and the machine’s batteries again began to recharge, it could feel its wheels again begin to roll. It spun in a clockwise motion a dozen or so times to remove the dirt that had collected in its frame. It could see that the mouse was still sitting in its hole, gazing back at the newly animated droid. It stopped to examine the mouse once more, but then realized that it had not refilled its tank of pesticide due to its failure to return to camp the previous evening. The machine quickly grabbed the cylinder and rushed down the hill.
The mouse emerged from its hole to watch the machine roll away. It stretched its legs, brushed the dirt off its fur and scurried off in search of food.
Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father just north of San Francisco who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left-wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren’t teetotalers). He is a regular contributor at Harry’s Place and Ordinary Times.
Zany Zongas were an experimental band from San Diego, CA.