By Jeremy Arias
The six dollar book sat on a shelf. It stood there watching customers and readers and people trying to look cool and people taking pictures while it sat there. All it could do was watch and look pretty. Maybe it’s cover wasn’t all that great. Maybe it should have chosen a different shelf or different story.
Look your best, it thought. The better you look, the better your chances.
Every book wanted to sell. It was an honor for a book to be bought and paid for and signed and displayed on a shelf or rented at a library or recycled into a work of art. All the six dollar book wanted was a sale. What it got was a discount. It couldn’t sell, so it sold its soul and took a dollar off.
What irony this was. A six dollar book for the cost of five. Was it really that bad? Maybe it wasn’t the cover as much as it thought. Maybe it was what was inside that people didn’t want. Maybe the cover was fine. No. Maybe it was both. Maybe it just wasn’t good enough for anything. It couldn’t sell at it’s cover price so now a sticker dictated its worth.
Somewhere, it thought, there’s a vendor that couldn’t sell me. There’s a gang of customers looking to read that wouldn’t fork out six little bills or a handful of quarters or a sack of nickels and dimes and pennies and lint and change, does nobody read these days? Everyone’s looking down at their phones wasting time, watching videos and playing games and posting pictures, doing this and that, or talking to him and her and them but they don’t care about you.
Learn something! Pick up a book and read! The price was dropped and still there’s a vendor stooped and slumped over a counter who gave up trying to sell and is just watching people go by and stare. They talk and flip a couple pages and set it down. Why doesn’t anyone want to read it? Is there so much going on outside that you can’t escape your world for another? There’s plenty to do if you sit and give your mind a treat that will help it.
And then came a lonely customer who asked this and that. The vendor answered and haggled prices. The customer looked down at the phone in their palm and glanced around. When the vendor looked away, the customer dashed like lightning and took The Six Dollar Book in hand and ran off.
What an honor this was. After a long time of trying to sell, it was stolen. And it felt great.
By Jeremy Arias
A man on fire walked into the office and sat in his seat. His computer took no more than a few attempts to turn on. It usually took two.
“Morning, Gabe,” a man with a bullet in his brain greeted. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” replied the man on fire. “I’m just a little tired. What about you, Fred?”
“I’m tired too,” replied the man with the bullet in his brain. “Seriously though, fuck work!”
“I hear you,” said the man engulfed in flames as he stood up from his desk. “I’m gonna grab a coffee.”
And so the man on fire walked through the aisle of cubes, computers, coffee cups, and Cool Craig, who just had half his face removed. In the break room was a woman with a wire wringed around her neck.
“Hey, Jan,” said Gabe as the flames began to dissipate into embers.
“What’s up, Gabe?” she said as she took off a sweater, revealing bruises and scrapes.
“Not much,” answered Gabe reaching for the pot of coffee. “How was your niece’s party?”
“It was really fun!” she said as she began to ooze blood from her neck. “I’m just really tired. Emily woke up twice last night and didn’t let me sleep. That’s going to be the last of sweets after sundown.”
The flames began to rise as Gabe began to panic.
“Are you okay, Jan?” asked the man on fire.
“Totally fine, why do you ask?”
The man on fire took a second to think. What was it about her that made him ask.
“I notice you had a bruise on your arm…” he mentioned.
“I fell picking up after Emily,” she lied as more blood leaked out of the wire, slowly turning her face pale. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” answered the man in flames. “It’s just a little hot in here.”
“Turn on the AC, or better yet,” Jan suggested, “just try not to think about the heat, like at all! Just tell yourself it’s really cold and you need a sweater, you’ll trick your mind into-”
“No,” screamed the man being swallowed by fire, “it’s REALLY hot!”
“You know what I do? I try to pretend I’m at the beach, just picture that! Or even a penguin at the zoo! The arctic circle isn’t as cold, so a zoo should do! Or even think about ice! Or Ice-man! Or you know what else I do? You should try-”
The crackling of his bones and pressure in his skull had built up far too much to even care what she does for minor heat.
He was on fire.
He was fine.
By Jeremy Arias
He wasn’t sure where the road went, he only had a vague memory of where he began. No matter how long he sat in silence with his foot on the gas pedal listening to the sound of the engine running and wheels scraping the sand on the road, he couldn’t get his head to figure out why he was still driving.
The thought that every life decision he had ever made, or been forced into, lead him straight to the road occupied his head several times. He asked himself why he was on that particular road, but a real answer never came about. He remembered gassing up his tank and throwing a spare jerry can in the trunk for good measures. Despite the feeling of years passing, driving through that forsaken desert, he still had three quarters of the tank he started with.
He thought that maybe he’d taken a wrong turn somewhere. Maybe the GPS was just as lost and sent him down that road unknowingly cursing him to a never ending road. These were still actions of his own, however. He couldn’t blame the car or GPS. Maybe he was misguided, but even then, it was his foot on the gas.
His hands stiffened on the steering wheel and began to collect drops of dew from the humidity of the sweat accumulating inside, blood rushing through his fingers. His eyes now frozen on the lane that confined him between two eternities of sand, drifted from the lane to the sky where vultures flew overhead. He took a deep breath as he weighed his options. The only place this car could realistically go was forward. Perhaps he could go back too.
It was no use.
He slammed his foot on the brake causing the tires to screech and halt. Causing a silence over the screaming engine. His thoughts went from a scream to a soothing hum. A soothing hum came from within the engine. It became nothing as he slid the key from the ignition.
Of all the places he could go. He could be driving home. Going to a city by a shining sea or visiting Rome. But no. Here he was, with his forehead slumped on the steering wheel. There were miles of road before him. There were miles of road after him. But the road wasn’t for him. And a fool he was for not realizing it sooner.
His hand worked its way from the wheel to the stump on the door. He plucked the latch that locked him in. He pulled the handle and slowly pushed his way to freedom. He stepped into the sand and looked up to the sun. His feet, like patties on a grill, sizzled as they sank into the sand. His feet carried his body as his mind carried his spirit to the sun.
The content displayed here is submitted by various local authors, artists, and more, and is curated by the DSTL Arts Art Block Zine–Youth Editorial Board. Works published here are done so with the permission of all artists involved. Artists hold all rights to their work, and none of it may be reproduced without their permission.