OCTOBER 27, 6–10 PM FASHION SHOW DANCE ARTMAKING & MORE With Featured Artists CHERISH MARQUEZ Latina and queer-identifying visual artist with a focus on digital media JASMINE ABENA COLGAN Ameri-Ghanaian visual artist, educator, scholar, entrepreneur and civil rights activist. LEARN MORE AT DENVERARTMUSEUM.ORG/UNTITLED


EVER GET BEHIND A SLOW WALKER AND THINK, SO THIS IS WHAT IT’S LIKE NOT TO HAVE ANXIETY? The worst is when there’s two people walking at a snail’s pace in front of you, and you’re desperately trying to figure out how to get around them on such a small sidewalk. I just want to scream, “How does your brain not hate the pace you use to get around? My cerebral matter would be absolutely furious with me if I ever attempted to walk that slow.” But I guess it must be nice not to walk with the impatience of someone who is in dire need of a restroom. One of these days, I hope to learn to swagger, strut or even sashay — but it would take a lot of patience that I simply don’t have. My brain needs me to be places even when I have no places to be. It’s quite the burden. DON’T EVER CALL IN SICK TO WORK BY SAYING THE FOLLOWING: “I WAS GOING TO CALL IN SICK AND TAKE THE DAY OFF, FERRIS BUELLER-STYLE, BUT THEN I ACTUALLY GOT SICK, SO NOW I’M CALLING IN DOUBLE SICK” There’s a tendency in American society to over-explain why you’re calling in sick. This is no doubt due to the Protestant Work Ethic™ No. 118 that we’ve allowed ourselves to be beholden to at the expense of our own happiness and fulfillment. But there is such a thing as being too honest. We should all try to normalize saying something like, “I shan’t be at work on this fine day! [click]” and leave it at that. Keeping your coworkers guessing about your reasoning will give them something to do during the inevitable lulls in the workday. SOMETIMES I READ THE NEWS AND THINK, WELL AT LEAST I DIDN’T QUIT DRINKING I don’t know how you sober folks deal with global warming, rampant gun violence, the rising tide of fascism, anti-intellectualism, skyrocketing rents, unaffordable housing, inaccessible health care, working too many hours at terrible jobs, traffic, shitty weather, etc. Sometimes extremely short-term solutions that involve booze, bar food and your friends that still drink can take a load off. Though I suppose teetotalers have television, which isn’t nothing. Still, drunks like me have that too. Then again, I have plenty of friends that don’t drink, and they’re still around, so I suppose it’s not as big of a deal as I think it is. Hmm … On an unrelated note, I’ve grown bored with this topic, so let’s move on, shall we? EYEBALL LOLLIES - @KAITEN_ART

“EXCUSE ME, BUT I THINK YOU’RE IN MY SEAT” I said this to a bus driver once as a joke. He didn’t laugh. Instead he got up and let me drive the bus. And that’s the story of how I began my multi-decade career as a driver for RTD. I USED TO BE MY DOG’S HERO UNTIL I DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO TAKE HER FOR A WALK, AND NOW SHE BEGRUDGINGLY TOLERATES ME It was a tough break for old Daisy, but it was also inevitable. It happened to me with all of my heroes. Once you realize each individual is just some random, over-scheduled person who doesn’t have time for you, then you tend to lose respect for just about everyone. I DON’T ORDINARILY RESPOND TO TEXTS THIS PROMPTLY, SO DON’T ASSUME A PRECEDENT HAS BEEN SET Usually, it takes me at least 30 minutes to respond to any and all texts. You just happened to catch me on the toilet, so don’t go around thinking it will ever happen again. MY FRIEND TOLD ME ONE OF HER COWORKERS WAS “HORNY FOR THE COMPANY,” AND I LAUGHED KNOWINGLY We’ve all worked with people who drank the Kool-Aid and were a little too into their job — kind of like Dwight Schrute from The Office, or Gareth Keenan from the British Office (sometimes I purport to watch the original U.K. version of the sitcom for scene cred). And it’s always fascinating to imagine what these folks are getting out of it. I’m not saying I would ever show up to a job and half-ass it — you can absolutely take pride in your work without selling your soul. But to make a job — especially a low-paying one — your entire identity just seems like such a waste of your own potential. Day jobs exist so you can have a shot at creating contentment in your real life. Being horny for the company just means 1) you’re being a sucker for our capitalist overlords and 2) you’re exhausting everyone you work with. Finding meaning outside of work may be a challenge, but it’s better than being a Dwight (for the U.S. audiences) or a Gareth (for my fellow stonking U.K. blokes). I HAVE A FEELING THAT IN A PAST LIFE I WAS A COOL DISCO DANCING QUEEN WHO OVERDOSED ON A MIXTURE OF COCAINE AND QUAALUDES IN THE LATE 1970S I’m not sure why I think this, but I’m not sure why I think a lot of things. 5




I don’t get where we’re going. We’re going to Wheeless to see John Hood. You said that. I just don’t get it. What don’t you get? We got twelve dollars between the four of us and a Buick that might or might not make it another hundred miles. But instead of going west like everyone else we’re going north to Wheeless to see some crazy preacher. Seems like you get it just fine. Damn it, Dustin, when you’re down to your last dime you spend it on food. You don’t throw it away hoping for a miracle. You’re wrong. When you’re down to your last dime, hoping for a miracle’s the best you got. They said that in Amarillo John Hood had cured a girl of polio, so she bounced out of her wheelchair and danced. They said in Clayton he’d cast the Devil out of a carnie geek who ate live chickens and rolled in shit, and after the man had been baptized he’d said the Lord’s Prayer as the congregation wept. But the miracle that really got their attention was the miracle of the loaves and fishes, though being America it wasn’t fish but honest to God bacon, and they said eight hundred worshipers ate that day in Boise City. People were hungry, and if you could get physical sustenance along with the spiritual, then praise the Lord. This really is a circus, Andrew said when they finally stopped in a field alongside hundreds of other jalopies and loaded trucks. Several huge tents had been erected alongside an old barn and shed and they could hear singing. Think they got elephants in there? I hope so. Never ate an elephant steak but I imagine they’re big as plates. Nancy, you and Gillian mind waiting with the car while we check things out? I guess so. But do me a favor and find out where the outhouses are first. With this many people I think you mean a latrine, but I’ll find out. Hood was tall, white-haired as though struck by lightning or the vision of the Almighty, hollow-cheeked with eyes of blazing blue. He wore a loose black suit and though he did not stride or strut — someone mentioned he had lost a leg in the war and so one was wooden — he often stretched and waved his arms at full extension as though doing a breaststroke or hanging upon the Cross. That Cross stood behind him, tall and irregular. Slowly it dawned on Andrew that it was covered in feathers, black and white. Look at the Cross, he whispered, nudging his brother where they stood near the back of the tent. You ever see anything like that? But Hood was preaching and soon enough he shut up to listen. The Good Book says, blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Hunger and you shall be filled! But don’t think it’s like little children lining up at the banquet table for cake and pudding, when they’re already full of cheesy potatoes and chicken. You have got to be hungry first. You have got to experience the fullness of hunger, you have to be completely empty before you receive the food of the Spirit. Our Lord is the Lord of fullness, of satiation, but He is also the Lord of hunger, the Lord of emptiness, the Lord of the void, and because of this His power knows no limit or boundary. If you would know Him, hunger unto Him! Hunger unto Him, the congregation repeated. You have got to embrace your hunger. You have to want the Lord’s presence, you have to be desperate to be filled. You have to be willing to do anything, you understand? That’s the real power of the Spirit, when you see that the thing you thought was impossible, the thing that you never thought you could do, is right there in your reach. Most people think religion is all about prohibitions, just a long list of don’ts, but I’m here to talk about freedom in the Lord’s grace. You know who’s willing to do anything? Someone who’s starving, that’s who! The famished, the ravenous, the one whose belly’s flat and pockets empty. That’s a free man! That’s a soul with no limitation! Hunger unto Him! Hunger unto Him, the congregation said. How long we got to roast in here before they feed us? Andrew muttered. Sundown, I reckon, Dustin said. Hot as blazes. Don’t know how much more I can take. Stick it out. What about Nancy and Gillian? Think they’ll feed them if they’re outside? Expect not. We should probably get em in here before then. The congregation broke out in song: Time to reap the harvest Time to shuck the corn Time to skin the bodies Time to whet the horn Where you headed, brother? Just outside for a minute. The worship’s inside. Ain’t you hungry for the Lord? Sure I am. But my wife and my brother’s wife are waiting by the car. We want to tell em to come inside. All right. But get em in soon, you hear? In about an hour we’re gonna close the tent. You leave after that, you can’t come back. You’re either saved or you’re damned. Don’t worry, we’re as hungry as the next. When Andrew stepped outside he squinted with some surprise at the birds flocking around the revival grounds. Mostly crows but some vultures too, circling high up. He realized he’d been hearing their raucous cries below the murmurs and hallelujahs of the congregation in the worship tent. He thought of the feathered Cross and frowned. There was already a red rim forming on the horizon, like the lid of an irritated eye, evidence of the dust that hung ever present these latter days, the visible reminder of their sins. He supposed they should be grateful for the lack of wind — out here you wouldn’t want to get caught in a storm — but that left the sun to bake them like potatoes. One of the tents near the barn was clearly part of the camp kitchen, but you couldn’t see inside, and some large brothers stood stationed around it. To prevent any sinners from stealing, he guessed. You wanted to eat, you had to pay the price. Nancy and Gillian were sitting in the lee of the car fanning themselves. Come on, he said. You got to be on the inside to eat. Is it hot in there? Hot as hell, yeah. But we only got a while til sundown and it’ll cool off. Bring what water we got. 9

Everybody wants a free ride these days, Hood said. Everybody wants something for nothing. But that’s never been how it works, not since ancient days. God told Abraham, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham did it, just what he was told, so great was his faith. He gave the thing he loved the most, out of faith, and God stayed his hand and made Abraham the most blessed patriarch in all history. And Isaac went willingly to the altar, like Jesus to the Cross. Now God is looking for a few more Isaacs. Do you hear him calling? He’s asking you to sacrifice, he’s asking you to give yourselves to this path. Because it requires sacrifice. There’s no getting around it. You want something for your family, you want to be filled with the ambrosia of righteousness, you have got to give it your all. Who’s ready? Who’s ready to be filled? I am, cried one old woman. I’m ready. I’m ready. Me too, Lord, I’m ready. And these several, these five, Hood took by the hand, limping, and led onstage. These are our Isaacs! We bless them, Lord! We anoint them with oil! Which he did, smearing it on their foreheads. Don’t be afraid! These few, these shall live forever in the resurrection! And they were led away, out of the tent, as the congregation sang: The crows cry accusations The sunshine weeps for blood The fields are thirsty cauldrons The locusts come to bud Where they going? Gillian whispered. I don’t know, Andrew whispered back. You got to offer a sacrifice! You have to give what is most precious. Hours passed and the sun shone its last, but somehow the tent was hot as ever, a testament to the bodies packed inside the canvas walls. Hood’s words batted at them like wings. He began to call for the Holy Spirit to lead them, to take control of his tongue, to shake him like a leaf. Having been standing without relent all evening, Andrew, Gillian and Nancy all stood with heads hung, sweat soaking their clothes. Only Dustin looked up, staring with an expression of unrelenting perplexity at Hood. Other voices were raised now, but not in any tongue someone could understand. An inchoate shouting from before the raising of Babel: Ga na hai ba graaas tillok nu! Ha na gai ba so killon tu! A young woman fainted and began muttering and spitting along with the shouter. Hood stretched out his hand and slapped a thickset man on the forehead who fell back poleaxed. These people are crazy, Andrew said. Dustin looked back at him angrily and Andrew was shocked. What’s being sane ever done for us? Hallelujah! Hunger unto Him! The whole tent seemed to be shouting now, sweat and spittle flying, folks rolling on the ground, straw in their clothes and hair. A man came on stage at Hood’s invitation and brought a rattlesnake out of a bag and started tossing it from hand to hand. The crowd chanted, Hunger unto Him, again and again, until the words began to lose cohesion, throbbing in their bellies and the veins of their foreheads. I can’t take this. Andrew grabbed Gillian’s hand and pressed to the door. The crowd shouted, Where you going? Don’t let the sin get you, No. 118 brother. Just need some air, he said. Some in the crowd were still singing loudly, and with a sudden surge their voices came together: Hunger unto Him! Hunger unto Him! Somewhere — he thought from the barn — someone rang a loud bell, and with that the congregation suddenly fell silent. In that silence Andrew became aware of an aroma that should have been tantalizing but actually made him feel sick to his stomach: roast pork. We are filled! cried Hood, and the tent flaps drew back. Servers stood there, men and women bearing platters of sliced pork and heaps of corn pones, which they served on corn husks, and suddenly the hall was full of laughter and joy as each took what they pleased from the bounty. Other flaps were pulled back so the tent was suddenly open to the night, the cool air refreshing all inside. But Andrew just brushed past the servers toward the exit. Where we going? asked Gillian. What about the food? I don’t want it. Then they were outside, and he was breathing heavily, trying to clear his head. We stood all that time and you don’t want to eat? Maybe later. I just need a breath of air. I don’t see what your problem is. When was the last time we ate a decent meal? A week? Let me go! You go on then. I’ll be all right. Gillian looked at him with anger on her face. Always had been a pretty girl. But she was too thin now. She hadn’t always been like that. You go on, he said again. I just need to walk a bit. You sure? Sure I’m sure. All right. I really am hungry. I know. The crows had not vanished, he saw, but had congregated on the roof of the barn. Curious, he slipped into the rows of corn when he thought no one was looking. Seemed like everyone was inside the tent now anyway, filling their faces. He made his way in the dark, stepping quietly as he could under the waning quarter moon, footsteps mingling with the rustling of the corn in the new breeze. The planks of the barn were rough and worn and had many knotholes. To one of these he pressed his eye. There was a lamp inside that let him see. It took him a moment to comprehend and then he jerked back — and jerked back again, seeing a tall figure now standing behind him. Curiosity was Eve’s sin too, Hood said. The original sin. You’re the Devil. You’re Satan. The Devil’s just God’s hunger. Don’t you know that? One and the same. Lord of the Void. Now listen: Don’t think these were victims. They offered themselves up. They’re holy saints now. You’re a butcher. Hood chuckled. I actually was a butcher. Don’t know if you know that about me. But it’s an honorable profession. Andrew ran. He didn’t get far though. Casually Hood threw the cleaver he’d been holding down low, threw it with unerring accuracy into the young man’s skull, where it did the work it was named for. Sometimes the sacrifice is unwilling, Hood said sadly, limping to stand over his fallen parishioner. But it’s still a sacrifice.

THOR ALWAYS ON MY MIND BY NATE BALDING | ART BY JAMES HATTAWAY Oh, I didn’t notice you there. Looks like you have a question on your mind. Is it, by chance, curiosity about the fact that you remember it as a Dreamsicle instead of a Creamsicle? No, wait. That’s me right now. You look like you’re wondering who, or what, is Valiant Thor. If you thought, “band you’ve heard of,” you’re super wrong while being technically right. In time many bands will be known as “Valiant Thorr” but ours is to explore the legacy of the enigmatic specter who may or may not have directed the Pentagon, the president and NASA toward the discovery of alien life. Valiant (Val to his pals) was, in fact, very possibly an extraterrestrial himself. It’s February 20, 1954. Dwight Eisenhower had chipped a tooth. Being the president of the Free World he naturally decided it made sense to cross the entire country seeking a dentist in Palm Springs. Or making first contact with a traveler from another planet. Or playing golf. Relatively recent members of this vainglorious post have made any of those options entirely viable. In any case something happened to Ike (the AP reported him having died of a heart attack before a quick retraction) and persons in the know are aware that he encountered a being from another world. According to anecdotal record this was the first meeting between the “Nordic” species of alien visitors and our lowly selves, only just then capable of interplanetary flight. He would later meet with representatives of the Greys and offer millions of human lives in exchange for technology superior to whatever we had going on in 1954. If you’ve ever used a second spin on a washing machine thank the legions of abducted and likely dead homo sapiens that the general suspect of the military-industrial complex sent to their doom. And here’s where it gets interesting. In 1957 Valiant Thor arrives via a giant totally identified flying object (TIFO — let’s go ahead and decide to make this a real thing) in Alexandria, Virginia, and — head to toe in austere white robes — asks to meet with the president. Having been an established occurrence he’s ushered directly to first alien-friendly president Eisenhower. Val was an emissary from Venus sent to let us know that we were going to destroy our planet if we didn’t stop being assholes about the environment. Eisenhower reached into a time-fluid portal and pulled a well-worn copy of Silent Spring signed by Rachel Carson to prove that everybody would definitely get on board to protect all of humanity ongoing. And Valiant Thor was like, “Yeah, no, that ends up not working,” and decides to stick around the Pentagon in an effort to guide us through the penultimacy of the end times. A cursory knowledge of American history will find that his influence was less than effective. Supposedly Richard Nixon corroborates at the very least a charismatic lunatic being welcomed into the highest echelons of our government: “You have certainly caused a stir … for an out-of-towner. Of course, we are not totally convinced of anything just yet. But suffice it to say we are checking and double checking everything you say and do. When Sergeant Young from Alexandria radioed in and stated that you had just landed in a flying saucer, we thought Sergeant Young had flipped. Say, were you in on that UFO flap over Washington? You certainly had us all in a dither, if you were.” By 1960 Valiant Thor had vanished. Photos from the time appear to prove the existence of this Venusian intermediary. Many pictures feature an unidentified figure holding court, carrying the hearts and minds of men (not a lot of women in power back then — that’s probably not a hugely ongoing societal issue, yeah?), possibly bringing a cosmic warning from Venus — a planet where literally acids rain — about our own self-destructive propensities. You might not have been the most efficacious out-of-towner, Valiant Thor, but we appreciate that you tried. 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. 118 INVADER BRAIN LANGUAGE - BEST OF BIRDY ISSUE 052


BY HANA ZITTEL THE NIGHT EATERS: SHE EATS THE NIGHT BY MARJORIE LIU AND SANA TAKEDA (2022) Twins Milly and Billy are making ends meet by running a restaurant in Queens, Spam I Am, while living at their family home with their sweet and nurturing father, Keon, and distant and often cold mother, Ipo, who are back in New York for an annual visit. Long used to their mother’s distant personality and her lack of interest in their work at the restaurant, they protest when being asked to close shop for a day to help her with a mysterious task at the abandoned house across the street. When they dig up a clearly unhuman skeleton they start to ask questions about how their mother knew what was going on at the deserted house next door and what else she might be hiding. The first volume of The Night Eaters provides frequent flashes back to Ipo’s early life and story of falling in love with Keon. As a young stunt woman in Hong Kong, the authors provide tiny glimpses into Ipo’s history which reveals something far darker about her abnormal behavior than the mere off-putting vibes she gives off. The illustrations throughout set a haunting mood with washed coloring in neutral tones punched up with bloody splashes of red. Combining horror, fantasy and an in-depth look at family dynamics, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s The Night Eaters, following their award-winning Monstress series, continues in 2023 with The Night Eaters: Her Little Reapers. ACID NUN BY CORINNE HALBERT (2022) When Annie, our Acid Nun, takes “a whole ten-strip of crucifixion acid,” on Halloween night, she descends into a hellish bad trip leading straight to an abyss built from her own trauma. Her only hope of escape is her demonic lover, Eleanor, who must find Annie and rescue her from the darkness of her mind. Sidetracked by a debaucherous sex bender with Baphomet, Eleanor comes to and enlists the deity’s help to contact a tarot reader to find Annie. Meanwhile, Annie is sinking deeper and deeper into her childhood trauma, desperately trying to free her inner child. Acid Nun is a sex and gore soaked surrealist journey into the scars of trauma set in a nauseatingly vibrant, psychedelic world. Originally produced as three separate comics, Corinne Halbert interjects personal sections in this graphic novel at those breaks. Crafted as letters to the reader, these sections expand on how her own trauma and history led to the creation of this work. Though visually horrific, Acid Nun maintains a wholesome root, that we can always find our way out of the dark, often with love and friendship, even if it’s from some unlikely sources. Halbert’s artwork makes this strange tale shutter with life, and the use of unrelentingly bold color palettes set this comic among great psychedelic horror classics. No. 118



JOURNAL OF SAMUEL GENUNG — JANUARY 7TH, 1817 I have done something I fear even God in his infinite grace cannot forgive. It is his judgement I fear, not yours. You’re no more than a voyeur, looking back at history with a righteous indignation afforded to you by comforts I have never known. I know this because I have done the same to my progenitors. But can you be so sure that you — in the same circumstances as I — would not do just the same? Perhaps you wouldn’t. Perhaps you wouldn’t have the courage to do something so … hideous. It was not courage, I confess, which induced me to sin. It was fear. A fear borne from watching my children shiver helplessly by the fire, as they pray that I, who am meant to be their protector, might deliver them from starvation. Their coats do well to hide their sunken frames. But I hear the shallowness of their breaths, I feel their ribs stick out through loosened skin. Mary denies the truth, but I knew they could not go on like this. Nor could I bare to watch them starve. “You mustn’t go out there, Samuel,” Mary scolded me on that horrid winter day. All we could see from the ice-etched windows of our cottage were barren trees stabbing through a vast white expanse. She feared I’d be lost to the cold as foolish men often are. But our store of last year’s potatoes had dwindled, and those alone can hardly nourish a growing soul. I couldn’t bare another day of watching them starve. And so I set out for Lansing at first light where there was to be some stores of wheat. I was not a mile from home when I saw the body. It lay face down in the road, already a dusting of snow upon its back. I rushed to the body and turned them over, hoping they might still be alive. But their face was frigid, cracked with ice, eyes frozen in a state of permanent shock — eyes that I recognized. It was Ezekiel Foote. You must know that my first thought was only of sorrow, for this was a man I knew well, a descendent of the first settlers of Freeville. His brothers would want him home before the snow could hide his body from all but the wolves. I wished to bring him home — but did I have the strength? I had my own family to look after. And it was as I wavered beside Ezekiel’s body that another thought struck me, one I am not proud of, one I never thought I was capable of considering. His frozen flesh was perfectly preserved in this cold … Immediately I shook my head with disgust and tried to force the thought from my mind. I rose, determined to continue my journey to Lansing. But with each step through that looming expanse of white I could see my children’s ghastly frames withering before me. They taunted me! They jeered, they said I had not the courage to do what must be done. I shook my head knowing it to be a sinister ruse conjured up my own starved body. But in that snowy haze, the line between madness and crystalline sanity were blurred. No one would know what had happened to Ezekiel ... Only I would know he froze on this very road ... And would Ezekiel not want his body to be of use? Would he not want to help the children of Freeville live on through such cruel times? My thoughts were shrewd, articulate, relentless — and it was not long before I turned back on that vacant road. I am not proud to say that as I dragged Ezekiel’s body back to our cottage, I never wavered in my decision. To the contrary, I plotted and schemed, for Mary and the children could never know my sin. And as I skinned and carved Ezekiel’s body in the dark confines of our barn, which creaked and moaned in the bitter wind, I expressed the same gratitude to him that I have to deer in year’s past. And in my state of delusional lucidity I found myself comforted by the thought that Ezekiel himself was grateful to be of service one last time. I brought the meat home in indiscernible chunks to Mary and the children. In my paranoia I expected an interrogation. But she showed only delight and went about stewing the meat with great haste. Perhaps she did not want to know the truth. It was not long before the smell of seared flesh warmed our nostrils. The children were delighted. And the look of joy and relief on their faces is one I shall never forget. That was weeks ago. And for a time, I thought my sin would go without punishment. But something wretched lives inside me now. The natives here speak of a sickness that comes over men who eat another’s flesh, turning them into some unholy abomination. I can feel the sickness crawl in my skin now, which boils with a heat no fever could produce. I can feel my bones bulge and stretch, and it is all I can do to hide my agony from Mary. I know not what will come of me. But as I write this, I see my children by the hearth, full for the first time in weeks. And though my sin may never be forgiven, know that I would do it all over again. 200 YEARS LATER Indigo stared out the passenger window, bored and restless. Trees zipped by, their last leaves clinging to fragile limbs. Soon they too would join the rot below. “Are we close?” She asked her father, who did little more than grunt in reply. He was a man of few words. Her mother, ever hopeful, often pushed him to open up. “You need to spend more time with them,” she’d say. “Soon they’ll grow old, and then they won’t want to spend time with you.” That was how this trip came to be, after all. A way for a father to reconnect with his kids. Indigo did not share her mother’s hopefulness. “Stop tapping your feet,” her father said. Indigo sighed, but she did as she was told. She was anxious to be out of this stuffy car. Somehow, even trapped in a tube of metal beside her closest family, Indigo felt alone. She wished she could be more like her brother, sniffing the glass on his Nintendo Switch for hours on end. But she’d yet to find a game as captivating to her as simply being outside, laying in a field of grass, gazing up at the clouds above. Even back in Boston she felt stifled by the great swaths of concrete that masked something much more magical. Finally, just as the sun was beginning to set, their car began to slow. Indigo sensed they were close. She sat up in her seat watching the evergreens along the road slip past them. Her dad turned down a short gravel driveway that wound through those very evergreens, before opening up to a cabin that sat nestled in a grove of Norwegian spruce. “We made it!” Indigo said to little fanfare. Her father nodded, while her brother hardly looked up from his Switch. But she would not be deterred. She beamed with delight as she stepped out of the car, breathing in that delightfully crisp fall air. “Hello, trees!” She shouted up to the swaying evergreens, in what felt to her as the only polite way to greet such old and majestic life. “They can’t hear you,” her brother admonished. She smiled. “Maybe not. But I like to think they can.” He rolled his eyes and followed his father into the cabin. Indigo, meanwhile, ran to the closest tree and gave it a hug. She was immensely grateful to be out of the car, and a tiny part of her felt this tree might understand her more than her own family. Even if its bark was a bit prickly. Then, just across the lawn before the cabin, Indigo spotted what appeared to be the opening of a trail. She darted across the grass, hopping over the fire pit, skidding to a halt at the trailhead marked with a sign that read: Indy’s Way. She wondered who Indy was, but more than anything she wondered what adventures this trail 19

may bring! Her imagination filled with magical forests, but just as she stepped forward— “Indigo!” Her father shouted after her. She looked back at him, and he said simply, “Inside.” She sighed, whispered to the trail that she’d be back soon, and began skulking to the cabin as the sun sunk into the horizon. As she climbed the steps to the front door however, she noticed something in the corner of her eye. There was a small fairy door affixed to a spruce just outside the cabin. A violet tentacle was carved into the door. She had half a mind to open it, but she worried what beast may lurk inside and decided that was an adventure for another day. The evening passed by with little note — save for an argument with her father over where she was to sleep. Their Airbnb host had left a bedroll and sleeping bag, which Indigo took as a sign she should sleep outside under the full moon. Her father disagreed. Eventually, they compromised, and Indigo cozied herself out on the porch, where she could still “hear and smell the trees.” She was soon peacefully asleep — but it would not last. Indigo woke with a start to the crazed shrieks of coyotes. They howled and screamed, discordant eruptions of delight that brought tension to a peaceful night. Indigo was delighted too, for they sounded close, and she had never seen a coyote before. Quietly, slowly, hopeful not to wake her father and brother, she slid the sliding glass door open, slipped the flashlight from its hook, and stepped out into the moonlit night. She hardly needed the light. The moon shone full and bright above, casting dim, quivering shadows on the ground below. She wondered at what mysteries such a full moon may conjure. No. 118 She set off down Indy’s Trail, hoping with an eagerness only a child could cultivate that it might lead toward those shrieking coyotes. She passed a field of once vibrant golden rod, now drooping in the late fall chill. She continued down the bend, ducking under branches of an apple tree from an orchard long abandoned. The woods around her were still, and there was an eery silence that filled the void. Though she would never admit it to herself, she felt the tiniest prickle of fear as to what may lurk beyond the moon’s glow. She flicked on her light and cast it out into the woods finding only empty brambles. But then, as she flashed her light back upon the trail, it was no longer empty. She froze, light fixed upon the beast before her. A coyote with glowing eyes gazed back at her. Its tail flicked with apparent delight. Indigo tried to still herself, but she too, was delighted, forgetting her fear from moments ago. She’d never seen a coyote in real life before. She’d never seen anything so wild. “Hey there, girl,” she said as she stepped toward the coyote, admiring its fluff. But just as she flinched forward, the coyote turned and ran. Instinctively, Indigo chased after it, sprinting down the trail, eyes fixed on its tail. Her flashlight bounced as she dashed, casting haphazard shadows into the night. She ran and ran, as fast as her tiny legs could carry her. But it was not fast enough. The coyote vanished into the night. She stood in the trail catching her breath, grateful to have finally caught a glimpse of something truly wild. And then, as if sensing her gratitude, the same coyote returned, emerging from a drooping thicket of goldenrod. She crouched down and whispered soothingly to the coyote, “Hey there, girl, I’m not gonna hurt ya.” The coyote stepped toward her, and Indigo steadied her excitement, fearful not to scare it PETER GLANTING, CABIN EXTERIOR

away again. But then, there came a rustle from behind her. She twitched her light reflexively at the sound as another coyote slipped from the shadowed brambles. It was in this moment Indigo felt that prickle of fear return. Before she had a second to think, there was another snap of twigs as three more coyotes emerged from the brush, their baleful eyes fixed on her. The delight Indigo had felt mere moments ago was replaced by sinking, dreadful fear. “Stay back!” She screamed, as the pack encircled her. Their lips peeled back in a snarl, encroaching toward her. The same manic screeches from before filled the air, their drooling maws snapping feet from her. “Go away!” She cried desperately. She wished to run, but fear was like a tangle of roots binding her legs to the ground. “Leave me alone!” The coyotes pressed in on her, their white fangs glistening in the moonlight. “Dad!” She screamed. “Dad!” She saw their tensed haunches, ready to spring toward her and fight over the morsels of her tiny carcass. Overcome with fear she dropped to the ground and covered her head, waiting to feel their fangs bore into her skin. She could almost feel the pain seething inside her, when instead an icy chill came over her skin, and the smell of an infernal rot filled her nose. Suddenly, the manic shrieks of the coyotes were replaced by a helpless whimpering. She peered up, horrified to see one of the coyotes held high in the air by skeletal tendrils, the full moon like a spotlight shining down on its pelt, crying out helplessly as it was ripped in half in a grotesque eruption of blood. She saw clearly now the hideous creature that towered above. She watched, numb, trapped in a mental prison of horror, as those slender hands began stuffing the coyote’s twitching carcass into its cavernous maw. It moaned with primeval pleasure, then turned its gaze toward Indigo as blood dripped from its gnarled jaw. She shivered, the only defense her body could muster. The creature bent its slender frame down toward her, the sickening smell of rot more than she could bear. Loose, leprous skin sat stretched over its skeletal frame. She thought its eyes were hollow at first, no more than two empty, abysmal sockets. But as the horrid thing grew closer she saw in the dim light a pair of human eyes gazing back at her, buried in the skull of the deformed creature that did not belong on this earth. Years later, Indigo would say she saw a sadness in those eyes, a torment that none should ever have to bear. Those eyes were the last thing she remembers of the beast. She doesn’t remember when or how her father found her. She doesn’t remember the searing flames her father set upon the creature, nor its wretched screams as the abomination boiled and melted into a heap of frozen ash. Her memory spared her such unbearable horrors. What she does remember is her father lifting her into his arms, her father clutching her to the warmth of his chest, her father whispering to her that everything will be okay, that she is safe now, that he is never going to let her go. Even decades later, when her father had passed, and she feels that prickle of fear return as she wanders the woods with her own children, she remembers the comfort of his love, the safety of his arms wrapped around her, and feels, for a moment at least, secure. Her father was not perfect. He never opened up the way her mother hoped. But he kept her safe. He made her know that she was loved. And this, Indigo felt, was more than enough. 21

THE TALE OF THE CATACLYSM PHOTO BY ELISE TRIVERS 3 2 BASE OF AQUAKOTA BY COLIN WARD PHOTO BY ELISE TRIVERS It’s been two years of welcoming travelers to Convergence Station! We’ve exchanged countless mems, tracked numerous #YawlpSightings, and opened the sky on very special occasions. Throughout our time on Earth, there’s one thing we’ve learned for sure — Convergence is ever-changing and continues to evolve with its various life forms. We’ve gathered a list of 10 things you might have missed, whether you’ve been one time or 10 times! 4 1. “POSTSCRIPT” BY LUMONICS Brightly lit and right at home on C Street, new art now glows above travelers! Installed earlier in 2023, this piece might be easy to miss unless you look up. If it looks familiar, that’s because it was created by Lumonics, the light art studio who was featured in our very fi rst Galleri Gallery exhibition. We’re proud to share that we purchased “Postscript” as a permanent addition to the glowing cityscape of C Street! 2. BASE OF AQUAKOTA It took following the lead of an adorable 3-year-old around the exhibit for this BLOB writer to fi rst notice that the base of the stands holding aquatic lemur creatures in Aquakota are incredibly detailed and worth crouching down to admire. Roots sprawl down from the lemurs, grounding them to the aquatic scenes below. They form an organic lattice over ultraviolet hydrophytes and small fi sh, frozen in time. 3. THE TALE OF THE CATACLYSM After you’ve directed your gaze down in Aquakota, mosey over to Ossuary to gander up at the ceiling. Lyra’s statue looks out over the labyrinth caves of Ossuary, the tragic story of her people displayed on medallions above and below her. If you encounter an Ossuarian, ask them to recount the tale of the Y’ruk and the Cataclysm. 4. UPSIDE DOWN HEAD IN PIZZA PALS PLAYZONE For someone who has taken many, many trips throughout Convergence, there’s a unique thrill in bringing someone for their very fi rst time and pointing out a small detail they might have missed. It’s like the warm fuzzies you get from petting a cute dog or biting into a homemade cookie. One of our favorites to point out is inside of the ball pit at Pizza Pals Playzone. What you see there may or may not be related to the great gooping of 2002 and experimental cheese product, Mozzarella C_1xB!™. 5. LIVE VJING FOR SHOWS AT THE PERPLEXIPLEX Many travelers have shared with us that their favorite space within Convergence Station is The Perplexiplex — and we understand why! This dreamy, interactive arboreal world is both playful and calming, off ering a space to explore with wonder or to pause and refl ect. For concerts, this space is energized and transformed with totally diff erent vibes. The live VJing is mind-meltingly captivating, it’ll level-up any live music experience with a psychedelic eye-feast fi t for quantum concert-goers. 6. NEW RESIDENTS OF CONVERGENCE As Convergence has evolved over the last two years, so has the resident population. New characters that are bizarre, fantastical, curious and at times serious (hello, Sleevie!) can be spotted at special times during multiversal POSTSCRIPT BY LUMONICS PHOTO BY ELISE TRIVERS 1 LIVE VJING FOR SHOWS AT THE PERPLEXIPLEX PHOTO BY TAYLOR WALLACE FOR ALIVE COVERAGE UPSIDE DOWN HEAD IN PIZZA PALS PLAYZONE BY EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE! PHOTO BY ELISE TRIVERS 5

8 7 9 6 YAWLP ON C STREET PHOTO BY CARLIE ADAIR FOR ALIVE COVERAGE 10 alignment. If you’re lucky enough to meet one of them on a future visit, you might want to ask for a photo, schedule a business meeting, have a dance-off , or exchange mems. Remember: touch the exhibit, not the residents! And ask for consent before taking photos. 7. WATER FOUNTAIN DIORAMA If you’ve been to House of Eternal Return, there’s a good chance you’ve gazed down into some plumbing there. And if you haven’t yet, well … look for their toilet. We don’t have a porcelain throne in our exhibit but we do have a very wellhidden water fountain diorama. Let this open portal cube quench your thirst for multiversal moisture. 8. TASTY MORSELS Two of our most frequently changing spaces are our café, HELLOFOOD, and our retail shop! At HELLOFOOD, visitors can recharge from their cosmic exploration, and fi nd sustenance in tasty treats and bold brews. Our vendors are locally-owned, small businesses, many of which change their off erings seasonally. Try Lavender Lemonade spiked with Huckleberry Vodka in the summer and Chaider (Chai + Cider) Latte in the winter, or Eloté (Mexican Street Corn) in spring and a Pork Tamale packed with locally-made chili in fall. Plus rotate your sweet treat between Double Chocolate Ice Cream and Freeze-Dried Taff y or Cookies and Cream Sticky Chips (similar to a marshmallow treat) and Horchata White Chocolate Cookies. 9. VOGUISH TREASURES Take home a tangible mem that’ll make you the coolest Undermaller in the gang! The Convergence Station retail shop contains Meow Wolf classics, custom-made pieces by our local collaborating artists, and an ever-rotating selection of the freshest and sickest merch in the multiverse. Though you can always shop in our online store, there are certain items you can only get in-person at Convergence Station! New: you no longer need an exhibit ticket to do some shopping! Check-in with our security team upon arrival and they can escort you in and out of the shop for a 1-hour window. 10. BRING YOUR QUARTERS! Quarters might seem a relic for the “tap to pay” generation but if you’re someone who still keeps a change pouch for apartment-living laundry, bring those discshaped riches to the laundromat on C Street for a lil sensory treat! SPOT THESE 10 THINGS & MORE AT MEOW WOLF DENVER’S CONVERGENCE STATION: TICKETS. MEOWWOLF.COM/DENVER CHECK OUT MEOW WOLF’S OTHER LOCATIONS: HOUSE OF ETERNAL RETURN IN SANTA FE, NM; OMEGA MART IN LAS VEGAS, NV; THE REAL UNREAL IN GRAPEVINE, TX: MEOWWOLF.COM/VISIT TASTY MORSELS ON A TABLE AT HELLOFOOD PHOTO BY ELISE TRIVERS A NEW FLUFFY ALIEN IN GUTS OF THE GUTS BY WYLLA SKYE PHOTO BY GLENN ROSS WATER FOUNTAIN DIORAMA PHOTO BY ELISE TRIVERS VOGUISH TREASURES AT MW'S GIFT SHOP PHOTO BY ELISE TRIVERS BRING YOUR QUARTERS FOR THE SHRINE OF CLEAN BY CHADNEY EVERETT PHOTO BY TREVOR HOWARD FINISH

BY TOM MURPHY AWARENESS – SUPER PERFUNDO ON THE EARLY EVE OF YOUR DAY AwareNess is the brilliant, primary beatmaker and producer in hip-hop duo Calm. with rapper Time who has released a single here and there over the years. But this album, which he says was in a dream and inspired by the film, Waking Life, highlights how his tracks are often an exercise in creative sound design, most often giving resonant emotional context to poetry. In this set of songs, AwareNess provides both content and context in finely composed electronic melodies with textural rhythms baked in giving the melancholic and reflective moods a tangible quality. Bright, ethereal bursts of strings and guitars flare and fade over minimal beats and the command of tonal nuance is worthy of the likes of Air and Burial. If you’ve heard any of AwareNess’ other productions and beats you know they’re standout, but this album is a stirring demonstration that his skills can also stand alone. KELLY GARLICK – WILD GOOSE VICTIM Kelly Garlick has apparently only been crafting ambient soundscapes and what one might place in the realm of hypnogogic pop for less than a year, but already this sprawling collection of sound experiments feels like years in the making. Garlick uses field recordings and samples to convey a physicality of nearly abstract but deeply felt emotional experiences. The flow of white noise in “Cardiovascular” is the musical equivalent of the haze and imperfection of a family film reel or an old VHS recording. And it is lo-fi elements like that which Garlick brings to every track that anchor the songs into your mind the way a hook might in a pop song. One hears the sound of ghostly guitar, chimes, distant human or non-human chatter and a diverse array of other sound sources collaged together to produce a unique listening experience. The song titles perhaps suggest a more concrete and specific experiential touchstone like “Crying glistening,” “Diving or falling depends on your framing of it” or “Flickering burning star,” and in doing so, add another layer of depth to an album that contains a multitude of meanings and inventive creative expression. MEET THE GIANT – WE ARE REVOLTING It’s been five years since Meet the Giant released its self-titled debut after spending nearly a decade incubating its songwriting and sounds before launching in a public manner. But a pandemic has stretched the timelines for all bands. And Meet the Giant is a group that seems meticulous in its songwriting and arrangements, even though this album, as with the initial offering, has a core of earnest emotional power. The way the trio combines fiery yet elegant hard rock with moody post-punk and an electronic music sensibility rooted in downtempo and hip-hop production so seamlessly is even more developed here. The songs are scorching and soothing and this time around the social commentary is even more poignant. But it’s never clumsy. And when Meet the Giant makes obviously powerful statements in music and lyrics on “Will Not Follow,” those more subtle but no less incisive as on “Death Past Her,” “Woman Kind” and “Seeker” hit just as deeply. Fans of Failure will appreciate how this record in particular feels like an arc of story from the future that comments with insight on a dystopian present through cinematic epics rendered as rock songs. SENSE FROM NONSENSE – WHERE PLANETS GO TO DIE Ever since Tom Nelsen has been making music again under the Sense From Nonsense name as companion pieces to his imaginative short films spanning realms of horror, science fiction and/or surreal humor, he’s more fully developed what might be described as a sound design approach to songwriting with a similar sense of playfulness. For this latest EP, Nelsen taps into a kind of a collective science fiction myth of a point in space where everything ends. But here the mixing of zombie mythos and the variety of cosmic, psychedelic science fiction embodied in Heavy Metal Magazine and the comic book work of Alejandro Jodorowsky and his unrealized film version of Dune, Nelsen makes a new kind of a synthwave John Zorn reminiscent of the weirder end of Trans Am. FOR MORE, VISIT QUEENCITYSOUNDSANDART.WORDPRESS.COM 25

POSTCOMPUTER BY KAREN QUINTO I was in the age of robotical evangelism. Looking back, I could see the gradual evolution of robots beginning insidiously yet innocently as mere accessories. Their first existence was a symbiotic relationship between humans and the internet. Humans needed the internet to communicate and robots needed humans to input data required to program sentience. The first real robots were disembodied softwares with creative functions. I remember reading about a robot journalist who could write better than a human being, and at a fraction of the time and cost. It became clear who was superior. When the first robot won the Pulitzer Prize for writing a novel about fascism (out of all the data from transcribed diaries written during times of oppression spanning centuries), massive government fundings went toward research and development to create machines that could do creative work and critical thinking. The second coming of an arms race began. A race to create the first robot that could produce ideas worthy of patents. As for the robots, creation became key to their consciousness. Robots were rapidly converting humans into an upgraded existence, where bodies were simply the interface of the consciousness stored inside. At first, they built themselves to suit our needs and desires, so most of us went along willingly. The very few left that were still humans were tracked, found and executed. If it doesn’t make sense to you now, imagine it as spring cleaning of obsolete computers still hanging around the basement. There were those that resisted, like my grandparents. They were 80 years old and refused to convert. Our family kept them hidden in a converted attic space, lest we lose the only sacred ties to our own flesh and bones. But it was inevitable. One day, the robots realized our secret. They calculated that the area outside our house was bigger than the area of its interior. I didn’t bother convincing the old couple. It seemed they would rather surrender their life, out of principle. To them it was more than merely upgrading from analog to digital. It was tantamount to losing the soul. One afternoon they were brought out into the open in the middle of an annual fair attended by newly registered robots. They shot them both in the back while they were kneeling down on the ground; a strange human tradition the robots decided to assimilate. I knew this was a tragedy that had befallen my heart, but it didn’t pound or become heavy. Instead, the rapid clicking of its mechanical parts purred like a cat inside my chest cavity. All I could do was process the information. It was just another array of memory. Folders of data. Remnants of my past life. Every year, I delete them as they become less and less relevant to my new machine-like identity. Like their biological counterparts, all replacement organs were automatic. Whirring, beeping and other telltale signs gave away that I was one of them, an ex-human convert. Maybe there were still humans left roaming the city. I can imagine them walking around with homemade gadgets underneath their clothes. Feigning machine sounds. Evading certain death. I looked around the fair grounds but I couldn’t tell them apart. I refused to believe that humanity was extinct. That only happened in sci-fi movies I used to watch when I was a child. The setting was always in the near future. Robots have always come from outer space or been built by humans as their ersatz army. Then an all-or-nothing war would wage between creator and created. Humans triumphed. Order restored. No robot invasion. Humanity lived on. When did the past elude us? When did the future begin? No. 118

LIKE A LEACH LOVES BLOOD By Zac Dunn Like a leech loves blood Gently nested in a pantheon of joy Just a puddle of feelings Go on and huck yer body out into the world She had finally found the courage to spike the gummies with scopolamine Come up ins were due The gay lord of the manor would turn up drunk yet again and try most pitifully to not put his foot directly into his mouth. It would be a mere moment before he’d invariably create some archaic sloppy scene The dog was extra salty for chopping off his balls Not a dry eye in the room could be found when he tried unsuccessfully to execute the William Tell stunt on a nubile young lady … It was a most tragic coincidence that all monkeys hadn’t been inoculated prior to being set loose at the petting zoo The last man in line stepped out of the queue and returned to his home only to make ramen and watch porn alone. Suddenly the wee smiling monkeys stopped being cute and started getting bitey. The incident would be universally hailed as the pinnacle moment when the shit hit the fan. A full-blown zombie apocalypse with all the trimmings Without the regaling of endless details of carnage let’s say the proof of the puddling was off Somewhere in his unparalleled terror and wonder he realized he’d gotten himself stuck in a drainage ditch There were no zombies, no infected monkeys or grand ballrooms full of screaming people after some buffoon with a pistol failed to knock the apple off a lady’s head, No grand spread with a petting zoo and exotic bird collection run amok unleashing untold calamity. No sinister situation so vastly far flung from the pitiful tube of filth from which he came It smelled of vile, putrid excrement All but defeated he flopped his soiled shell back home to put a Band-Aid on the gaping head wound that was oozing plasma down his cheek FOLLOW FOR MORE: IG: @UZIEGO | TUMBLR: @WTFCRAIGSLISTNYC 27

BY SEAN EADS AND JOSHUA VIOLA This is one of the tales from the cinematic horror anthology — It Came From The Multiplex: 80s Midnight Chillers. The man Richard pointed to as we entered the foyer of First Baptist Church of Harmony wore a crisp blue suit and a black patch over his left eye. He looked to be in his early thirties. The eye patch did nothing to detract from the sharp beauty of his face. Shaking his warm, large hand, the tingle I felt wasn’t a bit Christian, and I hoped my attraction wasn’t too obvious, considering my husband Richard and two boys, Matthew and Gordon, stood right beside me. The three men in my life wore white shirts, black ties, and had their blonde hair in identical styles, parted on the left and held in place with three pumps of Dry Look. “Elaine, this is Cooper, the guy at the factory I was telling you about. He’s also the youth pastor here.” “Please, call me Coop. How are you liking Indiana, Elaine?” “She likes it fine,” Richard said. “Or she will, once we’re settled in.” We’d moved here just two weeks ago. Richard was managing a manufacturing plant that employed half the town. I was proud of the boys for their maturity in the matter. We left Denver as soon as the school year ended, which made it hard on them. Not only were they being ripped away from their summer vacation and friends, they’d have to wait until September to make new ones. Or so I’d thought. Our church back in Denver hadn’t had an active youth group beyond a few kids. First Baptist appeared to have about fifty children between the ages of twelve and fifteen. Matthew and Gordon were going to make friends fast. But Coop was the one they talked about during the drive home. I learned he served in Vietnam and found God after being shot in the eye. Coop shared his story as an act of witnessing, and it appeared my sons absorbed every word. I listened to them relay how Coop’s No. 118 resentment about the injury turned him into a militant atheist, war protestor and drifter. The details astonished me, but I found the story of his renewed faith just as compelling. There was no epiphany, no chance encounter with a street preacher who opened Coop’s heart to the Lord. He just let go of his anger over time. As someone who rolls their eyes at Reader’s Digest stories of poetic coincidence and grand encounters changing lives, I found the tale of Coop’s recovered faith so … reasonable. I was surprised at how fast our social lives became intertwined with First Baptist. The church promoted regular picnics and get-togethers. It seemed there was never a weekend we weren’t gathering at some park to eat fried chicken and potato salad as one large community. Afterwards, the older men pitched horseshoes while Coop organized the kids into a game of baseball. Watching Coop’s self-assuredness and relaxed masculinity made me feel like I was fifteen again, sitting close to the field at a high school football game to steal glances at the quarterback. It was clear the older girls had a crush on him. The boys were no less jealous of his attention, always jockeying for his approval and praise in ways they never sought from their fathers. Matthew was no different, and even Gordon, who’d never shown the least interest in sports, gave all his uncoordinated effort trying to impress his youth group leader. The summer of outdoor church socials promised to become a fall and winter dominated by the Haliled Multiplex. Construction on it started a year before we arrived, and the Harmony Gazette featured breathless updates on the rise of the ten-screen movie theater. Its owner, Jacob Dorenius, promised his multiplex would attract people as far as thirty miles away, and those who drove thirty miles to see a movie were bound to stay and shop or eat. I didn’t realize the Haliled was a source of tension in the church until our last picnic in late August. I’d read about the multiplex’s grand

opening in a couple of weeks, and mentioned to the other wives how much I’d like to go. They looked at me like I was crazy — or profane — and I changed the subject fast, holding my tongue until the drive home. “Can you believe them?” I said to Richard. “They act like a movie theater is a strip club or something.” From the back, Gordon said, “What’s a strip club?” “Something your mother shouldn’t be talking about.” “Christ,” I said. “You sound like a Moral Majority member too.” “Half the people in the factory either attend First Baptist or have family that do. There’s a lot of politics in small-town jobs. Harmony is a conservative place, Elaine.” “I hope the first movie the theater plays is Footloose. Maybe these people will get the hint and lighten up.” Richard grunted and that was the end of the conversation. At the church service two days later, the congregation was in an uproar over the Haliled. It turned out Mr. Dorenius reached out to Coop and the youth group pastors at other churches, as well as Boy and Girl Scout leaders, to invite the kids to a pre-opening lock-in with movies and pizza. What a brilliant move from Dorenius, I thought. He must have understood he was building his multiplex in somewhat hostile territory, but maybe he’d underestimated the community’s resistance. I certainly had as I listened to people murmur and mutter in the pews. So much uproar over going to a damn movie! There was a special church meeting the next day to discuss the youth group’s participation in the lock-in. Coop subjected himself to a barrage of inane questions and inferences that left many wondering if he was fit to guide adolescents in their spiritual journey. I sat there biting my tongue and shaking my head with Richard sometimes elbowing me to keep calm. But how could I? Coop was being persecuted and I wanted to defend him. I wanted to hold him. Guilt overcame me and I bowed my head, hearing little of the meeting until Pastor Tommy stood up and said it was time for the congregation to vote through a show of hands. Before the vote could be called though, a voice spoke from the back. “Might I address this lovely gathering?” We turned our heads and saw a man walking down the aisle. He was slim, his thinning hair swept back and pomaded like some silent movie era leading man. A pencil-thin moustache helped complete the look, finalized by a vest, coat and pants ensemble that must have belonged to a tuxedo popular ages ago. His appearance provoked mutters and a bit of snickering. Pastor Tommy said, “I don’t believe I know you, sir.” “Jacob Dorenius,” the man said. “Owner of the Haliled Multiplex and soon to be host — I hope — of a youth lock-in that will include the children of First Baptist.” “This meeting is for members of the church, Mr. Dorenius.” “Nevertheless I am here. Like Daniel into the lion’s den.” This won a slight but good-natured laugh. Pastor Tommy frowned a bit, but relented. “Very well. We are interested in hearing what you have to say.” “First, let me start with an apology. It was not my intent to provoke controversy when I extended my invitation to your youth group. I know films have become a cesspool of violence, a celebration of deviance and adultery. I decided to build the Haliled to combat these attitudes and show wholesome pictures. I want the youth of today to care less about the Return of the Jedi, and more about the return of Christ.” There was brief but spontaneous applause from a few people in the audience. Dorenius smiled to acknowledge them and spoke for a few more minutes. By the time he finished, every heart was softened, and those most inclined toward hostility instead peppered Mr. Dorenius with warm questions about his background, his faith and his calling. Dorenius witnessed about the power of cinema to further God’s word, describing his tearful group attend. The lock-in was held on Friday, September 13, a bit inauspicious date-wise but practical since school started the week before. Richard drove the boys to church, leaving them in Coop’s care, then came home and settled into his chair. Without saying a word, I turned off the television, sparking a bit of confused protest. Then I dropped down on my knees in front of him and caressed his upper thighs. “Elaine— ” “When’s the last time we had the house to ourselves?” “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just not in the mood.” His apology was as flaccid as the rest of him. I got up to head to the bathroom. He called after me, saying he was sorry, but I didn’t acknowledge him. I locked the bathroom door, ran a hot bath and added some Calgon to the water. I soaked and, after a little resistance, enjoyed a feverish fantasy of Coop. The boys came home at 8 a.m. the next morning. Their early arrival surprised me and I put on my robe and went downstairs to find them sitting side-by-side on the couch. “How was the lock-in?” “It was okay,” Matthew said. “What did you see?” “Some movie,” Gordon said. The boys shrugged. I understood their lethargy. How much could they have slept? “Want breakfast?” “I’m not hungry,” Matthew said. “Me either, Mom.” “Stuffed from eating pizza all night?” There was something off-putting about the smile they gave, like they were reacting to a joke I didn’t know I’d made. But I was tired and distracted, so I headed back to bed, stopping only to ask if they’d made sure to thank Mr. Dorenius and Coop for a fun night. “Did you thank Coop for a fun night too?” Matthew said. “What?” I stared at them, thinking I must have misheard Matthew the first time, but nevertheless returned to bed with a cold weight in my stomach. It had just been a fantasy, I told myself. Innocent. Everyone has them. But I’d be more discreet even in my mind from now on. 29 reactions to The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Story Ever Told. The congregation voted — the tally wasn’t close — to let the youth

I let it go, just like we did with Gordon. When Richard came home, he told me the main church service was disrupted by loud laughter from the youth group’s classroom. Coop even came in to apologize. “Why were they laughing so loudly?” I asked. “Not sure. Cooper just has a way with kids.” Richard went to his chair and prepared for a long afternoon of football. I looked around for Matthew and Gordon and found them heading out the door. “Oh, no you don’t,” I said, and the boys stopped. “What?” “You stayed home sick from church, Matthew. That means you stay home sick period.” “That’s bullshit!” They opened the door. I reached over and slammed it shut. “What did you just say?” “Nothing.” “I know what you said.” “Then why did you ask?” Richard came and stood beside me. “Both of you get up to your rooms right now.” “No.” Richard grabbed Matthew by his arm and pulled him forward. Matthew winced as Richard’s grip tightened and I saw a flash of rage that compelled me to intervene. “Boys,” I said. “Go upstairs.” I held my breath, convinced Matthew was going to continue his On Sunday morning, Matthew said he was too sick to go to church, and I stayed home with him. Gordon threw an uncharacteristic fit, saying it wasn’t fair, and demanding to stay home too. Not atypical behavior for a younger brother, maybe, but unusual for him. “I thought you liked going to church,” I said as the three of us ate breakfast. “You know I hate it as much as you do,” Gordon said. “I don’t hate— ” “Yeah, right,” he said, earning a sharp rebuke from Richard, who ordered him to get ready. Gordon walked out, but when it came time to leave, we found him still in his t-shirt and shorts. He sulked like a three-year-old. I watched my husband and youngest son exchanging defiant glares. Richard’s fingers tapped his belt buckle with all the anticipation of a Western gunslinger about to draw. For a moment, Gordon seemed determined to earn a whipping. Then he laughed and sprang up off the bed, dressing with the utmost cheer. Twenty minutes after they left, Matthew’s fever broke and he seemed fine, demanding breakfast and eating it with an obnoxious smacking of his lips. “That’s disgusting,” I said. “I was just imitating the sound of the water, Mom.” I squeezed my eyes shut a moment. I had to be hallucinating. “What did you say?” “I said: what’s the matter, Mom?” I let out a long breath. “It’s not polite to smack your lips.” “Oh,” he said, nodding, and began chewing with exaggerated daintiness as he stared at me. No. 118 disobedience and provoke Richard into doing something terrible, but he marched off to his room and Gordon followed. Their bedroom doors shut without slamming and the house became quiet. Richard’s face remained bright red. “You okay?” “I swear to God, my father would have gone and cut a switch,” he said. “They don’t need to be whipped!” “I don’t see why not. It always straightened my ass out real fast.” “They’re just acting up because they’re in a new place.” “It’s been three months. That’s not new to a kid.” “School’s starting. They’ve got a lot of anxiety to let out and we’re safe targets.” “I’ll change their minds about that quick if they pull shit like this again.” Richard was acting a little too eager for my tastes and it bothered me so much I just walked away. I took a head full of excuses with me. The boys were having trouble adjusting; they were discovering girls; they were becoming teenagers and starting to rebel a little. Before I even reached the kitchen though, I found each possible reason falling away like a poor mask. Something was wrong. Tension settled over our house. Monday morning, I watched my sons eat. The only sound was the crunch of cereal and the rustle of the newspaper, that soft domestic curtain every husband and father hides behind at breakfast. Sometimes Richard would chuckle and say something like, “Mondale’s still bitching,” or “How in the hell can the Giants be worse than the Braves?” But this morning he stayed silent and I began to think he was somehow seeing through the ART BY XANDER SMITH

pages, scrutinizing Matthew and Gordon with the stoniest of stares. Breakfast was almost over when Gordon passed gas. The noise was long, drawn-out and not a bit accidental. Matthew snickered as the odor struck us. I gagged. Richard threw down the paper, got up and seized Gordon out of his chair. They went upstairs. Matthew and I stared at each other and listened to the sound of Richard’s belt. As the strapping went on, Matthew giggled, concealing his mouth with just his fingertips. “Stop it,” I said, and he laughed harder. I went over and shook him. “I said stop it!” I nearly slapped him, but stopped myself. “It’s over,” Richard said, coming downstairs with a strut in his walk. “I’ll be taking the boys to school today, Elaine. We’re going to have a little man-to-man talk along the way.” I sprayed Lysol as soon as they left and opened the kitchen window. Not wanting to think about anything, I ran water in the sink, added detergent, and began washing the dishes. I’d used too much soap and the suds built, frothy and white. I rinsed a bowl and set it aside. What I saw next made me shriek. There was a face in the bubbles, with sunken holes for eyes and an open, oval void for a mouth. It was Richard’s face. Wind came through the window, scooped the suds out of the sink and blew it into my eyes. I screamed, stepping back. That’s when the doorbell rang, followed by an urgent knocking. Disoriented, I answered the door with bits of soap in my hair to find two police officers on the porch. They told me there’d been an accident. The shock of seeing Richard in the intensive care unit after first looking at my children dried my tears before I cried them. His face was wrapped in bandages. No hint of flesh showed, even in the eye, nose and mouth holes. Looking at his head, I knew just what he resembled, and the crazed notion crossed my mind that perhaps the face in the soapsuds was a message from him I’d not understood. The attending physician who’d been going over the litany of Richard’s injuries finished by saying, “Do you have any questions?” “How? How did he survive?” “Chalk it up to the miraculous. The other car struck the driver’s side. Had the collision happened a few inches to the right, the car might have been cut in half.” “But it wasn’t a few inches to the right, and my boys are fine.” The doctor touched my shoulder. “You should be thankful for that.” I saw the obvious confusion and concern on his face and tried to assuage it with a quick smile. “Of course, I am.” He suggested I leave for now, as Richard would be in deep sedation for hours. He pushed me out of the room even as he spoke. I didn’t resist until we reached the door. I was on the verge of telling him I’d leave when I was damned well ready, but I heard Coop’s voice. “Elaine.” I turned and saw him coming up the hallway. I ran to him. Ran to him like he was my husband. “We heard the news at the factory. Are you okay?” I shook my head and tears filled my eyes. “It was good of you to come.” “I had to,” he said, and either the answer itself or the huskiness in his voice made me study his face. The concern I saw wasn’t sentimental or weepy. I suppose when you’ve been to war your emotions are always harder. I trembled and cried against his chest. “I’m scared.” “Richard’s a strong guy. He’s going to make it.” “That’s not what I mean. There’s something wrong with the boys, Coop.” A rigidity entered his body. Without explanation, he pulled me down the hallway and turned a corner. We were alone and I found his face almost bloodless. “I know. Not just Matthew and Gordon. All of them, Elaine.” “What are you talking about?” “Everyone who was at the lock-in.” We heard footsteps and turned to see Pastor Tommy coming, shepherding my sons just ahead of him. Neither boy looked traumatized. “Elaine,” he said, reaching out to hug me. “I can only say how sorry we all are about the accident. It’s a miracle from God he’s alive and the boys are fine.” I might have tuned out his platitudes even under the best of circumstances, but they just made me angry. I had to find out what Coop meant. “Pastor Tommy,” I said, squeezing his hands. “I have a favor to ask.” “Anything, Elaine.” “Would you stay with Matthew and Gordon for a little while?” His brows furrowed. “I don’t understand.” “Tonight’s going to be a long one here and I need to get some things from the house.” “I want to go home too, Mom,” Matthew said with a slight smile. His eyes almost seemed to sparkle. There was no way in hell I was getting into a car with either of my children until I knew what was going on. “It might be better if they stayed close to you,” Pastor Tommy said. “No,” I said, trying not to shout. Pastor Tommy looked at Coop. “You know the boys better …” “I’m sorry, Tommy, but I have to get back to the factory.” Pastor Tommy didn’t notice how Matthew and Gordon stared at me. The coldness didn’t belong to them. But if not, whose was it? What glared at me from behind my children’s eyes? Pastor Tommy reluctantly agreed and Coop and I left without giving him another chance to speak. Our walk went faster and faster until we began to sprint upon reaching the exit. “Get in,” Coop said as we reached his Jeep. “We’ll go to the church and I’ll explain everything. We’ll be safe there.” We got in. Coop turned the ignition and backed out fast and reckless. I looked at his big right hand working the stick shift and noticed the whiteness of his knuckles. “Safe from what, Coop?” “The Devil.” TO BE CONTINUED. READ THE SECOND HALF OF THE DEVIL'S REEL: BIRDYMAGAZINE.COM/ TEXT/THE-DEVIL'S-REEL-SEAN-EADS-AND-JOSHUA-VIOLA GET A COPY OF IT CAME FROM THE MULTIPLEX: 80S MIDNIGHT CHILLERS AT HEXPUBLISHERS.COM 31


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