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Eric Machan Howd


The man who creeps behind my tongue is an angry man; he sounds like me, rusted, like a busted garden gate that aches to be used, like me, older, a Tony grown into Anthony, a Scooter grown into Scott, a regret grown into grief. I hide him in metaphors, like that date I agreed to make in Fall Creek with a wannabe punk who loved Paramount Pictures, wore black and white fishnets and gripped the back of my neck and reeled me into her painted face and ate me like a pie contest, a messy kiss so hard and a tongue so eager it vined its way through the back of my neck, waved hello to the stoned goths on the couch watching us, watching Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, watching us.

The man who creeps behind me intercepts words as they are thrown, tosses them down my throat to gastric juices and Tebows a victory stance to his gods – language rises again from hydrochloric acid, like a skeleton in the pit of a William Castle film, words on an invisible wire, like confidence, battered, worthy, stripped of meat and muscle and shaken for effect by someone holding the stick.

She held me in death grip, bored through my shell, kept one Horus eye open and her Wite-Out nails latched onto my thigh, a tense moment of change guided by psychopomp lips; she, Gaiman’s Death, she, Wadjet, the papyrus-colored one sucking ink from idea, a cobra writhing in an orifice, undulating, hypnotizing and lulling me to do whatever she wanted.

The man who creeps behind me punches my uvula when I unbox my childhood, rocks-em, socks-em like a prize fighter practicing revision – a one and a two and a three and a four boxes, over and over, with one fist tucked behind his sweaty back. I hide him in extended metaphors, like: she spit-slaked my mouth and licked a residue of compliments from my scruff as her tongue waved goodbye to the goths and dove, determined, through my guts, lapped up all my vocabulary, slurped at etymologies, and grew and grew and grew … cordyceps unilateralis on an ant, taking over, leaving the important organs to live on, sustain, and feed the spore.

The tongue creeps, hardens to stalk, bursts alphabets over the fruiting body.


Feature image by ArtByBenjamino

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Twenty-four short stories, exclusive afterwords, interviews, artwork, and more.

From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in. But don’t despair. Bulldoze the borders. Conquer freedom, not fear. EXIT EARTH explores all life – past, present, or future – on, or off – this beautiful, yet fragile, world of ours. Final embraces beneath a sky of flames. Tears of joy aboard a sinking ship. Laughter in a lonely land. Dystopian or utopian, realist or fantasy, horror or sci-fi, EXIT EARTH is yours to conquer.

EXIT EARTH includes the short stories of all fourteen finalists of the STORGY EXIT EARTH Short Story Competition, as judged by critically acclaimed author Diane Cook (Man vs. Nature) and additional stories by award winning authors M R Cary (The Girl With All The Gifts), Toby Litt (Corpsing), James Miller (Lost Boys), Courttia Newland (A Book of Blues), and David James Poissant (The Heaven of Animals), and exclusive artwork by Amie Dearlove, HarlotVonCharlotte, CrapPanther, and cover design by Rob Pearce.

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