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“In shadows deep and light’s embrace,” sang Cassandra. “We forge a bond, a sacred space,” sang Tom. “With every heart and spirit true,” sang Phil. “Our magic makes the world — fuck me!” spat Lys, ducking as a collie-sized spider leapt at her face. Tom took a quick step and smashed the arachnid with his baseball bat. “Should we retreat?” Phil suggested. “Considering there are about a hundred more of these little buggers, and, you know, that.” He pointed at the eighty-foot tall monstrosity down in the valley, the other-dimensional spider titan Urglash, from whose belly the smaller spiders were dropping like a wave of paratroopers. Fortunately Urglash was too occupied with spitting acid at the U.S. Army’s tanks and helicopters to pay attention to four puny humans. On the other hand, her spiderlings alone seemed more than capable of turning them into human juice boxes. “We don’t need to retreat, we just need to say the rhyme!” said Cassandra. “Try again!” “Okay, on three. One. Two. In shadows deep— ” “In shadows deep— ” Tom came in, a moment late. “No, on three. One. Two. In shadows deep— ” “Sorry, I thought it was like, one, two, three, then go.” “No, that’s why I said ‘on three.’” “It’s just usually like, one, two, three, mark. Like, you start on ‘mark.’” “I didn’t say ‘on my mark.’ I said ‘on three.’” “Can we just — curse it!” Cassandra said, doing as indicated, using her Arcanthalian magic to curse several spiderlings scuttling toward them. The arachnids slowed, frost and ice appearing on their joints. “Speak the rhyme and summon the Avatar!” “Right! On three! One! Two! In shadows deep and light’s embrace— ” “We forge a bond, a sacred place— ” “With every heart and spirit true— ” “Stop!” Cassandra said, clearly irritated. “It’s ‘sacred space,’ not ‘sacred place.’ We practiced this!” “My bad,” Lys said. “Though it seems like kind of the same thing? I mean, space is the place, right?” “We need to say the rhyme exactly, in unison, with our hearts and minds as one.” “Okay, no problem. Although it’s not exactly Shakespeare, is it?” Cassandra glared. “In Arcanthal, every child knows it.” “So it’s like a kid’s song?” “It was written by the mage Isolde Astralweft seven centuries ago, to ward against the Unraveling!” “Guess being a great mage doesn’t necessarily make you a great poet.” “We need to reconsider our position here!” yelled Phil, swinging wildly with his morningstar at more spiderlings. Fortunately the spiky ball was enchanted to always find its mark, or he would definitely have domed himself. “I’m running for that building!” With no further consultation, that’s exactly what he did. Assessing the situation and coming to broad agreement with a glance, the other three turned tail and followed. The building was a public bathroom for the state park. Its high windows were paneless, but it still felt better than being outside. At least they could see where the spiders would come in. “Okay! Now!” urged Cassandra. “Hold hands, that usually helps.” “Right!” And together they went again, ending triumphantly with “Our magic makes the world anew!” An expectant pause followed, in which their eyes flicked toward the ceiling, the walls, waiting for a dragon of blue fire to burst from a glowing circle of runes. “Did we do it?” Lys asked. “Is it outside?” “I’ll check,” Tom volunteered, and cracked open the door long enough for a peek. “No dragon.” “What’s the deal? Do we need to be outdoors?” “It doesn’t matter where we are,” Cassandra said. “We just need to be of one heart and mind.” “Ah. So …” Cassandra sighed in exasperation. “So we’re not.” “My heart and mind were a hundred percent into avatar summoning. What were you guys thinking about?” Phil shrugged apologetically. “Honestly? Probably the smell in here. Like, obviously there’s urine, and soap, but then there’s this other smell, like rotting banana or something. Yuck.” “Yeah, I smell it too. But can you maybe forget about it and concentrate for thirty fucking seconds on saving the world?” “Easier said than done. And now it’s going to be harder than ever. You’re basically telling me not to think about a pink elephant.” 5

“Phil, I swear to God, if the world ends because you can’t stop thinking about whatever’s in that trash can, I’m going to fucking kill you.” “Hey, hey,” Tom tried to intervene. “Aggression isn’t going to help. Look, I have an idea.” “Can’t wait.” “When we were first picked as summoners, it was a pretty exciting time. You and me and Phil got pulled into Arcanthal, and we were busy fighting the Naga King, there was a lot of fire and blood and lightning and whatnot. So it was like, do or die. And we did. “Then suddenly, we’re back in LA, and that was less than fortyeight hours ago. Point is, we haven’t really had time to get to know each other. To bond. And we don’t have a lot of time, so we need a way to bond quickly. Right?” Lys’ eyes narrowed. “You want us to do trust falls or something?” “Well, in my experience, the strongest bonds are physical. You know? You have to feel someone. Really see them, hear them, smell them, taste them. It’s the natural way.” Lys scoffed, incredulous. “Are you suggesting we all fuck? It’s the end of the world and you want to have an orgy?” “I wouldn’t put it in those— ” “Disgusting,” said Cassandra. “If you think about it, what better time than the end of the world?” put in Phil. “Fucking frat boys. Did you two talk about this beforehand?” Phil shook his head in half-hearted denial. “Come on Cass, let’s get out of here.” Lys headed toward the door, but Cassandra hesitated. Seeing this, Lys’ mouth fell open. “You cannot be considering this.” “It might work. I mean, would you rather have sex with these two dimwits— ” “Thanks,” muttered Tom. “ —or have your insides sucked out by spiders?” “Spiders, easily.” And to prove she meant it, she went back outside, door banging shut behind her. The three remaining exchanged glances. “Maybe we could still summon the Avatar with three people?” Tom said hopefully. The bathroom door swung open again to admit Lys’ head. “Hey jerkoffs, come outside. It’s all over.” Tom sighed. Urglash was now a collapsed mess oozing goo onto the red dirt. The spiderlings had dispersed or been shot by the many troops closing in on the area. “But how?” Cassandra asked, baffled. “Only the Avatar could stop Urglash!” “The Avatar and whatever missiles those helicopters were firing, I guess,” said Lys. “Makes sense,” said Phil. “I mean, it’s basically just a big spider, right?” “I’m going to find a ride downtown,” Lys said, turning toward the road. “See you all later. Or never.” “What? Just like that?” Tom cried. “What about the Avatar? What about saving the world?” “You need better fantasies.” No. 117 ART BY X-POSER

I WANT TO KILL MY CELL PHONE BY MEREDITH STISSER I want to kill my cell phone. I want to offer my cell phone to a demolition derby and watch it get whipped around and brutally crushed for twenty minutes by a green monster truck with pointy teeth painted on the doors called “La Chica Mala” before being towed out of the ring as a sweaty audience throws popcorn and half-full soda cups at it. I want to feed my cell phone to an alligator without it causing the alligator any digestive tract issues. I want to drop my cell phone into a vat of acid and pour that acid down the sink of the apartment I rent, then call my property manager and say “the drain is clogged again and I don’t know why.” I want to take my cell phone on several dates and indicate with all certainty that I’d like to get serious with it. After a month and having gotten the cell phone’s guard down, I will go radio silent. Once the cell phone politely requests more time together, I will tell it I was never looking to have a cell phone in the first place, and I think another ear is better suited for the device, also can it Venmo me for bowling? I want to cut my cell phone into cubes, then add it to a nice bowl of diced tomatoes, No. 117 mangoes, cilantro, lime, salt, pepper and a dash of cumin, bring it to a potluck dinner, and tell the host to keep the leftovers and not to worry about returning the bowl. I want to throw my cell phone as the first pitch at a Dodgers game and watch Mookie Betts swing and crush it into deep left field. I want to use my cell phone as a pigeon in a skeet shooting outing that my soon-to-be inlaws take me along on because they think I’m some city slicker who isn’t good enough for their son, but when I shout “pull” my cell phone soars into the air and I nail it like a dead-eye and it shatters to dust and all of my in-laws are instantly won over; the little sister with asthma, the green-eyed uncle who keeps kissing me on the cheek too close to my mouth, and even my fiancé’s mother who was especially skeptical of me after learning I was a vegetarian. I want to hit my cell phone with a hammer. I want to wack my cell phone in the head with a frying pan so hard because I believe it to be a home invader, then upon it crashing to the ground, realize it is not breathing and that I have just committed phoneslaughter in selfdefense. I would wrap the phone in a black tarp and drive many miles into Northeast California and dump my cell phone into Mono Lake in the dead of night. The act would haunt my conscience and I would develop a tick in which I’m always washing my hands but can’t seem to get them clean, nor ever fry an egg again. I want to stare at the black mirror of my cell phone as it clings to the edge of a cliff and sneer, “Long live the king,” before I toss it into a wildebeest stampede. I want to drop my cell phone off at the fire station in a bassinet with nothing but a note that reads “I’m Sorry” and a locket with the name “Jobs” engraved on it. I want to drop my cell phone into the mouth of a volcano in hopes of bringing peace to the land after a long, arduous quest in which I learn valuable lessons about loyalty, faith and the impermeable bonds of true friendship. I want to write a letter to my cell phone about all of its flaws and shortcomings and bad habits and instead of leaving it in a drawer, mail it Priority in an envelope full of glitter. I want to do horrible, wretched, unspeakably angry things to my cell phone. I want to kill my cell phone, because all day long, I act like I want to make love to it. SHARK19, INSUFFICIENT MEMORY


BURNING DOWN THE SOUSE BY NATE BALDING I hate to open up an article with a reference to Charles Dickens. I also hate to open up an article from a first person perspective. This one, however, will do both. Bleak House (read: Overrated) commends to literary history the minor death of a man named Krook — an incredible Dickensian play on spelling — by means of spontaneous human combustion, an event oft unspoken in spite of its many, many evidentiary occurrences. Famously there’s Mary Reeser who ashed out in 1951 leaving a skull and some slippers. Little remained of a fire but a coroner declared her burned alive. 1982: Jeannie Saffin bursts into flames in front of her parents in Edmonton. Could have been incited by embers from her father’s pipe but that seems like a stretch. In 2010, admittedly aged-man and reasonably more likely to die from something less weird — tripping off a mountain while trying to skip, again, seems likely — Michael Faherty, 76, presumably missed enough check-in calls for someone to find him in his Galway, Ireland home with a head and not much else next to a fireplace. Arson investigators came to the conclusion that his body was burned by either an insane accident or violent internal combustion. Cases go back to the late 1400s where a Milanese knight named Polonus Vorstius exploded in volcanic fire in front of his parents. It’s hard to say why he may have pressed the upward realm of emotional bursting to its meteoric eruption. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a Catholic telling his parents he might have found some reason during medieval Pride Month would turn into a blaze of homoerotic self-care. Or he might have just been kinda drunk. Spontaneous human combustion has largely been attributed to drinking the devil’s water in massive amounts. Where people have been burned to shoes and skulls — if anybody wants to make the too-well-named Shoes and Skulls a board game I will buy into your Indiegogo — they’ve had no reasonable forensic outcomes. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying to figure it out. Boozing is huge. Belief that alcoholics are the preliminary victims of going accidental human torch is prevalent but not accepted by the medical community. But wait! There’s also fat-shaming! Put on a few pounds. It probably won’t hurt. It will probably be delicious. Just don’t do it near a bunch of candles. Turns out they might start turning (trigger warning: ultra-gross) your insides into a horrible melting heat carrier. Many “experts” at one point believed the fat inside a person was getting overly greasy and that the unfortunate human was being liquefied from the tum-tum. This theory didn’t play out but it’s never been written off. As always, a weirdo theory has definitely figured it out while not being completely insane (it’s completely insane). It’s the concept of the Pyroton, a nonexistent particle that for some reason lights you on fire. Technically having them makes you an X-Man. Not like a mission X-Man but, hey, you made it kid. Graymalkin Lane. You probably have a bunch of things to say to Blob. None of the theories present so far have been able to disprove human combustion. According to everyone who investigated one, a fire has occurred without specific reason. Errant cigarettes or floating embers don’t seem to offer anything but random speculation. I’d like to believe that everyone just wanted to go out in a blaze of glory because of Jon Bon Jovi, but it turns out he mostly sucks and nearly all of the people who’ve experienced a sudden onset flame wouldn’t have liked him. Still, they’re fans of someone we enjoy and never deserved to be taken out by preternatural flames. \m/ HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PARANORMAL? SEND THEM TO: WEREWOLFRADARPOD@GMAIL.COM OR TWITTER: @WEREWOLFRADAR. IT’S A BIG, WEIRD WORLD. DON’T BE SCARED. BE PREPARED. No. 117 JACK ESTENSSORO - BEST OF BIRDY ISSUE 045


BY BRIAN POLK IF YOU DON’T TAKE THE HIGH ROAD, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO LOOK DOWN ON PEOPLE This is something my grandpappy always said. He taught all his grandchildren to be humble and deferential in the face of adversity. And if we maintained our poise even in the most harrowing trials and tribulations, it meant that we were better than most people, and we could subsequently look down on them with derision and contempt. He was a wise person. No. 117 A LARGE PART OF MY DAY CONSISTS OF ASKING THE FOLLOWING QUESTION: DID I IN FACT DO THE THING I JUST DID? This is largely due to the fact that my brain never turns off more than it is my aging memory (or so I like to think). And as such, my short-term sense of recall isn’t great because there are thoughts in my head that I need to think. For example, as I was closing the garage door the other day, I was thinking about how I haven’t told my little brother about this band called Gottlieb yet, and I should really get on that. Then when I MANTIS - GAME OF DEATH (1978)

was two blocks from my house, a deep sense of panic overcame me as I realized the garage door that I had just closed might in fact still be open. Astute readers will notice this wasn’t because of a poor memory, but because I reminded myself of a very important thing I needed to tell my brother as I was doing another task — and brains don’t like to concentrate on multiple things at the same time. Of course, I’ve long suspected that people who have good memories can turn off the everyday torrent of thoughts and focus single-mindedly on specific tasks and/or facts. And therefore their ability to recollect information isn’t based on innate brain chemistry, but rather on the skill of turning down their inner monologue so the details don’t get lost in the din of consciousness. I’ve never figured out how to do that — and frankly, I’m not sure if I want to. Overthinking every aspect of life with a clamorous internal monologue is kind of my thing. WHEN I TELL YOU I HAVEN’T HEARD A SINGLE TAYLOR SWIFT SONG, COULD YOU PLEASE NOT GET ALL INCREDULOUS AND PLAY ONE FOR ME? I’M DELIBERATELY TRYING TO AVOID THESE THINGS The same goes for Beyoncé, Kanye West and Oasis. Listen, there’s not a lot I enjoy about popular culture, and it’s fine. I’m doing okay and my life still has meaning. I’m almost positive you’ve never heard of Nomeansno or Alice Donut, but I’m not going to say, “No way! You’ve never heard of them? I don’t believe it. Come here and listen to this.” Because I’m sure you’re doing okay and your life still has meaning. Here’s the deal: I’m not asking for much. I just want a little understanding in this particular area of life. So for the love of God, please don’t make me watch any more Taylor Swift videos. I simply do not like them. I WAS OFF TO A PROMISING START ON THIS CROSSWORD PUZZLE, BUT THEN IT ALL WENT TO SHIT When I first started solving this puzzle, it was a breeze. I filled in all the clues in the upper left corner in record time. But as I moved throughout the rest of the crossword, I began to get discouraged. By the time I made it to the bottom right corner, I had only solved an additional two clues and was all but demoralized. After that, I did what any normal person would do in this situation, and I chucked it in the recycling bin and pretended it never made me feel so dumb. ALRIGHT EVERYONE, WE’RE SHORT-STAFFED TODAY, SO WE’RE GOING TO NEED YOU ALL TO GIVE IT 11O% — EXCEPT OF COURSE FOR YOU CARL. WE’D BE BOTH GRATEFUL AND AMAZED IF YOU COULD BRING IT UP TO 6O% We all know how committed Carl is to not working hard. And we know he has to take a break every 27 minutes or so. So while the rest of us really need to give it our all and then some, if Carl could bring it up to slightly over half, then we’d really have something here. SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION TIME I am releasing a new book entitled, A Lifetime Of Ephemera: 25 Years In Punk Told Through Ticket Stubs, Flyers, & Memorabilia. It comes out on September 30th and will be for sale on the interwebs. Check it out if you get a chance!

BY HANA ZITTEL CHAIN-GANG ALL-STARS BY NANA KWAME ADJEI-BRENYAH (2023) “I’m not dying here,” Thurwar repeated, the words summoning themselves. She continued to circle Bishop, backing farther away, gathering space to charge. Bishop followed her in a smooth pivot. “Then swing through, not at. And shave your fucking head. And make them love a version of you. That’s the important part, whatever you do. Love, then get out.” Produced by Criminal Action Penal Entertainment (CAPE), Chain-Gang All-Stars BattleGrounds and its companion show LinkLyfe have quickly ingrained themselves into the lives of Americans as the next logical escalation of the private prison system and action sports entertainment. In horrifyingly gory matches resembling gladiator bouts, the incarcerated battle to the death on live TV for a chance at achieving “high freedom,” released from incarceration, if they can survive three years on the circuit. Regularly subject to one-on-one matches, melee or paired battles, competitors earn Blood Points to purchase weaponry, armor or food to improve their chances of survival, a clear escalation of the prison commissary. Brands clamor to mark the bodies and clothing of favored competitors with logos, each match littered with the symbols of capitalism sinking to new, disgusting depths. When not actively battling, the incarcerated are perpetually followed by drones, filming their every move for the reality TV show, LinkLyfe. Few survive, succumbing to the fate of “low freedom,” yet new participants are pumped into the games at a vicious rate through the machine of mass incarceration. At the center of this season’s matches are Loretta Thurwar and Humara Stacker, known in the arena as Hurricane Staxx. Loretta is nearing the end of her three years on the circuit and has been named Grand Colossal. Living in the same Link, Loretta and Humara are lovers, facing daily extinction and an impending separation when impacts of the outside world, changes in their Link, and corporate greed escalate the threats on their already tenuous futures. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut novel is a fierce satire vibrating with violence and exposing the depravity of the American prison system. His skill in writing the dark realities of mass incarceration and America’s ability to buy into the sickest of entertainment makes the world he creates feel like a depressingly likely future. Underneath the gore and horror, Adjei-Brenyah illuminates the stories of those subject to the brutality of incarceration and shines light on a broken system in this riveting debut. WILD GIRLS: HOW THE OAUTDOORS SHAPED THE WOMEN WHO CHANGED A NATION BY TIYA MILES (2023) Tiya Miles, 2021 National Book Award winner for her All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake, returns with her newest book examining the impact of the outdoors on women throughout history. She begins with Harriet Tubman and how her knowledge of the environment around her — initiated from forced labor outdoors — grew to become an intimate knowledge of the plants, climate and skills of survival helping her achieve the liberation of so many enslaved people. Miles quotes astronomer Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, writing, “Only with extensive technical skills, including familiarity with the land, and an incredible level of persistence could Tubman have had this kind of success rate.” Miles covers the impact of the wilderness on writers like Louisa May Alcott and activists Grace Lee Boggs and Dolores Huerta. In the section Game Changers, Miles dives into the story of Genevieve Healy of the Aaniiih (Gros Ventre) people, raised at first on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and sent to the Fort Shaw federal boarding school. Despite the military style and attempted erasure of Indigenous culture, one tiny light emerged during Healy’s time at Fort Shaw when teacher and physical culture instructor Josephine Langley introduced the new sport of basketball, changing the course of the lives for the girls at the school in complex ways. Wild Girls covers an immense amount of history in a deceptively small book and Miles’ excellent storytelling provides interesting new perspectives of the impact and importance of the natural world on well-known figures, while illuminating lesser known women in history. No. 117

THE BEAR By Zac Dunn The trees did not speak as they passed through. The birds didn’t circle as the bugs had all risen from the boundless heather. The fat red fish would be waiting Pushing up stream with every delicious morsel Of muscle and fat To squirt their essence in the maelstrom. The Cubs hadn’t been getting along The last deer they’d eaten turned into A full-blown roe that resulted in some Deep wounds and hurt feelings. The path back to the den was the BEAR’s favorite. Belly full of fish, ready to cuddle with his brood at last. On they marched finally entering the majesty of the Delta. The Cubs made nice and pounced the writhing and wriggling COHO. They’d smelled the LONER coming hours ago but it seemed they’d been persistent. The BEAR motioned to the brood and they broke back to the trees and followed MUM. The BEAR did not return to the deciduous canopy and rather turned up stream where he could feel the LONER approaching. The BEAR had grown up an orphan and his kin were all bagged by filthy odious mountain men. A perpetual game of cat and mouse unfolding over years. The flatiron faces that kept them all trapped there together. They all knew each other in a way. The BEAR had reached his limit. The time would never end when this toothless recluse would cull his kin and kind. Making quick haste the BEAR lay in wait on the river’s edge. A rat king of water moccasins curbed in the cure strait of the bend. The breaths the BEAR drew were low and slow. The snapping splashing was almost within reach. The BEAR swatted the LONER. The LONER stepped back, gasp blasting buckshot off left. The BEAR went low, caught the pellets in the shoulder. The LONER took a breath and stepped back. The cottonmouth’s lunged at his meaty, filthy thigh. Desperately the LONER retrieved his pistol only to receive four more 15 brutal strikes from the understandably upset reptiles. The LONER staggered back in the river and flopped backwards. Gasping for air cursing the BEAR. The BEAR observed from the bank. It was time to March back. The LONER twitched and continued cussing as the BEAR made haste snatching two more COHO in his maw. The stars were all out and the Cubs were back in the den warming the womb. The tiny needles clicked and clacked in an orchestra of bugs, birds, frogs and deer. The great chorus of the wind spoke lonely and slow. FOLLOW FOR MORE WORK — IG: @UZIEGO | TUMBLR: @WTFCRAIGSLISTNYC JOHN VAN HORN, BEAR CUP - BEST OF BIRDY ISSUE 051



A PIZZAPIE PIZZA PIE BY BRIAN SACCA Sophie always did her best thinking when she was high. And she was really, really high. “When I was a kid,” white spittle gathering in the creases of her lips as she began her diatribe. “When I was a kid, a large pizza pie cost $10. This large pizza pie right here only costs $6.99. How can prices go down over 30 years?” Sophie was onto something. She took another huge rip from the bong. “Are you following, Tyler?” reading the pizza delivery guy’s name from the sewn-on name patch on his corporate-branded shirt. “Adjusting for inflation, paying $6.99 today is like paying $3.11 when I was a kid. Are you writing this down?” Tyler was not writing it down. He stood with his hand outstretched, waiting for his $6.99 plus tip. “You should be writing this down, Tyler,” Sophie insisted. Tyler flipped over the receipt and reluctantly took notes. He would do anything to incentivize some sort of tip. He needed that extra scratch. This job wasn’t paying what he’d thought it would. And now that Jennifer had another baby on the way (this would be their fourth), he was desperate for anything. “Think about those numbers, Tyler. The corporate conglomerate you slave for charges $6.99 for a pizza. In order to make a sufficient profit, the cost of ingredients must be under two dollars per pizza. You’re telling me this 12-inch pie costs less than $2 to make?!” Tyler quickly crafted a response that was both polite and indicated his desire to leave. He uttered a “Whoa,” hoping this slight acknowledgment of Sophie’s passion would end her tirade and subconsciously encourage her to give him a fiver. Five bucks could get him a package of diapers. God knew he and Jennifer needed diapers. But it could also get him a cheap sixer. Hmmm … Maybe he could get shitty tonight. Tyler missed getting shitty. Back in high school, he and his buds would get shitty after every game. Tyler was known for his exceptional ability to “boot & rally.” He could make himself boot without even sticking a finger down his throat. Maybe tonight he’d boot for old time’s sake. If only Sophie would finish. “Pizza guy! You’re not listening! The wool has been pulled over our eyes by the ‘Pizza Industrial Complex.’ Pizza isn’t pizza anymore. They used to make pizza with leavened dough. Now, they use sawdust and melted plastic. A pizza should not be created in a lab. This pizza is a pizzashit. Yeah, I said it. It’s a pizzashit. For these reasons, I will pay for this pizza. I will eat this pizza. But I will not enjoy this pizza. So, here’s your tip — work in an industry that isn’t built on a foundation of fraud.” Sophie passed Tyler six one-dollar bills and 99 pennies. no booting, no rallying. Sophie immediately felt a pit of shame in her stomach. She knew she was being stingy. She took another rip from her bong, waiting for Tyler to leave. His presence only amplified her guilt for undertipping. He didn’t budge, instead choosing to stare into her eyes, silently pleading for something more than an unwelcome lecture. Begging for an acknowledgment of not only his struggle but his being. Sophie’s eyes fell to the ground, “To be honest … that was the only cash I have. I just said all of the stuff about the Pizza Industrial Complex to justify not tipping you. I’m sorry.” Resigned to his tip-less fate, Tyler turned to his Scion xB. “Wait!” Sophie called out. “I got more deliveries, lady,” Tyler murmured as he opened the door to his subcompact hatchback. “Wanna smoke?” Sophie called out. Tyler turned back. He was not much of a weed smoker. But since he wasn’t going to get that sixer, maybe now was the right time to start. “Sure,” he said. One week later, Pizzapie Pizza began random drug testing. Tyler was tested and subsequently fired. But Tyler refused to leave. He knew that these drug tests weren’t random. They were a targeted hit, sponsored by the leaders of the Pizza Industrial Complex. Sophie had removed the wool from Tyler’s eyes and would never let it grow back. Not only did he deny the termination, he demanded a raise. After a video of the police escorting a ranting Tyler from Pizzapie Pizza went viral, he was able to quickly find employment as the Chief Economics Analyst for an upstart right-wing news organization. Some nights, when Tyler is nostalgic about his days of delivering pizzas, he’ll ask his private chef/nutritionist to conjure up a pie. As the chef passes Tyler the leavened dough covered with artisanal toppings, Tyler hands him back six one-dollar bills with 99 pennies. Tyler stands, smiling, nodding at the chef with a heavy dose of self-pride. Neither Tyler nor the chef understands the meaning of this financial exchange. 19 RAY YOUNG CHU - BEST OF BIRDY ISSUE 014


Rumor has it there’s a psychic on C Street. The locals speak of them with reverence, the travelers speak with curiosity. You’re searching for them on C Street because you’re hoping for a psychic reading. You had a dream last night that you just can’t shake and you’re curious about what it’s trying to tell you. It’s your first time journeying through the bustling metropolis lit up with neon and buzzing with the sounds of commerce. Maybe you’ve been here before? You can’t quite remember, but no matter … Behind the Glitzy Snurtle, you catch a glimpse of heavy curtains topped by an outstretched hand with an all-seeing eye in its palm. As if magnets had taken hold of you, you find yourself pulled closer. The room is dark so it takes a minute for your eyes to adjust. In front of you is a gray stone fireplace with the carved face of a red-eyed gargoyle, a harrowing sentry above the cluster of candles illuminating an infinite passage through the veil between these worlds and the next. The air changes as you enter the Psychic Shop. It’s a little heavier, thicker, the baby hairs at the nape of your neck rising up. You have the distinct feeling you’re being watched by someone, but even though dozens of pairs of eyes follow you from the walls, there are no material beings in sight. A low, guttural noise echoes out from the dark corners of the shop and you feel it enter your ears, sending shivers down your body. Whispers flutter around you, each one too soft and quick to catch. Overhead, lights flicker through ornate metal fixtures that look as though they were added by residents over decades of inhabitation. The soft purples, blues and oranges cast an eerie glow over the framed portraits on the wall, drawing you in for a closer look. Each ornamental frame contains an otherworldly being, a glimpse into a ghastly world. You see representations of The Tower, The Hermit, The Moon, The Sun, The Magician, The Star, Judgement and Death. One could pose a question of self here, and receive an answer from these walls. At the back of the shop, a victrola rests on a round cabinet made of dark wood. Across the wall, a painted portrait unfurls and commands attention. The subject is a disembodied, lavender-hued head that rests upon an exaggerated, frilly ruff. Their red eyes, framed by long dark lashes, bore into you with a supernatural knowing. The corners of their lips are turned upward in a satisfied smirk, exposing fangs that could take a life with little effort. Coils of turquoise hair spill out from their head and take on their own twisted lives. From each corner above you extend hands of the same soft, ghastly coloring, anchored by daintier wrist ruffs and capped by weaponous fingernails. MEET SYD “They’re lovely, aren’t they?” a soft voice murmurs behind you. You startle, neck hairs again at attention, with the realization that you’re no longer alone in the Psychic Shop. Turning toward the voice, you lock eyes with someone seated in the plush velvet chair tucked into the front corner of the shop. They rise out of the shadows and you take in their presence. They have an ancient air about them, as if this physical manifestation of self is merely one of many, containing multitudes. “I’m Syd,” they say with a slight bow of their head, “the Psychic.” They hardly need an intro. Travelers across Convergence share tales of their encounters with the mystical shapeshifter who lives in the haunted Psychic Shop. “Syd appeared to me as a swarm of eyeballs and moths.” “I came across Syd when I was searching for a lost memory. They helped me look for a while, though we never found it.” “Syd once read me a very strange letter that they keep folded up in their pockets.” The borders of their body seem to shift in and out of focus, as if they are in constant motion between rapidly-changing figures. As Syd approaches, you notice their empathetic eyes. Despite the eerie energy in their shop, they’re approachable and you find yourself eager to ask for a reading. They notice and ask you about the dream you had last night, which is still fresh on your mind. You share every detail, painting a picture with your words that hangs between you like a fog. Syd nods along as if the dream is familiar. “Of course you had this dream,” they affirmed, “it all makes sense to me. Your dreams are full of flowers, perhaps you should go to Numina next.” It’s a response that opens doors rather than closes them. A new curiosity has been unlocked, a new perspective from which to explore Convergence. You’re not sure what answers Numina will hold but you know where your journey will take you next. You thank Syd before turning back toward C Street. In front of you, the worlds await! WHO CREATED SYD AND THE PSYCHIC SHOP? Syd and the Psychic Shop are a collaborative project from brilliant minds both within and outside of Meow Wolf. Internally, the project was art directed by Emily Montoya and Chadney Everett. It was project-managed by Cheyenne Bsaies; with narrative direction by Christina Procter and Billiam Rodgers; and concept art created by Max Neutra. The physical space within Convergence Station is a project called “Magic Hollow” created by lead artist Moss Lair (he/they). From Moss’ artist statement: “Magic Hollow is a haunted, otherworldly, and psychedelic psychic shop. This is a space for people to sit and soak in the unsettling ambience before continuing on their long journey ahead through Meow Wolf. I found inspiration for Magic Hollow in horror games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Affected: The Manor, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I wanted to embody the atmosphere of save points in a scary game.” “I was immersed in ghost stories and folklore podcasts while making Magic Hollow and wanted to emulate the richness of the lore in my own project. I wanted the space to seem sentient and alive, and beautiful and disturbing with a chilling soundtrack. The paintings were inspired by some of the Major Arcana tarot cards. I picked ones that felt very significant to me at the time. The wall sculptures were inspired by my love for gargoyles, grotesques and Gothic architecture. Some other notable aesthetic influences are Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Labyrinth, and Haunted Mansion.” Moss is a trans-masculine artist specializing in queer and trans dark fantasy art. He always loved fantasy art and video games, but growing up, didn’t always feel represented in fantasy media. Because of that, he chose to make art that he wished he had seen growing up. He shares that he worked on this project during a time of gender identity exploration, which he chose to incorporate into this work. The Major Arcana cards he chose as inspiration for the wall art were selected due to the personal significance they had in his life at the time. Moss is inspired by rock and metal music, video games, anime, fashion and horror. He envisions creating fantasy worlds to escape from reality — worlds filled with darkness, beauty, fantasy and nature all existing together. LEARN MORE ABOUT MOSS AND HIS WORK AT: MOSSLAIRART.COM AND ON INSTAGRAM: @MOSS_LAIR VISIT THE PSYCHIC SHOP AND MORE AT MEOW WOLF DENVER’S CONVERGENCE STATION: TICKETS.MEOWWOLF.COM




He'd never seen it, but Ken Colby heard about the house his entire life. In the early 1920s, his grandparents, Patrick and Lucy Colby, traveled upstate to create a summer home for their soon-to-be family. Patrick was tall, strong, a successful banker, a self-made man with an eye for architecture. Lucy was known for her calm demeanor, charitable works and green thumb. Their turreted, gabled house, surrounded by Lucy’s vegetable and flower gardens, boasted a wide porch overlooking Loon Lake. They had two babies and hired a maid/nanny, and a caretaker. The place seethed with bourgeoning life. The year Ken’s father was born, the sister drowned and the Colbys closed up the house, sold the property, never returned. The divorce papers were still unsigned when Ken called the real estate agent, offered fifty grand over the asking price, sight unseen, no inspection, cash. The seller accepted. “The owner died, some crazy lady supposedly. Lived in filth. The seller’s some niece in North Carolina,” the agent said. Ken felt compelled to fix things, restore something, his legacy perhaps. He admired his grandfather, self-made, strong. Through yellow haze Ken approached the old house, now his property. He walked around the house’s edges toward the water, dark windows watching. Flies swarmed, hovering in dusty air above the lake. Summer heat pressed down, prompting him to strip off his clothing and wade, swim out to the dock. After the shock of icy water, the weeds’ abundance surprised, clinging, dragging at his legs. He pressed on, determined. As a young man he’d been on the swim team. The ropey weeds grew thicker, more insistent, like tentacles, or worse, fingers. Ken pulled himself out, gasping. He lay there on the dock’s tilted surface. “Jesus!” The dock jolted, dipped down. He rolled off, legs furiously treading water. He gaped in disbelief as the wooden slab sunk into the depths. He never expected it to be easy. Undeterred, he began clearing out the house. The owner had been a hoarder, but there was nothing unusual until the bird carcassed basement. A multitude of feeders indicated that at one time they were kept there, alive. Ken’s supple denial muscle kicked in. He dismissed a bad image, the birds trapped, flapping, desperate for air, sky, escape. “So, so weird,” the young hired helper, Seth, said, a shadow in the darkened space. Ken stood there speechless, gloved hands hanging. In another basement room they found a carriage holding a swaddled figure. Seth uncovered the old-fashioned baby doll, dangled it by a hand, chucked it at Ken. Ken threw it on the heap, turned away. His wife often said he was too black and white, lacking spirituality, depth. “Just give me work,” he said to her, himself, anyone. When she and their son were at church, Ken mowed the lawn, weeded the beds, swept the garage. He had no patience for hocus pocus, nonsense. The place needed a new roof, re-plastered walls and ceilings, refinished floors. Seth brought some others to the work site, and Ken began to fall into a steady routine of workdays, beers and meals at the local diner before crashing, exhausted each night in his motel room. He received the occasional message from his wife, a cold shaft of emotional moonlight shoved into the heat of labor. He hadn’t told her of the house purchase. She didn’t even know where he was. “I went to the cemetery today,” she wrote in a text on what would have been Ryan’s nineteenth birthday. “It would have been nice if you were with me. I miss you.” Right before Christmas, Ken moved into the house. In January, icicles pointed down from the eaves like knives. Ken knocked them from the space above the back entrance, fearing they’d fall, gore him. One night he awoke to a terrifying crash from above. He ran to the attic, found a huge ice shard had splintered the new roof. A gust of frigid air blew through the house. He and Seth worked the entire next day patching the hole. Ken forced a laugh. “Remember that movie The Money Pit? This house is like that, “ he said. “You think?” Seth said, pale-faced, gripping a hammer. One cold April day, Ken picked the lock on a metal box he’d found during the clean out, exposing a pile of old letters. My dear Amelia Our boy is growing up. Your sacrifice has given us so much. Amelia, you know I cannot bring the boy. Amelia, we gave you the house. You gave us the boy. The letters fell to the floor. Ken looked at the family picture he’d hung. The maid standing to the side. The maid, Amelia? Amelia, his grandmother? He burned the letters. Pounded the tin box with a hammer. Gulped himself sick with whiskey, passed out. That night, the temperature plummeted. The porch cracked, snapped, broke clean off the house. During summer, Ken turned his waning energy and shaking hands to the remnants of Lucy’s garden, picked strawberries by the bowlful, harvested corn and a truckload of tomatoes. Then the pumpkin vines reappeared, glorious in their flowering. He remembered last year when he first arrived, the hope they’d signified. He awoke one morning choking, flailing, the vine, entered through an open window, wrapped around his neck. Ken moved back into the motel. “It must have been kids, maybe they came up here on a dare. They’ve always thought this place was haunted,” the fireman said, hands busily undoing straps, pulling off gear. “Huh,” all Ken could muster, dumbstruck by the charred house. “Someone’ll snap this property up, on the lake and all,” the fireman said, “If you plan on selling, that is.” Ken waited for him to leave before dragging himself to his truck. He drove west to his sister, slashing along the interstate, repeating his father’s adage, attributed to his grandfather, “The less said, the better.” 25

Some seek out fan conventions for a community bound by a shared passion. But sometimes passion takes a dark turn. Infatuation becomes obsession. And the line between reality and fiction blur. In 2023 an unsuspecting crowd assembles. They’re about to face a new kind of terror. Prepare for the rise of Killr™. The world of horror fandom is reinvented with TRUE BELIEVERS, a gripping and grisly new comic book mini-series co-written by bestselling Bram Stoker Award-winner Stephen Graham Jones and Denver Post bestselling writer Joshua Viola, with interior artwork by Ben Matsuya. Delving into the world of cosplay and fan conventions, the 3-part series is set at the annual Colorado Festival of Horror with the first issue introducing a new bone-chilling slasher character, Killr™, who offers a sinister and unforgettable take on fandom. In the world of meta horror, Killr™ emerges as the embodiment of evil within the slasher genre, born from a cult-favorite short film that inspires a trilogy. Amid the franchise’s rising popularity, devoted fans fervently embrace Killr™, celebrating the character with enthusiastic cosplay. At the Colorado Festival of Horror, fanatics Kit and Rip — proudly labeling themselves as “true believers” — embark on a profound journey of self-discovery under Kit’s guidance. However, the boundaries between reality and fiction blur, prompting them to question the ramifications of idolizing such malevolence. This gripping meta horror tale delves into the intricate interplay of identity, horror and obsession, challenging the very No. 117 essence of their connection with the enigmatic entity they revere. “TRUE BELIEVERS is for the true believers out there,” says Graham Jones. “It’s for those who like the masks, the machetes, the blood and the grins.” The New York Times bestselling author (The Only Good Indians) — and whose most recent novel, Earthdivers, is set to become a TV series — brought his visionary experience and passion for the horror world into this slasher project. “I want to make people’s convention experiences deeper and different than they have been so far and I think engaging this story about a slasher set at a convention has that potential.” A full-color, four-page ashcan preview of TRUE BELIEVERS #1 will be available exclusively at this year’s festival in Denver taking place Friday, Sept. 15 - Sunday, Sept. 17. The first completed TRUE BELIEVERS issue will be available on Kickstarter, along with series’ CD/digital soundtrack featuring Celldweller, Essenger, Circle of Dust, Cantervice, Young Medicine, Scandroid, PYLOT, and The All Things, as well as a Killr™ latex mask from Oktober Studios. Fans can follow the project’s prelaunch page to get an email when the campaign launches before the Colorado Festival of Horror. “Killr™ is one of the purest distillations of evil ever produced by the slasher genre,” says Viola, the Colorado Book Award winner and Denver Post bestselling author of Denver Moon, Nightmares Unhinged, and It Came from the Multiplex. “Our villain, Killr™ (the trademark symbol playfully satirizes the franchising of horror properties), presents a

THE MAIN CHARACTERS refreshing perspective on the concept of wearing a mask and the diverse interpretations fans can derive from it. Killr™ is truly a cosplayer’s dream.” Viola sought to think outside of the traditional slasher narrative when co-writing the comic with Graham Jones. “I think TRUE BELIEVERS is a must-read for cosplayers. It’s analyzing what it means to be a cosplayer. It’s talking about embracing a character, becoming a character. It’s talking about community, why we go to these conventions, why we gather, why we come together.” Everyone who backs the series on Kickstarter at a physical level will receive a copy of the first issue. Other tiers include variant covers; signed books by Graham Jones, Viola and Matsuya; signed prints; patches designed by artist AJ Nazzaro (Hearthstone, Overwatch), a one-of-akind Killr™ latex mask; an opportunity to become a character in Issue 2; a 2024 Colorado Festival of Horror 3-Day Pass for 2; and a CD/ digital soundtrack. “We hope TRUE BELIEVERS provides thought-provoking commentary on the very essence of fandom and the meaning of being a devoted ‘true believer,’” says Matsuya (Jupiter Jet, Midnight Massacre), the comic’s interior artist and creator of Issue 1’s Cover A. Matsuya’s artistic brilliance is joined by fan favorite horror comic artists for the other haunting variant covers: B) Xander Smith (American Horror Story); C) Aaron Lovett (Monster Train); D) Juan Samu (Elvira); E) Robert Hack (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina); F) Clara Meath (Goosebumps). TRUE BELIEVERS will debut at this year’s Colorado Festival of Horror where attendees can engage in a Slasher Comic Panel Discussion with the creators and cover artists, before a signing and photo-op at Hex Publishers’ booth, complete with an opportunity for a free, limited comic print and more. “Killr™ moves like smoke. He’s as quiet as shadow. He’ll get you when you least expect it,” says Graham Jones. Don’t miss the opportunity to summon the horrors that lurk in the shadows and experience a world of horror fandom never seen before. Join their Unholy Alliance. 2023 COLORADO FESTIVAL OF HORROR: SLASHER HOTEL FRIDAY, SEPT. 15 - SUNDAY, SEPT. 17 DENVER MARRIOTT SOUTH AT PARK MEADOWS TIX & MORE INFO: COFESTIVALOFHORROR.COM TRUE BELIEVERS AT COLORADO FESTIVAL OF HORROR: SATURDAY, SEPT. 16 - MEET THE CREATORS & ARTISTS OF TRUE BELIEVERS SLASHER COMIC PANEL DISCUSSION: 3:30-4:30 P.M. | THE NOPE ROOM SIGNING + PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: 5-6 P.M. | HEX PUBLISHERS BOOTH | THE DEATH DEALERS ROOM FOLLOW HEX PUBLISHERS FOR UPDATES: @HEXPUBLISHERS - X, FB, IG SUPPORT TRUE BELIEVERS & INDEPENDENT ART + RECEIVE EARLY BIRD GIFTS ON KICKSTARTER

ISADORA EDEN – FORGET WHAT MAKES IT GLOW Isadora Eden had already established a respectable body of work in a more imaginative indie rock vein with earlier releases. This album is stylistically a great leap forward in terms of command of tone both emotionally and sonically. The guitar work is dually melodic and noisy in the way that makes the best shoegaze records thrilling. The lyrics are introspective and melancholic and Eden’s voice has a quality that is vulnerable and strong, gentle yet commanding. There is a deep sense of having processed loss and regret, of having struggled through existential disappointment and emotional trauma while being able to turn those dark vibrations of the spirit into something beautiful and transcendent. When you feel like you’ve failed yourself and others and are troubled as a result, you have to find a way to forgive yourself to move forward into a better place. This album is a soundtrack to not only that personal journey, but one of wading through the confusion, stasis and sense of impending peril that cloaks all our lives. These songs honor those feelings of uncertainty but also the will to weather on to hopefully better days. SEFA LOCO + GOLIA – THE OTHER ONE(S) This album features Colorado improvisational music stars Bret Sexton on alto sax and electronics, Farrell Lowe on electric guitar and pedals, Bill McCrossen on upright bass, electric fretless bass with slide, cello with looper and waterphone, and Ron Coulter on drums, percussion and lo-fi electronics as SeFa LoCo working with free jazz legend Vinny Golia on piccolo flute and clarinet. It’s a lively set of music that layers almost iterative percussion with the other instrumentation, tracing figures playfully outside the undeniable forward momentum of the piece in a fashion more in common with one of Anthony Braxton’s free music sessions of the late 60s than what might superficially be called jazz. There is as much a focus on textures and the physical aspect of sound as tone and rhythm, and to take the latter and tie that to a concept of expression rather than conventions of style. The song “Some Broken Machine” sounds just like that and that machine lamenting its fate yet pondering the possibility of its new configuration. Which itself seems to be the guiding principle of these compositions — to pursue an idea to its possible and not inevitable conclusions. No. 117 SPECIMEN BOX II: REMOTE COMMUNION Over the early period of the pandemic bassist Larry Boothroyd (perhaps best known for being a founding member of Victims Family) collaborated with over 60 musicians from across the world to produce this 23 song, double LP. Contributors include current and former members of Dead Kennedys, Built to Spill, Alice Donut, Nomeansno, Butthole Surfers among others including drummer Brian Polk of Joy Subtraction and other Denver bands. The latter was contacted by Boothroyd to contribute a drum part but it evolved into a multiple songs. The record is a surprisingly coherent affair of eclectic style and steeped in a hybrid of art rock, psychedelia and punk. Think Minutemen meets Mr. Bungle, a beat poet and an even more acid-damaged James Gang. It shouldn’t work yet it does with a haunted and relentless spirit beginning to end without wearing out a musical idea. THANATOLOOP – BIOANARQUÍA The fine, gauzy textures that drape each of these songs lends it a dreamlike quality bringing to the music a joyful effervescence that creates an intimacy and immediacy of a memory. You feel like you’ve heard this music before, like in a soundtrack to the psychedelic 1970s films of Alejandro Jodorowsky or Werner Herzog. The use of space in the composition feels like something you can get lost in immediately and not want to come back because what lies ahead is a more blissful existence. The song “Anarquía Primaveral (desmantelar la historia)” in particular is like a deep well of ancestral memory made into sonic art that you can connect with if you’re willing to follow those energies to those resonances inside your own being. These songs have a mystique to them but one that feels benevolent and welcoming, lending comfort at the idea of the potentially rapturous unknown. FOR MORE, VISIT QUEENCITYSOUNDSANDART.WORDPRESS.COM BY TOM MURPHY

September 14 - 17, 2023 I want to know What the crow is on about. A gaping hole; my senses dull. Welcome to the Here and Now Denver Digerati Emergent Media Festival denverdigerati.org/festival CATCH THE NEXT ISSUE! But! How the flowers piled nicely. Hushed whispers: sure seems pricey. The air be still her voice; it’s shrill. The ground I kick is icy on this cold, September morning. In silence, tending tears. As requested, counting years the sands of Time forsaken. The suddenness, the weight; I knew, but knew too late. The owl has called her name; our lives forever changed on this cold, September mourning. Cawing, gently mawing at his garbage can delight; the crow and me stare longingly ‘til then I come to find that the onslaught of this nightmare dances solely for mine eyes. 6& 12 birdymagazine.com/shop No. 117 On the precipice of losing; lost my focus, lost my sight. Just a momentary blindness, bless this crow that’s set me right for in his calling, now I sense her arms around me tight. month subscriptions RAY YOUNG CHU, TACO TUESDAY - BEST OF BIRDY ISSUE 037 Gone Walking on a Cold, September Mourning By Maggie D. Fedorov

My face, I find, is wet; but her day has not come yet. A warm embrace, her voice I crave; This nightmare’s noose is longing. Nary a hole in this dirt I kick. It’s freed, now, of that icy grip. Yet, Still I crave to see her feel her breathe her in; such turmoil drudging on because I just can’t have her yet. Until then, withholding screaming I find myself still lost in dreaming. Her arms; they wrap around me on this cold, September morning. THIS PIECE WAS WRITTEN IN HONOR OF NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION MONTH. RESOURCES: • IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS EXPERIENCING A MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS, CALL OR TEXT 988 IMMEDIATELY. • IF YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE TALKING ON THE PHONE, YOU CAN CHAT THE SUICIDE & CRISIS LIFELINE AT 988LIFELINE.ORG. • YOU CAN ALSO TEXT NAMI TO 741-741 TO BE CONNECTED TO A FREE, TRAINED CRISIS COUNSELOR ON THE CRISIS TEXT LINE. • FOR MORE RESOURCES, VISIT NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL HEALTH: NAMI.ORG • FOR GRIEF AND LOSS RESOURCES, VISIT AMERICAN COUNSELING ASSOCIATION: COUNSELING.ORG • FOR SURVIVORS OF SUICIDE RESOURCES, PREVENTION RESOURCE CENTER: SPRC.ORG VISIT SUICIDE 31


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