A m p e r s a n d

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”

~ Dr. Carl Sagan
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A warm welcome, dear visitor, to Ampersand. I am sure that, if you are reading this post, you’ve also read the little subtitle underneath our blog name. (If you haven’t, you may as well do so now.) Currently, most of our community is situated within the middle of suburban nowhere. That does not, however, mean that we will shun any writer who wishes to join our ranks. Writing is an art that spans eons and continents. It just so happens that, with the advent of the Internet, and the advent of the blog, and the advent of WordPress, it is incredibly convenient for us to distribute our end results.

So! What does it take to become a part of our humble roster? A small set of obligations:

First off, you must write. And you must write passionately; we’re not going to critique lab reports, or spell-check an essay for English, or help you with trigonometry homework. There are other communities like that out there, possibly even a few on WordPress. (If not, Google is sure to give you approximately 1,935,200 appropriate results in 0.031 seconds.) Try to steer clear of the genre fiction realm—we like realistic fiction here, the stuff of mango streets and woman warriors. After all, is there not truth in lies by the writer’s pen?

Secondly, you should strive to submit your work on a semimonthly or even (if you’re among those precious few who consider writing “easy”) weekly basis. A good writer composes often and questions daily; for those who wish to commit to the craft, there is no such thing as “taking a break.” And besides, you wouldn’t want to leave readers on a cliffhanger—here, at least, we’d consider it rude!

Thirdly, you must be open to criticism and negative reviews. We’re not like FanFiction, mind you (the link for those of you who don’t get the reference); wonderful site that may be, but mostly populated by fanboys, fangirls, and the rest of their ilk, who could never give a good breakdown of a story they had read if their life depended on it. When we critique work, we critique work—and you will (or should, at the very least) get an honest and sometimes blunt opinion on it.

And fourth, you need to have some sort of interest in writing, be it short-term or long-term. Whether you decide to become a lawyer or a doctor or a janitor instead of a writer is completely your choice, and it won’t affect anything here. But it’ll make things easier for us, not to mention yourself, if you write with genuine intent. Be it dreamscape, reality, your life or that of someone else—write what you want to write, write what you mean to write. None of that WPA bullshit you have to endure at least once (or, gods help you, twice) in your junior or senior year.

I’m sure there are other things to consider too. But for the time being, that’s all I can remember. And ultimately, that’s all that really matters.

Come, join us, and become a part of a little band of misfits and writers!

Categories: Bulletin Board | 1 Comment

Electric Baptism

I envied this, a kingdom of mania. Vast subterranean networks of filth ran parallel to the magnificent aerial mazes of circuitry. Mortality was an ancient thought lost to those nevermore human, those built and rebuilt nearly daily on a biological level. Resilience as their main manufactured feature, they resembled roaches much more than they portrayed people.

My greed for their strength guided me. I made my pilgrimage to their sprawling halls of technological marvel.

Without consequence, they waged what ranged from petty feuds to massive total war, and I shed my blood and their blood equally without fear. They fed each other with their own waste, and I drank so lustfully from their goblets of savory sludge. They subjected each other to whims far twisted by their longevity, and I was dirtied completely in their orgiastic halls.

This manic cockroach kingdom devoured me alive, in time. I died with my skin peeling, blood draining from every unrecognizable surface and orifice. I was due for my first baptism by electricity.

I was lowered into powerful fields of energy as strong, cold appendages rearranged my skin, my bones, my mind. I was filled with nutritious sewage, fitted with new limbs built from my old flesh, and fixed into their beautifully grotesque form. It felt greater than any moment of ecstasy I had been subject to in my feeble mortal life.

I died again and again to experience miraculous baptism, to be submerged once more, twice more, forever more in pools of electricity, to be given the spark of life again. My mangled body was rebuilt harder with each pass, and I allowed myself each time a more blissfully catastrophic destruction. I thirst for more, and I thirst more than all else now.

I envy this, my kingdom of mania. I am one with the filth and circuitry, human nevermore, and I cannot be satisfied. I am the cockroach king of irony.

Categories: fractaljack | Tags: , | Leave a comment

New World

The world was covered in white sand.  At first I thought it was some kind of freak winter storm, but soon I could feel the slight choke of the dust that permeated the air.  Everything was silent.  For a moment, I found the overwhelming quiet whiteness quite beautiful.

Drip.

I was standing in the doorway to my family’s small and dingy apartment.  I was following my brother out to play.

Drip.

Stunned as I was by the alien scenery before me, it was a good amount of time before I noticed that a man was running towards me.  He looked upset, and as he got closer I could tell that he was screaming at me.  Why couldn’t I hear him?

Drip.

My ears began to ring as I tried to hear what he was saying.  My shoulder began to sting.  I felt my head – there was a cut spanning across.

Drip.  Crimson dripped from my forehead to the dusty white ground, staining it with stark contrast.  I looked down – my body was plastered with dust.  I realized that a large white fragment of something hard was lodged into my shoulder.  Blood, my blood seeped onto the piece of that which I would later realize was concrete.

The man had begun digging into the ground out there in the whiteness.  I stepped towards him, but my body gave out suddenly, forcing me to kneel on an uneven surface of  grey bricks and concrete shards.  More men ran into sight – to me they seemed to just be gliding through the dusty pale air, like ghosts.  A woman was farther back, screaming and crying.  I did not see my brother.  Where was my brother?

Pools of crimson red began to seep up from the white ground.  The sun started to shine through the slowly dissipating cloud of suffocating debris, through where I knew other buildings, businesses, apartments once stood. 

The ringing in my ears began to die down, and I could hear all of the screaming, crying, and sirens in the distance.  The man was removing reddened bricks from the earth, and then suddenly began weeping.

I looked to the red rubble beneath my weakened legs, and began pulling up the debris, wondering.  The man began screaming to his wife.  I dug down into the wet, artificial rocks.  Soon, my hands touched flesh, and I fell back.

I caught a glimpse of what was behind me, and realized that my home was now a disorganized pile of grey rubble and dust, save for the doorway I had been under, miraculously.

As I got back up as much as I could, I looked down into that hole.  There, covered in red and white.  My brother.

The man and I respectively fell weeping into our loved one’s automatic, disgraceful graves.  More men, women and children scrambled to pull the wounded and dead out of the new crimson and grey earth.  I felt myself being pulled away by chalky hands as I wept for my brother, my family.  I looked to the sky, and witness the absconce of a floating monster, a blue drone to compliment the colors of this blood and dust.

This is how I learned of America.

Categories: fractaljack | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

An Editorial on Faith

“Listen, kid.”  That’s how my daddy always started those talks that would later define me as a man.  He’d come up to me while I was completely uninterested in growing up, putting legos up my nose and with those two words I was captivated.  There was something in the authority of my old man, his swagger.  He was a veteran, a cop, a salesman and a lover.  He reminds me of what Arthur Miller would have penned as a father figure.  He wasn’t really big, but he loved sports.  He wasn’t a craftsman, but he had strong hands.  He wasn’t afraid to throw down an ocean away, but he was a compassionate man.

“Listen, kid, things only ever get harder as you grow up.”  I remember at the time thinking how incredibly wrong he was.  How could my dad, then nearing retirement age, remember what it was like being a kid.  I remember thinking that he never had to deal with homework or getting bullied.  He was already way bigger and stronger than me AND he never had to go to school again.  I thought he had it easy.  But, again, as one gets older one realizes that one’s parents were never wrong.  I’m in my 20’s now, and between the bills, work and family, I just sit around yearning for the days where I could amuse myself with little plastic things.

And, every time I think of him, I wonder if he looks down on me with anger at how his youngest son became a blasphemer.  It occurs to me that, given the fear of God he put into me from my early childhood, this is either very surprising or very unsurprising.  What does not come easy is the introspection.  Blasphemy implies a certain state of reverence for a greater power.  I like to think it makes me nebulously greater to consider the possibility of divine wrath and ask for it.

The trouble I have, is in motivation.  Is it a penance that I seek or a challenge?  Do I consider the probabilities of my prayers being answered or am I really just bungling it all to buck the trend of faith?  I suppose that at a certain age, calculus redefines itself as longing, and after a long enough time frame, the longing returns back into what it once was.  These childhood calculations of “what’s the worst that could happen” lose their potency as they get stored on the shelf throughout adolescence.  Then, at some point, I feel nostalgia wins out again and a man wonders where the innocence went.  Finally, the old statistics come back when you’re not long left, and these drifting fears ebb back into the focus.  I say, no matter where the faith goes, we’re worse off for losing it.

-J

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The Promise

1The light that shines brightest

Is on the horizon,

Shining eternally pale.

War is coming

And soon shall darkness fall to bale.

Nay shall darkness ever become beneficial again,

For once more the light of worlds is dimmed

And yet the light of hearts beats on forward and true,

Forging the deepest of bonds betwixt man and weaponry.

O ye celestial light: may your glow fill the joy.

O ye terran darkness: may your umbra forever howl.

 

 

2How can they of the populace below hate them?

How can they not see?

War is coming.

The light is never fading;

The light is true.

Straight eternal and calmingly blue.

 

 

3The light

The shade

The peace

The bale:

All interior waging countless battle without frugal emotion!

O ye wondrous light: engulf me in your flame.

O ye terrible darkness: spill me with your doom.

 

 

4We will fight in the end.

And only one shall reign supreme

War is here.

And in the end

I shall be…

Forever Me.

Categories: wolfcenturion | Tags: | Leave a comment

Outcast to Triumph

Live to learn

Learn to live

Rise to fall

And fall to die.

Unachieved dreams may break the sky.

Inferno to ashes

Ashes to life.

The forgotten one now owns the sky.

Loss to gain

Gain to triumph.

The last outcast has found the sky

And all he needed to do was try.

Categories: wolfcenturion | Tags: | Leave a comment

Two Samurai Brothers

My fascination goes beyond Final Fantasies and Narutos; the feudal lords of Japan whisper as I browse through lists of famous samurai on Wikipedia. Two brothers in particular: Oda Nobunaga, Oda Nobukane. One united the land of the rising sun, lived a life of fast and brutal glory, before dying on the blade that fed him; the other put down sword for paintbrush, and watched his brother’s body burn. The victors write history, as the saying goes; so who, then, won at life?

Categories: Jupiter Jazz | Tags: | 2 Comments

Entrance Memory

A man stands on the beach before you letting sand fall from between the fingers of his right hand. He steps towards you with his empty eyes – eyes that are eggshells, eggshells cracked and impacted in only one place each so that the yolk could be sucked out of them. The skin of his face is covered in untrimmed and unclean foliage. As he closes the distance between you and he, you begin to pick up his scent hanging in the air. You remember that time you left some cheap “Chinese” fast-food in your locker for two days and how painfully putrid it felt when it stung your nose. It sure is cloudy and windy today, you think. You hope it’ll rain soon… Please.

You want to ask someone, “Have you ever been to the boardwalk? The beach there is beautiful and there’s a place under one of those spinning rides where the sand just meets a flat wall. You can hear screams of people spinning wildly out of control – yet safely – above you. Seagulls flock around there because nobody usually goes there.”

That is where you are stuck to the wall, actually. Your brain and heart tell you to run but your body sticks itself to the surface alongside all the sand and bird shit timelessly flung across it by ocean wind. It’s hard to ignore any longer: the man breathing into your face with his soulless, inhuman gaze and his sulfurous smell. You can’t will your body to move, or even look away from him. Sand piles upon your left foot as it falls from his fingers. Soon the sand’s up to your knees, and your eyes tear up from staring so long into the eggshell caverns that you’re told should be gateways to the soul. He’s gaunt like a statue that had far too much marble chiseled from it. His clothes are tattered and sandy as if he’s as much a denizen of the beach as the seagulls walking about.

He tastes rancid. You can’t move but you know he tastes like something gone bad for months. His tongue feels like sandpaper, like the tongue of a cat. Like sand. You feel sand filling your mouth, sand getting into your clothes, your shoes, your underwear, everything of you gets buried in sand. Sand floods into your skin and permeates your blood, then finally reaches into your brain, replacing your senses with pure static. You are filled with sand until sand begins bursting out of you. Finally, it begins to rain.

When your friends want to take you to the beach, you tell them you have eremikophobia, a fear of sand.
It’s funny because you used to love the beach.
You stay home.

Categories: fractaljack | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Torment

Cracked road,

Broken road

You led me this far and this is where I go.

Desolate road,

Barren road

You brought me this way and this is where I go.

I want to go home

I want to try to face the ones who matter

I want to return home

But for now this is where I go…

Secrets live to destroy

And only serve to employ more torment;

Eternal scars leaving broken marks on me.

Nothing escapes the hurt

And nothing escapes the pain;

You live and let live

You forgive but you don’t forget.

Dark life,

Empty life

I put the cracks in the road and this is where I go.

Pained life,

Tormented life

I laid my tracks and now I’m back

From whence I started I can’t find my way.

I’m lost right here.

I want to face the ones who matter.

I’ve forged the cracked road,

I’ve built the damaged life.

Why can’t I escape the torment

That’s haunting deep inside?

Why can’t I speak out?

Why can’t I shout out?

Why can’t I cry?

I just want to cry

Let me cry

Cry……

Cr-

Categories: wolfcenturion | Tags: | 4 Comments

Silent Swirl

I breathe darkness into you.

We dance, sort of.

I am a flickering flame upon your icy exterior.

I am melting you as I desire.

Chisel to stone, fragments fall.

 

Like a lollipop eroded carefully by my tongue.

My tongue is a precision instrument.

Like a scalpel to flesh.

I take from you the only thing you give.

Your silent form.

 

I would kiss you if I could.

Steal away your breath, if you had any to spare.

Feel the warmth of your body, if only

My swirled marble,

If only you were more.

 

I can but reduce you.

Breathe darkness into you.

A scalpel to flesh.

My tongue eroding you carefully.

I can but taint you.

 

In the end, you are rounded, shaped, presentable.

But you are no warmer than you were.

You are less.

You are merely me, a cold reflection of my dark breath.

So I breathe you back in.

Categories: fractaljack | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Generations: Davis 1

Davis Mainz, via Interview for the Domestic Dissidents Project, February 2nd 2016.

Q: Where did you first find out about the group?

This journal first crossed my desk at The Observer two days after the reports on the Kansas City bombings came in.  I remember we were all pissed off that another asshole decided the best way to make some change happen was to kill a whole bunch of innocent people.  The staff and I were sitting around in the editor’s room, watching the 24 hour news cycle cough up speculation for the third straight morning.

They had cut into the chatter for a breaking news update, some conference with a bald guy at the Bureau to discuss what we did and didn’t know.  This pudgy fellow was on the podium in front of about thirty microphones, tweaking his tie and mustache as flashes popped off repeatedly from the press cameras.  He wasn’t quite ready for the shindig to begin, and you could tell from looking at the dirty yellow stains on his collar that he needed sleep and a good meal.

Q:  What was your impression of that?

When he started to speak, it was immediately obvious that he was a spokesman.  He had that sort of smarmy but accessible candor to his Middle America accent that only comes from years of preparing what you’re about to say.  [Editor's Note: The policy for delivering news of domestic terror had been enacted shortly after the Newtown Shootings in 2012.]

On that day, he had prepared a fine press release.  He started with “a tragedy has occurred here in Kansas City.” Then he followed with the standard, “we’re pursuing several persons of interest in the investigation” with a side of “and we’ve set up a hotline for anyone who might have information.”  But, as always, he ended with optimism: “and we’ll find whoever perpetrated these acts and bring them to justice.”

Q: That’s awfully specific.

Well, I remembered all of these details because they were in the press packet we got from the AP that day detailing all of the news conferences with supplemental pictures.  The AP sends us a packet to standardize press coverage into something a little more responsible than just rampant speculation.  It’s nice to have a bit of certainty sometimes.

Q:  Why do you remember the packet?

That packet was resting just on top of this inauspicious moleskin journal that had come in with the day’s mail.  Other highlights included the weekly publisher’s bill addressed to Davis Mainz at the Observer and a fresh subpoena for libel addressed to the same.  I remembered those too.  It was all in all a routine day of covering these events that we all knew weren’t as shocking as we said they were.

Q: So what drew you to the journal?

In fact, I didn’t look at this journal again for at least another five months, in September on the day of the New Jersey University shootings.  It was the same deal as before, with just different numbers.  Seventeen dead, thirty one grievously wounded and both shooters committing suicide.

The only thing about it that shocked me was another moleskin journal on my desk the following morning labelled “Part Two.”

Q: Why did that shock you so much?

Journalism, when you get down to it, is about documenting patterns in the events upon which one reports.  That day we fished through the crank cabinet where we keep the submissions from the crazies and grabbed the moleskin journal that crossed the desk in April.  Reading them side by side, it quickly became obvious that the journals were not what we thought they were originally.  They were logs.  They were training manuals.  These were the core business documents of a terrorist cell that some mole had put on our desk so we could tell how it was all done.  They wanted us to know they were organized.

Q: What did you do with that information?

Later that day we called Homeland Security and informed them that we had something useful.  They came and took the two books away from us, but not before we made photocopies in case we ever got the opportunity to scoop someone about them after the national security censorship came off.  Turns out to have been a good idea, because we never did get them back.

Q: And then what?

Then, in January, when the pipeline in North Dakota exploded and reigned hell down all over the prairie we wised up and started paying attention.  That was the first time I saw book three.

Categories: VoodooLune | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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