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Scaling The North Face Of Stupidity

“Mon Dieu, the size. The appalling magnitude! It’s impossible to get a true appreciation of it until you’re there at the base.”

Thrillerie looked back and forth over the bank of microphones. His eyes were red, cheeks dark with burn from freeze and sun.  

“The North Face, although extremely treacherous, is the only possible route to the summit. From other sides, no human toe or finger could ever gain purchase. Our group started in early September, after waiting nearly four years for conditions to improve. We made it with considerable difficulty around the lower knob—what has been aptly referred to as The Chin. From there, what surprised us the most was the noise emanating from directly above. Deafening. Threatening in its utter incoherence. The high winds accompanying such babble didn’t help. Not surprisingly, confusion reigned. We couldn’t hear ourselves think.”

He stopped for a sip of water. A sympathetic murmur bubbled up from the press.

“That’s when we lost Jenkins and Kasongo…”

Silence descended. Thrillerie palmed his eyes.

“As you know, climbers by nature aren’t conservative. However, at that point we had to face facts. Grieving the loss of beloved comrades, we decided to turn back. The ascent was too risky, with negligible reward.”

A journalist inquired, “Will you abandon your plans for good?”

“Jamais. We’ll never give up.” He took a deep breath. “For now, though, we’ll have to turn our attention to more manageable peaks in the range.”

Later, from his hotel balcony, he studied that sheer smug face as it glowed through the mist.

“Robert, je vais dormir,” Dominique said, smiling around the sliding door.

“Une minute.” Thrillerie shook the cubes in his glass before drinking to his dead companions. Then, still smarting from the whiskey he downed, he went inside and climbed crestfallen into bed.

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Michael Cocchiarale is the author of the novel None of the Above (Unsolicited, 2019) and two short story collections--Here Is Ware (Fomite, 2018) and Still Time (Fomite, 2012). His creative work appears online as well, in journals such as Fictive Dream, Fiction Kitchen Berlin, Pithead Chapel, and Atticus Review.


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You are standing before the entrance to the Land of Dots. You show me your original face before you were born. You safely deselect it, and then set the attributes for each new object before you draw it. The cock pecks at some rice grains before it is decapitated.

I had never driven to this side of town before, fox scattering before the car before twilight, a transient bright blue spot before left eye, before entering into the bones of the head. I walk 60 feet before losing balance or needing a rest. Bitter taste in the mouth, before and after a meal. The eyes see black; giddiness, tingling before the ears, and drowsiness. The attack is generally repeated before language slides the bolt.

See that the distributer-plate top is in place before mounting the instrument separating the ore and slime, before racking and tossing. The phone rings and my heart is racing before I even know who is calling. It is years before we meet. The road before us is made of fiction, but not fictional.

As a suppliant before god, I made a golden zahum-ewer before I lost the dream to other forces. I sit before my fire in the Palace in the Underworld. Before attempting to approach the terror of the Throne on fire, let me lay a garland of corpses before your horses’ hoofs. We sing before waking but waking forget the song.

This suit, one of the most interesting that has for the last century been before the public, is a new object instance, even before we return a promise to the caller. As before described the men wave their stop signs before the cars before and after the inauguration of sound to which they may be applied. Before we take the fire away from them I shall whoop twice, finding him quite deaf; before he wakes I point my fingers into his ears, and after a short time he hears.

The lens is placed before the light low enough to clear the head. Park never before saw three cards become two. Before leaving the track, the firemen hoist the extension-ladder. Beaker People stamp feet three or four times before beginning to talk, hold their breath before starting a sentence and say, Seesee-see. Heavy vapours dispel before the rays, coming things cast their spheres before them; before descending into the waterhole they sing.

Before it enters the water the arm descends toward the closed door. He sends the Eagle up before him as the incarnation of dreams. Before lighting from his chariot, he enfeoffs the descendants of Huang Di.

Before attachment to the animal, he is inquisitive and looks at the noose flaunting before him. Before the future is built on this we need a level of pasts. Today my remembered moment of stillness is the moment before entering the pool. The feel that ideas hold in their womb, clouds gristle before the moon.

The wind stands before the door. We are on holiday, there is a place I want to take them to, it is a place we had been to before but not seen from this angle. Pattering along the surface before take-off,before their time, the ducks.

On my being placed in relation with her she says, before I speak, that I came from a long way off. We move her to the foot of the couch with her legs hanging down, before I try to make her stand. She executes the closure of the hand before extending it in imitation of mine. I place an iron waiter before his eyes, and her legs rise again.

Cauterize the stump before releasing the clamp, and appear before me in the shape of a beautiful woman, with obscene representations playing before the imagination. Before I prepare the report, I identify the objectives the report will serve.

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Giles Goodland is a UK based poet, books from Shearsman and Salt.

Safe in his arms

I woke to the sound of a frosty key turning inside the lock. The wind was bashing against the thin windows and I could hear the rain’s torment against the wooden planks of the house. I laid in my bed, shrouded by my bedsheets, cowering from the tall dark presence that entered the cabin. My mother rose from her bed and stared down the figure. Her thin small frame yielding to that of the threatening shadow in the hallway.


“You?”, She asked with an uneasy quiver in her voice.


The figure stood there and I could feel its eyes looking past my mom and into my bed. I could see glinting specs in the dark,scrutinizing me and my brother who lay asleep by my side. I sat up on the bed, just behind my mom, my body trembling in the cold draft of the open door and the smell of cold, wet clothes sent shivers down my body.


“Dad?”, I whispered with a voice that almost broke.


The figure grunted and darted forwards. Slam of damp leather luggage befell the house as the large frame engulfed my mother in the dark and the cold.


“Dad?” I uttered louder, hitting my brother with an elbow to kidnap him from the slumber and wake him to my aid.


My heart raced and sweat splurged onto my pajamas as the man kneeled in front of me. I could smell cold rain and tobacco mixed with chocolate.


The words "I missed you" warmed my ears as he broke his silence with a loud whisper.


Icy lips landed on my forehead and a firm grip grasped my childish body and brought me up into the air. The duvet fell onto the small bed, where my brother still lay asleep, ignorant to the invasion of our home.


Two heavy arms, like the wings of a great eagle trapping their prey, wrapped themselves around me and crushed my white warm body.


“I missed you too” I replied and laid my heavy head on the man’s shoulders. “I missed you too, dad.”


I held back the siege of tears as an old familiar warmth filled my chest, swelling with admiration and comfort. I felt safe in his arms.


Aldas is a writer and editor from Dublin, Ireland. He holds an MA in Creative Writing and dreams of a career as a full-time writer. His work has been published in Cabinet of Heed,  The Fiction Pool,  Qutub Minar Review and elsewhere. His website: 

He tweets at @AKruminis.

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