Calypso, Riddled

This selection is paired with Book 1 of The Odyssey by Homer. Get the full issue of NonBinary Review #22 from Zoetic Press.

My grapes glisten obediently upon trained vines,
But you cannot be trained.
The water channels I’ve shaped duly irrigate my cave,
But your troth cannot be drained.
Ambrosia and nectar have been bested by meat and wine,
For you, Odysseus, my would-be slave,
Resist the divine.

Who’s truly captive when they captivate the captor?
Go on, chop down my tree.
Here. Augurs for your raft. Bore holes in the wood,
Like you have done to me.
Who flees an immortal’s embrace and thus has trapped her?
You, Odysseus, moving on for good,
Ending my chapter.

Katherine Quevedo was born and raised just outside of Portland, Oregon, where she works as an analysis manager and lives with her husband and two sons. Her poetry has appeared in the Santa Clara Review and Civilized Beasts, and her fiction has appeared in Factor Four, Apparition Lit, and elsewhere.


This selection is paired with The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. Get the full issue of NonBinary Review #21 at

I am called Grodlik. My name is more a sound that came from my lifegivers when they saw me than an actual title, but I am satisfied with the grunt. That was all we ever did—grunt. For the first two decades of my life, I knew little in the way of communication. But I am not dictating this. I have learned this language called English and I have learned through many painful years of aborted attempts how to tell my own tale.

It is perhaps the most remarkable event that in this most remarkable of surroundings and circumstances, I have become reasonably literate. I am told that my brain, the piece inside my skull that allows me to learn and reason, is most inferior—certainly not suited to tell a tale. But at this point I have read widely, and shall try.

My education was not my own doing. My teacher wanted to enlighten all my people, but soon enough discovered the utter impossibility of attaining this lofty goal. Few of us were inclined to listen. The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) could not successfully expound even the most commonplace logic to us. I am a Morlock. My race was unalterably set in its ways.

It is my understanding that the Time Traveller visited us twice. The first time he came to our world, we sensed his presence. He was known as the demon who brought violence and fire to brutalize our people. I had just joined our hunting parties, and sometimes caught glimpses of him through the foliage, but always when I was apart from my group, and always when he had fire in his hand. I gave him a wide berth. By the time I reported my sightings, he had always moved on. For most of us, he was a minor annoyance.

Then came the night, as he told me much later, he had fallen asleep next to the protection of his campfire. Our subterranean-bred eyes could not bear the stabbing light, and thus he had felt safe by the flames. To his horror and ours, the fire had spilled into the surrounding woods and ignited the great conflagration that had finished many of us as we tracked Eloi in the darkness.

After that night, I was dispatched to the depths of our caverns and demoted to the maintenance of our machinery. I was bitter, but knew the elders had their own primitive reasons for all they did. I heard no more of the Time Traveller for many years; I did not know he had gone back to his own place—as he called it, his own time. I existed, I labored; I obeyed.

When fully mature physically, a female was offered to me, but no offspring came forth. A type of disdain enfolded me from the sensibilities of the others. I was not exactly ostracized, but I was no longer embraced or included in major rituals. My food was provided from the piles of offal, and my female took up with another. I left the caves by night, and sojourned in the depths of the woods. One midnight I watched stray Eloi nervously faltering back to their compound, and saw in their shining eyes the fear that came with straying too far afield before dusk. They amused me, but I no longer felt the need to gnaw at their throats, chew their insides, or suck upon their bones. I felt a hole in the pit of my gut that our “cattle” would not fill, and I came to understand that I was different than my clan. I had not been different growing up, but something had stirred. I feared I could never understand this painful passion, and was turning to retreat to the underground machines when a match flared in my face.

I shrieked and buried my head in the bushes. In a moment, the light dimmed somewhat, and with pain I saw past it. The Time Traveller stood before me, the flame in one hand and a raised club in the other. I had seen him close up through the trees twice in the far past, and he had not grown a day older. He watched me with interest, and lowered the weapon. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said.

He sat upon a rock at hand and studied me for a long time. His match went out, and though he knew I could now see him far better than he could see me, he did not light another. I sat on the ground and stared stupidly back at him. Somehow even at this early moment of acquaintance, I felt wisdom in his eyes. After some minutes of quietude, he reached into a bag and produced a slice of dried meat, which he offered to me. I edged forward cautiously, and grabbed and devoured it. Then he reached into a pocket and extracted what I later learned was a slide whistle. As he put it to his lips and blew into it, a strange squeal of noise reached my sensitive ears. I clapped my gray clawlike hands to the sides of my head and groaned. He softened the tone, and slowly I became enamored of the new sensation. Something I can only now describe as a laugh escaped my throat. When the man got up to leave, I followed him at a distance.

I followed him for years. It was easy for him to teach me to listen. It was far more difficult for him to teach me to speak. It was grueling for him to teach me to read—and to understand. But he did all this, and much more. I became a sort of assistant to him, and he said I was invaluable to making inroads with others of my kind. We were going to succeed or fail together. We failed far more than we succeeded. Because I was at his side, no hunting parties would molest us, but the only Morlocks who ever received anything in the way of instruction were the few stragglers we might catch alone on a path before dawn.

I came to comprehend my Teacher’s motives. He wanted more than to save the half-witted Eloi from our carnivorous regimen, he hoped to prod a sort of further evolution in the Morlocks themselves. In the later days, he frequently opined that I seemed the only specimen with an interest in self-improvement, and though my desire to learn was prodigious, he saw little long-term advantage to ennobling a being without offspring. He would ask about the female I once knew but we never came across her in our excursions; indeed, we would find few females without descending into the caverns, something we were now both loathe to do.

The Teacher resigned himself to doing his best with me, and eventually led me far afield to a secluded overhang halfway up a hillside. Inside, hidden by brambles, was the most glorious thing I ever beheld. He explained that it was a machine, in some ways like the things I had maintained, but nothing in our caverns ever glittered and shone in ways that burned our eyes. It was all crystal and something like bone, and it had a seat and a stack of levers, and he explained over and over that it allowed him to go far forward or backward across the centuries. I never fully understood, but he assured me he had been to the end of things, and he wished desperately to avoid such a finality. Inside the machine were many books, and over the decades I read them all.

We transported the volumes to the place of the Eloi, which he called the Palace of Green Porcelain. Of course, they were terrified of me at first, and apparently no one remembered the Time Traveller either, but over time they accepted the presence of both of us. Needless to say, no amount of bathing or grooming helped me resemble them, but we set up a library and living quarters of sorts in a corner of the compound, and soon they saw I was no threat and ignored us.

I studied in a dark sort of closet by day, and followed the Time Traveller’s trail by night. I began to call him “Teacher”, as I have noted, and he made no objection. Always, he seemed to be meditating on a fashion for spreading his success with me to the other Morlocks. I felt a throbbing pain within me always because I was unwilling to rejoin my clan and thrust a type of moral lucidity upon them.

One dark evening I stood too close as he struck a match for the lamp. I winced and tossed myself into my niche. “I am terribly sorry, my friend,” he apologized as I reappeared. “You have learned so much I sometimes forget the differences in our physiognomy. You have removed so much of the shaggy pale hair and adapted an excellent style of dress—and advanced mentally beyond my dreams. You are quite human. I forget the damage fire does.

“Fire damages all beings,” I replied quietly. “How did you escape the great fire many years back?”

My question startled him. He looked at me for a long time. “You remembered the night I left my campfire unattended when I drifted to sleep?” he asked at last.

“I do. I was with others in the surrounding woods. They wanted to surprise you. Ha! You inadvertently surprised them.” My words were rather slurred; my tongue had difficulty with certain letters, but he knew what I had said.

“Many of them died in the fire before morning.”

“Yes,” I nodded. “I was the only one remaining.”

The Teacher (the Time Traveller) did not speak for many minutes. The lamp grew low. I heard thunder far off. At length he said, “I had an Eloi girl with me. Her name was Weena. She died in the fire too.”

The thunder came closer. I moved to my closet. I don’t know why I answered; it just seemed I must. “No, she did not,” I said.

When I awoke the next evening, the Time Traveller was gone. I scaled the far hill but there was no trace of his machine. He had, however, left me his books. Whatever may come, I shall carry them below with me. I owe him that.

John Kiste is an organ donation ambassador, a McKinley Museum planetarian and an Edgar Allan Poe impersonator who has been published in such works as A Shadow of Autumn, Modern Grimoire, Dark Fire Fiction, Theme of Absence, and whose work was recently included in the Unnerving Press release Haunted Are These Houses, and the Camden Press anthology Quoth the Raven.

The Homilies of Edward Prendick

This selection is paired with The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. Get the full issue of NonBinary Review #21 at

I was once lost at sea
madness became me
because I found Him
saw his reborn
saw the dark of his Word

His is the House of Pain
His is the Hand that Wounds

The congregation nods
crucifix hanging above
plaster blood dripping on its face
Yes they pray
the Wounds they nod
He is the Hand of Wounds

Edward shakes his head
And continues
from the mount

I was once lost at sea
And mad visions overcame me
visions of His Chosen
rising with his touch
His Hand of Pain and Healing

His is the Hand that Heals
His is the Hand that Makes

I saw God create life
Then take life
Then life take God
this is
the madness of this island world

The congregation nods
Healing hands is our God
they sing
His hands made the world
they cry

I was once lost at sea
And I returned to the lost
rather than see the works of God
turned to Men
the works of Men
lost in the Word of His Law

That is the Law
Are we not Men

I was once lost at sea
and became man
now the scent of creatures
who break the law
are all around me

Yes the congregation applauds
then shuffles outside
to eat flesh and fish
chase other men
and rip the bark of trees
with machines that claw

I am still lost at sea
though land is all around me  —
Edward whimpers alone
watching the cold white stars
circle blackness above

David E. Cowen is the author of four books of poetry, Sixth and Adams (PW Press 2001), The Madness of Empty Spaces (Weasel Press 2014), The Seven Yards of Sorrow (Weasel Press 2016), the latter two being named to the Bram Stoker Award Preliminary Ballots and Bleeding Saffron (Weasel Press 2018). David was also the editor of the Horror Writer’s Poetry Showcase Volumes III and IV.


The Crying Puma

This selection is paired with The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. Get the full issue of NonBinary Review #21 at

“Experts Say Southern California Mountain Lions Could Become Extinct in 50 Years”.—

You wouldn’t let me live.
Your freeways and your strychnine
kill and maim the same
as Moreau’s House of Pain.

The sea’s a distant cry.
Through the pass I follow deer
up the hillside to the Getty.
Rich men love their art
more than they ever loved their beasts.

So I hid my ears beneath a hat
dressed in a fine wing-collared suit
served tea and macarons
to the wealthy donors on the hill.

They smiled and saw me not.
The crystal clinking hurt my ears.
I snarled and no one noticed
until there came the tears.

Someone had grown a heart
or had one implanted in a lab
and heard my miaows and gulps
over the strolling violinist.

Console they would not allow
and so, my cover blown,
I leapt before the bodyguard
could untangle his shoulder holster.

The roar of traffic matched my own
(and they say we do not roar)
as I fled and feared for my life
but no bullets twanged the air.

If you had the choice
to save the last Puma concolor,
or else the favored Brueghel’s Ark,
I hope you’d vote for me.
You may not have a choice.
I think I hear the sea.

Denise Dumars is a widely published author of poetry, short fiction, and metaphysical nonfiction. She is currently nominated for the Rhysling Award for her poem “Mars Must Remember.” Mountain lions, aka Pumas, live within the County of Los Angeles, not far from her home in L.A.’s South Bay, but are dying from eating animals killed by rat poison.

The Man Alone

This selection is paired with The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. Get the full issue of NonBinary Review #21 at

tell me Mr. Prendick,
which of our constellations brought you peace?
lend me the books
tomes that touched your savage mind
calming the violent shrieks of the city
and of the island.

I, too, have been in hiding.
I have cowered from shopkeepers in the street,
well meaninged passersby
regard me with pity,
or disgust.
oh, how my traitorous mind turns their stomachs.
I am uncomfort incarnate.
I scream at them all,
feral and wild,
pleading with them to see that the greatest victim
of the mind unhinged
is its former frame.

you must share my distrust of doctors.
what a comfort they must be
to those whose ailments are external,
or at least identified as foreign,
an alien lifeform.
but not to us, eh Prendick?
for our nature is unnatural to them, it is our
posing the threat to our
own bodies.
the treatments promise to cure it,
to kill it.

did you ever wish to have been a drowned sailor?
tell me how the waves rose
like anger dredged from a deep, watery soul.
tell me how it was beautiful
compared to the evil
ebbing and flowing
in our neighbors and friends,
in ourselves.

but I fear…

oh, the fear.
my dear Prendick, tell me,
if terror is a disease,
is it terminal?

Kayla Stansbury is a writer and an educator based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at LSU. Her debut poem, “Saudade,” can be found in Dovecote Magazine.

Far Too Short a Day

This selection is paired with The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Get NonBinary Review #21 from





The Martian wandered, and it wondered.

It wondered at the artistry of this great city the humans had made; proud and tall, even under the black dust, even throttled at every bend by the tangled red weed.

On Mars, there was no pride in cities. No color, no architecture to speak of — only building after featureless, airtight building. Martians were creatures of pragmatism. They had to be.

“Ulla…” the Martian muttered. “Ulla, Ulla, Ulla…”

It wandered, and it wondered if its people would remember it. The humans surely would. What stories would they tell of the Martians? What would their histories say of this short, pointless war? Would they confess to the atrocity they had wrought on their spaceborne enemies?

Of course, the Martian reflected, picking its agonizing way through the weed-choked rubble, what place did it have to judge the humans? Had it not murdered them by the hundreds with its fire? By the thousands with its smoke?

The Martian remembered them running, their many-colored faces made ashen by poison. Their screams had been so small. There had been power in the Martian’s tentacles.

Among those fleeing Earthlings, the Martian had seen a tiny human, with a head and appendages that seemed too big for her…his…had it been male or female? It did not matter.

Two other humans, larger than the young one, had gathered the latter close. They wrapped the child in their arms and raised their faces to the War Machine.

And the Martian…it had lowered its heat ray.

“Ulla, Ulla, Ulla, Ulla…” the Martian mumbled.

Eradicate them all, the superiors had said; a simple order. That town was not to be saved for draining.

Presently, the Martian came upon yet another ruined building, a sort of long, tapered triangle. The highest tip stood nearly level with the War Machine.

More of those strange spasms, for which the Martian had no name, wracked its body. It was getting harder to see. Each movement came a little slower than the last. The Martian braced one of the War Machine’s many tentacles against the building’s spire, struggling to keep the tripod upright, but the blackened architecture crumbled away at its touch. Gone in a puff of black dust, like so much else.

The Martian had its duty.

Alone in this desolate, alien city, so unlike the Martian’s own, it wondered if the violence had been worthwhile. As it watched, one of those lithe, four-legged creatures, the ones humans domesticated, gnawed on a scrap of burned flesh, far below the Machine’s tentacles. Human or Martian, it was impossible to tell.

For the sake of all Mars, they had sung. For the sake of all Mars.

The Martian wandered on, spooking the beast away, and it wondered what that small human called itself. What did it see when the Martian’s War Machine had razed the world around it? Perhaps these humans had stories, like those the Martians told many, many centuries ago, of beings infinitely greater than they, beings of terrible power and invincible might.

“Ulla, Ulla, Ulla, Ulla…” the Martian murmured.

The human buildings shrank as the Martian stumbled through the dust. Past the tall triangle rose squat, rectangular structures. These, the Martian knew about. The superiors had been quite specific: destroy the little buildings, force their human occupants to flee.

Another Martian had already been through here. Some of the buildings still burned. Blackened bodies cowered in the blacker dust.

Even had this not been the case, the Martian could not bring itself to raise the heat ray. It hardly had the strength to move its tentacles anymore, much less use them to cause yet more destruction. More death. There had been so much death.

The spasms were worse now, coming faster and lasting longer.  Was this how the humans had felt in the Martian’s smoke?

“Ulla…” the Martian moaned, when the choking finally passed. “Ulla, Ulla, Ulla…”

The Martian wondered why it was still wandering. What was the point? It would not change anything. With pained movements, the Martian brought the War Machine to a quivering stop, towering over the crumpled human homes. Light sparkled off the Machine’s metal cockpit. The Star was brighter here, huge and pale in the scarlet sky as it sank toward the horizon.

From its vantage, the Martian could see down into the nearest human structure, lit in uneven bars by the setting Star. Their living buildings were so strange; cluttered with unnecessary objects, priceless space wasted to store solid food. Now heaps of red weed tangled through their windows and up their roofs.

The Star’s light caught along the edges of a tiny square, drawing the Martian’s labored gaze deeper into the structure. It brought one twitching tentacle down into the home, sifting the larger items aside until it could reach the thing.

Extricated, the object proved to be an image, primitively preserved by way of flash powder. A different small human, its mammalian hair long and dark.

The Martian brought the glittering rectangle close to its cockpit, opening its hatch so it could see the image clearly.


The Martian had a duty. It had to leave. For the sake of all Mars.

Movement arrested the Martian’s attention. An adult human, peering at the War Machine from beneath a patch of weed. It studied the Martian with careful eyes. This one was not afraid. Perhaps it already knew.

But the Martian had little concern for the human. It looked down at the image once more. The spasms came, and they did not stop. Darkness crept over the little human child’s face. Was the Star giving way to night already? Earth days were so very short.

“Ulla…” the Martian brushed the image’s face with a tentacle. It stared at the child until night overtook the Machine. Alone in the dark, the Martian held the image close.





J. Nelson Jr.’s short horror story, “First Night’s Always Free,” was originally published in NonBinary Review Issue #19 and will soon be available on Amazon. He is currently workshopping two novel manuscripts: a steampunk western and a sci-fi thriller. More information about his work can be found at

RSVP – Mars

This selection is paired with The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Get NonBinary Review Issue #21 at

“… Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”

“… And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us.”

The War of the Worlds, Book One: The Eve of War HG Wells

We imagine you, earthbound, huddled
over primitive transmission systems
scanning frequencies of silence
for one drop of stellar truth.
Your Teslas and Marconis
tip-tap-toeing at our windows.
Eavesdropping on your elders
Testing, testing, 1,2,3.
Do  you really want to hear
 the galaxial mockery you  inspire?
Half your planet still believes
you were created
in some image, any image.
We would laugh, if physiology allowed.
Playing hide and seek with data
to avoid the bitter truth:
You are accidental. Every species is.
Perhaps sentience bloomed on an inferior branch
of Terra’s evolutionary tree.
Maybe the dinosaurs died of embarrassment
seeing you monkeys gain control.
Here, in the cold clarity of space
there is only room for hard science
and harder truths.
The universe has no special interest
in a middling backwater planet
or  the welfare of its apes.
The bleeps and pleeps you manifest
at the edges of our hearing
shouting down a stellar well to summon imaginary friends.      
These tell us  more than you suspect.
We have been waiting here
impatient to see you shuffle off your wonder
and stride out into the universe
armed with more than words and hopes.
While  you beam your invitations,
#lookwhatwecando  #comeandplay
Crowing to the exo-verse
how grown up you are
what smart games you play
what your meat is made of .
We have heard you children of Terra
and we are coming,  someday
sooner than you suspect
to accept your invitation.
Can you hear us now?

Carrie L. Clickard (aka Clarice Radrick) is an internationally published author and poet. In addition to her children’s books, Carrie’s work has appeared in numerous publications including Mirror Dance, Light, Literary Nest, Defenestration, Poet’s Haven and Enchanted Conversations. For more information please visit and

Invisible? Man, I Wish

This selection is paired with The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells. Get NonBinary Review Issue #21 at

No, I can’t say I ever met             —was it Griffin?
but I knew a man—let’s          call him D—
who was that much of a dick | that’s             not what
the D stands for       (here)      but it fits | of course,
he’d say           the D stood for                       discovery
or maybe delight | but he’d be wrong
—not that he’d listen        god    —
the thing about D was                         he thought he was
—god, that is | just like fucking Griffin
god complexes             everywhere | the man was
insufferable! that is     we suffered him | dear God
did we suffer                           | what’s worse, he was a serial
offender | no novel could detail his sins          adequately
: the mansplaining       the pompadour           the strut          the strut
the confidence
god grant me the confidence
of a mediocre white man, ego
            bandage and salve for every blot


D didn’t like listening              to the demands of women (namely
his bosses)      he thought he knew better      | he burned down
any bridges he’d built with us             so we fired
records of our encounters with him                day by day                  like witches
and danced      in the glow      —as much as we could—
while he malingered

berating | harassing | targeting | oil-slicking | bloviating | haranguing | tarnishing | obfuscating


anyway we wished he was invisible
and one day
he was

but that didn’t make us any safer

Gretchen Rockwell is a poet and supplemental instructor of English at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, RI. Gretchen’s work has appeared in Glass: Poets Resist, Into the Void, Noble/Gas Qtrly, New Plains Review, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender and sexuality, history, space, and unusual connections.

The Benefits of Southern Hospitality

This selection is paired with “Human Remains” by Clive Barker. Get NonBinary Review #20 from Zoetic Press.

Dear Judge Marigold,

It is with most shock and outrage that I learn, twenty years after Arthur Wallace savagely murdered his mother in cold blood, he is being considered for release and reintroduction into society.  Not only is this an unethical act, but we – as good, law abiding citizens – fear a most dangerous turning point in American history.  Evil must not be tolerated.

This case still gives me nightmares.  The crime scene photos of Judy Wallace are forever burned into the back of my eyelids and I fear I may never truly sleep again.  But this is the price we pay to make sure that evil people are handled swiftly and justly.  There was no question of his guilt.  Not a single one.  Arthur himself has gone on record to talk about his mother’s death.  What does this tell us?  That he is proud of his actions, that he needs only a listening ear to expound on the tragic event that rocked Silverton Bridge, South Dakota to its very core.

Now, I’m not one to tell a Judge how to do their job.  The choice and ultimate consequence falls on the court and for that I am grateful. I am only a State Prosecutor working in conjunction with Social Services.  I will caution, however, the dire nature of this crime.  If we consider letting him go, what’s next?  Shall rapists who find God be let out?  Should sex traffickers who took up painting be allowed to sell their work for tens of thousands of dollars?  Should the man that beat his wife be given a license to box in a televised event, thus creating a crooked path to success?  Be wise, Judge Marigold, this is not just the life of Arthur Wallace that hangs in the balance.  It is an idea that must be snuffed out like the life that he took.  No mercy for the wicked, Judge.  None.

When I was a boy, I ate my vegetables, said my prayers, and did my homework.  That is the American dream.  I played baseball and went to law school.  That is the American dream.  I married my wife and had two beautiful daughters who go to private school.  That is the American dream.  The American dream has always been about working hard and reaping the rewards.  I would hate to see this dream turn into a nightmare where murder is accepted and it is society who must change for the deviant.  I will not stand for that, and I urge you Judge Marigold to not stand for it as well.  Our eyes are on you.  They watch with admiration.

Don’t let that change.

Harvey Devereaux
Assistant District Attorney

*     *     *

Dear Judge Marigold,

My name is Dr. Isaiah Young.  I am the psychologist that has been working with Arthur for the past twenty years, and I am advocating for his release.  This is not, nor will it ever be, a matter of good versus evil.  Such ideas are human constructs to justify our behavior.  Instead, what must look at the facts, at what we know, at Arthur himself to make our best determinations.

He was four years old when he stabbed his mother.  This fact is not up for debate, nor has it ever been contested.  What the prosecution missed was whether or not young Arthur understood the gravity of his actions.  Does a boy only a few years into life truly grasp the meaning and finality of death?  It is only as a society that we look at his actions as inexcusable.  Perhaps.

I have three children at home, each learning about the world through trial and error.  My eldest used to throw temper tantrums to get what he wanted.  It almost never worked, but sometimes we gave in, which taught him to keep trying until his vocabulary was rich enough to describe his thoughts, feelings, and wants.  When he learned to better communicate, the tantrums disappeared.

My daughter, the middle child, found that she could get attention by pushing our (my wife and I’s) proverbial buttons.  She would say outrageous and horrible things, not because she meant them, but rather because it put the spotlight on her.  Even through scolding, she enjoyed our focus.  It wasn’t until she was in third grade – only a few years older than Arthur was – that she said something mean to a classmate, and the classmate burst into tears.  During her teenage years, she recalled that moment as one of immense growth and clarity.  She learned that words can hurt, and that hurt is a potential with any interaction.  For this, she learned to employ the grace and wisdom that she still carries with her as an adult.

My youngest son recently went through a breakup and was beside himself with confusion and loneliness.  Night after night he made desperate attempts to understand why he felt the way he did after she left.  During the relationship, he described himself as unhappy and stifled.  Yet, after she was gone, he described himself as empty and hollow.  In his grasp was young love, and then it slipped away.  Through it all, he learned what made him happy and how to sustain happiness.  These lessons are invaluable.

My point is that every child needs to make mistakes because it is inside of those mistakes that we grow the most.  Arthur Wallace was four years old when he stabbed his mother.  Imagine that something you yourself did as a four year old that had to hang over your head forever without any chance at redemption.

In my professional experience, there is no such thing as a born evil.  He is not spawn of satan.  He is not out for the blood of the innocent, like the media would have us believe.  Now, before his 25st birthday, after a lifetime of being heavily medicated, sedated, and has been to therapy more than most people ever will.  He shows immense remorse, incredible self-awareness, and a drive to put something positive back out into the world.

I implore the courts to look within themselves and consider the circumstance.  He was a neglected child who often went without meals, clothes, or affection.  While his mother was rushed to the hospital after a fist-fight with her live in partner, Arthur met a very kind nurse who stayed with him in the waiting room.  They colored in a coloring book (a page that he still has framed over his bed).  He asked if she could be his mother.  She told him no because he already had a mother.  That night, when he went home, he made it so that he didn’t have a mother.  Inside of a four year-old’s brain, this course of action not only made sense, but could potentially grant him a better life. 

I’m not saying that the murder was an act of courage.  I’m not saying it was justified.  All I’m saying is that if we pigeon hole ideas of good and evil onto everything we do, then we fail to see the full picture.  We have the unique opportunity to see if redemption is truly possible, if the system works, if we learn from our missteps to go on and find success.

When is a debt to society paid in full?  Is it ever?  We can find out.  Arthur Wallace is our key. 

By no means am I arguing for his release into the outside world with no questions asked.  Instead, I am asking for leniency.  I am asking for implementation of a halfway house, a slow immersion.  For twenty-years he has been inside of our facility the same way an animal at the zoo looks out from behind the bars of their cage and knows something else is beyond the stone walkways and herds of people.  However, like an animal that has only known captivity, the shock of freedom could prove to be overwhelming and he could drown in the choices of modern adult life.

Consider Arthur Wallace.  See yourself inside of him. Ask yourself how much longer you might be able to last having a single choice from your fourth year be picked apart and analyzed for the next twenty years.  Give him the reassurance that life is sacred, and not something that is easily tossed away.

With regards,
Dr. Isaiah Young

With regards,
Dr. Isaiah Young

*     *     *

Dear Judge Marigold,

I am a clerk at the Forsythe County Inpatient Facility, Psychiatric Ward.  I have no opinion on the holding or release of one Arthur Wallace.  My superiors have asked me to put together Mr. Wallace’s record over the twenty years with us.  Normally, I don’t do such a thing, but I grew up in Fayetteville Arkansas and my superiors know that because of my southern hospitality, I would not say no.

Mr. Wallace wet the bed until he was eleven (11) years old.

Mr. Wallace was friendly with the orderlies, especially women of mixed descent with dark hair that reached their shoulders.

Mr. Wallace did not make friends until he was seventeen (17) years old.  This is not because he was anti-social, but because he was kept isolated from others his age.  When introduced, he overcame his shyness.

His first three friends killed themselves during their stay with us.  Two by overdose, one by hanging.  Mr. Wallace wept at their remembrance sessions.  He was not allowed to attend their funerals.

Mr. Wallace has only been in two (2) altercations.  Once during puberty, he was caught masturbating in the women’s room and when an orderly tried to sedate him, he broke the orderly’s nose.  After counseling with Dr. Young, the incident was never repeated.  The second was during a string of robberies that had been occurring over several months.  A patient was sneaking into other patient’s rooms and taking their personal belongings.  Mr. Wallace had a cactus succulent by his window and woke up while the accused was trying to take it.  Mr. Wallace screamed for the orderlies and held the accused down.  Though it was never confirmed, the accused claimed Mr. Wallace had tried to stab him with the succulent.

Mr. Wallace has been polite and courteous to all staff when approached. 

Mr. Wallace has expressed interest in getting a GED, and attending an online university.

Mr. Wallace keeps a journal that is monitored nightly by staff.  Nothing in it thus far has raised an alarm.

Mr. Wallace exudes great happiness when Shep, the Golden Retriever therapy dog, comes to visit on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  He has expressed interest in one day adopting a dog and naming it Shep.

Mr. Wallace has a slight speech impediment that prevents him from properly pronouncing his “R’s”.  Instead, they come out like soft “W’s”.

May you find this information useful.

Amber Lynn McFarley
Forsythe County Psychiatric Clerk

*     *     *

Dear Judge Marigold,

My name is Arthur Wallace.  I will be turning twenty-five (25) in May.  I’ve been under the custody of the state, specifically Dr. Young, for over twenty years.

I am good. 

In my spare time, I enjoy reading.  Did you know coyotes have different barks and howls for different situations?  I read a lot about nature.

My favorite movie is The Lion King.  I understand Simba because I had to grow up without parents, too.  The only part I don’t like is the fight with Scar at the end, because fighting doesn’t solve things.

I know that there is a life outside of this facility.  I love it here and they treat me nice, but sometimes I watch the birds fly in the yard and wonder where they’re going.  I want to ask them, but they can’t answer me because they’re birds, silly!

My favorite job right now is to lead by example.  When new patients come in, I help show them how well things can go by listening to their problems, helping them problem solve, and being creative. 

If I got a dog, I would walk him every day and call him a good-boy, even if the dog was a girl, because they like being called good-boy.  I would pet him on the head and tummy whenever he wanted.

Sometimes I dream of my mother and I wake up crying.  Once, I got a bloody nose and when I looked into the mirror, it made me sad.  I looked like her.

The Beatles are really fun!  We like to dance and flash the lights to their albums and even people in wheelchairs like to spin around.  See?  I’m just a regular kid.

The only thing I want for my birthday, it can even be my Christmas present too, is to live in the world again.  Is that so much to ask?  I don’t remember what it is like, and I really want to know what it is like.

I like your name, Judge Marigold.  Did you know that for years, farmers included the open-pollinated African marigold ‘Crackerjack’ in chicken feed to make egg yolks a darker yellow?

Take care, and Hakuna Matata.

Arthur Wallace

*     *     *

Dear Judge Marigold/To Whom it may concern,

I’ve never done this before and don’t know what the proper format is.  My name is Suzi Florentine and I was named in the Arthur Wallace trial as the nurse who sat with him on the eve of his mother’s death.

Do not let him out, I beg of you.  He’s been sending me letters over the past few years talking about how he’s going to come and see me.  I don’t know how he gets them into the mail, or how he found my address, but I’ve alerted the authorities.  They told me to simply throw the letters away and pay no mind.

They talk of how he can be a good son again, of how he can finally be with me.  They talk about holding hands near ferris wheels, licking ice cream off my fingers when it drips from the cone, and sleeping in the same bed so that we can be there for each other if we have nightmares where “the ocean rises and we can’t grow angel wings”.

This whole ordeal has me so shaken that I can’t function.  Already medicated, I’m falling into fits at work where, in my profession, people can die.  I’m not eating, not sleeping, and every sound I hear is him coming to collect. 

It took me over a decade to get past it mentally.  I’ll never fully be over it.  I’m the cause of murder, an unknowing accomplice.  How does one live with that burden?  How does one ever recover?

The answer is simple: they don’t.  This is why Arthur Wallace will never be rehabilitated.  He’s crafty.  He was born with something that we don’t understand in that human life means nothing.  In my world, human life means everything.

I’ve tried to kill myself twice already because of the guilt.  Though I’ve been told I’m not directly responsible for any of the events that transpired, I will always feel like I am.  If I had not said those words, if I had been slightly less caring, maybe none of this would have happened.

If he gets let out, I’ll kill myself.  I’m fully prepared.  This time, I’m not mincing my words to sound kind.  I’m being direct.

Proceed with caution and wisdom, Judge.  My life hangs in your blind balance.

Suzi Florentine

*     *     *

Dear Dr.’s Amanda Pothanos and Henry Schill,

It has come to my attention that a nurse in your residency has been experiencing an alarming amount of mental duress.  One Suzi Florentine wrote me a letter expressing suicidal intent, and so I sent local law enforcement to collect her.  It appeared that she was upset about the idea that one Arthur Wallace might be released into society, which he will not.

Suzi has been formally checked in to the Forsythe County Inpatient Facility, Psychiatric Ward.  Her stay is indefinite.  She will be working with Dr. Isaiah Young if you so need to get in touch with her.

Please contact our office for any further questions or clarifications.  We are happy to work alongside our hospital’s chief of staff to generate the most suitable resolution.


Hon. Judge Deborah Marigold
PS – Tennis soon?  The weather is becoming most perfect for a doubles match.

W. T. Paterson wrote the novels Dark Satellites and WOTNA. His work has appeared in Fiction Magazine, The Gateway Review, and several anthologies. He is a current MFA candidate at the University of New Hampshire. 

My Tumor’s Hunger

This selection is paired with “Son of Celluloid” by Clive Barker. Get NonBinary Review #20 at Zoetic Press.

There was a man who collected little bits of me. Strands of my curling hair, a piece of my menstruation, a scraping of my arm. My underwear, the papery shedding of my favorite ovarian tumor (which had a mouth and stomach of its own), an eyelash. This man kept all these parts in a little box beneath his bed. It was his box of totems and he prized it above all. When the man slept above this box, he dreamed of being consumed, piece by piece, always painlessly. He dreamed this eating was done by my mouth, not my tumor’s, although it was my tumor’s hunger. My tumor devoured him without pause, sucking my dry, tossing him down her stomach like he was nothing. My tumor did not even need to gulp. When my tumor ate too much, she slept, and then I went to the man, slipped him inside myself, and just held him there, his body trembling within mine. I wanted to feel every bit of him, his tremors and spasms, and without doing anything, I milked him into me. When the man finally slipped out, my thighs were wet and my cunt dripped. I smelled the chlorine, the musk, of him and then my tumor smelled it, too. She woke within me, stretched out, came creeping along my flesh to reach him. She touched his throat, scratched his tongue, directed him between my legs where he did as she insisted, although he was so tired. I wanted to protect the man from my tumor and I also wanted to take him back into myself, cram all of him within me so that I was stuffed fat. Come inside me, I said and so he came, his hardness hurting me as he thrusted. He did not have to fuck me for long. He slipped in, twitched once, and it was over, his body buried inside, already emptied. My tumor ate him from within me. She extended her tongue, licked slowly, and took all of him. I tasted him through her. I swallowed and my tumor swallowed and together, we swallowed the man up, left him voided within us. My tumor tried pushing him out but I held him where he was, held him tight, did not want to let go because I did not want that hole to open again, could not stand its vacancy…

But this man could only stay within me for so long before he began rotting away. Poor him. How he wept and pleaded but I could not let him go, would not scrape him out. I left him where he was, his flesh melding with mine, turning liquid. I pet his head, caught his tangled hair in my fingers, rubbed his eyes, and he dissolved, his flesh reddening, darkening, blackening. He smelled of old meat, my menstruation, sour milk, all my old pregnancies that went watery with failure. My tumor crept down to him, buried her face in him, sniffed and licked, took his rancid self into her body, ate with full mouth and cramping tongue, ate with sour throat and sour stomach, ate until she could not eat anymore, and then she did, because she was my tumor and nothing was ever enough. She took more than I was able and together, we tore this man to pieces. His taste was on my teeth and his taste was on her gums. This man tasted like chlorine. When he finally slipped from out of me, I caught bits of him in my hands. I held them to my face and I cried while my tumor nestled herself comfortable within my meat. Do not cry, she said but I could not help my grief. How I wanted him to stay a little longer, to keep me stuffed. They never stay, my tumor said. They only ever go away, my tumor said. We must use them, my tumor said. We must eat them up, my tumor said. We must eat and eat and eat…

Once the man’s taste faded from my mouth, I was free. I did not want him anymore, I did not think of him. I did not sleep because my tumor’s howling was so loud. I did not eat because my tumor ate enough for us both. I did not shit because my tumor and I did not produce waste. It was only that my stomach growled with false hunger, with the need to put something between my teeth, and when I hesitated, my tumor directed me to the woods, where the trees bent towards me, raked at my skin, tore me apart (tore me so deep, even my tumor was cut up), and I bled there in the earth, spilled myself to the roots and mud, waited for the men to come creeping from the shadows (that was where they lived, hidden away in those places my tumor and I could not see). When they came, they thought they would be the ones to hurt me. They surrounded me, laughed and hooted, sounded like great beasts, except they were so small to me, so deflated. They grabbed my wrists and squeezed but I felt no pain. They spread my legs but found that they could not get hard enough to enter. These men thought they could scramble my insides, bleed me out in the dark, spread me flat on the ground, riddle me with holes, bash me open, leave me weeping with the pain of what they did, and how disappointed they were when they could not hurt me, not even a little. Then my tumor and I rose high above them, tongues salivating, eyes narrowed, hair like snakes, and we rose up and up, silhouetted against the moon, and warned these men to run. They did not listen and so I swooped, knocked them to the ground where they choked upon the earth. My tumor and I ate them from their spines and throats, ate them from their cocks and mouths, ate them while they spewed and spasms, ate until our mouths were filthy with them, and my breasts were heaving with them, and we were red with them, and we were sopping with them. There were so many men and my tumor and I took our time but then it was over. The ground was soggy and the trees were close together and the dark was heavy and nothing felt like enough. My tumor held me and I held her. We breathed into one another, listened to the slow rustle of the dark over those spent bodies. Are you sad, my tumor asked. And I was not…

Alana I. Capria is the author of the novel Mother Walked Into the Lake and and the story collection Wrapped in Red. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University.