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DEST 2640 by Michael Dunn


In Gloria

By Lucas Robins


Yellow notes clung to nearly every crevice and edge of Fischer’s cubicle. His entire situation mimicked the grey, rippled fabric that was stretched and nailed to the corners of his fragile prison. He did not feel that he was wasting his life as an accountant, the tedium too much to take for many, but, to that point, he did not feel much of anything except the comfort of order and the knowledge that he would receive a check on Friday.

Fischer sat staring at the glowing computer screen, reading his one-hundredth company e-mail, when the familiar face of his office manager appeared near the opening of his private space. There was falseness to the appearance that he saw. One of politeness and enthusiasm. Utter bullshit.

The next few minutes wore by, as Fischer watched the world becoming blurry surrounding the face of this master puppeteer. His words were obvious but not fully heard; the falsely calm and relentless manager spewing words onto his starch-pressed shirt. Fischer was silent, even after he was in his car and moving. His world had completely upturned in the matter of minutes.

He continued toward his home, eventually parking on the street in front. The covered spaces he left for the others in his building. He was too polite. He sat frozen in his seat, the reaction of his body not letting him out of the vehicle. Minutes passed before he decided to turn on the engine and slip the column into drive.

It was three days before he decided to sleep anywhere but the backseat. Across the street from where he decided to park his car, Fischer noticed a store named Exodus. It was perfect.

A woman named Gloria owned the comic-book store. The maiden who toiled behind rows of glass display cases and tables of cardboard boxes had a way of luring one into conversation like a care-free spider testing the adequacy of its web, waiting for a dinner that could be savored at her convenience. When she spoke, her words came with the conviction of a sermon and the tempo of a gunshot, the quick powder-fueled quirks reverberating in the minds of those that she encountered.  Fischer was attracted.

The tepid walls of her bedroom reflected the pain that must have flowed through her thoughts, their manifestation the frantic and numerous speeches that escaped her body in waves. Fischer sat on the edge of her bed, while Gloria sat cross-legged on the floor, her green sundress barely covering her fragile body, staring with a slight tilt of her head that came along with the profound garbage that she spouted.

A mirror sat on her lap. Delicate ridges of powder had been disappearing over the course of the last five hours.

“I had a pretty interesting dream last night,” she said. Fischer didn’t know if he was interested in her dreams at the moment, but sat quiet and unresponsive.

“I was trapped in a flooding basement. Well, the basement had an exit, but I was bound to a large stone slab by a chain that crossed my chest. I had enough length to move around, but I just couldn’t get up the damn stairs.” She paused for a second, possibly for some sort of dramatic effect.


“I was instantly transported to the streets of some nameless metropolitan area. You know how dreams have a way of jumping around suddenly, but I was still lugging around that stone. What do you think that means?” she asked.

“Probably has something to do with your job,” Fischer said. He had no idea what it meant.

“There’s nothing wrong with what I do. I enjoy it. Plus, I basically make money from other’s neuroses and addictions. I’m like a prostitute, only much cleaner. Not like Julia Roberts, that turncoat,” she said. “Regardless, you probably have more issues with your own line of work. That’s why you said it.”

Fischer thought about the last week and the eventful ending to his job, the drive that sent him across the few states he had traveled so far.

“It took three days to drive across Kansas. Or maybe it was more like six hours. It’s difficult to tell. That drive never ends.” Fischer stared at the woman for a moment then added, “It has to be all the corn.”

Gloria laughed. Fischer could feel the sound of her voice resonate through his body. He thought about the laugh he heard from the Gloria he knew as a stranger when he had entered her store the day before. This one was different. This must be what familiarity brought.

“So there I am,” Gloria said, breaking Fischer’s focus, “walking through these deserted streets, with debris rolling around in the wind like tumbleweeds, when I look into a pet store window. But there are no animals, just naked humans in cages – all kinds. Some are bloody from amputated limbs, and I’m still only worried about this chained-to-a-stone predicament.”

“That’s the natural way to feel in that position,” Fischer said. “It’s normal to be selfish when the world is ending.”

Fischer watched as Gloria slowly manipulated her body into a standing position, only to set beside him on the bed. He hadn’t noticed before how pale her skin looked beneath her green dress, like pure white eggshells lying in grass. He thought that if he grabbed her, she might break. His chest was beginning to feel tight, while everything was framed in a slight softness; his mind was fluid with the objects in Gloria’s room. He knew her.

“Well, I wasn’t just selfish, I was trapped. I marched on toward something. Not knowing what it was. Just continued to walk with those forsaken chains on my body until I found the opening to a large cathedral-style building. It was similar to St. Peter’s in some ways, only more open,” she said, gesturing with her hands. “There were endless rows of pews that sat before an epically-sized movie screen.”

“That sounds like it would be one hell of a theatre,” Fischer said.

“That’s what I thought,” she replied. “Only there was no movie playing, but still these people were setting in silence, gazing toward the screen, presumably waiting for something to happen.”

Fischer found himself staring into Gloria’s eyes. They were dark. Her pupils overwhelmed them, making them seem brighter despite the shadowy hue. He barely noticed her placing a hand on his thigh.

“So is that where it ended?” Fischer asked.

“No,” she said, “I stood in the doorway to this place, letting the scene sink in, when the screen erupted into a beautiful shower of flowing red ribbons. There was a loud voice speaking over the mumbling crowd. I couldn’t make out anything that it said, but I bet that it was important.”

Fischer began to touch Gloria’s arm. She felt cold. The skin was not as fragile as Fischer had believed it would be, and he allowed his hand to linger.

“Are you positive that you couldn’t understand anything that the voice was saying?” Fischer asked. “Wouldn’t it be better if there was some definite answer to everything?”

“It’s a dream, Fischer.” Gloria leaned in to gaze more intently and added, “It doesn’t have to make sense.”

Fischer began a rapid introspection as Gloria began to kiss the nape of his neck. He thought about the events that led him here, and the reason he was in this woman’s bedroom. He decided that it didn’t need much of an explanation. On a shelf, there was a figurine that looked to be made of wax. The bizarre statue had limbs that were formed in a way that looked as if its maker had drawn inspiration from something completely outside the realm of normalcy.

Fischer let the thoughts slip away slowly from his stream of consciousness. He knew better than to interrupt this moment. For once, he would allow things to happen to him, rather than designing the events that occurred around him, micro-managing his life. He could just be here, the answer to the correctness of his decision pending.

Fischer slept until the afternoon, waking up alone. He walked downstairs, locking the door behind him, as the note left by Gloria had instructed. He made the journey through the hallway that led directly into the store.  

Gloria leaned onto a countertop, her hip jutting out in an attractive and intensely feminine pose. Fischer walked directly to her, drawn by the thoughts of the night before.

“Thank you,” Fischer said, wishing for more eloquent words.

“You don’t have to leave, of course,” Gloria replied, “People start lives in places all of the time…What do you think you are going to do when you reach wherever it is that you’re going?”

“Probably stop,” Fischer said, turning toward the store’s exit.

The familiarity of the driver’s seat was welcomed, although the wrapped leather of the steering wheel felt slightly different under his hands. His body was sore and his mind was numb - the perfect condition from which to recover.

Fischer started the car, and made his way onto the interstate, not thinking about anything, but watching the gas gauge slowly deplete as the night began to fall. This was his indication to maintain all the functions necessary for life. He would only stop to eat, sleep, drink when it was imperative to add fuel to his vehicle as well. Thoughts of returning to Exodus would not leave his mind.

Fischer would know when it was time to stop, but for the most part, not thinking about things was quickly reaching the top of his to-do list.


Lucas Robins is a creative writing student at Southeast Missouri State University. He was previously published for flash fiction and draws inspiration from his frequent commune with nature.

Inertia by Austin Peters



By Grace Curtis


As Em lay in bed trying to wake up, she found herself recalling the noisy banter between her mother and sister. Neither possessed the ability to communicate telepathically as she did. They were speakers. She thought about the rise in volume as each hurried to make a point, sometimes talking even before the other had finished. She remembered the quick repartee and the way the words heightened and released in a burst of emotion as they spoke. 


She hadn’t joined in. On the rare occasions when she tried, her words didn’t match what she wanted to express. Instead, she found herself…what? Listening? No, it was more like absorbing it. Their high-spirited squabbles would come and go, and the three of them would be off shopping as if it had never happened. This morning, she realized, she missed the garbled sound of their voices in her ears. She missed them.


Em and Sebastian had had their own quiet quarrel last night. In fact, they had been having the same discussion for some time. Em thought about how different were their quiet thoughts from her family’s noisy conversations. As she replayed the argument in her head, she wondered if the internal nature of telepathic communication played on her predilection to ruminate. She struggled to contain it. Did explosive vocal displays serve as a therapeutic release mechanism that was unavailable to her and Seba? 


In this argument, and in others that had come before recently, Seba had expressed a desire to engage more verbally with their speaking friends. Em did not share this desire. On the few occasions they went out with speaking friends to a party or to a restaurant, she was content to listen to their words. Occasionally she tried to join in by sending them her thoughts on a subject, but they usually missed it. When she was able to enter their minds with input, they misunderstood her point, not recognizing its source, or they took credit for her idea. Em was more comfortable with other telemuters. Seba had expressed the fear that they were becoming isolated. He told her it was important to continue to be able to vocalize ideas in order to…how had he put it?  {Stay relevant, engaged.}


Both Em and Seba were part of a small but growing segment of the population called intra-telemuters, meaning they communicated almost exclusively telepathically.  They rarely vocalized and this had been at the center of their ongoing disagreement.


{We are too isolated. I want to talk also. I want our children to be able to talk,} Sebastian had thought to Em.


{But the world is moving in our direction. We are the future.} Em replied.  She couldn’t understand why Seba did not see that.


Em’s worried that they would grow apart if they started to speak to others more. And, she was afraid she couldn’t learn to speak because it has been so long since she had seriously tried. Even though her brain continued to create complex thought it had stopped sending commands to her mouth, her tongue, her lungs, to create word sound. At home alone, she would sometimes look in the mirror and try to say a word, but it made her feel silly even though no one but the cat was listening.


And, there was the issue of children. For the past year, Seba had been talking about starting a family. Em had resisted, saying she didn’t feel ready. Em worried that this was at the heart of Seba’s frustration. She wondered if he was manifesting his discontent about her foot-dragging on the matter in his recent insistence that they learn to speak aloud. Was he pulling away from her? She suspected that Seba was vocalizing more at work and Em felt threatened by the thought.


Despite a truce, they fell asleep with the issue once again unresolved. That morning Seba had left for work with barely a good-bye thought.


{He’s in a huff,} Em mused to the cat.


The fact was, there was a high probability that Em and Sebastian’s children would not be able to speak. Em and Sebastian were both products of genetic changes set into motion during the Information Age that started in the late 20th Century. The field of predictive and preventative medicine exploded just a few decades following the first successes at sequencing the complete human genome in the year 2000. Once the genome sequence was fully decoded, along with the concomitant understanding of how genes work, the world was changed forever. What started as early efforts to combat cancer, as well as, cardiac and autoimmune diseases, quickly led to further toying with genetic structure, or to G-tuning, as it became commonly known. G-tuning for every genetically-based human malady began on a large scale by 2020. Even when it was used appropriately, G-tuning created a variety of unexpected—and now evolving—characteristics causing many to dub G-tuning, the Pandora’s Box of medicine.


Telepathic communication was just one of the paths down which scientists had inadvertently taken humans. Other paths led to equally new and unusual traits. There was a small strain of people that could stay under water for long periods of time, or individuals that possessed exceptional computational ability. By 2025, many humans possessed super-organs that out-performed—and out-lived—their unmodified counterparts.   


From the first efforts to genetically alter humans, demand was high. Couples lined up to custom order their children hoping not only to remediate potential genetic problems but also to place orders for specialty traits as if making a purchase for a new home or family car. Often decisions were made on a whim, something many came to regret. In the early days, it was difficult to predict just how far or how significant the restructuring would be in any given case. More importantly, genetic tuning affected not only the fetus but also its off-spring.


By 2035, even as human frailty was fading, the world was in unprecedented ethical turmoil over the practice of G-tuning. Indeed, many individuals were saved by bio-technology, while others began to exhibit freakish attributes. There was even a segment that ordered up physical characteristics that mimicked vestigial apparitions from billions of years ago—gills, elongated sacrum, webbed fingers and toes. Such traits were sought after much like tattooing had been at the turn of the century.


Telepathic communication resulted from genetic tuning employed  to correct what was thought of mental or intellectual learning disabilities in which, among a variety of other problems, individuals had trouble expressing themselves vocally. In most cases, these individuals had rich and highly evolved interior lives. A mere century earlier, they had been sequestered into special hospitals and group homes. By the end of the 20th Century attempts were being made to mainstream them. At the same time, the number of cases was increasing at an unprecedented rate. The torch to correct these types of problems using G-tuning was the first to be lit following successful efforts to repair problems involving the heart, kidneys, or pancreas.


Genetic tuning to fix problems of the brain represented the greatest frontier for the scientific community since it was an area about which they knew little. Serious errors were made early on. In just one or two generations, individuals who were born to those treated with genetic tuning to fix learning disabilities, not only spoke aloud, but they also began to share thoughts with other likewise affected individuals using thought transference. It was as if G-tuning had opened blocked sensory channels allowing electrical impulses from one individual to cross directly to receptors in other similarly affected individuals.


Throughout the 30s and 40s, telemuters, as they were called, quickly pushed the depth and breadth to which they were able to engage in thought transmission with one another. The irony was that the G-tuning employed to enable non-speakers to communicate audibly also enabled them to communicate inaudibly with one another. And, many found inaudible communication more satisfying and efficient.


Em’s father had been one of the original telemuters. Fetal genetic testing had labeled him a candidate for G-tuning. Now he was only able to communicate simple thoughts telepathically because the only time he communicated in this way was when he was with Em and Sebastian. Em’s parents had known that she too would possess this trait. They opted as more progressive parents did, to forgo additional G-tuning. Even before she was born, they agreed that they would do everything they could to ensure their daughter’s life would be as normal as possible. 


As a child, Em made attempts to speak aloud, although she found it difficult. By the age of twelve, she no longer tried. She engaged in activities such as reading, listening to music, or communing with nature that did not require her to communicate with speakers.


Em met Sebastian in high school. Like Em, he was a second generation telemuter. They fell in love, attended college together, and got married in 2063. Because of their exceptional intellectual capabilities, their stellar academic performances, and because they were telemuters, both had easily obtained life-work in prestigious bio-development firms. In many ways, their life together seemed perfect. At least Em thought so until a few weeks ago when Seba had begun to communicate his wish to speak aloud.


That morning, Em made a decision. She would learn to talk for Seba. She would push past her fears. She didn’t know where the path would lead but she knew it was important to Sebastian. Em felt more peaceful than she had in weeks.


Over lunch that day, Em asked her friend, JJ to help her learn to speak. JJ was also a telemuter, though she was equally fluent in both thought transference and vocal speech. In fact, Em suspected JJ used her to hone her telemuting skills, but Em didn’t mind. She liked having someone to commune with. 


JJ picked up a fork, handed it to Em, and slowly said the word fork emphasizing her mouth movements. “Now, you try it.”


Em looked at JJ’s lips. She tried to recreate how her friend’s upper teeth pressed against her slightly extended lower lip as she formed an f. And, she pushed air through her slightly opened mouth just as JJ had done to finish the word with a k. Even Em knew she sounded ridiculous. They both laughed.


Em worried that she would never be able to create a complete thought aloud even though JJ was relentless in her tutoring. In just a few weeks, though still sounding awkward, words seemed a little easier for Em to form. She continued to practice reading aloud words JJ wrote on napkins. JJ began to string two words together. Em struggled to finish one word, create a vocal break, and then to begin the next.


Em and Seba’s third wedding anniversary was just a few weeks away and Em was determined to surprise her husband with a complete sentence.


On the day of their anniversary, Sebastian sent Em flowers at work. She felt reassured by the gesture and realized she had been silly to worry. At dinner in a restaurant that night, he gave her a necklace. It was a silver circle that on one side he had had engraved,  “Now and Forever,” and on the other, “I love you.” Seba expressed to Em how much he loved her, and how sorry he was about his recent nagging on the subject of vocal language.


When they got home, he continued sending her thoughts on the matter, as if needing to get them off his chest. Em held an index finger to her forehead, a sign indicating she wanted him to stop transmitting. She kissed him. Then, she spoke aloud in a halting, awkward voice, “Let’s … just… make… a… baby.”





Grace Curtis’ chapbook, The Surly Bonds of Earth was selected as the 2010 winner of the Lettre Sauvage chapbook contest. Grace’s work has appeared in such journals as The Chaffin Journal, Baltimore Review, Waccamaw Literary Journal, Scythe, Reprint Poetry, Phoebe Journal and others. Her blog is



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