Scott Wozniak's "Crumbling Utopian Pipedream," is a book of poems born of the streets. It unflinchingly celebrates gritty realism while detailing some of life's hard won battles, and continually urges the reader to face the obstacles life puts in our way, and to realize that we have the strength to overcome any and all hardships.
I enter the office listed at the address printed on Agent Smith’s business card at 2 0’clock. He waits in the lobby and greets me with a warm smile, shaking my hand and patting my back in a familiar way. Escorting me into an interview room with a long rectangular table and three chairs, I sit across from him and wait. Sweat tickles my brow and I fight the urge to wipe it. “Is it hot in here or is it just me?” I say, attempting to laugh, but my voice fails me. “Oh, the AC unit isn’t working well. You know these downtown buildings, don’t you Ray?” He laughs, but the mirth doesn’t reach his eyes. Yes, Mr. Agent, I’m sure you’re quite well aware how much research into downtown Providence went into the operation at Kennedy Plaza, but I’ll be damned if I will volunteer it for you. I can’t hear John’s words in my mind and nod at him as if everyone knows such information. “Can I offer you coffee or tea? Water perhaps?” “Whiskey if you have it.” He places a file on the table between us and makes another warm smile. “I’ll see what I can do.” Opening the file, he lines the table in front of me with pictures. All of them are from the day two months ago. Photos of the burned wreckage that was a trolley car. Images of body bags, three, which he taps with an index finger for effect. The final picture, of her, he holds up for me to see. “She was pretty. A pity she…fell in with the wrong crowd.” I don’t respond or move. The door opens and a woman I believe to be the secretary places a glass in front of me. “Whiskey, neat.” I nod thanks and gulp the drink. “Another please.” “I have a few questions if you are ready.” “I can’t imagine you have anything new to ask that I haven’t been asked a dozen times. Do your worst.” He laughs and pulls an ashtray a drawer in the table. “A cigarette?” “I have my own.” Taking my pack from the pocket of my jeans, I light one and wait for the inquisition. Special Agent Smith places a cigarette in the ashtray, unlit, and crosses his hands together. “Was your wife having an affair with Ryan?” The breath leaves my chest as if I were punched. After dozens of interrogations, I didn’t think he could ask me a question I wasn’t prepared to answer. “Not to my knowledge.” “Because, I can’t think of any other reason why she might follow him into such…an operation. Without your knowledge and involvement of course.” “Of course.” The secretary enters with the whiskey bottle and leaves after placing it next to my glass. I take a drag and pour another drink. Agent Smith shuffles through the papers in the file and places a picture in front of me. It’s a black and white photo of Ryan and Rose holding hands at dinner. It’s a downtown Providence Italian restaurant I know quite well. “You knew nothing of this?” he asks, lighting the cigarette in the ashtray and waiting for me to respond. I take the photo in my hands and examine it. From what I can tell, it doesn’t appear to be fake or doctored. Not that I’m an expert, but I doubt the Agent needed to fabricate this evidence. “Rose…spent time with many other men.” “Yes, I’m aware.” He returns to hunting through the thick file. “Ah, I remember.” Opening the drawer in the table again, he puts a thick notebook on the table. I close my eyes and count in my mind trying to calm my nerves. He knows everything. “This is what Ryan said during the trial. From the transcript, ‘I wrote Dissident during my freshman year at Brown University.’” I can’t speak or breathe and wait for him to open the notebook. “That would mean Ryan wrote Dissident one year before the attack on Kennedy Plaza,” he says, flipping the cover open and turning the notebook so the words face me. “Can you read the words below the title for me please? Humor me.” The words indict me and I can’t move my eyes. I can recite every word without help from the manuscript because I wrote it. But I won’t say it. I’ll follow John’s advice. If this Agent wants to arrest me, I won’t help him put the nails in my coffin. “I’ve never seen that book in my life. It’s a forgery.” Agent Smith laughs and presses a button under the table. In moments, the secretary enters with two pieces of paper, each wrapped in plastic. “We had a handwriting analysis done. You are the author of Dissident, Ray. The question I have – why would your brother take credit? It’s not like you made the bomb or detonated it. The evidence shows you had no involvement in the attack at Kennedy Plaza.” Where is he going with all this? Sipping the whiskey, I wait for him to continue. “Where were you that day? Where were you the moment the bomb detonated?” A bell sounds and the Agent rises from the chair in a hurry. Taking leave from me, I hear a flurry of voices outside the room. I finish the drink and light another cigarette. Special Agent Smith enters the room again, but does not sit at the table. “You are free to go. Our interview shall continue another time.” “Excuse me? What happened? I will find out anyway, might as well give me your version of it.” “Your father’s lawyers. Don’t worry, a federal judge will sign off…” he pauses when I rise. “You will soon find out.” He plans to arrest me. John was right. Without wasting time on civilities, I leave and follow the hallway back to the parking garage. Riding the elevator with my eyes shut, I can’t get the image of that photograph out of my mind. Ryan and Rose.
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The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely settled—but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved, precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish, but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.
It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.
He had a weak point—this Fortunato—although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity—to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack—but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially: I was skillful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.
It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him, that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.
I said to him—"My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day! But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts."
"How?" said he. "Amontillado? A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!" "I have my doubts," I replied; "and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain." "Amontillado!" "I have my doubts." "Amontillado!" "And I must satisfy them." "Amontillado!" "As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi. If any one has a critical turn, it is he. He will tell me—" "Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry." "And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own." "Come, let us go." "Whither?" "To your vaults." "My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have an engagement. Luchesi—" "I have no engagement;—come." "My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre." "Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchesi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado."
Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm. Putting on a mask of black silk, and drawing a roquelaire closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.
There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honour of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.
I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato, bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway that led into the vaults. I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood together on the damp ground of the catacombs of the Montresors.
The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingled as he strode.
"The pipe," said he. "It is farther on," said I; "but observe the white web-work which gleams from these cavern walls."
He turned towards me, and looked into my eyes with two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of intoxication.
"Nitre?" he asked, at length. "Nitre," I replied. "How long have you had that cough?" "Ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!"
My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.
"It is nothing," he said, at last. "Come," I said, with decision, "we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi—" "Enough," he said; "the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough." "True—true," I replied; "and, indeed, I had no intention of alarming you unnecessarily—but you should use all proper caution. A draught of this Medoc will defend us from the damps."
Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from a long row of its fellows that lay upon the mould.
"Drink," I said, presenting him the wine.
He raised it to his lips with a leer. He paused and nodded to me familiarly, while his bells jingled.
"I drink," he said, "to the buried that repose around us." "And I to your long life."
He again took my arm, and we proceeded.
"These vaults," he said, "are extensive." "The Montresors," I replied, "were a great and numerous family." "I forget your arms." "A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel." "And the motto?" "Nemo me impune lacessit." "Good!" he said.
The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. My own fancy grew warm with the Medoc. We had passed through walls of piled bones, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of catacombs. I paused again, and this time I made bold to seize Fortunato by an arm above the elbow.
"The nitre!" I said; "see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults. We are below the river's bed. The drops of moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Your cough—" "It is nothing," he said; "let us go on. But first, another draught of the Medoc."
I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grave. He emptied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light. He laughed and threw the bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand.
I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement—a grotesque one.
"You do not comprehend?" he said. "Not I," I replied. "Then you are not of the brotherhood." "How?" "You are not of the masons." "Yes, yes," I said; "yes, yes." "You? Impossible! A mason?" "A mason," I replied. "A sign," he said, "a sign." "It is this," I answered, producing a trowel from beneath the folds of my roquelaire. "You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. "But let us proceed to the Amontillado."
"Be it so," I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak and again offering him my arm. He leaned upon it heavily. We continued our route in search of the Amontillado. We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame.
At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious. Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this manner. From the fourth side the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of some size. Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still interior recess, in depth about four feet in width three, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been constructed for no especial use within itself, but formed merely the interval between two of the colossal supports of the roof of the catacombs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing walls of solid granite.
It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavoured to pry into the depth of the recess. Its termination the feeble light did not enable us to see.
"Proceed," I said; "herein is the Amontillado. As for Luchesi—"
"He is an ignoramus," interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed immediately at his heels. In an instant he had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment more and I had fettered him to the granite. In its surface were two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizontally. From one of these depended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded to resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back from the recess.
"Pass your hand," I said, "over the wall; you cannot help feeling the nitre. Indeed, it is very damp. Once more let me implore you to return. No? Then I must positively leave you. But I must first render you all the little attentions in my power."
"The Amontillado!" ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his astonishment.
"True," I replied; "the Amontillado."
As I said these words I busied myself among the pile of bones of which I have before spoken. Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a quantity of building stone and mortar. With these materials and with the aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of the niche.
I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labours and sat down upon the bones. When at last the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel, and finished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh tier. The wall was now nearly upon a level with my breast. I again paused, and holding the flambeaux over the mason-work, threw a few feeble rays upon the figure within.
A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back. For a brief moment I hesitated—I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier, I began to grope with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant reassured me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs, and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall; I replied to the yells of him who clamoured. I re-echoed—I aided—I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamourer grew still.
It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth tier. I had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight; I placed it partially in its destined position. But now there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of the noble Fortunato. The voice said--
"Ha! ha! ha!—he! he! he!—a very good joke indeed—an excellent jest. We shall have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo—he! he! he!—over our wine—he! he! he!"
"The Amontillado!" I said.
"He! he! he!—he! he! he!—yes, the Amontillado. But is it not getting late? Will not they be awaiting us at the palazzo, the Lady Fortunato and the rest? Let us be gone."
"Yes," I said, "let us be gone." "For the love of God, Montresor!" "Yes," I said, "for the love of God!"
But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew impatient. I called aloud-- "Fortunato!" No answer. I called again-- "Fortunato—"
No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and let it fall within. There came forth in reply only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick on account of the dampness of the catacombs. I hastened to make an end of my labour. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!
Edgar Allen Poe's fiction and poetry are some of the biggest influences on my writing. His stories have remained an inspiration many years after having first read them. As with many of my works, SERVER contains bits and pieces of literature that inspired me while I wrote it. There are hints of Kafka mixed with a strong presence of Poe. The cover painting for the book originated from a dream I had about this short story. I hope my readers enjoy this story, a classic piece of horror literature - and I hope it inspires and entertains you as much as it did me upon my first and many subsequent readings. I hope to do more than simply entertain with my books, I hope to pay homage to and build upon the body of work that authors placed, brick by brick, long before my birth.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Moran Press.
Stories for the Mad Volume One
Paperback Edition of
Stories for the Mad Volume One - Anthology of dark, literary fiction from Moran Press
A book unlike anything else you’ll read this year. A novella told in short story chapters, the unique structure of the book becomes part of the story itself. Part horror, part psychological portrait - Server depicts the inner turmoil of the waiter Scott Holden as he struggles to maintain a sense of identity while working in a corporate world. Scott experiences increasing mental turbulence trying to live as an artist while working a meaningless job nobody respects. The two realities bleed into each other and clash with violent consequences.
WATCH: Emma Gonzalez names the murdered Parkland victims and observes several minutes of silence in a 6-minute, 20-second speech that covered the same time it took the gunman to kill 17 people in her high school:
I love the way we zone out during the most useless parts of the day to watch the rain wash down our windows, wondering whether Dickinson or Whitman ever imagined a little universe bursting into existence
in every raindrop like we do. When the big bang plays over and over again within the rain - each droplet breaking and unbreaking until one planet gets it right, we both know it’s more momentous than earning minimum wage. You smile
and I smile as you appear in the doorway like a breath of dandelions. The sun takes it’s final curtsey to the crowd of clouds and I flap the wings hidden beneath my button-up.
Rip these pages from it’s notebook under the purple sky and we’ll stuff them in our chests next to the antique pens. Let me see that certain glow of yours that you and Hermione share when you’re both in the library
and I’ll understand more and more that most men will never really know the true definition of beauty. Stand on the tip of your toes and meet me in that surreal field of white flowers where none of anything really matters. With your chin in rest on my chest, I’ll notice that you’ve left eraser shavings next to the faint pencil marks that used to be my jagged edges. You’ll take a deep breath
and exhale the day’s stresses like cigarette smoke, whispering histories and philosophies from every different dimension into my ear. For that brief instant, I’ll step away from the smell of green tea on your skin
to look into the blue and yellow solar system behind your eyes. All our friends, everyone from the birds swimming in the trees to the grass in circles around our feet nod in agreement that we’ve both been counting down in our heads
like two rockets before liftoff ever since our first slow dance under that big tree when you showed me how to drink from the stars from down on Earth.
A GHOST AND A DRAGON BONUS CONTENT FROM SERVER (REVISED)
I wake in the snow with nobody around me. This must be a dream for the FBI never leaves my side. Pushing to my feet, I exit the cemetery and cross the street. Scanning the small ranch for signs of life, I move on. A few steps up a moderate incline brings me to the front door, which is open.
“Are you ready?” James asks me. I don’t need to look, I know he’s right behind me.
A mattress occupies the space in the middle of the living room and an ashtray with cigarettes spilling onto the floor beside it. There is no other furniture in the room. Placing my foot into the house, I glance over my shoulder at James.
“Are you coming with me?”
“No,” he says. “I’m not allowed.”
“Really?” I scan the living room again while I ponder his words.
“Can you tell me why?”
“I threw a bomb into a window of Town Hall and a lot of people died.”
The air leaves my lungs. Did he really say that? Closing my eyes, his words burn onto my eyelids. When I open my eyes he is no longer there. Vanished, like an echo in my mind. Shaking his words from me, I enter the house.
The door bangs shut and a tall thin man with blond hair leans against the wall.
“Hello, Ella,” he says.
I know him. I met this man long ago, but how can he be in front of me? I thought he died. And he doesn’t appear to be a ghost. Reaching my arm towards him, I pinch his arm.
He is real.
“I’m not a ghost like James.”
I don’t understand. “I saw your gravestone, Ryan.”
“Death can be faked,” he says, winking at me. I close my eyes and picture Ray in my mind.
“Is Ray alive?”
Clouds roll over his pupils and for the briefest moment I see the man the police label a terrorist.
“He is dead to me.”
The words cut at my insides and I want to slap him. “How can you say that about your own brother?”
“I’m aware of how you feel about him, Ella, but it doesn’t change the fact he destroyed my family. Don’t ask me about him. If you want to know, seek the answers at the end of the hall."
His eyes bore into mine and I let him dig and explore until he blinks to break the stare.
“What will I find at the end of the hall?” I ask. Waves of anger from him towards me, sending a chill down my spine.
“A dragon,” he says.
Looking down the short hallway, I attempt to understand his words. I will find a dragon in the last room?
“Who is the dragon?” I ask out. My voice sounds odd in the empty space and I take a step forward, leaving the living room. A growl fills the air and I jump, gripping my knife before I take another step on the creaky hardwood floor. It can’t be a dragon. Dragons aren’t real. I take a deep breath before continuing towards the sound at the end of the hallway.
“There’s no such thing as dragons,” I say, placing my hand on the doorknob.
Yanking the door open before my courage fades, I extend the knife into the space of the room before stepping inside. There’s a desk against the wall with a framed monkey painting hanging above it. It’s dark coal eyes investigate me, ripping into my brain. I pull my attention from the monkey and scan the rest of the room. A cigarette burns in an ashtray overflowing with crushed butts. Books and beer bottles litter the floor and against the wall a toy dragon with the stuffing spilling out speaks to me.
“Rawr!” the toy repeats. It’s stuck on this greeting like a broken record and issues it’s roar to me again every ten or fifteen seconds. “Rawr!”
‘Go to the basement,’ a voice whispers into my ear.
I spin in all directions, but there’s nobody here. I return to the living room, but there’s no sign of Ryan either. The house is empty. As the clock against the wall ticks and ticks with the pounding of my heart, the cellar door creaks open and I stare down into the black void of the basement below.
‘Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.’
“Ray,” I whisper before stepping into the darkness.
Yesterday afternoon, I got my hair cut by a girl with skin more purple than the late afternoon sky spreading lilacs across God’s checkered floors. The girl used her razor just a bit
too much, mixing blonde with brown like an interpretive painting around my chair. The woman beside us was going on and on about her man’s new job stamping an apple
on the backside of every iPhone. Purple Skin and I both laughed at the ignorance until I noticed the fresh ink curling in the shape of a bruise around her arm. The girl
who didn’t use her scissors enough explained that her tattoo was like a hieroglyphic. That night she was going to quit her job at Supercuts leave her friends and her family, and live in a van for the next two years wherever there are trees. The girl
had the same book of Bukowski resting against her tip jar that I had left next to my toothbrush this morning, yet, on my way out, as I called my girlfriend to tell her we should buy an RV,
I couldn’t help but wonder how the figure in the girl’s tattoo could look so afraid, while she could seem so alive.