Flash Fiction: Lost in the System

Lost in the System

 

It wasn’t right.

He had filled in all the forms correctly, he had attended all the interviews on time, and his tone had always been calm and measured. And yet, all he received from them in return, was a Second Class letter to inform him that his papers had been lost in their internal mailing system.

Angry, and in desperate need of a quick settlement to his claim, the young man got on the bus and returned to Block A where he demanded an explanation from a blank-faced advisor, who then sent him to Block B where he argued his case in a loud and forceful manner with another blank-faced advisor.

As ever, nobody listened, no reason was given, and nothing changed but his mood.

Sick of it all, the young man walked out of the grey concrete office block, pulled his hood up, and wandered back to the bus stop in the midday rain. Sitting down next to an old man in the dry of the bus shelter, he rolled a smoke from the last of the butts in his tobacco pouch and stared out blankly at the passing shopping bags and cars.

“Man, this is not right,” the young man snapped, breathing smoke out through his nose, “Seriously, this is all fucking wrong.”

The old man sitting next to him smiled.

“Well,” the old man said slowly, “If you whisper, nobody will hear you, and if you shout, then nobody will listen. All in all, it is far better to just mind your self and watch your breath instead.”

 

© J H Martin
All Rights Reserved

Lost in the System is taken from a forthcoming collection of short stories and flash fiction by J H Martin, entitled Street Walking.

An earlier and shorter version of Lost in the System appeared in the now-defunct Short, Fast & Deadly journal.

 

 

Fiction: Les Papillons Noirs

Les Papillons Noirs

This mad swirlin’ creative outlet is a place to showcase the many diverse artists in this big, blue, beat-utiful world of ours and to get this madness into as many heads as possible.

Mad Swirl – an on-line creative outlet featuring art, poetry and prose from all parts of the globe, including Les Papillons Noirs, a short piece of fiction by J H Martin, which you can read for free here.

Fiction: The Man of Mystery

The Man of Mystery

It was like that because it had to be like that.

As he explained to the assistant in the new department store.

“Sorry Ma’am, but I cannot divulge my name. That would go against orders.”

“Oh yes, of course. Certainly Sir, I understand.”

At the cosmetics counter the young assistant wore upon her face the most plastic of smiles.

He wore a white naval uniform, which was pristine, yet frayed at its well-worn cuffs.

Unfortunately, the store itself had that sad and lifeless air of a newly-built hotel. This manifested itself in the strong smell of bleach and the disinterest on the faces of the figures passing through it. The only purchases in their hands being small and inexpensive ones, as if they had only bought them to justify the time they’d wasted inside its off-white walls…’

Lunch was taken at a cafe inside an old rusted bus out on the ring road. Dressed in a set of blue oil-stained overalls and a pair of black steel toe-capped boots, he sat and stared out of the window as he ate his plate of sausage, egg and chips.

The view was the sole reason why it was a regular part of R16 Route B.

There was something about its mildewed concrete islets, its graffiti-strewn flyovers, its mess of motorway intersections and the industrial parks on the horizon, with their chimneys belching thick plumes of brown smoke up into the city sky that he found ‘almost alien yet so very intriguing‘. Perhaps it was its ‘grotesque geometry’, or, perhaps it was the ‘asphalt-like absurdity of its enforced and unnatural poetry’.

“I don’t know. I’m not sure.”

He took off his horn-rimmed spectacles, put them back into the top pocket of his shabby tweed jacket and returned the leather-bound book to the grey-haired owner of the antique bookshop.

“Not a problem Sir, not a problem at all. Perhaps though, you might like to take a look at these?”

The service there was excellent and the owner very well informed. The four erotic Japanese woodblock prints on display were especially good, with the last one in the set worth mentioning in detail.

In the print, a balding man has just withdrawn and ejaculated over the plump stomach of a prone and naked geisha. He is looking down at his swollen flaccid penis, while she is smiling and looking up into his eyes.

It is not the beautiful simplicity of line that entices and reflects the instinctive yet base nature of the act depicted, nor is it the juxtaposition of clear, warm reds of the clothes with the pale pinks of the bodies that makes this particular print so enthralling.

No, what makes it so intensely gripping, are the detailed and grotesque expressions on the faces of the two figures. The horror in the man’s down-turned eyes as he realises that he cannot control this primal urge and the grimace spread across his face as he watches all of his imaginary mastery and virility wither away into nothing more than a flaccid piece of flesh. All of which is contrasted most painfully, yet beautifully, with the mockery that dances upon the geisha’s upturned lips and the coldness in her piercing stare, as she reveals to him with the fullest savagery and severity: the impotence of his desires and the treachery hidden behind a woman’s painted smile.’

He nodded and took off his long-haired wig and beard.

It had been a good day and much had been done.

Having placed them where they belonged, he took off his dirty puffa jacket and jeans and hung them up next to the tweed jacket, blue overalls, white naval uniform and the hundreds of other ‘identities’ which spread around the dark subterranean room on aluminium clothes rails.

Taking his notes, he then sat down behind his desk to write up his daily report. It had been a while since the powers-that-be had been in touch but he paid that fact no mind at all. It was like that because it had to be like that.

However, before he began, he afforded himself the luxury of gazing round the room at the routes, maps, plans and charts which covered every inch of wall. All of them meticulously planned out, drawn and coded.

Yes, there lies the true beauty behind this mortal boredom. That is where it can be found. The true meaning deep within the senseless void of man’s repeated thought and action. There, far, far beyond the inane mystery of his modern world laid out for all its primate slaves to understand in a most primitive and devolving tongue of multi-storey car parks, light bulbs, shaved pudenda and ever bigger screens displaying nothing more than the inattentive limitations of their moaning star-struck cerebellums…

He shook his head. He was getting carried away.

He began to write.

He had a lot of work to do.

 

© J H Martin

The Man of Mystery first appeared in Black Heart Magazine

Fiction: Standing Here

Standing Here

This mad swirlin’ creative outlet is a place to showcase the many diverse artists in this big, blue, beat-utiful world of ours and to get this madness into as many heads as possible.

Mad Swirl is an on-line creative outlet featuring a constantly swirled and updated collection of art, poetry and prose from all parts of the globe, including Standing Here; a new short piece of fiction by J H Martin, which you can read for free here.

Fiction : Bricks & Stoves & Barred Windows

Bricks & Stoves & Barred Windows

Underwood is a place for writers to showcase their work and a place for readers to enjoy their creations.

Their third issue is out now and showcases poetry and fiction by Jeff Fleischer, Joseph Crisafulli, Matt A. Hanson, Spencer K. M. Brown, Annette Sisson, Matt Dodge, Randy Lee White, Brody Smithwick, Byron Lafayette, Katelyn Andell, Kevin Baggett, Karen Frederick, Chris Espenshade, Cheryl Sim, Rebecca Bihn-Wallace, Austere Rex Gamao, David Elliott, Deni Dickler, Fabrice Poussin and David Davies, as well as Bricks & Stoves & Barred Windows, a new short story by J H Martin.

Free to read and free to share, make sure to check out Issue 3 of Underwood here.

Flash Fiction: Scratched

Scratched

This mad swirlin’ creative outlet is a place to showcase the many diverse artists in this big, blue, beat-utiful world of ours and to get this madness into as many heads as possible.

Mad Swirl is an on-line creative outlet featuring a constantly swirled and updated collection of art, poetry and prose from all parts of the globe, including Scratched; a new short piece of fiction by J H Martin, which you can read for free here.

Fiction: Marbàn

Marbàn

Rue Scribe is a small literature journal published by Underwood Press LLC.

We think small as in Small Literature.

It’s been called micro fiction, flash fiction, tiny fiction and cigarette fiction. Early on, these stories were called short shorts or even ultra shorts. You may have your own name for it: bite-sized fiction or fun-sized fiction.

Call it what you will, it is a short story made even more so. Flash fiction is to stories what haiku is to poetry: a world in a drop of water.

Small but powerful.

Get rid of any fluff.  Be ruthless in your editing. Distill it down to its essence and then distill it again. Get to the point.

Get to the point, now.

Featuring a constantly updated selection of short but powerful fiction and poetry, Rue Scribe also features Marbàn; a new short piece of fiction by J H Martin, which you can read for free here.

Fiction: The Days of the Locust

The Days of the Locust

Coffin Bell is a new quarterly online journal of dark literature that publishes poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and creative nonfiction that explore the darkest themes.

Volume 1, Issue No. 4 is out now and  features a dark mix of waking nightmares, dark CNF, dystopian flash and the most cursed of verse, including The Days of the Locust, a new short piece of dark fiction by J H Martin, which you can read here.

Flash Fiction: Mind Your Self

Mind Your Self

Dragon Poet Review is an online literary journal that features a wide variety of poetry, flash fiction, short fiction, short memoir and short CNF, as well as photography, artwork and reviews of books and films.

The journal is published twice annually and their 2018 Summer/Fall Issue is out now. Featuring a fresh and vibrant mix of contemporary art from a myriad of artists from all around the globe, the 2018 Summer/Fall Issue also features Mind Your Self, a short piece of fiction by J H Martin, which you can read here.

Fiction: City Stained Rouge

City Stained Rouge

Underwood is the flagship magazine for Underwood Press LLC. 

It’s about the craft.

It always has been.  Compelling stories that are well told.

We are a micro press.  And we are a craft press.  We have Vandercooks in our bones, a Chandler & Price in the garage, and Heidleberg Windmills in our dreams.  Letterpress printing is our past and our future.  The ink that gives life to the machines stains our fingers and runs in our blood…

The inaugural issue of Underwood is out now and features. amongst many other fine, fine thingsCity Stained Rouge; a new short story by J H Martin.

You can read the first issue of Underwood here.

Flash Fiction: For the Record

For the Record

Rue Scribe is the small literature journal of Underwood Press LLC.

“Think Small.”

It was the advertising slogan for the Volkswagon Beetle developed by the  Doyle Dane Bernbach agency in 1959.  Since then, it has been called the single best advertising campaign of the 20th Century. We think it fits us perfectly.

We think small as in Small Literature – small but powerful.

Get rid of any fluff. Distill it down to its essence and then distill it again.

Get to the point.  Get to the point, now.

Featuring a well packed and constantly updated supply of powerful short fiction and poetry, Rue Scribe also features For the Record; a new short piece of fiction by J H Martin, which you can read here.

Fiction: Dragons

Dragons

SunLit Fiction is a publisher and podcast of short contemporary fiction.

This week on their podcast and their website, they feature Dragons; a short story set in Myanmar, by J H Martin, with the story being freely available to read on their website as well.

Listen, read, like and share the story with anyone you may know who has an interest in MyanmarBurmese culture and Asia.

တစ်ခါသေဖူး ပျဉ်ဖိုးနားလည်

Fiction: Man of Mystery

Man of Mystery 

Black Heart Magazine is an independent online literary magazine, transmitting tenacious text around the world at the speed of WiFi. Since 2004, the site has been combating clichés and skipping straight to supercharged stories with a simple catchphrase: we heart art.

Featuring reviews, interviews, fiction and poetry from all around the world, Black Heart Magazine also features Man of Mystery; a short story by J H Martin, which you can read here.

Fiction: 阳光

阳光 (Sunlight) - J H MARTIN 2018

阳光

Curating Alexandria is a new web and eBook publication dedicated to supporting new fiction and other new works of art centered around or inspired by classical mythology, folklore and legend.

To anyone paying attention, the world of publishing has radically changed in the last decade. To say that the market is crowded is an understatement. Social media allows anyone and everyone to present their lives as celebrity, to chatter in endless self promotion. Self publishing has lowered the bar for what creations enter the market. For many readers and authors, this has been a frustrating turn of events. Curating Alexandria exists, not to add to the noise, but to offer interested readers a well curated, well edited collection of emerging talent.

Their first anthology is now on sale and features new works on classic themes from artists all over the globe, including 阳光 – a new short piece of prose by J H Martin.

To help them continue to support new writing talent and to share the beauty of new works of art centered around or inspired by the most timeless of themes, you can purchase your own paperback copy of the anthology here.

Fiction: Dawn Burial

Dawn Burial

Havik is an annual literary anthology assembled and curated by Las Positas College, Livermore, California. 

Their 2018 anthology: Rise, is out now, and features a diverse and vibrant mix of art, creative non-fiction, poetry and fiction from artists all over the world, including Dawn Burial; a short story set in China, by J H Martin.

To find out where and how you can both find and purchase your copy of Rise, please follow Havik on either Instagram or Facebook.