by Michael Prihoda
The monsters sit around a table, eating food, chatting about their recent business. Yeti is there and Bigfoot and they sent a card to Nessie saying how bummed they were she couldn’t be involved. Nobody invited the Chupacabra, for good reason. They eat a lot of hummus with chips and carrots, and more than one of them says how nice the egg rolls were. One of them pulls out a phone and shows around the latest viral video, which achieves the requisite hearty chuckles. Did you hear something? Yeti asks. Bigfoot turns around, staring into the darkness of their host’s living room. The edges of the darkness look tattered. He thinks something moves, then Frankenstein chimes in with his standard quip and the room devolves into tentacles of laughter.
A few humans gather around a screen. After lots of disbelief and nudging elbows, they settle down to take notes. They are absurdly pleased at the turn of events, at how the monsters all came together in one place for observation. The scientists’ pleasure is only betrayed by a light film of sweat on their collective upper lips. One of them, scribbling a note, pauses, having felt an atmospheric alteration. So slight. Probably misperception. A tingle along his forearms. There again. Are they being watched?
They make sure to follow exact observation protocol. Many miles separate them from the humans they are watching just like many miles separate the humans from the monsters they are watching just like many miles separate the monsters from whatever they were watching on the passed-around smartphone. One of them thinks she can make out the pockmarks of sweat on the humans’ upper lips. She almost turns around, doesn’t, already knows. Someone is always watching.
It’s Dangerous to Go Alone
by Ryan Yarber
I was certain it was a dream. Everything was blocky, monochromatic, and nothing seemed in focus. I entered a cave to find carefully stacked pixels forming the vague image of an old man. He gifted me a sword and offered no instruction, but I knew what I had to do. I scoured the world, defeated monsters, and eventually achieved my fate. She was safe, which meant I could rest.
I believed I would wake to familiar surroundings, but I was wrong. Instead I woke to a woman’s voice calling for help. My body was slightly recognizable, the landscapes more defined, but again I was tasked with a heavy burden. Weeks passed without rest until I completed my task. I had saved a kingdom, and my reward was another nightmare.
My eyes opened to the insistent nagging of a fairy who had found her way into my home. She bid me to follow her where I learned once again I was fated to save a world in danger. Something in me wanted to forego this responsibility, but my nature prevailed.
My travels revealed my fate to be the eternal struggle between three forces. The evil strength of a monster, the wisdom of a goddess, and myself. Each part woven together into the fabric of destiny. My eyes opened time and time again to complete a task that tested the limits of my strength. I would never know peace.
Through each resurrection I realized I was not alone. She was always with me. The goddess who took up arms beside me to battle the demon. I do not know how many lives I have lived, nor which memories are real, but knowing I will always find her when I wake up is enough. For her, I will never stop fighting.
Love Sustainability in a Flawed World
On the pleasant side of life , we crawled in darkness, like lovers do. Embraced like amoebas osmotically invading one another. He soon became the voice in my head. We were happy enough in darkness, yet under the light of day, things were different. Our world was limited to a few flashing pixels, the sound of “Unbelievable” playing by EMF.
“What do those initials stand for?”
“Extroverted Monetary Fund?”
He was eager to live in the improved version of our story, instead of compromising with the 8-bit world we were born into. We were enough, yet the world was flawed, containing bills, debt sustainability and the introverted version of our favorite band.
Amoebas know one dimension, moving only linearly, I said. They think they move straight even when they move in circles. Ants may move in a two-dimensional reality, unable to understand ups and downs, unlike humans who realize their place in space and change it at will. People are aware of time, yet they’re still not capable of moving back and forth. I wish I could take us directly to that bright, rich picture of the future he dreamed of.
Five kisses later, I died. One life lost in his arms, yet I didn’t mind. I still had many lives to spare in this flawed world.
I struggled to keep this love alive. To not get distracted by details that spoil the big picture.
We have to win, he said. It’s not only about us.
The world will evolve someday, I claimed, with or without us.
While our choppy, 8-bit paradise was collapsing, all started to make sense; we weren’t meant for each other.
You crave for life to make sense, only to realize that stories only make sense when the end approaches.
LIGHT BLUE SINGLE PIXEL TEARS
by Charlotte O’Farrell
From the moment we were born, he lived for me, and I for him.
In the times when the Outer World took control of our bodies, he would tackle evil baddies and navigate perilous landscapes, all to find me in whichever castle served as my prison that day. When the Outer World receded and we once again controlled ourselves, we would enjoy each other’s company with no other distractions. We would dance, talk long into the night, exchange pixels.
There was barely any contact with the Outer World for twenty years. Our cartridge, our world, was somewhere quiet, undisturbed – and that suited us. I was never imprisoned in a castle anymore. No-one could enter our blissful bubble.
That wasn’t to say things were perfect. Both of us noticed things degrading around us as the happy years went on. Sometimes glitches would scar the sky above us, making the colour flash on and off like a storm. Once we both glitched together and found ourselves, instead of facing each other, on opposite ends of the entire level, facing outwards into nothing.
Like the baddies he had once fought so valiantly to save me from, we knew we were mortal.
Today the Outer World burst in on us again. Our cartridge moved. The sounds were loud again, the voices clear and booming. I clung to him, soaking up every second of him as if it was our last together.
A loud crash. A crushing, metallic sound, gradually getting closer. We held tight to one another. Our pixels merged into one as the world dissolved around us. My last vision was of him, his handsome face descending into static, floating away pixel by pixel.