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Most people think my bookcase is chaos. I don’t organize my books alphabetically, chronologically, or by genre. But there is a system and to me, it somehow makes sense: I arrange my books according to what authors I think would enjoy each other’s company. Catherine Lacey resides next to Flannery O’Connor. Colson Whitehead next to Sherwood Anderson. Ann Beattie next to F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this unconventional and somewhat bizarre arrangement, living authors rub elbows with the dead. Until recently, I never gave the fact that I read contemporary novels much thought. I always regarded them as inseparable from the rest of literature, some even more compelling than certain classics. It was not until my American Literature professor informed the class that he refused to read contemporary novels that I realized such a literary proclivity even existed. When asked why, he said he’d rather read something that had “stood the…

Ever since I was a child, I could see the damned at the bottom of the ocean. If you ever preyed upon your fellow human being, if you betrayed the one person whom you promised your loyalty to, if the pain of the innocent was the only thing that brought you joy, then you were condemned and thrown into the ocean, where the weight of all your sins would drag you to the very bottom of the black ocean floor. Without light, the condemned lost what little humanity they had, and the sinners became beasts who fed on each other. And I could see it all. No matter how deep the ocean floor was, my eyes could pierce through the darkness of the cold, blue waters and bear witness to the actions of these monsters of the deep, these Wicked Ones. Before he died, the old shaman told me that…

There was a dead moon at the end of the interstate. It sat so low in the sky. From behind houses, buildings and trees it disappeared. On the straightaways it returned. Every slight turn on the road brought it across the car’s windshield in a broad arc. It was a stationary target on a long and unending range. It wasn’t a full moon, but less of a crescent. It looked as if something had torn pieces from it. It was fixed so stolid in position, jacked up to that loose space among the black of a starless, clouded night. A horror film without the dread. Like the moon, somebody had replaced it with melancholy. Sweet melancholy for the cars along that interstate, a stretch of pavement housing shells of metal and shells of people. Cooped up into hurtling boxes with their radios turned up high. There were so many ways…

I was only four-years-old when I first met the rug of black sun. My parents came across it somehow and decided to take it home, thinking that it would fill our living room with a sense of intercontinental culture. It was a simple rug, one with a striped pattern in both horizontal and vertical directions. The horizontal stripes were colored a dark brown, and the vertical stripes were simply white. Triangles, squares, and circles found themselves littered across the rug, each of varying size and shades of grey. Such an accessory would definitely make one’s family glow with culture, the type of culture that let others know that the owners of such a rug had traveled throughout the world and picked out that specific rug because of its rarity and worth. Truth be told, my parents just found the old rug lying somewhere in a bodega, collecting dust and providing…

Heart wakes me. I can feel it bleeding like a sea into some barren place far from me — far, far away from the ash tree. Heart thumps, and I feel like a post, heart beating and beating me into rough, trodden soil. Worms crawl against burned, aching skin. Wind and sound barely reach me, feeling like they have come from far, far away from the ash tree. The pain starts at heart and races, spreading from my center, radiating with heat. I would moan but mouth is dirt as well. I don’t want to move. Movement is life and I am dead – I know this as ravens know the sky and wolves know the forest. I know where I belong. Yet impulses run through fingers – I still have fingers, some but not all. There is new pain that awakens when I try to move two middle fingers…

A voice cries out in the wilderness, moaning like a doleful ghost up the hilltop from down the slope. My eyes get blocked by clouds of dust, curtains of earth glinting. Bright, white. Heat. There is no smell here but dry earth. About a hundred yards down the slope, I can see it. A purple cloth tied around the bole, flapping low and rapid, forlorn. The curtains go back and forth. It shows between the curtains, sheeting across the slope. Like an upside down smile, showing and not showing, shuttered between bands of it. The voice cries out again. The ghost, the ghost. I start walking down the slope toward it. For a little while there is no sound and no feeling but the specks of dust gathering between my back and shirt. When I’m about halfway down, I see clouds start to mass up gray and primordial. Then the…