Monday, August 21, 2006

Sombrero Fallout, by Peter Wild

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Sombrero Fallout

By Peter Wild


The English writer was killing time in an airport waiting for his long-delayed flight to be announced. Of all the days for an international terror plot. Man o man. His first ever trip to the States. He’d had it all planned. There was an entire goddamn itinerary. Two weeks travelling around the US. All expenses footed by The Man. The English writer had long thought it was too good to be true. Yeah. Go to America. Write a long article about legendary Beat humorist Richard Brautigan. We’ll foot the bill. Just make sure you keep a-hold of your receipts.It was plainly too good to be true. Now they were saying all flights were grounded for the duration and, worse, they mentioned maybe he’d miss his slot. Maybe he wouldn’t get another flight to the US for a week or longer. The English writer was sick as a parrot.

And he wasn’t alone. A formerly jubilant family group was busy stripping off their pre-emptive holiday baubles, dumping buckets and spades and all manner of holiday apparel – sunglasses, flip-flops, sombreros – in the trashcan right by where the English writer sat. Everywhere you looked, ugly, pissed-off people stewed. A thick, soupy atmosphere of virulent pissed-offness settled upon the airport lounge. The English writer felt it too. So, as he was a glass is half full kind of a guy, he decided to try and write a story in which only good things happened to nice people. Once upon a time (he wrote, figuring that a note of fairytale goodwill couldn’t harm him) there was a magical island called Noway in which people lived in happiness and tranquillity all the days of their lives.

Across the way, by the check-in, a very large man and woman started shouting at the top of their voices. It was the same-old, same-old. I have to be… somewhere. I can’t be late. Don’t you know who I am? I’m gonna have your job for this! The English writer sighed. He couldn’t create a magical land of happiness and tranquillity in this environment. Not no way, not no how. So he tore the page out of his notebook, screwed it up into a ball and dropped it in the bin where it landed snugly upon the brim of the sombrero.


They gave all the shitty jobs to the menial staff. Actually, not staff. It wasn’t staff. Staff was so impersonal. Colleagues. They gave all the shitty jobs to their colleagues. Only the menial staff were not their colleagues. Colleagues suggested equality. Colleagues said, hey friend, I know this particular job is somewhat onerous but, believe me, I’d do it myself if I had the time, if I wasn’t busy saving the free world from terrorist insurgency. Pedro took it all, too. Pedro took it like a bitch. That was how he felt. Every day was the same. His colleague, the pinch-lipped tight-ass Whitehead, gave him instructions for the day. You could bet your ass those instructions included shit Whitehead wouldn’t dream of performing himself in a hundred million years. For instructions read shit list. Pedro’s shit list. So Whitehead gave Pedro his shit list and nine times out of ten there was a toilet bowl that needed unblocking manually or some fucking tramp sick or a piss flood or Something. The shit list was a gigantic life-draining suck hole. And today was no different. Yeah, the airport was on high alert. Yeah. He knew all that. But the same shit different day remained. We have confiscated liquid, Whitehead told him, his mouth barely moving, looking like some huge officious ventriloquist’s dummy. I need you to get rid of it. Doesn’t matter where. Just dump the liquid. Okay? Pedro wanted to parrot: Okay? Okay? Just about the only kick Pedro got was ripping shit out of Whitehead. Pedro had Whitehead’s voice down pat. But Pedro didn’t say Okay? Okay? Pedro took the huge cart of confiscated liquid and headed out onto the airport concourse. He wasn’t in the mood. He couldn’t be bothered. So. He figured. Empty the liquid into the bins. Let someone else take care of it.


Meanwhile, inside the bin, on the lip of a sombrero, the English writer’s story refused to die an ignoble death.

Once upon a time there was a magical island called Noway in which people lived in happiness and tranquillity all the days of their lives. There was no pain and no hunger and no want. People were born in a spirit of harmony and accord, grew, developing their minds and their bodies, and lived lives of fulfilment, satisfaction and joy. Whatever the people wanted grew upon the island in abundance. The people merely had to think of something and it was so. If you wanted an apple, you closed your eyes and there it was. If you wanted to smoke a cigarette, you closed your eyes and it was there. If you wanted to hear some swinging old time rock’n’roll ditto. And the same went for all the other hip thrills life can offer. If you wanted love, it was there. If you wanted sex, that was there too. Drugs. Cars. Fame. Whatever it was you wanted, you could get it on the island. And nobody frowned on you or made judgements or refused to welcome you to the Bridge Club as a result of your third drink driving conviction. Life in No Way was good. Life in No Way was the best ever. Similarly, if you didn’t want to eat meat, that was fine. If you wanted to go to church, that was fine too. Everybody believed what they believed and let the other man or woman be. It didn’t matter what you did. Everybody lived their lives in a state of love and encouragement. There were no wars, there was no violence, nobody was ever murdered. Mostly people died of old age, but that was fine. Everyone agreed, you had to die sometime. That was life. And life was be-yoo-ti-full.


The English writer felt like kicking things over. Or shouting at people. But he couldn’t be bothered. And people who shout at other people in airports were almost always total arses. So he got up, walked across the concourse to a coffee concession and bought a cardboard cup of molten java. By the time he sat back down, he didn’t want it. He was just killing time. But time was like some horror movie bogeyman that refused to stay the fuck down. The coffee sat there in the cup like a reprimand written in a language he didn’t understand. The coffee was making the English writer feel bad. He drank too much coffee. His wife was always saying. You drink too much coffee. The English writer could hear her, his wife, in his ears, despite the fact that she was all the way back home and more than likely asleep. Now he didn’t want the coffee more than ever. So he removed the cancerous lid and tipped the scalding mud into the bin at his side.


The coffee hit the sombrero and bounced, causing a shower of red-hot coffee to fall upon the English writer’s scrunched-up ball of aborted story.

The people of Noway did not know what hit them. There they were, a peaceable, fun-loving race of peace-nik fun-lovers, suddenly decimated by what came to be known among the survivors as the Tsunami of Fire. The surfers disappeared beneath the crud brown waves, the skin boiling off of their faces, their screams a signal of greater screams to come. Entire families fled the beaches – or tried to. The Tsunami of Fire, the terrible Tsunami of Fire, swept away all in its path. Blistering rain fell, too, among the hills and mountains of Noway. Who was immune? The cave-dwellers, those backward types given to brewing moonshine by the light of the silvery moon. And the rich folk, those high-falutin’ wheelers and dealers who lived in the centre of town. They lived too. Everyone else? Everyone else was swept away. Noway didn’t know what hit it. And Noway was changed forever. But worse was to come.


The wheel on Pedro’s cart whistled, and the progress of the whistling wheel on the floor of the concourse elicited a squeak. So, as Pedro made his way across the concourse, dumping cartons of orange juice and bottles of Diet Coke and bottles of water and baby milk and tubs of jelly and creams and potions and unguents into each of the bins he found, gradually, the squeaking and the whistling started to do his head in. Every step he took. Squeak, whistle, squeak, whistle, squeak, whistle. And that was without taking into account the lolloping swash of the various bottles and cartons in his cart. Pedro hated his life. Each and every day at some point in his travels, he thought: I hate my life. Today was no exception. But for some reason today felt worse. Maybe it was all the shouting. Maybe it was all the paranoia. Maybe it was all the shouting and the paranoia.

Pedro, unbeknownst, approached the English writer and started to empty bottles and cartons into the bin. The English writer asked him what he was doing. Pedro said, I have been told to empty all of the confiscated liquids in the bins throughout the airport. The English writer laughed, involuntarily, in a somewhat smarmy way that he had. You’ve been told to empty all of the confiscated liquid? Pedro said, Si. The English writer stopped chuckling in that smarmy way he had. Isn’t that dangerous? Pedro shrugged. But that wasn’t all. Pedro felt mildly annoyed by the manner in which the English writer addressed him. And so he removed a carton of orange juice from the cart, crunched off the lid and emptied the juice into the bin. It didn’t matter to Pedro. He wouldn’t have to clean it up, after all. The orange glug-galug-galugged into the bin, onto the sombrero, onto the island of Noway. But Pedro didn’t stop there. Pedro took up a couple of water bottles, what he thought were water bottles, cracked the lids and emptied the water in the bin as well. The English writer was smiling again, but the smile was nervy, tempered by the fact that the English writer was wondering whether the man with the bottles and the cartons was an insane person. What neither of them knew was that the water wasn’t water but petrol. And Pedro didn’t stop there. As well as petrol and orange juice, Pedro added milk from a lady’s breast, hand wash, magnesium palmitates and white phosphorate. The English writer stood when Pedro started kicking the bin and cursing, although he didn’t move away. Not even when the bin started to fizz and exude a sickly sweet white cloud.


The remaining inhabitants of Noway started to change. Acid rain fell from the sky. Noxious gases started to rise from the ground. This meant people no longer stepped out as much as they had done once. People stayed home and watched TV. The TV told them how dangerous the world was becoming. The TV said maybe they should start to think about home security. And not just home security either. The TV recommended guns. You should buy guns, the TV said. Don’t just buy one gun. Buy a whole arsenal. You don’t want to get caught short. The TV also said that there were people in the world who didn’t see things the way that you did. This was not okay, the TV said. The TV said maybe you should start to think about the fact that people in the world see things in a whole bunch of different ways. Didn’t it make sense, the TV said, for us all to agree? And – if there were people in the world who didn’t agree with us – weren’t we right to teach them the error of their ways? And, if they wouldn’t listen to reason, weren’t we right to bomb them? And, once we bombed them, as a result of our being right and their being wrong, weren’t we then allowed – hell, weren’t were then compelled – to take the things that they had that we wanted? Because we were right? And they were wrong? The people of Noway started to shout things like Yeah! and Hell yeah! at their TV screens.


The liquid started to fill the bottom of the bin. The various liquids started to mix. Relatively quickly, the liquid became a liquid not dissimilar to napalm. But it didn’t stay napalm for long. A dirty nappy left there earlier that morning helped contribute a particularly nasty slather of baby shit. A ketchup-smeared burger wrapper and a banana skin rubbed each other up the wrong way. Wet newspapers, yoghurt pots and a forgotten bleach-stained mop head conspired with the fizz and pop of the smoking formerly napalm now something else cloud. Pedro and the English writer paused in their relation to one another and drew close to the lip of the bin. On the island of Noway, an electrical surge made the TVs fritz. The hill dwellers drew close to the mouth of their caves. The well-to-do folk paused in their endless perambulations. Was this the apocalypse that the TV spoke of? The brim of the sombrero twitched. A curlicue of white smoke twisted itself about the hat. The English writer’s ball of paper made a noise like an autumnal orange leaf when crushed underfoot. A sound, akin to the library shusssssssssssssh of a firework fuse, brought a hurried halt to the airport concourse.


The contents of the bin went SNAP. The contents of the bin went CRACKLE. The contents of the bin went POP.


Later, of course, nobody told the same story twice. There was an explosion. This much we’re clear about. The bin burst open like a cheap joke shop comedy cigar. There was an eardrum-smashing roar. Fire leapt forth. One woman compared it to the gaping maw of Hell. And, of course, there was screaming. People running this way, and that. Breaking glass. Whistles. The usual signs and signifiers of a general melee. But that wasn’t all. A small group of people who were close to the bin made a strange and unusual claim. They said strange people came out of the bin. One minute there was a guy and a cleaning guy. The guy and the cleaning guy were leaning over the bin. There was an explosion and then, suddenly, there were dozens of people streaming out of the blasted hole in the ground. It was almost as if the bin had contained multitudes. Or maybe there were a bunch of immigrants living beneath the bin and the hole set them free or something. Weirder stories appeared on the Internet. Stories that told of a man, an aggrieved man who went by the name of Pedro, a man who was drenched in strange and noxious chemicals, who was given strange and unfamiliar powers, a man who left the airport that day hell bent on wreaking a terrible violence upon the world. A quick thinking teenage girl managed to snap – something, a shape, a vast shape, some great hulk – emerging from the lolling waves of ash and smoke. But no-one took it or her seriously. And yet, there was a death that day. A fatality. A junior manager nobody liked, a guy called Whitehead, was found with his head snapped clear off his neck. Whitehead was nowhere near the explosion so his death was one of those great unexplainables. And a cleaning guy, Pedro, did go missing that day. As did an English writer.

But nobody missed the English writer. Not even his wife.


And Noway? Who can say what happened to Noway. At best, the island of Noway incinerated. At worst? At worst, perhaps a world of happiness and tranquillity was done away with forever. What a sad thing. Nobody lived happily ever after.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Warm, by Victor Bornia


by Victor Bornia

My adventure with Angela began at 6:46AM, when she pulled me out of bed and towed me into the back yard. It was times like these that I was glad I slept in my boxer shorts, not nude like Angela's mommy. Can you imagine?

I had already awakened and was staring at the plastic clock on the nightstand, wondering what kind of creature it was supposed to look like. A panda bear? A skunk?

The grass out back needed mowing. Weeding, too. Angela's daddy wasn't here anymore, she'd told me, and it showed. Angela's mommy had also mentioned working double shifts, occasionally, to make ends meet. So it was understandable.

Where the garage used to be was an enormous cylindrical object with a mirror finish. It was, I estimated, at least fifty yards high. I know this because in high school I'd nearly run myself to death while competing in the fifty yard dash. Ever since then, "fifty yards" had been my baseline measurement whenever estimating anything of significant size. So it was at least that tall. I'd never seen anything like it.

I yawned, despite my lack of anything approaching boredom, at this point. It was just that Angela's mommy had kept me up quite late, had seemed determined to consummate our nascent relationship in as many different ways as possible, including one in particular that honestly had never occurred to me, and that I frankly didn't find particularly enjoyable, at least at first.

I knew that the large, shiny cylinder was exactly where the garage should be, because that was where I had parked my Toyota the night before. Angela's mommy had told me that street parking was impossible, to go ahead and park in the garage, next to her Honda. Her name was Patricia. She was a big woman, with bright eyes and large eyeteeth that made her look like a vampire when she laughed, which was often, and easy to bring about. We'd met at a traffic signal.

"Make it stop," Angela said, giving my hand a tug. Angela was, I estimated, seven years old, and was easily the most beautiful child I'd seen in my entire life. We'd met the night before, in the hallway outside the bathroom.

"Please." Angela added, remembering her manners.

Stop what, I thought, and then I heard it. A hiss of static, white noise with a high-pitched hum accompanying it. Not especially aggravating, to my dulled, middle-aged ears (I hadn't even noticed it, at first), but I could imagine a child might find it quite irritating.

"Wait... Was this here, before?" I asked, trying to prioritize. I could have been mistaken. After all, I had been in a bit of a hurry, knowing what was in store for me once I got inside the house. Patricia hadn't minced words. We'd flirted, I'd made her laugh, and she'd invited me home, just like that. When I'd found my way from the garage to the rear sliding glass doors, Patricia had greeted me naked. She didn't mention having a daughter, but why would she?

"Well, it wasn't here before, necessarily," Angela answered, having given it some thought.

"What? Wait, how...?" I looked around, increasingly alarmed. Angela squeezed my hand, brought me back.

"I mean yes, it was here. But so was the garage," she explained, then finished with a sad, amused gesture that acknowledged the uselessness of the statement. She shrugged, and absently pulled a leg up, behind her, an astonishing dancer's stretch.

"Where's the garage, then?" I asked, and looked around some more, hoping I'd find it. There's the patio, there's the sliding glass doors... Yes, it was right here last night, I was sure of it now.

"You're absolutely right," Angela assured me. By the time I could turn to give her a puzzled look, we were airborne.

It was chilly, even though it was still summer. I was wearing nothing more than my boxers, mind you, so the crisp morning air gave me goosebumps. My eyes were locked onto Angela's, and I hadn't noticed the ground dropping away until it already had. There was a breeze, higher up, and then it was still again. Warmer, when we were exposed to the early morning sun. I could feel it heating my skin.

Angela's face lit up, and she wiggled my hand. "You did it!" she whispered, and seemed quite pleased.

I wondered what she meant: Achieved loft? Or, stopped the noise? For it had indeed stopped. I shrugged, modest. I knew I hadn't done anything, really, but I'd learned long ago to never reject appreciation of any kind. I knew it was tough to come by. I turned and marveled at our fat, circus-mirror reflections on the curved surface of the gigantic cylinder. Angela and I, holding hands, against a backdrop of hazy morning sky.

Angela caught my eye, in the reflection, and I felt a surge of elation, suddenly wished that I was Angela's daddy, imagined a life together with the two of them, Patricia and Angela, a happy little family in a future no less likely than any other I'd imagined for myself, and decided that this was the future I wanted, over any other.

"She's not my mommy," Angela said. Or didn't say, exactly, but let me know, somehow.

"Oh. I'd just assumed," I replied aloud, and remembered finding the rear sliding glass doors open, last night, after Angela and I had met, outside the bathroom. I'd apologized for waking her, but Angela had assured me that I hadn't, that there was nothing to apologize for. "Not ever," she'd added, which stuck with me. Afterward, I'd closed the patio doors, and gone back to bed. Patricia woke when I returned, and started in again. It'd been quite a while, she explained, and I tried to keep things quiet, for Angela's sake.

Angela smiled and squeezed my hand, and suddenly I was quite curious about, well, pretty much everything.

And just as suddenly, I understood that there was a homeless man who had wandered into the alleyway behind Patricia's house, that he had taken advantage of the fact that Patricia didn't always close her garage door, or lock her Honda, and had taken shelter in her car.

I saw, too, that the man was Angela's father.

"But you told me last night that your daddy wasn't here, anymore," I said.

"He isn't," Angela replied, and we descended.

And I knew what Angela meant, that her father was from somewhere very far away, had somehow been stranded here. Angela had finally been able to come, to rescue him, because someone or something had suddenly made it possible. There was a chemical compound, something her father had been unable to replicate using earthly ingredients, but he'd finally found it, thanks to Patricia. There were traces of what he needed on the steering wheel of Patricia's Honda, and that was enough.

When I had arrived, last night, and pressed into Patricia's smooth, welcoming flesh, I'd asked her what that amazing scent was, coming from her. There was something extraordinary about it, difficult to describe. She'd laughed, embarrassed, and told me about a "tub of goop" they had, at the airport, how she'd accidentally lost a bracelet in it. It was an old family heirloom, Patricia said, and she'd been forced to dig for it, immersing her arms to the elbows to retrieve it. She'd washed immediately, and showered since, but no amount of scrubbing seemed to entirely eliminate it.

"No, I like it," I'd assured her.

"I know," She'd whispered, between kisses, while walking me to her bedroom. "Everybody does."

For a large woman, Patricia was extremely flexible. And those eyes, and those great big eyeteeth. I was suddenly quite positive that I loved Patricia, profoundly and completely.

And just then, I noticed that Angela was gone.

I was standing once again, near the garage. I opened the side door and checked inside. There was Patricia's Honda, and my Toyota. Just as I'd left them.

"What are you doing out there, silly?" asked Patricia, from the sliding glass doors.

I turned and there she was, big, naked and smiling.

"Marry me," I demanded.

Patricia laughed, then hugged herself against the chill. "Well maybe I will, cutie, maybe I will. Get back in here, I have to get ready for work. C'mon!"

I hurried back inside, and held her close.

"Mm, you're warm!" Patricia murmured, pressing my skin with her cool little hands. "How'd you get so warm?"

She huddled against me, and we continued right where we'd left off a few hours ago, only now right there on the carpet, next to her sliding glass doors.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Deadline Announcement and An Additional Prize

As always, the original call for submissions is listed here. We will be updating it soon with all of the clarifications that have come out of the comments and our additions to the prizes.

Speaking of changes, the first thing we would like to announce is that we now have a deadline. After consulting with all of the editors, we have decided to set October 31 as the deadline for all submissions to be in.

And thanks go to Pete of PeteLit, who has contributed a prize to the round-up! Thanks to Pete, the author of the top story will also receive a hardbound copy of Wade Rubenstein's debut novel, Gullboy.

Stories have started coming in - so it's time to get writing! More news as it arrives...

The original call for submissions can be found here.

We're adding a few prizes to the bin - nothing too big, but it's a start. And we hope we'll have more of these announcements as we go!

In addition to the previously-mentioned prizes,

  • The authors of the top 10 stories will receive a free autographed copy of C. Glen Williams' CD, "Post-Millennial Heebie-Jeebies."
  • The author of the top story will also receive an autographed, hardbound copy of C. Glen Williams' award-winning play, The Mouser's Tales.

As I said, we hope we'll have more of these announcements soon. We're always looking for more to throw into the bin o' prizes.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Call For Submissions

Note: The call for submissions has been updated with additional prizes, some clarifications, and the announcement of our deadline.

By now we've all heard the reports. And we've seen the pictures. The FAA is concerned that passengers may try to smuggle liquid and gel components onto airplanes disguised as drinks, toothpaste, or other personal items and then mix them to produce deadly explosives. So what do they do with these potentially disastrous items? Why, dump them all together into plastic waste bins in the middle of the airport, of course! What could possibly go wrong?

Why don't you tell us?

It Came From Airport Security is an upcoming anthology of short stories, and we need your submissions! How can you participate?

  • Write a story of no more than 4,000 words in any genre on the subject of what happens when someone (or something) is exposed to the substances mixed in an airport security waste bin.
  • License your story under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license. (This blog and the resulting anthology will be licensed the same)
  • Prepare the story for electronic submission (ASCII Text, RTF, and DOC files are fine, no PDF files, please).
  • Pay the $5 token entry fee using the link in the sidebar.
  • Submit your story! Note that when you pay your fee, you will be asked to provide the author's name and the title of the story. A submission must match an entry fee to be accepted.
  • Submissions must be received by October 31. Other important dates to be announced. Start writing and submitting now!

Of course, there will be prizes!

  • All submissions will be considered for publication on the blog (with a link to the author's webpage, of course!).
  • The top 10 stories will be included in the anthology in addition to being published on the blog.
  • Authors of stories selected for the anthology will receive a free contributor's copy and a significant discount on up to 20 additional copies.
  • The authors of the top 10 stories will also receive an autographed copy of C. Glen William's CD, Post-Millennial Heebie-Jeebies.
  • The author of the top story will receive an autographed, hardbound copy of C. Glen Williams' award-winning play, The Mouser's Tales.
  • The author of the top story will also receive a hardbound copy of Wade Rubenstein's debut novel, Gullboy (courtesy of Pete).
  • The author of the story selected as our grand prize winner will also receive a $10 gift certificate to be used toward the purchase of any liquid or gel products you want (Or, really, anything you want - we're not going to police that).
  • Any old thing we come across to throw into the bin.

All the usual legal hoopla applies. Namely: All submissions must be the original work of persons who submit them, all submissions must be previously unpublished (publication to your own blog is all right, as long as the work is licensed as stated above), all judges' decision are final, contest is open to English-language international entries, and the editors reserve the right not to publish any submission.