Issue 1 cover


by Matt D Bell

Issue 1 :: Autumn 2007 (stories)

Sitting on the toilet, I gently kick her once, twice, three times in the ribs. She doesn't move. I don't know what I'll do if she wakes up, but if she stays unconscious, well, then I've got an idea.

I'm in the bathroom of someone else's studio apartment. Outside the door there's a party going on. I'm here because my friend Raquel is here. I don't know where she is now. I don't know the host or anyone else, not even the girl passed out on the floor. I've only met her once, earlier this evening. She was drinking champagne straight from the bottle in long gulps, all night long, so when I saw her go into the bathroom, I didn't think much of it. I didn't feel anything either, except for irritation. Because of what she'd done to me. Eventually I noticed that she hadn't come back out, so I wandered in to check on her, only to find her passed out on the floor.

And now? Well, it's like I said. Now I've got an idea what to do with her.

- - -

The party is being thrown by a friend of a friend of a friend. The host is an artist of some local fame, his huge canvases dominating the room and separating the party into segments. The first time I saw the girl, she was standing under a twenty-foot-long oil painting that looked like the floor of a parking garage, all grays broken with dirty puddles of black and streaks of yellow. I had no idea what it was supposed to be.

This girl, she caught my attention, first because her red gown clashed with the painting, then because she looks a lot like Raquel. I even thought the girl was Raquel at first—she had the same blond hair piled on top of her head, long, the same skinny limbs, the same small, cone-shaped breasts.

When I walked over and said hello, I could see the girl checking my qualifications to talk to her, my résumé in full view and up to date: a dark blue suit from a good tailor, an open-necked shirt underneath in a cool but complementary off-white. I have a good haircut, straight teeth. She took my hand, her small fingers draping over my larger ones.

"Good evening," I said, releasing her hand and smiling.

"I don't think I know you. Is this your first time here?"

I nodded. "Is it that obvious?" I looked around. Everyone was talking like old friends. Raquel, the only reason I'd come, was nowhere to be seen, but she was probably just on the other side of one of the host's canvases. It's frustrating how she brings me to these parties and then just disappears.

"It's usually a pretty exclusive group," the girl said, knocking back another gulp from her champagne bottle. "But since you're here, you might as well introduce yourself."

"Oh, sorry. I'm Greg." I offered my hand again, then put it back down, feeling awkward.

"I'm Nadia," she said, tossing her head slightly, causing one long blond curl to tumble down the side of her face. "Who are you here with?"

Nadia was intimidating in a way that was hard to define exactly but probably had to do with the way she held herself. She gave off the impression that no one was good enough for her, that those perfectly-sculpted hips were forbidden territory, that breaching the hollows within would require a monumental siege of time and money. Neither of which I wanted to spend, especially not where Raquel could see me.

How would I describe what I am? Safely. "I'm a friend of Raquel's," I said, searching for her again, watching Nadia nod in recognition. Raquel's done a couple of big shows recently and she's starting to make a name for herself in the city. She paints erotic still lifes. As in dead people fucking. The only time I ever asked Raquel what the paintings were all about, she told me that sex is beautiful and so is death, and that when beautiful sexy things die, well, that's the most perfect thing of all.


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"Anything" is roughly 3000 words.

Matt Bell lives in Saginaw, Michigan, with his wife Jessica. His writing has appeared in magazines such as Hobart, Barrelhouse, Caketrain, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency. He is also the reviews editor for SmokeLong Quarterly and can be found online at