THAT TIME ALIENS MADE US VEGAN — TYLER MILES

The day the aliens came to Earth they brought with them only one thing: a seemingly communicable inspiration of fear. When the bastards left, they took, well, they took the animals.

All of them.

The megafauna—lions, bears, rhinos (what’s left of them anyway), the fat elephants, the gangly giraffes, they went first. Then the fish and mammals from the oceans, sucked up in a blue flash before spitting back the world’s water and broken coral across the continents. Rivers aren’t where they used to be, and oceans are empty like those aquariums at pet stores overrun with thick green algae and upturned pirate ships.

It turns out Noah’s Arc was real after all, though no one can know now which ocean it had been sunken beneath. The aliens dropped it on a brownstone in Harlem near Langston Hughes’ East 127th Street home. 

It started just like it does in the movies: one day suddenly, giant spinny disks blotted out the sun and engulfed the cities in shadow. Then there was that damn hum. It was faint, you could almost feel the vibrations more than hear them, but they were there.

And they were unbearable. 

You couldn’t walk down Fordham Road without passing an open window with a TV or radio drowning out the spaceships’ insufferable humming. In Times Square, your eyes would jump at the site of the business crowd hustling across Park Avenue with earmuffs mid-August.

My students seemed unbothered, but when you’re in third grade, mom and dad are still far scarier than any aliens threatening world destruction—or at least global veganism. Like the chalk outline the girls used for hopscotch, or the rusty jungle gym the school district would never replace, the spaceships had become a staple for the kids on the playground. 

“Diablo, pero ta hay la vaina esa todavia!” you’d hear them shout some days as they escaped the building for recess.

The aliens hovered demigod-like for so long that it’s almost abnormal now to see the clouds and the sun, the moon and the stars; to see the natural blackness of space. Were some of us… sad they were gone? No. That’s not it. Perhaps we’d just become so desensitized to them—their presence, their vibrating song—that we’ve devolved to cave creatures plunged in their shadow. The recent months had been a strange readjustment to normalcy. 

And what am I to do as I stand now before my third graders for science period? My curriculum is made up mostly of animal education. I think the aliens made me a history teacher.

I don’t even know what others in my field are doing. I don’t speak to colleagues anymore. After school, I’ll go home, brew some coffee, and pop in a microwaveable dinner: probably tofu chili tonight. I’m a vegan now, I guess. Once my food is before me I’ll turn on Animal Planet.

It’s all I have left.


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Tyler is a journalist from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who holds a Bachelor's of Arts in English from Penn State University, and is trying to rekindle that creative fire news writing is beating out of him.

SOMETHING ELEMENTAL — ALYSSA JORDAN

Not an hour after they gave her the news, Jules took home a stranger from her favorite bar. The mirror above her bed gave her an excellent view, a generous offering; she stared at her reflection while he undressed her, and again when he pressed their bodies together, forcing hipbones to stomach, shoulders to neck.
             When he climbed on top of her, she tried not to think about gloved hands or tight smiles.
             Jules stroked his back with heavy, bloodless fingers. Her hands traced the baby fat on his sides, the dimples in his back. A tattoo bisected the skin on his shoulder blade like the singed remains of a wing. She carefully sunk her nails into the dark, inky swirls.
             What would it be like, she wondered, to be fucked by an angel?
             Maybe it would absolve every flaw in her body. Maybe it would flatten the puckered slopes that formed her cesarean scar. Maybe it would shrink the lump in her breast, tear it down cell by cell, fixing things she hadn’t even known were broken. 
             Brimming with grace must make you heavy, Jules thought, heavy and monumental, like the tectonic plates that shifted underneath their feet, giving rise to mountains and volcanoes and oceanic trenches. She saw herself kneeling at the bottom of the ocean, mind and body bent from the steady pulse of life.
             When Jules ran a hand down the man’s heaving back, she pretended to feel the flutter of wings.


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Alyssa Jordan is a freelance writer in California. Her work has appeared in publications like Every Day Fiction, Reflex Fiction, and 100 Word Story. Her work can also be found in two print anthologies, The Lobsters Run Free: Bath Flash Fiction Volume Two and Nothing Short Of: Selected Tales from 100 Word Story. Currently, she is an Associate Editor at Tethered by Letters and the 1888 Center. Follow her on Twitter @ajordan901.

WHERE EVERYTHING IS PRISTINE — RUTH LeFAIVE

Before letting our visitors in, my mother bends with a nicotine whisper. “Play nice with Miss Debra’s baby.” I imagine a downy bundle—loaf-sized with curious eyes—benign as a rolled up sock. I’ll shield her from cigarette smoke, build cheese pyramids, and eavesdrop for words like kiss and sex. Except a meaty pudge toddles in—neither baby nor girl—something halfway in-between. She goes right for the pickles, grabs one in her tiny fist, and smears it along the edge of the coffee table. I step back.
             “So cute!” Mom pops ice from the tray. Tonic fizzes. Miss Debra’s mascara has run already. I want to hear why, but the waddler is charging down the hall to my bedroom, a green nub in each doughy hand. By the time I catch up, she squats over my rainbow rug. She’s dropped the pickles, drool lopping from her chin.
             “Pick those up.”
             She lifts one and licks its warty skin.
             Back in the living room, between saying He this and His that, Miss Debra cries like bees have stung her. If Dad were home he’d say, Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about. Mom says, “Here, drink this.”
             The baby stands and wields the pickles with clumsy accuracy, smudging my dresser, my bed, my closet door. “Mom!” I yell, tucking my hands under my arms to avoid the sour trail. “Mom!” I yell again. 
             My Barbie Dream House is in her path. I grab plastic-headed Ken by the legs and stand guard. She looks at the second-floor nursery where everything is pristine: a mini blanket on the mini rocker, an itsy bear in the itsy cradle. “No!” I prod her shoulder with Ken’s head. “Get out.” She reaches for the bear with sticky fingers, so I swat her knuckles with Ken’s face. There’s an unsatisfying silence and I want her to hurt so I whack again, slamming her forearm. She shrieks and plops down sobbing. I grab her around the potbelly and lift until her feet are off the ground. I grip tighter until her little shoes—weak as wings—kick my knees. Her middle is a ham-sized water balloon. Burst, I want to say, squeezing and squeezing until Miss Debra rushes in and swoops her daughter away. I think I hear Mom coming down the hall. I hope it’s her, but she never arrives. My room is tainted. I use a wad of toilet paper to trash the pickles.
             In the kitchen, I find the box of Wheat Thins and stuff five into my mouth. Then I climb onto the couch next to my mother and lean into the mole over her elbow. All her attention is on Miss Debra who is still He this and His that, even as she feeds the baby cheese. Both have stopped crying. I stay limp so every time Mom raises her cigarette, I sway. Flick of an ash, sway. Back and forth.


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Ruth LeFaive lives in Los Angeles where she is writing a collection of linked short stories. Her fiction has appeared in Atticus ReviewSplit Lip Magazine, and is forthcoming elsewhere. More at RuthLeFaive.com

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM CHEAP POP!

From all of us here at CHEAP POP, happy holidays!

We've had a stellar year, thanks in no small part to y'all, and we are gearing up for an amazing 2018, too. We have pieces starting Tuesday, January 9 and going through April, and submissions will be opening back up late winter/early spring—when submissions do open back up, we'll make announcements on our website here, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. So, stay tuned!

Again, thank you all for a fantastic 2017, and happy holidays, wherever you are!

—Rob, Hannah, Elizabeth, Letisia

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SUBMISSIONS ARE CLOSED — NEW STORIES COMING JANUARY 2018

Hi friends!

We hope you're enjoying this lovely autumn weather. Submissions have officially closed—we are excitedly digging in as we speak!—and we have new stories coming January 2018. Very excited to share these with you.

And if you didn't get your story into us on time? Fear not! Submissions will be open again in 2018—stay tuned!

—Rob, Elizabeth, Hannah, Letisia

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AWARD NOMINATIONS—2017

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We are so pleased to announce our nominations for two awards: Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. We owe everything to all of our wonderful contributors, and every time awards come around, it feels impossible to decide which stories to choose, but we felt these pieces really highlighted our focus and drive here at CHEAP POP.  

Without further ado, here are our nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize:

Best of the Net: 

Pushcart Prize:

Best of luck to these talented folks, and a huge thank you to everyone who submits to our site. We couldn't be CHEAP POP without you. You make us pop. <3

SUBMISSIONS ARE OPEN — 9/18 - 10/31

Hi friends!

We are delighted that submissions will be opening at 12:01 AM on Monday, September 18 through Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Be sure to read over our submission guidelines before you hit SENDhttp://bit.ly/1cXg2PY. Remember:

  1. 500 words (or less),
  2. No poetry,
  3. Make it pop.

So excited to be back. So excited to read your work. 

—Rob, Elizabeth, Hannah, Letisia

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RHYMES WITH ORANGE — ANNA O'BRIEN

The two of us sit across from each other at a scratched card table with pocks along the edges where wheelchairs have kissed it. The lights in the ceiling hum.           
             Mom, are you hungry? One face turns to me, slack and vacant. This is the most common one now. There are two more, hidden from view. Your old face—original is more fitting, they're all old—clear and present, only occasionally surfaces now. And the third face, hard and mean. That one has always taken up too much space, requires too much. The room's not big enough for that one.
            How often do you break from the ether? Switch faces for me now; I want to read your eyes. I can still coax them out of you. Words, I mean. Here, let's do the crossword.
            You used to invent words for things with no name. Silly stuff. The time water from the tap hit the silver spoon in the sink and leapt right back out on your white apron? Pseudoaquanastics. I still remember. Do you? God, how you laughed, which made me laugh, too.
            Words were like rain to you, falling and collecting in small pools around the house, the kitchen humid with crosswords, bedrooms damp with filled notebooks, notecards dripping in the den.
            Tides changed with me. You changed. Pain, serotonin levels. Pills and therapy. You said I took your words away.
            Still, I grew. I showed you my own words. You wore your third face. How much, you asked. I told you what I'd earned. Your dark eyes narrowed. For that?
            Look here. Back to the present. Twenty across. Rhymes with orange.
            I remember at the start of your waning, you'd fill in boxes with invented answers. Pizza topping, nine letters. Pepperont, in ink. A type of hat, you said. You were convinced. You almost convinced me.


Anna O'Brien is a writer and veterinarian currently living in central Maryland. She has had fiction published in Cease, Cows; Scrutiny Journal; Luna Station Quarterly; Panorama Journal; The Reject Pile; and Brilliant Flash Fiction. She is also a contributing editor to the magazine Horse Illustrated and writes a monthly blog on the creative side of the veterinary industry, called VetWrite. She loves hiking, Labrador Retrievers, and lives by the motto: "no coffee, no workee."