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  • Azazel AnonymousBy Aidan Forster
    We began each meeting with a hyacinth, to deny the Hole its hold on our lives. Our trusted servant, Father Brown, distributed flowers and heirloom glasses of cool water. We dipped our hyacinths, blush-quick and simple, and removed them, even simpler. Another dip, and another, and the dormant lacquer of a different, frightening flower cast itself over the stem we thought we knew. The third dip was the worst, no matter how many sessions we’d attended. Billy the Medicare salesman always shook so hard small droplets of water skirted from his wrist. But Father Brown’s voice reassured us that the hyacinth we held and the hyacinth in the water were one and the same, and he removed his flower and flourished its formal singularity, and we all relaxed. The water, although not the Hole exactly, could mimic the Hole’s obliterative properties. In the Hole, the flower became other-flower, its petals the very petals of its prior aspect’s doom. Every Wednesday night, we pour gallon-jugs of Dasani into somebody’s aunt’s filigreed pitcher and make the Hole. Here, we make and unmake the Hole, Father Brown tells us, quoting from Azazel Anonymous’ Big Book. When Father Brown asks us why, we recite the answer in unison: to remind ourselves of our relationship to ourselves. * * * I knew things had gone too far when I walked into Henry’s Blue Ribbon Barbeque to interview for the studly sign-twirler position and realized I’d fucked the other candidates. If my porcine caricature of an interviewer, in what I imagined to be a rare moment of Polo-clad whimsy, asked me to describe the exact dimensions of each of their cocks—whose balls swayed like candied pinecones when we kissed, which mushroom heads were safe to eat and which would send you to the Minute Clinic, who licked the gossamer-pale webbing of skin between my index and middle toes until I came on his 2018 Clemson Sugar Bowl blanket—I could. Idling in the blue-tiled lobby, we eyed each other the way packs of large cats eye dummies…
  • SurvivalBy Corley Miller
    Eileen didn’t expect to enjoy the bunker, even when she heard she’d been selected as staff. She imagined crates of canned food piled at foot-thick doors, stalactites over itching bunks, corridors reeking of mildew. And Nico hadn’t even applied, so—what did love weigh? This was on the second day, when the fever was still confined to Indonesia. When she arrived: a bright octagon hollowed from a New Zealand hillside. Solar-powered touchscreens and, even on the staff floor, a jacuzzi. Bedrooms the size of the apartment to which she’d clung through four years as a surgical resident in Williamsburg. Carpets and paintings in the corridors, and a minor van Gogh outside her room. A park, even. Seven square and pathless miles of stern Matai pines and slim Kahikatea under a translucent dome. Ventilated, somehow. When it was built, in the eight hours of attention Twitter paid to the lifestyle-mag feature—Charles Peal’s Post-Everything Paradise—Eileen had tweeted ice-hearted private equity ghouls eating the heart of our society so they can survive the collapse they’re creating.   Now each dawn she walks to a meadow in the park’s northeast corner, where clover and cranesbill strive up to be drenched in sun. On the east verge there’s a nest of hawks. She found it on the second day, after dinner. A tall, red-breasted bird returning to a bleached treetop. The mate proud on a basket of sticks: black-winged aristocrats. Hooked beaks scorning the Zealand spring. In her purple notebook she drew one. It came out a lump.  Plenty of time to learn. From the stiff bird book in the maroon library, she named them: swamp harriers.  Today she can’t find the nest. Crossing the meadow leaves an apron of dew on her pants. At the tree’s base she finds a strange debris: the nest, fallen from somewhere, filled by a squirming fledgling. It’s featherless. Not quite a bird yet. It wobbles. Works an unsharp jaw. A hot poker of love is quenched in Eileen’s heart. Birds are viral vectors, was the last thing…