While sipping my tea in the morning, I find a small, only two inches long, naked female corpse on the bottom of the cup. Her white skin fades int the white porcelain, tiny gobs of tea leafs cover her round breasts. I immediately slap the cup down, and snick across to the phone to call the police. I forget all about checking if she’s really dead. Of course, how could I give her a mouth to mouth resuscitation, if not? Her body is about the size of a match-stick.
by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
About three years ago, spiders took over my car. It’s an old car, one
of the last of its kind. I’m one of the last of my kind, too. Name’s
Sebastian; my mom really dug old-fashioned names. Turns out the name’s
a good fit. I’m twenty-six, and I’ve never kissed a girl. It never felt right.
And then with the damn spiders in my car, it got hard to go on dates.
I tried to toss the spiders out, but there were always a few strays
left. At night they multiplied, weaving webs from the e-brake to the
passenger side door. When I climbed into my car in the morning I
hacked through their white silk with scissors. Even then I had trouble
seeing out the windshield. They love the sun.
I never knew what they ate in there, though I had my suspicions.
I found spider arms on the leather seats, and any peppermints I left
on the dash vanished from the wrappers by morning. Then, of course,
there were the bites I found up and down my legs.
When I say that spiders took over my car, I don’t mean they just
lived there. Throughout the course of a week, they burrowed down into
the stereo so that it didn’t play music anymore. Instead it hummed
then emitted a noise like nothing I’d ever heard: a high-pitched wail
followed by the tapping of tiny feet.
Each morning after I found more spiders. They could have been
getting in through the cracks, through the grill, through the air
vents. When I pressed my foot to the pedal, spiders quaked and
scattered. They gathered on the dash and around the wheel. They worked
their legs. The car moved. Two weeks after the first one showed up, I
realized they might be a blessing. I ran out of gas, but the car still
So I encouraged them. I bought big bags of peppermints and dumped
them on the seats. I left the windows cracked so they could get some
air. If more decided that my car was the place to call home, so be it.
Only I overdid it. One week after I bought the mints, there were
too many of them. They couldn’t breathe, and when I held up my
magnifying glass I could see their little spider bodies pant. Leaning
down, I heard them gasp for air. So I bottled a few in an old soda
bottle and screwed the lid back on.
I didn’t know what to do with the bottle right at first. Finally
I posted an ad on Craigslist: ENERGY EFFICIENT GAS REPLACEMENT. I sold
it. I sold ten, twenty, three hundred bottles in the span of a month.
The spiders were okay with it. They didn’t like leaving their
families, but they didn’t mind as long as they could eat.
I started sleeping in my car. Sure, I have a nice house with a
comfy bed, but I found I could no longer sleep on a mattress, where
the whole night I felt a phantom itch.
Within another month I’d opened spider stations. It was easy to
get a loan. In exchange for three jars of spiders, the banker signed
my paperwork and expedited my case. The first station was right next
to the highway. The next one was closer to my house, on a less peopled
road, but the customers made it a point to come. They pulled up and I
filled their cars with spiders from a nozzle that used to hold
gasoline. When I held down the lever, spiders swarmed through the tube
and scurried into the gas tank.
After the first store opened, it was just a matter of six weeks
until everyone in town was using the spiders. I quit my job working
retail and opened a chain of stations. I went global in a year. Eight
months from the time I opened my first station overseas, every single
car ran on spiders. The fuel companies hated me. Exxon sent an
assassin, but the spiders found him first. I was living in my car
twenty-four/seven by then, so when the assassin plunged through the
window with a hammer, spiders crawled over his body until he was just
a black mess of struggling limbs.
I thought maybe my success with the spider stations might speed
up the process of finding a girl. Nearly every night, I took at least
one woman out to dinner, but they were all wrong for me. They cursed
too much, or they ate too little, or they didn’t look at me the right
way. I knew it wasn’t the bites. By that point everyone’s bodies were
covered in them, even the girls I took out; welts littered their skin
like tattoos. People walked around with pasty faces, mouths open. The
houses grew thick with webs, but no one cared. People all slept in
their cars. When they snored, the spiders crawled into their mouths.
They nested in their stomachs, ate the food that came down. They have
a taste for strawberry cupcakes and chocolate, so that’s what went
first in the grocery stores. The spiders don’t like vegetables, so
vegetables rotted in their bins. Crops died. Flies swarmed. The
spiders nabbed them, ate their wings like potato chips.
As for me, after two years I’ve gone out of business. The spiders
don’t need me anymore. And my body’s not all it used to be,
overexposed. My skin is all red holes. Can’t really walk anymore. I
can breathe but not well. I don’t eat much of anything, just
peppermints and candy bars; the spiders can find better food
elsewhere, so they’ve mostly left. I sit in my car all day and watch
what’s left of them. With nothing left to conquer, the spiders seem
bored, restless. Their webs are erratic, the strings spreading out
every which way like a girl’s hair in a severe wind.
I’ve actually never seen a girl’s hair like that. I’ve only had spiders. The sink of
their teeth, jaws strong for their size. The brush of furry legs. The kiss.
by Zoltán Komor
While sipping my tea in the morning, I find a small, two inch
long naked female corpse on the bottom of the cup. Her white skin
fades into the white porcelain, tiny gobs of tea leafs cover her round
breasts. I immediately slap the cup down, and snick across to the
phone to call the police. I forget all about checking if she’s really
dead. Of course, how could I give her mouth to mouth resuscitation,
otherwise? Her body is about the size of a match-stick.
I walk in circles, up and down the kitchen, when the doorbell
finally rings. Two detectives arrive, eyeing me suspiciously. I let
them in, and point at my table. They hem and haw while examining the
body in the cup.
“You know her?” the older one asks. I tell him, I’ve never seen this woman in my life.
“Did she drown?” I ask.
“The autopsy will soon tell,” answers the detective, taking out his
camera and taking pictures of the crime scene.
The younger one asks for nail-scissors and locks himself in my
bathroom with the small corpse. I nervously offer the other detective
“I once knew a fortune-teller who could read the future from these
tea-leaves,” he yarns, slurping at his hot drink. “Sounded crazy to me, but the newspaper wrote that there was a man who found the winning lottery numbers in his cup. And you know what? He’s a rich man now.”
“Yeah, I would have preferred the lottery numbers too,” I admit, and the detective begins to laugh. His partner steps out from the bathroom, with some fresh blood-stains on his shirt. He’s holding a plastic bag with the body of the poor girl and the dirty nail-scissors I had given him. He’s handing them to me, and I don’t reach for so he just puts them on the table.
“Well… She drowned for sure,” murmurs the man.
The other detective nods, and puts on his hat.
So, this was yesterday. Since then, a yellow police-line has cordoned off
my kitchen table – they tell me I can’t tear it until the investigation is over, and it would be better if I wouldn’t do any cleaning in the kitchen. When I woke up this morning I found that I didn’t have the strength to make any tea. I just couldn’t get rid of the image of that dead girl, laying on the bottom of the cup.
Every time I thought about it the nausea began to squeeze my stomach.
So I decided to visit the bar at the corner instead, and just ordered a cup
of black tea there. As the waitress arrived, somehow she looked very
familiar – this pretty girl placing the streaming tea down on my table
with a strange smile on her face.
“It is so rare, you know. A man ordering tea. Men usually want
coffee,” she prattles on, and finally, I do recognize her. Of course, I’d
seen this woman before– yesterday. Laying in the bottom of a
cup. The blood drains from my face and I react to the situation in
the dumbest possible way: I stand, put on my coat, and run
from the place without a word.
At home, an open door greets me. Three men sit in my kitchen, with
steaming cups in their hands. Two I recognize immediately – the
detectives, they are back, but this time, they brought along an old
fashioned guy with a wig. Some kind of judge, I guess.
“I’ve some bad news,” begins the older detective with a strange
and somehow evil grin on his face. “It looks like the girl was
drowned by someone else. The microscopic pictures revealed signs of
a struggle on the body.”
I collapse into a chair, and try to say something, but I’m
breathing heavily now. Only a few words escape my mouth –
they are fluttering in the room, getting lost in the tea’s steam.
“In the bar… The girl… Black tea… The lottery numbers…”
This, of course, doesn’t make any sense.
“I hope you understand, we have so many cases that we can’t allow
ourselves to sit on any one case for too long,” one policeman tells me with a sharp, unsparing voice, tapping the judge’s shoulders.”So, we must speed things up a bit here and start your trial, well. Now.”
This is madness. I want to rail against this ridiculous treatment but I know that any resistance would be useless. So instead, I give the judge a sincere look of appeal as he begins swirling the tea cup between his fingers, trying to read out a verdict from the tea leaves waltzing within.
The kitchen is dead silent.
Everyone gazes at the judge’s shaky gray hand, at the cup in his clenched fingers, each of us hoping to glimpse the blackness inside, where it seemingly never stops swirling.
by Spike Marlowe
For a year before Baby was made, Papa drank only black tea to balance out his glaring whiteness; for forty weeks after Baby was made, Mama drank only white tea to mix up in her insides and balance out her brilliant blackness.
Mama and Papa dream of making a baby together almost as soon as they’d met, even though Mama’s breasts were just sprouted, tiny tea-cup sized lumps, and Papa’s chin hadn’t come to terms with its newly sprouted peach fuzz.
The years passed. Mama mastered carving wood after learning on bars of Ivory soap and Papa studied Bobby Fisher’s favorite moves. They both learned how to properly pour a cup of tea, and that you don’t mix milk and lemon, or take both sugar and honey. And they kept their dream alive. They’d make a big baby. A beautiful baby. A glorious combination of what made Papa Papa and Mama Mama.
As soon as Baby was made, the moment Papa’s seed hit Mama’s egg, Mama blossomed and grew: her belly, her hips, her thighs, her breasts. Her skin grew brighter and brighter; at month six, she glowed so hard she blew out all the lights in her and Papa’s bedroom. Her smile was brighter – all she had to do was think about her baby and oh, how she would grin and rub her massive belly and drink her white tea.
When it came time for Baby to be born, the doctor wanted to cut him from Mama, worried that he’d be too big to birth. But Mama said, no -– her baby would flow from her as naturally as he was put there.
And so it was. Mama felt pulsing, and she screamed from pain, but Baby flowed from between her legs, rolling out into the world as only Baby could –- one black and white checkered beautiful baby, as big as Mama and Papa’s queen-sized bed twice over, with a tiny head at the top of the board, one arm on each side, and two feet at the bottom.
Of course, Mama and Papa played with Baby. Mama pulled out the black and white chess pieces she’d carved while carrying Baby and she and Papa placed their pieces on Baby’s body. Even to this day, Mama and Papa play chess with Baby. Mama always plays white, because, as Papa says, ladies always go first. Besides, he loves to see the beautiful contrast of the white piece against her black skin, and she loves to see the black against his white skin. Baby just loves the contrast.
And while Mama and Papa play, Mama sips black and white tea, with ginseng and honey, from dainty tea cups. The tea flows through Mama’s body and out through her nipples, into baby’s mouth. Black tea to keep Baby’s black squares black, white tea to keep his white squares white, ginseng to keep him stimulated and honey to keep him sweet. Because, as Mama says, it’s all about balance in all things: tea, chess and creating babies.
Episode Art: Gino MorettoRead by: Hugh O'Donnel, Lauren Harris