in the pale moonlight

her, hips swiveling back and forth without a thought. him, three fingers on a straw swirling the ice around and around. her, red lips, hair thrown over bare shoulders. him, polished boots, bangs pushed back. her, lips quirked into a small smile and nose crinkled. him, slow blinks and eyes widened. a twinkle. a spark.

 

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liturgy

p é n é t r a t i o n

p é n é t r a t i o n, by sergey neamoscou

a friday night and a dingy bar. inside, middle-aged people attempt to salsa, awkwardly jutting their hips with eyes unfocused. music that isn’t salsa is playing and the floors are sticky with spilled inhibitions. outside, three people stand without jackets, two females and one male, cowering away from the rain; huddled together, hunched into themselves. cigarettes hang between their lips, two burning and one unlit. the lights drift through the window behind them, casting auras around contours. the man asks the bouncer for the lighter and holds out his hand; black polish shiny and chipped.

“oh, this is one of those fancy ones.”

“a zippo”, one of the women mutters, painted lips moving rapidly.

“yeah, you just have to flick it open and it’ll burn for you.”

the other woman looks up, stormy eyes piercing the others’. “it’s very convenient.”, she states.

“it was really expensive, so be careful.”

“yeah yeah, of course.”

the sound of metal hitting concrete is harsh, unforgiving.

the woman throws her head back and laughs, mouth framed by red. the sound bounces off the buildings, walls bricked and windows dark. the three finish their cigarettes, speak about thin air. the other woman has her eyes shut the entire time, tides low in a stilled sea. each drag is a prayer, puffs of absolution coming out a gauzy grey. when they’ve stubbed themselves out, they stand for a moment, linger in silence. then they say thanks again for the light, and head back inside. the air is damp and cold. the drops have stopped falling.

frankie & freddie

the sun blazed, warming the city streets. smoke filled the air as he exhaled, blending with the grey of his eyes and hazing their intensity for just a moment. she looked down into her glass of lemonade, grinning. “oh please quit the smoking, why don’t you?” she said it teasingly, a line as comfortable as an old pair of shoes. it was an argument they’d had for years: one that had started with screams and tears, but had lost its bite as they got older. now, it was more a show of affection, their way of reminding each other that some things would always stay the same. and if that was her way of saying “i’ll always love you”, then there was no mistaking his feelings for her when they echoed through the low timber of his voice: “fuck you.”

she put the straw to her lips and took a deep drag. light flashed through the glass, shining through the translucent liquid. she raised her head and tilted it down just a little to peek at him through the top of her black shades. when she saw his smirk, laced with frustration, she bit down on the plastic. her grin widened as she gave him a wink. she loved the way she could push his buttons. it gave her a real kick. “you’re diabolical.”, he said with a laugh. she leaned back in her chair, spreading her legs out before her. they were on fire. she almost regretted wearing her usual black jeans in the midsummer heat, but just almost. it was her thing, and when she thought about even mother earth trying to tell her what to do, she reveled in the burn.

“so, what happened after we hung up yesterday?” she asked, letting go of the teasing. he jumped up a little, quickly reaching over to the table next to him to put the cigarette out, ashes harshly breaking the stark white of the tray. there was that honest to god sparkle in his eyes again. she could swear that his eyes came with a pair of zippos built in them, flicking open whenever he thought of something particularly exciting. “oh man, right! something pretty great happened actually. on our way to that… thing, whatever the hell that was,” he waved dismissively with his hand, “eddie and i were talking about something, i don’t even remember what it was. anyways, out of nowhere, this old lady sitting on a park bench, you know the ones by the fountain? right, one of those. so this lady just points at us as we’re passing by and kind of shouts ‘joseph!’, ‘phil!’. and eddie’s just ready to speed up and get the hell out of there, you know how freaked out he gets, but i’m just amused as hell. i was in a state at that point. well yeah, you know.” she did know, his alcoholized soliloquizing had kept her company for hours. she just nodded, and he continued: “so i go: ‘what, did we just get baptized or something?’. but then i feel really bad, because she gets this incredibly sad expression on her face. like i deeply hurt her or something. and then i just feel like crying, because she looks so sad. so i sit down next to her to apologize, but then she smiles, still really sadly, and starts talking about her life back in the day. turns out joseph and phil were part of her gang, and she just tells us about all of these crazy things they used to get up to!” as he raved on about the conversation he had with an old lady on a park bench, she listened intently. she didn’t feel anything more than a slight amusement towards his story, these things happened to him all the time. but there was still something about the way he told them that had her transfixed. even after all this time, he still fascinated her endlessly.

he suddenly stopped talking, looking down at the ground. “you’re doing that thing again”, he grumbled. “what thing?” she asked, puzzled. she wasn’t doing a thing? he met her eyes, steel grey striking her. “the thing where you study me like i’m some newly discovered creature.” she rolled her eyes, acting like he didn’t just see right through her. as she felt the heat rising in her cheeks, she thanked the heavens above that he wouldn’t be able to tell. “wait, what do you mean ‘whatever that was’? i thought you were going to a gig?” she changed the subject, knowing that he’d latch on right away. “yeah well, is a gig still a gig if it’s just kids moshing in a basement to music being played by other kids? with really shitty sound, i might add.” she scrunched up her nose. “that does sound a bit like a ‘whatever the hell that was’.” they shared a laugh, both turning to look at the people passing by in front of them. they were all still headed somewhere, but at least the summertime had slowed their paces a little. it was hard to ignore, she thought. the world really envelopes you this time of year.

she briefly wondered if he was thinking the same thing as her, but instantly stopped herself. that was statistically unlikely, and a silly thought to have in the first place. she snuck a glance at him, seeing him suddenly narrow his eyes at a girl passing by. she smiled to herself, confused, yet again. well, she couldn’t really blame herself for having silly thoughts when they were about the silliest person she knew. “the sky was so pretty there for a while. you would have loved it.” he murmured, almost as if he was thinking out loud. she was confused for a moment, before realizing he was still talking about last night. she thought about it for a while, then remembered: “i saw it. gorgeous.” a silence fell between them. long, comfortable, only broken by the occasional sound of her taking drags of lemonade through the straw.

the colors felt like drugs to his eyes.

noah wallace liked to ride trains because he felt like looking outside of the window was the closest thing to seeing what time looked like. he liked to watch the people inside of them too, even though it made him sad. no one ever noticed he was looking. no one never noticed anything in the trains. they were far, far away. the people who made noah the saddest were the ones who were asleep. he thought that the shut eyes and bowed heads were their souls showing how tired the world actually made them without their minds trying to hide it. like they were too tired to even bother pretending. too exhausted to protect themselves. those people were the furthest gone.

when noah walked, he liked pretending that his movements made the world sing. like his breathing made music. so each time, he tried to create a different song. the beat that his steps made, the way that his arms swung. his body was an orchestra. sometimes, he wondered if people noticed, thought he was weird. but then he’d realize that it wouldn’t matter anyway. he always hoped that he was creating a masterpiece.

now and then, noah would have single sentences enter his mind out of nowhere, and then he’d get a little confused. like jane gallagher kept all her kings in the back row. but then he’d remember where it came from. he found it a bit funny that he never stopped forgetting that he collected sentences. that, for a second, they felt brand new.

noah’s favorite color was navy blue, because that was the color of the universe. even though scientists said that it was something called “cosmic latte”. when he first found out, he was a bit annoyed, but then he accepted that there were some things that science just didn’t understand. and he thought that drinking a cup of cosmic latte might be like tasting the universe, so maybe they’d been a little right. but it was navy blue. definitely.

noah loved to go to art museums. he loved it because when he walked into a museum, he felt like time stopped existing. like it had been sucked into the pictures. he loved that it was so quiet, that people spoke in muted voices and hushed murmurs. like if you talked too loud, the artwork wouldn’t be heard. he would often find himself getting stuck at a particular painting or photo, staring until it got blurry. once in a while, he’d hear people talking about them. the pictures. they’d analyze and speculate, and the theories would make him have to bite his lip to keep from laughing. it was always the old ones. they’d just state things like they were facts. like they’d figured it all out. somehow, they were still under the illusion that getting older made you wiser. like all your thoughts weren’t still painfully subjective, even after living a million years. noah didn’t want to laugh at them because he was mocking them. he didn’t think he was better than them or anything. it just amused him, is all. noah loved museums.

draft.

her body ached. every vein, every tissue. every cell stretching and straining, trying to flee in a million directions at once. they were all telling, no, chanting at her to run. escape. but she ignored them. completely disregarded the feature supposedly possessed by all creatures, existing for the benefit of mere survival. instinct. what a stupid concept. she looked, laughed, spat the word in its face. who does instinct think it is anyway? this ridiculous idea that logic should deem as mythical nonsense! and yet, the word falls off the scientist’s tongue with the reverence of a wishing man’s prayer. the bolts of pain pulsed with every step she took, sending jolts of acidic bitterness to her thoughts. instinct. if instinct’s there to keep us from dying, then how come i manage to end my life, time and time again? she shook off the question, unanswerable and pointless, and continued walking down the narrow alley – following a cobbled path she never mapped out to begin with.

the not-quite evening was just beginning to settle over the city. the sun was backing away slowly, as if not to startle the streets. don’t worry, it seemed to be saying. everything will be fine. i’ll be back, i promise. as the buildings started to cool towards the nighttime violets and blues, people were rushing. they hurried the way a traveler hurries when returning from a visit far, far away – the way one hurries when coming back home. up and down, left and right they went, doing the dance of the obliviously coordinated. as everyone else was arriving, she was still departing, wandering in the unknown. and as everyone led their own way, she was doing the opposite. when she reached the end of the alley, looking out at the square baring itself before her, a sense of familiarity overcame her. she sat down at a bench and looked around her. this place has a vibe. like a lot of heads went rolling down these stones. maybe a couple of hearts. upon this thought, she felt a sense of confusion. why do i feel like i’ve thought this before? she tilted her head upward, squinting at a man of apparent importance standing in perpetual, petrified pride. the statue loomed over her. she sighed and shook her head, as if it had personally dissatisfied her somehow. looking down, she let her eyes fixate on a single cobblestone, consciously letting her mind amble through worlds abstract.

”hey.” she sucked in a breath. in an instant, her heart took a start, running a hole straight through her ribs. while the organ in her chest was burning hot, the red liquid shooting through it had turned a crystal cold blue. the sharpness ached. everything ached, and she was frozen. a movement in her periphery. the blur of an arm to her left cracked the ice, and in her mind, a broken how? sounded. her body heard the question, instantly demanded an answer. her head snapped up, eyes crashing into a stormy ocean of grey. there he was. taller and paler than she remembered. charlie, her heart gasped out, a name she’d fought herself not to say for so long. in all his bastardly magnificent glory.