Dinosaurs by Victoria Corwin

When she woke up, the dinosaur was still there.

Just standing there, in the corner, staring with its yellow bloodshot eyes the size of generous dinner plates, unblinking, right at her. It was the same size this time, a dwarf bronto, but the color was different, and so was the texture. This time it was a dark, sickly bruised blue, some purple faded into the hide here and there. Its bruised skin was peeling, flaking off in chunks and clusters along its knobby and thin neck and over the hills and valleys of the ribs over its emaciated belly. Its knees were bloody.

She ignored it and felt the eyes and head silently followed her as she went about dressing for the day. Spiders poured out of the top dresser drawer as usual, and when she left her bedroom to make her morning coffee she left the drawer standing open.

From the kitchen, over the low gurgling noises of the keurig, she could hear the faint crunching of the monstrous mouth as handfuls of spiders were chewed.

The keurig sputtered out the last drops of the coffee and steam rose in tendrils to her nose. She pulled the corner of her mouth to one side in disgust. Not as rotten, but still permeated with the putrid smell of--she decided it had to be rancid chicken flesh, the way it tasted like stale nuggets and the slimy texture running down her throat too close to blood and egg yolk conglomerated together into little chunks.

She took a seat at her small kitchen table (which still seemed to have a pulse this week--that pulse, it comes and goes) and gazed down at her sad little dog resting on its beat-up bed in the corner of the room. Poor thing’s too old, she thought to herself. Should’ve died last year, with its matted fur stuck in clots to its skin, which peeled and hung from the front of its skull. The dog, noticing her, slowly and carefully rose up to its four feet with soft cracks of joints and sockets snapping into place. It did not wag its tail which stayed limp at his badly scraped backside as it strolled over to stand next to the table. Its jaw hung perpetually open, the tongue lazily lolling, only attached to the back of its throat by a few threads of nerve.

“Sleep okay?” the dog asked through its unmoving jaw and stared with worried eyes up at her, pale blue eyes, too round, a look distinctly human. Its English had gotten better.

She nods and sips at her coffee.

Portrait of a Lady by Ksenia Ryzhova

             Wide eyes blinked back in the mirror, lashes gently brushed with the mascara wand, her mouth a perfect O. In her self-studies she always found, to her surprise, that she liked her face well enough, that in her regular features and complexion there was a spark of immortality. The tiny shrine in the bathroom was crammed with creams, eye shadows, powders, kohl pencils, liners of every shade, cheek stain – every sort of product except the one she needed.

             “Where are you?” she muttered to her absent Chanel sparkly lip balm in Empreinte. Never mind how that thing cost more than eight Starbucks runs and she was almost afraid to open the shiny black container with the sacred interlocking Cs, she needed the nude lip to balance her heavily made-up eyes or else she’d look like a tramp.

             Drawers were opened and slammed, then the faint thunder of freshly pedicured feet as they marched across faded carpets to the bedroom.

             Nothing in her bag, in the discarded clothes on her bed or in the well-stocked suede DKNY makeup caddy. She pulled out her iPhone. It was 7:20 PM. She put on some music, a wailing, high-pitched voice singing about love and death and magic filled the house.

             The closet was a mess. She put it in order every month, but after a week it would get overgrown with her indecisive rejections and everything else that had no place in her room. The balm wasn’t in there either. A dull sense of helplessness filled her as she looked at the piles of clothing and shoes and belts and used notebooks and old Barbie dolls shoved in the corners. Why was it always so messy? Why did the piles always fall over and get rumpled? The music just barely covered the banging of doors and screams suffocating in pillows and the soft, soothing sound of falling fabric.

             A little color had come into her cheeks and a dull pounding filled her head. The music had stopped. It was 7:25. Did she take the blue pill or the red pill for headaches? Opening the medicine cabinet, she was surprised to find her little black tube hidden between two tall orange containers. She laughed then, her entire body relaxing with each rapid exhale.

             Coffee first? Long day today. She hit send.

             The balm sparkling on her lips, she pulled on her heels. And waited in semi-darkness, not bothering to turn on the lights or put the food her mother left for her in the refrigerator. She got terribly antsy while she waited with her every muscle tensed, ready to jump up at any flare of headlights. The fabric of her dress was itchy and so she began to scratch at her neck where the label chaffed the skin. It was a mindless habit of hers, scratching when she had nothing else to do. It led to the worst inflammations and scars and recently she had been so very good at not doing it, but today had been a long day. It was 7:32.

             Ready. Where are you?

             “The number you have dialed is currently unavailable. Please leave a message after the beep.” Instead of a beep there was the ping of a received text.

             Sorry, car trouble. Rain check?

             Dropping the phone like some parasite, she ran to the bathroom to check her makeup, examine her face again, to touch the porcelain smoothness of her cheek. It was all a waste. Only the fluorescent lights would shine on her face, the night air would not touch her skin today, would not be electrified with its immortality, the beauty youth lends all things.

             Black sludge silently bled down her cheeks and her skin turned splotchy so it all looked horribly ugly. So she took her pretty nude glossy balm and she scribbled it all away, trails of sparkly skin tone where her eyes had been reflected, a swirling nude mustache adorning her upper lip. Drawing on her beard she pressed too hard and the stick broke so she threw it away. The whole bathroom felt dirty and disgusting so she retreated back into her room.

             It was 9:00 when she left her perfectly clean bedroom, her eyes clear and sparkling once again, a little pink gloss on her lips. New makeup, new clothes, new plans, new friends and it was wonderful. Little smiles succeeded each other like waves and she felt light, like she was floating down the steps to the car and the new friend and they were all frozen in time because they were perfect and the night air was so intoxicating. They saw each other and they recognized their immortality in the glow of their cheeks and the night air that welcomed them and whispered secret forgotten things that only they could hear.

The Arrangement of Nature and Me by Francesca Gundrum

As sunbeams spilled though the glass windows and walls encasing the dining room, I melted into my post-dinner rituals. Wiping a stray caramel ringlet from my face with one of my soap-coated gloves, I shifted my melancholy gaze towards the lake in front of me. In an instant, a spark ignited, excited as my eyes acquired the sight before me. My ceramic grasp softened as the dishes collided with the bottom of the silver sink; I stripped my fingers from their cadmium shackles and slid into a threadbare pair of my Father’s boots. I precipitated down towards the water’s edge—enraptured with the orchestra of life before me. I slowly stepped onto the mold- tinged dock and laid, navel-to-pine—absorbing this moment of utmost natural harmony.

The sun effortlessly balanced its golden tendrils on the tops of the coniferous trees that laced the rocky shore to the sable ripples of the lake. The water slowly swallowed the last remaining moments of the day into its depths. Just barely out of my reach, a family of beavers unzipped the glassy surface with their tangerine teeth brimming with layers of debarked sticks and twigs and branches to be bricks. A doe and her buck swam alongside the beavers— dissecting the water’s skin with every simultaneous stroke of their hooves. Their every tread beat the blood through my veins; the sights around me defrosted my inner-mammal and scraped away my human. The bullfrogs’ cavernous croaks and peepers’ cheeps peppered together as they tangoed the chimes of twilight. The gust above the water’s surface coaxed the cobalt-colored feathers of a Great blue heron to her treetop throne. The high-pitched prattling of a bat colony flooded my kaleidoscope spine as their ash-like wings contorted in the air above me; their every click and cry beat the drums within my ears with a rhythmic cacophony of calls. Beneath the water’s wrinkled complexion, I saw only the rose-tipped dorsal fins of the sunfish as they painlessly parted the grasses of the lake floor. I felt my pupils desperately stretching to absorb the fleeting scarlet sparks dancing along their spines.

A wave of warmth traversed through the marrow of my bones. My every synapse slid from neuron-to-neuron, delighted to pass this world throughout my mind. Like a symphony designed for the divine, each organism depended on the existence, persistence of another— mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and I, we fit together in a painting of momentary unity.

In the distance, a stream of steel wool screams grated through my ear canals. My Mother gripped the bleach-white porch of our cedar home, demanding I return to the stainless steel chamber. Her howls pried me from this world unseen, untouched—her squawks like cadaverous knuckles clawing at the anima in me. I scraped a final inhale down my windpipe, blotting the elements of this alternate space to and through the meat of my nuclei. In an instant, the slap of a beaver’s tail, another, another, and another punished my human. Every sound of their strike boiled the vessels in my cherry cheeks. The deer darted onto shore with ivory tails blinding my baby-blue eyes. The treetop throne was without its queen. The tango of the frogs abandoned their dance. I quickly scanned the water’s surface: not a single crimson flicker. It was all over; the moment had vanished as if it had never existed.

I dragged my limbs back to humanity. Every step pounding the earth with the knowledge that I was once again a modern biped and unbelievably separated from her: the wilderness. For an instant, I was granted access to exist, persist, perceive in a cosmos that conceals itself from our distracted animations. I was not a human being; I was a human doing—actively a part of an orchestration of organic harmony.