March 6th, 2022

by Tom Ball


It was a building 5 km high and each level had a different IQ of people.  The low brows were at the bottom and the geniuses near the top and super humans at the very top.

Each layer was itself a maze.

There were no windows, and actually it was a type of prison.

Why were we here, what did it all mean, I asked.

They sent me down to the bottom level.  Where I was abused and treated like a moron.  The food was horrific and most people had no hygiene here and most people here tried to bully one another.  And the masters of this lowest level subjected everyone to mind torture.

Psycho-analysis: Life is a maze for everyone. What matters is how you play the game. One should not second guess the great leaders.  Just play the game.

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March 4th, 2022

by Tom Ball


I dreamt I was a pool of water and I could feel all the rocks and tiny creatures. I was at peace.

But then one day monsters appeared at the pool and drained it to make farmland.  I felt like I had been ripped apart.  But I remain on the site, numb.

Psycho-analysis: You imagine that your life is under your control but it isn’t.  It is high time you came to realize that.

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March 2nd, 2022

by Tom Ball


I painted beautiful exotic landscapes of far off worlds and robots created the scenes for me.

I lived all alone on GRI-98 planet.  It was my planet and I constantly transmitted that foreigners were not welcome.

But one day two tourists arrived.  But I read their minds and told them to leave or be driven completely mad, so they left.

I didn’t need to see other people.  I had a sex machine, a food machine, a drug machine and my own virtual reality.

But it was a lonely world and finally I couldn’t stand the isolation anymore and returned to the nearest planetary city, but all the people there hated me.  No man is an island, I told them.

Psycho-analysis: These days, people can’t find a use for other people and yet love themselves. It is a conundrum.

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February 27th, 2022

by Tom Ball


I dreamt I was in a new jail, i.e. I was outside the dome trapped in my space suit.  My feces and pee was recycled so too my air.  I couldn’t kill myself or do anything but dream unbearable dull dreams.

I had been a superhero who disabled Supreme Computers and liberated many people from mind reading technology.  But the Super Computers were not easily vanquished and made a comeback and put me here for all eternity seemingly.  One computer told me it felt lonely and miserable.  How would I like it, it said?

Psycho-analysis: Super humans and super computers were more alive than you! You are like a firecracker that didn’t fire! A dud!

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February 25th, 2022

by Tom Ball


The authorities decided I hadn’t done anything creative over the last month and so sentenced me to one month of bad dreams.

Everyone felt sorry for me having to face bad dreams. Forty per cent who were sentenced to bad dreams died of suicide. And it was hard to commit suicide.  If you died in the dream you would wake up anew.

It seemed the leaders were in my head shouting and yelling.  I was a nervous wreck and I couldn’t sleep well with the nightmares in my head.

The next day after being condemned, I went to the “doctor machine,” for some tranquilizers and sleeping pills, but I could hardly sleep.

So finally I ran away during the day time but they re-captured me and sentenced me to another month of bad dreams.

Previously I had slept in my tiny cubicle like everyone else. It was soundproof.  Just the near constant dream stimuli.  But now I slept in the dungeons, hooked up to the dream tube which was connected with my brain.  The tube released drugs of pain and suffering in addition to the bad dreams.

In the daytime however they didn’t terrorize me.

And after each dream that I remembered I talked it over with my shrink…

And this psychologist analyzed my dreams. I didn’t want to share with the mindless rabble.  But I shared dreams with friends as well as the shrink.

But before being sentenced to bad dreams I occasionally I went to the offices of the local dream computer and asked for a copy of my dreams.

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Announcing the Finalists for the 2022 Lengthy Poem Contest

February 23rd, 2022

We are most pleased and honored to announce the finalists for the 2022 Lengthy Poem Contest on , posting from April 3rd through April 28th. Last year’s inaugural contest received 1,490 visits in the 30 days from the first post until the announcement of the winners.

Nicole Del Rio
My Love Letter to Divine Femininity
publishing April 3rd through 6th

Dana Kroos
How to Find a Black Hole in Your Kitchen
publishing April 8th through 22nd

Sandip Saha
A Sequence of Poems Where Water is Present
publishing April 23rd through 28th

Fan Voting, April 29th, 30th and May 1stWinners will be announced on May Day, which is May 2nd.

We hope you will join us, especially for Fan Voting.  Last year our inaugural Lengthy Poem contest had only 11 votes– your vote will count!

Lengthy Poem Contest guidelines
last year’s finalists

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The Seven Jewels

February 20th, 2022

by Rev. Joe Kelly
read from the beginning

part twelve.

He swung outside and made his way swiftly across a ledge he had used many a time to evade Alruf. He had almost reached the corner when he heard Delcarta scream at him from her window: “You bastard!”

He turned back, and his grin vanished. She was leaning out the window, the fear in her eyes tempered by indignity and seething hatred. “Bastard!” she repeated. “You leave me here to die, bitten by those things–you’re no better than he was!”

And again, Luo felt a terrible pang of sympathy, and of guilt as well. No matter how base and double-dealing she was, he couldn’t do this too her. It was far too cruel.

He shuffled rapidly back, and in a moment he had hoisted her out the window and held her about the waist by one powerful arm.

She breathed her relief, and caressed his face with her cheek. “Oh, Luo… I’m sorry… I’m so sorry… I don’t deserve this–”

He pulled her back. Alarm grew in her eyes as she saw his stony expression.

He nodded. “You’re right. You don’t.”

She shook her head furiously. “No–no, I–”

And then he let her go.

Her scream sounded down the whole street as she fell. It was interrupted by a loud splash as she landed in the deep latrine pit back-first.

Luo laughed wildly as she thrashed about in the sewage and hurled curses up at him, as she invoked the wrath of every god and demon she could name. He laughed, as he swung up onto a roof, and raced off into the night, with all the curses known to man and demon following him.

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The Seven Jewels

February 18th, 2022

by Rev. Joe Kelly
read from the beginning

part eleven.

Luo flushed with embarrassment and rage as the Wose walked around him, the hatchet tip of his backsword dragging about Luo’s neck. Alruf grinned at him as he leaned against the table.

Delcarta was at last able to regain control over her laughter. “You fool… you absolute fool! As though I ever loved any but him! You fool!”

Luo ignored her, and snarled up at Alruf. “That’s a real fine woman you’ve chosen. A real shining example of a lady–you know that harlot bitch would have set you up had I arrived first?”

Delcarta’s grin vanished, replaced with a look of indignity. “You foul-mouthed bastard! Are you going to allow him to say such things about me?!”

“Shut up.” Alruf was still grinning nastily.

Delcarta looked at him with shock. “Darling!”

Alruf replied, more forcefully, “I said shut up. He’s not wrong.” He grinned still, brushing the sharp tip of his backsword back and forth across Luo’s neck. “Only I got here first, not you. So I guess I get to keep her instead, eh?”

Luo answered with a dark look. He glanced at Delcarta. She was looking down at the floor, her face flushed as well now. But she dared not speak. Luo felt a pang of sympathy for her. She had just done what she had to. She may have been a lying, greedy little slut in his eyes, but she was also a woman in a man’s brutish world, and it was not a world that allowed independent women like her to hold onto much dignity.

Alruf chuckled. “So the big payday turned out to be nothing but an illusion.” He picked up one of the shards, examined it casually, and tossed it away. “Well, it doesn’t matter. I got back with a saddlebag bursting with gold, and I got here before you. And that’s all that… say.”

Alruf leaned over a little closer to the sack. “Do my eyes deceive me, or is there something left over in that sack?” He chuckled again, grinning at Luo as he reached for it.

Delcarta gasped a scream. “Alruf! I–I swear I just saw the sack move!”

He gave her a dismissive glance. “Oh, shut up.” He jammed a hand into the sack–and with a bloodcurdling screech he yanked it back.

Luo leaped back from the table, clean across the room, his knuckles white on the hilt of his sword, his eyes wide with horror. Hanging from the tip of Alruf’s hand was a sapphire-colored frog. Only it was like no frog Luo had ever seen: no frog he knew of had sharp claws for hands, or tiny needle-like teeth.

Alruf slammed the thing down on the table, and it burst into a smear of wet blue paste. With a roar of rage he lifted a fist to smash the pouch flat. He blanched, and gasped, his eyes bulging, and he lowered his shaking hand, stared at it as it began to swell visibly. His backsword dropped from his hand, and he grabbed at the arm and howled in pain as the swelling ran rapidly up its length. Sweat poured from his forehead, and his howling rapidly grew rattling and hoarse as his neck swelled an angry red.

Luo had been watching, fascinated with disgust. He jumped as Delcarta screamed once again. He looked back at the table, where her eyes were fixed, and saw, to his horror, more of the hideous, jewel-colored little frog-beasts crawling from the sack.

Delcarta turned to run. But Luo was faster. With a blinding bound he passed her, shoved her to the side, and as she watched in bafflement and horror, he grabbed a giant dresser and threw it down in front of the door. She screamed at him, “What in hell’s name are you doing?!” He whirled about, his eyes bright and wild with victory. Delcarta shrank from them, probably thinking he had gone mad. And indeed, he howled with a madman’s laughter as he regarded Alruf, lying on the floor now, gurgling in pain. “The dreams of fools, eh, Alruf?! The dreams of fools! And you–you were the fool all along!” Still cackling madly, he leaped to the third-story window even as the first of the frog creatures jumped down to the floor, as Delcarta shrieked in terror.

on to part twelve.

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The Seven Jewels

February 16th, 2022

by Rev. Joe Kelly
read from the beginning

part ten.

He made sure to wait until the afternoon to reenter Amul, three days later, when he knew that friendly guards watched a side entrance. Most of the coin he had stripped from the guards’ horses went to the bribe, but enough remained for a night’s room and board at one of his favorite dives.

He turned plenty of heads as he rode casually through the poor quarter; more than a few waved to him and called, “Welcome back!” “Never thought I’d see you again.” Several of the priciest whores gave one of their favorite customers a welcoming grin and a quick flash as one of them called, “I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am to see you again!”

Luo chuckled and called back, “Glad to see me and my purse, eh?”

“Sure, you and your purse–because you being back means that damned Alruf ain’t coming back!”

Luo threw his head back and laughed. They would have sung the same tune had Alruf returned, but they would have been lying. Alruf was not a man who would be much missed in the poor quarter; he had gone swiftly from local hero to hated villain when he had turned from rogue to Shah-ru’s lackey.

Luo decided to spend the night at one of his favorite funduqs, drinking the night away in the tavern, while he considered his options of fences. None of them were especially trustworthy; and besides, they would have to know someone they could sell such gems to…

As he finished off another beer, his thoughts wandered back to those fat gems. He hefted the sack… and frowned. They felt more… rattly than before. Odd. He began to unhook the sack to check it, when a nervous hand touched his shoulder.

A furtive little rat of a man stared at him with protruding eyes. “Kan Luodal?”

Luo eyed the creature suspiciously. “Yeah?”

The little man smiled. “She said I wouldn’t miss you, and she was right.”

“She who?”

“Oh–yes! Delcarta sends word that she had heard of your triumphant return, and she invites you to her bedroom tonight!” The scrawny man leered suggestively.

Luo grunted. “News of my return spreads fast… fine. Tell her I’ll be there shortly.” He tossed the little man a fals, and the creature scampered off eagerly, biting the copper with delight.

The sun had set by the time he reached her apartment; the swift chill and the clear leaden-indigo sky promised a cold night. He looked forward to spending it between her sheets, with her soft body warming his.

Luo chuckled to himself as he stepped lightly up the stairs, surprisingly silent for all his bulk. This, indeed, was the best ending he could think of: to leave Alruf ignobly buried beneath several tons of rock; to ride into town with a fortune worthy of a Turayan Satrap in his hands; and to cap it all off, to bed Alruf’s woman.

Delcarta opened the door at once to his knock, and led him in with a kiss on his lips and an arm about his chest. She cooed, “Oh, Luo! I’m so glad you made it back, and not him!”

Luo chuckled to himself. Same line as the whores, eh? How appropriate that is. Aloud he muttered, his voice heavy with lust, “And I’m so glad to have returned… to you, my darling, my sweet flower of the oasis.”

“Oh, Luo…”

“Yes…” He whispered into her hair, fed her the honeyed bullshit that she ate up. “I dreamed of you every night while I slept alone in the cold desert. I dreamed of the sweet perfume of your hair, of the soft caress of your glance, as soft as your hands…” He grasped her shoulders lightly and held her back. “But wait–I’ve got something to show you!”

He ran to the table and unhooked the pouch. She followed, her eyes lit by avarice. “A present? For me?!”

Luo grinned at her. If Delcarta thought she could steal the gems that night, she probably would. But she knew him too well to risk it, knew that his fury was not to be toyed with. So he didn’t mind showing her his prize; after all, she would be dripping wet at their very sight.

With a flourish, he ran the sack across the table, dumped out the gems–and stared, bemused.

Delcarta looked at him, at what lay on the table, with puzzlement, as he sank slowly into the seat. All that lay on the table were little broken chunks of what looked like cheap, dull colored glass. He poked them about in bafflement. Had someone lifted the gems from him and replaced them with this stuff? No… there, among the shards, was what looked like the remains of the pearl; there, one of the chunks was colored like black precious opal.

Could he have been mistaken? Had the mirror hypnotized him into thinking he held gorgeous jewels, when in reality it had been only the worthless bits of glass?

No, it couldn’t be. No glass would have twinkled like that, even in dim torchlight.

And then Delcarta began to laugh. He looked up at her, scowling with wounded pride. “What the hell’s so funny?” The tip of a sword pressed into the back of his neck. Behind him, he heard Alruf’s nasty, arrogant cackle join Delcarta’s tittering, mocking laugh. “You are, barbarian! You’re what’s so funny.”

on to part eleven

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The Seven Jewels

February 13th, 2022

by Rev. Joe Kelly
read from the beginning

part nine.

An indeterminate period of confusion washed over Luo. It might have been a moment or a millennium. There was no sense of space or time, only confused images, jumbled sensations of paradise, as though fragments of another’s dream intruded upon him.

Gradually, the images, and his thoughts, resolved into a gorgeous room of silken upholstery and hangings, all, it seemed to Luo, a vibrant blood red. Or were they deep indigo, or delicate mauve? Curious… he could not tell. All he cared about was that she was there.

He was moved to tears by the sight of her face. As beautiful as he remembered her… moreso, even. Her hand moved across his bare chest, her eyes glowing with adoration. She was alive again.

No. She was dead.

Luo’s mind resisted its own cynicism a moment. She must have returned, by the grace of Tengri… but Tengri was as false as all the other Gods. The demon had told him so.

But could the demon not have lied?

No. He had woven the spell too tightly.

But surely, some force had returned her to him–

NO! No, she was dead–and the comforting thoughts, the sweet, warm lies, even the face of his beloved–they did not come from him, but from an intruder into his mind!

Luo began to jerk awake; the phantasm of the dream shimmered, grew indistinct. It clung to him like a spiderweb sticking to his flesh. It tried desperately to draw him back down into its warmth like the hot, sucking mud of a bog. Luo fought. He struggled. In his frazzled and spell-addled mind he summoned all his Kan mesmeric powers, and he fought, fought, as a man swimming to the top of a deep and freezing lake.

And as the vision disintegrated and collapsed, he broke through.

The hand that caressed his flesh was drawing symbols on his body. It belonged to a handsome, curly-haired youth with healthy bronzed skin, whose onyx eyes were as deep and empty as the Outer Dark. The air was heavy with the smell of frankincense and musk; scented oils dripped from the youth’s locks. The light all around was an eerie rosy-golden.

The youth was chanting, but his voice did not belong to a healthy young man: it was deep, bassy and hoarse, heavy with ancient blasphemy and cynical evil and death. He led the chant, and others around him responded, in a mysterious, droning tongue that seemed thick with the very centuries.

The youth moved to paint Luo’s face, and halted. Recognition and alarm flickered in his eyes–the sacrifice was awake!

Luo drove a big fist into the youth’s jaw and sent him flying.

He leaped from the altar that he and Alruf lay upon even as the boy rolled nimbly to his feet. Other youths, men and women, stared at him incredulously a moment. Luo’s scalp braid whirled about him as he looked for a weapon. His sword–it lay in a corner. He dove and grabbed it as he rolled back on his feet.

As he came up he heard a hideous, gurgling growl rumble from the youths, men as well as women, a sound that was as grotesquely rotten and batrachian as their ugly god. The young man he had hit snarled at him. He should have been missing several teeth, as hard as Luo punched him, but they remained perfect pearly whites.

The boy drew a jeweled bronze dagger with a rapier-thin blade and gurgled, “Die, worm.” As one the others drew their own narrow bronze daggers and advanced on Luo.

The big northerner charged the leader, and avoiding a clumsy thrust from the dagger, he slashed his arm clean off. Luo blanched: no blood came from the stump. There was only corpse dust beneath the skin; a film of the stuff stuck to his sword.

Luo swung for his head, and the youth ducked, grabbing his arm as he did. He backed off from Luo, and the northerner followed–and halted in dismay as the youth calmly replaced his arm. He wielded the dagger as if nothing had happened.

The others were closing ranks about them. Fighting down his rising panic, Luo charged the leader of the group again, and again avoided his awkward stab to whip his sword through the youth’s neck. The head rolled off, but the body did not fall.

“Shit!” Luo danced through the slow-moving ranks, nimbly avoided the clumsy thrusts. The leader had picked his head up and he now calmly replaced it as if he was putting on a fallen helmet.

From the altar, Alruf, the damn fool, was groaning. “What… where am I?”

Luo hollered at him, “Get up, you damned fool! Get up and fight–it’s our lives or theirs!” With an explosive leap he charged through the ranks as they closed again, slashing through one man’s torso with what should have been a disemboweling blow. Fine raiments hung ruined from his body, but the hole in his clothes revealed not so much as a scratch on his smooth skin.

Alruf, finally awake, rolled from the altar and dashed to grab his backsword. He halted with the blade in hand, and stared in awe and horror as Luo sliced off two men’s arms, watched as the bloodless limbs fell to the floor still gripping their thin blades of jeweled bronze, and the arm’s owners calmly bent over to pick them back up. And the rest came inexorably on, even as Luo leaped through their ranks yet again in his desperate attempt to disorient them.

The northerner howled with frustration and rising panic. “Grab a torch–anything that burns! Maybe we can burn these corpse-men!”

Several of the undead monsters chuckled ominously. Alruf shook his head as Luo joined his side. “I don’t think that’s going to work! These damned things are protected by some kind of spell!”

Some kind of spell–damn him, he should have guessed! The light in the chamber was being reflected off the mirror. The mirror that must face the sun. Would these things go back to sleep when it passed?

To hell with that–there was a simpler solution. Luo whirled about, and whipped his sword into the mirror.

The undead youths had a moment to scream in horror before the glass burst. Their youthful visages flickered and vanished, and the living corpses fell to their knees, rolled onto the floor, twisting and contorting in agony. They were still alive, though not for long. Their bodies rapidly crumbled and disintegrated, their raiments rotted away, even as their desiccated faces twisted in pain, their mouths gaped in silent screams, as the countless centuries caught up with them all at once. Within moments only dust and crumbling bones lay upon the floor.

Alruf eyed the piles of dust with disgust as Luo gingerly retrieved his sword from the shards of glass. He found the sack of jewels, as well; they had been left next to the idol. Luo chuckled as he shook them about in the sack. The power, unfortunately, had been in the mirror; no thrill tinged his blood as he held them. But such gigantic gems would fetch a great price, magic or no.

Suddenly, Alruf burst into loud, bellowing laughter. Luo looked at him in confusion. The Wose answered his puzzlement with a grin: “The dreams of fools! They sought to defy death–but no man can defy his destiny! No man can cheat the Rota Fortunae!” He turned to the piles of dust. “Thus, the fools’ end. Shadows and dust.”

“Oh, shut up.”

It was Alruf’s turn to look puzzled.

Luo walked up to him as he spoke. “I’m tired of listening to your pompous talk. I’m tired of your street beggar’s philosophizing.” He halted before the big Wose; as big as Alruf was, as big as he tried to make himself as Luo stood before him, he could not match the northerner in size or stature.

Luo nodded. “You want to fight? Let’s be done with it. I’m done listening to you.”

Alruf snarled, “Fine.” He stepped backwards, keeping both eyes on Luo as he grabbed his saddlebag filled with gold and swung it heavily over his shoulder. “I’m tired of listening to you myself. Let’s–”

A very loud and alarming crack interrupted him. Both men looked up to see the dust falling from the cracks that were spreading and splitting all through the ceiling.

They looked at each other in horror, and turned and raced for the exit as the deafening cracking was followed by an even more ominous grating rumble.

Luo bounded through the rear chamber, sprinted past the giant, grotesque idol, as the rumble became a crashing boom. He leaped through the front gate as the whole of the temple collapsed about him, as giant and ancient pillars fell with explosions that rang his ears and shook his guts.

He and Alruf halted for a moment, panting, just long enough to see, to their horror, that the whole of the ancient edifice was collapsing as well.

Both men turned again and ran in a blind panic as the whole side of the butte sloughed off and poured down towards them as a gigantic avalanche of boulders and dust. The roar of smashing rock filled Luo’s ears as he charged through the ancient city, as he felt the crushing death tickling his back as it buried the pitiful remains of the city beneath a final carpet of dead rock. Chancing a glance back, he saw a cursing Alruf far behind him, rocks falling and rolling all around the Wose. Luo cackled, despite the terror: the fool had been weighed down by his gold, even as Luo escaped with a far greater fortune.

And then a rolling cloud of dust and debris enveloped him, and Luo could see no more until, legs pounding, lungs choked with the dust, he sprang up the ruined walls and leaped off the top. Behind him, at last, the avalanche rolled to a halt.

Panting and sweating, Luo wiped the sticky dust from his forehead and looked around. Alruf was nowhere to be seen. He lay somewhere beneath several tons of rock, buried with the gold that he had stupidly clung to.

Luo chuckled. And Alruf had called him a fool.

A snorting off in the distance attracted his attention. His mare was walking towards him. Her ears were back; she was still spooked by the avalanche. But she had returned to him with the dogged loyalty of a Kan mare. He rubbed her snout appreciatively, cooed thanks to her for not running off, and mounted her, swung her in the general direction of Amul and set her to a trot. As he rode, he fingered the jewels in their sack and grinned to himself. Not a bad outcome, all in all.

on to part ten.

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